Books

The Secrets of Meadow Farmhouse – Katie Ginger

Amelia has not been back home for over ten years and has established her life in Paris. But when she discovers that she has inherited Meadow Farmhouse from her Great Aunt Vera, she just needs to pop back, sort it out and make sure it is sold. Meadow Farmhouse was not really her home was it?

However, Amelia was not prepared for the emotions that would hit her when she returned to the village of Meadowbank and her past.

The farmhouse is a dilapidated state and it seems that Vera had let it go and having had little contact with her since her departure and not healing the refits that might have developed, Amelia starts to think that maybe restoring the farmhouse will help her heal.

Is Amelia really healing from the restoration of the farmhouse.

She still has to confront her old love, Adam who is still very much part of the village.

She still has to deal with the death of her parents, that led her to living with Vera and being an irritation and an inconvenience.

It seems though Vera had a few secrets of her own, that Amelia knew nothing about. And when she discovers an old wedding dress and a locket with a picture of a man she does not recognise. It seems that there is a mystery to solve and perhaps this might lead her to solve all the mysterious questions that have come to mind since she has been home.

The main one – is Meadow Farmhouse really home?

This is a wonderful book which is full of questions about where home really is and who are friends really are? Sometimes we need to step away from something and get a new perspective and I think Amelia does this in this book, thanks to the other wonderful characters that she comes across, both young and old. So much is learnt from what is not said, that there must be more tales to tell from Meadowbank.

For fans of village tales and renovating houses and hearts in equal measure.

 

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

The Secrets of Meadow Farmhouse is out now. 

 

 

Books

A Wedding in the Country – Katie Fforde

I am a fan of Katie’s books and have read a number of them and whilst some naysayers might say that you always get the same story (I disagree) you do have a certainty with them. This book too me out of that certainty and rather than being set in the present day I was whisked back to 1963. I wasn’t sure it would work – but it did, in abundance!

Lizzie has arrived in London to complete a course at a cookery school, not for a career in a kitchen, but for a career as a wife. There is not just cooking, by flower arranging, sewing skills and general skills on how to look after your husband to make sure he has the best in life.

Lizzie has arrived in London in the Swinging Sixties which comes as rather a shock to her and her parents as it seems that this influence on this naïve middle class girl is going to change her life forever.

When Lizzie teams up with Alexandra and Meg who live in a run down house in Belgravia with David, who has a rather avuncular role in their lives, she starts to see that life could be a lot better if she does not go along with her mother’s plans.

Enter Hugo, titled, a career in the law and rather handsome, he would be the ideal man to bring home for mother to approve of. Just one problem, Hugo also has his life planned out for him by his father.

Will Lizzie and Hugo follow their hearts, or will they conform?

I was transported back to the London of the Sixties, but what I was also transported back to were the emotions and roles of women then. As a woman in her mid forties, this makes for uncomfortable reading, to think that my life would have been mapped out as such – marriage, cooking good dinners, flower arranging and dressmaking. Thank goodness for women like Lizzie who stepped out of this role and made it possible for me to not follow that path – though there is nothing wrong with my cooking but my dressmaking could probably do with some work!

That said it was a great world that Katie Fforde has created and I wanted to sit at the kitchen table in Belgravia as much as I wanted to escape to the little cottage in the country or be waited on at the big house! This was all part of the warmth of the story as much as the characters exploits.

An excellent book and should be read by all young girls, in fact read by all women because in such a short time the world has changed beyond the one portrayed in this novel. A great look at the past as much as it is a reflection of women’s roles in the world.

 

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

A Wedding in the Country is published on 18 February 2021. 

 

Books

The Little Swiss Ski Chalet – Julie Caplin

I think this has to be one of my favourite escapes with Julie Caplin and perfect for when you can’t get away or you fancy a skiing holiday without the cold and for me the skiing!

After a relationship breakdown and when an act of revenge affects her at work, Mina escapes to Switzerland to her godmother Amelie’s Swiss chalet.

There is something unique about this chalet, Amelie is particularly fussy about her guests and unbeknown to them she is waving her magic wand through coffee and cake and getting them to come out of their shells and find themselves. It has a magical quality.

Mina has vowed not to get too close to anyone after her relationship but when she is literally thrown into the path of Luke, she finds that both serendipity and spontaneous kisses amongst the snow are going to distract her for her entire stay.

Enter helping Amelie in the kitchen, where she can embrace her love of food and creating some perfect recipes and cakes to soother the most grumpiest of souls. But of course you cannot come to Switzerland and not get tempted by the cheese and the chocolate.

When an idea strikes Mina, she thinks she may have found her serendipitous moment when it comes to her career. But when events take a sudden dramatic turn she needs to rely on people who care. Can she open her heart again and move forward with a new path?

From the moment I started reading this book, I was transported away to the clean air, the brilliant whiteness of the mountains, the ski slopes, the cold biting weather bringing a refreshing change to any doom and gloom. All of this wrapped up with an immense amount of chocolate, cake and comfort. What more could you want from a book?

A pure escape in book form and with no added calories.

 

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

The Little Swiss Ski Chalet is published on 30 Jan.

Books

Finding Love at Mermaid Terrace – Kate Forster

Tressa has found her niche in Port Lowdy, in a brightly coloured cottage by the sea. She has a part time job at the local newspaper and spends the rest of her days painting and battling with her cat, Ginger Pickles.

Dan is angry, angry is his job title in Dublin on a newspaper. But when a journalistic story goes wrong Dan finds himself out of a job, out of his home and with only his dog for company nothing else to live for.

He needs to escape, when a part time journalist role comes up at the local paper in Port Lowdy he thinks this will be the furthest he can get form Dublin so he can reassess want he wants from life and can not tax his brain too much reporting on local issues.

What Dan did not bank on was Tressa.

What Tressa did not bank on was Dan.

Both with strong personalities and ways of doing things,  these two clash quite early on, but as readers we can see the sparks fly off the page between them and it doesn’t take long for cupid to weave her magic. But Tressa is not one for looking at herself too deeply, her relationship with her parents a large factor in this but Dan has a way of looking at everyone deeply and can see that even the most ordinary of person has an extraordinary tale to tell.

Port Lowdy it seems is a bed of underlying romance. Newcomer Remi has a secret to tell and whilst given a new opportunity in the local pub he is desperate to say sorry about what happened and find his one true love.

Penny has always lived in Port Lowdy, her actions when she was a young girl caused problems and since then she has never given her heart to anyone else. But after all this time is her heart only calling for one person?

This is a joyful book to read, the sparky relationship between Dan and Tressa is great fun albeit tinged with some sad moments which made me cry. All the characters had that something in their descriptions and actions that me want to read more, made me care or simply made me want to shout.

A well rounded book full of colourful characters and a cosy story to while away the days when we can all go and find our own love on Mermaid Terrace.

 

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

Finding Love at Mermaid Terrace is published on 4 February. 

Books

The Lake House – Christie Barlow

I have been in Heartcross since the very beginning, a village in Scotland which is unique because the love that emanates from the whole community will drag you in and hold you there in its heart. That goes for the readers as well as the characters!

Callie brings her friend, Ella to live with her in Heartcross. Ella has hit rock bottom over the last 6 months or so after losing her parents, her heart and her inheritance. She needs to escape and recuperate and what better place than with Callie the only friend who stood by her.

Sharing a flat with Callie, Ella gets to meet her new neighbour Dolores, who is a star. She has a past and when Ella discovers that her past involves singing and singing at The Lake House where Ella is now working it seems that everything is meant to be.

The Lake House whilst trying to be unique as a restaurant (it is only accessible by boat) is losing money and they need to do something to keep a float. As does Roman the boat’s main skipper to the restaurant, he is trying to keep it all together when life has dealt him a bitter blow and he needs some support.

In steps Ella and Dolores and what follows is a captivating tale of showing everyone that there is always a second chance and even a last chance in life to have what you want and be loved wholeheartedly.

If you have been in Heartcross since the beginning then you will see some of the regular characters pop in and out of the story, but this book’s focus is very much on Ella, Roman and Dolores. There is some real depth to the storyline and some frightening episodes which make you question what we believe and who we trust.

A novel that had me hooked and I devoured it quickly as I was so invested in Ella and what had happened to her, that I wanted to see her succeed and show that she and in fact everyone can come back stronger.

Great addition to the series and I implore you to read them all – you won’t be disappointed.

 

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

The Lake House is out now. 

 

Books · Knitting

December Roundup

What a December, one of the quietest I have had in a long time from a work perspective. Normally the three weeks proceeding the big day are some of the busiest with functions, lunches, Santa visits and masses of paperwork proceeding audits, etc. As work has changed and will continue to do so in the coming months, I have had to find a new sort of normal, a common phrase we hear now.

But what of the books you say? Well I had already hit my target of 100 going into December so it was a case of seeing how many I could get to by the 31st.

The last book of the year was Rosie Goodwin – The Blessed Child a real chunky saga, which curled up on the sofa under a blanket was the best place to read it. I was transported to tales similar to that of Catherine Cookson and I must go back for some others.

Going back for more is why I went to join the delightful Daisy and Hazel in Robin Stevens – Mistletoe and Murder. Although aimed at a much younger market, I still feel slightly indulgent reading such a book, but these are much better than some adult aimed books that I have read over the years.

Keeping it still Christmas was Cressida McLaughlin – The Cornish Cream Tea Christmas, continuing the adventures of the Big Red Bus full of cream teas in Cornwall. You know that Christmas is going to be a magical time and whoever comes on the bus is going to have their hearts and heads turned.

It is always great to carry on with a series, whether it be familiar characters or places. I am an avid fan of Heidi Swain but have only just got round to reading her first novel Heidi Swain – The Cherry Tree Café. The book you could say where it all began and now having completed them all, I am itching for her next.

When you find an author you love, you can get a little impatient to wait for their newest work. So discovering authors when they have a oeuvre to work through normally keeps all of that at bay. So I went back to one I had not read Katie Fforde – A Springtime Affair, it had been languishing on my Kindle for a while so I delighted in the spring weather during a winter cold snap. The perfect tonic.

Jeeves and Wooster have always provided me with tonic of some sort and the homage I read in November was closely followed by the new one Ben Schott – Jeeves and the Leap of Faith. Sheer utter spiffing joy – I need to go back to some Wodehouse. I rue the day I gave away my books.

I wish I had given away this book, or at least as it was on my Kindle given up on it Sarah Pearse – The Sanatorium. A book that promised something it did not deliver. Not the right book for me at the time of picking it up. Though I acknowledge some have loved it and it will no doubt feature on many blogs.

I started to see Sarah Steele – The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon on books of the year posts and knew I had yet to get round to it. So to make a dent in my forever expanding netgalley list, I picked it up. Now I know what everyone was on about and really wish I had read it sooner. A wonderful dual narrative novel with a great vehicle of telling a story.

I would like to say I was ahead of the game in terms of books published next year – sadly I am not, but no matter because the one to look out for so far is Joanna Nell – The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home. Humorous, bittersweet and with a touch of ‘what if’ this is a lovely read from a relatively new untapped author. Do check out this and her other two books if you get the chance.

So that was December, there was a lot of reading what I wanted with no pressure. I think that is a good mantra to start 2021’s reading with.

As for my favourites for the year….. I have not quite decided yet…….more to follow soon.

Books

A Springtime Affair – Katie Fforde

What better way to avoid all the doom and gloom than to read a Katie Fforde book and one full of bright, optimism and spring cheer.

Spring always heralds new beginnings and it is no different it seems for mother and daughter Gilly and Helena.

Gilly is happy with running her bespoke B & B she enjoys the work and meeting people and embraces the little touches that make her establishment stand out from the rest – like homemade shortbread! Leo though arrives in her life rather unexpectedly and his chosen career of estate agent might come in useful if Gilly decides to move on.

Helena is about to lose her home and whilst she knows that she can go home, her weaving loom does take up rather a lot of room. When a chance encounter to help new landlord Jago leads to some interesting events, it seems that Jago is a chance encounter worth pursuing.

In the meantime, Helena’s brother Martin and obsessive wife Cressida have other ideas about how Gilly should be spending her days. They seem rather in conflict in the way Gilly wants to spend them. Helena is also struggling to see the image of her mother that Martin is trying to portray.

Surely the new blossoms of spring will come to fully bud and the dead weeds will disappear forever?

This is a joyous book which takes you through family dynamics and new love. Added to this is the delicious recipes of Gilly and the wonderful creations of Helena’s weaving which make this a true Katie Fforde book.

 

A must for all fans and for anyone who wishes to escape. Perfect reading to soothe the soul. 

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

 

Books · Jottings

November Roundup

Well only one month to go in 2020, thank goodness though I don’t think we are out of the woods just yet. But November was a month where I hit my annual target of 100 books – such a satisfying feeling and also a month where I have just simply read and not worried (well not too much) about the never ending netgalley request list.

So what was on my November shelf?

Only one Christmas book, I think I reached peak Christmas in the previous couple of months but Anne Marie Ryan – The Six Tales of Christmas was a quiet tale reminiscence of previous American styled Christmas novels that I read. It’s message was very lovely though.

Of course snow for many equals Christmas but the snow in Catherine Cooper – The Chalet was a lot more sinister and this debut thriller novel is one to watch out for. Excellent and kept me hooked quite happily and made a change from all the ‘nice’ books.

To contrast the snow what better than to go back to summer with Cressida McLaughlin – The Cornish Cream Tea Summer where I caught up with old friends and made some new ones on the lovely bus in Cornwall and with an added dollop of actors as well as clotted cream this made for a great read. I rushed out to buy the next in the series and have started that within the last couple of days of November.

Cornwall was the setting of Raynor Winn – The Salt Path a book leant to me by a friend who thought I would enjoy it. I did. I knew nothing of the South West Costal path and it was a joy to read an ‘actual’ book where I could quite happily flick back to the map at the beginning so I could see locations and get a sense of place. One of the downsides of kindle reading is this ability. Wild camping is not something I would want to do, but certainly walking and in Cornwall is a place I would like to be.

More Cornwall was featured in Emma Burstall – A Cornish Secret and Emma Burstall – The Girl Who Came Home to Cornwall. The latter of the two novels I had on my kindle for ages meaning to be read, but knowing it was book five and I had omitted to read book four and it turns out I bought that ages ago to. Anyway, enough of the procrastinating as I know I enjoy this author immensely so I just went from one to the other and it was delightful to just keep reading about the same place, same characters like watching a continuing drama without the break. I do wonder if Emma Burstall has any more plans for Tremarnock.

Now as there are six Mitford sisters, I know that there is more to follow after Jessica Fellowes – The Mitford Trial. These are really excellent novels and I got a lovely response on Twitter from the author, because I ‘got the book’ in the way she intended it to be written. I had to go and reread my review just in case I had said something insightful – well I can’t see it. But if the author is happy and then I am happy as the plots of all of these books are great and really tap into my love of history.

Feeling rather ‘out of sorts’ about many things, like many people across the globe no doubt. So I picked up Ben Schott – Jeeves and the King of Clubs again this was because I got the latest Schott novel featuring Jeeves and Wooster through netgalley and realised I had not read the first of these homages. It was spiffing, tip top and everything you would expect from Wodehouse and I have read many over the years. It was a sheer delight to be back in their world and I rush to read the latest and go back and relieve some of Wodehouse’s best. My heart was fair cheered.

Not a bad month overall and I made a dent in some old books on my netgalley list as well as reading some ‘actual’ books, I really much prefer this way, but the kindle has let me read so many more I probably would not have read. It’s a conundrum for many an avid reader I am sure?

So what was on your November shelf? Any plans for December?

Books

October Roundup

October ends and another lockdown looms within a couple of days. October normally seems a long month but it seems to have flown by with a plethora of books. Let’s just take some time away from the global pandemic.

Of course Christmas books still feature and even better when they feature a beloved series which I absolutely adore Nancy Revell – A Christmas Wish for the Shipyard Girls. The saga continues with all my favourite characters and because it is Christmas it always adds a lovely dimension despite it being in the middle of the war.

I know many people opt for Christmas weddings (I think I would too – though someone would need to ask me first!). Phillipa Ashley – A Surprise Christmas Wedding takes us to the Lake District instead of her normally stomping ground of Cornwall to plan the wedding of the year. I thoroughly enjoyed being transported to the Lake District and would love to be able to spend time there, I hope Phillipa takes us back there one day.

Katie Ginger – Winter Wishes at Swallowtail Bay also features a wedding and it is the wedding that is going to save the hotel in Swallowtail Bay where the trilogy comes to it’s conclusion. Again, I was swept away into the magic of Christmas and romance and how that perhaps we need to keep true to all of our wishes whatever they may be.

Wanting to put my feet up from all those weddings what better way to escape that to a lovely Christmas market and experience the smells, the tastes, the scenes in Jo Thomas – Finding Love at the Christmas Market. I am relatively new to Jo Thomas books, though I have seen them on shelves before now and this is only the second I have read, but this was just as joyous and took me on a trip abroad with a band of merry makers of a certain vintage. What a wonderful piece of escapism when we are all limited in where we can go at the moment.

Some people don’t like moving far from what they know and I was wonderfully surprised to be going back to a place I know; Hope Farm with Carole Matthews – Christmas for Beginners. This is a place for all things broken both animal and child and even adults to be put back together and be able to show the world the sort of person that they are. It is a place that I hope Carole Matthews returns to again.

Many a Christmas card has a penguin or two adoring the front but what if you got the chance to see the real things in their natural habitat. Well the next best thing is reading Hazel Prior – Away with the Penguins which is going to be ‘one of those’ books. Very much in the vein of Harold Fry and it is a book which is gentle despite the harsh landscape of the Antarctic, it was like an Attenborough documentary with a story. Beautiful and quiet.

I don’t think a month has gone by without some sort of murder happening on this blog, book wise of course. I wanted to get ahead of the game for when the Kenneth Branagh version of the film come out and tick another one off the list so it was Agatha Christie – Death on the Nile that I picked it up. I knew what happened I have seen the film and Suchet version often enough but you can’t help marvel at the original work and the little grey cells of Poirot and when you know, you can see all those little clues and red herrings.

Christie is without a doubt the Queen of Crime but it seems she may have a rival on her hands and this time it is the Queen herself. S.J. Bennett – The Windsor Knot is a new murder mystery series which features yes The Queen, Elizabeth II as the solver of crimes, ably assisted by her private secretaries who all have secret about the real goings on behind those palace doors. And when a body is found in Windsor Castle it seems the Queen’s nose for finding out the truth twitches once more.

Like reading too many Christmas books that could merge into one, you can end up doing the same with cosy mystery series where they are set in certain eras and with the same protagonists. At the moment I have opted for Helena Dixon – Murder on the Dance Floor which takes me to inter war years, in a hotel with the delightful Kitty Underhay who manages to be in the wrong place at the wrong time but also has some personal mysteries of her own to solve.

Trying to solve mysteries would sum up the whole of Philip Pullman – The Subtle Knife. Again in the interest of completeness I wanted to read the book before the new series started on the television. Fantasy, Science Fiction or however you might categorise this book is not normally my choice of book, but these are so well written that I am rather intrigued by it all and now I have read this, I need to progress to the third in the Dark Materials trilogy.

It has been a while since I abandoned a book, but I did this month. What bothered me more was that it was from an author I have read before and this time it really was not working for me. It all seemed robotic and as if a machine had churned out the story with no real depth of feeling to the characters or even the setting. That is to say the book just did not work for me – it has worked for others. It was immediately obvious when I chose another book and started to fly through that and knew the writing was exactly what I was looking for and that is the book I carry on reading into November.

Happy Reading for November in whatever restrictions you find yourselves under.

Books

Winter Wishes At Swallowtail Bay – Katie Ginger

In conclusion to this trilogy we are approaching the most wonderful time of the year and what better way to spend it than at a wedding!

Nell runs Holly Lodge a small boutique hotel in Swallowtail Bay, but business is not great and when an incident at a competitor’s hotel starts to cause trouble for Nell, it seems she is going to have to try some different events to get business moving again.

One thing she has decided on is that hosting her friend Cat and fiancée Kieran’s wedding at the hotel is going to be the best event ever. Nell is a romantic and lives in her imagination with the help of all those wonderful romcom movies out there to pass the time. She wants to give Cat the best wedding that she can, the wedding that she wants but it seems that Cat’s mother wants to give Cat the wedding that she should have. Will Nell be able to steer the wedding to a happy ever after.

As well as dealing with difficulty mothers and fraught brides, Nell decides to host a wedding fair, a wreath making event for the local elderly residents and also holds the school’s carol concert. She relies on the help of her old university friend, Tom. There friendship is strong and tight, but it seems that Tom is hiding some life changing secrets of his own and cannot begin to share them with the one person he truly loves.

Whilst this might appear a light fluffy read full of weddings and Christmas cheer it brings a real sense of friendship, community and sticking with the ones you love.  Overcoming obstacles, is the key theme throughout the book and there are many to overcome, tyrannical mothers, loss of control, stray cats, disability, trolling on the internet, there is a lot that touches not just Nell but all the main characters in the book.

But for Nell will she every have that happy ever after she wants when she realises life is not a film?

A great read full of fun and frivolity and plenty of humour and heart warming moments. And let’s be honest – you can’t beat a winter wedding!

Bring your tinsel and tissues to this book and sit back and enjoy.

 

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

Winter Wishes at Swallowtail Bay is out now. 

All of the Swallowtail books can be read independently of each other, there are familiar characters but they only play background roles until it is time for them to shine in their own stories.