Welcome to the last of the book reviews for 2021 with some wonderful books that I can highly recommend.
The first book I read in December was the thought provoking contemporary novel Matilda Wilson is Coming Home by Anne Goodwin.
My review for the book 9th December 2021
This book is a behind the scenes drama played out behind the doors of a mental institution transitioning from a place to stash those who suffered from alleged mental disorders or lapses in moral judgment. Many living within these institutions may not have originally suffered from a mental impairment, but after fifty years within this closed and rigid environment, they have developed the inability to distinquish between reality and fantasy.
Told from three different perspectives we are introduced to Matilda (Matty), Janice and Henry who all have threads from the past keeping them from living life to the full.
Matilda’s story is heartbreaking and from an early age she was blighted by poverty, loss and abuse by those who should have kept her safe. She was a free spirit trapped by circumstances and the actions of others, and even behind the walls of this institution, there are those eager to take advantage of her vulnerability.
Her escape is the make believe world of princes and country houses in an era she felt most comfortable in. There is humour and logic behind her thinking and it was easy to fall in love with her mischievous approach to modern intrusions into her fantasy. However, after all the deprivations she has suffered, will she be able to move onto the more relaxed approach of community living?
Henry has been stuck in a time warp since his older sister he knew asTilly left when he was very young. He cannot move on as he is convinced that one day she will return to the house they shared fifty years ago. Now reaching retirement that dream is fading despite events in his neighbourhood that conspire to shake him out of his comfort zone. Can he let go of the past and move on to find love and a new life?
Finally Janice a young social worker, idealistic and convinced that she can prepare Matty for life in the new open community housing despite a number of setbacks during the process. Janice has her own past to explore as she becomes more disconnected from her adopted parents and sister and begins to question her role in mental health.
There are times, as events unfold and Matilda shares her childhood and teenage years, you as the onlooker are moved to outrage, despair but also admiration for the spirit that reached breaking point, only for it to escape instead into a fantasy world that provided comfort.
This is a thought provoking novel that is the first in the Matilda Windsor story, written by an author with first hand experience of the world of mental health institutions and the changing approach to treatment as a clinical psychologist. I look forward to discovering how the story unfolds in the next book.
Also by Anne Goodwin
Just in time for the holidays, a lovely read from award winning author Jan Sikes a novelette Mountain Laurel Christmas
My review for the book December 17th 2021
This story by Jan Sikes may be a short read but it is packed with heartwarming moments and reminders about family and how important they are at Christmas and every day of the year.
For the last two years we have been restricted in meeting family and other loved ones in person, missing the shared memories, laughter and physical hugs. Mountain Laurel Christmas delivers all of those in beautiful gift wrapped packages.
Throw in a flawed, lost superstar whose material possessions and fame leave an emptiness that seems impossible to fill, a road trip that leads to redemption, and you have a wonderful addition to your own Christmas.
I have no hesitation in recommending.
A small selection of other books by Jan Sikes
Delighted to review the festive romance by Staci Troilo – No Such Luck (Keystone Couples)
My review for the book December 22nd 2021
There is nothing like a feel good romance and a reminder of family and friendship at this time of year and No Such Luck by Staci Troilo delivers all of those elements. A short heart-warming read to add some glitter to the holiday.
As time passes. it is often the case memories can cast a rosier glow on relationships, events and expectations than in reality. We also evolve emotionally and mentally based on our experiences of life, and going back to our teenage years and our hometown, can put the spotlight on those memories with intriguing results.
This is the case for Piper Seidel, a feisty journalist who speaks her mind which can land her in trouble. Returning home for the holidays between jobs, she is faced with realisation she may have been pinning her hopes and dreams on a talisman that is not as lucky as she thought.
The characters are distinctively drawn and the story gathers momentum towards a very satisfactory outcome. Recommended
A small selection of books written by Staci Troilo
Very pleased to share my review for the short story collection by Mae Clair – Things Old and Forgotten
My review for the stories December 23rd 2021
Wow this is a story collection across the genres that will amaze and delight the reader.
We travel roads from the past and into the future meeting interesting characters along the way, some drawn from the worlds of fantasy and others from the edge of darkness. There are also light-hearted moments with encounters with intoxicating small yellow birds and escapees from the confines of ancient bottles.
Mae Clair writes with clarity and with a focus on the reader’s engagement, creating memorable characters and bringing favourite legendary elements into a new environment.
The stories are all excellent and tough to highlight any for special merit but my heart was warmed by Father’s Day, I was totally drawn in by Robin of Sherwood and Miss Lily Makes a Wish had me laughing.
I can highly recommend this well written and entertaining collection of stories that crosses the genres with ease and expertise.
A selection of other books by Mae Clair
My final review for the year was for the thriller Stones Corner: Turmoil by Jane Buckley
My review for the book 28th December 2021
The author gives a warning in the blurb about what a reader can expect in her debut novel set in Derry, Northern Ireland during one of the darkest years in the province’s history. The book delivers the reasons for that warning with chilling effect, bringing home the reality that this was a part of the United Kingdom, experiencing civil war within the last 50 years. The ripples of this violent outcome to the separation of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and its issues of belief and inequality, spread devastatingly outwards from the province; at times devastatingly.
When extremism on both sides of the divide are intent on winning, those innocents caught up in the turmoil are at the greatest risk, and when an outside force such as the British army are brought in, it adds fuel to the fire. The author creates that atmosphere of everyday fear and loss with great skill.
At the heart of this turmoil are young men and women who are vulnerable to manipulation by the fanatics, and imprisoned by age old segregation between religions and class.
Inhumane treatment of individuals, bombings resulting in mass casualties of innocents, illicit love affairs, revenge, espionage and poverty all combine to break the spirit of those who can see no end to the deprivation and conflict.
The author has created characters that will haunt you and some who inspire. Despite the environment, good people try to find comfort in their lives, falling in love across the divide and working to bring peace and stability. As the story moves forward they all come together centred on an event which will impact all of them and the future of the city.
This intiguing thriller delivers a great deal in terms of the writing, characters, storyline and expectations and I highly recommend the book. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series soon.
Also by Jane Buckley
Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you will be leaving with some books.. .thanks Sally.