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Books I Picked Up On A Whim

lyThe Top Ten Tuesday list chosen by the wonderful The Broke and the Bookish this week was for the ten books that bloggers had picked up on a whim, this led me to ponder not only those books but how the way I chose books has changed over the years.

As a child it was easy, I had the school library, the local library and kind relations who supplied books that they’d enjoyed as children and so I probably have the full quotient of children’s classics under my belt. Aside from that I was lucky in that many kindly teachers recommended books and to be honest, I was the sort of child that would read anything, cornflake packets included!

It was as I graduated from the children’s section of the library that things became more complicated. Our local library at the time simply shelved all fiction alphabetically and so my reading became dictated by my whims. In those days before the internet there were precious few places to find out about books which did not dominate the best-seller list, and if I’m honest I miss those days of wandering around the library or bookshop shelves looking for something appealing.  And this continued pretty much to the millennium although the library in Jersey used a variety of ways to point eager readers in the right direction, including a one week loan for new releases – something that always caused great anxiety – would I get through the book in time, there would be nothing worse than getting within reach of the ending only to have to return the precious book for others to read!

Library image

These days, I rarely chose a book without it being recommended to me, either by a fiercely knowing search engine on Amazon or Goodreads, or by one of the hugely knowledgeable book bloggers out there who suggest all sorts of hidden treasures to me!

And of course I now have reviews at my fingertips to ensure I am making a wise choice, never forgetting that even the less glowing reviews can point towards something that will please me. In those far flung times there were professional reviews in the newspapers which I did look at but many of these seemed a bit rarefied for my tastes, I just wanted a jolly good story. So I’d look at the shelves, read the book jackets and decide if this might be the book for me… and this way I found many writers who have remained firm favourites to this day.

Shadow Baby by Margaret Forster

Shadow Baby


Born in Carlisle in 1887, brought up in a children’s home and by reluctant relatives, Evie, with her wild hair and unassuming ways, seems a quiet, undemanding child.
Shona, born almost seventy years later, is headstrong and striking. She grows up in comfort and security in Scotland, the only child of doting parents. But there are, as she discovers, unanswered questions about her past.
The two girls have only one thing in common: both were abandoned as babies by their mothers. Different times, different circumstances, but these two girls grow up sharing the same obsession. Each sets out to stalk and then haunt her natural mother. Both mothers dread disclosure; both daughters seek emotional compensation and, ultimately, revenge.

Not only did I love this book but rattled my way through her entire back-catalogue, my most recent read being The Unknown Bridesmaid. Sadly Margaret Forster passed away earlier this year but I still have her a large collection of her books on my shelf.

My crime fiction reads at this time were led by whatever was showing on TV at the time and in this way I was introduced to all the greats; Morse, Wexford, Dalziel and Pascoe and Frost. All of these men grace my shelves to this day. However it was after reading Wexford that I discovered the more psychological reads provided in the books written by Ruth Rendell under the name Barbara Vine. This in turn led to me reading so much in this genre before it gained its current popularity. Asta’s Book remains one of my favourite reads of all time combining my love of history with a study of the psyche.

Astas Book


1905. Asta and her husband Rasmus have come to east London from Denmark with their two sons. With Rasmus constantly away on business, Asta keeps loneliness and isolation at bay by writing her diary. These diaries, published over seventy years later, reveal themselves to be more than a mere journal, for they seem to hold the key to an unsolved murder, to the quest for a missing child and to the enigma surrounding Asta’s daughter, Swanny. It falls to Asta’s granddaughter Ann to unearth the buried secrets of nearly a century before. Amazon

Barbara Vine’s most recent book The Child’s Child was reviewed by Cleopatra Loves Books back in 2014

More recently I picked up The Mistress’s Revenge by Tamar Cohen on a whim as it was unlike the book choices I usually made at that time, and I’m so glad I did. This book had me howl with laughter and gasp in surprise as the book took a slightly darker turn.

The Mistresses Revenge


Never have an affair with anyone who has less to lose than you. And – never underestimate the wrath of a woman scorned.
For five years, Sally and Clive have been lost in a passionate affair. Now he has dumped her, to devote himself to his wife and family, and Sally is left in freefall. It starts with a casual stroll past his house, and popping into the brasserie where his son works. Then Sally starts following Clive’s wife and daughter on Facebook. But that’s alright isn’t it? I mean they are perfectly normal things to do. Aren’t they? Not since Fatal Attraction has the fallout from an illicit affair been exposed in such a sharp, darkly funny and disturbing way.
The Mistress’s Revenge is a truly exciting fiction debut. After all, who doesn’t know a normal, perfectly sane woman who has gone a little crazy when her heart was broken?

Tamar now writes under the name Tammy, but the quality of her books hasn’t diminished, rather it has just got even better, her latest offering When She Was Bad is sure to resonate to all office workers!

Now this may sound planned but I had already written this post when I found out yesterday that Transworld Books have signed a six figure book deal with Tammy for three books, the first due out in Spring 2017; All Fall Down is set in an asylum! Even better TV rights for When She Was Bad are currently at auction. That is one whim that sounds as though it will be providing me with good books to read for some time to come!


I think with these three books alone, I have proved that picking up a book on a whim can lead to a whole treasure trove of books.

What book have you picked up on a whim that you are eternally grateful for?


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

31 thoughts on “Books I Picked Up On A Whim

  1. Oh, these all look so tempting! I really like the look of The Mistress’s Revenge.

    I, too, loved browsing for books as a child, from the school library to the village library…and then graduated to a larger library in a nearby town.

    Libraries were always the first place I found in a new town (after the grocery stores); I moved around a lot, but had to map out the places to find books.

    Then, before blogging, there were bookstores, but there is a shortage of those now. So it’s blogging and the Internet…but sometimes I still go to a bookstore.

    I should visit libraries more often…they are still great places to find older books.


  2. The library, the ever present physicality of books, their size, their cover, their blurb, choices made, for whatever reasons, from school days to the present, myself, my daughters, my grandchildren, all take of the magic, one in particular aged 10 now writes, reviews as it happens, anything, of where she’s been and read, her teachers can’t wait for her next one, she’ll be reviewed one day, for sure, because she went to the library, read and found her way with words.


    1. It is a shame I don’t go as often any more – the library has been my focus point wherever I’ve lived and I took my children to choose their books from picture books right the way through to adulthood.


    1. I don’t normally do TTT but seeing the posts this week made me think about the way I chose a book has changed over the years – some of the books I’ve read on a whim have been outstanding and I wanted to capture the top three.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You’ve prompted memories of watching my parents wander off into the adult section of the local library and thinking how boring it all looked compared with my own bit as I thought of it. At some point they must have invited me to join them but, oddly, I can’t remember when.

    Lovely to see Margaret Forster as one of your favourites.


    1. I still remember walking round the partition to the adult’s section and being worried the librarian would tell me I wasn’t old enough for the adult books! I would never have read all Margaret Forster’s books if it weren’t for Shadow Baby, and I would have really missed out!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think you found some good ‘uns, Cleo. And I well remember the days of wandering around a library or bookshop, trying to decide what book would catch my fancy. I ‘met’ lots of great authors that way. As you say, we have more information available than ever about what’s out here, so there are many, many more choices. I’ll be keen to know what you think of these – especially the Barbara Vine.


      1. That’s another favourite of mine! I bought it in hardback in a charity shop many years ago and is again one I will re-read. I love most of her books with the exception of The Birthday Present? I thinks that’s what is was called.


  5. How fun to pick up books on a whim. I did the same this past Friday when I took the girls to the library and saw three titles in the New Fiction section. I am excited to start reading them!


  6. Years ago I picked up The Nymph and the Lamp (by Thomas Raddall) on a whim not knowing anything about it except that it was written by someone who was dead and that it was set on an island off the coast of Nova Scotia. I loved it so much, that I recently re-read it so that I could talk about it on my blog. Then I went on to read another one of his books, and loved that one too. 🙂


    1. That’s what I like about picking up books on a whim – the Margaret Forster book had me follow a whole trail of books about women’s lives in the nineteenth/twentieth century and that encompasses a whole range of subjects along the way. Glad you had a hit with The Nymph and the Lamp – I’ve not read that one.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Today on a whim, on our way home from the DIY store, we popped into a library sale. I picked up a mint Tana French hardcover and a Scandi noir likewise by an author hitherto unknown to me, plus VG-condition trade paperbacks of two of Susan Hill’s Simon Seraillier series (OK, if a bit PD James) and a Gillian Flynn (I didn’t like Gone Girl all that much but I did like her writing).

    Total cost? $1.75, or about £1.20. Bearing in mind our book-storage problem, at such prices it seems far too easy to pick up books on a whim!


  8. Ah the days before the Internet when you didn’t look up a book before you bought it…how did we survive? I still to pick up a lot of books on a whim and they are some of my favourite reads.


  9. This post has made me feel really nostalgic for the days when I picked up nearly all of my books on a whim. I think that next time I’m out I’m going to make a point of going in a book shop, avoiding the promo tables and just seeing what jumps out at me on the shelves. 🙂


  10. Very good point about the way our choices and ways of choosing have changed. It’s rare now for me to get a book that I know nothing about – but that was very common in the pre-internet days. I just looked at my shelves to find the first ‘whim’ author I could see, and it was the wonderful Margery Sharp, who has been a joy to me ever since.


  11. My latest whim was Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood, which proved to be quite a complex and hard reading, but an amazing one nonetheless. I think we just ‘feel’ that connection to a book sometimes, and that’s it. There is no logical explanation for me when I know I have to read a book.


  12. Lovely post. Margaret Forster and Barbara Vine are old favourites. Dark-Adapted eye is the best in my view. I think it was adapted for TV. Random picks can yield treasures.


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