Wednesday, 27 July 2016

5* review: The Bookshop on Rosemary Lane by Ellen Berry

Take a trip to the Yorkshire village of Burley Bridge, where a very special little cookbook shop is about to open its doors…
In the beginning…
Kitty Cartwright has always solved her problems in the kitchen. Her cookbooks are her life, and there isn’t an issue that ‘Cooking with Aspic’ can’t fix. Her only wish is that she had a book entitled ‘Rustling Up Dinner When Your Husband Has Left You’.
Forty years later…
On Rosemary Lane, Della Cartwright plans to open a very special little bookshop. Not knowing what to do with the hundreds of cookbooks her mother left her, she now wants to share their recipes with the world – and no amount of aspic will stand in her way.
But with her family convinced it’s a hare-brained scheme, Della starts to wonder if she’s made a terrible decision. One thing’s for sure: she’s about to find out…

The book opens with a snippet of Della's childhood; her father had left and Della clearly needed to take the reigns to feed their family. It was okay though as her mother had an extraordinary amount of cookery books to choose from, so she knew just where to begin.

Forward forty years and Della's mother is about to take her last breath, and Della feels she'll even mess that up by missing it. She's hitting mid life, her daughter is growing up fast and on the verge of starting uni and her husband, Mark, seems far more interested in his job caring for other people's scabby feet than her.

Things in Della's mind seem to change though when she inherits her mother's seemingly endless supply of cookbooks and it causes tension around the home, with the question keeping cropping up - 'Just what was she going to do with them?'

She decides to inject some purpose into her life and transform a little shop in the village she grew up in into a specialist shop for cookery books, and she has all the romantic notions of how it will look, and who will shop there - just not that much idea how to run it!
But in seemingly the style of capable Della, she formulates a plan and does not let the way her life is panning out get in her way.

I found Mark deplorable from the off - bad husband he was, and the rest of her family didn't offer much support to her but that just went to illuminate what a strong woman Della was. I was so pleased the way her life worked out and was surprised by the curve ball that delving into her mother's past threw her.

I loved the characters, especially Della (of course) and Monica, the older lady Della befriended in unusual circumstances.

All in all I found this first offering from Ellen Berry a lovely, feel good story and I really can't wait for the next two books out in this series.

A well deserved 5/5!

Friday, 22 July 2016

5* Review: Falling by Julie Cohen

Honor’s secret threatens to rob her of the independence she’s guarded ferociously for eighty years.

Jo’s secret could smash apart the ‘normal’ family life she’s fought so hard to build.

Lydia’s could bring her love - or the loss of everything that matters to her.

I first discovered Julie Cohen when Transworld kindly sent me a copy of Dear Thing in 2013. I was hooked after a few pages and fell in love with Cohen's storytelling voice, her warmth and humour. The award winning Where Love Lies was to be released the following year and that too was wonderful, a very different story but just as good. I was ecstatic when I saw that there was a new release on the horizon and quickly requested a copy to review but I am always wary when I really have loved an authors previous work...what if this one doesn't live up to my expectations?

There was certainly nothing to fear!

I read Falling in two days - completely destroying my own word count, but it was totally 
worth it.

The story is centred round a three women within a family: octogenarian grandmother, Honor, mother to Lydia and daughter-in-law to Honor, Jo, and sixteen year old Lydia. The chapters are told from each of their points of view offering all round windows into their lives.

Honor is a cantankerous old woman, doesn't like mess or noise in her home and likes her own way. So when she has a fall and breaks a hip she is mortified to have to move in with Jo and family for a while. She and Jo do not see eye to eye and tensions have been very strained since Stephen, Honor's son died ten years previously when Lydia was very small. Jo remarried and had two more children so Honor felt truly a stranger in their home.

Jo's husband left her holding the babies and ran away with the au-pair, charming character. She's run ragged, has no time for herself whatsoever and feels old and dowdy...until an interesting new neighbour moves in. She really is a wonderful, kind, caring mother though and seems to have the patience of a saint! (at this point it is clear to me that I identify more with Honor. We share the same level of cantankerousness).

And lastly, Lydia. Sixteen, with all the social worries of a sixteen year old, about to take her GCSEs and harbouring a huge secret that would rock her world if it came out. Plus she misses the father she never really knew, she has to help out with her younger brother and sister who although she adores - are really taxing at times.

The dynamics of the family are just wonderful, I absolutely ADORED Honor's character - and there are certain scenes in the book, especially with the children that were so comical and heart warming, it really is a wonderful book.

As always, secrets don't necessarily stay buried - and this builds up to a massive climax, with a wonderful ending. There is such an undercurrent of encouragement in this book, it was extremely uplifting to read!

If I could give this book more than 5* I would, and it has definitely gone in to my top 5 reads of all!

Many thanks to Transworld for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

My so far Summer Reads 2016

So far this summer has been the perfect one to sit down and read while the rain pours down outside the windows! But that's never a bad thing as I've had the perfect list of literary companions.

So far this June and July I've read these beauties...

The Secret of Orchard Cottage 

by Alex Brown

April Wilson is wondering what to do next – her life has been turned upside down after the loss of her husband so she’s hoping to piece herself together again with a visit to her elderly great aunt, Edith. Arriving in the rural idyll of Tindledale, she’s dismayed to find Edith’s cottage and the orchards surrounding it in a sorry state of disrepair. Edith seems to have lost interest completely, instead she’s become desperate to find out what happened to her sister, Winnie, who disappeared during WWII.
April gets to work immediately, discovering that the orchard still delivers a bumper crop each year, and with the help of some of the villagers – including Matt, the enigmatic Farrier – begins to unravel the mystery of the missing Winnie. Slowly,
April can feel things coming to life again – but can Orchard Cottage work its magic on her too?

What an utterly beautiful book, from the characters, to the description, and ultimately to the storyline and wonderfully poignant ending. The Secret of Orchard Cottage left me feeling like I'd had it all within its pages.

The quaint and beautiful village of Tindledale is the feature once again, and some familiar faces pop up throughout, but the main focus is on April and Edie, her nonagenarian spinster aunt who seems to be struggling alone. She has the onset of dementia and often seems to be in the past referring to April as Winnie, the elder sister she has not seen since WWII and does not know the whereabouts of. Armed with her old secret diaries April decides to make it her mission to find out what happened to her other great aunt.

April's story is an incredibly sad one, and I rooted for her from the very start, I wanted so badly to see her rebuild her life and confidence after being made a widow in terribly tragic circumstances. Can Orchard Cottage work it's magic on April and heal the hurt caused?

I loved all the Tindledale books, but this is my overall favourite. A wonderful, charming rollercoaster of a story with characters that you will fall in love with. (The Secret of Orchard Cottage is also a beautiful standalone read.)

The Plumberry School of Comfort Food 

by Cathy Bramley

Verity Bloom hasn't been interested in cooking anything more complicated than the perfect fish finger sandwich, ever since she lost her best friend and baking companion two years ago.

But an opportunity to help a friend lands her right back in the heart of the kitchen. The Plumberry School of Comfort Food is due to open in a few weeks' time and needs the kind of great ideas that only Verity could cook up. And with new friendships bubbling and a sprinkling of romance in the mix, Verity finally begins to feel like she's home.

But when tragedy strikes at the very heart of the cookery school, can Verity find the magic ingredient for Plumberry while still writing her own recipe for happiness?

We're first introduced to Verity Bloom at quite a low point in her life. Double crossed, cheated on, rejected and a chance of something good in her life snuffed out before it began. A poignant walk with her deceased best friend's family made her assess her life and realise she needed to focus, but she had no idea what to focus on, until a chance phone call took her to the Yorkshire village of Plumberry and her best friend Mimi's mother's new cooking school. Verity wasn't sure about the whole cooking thing, as her love of creating food died with Mimi, but she knew she could handle the marketing - as long as she didn't have to step in to the kitchen.

I loved to watch Verity begin to come 'back to life' and loved to see the newly opened Plumberry School of Comfort Food begin to come in to full swing as the classes get underway. Head Chef, Tom, has to try and check his teaching methods as it's more Gordon Ramsey than Cook With Mother, not quite the ethos that Gloria was looking for...and Verity along with kitchen assistant Pixie (I really loved Pixie!) has to be on hand with tissues for the more sensitive trainees; but when a catastrophe hits the village as a reality show comes to promote the school, they all pull together to try and make the event successful.

There are twists, turns and tragedies along the way, and everything is handled with Bramley's warm wit and beautiful descriptions. The characters in this book have been my favourite of hers so far, I would struggle to find a favourite as they really pull you into their world, making you care for them from the very beginning.

I adored the ending and the decision that Verity made (even though it was touch and go and I was undecided for a while!) and loved the fact that all was tied up nicely with an epilogue. However, I'd love to see a Christmas at the Plumberry School of Comfort Food! My favourite 'Cathy' yet and a huge 5*!

My Map of You 

by Isabelle Broom

Holly Wright has had a difficult few years. After her mother's death, she's become expert at keeping people at a distance - including her boyfriend, Rupert.
But when Holly receives an unexpected letter explaining that an aunt she never met has left her a house on the Greek island of Zakynthos, the walls she has built begin to crumble. Arriving on the island, Holly meets the handsome Aidan and slowly begins to uncover the truth about the secret which tore her family apart.
But is the island where Holly really belongs? Or will her real life catch up with her first?

My Map of You was for me, one of those books where I messaged quite a few of my friends as I had started reading, urging them too to read, and it's not often I come across books quite that special.

The glorious description of the Greek island of Zakynthos is none other than sublime and left me so eager to visit. That with the story that made up Holly's life kept me hooked throughout the book and devastated when it ended, however the wonderfully poignant ending made finishing nearly worthwhile!

This is a book I will keep on my shelf and come back to every time I need a feel good dose of sunshine. The most perfect summer read.

I hope you enjoy these reads, let me know your thoughts!

All of these for me deserve a massive 5*

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Review: Last Light by CJ Lyons

A brutally murdered family… a wronged man in prison

From bestselling author CJ Lyons comes a new, standalone Lucy Guardino series for fans of Lisa Gardner and Angela Marsons
1987: Lily Martin is horrifically murdered along with her young child in Texas.
Today: Life should be easy after leaving the FBI – but not if you're detective Lucy Guardino. Lucy has always seen herself as a normal mum who happened to have a job chasing the worst of the worst. But after a violent predator targets her family and she's injured, Lucy sacrifices her career at the Bureau.
She joins the Beacon Group, a firm that specializes in cold cases. Lucy fears she's traded the elite for shepherding a team of amateurs.
Sent to rural Texas, Guardino is to investigate a case that's already been closed with the killers behind bars for twenty-nine years.
But who really killed Lily Martin and her infant daughter? Why was an entire family targeted for annihilation? And what price will Lucy pay to expose a truth, when people will kill to keep it buried?
Last Light marks the start of a new Lucy Guardino series which stands alone from her previous novels. If you enjoy captivating suspense and intelligent storytelling, with strong and vulnerable characters and a freight-train pace, then you'll love the rush of this heart-pounding thriller.

I was gripped by the new CJ Lyons book from the harrowing prologue, harrowing though it may have been, it was excellent and left me wanting to know what was to become of the situation.

It then took me a little while to get back into the book as it flipped to the Beacon Group who were putting a new team together to deal with cold cases, hiring ex FBI agent Lucy Guardino who was medically retired. 

As things started to progress into the case of a man who confessed to murder back in the 80s who it seems may be innocent. The Beacon Group join forces with his son to uncover any evidence that may or may not lead to uncovering his innocence.

I enjoyed the pace of this story and the twists and turns of what seemed to be an extremely corrupt legal system in the small US town. The ending really was good, exciting and although I anticipated the outcome, it was still written in a compelling way.

I will definitely read more in this new series!

Many thanks to ED PR for providing an ecopy in exchange for an honest review

Sunday, 3 July 2016

The Flower Seller by Ellie Holmes - 5* Review!

Jessie Martin believes that when it comes to love there are three types of people: the skimmers, the bottom dwellers and the ones who dive for pearls. Jessie is a pearl diver. She had thought her husband William was a pearl diver too. But when William leaves her for a much younger woman, it’s not just Jessie’s heart that is broken, her ability to trust is shattered too. All Jessie wanted was a love she could believe in. Was that so much to ask? Loyalty it seems has gone out of fashion. 

Refusing to retire from the battlefield of life, Jessie resolves to put her heartache behind her. She doesn’t want to be that woman who was too scared to love again. There has to be another pearl diver out there; all she has to do is find him. 

Urged on by her sassy best friend, Anne and her daughter Hannah, Jessie makes three New Year’s resolutions: get a divorce, get a promotion, get a life. Enthusiastically embracing her new start, Jessie sets about making all her resolutions come true. 

When fate brings handsome flower seller Owen Phillips into her life, will Jessie have the courage of her convictions? Can she take her heart in her hands and give it away again? Hope springs eternal they say but a bruised heart needs to time to heal. Will Owen have the patience to understand? Will Jessie be brave enough to take that leap of faith? 

By the time summer holds her firmly in it’s warm embrace, Jessie’s monochrome world of heartache has been transformed into one full of colour, romance and love. 

Jessie can hardly believe her luck. Can Owen really be the one? 

All things seem possible and even husband William’s attempts to bully Jessie into a less than fair divorce settlement don’t have the power to upset her as they once might have. Supported by Owen, Jessie stands her ground. Putting William’s deceit and betrayal firmly in the rear view mirror of her life, Jessie is full of hope for the future. Perhaps loyalty and true love haven’t gone out of fashion after all. 

When autumn’s burnished hues colour the world around her, Jessie looks forward to cosy nights by log fires with her handsome flower seller. But is Owen really the pearl diver Jessie had hoped for? Or is Jessie’s fragile trust about to be shattered all over again? 

This romantic tale follows Jessie from the depths of winter, to the excitement of spring through a hot and passionate summer to the turmoil and drama of a stormy autumn. 
As a second winter approaches and her world is once more turned upside down, will Jessie ever find a love she can believe in with a man she can trust? 

Jessie Martin sits alone in a burger bar, far from her comfort zone, waiting for a man she met through a dating advertisement, again, something alien to her - as she had been married to William for most of her life, until he cheated on her and left her for a younger woman.

She is trying to follow through her New Year's resolutions and rebuild her life, as their grown up daughter, Hannah, is now at university and she realises that her life is passing her by.
The man in question, Barry Sturridge, arrives, and is very far from what Jessie was expecting, but she gives it a go.

From a later date with Barry, unsuccessful as it was, Jessie meets Owen, a local flower seller and is swept off her feet by this man who seems to be on a journey to heal from a bad relationship himself - and sees a kindred spirit within him.

She tries to take things slowly, but is carried along by the passion and romance that she has not been treated to for a long time, and along with trying to build her career to become a partner in the law firm that works at along with William, she sees her life beginning to come together.

Things seem to be really looking up for Jessie and she feels better in herself than she has felt for many years, discovering new levels of self confidence and fun that Owen has injected into her life and a far stronger work persona that she wants to build herself and not with William's help, the only thing that seems to be holding her back is her divorce which seems to be getting messier by the minute - something they both promised would not happen but with William having to fund new partner Chelsea's greedy ways, he tries to be as ruthless as possible with Jessie who is determined she will not be taken advantage of again.

Things take a much worse turn for Jessie as her new life is thrown into turmoil - and she is left to face the most difficult dilemma she has ever faced and is left wondering who she can really trust.

I thoroughly enjoyed this debut from Ellie Holmes. It is written beautifully, has vivid description and deep, well written characters who really come to life in front of you. There are many twists and turns throughout the book that surprised me and left me guessing how Jessie was going to decide the next chapter of her life.

Highly recommended read!