Happiness for Beginners – Carole Matthews

The latest novel from Carole Matthews is full of so much joy, hope and happiness that the book could almost be a self-help one!

Molly lives on Hope Farm, inherited from her Aunt when she died. Molly has no one in her life, a disruptive childhood meant she spent a lot of time at Hope Farm and was at her best when it was just her, the animals and nature.

There is something special about this farm – it gives hope and inevitably happiness. All of the animals need that bit extra attention. Whether it be a skittish alpaca, a one-legged chicken, or a sheep with a chip on its shoulder. They are all animals who would have been written off and forgotten.

The same could be said for the children that also come to Hope Farm, because Molly has turned this place into a last chance saloon for children who have exhausted all traditional forms of educating and in some ways the system has failed them. Interacting with the animals seems to bring them a whole different perspective with some school work thrown in for good measure.

That is until Lucas turns up at Molly’s door. Neglected by his father, the well-known television actor Shelby Dacre. Lucas is a handful and one of the most reluctant of students, but when you stand in the shadow of a very handsome father perhaps Lucas behaviour is the only way to get his father’s attention.

Molly is struck by Lucas more than any of the other children and finds a place in her heart for him. He thrives on the farm but when that is threatened it looks like Molly and all her waifs and strays are going to have to go their separate ways.

This is such a joyous book from beginning to end. The author throws you straight into life on the farm, to the problems of the children and the basic life that Molly leads. I wanted to dive into the pages and be part of the farm, to help those kids find some sort of purpose in life and to enjoy being in nature and living perhaps a less gilded life than that of Shelby Dacre.

I loved it and would recommend it for anyone who needs to have a bit of sunshine and happiness in their life!

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

Happiness for Beginners is published on 21 February 2019.



Courage of the Shipyard Girls – Nancy Revell

I have been with the Shipyard Girls since the very beginning and I really hope to be a part of their lives for many years to come. It is 1942 the war is still on and it seems such a long time since it started and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight. These characters didn’t know that they were going to have to weather another 3 years.

Polly one of the hardest working ‘Shipyard’ girls is left devastated when her Tommy goes missing, grief is breaking her heart and her heart is only going to be broken once. Everyone worries about Polly, when they can see she will only love the once.

Helen, thought she was in love with Tommy at one time as well. In fact she probably is but when her affections are taken by Theo in the previous novel, the result reveals a testing time for Helen and her family. Her decision is going to change everything but when that decision is taking out of her hands, she turns to Gloria.

Their forging friendship is very much a secret but when catastrophic events mean help comes from all over the place everyone gets to see a different side to Helen.

Bel is still coming to terms with her parentage and the thread started in a previous book is wound through this one and certainly will feature I am sure in subsequent novels. Secrets cannot be kept forever, not when others are starting to see something familiar.

Rosie is struggling with the right decision for her sister Charlotte, Sunderland is not necessarily the safest place to be. Lily and George have decided to get married at last. Kate the wonderful seamstress is thrilled to be designing and making the dress and she has an admirer as well. I could go on with snippets of all the comings and goings but there is no fun in that – you will need to catch up on everyone’s news yourself.

All the characters I have got to know and love are all featured, as in any long running series, they are sometimes in the background and sometimes featured heavily in the storylines. Nancy Revell treats every one of them with care, love and respect and I cannot wait to continue my journey at the Shipyard and find out what else the war is going to throw at them as they try and survive.

I heartily recommend this series of books. You could start with this one, but why deprive yourself of the previous five then you can completely immerse yourself in the Shipyard Girls and get to know them as well as I do. For me one of the best series of sagas around and without a doubt a simple joy to read the books when they are published.

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

Courage of the Shipyard Girls is published on 21 February. 

If you wish to read them in order:

  1. The Shipyard Girls
  2. Shipyard Girls at War
  3. Secrets of the Shipyard Girls
  4. Shipyard Girls in Love
  5. Victory for the Shipyard Girls 
  6. Courage of the Shipyard Girls (review above)
  7. Christmas with the Shipyard Girls (published in Sep 19)

Who is the author and why does she seem to bring Sunderland and shipbuilding to life? Well here is her biography, which can be found on Goodreads/Amazon etc

Nancy Revell is the Sunday Times bestseller author of The Shipyard Girls series, which is set in the north-east of England during World War Two.

Nancy is the pen name of Amanda Revell Walton, a former journalist who worked for all the national newspapers, providing them with hard-hitting news stories and in-depth features. She also wrote amazing and inspirational true life stories for just about every woman’s magazine in the country.

When she first started writing The Shipyard Girls series, Nancy relocated back to her hometown of Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, along with her husband, Paul, and their English Bull Mastiff, Rosie. They now live just a short walk away from the beautiful award-winning beaches of Roker and Seaburn, within a mile of where the books are set.

The Shipyard Girls is particularly close to Nancy’s heart as she comes from a long line of shipbuilders, who were well known in the area.




Books · Jottings

January Roundup


2019 has begun and we are already a month down. I hope if you have had snow you are safe, well and warm and if you haven’t the same sentiment applies! I am warm and we had a fluttering of snow but as for being well, I am shaking of the remnants of a chest infection and thank my GP, the wonder that is the NHS and antibiotics who made feel a lot better when I really didn’t know I was that ill.

As for the books that kept me going in January – it was a mixed bag and only one of them was an actual book – Sara Sheridan – Russian Roulette. I enjoy the adventures of Mirabelle Bevan and whilst I may not blog about the series anymore, do feel free to search the blog for the ones I have spoken about and you may well find another series to get into. Great for Murder Mystery fans.

More murder and more mystery came with the second book in another series Anthony Horowitz – The Sentence is Death. The author is in fact a character in the book and lets you into his ‘real’ life. If you know the name, you will know his oeuvre. It sounds confusing but actually is the least confusing thing about the mystery.

With murder there comes guilt. But what if the guilt was you witnessed a crime? Mel McGrath – The Guilty Party explores this concept but who is telling the truth? A very different sort of thriller, not the best I have read but interesting nonetheless.

I started 2018 reading Jennifer Wells and I started 2019 doing exactly the same. What on the fact of it seem ‘sagas’ they are in fact much more than that. Jennifer Wells – The Secret, this year’s read was no different. During the 1920s, a dancer is taken to a house to rest. In 1942 a nurse visits the same house. Surely the two things cannot be connected?

A new author to me was Helen Rolfe – The Little Cafe at the End of the Pier. Previously released as short novellas, this is the whole book (and my prefered way of reading said stories). As living somewhere with 2 piers, I felt drawn to the story and the food that was being served at the Little Cafe. If this is the quality of the writing, I will certainly be back for more.

A while since I have read any Rachael Lucas but I was drawn by the cover of this one Rachael Lucas – Finding Hope at Hillside Farm. Hope can be found in many forms at Hillside Farm but for its owner Ella and her horses, it is going to change her life forever.

Finally a book which I flew through in less than 24 hours, okay so I was aided by the fact the constant coughing kept me awake but so did the book too. In fact I recommended it to my friend as she was having a tough time and she flew through it too. So I heartily recommend Christie Barlow – Love Heart Lane. A book which will definitely make it onto the books of the year and it only being January is a feat I know but also the joy that I get to go back and visit Love Heart Lane later in the year. The book is already on preorder!!

So that was January…how was yours?




Love Heart Lane – Christie Barlow

Flick escaped to London, not just for the bright lights but because she felt it was the best thing to do, escape from the little village of Heartcross in the highlands of Scotland.

Now London has lost its magic and Flick has lost her grandmother it is time to return to Heartcross, initially only for a few days.

She finds a place changed, the tea rooms her grandmother used to run closed. Her friends she left behind have moved on and perhaps not quite forgiven Flick for her sudden departure and Fergus Campbell seems to be everywhere Flick turns.

Flick plans to return to London but when the weather transpired against her with first snow and a powerful storm, Flick cannot go anywhere but then neither can anyone else as the only bridge into the village is swept away.

Flick is stranded and feels that perhaps Heartcross is where she always should be as she pulls together the community to help each other and survive whilst someone decides how important it is to get the bridge back up. Reopening the tea room gives a place for the villagers to gather, hear news and most of all be fed as food is pooled and rationed to maintain supplies at least in the interim. It also gives Flick peace and a sense of purpose and wellbeing that she has not felt before in the village.

As Flick becomes the spokesperson for the village and deals with the bureaucracy she uses some ideas to get the community to come together and solve their own problem of being stranded. But whilst they are cut off, it gives others a chance to be able to heal former rifts and friendships are reborn, relationships revisited. Will it be happily ever after for Flick and will they ever be able to cross the bridge again?

This is a wonderful heartwarming novel, which deals with many issues across a spectrum – from “cradle to grave” and all of the characters in the book are wonderful. Add to that the setting of Scotland and the power of the weather and it felt I was transported right up there and was sharing the community spirit which simply floated off the pages.

This book is perfect for fans of Katie Fforde, Trisha Ashley and Carole Matthews. I am really looking forward to going back to Heartcross and catching up with everyone in the next book.

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

Love Heart Lane is out now and the next book Foxglove Farm will be published in June 2019.


The Little Cafe at the End of the Pier- Helen Rolfe

This book is the combination of the novellas that were published periodically throughout 2018. I am not a big fan of this way of publishing as I much prefer to get stuck right into the story, so I am glad that I picked this as the full novel so I could immerse myself in the Cafe.

Jo’s grandparents are struggling with their cafe and with Jo not really finding the love in teaching she offers to come back and give a hand. It is not until she returns to Salthaven that she realises what a mess they are in and the hard work she is facing.

However Jo approaches it all with such enthusiasm that I was immediately transported to the cafe to watch as Jo not only manages to breathe life back into the cafe but the community and also people’s love lives. Trouble is she is neglecting her own passions as she enthuses so much about the cafe and helping other people.

Taking us through the seasons, we see Jo embrace the various fruit and vegetables that are delivered daily from Matt at the local farm – if you want to eat seasonally, this book would help! If you want to go on a diet this book is like torture! The food sounds delicious and I could almost smell it cooking as I read on as Jo tries all sorts of interesting combinations.

Steve, the local handyman and hardened surfer whatever the weather is a regular customer and fixer of the cafe and despite his physique eats quite a lot of things he shouldn’t.

Jess, the running doctor, always stops by for her smoothie.

Dan and his son Charlie who are struggling without the regular presence of a wife and mother pop in for a regular treat.

Locals, Hilda and Angie think nothing of taking up a table for a game of chess for a good part of the day.

Valerie likes to pop in after her early morning yoga on the beach and then there is lonely, Geoff and his fishing at the end of the pier who always has time for a drink.

The book is full of characters and Jo can see that some of them are well suited to each other and thinks maybe she should play cupid and use her cafe as the perfect setting. Along with some well-timed and themed local events, the cafe is really the place to be but while Jo has settled in well her mother, thinks she is wasting her life but then her mother left Salthaven a long time ago and cannot see the attraction. Jo needs to make her see another side to the place.

With Jo so busy, will she ever have time for her own romance. Well if we leave it up to some of the regulars in the cafe who knows what might happen?

This is a fantastic book, I really enjoyed it and read it quickly as I was captured by the all of the characters, there are a few and they are well-formed and you knew how they fitted into the story and it was all the better for it. The descriptions of the food and baking was out of this world and this book could almost be a recipe book in the making!

I recommend this book whatever the season because there is always something going on at The Little Cafe at the End of the Pier! Join Jo for a coffee and a cake you will not regret it.

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

The five parts which make up this novel are out now on kindle and the full book is published on the 24 January. 



Finding Hope at Hillside Farm – Rachael Lucas

Ella works with horses on her Aunt Bron’s farm in the Welsh countryside. It is a haven for Ella who having always worked horses retreated to Bron’s farm when tragedy struck. Now Ella spends her days healing others through the power of therapy with the horses.

When she spots a small child watching her through the trees, she at first thinks she has seen some sort of ghost, but in fact it is Hope, a young girl who has lost her mother, living with her grandparents and a fairly absent father who has moved to the area. She is fascinated by the horses and when she finally gets up close to them, they change not just Hope’s life but also Ella’s.

Ella might well be settled but she is still hiding from the past – and someone from that past. When he turns back up in Ella’s life it seems that perhaps the past is still very much the present.

This is a wonderfully gentle novel, dealing with life changing issues in a kind way. Whilst the story gets going, it seems we are simply watching Ella’s life and her work with this equine therapy.  Then there is Hope’s story as she comes to the village to live with her grandparents, the formidable Jenny and laid back Lou. There is of course the village community which is embraced within such a place and that is threaded through the main storyline. Of course the clues are there and I did spot the link between the two stories.

I had to keep simply reading because I wanted to know how it was all going to weave together and whether the outcome was the right one for the characters that I had invested time in. Of course I am not going to tell you what the outcome is – or whether it was the right one. You will have to read the book yourself to find that out!

This book needs a sequel as I want to go back to Hillside Farm.

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

Finding Hope at Hillside Farm is out now on kindle and published in paperback 7 Feb


The Secret – Jennifer Wells

Jennifer Wells is a new author to me and this is the first book I completed in 2019. Ironically the first book read in 2018 was her previous novel. I can see a pattern forming and just like the first book I read a year ago the latest one was interesting, captivating and a thoroughly good read.

1920 – Lily, a dancer is invited to go and stay at Elmridge House with Dr Cuthbertson a doctor and a wealthy benefactor of the theatre to recover from her troubles.

1942 – Ivy, a nurse at the local cottage hospital is called out to Elmridge House to a distressed Mrs Cuthbertson and the elusive Dr Cuthbertson. The house is nothing like she has seen before, its grandeur evident from the moment you turn onto the drive.

When Ivy mentions her visit to Elmridge House to her mother, she is warned to never set foot in the place again. Ivy is given no explanation.

As the two narratives take us on a journey, there becomes the cross over where the actions of Ivy and Lily come forever intertwined and the story of what goes on at Elmridge House is revealed.

I really don’t want to say anymore, because it is a book full of intrigue and secrets, set against the bright lights of theatre, of that false world created for others entertainment and pleasure. Then some twenty years later against the war and those that are left behind to carry on and nurse, not just the men returned from battles with scars both physical and mental but of the women left behind who perhaps grasping a small amount of pleasure are left with a lasting legacy to be dealt with.

I felt I was looking at what was going on ‘behind the scenes’ – the theatre, the big house and the hospital. Jennifer Wells creates the atmosphere so well that I felt I was in the home of Ivy, in that kitchen at the nurses home, in Elmridge House with the curtains seemingly permanently closed.

Nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors but the secrets for Ivy and Lily are about to come tumbling out.

If you like historical fiction and sagas then this is the book for you.

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

The Secret is out now.