Books

The Mitford Murders – Jessica Fellowes

The Mitford Sisters have always fascinated me. How six women made such an impact on social and political history throughout the twentieth century. The people they knew and associated with jump from the pages of a history book.

When I first saw this title, I was intrigued. even more so when I learnt the author is related to Julian Fellowes* of Downton Abbey fame. There must be a storytelling gene somewhere in them there Fellowes!

But whilst this is a story, this is also a book based in reality, based in truth but I am not going to give anymore away about what reality and what truth – because like me you can read the book and find out in the end.

Louisa Cannon lives with her mother and an unpleasant Uncle, teetering on the border of poverty in London.

She finds herself escaping her uncle and going to work at the Mitford’s Oxfordshire home where she becomes a maid and companion to the Nanny and the small Mitford girls but also a friend and confidante with Nancy Mitford the eldest. Her life is going to change and Nancy sees Louisa as a way to escape the confines of being in society.

Florence Nightingale Shore related to her namesake and a nurse as well finds herself on a train at the same time as Louisa, the two do not know each other but their lives are about to become entwined especially as one ends up dead and the other making her own investigations.

This is a book which is a mix of fact made into wonderful fiction. The settings are perfect, the insight into the Mitford Sisters early upbringing intriguing although of course we  do not know how much poetic license has been taken, but the infamy perhaps gives you an idea of the characters they were when they were small.

This really is a different murder mystery book, but also seems to sit right in the Golden Age Mystery category. I am intrigued as to how the next book will pan out and what fact or reality is going to be featured and just how will the Mitford’s fit in. There is so much scope with setting yourself such a task.

* His adaptation of Mary Poppins for the stage is phenomenal!

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

The Mitford Murders is out now. 

I loved this book but I do know that the review does not do it justice. That is what comes from being so busy that finding time to review was so difficult and I have lost the momentum you have when you want to sing from the roof tops about a book! Note to self – must try harder!

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Books

Murder at the Mill – M.B. Shaw

Iris Grey is staying at Mill Cottage, in Hazelford, a Hampshire Village. Not only is she escaping from her failing marriage but she has also been commissioned to paint Dom Wetherby’s portrait.

The Mill is the house where Dom Wetherby lives, a famous crime writer whose books have sold millions and have been made into television programmes. But now it is time for him to retire his most famous detective and his writing. The portrait is one of the gifts that his wife, Ariadne gives him.

Iris is drawn into the Wetherby family as she starts to paint Dom. She starts to see the real man and not the facade as she spends time with him.

Invited to their Christmas Eve party, Iris watches as Dom and Ariadne greet welcome and unexpected guests. There is history at this party, there is hate at this party and there is a story to tell.

When a body is found on Christmas Day floating in a nearby stream, it seems that the party may have been the catalyst for what followed.

Iris, intrigued by what has happened and encouraged by a Wetherby family member she starts to ask some questions and hopes to get to the truth of the matter.

This is a rather light cosy murder mystery. For me it took too long in setting the scene before predictably you got to the dead body. I found it meander for far too long once the body had been found and it had a slightly unbelievable element to it in the process of detection and the denouement. The clues were there, the red herrings obvious and whilst I worked it out fairly early on, it did nothing to make me doubt my theory.

As someone who has read many Agatha Christie who can pull a punchy story in around 200 pages, this book is in fact 200 pages too long. It is a pleasant diversion and was the perfect book for an easy read after a hard day.

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

Murder at the Mill is published on 30 November. 

I have never read any Tilly Bagshawe who is the author behind this book and this book, the first in what looks to be a series is a step in different direction for the author. I do wonder if perhaps this first book should be given the benefit of the doubt and perhaps the second will be stronger. I will have to wait and see.

 

 

Books

A Very Vintage Christmas – Tilly Tennant

Dodie is living her dream, she likes all things vintage both in fashion and outlook and she is running a boutique that sells vintage clothes in the seaside town of Bournemouth.

When going through some clothes, she discovers the most beautiful green coat and it has a letter contained within.

The letter is about a romance back during the Second World War and Dodie is determined to have the letter returned to the people it was either intended for or at least their close relatives.

Whilst trying to discover the true story behind the letter, Dodie is having to deal with a boyfriend who seems rather reluctant to understand what Dodie is really like. A grandmother who has more energy and spirit and is forever off doing some course or class and a brest friend who discovers the father she has never seen suddenly wants to see her.

Dodie is rather put upon and it seems that she is doing everything to help others, discover the letter as well as run a bespoke business in the run up to Christmas. Whilst she does seem to be juggling a lot she has captured the eye of Ed who helps her out to discover more about the letter she has found. Ed happens to live at the house where the letter was sent all those years ago. Surely it is all meant to be?

Of course it is not going to be an easy conclusion, but Dodie and Ed get to find out all the answers.

I was disappointed by this book, there is not much relevance to Christmas other than the fact it is set then. If anything that was a distraction from the main plot lines; Dodie and her boyfriend, Dodie and her grandmother; Dodie and her vintage shop and Dodie and Ed. I wanted more from this book, because I wanted more from the letter that was found, it was a perfect opportunity and an obvious vehicle to go back to the War, to go back to the people in the letter and learn about their story. The author did not take it this way and that left me feeling this book was missing something.

A pleasant enough read if you want some escapism, but left me disappointed.

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

A Very Vintage Christmas is out now along with A Cosy Candlelight Christmas the second in the set of Christmas books from Tilly Tennant. 

I have the second book and I am hoping it is better than this one. Of all the Christmas books I have read so far this season, this book was not right. I have found with Tilly Tennant;s books that sometimes they are really good and then when I pick up another one, they are just not sitting right with me. I approach the second book with trepidation but will give it a fair chance. 

 

Books

Christmas at Butterfly Cove – Sarah Bennett

This is the concluding book in the Butterfly Cove trilogy and is a lovely book to curl up at Christmas with and go back and visit some characters that I cared about and perhaps secretly fallen in love with too.

This book focuses on Nee, the younger sister of Mia and Kiki who feature as main characters in the first two books respectively.

Nee is an artist, but her art has left her. She will not tell anyone what has happened to her but she arrives at Butterfly Cove to heal wounds at the end of the last book but it turns out that perhaps she is simply reopening some. Especially when she comes face to face with her husband.

Nee was married and then she left him. No one knew about the marriage. No one knew why she left. But it turns out Luke her husband happens to be the brother of the man who Kiki has fallen in love with.

Nee has never looked back but Luke has only done that as he is still in love with Nee despite what has happened.

Can it be healed? Or is this one wound which will never go away?

Nee is trying to avoid life and when their father needs one of them to help, the sisters let Nee go and tend to him and their mother. Luke is not far behind and so is Christmas.

Gathered at Butterfly Cove for the festive period, Luke convinces Nee that this is the best place to be to heal. And he can be the balm that can soothe her. His patience, his dedication and his help made me fall in love with Luke. How I wanted him to be looking me.

But will Nee open up about what has happened in the past and can Luke really let go if he is not what Nee wants? Christmas has a funny way of making some things happen and it cannot all be magic surely?

Like the previous two novels, this is a great story that draws you right in to the characters, plenty of mention of Mia and Kiki as you see how their lives are progressing since we last saw them. The secondary characters have stories to tell and they all play a part in making this a Christmas to remember. Even the tables laden with food makes you believe that you are really there at Butterfly Cove taking part in the festivities yourself.

This is a lovely book and a great conclusion to the trilogy. I am sad to leave them behind, but I think I know that everything will be okay for them, ups and downs no doubt, but Butterfly Cove will be a happy, loving place for anyone whoever visits in the future.

I heartily recommend this book and the previous two. In fact just indulge in all three and you will forget everything that is bad in the world and rejoice in what can only be good.

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

Christmas at Butterfly Cove is out now.

 

 

 

Books

By the Pricking of My Thumbs – Agatha Christie

Tommy and Tuppence Beresford visit an unpleasant aunt in a home. From this typically unlikely beginning, murder and all kinds of excitement develop, to the point when Mrs Beresford meets the mass killer in the secret room of the house.

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes

Divided into four books we are back with Tommy and Tuppence who are drawn into a rather peculiar mystery. And if the cover of the edition I read is anything to go by, something quite frightening or perhaps something desperately wicked.

I knew the story, but not the actual story. My warped version came from a television adaptation (more on that later) so I had a rough idea of the story and knew whodunnit. Perhaps not the right way to tackle a book but I wanted to know what happened and how the conclusion was reached.

I have always found Tuppence Beresford a bit wishy-washy, and this book lived up to that, but actually I think this part of her character which is what enables her to go off on these hunches when she remembers houses from trains, that later reappear in pictures and what elderly old women say when incarcerated in rest homes. None of it seems relevant or useful to Tommy Beresford but when you have been married as long as he has to Tuppence he knows there is perhaps a grain of something in her thought process.

We have the facts early on, but despite me knowing the answer I could not see how it was all going to come together.  Is that the beauty of Christie? I just think it might be.

Tuppence gets into some scrapes, but she is on to something and it takes a bit of Tommy’s past skills to find out where she is when she fails to come home to him. Of course Tuppence’s task is a simple one, to return a picture to its rightful owner, Mrs Lancaster after she gifted it to Tommy’s Aunt. How can one picture cause such trouble?

This is only the second Tommy and Tuppence that I have read and I have to confess they are a funny pair and in this book, they have aged. The only characters of Christie to do so within real-time of the books being published I learn.

I got into Tommy and Tuppence when back in 2015, an adaptation of a couple of their novels was made by the BBC with David Walliams and Jessica Raine. I enjoyed them, but didn’t hit the mark with the critics and subsequently was not recommissioned. Shame because I liked it. However they did not pick this particular story to adapt, but it has been adapted by ITV within the Marple series.

Some things you need to know:

Miss Marple does not appear in the original story in any way shape or form. There might be some veiled references to the innocent observations of little old ladies but no Miss Marple.

The book is set much longer after the Second World War, and neither of them were still involved with the security services anymore.

Tuppence is not an alcoholic who feels she has missed out on life and been passed over, because she is a woman, a mother and now suffering badly with empty nest syndrome.

Additional storylines of American Air Force, turning village girls heads does not appear, film premieres with precocious children are not part of the plot either. And the names of the villages are very different.

I could go on, but I won’t. However for a Sunday night television drama and without causing much offence it is a reasonable programme and it has everything I suppose you need in such a thing.

However like a lot of things it cannot beat the book – this is the case with By The Pricking of My Thumbs. Although perhaps choose your choice of cover carefully, mine is creepy and the back cover has a picture of Christie herself, staring out at me from my bedside table. I am not sure that the cover conveys the right message. I do prefer something much less weird.

I read this book as part of the 1968 Club which is run by Simon and Karen. I have joined in nearly all of them and have found it a great way to make a dent in the back catalogue of Christie. She wrote so much!

 

Books

The Christmas Stocking & Other Stories – Katie Fforde

The first thing to note is that this publication has two short stories which have previously been published around Christmas time. However they are short stories and so wonderfully written that it will do you no harm in reading them all over again – just like I have!

Candlelight at Christmas (previously published) – featuring characters from Recipe in Love (which I still have not read) shows how Christmas can be as much fun, even if you have the in-laws from hell, too many guests and suddenly no electricity to cook the turkey!

A Christmas in Disguise (previously published) – can Jo really pull of not just being someone else but also cooking a Christmas Dinner and pretending to be a girlfriend all in one day!

The Christmas Stocking – Romy is busy selling decorations and gifts on her stall at the market. The weather has taken a turn for the worse and the cold is really starting to bite Romy.

When a mysterious man brings her a hot drink to warm her up, so begins an unlikely friendship which is intensified by it being Christmas Eve the next day, the snow, the music studio all in the depth of the woods. Romy’s Christmas this years is going to be very different from what she planned.

A Dream Christmas – getting married on Christmas Eve is a dream for many (me included) and when Ginny and Ben finally make it out of their wedding reception and have some time for themselves.

When the taxi drops them at Withycome Lodge, the housekeeper’s cottage it seems to be in the middle of nowhere almost a dream…..log fires, warming baths, snow and an unseen member of staff mean this is going to be the honeymoon that everyone dreams of.

Or is it?

Dogs are for Christmas  – Stella  goes for a walk early Christmas morning to the Dog Walker’s Christmas Tree where people come to remember their treasured pets that are no longer around. She wants to put her dad’s dogs ashes there. Her dad’s beloved dog, died a few days after its owner.

Stella did not think she would suddenly have company so early and especially not from two exuberant misbehaving dogs, Tris and Izzy and an apologetic dog sitter, Fitz.

Perhaps Stella’s Christmas is going to be full of dogs after all.

The Christmas Fairy – everyone needs one surely? Ella is sent to help Brent look after his two nieces and nephew when their parents have to make a mad dash to France to look after sick relatives. Ella as the fairy is there to make sure everything is going okay and occupy them all in the depths of Scotland and so they don’t miss their parents too much.

Trouble is Ella seems to be sprinkling a bit of fairy dust very close to home. Perhaps she will get her Christmas wish too.

This is a collection of wonderful stories which can be read time and time again. Perfect for getting into the Christmas Spirit whatever the month or the weather! In fact I think they would make great Christmas Eve afternoon stories, curled up in the front of the log fire. A hot toddy, a mince-pie warm oozing with Brandy Butter, the tin of Roses open with wrappers left about in gay abandon like coloured snowflakes. Indulge it may be the only time you can in what can be a busy time!

This also includes a preview of Katie Fforde’s new novel, out in 2018. As with such things when they appear in books I do not read them, as the frustration of not being able to continue the story is incalculable!

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

The Christmas Stocking and other stories is out on 2 Nov

 

Books

The Woolly Hat Knitting Club – Poppy Dolan

Dee Blackthorn is ruthless when it comes to the corporate business world and she strives for one hundred percent success. She works hard and that is all she does, there is no stop, there is no pause. Dee lives for her work.

That is until one day she finds herself without a job and back living with her brother, JP. Suddenly working all the time is not the priority.

Which is not necessarily a bad thing because JP has managed to break both his wrists. JP becomes Dee’s priority but also in some ways her project as she wants to help him get on better. JP is not any normal brother though.

JP runs the local haberdashery and has found peace and pleasure in his knitting. He is popular online and regularly helps anyone that he can. But how can he now when he can’t even hold a knitting needle. Dee has to help him but there is a problem…..Dee cannot knit….

When she bumps into an old school friend, Becky in the supermarket who has just given birth to beautiful boy prematurely, she persuades JP that knitting little hats for premature babies would be a great way of just not helping Becky but lots of people in the same situation.

When Ben turns up looking for Dee, he becomes involved in the whole knitting furor and becomes friendly with JP. Trouble is Dee remembers what Ben was like to work with and thinks that there must be some ulterior motive. Ben becomes a surprise natural with the knitting, much to Dee’s irritation but he does embrace the whole idea of expanding the premature baby hat campaign.

Dee’s skills from her work life are in their element and what she can do is organise and make something small and successful, huge and mega successful. Is that what everyone and JP wants especially when it begins to hurt the people Dee loves. Dee cannot always see the real meaning sometimes of something so small and the pleasure that can be gained from a small number of people working for a bigger cause.

I loved this book, certainly one of my favourite of the year. Without a doubt because of the story but also because as a fellow knitter I can relate to all the yarn stories and the varieties of yarn, the difficulty in learning a new technique and being able to find someone to help you when needed.

This is a book which refocuses on the small little things in life because they are the most important and that sometimes having a big impact does not leave a lasting one. It is a great read and if you are a knitter as well, then this book is certainly a great read. Perhaps it might inspire you to pick up a pair of needles and knitting for someone.

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

The Woolly Hat Knitting Club is out now. 

As you may (or may not) know I am a knitter as one of the many crafts I like to try my hand at. I already knit for the premature babies at my local maternity hospital. My mum always did long before she had me and continues to do so, I have just simply followed tradition. So here are a couple of hats and a selection of the cardigans as well.