Friday, 9 June 2023

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The World Outside My Window by Clare Swatman

 

Boldwood Books
5 June 2023

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


Laura is watching the world go by without her.

Unable to leave her house since suffering a trauma, Laura is stuck gazing out of her window at Willow Crescent, relying on husband Jim and best friend Debbie for help.

Then one day, Jim doesn’t come home.

A day becomes two, days become a week, and still no sign of Jim. And with the police half-hearted in their efforts to look for him, Laura is forced into a decision. She’s going to have to face the world outside and find her husband herself.

But what Laura hasn’t realised is that Willow Crescent is a community, eager to help. From Arthur and Carol next door ready to rally the neighbours, to Marjorie and her daughter Faye at number nine looking for their own reasons to engage with the world. From Sonja at number seven who thinks she may have seen Jim in London, to widower Ben at number four who understands all about being lonely. Laura has a world ready to embrace her if she can just find the nerve.

And when it slowly dawns on them all, that the Jim they thought they knew, may have been hiding some unfathomable secrets, Laura has a choice – retreat back behind her window, or start living the life that was waiting for her all along.

This is Clare Swatman's tour de force. At the same time emotional, uplifting, page-turning and breath-taking, Laura is a character you will never forget.







 πŸ“– My Review..

When Laura's husband fails to return home after working away she is devastated as Jim is her absolute lifeline because, you see,  Laura  is desperately afraid of the outside world and she relies on Jim for absolutely everything. Laura's only close friend is Debbie who has a family of her own and yet she does all she can to help Laura through this traumatic time. With Debbie's help Laura tentatively starts to emerge from the shackles she has placed around herself and as the story progresses we start to see a very different Laura emerge. There's a lovely community feel to the story and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the neighbours in Willow Close who rally round to help Laura and Debbie solve the mystery of Jim's disappearance.

I'm not going to spoil the story by saying much more except to say that I was engrossed in Laura's story and enjoyed the forwards and backwards in time element as we got to learn more about Laura, and Jim, and of the events which have caused her to be so afraid of the outside world. The author explores the nuances around unresolved trauma and also looks at the nature of coercion and control which brings Laura to life in a believable way so that our sympathy very much side with her. 

The World Outside My Window is not so much of a mystery, as pretty early on in the story I had my own view about what had happened to Jim. It is, however, very much Laura's story, her indecision, her mental health struggles and her absolute fear of almost everything is written about with a sensitivity which resonated throughout the whole of this lovely, immersive story.




About the Author





Clare Swatman is the author of three women’s fiction novels, published by Macmillan, which have been translated into over 20 languages. She has been a journalist for over twenty years, writing for Bella and Woman & Home amongst many other magazines. She lives in Hertfordshire. Before We Grow Old, was published in January 2022.



Twitter @clareswatman #TheWorldOutsideMyWindow





@Boldwood|Books #Boldwoodbloggers

@rarraresources





Wednesday, 7 June 2023

πŸ“– Book Review ~ The Vanishing of Class 3B by Jackie Kabler

 

Harper Collins
11 May 2023


My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

One spring morning, a bus full of children and their teachers from a Cotswolds primary school head off on a much-anticipated day trip.

But as night falls and the well-heeled parents – one or two of them famous, as well as wealthy – wait at the school to collect their weary offspring, it soon becomes clear that something has gone very wrong.

The children and their teachers simply do not come back.

What’s happened doesn’t seem possible.

How can an entire class of children simply vanish?


πŸ“– My Review

A seemingly innocuous school trip starts to take on a sinister edge when the entire class, along with their teachers, simply vanish into thin air. With their parents anxiously waiting for the return of their children, the police have a difficult time investigating a crime which has left precious little clues. Gradually, as we get to know the place and the people who call it home, we start to realise that all is not idyllic in this Cotswold retreat and the children's parents, some of them rich and famous, have secrets they would rather not be exposed to a wider audience, and yet at the centre of the story are a bunch of vulnerable primary school children who have quite simply vanished.

The story moves along at a cracking pace, part police procedural but mainly about this set of parents and the lengths they will go to in order to protect themselves. Easy to spoil so I won't give away the plot as the premise of the story is done really cleverly. The many twists and turns kept me guessing and I enjoyed trying to guess in which direction the story was heading. The parents are an interesting bunch and it's a great insight into the vagaries of human nature and of the tangled web of deceit which can so easily spiral out of control.

The Vanishing of Class 3B is another fabulously convoluted story from this talented author. I'm already looking forward to the next one 😊


About the Author




Jackie Kabler worked as a newspaper reporter and then in television news for twenty years, including nearly a decade on GMTV. She later appeared on BBC and ITV news, presented a property show for Sky, hosted sports shows on Setanta Sports News and worked as a media trainer for the Armed Forces. Jackie lives in Gloucestershire with her husband


Twitter @jackiekabler

Instagram @theofficialjackiekabler










Monday, 5 June 2023

Book Review ~ Ten Poems about Mountains from Candlestick Press



May 2023
Candlestick Press

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this poetry 
pamphlet


A mountain is something very particular – a place that entices and daunts us, that commands our gaze while also making it very clear that we’re not required.
These glorious poems capture the majesty and wonder of mountain landscapes, whether they’re encountered up-close by walkers and climbers or are being marvelled at from afar by more contemplative souls.

In one poem, even a failed ascent offers a moment of wonder:

“The late afternoon sun comes rushing and skimming

Toward you, through your eyes,

And through your trembling, stiffening fingers

In a dazzle of light, a burnt-gold avalanche.”


from ‘On a Mountainside’ by David Wagoner

Whichever way we look at mountains, they make us feel small and these poems revel in that marvellous and uplifting thought.

Poems by Li Bai, Gladys Cardiff, Emily Dickinson, Clifton Gachagua, Norman MacCaig, Helen Mort, Yvonne Reddick, Nan Shepherd, David Wagoner and David Wilson.

The poems are selected and introduced by poet and novelist Helen Mort who has climbed in the Alps wearing a Victorian crinoline.

Cover illustration by Laura Boswell


πŸ“– My Review...

There's nothing like a range of mountains to make you understand your place in the world and for those of us who don't have a spectacular mountain range on our doorstep Ten Poems about Mountains shares the splendour and majesty of these giant crags without us having to leave the comfort of our armchairs.

The collection begins with the solid composition 'Climbing Suilven' by Norman MacCaig

'I nod and nod to my own shadow and thrust
A mountain down and down...'

Those of us who don't know the magnetic lure of climbing the spectacular mountains which tower above our landscape will be as affected as I was by reading Glyderau by Helen Mort, a lovely poem about walking in the shadows of those who had gone before..

'...at the North Tower I heard your voice
echo with the stonefall of your own death...'

Majestic elements frozen in time, mountains and slabs of granite which tower above us marking our place in the world with their sheer spectacular beauty, all are expertly described in this lovely collection of Ten Poems about Mountains. A perfect gift, instead of a card, for the mountaineer in your life, or for someone like me, an armchair climber who loves the beauty of words.



About the Publisher


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 Clouds, Walking, Birds, Home and Kindness. Candlestick Press pamphlets are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, galleries and garden centres nationwide and available to order online.

Twitter @PoetryCandle




Friday, 2 June 2023

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ An Italian Island Summer by Sue Moorcroft




Avon
25 May 2023

My thanks to the publisher
and to Rachel's Random Resources for the invitation to the blog tour


After her marriage falls apart,Ursula Quinn is offered the chance to spend the summer working at a hotel on a beautiful island off the coast of Sicily, Italy. Excited by a new adventure, she sets off at once. At Residenza dei Tringali, Ursula receives a warm welcome from everyone except Alfio, son of the Tringali family. He gave up his life in Barcelona to help his mother Agata with the ailing business, and is frustrated with Ursula’s interference–and she in turn is less than impressed with his attitude. As they spend more time together, though, they begin to see each other in a different light.But what with Ursula’s ex-husband on her tail, family secrets surfacing and an unexpected offer that makes Alfio question his whole life, there’s plenty to distract them from one another. Can she face her past and he his future, and together make the most of their Sicilian summer.


πŸ“– My Review..

After a disastrous marriage break-up Ursula Quinn escapes to the beautiful Italian island of Ortigia in Sicily to take up the offer of boarding at Residenza dei Tringali in return for helping with general hotel duties. This leaves Ursula time to explore her gift for creating ceramics and experiencing tutelage with a talented ceramist. All seems to be going well until Alfio, the son of the hotelier arrives home, and he and Ursula don't get off to the best of starts but gradually the atmosphere between them softens and Ursula soon finds her life heading in an unexpected direction.

I loved the rapport between Ursula and Alfio which helps to bring a real feeling of Italian sunshine to what is, in effect, a lovely, love story. Alongside the romantic element of the story there's also lots of complicated family dynamics to contend with but that's what this author does so well, her characters are always believable with real life issues which sometimes get in the way of life and love. The wonderfully quaint island of Ortigia comes alive in the beautiful descriptions of life on the island. The sights, sounds and aromas of an Italian summer are imaginatively recreated so that it really does feel like you are sitting alongside Ursula and Alfio as they sip ice cool Birra Moretti, relishing the cool of a Sicilian evening.

Beautifully written as all these author's stories are  An Italian Island Summer is a perfect summer read, ideal for long, lazy afternoons in the garden.




About the Author






Sue Moorcroft is a Sunday Times bestselling author, #1 on Kindle UK and Top 100 on Kindle US and Canada. She writes two books a year for publishing giant Harper Collins and has won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Novel of the Year, Readers’Best Romantic Novel award and the Katie Fforde Bursary. Her novels, short stories, serials, columns, writing‘how to’and courses appear around the world.




Twitter @SueMoorcroft #AnItalianIslandSummer

Instagram @SueMoorcroftAuthor


@AvonBooksUK @ rararesources





Thursday, 1 June 2023

🎧 Featured Book of the Month ~ Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

 


Doubleday
2022



Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing.

But it's the 1960s, and despite the fact that she is a scientist, her male peers are very unscientific when it comes to equality. The only good thing to happen on her road to professional fulfilment is a run-in with famous colleague Calvin Evans, legend and Nobel nominee. He's also awkward, kind and tenacious. Theirs is true chemistry.

But life is never predictable and three years later Elizabeth Zott is an unwed, single mother and star of America's best loved cooking show Supper at Six. Her singular approach to cooking - 'take one pint of H2O and add a pinch of sodium chloride' - and empowering message prove revolutionary. Because Elizabeth isn't just teaching housewives how to cook, but how to change their lives.



πŸ“– 🎧 My Review..

I have to own up to being rather late to the party with this one as it was published last year but with an Audible credit newly arrived in my in-box I decided to listen to the words and haven't been disappointed as it's a wonderfully immersive sort of read.  

Beautifully narrated by Miranda Raison, Elizabeth Zott comes gloriously alive, along with all her single-minded eccentricities, her foibles and her determination to empower women, not just in the work place, but also in the home. Elizabeth’s brilliant analytical brain is overshadowed by the misogynistic attitude of the men working alongside her, as even in the laboratory, Elizabeth, although an exceptionally gifted scientist, is seen as second best and not good enough to be one of the boys. However, it is her meaningful relationship with fellow scientist Calvin Evans which takes Elizabeth Zott's life in a very different direction.

Thanks to skilful storytelling we get to know Elizabeth very well, and whilst at first I wasn’t terribly keen on her, I did start to warm towards her as we gradually get to know her as woman, a scientist, a mother and finally a celebrity hosting a successful TV programme. I found Lessons in Chemistry to be a real breath of fresh air, it’s an interesting read which kept me entertained from start to finish. Elizabeth Zott is funny without meaning to be and her deep bond with 6:30, meaning will become apparent if you read the book, is so endearing that I couldn’t help but come to love her. Elizabeth is definitely one of those characters who stays with you long after the book is finished.

I have no hesitation in making Lessons in Chemistry my Featured Book of the Month for June.

Bonnie Garmus was recently awarded Author of the Year at The British Book Awards 2023



Twitter @bonniegarmus #LessonsinChemistry

@DoubledayUK @TransworldBooks

@Audible






Wednesday, 31 May 2023

πŸ“– Book Review ~ New Beginnings for the Surplus Girls by Polly Heron

 


Corvus
5 April 2023

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book


Manchester, 1923: Jess Mason is determined to make her own way in the world.

When a misunderstanding on a job application means she's appointed manager for Holly Lodge, a home for old soldiers, she must convince the owner that she can run things just as well as any man - if not better.

Tom Watson has not been the same since the war. Traumatized by his experiences on the battlefield, he has vowed to himself that he must go through life alone. But when he takes on the job to renovate Holly Lodge and meets Jess, all the walls he built around himself start to come crumbling down.

As challenges arise in the opening of the new soldiers' home, Jess must fight tooth and nail to hold on to her precious new role. And as her and Tom grow closer, she can't help but wonder if there is room in her life for both love and the career she's always dreamt of...



πŸ“– My Review..

Being one of the surplus women in the aftermath of the Great War was never going to be easy especially when post-war jobs were scarce and priority was given to returning soldiers. Attitudes towards women in the work-place were fraught with prejudice and very few women were recognised for their contribution. 

Jess Mason has had to fight every step of the way and even her probationary role as manager of a new care home for ex-soldiers doesn't come with a guarantee of permanent employment because first she must prove that she's up to the task by an employer who is embarrassed at the prospect of employing a woman in  managerial role. What then follows is a lovely continuation of these historical novels which have introduced us to The Surplus Girls who live, work and love in this corner of south Manchester, a place which is filled with interesting salt-of-the-earth characters who have brought the story to life on so many fascinating levels. Although this is very much Jess Mason's story it has also been a real treat to see her mingle with those characters who have come to love from previous stories, especially Vivienne Atwood, and Miss Patience and Miss Prudence who run the local business school. I especially loved getting to know Jess, she's a steadfast heroine with so much to offer and her burgeoning relationship with Tom Watson, a local builder, adds a frisson of will they, won't they romance.

As always, the author writes with such passionate commitment, bringing to the forefront ordinary people who were simply going about their lives as best they could in the aftermath of a war which caused so much personal tragedy. Beautifully written, New Beginnings for the Surplus Girls is a story of hope and friendship, and about finding love unexpectedly and going forward into a brighter future.



About the Author

Polly Heron is a historical saga writer living on the North Wales coast. She is originally from Manchester, which is where her books are set.
 


Twitter @Polly_Heron #NewBeginningsforTheSurplusGirls 


@CorvusBooks







Saturday, 27 May 2023

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ An Unsuitable Heiress by Jane Dunn

 

Boldwood Books
22 May 2023

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


Following the death of her mother, Corinna Ormesby has lived a quiet life in the countryside with her cantankerous Cousin Agnes. Her father's identity has been a tantalising mystery, but now at nineteen Corinna knows that finding him may be her only way to avoid marriage to the odious Mr Beech.

Deciding to head to London, Corinna dons a male disguise. Travelling alone as a young woman risks scandal and danger, but when, masquerading as a youth, she is befriended by three dashing blades, handsome and capable Alick Wolfe, dandy Ferdinand Shilton and the incorrigible Lord Purfoy, Corinna now has access to the male-only world of Regency England. And when she meets Alick's turbulent brother Darius, a betrayal of trust leads to deadly combat which only one of the brothers may survive.

From gambling in gentleman’s clubs to meeting the courtesans of Covent Garden, Corinna’s country naivety soon falls away. But when she finds her father at last, learns the truth about her parentage and discovers her fortunes transformed, she must quickly decide how to reveal her true identity, while hoping that one young man in particular can see her for the beauty and Lady she really is.





πŸ“– My Review..

Since her mother died, Corinna Ormesby has lived a quiet life in the country with her cousin however, in order to escape a tedious marriage Corinna sets off for London cleverly disguised as a boy. On her adventurous and rather scandalous journey for a young woman in Regency England, Corinna meets three dashingly handsome young men who come to her rescue on more than one occasion. Quickly immersed in London's high society Corinna must keep up the pretence of being a young man about town but this proves harder than expected especially when she learns something important about her past.

This is a really lovely Regency story. I especially enjoyed getting to know Corinna, she's a feisty heroine, and the young beaus who surround her with so much eloquence, grace and good humour bring a real sense of fun to the story. There are twists and turns aplenty which bring to life all the subtle nuances of Regency life. The freedom afforded to young men is especially detailed especially when men seem to have all the fun whilst young women are seen either as a scandalous diversion or as suitable marriage material. There's a more serious side to the story which develops well and I enjoyed understanding a little more about Corinna's past and the revealing of her relationship with a father she thought she had lost is done with a nice gentle touch.

An Unsuitable Heiress is a fun-filled romp through Regency England, with a smattering of romance, a sense of adventure and a wonderful heroin at its core. What's not to like πŸ˜‰







About the Author


Jane Dunn is an historian and biographer and the author of seven acclaimed biographies, including Daphne du Maurier and her Sisters and the Sunday Times and NYT bestseller, Elizabeth & Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens. She comes to Boldwood with her first fiction outing – a trilogy of novels set in the Regency period, the first of which is to be published in January 2023. She lives in Berkshire with her husband, the linguist Nicholas Ostler.


Twitter @JaneDunnAuthor #AnUnsuitableHeiress

@BoldwoodBooks #BoldwoodBloggers

@rararesources