Books

August Roundup

So what was your August like – as you planned? Or like most people’s taking it as it comes. As the world around us changes, pivots, tilts and decides what is going to happen next I have sought much solace from being at home, reading, crafting and just being. Luckily enough now I can go back swimming which has been an absolute balm to soothe and has helped my mental health no end. As I go back to work and wait to find out what happens in terms of hours and contracts I just hope that all the things that help me continue to do so.

August was a real mix of books and were just what was needed – Louise Candlish – The Disappearance of Emily Marr has been sat on my shelf for awhile and as I make some dents in these books I picked this one up. The first I have read by this author and it was different from perhaps what I am used to and was a great change, I must seek more of her work out. Sometime you need a book that finishes and you just don;t know what happens!

Of course when it comes to murder mystery you have to know what happens, otherwise what would be the point! The book you will no doubt see a lot of is Richard Osman – The Thursday Murder Club. Sadly the formatting on the advanced copy was poor and that did make it harder to read, but once I got over my fastidious and got into the book I was hooked. If you want a book that says everything about being British – then this is it.

Of course if you want fastidious then look no further than Hercule Poirot. I can accept a tribute to such a great character and a great author and I know there are some naysayers out there but Sophie Hannah – The Killings at Kingfisher Hall is an excellent novel and a great introduction to good old fashioned golden age murder mystery.

Sticking with the golden age theme then picking up Anthony Horowitz – Moonflower Murders which took be back to Atticus Pund and his author Alan Conway, it is a novel within a novel. And if you think that can’t possibly work – trust me it does.

A book with no definite chapters can be a troubling read – it can work and it can fail spectacularly and reminds me of a colleague who writes emails and notices in a stream of what I can only call verbal diarrhoea. However when it works it works brilliantly as it does with Lissa Evans – V for Victory. A book that takes you to the heart of the conclusion of the war on the home front and the devastation still be wrought across London.

If you want devastation then imagine not having enough hay to feed the animals for the next year, or enough lambs to be able to sell or breed. Imagine doing that miles from any where and with nine children in tow. Well known on the television for their programme on Channel 5. I picked up Amanda Owen – The Yorkshire Shepherdess, Amanda Owen – A Year in the Life of The Yorkshire Shepherdess and Amanda Owen – Adventures of the Yorkshire Shepherdess as a treat for not having a holiday this year. Amazing, what a life and again there is many critical of her chosen life and the way she has decide to raise her children – but I feel that they will be more well rounded adults than many of their generation to come. Their playground is acres of land and if that is the only way you can enjoy the outdoors then I implore you to read the books and watch the programmes.

Books are a great place to escape to other places and what better than to experience Holly Martin – Autumn Skies over Ruby Falls who manages to always achieve this and throws in a big dollop of romance too. I am booked into visit Jewel Island again I hope.

I also want to go and stay in Christie Barlow – Starcross Manor or even the little B & B in Heartcross because I know I will be welcome and there will be plenty of people to catch up on and you can walk for miles, breathe the fresh air and reconnect with nature.

Of course it can be whatever season you wish but what better than a Katie Fforde – A Rose Petal Summer where I was taken from London to Scotland to France and all back again. I simply enjoy Katie’s novels and they are just like old friends, pick one up and you are immediately whisked away.

Talking of old friends what about when you have made a pact with your oldest friends that it is the three of you forever? What happens to Ruth Jones – Us Three life has a funny way of making it a lot harder than you imagined and perhaps only giving you things you can actually deal with. Some friendships are just not meant to be forever.

Friendship betrayal and forgiveness can lead to all sorts of disaster and even escaping to Helen Rolfe – The Little Cottage in Lantern Square can have consequences . When it threatens your whole world surly the answer is to confront it head on and not run away again?

I don’t think I was disappointed with any of these books they all proved to be the right books at the right time. Serendipitous you could say!

How was you August?

 

Books

The Little Cottage in Lantern Square – Helen Rolfe

Hannah is running a business from her little cottage in Lantern Square – Tied up with String. Bringing individual and unique care packages to anyone who requests one. Her only company is her two cats Smokey and Bandit. It is far cry from the life she left behind, a high powered accountancy job, a man with even higher aspirations and a best friend.

Now it is just her and Hannah is adapting to life in Butterbury where Lantern Square is based and she is throwing herself into community life. We get to meet the gardener Rhys, the local Doctor Joe, the rather fearsome next door neighbour Mrs Leadbetter as well as some more interesting characters in the local old peoples home where Hannah volunteers.

This book has a real community feel about it and as Hannah starts to fit in, her past starts to appear.

Luke the man she left to come to Butterbury seeks her out and tries to make her see that she was making a mistake by leaving him. Trouble is Hannah’s heart is torn when she finds herself interested in others in the village. Luke is going to have to work hard to win her back, but is he trying too hard?

Then Georgia her former best friend appears, begging forgiveness for an event from their past and Hannah looking for the good in everyone thinks that maybe it is time to move on. But there is something about Georgia that just does not sit right with Hannah and she doesn’t know what it is?

As the year progresses and events within the community show how much Hannah loves being in Lantern Square and she soon realises where she should be and who she should be with. But will it all happen in time?

This is a great comforting read that can be devoured in pretty much one sitting as you feel you are part of the place, you know the characters so well; some lovely, some downright destructive. The events described make you want to join in and feel part of something. It all jumps off the page with great warmth.

Previously published in four part novellas, this is the complete story in one book – a way I much prefer. This book won’t leave you disappointed which the previous one I read did, sometimes books just hit the right spot and this one certainty did.

 

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

The Little Cottage on Lantern Square is published on 20 August. 

 

Books

Escape to the French Farmhouse – Jo Thomas

Although I have seen this author’s name around before, this is the first time I have picked up one of her books to read and I was not disappointed. I will search out more by this author for the future.

Del and Ollie have moved to a rambling farmhouse in Provence, France. It has not worked in healing the gaping chasms in their marriage and after six weeks – they are due to return to the UK.

Expect in a whim, completely out of character Del decides to stay and watches as her husband drives away from their life.

Now all alone, Del is faced with starting her life again. What can she do? How will she pay for the house?

Del finds herself drawn to the friendly locals and has more in common with their lifestyle than the expats who have set up home and are trying to a piece of Britain abroad.

Upon finding an old recipe book she discovers that lavender was used extensively in cooking and tries out a few recipes. Encouraged by Fabian who runs the local antique come junk shop who provides her with more than just furnishings for her farmhouse. He introduces her to more locals and also to someone who can help her reinvigorated the lavender fields that once dominated the countryside.

Armed with new friends, a new outlook and a new project it looks like Del is staring to find out who she is in the backdrop of love, loss and lavender.

This book has everything you could possibly want – warm sunshine, the scent of lavender (if that is your thing), the mouth watering recipes created by Del and the food at the bistro, the joy of helping those less fortunate than yourself and the sharing of all of this to create a great summery read.

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

Escape to the French Farmhouse is out now on kindle or in paperback on 6 August. 

Have you read any Jo Thomas? Which book should I go to next?

Books · Jottings

July Roundup

As 2020 ambles along, the reading has been keeping apace and I seem to be devouring more books and spending more time with reading, crafts and jigsaws than I do television. The best bit about July was that first length in the outdoor pool at the gym on the 26th July. Sheer utter bliss!

Of course it is the books you are most interested in – so without further ado.

Proper sagas are what is missing in some of my previous reading months and years and I have found that whenever I go back to them, I seem to what to read more and more. Dilly Court – The Constant Heart a story to get lost in and that I did, I am sure I enjoyed it more by the feel of the book in my hand – I read a tremendous amount on my kindle (thanks to netgalley) but you cannot beat that feeling of being lost in a story and pages and holding on to it in your hands.

Joanna Rees – The Hidden Wife, is the second in a trilogy about the era of the Bright Young Things, the 1920s. This time action in the main has moved to Paris and as the story develops on one side of the channel, the past is stirring things up at home for all the main characters.

Moving forward a few decades got me to Cathy Mansell – The Dublin Girls, although read on kindle this is another author who if you are looking for something of the Catherine Cookson variety, then you have found it. Set in 1950s Ireland it is a great example of fiction that captures you and holds your attention to the very end.

Of course murder mysteries and thrillers can hold your attention too as did Simon Mayo – Knife Edge – the opening few pages have you right in the heart of the plot and the story and whilst I did think it got a bit “ploddy” for a while it soon picked up pace and had your heart racing to the denouement.

Talking of denouements is a great plot to segway into Agatha Christie – The Man in the Brown Suit, which was the Read Christie 2020 book for July. One I have never read, very different from a Poirot and a Marple but with the familiar face of Colonel Race who you see in other Christie novels. Another books ticked off my Christie list.

Chattering as I am about lists, I have add a new author for me to catch up on and read more of since I gave Jo Thomas – Escape to the French Farmhouse a go. I was swept away to the french countryside and the lavender fields, the glorious food and the love of a simple life. I cannot think of any better way in escaping the world than with a book like this.

You cannot always escape your past and sometimes it comes back to not just haunt you but to weave its way into your present day as it does with Emma Davies – The Wife’s Choice. A move away from perhaps what you are used to and this was an wonderful look at dysfunctional families and lives that need to move on.

Of course with dysfunctional families you cannot always go back to places you knew as a child but soemtimes you are drawn there as in Trisha Ashley – The Garden of Forgotten Wishes. Trisha’s books get better and better and this is no exception. And for those who cannot get into a garden for whatever reason, read this book – all the hard work without the muddy hands and aching back!

And of course we all like a happy ending, a good old fashioned wedding and a bit of a cry and Caroline Roberts – Summer at Rachel’s Pudding Pantry delivers that in spades. What I assume is the end of series of books featuring Rachel and all her delightful cooking came to a satisfying conclusion. I look forward to reading what comes next from this author. (In the meantime I a Chocolate Shop to visit).

So that was July, a mix of genres as I need to be reminded that life is not all sunny and roses, but in the main I spent my time simply enjoying all the stories.

And there is plenty more to come in August.

How was your July? Anything you wish to recommend?

Books

Kate and Clara’s Curious Cornish Craft Shop – Ali McNamara

As an avid lover of all things craft myself this book was meant to be read by me!

Kate leaves behind a difficult life in London and follows her dream to open a craft shop in Cornwall with her daughter. The shop sells a bit of everything but when a new shop opens up dedicated to art supplies, Kate feels that her idyllic dream is about to come to an end.

What she doesn’t know is she is the middle of another dream.

Jack, new owner of the art supplies shop is a force to be reckoned with, you need to look past the arrogant defence to see the kind-hearted man he can be. But still Kate is worried about what this shop will do to her business.

Kate and Jack are drawn together when it turns out some ramshackle old painting easels and an old vintage sewing machine from a house clearance appear to be telling a story of their own.

Back to the 1950s and we watch the original owner of the craft shop that Kate owns – Clara and how her and her daughter, Maggie have ended up in Cornwall. We meet Freddie and Arty and somehow this story as it plays out is related to the present day and it seems that some lives are running in parallel to the modern day story.

Will Kate and Jack solve the mystery?

Will the truth finally be told?

Added into this is minor characters, Ben, Sebastian, Anita and Julian who all pull the strands of this story together to make it a wonderful read to curl up with. Humour and love in abundance.

The mystery was sublime and whilst perhaps not really possible added to the story and swept me away to the past and kept me very much in the present. You will need to read the book to find out what it is!

Without a doubt these Cornish tales that Ali McNamara weaves are some of her best and I look forward to returning there soon.

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

Kate and Clara’s Curious Craft Shop is published 23rd July. 

Books

June Roundup

What a start to the summer, as lockdown eases and we wait to see what happens next. It has sometimes been an absolute necessity to escape into the pages of a good book. Even better when you make a dent not just in your netgalley list but books on shelves too.

There are some nice gaps on the shelves now as I read Ken Bruce – Tacks of My Years. Published over ten years ago now, I think I picked it up in a charity shop. As a keen Radio 2 listener, it was great to put some background to the man who has probably been with me throughout my childhood and now my adulthood. A lot has happened in those last ten years and I wonder what Ken would write about now?

Another one gone is Jessie Burton – The Muse. The first book of this author that I have read, despite having watched The Miniaturist when it was televised a few Christmas back. Interestingly a book featuring black characters, set in the 1960s with mixed race relationship and the strange possibility of women being better than men at something came at the time when the Black Lives Matter was taking over the news broadcasts. I had no idea when I picked up the book to read. I was intrigued, it was wonderfully written and the story set in 1930s Spain just before revolution was most fascinating.

Finally a recent purchase which was on the shelf for hardly a moment Katie Fforde – Thyme Out. When all else fails and you are feeling out of sorts, Katie Fforde is bound to cheer and she did with a book I had not read before, so another one ticked of the oeuvre!

Reading old books and books that have been on my shelf for a while is incomplete contrast to the recent books that I have read and the ones that have yet to be published. I was somewhat disappointed with Tilly Tennant – The Waffle House on the Pier, it could have been a lot more and had a bit more to it. Tilly’s books are rather a hit or a miss with me in recent years.

In contrast an author who I came back to and have enjoyed immensely since those first novels is Ali McNamara – Kate and Clara’s Curious Craft Shop. This books is glorious, of course being set in Cornwall as many a book is nowadays does help but the dual narrative, the mystery and the wonder that is crafts makes it a must book for me.

Another place slightly closer to home is the Isle of Wight and it was a coincidence that is where I was taken with Carole Matthews – Sunny Days and Sea Breezes. A wonderful tale of boats, beaches and bossy friends. Guaranteed sunshine without leaving your house!

You need the sun if you are going to run a festival so it seems that everything is in there favour in Katie Ginger – Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay. I wait in trepidation in how winter and Christmas is going to come to Swallowtail Bay.

Two books which don’t fit into any particular genre but I feel must be read for many different reasons, some I have yet to even work out myself.

Rachel Joyce – Miss Benson’s Beetle, the latest took me very much back to the debut novel. It had that gentleness of it, despite the plot and you could almost feel yourself out there on a expedition yourself, in uncharted territory – a bit like the book.

This has to be on all my lists for 2020, Brenda Davies – The Girl Behind the Gates. It is a difficult read but it is one that must be read. It is both a disturbing but fascinating read and one is compelled to be drawn in and wince at the injustice, the treatment and more than anything the reality hat this actually happened. You need a strong constitution to read it.

Quite a mix of books, which is the best way. Sometimes reading too much of the same, can result in nothing more that a regurgitation of plot, setting and character. I like to think this month I have captured plenty of variety.

Which leads me on very nicely to more variety in the shape of the 2020 Six in Six meme. Click here to see all about it and please join in if you can. You just might add some more books to your list.

Books

Sunny Days and Sea Breezes – Carole Matthews

Jodie is on the run from her previous life, give the opportunity to escape for a while and makes sense of everything that has happened to her she ends up in the Isle of Wight on a luxury houseboat, Sunny Days thanks to her brother.

Thinking she can hide and lick her wounds is far from the truth as she encounters the whirling dervish cleaning lady that is Marilyn. Bright and abundantly cheerful, Jodie is not going to be able to escape being looked after by Marilyn. She succumbs to Marilyn’s food, fashion advice and guidance and finds herself truly escaping.

Next to Sunny Days, is Sea Breezes another houseboat but not quite as luxurious, but most intriguing with its decor as well as it’s owner Ned. Intrigued by this man, Jodie finds herself drawn to Ned as he goes through life, with early morning yoga on the beach, wood sculpting and playing in a band. All so far away from the life Jodie had at home.

Jodie starts to feel part of something in this little place on the Isle of Wight, as she passes the time of day with George the statue makes on her way to the beach cafe where she meets Ida. All of these people begin to help, some unknowingly, heal Jodie.

But you cannot always out run the past and despite the relentless messages and phone calls, Jodie’s past finds her and she now has to find out what exactly she really wants and can she live with it forever.

What a wonderful story from Carole Matthews, where I instantly felt empathy to the characters, and laughed aloud at the way Marilyn was determined to show colour to Jodie and see the importance it could have in life. This is definitely a book to bring colour to your life, the yellow sand, the blue sea and sky no matter how grey your life may feel, colour can be found in the unexpected places.

A simply joyous read.

 

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

Sunny Days and Sea Breezes is published on the 25 June.

 

 

Books

Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay – Katie Ginger

If you want something organised in Swallowtail Bay then you go to Hetty. She can do pretty much anything, she is not afraid to get her hands dirty and whether it is anniversary parties or birthday parties for hyped up children she can deliver. Events management is what she does the absolute best.

But Hetty is looking for that next big project and when she thinks she can pull off bringing back the local Strawberry Festival bigger and better than ever before within four weeks she sees it as a make or break moment.

The only problem she can foresee is persuading the residents of Thornhill Manor that it is a good idea and that it will be beneficial for them. John Thornhill, youngest son takes a lot of convincing, but it seems Hetty has something that he has never encountered before.

As plans gather pace with, food stalls, bouncy castles, fairground rides and a outdoor cinema, it seems that Hetty is going to pull it all together.

Trouble is she is also having to deal with her mother who has made decision which shocks not just Hetty but her father as well.

Then Ben, the man Hetty finished with is suddenly back in her life with a plan – one that Hetty could never see coming.

Hetty is not the only one having trouble, John Thornhill is dealing with the fallout of his father’s actions, his mother is retreating further into her shell and his older brother is about to make the worse decision for the family without consulting anyone. Surely he can rely on Jaz his personal assistant to sort out everything else – it seems not.

So much is packed into this story, that you almost forget about the success of the festival. Brought to life from visiting potential fairgrounds, tasting food as well as the wonders of dealing with the general public. It feels like you are there walking round the stalls, tasting the food, listening to the music, letting it all wash over you.

Of course that is what Hetty and John want you to feel? What do they feel and will they be able to solve it all before the festival finishes and becomes the success they both want?

A second visit to Swallowtail Bay, but it doesn’t matter if this is your first, a great summer story for any point in the year.

Like perfect strawberries with a big dollop of luscious cream on top – simply irresistible.

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

Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay is published on the 24 June. 

 

Books

A Perfect Cornish Escape – Phillipa Ashley

Back in the Cornish town of Porthmellow from Ashley’s earlier books but you need no prior knowledge of the regular inhabitants of the place, you just need a love of Cornwall and cracking good story.

Marina’s husband was lost at sea almost seven years ago and time is a healer and when it comes to when she can finally let go and move on. Can she really move on to another love though?

Tiff is Marina’s cousin and comes down to Porthmellow to stay with her to let the dust settle on her journalism career after causing a bit of a stir with a well known politician.

Lachlan is in Cornwall to escape, he clearly has a story to tell. His scars go deeper than those on his face, there is a story to tell but who is the best person he can tell it to.

Dirk, a resident and local of Portmellow who has been on the receiving end of being well known by association is a bit stormy. He is used to storms, his manner creates them buthe is also quite used to the ones out at sea as well, working on the lifeboat.

All of them are escaping from one thing or another and it seems that maybe by doing so they can start to heal and move on with their lives. Because you can never really escape love.

Plenty is packed into this novel as well as the relationships that are forged, along with a few complications just to make it difficult. Life is not easy and it is great to read a book where the happy ending is perhaps not inevitable and that changes have to be made on a all sides to find a new way, a new life.

The book is full of everything that you might love about a seaside harbour town. I was taken away to where you can see the lifeboat launch dealing with everyday occurrences when tourists and sometimes locals don’t listen to those that know best. It was if the clear blue water, was washing over my feet as I walked whilst the sunset along the shore and I could be swept away with the warmth of the sun as well as the love. I wanted to sit and eat chips and devour them and the story. Utter bliss.

Another great visit to Porthmellow and I hope we get to go back soon.

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

A Perfect Cornish Escape is published on the 11 June. 

 

Books

The Little Teashop in Tokyo – Julie Caplin

Julie Caplin this time takes us half a world away to Japan, Tokyo in her wonderful series of Romantic Escapes. If you cannot go holiday, then let the holiday come to you.

Fiona is a travel blogger and is always found with her camera, she almosts hides behind that lens and her blog but given the opportunity to go to Tokyo and the prospect of an exhibition at work, means that Fiona needs to get out and find whos he really is. Going to Tokyo to be mentored by a famous photographer is an ideal opportunity.

Except that the famous photographer is not able to help and sends Gabe instead.

Fiona knows Gabe from an rather embarrassing episode ten years ago and he broke her heart. But does Gabe recognise Fiona?

Fiona stays with three generations of one family above a tea shop and she is immediately immersed in Japanese life. But Gabe seems very reluctant to mentor her and thinks he can simply dump her at various tourist spots and scuttle off and hide.

Fiona steps out from behind the lens and challenges Gabe in more than one way and as the sparks fly, memories are reignisted and both Gabe and Fiona find that photography is not the only thing they may have in common.

Can Fiona risk having her heart broken a second time?

Can Gabe remember why he enjoys photography?

This is a wonderful sweet romance with a few ups and downs as you would expect in such a book. However the setting and clearly the research that has gone into the setting – Tokyo – is apparent to see. I was transported to Mount Fuji, to the cherry blossoms that I could almost smell them. The tea ceremony and the meaning behind the old traditional Japan and the bright vibrant modern version that is emerging is covered so well in this book. As with all previous books, food makes a welcome appearance and you can visualise the plate as Fiona is introduced to whole a new food culture.

This is a book to transport you away to somewhere else, to somewhere you may never get to visit and you can do it all for the cost of a book. What better form of escapism.

Where next for Julie Caplin to explore? Can I put in a request and perhaps go to Canada?

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

The Little Teashop in Tokyo is published on 11th June. 

Have a world tour so far with Julie Caplin – all links to my reviews. 

The Little Cafe in Copenhagen

The Little Brooklyn Bakery

The Little Paris Patisserie

The Northern Lights Lodge

The Secret Cove in Croatia