My favourite comfort read is the series written byJames Herriot (the pen-name of Yorkshire based vet, James Wight).
Wight writes with warmth and humour about his experiences as a country vet during the 1930s through the war and into the 1950s. While parts of it haven’t dated well (unsurprising, given the first book was written in the 1960s!), his books never fail to make me laugh out loud and feel very cosy and cheery. I first read them when I was nine and stayed in Yorkshire a few years ago, so it’s sort of nostalgic on two fronts.
About the Author
Eliza Henry-Jones is a novelist, researcher and freelance writer based on a little farm in the Yarra Valley of Victoria.
Eliza has qualifications in English and psychology as well as grief, loss and trauma counselling. She has completed a first class honours thesis exploring representations of bushfire trauma in fiction and is currently a PhD candidate at Deakin University.
Eliza is a proud ambassador for the Satellite Foundation, which supports children and young people who are impacted by parental mental illness.
Eliza has been awarded a residential fellowship at Varuna in New South Wales, a young writer residency at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre in Western Australia, the Tyrone Guthrie Fellowship in Ireland and an Australia Council Grant to work on a new novel set in Scotland.
Eliza is an experienced public speaker, facilitator and writer. You can find out more about her writing and other services here.
While it feels like the world is going mad right now it’s even more important than ever to take the time to lose yourself in a book. I bet I’m not the only one finding it difficult to concentrate on reading, even though I know I really do need to sit down, take a break and forget about what’s happening, so I’ve decided to put together a list of books that are perfect for comfort reading with the help of some of my favourite authors.
Confession: I have a comfort author as opposed to a comfort book. I developed the habit of turning to her in times of stress without even realising it. It wasKate Forsyth, an author I greatly admire, who once pointed out to me that I’d been reading a lot of Georgette Heyer’s regency romances over the span of a few weeks. She herself found comfort in Georgette Heyer’s novels, and suspected my binge might mean I was struggling in my day-to-day life. Her suggestion proved insightful, because I promptly burst into tears. Without realising it, that was exactly my situation.
Thankfully, I was able to adjust what I could in my life to alleviate the stress. But I kept the habit of turning to Georgette Heyer’s romances whenever I need comfort. For there’s something to be said about escaping into a world that guarantees you a happy ending when everything in your own world feels uncertain.
But why Georgette Heyer, when all romance promises a happy ending? For me, there’s an added escapism to her regencies, with the gentle mockery yet simultaneous loving embrace of a long-gone world of set manners and flamboyant dress codes. I love watching the characters try to work within the rigid, often ridiculous rules of their societies to work out their happy endings. Love how Heyer plays within these lines but also pushes them to their very edges of humorous believability, such as the crossdressing hijinks in The Masqueraders, the switched-at-birth scandal of These Old Shades, or the involvement of a hot air balloon in Frederica (a particular favourite of mine).
I love the way her characters are audacious, witty, stubborn, disaffected, reckless, loyal, adventurous, flawed, wilful, intelligent, and silly.
I love the gentle nature of the words she uses that are so little seen nowadays. Words like flummery, fribble, egad, and alack have a nostalgic rhythm to them that lulls me into a sense of peace.
I love that while remaining true to the tropes of the genre, she still manages to flip things on their head in a way that surprises and delights, like the gradual shifting of the love interest from one man to another in Cotillion (another of my personal favourites).
I love her unique ability to create an insult like no other, her characters slinging phrases like ‘buffleheaded clunch’ or ‘irreclaimable ninnyhammer’ in a manner designed to make the reader laugh instead of feel the cut of them.
For me, a comfort read is about getting lost in a colourful world with touches of whimsy, guaranteed laughs, and a neat ending that brings about the kind of peace and certainty that real life lacks. Georgette Heyer provides all of these with every one of her romances. And anyone who doesn’t think so must be an irreclaimable ninnyhammer.
With a background in ballet, I have always had a strong love for storytelling. All my favourite ballets tell some of the most timeless stories, from fairytales to interpretations of classic literature. I’ve also always loved reading, writing, and history. I have combined these things into my historical fiction writing.
In 2017 I signed with literary agent Haylee Nash of The Nash Agency. The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers, my debut novel, was released with HQ, an imprint of HarperCollins Australia, in January 2019. A second historical fiction novel, The Daughter of Victory Lights, was released in January 2020. I am always working on my next book, so hopefully there will be many more to come.
In prior years, my short stories have been published by Reflex Fiction, Boolarong Press, Catchfire Press, Stringybark, Underground Writers, and as part of the Dangerous Women Project.
My author influences include (but are not limited to) Kate Forsyth, Sara Gruen, Belinda Alexandra, Hazel Gaynor, Ken Follett, Eli Brown, and Kate Morton. I also have a special fondness for Lorna Hill, particularly her ‘Sadler’s Wells’ series, which I have collected since childhood.
When not writing or reading, I can usually be found teaching ballet and tap dancing, baking sweet treats, or spending time with my husband and my miniature schnauzer Nelson.
My March Wrap-Up is running a little bit late, but I’ve been finding it difficult to figure out what I wanted to say this month given the circumstances. Like almost everybody around the world I’m still reeling from the shock of it all and I am just doing my best to muddle my way through.
In many ways I am one of the lucky ones. I’m safe at home with my partner, my cats, and plenty of food. I also have my own issues to deal with which might not be so obvious online, just the same as everyone else, and sometimes I haven’t been so great at coping. I’ve definitely been unkind, judgmental, whinged about relatively trivial things, struggled to get anything done, taken up pointless baking (and eating far too much of the results), developed a taste for gin, and let my email inbox get out of control.
However, I have also tried to do my best under difficult circumstances. I’ve tried really hard to continue to share as much book love, cat photos, and positivity as possible, I’ve worked together with my partner to come up with some ground rules so we can work together in our overcrowded house with an overloaded internet network, and I have rolled my eyes and scrolled past more ridiculous and deliberately nasty posts on social media in the past month than I normally would during an entire regular year.
I also managed to read some fantastic books and hosted the lovely Australian author Cassie Hamer for a guest post in which she wrote a lovely blog post about her favourite comfort read that is perfect for reading during difficult times like these. I’m hoping to make this a regular feature for authors and other bookish people to share their thoughts on their own favourite comfort reads, so please do get in touch if this something you would like to take part in too.
I truly do hope this post finds you all safe and well, wherever you may be, and that you are able to make some time for yourself to put your feet up and lose yourself in a good book every now and then. I know it’s difficult to manage at the moment, but it really does help, even if you just start off with a paragraph at time.
Books I Read in March
I only managed to read three novels, as well as bits of pieces of Rumi’s poetry in The Big Red Book. I haven’t written a review for The Big Red Book, but I highly recommend checking it out if you haven’t read it before. Rumi was born in 1207 on the eastern edge of the Persian Empire in what is now Afghanistan, and there is something so hopeful and magical about his poems that they still resonate today. I often come across short Rumi quotes on social media and they can often come across as a bit trite, but they really don’t do justice to the real thing. I can’t think of a better time to give Rumi’s poem a proper read!
The first book in the Queen of Spades Trilogy, Awakening, will be available 10th of April 2020 and the pre-order is only 99 cents!
A scifi action with a side of romance, it has all the violence, banter, and tension of great character driven scifi with psychic abilities giving it an edge that keeps the story on its toes.
Ayla is a villain. With a gift that allows her to see when anyone will die, she’s remorseless in her profession as the perfect assassin. When she wakes up in a cryo-tank three thousand years in the future, and no idea how she came to be there, all that matters is survival.
Rescued by Leith and the crew of the Nuria, Ayla discovers a far evolved world of space ships and galactic colonization. But everything comes with a price, and though Ayla is no princess locked in an icy tower, she still has to pay for the rescue she didn’t know she needed.
Given over to Leith, a darkly handsome man who reads Ayla far easier than she’d like, they must work together if Ayla is to repay her debt. As the pair come to learn how dangerous one another are, so too grows a lustful bond that comes with rules of its own. Fighting to learn why she was frozen, Ayla’s dragged into Leith’s past with a criminal organization seeking to take over this sector of the galaxy. In order to survive, Leith will need Ayla’s help, but Ayla doesn’t know if she’s willing to pay what it will cost her…
While it feels like the world is going mad right now it’s even more important than ever to take the time to lose yourself in a book. I bet I’m not the only one finding it difficult to concentrating on reading, even though I know I really do need to sit down, take a break, and forget about what’s happening, so I’ve decided to put together a list of books that are perfect for comfort reading with the help of some of my favourite authors.
Today’s comfort read is brought to you by Cassie Hamer, author of After the Party and The End of Cuthbert Close.
Cassie Hamer has a professional background in journalism and PR, but now much prefers the world of fiction over fact. In 2015, she completed a Masters in Creative Writing, and has since achieved success in numerous short story competitions. Her bestselling debut fiction title After the Party was published in 2019. Cassie lives in Sydney.
At the age of nine I was obsessed with two things – ballet and books. So you can imagine my incredible delight at discovering Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. I fell in love with the cover first – it was an image of a young ballerina in pink satin pointe shoes – the ballerina I so desperately wanted to be. Then I turned to the inside and promptly fell head over heels for the book’s feisty young protagonists – Paulina, Posy and Petrova – three orphans being raised in impoverished circumstances by their guardian, the kindly Sylvia, and their strict-but-loving, Nana.
Streatfeild published the book in 1936, a mere eight years after women were given the vote in the UK. But even today, Ballet Shoes remains a deeply relevant and feminist book – the story of three young women who are driven to make a name for themselves and achieve self-sufficiency via the stage. The girls experience success and failure. They wear velvet and organdie dresses. They are constantly drinking delicious concoctions with the boarders that share the big house on Cromwell Road. They are told, regularly, that their ambition is acceptable, but they should still be decent human beings.
See? It’s just lovely, isn’t it.
I never did become a ballerina – I was as flexible as a pole – and I never got to own a pair of pointe shoes. Instead, I became a writer and, even now, I see the impact of Ballet Shoes on what I write. I’m utterly devoted to understanding and expressing the female experience. My books have a subtle feminist bent. My characters are ambitious, practical and feisty, just like the Fossil sisters. And, in a case of life imitating art, I now have three girls of my own. It has been one of the joys to rediscover this book as a mother and share it with my daughters.
It is my theory that the books we read and love in our early years leave a scar-like mark on our psyche – an indelible imprint of thought and feeling that we return to for comfort because it reminds of who we once were, the dreams and hopes we once held.
I cannot think of a happier place in which to dwell.
‘Captures Australian suburbia perfectly. Has the reader gripped until the end. Perfect for anyone who wants to devour easy-to-read fiction, while also doing some detective work of their own.’ Mamamia
You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your neighbours. (Trad. proverb, origin: Australian suburbia)
Food stylist Cara, corporate lawyer Alex and stay-at-home mum Beth couldn’t be more different. If it wasn’t for the fact they live next door to each other in Cuthbert Close, they’d never have met and bonded over Bundt cake. The Close is an oasis of calm and kindness. The kind of street where kids play cricket together and neighbours pitch in each year for an end of summer party.
But no one’s told Charlie Devine, glamorous wife of online lifestyle guru, The Primal Guy. When she roars straight into the party with her huge removal truck and her teenage daughter with no care or regard for decades-old tradition, the guacamole really hits the fan.
Cara thinks the family just needs time to get used to the village-like atmosphere. Beth wants to give them home cooked meals to help them settle in. Alex, says it’s an act of war. But which one of them is right? Dead guinea pigs, cruelly discarded quiches, missing jewellery, commercial sabotage and errant husbands are just the beginning of a train of disturbing and rapidly escalating events that lead to a shocking climax.
When the truth comes out, will it be the end of Cuthbert Close?
What if you gave birth to someone else’s child? A gripping family drama inspired by a real-life case of an IVF laboratory mix-up.
‘Engagingly and unflinchingly told, Gannon’s new novel, The Mothers, is the story of every parent’s worst nightmare. It is that novel that makes you muse on the most difficult of questions … What makes a mother? And can you ever un-become one? Like all my favourite books, The Mothers is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, and it leaves you with a lot to think about after you turn the final page. I sobbed my way through this wonderful book.’ – Sally Hepworth, bestselling author of The Mother-in-Law
Two couples. One baby. An unimaginable choice.
Grace and Dan Arden are in their forties and have been on the IVF treadmill since the day they got married. Six attempts have yielded no results and with each failure a little piece of their hope dies.
Indian-Australian Priya Laghari and her husband Nick Archer are being treated at the same fertility clinic and while the younger couple doesn’t face the same time pressure as the Ardens, the Archers have their own problems. Priya suspects Nick is cheating and when she discovers a dating app on his phone her worst fears are confirmed.?
Priya leaves Nick and goes through an IVF cycle with donor sperm. On the day of her appointment, Grace and Dan also go in for their final, last-chance embryo transfer. Two weeks later the women both get their results: Grace is pregnant. Priya is not.?
A year later, angry and heart-broken, Priya learns her embryo was implanted in another woman’s uterus and must make a choice: live a childless life knowing her son is being raised by strangers or seek custody of a baby that has been nurtured and loved by another couple.
“Two Couples, One Baby, An Unimaginable Choice”
The Mothers by Genevieve Gannon is a powerful family drama inspired by a real-life case where two couples are forced to battle it out in court to determine who a baby’s rightful mother is after a mix-up at a fertility clinic. Is it the woman who is genetically linked to the baby or the woman who gave birth?
The first half of the novel focuses on two couple’s IVF journeys which enables us to intimately get to know them and the difficulties they faced trying to get pregnant. Grace and Dan went through 6 stages of IVF and are in their 40s, while Nick and Priya were younger, but facing a serious relationship breakdown due to the stress caused by IVF. I thought this section was really well-done and I imagine it is an accurate portrayal of how IVF treatment must negatively affect people. By the end of this section I was fully invested in both couples having a happy ending.
The second half of the novel examines how the mix-up was discovered, the reaction of the couples and the IVF facility, and the gut-wrenching court case. I had to put this novel down for a short while after the verdict because it was so emotional. I was heartbroken for the mother who lost, although I ultimately do agree with the decision that was made.
Genevieve Gannon has outdone herself with this novel. The characters are so well developed, and their fertility battles and the court case, are described in such an empathetic way that I found myself rooting for all of them. The Mothers is an emotional read, but it does end on a positive note. I loved this book and I can’t wait to find out what is coming next from Genevieve Gannon.
This year got off to a slow start reading wise but I certainly made up for that in February. I managed to get myself out of a long blogging slump, catch up on most of my outstanding book reviews from last year, and I have read some fabulous books.
On a personal level, the start of this year was a little bit insane. The bush fires affected almost all of us here in Australia in some way or another, and although the worst fires have mostly been contained now, there is a long road to recovery ahead and issues to overcome.
I have also finally knuckled down and am writing a terrible first draft of the novel that has been knocking around inside my head for a good while now. I’m off to a good start so far and have come up with a good writing routine that is working for me, so fingers crossed it turns into a final draft some day!
Books I read in January
I only managed to read one book in January, but it was a corker! Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton is already an Aussie classic, and rightfully so. It’s a bit of tricky book to classify genre-wise, but just trust me, you need to read this one!
My next review, and first February, review was Love and Other Battles by Australian romance powerhouse Tess Woods. Love and Other Battles is a multi-generational family saga that moves between the Australian suburbs, the Vietnam Wars, and the bright lights of Nashville.
Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe was my first non-fiction read of the year and I recommend this book, or its children’s counterpart Dark Emu, to everyone in Australia. Dark Emu challenges the idea that Aboriginal Australians were only hunter-gatherers before colonisation and provides compelling evidence for this argument. A must read!
Postscript by Cecelia Ahern is the long awaited sequel to PS I Love You. I thought it was a lovely sequel to such a well-loved book and movie, not an easy task to accomplish, but it was very well done.
I loved Blackthorn by Terry Tyler. It’s set in the future a couple of generations after a virus wiped out most of the world. Blackthorn is the largest community in the UK and a charismatic young traveller brings back spirituality. This novel is part of Terry Tyler’s Project Renova universe, but it can also easily be read as a stand-alone novel.
My final book review for February was The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan. This is the third book of the Irish Detective Cormac Reilly series and I think it might be the best one yet. This series if perfect for you if you love character driven crime fiction and gritty Irish detectives whose accent you can hear while reading.
What’s Coming up in March?
I am planning to keep up my reading and writing routines, so look out for some fabulous new book reviews over the next month.
I don’t want to tie myself down too much, but if you take a look at the bookshelf in my main photo you might be able to spy some of the books I will be reading soon in the background.
I’m currently reading and loving The Mothers by Genevieve Gannon, so you should be seeing a review for that very soon!
I’ve made a commitment to myself to read selfishly in January. I know that I will be snowed under a pile of journal articles soon enough, so I’m doing my best to get around to all of the books that were shoved to the bottom of my TBR pile last year.
The first cab off the rank is THE LAST TUDOR by the bestselling historical fiction great, Philippa Gregory. I’ve been a big fan of Gregory’s Tudor novels ever since THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL took the world by storm far too many years ago for my liking, and I’ve been looking forward to reading Gregory’s take on the Grey sisters for ages!
Paperback, 544 pages
Published: July 1st 2018 by Simon & Schuster UK (first published August 8th 2017)
“The latest novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory features
one of the most famous girls in history, Lady Jane Grey, and her two sisters, each of whom dared to defy her queen.
Jane Grey was queen of England for nine days. Her father and his allies crowned her instead of the dead king’s half sister Mary Tudor, who quickly mustered an army, claimed her throne, and locked Jane in the Tower of London. When Jane refused to betray her Protestant faith, Mary sent her to the executioner’s block, where Jane transformed her father’s greedy power grab into tragic martyrdom.
“Learn you to die,” was the advice Jane wrote to her younger sister Katherine, who has no intention of dying. She intends to enjoy her beauty and her youth and fall in love. But she is heir to the insecure and infertile Queen Mary and then to her half sister, Queen Elizabeth, who will never allow Katherine to marry and produce a Tudor son. When Katherine’s pregnancy betrays her secret marriage, she faces imprisonment in the Tower, only yards from her sister’s scaffold.
“Farewell, my sister,” writes Katherine to the youngest Grey sister, Mary. A beautiful dwarf, disregarded by the court, Mary keeps family secrets, especially her own, while avoiding Elizabeth’s suspicious glare. After seeing her sisters defy their queens, Mary is acutely aware of her own danger but determined to command her own life. What will happen when the last Tudor defies her ruthless and unforgiving Queen Elizabeth?”
Philippa Gregory is well-known for her historical novels focusing on the Tudor and Plantagenet families and Jane Grey is such a fascinating character of this period, so I was excited to see how she portrayed the Grey sisters.
The book is split into three sections that tell the story from the perspective of each of the Grey sisters: Jane, Katherine, and Mary. Jane is a well-known historical figure, but I have to admit that I knew very little about Kathryn and Mary going in.
The eldest sister, Jane, was proclaimed queen for nine days by her scheming family and Dudley in-laws after the death of Edward VI. She was a devout Protestant, having studied with Kathryn Parr and the great grand-daughter of Henry VII through his daughter, Mary Tudor, Queen of France.
Her reign was swiftly terminated when Mary, the eldest daughter of Henry VIII, was able to form an army and win the favour of the Privy Council. Jane was found guilty of high treason and beheaded on February 12 1554, along with her husband, father, and other key members of the plot to put Jane on the throne.
The middle Grey sister – Katherine – was forced to remain in first Queen Mary’s court, then Elizabeth’s. She has almost no family remaining, her marriage was annulled, and she is treated as a threat by both queens. If she married and had a baby boy she would have as much as a claim to the throne as Jane had before her.
While Elizabeth is busy staving of threats to her crown by her other cousins – Mary, Queen of Scots and Mary Douglas – Kathryn marries Edward Seymour in secret, and is imprisoned under house arrest once Elizabeth discovers their betrothal.
The third Grey sister – Mary – was a Little Person and the only Grey sister to survive Queen Elizabeth’s fear of a Tudor heir and have children of her own.
A lot of people complain that Gregory too often uses a writing trope ‘as you know, Bob’ where she includes too much information about story details by having characters that already know this information talk about it together.
I did notice it throughout the novel, but I don’t have an issue about it in this case. The families of this time period are complicated and confusing, and I would much prefer to have the slight irk over unrealistic dialogue than to get bogged down in figuring out who everyone is all the time.
I loved diving back into the Tudor world with Gregory, although I was sad to read that this might be her last novel that focuses on the Tudors as she is heading in a new direction now.
Wow! July was an amazing reading month for me. I read a grand total of seven books. I managed to have such an epic reading month by making one small change in my evening routine. We’ve been turning the television off at least one episode earlier than we normally do and using that time to either get ready for the next day or read. As you can see, it really has made a huge a difference in how quickly I can get through my never ending TBR pile! I still have days where I will read non-stop like I always have, but having that regular reading time set aside has really ramped up my book turnaround.
My competition asking for your favorite reading indulgence for the chance to win a copy of When Life Gives you Lululemonswas the highlight of July for me. I loved connecting with so many new and old readers and hearing all the ways you like to indulge while reading.
Books I Read in July
Three books were written by new and new to me amazing Australian female writers: A Place to Remember, Those Other Women, and The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart. UK2 is written by one of my favorite self-published authors in the world, Terry Tyler. The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder is a thriller with a very interesting premise, When Life Gives you Lululemons is a humorous best-seller, and On the Road is an old favourite and also part of the David Bowie Reading Challenge #DBowieBooks.
Thank you to everybody who entered the competition to win a copy of WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LULULEMONS by Lauren Weisberger by letting me know on WordPress, Facebook andInstagram their favourite way to indulge while reading. I loved finding out the ways everybody likes to read and took notes for my future reading pleasure.
I entered everybody’s name into a random name picker and the winner is…
who answered on Facebook that she likes to indulge in some Tea with Lemon while she reads.