Summer at the Cornish Cafe – Phillipa Ashley

Any book with a cover so bright and colourful is going to catch my eye when looking for something upbeat to read and enjoy.

Phillipa Ashley takes us to Cornwall, to Penwith and we get to meet Demi and her dog Mitch. The two are inseparable and even when Demi is down on her luck and has taken to sleeping rough, she always has Mitch with her.

Cal on the other hand, has come back from abroad, from what we are not to sure of. He has come home and believes that he should reinvigorate Kilhallon Park and get it to start making money.

Cal and Demi are thrown together and have a knack of being able to rub each other up the wrong way and show off their worst faults. But it is these faults which are the connection that seems to make the working partnership of Cal and Demi work, but will it be able to survive a more intimate relationship?

Not when you have other characters such as the orange Mawgan, holding grudges from a long time ago, Isla, Cal’s beautiful ex and Polly protective and motherly over Cal, but in her own way about Demi too.

Looking back after having read it, of course it resembles Poldark. It is a modern take on that storyline but I really do not think the book should be marketed as so. It stands quite happily without that ‘tagline’. Winston Graham’s Poldark books are very much set in a different time and they work for that reason. For me the comparison is unnecessary and I would have picked up and been interested in the book without that tagline.

Here Phillipa Ashley has created an easy summer read which has good characters, plenty to annoy and like in equal measure and the predictable but well-loved storyline of a “will they won’t they” romance. It makes for a good read and I am pleased that there is to be more novels to come featuring Penwith as I really want to see what happens to Kilhallon Park.

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

Summer at the Cornish Cafe is out now on kindle. 

Rebel Sisters – Marita Conlon-McKenna

Even though the threat of The Great War looms large in Ireland, they have their own simmering tensions which are arising. Dublin is the key city.

Three privileged women find themselves caught up in their beliefs and their love for their family and their men is tested. As is their faith in religion and what is morally right and wrong.

Grace, Nellie, Muriel are strong-willed they can see that the world that their mother grew up in is not one they want to. They want to be part of something. They are going to part of something. Something big.

Grace falls in love with Joe. Her family does not bless the union, especially as Grace crosses the religious plain and becomes a Catholic.

Nellie does not want to end up like her mother and become her servant. She breaks away and teaches others to ‘keep house’, effectively getting a job, much to her mother’s dismay.

Muriel falls in love with Thomas. They are of differing religions and class and their love is strong. But it can it survive Thomas strong-willed beliefs.

These three women, are in fact real people and did make an impact in Dublin at the time, from their actions and who they chose to be with. Joe and Thomas were two of the leaders of the Easter Uprising/Rebellion of 1916 a significant point not just in Irish history but British history too.

I knew very little about the uprising and I did not know of the existence of these women, known as The Gifford Sisters until the very end of the book. Marita Conlon-McKenna had chosen three of the family, there was twelve in total to focus her story on, which she has clearly researched.

Although Joe and Thomas feature heavily this book is very much from a woman’s perspective and shows the conflicts they were having to fight with their mother, their reasoning behind the uprising and the knowledge of what was about to happen and those innocents who would be caught in the crossfire.

I learnt so much from this book and the tragedy that unfolded leapt off the page, I felt I was amongst it and had to keep reading, though I didn’t want to. Very conflicting but interesting at the same time.

Written from the point of view of the three sisters and also their mother, there is enough background to give you a real insight into these women. Strong female characters is a common trait for this author, but this is very different from the other book I have read by this author.

A piece of historical fiction which was very different from what I would normally choose when it comes to this genre and I was most surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

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

Rebel Sisters is out now in all formats. 

Victoria Wood

We have lost a number of famous (and infamous) personalities so far in 2016. Hardly any of them have been expected and it always comes as a complete shock. To be honest, I have not been deeply affected by any of them. It is a tragedy that these people have been lost to us when they brought us entertainment, music, literature and everything in between.

However, when they have formed part of your childhood, the way they featured in the background when you were growing up affects you in an odd sort of way. Ronnie Corbett, whilst always to me the lesser of the Two Ronnies, not just in size, but I remember having to sit through episodes of Sorry! when I was younger. Saturday night game shows were a staple of Paul Daniels and his magic as well, no doubt left me open-mouthed as a youngster.

But it is Victoria Wood who probably stands out for me as such a great loss. There must have been so much more to have come from her and to lose her at 62 was a tragedy.

Victoria Wood was always there on the television, I was allowed to watch whatever was on. I am not sure if I understood it, but it was hardly near the knuckle humour scattered with expletives. It was simple humour about everyday stuff that everyday people find funny and they can relate to.

It always reminds me of the humour that exists for only a special select few. There is much in my family that makes us laugh, with play on words and recalled incidents that to an outsider would not be funny at all, to those in the know though it is hilarious.

I was lucky enough to see her live twice on tour and also got to see at least three episodes of dinnerladies being recorded

The most important thing I think I realised a long time ago was that Victoria Wood did not save all the best lines for herself, she gave them to everyone else. Julie Walters, Celia Imrie, Duncan Preston, Anne Reid, Maxine Peake to name a few.

She later went onto present documentaries with her own inimitable style. Documentaries I probably would not have watched if it wasn’t for her.

Then there was the serious drama, Housewife 49, Eric and Ernie and That Day We Sang.

Yet again she could do so much, create genius and then give it to everyone else to deliver.

Then there was the music and I know this will have been shared thousands if not millions of times but of course the Ballad of Barry and Freda is amongst the most iconic.

A genius taken from us and her family much too soon.

April Roundup

The 8th May seems to be very late in constructing and writing an April Roundup post, but life has seemingly run away from me and I very rarely get to my laptop now and only use a computer for personal stuff at my parents house and I find the iPad not conducive to my sort of writing, which is a lot of reasons in telling you why this post is so late!

Nonetheless here it is.

A bumper month of reading, helped by having some time off, but I have still yet to get ahead of myself in terms of number of books being read in the year.

April was the month of comfort reading. No more so than reading Rosie Goodwin – Dilly’s Sacrifice which I had on my kindle thanks to netgalley for a while and had yet to get round to reading. I did and was so pulled in with the story that I immediately sort out book two in this trilogy Rosie Goodwin – Dilly’s Lass and would have got hold of book three if it wasn’t for the fact that I did not want to read the hardback or could justify paying the kindle price so I am going to have to wait (im)patiently until August when the paperback is released. They are books which pack a lot in, tell a great tale and remind me of books I read when I was younger and could share with both my grandmothers – a good aga saga!

Sharing books and the love of them is how I came to pick up Agatha Christie – Appointment with Death. I decided to take part in the 1938 Club ran by Simon and Karen as I rarely take part in my reading events. I thought this one was manageable and it also meant I could tick another book of my Agatha Christie List. I think the next one in October is going to be 1947 – I am sure there is a Christie book to cover that year. Do keep an eye out for it.

When I chose what to read, I try and keep a measured amount of reading off my own shelves which are heaving but also all the lovely new novels and authors that netgalley has introduced me to. Just of late I have been a bit click happy in requesting books. One of those books was Helen Pollard – The Little French Guesthouse and was a book which had a bit more depth in it than your average beach read/chick-lit. I felt I was transported to the French countryside and could feel the sun on my skin.

Marcie Steele – The Second Chance Shoe Shop was a different and I felt it had something missing, it was enjoyable but that is all. As I said in my review:

……it was not a book quite yet there in the league of well written chick-lit. It had something missing for me and I am unsure as to what that is.

I still don’t know what it is.

I did not need to take a chance on my next choice of book Veronica Henry – How to Find Love in a Bookshop. Out in June, Veronica Henry is back with another great novel, and what more could a girl want than to find love in a bookshop!

Despite all this new and modern fiction I do really enjoy historical fiction and whatever tale it wants to tell me with a background in the past. This was where I decided I would pick up début novel Tracy Rees – Amy Snow. Following the trail of some letters Amy is trying to work out who she is and possibly where she came from. Set in the Victorian era and references to Dickens, I felt I was transported away.

Historical fiction can clearly work in murder mysteries and comedy and you can get all this combined whenever you visit Flavia. It has been a while and so I picked up Alan Bradley – I am Half Sick of Shadows and took myself back to the chemistry obsessed Flavia and see what dead body she is going to across this time. As well as trying to catch Father Christmas in the act, with home-made glue! I smile just recalling the book.

Not all of these books have been reviewed. Those from netgalley have and whilst I might have read them in April, they might not appear on my blog until later in the year to coincide with publishing dates.

The rest is simply because I have not had the time and also that I made the decision to not review everything I read. It has felt less pressurising and it no doubt will continue in the coming months. I am enjoying what I read.

That was April, albeit a bit late and May is in full swing and so I need to get on.

The Little French Guesthouse – Helen Pollard

Emmy has persuaded her boyfriend, Nathan to take time off from work and take a holiday. They have spent the last five years doing nothing but working. They know it means that they will have to work hard before they go on holiday and work even harder to catch up when they come home, but for Emmy she thinks this extra effort will be worth it, to maintain their relationship.

So they find themselves in the French countryside, in a guesthouse, belonging to Rupert and his wife Gloria.

Nathan finds something else in this guesthouse, the owners wife, Gloria and decides to take time off from his relationship with Emmy as well as from work. Emmy has to process this whilst dealing with Rupert who falls and injures himself and quite possibly might have had a heart attack.

The relaxing holiday Emmy was after is perhaps not what she is going to get.

Thrust into a situation that she cannot control, that she cannot market and put a spin onto the positive side of it all, she finds herself helping Rupert in the guesthouse. Her guilt for what has happened makes her feel responsible, which is one of the quirky but frustrating ways in which Emmy’s brain works. She has plenty of others as the book progresses.

The French countryside, the smell of good fresh coffee, croissants and the warmth of the sun and the locals in the village, soon calm and act as a balm to Emmy. She finds herself suddenly involved in everything and makes new friends and lovers, it seems that Nathan is perhaps just becoming a distant memory.

Even after extending her holiday for a week she will have to return to England and face Nathan somehow. Emmy leaves all the colour and vibrancy of the guesthouse and newly formed friendships behind that she has embraced in such a short period and returns home.

But can those holiday dreams that she knows everyone comes back with become a reality?

This book is lovely, charming and heart warming, I felt like I was on holiday at the guesthouse too. It does not have the falseness of some chick-lit, which here is a good thing it has much more substance than some I have read. I cared a lot about the people and was drawn into the surroundings very easily. Which is why I enjoyed it so much and would love to know how Emmy deals with the choices she makes.

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

The Little French Guesthouse is out today. 

First Quarter – The Luminaries

I decided as one of my challenges for 2016, was to finally get round to reading The Luminaries. And summing it all up in four posts throughout the year, this being the first post and slightly later than I planned it to be posted, but here I am nonetheless.

I am ironically at the First Quarter point, not even a quarter of the way through the book. Goodreads tells me it is 17%.

I think the main reason for this is because I am not reading the book enough (stating the obvious) and also I am reading from the hardback copy. This is not conducive to snuggling down under the covers to read for fear of concussion.

I might have to invest in a paperback copy in the near future.

That said, and with fear of impending concussion I am making my way through the novel at a rather slower pace than anticipated, which sums up quite a lot of my reading this year so far.

The characters in the book are in abundance and I am having to get straight in my head who is who and how the feature in the story so far. I knew it was going to be complex.

Walter Moody has arrived in Hokitika, he has stumbled upon the twelve different men drawn together in rather strange circumstances and telling their version of a tale. Death, sex and money seem to be the main thread. Ironically rather than twelve signs of the zodiac, I was more thinking of 12 men on a jury making a decision on something.

I think at this point I need to keep reading.

The Chic Boutique on Baker Street

Amanda has a successful career and a successful boyfriend and lives and works hard in the city.

Suddenly she has nothing, no career, no boyfriend. So she decides to disappear and take herself away and set up a boutique in Westfield, a Yorkshire village, selling the things that she enjoys making. It seems a good place to make a new start.

Ben, the local village vet is still hurting after his city loving wife leaves him for his best friend. When he meets Amanda, he sees another city dweller wanting to make it in the country and knows that they never last. And it is local villagers like him that have to deal with the fall out. Amanda and Ben do not get off to the best of starts!

Neither Ben or Amanda have banked on the local ladies of the village who have secret meetings not just about raising money to save the community centre roof but also have matchmaking down to a fine art. These eccentric bunch of ladies, with their baking and knitting bring a community together and are a rather humorous touch to the plot.

However, the inevitable is going to happen pretty much from very early on in the book and this left me slightly disappointed. Sometimes I do not want it to be so obvious that is what is going to happen and who is going to end up with who.

That aside, Rachel Dove manages to weave a tale which did keep me reading despite knowing what was going to happen, because there were a couple of times I began to doubt it all and I wanted to bang both Ben and Amanda’s heads together. Whilst also secretly wanting to be the one that Ben puts his arms around. So it was a good read.

This book fits in very much with what I enjoy in contemporary women’s fiction. It has the strength of a community, the broody but good-looking man, throw in a project or two, like the community centre and some crafts, add in a bit of cooking and you have a book that I can while away a day with. In fact it took me a day tor ead it – I wanted to see what was happening.

I secretly (although I am telling you all readers) that Rachel Dove goes back to Westfield, because I feel that there are some more characters that could ben discovered and stories within the confines of the village.

The Chic Boutique on Baker Street is the debut novel from Rachel Dove, winner of The Prima Flirty Fiction Competition.

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

The Chic Boutique on Baker Street is out on 21st April