Books

The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon – Sarah Steele

Florence is bereft, her grandmother who effectively brought her up has died and her marriage is falling apart.

As she comes to terms with everything Florence discovers a box full of dress patterns from the 1960s.

In the first is a photograph of her grandmother with friends she knows and one she doesn’t, named Nancy Moon. Who is Nancy? Why did her grandmother keep all these patterns? And what story is it telling?

Florence, still grieving, uses the patterns to go on a discovery of Nancy Moon as well as discover who she really is. Are there connections between Florence and Nancy?

As Florence discovers so do we as the book using the dual time narrative, a plot device that has worked successfully here, to go back to Nancy Moon.

Nancy wants something better with her life, her skills as a seamstress are exemplary and given the opportunity she makes it to a fashion house and starts living a very different life. Until one life changing moment which is going to haunt her for the rest of her days.

When she finds herself at crossroads in life she embarks on a different path and becomes a companion to Pamela, young daughter to Peter and Caro. This takes her all over Europe and as she goes, she makes different outfits from patterns, keeps swatches of material and has a photo of memorable moments along the way.

Nancy is running away from something as much as Florence seems to be running towards something and as the pieces of this magical pattern are put together, we suddenly see the finished article. Only Florence and Nancy though will know the work that has gone into it.

This is a delightful debut novel from Sarah Steele who clearly has a flair for dressmaking, the details that have gone into using this as a means to tell a story is insightful and thoughtful. It really added to the depth of the story for me as these stories ran concurrently and then were all swept and stitched together.

I wish I had read it sooner in 2020 as I feel I was late to the party with this one and it was such a joyous read and reminds me of why I love reading great historical fiction. It also made me slightly put out that I am not overtly proficient with a sewing machine!

 

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

The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon is out now. 

 

Books

The Lake House – Christie Barlow

I have been in Heartcross since the very beginning, a village in Scotland which is unique because the love that emanates from the whole community will drag you in and hold you there in its heart. That goes for the readers as well as the characters!

Callie brings her friend, Ella to live with her in Heartcross. Ella has hit rock bottom over the last 6 months or so after losing her parents, her heart and her inheritance. She needs to escape and recuperate and what better place than with Callie the only friend who stood by her.

Sharing a flat with Callie, Ella gets to meet her new neighbour Dolores, who is a star. She has a past and when Ella discovers that her past involves singing and singing at The Lake House where Ella is now working it seems that everything is meant to be.

The Lake House whilst trying to be unique as a restaurant (it is only accessible by boat) is losing money and they need to do something to keep a float. As does Roman the boat’s main skipper to the restaurant, he is trying to keep it all together when life has dealt him a bitter blow and he needs some support.

In steps Ella and Dolores and what follows is a captivating tale of showing everyone that there is always a second chance and even a last chance in life to have what you want and be loved wholeheartedly.

If you have been in Heartcross since the beginning then you will see some of the regular characters pop in and out of the story, but this book’s focus is very much on Ella, Roman and Dolores. There is some real depth to the storyline and some frightening episodes which make you question what we believe and who we trust.

A novel that had me hooked and I devoured it quickly as I was so invested in Ella and what had happened to her, that I wanted to see her succeed and show that she and in fact everyone can come back stronger.

Great addition to the series and I implore you to read them all – you won’t be disappointed.

 

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

The Lake House is out now. 

 

Books

The Great Escape from Woodland Nursing Home – Joanna Nell

In a world where nursing homes, care homes and the like are very much dominant in the news, this delightful book forgets all our current circumstances and plunges us into Woodlands Nursing Home and some of it’s interesting residents.

Hattie Bloom, determinedly single, a lover of all things ornithological and certainly not human finds herself in this nursing home. Constrained by rules and regulations, it is Hattie’s wish to escape back to her own home. Like a nesting bird that is where she feels most safe surrounded by what she knows.

Walter Clement has been a resident for a while and is determined to keep his love of the open road going and pass his ability test to be able to use his scooter. Sadly the open road is going to be closed for a bit longer than anticipated.

Sister Bronwyn is the night sister, she has quite a way with all the residents and it seems that once she has worked you out, Sister Bronwyn will introduce to the Night Owls. A secret little group that keeps the residents entertained overnight and relies on what they know and so they can feel like they can belong. I think Sister Bronwyn is onto something with her particular choices of activities for the residents.

However it seems that the Night Owls are about to be extinguished.

The residents of the Woodlands Nursing Home put their wits against the management, the medical profession and the police to escape the monotony of the world they finds themselves incarcerated in.

Who will gain the upper hand?

Somehow Joanna Nell has encompassed the continual life these residents live, by naming all their rooms by Monopoly Board squares, it felt like they were all continually going round that board until the point one of them couldn’t pass go anymore. Her experience as a GP clearly comes through in the book with the writing and there is a part of me that hopes that some of the little incidents are perhaps gleaned from real life. When you get to them in the book – you will know!

This is a delightful heart warming novel which will bring you tears of laughter, joy and sadness. You stop and think about the life you have lead, the life you still have left to lead and what those who are nearing their end of their lives really want from those final days.

If you enjoy slow books that are packed with so much, you have to savour every moment, then this is the book for you. It reminds me of Rachel Joyce novels. The main topics perhaps are maudlin and you don’t think would make for easy or pleasant reading but this is book is a celebration of lives lived and lives lost. Celebrate by reading it.

 

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

The Great Esacpe from Woodlands Nursing Home is published on 7 January 2021.

 

 

 

Books · Knitting

December Roundup

What a December, one of the quietest I have had in a long time from a work perspective. Normally the three weeks proceeding the big day are some of the busiest with functions, lunches, Santa visits and masses of paperwork proceeding audits, etc. As work has changed and will continue to do so in the coming months, I have had to find a new sort of normal, a common phrase we hear now.

But what of the books you say? Well I had already hit my target of 100 going into December so it was a case of seeing how many I could get to by the 31st.

The last book of the year was Rosie Goodwin – The Blessed Child a real chunky saga, which curled up on the sofa under a blanket was the best place to read it. I was transported to tales similar to that of Catherine Cookson and I must go back for some others.

Going back for more is why I went to join the delightful Daisy and Hazel in Robin Stevens – Mistletoe and Murder. Although aimed at a much younger market, I still feel slightly indulgent reading such a book, but these are much better than some adult aimed books that I have read over the years.

Keeping it still Christmas was Cressida McLaughlin – The Cornish Cream Tea Christmas, continuing the adventures of the Big Red Bus full of cream teas in Cornwall. You know that Christmas is going to be a magical time and whoever comes on the bus is going to have their hearts and heads turned.

It is always great to carry on with a series, whether it be familiar characters or places. I am an avid fan of Heidi Swain but have only just got round to reading her first novel Heidi Swain – The Cherry Tree Café. The book you could say where it all began and now having completed them all, I am itching for her next.

When you find an author you love, you can get a little impatient to wait for their newest work. So discovering authors when they have a oeuvre to work through normally keeps all of that at bay. So I went back to one I had not read Katie Fforde – A Springtime Affair, it had been languishing on my Kindle for a while so I delighted in the spring weather during a winter cold snap. The perfect tonic.

Jeeves and Wooster have always provided me with tonic of some sort and the homage I read in November was closely followed by the new one Ben Schott – Jeeves and the Leap of Faith. Sheer utter spiffing joy – I need to go back to some Wodehouse. I rue the day I gave away my books.

I wish I had given away this book, or at least as it was on my Kindle given up on it Sarah Pearse – The Sanatorium. A book that promised something it did not deliver. Not the right book for me at the time of picking it up. Though I acknowledge some have loved it and it will no doubt feature on many blogs.

I started to see Sarah Steele – The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon on books of the year posts and knew I had yet to get round to it. So to make a dent in my forever expanding netgalley list, I picked it up. Now I know what everyone was on about and really wish I had read it sooner. A wonderful dual narrative novel with a great vehicle of telling a story.

I would like to say I was ahead of the game in terms of books published next year – sadly I am not, but no matter because the one to look out for so far is Joanna Nell – The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home. Humorous, bittersweet and with a touch of ‘what if’ this is a lovely read from a relatively new untapped author. Do check out this and her other two books if you get the chance.

So that was December, there was a lot of reading what I wanted with no pressure. I think that is a good mantra to start 2021’s reading with.

As for my favourites for the year….. I have not quite decided yet…….more to follow soon.

Books

A Springtime Affair – Katie Fforde

What better way to avoid all the doom and gloom than to read a Katie Fforde book and one full of bright, optimism and spring cheer.

Spring always heralds new beginnings and it is no different it seems for mother and daughter Gilly and Helena.

Gilly is happy with running her bespoke B & B she enjoys the work and meeting people and embraces the little touches that make her establishment stand out from the rest – like homemade shortbread! Leo though arrives in her life rather unexpectedly and his chosen career of estate agent might come in useful if Gilly decides to move on.

Helena is about to lose her home and whilst she knows that she can go home, her weaving loom does take up rather a lot of room. When a chance encounter to help new landlord Jago leads to some interesting events, it seems that Jago is a chance encounter worth pursuing.

In the meantime, Helena’s brother Martin and obsessive wife Cressida have other ideas about how Gilly should be spending her days. They seem rather in conflict in the way Gilly wants to spend them. Helena is also struggling to see the image of her mother that Martin is trying to portray.

Surely the new blossoms of spring will come to fully bud and the dead weeds will disappear forever?

This is a joyous book which takes you through family dynamics and new love. Added to this is the delicious recipes of Gilly and the wonderful creations of Helena’s weaving which make this a true Katie Fforde book.

 

A must for all fans and for anyone who wishes to escape. Perfect reading to soothe the soul. 

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

 

Books

Jeeves and the Leap of Faith – Ben Schott

Without a doubt I am a fan of Jeeves and Wooster, first brought to my attention from the television series with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie in respective roles. I think it is the only time I have actually gone and read a book (in fact more than one J & W story) after watching the programme.

But to this, a ‘homage’ to the great Wodehouse with all what you would expect in a tale of Wooster ups and downs, aunts and Gussie Fink-Nottle’s, Madeline Bassett’s and the Drones Club. If you had a tick list of everything to be included in the book then this ticked all of them.

Having caught up with Schott’s first tale I find myself back with Bertie and him being K.C he is called upon a gain to help His Majesty’s Government. There are some rather unsavoury sorts in black shorts infiltrating the academic world and we are taken to Cambridge via a swift snifter to catch up with the goings on with at the Drones club.

We encounter the fairy like Madeline Bassett who is uncertain of her current beaus commitment to her and eyes up Bertie from a distance.

Aunt Agatha one of the more feared of Bertie’s aunts has a few choice words about his matrimonial status and seeks to rectify it. But when a scheme to perhaps put Aunt Agatha off reveals more than it should it seems Bertie might be able to escape with his status in tact.

Some dodgy turf accountants, taxmen and newt lovers, Bertie finds himself caught up where he doesn’t want to be. Though where ever he seems to be so does the delightful Iona who has caught his eye and also that of Jeeves.

Might things be about to change for them all?

This book is spiffing good fun and just the tonic for any dark, down day when you need some spark of light, some chink of normality, because this is as close as we are going to get to new Jeeves and Wooster stories from Wodehouse. I hope there are many more to come.

 

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

Jeeves and the Leap of Faith is out now.  

Books

The Girl Who Came Home to Cornwall – Emma Burstall

I have visited Tremarnock many times (four) over the years and it is always delightful to go back for another visit, this time it has taken me a while to go back. But here I am with Emma Burstall’s fifth novel set in this Cornish Village where everyone knows everyone else and everything that is going on.

But the village is going to be shaken up a bit with the arrival of a visitor Chabela Penhallow. A Mexican woman with a very Cornish name. She is visiting to escape from the present and to very much find out about her past and links to her surname.

Chabela is not very forthcoming and is keeping herself and her real story back in Mexico to herself, but she finds herself drawn to Simon who is nerdy by his own admission and is helping her with her family history.

So is Rick, who has temporarily suspended his internet search for the perfect woman and sets his sights on Chabela.

However her presence is upsetting the equilibrium it seems in many of the relationships within the village. Characters you will have met from previous novels, Liz and her husband Robert are still struggling through some difficulties. Rosie and Rafael, the first flush of young love. Loveday and Josh solid and dedicated to each other.

Chabela seems to have got to them all in different ways. Can she explain her situation and perhaps solve the undercurrents of the village that seem to have been their since she arrived?

Going back to Mexico might focus her mind on exactly what she wants, but she still has some demons to get rid of first.

I enjoyed the book, though I realised what was the ultimate happy ending, I was intrigued as to how we were going to get there. Get there we did and learnt a lot out about all the characters, tin mining and the connections between Mexico and Cornwall. Emma Burstall is never afraid to deal with some issues which are perhaps glossed over in or not mentioned, in other comparable women’s fiction books. The stories can have areal impact and this book was no different.

It was great to be back in Tremarnock and reminding myself not just of the characters but the familiarity of the landscape which is a character all in itself. Cornwall makes a great setting for so many books and it certainly works for this series.

Having been a fan of Burstall’s work for a long time, I look forward to see whether we return to Tremarnock next or perhaps venture further afield. Whatever the theme and wherever it is set, no doubt it will have depth not often found in some books.

 

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

The Girl Who Came Home to Cornwall is out now. 

Books · Jottings

November Roundup

Well only one month to go in 2020, thank goodness though I don’t think we are out of the woods just yet. But November was a month where I hit my annual target of 100 books – such a satisfying feeling and also a month where I have just simply read and not worried (well not too much) about the never ending netgalley request list.

So what was on my November shelf?

Only one Christmas book, I think I reached peak Christmas in the previous couple of months but Anne Marie Ryan – The Six Tales of Christmas was a quiet tale reminiscence of previous American styled Christmas novels that I read. It’s message was very lovely though.

Of course snow for many equals Christmas but the snow in Catherine Cooper – The Chalet was a lot more sinister and this debut thriller novel is one to watch out for. Excellent and kept me hooked quite happily and made a change from all the ‘nice’ books.

To contrast the snow what better than to go back to summer with Cressida McLaughlin – The Cornish Cream Tea Summer where I caught up with old friends and made some new ones on the lovely bus in Cornwall and with an added dollop of actors as well as clotted cream this made for a great read. I rushed out to buy the next in the series and have started that within the last couple of days of November.

Cornwall was the setting of Raynor Winn – The Salt Path a book leant to me by a friend who thought I would enjoy it. I did. I knew nothing of the South West Costal path and it was a joy to read an ‘actual’ book where I could quite happily flick back to the map at the beginning so I could see locations and get a sense of place. One of the downsides of kindle reading is this ability. Wild camping is not something I would want to do, but certainly walking and in Cornwall is a place I would like to be.

More Cornwall was featured in Emma Burstall – A Cornish Secret and Emma Burstall – The Girl Who Came Home to Cornwall. The latter of the two novels I had on my kindle for ages meaning to be read, but knowing it was book five and I had omitted to read book four and it turns out I bought that ages ago to. Anyway, enough of the procrastinating as I know I enjoy this author immensely so I just went from one to the other and it was delightful to just keep reading about the same place, same characters like watching a continuing drama without the break. I do wonder if Emma Burstall has any more plans for Tremarnock.

Now as there are six Mitford sisters, I know that there is more to follow after Jessica Fellowes – The Mitford Trial. These are really excellent novels and I got a lovely response on Twitter from the author, because I ‘got the book’ in the way she intended it to be written. I had to go and reread my review just in case I had said something insightful – well I can’t see it. But if the author is happy and then I am happy as the plots of all of these books are great and really tap into my love of history.

Feeling rather ‘out of sorts’ about many things, like many people across the globe no doubt. So I picked up Ben Schott – Jeeves and the King of Clubs again this was because I got the latest Schott novel featuring Jeeves and Wooster through netgalley and realised I had not read the first of these homages. It was spiffing, tip top and everything you would expect from Wodehouse and I have read many over the years. It was a sheer delight to be back in their world and I rush to read the latest and go back and relieve some of Wodehouse’s best. My heart was fair cheered.

Not a bad month overall and I made a dent in some old books on my netgalley list as well as reading some ‘actual’ books, I really much prefer this way, but the kindle has let me read so many more I probably would not have read. It’s a conundrum for many an avid reader I am sure?

So what was on your November shelf? Any plans for December?

Books

The Mitford Trial – Jessica Fellowes

Louisa Cannon who we have met in the previous three novels in this series is set to marry policeman Guy Sullivan. I feel you need to have read all three to get the real sense of Louisa’s character development and how she has got to where she is now in this fourth book.

However the British Union of Fascists have other ideas about how Louisa and Guy are going to celebrate their wedding day.

This brings Louisa back in touch with The Mitford Sisters, who she thought she had left behind. Diana, now separated from her husband Bryan has started a love affair with Oswald Mosley and with her sister Unity obsessed with the beliefs and values of the Fascists, it seems that Louisa is going to be plunged into the darker side of politics and ever growing problems in Europe.

After first off refusing to accompany Diana, Unity and their mother on a cruise, Louisa funds herself compelled by an outside source to take up the offer and without sharing the truth with Guy she finds herself all at sea.

Onboard everything is not calm, with arguments, love affairs and fights, the atmosphere turns to murder and Louisa finds herself tangled amongst all the lies and deceit. The confessions and lies seem to permeate everyone and when the ship docks in Rome the culprits are removed.

Two years later the case is at court and everyone that was onboard seems to be a witness to something.

But what Louisa saw that trip still remains a mystery.

This is an excellent golden age crime novel, with the use of the Mitford sisters as the landscape to fictionalise the story of historic crimes. The murder like the ones before is based on the truth, information provided in the book (read at the end!)  so you can get a sense of time and place. Yet the growing unrest in Europe, the rise of Fascists and Unity’s compulsion to become close to Hitler is throughout the book and I am sure gives a great grounding into book five.

The narrative of this story goes between Louisa’s time on the cruise and the courtroom where the trial takes place, it also brings into play Tom Mitford, the brother of the infamous sisters who works as a lawyer and always appears in the background of their lives.

The concept works, as you hear evidence and the questions being asked of the witness you can go back and see what really happened. For me it felt like I was in the public gallery watching the trial unfold, a totally immersive experience.

A well written murder mystery perfect for fans of history and the gold age of crime. Long may they continue. Highly recommended.

 

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

The Mitford Trial is out now. 

 

 

Books

The Six Tales of Christmas – Anne Marie Ryan

What better place to be in the run up to Christmas than in a bookshop, in a Cotswold village. Surely you should be living your best life trying to find the right book for the right person as a gift.

For Simon and Nora this has been their life for a number of years, but it seems that this could be the last Christmas at the bookshop. They need to draw people in, stop them going to the chains, to the online stores and to offer that something different.

When an act of kindness takes on a whole new twist, they send out six different books, randomly to people and it just so happens that the books that land with these six very different people all have very different problems and the books strike a chord with them.

As we learn more about the recipients we also learn more about Simon and Nora and how the bookshop, leaky roof and all is the things that keeps them together and how they relish being part of a small community who appreciate the kindness from its residents.

If you want a book to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside then this is the book for you, the bonuses being it features a bookshop and some great reads as well which you could quite easily take away as recommendations if you have not read them already.

Very different feel for me than some Christmas books I have read and it deals with current issues; mental health, loneliness, separation, probably more highlighted at the moment during the current pandemic. But there was something almost magical contained with the pages of the book as if I was watching some film, it felt American, but I cannot put my finger on why whilst reading it. However, I discovered afterwards that the author was born in America. I wish I could pin down what it was, the book reminded me of the Christmas books I have read by Debbie Macomber and I think that is a closest comparison I am going to get.

A book that can start your festive reading off if you have not started yet.

 

Thanks to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read the book. 

The Six Tales of Christmas is out now.