Saturday, 20 February 2021
Sunday, 3 January 2021
Friday, 11 September 2020
Kate and Clara's Curious Cornish Craft Shop by Ali McNamara - Another of her Wonderful Magical Novels set in St Felix
Kate has been running her craft shop in Harbour Street successfully for eighteen months, so she is furious when Jack opens his own art supplies shop, in direct competition, just up the road.
However, they are brought together by the magic of an old sewing machine and an artist's easel which Noah, who owns the Noah's Ark antique shop in the town, has bought in a house clearance sale.
Overnight, the sewing machine embroiders a picture for Kate, whilst Jack finds a painting on the easel. When they put them together, as the two pictures match, they find themselves observing a moving image of St Felix back in the 1950s where Maggie, a young girl in a wheelchair like Jack, and her mother, Clara, meet an artist who gives them a picture that he has sketched of them by the harbour.
It is a wonderful book to lose yourself in as you learn about the parallels between Clara's story and Kate's, whilst her affection for the grumpy Jack deepens despite the advances of the suave Julian James, who is the son of the famous St Felix artist, Winston James, whose paintings are being exhibited at the Lyle Gallery.
Escape into this enchanting story, you can't help but enjoy it!
Sunday, 23 August 2020
It is 1937, and Alice, 'kept at home' because of her unseemly behaviour, is swept off her feet by Bennett, a gorgeous, rich American whom she marries to escape the tedium of the English Home Counties. But, when she arrives in Baileyville, Kentucky, she finds that she has to live with Bennett and his boorish father, Geoffrey Van Cleeve, which means that the restrictions on her life are just as bad.
The WPA (Works Progress Association) packhorse library was set up by Eleanor Roosevelt to help educate the minds of the mountain people. Here in Baileyville, they mainly work in the Hoffman coal mine, under the the control of Bennett's father, in very poor conditions. So when Mrs Brady invites Alice to join the packhorse library, she sees it as an opportunity not only to to escape, once again, but also to help these people, and although her horseback experience only amounts to riding round her grandma's Sussex estate, she eventually enjoys the treks up the mountain and gets to know the people there.
Margery O'Hare, one of the packhorse librarians, is threatened on her round one cold December day by Clem McCullough whose family has had a feud with the O'Hares going back decades. However, the people of Baileyville, Kentucky, are used to the constant fighting and many of them are pleased to see Margery and share the library books.
These two women, drawn together by the library, form an unlikely friendship. Margery, with her wild upbringing, is fiercely independent; she doesn't want to marry Sven who is devoted to her and wants to live by her own rules, whilst Alice, independent in her own way, has found that leaving England has thrown her out of the frying pan into the fire.
The title, The Giver of Stars, comes from a beautiful poem of the same name by Amy Lowell, (1874 - 1925) about joy and pleasure. This is something that Alice has yet to experience with Bennett, and something that the the local women have problems with too, until Margery begins to pass round a little blue book called, Married Love, by Dr Marie Stopes, which helps them, but enrages Geoffrey Van Cleve. Further trouble ensues when she distributes a letter urging the people to stand up against his plans to extend the mine.
It is these and other problems that bring Alice, Margery, and their friends Izzy, Beth and Sophia together, helped by Fred, the kind horse trainer who offers his barn to house the books, to fight for what they believe in and the very future of the packhorse library itself.
Sunday, 19 July 2020
Lorna and her husband, Roy, let out their three beautiful holiday cottages set around a sparkling blue swimming pool in Cornwall. But this year, drama unfolds as the three women who come to stay in them find that this holiday will mean that they will reassess their lives, put the past behind them and venture out into a new future that they hadn't reckoned on, and even Lorna and Roy find their lives have changed immeasurably too.
Em, a middle-aged mother to Izzie, aged sixteen, and Jack, aged fifteen, arrives with her boyfriend, George, who has had to bring his demanding seven-year-old daughter, Seren, because his ex-wife, Charlotte, has had to go to Berlin on business. This completely upsets Em's dream holiday where she had looked forward to spending more time with George, but Seren keeps getting in the way saying how much better her mummy is than Em and causing trouble for Izzie.
Izzie has her own problems, trying to impress her friends on social media because, for them, this is the Summer of Saying Yes. However, Jack is pleased to meet fourteen-year-old Amelia, who arrives with her mum, Maggie, but when Izzie chaperones them on a trip to Falmouth, trouble ensues.
Maggie, a teacher, has vowed never to trust another man since her husband, Will, left her to bring up their daughter alone. But things go wrong for her when Amelia gets in contact with Will and is invited to spend a few days in Exeter with his new family. So gone are Maggie's dreams of bonding again with her teenage daughter over countryside walks, and instead, she has time to consider her own life.
The last woman to arrive is Olivia. The others think that her husband has bought her this holiday for some rest and relaxation, but little do they know what her secret really is.
This is a wonderfully engrossing book with believable characters. It is very hard to put down because you really care how Em's blended family's problems are resolved; whether Maggie and Amelia can build new bridges; and what Olivia is hiding.
If you can't go on holiday this year, then An Almost Perfect Holiday will make you glad that you stayed at home to read it!
Sunday, 5 July 2020
Robyn and Jake are landscape gardeners;
business partners who fell in love, and their wedding party, a small affair with their favourite people, is to be held in the Shedquarters, the beach hut that belongs to Jake's family on Everdene Sands.
On her eighteenth birthday, Robyn's mother, Sylvia, gave her a special box from her birth mother, Emily. Robyn knew she'd been adopted, but couldn't bring herself to open it until now, when she is pregnant herself, and getting married in just one month's time. However, she worries about upsetting her parents if she gets in touch with Emily. They have been wonderful, bringing her up on the beautiful Hawksworthy Farm in Devon, giving her the life that she may never have had. But now the farm is losing money and Sheila and Mick must decide whether not to sell it.
Jake's parents, Rocky and Tina, have split up. Rocky, a builder, moved them all to Devon to have a simple family life, but it was too quiet for her, so she moved back to Enfield to run her hairdressing business, leaving him to earn a living and look after their two boys, Jake and Ethan. Now Jake's getting married and Ethan's off to uni, he's feeling lonely and wondering what his future will be. However, the Shedquarters has been his lifeline and the centre of family beach life for him and the boys and, with a lick of paint, will be the perfect wedding venue.
When she opens the box, Robyn discovers that Emily, has written her a letter about giving her up thirty years ago. This breaks Robyn's heart, but she also worries about getting in touch with her as her family may not know about the existence of a baby at all. Meanwhile, Emily has never stopped thinking about the little baby girl she relinquished all those years ago.
This is a warm and delightful novel with real characters you care about, their stories expertly woven together, set in around the beautiful Devon coast, with that all important feel-good ending.
Piano playing does come into it and I challenge you to resist finding that piece by Ravel on YouTube!
Sunday, 28 June 2020
The story starts when Gerty and Mo, her old uni friends, are viewing a really grotty flat with Tiffy after she has split up with Justin and has had to move out of his flat, still owing him rent. This place is all she can afford, but then she finds an ad on Gumtree for a sunny one-bedroomed flat in Stockwell. One bedroom and one bed. Leon works nights at a hospice, so the flat and the bed would be hers from 6pm to 9am every night. She's an assistant editor works from 9 to 5. What could possibly go wrong?
They have never met. It is Kay, Leon's girlfriend, who shows Tiffy the flat to check up on her, of course, and because Tiffy is very tall and has a crazy fashion sense, Kay doesn't think she'll be much of a threat. . . But Leon and Tiffy soon get to know each other even so, as they correspond by leaving Post-it notes around the flat.
The other characters which make this such an entertaining read are: Katherin, who's written a book about knitting and crochet which Tiffy is trying to promote with hilarious results; Holly, a child at the hospice who is wise beyond her years; Mr Price, an elderly man at the hospice who is desperate to find the lost love of his life; and Richie, Leon's brother, who is waiting for an appeal because he says he's been imprisoned for a crime that he didn't commit.
All these people's stories are about love and loss, and finding new love and friendship which make this a novel really worth reading.