Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Books With Wine and Chocolate Awards 2013

I have decided instead of listing my favourite books of the year I will have them in categories. I have reviewed forty books this year and read a few more I haven't got around to reviewing yet.
These are only a few I wanted to make a special mention of as all of the books I have reviewed this year are well worth a read.
The coming year will be filled with more reviews of some great new books and some older ones. I will be listing some of them next week.
 Until then, enjoy welcoming in the new year and thank you all the authors, publishers and PR people who have asked me to review their books and  to you everyone who has read my blog especially if you have left a comment,they mean so much as it tells me that someone is reading this. Thank you all!

The Books with Wine and Chocolate Awards 2013

The award for the books that made me laugh
Goodness, Grace and Me  by Julie Houston 

How to Breed Sheep and English eccentrics by Valerie Poore 

The award for the books that made me cry 
A Pledge of Silence by Flora J. Soloman 

The Last Telegram by Liz Trenow 

The Letter by Kathryn Huges 

The award for the books I think most likey to be turned into a film

A Stitch in Time by Amanda James 

Mongol by Uuganaa Ramsay 

The Award for my books of the year 

The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow 

 Take a Look at me now by Miranda Dickinson


You can read my reviews of each book by just clicking on the title. Enjoy, with wine and chocolates of course!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

I'm Virtually Yours by Jennifer Bohnet

Polly Jones is taken aback when a new client asks her to investigate the Robertson family business in Devon, after all, a ‘virtual assistant’ doesn’t usually leave their home office! But she needs the work – and less proximity to an endless supply of tea and biscuits can only be a good thing right? So she sets off, with energetic puppy Rosie close by her side.
Polly’s new job isn’t quite in her comfort zone… Arriving in the small fishing village where everyone knows everyone’s business, any upsides (all those yummy scones and clotted cream) of course have their downside - she’s completely forgotten to pack her sea legs, and the temptingly handsome Will Robertson is making her job difficult at every turn.
It’s so much easier to keep things strictly professional in the virtual world – but with no e-mail to hide behind Polly must admit that Will’s smile is incredibly, deliciously distracting…

I had this novella down on my list to review in January but I was looking for a quick read and I decided to read it. I' m so glad I did, I read it in one sitting and really enjoyed it.
Polly is setting out on her own as a Virtual Assistant which I had never heard of before but it sounds like an ideal job,working from home,doing something a bit different everyday. The job sounded even better to me when she receives an email asking her to go to Devon to check out a boatyard for someone who is thinking of investing in it but he wants to remain anonymous to the owners.
When Polly arrives and she walks into a business that is about to go bust but as she gets to know the boatyard owners just what will she put in her report. Intrigue and flirtation and beautiful Devon all make this story very readable. Although this was a novella I thought the story was very rounded and did not leave anything out although maybe there is a case for a sequel just to find out what Polly is doing now.
This novella is available for download to  kindle Amazon.uk  Amazon.com
My thanks go to the author for a download of this book.

Jennifer Bohnet has written many books. I have read and enjoyed  French Legacy 
Earlier this year she published a novel which I haven't  read but I love the synopsis.

SHADOWS of CONFLICT tells the stories of Katie and her god-mother Mattie. When Katie, redundant from her media job, accepts Mattie's offer SHADOWS of CONFLICT - Jennifer Bohnetto take over her shop, A Good Yarn, in Dartmouth, she expects her life to be busy and unexciting. But with an American film crew in town intent on uncovering buried secrets from World War II, a disgruntled relative, and Mattie herself still refusing to face up to the lingering shadows of an unhappy childhood, life is neither simple nor quiet. When Patrick, her ex-boss, offers the chance of her dream media job Katie has to decide whether accepting it is worth turning her back on everything and everyone in Dartmouth - including Leo, a friend from the past who plans to be a part of her future. Will Katie make the right decision? And as the Americans uncover a secret from her past, will Mattie shake off a lifetime of regrets and shadows from the past to finally find happiness with Henri, her new ami?
Amazon.uk          The Book Depository

Monday, 16 December 2013

Christmas at Carringtons by Alexandra Brown.

Georgie Hart loves Christmas time at Carrington's Department store. Running the luxury handbag department, Georgie adores helping customers in the hunt for the perfect gift for the perfect someone. And this year is no exception - now she has the hunky Tom, Mr Carrington himself, to spend the special day with. But when Tom springs a surprise, Georgie's plans are thrown into chaos. Carrington's is getting a fresh lease of life in a hot new reality TV show, featuring formidable retail guru, Kelly Cooper. As the first show airs, Georgie is shown in a far from flattering light. Worse is to come when Kelly's vile daughter appears to get her claws into Tom. Georgie fears this will be the worst Christmas ever, but Santa still has a little surprise for her stocking this year - she'll just have to wait until Christmas to find out...

I needed something to put me into the Christmas mood and Christmas at Carringtons fitted the bill nicely.
This is the second book in the Carringtons series with a novella in between,but don't worry if you haven't read the first two just dive into this and you'll soon catch up.
Georgie is a lovely girl who's had quite a rough time in her youth but she now has the love of her life Tom Carrington to call her own,or does she? A reality show is taking place at the store and Georgie has been filmed without her knowledge and made to look a fool. She is so mad at Tom for not warning her in advance that their relationship is put on hold and the horrible Zara is waiting in the wings to steal Tom.
We catch up with her bests friends Sam and Eddie and find out how they deal with becoming reality stars.
Georgie also has some problems adapting to her father's new life and finding out some truths from the past.
There are some fun scenes in this book as Kelly who's presenting the reality show engages actors to cause problems and make complaints. The staff have full celebrity makeovers and have to handle fame.
I found this to be a good fun read especially as I'm watching Liberty of London's reality show on TV it made me think of what actually goes on during the making of those kind of shows.  
Alexandra Brown is doing well with her Carringtons series and a little bird told me there's another due out in June,I can't wait to see what Georgie, Sam and Eddie will be up to then.

The Book Depository Free shipping worldwide
Amazon uk  Kindle or paperback

Thanks go to net galley for proving a kindle copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Mongol by Uuganaa Ramsay

Uuganaa is a Mongol living in Britain, far from the world she grew up in: as a nomadic herder she lived in a yurt, eating marmot meat, distilling vodka from goat's yoghurt and learning about Comrade Lenin. When her new-born son Billy is diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome, she finds herself facing bigotry and taboo as well as heartbreak. In this powerful memoir, Uuganaa skilfully interweaves the extraordinary story of her own childhood in Mongolia with the sadly short life of Billy, who becomes a symbol of union and disunion, cultures and complexity, stigma and superstition – and inspires Uuganaa to challenge prejudice. Mongol is the touching story of one woman's transformation from outsider to fearless champion of love, respect and tolerance. It's a moving tribute by a remarkable woman to her beloved baby son, testifying to his lasting impact on a sometimes imperfect world.

A few years ago I was directed through Twitter to a blog I hadn't seen before. The writer of the blog was Uuganaa and the blog was full of letters written to her baby boy who had sadly passed away. Uuganaa had found writing letters to him a way of staying in touch, of telling him about his family, his brother and sisters and of how very much he was still loved by them all. Of course you can't leave the blog without tears but I was also drawn back week after week to read them.
I left comments on the blog and Uuganna replied and we eventually found that she lived not very far from me, I live in Glasgow and she lives "doon the waater" (at the seaside) so eventually we met up and that's when I found out about her desire to write a book about her life in Mongolia and her baby Billy.
She told me that she had discovered that every book written has a copy stored in the British library and this was to be her way of ensuring Billy's memory would live on. She sent me the first few chapters of her book and I just knew it would be a book that people would want to read.

Uuganaa's story has been picked up by the media
You might think this is a very sad book and yes, there are parts which are very sad as we share Uuganaa and her families journey but we also learn all about life in Mongolia and what it was like for Uuganaa to travel across the world, learn a new language and start a new life first in London and then in Glasgow. I enjoyed learning of what life is like growing up in Mongolia,living and sleeping in a one room yurt.  I laughed when hearing of her meeting her husband who was then her boyfriend outside Boots in town. Uuganna was left standing outside a shoe shop that sold boots as she had no idea that,"Boots" was the shop she had to meet him at.
Uuganaa rode horses to herd sheep,distilled vodka from goat's milk, gathered cow dung for fuel and lived in a yurt. I shivered reading about the 360 km trip she had to make in a truck at night in temperatures of -30.
She was tavelling home from her school for the holidays wearing five layers of clothing,a pair of tights,three pairs of woollen leggings,jeans,a few pairs of socks and a sheepskin deel. Winters in Scotland must seem very mild compared to that.

When Uuganaa's third child is born she has no idea that anything is wrong,she is then told he may have Downs Syndrome, the doctor changes his mind and says they were confused because of his ethnic background and Billy does not have Downs. The family are so relieved but the doctors change their mind again and confirm that Billy has Downs Syndrome. I can't begin to imagine how that feels but Uuganaa explains in her book how her family coped.
As well as having her book published Uuganaa wants to stop the misuse of  the word Mongol. Children who have Downs are not Mongols, people who come from Mongolia are Mongols and are very proud of it. I don't know where it started but comic Ricky Gervais is one who has promoted it's use and followed by schoolchildren. It's use has to be stamped out and children educated about what a Mongol actually is. Uuganaa is working alongside the Downs Syndrome Association both in the UK and Mongolia to get the message across.
A few of Uuganaa's letters to her son Billy are in the last chapter of her book but you you read more of them here  http://www.billybuuz.blogspot.co.uk/
What better day to launch the ebook of Mongol than today, International Human Rights Day. The paperback is released on 16th January.
I am proud to know Uuganaa Ramsay and to have read her wonderful memoirs.

About the Author

Uuganaa Ramsay was born in Mongolia and grew up in a yurt, living a nomadic life eating marmot meat and distilling vodka from yoghurt. After winning a place on a teacher-training course she came to the UK, and now lives in Scotland. Uuganaa was named as Woman of the Year for Mongolians in Europe 2012 by the Association for the Developement ofMongolian Women in Europe.
She wrote Mongol with the help of the Janetta Bowie Chalice Non-Fiction Book Award from the Scottish Association of Writers. It is her first book.
Paperback pub 16th Jan The Book Depository with free shipping worldwide

Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Book of Bedtime Stories and The New Granny's Survival Guide

This beautiful children's book contains ten stories written by users of the online websites Gransnet and Mumsnet. They were picked by the wonderful children's writer Michael Rosen from entries submitted to a competition on both websites. I entered a story of my own and unfortunately wasn't chosen as a winner but I did win a copy of this book in another competition on Gransnet.
The stories are all very well written and different stories will appear to different ages. I have been reading some of them to a three year old .
He enjoyed,Time For Bed, about a toddler who didn't want to go to bed then realised he was tired after all, he could relate to that. When Polly Jumped Over The Moon was another favourite about a little calf who hears children singing the nursery rhyme about the cow jumping over the moon and she wants to do it too,so sweet.
My favourites and maybe more suitable to the over fives were, The Dancing Bear and Celeste Who Sang To The Stars. This is a special book that I keep on the shelf and bring it down when we're reading it together, my toddler treats it very carefully as he knows it's different from his other everyday books.
The book is a bit special, it is a hardback and  has a glossy dustcover with the illustration of the child in bed. Take off the dustcover and the book is festooned with stars and moons, a good start to a story at bedtime.

As well as the stories being written by mums and grans the illustrations inside are all drawn by up and coming children's illustrators.
The competition was wonderful idea which the two websites are repeating again, this time with  animal stories, who knows maybe I'll be luckier, better get the old brainwaves working.
A great gift for the little darlings in your life.
The Book Depository Free shipping worldwide

 Gransnet have also published " The New Granny's Survival Guide" While some new grans might prefer to learn on the job there will be many who wish they had some advice from those who have "been there,done that!" This is the book you've been waiting for,Granset searched their forums for all the words of wisdom from grans who have encountered all kinds of problems, from being expected to provide full time childcare and if you don't feel you can, how to politely say no, to knowing how to protect older children online.
What do you do if you don't agree with the parent's disciplining of your grandchild? Do you say something or keep quite. How do you cope with the tantrums of the terrible twos? or the strops of a teenage grandchild,( I have that one still to look forward to.)
Grans are all so different these days,we're so much younger,still have jobs,still enjoy holidays but all want to be the best grans we can be.
You can read experiences of other grans, some might even relate to yourself. A book you can keep handy and refer to if you need the point of view from someone else.
Another winner from Gransnet.

The Book Depository free shipping worldwide
Gransnet website can be found here
Mumsnet website can be found here

Thursday, 5 December 2013

The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow

A stunning novel set in the Edwardian era about a seamstress working at Buckingham Palace. Full of drama, betrayal and addictive real-life detail – The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow is perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Joanne Harris.

When Caroline Meadows discovers a beautiful quilt in her mother’s attic, she sets out on a journey to discover who made it, and the meaning of the mysterious message embroidered into its lining.

Many years earlier, before the first world war has cast its shadow, Maria, a talented seamstress from the East End of London, is employed to work for the royal family. A young and attractive girl, she soon catches the eye of the Prince of Wales and she in turn is captivated by his glamour and intensity.
But careless talk causes trouble and soon Maria’s life takes a far darker turn.

Can Caroline piece together a secret history and reveal the truth behind what happened to Maria?

Welcome to The Forgotten Seamstress blog tour. Some of the blogs on the poster on the right hand side will have interviews and some will have reviews,visit them and see what others think.
This is Liz Trenow's second novel. The first one The Last Telegram I have reviewed here .
When you read a book and enjoy it so much that you can't wait to read the author's next one and wish she would hurry up there is always a chance that you may be disappointed if it's not as good as the last one.
I'm glad to say that this second book did not disappoint in fact it surpassed my expectations and I would go as far to say that I enjoyed it even more than the first one.

Maria's story unfolds as she tells it to a research student in 1970 who is recording the interview on a cassette recorder. She is doing research work on an old Asylum called Helena House and interviewing people who lived there.
 Born in 1896 Marie is now 74yrs old but her memories of her youth are still vivid in her mind. The student Patricia is told not to believe everything Maria says and to remember that she was a patient in the asylum and as such was prone to delusions, including saying she worked at Buckingham Palace.
In 2008 Caroline finds an old patchwork quilt in her mother's attic.  It was left to her by her grandmother and it brings back memories as she remembers it from her childhood. Carloine asks her mother the story of the quilt but she is in the throes of dementia and not much help. When Caroline consults her friend Jo who is an expert on historical fabrics they discover something amazing about the silk used in the quilt which makes Caroline determined to find out the story behind it.  Everything does not go smoothly, there are many twists and turns along the way and a few heartbreaks for Caroline who has lost her job, split with her boyfriend and discovers her mum is not capable of living by herself anymore.

This book is such a good read I could not put it down. I don't want to give any more of the story away as I enjoyed finding it out for myself.
Maria's story was heartbreaking and part of what happened to her really did happen to lots of woman during that time. I wasn't even halfway through the book when I cried and then I cried again at the end.
The star of the book was the patchwork quilt and I imagined what it looked like as the description from the author was very exact. We follow the quilt through it's life, sometimes my heart was in my mouth and I had to keep reminding myself that it was just a quilt.
Moving from Maria's story to Caroline's story was done seamlessly as what was happening in one story had an effect on the other. Maria was such an endearing character but she was so vulnerable I just wanted to give her a big hug. It all came together  very cleverly and the ending was perfect, I was sad to close the book on the last page. The Forgotten Seamstress is one of the best books I have read this year.
I absolutly love Liz Trenow's writing, her next book is called The Poppy Factory and I can't wait to read it.

Liz Trenow

Pre order the paperback for it's january release The Book Depository free worldwide shipping
or download to kindle from today for only 99p Amazon.co.uk   

My thanks go to the publisher for a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Monday, 2 December 2013

African Ways by Valerie Poore

This is the story of a young woman’s first encounters with rural South Africa. Coming from the all-mod-cons society of Britain at the beginning of the 1980’s, the author is literally transplanted to a farm in the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains in what is now Kwazulu Natal.

Once there, she finds her feet in the ways of Africa
with the help of a charming, elderly Dutch couple,
an appealing but wily African farm hand, his practical and motherly daughter and a wise and fascinating neighbour who has a fund of local knowledge.
These are tales of a different kind of life, which
include living without electricity, hand-milking cows, drought, veld fires and mad-cap adventures into the unknown.
They are stories told with deep affection and respect, and above all a liberal dose of tongue-in-cheek humour.

This was one of my holiday reads. Although I mainly read fiction I like to read books about people who have changed their lifestyles and done something different. Val Poore certainly ticked all the boxes when in 1981 she moved from England to South Africa with her husband and two young children the youngest only three months old. Her husband didn't have a job and they hadn't arranged anywhere to stay but as long as Val had sunshine she knew something would turn up. It did turn up in the shape of Ouma Ellens an elderly Dutch woman who had advertised  a cottage for rent on her farm.
Val's descriptions of the people she met are wonderful, I loved Innocent,the waiter at the hotel she stayed at on arrival in Durban. He would give them a menu then tell them what they were going to eat and make it sound like their choice.  Gwen, Kheswa, Bongi, May and Jacob are all colourful characters that Val shared her African adventure with. They are all included in the many stories in the book.
With no electricity, the water running dry and milk coming straight from the cow (which Val had to learn to milk) life was never dull. Adapting to a life so different from the one she has left behind isn't easy but I think Val would say it was worth it as she gained so much more from her life in Africa than she thought possible.

There are many laughs in this book,Val is definitely good at writing comedy. I laughed at a drunken Kheswa scaring away a "bad man" near the cottage that turned out to be a scarecrow Val had made that day.
 The episode when during one of their many barbeques her husband Bill goes outside to relieve himself and thinks he has been watched by a leopard,when you find out the real story you will be laughing too.
While reading this book I felt I was walking the African Plains as Val drew me into the picture she painted,
"Africa has an hypnotic,spicy,aroma that catches your breath. If a smell can have a colour,then the smell of Africa is terracotta- like the hue of it's warm, dry, vibrantly red-brown earth."
I became familiar with everyone in this book and shed tears when Val and her family eventually left Africa after three years. I missed hearing their stories and didn't want this book to end.
Val is now happily settled in her barge in Rotterdam but I think she left a little bit of  her heart in her African Ways.

Valerie Poore
 I will be reviewing another one of Val's books soon, Watery Ways about another life changing decision to buy a barge in the Netherlands and live on it even although she knew nothing about barges.Nothing about Val surprises me.
You can catch up with Val on her blog Watery Ways where she blogs about her barging life with news about all her books. Val is one of the most supportive bloggers I have come into contact with. She is always tweeting and sharing posts from other people on her facebook page, so Val this one's for you. I hope we meet in person one day.
Tweet Val @valleypee

Amazon.co.uk paperback and kindle
The Book Depository  paperback,free shipping worldwide.

The Stolen Child by Jennie Felton

Will anyone believe her baby is gone? When Stella Swift is discovered holding a shard of broken glass near her newborn baby boy, fears...