Books

A Class Act – Gervase Phinn

This is the final book in the trilogy of the Top of the Dale school series from Gervase Phinn, which is set in the village school of Risingdale, as the trilogy suggests at the top of the dale – the Yorkshire dales of course.

Here we find that as the Eighties are coming to an end, so is the end for the career of Gerald Gaunt, headmaster of the school for a number of years. The other teachers, Miss Golightly, Ms Tranter, Mr Cadwallader and the young dynamic Mr Dwyer who is the main protagonist of these novels are all at cross roads in their lives.

Miss Golightly, might have some outdated teaching methods and materials for teaching the infants but none of her children leave her class without being able to read.

Ms Tranter, ex actress with a lot of drama in her personal life as well as her school life, encourages the youngsters to speak, to project and certainly not to lose their wonderful accents and dialects.

Mr Cadwallader, late to teaching and with a taste for garibaldi biscuits, still wants the children to able to understand everything around them

Mr Dwyer, a former professional footballer who has certainly now found his niche in life as he listens to what the children have to teach him as much as he makes them listen to him teach. His knowledge of sheep, cows and bulls is far more advanced than when he first arrived.

Amongst a village school is of course a village with all its locals and eccentrics, the lord of the manor, the vicar with a liking to his own voice, the landlady, the farmer and of course the wonderful children of the school.

This book is really tying up some loose ends, there are many. At times it seems that we skip rapidly through many life events to bring everything to a conclusion, but when you do you are treated to some real Yorkshire warmth and blunt humour and you really have to know the accent to be able to read some of the passages. It brings great joy to me as I can hear the accent of many of my relatives and can well imagine them saying some of it.

A book which is simple in it’s aim – to bring joy and warmth, through the story of the children and the innocence of what they say (though I warn you to look out for the shopkeepers malapropisms) as well as their thirst for knowledge and sometimes wise advice.

Certainly a class book to read for all those who love; children; education; teachers; village tales and Yorkshire!

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

A Class Act is out now.

Books

The Girl From the Island – Lorna Cook

Lucy was desperate to escape Guernsey as soon as she could, she felt trapped, that life wasn’t going anywhere and she would be better off living her life anywhere but there.

But when an aged relative, Dido dies she is called back to the island of her youth, and to Dido’s home as plans are made to put it up for sale. As she starts to put the house in order she discovers, some old papers and photographs. One of these is of someone called Persey, who was she and why do the sisters know nothing about her. Now with Dido dead, it seems there is no one to ask and Lucy decides to piece all the pieces together herself. It is a story that will be heart breaking and heart warming and perhaps makes Lucy look at life in a very different way.

The dual narrative of this book takes us back on occasions to the 1930s, still on Guernsey and then to the 1940s during the occupation by the Germans. Here two sisters have spent their childhood days of the 1930s playing around the island with no care in the world with the housekeeper’s son, Jack and the German boy Stefan who visits relatives during the summer months.

When their mother dies the same day as the occupation life changes forever for these two sisters and it seems as if those carefree days are now going to cause them pain and anguish.

This is a fascinating book which gives a real insight into life under German occupation on the island and shows the conflicts and battles that the islanders had to face as well as the occupying German forces as well. The book certainly pushed your expectations to make you think of both sides during the war and for that I commend it.

The stories interweave distinctly backwards and forwards and with an added piece of romance just made the story more intriguing as it added another element to the puzzle that Lucy was trying to solve about the house and its occupants.

This latest from Lorna Cook, like her previous novels takes an element of history that is perhaps overlooked or not given as much page space and weaves the fact with the fiction to create a story to draw you in and care. Care about the characters, the places, the storyline and the conclusion so it becomes a joyous occasion to have read the book. This is very much the case with The Girl From the Island.

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

The Girl From the Island is out now.

Books

The Sun Sister – Lucinda Riley

I have been holding onto The Sun Sister for reading when the time was right, I could have dived straight in but the trouble with that is Lucinda Riley’s novels are so well written that I feel so bereft when I have finished them.

The time has come for me to become involved in Electra’s story the sixth of the girls to be adopted by Pa Salt, the billionaire who has died at the beginning of all these novels and leaves clues as to where he found all of his daughters. I never had a warm feeling from what I knew of Electra when she had been mentioned in her sisters stories and she has been someone who has been described as aloof and rather scathing of her sisters and the paths that they have chosen to follow once they have found out where they belong in the world.

For Electra she is the person that is going to light up the room, she is rich, she is beautiful and is a famous model, known across the globe. It is this arrogance that comes across which makes her a character you are not going to warm to and for a while that was how I felt. As the story progresses you can see this was intentional.

Electra whilst beautiful is fragile and her fragility is masked through drink and drugs and as the story opens in New York, not long after the death of Pa Salt, it seems that Electra has reached crisis point. Those around her are trying to protect her and her image, but it seems that it is about to all come crumbling down until a letter turns up from someone…. her grandmother, Stella Jackson. Alive and well, living in New York and as famous as Electra but for many different reasons.

Stella Jackson has a story to tell and that will be the story of how Electra came to be. It is the late 1930s and we are taken from America to Kenya and we meet Cecily Huntley-Morgan a young American whose marriage prospects have hit a bump in the road and she goes to stay with her godmother in Kenya, specifically what was known as Happy Valley.

The core of the story begins and just like the heat of Kenya, the heat of the story and the plot gets more interesting and draws you right in. Cecily falls in love not just with the place and the area but with the culture and her life changes beyond all recognition to her American relatives who are half a world away as war rages across the globe. When Cecily meets and agrees to shelter a local girl from one of the tribes this simple action changes her life forever.

All around her well known real life characters of the Happy Valley interact with Cecily and we witness some real life events weaved around this wonderful story. I had a very vague knowledge of the ‘Happy Valley’ set and as with all Riley novels I was educated as much as I was enthralled with the plot and the characters. Drawing real life characters into a fictional story can cause problems, but not here, for Cecily it reiterates the strength of hers. She is so much like a fish out of water at the beginning that you can feel how much she does not fit in, something to what Electra is feeling in the modern day tale.

As the book moves back to Electra we are moved again to a very different hedonistic world from the one that many described the Happy Valley set to be. Electra’s addictions take her to a place where she learns a lot about what problems these addictions can cause and the life it leads people to exist in, very different to Electra’s privileged one, even when she was growing up. I found all of these scenes rather uncomfortable and you can see what a hold an addiction can become but it was the start of Electra finding her place in life.

Electra’s transformation in the face of it might seem rather contrived, but as the story has so many depths and we are taken back to the early days of her childhood and life with Pa Salt in the family home at Atlantis in Geneva we begin to understand more about her and the relationship she had with her adoptive father as well as her adoptive sisters. I am sure Electra has more to give but now we must make sense of the missing sister.

I feel I have been all over the world with Lucina Riley and the Seven Sister series and I have learnt so much from all of the places I have been. The fact that real life events, real people are simply weaved into the fictional tale is a testament to the skill of Riley’s writing and means that for me she is without a doubt one of my most favourite authors.

Jottings

A Year of Jigsaws

I though it might be interesting to look back at a particular favourite lockdown hobby for many – jigsaws. This has always been something I have done so in that respect it wasn’t anything new to me, but it did make getting hold of them in the last twelve months rather tricky. I do like a good quality jigsaw and Gibsons are probably my go to place, but some of the following do not come from there, in fact some have come from the street!

Lots has been written about how they are good for you and that even the Queen is known to participate in a jigsaw or two. They are a great timewaster, even as the light fades and it gets chillier I have been known to just find one more piece!

So enjoy this gallery of jigsaws that I have done, I know I am missing some pictures of the 500 piece ones that were part of a set of 4 but they will have been of a similar ilk to the other pictures. I tend to favour 1000 mainly because that is the biggest my jigsaw puzzle board fits and I am not blessed with a table of sorts to keep them on.

oooo those white pieces!
From the street – with pieces missing (circled) I eventually sold, yes sold this on despite the missing pieces!

On with the next 12 months of jigsaws, the perfect distraction from all sorts of things, not just pandemics!

Books

March Roundup

March

March 2021 is a month to remember probably because it is a year to when the UK went into its first lockdown and we became very familiar with the words pandemic and coronavirus. March 2021 we are still in a form of lockdown and as the month ends we move on to the next stage and whatever that may bring. Hope is what I am after.

March has been an up and down month for reading, the list of books I want to read (and have requested from netgalley) grows long but the actual reading seems to be taking a lot longer. I am hoping as I have chance to recharge and reset in April and the reading will thence follow.

I did read some crackers in March though!

Whilst the place might have driven some crackers, it was all about cracking the code and Kate Quinn – The Rose Code was a hefty tome of novel (not really noticeable on kindle) but was a thrilling read that was perfect for my love of historical fiction and I am just as fascinated by Bletchley Park as I have always been.

All sorts of things fascinate me and last year I ploughed through all the Our Yorkshire Farm series on Channel 5 and then absorbed all the books, so was delighted that another little gem was released Amanda Owen – Tales from the Farm from the Yorkshire Shepherdess. Which has taken her entries from The Dalesman and combined them into this lovely book for dipping in and out of.

Sticking with the farm theme leads me nicely onto Katie Ginger – The Secrets of Meadow Farmhouse where the chickens are giving the new owner of Meadow Farmhouse a run for her money as well as an old flame and a lot of interior decorating! What better setting for such a lovely warm read.

Of course if you are going to go to the sea and spot mermaids then you need it warm, but then in Sarah Bennett – Summer Kisses at Mermaid’s Point the writing and the characters are going to keep you warm and in a good company as we start this new series from this blossoming author.

Wanting to carry on escaping, what better way than to Fiji in Lucy Clarke – The Castaways but not for a relaxing break. For a mystery that needs to be solved, the missing plane, the missing pilot, the missing sister. This was a thrilling adventure despite the setting and left me feeling like I needed a holiday from reading it!

If you are going on holiday then it is always worth visiting the library to pick up some great reads and no more so when the library nearest to you happens to be in a telephone box. Poppy Alexander – The Littlest Library introduced me to a lovely story that can come from the death of loved ones, especially parents and it is with some irony that three of the books that I have read in March and featured such a character background. I only realised this upon reflection over the last month, how strange that I was drawn to such books without really knowing.

I am always drawn to school stories and it is great to spend time with Gervase Phinn – Tales out of School whose books are a joy to read and when you can hear the Yorkshire accent as you read, you can feel the honesty and warmth come right off the pages. This is the second in the series of books and I have the third, primed and ready on my kindle.

Feeling rather out of sorts I picked up Tracy Rees – The Little Book of Secrets and absolutely devoured it in a day, such a beautifully written book that had friendship at it’s heart and the impact that a simple building can have of many people locally and those that pass through.

Some wonderful books which have saved my March and I look forward to brighter days when I can read even more, because I know escaping into a story is the best feeling in the world.

Books

The Castaways – Lucy Clarke

When you want to escape to an island and feel like away from everything, then Fiji is perhaps an island that springs to mind. Blue seas and white sand. Warm sun and beautiful scenery, the perfect place to be castaway.

Expect for Erin and Lori, sisters who have decided on a holiday to Fiji.

Lori gets on the plane.

Erin does not.

The plane disappears and Erin is left wondering about what has happened to Lori?

Told in both the past and the present, from both Lori and Erin, we see all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle set out in front of us and as we learn the story of the two sisters and how they both find themselves where they do.

In Fiji, in the past and in the present.

There are as many answers as there are questions and when the pilot of the missing plane reappears after two years, Erin has to know the truth.

I could write more, but that would take away some of the fear, the trepidation, the importance of the setting, that feeling that you are far away from everything and that perhaps it is not paradise after all.

An excellent thriller that was perhaps not what you were expecting and that made it all the more interesting.

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

The Castaways is out now.

Books

The Rose Code – Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn is not a name I have heard of before, but Bletchley Park and the Enigma code is something I have and it has fascinated me for many years. So when I got the opportunity to read this book, I was delighted and set about solving the mystery.

Osla, debutante with the world at her feet as well as all the men and the thought that she doesn’t really need to work, just make the right match, makes you think of some privileged posh person. Osla is anything but. Determined to do her bit she suddenly finds herself on a train to some big house in the middle of Buckinghamshire.

Mab, feels she has worked hard to get where she is. She wants something better in her life not just for her but her little sister Lucy as well. She is on the look out for someone to get her out of what she grew up in. But in the meantime she has to distract herself with the work at this big house in the middle of Buckinghamshire.

The third main female character in this novel is Beth. Daughter of the landlady where Osla and Mab lodge at. Beth is downtrodden, under the thumb of her Methodist preaching mother and will ever remain the spinster of the parish. But her quick thinking brain in solving crosswords and puzzles also leads her through the gates to the big house in the middle of Buckinghamshire.

Bletchley Park or BP as it is referred to by the ‘inmates’ within the story holds many secrets, no one knows what anyone else is doing but everyone knows it is something important. But it is not just the secrets they are working on, it is the secrets these three women have brought to the BP, their lives are going to be inexplicably changed by what they discover amongst the codes in front of them and what they most importantly discover about themselves.

In an interesting dual narrative, the different thread of the story is really only some 6-7 years after the main storyline. The days in the run up to the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten in Novembers 1947.

Osla finds herself having to attend the wedding of the year when she is called to revisit her recent past when a code arrives.

Mab was planning a party where she could fold some napkins into swans to listen to the wedding on the wireless when a code arrives for her and it seems she needs to confront her past as well.

For Beth, she has remained in the past, there was one last code to break and in her mind she has never had the chance to crack it and reveal the truth about the past.

Can these three women come together and solve this final piece of the puzzle?

This book drew me straight in, I have been fortunate to visit Bletchley Park (and so want to go back) that I really did feel like I was walking through those gates, hunkering down in a hut with nothing but a jumble of letters and paper and pencils to crack something unknowable. What an experience it must have been and Kate Quinn brings that experience so much to life in this book.

This is a long novel but so worth it, to get so involved with everything, whether it be the light hearted moments, or the thrill of the chase when it came to cracking a code or experiencing life as a debutante in war torn London.

Whilst I did think at times some of the timeline seemed a bit wrong from my knowledge of the time, it was only manipulated to suit the story and was explained fully at the end of the book. The author also explains the basis of where some of these characters have come from and who they are based on, though there are a lot that you will recognise

One of the best historical novels I have read in a long time and one that I could happily reread.

 

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

The Rose Code is out now. 

 

Books

Summer Kisses at Mermaids Point – Sarah Bennett

When you want some warmth to your soul and heart then I would always  recommend picking up a Sarah Bennett novel. And in her latest you are whisked away to Mermaid’s Point where you can get some warmth to your skin as well!

Laurie Morgan runs a small café, next door to a gift shop that her parents run, her brother Nick can be found on the tour boats in this delightful costal village and her aunt can also be found popping into help in the café. A real family feel to this book and I am sure in subsequent books we will get to know more about them all.

Suddenly Mermaids Point is the focus of a lot of media attention, when it seems that a video of a mermaid goes viral on the internet, and there is suddenly a lot of interest in this mythical creature. Of course when the village has a mermaid in its name it seems that perhaps those folk tales of the past might be true?

Jake Smith moves to the village, temporarily on the pretence of writing a book, but really to discover more about this mermaid sighting. After some rather hard hitting journalism, his editor thinks this could be a way of stepping back for a  bit. to get close to the truth, he needs to not be a tourist but more of a local and he finds himself drawn to Laurie, like a mermaid calling out a seductive call to lure sailors.

However as Jake gets close to the truth about the mermaid sightings and then even even closer to Laurie it seems that he is going to have to make some decisions about which truths are going to be the ones he reveals.

A wonderful escapist novel, which sweeps you away to the seaside, that takes you for a paddle in the waters, to the mouth watering cakes of Laurie’s café as the well as the warmth of the community environment and the strength of family. This book has so many layers of warmth that you will never feel cold reading it!

Fabulous read.

 

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

Summer Kisses at Mermaid Point is published today! 

Books

The Littlest Library – Poppy Alexander

Who can resist a library and especially one in a telephone box and so who could resist a whole book about one.

Jess is content with her life, she dare not hope for anything else because if she does it will be taken away from her. Having lost her parents at an early age, she grew up with Mimi her wonderful grandmother, but now Mimi has gone and Jess has lost her job in the local library she is all alone in the world.

Jess decides to up sticks and move to a ramshackle cottage in a country village, bringing all the important things with her from the past, including boxes of her Grandmother’s books.

What she doesn’t realise that along with the cottage comes a little red telephone box and Jess decides that it would make a lovely little library and give a place for her grandmothers books and share the joy of reading.

As the library opens, everyone local from the village comes to sue, borrowing books they once loved, once shared with a loved one and ones that are new to them. Each borrower becomes drawn back to the library and Jess starts to make friends with some of the eccentric locals. Everyone likes Jess to their heart, but for Aidan she is somewhat of a nuisance, from the very first point she met him. What is worse, is they are now neighbours? Not a good start to Jess’s new life in the country.

With Jess looking to the future after some rather false starts in life, she thinks that this village might be the place to put down roots, but when the library might have to close and her job prospects don’t look good, let alone her love life. It seems that Jess was only passing through his village?

This is my first Poppy Alexander novel, but won’t be my last. A very gentle quiet tale about people finding their true selves, whether that be Jess or many of the other characters within the novel. It has a great sense of place and a community feel and just the sort of book you need to give you that lovely warm feeling!

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

The Littlest Library is out now.

Books

The Secrets of Meadow Farmhouse – Katie Ginger

Amelia has not been back home for over ten years and has established her life in Paris. But when she discovers that she has inherited Meadow Farmhouse from her Great Aunt Vera, she just needs to pop back, sort it out and make sure it is sold. Meadow Farmhouse was not really her home was it?

However, Amelia was not prepared for the emotions that would hit her when she returned to the village of Meadowbank and her past.

The farmhouse is a dilapidated state and it seems that Vera had let it go and having had little contact with her since her departure and not healing the refits that might have developed, Amelia starts to think that maybe restoring the farmhouse will help her heal.

Is Amelia really healing from the restoration of the farmhouse.

She still has to confront her old love, Adam who is still very much part of the village.

She still has to deal with the death of her parents, that led her to living with Vera and being an irritation and an inconvenience.

It seems though Vera had a few secrets of her own, that Amelia knew nothing about. And when she discovers an old wedding dress and a locket with a picture of a man she does not recognise. It seems that there is a mystery to solve and perhaps this might lead her to solve all the mysterious questions that have come to mind since she has been home.

The main one – is Meadow Farmhouse really home?

This is a wonderful book which is full of questions about where home really is and who are friends really are? Sometimes we need to step away from something and get a new perspective and I think Amelia does this in this book, thanks to the other wonderful characters that she comes across, both young and old. So much is learnt from what is not said, that there must be more tales to tell from Meadowbank.

For fans of village tales and renovating houses and hearts in equal measure.

 

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

The Secrets of Meadow Farmhouse is out now.