Willow Cottage: Christmas Cheer – Bella Osborne

I was thrilled to be able to get the next part in the Willow Cottage series of novellas from Bella Osborne.

I wanted to know how Beth and her young son Leo was getting on in the cottage. It seems that BEth’s plan to do up the cottage and move on again, keeping one step ahead of whoever she is running from is not going quite according to plan.

She is starting to settle into a routine in the village with her son. He is making friends and settling into school and she finds work in the local pub to keep an income coming in so all her money is not thrown into Willow Cottage.

The cottage is starting to take shape, and the delight of having something so simple as a bed makes all the effort worthwhile.

Trouble is Beth is still up against some of the locals who think she has taken on too much with this project.

Especially the moody Jack and his loveable dog ? trouble is there is more to Jack than meets the eye.

A lovely book to get you in the Christmassy feel, but you do need to read these in order to get the benefit of the characters and their back stories, although as the books go on no doubt we will find out more about them all.

Despite my initial misgivings about starting a book which is being released in parts and I am pleased I have been given the chance to peek behind the door of Willow Cottage.

It is a while to the next part but I certainly want to come back.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for allowing me the opportunity to read this book. 

Willow Cottage: Christmas Cheer was published on Oct 20th. 

Lizzie’s Christmas Escape – Christie Barlow

It is the beginning of December and Christmas is looming ahead for Lizzie. She realises this year that perhaps things need to change and she needs to escape not from Christmas because she loves that, but from the monotony of her marriage and lack of self identity that has set in.

Henry her husband, comes in from work, asks where his tea is, collects it and then sits in front of the television. Day after day it is the same thing. They don’t even talk, Lizzie has resorted to drinking alone in the kitchen and talking to her Gary Barlow calendar in the pantry. She knows something has to change.

When Marcus moves in opposite Lizzie, an unlikely friendship strikes up and Lizzie suddenly fills like she can achieve what she has always wanted to now that her children no longer need her as much and Henry does not seem that interested anymore. Is this unlikely friendship going to develop into something else…

Ann is Lizzie’s best friend. She is struggling to look after her mother and everything that comes with that now she has been moved into care home. Her own son is a worry as he is in the Army and she is successfully making her way up the career ladder. Ann and Lizzie rely on each other not just for all the sad times but for the fun times too, drinking, eating, shopping and even bingo.

Ann suggests a weekend away just the two of them, as a distraction to Christmas as well as everything else going on, stranger behaviour from Lizzie’s daughters, her marriage woes with Henry and the excitement that having Marcus in her life is creating. Ann is wanting to escape from the responsiblity of her life for a little while.

You know that not everything is going to go to plan and this whole story had been guessing, second guessing and getting it completely wrong for the start. I loved it because of that. I thought I knew exactly where this storyline was going to and I was wrong. It made me laugh and cry in equal measure and perhaps it did not go where I wanted it to, but it was the right way really.

A great book about the strength and support of friendship no matter what life throws at you and how making the wrong decision can sometimes be the right one all set to the background of Christmas.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for allowing me the opportunity to read this book. 

Lizzie’s Christmas Escape is out on 21st October. 

Christmas under a Starlit Sky – Holly Martin

When we left Juniper Island in Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky – film star Oakley Rey had just landed.

The man Neve Whitaker, manager of the Stardust Lake Hotel and sister to Gabe it’s owner, had left nine weeks previously. The man she rejected for only reasons that she seems to know and understand. She was going to be no good for the burgeoning film star Oakley Rey.

If she keeps telling herself and us this, then obviously it was for all the right reasons.

The secret Neve is trying to keep is eating her up and Oakley is determined to do whatever he can to win her back, but Neve is frightened of having her heart broken again and does not feel like she has the strength to put a barrier up between her and Oakley. Of course the path of true love never does run smooth, especially when it is covered in snow!

Of course there are some familiar faces from the first novel, and it was lovely to return to Juniper Island. We learn a bit more about Adam, who arrived towards the end of the first book to assistant in the hotel. He falls for Ivy, when he has to get her out of a hole she has managed to get herself into, but for them the magic of the landscape and love knows to conquer every impossibility.

Nothing is lost in this second novel. Holly Martin manages to magically transport you away, to the snow, to the log fires, the promise of the Northern lights. This is where you want to spend CHristmas, although perhaps without the calamities that seem to befall some of the main characters.

If you can read the first one, then pick this one up straight away you can hold onto the magic that bit longer and whilst I was left disappointed that it came to the end. It was a fitting one, even if I do want to return there at some point in the future.

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

Christmas Under a Starlit Sky is out on 16th October and the first novel, Christmas under a Cranberry Sky is out now. 



Magpie Murders – Anthony Horowitz

Any classic murder mystery book, especially those of the golden age of crime are notoriously in my opinion very difficult to review. You have to be careful not to give too many clues or even red herrings away.

This book fits into this category. An homage to those classic books of Christie, this has a few twists along the way. It is in fact a story within a story and at first you think how it can it all possibly work, not only are you reading a book which you want to clearly know the ending of, the book itself contains another mystery entirely,


You will be.

Having been given the latest manuscript, ‘Magpie Murders’ by author Alan Conway, editor Susan settles down to read the latest of his Atticus Pund novels.  But this latest tale from him is rather different and it seems as if this could be the end for Atticus Punt and therefore the end of the income for the author and the publisher Susan works for.

Atticus and his assistant James Fraser, bear a striking resemblance to Poirot and Capt Hastings and they find themselves in a village where the lord of the manor has been decapitated and his cleaner fell to her death tripping over a Hoover. All connected or just mere coincidence?

Many motives, many suspects and when the murderer is about to be named.

There is no more manuscript left.

There is no answer to all those questions that have arisen in the enquiries.

Susan is left wondering and bereft. Even though she did not like Alan Conway as a person, he had the ability hook his readers in.

Susan decides to solve the mystery herself. Why?

Because Alan Conway is now dead. It seems there are some strikingly similar parallels to his real life and that of the final story he wrote.

Susan discovers who the real Alan Conway is, the hidden meanings in all his work but will she be able to ever solve the mystery that was in ‘Magpie Murders’.

I adored this book, it was such an homage to Agatha Christie, you could see so many of the clever ideas that were used in her books and which have kept fans enthralled for a number of years. Even the insertion of Matthew Pritchard into the story itself was clever and amusing. This is in no way a comic parody of any murder mystery novels, but a cleverly woven tale using so much of our rich history of crime novels. If you know your Christie and murder mystery novels you will see so many things that you did not realise before.

You will enjoy this book the first time through for the skill of the writing and the storytelling.

The second time you will see all the clues and red herrings and the nods to other literary works and detectives.

Next time you pick up a Christie apply all that you have learnt here.

A great read and one of my favourite of 2016.

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

Magpie Murders is out now. 

My mum who got me into reading and especially Agatha Christie, thoroughly enjoyed the book and we are both disappointed that there will be no more Atticus Pund! 

The Silence Between Breaths – Cath Staincliffe

Like any other morning at a busy city centre train station. Passengers wait to board a train at Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston. They are starting holidays, new employment and escaping from the past as well as the future.

Imagine taking off the top of the train and picking on a few random people to find out about. Who are they and why are they on that train and what are they bound for on their journey

Holly has landed a job in the capital and she wants to make the most of it and her life, she is excited about going.

Jeff has never had a proper job and is going for his first interview. Understandably nervous he wants to make sure he doesn’t fail.

Naz is dreaming of when he owns and runs his own restaurant. In the meantime, he will continue to clean the carriage of its detritus left behind by the passengers and carry on dreaming.

Nick and Lisa, with their children Eddie and baby Evie are often to a family wedding. Nick doesn’t want to be on the train, in fact I don’t think Nick even wants to be with his family.

Meg is going on holiday with her partner, Diana but they are both keeping secrets from each other.

Rhona really does not want to be on the train with her work colleagues when she has left her daughter poorly at home, but still making her go to school.

Caroline, is constantly answering her phone from her mother, whose dementia seems to be getting worse with every call.

Saheel is sat on the train with a rucksack…….

Kulsooom is not on the train but she goes to use her brother’s computer and she discovers something which is going to change her life forever.

If you can imagine the rhythm and motion of a train on the tracks as you go on a journey, no matter how long or short, you can pick up the flow of this story. You have prior knowledge early on you know what is going to happen and you cannot do anything to stop the momentum. All of this builds for the climax of the story but perhaps it is not as you think it all will be.

This is very much a story of today, of the news items we watch day in day out, of the threats that have been carried out and the ones that have been adverted. What it does differently which made it stand out for me was that you saw the other side of the story, you saw how it affected those left behind. You saw the choices some people made so they could live or save others. You also saw with heartbreaking reality the choices made when they were going to die.

You don’t enjoy this book as there seems something wrong in saying you enjoy a book which is very much like reading a news report in the paper or watching the equivalent on the television. You have to know what happens, which is one I had to keep reading, it took me no time to read it. It pulled me right in and more and I started to ask questions, to stop and pause and look around as I read it.

You just do not know what is going on in anyones life and Cath Staincliffe has glimpsed a moment, a moment that will change everyone.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for allowing me an opportunity to read this book. 

The Silence Between Breaths is out now. 

The Storms of War – Kate Williams

This is the first of a trilogy of books to feature the de Witt family.

Rudolf is the patriarch of the family. German in origin, he has embraced everything about the English way of life and feels that he has arrived when he moves out of London to a country manor, Stoneythorpe Hall.

His wife Verena was clearly meant for a better marriage in her parents eyes but she settles with Rudolf whom she loves. As she does all her children, although I am not sure if she loved some more than others. The book made me think that.

Arthur is in Paris and very little is heard about him, apart from the belief that he will one day return. Michael at Cambridge, destined for great things but very lost in life. Emmeline is to be married, bringing together families and wealth. Everything is to evolve around Emmeline. Finally Celia, the youngest trying to understand the ways of adults as she moves from being childlike to one herself.

It is August 1914 and the world is going to change forever as is the de Witt family and Stoneythorpe.

Whilst many well-worn topics and themes are covered in this novel. For me much more was included from Kate Williams. We see life in the trenches, in rather graphic detail and as a reminder of those who suffered for so little gains overall. Love is covered in many forms and guises and whilst I was surprised about its inclusion the trenches it gave the whole story another angle. The importance of the work women did during the war is not touched upon, but brought to the front, literally in the case of Celia as she finds herself not far from the Front. Whilst at home Emmeline has involved herself with some rather sinister movement.

Ultimately there is love within the novel.

But with love there comes separation and loss.

With separation there comes danger.

We are taken from a idyllic countryside, to London, to the trenches, and back again, through all of the children with the exception of Arthur whose absence in itself is strange. Even war touches Stoneythorpe Hall.

An emotional read, which takes you to dark places and shows the war affected everyone and I was hooked with what was happening to the de Witt family. I am glad there is to be more, as I know I want to go back to this place, to this family and watch how war affects those left behind and how society changed because of it.

I was lucky enough to get my copy of this book signed by the author at last years Guilford Book Festival Readers Day after hearing her talk. She is a fascinating lady and one I admire as she clearly is passionate about her subject, History. The closest I get to indulging in it now since leaving university is by reading books like this. Long may it continue. 



September Roundup

Here we go then, we are staring down the barrel of the last 3 months of 2016. The end may be in sight for my reading challenge and I am three-quarters of the way through at this point and three-quarters through the end of the year is a great place to be. I do not want to tempt fate and say I am on course, because who knows what might happen.

But for September I have still been in Christmas quite a lot, especially as I got to revisit Holly Martin – Christmas Under a Starlit Sky. A perfect Christmas read.

I also had time to pop into see Beth and young Leo in Bella Osborne – Christmas Cheer: Willow Cottage. This is a book I picked up earlier in the year, but it is one that is being released in parts which can work with some books, not so much with others and makes the story slightly disjointed. This is the case with this book, but I still want to know what happens so will hold out until 2017 for part three. I wish I had found the book later so I could have read it as a whole.

I have also revisited the delightful Flavia in Alan Bradley – Speaking From Among the Bones. It is a pleasure to immerse yourself in a series of books and not have to worry about reviewing them, not that I mind reviewing, but it is nice to get your teeth into something different as much as it is with the familiar.

Another revisit was Holly Hepburn – Autumn at The Star and Sixpence and another part released novel, but I am enjoying this one especially as when I discovered Holly Hepburn earlier this year I had a few to bring me up to date with The Star and Sixpence. I only have a few weeks to wait until the final part, but for recommendation purpose it is another which needs to be read as a whole novel.

Back to some murder with the latest Poirot story from the pen of a well-known contemporary author Sophie Hannah – Closed Casket. I thought it was very good and in the spirit of a Christie novel, and providing you can remember this with the book then you will enjoy it for what it is – a good old-fashioned murder mystery.

Which leads me to Anthony Horowitz – Magpie Murders. If you like your murder mysteries – if you like the clues and the red herrings, then this is certainly the book for you. It is a book within a book and a mystery within many more. The beauty of this book is it makes you think about every murder mystery you have read before and question what you thought you knew. Clever!

The previous two books were set in a certain period of time and I do like my historical fiction and in September I eventually got round to reading Kate Williams – The Storms of War. I have a beautifully signed book after having seen her at the Guildford Book Festival last year, but have just got round to picking it up. I look forward to reading the next in the series as I move into the Roaring Twenties.

2016 seems to be a year for going back to familiar authors you know and ultimately love. So was the case with Emma Hannigan – The Perfect Gift. I have not read as many as I thought I had of this author but I do know that when I pick up a book from her, I am going to get a read which is open, honest and compelling. Yet more to discover from this author no doubt who is not afraid of tackling the most sensitive of subjects.

So that was Septmber and I end it reading a book which is not to be published until January 2017 and that seems like months away!