Books

The Long Way Home – Fanny Blake

Isla discovers that when her mother dies all she has been left is a painting whilst her sisters and aunt inherit the estate. Isla always felt her relationship with her mother was strained but this seems to underline that thought. For Isla that is not enough, she wants to know more about her mother, May.

The only way it seems to do this, is to go back and visit her past friends and relatives and find out what she can about the women she called mother. When her relationship with her own daughter is somewhat strained, Isla is forced to take her troubled teenage granddaughter, Charlie on the trip as well. The journey is as much a turning point for Isla as it is for the relationship she has with her granddaughter and trying to understand life through these young eyes.

Interspersed in this story we are taken back to Paris, Mid 1950s where May has gone to work as an au pair and improve her French, so when she returns she can find a job as interpreter. We discover a woman very different to the mother portrayed by Isla. Soon we find out what perhaps happened to cause May’s behaviours as Isla got older.

A lovely dual timeline story which has at it’s heart family and the bonds that break and bring us together. We are not dealing with young flighty women but women of all generations, of all ages who all have their issues, their demons and their desire for the future. A strong female driven character story that whilst was perhaps somewhat predictable was enjoyable nonetheless.

This was my first Fanny Blake and I look forward to reading some others in the future.

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

The Long Way Home is out now

Books

The Perfect Guests – Emma Rous

I said last year when I read this author’s debut novel that she was one to watch out for and I think that is the case.

This book has a lightness to it but still is a rather intriguing mystery. What seems like two independent stories, simply featuring the same setting, clearly have to link, but how and who are all these characters?

Raven Hall – Past

Beth turns up at this big house, out the way in the Fens on the east of the country. Her aunt who really does not want the responsibility of an orphaned niece, has brought her here to live with Markus, Leonora and daughter Nina. Nina is of the same age as Beth, and it is hoped that the girls will form a companionship, as Nina is rarely let out of the house. There is something odd about this family set up, when Nina falls ill it is left to Beth to fill a purpose, but the question is why?

Raven Hall – Present Day

The big mysterious house is the perfect setting for a murder mystery weekend. Sadie an actress waiting for her big break gets the opportunity to take part in the test event to presumably publicise these weekends. Needing the money and the purpose she jumps at the chance, to play Miss Lamb. She turns up and thinks this going to be easy money. One of the clues to the game is quite near the truth and it looks like that perhaps this might not be a game after all.

How does it all come together? Who are all these people and how can a simple game reveal all the past as it all comes tumbling out as people go missing, start feeling ill and turning up unexpectedly.

A book with twists and turns, I thought I could see the path the author was intending us to go on, but on some occasions I was wrong. For thriller fans, they may want something a bit more darker and gruesome, but a lot was said about the setting and the characters without it being said at all. The art of suggestion enabled the red herrings and the twists and turns to work for me.

For the infamous ‘second novel’ this was very good and I stand by my original thoughts – this is an author to watch.

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

The Perfect Guests is out now.

Books

Loch Down Abbey – Beth Cowan-Erskine

This is the first novel from Beth Cowan-Erskine and was clearly born out of lockdown last year. What has resulted is a rather Wodehouse type novel of the cosy murder mystery vibe.

Scotland, the 1930s, Loch Down Abbey is suffering from a lack of servants as some mysterious illness sweeps through the country. There is a lack of certain items and many are having to adapt to a strange new time.

There are not enough toilet rolls, the Nanny has died and no one can control the children and their seems to be a problem with money.

Lord Inverkillen is found dead. It appears to be an accident to the lacklustre Inspector but to the force that is Mrs McBain, the housekeeper of the Abbey there is much more to it than meets the eye.

It has to be someone from the Abbey and because most of the servants have been struck down with this mysterious illness, it seems it therefore has to be one of the family.

But which one and what secrets are they all hiding?

The ‘upstairs’ characters were in abundance and I had to keep referring back to the character list at the beginning to work out who was who, who was married to whom and whose children were running wild across the house and the estate. After a while this became a little cumbersome, especially on a kindle and I don’t think I got to the end of the book really knowing everyone as I would have liked to have done.

That aside, there are twist and turns, red herrings and everything you would expect from a cosy mystery. The humour was subtle, the references to a pandemic quite obvious but the story would work quite happily without it. Clearly much inspiration is drawn on from Downton Abbey and with the author being American, I can see the fascination that our English or in this case Scottish history, big families and big houses can have. This may well have over influenced the whole of the book but for me, definitely the ending which I didn’t see coming and felt a little bit absurd.

A book for escapism and fun, nothing more taxing than that.

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

Loch Down Abbey is out now

Books · Jottings · Witterings

Six in Six 2021 – My Choices

Here are my choices for this years Six in Six – there is still time to join in. Please see the original post here for all the details.

  • Six authors I have read before

Sarah Bennett – Summer Kisses at Mermaid’s Point

Tracy Rees – The Little Book of Secrets

Heidi Swain – A Taste of Home

Holly Martin – Sunlight over Crystal Sands

Katie Fforde – A Wedding in the Country

Helena Dixon – Murder in the Belltower/Murder at Elm House

  • Six books that took me by the hand and led me into the past

Nancy Revell – The Shipyard Girls on the Home Front 

Helen Fripp – The French House 

Kate Quinn – The Rose Code

Emily Hourican – The Glorious Guinness Girls 

Lorna Cook – The Girl from the Island

Liz Fenwick – The River Between Us 

  • Six books I have read but not reviewed

Lucinda Riley – The Sun Sister

Julia Quinn – Bridgerton: The Duke and I

Marika Cobbold – On Hampstead Heath

Cressida McLaughlin – The Cornish Cream Tea Wedding

Christine Lee – The Midwife’s Sister

Amanda Owen – Tales from the Farm from the Yorkshire Shepherdess

  • Six books that I really want to buy in the next 6 months

Robert Galbraith – Troubled Blood

Stacey Halls – Mrs England

Emma Barnett – Period

Sue Teddern – Annie Stanley, All At Sea

Jodie Chapman – Another Life

Richard Osman – The Man Who Died Twice

  • Six books that feature a building in the title

Julie Caplin – The Little Swiss Ski Chalet

Katie Ginger – The Secrets of Meadow Farmhouse

Poppy Alexander – The Littlest Library 

Rachael Lucas – The Village Green Bookshop 

Beth Cowan-Erskine – Loch Down Abbey

Gervase Phinn – Tales out of School

  • Six book covers that were bright and cheerful

So that is my Six in Six. It is always great to look back and I cannot wait to see where the next six months of reading takes me.

I will be back in August with a roundup post of all the blogs that have joined in and shared their last six months reading. Still time to take part!

Books

Yours Cheerfully – A.J.Pearce

Following on from the wonderful Dear Mrs Bird, we are back with Emmeline Lake as she tries to break into some more serious journalism from her role on the women’s magazine – Women’s Friend.

Taking a more front line role in responding to the letters to the readers and inspired by the Ministry of Information’s call to get more women to take on men’s work, Emmy finds herself drawn to the Munitions’ factories.

With her close friend and housemate, Bunty they both meet a young woman, balancing life as a war widow, two young children and doing her built not just for King and country but simply for her own families survival.

Emmy finds herself drawn into these factory workers lives and the fact that they are juggling so much, she sees what these women really have to face and suddenly finds herself fighting their corner.

Alongside Emmy’s crusade for these women, helped by her friend, she is thrilled to be seeing more of her beau Charles and when an opportunity for him to more than do his bit, it seems their romance is about to speed up down the aisle.

We are yet again drawn into Emmy’s world and life on the home front during the second world war, as romances blossom and beaus are mourned. As women survive however they can without sacrificing everything they believe in, Emmy has to decide what is most important and a critical point in her life.

Although this book is set very much in the past, it resonated with me and there was something of the present battles that women are still facing to this very day. A book full of strength of female bonds, friendship and a common goal that drives them all.

I hope we get to go back between the pages of Women’s Friend as there is much more that Emmy can report on.

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

Yours Cheerfully is out now.

Books

Sunrise by the Sea – Jenny Colgan

We all need some sunshine in our lives and that is so for the main character in this novel, Marisa Rosso. Suffering with the loss of her grandfather, grief has consumed her and she cannot understand why others are not feeling the same as much as they cannot understand why she has reacted as she has.

Marisa moves as far as way as possible to, Mount Polbearne a tidal island at the foot of Cornwall. She hopes to be able to continue working remotely and find some solace in this far away place.

What she doesn’t bank on is a giant Russian piano teacher next door, and a struggling bakery that could do with a slice of Marisa’s Italian heritage cooking to help it to survive. When disaster strikes in the village, Marisa is forced to confront many demons and uses this strength to help others in a time of need.

Of course not everything runs smoothly but the uplifting spirit found in Jenny Colgan’s books means that you keep reading to the end.

This is the fourth novel set in Mount Polbearne and I came to it, not having read any of the others (soon to be rectified) but it can easily be read as a standalone but I do want to know more about this little place and Polly as well as Neil the Puffin, who is adorable!

A perfect summery read filled with lovely moments of laughter, love and luscious amount of food.

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

Sunrise by the Sea is out now.

Books

A Secret Scottish Escape – Julie Shackman

Layla’s life is changed when her fiancé dies of a heart attack….in another woman’s arms.

She wants to up sticks and leave Loch Harris, the place she has made her home and away from her friends and her only family – her father.

But Layla’s circumstances means she is suddenly left an unexpected inheritance and she perhaps can see what Loch Harris needs is to reinvent itself and in turn that will reinvent her.

Some people have other idea though; a mother who puts the seed of doubt of Layla’s actual parentage and a mysterious singer only known as the Mask who has taken up residence locally.

The premise of this book was good and it started to deliver in the first half, but then it slipped into something much more contrived and I started to feel less and less empathy for the characters and their actions. It all seemed a bit too unbelievable and their actions were not something I have recognised before in similar types of novels.

If you wanted a diversionary type of read then this book would fit the bill, but I did not go away from it as uplifted as I thought I might have done. It really pains me to write about a book that didn’t just fit with me, I always feel I am being hard on the book when clearly many others will enjoy it and get much more from it. It shows you that all books and reading for that matter is subjective and that one size certainly does not fit all!

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

A Secret Scottish Escape is out now.

Books

June Roundup

That was June – not quite the flamin’ one of last year but still, one hopes we have some more summer to come or at least some non wet days and blue sky will do me.

As for the reading, the lists are getting a bit out of hand I need to make a dent in the netgalley requests and the books on the shelves, but I have a list of books that I want to buy, thanks to the lovely Between the Covers BBC programme and books that have been popping up all over the internet!

But what have I read?

From the shelves, that have been hanging around a while was Christine Lee – The Midwife’s Sister a perfect for fans of Call The Midwife. Gives a very different side to life in the fifties and sixties and explains a lot perhaps about the relationship that we saw of Jennifer Lee portrayed on the television. It captured me and had me hooked, as I simply was fascinated by their life.

Then another book which captured me was Jean E. Pendziwol – The Lightkeeper’s Daughter a book which I picked up on a whim in a bookshop and had yet to get to. I think it might be about the third or fourth book this year to feature a lighthouse! They do fascinate me and this one took me across the sea to Canada, the only thing I would have liked to have seen in the book was a map of Lake Superior so I could get a sense of the place. Nonetheless a book that was worth the wait and one I would recommend.

Cressida McLaughlin – The Cornish Cream Tea Wedding was a book which was not on my shelf for very long. One of those impulse supermarket book purchases to cheer the soul and knowing how I have been following the story of the Cornish Cream Tea Bus, it was great to return and catch up.

Then you go and discover a series of books that you have not read when you come to the latest with Jenny Colgan – Sunrise by the Sea which features another lighthouse and is the fourth based on a setting the author has used before, so that is now added to my list. I think they will be great for those comfort reads when you just want to read.

Another author I can always rely on to just take me away is Katie Fforde – Saving the Day and this one is no different. Even better if you are pushed for time because it is one of the short stories featured from the Quick Reads series books which aims to get people reading. I really don’t know where I would be if it was not for the escape that reading gives me.

Some authors give you familiarity and some authors give you great books but you just don’t know what you are going to get when you start those first few pages. Liz Fenwick – The River Between Us is the latest from the author and all of her books get better and better as they go along and all so different. I loved this one, probably because of the historical elements to it but the modern elements of the story was as important as well, sometimes one dominates the other but here they are given equal importance. Perfection.

Not knowing what I was going to get from this one, as her previous two were so different, it was great to be transported away with Libby Page – The Island Home. A book that dealt with some tough issues and how you can be lonely amongst many and content amongst few. But so you really know everyone’s true story and is it only the one you choose to see.

Of course you can stick to what you know, but I do try and challenge myself with new authors and did so with Beth Cowan-Erskine – Loch Down Abbey a tongue in cheek look at the big house mystery with a few too many characters and whilst a passable diversion, not sure I would recommend.

Dare we say the word Christmas in June, but having received a second book in a series through netgalley and seeing that the first was a mere 99p on Amazon I thought it fair to start at the beginning. Which is why I read Cathy Lake – The Country Village Christmas Show although not overtly full of Christmas it is mentioned and was a nice introduction to this author who I have never heard of before. That said, I don’t think I needed to have read it before her latest. Whoops!

So that was June, half way through the year. For followers of my blog, Six in Six is returning so get working on those lists, and please link back to me so I can capture your links and share the lots of lovely books out there that some of us definitely will not have read!

How was your June reading? Meeting your challenges? Or just seeing how it all goes?

Books

Cover Reveal – Holly Martin

I have been reading and reviewing Holly Martin’s books on this blog for a while and thought as we are nearer to Christmas 2021 than we were to Christmas 2020, I would share her latest book in the Jewel Island series and it has a Christmas theme.

If you want to get ahead and preorder then do so here

Start you visit to Jewel Island today

Sunrise Over Sapphire Bay

Autumn Skies over Ruby Falls

Ice Creams at Emerald Cove

Sunlight over Crystal Sands

Books

Six in Six – 2021 Edition

Here it is again – I hope that the small select few of us that complete this meme can perhaps spread the word so we have a few more participants this year. However it is always great to see fellow book bloggers joining in.

When did all this begin?

I started it in 2012 on a whim and it has been going ever since!

If you want to look back at the previous years and get a flavour then please do.

2012 2013 2014 2015 2016

2017 2018 2019 2020

What is it all about?

The idea being that as the end of June approaches and we are then halfway through the year, let us share the books we have read in those first 6 months. In fact let’s share 6 books in 6 categories, or if time is of the essence then simply share just 6 books. Whatever combination works for you as long as it involves 6 books. Of course the same book can obviously feature in more than one category.

What categories can I choose from?

  • Six new authors to me
  • Six authors I have read before
  • Six authors I am looking forward to reading more of
  • Six books I have enjoyed the most
  • Six books I was disappointed with
  • Six series of books read or started
  • Six authors I read last year – but not so far this year
  • Six books that took me on extraordinary journeys
  • Six books that took me by the hand and led me into the past
  • Six books from the past that drew me back there
  • Six books from authors I know will never let me down
  • Six books I must mention that don’t fit nicely into any category
  • Six books I started in the first six months of the year and was still caught up with in July
  • Six trips to Europe
  • Six blogging events I enjoyed
  • Six bookish things I’m looking forward to
  • Six Espionage or Historical Novels I enjoyed
  • Six Cool Classics
  • Six Non-US/Non-British Authors
  • Six From the Non-Fiction Shelf
  • Six books that didn’t live up to expectations
  • Six books that I had one or two problems with but am still glad I tried
  • Six books that are related to The Great War or Second World War
  • Six bookshops I have visited
  • Six books I’ve read in an English translation
  • Six books which are better than the film
  • Six books which are worse than the film
  • Six books that have sport as their major theme
  • Six favourite places to read
  • Six books read on kindle and then went and bought an actual copy
  • Six books I abandoned
  • Six classics I have read
  • Six books I have read on my Kindle
  • Six physical books I have read
  • Six book covers I love
  • Six book covers that bear no resemblance to the story contained within
  • Six books to read to avoid politics
  • Six books I have read but not reviewed
  • Six books I have read in lockdown
  • Six classic mysteries
  • Six books about Royalty
  • Six pretty book covers
  • Six books set in a country other than my own
  • Six books that feature a Pandemic
  • Six books that are great when self-isolating

Or you can come up with your own category,  (If you do: please comment and I can add them to this list for future years)

What do I need to post?

Simply choose six of the categories above and list six books under that category. Some bloggers use pictures, some put excerpts of reviews. The main thing being it is six categories and six books. Of course if you want to do a shorter version, then just post something about six books you have read in the first six months of 2021.

Please link back to this post and/or my blog and share this post so we can have lots of people joining in. All those that participate I will endeavour to collate into one post.

When do I post?

Anytime in July. We have reading days left of June and that book might well fit nicely into one of the categories.

Anything else?

Please spread the word and get people to join in and let them know that we are all halfway through our 2021 reading year!