Books

Murder at the Mill – M.B. Shaw

Iris Grey is staying at Mill Cottage, in Hazelford, a Hampshire Village. Not only is she escaping from her failing marriage but she has also been commissioned to paint Dom Wetherby’s portrait.

The Mill is the house where Dom Wetherby lives, a famous crime writer whose books have sold millions and have been made into television programmes. But now it is time for him to retire his most famous detective and his writing. The portrait is one of the gifts that his wife, Ariadne gives him.

Iris is drawn into the Wetherby family as she starts to paint Dom. She starts to see the real man and not the facade as she spends time with him.

Invited to their Christmas Eve party, Iris watches as Dom and Ariadne greet welcome and unexpected guests. There is history at this party, there is hate at this party and there is a story to tell.

When a body is found on Christmas Day floating in a nearby stream, it seems that the party may have been the catalyst for what followed.

Iris, intrigued by what has happened and encouraged by a Wetherby family member she starts to ask some questions and hopes to get to the truth of the matter.

This is a rather light cosy murder mystery. For me it took too long in setting the scene before predictably you got to the dead body. I found it meander for far too long once the body had been found and it had a slightly unbelievable element to it in the process of detection and the denouement. The clues were there, the red herrings obvious and whilst I worked it out fairly early on, it did nothing to make me doubt my theory.

As someone who has read many Agatha Christie who can pull a punchy story in around 200 pages, this book is in fact 200 pages too long. It is a pleasant diversion and was the perfect book for an easy read after a hard day.

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

Murder at the Mill is published on 30 November. 

I have never read any Tilly Bagshawe who is the author behind this book and this book, the first in what looks to be a series is a step in different direction for the author. I do wonder if perhaps this first book should be given the benefit of the doubt and perhaps the second will be stronger. I will have to wait and see.

 

 

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Books

Christmas at Butterfly Cove – Sarah Bennett

This is the concluding book in the Butterfly Cove trilogy and is a lovely book to curl up at Christmas with and go back and visit some characters that I cared about and perhaps secretly fallen in love with too.

This book focuses on Nee, the younger sister of Mia and Kiki who feature as main characters in the first two books respectively.

Nee is an artist, but her art has left her. She will not tell anyone what has happened to her but she arrives at Butterfly Cove to heal wounds at the end of the last book but it turns out that perhaps she is simply reopening some. Especially when she comes face to face with her husband.

Nee was married and then she left him. No one knew about the marriage. No one knew why she left. But it turns out Luke her husband happens to be the brother of the man who Kiki has fallen in love with.

Nee has never looked back but Luke has only done that as he is still in love with Nee despite what has happened.

Can it be healed? Or is this one wound which will never go away?

Nee is trying to avoid life and when their father needs one of them to help, the sisters let Nee go and tend to him and their mother. Luke is not far behind and so is Christmas.

Gathered at Butterfly Cove for the festive period, Luke convinces Nee that this is the best place to be to heal. And he can be the balm that can soothe her. His patience, his dedication and his help made me fall in love with Luke. How I wanted him to be looking me.

But will Nee open up about what has happened in the past and can Luke really let go if he is not what Nee wants? Christmas has a funny way of making some things happen and it cannot all be magic surely?

Like the previous two novels, this is a great story that draws you right in to the characters, plenty of mention of Mia and Kiki as you see how their lives are progressing since we last saw them. The secondary characters have stories to tell and they all play a part in making this a Christmas to remember. Even the tables laden with food makes you believe that you are really there at Butterfly Cove taking part in the festivities yourself.

This is a lovely book and a great conclusion to the trilogy. I am sad to leave them behind, but I think I know that everything will be okay for them, ups and downs no doubt, but Butterfly Cove will be a happy, loving place for anyone whoever visits in the future.

I heartily recommend this book and the previous two. In fact just indulge in all three and you will forget everything that is bad in the world and rejoice in what can only be good.

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

Christmas at Butterfly Cove is out now.

 

 

 

Books

Christmas at the Gin Shack – Catherine Miller

If you have run out of gin, now is the time to stock up in time for Christmas. Nothing better than settling down to a great read and a great tipple.

But have you ever thought of having a festive G&T ?

Olive has.

Still residing at Oakley West retirement home but living life to the full, she is still very much part of the Gin Shack which was created out of her own simple idea and is featured in the first novel, The Gin Shack on the Beach.

Creating a Gin themed weekend and a G&T competition is enough to keep Olive, her son Richard, the managers, Tony and Esme as well as Randy and Veronica, Skylar and Lucas and many more familiar faces.

However, everything seems to be going against them. Tony is taken ill suddenly, and a rival bar sets up business. Their promoting skills seem to be directed at bringing the Gin Shack’s name to shame and affecting their business.

Add to this, returning fathers, disappearing children, grottos, food, mince pies and of course plenty of gin.

This really is a joyful novel to read. It is full of warmth and humour. Family relationships are strengthened and it has such a wonderful sense of community that it is a shame that life perhaps is not quite like that. What I also love is the cross-section of ages, covered with the characters this is not simply a book about a group of people all of a certain age. This is a book which shows you age is no barrier to friendship and bringing everyone together is so beneficial; everyone has a part to play and experience to bring.

It is a Christmas book and you can read it without having read the first and still enjoy it. But frankly why would you want to do that when you can read the first and completely immerse yourself in gin. I need to try a Christmas gin.

I think the storyline in this book and the characters, show there is scope for a third book, well I hope so!

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

Christmas at The Gin Shack is out now

Books

By the Pricking of My Thumbs – Agatha Christie

Tommy and Tuppence Beresford visit an unpleasant aunt in a home. From this typically unlikely beginning, murder and all kinds of excitement develop, to the point when Mrs Beresford meets the mass killer in the secret room of the house.

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes

Divided into four books we are back with Tommy and Tuppence who are drawn into a rather peculiar mystery. And if the cover of the edition I read is anything to go by, something quite frightening or perhaps something desperately wicked.

I knew the story, but not the actual story. My warped version came from a television adaptation (more on that later) so I had a rough idea of the story and knew whodunnit. Perhaps not the right way to tackle a book but I wanted to know what happened and how the conclusion was reached.

I have always found Tuppence Beresford a bit wishy-washy, and this book lived up to that, but actually I think this part of her character which is what enables her to go off on these hunches when she remembers houses from trains, that later reappear in pictures and what elderly old women say when incarcerated in rest homes. None of it seems relevant or useful to Tommy Beresford but when you have been married as long as he has to Tuppence he knows there is perhaps a grain of something in her thought process.

We have the facts early on, but despite me knowing the answer I could not see how it was all going to come together.  Is that the beauty of Christie? I just think it might be.

Tuppence gets into some scrapes, but she is on to something and it takes a bit of Tommy’s past skills to find out where she is when she fails to come home to him. Of course Tuppence’s task is a simple one, to return a picture to its rightful owner, Mrs Lancaster after she gifted it to Tommy’s Aunt. How can one picture cause such trouble?

This is only the second Tommy and Tuppence that I have read and I have to confess they are a funny pair and in this book, they have aged. The only characters of Christie to do so within real-time of the books being published I learn.

I got into Tommy and Tuppence when back in 2015, an adaptation of a couple of their novels was made by the BBC with David Walliams and Jessica Raine. I enjoyed them, but didn’t hit the mark with the critics and subsequently was not recommissioned. Shame because I liked it. However they did not pick this particular story to adapt, but it has been adapted by ITV within the Marple series.

Some things you need to know:

Miss Marple does not appear in the original story in any way shape or form. There might be some veiled references to the innocent observations of little old ladies but no Miss Marple.

The book is set much longer after the Second World War, and neither of them were still involved with the security services anymore.

Tuppence is not an alcoholic who feels she has missed out on life and been passed over, because she is a woman, a mother and now suffering badly with empty nest syndrome.

Additional storylines of American Air Force, turning village girls heads does not appear, film premieres with precocious children are not part of the plot either. And the names of the villages are very different.

I could go on, but I won’t. However for a Sunday night television drama and without causing much offence it is a reasonable programme and it has everything I suppose you need in such a thing.

However like a lot of things it cannot beat the book – this is the case with By The Pricking of My Thumbs. Although perhaps choose your choice of cover carefully, mine is creepy and the back cover has a picture of Christie herself, staring out at me from my bedside table. I am not sure that the cover conveys the right message. I do prefer something much less weird.

I read this book as part of the 1968 Club which is run by Simon and Karen. I have joined in nearly all of them and have found it a great way to make a dent in the back catalogue of Christie. She wrote so much!

 

Books

October Roundup

So there goes October, a funny month. The weather cannot make its mind up, I have been full of cold and yet I am still swimming outside! And so begins the countdown to Christmas and the reading continues apace with it.

Lily Graham – Christmas at Hope Cottage is one of those magical Christmas stories that fill you with hope and food. There is some magic food happening on the tables of Hope Cottage.

Of course you need a drink with Christmas and it will depend on what your favourite tipple might be. I expect you can guess what mine is? Catherine Miller – Christmas at the Gin Shack sees us return to octogenarian Olive and her friends as they discover more about Gin and friendship in difficult times.

If you only have time for a few short stories then turn to Katie Fforde – The Christmas Stocking and other Stories, if you are a fan of this author you will recognise some but still read them because they are brilliantly written and capture the spirit of Christmas is just the right amount of pages. The new stories are just as capturing.

It cannot all be about Christmas in October, which is why I have gone back a bit to Summer and picked up a book that has been sitting on myself for an age. Cressida McLaughlin – The Canal Boat Cafe, why I had not read this sooner when I enjoy the author I do not know. However I was transported away to the freedom of a Canal Boat and the wonderful Summer who is struggling to make a go of a very different lifestyle, especially when it seems many are against her. I am also thrilled to see that two short stories, Christmas themed of course are due out following on from this story so I read it just at the right time.

Another book which was a sort of serendipity to me was Poppy Dolan – The Woolly Hat Knitting Club. I love crafts and in the middle of doing quite a bit of knitting, for myself and for others. In particular the little babies born at my local hospital. If you are a fan of knitting then this book is a must and if you want to knit something yourself then get in contact and I can direct you to some great patterns. I am looking forward to seeing what Poppy writes about next.

I always enjoy getting into a saga and I have this year with Nancy Revell and the Shipyard Girls series. I have read books one and two and was thrilled to be able to get hold of book three. Nancy Revell – Secrets of the Shipyard Girls is a good read and it was lovely to be back amongst women that you have grown to know and admire as war still rages and loves still has to conquer all, no matter what stands in its way.

Sometimes with all these ‘nice’ reads as I call them, you need something which is a bit more meaty with the odd dead body or two. So I was intrigued by what is to be a new series of books by an author I have heard of but not read, publishing under a different name is how I came to get M.B.Shaw – Murder at the Mill. It sounded promising but for me did not really live up expectation. I think I have read too many Agatha Christie.

Which leads me to the 1968 club and my choice which was Agatha Christie – By The Pricking of My Thumbs. I try and participate when I can in these clubs as it is a useful way for me, to be able to make my way through Christie’s catalogue!

So that is it for October, my netgalley shelves are positively bowing with the weight of books that I have requested and I have more actual books wandering around my house looking forlorn by not being read. So time for more reading.

Books

Secrets of the Shipyard Girls – Nancy Revell

I am back with the girls at the Sunderland Shipyard, welding their way through the Second World War. This is the third in the series of books and I recommend you read the previous two so you can understand the characters and background a lot more.

Rosie is still in charge of this eclectic mix of women, but she is having troubles of her own. She knows that some of her past is behind her but it is her present which is causing the problems. Especially when it means she can no longer see the man, Peter she was walking out with. Peter on the other hand is prepared to find out the truth.

Gloria, is back welding only a couple of weeks after giving birth to baby Hope. That takes some stamina and strength! But her life is not quite complete as her true love Jack is missing and Gloria may never know the real truth.

Dorothy and Angie are the life and soul of the group, always ready to party and with a quick wit about them especially when it comes to chatting up men. But secretly they want what some of the other girls have, a stable relationship, just like Bel. A man on their arm and someone to love.

Bel has finally decided to tie the knot with Joe. Although she feels the guilt of her dead husband, she knows that for herself and her little girl she must move forward and start living her life.

Of course there are lots of other secondary characters but just as rich which are interwoven into the story, we get to learn more about Kate and of course the arrival of Maisie with secrets of her own makes for a page turning story. Every character is important and plays some role within the pages and brings the story very much to life.

This saga keeps getting better and better, it deals with some important issues of the Second World War and how what was going on abroad affected those at home and how being at home also meant there were personal wars to be fought. I am looking forward to catching up with these women who feel like friends when the next book is released in 2018.

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

Secrets of the Shipyard Girls is out now. 

 

 

Books

The Woolly Hat Knitting Club – Poppy Dolan

Dee Blackthorn is ruthless when it comes to the corporate business world and she strives for one hundred percent success. She works hard and that is all she does, there is no stop, there is no pause. Dee lives for her work.

That is until one day she finds herself without a job and back living with her brother, JP. Suddenly working all the time is not the priority.

Which is not necessarily a bad thing because JP has managed to break both his wrists. JP becomes Dee’s priority but also in some ways her project as she wants to help him get on better. JP is not any normal brother though.

JP runs the local haberdashery and has found peace and pleasure in his knitting. He is popular online and regularly helps anyone that he can. But how can he now when he can’t even hold a knitting needle. Dee has to help him but there is a problem…..Dee cannot knit….

When she bumps into an old school friend, Becky in the supermarket who has just given birth to beautiful boy prematurely, she persuades JP that knitting little hats for premature babies would be a great way of just not helping Becky but lots of people in the same situation.

When Ben turns up looking for Dee, he becomes involved in the whole knitting furor and becomes friendly with JP. Trouble is Dee remembers what Ben was like to work with and thinks that there must be some ulterior motive. Ben becomes a surprise natural with the knitting, much to Dee’s irritation but he does embrace the whole idea of expanding the premature baby hat campaign.

Dee’s skills from her work life are in their element and what she can do is organise and make something small and successful, huge and mega successful. Is that what everyone and JP wants especially when it begins to hurt the people Dee loves. Dee cannot always see the real meaning sometimes of something so small and the pleasure that can be gained from a small number of people working for a bigger cause.

I loved this book, certainly one of my favourite of the year. Without a doubt because of the story but also because as a fellow knitter I can relate to all the yarn stories and the varieties of yarn, the difficulty in learning a new technique and being able to find someone to help you when needed.

This is a book which refocuses on the small little things in life because they are the most important and that sometimes having a big impact does not leave a lasting one. It is a great read and if you are a knitter as well, then this book is certainly a great read. Perhaps it might inspire you to pick up a pair of needles and knitting for someone.

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

The Woolly Hat Knitting Club is out now. 

As you may (or may not) know I am a knitter as one of the many crafts I like to try my hand at. I already knit for the premature babies at my local maternity hospital. My mum always did long before she had me and continues to do so, I have just simply followed tradition. So here are a couple of hats and a selection of the cardigans as well.