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.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Last Dance in Havana by Rosanna Ley is Hot! Hot! Hot!

‘If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know how much I love Rosanna Ley’s novels; I’ve read four in the past year! So I’m looking forward to reading this one set in Cuba and England from the 1950s to the present day, and enjoying Rosanna’s skill at combining place and the action of the story. This one should be Hot! Hot! Hot!’

That is what I wrote last year in anticipation of reading Last Dance in Havana, and I wasn’t disappointed!

The rhythm of the rumba permeates the story of Elisa and Duardo, who meet at a dance, fall in love, but are forced apart by the political situation in Cuba in the 1950s. Duardo wants to go off and fight for freedom with Castro, and when Elisa is told that he’s been killed, she’s sent to England to make a better life for herself. There, in Bristol, she meets Philip who is kind to her. She marries him, but he will never replace Duardo in her heart. Philip has a young daughter, Grace, who he’s brought up alone after her mother died under tragic circumstances.

In 2012, Philip has become an alcoholic, and Elisa now runs a conversation class for Cubans and other Spanish speakers. Grace is married to Richard, but is unhappy with her career and the fact that he wants to start a family. Theo, a magician, is a good friend of all of them, attending Elisa's class, and spending a lot of time with Grace and Richard, but gradually Grace falls in love with him. 

There are many parallels between the stories of Elisa and Grace, not the least as to whether they end up with their true love. And again, Rosanna Ley sparkles in her descriptions of  Cuba and Bristol, really drawing you into the action and making the settings an integral part of the story. 

Her next book, The Little Theatre by the Sea, set in Dorset and Sardinia, is due out on June 1st, and I can't wait. Perfect holiday reading!

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Searching for a Silver Lining by Miranda Dickinson - A Fabulous Feel-Good Book!

We are always searching for a silver lining, aren't we? And to this end, Miranda Dickinson has written another fabulous feel-good book!  In Searching for a Silver Lining, Mattie is sad that she didn't settle her differences with Grandpa Joe before he died. As he warned, her marriage to Asher has been a disaster, however she is enjoying running her dream Fifties vintage shop, Bell Be-Bop.
But, when she's invited to the Beauvale Sheltered Housing centre to give a talk about the lovely 1950s things she sells, she's befriended by Reenie Silverman. This 84 year-old is the former lead singer with The Silver Five, the group that Mattie's grandpa raved about back in the day.
In exchange for expensive violet cream chocolates, Reenie tells Mattie about her colourful life with the group and, in an effort to make things right with her late grandfather and to help Reenie meet up again with her fellow Silver Five members, she sets off on a road trip in her cherished VW camper van, Rusty, with the octogenarian singer and Gil, the grandson of the owner of the Palm Grove where The Silver Five were to play on the fateful night that Reenie ran away.
It's a wonderful story, with Miranda Dickinson at her best, making me laugh and cry, and laugh even more. I read it so fast that I want to read it again!
It ends with 'THE END?',  but I do hope that there's more to come about Mattie, Reenie and Gil!!