Books

The Child of Auschwitz – Lily Graham

How do you write a review for a book where you know pretty much what it is all about from the title? How do you write a review for a book about one of the most horrendous periods of history?

I approach this with such trepidation.

Eva boarded a train to Auschwitz she is looking for her husband of only six months. She wants to find him and she is going to hell on earth to do so. But is he there?

Sofie befriends Eva as they share a bed, what food they can get and the knowledge that they are goign through the same, shaved heads, back breaking labour and ultimately fear of death.

As Eva dreams of her husband, Sofie dreams of being reunited with her son.

As the days go on, Sofie sees an opportunity to bring happiness to Eva, but at what cost?

When Eva’s dreams come true the worse is still yet to come. Pregnant, Eva and Sofie now need to protect more than just themselves.

Will anyone survive the heartbreak of separation from the ones that they love?

This is an incredibly moving, researched, story that had me gasping in shock and with tears streaming down my face. The strength that these women went to, to survive makes our moans and groans of today’s world pale into comparison.

It is a fascinating read and brought such horror to life and I think a lot of people need to know what human beings are capable of, both good and evil.

This has to be Lily Graham’s best novel to date, the others were excellent but this seems to go above and beyond that.

A book worthy of your time to read.

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

The Child of Auschwitz is out now. 

 

 

Books

Christmas at Rachel’s Pudding Pantry – Caroline Roberts

This is a lovely festive follow up to Rachel’s Pudding Pantry which was released earlier in the year.

Rachel is still at Primrose Farm and her Pudding Pantry has survived the busy summer period but as autumn sets in and Christmas looms, she is starting to worry that the money from the diversification is not going to see them through the winter months.

With some very quiet days to add to her worry there is also the fact that her ex seems to be more involved with someone new who happens to have a child, and interest in their little girl Maisie perhaps takes a back seat. Her romance with neighbouring farmer Tom seems to be going one step backwards rather than forwards and when someone from the past turns up it seems to put everything in jeopardy.

Of course nothing is going to be easy but an idea of starting a ‘Pudding Club’ to diversify and bring people together over a love of puddings and making friends makes the run up to Christmas less of a problem. With a Christmas Fayre, nativities and plenty of festive baking to fit in between running the farm she has perhaps taken on more than she can cope with.

When the weather takes a turn and her livestock are threatened she has to muster all the strength to not just save them but everything she loves as well.

It was lovely to return to the farm and see how Rachel and her family were moving on from the past and creating a rather different future. Rachel realises that time moves on and with it so do people and perhaps she needs to accept the change that his happening around her – it can only be for the good.

This is a great festive read and with the recipes punctuated throughout the novel it definitely sets you taste buds going. Makes you want to sit in front of a roaring fire and demolish a mince pie or two!

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

Christmas at Rachel’s Pudding Pantry is published on 31 October. 

 

 

Books

Snowflakes at Mistletoe Cottage – Katie Ginger

Esme loves everything about London, her boyfriend, her friends, her job on a top tv cooking programme and the fact she can experience so much about Christmas immediately from her front door.

One day though it all comes to a grinding halt.

She is sacked from her job.

She is dumped by her boyfriend.

She can only go home to Sandchester.

There with her madcap parents who made me laugh out loud, especially mother Carol she starts to rebuild something of a life she may want.

Finding refuge in Mistletoe Cottage, still in its seventies decor and no central heating it seems a really madcap adventure to set out on. But her father’s advice is never go back.

So Esme goes forward and embraces the new way of making a name for yourself – as a blogger, a social media whizz and a name to watch.

Embracing her love of cooking and food, she clutches her grandmother’s recipe book to her chest and embarks on her own version of a cookery programme with some interesting results!

Going back home means she comes face to face with some old friends. Joe in particular always had her attention when they were younger, but will his reputation ever change and is something about his past preventing him from moving forward.

But he always seems to be there for Esme and with Christmas coming has she now found someone to kiss under the mistletoe.

This is a great festive read and one for all food fans as well. Mouthwatering descriptions of food and the fun of amaetuer recordings of making lots of funny moments. What made it more interesting for me was that we got to see how other people affected by what has happened to Esme as the story progresses.

It was good to see how her ex-boyfriend was now managing and his attitude to relationships and the role women play in them made me want to punch him! He got under my skin for the wrong reasons. Always a sign of good writing and characterisations for me.

This was a book when good overcame bad and those that needed to get their comeuppance did and everyone lived perhaps not happily ever after, but they all found where they should be and a contentment that many spend a lifetime looking for.

A good Christmas read.

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

Snowflakes at Mistletoe Cottage is published on 11 October. 

I will check out Katie Ginger’s earlier novels now – I have a feeling I will enjoy them. 

Books

The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker – Joanna Nell

Mrs Henry Parker is the wife of a retired ship’s doctor she has spent most of her life at sea. She spends her days wandering the ship as if it is her home and her nights dressed up to the nines and entertaining the very  revolving round of fellow passengers of tales of her past adventures.

But Henry seems to have gone missing and Mrs Parker sets out with her ‘Finding Henry’ shoes to search the vast liner she is on.

However through this search she makes new friends and finds herself reminiscing about the past voyages while experiencing some new adventures.

The trouble is the new adventures are not memorable, but the events of meeting Henry on that first voyage, her nursing training and other poignant events are as clear as if they happened yesterday.

Mrs Parker cannot understand why everyone is so poorly dressed at breakfast, why she is in a colouring class, gambling in a casino, dancing in a nightclub and with mysterious injuries and what seems like the endless pursuit by the people in blue pyjamas and Tuesday’s child. Amongst the muddle of Mrs Parker’s brain it all makes sense.

All the time she is looking for Henry.

This voyage of Mrs Henry Parker has to come to an end and I was surprised by the twist it took, I had already made my mind up about that had happened to Henry and I was wrong. I am so glad I was.

Some might find this book uncomfortable, tragic in a way that such a thing was allowed to go on. But the author’s insightful research and reading of someone who was suffering with senility was dealt with sympathy and kindness. It might have seemed a strange place to set such a story and how events unfolded, but I have heard first hand that this story is not in fact unique.

This is a wonderful second book from Joanna Nell and she has insightfully captured a rather difficult topic well and shown how important memories are and that we need to make so many of them.

Poignant and thoughtful this book will stay with me for a while yet. If you were a fan of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry or the story of Queenie Hennessy then you will enjoy this quiet book with so much to tell.

 

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

The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker is published on 24 September. 

It was not until I got to the end of the book that I realised that had to be some insider knowledge and it seems some of the incidents were based on reality. 

Read here to get some background on the author and her latest novel. 

I also recommend her first novel The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village which I read reviewed last year. 

Books

The Mitford Scandal – Jessica Fellowes

It is 1928 – Diana Mitford has turned eighteen and she has the whole world and society at her feet. The Guinness’ are holding a glamorous party where you need to be seen.

It is 1928 – Louisa Cannon is at the glamourous party too, not wanting to be seen as she supplements her meagre income as a seamstress with work as a maid at these parties.

On that fateful night many things happen-

A maid plunges to her death.

Bryan Guinness proposes to Diana Mitford and she accepts.

The maid’s death is recorded as an accident.

Diana and Bryan marry and embark on a honeymoon in Paris. But Diana wants to take Louisa Cannon away with her as her ladies maid. Louisa not keen but seemingly always drawn to the Mitford sisters as they grow agrees.

In Paris they are not alone, all societies up and coming people and some not so, including Evelyn Waugh as well as Diana’s own sister Nancy, still not yet married are also there.

Then another death occurs and Louisa cannot help that although two years have past since the death of that maid, there is something familiar about it.

Back in London, Guy Sullivan, now a Detective Sergeant is looking into the possible disappearance of a maid who was also at the party in 1928. His investigations take him to Paris as well. Is there a possibility of a link.

The third in the series, which combines fascinating fact with fiction – the murders luckily are all fiction but a number of the events covered in the book are based in truth, which is why I enjoy them immensely and the fascination keeps me hooked right to the end.

A captivating book which concentrates on Diana, the third Mitford sister, all of them are mentioned and Nancy and Pamela the two elder are more prominent than the younger ones. But this book really sees the character of Louisa Cannon our main protagonist in this series develop into a stronger character. Her detective and reasoning skills are developing as is her relationship with Guy Sullivan.

The book is well plotted, well written and totally in keeping with what you would expect from a Golden Age Mystery – I am sure at some point Poirot is going to appear!

I look forward to the next in this series and cannot wait to be totally immersed in this true and fictional world that Jessica Fellowes has wonderfully created. If they could be adapted into the small or even big screen I think it would be wonderful!

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

The Mitford Scandal is published on 24 September

The first two in the series are available now:

The Mitford Murders (Nancy Mitford)

Bright Young Dead (Pamela Mitford)

 

Books · Jottings

August Roundup

And there goes August in a blink of an eye and eighteen, yes eighteen books later! I think that must be a record for me and I am not really sure what I can put it down to.

Well three weeks off work probably helps as does it being too hot to do much else that read. Added to that being away and not having to worry about cooking the dinner and washing the dishes meant even more time to read. But enough of how and why – what have I read!

Where to start as this month has also been the month that I have picked up the most physical books in a long time, as opposed to reading them on my kindle. This started with Agatha Christie – The Secret Adversary which had been languishing on my shelf for a while and it was one of the books chosen for Read Christie 2019 for the month of July so I thought I would get along and read it and tick another one off my Christie List.

Another book on my shelf that has been there a while was Tom Winter – Lost & Found. I had not lost it but found it again and decided it was time I got round to reading it. It still captured my interest from the first moment I picked it up and the gentleness and tragic story that unfolded was wonderfully written. I will look out for this author again.

Clearing the bookshelves again with a chunky one this time – Robert Galbraith – Lethal White. I got the hardback copy for a Christmas present last year and thought I better get round to reading it. Oh how I wished for the paperback version – still a chunky book but perhaps not as dangerous as a hardback. That said I was hooked and dragged it away with me and for the first day I was engrossed enough to keep reading it as I wanted to get up to date with Cormoran Strike and Robin. Now I am and I am ready for the adaptation – starting to be filmed according to Holliday Grainger (interviewed on Radio 2 with Zoe Ball in August). Not sure how long we will have to wait for another book though.

There are some definite gaps on my bookshelves now especially when I picked up Katie Fforde – Recipe for Love. You are always guaranteed a good story with Katie Ffforde and this was no different as whilst I had read a short story featuring these characters I had not understood how we got to the point. It was great to back to the beginning and see how it all started. I am slowly catching up on her oeuvre and spotted an unread one in a charity shop so snaffled it up for when I want something to lose myself in.

Maeve Haran – In A Country Garden was an author I had not read before and I was intrigued by the cover and the premise of the book so picked it up to make another dent in my bookshelf. A laugh out loud book about growing old and coming together to help each other. Not an author I might pick up again but it was a pleasant diversion.

Despite the gaps on my bookshelves there is still plenty to choose from but that doesn’t stop me buying more – well I have to fill those gaps with something! I am not a big fan of my local Waterstones, the books seem to be getting less and less and the other stuff more and more. However, I came away with enough to keep me occupied. Some before I even got out of the shop. Amanda Brown – The Prison Doctor had me hooked when I nipped to have a coffee and a cookie as a treat (well I was on holiday) and finished within twenty four hours, passed to my mum who ploughed through half the book in one afternoon in the garden. Its brutally honest tale was rather like watching “car crash television” and I forever grateful that there are people who do these jobs. These types of books are either a hit or a miss. This was a hit.

From Prisons to Schools with two books I picked up from the children’s section – Robin Stevens – Murder Most Unladylike and Robin Stevens – Arsenic for Tea. School girl tales which I spotted when scrolling through some website and I was intrigued. Think Enid Blyton meets Agatha Christie and you are already halfway there. I picked up book three at the same time but have yet to allow myself to read it. A bit of a risk but still and I am delighted to discover that there are another five plus short stories to catch up on. The covers are great and colourful, the illustrations are top notch and in fact they are totally spiffing stories!

Talking of murder and being ladylike leads me to the next Mitford sister in Jessica Fellowes – The Mitford Scandal. This is the third novel and therefore third sister, Diana is the main character. These are really engrossing stories and you forget how much society overlapped in the early part of the twentieth century and that some these names are still known today.

Now if you mention Ann Cleeves to me, I might say wife of Henry VIII but also Vera the great character she created and brought to life by the sublime Brenda Blethyn. You also might think about Shetland as well. However now we are going to have someone else to talk about in – Ann Cleeves – The Long Call. DI Matthew Venn is the new detective on the block and we are all the way down in North Devon. A man’s body is discovered not far from Venn’s home and a vulnerable adult goes missing. Can they be connected in any way? Even more excitingly this has been optioned for television and we will have another detective series to enjoy over and over again.

Still with me – just over halfway now!

A holiday would not be a holiday without some treats and this book is definitely one of them – Cressida McLaughlin – The Cornish Cream Tea Bus. Normally released in parts I find Cressida’s books make much better reading as a whole and this is no exception. Who would not want to traverse Cornwall in a bus eating scones and clotted cream?

Talking of Cornwall took me to Laura Purcell – Bone China. Well written and with some fascinating elements however, the plot was too fanciful for me and my rational, logical mind always fights such things. The second of this authors books I have read and have felt the same.

Perhaps it is too fanciful for a woman to run off and join the Navy. They can nowadays although they are still very much in a man’s world. But what if it was over 200 years ago and the Navy were off to fight a war. Beryl Kingston – Hearts of Oak, is a reissue of an earlier novel and tells such a story of a women looking for husband as he is surreptitiously press ganged into Nelson’s Navy. Yes that Nelson and yes that battle. As a Portsmouth girl, the places and the local stories resonated with me. A great piece of historical fiction which has some fact woven into the story.

As well as making in dent in bookshelves in shops and home, there are some older requests on netgalley for which I have yet to get to. One of them was Rachel Burton – The Many Colours of Us, now having read it I do not know why it took me so long and why I have not perhaps caught up with her more recent work. An emotive story which you made you see all sides of events and the characters within the plot and you can see how many colours make us all up.

We all have different stories to tell and versions of ourselves but when Anna Darton runs away from home  she needs to reinvent herself and so she does in Joanna Rees – The Runaway Daughter. It is 1920s London and you can be anything that you want to be but your past is always in the shadows and sometimes cannot be outrun.

The past is a funny place to research even more so when it gives you clues to your own future. Katherine Slee – For Emily is a debut novel which I think is going to make quite a noise. The imagery used is carefully thought out and the quietness of the book suggests a time of grief and rediscovery for all.

New beginnings are common themes for many books and in Rachel Dove – The Fire House on Honeysuckle Street this is no different apart from the fact that both Lucy and Sam are starting again and they have to move forward no matter what. The latest from Rachel Dove’s books set in the fictional Yorkshire place Westfield.

And finally……what better place to start reading about Christmas in August than with Phillipa Ashley – A Perfect Cornish Christmas. This book was not overtly Christmassy and had just enough festive cheer and tragedy that was needed to make a very interesting story come to life. No more about it though – you will have to wait a few months to read my review!

Thank you for making it thus far and popping into my little reading world.

I hope you enjoyed your August, I certainly did mine and now as I look to going back to work tomorrow I also look forward to seeing where my reading might take me next.

Books

The Corpse Played Dead – Georgina Clarke

We last saw Lizzie Hardwicke in the role of prostitute – a role she chose not one she playing but now in this second novel of the series, Lizzie is to take on another role, in fact more than one.

A role that is going to put her right in the middle of the action.

Asked to go undercover by a Bow Street Magistrate – this is the days before a recognisable police force – Lizzie goes to Drury Lane, to a theatre to work as a seamstress.

The theatre owned by David Garrick (yes the very same) has had some strange accidents and events going on.

Lizzie is there to observe not the performance on the stage but that of what is going on behind the scenes – much more intriguing.

As rich men are paid court in a not so dissimilar way to Lizzies occupation, actors and actress, playwrights and stage hands all witness the way money is gained to help the theatre survive.

That is until one of these rich men ends up on stage himself……

Upside down……

With his throat cut……

Enter the magistrate Mr Fielding and one of the inspectors Will Davenport who we met in the first novel and who has developed a fondness for Lizzie despite her chosen path in life.

Lizzie knows that she cannot leave this role until she has found out the truth about the dead man and whilst it seems the perpetrator has been caught and the case solved there are too many loose ends and unwoven threads to the story like the dresses and cuffs that Lizzie has been mending when she has been inconspicuously listening and observing.

Who would pay attention to a grubby, second seamstress in a room full of egos and money?

If I did not know this was fiction I would believe I was reading an account of the time and that this was a piece of historical nonfiction of the Georgian time in the depths of some of the rather seedier parts of London.

The fact that it is before a police force and our main protagonist is female and a prostitute adds to the depth of the plot and makes is a page turner. I learnt from this book as I did from her debut and the dedicated and detailed research by the author is clearly evident.

It is that which means I wait with anticipation as to where Lizzie Hardwicke is going to turn up next and who she is going to encounter and also perhaps in time she will have enough money saved to stop her current profession and find true happiness with Will Davenport….. then again the author might have another idea. How exciting!

 

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

The Corpse Played Dead is published on 19th August. 

What to know more about Georgina Clarke and of course Lizzie Hardwicke?

Read an excerpt from her debut novel Death and the Harlot here.  My review of the book can be found here if you are still not sure. If you are a fan of crime and history you will thoroughly enjoy this new series of books.