Thursday, 26 January 2017

The Silk Weaver by Liz Trenow

In 1761, Spitalfields, Anna Butterfield's life is about to change forever as she moves from her idyllic Suffolk home to be introduced into London society. A chance encounter with a French silk weaver, Henri, draws her in to the volatile world of the city’s burgeoning silk trade. Henri is working on his ‘master piece’, to become a master weaver and freeman; Anna longs to become an artist while struggling against pressure from her uncle’s family to marry a wealthy young lawyer. 
As their lives become ever more intertwined, Henri realises that Anna’s designs could give them both an opportunity for freedom. But his world becomes more dangerous by the day, as riots threaten to tear them apart forever . . .
Inspired by real historical events and characters, The Silk Weaver is a captivating, unforgettable story of illicit romance in a time of enlightenment and social upheaval.

Today is publication day for Liz Trenow's latest novel which I have been eagerly awaiting.
Anna is sent to live in London with her aunt and uncle after the death of her mother. Her father thinks he is giving her the best chance to find a husband of means and marry. Anna has other ideas. She wants to be independent and only marry if and when she falls in love. Her aunt tries to keep her tied to the house not allowing her out on her own and she has a man in mind for Anna to marry.
This stifles Anna as she is a creative person who loves to roam the countryside and draw scenes from nature although there's not much inspiration in the middle of busy London.

Henri has fled from the poverty in France and is apprenticed to a silk weaver. He is just about to become a freeman and set up on his own but first he has to finish his masterpiece and present it to the silk weavers board, all he needs is a good design.
Anna wants to help him but finds it difficult as the lives of her aunt, uncle and cousins are thrown into turmoil. Will she accept a marriage proposal or hold out for love?

I love the historical influences in Liz Trenow's books. I didn't know that as far back as 1761 foreign trade was destroying British industry. As the silk weavers protest against French imports riots start and many men are arrested and hanged in public as a warning to others. Anna and Henri find themselves involved in the unrest and there were parts of the book when my heart beat that little bit faster.
Once again a well researched story with a great ending. 
If you haven't read any of Liz's book I suggest you try them, they are all cracking good reads.

For The Silk Weaver, Liz returns to her own unique history: her family have been silk weavers for nearly three hundred years, and she grew up in the house next to the mill in Suffolk, England, which still operates today, weaving for top-end fashion houses and royal commissions. This novel is set in the house in Spitalfields, East London where the company began, three hundred years ago. 

Liz is a former journalist who spent fifteen years on regional and national newspapers, and on BBC radio and television news, before turning her hand to fiction. She lives in East Anglia, UK, with her artist husband, and they have two grown up daughters. 

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!

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...