Books

A Year at the Cafe at the End of the Pier- Helen Rolfe

This book is the combination of the novellas that were published periodically throughout 2018. I am not a big fan of this way of publishing as I much prefer to get stuck right into the story, so I am glad that I picked this as the full novel so I could immerse myself in the Cafe.

Jo’s grandparents are struggling with their cafe and with Jo not really finding the love in teaching she offers to come back and give a hand. It is not until she returns to Salthaven that she realises what a mess they are in and the hard work she is facing.

However Jo approaches it all with such enthusiasm that I was immediately transported to the cafe to watch as Jo not only manages to breathe life back into the cafe but the community and also people’s love lives. Trouble is she is neglecting her own passions as she enthuses so much about the cafe and helping other people.

Taking us through the seasons, we see Jo embrace the various fruit and vegetables that are delivered daily from Matt at the local farm – if you want to eat seasonally, this book would help! If you want to go on a diet this book is like torture! The food sounds delicious and I could almost smell it cooking as I read on as Jo tries all sorts of interesting combinations.

Steve, the local handyman and hardened surfer whatever the weather is a regular customer and fixer of the cafe and despite his physique eats quite a lot of things he shouldn’t.

Jess, the running doctor, always stops by for her smoothie.

Dan and his son Charlie who are struggling without the regular presence of a wife and mother pop in for a regular treat.

Locals, Hilda and Angie think nothing of taking up a table for a game of chess for a good part of the day.

Valerie likes to pop in after her early morning yoga on the beach and then there is lonely, Geoff and his fishing at the end of the pier who always has time for a drink.

The book is full of characters and Jo can see that some of them are well suited to each other and thinks maybe she should play cupid and use her cafe as the perfect setting. Along with some well-timed and themed local events, the cafe is really the place to be but while Jo has settled in well her mother, thinks she is wasting her life but then her mother left Salthaven a long time ago and cannot see the attraction. Jo needs to make her see another side to the place.

With Jo so busy, will she ever have time for her own romance. Well if we leave it up to some of the regulars in the cafe who knows what might happen?

This is a fantastic book, I really enjoyed it and read it quickly as I was captured by the all of the characters, there are a few and they are well-formed and you knew how they fitted into the story and it was all the better for it. The descriptions of the food and baking was out of this world and this book could almost be a recipe book in the making!

I recommend this book whatever the season because there is always something going on at The Little Cafe at the End of the Pier! Join Jo for a coffee and a cake you will not regret it.

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

The five parts which make up this novel are out now on kindle and the full book is published on the 24 January. 

 

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Books · Jottings · Witterings

Books in 2018

Before January runs aways with us – I thought I should look back at the books I read in 2018.Books in 2018

So a few stats:

 

109 Books Read – My challenge completed in November, which I am sure is a first!

The shortest book was 34 pages.

The longest book was 738 pages.

In total of the 109 books that is 35,040 pages equal to 671 pages per week or 95 pages per day.

In terms of physical books and ebooks – this year the kindle overtook at 78 books and I know this is down to the wonder that is netgalley which is giving me the opportunity to read so many books before they are published or just as they are in return for a review.

New for 2018 was re-read and this was one book – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society a wonderful book which I wanted to remind myself of as I was looking forward to seeing the film.

Never mind the statistics what of the actual books – oh gosh well here it goes I suppose.

Regular readers of this blog will know I am a big Lucinda Riley fan which is why of course no list would be without one of her books – I held onto The Pearl Sister to read in 2018

CeCe feeling rejected, unwanted and definitely unloved begins her travels to Australia with the only clue that her adoptive father has left her the name of a woman pioneer and an old black and white photograph. Two things that seemingly have no links to each other let alone CeCe.

But this is a Lucinda Riley book and there is a link and a wonderful and beautiful story to tell.

And rather than wait and saviour the next in The Seven Sisters series I dived straight into The Moon Sister

The author, transported me back to this place, the darkness of the caves, the problems that the gitanos faced being on the outer edges of the city, of society, of religion, of what was considered normal behaviour. But showed a community brought together by all that makes them different, the culture, the music and of course the dance.

Words are lyrical, they can take you somewhere, they can form pictures in your imagination. But in this book, the description of the flamenco dancing and the music, but the flamenco especially, just resonates off the page. You can feel the vibrations of the feet, as they stamp and form, as the beat increases, as the arms move in almost synchronicity to the feet, as the dress is moved in time to the music and as the appreciative audience are held spellbound by such a display.

Reading multiple books by the same author certainly seems to have been a ‘thing’ of 2018 and therefore mention must go to:

Phillipa Ashley

I enjoy Phillipa Ashley’s novels, she writes with such warmth, that it feels that I am transported to wherever she wants to take me and I become part of the story which is why I can read her books so quickly. The only downside being I then have to wait ages for the next one! I either need to read slower or Phillipa needs to write quicker!

Christie Barlow

A warm fuzzy novel that leaves you wanting more and as Christie Barlow writes more her storylines go from strength to strength. You will not be disappointed.

Sarah Bennett

Yet again Sarah Bennett delivers a story which has you falling in love not just with the gorgeous Jack but the setting as well. I wanted to walk along the promenade at the bay as well as delight in the smell of the lavender that I am convinced was seeping off the pages.

Cathy Bramley

I could see it coming and this is no reflection on Cathy Bramley’s writing or plotting. The book is well written and you could see that the author has reflected on all the characters and the effect the tragedy would have on them. This was not simply about one person’s issues and the rest of the characters faded into the background you got the full effect and you almost had to decide what you would perhaps do in that situation?

Emma Davies

This is the final book in the series of the Little Cottage on the Hill. I would heartily recommend reading all of them in order (my OCD kicking in) because that way you’ll understand the draw of Joy’s Acre, as well as experience such strong writing and characterisation.

Holly Martin

Thank you Holly for the joy you bring in your writing.

Heidi Swain

Heidi Swain in my opinion has done it again in drawing you into a story which of course has a romantic plot line but has so much else going on as well. She manages to make sure all the characters are well-rounded and have depth, even if they are minor and I am as much intrigued by Dorothy and Molly as I was delighted to be able to catch up with Anna and Jamie.

I have picked these authors because I know I will come back to them time and time again – there are some more authors who I read a number of their books during 2018 but whilst they were pleasant diversions realistically sometimes you have to stick to your favourites. Maybe I will come back to them in years to come – who knows?

Of course when you find new authors you cannot neglect your favourites and so the year would not be complete without reading one (or more) of their novels. So here goes my annual mention for Trisha Ashley – The House of Hopes and Dreams

This book has everything you might want in a book, romance, death, big houses, dogs, cake, quirky characters, history and laughs. Not sure you could ask for more really?

A favourite of mine for 2018 and it’s only February, I could in fact go back to the beginning and read the whole thing again!

And of course Veronica Henry – A Family Recipe 

A heartwarming novel which shows you the strength of love, the choices you make and the place that you should always call home. What more of a recipe do you need to read this book?

Then of course I have gone back to some sagas and I am itching to read the next in the series of the Shipyard Girls by Nancy Revell

I cannot say that these novels have becoming formulaic or boring, the author somehow injects different plot devices into them just to keep us readers on our toes and also covers some of the more less publicised aspects of the Second World War. I am intrigued as to where the author will go next.

This series of novels has really captured me and it is a long time since I have read any decent sagas which I want to return to and continue the story. I envy anyone who picks up the first of these novels – they have such joy to come.

I personally think the last couple of years my reading has been dominated by women’s fiction and whilst I may not be reading the books every critic or newspaper column thinks I should be reading – I have read simply what I have wanted to. Do you know what? I have loved every page of it.

Of course there have been some books which did not really do it for me and whilst I persevered with some I did give up a few others. I really believe in passing on a book and know that some books work for some and others don’t.

Interestingly The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton features on many favourites – I could not get on with it.

 

I persevered because the book is clever, the concept of seeing something happen again and again but in the guise of someone else is intriguing. The twist of being able to stop it to save yourself gives it another added layer.

But I wonder whether this book was simply too clever for me? I think it might have been. It had all the right elements I like in novels, a cast of characters both masters and servants, a big house, set in the past, a mystery, a twist but it whilst it held my attention enough to keep me reading I was left feeling rather flat at the end.

Others disliked Dear Mrs Bird – AJ Pearce which I adored.

This is a wonderful novel which transports you into the heart of Emmeline’s life, into the heart of London, into the reality that is war on the Home Front. Not afraid to tackle subjects either through the letters that are written in to Mrs Bird or the main storyline of the book, this debut author captured my heart and attention immediately and I was completely drawn into the story.

Who else should get a mention, Jenny Colgan, Lesley Kara, Adam Kay, Carole Matthews, Lily Graham, Ruth Jones and Gail Honeyman. 


 

 

 

 

So that was 2018 and I did not sign up for any specific challenges in 2018 other than wanting to read 100 books and at least 4 Agatha Christie. 1 out of 2 is not bad! It was 3 for the Christie and I will certainly try for another 4 this year. Other than the obvious 100 books I will take the year and my reading as it comes!

Books

December Roundup

That’s it then – all done for 2018!

Of course to keep in with the rest of this blog structure, I of course have to do a December Roundup Post. So without further ado….

I sort of lost my reading mojo a bit in December, probably because it is a fully packed and busy 3 weeks before I have time off work and it is a case of sleep,swim,work,eat and repeat for a number of the days with added socialising as well.

But of course I did read some books and I have a head start on 2019 with Carole Matthews – Happiness for Beginners a real delightful book to brighten the greyest of days. And behind with last years reading and probably my last Christmas Book for 2018 was the lovely signed, hardback copy of Carole Matthews – Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights where I revisited previous characters and it was like reading about old friends – I just hope that there is more to come from these particular characters.

Getting ahead again with 2019 (I will soon get behind) took me to Sheila Norton – The Pet Shop at Pennycombe Bay. It was back last year that I picked up a Sheila Norton novel and they seem to always have a few pets at the heart of the story and are a delight to read.

I have spent probably a greater part of this years reading with commercial women’s fiction but I do like historical fiction and should I know probably read more of it. Being transported abroad and to another time is almost like an adventure but with Jennifer McVeigh – Leopard at the Door it was rather a frightening eye opener as I learnt about the Mau Mau.

Sometimes I miss out on the big books the books that everyone is reading about and talking about which is how I was passed Joel Dicker – The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair. I knew nothing of heard anything about it – set in America and a translation as well I was hooked and could see the fascination and it kept reading well into the night. As for the TV adaptation I am not a subscriber to SKY so it has passed my by, but probably the old adage is appropriate here – the book is always better?

Finding the start of a series is always frustrating when you have to wait what seems an age for the next part and no more so than with Jessica Fellowes – Bright Young Dead, the second of the books using the Mitford Sisters as characters and focusing on real events woven into the stories. It was a book I thoroughly enjoyed but strongly felt you needed to have read the first book to get any sense of a greater part of the first third of this. I hope the subsequent novels are not like this.

Adam Kay – This is Going to Hurt was a recommendation picked up from a friend, I spotted it on my 6 monthly (who am I kidding?) book buying spree in Waterstones, read a paragraph, chuckle loudly, bought the book, the assistant told me it was hilarious and I pretty much started reading it as soon as I got home. Black Humour – we all have it our places of work, I certainly do but I don’t think it would translate well into a book – this on the other hand does. The secret diaries of a now former Junior Doctor, a great insight to the medical world and people! They are all out there!

So that was December, I close the year reading a saga from Jennifer Wells who I discovered in 2018. I have plenty to keep me going in 2019 and I will of course bring you a round-up of 2018 in the coming days.

In the meantime – Happy New Year!

 

Books

Happily Ever After at the Dog and Duck – Jill Steeples

I thought the previous book was the last in this series about the villagers of Little Leyton. It seemed that everything was tidied up and there were no loose ends, of course sometimes you always want to nip back and see what is happening.

And this is what Jill Steeples has done with this, her definite last book in the series.

Ellie, now finding her feet as a mum, as well as still being the owner of the Dog and Duck and lady of the manor in the big house in the village, which seems to attract everyone.

Ellie realises that she wants to spend the rest of her life with Max and that it is the perfect time for them to get married. So with only a few weeks to get everything organised she adds another thing to do to her already full list!

But she doesn’t bank on a fire, a mother in law moving in, lost dogs, secrets, accidents and snow!

With a lot packed into this book it is obvious that the path to the altar is not going to be straightforward, but has Ellie got the strength?

It was lovely to go back and especially spend another Christmas at Little Leyton, it felt like getting caught up again with your favourite characters in a television programme (that perfect Sunday Night Drama).

Heartwarming and a simply lovely read, best read as a whole series from the beginning then I think you get a real sense of the place and the people.

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

All of the Dog and Duck series are out now. 

 

Books

November Roundup

First of all November was the month where I completed by Goodreads Challenge.

I think this is the first time I have done so as early as mid November. Ironically my reading has since slowed down and I have given up on two books, but more of that later. I am quite chuffed but still maintain I won’t change that 100 number for 2019.

It seemed to be the month of completing series of books as I did when I picked up Emma Davies – Christmas at the Little Cottage on the Hill. I highly recommend these books and they are great if you fancy a binge read.

It is always a great when you think a series of books is over and then you get another one Jill Steeples – Happily Ever After at The Dog & Duck does just that and now I think the series is finally over! Again another lovely set of books to read.

Of course thanks to netgalley I get to read a lot of books but no matter how many I read on my kindle I still love holding a book in my hands and the chunkier the better. That was the case when I picked off my shelf Michelle Magorian – Impossible. This is the author of Goodnight Mister Tom and through the years I have read many of her other books and they have always been a great delight and capturing reads. This one, not so much but not enough to stop reading her books.

Another actual hold in your hand book was Celia Imrie – Sail Away. I have always been sceptical of famous people or ‘celebs’ writing fiction and in some cases it doesn’t always work and in others it does. This falls into the latter (thank goodness) and was a great pick since I went on my first cruise this year. Luckily though none of the things that happened in this book I was aware of on my cruise. But I did miss seeing any of the dancing in the afternoon!

Cruising seemed to be a theme when I then unaware picked up Annabel Kantaria  – The Disappearance. It had been languishing on my netgalley to read shelf which was the only reason for choosing it. But did she jump or was she pushed? Who, where and why? You will have to read the book to find out for yourself.

The classic whodunnit means I alway go back to Agatha Christie and in slow time bid to read all her novels I have ticked another off the list – Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders. This is one of the latest Sarah Phelps adaptations and will be shown over the Christmas period on the BBC.

Obviously because Christmas is coming I cracked on with some more Christmas reading with a most recent publication Veronica Henry – Christmas at The Beach Hut. A good festive read on the beach and a return to a place the author has been before. Ironically The Beach Hut was the first of this authors work that I read!

The final book for the month I read was Alex Brown – The Wish another book which has been hanging around on my netgalley shelf and I don’t know why because I enjoy this authors work. Sometimes you can have just too many books to read and not enough time.

I am currently reading a book I knew nothing about – The Truth About the Harry Querbert Affair which has got me gripped but I have been so busy with birthdays, nights out, work that the reading and the knitting has taken a bit of a back seat.

Whether it is because I have been busy or tired but there were two books which just did not do it for me. The Last Romeo – Justin Myers and The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness – Laura Kemp. We should probably give up on more books than we do as there are so many more out there to read.

So that’s November and here we are in December and I need some more Christmas reading to get me in the spirit after a whole weekend of Christmas decorating at work.

 

 

 

 

Books

Christmas at the Little Cottage on the Hill – Emma Davies

Ruby takes her ten-year old son, Jem and baby, Darcie and takes them away from everything they know. It it the beginning of December and they are not moving to another town but this time the countryside. She doesn’t have any regrets taking herself and her children away from the bullying man she married but it seems to be affecting Jem greatly and Ruby is taking the brunt of it.

When she arrives a Joy’s Acre to stay temporarily in one of the renovated cottages, she finds herself overwhelmed with joy, love, friendship, a wedding and snow!

The local woodsman Angus makes himself useful at the cottage, bringing wood to the keeps fires always going in the cold weather and also inspiring her young son to take his anger and frustration about having had to move again through looking what nature can do and the joy it can bring.

Whilst it seems Jem is settling, Ruby finds herself being thrown into helping with the wedding and reception party at Joy’s Acre of its owners Seth and Maddie. Her skills as a knitter and craft fan mean that she is much in demand when the tree arrives that needs decorating.

Then the snow starts and doesn’t stop. That throws everyone’s plans into disarray and when the power cut comes it seems that the Christmas that they were all planning is not going well.

Amongst all the wedding plans Jem goes missing, as the snow is drifting and the power has gone out. Has Ruby’s idea of a dream Christmas been shattered? Will she ever stop hiding and believe in the power of good people, love and friendship? But only if they find Jem.

This book really has everything, plenty of wonderfully described scenery, the smell of Trixie’s baking as she whips up delights for all those working at Joy’s Acre, Clara’s abilities with flowers and gardening, Tom’s thatching and the whole of joy of being at Joy’s Acre. There is plenty to make you laugh and lots to make you cry as well. It is a well-rounded story, with characters to get to know who are constructed so well and develop as the book progresses that it is a joy to know them. I wanted to go and stay at Joy’s Acre immediately.

The place is simply brought to life as is the story and is a book that should read!

This is the final book in the series of the Little Cottage on the Hill. I would heartily recommend reading all of them in order (my OCD kicking in) because that way you’ll understand the draw of Joy’s Acre, as well as experience such strong writing and characterisation.

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

Christmas at the Little Cottage on the Hill is out now. 

 

There are plenty of female authors out there writing series of books pigeonholed as women’s fiction and some are simply passable but others like this one are a must read and have had me hooked. So much that I binge read the first two and then was there when the third was released, so I was thrilled to get the opportunity to read this one via netgalley. 

I have only reviewed the last book as it was a netgalley request I was simply enjoying reading the others and as regular readers to this blog should know I don’t always review every book I read. 

Having read a lot of women’s fiction for the last couple of years, I am starting to get a bit more pickier in the authors and books I pick up. Netgalley can introduce to some great and not so great (in my humble opinion) and I found myself getting caught up in reading everything by a particular author when it was only just ‘blah’. I have made a conscious decision not to do that anymore especially when I read books such as this one and know there is some quality writing out there. 

 

 

 

Books

The Mother of All Christmases – Milly Johnson

Meet three women who through one common denominator are going to be friends forever – they are all pregnant.

But that is the only common thing between them all.

Eve, pregnant and due on Christmas Day owns and runs the Winter Wonderland theme park which was featured in a previous Johnson novel. You don’t have to have read it to make any sense of this story, but it was lovely to meet back up with familiar characters.

Having a baby is not really a problem, but when there are other distractions and some dangerous accidents going on, is Eve really safe to carry on working there?

Annie, childless and now content with her life with her italian husband, Joe runs the cracker factory which specialises not just in the mass market ones but also handmade, bespoke ones too. But as she ages, the inevitable she thinks is happening that is until she is told that she is in fact pregnant and not going through the menopause. Utter joy fills both Annie and Joe.

Palma agreed to be a surrogate for a couple she thought could not have children. It was the way she was able to access money and get herself out of the life she found herself in. She wanted better and she was not afraid to work for it, but she needs to escape her past. Trouble is the couple split up and Palma is left with some very difficult choices.

Coming together at their Doctor’s new Christmas Pudding Club the women forge a friendship and we get to see them as they go through the highs and lows of their impending motherhood.

Add into that, some unsavoury character, cracker making, a wedding, an important boxing match and of course Christmas and there is much packed into this novel. It made me laugh out loud and it made me cry with joy and sadness. What more could you want or need from a novel?

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

The Mother of All Christmases is published on the 15th November.