5 books that have surprised me

When you read a lot (and I mean a lot – all that time criss-crossing London going from brunch to afternoon tea to dinner review takes up many delicious hours of book-lost travelling) you often find yourself becoming jaded. Character arcs seem cliched, love matches have to be triangular and the denouement can be as flat as a pancake. Thankfully, every so often a story will come along and set your imagination on fire again.



Fresh from finding the secret delights of the London Sewing Machine Museum (oh yes, you read that correctly!), The Forgotton Seamstress by Liz Trenow made me cry, laugh and miss sleep in order to read right to the end.

On the brink of both a personal and work crisis, Carolyn Meadows
discovers a quilt in her Mother’s attic from her childhood. She
discovers that every stitch of embroidery, every thread of fabric is
impregnated with the poignant story of Maria Romano; an East End orphan
from a young age, brought up in a workhouse and ripe with stories of
Buckingham Palace, royalty, illegal adoption and war. Is it all true?
Are they simply wild fantasies of a madwoman locked away in an asylum?


The mark of a successful author, is the ability to transport a reader to
a different place, absorb our imagination into a realistic character,
and envelope us until we are a real part of their unfolding story. Fran Pickering’s The Cherry Blossom Murder does just this, introducing the
(somewhat kaleidoscopic) settling of British expat and amatuer sleuth
Josie Clark into the mysterious Japanese way of life. In addition to
solving her fragmented love life, Josie sets herself the task of
unravelling the seemingly random murder of a member of staff in her
Takarazuka Revue fan club.

History, glamour, Japan, murder, sequins and cherry blossoms, this story has it all. And a little birdie tells me that a second installment of the series is on it’s way…


The underlying premise of Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace is that an
ex-teacher, turned restaurant reviewer finds a mysterious disposable
camera in a restaurant on Charlotte Street.

Chaos ensues as he tries to match up the camera via it’s contents with
the lost owner. This is a humourous, rather pithy tale about friendship,
romance and making sure you give life a real go.


Sometimes books aren’t just companions for just a few days or to get you
through a few commuting hours. I read this novel at the suggestion of
fellow ninja-book-club reader +Lisa Watson (incidentally a fellow exile Kiwi) and I’m still thinking about the haunting situations that play out, months later.

One of his skills is an ability to find patterns in data:
extraordinary, complex, beautiful patterns that not even the most
powerful computers can comprehend. The company he works for has made
considerable sums of money from Lou’s work. But now they want Lou to
change – to become ‘normal’ like themselves. And he must face the
greatest challenge of his life. To understand the speed of dark.


The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh is a
beautiful story about Victoria, a girl given into care and the profound difference
a foster mother made to her life. Told in alternating chapters of present life
at the beginning of her twenties and the parallel of ten years past, her foster
Mother teaches her the Victorian flower symbologies as a way of conveying the
locked up emotion she holds inside. Through this process she researches and
begins to create her own dialect. Once emancipated at 18, this dialect becomes
a way for her to emotionally communicate with the world and create a livelihood
whilst learning to cope in a complex world.


You empathise with her, hurt with her, want to shake her in annoyance,
want to shout at her and want to feed her. She is complex and
surprising, and makes you appreciate your family and loved ones. 

Have you picked up any of these? Do you also have any recommendations for the cool wintery days ahead?

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