Books

June Roundup

Six months done in 2022, and after two very slow years this one seems to be speeding by. Certainly in terms of books read though it has been slow and I am certainly no where near on target for my yearly challenge of 100. Enough about wishing the next six months away, what have I read in June?

For the first time in a long time, I signed up to 20 Books of Summer challenge and I hope to at least use that to make a dent in all those wonderful books I have to read. It also made me reinstate my challenges list which can now be found at the top of this blog.

I have managed three off this list – the first being a book I had on my shelf for a while Gill Hornby – Miss Austen. A wonderful retreat to the world of Austen, told from the perspective of one of Jane’s siblings and the letters that were written. The language and the pace of the book felt I was catapulted back to the past.

The past or historical fiction was very much of the reading in this month and I was back into World War Two with Molly Green – Summer Secrets at Bletchley Park. Bletchley Park fascinates me and all these women and men who worked there and never said anything for so many years after the war about what happened there. This is the first in what I hope is a little saga series to get my teeth right into!

You can sometimes read the same things about the same eras but with Jennifer Ryan – The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle she makes a part of the war on the home front that you didn’t realise existed and weaves it into a fascinating story. With great female leads and characters of different classes coming together to fight their own battles on the home front. I am fascinated as to where she goes next.

Featuring the Second World War and the years previous, is where you find yourself with Fern Britton – The Good Servant. This takes us into the heart of the royal family and Marion Crawford. Although this is fact made into excellent fiction, it has made me want to read more about Marion, her infamous book and some of the other excellent resources Fern Britton clearly used for her research.

Sticking with the interwar years finds me with Helena Dixon – Murder at the Country Club in the latest Miss Underhay mystery. If there ever was a time for cosy murder, this is a series of books which fulfil all you require set against a wonderful backdrop. I know this must come to an end but I will gobble them up until it does.

The only contemporary fiction was Holly Martin – The Wisteria Tree Cottage. A change from the original title by the author, but I am lucky enough to get an very early viewing and it is fascinating how these things change depending on uptake and marketing. This is yet another cracker from Holly and I just adore how this time she has given more voice to the male characters.

Not bad for June, but clearly work is taking its toll on all parts of my life. Time to readdress that balance if I am to survive the next six months. In the meantime do look back on your last six months of reading as Six in Six is now ready to go. I look forward to everyone joining in and please link back so I can share the love.

Happy reading!

Books

Summer Secrets at Bletchley Park – Molly Green

I am always fascinated by books which feature Bletchley Park as a backdrop or setting and this book was no exception. Molly Green is a new author to me and one I will be going back to for sure.

Dulcie Treadwell works as a newspaper reporter in London, but she is not taken seriously despite her ability. On the eve of the war and the lights going out over London she decides she will write about that. There she meets an American, also a reporter, Glenn Reeves. A spark is ignited but when Glenn is posted to Berlin suddenly and he cannot get to tell Dulcie in time, she finds that love lost hurts.

Dulcie finds herself at Bletchley Park, thanks to her skill solving cryptic crosswords. She is thrust into a world full of clues and secrets. It is hard going, long shifts and with little time to oneself. However she is thrilled to be doing her ‘bit’ and she takes her role seriously.

Dulcie starts to make friends as well as enemy’s who seem to want to know what is going on at the park. All the time this is going on, she pines for Glenn and hopes that one day he will find happiness. Could that happiness involve Dulcie? The war displaces many people and breaks many hearts, but it also brings together the most unlikely people too.

When it looks like Dulcie has made a big mistake, will she be able to defend herself ands how how true she is to breaking the codes and keeping all secrets close to her heart.

This is a lovely start to what I can see will be a series of novels. If you enjoy Second World War sagas with romance and a dollop of intrigue then this book will be for you. It was for me and I look forward to returning to Bletchley Park later in the year.

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

Summer Secrets at Bletchley Park is out now.

Books

Thrown – Sara Cox

Strong female fiction is hard to write and then to deliver to a world where when you are well known is going to get picked apart and analysed. Do you know what? Sara Cox has not just made a good job of it – she has made an excellent job. I felt I was reading a story from author with years of experience behind her, not a debut novelist.

Becky works in the community centre, she is determined to get back to being the heart of the community that she remembers when she was smaller and her mum worked there. It is the place she seeks solace, as a single mum with a son on the brink of adulthood, she does not need any distractions. Well not ex partners that is for sure.

Shelia’s son has flown the nest, she is lost and wants to retire to a life in Spain, her husband has other ideas and seems to be withdrawing inside himself.

Jameela seems an unlikely friendship for Shelia, but a chance encounter brings them together. Jameela sees this a chance to escape from what she wants most in the world, but seems to be alluding her.

Louise thinks her life is just boring, plodding through she wants to find the person she once was before, marriage, children and domesticity came along.

All of these women are thrown (see what I did there!) together when they come together at the new pottery class at the community centre. As they forget their troubles, they make new friends, hear new life stories and learn a skill to take them away from their current thoughts. If there was ever a advert for crafting in whatever form to take you away from it all this is it.

Just like life, the pottery doesn’t always turn out like people want it to, but learning to love the cracks in life, the flaws in others and the decorations that make us all up means that we can embrace anything and everything.

If you are a fan of women’s fiction with strong characters and with some difficult topics covered in such a delicate and thoughtful way then this book is for you. I would like to go back to these characters if Sara Cox would oblige, but if not then if the next book is going to be as strong as this, it will be a runaway bestseller.

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

Thrown is out now.

Sara Cox can be heard on BBC Radio 2 from 1700. Her book review show Between the Covers is also available on iPlayer.

Books

The Painter’s Girl – Helen Fripp

Paris, 1860 but not in the more affluent places, but the slums where existence for many women means either working in a laundry, washing the clothes of the rich or spending your days laying on your back. The dream is always to better yourself or not fall as low as possible.

Mimi Bisset is trying to survive, in a world where she has had to to give up her daughter born out of wedlock to the rich. She will do anything to bring herself up to their level. A chance meeting brings her into a circle of artists. One in particular singles her out; Edouard Manet. Mimi becomes his muse, his model, his pupils and eventually his lover.

Mimi is thrust into another world, a world far away from the one she knows and one that is closer to her own daughter. When a chance encounter brings Mimi close to her daughter, she realises that Manet is harbouring a secret. Mimi must do everything to bring her daughter back to her.

That includes going back to the only place she knows, the slums, the circus and her art. Can this save her and her daughter?

This book takes you into the depths of Paris of a time I knew little of. I recognise the names of the famous artists, but had to look up all their work as it was mentioned throughout the novel. I had a wonderful time, looking at this artwork and marvelling that I knew more than I thought I did!

Whilst Mimi is not a real person, she is certainty a mixture of a number of people named around that time and the story that has been created is beautiful and artistic as it is sad and poignant of the world that struggling female artists lived in, in fact a world where being female is a struggle.

A great example of well researched historical fiction and Helen Fripp is becoming a name to notice in this genre. An excellent read.

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

The Painter’s Girl is out now.

Books

The Summer Fair – Heidi Swain

For her summer book Heidi Swain has taken us back to Nightingale Square and there is no better place to be in the summer to drink in the wonderful community and garden either.

For Beth, moving to Nightingale Square seems like a dream come true. But after her awful house share she needs to move, to have her own space and plenty of it to put all of her plants. Nightingale Square seems the perfect place and sharing with Eli also seems perfect too. Expect that Eli loves music and Beth ahs been avoiding it ever since her opportunities were taken away from her years before.

As Beth’s new job at the Care Home takes off, she cannot avoid music forever. When the community she finds herself in rally round to raise money for a local project which brings back lots of memories for Beth it seems that her love of music is going to help finally solve her broken heart. If she picks up some love for herself along the way then surely that can only be a good thing?

As with all of Heidi’s books, you are drawn right into the community, to the garden, to the lives of the locals and if there was a book I wanted to go and live in, it would be one of these. The books can be read standalone but why would you want to deprive yourself of such a joy of immersing yourself in Nightingale Square completely.

The perfect summer read

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

The Summer Fair is out now.

Books

The Café at Marigold Marina – Tilly Tennant

Following the sudden death of her husband, Rosie finds herself in sole charge of the café they bought at Marigold Marina. Far from able to open and start making money, Rosie has channelled her grief into this place to get it up and running.

She opens the doors with thanks to a wonderful assistant, Tabitha and spends all her time in the café. That is her life but she knows there is more to that and it seems there is a glimmer of something when she meets Kit, the owner of the book barge that she can see from her little café. A friendship blossoms.

But something is not quite right an Rosie learns about her husband and a lot about the relationship they had together. It was at these moments, I wanted to cower about the way Rosie was being treated, she just could not see what was happening to her and that frustrated me beyond belief and I think that might have spoiled the book for me a bit. However, her strength she had was clearly there and with the support of the new friends she made, Rosie suddenly found the answer.

The setting of the marina, made me think we were immiedaley by the sea but were in fact on the river in Stratford Upon Avon. I think that needed to be made a bit clearer, because at times throughout the book it really felt like we were by the sea and I had to keep reminding myself we weren’t which distracted me from the book a little. The cover implies you are by the sea, with cliffs and beaches.

A easy romantic read to while away the sunny days, but I have read stronger novels from this author and perhaps would not start with this one if you are new to the author.

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

The Café at Marigold Marina is out now.

Looking back on reviews of other books by this author I have had a real hit and miss experience. I have another book thanks to netgalley to read, but I think perhaps my time is done with this author if that does not hit the spot. Trouble is I am not sure I can tell you what the spot is the book has to hit!

Books

A Wedding in Provence – Katie Fforde

Young, free and full of life Alexandra has everything ahead of her, however it is the mid 1960s and her family guardians are not quite sure about the life she has been leading, so it is time for finishing school and settling down. On her way to a Swiss finishing school, she stops in Paris and ends up taking a job as a nanny in a chateau in Provence.

Three children await her, who need a lot more than a nanny, they need a stable home, schooling and a lot of love. Alexandra draws on her own experiences of having various nanny’s and boarding schools to give these three children the best start in life.

Bringing what she knows from London food and all things English as well as her friend David, Alexandra starts to see these three children start to flourish. What Alexandra didn’t bank on was the flourishing romance with the father of the children.

Can she stay true to herself? Will the love of the area, the children as well as their father be enough to keep Alexandra in Provence? Or will the ex-wife and mother in law prove to much to cope with?

Following on from characters met in A Wedding in the Country, this was a great escapist novel from this author. The warmth and humour just sing from the page and I simply could devour all her books. I hope we go back to these characters in future novels.

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

A Wedding in Provence is out now.

Books

May Roundup

In a blink of any eye that was May. It has been rather a long month, I have been working sometimes 60 hours a week due to various reasons at work and it feels like some days I have done nothing of what I enjoy doing; reading, crafting and swimming. Then add in a dose of COVID, and the month has been a bit of a washout. So how I have managed to read all these books I don;t know – but I have so without further ado…..

When not feeling chipper it is always good to stick to something you know and that was the case with Katie Fforde – A Wedding in Provence. A book to lose yourself into and escape to the beautiful area of Provence and a glorious love story.

Surroundings and landscape often make a book and no more so than with Heidi Swain – The Summer Fair. Back in Nightingale Square in the shared community garden. It is a place that is going to heal the broken of hearts and souls. If I could live in a book, I would want to live here!

Having spent all of my life by the sea, I am quite often drawn to the water and in Tilly Tennant – The Café at Marigold Marina the water proves to be a place of salvation for one of it’s newest residents.

New residents, albeit temporarily in Cornwall was where the latest Merryn Allingham – Murder at Primrose Cottage took readers. I am sure there isn’t a month that doesn’t go by without at least one book set in Cornwall. Though I don’t think finding bodies in orchards is quite what I have in mind when I envisage a cottage in Cornwall (or anywhere!)

I do enjoy the periods of history that some of the books I read are set in. And after finishing a saga series, I am itching to get into another one. I have started with Vicki Beeby – A New Start for the Wrens. Topical as I recognise some of the places local to me and I have now twenty years experience of the Navy. This was a great start to the series and now I have to wait for the next one, so I might need to discover some other series where there are plenty to get caught up in whilst I wait.

History took me back even further to Paris and the 19th Century to the world of the impressionist painters with Helen Fripp – The Painter’s Girl. My artistic knowledge is probably rather poor, but this was a fascinating insight to the world these people circulated in. I wish I could have had a picture book next to me, to reference all those paintings mentioned. A few lost hours on the internet fixed that.

Arts and Crafts is something I adore in many forms, and I do like the place it can send you to in your mind. Whilst I an do no more than a cushion cover at basic and perhaps the odd face mask as the last two years called for them. I do adore the Great British Sewing Bee and therefore was intrigued to read Esme Young – Behind the Seams. A chatty reminiscence through this wonderful ladies life and the joy that sewing brings. One to forge her own path I greatly admire her and she seems to have got through life fairly unscathed from it all. Wonderful.

Another woman who is forging her own path is Elizabeth Zott in Bonnie Garmus – Lessons in Chemistry a book that has been all over social media in the last few weeks. It’s bright cover makes it stand out and it is an absolute gem of a book which says something about women in the world, in the workplace, in the home, in pretty much everything. I just felt that in some cases nothing has changed but then so much has also changed. One for book of the year I think.

Celeb fiction writing can be a bit hit and miss. Sara Cox – Thrown is a hit, a great big hit and actually a book I had to keep reading as I was invested in it so much. I am intrigued as to whether there will be more from this pen if it is as as good as this then we won’t be disappointed.

I also made the decision to sign up to 20 Books of Summer, to make a dent in my shelves both physical and on netgalley. One of the books of the list will need to be changed because I have read it already, but no mind there are plenty more to add onto the list!

Regular followers of my blog with be well aware of Six in Six and I will be bringing that back for 2022. Do look out for the information posts in the coming days and spread the word to those who might want to join in our small select group!

Let’s get reading…..

Books · Jottings

20 Books of Summer

Go big or go home they often say and in a first for this blog and me I am going to take part in Cathy at 746 Books 20 Books of Summer. I could have started with 10 or 15 and lets be honest I might only reach one of those but why not aim high.

It all starts on the 1 June and goes through to 1 September so I am going to make an attempt to clear a number on my netgalley list and also plenty off my shelves too.

Here is my initial 20 and we can change our minds along the way but this is the original starting point.

  1. Lucinda Riley – The Missing Sister
  2. Sara Sheridan – The Fair Botanists
  3. Sara Cox – Thrown Angela Thirkell – High Rising
  4. Richard Coles – Murder Before Evensong
  5. Jennifer Ryan – The Wedding Dress Circle
  6. Gervase Phinn – At The Captains Table
  7. Ann Cleeves – The Rising Tide
  8. Celia Rees – Miss Graham’s War
  9. Fern Britton – The Good Servant
  10. Mick Herron – Slow Horses
  11. Gill Hornby – Miss Austen
  12. Anne Booth – Small Miracles
  13. P.G.Wodehouse – Jeeves & Wooster unknown title yet!
  14. Stacy Halls – The Foundling
  15. Robert Galbraith – Troubled Blood
  16. Jennifer Saint – Ariadne
  17. Cathy Bramley – My Kind of Happy
  18. Sue Tedder – Annie Stanley All At Sea
  19. Dawn French – Because of You
  20. Freya Sampson – The Girl on the 88 Bus

Let the reading commences and I will have to see how I get on- hopefully a mix of genres there to keep my interest piqued!

Books

A New Start for the Wrens – Vicki Beeby

This is the start of a new series for the author and also for me. I was after a new saga to get stuck into and I have found it clearly with this series and the authors previous work.

Iris is also after a new start too, after presuming that she was about to be proposed to and live the life as lady of the manor, she makes a mistake and finds herself suddenly in Orkney as a WREN signaller. Joining her are Mary and Sally and whilst we learn about them, this story very much focuses on Iris. I took an immediate dislike to Iris, who ability to speak without thinking was clear and she really did have a problem with anyone who did not come from the same class and why would women want to do anything other than marry.

Of course as the book goes on, we see Iris prejudices challenged not just by her developing friendships with Mary and Sally but also the other people she meets along the way. Mechanic Rob is nothing like the man Iris should marry but something about him is enthralling. Stewart on the other hand would go down well with Iris’s parents. But is he really the caring doctor he makes out.

Then of course there is the Orkney Islands themselves, a vast landscape, nothing like the landscape of any of the girls homes. The weather is another battle to fight along with the Germans. The islanders welcome these girls into the homes and hearts and Irish can see that perhaps all she has held as ‘right’ is in fact wrong. When it looks like there could be a traitor in their midst, they find their purpose in their work will have huge ramifications.

This is a wonderfully written saga and I was hooked from the beginning. As someone who has a lot of knowledge of the Royal Navy and also coming from Portsmouth and working now where HMS Mercury moved to I can see plenty of names I recognised and nothing stood out for me as achingly wrong! I have seen that in previous novels and it really spoils the book for me.

I am already looking forward to catching up with the girls again soon.

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

A New Start for the Wrens is out now.