Sunday, 22 January 2017

The Planter's Daughter by Jo Carroll

It's 1848. And Sara, aged fourteen, must leave her family in the stinking potato fields of Ireland to seek a better life with her wealthy aunt in Liverpool. But her Uncle has different ideas.
Will she find solace among the dockers? She finds love, but becomes embroiled in the unrest of the Irish men and women who live in squalor in the Liverpool slums. Yet her efforts to help them only enrage her uncle further.
Her escape takes her to the other side of the world. But there is no comfort in the dusty outback of Australia nor in the gold fields of New Zealand. For she has left behind something more precious to her than life itself.

We first meet Sara when she arrives at her aunt and uncle's front door in Liverpool in 1948. Penniless and sent by her parents to Liverpool to escape the potato famine in Ireland and hopefully send some money back home to them. This part of the story is told through the eyes of Kitty the housemaid. 
Sarah soon discovers that her aunt had been telling her father only half truths about her family and household she also finds out that her uncle is not such a gentleman as he is thought to be.
After betraying Kitty, Sara  finds herself in a terrible position. With no option but to do as she is told she suddenly finds herself being deported to Australia where she vows to do everything in her power to get back home to what she left behind.

It is now 1852 and Australia. This part of the story is told by Grace, a widow with children and stepsons. She is religious, pious and takes in Sara to help around the house. She wants Sara to repent and to become as religious as she is and although Sarah plays along she has no intention of staying with Grace forever.
Many life changing events happen in Sara's life that she has no control over as she struggles to save money for a passage back to Liverpool. 
The last part of the book is told by Sara herself and it takes us back to her home in Ireland and the reasons she has to leave her family. If I said this was heartbreaking I wouldn't be using a strong enough word. I had no idea just what the Irish people went through at that time. Men, woman and children  dying at the side of the road, the Protestant Church refusing to help or feed starving Cathlics unless they became Protestants,oh the list goes on. 
There is lots more to this story and I have only gave you the bare bones of it because you are far better finding out the rest for yourselves. The ending was a complete surprise and I couldn't get it out of my head.

Well this is the year of the good books! 
This is a debut novel by Jo Carrol who has written previous books on her traveling exploits but this is her first fiction book.
During her travels to New Zealand Jo visited a museum and that's where she found a short biography of Barbara Weldon. All she knew about her was that she was born in Ireland, moved to Liverpool during the potato famine and ended up in Australia and New Zealand. Jo then wove her fiction story through this.
I loved this book so much, I went from disliking Sara to admiring her and then my heart breaking for her. Her life was probably similar to so many young women in those days who had to fight for their very survival. Jo has excelled herself in this novel and I hope she has many more stories to tell.
If I was to compare Jo to another writer I would say she writes like Lesley Pearse. They both write books about strong woman fighting through adversity. 
This book is only for kindle as it is self published, so skip your fancy coffee for a day and support indi publishing and have a great read.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Relativity by Antonia Hayes

His single mother, Claire is fiercely protective of her brilliant, vulnerable son. But she can't shield him for ever from learning the truth about what happened to him when he was a baby; why Mark had to leave all those years ago.
Twelve years later, Ethan is a singular young boy. Gifted with an innate affinity for physics and astronomy, Ethan sees the world in ways others simply can't - through a prism of light, time, stars and space.
A single handwritten letter is all it takes to set off a dramatic chain of events, pulling both parents back together again into Ethan's orbit. As the years seem to warp and bend, the past is both relived and revealed anew for each of them.

I'm delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour for Relativity. This book has been written beautifully and in some parts it is almost poetic. The chapters are named, Space,energy, magnetism , acceleration, etc which is a great idea. We are told the story from the alternating points of view of Claire, Mark and Ethan. I had no idea what had happened that made Mark leave his family and I beg you not to read the reviews on Amazon before you read this book. 
Ethan is gifted in Physics,there is nothing he doesn't know about the subject. I found all the facts he told his mum Claire very interesting so I learned something reading this book too. He is being bullied at school because he is so clever, but when he retaliates something happens and he is brought back once again to the doctor who treated him when he was a baby. That was when my heart broke and the tears started.

This story is so fragile,you feel that if the wrong word is said at the wrong time then someone will break. I wasn't prepared for the ending and cried again. 
Ethan and Claire are both very likeable as characters and I just loved Ethan's friend Alison. I liked Mark then I didn't like him and then I sort of understood him. I could feel the electricity in the atmosphere when he and Claire were together. If the story has a moral it is that it only takes a split second to make a bad decision and  life can change forever.
This is a brilliant debut novel and will definitely be in my top ten at the end of this year.

Antonia Hayes, who grew up in Sydney and spent her twenties in Paris, currently lives in London with her husband and son. Relativity is her first novel.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Blog Tour for a Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart

I am delighted to be asked to be one of today's stop on this book tour. I did post my review of the book a few weeks ago and it is my book of the year having came in first in all categories for my book awards 2016. It has just been announced that it has been chosen as one of Richard and Judy's book reads which is good news for any book. I'm predicting there will be a film of the book made, and you heard it here first!

Meet thirtysomething dad, Alex
He loves his wife Jody, but has forgotten how to show it. He loves his son Sam, but doesn't understand him. Something has to change. And he needs to start with himself.
Meet eight-year-old Sam
Beautiful, surprising, autistic. To him the world is a puzzle he can't solve on his own.
But when Sam starts to play Minecraft, it opens up a place where Alex and Sam begin to rediscover both themselves and each other . . .
Can one fragmented family put themselves back together, one piece at a time?

There is no justice in the world if this book is not made into a film.
Alex is not coping with family life. His wife Jody is so much better at handling their autistic son Sam than he is. She knows the right things to say and do to get through to Sam and Alex feels useless.
Jody decides on a trial separation as she feels Alex and her have drifted apart and hopefully some time apart will make him realize what he's missing.
Alex moves in with his friend Dan and it feels like he's reliving his youth,sleeping on a dodgy blow up bed and late night drinking sessions. Reality hits when Alex realizes that he will have to spend time with his son without Jody there to help. He has to take him to the park, cafe and on day trips and Alex just doesn't know how he'll cope.
Sam has became obsessed with a new video game Minecraft. As Alex watches him play he realises it calms him down as it sends him into a world where he is in control. Determined to be a good father Alex buys the game and countless books on Minecraft as well as autism. Is it even feasible to imagine that this game is a way to connect with his son?

As well as the relationship between Alex, Jody and Sam I liked the blokey relationship that Alex had with his friend Dan. Just when you think Dan doesn't get what's going on you find out he does. 
Alex and Sam's journey through Minecraft really brings out the best in Sam and we can see him change throughout the story. It brings across to you how much hard work it is for parents of children with Autism. The daily routine has to be strictly adhered to to make their child feel safe. Even a small timetable error can have monumental effects.
This book made me laugh and cry and I definitely can see it as a film. The ending is so joyous I wanted to shout out loud. I have never seen Minecraft played but this in no way lessened it's impact in the story. I suspect that mums or dads whose children  play the game will understand the attraction completely.
Although this is a fiction book it came about through the real life experiences of the author and his own son who has autism and how much he felt the minecraft game helped him.
A real feel good read with a child fighting to be understood right at the heart of it.

In 2012 one of KEITH STUART's two sons was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The ramifications felt huge. But then Keith and both boys started playing videogames together - especially Minecraft. Keith had always played games and, since 1995, has been writing about them, first for specialist magazines like Edge and PC Gamer then, for the last ten years, as games editor for the Guardian. The powerful creative sharing as a family and the blossoming of communication that followed informed his debut novel.

Other blogs joining  blog tour today.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Books with Wine and Chocolate Virtual Book awards 2016

This year I have read over sixty books and posted reviews for fifty of them.
I like to have my yearly virtual book awards to remind people of the great books I read during the year.


Based on the true story of a father re-connecting with his autistic son through a computer game.
This book made me laugh,cry, wonder, google some things and stayed in my head for weeks after I read it. It's also one of my books that should most definitely be made into a film. I actually think it this heard it here first.


April's elderly aunt finds her sister's diaries and we are transported to her life during the Second World War. We meet our favourite people from the village of Tinnadale again.

A faded newspaper cutting holds a secret that Beth was never meant to discover. Ordinary people making the best of extrodinary circumstances.


A husband and wife transport her pet alligator hundreds of miles across America back to it's home in Florida. Based on a true story but somewhat embellished this book is sure to make you laugh out loud.
A bit like Forest Gump. This would also make a great film.


Juliette wants to be a perfect mum to baby Daisy, but she's not. Daisy will not stop crying and her father is useless. Many laughs in this book as we get to know Juliette's family and as she works her way through motherhood.


Jo's sixth travel memoir. This time she's travelling to Equador and the Galapagos. Reading Jo's book makes you feel as if you too have walked the same roads.

This is the author's third book about life aboard a historic barge in Rotterdam only this time she's spending her weekends sailing through Belgium waterways. Valerie's great sense of humour as well as her mishaps are peppered throughout the book. If you haven't read memoirs before,give them a go and see what it's like to live a different life.


I love books by this author. A fiction book set in a historical background but always easy to read. 
I always learn something new from her books. 
A duel storyline one part set in Russia in 1914 and the other in America in 2016. The Russian Royal family are in great danger but the Grand Duchess Tatiana has fallen in love with Dmitri a cavalry officer, can he save her? In 2016 Kitty finds a buried priceless pendant in her great grandfather's remote cabin, who did it once belong to and how did it get there?

Another author I love. In 1986 while exhibiting a painting in an art gallery Jo is told the painting is not genuine and she sets to find answers. In 1936 two young woman from Scotland leave to join the International Brigade in Spain to assist in the civil war, they are soon joined by a Spanish girl fighting for her family's lives. Yes another historical fiction book, I'm seeing a pattern here. Honestly this book was great and contained one of the best opening chapters I have ever read, it had me in tears.

The beautiful cover of this book draws you into it. Set in the beautiful city of Prague three woman who have never met before each have their own reason for visiting the country. Their lives collide and for each one of them important decisions have to be made. There's a few surprises in this story and that and the city of Prague is why I think it should be made into a film.

There you have it,my ten best books of the year. It has been so difficult to choose just ten as I've read so many good books. I have been dissapointed by a few I must admit but there are always some thorns amongst the roses.
This year of course I will still be reviewing ( I won a prize of about 50 books) I have a few crime books which is not usually my genre and some autobiographies which I love reading and have not read enough of lately. I wish you all a Happy New Year and thank you all for reading my blog. 
I also want to thank Harper Collins, Avon Books, Penquin, Headline, Net Galley, Bookbridgr and all the authors  who have sent me books and trusted me to read them and write fairly about them. Thank you all. HAPPY READING!

Sunday, 11 December 2016

All She Ever Wished a For by Claudia Carroll

A gorgeous story of chance meetings and unexpected friendships. Because sometimes what you’ve always wished for isn’t necessarily what life has in store . . .
Marriage. It’s a dream come true. Isn’t it?
One wet winter night, two women meet on a bridge. One is Tess Taylor, a personal trainer on the way to meet her boyfriend for date night. The other is Kate King, a celebrity married to a handsome billionaire who just happens to make her cry. In the cold dark evening, there is nothing to link them together but the bridge they shiver on. Little do they know they’ll both hold the key to each other’s future marriage…
All She Ever Wished For tells the story of what happens when your dream is about to come true. And what happens when that dream turns into a bit of a nightmare…

I loved this book. Tess is crossing a bridge,one of those bridges where lovers place a lock as a symbol of their love. She notices a young woman standing by herself as if visiting a padlock belonging to a lost love. She seems too well dressed to be in the area and as Tess wonders about her she notices how upset she is. As she approaches her she recognises her as a well know celebrity but still stops to ask if she is okay. 
Tess, who is getting married to the much older Bernard is in the middle of her wedding preparations when she is called to serve on a jury. This part of the book gives us some really funny moments as Tess feels she's far to busy to do her jury duty and tries to get out of it. The other members of the jury are all described so well and give us some more laughs.
Unfortunately the court case is against Kate,the woman on the bridge. It has to do with her settlement on her divorce from her ex.Damien. We then hear the story of their relationship and I began to love Kate and was rooting for her all through the book.
Why Tess is marrying Bernard is a mystery as he is the very opposite of her and his family are so pompous compared to Tess's family who are down to earth and lovely. Bernard is not very dynamic but what you might call a harmless character.
Tess and Kate come from different worlds and only meet fleetingly but each have helped each other even if they don't know it. I love a good ending and an epilogue and this book had both. I forgot to mention Will who serves on the jury...keep an eye on him.
Another winner from Claudia Carroll.

All She Ever Wished For

Friday, 9 December 2016

The Holiday Swap by Zara Stoneley

Two women, two very different lives – one perfect solution to escape festive heartbreak!
Tucked away in the idyllic English countryside, Daisy Fischer’s cosy little cottage has always been her safe haven. But when her completely dependable boyfriend issues her an ultimatum, Daisy realises there’s a whole world out there she’s missing out on.
Florence Cortes’s life couldn’t be better – gorgeous apartment right on the beach, fabulous job and dreamy boyfriend, or so she thought. Suddenly, Flo’s life isn’t so perfect after all.
When the girls house swap for the holidays, it’s not long before Daisy is being distracted by sun, sea and sexy Javier while Flo finds herself snowbound for Christmas with only handsome neighbour Hugo and a house full of animals to keep her company.
Love actually does seem to be all around this Christmas, but in the places Flo and Daisy least expect to find it…

Two woman with not so perfect love lives, handsome strangers and Christmas, what could be more perfect? Well, throw in wonderful Barcelona and a country cottage in Chesire and you have a great recipe for a good  seasonal read. 
The grass always looks greener on the other side so when Daisy and Flo swap houses will they love what they had or want what the other has? 
Put on a pair of furry slippers and curl up at the fireside with some wine and chocolate and indulge yourself in other people's lives. You'll love it.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

A Year and a Day by Isabelle Broom.

Welcome to a city where wishes are everywhere

For Megan, a winter escape to Prague with her friend Ollie is a chance to find some inspiration for her upcoming photography exhibition. But she's determined to keep their friendship from becoming anything more. Because if Megan lets Ollie find out about her past, she risks losing everything - and she won't let that happen again . . .
For Hope a surprise treat from Charlie, her new partner. But she's struggling to enjoy the beauty of the city when she knows how angry her daughter is back home. And that it's all her fault . . . 
For Sophie, the city has always been a magical place. This time she can't stop counting down the moments until her boyfriend Robin joins her. But in historic Prague you can never escape the past . . .
Three different women. Three intertwining love stories. One unforgettable timeless city.

One look at the gorgeous cover of this book and you just know you're in for a good read.
Megan visits Prague with Ollie and although she knows they can only ever just be friends she is fighting an attraction to him that she is helpless to stop. Ollie is a lovely guy, totally in love with Megan but afraid to tell her. 
Sophie,who is waiting for her fiancé to arrive in Prague is experiencing the city for the first time without him as they have travelled most of the world together.
Hope, upset that her daughter refuses to speak to her since she left her dad to be with Charlie begins to analyse what exactly she wants out of life and whether she can ever be happy without her daughter's love.
I loved all the characters in this book but I have to say that Megan did get on my nerves and brought out the mother in me in that I wanted to shake her and give her a good talking to for allowing Ollie to slip through her fingers.
The star of the book has to be the city of Prague. I don't remember reading a more descriptive book, it's obvious that the author loves the city.
The three women are staying at the same hotel and their paths cross. As they begin to learn a little of each other's lives they form a tentative attachment as people on holiday often do.
I do not want to give any more of this story away as doing so will spoil the ending. After reading this Prague is now top of my places to visit. I want to experience the magic, see the towers and spires, eat in the little cafes and restaurants and stand on the Charles Bridge and make my wish.
A Year and a Day.

I haven't read the author's first book My Map of You, but I intend to.