Books

The Little Orchard on the Lane – Tilly Tennant

Posy arrives in Somerset with her mum Carmel, to discover something about her past. Posy was adopted as a baby and when a letter arrives telling her about her real family, she sets out to discover what she can.

Meeting Uncles, Giles and Asa is a bit intimidating as they knew nothing of her existence as she did of theirs, but with barriers broken down and the countryside a place to breathe and escape, a relationship starts to form.

Posy falls in love with the area, the orchard that her family has, the apples produced for the cider making. The landscape seems to sweep Posy away and she gets the chance to embrace village life. However her presence is not welcomed by everyone and when she comes across Lachlan in all his glory in a neighbouring field, a rather frosty relationship begins.

Disappointingly for me this book took a long time to get going, if it really did. Little was made of Posy’s inheritance that she sweeps away so quickly. There seemed to be whisperings between the other characters that suggested intrigue but it never amounted to anything and seemed to fizzle out. It plodded along.

I have found in recent years Tilly Tennant’s books can be a bit hit and miss (for me) and that this one falls into the latter category. It felt like there could have been two better books amalgamated into one here and I finished the book feeling rather flat. It had more potential than it delivered.

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

The Little Orchard on the Lane is out now.

I struggle with myself when writing that a book just simply did not do it for me. I feel bad as I know how hard an author would have worked to get that book out there, but I know not all books can be for everyone. It just doesn’t make it any easier to review them. Perhaps I shouldn’t review them?

Books

A Taste of Home – Heidi Swain

Heidi Swain takes me and you back to Wynbridge where we have been many times before. You might be in the lucky position to have never visited before and therefore I envy the joy you will have getting to know Skylark Farm, Cherry Tree Café or experience the off Christmas or two there! I urge you to catch up if you have never done before.

It is summer and the smell of the strawberries tastes sweet on the air and Fliss Brown having discovered she has a family in Wynbridge makes the journey from an Italian Fruit Farm where she has spent most of her life.

She discovers a grandfather who is not well, a farm starting to become run down, and desire to put down roots somewhere that means something. With the knowledge of what she has learnt whilst in Italy she soon settles into life in Wynbridge and starts to make friends and gets a feel of how this community works.

As some ideas bubble for Fliss to be able to bring the fruit farm back to making a profit, the most obvious one is not going to be without its setbacks as it seems some people are not destined to be Fliss’s friend after all.

A lovely warm novel that takes you through the delights of a summer in the strawberry fields and with the possibility that romance is found where you may perhaps least expect it and that even when you harvest it is still possible to put roots down.

This novel works well as a standalone and if you have prior knowledge to the books previous then of course you will find some familiar faces and places. This is the beauty of Heidi’s novels they are full of such community that it you are taken away and try to find where your place would be in it.

A book full of sunshine and therefore prescribed for everyone.

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

A Taste of Home is published on 29th April.

Jottings · Witterings

Parish Notices

I thought it was about time for some notices, it seems that it has been near on four months since I have produced any and you might think this parish had disappeared. It hasn’t but it has certainly been in hibernation.

As spring has sprung and I have been able to go swimming again, it feels like a huge fog or fug has lifted and there has been a little more lightness in many ways. So I dust off this parish notice to let you know about some bits and pieces.

I shared a year of jigsaws with you and I have since finished another one and share that now, just in case you think you have to wait another year! It was a great way of consolidating all I have done and also putting theme somewhere so they were not taking space up on my iPad!

I have of course been creating and perhaps I need to share more of this on my blog too, so here is a sneak peak of something you will see come to life very soon…..

Of course in the main this is a book blog so what about some books – here are a few that might have passed you by and I think are worth a look.

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.

My Review – 11 Jan 2021

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.

My Review – 3 Mar 2021

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.

My Review – 29 Mar 2021

I hope things are good in your parish? I appreciate everyone who pops by and says hello and also those who just pop by. I hope you find your time here enjoyable and of course pick up a book recommendation or two!

Books

A Class Act – Gervase Phinn

This is the final book in the trilogy of the Top of the Dale school series from Gervase Phinn, which is set in the village school of Risingdale, as the trilogy suggests at the top of the dale – the Yorkshire dales of course.

Here we find that as the Eighties are coming to an end, so is the end for the career of Gerald Gaunt, headmaster of the school for a number of years. The other teachers, Miss Golightly, Ms Tranter, Mr Cadwallader and the young dynamic Mr Dwyer who is the main protagonist of these novels are all at cross roads in their lives.

Miss Golightly, might have some outdated teaching methods and materials for teaching the infants but none of her children leave her class without being able to read.

Ms Tranter, ex actress with a lot of drama in her personal life as well as her school life, encourages the youngsters to speak, to project and certainly not to lose their wonderful accents and dialects.

Mr Cadwallader, late to teaching and with a taste for garibaldi biscuits, still wants the children to able to understand everything around them

Mr Dwyer, a former professional footballer who has certainly now found his niche in life as he listens to what the children have to teach him as much as he makes them listen to him teach. His knowledge of sheep, cows and bulls is far more advanced than when he first arrived.

Amongst a village school is of course a village with all its locals and eccentrics, the lord of the manor, the vicar with a liking to his own voice, the landlady, the farmer and of course the wonderful children of the school.

This book is really tying up some loose ends, there are many. At times it seems that we skip rapidly through many life events to bring everything to a conclusion, but when you do you are treated to some real Yorkshire warmth and blunt humour and you really have to know the accent to be able to read some of the passages. It brings great joy to me as I can hear the accent of many of my relatives and can well imagine them saying some of it.

A book which is simple in it’s aim – to bring joy and warmth, through the story of the children and the innocence of what they say (though I warn you to look out for the shopkeepers malapropisms) as well as their thirst for knowledge and sometimes wise advice.

Certainly a class book to read for all those who love; children; education; teachers; village tales and Yorkshire!

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

A Class Act is out now.

Books

The Girl From the Island – Lorna Cook

Lucy was desperate to escape Guernsey as soon as she could, she felt trapped, that life wasn’t going anywhere and she would be better off living her life anywhere but there.

But when an aged relative, Dido dies she is called back to the island of her youth, and to Dido’s home as plans are made to put it up for sale. As she starts to put the house in order she discovers, some old papers and photographs. One of these is of someone called Persey, who was she and why do the sisters know nothing about her. Now with Dido dead, it seems there is no one to ask and Lucy decides to piece all the pieces together herself. It is a story that will be heart breaking and heart warming and perhaps makes Lucy look at life in a very different way.

The dual narrative of this book takes us back on occasions to the 1930s, still on Guernsey and then to the 1940s during the occupation by the Germans. Here two sisters have spent their childhood days of the 1930s playing around the island with no care in the world with the housekeeper’s son, Jack and the German boy Stefan who visits relatives during the summer months.

When their mother dies the same day as the occupation life changes forever for these two sisters and it seems as if those carefree days are now going to cause them pain and anguish.

This is a fascinating book which gives a real insight into life under German occupation on the island and shows the conflicts and battles that the islanders had to face as well as the occupying German forces as well. The book certainly pushed your expectations to make you think of both sides during the war and for that I commend it.

The stories interweave distinctly backwards and forwards and with an added piece of romance just made the story more intriguing as it added another element to the puzzle that Lucy was trying to solve about the house and its occupants.

This latest from Lorna Cook, like her previous novels takes an element of history that is perhaps overlooked or not given as much page space and weaves the fact with the fiction to create a story to draw you in and care. Care about the characters, the places, the storyline and the conclusion so it becomes a joyous occasion to have read the book. This is very much the case with The Girl From the Island.

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

The Girl From the Island is out now.

Books

The Sun Sister – Lucinda Riley

I have been holding onto The Sun Sister for reading when the time was right, I could have dived straight in but the trouble with that is Lucinda Riley’s novels are so well written that I feel so bereft when I have finished them.

The time has come for me to become involved in Electra’s story the sixth of the girls to be adopted by Pa Salt, the billionaire who has died at the beginning of all these novels and leaves clues as to where he found all of his daughters. I never had a warm feeling from what I knew of Electra when she had been mentioned in her sisters stories and she has been someone who has been described as aloof and rather scathing of her sisters and the paths that they have chosen to follow once they have found out where they belong in the world.

For Electra she is the person that is going to light up the room, she is rich, she is beautiful and is a famous model, known across the globe. It is this arrogance that comes across which makes her a character you are not going to warm to and for a while that was how I felt. As the story progresses you can see this was intentional.

Electra whilst beautiful is fragile and her fragility is masked through drink and drugs and as the story opens in New York, not long after the death of Pa Salt, it seems that Electra has reached crisis point. Those around her are trying to protect her and her image, but it seems that it is about to all come crumbling down until a letter turns up from someone…. her grandmother, Stella Jackson. Alive and well, living in New York and as famous as Electra but for many different reasons.

Stella Jackson has a story to tell and that will be the story of how Electra came to be. It is the late 1930s and we are taken from America to Kenya and we meet Cecily Huntley-Morgan a young American whose marriage prospects have hit a bump in the road and she goes to stay with her godmother in Kenya, specifically what was known as Happy Valley.

The core of the story begins and just like the heat of Kenya, the heat of the story and the plot gets more interesting and draws you right in. Cecily falls in love not just with the place and the area but with the culture and her life changes beyond all recognition to her American relatives who are half a world away as war rages across the globe. When Cecily meets and agrees to shelter a local girl from one of the tribes this simple action changes her life forever.

All around her well known real life characters of the Happy Valley interact with Cecily and we witness some real life events weaved around this wonderful story. I had a very vague knowledge of the ‘Happy Valley’ set and as with all Riley novels I was educated as much as I was enthralled with the plot and the characters. Drawing real life characters into a fictional story can cause problems, but not here, for Cecily it reiterates the strength of hers. She is so much like a fish out of water at the beginning that you can feel how much she does not fit in, something to what Electra is feeling in the modern day tale.

As the book moves back to Electra we are moved again to a very different hedonistic world from the one that many described the Happy Valley set to be. Electra’s addictions take her to a place where she learns a lot about what problems these addictions can cause and the life it leads people to exist in, very different to Electra’s privileged one, even when she was growing up. I found all of these scenes rather uncomfortable and you can see what a hold an addiction can become but it was the start of Electra finding her place in life.

Electra’s transformation in the face of it might seem rather contrived, but as the story has so many depths and we are taken back to the early days of her childhood and life with Pa Salt in the family home at Atlantis in Geneva we begin to understand more about her and the relationship she had with her adoptive father as well as her adoptive sisters. I am sure Electra has more to give but now we must make sense of the missing sister.

I feel I have been all over the world with Lucina Riley and the Seven Sister series and I have learnt so much from all of the places I have been. The fact that real life events, real people are simply weaved into the fictional tale is a testament to the skill of Riley’s writing and means that for me she is without a doubt one of my most favourite authors.

Jottings

A Year of Jigsaws

I though it might be interesting to look back at a particular favourite lockdown hobby for many – jigsaws. This has always been something I have done so in that respect it wasn’t anything new to me, but it did make getting hold of them in the last twelve months rather tricky. I do like a good quality jigsaw and Gibsons are probably my go to place, but some of the following do not come from there, in fact some have come from the street!

Lots has been written about how they are good for you and that even the Queen is known to participate in a jigsaw or two. They are a great timewaster, even as the light fades and it gets chillier I have been known to just find one more piece!

So enjoy this gallery of jigsaws that I have done, I know I am missing some pictures of the 500 piece ones that were part of a set of 4 but they will have been of a similar ilk to the other pictures. I tend to favour 1000 mainly because that is the biggest my jigsaw puzzle board fits and I am not blessed with a table of sorts to keep them on.

oooo those white pieces!
From the street – with pieces missing (circled) I eventually sold, yes sold this on despite the missing pieces!

On with the next 12 months of jigsaws, the perfect distraction from all sorts of things, not just pandemics!

Books

March Roundup

March

March 2021 is a month to remember probably because it is a year to when the UK went into its first lockdown and we became very familiar with the words pandemic and coronavirus. March 2021 we are still in a form of lockdown and as the month ends we move on to the next stage and whatever that may bring. Hope is what I am after.

March has been an up and down month for reading, the list of books I want to read (and have requested from netgalley) grows long but the actual reading seems to be taking a lot longer. I am hoping as I have chance to recharge and reset in April and the reading will thence follow.

I did read some crackers in March though!

Whilst the place might have driven some crackers, it was all about cracking the code and Kate Quinn – The Rose Code was a hefty tome of novel (not really noticeable on kindle) but was a thrilling read that was perfect for my love of historical fiction and I am just as fascinated by Bletchley Park as I have always been.

All sorts of things fascinate me and last year I ploughed through all the Our Yorkshire Farm series on Channel 5 and then absorbed all the books, so was delighted that another little gem was released Amanda Owen – Tales from the Farm from the Yorkshire Shepherdess. Which has taken her entries from The Dalesman and combined them into this lovely book for dipping in and out of.

Sticking with the farm theme leads me nicely onto Katie Ginger – The Secrets of Meadow Farmhouse where the chickens are giving the new owner of Meadow Farmhouse a run for her money as well as an old flame and a lot of interior decorating! What better setting for such a lovely warm read.

Of course if you are going to go to the sea and spot mermaids then you need it warm, but then in Sarah Bennett – Summer Kisses at Mermaid’s Point the writing and the characters are going to keep you warm and in a good company as we start this new series from this blossoming author.

Wanting to carry on escaping, what better way than to Fiji in Lucy Clarke – The Castaways but not for a relaxing break. For a mystery that needs to be solved, the missing plane, the missing pilot, the missing sister. This was a thrilling adventure despite the setting and left me feeling like I needed a holiday from reading it!

If you are going on holiday then it is always worth visiting the library to pick up some great reads and no more so when the library nearest to you happens to be in a telephone box. Poppy Alexander – The Littlest Library introduced me to a lovely story that can come from the death of loved ones, especially parents and it is with some irony that three of the books that I have read in March and featured such a character background. I only realised this upon reflection over the last month, how strange that I was drawn to such books without really knowing.

I am always drawn to school stories and it is great to spend time with Gervase Phinn – Tales out of School whose books are a joy to read and when you can hear the Yorkshire accent as you read, you can feel the honesty and warmth come right off the pages. This is the second in the series of books and I have the third, primed and ready on my kindle.

Feeling rather out of sorts I picked up Tracy Rees – The Little Book of Secrets and absolutely devoured it in a day, such a beautifully written book that had friendship at it’s heart and the impact that a simple building can have of many people locally and those that pass through.

Some wonderful books which have saved my March and I look forward to brighter days when I can read even more, because I know escaping into a story is the best feeling in the world.