Books

September Roundup

I hate to say it but after a lovely summer of reading, I have hit the Christmas reading already – what I hear you cry. It is still autumn and we haven’t even put the clocks back yet.

But the nights are getting darker earlier and I am waking up on int he dark to drag myself out to go swimming before work, so it can only mean that Christmas is really on its way. I even confess to having made a couple of lists for presents.

So the festivities have started with Holly Martin – Christmas at Mistletoe Cove. I really do like Holly’s books and read this series of books which concludes with Christmas on the Scilly Isles.

Funnily enough, coincidence perhaps, the next Christmas read was Phillipa Ashley – Christmas on the Little Cornish Isles: The Driftwood Inn. This also happens to be set on the Scilly Isles. It is the first in a new series of books from this author who I have to say produces books which are a great read.

Christmas funnily enough is covered in Judith Kinghorn – The Snow Globe but rather than being contemporary, this takes you back to the mid 1920s. Romance is around, but sometimes the choices you make are not always ‘seen’ to be the right ones.

So with Christmas out-of-the-way, let’s get back to summer and something a bit more warming and Katie Fforde – Summer of Love. I am a fan of Katie’s work and whilst I read the new books when I can if I can get hold of a copy, I am busy working my way through her back catalogue. Still got a few books to get through yet.

Summer makes you think of swimming and if you are lucky, lidos. I chose The Lido Girls  – Allie Burns when it appeared as a choice on netgalley. But the book was not for me and I abandoned it, the first this year and felt as I normally do quite ruthless, but some books just don’t work and when you have lots more to read then I feel I cannot waste time ploughing through a book which I get no enjoyment from.

I know I am going to get enjoyment and a laugh from Sarah Millican – How to be Champion and was thrilled when it popped up on netgalley. Even more thrilled to be approved and read a copy. If she makes you laugh, then without any doubt this book will too. I am going to get a copy for myself as I didn’t get to see the pictures and the formatting was a bit adrift on my kindle, so it did make for disjointed reading. But a ‘champion’ book!

I have noticed when you pick books up from netgalley that they can start you discovering one place and you have to go back and keep reading more about it, that is certainly the case with a few of the books I have got hold of lately. Which is why I chose and have read Ellen Berry – The Bakery on Rosemary Lane which takes us back to the Yorkshire village where new business are popping up and contentment is being found.

Looking back over the year I have read quite a lot of contemporary womens fiction. You get drawn certain ways with books and you just have to keep reading them. I know some are very similar it setting and style. If the writing is good, the plot believable and the characters three-dimensional then I carry on reading. Now and again I do like to throw in something different and this month besides an autobiography it was Anthony Horowitz – The Word is Murder. A different take on a murder mystery book and one which involved the author himself. Confused, you could well be but it is worth sticking with as it is a cleverly constructed novel.

So quite a good month for reading but there is plenty more to read so I must get on…..

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Books

The Hourglass – Tracy Rees

Tracy Rees third novel, and whilst it is of course a novel set in the present and in the past, I found it different from her first two but I can’t put my finger on what it was, as it is certainly as good as them.

Present day: Nora suddenly has a clear image of a beach, a seaside town. It seems to be calling to her and it is a place she has only been to once in the past. The place is Tenby, Wales.

1950s: Chloe spends three weeks every summer with her aunt and uncle at a seaside town. An opportunity which she spends the other 49 weeks of the year dreaming about. Not only the journey, but the beach and her best friend are their. The place is Tenby, Wales.

It is clear that Tenby holds a spell over these two women. Nora stricken with anxiety and the fact she is forty and seems to have achieved very little in life, abandons everything she has job, flat, boyfriend and travels to Tenby as she attempts to find herself.

As Chloe’s summers are charted every year we see her grow, her blossom from girl to young woman, from small fantasies to big dreams and they are always most clear when she is in Tenby. The reality is somewhat different.

Tenby is beautifully described and placed perfectly within the story. I was there visiting, I was walking the same path and viewing the same landscape and scenery no matter what the weather, the author does this effortlessly. Google pictures of Tenby and you will see even the cover correctly illustrates the place so beautifully.

The story progresses between these two women and you do find out fairly early on the link between them as that is important as the story and the women’s lives move in very different directions but oddly enough they move most importantly to each other. Suddenly the anxiety of the past and the present makes sense and the future now can be something very different.  When the sand has run out, you have to turn the hourglass over and start all over again.

Tracy Rees is an author you have to try if you have not before, if you like historical fiction, with strong characters who can you empathise with and perhaps dislike in equal manner as well as set amongst an ever-changing landscape then her books are for you.

I am now just disappointed that I will have to wait a while to read her next one.

Thank you to the publisher Quercus for the review copy of this novel. The Hourglass is out now. 

 

Books

Coming Soon : The Snow Globe

A beautiful story of enduring love and heartbreaking choices.

As Christmas 1926 approaches, the Forbes family are preparing to host a celebration at Eden Hall. Eighteen-year-old Daisy is preoccupied by a sense of change in the air. Overnight, her relationship with Stephen Jessop, the housekeeper’s son, has shifted and every encounter seems fraught with tension. Before the festivities are over, Daisy has received a declaration of love, a proposal and a kiss – from three different men. Unable to bear the confusion she flees to London and stays with her elder sister.

By the following summer, Daisy has bowed to the persistence of the man who proposed to her the previous year. When the family reunite for a party at Eden Hall and Stephen is once more in her life, it is clear to Daisy she is committing to the wrong person. Yet she also believes that family secrets mean she has no choice but to follow her head instead of her heart. Will love conquer all, or is Daisy’s fate already written?

Judith Kinghorn is the author of four novels: The Echo of Twilight, The Snow Globe, The Memory of Lost Senses and The Last Summer. She was born in Northumberland, educated in the Lake District, and is a graduate in English and History of Art. She lives in Hampshire, England, with her husband and two children.

 

 

Books

The Weekends of You and Me – Fiona Walker

Jo is single, hurtling towards 40 and with nothing to show for it. She has a plan but before she begins, she decides to throw herself into one final last fling.

Harry is divorced, passionate and very grumpy but he has something about him that people seem to flock to.

He catch’s Jo’s eye at a dinner party and suddenly everything changes for both of them.

This book, is told over a ten-year period and it reflects on the same weekends that they have through different parts of their relationship. The weekends are at this rundown dirty cottage deep in the Shropshire countryside where there is little access to the outside world and clearly whatever happens there stays there. A place to unburden yourself.

The weekends follow a formulaic pattern no matter what has been happening in their lives, no matter what they have left behind or what they have to go back to face after the weekend is over.

A dirty weekend in the literal and figurative sense at the beginning of the relationship with the cottage as well as their own tangled lives. As time moves on interestingly the cottage also begins to change and becomes more instantiated, that initial escapism and living simply lost. Perhaps their passion is lost as well?

I was intrigued by the concept of the way the story was told and was not sure what I was going to get, when I then started back at the beginning of one of Harry and Jo’s weekends. However there were a few times where it was slow and plodding and felt it was being padded out to keep the same concept going for the sake of the story.

I want to say I enjoyed the book, and I certainly did with the descriptions of the house, the landscape, the Shropshire hills and when it seemed to throw all seasons of weather at the cottage. The cosy fueled nights in at the pub and the interesting choices of music. But as Harry and Jo’s relationship progressed I felt like I was voyeuristically watching it come apart piece by piece and it was rather uncomfortable to watch.

Perhaps too much reality to call it a book for escapism. A book that left me disappointed.

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

The Weekends of You and Me is out now. 

I cannot comment if this atypical of this author’s work as this is the first book I have read. If you have read any of her other works and would like to recommend one, please do. 

Books

A Wedding in Italy – Tilly Tennant

I have jetted back to Italy, to Rome to see how Kate is getting on with the new life she has created for herself. Although this is the second novel, featuring the same characters it is perfectly acceptable for you to be able to read it as a standalone as there is enough background given for you to pick up the thread of the story.

Kate is still in Rome, still in love with Alessandro and still trying to find the perfect job and place to live.

This is no longer the Rome of holidays, carefree days and plenty of gelato – this is reality. This is dealing with landlords who suddenly forget to understand English, who do nothing about problems with Kate’s little flat.

This is the reality of being in love with a man from a family with strong Italian values and beliefs and who are finding it difficult to accept Kate, an outsider into their lives, especially when she is English and divorced.

Added to Kate’s problems are trying to understand why all the women who say they care about Alessandro, are trying to do their best to stop him being happy and of course Kate being happy.

With all this reality around her can Kate find love in Rome and can it really be with Alessandro?

This book, like the first is an enjoyable warm read both with the characters and of course the heat of the romance, made even more so by being in one of the most romantic cities in Europe. There is the added dimension of seeing a real Italian family with all their ups and downs, their tears and laughter along with their approach to everything being cooking wonderful food. You can feel the pounds piling on as you read this novel!

An ideal summer read or one for when you need warming up! Not only does it have romance but it has laughter too – what more could you want from a book?

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

A Wedding in Italy along with Rome is Where the Heart is, the first novel in the From Italy with Love series are out now. 

Books

The Shadow Sister – Lucinda Riley

Keeping in line with how the author wants us to discover the stories of these sisters, this is the third sisters story: Asterope which means Star and is the obvious choice of name she is known to all.

We get to know a little about Star in the previous two novels and I found myself very much drawn to her and her story as despite shining bright like her name suggests, she is in fact hiding. Star herself does not know what from and with the death of Pa Salt, the sisters adoptive father, she seeks to find out more about herself and become that bright star.

To do this Star is going to have to step out of the shadow of her younger sister CeCe who since the beginning of the series I have found oppressive and claustrophobic, I was cheering Star on right from the start.

In London with her sister Cece she is dealing with living day-to-day as her sister makes her way in the world and Star stays at home, cooking, keeping house and basically being their for her sister day and night. The relationship is stifling and she decides to have her time and now speak up. Using the information Pa Salt left her, perhaps more tangible information than her previous two sisters, Star has an address of a book shop in London and the name Flora MacNichol, a small black figurine and the translated quote ” The oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow”.

It takes a lot of courage to make that first step towards the bookshop and when she does, she opens up a whole new world to her. Orlando the eccentric bookshop owner does know something of the mysterious Flora MacNichol but he also knows that his family may know more.

Star swept along with curiosity is taken under the wing of Orlando, his nephew Rory, but also his sister Marguerite, his brother Mouse as she goes to stay with them all at High Weald. She becomes so involved in the domesticity of life there and being part of a different sort of family, that I wondered if perhaps her story was going to take a different path. But of course it was all part of Orlando’s foibles and she does learn about Flora…..

……As do we and this is where the skill of Lucinda Riley as a creator of wonderful dual narrative stories comes into its own. We are transported back to Cumbria, to the turn of the century where the Victorian Era had been only over for about 8 years and to a young lady who is determined not to marry, to not become anything of note in society but to enjoy her artistic talents and her small animals that have become her pets and to live near her idol, Beatrix Potter.

Of course women could not simply do as they pleased without family consent and it is with some displeasure that the young lady is transported to London, to use her skills as an artistic and knowledge of nature to teach two young women in the Keppel household. A household who was used to another frequent guest who had an important role to play in society.

Flora feels that she is in a game that no one has told her about, no one has told her the rules of this society that she lives in and whilst she settles well to London life, she has a great calling back to the place of her youth, to the wild landscape to where she feels most at home. Secrets are revealed and kept close from those who might be hurt by the truth. As the book progresses and as a reader we see the narrative path that the author takes us on and learn so much about Flora, her history, her future and the people she comes into contact with.

As does Star, and as she learns from the journals left by Flora, she learns a lot about herself and how she has been left with those reminders of her past and as the truth is revealed, Star suddenly shines a lot brighter and longer seems to have a shadow following her.

This is an excellent read and one that I fell into and had to keep reading, I was drawn to both narratives knowing that of course they may link somewhere along the line but also the amount that I learnt from the book as I have done with the previous two novels in the series. Only Lucinda Riley could take us from the simplicity of Beatrix Potter at Hilltop Farm to the opulent and flamboyance of a mistress of Edward VII.

Of course as the book comes to its conclusion, the mystery of Pa Salt is still of course unsolved and there are a couple of hints that I picked up through Star’s story and from the interaction with her sister CeCe and also when Ally’ story is woven into this one. My initial suspicion at book one is still there.  But now we move onto CeCe and I am intrigued her presence was very much for me felt in this book and I am looking forward to giving her chance as I get to know her story.

I think you could say that everything you want from a book (and a series) is contained within the pages, do not let its length put you off. Investing time in this author is something you will never regret.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy in return for a review. 

The first three novels in The Seven Sisters series are out now with the fourth on its way in November 2017. 

 

 

Books

Hush Little Baby – Joanna Barnard

From the blurb on the back of the book we know that baby Oliver has broken his arm. What we don’t know is how, why and who?

And so these page turning book begins as you see a family slowly disintegrating.

Sally, Oliver’s mother, is devastated that her baby has been taken away from her, it must have been an accident. He is all she had, the only person on her side.

Sally was out all night, the discovery of the broken arm happened when she returned home.

Richard, Oliver’s father, cannot understand what is happening, but he cannot see what is going on under his nose. He knows of course how to bring up children, he already has one with his first wife.

Richard was in all night, but discovered the broken arm.

Martha, Oliver’s stepsister, is lost. No one is paying her any attention, it is all about Oliver and she needs to find a release. Will her choices, drive the family further apart or will it bring them together.

Martha, might have been there all night, but was she paying attention?

One of them knows the truth, the rest is all lies. Told from the these three characters perspective we watch as the disintegration becomes deep, distressing and disturbing.

The book is rather unsettling to read, there is so many topics covered; postpartum depression, self harm, drug abuse, bullying, infidelity, but there’s something voyeuristic in watching what happens as you turn the pages. It made me feel uncomfortable with what was happening but I had to keep reading.

A gripping novel, that does not perhaps fit nicely into the thriller category because of the topic but certainly morbidly fascinating in wanting to know the truth as the plot twists to perhaps the obvious conclusion? Will we have any answers when we get to the end of the novel?

An interesting second novel and for me much better than the first, something that can be difficult to achieve. An author to look out for, as I think the books are going to get better and better.

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

Hush Little Baby is out now