Monday, November 17, 2014

Lincoln Ladies - Suzy Duffy

This is the third book in Suzy Duffy's New England series and to my mind is the best so far.

I really enjoyed the first of the series, Wellesley Wives, and found it hilarious and at times even laugh out loud funny.

Lincoln Ladies was a more enjoyable read for me, though, because it is a heart-warming story about love, friendship and the often challenging phases of parenting, particularly when dealing with the empty-nest syndrome and struggling through single mother challenges. Whilst it is a tale full of humour and the dialogue is believable, I felt the subject matter was a little less frivolous than the previous books in this series as Suzy Duffy tackles some serious issues with humour and wit.

It is a feel good book with lovely characters and a couple of love interests to swoon over. So if you are looking for some good old fashioned romance and a story to make you smile, I would strongly recommend you pick up Lincoln Ladies and read it.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Notes from a Small Island - Bill Bryson

Notes from a Small Island is Bill Bryson's account of travelling around the UK for a couple of months in the early 1990's, just before he returned to live in the US after living in the UK for 20 years. He wanted to recall all those things that had made the country special to him during that time and to take stock of the public and private faces of the people who lived there.

Beginning with a retrospective look at Bryson's first trip to the UK, 20 years earlier, his recollection of arriving in Dover offers such an interesting perspective of a time and a place which no longer exists now and nor did it, even in the 1990's. When his new sojourn begins his observations of Britishness and the things that make the place unusual, are crisp, clear, precise, amusing and cleverly insightful. He draws a picture of those things that we, as Brit's, so often overlook and take for granted, things that make us uniquely us.

I first read this book a few of years after it was originally published in 1995 and loved it, especially as I was living away from the UK at the time. It was a delightful read and had me laughing-out-load in places. Revisiting it again, over fifteen years later, was no less entertaining. This travelogue offers a rare insight into a country and it's people in time. It provides wonderfully clear and expansive descriptions of it's various places. It is an entertaining and humorous account and a joy to read. Even though the years may have rolled on it is clear that some things just don't change. Notes from a Small Island really is a timeless read.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Dolled Up for Murder - Deb Baker

Gretchen Birch receives a frantic phone call in the early hours of the morning from her aunt in Arizona. She is told that her mother, Caroline, has gone missing and one of the neighbours has been found dead on the hill behind her mother's house. Thinking that her aunt Nina's tendency to exaggerate and be dramatic might be at the bottom of this "crisis" she heads to Arizona anyway, to find out why her aunt is so worried. When she gets to her mother's house, Gretchen soon realises something is really wrong, especially when she finds that the only thing missing out of all of Caroline's personal belongings appears to be her car - even her toothbrush is still in the bathroom!

What follows is a race to find out what really happened to the neighbour, Martha, who police now believe was murdered and as Caroline has become the chief suspect due to what appears to be an incriminating note found in Martha's hand, time is running out.

This story is really interesting in many ways. It takes the reader on a journey into the world of the doll trade and provides some great insight into the restoration, buying, selling and collecting of antique dolls of all kinds. The murder victim was obsessed with dolls which were like children to her. She once had a extensive and highly valuable collection, but, due to her inability to stop buying more and more expensive pieces, she got in trouble with the bank and lost her home, her collection and ultimately became an alcoholic vagrant living on the streets with other people down on their luck.

In spite of the story being quite suspenseful and there being several possible suspects, it lost a little of it's appeal to me because of the numerous spelling and grammar mistakes throughout. The story would have really benefitted from another edit. As far as the quality of the mystery goes, I had the culprit figured out about 60% of the way through but it was an interesting read, none-the-less.

If you like a fairly decent murder mystery and are interested or would like to know more about the world of dolls, then this is the book for you.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

The House We Grew Up In - Lisa Jewell

This book did not leave my hands for almost two days! (I have so much work to catch up with, now!)

The House We Grew Up In is a beautiful, sensitive portrayal of human frailty and the power of coping beyond what appear to be insurmountable obstacles.

Lisa Jewell deals with some serious subjects in this story and many of the topics are dark and difficult to read about, but, none of that stops this wonderful, well written book from being compelling!

When I realized that one of the central characters had a hoarding issue, I wondered if the whole thing might not be too dark and depressing to get through. It became apparent very quickly that the story was an essay on the human condition and that hoarding was just one facet of that condition. It turned out to be a very uplifting read in spite of all the difficult subjects involved!

This story will stay with me for a long time. In fact, I will definitely read it again because it is so well written, so beautifully haunting and such a great testimony to the human spirit.

It will be released in the US by Atria Books on August 12th, 2014.

If you want a moving, memorable and completely mesmerising read, this is the book for you.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Paw and Order (Chet and Bernie Mystery #7) - Spencer Quinn

Paw and Order is the 7th book in the Chet and Bernie Mystery series. As usual, Chet the dog is the narrator and his ideas and thoughts are often laugh-out-loud funny.

On this occasion Chet and Bernie find themselves in Washington DC, visiting Suzie Sanchez, who is Bernie's on-off girlfriend. She is now a reporter for the Washington Post and has picked up a keen interest in politics. She stumbles across a source for a story she wants to write about the upcoming elections and steps right into a murder. Chet and Bernie get involved as Bernie becomes a suspect in the crime. So their adventures begin!

I adore Chet the dog. He is funny, smart and gets side-tracked by things like food smells, squirrels, cats and loss of train of thought, but he always gets "the perp". Bernie is a loveable character, too, and the two are inseparable and work as partners in the Little Detective Agency which is based in Arizona.

If you want a different kind of detective/crime novel, filled with humour and narrated from an unusual perspective, then these books are the thing to pick up. Without fail each one has been an interesting adventure filled with all kinds of likable characters and Spencer Quinn makes Chet the dog's voice so realistic that I often find myself forgetting that he is a dog, that is, until he sees a squirrel!

Paw and Order goes on sale on August 5th. Be sure to get a copy, you won't regret it!


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Divas Las Vegas - Belinda Jones

Friends forever, Jamie and Izzy share a dream: a glitzy double wedding in Las Vegas. At age 27, they’ve had enough of dodgy boyfriends and are ready for dodgy husbands—all they have to do is find them. And where better than Vegas itself, where the air is 70 percent oxygen and 30 percent confetti? But as they abandon their lives in sleepy Devon for the eye-popping brilliance of Sin City, their groom-grabbing plan starts to look less than fool proof. And those problems they thought they’d left behind—like Izzy's fiancĂ© and the alarming reappearance of Jamie’s first love—just won't go away

Firstly let me tell you that I have enjoyed all the previous Belinda Jones books I have read. I liked this one but only really got into it about one third of the way in and then wasn't madly in love with Izzy - hence only a 8.7/10

Having said that, the descriptions of Vegas, the shows and the atmosphere of the town are all spot on. The location always plays a big part in each Belinda Jones story and drawing a complete picture of the setting is one of the things she does really well in each of her books.

This was the first book she had published and it will not put me off picking up more of her work as she seems to get stronger as she progresses, if  some of her other work is anything to go by.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Fashionably Dead - Robin Peterman (Hot Damned Series #1)

Fashionably Dead is the first in a series of fantasy books called Hot Damned Series by Robin Peterman.

Astrid wakes up to find she has been turned into a vampire. Her world is suddenly manic and completely off the wall. She is now in the reliable hands of an angel called Pam who is the image of Oprah but with a serial liking for profanity and a fighting coach fairy called The Kev who is a dead-ringer for Arnold Schwartzenegger, speedos and all. Along with her best friend Gemma, these characters support and guide Astrid through the tumultuous times after her change. 

I really can't make my mind up about this book. The fashion references and Astrid's propensity for all things Prada are at times funny but sometimes annoyingly out of place in the setting. At times the writing was laugh out loud funny, particularly any dialogue including Pam, the angel who has the filthiest turn of phrase, and then other times I found myself skipping through mystifyingly boring bits! The basis of the story is very amusing and the style in which Robyn Peterman writes is in equal measure funny and quirky but something just didn't click for me so I cannot say I really loved it. Having said that, I can see how it has wide appeal and has received such high ratings.


Friday, July 4, 2014

A Hidden Fire - Elizabeth Hunter (Elemental Mysteries #1)

This is the first book in a series of four. I found it for free as an e-book on so downloaded it to take a peek. I was hooked immediately and by the time I got to 40% I went back to Amazon and bought the other three books in the series!!

I am not a massive fan of fantasy but having recently read and enjoyed A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness and after reading the blurb below, I thought I'd give it a try.

A phone call from an old friend sets Dr. Giovanni Vecchio back on the path of a mystery he'd abandoned years before. He never expected a young librarian could hold the key to the search, nor could he have expected the danger she would attract. Now he and Beatrice De Novo will follow a twisted maze that leads from the archives of a university library, through the fires of Renaissance Florence, and toward a confrontation they never could have predicted.

Elizabeth Hunter does such a good job of slowly creating a world of hidden beings and likable characters, it was enjoyable from the start. I was so enamoured by the story that I looked for other reviews. Someone posted one with pictures of what she thought Beatrice and Giovanni looked like, and it was exactly how I had pictured them too. Just like this.........

I can highly recommend this book and suggest you give it go, or, why not just buy the whole set!

And, of course, the moral of the story here is that marketing works! It seems that Amazon have nailed the ploy of offering free kindle books as bait to reel in readers to encourage them then to buy the rest of a series! It worked with me and I am so glad I found it.

Can't wait to get started on Book 2!


Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Friend of the Family - Lisa Jewell

Let me start by saying that I have loved all of the Lisa Jewell books I have read so far. This one was no exception although it took me a little time to get into the characters and really start to care about them, but, I am glad I did because it turned out to be a really good story.

Bernie has three son's, Tony, Sean and Ned. Each of the boy's had a perfect upbringing and even as adults, love to head back home for Sunday lunch whenever they can. One day Bernie brings home a new lodger, Gervase, who is a strange character and the boys get a little suspicious. Gervase gets close to everyone at one time or another and slowly things come out in the open that have been hidden for too long.

This is a tale about family life, siblings and the ties that bind. It is a heart warming story and has a touch of magic in there too.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Mission to Murder - Lynn Cahoon

Oh dear! This is the third book I have given up on this year which equals the same amount of abandoned books I had in the whole of 2013!

Why? I ask myself. Especially as I do so hate to give up on book!

Well, I have a theory.........

About this time last year I began to include books in my TBR pile which I would not previously have put in there. After having a couple of unexpected successes in the types of genre which include more light hearted, comedic murder mysteries/detectives and more witchy/magic type stuff I have now come to the conclusion that these kinds of books are more difficult to get right and their fans have limitations and differentiations. Humorous stories/thrillers, vampire-y/witchy types have to be very much to a person's taste and as a result not everyone will get along with them all as easily as say a fairly straight forward, light romance which follows a straightforward path to the end. And this is the case with this book.

A Mission to Murder had a 4.43 star rating on Goodreads when I was deciding to buy it or not, so I thought I would give it a go having had great experiences reading fairly similar books by authors like Jana Deleon and Liliana Hart, within the last few months. However, I just couldn't get into the voice of Lynn Cahoon. The basic story has potential but the main protagonist really annoyed me and why on earth her boyfriend was so patient with her, I have no idea. I persevered with it until 32% in on my kindle and then gave up, quoting to myself my new mantra of: "There are too many other books out there I would enjoy reading more than this"

I am not saying it is a bad book or badly written - who am I to criticise, after all! I am just saying that it wasn't for me.

No point rating as didn't finish!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Secrets of the Lighthouse - Santa Montefiore

It is a long time since I read a story that I didn't want to end (The last one was The Book Thief which I read a couple of years ago). I always get stuck between wanting to read faster to find out what happens and wanting to slow down the reading pace to savour the story and the characters. Secrets of the Lighthouse was one of these books.

Ellen Trawton is running away from her life in London, domineering mother and impending marriage to William. She heads to her aunt Peg's home in Connemara, Ireland, the one place she knows her mother will not dare to come for her. Her mother has been completely estranged from her sister, Peg, since she left her hometown over thirty years ago and has never returned. When Ellen arrives she is surprised to meet uncle's, auntie's and cousin's she had no idea existed. Her mother has kept so much from her and everyone else Ellen meets seems to be covering something up. It is inevitable that as time unfolds Ellen learns many things about her mother's family, secrets about her mother's past and secrets about a great tragedy that happened to a beautiful young woman, five years previously, at the derelict Lighthouse on the beach, close to her aunt's house.

This book was an absolute joy to read and as well as a few tearful moments and several laugh-out-loud pieces of dialogue the descriptions of rural Ireland are breath taking. The Byrne family, Ellen belongs to, are loving, protective and caring and I loved the way their characters were drawn.

There are very few books I read more than once but this will be one of them.


Saturday, June 7, 2014

Half Bad - Sally Green

My lovely friend, Kate Steadman, sent me this book with a little note attached saying......"I've popped this book in because you mentioned A Discovery of Witches (which I loved!) I read Half Bad a few weeks ago and it really made me think of Deborah's book. The characters are younger in this book but I was gripped from the start - think I read it in just over a day!", I couldn't wait to start reading it!

Half Bad is the first book in a Trilogy by Sally Green called Half Life. It is a uniquely, spellbinding story about a boy, Nathan, who is unusual in a divided world of White and Black witches. His mother was a white witch and his father is the most infamous and sought after black witch, Marcus Edge. Because of this, Nathan is known as a Half Code and is shunned by all in the community of white witches he lives in. Not long after he was born  his mother committed suicide and so his gran became his carer and brought him up along with his two half sister's and his half brother, Arran. His brother and gran are Nathan's only source of affection, and everyone else, other than a white witch school friend called Annalise, hate him and he is set apart often for taunting or a beating.

Black witches have been almost hunted out of existence in Europe and The Council of Witches of England, Scotland and Wales, which runs the white witch community are determined in their quest to catch Marcus Edge. They don't really know what to do with Nathan but they recognise he is valuable to them in their quest.

This story is dark and haunting. There are very few chinks of light in Nathan's life. I am a little squeamish in my entertainment tastes. I choose not to watch violent films or read horror stories because I don't do violence very well, but, even though this story is brutally violent in parts, it is entirely compelling and I just couldn't put the book down. At one point I had to stop reading and calm my heartbeat down because I was so scared for Nathan. Half Bad is perhaps the best book I have read this year and I am looking forward to the next one in the series.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

One Night in Italy - Lucy Diamond

One Night in Italy is Lucy Diamond's latest novel and it goes on sale in the UK today. It is a heart-warming story about friendship, family coming of age and getting over adversity.

Anna Morley is a journalist working on a local paper. She has a loser for a boyfriend and her job is going nowhere, fast. On a visit to the local elder care home where her grandma now lives, she suddenly gets information about her father which her mother has been reluctant to give her in the past. When she tries to get more details from her gran the cloud of confusion returns to her and there is nothing more to be said.

Catherine Evans life of servitude and emotional abuse is about to come to a crashing halt. After dropping off her twins to their respective universities, she realises her life has been dedicated to them and now wonders what on earth she will do without them at home. Arriving back home earlier than planned she finds her husband in their bed with another woman. Can it be true? Have the last twenty years been a lie? She is about to find out.

Sophie Frost lives in beautiful Sorrento. She has been travelling the world for the past eight years and has been to some amazing places. Italy is currently her love and for the last two years she has lived in the country she now thinks of as home. That is until the day she receives a phone call from her cousin to tell her of her father's heart attack. Of course, she must go home and face those things she has been running away from since she left all those years ago.

These three women and several other characters find themselves thrown together when they attend an Italian Class for beginners at the local college. They each have their own reason for being there and over the weeks of the course they grow close and begin to support each other in ways they could not have imagined before the course began.

It is a lovely story and I scarfed it up in only two sittings. As well as likeable characters the story contains lovely references to Italy, Italian food and of course a basic lesson in the language. Lucy Diamond is a great favourite of mine and One Night in Italy is arguably her best novel so far.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

At Least You're in Tuscany - Jennifer Criswell

At Least You're in Tuscany is an autobiographical story about Jennifer Criswell, who leaves her settled life in the New York City to live in Montepulciano, Tuscany. We follow her through her first year there as she deals with finding work, Italian bureaucracy and making friends.

Hers is an interesting journey filled with disasters and triumphs, often amusing, sometimes frustrating but never dull. It is a very frank memoir and an enjoyable read. She makes some good friends, gets the gossip mill running, makes some dubious decisions and ultimately finds some peace in the place she loves. The Italian countryside makes a wonderful backdrop to this true story of self discovery.


Friday, May 30, 2014

Louisiana Logshot - Jana Deleon

This is the first in a series of "Miss Fortune Mysteries" about CIA agent, Fortune Redding, who is in hiding in the sleepy backwater of Sinful, Louisiana after one of the worlds largest arms dealers placed a price on her head.

Having been ordered by her Director to lie low until they can deal with the threat, within minutes of her arrival at Sinful she is drawn into a murder investigation and finds herself embroiled in all sorts of shenanigans with the leaders of local Woman's Association, who seem to run the place. What ensues is a great romp in the bayou with likable characters and an unsolved mystery.

This is only the second book of Jana Deleon's I have read and I really enjoyed it. Even though the story is set in the Bayou, as is the other book I read, the stories were entirely different. Fortune Redding reminded me of Sandra Bullock's character in Miss Congeniality and this story was even more entertaining than that film!

I am so glad I have found Jana Deleon, I really love her books which are part humorous, part mystery, part spoof. I am definitely going to get the rest of the books in this series.

If you like to be entertained with interesting characters, mystery and humorous dialogue, then this is one for you.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Me and Mr Jones - Lucy Diamond

This is the story of three brothers and their respective partners. The boys couldn't be more different, Hugh the dependable, David the serious and Charlie the flighty.
Their parents turned the family home into a B&B after the boys left and over the years it has become very busy, especially with regulars who like to visit for their holiday each year. Now, though, Mr and Mrs Jones have come to a point where they feel the business might all be too much for them but they don't want to give up the place that has so many memories for the family.
A family meeting is called to decide what should be done but with each of the boys are at a different point in their lives, the decision of what to do with the business and the family home becomes increasingly difficult. Hugh and Alicia have been married for years but Alicia is beginning to feel restless and yearns for some time to herself or an adventure away from Hugh and the children, just to recharge her batteries and relax.
David and Emma used to be inseparable but having tried so long for a family, they are feeling the strain of that pressure on their relationship.
Charlie meets Izzy who is fairly new in town and their attraction is instant and strong. When he decides to bring her and her daughters to meet his family, it doesn't quite turn out the way he would have liked.
This is a story of family dynamics and the ties that bind, ties between husband and wife, parents and children, brothers and wives and girlfriends. The characters are likeable and their situations, plausible. It is an easy and enjoyable read. I do like reading Lucy Diamond books and this one did not let me down


Friday, May 23, 2014

A Winter's Tale - Trisha Ashley

This is the first book in a collection of stories revolving around characters living in the fictitious Lancashire village of Sticklepond. It is a warm-hearted tale of Sophy Winter who unexpectedly inherits her grandfather's rather stately home, Winter's End. There are a couple of love interest's for Sophy, a jealous distant cousin who feels aggrieved at not getting his hands on the estate, a surly, brooding gardener, as well as a hint or two of magic which is a theme throughout all three stories. Of course, with a title like A Winter's Tale there are many references to Shakespeare too.

Trisha Ashley has written three books based in Sticklepond and a couple of others based in neighbouring villages. Even though each story stands alone, I originally read the books out of sequence as I hadn't found any reference to these books belonging to a series. I do wish I had realised the chronology of the backlist before setting out to read them as there are many cross references to characters and events that appear in the earlier books. I did go back after reading this book and re-read the others. I found that reading them in sequence definitely added to the experience of getting to know the characters and enjoying the story. As a result, although I read this book last, it will appear first in review and the other books will be reviewed in chronological order within the next few weeks.

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading all of Trisha Ashley's books and am hoping she continues with the series beyond the three she has written so far.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

White Wedding - Milly Johnson

Bel, Violet and Max meet by chance at a bridal shop called White Wedding, each in search of the perfect wedding dress for their upcoming big day. Freya, the shop owner, guarantees that her gowns will bring them happiness and they do but not quite in the way they had been expecting. As the story unfolds the girls become good friends and a source of support for each other in the often stressful run up to their respective weddings.

The thing I love most about Milly Johnson's books is that they always contain an element of something a little magical within the story. Nothing too far fetched to make them unbelievable though, just a little sprinkle of the unusual.

This is the second Milly Johnson book I have read so far and I have the rest of her back catalogue on my wish-list. Her stories are humorous, her characters are likeable and well drawn and the pace at which events unfold is ideal to keep those pages turning.