Books

Winter at Cliff’s End Cottage – Sheila Norton

You could almost be forgiven you were about to embark on reading some gothic novel about a reclusive women who lives in a cottage on the cliff edge, where strange sounds come from and that local villagers think of as a witch and that the lady is probably a witch.

However what you get with this new novel from Sheila Norton is something much much more and I thoroughly enjoyed the developing friendship between two lonely women across the generations.

Stella lives at Cliff’s End Cottage, it has been her home since she was in her early twenties, now in her eighties, as she is slowing down the cottage is slowly disappearing as the cliff begins to erode, taking part of the cliff face with it often. Everyone thinks she should move, but Stella is determined to stay.

Holly, single mum to the wonderful Maisie, is a freelance journalist and part time cleaner and determined to make her new piece for a magazine stand out she deicides to go out and see this woman at Cliff’s End Cottage. Faced initially with suspicion, a strange respect grows between these two women. With plenty of home made cake and tea made in a teapot, Holly starts to listen to Stella’s story.

As Holly finds out about Stella’s life, so do we, as we are taken back to Stella as a five year old evacuee, with a cockney accent and away from everything she knows. Until she sees the sea and decides that perhaps this is the best place. As Stella grows, she makes friends and decides to take up violin lessons. Those memories of the past are still very much in the present and it seems that the secrets of Stella are not all that they seem.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable read and one that you can lose yourself in as the wind batters the rain against the window and you can snuggle down and simply escape. I enjoyed all the strands of the story whether it be past or present and they weaved together nicely. Nothing is shied away from or made light of and it really was an impactful book about how friendships can come and go at any time during your life and that age is no barrier. All friendships can show us lies and truths, coldness and warmth, hate and love and we can learn from them all.

A warm hug of a book for all those that need it.

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

Winter at Cliff’s End Cottage is out now.

Books

December Roundup

Another strange December, will they ever be the same again? Well the reading luckily stayed the same and I had plenty of time for it.

Plenty of time for making a dent in the ever expanding Netgalley list – note to self, must try harder. Further note to self – this is probably not achievable but always worth a go, like reading more books on my shelf.

I did that with Delia Owens – Where the Crawdads Sing. A bit late to the party with this one perhaps, but it was a lovely book to be lost in and one that was tangibly in my hand for me to experience. I can see why it was so popular.

Another actual” book was the last Christmas book I read for the year, I think I was all Christmas booked out by mid November, but I had seen Cathy Bramley – The Merry Christmas Project and knew it would be a prefect gentle read, well written and would be joyous in these uncertain times.

When everything around is you uncertain we do tend to go back to what we know, and all my other reads were from authors I had read before.

In terms of murder and history I was delighted to be taken along the coast from me with Merryn Allingham – Murder on the Pier. 1950s rural England, quite bucolic if it wasn’t for the dead bodies!

Further back a few decades, to the last years of the 1930s and this time to Hong Kong with the delightful young adult book Robin Stevens – A Spoonful of Murder, Now on Hazels home ground so to speak, Daisy takes more of a back seat and doesn’t quite like not being in the spotlight.

Staying in the 1930s with Jessica Fellowes – The Mitford Vanishing. War is clearly looming in Europe and it all depends on which side you wish to be on. And for one of the sisters it will be a decision that splits a family even further. I look forward to seeing how the final Mitford sister is treated in this series.

Of course using ‘real’ people in your stories is a good vehicle to tell a tale and certainly The Queen has been busy in many a book I have read. She is back this time with her crime solving team in S.J. Bennett – A Three Dog Problem. It seems her keen eye has spotted a problem and she sets up everyone else to solve it, whilst playing the innocent. Or so you think!

Playing the innocent is something you could say about Veronica McCreedy, her ability to seemingly be a dotty old lady with a passion for penguins is reignited in Hazel Prior – Call of the Penguins, the follow up to Away With the Penguins. There is something so gentle about these two books and if you want a recommendation then please pick up the first and lose yourself.

Books and subsequently stories can take you away to far away places and to the ends of the earth, even when that end of the earth might be claimed back by the sea. Shelia Norton – Winter at Cliff’s End Cottage is a hug of a book, which brings cross generational friendships to the forefront of the story and teaches us what we can learn and also benefit from when you expand your horizons.

Hugs of books are the best sometimes, Christie Barlow – Heartcross Castle part of the Love Heart Lane series is one of those. Any of the series is but this one particular touched at my heart strings and reminds everyone on the importance of being yourself – something I try to do every day!

So that was December, and that was 2021. I have yet to do my year round of up books, I need to decide what format I want it to take and perhaps along the way I will do a round up of all the craft projects I have completed – who knows. As I sit here typing this I have all these fanciful ideas of what I will do with this blog, but they never materialise or they tail off after an initial spurt of inspiration. Perhaps I will go with the flow….

Books

A Murder Inside – Frances Brody

It is 1969 and this is the first in what will be a series of books from the author. Dealing with strong female characters find us the readers meeting Nell Lewis, the new governor at HMP Brackerly Edge in Yorkshire.

This is to be the first open prison for women and Nell is tasked with bringing this palace into a more modern setting, not just in terms of buildings but also those who work within the walls, the grounds and the local area.

However, there is some background with these female prisoners who are towards the end of their sentences. Surely it can’t have anything to do with the previous governor being found dead his garden – found dead by Nell herself.

Nell finds herself drawn back to her previous days as a WPC and calls on the support of a former colleague all the while trying to help these women, all who have their own paths to forge once they can escape the prison system and stigma.

This is a great start to a series and the setting and the idea behind it is unique and one that fascinates me. I hope we don’t have to wait too long before we can catch up with Nell and see how HMP Brackerly Edge is faring as the world starts changing around them all.

If you are a fan of the historical cosy mystery, female dominated and like the idea of starting a new series then I think this is one to keep your eye on.

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

A Murder Inside is out now.

Books

Christmas Carols and a Cornish Cream Tea – Cressida McLaughlin

Meredith is not a fan of Christmas, and does her utmost to avoid for the last ten years. However her new job in a Cornish gift shop means that she has no choice but to embrace the festive season.

When her boss wants to give hampers to the great and good of Porthglow, Meredith finds herself suddenly thrust into the festive season. Coupled with helping her best friend Anisha to create a last minute Christmas spectacular for Porthglow, Meredith cannot help become swept away.

Then enters Finn, as Meredith emerges from her cold water swimming, she meets Finn. And he seems to keep popping up everywhere around the little village and volunteers to help deliver the hampers. Finn embraces the true Christmas spirit and is determined for Meredith to see what Christmas can really be like, but he is not telling all and seems to be keeping something hidden.

This booked is packed full of Christmas, Cornish coastlines, Cold Water swimming, Carols, Charm and plenty of Curiosity to keep the reader guessing about whether; the festive hampers will be a success; the blossoming relationship between Finn and Meredith and who really owns the house on the cliff, that Meredith has dreamed about for a long time.

This is not a follow on from the previous Cornish Cream Tea novels, but some familiar faces do appear, but no matter if this is your first encounter with this authors work. It is an excellent Christmas read to get you in the spirit full of light, life and love. Perfect!

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

Christmas Carols and a Cornish Cream Tea is out now.

Books

Shipyard Girls Under the Mistletoe – Nancy Revell

As this series reaches Christmas 1944, anyone who knows about the Second World War will realise that the end is in sight. And so it seems it must be for the wonderful Shipyard Girls who I have been with since the beginning, who I have shared ups and downs with, tears and laughter with and that whenever I pick up the latest novel I am picking up with lost friends.

Dorothy shares a special kiss with someone who hasn’t proposed to her. She is in complete turmoil, as she doesn’t know what she should do for the best. Her friends all tease her, but dep down they all love Dorothy and want the best for her and just maybe the person on the other end of that kiss is the right one after all!

Helen Crawford, manager of the shipyard where the women work is still battling with her mother, who has appeared back on the scene and with the behaviour of her grandfather, Charles Havelock. A man everyone despises, but seems to always come up smelling of roses. Testament to how well a character is portrayed, Charles Havelock makes you want to throw your book across the room. The secrets that are being revealed over the course of previous books as well as this one are shocking and the current behaviour sees Helen question her own family closely and whether she will find her happy ever after.

Of course we still get to see all the other wonderful characters, Polly, Gloria, Rosie and Hannah to name a few and of course little stories are weaved amongst the main plots, so we know that there is more loose ends to tie up. So excellently written and so heartfelt in making sure that whilst good always overcomes evil, eventually! The spirit of the war, the strength of communities in adversity leaps from the page and it is full of plucky women at the centre. What more could you want from a saga?

As the Shipyard Girls, the Second World War and us readers reach the conclusion of this wonderful saga, I cannot wait for the final book in the series.

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

The Shipyard Girls Under the Mistletoe is out now.

If you wish to know more about this series, then please search my blog for all the previous reviews.

Books · Jottings

November Roundup

Where has this year gone? In a blink of eye we have one month to go. As the new from the world of the pandemic seems worrying, we have to hunker down and forge through.

And that is what I have done in terms of my November reading and I have to say might have reached peak Christmas reading! However I have reached 100 books ahead of schedule, so now it is a case of how many books will I read in 2021!

But that is a mere 31 days away so what about the November books I hear you ask, so without further ado……

Full of Christmas in all it’s forms and with plenty to make you hungry especially with Alex Brown – A Cosy Christmas at Bridget’s Bicycle Bakery the thought of freshly baked sourdough had my mouth watering and having it delivered by the welcoming and wonderful Bridget would make anyone’s Christmas complete.

A cream tea is one of my most favourite things to and without putting on an ounce of weight I managed to delight in Cressida McLaughlin – Christmas Carols and a Cornish Cream Tea. And with the descriptions of the hampers, made me want to splurge this festive season from my favourite hamper place!

Another about Christmas is all the crafts you can partake in and I am partial to one or two of them which is why Helen Rolfe – Christmas at the Village Sewing Shop appealed to me and was a real heart warming novel of how crafts can bring family and community together.

I think most Christmastimes I normally pick up a Phillipa Ashley and this year was no different and for this year I was back in Cornwall, rock and rolling by way through Phillipa Ashley – A Special Cornish Christmas which was full of delicious food, crafts and some nifty footwork. A great way to spend a Christmas.

With all the Christmas there is always time to look at times gone by and as this saga draws o its natural conclusion, I find myself looking for a new series to get my teeth into. In the meantime I was delighted to finally see the end of the war in sight in Nancy Revell – Shipyard Girls under the Mistletoe. There is still some bad apples to sort out, but the future look like it will throw up some wonderful happy endings.

With no Christmas but plenty of history I was thrust into the 1880s with Claire Evans – The Fourteenth Letter a book that had been hanging around on my shelf for a while. A strange novel that had me hooked because I wanted to know what was going on and not because it was good. I am not sure as I reached the end that I did know what was happening?

I definitely didn’t know what was going at Bletchley Park and I am not sure I would have been a good code breaker during the warm but it is a place that fascinates and I think I would have enjoyed my time there. As did Kathleen McGurl – The Girl from Bletchley Park who with a dual timeline novel takes us back and looks at where secrets are all around us.

No more secrets for November’s reading that’s for sure. So on with December, there is plenty to be reading on my kindle thanks to netgalley, but I think only a few more Christmas/Winter themed novels will slip through at this point.

In the meantime, on with advent, the decorations and the festivities!

Books

Murder at the Wedding – Helena Dixon

Here we are with book seven from Helena Dixon and I have been with Kitty since the beginning and whilst you can always guarantee a dead body or two may well turn up wherever she is going, you really don’t think it will be at a wedding.

Kitty on her way to her cousin’s wedding as a bridesmaid with her faithful maid and friend, Alice in tow, they travel to Yorkshire. Captain Matt Bryant is to follow later, but is not quite sure of his strong feeling for Kitty as her previous exploits left him wondering whether he could cope with the trauma of losing her.

A society wedding seems a relatively safe place, you would think. However clearly when Kitty arrives, there is definitely an undercurrent by the guests already assembled. Lucy, Kitty’s cousin and her betrothed, Rupert having invited boyhood friends Sandy and Sinclair along with respective wives. Sandy is to be the best man but there seems to be much more going on with talk of threatening letters and political conflicts.

Then a shot rings out, the valet is dead, but it seems to have shook Sandy who is convinced someone is out to get him. But perhaps the valet has some secrets to share.

In the classic country house mystery, it has to have been committed by someone within the confines of the house. But who? The police find the culprit very quickly and it all seems to be wrapped up very quickly until someone else dies……

In steps Kitty and Matt, much the the chagrin of the local inspector. As they get closer to the truth, the feelings between them grow and when the answer is at the end of a corridor it seems that both Kitty and Matt have to overcome fears to get to the truth.

This is another great story in the series, I love the different characters and how that Kitty, Matt and Alice work well together out of their normally setting of Dartmouth and the hotel. I can see adventures further afield in the future but as the book comes to its conclusion it seems we are nearing the truth about the one main theme running through all the stories – what happened to Kitty’s mother.

Lovely cosy crime of the era of Agatha Christie and a must of fans of the Queen of Crime and historical fiction. This combines the both so well. Looking forward to the next.

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

Murder at the Wedding is out now.

Books

Underneath the Christmas Tree – Heidi Swain

What could be more Christmas than a Christmas Tree Farm. Wynter’s Trees is just that in Wymouth and where everyone in the area comes to get their tree at the most magical time of the year.

Wynter’s Trees tries to make it as magical as possible but for some like Liza Wynter it has been the place she has been avoiding ever since her father died. Now her father’s partner wishes to retire and pass his share onto his son Ned, but for Liza she has decided to get rid of the place forever and hopes that perhaps Ned might wish to take the whole place over.

Returning for one last Christmas and to sort out her family home and fathers possessions, Liza does not expect to find a place which is thriving under Ned’s leadership. Diversification is being used and the concept of making the visit to the farm more of a destination rather than a chore shows the potential that the farm has. Liza is moved because this is exactly hat her father would have dreamed of having, if his life wasn’t so cruelly cut short.

There are too many memories tied up in the place for Liza and she knows she needs to break free from the place to be able to move and do what she wants with her life. However it seems the magic of Wynter’s Trees has other ideas. Becoming attached to Bandit the dog, the little beach huts full of local crafts people that arrived on the farm, along with seeing the joy the farm can bring to so many different people of different ages, Liza perhaps thinks she has made a rash decision.

Ned though realises that if he wants to continue to fulfil his wishes at the farm, he will need to buy Liza out as well as take over his father’s share, trouble is there is something beguiling about her and Ned is rather distracted. Liza knows there is a connection, but does everything she can to divert attention elsewhere. However, cupid’s arrow strikes as it does and it seems that Liza and Ned are destined to be together. If only they could work out their differences about the farm and where it is potentially heading, then it could and would be Christmas all year round for them.

Another great Christmas read from Heidi Swain, in fact another great read which brings the magic of Christmas and community together all set tot he backdrop of a sprinkling of magic just like some snow! Whilst we have gone back for a second visit to Wynmouth, you do not have to have read the previous one to get a sense of the place and the people that live there.

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. Because even if you haven’t got any of those things, this book will give it to you in abundance and transport you to Christmas at any time of the year.

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

Underneath the Christmas Tree is out now.

Books · Jottings

October Roundup

October seems to have been a bumper month for reading and I have ploughed through a fair few books. A positive harvest of books for October and autumn and ironically mainly Christmas themed!

But not all, there was some murder to dilute all things festive. Janice Hallett – The Appeal is a book which has been around a while and I kept seeing the cover but when I got the chance to pick up a copy and look inside the cover, I was hooked. This is an excellent debut novel and written so differently it captured me immediately and I was hooked. It certainly has plenty of appeal!

Books about books and libraries are always a draw for any avid reader. This year it seems to have been a bit of a theme for some authors. This always makes me curious because surely not everyone can be writing the same themes by coincidence. Anyway enough of the cynic. Freya Sampson – The Last Library is the latest one I have read, and whilst not as good as previous ones, it was a lovely way to while away a few hours as we got to know the shy June and her passion for the library.

I ventured into my first book club read for a while, by joining in with an online one, through twitter. The book chosen was Melanie Hewitt – Looking for the Durrells, I admit I fell in love with cover. It was a very slow and meandering book which ended up being a journey around Corfu. I am not sure it was as romantic and passionate as it could have been, but it was certainly a love letter to this island and a great way to escape for some sun.

Travel of course is something many people have not been able to do for a while and if you want to do it vicariously it is always good to pick up Julie Caplin – The Cosy Cottage in Ireland. This one is a bit closer to home than some have been, but it is always nice to escape. Although I am not sure whether going to a cookery school would be my idea of fun! Combining travel and food is always a good way to escape into a book. Do check this author out if you fancy a trip or two.

Of course if you can afford it, then employ a chef and then you won’t have to worry about a thing – apart from perhaps falling in love with them. Kate Forster – Christmas Wishes at Pudding Hall shows you that can happen, but of course it is not all plain sailing and there might be a few deflated soufflés before the holiday period is over.

What are you hoping to find under your tree this year? The latest Heidi Swain would be a good start and even better with her latest title too – Heidi Swain – Underneath the Christmas Tree. Make sure you buy the best tree from the local tree farm and participate in its sustainability and the beauty of being outdoors. Once you become part of the community it is suddenly very difficult to let go.

Once you have the tree, then you need the prefect gift and what better way than perhaps getting involved with a giving tree. In Katie Ginger – The Perfect Christmas Gift, school teacher Bella decides to give back to the community to help heal her broken heart so close to Christmas. But will anyone leave a gift for her?

School teachers and Christmas makes you think of nativity and tinsel bedecked small people running around high on the excitement of the season. It is reflected in the previous book mentioned as well as Tracy Rees – The Little Christmas House, this time the teacher is aptly named Holly and becomes involved with the delightful little girl Eliza and her father Edward. What is their story?

Christmas is always a time of giving and seeking out the right gift, and so you might wish to pick up a piece of unique art at Helen Pollard – Christmas at Fox Farm. Daisy is the current resident artist and is finding her feet and putting down roots, until the owner of Fox Farm takes ill. It seems the future and Christmas is not going to be all that nice, yet again for Daisy.

Diluting it a bit more with some more murder saw me take a trip to Yorkshire with Kitty Underhay in her latest adventure Helena Dixon – Murder at the Wedding. It is not Kitty’s wedding, though I do hope that is soon, but we have a classic locked room type mystery and it seems the local detective is not really forward thinking in letting women help in investigating. Of course you know what is going to happen don’t you, but that still doesn’t detract from the delightful book.

I am partial to cosy crime, providing it doesn’t get ludicrous which is why I stopped reading Agatha Raisin. It was nice to see a new potential series to get into and one that had an interesting premise. Frances Brody – A Murder Inside, late 1960s, a female governor of the prison variety. An open prison for women in the Yorkshire dales. It already sounds like it is going to be a winner for me and it was rather fascinating and definitely has longevity.

As we go into November, I still have plenty of Christmas books to read. I think I might be fed up with them come December but of course that depends on the stories. With 93 books read so far as of this post, the big 100 is looming large and I start to wonder what will be my final total of 2021. Until then though…Happy Reading.

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.