Books

Running out of Road – Cath Staincliffe

Three different people. Not connected until today.

Scarlett; on her way home to her Nana who has looked after her since the death of her mother. Excited to be in the school show the following day. Dancing brings her so much joy.

Dylan; always trying to keep one step ahead, never staying in the same nest for long, picking off each victim and dealing the drugs and then moving on. One day he will make it and not be the one doing all the work. Aim big.

Ron; being a house sitter and pet sitter by default seems really a lot easier to handle than real humans. From his previous job as a firefighter, this is much more pleasant.

DS Laura O’Neil, a mother with a teething toddler who has left him at home with his father as she suddenly gets to know all these people.

All these people that are thrown together and for one wet, stormy and panicky night all their roads cross. As they all take different turnings, will Laura get to the truth?

This fast paced thriller left me exhausted without leaving my home. Whether it was the vast swathes of the Peak District that was covered physically as the hunt for all three of them takes over the pages of the book. Or the historic events that build up the characters of the here and now. The country line drug storyline was strong and frightening real as if you are reading a news reports. You have to remember the main events are just a mere twenty four hours. The skill of the writing made it feel like a week of my life.

If you want a great British thriller which covers many themes including guilt and grief and the overarching hope of a better future then this is simply the book for you. Highly recommend for a heart stopping read to keep you on the edge of your seat.

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

Running out of Road is out now.

Books

The Heron’s Cry – Ann Cleeves

This is the second novel in the Matthew Venn series from renowned author.

Can be read without having read the first, The Long Call but then why deprive yourself of such good storytelling. You will also get the background of the characters and the previous case which through witnesses does filter into this story.

DI Matthew Venn, uptight and determined to maintain a level response to what he sees in his work is back alongside his DS Jen Rafferty and ever eager DC Ross May. Jen is at a party when another guest, Dr Nigel Yeo approaches her to ask for her help. Jen, not fully sober, brushes him off.

The next day that man is found dead, stabbed with a piece of glass from his daughters glass blowing workshop. He seems such an unlikely victim and when his daughter turns out to be a friend of Matthew’s husband Jonathan, it seems this crime is always going to involve that Matthew knows.

When another body turns up, with a similar killing method. Matthew and his team dig deeper into these people and what Dr Nigel Yeo really wanted to tell Jen at that party. However the truth is sometimes hidden away amongst those in the community and are they all closing ranks as the police get to the truth.

This book is not a fast paced thriller, if that is what you are looking for then this is not the book for you. It is a book which develops as you turn the pages, the characters and their background build. The past is filled in and as the clues lead you to think that perhaps the answer is all so clear, the metaphorical rug is pulled out and you are turned to face the truth. Of course it was obvious – wasn’t it?

More is filled in about Matthew and the past life he has escaped as he tries to come to terms with the life he is leading now. We learn more about Ross May and his relationship with his wife. Jen is still coming to terms with living in a smaller town than the large city she left behind. All three of them seem unlikely work colleagues but somehow it works and the author uses the small team, the community, the setting to weave a great murder mystery tale.

If you want modern day crime fiction in the vein of those golden ages then always start with Ann Cleeves and you will enjoy every page, every book and every detective created.

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

The Heron’s Cry is out now

Books

Orphans of the Storm – Celia Imrie

Marcella married young, swept away by Michael a man who has ambitions to be the best tailor in Nice, South of France. However the romance has gone and Marcella is left with a jealous husband who wishes to control and bully.

Marcella makes the momentous decision that she needs to leave this man for the sake of herself and her two young boys. Divorce is not going to be easy, it is 1911 and the French courts need to decide whether this will go ahead and what happens to the two young boys.

Margaret has been touring around Europe with friends, but she is bored and wishes to return to her home in America. When the chance to travel home in style on the RMS Titanic, Margaret makes the fatal choice.

How can these different lives cross? It is inevitable that they will, but perhaps not in the circumstances that everyone thinks. When you begin a book which clearly features one of the most famous ships in history, there is an inevitably about it – prior knowledge means you known what happens on that fateful night in April 1912. Interestingly the event doesn’t happen until well into the last third of the book – a sense of trepidation is built as the story of Michael and Marcella is built upon.

The introduction of Margaret, becomes clearer as the book goes on and as readers we are swept under the sea as everyone’s worlds change.

Whilst slow at points, I did wonder where and how this book was going to culminate and I was so intrigued by the characters that were created. I was completely surprised by the fact that whilst this story was fiction – every person and experience was based on real people and real events. The information and research given at the end of the book is fascinating and brought more to the story than if it had been pure fiction.

Very different to previous novels and I noticed that the author has had some assistance in research which is fine, but made me doubt as to how much was really the author. That though is probably my fussiness and for fans of historical fiction this definitely a book that is worth a read.

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

Orphans of the Storm is out now.

Books

The Rose Garden – Tracy Rees

Wake up and smell the roses world, because women are no longer going to capitulate, they will branch out on their own. Making friendships and decisions that will shock the society of 1895 when this book is set, steeped in Victorian values. The author takes us to the past as much as the present.

1895, London, Hampstead. Olive’s life is full of privilege, she knows how lucky she is, but she craves to have a child. A difficulty when unmarried in 1895. However that does not stop head strong Olive and her sense of philanthropy leading her to an orphanage.

Mabs, has become the matriarch of the household after her mother dies, with younger siblings and a grieving father, she works on the canals, disguised as a young boy. It is some of the most dangerous work. An opportunity though takes to her to Hampstead, to be a companion of Mrs Finch.

Young Ottilie Finch, is only twelve and along with her family, they are newly arrived from Durham. For reasons we do not know but are of some intrigue. Ottillie wants to explore this new territory and finds herself meeting some very different people and cannot understand others abuse about the friendships she wants to build.

Women and girls, who are all on different paths in life, but through the magic of storytelling all come together and their worlds mix and collide. What you think of perhaps as modern day problems; racism; domestic abuse and sexism is played out in this historical context and was at times upsetting but also heartening to know that we have progressed from having to dress up as males to seek work.

This book wanted me to cheer out loud for these female characters who were facing society head on. It had me hooked as I knew it would from this author and I felt bereft when it ended as I wanted to know more about these wonderful women and what happens next in their story.

Simply engrossing and one of my favourite reads of 2021.

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

The Rose Garden is out now.

Books

The Seaside Cocktail Campervan – Caroline Roberts

It is only in recent years that I have discovered Caroline Roberts and was thrilled to be able to read the latest from her. The cover itself is a delight and a great draw and just absolutely cheers your soul as does the story within.

Lucy lives in a cottage just near the sea with Daisy the Dachshund her faithful companion since she realises that her fiancé was never going to propose, well not to her anyway. Changing her life completely she finds herself starting a new adventure and venture with the Horse Box she has converted to a mobile Pizza van.

Jack has been driving his red Cocktail Campervan to local events, weddings, parties in Northumberland for the last couple of years. Whilst it is not what his parents thought he would end up doing, he has had made a success of it and he is kept busy. However Jack seems to be using all his energy into this venture and not giving himself any time for life and love.

Lucy and Jack’s paths cross at many events and the book is wonderfully divided into different events that we are also invited along to share the fun, the laughter, the wonderfully cocktails created and the delicious pizzas which simply make your mouth water.

Thanks to Daisy, Lucy does make rather an impact on Jack’s campervan and when they find themselves drawn together, despite some prior warnings and previous hurts it seems that the happy ending is clear for all to see. Of course true love does not always run smoothly and of course you need to be sure and both Lucy and Jack test this to the max.

Like the perfect pizza and cocktail you know when you have found your favourite and it made my heart sing the whole way through this story with Lucy and Jack. I wanted to dive right into the book, queue for the pizza and watch the cocktail being made and curl up in Lucy’s delightful cottage.

A book that will leave you simply smiling and with your heart full of joy – the best tonic to any cocktail!

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

The Seaside Cocktail Campervan is published today.

Books

The Little Island Secret – Emma Davies

Abby is a single mother to Beth, living above a bookshop in Cambridge. They have a happy life, the bookshop is a safe haven for them both and the place where you can find both of them with their noses stuck between the pages of a book.

But are they both hiding from something?

Beth is at that difficult age at school and it seems that being unique is what makes her a target for bullies.

Abby is facing pressure from her mother to find the right man and settle down, giving up this bookshop nonsense.

It is the bookshop nonsense which changes Abby and Beth’s lives forever.

A correspondence began when Cam, contact Abby about a book. Then emails arrived about the life on the remote Scottish Island, Kinlossay where Cam lives. A place in a million miles away from the life Abby is currently leading. When the correspondence, results in a fleeting visit, it seems both Abby and Beth have found something in a man to bring out the best in both of them.

Then the correspondence suddenly stops. Cam has passed away. Abby is bereft.

Abby decides a trip to Kinlossay is what is needed for both of them, to be close to Cam again and see this beautiful island for real described so colourfully in Cam’s letters.

Upon arrival, she sees someone the identical image of Cam – but it can’t be him if he is dead? So who is this pretender? What is the real truth behind all of these people on this island? Has Abby just set herself up for my heartbreak and misery not just for herself but her daughter too?

I found this novel much like the author’s earlier works and they are the ones that I enjoyed the most. Strong female friendships, romance and the need to find the truth no matter how hard it is going to be finding it out. Added to that the bonus of a bookshop and an island to escape to, it has all the perfect ingredients of a great book to hold your attention.

I was simply swept away with the plot and wept with the characters as hearts are broken and healed. The landscape made me want to grab a load of books and head across the seas to escape into them and the beauty of the place brought to life by the author.

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

The Little Island Secret is out now.

Books

Hope and Happiness in Bluebell Wood – Ali McNamara

After being caught up in a traumatic event, Ava decides to find solace and peace in Bluebell Wood. The complete opposite to her hustle and bustle of life she is leaving behind in London but she needs to find peace and heal.

With a rescue dog called Merlin accompanying her Ava finds herself in this little cottage on the edge of the woods, with plans to keep herself to herself. Unfortunately coming to live in a small village means you are going to be the source of much interest and it isn’t long before Ava finds herself slowly being swept into village life.

Callum, the good looking vicar, is one of the first to meet Ava and leaves a lasting impression, though it takes a while for Ava to reconcile this man of god with the vision in her imagination. Jenny in the village shop is welcoming and helpful, the local teacher Jemima encourages Ava’s gift with the children. Linnet and Robin, a single mum and an autistic boy pull not just at Ava’s heart strings but mine as well.

With any village there is always something going on whether it is the local quiz, the school jumble sale or even Easter Egg hunts and Ava despite her fears and misgivings seems to become part of it all. As the new development starts on some fields adjacent to Bluebell Wood, she finds herself very passionately protesting that something must be done. It seems that miracles come in strange place.

Whilst the book encompass a wonderful village tale full of community spirit, Ali McNamara has taken the power of nature and used it to her advantage to add an almost ethereal tone to one of the storylines. The beauty of nature and particularly the birds that are attracted to no doubt Bluebell Wood but Ava’s bird food lead to something that will put the village on the map forever.

It seems that Ava’s solace and peace is what she has been looking for all along.

This is another wonderful book from an author who seems to be getting better with the depth of her stories and the wonderful scenes and characters she weaves into the pages of the book.

Thoroughly recommended for that feel good nature of a book bursting full of nature too!

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

Hope and Happiness in Bluebell Wood is out now.

Books

Home – Penny Parkes

Anna has no home, but that doesn’t matter to her. She moves from house to house, across countries, countries and continents to look after other people’s homes, the precious pets and their treasured belongings.

Living such a peripatetic life for the last ten years has seen Anna simply live unencumbered by baggage and a base. But even thought she may travel light, Anna is in fact taking the most heaviest of emotions with her wherever she goes. And she cannot out run them.

Through intersperse chapters we learn of Anna’s upbringing and her childhood where she was pushed from pillar to post through the care system – a ‘looked after child’. Seeking solace in literature, reading and books she finds herself at Oxford against or if not despite all the odds probably stacked against her.

On her first day she meets Kate and a lifelong friendship and bond begins, which lasts and as life changes for Kate, she starts to look at how Anna is perhaps conducting her life and that she needs to find the answers to what she wants in one place and not a dozen.

Having read Penny Parkes previous novels, I know she has never been one to shy away from some tricky and tough subject that perhaps do not make for comfortable reading. This book was no different in that respect, but she handled it with real skill and care. I was drawn into supporting Anna as the child and rather like her friend Kate, wanting Anna as an adult to stop running away and stay still long enough to find what she was looking for.

It was great to have a book where it was not all going to be tied up nicely with everyone living happily ever after. I adore those books but I also love a book which is left open ended for the characters to continue just as much as the readers. Whilst this book perhaps felt a bit repetitive in parts and for me a tad too over-laboured, it was still compelling enough to become totally involved in all the characters, no matter how they floated into Anna’s life and how long they stayed there.

I recommend this is one of those books that everyone is going to be reading in 2021.

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

Home is out now

Books

An Endless Cornish Summer – Phillipa Ashley

The latest from bestselling author Phillipa Ashley has to be up there as one of my most favourite reads of the year so far and perhaps even my most favourite from the author herself.

Rose has had a fairly bumpy start to life, being brought up mainly by her grandmother whilst her mother flitted in and out of her life, she then faces the ultimate test but she survives the life threatening illness thanks to a mystery donor. When life changes again for Rose, she decides she wants to find this mysterious man who helped her.

The search takes her to Cornwall, far from the flat fens of Cambridge and the surrounding area. With the pull of working on an archaeological dig, Rose finds herself in the little fishing village of Falford.

She makes an impact instantly on two bothers, Joey and Finn and it could possibly be that one of them is the man she has been looking for. Being drawn into the community of Falford, she finds herself a flat with wonderful sea views over the local Cornish Magick shop and befriends Oriel. Wanting to experience everything she can, she finds herself involved in learning to sail and explaining where some of the myths and legends come from to sceptic Oriel.

Friendships and relationship blossom and Rose seems to blossoming most of all. She realises that she enjoys this way of life especially when she can combine it with her own work as well. Of course nothing is going to run smoothly, whether is squally storms at sea, returning loves or the discovery of magical swords there is much to keep you turning the page.

If you want to experience Cornwall and the sea without getting your feet wet, then this book does it in abundance. I learned just as much about sailing as I did about stone circles and the legends. Phillipa Ashley had me caring about the main character Rose from the outset and even if some of the characters were slightly full of themselves, as the story goes on you can sort of start to like them too!

A perfect read to bring sunshine into your life whatever the time of year and a book I didn’t want to end!

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

An Endless Cornish Summer is out now.

Books

The Long Way Home – Fanny Blake

Isla discovers that when her mother dies all she has been left is a painting whilst her sisters and aunt inherit the estate. Isla always felt her relationship with her mother was strained but this seems to underline that thought. For Isla that is not enough, she wants to know more about her mother, May.

The only way it seems to do this, is to go back and visit her past friends and relatives and find out what she can about the women she called mother. When her relationship with her own daughter is somewhat strained, Isla is forced to take her troubled teenage granddaughter, Charlie on the trip as well. The journey is as much a turning point for Isla as it is for the relationship she has with her granddaughter and trying to understand life through these young eyes.

Interspersed in this story we are taken back to Paris, Mid 1950s where May has gone to work as an au pair and improve her French, so when she returns she can find a job as interpreter. We discover a woman very different to the mother portrayed by Isla. Soon we find out what perhaps happened to cause May’s behaviours as Isla got older.

A lovely dual timeline story which has at it’s heart family and the bonds that break and bring us together. We are not dealing with young flighty women but women of all generations, of all ages who all have their issues, their demons and their desire for the future. A strong female driven character story that whilst was perhaps somewhat predictable was enjoyable nonetheless.

This was my first Fanny Blake and I look forward to reading some others in the future.

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

The Long Way Home is out now