Books

The School of Starting Over – Lisa Swift

Nell Shackleton’s dream is to live in a cottage in the countryside and be at one with nature and the community. And in some ways the purchasing of Humblebee Farm is that – she is at one with the nature the house does not have much of a roof and she is part of the community as she is the new Reception School teacher.

It seems that Nell has it all?

Xander Scott is the temporary Headteacher at the village school and he is battling his own demons alongside trying to deal with parents, new teachers and rather irritating school governors. Xander wanted more than village life but finds himself back there and suddenly he does not want to leave.

Is it something to do with Nell?

Stevie Blake her adorable daughter Millie and a mad dog called Red are the only things she needs in life, after having give up on love when she lost her wife. But something is eating away at Stevie and it seems that perhaps love could come knocking again if only she would deal with the past.

This book starts strong and builds all the characters up, you are immediately invested in them, you care about them or are simply irritated by them as is the case of school governor Ryan who clearly has something of the school bully still left in him.

Not only is this a book with a great community spirit, what better way to bring everyone together than a village school. But it has lots of romance, it has tragedy and contemporary issues. The actions of the past, present and potentially the future of some of the main characters makes it more than a fluffy piece of romantic fiction. The cover suggests one thing – you get much more in the pages of the book inbetween.

A great read which leaves you satisfied and your heart warmed. What more could you want from a book?

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

The School of Starting Over is published on the 9th March. 

 

Books · Jottings · Witterings

Ten Years of Lists and Reviews – 2011

This is the second in a reflective post of ten years of blogging and also to mark the new decade as well. Reflecting back I have rediscovered books and authors I have read and promised myself I would read more, but never getting round to it. I have also seen how much my blogging has perhaps changed, developed and hopefully improved – even if some of it does make me cringe!

So here I am back in 2011, the first full year of blogging.

I was still talking about my crafts – looking back at the pictures it seems that 2011 was a bit of a turning point where I started to branch out with more than one thing on the go (no different to now really)

2011 was the year that I discovered Lucinda Riley with Hothouse Flower 

This is a strong book, with a fairly complex plot and a number of characters but Lucinda Riley weaves a tale that makes it easy to follow and completely absorbing. I found myself wanting to read it any spare minute I had, just to get to the next bit.

I was hooked with this writer and anyone who has been reading this blog for as long as I have been wittering on, will know that I have read many of her novels. I love the current Seven Sisters series but I still think if I had to choose it would be The Girl on the Cliff.

Another author I have read no more of since 2011 is Nicola Upson, I know I did try one of her later ones but at the time did not get on with it. I probably subconsciously gave up with them at the point. Rereading the review for Two For Sorrow, led me to find two other reviews not featured on the blog and to looking out for one of her other books.

2011 was the year that a kindle came into my life. I am now on my second one as the original developed lines and made it difficult to read the screen. I was very dubious at first and am passionate about ‘real’ books, still am. However I then went the other way and started trying out lots of books, because I could and seeing if I wanted to read any of them.

It became a little project which sort of died a death really as some blogging projects do sometimes. I got simply bogged down in looking up and trying out books – I ended up not really reading many of them.

I think when you start a new blog you spend a lot of time trying out what works or doesn’t work for you and sometime you simply need ideas for blog posts. Some work, some don’t and some like this one from Simon at Stuck in A Book I only did once here when it was first brought out and then again for a second time here and for a bit of nostalgia look out for another one of these in the coming weeks and with all credit to Simon.

I look back at the books mentioned and find that some authors I have never ventured back to, others have stuck. How reading changes and introduces you to new things.

One of those new things was Persephone Books- this was my first time in participating a reading challenge and a read along. The book I chose was The Home-Maker. Ironically it is the only Persephone book I still have read and probably all these years later I should perhaps tackle another one.

I did go back and revisit some wonderful childhood books which I have carried on doing over the last ten years or so but may not have written about them. Of course my childhood was dominated by Enid Blyton but sadly many of the books I have read have been given away and the only versions I could find were of the ‘newer’ variety

Yes but there is a problem, I can only download a newer version of her novel. All updated to fit in with the politically correct brigade that seem to lurk around. Oh well, lets just try a sample without having to part with any money and see how we get on? They cannot have changed that much can they? Oh, they have!

Here where I have revisited Five on Treasure Island I go into some of the comparisons. If you ever go back and read them – find the originals not the ‘correct’ versions.

However I did find a copy of the Malory Towers book I read as a child many times and that was a sheer delight. Definitely the place I get my love of school stories from.

The term goes on with the trials and tribulations. Tricks are made with pretend deafness, spiders and spilt ink. Courage and cowardice are fought and lost. Work is hard and positions are important. Tempers are lost and regained and new friendships are formed. I do not need to go into detail of all the events, as they just fit in so seamlessly and that although they are short they are dealt with effectively and efficiently. Good and bad, rights and wrongs corrected. The right sort of justice is dispatched to the right people with no comeback. Rereading as an adult I wonder if perhaps Blyton was using some sort of moral tale with these stories. That thought passes very quickly and I have just enjoyed the book for what it is pure pleasure.

Going back to my childhood took me back to the Mobile Library that visited and also libraries in general. I should use them far more and I don’t and I feel totally ashamed by that. I know I should do more, reflecting back on this post and the last ten years has really made me think. Perhaps I need to redress the balance in 2020. I make no rash promises because I know that life has a funny way of interfering.

There are many things that interfere in life and looking back in 2011 I was busily losing weight – I got to my target, I was more than please but life got in the way the following year. The losing weight ceased and I think I need say no more for the moment. Now is not the time to share about it. But what looking back at 2011 showed me was I shared a lot about food and cooking.

Cakes are a popular bake in my household, carrott, chocolate and cookies. Of course living on your own means you have to adapt and change things around and challenge yourself which I did when I made some Scotch eggs. I don’t think I have made any since – and I know I could quite easily as I have all the ingredients at home.

2011 for blogging was what I call a real mixed bag and I posted about lots of different things as you can see from this post. That has certainly changed as I look back at the blog in the last twelve months. It is all evolving and what I do wonder is what people want when they pop by and read my blog. Do they want to see what else has been going on? Do they want to understand the person behind the book reviews? Only you reading this know that!

So in conclusion from looking back at 2011 I need to find some Nicola Upson books, Persephone books, libraries and Scotch Eggs! I wonder if I will?

 

Books · Witterings

February Roundup

I want to say an extra day has given me an extra days worth of reading but I feel that probably is not the case, I am on target for my 100 for the year but who can possibly be thinking about when we have only completed two months of the year.

All but one of the book was on kindle, and that makes me glad and grumpy in equal measure. I delight in holding the actual book but with so many opportunities to read great books, the kindle was heavily used in February.

Having only read The Hunting Party back at the beginning of the year, I was intrigued to get Lucy Foley – The Guest List. A great twisting turn of a novel which kept me guessing or did I really know but not want to admit it? Read it see if you think the same?

There was more murder with Daisy Waugh – In the Crypt with a Candlestick, not an author I have read before and one I probably would be reluctant to pick up again. This was very tongue in cheek but lost something in the aim of the book. I am afraid I was swayed by the cover, judged and was wrong.

And even more murder with Helena Dixon – Murder at Enderley Hall, the second in a series of novels, set in the 1930s and featuring the wonderful Kitty Underhay and ex Army Captain Matthew Bryant. This time they are in the big country house and that can only mean one thing – murder!

Staying in the past I was delighted to be back with Nancy Revell – Triumph of the Shipyard Girls. This saga gets better and better as the book goes on and I am delighted it continues apace.

Learning about the past is a wonderful pastime and one I thoroughly enjoy in many forms. No more so that picking up Sandi Toksvig – Between the Stops. Sandi has not written your average autobiography, but then she is not your average women really. This is Sandi on a journey, on a bus through London on the way she tells us about her surroundings, the buildings, the roads, the famous people and it jogs ehr memory to what has happened to her in her past. Whether that be with her mother and father and the places she was luckily to travel, to her schooldays, early days of celebrity and more recent experiences. It is a great book to dip in and out of.

Talking about taking journey’s there is one place I really want to visit (though it is not a real place) and that is Heartcross in Scotland. It was great to be back there with Christie Barlow – Clover Cottage. Here we join the local vet Rory and his girlfriend Allie who are struggling with the concept of escaping the little village and finding an adventure. Sometimes adventures can be had at home. But is that enough?

Cottages unintentionally started to be a theme in February when I was off to visit Kate Forster – Starting over at Acorn Cottage. A dream of Clara’s to live in a cottage because a nightmare when reality bites and she finds herself in a rundown cottage with no roof, no job and no prospects. But events can take an unexpected turn.

More run down properties in Lisa Swift – The School of Starting Over mean that new resident Nell has a lot to contend with if she wishes to settle into the village. Being the new reception class teacher will help but what else is distracting Nell as she makes the home of her dreams?

Fulfilling people’s dreams seems the obvious job description for a wedding planner, but Lara is not the perfect contender for that in Tilly Tennant – The Break Up. Determined to not let her personal life affect her job she throws herself wholeheartedly into weddings and looking after her cat. But then it seems someone else has been feeding the cat….

Not a bad month, it is only when I look back how I see that some of these books connect and follow different themes. I promise you it is not an intended course of action but a wonderful coincidence. It makes me wonder where my March reading is going to take me.

Books

The Guest List – Lucy Foley

This book has echoes of And Then There Were None before you even start, a remote island and invitations to certain people to stay on the island.

The event which you everyone wants to be on the guest list for is the wedding of Jules and Will.

Jules is a celebrated magazine publisher.

Will is a rising star in television on a ‘survival’ type programme.

This is all about doing it in style to make everyone else envious if not completely jealous.

The guests they are invite are the ones as well as Jules and Will that tell the story of how everyone came to be on this island, invited to the wedding.

Olivia, Jules half sister and someone who does not want to be there. She is harbouring a secret, a secret that if she reveals it will upset everyone. No one knows. But she has to put on a brave face and forget her past and be the bridesmaid her sister is expecting her to be.

Hannah is the plus one, she is in fact Charlie, Jules best friend wife and she is very much feeling more than a spare part than a plus one. Charlie is to be the master of ceremonies at the wedding, leaving Hannah to very much disappear into the background but by doing so she learns some devastating information from her past.

Johnno is the best man – but not the man you would expect a well known face like Will to have. Him and Johnno have a past and with that is secrets which need to remain hidden. Trouble is the other ushers are all old school friends of both Will and Johnno and it seems that some rituals still need to be reenacted in adulthood as they did in childhood.

Then there is Aoife, the outsider to all of the people on the island. It is her island, it is her house, she is in fact the wedding planner and is there to facilitate anything that Jules and Will want as this is her chance to make a name for herself. Though Jules and Will are completely unaware of the name she actually wants to make for herself.

Having only recently read The Hunting Party, I was immediately hooked by the way Foley crafts her novels. As we go from character to character they all in turn fill in information and build a picture of not just themselves but each other. The secondary characters are also somehow cleverly well rounded and developed as well, as they do play an important part in this story.

There are plenty of people to dislike, in fact probably more than to like and empathise with which means they get under your skin, they make you keep turning the page.

As the wedding proceeds, events taken their own turn. As the island batters a storm, a storm is gathering in the wedding party and there might not be any survivors from either storm.

Completely addictive and keeps you guessing right from the beginning.

A good follow up to The Hunting Party and I personally hope for more the same from the author.

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

The Guest List is published on the 20th February. 

 

Books

Holly Martin Books

I am rather an avid fan of Holly Martin and have read the following eleven of her novels in the last four years or so:

Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky

Christmas Under a Starlit Sky

Spring at Blueberry Bay

Summer at Buttercup Beach

Christmas at Mistletoe Cove

The Holiday Cottage by the Sea

The Cottage on Sunshine Beach

Coming Home to Maple Cottage

The Summer of Chasing Dreams

The Little Village of Happiness

The Gift of Happiness

I have a few more to catch up on but in the meantime I am delighted to be able to tell you about her new novel.

Fall in love with the beautiful Jewel Island this summer, where the sapphire sea sparkles, the golden sun warms your skin and the islanders melt your heart. From the bestselling author of The Little Village of Happiness comes Holly Martin’s most romantic novel yet.

Sunrise over Sapphire Bay is published on the 24th April and you can pre-order the book here. Of course it is already on my list to be read!

If you are looking for books to bring a bit of sunshine into your life then these could well be the books for you.

 

I occasionally receive an advanced review copy of Holly Martin’s novels but I receive no payment or other incentive in reading, reviewing them or promoting her work. 

Books · Jottings · Witterings

Parish Notices

This is the first Parish Notices of the year so it seems and I wanted to share some bits and pieces with you.

March seems like a long way off and my stop on this blog tour is in April but I wanted to let you know about the wonderful new book from Lorna Cook – The Forbidden Promise.

A sneak peek from my review

…this second novel is better than the first……. shows a great example of dual time narrative, compelling storylines and wonderfully drawn characters…

A book that you may have seen in or out of the press is Libby Page – The 24 Hour Cafe. In a similar vein to her debut novel The Lido, this is a book to draw you in.

 

How often do you stop and wonder about those around you – what their story is and whether it is happier or more troubled than your own? Whether there are people looking at you thinking the same, just for 24 hours Libby Page gives us that insight and as you finish the book, you go back to your own life and carry on.

Another recommend is Tracy Rees – The House at Silvermoor. If you want something Catherine Cookson-esque in fact something even better than this is the book for you.

This book is packed full of wonderful passages and it’s pace at times might seem slower than other novels but then I think that is intended…

……There are many more scenes I could choose from to describe how wonderful the writing is but that would just spoil the book for you.

It is ten years this year since I first started the blog and there is a reflection post of that very first year and throughout this year I hope to revisit each of the years in turn. It has jogged my memory of books, authors and crafts I was doing and so I hope to return to some of these and perhaps share some early reviews as well.

So whilst my parish maybe wet and windy thanks to Storm Ciara Dennis I have books and crafts to keep my company. What is going on in your parish?

 

Books

In the Crypt with the Candlestick – Daisy Waugh

A new author to me and I was drawn to the cover without a doubt and the promise of:

In the traditions of two great but very different British writers, Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse, Waugh’s hilarious and entirely original twist on the country house murder mystery comes complete with stiff upper lips, even stiffer drinks, and any stiffs that might embarrass the family getting smartly brushed under the carpet…

At Tode Hall, at ninety three Sir Ecgbert has finally died. Widow Lady Tode no longer wants to be lady of the manor and neither of her three children have much interest in the Tode Hall.

So the hall and all its residents is passed across to a distant relative much to the chagrin of the remaining family and staff.

However Lady Tode’s idea of spending her twilight years in Capri are thwarted when she ends up dead in the Hall’s mausoleum. What follows is a half hearted attempt to find out who the culprit was and with the aid of the granddaughter of a former employee and a ghost it seems the answer has been staring them in the face all the time.

This is not your normal murder mystery, a book which had a sense of wanting to be stuck in the past, the cover gives that impression but was very much in the present. The correlations to Wodehouse I could see, think Blandings not Jeeves and I am not sure if it has the real sense of Christie, that you may see in other homages.

However it was humourous in an almost pastiche to the country house murder mystery and was a passable diversion. It perhaps did not deliver as well as it could have done. Shame it had potential.

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

In the Crypt with a Candlestick is published on 20 February.