Books

The Beachside Sweet Shop – Karen Clarke

Marnie is determined to get away from the village she grew up in. Trouble is there is a lot that is keeping her there.

Her grandmother Celia, having fallen and broken a leg needs looking after.

Her best friend Beth, soon to have a baby.

Her grandfather’s inheritance  – the sweet shop of the title.

Despite all of this Marnie is determined to get away. Others think differently.

When The Beachside Sweet Shop wins a local business award and is then thrust into a debate that sugar is poison, it seems that Marnie cannot leave her grandfather’s shop until she has preserved his legacy.

The task is going to be harder than she first thought, when she has to deal with protests, graffiti and some failed attempts at sugar-free sweets.

Marnie is rather indecisive and I was rather frustrated by her as a character, however the humour she had with her grandmother, beth and Josh the shop helper made her slightly more warm and friendly as the book went on. Though I did wonder why she just did not leave – she seemed to be so determined to prove that life in Shipley on the Jurassic Coast was the end of life for her.

Beth was fantastically funny as she waddled around helping Marnie in the shop, writing her thesis on Katherine Parr and incubating the baby that she was convinced was going to kill her.

Josh who arrives in Marnie’s life and into the sweet shop just at the right time, seems to be the answer to her prayers in sorting out the future of the shop. Trouble is he is rather evasive as to his surname, his address and even his bank details for his wages. Josh has a kind heart and they worked well as a team i the shop, but it was not meant to be because Marnie was determined to leave.

As events take a different turn, Celia gets better, Beth goes into labour, Marnie’s mother reappears, as does her ex boyfriend, it seems that Marnie needs to start listening to those that care about her.

The book lacked a bit of substance on occasions, to make it an excellent read for me. The animosity between Beth’s husband and Marnie, perhaps needed to have been set up differently from the beginning so at least we were aware there was a background to it as opposed to this automatic dislike he had of Marnie. More background on Isabella Sinclair would have given her campaign against the sweet shop more reality than it was shown as. It was these areas that I think the book began to lack reality as if the reasons for their behaviour only came to the author as the book was written.

However, despite my observations it is an entertaining read and makes your mouth water with the thought of all those delicious sweets that we all remember from our childhood, the author painted the picture of the sweet shop well to hold my attention.

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

The Beachside Sweet Shop is out on 2 March

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Books

Ambulance Girls – Deborah Burrows

First of all I am going to answer the question as to why I chose this book? The simple reason is that I wanted to read something which had a background of history, of reality. In this case it was the Second World War, I was in London and I was in the midst of the Blitz. What made this book stand out for me from others I have read in the past was the fact that it was covering something I had not read much about. Those that drove the ambulances whilst war was raging around them.

A sense of common purpose when those working for the ambulance service had a common goal – to help. But in Ambulance Girls we are introduced to Lily, an Australian far from home who has come to do her bit and she is not feeling that sense of community at all. Which made me want to keep reading.

Lily drives the ambulance whilst her colleague David treats the patients. A friendship has developed and Lily cannot understand the hostility towards David from the other workers. She is different she has an accent, but she is not treated like him. David is a Jew.

When David disappears, everyone blames the Blitz. Everyone os displaced, but when his body appears in a place that you would not expect and when others at the Ambulance Station insist on blaming the fact he was a Jew, Lily begins to get suspicious.

She is determined to find out the truth, not just for herself but for David’s parents.

She is helped coincidentally by a good looking pilot who also happens to have been a school friend of David’s. However as Lily begins to fall in love with the pilot, she fears he knows more about David’s death then he is letting on.

Lily decides on her own investigation which puts her in danger. Can she find out the truth?

This was not your typical saga novel which I thought it was going to be when I did pick it up. I would have enjoyed it if it was but I enjoyed it more because there was a much deeper level to  the plot. Three displaced people in war who are trying to survive and find out the truth, no matter what their background.

A novel you can lose yourself in and learn from. Well worth a read as it has been thoroughly researched and I felt I was on the ground during the blitz as hell rained down around me.

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

Ambulance Girls is published tomorrow 23rd February. 

Check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour!

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Books

The Chilbury Ladies Choir – Jennifer Ryan

In the village of Chilbury it comes as a shock to some of the residents that the choir is to be disbanded because of war. Not because they could be in danger of becoming a target with their singing, but because there is no men left in the choir.

However, the women left behind in Chilbury have very strong views and they have an important place and a role to play. When Primrose Trent arrives in the village, she decides to restart the choir and The Chilbury Ladies Choir begins.

This book features the women of the choir, those from all different backgrounds, different ages and in some cases different agendas. Mrs Tilling is the local midwife, and as the book opens, two births are imminent, but with death already surrounding them due to war, it seems that the births are not going to be straightforward.

Sisters, Kitty and Venetia have nothing to do apart from avoid upsetting their father. Kitty and the little Jewish evacuee Sylvie,staying with them play games and explore the countryside. Venetia is discovering that war and falling in love ar not mutually exclusive and when you find someone, they can be taken away for very different reasons. Both sisters make and impact in the choir but also the village as well.

As the choir progresses, so does the story of this village.

What  makes this book any more different from any of a similar genre. That would be in the telling of the story.

The use of letters, diary entries and public notices, forms a very rounded picture of the village and characters within. It is almost like experiencing the Mass Observation movement. Here was how others felt about what was going on around them in a small snapshot of the Second World War. An d whilst you may think perhaps it would be insular in its outlook, the book actually touches on problems far away from the village green and choir.

A really unique way of telling a story, and one that worked so beautifully, you could actually pick it up and read it again. An excellent debut novel. This is certainly going to be up there as one of my favourite books of 2017.

The Chilbury Ladies Choir is published on 23 February. 

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

This book so reminded me of the The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society that I am now inclined to dig that out and reread it. 

 

 

 

Books

The Vets at Hope Green – Shelia Norton

I have started another four part serialised novel and this time I am taken from city to country with Sam.

Her life as a receptionist in the city vets is okay but she wants more, she secretly would love to be a vet. But it has always been out of her reach. Sam seems to always be broke and lives in a poky flat and rarely gets any fresh air. Arguing with her boyfriends seems to be the norm and he isn’t that interested n the future either.

When she gets the opportunity to go and visit her Nana, she jumps at the chance to take stock of her life.

Staying with her Nan, she grows fond of the old dog Rufus who has given her Nan meaning and purpose since her husband died. It seems that Sam has arrived at the right time, to help with Rufus.

It is through this that she meets Joe, the local vet. He seems to have a great affinity with animals but his skills with dealing with humans is rather lacking. Sam and Joe clash.

But the Sam receives some news, which might mean she needs to return to London.

Back in London, Sam realises that life is not for her there. Her boyfriend is less than supporting and she realises how much she misses the countryside and the love that her Nana gives her, so unconditionally,.

Trouble is her Nana seems to have not been herself.

Step forward Sam and a little stray cat called Ebony. Sam has an idea which will solve not just some of her problems but her Nana’s as well.

However she has to encounter Joe again in and it seems that her skills as a receptionist could well be put to good use, for a while anyway as Sam has left  London with something else not just a little black cat.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for allowing me the opportunity to read these novellas, I look forward to the next two parts. 

Part One is out now and Part Two is published (for kindle) on 16 Feb. Parts Three and Four in March and April resepctively. 

If you want to wait until June, then you can read the novel as a whole – still in my opinion they best way to enjoy any story. 

Books

Blog Tours

Just thought I would let you know about two three blog tours that are stopping by this blog in February and March.

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Deborah Burrows is a new author to me and this was a really good read.

trisha-ashley-blog-tour

Trisha Ashley is one of my favourites and I was thrilled to be able to read her latest. If you love her work you will love this book.

A debut novel and one of the books of the year for me so far is The Chibury Ladies Choir

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Books

Apple Tree Yard – Louise Doughty

I am late to the party in reading this book, I knew it was maknig a splash in the thirller genre when it was first published, but I simply passed it over. My only reason for picking it up now to read was because it was about to be broadcast on the BBC on a Sunday Night. And the reasoning, logical part of me likes to make comparisons.

For those who do not know the premise:

Yvonne Carmichael sits in the witness box. The charge is murder. Before all of this, she was happily married, a successful scientist, a mother of two. Now she’s a suspect, squirming under fluorescent lights and the penetrating gaze of the alleged accomplice who’s sitting across from her, watching: a man who’s also her lover. As Yvonne faces hostile questioning, she must piece together the story of her affair with this unnamed figure who has charmed and haunted her. This is a tale of sexual intrigue, ruthless urges, and danger, which has blindsided her from a seemingly innocuous angle. Here in the courtroom, everything hinges on one night in a dark alley called Apple Tree Yard.

Instantly you want to know what has happened, who are these people that you have let into your life and why are their actions as addicative as you are in reading this book.

But not everything is as it seems.

The story is pieced together, the parts revealed at different points, the reasons behind the actions are not necessarily in the order that you would expect. You have to keep reading to understand.

The actions of one will affect so many.

It is for the court to decide, it is for us as the reader to decide what we think Yvonne has done, we do not know for a long time, and for me the television adaptation successfully kept this element of the book in the first epsiode certainly.

The book is not for the feint-hearted, it is much stronger in description of some of the scenes depicted. It all adds to the plot, nothing in this book is put there just because the author can. It is there for a reason, to aid the story, to move it forward and to make us the reader question every action.

As the end comes closer, we learn more and it was here I felt that I had missed a vital part. What was the reasoning in Yvonne’s accomplice’s actions. It was never explained, we never got into their head. Does that leave me feeling disappoined or more intrigued. I guess that is why the book has hooked so many.

Have you read the book?

Have you seen the adaptation?

What do you think of the choice of actors?

 

Books

The Cornish Guest House – Emma Burstall

We are first introduced to Liz and her daughter Rosie in Tremarnock. Now happily settled in the village and Liz having married the local restaurant owner, Robert and Rosie finding her way in life it seems that everything is going great at last.

Of course a village such as Tremarnock is not going to stay quiet for long and the arrival of a couple, Luke and Tabitha who have taken over the guest house. As outsiders from a big city, they seem a rather odd choice to settle into village life especially taking on a guest house. But Luke wants it to be the best guest house. Tabitha is just going along with everything and looking after her small child.

The locals cannot warm to Tabitha, she seems very distant and does not want to get involved Luke on the other hand seems to be everywhere in the village and is keen to embrace the life there. Everyone warms to him, but not Liz. Something about him does not sit right and no one seems to be listening to her.

Loveday on the other hand, is fed up with working in the restaurant with her uncle, and boyfriend Jesse and when she gets the chance to help Luke and Tabitha, it seems she might have found something she likes doing. Luke has other ideas for her and Loveday takes it all in her stride.

Life in the village goes along and we meet familiar characters from Tremarnock and get another glimpse into their lives.

For every action there is a reaction and all of a sudden the village is unsettled. Whilst I could see what was happening to some of the characters there was nothing I could do to stop the actions of some of them. How frustrating!

Whilst you could say the outcome was predictable, it was but that was because you knew what was happening as the reader, as the observer. Would we have been that perceptive if we were there? Probably not.

That is the beauty of Emma Burstall’s book she manages to take current issues, ones we have all heard about on the news, read about in the local paper, even experienced ourselves and put them into a novel which draws you in and holds you there until the very end.

I am more than intrigued as to where she is going to take us in her third novel and if the previous two are to go by; they will be thoroughly researched and plotted and without fault.

I cannot wait.