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. 

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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. 

 

Books

The Shadow Sister – Lucinda Riley

Keeping in line with how the author wants us to discover the stories of these sisters, this is the third sisters story: Asterope which means Star and is the obvious choice of name she is known to all.

We get to know a little about Star in the previous two novels and I found myself very much drawn to her and her story as despite shining bright like her name suggests, she is in fact hiding. Star herself does not know what from and with the death of Pa Salt, the sisters adoptive father, she seeks to find out more about herself and become that bright star.

To do this Star is going to have to step out of the shadow of her younger sister CeCe who since the beginning of the series I have found oppressive and claustrophobic, I was cheering Star on right from the start.

In London with her sister Cece she is dealing with living day-to-day as her sister makes her way in the world and Star stays at home, cooking, keeping house and basically being their for her sister day and night. The relationship is stifling and she decides to have her time and now speak up. Using the information Pa Salt left her, perhaps more tangible information than her previous two sisters, Star has an address of a book shop in London and the name Flora MacNichol, a small black figurine and the translated quote ” The oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow”.

It takes a lot of courage to make that first step towards the bookshop and when she does, she opens up a whole new world to her. Orlando the eccentric bookshop owner does know something of the mysterious Flora MacNichol but he also knows that his family may know more.

Star swept along with curiosity is taken under the wing of Orlando, his nephew Rory, but also his sister Marguerite, his brother Mouse as she goes to stay with them all at High Weald. She becomes so involved in the domesticity of life there and being part of a different sort of family, that I wondered if perhaps her story was going to take a different path. But of course it was all part of Orlando’s foibles and she does learn about Flora…..

……As do we and this is where the skill of Lucinda Riley as a creator of wonderful dual narrative stories comes into its own. We are transported back to Cumbria, to the turn of the century where the Victorian Era had been only over for about 8 years and to a young lady who is determined not to marry, to not become anything of note in society but to enjoy her artistic talents and her small animals that have become her pets and to live near her idol, Beatrix Potter.

Of course women could not simply do as they pleased without family consent and it is with some displeasure that the young lady is transported to London, to use her skills as an artistic and knowledge of nature to teach two young women in the Keppel household. A household who was used to another frequent guest who had an important role to play in society.

Flora feels that she is in a game that no one has told her about, no one has told her the rules of this society that she lives in and whilst she settles well to London life, she has a great calling back to the place of her youth, to the wild landscape to where she feels most at home. Secrets are revealed and kept close from those who might be hurt by the truth. As the book progresses and as a reader we see the narrative path that the author takes us on and learn so much about Flora, her history, her future and the people she comes into contact with.

As does Star, and as she learns from the journals left by Flora, she learns a lot about herself and how she has been left with those reminders of her past and as the truth is revealed, Star suddenly shines a lot brighter and longer seems to have a shadow following her.

This is an excellent read and one that I fell into and had to keep reading, I was drawn to both narratives knowing that of course they may link somewhere along the line but also the amount that I learnt from the book as I have done with the previous two novels in the series. Only Lucinda Riley could take us from the simplicity of Beatrix Potter at Hilltop Farm to the opulent and flamboyance of a mistress of Edward VII.

Of course as the book comes to its conclusion, the mystery of Pa Salt is still of course unsolved and there are a couple of hints that I picked up through Star’s story and from the interaction with her sister CeCe and also when Ally’ story is woven into this one. My initial suspicion at book one is still there.  But now we move onto CeCe and I am intrigued her presence was very much for me felt in this book and I am looking forward to giving her chance as I get to know her story.

I think you could say that everything you want from a book (and a series) is contained within the pages, do not let its length put you off. Investing time in this author is something you will never regret.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy in return for a review. 

The first three novels in The Seven Sisters series are out now with the fourth on its way in November 2017. 

 

 

Books

August Roundup

Anyone who is a regular to this blog will know that August is one of the bumper months of reading for me as I have around three weeks off work. This August has been no exception and as you will be able to see from the list of books below, I have been busy. The majority have been reviewed but there are some that have been read for sheer pleasure or fascination.

I have seen many blogs mention Susan Hill – Howards End is on the Landing, but had yet to read it. It is one of those books, that you can pick up read a chapter, which are like small essays and then put it down comfortably for a fortnight without thought and pick it up again to learn some more. Fascinating but not the book I thought it was going to be.

I do love a good saga, and Daisy Styles – The Code Girls was going to give me that. I liked the premise and I thought perhaps I was going to get more of the codebreaking than the cooking I did get, it was a pleasurable diversion apart from one thing – the historical mistakes. Poor research is unacceptable especially when people who could well be reading books like this probably remember the events.

This did not happen through the book, but in the first 15 pages or so – it was stated that Clement Attlee was the prime minister who announced the war, that the Dunkirk evacuation from the North Sea was on the Normandy beaches. At this point the book nearly flew out the window. I kept reading because I was under the impression it would be perhaps interesting – it was passable for a wet afternoon. Realistically if these ‘Code’ girls were as clever as they were portrayed they would not have been stuck in the kitchens. I am now in the process of writing to Penguin (publisher) because of what I feel is a very poor example of a book. It is this which has put me off reading any more from this author.

Thank goodness for Roald Dahl – The Witches. A childhood read which I wanted to go back and enjoy and I did, what pleasure it gave me when I was a child and read and reread and just the same as an adult. Although looking back I am surprised I was not frightened of such creatures!

If you have read my previous posts then you will know that I was spending my summer vicariously in different places that’s the wonder that is books, novels and stories! It was surely a mere coincidence that a lot of them had Summer in the title!

Holly Martin – Summer at Buttercup Beach, second in a trilogy meant I had to read Holly Martin – Spring at Blueberry Bay first so I knew what was happening and it is only a couple of weeks until the final book is published and I can return to Hope Island.

Jennifer Bohnet – Summer at Coastguard Cottages was one of my favourite summer reads as was Lily Graham – Summer at Seafall Cottage (or The Cornish Escape). I recommend both of these authors wholeheartedly, you will get a really good read.

I was disappointed with two books I read in August, both from authors I had not read before; Jen Mouat – Summer at Bluebell Bank and Fiona Walker – The Weekends of You and Me. They had the potential to be much more than what they were.

My holiday type reads did not just involve sun, there was a sprinkling of murder as well. Robert Thorogood – Death Knocks Twice took me away to the Caribbean and the television programme Death in Paradise on which these books are based.

Italy was my destination for a wedding, Tilly Tennant – A Wedding in Italy and to catch up on the goings on there from when I visited earlier in the year. I am growing to love Tilly Tennant books, but some are much stronger than others and I do wonder is perhaps writing a series is not always the right way to go.

If I am going to stay in a B&B I want it to be a boutique one, no candlewick bedspreads and nylon sheets for me, with doors shut at 930pm sharp! So I want to go to Jennifer Joyce – The Little Bed and Breakfast by the Sea, even out of season I am sure it would be delightful.

Bizarrely reading some of these women’s fiction, light reads whilst engaging can lead you wanting to read something with a bit more meat, a bit of a page turner in a different way. That is why Joanna Barnard – Hush Little Baby, her second novel was the book I chose. Much better than her first, something which can be very difficult to achieve.

Historical Fiction is a real love of mine and I always say I must read more, then get diverted by a million and one other books, but when I do go back I revel it. Despite receiving the book last year and putting off reading it, not because it was going to be awful, but because I knew I would lose myself in it and not want the book to end I finally got round to reading, Lucinda Riley – The Shadow Sister. Easily my favourite of the year and will be hard pressed to beat. So much is contained within the pages, that the writing of the review needs to be considered and thoughtful.

Tracy Rees – The Hourglass is recommended by Lucinda Riley and because I have read her other books I knew I was going to get a cracker of a book. This is different from the previous two, but sweeps not that far back into the past. But far enough back to show the changes that have happened. Cannot wait for this author’s next one.

As the month closes I am reading another historical fiction book, which I have been lost in and will become my first finish of September. The nights are drawing in and there is more than enough for me to be reading.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Books

Flora’s War -Audrey Reimann

Flora escapes an institution and is surprisingly rescued by a man, Andrew who himself has just joined an institution.

But for some reason the two of them have formed an initial immediate bond and while Flora tells a few white lies to be able to live life freely, despite the clouds of war starting to gether over Edinburgh. Andrew becomes her sailor sweetheart when he goes back to sea.

Circumstances force them both into very different situations and it seems that Flora now must do everything she can to survive and goes to Andrews home on the estate of Ingersley. Little does she know that she is walking into a very different place that Andrew left behind since the war started.

But shelter, food and the offer of help for the future is there and it seems that Flora must take all these options. But she is sadly merely a pawn in the game that the lady of the house, Ruth. How can you dislike a character so much that she compels you to keep reading just to see what happens. Which is what Ruth did in this story. Her actions were dangerous, immoral and she was only out for one person – herself. Flora and all those who come into contact with Ruth stand no chance.

As the book progresses, so do the years but that first bond that Andrew and Flora has seems to still be there, despite everything and everyone who choose to keep them apart.

When the death of Andrew’s beloved Captain and owner of Ingersley, in somewhat suspicious circumstances, the truth starts to be revealed to Andrew. But of course we know the truth.

This is a book full of heroic acts, full of sadness, full of laughter and most of all full of hope, that everything will turn out alright in the end. The only way you are going to know is to read the book.

A favourite read in one of my favourite genres.

Thank you to the publisher for allowing me the opportunity to read this book. 

Flora’s War is out now. (Please note this was previously published as The Weeping Tree.)