Friday, 28 August 2015

5* review - No Place to Hide - Susan Lewis

Why has Justine Cantrell suddenly changed her name, abandoned the husband and family she loves and a successful business to start a new life in a place many thousands of miles away? 

There isn't a man involved, but there is a terrible secret that she must hide from her new friends and neighbours as securely as she needs to hide herself from those she's left behind. 

What is Justine's secret?

I am a huge fan of Susan Lewis but No Place to Hide blew me away, it has to, for me, go down as her best yet!

Justine is on the run from something, that much is clear. Settling in a quiet US town which she has distant links to from her past, with her small daughter she is extremely keen that no-one must know her secrets.

The book flicks back and forth to Justine's past, living in the UK with loving husband Matt and their two, then, small children, Ben and Abby. They seem to have it all; successful careers, a beautiful house and an enviable lifestyle.

About halfway into the book Justine's secret is revealed, and boy - is it huge! I was so shocked I had to re-read the chapter twice. It intensifies the story as Justine becomes forced to let her two worlds collide, and face the consequences.

I loved every part of this book and in so many ways likened it to a good Diane Chamberlain novel (another one of my favourites). The plot was tight, compelling and had real flow. The characters likeable and believable, I really felt for Justine's character and wanted her to find her happily-ever-after!

I couldn't recommend this more! A huge 5*!

Review copy kindly provided by the publisher via Netgalley

Thursday, 27 August 2015

5* Review: The Bones of You by Debbie Howells

I have a gardener's inherent belief in the natural order of things. Soft-petalled flowers that go to seed. The resolute passage of the seasons. Swallows that fly thousands of miles to follow the eternal summer.

Children who don't die before their parents.

A community in shock

When eighteen-year-old Rosie Anderson disappears, the idyllic village where she lived will never be the same again. Local gardener Kate is struck with guilt. She'd come to know Rosie well, and thought she understood her - perhaps better even than Rosie's own mother.

A family torn apart

Rosie was beautiful, kind and gentle. She came from a loving family and she had her whole life ahead of her. Who could possibly want to harm her? And why?

A keeper of secrets

Kate is convinced the police are missing something. She's certain that someone in the village knows more than they're letting on. As the investigation deepens, so does Kate's obsession with solving the mystery of what happened to Rosie.

In a small Sussex town eighteen year old Rosie Anderson goes missing. Her mother contacts her friend Kate inquiring of her whereabouts but initially is not all that concerned. Kate is; she knows this is so out of character for quiet Rosie, even if her mother doesn't think so.

It does not take long for a body to be found, shattering the town apart. Parents fearing for their children, townsfolk looking on one another with suspicion. Until arrests are made, and secrets come to light.

The Bones of You is an exceptional debut novel from Debbie Howells. The plot is engaging, characters easy to delve in to - I especially liked Kate and the different dynamics of her relationships. The psychological element is strong but I did not find it unsettling, it was compelling in a subtle way, rather like real life as opposed to far-fetched-fiction.

The conclusion played out well, and rather like Broadchurch, I did suspect the killer, but the book reads in a way that really I suspected everyone at one point. The Bones of You has been likened to Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, however the only connection I made was the alternate narration by the deceased girls, and the fact that young girls were murdered, I found both books utterly compelling in different ways - and The Lovely Bones - to me - had a far more graphic and shocking element, and a very peculiar ending, in my opinion!

I really did enjoy this book and eagerly await more from Howells.

NB. Review copy kindly provided by the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

5* review - Appleby Farm by Cathy Bramley

Freya Moorcroft has wild red hair, mischievous green eyes, a warm smile and a heart of gold. She’s been happy working at the cafĂ© round the corner from Ivy Lane allotments and her romance with her new boyfriend is going well, she thinks, but a part of her still misses the beautiful rolling hills of her Cumbrian childhood home: Appleby Farm.

Then a phone call out of the blue and a desperate plea for help change everything…

The farm is in financial trouble, and it’s taking its toll on the aunt and uncle who raised Freya. Heading home to lend a hand, Freya quickly learns that things are worse than she first thought. As she summons up all her creativity and determination to turn things around, Freya is surprised as her own dreams for the future begin to take shape.

Love makes the world go round, according to Freya. Not money. But will saving Appleby Farm and following her heart come at a price?

How I love Cathy Bramley, and how pleased I was to realise that some of my favourite Ivy Lane characters would be popping up in Appleby Farm, and that it was centered around Freya Moorcroft who we had met in the latter half of Ivy Lane.

Freya works in the cafe around the corner from the Ivy Lane allotments, it's just a cover job, as much of Freya's employment seems to be. She feels that she has never really settled anywhere, even though she is now in a relationship with Charlie which she thought was going swimmingly until he breaks it to her that it's just 'a bit of fun' and seems quite unwilling to introduce her to his young son.

When she receives a phone call from her Auntie Sue saying that her Uncle Arthur has had an accident while driving his tractor she is devastated. She jumps on the next train to be with them and help out while her uncle is laid up. When she arrives there she feels guilty that her aunt and uncle have aged considerably, she realises this is due to the fact that she has not visited anywhere near as much as she should have in the past few years.
While she is there she feels the comfort of home, as she has always looked upon the farm as, and wonders whether there is anything really to return back to Kingsfield for.
As she contemplates her decision she uncovers a troubling secret and a catastrophe that puts the future of Appleby Farm in jeopardy.
Freya puts her thinking cap on to try and save her childhood home and the family who virtually raised her, she draws on every resource she can, until she can go no further and has to take the leap of contacting her parents who she has always vowed never to go cap in hand to, but when needs must...

Family tensions run high, especially when Freya's (vile) brother appears on the scene and threatens all the hard work that Freya has achieved, but the rekindled friendship with her childhood bestie Harry proves just the tonic that Freya needs.

I adored watching bubbly Freya return to her childhood home and her lovely Aunty Sue and Uncle Arthur, and watching her character develop from the lost soul she seemed to be in the very beginning - or even further back for those who have read Ivy Lane where she first featured working in the cafe. 

Appleby Farm is beautifully touching and vibrant, all told with Cathy's wonderful, warm sense of humour. I loved the family ethos at Appleby Farm, how fences are mended (physically and metaphorically) and how Tilly Parker (Ivy Lane) celebrated her beautiful wedding at Freya's beautiful vintage tearooms which was described so perfectly I felt I was a guest looking on, with obligatory tears in my eyes.

A perfect feel-good read!

Follow the rest of the tour here:

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Wickham Hall: Part Two - Summer Secrets by Cathy Bramley - 5* review!

Summertime at Wickham Hall is hard to beat. The sun is out, the gardens are in full bloom, and the Summer Festival is just around the corner.

With a clipboard in one hand and her diary in the other, Holly Swift is in her element. She’s even warming to Ben, her disorganised, spontaneous (if very attractive) boss who occasionally drives her mad.

But as the festival rolls near, a family secret from the past threatens to rain down on Holly’s parade. Can she weather the storm, or is this a problem not even Holly can plan her way out of?

Wickham Hall is an utterly feel-good story told in four parts – following Holly Swift’s attempt at organising her own happy-ever-after, one catastrophe at a time. Summer Secrets is part two.

We return to Wickham Hall with a summer bang! Preparations for the summer festival are in full swing, and with a lovely touch of it being Lord and Lady Fortescue's 30th anniversary at Wickham Hall which is to be celebrated in style.

The pearl anniversary theme is celebrated well, and Holly Swift's new, yet slightly laid back and reluctant boss (and heir to the Wickham Hall estate), Benedict actually seems to be pulling his weight. Holly and co. are still run ragged but the festival seems to be a huge success.

We delve deeper in to Holly's family life and the secrets surrounding her birth - and are left with a blinding realisation settling in the pit of Holly's stomach that could change everything.

I love everything about the Wickham Hall series, the description of the house and grounds is particularly beautiful and the characters have a special way of drawing you into their story. All this along with Cathy's dry, observant wit and the general loveliness of the plot make the second installment of Wickham Hall a winner. Can't wait for part three!

The Heavenly Italian Ice Cream Shop - Abby Clements

Anna and her husband Matteo are ready to embark a delicious Italian adventure. After a year and a half running their ice cream shop on Brighton beach and raising their baby Isabella, Matteo is starting to miss Italy. A shared passion for ices means it's easy to settle on a new business idea - they'll open a shop in Sorrento's cobbled square, a short walk from the sparkling blue sea. For a while, life is sweet; but then Matteo's overbearing family get involved …

Anna's younger sister Imogen feels like things are finally coming together - she's living with boyfriend Finn in a beach house in Brighton, and her photography is taking off. Then her career stalls, and the lure of Capri - and a man from her past - prove difficult to resist. 

I am a huge fan of Abby Clements' books so I knew I was in for a summery treat when reading this latest offering. It did not disappoint.

We pick up on Imogen and Anna's life from her book Vivien's Heavenly Ice Cream Shop but worry not, if you haven't read it then it is very easy to pick up on who's who and it's a perfectly good standalone read. It will make you want to go back and find out where the family's story began though. They are running their late grandmother's ice cream shop on Brighton sea front and making a huge success of it. Imogen is trying to pursue her photography career though so it is Anna and husband Matteo that run the day-to-day side of the business...and very well too. 

Their baby, Bella comes along and her arrival makes Matteo yearn for his life and family back in Italy, and after some soul searching and research they find the perfect gelateria in Sorrento. The small family relocate leaving Anna's family behind in the UK where secrets from the past are revealed changing someone's life. 

Imogen and Finn are also having problems as Imo feels that things are becoming too serious and she feels unable to settle down while her thirst to travel is still unquenched. This threatens to blow their relationship and stability apart.

I loved to be back with the McAvoys again and this book's setting in the gorgeous Sorrento was a beautiful, summery escape. It is well written with a gentle plot that will leave you fulfilled and entertained with a really lovely ending. A perfect holiday read.