Books

Running out of Road – Cath Staincliffe

Three different people. Not connected until today.

Scarlett; on her way home to her Nana who has looked after her since the death of her mother. Excited to be in the school show the following day. Dancing brings her so much joy.

Dylan; always trying to keep one step ahead, never staying in the same nest for long, picking off each victim and dealing the drugs and then moving on. One day he will make it and not be the one doing all the work. Aim big.

Ron; being a house sitter and pet sitter by default seems really a lot easier to handle than real humans. From his previous job as a firefighter, this is much more pleasant.

DS Laura O’Neil, a mother with a teething toddler who has left him at home with his father as she suddenly gets to know all these people.

All these people that are thrown together and for one wet, stormy and panicky night all their roads cross. As they all take different turnings, will Laura get to the truth?

This fast paced thriller left me exhausted without leaving my home. Whether it was the vast swathes of the Peak District that was covered physically as the hunt for all three of them takes over the pages of the book. Or the historic events that build up the characters of the here and now. The country line drug storyline was strong and frightening real as if you are reading a news reports. You have to remember the main events are just a mere twenty four hours. The skill of the writing made it feel like a week of my life.

If you want a great British thriller which covers many themes including guilt and grief and the overarching hope of a better future then this is simply the book for you. Highly recommend for a heart stopping read to keep you on the edge of your seat.

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

Running out of Road is out now.

Books

The Heron’s Cry – Ann Cleeves

This is the second novel in the Matthew Venn series from renowned author.

Can be read without having read the first, The Long Call but then why deprive yourself of such good storytelling. You will also get the background of the characters and the previous case which through witnesses does filter into this story.

DI Matthew Venn, uptight and determined to maintain a level response to what he sees in his work is back alongside his DS Jen Rafferty and ever eager DC Ross May. Jen is at a party when another guest, Dr Nigel Yeo approaches her to ask for her help. Jen, not fully sober, brushes him off.

The next day that man is found dead, stabbed with a piece of glass from his daughters glass blowing workshop. He seems such an unlikely victim and when his daughter turns out to be a friend of Matthew’s husband Jonathan, it seems this crime is always going to involve that Matthew knows.

When another body turns up, with a similar killing method. Matthew and his team dig deeper into these people and what Dr Nigel Yeo really wanted to tell Jen at that party. However the truth is sometimes hidden away amongst those in the community and are they all closing ranks as the police get to the truth.

This book is not a fast paced thriller, if that is what you are looking for then this is not the book for you. It is a book which develops as you turn the pages, the characters and their background build. The past is filled in and as the clues lead you to think that perhaps the answer is all so clear, the metaphorical rug is pulled out and you are turned to face the truth. Of course it was obvious – wasn’t it?

More is filled in about Matthew and the past life he has escaped as he tries to come to terms with the life he is leading now. We learn more about Ross May and his relationship with his wife. Jen is still coming to terms with living in a smaller town than the large city she left behind. All three of them seem unlikely work colleagues but somehow it works and the author uses the small team, the community, the setting to weave a great murder mystery tale.

If you want modern day crime fiction in the vein of those golden ages then always start with Ann Cleeves and you will enjoy every page, every book and every detective created.

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

The Heron’s Cry is out now

Books

Orphans of the Storm – Celia Imrie

Marcella married young, swept away by Michael a man who has ambitions to be the best tailor in Nice, South of France. However the romance has gone and Marcella is left with a jealous husband who wishes to control and bully.

Marcella makes the momentous decision that she needs to leave this man for the sake of herself and her two young boys. Divorce is not going to be easy, it is 1911 and the French courts need to decide whether this will go ahead and what happens to the two young boys.

Margaret has been touring around Europe with friends, but she is bored and wishes to return to her home in America. When the chance to travel home in style on the RMS Titanic, Margaret makes the fatal choice.

How can these different lives cross? It is inevitable that they will, but perhaps not in the circumstances that everyone thinks. When you begin a book which clearly features one of the most famous ships in history, there is an inevitably about it – prior knowledge means you known what happens on that fateful night in April 1912. Interestingly the event doesn’t happen until well into the last third of the book – a sense of trepidation is built as the story of Michael and Marcella is built upon.

The introduction of Margaret, becomes clearer as the book goes on and as readers we are swept under the sea as everyone’s worlds change.

Whilst slow at points, I did wonder where and how this book was going to culminate and I was so intrigued by the characters that were created. I was completely surprised by the fact that whilst this story was fiction – every person and experience was based on real people and real events. The information and research given at the end of the book is fascinating and brought more to the story than if it had been pure fiction.

Very different to previous novels and I noticed that the author has had some assistance in research which is fine, but made me doubt as to how much was really the author. That though is probably my fussiness and for fans of historical fiction this definitely a book that is worth a read.

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

Orphans of the Storm is out now.

Books

The Rose Garden – Tracy Rees

Wake up and smell the roses world, because women are no longer going to capitulate, they will branch out on their own. Making friendships and decisions that will shock the society of 1895 when this book is set, steeped in Victorian values. The author takes us to the past as much as the present.

1895, London, Hampstead. Olive’s life is full of privilege, she knows how lucky she is, but she craves to have a child. A difficulty when unmarried in 1895. However that does not stop head strong Olive and her sense of philanthropy leading her to an orphanage.

Mabs, has become the matriarch of the household after her mother dies, with younger siblings and a grieving father, she works on the canals, disguised as a young boy. It is some of the most dangerous work. An opportunity though takes to her to Hampstead, to be a companion of Mrs Finch.

Young Ottilie Finch, is only twelve and along with her family, they are newly arrived from Durham. For reasons we do not know but are of some intrigue. Ottillie wants to explore this new territory and finds herself meeting some very different people and cannot understand others abuse about the friendships she wants to build.

Women and girls, who are all on different paths in life, but through the magic of storytelling all come together and their worlds mix and collide. What you think of perhaps as modern day problems; racism; domestic abuse and sexism is played out in this historical context and was at times upsetting but also heartening to know that we have progressed from having to dress up as males to seek work.

This book wanted me to cheer out loud for these female characters who were facing society head on. It had me hooked as I knew it would from this author and I felt bereft when it ended as I wanted to know more about these wonderful women and what happens next in their story.

Simply engrossing and one of my favourite reads of 2021.

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

The Rose Garden is out now.

Books · Jottings

August Roundup

If you have been following this blog for a while, you will probably know that August is a bumper month when it comes to reading and this August was seemingly no different.

Despite buying more books (as if I need them!) I was trying to make a more concerted effort to read from shelves and so that is how I came to pick up Jane Healey – The Animals at Lockwood Manor which had been languishing for a while. It was a rather strange book, with a gothic twist set during the war, but I have feeling these types of books never really feel like that with me. It was a pleasant enough diversion and made room on the shelf for my purchases.

A book of the year and one that all fans of reading and books must read is this debut Sara Nisha Adams – The Reading List. A book about all those books that have helped us in the past and continue to do so in the present and the future. The story weaved around such classics as Little Women and Rebecca was really impactful and I felt I had a glimpse into another life for a while.

Glimpsing into another life with Mel Giedroyc – The Best Things was like watching a car crash in slow motion, except this was not a car crash but a financial one. As a family disintegrates in front of our eyes, we see how that money is not the answer to all our happiness. I will be intrigued as to what this author produces next. I sensed a lot of research and experience in this book that others might not necessarily have brought to such a novel.

Research is the key to all historical fiction and it was clear that in Celia Imrie – Orphans of the Storm had an abundance of it. I knew nothing of the real people fictionalised into the book. I knew from the setting of the book and the time period where we would be going with it, but that it was all true was a surprise. I was most grateful to have read this on my kindle which meant that I could not easily flick to the back where all the ‘research’ and ;’real life’ notes were covered. It really would have spoilt the book for me.

I do love my history and when it becomes relatively local to me in setting then I always take bit more of an interest. Tracy Chevalier – A Single Thread was featured heavily on local news when the hardback version was published, but I waited until the paperback copy before I indulged in this glorious tale of Embroiderers’, Winchester Cathedral and the possibilities of being a single woman so soon after the First World War. I have never read any Chevalier before and of course I have heard of her most famous novel The Girl with the Pearl Earring but for some reason have never picked it up. Next time I am in a bookshop…..

Now it looks like August was the month of Catherine’s or Cath’s. First up is Cath Staincliffe – Running out of Road; her latest novel combines three unrelated people caught up in a very modern story, that you could have been reading a news report. You will have felt you have run more than one road when you get to the end. Catherine Cooper – The Chateau is another book which kept me hooked and turning the page until I could begin to make sense of the characters portrayed and they had all ended up in France in this Chateau.

And to have a bit of a rest from all that thrilling adventure it was a pure joy to pick up Cathy Bramley – A Patchwork Family. These are the sorts of books I buy without even reading the blurb on the back and just dive straight in and become immersed in the story. It was beautiful and had me quietly weeping as the joy of brining all generations together to thrive really worked.

Another author I have no doubt about diving straight into is Trisha Ashley – One More Christmas at the Castle and this is her latest. A Christmas novel in August always seems an alien concept but I don’t care the world has been topsy-turvy enough of late to worry about such things. This is a delightful book and I adored it and any fan of Trisha Ashley will too.

Whilst I only have one of Trisha Ashley’s back catalogue to read, I do still have a few more of Caroline Roberts – The Seaside Cocktail Campervan to catch up on. But in the meantime in her latest I was transported to parties, festivals and markets to partake of a cocktail and a pizza or two and to fall in love with the main characters. I do hope we get to see more of them in future novels.

I am up to date with the wonderful Tracy Rees – The Rose Garden and her latest historical offering which brought the plight of various different females, of various different creeds and classes in London near the turn of the twentieth century. How far and how little the position of women has perhaps come in those intervening years. I am now looking forward to coming back to the present with Tracy Rees more contemporary offering for Christmas.

And as the month closes I return to Ann Cleeves and her new detective, Matthew Venn. Ann Cleeves – The Heron’s Cry. A classic piece of writing from this author, in the vein of all her others but with the background of North Devon and the tense conscious of a detective with a methodical clam presence which covers the guilt he seems to carry with him.

The Christmas books are now appearing alarming regularity so I can see how the next couple of months are going to be spent. Hopefully punctuated by some other great reads too. Do keep reading to find out more.

Books

The Country Village Summer Fete – Cathy Lake

Little Bramble Village is the childhood home of Emma and since she has left, she has hardly returned for more than a few days if that. But on the edge of her forties and with her fifties looming fast, she suddenly feels that perhaps she has achieved nothing and certainly doesn’t have anything to show for it.

Returning to Little Bramble, with the reason to look after her widowed father who seems to have lost his way is Emma’s excuse to perhaps take stock of where she is in life and where she wants to go next.

However going back means she needs to face what she left behind in the village all those years ago – her first love. Confronting her actions from the past and the villagers who have long memories too, means that perhaps Emma needs to stop and reassess what she was really running away from. Can the answer be found in her mother’s workshop, full of jams and chutney? Can the answer be found in making friends and catching up with old ones? Can the answer be watching your dad deal with the widowhood? Can the answer be in the past?

Clear, really from the start where and how this book was going to pan out, it was a pleasant diversion and was great to return a place I have visited before, in the first novel. They work well as standalone books and there is no need for any prior knowledge. I would have like a bit more intrigue, ‘will they, won’t they’ jeopardy before the happy ending. It was just a bit too neat for me.

A book to while away the hours, but for me perhaps a series I would not return to, when there are perhaps stronger books out there.

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

The Country Village Summer Fete is out now.

Books

The Bookshop Murder – Merryn Allingham

A quiet English Village in the 1950s, the South Downs the backdrop. You could almost be forgiven for expecting to see Miss Marple appear.

But let me introduce you to Miss Flora Steele, the young woman who owns the local bookshop in Abbeymead. Inherited from her aunt, she is determined to keep this legacy going.

When reclusive crime writer Jack Carrington enters the shop, he finds more than books – he finds a dead body. The police think it is nothing but a man breaking in and suffering an unfortunately timed heart attack. Nothing more to report. Everyone must get on with their lives

For Flora, she knows there is something not right about this and she wants to find the answers so at least she can help the shop to survive. She enlist Jack Carrington in her help to find out the truth, reluctantly he seems drawn to this spirited young woman. When another death occurs, it seems that Flora may well be onto something.

This is a lovely (not that murder is lovely) start to what is to be a series of books. Flora Steele lives up to her name and whilst she may be to some a flowery girl, she has a determined strength that makes me think that she might end up in some scrapes in the future! Let’s hope the mysterious crime author is always on hand.

For fans of all that is cosy about crime fiction, this book is for you.

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

The Bookshop Murder is out now.

Books

The Reading List – Sara Nisha Adams

A book about books, what more could a book lover possibly want to read?

Aleisha is a reluctant employee at the local library and not that much of a reader, this is a job that her brother previously did and is a stop gap until the next part of her education.

She ventures no further than the library and home, her world is very small but she discovers a list of books to read that allow her world to expand and perhaps allow her to connect with other people, with her mother, with library patrons.

Mukesh, a widower misses his wife terribly, the gap she has left behind can never be filled and the stifling protection of his daughters means he has yet to find a new way to live being a widow. He wants to connect somehow to his granddaughter and through her love of books he finds himself at the library that Aleisha works at. He finds a list of book that broaden his horizons and he finds new worlds to share with everyone.

The list of books, covers a wide range of different books, which if you are familiar with will make perfect sense into how they fit into the story and their own stories they tell to help both Aleisha, Mukesh and us as readers. If you are not familiar with then you have just gained a whole list for to enjoy at your leisure.

This is a powerful and emotional book and I was caught out by one particular plot thread, so swept away was I with the story and the characters, it felt that I was suffering my own loss. The comfort was the familiarity of books, the comfort that they can give and the way they help and heal. The message which this debut novel has conveyed with sensitivity, across cultures, across ages and across book shelves.

Without doubt, one of the best books I have read and one that I would recommend for anyone who has a passion about books.

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

The Reading List is out now.

Books

The Seaside Cocktail Campervan – Caroline Roberts

It is only in recent years that I have discovered Caroline Roberts and was thrilled to be able to read the latest from her. The cover itself is a delight and a great draw and just absolutely cheers your soul as does the story within.

Lucy lives in a cottage just near the sea with Daisy the Dachshund her faithful companion since she realises that her fiancé was never going to propose, well not to her anyway. Changing her life completely she finds herself starting a new adventure and venture with the Horse Box she has converted to a mobile Pizza van.

Jack has been driving his red Cocktail Campervan to local events, weddings, parties in Northumberland for the last couple of years. Whilst it is not what his parents thought he would end up doing, he has had made a success of it and he is kept busy. However Jack seems to be using all his energy into this venture and not giving himself any time for life and love.

Lucy and Jack’s paths cross at many events and the book is wonderfully divided into different events that we are also invited along to share the fun, the laughter, the wonderfully cocktails created and the delicious pizzas which simply make your mouth water.

Thanks to Daisy, Lucy does make rather an impact on Jack’s campervan and when they find themselves drawn together, despite some prior warnings and previous hurts it seems that the happy ending is clear for all to see. Of course true love does not always run smoothly and of course you need to be sure and both Lucy and Jack test this to the max.

Like the perfect pizza and cocktail you know when you have found your favourite and it made my heart sing the whole way through this story with Lucy and Jack. I wanted to dive right into the book, queue for the pizza and watch the cocktail being made and curl up in Lucy’s delightful cottage.

A book that will leave you simply smiling and with your heart full of joy – the best tonic to any cocktail!

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

The Seaside Cocktail Campervan is published today.

Books

The Little Island Secret – Emma Davies

Abby is a single mother to Beth, living above a bookshop in Cambridge. They have a happy life, the bookshop is a safe haven for them both and the place where you can find both of them with their noses stuck between the pages of a book.

But are they both hiding from something?

Beth is at that difficult age at school and it seems that being unique is what makes her a target for bullies.

Abby is facing pressure from her mother to find the right man and settle down, giving up this bookshop nonsense.

It is the bookshop nonsense which changes Abby and Beth’s lives forever.

A correspondence began when Cam, contact Abby about a book. Then emails arrived about the life on the remote Scottish Island, Kinlossay where Cam lives. A place in a million miles away from the life Abby is currently leading. When the correspondence, results in a fleeting visit, it seems both Abby and Beth have found something in a man to bring out the best in both of them.

Then the correspondence suddenly stops. Cam has passed away. Abby is bereft.

Abby decides a trip to Kinlossay is what is needed for both of them, to be close to Cam again and see this beautiful island for real described so colourfully in Cam’s letters.

Upon arrival, she sees someone the identical image of Cam – but it can’t be him if he is dead? So who is this pretender? What is the real truth behind all of these people on this island? Has Abby just set herself up for my heartbreak and misery not just for herself but her daughter too?

I found this novel much like the author’s earlier works and they are the ones that I enjoyed the most. Strong female friendships, romance and the need to find the truth no matter how hard it is going to be finding it out. Added to that the bonus of a bookshop and an island to escape to, it has all the perfect ingredients of a great book to hold your attention.

I was simply swept away with the plot and wept with the characters as hearts are broken and healed. The landscape made me want to grab a load of books and head across the seas to escape into them and the beauty of the place brought to life by the author.

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

The Little Island Secret is out now.