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 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.

Books

The Tea Ladies at St Jude’s Hospital – Joanna Nell

Joanna Nell’s books are something I only have discovered thanks to netgalley. And whenever I see a new one, I am always intrigued about what she is going to tackle next as it has at times a rather sad subject and in the main the character re those sprightly and determined older people who almost always get over looked.

The volunteers at the Marjorie Marshall Memorial Cafeteria have been raising money for various projects around the hospital for a number of years. As well as serving the traditional tea they have also provided the sympathy. The current volunteers are Hilary, manageress and with indominable spirit she runs the place with a rod of iron. She is also having to deal with elderly sister who insists on driving her to work every day and also the fact that she has left her husband after he spent all the money.

Working alongside Hillary is Joy. Joy by name and nature, never on time and with a wealth of observations about everything she will forever annoy Hillary. Then there is Chloe, seventeen years old, working towards her Duke of Edinburgh and determined to live up to her parents expectations and follow them into the medical profession. If only her heart was in it.

But longstanding traditions and volunteers don’t make good business sense. And it seems the Marjorie Marshall Memorial Cafeteria is earmarked for closure. Surely these three unlikely women can do what they can to save it.

But with their own problems as well, it seems personal and professional will cross over and have some interesting outcomes!

This book made me chuckle and cry. We learn more about the backgrounds to the three main characters as the book progresses and whilst I did work out what they all had to hide, what they gave within the pages of the book and the story made it all the more special.

This authors novels are unique, they are set in a place that you cannot really pinpoint (but if you do your research it will be Australia) but actually they could be any hospital, any cafeteria, any volunteers from anywhere in the world and the spirit and determination would be just the same. A wonderful story to add to the Joanna Nell oeuvre.

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

The Tea Ladies of St Jude’s Hospital is out now.

Books

April Roundup


And there goes April……I normally have a lot of time to read in April due to holiday, but this year was very different. Less holiday due to work computer systems, personnel changes and the like means that I have had the bare minimum to catch up. It has slightly annoyed me really as has the lack of doing what I like doing. However I have read some books and some cracking ones at that.

The Second World War seems to have been a theme when I look back on the books I have read. I was delighted and also saddened to finally reach the end of this series with Nancy Revell – Three Cheers for the Shipyard Girls. I am now on the look out for another saga series to get immersed in, so if you have any recommendations then please comment and let me know.

From the Shipyards of the War and staying very much on the home front I ended up in a cooking competition on rations with Jennifer Ryan – The Kitchen Front. Whilst perhaps some of the ingredients leave a lot to be desired this strong story of friendship and what you can achieve with every little is excellent. It was lovely to see a book which concentrated on a different part of the war. Jennifer Ryan has a knack of doing that with her story telling.

You never think of what happened to libraries during the War. Kate Thompson – The Little Wartime Library shines a light on such a place, deep underground at Bethnal Green. Synonymous with a tragedy of its own. This was a delightful, heart-breaking book which tells you the power of friendship and strength through books.

More libraries featured this month by pure accident and that was with the latest Katie Ginger – The Little Library on Cherry Lane. A library threatened from something different but nonetheless showing such an important place that libraries can be. Makes me feel so guilty that I do not use mine as often as I should.

Female friendships is a theme in many books I read and they can cross generations as they do in Joanna Nell – The Tea Ladies of St Jude’s Hospital. An author I have read before who can capture the wonder of the elderly in such a comic way that her books have a great sense of fun about them.

Cathy Bramley – The Summer That Changed Us is the latest in this author’s work and I think I have pretty much read all of them. This one was different, it spoke to me in a completely different way. I adored it from beginning to end, it dealt with some real tough subject matter but not in a frivolous way but in something more realistic akin to real life. Cathy’s work keeps getting better and better.

Reading brings me such joy an contentment but I always like to be challenged sometimes by what I pick up. The final two books I want to talk about this month do that. Clare Chambers – Small Pleasures was on my shelf for a while after seeing it being raved about on Between the Covers a relatively new book programme on BBC2. Wow! A gentle book with an interesting themes to make it not so gentle and a bit more powerful.

Thrillers always have that way of being powerful, if they have the right hook to draw you in, the hours whizz by and you suddenly find it is way past your bedtime! Lucy Foley – The Paris Apartment was no exception. Whilst Lucy has moved away from the almost ‘locked room’ mystery this had a lot of a similar elements and branched out a little bit more. I was hooked, I was drawn in and I had to keep turning the page. A little bit slow in parts and not my favourite of hers but still a great thriller to escape with.

So that was my April, I am trying to erode the huge list of books to read on my shelf, on my kindle and on my want to buy list! Then of course I need to be writing about the books too, which seems to be harder and harder at the moment. A few more hours in the day, a few more days in the week and all we be fine!

Books

The Summer That Changed Us – Cathy Bramley

If you want a book to sweep you away, make you laugh, make you cry and give you a warm hug then pretty much anything from Cathy Bramley will do that and this new book is no exception.

Set by the sea in Merle Bay, three women are thrown together unexpectedly and become the friends they did not realise they needed until they found each other.

Katie, runs the local lingerie shop and is keen on giving a boost to all ladies who come into the shop. But she is hiding her own secret and she cannot possibly tell anyone.

Robyn is healing but whilst she may be physically it seems the emotional scars are a long way from that and her marriage is at a crossroads. Can the strength of their love see them through?

Grace, the older of the three women is grieving. she has come to Merle Bay to find herself, to move on. However her husbands children seem hell bent on making sure they get what they feel they are entitled to until a revelation makes Grace reassess everything she knows.

The instant friendship that strikes up shows you how women can draw on the strength of others and have no hang ups or barriers about their past actions. Sometimes it is easier to talk to a stranger than someone you are close to.

Add into the mix Amber, grieving for her mother and at that awkward teenage age and her father Barney, the local newspaper journalist. There could be some consequences if the secrets all of them hold are spilled forth.

This book covers some pretty tough topics; cancer, adultery, grief, exploitation of young women and mental health. Recovery from one, some or all of these things requires many methods and this book shows you that strength can be sought in friendships, in the environment by the sea, and in the wonder of craft with sea glass that is in abundance at the beach in Merle Bay.

I loved the book without a doubt and one of the best Cathy Bramley has written.

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

The Summer That Changed Us is out now.

Books

Three Cheers for Shipyard Girls – Nancy Revell

Three Cheers for the Shipyard Girls, should be followed by Three Cheers for Nancy Revell as this wonderful series of books comes to a conclusion, with this the final instalment. I have been with all the girls since the beginning and I am heartened and sadden to know that as soon as I picked up this book it was inevitably going to come to an end.

As the end of the Second World War, approaches the lives of these women welders in a Sunderland shipyard and going to change inexplicably once again. Gloria has finally found her happy ending and is going to marry Jack and unite her family once more.

Rosie, now happy that Peter is home from his secret missions abroad is finally starting to settle into married life but there is still her own secrets she needs to reconcile to be able to move on.

Angie is to be married to Quentin and with that the final escape from her family and the behaviours of her parents. Little does she know, she will end up with a ready made family as soon as she is married.

Dorothy whilst content with planning Angie’s wedding, does not want one of her own and is determined along with Gloria’s son Bobby to see the world once the world is available to be seen once again.

Polly and Tommy are reunited, their family complete. Along with all those who make the extended family as well, Agnes, Bel, Joe, Pearl and Lucille. All names you will be familiar with if you have been with the books from the beginning.

Of course there is some unfinished business with Helen and her family secrets which are still going to affect all the women she employs. Can she possibly keep it together to protect those she cares about. And will anyone ever care about her for who she is and not what she might bring to a relationship?

Nancy Revell does not hold back with the events in this book and I was positively hooked as I had to make sure all the bad and evil got their comeuppance. Some of the evil was never going to be reconciled and I adored the fact that Nancy sent Hannah, back to Austria, via the Red Cross to the liberation of the concentration camps to face those particular demons. Resonating so much reading this book in the world we currently live in.

The book came to the conclusion it rightly should have done. It is a double edge sword to come to the end of a series of books when you have been with them since the beginning. I want to know what happens next but on the other hand, I know that all of the Shipyard Girls lives will continue long past the final page and word written by Nancy Revell.

The best saga series I have read in many years and begs to be made into a television drama. I feel bereft that I am no longer going to take a peek at their lives anymore but I am so glad I did.

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

Three Cheers for the Shipyard Girls is out now.

Series Order

The Shipyard Girls

Shipyard Girls at War

Secrets of the Shipyard Girls

Shipyard Girls in Love

Victory for the Shipyard Girls

Courage of the Shipyard Girls

Christmas with the Shipyard Girls

Triumph of the Shipyard Girls

A Christmas Wish for the Shipyard Girls

The Shipyard Girls on the Home Front

Shipyard Girls Under the Mistletoe

Three Cheers for the Shipyard Girls

Books

The Little Library on Cherry Lane – Katie Ginger

Elsie lives a quiet life, the village librarian, she keeps herself pretty much to herself, She doesn’t want to be noticed, despite the fact she notices a lot and a lot of people rely on her presence within the village and of course in the library. The village and the library are her whole world. Why would she want to do or go anywhere else?

When all she knows is threatened – Elsie has to step forward and be heard and seen. The library is to be closed, to make way for more affordable housing. The place needs to be saved, it is a haven for those who are lonely, stressed mothers, coffee mornings and baby groups as well as books.

The affordable housing is the idea of Jacob Yardley, who is desperately trying to appease his father and show that he can successfully work on a building project of his own. Except Jacob’s heart isn’t in it and he will not play the underhand games to ensure that the library is knocked down to make way for the housing at the expense of a whole community.

Jacob and Elsie first meet and there is a spark, but when they both find out what the other stands for, it is a spark which is not going to go as planned. Much to the disappointment of Elsie’s friends who think Elsie needs to step out from behind whichever books she has her nose in.

Whilst this a wonderful romance, set in a lovely community and of course features a library. It touches on many topical points to do with little villages surviving when the inhabitants age and grow. How a project such as affordable housing can divide villages, relationships and friendships and how the strength of something such as the loss a library brings everyone together.

I enjoyed all the characters and quite frankly wanted to poke Jacob’s father in the eye with his grandiose attitude of what is right for his son! But that said, you could see who Elsie and Jacob were clearly meant to be together and that their shared passion of words, books and poetry were going to overcome any obstacle – eventually!

A perfect book for fans of warm, comforting women’s fiction and I guarantee you will want to move to the village right away!

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

The Little Library on Cherry Lane is out now.

Books

The Girl at the Last House Before the Sea – Liz Eeles

This is the third in the series of books set in Heaven’s Cove and we get to find a bit more about the history of Driftwood House; the Last House Before the Sea.

Freya arrives in Heaven’s cover, divorced and jobless. The two constants in her life are gone and she finds herself thanks to her half sister, Belinda with new employment and a place to live.

That new employment is with Kathleen, herself only recently arrived at Heaven’s Cove some few years previous. Kathleen is an eighty year old who is a bit unsteady on her feet and with Freya’s experience of care giving it seems the perfect match. Freya gets a job and home and Kathleen is well looked after and still holding on to that bit of independence and not being a burden on her only son.

Ryan though thinks this imposition is rather much, it is typical Belinda; well known in Heaven’s Cove for the gossip she peddles and the lives she interferes in. Ryan has enough to deal with grieving for his wife, dealing with twelve year old daughter Chole without adding a complete stranger moving into his mother’s house.

When he then sees that his mother has given Freya money, it seems that all is not as it seems. But then nothing ever is and surely Kathleen moving to Heaven’s Cove has to have been for a reason. Kathleen’s choice of bedroom in the cottage overlooking Driftwood House.

Secrets start flooding out and when you have a gossipy sister, Freya knows that she has to keep it all to herself. However the truth will out and some secrets need to be told to resolve the past and move forward into the future happier and more peaceful.

Will it all come together for Freya? Will Kathleen reveal what she has been hiding? And what of the history of Driftwood House?

Although part of series set in the same place, any of these books can be read as standalone. The only familiarity is the setting, the landscape and of course Driftwood House. Told from different points of view from all the main characters it draws you into their lives and their secrets. I think it is well written and has a quiet strength that once all these secrets are out then anything can be resolved.

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

The Girls at the Last House by the Sea is out now.

Books

The Keeper of Stories – Sally Page

I love a good story and this is why I of course love reading. I love hearing snippets of stories as I go about my day, what is the rest of the story, what brought that person to that point when I over hear the story. Where will the story go next?

For Janice sees herself and assume that others see her as just a cleaner. A former boss of mine said, no one is just anything and Janice is not just a cleaner, she is a collector of stories. Stories that she has picked up along her way in life and whilst also being a collector she is living her own story as well. But what is Janice’s story/

Along the way in this book, we meet Fiona and her young son Adam, grieving from the loss of her husband and father and creating a world that is not sustainable. Then there is Geordie; the opera singer, Mrs Yeahyeahyeah permanently attached to her phone with a fox terrier who has the ability to read Janice’s mind it seems.

Then we are introduced to the redoubtable Mrs B – she knows there is story to tell, she has many of her own but she knows Janice’s story is what is holding her back from the future.

Through some crafty wit and events along the way, we learn as does Mrs B about Janice’s story and we start to learn that everyone has one. A story, in fact they have many and the ones they choose to tell are the ones that we use to shape our opinions of them. Is the story you are being told the truth? And actually are other peoples stories all the more fascinating because they are not ours?

This book is full of human nature in all its forms, it is told through the stories of others as well as Janice, and I was fascinated by it’s structure and how it was going to conclude. It proves that there are so many stories to be told and that actually we have to take time out and listen to them – because people may just surprise you!

The book surprised me, it delighted me and will leave an imprint on my reading soul.

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

The Keeper of Stories is out now.

Books

March Roundup

Looking back at the last two March, I seem to be in a familiar place. A need to recharge and reset, the reading is perhaps not the solace it can be. That said though I have read some great books in March, but the inclination to talk about them has waned slightly as the month has come to a close. I can though wax lyrical about all that I have read in this summary post of March.

When times are tough, it is familiarity in reading that can sometimes bring us through and of course lots of the authors this month I have read before.

I am back with Kitty in the latest Helena Dixon – Murder in First Class where she finds herself embroiled in a murder on a train, in a classic locked room scenarios familiar to those who have read many a crime novel of the classic cosy genre! I do so enjoy this series and know that eventually it will come to an end, in the meantime I just enjoy.

I do become involved in places, series, characters and no more so than when I am lucky enough to get hold of Sarah Bennett – Love Blooms at Mermaid Point and escape back to a place where I know I am going to be welcomed. Peeking into their lives is such a joy and perhaps the topics might be tough, but it all encompasses something which makes this particular author and her work a joy to read.

Sticking with authors I have read before took me to Liz Eeles – The Girl at the Last House Before the Sea where Freya finds herself starting again not just with her own life but with the relationships with her own family. Her influence means that others start to question their own family pasts.

Strong female characters is always a theme amongst many of the books I read and no more so than with the latest Veronica Henry – The Impulse Purchase. This is one of my favourites by this author and is an impulse purchase everyone needs to make. A proper great read to completely lose yourself in and one of my books of the year so far.

And also this month brought another favourite book of the year and that is Sally Page – The Keeper of Stories. This debut novel is such a quiet gentle read that it had my heart from the very first page. The stories that are out there amongst us all, the normal is much more interesting than the faked and fantastical world we sometimes can live in. A book to look out for.

Another book I kept seeing and had yet to read, so a bit slow to the party with this one was Robert Thorogood – The Marlow Murder Club. A fun, cleverly constructed novel which featured some quirky characters, some interesting murders and plenty of theories to make me think this could be the start of a series of books to get into. If Murder Mystery is your thing then this book is definitely one to read.

The book above, was one I had on my shelf that required reading and I also found myself picking up another one which had been languishing on there a while. That’s the trouble with netgalley it distracts me from my own shelves. Anyway I picked up Ayana Mathis – The Twelve Tribes of Hattie a heart breaking and graphic story which is eye opening about the South in America during many troubled times. A disturbing book that requires reading to gain an insight perhaps into what seems like another world but is sadly probably not that far from reality.

It has been a while since I have read any type of autobiography but I spotted Sutton Foster – Hooked on her own social media feed and as it features the wonderful affect craft can have on your life, you could say I was also hooked. Very American in references so some of it went over my head, but it was a fascinating to see how this popular theatre and television actress started and how the outlet of craft has kept her grounded along the way.

So that was March, some of the shelves a little dent in the Netgalley list as well. Onwards and upwards for April. I wonder where my reading journey will take me next ?