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My Top 5 Reads of 2021, So Far

If like me, you love to read, then let me help you find your next good book. I have read nine books so far this year. For an author working on two new books, with a full time day job as a nurse, two step kids, a shift working partner, and a new podcast which launched this month, it's a pretty good effort if you ask me.

I would like to share with you my top 5 reads so far this year, in no particular order.

Number 1 - 'Comrades, Concubines, And, Lovers' by Graham Hunter.

This book tells the real life story of the author's adventures working all over the globe as a travelling salesman in the 1980's. I loved this story. It will touch your heart, make you laugh, make you cry, and make you gasp in surprise.

It reads like a Hollywood blockbuster, full of intrigue, espionage, love, loss, and everything in-between.

The Blurb

For years I have been telling my travel stories to friends at dinner parties, many of whom thought they were too incredulous to be true but most of them telling me that I must write a book. Well here it is, in more detail than I have ever dared to give before, describing a period from the 1980s when the world was a very different place to what it is now. Some of my stories could never be repeated as countries have changed, borders have been shifted and leaders toppled. In a world where information technology gives us instant access to world events as they happen, I describe a period where some International telephone calls had to be booked 24 hours in advance and once inside some countries, my colleagues would not know where I was or what I was doing until I came out. The telex, cumbersome and noisy, was the main means of international communication. My chapters jump around from country to country as I did but what I have tried to achieve is to show the incredible differences in lifestyles and customs, some of which got me into deep trouble. From the Far East where everything was available to the depths of the Iron Curtain where people had to queue for hours for a loaf of bread, I have tried to describe little details that would be impossible to know unless you were there. One innocent social faux pas nearly had me staying in China to get married!

I have enjoyed the company of some of the most beautiful girls in the world and fell hopelessly in love with one from behind the Iron Curtain, so much so that I proposed to her not knowing whether this was possible or whether I could get her out if the marriage was allowed to happen. My struggle with the Soviet Authorities and the KGB lasted nearly two years and often seemed an impossible task.

I ate food that would make you shudder, from “cow’s appendix soup with baby birds” to fried fish where the head was still alive watching you eat it! Due to the large number of flights I was making it was inevitable that I would experience some scary moments, many of which I have described in some detail which will make a lot of nervous fliers queasy.

Every story in this book is true, only the names have changed. I hope that you will share my excitement and emotions as I take you through my personal experiences in my travels around the world from the 1980’s and beyond.

Number 2 - 'A Hogmanay Kiss' by Elsie McArthur

I am a big fan of this author’s work, and have read all the books she has published to date. ‘A Hogmanay Kiss’ is a follow up or sequel to ‘The Back-Up Plan’, but could be read as a stand alone. Elsie is a talented author when it comes to writing romance.

This book is a feel-good story that will leave you with a smile on your face. I highly recommend this book and also recommend reading 'The Back-Up Plan' before ‘A Hogmanay Kiss’.

The Blurb

Marsaili and Will's happily ever after isn't turning out exactly like they planned...

Eighteen months after getting back together, and struggling to find a forever home in their small Highland community, they're still living in the upstairs bedroom of Marsaili's parents' croft. A chance to get away from it all for a romantic Christmas break is just what they need - Marsaili's brother is getting married, and they're going to spend two weeks in Edinburgh for the celebrations.

But when wedding mishaps, a flirtatious bridesmaid and past insecurities threaten to derail their plans, the idyllic festive getaway Marsaili and Will have been dreaming of could make them... or break them.

Reunite with all your favourite characters for a Christmas holiday they’ll never forget, in this fun, feel-good, festive sequel to The Back Up Plan.

Number 3 - 'The Lost Love Song' by Minnie Darke

This is the first book I have read by this author, and I will most definitely be checking out her other book titled, ‘Star Crossed’.

The book's central theme is ‘Love’ and its many forms. The main characters are intertwined together in a story of love, loss, music, dreams, and second chances. I very much look forward to reading more books by this author.

The Blurb

This is the story of a love song. And like any good love song, it has two parts.

In Australia, Arie Johnson waits impatiently for classical pianist Diana Clare to return from a world tour, hopeful that after seven years together she'll finally agree to marry him.

On her travels, Diana composes a song for Arie. It's the perfect way to express her love, knowing they'll spend their lives together... Won't they?

Then late one night, her love song is overheard, and begins its own journey across the world.

In Scotland, Evie Greenlees is drifting. It's been years since she left Australia with a backpack, a one-way ticket and a dream of becoming a poet. Now she spends her days making coffee and her nights serving beer. And she's not even sure whether the guy she lives with is really her boyfriend or just a flatmate.

Then one day she hears an exquisite love song. One that will connect her to a man with a broken heart..

Number 4 - 'The Project' by Stacey Potter

Working as an Aged Care Clinical Nurse Consultant in my day job, this wonderfully written book struck an emotional cord with me. This book made me both laugh, and cry.

In this story we meet Sabella, a sophomore in college. She is given a project by one of her professors, where she has to spend so many hours in a volunteering role, and keep a journal of her experience.

There are many options to choose from, and Sabella scrambles to find an option available that is not the Nursing Home. Working with older people is one of her worst fears as she remembers her own grandmother being a miserable, cranky, and bitter old woman, with the world’s biggest chip on her shoulders.

Sabella is pleasantly surprised to find out Eighty-three year old May is nothing like her grandmother. Before she met May, Sabella was struggling with many aspects of her life, and their unexpected friendship helps Sabella work through what she wants in life, and what’s important. She also finds out why her grandmother was so bitter for most of her life. I won’t say anything more about the plot, as I don’t want to give too much away.

This is a thought provoking book which tells a tale of love, betrayal, unexpected friendships, and self-discovery. The story is fast paced, and engaging. In my job as an Aged Care nurse, I love hearing the stories of older people, and many of their stories have influenced my own work as an author.

The Blurb

At the beginning of her college sophomore year in 1994, Sabella Pierce surrenders to her semester-long psych class assignment: volunteer as a companion for eighty-three-year-old nursing-home resident, May. Having grown up with a bitter grandmother and a well-earned lack of enthusiasm for old people, Sabella dreads this project.

But Sabella's anxiety about her assignment turns to fascination as she discovers May's vibrant spirit, life of independence, and stash of handwritten letters from the one who got away. Now Sabella is inspired to create a project of her own: reunite these two long-lost lovers while there's still time.

While visiting, Sabella also encounters Ted, the nursing home's grungy, flannel-wearing, alternative-rock listening volunteer coordinator. At first, she detests his nonconformist attitude and his constant ribbing of her wealthy upbringing. But as her longtime boyfriend, Ryan, is distracted by his jock friends and a flirty girl from his hometown, opportunities with Ted unfold.

Will the project spark love for Sabella and relight an old flame for May?

Number 5 -"Discerning Grace' by Emma Lombard

Historical fiction is not usually a genre I tend to pick up and read, but I am so glad I did. ‘Discerning Grace’ by Emma Lombard, has it all. Family drama, betrayal, adventure, comradery, suspense, and love. What more could you want in a good read? The book is the first in ‘The White Sails Series'. So, you have been warned. If you read this book, you will be waiting eagerly for books two and three.

For lovers of adventure, romance, intrigue, and period drama, this book is for you. Emma has created engaging characters, unsuspecting twists and turns, romance, and heart stopping adventure on the high seas. If you are a fan of historical fiction, I highly recommend this well written, and entertaining book that will have you turning the pages. I am happy it is the first of a series, as I wanted more.

The Blurb

Wilful Grace Baxter, will not marry old Lord Silverton with his salivary incontinence and dead-mouse stink. Discovering she is a pawn in an arrangement between slobbery Silverton and her calculating father, Grace is devastated when Silverton reveals his true callous nature.

Refusing this fate, Grace resolves to stow away. Heading to the docks, disguised as a lad to ease her escape, she encounters smooth-talking naval recruiter, Gilly, who lures her aboard HMS Discerning with promises of freedom and exploration in South America.

When Grace's big mouth lands her bare-bottomed over a cannon for insubordination, her identity is exposed. The captain wants her back in London but his orders, to chart the icy archipelago of Tierra del Fuego, forbid it. Lieutenant Seamus Fitzwilliam gallantly offers to take Grace off the fretting captain's hands by placing her under his protection.

Grace must now win over the crew she betrayed with her secret, while managing her feelings towards her taciturn protector, whose obstinate chivalry stifles her new-found independence. But when Grace disregards Lieutenant Fitzwilliam's warnings about the dangers of the unexplored archipelago, it costs a friend his life and she realises she is not as free as she believes.

DISCERNING GRACE is historical women's fiction that will appeal to fans of Claire Fraser from Outlander and Demelza Poldark from Poldark—in other words, fans of feisty historical female leads.

So, my friends. If you are looking for a great book to keep you entertained, check out one of these wonderful reads.

I am very excited to be chatting with both Graham Hunter and Elsie McArthur on The Write Words Podcast.

Graham's episode will air on the 16th June and Elsie's will air on the 30th of June. Elsie will be joined by the lovely Elizabeth Holland who am also a big fan of. Her books were among my favourite reads of 2020.

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