Sunday, 17 May 2020

The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris - Mysterious and Magical

Returning to Lasquenet-sous-Tannes is like returning to a favourite French village after many  years. Vianne Rocher's chocolaterie is still there in the village square, along with Narcisse's flower shop and Francis Reynaud's church, but a chill wind is blowing and snow is falling from the clear blue sky. Someone will be dead before dawn. This is how Joanne Harris starts her fourth novel in the series which began with Chocolat twenty years ago.
It is Narcisse who has died, leaving his valuable woodland to Rosette, Vianne's strange youngest daughter who is only sixteen years old, much to the disgust of Narcisse's daughter, Michèle.
He used to call Rosette his Strawberry Thief because she would eat his wild strawberries, but Michèle can't understand why he should leave her the land.
This story is told from the points of view of Vianne, Rosette, and Reynaud, and also through a confession that Narcisse has written to him before his death, whilst Morgane Dubois arrives to open a new business in Narcisse's empty shop. But who is she and what does she want?
Mysteries abound as the wind changes, forcing changes in the lives of those living in Lasquenet, and revealing many parallels between them.
This another wonderful mysterious, magical novel about this entrancing place and its people and I really enjoyed it so much that I think I will go back and, starting with Chocolat, read the series all over again.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Coming Up Roses by Rachael Lucas - The Perfect Book to Relax with in the Garden

If you are looking for the perfect book to relax with in the garden, then Coming Up Roses by Rachael Lucas is the one for you.
Daisy has arrived in Steeple St John to house-sit for her parents whilst they are on a gap year trip to India and also to look after their elderly golden retriever, Polly. Daisy studied horticulture at agricultural college, and after a disasterous relationship there, she's glad to get away and immerse herself in putting her parents' garden to rights.
She quickly gets involved with village life after dousing Elaine with her hose by mistake, and being invited to her house where she meets Jo, a counsellor at Elaine's husband's school. She also becomes friendly with eighty-five-year-old Thomas, a gardener who knows most of the gardens in the village. There is also Ned, a local vet, who she meets a the Parish council meetings and George, the gorgeous Irishman with blue eyes who is out to steal her heart.
Rachael Lucas has written a great representation of village life led by the formidable, Flora, the leader of the Parish council whom Daisy and Ned find so funny, but all this is challenged by the developers who want to build three executive homes in the garden of Orchard Villa when Daisy's parents decide to put it up for sale.
I really enjoyed this warm-hearted, funny book and it is the third novel that I've read by Rachael Lucas this year. I can thoroughly recommend it.

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Secrets of Santorini by Patricia Wilson - A Passionate Romance with a Totally Gripping Mystery

Main photo from
It didn't look as if I'd be going on my holiday to the Greek Islands this year, so I bought Secrets of Santorini by Patricia Wilson instead and I've really loved it!
It is a passionate romance with a totally gripping mystery, told in turn by Bridget, and Irini, her daughter.
In about 1990, Bridget, an archeology student, in Dublin, falls in love with her professor, Tommy McGuire who is fifteen years older. Because such an affair isn't acceptable, he resigns and goes to Santorini to do some research on finding Atlantis. Bridget then gives up her course and flies out to join him and they get married.
On the day that they find Queen Thira's dragonfly necklace which could be the key to solving the mystery of Atlantis, he has an heart attack and Bridget has to sell the necklace to pay for his operation and hospital stay. At the same time, she find out that she's pregnant.
At night, her dreams are full of Queen Thira who rules Atlantis with her ten kings and her battle with Poseidon for some land in Crete where they can escape to when the volcano that Atlantis sits on erupts.
In the present day, Irini, Bridget and Tommy's daughter, has never felt loved and wanted by her parents. At the age of five, she was shipped back to Ireland to boarding school. Now her parents have returned to Dublin, but her mother cannot stay away from Santorini, so she goes back.
Tommy is ill, but Bridget is now also seriously injured in hospital in Crete so Irini goes there to try find out why her parents have always been so distant, and to see her mother one last time. At Heraklion airport, a Greek man rescues her suitcase from the carousel and clumsily, she drives her trolley over his foot. Later, in her hire car, she knocks a man off his bicycle, breaking his arm, and it's him! He's called Angelo, and after this very shaky start, they fall in love and he helps her with her quest.
Why have Irini's parents always been so distant?
Why was Bridget compelled to go back to Santorini?
Why were Bridget's dreams full of the story of Queen Thira and her daughter, Oia?
What happened to the dragonfly necklace that Bridget sold?
This unputdownable novel is told against the very realistic backdrop of Santorini and Crete, nestling in the blue Aegean Sea. Even a neighbour noisily mowing his grass, couldn't pull me away from this story. Fantastic!
And even more fantastic, another book by Patricia Wilson, Greek Island Escape, is out on April 16th!

Sunday, 5 April 2020

A Nice Cup of Tea by Celia Imrie - An Adventure, A Mystery, A Comedy and A Delightful Romp

A Nice Cup of Tea by Celia Imrie is a perfect book to relax with and dream that you are sunning yourself on the French Riviera. So pour out that tea, or a nice glass of wine and enjoy!
I haven't read the first two books about the group of retired expats who buy a restaurant in Bellevue-sur-Mer, although I have read Sail Away which I loved, so I certainly will read the others now.
This one begins when they are hoping La Mosaïque will be saved by the sale of a valuable mosaic thought to be by Picasso, but that all falls through at the last moment and Theresa, Sally, William, Benjamin and Carol are left trying to save their restaurant with hilarious and surprising results.
This book has everything from a stalker who seems to be following Theresa;  a runaway, Theresa's granddaughter, Chloe; bankruptcy, La Mosaïque; the glamorous world of filming, Sally; sailing, Sally again; the French Rivera, a beautiful backdrop to the story; and drugs, don't ask!
It is an adventure, a mystery, a comedy and a delightful romp with a cast of wonderful characters which I thoroughly enjoyed and I hope that you will too.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Staying at Home This Year? Why Not Travel by Book? - Part Two

No one is going to be travelling anywhere for time being, so what better than to immerse yourself in one of these wonderful novels that are due out this summer? These are by some of my favourite authors, and I'm looking forward to settling down, indoors or out, and sailing away with them!

From Venice with Love by Rosanna Ley out on June 25th -  Destination Venice
I have travelled all over the world with Rosanna Ley since reading her first book, The Villa, which was set in Sicily. I love her books because she always makes the setting a key part of the story.
I'm looking forward to this one because it starts in Dorset, and goes to Lisbon and Prague before reaching Venice. A wonderful trip indeed!
It is about two sisters: Harriet who is struggling to run the family farm and Joanna who returns home only to set off again to solve the mystery of Emmy, who wrote the bundle of illustrated love letters which she finds.

The 24 Hour Café by Libby Page was due out on June 25th, but now it's been put back to February 18th 2021, but we can still read it on Kindle or in hardback. Personally, I prefer a paperback, but there you go! - Destination, Your local café
I'm looking forward to reading Libby's second book because I enjoyed her worldwide success, The Lido, so much.
If you are missing your local café, because of social distancing, this will one be a treat. Stella's café is open for twenty-four hours each day and everyone is welcome. Hannah and Mona work there and have dreams of their own, but during one twenty-four hours, their friendship will be tested, lives will be changed and the community will come together.

The Family Holiday by Elizabeth Noble also due out on June 25th - Destination, not sure! Looks like a bit of a magical mystery tour as there is little information available about it online.
Anyway, I've enjoyed all her other Sunday Times best selling novels over the years, so I'm sure this one will be no different. The blurb says it's about 'the joys and heartbreak of a family divided and reunited', so I'll be glad to go wherever it takes me.

Kate and Clara's Curious Cornish Craft Shop by Ali MacNamara due out on July 23rd - Destination, Cornwall!
Earlier this year, I read all Ali's Notting Hill trilogy, and also once again enjoyed Step Back in Time which you must read if you love The Beatles!
However, I have read all her more recent books too because they always have a wonderful touch of magic.
Kate has at last opened her quirky craft shop selling her handmade textile designs. However, some embroidered pictures and mysterious paintings hint about a sixty-year-old love affair, which Jack, who runs the local art shop, helps her to solve, resulting in the discovery of many similarities between them and the 1950s pair.  I can't wait to find out what happens!

Escape to the French Farmhouse by Jo Thomas due out on July 9th - Destination, Provence
Jo is another of my favourite authors, and I have read all her books since her very first, The Oyster Catcher, which came out in 2014. All her books have been about food and love, from oysters to lemons! This one is about baking with lavender.
After a disastrous six weeks in Provence, Del and her husband, Ollie, decide to return home, but as the removal van drives away, she decides that a new life in France without him would bring her the most happiness. She finds a recipe book at the market which Fabian runs and begins to bake, but will this really bring her the joy she desires?

I hope that you will enjoy my selection of novels and try some new authors. Travelling by book is much cheaper than your usual holiday, after all!
If you missed Part One, you can find it here.
Happy travelling!

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Finding Hope at Hillside Farm by Rachel Lucas - A Great Read for Mother's Day

What better title could you want at the moment and what better book to cheer you up?
Finding Hope at Hillside Farm  by Rachael Lucas certainly fits the bill.
Ella's Aunt Bron goes off to Australia for six months, leaving her to run Hillside Farm. She enlists the help of local girl, Charlotte with her ever-changing hair colour, to help her run her equine therapy business.
One day Ella sees a strange young girl peering through a hedge at her. She finds out her name is Hope and she has come with her grandparents, Jenny and Lou, to spend six months in Llanidaeron in a rented cottage. They, along with Hope's father, Harry, are all trying to come to terms with the death of Hope's mother, Sarah, five years ago.
Eventually, Hope comes to the stables as Ella's first child client, and learning to gain confidence with the horses helps her with confidence in her own life.
Through Hope, Ella finds that she comes to terms with her own past which means that she can now make the most of her own life as well.
Rachael Lucas describes life perfectly in this Welsh village with all its wonderful characters, and I found it such a joy to read.

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Travelling by Book this Summer! Part One

Even if we may not be able to travel on an aeroplane or a cruise ship this summer, we can always travel by book!
2020 is a great year for new paperbacks by my favourite authors, so these are the books that I'm going to read and these are the places I'm going to travel to from the comfort of my own home.

The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris out already on Kindle, the paperback will be available on April 15th 2021 - Destination, France
As with probably everyone else, my first novel by Joanne Harris was Chocolat, the beautifully magical story thought to be set in Aquitaine. This eagerly awaited fourth book in the series finds Vianne back in Lasquenet-sous-Tannes running her chocolate shop with Rosette, but when Narcisse, the florist dies and leaves Rosestte some land, and a written confession to Reynaud, the priest, the cat is put amongst the pigeons.

The Secret Hours by Santa Montefiore out on July 9th - Destination, Ireland
The first novel I read by Santa Montefiore was The Swallow and The Hummingbird, the haunting love story of Rita and George, set in Devon and Argentina, and from that one I was hooked and I have read probably most of her nineteen books! This novel is set in Ballinakelly and sheds more light on the family who appeared in The Deverill Chronicles which told their story from 1910 to the 1960s.
This stand-alone story starts around 1885 and is about Bertie and Rupert's younger sister, Arethusa.
I really loved the Deverill trilogy and I'm looking forward to finding out more about this turbulent family.

The Giver of Stars by  Jojo Moyes out on May 14th - Destination, Kentucky
The first book I read by Jojo Moyes was The Ship of Brides, set after the Second World War when the Australian brides of British servicemen were brought back to England to be reunited with their husbands, and I was so captivated by the stories of the different girls and their relationships with each other and the crew, that I've read it several times.
This new book is also about a group of women who set out on a journey together, this time to spread the wonder of reading to the poor and lost. Based on a true story, it follows English girl, Alice, who has fallen into a controlling and loveless marriage to wealthy American, Bennett Van Cleve; and Margery O'Hare, a troublesome woman, and daughter of the local felon, who gathers a band of like-minded women together to trek through open skies and mountain forests and to discover freedom and friendship. I can't wait!

A Wedding At The Beach Hut by Veronica Henry out on May 28th - Destination, Good old British Seaside!
Looking back, the very first book I read by Veronica Henry was  . . . The Beach Hut! I have read several more since then because she is so good at weaving people's stories together. This is the fourth in her series about the beach huts at Everdene Sands. Robyn and Jake are planning their wedding, a small affair on the beach with their favourite people, but Robyn's thinking about her birth mother who gave her up for adoption and the box she left with her. Her adoptive parents are thinking about a new life for themselves and far away, Emily is thinking about the daughter she relinquished thirty years ago.
As always, I'm sure that their stories will be expertly woven together and I'm looking forward to losing myself on the beach in this one!

An Almost Perfect Holiday by  Lucy Diamond Also out on May 28th - Destination, Cornwall
This is the third book I've read by Lucy Diamond. She is excellent about writing about families, and relationships and I'm looking forward to being warmed by the Cornish sunshine as I read this one.
Lorna's holiday cottages are ready for new set of arrivals but will it be the perfect holiday they all yearn for?  Em is worried about how she will get on with George's, six-year-old son; Maggie wants to get on better with her daughter, but then her ex turns up and she wonders if she can trust him again; Olivia has escaped the domestic grind, but what will happen when her past catches up with her?   With romance, trust, courage, wild teenagers and love in the air, the scene is set for an almost perfect holiday!

These are the first five novels I've chosen for my 'travel by book' summer.  I hope that I've inspired you to buy them and maybe try some of the other books by these wonderful writers.
Look out for the rest of my list, coming shortly!

Sunday, 1 March 2020

The Telephone Box Library by Rachael Lucas - Make Yourself Comfy and Enjoy!

The Telephone Box Library is the first book I've read by Rachael Lucas and I really enjoyed it!
Lucy is taking a six month sabbatical from teaching in Brighton because all the stress has made her ill.
She finds an advert for a Cotswold cottage with reduced rent in exchange for keeping an eye on an elderly neighbour, and decides to take it.
Little Maudley is a beautiful village within reach of Milton Keynes and Oxford, and Bletchley Park; perfect for a history teacher to do some research on the Second World War. She is welcomed by Margaret who wants her to pop in regularly to see her feisty mother-in-law, Bunty, who is in her nineties.
Life is quiet in the Cotswolds, just what Lucy needs to get better in contrast with bustling Brighton, but conflict soon arises over the defunct telephone box on the village green which has played such an important part in village life. Walking her little dog, Hamish, she meets Mel, a dog walker amongst other things, whose daughter, Clemmie, is friends with Freya, the daughter of Mel's old schoolfriend, Sam, who's bringing up fourteen-year-old Freya on his own.
And as Lucy gradually become involved in the village, he takes her to see one of the specialist tree houses he's built for a couple who foster problem children, and soon, she begins to feel a flicker of attraction to him, but does he feel the same?
Will Lucy return to her teaching post in Brighton, or will she stay in Little Maudley?
Also, why is Bunty so determined the telephone box must stay, and what is the secret she has been hiding about the war?
A delightful novel, full of village life with wonderful characters from the spirited Bunty to the young teenagers, Freya and Clemmie, and fantastic scenery which makes you believe you are right there in the Cotswold countryside .
Don't hesitate, make yourself comfy and enjoy!

Sunday, 2 February 2020

the man who didn't call - The Fantastic New Novel by Rosie Walsh

the man who didn't call is the fantastic new novel by Rosie Walsh who has previously written four under the pseudonym of Lucy Robinson.

Sarah met Eddie in Gloucestershire, on a village green, talking to a sheep, on the anniversary of her sister, Hannah's fatal accident.
They spend a perfect, glorious, romantic week together, but he has arranged to go on holiday to Spain with a friend, and she has to go to Leicester, where her grandfather is dangerously ill. They promise to keep in touch because this is something special for both of them.
But he never calls.
She tries to contact him in every way, but there is no reply.
Over the weeks, she does find Alan, the one Eddie was to go on holiday with, but he doesn't know, or won't say where he is, neither does Martin, another friend at his football club.
She begins to think that her obsession might be driving her over the edge, so she confides in her old school friends, Tommy and Jo, and Jenni, who works at Sarah's office in LA.
Who is Eddie? Where is he? What is his secret?
This is a gripping mystery, written in flashbacks to the magical time Sarah and Eddie spent together as her life goes on without him, and includes the letters letters that Sarah wrote to him and her sister, Hannah.
Rosie Walsh grew up in the Cotswolds and the descriptions her of this wonderful Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty are amazing. The characters are believable too, and I found myself thinking about where Eddie was even when I was doing something else. Lastly this book evokes every emotion from laughter to tears. I loved it!

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Coming Home to Winter Island by Jo Thomas - Beautiful, Sensitive and Romantic!

I was captivated right from the beginning of Coming Home to Winter Island,  Jo Thomas' latest novel. It is the story of Ruby Mac, a singer with a band just on the brink of stardom when she loses her voice. Planning to go to Tenerife for Christmas for some rest and recuperation on the advice of her doctor, she receives a phone call from a solicitor, as she's her grandfather's only living relative, asking her to go to a remote Scottish island to sign some papers so her grandfather, who she's never met, can sell his house and go into a care home on the  mainland.
Not letting Joe, her boyfriend and manager, or the rest of the band know what she is doing, she sets off to Scotland, thinking it will only be for a day or two and she can still get to the retreat in Tenerife by Christmas.
However, things turn out to be more complicated. She meets Lachlan, at her grandfather's house, Teach Mhor. He's been living in the attic and looking after Hector, her grandfather, whilst foraging for food over the island for them both and selling his dishes to the local pub.
Hector who is losing his memory spends his time looking in cupboards for something that is lost. This turns out to be the recipe for Teach Mhor's unique gin. Lachlan thinks that if they can find the recipe and distill the gin, they may be able to save Teach Mohr itself.
They have until Candlemas to find it and raise enough money for the care home or Hector's place will be given to someone else.
Will they find the recipe?
Will they raise the money?
Has Ruby found her home on the island?
Will she uncover the family secret that drove Hector and her father apart?
This book is beautifully written, capturing the wild winter on the island, the local community, and the world of Ruby, the singer. It sensitively shows Hector's mental frailty, and the rare moments when he can remember the past and romantically, it shows the growing relationship between Ruby and Lachlan as they fight for Teach Mohr.