Books

Christmas Wishes at Pudding Hall – Kate Forster

What better way to spend Christmas than at Pudding Hall – it sounds a lovely place. Sadly its residents are not so lovely.

Marc Ferrier, owner of the hall is living there with his twin ten year old sons seemingly permanently attached to their gadgets whilst he spends his hours focused wholeheartedly on his business and nothing else. Along with his lawyer and his lawyers partner. It’s more of an office than a home.

That is until Christa arrives. Divorced, homeless and jobless in one fell swoop she takes the job of cooking at Pudding Hall for a silly amount of money, but it gives her chance to at least have a roof over her head for a month while she decides what to do next.

Christa shows Marc and his boys that there is another life to lead and one that is filled with pure enjoyment of Christmas and the simpler things in life. Whilst always remembering that there is some who are less fortunate than you might think.

With some ghosts of the past to face up to and some ghosts of the future to perhaps tackle, this is without a book which takes the good old fashioned Christmas tales of the past and gives it a lovely unique twist.

Written as if you are experiencing the ultimate Christmas Menu, Kate Forster takes the joy of food and Christmas and combines it with this lovely story which can be devoured in a couple of sittings at least. And not a ounce of weight will you put on!

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

Christmas Wishes at Pudding Hall is out now.

Books

The Perfect Christmas Gift – Katie Ginger

Bella’s Christmas’s are always special, she loves the build up and the time she gets to spend with those she loves, her boyfriend, her family and her friends. Except this Christmas is going to be very different.

Bella returns home to find a suitcase and her boyfriends trying to leave without telling her. Bella is heartbroken and wonders how this Christmas can be at all special when she feels so desolate.

Bella’s next door neighbour is Nick, single father to Freddie a boy at the school where Bella teaches. He has not really got to grips with managing life as a single father but is determined to put his son first when he is subjected to bullying at school.

When Bella comes up with the wonderful idea of a giving tree, so everyone gets some Christmas joy throughout the village she starts to see a future. Her interactions with Nick become more frequent and she find him very much different to her ex boyfriend. Add into the mix, the festive season, the snow falling and the expectation of what is to come and it all seems plain sailing.

Until a ghost of the past returns and it looks like Bella is back to square one and facing a very different Christmas than the one she hoped for.

This is a wonderful tale, it embraces the joy of giving, of being with family (no matter how mad!) and of enjoying a white Christmas from the comfort of your own home. Added to that was the wonderful picture that the author created with a lot of the book set in a village school, where the children are such vibrant little characters that you can’t help but laugh and enjoy their innocence.

A book to warm your heart and not afraid to shy away from tackling some not so warming subjects. Handled with care, makes this a wonderful book to escape in this Christmas.

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

The Perfect Christmas Gift is out now.

Books

The Last Library – Freya Sampson

June Jones, had bigger plans but life got in the way. Her mother fell ill and she came back home and cared for her to the end. She then ended up working in the library her mother did and that is where she has stayed ever since.

Following the same routine, journey and working day, June Jones is stuck in a rut. Even the local Chinese takeaway know exactly what her order will be. However when the library is threatened with closure and her boss is determined that June stops the stripper at her daughters hen night – June is suddenly thrust into the spotlight and it is going to take some getting used to.

With a library full of characters, Stanley a regular visitor to read the paper and do the crossword, Grumpy Vera seems to never had a good word to say about anyone, Mrs B itching for another protest and fight, a teenager escaping her busy and crowded home and young children there is plenty of people to fight the library closure. June cannot be one of them though, until she hits upon an idea.

Whilst of course the crux of the book is to save the library, there is the start of a relationship with an old friend of June’s from school days. That didn’t quite hit the spot for me, I couldn’t feel any connection between the two of them and felt it was all rather forced and progressed simply to aid the story. However, the incident at the hen night was horrifying to read and I felt for June, that I cried with her during the humiliation and was glad when karma seemed to find its way to the right people. Women can be particularly cruel to those that don’t fit in, like June and having been on the receiving end it was rather enlightening to see it in this book.

This is a great debut, there are clearly plot strands and characters stronger than others, and of course you can perhaps see how the story was going to progress. That said, I would still like to see what the author comes up with next.

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

The Last Library is out now.

Books

Murder at the Wedding – Helena Dixon

Here we are with book seven from Helena Dixon and I have been with Kitty since the beginning and whilst you can always guarantee a dead body or two may well turn up wherever she is going, you really don’t think it will be at a wedding.

Kitty on her way to her cousin’s wedding as a bridesmaid with her faithful maid and friend, Alice in tow, they travel to Yorkshire. Captain Matt Bryant is to follow later, but is not quite sure of his strong feeling for Kitty as her previous exploits left him wondering whether he could cope with the trauma of losing her.

A society wedding seems a relatively safe place, you would think. However clearly when Kitty arrives, there is definitely an undercurrent by the guests already assembled. Lucy, Kitty’s cousin and her betrothed, Rupert having invited boyhood friends Sandy and Sinclair along with respective wives. Sandy is to be the best man but there seems to be much more going on with talk of threatening letters and political conflicts.

Then a shot rings out, the valet is dead, but it seems to have shook Sandy who is convinced someone is out to get him. But perhaps the valet has some secrets to share.

In the classic country house mystery, it has to have been committed by someone within the confines of the house. But who? The police find the culprit very quickly and it all seems to be wrapped up very quickly until someone else dies……

In steps Kitty and Matt, much the the chagrin of the local inspector. As they get closer to the truth, the feelings between them grow and when the answer is at the end of a corridor it seems that both Kitty and Matt have to overcome fears to get to the truth.

This is another great story in the series, I love the different characters and how that Kitty, Matt and Alice work well together out of their normally setting of Dartmouth and the hotel. I can see adventures further afield in the future but as the book comes to its conclusion it seems we are nearing the truth about the one main theme running through all the stories – what happened to Kitty’s mother.

Lovely cosy crime of the era of Agatha Christie and a must of fans of the Queen of Crime and historical fiction. This combines the both so well. Looking forward to the next.

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

Murder at the Wedding is out now.

Books

Underneath the Christmas Tree – Heidi Swain

What could be more Christmas than a Christmas Tree Farm. Wynter’s Trees is just that in Wymouth and where everyone in the area comes to get their tree at the most magical time of the year.

Wynter’s Trees tries to make it as magical as possible but for some like Liza Wynter it has been the place she has been avoiding ever since her father died. Now her father’s partner wishes to retire and pass his share onto his son Ned, but for Liza she has decided to get rid of the place forever and hopes that perhaps Ned might wish to take the whole place over.

Returning for one last Christmas and to sort out her family home and fathers possessions, Liza does not expect to find a place which is thriving under Ned’s leadership. Diversification is being used and the concept of making the visit to the farm more of a destination rather than a chore shows the potential that the farm has. Liza is moved because this is exactly hat her father would have dreamed of having, if his life wasn’t so cruelly cut short.

There are too many memories tied up in the place for Liza and she knows she needs to break free from the place to be able to move and do what she wants with her life. However it seems the magic of Wynter’s Trees has other ideas. Becoming attached to Bandit the dog, the little beach huts full of local crafts people that arrived on the farm, along with seeing the joy the farm can bring to so many different people of different ages, Liza perhaps thinks she has made a rash decision.

Ned though realises that if he wants to continue to fulfil his wishes at the farm, he will need to buy Liza out as well as take over his father’s share, trouble is there is something beguiling about her and Ned is rather distracted. Liza knows there is a connection, but does everything she can to divert attention elsewhere. However, cupid’s arrow strikes as it does and it seems that Liza and Ned are destined to be together. If only they could work out their differences about the farm and where it is potentially heading, then it could and would be Christmas all year round for them.

Another great Christmas read from Heidi Swain, in fact another great read which brings the magic of Christmas and community together all set tot he backdrop of a sprinkling of magic just like some snow! Whilst we have gone back for a second visit to Wynmouth, you do not have to have read the previous one to get a sense of the place and the people that live there.

If you are looking for a Christmas read to curl up in front of a log fire, the smell of a freshly cut Christmas tree, a hot chocolate full of calories then this is the book for you. Because even if you haven’t got any of those things, this book will give it to you in abundance and transport you to Christmas at any time of the year.

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

Underneath the Christmas Tree is out now.

Books

One More Christmas at the Castle – Trisha Ashley

What better way to start your Christmas reading in August than with the latest from Trisha Ashley. If there was a book I wanted to disappear into and become part of the story, interact with characters and even live in the castle this was the one.

Mitras Castle current owner Sabine Powys knows that this will be her last Christmas there and she wants it to one to remember; the past traditions, the past glorious food and games and it also seems the weather is going to provide them all with a winter wonderland as well.

To achieve this though she is going to have to employ some help and enter “Heavenly Houseparties” – Dido and Henry that pretty much cater for your every needs. Whether that be cooking and cleaning, to those little touches, such as flower arranging and creating seed cake. They are selective in where they go and who they work for, but that has enabled them to be picky and work only a few times a year. What the perfect job!

With any old castle there are plenty of secrets to discover and the wonderful cast of characters that are invited to stay. We learn not just about the characters present but also their past and how they all come to be invited to Christmas at the castle.

When Dido arrives at the castle and gets to know the grounds that bit more, she finds affinity with the place, as if she has been there before. As more of Sabine’s family arrive and other waif and strays including Xan, an old school friend of Henry’s and a former crush for Dido. It looks like this is a Christmas that everyone is going to remember.

Throughout the book we are treated to what some might see as the minutiae of domestic help life, but for me it was simply glorious to absorb yourself into such fine detail. That “upstairs downstairs” element that has always fascinated many people for years, me included. Especially in such modern times.

Trisha Ashley’s Christmas novels are always a hit with me and this one is no exception. Pure Christmas escapism with plenty of mulled wine and mince pies to keep you full up at any time of the year.

The perfect book for Christmas and one that is worthy of a reread for many Christmases to come!

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

One More Christmas at the Castle is published 11 November 2021.

Books

Christmas at Fox Farm – Helen Pollard

Daisy has not really known a home and when she accepts a year at Fox Farm in the artist studio she suddenly finds she has found her place. Fox Farm is a destination place, with an art gallery, pottery studio, gift shop, café as well as the artist studio. The owner Jean has taken Daisy under her wing and when Jean falls ill, Daisy feels drawn to help the farm continue in the run up to one of the more busier periods – Christmas.

However it turns out that Jan has been bolstering the farms finances with her own savings and now stuck in hospital with a long road to recovery in front of her, it seems she needs to turn to her nephew, Alex to keep the farm going. Alex thinks of Fox Farm as his second home and tries to do what he can to save it and move it forward.

There are stumbling blocks at all turns, Alex’s own business starts to become neglected, not everyone at Fox Farm thinks the changes are for the best, Sebastian his cousin thinks he knows what his best for Jean and Fox Farm and the sparks tat fly between Daisy and Alex are distracting to say the least.

As Christmas looms, will Daisy finally find her home? Will Alex be able to concentrate on what he loves the most and will Jean have a farm to come back to?

I was already to jump into my car and find Fox Farm and spend a few hours experiencing what it had to offer as Helen Pollard brings it alive. To see the wonderful art work, to eat delicious cakes and hot chocolate whilst watching the children get excited about Christmas seems like the perfect place to spend some time. What better book to bring out the true Christmas spirit with a lovely romance added in.

Perfect for fans of Katie Fforde and Trisha Ashley and for all fans of Christmas novels.

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

Books

The Cosy Cottage in Ireland – Julie Caplin

What is nicer than a cosy cottage to shut yourself away in and recharge the batteries and think about the future. But for Hannah, it is anything but. Whilst she might be thinking about her future she has come away to Killorgally Cookery School in County Kerry. Hannah is not a cook and coming away on her own, taking a break from her job as a lawyer in Manchester is all very not like Hannah.

On a stop over in Dublin, Hannah does something else not very Hannah like, but it is a night to remember and surely she won’t ever see Connor again. That is until she turns up at the Cookery School and finds that what happened in Dublin is going to follow her everywhere.

Connor it turns out is someone everyone knows worldwide and Hannah must be the last person on the planet not recognise him. Hannah tries to focus on the cooking, along with a great mix of fellow pupils, but this is no ordinary cookery school. This place gets right under your skin, they learn about where the food comes from, the joys of growing and picking fresh and local. Julie Caplin yet again, gets to the heart or should that be stomach of every reader as she leaves wanting to throw down the book and go cooking ourselves!

The setting of Ireland was a gem, they don’t call it the emerald isle for nothing. The green of the countryside, the relentless weather and the rolling waves as well as the local celebrity and this time it is not Connor! We really get to experience Ireland without leaving our homes.

There is some sort of issue with Killorgally Cookery School and their immediate neighbours and it seems that Hannah somehow unwittingly becomes embroiled in the disagreement. It takes a while for the answer to become obvious and Hannah then becomes the catalyst that makes everyone at the School take to the fields and make a stand.

Is Hannah a different person in Ireland or is Ireland having a profound affect on Hannah, only the actions of those around her are going to give her the answers she is looking for.

This is another winner from Julie Caplin and warmed my heart on the dampest of days wherever you are in the world. If you want romance, food and travel then any of this series of books will tick all those boxes. I can’t wait to go travelling again.

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

The Cosy Cottage in Ireland is out now.

Books · Jottings

October Roundup

October seems to have been a bumper month for reading and I have ploughed through a fair few books. A positive harvest of books for October and autumn and ironically mainly Christmas themed!

But not all, there was some murder to dilute all things festive. Janice Hallett – The Appeal is a book which has been around a while and I kept seeing the cover but when I got the chance to pick up a copy and look inside the cover, I was hooked. This is an excellent debut novel and written so differently it captured me immediately and I was hooked. It certainly has plenty of appeal!

Books about books and libraries are always a draw for any avid reader. This year it seems to have been a bit of a theme for some authors. This always makes me curious because surely not everyone can be writing the same themes by coincidence. Anyway enough of the cynic. Freya Sampson – The Last Library is the latest one I have read, and whilst not as good as previous ones, it was a lovely way to while away a few hours as we got to know the shy June and her passion for the library.

I ventured into my first book club read for a while, by joining in with an online one, through twitter. The book chosen was Melanie Hewitt – Looking for the Durrells, I admit I fell in love with cover. It was a very slow and meandering book which ended up being a journey around Corfu. I am not sure it was as romantic and passionate as it could have been, but it was certainly a love letter to this island and a great way to escape for some sun.

Travel of course is something many people have not been able to do for a while and if you want to do it vicariously it is always good to pick up Julie Caplin – The Cosy Cottage in Ireland. This one is a bit closer to home than some have been, but it is always nice to escape. Although I am not sure whether going to a cookery school would be my idea of fun! Combining travel and food is always a good way to escape into a book. Do check this author out if you fancy a trip or two.

Of course if you can afford it, then employ a chef and then you won’t have to worry about a thing – apart from perhaps falling in love with them. Kate Forster – Christmas Wishes at Pudding Hall shows you that can happen, but of course it is not all plain sailing and there might be a few deflated soufflés before the holiday period is over.

What are you hoping to find under your tree this year? The latest Heidi Swain would be a good start and even better with her latest title too – Heidi Swain – Underneath the Christmas Tree. Make sure you buy the best tree from the local tree farm and participate in its sustainability and the beauty of being outdoors. Once you become part of the community it is suddenly very difficult to let go.

Once you have the tree, then you need the prefect gift and what better way than perhaps getting involved with a giving tree. In Katie Ginger – The Perfect Christmas Gift, school teacher Bella decides to give back to the community to help heal her broken heart so close to Christmas. But will anyone leave a gift for her?

School teachers and Christmas makes you think of nativity and tinsel bedecked small people running around high on the excitement of the season. It is reflected in the previous book mentioned as well as Tracy Rees – The Little Christmas House, this time the teacher is aptly named Holly and becomes involved with the delightful little girl Eliza and her father Edward. What is their story?

Christmas is always a time of giving and seeking out the right gift, and so you might wish to pick up a piece of unique art at Helen Pollard – Christmas at Fox Farm. Daisy is the current resident artist and is finding her feet and putting down roots, until the owner of Fox Farm takes ill. It seems the future and Christmas is not going to be all that nice, yet again for Daisy.

Diluting it a bit more with some more murder saw me take a trip to Yorkshire with Kitty Underhay in her latest adventure Helena Dixon – Murder at the Wedding. It is not Kitty’s wedding, though I do hope that is soon, but we have a classic locked room type mystery and it seems the local detective is not really forward thinking in letting women help in investigating. Of course you know what is going to happen don’t you, but that still doesn’t detract from the delightful book.

I am partial to cosy crime, providing it doesn’t get ludicrous which is why I stopped reading Agatha Raisin. It was nice to see a new potential series to get into and one that had an interesting premise. Frances Brody – A Murder Inside, late 1960s, a female governor of the prison variety. An open prison for women in the Yorkshire dales. It already sounds like it is going to be a winner for me and it was rather fascinating and definitely has longevity.

As we go into November, I still have plenty of Christmas books to read. I think I might be fed up with them come December but of course that depends on the stories. With 93 books read so far as of this post, the big 100 is looming large and I start to wonder what will be my final total of 2021. Until then though…Happy Reading.

Books

The Little Christmas House – Tracy Rees

Tracy Rees first branched out into more contemporary fiction earlier this year and we have returned to the village of Hopley that she introduced us to in this her second novel and one with a very Christmassy feel.

Edward and Eliza, have moved into The Christmas House, on the edge of the village of Hopley. A world away from their house in Leeds, but not that far from Edward’s parents. The house doesn’t really live up to it’s name but Edward is determined that this will be home. Eliza simply loves it, but then when you see the world through an eight year olds eyes you can easily forget all the other stuff in the world.

But what is Edward and his delightful sparky little daughter’s real story.

Perhaps teacher Holly Hanwell will be able to get to the bottom of it. Eliza is in her class and she welcomes her in knowing that there was some problem at her previous school. Holly is embracing Christmas as she always does for the little village school she works in and it is through this she discovers more about Eliza.

But Holly is hiding from something herself – she is about to spend Christmas alone because the man she thought she would marry has left and his expecting a baby with his new love. Something that Holly could never do. Holly is hurting and needs some magic, some Christmas magic.

When Holly and Edward’s paths keep crossing it seems that they both have the main aim to help Eliza have a magical Christmas and perhaps that magic will rub off on them too.

As we learn more about their story we are introduced to Edward’s rather domineering mother who has ideas of her own about her son should be raising his child. Holly finds herself drawn to her neighbours and the changing of the seasons to understand that she can regrow and start again with a new life.

The story is split into the points of view of both Holly and Edwards but also Eliza who seems so wise beyond her years. I loved to be able to enjoy each of their stories and how they then started to weave together in another joyful story from this author. I immediately warmed to the ineptness of Edward as a father and shed a tear with Holly over her future. But without a doubt for me as well as I think Edward and Holly, Eliza had her observations spot on and that actually we should all be more Eliza in life. Enjoying the glitter of life no matter the problems it might be covering up. The glitter will always shine through.

This book shines through as a great Christmas read and should be on everyone’s list.

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

The Little Christmas House is out now.