A Cornish Stranger – Liz Fenwick

Jaunty is reaching the end of her days. She has spent it tucked away from the sight living an almost reclusive life near Frenchman’s Creek. The local Cornish community are protective of Jaunty, because once she was famous. In fact her artwork still is.

Gabe, Jaunty’s granddaughter has come to nurse her and at the same time nurse her own ills. Gabe thinks that the reclusive life in this cabin tucked away may be the tonic she needs to find out more about herself.

Reunited, Gabe and Jaunty have a rather odd existence, but one that seems to work. There is trouble brewing and more so in the weather when a violent storm one night, drives Gabe from her bed and to rescue a stranger.

That stranger is Fin. Is he hiding or looking for something?

The storm is far from over, it is merely bubbling away, “….playing havoc with her equilibrium….” .

There are secrets that are being kept and as the book progresses we are taken back to another time, to another place, and as we learn about Jaunty, Gabe and in a way Fin. We come to understand the setting, the place and the atmosphere of this life in Cornwall.

What makes this book stand out for others that I have read, that use a dual narrative and secrets as part of their plot is the rich descriptive passages that Liz Fenwick gives us the reader. I was in the storm, I felt the water, I could immerse myself in the isolation of the cabin and hold onto a past life.

Clearly there is an influence from the likes of Du Maurier in her writing and other authors who have based their work in Cornwall. But that does not detract from Fenwick’s storytelling it merely enhances the enjoyment and I was transported away.

Thank you to netgalley for providing me a copy for review. 

I will be looking out for Liz Fenwick’s other novels, as I seem to be on a roll with reading about Cornwall. 

The Seven Streets of Liverpool – Maureen Lee

It is very hard to write a review on the fourth book in a series when it is some fifteen years plus since  you have read the first three. My memory needed a bit of a refresh and because I did not review books way back then, I felt I was starting to read this book with no prior knowledge.

However, I was soon back in Pearl Street and it was familiar territory. Some characters and events I had remembered others I have forgotten and so I just let the story sweep me along.

The device of using the first and last chapter as part of a ‘reunion’ to be able to tell the story of the characters during the Second World War was rather a waste of pages and words. It brought nothing to the story at all. It could quite easily have been an epilogue in case you needed to fit all the pieces together.

As with the whole Pearl Street series, Lights Out Liverpool, Put Out the Fires, Through the Storm, the characters are strong women and their love for their families and the men they choose, even if they might be a ‘wrong-un’. Add to this the community spirit that was forged during the dark days of the Second World War. Everything was make do and mend and the worry was whether your children were going to be called up if they reached of age and where your husband might be fighting. Add to this the war on the home front and the bombs falling in Liverpool these books though, historical sagas for want of a genre do a wonderful job of giving some insight into social class and life at home during the war.

I have read all of Maureen Lee’s novels, it is almost now a yearly event for when the paperback version of her latest hits the shelves. I will be honest and say that some are a lot stronger than others but if you do want something which is a simple read, then you can do no wrong with this author. I just hope that she does not return to Pearl Street, for I fear I will have to back and reread them first.

Reflecting upon this review I can see that I have actually failed to mention the plot and name any of the characters, that was a choice. I have also not posted a review on Amazon. 

Why?

In a similar vein to reviewing all the Agatha Raisin books I was a bit lost as to what to write about as the story has a rather predictable (perhaps well worn?) plot. Not that that should detract from the overall enjoyment that the book gave me. 

 

Socks need Slippers

As you may (or may not) have notice I have been on about socks. Just the sort of thing to be talking about as the weather is getting warmer and we might be thinking of getting sandals and flip-flops out.

Anyway whilst wandering around the internet and pinterest I came across this website – Joe’s Toes

I had discovered the felt slippers and thought I could perhaps make some and use up my slowly increasing felt supplies. But then I spotted some knitted ones and they just looked like fun.

Simple enough to make, so I sent off for a set of soles.

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They come ready punched and on one set there were some grips.

I therefore just had to start knitting, I did try with some double knitting wool, but could see that chunky was the way forward so chunky it was.

Casting on a set amount of stitches, based on the size of the shoe in my case 12 stitches. Then counting the numbers of holes that the slipper has – simply you knit twice as many rows as holes.

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Now this was in a basic garter stitch, it grew quickly and I managed to knit both in an evening. I made a slight mistake by not leaving a long enough end on the first one knitted. However, it was not a problem.

Once complete you basically sew the edge of the knitting to the sole using the holes, evenly spaced and punched, fixing it in between the ridge bit of the knitting. (Knitters will know what I mean)

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Keep on going round and all of a sudden something begins to take shape. The only thing to remember is when doing the other foot, the wrapover bit needs to go the other way.

Then it is the case of fixing the soles together, I went for something contrasting rather than focusing all on red.

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They are super quick to make – now should I make them for Christmas presents? And shall I practice with some cabling perhaps? Ooo so much I could do.

Wellies and Westies – Cressida McLaughlin

When I picked up this book, I did not realise I was getting part one of a four-part series about Primrose Terrace and it’s residents, both human and canine. I admit to being initially disappointed.

I had no fear of that. I met Cat, the main protagonist who after a rather short-lived career in a children’s nursery starts her own dog walking business (I get the irony with her being called Cat!)

She lives with her friend Polly, a student veterinary nurse and Polly’s brother Joe, who seems to have an aversion to dogs and being happy.

In her life is neighbour Elise’s Schnauzer’s, Chalky and Disco,well-known authors Jessica and her three Westies, Valentino, Coco and Dior and Terry and his Rhodesian Ridgeback, Bertha. Cat has all dogs of all sizes covered.

You could probably see where this was going to go – Cat walking all the dogs at once and getting into a complete mess. You would be right, but it is that point she meets Matt he also has a dog.

Matt is rather intriguing – but he appears to have a secret…and just like a dog, Cat seems to want to sniff out what the secret is, as Matt is so mysterious.

This book is full of likeable characters, loveable dogs and of course as the book progresses more, plot lines seem to develop for everyone one we meet in Primrose Terrace. We need to know more about Jessica’s life, I am sure Elsie has a few tales to tell as well as, Polly and what did exactly happen with Joe and his ex? And of course we need to know about Cat and Matt!

By wanting to know more, I will without a doubt be waiting for part two to be released! Catch up with it soon.

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for providing me a copy for review. 

I was not sure about starting another ‘novella’ series, but I fell into this one by accident rather than design. I know I could not read all books like this, but sometimes when you need a light fix this is when they come into their own. 

At Home with The Templetons – Monica McInerney

The Templeton family are rather a tourist attraction in the town they live in Australia. Husband and Wife, Henry and Eleanor, their four children, Charlotte, Audrey, Gracie and Spencer and their aunt Hope.

Having moved from England they occupy a big house which they have actually turned into a tourist attraction. Opening it up at weekends and embracing the whole past life by conducting tours in full period costume, they survive on the income it brings them but only one Gracie thrives on the idea of Templeton Hall.

Whilst they all pretend to be going back to the past, the family seem to want to break out of it and forge a future, one where they do not have to dress up and answer meaningless questions from ignorant tourists.

Their neighbour, is single mother, Nina and her young son Tom. She once visited the Hall and was treated appallingly and vows never to return. But when a friendship develops between the two boys Tom and Spencer, it seems Nina will have to embrace life with the Templeton’s in it.

As the years pass and events take over some of the characters, Nina it seems will never be rid of the Templeton’s.

This is not my favourite of Monica McInerney’s novels. She always writes great ‘chunksters’ that you lose yourself in, but this is not one of them. It has a very slow start and although I kept reading it was just to see what was going to happen and how on earth the storyline was actually going to escape from the page and be apparent. It took a long time, but even then it was not very clear to see. Not any of the characters stood out for me and at no point could I empathise with them. There were twists I suppose, but for me they were not heart stopping ones or stand out enough for me to recommend this book.

I was bogged down with the plot, the characters and the length and skim read some passages, as I was just trying to see the end of the novel. Perhaps I should have given up? But there was enough of McInerney’s good writing for me to have a small amount of interest to get to the end.

It did pick up in the last quarter or so of the book and I actually found more interest, but by that point it was perhaps too late to save the whole novel.

Don’t start with this one if you have never read Monica McInerney before.

It is always disappointing when you read a book by an author you have come to rely on, only to be disappointed and because I invested a lot of time in this book especially at 600 pages I felt cheated I did not get what I thought I would from the book. 

I knew even more that the book was not working, because I started another one to read when I did not feel like reading this one. 

If you do fancy reading a Monica McInerney then try Hello from the Gillespies.

Sock it to ’em!

I have whims and fancies when it comes to crafts. And whilst knitting is certainly the in thing at the moment as I have been knitting more than anything else lately. I needed a challenge – knit a pair socks.

It’s not just two needles, it is using different sort of wool and where on earth do you being with turning heels.

Christmas and mum provided me with the necessary equipment.

The wool, the needles and the pattern. And off I went it looks strange when you start and I had a couple of false ones….. but eventually something begins to make sense

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Of course the triumphant nature of finishing my first sock…….

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…. means you have to make its friend

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These are quite loose, I think they will be lovely to put over socks you already had on, to keep your feet even more toasty warm.

I need some more practice before I start adjusting sizes, it is in the length of the foot which there is too much ‘sock’. But let me practice some more with some other lovely wool. The finished pair was the first ball of wool I had, the second variety of wool can be shown in the started sock at the top of the post.

These are all simple knitted socks with a rib cuff and nothing more complicated, I have yet to brave cable, lace or anything else which may require a stiff drink to complete! I have a couple of books which accompanied said wool and needles for when I want to get adventurous. In the meantime, I am taking small knitted baby steps.

Our Spoons Come From Woolworths – Barbara Comyns

The reason I bought this book is simply because of the title. Woolworths was a memory of my childhood, from being separated from my mum, to the pick and mix, to even remembering getting meat cut at the meat counter, it was where I bought my first single on cassette and where you went to buy your Easter eggs and Christmas chocolate. If you needed something you would find it in “Woolies”.

As does Sophia, she got her spoons in Woolworths. Except this is not the mid-eighties but some fifty years earlier in the mid-thirties.

Sophia has embarked on a marriage and I fell in love with her voice as from the beginning she tells us how she fell in love with Charles, a painter and the life they embark on together. The trouble is although they are people within society, they have chosen to live a bohemian life rather away from the constraints and rules of normal society.

It is funny to begin with and you feel the adventure that Sophia is on as she tries to embrace marriage, motherhood and ultimate poverty whilst maintaining this façade that her life is in fact the way she would have chosen it and she is of course happy to anyone observing. We are chosen to observe but we can see that Sophia is not happy.

However, a number of events have a life changing effect on Sophia and she experiences some truly happy moments amongst the tragedy.

This book is a glimpse into the private life of the author, as there is some autobiographical parts to this story, but also a glimpse into society and how you were treated when you were outside of the social norms.

Sophia is full of dreams as is her husband Charles, who just seemed to be dreaming of himself all the time and had no care for anything else. He thinks he is successful, therefore he must be, despite not being to make a living from his painting and relying on many others, and especially Sophia to survive financially. What an egotistical fool. I got the impression his work was not up to much.

The descriptions of childbirth, make you glad you that much has advanced in these years and that the surroundings that Sophia found herself in at different moments throughout her journey in the early part of her life were described so well it was if you were with her.

I had no idea where this book was going to take me, I just went with everything that Sophia was telling me.

This is a relatively short novel, and a rather quirky one and from an author I have never read before or knew anything about. It is a book I would thoroughly recommend to anyone to just get a glimpse about how life can be lived and that you can pull yourself out of many a situation if you have the gumption to see the other side of what life can be like.

Happiness is found in dreams and in reality.

A risk to take, picking up a book just because of one simple word in the title and the memories it brought back. A risk that paid off and I think I would be most interested to read some more Barbara Comyns in the future. 

Have you read any? What should I read next?