Friday, 23 November 2018

Listening to the Animals: Becoming the Supervet by Noel Fitzpatrick

Growing up on the family farm in Ballyfin, Ireland, Noel's childhood was spent tending to the cattle and sheep, the hay and silage, the tractors and land, his beloved sheepdog Pirate providing solace from the bullies that plagued him at school. It was this bond with Pirate, and a fateful night spent desperately trying to save a newborn lamb, that inspired Noel to enter the world of veterinary science - and set him on the path to becoming The Supervet.

Now, in this long-awaited memoir, Noel recounts this often-surprising journey that sees him leaving behind a farm animal practice in rural Ireland to set up Fitzpatrick Referrals in Surrey, one of the most advanced small animal specialist centres in the world. We meet the animals that paved the way, from calving cows and corralling bullocks to talkative parrots and bionic cats and dogs. 

Noel has listened to the many lessons that the animals in his care have taught him, and especially the times he has shared with his beloved Keira, the scruffy Border Terrier who has been by Noel's side as he's dealt with the unbelievable highs and crushing lows of his extraordinary career. 

As heart-warming and life-affirming as the TV show with which he made his name, Listening to the Animals is a story of love, hope and compassion, and about rejoicing in the bond between humans and animals 

My first thoughts on reading this book is, what a brain this man must have. His capacity for learning is huge. 

My heart went out to the young boy growing up on his family's family in rural Ballyfin,Ireland. At the age of eight years old Noel was out in the fields late at night helping find lost sheep and helping them give birth. Looking after animals is in the bones of the man. His best friend was a sheepdog, Pirate who he would go to and tell all his troubles to him and cry on his fur.

Noel was bullied relentlessly at secondary school and the only one he had to turn to was his dog. He never told his parents as he thought they were busy enough and would tell him to get on with it which is more or less what a teacher at the school told him. Noel decided to put all his efforts into studying to make something of himself as he always wanted to be a vet.

The book contains many funny stories about life as a student vet and the scrapes he got himself into.

His journey to become a specialist in his field of veterinary surgery was a long one and not an easy one.

Noel has fought hard for what he has achieved today and I hope these bullies from his schooldays are all hanging their heads in shame.

This was a really interesting read. It reveals many surprising things about the man we watch on television. I'll leave you to find them out for yourself.

Needless to say Noel comes across as intelligent, compassionate and an all round nice guy.

The book finishes just as he is realising his dream in setting up his vet centre where he is now.

I predict a second book as I'm sure Noel has a lot more stories to tell.

My links are not working but it is for sale on Amazon for kindle and in paperback and probably every bookshop and supermarket just in time for Christmas. 

Friday, 19 October 2018

The Lost Daughter by Gill Paul

With the country they once ruled turned against them, the future of Russia's imperial family hangs in the balance. When middle daughter Maria Romanova captivates two of the guards, it will lead to a fateful choice between right and wrong.

Fifty-five years later . . .
Val rushes to her father's side when she hears of his troubling end-of-life confession: 'I didn't want to kill her.' As she unravels the secrets behind her mother's disappearance when she was twelve years old, she finds herself caught up in one of the world's greatest mysteries.

Gill Paul is one of my favourite writers. Her books sweep you off your feet and transport you to a time in history you are glad you didn't have lived through.
This is the second book where the subject is one of the lost daughters of the Russian Royal Family who were executed in 1918. I have always been fascinated by the story that one of the daughters,  Anastacia may have escaped, many women have claimed to be her , a film was made, but none have been proven.
In her last book, The Secret Wife, Gill Paul wrote about Titania and what if she had escaped, what happened to her?

In this book she explores the question what if Maria escaped? She was a very friendly girl especially with the guards and a few of them liked her very much.
These two books although fiction are not without the realms of possibility. As we know how difficult it was for the guards to think about killing the young woman and children they had grown fond of .
 It is said that the remains of the bodies of the royal family were covered in acid so nothing was left. The only body identified was that of Tsar Nicholas 11.
I believe that if any of the family had survived they would have stayed in hiding as they would surely have been made to disappear if discovered by the authorities.

This story tugged at my heartstrings. I never realised how much the Russian people suffered during the rule of Stalin. Neighbours telling tales on each other and children being forced to spy on their parents. Countless arrests were made in the middle of the night and no one felt safe in bed.
The Second World War brought more hardship and thousands of people died. Maria had such a hard life especially after the privileged life she led before. I admired everything about her. 
This part of the story was quite a tense and harrowing read. Danger was around every corner and people became insular as no one could be trusted.

The second part of the story is set in Australia in the 1970’s. Val’s boorish Russian father dies leaving behind stories untold, especially about what happened to Val’s Chinese mother all those years ago. Val has to handle her brutal husband first before she can get to her father's possessions. The law and her husband’s old friend’s network is against her but Val gets strength from her young daughter, friends  and the thought of maybe finding her own mother again.

This book is just brilliant. It provoked every emotion in me and kept me glued until the end...and what an ending ! 
At the end of the book is a historical afterward by Gill Paul. I really appreciated this as I was uninterested in history at school probably down to the way it was taught. Gill makes it all so interesting. I know her stories are fiction built around true events but there's always a part of me that thinks….this just might be true!

Out in paperback and kindle is only 99p
( sorry blogger won't do links) 

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

A Village Affair by Julie Houston

I'm so happy to be part of the blog tour for this book. If you haven't read and of Julie's book then you are really missing something from your life.

Cassie Beresford has recently landed her dream job as deputy head at her local, idyllic village primary school, Little Acorns. So, the last thing she needs is her husband of twenty years being 'outed' at a village charity auction - he has been having an affair with one of her closest friends. 

As if that weren't enough to cope with, Cassie suddenly finds herself catapulted into the head teacher position, and at the forefront of a fight to ward off developers determined to concrete over the beautiful landscape. 

But through it all, the irresistible joy of her pupils, the reality of keeping her teenage children on the straight and narrow, her irrepressible family and friends, and the possibility of new love, mean what could have been the worst year ever, actually might be the best yet... 

Everything happens at once for Cassie. Finding out about her husband's affair with her best friend and starting a new job at the local primary school. Just when Cassie wants to climb into bed and pull the duvet over her head she finds out she has to step in as acting head teacher.  Her head is all over the place but thankfully she has lovely friends in Fi and Clare to support her.

It's lovely to be back again in the village of Midhope which is where Julie Houston's novels are set.
There were even guest appearances from Grace,Harriet and Celemintine from previous books.
What I loved about this story is through Julie's writing I felt I got to know the characters really well. I loved Cassie and her bolshy daughter. 
Just when Cassie thinks she's found some happiness from the wreckage of her marriage things start to get more complicated
I laughed at the antics of the schoolchildren and applauded at how Cassie dealt with each one. 
The lollipop lady was hilarious and the scenes between her and Cassie were some of the best in the book.
 And now an extract from A Village Affair with thanks to Julie and her publisher.

She’s Right Off My Christmas Card List…

At 1 a.m. on the Monday morning – the morning when I was apparently supposed to breeze into Little Acorns and take over at the helm, steering both staff and pupils in the direction demanded by the local authority, the governors and, more pertinently, bloody Ofsted, my husband slunk back home. I say ‘slunk’ but to be honest I didn’t have a clue as to the speed or mode of his arrival, being dead to the world as a result of a couple of Fiona’s little helpers.

Totally shattered from lack of sleep and the shock, as well as the bombshell of my sudden promotion, I was in a pretty catatonic state by the time Fiona and Clare left, late in the afternoon, to sort out their weeks ahead.

Clare, who was in the process of expanding her rather successful stag do business, Last Stagger, to incorporate hen dos, had been given a lift by Fiona to get her own car and laptop and, on her return, set herself up at my breakfast bar dealing with emails and the many enquiries for new business. Fiona, who believed any problem could be solved through food, and lots of it, found my pinny, ingredients in the fridge and freezer and set to rustling up a meal in order to have some semblance of normality for the kids. At least when Freya and Tom finally got around to realising this particular Sunday was shaping up to be rather different from the usual Sunday in the Beresford household, I had the excuse of being in shock and terror at suddenly finding myself head teacher instead of deputy. Having said that, while there might be a shepherd’s pie in the oven, I still didn’t know how I was going to explain Mark’s absence.

Before Fiona left to feed her own brood, she’d nipped down to Sainsbury’s, returning with an enormous chocolate cake, concealer and a pack of Nytol.

‘The cake’s for pud to stop your two talking,’ she announced drily. ‘If their mouths are full, they can’t be asking too many questions. You’ll need the concealer to cover up those red eyes in the morning and the Nytol…’

‘I’m not taking sleeping tablets,’ I protested. ‘I don’t believe in them…’

‘They’re just antihistamine,’ Fiona said calmly. ‘Far better that you actually get some sleep to face tomorrow than have another night like last night. You probably won’t need them, you’ll be so exhausted. I usually drop a couple when Matthew is snoring horrendously and doesn’t respond to my clapping.’

‘Clapping?’ Clare looked up from her laptop, bemused. ‘You applaud him for bloody snoring. God, I’d be kicking him, not encouraging him. Clapping?’

Fiona laughed. ‘Honestly, it works. Try it next time one of your men happens to be a snorer. You just gently clap two or three times and they turn over and sleep without another sound. It doesn’t always work.’ Fiona started giggling. ‘The other night I was so fed up with him I clapped really angrily – staccato – in his left ear, and he shot out of bed shouting, “What is it, what is it, wassamatter…?” fell over his bloody great size-fifteen boots – that I’m always telling him to shift from the bedroom – and landed in a naked heap on the carpet.’ Fiona carried on chortling. ‘Great entertainment,’ she added.

‘I think you need to get out more,’ Clare said. ‘Why don’t you go into the spare room when the snorer from hell kicks off?’

‘Haven’t got one any more. Now that the girls are horrible adolescents and can’t stand sharing a bedroom – or each other, come to that – Bea has purloined the spare room for herself. Moved all her stuff in there a couple of months ago and refuses to move.’

‘I’d smack her bottom,’ Clare said.

‘Not when she’s almost six foot and her hockey stick’s a constant accessory, you wouldn’t,’ Fiona said mildly. ‘Anyway, enough of my lot. How are you feeling now, Cassie?’

‘Like I’m in a dream,’ I shrugged. ‘Totally not with it.Even if Mark hadn’t done what he’d done, if he was here now with me instead of you two, I’d still be in a state about tomorrow.’

‘But why?’ Clare looked up again. ‘I thought you wanted to be in charge?’

I took a deep breath, trying to calm myself as terrifying thoughts of the next day replaced incredulous thoughts of Mark’s recalcitrant behaviour. ‘I know you two – particularly you, Clare, not having any kids in the system – don’t know much about what’s going on in education at the moment, but being a deputy head in a primary school is totally different from being the head. I have a class of my own to teach, albeit on a slightly, and I emphasise the word slightly, reduced timetable. I’m given two afternoons off to perform my deputy’s role.’

‘Sounds much better now then,’ Clare said, draining her cup of coffee. ‘As head, you won’t have a class to teach and you can shut yourself away in your office and swivel round on your chair, pressing those red and green lights that say, “Come In” or “Bugger Off”.’

I actually laughed at that. ‘You don’t know the half. I’m still going to have to deal with my new class tomorrow; someone will have to teach them and I can’t see David Henderson having sorted out any supply.’

‘David Henderson.’ Fiona whistled. ‘I’m still amazed that the man they call “the Richard Branson of the North” is actually your Chair of Governors. What’s he like? Rather attractive, isn’t he?’

Rather?’ Clare snorted. ‘Very, you mean. He’s gorgeous…’

‘With a very attractive wife,’ I smiled.

‘Since when’s that stopped Clare?’ Fiona sniffed, giving me an anxious look. ‘Look, Cassie, you can’t do everything. You can’t be expected to teach a class of thirty ten-year-olds and be deputy head and now head as well. What did David Henderson say? What’s likely to happen?’

‘Well, in cases like this, where the head is suddenly no more, if the deputy has been in situ for years then theywill be acting head and another member of staff will be acting deputy until the post of head is advertised and filled. In my case, where I’m brand new, a new acting head is usually brought in from the authority. You know, someone who’s been a deputy for years in their own school and is actively looking for a headship. They’ll ship them in to take over temporarily.’

Clare looked disappointed. ‘Oh, so you’re not going to be head after all? Well, that’s all your problems halved in one fell swoop. You just need to sort Mark out and you’ll be back to square one, job done.’

‘Clare!’ Fiona frowned as she saw my face. ‘I don’t think it’s quite as simple as that. You get back to sorting your rampant stags and don’t be so damned flippant.’

I smiled at Fiona but realised my stomach was churning and I wanted to throw up. ‘I’m sure they willbring someone in to take over as head but, according to David Henderson, it won’t be tomorrow. He said he’d be on hand in the morning to help me. Shit,’ I said, suddenly realising. ‘I’m going to have to do a new-term, new-year, new-beginning assembly and I’ll have to explain to the children that Mrs Theobold is dead. Or do I say she’s with Jesus? No, I can’t; what about the Muslim children? OK, Mrs Theobold is with Jesus or Mohammed – take your pick, kids.’

‘Calm down,’ Clare said as she realised panic was mounting in every fibre of my being once more. ‘Sit yourself down, pen and paper in front of you, and we’ll help you compose your very first assembly as head. How hard can it be?’


Monday, 10 September 2018

The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester

What must Estella sacrifice to make her mark?

1940: Parisian seamstress Estella Bissette is forced to flee France as the Germans advance. She is bound for Manhattan with a few francs, one suitcase, her sewing machine and a dream: to have her own atelier.

2015: Australian curator Fabienne Bissette journeys to the annual Met Gala for an exhibition of her beloved grandmother's work - one of the world's leading designers of ready-to-wear. But as Fabienne learns more about her grandmother's past, she uncovers a story of tragedy, heartbreak and secrets - and the sacrifices made for love.

Estella is forced to flee Paris as the Germans invade. Her mother Jeane stays behind but gives her daughter her blessing to leave. Estella promises to return as soon as it's safe.
Working as a seamstress Estella finds a job in the garment district,she also copies patterns for high couture dresses for other companies. 
In 2015 Estella's granddaughter Fabienne is called to her bedside just before she passes away. As Fabienne goes through her grandmother's possessions we learn what a heartbreaking life Estella had and how ordinary people like her and those connected to her helped the war effort.
There are many surprises in this story and I shed a few tears. I liked the duel storyline and the way the story of Estella was revealed. 
Another author I've just found and I need to read more of her books. 
No links(sorry) . Kindle download is out now £1.99 and paperback will be published on Oct 4th.

Her Name Was Rose by Claire Allan

Her name was Rose. You watched her die. And her death has created a vacancy. 

When Emily lets a stranger step out in front of her, she never imagines that split second will change her life. But after Emily watches a car plough into the young mother – killing her instantly – she finds herself unable to move on.

And then she makes a decision she can never take back.

Because Rose had everything Emily had ever dreamed of. A beautiful, loving family, a great job and a stunning home. And now Rose’s husband misses his wife, and their son needs a mother. Why couldn’t Emily fill that space?

But as Emily is about to discover, no one’s life is perfect … and not everything is as it seems.

Emily,who is still recovering from rejection and obsessive behaviour witnesses a fatal accident. The victim, Rose becomes the focus of Emily's attention and as she becomes more obsessed she finds it easy to slip into the space Rose left behind.

Of course all is not as it seems and as Emily steps into Roses's shoes at work and at home she may just be wishing she had stayed in her own shoes.

I really enjoyed this book,wondering where it would go and how far Emily would push things before someone found out what she was doing. Emily is a flawed character looking for love and acceptance,she just goes about it the wrong way.

This is the first book I have read by this author but her other books sound good too. 

My links are not working but this book is out in paperback and kindle download is 99p. 

Friday, 7 September 2018

Summer of Secrets by Nikola Scott

August 1939
At peaceful Summerhill, orphaned Maddy hides from the world and the rumours of war. Then her adored sister Georgina returns from a long trip with a new friend, the handsome Victor. Maddy fears that Victor is not all he seems, but she has no idea just what kind of danger has come into their lives...
Chloe is newly pregnant. This should be a joyful time, but she is fearful for the future, despite her husband's devotion. When chance takes her to Summerhill, she's drawn into the mystery of what happened there decades before. And the past reaches out to touch her in ways that could change everything...

A duel storyline linked by the character of Maddy. In 1939 two young sisters orphaned by the death of their father are sent to live in Summerlea estate with their aunt. When older sister Georgina returns from Europe bringing her party going upper-class friends with her, Maddy is not impressed as she wanted Georgina to herself.
I found it took me a while to get into this part of the story. Georgina's friends didn't interest me and nor did Victor who I thought from the beginning was obnoxious. I did eventually get hooked on the story when Maddy started telling it to Chloe.
I immediately loved the present day story and every fibre of my being hoped for Chloe to stand up to her husband Aiden. Chloe was a strong woman who was being torn down by him. 
Chloe is a photographer and although Aiden has told her to take no more jobs on she can't resist t when she's asked to take photos of Madeleine who with her sister wrote and illustrated children's books. 
As revelations from 1939 become clear Maddy and Chloe become closer and Chloe tries to escape from the nightmare she is trapped in.
I loved this story once I got into the 1939 part and I felt sad when it ended.
This is the author's second book and this would definitely make me want to read her first one.

Out for kindle £1.99 or paperback HERE

The House Across the Street by Lesley Pearse

Twenty-three year old Katy Speed is fascinated by the house across the street. The woman who lives there, Gloria, is the most glamorous neighbour on the avenue, owning a fashionable dress shop in Bexhill-on-Sea. But who is the woman who arrives in the black car most Saturdays while Gloria is at work? Sometimes she brings women to the house, other times they have children.
Hilda, Katy's mother, disapproves of Gloria. She wonders if these mysterious visitors have just been released from prison. Is Gloria secretly bringing criminals, or worse, into the heart of the community?
Then one night, the house burns down. In the wreckage, the bodies of Gloria and her daughter are found. Katy is sure the unexplained visitors must be responsible until her father is arrested and charged with murder. Have the police arrested the correct person? Are the rest of the street safe? Can Katy find the truth before it's too late?

Katy is devastated when her father is arrested, accused of starting a fire in the house across the street which killed the mysterious Gloria and her daughter who was visiting her. Worst of all Katy's mother seems to believe the police and is not standing by her husband. 

Katy decides to go ahead with her plans to move to London with her friend Jilly as she can't stand the thought of staying at home with her cold, unloving mother now that her father is in prison and her brother at university. The girls stay with Jilly's aunt and uncle until they can find a flat and Katy finds a new job. 

Katy starts to investigate the life of Gloria hoping to find something to clear her father's name. 
This was when Katy started to annoy me and also get herself into trouble as she starts to think she knows best and goes against everyone's advice.

There is a good back story to this as we find out what Gloria was really doing in the house across the street.

A fast-paced book that you won't be able to put down until the last page has been read.

Out for kindle, paperback and hardback HERE although I do think the kindle edition is pricey. Maybe go for the paperback in a suipermarket.

Listening to the Animals: Becoming the Supervet by Noel Fitzpatrick

Growing up on the family farm in Ballyfin, Ireland, Noel's childhood was spent tending to the cattle and sheep, the hay and silage, the ...