Sunday, 6 August 2017

The Summer of Serendipity by Ali McNamara - Romance, Magic and Fun

This is the second book by Ali McNamara that I've read this summer, and I loved it just as much as the first.
The Summer of Serendipity has it all: romance, magic and fun!
Serendipity Parker (Ren to her friends) and her crazy friend, Kiki, who's always getting her words mixed up, travel to the west coast of Ireland to find a property for a client. They stay at the Stag Hotel and meet the gorgeous manager, Finn. Later, a local man called Jackie rows them across the lake and points out The Welcome House.
When Ren goes to see it to find the owner and ask if they're willing to sell, she finds the front door unlocked, and wanders in. It's perfect!
In her mission to discover who the owner is and secure the house for her client, aided by Kiki, she meets many fabulous Irish characters and animals who help her in her quest, including Fergus, Finn's dog. But nobody seems to know who the owner is.
It's a brilliant story, which not only reveals the secrets of The Welcome House, but also reveals the personal secrets that Ren, and Finn, have been hiding from each other, and whether their holiday romance will be for keeps.
The whole thing is all wrapped up in magic, and is another fantastic summer read, and again, like Ali McNamara's The Little Flower Shop by the Sea (my review is here), it is a little like Enid Blyton for grown-ups. I don't know how she does it, but it really works - like magic!

In the story, Ren has some Guinness (of course!) and Kiki tries some Club Orange. I was in Dublin recently, and couldn't resist taking these photos. Two great Irish drinks!

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Summer on Firefly Lake by Jen Gilroy - A Deep and Loving Story

Many of us have rented a holiday home for two weeks by a lake or beside the sea, but how many of us wonder about the lives of the people who live there all year round, or the visitors who stay so regularly that they become part of the community and therefore inextricably intertwined with them?
Jen Gilroy paints a beautiful picture of the seasons in Vermont, in the second novel of her trilogy, Summer on Firefly Lake, and the lake itself becomes almost another character in the story, reflecting the actions of the people involved in and around it.
You don't have to have read her first book, The Cottage at Firefly Lake, because each stands alone, but that one centres on Sean and Charlie who rekindle their love after twenty years, and this one concerns Nick, Sean's friend, and Charlie's sister, Mia, although Sean and Charlie do appear!
Nick is a high-flying lawyer in New York. He is back at the lake to help his mother sell the family home, Harbor House, after her illness, and move into a bungalow as fast as possible so he can return to the big city on Labor Day.
Mia is settling at the lake with her daughters, Naomi and Emma, to be near Charlie because her husband, Jay, has gone off with a younger woman.
Neither want a relationship: Mia, because of the way Jay has treated her, and Nick, because his wife Isobel left him too, but as the summer progresses they begin to fall in love, but will it be the sort of love that will make them want to stay together forever?
Gabrielle, Nick's mother, also falls in love with Ward, a man who is visiting the lake to make a wildlife film, and it is touching to see people in their sixties facing the same problems of commitment as the younger ones.
Another key character is Kylie, a twelve-year-old who has spent her life in foster care.  Her social worker has arranged for her to spend some time at Camp Rainbow which has been set up in the cottage that belonged to Mia and Charlie's mother. When Mia and Nick take an interest in her, she tries to keep them together, just like Gabrielle does because to her Mia is the perfect woman for her son.
Nick and Mia do appear to be a perfect match, but it becomes clear that events in their teens are keeping them from each other too. Will they be able to let go of the past and their desire for independence and freedom, or will they find independence and freedom together at Firefly Lake?
I really enjoyed Jen Gilroy's deep and loving story which explores the love between lonely adults, the love between a son and his mother, and the love that can be shared with a lonely child.
I'm looking forward to her third book, Back Home at Firefly Lake. It's out in the UK on December 28th 2017, and it's got snow on the cover! Perfect for reading after Christmas!
 

Sunday, 16 July 2017

The Little Flower Shop by the Sea by Ali McNamara - A Fantastic Summer Read!

Apart from her dislike of roses, Poppy Carmichael has a secret that she cannot share with anyone. So when she inherits The Daisy Chain, her Grandma Rose's flower shop, and returns to St Felix in Cornwall to run it, she has to face up to all the memories that the seaside town holds.
I loved The Little Flower Shop by the Sea by Ali McNamara. There is a great cast of characters including Amber who has been sent from New York to help her run the shop by Poppy's mother, an international florist, who seems always to be a shadowy figure at the end of the phone, but who plays a big part in organising Poppy's life; Jake, a local nurseryman, who supplies the flower shop, but who can't let go of the memories of his wife, Isabelle, who died, leaving him with their two children, Charlie and Bronte; Ash, who carries on the job of gardening at Trecarlan Castle that his grandfather once did, although the building is in disrepair, and it's owner, Stan, is in a retirement home; not to mention Basil, Rose's dog, and Miley, Jake's monkey!
It's a fabulous summer story, and with the castle, the monkey and, secret footpaths along the cliffs, it is almost in parts like Enid Blyton for grown-ups, especially when Jake and Ash both take an interest in Poppy. Add to this, Rose's books about the magic language of flowers, reflected in the chapter headings, which change the lives of people of St Felix, and the wonderful picture of the seaside town that Ali McNamara evokes, you can almost hear the gulls and smell the fish and chips!
This is a fantastic summer read which made me laugh out loud, and cry too. Whether you are going to Cornwall for your holiday or not, this book is the next best thing!

Ali's new book, The Summer of Serendipity set on the west coast of Ireland is out now, and I can't wait to read it!


Sunday, 2 July 2017

The Little Theatre by the Sea by Rosanna Ley - a Fabulous Summer Read!

My summer reading is well underway with the new book by Rosanna Ley, The Little Theatre by the Sea, set in beautiful West Dorset and Sardinia.

Faye, unattached and with a new degree in interior design, is invited to house-sit in Sardinia, by her friend, Charlotte, whilst she and her hotelier husband go to Italy for a month on a business trip. It sounds like a wonderful idea to spend a month in the sun, but what Charlotte doesn't tell her until she gets there is that the Alessandro Rinaldi and his sister, Marisa, are looking for someone to renovate the town's Little Theatre. She also doesn't let her know about the animosity in the town towards the Rinaldis and their plans, especially from Pasquale de Montis, an elderly actor, who does not want the theatre to change in any way, and Enrico Volti and his friends, who contest the Rinaldis' ownership of the theatre in the first place.
Cagliari, Sardinia
The story is all about secrets and relationships: secrets that the people of Deriu keep from Faye, and each other, and the secrets that her parents have kept from her, and each other too, as well as the complex relationships between all the characters. For example, the fledgling relationship between Faye and Alessandro, and the failing relationship between her parents, Ade and Molly; the deep love Pasquale felt for Sofia, Alessandro's and Marisa's mother, and the rejection he has never got over when she married Bruno Rinaldi; and the parental love between Enrico and his lost daughter, Giorgia, and the strained love between Pasquale and his even more elderly mother, Dorotea.
Cagliari, Sardinia
One of Rosanna's many writing skills is to make the setting an integral part of the story, contrasting the hot emotions of the people who live in sunny Sardinia, with the cooling of the relationship of Faye's parents back in England; and the decay and demise of the Little Theatre representing the breakdown in friendships, and the renewal of the theatre as a new beginning.

This is a fabulous summer read, whether you're headed to Sardinia or West Dorset for your holiday, or enjoying it in the back garden with a cup of tea !


Sunday, 11 June 2017

A Proper Family Adventure by Chrissie Manby - The Next Best Thing to Actually Going on a Cruise!

I love cruising, and I couldn't believe my luck when I saw this book on Twitter. I just had to buy it! A Proper Family Adventure is the first book I've read by Chrissie Manby. It's the third book in a trilogy, but you don't need to read the others first. However, now that I've enjoyed this one so much, I think I will!
Chrissie is expert at drawing her characters from Granddad Bill who is wheelchair bound most of the time and is more familiar with the Second World War than the present day, to Jack, his great grandson, aged seven, who is great at getting into trouble, right from the beginning of the book.
Jack gets his cousins, Sophie and Izzy, to take him to Tesco and buy a lottery ticket for Granddad's eighty-seventh birthday. When it comes up with five balls and the bonus ball and a win of fifty thousand pounds, the family decide to put some of it towards a dream cruise that everyone can enjoy.
It's great to follow Granddad's son, Dave, and his wife Jacqui, with their daughters, Ronnie and Chelsea as they sail to the Mediterranean with Ronnie's husband, Mark, and their son, Jack, and Chelsea's boyfriend, Adam, and his daughter, Lily.
Will Ronnie be right that Adam will propose to Chelsea on the trip?
There are two other passengers on the ship, Kirsty and Jane.  Jane's fiancĂ©, Greg, was killed in a road accident at Christmas, and best friend, Kirsty, has suggested that they go on the cruise, as Jane and Greg had planned it for their honeymoon, to help her see that the future wasn't entirely hopeless. However, Jane cannot bring herself to leave the cabin, and Kirsty finds herself going ashore on her own. How can she help her best friend to make a new start in her life again?
Annabel, Jacqui and Dave's daughter who was adopted, stays behind to look after Granddad Bill, her daughter Izzy who is recovering from a kidney transplant, and Sophie, Ronnie and Mark's daughter as she's got a chance for a work placement at the local county magazine. She gives Jack, Ted, a girl bear that Jacqui gave her as a baby, to take away. some of the best scenes are when Lily dresses her in her doll's clothes, much to Jack's insistence that she's a he.

It's a great story and is the next best thing to actually going on a cruise!
These photos are from a similar cruise I took on the Caribbean Princess to the Mediterranean.
I hope that you enjoy Chrissie Manby's book much as I have!









Sunday, 28 May 2017

Songs of Love and War by Santa Montefiore - A Fabulous Tale of Friendships and Rivalries


This story could so easily be about three girls, Kitty, Bridie and Celia, who spent wonderful summers at Castle Deverill, County Cork, and grew up and found the most loving and suitable husbands, had lots of children, and lived happily ever after. But it's not!
Santa Montefiore has written a fabulous tale in Songs of Love and War of the friendships and rivalries of the girls, set against the Irish uprising at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Kitty, the granddaughter of Adeline, Lady Deverill, and her husband, Hubert, Lord Deverill, lives a privileged life, but is shunned by her mother, Maud, who favours her elder sisters, Victoria and Elspeth. She is shocked to discover that her father, Bertie, is having an affair with the beautiful Grace who becomes involved with the aggression towards their Anglo-Irish family.
Kitty considers herself as Irish as Bridie Doyle, the daughter of the cook at the Castle, and they slip away together to play in the gardens with Cousin Celia who arrives each year to spend the summer in Ireland. But their happiness doesn't last as Kitty and Bridie both fall in love with Jack O'Leary, the vet's son.
Castle Deverill has a curse that the male heirs of the Deverill family will have to haunt the castle as ghosts (which Kitty and her grandmother can see) until an O'Leary owns the castle again. So apart from the fact that Jack's Irish and not of the same class as Kitty, she knows that her father would never allow them to marry.
The story follows the girls through the Easter Rising which has a tragic effect on the Deverills and their castle, and into their twenties. As they grow up, they move further apart, but they never lose their love for Castle Deverill and the memories that they made there.
This book is the first of a trilogy, and I can't wait to read the rest!

Daughters of Castle Deverill is out now.

The Last Secret of the Deverills is out on July 13th 2017.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

The Secrets of Happiness - A Book to Make You Happy - by Lucy Diamond

We all want to be happy, don't we? And I think we're always on the look out for the secrets of happiness that other people seem to have. To this end, Lucy Diamond has written a book to make us happy as step-sisters, Rachel and Becca, do just that with some surprising results.
The Secrets of Happiness explores the lives of  two women who couldn't be more different. Rachel, nine years older, is an organised, focussed career-woman and mother, whilst Becca has not been very successful in anything she's done. She's a little overweight, and she used to run a jewellery business with a friend, but it didn't come to anything.
At Rachel's father's funeral (Becca's step-father), a woman called Violet tells Rachel that she knew her mother and, 'What a shame it was'. Curious, Rachel sets off from Hereford on a train to Manchester, in the hope of seeing Violet again. However she gets mugged and loses her memory. She hasn't told anyone where she's gone, so when she doesn't return, the neighbour looking after her children, Scarlet and Luke, contacts Becca in Birmingham. Becca gets fired from the pub where she works  because she wants some time off to look after Rachel's children, and so the story starts, and as it continues, Becca finds out that maybe Rachel's life is not so perfect after all.
There are some funny moments as Becca tries to deal with Rachel's clients who are expecting a fit, healthy life coach, not her wheezing sister, and there are some poignant moments as Rachel deals with her injuries and tries to put her own life back together. There are also some tense moments as the step-sisters confront the event that drove them apart.
This book certainly made me happy because I loved the characters that Lucy Diamond has drawn so well. It's the second book of hers that I've read, and I shall certainly look out for some more.