The Paradise Guest House – Ellen Sussman


Jamie has returned to what she thought was paradise, the trouble is she had not really experienced the place fully to see its potential and beauty. She was there with Miguel and he had an important question for her.

Paradise was cruelly taken from her last time. There was an explosion.

It was a bomb.

She found Miguel. She could not save him. Something overtook her and she saved others. Until she needed saving herself.

That person was Gabe.

Gabe was in paradise to escape from his past, his grief.

Survival threw these two people together, now Jamie is back and she wants to say sorry and thank you.

Paradise is Bali. The explosion part of our recent past. The bomb really did go off. Paradise was broken, as were people’s lives, both physically and emotionally. Tourists and locals alike. Everyone lost someone or something. Can a place ever come back for that, reinvent itself? Reincarnate?

This book is in some ways a tribute to those who survived and especially those that did not. I learnt much about the island about the people about the aftermath of a terrorist attack. I was moved by such a background to base a story on. The characters for me were not as important as perhaps in some stories as the actual place itself. Bali was the main character. It jumped off the page lyrically in Ellen Sussman’s writing.

I learnt as Jamie began to heal her emotional scars which were very raw when she came back a year later. I learnt as Gabe healed his. And as Bali and it’s people began to see that life goes on, that everything can be reincarnated into something else better, more beautiful whilst holding onto the wonderful memory of past beauty and life.

This is a book which I can’t place. It has a love story at its core between two damaged individuals but actually that is a mere sub plot. It is a book about a place, about an event. I learnt more that way.

Thank you to the publisher for sending this book for an honest review.

This is the second book that I have read by this author and I was a bit wary about picking it up. The first French Lessons did nothing for me and I was left disappointed. Here I think the author has found her correct way with the writing, the story and the characters. I admit it is not a book that I would have ever picked up if it was not sent to me.

I have discovered something new.


To Davy Jones Below – Carola Dunn

Daisy Dal.. Fletcher is back and she is getting used to being married. Having successfully balanced a wedding that suited her status as an honourable and Alec’s as a mere humble policeman with the Metropolitan police they embark on their life together.

Alec’s superiors hope that now Daisy is married she will be less inclined to involve herself in murders and stumble across dead bodies. Oh how little they know Daisy although in the case of this 9th book Scotland Yard were wrong.

After their honeymoon, it seems that Alec’s knowledge and experience are required in America. Especially after successfully helping Caleb Arbuckle’s daughter Gloria in a previous novel. Daisy is not going to be left behind and they join the ship as it makes it’s rather bumpy way across the Atlantic.

As the weather picks up to a storm, it seems that it is affecting the passengers and all of a sudden, there is a man overboard.

Here comes the familiar question in such cases. Did they jump or were they pushed? Or did. Other nature just happen to have a willing hand in their passage out to the treacherous sea.

Alec is with Daisy sharing a moment of newly married bliss when the first man goes overboard. It seems that Alec has the knack of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, just like his wife. Despite being unknown as a policeman on the ship he starts to investigate when seasickness overtakes him and it is left to Daisy to start piecing together the full story.

Then another man goes overboard. It seems this voyage is doomed to be one of murder. Will Alec be able to recover enough to take over from Daisy and ensure that no one else suffers the same fate?

This is one of the stronger Daisy Dalrymple books for me, the storyline is strong and the characters all have their place. My only disappointment was the lack of Belinda, Alec’s daughter who I think has a lot of spirit and makes for an interesting dynamic between the three of them. Daisy is not just a wife (and amateur detective), a writer she is now a stepmother. I think this with the combination of the cross of the classes makes these books a different take on the genre which is becoming ‘cosy’ crime.


The French Gardener – Santa Montefiore

Miranda is very much a city girl, but when with her husband David she moves to the country in attempt to be able to temper their son’s Gus behaviour from school. She finds that maybe the city is not what she originally thought it was and neither is her husband.

Hartington House is where Miranda creates the perfect home for her children, the wild and angry young boy Gus who is looking for a father figure to look up to and his sister Storm who can’t seem to have any friends because of her violent brother. She has created the perfect home for David but he has not fully embraced country life and spends all his week in London and has no wish to interact with anyone when he returns at weekends. Miranda and the children are simply outsiders.

The house is perfect but the garden is not. It was once a garden that everyone in the village envied. The previous occupants of the house were a family who loved life and their garden even more. Miranda thinks that perhaps her family will be complete once the garden is as she learns more about who lived in the house before her. However being a city girl, Miranda needs help but the help she gets come from a stranger.

From a Frenchman who happens to be passing.

This Frenchman seems to have a vision that no one but the past owners have.

What is his story?

The book has a dual story which obviously all interlinks, the house and its garden is the pull in both storylines. How exactly does the Frenchman fit into the past and the present? Whatever he does, he breathes life into the garden and also Miranda and her family.

However it is not just getting the garden perfect that is going to help Miranda finally settle into this new home and life.

This is a typical Santa Montefiore novel, which should not as sound perhaps as scathing as it does. What skill she has as an author is the atmosphere she brings to wherever she is writing about, whether it be in France, Italy, South America or in this case Dorset. You feel the garden growing as you see how Miranda and those before her have nurtured it through love and care and how this simple act has actually given some purpose and meaning to life. For those that have gardens you can see and appreciate the beauty and for those that don’t it is something to behold and aspire to.

An ideal read to brighten up any day whether it be winter or summer.


The Lemon Grove – Helen Walsh

This is the epitome of a summer read – a sizzling summer read. Although that is not a prerequisite of when you read this novel.

Jenn and Greg are on the island of Mallorca. This is their annual holiday, they have been year after year and have built up memories of the place they have shared together and also with Greg’s daughter Emma. This year is going to be different though, Emma is bringing her boyfriend, Nathan.

This is the holiday that is going to change the dynamic of the three of them forever.

The weather is hot, the temperature in the air and between all four of the characters is somewhere just below boiling point. Greg is uncomfortable with his 15 year old daughter and her 17 year old boyfriend. Jenn has assured hin that it will be alright. But then Jenn had only ever seen Nathan, at a distance in the back seat of a car but now he is in front of her….

“…wearing a pair of plain blue swimming shorts, otherwise, he is naked before her. He is muscular, but graceful with it, balletic. He is shockingly pretty……”

The temperature of the book rises yet again. The actions of the characters seem to be reckless. They are on holiday of course when everything seems to merge into a haze. The beauty of bodies and the beauty if the landscape are intoxicating for Jenn, in fact for all of them. You cannot help notice, everything around you in this place.

Helen Walsh has created a novel which has you turning the page in trepidation and disbelief as well as in the deep desire to experience the warmth on your skin and the pleasure of being away from it all. All a combination of such desires and emotions.

The ending was not as anticipated  and if you are looking for such a neatly wrapped ending then you will be disappointed, as the holiday draws to a close, real life beckons and in rather starker terms for them all. However, the holiday will never be forgotten and could like returning to those favourite places always be simmering away underneath the surface.

Worth a read, if only to give an opinion on a book which I can see is dividing its readers.

I coveted this book for a while, because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I am glad I did, I have heard rumblings of something akin to Fifty Shades of Grey (will that book never go away? ) and wanted to make my own mind up. 

And that is the only thing you can do with this book, if you look at the reviews they are so right across the board, not 5 stars or 1 star on Amazon is forging ahead. It is a book which is quite clearly dividing opinion – and I think that is great! 

I thought this was the first novel from Helen Walsh, but there have been some before. Anyone read any and if so would you recommend. 


The First Casualty – Ben Elton

From the cover and the blurb, you know that this is a book about the First World War. You also know that Douglas Kingsley, our detective is being sent out to Ypres to investigate a murder.

All of that in itself, makes for an interesting read but the book starts so far away from it that you begin to wonder quite exactly how all the pieces are going to be woven together. Douglas Kingsley objects to war. Objects so vociferously that he ends up a prison. He ends up being the victim of violence by those who he previously caught and no one can possibly understand the reasons behind his objections. Kingsley cannot understand the legalised violence of war.

There are some dark forces at work everywhere, even during the war and Douglas finds himself knee-deep in war when he never asked to be.

Using the clear logic that he tried to fight his case for not fighting, Kingsley begins to piece together the death of an Army Officer and published poet. It seems that the war cannot cover up murder. But then Kingsley has to reconcile himself that there is murder all around him, but dressed up in a uniform and covered in mud. Elton leaves nothing to the imagination and described the sheer horror that these soldiers had to face on a daily basis. At times it was squeamish but it really leaves you with an impact when as readers none of us have any first hand experience of it. If the book be commended just for that alone it is a worthwhile read.

This was a book which took some time to get going, the murder is not as you would expect at the beginning but half way through and it seems the pace changes once this has happened, because for so long I could not possibly see where any of this was going and therefore had to keep reading.

This was my first experience of reading Elton’s books. It was well written and did not put on any rose-tinted spectacles to cover some of the nastier elements of war and death. I thought it was a good book to introduce many people to the use of World War One in fiction and also that of using such an event to base, what is also a crime novel as well.

This was my book club’s choice. We thought we should be reading some World War One fiction during the next four years as part of our commemoration.  It was a completely random choice on my part and one that I am pleased about.

I have never read Ben Elton before but of course loved Blackadder goes Forth which is set in the trenches, which he co-wrote. (ironically I disliked the first three series) He could well have just taken that from the screen and turned it into a novel, but he has not and that has made the book for me a much richer experience. I could certainly see though this book on the screen, it reads very much like that, but perhaps that is because of Elton’s knowledge and experience in that particular field. 

The question I am currently asking myself is whether I would read any more of his novels? I am not sure is the answer, so if you have read any and can recommend then please let me know. 


Books · Crafts · Jottings

Books about Town

London Town in fact.

The National Literacy Trust is working with Wild in Art to bring Books about Town to the streets of London in summer 2014. Trails of benches shaped as open books, decorated by professional illustrators and local artists, will appear for the public to enjoy. It will be a unique opportunity to explore the capital’s literary connections, to enjoy art from some of the country’s top artists and to celebrate reading for enjoyment.

At the end of summer 2014, all the benches will be auctioned at an exclusive event in the Southbank Centre to raise funds for the National Literacy Trust’s vital work to raise literacy levels in the UK.

This is such a wonderful idea and I thought that as I had some time off during August and with the bonus of a special offer on the train (that is now a real expensive way to travel to London for me) I wanted to seek out some of the benches. There was no way I was going to see all 50 of them but thought the ones of some of my favourite books and authors would be a great!

The ones I wanted to see were

P G Wodehouse – Jeeves & Wooster

Jeeves & Wooster (front)

Jeeves & Wooster (back)

Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly

Hercule Poirot

photo (32)

James Bond

James Bond

photo (33)

Mary Poppins (that is me in the background eating an apple!)

Mary Poppins

photo (28)

So that is a mere 4, not much to ask really was it.

However it turned into even more. First of all there is one of these benches at Waterloo Station which my mum who accompanied me, spotted as we ascend the stairs from the loo. That is one we did not get a picture of, it was being used all the time. Though I am not sure if people realised just what they were sitting on. Only the Mary Poppins one was damaged, whether by accident or design (why begs the question) I don’t know but I have seen in recent days on Twitter that they do go round and touch up the art work.

Then when we were on our way to the Bond/Poirot bench we came across the Pride and  Prejudice one

Pride & Prejudice

And of course you could not think about that D’Arcy without thinking of Bridget’s version (Bridget Jones Diary)

Bridget Jones Diary

And in the most tenuous link I could think of we go to the Fever Pitch bench. (Colin Firth is the link here)

Fever Pitch

St Paul’s was a good place to spot a lot more

Jacqueline Wilson

Dickens In Liverpool

Then there was the Peter Pan, which when you have a mum called Wendy should really have been on my original list

Peter Pan (back)

Peter Pan (front)

The artwork is superb and if I had the money (and somewhere to put one), I would love to purchase one of these unique bits of art.

Wind in the Willows

Above is a close up – not that you would think that – the Wind in the Willows bench.

Wind in the Willows

Of course that should read Jo in London but you can’t have everything I suppose

Katie in London

There was also the Stormbreaker bench, outside the Bank of England but someone was sat on it reading which sums up the whole idea!

The auction for these benches is on 7 October and I wait to see how much some of these benches go for. I hope whoever purchases them perhaps still lets everyone share them.

Discussion was about the Hercule Poirot bench and the story The Greenshore Folly, neither Mum and I or could place the story and if we did then we related it to Miss Marple. But then that could be where television adaptations blur the true literary pieces. All benches have information attached to them and so we read the information on the bench discovered it was an unpublished book (until recently) and so we had to head to Waterstones Piccadilly (Hatchard’s further down the road did not have it) to buy it! Does the cover look familiar?

More about the book in coming days.


Hello from the Gillespies – Monica McInerney

Many have experienced the dread of opening that yearly Christmas card from friends that you have not seen in a long time and pout falls that letter. The one which tells you exactly what has been going on in their lives for the last 365 days. It is all upbeat and positive, full of wonderful sentiment and love in a perfect world. But is it the truth?

Angela Gillespie has always written these yearly letters from the moment she moved from London to the other side of the world to a sheep station in the outback of Australia. As time has progressed so have the letters and with the wonders of technology it is all done by email.

Trouble is what is said in the letter is not the truth. Everything is not rosy for the Gillespie’s and Angela is so fed up she just sits down and writes this years letter exactly how it is, as a cathartic process.

Her husband Nick seems to be going through a mid-life crisis. He will not talk about the sheep station, he has sold out to the possibility of a mining company on the land and anything financial is always glossed over.

All three of her daughters are causing her pain; Genevieve is in America in the world of TV as a hairdresser and it seems her world is about to change. Victoria is working in radio, but her very private affair with a colleague became public property in Australia. They are both coming home for Christmas. Lindy just cannot seem to settle to any job and leaves a trail of debt with her whenever she returns home. Ignatius, the little mistake some years after the girls were born wont have his hair cut, keeps running away from school and is talking to an imaginary friend.

Her whole heart is poured out into this letter about her family, her rather annoying relatives, her friends, their remote locations and the worries about her own health.

This letter is not meant for anyone apart from Angela. That is until an unfortunate series of events leads to it being sent………

And that is only the beginning of this chunky family saga which drew me right in. Just when you learn something about a member of the family and think that maybe all their problems are going to be resolved, Monica McInerney throws another problem into the mix and the turmoil is once again all around them.  A lot of them I did not see coming which is why I had to keep reading. The book covers so many issues but at it heart is the love of a family and how they all interact no matter what their problems or where they are located. Setting it on a sheep station in the outback just showed how you can be isolated not just physically but emotionally from all those around you. I learnt much about what life must be like for those who are in this situation. At times I wanted to experience it for myself, but when you realise the journey you have to take for something which I take for granted, such as seeing a doctor perhaps not.

I have always enjoyed Monica McInerney’s novels and this one is no exception, there is so much packed into the book that you are getting a story plus more! Thoroughly recommended.

This book will be published on 6 November 2014. 

I was sent this novel by a magazine in return for filling in a questionnaire about the novel for them to use in a forthcoming issue. I chose this novel as I have read her novels before and I was thrilled that I did pick it. I had forgotten on all consuming and enjoyable they were. I have one on my shelf now just screaming out to be read! 


Summer Evenings at the Seafront Hotel – Vanessa Greene

This is an exclusive short story by up and coming author Vanessa Greene only available on kindle. It tells the story of Cally who once dreamt about being a midwife, but cut short her training to come home to look after her dad and gets a job as a receptionist in a seafront hotel.

She makes friends with one of the chambermaids, Liliana and also catches the eye of the head chef Anton. Perhaps her life might be going to change. Cally has caught someone else’s eye as well and along with the rather annoying guests the two friends meet in one of the hotel rooms to catch up on the gossip. That is until Cally looks to become the gossip herself.

If you want a taste of Vanessa Greene’s writing then this is a good way to start. It is a relatively short story, less than 60 pages but it gets across everything in that time and gives you a warm fluffy feeling. Which sometimes all you need from a book!

It looks like I am on a bit of a Vanessa Greene binge at the moment and I suppose you could say I am. I so enjoyed her début novel, the short story follow-up and this that I cannot wait until October 9th when her new novel The Seafront Tea Rooms is published. Earlier on kindle, but I think I want an actual book! 


Pomfret Towers – Angela Thirkell

Pomfret Towers is an ideal place for a House Party, you can imagine that most weekends being taken up by them. Alice Barton on the other hand is not your ideal guest for a house party. She has been a sickly delicate child and a cosseted youngster and rarely sets foot outside her own front door. She seeks solace in her painting and rarely speaks even when spoken to. She is described as ‘insignificant’ by Mrs Rivers and at the beginning of the book she is somewhat.

However, the house party throws together some interesting people, some interesting and humorous situations which bring Alice into another world and out of her shell. Giles Foster is the nephew of the current Lord Pomfret and is also the heir of Pomfret Towers. Although his own father stands in his way to this title, Lord Pomfret thinks it is time that Giles understood exactly what he is going to inherit. As a bachelor (and heir of course) he catches the eye of a number of young women (and their mothers) also attending the house party. He has his pick. But does he pick with his heart or his head?

There is of course the pushy mother Mrs Rivers, who spends her life defending her bohemian son, who was a most trying man and trying to force her daughter, who rather devilish into a marriage with money. Her own career as an author of rather soft and romantic novels for ladies of a certain age, gives Lord Pomfret something to groan about especially when he wants to talk to her publisher alone.

The Wicklows, Sally and Roddy are Alice Barton and her brother Guy’s friends.  They understand Alice and look after her as much as they can but they are rather more adventurous and spend a lot of time outdoors and with opinions of their own they rather leave Alice behind sometimes. Alice needs to catch up with them all.

This book is a gem, as it glimpses into a world full of those that frequent the big estates in the pre war period. I hate to say Downton Abbey but I can see the correlation of the thought of those that are invited to a house party and those that serve at them. A real mix of people who start the weekend in one way, with thoughts and feelings for one particular guest and come out the other side completely different, matches are made which you would never have considered and those who contrive to force romance on some are left disappointed. Whilst this book can be seen as perhaps Alice’s introduction to this world, it is all the wonderful characters that Thirkell has created in this book that tickled me.

If you like light fiction, something that resembles Wodehouse in parts I found, then this could be the book for you.

This is my first Angela Thirkell book that I have read. I am sure it will not be my last. I found the book a delight and really enjoyed the writing and the characters immensely and rather annoying in the case of Mrs Rivers at times. But that is what made it a good read for me. 

I also adore the cover of this new edition and think it will be a book that remains on my shelf as opposed to setting it out on its own journey to someone else. 

Can anyone recommend one I must read next? And do I need to read them in any particular order? 



Tuesday’s at the Teacup Club – Vanessa Greene

You know how it is you get to the end of a book and you want it to carry on, because for a little bit longer you want to be swept up in the lives of the characters that you have grown to love.

Here in this short story, Vanessa Greene carries on the story of Jenny, Maggie and Alison who we first met in The Vintage Teacup Club.

Jenny’s happily married and it seems her career is about to launch her into another world, but things closer to home might need some attention first.

Maggie has put her past well and truly behind her and is embracing her future in a way she never thought would be possible.

Alison has things on a more even keel and it looks like her dream of being involved in a tea shop with space for her crafts is about to finally come true.

It’s short and sweet and in some ways it is an epilogue to the epilogue of the book but it just let me escape for that little bit longer and share the friendship between these characters.

I reviewed The Vintage Teacup Club here and it was a book I really enjoyed and I did not want it to end, which is why as I say in my review, I turned the last page and promptly picked up my kindle and read this. I wanted to know more about the characters lives but I realise that at some point the author must have to let go of them and leave them to our imaginations as to how it all worked out for them and what happened next.

And that is the beauty of reading and why I love it so much, the stories can stay with you for very differing reasons and they carry on and on and on…..

I have enjoyed Vanessa Greene’s writing so I have downloaded another short story to read.