Books

Hope and Happiness in Bluebell Wood – Ali McNamara

After being caught up in a traumatic event, Ava decides to find solace and peace in Bluebell Wood. The complete opposite to her hustle and bustle of life she is leaving behind in London but she needs to find peace and heal.

With a rescue dog called Merlin accompanying her Ava finds herself in this little cottage on the edge of the woods, with plans to keep herself to herself. Unfortunately coming to live in a small village means you are going to be the source of much interest and it isn’t long before Ava finds herself slowly being swept into village life.

Callum, the good looking vicar, is one of the first to meet Ava and leaves a lasting impression, though it takes a while for Ava to reconcile this man of god with the vision in her imagination. Jenny in the village shop is welcoming and helpful, the local teacher Jemima encourages Ava’s gift with the children. Linnet and Robin, a single mum and an autistic boy pull not just at Ava’s heart strings but mine as well.

With any village there is always something going on whether it is the local quiz, the school jumble sale or even Easter Egg hunts and Ava despite her fears and misgivings seems to become part of it all. As the new development starts on some fields adjacent to Bluebell Wood, she finds herself very passionately protesting that something must be done. It seems that miracles come in strange place.

Whilst the book encompass a wonderful village tale full of community spirit, Ali McNamara has taken the power of nature and used it to her advantage to add an almost ethereal tone to one of the storylines. The beauty of nature and particularly the birds that are attracted to no doubt Bluebell Wood but Ava’s bird food lead to something that will put the village on the map forever.

It seems that Ava’s solace and peace is what she has been looking for all along.

This is another wonderful book from an author who seems to be getting better with the depth of her stories and the wonderful scenes and characters she weaves into the pages of the book.

Thoroughly recommended for that feel good nature of a book bursting full of nature too!

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

Hope and Happiness in Bluebell Wood is out now.

Books

Home – Penny Parkes

Anna has no home, but that doesn’t matter to her. She moves from house to house, across countries, countries and continents to look after other people’s homes, the precious pets and their treasured belongings.

Living such a peripatetic life for the last ten years has seen Anna simply live unencumbered by baggage and a base. But even thought she may travel light, Anna is in fact taking the most heaviest of emotions with her wherever she goes. And she cannot out run them.

Through intersperse chapters we learn of Anna’s upbringing and her childhood where she was pushed from pillar to post through the care system – a ‘looked after child’. Seeking solace in literature, reading and books she finds herself at Oxford against or if not despite all the odds probably stacked against her.

On her first day she meets Kate and a lifelong friendship and bond begins, which lasts and as life changes for Kate, she starts to look at how Anna is perhaps conducting her life and that she needs to find the answers to what she wants in one place and not a dozen.

Having read Penny Parkes previous novels, I know she has never been one to shy away from some tricky and tough subject that perhaps do not make for comfortable reading. This book was no different in that respect, but she handled it with real skill and care. I was drawn into supporting Anna as the child and rather like her friend Kate, wanting Anna as an adult to stop running away and stay still long enough to find what she was looking for.

It was great to have a book where it was not all going to be tied up nicely with everyone living happily ever after. I adore those books but I also love a book which is left open ended for the characters to continue just as much as the readers. Whilst this book perhaps felt a bit repetitive in parts and for me a tad too over-laboured, it was still compelling enough to become totally involved in all the characters, no matter how they floated into Anna’s life and how long they stayed there.

I recommend this is one of those books that everyone is going to be reading in 2021.

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

Home is out now

Books

July Roundup

I think this July has held every possible weather combination apart from snow in the South! When it is too hot the only thing I can manage to do is read.

Ploughing through all the wonderful requests I have put in on netgalley, means that I only picked up one actual book in July – Shelia Norton – Escape to Riverside Cottage. A delightful book to get lost in as the main character finds her place in a place in Devon that hardly anyone knows about. I had forgotten how much I enjoy Shelia Norton’s novels.

Escaping is of course what reading and books brings for a lot of people and I escaped a bit further south to Cornwall with Phillipa Ashley – An Endless Cornish Summer where I was immediately plunged into the water and the community that made my heart sing with delight as I turned the pages of this book. Some authors get better and better!

Of course not many people are travelling at the moment and those that are not going far, so I embarked on a couple of road trips through the pages of books. First was Fanny Blake – The Long Way Home, my first time with this author as we saw the unlikely partnership of grandmother trying to find out the truth about her own mother accompanied by a rather begrudging teenager.

Penny Parkes – Home was a book where you did not need to set down any roots, but take yourself wherever the house sitting work too you and lay your head on the next bed. But ultimately for Anna was this enough? A book which I think will be popular this summer.

Trying to find your home when life changes around you makes you want to run away and hide, which is what Ava does when she escapes in Ali McNamara – Hope and Happiness in Bluebell Wood and finds both, what another glorious place and community to be apart of through the pages of a book.

Of course community is a major theme in many books I read and so it was the community that came together in Cathy Lake – The Country Village Summer Fete. Returning back to your home after leaving under a cloud is always going to have tis difficulties but when your first love is still there and perhaps the bright lights of the city were not all they were cracked up to be – it makes you think.

When you live on a small island, then being part of the community is everything and when you are embraced as a visitor after someone has talked about you a lot, it seems right that you should enjoy your holiday. That is until you are faced with a ghost. Emma Davies – The Little Island Secret certainly has lots to tell and somehow combined being a quiet thriller amongst what some could call women’s fiction.

Talking of thrillers, Emma Rous – The Perfect Guests was a choice I made this month, the difficult second novel, but very good. A lightness to it that made it all that more intriguing. A book full of suggestion and it is up to you as a reader whether you pick up on them all!

For me the past has always been intriguing , having a history degree does that for you. So I am always delighted to go back and was more so with A.J. Pearce – Yours Cheerfully the follow up to the wonderful Dear Mrs Bird. You want to know about strong women during the war, then look no further than this book and tell all your friends to read it too!

Female protagonists probably feature quite strongly in my reading, through default not choice and I was delighted to pick up what is to be I think the start of a series Merryn Allingham – The Bookshop Murder. A gentle 1950s village setting, a big house now a hotel, a spinster in charge of a bookshop. It had all the elements of a Golden Age novel and I was expecting Miss Marple to pop up at some point.

So that was July. I must say a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has joined in the Six in Six for 2021. I am busy compiling the round up post, so do look out for that.

Let’s crack on with August reading and maybe some book shopping too!

Books

An Endless Cornish Summer – Phillipa Ashley

The latest from bestselling author Phillipa Ashley has to be up there as one of my most favourite reads of the year so far and perhaps even my most favourite from the author herself.

Rose has had a fairly bumpy start to life, being brought up mainly by her grandmother whilst her mother flitted in and out of her life, she then faces the ultimate test but she survives the life threatening illness thanks to a mystery donor. When life changes again for Rose, she decides she wants to find this mysterious man who helped her.

The search takes her to Cornwall, far from the flat fens of Cambridge and the surrounding area. With the pull of working on an archaeological dig, Rose finds herself in the little fishing village of Falford.

She makes an impact instantly on two bothers, Joey and Finn and it could possibly be that one of them is the man she has been looking for. Being drawn into the community of Falford, she finds herself a flat with wonderful sea views over the local Cornish Magick shop and befriends Oriel. Wanting to experience everything she can, she finds herself involved in learning to sail and explaining where some of the myths and legends come from to sceptic Oriel.

Friendships and relationship blossom and Rose seems to blossoming most of all. She realises that she enjoys this way of life especially when she can combine it with her own work as well. Of course nothing is going to run smoothly, whether is squally storms at sea, returning loves or the discovery of magical swords there is much to keep you turning the page.

If you want to experience Cornwall and the sea without getting your feet wet, then this book does it in abundance. I learned just as much about sailing as I did about stone circles and the legends. Phillipa Ashley had me caring about the main character Rose from the outset and even if some of the characters were slightly full of themselves, as the story goes on you can sort of start to like them too!

A perfect read to bring sunshine into your life whatever the time of year and a book I didn’t want to end!

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

An Endless Cornish Summer is out now.

Books

The Long Way Home – Fanny Blake

Isla discovers that when her mother dies all she has been left is a painting whilst her sisters and aunt inherit the estate. Isla always felt her relationship with her mother was strained but this seems to underline that thought. For Isla that is not enough, she wants to know more about her mother, May.

The only way it seems to do this, is to go back and visit her past friends and relatives and find out what she can about the women she called mother. When her relationship with her own daughter is somewhat strained, Isla is forced to take her troubled teenage granddaughter, Charlie on the trip as well. The journey is as much a turning point for Isla as it is for the relationship she has with her granddaughter and trying to understand life through these young eyes.

Interspersed in this story we are taken back to Paris, Mid 1950s where May has gone to work as an au pair and improve her French, so when she returns she can find a job as interpreter. We discover a woman very different to the mother portrayed by Isla. Soon we find out what perhaps happened to cause May’s behaviours as Isla got older.

A lovely dual timeline story which has at it’s heart family and the bonds that break and bring us together. We are not dealing with young flighty women but women of all generations, of all ages who all have their issues, their demons and their desire for the future. A strong female driven character story that whilst was perhaps somewhat predictable was enjoyable nonetheless.

This was my first Fanny Blake and I look forward to reading some others in the future.

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

The Long Way Home is out now

Books

The Perfect Guests – Emma Rous

I said last year when I read this author’s debut novel that she was one to watch out for and I think that is the case.

This book has a lightness to it but still is a rather intriguing mystery. What seems like two independent stories, simply featuring the same setting, clearly have to link, but how and who are all these characters?

Raven Hall – Past

Beth turns up at this big house, out the way in the Fens on the east of the country. Her aunt who really does not want the responsibility of an orphaned niece, has brought her here to live with Markus, Leonora and daughter Nina. Nina is of the same age as Beth, and it is hoped that the girls will form a companionship, as Nina is rarely let out of the house. There is something odd about this family set up, when Nina falls ill it is left to Beth to fill a purpose, but the question is why?

Raven Hall – Present Day

The big mysterious house is the perfect setting for a murder mystery weekend. Sadie an actress waiting for her big break gets the opportunity to take part in the test event to presumably publicise these weekends. Needing the money and the purpose she jumps at the chance, to play Miss Lamb. She turns up and thinks this going to be easy money. One of the clues to the game is quite near the truth and it looks like that perhaps this might not be a game after all.

How does it all come together? Who are all these people and how can a simple game reveal all the past as it all comes tumbling out as people go missing, start feeling ill and turning up unexpectedly.

A book with twists and turns, I thought I could see the path the author was intending us to go on, but on some occasions I was wrong. For thriller fans, they may want something a bit more darker and gruesome, but a lot was said about the setting and the characters without it being said at all. The art of suggestion enabled the red herrings and the twists and turns to work for me.

For the infamous ‘second novel’ this was very good and I stand by my original thoughts – this is an author to watch.

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

The Perfect Guests is out now.

Books

Loch Down Abbey – Beth Cowan-Erskine

This is the first novel from Beth Cowan-Erskine and was clearly born out of lockdown last year. What has resulted is a rather Wodehouse type novel of the cosy murder mystery vibe.

Scotland, the 1930s, Loch Down Abbey is suffering from a lack of servants as some mysterious illness sweeps through the country. There is a lack of certain items and many are having to adapt to a strange new time.

There are not enough toilet rolls, the Nanny has died and no one can control the children and their seems to be a problem with money.

Lord Inverkillen is found dead. It appears to be an accident to the lacklustre Inspector but to the force that is Mrs McBain, the housekeeper of the Abbey there is much more to it than meets the eye.

It has to be someone from the Abbey and because most of the servants have been struck down with this mysterious illness, it seems it therefore has to be one of the family.

But which one and what secrets are they all hiding?

The ‘upstairs’ characters were in abundance and I had to keep referring back to the character list at the beginning to work out who was who, who was married to whom and whose children were running wild across the house and the estate. After a while this became a little cumbersome, especially on a kindle and I don’t think I got to the end of the book really knowing everyone as I would have liked to have done.

That aside, there are twist and turns, red herrings and everything you would expect from a cosy mystery. The humour was subtle, the references to a pandemic quite obvious but the story would work quite happily without it. Clearly much inspiration is drawn on from Downton Abbey and with the author being American, I can see the fascination that our English or in this case Scottish history, big families and big houses can have. This may well have over influenced the whole of the book but for me, definitely the ending which I didn’t see coming and felt a little bit absurd.

A book for escapism and fun, nothing more taxing than that.

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

Loch Down Abbey is out now

Books · Jottings · Witterings

Six in Six 2021 – My Choices

Here are my choices for this years Six in Six – there is still time to join in. Please see the original post here for all the details.

  • Six authors I have read before

Sarah Bennett – Summer Kisses at Mermaid’s Point

Tracy Rees – The Little Book of Secrets

Heidi Swain – A Taste of Home

Holly Martin – Sunlight over Crystal Sands

Katie Fforde – A Wedding in the Country

Helena Dixon – Murder in the Belltower/Murder at Elm House

  • Six books that took me by the hand and led me into the past

Nancy Revell – The Shipyard Girls on the Home Front 

Helen Fripp – The French House 

Kate Quinn – The Rose Code

Emily Hourican – The Glorious Guinness Girls 

Lorna Cook – The Girl from the Island

Liz Fenwick – The River Between Us 

  • Six books I have read but not reviewed

Lucinda Riley – The Sun Sister

Julia Quinn – Bridgerton: The Duke and I

Marika Cobbold – On Hampstead Heath

Cressida McLaughlin – The Cornish Cream Tea Wedding

Christine Lee – The Midwife’s Sister

Amanda Owen – Tales from the Farm from the Yorkshire Shepherdess

  • Six books that I really want to buy in the next 6 months

Robert Galbraith – Troubled Blood

Stacey Halls – Mrs England

Emma Barnett – Period

Sue Teddern – Annie Stanley, All At Sea

Jodie Chapman – Another Life

Richard Osman – The Man Who Died Twice

  • Six books that feature a building in the title

Julie Caplin – The Little Swiss Ski Chalet

Katie Ginger – The Secrets of Meadow Farmhouse

Poppy Alexander – The Littlest Library 

Rachael Lucas – The Village Green Bookshop 

Beth Cowan-Erskine – Loch Down Abbey

Gervase Phinn – Tales out of School

  • Six book covers that were bright and cheerful

So that is my Six in Six. It is always great to look back and I cannot wait to see where the next six months of reading takes me.

I will be back in August with a roundup post of all the blogs that have joined in and shared their last six months reading. Still time to take part!

Books

Yours Cheerfully – A.J.Pearce

Following on from the wonderful Dear Mrs Bird, we are back with Emmeline Lake as she tries to break into some more serious journalism from her role on the women’s magazine – Women’s Friend.

Taking a more front line role in responding to the letters to the readers and inspired by the Ministry of Information’s call to get more women to take on men’s work, Emmy finds herself drawn to the Munitions’ factories.

With her close friend and housemate, Bunty they both meet a young woman, balancing life as a war widow, two young children and doing her built not just for King and country but simply for her own families survival.

Emmy finds herself drawn into these factory workers lives and the fact that they are juggling so much, she sees what these women really have to face and suddenly finds herself fighting their corner.

Alongside Emmy’s crusade for these women, helped by her friend, she is thrilled to be seeing more of her beau Charles and when an opportunity for him to more than do his bit, it seems their romance is about to speed up down the aisle.

We are yet again drawn into Emmy’s world and life on the home front during the second world war, as romances blossom and beaus are mourned. As women survive however they can without sacrificing everything they believe in, Emmy has to decide what is most important and a critical point in her life.

Although this book is set very much in the past, it resonated with me and there was something of the present battles that women are still facing to this very day. A book full of strength of female bonds, friendship and a common goal that drives them all.

I hope we get to go back between the pages of Women’s Friend as there is much more that Emmy can report on.

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

Yours Cheerfully is out now.

Books

Sunrise by the Sea – Jenny Colgan

We all need some sunshine in our lives and that is so for the main character in this novel, Marisa Rosso. Suffering with the loss of her grandfather, grief has consumed her and she cannot understand why others are not feeling the same as much as they cannot understand why she has reacted as she has.

Marisa moves as far as way as possible to, Mount Polbearne a tidal island at the foot of Cornwall. She hopes to be able to continue working remotely and find some solace in this far away place.

What she doesn’t bank on is a giant Russian piano teacher next door, and a struggling bakery that could do with a slice of Marisa’s Italian heritage cooking to help it to survive. When disaster strikes in the village, Marisa is forced to confront many demons and uses this strength to help others in a time of need.

Of course not everything runs smoothly but the uplifting spirit found in Jenny Colgan’s books means that you keep reading to the end.

This is the fourth novel set in Mount Polbearne and I came to it, not having read any of the others (soon to be rectified) but it can easily be read as a standalone but I do want to know more about this little place and Polly as well as Neil the Puffin, who is adorable!

A perfect summery read filled with lovely moments of laughter, love and luscious amount of food.

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

Sunrise by the Sea is out now.