Books

An Expert in Murder – Nicola Upson

This is the first Josephine Tey novel and having read her second first I thought I would go back to where it started.

Nicola Upson has come upon the idea of using a real life author as a character in this crime series. Tey is not used as the main solving character that falls to Detective inspector Archie Penrose, but Upson weaves in the relationship that Josephine Tey has with his family, and him as well and what all links them together.

Tey happens to bump into a fan of her work on the train south from Inverness, and they strike up an instant friendship for the duration of the journey. However, tragedy strikes when the young girl is found dead, some moments after having said goodbye to Josephine. In steps Archie Penrose and he begins to discover that the murderer has left a number of odd clue that seem to all relate back to Josephine and her(written under a pseudonym) current play running in the West End, Richard of Bordeaux.

We are taken into the wonderful age of the Thirties; the Great War still has memories for a number of people, despite the threat of something else brewing over on the continent. The theatre is beginning to take off and plays, actors and agents are all fighting for something spectacular to put on. However amongst all this joy, there are many harbouring secrets and lies and another death causes Penrose much heartache as he realises that maybe Tey is the intended victim all along. The outcome is probably not what you would expect despite having worked some of it, it still came as a slight surprise, now I think I may have missed a clue or two, or maybe it is just the strength of Upson’s writing which took me to the end of the story without working it out in the first few pages.

Thrilling and exciting story, with many lovely characters, Penrose’s cousin Lettie and Ronnie bring humour to the blackest of moments and fit in very nicely with the back story. There are some racier moments put yourself as if you were in reading this in the Thirties, homosexuality was still illegal, and there is no hint but directness about what is going on between some of the cast in the theatres. I am sure it would have made some question such a book, however we are reading this in the twenty first century and perhaps now look at things differently, with the knowledge that we now have.
Yes it has elements of Agatha Christie and the ilk – but so what. It is a different way of making the basic murder mystery genre work and I think successfully, certainly to keep me reading once I was gripped by the whole story.

This review was first published on Amazon in early 2010 and is featured on this blog as part of my look back at the last ten years of blogging. 

Books

The Waffle House on the Pier – Tilly Tennant

The Waffle House on the Pier has been in Sea Salt Bay for what feels like forever and for Sadie it is a place she has grown up in and when the threat of it closing and being sold sees Sadie make some rather immediate life changing decisions.

Sadie feels that the Waffle House needs to be kept in the family and even though her grandfather has now sadly died, her grandmother can still help Sadie with keeping it going. The family have other ideas. But Sadie is determined.

However, Sadie is perhaps hiding from the truth, the truth that maybe her grandmother April is no longer capable of running the Waffle House nor perhaps even help there. And what does Sadie know about running a business? It seems everything and everyone is against her.

Being back in Sea Salt Bay means that Sadie is back with her friends Natalie and Georgia as well as in closer contact with her ex Declan. He has moved on, but has Sadie? When Luke bumps into her, perhaps she can finally see a different life in the town?

I was expecting one thing from this book, bringing a waffle house back from the brink, a common theme to be had amongst popular women’s fiction: cafes, pubs, shops all would fit the bill. I did not get that, this book very much focuses on family and how it copes dealing with death and the worry of those left behind and their strange behaviour. The waffle house became secondary and whatever was related to that part of the plot was rushed and glossed over.

Sadie’s family were strong and dominant throughout, in fact I could see why Sadie always felt pushed around by them, but I could not connect to her as much as some of the other secondary characters.  We went from family gatherings and debates to arguments and back again. This left me feeling a bit disappointed by the book.

It is a good book to while away a few hours, but lacked the fun and humour that I was expecting which might have made it stand out from some of the other books I have read so far this year.

 

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

The Waffle House on the Pier is published on 25 June. 

I have found Tilly Tennant’s books a bit hit and miss, not as consistent as you get with some of the authors I read and I felt like this book was a chore to read. It should never be that. I knew I have felt like this before about her work and I think perhaps it is time for me to move on from this author for a while. 

Books

June Roundup

What a start to the summer, as lockdown eases and we wait to see what happens next. It has sometimes been an absolute necessity to escape into the pages of a good book. Even better when you make a dent not just in your netgalley list but books on shelves too.

There are some nice gaps on the shelves now as I read Ken Bruce – Tacks of My Years. Published over ten years ago now, I think I picked it up in a charity shop. As a keen Radio 2 listener, it was great to put some background to the man who has probably been with me throughout my childhood and now my adulthood. A lot has happened in those last ten years and I wonder what Ken would write about now?

Another one gone is Jessie Burton – The Muse. The first book of this author that I have read, despite having watched The Miniaturist when it was televised a few Christmas back. Interestingly a book featuring black characters, set in the 1960s with mixed race relationship and the strange possibility of women being better than men at something came at the time when the Black Lives Matter was taking over the news broadcasts. I had no idea when I picked up the book to read. I was intrigued, it was wonderfully written and the story set in 1930s Spain just before revolution was most fascinating.

Finally a recent purchase which was on the shelf for hardly a moment Katie Fforde – Thyme Out. When all else fails and you are feeling out of sorts, Katie Fforde is bound to cheer and she did with a book I had not read before, so another one ticked of the oeuvre!

Reading old books and books that have been on my shelf for a while is incomplete contrast to the recent books that I have read and the ones that have yet to be published. I was somewhat disappointed with Tilly Tennant – The Waffle House on the Pier, it could have been a lot more and had a bit more to it. Tilly’s books are rather a hit or a miss with me in recent years.

In contrast an author who I came back to and have enjoyed immensely since those first novels is Ali McNamara – Kate and Clara’s Curious Craft Shop. This books is glorious, of course being set in Cornwall as many a book is nowadays does help but the dual narrative, the mystery and the wonder that is crafts makes it a must book for me.

Another place slightly closer to home is the Isle of Wight and it was a coincidence that is where I was taken with Carole Matthews – Sunny Days and Sea Breezes. A wonderful tale of boats, beaches and bossy friends. Guaranteed sunshine without leaving your house!

You need the sun if you are going to run a festival so it seems that everything is in there favour in Katie Ginger – Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay. I wait in trepidation in how winter and Christmas is going to come to Swallowtail Bay.

Two books which don’t fit into any particular genre but I feel must be read for many different reasons, some I have yet to even work out myself.

Rachel Joyce – Miss Benson’s Beetle, the latest took me very much back to the debut novel. It had that gentleness of it, despite the plot and you could almost feel yourself out there on a expedition yourself, in uncharted territory – a bit like the book.

This has to be on all my lists for 2020, Brenda Davies – The Girl Behind the Gates. It is a difficult read but it is one that must be read. It is both a disturbing but fascinating read and one is compelled to be drawn in and wince at the injustice, the treatment and more than anything the reality hat this actually happened. You need a strong constitution to read it.

Quite a mix of books, which is the best way. Sometimes reading too much of the same, can result in nothing more that a regurgitation of plot, setting and character. I like to think this month I have captured plenty of variety.

Which leads me on very nicely to more variety in the shape of the 2020 Six in Six meme. Click here to see all about it and please join in if you can. You just might add some more books to your list.

Books

Murder at the Playhouse – Helena Dixon

Kitty Underhay is definitely on track to be a popular favourite amongst fans of cosy mysteries and with this her third adventure.

Kitty having still not made it up with Matthew Bryant the debonair ex Army Captain and now private investigator from the previous two novels, she finds herself rather lost and missing him.

Matthew is much in the same mood, but that is all forgotten when a knock at his door reveals the police come to arrest him for murder.

Kitty rushes to his aid.

The deceased is a young actress on the cusp of something bigger, Pearl Bright, found strangled with one of Matthew’s bootlaces. There is a straightforward believable explanation from Matthew.

Stanley Davenport a theatre impresario and on verge of a knighthood is as well as Matthew’s neighbours seemed convinced it his him and that there is no need to look any further, especially not at Stanley Davenport and his family and associates seem to have a lot to hide.

Kitty manages through Mrs Craven to get to know the Davenport’s and she finds herself centre stage with helping with a local theatre show for a charity. Being this involved means she might be able to get to the truth if it all plays out right.

It will be alright on the night – surely?

Regular characters are back, including the insurmountable Mrs Craven as well as Kitty’s maid at the hotel, Alice who is a great character and I am pleased she is featuring more dominantly. Her sound advice and obvious observations are a great for Kitty.

The sub plot of Kitty’s missing mother is still throughout this book and Matthew is kept occupied with this and we start to find out a bit more of what might have happened to her.

All in all a great mystery with good characters both likeable and absolutely dreadful that you love them and the continual mystery makes we excited to read book four!

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

Murder at the Playhouse is published on 30 June. 

Catch up with Kitty from the beginning:

Murder at the Dolphin Hotel

Murder at Enderley Hall 

 

Books · Jottings

Six in Six – 2020 Edition

Here it is again – I hope that the small select few of us that complete this meme can perhaps spread the word so we have a few more participants this year. However it is always great to see fellow book bloggers joining in.

When did all this begin?

I started it in 2012 on a whim and it has been going ever since!

If you want to look back at the previous years and get a flavour then please do.

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

What is it all about?

The idea being that as the end of June approaches and we are then halfway through the year,  let us share the books we have read in those first 6 months. In fact let’s share 6 books in 6 categories, or if time is of the essence then simply share just 6 books. Whatever combination works for you as long as it involves 6 books. Of course the same book can obviously feature in more than one category.

What categories can I choose from?

  • Six new authors to me
  • Six authors I have read before
  • Six authors I am looking forward to reading more of
  • Six books I have enjoyed the most
  • Six books I was disappointed with
  • Six series of books read or started
  • Six authors I read last year – but not so far this year
  • Six books that took me on extraordinary journeys
  • Six books that took me by the hand and led me into the past
  • Six books from the past that drew me back there
  • Six books from authors I know will never let me down
  • Six books I must mention that don’t fit nicely into any category
  • Six books I started in the first six months of the year and was still caught up with in July
  • Six trips to Europe
  • Six blogging events I enjoyed
  • Six bookish things I’m looking forward to
  • Six Espionage or Historical Novels I enjoyed
  • Six Cool Classics
  • Six Non-US/Non-British Authors
  • Six From the Non-Fiction Shelf
  • Six books that didn’t live up to expectations
  • Six books that I had one or two problems with but am still glad I tried
  • Six books that are related to The Great War or Second World War
  • Six bookshops I have visited
  • Six books I’ve read in an English translation
  • Six books which are better than the film
  • Six books which are worse than the film
  • Six books that have sport as their major theme
  • Six favourite places to read
  • Six books read on kindle and then went and bought an actual copy
  • Six books I abandoned
  • Six classics I have read
  • Six books I have read on my Kindle
  • Six physical books I have read
  • Six book covers I love
  • Six book covers that bear no resemblance to the story contained within
  • Six books to read to avoid politics
  • Six books I have read but not reviewed
  • Six books I have read in lockdown

Or you can come up with your own category,  (If you do: please comment and I can add them to this list for future years)

What do I need to post?

Simply choose six of the categories above and list six books under that category. Some bloggers use pictures, some put excerpts of reviews. The main thing being it is six categories and six books. Of course if you want to do a shorter version, then just post something about six books you have read in the first six months of 2020

Please link back to this post and/or my blog and share this post so we can have lots of people joining in. All those that participate I will endeavour to collate into one post.

When do I post?

Anytime in July. We have reading days left of June and that book might well fit nicely into one of the categories.

Anything else?

Please spread the word and get people to join in and let them know that we are all halfway through our 2020 reading year!

Books

Sunny Days and Sea Breezes – Carole Matthews

Jodie is on the run from her previous life, give the opportunity to escape for a while and makes sense of everything that has happened to her she ends up in the Isle of Wight on a luxury houseboat, Sunny Days thanks to her brother.

Thinking she can hide and lick her wounds is far from the truth as she encounters the whirling dervish cleaning lady that is Marilyn. Bright and abundantly cheerful, Jodie is not going to be able to escape being looked after by Marilyn. She succumbs to Marilyn’s food, fashion advice and guidance and finds herself truly escaping.

Next to Sunny Days, is Sea Breezes another houseboat but not quite as luxurious, but most intriguing with its decor as well as it’s owner Ned. Intrigued by this man, Jodie finds herself drawn to Ned as he goes through life, with early morning yoga on the beach, wood sculpting and playing in a band. All so far away from the life Jodie had at home.

Jodie starts to feel part of something in this little place on the Isle of Wight, as she passes the time of day with George the statue makes on her way to the beach cafe where she meets Ida. All of these people begin to help, some unknowingly, heal Jodie.

But you cannot always out run the past and despite the relentless messages and phone calls, Jodie’s past finds her and she now has to find out what exactly she really wants and can she live with it forever.

What a wonderful story from Carole Matthews, where I instantly felt empathy to the characters, and laughed aloud at the way Marilyn was determined to show colour to Jodie and see the importance it could have in life. This is definitely a book to bring colour to your life, the yellow sand, the blue sea and sky no matter how grey your life may feel, colour can be found in the unexpected places.

A simply joyous read.

 

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

Sunny Days and Sea Breezes is published on the 25 June.

 

 

Books

Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay – Katie Ginger

If you want something organised in Swallowtail Bay then you go to Hetty. She can do pretty much anything, she is not afraid to get her hands dirty and whether it is anniversary parties or birthday parties for hyped up children she can deliver. Events management is what she does the absolute best.

But Hetty is looking for that next big project and when she thinks she can pull off bringing back the local Strawberry Festival bigger and better than ever before within four weeks she sees it as a make or break moment.

The only problem she can foresee is persuading the residents of Thornhill Manor that it is a good idea and that it will be beneficial for them. John Thornhill, youngest son takes a lot of convincing, but it seems Hetty has something that he has never encountered before.

As plans gather pace with, food stalls, bouncy castles, fairground rides and a outdoor cinema, it seems that Hetty is going to pull it all together.

Trouble is she is also having to deal with her mother who has made decision which shocks not just Hetty but her father as well.

Then Ben, the man Hetty finished with is suddenly back in her life with a plan – one that Hetty could never see coming.

Hetty is not the only one having trouble, John Thornhill is dealing with the fallout of his father’s actions, his mother is retreating further into her shell and his older brother is about to make the worse decision for the family without consulting anyone. Surely he can rely on Jaz his personal assistant to sort out everything else – it seems not.

So much is packed into this story, that you almost forget about the success of the festival. Brought to life from visiting potential fairgrounds, tasting food as well as the wonders of dealing with the general public. It feels like you are there walking round the stalls, tasting the food, listening to the music, letting it all wash over you.

Of course that is what Hetty and John want you to feel? What do they feel and will they be able to solve it all before the festival finishes and becomes the success they both want?

A second visit to Swallowtail Bay, but it doesn’t matter if this is your first, a great summer story for any point in the year.

Like perfect strawberries with a big dollop of luscious cream on top – simply irresistible.

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

Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay is published on the 24 June. 

 

Books

The Little Shop in Cornwall – Helen Pollard

Where better to be than by the sea. Where you can breathe in the clean air, listen to the waves crash and retreat against the shore as your worries drift away and you start to heal.

What better place to visit that Healing Waves, Claudia’s little shop at the end of the beach road. Claudia escaped here from her frantic city life and re-balanced herself and made friends with the locals, her neighbours and the tourists that come to her shop. With her cat Pudding, Claudia has found the life she wants.

Jason and teenage daughter Millie, have moved to be nearer Millie’s grandparents. Life has been tough for them in recent months and Jason is hoping a change of scenery will be what they both need. What he wasn’t expecting was Millie’s fascination with Claudia’s shop and her interest in things that Jason has no understanding of.

Jason is scared of the unknown which is why he has taken an immediate dislike to what he thinks Claudia stands for. When he learns of a new shop opening in the seaside town and that Claudia’s friends are perhaps slightly usual he starts to question the rights and wrongs of his move and the influence over impressionable teenagers.

But it seems that someone else in the town is none too take with Claudia and her shop, as natural disasters and man made ones seem to hit Claudia perhaps there is some sort of curse hanging around.

Help comes for Claudia where she least expects it and it seems that opposites can attract and that getting under the skin of someone and making them question is perhaps what she has been missing in life.

A bright sunny book which has so much spark in it, the interaction between some of the characters jumps right off the page and you find yourself fully immersed in the story and the setting. I was writing my own worries and problems on the sand and watched the sea take them away.

Escape to Cornwall this summer and heal all your troubles and meet some new friends. I hope we get to return here again soon.

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

The Little Shop in Cornwall is published on 15 June. 

 

 

Books

A Perfect Cornish Escape – Phillipa Ashley

Back in the Cornish town of Porthmellow from Ashley’s earlier books but you need no prior knowledge of the regular inhabitants of the place, you just need a love of Cornwall and cracking good story.

Marina’s husband was lost at sea almost seven years ago and time is a healer and when it comes to when she can finally let go and move on. Can she really move on to another love though?

Tiff is Marina’s cousin and comes down to Porthmellow to stay with her to let the dust settle on her journalism career after causing a bit of a stir with a well known politician.

Lachlan is in Cornwall to escape, he clearly has a story to tell. His scars go deeper than those on his face, there is a story to tell but who is the best person he can tell it to.

Dirk, a resident and local of Portmellow who has been on the receiving end of being well known by association is a bit stormy. He is used to storms, his manner creates them buthe is also quite used to the ones out at sea as well, working on the lifeboat.

All of them are escaping from one thing or another and it seems that maybe by doing so they can start to heal and move on with their lives. Because you can never really escape love.

Plenty is packed into this novel as well as the relationships that are forged, along with a few complications just to make it difficult. Life is not easy and it is great to read a book where the happy ending is perhaps not inevitable and that changes have to be made on a all sides to find a new way, a new life.

The book is full of everything that you might love about a seaside harbour town. I was taken away to where you can see the lifeboat launch dealing with everyday occurrences when tourists and sometimes locals don’t listen to those that know best. It was if the clear blue water, was washing over my feet as I walked whilst the sunset along the shore and I could be swept away with the warmth of the sun as well as the love. I wanted to sit and eat chips and devour them and the story. Utter bliss.

Another great visit to Porthmellow and I hope we get to go back soon.

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

A Perfect Cornish Escape is published on the 11 June. 

 

Books

The Little Teashop in Tokyo – Julie Caplin

Julie Caplin this time takes us half a world away to Japan, Tokyo in her wonderful series of Romantic Escapes. If you cannot go holiday, then let the holiday come to you.

Fiona is a travel blogger and is always found with her camera, she almosts hides behind that lens and her blog but given the opportunity to go to Tokyo and the prospect of an exhibition at work, means that Fiona needs to get out and find whos he really is. Going to Tokyo to be mentored by a famous photographer is an ideal opportunity.

Except that the famous photographer is not able to help and sends Gabe instead.

Fiona knows Gabe from an rather embarrassing episode ten years ago and he broke her heart. But does Gabe recognise Fiona?

Fiona stays with three generations of one family above a tea shop and she is immediately immersed in Japanese life. But Gabe seems very reluctant to mentor her and thinks he can simply dump her at various tourist spots and scuttle off and hide.

Fiona steps out from behind the lens and challenges Gabe in more than one way and as the sparks fly, memories are reignisted and both Gabe and Fiona find that photography is not the only thing they may have in common.

Can Fiona risk having her heart broken a second time?

Can Gabe remember why he enjoys photography?

This is a wonderful sweet romance with a few ups and downs as you would expect in such a book. However the setting and clearly the research that has gone into the setting – Tokyo – is apparent to see. I was transported to Mount Fuji, to the cherry blossoms that I could almost smell them. The tea ceremony and the meaning behind the old traditional Japan and the bright vibrant modern version that is emerging is covered so well in this book. As with all previous books, food makes a welcome appearance and you can visualise the plate as Fiona is introduced to whole a new food culture.

This is a book to transport you away to somewhere else, to somewhere you may never get to visit and you can do it all for the cost of a book. What better form of escapism.

Where next for Julie Caplin to explore? Can I put in a request and perhaps go to Canada?

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

The Little Teashop in Tokyo is published on 11th June. 

Have a world tour so far with Julie Caplin – all links to my reviews. 

The Little Cafe in Copenhagen

The Little Brooklyn Bakery

The Little Paris Patisserie

The Northern Lights Lodge

The Secret Cove in Croatia