Books

The Guest List – Lucy Foley

This book has echoes of And Then There Were None before you even start, a remote island and invitations to certain people to stay on the island.

The event which you everyone wants to be on the guest list for is the wedding of Jules and Will.

Jules is a celebrated magazine publisher.

Will is a rising star in television on a ‘survival’ type programme.

This is all about doing it in style to make everyone else envious if not completely jealous.

The guests they are invite are the ones as well as Jules and Will that tell the story of how everyone came to be on this island, invited to the wedding.

Olivia, Jules half sister and someone who does not want to be there. She is harbouring a secret, a secret that if she reveals it will upset everyone. No one knows. But she has to put on a brave face and forget her past and be the bridesmaid her sister is expecting her to be.

Hannah is the plus one, she is in fact Charlie, Jules best friend wife and she is very much feeling more than a spare part than a plus one. Charlie is to be the master of ceremonies at the wedding, leaving Hannah to very much disappear into the background but by doing so she learns some devastating information from her past.

Johnno is the best man – but not the man you would expect a well known face like Will to have. Him and Johnno have a past and with that is secrets which need to remain hidden. Trouble is the other ushers are all old school friends of both Will and Johnno and it seems that some rituals still need to be reenacted in adulthood as they did in childhood.

Then there is Aoife, the outsider to all of the people on the island. It is her island, it is her house, she is in fact the wedding planner and is there to facilitate anything that Jules and Will want as this is her chance to make a name for herself. Though Jules and Will are completely unaware of the name she actually wants to make for herself.

Having only recently read The Hunting Party, I was immediately hooked by the way Foley crafts her novels. As we go from character to character they all in turn fill in information and build a picture of not just themselves but each other. The secondary characters are also somehow cleverly well rounded and developed as well, as they do play an important part in this story.

There are plenty of people to dislike, in fact probably more than to like and empathise with which means they get under your skin, they make you keep turning the page.

As the wedding proceeds, events taken their own turn. As the island batters a storm, a storm is gathering in the wedding party and there might not be any survivors from either storm.

Completely addictive and keeps you guessing right from the beginning.

A good follow up to The Hunting Party and I personally hope for more the same from the author.

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

The Guest List is published on the 20th February. 

 

Books

In the Crypt with the Candlestick – Daisy Waugh

A new author to me and I was drawn to the cover without a doubt and the promise of:

In the traditions of two great but very different British writers, Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse, Waugh’s hilarious and entirely original twist on the country house murder mystery comes complete with stiff upper lips, even stiffer drinks, and any stiffs that might embarrass the family getting smartly brushed under the carpet…

At Tode Hall, at ninety three Sir Ecgbert has finally died. Widow Lady Tode no longer wants to be lady of the manor and neither of her three children have much interest in the Tode Hall.

So the hall and all its residents is passed across to a distant relative much to the chagrin of the remaining family and staff.

However Lady Tode’s idea of spending her twilight years in Capri are thwarted when she ends up dead in the Hall’s mausoleum. What follows is a half hearted attempt to find out who the culprit was and with the aid of the granddaughter of a former employee and a ghost it seems the answer has been staring them in the face all the time.

This is not your normal murder mystery, a book which had a sense of wanting to be stuck in the past, the cover gives that impression but was very much in the present. The correlations to Wodehouse I could see, think Blandings not Jeeves and I am not sure if it has the real sense of Christie, that you may see in other homages.

However it was humourous in an almost pastiche to the country house murder mystery and was a passable diversion. It perhaps did not deliver as well as it could have done. Shame it had potential.

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

In the Crypt with a Candlestick is published on 20 February. 

 

Books

The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle – Sophie Green

1980s Australia.

4 women.

Marie – widow. Takes to the waters of the bay pretty much every day at sunrise. Swimming is her constant, the reason she gets up every morning.

Theresa – housewife. Needs some space for herself and to be herself. No husband demanding, no children wanting. No being pulled in all directions. Theresa would like to get fit and swimming seems a good option.

Elaine – housewife. Recently moved from England leaving everything she knows behind apart from her Australian husband. She needs to clear her head from the gin bottle every day.

Leanne – nurse. The youngest of the four women. Quiet and determined. Can only rely on herself. Especially in deep water.

All brought together by swimming in Shelly Bay.

The water brings them together, the act of swimming gives them a purpose and out there on the water no one seems to be judging as they share lives and friendships begin to develop.

Friendships that can be the reason why it transcends those early morning swims and becomes something much deeper, much warmer and much more important.

This is a slow start, think of those slow first moves of breast stroke as you get going within the water. It does pick up a bit of pace as we change to freestyle and front crawl and then the story really does get going as the women all come together. You go through many differing experiences that any women might have at any age, death, divorce, illness, aging parents, new love, old love as well as laughter and tears. Sophie Green packs a lot into her stories. But there was something missing for me.

Not as strong as her first novel but I was drawn to the healing properties of swimming that the author used with these women and whilst the south coast of England does not have the same warm, clear waters of Australia, when I swim outdoors I can imagine myself somewhere else where all the problems are simply put on hold as the water soothes and solves as it does for these four women.

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

The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle is published on 13 February. 

Books

The House at Silvermoor – Tracy Rees

A new century, the twentieth is upon Tommy and Josie and they have plans but they are seemingly stuck in their respective Yorkshire coal mining villages and it seems their destiny is mapped out for them, long before they were born.

Tommy knows he will go down the mine in the footsteps of his brothers, the men that marry his sisters and his fathers. He also knows that not everyone comes out the same as they were before they were underground. However Tommy wants to learn more about the world, he has a thirst for knowledge and that is not sated by this little village.

Josie, living in a neighbouring village in the shadow of a different mine to Tommy, she sees the effect that this rich mine owner is having on the locals and most of all her family.

Meeting one day Tommy and Josie form an unlikely friendship which is innocent and heartwarming  perhaps but their fascination with doing something other than mining and seeing another part of the world through the gates to the Heston Manor they wonder perhaps what life is like in there.

Heston Manor is all closed up, no one lives there since a tragedy some years previous and the owner, also the owner of the mine in the village where Josie lives is not someone to be trifled with – especially when you find yourself on their land.

But there is a secret to Heston Manor and both Tommy and Josie are drawn back there time and time again. What they discover can it change their lives or the lives of everyone in the village.

As fates take their own path, Tommy and Josie find themselves at another big house – Silvermoor. How can a place be so welcoming, opening and accepting when Heston Manor is everything but?

As all the strands of the story start to weave together it seems that Tommy and Josie are about to embark on a very different future to the one they thought they would have.

This book is packed full of wonderful passages and it’s pace at times might seem slower than other novels but then I think that is intended as you start to understand the differences between the main characters, their respective villages, the mines, the ‘big’ houses and the classes.

The research that must have gone into this book was clearly there to see – the scenes in the mines at times had me gasping for breath. Claustrophobia set in as I was taken with Tommy under the ground, where you could not stand up straight, breathe properly and almost taste the coal. There are many more scenes I could choose from to describe how wonderful the writing is but that would just spoil the book for you.

A novel full of opposites, which in show the love and hate, the warmth and coldness, ironically the coal gives you warmth the work to get it so heartlessly cold. I am not sure what the message was from this book – but for me it swept me away and I hope it does you.

For me this is the best book by Tracy Rees so far and is a must for any fans of historical fiction, think Catherine Cookson but on a much higher level.

 

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

The House at Silvermoor is published on 6 Feb 2020.

 

Books · Jottings · Witterings

January Roundup

Boom and one month gone! My nan was right, time goes quicker the older you get.

But this month time has been spent reading more books that have been hanging around for a while.

I saw all the hype regarding Lucy Foley – The Hunting Party, the cover itself makes the books stand out and when I spotted her new crime novel available on netgalley I only thought it fair to read the first. A page turner that is well worth a read and I have to admit was probably worth a lot fo the hype as well! As for her second I end the month reading that and well it seems to be up there with the first!

January 2020 is the month we lost Marion Chesney/M.C. Beaton and I therefore thought it as fitting to read one of the books which I had on my shelf for a while M.C.Beaton – Agatha Raisin: There Goes the Bride. A passable book which almost cleans your brain for whatever else is to come and what you have read before, they are a simply forumliac joy. My only wish is that they do not ship in a ghostwriter to carry on the oeuvre simply for making money.

Last year was the first time of reading anything by Caroline Roberts and I had did a bit of a binge with Caroline Roberts – The Cosy Teashop in the Castle followed straight away with Caroline Roberts – The Cosy Christmas Teashop. Both delightful reads and I think a first for me reading a Christmas themed book after the event and not before. I look forward to catching up with more from this author.

To balance it all out a bit I did read some of the wonderful new novels which I gain access to through netgalley. Lorna Cook – The Forbidden Promise, second novel is as good if not better than the first. A great historical dual time narrative set in the second world war which draws you in and keeps you in the wilds of Scotland.

Going further back to the turn of the century and mining takes me to Tracy Rees – The House at Silvermoor. This time we are taken to Yorkshire, mining villages, conflicts between families and the lies and mysteries that a seemingly empty house brings. One of the best books written by Tracy Rees with such fantastic attention to detail you could almost taste the coal being mined.

And finally across the oceans to Australia and the mid nineteen eighties. Sophie Green – The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle, showing the strength of friendship and community in a shared love. Swimming. It appealed to me because of my own love of swimming although the coast around Portsmouth has slightly cooler water than that of Australia!

So that was January 2020 – not a bad month really. A time to reflect and get back to some sort of order and resemblance which helps my mental health no end. Unfortunately the grey weather does not. More books full of sunshine needed.

How has your January been? What is bringing you colour?

 

Books

The 24 Hour Cafe – Libby Page

The 24 Hour Cafe, known as Stella’s is a window to another world, another world where everyone is going about their own business, with their own past, their own present and their own decisions to their own future.

Libby Page, lets us as readers, drop into the cafe to see exactly the people that might cross the cafe doors in 24 hours and what their stories might be.

We need a vehicle for all these people and their stories – Mona and Hannah, waitresses who work double shifts, would be dancer and singer respectively, housemates and best friends. Stella’s Cafe is simply where they fill their time whilst waiting for that once in a lifetime opportunity. It seems to be taking a long time to arrive.

As we learn more about Mona and Hannah and how they came together, we also see into the lives of the young student with nowhere to live, the honeymooners in later life, the relationships blossoming and breaking, the lonely, the workers, the parent escaping the child, the random acts of kindness, the future, the past and everything in between.

These little scenes of life show you how so much is going on around you and that all that you are really interested in and aware of is your own little world. Reflected in Mona who was aware of Hannah, but Hannah’s actions shrink her world and it ends up testing their friendship.

How often do you stop and wonder about those around you – what their story is and whether it is happier or more troubled than your own? Whether there are people looking at you thinking the same, just for 24 hours Libby Page gives us that insight and as you finish the book, you go back to your own life and carry on.

An excellent observational read that makes you stop and think – no doubt a book that will much talked about during 2020.

Many thanks to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

The 24 Hour Cafe is published on 23 January. 

 

Books

The Telephone Box Library – Rachael Lucas

Who could not fall in love with this cover, but the words within it are just as delightful to fall in love with.

After teaching for ten years Lucy has to take a break otherwise she will burn out completely. To get away from it all, to rest recuperate and perhaps find out what she wants to do next she spends the next six months in a little cottage in a Cotswold village.

The catch she can live virtually rent free in this cottage if she looks after another village resident, Bunty.

Trouble is Bunty really doesn’t need much looking after, despite what her daughter in law thinks. She is quite content, in a house full of memories and an eclectic mix of pets.

Lucy a history teacher is fascinated with the area and the fact that they are so close to Bletchley Park, which played a pivotal part in World War Two she knows she will be able to do some of her own research during her recuperation.

However the villagers have other ideas and Lucy finds herself, making friends quickly and becomes involved with local projects such as what to do with the old red telephone box, now surplus to requirements.

But the telephone box holds special memories for Bunty and has history with it – but will she ever tell anyone what she did during the war? Lucy’s research goes into overdrive and she wants to find out the truth behind Bunty and what she did in the war, so many other villagers know something but Bunty is not very forthcoming.

What is Bunty’s secret and what does it have to do with the telephone box?

It seems that the interest of the village, the phone box and the surrounding areas as well as some of the other villagers are a real pull for Lucy. Perhaps this is where she needs to be to make her own history.

This is a joyous and delightful read which appealed to me greatly considering my love (and degree in) for history and the fact that I too am fascinated by what went on at Bletchley Park and that no one knew anything about it. I really don’t think in today’s world of social media that secrets could now be kept.

The book has so much packed in between the cover that you just can’t help but be drawn into the story both the past and the present. Strongly recommended by me!

Another great read from Rachael Lucas and it is a place I would love to go back and visit sometime.

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

The Telephone Box Library is published on 9 January.