October Reads 2021

I’m a bit late with this month’s reviews, mainly because every spare minute is spent ploughing through Upon All Men for the final proofread.

There are 5 books this month, a wide mix of genres. A play as recommended by Stephanie Kempson who is running a scriptwriting course I’m currently on, a memoir/guide by my old school friend’s father, plus three novels; one historic fiction, one environmental thriller and one cosy contemporary fiction.


As always, they are listed in the order I read them, and all feature because they are very much worthy of three stars or more.

They are:

Boy Underground by Catherine Ryan

Lela & Co by Cordelia Hyde Lynn

Reluctantly Home by Imogen Clark

How to be Chief Executive of your own Life by Mike Wilson

Blind Eye by Anna M Holmes


Boy Underground by Catherine Ryan

Published 7 December 2021 Lake Union Publishing


Official Blurb

1941. Steven Katz is the son of prosperous landowners in rural California. Although his parents don’t approve, he’s found true friends in Nick, Suki, and Ollie, sons of field workers. The group is inseparable. But Steven is in turmoil. He’s beginning to acknowledge that his feelings for Nick amount to more than friendship.

When the bombing of Pearl Harbor draws the US into World War II, Suki and his family are forced to leave their home for the internment camp at Manzanar. Ollie enlists in the army and ships out. And Nick must flee. Betrayed by his own father and accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he turns to Steven for help. Hiding Nick in a root cellar on his family’s farm, Steven acts as Nick’s protector and lifeline to the outside world.

As the war escalates, bonds deepen and the fear of being different falls away. But after Nick unexpectedly disappears one day, Steven’s life focus is to find him. On the way, Steven finds a place he belongs and a lesson about love that will last him his lifetime.


My Review

This is such a unique perspective of the Second World War. The war is almost a backdrop to the story for it happens far away, and yet it’s also absolutely pivotal and intrinsic to the plot. For this is not about a war field or refugees in the way that other more famous novels are, it’s about how separatism affected the everyday person left behind. How racism and prejudice filtrates to a small town and the fear that it instils in each resident.

Mostly though, it’s a story about friendship and loyalty and it’s absolutely brilliantly written. Heartbreaking and wonderfully uplifting, this is the most gorgeous coming of age novel. I thoroughly recommend you pre-order this now or download while it’s still on kindle unlimited.


My Rating

5 stars



Lela & Co by Cordelia Hyde Lynn

Published by Nick Herne Books


Official Blurb

The story of a young girl trapped in an increasingly tiny world. In the beginning was the mattress. Gradually, other little changes - more bolts on the front door; the gun; the locked cupboard. And she knew in her heart that change was bad.

Based on a true story, Lela & Co. premiered at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in 2015.


My Review

Lela is trying to tell her story, but each time she attempts to re-count something she is interrupted by the men in her life, first her father, then her brother in law, her husband and finally a soldier.


Delivered as one long monologue the style is direct and raw. Lela’s traumatic story is also set against the backdrop of war, (the brief for the commission) but what Cordelia Lynn has done with it is extraordinarily powerful.


Reading scripts isn’t for everyone but if you ever get the chance to see or perform in this, then absolutely go for it!


My Review

5 stars



Reluctantly Home by Imogen Clark

Published April 2021 by Amazon Publishing


Official Blurb

Pip Appleby seems to have it all, with her prestigious job as a human rights lawyer and her enviable London home. But then a tragic accident stops her life in its tracks, and in an instant everything changes. Retreating to her family’s rural farm and the humble origins she has been trying to hide, Pip is haunted by what she has done.

When she discovers the diary of actress Evelyn Mountcastle in a box of old books, Pip revels in the opportunity to lose herself in someone else’s life rather than focus on the disaster that is her own. But soon she sees parallels—Evelyn’s life was also beset by tragedy, and, like Pip, she returned to Southwold under a dark cloud.

When Pip and Evelyn’s paths cross in real life they slowly begin to reveal the hidden stories that are holding them back. Can they help each other forgive what happened in the past and, perhaps, find happiness in the future?


My Review

This is a feelgood, women’s contemporary fiction novel that has a lovely message; don’t let the past cloud your future. For both Pip and Evelyn, their past tragedy is overshadowing their present and their friendship becomes an important way for them both to unravel their feelings. After the rather harrowing subject matter of the two previous books I was in need of more gentle narrative. Reluctantly Home is highly enjoyable, well-structured with two strong female characters both of whom I related to.

It is currently available on Kindle unlimited.


My Rating

4 stars



How to be Chief Executive of your own Life by Mike Wilson

Published Oct 2018 by the Sumner Charitable Trust


Official Blurb

How to be Chief Executive of Your Own Life is not a conventional self-help manual, a history of building one of the most successful and admired companies in the UK, a guide to achieving the perfect work-life balance, nor an autobiography – but rather a combination of all four. By his mid-fifties, Mike Wilson had been at the helm of two extremely successful companies, which he had driven to the top through his energy, dedication and a rare ability to inspire people to follow him. It was at this point that he realised his life was solely focused on his work; it was time to make some serious changes. This book shows how he achieved his success and rebalanced his life to embrace the elements that can’t be measured by money – and how you can, too. Including sections on visualisation, organisation, running meetings, firing people, creating a company’s culture and ‘the hidden secret’ of charitable giving, it does exactly what its title suggests. Becoming the CEO of your own life is relevant to everyone, whether you are already at the top of your tree, hoping to get there, or have no grand career ambitions; whether your daily meetings involve hundreds of people and millions of pounds, or one friend at the café at the end of the road. Written with humour, humility and wisdom, it is a one-stop guide to winning at the game of life by someone who has landed the jackpot.


My Review

I came across this after re-connecting with an old school friend who is Mike Wilson’s daughter Panda. When we were small, I remember Mr Wilson as a distant figure whose drinks parties we would charge through. Then, when I began putting on charitable events myself (anyone remember my fashion shows?) Mr Wilson was one of my supporters, although I had to not only write for funding, but call around in person for a mini-interview each time.

I read this, and loved it for it’s really a reminder of how to be human in business. How to be considerate, remember your manners and treat people how you would like to be treated. There are also great exercises, games almost you could call them, to make meetings that much more productive. There are so many interesting anecdotes too and I just wish Mr Wilson were still alive so I could thank him in person for his wise words.

This is for everyone, who would like the best from their team.


My Rating

4 stars




Blind Eye by Anna M Holmes

Published by the Book Guild September 2021


Official Blurb

Set in the Indonesian rainforest, Blind Eye is a fast-paced political environmental thriller exploring moral predicaments and personal choices.

Ben is an economist whose life is falling to pieces. The last thing he needs right now is to compile a report for the government on sustainable exportation of timber from Indonesia. But he has got to keep the pennies rolling in. Everyone seems to have an angle. The Government want trade, the businessmen want low-cost products, the environmentalists want to maintain endangered habitats and one young woman, Yulia, is determined to protect communities. Ben rushes through the report, but then tragedy hits. A community is shattered, and Ben realises, there is no staying neutral. He has a part to play in the global picture.


My Review

Blind Eye hooks you in from the beginning. It’s got an exciting premise, good characters and a solid plotline. I particularly admired the efficient prose which pulls you through the action.

It was subject that I knew little about. I am aware that some fuel companies forge reports, but the timber trade, with it’s devastating ripple effects, was an eye opener. It’s certainly the first time I’ve heard the term ‘green-washing’ which is the perfect way of describing the false reporting that goes on.

I just hope that although Blind Eye is fiction, that people like Ben and Yulia really exist, otherwise there is no hope for the world.


My Rating

4 stars


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