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.)

 

Books

The Returning Tide – Liz Fenwick

Windward, 1945 – The marquee is out there on the lawn waiting for the wedding guests. Adele watches on and wonders how she has got to this point.

Windward, 2015 – The wedding marquee is out on the lawn waiting for the guests. Elle watches on and wonders how she ended up here.

It is in fact not the intervening years which complete the story it is that which has passed before.

Adele and Amelia, twins, identical perhaps by sight but not by personality. Amelia is the more carefree perhaps reckless one, Adele the constrained thoughtful one. But as war has started to reach Cornwall and the men they know are disappearing, the girls, once old enough join the WRNS in 1943 to escape. Ironically it is Adele who finds herself in London and Amelia who is restricted to a driving job in Cornwall. It will be the first time that they have been apart and not had the other to wholly rely on.

The story of the sisters, continues as war progresses. War separates and divides, as if a tide is washing in and out. The sisters keep in contact but rarely see each other. That is until one day when events mean they will never see each other again.

Across the ocean, Lara is struggling to cope with the loss of her great-grandfather, the breakup of her marriage and the loss of her job. She feels adrift and nothing seems to be able to settle her. When her great-grandfather’s last word is Adele, she wants to find out more about the man and the great-grandmother she never knew, and of course Adele.

This is historical fiction at its best. Liz Fenwick has taken all the right elements, a time in history which was defining for the course of the Second World War and one that is on occasions missing from history. We have families struggling on both sides of the Atlantic with their secrets about the past. You of course as reader know information that some of the characters don’t but I was totally enthralled with how they were going to find out and how all the pieces of the story fitted together.

The story is told in alternating time frames and I admit there are a lot of jumps to begin with, but once you overcome that you will be gripped by the story and totally unaware of the joins in the time frames. This was also helped for me with the letters between the sisters, in the main to fill in the gaps as the story progressed. It was a useful technique to bring the story together and emphasised how news was imparted during such times.

A chance conversation with a member of her family led to Liz Fenwick writing this novel which is very different to her previous work. Whilst this is not an exact retelling of events, elements of reality are very much between the pages and it is worth remembering that what you are about to read in this book, did in fact happen.

One simple action was all it took for the course of someones life to change irrevocably. As the tide went out, it was never going to return……but what if it did………?

An excellent read and one of the best books I have read so far in 2017.

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

The Returning Tide is out now. 

 

Books

April Roundup

Woosh and there went April! I thought I was going to get ahead with my reading and I suppose in some ways I did, but really I should stop requesting good books on netgalley, so I only have myself to blame.

I am missing holding actual books ion my hand. Although reading Agatha Christie – The Murder of Roger Ackroyd which was in a very large book which held a quintet of Poirot stories, meant I could not really hold this book up effectively without doing myself some damage, if I were to drop the book. Of course I am expanding my Christie reading but if you look out for a book I have been advertising for a couple of weeks now, this Christie story now I have read it, makes a lot of sense.

War featured quite heavily now I look back at the list that I have read. Given the opportunity to read Nancy Revell – Shipyard Girls at War which I discovered to be book two, I had to go and read the first, Nancy Revell – The Shipyard Girls. It really is a delight to be able to read one book after the other knowing you are going to be with familiar characters and you can see their stories develop even more. Now I have to wait until the third one is published before I can revisit the shipyard.

Lissa Evans – Their Finest Hour and a Half took me into the Ministry of Information and was a rather quirky book, not perhaps as good as Crooked Heart for me but it was an interesting read.Now I am just waiting for my local cinema to put it on at a decent time for me to go and watch.

Cornwall is always a favourite of mine to set a book, despite never having been there. Liz Fenwick – The Returning Tide add to this with her new novel, but one which also touches on Operation Tiger, and reminded me of something which I knew little about.That is one of the many things I love about reading, the way it can spark an interest and you can go and find out more. This is definitely one of favourite books of the year.

Sticking with historical fiction you cannot go fairly wrong with Kate Morton – The Lake House.It is a while since I have read any of her work, as other authors have taken over but I remember the joy if escaping into such a large expansive novel. Sadly the book did not work with me this time, but I will not let that put me off reading others.

Netgalley gives me a chance to indulge in women’s fiction, chick-lit if the phrase takes you and that is how I came to pick up Jennifer Joyce – The Little Teashop of Broken Hearts. A new author to me and it was a pleasant surprise, as after a while some of the books seem very similar, but this one did stand out.

Christie Barlow – Evie’s Year of Taking Chances is another book picked up from netgalley but one where I knew the author, having read and enjoyed some of her work before. I gave to admit I am taken in by the bright coloured covers. However, this was a book which dealt with some issues you would not necessarily think would go with women’s fiction but it worked in this book, which is probably down to the author. Not one of my favourites by her, as I thought it was all a bit to convenient,  but good nonetheless.

I am a big fan of Veronica Henry and always like to read what ever is coming next from her. Her latest novel Veronica Henry – The Forever House is a wonderful read and one I did not want to finish. So to make sure I could carry on for a bit longer, I picked up the short story Veronica Henry – The Apple Orchard which is fine example of this authors work if you ever want to try it out.

So that was April, a funny mix of books when I look back, but on with May and seeing what that brings me.

Thank you to all my readers, I appreacite any of the time you spend reading the posts which make up my reading year.

Books

Shipyard Girls at War – Nancy Revell

Rosie is still in charge of the woman welders in the shipyard. Their novelty has yet to wear off but slowly over time others are starting to notice the part these women are playing in the Second World War. Rosie though has secrets outside of the shipyard and with these to protect, falling in love with a policeman is not going to help her circumstances or her heart one bit.

Hannah is one of the weaker members of Rosie’s team and she joined the war effort because she wanted to do something that was going to punish Hitler for what he had done to her homeland. Whilst she may not have the strength for the welding, she has other unknown skills and whilst the others have been covering for her for so long, something now has to change, before she loses her job.

Polly is using her work in the shipyard to escape the fact that her brother has died fighting. The return of her other brother wounded and no longer fit for service is making for a very tense atmosphere at an already crowded home. Coupled with this is the worry that her man, Tommy has now left the shipyard to do his bit in the Navy.

Bel, Polly’s sister-in-law and childhood friend is struggling to cope with the death of her husband Teddy, trying to bring up a small child and the reappearance of Teddy’s twin brother Joe does nothing to calm her. As time goes on, can she cope with a constant reminder of her past, especially when her mother Pearl turns up out of the blue.

Gloria is hiding a secret, not just the fact that she is pregnant and the owners of the shipyard have yet to make that discovery but also that her husband Vinnie, has reappeared and thinks he can start again and that of course this time he will be different. Gloria finds some strength, and she is going to need it when the baby decides it is going to be born where and when it wants to be.

Dorothy and Angie are girls who just want some fun and a good man on their arm, they work hard but they play hard to and despite coming from different backgrounds to the others they fit into the team nicely. Martha is mysterious, she is the strongest and biggest of the team and hardly speaks, although her sense of humour is just starting to come through just when they all need it.

Whilst not all of these characters feature prominently in the storyline of this second novel in the series, they are still fully rounded characters. The story follows on from the first novel in the series, it is 1941 and the war is making itself very well-known in the town of Sunderland where the shipyard is based. Of course the war is the background to the story but it is what is happening with these women which kept me hooked and reading voraciously.

When I picked this book up to read I did not realise that I was picking up the second (don’t you just hate it when that happens!) and whilst I started reading it, I felt like I was missing out on something. So I stopped reading and went to buy the first one, which I flew through and then quite happily picked this one back up with all those missing feelings now gone.

Don’t think you will have to read the first, it does give you enough background to enjoy the story straight away without simply regurgitating the first book. However I felt I was not quite in touch with the characters enough and I certainly did not care about them or what happened to them with the story that had gone on before which is the reason I chose to go back a book.

If you are a fan of sagas then this is the book and series for you. From the ending there will be definitely be a book three, as there is so much more to learn about these characters, about the shipyard and about how the Second World War affects the choices they make.

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

Both The Shipyard Girls and Shipyard Girls at War are out now. 

Books

March Roundup

2017 is marching on and it is yet time to reflect back at what I have read this month. A varied choice and one where it really reflects that I am reading as I fancy and trying not to be dictated to by deadlines. This can be a challenge when so many lovely books have been appearing on netgalley. I am determined to get that feedback ratio to a better number!

Amazingly and I noticed it – all but one of the nine books I read this month were on my kindle. How I missed holding a book, in fact I am sure I craved it at times. When I did pick up a book I went to a well trodden series and one I am enjoying James Runcie – Sidney Chambers and the Forgiveness of Sins. I would like to complete the whole collection of these in terms of reading the hardback copies which are beautiful in themselves, providing the publisher does not change the artwork near the end of the series.

I love a charming novel that you can sink your teeth into and escape for a few hours and when the novel is published as a whole it will be one I will recommend but luckily I got to finish reading Shelia Norton – The Vets at Hope Green: Too Close to Home and Shelia Norton – The Vets at Hope Green: A New Start. There will be more on this blog about the book in the weeks to come.

I noticed that Tilly Tennant had a new novel coming out and it appeared to be a follow on to one that I had on my kindle (thanks to netgalley) and I thought perhaps I had inadvertently stumbled into another series of books, published as short stories first before the final novel. However with Tilly Tennant – Rome is Where the Heart is I got a whole novel (a good 300 pages) and fell in love with Rome and the characters who now I have to go back and revisit in the next part. Luckily I have that to read and cannot wait to go back and be part of their lives again.

Going back to authors you know is always comforting and reassuring especially when you know what you’re going to get. Going to Dinah Jefferies – Before the Rains meant that not only was I going to get an excellent story I was going to learn something at the same time. This time I was transported to India, a time which was changing as British Rule was coming to its end. A fascinating tale.

I do love my history and I suppose with Andrew Wilson – A Talent for Murder I was getting some more that. Except this book which I think you are going to see a lot when it is published in May. It’s main character is Agatha Christie herself – bet that got your attention! I say no more at this time.

Of course going back to what you know and love is always good, but finding something new to read is just as! This is why I have discovered the wonderful tale of Jennifer Bohnet – Rosie’s Little Cafe on the Riviera. 

A perfect read when on holiday or a read when you want to escape from the dull greyness and want some bright sunshine and good story.

All books are an escape perhaps some more than others, lots make you think when you least expect it. Cathy Hopkins – The Kicking the Bucket List is an example of that.

This is a book which has a bucketful of emotions in it. At times you are going to laugh, to cry and to stop and reflect about your own place in the world and the relationships you have within that.

Then there is the sheer joy that books can bring, just simply by the story they tell and the feeling you get when you have read it, knowing that behind the bright colourful cover there was something to be found. The cover of Poppy Dolan – The Bluebell Bunting Society made me smile before I had even read it.

As March ends I am in fact in the middle of reading three books which is very unlike me. Luckily they are all different, in different eras that I have been able to achieve this without my brain going into a complete meltdown. What I do need to do though is to start finishing them (if you excuse the oxymoron) there are plenty of books waiting in the wings.

You may have noticed a slight difference in blog layout and colours, I hope it is not too offensive on the eye, but felt like a fresh change. It is Spring after all.

 

Books

Before the Rains – Dinah Jefferies

There is something very atmospheric about this book, as the heat of India becomes intense as they wait for the rains to break the searing heat, to bring water and life to the land it also reflects the tension within the palaces, within the British position and with the main characters of this story.

Photojournalist Eliza returns to India, it is 1930 she is widowed and she is escaping her life with her work. Given the opportunity from a family friend, Clifford Salter and a member of the British Government, Eliza gets the chance to spend a year taking photos, to create an archive of a royal family in one of the states.

The last time she was in India, she watched her father die in tragic circumstances.

Eliza hopes that she may well be able to put some ghosts to rest. Although she cannot guarantee she will not in fact raise some ghosts from the past.

She meets Jay, the second son and not ever destined to become the Prince. There is a spark of something more than the respect that develops for each other.

Jay shows Eliza parts of India, for her project but Eliza shows Jay through her pictures, her eyes exactly what his people are living like, the poverty that they endure day after day. Jay shows how that British Rule is perhaps causing more trouble that it is worth and that the people of India are capable of forming their own destinies without colonial rule.

Eliza and Jay, clash as two very different worlds collide, through that collision that spark begins to develop. But it can never be. Can it?

This rich evocative novel is a love story, a love story that is forbidden in a land where love is not considered the reason for relationships to form. It is all about power, money, alliance and land.

As with all her novels if you have ever read them, the author paints a picture of a place where the colour leaps from the page, the smell wafts past as you immerse yourself in the culture which form the background of the story. But of course it is now always the background it actually is the story as well as the characters.

With intrigue, deception and mistrust within the palace walls and all over India, Eliza is there at a time when perhaps barriers could be broken down…..

A compelling historical fiction novel which will evoke some rather upsetting emotions within the reader as the follow Eliza and Jay’s story. Vividly descriptive and beautifully written this is a book you must read.

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

Before the Rains is out now. 

Please check out my blog for other Dinah Jefferies novels, I recommend them all.