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.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

I Found You by Lisa Jewell

'How long have you been sitting out here?'

'I got here yesterday.'

'Where did you come from?'

'I have no idea.'

East Yorkshire: Single mum Alice Lake finds a man on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, no idea what he is doing there. Against her better judgement she invites him in to her home.

Surrey: Twenty-one-year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.

Alice has a busy life with multiple children and a dog she finds life a struggle. She has spent the morning watching a man sitting on the beach in the cold and rain without a coat. She offers him an old jacket a previous boyfriend left behind but when she realises he has doesn't know where he is or who he is she invites him into her house for tea and a rest. Is Alice being silly? Are her children in danger from a stranger?
The man is christened Frank by Alice's young daughter and he is asked to stay overnight in a shed in the garden which Alice has converted into a bedroom. There begins the search for Frank to find out who he is and why he was sitting on the beach.
We then meet Lily who has moved to the UK from Kiev following her marriage to Carl only two weeks ago. A whirlwind romance and a new life in a foreign country would be hard for anyone but when Carl doesn't return from work as usual what is Lily to do? Who really is Carl and did Lily every really know him?
Twenty years earlier, a summer holiday for two teenagers and their parents and a tragedy.

These three stories are sewn seamlessly together by the author. I was on the edge of my seat during most of the book. I thought Alice was taking a chance allowing a stranger to stay not knowing who or what he was but that was the kind of kind and loving person Alice is.
I really liked her and wanted a happy ending for her family. I began to trust Frank as did Alice but what would happen when his memory returned.
I felt so sorry for Lily in a strange country hunting for her husband and having to deal with all that entails.
I can't say much more about this story as I would spoil it for you. Sufficient to say that it is written by Lisa Jewel who is just amazing...another winner. A real thriller.

You can find I Found You here on Amazon. I think the kindle copy is a bit pricey but I'm sure it will be on sale everywhere.

Monday, 18 July 2016

The Bookshop on Rosemary Lane by Ellen Berry

**Take a trip to the Yorkshire village of Burley Bridge, where a very special little cookbook shop is about to open its doors…**

In the beginning…

Kitty Cartwright has always solved her problems in the kitchen. Her cookbooks are her life, and there isn’t an issue that ‘Cooking with Aspic’ can’t fix. Her only wish is that she had a book entitled ‘Rustling Up Dinner When Your Husband Has Left You’.

Forty years later…

On Rosemary Lane, Della Cartwright plans to open a very special little bookshop. Not knowing what to do with the hundreds of cookbooks her mother left her, she now wants to share their recipes with the world – and no amount of aspic will stand in her way.

But with her family convinced it’s a hare-brained scheme, Della starts to wonder if she’s made a terrible decision. One thing’s for sure: she’s about to find out…

Lose yourself in Della’s world of food, family and friends. The perfect read for fans of Trisha Ashley and Carole Matthews.

I'm delighted to be part of the blog tour for Ellen Berry's new book The Bookshop on Rosemary Lane. This mysterious new author is really Fiona Gibson who's books have had me in stitches.

Rosemary Lane is the first in a trio of books which is exciting as I'm always left wanting more after reading a good story.

I haven't read this yet but I'm hoping to shortly and then I will post my review. In the meantime to wet your appetite the publisher has provided me with an extract from the book. Enjoy! 

Leo looked at his mother and she looked at the woman behind the counter. ‘I don’t know who lived there before but it’s ours now.’

The woman’s eyebrows went a fraction higher and something akin to sympathy passed across her face. ‘Down the side of the pub next door.’

‘Right. Thanks.’ Beth was pleased that they were definitely in the right place but how they had missed the cottage she wasn’t sure. She didn’t remember seeing anything next to the pub other than a driveway to what she’d assumed was the pub car park.

‘Sure I can’t interest you in…’ the woman searched the shelves frantically with her eyes. ‘Some discounted noodles? They’re only recently out of date.’

‘No, we’re fine thanks. But I’m sure we’ll become regulars in here very soon.’

‘Lovely,’ said the woman instantly cheering up. ‘Oh and good luck.’ There was that sympathetic spaniel look again. Beth and Leo left the shop to the clang of the bell and walked purposefully past the pub next door. Leo stared open mouthed at the pub sign of a frightening looking chained bear that was bleeding from a number of wounds. At the other side of the pub was the gravel track. Looking up the driveway she could see a rickety picket fence behind which was a sea of tall straw-like grass and a willow tree.

‘We’ve found it,’ said Beth, almost dragging Leo up the track. The closer they got the more of the willow they could see. But that was all they could see. It was a willow tree of mammoth proportions. Beth and Leo stood in front of it and gazed at the mass of gently swaying greenery as the summer breeze lightly fanned it.

‘Wow, that’s the biggest tree I’ve ever seen!’ said Leo, his eyes darting over it as if taking in every pale green leaf. It was impressive but Beth was rather keen to see the cottage. She opened the gate that was held on by string and the rest of the rotting structure fell into the grass.

They stared at the remains. ‘Oh well, never mind,’ said Beth, her hopes still high as she and Leo stepped over the broken gate and skirted around the willow tree. And there was Willow Cottage, their new home. They both stood and gaped at the sight before them. Beth swallowed hard; this wasn’t exactly what she had been expecting.

Carly stood in the kitchen of her small flat and read the text again. It was spread over three messages because her ancient mobile phone couldn’t cope with long texts and she had an unnatural hatred of technology, which was why she had only now switched it on.

Hi Carly I bought a cottage at the auction – yay! It’s a bit further away than I’d planned – it’s in The Cotswolds. Please don’t say anything to anyone in case it gets back to Nick. Completion should be in a few days as I’m paying cash and using same solicitor as seller but I can’t wait so we’re going to take a look at it in the morning. I’ll call once we’ve found somewhere to stay. Missing you already. Beth & Leo xx

A bit further away? The Cotswolds was up north somewhere wasn’t it?! Carly wasn’t sure but she did know it was a very long way from Kentish Town, London. She blew out a sigh and it made her lips flap together like a child blowing a raspberry. She missed Leo already and she’d only seen him three days ago. Carly loved her godson and, with little to give her hope that she would be having any of her own anytime soon, he was her kiddy fix. But however she was feeling about not seeing Leo she could multiple it a thousand times for Beth. She understood why Beth had had to leave but it didn’t make it any easier to face.

‘The Cotswolds?’ she muttered to herself. It wasn’t even a city. What was it? A giant chunk of countryside in the middle of nowhere? She’d get the map out later and look it up.

Carly poured herself a large glass of Chablis and another for Fergus. She had a quick look at the veggie pasta bake turning golden and bubbling happily in the oven.

She pushed open the door to the spare room. ‘Dinner.’

A harassed Fergus stuck his bristly face round the door. ‘Give me ten minutes. Okay?’ He blew her a kiss and disappeared.

‘The pasta bake won’t give you ten minutes. Eejit,’ she muttered and she took a large mouthful of wine. She was fed up. She loved Fergus but they had been bobbing along together for nearly three years now and there was still no flicker of likelihood that he was going to propose. She’d tried dropping hints and staring longingly in jeweller’s shop windows but he had the hide of a pickled armadillo and nothing was getting through. Carly wished she could forget about weddings and marriage and enjoy being a couple because they were happy together, but having been brought up by her grandmother, she was a traditional soul at heart. She wanted to have children and knew Fergus did too, but she wanted to be married before they considered it. And more than anything she wanted to be a bride. Well, who didn’t fantasise about having their perfect wedding?

An unpleasant aroma wafted in Carly’s direction and she puzzled for a second as to what it was. Then, remembering the pasta bake, she grabbed the oven gloves and dived towards the oven. ‘Sod it!

Friday, 15 July 2016

The Missing Wife by Sheila O' Flanagan

When Imogen Naughton vanishes, everyone who knows her is shocked. She has a perfect marriage. Her handsome husband treats her like a princess. She's always said how lucky she is. So why has she left? And how will she survive without Vince?
What goes on behind closed doors is often a surprise, and Imogen surprises herself by taking the leap she knows she must. But as she begins her journey to find the woman she once was, Imogen's past is right behind her...
Will it catch up with her? And will she be ready to face it if it does?

This book is a perfect example of showing the reader and not telling. We can see exactly what kind of husband Vince is by his voice niggling in Imogen's head telling her what she can't do on her own and later when he himself looks around the empty house and notices things she hasn't done for him.
Imogen has escaped. She has a plan and told no one about it not even her best friend Shona. The plan is to run to the one place she felt safe,a small village in France, one she hasn't told her husband about.
Imogen knows that one day Vince will find her and try to drag her back to him. She's not strong enough yet to fight him but one day she will be.
It doesn't take Imogen long to realise that she can survive on her own. She gets a job, an apartment and makes friends all without Vince. As a child she moved with her mother to France then to Ireland and then to England . She has never felt she belonged anywhere except maybe here in Hendaye, France where her mum and her lived at The Villa Martine with the Delissandes Family. She wonders if they still own the villa and if she would be welcomed or even if she dared show her face after want happened.
This was a real page turner with the menace of Vince lurking on every one of the pages. We also find out that bullies are basically cowards in disguise.
Imogen is one of those characters your heart goes out to. Estranged from her step family she feels she can trust no one so reaches tentatively out to the past and old friends. The people who welcome her in France are wonderful characters in their own right and are beautifully written.
Shelia O'Flanagan never disappoints and her books keep the reader gripped until the end.

On Amazon for kindle or paperback but I think the kindle copy is a bit pricey but I'm sure it will be on the supermarket shelves.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

The Paris Secret by Karen Swan

Not every door should be opened . . .
Somewhere along the cobbled streets of Paris, an apartment lies thick with dust and secrets: full of priceless artworks hidden away for decades.
High-flying fine art agent Flora from London, more comfortable with the tension of a million-pound auction than a cosy candlelit dinner for two, is called in to assess these suddenly discovered treasures. As an expert in her field, she must trace the history of each painting and discover who has concealed them for so long.
Thrown in amongst the glamorous Vermeil family as they move between Paris and Antibes, Flora begins to discover that things aren't all that they seem, while back at home her own family is recoiling from a seismic shock. The terse and brooding Xavier Vermeil seems intent on forcing Flora out of his family's affairs - but just what is he hiding?

Flora's latest job as a fine art agent is to fly to Paris to an apartment that hasn't been opened for seventy three years. She is approached by Madame Vermeil who tells her that the apartment was owned by her father-in-law who died during the war. According to the lawyer it was never to be disclosed to the family until after her mother-in-law had passed away, she was the only other person who knew about the apartment and is very unhappy that her husband's final wishes have been overturned. 
When Flora enters the apartment she finds hundreds of paintings some very valuable and she has to research and catalogue each one of them. As she researches  the origins of the paintings some very painful secrets are uncovered and Flora finds herself wishing she had never taken the job on.

I could not put this book down. As one secret after another is revealed the book became more and more unputdownable ( is that even a word?). Why has this room been locked for so many years? Where did the paintings come from? Do they belong to the family or someone else?
As Flora investigates she is also dealing with a very big problem in her own family and is doing her best to be supportive while being out of the country. I loved Flora's knowledge and intelligence and her passion for art. The love interest Xavier I didn't take to straightaway but he grew on me. 
I like a book that is not just a straight forward love story but teaches me something I didn't know and this book fitted the bill.
Another book that I read quickly as I couldn't wait to read what happened next. 
This is the first book I've read written by Karen Swan but I've had a look online at her other books and I really want to read more from her.
Published on 14th July it can be pre ordered from  Amazon

Friday, 8 July 2016

The Long Hot Summer by Kathleen McMahon

Nine Lives.
Four Generations.
One Family.
The MacEntees are no ordinary family.
Determined to be different to other people, they have carved out a place for themselves in Irish life by the sheer force of their own personalities. But when a horrifying act of violence befalls television star Alma, a chain of events is set in motion that will leave even the MacEntees struggling to make sense of who they are.
As media storms rage about them and secrets rise to the surface, Deirdre the flamboyant matriarch is planning a birthday party for herself, and with it one final, shocking surprise.

 Deirdrie O' Sullivan is turning eighty and as she looks through an old family scrapbook she thinks of her life. She was an actress but left the stage after having her children.
 There are now four generations of her family coming together to celebrate her birthday. This is a complicated family, Deirdrie's husband left her twenty years ago for a young man, her daughter Alma is divorced and daughter Acushla's marriage is devoid of love.
This story carries a lot of talking points, abortion, politics, mugging, Aspergers,theft, the media and loneliness. We see how each character in each generation copes with the problems life throws at them.
I found this book to be quite fast paced at the beginning and then it slowed down a bit for me but  picked up again with a sudden happenning I didn't expect and I actually gasped at it.
I'm not sure of the title as after reading it I didn't get the sense that a hot summer was important to the story.  All that said I enjoyed the book and read it over a few days. Looking forward to the author's next book and I will be checking out her first one which has great reviews.

The Long Hot Summer...Paperback or kindle