Saturday, 6 August 2016

Milkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner by Helen Cox.

Esther Knight is sharp, sarcastic – and hiding something. She waitresses at The Starlight Diner: a retro eatery where Fifties tunes stream out of the jukebox long into the night, and the tastiest milkshakes in New York are served.
Nobody at the diner knows why Esther left London for America – or why she repeatedly resists the charms of their newest regular, actor Jack Faber.
Esther is desperate to start a new life in the land of the free, but despite the warm welcome from the close-knit diner crowd, something from her past is holding her back. Can she ever learn to love and live again?

Esther has a secret, something she is ashamed of which is why she fled from London to America. She loves her job in the Starlight Diner and is working with a nice friendly bunch of people but she can't help wondering if they would still be so friendly if they knew what she did.
Jack becomes a regular to the diner and he too has secrets. Esther doesn't mean to but she falls in love with Jack and he with her but will it last? Not if journalist Boyd has anything to to with it.
This was a good read. I enjoyed the atmosphere of the American diner and the descriptions made me feel I was sat there listening to what was going on. The supporting cast of Mona, Angela, Bernie and Esther's mother carry the story along. 
Half way through the book things really started to heat up for Esther and Jack and it made me fear that their lives could be in danger. I wanted everything to work out for them as I felt Esther really did deserve a happy ending. I'm not giving away any spoilers but I'm going to assume there will be a sequel to this book and I hope it's sometime soon as the ending had me on the edge of my seat wanting more.

 Only 99p for kindle download.

In fact I can tell you now that there is a sequel which is due out in December It's called Secrets and Fries at the starlight Diner and can be pre ordered  here

Monday, 1 August 2016

I'm Still Here by Clelie Avit

Elsa has been in a coma for five months. With all hope of reviving her gone, her family and doctors are having to face the devastating fact that it might be time to turn off her life support... They don't realise that in the past few weeks Elsa has regained partial consciousness; she knows where she is and can hear everyone talking around her bed, but she has no way of telling them she's there.
Thibault is in the same hospital visiting his brother, a drunk driver responsible for the deaths of two teenage girls. Thibault's emotions are in turmoil and, needing a retreat, he finds his way into Elsa's room. Seeing her lying there so peacefully, he finds it hard to believe she is not just sleeping.
Thibault begins to visit Elsa regularly. As he learns more about her through her family and friends, he begins to realise that he is developing feelings for her. And when he talks to her, he can't help feeling that she can hear his every word...
For Elsa, his visits are like a breath of fresh air. Here is finally someone who speaks to her as if she is a real life person. Who makes her laugh. And who gives her something to fight for...
And so begins a love story that might just save both their lives...

The above synopsis really says it all and I don't want to repeat it all again so I'll just tell you what I thought of it.
I think whoever reads this book will think of coma patients differently in the future. I find it hard to believe that they are practically ignored and doctors speak in front of them.
Elsa has been in a coma for five months but for the past six weeks she can hear everything. She welcomes a new voice when Thibault enters her room and they are immediaty drawn to one another. Alas Elsa can do nothing about it except listen and will her body to move. Thibault is going through a very emotional time having split from his girlfriend and distancing himself from his brother who is only a few rooms along from Elsa. He is finding it hard to come to terms with his brother having killed two teenagers while under the influence of alcohol behind the wheel of his car.
Every time he takes his mother to visit her son he spends time with Elsa, most of it asleep.
Elsa's friends agree with him visiting but Elsa's parents don't know about him yet. I did cringe at a few innapropriate moments when Thibault was visiting Elsa and I don't think her parents would have been happy either.
Once I started this book I had to find out what happened so I couldn't put it down. We can hear Elsa's thoughts and I spent the whole book willing her to move or speak. We have to wait until the last chapter before we find out what the outcome will be.
Clelie Avit is a french author who has written many books. I'm still Here is her first to be translated into English. It was translated by Lucy Foster.
 It can be found  here

Friday, 29 July 2016

The Perfect Gift by Emma Hannigan

Happy Birthday, darling girl...

Ever since she can remember, Roisin has received a birthday card in the post. Signed with love from the birth mother she has never met.
Brought up by her adoptive parents, Keeley and Doug, Roisin has wanted for nothing. But on her thirtieth birthday a letter comes that shakes her world.
For Keeley, who's raised Roisin as her own, the letter reminds her of a secret she's been holding for thirty years.
And for Nell, keeping watch in the lighthouse, the past is a place she rarely goes. Until a young runaway arrives seeking shelter, and unwraps the gift of hope for them all...

Roisin, adopted as a baby by Keeley and Doug when her birth mother dies has been recieving birthday cards written by her birth mum every year. On her 30th birthday she also recieves a letter which makes her wonder more about her background. Roisin also receives bad news about her deli and restaurant Nouriture and now she has to decide what her future will be.

Keeley is turning sixty soon and is still running her bed and breakfast accommodation. Her husband Doug who has retired is out and about with his friend with never a thought for Keely.
Liv her other daughter is having a crisis and expects Keeley to help with her lodgers as well as the two grandchildren. How much is Keeley prepared to take? She should be there for her children and grandchildren, but when a handsome sweet talking German man Claus shows her some attention should she throw caution to the wind and think of herself and let them all get on with it?

Nell who is in her seventies lives alone in a lighthouse and she likes it that way but when a mysterious teenager shows up one day Nell finds her life changing and a new world opening up for her.
I was really drawn into the lives of the characters in this book. Keeley was a typical mum,expected to do everything for her family and no one thinking that maybe she'd like some help or time on her own. I don't know how she managed to keep it all together. Doug who failed to see what side his bread was buttered on and goes on fishing trips and holidays without his wife. I could have strangled him.
Roisin has so much going on in her life with her deli, her thoughts of her birth mum and nursing a secret of what happened to her when she lived in France. Just when she needs her sister Liv is having a crisis of her own and needs Roisin to help her.
This was quite a page turner for me as I wanted to find out the secrets these women had kept. I did guess halfway through the book but it didn't spoil my enjoyment of it.
I always love reading books written by Emma Hannigan and still have a few to catch up with. So many books ,so little time. I have a feeling we might re visit these characters in another book at sometime,I do hope so.
The Pefect Gift can be found here 
and in all bookshops.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Frogs and Frigate Birds: Over The Hill Goes to Ecuador and the Galapagos by Jo Carroll

Three years ago, during a chance encounter in Cuba, I was asked why I'd never been to Ecuador. I mumbled, for I could think of no good reason. And so thought I'd better find out more for myself. But I had no idea what an astonishing country it is, with its mountains and beaches and Inca treasures. And poisonous frogs!

Every January while we are shivering in the UK Jo Carroll packs her rucksack and goes on holiday.
You won't see her sunbathing on the beaches of Ibiza or Benidorm but you might see her walking a mountain pass in the Andes or running from a tiger in Nepal.
Jo is one of my heroes. After retiring she has decided to see far flung parts of the world for herself. She is brave and fearless and has loads of energy.
For this trip to Ecuador Jo needed plenty of energy for all the walking she did, most of it at a high altitude where she gasped for air.

Frogs and Frigate Birds is Jo's sixth travel memoir and one I've been looking forward to as part of her visit was to the Galápagos Islands.
For a good part of her trip Jo hires private guides who drive her to where she wants to visit while giving her information about her surroundings. She likes to do this as it keeps local people in jobs but when one guide constantly points out roses growing for export even she gets a little irritated.
For some trips Jo has to join groups of people especially on the trip to the Islands where tourism is strictly controlled to protect the ecosystems. These trips provide us with much of the humor in the book as we hear about the differences between her fellow travellers.

Jo's writing is such that I feel I'm walking behind in her footsteps and observing huge spiders, blue bellied frogs, iguanas and humming birds as she walks through the rainforest.
I felt the darkness at night when the group switched of their torches to enable them to experience the true environment. 
I sense through reading all her books that Jo is at her happiest exploring by herself. She doesn't mind getting lost as she knows she'll soon turn a corner and find her way again. She loves visiting museums and heritage centres to get a sense of the history of the country she's in, then sitting outside a cafe having coffee and meeting and speaking to the locals is an end to a perfect day for her.
This book is quite a quick read so I'm not going to tell you about the cities and villages she visited or what she saw and done on Galápagos I would rather you found that out on your own. I'm just here to tell you that this book is well worth a read.

If you have never read any of Jo's six books then you are in for a treat.

The first one was
Over The Hill and Far Away : One Grown Up Gap Year.
Hidden Tiger Raging Mountain: Over The Hill in Nepal
Bombs and Butterflies: Over The Hill in Laos
Vultures Overhead: Over The Hill in Cuba
After The Earthquake: Over The Hill Goes Back to Nepal.
Frogs and Frigate Birds:Over The Hill Goes to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
You can find them all here.
All are cheaper than a fancy coffee and will last longer.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

A Certain Age by Beatrix Williams

New York in the Roaring Twenties – a time for love, secrets and scandal…
As the freedom of the Jazz Age transforms New York City, the iridescent Mrs Theresa Marshall of Fifth Avenue – a beautiful socialite of a certain age – has done the unthinkable: she’s fallen in love with her young lover, Captain Octavian Rofrano, a handsome aviator and hero of the Great War. But though times are changing, divorce for a woman of Theresa’s wealth and social standing is out of the question.
When Theresa’s bachelor brother, Ox, decides to tie the knot with the youngest daughter of a newly wealthy inventor, Theresa enlists her lover to present the family’s diamond rose ring to pretty ingénue, Miss Sophie Fortescue – and to check into the background of this little-known family. Yet even as he uncovers a shocking secret, Octavian falls under Sophie’s spell…
Divided loyalties and dangerous revelations lead to a shocking transgression and eventually Theresa must make a choice that will change them all forever.

I'm delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour for Beatrix's new book A Certain Age. The story is set in the 1920's in New York City. The first world war is over and the rich are throwing caution to the wind. It's a brave new age and woman are becoming more assertive and wanting to have their cake and eat it.
Theresa is middle aged and married to a man who has had affairs all through their marriage. She's told to like it or lump it,that's just the way things are. She meets Octavian a beautiful man twenty years her junior and so her first affair begins.
Ox, Theresa's brother has fallen for 19yr old Sophie mainly because of her money and he wants to propose to her by means of a cavalier (I've never heard of this) who will go with the ring and propose for him. Theresa suggests Octavian who when doing the deeds falls for Sophie and she for him.
Theresa can't let go. Octavian belongs to her..or does he?
The story is not only about love it's about lies, deception and a murder trial and what those things do to the people involved.
It took me a while to get into this book and to like the characters. I thought Theresa was manipulative and spoiled until I got to know her and realised she just wanted to be loved. I felt for poor Sophie who agreed to be engaged to Ox who I thought was a sleeze and just after her position and money.
When I started to enjoy the story and empathise with the characters I was rooting for Sophie all the way to the end.
The author descriptions of the jazz set and speak easys was worth reading the book for.

A Certain Age can be found  here

Monday, 25 July 2016

Dead to Me by Lesley Pearse


Spring 1935. Two girls meet by chance on Hampstead Heath. To an outsider, they could not appear more different. Verity is well-mannered and smartly dressed, living with her parents in a beautiful house close to the heath. Ruby is dishevelled and grubby, used to a life of squalor where she is forced to steal to survive. Yet there's an instant affinity between them, and when their fortunes are shockingly reversed, it is the strength of their friendship that keeps them resilient to the challenges and hardships they face.
As Britain prepares for war, Ruby finds herself in Devon with the world at her feet and enjoying her first taste of romance. Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, Verity is forced to leave behind everything she has ever known and a shadow from the past threatens her chances of a new beginning. But through it all, the girls are always there for each other. Until the day Verity does the one thing that will break Ruby's heart.
In a country torn apart by fighting, will Verity and Ruby survive long enough to find a way back to each other? Or do some betrayals go with you to the grave . . .?

Lesley Pearse can  do no wrong in my eyes. I always enjoy reading her books and this one is no different. When we meet Ruby it's 1935 and she's a poor wee soul living on her wits while her mother gets drunk and entertains men for money. Verity on the other hand has had a privileged upbringing and really the pair should never have come into contact with each other. As they both watching a drowned man being pulled from the waters they start talking. A bond forms and they start to meet in secret because Verity knows her parents would not approve.
What they don't know is that both their lives are about to change,one for the better and one for the worse. 
What follows is horrific at times and you will wonder how the human spirit can survive such things. 
As we follow their lives through the war years there is friendship and betrayal, brutality and murder. 
I think my heart stopped a few times while reading this book. Lesley Pearse makes you think all is well until she drops another bombshell. When you despair that such bad people exist Lesley brings in Wilby who must be an angel in disguise. I loved her character. Nothing was too much trouble for her and it would have been a completely different story and ending without her in it.
What more can I say? Another winner from Lesley Pearse.
Dead To Me can be found here
and in all bookshops and libraries.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickman

A journey of a thousand miles. With an alligator on the back seat. And John Steinbeck as a passenger.
This is a tale where everything is true,except the bits that are made up.
In 1930s America, the Great Depression made everyone’s horizons smaller, and Elsie Lavender found herself back where she began, in the coalfields of West Virginia.
She had just one memento of her halcyon days – a baby alligator named Albert.
Then one day, her husband’s stoical patience snapped and Elsie had to choose between Homer and Albert.
She decided that there was only one thing to do: they would carry Albert home to Florida.
And so began their odyssey – a journey like no other, where Elsie, Homer and Albert encountered everything from movie stars and revolutionaries to Ernest Hemingway and hurricanes in their struggle to find love, redemption,
and a place to call home.
From the bestselling author of Rocket Boys–the basis of the movie October Sky–comes a long-awaited prequel. Big Fish meets The Notebook in this novel about a man, a woman, and their alligator.

If I hadn't been sent this book to review I don't think I would ever have picked it from a shelf in a bookstore. I decided to read it as sometimes it's good to read outside your comfort zone.
I'm so glad I did because I loved this story. It reminded me of Forest Gump.
The author tells us it's the story of his parents not long after they were married and their long drive from Coalfields Virginia to Orlando in Florida. The purpose of this journey is to deliver Elsie's  pet alligator back to where he was born,the swamps in Florida. Homer  just can't abide the alligator Albert anymore and says he will leave unless a home is found for Albert.
Elsie loves her pet so much especially as it was gifted to her as a wedding present from her first love Buddy who left her to peruse an acting career.
During this road trip with Albert in the car in a bathtub they get into all sorts of trouble which in many cases had me laughing out loud. They meet John Steinbeck, robbers,killers, Ernest Hemmingway and countless more people and situations.
Elsie is not sure of her love for Homer she knows she hates living in Coalfields, such a grey and dirty place. Will she return to their home after they have found a place for Albert?
As they set off they are joined by a rooster, no one knows why he is there he just is.
Homer is a nice man. Not an exciting man but a straight down the line man who would do anything for Elsie. Abert the alligator is a character too. He takes a bite at those who need it and give his ya ya ya happy noise when he's happy. Elsie is a quirky lady with her own mind,she won't be told what to do by a man,any man and this may cause her trouble especially when the man has a gun.

Homer junior was intending to write this book as a memoir but was then persuaded to make it a fiction story. I don't know what part is true and what is fiction but I think I can guess. What I do know is...if you're fed up with reading the same type of books again and again then this one is a welcome relief. This book had me laughing, worrying, excited and at the very end I shed tears...over an alligator. I never thought I would ever write that in a sentence.
 Carrying Albert Home can be found here
and I have also seen it on supermarket shelves.