Books

The Girl in the Maze – Cathy Hayward

How much can you learn about someone when they have died? For Emma Bowen, in the last few years of Margaret, her mother’s life she has been distant and removed. Her mother was clearly a difficult woman. But Emma discovers some letters that it seems her mother had a past and one that she least expected.

It seems the will is the first of the surprises for Emma and when a painting is left to a friend of Margaret’s, Emma is trying to piece together everything from her mother’s past which she knew nothing about. The solicitor seems to know more than he is willing and allowed to say apart from one thing “some things are better left in the past”.

Then there is the discovery of a birth certificate, a sister, and actions that are wrong at any point in history. The story that the author tells is from the point of view of Emma in the present and Betty, her grandmother, Margaret’s mother in the late 1930s.

As the past is revealed in the present, Emma learns a lot about what happened to the generation before and how it has shaped the generations that follow. I was shocked by events and the secrets that come tumbling out and the ones that are still kept because the truth does not always help resolve the present.

This is with out a doubt a powerful and disturbing novel and not for the fainthearted, with some powerful subjects which will undoubtedly upset. The impact of the storyline will stay with me for a long time.

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

The Girl in the Maze is out now.

Books

Call of the Penguins – Hazel Prior

We are now a year on from meeting Veronica McCreedy, now at 87 there cannot be possibly anywhere else she can go in the world. But then if David Attenborough can do it, so can Veronica.

And when inspired by the delightful Daisy, who at nine has no fear and can only see the good in everything despite the problems she currently faces, Veronica and Daisy this time find themselves miles away from home and looking at penguins yet again.

So whilst we are taken to the Southern hemisphere and the penguins there with Daisy and Veronica and the promise of a television nature programme being filmed. We are also taken back to Locket Island, to the place Veronica first visited where she left behind her grandson Patrick and Pip the beautiful Adelie penguin that started this adventure off.

Life is not being easy for any of them, isolated in different parts of the world and with differing troubles Hazel Prior takes us on quite an emotional journey as there are reunions, discoveries and death. Amongst it all we get to meet Petra the Rockhopper and Tony the Macaroni who bring as much joy to the page as Pip did previously and all the characters do.

I thought the first book was original but it has been surpassed by this one and if I recommend anything, I would say read them both one after the other, for the sheer joy it will bring you and the uniqueness of Hazel Prior’s writing.

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

Call of the Penguins is out now.

Books

Winter at Cliff’s End Cottage – Sheila Norton

You could almost be forgiven you were about to embark on reading some gothic novel about a reclusive women who lives in a cottage on the cliff edge, where strange sounds come from and that local villagers think of as a witch and that the lady is probably a witch.

However what you get with this new novel from Sheila Norton is something much much more and I thoroughly enjoyed the developing friendship between two lonely women across the generations.

Stella lives at Cliff’s End Cottage, it has been her home since she was in her early twenties, now in her eighties, as she is slowing down the cottage is slowly disappearing as the cliff begins to erode, taking part of the cliff face with it often. Everyone thinks she should move, but Stella is determined to stay.

Holly, single mum to the wonderful Maisie, is a freelance journalist and part time cleaner and determined to make her new piece for a magazine stand out she deicides to go out and see this woman at Cliff’s End Cottage. Faced initially with suspicion, a strange respect grows between these two women. With plenty of home made cake and tea made in a teapot, Holly starts to listen to Stella’s story.

As Holly finds out about Stella’s life, so do we, as we are taken back to Stella as a five year old evacuee, with a cockney accent and away from everything she knows. Until she sees the sea and decides that perhaps this is the best place. As Stella grows, she makes friends and decides to take up violin lessons. Those memories of the past are still very much in the present and it seems that the secrets of Stella are not all that they seem.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable read and one that you can lose yourself in as the wind batters the rain against the window and you can snuggle down and simply escape. I enjoyed all the strands of the story whether it be past or present and they weaved together nicely. Nothing is shied away from or made light of and it really was an impactful book about how friendships can come and go at any time during your life and that age is no barrier. All friendships can show us lies and truths, coldness and warmth, hate and love and we can learn from them all.

A warm hug of a book for all those that need it.

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

Winter at Cliff’s End Cottage is out now.

Books

A Three Dog Problem – S.J.Bennett

This is the second in what I hope to be a series of books about HM The Queen helping to solve mysteries all the while going about state business and unassuming having no idea what is really going not just in the world outside of those palace walls, but certainly inside of them too.

Back is APS (Assistant Private Secretary) Rozie who fulfilled something The Queen had been looking for and became her partner in crime solving. When out on a visit The Queen spots a painting that used to be hanging outside her bedroom door, she asks Rozie to make some discreet enquiries about its odd misplacement from the palace walls to the walls of the Royal Navy.

When a body is found in the palace swimming pool, suicide is suspected and seems to be the neatest conclusion, but all is not what it seems about the deceased. Opening up a can of poison pen letters, missing items, rare paintings and secret tunnels it seems Rozie and her boss have a lot to consider.

Can a conclusion be reached before there is more murders and perhaps The Queen has to start considering a new APS?

For me you do really need to have read the first one to get a sense of whose everyone is and how Rozie comes to be in the position she is in as well. It is terribly (in a good way!) British and may not translate across other countries, but there are plenty of references to recent events from Brexit, Trump election and the like that it is very much a book of it’s time. All the Royal stuff is a fascinating bonus!

This is the perfect cosy crime book and the fact it features The Queen as one of the main characters just brings me sheer joy. Why shouldn’t she have her own fun, with only a small select few knowing about it!

A great fun distracting read needed in these turbulent times.

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

A Three Dog Problem is out now.

Books

Murder on the Pier – Merryn Allingham

This is the second in the Flora Steele series of novels, which features the aforementioned and crime writer Jack Carrington set in the 1950s in the South Downs.

Time has moved slightly on, since we last saw Flora. Determined to keep the bookshop going and concentrating more on than that than murders it seems that in Abbeymead, peace has resumed.

On a day trip to Brighton, Flora does not expect to find a body floating under the pier and even more she doesn’t expect it to be someone she knows; Polly Dakers.

Polly had her whole life in front of her and was determined to be a model and be noticed, but probably not in this way. Clearly looking like an accident to others, Flora is convinced there is some foul play at work and she is determined to find the truth.

However, with possible suspects and motives stacking up, Flora’s determination finds herself hanging on to life on more than one occasion. All the while at her side is crime writer Jack. A strong friendship developed in the first novel is progressing nicely in this one and it seems that both Flora and Jack are destined to be more than friends. That is if Flora stops getting both of them into scrapes!

This was a delightful sojourn to a cosy crime, and I was thoroughly delighted to have worked out the murderer which is a rare occurrence for me. Always great to have seen the clues and see how it all fits together in the end.

Great historical cosy crime to take you away from everything, even if someone people meet a grizzly end, there seems to be just a gentleness of Flora, Jack and the other residents of Abbeymead. I look forward to going back there.

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

Murder on the Pier is out now.

Books

A Murder Inside – Frances Brody

It is 1969 and this is the first in what will be a series of books from the author. Dealing with strong female characters find us the readers meeting Nell Lewis, the new governor at HMP Brackerly Edge in Yorkshire.

This is to be the first open prison for women and Nell is tasked with bringing this palace into a more modern setting, not just in terms of buildings but also those who work within the walls, the grounds and the local area.

However, there is some background with these female prisoners who are towards the end of their sentences. Surely it can’t have anything to do with the previous governor being found dead his garden – found dead by Nell herself.

Nell finds herself drawn back to her previous days as a WPC and calls on the support of a former colleague all the while trying to help these women, all who have their own paths to forge once they can escape the prison system and stigma.

This is a great start to a series and the setting and the idea behind it is unique and one that fascinates me. I hope we don’t have to wait too long before we can catch up with Nell and see how HMP Brackerly Edge is faring as the world starts changing around them all.

If you are a fan of the historical cosy mystery, female dominated and like the idea of starting a new series then I think this is one to keep your eye on.

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

A Murder Inside is out now.

Books

Christmas Carols and a Cornish Cream Tea – Cressida McLaughlin

Meredith is not a fan of Christmas, and does her utmost to avoid for the last ten years. However her new job in a Cornish gift shop means that she has no choice but to embrace the festive season.

When her boss wants to give hampers to the great and good of Porthglow, Meredith finds herself suddenly thrust into the festive season. Coupled with helping her best friend Anisha to create a last minute Christmas spectacular for Porthglow, Meredith cannot help become swept away.

Then enters Finn, as Meredith emerges from her cold water swimming, she meets Finn. And he seems to keep popping up everywhere around the little village and volunteers to help deliver the hampers. Finn embraces the true Christmas spirit and is determined for Meredith to see what Christmas can really be like, but he is not telling all and seems to be keeping something hidden.

This booked is packed full of Christmas, Cornish coastlines, Cold Water swimming, Carols, Charm and plenty of Curiosity to keep the reader guessing about whether; the festive hampers will be a success; the blossoming relationship between Finn and Meredith and who really owns the house on the cliff, that Meredith has dreamed about for a long time.

This is not a follow on from the previous Cornish Cream Tea novels, but some familiar faces do appear, but no matter if this is your first encounter with this authors work. It is an excellent Christmas read to get you in the spirit full of light, life and love. Perfect!

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

Christmas Carols and a Cornish Cream Tea is out now.

Books

Shipyard Girls Under the Mistletoe – Nancy Revell

As this series reaches Christmas 1944, anyone who knows about the Second World War will realise that the end is in sight. And so it seems it must be for the wonderful Shipyard Girls who I have been with since the beginning, who I have shared ups and downs with, tears and laughter with and that whenever I pick up the latest novel I am picking up with lost friends.

Dorothy shares a special kiss with someone who hasn’t proposed to her. She is in complete turmoil, as she doesn’t know what she should do for the best. Her friends all tease her, but dep down they all love Dorothy and want the best for her and just maybe the person on the other end of that kiss is the right one after all!

Helen Crawford, manager of the shipyard where the women work is still battling with her mother, who has appeared back on the scene and with the behaviour of her grandfather, Charles Havelock. A man everyone despises, but seems to always come up smelling of roses. Testament to how well a character is portrayed, Charles Havelock makes you want to throw your book across the room. The secrets that are being revealed over the course of previous books as well as this one are shocking and the current behaviour sees Helen question her own family closely and whether she will find her happy ever after.

Of course we still get to see all the other wonderful characters, Polly, Gloria, Rosie and Hannah to name a few and of course little stories are weaved amongst the main plots, so we know that there is more loose ends to tie up. So excellently written and so heartfelt in making sure that whilst good always overcomes evil, eventually! The spirit of the war, the strength of communities in adversity leaps from the page and it is full of plucky women at the centre. What more could you want from a saga?

As the Shipyard Girls, the Second World War and us readers reach the conclusion of this wonderful saga, I cannot wait for the final book in the series.

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

The Shipyard Girls Under the Mistletoe is out now.

If you wish to know more about this series, then please search my blog for all the previous reviews.

Books

A Special Cornish Christmas – Phillipa Ashley

Bo Grayson loves Christmas and she thinks this year is going to be even more wonderful as she gets to spend it with the one she loves. Until he decides on Christmas eve that perhaps trying again with his fiancé might be a better option.

Bo heartbroken, decides that she will throw herself into all the other wonderful and enjoyable parts of her life. Her café is popular and she has a band of loyal local customers as well as the holiday makers but she still wants to give more. Then there is her hobby with the Falford Flingers – a rock and roll dance group which bleeds into her own personal style which makes her unique from a lot of other women.

Ran, has noticed Bo before, but his heart is also battered and bruised and merely looks from afar. However, along with Bo’s friend April for fun at a fete go and see what Madame Odette predicts for them all. All come out with the same result it seems – a generic “you will meet the love of your life by Christmas”. Looking for love is the last thing all three of them would be thinking about, however it seems that love can come in many forms and guises.

Phillipa Ashley has created another wonderful Cornish tale of Christmas, community and somehow brings the world of rock and roll dancing to life from the page as I am sure I was tapping my foot along as the Falford Flingers – flung each other round various dance floors and with varying partners!

A wonderful joyous book for a Christmas read which brought together, the delicious smells and tastes of Christmas, the Cornish coastline, the crafts that can help us heal and the wonderful added bonus a sprinkling of romance just like the sprinkling of snow we all want at Christmas.

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

A Special Cornish Christmas is out now.

Books

Christmas at the Village Sewing Shop – Helen Rolfe

Butterbury Sewing Box has been in the family for years and Loretta loves running it, and enjoyed all the time she spent with her three daughters in the shop. Creating wonderful family items but also creating memories with her girls; Daisy, Ginny and Fern.

As Christmas approaches once again, Loretta is saddened by how fractured her family has become and that her daughters do anything to spend as little time together as possible. Loretta with some help from her father, hatch a little plan to make this a Christmas more special than any other.

We get to see each of the girls in turn, and the story goes between all of them, including their mother. Daisy the youngest stayed after tragedy struck the family and whilst she knows her stuff in the Sewing Box, photography is her real passion.

Middle daughter Ginny, is a midwife and has spend her years travelling everywhere and spending as little time as possible in Butterbury than she has to. But being back in the village and bumping into past friends and relishing the joy she once got out of creating, Ginny thinks maybe coming home now was the right thing to do.

Fern, the eldest and the one who has to be in control is slowly unravelling it seems. Some simple moments of forgetfulness and the pressure she puts on herself it seems that she is heading for burnout. Going back home is going to be the toughest for Fern.

AS the three women come back home, they discover the past has not been forgotten and that they need to all work out their differences and at the same time get to the bottom of their mother’s request for them to be home at this particular Christmas.

It also turns out Loretta does have a few secrets of her own and they are not what you think they are going to be.

As Christmas looms and their aim to finish their piece of creative collaboration for their grandfather finally comes together, it seems that the three sisters have sewn something else together as well. What a wonderful present for them all.

This is the second visit to Butterbury, first featured in The Little Cottage in Lantern Square and like that one, is full of the wonders that types of craft can bring to a community as well as individuals. This made the book more wonderful for me as crafts is something I love to do as well. I hope there are more tales to come from Butterbury and if they are at Christmas even better!

The perfect book; full of community, cheer, and Christmas!

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

Christmas at the Village Sewing Shop is out now.