Books

Christmas at the Little Cottage on the Hill – Emma Davies

Ruby takes her ten-year old son, Jem and baby, Darcie and takes them away from everything they know. It it the beginning of December and they are not moving to another town but this time the countryside. She doesn’t have any regrets taking herself and her children away from the bullying man she married but it seems to be affecting Jem greatly and Ruby is taking the brunt of it.

When she arrives a Joy’s Acre to stay temporarily in one of the renovated cottages, she finds herself overwhelmed with joy, love, friendship, a wedding and snow!

The local woodsman Angus makes himself useful at the cottage, bringing wood to the keeps fires always going in the cold weather and also inspiring her young son to take his anger and frustration about having had to move again through looking what nature can do and the joy it can bring.

Whilst it seems Jem is settling, Ruby finds herself being thrown into helping with the wedding and reception party at Joy’s Acre of its owners Seth and Maddie. Her skills as a knitter and craft fan mean that she is much in demand when the tree arrives that needs decorating.

Then the snow starts and doesn’t stop. That throws everyone’s plans into disarray and when the power cut comes it seems that the Christmas that they were all planning is not going well.

Amongst all the wedding plans Jem goes missing, as the snow is drifting and the power has gone out. Has Ruby’s idea of a dream Christmas been shattered? Will she ever stop hiding and believe in the power of good people, love and friendship? But only if they find Jem.

This book really has everything, plenty of wonderfully described scenery, the smell of Trixie’s baking as she whips up delights for all those working at Joy’s Acre, Clara’s abilities with flowers and gardening, Tom’s thatching and the whole of joy of being at Joy’s Acre. There is plenty to make you laugh and lots to make you cry as well. It is a well-rounded story, with characters to get to know who are constructed so well and develop as the book progresses that it is a joy to know them. I wanted to go and stay at Joy’s Acre immediately.

The place is simply brought to life as is the story and is a book that should read!

This is the final book in the series of the Little Cottage on the Hill. I would heartily recommend reading all of them in order (my OCD kicking in) because that way you’ll understand the draw of Joy’s Acre, as well as experience such strong writing and characterisation.

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

Christmas at the Little Cottage on the Hill is out now. 

 

There are plenty of female authors out there writing series of books pigeonholed as women’s fiction and some are simply passable but others like this one are a must read and have had me hooked. So much that I binge read the first two and then was there when the third was released, so I was thrilled to get the opportunity to read this one via netgalley. 

I have only reviewed the last book as it was a netgalley request I was simply enjoying reading the others and as regular readers to this blog should know I don’t always review every book I read. 

Having read a lot of women’s fiction for the last couple of years, I am starting to get a bit more pickier in the authors and books I pick up. Netgalley can introduce to some great and not so great (in my humble opinion) and I found myself getting caught up in reading everything by a particular author when it was only just ‘blah’. I have made a conscious decision not to do that anymore especially when I read books such as this one and know there is some quality writing out there. 

 

 

 

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Books

The Mother of All Christmases – Milly Johnson

Meet three women who through one common denominator are going to be friends forever – they are all pregnant.

But that is the only common thing between them all.

Eve, pregnant and due on Christmas Day owns and runs the Winter Wonderland theme park which was featured in a previous Johnson novel. You don’t have to have read it to make any sense of this story, but it was lovely to meet back up with familiar characters.

Having a baby is not really a problem, but when there are other distractions and some dangerous accidents going on, is Eve really safe to carry on working there?

Annie, childless and now content with her life with her italian husband, Joe runs the cracker factory which specialises not just in the mass market ones but also handmade, bespoke ones too. But as she ages, the inevitable she thinks is happening that is until she is told that she is in fact pregnant and not going through the menopause. Utter joy fills both Annie and Joe.

Palma agreed to be a surrogate for a couple she thought could not have children. It was the way she was able to access money and get herself out of the life she found herself in. She wanted better and she was not afraid to work for it, but she needs to escape her past. Trouble is the couple split up and Palma is left with some very difficult choices.

Coming together at their Doctor’s new Christmas Pudding Club the women forge a friendship and we get to see them as they go through the highs and lows of their impending motherhood.

Add into that, some unsavoury character, cracker making, a wedding, an important boxing match and of course Christmas and there is much packed into this novel. It made me laugh out loud and it made me cry with joy and sadness. What more could you want or need from a novel?

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

The Mother of All Christmases is published on the 15th November. 

Books

Snowflakes at Lavender Bay – Sarah Bennett

Libby has lived all her life in Lavender Bay and whilst she has seen her friends go and gravitate back to the place she has no desire to leave it. Lavender Bay is her world and she is quite happy about that fact.

However her friends, Eliza and Beth both have romance in their lives and this is something that perhaps if Libby admitted it to herself she craves as well.

When Owen walks into the local pub and all of their lives, it seems that he is going to be a permanent feature in Lavender Bay.

Owen and Libby seem to rub each other up the wrong way and you can see the sparks fly whenever they get into conversation with each other. But perhaps with them sparks comes a little flame of desire?

That is if Libby can make up her mind what she wants – and also what she really wants to do with her life?

Libby does not want to run the fish and chip shop – she has a fancy for cream teas and scones.

Her dad thinks she should see some of the world when he retires and sells the fish and chip shop they run. Only trouble is that he hasn’t told her this…..so he goes ahead and sells the shop.

Will the new owner of the fish and chip shop reveal their identity or will Libby carry on trying to create her dream life without knowing all the facts?

This is the final part of the Lavender Bay trilogy and probably was my favourite of the three. It can easily be read as a standalone but if you do decide to read them all – in order then you will see how cleverly this novel has been almost woven on top of the previous two as you see things from Libby and Owen’s point of view.

There is something about being taken to the seaside as winter comes in, as the tourists go home and only the hardy locals understand that community has to survive in all seasons. The snow (which is not really common by the beach I live by) adds an almost magical element to the story and gives it a real wintry feel.

A great read for those cold wintry nights – even the warm ones too!

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

Snowflakes at Lavender Bay is published on 8 November. 

You can see all my reviews of Sarah Bennett’s books here 

Sunrise at Butterfly Cove

Wedding Bells at Butterfly Cove

Christmas at Butterfly Cove

Spring at Lavender Bay

Summer at Lavender Bay

 

Books · Jottings

October Roundup

What a funny old month – the reading slowed down and then has sped up at a great speed due to illness and not being able to sleep! At this point I am grateful to my kindle, but not so grateful to whoever gave me an ear & chest infection along with laryngitis. It has been a quiet and deaf last few days of October.

Anyway, enough of my ailments – what about the books?

In a bid to make a dent in my own bookshelves I only managed to read Katie Fforde – A Secret Garden. A classic Katie Fforde and a perfect piece of escapism. There is something rather comforting relying on particular authors to transport you away, which is why I was eager to read Jenny Colgan – Island Christmas.

I stumble across this series of Colgan books by accident and devoured them all up and then had to wait to continue the wonderful story of the lives and characters of the fictitious island of Mure, based on an island in the Hebrides. If a book inspired you to go somewhere it was these books – in a busy and demanding world sometimes the thought of escape to recapture oneself is a dream.

I am also just discovering more of Milly Johnson’s work and so to take another book that has been languishing on my netgalley shelf this time I picked up Milly Johnson – The Perfectly Imperfect Woman. It had everything in a story that I like and made me keep coming back for more.

Trouble when you start a series of books and you are hooked, you do have to keep coming back for more, which is why I got hold of the last in the trilogy of Lavender Bay Sarah Bennett – Snowflakes at Lavender Bay. I know series have to end, but there are some of the characters I always want to go back and see again – that was this book.

Trying to lose some of what some people might call ‘fluffy’ reading I picked up Lesley Kara – The Rumour. I love rumours, what starts out as something innocent can snowball and gather pace until it bears no resemblance to the truth. But what if some rumours are actually pure simple truth? I say no more, but I think this a book that you are going to have to look out for when published at the end of the year.

Rumours is how many an Agatha Christie is solved, that innocent piece of gossip actually leads Poirot or Marple to the truth. In bid to make my way through her body of work and because I caught the adaptation on the television a while back I picked up Agatha Christie – After the Funeral. Some might think it bizarre to read after the watch, and for the majority I would agree. But when it comes to Dame A sometimes a little prior knowledge means that I approach the book as a challenge and see if I can see the clues.

Rumours and clues and then of course there is secrets. Moving away from women’s fiction, Lily Graham is branching out into dual time narrative historical fiction and she is winning the race. Lily Graham – The Paris Secret is a book which reminds you of the innocence of love during wartime and what some of the consequences could be. Fascinating.

Finally, I got to Joanna Nell – The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village which is another book been hanging around the netgalley shelf. It is a lovely quiet read, that takes you all the way to Australia – I did not realise this until about two-thirds of the way through the book. (*rolls eyes*). I did not even pick it up from the language, but it tells the story of the women in a retirement village who are not quite yet ready to retire from living a life!

So that was October, and whilst I write this in November and having already finished one book I am hoping that the lurgy dispatches soon as much as I enjoy all the stories, I would like some actual sleep at night.

Books

The Moon Sister – Lucinda Riley

Here I am at the fifth story in The Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley. I had only just finished The Pearl Sister and this arrived, I debated whether to wait and look forward to reading it or diving straight in.

I chose the latter.

Tiggy D’Aplièse is the fifth of the girls to be adopted by Pa Salt, the billionaire who has died at the beginning of all these novels and leaves clues as to where he found all of his daughters. I can recall Tiggy being mentioned in previous novels, but her presence perhaps is not as dominant as her other sisters. It is in this book that we learn about Tiggy.

i is intuitive when it comes to animals and has a sense about her, that perhaps the rest of us don’t. Despite opportunities that could perhaps take her all over the world, Tiggy follows a path to the wilds of Scotland when she introduces wildcats to the Kinnaird Estate and whilst she stays to settle them in thanks to an offer from the Laird, Charlie she also sense another purpose whilst she is there.

Chilly has been on the Kinnaird Estate for a number of years and whilst the way he chooses to live his life, might seem strange to many, his sixth sense knows that one day he will meet a girl and send her back home – that girl is Tiggy.

That home is Granada, Spain.

And so Tiggy and us are taken back to 1930s Spain, the Spanish Civil War is not far away. But in the shadow of the Alhambra, Sacramonte, is a village in the caves of the hills where the gitano’s (gypsies) have settled after being driven out of the main city.

Here is where Tiggy learns of another life, another world, a place where her spiritual side makes sense and her the vibrations that not just come from here senses but the feet of the flamenco dancers.

The most famous of the area being Lucia, Tiggy’s grandmother.

The author, transported me back to this place, the darkness of the caves, the problems that the gitanos faced being on the outer edges of the city, of society, of religion, of what was considered normal behaviour. But showed a community brought together by all that makes them different, the culture, the music and of course the dance.

Words are lyrical, they can take you somewhere, they can form pictures in your imagination. But in this book, the description of the flamenco dancing and the music, but the flamenco especially, just resonates off the page. You can feel the vibrations of the feet, as they stamp and form, as the beat increases, as the arms move in almost synchronicity to the feet, as the dress is moved in time to the music and as the appreciative audience are held spellbound by such a display.

And so the story knits together as Tiggy unpicks her past, finds out where she came from and why she ended up being looked after by Pa Salt. I have had my ideas since the very beginning of this series about Pa Salt and in this book, as Tiggy is the more spiritual one, she begins to pick up thoughts and feelings, that any of the other sisters, but everything just seems out of reach. Only time will tell as the series moves on.

From Scotland, where estates, struggle to survive, in a less feudal world, to the city and heat of Spain, where those lesser classes are kept on the outskirts and treated with contempt and suspicion. To the mystery of the unknown, to that sixth sense that perhaps we all have when all we have to do is trust in what we believe and what we see.

I think like all the previous novels, I have learnt so much about something perhaps I did not know enough about and also been transported to places I will perhaps never get to see. This is for me the beauty of dual narrative books such as these. The past is place which we should not forget because it is very much what forms our future as it is for the six sisters in this series of novels.

I wait with great anticipation for the next book and Electra’s story.

Thank you the publisher for sending me this book in advance for review. I am eternally grateful to keep learning of the seven sisters, to escape into a well written world and books that show storytelling at its best. 

I am a fan of Lucinda Riley, but I write all my reviews honestly and feel lucky to be able to read her stories sometimes in advance of publication. 

The Moon Sister is published on 1 Nov 2018.

 

Books

Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at the Winter Wonderland – Heidi Swain

Last Christmas I was transported to Wynthorpe Hall in Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at The Christmas Fair.  I was introduced to Angus and Catherine, owners of the hall.

Jamie, Archie and Christopher are their sons.

The Hall is a magnet for gathering waifs and strays into their family fold which is how Anna was introduced in the first novel But we also have the cook Dorothy; handyman Mike; local wise lady Molly and cleaner come general factotum Hayley.

So that is the setting, the place and the characters. This novel introduces another visitor to the Hall, Gabe who comes to help Jamie with his outdoor adventure scheme which he has started to help children that have perhaps not had the best start in life.

Gabe soon fits into the ways of the hall but his first meeting is when he literally bumps into Hayley as she goes to investigate where her fiance has disappeared to and who with on the night of their engagement party.

The results are as you would expect and Gabe, ironically short for Gabriel is the angel that saves her.

Hayley swears off all men and ever finding that one true honest love and goes back to her acerbic and strong-willed ways. Gabe seems to get under her skin though and just as she thinks perhaps life maybe different, he retreats. Every time it is further and until Hayley is forced to give up and her head is turned back to the past.

In the meantime, building on the success of last years sleigh rides – Angus wants to open a Winter Wonderland and he needs everyone on board family or otherwise for it to work. Hayley and Gabe are push together again but it seems that Hayley’s talents might lie elsewhere.

Will the Winter Wonderland work? And will Hayley and Gabe sort out whatever it is they keep falling out over?

Heidi Swain in my opinion has done it again in drawing you into a story which of course has a romantic plot line but has so much else going on as well. She manages to make sure all the characters are well-rounded and have depth, even if they are minor and I am as much intrigued by Dorothy and Molly as I was delighted to be able to catch up with Anna and Jamie.

You can read this as a stand alone novel, but to be honest if you want to get a complete feel for the setting, the characters, and of course Christmas then I highly recommend going back and reading Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells.

An excellent Christmas read and if your Christmas is normally wet, grey and miserable this is a sure-fire way of immersing yourself in a Christmas that can exist!

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

Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at the Winter Wonderland is published on 2 November 2018.

Heidi Swain’s other novels (in order of publication and if you want to read them in order)

The Cherry Tree Cafe

Summer at Skylark Farm

Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market

Coming Home to Cuckoo Cottage

Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair

Sunshine and Sweet Peas in Nightingale Square

 

Books

Island Christmas – Jenny Colgan

This is the third book in the Mure Island series, and whilst it can be read as a standalone, you will not get the feel of the island in my opinion if you have not picked up The Summer at the Seaside Kitchen, Endless Beach and also a QuickRead book A Very Distant shore.

I was ready to pounce when this was released, so was delighted to be able to read it thanks to the publisher and netgalley.

Mure is a remote Scottish Island where all the action is set. And with Christmas approaching, it is place where you cannot get more remote as the weather sets in and the landscape changes to that of a winter wonderland. If you want to experience, the power of weather as you take refuge in front of log burning fires, with the ones you love and delicious food then this is the place to be.

Flora, who returned to the island has settled back into life as an islander. Her new relationship with American lawyer Joel is still very up and down. The island knows how to celebrate with Christmas coming and Flora’s home is used as the base for the islands party. How can you party and be pregnant and have not told the father? Flora is full of emotions and she has undeniable strength which she is going to need to call on.

The refugee doctor, Saif and his two young boys are still settling down on the island and they are very much becoming part of the island – so much so that they have starring roles in the school nativity. But the casting angers Saif and he cannot see anyway of staying on the island. Then a phone call about his wife comes through, perhaps it is time to move on.

This book is packed full of emotion and within the darkness of some of the plot strands and the landscape and weather, there is an inevitable lightness which sees you through. It is a cleverly skilled author who can manage the both with success. It is all here in abundance. I could say more, but to do so would ruin it for you.

Whilst perhaps, the series could come to an end. I really hope it does not. I was fascinated by the community life, the remoteness of the island, the weather and the characters that the author has created.

All of this series are excellent reads and if you can have the joy of starting at the beginning and powering through all of them you will have a wonderful experience and be desperate to experience Mure for yourself, if only for a holiday!

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

An Island Christmas is published on 18th October. 

The other Mure books are all out now.