Books

The Little Swiss Ski Chalet – Julie Caplin

I think this has to be one of my favourite escapes with Julie Caplin and perfect for when you can’t get away or you fancy a skiing holiday without the cold and for me the skiing!

After a relationship breakdown and when an act of revenge affects her at work, Mina escapes to Switzerland to her godmother Amelie’s Swiss chalet.

There is something unique about this chalet, Amelie is particularly fussy about her guests and unbeknown to them she is waving her magic wand through coffee and cake and getting them to come out of their shells and find themselves. It has a magical quality.

Mina has vowed not to get too close to anyone after her relationship but when she is literally thrown into the path of Luke, she finds that both serendipity and spontaneous kisses amongst the snow are going to distract her for her entire stay.

Enter helping Amelie in the kitchen, where she can embrace her love of food and creating some perfect recipes and cakes to soother the most grumpiest of souls. But of course you cannot come to Switzerland and not get tempted by the cheese and the chocolate.

When an idea strikes Mina, she thinks she may have found her serendipitous moment when it comes to her career. But when events take a sudden dramatic turn she needs to rely on people who care. Can she open her heart again and move forward with a new path?

From the moment I started reading this book, I was transported away to the clean air, the brilliant whiteness of the mountains, the ski slopes, the cold biting weather bringing a refreshing change to any doom and gloom. All of this wrapped up with an immense amount of chocolate, cake and comfort. What more could you want from a book?

A pure escape in book form and with no added calories.

 

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

The Little Swiss Ski Chalet is published on 30 Jan.

Books

Finding Love at Mermaid Terrace – Kate Forster

Tressa has found her niche in Port Lowdy, in a brightly coloured cottage by the sea. She has a part time job at the local newspaper and spends the rest of her days painting and battling with her cat, Ginger Pickles.

Dan is angry, angry is his job title in Dublin on a newspaper. But when a journalistic story goes wrong Dan finds himself out of a job, out of his home and with only his dog for company nothing else to live for.

He needs to escape, when a part time journalist role comes up at the local paper in Port Lowdy he thinks this will be the furthest he can get form Dublin so he can reassess want he wants from life and can not tax his brain too much reporting on local issues.

What Dan did not bank on was Tressa.

What Tressa did not bank on was Dan.

Both with strong personalities and ways of doing things,  these two clash quite early on, but as readers we can see the sparks fly off the page between them and it doesn’t take long for cupid to weave her magic. But Tressa is not one for looking at herself too deeply, her relationship with her parents a large factor in this but Dan has a way of looking at everyone deeply and can see that even the most ordinary of person has an extraordinary tale to tell.

Port Lowdy it seems is a bed of underlying romance. Newcomer Remi has a secret to tell and whilst given a new opportunity in the local pub he is desperate to say sorry about what happened and find his one true love.

Penny has always lived in Port Lowdy, her actions when she was a young girl caused problems and since then she has never given her heart to anyone else. But after all this time is her heart only calling for one person?

This is a joyful book to read, the sparky relationship between Dan and Tressa is great fun albeit tinged with some sad moments which made me cry. All the characters had that something in their descriptions and actions that me want to read more, made me care or simply made me want to shout.

A well rounded book full of colourful characters and a cosy story to while away the days when we can all go and find our own love on Mermaid Terrace.

 

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

Finding Love at Mermaid Terrace is published on 4 February. 

Books

Books in 2020

2020 is going to be a year to remember in many ways but for the moment, I am just going to concentrate on books. Taken me a while to reflect back on them all. 

All 109 of them that I finished!

Some facts and figures for those geeks that like that sort of thing!

The Shortest Book was 149 pages (The 39 Steps)

The Longest Book was 608 pages (The Moonflower Murders)

I read 35,580 pages – goodness knows how many words that was. 

There was no rereading in 2020, despite my promise to myself that I will do this. 

79 books were on my kindle – this is in the main due to my netgalley membership which is enabling me to read books and review them and tell all my blog followers and watchers about books to look out for. I am always most humbled by this and do not take it for granted. Though you have to be careful not to get too bogged down in requesting too many!

Though this year more than any I have revelled in being to a hold a tangible book as a reassurance in these strange times. 

So what has stood out for me? What is worthy of a mention?

Multiple Books by the same Author

The winner is Agatha Christie – I read 5 of her books in 2020. The Reading Christie challenge hosted by the Agatha Christie official website helps with that. They have brought it back for 2021 and I hope to dip in and out as I did in 2020. 

4 Books – Katie Fforde

3 Books – Emma Davies, Helena Dixon, Katie Ginger, Amanda Owen, Caroline Roberts, Heidi Swain, Tilly Tennant.

2 Books – Lucy Foley, Sophie Hannah, Holly Martin, Carole Matthews, Cressida McLaughlin, Bella Osborne, Nancy Revell, Ben Schott, Robin Stevens, Jo Thomas, Emma Burstall, Christie Barlow, Phillipa Ashley. 

I know you should not judge a book by it’s cover but in these strange times I have sought such joy in bright colourful covers of books that have then gone on to give me such joy. 

This blog in the last few years has prominently been heavily dominated with Women’s Fiction as you can see, but as the blog has changed and developed so has my reading. I made all these promises of looking back over the last ten years of blogging – I got no further than 2012. Odd when I had a lot of time on my hands that I did not go back and manage this task. 

Oh well, the blog moves on and develops as I suppose life does. 

So what other books should I tell you about well these are the stand out ones for me in 2020. 

There is only one Queen of Crime (Agatha Christie if you don’t know) but what if the Queen was involved in solving crime. Well she needs to fill her days somehow between all the papers, visits and family battles surely?

This really is an exuberant take on the cosy mystery genre and has some good research done on it, to understand the workings of the the Royal Family and also the descriptions of Windsor Castle. There are some humorous moments and it had me laughing out loud and what seems like the absurdity of it all but then do we really know what goes on behind palace walls?

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.

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.

I first met Atticus Pund in Magpie Murders, I thought it was a one off, it seemingly started at the end of what could have been a series of books. However four years later Atticus is back and his creator Alan Conway long since dead is still making an impact from beyond the grave.

The reader is treated to a skilfully written novel, the clues are all there, and whilst I had the wrong person for a while, I did have the right reasons but the most obvious simply passed by Susan Ryeland as well as me! If the lead character can be fooled as much as the reader – the author must be on to something.

This brings Louisa back in touch with The Mitford Sisters, who she thought she had left behind. Diana, now separated from her husband Bryan has started a love affair with Oswald Mosley and with her sister Unity obsessed with the beliefs and values of the Fascists, it seems that Louisa is going to be plunged into the darker side of politics and ever growing problems in Europe.

A well written murder mystery perfect for fans of history and the gold age of crime. Long may they continue. Highly recommended.

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……

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. 

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.

Having finished their A-Levels Judith, Lana and Catrin are about to embark on one of those life affirming moments when they take a trip to Greece to celebrate the fact that they have made it thus far and that their long standing friendship since the age of eight will last a life time.

As the book goes on through key moments in all their lives, it is being told from the perspective of each of the girls as they become women, as they move between close friends and further distance. 

This is a book full of strong female characters, with such depth and warmth you will think you have known them a lifetime. In fact you can relate to aspects of all of them and I think that is the key to making this an excellent book.

A book I did not review, it was a Christmas present from 2019, but one all should read if you are a fan of Toksvig. 

And finally, I must say thank you to all those who comment on my blog and to those that stop by and read but don’t say anything. It really is all just a stream of my consciousness and I enjoy reading, writing and sharing it all with you. 

I am not sure where this blog will go in 2021, I have all these fanciful ideas, but I have not managed at the moment to get to grasp with using WordPress from my iPad and only have access to a computer (notwithstanding the 4 I use at work every day) on a Sunday. Perhaps when and if I do, I will share more of the craft items and other life observations I did when I first started this blog all that time ago. 

For now, take care, stay safe and keep reading. 

 

Books

The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon – Sarah Steele

Florence is bereft, her grandmother who effectively brought her up has died and her marriage is falling apart.

As she comes to terms with everything Florence discovers a box full of dress patterns from the 1960s.

In the first is a photograph of her grandmother with friends she knows and one she doesn’t, named Nancy Moon. Who is Nancy? Why did her grandmother keep all these patterns? And what story is it telling?

Florence, still grieving, uses the patterns to go on a discovery of Nancy Moon as well as discover who she really is. Are there connections between Florence and Nancy?

As Florence discovers so do we as the book using the dual time narrative, a plot device that has worked successfully here, to go back to Nancy Moon.

Nancy wants something better with her life, her skills as a seamstress are exemplary and given the opportunity she makes it to a fashion house and starts living a very different life. Until one life changing moment which is going to haunt her for the rest of her days.

When she finds herself at crossroads in life she embarks on a different path and becomes a companion to Pamela, young daughter to Peter and Caro. This takes her all over Europe and as she goes, she makes different outfits from patterns, keeps swatches of material and has a photo of memorable moments along the way.

Nancy is running away from something as much as Florence seems to be running towards something and as the pieces of this magical pattern are put together, we suddenly see the finished article. Only Florence and Nancy though will know the work that has gone into it.

This is a delightful debut novel from Sarah Steele who clearly has a flair for dressmaking, the details that have gone into using this as a means to tell a story is insightful and thoughtful. It really added to the depth of the story for me as these stories ran concurrently and then were all swept and stitched together.

I wish I had read it sooner in 2020 as I feel I was late to the party with this one and it was such a joyous read and reminds me of why I love reading great historical fiction. It also made me slightly put out that I am not overtly proficient with a sewing machine!

 

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

The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon is out now. 

 

Books

The Lake House – Christie Barlow

I have been in Heartcross since the very beginning, a village in Scotland which is unique because the love that emanates from the whole community will drag you in and hold you there in its heart. That goes for the readers as well as the characters!

Callie brings her friend, Ella to live with her in Heartcross. Ella has hit rock bottom over the last 6 months or so after losing her parents, her heart and her inheritance. She needs to escape and recuperate and what better place than with Callie the only friend who stood by her.

Sharing a flat with Callie, Ella gets to meet her new neighbour Dolores, who is a star. She has a past and when Ella discovers that her past involves singing and singing at The Lake House where Ella is now working it seems that everything is meant to be.

The Lake House whilst trying to be unique as a restaurant (it is only accessible by boat) is losing money and they need to do something to keep a float. As does Roman the boat’s main skipper to the restaurant, he is trying to keep it all together when life has dealt him a bitter blow and he needs some support.

In steps Ella and Dolores and what follows is a captivating tale of showing everyone that there is always a second chance and even a last chance in life to have what you want and be loved wholeheartedly.

If you have been in Heartcross since the beginning then you will see some of the regular characters pop in and out of the story, but this book’s focus is very much on Ella, Roman and Dolores. There is some real depth to the storyline and some frightening episodes which make you question what we believe and who we trust.

A novel that had me hooked and I devoured it quickly as I was so invested in Ella and what had happened to her, that I wanted to see her succeed and show that she and in fact everyone can come back stronger.

Great addition to the series and I implore you to read them all – you won’t be disappointed.

 

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

The Lake House is out now. 

 

Books

The Great Escape from Woodland Nursing Home – Joanna Nell

In a world where nursing homes, care homes and the like are very much dominant in the news, this delightful book forgets all our current circumstances and plunges us into Woodlands Nursing Home and some of it’s interesting residents.

Hattie Bloom, determinedly single, a lover of all things ornithological and certainly not human finds herself in this nursing home. Constrained by rules and regulations, it is Hattie’s wish to escape back to her own home. Like a nesting bird that is where she feels most safe surrounded by what she knows.

Walter Clement has been a resident for a while and is determined to keep his love of the open road going and pass his ability test to be able to use his scooter. Sadly the open road is going to be closed for a bit longer than anticipated.

Sister Bronwyn is the night sister, she has quite a way with all the residents and it seems that once she has worked you out, Sister Bronwyn will introduce to the Night Owls. A secret little group that keeps the residents entertained overnight and relies on what they know and so they can feel like they can belong. I think Sister Bronwyn is onto something with her particular choices of activities for the residents.

However it seems that the Night Owls are about to be extinguished.

The residents of the Woodlands Nursing Home put their wits against the management, the medical profession and the police to escape the monotony of the world they finds themselves incarcerated in.

Who will gain the upper hand?

Somehow Joanna Nell has encompassed the continual life these residents live, by naming all their rooms by Monopoly Board squares, it felt like they were all continually going round that board until the point one of them couldn’t pass go anymore. Her experience as a GP clearly comes through in the book with the writing and there is a part of me that hopes that some of the little incidents are perhaps gleaned from real life. When you get to them in the book – you will know!

This is a delightful heart warming novel which will bring you tears of laughter, joy and sadness. You stop and think about the life you have lead, the life you still have left to lead and what those who are nearing their end of their lives really want from those final days.

If you enjoy slow books that are packed with so much, you have to savour every moment, then this is the book for you. It reminds me of Rachel Joyce novels. The main topics perhaps are maudlin and you don’t think would make for easy or pleasant reading but this is book is a celebration of lives lived and lives lost. Celebrate by reading it.

 

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

The Great Esacpe from Woodlands Nursing Home is published on 7 January 2021.

 

 

 

Books · Knitting

December Roundup

What a December, one of the quietest I have had in a long time from a work perspective. Normally the three weeks proceeding the big day are some of the busiest with functions, lunches, Santa visits and masses of paperwork proceeding audits, etc. As work has changed and will continue to do so in the coming months, I have had to find a new sort of normal, a common phrase we hear now.

But what of the books you say? Well I had already hit my target of 100 going into December so it was a case of seeing how many I could get to by the 31st.

The last book of the year was Rosie Goodwin – The Blessed Child a real chunky saga, which curled up on the sofa under a blanket was the best place to read it. I was transported to tales similar to that of Catherine Cookson and I must go back for some others.

Going back for more is why I went to join the delightful Daisy and Hazel in Robin Stevens – Mistletoe and Murder. Although aimed at a much younger market, I still feel slightly indulgent reading such a book, but these are much better than some adult aimed books that I have read over the years.

Keeping it still Christmas was Cressida McLaughlin – The Cornish Cream Tea Christmas, continuing the adventures of the Big Red Bus full of cream teas in Cornwall. You know that Christmas is going to be a magical time and whoever comes on the bus is going to have their hearts and heads turned.

It is always great to carry on with a series, whether it be familiar characters or places. I am an avid fan of Heidi Swain but have only just got round to reading her first novel Heidi Swain – The Cherry Tree Café. The book you could say where it all began and now having completed them all, I am itching for her next.

When you find an author you love, you can get a little impatient to wait for their newest work. So discovering authors when they have a oeuvre to work through normally keeps all of that at bay. So I went back to one I had not read Katie Fforde – A Springtime Affair, it had been languishing on my Kindle for a while so I delighted in the spring weather during a winter cold snap. The perfect tonic.

Jeeves and Wooster have always provided me with tonic of some sort and the homage I read in November was closely followed by the new one Ben Schott – Jeeves and the Leap of Faith. Sheer utter spiffing joy – I need to go back to some Wodehouse. I rue the day I gave away my books.

I wish I had given away this book, or at least as it was on my Kindle given up on it Sarah Pearse – The Sanatorium. A book that promised something it did not deliver. Not the right book for me at the time of picking it up. Though I acknowledge some have loved it and it will no doubt feature on many blogs.

I started to see Sarah Steele – The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon on books of the year posts and knew I had yet to get round to it. So to make a dent in my forever expanding netgalley list, I picked it up. Now I know what everyone was on about and really wish I had read it sooner. A wonderful dual narrative novel with a great vehicle of telling a story.

I would like to say I was ahead of the game in terms of books published next year – sadly I am not, but no matter because the one to look out for so far is Joanna Nell – The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home. Humorous, bittersweet and with a touch of ‘what if’ this is a lovely read from a relatively new untapped author. Do check out this and her other two books if you get the chance.

So that was December, there was a lot of reading what I wanted with no pressure. I think that is a good mantra to start 2021’s reading with.

As for my favourites for the year….. I have not quite decided yet…….more to follow soon.