The Little French Guesthouse – Helen Pollard

Emmy has persuaded her boyfriend, Nathan to take time off from work and take a holiday. They have spent the last five years doing nothing but working. They know it means that they will have to work hard before they go on holiday and work even harder to catch up when they come home, but for Emmy she thinks this extra effort will be worth it, to maintain their relationship.

So they find themselves in the French countryside, in a guesthouse, belonging to Rupert and his wife Gloria.

Nathan finds something else in this guesthouse, the owners wife, Gloria and decides to take time off from his relationship with Emmy as well as from work. Emmy has to process this whilst dealing with Rupert who falls and injures himself and quite possibly might have had a heart attack.

The relaxing holiday Emmy was after is perhaps not what she is going to get.

Thrust into a situation that she cannot control, that she cannot market and put a spin onto the positive side of it all, she finds herself helping Rupert in the guesthouse. Her guilt for what has happened makes her feel responsible, which is one of the quirky but frustrating ways in which Emmy’s brain works. She has plenty of others as the book progresses.

The French countryside, the smell of good fresh coffee, croissants and the warmth of the sun and the locals in the village, soon calm and act as a balm to Emmy. She finds herself suddenly involved in everything and makes new friends and lovers, it seems that Nathan is perhaps just becoming a distant memory.

Even after extending her holiday for a week she will have to return to England and face Nathan somehow. Emmy leaves all the colour and vibrancy of the guesthouse and newly formed friendships behind that she has embraced in such a short period and returns home.

But can those holiday dreams that she knows everyone comes back with become a reality?

This book is lovely, charming and heart warming, I felt like I was on holiday at the guesthouse too. It does not have the falseness of some chick-lit, which here is a good thing it has much more substance than some I have read. I cared a lot about the people and was drawn into the surroundings very easily. Which is why I enjoyed it so much and would love to know how Emmy deals with the choices she makes.

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

The Little French Guesthouse is out today. 

Books · Jottings

First Quarter – The Luminaries

I decided as one of my challenges for 2016, was to finally get round to reading The Luminaries. And summing it all up in four posts throughout the year, this being the first post and slightly later than I planned it to be posted, but here I am nonetheless.

I am ironically at the First Quarter point, not even a quarter of the way through the book. Goodreads tells me it is 17%.

I think the main reason for this is because I am not reading the book enough (stating the obvious) and also I am reading from the hardback copy. This is not conducive to snuggling down under the covers to read for fear of concussion.

I might have to invest in a paperback copy in the near future.

That said, and with fear of impending concussion I am making my way through the novel at a rather slower pace than anticipated, which sums up quite a lot of my reading this year so far.

The characters in the book are in abundance and I am having to get straight in my head who is who and how the feature in the story so far. I knew it was going to be complex.

Walter Moody has arrived in Hokitika, he has stumbled upon the twelve different men drawn together in rather strange circumstances and telling their version of a tale. Death, sex and money seem to be the main thread. Ironically rather than twelve signs of the zodiac, I was more thinking of 12 men on a jury making a decision on something.

I think at this point I need to keep reading.


The Chic Boutique on Baker Street

Amanda has a successful career and a successful boyfriend and lives and works hard in the city.

Suddenly she has nothing, no career, no boyfriend. So she decides to disappear and take herself away and set up a boutique in Westfield, a Yorkshire village, selling the things that she enjoys making. It seems a good place to make a new start.

Ben, the local village vet is still hurting after his city loving wife leaves him for his best friend. When he meets Amanda, he sees another city dweller wanting to make it in the country and knows that they never last. And it is local villagers like him that have to deal with the fall out. Amanda and Ben do not get off to the best of starts!

Neither Ben or Amanda have banked on the local ladies of the village who have secret meetings not just about raising money to save the community centre roof but also have matchmaking down to a fine art. These eccentric bunch of ladies, with their baking and knitting bring a community together and are a rather humorous touch to the plot.

However, the inevitable is going to happen pretty much from very early on in the book and this left me slightly disappointed. Sometimes I do not want it to be so obvious that is what is going to happen and who is going to end up with who.

That aside, Rachel Dove manages to weave a tale which did keep me reading despite knowing what was going to happen, because there were a couple of times I began to doubt it all and I wanted to bang both Ben and Amanda’s heads together. Whilst also secretly wanting to be the one that Ben puts his arms around. So it was a good read.

This book fits in very much with what I enjoy in contemporary women’s fiction. It has the strength of a community, the broody but good-looking man, throw in a project or two, like the community centre and some crafts, add in a bit of cooking and you have a book that I can while away a day with. In fact it took me a day to read it – I wanted to see what was happening.

I secretly hope (although I am telling you all readers) that Rachel Dove goes back to Westfield, because I feel that there are some more characters that could be discovered and stories within the confines of the village.

The Chic Boutique on Baker Street is the debut novel from Rachel Dove, winner of The Prima Flirty Fiction Competition.

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

The Chic Boutique on Baker Street is out on 21st April 

Jottings · Witterings

English Pronounciation

The internet can throw up some wonderful things, it can also throw some downright rubbish most of the time. However I came across this poem and it just reminded me how wonderful language is and that is one of the reasons why I love reading (and probably writing) so much.

I advise reading it out loud as a challenge, I admit to struggling with a couple of words.

The Chaos – Gerard Nolst Trenité

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.

Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Made has not the sound of bade,
Say-said, pay-paid, laid, but plaid.

Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Previous, precious, fuchsia, via; Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.

Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.

Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.

Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.

Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.

Pronunciation—think of Psyche!
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.

Finally, which rhymes with enough—
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!

Gerard Nolst Trenité, was a Dutch observer of English. Born in 1870, he died in 1946.


The Second Chance Shoe Shop – Marcie Steele

It is all about broken hearts, lost loves and shoes in this novel from Mel Sherratt/Marcie Steele an author that I have not read or encountered before but something drew me to this book, despite probably being able to guess how the plot line was going to pan out.

Riley has had her heart-broken and has almost given up in finding someone who will make her happy.

Sadie’s heart broke when her husband died, almost a year ago. She still has to somehow carry on for the sake of her daughter, despite her grief almost crippling her.

Dan is trying to get back into dating but so far they have all been rather strange and nothing has progressed further than a first date.

All three of these main characters work in the local shoe shop, Chandlers. It is where their friendship has grown and been strengthened, but it looks like that is about to be threatened too, which was just as I suspected it would be.

This is a very modern book, the shoe shop is clearly going to be saved by social media, but Marcie Steele concentrates as much on the positive as the negative side of such a twenty-first century phenomenon. All the characters go through some changing moments in their life and new directions and paths are opened up for them all as they learn more about each other.

This feel good novel comes right in the end and I enjoyed the journey along the way, but it was not a book quite yet there in the league of well written chick-lit. It had something missing for me and I am unsure as to what that is.

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

The Second Chance Shoe Shop is out now. 




Appointment with Death – Agatha Christie

This is one of the Christie books which was inspired by her travels to the Middle East with her husband.

We are taken to Petra, The Red City which can be found in Jordan, with the Boynton family, four children, one daughter in law and a tyrannical mother who used to be a wardress in a prison. Hanging on their coat tails for some reason is Jefferson Cope.

In Petra we meet other people, Sarah King, newly qualified as a doctor. Dr Gerard an eminent doctor in the field of psychology, Lady Westholme a member of parliament and timid Miss Pierce a former governess.

And of course there is Hercule Poirot and he has the most significant piece of evidence which he does not know at the time when he overhears:

“You do see, don’t you, that she’s got to be killed?”

The she in the case of this book is Mr Boynton. The only clue on her body is a puncture mark on her wrist. It looks like poison.

The only problem is that she was in full view of everyone at the entrance to a cave, whoever killed her would have clearly been seen by someone.

Poirot gives himself 24 hours to solve the mystery by simply interviewing everyone and piecing it all together along with the evidence he already had. Could I make the conclusion before Poirot announced it. Simply no, I have yet to be able to work a Christie out.

An excellent example of Christie’s work and one I would go to if you need a strong example of her writing. I enjoyed the references to the other cases that Poirot had been involved in and the way his little grey cells are continually working and being challenged. Crime seems to follow him around as characters comment on within the novel.

Despite having seen the television adaptation in 2008/9 with David Suchet, the book is absolutely nothing like it. The adaptation deviates far from the book, so if you have seen and not read then have no fear.

I read this novel as part of the 1938 club which is being coordinated by Simon from Stuck in a Book and Karen from Kaggy’s Bookish Ramblings

Whilst I could have perhaps chosen a book which was a bit more unique and not as well-known. It gave me the opportunity to read a Christie, update my challenges for the year and expand my Christie Reading List and remind myself why they are such great crime novels. 

I look forward to seeing what the next year could possibly be?

Have you joined in? Let me know what book you read?



Dilly’s Sacrifice – Rosie Goodwin

Meet Dilly Carey, married to Fergal, mother to three boys, Declan, Kian, Seamus and one girl, Niamh.

Times are hard for them all, following an accident Fergal is not able to earn money to support his family and therefore it is Dilly who makes the sacrifice and goes out to work, to keep food on the table and some comfort at home.

Another mouth to feed would not be ideal, but of course you cannot stop nature. But you can perhaps realise that you might have to give something up in return.

That something is a baby, which Dilly takes up to the big house and gives it to the Farthings, having recently lost their own baby to measles, it can comfort them and also provide for Dilly and her family. The condition is that Dilly can become a maid in the house.

Everyday Dilly has to deal with her family she leaves at home with her disabled husband and go and work in a place where her newest born daughter is getting everything that Dilly could never be able to provide for her.

Her relationship with this family and the house is bound together in so much happiness but unpleasantness as well. As time marches on, Dilly has to find the strength to cope with many other challenges in her life that are inflicted on her, her family and even her friends. Some of it was quite harrowing, some shoe the strength and loyalty that Dilly has, all of it with its twists and turns kept me reading.

As The Great War looms from across the sea, it seems that Dilly is going to have to sacrifice more again to be able to keep together everything and everyone that is dear to her.

This book by Rosie Goodwin reminds me of the Catherine Cookson’s I used to read when I was younger. There is so much packed into the pages, with so much happening to the characters that you almost forget you are reading because you become so immersed in the story, it is as if you are there with them all. Whether that be in the damp dark home of Dilly in the Midlands, or across the Irish Sea to Dublin to visit Dilly’s in-laws.

This book was so good and although I am late to picking this up to read and review, I immediately went and got the next in the series because I wanted Dilly in my life for a bit longer. I love historical sagas and this book and author is one of the best out there.

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

Dilly’s Sacrifice is out now, the second book in the trilogy Dilly’s Lass is also out and the third Dilly’s Hope is published on 7th April 2016.



Blog Tour – The Chic Boutique on Baker Street


I am lucky enough to be participating in the Blog Tour for this lovely book. My review will be coming on the 22nd April, but in the meantime here is more about the book:

The perfect escape to the country…

Recently single and tired of the London rat race Amanda is determined to make her dreams of setting up an idyllic countryside boutique come true, and the picturesque village of Westfield is the perfect place to make a fresh start.

Local vet Ben is the golden boy of West¬field, especially to resident gossip Agatha Mayweather, who is determined to help Ben get his life back together after his wife left.

When a chance encounter outside the ‘chic boutique’ sets sparks flying between Amanda and Ben, Agatha is itching to set them up. But are Amanda and Ben really ready for romance?

And about the author

Rachel Dove is the proud winner of the 2015 Flirty Fiction Competition with Prima Magazine and Mills & Boon. Ecstatic to have her novel chosen out of 300 others, Rachel is now a full-time writer and looks forward to writing her next book. When she is not writing, she can be found raising her sons or curled up under a blanket with a book.

You can see where else the blog tour is stopping by the banner at the top right of this blog.

Hope you can pop back on the 22nd April.


Under Italian Skies – Nicky Pellegrino

Stella thought her life was sorted. She enjoyed her work, her busy life and was content. Everything was going well, until her work stopped, she was no longer busy and it seems not content.

Having worked for the last 25 years for a fashion designer, who dies suddenly, Stella is left to pack up and close the place where she has worked. For this fashion designer will no longer continue now she has passed.

Stella is left all alone and feels rather lost. Everything she knew and was certain about has gone. What can she do now and is she at an age where she could start again?

Trawling the internet, she comes across a house swap website, the Italian villa that is pictured, is a world away from what Stella is used to, but she can suddenly see herself there. But would the owner of the villa want to swap for a flat in London, with only a view if you really seek to find it from her small balcony?

It seems that Stella is about to find out and finds herself in the Villa Rosa whilst it’s owner, Leo finds himself in London. A friendship via email develops between them as they both see their homes and the cities and villages through someone else’s eyes and it opens them to how much world there is out there and that actually a lot of it can be found on your very doorstep.

As Stella settles into life in Triento, she meets some other women who are at different stages in their lives but all at some sort of cross roads. Francesca, is determined to escape the watchful critical eye of her mother in law. Tosca is hiding from a life that she once had that was not all it was made out to be and cannot see success in the future. Raffaella needs some colour in her life and that colour cannot just come from the food she cooks.

Stella finds herself totally immersed in Triento and adores the Villa Rosa, her emails back to Leo in her flat in London make her realise that perhaps her life can now be very different.

As always with a Nicky Pellegrino book you are transported away to a part of Italy, that seems to be undiscovered and whilst you can feel the warmth of the sun on your back as you are taken on a journey. You can also seemingly taste the food which is prepared and most of all importantly shared with everyone to enjoy.

An ideal holiday read without having to leave the comfort of your home, your imagination on the other hand will need a passport and some sunscreen!

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

Under Italian Skies is out on 7th April 2016



March Roundup

Already April, blink and I missed March but I did not miss any reading and it seems that whilst I may be a few books behind on my target for the year, I am up to date with reviews and the like. Of course as some of you know, I made the decision not to review all the books I am reading, so of course that helps but it also means that there is perhaps less blog content?

Nonetheless all of the books I have read in March bar one have been reviewed and without further ado here is a rundown of them all.

The gentleness of Esther Freud – Mr Mac and Me was really quite touching and is a book to take your time with, if you do it will so be worth it. This was probably where Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera – The Awakening of Miss Prim also fits, a quiet book, but quirky in its old fashioned way.

Reading can make me feel uplifted and is a lovely place to go when you are not quite feeling 100%. Transporting me to Italy was the latest from Nicky Pellegrino – Under Italian Skies. The heat, the warmth of the sunshine and the food you could almost taste makes it another successful novel for her in my eyes.

Being able to taste was a must when it came to Carole Matthews – The Chocolate Lovers’ Club, the first in a series of books featuring great friendships and a lot of chocolate! I am slowly working my way through Carole Matthews back catalogue so I can catch up on her most recent Chocolate Lovers novels.

Another author in the vein of Carole Matthews and one to look out for is Rachel Dove – The Chic Boutique on Baker Street, her debut novel. I am hoping that her next book takes up the story of those who work on Baker Street.

If I went back and looked through my records of books, I would find that I have read all or pretty much all of Maureen Lee’s novels. I started reading them probably about 20 years ago and as time has passed kept reading them, waiting for the latest to be available in paperback, reading at least one a year. I picked up The Kelly Sisters at the beginning of the year and have now just got round to reading it.

Another book I have had on my shelf for a while is William Boyd – Restless which I had bought after watching the television adaptation a couple of years ago. It goes against the grain to read the book after a visual adaptation, but time had passed enough for me to pick it up and I enjoyed the book.

I love fiction that takes you back to another time, to experience life then vicariously through the characters on the page and also those that feature real people – The Mr Mac of the novel above is in fact Charles Rennie Mackintosh. In Catherine Lowell – The Madwoman Upstairs I was not taken right back to the beginning of the nineteenth century, but the Brontes were in fact brought forward to now and feature heavily in this book. The book did not work for me, but it worked for many others.

As I ended March, I was reading another Rosie Goodwin which I will tell you about soon. In the meantime what have you been reading?