#ThrowbackThursday – What Would Mary Berry Do? by Claire Sandy- 4*s

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk. Throwback Thursday was designed as an opportunity to share old favorites as well as older books in our TBR. As I started reviewing on Goodreads long before I started my blog, it seemed a great way of sharing my earlier reviews (which I hope have improved since the early days).

So this week I’m revisiting What Would Mary Berry Do by Claire Sandy, first reviewed in September 2014.

What Would Mary Berry Do



Marie Dunwoody doesn’t want for much in life. She has a lovely husband, three wonderful children, and a business of her own. But her cupcakes are crap. Her meringues are runny and her biscuits rock-hard. She cannot bake for toffee. Or, for that matter, make toffee.

Marie can’t ignore the disappointed looks any more, or continue to be shamed by neighbour and nemesis, Lucy Gray. Lucy whips up perfect profiteroles with one hand, while ironing her bed sheets with the other. Marie’s had enough: this is the year it all changes. She vows to follow – to the letter – recipes from the Queen of Baking, and at all times ask, ‘What would Mary Berry do?’

Husband Robert has noticed that his boss takes crumb structure as seriously as budget cuts and with redundancies on the horizon, he too puts on a pinny. Twins Rose and Iris are happy to eat all the half-baked mistakes that come their way, but big brother Angus is more distant than usual, as if something is troubling him. And there is no one as nosey as a matching pair of nine-year-old girls . . .

Marie starts to realise that the wise words of Mary Berry can help her with more than just a Victoria Sponge. But can Robert save the wobbling soufflé that is his career? And is Lucy’s sweet demeanour hiding something secretly sour?

This is a delicious feast of a funny novel, perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan and Allison Pearson.

My Review

A brilliant, heartwarming debut from Claire Sandy.

The book revolves around Marie who as the blurb tells us “has a lovely husband, three wonderful children, and a business of her own”. Sadly however this paragon is not so successful in the kitchen and feels constantly challenged by her neighbour and nemesis, Lucy Gray who is a domestic goddess par excellence. As once again Marie fails to produce anything homemade at the school fete, while Lucy strides in with a showstopper, fate takes a hand. On her way out Marie spots on the book stall a cookery book by Mary Berry and vows that this time next year the situation will be reversed.
What follows is a year in the life of Marie, her husband Robert, her delightful twins Iris and Rose, and her angst ridden teenage son Angus. Through all their trials and tribulations the answer can often be found in cake and her rallying cry Is “What would Mary Berry Do”. As a counterbalance, Robert finds his own answers to problems by producing breads and muffins that Paul Hollywood would be proud of.

It’s a delightful book, which while light and fluffy on the surface has a deeper message about life, love and friendship. It offers a realistic and humorous look at family life and the struggle of balancing work, children and relationships. On top of all this it features cake and lots of it.
I really enjoyed this book, the characters are all brilliantly drawn and the storyline keeps you entertained and interested through to a heart warming and unexpected ending. While I dislike the term chick lit as think it trivialises the work of many excellent authors, this is an example of the best that this genre has to offer.

I would suggest that this is akin to the writing of Carole Matthews and Millie Johnson, in its warmth, honesty and humour and I’m already waiting for book number two!

I received a free copy of this title via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

The Little Theatre by the Sea by Rosanna Ley – 4*s @RosannaLey @TripFiction #TFBookClub

The bestselling author of The Villa and The Saffron Trail returns with a gorgeous summer read about love and starting over – set in West Dorset and beautiful Sardinia.

Faye has just completed her degree in interior design when she finds herself jobless and boyfriend-less. While debating what to do next she receives a surprise phone call from her old college friend Charlotte who now lives in Sardinia and is married to Italian hotelier, Fabio.

When Charlotte suggests that Faye relocate for a month to house-sit, Faye wonders if a summer break in sunny Sardinia might be the perfect way to recharge her batteries and think about her future. But then Charlotte tells Faye that there’s something more behind the sudden invitation: her friends Marisa and Alessandro are looking for a designer to renovate a crumbling old theatre they own in the scenic village of Deriu. The idea certainly sounds appealing to Faye, but little does she know what she’s letting herself in for if she accepts this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity . . .


My Review

If you’re a sucker for an enticing cover and a catchy strapline, then like me you’ll have no difficulty in seeing the appeal of this book. However I’m glad to say that while living up to expectations, it also had an added depth and a darker sub text which made it more than the standard easy beach read.

If I’m honest, it’s the elements of the story that the blurb doesn’t allude to that I found as engaging as the main theme of Faye renovating the crumbling old theatre in the enchanting seaside village of Deriu in Sardinia. Getting to know the inhabitants of the village; the story of the theatre, and  meeting it’s owners Marisa Rinaldi and her enigmatic, handsome brother Alessandro was only part of the story. On the other side was the disintegrating marriage of Faye’s parents as they come to terms with what their future holds. This theme offered a balance to the book, on the one side the youthful Faye looking forward to a new career, while her parents are looking back over a life full of secrets and lies. Interspersed with their respective unfolding dramas are the back stories of the Rinaldi family, the theatre and the suffering of the village during the second World War.

What could have been a formulaic romance based on the enticement of a ‘gorgeous summer read about love and starting over’ (and I’m not being critical – to a degree all romances are formulaic) became a more engaging read full of secrets and family drama on all sides. I liked the main characters, Faye was a perfect blend of enthusiasm, confidence and at times self-doubt (ie normal), her parents Molly and Ade were a strange mix – I started as team Molly but warmed to Ade as the story unfolded. The reality is they were both products of their past and became more human as the full picture emerged. The Italian characters, and Alessandro in particular,  were more complex and intriguing. There was always a hint of something missing, some piece of the jigsaw that was needed to make the picture complete. As to whether that final piece was ever produced you’ll need to read it to find out.

So with a story that has something to offer all ages, and an idyllic Sardinian setting that lends itself to the perfect escapist read, this book really does hit the spot. Many thanks to Tina at Trip Fiction for a copy of this book as part of their TF Book Club.

May’s Urbane Book Club unwrapped (@urbanepub)

A little late unwrapping this month’s parcel as it arrived when I was away on holiday. Thankfully my neighbour takes care of my post, so it was safely waiting for me on my return. Some great titles this month. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Spanish Crossings as a welcome addition to my Spanish themed books. Also keen to read Handcuffs, Truncheon and a Polyester Thong, especially after attending Gina’s Liverpool launch last month. So without further ado, here’s this months goodies in full.



Buy from Urbane or Amazon

Spanish Crossings by John Simmons

Spanish Crossings is an epic tale of love, politics and conflict, with the yearning but elusive possibility of redemption. A woman’s life has been cast in shadow by her connection to the Spanish Civil War. We meet Lorna in Spain, 1937 as she falls in love with Harry, a member of the International Brigade who had been at Guernica when it was bombed. Harry is then killed in the fighting and Lorna fears she might have lost her best chance of happiness. Can she fill the void created by Harry’s death by helping the child refugees of the conflict? She finds a particular connection to one boy, Pepe, and as he grows up below the radar of the authorities in England their lives become increasingly intertwined. But can Lorna rely on Pepe as he remains deeply pulled towards the homeland and family that have been placed beyond his reach? Coming through the war, then the post-war rebuilding, Lorna and Pepe’s relationship will be tested by their tragic and emotive history.



Buy from Urbane or Amazon

Handcuffs Truncheon and a Polyester Thong by Gina Kirkham

Meet Mavis Upton. As mummy to 7-year old Ella, surrogate to far too many pets and with a failed marriage under her belt, Mavis knows she needs to make some life-changing decisions. It’s time to strike out into the world, to stand on her own two feet … to pursue a lifelong ambition to become a Police Officer. I mean, what could go wrong?

Supported by her quirky, malapropism-suffering mum, Mavis throws herself headlong into a world of uncertainty, self-discovery, fearless escapades, laughter and extra-large knickers. And using her newly discovered investigative skills, she reluctantly embarks on a search to find her errant dad who was last seen years before, making off with her mum’s much needed coupon for a fabulous foam cup bra all the way from America.

Follow Mavis as she tackles everything life can throw at her, and revel in Gina Kirkham’s humorous, poignant and moving story of an everyday girl who one day followed a dream.


Blue Gold

Buy from Urbane or Amazon

Blue Gold by David Barker

The near future. Climate change and geopolitical tension have given rise to a new international threat – a world war for water. This most vital of resources has become a precious commodity and some will stop at nothing to control its flow.

When a satellite disappears over Iceland, Sim Atkins thinks he knows why. He is given the chance to join the hallowed Overseas Division and hunt for the terrorists responsible. But his new partner Freda Brightwell is aggrieved to be stuck with a rookie on such a deadly mission.

Freda’s misgivings are well founded when their first assignment ends in disaster – a bomb destroys a valuable airship and those responsible evade capture. Seeking redemption, the British agents follow the trail to a billionaires’ tax haven in the middle of the Atlantic ocean and uncover a web of deceit that threatens global war. Whom can they trust?

As the world edges ever closer to destruction Sim and Freda must put their lives on the line to prevent Armageddon – and protect the future of ‘blue gold’.


Sod the Bitches

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Sod the Bitches by Steven Berkoff  (Be warned some people may find this book very offensive)

John is an actor and a man who wants, who needs … and who takes. But those he takes from always expect him to give. To give them love, loyalty, affection – to give them his very soul. Why can’t they just let him live as he wants to live? Why can’t they understand the desires and passions that drive him? Why is he a man alone?

John has crossed the line from performance to reality, from stage to street – and he needs to wrest back control before all is lost.

Challenging themes that haunt the Berkoff canon are ever-present in this startling novel: his luxurious verbosity; his counterpoint of crude street patter and elegiac proclamation; sex wars; class wars; dislocation and abandonment of love in a thankless and unyielding world. This is a powerful, divisive and brutally honest novel that will inspire, enrage and provoke – and live on long after the final word.


Death's Silent Judgement

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Death’s Silent Judgement by Anne Coates

Death’s Silent Judgement is the thrilling sequel to Dancers in the Wind, and continues the gripping series starring London-based investigative journalist Hannah Weybridge.

Following the deadly events of Dancers in the Wind, freelance journalist and single mother Hannah Weybridge is thrown into the heart of a horrific murder investigation when a friend, Liz Rayman, is found with her throat slashed at her dental practice.

With few clues to the apparently motiveless crime Hannah throws herself into discovering the reason for her friend’s brutal murder, and is determined to unmask the killer. But before long Hannah’s investigations place her in mortal danger, her hunt for the truth placing her in the path of a remorseless killer…

The series is very much in the best traditions of British women crime writers such as Lynda La Plante and Martina Cole.


Ghost and Ragman Roll

Buy from Amazon

Ghost and Ragman Roll by Pete Adams

Ghost and Ragman Roll is Book 4 in the bestselling Kind Hearts and Martinets crime series, featuring the eponymous Portsmouth detective DCI Jack (Jane) Austin.

DCI Jack Austin is trying to enjoy his honeymoon with Detective Superintendent Amanda Bruce. But it soon becomes a busman’s holiday (or the crime busting equivalent) with news of a turf war in Portsmouth, a missing obese gangster who turns up skinny, and the seemingly unconnected murder of a banker in Paris.

When an ambitious new detective arrives on Jack’s patch and starts making waves, he knows the time has come to get back to Southsea and protect not just his rather tarnished reputation, but those who truly matter to him.

Ghost and Ragman Roll is another criminally funny romp with the world’s greatest – or is that worst? – police detective, DCI Jack (Jane) Austin.


So if you’ve been tempted to consider joining yourself here are the details you’ll need. Membership starts from date of joining i.e. all books published in the year following your joining date.



A full year of Urbane books – hot off the press!

From fiction to biography, politics to childrens, you’ll have a unique collection of books and more.

As an Urbane Book Club member you’ll receive a print and ebook edition of every new Urbane title published from the date you join for an entire year. Urbane currently publishes around 5 books a month

You’ll receive a 75% discount on any further purchases of Urbane titles through the Urbane website, including the entire backlist – all with free p&p in the UK

You’ll receive exclusive invitations to Urbane events and author signings

Each member will have the chance to receive pre-publication scripts of forthcoming titles

Every member will be able to book exclusive one-to-one writing and publishing sessions at a significant discount

All for the ridiculously low price of £99.99!




#ThrowbackThursday : The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin – 4*s

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk. Throwback Thursday was designed as an opportunity to share old favorites as well as older books in our TBR. As I started reviewing on Goodreads long before I started my blog, it seemed a great way of sharing my earlier reviews (which I hope have improved since the early days).

So this week I’m revisiting The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin,  first reviewed in July 2014.

Last Days of Rabbit Hayes


Here is a truth that can’t be escaped: for Mia ‘Rabbit’ Hayes, life is coming to an end . . .

Rabbit Hayes loves her life, ordinary as it is, and the extraordinary people in it.

She loves her spirited daughter, Juliet; her colourful, unruly family; the only man in her big heart, Johnny Faye.

But it turns out the world has other plans for Rabbit, and she’s OK with that. Because she has plans for the world too, and only a handful of days left to make them happen.

Here is a truth that won’t be forgotten: this is a story about laughing through life’s surprises and finding the joy in every moment.

My Review

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes, is exactly what it says it is. We meet Rabbit (Mia) Hayes as her family take her to the hospice as she loses her 4 year battle with cancer.

The book is at turns, poignant, funny and heartwarming though ultimately it is heartbreaking. From the beginning of her initial diagnosis of breast cancer, Rabbit had been upbeat and honest and sought to share her thoughts via a blog which helps her cope. Around her she has her siblings Grace and Davey;her friends; and her parents Molly and Jack who are constantly seeking a cure or a new drug trial as they refuse to believe she will die. She also has her daughter, Juliet who at 12 is her own particular reason for trying to fight her illness for as long as she can.

The book deals with how Rabbit is coping with her imminent death as well as how the wider circle of family and friends cope with the loss of a loved one. The story is not just about Rabbit’s present but also tells the story of her past, her hopes, her dreams and the love of her life.

The characters are all very real and likeable which makes it much easier to care for them as the book progresses. But ultimately it is Rabbit and her relationships especially with Juliet and Johnny that will touch your heart.

Given the subject matter it might be easy to treat the topic in a maudlin way, but this never happens. The story is as much a celebration of Rabbit’s life and achievements as about her illness. It is a heartwarming look at friendship and families and above all love, that will make you think about your own life and loves. It is emotional and heartbreaking but also full of warmth and humour and well worth a read.

I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review.


#ThrowbackThursday : The Kill by Jane Casey – 4*s

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk. Throwback Thursday was designed as an opportunity to share old favorites as well as older books in our TBR. As I started reviewing on Goodreads long before I started my blog, it seemed a great way of sharing my earlier reviews (which I hope have improved since the early days).

So this week I’m revisiting The Kill by Jane Casey,  first reviewed in June 2014.



Their job is to investigate crime – not become the victims…

A killer is terrorising London but this time the police are the targets. Urgently re-assigned to investigate a series of brutal attacks on fellow officers, Maeve Kerrigan and her boss Josh Derwent have little idea what motivates the killer’s fury against the force.
But they know it will only be a matter of time before the killer strikes again.

My Review

The Kill sees a welcome return to DC Maeve Kerrigan along with her complicated private life and public relationships with her immediate superiors, DI Josh Derwent and Superintendent Godley. For lovers of the Maeve Kerrigan series you won’t be disappointed and if you’re new to this author, I urge you to go back and start with the first book, The Burning. While the books can be read as a standalone story, there are continuing themes between titles so it would be a shame to spoil the plots by reading retrospectively.

In this installment Kerrigan and Derwent are involved in a series of murders that personally impact on them (in ways I have no intention of revealing)when someone starts killing police officers. As with all of her previous book, Casey has the ability to draw you in from the beginning, not only with a compelling crime plot, that you need to see resolved, but also with her deftly drawn characters. Maeve Kerrigan and Josh Derwent are a great team, though on paper you would not expect it to be so. Maeve is the only female detective on the team and is subject to stereotypical sexist banter from her colleagues, though she is well capable of holding her own due to her undoubted ability and a nice line in finely honed clever comments. She is also vulnerable and fallible which makes her a realistic and sympathetic character. Derwent meanwhile is a fine example of unreconstructed man, with a sexist approach that would have most women in a rage. Despite this, there is a chemistry between them that works, not least because in the most unexpected moments Derwent has the ability to throw you off guard by producing a caring response or sympathetic phrase you would not believe him capable of. While there is jokey banter, tension and disagreements there is also an underlying respect (and I feel some festering sexual attraction).

I have no hesitation in recommending The Kill, the plot was satisfying and as the tension cranked up towards the end, really merited the description “pageturner”. My only disappointment is that I now need to wait for the next in the series to follow-up unresolved issues.

I received an e copy of this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review.




Book Haul – week ended 10th June

Away on holiday for the nex two weeks so hoping to actually read some of the books I keep adding to my tbr mountain. This also means my next book haul posting will be in two weeks time. Have been reasonably good about staying away from NetGalley but couldn’t resist the Elizabeth Buchan which I’ve had my eye on for a while.

Review Copies


New Mrs CliftonThe New Mrs Clifton by Elizabeth Buchan (courtesy of NetGalley

‘Wrapped in the roots of the sycamore was a skeleton; the remains of a woman, between twenty-five and thirty. She had carried a child . . .’

At the close of the Second World War, Intelligence Officer Gus Clifton returns to London. On his arm is Krista, the German wife he married secretly in Berlin. For his sisters, this broken woman is nothing more than the enemy. For Nella, Gus’s loyal fiancée, it is a terrible betrayal. These three friends wonder what hold Krista has over decent, honourable Gus. And, they ask themselves, how far will they have to go to permanently get her out of their home, their future, their England?


Kindle Purchases


Forgotten Little War

That Forgotten Little War by Daniel E Arias (FREE)

This is a story told from both sides of the Falklands Conflict. It is pure fiction and also pure fact. As the ten seemingly independent narratives weave together, blending fiction and fact, they come together to make up a powerful novel that leaves no-one indifferent.



Piggy Monk SquarePiggy Monk Square by Grace M Jollife (FREE) 

A policeman faces a grim death in a Liverpool inner city cellar. Only two little girls know where he is but they’re too scared to tell. Time is running out for the policeman. Will the girls get help before it’s too late?

Piggy Monk Square is a dark yet frequently very funny novel set in 1970’s Liverpool. The action takes place in the volatile period before the Toxteth riots burned much of the inner city down.



Treated as Murder


Treated as Murder by Noreen Wainwright (99p)

Set in 1931, Edith Horton is a former VAD who finds herself not only struggling with her inner demons, but with the presence of evil in her village in the Yorkshire Dales. Her brother is suspected of murdering an elderly wealthy widow, and sins of the past have echoes in her life and the lives of those close to her.



Peace of TimePeace of Time by Rose Rendle (FREE)

Jen and Mike Lucas are happily married, or so Jen thinks.
Recently Mike has been short tempered and cranky, but Jen puts it all down to his stressful job at a finance company.

Jen, on the other hand, loves her job as a teacher. She also makes more money than Mike, which he mentions at any given opportunity. As they drift further apart, Jen tries everything she can think of to save their marriage but all Mike wants to do is spend more and more time at the gym.

When one of Jen’s students, young Charlie Mayhew, suffers a terrible fall from his bike, Jen lends a helping hand to his father, Christopher, a single parent who lost Charlie’s mother to cancer.

Jen does her best to ignore the gossip that Mike was seen getting friendly with a red head at the gym, but a few days later, Jen discovers something that turns her world upside down.

After Mike moves out, Jen realises that she’s reached a crossroads in her life. Does she give Mike a second chance? Or does she take Christopher up on his offer of a date?

As the summer draws to a close, Jen has some life changing decisions to make and what she decides will shock everyone, but most of all herself…


Nobody's GirlNobody’s Girl by Tania Crosse (FREE)

The boom years immediately after the Great War bring nothing but happiness for wealthy industrialist Wigmore Stratfield-Whyte and his wife Clarissa – until tragedy robs them of their greatest treasure.

Many years later, an horrific fatal accident brings young Meg Chandler, a spirited farmer’s daughter, into their lives. Meg wants nothing to do with them, but Clarissa is drawn irresistibly towards the bereaved girl and will move heaven and earth to help her. Will Meg allow Clarissa into her own shattered life, and can the two share a future happiness together? And will Meg’s new acquaintances bring her the contentment she craves – or seek to destroy her?

Set in the Kent countryside in the years leading up to the Second World War, this compelling saga tingles with drama, tension and an overwhelming sense of love.


Girl in te PaintingThe Girl in the Painting by Kirsty Ferry (99p)

What if you thought you knew a secret that could change history?
Whilst standing engrossed in her favourite Pre-Raphaelite painting – Millais’s Ophelia – Cori catches the eye of Tate gallery worker, Simon, who is immediately struck by her resemblance to the red-haired beauty in the famous artwork.

The attraction is mutual, but Cori has other things on her mind. She has recently acquired the diary of Daisy, a Victorian woman with a shocking secret. As Cori reads, it soon becomes apparent that Daisy will stop at nothing to be heard, even outside of the pages of her diary …

Will Simon stick around when life becomes increasingly spooky for Cori, as she moves ever closer to uncovering the truth about Daisy’s connection to the girl in her favourite painting?


#ThrowbackThursday : The Teashop on the Corner by Milly Johnson – 4*s

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk. Throwback Thursday was designed as an opportunity to share old favorites as well as older books in our TBR. As I started reviewing on Goodreads long before I started my blog, it seemed a great way of sharing my earlier reviews (which I hope have improved since the early days).

So this week I’m revisiting The Teashop on the Corner by Milly Johnson, first reviewed in June 2014.

Teashop on the Corner

Life is full of second chances, if only you keep your heart open for them.

Spring Hill Square is a pretty sanctuary away from the bustle of everyday life. And at its centre is Leni Merryman‘sTeashop on the Corner, specialising in cake, bookish stationery and compassion. And for three people, all in need of a little TLC, it is somewhere to find a friend to lean on.

Carla Pride has just discovered that her late husband Martin was not who she thought he was. And now she must learn to put her marriage behind her and move forward.

Molly Jones‘sex-husband Harvey has reappeared in her life after many years, wanting to put right the wrongs of the past before it is too late.

And Will Linton‘s business has gone bust and his wife has left him to pick up the pieces. Now he needs to gather the strength to start again.

Can all three find the comfort they are looking for in The Teashop on the Corner? And as their hearts are slowly mended by Leni, can they return the favour when she needs it most?

My Review

I have never read anything by Milly Johnson before, but after reading this I’ll be going back to catch up on her other titles. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read, with a great cast of characters that had me hooked from the start.

The Teashop on the Corner has recently been opened by Leni Merryman and as well as serving tea and cake, offers a range of literature related stationary and accessories that delight her growing clientele.

The Teashop provides a haven of peace and respite for a particular group of people who gradually become friends and help each other through their assorted problems. While it might fall into the chick lit category and have a nice light-hearted cover, some of the themes that are covered are far from light and frothy. The various characters cope with a range of trials and tribulations including divorce, bankruptcy, bereavement, unemployment and child abuse, yet the subjects are dealt with in a sympathetic and caring way that neither trivialises or over dramatises the themes.

It is impossible not to warm to the characters and hope that they each get a happy outcome. As to whether that happens – you’ll need to read the book to find out.

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review.