Crooked Heart – Lissa Evans

Noel is living with Mattie, despite not being related. Mattie we are told is his godmother. But Mattie is not coping very well and her loss of memory has become worse and whilst Noel has managed to help her, it seems that it is now beyond Noel’s ability to keep her and himself safe.

No one was around to help them and they did not actively go looking for it. The ending was not going to be a peaceful one.

Suddenly alone in the world, Noel, is thrust upon distant relatives of Mattie’s, who seem with relief when the mass evacuation of children from London at the onset of World War Two, get Noel away from them for good.

As an evacuee he ends up in St Albans, not that far geographically from London in some ways but miles away from the life that Noel knows. No longer is he being challenged, his education is not what the other evacuee children have and he is very much an outsider.

But so it seems is Vee, the woman he has been placed with. She is living with her mother who spends her days writing letters to Churchill about the state of everything not just the war. A son who has managed to avoid the call up and uses this to his and many people’s advantages. Vee is trying to survive both financially and emotionally and it seems the only way she is going to do that is to use Noel as well.

With opportunities to return to London, Noel can see that perhaps there is a life after the death of Mattie and that he can use Vee as much as she is using him.

As the war progresses, and the bombing of London brings differing opportunities these two very unlikely characters form a partnership. They form an unlikely friendship. They form an unlikely bond.

With some difficulties to face, I was instantly with Vee and Noel the whole way through the book. their actions might have been illegal and immoral but they were fighters and survivors. In the way that the author has told this story, the books is about all of that. The backdrop of the Second World War showed that everyone was fighting and surviving. I learnt from this book, which is always what I try to do when I pick up historical fiction, it covered a part of the war that perhaps is overlooked and brushed away. Just because there was a war on, did not stop those who were less scrupulous.

An excellent read and I will be looking out for more by this author.

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

Crooked Heart is out now in all formats.


Paris for One – Jojo Moyes

I have read only one Jojo Moyes book before now as part of my book club, it was a great read and I probably should go back and read some more. However, I was after something quick and enjoyable and I happened across this book from last years Quick Reads novels.

Nell has never been to Paris, in fact she has never been away for the weekend with her boyfriend. Nell is not really adventurous.

But now she is going to Paris, on a weekend away with her boyfriend.

He apparently has other ideas and Nell ends up alone in a city where she does not know the language, where anything is, the hotel room is double booked and this is why Nell is never adventurous.

Then Nell meets Fabien…….

And I can’t say anymore, because that would clearly detract from a great short story/quick read which Jojo Moyes has created and packed plenty in. It is always with these Quick Reads, that I would love for the characters to have been developed more so I can share more of what happens to them. But what I do get in less than 100 pages is more than enough, I could really relate to Nell, I am not adventurous at all and I simply wanted to slap her boyfriend. YOu can get involved no matter how long the story!

Definitely off to read another Jojo Moyes this year.

If you get the time and you have not already please visit this years Quick Reads choices. Whilst the initiative is to get people reading, and help those that are perhaps put off by great tomes. I think it is a great way to have a go perhaps at reading some authors that you may not have considered before.


84 Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff

If you have been around book blogs for a while, then you will have either read this book or know of its existence.

For those that don’t

 ’84 Charing Cross Road’ is a charming record of bibliophilia, cultural difference, and imaginative sympathy. For 20 years, an outspoken New York writer and a rather more restrained London bookseller carried on an increasingly touching correspondence.

I have always liked reading letters between people, it feels like you have suddenly been let into a really special place in someone’s friendship. It has that gossipy feel, that you are hearing something that perhaps you should not be.

In the case of Helene Haff’s correspondence with Frank Doel, the man who in the main responded to her letters we see much thought about books and those editions that are the most relevant and important. But also we start to see what life is like for both Helene and Frank and the differences that the war has made to them both and how, Frank starts to share along with his co workers life about London post war. That whilst they do not have the abundance of goods that Helene seems to send them across, they do have an abundance of books that she wants.

Included in this edition of the book, which I was unaware of when I purchased it is, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street.

This is the direct sequel to 84 Charing Cross Road and rather than in letter form, it is diary form as we see the author, Helene Hanff make the journey to London, to Charing Cross Road and to visit many of the people she has only corresponded with. Due to the many delays in getting to London, the dynamic of the place has changed somewhat and the faces are very different. But Helene does get to experience something of London and we read about it through her eyes and words. Always interesting to see someone else’s take, especially an American, on some of the things we take very much for granted, the Tower of London, Windsor, Stratford-upon-Avon.

I am so glad that I got round to reading these two books. Both in themselves short stories, but read together makes you understand the fascination with all things books especially bookshops.

Whilst 84 Charing Cross road still exists it is there for those with a fast appetite, books are no longer its food. There is still a reminder.

Clicking on the photo will take you to a website all about 84 Charing Cross Road

Although my local bookshop is nothing like 84, I suddenly have an overwhelming desire to go and visit it. Not that I need any more books of course……


Kitty’s Countryside Dream – Christie Barlow

Kitty finds herself suddenly alone in the world. Having lost her father when she was very young, at the age of 25, she has just lost her mother. She is rather lost and bereft.

However, it transpires she has a grandmother who has now left her Bluebell Lodge and Kitty suddenly finds herself not alone anymore.

Bluebell Lodge is a farm, a chicken farm, with lots of chickens. Trouble is Kitty knows nothing about chickens.

There is a lot to learn and the locals are there to lend a helping hand or two. Tom the farm manager, picks Kitty up and shows her the ropes, but it seems he is rather distracted. Jeannie, another worker on the farm, has her own secret to keep and her brother Robin, seems to only have eyes for Kitty. Lucinda the local baker relies on the fresh eggs from Bluebell Lodge and becomes friends with Kitty due to Kitty’s love of Lucinda’s flapjacks.

Kitty now has people in her life, people who care and want to see her happy. Even perhaps in love with her.

Kitty though still has a number of unanswered questions regarding her grandmother and with no parents or other family to ask, it seems that the mystery will remain that.

Until one day a discovery at the back of the farm safe leads Kitty on a journey back into the past. The diary of sixteen year old Violet seems to have some names in it she recognises.

Kitty might have some answers to the questions she has, but does she want to hear them?

This novel is very much in the style of Trisha Ashley, Carole Matthews, Cathy Bramley et al and if you are fan on their work you will certainly enjoy this novel.

There is plenty going on with all the characters not just the main one Kitty. Whilst I did guess the paths that this story was going to go down I still immensely enjoyed it as the writing was really good and the insertion of the diary entries of Violent gave it that dual narrative which I do enjoy in novels.

What made this novel for me, is I want a sequel to catch up with them all at Bluebell Lodge, but if one never comes then that does not matter. The book ended in the right place and it gives the reader a chance to use their imagination in what happened next.

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

Kitty’s Countryside Dream is out on 25th February. 



A Summer at Sea – Katie Fforde

Emily, a midwife finds herself being challenged by a colleagues views and thinks that perhaps she has come to the end of her career as a midwife, if all she is going to face is opposition.

When the opportunity to help out heavily pregnant Rebecca an old friend in Scotland with some cooking, Emily thinks it is a good opportunity to take stock and re think what she wants out of her life.

It is certainly not going to be a peaceful sabbatical.

The cooking is going to be a challenge as it is on a puffer boat in a small galley with a helper that seems distracted by the deckhand and rather put out that Emily is there at all.

A changing guest list which brings its own challenges when Emily somehow manages to volunteer to finish a guests fair isle jumper she is unable to complete.

The local doctor, Alasdair and his daughter, Kate who show her some of the wonderful scenery of the local area, the otters and even as luck would have it a glimpse of the northern lights. Kate taps into Emily’s love of knitting which has seen her comfort herself as well as others and the eponymous Ted was a much-loved character for me as all of the others.

Of course nothing is going to be easy, especially when a storm arrives, Rebecca’s baby decides to make an appearance and two job offers arrive for Emily.

Can an idyllic life be real life for Emily?

The latest novel from Katie Fforde is without a doubt an excellent read, one that will brighten up the darkest winter days as you are transported to another world and can escape for a while.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for allowing me the opportunity to read this book. The beginning of the year has started to be my favourite time of the year as I know that the new Katie Fforde is out. 

A Summer at Sea is out now in Hardback/Kindle. 





Behind Closed Doors – B A Paris

Define the expression ‘Behind Closed Doors’, think of this before you even turn the cover and start reading this debut novel from B A Paris.

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the closed doors you walk past in your life? Even the ones that you are allowed a glimpse through for a while, they close behind you and you have no idea then what happens, do you?

Do you really want to know what happens……..

Grace and Jack, a newly married couple. A perfect couple, a perfect house, a perfect host and hostess. A perfect life?

Everyone seems to envy them, they all want a life that resembles Grace and Jack.

But everyone does not know what goes on between Grace and Jack behind those closed doors.

Now we have the opportunity to find out.

Behind that door is a prison, a prisoner, an inmate, an addict, a fighter, a carer, a survivor.

I felt claustrophobic as I read on, I wanted to throw the doors open and shout for help, but I couldn’t because I had to know what happens.

This novel captured me so quickly and cleverly by the author that if I had had the ability to get into the pages of this book, I would have not seen it right through to the end. I know I would have intervened.

Breathtaking and thrilling, I had to keep reading and work through the twists and turns until the bitter end for Grace and Jack. It was not what I expected.

If you like thrillers, then you will like this debut novel.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for allowing me the opportunity to read this book. Behind Closed Doors is published on 11 February 2016.

And now something from the author herself – 


We’re always told that there is no such thing as a perfect marriage. That every couple has their ups and downs… yet we never seem to really believe it. Mainly because there are all those annoying couples out there who really do seem to live in wedded bliss 24/7 365 days a year – or, at least, strive to convey the image that they do, like Jack and Grace in Behind Closed Doors. Last year I went to a 25th Wedding Anniversary party and during his speech, the couple’s son said that in all their years of marriage, his parents had never once argued. I waited for the couple in question to deny it, to laugh, to say that their son had exaggerated – to come to our rescue, for God’s sake, because I’m sure I wasn’t the only one hoping it was a joke!  But they didn’t, and after, as we looked uncomfortably around at each other, I know I wasn’t the only one feeling guilty that our children would never be able to say the same thing about us. We knocked back our wine; we were sure that the couple, at some point during their twenty-five year marriage, must have argued about something – which programme to watch, or whose turn it was to walk the dog. It was fact that they had managed to do so without their children hearing which was so gallingly admirable.  It made us feel less than good about ourselves – until someone said that maybe, for their son, an argument constituted a massive slanging match, complete with broken crockery and slammed doors, followed by a week-long silence. At which point we all gave a huge sigh of relief and poured ourselves another glass of wine!

The thing is, we are all guilty of looking over the garden fence and eyeing up the grass on the other side, wondering if it is in a healthier state than ours. Sometimes, if we think that it is, rather than making us up our game and cherish what we have, we give up, and neglect ours even more, as if there’s no point making an effort when, whatever we do, ours will never be as good as theirs. On the other hand, if we see that it’s not, that we have the healthier relationship, we realise how lucky we are and nurture it even more. But the truth is, we never really know what happens on the other side of the fence, behind those closed doors. Instead of looking over the fence, we should really be keeping our eyes fixed firmly on our side and cherishing the grass that we have – bald patches and all! – just a little bit more.


Quick Reads 2016

Now as far as I am concerned, reading and chocolate make excellent companions as does tea and cake or tea and biscuits.


However, the important thing in these combinations is actually the books.

One in six adults of working age in the UK find reading difficult and may never pick up a book. People’s reasons for not reading are varied: some people say they find books intimidating, that they struggle to find the time or that books are difficult or boring.

Books are, my passion, my saviour, my comfort, my teacher and my friend. Therefore I feel it is important to share that passion with as many people as possible. But I realise that not everyone feels the same as me.

For the last 4 years, Quick Reads has sent me their selection of books to talk about and share (the chocolate is simply a bonus). Which is why I am here again to tell you about 2016 selections, this the tenth year for this wonderful idea.

quickreads black and white

Of course if you have followed my blog for a while, these books whilst they arrive at my house are soon dispatched to my father. He fits into many of the reasons for not reading. Thanks to seeing my mum and I read and the Quick Reads, he has started to embrace reading a lot more.

The 6 books are:

….an abridged version of Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography – I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, as well as a collection of short stories, The Anniversary: Ten Tempting Stories From Ten Bestselling Authors, edited by Veronica Henry, with stories from authors such as Jenny Colgan, Philippa Gregory and Matt Haig.

The other four titles are Too Good to be True by Ann Cleeves, A Baby at the Beach Café by Lucy Diamond, On the Rock by Andy McNab, and The Double Clue: Poirot Short Stories by Agatha Christie, edited by Sophie Hannah and John Curran.

The Quick Reads books were published on 4th February.

I really think this is a great initiative and if I had the time, I would very much like to get involved more in helping people with reading and sharing the joy of such. In the meantime, this is my way of giving back something.


Blog Tour – Behind Closed Doors

Blog tour banner

Now I mentioned about this book back in January here and as you can see the buzz around this book is gaining momentum and it is with great pleasure to be part of the blog tour.

behind closed doors

So what is coming up from me on the 9th – Well of course a review of the book, but also a piece written by the author, B.A. Paris.

Do spread the word, do come back and visit my blog and read about the book and what the author has to say.

I honestly think this is going to be a book that everyone is talking about in 2016!


The Ballroom – Anna Hope

John comes from Ireland. He had a past which he has lost and he has ended up far from home.

Ella had thrown something through a window. Her actions mean she has ended up away from home.

Charles wanted to prove himself, wants to make an improvement in people’s lives through music.

All three are captured in the heat wave of 1911.

They are in an asylum on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors.

Their paths cross in different ways.

John is a threat to Charles.

Charles thinks that Ella can eventually leave

John and Ella normally segregated are brought together in the Ballroom.

This story, is quietly moving. Anna Hope has managed to take something which is very dear to her heart and turn it into a story with so much emotion, letting it run free across the pages as well as tightly bound in within the characters. I was left feeling moved and uplifted with the story and when I read the author’s note at the end I came away with another viewpoint.

As historical fiction this book is a must read. An area of history that has always fascinated in a macabre way but something that should not be simply brushed away into the annals of history and not spoken about. Anna Hope has opened the doors on an asylum and let everyone in to see what it was like. From the structure of the working day, the food they ate, the exercise given, the way out if there was ever one to be returned into society. And of course the treatment, no matter how harrowing it could be.

Away from those that lived within the institution walls, we learn how the government and certain members of society felt that they should be dealing with those behind these walls. It was frightening but fascinating to learn of the eugenics movement, to see names synonymous with other times in history such as Churchill, lead me to learn far more than I ever expected to.

And that is why this second novel from Anna Hope is just as good as the first. Sometimes second novels are notoriously pitched wrongly, are never as good as the first, are just the stop-gap until the excellent third novel appears. Here this theory does not apply.

Anna Hope’s novel The Ballroom, creates a world behind closed doors, brings in light, romance and the future to many. The ending you want perhaps does not happen, but the ending you get will leave this book with you for a very long time.

Definitely one of the books of 2016 to look out for.

The Ballroom by Anna Hope is out on the 11 Feb in all hardcover and ebook. 

You can follow Anna Hope on twitter @Anna_Hope where she says she likes the parts history leaves out. I concur and which is why I enjoyed this book immensely. 

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

I need to read it again, but this time with a physical copy in my hand, I feel I need to hold it in my hands to experience it fully. Ebooks are all well and good but sometimes the only way to feel like you are experiencing a book and giving it your full attention is to be there turning the pages. 




January Roundup

Already a month done, already six books read and one abandoned. Pretty good going, but apparently I am still two books behind to keep on any sort of schedule for the 100 for the year. December 2016 seems such a long way off that I am not even thinking about it.

So what of January – well it has brought me new and old and some of the books have yet to even appear for review on my blog.

Plenty to look forward to and that was the case with Katie Fforde – A Summer at Sea, just the tonic you need for wet grey January days. If I dare say Katie at her very best.

Books that are no doubt going to be your favourite in 2016 that feature in January is always a tough call, but Anna Hope – The Ballroom will be up there. Quietly beautiful.

Realising that I was starting to get behind with the Sidney Chambers series, I tackled the third book James Runcie – Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil. Sidney is really settling in as a detective as much as a priest and the birth of his daughter is going to strengthen no doubt his place in society and the way he approaches life. I am intrigued as the years tick by in these novels how it is ever going to end. In the meantime I continue to collect the hardback versions of them to make sure they look neat on my shelf.

Jill Mansell seems to have captured me as much as Katie Fforde and I am thoroughly enjoying getting to know her writing more. You and Me, Always her latest novel, is enjoyable and had me laughing and crying in equal measures.

New to me was Christie Barlow – Kitty’s Countryside Dream, an author that is in the same vein as Fforde, Mansell so I thought I would give it a try when it appeared on my netgalley page. So glad I did, another female author to add to the many I enjoy reading.

Working my way through my own shelves, I picked up David Nicholls – Starter for Ten. Having read One Day some years ago and intrigued by whether I should buy his new novel Us, I thought I would go back to his earlier work. Very different, and rather an angst written novel. Uncomfortable to read perhaps, I have yet to formulate everything I want to say about this book.

There could have been a book seven for January but I decided to abandon it – The Silent Wife (see previous post during the month), how liberating and it meant that I was able to pick up and enjoy the other books for January.

So I start the new month reading a new book – I wonder what it will be?