Books

The Summer Fair – Heidi Swain

For her summer book Heidi Swain has taken us back to Nightingale Square and there is no better place to be in the summer to drink in the wonderful community and garden either.

For Beth, moving to Nightingale Square seems like a dream come true. But after her awful house share she needs to move, to have her own space and plenty of it to put all of her plants. Nightingale Square seems the perfect place and sharing with Eli also seems perfect too. Expect that Eli loves music and Beth ahs been avoiding it ever since her opportunities were taken away from her years before.

As Beth’s new job at the Care Home takes off, she cannot avoid music forever. When the community she finds herself in rally round to raise money for a local project which brings back lots of memories for Beth it seems that her love of music is going to help finally solve her broken heart. If she picks up some love for herself along the way then surely that can only be a good thing?

As with all of Heidi’s books, you are drawn right into the community, to the garden, to the lives of the locals and if there was a book I wanted to go and live in, it would be one of these. The books can be read standalone but why would you want to deprive yourself of such a joy of immersing yourself in Nightingale Square completely.

The perfect summer read

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

The Summer Fair is out now.

Books

The Café at Marigold Marina – Tilly Tennant

Following the sudden death of her husband, Rosie finds herself in sole charge of the café they bought at Marigold Marina. Far from able to open and start making money, Rosie has channelled her grief into this place to get it up and running.

She opens the doors with thanks to a wonderful assistant, Tabitha and spends all her time in the café. That is her life but she knows there is more to that and it seems there is a glimmer of something when she meets Kit, the owner of the book barge that she can see from her little café. A friendship blossoms.

But something is not quite right an Rosie learns about her husband and a lot about the relationship they had together. It was at these moments, I wanted to cower about the way Rosie was being treated, she just could not see what was happening to her and that frustrated me beyond belief and I think that might have spoiled the book for me a bit. However, her strength she had was clearly there and with the support of the new friends she made, Rosie suddenly found the answer.

The setting of the marina, made me think we were immiedaley by the sea but were in fact on the river in Stratford Upon Avon. I think that needed to be made a bit clearer, because at times throughout the book it really felt like we were by the sea and I had to keep reminding myself we weren’t which distracted me from the book a little. The cover implies you are by the sea, with cliffs and beaches.

A easy romantic read to while away the sunny days, but I have read stronger novels from this author and perhaps would not start with this one if you are new to the author.

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

The Café at Marigold Marina is out now.

Looking back on reviews of other books by this author I have had a real hit and miss experience. I have another book thanks to netgalley to read, but I think perhaps my time is done with this author if that does not hit the spot. Trouble is I am not sure I can tell you what the spot is the book has to hit!

Books

A Wedding in Provence – Katie Fforde

Young, free and full of life Alexandra has everything ahead of her, however it is the mid 1960s and her family guardians are not quite sure about the life she has been leading, so it is time for finishing school and settling down. On her way to a Swiss finishing school, she stops in Paris and ends up taking a job as a nanny in a chateau in Provence.

Three children await her, who need a lot more than a nanny, they need a stable home, schooling and a lot of love. Alexandra draws on her own experiences of having various nanny’s and boarding schools to give these three children the best start in life.

Bringing what she knows from London food and all things English as well as her friend David, Alexandra starts to see these three children start to flourish. What Alexandra didn’t bank on was the flourishing romance with the father of the children.

Can she stay true to herself? Will the love of the area, the children as well as their father be enough to keep Alexandra in Provence? Or will the ex-wife and mother in law prove to much to cope with?

Following on from characters met in A Wedding in the Country, this was a great escapist novel from this author. The warmth and humour just sing from the page and I simply could devour all her books. I hope we go back to these characters in future novels.

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

A Wedding in Provence is out now.

Books

May Roundup

In a blink of any eye that was May. It has been rather a long month, I have been working sometimes 60 hours a week due to various reasons at work and it feels like some days I have done nothing of what I enjoy doing; reading, crafting and swimming. Then add in a dose of COVID, and the month has been a bit of a washout. So how I have managed to read all these books I don;t know – but I have so without further ado…..

When not feeling chipper it is always good to stick to something you know and that was the case with Katie Fforde – A Wedding in Provence. A book to lose yourself into and escape to the beautiful area of Provence and a glorious love story.

Surroundings and landscape often make a book and no more so than with Heidi Swain – The Summer Fair. Back in Nightingale Square in the shared community garden. It is a place that is going to heal the broken of hearts and souls. If I could live in a book, I would want to live here!

Having spent all of my life by the sea, I am quite often drawn to the water and in Tilly Tennant – The Café at Marigold Marina the water proves to be a place of salvation for one of it’s newest residents.

New residents, albeit temporarily in Cornwall was where the latest Merryn Allingham – Murder at Primrose Cottage took readers. I am sure there isn’t a month that doesn’t go by without at least one book set in Cornwall. Though I don’t think finding bodies in orchards is quite what I have in mind when I envisage a cottage in Cornwall (or anywhere!)

I do enjoy the periods of history that some of the books I read are set in. And after finishing a saga series, I am itching to get into another one. I have started with Vicki Beeby – A New Start for the Wrens. Topical as I recognise some of the places local to me and I have now twenty years experience of the Navy. This was a great start to the series and now I have to wait for the next one, so I might need to discover some other series where there are plenty to get caught up in whilst I wait.

History took me back even further to Paris and the 19th Century to the world of the impressionist painters with Helen Fripp – The Painter’s Girl. My artistic knowledge is probably rather poor, but this was a fascinating insight to the world these people circulated in. I wish I could have had a picture book next to me, to reference all those paintings mentioned. A few lost hours on the internet fixed that.

Arts and Crafts is something I adore in many forms, and I do like the place it can send you to in your mind. Whilst I an do no more than a cushion cover at basic and perhaps the odd face mask as the last two years called for them. I do adore the Great British Sewing Bee and therefore was intrigued to read Esme Young – Behind the Seams. A chatty reminiscence through this wonderful ladies life and the joy that sewing brings. One to forge her own path I greatly admire her and she seems to have got through life fairly unscathed from it all. Wonderful.

Another woman who is forging her own path is Elizabeth Zott in Bonnie Garmus – Lessons in Chemistry a book that has been all over social media in the last few weeks. It’s bright cover makes it stand out and it is an absolute gem of a book which says something about women in the world, in the workplace, in the home, in pretty much everything. I just felt that in some cases nothing has changed but then so much has also changed. One for book of the year I think.

Celeb fiction writing can be a bit hit and miss. Sara Cox – Thrown is a hit, a great big hit and actually a book I had to keep reading as I was invested in it so much. I am intrigued as to whether there will be more from this pen if it is as as good as this then we won’t be disappointed.

I also made the decision to sign up to 20 Books of Summer, to make a dent in my shelves both physical and on netgalley. One of the books of the list will need to be changed because I have read it already, but no mind there are plenty more to add onto the list!

Regular followers of my blog with be well aware of Six in Six and I will be bringing that back for 2022. Do look out for the information posts in the coming days and spread the word to those who might want to join in our small select group!

Let’s get reading…..

Books

Murder at Primrose Cottage – Merryn Allingham

The third in the Flora Steele Mysteries and the young bookshop owner has left her shop behind i the Sussex village of Abbeymead and embarked on a trip to Cornwall.

Accompanying her is Jack Carrington, crime writer, who needs to finish his latest novel otherwise his agent and publisher are gong to be further annoyed if it is delayed any further.

Renting a cottage from Roger Gifford, Flora is somewhat surprised to find him dead the following morning after their arrival in an overgrown orchard. His throat had been caught. The locals are devastated, he was well liked, popular and why would such a heinous crime happen in such a small village.

Roger was looking into something and it seems he got quite near the truth about events during the Second World War. However, Roger leaves behind a bitter ex-wife and a money grabbing brother, both with valid reasons for wanting Roger gone. Then the presence of mysterious women Mercy Dearlove spooks a number of the locals, could she have been the one?

When another body turns up and the mystery during the war leads them back to Abbeymead and Jack’s own father, it seems that it is not just one puzzle that is going to be solved when they find the murderer.

A light cosy crime read which gives you escapism in all its forms and even if like me you worked out “whodunnit”, it doesn’t really matter as it is always nice to see how we get to the solution. Clearly there is more to be had from Flora and Jack, they make for a pleasant diversion and like friendly faces jumping off the page.

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

Murder at Primrose Cottage is out now.

Books · Jottings

20 Books of Summer

Go big or go home they often say and in a first for this blog and me I am going to take part in Cathy at 746 Books 20 Books of Summer. I could have started with 10 or 15 and lets be honest I might only reach one of those but why not aim high.

It all starts on the 1 June and goes through to 1 September so I am going to make an attempt to clear a number on my netgalley list and also plenty off my shelves too.

Here is my initial 20 and we can change our minds along the way but this is the original starting point.

  1. Lucinda Riley – The Missing Sister
  2. Sara Sheridan – The Fair Botanists
  3. Sara Cox – Thrown Angela Thirkell – High Rising
  4. Richard Coles – Murder Before Evensong
  5. Jennifer Ryan – The Wedding Dress Circle
  6. Gervase Phinn – At The Captains Table
  7. Ann Cleeves – The Rising Tide
  8. Celia Rees – Miss Graham’s War
  9. Fern Britton – The Good Servant
  10. Mick Herron – Slow Horses
  11. Gill Hornby – Miss Austen
  12. Anne Booth – Small Miracles
  13. P.G.Wodehouse – Jeeves & Wooster unknown title yet!
  14. Stacy Halls – The Foundling
  15. Robert Galbraith – Troubled Blood
  16. Jennifer Saint – Ariadne
  17. Cathy Bramley – My Kind of Happy
  18. Sue Tedder – Annie Stanley All At Sea
  19. Dawn French – Because of You
  20. Freya Sampson – The Girl on the 88 Bus

Let the reading commences and I will have to see how I get on- hopefully a mix of genres there to keep my interest piqued!

Books

A New Start for the Wrens – Vicki Beeby

This is the start of a new series for the author and also for me. I was after a new saga to get stuck into and I have found it clearly with this series and the authors previous work.

Iris is also after a new start too, after presuming that she was about to be proposed to and live the life as lady of the manor, she makes a mistake and finds herself suddenly in Orkney as a WREN signaller. Joining her are Mary and Sally and whilst we learn about them, this story very much focuses on Iris. I took an immediate dislike to Iris, who ability to speak without thinking was clear and she really did have a problem with anyone who did not come from the same class and why would women want to do anything other than marry.

Of course as the book goes on, we see Iris prejudices challenged not just by her developing friendships with Mary and Sally but also the other people she meets along the way. Mechanic Rob is nothing like the man Iris should marry but something about him is enthralling. Stewart on the other hand would go down well with Iris’s parents. But is he really the caring doctor he makes out.

Then of course there is the Orkney Islands themselves, a vast landscape, nothing like the landscape of any of the girls homes. The weather is another battle to fight along with the Germans. The islanders welcome these girls into the homes and hearts and Irish can see that perhaps all she has held as ‘right’ is in fact wrong. When it looks like there could be a traitor in their midst, they find their purpose in their work will have huge ramifications.

This is a wonderfully written saga and I was hooked from the beginning. As someone who has a lot of knowledge of the Royal Navy and also coming from Portsmouth and working now where HMS Mercury moved to I can see plenty of names I recognised and nothing stood out for me as achingly wrong! I have seen that in previous novels and it really spoils the book for me.

I am already looking forward to catching up with the girls again soon.

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

A New Start for the Wrens is out now.

Books

The Little Wartime Library Kate Thompson

Books, reading and therefore libraries are important at all times and in this novel, based on events during the Second World War, are important to the residents of Bethnal Green.

The unfinished underground station becomes the unlikely home of the Bethnal Green library as the original one was destroyed during the blitz. Librarian, Clara Button and her assistant Ruby Monroe have decamped underground to still serve the local residents with books, information , a shoulder to cry on and most importantly forms of escapism. But it is not just the locals, a whole world has opened up underneath he streets of London and bombed out residents are seeking shelter as well.

This is a forward thinking library, with bedtime stories for the smaller residents of the station as well as visits to local factories for those on shift work that cannot get to the library, a solace for overwhelmed mothers and an information point on being able to take control of your life. For some Clara and her ideas are a bit too forward thinking and it seems is cutting articles out of newspapers and spying on what is really going on amongst the bookshelves of stories.

A wonderful book full of so much, the impact of war on many different generations, domestic violence, female emancipation, sexual freedoms, loss, death, grief and that stoicism that seems to come out of these times.

An escapism to another time, which shows you the joy books bring no matter when we are reading them and under what circumstances.

For fans of books, libraries, reading and books based on the Second World War.

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

The Little Wartime Library is out now.

Books

The Paris Apartment – Lucy Foley

Writing reviews for thrillers is always tough – you can’t say too much, but you need to give the readers a flavour of what to expect. Well if you know Foley’s previous work then you will probably know what to expect, but I would say prepare for the unexpected.

Centred around an apartment in Paris, this book first of introduces us to Jess who has come to Paris, to see her half brother Ben. We know little about Jess, we find out more as the book goes on but we never get to know the whole story.

In fact that is a theme of the book, do we really know any of these people who are in this apartment block.

The concierge, an old lady, forever in the shadows and living in a place that would fit in one of the penthouse singles rooms.

The occupiers of the penthouse, Sophie and Jacques. One seen and one not, but regardless their presence is felt over every floor.

Antoine, drunk, his wife has just left him but for who? He cannot seem to rely on steady work and needs to find money from somewhere else but where?

Naivety and falling in love fast and hard is where Mimi is at, but she is indulged so it doesn’t matter until that one fateful day.

Nick, returned to live in a minimalist circumstances. Looking like he doesn’t want to really put down roots, but then a face from the past comes brings everything back.

Then there is Ben. But where has he gone? Why did he say to Jess that he would meet her and then not be there? Jess wants to know but what is she really about to discover about her brother?

The tension can be felt as you turn the page, it is almost like you are waiting for something to snap, something to give. When it does it will be what you least expect. I was hooked, I needed to know what happened and whilst I worked one of the characters relationships out, this book kept me guessing until the very end. Rarely do books do that.

I have to say that the author has created another wonderful novel, very much centred around one place, like her previous two novels. This one branches out slightly but really only into another self centred place where everyone is trapped.

Perfect for people who want to be gripped and trapped almost by their reading and need to what happens next. It could well surprise you!

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

The Paris Apartment is out now.

Books

The Kitchen Front – Jennifer Ryan

I have read many books which are based around the Second World War and it is always nice to get a different perspective, a different aspect to telling a well versed period of history.

Jennifer Ryan certainly does it with this book and uses the war at home, the food shortages, rationing and cooking to create this wonderful story.

The BBC programme The Kitchen Front needs to relate more to its female audience and so decides to hold a competition for a new presenter. Enter four ladies from Fenley Village.

First is Lady Gwendoline, she knows her status within the village, as being married to the prominent factory owner puts her above everyone else. In here eyes anyway. If she could win, then she would go up in everyone’s expectations, especially her husbands.

Audrey, widow with three young boys is Gwendoline’s sister. And looked upon as the poorer of the two. Devastated by her husband’s death and struggling to keep a roof above her families head, she will do anything to make the extra pennies to survive.

Nell is the kitchen maid for Gwendoline and along with the cook Mrs Quince, well known already in the area for what she can create. Nell is wanting to break free and leave the life of service behind and be her own women. Whilst she has the encouragement from Mrs Quince, can she do something as scary as cook for a competition and potentially win? Confidence is all she needs and it can come from the most unexpected places.

Zelda has bucket loads of confidence, as a chef very much in a mans world and determined to be recognised in her own right. Zelda sees this as a way to further her career. Except war work has taken her to the factory owned by Gwendoline’s husband and her condition means she is about to stand out from the crowd for all the wrong reasons.

All these women are thrown together in the competition and outside of that as well. There ingenuity to create something out of nothing or something out of foul ingredients shows the pluck and determination that the home front employed during rationing. The strength of friendship and adversity means that by the end of the book, all of their lives have changed.

Cooking and a common goal and purpose may have brought these four unlikely women together, but it was love, respect and their strength of belief and friendship which will keep them together long after you have finished reading the book.

An excellent book, covering the home front and full of recipes for dried egg powder, whale meat and tins of spam! Not sure I would want to recreate some of them, but they are all brought to life within the pages of the book.

Thank you to the publisher for the opportunity via netgalley to read this book. Unfortunately I was too late to download my copy but I was interested, so I purchased my own copy and devoured it. Jennifer Ryan’s writing is wonderful and I look forward to reading more.

The Kitchen Front is out now.