Friday, 30 April 2021

πŸ“– Book Review ~ A Week at the Shore by Barbara Delinsky

Sphere
18 March 2021

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book


New York Times bestselling author Barbara Delinsky explores how lives and relationships are forever changed when three sisters reunite at their family Rhode Island beach house.

It’s been twenty years since Mallory left home, running from the scandal that tore her family apart and ended her relationship with her first love. But now her father is sick, and Mallory, along with her estranged sisters, must return to the lives they left behind.

Soon after her arrival, Mallory bumps into Jack, the only man she’s ever loved and the reason she left town. Jack is different now, no longer the rebel she once knew, but as much as the pair wish to reconnect, the secrets that tore them apart decades ago continue to divide them.

While caring for her father and trying to repair her rocky relationship with her sisters, Mallory, with Jack’s help, chases down answers about the scandal that separated them. Could it be that the truth they’re seeing lies much closer to home?


πŸ“– My thoughts..

After receiving a disturbing phone call about her father, Mallory Aldiss returns to Rhode Island after an absence of twenty years. The Aldiss family are complicated, especially as hints of a scandal twenty years ago still lingers in the shadows. Mallory's relationship with her elderly father is fractured and whilst he is pleased to see Mallory and his young teenage granddaughter, he  seems unsettled, and his growing confusion only heightens the family tension. Being back home in Bay Bluff brings back all the complicated reasons of just why Mallory left twenty years ago, and when she meets again with her ex-boyfriend, everything that she had buried so carefully comes back to haunt her. 

It takes a while for the story to get going but the author maintains her usual style for slow and considered writing. The careful veneer with which the Aldiss family have surrounded themselves forms the heart of the story, old resentments linger and family secrets threaten to overshadow everything and it's only by confronting her problems will Mallory ever be able to move on with her life.

Set against the glorious background of the Rhode Island coastline which the author describes so beautifully I feel as if my feet touched the sand and walked alongside Mallory as she attempts to make sense of how her life had taken her back to this moment. 

A Week at the Shore carefully rolls out family secrets which, once revealed, can never be hidden again.




Barbara Delinsky lives in Needham, Massachusetts. With thirty million copies of her novels in print, in twenty-five different languages, Delinsky is one of the world’s most beloved and revered storytellers. A lifelong New Englander, she uses the area as settings in most of her stories. In her spare time, Barbara enjoys kayaking, aerobics and needlepoint, in addition to spending time with family and friends. She is also a breast cancer survivor, and strives to be a positive role model for other women facing the disease.


Twitter @BarbaraDelinsky #AWeekAtTheShore


@LittleBrownUK





Thursday, 29 April 2021

πŸ“– Publication Day Book Review ~ The Whole Truth by Cara Hunter

 

 πŸ“– Happy Publication Day πŸ“–


Penguin 
29 April 2021

DI Adam Fawley #5

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book


When an Oxford student accuses one of the university's professors of sexual assault, DI Adam Fawley's team think they've heard it all before. But they couldn't be more wrong.

Because this time, the predator is a woman and the shining star of the department, and the student a six-foot male rugby player.

Soon DI Fawley and his team are up against the clock to figure out the truth. What they don't realise is that someone is watching.

And they have a plan to put Fawley out of action for good.

πŸ“– My thoughts..

If you've followed this series from the beginning, this is now book five, then you'll know just how good these books are, and if you haven't read any of them then you are missing out on a really good psychological crime series. In this book we meet again with DI Adam Fawley and his investigative team in Oxford, a place it would seem is always a hot bed of crime and none more so than in The Whole Truth which has a very personal feel for Adam Fawley.

When Fawley's team are called in to investigate the allegation of a sexual assault at one of Oxford's colleges, they are surprised when the perpetrator of this serious crime turns out to be female, and her victim a male student. This juxtaposition allows the story to take a fascinating look at how we perceive sexual crime and the investigative team have a difficult task in determining just how much is being revealed by both characters.

Running alongside this complicated mystery is another complex strand to the story which the author cover in a series of well placed podcasts. These help to move the story along and also give the commentary a very modern feeling which heightens the tension for one well known character who has more reasons than most to tune into the podcast.

As always, this talented author brings a fascinating and highly complex crime story to life. The characterisation is excellent, I particularly liked the character summaries at the start of the novel which act as an aide memoir in case you forget who's who. The crimes at the heart of the story are complex and detailed but the author cuts through the story with her skilful knife, revealing little snippets here and there but never revealing the final little piece of the puzzle until the very end when, wham, there it is, the twist in the tale which makes everything fall so beautifully into place.

I've said it before, but it's worth saying again, this series just get better and better and as each well crafted crime story ends so I already start to look forward to meeting up again with Adam Fawley and his team as they attempt to investigate the complicated crimes which seem to occur in the Oxford of this talented author's vivid imagination.

I'll end with the joyful news that this series has been picked up by a television production team. Not before time 😊 


About the Author


Cara Hunter is the author of the Sunday Times Bestselling crime novels featuring DI Adam Crawley and his Oxford based police team.Cara Hunter lives in Oxford, on  a street not unlike those featured in her books.

Twitter @CaraHunterBooks #TheWholeTruth

@VikingBooks

@PenguinBooksUK








Wednesday, 28 April 2021

πŸ“– Book Review ~ Lucia's War by Susan Lanigan

  

Idee Fixe Press
2020

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book


London, 1950. Soprano Lucia Percival has overcome racism and many obstacles to become a renowned opera singer. She is now due to perform her last concert. But she has no intention of going onstage. A terrible secret from her service during the First World War has finally caught up with her.

London, 1917. Lucia, a young Jamaican exile, hopes to make it as a musician. But she is haunted by a tragic separation that is still fresh in her memory – and when she meets Lilian, an old woman damaged by a similar wartime loss, she agrees to a pact that could destroy everything she has fought so hard to achieve.

From the Western Front and the mean streets of Glasgow, to black society in London, Lucia’s story tells a tale of music, motherhood, loss and redemption.


πŸ“– My Thoughts..

The early part of the twentieth century was largely overshadowed by the catastrophic events of the First World War and for Jamaican Lucia Percival life is going to turn out very differently from what she expected. Being part of the Voluntary Aid Detachment, Lucia works as a VAD during some of the worst conflicts of the war, memories of will which never leave her and which shape her destiny. During the early part of this troubled century living life as a black woman was difficult as racism was neither covert nor undisclosed, and whilst Lucia suffered this ghastly prejudice with stoicism and a considered resignation it didn't make it any easier to bear nor excused its narrow-mindedness. 

We pick up the story in a dual time frame, that of 1917 when Lucia finds herself living in London, and later in 1950 when Lucia is a very different woman but one who has carried her secrets close and whose vulnerability continues to dominate. Lucia has a sublime gift for music, and singing, and it is this gift which will cut through her defenses and allow her to succeed in a world where to be both female, and black, was practically a none starter. 

Whilst this story highlights this struggle to succeed, it also takes us back, through Lucia's thoughtful narration, to the events which have brought her to this place and time and by cleverly inserting some Jamaican patois Lucia comes alive in our imagination and the author's thoughtful storytelling allows us to follow every step of her journey. Lucia's War may start during the early part of the twentieth century but as the story moves on it becomes obvious that perhaps, for this brave and stalwart woman Lucia's own personal war never truly ends.

Rich in history, imaginatively written, and with a strong sense of the social and prejudicial injustices which were rife at this time, Lucia's War is another thought provoking novel from this talented writer.





Susan Lanigan graduated from Trinity College Dublin with a degree in English and History in the late 90s, then pursued a Graduate Diploma in I.T. in Dublin City University and a Masters in Writing in NUI Galway.

Her first novel White Feathers, a tale of passion, betrayal and war, was selected as one of the final ten in the Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair, 2013, and published in 2014 by Brandon Books. The book won critical acclaim and was shortlisted for the UK Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 2015.

Her second novel, Lucia’s War, also concerning WWI as well as race, music and motherhood, was published in June 2020 and has been named as the Coffee Pot Book Club Honourable Mention in the Modern Historical Book of the Year Award.


Twitter @susanl_lanigan #LuciasWar







πŸ“– Book Review ~ Unfortunate Stars by Susan Lanigan

Idee Fixe Press
February 2021
(45 pages)
Available as an ebook and audio book

My thanks to the author for my copy of the ebook

Czechoslovakia, 1938 - Friedrich Pflommer, a married man with two children, has fallen hopelessly in love with the most unsuitable person possible - the young, volatile Kai, an exchange student living under his own roof. As Nazi forces gather on the border, Friedrich is playing a high-stakes game and risks losing everything.

France, 1915 - as a young lieutenant in wartime, Friedrich is badly injured during a failed counterattack, but a meeting with an Englishman during battle changes everything.

Unfortunate Stars is a short story of romantic love and deep friendship between men, of what it is to surrender to our own truth, and to live it even in the hardest of circumstances.


 πŸ“– My thoughts..

Unfortunate Stars is made all the more tender by the author's perceptiveness in placing the reader right at the very heart of the intimacy and in doing so makes the story all the more powerful in its simplicity.

Friedrich Pflommer has much to lose if his clandestine relationship with Kai, an exchange student who is living with the Pflommer family, is discovered. However, as we get deeper into this forbidden intimacy so Friederich starts to reveal more about himself, especially of his heartbreaking relationship with a young Englishman during the catastrophic events of the First World War.

Whilst the story may be short it doesn't lessen its impact or spoil the effect of the notion that love is love wherever the arrow falls and in whatever circumstances it finds itself in. Beautifully written, and researched, Unfortunate Stars is a good introduction to this talented author's work.





Susan Lanigan graduated from Trinity College Dublin with a degree in English and History in the late 90s, then pursued a Graduate Diploma in I.T. in Dublin City University and a Masters in Writing in NUI Galway.

Her first novel White Feathers, a tale of passion, betrayal and war, was selected as one of the final ten in the Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair, 2013, and published in 2014 by Brandon Books. The book won critical acclaim and was shortlisted for the UK Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 2015.

Her second novel, Lucia’s War, also concerning WWI as well as race, music and motherhood, was published in June 2020 and has been named as the Coffee Pot Book Club Honourable Mention in the Modern Historical Book of the Year Award.


Twitter @susanl_lanigan







Tuesday, 27 April 2021

πŸ“– Publication Day Book Review ~ Gone by Michael Blencowe


Leaping Hare Press
27 April 2021

My thanks to the publishers and Alison Menzies PR for my copy of this book


Inspired by his childhood obsession with extinct species, Michael Blencowe takes us around the globe from the forests of New Zealand to the ferries of Finland, from the urban sprawl of San Francisco to an inflatable crocodile on Brighton’s Widewater lagoon. 

Spanning five centuries from the last sighting of New Zealand’s Upland Moa to the death of Lonesome George, the Pinta Island Giant Tortoise in 2012, his memoir is peppered with the accounts of the hunters and naturalists of the past as well as revealing conversations with the custodians of these totemic animals today. With charm and insight he reveals what made these species unique; what their habits and habitats were; who discovered (or killed) them; what remains of them; and where we can view what survives of them today. 


Tortoise


He inspects the only known remains of a Huia egg at Te Papa, New Zealand; views hundreds of specimens of deceased Galapagos tortoises and Xerces Blue Butterflies in the California Academy of Sciences; and pays his respects to the only soft tissue remains of the Dodo in the world.


Xerces Blue Butterfly


πŸ“– My Thoughts..

Whenever I read about creatures who are no longer with us I realise just how transitory is our time on earth when whole species can be wiped out, especially as our surviving knowledge comes largely from those who hunted them to extinction in the first place. I'm thinking of those who travelled the globe discovering such rarities as giant tortoises in the GalΓ‘pagos, the majestic Dodo bird in Mauritius or in the midst of the American gold rush, the stunning Xerces Blue butterflies of San Francisco.


Dodo bird

The book is divided into easy to enjoy sections, not filled with interminable references that you need a reference book to look up, but more about the homely nature of each creature, the places they made their home, the people who found them, the reasons for their extinction, and also about the custodians who look after, so carefully, the little pieces of them which remain.

Here are the creatures you will find in Gone :

The Great Auk. Majestic flightless seabird of the North Atlantic and the ‘original penguin’.
The Spectacled Cormorant. The ‘ludicrous bird’ from the remote islands of the Bering Sea.
Steller’s Sea Cow. An incredible ten tonne dugong with skin as furrowed as oak bark.
Upland Moa. The improbable birds and the one time rulers of New Zealand.
Huia. The unique bird with two beaks and twelve precious tail feathers.
South Island Kōkako. The ‘orange-wattled crow’, New Zealand’s elusive Grey Ghost
Xerces Blue. The gossamer-winged butterfly of the San Francisco sand dunes.The Pinta Island Tortoise. The slow-moving, long-lived giant of the GalΓ‘pagos Islands.
Dodo. The superstar of extinction.
Schomburgk’s Deer. A mysterious deer from the wide floodplains of central Thailand.
Ivell’s Sea Anemone. A see-through sea creature known only from southern England.

Gone is a very readable account of some of those creatures who have literally gone, disappeared, vamoosed into the ether, but with clever words and pictures they again walk along the corridors of our imagination. Michael Blencowe uses his expert knowledge and deep love of the natural world to introduce us to some of the world's extinct creatures, and in doing so opens up an abundance of information you never knew you needed to know about some of those forgotten creatures who exist only as specimens in dusty museums or highlighted on the pages of natural history encyclopedias.

The beautiful illustrations which grace the pages of the book are by artist Jade They ( instagram @jade_they)


About the Author

Michael Blencowe lives in West Sussex where he works and volunteers for a number of wildlife conservation charities, and writes for many local publications. He was co-author, with Neil Hulme, of The Butterflies of Sussex and has produced a factual insert on caterpillars for Julia Donaldson’sforthcoming children’s book, The Woolly Bear. 

During the first Lockdown he used the observations of nature in his own garden to produce the hugely popular 100 Day Wildlife Diary for the Sussex Wildlife Trust. He is a regular speaker at events. His passion for wildlife began in his South Devon childhood where he first encountered tales of the last British Bird to be declared extinct, The Great Auk.


Twitter @LeapingHareBooks #MichaelBlencowe #Gone

@QuartoKnows

@alisonmenziespr





Monday, 26 April 2021

πŸ“– Book Review ~ Rescued by Her Highland Soldier by Sarah Mallory

Mills & Boon
Ebook 15 April 2021
Paperback 27 April 2021

Lairds of Ardvarrick #2

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book

Her rugged Highlander

Is the gallant son of a laird!

Travelling alone through the treacherous Scottish Highlands, Madeleine d’Evremont is saved by rough-looking soldier, Grant Rathmore. Attraction flares between them as he escorts Madeline on her perilous escape to France, until she discovers he’s the heir of a respected Laird! Madeline knows she must let him go – surely the daughter of a humble adventurer could never be a suitable match for him now

πŸ“– My thoughts..

Madeleine d’Evremont and Grant Rathmore have their own particular reasons for fleeing Scotland in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden. With red coated troops patrolling the area and with the British soldiers' penchant for violence no-one is safe, especially a woman travelling alone. With some trepidation Madeleine hires Rathmore to escort her to a place of safety and whilst their journey is difficult and fraught with danger, it also allows them time to get to know each other in a more meaningful way. This adventurous paring of a feisty young woman and a damaged Highlander is a beautiful combination as each of them bring their own particular secrets into the story.

Whilst the author is more known for her Regency romances, I do find this current foray into Scottish history to be a lovely alternative. Combining complicated history with a lively romance is never easy but this talented author never lets one get in the way of the other. It was equally enjoyable to watch a burgeoning relationship unfold between Madeleine d’Evremont and Grant Rathmore as it was to worry about the difficulties of them travelling in the Scottish highlands when tempers flared easily and the English viewed all Scots as traitors to the crown.

Rescued by Her Highland Soldier combines a strong sense of time and place with a thoroughly enjoyable romantic adventure all of which is written with this author's skilful flair for bringing to the page historical accuracy, and lively passion. Whilst it is the second book in the Laird's of Advarrick series it works completely as a stand-alone story.


About the Author




Sarah Mallory was born in the West Country and grew up with a love of books and history. She has had over 40 historical novels published and won the Rona Rose Award from the Romantic Novelists Association in 2012 and 2013.


Twitter @SarahMRomance






Sunday, 25 April 2021

🍴Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Claire Dyer



On this quiet Sunday morning why don't you put the kettle on, make your favourite breakfast and settle down for Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo





🍴I am so pleased to welcome Claire Dyer to Sunday Brunch🍴








🍴Good morning Claire, what favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch?

Ooh, that’s a tricky question! My husband and I tend to alternate our brunches between a fry up with sausage patties, potato rostis, baked beans, etc., and smoked salmon, avocado and scrambled egg. I think, on balance, I’ll bring the smoked salmon option as it’s healthier and I can display it more elegantly on the plate!


🍴Would you like a pot of English breakfast tea, a strong Americano, or a glass of Bucks Fizz?

I’m a huge fan of strong coffee, but there’s nothing like a cup of tea at breakfast time!


🍴Where shall we eat brunch – around the kitchen table, in the formal dining room, or outside on the patio?

Let’s have it at the table in the kitchen, unless the weather’s glorious, in which case we could sit outside.


🍴Shall we have music playing in the background? And if so will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you happy?

Yes, we shall have some music. I think I’ll play a Ludovico Einaudi CD. His music always calms me.


🍴Which of your literary heroes (dead or alive) are joining us for Sunday Brunch today?

I’m going to invite George Eliot as there’s so much I want to ask her about ‘Middlemarch’. To make sure my husband also has someone to talk to, I’m hoping James Clavell will join us too.


🍴Which favourite book will you bring to Sunday Brunch?

I’ll bring ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee.


Arrow
2010




🍴When you are writing do you still find time to read for pleasure? And is there a book you would like to read but haven’t had time for …yet!

In addition to any personal fiction and poetry reading and reading books for my Fresh Eyes clients or other authors to provide endorsements, I read two books a month, one for BBC Radio Berkshire’s Radio Reads feature and one for my Book Group. I also feel I should read ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ by Bernadine Evaristo as I’ve heard amazing things about it and simply must apply myself to the task!


🍴What’s the oldest book on your book shelf?

I have a set of AA Milne books that my late mother’s godmother gave her in the 1930s. They are very worn but much loved.


🍴Where do you find the inspiration for your novels?

In many different places. Sometimes it can be from a throw away comment someone makes, or a place I’ve visited, or as in the case of ‘The Perfect Affair’, it can be a photograph and a front door. Other times inspiration can come from the characters themselves. They arrive in my head and urge me to tell their stories.


🍴Have you a favourite place to settle down to write and do you find it easier to write in winter or summer?

I’m very lucky in that I have a writing room at home. I grandly call it the garden room as it faces the garden, which is lovely. It can, however, get quite hot and glary in the summer and a bit chilly in the winter! My other favourite place and time to write is early morning when we’re on holiday in Kalkan in Turkey. Sitting on the veranda overlooking the bay before the heat of the day swamps everything is akin to heaven!


🍴When writing to a deadline are you easily distracted and if so how do you bring back focus on your writing?

I’m OK if given a deadline as long as family matters don’t intrude. I was a PA to the HR Director of Hewlett-Packard in a former life and so am used to diary management, juggling priorities, etc. Once a PA, always a PA!


🍴Give us four essential items that a writer absolutely needs?

A laptop, coffee, cats, an imagination.


🍴What can you tell us about your latest novel or your current work in progress?

I have two novels on the launch pad at present. One is a murder mystery where the victim solves the crime with the help of her Initial Contact in heaven; the other is a family saga stretching back to the 1960s and which deals with mental health and motherhood.


Two Rivers Press
2021


Three definitions of the word Yield give meaning to the odyssey undergone in Claire Dyer's third collection: a journey which sees a son become a daughter, and a poet for both of them.

Charting these transitions, the poems take us through territories known and familiar - landscapes of childhood, family and home - into further regions where inner lives alter; outer ones are reimagined.

Whether evoking clinic visits, throwing away old boyhood clothes, grieving over what's lost, these honest and unashamed poems build to celebrate that place at the heart of motherhood where gender is no differentiator and love the gain.


Claire, where can we follow you on social media?

Twitter: @ClaireDyer1

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/claire.dyer.98

Instagram: clairedyerwriter

Blog/web url: https://clairedyer.com/



More about Claire

Claire Dyer’s poetry collections are published by Two Rivers Press, her novels by Quercus and The Dome Press. Her novel, 'The Significant Others of Odie May' is forthcoming from Matador in 2021. She curates Reading's Poets’ CafΓ©, teaches creative writing and runs Fresh Eyes, an editorial and critiquing service. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London and is a regular contributor on BBC Radio Berkshire. Her website is: www.clairedyer.com'



🍴Claire, thank you for taking part in Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo🍴



Follow us on Twitter #SundayBrunchwithJaffareadstoo



Saturday, 24 April 2021

πŸ“– Hist Fic Saturday ~ Cunning Women by Elizabeth Lees

  

On Hist Fic Saturday 


Let's go back to...1620


Windmill Books
22 April 2021

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book


Spring of 1620 in a Lancashire fishing community and the memory of the slaughter at Pendle is tight around the neck of Sarah Haworth. A birthmark reveals that Sarah, like her mother, is a witch. Torn between yearning for an ordinary life and desire to discover what dark power she might possess, Sarah’s one hope is that her young sister Annie will be spared this fate.

The Haworth family eke out a meagre existence in the old plague village adjoining a God-fearing community presided over by a seedy magistrate. A society built upon looking the other way, the villagers’ godliness is merely a veneer. But the Haworth women, with their salves and poultices, are judged the real threat to morality.

When Sarah meets lonely farmer’s son Daniel, she begins to dream of a better future. Daniel is in thrall to the wild girl with storms in her eyes, but their bond is tested when a zealous new magistrate vows to root out sins and sinners. In a frenzy of fear and fury, the community begins to turn on one another, and it’s not long before they direct their gaze towards the old plague village … and does Daniel trust that the power Sarah wields over him is truly love, or could it be mere sorcery?





πŸ“– My Thoughts..

In rural Lancashire memories of the Pendle witch trial still run deep and in isolated villages which thrive on superstition, and scurrilous gossip, it is not a good time to be known locally as a cunning woman. 

The Haworth family eke out a meagre existence on the periphery of village life living in an abandoned hovel which once housed plague victims. Known locally as the cunning women, Sarah Haworth and her mother are considered to be useful for their salves, and potions, but if provoked they can utter a stream of well aimed curses at whoever causes them displeasure. Money is always scarce, hunger is ever present, and the Howarth's uneasy relationship with the villagers means that charity is scarce. 

Daniel Taylor is a timid young man who lives with his domineering father on the only farm in the village. Bullied, and often made to feel worthless, Daniel lives his life in an unassuming sort of way, that is, until he meets Sarah Haworth, and is enthralled both by the wildness of her spirit and the plight of her poverty. Whilst Daniel and Sarah's burgeoning relationship is crucial to the story, it is played out against the backdrop of a village which has its own deadly secrets.

What then follows is an atmospheric story about living life in rural Lancashire when memories of the 1612 Pendle witch trial, just eight years before, still runs deep, and with the arrival, in the village, of an over zealous magistrate, who is determined to root out the very presence of evil, life is not safe for anyone but especially not for the cunning women. The story starts slowly as we get to know the characters, we learn their place in this superstitious community, we walk with Sarah as she takes her little sister Annie into the village to sell scraps of potions, we hurt when life goes badly for them, rejoice in  their small mercies and are thankful for the innocent pleasure they get in having food in their stomachs.

Cunning Women is an authentic and beautifully described historical novel which brings this shadowy corner of Lancashire to life in a thought provoking way. The author has captured the superstitious mood well and whilst there is an undeniable slowness to the narrative this only helps to build up the tension and creates a sense of stillness which enhances the hidden cruelty of living in this time of superstitious dread.


About the Author

Elizabeth Lee won the Curtis Brown Creative Marian Keyes Scholarship, and her work has been selected for the Womentoring Project and Penguin’s WriteNow Live. She lives in Warwickshire.

Watch a YouTube video of the author talking about Cunning Women. 




Twitter @EKLeeWriter


@WindmillBooks











Friday, 23 April 2021

πŸ“– Book Review ~ The Orphan of Ironbridge by Mollie Walton


Zaffre
15 April 2021

#3 The Ironbridge Saga

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

Hettie Jones has grown up in Ironbridge. She has never known her father and, since her mother's death, has been brought up by the Malone family, who treat her as one of their own. She works as a pit girl at the local coal mine, alongside her childhood playfellow, Evan - although lately, their friendship seems to be blossoming into something more.

But when Queenie King takes a fancy to her, Hettie's life is transformed. Trained first as a lady's maid, and then hurtled into a world of luxury and gentility, she finds her new position difficult to reconcile with her past life. And with Queenie's daughter-in-law scheming against her, Hettie's situation becomes dire.

Can Hettie really use her new position for good, and will she find a way to bridge the divide between rich and poor?

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

Reading The Orphan of Ironbridge has been something of a bittersweet experience as I knew that this book series was going to come to an end and I would miss the characters who have come, so completely, to life over the course of the trilogy. This book focuses on Hettie Jones on whose young shoulders rests the responsibly for carrying much of the story, and what a treat it has been to follow this determined young woman who, never beaten by the inauspicious start to her life, is more than ready to meet the challenges which undoubtedly come her way.

I have enjoyed being back in Ironbridge again as Hettie goes about her work as a pit bank girl,  breathtakingly hard work, which she does with a fierce stoicism, and strong sense of self worth. Everything is so beautifully described that you get a strong sense of the camaraderie, and yes, sometimes of the petty squabbles which exist between the women, but there's also laughter, loyalty and friendship. 

Those who have followed this lovely trilogy from the start will know that no story has ever been complete without matriarchal Queenie King doing what she does best, which is, meddling in other people's affairs. I'm delighted to say that, thanks to some wonderful writing, Queenie really comes up trumps, and there's a lovely twist in the tale, which made me smile with acknowledgement of  a destiny well achieved.

I'm so pleased that this talented author made her trip to the Shropshire town of Ironbridge which was the inspiration behind her decision to write this excellent trilogy The place, its people and its proud industrial heritage has been allowed fly on the pages of these lovely stories and more than does them justice. So even though there's a sense of the tying up of loose ends in The Orphan of Ironbridge, the author doesn't compromise on giving us her usual flair for authenticity, excitement and excellent storytelling.

The Orphan of Ironbridge can be read as a standalone story but as with all series it is better to start at the beginning.


About the Author


Mollie Walton


Mollie Walton has always been fascinated by history and on a trip to Shropshire, while gazing down from the iron bridge, found the inspiration for what has become her Ironbridge series of historical sagas.



Twitter @rebeccamascull #TheOrphanofIronbridge


@ZaffreBooks








Thursday, 22 April 2021

πŸ“– Summer's Out at Hope Hall by Pam Rhodes

 

πŸ“– Thrilled to host a stop on this blog tour today πŸ“–


Lion Hudson
23 April 2021

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book 
and the invitation to be part of the blog tour


HOPE HALL thrums with activity under the summer sun. Sea Cadets march in the yard and happy chatter issues from English as a Foreign Language classes while the weekly Food Bank reaches out to those in need. Kath is determined to honour the origins of Hope Hall, which was founded in memory of those lost during the two world wars. It’s all hands on deck as the centenary celebrations continue, but Kath’s efforts set her on a collision course with Celia Ainsworth, a descendant of the family that donated the land. Added to this, a mysterious homeless man proves tricky for Sheelagh to identify, and a handsome stranger looks set to lead Kath a merry dance... SUMMER’S OUT AT HOPE HALL is a fun and deeply moving story that celebrates the power of hope.


πŸ“– My thoughts..

It's been an absolute joy to return to Hope Hall to meet again with all the quirky characters who first came to life in Springtime at Hope Hall which I was lucky enough to read in February last year.

Summer’s Out at Hope Hall begins pretty much where the last book ended and we meet again with all those characters who became so familiar to us last time. This generous continuity allows a seamless transition making the return seem like meeting up again with old friends, with the added enjoyment of meeting new characters who all bring something interesting to the story. 

Hope Hall continues to be right at the very heart of this small community, offering a place of safety to all those groups who are so vital in keeping village morale high, and in extending a warm welcome to all who enter through its doors the hall remains pretty much the vital hub around which everything circulates. During the summer there is much activity, especially as the hall’s centenary is fast approaching and with plans for a poignant commemoration in place, administrator, Kath is kept fully occupied.

There’s a gentle charm to these lovely stories, and the author describes this quintessential way of life so perfectly that I am always a little bit sad when the story comes to end. The story flows beautifully, there are no rough edges, just a heartwarming tale of village life which is written with a fine eye for cosy detail, and a quirky sense of humour.

Although Summer’s Out at Hope Hall can be read as a stand-alone story as with any series it’s best to start at the beginning and that way the characters can become firmly fixed in your imagination. 


About the Author





Pam Rhodes is known around the world as the presenter of BBC Television’s Songs of Praise and her popular Hearts and Hymns programme on Premier Christian Radio. A natural storyteller with 25 varied books under her belt, Pam is well known for her novels packed with down-to-earth characters and situations that inspire and entertain.



Twitter @PamRhodesTV #SummersOutAtHopeHall

@LionHudson




Wednesday, 21 April 2021

πŸ“– Blog tour ~ The Wife Who Got A Life by Tracy Bloom

 

πŸ“– Excited to host today's stop on this blog tour πŸ“– 


Harper Fiction
 15 April 2021

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
and to Random T Tours for the invitation to be part of the blog tour


THE WIFE WHO GOT A LIFE perfectly captures the joyous chaos of family life and is the story of Cathy Collins, who’s come up with a list to help her nail the business of getting older.

After initially feeling annoyed by her sister’s gift of a ‘Motivational Journal’, she develops a list of monthly goals she believes will set her up for tackling the coming of middle age.

JANUARY - Write the list!

FEBRUARY - Ditch Periods

MARCH - Ditch Cooking

APRIL- Get a Life Outside the Family, preferably with ‘Young’ People

MAY - Secure My Son’s Future – i.e. Put a Rocket Up His Arse

JUNE - Teach My Daughter How to Not Get Screwed Over by Relationships

JULY - Reduce My Carbohydrate Footprint

AUGUST - Agree Who Will Clean Mum and Dad’s Toilet

SEPTEMBER - Make the Necessary Announcements about the Menopause

OCTOBER - Have the Really, Really Important Chat with My Husband

NOVEMBER - Fall in Love Again

DECEMBER- Dance with Hugh Jackman

But Cathy isn’t the only one in her family with a midlife bombshell to drop and when her husband throws his grenade into the mix, bossing the list doesn’t look quite so easy… and as everyone knows, a year can seem like a VERY long time...


πŸ“– My Thoughts..


Anyone who has ever started a new year with a list of motivational goals to achieve will have huge sympathy for Cathy Collins who seems to be at a bit of an emotional crossroads in her life. She has two teenage children who seem hellbent on being as awkward as possible, and Cathy's lacklustre husband, Mike, is determined to 'find himself' by contemplating a dramatic career change. Add all these ingredients into the mix and what pops out is a fun and, at times, quite poignant look at the minutiae of family life. 

The story takes us through each month of the year as Cathy sets off on her own set of personal motivational challenges, and as everything is told from her particularly zany perspective, there's never a dull moment. Cathy is a breath of fresh air, she is filled with angst one minute, particularly about growing older, she's forty-eight, and is then gloriously funny as she attempts to make sense of her, somewhat, complicated life as a wife, mother, daughter and sister.

The author writes with warmth and wit about Cathy and her family, who, it must be said, are not always a very likeable bunch, and there were definitely times when I wanted to give them all a bit of a talking too, especially the teenagers who could have been a bit more helpful towards their mother. I did feel quite sorry for Mike, Cathy's husband who seemed to be floundering around on the edge of family life, but overall, I enjoyed watching how the year unfolded for all of the Collins family.

The Wife Who Got A Life makes you smile but it also alludes to some quite serious family issues which although presented in a light hearted manner are no less pertinent. It's a nice, easy read, perfect for a relaxing afternoon spent reading in the garden. 



About the Author





Tracy started writing when her cruel, heartless husband ripped her away from her dream job shopping for rollercoasters for the UK's leading theme parks, to live in America with a brand-new baby and no mates. In a cunning plan to avoid domestic duties and people who didn't understand her Derbyshire accent, she wrote her romantic comedy, NO ONE EVER HAS SEX ON A TUESDAY, which has sold three quarters of a million copies to date.

Twitter @TracyBBloom #TheWifeWhoGotALife

@fictionpubteam @HarperFiction

@RandomTTours






Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Author Guest Post ~ Leigh Russell

 

I am delighted to welcome Leigh Russell to the blog to share her guest post

about writing her latest novel, Rachel's Story



 WHY WE WRITE


What on earth could prompt a crime writer to turn her hand to dystopian fiction? That’s the question readers have been asking me since the publication of RACHEL’S STORY, my twenty-fourth book and my first dystopian novel. It’s a question I struggle to answer. After my debut crime novel CUT SHORT was published, I recall being asked why I had written a crime novel, and I struggled to explain my motivation for writing about a murderer.

For me, ‘wanting to write’ was never an issue. The stories just worked themselves into my imagination and I wrote them down, with no idea where they came from. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch tells Scout that the only way to understand another person is to ‘climb into his skin and walk around in it’. As authors we do this all the time with our characters, but I prefer not to try and analyse my ability to ‘climb into the skin’ of so many killers. All I can say is that my debut crime novel must have been written when I was feeling angry.

Whatever drove me to start writing, like many writers I didn’t set out to look for a story to write; our stories find us. So I never intended to write a dystopian novel, just as I never planned to be a crime writer. In fact, I had no serious ambitions to be a published author until I started to write. And it all began with a story.

My detective, Geraldine Steel, continues investigating murder cases in the fictional world she inhabits, just as my life has continued in the real world. But a little over a year ago all of our lives changed as we were struck down by covid. There was some discussion among writers and readers about how much the real world situation would impact on our stories. Many authors felt unable to dismiss what was happening, but I made a decision straight away to ignore the pandemic in my books. For me, fiction offers an escape from the anxieties, the challenges, and the chores of real life. Not only did I decide not to focus on the pandemic, I didn’t even want to think about it while I was writing. So Geraldine Steel continues to conduct her murder investigations in the world we once knew as normal. Hopefully we will return to that normality very soon.

But our experiences and our inner lives creep into our writing in unexpected ways, and while I continued ignoring the pandemic in my crime novels, I found myself writing a dystopian novel. The darkness in the world where Rachel lives is perhaps a reflection of our communal experience, as we struggled to adapt and survive through lockdown with our lives more or less intact. Many people lost loved ones, many lost their livelihoods. We will come through this global crisis battle scarred and bereft.

One effect of lockdown on my own life was that it gave me more time to read. Genre has never defined my reading. I read widely, irrespective of genre or period, through romance to fantasy, crime to saga, historical novels and those books which defy categorisation. I’ve never considered myself a fan of dystopian fiction. Yet many books which have made a lasting impression on me fall into that category. Authors who spring to mind include George Orwell, Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro, Aldous Huxley, Nevil Shute, John Wyndham, Ray Bradbury, PD James, Anthony Burgess, HG Wells, RC Sheriff... I could go on.

Dystopian fiction is, above all, fiction of ideas. In creating dystopian worlds, writers invite us to speculate about ourselves and our own world. So in 1984 Orwell is not just creating a fantasy about the future, and in his novel On the Beach, Nevil Shute is not merely speculating about a world after a nuclear holocaust. The best dystopian fiction writers explore where dangers inherent in society in the real world could lead us. They might have been writing at almost any point during the past hundred years, but many of the dangers they foresaw continue to threaten us today. Some, have even explored the effects of a pandemic.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that I wrote my first dystopian novel as we were living in lockdown. I never planned to become a crime writer. Now, thanks to Rachel, I am also a dystopian novelist.



Bloodhound Books
6 April 2021



In a world where food is scarce, the government rules and ordinary people only exist to serve, can there ever be happiness?

As a child, living in a post-apocalyptic world, Rachel is initiated into The Programme where selected young girls are medicated to make them fertile.

Fearing for her future, Rachel escapes. But freedom comes at a price, as she learns when she joins the outcasts struggling to survive beyond the city walls.


The Geraldine Steel series is published by No Exit Press.



More about Leigh 

Leigh Russell has written twenty-four novels so far, and her Geraldine Steel crime series has sold over a million copies. In addition to her crime series featuring detective Geraldine Steel, Leigh has written two trilogies and two stand alone psychological thrillers. Rachel’s Story is her first dystopian novel. Leigh chairs the judging panel for the Crime Writers Association’s prestigious Debut Dagger Award, and is a Consultant Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund.


Twitter @LeighRussell

















Monday, 19 April 2021

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Cornish Midwife by Jo Bartlett

 

πŸ“– Delighted to host today's blog tour stop πŸ“– 


Boldwood Books
April 2021

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
and to Rachel's Random Resources for the invitation to the blog tour


A fresh start...

Midwife Ella Mehenick left the small Cornish town of Port Agnes for London and never looked back.

But when her seemingly perfect life crashes down around her, there’s only one place she can heal

her battered heart the place she once called home.

A new arrival...

Ella is quickly welcomed into the small community midwife team and loves her new job caring for mums and their precious babiest’s what she does best! But being back also means facing ex-flame Dan Ferguson...the first man to break her heart.

A second chance at love?

Dan is still as gorgeous as ever, but he’s never forgiven Ella for leaving. And now she’s back it’s clear that there is unfinished business between them. As Ella settles into her new/old life, she can’t stop the memories of how she once loved Dan so completely and maybe never stopped.

Maybe coming home to Cornwall is Ella’s chance to love again...

Meet The Cornish Midwives of Port Agnes where community, friendship and love are always delivered.

An uplifting and escapist read, perfect for fans of Christie Barlow, Jessica Redland and Holly Martin!

This book was previously published as Return to Port Agnes.


πŸ“– My thoughts..

The Cornish Midwife is the first in a proposed series of novels which are set in beautiful Cornwall. In this first book we meet Ella Mehenick who has recently returned to St Agnes to live with her parents who run the local bakery. Moving back to St Agnes was never high on Ella's agenda but after a disastrous event which changed the course of her life, Ella is determined to make a fresh start. Using her midwifery skills, Ella finds a temporary job working as a midwife in the local community team and it is there were she starts to put her life back together again.

The author writes with such warmth, and a touch of light humour, about this small corner of Cornwall and brings the charming village of St Agnes, and the people who live there, to gentle life. It was especially lovely to get to know the other inhabitants of the village, especially Ella's parents, who only have her best interests at heart, but who, it must be said, can seem a bit overpowering, and there's also the lovely Brae, a school friend of Ella's who runs the local fish and chip shop. However, it is in the 'will they, won't they' relationship between Ella and Dan Ferguson, her first true love, where the story starts to get romantically interesting.

The Cornish Midwife gets the series off to a good start and sets the scene really well for other characters to have their turn in the spotlight. I'm really looking forward to seeing where this lovely series heads to next and can't wait to return to the charming village of St Agnes.


About the Author




Jo Bartlett is the bestselling author of nineteen women’s fiction titles. She fits her writing in between her two day jobs as an educational consultant and university lecturer and live with her family and three dogs on the Kent coast. Boldwood is publishing the first title in The Cornish Midwife Series part of a twelve book deal in April 2021.

Twitter @J_B_Writer




@BoldwoodBooks #boldwoodbloggers

@rararesources