Saturday 30 September 2023

๐Ÿ“– Hist Fic Saturday ~ The Major and the Scandalous Widow by Sarah Mallory


28 September 2023

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book

A compelling Regency romance.

The infamous lady…

He must resist!

Major Jack Clifton must fulfill his military friend’s dying wish by returning his wedding ring to his widow. But when honorable Jack finds Eloise a year later, she’s nothing like the woman that he was told to expect. In fact, the ton view her as utterly scandalous! Yet, Jack quickly learns that Eloise’s reputation has been wrongfully imposed on her…and that he has forbidden feelings for the real Eloise!

๐Ÿ“– My Review

When I was a teenager I became fascinated by the Regency romances of Georgette Heyer and Barbara Cartland and this love for them has survived. It's still my favourite pastime on a rainy afternoon to escape to Georgian England and go back to a bygone time of grand salons and gossip ridden soireรฉs.

The Major and the Scandalous Widow caught my attention from the start as we join the story just as Napoleon is defeated at the Battle of Waterloo and Major Jack Clifton's sad mission to return his dying friend's wedding ring to his widow. Eloise, Lady Allyngham has something of a lively reputation and having mourned her husband for a year she is now back in society which is where Jack Clifton tracks her down, however, the handsome major is unprepared for the attraction of this scandalous widow.

I raced through this book, entranced by the relationship between the widow and the major and completely at ease in the world they inhabit, be it in the grand salons at an evening ball, or sheltered by moonlight in a secluded garden, the regency world, with all its faults and foibles, is brought into sharp focus. Both central characters have their own fascination and I enjoyed discovering more about Eloise, she's a feisty heroine and more than a match for the dashing major whose sense of propriety is tempered only by his obligation to protect his friend's widow at all costs. Whilst there is the undeniable pull of romance there's also a deeper message embedded in the story, that of the unbreakable bonds of loyalty between lovers, friends and fallen comrades. 

Charmingly sophisticated and with an undeniable sizzle of passion, The Major and the Scandalous Widow is another wonderful Regency romance from this talented author who brings the Regency world alive with all its glamour, intrigue and passion.

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


Friday 29 September 2023

๐Ÿ“– Book Review ~ The Diary of a Secret Royal by Henry Morris


Harper Collins

28 September 2023

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

From one of Twitter’s most cutting-edge satirists and irreverent political commentators comes the most scandalous Royal book of the year.

In a rapidly changing world the Royal Family own swathes of the country, most of the seabed and more money than anyone could ever spend. It is the role of the Chamberlain of the NDAs to keep things that way.

From transgressions to successions, travesties to majesties, follow eighteen months in the life of trusted toady Fenton Footlicker Esquire as he takes Queen Elizabeth to rehab, foils a breakout from the Balmoral Labour Camp and runs a counter-espionage unit of royal lookalikes – the Crown Duals.

Fenton knows better than anyone that without the monarchy UK tourism would instantly collapse. Which is why he calls himself the Royal Flush: because he always cleans up the messes his charges leave behind.

From Henry Morris, the creator of the infamous Secret Tory Twitter account, comes a brilliantly original and deliciously close to the knuckle faux memoir of Britain’s most famous family.

My Review..

This is the secret diary of Fenton Footlicker, Chamberlain of Non-Disclosure Agreements to the Royal Family and shows just to what lengths he has to go to in order to stop the Royals from making fools of themselves. It does so in a riotous romp which had me laughing out loud at the absurdity of some of it, along with nodding my head in agreement when certain parts of the diary seemed to have more than an element of truth attached.

The secret diary starts in December 2021 and continues for the next eighteen months, through the momentous year of 2022, which not only saw the celebration of the late Queen's Platinum Jubilee but also her sad passing in September, the diary thus ending in May 2023 with King Charles III on the throne. Everything that you would want to be included was and I won't spoil it by saying too much as its definitely a book to read without any spoilers from me. However, it's filled interesting snippets of gossip, lots of sly innuendo and chunks of the downright hilarious which really did have me bursting into laughter. 

I was hooked from the start on The Diary of a Secret Royal, the writing is really clever, often irreverent, brilliantly satirical and splendidly observed.

About the Author

Henry Morris is a personal trainer and rave promoter, and author of the infamous Diary of a Secret Tory MP. He lives in Frogmore Cottage.

Last year he released The Diary of a Secret Tory, a parody political memoir described by Caitlin Moran as ‘a landslide victory for modern satire’ and ‘political satire at its blistering, biting best’ by James O’Brien.

Twitter @secrettory12

@HarperCollinsUK @mudlarkbooks

Thursday 28 September 2023

๐Ÿ“– Blog Tour ~ The Locket by Natalie Meg Evans


25 September 2023

My thanks to the publisher for the copy of the book and the invitation to the blog tour

England, 1942. 'It has to stay secret,' he whispers, placing the locket around her neck. 'If they find it, they’ll send me away.' As she holds the locket, glinting in the moonlight, she can’t hold back the tears. 'I just wish we didn’t have to hide…'

When farmer’s daughter Irene meets Theodore at a village dance, sparks fly instantly. The war has brought him all the way from Louisiana to build a US airbase just across her father’s fields, but as they sway together, there is nothing else in the world. Only his gentle touch and his deep brown eyes.

But being together comes at a price. As Theodore is Black, the might of the US Air Force is against them, and all the members of the little village community disapprove of their relationship. And they will all go to terrible lengths to tear the two young lovers apart...

Decades later, heartbroken Ruby is back at her family’s crumbling farmhouse for the first time in years, after the loss of her beloved grandmother Irene. The roof has fallen in, family photographs are damaged – and her grandmother’s jewellery is nowhere to be found.

When Ruby uncovers her grandmother’s waterlogged diaries, she discovers that Irene treasured one piece of lost jewellery above all. A locket from a man called Theodore. And the missing locket holds the key to unravelling a heartbreaking secret that changed her grandmother’s life…

Is someone in the village hiding the locket to keep the truth about Irene and Theodore buried? And can Ruby find a way to honour her grandmother’s memory – or in digging up the pain of the war, will she tear her family apart?

๐Ÿ“– My Review..

From the very start of The Locket I was drawn into this dual time narrative and followed with real interest this rather evocative WW2 story about Irene Boulter, a young woman who just happened to fall in love with a man who her village community didn't approve of. Fast forward eighty years later and Irene's granddaughter, Ruby, is determined to solve a mystery which has been kept secret for far too long.

Spanning the war years, and its subsequent repercussions, we experience the joy, and heartbreak, of a relationship which caused real problems in a rural village which didn't like to stray too far from the straight and narrow. Recreating a time of bigotry and prejudice leaves a real mark on the story and the author explores this difficult time really well so that I had a real sense of the emotional connection between Irene and Theodore, and yet also suffered, alongside them, the pain of betrayal and ultimate heartbreak.
I enjoyed the modern day story very much, it sits comfortably alongside the wartime elements and I became totally immersed in Ruby's search for the truth as she discovered just what occurred in 1942 which caused Irene so much unhappiness. The way in which the fragmented pieces of lives torn apart during the war were revealed in emotional detail with neither the historic, nor the modern, overshadowing the other.

Moving seamlessly backwards and forwards in time The Locket is a beautifully written story about long hidden secrets and lives which had been changed by circumstances. 

About the Author

Natalie Meg Evans has been an art student, actor, PR copywriter, book-keeper and bar tender but always wanted to write. A USA Today best-seller and RITA nominee, she is author of four published novels which follow the fortunes of strong-minded women during the 1930s and 40s. Fashion, manners and art are the glass through which her characters’ lives are viewed. Each novel is laced with passion, romance and desire. Mystery is never far away.

An avid absorber of history – for her sixth birthday she got a toy Arthurian castle with plastic knights – Natalie views historical fiction as theatre for the imagination. Her novels delve behind the scenes of a prestige industry: high fashion, millinery, theatre, wine making. Rich arenas for love and conflict. Most at home in the English countryside, Natalie lives in rural Suffolk. She has one son.

Twitter @natmegevans #TheLocket

@bookouture #BooksOnTour

๐Ÿ“– Publication Day Review ~ Cat Society by Ray Sadri ๐Ÿ˜ป

The Book Guild
28 September 2023

My thanks to the author and publisher for my copy of this book 

Cat Society is a witty and bonkers story of life and politics in Westminster – reimagining the debates, events and headlines of recent years had the world been run by cats. A lot changes. A lot doesn’t. The country is on the brink of bankruptcy, and backbencher Douglas Schnitty is disappointed with the thousands of homeless cats sleeping by the bins. He gets frustrated with higher powers who only seem to care about their own interests and preserving the country’s finances. He schmoozes and sabotages his way through the political elite, from assisting the bombastic Hector Perp Pahpousson to disrupting the plans of the Prime Minister. Can his conscience save him, and the slum cats, as events spiral out of control?

๐Ÿ˜ป My Review..

Anything to do with our feline friends and I am drawn in like a magnet and Timmy, who keeps a close eye on current affairs, was beyond thrilled to be included in the invitation to read a story about his feline buddies in an imagined world of pawlitics. With a packet of his favourite cheese flavoured Dreamies close to paw, and a couple of Kitkats for me, we settled down, one rainy autumn afternoon to enter into the feline world of Cat Society.  

In the cat community around Whitehall MP Douglas Schnitty represents a homeless community of cats who are down on their luck, forced to live amongst the bins and forage for their food, these cats are several rungs down on a housing ladder with no hope of ever climbing to the top. Contrast this with the fat cat pawlititians with their fountains of rich cream and Sicilian fish soup and you have all the makings of an unfair society. Concerned for the welfare of the homeless Douglas attempts to do whatever he can in order to help the unfortunate members of the cat society but in doing so he finds that no cat is ever far from being at rock bottom.

Cat Society is a really fun read, it doesn't take itself too seriously and yet covers some of the deeper issues which strike a parallel in our own world today. There are the usual shenanigans amongst pawliticians, the same jostling for pawer and the insider petty squawbles which we, all too often, associate with our own politicians in Whitehall. The author writes well with a quirky eye for even the smallest detail and in using his own background knowledge has created an imaginative world of a feline inhabited London, with a rich and diverse population of unusual cats who leap off the page with oodles of feline confidence.

Photo: Jaffreadstoo

Ray Sadri has been a radio journalist, a central government Chief Press Officer and now runs campaigns in the worlds of politics and business. He lives with his fiancรฉ, baby boy and Norwegian Forest Cat, Mads — who naturally reigns supreme in the family. Ray explains: “Living with cats and working with politicians has taught me that the two share a great deal in common. They can be intelligent, cunning, cute, and lethal in equal measures. One thing’s for sure, we can’t live without them. It is this realisation that helped me come up with the concept of Cat Society.”

Twitter @catsocietyuk #CatSociety


Wednesday 27 September 2023

๐Ÿ“– Book Review ~ A Meadow Murder by Helen Hollick

Taw River Press
 26 July 2023

A Jan Christopher Mystery  #4

My thanks to the author for my copy of the book

Make hay while the sun shines? But what happens when a murder is discovered, and country life is disrupted?

Summer 1972. Young library assistant Jan Christopher and her fiancรฉ, DS Lawrence Walker, are on holiday in North Devon. There are country walks and a day at the races to enjoy, along with Sunday lunch at the village pub, and the hay to help bring in for the neighbouring farmer.

But when a body is found the holiday plans are to change into an investigation of murder, hampered by a resting actor, a woman convinced she’s met a leprechaun and a scarecrow on walkabout...

๐Ÿ“– My review..

The summer of 1972 is recreated in this cosy crime novel which, once again, sees Jan Christopher and her fiancรฉ, DS Lawrence Walker plunged right into the centre of a mystery. Jan and Laurie were hoping for a peaceful summer holiday visiting Laurie's parents at Valley View Farm when they suddenly become involved in a murder mystery which places the fictional Devon village of Chappletawton right in the centre of a police investigation. 

The story moves along at its own pace, there's no rush needed, we'll get there and in the meantime we can enjoy reading of life in this gentle Devon village whilst at the same time enjoy Jan and Laurie's uncanny ability to step right into a complex murder/mystery. I especially enjoy reading the story from both Jan and Laurie's perspective as this gives a different view of what's going on in the plot. There's no doubt at all when you are reading a Jan Christopher Mystery that you are very firmly placed in a bygone era as the author does a brilliant job of recreating time and place, and not just because the police investigation takes place without the use of the modern forensics we now associate with a crime investigation but also because there clever references to a slower pace of life in the seventies, be it music, fashion or the TV programmes of the time. I am left with a feeling of nostalgia and almost wish for a return to those innocent days when a five pound note in your purse seemed like untold wealth.

Whilst this is the fourth book in this cosy crime series it is perfectly possible to read A Meadow Mystery as a standalone cosy crime story although as with any series it is best to start at the beginning and get to know Jan and Laurie for yourself.

About the Author

Helen and her family moved from north-east London in January 2013 after finding an eighteenth-century North Devon farmhouse through BBC TV’s popular Escape To The Country show.

First accepted for publication by William Heinemann in 1993 – a week after her fortieth birthday – Helen then became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The Chosen King) being novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she also writes a pirate-based nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages.

Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Tales and Life of A Smuggler. She also runs Discovering Diamonds, a review blog for historical fiction. 

Twitter: @HelenHollick

Discovering Diamonds Historical Fiction Review Blog :


Tuesday 26 September 2023

๐Ÿ“– Blog Tour ~ The Playground by S D Robertson


24 September 2023

My thanks to the publisher for the copy of this book and the invitation to the tour

He saved my little girl when I couldn’t. I invited him into our lives. But I had no idea he knew my darkest secret…

It is an ordinary September morning when I nearly lose my little girl. My mouth is dry, my hands shake when I see that she has darted unexpectedly into the playground…

The place where my own childhood ended.

Where I can’t set foot inside.

As she wobbles on top of the climbing frame about to fall, a silent scream freezes in my throat. So when a stranger hears her cries and rushes to help, I feel weak with relief.

I thank him as my daughter presses her tear-stained face into my skirt. Looking into his warm brown eyes and gentle smile, I feel an instant connection. When our paths cross again, I invite him for dinner. I’ve been so lonely since the breakdown of my marriage. What harm could come of it?

Soon we are seeing each other daily and I feel a spark grow between us. But then he says something that makes my heart beat fast in my chest. Something that makes me think he knows my secret.

That he knows what really happened at the playground all those years ago.

And if he knows that, he could destroy my precious family in a second…

๐Ÿ“– My Review..

There is a distinct creepiness about The Playground which hits the ground running when Beth and her daughter are involved in an incident at a local park. Coming to her daughter's rescue, a stranger soon becomes indispensable to Beth and offers her friendship and is someone she can rely on and as the story progresses we discover more about Beth and the real reason for her very real fear of playgrounds. 

The story evolves quickly and there is enough edginess to lend a chill atmosphere and the clues into Beth's past story certainly makes the story compelling. The twin narratives between Beth and Billy work well, I enjoyed getting to know them both with one being more likeable than the other. Beth is a typical mother, wanting the best for her family but struggling in a whole new world and whilst Billy is a comforting presence in her life it soon becomes apparent that he has complex secrets of his own. The tension mounts and I enjoyed how the author kept the momentum of the mystery alive, and I enjoyed trying to piece together all the pieces of this complex puzzle.

The Playground is a well thought out family drama with plenty of twists, turns and red herrings which kept me guessing until the final denouement.

Former journalist S.D. Robertson is a USA Today and #1 Kindle bestseller. He quit his role as a local newspaper editor to pursue a lifelong ambition of becoming a novelist – and he’s never looked back. Stuart, whose work has been translated into ten languages, is a reluctant DIYer and unofficial tech support provider for his family. He lives in a village near Manchester and is married with one daughter. There’s also his cat, who likes to distract him from writing by any means possible.

Twitter @SDRauthor #ThePlayground

@bookouture #booksontour

Monday 25 September 2023

๐Ÿ“– Book Review ~ Pulpit Rock by Kate Rhodes #TeamScilly

Simon & Schuster

DI Ben Kitto #4

My thanks to the publisher and Tracy at Compulsive Readers for my copy of this book


As the scorching summer sun covers the small Scilly island of St Mary’s, DI Ben Kitto and his team are training for the annual Swimathon. But their morning session comes to a climactic end when they discover a body hanging from Pulpit Rock. The victim has been dressed up in a bridal gown, and Ben quickly realises that a dark and sinister killer is at large on the island.

To prevent the killer from escaping, Ben has no choice but to lock down St Mary’s, yet in doing so he is unwillingly trapping the killer’s next victim. When another woman is attacked, Ben gathers the island’s at-risk residents inside the local hotel for safety, but the killer is already watching and remains one step ahead . . .

Everyone is a suspect. No one is safe.

๐Ÿ“– My Review..

Pulpit Rock is the fourth book in the DI Ben Kitto series of crime novels and sees a welcome return to the Isles of Scilly, a beautiful place, which Ben, together with his dog, Shadow, calls home. Whilst in training for the annual swimathon, Ben makes a chilling discovery with the sight of a young woman's body hanging precariously from Pulpit Rock. With sinister, and macabre undertones, this discovery leads Ben and his small team of investigative officers on a wild goose chase around the small island of St Mary's. The race is on before the killer can strike again but with such a small community everybody, including close friends are a suspect.

The action moves along quite quickly and there are the usual twists, turns and red herrings which make this series so compelling. I thoroughly enjoy observing Ben Kitto at work, he's an unconventional detective, filled with self doubt and invariably gets it wrong sometimes. However, there is always a real sense of anticipation, with perpetrators who very often go on to commit more crime, before the inevitable denouement, which always leaves me wanting more. Wonderfully atmospheric, with an abundance of fascinating characters, it is always great to meet up again with those who have featured in past novels whilst at the same time getting to know a new set of people who bring their own dynamic to what is, after all, a fascinating and complex crime story. And of course, taking centre stage, once again, are the beautiful Scilly isles with all their stark and often rather bleak beauty. 

As with all long running series it is better to read from the beginning in order to become invested in the main characters however,  Pulpit Rock can be read as a standalone story.

About the Author

Kate Rhodes is an acclaimed crime novelist and an award-winning poet. She lives in Cambridge with her husband, the writer and film-maker, Dave Pescod. She visited the Scilly Isles every year as a child which gave her the idea for this new series. She is one of the founders of the Killer Women writing group.

Twitter @K_RhodesWriter #TeamScilly



Friday 22 September 2023

๐Ÿ“– Book Review ~ For the Want of Silver by Michael E Wills

17 May 2023

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book

A novel based on the true story of a Viking raider who, over 30 years, acquired a fortune in English silver.

In the churchyard of the village of Orkesta, just north of the city of Stockholm, there are two eleventh century rune stones. One of them, in a few brief words, tells the world of the extraordinary achievements of Ulf of Borresta, who lived nearby. During a long career as a Viking raider, he became extremely rich on the proceeds of Danegeld. The carved runes mention the names of real Norse historical figures with whom he ravaged the English countryside. These names can be dated and the vicious raids and bloody battles where the Danegelds were won, identified.

๐Ÿ“– My Review..

I have read several of this author's books for children so it was with great interest that I started this latest book which is aimed at the adult historical fiction market. As with all his books the author places you very firmly in the ancient world and with his fine eye for detail and impeccable research the eleventh century world of the Norsemen comes alive in the imagination.  The rune stones which mention Ulf of Borresta, a runemaster from Sweden, can still be seen and I must admit to googling in order to find out a little more about this mysterious person who I had never heard of before. 

Once the story began I was immediately taken back into a world which was filled with danger and intrigue all of which is brought to life by an author who really does know how to tell a good story as, whilst keeping to the known historical facts, he also brings the unknown into sharp focus. I enjoyed following Ulf's exploits as together with Erik, his boyhood friend, they follow a life of adventure whilst at the same time Ulf acquires much wealth in the form of Danegeld which he uses in order to make his life more prosperous. The story moves along quickly with some graphic detail, after all this is a time of Viking battles but there is also an authentic historical feel to the story with detailed description of what life was like during the eleventh century. 

Ulf of Borresta was a fascinating character and, thanks to this talented author, I am pleased to know a little more about him and the dangerous time in which he lived. For the Want of Silver brings a forgotten period of history to life with well drawn characters and the author's genuine love for this long forgotten period in world history.

Michael Wills was born in Newport on the Isle of Wight and attended the Priory Boys School and Carisbrooke Grammar. He trained as a teacher at St Peter’s College, Birmingham, before working at a secondary school in Kent.

Twitter @MWillsofSarum


Thursday 21 September 2023

๐Ÿ“– Blog Tour ~ The Traitor by Ava Chase


14 September 2023

Alias Emma #2

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book
and the invitation to the blog tour

From the glittering shores of St. Tropez to the sun-drenched streets of Barcelona, The Traitor is former spy insider Ava Glass’s high-octane thriller set in the billionaires’ playground of the glamourous French Riviera.

A dead body in a padlocked suitcase, chemical weapons, and an MI5 traitor selling secrets to the Russians sets the scene for British agent Emma Makepeace’s thrill packed mission on the med.

Emma must go undercover, working below deck as a crew member on luxury super yacht The Eden. Setting sail from St Tropez, The Eden’s Russian owner and his bikini-clad supermodel girlfriend are under surveillance by MI6, suspected of procuring illegal weapons from the UK.

Out at sea with no escape, Emma must tread carefully as she races to uncover who the traitor on board the oligarch’s yacht is. Witnessing a murder and with her cover wearing increasingly thin, one false move and she could be dead. As the hunt intensifies, Emma must find the traitor before he finds her.

From a glittering yacht party to a powerboat chase over deadly rocks, and from living below deck to being hunted through the streets of Barcelona, never before has the turquoise sea and golden sands of the Rivera been so deadly.

๐Ÿ“– My Review...

Emma Makepeace makes a welcome return in this second book which sees her, once again, embroiled in a high octane adventure which places her in grave danger. This time she is aboard, The Eden, a luxury super yacht which is owned by a Russian oligarch who may be involved in a deadly crime. Emma’s ability to go undercover is put to good use when she becomes a member of the crew of The Eden and her uncanny ability to get right into the centre of the investigation is what makes these stories so compelling.

The Traitor hits the ground running with an opening chapter which shows just how ruthless are the people who Emma and the rest of the team at The Agency are up against. The plot is fast and furious and I especially enjoyed following in Emma’s footsteps, watching her transformation from secret agent, to crew member, and observing her interactions with the other crew members. Emma’s feisty nature inevitably leads her into danger and it is this danger which gives the story its focus. There’s lots of fast action, some genuinely heart in mouth moments, and a great deal of trepidation as Emma takes on the bad guys using mainly her wits and the strength of investigative skill.

I raced through the book in a day, unwilling to stop for a second in case I missed out on the action. The final third of the book is particularly gripping and the dรฉnouement brings a satisfying conclusion to an exciting and adventurous spy thriller novel. May be read as a standalone story but do bear in mind that this is the second in the series and there are some references to Emma’s past adventure, which the author explains well.

About the Author

Ava Glass is a former civil servant with the highest security clearance bar one. She has seen just enough of the inner workings of espionage to ensure that she will always be fascinated by spies. Prior to working at the home office, Ava Glass worked as a crime reporter, covering multiple homicides, making her writing both fresh and dangerously believable.

The Traitor is the highly anticipated follow up to Ava Glass’ 2022 debut spy thriller The Chase.

The Chase is currently shortlisted for Best Spy Novel at the 2023 Crime Writer Awards alongside established names including Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling) and Linwood Barclay. No small feat for a debut novelist.

Film rights to The Chase and The Traitor have been acquired by Ink Factory, producers of The Night Manager, who are currently working on a pilot in conjunction with Sky Atlantic, now in the final stages of editing. Next step will be casting!

Twitter @AvaGlassBooks #TheTraitor #FindThemBeforeTheyFindYou

@PenguinUkBooks @cstone_press

Wednesday 20 September 2023

๐Ÿ“– Book Review ~ Ten Poems From Yorkshire from Candlestick Press


Candlestick Press
August 2023

Selected and introduced  by Ian McMillan

My thanks to Candlestick Press for my copy of this poetry pamphlet 

Vikings, Romans, Normans. Grand industrial cities and national parks. Yorkshire encompasses so much that it probably takes poetry to do it justice. And who better to choose the poems than the ‘Bard of Barnsley’ Ian McMillan, who still lives in the Yorkshire town where he was born.

The poems travel the length, breadth and depth of the county, taking in weather (there’s more than enough rain), cricket and coal-mining, alongside barges on the Humber and the wild glories of the Dales. Everywhere there is the sense of a deep-rooted history in a county where:

“what you see is not
the whole story but the seam of something
precious gone underground, a darkly silver trail”

from ‘The 1984 Perspective’ by Maura Dooley

Yorkshire, it appears, is not only a place but a state of mind – and these poems demonstrate that invigorating fact in a rich variety of ways.

Poems by Maura Dooley, Helen Dunmore, David Harmer, Geoff Hattersley, Zaffar Kunial, Harold Massingham, Ian McMillan, Pete Morgan, Genny Rahtz and Florence Tweddell.

Cover illustration by James Green.

๐Ÿ“– My Review

Although a proud Lancastrian I did live over the border in Yorkshire for several years and my eldest child is Yorkshire by birth, so I feel that I have a lasting connection to this place I once called home. This cleverly selected collection of poems which have been chosen by Ian McMillan, the 'Bard of Barnsley', really bring this historic county to vibrant life.

As always the ten poems selected show the diverse nature of poetry whilst at the same time giving a real Yorkshire welcome. The opening poem The Spinner's Final Over by David Harmer reminded me of Yorkshire folk's distinct love of cricket:

' he asks if I am still the slowest 
bowler Yorkshire knew..'

A poignant ode to Barnsley can be found in Geoff Hattersley's The Penistone Line

''this is Barnsley,
glamorous Barnsely, the town I threw up in..'

I loved the vernacular in Coom, stop at yam to-neet, Bob by Florence Tewddell, there's a definite sense of another era and the passage of time. I could hear the Yorkshire dialect so strong it took me right back to country markets and drinking sturdy Yorkshire ale during nights at my local pub:

'Coom, stop at yam to-neet, Bob
Dean't gan oot onnywhere:
Thoo gets thisel t'leeast vex'd lad,
When thou sits i't'awd airm-chair..'

I have really enjoyed this quick poetry trip around Yorkshire with some fascinating and well chosen poems which bring the place and the county to life in lovely detail. It's the perfect gift ' instead of a card' for anyone who lives in, or who loves, Yorkshire and is even a perfect read for a Lancastrian like me !

And a definite shout out for the wonderful cover which is beautifully designed by James Green.

Candlestick Press is a small, independent press publishing sumptuously produced poetry pamphlets that serve as a wonderful alternative to a greetings card, with matching envelopes and bookmarks left blank for your message. Their subjects include Mountains, Clouds, Walking, Birds, Wine and Happiness. Candlestick Press pamphlets are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, galleries and garden centres nationwide and available to order online.

Twitter @poetrycandle

Tuesday 19 September 2023

๐ŸŽง Book Review ~ Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan

Hodder & Stoughton
Audio : November 2022
Paperback : August 2023

Olivia McAfee knows what it feels like to start over. Her picture-perfect life—living in Boston, married to a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, raising a beautiful son, Asher—was upended when her husband revealed a darker side. She never imagined she would end up back in her sleepy New Hampshire hometown, living in the house she grew up in, and taking over her father's beekeeping business.

Lily Campanello is familiar with do-overs, too. When she and her mom relocate to Adams, New Hampshire, for her final year of high school, they both hope it will be a fresh start.

And for just a short while, these new beginnings are exactly what Olivia and Lily need. Their paths cross when Asher falls for the new girl in school, and Lily can’t help but fall for him, too. With Ash, she feels happy for the first time. Yet at times, she wonders if she can she trust him completely . . .

Then one day, Olivia receives a phone call: Lily is dead, and Asher is being questioned by the police. Olivia is adamant that her son is innocent. But she would be lying if she didn’t acknowledge the flashes of his father’s temper in him, and as the case against him unfolds, she realizes he’s hidden more than he’s shared with her.

๐ŸŽง My Review..

Searching for something to listen to whilst I completed a complicated crochet project my eyes alighted on this beautiful honey bee cover and decided to take a chance on listening to Mad Honey. Jodi Picoult has long been one of my favourite American authors but I wasn't familiar with Jennifer Finney Boylan so did a quick google search to discover more about her.

Small town America comes alive in this coming of age story which looks at the poignancy of first love alongside a story of undeniable tragedy. Mad Honey is told in two distinct voices that of Olivia McAfee and Lily Campanello, a pretty teenager, who is involved romantically with Olivia's son, Asher. Both voices are compelling and during this dramatic and rather sad court room drama we get to know in intimate detail Olivia's past life with her ex-husband and the reason for her, and Asher, making their lives in Adams, New Hampshire. Lily Campanello is a fascinating enigma and it is her voice which comes across so breathtakingly beautiful that I was, at times, reading through tears of sadness.

Covering some relevant topics we learn of Lily's struggle to find her identity and of the prejudice which has followed her and her mother, Ava, from place to place. The small town of Adams offers another new start for them and it is here that destiny will bring Lily and Asher together. I'm conscious of not saying too much as I went into the story not knowing any of the details so when the reveal is made it came as a real surprise and took the story in a whole new direction. Sensitive and compelling Mad Honey had me captivated from beginning to end, and Lily Campanello's sad story will stay with me for a very long time to come.

Beautifully narrated by Carrie Coon and Key Taw, in two very different voices, this audio version of the story was particularly powerful and the 15 hours and 12 minutes flew by in a flash.

Twitter @jodipicoult #MadHoney



Monday 18 September 2023

๐Ÿ“– Blog Tour ~ Christmas at the Cat Cafรฉ by Jessica Redland


Boldwood Books
15 September 2023

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

It had always been Tabby's dream to work with cats and an inheritance from her beloved nanna has finally made that a reality. Idyllic Castle Street in Whitsborough Bay couldn’t be a better place for pastry chef Tabby to open a cat cafรฉ with her boyfriend, Leon. But when Leon leaves her in the lurch, the pressure mounts for Tabby. With Christmas fast approaching, she has to open the cafรฉ on her own – a daunting prospect, especially when she's been hiding her health issues from the ones she loves. Faced with local resistance to the cafรฉ – and somebody seemingly determined that she won’t succeed – Tabby will need her friends, family and cats more than ever to recover her broken Christmas spirit and pull together for a Christmas miracle. Will the cat cafรฉ bring the festive joy to Castle Street as Tabby had hoped or will it be a cat-astrophe? And can the magic of Christmas on Castle Street mend Tabby's broken heart as well as her business?

๐Ÿ“– My Review..

I couldn't resist taking part in this blog tour for Christmas at the Cat Cafรฉ as not only does it involve some of my favourite creatures but it also sees a welcome return to Castle street in the beautiful area of Whitsborough Bay which this author brings to life with such enthusiasm. Introducing us to Tabitha, Tabby for short, just as she is about to open her much longed for Cat Cafรฉ but with opening day fast approaching,Tabby is dealt a devastating blow and it is going to take all of her strength to carry on. However, Tabby hasn't bargained for the help of friends, and family, who rally round to make sure the cat cafรฉ is a success. The story brings into focus the sharp reality of how sometimes life deals a devastating blow and Tabby, battling her need to succeed in business and with her health problems, must learn how to ask for help,

I've really enjoyed being back on Castle Street especially as some of the familiar characters make an appearance which helps give a real sense of community and a feeling of familiarity to this new adventure. The cats who inhabit the cat cafe are equally delightful and I fell in love with each of them but especially Marmalade who reminded me of a couple of ginger cats who are close to my own heart.

I read Christmas at the Cat Cafรฉ in one sitting as I couldn't put it down and wanted to know how everything would play out for Tabby and her cats. Despite the book title it's not an overly festive story so could comfortably be read at any time of year and whilst it does mention the characters from previous books in this series, Christmas at the Cat Cafรฉ can be read as an enjoyable standalone story about friendship, love and cats.

About the Author

Jessica Redland writes emotional but uplifting stories of love, friendship, family and community. Her Whitsborough Bay books transport readers to the stunning North Yorkshire Coast where she lives with her husband, daughter and sprocker spaniel. Her Hedgehog Hollow series, set in a hedgehog rescue centre, takes readers into the beautiful rolling countryside of the Yorkshire Wolds.

Twitter @JessicaRedland

@BoldwoodBooks #BoldwoodBloggers