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

The Little Paris Patisserie – Julie Caplin

So far in this series of books we have been to Copenhagen, crossed the Atlantic to Brooklyn and now we are a mere train journey away to Paris.

Nina feels stifled by her family, the youngest with three very protective brothers, means she can hardly sneeze without any of them suddenly thinking she is coming down with pneumonia and telling how she should be looking after herself.

Coasting through life so far, knowing she can rely on going home when the going gets tough – Nina decides this time that she needs to move away if she ever has a chance of breaking out from under their control.

Nina ends up in Paris.

To  help to run a patisserie course.

With Sebastian – her brother’s friend and the man Nina has had a secret crush on for as long as she can remember.

What possibly could go wrong?

Whilst the author brings to life the patisserie course, the mouth-watering eclairs she described nearly had me getting up in the middle of the night to make choux pastry. The relationship between Nina and Sebastian seemed to take a long time to blossom and I found a great part of the book very pedestrian as whilst it was clear Nina was trying to find her feet away from her family, it took a long time. The secondary characters were more interesting for most of the book and the interesting way they went about preserving and recreating the patisserie was far more interesting for me than the romance between Nina and Sebastian.

This was a pleasant read but perhaps not as satisfying as a chocolate eclair may have been.

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

The Little Paris Patisserie is out now.

 

Books · Jottings

September Roundup

Normally I have to confess my September reading tails off mainly due to being back to work and feeling like I have overread when I have had so much time at home during August. But this year, 2018 seems to be a very different year. I am 12 books ahead in my challenge and read a respectable 9 in September and one of them was over 700 pages long!

I am fairly new to Milly Johnson books and there is a few to catch back up with, but Milly Johnson – The Teashop on the Corner and her latest Milly Johnson – The Mother of all Christmases were both enjoyed in September, even if one of them had a slight Christmas feel! Unfortunately the ARC copy I had via netgalley was very badly formatted and it took a while to get going, but when I did I will say it was a lovely book to read.

Talking of Christmas I completed two series of books with Karen Clarke – The Christmas Cafe at Seashell Cove. Reading quite a lot of authors who are of a similar vein, some are more stronger than others and I have to say this series was not quite so good and I think I will certainly think twice about embarking on another read from her, not that there’s anything fundamentally wrong with the writing, but I know there are other books out there which are much stronger and also lots of books I have to read as well!

I don’t think I will venture far away from Holly Martin – Coming Home to Maple Cottage all of her novels have been a delight so warm and funny, I just have to keep reading. Christmas is the perfect time for a family to come together.

I only discovered Emma Davies this year and when I say she was writing a series of books around one place, I thought I would give them a go – what turned into a read to save for my holidays got absolutely devoured long before I had even sailed away on my cruise. Which is why I was there on day of publication for Emma Davies – Return to The Little Cottage on the Hill. Bringing to life the life of a blacksmith as well as the well cooked food and the people of Joy’s Acre. I have just preordered the next one!

Without netgalley I know I would not have been able to try half the books I have read and that is where I stumble across many an author and which is why then they have a new book I always like to go and see what it is all about which is why I found myself with Jennifer Joyce – The Single Mums’ Picnic Club. I am always in two minds about reading books featuring babies, mums etc as having had or been neither I do wonder if it will be as enthralling as they maybe to mothers? Only they can answer that question I suppose but this was a great book to show how friendships can be formed with different women with different backgrounds with the commonality of being a mum.

Food is a great way to draw people together and many books feature the joy of food cooking, catching, growing, eating, preparing and when you mention patissiere you can imagine the glorious feeling of biting into a fresh chocolate eclair and the cream just oozing out! Therefore reading Julie Caplin – The Little Paris Patisserie was like this without the calories. The story for me was weaker than her previous two novels in this series, but it made me want to break a choux pastry recipe and do them for myself.

A lot of the books I have read in September have been modern, contemporary novels and whilst Tracy Rees – Darling Blue is a modern author who manages to write historical fiction that just about manages to fit in that genre as her books change with each story and fit in nothing but the Tracy Rees box. Tracy wrote me a lovely message after the review of her latest was published here on this blog

It’s always nice to hear positive things about my books and especially so when I feel the reader really got it! I love how you said about each book being different and not fitting into the genre box. That’s something that’s really important to me, to keep doing something different and try for variety even within the loose category of ‘historical fiction. It’s not playing safe but it keeps me interested and hopefully gives each book its own life.

It always crosses my mind that if an author reads my review they may not like it. Of course not every book is for every person even if you have read from the author before. But so far for me Tracy Rees has delivered.

Of course fans of this blog (if there are any out there) should know I am a fna of Lucinda Riley and for me her books continue to deliver book after book.

Having finished The Pearl Sister back in August when Lucinda Riley – The Moon Sister landed on the mat, I had two options – place it reverently by the bed, thinking oh how wonderful I have this to read and I get to experience the story of The Seven Sisters or dive straight in and indulge in whatever story comes away from the page. reader I did the latter and so glad I did. The review is to follow as I want the book to settle in my mind, for the vibrations to continue that bit longer as I try to consolidate how I really feel about this story. One thing is for sure, each one is my favourite and I cannot distinguish between the first five.

So a pretty good September, but I know for October I want to get an inroad into my actual teetering pile of books I have around my home. The kindle and netgalley is a wonderful thing but I feel I need to hold onto some actual books for a while.

Happy Reading in October.

 

Books

The Little Brooklyn Bakery – Julie Caplin

Having originally turned down the job swap in Brooklyn New York, Sophie makes a quick decision based on emotions and events that happen to her and arrives in a city which is fast, brash and noisy – everything that Sophie is not.

Sophie is a food editor for a magazine and she throws herself into her job wholeheartedly to stop her actual heart from shattering.

Sophie is sworn off love.

So is her colleague Todd, who also works on the magazine and happens to be on the next desk to Sophie and the cousin of her landlady, Bella.

Spending unnecessary time with Todd thanks to helping out in Bella’s bakery, Sophie begins to see what she might have been missing in London and that perhaps she should have a bit of fun….she is only here for 6 months after all.

The two strike up an interesting friendship as Todd helps Sophie see the real Brooklyn and Sophie helps Todd discover what food can be really like.

Sophie was a secondary character in Caplin’s first novel set in The Little Cafe in Copenhagen, I vaguely remember her but not much. You don’t need to have read the first novel to get any sense of the characters. This works as a standalone and for me was better than the first book.

Like the first book, the plot line perhaps is a well-worn one, but sometimes they are the best and that is not a criticism, merely an observation. Even following a heartbreak, love and warmth can be found again and if food and the simple pleasure and joy it can give is incorporated in the story you have everything you could possibly want in a book.

A delicious read without the added calories!

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

The Little Brooklyn Bakery is out now. 

 

Books

The Bakery at Seashell Cove – Karen Clarke

It is only a mere few days since I was in Seashell Cove and was getting to know Cassie and how she was trying to make her mark on her parents cafe.

This time back in Seashell Cove we are with one of Cassie’s friends who we were introduced to previously, Meg. Meg is a baker and bakes the cakes for the cafe and very popular they are too.

Trouble is the bakery where Meg works is being sold so she is feeling a little vulnerable especially as her fiance Sam is more interested in bikes and racing than he is in Meg. But childhood sweethearts can overcome anything if they are meant to be together.

Whilst Sam is away riding, Meg receives some rather shocking news about her family’s past and what is exactly going on with her mother in the present. Turning to Sam seems the obvious answer but he is not being very forthcoming. Meg is starting to worry. To add to the worry of who will buy the bakery.

Nathan comes across Meg in the bakery when he is there to sell the place and show round potential buyers. Meg is not keen on it being sold and not remaining a bakery but vows to silently bake until she can’t anymore. Nathan seems quite keen for the bakery to remain and when a secret buyer is found and Meg finally gets her dream she suddenly can see what life might be like if you perhaps choose different ingredients.

This is another great read from Karen Clarke. I was transported to the warmth of the ovens in the bakery, the dusting of flour over everything made the relationships sparkle. And I positively wanted to scream at Sam. Somehow it all works but it gives you enough to care about the characters and loathe them in equal measure as well as superb settings and great plot lines.

I am wondering where we are going to go next with Karen Clarke.

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

The Bakery at Seashell Cove is published on the 8th June. 

Books

The Little Cafe in Copenhagen – Julie Caplin

Kate gets passed over for a promotion at work and all of people it goes to the man she thought she was in love with.

Wanting to prove a point she goes out on a rather conceptual pitch to Lars and his idea of brining a Hygge department store to London. No one thinks she has pulled it off – but Lars loves the idea and so Kate is now the one who has to convince some journalists, bloggers and feature editors that the Danish hygge concept works and is coming to a store near you.

What better place to be able to experience it all that in Copenhagen.

Despite having to put up with egos, drunks, accidents and everything else the journalists throw at her over the trip Kate finds something else.

She finds the way she wants to live her life.

All the journalists with her also find something else. It was lovely for the book to give to time to the supporting characters and showed that despite Kate’s main presence within the storyline the trip to Copenhagen was going to effect everyone. That was one of the reasons I enjoyed the book so much.

This really is a cosy book and probably embraces Hygge at its best. The simplicity of life, the choices we make and in this particular place the amount of Danish pastries consumed. Trying to get that promotion and the money doesn’t necessarily give you everything you need. Kate finds out how life can be lived even with a few hiccups along the way.

This book is full of humour, love and happiness and I cannot wait to see where I get to go next with Julie Caplin.

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

The Little Cafe in Copenhagen is out now. 

 

Books · Jottings

February Roundup

I don’t know about you – but I have so many books to read that sometimes I find myself just staring what I have on my actual shelves as well as on my virtual ones too and actually not getting much reading done.

When I am reading, it is a few pages at night and then my eyes close….zzzzzzz. Too much television watching I think. However some of the programmes that always race the beginning of the year are not finishing and that means I go to bed earlier, keep warm with a good book instead.

So in February I have been everywhere reading wise and the thing I can say about every book I have read is that I have enjoyed them all.

Being part of the Lynda Page – All the Fun of the Fair blog tour meant I could pick up a book by an author I have never read before and start at the beginning of a very interesting series of books about a travelling fair. This is historical saga writing at its best and a genre I love to read.

Of course I always love to read authors that I know are going to deliver on their books a simply great story and that was the case with the latest from Trisha Ashley – The House of Hopes and Dreams I am convinced her stories get better and better and I only have two of her back catalogue to catch up on now. Trouble is I will have to wait an age for a new book but in the meantime I got down to the seaside

Sarah Bennett – Spring at Lavender Bay is the first in a new trilogy and this will keep me busy throughout the year no doubt! When the weather is grey and the days short there is nothing better than reading sunshine with books like Sarah’s.

Of course in winter all you want to do is eat comfort food and what better than a homemade pie and my mouth was watering while reading Cathy Bramley – Hetty’s Farmhouse Bakery. I really enjoy Cathy’s novels but I have to read them as a whole and not in parts, as I like to immerse myself int he storyline.

I balanced out all of this nice sunshine and romantic notions with Robert Galbraith – Career of Evil, the third book in the series so far. I wanted to read it before the third television programme was broadcast. I had a week to do it and because of the excellent writing and plotting, despite the gruesomeness of the story I finished it with 48 hours to spare! I hope I do not have to wait too long before the next one is published as I love Cormoran and Robin – such a wonderful dynamic.

Short amount of books for the shortest month of the year and doing nothing to the years overall total – but I am enjoying my book choices and I hope you enjoy reading about some of them on this blog.

 

 

 

Books

Christmas at Hope Cottage – Lily Graham

Things could be going better for Emma Holloway, she is dumped by her boyfriend and then gets knocked over by a parcel delivery van. To add insult to injury, the delivery van was actually delivering a parcel for her.

Contained within the parcel was ‘The Book’ sent to Emma to help her make some decisions. The only decision now is getting well again and it is going to a long process as Emma finds herself back at Hope Cottage with her eccentric grandmother and two equally as eccentric aunts nearby.

Now ‘The Book’ is back at Hope Cottage we start to see the magic that it may have and that perhaps the way to health, happiness and the future is to bake it. Trouble is magic can be seen as witchcraft and it seems these women are known locally and feuds and disputes go back years, hundreds of years.

So it will not help Emma, when her first love arrives back on the scene and happens to be from a family who hold onto family folklore and certainly don’t believe in magic.

But perhaps when faith is tested, people will look to any means to aid them. Can hope be restored from the pages of the book, the walls of the cottage and Emma and her grandmother?

This is a wonderful tale of love and hope, of believing in something you perhaps cannot explain but know is right. Emma’s story starts quite abruptly and her injuries from the accident that find her back at Hope Cottage were frightening and life altering, but it made her think a lot more about her life up until that point. The author uses this in the form of flashbacks so we can see how Emma found herself to be away from her family home, how her mother made the same decisions that she had and how the presence of something unexplainable can actually cause deep resentment in a community.

The book has everything you want from a Christmas novel and more, strong female characters recognising the fact that it is okay to be different, a sprinkling of snow and romance and delicious baking to wake up the tastebuds.

Perfect reading in the run up to Christmas and you cannot go wrong with Lily Graham’s novels as I have read and enjoyed everyone. A wonderful storyteller.

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

Christmas at Hope Cottage is out today!

 

Books

The Little Bakery on Rosemary Lane – Ellen Berry

I am back visiting Rosemary Lane and it has been just over a year since I have been here. I was there when Della set up her bookshop specialising in one type of books – cookery ones. I wanted to go back and see how she was getting on and so I do with this new novel from Ellen Berry.

Back on Rosemary Lane, we do see something of Della, her bookshop is expanding, her happiness clearly there for everyone to see but she still worries about her sister, Roxanne.

Roxanne becomes the main protagonist for this story as she escaped Rosemary Lane as soon as she could for the bright lights of London. From nothing she has worked her way into the fashion industry and is a Fashion Editor on a glossy magazine, the sort you flick through in a waiting room but would not necessarily buy!

She has everything she wanted but it seems that something is perhaps missing – when fate means her job is suddenly changed to something else and her rather reluctant boyfriend refuses to commit to anything.  Roxanne leaves London and returns to her sister in Rosemary Lane. But what is she going to do?

Roxanne discovers that there is very little to do. Della does not really need her help in the shop and it seems the only thing left her to do is to walk the dog. Trouble is her fashion knowledge and walking a dog on a wet Yorkshire dale are at odds with each other.

Whilst Roxanne learns that comfortable practical clothes are the way forward, no one is judging her and they take her at face value with no ulterior motive. Here she meets Michael who is just starting to find his feet in the new bakery on Rosemary Lane and when his daughter becomes friendly with Roxanne it seems that perhaps the bright lights of London have finally dulled. Of course it will not be that easy.

I enjoyed the interesting world of fashion and fashion photography. I certainly don’t want to be part of that world and the author I would guess has had some experience within it, to get it across the way she did. The bakery is perhaps not a strong feature in the book and others have commented on this, but this was a very character driven novel but it has its place in setting the scene of the village and the lane of shops.

The story of Rosemary Lane has not finished, there has got to me much more to come?  I am sure the pub that is featured in this book has a tale to tell and of course the bakery surely needs to expand? I can but dream and that is the sort of book this is. A lovely read.

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

The Bakery on Rosemary Lane is out now

The first book in the series was reviewed by me here

Books

Where the Wild Cherries Grow – Laura Madeleine

England 1919

The Great War has not even been over for a year. The ripples from the war, the loss is still being felt. For Emeline Vane she only has two things to cling on to, her younger brother Tim and their home in Norfolk.

Events overtake her emotionally and physically and the rash decision of running and stowing away on a train take her to the South of France, almost like the end of the world.

She is taken in like a wounded bird, to a cafe in Cerbere there she mends, grows and develops. She is taught to cook, to use the food as medicine, as reward, as celebration, as love. Everything grows around her in Cerbere and she no longer feels like she is running away……until…….

England 1969

Bill Perch does nothing but type things in triplicate in the solicitor’s office in London where he works. When a client arrives Bill becomes involved in his first proper case that takes him away from the typewriter. Can he proved that his clients aunt is dead and therefore her father, Tim is the sole owner of his childhood home and it can now be sold.

Bill escapes the claustrophobic atmosphere of solicitor office, pub, fish and chip shop and home, his cyclical life and finds something about this aunt which means she might not be dead. Bill’s escape leads to him running away on a journey of discovery just as the person he is seeking did some fifty years earlier.

This dual narrative novel is wonderful. It alternated between chapters, and was enough in each to keep you wanting to read more,wanting to discover the truth about everything that had happened.

I was transported away to France, to the border with Spain, hence the thought of it almost being the end of the world. I went through the seasons and tasted the fruit of the land, the fish from the sea as it seems that Emeline was brought to life by her senses, taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing.

The contrast to Bill’s journey is so different, whilst there had to be similar paths crossed and taken to even to begin to understand Emeline’s story for Bill it was more about breaking boundaries, to not conform and to follow through on your beliefs.

This is a wonderful story to become absorbed in and takes you on a such a journey that I felt like I had been on holiday and had even tasted the food that was described in such vivid detail.

Was the ending the right one? Yes it was for me. The book has stayed with me, it had lots of questions still to be asked if not answered and I felt that the characters were let go to live their lives. Would I want to go back and see how there were? Of course I would, who doesn’t want to keep a story going. But actually I think it is best that they are left to be.

One of my favourite reads for 2017.

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

Where the Wild Cherries Grow is out now.