Rapid Fire Book Tag

Many thanks to Nat at The Owl on the Bookshelf for nominating me for the Rapid Fire Book Tag! Here are my answers…

eBooks or physical books?

  • I really don’t mind as it’s the content that matters and not the format by which I access it. That said I do love my physical books but I couldn’t afford or accommodate everything I want to read in a physical format.

Paperback or hardback?

  • Hardbacks are lovely to display but paperbacks much easier for reading in bed.

Online or in-store shopping?

  • I don’t live near a book shop so it’s online for me.

Trilogies or series?

  • I am partial to a series, but I invariably cock-up the sequence anyway which defeats the object.

Heroes or villains?

  • The odd romantic hero is always welcome(though preferably not too odd!)

A book you want everyone to read.

  • Based purely on my recent best read – The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

Recommend an underrated book.

  • This is a bit of a cheat as I don’t know if it’s underrated but it’s certainly not ‘popular’. It’s my all time favourite and the only book I have ever read twice namely Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor. It even merited its own blog post last year – see here.

The last book you finished.

  • The Devil You Know by Terry Tyler (review pending)

Weirdest thing you used as a book mark.

  • Nothing very weird, probably a rail ticket.

Used books, yes or no?

  • As I buy a fair amount of my books from the charity shop then the answer would have to be yes, providing they’re clean and look like new or as near as.

Top three favourite genres?

  • Mature chick lit (hate that term)
  • Police procedural/thrillers
  • Not sure if it’s a genre but the best I can come up to describe it is quirky .

Borrow or buy?

  • I used to borrow from the library all the time (as an ex librarian). However as my local branch is only a small village library I have to reserve most of my books. It reached the stage where I was paying £1 to reserve books I could buy for Kindle at 99p. So my library usage has somewhat dwindled.

Characters or plot?

  • Both, but if I had to pick one then characters I think.

Short or long book?

  • Definitely not short, but I don’t want an 800 pager either.

Long or short chapters?

  • I prefer short to long, mainly as I read in bed before I go to sleep and I can’t leave a chapter unfinished, so shorter ones are easier.

Name the first three books you think of.

  • Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton (Don’t ask me why I’ve never read it, it literally was the first thing I thought of)
  • The White Camellia by Juliet Greenwood – it’s staring at me as I haven’t got round to putting it back on the bookshelf after it was reviewed.
  • The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan – currently reading

Books that make you laugh or cry?

  • Laugh

Our world or fictional worlds?

  • Our world I’m not a fan of science fiction/fantasy or dystopian novels.

Do you ever judge a book by its cover?

  • All the time. I’m always attracted by the cover and then swayed by the blurb and possibly a read of the sample.

Book to movie or book to TV adaptation?

  • Not usually, they invariably fall far short of the book. The last film adaptation I saw that I thought did justice to the book was The Book Thief.

Series or standalone?

  • Given my previously admitted propensity for messing up books in a series, I’m safer with standalone.

 

Thanks Nat for this, it was fun and suprisingly quick to do, so while I know my fellow bloggers are always busy I’m happy to let anyone who wants to ‘tag along’. I will also nominate 3 of my blogging buddies that I don’t think have already been tagged and that I’d like to know a little more about.

Emma at One Reader’s Thoughts

Mairead at Swirl and Thread

Jo at Jo’s Book Blog

 

 

Added Two weeks ending 18 Feb 2017

Even the fact that this post reflects 2 weeks purchases doesn’t mitigate the reality that I’ve been even more acquisitive than usual. In my defence I cite the Waterstone’s sale which I discovered while away in Glasgow and Orenda for having a not to be ignored offer – which priced all their ebooks at 99p each. So grab a cup of tea/coffee and sit back this might take a while.

Review Copies approved via NetGalley

everything-you-do-is-wrongEverything You Do is Wrong by Amanda Coe   ( due for publication 19th Oct)

‘Do You Know This Girl?’

Harmony’s teenage craving for drama is answered when a body is discovered by her aunt Mel on Evensand beach. But the naked, lifeless young woman turns out – problematically – to be alive. Unable to speak or remember where she came from, the woman is named Storm by her nurses.

Surrounded by doctors, psychiatrists and policemen, Storm remains provocatively silent. Harmony is desperate to fill in the gaps in Storm’s story, while the responsibility Mel feels for the woman she rescued begins to skew the course of her own settled life. Their efforts to solve the mystery clash with the efforts of rookie constable Mason, assigned to the case and determined to help this damsel he feels to be very much in distress.

Will any of them be able to find out who Storm really is? And what if the distress belongs to everyone but her?

let-the-dead-speak

Let the Dead Speak by Jane Casey (due 9th March)

A murder without a body
Eighteen-year-old Chloe Emery returns to her West London home one day to find the house covered in blood and Kate, her mother, gone. There may not be a body, but everything else points to murder.

A girl too scared to talk
Maeve Kerrigan is young, ambitious and determined to prove she’s up to her new role as detective sergeant. She suspects Chloe is holding something back, but best friend Bethany Norris won’t let Maeve get close. What exactly is Bethany protecting Chloe from?

A detective with everything to prove
As the team dig deeper into the residents of Valerian Road, no one is above suspicion. All Maeve needs is one person to talk, but that’s not going to happen. Because even in a case of murder, some secrets are too terrible to share…

we-all-began-as-strangers

We All Begin as Strangers by Harriet Cummings

It’s 1984, and summer is scorching the ordinary English village of Heathcote.

What’s more, a mysterious figure is slipping into homes through back doors and open windows. Dubbed ‘the Fox’, he knows everything about everyone – leaving curious objects in their homes, or taking things from them.

When beloved Anna goes missing, the whole community believes the Fox is responsible.

But as the residents scramble to solve the mystery of Anna’s disappearance, little do they know it’s their darkest secrets the Fox is really after…

Inspired by a real 80s mystery, and with pitch-perfect characters, WE ALL BEGIN AS STRANGERS is a beautiful debut novel you’ll want to recommend to everyone.

the-end-of-the-day

The End of the Day by Claire North (due 6th April)

Charlie meets everyone – but only once.
You might meet him in a hospital, in a warzone, or at the scene of traffic accident.
Then again, you might meet him at the North Pole – he gets everywhere, our Charlie.
Would you shake him by the hand, take the gift he offers, or would you pay no attention to the words he says?
Sometimes he is sent as a courtesy, sometimes as a warning. He never knows which.

The End of the Day is the stunning new story from Richard and Judy Book Club author Claire North: the voice behind the word-of-mouth bestseller The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August.

Ebook Purchases – price at time of posting

one-dark-lie

One Dark Lie by Clare Chase (99p)

The truth can hurt, and sometimes it leads to murder …
After becoming embroiled in a murder investigation, Nate Bastable and Ruby Fawcett have decided to opt for the quiet life. But crime has a habit of following them around.

When her work dries up, Ruby finds herself accepting a job researching and writing about Diana Patrick-John, a colourful and enigmatic Cambridge academic. Simple enough. But then there’s the small fact that Diana was found dead in suspicious circumstances in her home – the very place where Ruby has now been invited to stay.

As she begins to uncover Diana’s secret life, Ruby’s sleuthing instinct kicks in, leaving her open to danger and retribution. But can she rely on Nate to support her? Especially when his behaviour has become increasingly distant and strange, almost as though he had something to hide …

 

flower-arrangement

The Flower Arrangement by Ella Griffin (99p)

Every bouquet tells a story…

And every story begins at Blossom & Grow, a tiny jewel-like flower shop in the heart of Dublin. Here, among the buckets of fragrant blooms, beneath the flickering candles and lanterns, florist Lara works her magic, translating feelings into flower arrangements, changing hearts and lives. Whether its bridal posies, anniversary bouquets or surprise deliveries from secret admirers, Lara arranges the flowers for all manner of life-changing moments.

No stranger to heartbreak herself, Lara knows flowers say more than words ever can. But can the flowers that heal the customers work their magic on Lara?

lies

Lies by T M Logan (98p)

When Joe Lynch stumbles across his wife driving into a hotel car park while she’s supposed to be at work, he’s intrigued enough to follow her in.

And when he witnesses her in an angry altercation with family friend Ben, he knows he ought to intervene.

But just as the confrontation between the two men turns violent, and Ben is knocked unconscious, Joe’s young son has an asthma attack – and Joe must flee in order to help him.

When he returns, desperate to make sure Ben is OK, Joe is horrified to find that Ben has disappeared.

And that’s when Joe receives the first message . . .

 

little-clock-house

The Little Clock House on the Green by Eve Devon (£2.99)

Welcome to Whispers Wood, a cosy little village in the heart of the English countryside, where everybody knows everybody and rumours are spread thicker than jam on a scone…

When a rival village is awarded Best in Bloom, the residents of Whispers Wood are determined to regain their former glory – and with Old Man Isaac finally selling the clock house on the village green, with two potential buyers, operation ‘Summer Fete’ is on!

For Kate Somersby, the very bricks that make up the clock house hold precious memories of her childhood. Now she’s finally returned home after years of running away, she’s here to make Isaac an offer and ensure her and her beloved sister’s dreams come true. Only entrepreneur Daniel Westlake is standing in her way.

To prove they have the village’s interests at heart and in turn become the proud new owner of the clock house, Kate and Daniel must compete to raise funds for the Whispers Wood Summer Fete.

sealskin

Seal Skin by Su Bristow (£4.31)

What happens when magic collides with reality? Donald is a young fisherman, eking out a lonely living on the west coast of Scotland. One night he witnesses something miraculous … and makes a terrible mistake. His action changes lives – not only his own, but those of his family and the entire tightly knit community in which they live. Can he ever atone for the wrong he has done, and can love grow when its foundation is violence? Based on the legend of the selkies – seals who can transform into people – Sealskin is a magical story, evoking the harsh beauty of the landscape, the resilience of its people, both human and animal, and the triumph of hope over fear and prejudice. With exquisite grace, Exeter Novel Prize-winner Su Bristow transports us to a different world, subtly and beautifully exploring what it means to be an outsider, and our innate capacity for forgiveness and acceptance. Rich with myth and magic, Sealskin is, nonetheless, a very human story, as relevant to our world as to the timeless place in which it is set. And it is, quite simply, unforgettable. For fans of Angela Carter, Eowyn Ivey, Alice Hoffmann and Geraldine Brooks.

 

strangers-house

A Stranger’s House by Clare Chase (99p)

What if you were powerless to protect the person you cared about most?
When Ruby finds out that her partner has done the unforgivable, she has no option but to move out of their home. With nowhere else to go, a job house-sitting in Cambridge seems like the perfect solution.

But it’s soon clear the absent owner hurts everyone he gets close to, and Ruby’s faced with the fallout. As violent repercussions unfold, her instinct is to investigate: it’s a matter of self-preservation. And besides, she’s curious…

But Ruby’s new boss, Nate Bastable, has his eye on her and seems determined to put a stop to her sleuthing. Is he simply worried for the welfare of a member of staff, or is there something altogether more complicated – and potentially dangerous – at play?

one-night-at-jacaranda

One Night at the Jacaranda by Carol Cooper (£1.99 was Free)

One man dying of cancer. One struggling journalist. A group of single Londoners. One night that changes everything…

The trouble with speed dating is that three minutes can last a lifetime, and ever since he was diagnosed, Sanjay doesn’t have a lifetime to waste.

For one booze and hope-fuelled night, the lives of a group of 30-somethings criss-cross. As well as Sanjay, lawyer Laure, divorced doctor Geoff, beleaguered mother-of-four Karen and traumatised ex-con Dan all face each other across the Jacaranda’s tables in their quest for love, solace or amazing sex.

Undercover journalist Harriet is after a by-line, not a boyfriend. She’s a struggling freelance with a live-in lover, who unexpectedly has to choose between the comfortable life she knows and a bumpy road that could lead to happiness.

As they each discover in turn, relationships aren’t just about finding someone special. They’re about finding yourself.

swiss-legacy

The Swiss Legacy by Anne Armstrong Thompson (99p was Free)

Following a business trip in London, Carolyn and David Bruce are looking forward to a short vacation before returning to New York.

But their plans are shattered when David is suddenly run over and killed by an out-of-control taxi.

Now a widow, Carolyn struggles to come to terms with her husband’s unexpected death. And as the police investigation unfolds, Carolyn begins to suspect that David’s death may not have been an accident after all…

What’s more, David seems to have hidden the truth of his business dealings from his wife.

Soon, Carolyn is caught up in a murky web of deceit and greed which could cost her her own life.

Was David’s death truly an accident? Or will Carolyn be the next victim of a twisted tale of money and murder?

someone-lying

Someone Lying, Someone Dying by John Burke (99p was Free)

When the remains of a body are found in the cellar of an abandoned house, the quiet community of Lurgate finds itself in a state of shock…

The body is identified as that of Walter Blythe, a local businessman who disappeared in 1913.

At the same time as Walter’s disappearance, a large sum of money was also taken from the business he co-owned with his partner, Victor Johnson.

Now, decades later, Victor Johnson posthumously becomes the prime suspect in Walter’s murder.

The news comes as a shock to Victor’s granddaughter, Brigid, who is planning her wedding with her fiancé Martin. But with family secrets coming to light, will the wedding still go ahead?

And when Walter Blythe’s long-lost grandson, Peter, is found dead in town shortly after his arrival, it appears that a ruthless killer is once again on the loose.

Who will be the next victim?  And what really happened to Walter Blythe?

watch-me

Watch Me by Angela Clarke  (99p)

YOU HAVE SIX SECONDS TO READ THIS MESSAGE…

The body of a 15-year-old is found hours after she sends a desperate message to her friends. It looks like suicide, until a second girl disappears.

This time, the message is sent directly to the Metropolitan Police – and an officer’s younger sister is missing.

DS Nasreen Cudmore and journalist Freddie Venton will stop at nothing to find her. But whoever’s behind the notes is playing a deadly game of hide and seek – and the clock is ticking.

YOU HAVE 24 HOURS TO SAVE THE GIRL’S LIFE.
MAKE THEM COUNT.

 

broken-ones

The Broken Ones by Sarah A Denzil (£1.99 was Free)

A shadow follows Sophie.

Watching.  Waiting.

Her instinct tells her that it’s someone she knows. But who? The man she met internet dating? The nurse caring for her ill mother? Or is her mother faking her illness?

The only thing she knows is that she can’t trust anyone.

Sophie must delve into a dark history to reveal her stalker. But there are some stories that should never be told

grape-wedding

My Grape Wedding by Laura Bradbury (£2.25 was Free)

My Grape Wedding takes fans of Laura Bradbury’s ‘Grape’ series – described by readers as a love child between Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence” and Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” – back to the enchanting world of Burgundy five years after Franck and Laura meet on a student exchange. After a spontaneous proposal in Kathmandu, the bride-to-be struggles with balancing the academic demands of an Oxford law student in between lessons on how to be a proper Catholic and fittings with the Queen of England’s corset maker.

Back in Burgundy, Laura’s anxiety grows as wedding plans fall apart. As guests arrive, the rain clouds move in, family wine tastings turn into tournaments of survival of the fittest, and a bombshell from the priest leaves the couple looking for divine intervention. Laura believes she and Franck belong together, but how will they survive this tumultuous journey to the altar?

journey-to-the-centre-of-myself

Journey to the Centre of Myself by Andie M Long (£3.09 was Free)

Two women. Two different paths in life.

Amber’s husband is pressuring her to have a baby. Amber wants to have fun. She gives in to her husband, only to find that all is not as it seems.

Karen’s marriage is at its end, rocked by grief and lies. Newly redundant, she leaves on a flight to Berlin, to spend time alone and consider her future.

Amber is the temp who took over Karen’s job. But that’s not all the two women have in common. One woman’s drunken kiss in a nightclub will lead to their paths crossing once again.

Life is about to reveal new journeys for them both.

congregation

The Congregation by A J Griffiths-Jones (£2.99 was Free)

A bustling mining town in 1970s England awaits the arrival of their new vicar. People are not sure what to expect as the rather aloof Reverend Matthews descends upon his unfamiliar parish, but nevertheless he is welcomed with open arms and gathered into the flock.

However, on discovering a journal left by his predecessor, the clergyman soon begins to wonder what secrets lie behind the seemingly innocent lives of his congregation. The unexpected arrival of the Bishop causes the vicar to question his own past and a cloud descends upon his religious beliefs, causing chaos to both himself and the townsfolk residing just a stone’s throw away.

sunshine-spirit

Sunshine Spirit by Barbara Willis (Free)

As Jane steps from the rubble of her West End home she meets Will; he offers fun, laughter and love in abundance. But will his kindness lead to a happily ever after, or draw Jane into secrecy and danger?

With the Blitz of London upon them, Will teaches Jane to live for the moment and throw caution aside. He introduces her to his surrogate family, the joys of the theatre and the open road. In turn, Jane acquaints him with her eclectic mix of girlfriends and life at the Grandchester Hotel.

But wartime London is a dangerous place, and they soon find themselves in the middle of deception, desperation and acts of murder. Amid the loss and discovery, a promise is made to wait for a loved one’s return.

random

Random by Craig Robertson (Free)

Glasgow is being terrorised by a serial killer the media have nicknamed The Cutter. The murders have left the police baffled. There seems to be neither rhyme nor reason behind the killings; no kind of pattern or motive; an entirely different method of murder each time, and nothing that connects the victims except for the fact that the little fingers of their right hands have been severed.

If DS Rachel Narey could only work out the key to the seemingly random murders, how and why the killer selects his victims, she would be well on her way to catching him. But as the police, the press and a threatening figure from Glasgow’s underworld begin to close in on The Cutter, his carefully-laid plans threaten to unravel – with horrifying consequences.

murder-game

The Murder Game by Julie Apple (Free)

Ten years working as a prosecutor have left Meredith Delay jaded and unsure of what she wants out of life. She’s good at her job, but it haunts her. Her boyfriend wants her to commit, but she keeps him at arm’s length. Then Meredith is assigned to a high-profile prosecution involving the violent murder of a fallen hockey star. At first, it appears to be just another case to work. But when her old friend Julian is accused of the murder, it takes on a whole new dimension.

Meredith, Julian, Jonathan, and Lily were a tight-knit group in law school. But now, Jonathan’s defending Julian, and Lily’s loyalties aren’t clear. And when Julian invokes a rare—and risky—defence, Meredith is forced to confront their past.

absolution

Absolution by Amanda Dick (Free)

All it takes is a moment. The flash of oncoming headlights and a split-second decision tears your world apart.

Jack McKenna fell in love with Ally Connor the first time he saw her. All through high school and beyond, it was the two of them against the world even though level-headed, pragmatic Jack and artistic, impulsive Ally couldn’t have been more different. Their future was mapped out until one night, driving home from a concert with their best friend, their world came crashing down.

Consumed by guilt, Jack walks away from everything and everyone. What follows is four years of living in the shadows, sliding further and further into the darkness until he finds himself doing things he never thought he was capable of.
And then a phone call turns his world upside down a second time. Hours later, he’s heading back to the place where the nightmares began. The homecoming, a funeral and the journey of self-discovery will test the limits of his endurance, risking his very soul in the process. Does he even deserve a second chance?

defenceless

The Defenceless by Kati Hiekkapelto (£4.74 was 99p)

When an old man is found dead on the road – seemingly run over by a Hungarian au pair – police investigator Anna Fekete is certain that there is more to the incident than meets the eye. As she begins to unravel an increasingly complex case, she’s led on a deadly trail where illegal immigration, drugs and, ultimately, murder threaten not only her beliefs, but her life. Anna’s partner Esko is entrenched in a separate but equally dangerous investigation into the activities of an immigrant gang, where deportation orders and raids cause increasing tension and result in desperate measures by gang members – and the police themselves. Then a bloody knife is found in the snow, and the two cases come together in ways that no one could have predicted. As pressure mounts, it becomes clear that having the law on their side may not be enough for Anna and Esko. Chilling, disturbing and terrifyingly believable.

cursed

Cursed by Thomas Enger (£4.31 was 99p)

What secret would you kill to protect? When Hedda Hellberg fails to return from a retreat in Italy, where she has been grieving for her recently dead father, her husband discovers that his wife’s life is tangled in mystery. Hedda never left Oslo, the retreat has no record of her and, what’s more, she appears to be connected to the death of an old man, gunned down on the first day of the hunting season in the depths of the Swedish forests. Henning Juul becomes involved in the case when his ex-wife joins in the search for the missing woman, and the estranged pair find themselves enmeshed both in the murky secrets of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families, and in the painful truths surrounding the death of their own son. With the loss of his son to deal with, as well as threats to his own life and to that of his ex-wife, Juul is prepared to risk everything to uncover a sinister maze of secrets that ultimately leads to the dark heart of European history.

bird-tribunal

The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn  (£4.31 was 99p)

Two people in exile. Two secrets. As the past tightens its grip, there may be no escape… TV presenter Allis Hagtorn leaves her partner and her job to take voluntary exile in a remote house on an isolated fjord. But her new job as housekeeper and gardener is not all that it seems, and her silent, surly employer, 44-year-old Sigurd Bagge, is not the old man she expected. As they await the return of his wife from her travels, their silent, uneasy encounters develop into a chilling, obsessive relationship, and it becomes clear that atonement for past sins may not be enough… Haunting, consuming and powerful, The Bird Tribunal is a taut, exquisitely written psychological thriller that builds to a shocking, dramatic crescendo that will leave you breathless.

rupture

Rupture by Ragnar Jonasson (£4.31 was 99p)

1955. Two young couples move to the uninhabited, isolated fjord of Hedinsfjörður. Their stay ends abruptly when one of the women meets her death in mysterious circumstances. The case is never solved. Fifty years later an old photograph comes to light, and it becomes clear that the couples may not have been alone on the fjord after all…
In nearby Siglufjörður, young policeman Ari Thór tries to piece together what really happened that fateful night, in a town where no one wants to know, where secrets are a way of life. He’s assisted by Ísrún, a news reporter in Reykjavik, who is investigating an increasingly chilling case of her own. Things take a sinister turn when a child goes missing in broad daylight. With a stalker on the loose, and the town of Siglufjörður in quarantine, the past might just come back to haunt them.

Tree Book Purchases

last-days-of-the-national-costume

The Last Days of the National Costume by Anne Kennedy (Waterstones sale)

You’d think that mending clothes would be an uneventful, uncomplicated occupation. No drama, no unnecessary explanations, no personal involvement. But people love to talk, and as they make their excuses to GoGo Sligo, of Megan Sligo Mending and Alterations, they reveal the holes in their stories as well. It doesn’t take long for GoGo to get to the truth behind the rips and tears they’ve brought her to fix.

As GoGo listens and sews, she realises she is also helping her clients cheat and lie to their husbands and wives. She’s covering their tracks so they won’t be found out.

A five-week blackout brings the city to its knees, and a drama to her doorstep. A lover, a wife, and finally the cheating husband all come to claim a vintage Irish costume that GoGo’s been mending. She doesn’t want to like the guilty husband, but can’t resist being drawn into the enticing web of his deceit, and then into his story of heartbreak and death on the streets of Belfast.

To keep him coming back to the blacked-out house and to prolong the telling of his family’s story, GoGo pretends the costume isn’t finished. As she makes him return to her, day after day, it becomes clear that another kind of spell is being woven, and GoGo must face the truth about herself and her own life and marriage.

hippy-dinners

Hippy Dinners by Abbie Ross (Waterstones sale)

In 1972 Abbie Ross’s cosmopolitan parents move the family from London to rural North Wales, exchanging a town house in Islington for a remote farmhouse on a hill.
Abbie’s Liverpudlian grandparents – dedicated followers of Liberace, sleek in scented mohair and patent leather – are sure they’ve lost their minds. For Abbie, though, the only cloud on the horizon is the nearby hippy commune and its inhabitants. There are worrying signs that this is the sort of ‘better life’ that her parents have in mind.
Brilliantly evoking a particular time and place, Abbie’s memoir re-creates a world of dens and pineapple chunks, of John Craven’s Newsround and fishing for sticklebacks – and the joy but also the burning powerlessness of being a child. Disgusted by her father’s ‘yogic flying’ and her mother’s taste for brown bread and billowing cheesecloth (with no bra), Abbie is desperate not to be different. Far better, she thinks, to fit in with shouting, pathologically nosy Sara across the fields,or stay close to Philip next door – paralysingly shy and with a preference for orange food and no trousers (‘nice to have a bit of air’) …
Rich with detail that reveals a whole world, Hippy Dinners is very funny and full of heart. It is also a delicate and astute portrait of the brutal realities of ‘a simple life’.

a-god-in-every-stone

A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie (Waterstones sale)

Summer, 1914. Young Englishwoman Vivian Rose Spencer is in an ancient land, about to discover the Temple of Zeus, the call of adventure, and love. Thousands of miles away a twenty-year-old Pathan, Qayyum Gul, is learning about brotherhood and loyalty in the British Indian army. Summer, 1915. Viv has been separated from the man she loves; Qayyum has lost an eye at Ypres. They meet on a train to Peshawar, unaware that a connection is about to be forged between their lives Â? one that will reveal itself fifteen years later when anti-colonial resistance, an ancient artefact and a mysterious woman will bring them together again.

something-to-hide

Something to Hide by Deborah Moggach (Waterstones sale)

‘Nobody in the world knows our secret … that I’ve ruined Bev’s life, and she’s ruined mine.’

Petra’s love life is a bit of a car-crash, even in her sixties. But then she falls for Jeremy, an old chum, visiting from abroad. The catch? Jeremy is her best friend’s husband.

And just as Petra is beginning to relax guiltily into her happy ever after, she finds herself catapulted to West Africa, and to Bev, her best friend who she’s been betraying so spectacularly.

It turns out that no matter where you are in the world, everyone has something to hide. Can Bev – can anyone – be trusted?

wish-you-were-here

Wish You Were Here by Victoria Connelly (Charity shop)

Sun, sea and secrets…

A week on the sunny Greek island of Kethos is just what Alice Archer needs, even if she has to put up with her difficult sister. Stella’s tantrums and diva-like demands are a fair price to pay for crystal-clear waters, blue skies and white clifftop villas.

When Alice meets Milo, a handsome gardener at the Villa Argenti, for the first time she suddenly feels beautiful, alluring and confident. But is it just holiday magic or will the irresistible pull between Alice and Milo survive against all odds?

 

excellent-women-by-barbara-pym

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym (Charity shop)

Mildred Lathbury is one of those ‘excellent women’ who is often taken for granted. She is a godsend, ‘capable of dealing with most of the stock situations of life – birth, marriage, death, the successful jumble sales, the garden fete spoilt by bad weather’. As such, she often gets herself embroiled in other people’s lives – especially those of her glamorous new neighbours, the Napiers, whose marriage seems to be on the rocks. One cannot take sides in these matters, though it is tricky, especially as Mildred, teetering on the edge of spinsterhood, has a soft spot for dashing young Rockingham Napier. This is Barbara Pym’s world at its funniest and most touching.

 

Giveaway/Prize Wins

we-were-the-lucky-ones

 

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter – many thanks to Alison Busby for this great prize win.

From the jazz clubs of Paris and Kraków’s most brutal prison, to the ports of Northern Africa and the farthest reaches of the Siberian gulag, We Were the Lucky Ones expresses how in the darkest of times the human spirit can find a way to survive, and even triumph.

 

 

If you’re still with me at this stage I hope you found something to tempt you as well – Happy Reading x

 

 

 

 

January Urbane Book Club unwrapped (@urbanepub)

For anyone yet to have discovered Urbane – where have you been?. I joined the Urbane Book Club last year and you can catch up with that post here. I decided it would be nice to feature my club books each month in a separate feature (there is no truth in the rumour that doing so makes my weekly acquisitions listing look less profligate).

I was away last week and arrived home to discover a parcel had been left with my neighbour, when we finally caught up I was delighted to discover that what I thought was my rather mundane order of Deep Sleep Pillow Spray (don’t ask but it does work!) was actually my Urbane parcel of January’s publications. So what did January bring.

filthy-habit

Buy from Urbane or Amazon

A Filthy Habit and Other Stories by Fergus Linnane.

(Love the cover and looking forward to dipping into this)

Perhaps it’s time you embraced the wilder side of life….

A subversive military campaign to wipe out pensioners … a sadistic newspaper editor who bullies and humiliates his staff while worrying about his translation of Horace … an Italian soccer maestro is hired to teach English players to spit … a tiger loose on the 3.30pm from Charing Cross to Tunbridge Wells … a fantasy biography that leads to an international incident … an author hiding in a library, watching in secret as a beautiful young woman inserts new pages into his book to form a completely different story …

From shadow catchers to obsessive collectors, broken book groups to bullying bosses, Fergus Linnane shares a wealth of bizarre, entertaining and often darkly hilarious stories which subvert our expectations and give life a totally new perspective.

release-your-wow

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Release Your Wow by Rennie Gould

(Might need to find it first but I’m sure I’ve got some somewhere!)

Our lives are full of challenges, drawing on our reserves of physical and mental energy as we strive for what matters to us, and those we care for. As we progress through each new day we develop new skills, undergo new experiences, and grow as individuals. But how do we harness all that experience, how do we find the energy to take life by the scruff of the neck and discover the strength and truth of what were capable of achieving? Drawing on the very latest thinking behind Mindfulness, Authenticity and Human Flourishing, Release your WOW! shows YOU how to unleash that irresistible force that often lies dormant but ready within all of us, an energy which has the power to change every aspect of your life for the better. Using 7 simple steps, you will be led on a journey of self-discovery to reveal your essential self an insight that provides the foundation to make the changes you want to make to your life. Take the 7 steps to self awareness and personal fulfilment and release your WOW!

debris

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Debris: New poetry collection by Chris Parker

(I need to broaden my horizons as far as poetry is concerned so this should help)

Through his consideration of debris, Chris Parker develops the themes of communication, learning and relationship he first shared in The City Fox & others in our community. Through the voices of some of the original characters in The City Fox and a range of new ones, we are invited – and sometimes challenged – to consider the impact of our communications, beliefs and social structures on others and ourselves. The word debris, we learn, refers to broken or torn pieces of something larger. So just what is our relationship with debris? To what extent do we create it and what are its effects on others and us? Is debris only a form of waste, or can it be empowering and useful? And if debris is a part of something larger, just what is that something? These are the questions we are encouraged to address in this new collection of poems that explore just what it means to be human and how we influence each other.

two-dogs-at-the-one-dog-inn

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Two Dogs at the One Dog Inn and other stories by David John Griffin 

(Another intriguing title that makes you want to read more.)

Dogs are reported for their constant barking …and so begins one of the strangest stories you will ever read. Audrey Ackerman, sent to visit the dogs at a 17th century coach house, is unsettled by paranormal sightings. Stella Bridgeport – manager at The Animal Welfare Union – communicates with Audrey via emails. And those Stella receives are as startling as they are incredible: descriptions of extraordinary events concerning a science fiction writer’s journal; giant swans; bizarre android receptionist; a ghost dog. Insanity or fantasy? Fact or fiction? The only given is, it all starts and ends with two dogs at The One Dog Inn…and other stories: 12 short stories with aspects of the macabre, the surreal or the strangeness of magical realism to entertain and delight you.

miss-christie-regrets

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Miss Christie Regrets by Guy Fraser-Sampson

(This January publication actually arrived prior to this parcel and my review can be found here.)

The second in the Hampstead Murders series opens with a sudden death at an iconic local venue, which some of the team believe may be connected with an unsolved murder featuring Cold War betrayals worthy of George Smiley. It soon emerges that none other than Agatha Christie herself may be the key witness who is able to provide the missing link. As with its bestselling predecessor, Death in Profile, the book develops the lives and loves of the team at ‘Hampstead Nick’. While the next phase of a complicated love triangle plays itself out, the protagonists, struggling to crack not one but two apparently insoluble murders, face issues of national security in working alongside Special Branch. On one level a classic whodunit, this quirky and intelligent read harks back not only to the world of Agatha Christie, but also to the Cold War thrillers of John Le Carre, making it a worthy successor to Death in Profile which was dubbed ‘a love letter to the detective novel’.

Last but not least a selection of children’s titles from Lotte Moore. Buy all 5 direct from Urbane for £9.99. (These should earn me some Auntie brownie points!)

The Dinosaur Who Ate a Piano – Doops the hungry dinosaur found a strange object which he gobbled down – and soon he was making music instead of growls!

The Flying Granny – Granny Buzz adores her bees, and wishes she could fly high in the sky with them. But sometimes wishes can come true…

Mobile Crocodile – Lily dropped her mobile phone when visiting the zoo …and now a giant crocodile is ringing in its pool!

The Teaspoon Family – When the cooking is over and the kitchen is quiet, the Teaspoon Family come out to play! This wonderful story is illustrated by children from Kew Green Prep School.

Saved – After a busy day in the classroom learning and being creative, the children head for home. But when the school is quiet all the rubbish in the classroom comes magically to life. Find out what happens before the rubbish collectors arrive!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So a great variety and something for everyone I think. Definitely worth what equates to £8.33 a month for an annual subscription of £99.99. If you still need persuading here’s a taster of what February has in store and I can’t wait.

gift-maker

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The Gift Maker by Mark Mayes

Late one night, Thomas Ruder receives a strange package: a small blue box. Another such item is delivered to his friend Liselotte Hauptmann. These ‘gifts’ will change their lives forever. In the far-off border town of Grenze, a play is to be performed at the Sheol Theatre. Reynard the impresario expects a very special audience. Thomas and Liselotte, together with their friend Johann, are drawn into Reynard’s seductive web, as Daumen, the gift maker, must decide who his master really is.

marching-on-together

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Marching on Together by P J Whiteley

It is August 2014. Six Leeds United supporters set off for a short break in Bruges. Two brothers Allan and Johnny Collins – the former a successful businessman, the latter just out of prison – are visiting great-grandad’s grave on the Western Front, at the time of the centenary of the start of the Great War. They’re joined by Johnny’s mates, Craig and Terry; the tomboy Petra; and the out-of-sorts Yvonne, who failed to persuade estranged husband Tony to accompany her. For all the political events, historic and current, that surround them, they find it difficult to avoid discussion of the wildly eccentric new owner of their beloved football club as it languishes in the second tier of English football. He has sold the best striker and banned the Number 17 shirt as being ‘unlucky’. Meanwhile other obsessions, secrets and ambitions lie within their hearts. Can Johnny find love again, or a job? Will Terry make it as a photographer? Is Allan’s business as successful as it appears to be? What is the family secret behind the antique silver locket that Yvonne keeps in her handbag? And can she finally accept the result of the 1975 European Cup Final, and begin to move on with her life?

all-the-places

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All the Places I’ve Ever Lived by David Gaffney

All the Places I’ve ever Lived is part ghost story, part murder ballad, part crime thriller and explores the themes of outsiders and difference, with a dark edge. People say it has a Twin Peaks feel.

It is set in West Cumbria, a semi-industrial, remote and unloved part of northern England on the edge of the Lake District and on the edge of just about everything else.  the town is mainly populated by irish immigrants coming over to work in the iron ore mines and later Sellafield.

The action begins in 1976, when fifteen-year-old Barry wakes up one day to find that his body is covered in strange, metallic lumps. Living next to a thermometer factory and nine miles from Sellafield nuclear plant could be an explanation for this, but, actually, something more uncanny is going on. The evening before, a girl from Barry’s school, Philomena May, was brutally attacked and left in a ditch to die. Philomena’s ghost visits Barry and uses the metallic lumps to guide them both into the future, where Barry and the ghost girl’s purpose is to prevent a multiple shooting.

The book flicks between 1976 and 2010, and explores the effect of horrendous crimes on small communities and the way the gradual accretion of small grudges can drive a person to mass murder. It’s a thrilling mash up of Edward Scissorhands, In Cold Blood, and Back To The Future.

peace-breaks-out

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Peace Breaks Out by Robin Hardy & Donough O’Brien

When the IRA kill Bill Heathcote’s family in a botched bombing attempt, the scene is set for a revenge thriller that pursues the truth to the very top of UK and US government power… The IRA plan the assassination of scientist Bill Heathcote, a Northern Irish man just returned from development work in the USA. But the assassination is botched and Bill’s wife and young daughter are murdered in a car bomb meant for him. Overcome with remorse, one of the bombers, Danny, decides to help Bill track down his former IRA comrades to exact revenge, though the situation is complicated by ruthless political powers determined to use the situation for their own ends. When a choice can literally mean the death of innocence, how will you decide? Peace Breaks Out is a gripping revenge thriller set during the Troubles in Ireland. One for fans of Jack Higgins and Gerald Seymour.

Added week ending 4 Feb 2017

Review Copies

 

lost-for-words

Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland (NetGalley due 20/4/17)

Spiky, sardonic, and reclusive Loveday Cardew prefers books to people. If you look carefully you might glimpse the first lines of the novels she loves the most tattooed on her skin. But there are secrets that Loveday will never share …

Fifteen years ago, in one unspeakable, violent moment, Loveday lost all she knew and loved. Now, she finds refuge in the enchanting little book emporium where she works.

But something shifts for Loveday when a performance poet comes in to the shop, looking for something he lost. Between them, there’s a spark  . .

Not long after Nathan’s arrival, mysterious packages begin arriving for Loveday. Each one contains a seemingly unremarkable book. But each book stirs unsettling memories for her – some bittersweet, some too painful to bear.
It seems someone knows. Someone is trying to send Loveday a message, and she can’t hide any longer.

It’s time for Loveday to take charge of how her story unfolds. She must decide who around her she can truly trust and find the courage to right a heartbreaking wrong. And if she does, she might just find her way home . . .

 

Kindle Purchases

 

beachside-sweet-shop

The Beachside Sweet Shop by Karen Clarke (Pre-order for 99p)

Chocolate fudge, butterscotch and raspberry bonbons… treat yourself to some sugary treats, a big slice of friendship and a sprinkling of romance at The Beachside Sweet Shop.

When Marnie Appleton inherited a sweet shop from her grandfather she was determined to do his legacy proud. The shop has been a much-loved feature of the little seaside town of Shipley for years, but now Marnie needs to bring it up to date, and she’s recruited gorgeous new assistant Josh to help.

Marnie gets busy redecorating the shop and choosing delicious new sweets to stock, but things are never that simple: new neighbour Isobel, a fame-hungry blogger, is on a crusade against sugar, and she’ll go to any lengths to secure bad publicity for Marnie’s shop.

Marnie fights back with homemade sugar-free treats, but with her best friend Beth heavily pregnant, her grandmother Celia recovering from an operation, and her very recently ex-boyfriend Alex returning to Shipley with a new love, Marnie has a lot on her plate.

And then there’s Josh, with whom Marnie is struggling to keep her relationship strictly professional…Will both the sweet shop and love flourish?

 

corner-shop-of-whispers

The Corner Shop of Whispers by Debbie Viggiano (On pre-order 99p)

Romantic Florrie, scatty Daisy and snobby Alison are neighbours, living their married lives in the tiny English village of Lower Amblegate where everyone knows everybody. Together the three friends share laughter, tears, and things they wouldn’t want anybody else knowing. But unbeknownst to them, a scandal is brewing.

As rumours circulate, the gossips go into overdrive, rocking marriages and revealing the women have much more in common than just neighbourly bonds…

 

tears-of-the-rajas

The Tears of the Rajas by Ferdinand Mount (99p)

The Tears of the Rajas is a sweeping history of the British in India, seen through the experiences of a single Scottish family. For a century the Lows of Clatto survived mutiny, siege, debt and disease, everywhere from the heat of Madras to the Afghan snows. They lived through the most appalling atrocities and retaliated with some of their own. Each of their lives, remarkable in itself, contributes to the story of the whole fragile and imperilled, often shockingly oppressive and devious but now and then heroic and poignant enterprise.

On the surface, John and Augusta Low and their relations may seem imperturbable, but in their letters and diaries they often reveal their loneliness and desperation and their doubts about what they are doing in India. The Lows are the family of the author’s grandmother, and a recurring theme of the book is his own discovery of them and of those parts of the history of the British in India which posterity has preferred to forget.

The book brings to life not only the most dramatic incidents of their careers – the massacre at Vellore, the conquest of Java, the deposition of the boy-king of Oudh, the disasters in Afghanistan, the Reliefs of Lucknow and Chitral – but also their personal ordeals: the bankruptcies in Scotland and Calcutta, the plagues and fevers, the deaths of children and deaths in childbirth. And it brings to life too the unrepeatable strangeness of their lives: the camps and the palaces they lived in, the balls and the flirtations in the hill stations, and the hot slow rides through the dust. An epic saga of love, war, intrigue and treachery, The Tears of the Rajas is surely destined to become a classic of its kind.

 

murder-road

The Murder Road by Stephen Booth (99p)

Ben Cooper and his team from Derbyshire Constabulary’s E Division return in this gripping new page-turner from the master of the genre.

For the Peak District hamlet of Shawhead, there’s only one road in and one road out. Its handful of residents are accustomed to being cut off from the world by snow or floods. But when a lorry delivering animal feed is found jammed in the narrow lane, with no sign of the driver except for a blood-stained cab, it’s the beginning of something much more sinister…

 

golden-earrings

Golden Earrings by Belinda Alexandra (99p)

A powerful saga of family love, honour and betrayal, set in Barcelona in the lead-up to the Civil War and Paris in the 1970s

Let me tell you a story…The granddaughter of Spanish refugees, who fled Barcelona after the Civil War, Paloma Batton is an attentive student of the Paris Opera Ballet, that is, until she is visited by a ghost …

Leaving her a mysterious gift – a pair of golden earrings – the ghost disappears, setting Paloma off on a quest.

Paloma’s exploration of her Spanish heritage, leads to a connection between the visitor and ‘la Rusa’, a woman who died in Paris in 1952, known for her rapid rise from poverty to flamenco star. Although her death was ruled a suicide, Paloma soon discovers that many people had reasons for wanting la Rusa dead… including Paloma’s own grandmother.

Golden Earringstravels between Barcelona: before the Civil War, and Paris in the 1970s. It is a story of passion and betrayal, and the extremes two women will go to for love.

 

a-bientot

À Bientôt by Patricia Dixon (99p)

A moving story of betrayal and loss and how against the odds, once the past is laid to rest you can learn to trust, love and live again. Set on the coast of Portsmouth and the beautiful Loire Valley, this is the story of Anna, married mother of three, the unremarkable rock of her family who is quite content with her life until by accident, she discovers that Matthew, her husband of 22 years is having an affair. Two months later he is dead. Consumed by hurt and tainted memories, Anna’s life is turned upside down by loss and betrayal, her confidence totally destroyed and the tormenting spectre of Matthew’s unknown lover is ever present; so whilst keeping the secret of his affair from her family, Anna must find her way alone. With one son on the other side of the world, another about to enter a war zone and her daughter off to university, her life gradually begins to crumble until she is saved by her feisty loyal childhood friend Jeannie. Step by step Anna embarks on an emotional and inspirational journey which takes her to rural France where she makes new friends, experiences country life and is unexpectedly given the chance to love again.

 

reunited

Reunited by Daniel Gothard (99p)

1992, and Ben Tallis is coming to terms with the recent death of his father. His ability to cope isn’t helped by the fact he’s secretly in love with one of his best friends. At least keeping a daily journal helps him make sense of events, and he believes it’s the perfect preparation for his plan to one day become a successful journalist.

2012 and Ben has achieved his career ambition – he’s a highly respected journalist and is engaged to a hardworking and ambitious lawyer. But this seemingly ‘perfect’ relationship is fraught with problems. Ben mentions in passing to his editor he has received an invitation to a 20 year school reunion but doesn’t want to go. His editor however smells a great feature article and insists Ben returns home, faces his past – including his secret teenage yearning – and writes a feature on how much we change, and yet in so many ways stay the same.

As Ben reluctantly re-engages with his past he soon comes to realise that we can never run from the truth…or who we truly are.

 

Kindle Freebies

 

silver

Silver by Mark L Fowler

A writer murdered.

A reader with a dangerous obsession. 

A killer who shouldn’t exist. 

When romance novelist Joy Haversham is murdered she leaves behind a husband, daughter and Silver,  a disturbing, unfinished manuscript the publishing world are desperate to read. But her grieving husband,  Roger, refuses to allow publication. Roger wants to lock himself away with his memories. But the fans have other ideas.

Nick Slater, a former reporter and successful novelist who covered the trial, remains obsessed with the unanswered questions surrounding Joy’s death. Determined to learn the truth Nick finds himself in trouble. And the evidence he will find is … impossible.

 

beyond-the-lens

Beyond the Lens by Hannah Ellis

When twenty-six-year-old Lucy Mitchell loses her job, she momentarily loses her mind too and agrees to take part in a reality TV show. Before she knows it she’s jetting off to a piece of paradise on a beautiful Spanish island.

Much to her surprise, Lucy makes new friends and has the time of her life, even indulging in a behind-the-scenes romance with a hunky cameraman.

Convinced the production will never make it to the screen, Lucy returns home on cloud nine, but soon finds that things are not   always as they seem.

 

lazy-blood

Lazy Blood by Ross Greenwood

Will has drifted through life paying little attention to the decisions he made or the consequences of his action.

From his prison cell he finally understands how his casual descent into serious crime threatens to destroy everything.

Looking back over thirty years Will examines his friendships, the frailty of life and how your world can fall apart in the blink of an eye. 

This laugh out loud and harrowing drama follows the story of an average man and explores what goes on behind prisons walls. 

Full of very real characters and no nonsense prose this book is not to be missed.

 

school-of-dreams

The School of Dreams by Julia Sutton

Sophie is a beautiful housewife on the brink of a midlife crisis, unhappy with her errant husband. Juliette, a romantic and passionate optimist, struggles to make ends meet in a society that stereotypes single mothers.

Evelyn, a shy and modest novelist is looking for the university to help her step out of the shadows. Ann, after being disabled after a serious accident, yearns for fulfillment in a cruel world that has robbed her of happiness.

And then there’s Will – a rebellious and idealistic teenager, who longs to sever the shackles of family and religion.

As five paths collide in a story of empowerment, romance and quest for fulfillment, they’re presented with the same question: what is your dream?

 

 

tequila-tea-bags

Tequila & Tea Bags by Laura Barnard

Sent to live with her cousin Elsie in the Yorkshire countryside, Rose has only one thing on her mind; joining her friends as a club rep in Mexico.

When she hears about a council incentive offering the promise of free flights to the person who clocks the most volunteering hours at the local care home, she’s got her plan set.
But she doesn’t plan on bonding with the old ladies, going after the village bad boy and trying to persuade Elsie not to become a Nun.

Soon she’s questioning who her real friends are and whether her old life is one she wants to return to.

Can the village win her over and will she win the chance to leave it behind? Will she even want to?

 

Charity Shop Buys

Time to Say Goodbye by S D Robertson

The Moment by Douglas Kennedy

Open House by Jill Mansell 

 

Blogger Recognition Award

blogger-award

I was delighted  and honoured beyond belief to be nominated for this award not once, but twice this week. So grateful thanks go to Kate at The Quiet Knitter and Joanne at The Portobello Book Blog. I’ve not received an ‘award’ before beyond my NetGalley badges, and as this is awarded by fellow bloggers, it makes me feel as though I’ve finally arrived to be mentioned among some of my own favourite bloggers.

Here are the award rules:

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
2. Write a post to show your award.
3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
4. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
*5. Select 15 other bloggers you want to give this award to.
*6. Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide the link to the post you created.

How “Jill’s Book Cafe” started

My blog began as a way of bringing all my reviews together in one place. I used to award stars on Goodreads but had never written a review until I was introduced to, and thankfully accepted by NetGalley in Feb 2014. Suddenly it was in at the deep end, learning to write reviews and post them to Goodreads and Amazon and anywhere else it was appropriate. I cringe when I see my early reviews (and some later ones on a bad day). Once I started writing reviews I realised there was a world out there full of other reviewers and bloggers that had their own websites/blogs and began to follow some of them. In Nov 2014 I decided in a moment of madness to start my own blog and this is the result. I already had the name because I have a Facebook page that I use to post free and bargain books and it made sense to keep the same name.

I still feel I have a lot to learn and view myself primarily as a reviewer. I’ve dipped my toe in the water of Q&A’s and author features which I need to pursue as time permits.

Advice to New Bloggers

It’s your blog so be yourself and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Everyone has different time constraints and abilities, so do what you can, when you can. By all means look at other blogs for inspiration or as something to aspire to, but don’t fall into the trap of constantly comparing yours to theirs. People following your blog want to know what you think, what you recommend and what you read.

Don’t put undue pressure on yourself, learn to say no – it’s easy to get carried away with NetGalley for example,  but just remember all those book that are dropping on to your Kindle actually need to be read and require a review. Similarly when you get asked to review a book it’s very flattering, (and hard to say no) but if it’s not your style/genre or you don’t have time, don’t be afraid to politely say so.

Put your review policy on your blog – while many times, it will be ignored by people who think it doesn’t apply to them, or just don’t bother checking, it gives you the opportunity to state what you read, what formats you prefer and also whether your currently accepting reviews. It also makes it much easier to say no going forward.

Don’t be scared to interact with other bloggers – when I started I was scared stiff that I was trying to ‘muscle in’ on an arena that full of established bloggers. The reality was, that I was accepted as a fellow blogger and made to feel welcome. I count myself lucky to be able to connect and interact with those bloggers that I used to follow and respect (and still do). There’s probably no problem or question that you’ve got that someone else hasn’t had so don’t be afraid to ask.

My Blogger Nominees

OK the hard bit. I’m now supposed to nominate 15 blogs and their bloggers. As I follow way more than 15 my alphabetical selection is made up of those bloggers that I regularly interact directly via my blog. What I love when I look through this list, is how it exemplifies what I enjoy about blogging. My nominees offer a variety of genres, are of differing ages (I’m old enough to be a granny to some), are not all located in the UK which gives me a different perspective and are not all long established blogs. Several on my list started blogging after me, but are already way ahead in regularly of diving in and making an impression, which proves there is room for everyone.

I’m aware of all the pressures we put on ourselves (despite exhortations not to – see above advice) so I’m not adding to that by asking my nominated blogs to take part – unless they want to. This is my way of saying thanks for accepting me, for helping me and giving me something to aspire to.

The White Camellia by Juliet Greenwood – 4.5*s #bookreview @julietgreenwood

white-camellia

From the back cover

1909. Cornwall. Her family ruined, Bea is forced to leave Tressillion House, and self-made businesswoman Sybil moves in. Owning Tressillion is Sybil’s triumph – but now what? As the house casts its spell over her, as she starts to make friends in the village despite herself, will she be able to build a new life here, or will her old ghosts and hatred always rule her heart?

Bea finds herself in London, responsible for her mother and sister’s security. Her only hope is to marry Jonathon, the new heir. Desperate for options, she stumbles into the White Camellia tearoom, a gathering place for the growing suffrage movement. For Bea it’s life-changing, can she pursue her ambition if it will heap further scandal on her family? Will she risk arrest or worse?

When those very dangers send Bea and her White Camellia friends back to Cornwall, the two women must finally confront each other and Tressillion’s long buried secrets. 

My review

Juliet Greenwood’s latest historical offering epitomizes my favourite sort of historical fiction because it takes as one of its main themes, a factual subject, and in this case it’s the fight for Women’s Suffrage. The White Camellia of the title is the fictional name given to one of the growing number of London cafés and tea rooms designed to cater for women, allowing them to meet in safety without fear of molestation or being accused of breaching propriety.  As such they proved a popular meeting place for suffragists and here we find it being run in support of  The Suffrage League of Women Artists and Journalists. Like the White Camellia it is a fictional, but has its roots in historical counterparts.

As if the subject of suffragettes and their fight for the vote was not engaging enough, the book also has the added drama of betrayal, loss, family secrets and of course romance. A perfect recipe for settling down and losing yourself.

The book gripped me from the start with the opening chapters setting the scenes perfectly. One strand of the story opens in Cornwall with Sybil taking possession of Tressillion House and the other is set in London with Bea seeking sanctuary in what she learns is a suffrage tea room. As the story unfolds, in alternating sections, it’s clear that both Sybil’s and Bea’s lives have a connection other than Tressillion House, but exactly what is a mystery that I’ll leave you to discover.

While Sybil and Bea are very different characters, they are each likeable and admirable in their own way. Sybil has the confidence, strength and ability of the self-made woman, but there is also an underlying turmoil that threatens to crack the veneer. Bea on the other hand is initially more diffident but as her confidence grows, she finds the strength to make a stand and discover what she is capable of.

While the book follows the developing story of Sybil and Bea, it has a number of supporting but no less important characters. Not all are likeable (yes you Jonathan) and others have you falling just a little bit in love with them (Oh Madoc), but they all help to give the book depth and realism. The locations of London and Cornwall are also enticing and both have their attractions that offer a change of pace and lifestyle that adds a further balance to the book.

I’ll admit that initially it was the suffrage theme that appealed to me, as I’ve always been interested by the selflessness of the suffragettes. What they endured both outside and in prison – beatings, sexual humiliation, abuse and force feeding; all in the name of gaining our right to vote is something we should never forget. Yet as absorbed in that side of the story as I was, I found myself becoming increasingly absorbed in the secrets of the Tressillion estate and the attempt to re-open the mine (I’m clearly missing Poldark).

I can thoroughly recommend this beautifully written book on all fronts – character, plot, locations, historical accuracy and realism. Enjoy.

I received a copy of this book via the author to enable this review.

Available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

Travelled Far by Keith Foskett – 4*s #bookreview @KeithFoskett

travelled-far

 

Adventure addict Keith Foskett adores travel and the outdoors. A veteran of El Camino de Santiago in Spain, the Pacific Crest, Appalachian Trail and more, he follows a different lifestyle. Adventure and chasing dreams come first, convention and acceptance are second.

In this book he shares a collection of trips, thoughts and observations from his award-winning blog. From the extremes of the New Mexico wilderness to his beloved South Downs in England, he observes the world with clarity, hope, daydreams and humour.

With tales of local history, the changing of the seasons, facing death and pursuing his chosen path, this is a glimpse into one man’s unfaltering passion to follow his dreams.

My Review

While I have had my more serious walking/hiking achievements in the past, these days I would describe myself as a social rambler ( ie a couple of hours before lunch in the pub). However I’m always partial to a bit of vicarious hiking through reading so I was delighted to read this latest offering from Keith Foskett. While Keith’s previous books have concentrated on specific long distance hikes, the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachia Trail and El Camino de Santiago, this is a collected miscellany of short hiking and outdoor adventures inspired by his blog.

This selection offers a perfect introduction to Keith’s writing and philosophy. By his own admission he comes to life when on the trail and these tales exemplify that. They vary from weekend hikes over the North and South Downs, seeking out new footpaths around his locality and snippets from longer trails including the Camino to name a few. Keith’s sense of joy and freedom shines through his writing and it’s a joy that is infectious. If you are a walker reading these observances you’ll nod your head in recognition at many of those ‘at one with the world moments’, whether it be the view over the brow of the hill you’ve just trudged up, or making it to the cafe for that longed for cup if tea before closing time. It also has a chapter on that less than joyful scenario, when the sun starts to sink, the weather changes and you realise you’re lost (we’ve all been there).

So whether you need a bit of encouragement to dust off the boots and rediscover the joys of walking or just enjoy reading about the great outdoors, you could do far worse than dip into these bite sized chapters of one man’s delight in doing what he loves best.

I received an ecopy of this book for the purpose of writing this review

Download  from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

Added week ending 28 Jan 2016

Review Copies

chilbury-ladies-choir

The Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan (due 23 Feb)

The village of Chilbury in Kent is about to ring in some changes.
This is a delightful novel of wartime gumption and village spirit that will make your heart sing out.

Kent, 1940. The women of Chilbury village have taken umbrage at the Vicar’s closure of the choir now that its male singers are at war. But when spirited music professor Primrose Trent arrives, it prompts the creation of an all-female singing group. Resurrecting themselves as The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, the women use their song and unity to embolden the community as the war tears through their lives.

Dependable Mrs Tilling sees the choir as a chance to finally put herself first, and a welcome distraction from thoughts of her son fighting on the front line. For Kitty Winthrop, the precocious youngest daughter of Chilbury Manor, singing is the only way to outshine her glamorous sister Venetia, who isn’t letting the war ruin her plan to make every bachelor in the county fall in love with her. Meanwhile, when midwife Edwina Paltry is presented with a dastardly job which she’s convinced will make her rich, she will have to misuse more than the trust of the choir’s women to carry out her scheme – and nothing is going to stop her.

Filled with intrigue, humour and touching warmth, and set against the devastating backdrop of the Second World War, this is a lively and big-hearted novel told through the voices of four very different but equally vibrant characters, who will win you over as much with their mischief as with their charm.

then-now-alwaysThen. Now. Always. by Isabelle Broom ( due 20 April)

Twenty-eight year old Hannah certainly is. She and her colleagues are in Spain for a month to film a documentary, and it’s a dream come true. Not least because Hannah will get to spend long summer days with Theo, her boss (and crush). If only Tom (Hannah’s best friend and cameramen) and Claudette (the presenter) would stop getting in the way…

Then things become even more complicated when Nancy, Hannah’s half-sister arrives. What is she doing here?

For once in her life, can’t Hannah just have one perfect summer, free of any drama?

 

Kindle Purchases

bloq

Bloq by Alan Jones (99p)

A gritty crime thriller. Glasgow man Bill Ingram waits in the city’s Central Station to meet his daughter, returning home from London for Christmas. When the last train pulls in, and she doesn’t get off it, he makes a desperate overnight dash to find out why. His search for her takes over his life, costing him his job and, as he withdraws from home, family and friends, he finds himself alone, despairing of ever seeing her again.

crime-on-the-fens

Crime on the Fens by Joy Ellis (99p)

THE DETECTIVE DI Nikki Galena: A police detective with nothing left to lose, she’s seen a girl die in her arms, and her daughter will never leave the hospital again. She’s got tough on the criminals she believes did this to her. Too tough. And now she’s been given one final warning: make it work with her new sergeant, DS Joseph Easter, or she’s out.

HER PARTNER DS Joseph Easter is the handsome squeaky-clean new member of the team. But his nickname “Holy Joe” belies his former life as a soldier. He has an estranged daughter who blames him for everything that went wrong with their family.

THEIR ADVERSARY is a ruthless man who holds DI Galena responsible for his terrible disfigurement.

The town is being terrorised by gangs of violent thugs, all wearing identical hideous masks. Then a talented young female student goes missing on the marsh and Nikki and Joseph find themselves joining forces with a master criminal in their efforts to save her. They need to look behind the masks, but when they do, they find something more sinister and deadly than they ever expected . . .

Kindle Freebies (when downloaded)

 

catherine-dickens

Catherine Dickens: Outside the Magic Circle by Heera Datta

“Give these letters to the British Museum so that the world may know he loved me once.”
Poignant words, more so when spoken from the deathbed.
Catherine was Charles Dickens’ wife and mother of his ten children. Yet, after twenty-one years of marriage, her illustrious husband plucked her out of his life and home, and labeled her an unfit mother and wife. In truth, he was enamored of an eighteen-year-old actress.
Why didn’t Catherine fight? Why couldn’t she fight?
Outside the Magic Circle is as much Catherine’s story as of most women of those times.

 

push-not-the-river

Push Not the River by James Conroyd Martin

A panoramic and epic novel in the grand romantic style, PUSH NOT THE RIVER is the rich story of Poland in the late 1700s–a time of heartache and turmoil as the country’s once peaceful people are being torn apart by neighboring countries and divided loyalties. It is then, at the young and vulnerable age of seventeen, when Lady Anna Maria Berezowska loses both of her parents and must leave the only home she has ever known.

With Empress Catherine’s Russian armies streaming in to take their spoils, Anna is quickly thrust into a world of love and hate, loyalty and deceit, patriotism and treason, life and death. Even kind Aunt Stella, Anna’s new guardian who soon comes to personify Poland’s courage and spirit, can’t protect Anna from the uncertain future of the country.

Anna, a child no longer, turns to love and comfort in the form of Jan, a brave patriot and architect of democracy, unaware that her beautiful and enigmatic cousin Zofia has already set her sights on the handsome young fighter. Thus Anna walks unwittingly into Zofia’s jealous wrath and darkly sinister intentions. Forced to survive several tragic events, many of them orchestrated by the crafty Zofia, a strengthened Anna begins to learn to place herself in the way of destiny–for love and for country. Heeding the proud spirit of her late father, Anna becomes a major player in the fight against the countries who come to partition her beloved Poland.

 

deerleap

DeerLeap by Sarah Walsh

What would you do if you saw someone you thought was dead?

When Grace Chalk sees her dead boyfriend Alex standing on the opposite side of the street in Bristol no-one believes her. Alex died 7 years ago when the car he and Grace’s sister Rita were in plunged into the river Avon. Rita survived the accident, but Alex’s body was never found and Grace has always suspected her sister’s version of events.

Now Grace won’t rest until she finds out the truth and her search makes her confront her past and takes her into a future she could never have imagined, one that leads her back to Deerleap, the old farmhouse at the foot of the Mendip Hills in Somerset, where it all began..

Charity Shop Purchases

Into the Free by Julie Cantrell

A Leap of Faith by Trisha Ashley

After You by Jojo Moyes

Under a Cornish Sky by Liz Fenwick

The Terrace by Maria Duffy

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney – 4.5*s -#bookreview @KathleenMRooney

lillian-boxfish-takes-a-walk

She took 1930s New York by storm, working her way up writing copy for R.H. Macy’s to become the highest paid advertising woman in the country. It was a job that, she says, “in some ways saved my life, and in other ways ruined it.”

Now it’s the last night of 1984 and Lillian, 85 years old but just as sharp and savvy as ever, is on her way to a party. It’s chilly enough out for her mink coat and Manhattan is grittier now–her son keeps warning her about a subway vigilante on the prowl–but the quick-tongued poetess has never been one to scare easily. On a walk that takes her over 10 miles around the city, she meets bartenders, bodega clerks, security guards, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be, while reviewing a life of excitement and adversity, passion and heartbreak, illuminating all the ways New York has changed–and has not.

My Review

Lillian Boxfish is the character I’d like to be when I reach 85 (or even now if I’m honest). She’s smart, sassy, charismatic and she approaches life with a bravura that masks her shortcomings and insecurities.  However the Lillian we meet in 1984 hasn’t always been that way, and during the course of New Years Eve 1984, we get to know all as Lillian looks back over her previous ‘incarnations’ from distinguished advertising copywriter, poetess, wife, and mother to aged divorcee.

The catalyst for her nocturnal wandering is a phone call from her son letting her know that his stepmother has just died – the stepmother that ‘stole’ Max, the love of Lillian’s life. Or to be more precise, the absent-minded  consumption of a packet of Oreo’s during the call, that meant she was unable to eat her pre-booked dinner at her favourite Italian restaurant.  What started as a walk from her original dinner reservation to regain her appetite, turned into a trip down memory lane, with detours and diversions to meaningful locations. From her first ‘home’ at the Christian Women’s Hotel in Midtown down to Delmonico’s near Wall Street. This latter was not just a legendary steakhouse, but the scene of her last lunch with Max, following their divorce.  Finally she decides to take up a previously issued offer of a party to round off the evening –  a party at which she’d have done well to heed the hostesses warnings – I’ll say no more!

The story which is narrated by Lillian, is a warts and all look back at her life. It’s not a sugar-coated reminiscing about all the good times, but a realistic look at how her life played out. While she may have been the ‘highest paid advertising woman in the country’ she still had to clear her desk and leave her position once she got pregnant. Her life took a downturn as she moved from celebrated career girl and poet to an everyday  wife and mother. It was a change that as Lillian finally reveals had dramatic consequences for the way her life played out. Likewise, the people who Lillian meets while on her ramble have their own stories to tell and they offer an insight into mid 1980’s New York society.

For me, the book wasn’t just about Lillian it was also a celebration of New York or to be more precise, Manhattan. It was a walking tour of its parks, gardens, squares, districts and iconic buildings. It told the story of its development over the course of the 20th century from the Jazz Age in the 20’s; the Prohibition of 30’s; through to the urban renewal and increasing Asian immigration of the 60’s. By 1984 Lillian’s Manhattan was seeing the growing social disorder and crime rates of the 1970’s being answered by a vigilante fight back. Through the re-telling of her life, Lillian also offered fascinating insights into the prevailing social and moral mores.

Lillian was an amazing character, and I was certainly enchanted by her older self. It wasn’t until I’d finished reading I discovered she was based on a real life counterpart.  Lillian Boxfish is the fictional embodiment of Margaret Fishback the real life poet and advertising copywriter for Macy’s and other major clients.

I received an ecopy from NetGalley to enable this review.

Added week ending 21 Jan 2017

Kindle Purchases

 

lying-in-wait

Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent (99p)

‘My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.’

Lydia Fitzsimons lives in the perfect house with her adoring husband and beloved son. There is just one thing Lydia yearns for to make her perfect life complete, though the last thing she expects is that pursuing it will lead to murder. However, needs must – because nothing can stop this mother from getting what she wants …

Kindle Freebies (at time of purchase)

 

back-to-the-wallBack to the Wall by A Walker

In 1938, in the shadow of possible hostilities and long before he became renowned for his ‘pictorial guides’, Alfred Wainwright decided to go for a walk. This was not just any walk: he chose to walk over 200 miles from Settle to Hadrian’s Wall and back. He wrote an account of his trek, Pennine Journey, not as a guidebook but as a commentary on the life and folk of the Dales.

In 1998, as close to the 60th anniversary as possible, A. Walker undertook the same walk and, like Wainwright, undertook the walk solo. The sense of being alone became cathartic and inspired this personal reflection. The account looks at life’s trials and tribulations through the medium of 11 days spent with his own thoughts, with no distractions to blunt the experience. The sense, from time to time, of having his back to the wall found a great medicine in following Wainwright back to the wall.

 

dancers-in-the-wind

Dancers in the Wind by Anne Coates

Freelance journalist and single mother Hannah Weybridge is commissioned by a national newspaper to write an investigative article on the notorious red light district in Kings Cross. There she meets prostitute Princess, and police inspector in the vice squad, Tom Jordan. When Princess later arrives on her doorstep beaten up so badly she is barely recognisable, Hannah has to make some tough decisions and is drawn ever deeper into the world of deceit and violence.

Three sex workers are murdered, their deaths covered up in a media blackout, and Hannah herself is under threat. As she comes to realise that the taste for vice reaches into the higher echelons of the great and the good, Hannah realises she must do everything in her power to expose the truth …. and stay alive.

 

gospel-according-to-johnny-bender

The Gospel According to Johnny Bender

‘Once upon a time there was a village called Edendale, and some people were good and some people were bad and some people were in-between. Do we know who is what yet? I don’t think we do…’

During the celebrated carnival of 1979, the villagers danced beneath a mirror-ball, as a young girl drifted dead in the river. Who knew the truth of things? And would the truth matter? Now it’s 1999 and Edendale is holding another carnival. An anniversary to commemorate the life-changing events of twenty years before, by pretending it’s 1979…again. One day, two decades apart, the mirror-ball turning in the dark to light a truth.

Come…Johnny Bender has things to show you.

 

case-of-the-sleeping-beauty

The Case of the Sleeping Beauty by Richard Walmsley

Inspector Beppe Stancato, driven from his native Calabria by threats from his local mafia, finds himself appointed commissario in the town of Pescara, in Abruzzo, just prior to the earthquake which struck the mountain capital city of L’Aquila in 2009.
The unexpected discovery of a twenty-two year old girl, lying drugged and unconscious, sparks off a complex investigation involving a seismologist accused of manslaughter and a fugitive mafia boss suspected of involvement in illegal building contracts.
The girl is soon nicknamed “The Sleeping Beauty” by the investigating team – reflecting the locals’ name for the Gran Sasso mountain range, uncannily reminiscent of the prone figure of a sleeping woman.
Beppe is faced with the task of saving the girl whilst outwitting the crooked seismologist and the wily Mafioso. His own personal life is anything but straightforward. Will he be able to live up to the expectations of his new team of police officers whilst dealing with the shadows of his own past life?
The intriguing plot has many twists and turns, leading to a tense climax. The story is laced with humour and exalts the spectacular scenery and cuisine of this region of Central Italy.

serial-damage

Serial Damage by Liz Cowley and Donough O’Brien

A merciless killer with no apparent motive. A series of murders with no discernible pattern. How can he be stopped?

In disconnected locations all over the world a killer plies his terrible trade, seemingly selecting victims at random and killing without remorse. The crimes are the result of one man’s obsessive mind, a man warped by a litany of slights and disappointments since childhood for which he seeks methodical and terrible revenge.

Because of the geographical spread of his chilling, ‘motiveless’ murders, they might normally be impossible to solve, but inexperienced and ambitious police psychologist Alice Diamond may unwittingly hold the dramatic key to his downfall…

 

runaway-girl

Runaway Girl by Emily Organ

After the death of her family, grieving Alice has chosen a quiet life of seclusion in a monastery. But she is hit by a personal tragedy which forces her to confront the dangers of medieval London.

When her 14 year old friend, Constance, vanishes, Alice’s life is turned upside down. Is Constance’s disappearance linked to a dead girl pulled from the Thames? Another girl is on the run – but who is she running from?

Alice’s desperate search stirs up something sinister and soon her own life is in danger. Powerful forces want to ensure the truth will never be uncovered, can Alice find Constance before her time runs out?

 

another-you

Another You by Jane Cable

Sometimes the hardest person to save is yourself…

Marie Johnson is trapped by her job as a chef in a Dorset pub and by her increasingly poisonous marriage to its landlord.

Worn down by his string of affairs she has no self-confidence, no self-respect and the only thing that keeps her going is watching her son, Jude, turn into a talented artist.

But the 60th anniversary of a D-Day exercise triggers chance meetings which prove unlikely catalysts for change.

 

glass-housesGlass Houses by Jackie Buxton

‘When she sent that text, all our lives changed for ever…’

51 year old Tori Williams’ life implodes when she sends a text while driving on the M62 motorway and allegedly causes the horrific crash in which three people die. Public and press are baying for her blood, but Tori is no wallflower and refuses to buckle under their pressure or be a pariah in society.

Instead, she sets about saving the nation. But can she save Etta, the woman who saved her life? Or will Etta’s secret be her downfall?

too-loud-a-silenceToo Loud a Silence by Jo Jackson

A secret held, a fear unspoken. Green gates and a flame tree – just as her mother described. The bolt screeches back …

It is 2011. Egypt is in the grip of the Arab Spring as journalist Maha Rhodes flies to Cairo.

Born in Egypt but raised in England, Maha no longer knows who she is. Finding out becomes important.

Events draw her into the political mayhem. She experiences the passion and violence of the revolution and is confronted by her own naivety.

How will her life be changed as a web of lies and deceit unfolds?

Too Loud A Silence will take you to Egypt. A beautiful, poignant and, at times, brutal story based on real events.