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*