Books

One Family Christmas – Bella Osborne

Everyone’s idea of Christmas is different; some like the hustle and bustle, others like the peace and quiet. But for Lottie all she wants is to have that one last family Christmas that her Nana held every year since she can remember. Then everyone can move on with their lives and the only home that Lottie knows can be sold.

What can possibly go wrong?

Lottie’s cooking is not known to be great and the manor house is perhaps feeling unloved and needs some attention but the family descend and endeavour to honour Nana Rose memory.

Lottie’s widowed brother Zak arrives with his young daughter, Jessie and his new girlfriend, Emily. Their mother, Angie arrives with her latest young squeeze who looks oddly familiar to some.

Then there is Uncle Daniel and Auntie Nicola, tense and completely unaware of their teenage son Ryan’s new plans for his life.

Great Uncle Bernard resident already in the house with his carer Dayea has surprises of his own to share on the big day.

Add to this the return of Lottie’s old flame, Joe and it seems this Christmas is going to go off with the bang and that won’t be the crackers round the table.

With affairs, a frozen turkey, pregnancy, secret children, proposals, births, porn stars, scary dolls, snow and a dog called Dave this is one Christmas none of the characters are going to forget in a hurry.

This book has much love in it, but there is a great amount of humour as you see how all the characters interact when they are thrown together at such a stressful time and it was a book I could picture being brought to life on the big screen, it has so much visual potential. It works well as a book because it let’s your imagination run wild and it suddenly reminds you of all those ‘strange’ family traditions that we all have at Christmas.

As someone who comes from a very small family and has not experienced a Christmas such as Lottie’s (and I don’t want to) this was a fascinating humours insight which is worth reading to perhaps remind you that perhaps not all families are than unique! Especially at Christmas.

 

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

One Family Christmas is published on 15 October. 

Books

Written from the Heart – Trisha Ashley

This is one of Trisha Ashley’s early novels previously published as Happy Endings, the author has made some little tweaks, but overall the story is very much as she originally published it.

This is the story of Tina Devino who whilst a published author herself in the ‘midlist’ range according to some, offers her advice to other budding authors for a small fee.

If she wants to break into the bestseller lists then she is going to have to do some of the hard work herself. She knows she is not the buxom blonde face of an author that her publisher wants to promote, even less when she discovers the man behind the publication of her next book is her ex husband Tim.

When a chance meeting with a good-looking stranger turns into better news and a new agent, Tina starts to write stories which start to get her noticed. Also what helps of course is being the girlfriend of a well-known Russian ballet dancer, Sergei. But his needs appear to be great and when Tina is not looking someone else in a butterfly mask swoops in to take its prey.

Nothing seems to be going right for Tina, her love life, her friendships and even her work. Surely the knotted mess of it all can be untangled and Tina can find the right path for her heart once again.

For me this is a passable read and one of the author’s early works, there are a few too many loose ends for me. I enjoyed the letter from budding authors, which interspersed this novel and probably gave a frightening insight to what people might possibly read or write. But the main storyline did peter out and there was no great conclusion which neither left me satisfied or wished there was a sequel.

If you are a fan of Trisha Ashley then you will enjoy the novel, not the strongest of her oeuvre but there was something about it that made me think – could it possibly be part autobiographical……..?

Thank you to the publisher for the ARC in return for an honest review. 

Written from the Heart is out now. 

Having just checked my Goodreads list and cross checked with Fantastic Fiction – it would seem that the only one I have left to read is Lord Rayven’s Revenge apart from any new books out – which I believe could be around October – yippee!

 

 

 

Books

The Cottage on Sunshine Beach – Holly Martin

It is only a few months since I was in Sandcastle Bay catching up with Tori who had arrived to see her friends Melody and Isla and nurse a broken heart. Little did she know she would be staying and as we obviously catch up with all that is happening to her this story is very much focused on Melody.

Melody is a jewellery maker with her own little shop. She loves being in Sandcastle Bay near her friend Tori and of course her sister Isla but it also has lovely but sad memories of their brother Matthew who was killed.

Opposite Melody’s shop is that of Jamie Jackson, a local artist and sculptor. Everyday he meets Melody and the both walk to their respective shops with their new bouncing puppies in tow.

As their friendship deepens, they start to date – well try. Trouble is Melody is a bit clumsy and accident prone, so knocking drinks over, ruining sand castles and giving your potential new beau food poisoning. Perhaps not the auspicious start that either of them wanted.

Carrying demons from the past means they seem to be treading on eggshells round each other. Whilst the dates are a bit of a disaster when the romance hots up Melody knows she has found the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with. But has Jamie found that in Melody?

Of course being in a small town and a close-knit community means that everyone wants to know what is going on and has an opinion which doesn’t always help. After a few misunderstandings…..

Well if you want to know you are going to have to read the book of course!

I loved Melody and her endearing clumsiness and I could relate to that feeling of not being good enough because you were not what everyone expected. Jamie’s tenderness was lovely and left you with a warm fuzzy feeling that there is hope.

It was of course lovely to catch up with Isla and Tori and they played in some cases starring roles within the plot! I hope there will be a book three because Isla needs to settle down and realise what she has is not going anywhere. If she doesn’t then I am off to pack my bags to Sandcastle Bay and will happily step into her shoes – in fact Melody better watch out too!

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

The Cottage on Sunshine Beach is out now.  

Books · Jottings

March Roundup

I just went back and read what I wrote about in the 2017 March Roundup, this line made me smile:

…… when so many lovely books have been appearing on netgalley. I am determined to get that feedback ratio to a better number!

Ironically I am still trying to do that, and I am so conscious of what I am asking for and also whether I am reading real books i.e. in my hand and not on kindle that nothing much has changed for March 2018!

I sort of set myself a task of reading a book from netgalley that has been downloaded more than 3 months ago, then one in the current 3 months and at last read some books of my shelves. Something makes me say I haven’t achieved this!

So what did I read – well thanks to netgalley I got Jill Steeples – Wedding Bells at The Dog and Duck, the third in the series. Having yet to read the second I of course had to go back to Jill Steeples – Summer at The Dog and Duck. I am not sure as to whether I am perhaps done with The Dog and Duck?

I revisited Castle Court for the third time Holly Hepburn – Stormy Weather at Castle Court. The more I read books in this serial format, the more I dislike them and so now I am trying to be more careful when I pick them as sometimes once you are hooked you have to keep waiting – though I rather think that is the point!

I did not mind going back to the Scilly Isles with Phillipa Ashley – Spring on the Little Cornish Isles: The Flower Farm. I think it is one place I would love to go to visit. In the meantime, the books bring the place to life for me.

I revisited Cornwall to catch up with Emma Burstall – Tremarnock Summer an author I have been following and reading for a long time – so now I am set up to read her next one.

No one likes visiting the doctor unless they have to but I could not resist making another appointment with Penny Parkes – Best Practice. 

I recognised the characters in Monica McInerney – The Trip of a Lifetime and it turns out I had read about them in a previous novel, which for me was much better than this one. As it was one of the last I finished in March, I was rather disappointed.

What I was not disappointed with was Ruth Jones – Never Greener. A real page turner, and I was always dubious about so-called ‘celebrities’ writing fiction. No need to be dubious on this occasion as it was excellent.

I have had Hazel Gaynor – A Memory of Violets on my shelf for a long while and decided I wanted something a bit more less contemporary and more historical. This book satisfied all this and I have discovered an author who I would like to read more of. Handy as I know I have one of her books on my netgalley to read list!

Something completely different was Rachel Dove – The Long Walk Back in a change from perhaps more women’s fiction that she is known for – this was a hard-hitting book, about war and the aftermath that it can create for those who are all affected by it.

Of course writing fiction about another fictional character seems rather absurd, but for some reason in Laurie R King – The Beekeeper’s Apprentice it works. This is the first in a series of books which feature Mary Russell and her tutor, a man you may have heard of: Sherlock Holmes. Not sure whether I will go back and read anymore but I know they will be enjoyable reads.

Lynne Truss – A Shot in the Dark was a good murder mystery somewhere in between the pages. A great sense of humour and irony in there somewhere, but it was not for me. It might be for you though.

And I ended the month, with a book that I have read before. Looking back I haven’t reread any books in over ten years or more. Notwithstanding revisiting childhood books. But I wanted to reread this one Mary Ann Shaffer – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. The film is due out in April and I wanted to refresh myself with the story. I am so glad I did, I laughed, cried and gasped in all the same places and had forgotten what a wonderful way letters can be in telling a story.

I read the book, long before this blog was created but I did review it for Amazon so look out for the review at some point in the coming weeks. I will endeavour to write about the film adaptation too.

So that’s it for March – more of the same for April I think.

Books

September Roundup

I hate to say it but after a lovely summer of reading, I have hit the Christmas reading already – what I hear you cry. It is still autumn and we haven’t even put the clocks back yet.

But the nights are getting darker earlier and I am waking up on int he dark to drag myself out to go swimming before work, so it can only mean that Christmas is really on its way. I even confess to having made a couple of lists for presents.

So the festivities have started with Holly Martin – Christmas at Mistletoe Cove. I really do like Holly’s books and read this series of books which concludes with Christmas on the Scilly Isles.

Funnily enough, coincidence perhaps, the next Christmas read was Phillipa Ashley – Christmas on the Little Cornish Isles: The Driftwood Inn. This also happens to be set on the Scilly Isles. It is the first in a new series of books from this author who I have to say produces books which are a great read.

Christmas funnily enough is covered in Judith Kinghorn – The Snow Globe but rather than being contemporary, this takes you back to the mid 1920s. Romance is around, but sometimes the choices you make are not always ‘seen’ to be the right ones.

So with Christmas out-of-the-way, let’s get back to summer and something a bit more warming and Katie Fforde – Summer of Love. I am a fan of Katie’s work and whilst I read the new books when I can if I can get hold of a copy, I am busy working my way through her back catalogue. Still got a few books to get through yet.

Summer makes you think of swimming and if you are lucky, lidos. I chose The Lido Girls  – Allie Burns when it appeared as a choice on netgalley. But the book was not for me and I abandoned it, the first this year and felt as I normally do quite ruthless, but some books just don’t work and when you have lots more to read then I feel I cannot waste time ploughing through a book which I get no enjoyment from.

I know I am going to get enjoyment and a laugh from Sarah Millican – How to be Champion and was thrilled when it popped up on netgalley. Even more thrilled to be approved and read a copy. If she makes you laugh, then without any doubt this book will too. I am going to get a copy for myself as I didn’t get to see the pictures and the formatting was a bit adrift on my kindle, so it did make for disjointed reading. But a ‘champion’ book!

I have noticed when you pick books up from netgalley that they can start you discovering one place and you have to go back and keep reading more about it, that is certainly the case with a few of the books I have got hold of lately. Which is why I chose and have read Ellen Berry – The Bakery on Rosemary Lane which takes us back to the Yorkshire village where new business are popping up and contentment is being found.

Looking back over the year I have read quite a lot of contemporary womens fiction. You get drawn certain ways with books and you just have to keep reading them. I know some are very similar it setting and style. If the writing is good, the plot believable and the characters three-dimensional then I carry on reading. Now and again I do like to throw in something different and this month besides an autobiography it was Anthony Horowitz – The Word is Murder. A different take on a murder mystery book and one which involved the author himself. Confused, you could well be but it is worth sticking with as it is a cleverly constructed novel.

So quite a good month for reading but there is plenty more to read so I must get on…..

Books

The Gin Shack on the Beach – Catherine Miller

Olive knows that the time has come for her to go into a retirement home. She does not need full-time care, but it would be nice if she no longer had to worry about cooking and washing up.

Going into the home though means she does not want to give up her independence which is why she is very reluctant to let her lovely beach hut and all her friends there go.

Her son, Richard though has other ideas.

As does the Matron, who sees Olive as nothing but trouble.

But how can Olive and her new friends, Randy and Veronica be trouble they are elderly and in a home?

Oh they can and when it involves planning escapes, hiding in cleaning cupboards, trips in police cars and lashings of Gin then you can be sure that Matron is certainly not going to approve.

This is a joyous fun book to read. It will make you laugh, when you imagine, skinny dipping gin swilling octogenarians challenging a stuck up matron (Hattie Jacques sprang to mind instantly) that life certainly does not stop when you live in a care home. It will also make you cry and show you how friendships can be formed at any time in life and that also filling your life with all sorts of people certainly makes it an entertaining one!

This has practically everything you want in a book to keep you entertained – you have to supply the gin yourself though!

Make mine a double!

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

The Gin Shack on the Beach is out now. 

 

Jottings

Victoria Wood

We have lost a number of famous (and infamous) personalities so far in 2016. Hardly any of them have been expected and it always comes as a complete shock. To be honest, I have not been deeply affected by any of them. It is a tragedy that these people have been lost to us when they brought us entertainment, music, literature and everything in between.

However, when they have formed part of your childhood, the way they featured in the background when you were growing up affects you in an odd sort of way. Ronnie Corbett, whilst always to me the lesser of the Two Ronnies, not just in size, but I remember having to sit through episodes of Sorry! when I was younger. Saturday night game shows were a staple of Paul Daniels and his magic as well, no doubt left me open-mouthed as a youngster.

But it is Victoria Wood who probably stands out for me as such a great loss. There must have been so much more to have come from her and to lose her at 62 was a tragedy.

Victoria Wood was always there on the television, I was allowed to watch whatever was on. I am not sure if I understood it, but it was hardly near the knuckle humour scattered with expletives. It was simple humour about everyday stuff that everyday people find funny and they can relate to.

It always reminds me of the humour that exists for only a special select few. There is much in my family that makes us laugh, with play on words and recalled incidents that to an outsider would not be funny at all, to those in the know though it is hilarious.

I was lucky enough to see her live twice on tour and also got to see at least three episodes of dinnerladies being recorded

The most important thing I think I realised a long time ago was that Victoria Wood did not save all the best lines for herself, she gave them to everyone else. Julie Walters, Celia Imrie, Duncan Preston, Anne Reid, Maxine Peake to name a few.

She later went onto present documentaries with her own inimitable style. Documentaries I probably would not have watched if it wasn’t for her.

Then there was the serious drama, Housewife 49, Eric and Ernie and That Day We Sang.

Yet again she could do so much, create genius and then give it to everyone else to deliver.

Then there was the music and I know this will have been shared thousands if not millions of times but of course the Ballad of Barry and Freda is amongst the most iconic.

A genius taken from us and her family much too soon.

Books

April Roundup

The 8th May seems to be very late in constructing and writing an April Roundup post, but life has seemingly run away from me and I very rarely get to my laptop now and only use a computer for personal stuff at my parents house and I find the iPad not conducive to my sort of writing, which is a lot of reasons in telling you why this post is so late!

Nonetheless here it is.

A bumper month of reading, helped by having some time off, but I have still yet to get ahead of myself in terms of number of books being read in the year.

April was the month of comfort reading. No more so than reading Rosie Goodwin – Dilly’s Sacrifice which I had on my kindle thanks to netgalley for a while and had yet to get round to reading. I did and was so pulled in with the story that I immediately sort out book two in this trilogy Rosie Goodwin – Dilly’s Lass and would have got hold of book three if it wasn’t for the fact that I did not want to read the hardback or could justify paying the kindle price so I am going to have to wait (im)patiently until August when the paperback is released. They are books which pack a lot in, tell a great tale and remind me of books I read when I was younger and could share with both my grandmothers – a good aga saga!

Sharing books and the love of them is how I came to pick up Agatha Christie – Appointment with Death. I decided to take part in the 1938 Club ran by Simon and Karen as I rarely take part in my reading events. I thought this one was manageable and it also meant I could tick another book of my Agatha Christie List. I think the next one in October is going to be 1947 – I am sure there is a Christie book to cover that year. Do keep an eye out for it.

When I chose what to read, I try and keep a measured amount of reading off my own shelves which are heaving but also all the lovely new novels and authors that netgalley has introduced me to. Just of late I have been a bit click happy in requesting books. One of those books was Helen Pollard – The Little French Guesthouse and was a book which had a bit more depth in it than your average beach read/chick-lit. I felt I was transported to the French countryside and could feel the sun on my skin.

Marcie Steele – The Second Chance Shoe Shop was a different and I felt it had something missing, it was enjoyable but that is all. As I said in my review:

……it was not a book quite yet there in the league of well written chick-lit. It had something missing for me and I am unsure as to what that is.

I still don’t know what it is.

I did not need to take a chance on my next choice of book Veronica Henry – How to Find Love in a Bookshop. Out in June, Veronica Henry is back with another great novel, and what more could a girl want than to find love in a bookshop!

Despite all this new and modern fiction I do really enjoy historical fiction and whatever tale it wants to tell me with a background in the past. This was where I decided I would pick up début novel Tracy Rees – Amy Snow. Following the trail of some letters Amy is trying to work out who she is and possibly where she came from. Set in the Victorian era and references to Dickens, I felt I was transported away.

Historical fiction can clearly work in murder mysteries and comedy and you can get all this combined whenever you visit Flavia. It has been a while and so I picked up Alan Bradley – I am Half Sick of Shadows and took myself back to the chemistry obsessed Flavia and see what dead body she is going to across this time. As well as trying to catch Father Christmas in the act, with home-made glue! I smile just recalling the book.

Not all of these books have been reviewed. Those from netgalley have and whilst I might have read them in April, they might not appear on my blog until later in the year to coincide with publishing dates.

The rest is simply because I have not had the time and also that I made the decision to not review everything I read. It has felt less pressurising and it no doubt will continue in the coming months. I am enjoying what I read.

That was April, albeit a bit late and May is in full swing and so I need to get on.

Books

Aberystwyth Mon Amour – Malcolm Pryce

I came to this book through curiosity and seeing it on another blog. Apologies but I cannot remember whose. Please comment if it was yours.

A schoolboy has gone missing and a nightclub singer appears in the only private investigators office in town, Louis Knight. How on earth is this all going to link up and will whatever is going on be solved.

This a rather original storyline, as Aberystwyth seems to have taken on another life form and become a parallel seaside town that maybe we would imagine it to be.

The local area seems to be run by druids. The police are clearly surplus to requirements. Re-enactments of a bygone age seems to be prevalent around the town, harking back to a previous campaign. If you want some sage advice then go and visit the ice cream parlour. All of this is on a background of a wet, seedy seaside town which I have to confess the author did with great skill and it leapt off the page.

However, all this aside I did not really enjoy the book. I am not one for ‘noir’  or ‘fantasy’ when it comes to writing. I think much of the book passed me by. There was some humourous parts, but I could not quite suspend my belief and reality and become absorbed into the story, to the point where I did not ‘get it’. Now why did I not just give up on the book? I am not really sure, probably the writing I cannot fault it and also the interest in something I knew nothing about – The Welsh Colony in Patagonia and the history around it. I then had to do a bit of googling to see if it was all true – it was. So whatever I take from this book, I have learnt something.

But you have to read outside of your comfort zone on occasions and sometimes you discover something new and wonderful, other times you realise it is not quite for you.

 

Books

A Meditation on Murder – Robert Thorogood

If you like classic mysteries then this is certainly the book for you. In the vein of the Golden Age Detective, Robert Thorogood’s debut novel bringing to life some characters which you may be familiar with on-screen.

Death in Paradise is a BBC Crime Drama set on a Caribbean island and has been on our screens since 2011. This book picks up the original characters from the first series, DI Richard Poole, very much out of sorts being on a Caribbean island. Camille, still feisty and trying to understand the weird ways of her English boss. Of course we have the wonderful Fidel, who is organised and methodical and then there is Dwayne who with his network of contacts and friends, seems to always know someone who knows someone about whatever crooked deal is going on. Whether he is on the right side is a question that is never answered.

To add to reliable characters and humour,  you have a classic locked room story. One murder, five suspects, a locked door. Surely it is a simple solution. But then if you know how detective novels work then you know it will not be and everything is not as it may seem, even drawing pins.

DI Poole’s instincts tell him one thing, the evidence another and the person that confesses something completely different. He has to unpick all of the strands of this story and find the solution. It is there, staring him and us as readers in the face, but can you spot it?

If you have never watched or even heard of the programme, that do not let that put off the novel. It is a great novel, which is very much harking back to the old days of detective novels. There is no need for page after page of blood, guts and gore. It may be simple in its storytelling but it is all very effective.

We are even brought into the incident room at the Honore Police Station as the evidence is on the board for us to see, read and come to our own conclusions. (This did not work well layout wise on kindle or iPad for reading – I hope the actual book it seems better).

When you have all the clues in front of you, heard the evidence and dismissed the red herrings, of course the murderer is obvious……….

I hope you discover this delightful read soon.

I stumbled across this book on Amazon by accident and I am glad I did. Especially as I see there are going to be two more novels after this one. Thank you to Robert Thorogood – though I wonder whether these stories will subsequently appear as plots in future episodes. 

I do like what my mum and I call a nice murder. This TV programme and certainly this book fit into the category well.

I love watching the programmes and though I have to confess that I much prefer DI Humphrey Goodman than I do, DI Richard Poole, but that is personal preference. Of course you can indulge in the setting and the warmth of the Caribbean without having to leave the comfort of your chair. Which is why I think scheduling this series in Winter is just the tonic needed and I think reading this book in the more wetter and colder days, will also help…… “the Caribbean sea sparkled emerald green as it lapped against the white sand……”

Perhaps Robert Thorogood might want to pop by this blog and write something about his TV series and his novels, once the latest one is finished?