Books

The Castaways – Lucy Clarke

When you want to escape to an island and feel like away from everything, then Fiji is perhaps an island that springs to mind. Blue seas and white sand. Warm sun and beautiful scenery, the perfect place to be castaway.

Expect for Erin and Lori, sisters who have decided on a holiday to Fiji.

Lori gets on the plane.

Erin does not.

The plane disappears and Erin is left wondering about what has happened to Lori?

Told in both the past and the present, from both Lori and Erin, we see all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle set out in front of us and as we learn the story of the two sisters and how they both find themselves where they do.

In Fiji, in the past and in the present.

There are as many answers as there are questions and when the pilot of the missing plane reappears after two years, Erin has to know the truth.

I could write more, but that would take away some of the fear, the trepidation, the importance of the setting, that feeling that you are far away from everything and that perhaps it is not paradise after all.

An excellent thriller that was perhaps not what you were expecting and that made it all the more interesting.

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

The Castaways is out now.

Books

The Rose Code – Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn is not a name I have heard of before, but Bletchley Park and the Enigma code is something I have and it has fascinated me for many years. So when I got the opportunity to read this book, I was delighted and set about solving the mystery.

Osla, debutante with the world at her feet as well as all the men and the thought that she doesn’t really need to work, just make the right match, makes you think of some privileged posh person. Osla is anything but. Determined to do her bit she suddenly finds herself on a train to some big house in the middle of Buckinghamshire.

Mab, feels she has worked hard to get where she is. She wants something better in her life not just for her but her little sister Lucy as well. She is on the look out for someone to get her out of what she grew up in. But in the meantime she has to distract herself with the work at this big house in the middle of Buckinghamshire.

The third main female character in this novel is Beth. Daughter of the landlady where Osla and Mab lodge at. Beth is downtrodden, under the thumb of her Methodist preaching mother and will ever remain the spinster of the parish. But her quick thinking brain in solving crosswords and puzzles also leads her through the gates to the big house in the middle of Buckinghamshire.

Bletchley Park or BP as it is referred to by the ‘inmates’ within the story holds many secrets, no one knows what anyone else is doing but everyone knows it is something important. But it is not just the secrets they are working on, it is the secrets these three women have brought to the BP, their lives are going to be inexplicably changed by what they discover amongst the codes in front of them and what they most importantly discover about themselves.

In an interesting dual narrative, the different thread of the story is really only some 6-7 years after the main storyline. The days in the run up to the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten in Novembers 1947.

Osla finds herself having to attend the wedding of the year when she is called to revisit her recent past when a code arrives.

Mab was planning a party where she could fold some napkins into swans to listen to the wedding on the wireless when a code arrives for her and it seems she needs to confront her past as well.

For Beth, she has remained in the past, there was one last code to break and in her mind she has never had the chance to crack it and reveal the truth about the past.

Can these three women come together and solve this final piece of the puzzle?

This book drew me straight in, I have been fortunate to visit Bletchley Park (and so want to go back) that I really did feel like I was walking through those gates, hunkering down in a hut with nothing but a jumble of letters and paper and pencils to crack something unknowable. What an experience it must have been and Kate Quinn brings that experience so much to life in this book.

This is a long novel but so worth it, to get so involved with everything, whether it be the light hearted moments, or the thrill of the chase when it came to cracking a code or experiencing life as a debutante in war torn London.

Whilst I did think at times some of the timeline seemed a bit wrong from my knowledge of the time, it was only manipulated to suit the story and was explained fully at the end of the book. The author also explains the basis of where some of these characters have come from and who they are based on, though there are a lot that you will recognise

One of the best historical novels I have read in a long time and one that I could happily reread.

 

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

The Rose Code is out now. 

 

Books

Summer Kisses at Mermaids Point – Sarah Bennett

When you want some warmth to your soul and heart then I would always  recommend picking up a Sarah Bennett novel. And in her latest you are whisked away to Mermaid’s Point where you can get some warmth to your skin as well!

Laurie Morgan runs a small café, next door to a gift shop that her parents run, her brother Nick can be found on the tour boats in this delightful costal village and her aunt can also be found popping into help in the café. A real family feel to this book and I am sure in subsequent books we will get to know more about them all.

Suddenly Mermaids Point is the focus of a lot of media attention, when it seems that a video of a mermaid goes viral on the internet, and there is suddenly a lot of interest in this mythical creature. Of course when the village has a mermaid in its name it seems that perhaps those folk tales of the past might be true?

Jake Smith moves to the village, temporarily on the pretence of writing a book, but really to discover more about this mermaid sighting. After some rather hard hitting journalism, his editor thinks this could be a way of stepping back for a  bit. to get close to the truth, he needs to not be a tourist but more of a local and he finds himself drawn to Laurie, like a mermaid calling out a seductive call to lure sailors.

However as Jake gets close to the truth about the mermaid sightings and then even even closer to Laurie it seems that he is going to have to make some decisions about which truths are going to be the ones he reveals.

A wonderful escapist novel, which sweeps you away to the seaside, that takes you for a paddle in the waters, to the mouth watering cakes of Laurie’s café as the well as the warmth of the community environment and the strength of family. This book has so many layers of warmth that you will never feel cold reading it!

Fabulous read.

 

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

Summer Kisses at Mermaid Point is published today! 

Books

The Littlest Library – Poppy Alexander

Who can resist a library and especially one in a telephone box and so who could resist a whole book about one.

Jess is content with her life, she dare not hope for anything else because if she does it will be taken away from her. Having lost her parents at an early age, she grew up with Mimi her wonderful grandmother, but now Mimi has gone and Jess has lost her job in the local library she is all alone in the world.

Jess decides to up sticks and move to a ramshackle cottage in a country village, bringing all the important things with her from the past, including boxes of her Grandmother’s books.

What she doesn’t realise that along with the cottage comes a little red telephone box and Jess decides that it would make a lovely little library and give a place for her grandmothers books and share the joy of reading.

As the library opens, everyone local from the village comes to sue, borrowing books they once loved, once shared with a loved one and ones that are new to them. Each borrower becomes drawn back to the library and Jess starts to make friends with some of the eccentric locals. Everyone likes Jess to their heart, but for Aidan she is somewhat of a nuisance, from the very first point she met him. What is worse, is they are now neighbours? Not a good start to Jess’s new life in the country.

With Jess looking to the future after some rather false starts in life, she thinks that this village might be the place to put down roots, but when the library might have to close and her job prospects don’t look good, let alone her love life. It seems that Jess was only passing through his village?

This is my first Poppy Alexander novel, but won’t be my last. A very gentle quiet tale about people finding their true selves, whether that be Jess or many of the other characters within the novel. It has a great sense of place and a community feel and just the sort of book you need to give you that lovely warm feeling!

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

The Littlest Library is out now.

Books

The Secrets of Meadow Farmhouse – Katie Ginger

Amelia has not been back home for over ten years and has established her life in Paris. But when she discovers that she has inherited Meadow Farmhouse from her Great Aunt Vera, she just needs to pop back, sort it out and make sure it is sold. Meadow Farmhouse was not really her home was it?

However, Amelia was not prepared for the emotions that would hit her when she returned to the village of Meadowbank and her past.

The farmhouse is a dilapidated state and it seems that Vera had let it go and having had little contact with her since her departure and not healing the refits that might have developed, Amelia starts to think that maybe restoring the farmhouse will help her heal.

Is Amelia really healing from the restoration of the farmhouse.

She still has to confront her old love, Adam who is still very much part of the village.

She still has to deal with the death of her parents, that led her to living with Vera and being an irritation and an inconvenience.

It seems though Vera had a few secrets of her own, that Amelia knew nothing about. And when she discovers an old wedding dress and a locket with a picture of a man she does not recognise. It seems that there is a mystery to solve and perhaps this might lead her to solve all the mysterious questions that have come to mind since she has been home.

The main one – is Meadow Farmhouse really home?

This is a wonderful book which is full of questions about where home really is and who are friends really are? Sometimes we need to step away from something and get a new perspective and I think Amelia does this in this book, thanks to the other wonderful characters that she comes across, both young and old. So much is learnt from what is not said, that there must be more tales to tell from Meadowbank.

For fans of village tales and renovating houses and hearts in equal measure.

 

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

The Secrets of Meadow Farmhouse is out now. 

 

 

Books

Ice Creams at Emerald Cove – Holly Martin

This is our third visit to Jewel Island and this time we are spending some time fulfilling all of our ice cream dreams in Cones at the Cove. This is the concept of Skye one of the three sisters we were introduced to back in book one. She has a creative talent for ice cream flavours and toppings and loves to share it with everyone she loves.

The trouble is her love is complicated. Jesse, the man she loves and was briefly married to lives in Canada and has a daughter from a previous marriage. Their friendship comes with benefits whenever they meet up but can Skye give her heart to someone when they cannot fully commit to her?

What is holding them both back?

Skye throws herself into reinvigorating a former Pudding Parade and it is an easy solution to invite Jesse over to help with baking of the famous rhubarb pie which is paraded through the island. The recipe calls for a secret ingredient and amongst all the heartache and souls searching Skye finds herself drawn to the last time that the parade took place and the recipe book of the former owner of Cones at the Cove.

It seems there is a mystery to be solved and that somehow it also involves a regular hotel guest, Sylvia who features in previous stories. Will all of those loose ends and links come to the perfect solution for the pudding parade, Cones at the Cove and Skye?

This is another sizzling tale from Holly Martin, one that will melt you heart as well as your ice cream when you get to those hot moments between some of the main characters. The descriptive language to bring this Cornish cove to life is wonderful and you are transported to blue skies, diamond clear waters and sparkling characters.

The perfect recipe to escape every day life without all the calories. If you want a book (or series of books) to transport you away then look not further than Holly Martin’s dazzling tales of the residents of Jewel Island.

Thank you to the author who kindly provided me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review. I have received nothing in return and the only thing I give is the recommendation to read this book. 

Ice Creams at Emerald Cove is out now. 

Books

Home on Folly Farm – Jane Lovering

Dora has been quite happy for the past decade, tending her flock. Around 100 rare breed sheep on a farm in deepest Yorkshire on a farm that has always been in the family.

Her peace is shattered though when her precious sister, Cass and son Hawthorn, known more to his vlog followers as Thor and his tutor Nat descend, whilst her parents build an extension for Cass to live in.

Trouble is Cass and Dora haven’t really seen eye to eye for a long time and whilst all their parents energy was spent on Cass once she was pregnant, it seems that Dora just disappeared into a mix of parties and some rather unsavoury habits and ended up running away to the farm where she finally found contentment.

Cass can’t believe Dora lives like does.

Dora can’t believe that Cass still lives at home with her parents and treats her twelve year old son as if he was a breakable bit of china.

Life on the farm is going to be a wake up call from them all.

Then there is Nat, he is strangely familiar to Dora and it seems the past she left behind has just arrived into her farmyard.

As the book goes on we learn how these diverse characters have to all get along together somehow. They have to when there isn’t anywhere they can pop to on a whim, the pot holed track can ruin even the best suspension, there is the threat of sheep hustlers, of lustful vets and lambing sheep to keep them and us entertained.

I really enjoyed this book, you are thrown in straight away to farm life and have to get on board and get along for the ride, unlike Cass who was the most annoying and irritating character I have read about for a long time – and I loved her. Of course as the book goes on you can see how events have her shaped her and perhaps you might get to warm to her, but god she was fabulously annoying! Thor was a great representation of that teenager deep in the world of social media and whilst it did have it’s benefits it perhaps shows how some youngsters (and even there parents) think that is where the future is. Scary!

This was the first time reading this author and I devoured the book, it was light and serious and humorous and sad all in equal measure and was the perfect antidote to everything in life at the moment. An upbeat read at the perfect time for me.

 

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

Home on Folly Farm is published on 16th March.

 

Books

The Summer Island Festival – Rachel Burton

Willow walked away from the island where she grew up and spent her formative years, she felt it was holding her back and with so much disruption in he life it seemed the right thing to do at the time.

Now twelve years later Willow is back….because she walked away from her wedding before she had even got down the aisle.

Back at the same time is Luc, who when he left the island twelve years ago has since found fame on an American talent show and is now playing to packed out audiences. But he is back for the festival – not the big famous one – but the one ran my Willow’s mum, Cathy.

As Willow and Luc’s paths cross again after all this time, the past is raked up and gone over and that might not necessarily be a good thing. When a discovery leads to more questions that answers it seems the people who might have them is Willow and Luc’s parents.

As the book takes us back through the decades to a time before Willow and Luc, before the festival, we see how Cathy found herself in the music scene and how her actions changed the course of her life and so it seems those that followed.

Alternating between the present and the past, not just the past of Willow and Luc but also Cathy and her peers we get a book which is just not about escaping. We get a book about secrets and trust and how sometimes it is all best left in the past. But when the past is poked like a sleeping dragon, the fire it then breathes sometimes becomes the only thing to make us stand up to our present and work out what the future really holds for us.

This book is a great way to take a break, to experience the music and the festival vibe without leaving the house or even getting muddy wellies! Its use of multiple narratives to weave a story works so well and it felt like I was listening to an album where each song tells a story but it is all somehow linked together.

A strong piece of women’s fiction and well worth a read.

 

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

The Summer Island Festival is out now.  

 

Books

The French House – Helen Fripp

This is the debut novel from this author and when I picked it up, I knew little of the subject matter and the history of Champagne. And if truth be known I am not a big fan of it – the drink not the book.

The book is simply fizzing with romance, intrigue, war, grief and the history of one of the most well know brands known across the globe.

Nicole as a young girl liked nothing more than running around the village and knew all the locals to chat to, she became friendly with people below her elevated position and when she finds the man she wants to marry it isn’t about what her parents want, it is about what she wants.

That is how Nicole finds herself married to Francois Clicquot and wandering through the vineyards they both decide to make this their present and their future. But this idyll is short-lived when bade weather, bitter grapes and poor harvests along with war in far off lands where their product was popular causes problems.

Suddenly alone, Nicole finds herself as the Veuve and is determined to make a success – but she has some barriers to face and not just the vineyards, but exploding bottles, gossiping neighbours, close rivals, war and missing salesman.

Helen Fripp weaves the Napoleonic Wars of the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century into the story at time as the background to the events of Nicole and the other main characters; Xavier; Louis; Natasha and the enigma that was Teresa who brought a rather different view of how women should behave in these times.

At other points the Napoleonic Wars were very much in the foreground and I learnt as I wandered how a war seemingly fought a long way away, came to these remote French villages where there was no desire for war just to live peaceably and with everyone they love. War doesn’t make that possible and times there was some horrific scenes which took me right back to these times.

Through it all Nicole had a determination not seen by many and should be recognised as a strong woman very much in a man’s world who somehow overcame it all and became a force to be reckoned with and recognised.

I adored this book, it reminds me of my great love of historical fiction and was an part of history which I knew little about and also even less about the great Champagne houses. How wonderful to discover that a woman was behind one of the greatest much to the chagrin of most. Historical fiction is of course just that but what it does and this book does it in abundance is open your eyes and the world up to reading much more about these fabulous women who have shaped history, who have made an impact and should be recognised much more. It reminded me why I love history.

A great read and I will certainly be looking to learn more from Helen Fripp in the future.

 

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

The French House is published on 4th March. 

 

Books

February Roundup

12 months ago we were just starting to worry about this ‘thing’ out there in the world but now we are 12 months on and who knew! The constant has been reading over that time and it has continued in February with a real eclectic mix of books to lose myself in. I hope you have had the same feeling.

I must be one of the only people left on the plant who has yet to watch Bridgerton – I wanted to read the book first: Julia Quinn – Bridgerton: The Duke and I and what a delightful fluffy, fizzy escapist read it was with in my opinion little reference to the regency setting it is based in. No matter. I am now primed ready to watch and then I know I can pick up the second book when I just simply want to escape and not worry much about the writing, the plot and the glaringly modern references in an historical romance book.

Sticking with the historical theme, led me to Nancy Revell – The Shipyard Girls on the Home Front, the next in the series and it is so wonderful to be able to just walk through the front doors of these girls houses and join in with everything happening to them. Even if some of it isn’t that nice and there is a war going on, but it is now 1944 and the ending seems in sight.

I went even further back with Helen Fripp – The Champagne Widow which is definitely going to be one of those books that will be mentioned a lot. I knew nothing of the champagne houses in France other than their names and that I am not particularly fond of the drink. But this was a magical book, which taught me so much about such a fabulous women in the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. A debut novel which fizzed with promise and delivered.

I always want to learn something when I am reading books that are based in a particular period of history or are based on real people and events and whilst the event that this book is based on was real, the setting and the time period have been changed. Emma Stonex – The Lamplighters take us to a lighthouse on the edge of Cornwall, to a mystery that will keep you awake at night and wonder during the day – where did they go and what really happened? This book is getting lots of press at the moment and is certainly one I would recommend if you want to be enthralled by a mystery.

Whilst holidays might seem a long time ago and there is some doubt as to the reality of getting one in in 2021 it is always great to escape abroad without the long haul flight. Of course with Robert Thorogood – Murder in the Caribbean you don’t really want a murder when on holiday but at least you can escape to the blue skies and warm waters of the fictional St Marie. Just solve the murder quickly so you can enjoy the rest of your break.

If you want to stay a bit nearer to home then of course Rachel Burton – The Summer Island Festival is the place to go. Relive your past music tastes and enjoy the Isle of Wight when it isn’t hosting the thousands for the main event held there. A smaller event is a bit more familiar of is it becoming too familiar and is it all going to fall apart.

Running away can be the only way to solve things sometimes and in Jane Lovering – Home on Folly Farm it was the perfect answer for Dora that is until her sister arrives bringing the past with her. Peace is shattered and so it seems is the future. This author was new to me and this was an enjoyable departure from real life with some great characters that get under your skin immediately! I will look out for more.

So that was February, some new, some old and some sheer joy. I hope March keeps the momentum up.