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

November Roundup

November by tradition is always a quiet month for reading, this year even more so as it was a ‘zero’ birthday for me and much was taken up with celebrating. I am still eating the birthday cake.. don’t worry it is fruit, well made so, well-preserved.

It has very much been a Christmas month for me and catching up with people who I have come across in this years reading.

I only recently read The Canal Boat Cafe so I was delighted to see that there was more to follow with Cressida McLaughlin – The Canal Boat Cafe Christmas: Port Out where they reach Little Venice in London for some Christmas themed cakes and some ghost of Christmas past! And if you go Port Out you always go Starboard Home and that is lined up ready for reading in December.

I was lucky enough to complete the trilogy of Butterfly Cove and got to spend and early Christmas with the lovely Mia, Kiki and Nee in Sarah Bennett – Christmas at Butterfly Cove. It is always a sign of good writing and good stories that makes me sad to leave a place and that is certainly the case with this particular book.

I have mainly been disappointed by some of Tilly Tennant novels , they seem to not grab me as much as some other authors do but prepared to have my mind changed I embarked on Tilly Tennant – A Very Vintage Christmas. Sadly it was a book which could have been so much more, I do have the second in this Christmas selection she has written but I approach it with some trepidation.

Cornwall has featured heavily in many setting and plot in books I have read over the last couple of years and was probably one of the reasons I picked up Liz Eeles book back in May. I venture back for a colder and probably wetter Christmas in Liz Eeles – Annie’s Christmas by the Sea which was a lovely tale.

With all this jollity and festiveness what about a little bit of murder. This is the first in a series of novels, featuring each of the Mitford Sisters in turn. Jessica Fellowes – The Mitford Murders starts with the eldest Nancy who becomes embroiled in a murder on a train. What makes it even more intriguing is that some of the book is actually based on real life events. But I am not going to tell you which – you can read the book and find out for yourself.

So that was November, and to add a bit less Christmas and a bit more excitement I finished it reading Paula Hawkins second novel Into the Water – more of that in December.

 

Books

October Roundup

So there goes October, a funny month. The weather cannot make its mind up, I have been full of cold and yet I am still swimming outside! And so begins the countdown to Christmas and the reading continues apace with it.

Lily Graham – Christmas at Hope Cottage is one of those magical Christmas stories that fill you with hope and food. There is some magic food happening on the tables of Hope Cottage.

Of course you need a drink with Christmas and it will depend on what your favourite tipple might be. I expect you can guess what mine is? Catherine Miller – Christmas at the Gin Shack sees us return to octogenarian Olive and her friends as they discover more about Gin and friendship in difficult times.

If you only have time for a few short stories then turn to Katie Fforde – The Christmas Stocking and other Stories, if you are a fan of this author you will recognise some but still read them because they are brilliantly written and capture the spirit of Christmas is just the right amount of pages. The new stories are just as capturing.

It cannot all be about Christmas in October, which is why I have gone back a bit to Summer and picked up a book that has been sitting on myself for an age. Cressida McLaughlin – The Canal Boat Cafe, why I had not read this sooner when I enjoy the author I do not know. However I was transported away to the freedom of a Canal Boat and the wonderful Summer who is struggling to make a go of a very different lifestyle, especially when it seems many are against her. I am also thrilled to see that two short stories, Christmas themed of course are due out following on from this story so I read it just at the right time.

Another book which was a sort of serendipity to me was Poppy Dolan – The Woolly Hat Knitting Club. I love crafts and in the middle of doing quite a bit of knitting, for myself and for others. In particular the little babies born at my local hospital. If you are a fan of knitting then this book is a must and if you want to knit something yourself then get in contact and I can direct you to some great patterns. I am looking forward to seeing what Poppy writes about next.

I always enjoy getting into a saga and I have this year with Nancy Revell and the Shipyard Girls series. I have read books one and two and was thrilled to be able to get hold of book three. Nancy Revell – Secrets of the Shipyard Girls is a good read and it was lovely to be back amongst women that you have grown to know and admire as war still rages and loves still has to conquer all, no matter what stands in its way.

Sometimes with all these ‘nice’ reads as I call them, you need something which is a bit more meaty with the odd dead body or two. So I was intrigued by what is to be a new series of books by an author I have heard of but not read, publishing under a different name is how I came to get M.B.Shaw – Murder at the Mill. It sounded promising but for me did not really live up expectation. I think I have read too many Agatha Christie.

Which leads me to the 1968 club and my choice which was Agatha Christie – By The Pricking of My Thumbs. I try and participate when I can in these clubs as it is a useful way for me, to be able to make my way through Christie’s catalogue!

So that is it for October, my netgalley shelves are positively bowing with the weight of books that I have requested and I have more actual books wandering around my house looking forlorn by not being read. So time for more reading.

Books

Secrets of the Shipyard Girls – Nancy Revell

I am back with the girls at the Sunderland Shipyard, welding their way through the Second World War. This is the third in the series of books and I recommend you read the previous two so you can understand the characters and background a lot more.

Rosie is still in charge of this eclectic mix of women, but she is having troubles of her own. She knows that some of her past is behind her but it is her present which is causing the problems. Especially when it means she can no longer see the man, Peter she was walking out with. Peter on the other hand is prepared to find out the truth.

Gloria, is back welding only a couple of weeks after giving birth to baby Hope. That takes some stamina and strength! But her life is not quite complete as her true love Jack is missing and Gloria may never know the real truth.

Dorothy and Angie are the life and soul of the group, always ready to party and with a quick wit about them especially when it comes to chatting up men. But secretly they want what some of the other girls have, a stable relationship, just like Bel. A man on their arm and someone to love.

Bel has finally decided to tie the knot with Joe. Although she feels the guilt of her dead husband, she knows that for herself and her little girl she must move forward and start living her life.

Of course there are lots of other secondary characters but just as rich which are interwoven into the story, we get to learn more about Kate and of course the arrival of Maisie with secrets of her own makes for a page turning story. Every character is important and plays some role within the pages and brings the story very much to life.

This saga keeps getting better and better, it deals with some important issues of the Second World War and how what was going on abroad affected those at home and how being at home also meant there were personal wars to be fought. I am looking forward to catching up with these women who feel like friends when the next book is released in 2018.

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

Secrets of the Shipyard Girls is out now. 

 

 

Books

The Snow Globe – Judith Kinghorn

It is the mid 1920s, The Great War a memory but still being very much felt by the people who live at Eden Hall but for Daisy Forbes on the cusp of something her belief in the life she has had so far is about to be shattered.

It is Christmas, a time for family for being together and for sharing in traditions, such as the snow globe that comes out every year and is one of Daisy most precious items. However everything she knows is shaken up and settles very much in a different way, just like her snow globe. Can it all return to the way it was or a brighter future?

Upon overhearing from servants that her father has a mistress and then seeing her mother invite said mistress as a guest for the Christmas season, Daisy’s world and perception changes. She struggles to deal with such information and cannot understand how her mother puts up with such things and how even her older sisters seems fully aware of what is happening. Daisy is struggling to understand love and this is not helping her.

She turns to her friend, Stephen who she has known since childhood, but he has plans of his own and they may not include still being friends with Daisy as their positions in life suddenly become very different and their social gap could widen.

All the time she is being encouraged to settle down, to marry, not necessarily for love but perhaps for necessity. Dealing with kisses, proclamations of love and marriage proposals she does not know where to turn to seek the right advice. Her mother has gone travelling, her father she feels she cannot approach, her sisters either free spirits or already tied down with domesticity. What is the right way and if the globe is shaken once more the snow will settle exactly in the right place and then the answer will become clear. The questions she has been asking are making Daisy even more puzzled.

This is a book which encompasses the lives of those upstairs and downstairs in a big house, where people gather and it is described in such a cinematic way that you can see it easily being transferred to a screen. Of course it is very much Daisy’s story but I enjoyed her mother Mabel as she sets out to challenge convention and prove that love is worth fighting for.

There is something about historical fiction that I am drawn to, the chosen era reflecting the storyline as this book does. The characters having the same anxieties as those today, with twists and turns as life takes us all on different paths. You learn so much about another time, another place but you also learn that love is sometimes all that is needed. This book encompasses all of that.

A sheer joy to read.

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

The Snow Globe is out now. 

For some reason, not everyone has read or even knows about Judith Kinghorn, her books do not seem to widely available in the UK. Let us change that I recommend her first three highly. I look forward to reading her fourth on my kindle ready to go. But to be honest, these are the sorts of book that need to be read gripped between your hands as you immerse yourself in the stories within the pages. 

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 Hourglass – Tracy Rees

Tracy Rees third novel, and whilst it is of course a novel set in the present and in the past, I found it different from her first two but I can’t put my finger on what it was, as it is certainly as good as them.

Present day: Nora suddenly has a clear image of a beach, a seaside town. It seems to be calling to her and it is a place she has only been to once in the past. The place is Tenby, Wales.

1950s: Chloe spends three weeks every summer with her aunt and uncle at a seaside town. An opportunity which she spends the other 49 weeks of the year dreaming about. Not only the journey, but the beach and her best friend are their. The place is Tenby, Wales.

It is clear that Tenby holds a spell over these two women. Nora stricken with anxiety and the fact she is forty and seems to have achieved very little in life, abandons everything she has job, flat, boyfriend and travels to Tenby as she attempts to find herself.

As Chloe’s summers are charted every year we see her grow, her blossom from girl to young woman, from small fantasies to big dreams and they are always most clear when she is in Tenby. The reality is somewhat different.

Tenby is beautifully described and placed perfectly within the story. I was there visiting, I was walking the same path and viewing the same landscape and scenery no matter what the weather, the author does this effortlessly. Google pictures of Tenby and you will see even the cover correctly illustrates the place so beautifully.

The story progresses between these two women and you do find out fairly early on the link between them as that is important as the story and the women’s lives move in very different directions but oddly enough they move most importantly to each other. Suddenly the anxiety of the past and the present makes sense and the future now can be something very different.  When the sand has run out, you have to turn the hourglass over and start all over again.

Tracy Rees is an author you have to try if you have not before, if you like historical fiction, with strong characters who can you empathise with and perhaps dislike in equal manner as well as set amongst an ever-changing landscape then her books are for you.

I am now just disappointed that I will have to wait a while to read her next one.

Thank you to the publisher Quercus for the review copy of this novel. The Hourglass is out now.