Books

Murder at the Priory Hotel – Merryn Allingham

I count myself lucky to be able to read such lovely cosy crime series such as this one, but there is a fear that they may well all merge into one. I think the key is to find the uniqueness and in this series it is the fact that are two main protagonists are Flora Steele, bookshop owner and author Jack Carrington.

In the village of Abbeymead where they both live, they are invited to the reopening of the Priory Hotel. What is meant to be a celebration is turned on it’s head when Beverley Russo, the stunning female singer of the band dies in front of Flora and Jack’s eyes.

Things are not always as they seem and Flora is convinced that there is a third party involved in this tragic event. With the police not always content with their interference Flora and Jack investigate what has go on rather surreptitiously. First up is why does the gorgeous ruby ring Beverley was wearing suddenly turn up somewhere where it shouldn’t?

It seems that Beverley was not particularly liked by everyone and old animosities are reignited between members of the band. But then how does the local doctor feature? And what has Portsmouth got to do with any of it? I was particularly intrigued on how my home city was going to be featured, pretty much accurately I would say!

As the list is suspects grows and the body count doubles, it seems that the police are going to have to rely on what Flora and Jack have learnt to be able to solve the mystery. Spending all this time together foes mean that their affection for each other perhaps grows and potentially in subsequent books it may well develop.

For fans of cosy crime with a village vibe, that gives it that almost unique Britishness that probably wouldn’t work anywhere else!

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

Murder at the Priory Hotel is out now.

Books

New Beginnings at the Old Bakehouse – Christie Barlow

It is always a pleasure to return to places you know and love and it is the same with this the Love Heart lane series of book. Of course they can be read as a standalone novels, but with this latest one you need to know a bit more about Molly and Cam and you can see their friendship started back in Primrose Park.

We are further on since Molly and Cam met, and in the Old Bakehouse where Cam is up very early to bake for the villagers and provide them with the best baked good around. Molly is cooking another little bun – a baby for them both and a brother or sister for little adorable George. But things are not quite as contented as they should be.

Cam is holding something back, but won’t tell anyone what it is. He is reluctant to follow in the footsteps of his Great Uncle and enter a renowned baking competition but will not tell anyone why. Has he lost interest in baking? Molly?

Molly is touched by the help she gives at the homeless shelter, but she thinks it might be her hormones. That is until she meets Bree. Something she says, sets a memory off in Molly and she just can’t quite place it. When Bree seems to keep turning up seeking shelter, Molly’s instinct to provide kicks in but is it something else connecting them. And why is Cam so reluctant to be hospitable and charitable?

As winter sets in and snow arrives at Heartcross it seems this little family at the bakehouse is struggling with their own blizzard whilst the world gets whiter outside of their front door. Heartcross is cut off, so it seems the community is going to come out and support each other as you would expect. Here it is where you get to meet previous characters from the series and it is always great to catch up with them.

When a thaw sets in and some truths are revealed it seems that perhaps the perfect beginning is now here. Or course it is never going to run smoothly is it?

This is a book to devour as it is full of warmth as well as enticing descriptions of food! Somehow Christie Barlow seems tackle some tough issues with skill and empathy and weave them into a story with tact balanced out against all the humour that also comes with her novels. Being in Heartcross is a joy and being there with loved characters within a great community is even better.

A series which I can see turning into a modern day saga worthy of Sunday night television dramatisation.

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

New Beginnings at the Old Bakehouse is out now.

Books

Cornish Clouds and Silver Lining Skies – Ali McNamara

Sky Matthews has to be a meteorologist, her name determines it in some ways. Watching the weather has been her life and she has skills and the science to make it her life’s work. However, through an extended period of time off from work, Sky needs to build back up to working.

The opportunity to monitor strange weather patterns comes up in Cornwall with a trainee for six months and Sky thinks this might be her gentle reintroduction to working. However she did not bank on beings tuck on a tidal island and also not just having to deal with a trainee but well-known television weatherman Sonny Samuels.

Sky is enchanted with St Felix, (a known place if you have read previous novels by this author). The weather patterns are strange, but what is stranger is the myths and legends that the locals are intent on telling Sky and Sonny to make sense of the strange weather. Sky won’t believe it, she has a scientific brain. Sonny on the other hand doesn’t and is simply reading an autocue and certainly not experienced enough to read the weather.

Sky and Sonny rub each other up the wrong way initially as their ides of weather are very different. But when strange things do start to happen not just with the weather but also with Sky , it seems that whatever they have both been hiding needs to be told and will this magical place they both find themselves hold the healing power they need.

Of course not all wounds are obvious and no matter what science and myth tell us some things cannot be healed and they have to be lived with. Ali McNamara draws on her own personal experience and I wept with the honesty that she has fed into the main character. It was refreshing to see hidden illness and disabilities brought tot he forefront in stories.

This book is a pure joy, McNamara’s writing goes from strength to strength. I was whisked away to Cornwall, to the magic of the weather, to the community of St Felix, to myths and mystery. Characters who develop, grow, get better and sometimes get worse but who are all there on the page and pop out from it if I was watching a film.

One of my favourite reads of the summer.

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

Cornish Clouds and Silver Lining Skies is out now.

Books

The GIN Sister’s Promise – Faith Hogan

The GIN sisters are Georgie, Iris and Nola. Their mother died relatively young and their father was lost in a pit of grief. But the sisters stuck together and vowed that they would do so forever. However life has a funny way of making other plans.

Years later, the sisters are not in contact, they do not speak. There only thread that is common is their father. When he dies, they find out what he had planned for them in his will. Before they can claim any inheritance they have to move back and live in the family home for six months – together.

For Georgie is strong willed and outspoken, her hard persona has stood her in good stead at work. But times are changing and when she gets overlooked for a promotion and there are rumours of her behaviour to other members of staff, perhaps a change of scenery is what she needs.

Iris, the only married one of the sisters who seemingly had it all until she discovers her husband is leaving, his mistress pregnant and perhaps his behaviour from years past picked up by the family was not a like at all. Iris finally needs to step out from the shadow.

Nola the baby sister, the one that needed looking after the most when their mother died. The one who has the most resentments it seem. But everyone knows Nola as she is the actor of that soap and the voice of a synonymous advertisement. Working in a café and leaving in a hovel, what has Nola got to lose?

As all three sisters return to their home, their father business, the village that they grew up in. Everything that they have tried to ignore over the years bubbles over and tempers are frayed. If they can get to the end of the six months they can all go their separate ways again and for the final time.

As time goes on, things change. Outlooks and perspectives shift in and out of focus and all three sisters find something being back in their home. Will it be enough to heal the wounds of long ago?

Being an only child, stories of sibling rivalry and conflict I find intriguing because I had none of that growing up and still don’t. The way it all plays out is handled well and the story kept me interested as it showed the highs and lows of family life, no matter how old you are.

Add into that the setting if Ireland and the wilds of the landscape and weather, village life and then a gin distillery what more could you possibly want from a book!

This book is perfect for fans of family sagas and like their female characters strong, dynamic and not afraid to change.

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

The GIN Sisters” Promise is available now.

Books

Finding Happiness at Heritage View – Helen Rolfe

This book as it turns out is the fifth in a series from this author and I didn’t realise this until I came towards the end of the book. Clearly some of the characters are mentioned have a back story but none of this did not detract from my enjoyment of the book and the story of Hazel and Gus.

Hazel and Gus meet in extraordinary circumstances and they think there paths will never cross again. That is until Gus turns up at the stables Hazel runs with her brother, looking for somewhere to stable his daughter’s horse. Plus Gus is also to be the new vet in Heritage Cove as well, it seems there will be no escape.

Hazel’s life is horses, rising and teaching riding but a past incident has dented her confidence and using the cliché she has ‘yet to get back in the saddle’. This is tested even more when Gus and his delightful daughter Abigail are frequent visitors to the stables and are rather insistent that it is Hazel who will trach Abigail to gain more confidence.

With Hazel’s secrets as well as Gus who seems to have come a long way to escape a marriage and an accident, the book is full of misunderstandings and assumptions. However it is the love of the horses, the way of life and the scenery that seems to bring Hazel and Gus within each others orbit.

The plot is rather at a slow sedate pace, but perhaps it reflects the way Hazel is dealing with her past experience and it did remind me of plodding away on a horse ride. Perhaps in some places it was too slow and I was at some points wishing that we would get to the dénouement even if it was somewhat predictable. That aside, I was fascinated by the workings of the stable and the absolute dedication that had been taken by Hazel and her brother to live in this world.

The perfect book to distract you from the real world for a while.

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

Finding Happiness at Heritage View is out now.

Books

The Cornish Cream Tea Holiday – Cressida McLaughlin

Thea has come away for a long break where all she wants is to escape in a beautiful place and with as many books as possible. Books are her world, being a librarian satisfies only a small part of that, but if she could own a bookshop then that would be even better. But these are just dreams.

And when on holiday, Thea can but dream of her future.

Ensconced in the holiday cottage, she finds herself disturbed by the next door neighbour, Ben.

Ben is rather grumpy and is in the process of renovating the property next door to where Thea is staying.

When they first meet, there is something that infuriates them both about each other, and it soon seems that their paths are going to cross more than once throughout Thea’s stay. But what exactly do they both have to hide from each other? And will the dreams they have actually come true?

Part of this author’s Cornish Cream Tea series, this is book can be read as a standalone, previous characters are mentioned but they in no way distract from this current storyline. Full of what you would expect from Cressida if you gave read her previous work and the perfect escapism for an afternoon without the calories of a full cream tea!

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

The Cornish Cream Tea Holiday is out now.

Books

The Girl on the 88 Bus – Freya Sampson

Frank is on the 88 Bus when a gorgeous red headed girl gets on at Clapham Common. A conversation starts, Frank wants to be an actor, the girl an artist. She gives him her telephone number, but Frank loses it. Always in the forefront of his mind, Frank spends countless years on the 88 Bus looking for that red headed girl.

Libby, heartbroken at her split from her boyfriend is on the 88 Bus on the way to stay with her sister as she has nowhere else to be. Libby starts talking to Frank and learns his story. Something in it resonates with Libby, especially the said girls freedom at doing what she wanted and go to art school. Frank wants to thank her for the choices he went on to make and Libby wants to make that dream come true.

With nothing else to do Libby along with a quirky bunch of helpers wants to find that girl, on that 88 Bus, that spoke to Frank. And we are along for the journey in this heartfelt and warm novel which makes you think of the choices made and the routes that we all take when we get on and off at certain steps.

As with Freya’s debut novel, she focuses on characters both young and old with equal measure, no one is really that dominant as the book progresses, they develop and perhaps become less annoying and more intriguing as time passes. Some of them almost challenge your perception of what they are going to be like and Freya manages to make sure that even the reader is as challenged as Libby.

A simple story of dreams and real life. You must buy a ticket for the 88 Bus and find your own journey.

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

The Girl on the 88 Bus is out now.

Books · Jottings

August Roundup

And with a blink of an eye and a lot of sunshine, August is done! A bumper month of reading as always thanks to three weeks off work. The hot weather where the only thing to do is lie in the shade and read probably helped as well.

Let’s get the crime out the way first with Robert Galbraith – Troubled Blood. I waited until the paperback came out before reading this as it is a hefty tome and I am frightened of doing myself a mischief when reading it. As good as always and had me completely hooked. Now with the latest out, I am not sure if I can wait for that in paperback or just bite the bullet and order the hardback? It is so great to be completely lost within a story.

The next in line and in the series of Hawthorne and Horowitz was Anthony Horowitz – The Twist of the Knife. As clever as all the previous ones with plenty of twists and the inclusion of the author as a character and main protagonist makes for interesting reading, even if it might make for difficult writing.

Series of crime books can be a blessing and a curse, you could say they all turn out to be very much the same, but sometimes that formula is what you need. So I think this is where I would put the book Merryn Allingham – Murder at the Priory. The latest in the Flora Steele series of books and where the idyllic village set in Fifties Britain makes you convinced that Miss Marple might pop up at any moment.

In fact she did in Various – Marple. Twelve new short stories featuring the aforementioned and all penned by current authors who keep to the mystery style and also an element of their own but with plenty of Christie to make you think you are reading some forgotten Christie works. As short stores they were perfect diversions and well written. Not sure I could pick a favourite.

The mystery of a miracle features in Anne Booth – Small Miracles as I was immersed in a convent with only three nuns remaining. Is it really a miracle or faith that these three nuns need? A joyful, peaceful escapist novel.

Peaceful is always what you might want from a holiday and even if you have to do a bit of work as well. In Jo Thomas – Retreat to the Spanish Sun, I did retreat and learnt about the food of Spain and of the warmth and sometimes coldness of the characters as I escaped. I am just discovering Jo’s novels and I am looking forward to escaping again and again.

We all know Cornwall is a popular destination for holidays in the UK and therefore it was a delight to revisit this summer myself. Well via a book or two. First up was Cressida McLaughlin – The Cornish Cream Tea Holiday, the series has flourished as we get to visit other parts of the area and find other characters to love as everyone finds their happy ever after. With a dollop of clotted cream of course!

Then I was more weather obsessed in Cornwall with Ali McNamara – Cornish Clouds and Silver Lining Skies. A beautiful book full of sun, rain, myth and mystery as well on the Cornish coast. Vibrantly brought to life by the author I could taste the salt of the sea on my skin as I read.

Weather is always a good plot device in a book as it can create atmosphere and also prove to be a challenge for some of its main characters. In the first I think of my Christmas ‘type’ reads for 2022 (there is many more to follow) then the latest Heartcross book fills that spot. Christie Barlow – New Beginnings at the Old Bakehouse is full of snow and chocolate and would be the perfect book to read by the fire. Which seemed completely om contrast to when I was reading it in 30 degree heat!

I am always trying new authors, but sometimes it looks like I tend to stick similar authors or the same ones. Even if the previous book has disappointed or not hit the mark, I have gone back time and time again. I think I need to stop doing this. I felt this way about Helen Rolfe – Finding Happiness at Heritage View, part of a series which I did not know about until I had finished (think this was book five). It was nice and an okay read but I wasn’t blown away by it. I always feel bad when books I read make me feel like this. Feeling bad again when I finished reading Tilly Tennant – A Home at Cornflower Cottage has made me think about whether I will pick up something from these authors again. I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong with these books, it is just I have grown in my reading and grown away from them. Perhaps one day I will return.

But you do have to keep trying authors sometimes and that was why I found myself back with this book Faith Hogan – The GIN Sisters’ Promise. A book for fans of family sagas and all that sibling rivalry with the backdrop of a wild Irish landscape and a double gin! I might return to this author.

Second books are notoriously difficult so they say. I don’t think this applies to Freya Sampson – The Girl on the 88 Bus whose delightful novel which includes the cross generational friendships and the possibility of finding something you have lost. I think Freya Sampson is becoming an author to look out for.

Going back to an author can be easy as it is difficult. But it was easy with Cathy Bramley – My Kind of Happy which absorbed me from page one and had me right to the end, with the book read in less than 24 hours. Something just appeals with the writing, the characters, the depth of plot and in this case all the flowers. It is funny how some books hit the spot and others just don’t.

As well as returning to authors when a new book arrives, there is also the joy in rereading some. I very rarely do, because of so many books to read I suppose but I did treat myself to P.G.Wodehouse – Carry on Jeeves which was a sheer joy. I did have all the books and gave them away years ago which I regret. These are a delight to keep going back to and might get another one to indulge in soon.

So that was August, 15 books apparently giving me a good place to be going into autumn and the final stretch of 2022 and the goal of 100 books. Do tell me what you have been reading, anything I have missed? And also do share about how you feel about books from authors you have previously enjoyed but are just not hitting the spot now?

In the meantime, let’s get cracking with the Christmas books (yes it is coming!)

Books

The Rising Tide – Ann Cleeves

DCI Vera Stanhope is so unlikely as a police detective that there is an element of how she is still where she is. Her bluntness, her untidiness, her lack of seeming care for her Sergeant and Constables under her are all forgiven in her dogged determination to get to the truth and have justice for everyone involved in whatever case she might be in.

In this the tenth and latest novel from Ann Cleeves, Vera finds herself stuck between friends, stuck between the past and the present, stuck between the mainland and Holy Island, stuck between the truth and the lies.

A group of college friends, every five years get together for a reunion on Holy Island. It’s a celebration of that very first trip, but also it is much deeper than that. Friendships, partnerships and marriages have come and gone. On that first reunion, of them died after being stuck in the rising tide. Now some fifty years later they are gathered again.

This time there is another body.

What are these friends hiding?

Will Vera be able to stop the tide turning?

As ever this closely plotted book shows all the eccentricities of Vera as well as the determination of her team DS Joe Ashworth, Vera’s stalwart side kick and Holly, the DC who wants to be recognised fore all the hard work that she does because she feels overlooked by her hero – Vera.

You cannot go wrong with Vera and I love her portrayal in the books as much as her portrayal on the television. I hope there is more to come.

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

The Rising Tide is published on the 1st September.

Books

Retreat to the Spanish Sun – Jo Thomas

If a book could exude sunshine then this would be the book that would do it – you can feel the warmth, the heat, the brightness from the pages as you read.

Eliza needs the sunshine, after her children grew up and left home as well as her husband, she downsized. Then the children came back in dribs and drabs with their partners, and Eliza finds she doesn’t have any space anymore to do anything that she wants to.

A chance advert looking for a housesitter for a month seems like the perfect opportunity to catch up, reset and focus on herself for a while away from the crowded house.

Eliza finds herself in Spain, housesitting for a rather mysterious man who has left strict instructions about not allowing the dogs on the bed and not having any parties. Oh and not to worry about the pigs. The pigs in question are those that produce Iberico and Serrano Ham and I was fascinated by this process which added to the books plot in its own way.

Not looking for friends as this is only temporary Eliza finds herself in a Tapas Bar with a load of ex-pats who all have stories of how they come to be in the Spanish Village. As time goes on and the mystery of the owner of the villa she is staying out deepens as does her love for the pigs as well as the mysterious Gastronomical Society, Eliza finds herself more and more attached to this part of Spain, her new friends and the freedom from her old life.

There is something about Jo Thomas books that I am discovering – they are balms for busy lives. The setting, the food, the scenery, the people and the story that kept me hooked and coming back for more sunshine.

Highly recommend for anyone who fancies a summer in the sun without all the airport hassle and the calories from the food! Buy now and escape.

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

Retreat to the Spanish Sun is out now.

I am off to discover more Jo Thomas reads to escape further.