Miss Benson’s Beetle – Rachel Joyce

There is something about Rachel Joyce stories, that have a quietness about them which stays with you for a very long time. I remember the beauty of her debut novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and I think this book captures the essence of that book, that new adventure not just for Joyce but for Harold Fry as well. This is a new adventure.

This time we meet Margery Benson, spinster, late forties who discovered an interest in a particular golden beetle. It was said to exist but no one had seen or even found it. This would be her work, but events took another path and she finds herself in a job she dislikes.

When a case of stolen boots, forces her to reevaluate her life she abandons everything and puts all she has into an expedition to find said golden beetle.

Enter Enid Pretty.

Pink Suit, bright yellow hair, pom poms on her shoes and clutching a red valise.

She is the last person you would expect to see Margery with but somehow they make it half way round the world to New Caledonia.  Sometimes together and sometimes apart but there is something about two unlikely people forming a friendship and it surviving.

Enid is everything Margery isn’t – a rule breaker, a chancer, a woman with secrets.

Margery is everything Enid isn’t – staid, organised, a woman with one chance to discover the beetle and leave her mark on the world.

This book is a journey of the impossible and believing in trying to do something is just as important as the end result, whether it be positive or negative. What has happened in the past is forgotten as these two unlikely women form a bond, a bond which has to suffer blood, toil, sweat and tears in equal measure from both of them.

There are ups and clearly a lot of downs on this quest, and not only do we glimpse a life of a entomologist but we see a life far away from home. It may seem the dawn of a new age in 1950/1951 but the echoes of both wars still resonate and they affect nearly everyone they come into contact with. Women have a very different role to play, there time has yet to come and perhaps Margery and Enid are just the beginning of the change. Who knows.

With detailed research clearly undertaken in terms of the landscape of New Caledonia as well as the research into all the insects and the treatment and recording of them, the book teaches you as well as gives you a story that you can believe in and characters you put your trust in.

A quiet book with a big impact. Rachel Joyce’s writing at her best in my humble opinion.


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

Miss Benson’s Beetle is published on 23rd July. 



The Girl Behind the Gates – Brenda Davies

Nora is seventeen. Her whole life ahead of her. Bright and skilful. Her heart leads her to one night of passion and that leads to a baby.

In 2020, heads would hardly turn, families would pull together.

In 1939, the world was very different. The Mental Deficiency Act meant Nora could be committed to an asylum as a moral imbecile. She was a threat to herself and others for one act of passion.

This book is the story of Nora. Those facts are true and this book is the horrific harrowing tale of Nora’s treatment over a period of forty years.

When in the early eighties, Janet a psychiatrist, comes across Nora and finds she is still in hospital some forty years later and is heavily reliant on the institution she has been incarcerated in. Nora’s story brings something home to Janet and she takes a vested interest in Nora and not only her rehabilitation into living a independent life but also reconciling the treatment she suffered through no fault of her own.

This book is not for the fainthearted as the distressing scenes that are described will leave you washed out as you have been spun round a machine and left you exhausted. To think these things went on in my lifetime, in my parents. History in this case was not that long ago. Thank goodness, times have changed and treatment takes a very different path now.

But through all of the treatment, Nora remains a strong irrepressible character who started playing a game – a game to survive, which seems was common in these cases. The game has to come to an end though and this book is a tribute to not just Nora but all those who were incarcerated in such similar circumstances.

Beautifully and emotionally written it engages you from beginning to end. This is one if the best books I have read and for a debut novel should be up there with the best.

The book everyone must read. It will stay with you forever.


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

The Girl Behind the Gates is published on the 23 July. 

This is one of the best books I have read so far this year. 


The Garden of Forgotten Wishes – Trisha Ashley

Marnie Ellwood has been running away for the last five years, from garden to chateaux and back again in France, Marnie feels that it is probably the right time to settle somewhere more permanent with a future.

When a job comes up in Jericho’s end as a gardener with accommodation thrown in too, it seems to good opportunity to miss. Apart from one thing, it is a place where her mother says she never should go to. It has too much history for Marnie’s late mum, but she does not really know why. She takes the job anyway, what possible harm could it do?

Settled into a lovely little place she can put down roots and with Elf and Myfy looking out for her as well as a rather dominant cat called Caspar. Marnie gets to work not just only her landlady’s gardens, filled with lavender bushes and rambling roses but also the river walk and waterfalls where some mysterious sightings have been in seen in the past and a place which an rather ethereal sense of calm over it.

Add to this Marnie is also to work next door in the ‘big house’ and it turns out the owner and renovator of the garden and house is a fellow student of Marnie’s from a long time ago, Ned Mars. There is a mystery to the rose garden and the whole place and Marnie throws herself into her gardening role and suddenly finds the peace she was perhaps searching for those years she was away in France.

With her friendship with Ned very much established, embracing life in Jericho’s End seems a given and Marnie finds she is in a place to stay. She is near her sister, she can enjoy the quiz night in the local pub and most of all she can enjoy gardening.

However it seems the ghost of many pasts are still lurking around Jericho’s End and they have an uncanny way of finding Marnie and making life rather interesting for a while.

Will Marnie restore more than a garden in Jericho’s End?

This is a wonderful delightful descriptive book from Trisha Ashley, she just gets better and better with each book. Whilst I was a bit lost with all the relatives from long ago and how they all fitted together with Ned and Marnie I was soon swept away with the restoration of the garden. It is the sort of place I would want to visit and secretly the sort of project I would love to be involved in. I could easily transport myself as someone who is looked after by a whole village as Marnie is.

If you are familiar with Trisha Ashley books then you will recognise familiar characters on the outskirts of the plot and Jericho’s End, it makes you feel as if you are part of that wonderful storytelling Trisha family.

Perfect for those who want to garden without getting your hands dirty and perfect for those who just want to escape – blissful reading awaits you.

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

The Garden of Forgotten Wishes is published on 23rd July. 


The Dublin Girls – Cathy Mansell

Dublin in the 1950s. Meet the Flynn girls.

Nell the eldest, training to be a nurse and with Liam her wonderfully caring and touching boyfriend in tow, she has her whole life set out before her.

Kate the middle child, bright and feisty, she should go far providing she finished her schooling.

Roisin, the youngest. Sickly and not flourishing.

When their mother dies, it is up to Nell to hold them all together.

Giving up nursing, working in a biscuit factory and trying to make any meagre earnings pay for the rent, the coal in their condemned tenements shows a harsh reality of life in 1950s Dublin,

When Roisin is admitted to the fever hospital and Kate decides she wants a better life, Nell finds she is struggling to keep everyone close. They only have each other and they really should stick together.

Nell vows to stay in Dublin until she can have all her sisters together with her again, with a heavy heart she sees Liam go to London to forge a new life. Will the sisters ever be reunited?

This book has everything you would want from a great read, characters, plot, setting, love, adversity, tragedy and heartache. There is a lot packed into the pages and if you have read Catherine Cookson novels in the past, then this book could easily be for you.

A wonderful example of historical fiction.


Thank you to the publishers via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

The Dublin Girls is published on the 23 July

Books · Jottings · Witterings

Six in Six 2020 – My Choices

Here are my choices for this years Six in Six – there is still time to join in and it is looking like a bumper year of blogs taking part!

Six Classic or Modern Mysteries

  1. Rachel Rhys – Dangerous Crossing
  2. Lucy Foley – The Hunting Party
  3. Sophie Hannah – The Mystery of the Three Quarters
  4. Agatha Christie  – A Murder is Announced
  5. Sara Sheridan – Highland Fling
  6. John Buchan – The Thirty Nine Steps

Six book covers that stand out

Six books I have enjoyed the most

  1. Brenda Davies – The Girl Behind the Gates
  2. Lucy Foley – The Hunting Party
  3. Sandi Toksvig – Between the Stops
  4. Ali McNamara – Kate and Clara’s Curious Craft Shop
  5. Katie Fforde – A Country Escape
  6. Veronica Henry – A Wedding at the Beach Hut

Six authors I read last year – but not so far this year

  1. Lucinda Riley
  2. Trisha Ashley
  3. Liz Fenwick
  4. Sarah Bennett
  5. Ann Cleeves
  6. Jessica Fellowes

Six books from the past that drew me back there

  1. Lorna Cook – The Forbidden Promise
  2. Nancy Revell – Triumph of the Shipyard Girls
  3. Jennifer Wells – The Lost Girls
  4. Jane Johnson – The Sea Gate
  5. Fern Britton – Daughters of Cornwall
  6. Jessie Burton – The Muse

Six books set in or near a beach

  1. Carole Matthews – Sunny Days and Sea Breezes
  2. Veronica Henry – A Wedding at the Beach Hut
  3. Heidi Swain – The Secret Seaside Escape
  4. Cathy Bramley – A Match Made in Devon
  5. Helen Pollard – The Little Shop in Cornwall
  6. Phillipa Ashley – A Perfect Cornish Escape

I think I am quite pleased with my choices and 2020 in terms of reading has been good. Of course some books fit in more than one category because they were great and worth reading. Some average books of course but lots that were above average, I hope the next six months is just as interesting!

As I said at the beginning – still time for you to join in!



Kate and Clara’s Curious Cornish Craft Shop – Ali McNamara

As an avid lover of all things craft myself this book was meant to be read by me!

Kate leaves behind a difficult life in London and follows her dream to open a craft shop in Cornwall with her daughter. The shop sells a bit of everything but when a new shop opens up dedicated to art supplies, Kate feels that her idyllic dream is about to come to an end.

What she doesn’t know is she is the middle of another dream.

Jack, new owner of the art supplies shop is a force to be reckoned with, you need to look past the arrogant defence to see the kind-hearted man he can be. But still Kate is worried about what this shop will do to her business.

Kate and Jack are drawn together when it turns out some ramshackle old painting easels and an old vintage sewing machine from a house clearance appear to be telling a story of their own.

Back to the 1950s and we watch the original owner of the craft shop that Kate owns – Clara and how her and her daughter, Maggie have ended up in Cornwall. We meet Freddie and Arty and somehow this story as it plays out is related to the present day and it seems that some lives are running in parallel to the modern day story.

Will Kate and Jack solve the mystery?

Will the truth finally be told?

Added into this is minor characters, Ben, Sebastian, Anita and Julian who all pull the strands of this story together to make it a wonderful read to curl up with. Humour and love in abundance.

The mystery was sublime and whilst perhaps not really possible added to the story and swept me away to the past and kept me very much in the present. You will need to read the book to find out what it is!

Without a doubt these Cornish tales that Ali McNamara weaves are some of her best and I look forward to returning there soon.

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

Kate and Clara’s Curious Craft Shop is published 23rd July. 


Summer at Rachel’s Pudding Pantry – Caroline Roberts

Since I met Rachel at Primrose Farm back last year, a lot has happened in that time, but it seems that everything is now coming together and her future is looking bright.

Rachel and the farmer from next door, Tom are to be married.

Plans are afoot for the wedding and we open with Rachel heading off on her hen weekend, with her best friend Eve, and her mum, Jill.

But as the days count down to the big day, it seems that everything is not going smoothly.

Questions between Tom and Rachel are left unanswered, the pain of missing her father gets to Rachel, her ex makes an appearance and then when the Pudding Pantry becomes the target of an online smear campaign it seems that this is not going to be a happy ever after that Rachel is looking for. Plus it seems Tom is having some doubts and not being honest with Rachel.

Of course it is all resolved with some interesting asides along the way, the wonderful creation of the dress, Eve’s marital problems and of course all the delightfully delicious puddings and cakes which are the real focus of the Pudding Pantry.

This is a great conclusion to a series of books which really brings everything together and sees a future ahead for Rachel and Tom. her mum Jill after the tragic death of her husband, Rachel’s father which brought Rachel back to Primrose farm in the beginning. And you really need to start at the beginning to appreciate this book.

It will give you a sense of place and charcter and a better undseatding of the main characters and how you come to be reading about the most delightful sumnmer wedding.

A book and series to simply devour just like the recipes inside it!

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

Summer at Rachel’s Pudding Pantry is published on 23rd July. 

Books · Jottings · Witterings

Parish Notices

It has been a couple of months since we have had any notices around here, so I thought it was about time to share some bits and pieces.

I hope you are all well and adapting to the what I think will be the phrase of 2020 ‘the new normal’. It looks like I will be able to take to the swimming pool in couple of weeks, which I am most looking forward to. Work continues, in a rather odd and stilted fashion with no plans to be made and nothing to work towards other than surviving day to day. They tell me 2021 will be better.

I am still enjoying the jigsaws, the craft continues and of course so does the reading…

What have you read in the last 6 months – do come and join in my Six in Six meme which features but just once a year on this blog. We are a select few that join in but it is still fun.

So what other books can I share with you – something summery and holiday themed perhaps?


This is a fantastic read. It has everything you want from a book, humour, tragedy, light and dark moments and covers some difficult subjects with careful consideration. Plus I got to learn a lot about viticulture as well as the word itself! Wonderful characters which are introduced gradually and all play a part in the overall story.

The Cornish setting added to the atmosphere and the author has an uncanny knack of making it all three dimensional away from the page. I could taste the salt in the sea air and feel the heat of the sun.

The Path to the Sea works on so many levels and is a book to escape right into and immerse yourself in secrets of history, of life, of family and of love.


if you are looking for escapist reads that take you away, where it may not all be rosy but at least some people get their comeuppance and others get their happily ever afters then you need to buy this series of books.


The Little French Guesthouse in question is La Cour des Roses and Emmy is still working there, with the wonderful Rupert who has become a firm friends since circumstances brought them together in the first ‘French Guesthouse’ book.

They are as busy as every and Emmy is settling very much into village life…….drip the sunshine into the pages and the rolling hillsides, even the delicious food prepared in the guesthouse has you salivating as you can almost taste the chilled white wine, easing away your troubles.

Links to my reviews of these select books can be found below.

Cathy Bramley – A Vintage Summer

Liz Fenwick – A Path to the Sea 

Sarah Bennett – Sunshine over Bluebell Castle

Helen Pollard – Summer at the Little French Guesthouse

This was a mere random selection – I hope perhaps you find something new to read or you have found the odd post that you have not read before on this blog.

Plenty of books to look forward to in the coming days, July 23rd seems to be the most popular publishing day in recent months.

I am hoping to get back to looking at 2013 on my blog in a round up post at some point, because before I know it it will be December and that will be another thing not achieved this year!

So plenty to keep me busy. What has been keeping you busy?


An Expert in Murder – Nicola Upson

This is the first Josephine Tey novel and having read her second first I thought I would go back to where it started.

Nicola Upson has come upon the idea of using a real life author as a character in this crime series. Tey is not used as the main solving character that falls to Detective inspector Archie Penrose, but Upson weaves in the relationship that Josephine Tey has with his family, and him as well and what all links them together.

Tey happens to bump into a fan of her work on the train south from Inverness, and they strike up an instant friendship for the duration of the journey. However, tragedy strikes when the young girl is found dead, some moments after having said goodbye to Josephine. In steps Archie Penrose and he begins to discover that the murderer has left a number of odd clue that seem to all relate back to Josephine and her(written under a pseudonym) current play running in the West End, Richard of Bordeaux.

We are taken into the wonderful age of the Thirties; the Great War still has memories for a number of people, despite the threat of something else brewing over on the continent. The theatre is beginning to take off and plays, actors and agents are all fighting for something spectacular to put on. However amongst all this joy, there are many harbouring secrets and lies and another death causes Penrose much heartache as he realises that maybe Tey is the intended victim all along. The outcome is probably not what you would expect despite having worked some of it, it still came as a slight surprise, now I think I may have missed a clue or two, or maybe it is just the strength of Upson’s writing which took me to the end of the story without working it out in the first few pages.

Thrilling and exciting story, with many lovely characters, Penrose’s cousin Lettie and Ronnie bring humour to the blackest of moments and fit in very nicely with the back story. There are some racier moments put yourself as if you were in reading this in the Thirties, homosexuality was still illegal, and there is no hint but directness about what is going on between some of the cast in the theatres. I am sure it would have made some question such a book, however we are reading this in the twenty first century and perhaps now look at things differently, with the knowledge that we now have.
Yes it has elements of Agatha Christie and the ilk – but so what. It is a different way of making the basic murder mystery genre work and I think successfully, certainly to keep me reading once I was gripped by the whole story.

This review was first published on Amazon in early 2010 and is featured on this blog as part of my look back at the last ten years of blogging. 


The Waffle House on the Pier – Tilly Tennant

The Waffle House on the Pier has been in Sea Salt Bay for what feels like forever and for Sadie it is a place she has grown up in and when the threat of it closing and being sold sees Sadie make some rather immediate life changing decisions.

Sadie feels that the Waffle House needs to be kept in the family and even though her grandfather has now sadly died, her grandmother can still help Sadie with keeping it going. The family have other ideas. But Sadie is determined.

However, Sadie is perhaps hiding from the truth, the truth that maybe her grandmother April is no longer capable of running the Waffle House nor perhaps even help there. And what does Sadie know about running a business? It seems everything and everyone is against her.

Being back in Sea Salt Bay means that Sadie is back with her friends Natalie and Georgia as well as in closer contact with her ex Declan. He has moved on, but has Sadie? When Luke bumps into her, perhaps she can finally see a different life in the town?

I was expecting one thing from this book, bringing a waffle house back from the brink, a common theme to be had amongst popular women’s fiction: cafes, pubs, shops all would fit the bill. I did not get that, this book very much focuses on family and how it copes dealing with death and the worry of those left behind and their strange behaviour. The waffle house became secondary and whatever was related to that part of the plot was rushed and glossed over.

Sadie’s family were strong and dominant throughout, in fact I could see why Sadie always felt pushed around by them, but I could not connect to her as much as some of the other secondary characters.  We went from family gatherings and debates to arguments and back again. This left me feeling a bit disappointed by the book.

It is a good book to while away a few hours, but lacked the fun and humour that I was expecting which might have made it stand out from some of the other books I have read so far this year.


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

The Waffle House on the Pier is published on 25 June. 

I have found Tilly Tennant’s books a bit hit and miss, not as consistent as you get with some of the authors I read and I felt like this book was a chore to read. It should never be that. I knew I have felt like this before about her work and I think perhaps it is time for me to move on from this author for a while.