Books

The Little Christmas House – Tracy Rees

Tracy Rees first branched out into more contemporary fiction earlier this year and we have returned to the village of Hopley that she introduced us to in this her second novel and one with a very Christmassy feel.

Edward and Eliza, have moved into The Christmas House, on the edge of the village of Hopley. A world away from their house in Leeds, but not that far from Edward’s parents. The house doesn’t really live up to it’s name but Edward is determined that this will be home. Eliza simply loves it, but then when you see the world through an eight year olds eyes you can easily forget all the other stuff in the world.

But what is Edward and his delightful sparky little daughter’s real story.

Perhaps teacher Holly Hanwell will be able to get to the bottom of it. Eliza is in her class and she welcomes her in knowing that there was some problem at her previous school. Holly is embracing Christmas as she always does for the little village school she works in and it is through this she discovers more about Eliza.

But Holly is hiding from something herself – she is about to spend Christmas alone because the man she thought she would marry has left and his expecting a baby with his new love. Something that Holly could never do. Holly is hurting and needs some magic, some Christmas magic.

When Holly and Edward’s paths keep crossing it seems that they both have the main aim to help Eliza have a magical Christmas and perhaps that magic will rub off on them too.

As we learn more about their story we are introduced to Edward’s rather domineering mother who has ideas of her own about her son should be raising his child. Holly finds herself drawn to her neighbours and the changing of the seasons to understand that she can regrow and start again with a new life.

The story is split into the points of view of both Holly and Edwards but also Eliza who seems so wise beyond her years. I loved to be able to enjoy each of their stories and how they then started to weave together in another joyful story from this author. I immediately warmed to the ineptness of Edward as a father and shed a tear with Holly over her future. But without a doubt for me as well as I think Edward and Holly, Eliza had her observations spot on and that actually we should all be more Eliza in life. Enjoying the glitter of life no matter the problems it might be covering up. The glitter will always shine through.

This book shines through as a great Christmas read and should be on everyone’s list.

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

The Little Christmas House is out now.

Books

Daughters of War – Dinah Jefferies

Occupied France in early 1944.

Three women, sisters, Helene, Elise and Florence living together at the edge of a village in the Dordogne.

Helene is a nurse for the local doctor and wants to keep everyone close to her safe.

Elise runs a little café which is at the centre of resistance work and she is determined to be defiant and help defeat the Germans.

Florence the youngest, tends to the home, the garden and dreams of the day that everything is okay again in the world.

As the book progresses, events occur which change the course of all these three women’s lives. A knock at the door brings the resistance far closer than Helene would like to their life. Sheltering someone on the run from the wrong side could lead to problems. Florence’s innocence is shattered and the behaviour of the girls’ mother has a lasting affect on them all, despite her being in England.

The book moves between the three sisters, as we see their perspective, their take on what is happening around them. There are some upsetting scenes, which the author doesn’t shy away from and the impact they had whilst I was reading made me recoil, but also knew that this went on and to have it brought to life off the page was quite disturbing but necessary to understand the impact of the actions of the few.

I have read and enjoyed many books set during the Second World War and this will be one that will stay with me for a while. It was interesting to take another aspect of the war; Occupied France and the French Resistance, and not use some of the well written about areas, to create a powerful and evocative storyline.

The skill Jefferies brings is the details into which she goes. From the descriptions, I knew the cottage that the three sisters lived in, the garden that Florence tended in all of it’s glory; the flowers, the food, the necessities that were needed to survive were rich in detail. Which when the horrors that were witnessed made them all that more impactful.

I am glad that there is more to learn about these three sisters, as there are many unanswered questions that I have and I cannot wait until I can be swept away again with such an impactful setting and story.

It is authors and books like this that remind me why I love historical fiction so much.

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

Daughters of War is out now.

Books

Christmas Surprises at Mermaid Point – Sarah Bennett

This little novella, is like a Christmas Present from Sarah Bennett for fans of all her books, but most importantly if you have fallen in love with Mermaids Point and everyone that lives there.

Here we are taken back to some of the characters we know well – Jake and Laurie, the main story of the first book. Laurie busy running her little café in the run up to Christmas, with some help from Jake, when he is not writing for the local newspaper are both stunned when Jake’s mother gives them an option for them to consider for their future.

Laurie’s brother Nick, has still not got over the Aurora who swept into his life and Mermaids Point in the first book and the ghost of her has been hovering for a while

Nerissa and Tom are finding their feet as a couple and Nerissa is finding her role as stepmother and friend to his children. Christmas can be a difficult time so it seems.

Alec, Tom’s brother rocks up and flirt unashamedly with everyone, including Laurie’s friend Ivy. It seems that there is something about Ivy. But Ivy has to deal with the immediate future and her mum, she hasn’t got time for distractions.

Andrew Morgan, the patriarch of the Morgan family, Laurie and Nick’s father; Nerissa brother loves everyone to be around at Christmas. What better way is there to spend your time with all those who you love and cherish whether they be family of friends. As his children fly the nest what is going to be next for him and Sylvia.

This book gives us the reader a glimpse into the lives of those we have got to know, but also hints at the stories that are yet to come and I can see at least two if not three that could be bubbling away here. Could Mermaids Point be part of our lives for a while longer?

A perfect taste of Mermaids Point and the enjoyment there is to be had by visiting. It is lovely to be able to catch up with the people and the place in between full stories. More authors need to do this!

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

Christmas Surprises at Mermaids Point is out today.

Books

A Bookshop Christmas – Rachel Burton

Young widow Megan Taylor is looking forward to Christmas and hopes that perhaps she can keep her family’s bookshop ticking over for another year. Perhaps if she has a famous well known author for a signing event that might make the tills ring!

Trouble is the author in question, Xander Stone is rather an arrogant and self- cantered individual with exacting requirements and certainly doesn’t want to be associated near the romance books in the shop.

Immediately getting the back up of Megan with his immediate dislike of all things romance, Megan suddenly wakes up from where her life is and realises if she doesn’t do something soon she is not going to do anything in her life anymore. And the first thing to do is prove to Xander Stone that romance novels are in fact not trashy words written on the page and worthy of consideration.

Of course it seems that Xander has a romance secret all of his own and it is certainly not what Megan is expecting, although I could see it coming a mile off! With Christmas round the corner and the bookshop about to be taken away from Megan, it seems that perhaps she needs to take a few risks.

Something about the book didn’t work for me, it felt like a couple of stories woven to make one. The Die-Hard Romance Book Club held at the bookshop had some great characters not really explored, the Regency Christmas party seemed very left field and the romance between the two main protagonists was a bit too forced for my liking. All of this meant I perhaps didn’t warm to the book like I could have done. However, others will love it I am sure, so don’t let one persons opinion put you off.

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

A Bookshop Christmas is out now.

Books · Jottings · Witterings

Parish Notices

It has been a while since we have had any notices around this parish, time is speeding by and I try and spend as much of it doing all the things I enjoy. But I never get round to sharing them with people. If you follow my on Instagram then you will see me post my weekly picture of what has been a reflection of my week. So if you want some more regular idea of what I have been up to then that is the place to go. One day I think I will have the time to witter on about it all on my blog….one day….

However I am dropping into to tell you all about the Christmas reading that has already been going on around this parts.

I am part of a blog tour for Tracy Rees – The Little Christmas House

Come back on the 27th October to find out what happens behind the doors in The Little Christmas House.

What about spending Christmas in a Castle and with Trisha Ashley. One of the best ways to spend Christmas

………Pure Christmas escapism with plenty of mulled wine and mince pies to keep you full up at any time of the year.

The perfect book for Christmas and one that is worthy of a reread for many Christmases to come!

Or of course you could take a trip to Jewel Island if you should fancy.

...Everything you would expect from a Christmas market too! Mulled Wine, Hot Chocolate, Snow, Churros and a visit from Santa. What more could you want to get you in the festive mood?

You could choose to discover Mermaids Point in this novella which introduces you to the characters in festive spirit and that means you will need to go back and catch up on their stories.

This little novella, is like a Christmas Present from Sarah Bennett for fans of all her books, but most importantly if you have fallen in love with Mermaids Point and everyone that lives there.

Visting a unique place for a Christmas outing is sometimes a change so why not visit Fox Farm

To see the wonderful art work, to eat delicious cakes and hot chocolate whilst watching the children get excited about Christmas seems like the perfect place to spend some time. What better book to bring out the true Christmas spirit with a lovely romance added in.

Every home needs a Christmas Tree no matter how large or small.

If you are looking for a Christmas read to curl up in front of a log fire, the smell of a freshly cut Christmas tree, a hot chocolate full of calories then this is the book for you.

There is more to come and I am excited about escaping (hopefully!) in some of these.

I must get on as these books won’t read themselves.

Books

A Line to Kill – Anthony Horowitz

This is the third instalment of murder mystery novels that feature the ex-detective Daniel Hawthorne and in an interesting twist, (if this is the first time of discovering these novels), it also features Anthony Horowtiz. Yes the author has written himself into this piece of fiction. Stick with it, it works better than you think!

Invited to a literature festival on Alderney, Hawthorne and Horowitz as they are more better known, the former seemingly more of a draw than the latter, finds themselves stuck there. Right in the middle of their own murder mystery.

The victim is Charles Le Mesurier, a man with a lot of money and so it seems a lot of power. There are many suspects, many questions to be asked about everyone who was at the festival, especially as the victim was the sponsor.

How can a celebrity chef, a blind psychic, a children’s author, a performance poet, a war historian plus a number of locals opposed to a potential power line disrupting their island have anything to do with the deceased?

This is a classic locked room mystery, but extended to an whole island. An island that has never had any murder on it but suddenly is embroiled in something quite nasty. Hawthorne is called upon to at least go some way to solve the crime, Horowitz the side kick, think Hastings to Poirot is there to capture the tale.

What follows as everyone is seemingly trapped is the true twist, turns and red herrings of a good murder mystery. The digs about authors, literature festivals and the world of crime gives the book a different undertone than perhaps some novels of the same genre. For me it is this humour which gives these books the edge over others I have read. The author has some skill to write himself in and write himself in as the underdog; the bumbling assistant almost.

Both this series of books and the Magpie Murder ones are examples of skilful writing which gives and edge to the murder mystery genre. If you want something different and you don’t mind having your mind tested then pick up these novels – you won’t be disappointed.

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

A Line to Kill is out now.

Books

The Library – Bella Osborne

Reading, books and library’s can bring people together. They cross the generations, they cross class divides, social divides, gender divides. There is something for everyone and anyone.

Tom is someone who hasn’t really picked up a book unless it has to be read for school. But his mum loved to read, and he thinks perhaps to understand women and girls he should perhaps read about romance. At least it might help him with his school boy crush on Farah. He has no where else to turn to, his mother has gone and his father is turning into an alcoholic whose only aim is to make sure Tom, leave schools and goes to earn money at the local factory.

Tom it seems has other ideas once he finds books, stories and the local library.

Tom also finds Maggie. Maggie is in her early seventies, she has lived alone for ten years and is content with her life at the small holding she has and the routine that she has developed. Visiting the library for a book group weekly and enjoying the stories that let her escape the life she has seemed to create for herself.

When a chance encounter brings Tom and Maggie together, they both find something from each other. Whether it is a mother figure and home cooked food, to recognising past mistakes and how they can shape the future, they both bring a lot to their unlikely friendship.

With this bond, they help to campaign to save the library which is threatened with closure and they try to make sure everyone knows what can happen when a space such as a library can bring to a community.

Although this campaign is important, the friendship between Tom and Maggie and the things they find out about each other and learn about their past and present makes for a heart-warming novel. However some of the topics are not heart-warming and underneath the surface there are some tricky topics dealt with; grief, debt, alcoholism, adoption to name a few. Perhaps too many for some, but all had their relevance to play in this novel and for me it was perfectly balanced.

A change from previous Osborne books I have read, but a welcome one and I would highly recommend to anyone who enjoys getting really involved in characters and plot.

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

The Library is out now.

Books

Mistletoe at Moonstone Lake – Holly Martin

Way back in June, I was lucky enough to get the preview cover reveal of Holly Martin’s latest novel set on the magical Jewel Island. Now it is time to tell you all about what that cover might reveal!

It is Christmas at Jewel Island and if you have been with Holly (and me reviewing these books!) from the beginning then you will recognised some familiar names and faces from the island. However like all of her books, they can be read as a standalone and this would be a great place to start if this is your first time reading the author.

Zoey had this Christmas all planned out, in fact her wedding was to be on Christmas Eve, but it seems her fiancé had other ideas and now Zoey finds herself at Jewel Island Christmas Market selling her quirky drawings and paintings to those looking for something different as a gift.

Staying near her mum on this magical island seems the best tonic for a jilted bride. That is until fate throws something in her way.

In fact fate in the form of Kit Lewis, doesn’t just throw something in her way he throws something over her! From that moment, their fate is sealed. The attraction instant and you are immediately behind these two lost souls who seem drawn together.

That is until a secret Zoey has been keeping is going to destroy everything. It wasn’t her secret to tell and she is determined to keep that promise.

Can the perfect Christmas sparkle for these two on Jewel Island?

As ever, this is a wonderfully uplifting book which is filled with everything you would expect from this author and everything you would expect from a Christmas market too! Mulled Wine, Hot Chocolate, Snow, Churros and a visit from Santa. What more could you want to get you in the festive mood?

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. 

Books

The Best Things – Mel Giedroyc

When famous people for something other than writing then write a book, there is always an element of doubt and trepidation. Looking back at reviews now I have read it, seemed to be very much of the love it or loathe it variety but shows you that not all books are for everyone, despite who wrote it.

I could hear the author’s voice as if she was telling me the story as we got to know Sally and Frank Parker. They had it all literally and then one day they didn’t.

Sally is living a half life, she has everything, she doesn’t even have to think. She has people to do that for her, whether it be ferrying the children a few yards to school, to the cooking and the laundry. She just needs to get up and be there, be part of those groups in the suburbs who are simply trying to out do each other. Whether it be home décor, shopping, holidays or clothes. Think Margot Leadbetter but in the 21st century!

However Sally is in for a rude awakening and thankfully so were some of the more unpleasant characters in the book.

Sally has to think. She has to save herself from her husband Frank as well as save him from himself. Then there are the children, Stephen, overweight and addicted to online games, Cleo who has no sense common or otherwise and her interactions were aspiring and so astute they were laugh out loud funny. Mikey, the wheeling dealing eleven year old girl who is going places if only they would listen to her. Then niece Emily, the academic exceeder who feels she has no place in the family anymore.

Add to the mix, a Welsh great granny, a couple of strange uncles and a few dogs and tractors and you have a real mix of a book about what you really need to survive. The trappings of life do not always fulfil what you most want and need.

I was pleasantly surprised at this book, it made me laugh about some of the ridiculousness of the situations but also there was some rather empathic moments especially with the children, which gave it added pathos. What I liked the most, that for added impact perhaps, the author really laid on thick about how much ‘stuff’ they had, whether it be electronic devices, decorations and ornaments from around the world, thirty two named lawnmowers, a pool house, a rack of BBQs and the envy of every other resident in the suburb who were all trying to emulate or be better.

Pure escapism but with an undercurrent that this is a world that does exist and that actually being in that world seems quite frightening. Some great characters to love, loathe and hate!

Books

September Roundup

Depending on how the month ends on what day during the week, depends on how quickly I can get these roundup posts done! Hence why I am a couple of days out from those that follow my blog and expect to see the previous months round on the first.

But better late than never and whilst autumn has clearly arrived in my part of the world, Christmas has too!

It is always nice to go back to something familiar with stories so I was more than happy to return to Jewel Island for this festive season with Holly Martin – Mistletoe at Moonstone Lake. And with a name like Holly what more would you expect Christmas wise!

Of course being a fan of authors and series of books makes reading sometimes easy but with that comes an absolute joy to be part of another world for a while and so I was thrilled to welcome back Sarah Bennett – Autumn Dreams at Mermaids Point and with a novella following close behind, I was delighted to keep the story going for that bit longer with Sarah Bennett – Christmas Surprises at Mermaids Point.

Whilst not my favourite Christmas book so far of 2021, Rachel Burton – A Bookshop Christmas did give me that cosy Christmas bookshop feel that you can get in certain bookshops.

Christmas is not the main theme of Helen Rolfe – The Kindness Club on Mapleberry Lane but it certainly played a part in bringing the kindness of a family together, whether they be true family or simply neighbours.

Of course nothing brings people together than the threat of the closure of a library. In Bella Osborne – The Library, two unlikely people strike up a friendship and find solace in books. There appears to be a number of books this year featuring similar tales and all of them have been thoroughly enjoyable and make me ever so guilty that I hardly visit the library!

I wonder how long the waiting list at the library is for Richard Osman – The Man Who Died Twice? His second novel and if I may say so, I think better than the first. I can see this series lasting quite a while with the quirky residents getting into some rather interesting mysteries. Retirement is not boring for them or us.

Looking back it seems that all the books read in September were on my kindle and were netgalley reads. I have to confess of having got a bit happy with requesting and find myself playing catch up which is how I had only just got round to reading Anthony Horowitz – A Line to Kill, the third novel in the Hawthorne series. Featuring the author himself this book works in such a wonderful way.

Quite a lot of Christmas, quite a bit of murder so I took myself back to some historical reading with Dinah Jefferies – Daughters of War, the first in a new trilogy from this author. Taken to France and the Nazi occupation and the French Resistance, I am interested to see where this series takes us next.

So that was September, October promises to be just as good. I have plenty lined up to read and currently engrossed in an actual book as well as the countless on my netgalley to read list. I hope to balance out the Christmas reads with some more interesting and quirky ones in between. Who knows where I will end up.

I hope your September reading has been what you wanted, anything I have missed?