Books

A Year at the Cafe at the End of the Pier- Helen Rolfe

This book is the combination of the novellas that were published periodically throughout 2018. I am not a big fan of this way of publishing as I much prefer to get stuck right into the story, so I am glad that I picked this as the full novel so I could immerse myself in the Cafe.

Jo’s grandparents are struggling with their cafe and with Jo not really finding the love in teaching she offers to come back and give a hand. It is not until she returns to Salthaven that she realises what a mess they are in and the hard work she is facing.

However Jo approaches it all with such enthusiasm that I was immediately transported to the cafe to watch as Jo not only manages to breathe life back into the cafe but the community and also people’s love lives. Trouble is she is neglecting her own passions as she enthuses so much about the cafe and helping other people.

Taking us through the seasons, we see Jo embrace the various fruit and vegetables that are delivered daily from Matt at the local farm – if you want to eat seasonally, this book would help! If you want to go on a diet this book is like torture! The food sounds delicious and I could almost smell it cooking as I read on as Jo tries all sorts of interesting combinations.

Steve, the local handyman and hardened surfer whatever the weather is a regular customer and fixer of the cafe and despite his physique eats quite a lot of things he shouldn’t.

Jess, the running doctor, always stops by for her smoothie.

Dan and his son Charlie who are struggling without the regular presence of a wife and mother pop in for a regular treat.

Locals, Hilda and Angie think nothing of taking up a table for a game of chess for a good part of the day.

Valerie likes to pop in after her early morning yoga on the beach and then there is lonely, Geoff and his fishing at the end of the pier who always has time for a drink.

The book is full of characters and Jo can see that some of them are well suited to each other and thinks maybe she should play cupid and use her cafe as the perfect setting. Along with some well-timed and themed local events, the cafe is really the place to be but while Jo has settled in well her mother, thinks she is wasting her life but then her mother left Salthaven a long time ago and cannot see the attraction. Jo needs to make her see another side to the place.

With Jo so busy, will she ever have time for her own romance. Well if we leave it up to some of the regulars in the cafe who knows what might happen?

This is a fantastic book, I really enjoyed it and read it quickly as I was captured by the all of the characters, there are a few and they are well-formed and you knew how they fitted into the story and it was all the better for it. The descriptions of the food and baking was out of this world and this book could almost be a recipe book in the making!

I recommend this book whatever the season because there is always something going on at The Little Cafe at the End of the Pier! Join Jo for a coffee and a cake you will not regret it.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

The five parts which make up this novel are out now on kindle and the full book is published on the 24 January. 

 

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Books

Finding Hope at Hillside Farm – Rachael Lucas

Ella works with horses on her Aunt Bron’s farm in the Welsh countryside. It is a haven for Ella who having always worked horses retreated to Bron’s farm when tragedy struck. Now Ella spends her days healing others through the power of therapy with the horses.

When she spots a small child watching her through the trees, she at first thinks she has seen some sort of ghost, but in fact it is Hope, a young girl who has lost her mother, living with her grandparents and a fairly absent father who has moved to the area. She is fascinated by the horses and when she finally gets up close to them, they change not just Hope’s life but also Ella’s.

Ella might well be settled but she is still hiding from the past – and someone from that past. When he turns back up in Ella’s life it seems that perhaps the past is still very much the present.

This is a wonderfully gentle novel, dealing with life changing issues in a kind way. Whilst the story gets going, it seems we are simply watching Ella’s life and her work with this equine therapy.  Then there is Hope’s story as she comes to the village to live with her grandparents, the formidable Jenny and laid back Lou. There is of course the village community which is embraced within such a place and that is threaded through the main storyline. Of course the clues are there and I did spot the link between the two stories.

I had to keep simply reading because I wanted to know how it was all going to weave together and whether the outcome was the right one for the characters that I had invested time in. Of course I am not going to tell you what the outcome is – or whether it was the right one. You will have to read the book yourself to find that out!

This book needs a sequel as I want to go back to Hillside Farm.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

Finding Hope at Hillside Farm is out now on kindle and published in paperback 7 Feb

Books

The Secret – Jennifer Wells

Jennifer Wells is a new author to me and this is the first book I completed in 2019. Ironically the first book read in 2018 was her previous novel. I can see a pattern forming and just like the first book I read a year ago the latest one was interesting, captivating and a thoroughly good read.

1920 – Lily, a dancer is invited to go and stay at Elmridge House with Dr Cuthbertson a doctor and a wealthy benefactor of the theatre to recover from her troubles.

1942 – Ivy, a nurse at the local cottage hospital is called out to Elmridge House to a distressed Mrs Cuthbertson and the elusive Dr Cuthbertson. The house is nothing like she has seen before, its grandeur evident from the moment you turn onto the drive.

When Ivy mentions her visit to Elmridge House to her mother, she is warned to never set foot in the place again. Ivy is given no explanation.

As the two narratives take us on a journey, there becomes the cross over where the actions of Ivy and Lily come forever intertwined and the story of what goes on at Elmridge House is revealed.

I really don’t want to say anymore, because it is a book full of intrigue and secrets, set against the bright lights of theatre, of that false world created for others entertainment and pleasure. Then some twenty years later against the war and those that are left behind to carry on and nurse, not just the men returned from battles with scars both physical and mental but of the women left behind who perhaps grasping a small amount of pleasure are left with a lasting legacy to be dealt with.

I felt I was looking at what was going on ‘behind the scenes’ – the theatre, the big house and the hospital. Jennifer Wells creates the atmosphere so well that I felt I was in the home of Ivy, in that kitchen at the nurses home, in Elmridge House with the curtains seemingly permanently closed.

Nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors but the secrets for Ivy and Lily are about to come tumbling out.

If you like historical fiction and sagas then this is the book for you.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

The Secret is out now. 

Books

Bright Young Dead – Jessica Fellowes

This is the second in the series of books which takes us with the next Mitford Sister playing a strong role, but of course the others especially Nancy heavily predominant in the first book make an appearance as well.

However the story is related round Louisa Cannon who went to work for the Mitford’s in the first book escape her unpleasant Uncle. She works mainly in the nursery and becomes a chaperone for the sisters as they reach a certain age but she is till seen helping round the house in whatever role is necessary. A maid of all work I suppose.

I really feel you need to know this background to Louisa as well as her sometime friend Guy Sullivan, a policeman wanting to make a name for himself. Without this prior knowledge i feel that you would be lost for the first third or so of the book – I was and had to go and do a quick recap of who was who. Once I had done this I settled into the book much easier.

This time the focus is centred on Pamela Mitford the second sister, turning 18 and rather to be found out in the fields with horses, returning with no care for her appearance she is in contrast to her older sister Nancy who has embraced the 1920s and is certainly one of societies Bright Young Things.

To bring Pamela into this circle, nancy arranges for one of her infamous treasure hunts to take place but it results in tragedy.

One of the Bright Young Things; Adrian Curtis is found dead. Perhaps not well liked, but certainly no reason for him to have died.

The killer is Dulcie a maid and an associate of Louisa Cannon.

It all seems clear-cut until you start to find out about these Bright Young Things, their relationships and their connections to Alice Diamond.

Alice Diamond is well-known and well-regarded amongst certain elements of the underworld in London in fact she is the Queen to the Forty Thieves. Rarely caught her method of distraction and working the shops as if she was as well-regarded as the Queen means that she is a name everyone knows…..especially Louisa.

Again, Fellowes brings the fact into fiction and weaves it into a believable tale which had me intrigued how the criminal were flirting with the high society and getting away with it, until the day that Pamela and Nancy along with Louisa help reenact the evening of the murder to see if they can solve it.

Aside from the slow start when you have to know who is who, once you get going this book moves along at a quite a pace and you see Pamela start to blossom and stand out from Nancy’s shadow.

A great murder mystery which adds the elements of well-known people – both the Mitford’s and Alice Diamond (google her I had to – she did exist!) and creates a book worth reading and buying for all fans of good old-fashioned golden age murder mystery.

I look forward to seeing where we go next as chronologically it should be Thomas Mitford but I feel it will concentrate on the sisters, so Diana next and I wonder who else I learn about in the process.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

Bright Young Dead is out now in hardback

 

Books · Jottings · Witterings

Books in 2018

Before January runs aways with us – I thought I should look back at the books I read in 2018.Books in 2018

So a few stats:

 

109 Books Read – My challenge completed in November, which I am sure is a first!

The shortest book was 34 pages.

The longest book was 738 pages.

In total of the 109 books that is 35,040 pages equal to 671 pages per week or 95 pages per day.

In terms of physical books and ebooks – this year the kindle overtook at 78 books and I know this is down to the wonder that is netgalley which is giving me the opportunity to read so many books before they are published or just as they are in return for a review.

New for 2018 was re-read and this was one book – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society a wonderful book which I wanted to remind myself of as I was looking forward to seeing the film.

Never mind the statistics what of the actual books – oh gosh well here it goes I suppose.

Regular readers of this blog will know I am a big Lucinda Riley fan which is why of course no list would be without one of her books – I held onto The Pearl Sister to read in 2018

CeCe feeling rejected, unwanted and definitely unloved begins her travels to Australia with the only clue that her adoptive father has left her the name of a woman pioneer and an old black and white photograph. Two things that seemingly have no links to each other let alone CeCe.

But this is a Lucinda Riley book and there is a link and a wonderful and beautiful story to tell.

And rather than wait and saviour the next in The Seven Sisters series I dived straight into The Moon Sister

The author, transported me back to this place, the darkness of the caves, the problems that the gitanos faced being on the outer edges of the city, of society, of religion, of what was considered normal behaviour. But showed a community brought together by all that makes them different, the culture, the music and of course the dance.

Words are lyrical, they can take you somewhere, they can form pictures in your imagination. But in this book, the description of the flamenco dancing and the music, but the flamenco especially, just resonates off the page. You can feel the vibrations of the feet, as they stamp and form, as the beat increases, as the arms move in almost synchronicity to the feet, as the dress is moved in time to the music and as the appreciative audience are held spellbound by such a display.

Reading multiple books by the same author certainly seems to have been a ‘thing’ of 2018 and therefore mention must go to:

Phillipa Ashley

I enjoy Phillipa Ashley’s novels, she writes with such warmth, that it feels that I am transported to wherever she wants to take me and I become part of the story which is why I can read her books so quickly. The only downside being I then have to wait ages for the next one! I either need to read slower or Phillipa needs to write quicker!

Christie Barlow

A warm fuzzy novel that leaves you wanting more and as Christie Barlow writes more her storylines go from strength to strength. You will not be disappointed.

Sarah Bennett

Yet again Sarah Bennett delivers a story which has you falling in love not just with the gorgeous Jack but the setting as well. I wanted to walk along the promenade at the bay as well as delight in the smell of the lavender that I am convinced was seeping off the pages.

Cathy Bramley

I could see it coming and this is no reflection on Cathy Bramley’s writing or plotting. The book is well written and you could see that the author has reflected on all the characters and the effect the tragedy would have on them. This was not simply about one person’s issues and the rest of the characters faded into the background you got the full effect and you almost had to decide what you would perhaps do in that situation?

Emma Davies

This is the final book in the series of the Little Cottage on the Hill. I would heartily recommend reading all of them in order (my OCD kicking in) because that way you’ll understand the draw of Joy’s Acre, as well as experience such strong writing and characterisation.

Holly Martin

Thank you Holly for the joy you bring in your writing.

Heidi Swain

Heidi Swain in my opinion has done it again in drawing you into a story which of course has a romantic plot line but has so much else going on as well. She manages to make sure all the characters are well-rounded and have depth, even if they are minor and I am as much intrigued by Dorothy and Molly as I was delighted to be able to catch up with Anna and Jamie.

I have picked these authors because I know I will come back to them time and time again – there are some more authors who I read a number of their books during 2018 but whilst they were pleasant diversions realistically sometimes you have to stick to your favourites. Maybe I will come back to them in years to come – who knows?

Of course when you find new authors you cannot neglect your favourites and so the year would not be complete without reading one (or more) of their novels. So here goes my annual mention for Trisha Ashley – The House of Hopes and Dreams

This book has everything you might want in a book, romance, death, big houses, dogs, cake, quirky characters, history and laughs. Not sure you could ask for more really?

A favourite of mine for 2018 and it’s only February, I could in fact go back to the beginning and read the whole thing again!

And of course Veronica Henry – A Family Recipe 

A heartwarming novel which shows you the strength of love, the choices you make and the place that you should always call home. What more of a recipe do you need to read this book?

Then of course I have gone back to some sagas and I am itching to read the next in the series of the Shipyard Girls by Nancy Revell

I cannot say that these novels have becoming formulaic or boring, the author somehow injects different plot devices into them just to keep us readers on our toes and also covers some of the more less publicised aspects of the Second World War. I am intrigued as to where the author will go next.

This series of novels has really captured me and it is a long time since I have read any decent sagas which I want to return to and continue the story. I envy anyone who picks up the first of these novels – they have such joy to come.

I personally think the last couple of years my reading has been dominated by women’s fiction and whilst I may not be reading the books every critic or newspaper column thinks I should be reading – I have read simply what I have wanted to. Do you know what? I have loved every page of it.

Of course there have been some books which did not really do it for me and whilst I persevered with some I did give up a few others. I really believe in passing on a book and know that some books work for some and others don’t.

Interestingly The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton features on many favourites – I could not get on with it.

 

I persevered because the book is clever, the concept of seeing something happen again and again but in the guise of someone else is intriguing. The twist of being able to stop it to save yourself gives it another added layer.

But I wonder whether this book was simply too clever for me? I think it might have been. It had all the right elements I like in novels, a cast of characters both masters and servants, a big house, set in the past, a mystery, a twist but it whilst it held my attention enough to keep me reading I was left feeling rather flat at the end.

Others disliked Dear Mrs Bird – AJ Pearce which I adored.

This is a wonderful novel which transports you into the heart of Emmeline’s life, into the heart of London, into the reality that is war on the Home Front. Not afraid to tackle subjects either through the letters that are written in to Mrs Bird or the main storyline of the book, this debut author captured my heart and attention immediately and I was completely drawn into the story.

Who else should get a mention, Jenny Colgan, Lesley Kara, Adam Kay, Carole Matthews, Lily Graham, Ruth Jones and Gail Honeyman. 


 

 

 

 

So that was 2018 and I did not sign up for any specific challenges in 2018 other than wanting to read 100 books and at least 4 Agatha Christie. 1 out of 2 is not bad! It was 3 for the Christie and I will certainly try for another 4 this year. Other than the obvious 100 books I will take the year and my reading as it comes!

Books

December Roundup

That’s it then – all done for 2018!

Of course to keep in with the rest of this blog structure, I of course have to do a December Roundup Post. So without further ado….

I sort of lost my reading mojo a bit in December, probably because it is a fully packed and busy 3 weeks before I have time off work and it is a case of sleep,swim,work,eat and repeat for a number of the days with added socialising as well.

But of course I did read some books and I have a head start on 2019 with Carole Matthews – Happiness for Beginners a real delightful book to brighten the greyest of days. And behind with last years reading and probably my last Christmas Book for 2018 was the lovely signed, hardback copy of Carole Matthews – Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights where I revisited previous characters and it was like reading about old friends – I just hope that there is more to come from these particular characters.

Getting ahead again with 2019 (I will soon get behind) took me to Sheila Norton – The Pet Shop at Pennycombe Bay. It was back last year that I picked up a Sheila Norton novel and they seem to always have a few pets at the heart of the story and are a delight to read.

I have spent probably a greater part of this years reading with commercial women’s fiction but I do like historical fiction and should I know probably read more of it. Being transported abroad and to another time is almost like an adventure but with Jennifer McVeigh – Leopard at the Door it was rather a frightening eye opener as I learnt about the Mau Mau.

Sometimes I miss out on the big books the books that everyone is reading about and talking about which is how I was passed Joel Dicker – The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair. I knew nothing of heard anything about it – set in America and a translation as well I was hooked and could see the fascination and it kept reading well into the night. As for the TV adaptation I am not a subscriber to SKY so it has passed my by, but probably the old adage is appropriate here – the book is always better?

Finding the start of a series is always frustrating when you have to wait what seems an age for the next part and no more so than with Jessica Fellowes – Bright Young Dead, the second of the books using the Mitford Sisters as characters and focusing on real events woven into the stories. It was a book I thoroughly enjoyed but strongly felt you needed to have read the first book to get any sense of a greater part of the first third of this. I hope the subsequent novels are not like this.

Adam Kay – This is Going to Hurt was a recommendation picked up from a friend, I spotted it on my 6 monthly (who am I kidding?) book buying spree in Waterstones, read a paragraph, chuckle loudly, bought the book, the assistant told me it was hilarious and I pretty much started reading it as soon as I got home. Black Humour – we all have it our places of work, I certainly do but I don’t think it would translate well into a book – this on the other hand does. The secret diaries of a now former Junior Doctor, a great insight to the medical world and people! They are all out there!

So that was December, I close the year reading a saga from Jennifer Wells who I discovered in 2018. I have plenty to keep me going in 2019 and I will of course bring you a round-up of 2018 in the coming days.

In the meantime – Happy New Year!

 

Books

The Rumour – Lesley Kara

Joanna and her young son Alfie move to Flinstead, to move out of London, to be near Joanna’s mother. For a better life for Alfie.

Joanna is the new mum at the school gate, she needs to make friends. So she mentions something that she has heard…..

There is a child killer living in Flinstead.

How does Joanna know? It is only a rumour?

Isn’t it?

Then why is she suddenly being followed by someone on Twitter that seems to be adding truth to this rumour?

Joanna’s almost off the cuff remark, sets a chain of events that makes everyone doubt everyone else.

But is the rumour true?

This book asks lots of questions:

Can a child killer become a reformed adult? Who is really the victim, when the killer released can be given a whole new life and protected? Does the public need to know where these criminals are? What if you are wrongly accused of being that killer? How does that affect a town, a person? So many questions – but does the book have the answers or do we as readers make our own conclusions.

This is an interesting debut novel and difficult to write a review of, because you could perhaps give something away, start a rumour about a possible plot line and outcome and then the books is ruined for all.

It has twists and turns and emotions running right through it, that you can feel yourself caught up in the gossip, though I confess I made the correct assumption but still I had to see what happened, I wanted those various questions answered  – right up to the final line……..

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. This would make an ideal book club read – it raises so many questions. 

The Rumour is out on 27 December 2018.