Books

Shrines of Gaiety – Kate Atkinson

I have always found Kate Atkinson books hard to review, they are so rich, deeply layered with detailed events, backdrops and characters that to do it any form of justice would take someone much more literary than me.

Shrines of Gaiety is no exception – set after the First World War, the Bright Young Things of the Twenties is all anyone is focusing on. In this book in the depths of Soho nightclubs, we are subjected to women, dance, song, drugs, debts, criminals, gangsters, money, corruption, gambling and sex.

Nellie Coker is the matriarch, released from Holloway back into her family, to her six children. Her stay in prison clearly an oversight by the policeman in her pay to keep this sort of thing happening. It seems Nellie Coker has other plans for the future. And the world and her family need to look out.

DCI John Frobisher, is brought in to clean the streets up and has a special interest in the vast amount of young girls going missing. He believes they are being somehow sucked into Nellie Coker’s world and her nightclubs. When Gwendoline Kelling arrives in his life, herself looking for two teenage girls from York who have come to seek their fortune in London, he thinks he may have a plan to finally clear up these streets.

When these worlds collide, it seems that all is not what it should be and actually are they all simply pieces in a very elaborate game.

Very rich in character, with many people to learn about in the first few chapters to see how they all interact the book then gets going through twists and turns. I couldn’t think of one character who wasn’t well thought out or well rounded., each of them playing a part, no matter how small or big. From Nellie Coker herself to the maid in her own house. Everyone is important to show London and the underbelly of life there in the Twenties. It works and I was enthralled to see where it was all going to take me and I wasn’t disappointed. Neither will you be.

This book is full of romance, history, murder and mystery to name a few genres that it could possible fit into. It doesn’t need to, it fits in as a Kate Atkinson genre.

Think P.G. Wodehouse meets Peaky Blinders.

Think this is the book you must read this year.

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

Shrines of Gaiety is out now.

Books

The Twist of a Knife – Anthony Horowitz

As plot devices go I think putting yourself as a main character in a novel is a pretty clever one and clearly it works as we are here with the fourth Hawthorne and Horowitz mystery.

Putting yourself in as a main character and also mentioning other works you have written as well, is pretty genius too. Here in this fourth outing Horwitz finds himself distracted by his new play Mindgame which is about to open in London. It done well on tour, surely that can translate to the stage at the Vaudeville theatre.

It does and the opening night is a success. Apart from one scathing review from a well known critic who as well as remarking on the actors performance is particularly ruthless over the writing.

The critic is found dead the next day. Stabbed by an ornamental dagger a gift, from the producer to all the cast and the writer.

The dagger has fingerprints all over it. They are Anthony’s. An arrest is made and it seems that only one person can help – Hawthorne. Why should he help? Hawthorne is an enigma Hortwitz has yet to fathom but will he ever know the truth?

Full of twist, turns, clues, red herrings this classic crime novel in the vein of Christie is one of the best I have read in a long time. I had some doubts at one point that it was actually true, and I was reading a fictionalised version of real events, that absorbed I was in the plot. Of course I came to my senses but it did add to the desperation I had in finishing the novel just to make sure it all ended up as it should. I can’t say if it did or not, but the classic dénouement scene in the theatre was pure theatrics at its best.

I hope there is more to come.

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

The Twist of a Knife is out now.

Books

Murder at the Priory Hotel – Merryn Allingham

I count myself lucky to be able to read such lovely cosy crime series such as this one, but there is a fear that they may well all merge into one. I think the key is to find the uniqueness and in this series it is the fact that are two main protagonists are Flora Steele, bookshop owner and author Jack Carrington.

In the village of Abbeymead where they both live, they are invited to the reopening of the Priory Hotel. What is meant to be a celebration is turned on it’s head when Beverley Russo, the stunning female singer of the band dies in front of Flora and Jack’s eyes.

Things are not always as they seem and Flora is convinced that there is a third party involved in this tragic event. With the police not always content with their interference Flora and Jack investigate what has go on rather surreptitiously. First up is why does the gorgeous ruby ring Beverley was wearing suddenly turn up somewhere where it shouldn’t?

It seems that Beverley was not particularly liked by everyone and old animosities are reignited between members of the band. But then how does the local doctor feature? And what has Portsmouth got to do with any of it? I was particularly intrigued on how my home city was going to be featured, pretty much accurately I would say!

As the list is suspects grows and the body count doubles, it seems that the police are going to have to rely on what Flora and Jack have learnt to be able to solve the mystery. Spending all this time together foes mean that their affection for each other perhaps grows and potentially in subsequent books it may well develop.

For fans of cosy crime with a village vibe, that gives it that almost unique Britishness that probably wouldn’t work anywhere else!

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

Murder at the Priory Hotel is out now.

Books

New Beginnings at the Old Bakehouse – Christie Barlow

It is always a pleasure to return to places you know and love and it is the same with this the Love Heart lane series of book. Of course they can be read as a standalone novels, but with this latest one you need to know a bit more about Molly and Cam and you can see their friendship started back in Primrose Park.

We are further on since Molly and Cam met, and in the Old Bakehouse where Cam is up very early to bake for the villagers and provide them with the best baked good around. Molly is cooking another little bun – a baby for them both and a brother or sister for little adorable George. But things are not quite as contented as they should be.

Cam is holding something back, but won’t tell anyone what it is. He is reluctant to follow in the footsteps of his Great Uncle and enter a renowned baking competition but will not tell anyone why. Has he lost interest in baking? Molly?

Molly is touched by the help she gives at the homeless shelter, but she thinks it might be her hormones. That is until she meets Bree. Something she says, sets a memory off in Molly and she just can’t quite place it. When Bree seems to keep turning up seeking shelter, Molly’s instinct to provide kicks in but is it something else connecting them. And why is Cam so reluctant to be hospitable and charitable?

As winter sets in and snow arrives at Heartcross it seems this little family at the bakehouse is struggling with their own blizzard whilst the world gets whiter outside of their front door. Heartcross is cut off, so it seems the community is going to come out and support each other as you would expect. Here it is where you get to meet previous characters from the series and it is always great to catch up with them.

When a thaw sets in and some truths are revealed it seems that perhaps the perfect beginning is now here. Or course it is never going to run smoothly is it?

This is a book to devour as it is full of warmth as well as enticing descriptions of food! Somehow Christie Barlow seems tackle some tough issues with skill and empathy and weave them into a story with tact balanced out against all the humour that also comes with her novels. Being in Heartcross is a joy and being there with loved characters within a great community is even better.

A series which I can see turning into a modern day saga worthy of Sunday night television dramatisation.

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

New Beginnings at the Old Bakehouse is out now.

Books

Cornish Clouds and Silver Lining Skies – Ali McNamara

Sky Matthews has to be a meteorologist, her name determines it in some ways. Watching the weather has been her life and she has skills and the science to make it her life’s work. However, through an extended period of time off from work, Sky needs to build back up to working.

The opportunity to monitor strange weather patterns comes up in Cornwall with a trainee for six months and Sky thinks this might be her gentle reintroduction to working. However she did not bank on beings tuck on a tidal island and also not just having to deal with a trainee but well-known television weatherman Sonny Samuels.

Sky is enchanted with St Felix, (a known place if you have read previous novels by this author). The weather patterns are strange, but what is stranger is the myths and legends that the locals are intent on telling Sky and Sonny to make sense of the strange weather. Sky won’t believe it, she has a scientific brain. Sonny on the other hand doesn’t and is simply reading an autocue and certainly not experienced enough to read the weather.

Sky and Sonny rub each other up the wrong way initially as their ides of weather are very different. But when strange things do start to happen not just with the weather but also with Sky , it seems that whatever they have both been hiding needs to be told and will this magical place they both find themselves hold the healing power they need.

Of course not all wounds are obvious and no matter what science and myth tell us some things cannot be healed and they have to be lived with. Ali McNamara draws on her own personal experience and I wept with the honesty that she has fed into the main character. It was refreshing to see hidden illness and disabilities brought tot he forefront in stories.

This book is a pure joy, McNamara’s writing goes from strength to strength. I was whisked away to Cornwall, to the magic of the weather, to the community of St Felix, to myths and mystery. Characters who develop, grow, get better and sometimes get worse but who are all there on the page and pop out from it if I was watching a film.

One of my favourite reads of the summer.

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

Cornish Clouds and Silver Lining Skies is out now.

Books

The GIN Sister’s Promise – Faith Hogan

The GIN sisters are Georgie, Iris and Nola. Their mother died relatively young and their father was lost in a pit of grief. But the sisters stuck together and vowed that they would do so forever. However life has a funny way of making other plans.

Years later, the sisters are not in contact, they do not speak. There only thread that is common is their father. When he dies, they find out what he had planned for them in his will. Before they can claim any inheritance they have to move back and live in the family home for six months – together.

For Georgie is strong willed and outspoken, her hard persona has stood her in good stead at work. But times are changing and when she gets overlooked for a promotion and there are rumours of her behaviour to other members of staff, perhaps a change of scenery is what she needs.

Iris, the only married one of the sisters who seemingly had it all until she discovers her husband is leaving, his mistress pregnant and perhaps his behaviour from years past picked up by the family was not a like at all. Iris finally needs to step out from the shadow.

Nola the baby sister, the one that needed looking after the most when their mother died. The one who has the most resentments it seem. But everyone knows Nola as she is the actor of that soap and the voice of a synonymous advertisement. Working in a café and leaving in a hovel, what has Nola got to lose?

As all three sisters return to their home, their father business, the village that they grew up in. Everything that they have tried to ignore over the years bubbles over and tempers are frayed. If they can get to the end of the six months they can all go their separate ways again and for the final time.

As time goes on, things change. Outlooks and perspectives shift in and out of focus and all three sisters find something being back in their home. Will it be enough to heal the wounds of long ago?

Being an only child, stories of sibling rivalry and conflict I find intriguing because I had none of that growing up and still don’t. The way it all plays out is handled well and the story kept me interested as it showed the highs and lows of family life, no matter how old you are.

Add into that the setting if Ireland and the wilds of the landscape and weather, village life and then a gin distillery what more could you possibly want from a book!

This book is perfect for fans of family sagas and like their female characters strong, dynamic and not afraid to change.

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

The GIN Sisters” Promise is available now.

Books

Finding Happiness at Heritage View – Helen Rolfe

This book as it turns out is the fifth in a series from this author and I didn’t realise this until I came towards the end of the book. Clearly some of the characters are mentioned have a back story but none of this did not detract from my enjoyment of the book and the story of Hazel and Gus.

Hazel and Gus meet in extraordinary circumstances and they think there paths will never cross again. That is until Gus turns up at the stables Hazel runs with her brother, looking for somewhere to stable his daughter’s horse. Plus Gus is also to be the new vet in Heritage Cove as well, it seems there will be no escape.

Hazel’s life is horses, rising and teaching riding but a past incident has dented her confidence and using the cliché she has ‘yet to get back in the saddle’. This is tested even more when Gus and his delightful daughter Abigail are frequent visitors to the stables and are rather insistent that it is Hazel who will trach Abigail to gain more confidence.

With Hazel’s secrets as well as Gus who seems to have come a long way to escape a marriage and an accident, the book is full of misunderstandings and assumptions. However it is the love of the horses, the way of life and the scenery that seems to bring Hazel and Gus within each others orbit.

The plot is rather at a slow sedate pace, but perhaps it reflects the way Hazel is dealing with her past experience and it did remind me of plodding away on a horse ride. Perhaps in some places it was too slow and I was at some points wishing that we would get to the dénouement even if it was somewhat predictable. That aside, I was fascinated by the workings of the stable and the absolute dedication that had been taken by Hazel and her brother to live in this world.

The perfect book to distract you from the real world for a while.

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

Finding Happiness at Heritage View is out now.

Books

20 Books of Summer – Challenge Over

It had been such a long time since I had joined in any challenges but when I saw this one I thought it might be time to get back on the challenge roundabout. This felt like the perfect one with too much pressure.

My list below with links to reviews where they were part of netgalley requests

  1. Lucinda Riley – The Missing Sister
  2. Sara Sheridan – The Fair Botanists
  3. Angela Thirkell – High Rising (Replaced Sara Cox – Thrown as read before start date)
  4. Richard Coles – Murder Before Evensong
  5. Jennifer Ryan – The Wedding Dress Circle
  6. Gervase Phinn – At The Captains Table
  7. Ann Cleeves – The Rising Tide
  8. Celia Rees – Miss Graham’s War (Did not finish)
  9. Fern Britton – The Good Servant
  10. Mick Herron – Slow Horses
  11. Gill Hornby – Miss Austen
  12. Anne Booth – Small Miracles
  13. P.G.Wodehouse – Carry On Jeeves
  14. Stacy Halls – The Foundling
  15. Robert Galbraith – Troubled Blood
  16. Jennifer Saint – Ariadne
  17. Cathy Bramley – My Kind of Happy
  18. Sue Teddern – Annie Stanley All At Sea
  19. Dawn French – Because of You
  20. Freya Sampson – The Girl on the 88 Bus

I managed 12 – with the 13th book The Fair Botanists completed a couple of days past the 1st September. And I also did not finish a book because it was not doing anything for me, rather than power through and not enjoy for the sake of the challenge I stopped. So refreshing.

Because of the weather, my holiday and probably my laziness I read the most of the books that were on my kindle first before I moved to actual books. Which is why of the ones left that I didn’t read are still staring at me on my shelf. I think I would like to aim to have read these by the end of 2022. I will let you know how I get on.

I am not sure if I have a favourite of the ones I did read – probably Fern Britton The Good Servant, which seems all the more poignant now in light of recent events. It was a joy to go back to Wodehouse and how I wish I had not got rid of all of my books! And the Robert Galbraith is such a hefty tome in paperback, and I so want to read the next one but I don’t think I can cope with the weight of a hardback!

Other than not finishing a book, I as a bit disappointed with the new Gervase Phinn. The normal dry wit and Yorkshire humour but the story was very much pedestrian and read more like observations that having any great plot.

Thank you to Cathy at 746 Books for hosting the challenge.

Books

The Cornish Cream Tea Holiday – Cressida McLaughlin

Thea has come away for a long break where all she wants is to escape in a beautiful place and with as many books as possible. Books are her world, being a librarian satisfies only a small part of that, but if she could own a bookshop then that would be even better. But these are just dreams.

And when on holiday, Thea can but dream of her future.

Ensconced in the holiday cottage, she finds herself disturbed by the next door neighbour, Ben.

Ben is rather grumpy and is in the process of renovating the property next door to where Thea is staying.

When they first meet, there is something that infuriates them both about each other, and it soon seems that their paths are going to cross more than once throughout Thea’s stay. But what exactly do they both have to hide from each other? And will the dreams they have actually come true?

Part of this author’s Cornish Cream Tea series, this is book can be read as a standalone, previous characters are mentioned but they in no way distract from this current storyline. Full of what you would expect from Cressida if you gave read her previous work and the perfect escapism for an afternoon without the calories of a full cream tea!

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

The Cornish Cream Tea Holiday is out now.

Books

The Girl on the 88 Bus – Freya Sampson

Frank is on the 88 Bus when a gorgeous red headed girl gets on at Clapham Common. A conversation starts, Frank wants to be an actor, the girl an artist. She gives him her telephone number, but Frank loses it. Always in the forefront of his mind, Frank spends countless years on the 88 Bus looking for that red headed girl.

Libby, heartbroken at her split from her boyfriend is on the 88 Bus on the way to stay with her sister as she has nowhere else to be. Libby starts talking to Frank and learns his story. Something in it resonates with Libby, especially the said girls freedom at doing what she wanted and go to art school. Frank wants to thank her for the choices he went on to make and Libby wants to make that dream come true.

With nothing else to do Libby along with a quirky bunch of helpers wants to find that girl, on that 88 Bus, that spoke to Frank. And we are along for the journey in this heartfelt and warm novel which makes you think of the choices made and the routes that we all take when we get on and off at certain steps.

As with Freya’s debut novel, she focuses on characters both young and old with equal measure, no one is really that dominant as the book progresses, they develop and perhaps become less annoying and more intriguing as time passes. Some of them almost challenge your perception of what they are going to be like and Freya manages to make sure that even the reader is as challenged as Libby.

A simple story of dreams and real life. You must buy a ticket for the 88 Bus and find your own journey.

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

The Girl on the 88 Bus is out now.