Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Girl Below Stairs by Jennie Felton

Edie Cooper has grown up at Fairley Terrace, surrounded by a loving family. Now she spends her days working as lady's maid to Christina, the adopted daughter of the powerful Fairley family, and her nights dreaming of a life with handsome local lad Charlie Oglethorpe. Although broken-hearted when Charlie leaves to make his fortune in London, Edie finds consolation in her friendship with Christina, who asks for her help in uncovering the mystery of her true parentage. But someone in the grand house will stop at nothing to keep the long-buried secrets hidden. Will Edie be able to protect Christina? And will she find her own path to happiness with Charlie? 

This is the third book in The Families of Fairley Terrace saga. Each book is the story of one family who live in the terrace but they are easily read as stand alone books.

The story begins in 1895 when a baby is found on the steps of the local Catholic Church on Christmas Eve in a little village in Somerset. 
Fifteen years later Edie Cooper who is in service at Fairley Hall as a maid is being promoted to a Lady's Maid to Christina, Lady Elizabeth's adopted fifteen year old daughter. 
The book is full of secrets and lies, mysteries and unrequited love. There are good people and bad within both the upper and the lower class. Money does not make you a nice person and neither does the lack of it. 

Trying to forget her lost love Edie throws herself into finding out who Christina's real mother is but in doing so she could also discover secrets belonging to someone else. Danger lurks when that person will stop at nothing to get want they want.
Edie is a character you take to straightaway. She's kind,hardworking and longing for someone who can never be hers.
Quilla, Lady Elizabeth's maid is the character you love to hate. She is a vile woman who makes life hard for those around her.
One of the characters Julia becomes involved in the suffragette movement and I thought that was an interesting part of the book. Goodness,women were so downtrodden back then and it seemed to be frowned upon to go anywhere or do anything without a man by your side.
I thought I had guessed some of the secrets,but I was wrong. There are a few surprises towards the end that made this book hard to put down and it did have a great ending.
I love reading a series of books as each time a new one is written it's like pulling over a familiar comfy blanket and curling up at the fireside for a cracking good read.

If you have enjoyed Josephine Cox or Catherine Cookston in the past you will enjoy this book. 
Jennie Felton's next book will be called The Widow's Promise and there's a preview of it at the end of The Girl below stairs that leaves me wanting more.

Amazon for kindle or hardback.

On sale in paperback at The Book Depository. Free shipping worldwide.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

One Last Wish by Ella Harper

Rosie and Nate had the perfect relationship. But they struggled to cope with the devastating news their daughter Emmie has incurable cancer. It feels like their world – and their relationship – has come crashing down. 
They must do everything to support their little girl, but can they stop their marriage falling apart? 
Unbeknownst to her parents, Emmie is on a mission. She is determined to make them see what brought them together in the first place – and make them fall in love all over again. 

Emmie was only five years old when her parents were told that all the chemotherapy and radiotherapy that their child had been through hadn't worked and she now had an inoperable brain tumour.
Emmie is now eleven years old and every minute of everyday her parents are expecting the phone call that says the brain tumour has grown enough to end their daughter's life. Emmie is worried too,she's worried that her parents will not stay together after she is gone. Emmie is going to do something about it.
Yes,this book is very sad and I cried at the end. This book probably mirrors what lots of parents are going through right now. 
The story is told  through the voices of Rosie,Nate and Emmie. Rosie feels she can't speak to Nate anymore and Nate feels the same about her. There are so many misunderstandings between them that make matters worse and I wanted to get them both together and bang their heads. 
Rosie has a lovely twin sister, Lily, who is everything a sister should be and it's a pleasant change to read about sisters who get on with each other. Nate is a policeman and he confides in his partner Gill who is so supportive to him.
Along the way we meet Dr Tom who is Emmie's new counsellor. She feels at ease with him from the beginning and he is able to help her in her quest.
I don't want to tell you anything more about this story apart from advising you to have a box of tissues at the ready. I can see this book being made into a film. Although it's a sad subject it has a feel good factor about it. The way Emmie dealt with her diagnosis and how lovely the other characters in the book were. They were all people you would welcome into your life.
Only £1.99 for kindle download.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Midnight Blue by Simone Van Der Vlugt

Amsterdam 1654: a dangerous secret threatens to destroy a young widow’s new life.
Following the sudden death of her husband, twenty-five year old Catrin leaves her small village and takes a job as housekeeper to the successful Van Nulandt merchant family. Amsterdam is a city at the peak of its powers: science and art are flourishing in the Golden Age and Dutch ships bring back exotic riches from the Far East.
When a figure from her past threatens her new life, Catrin flees to Delft. There, her painting talent earns her a chance as a pottery painter. Slowly, the workshop begins to develop a new type of pottery to rival the coveted Chinese porcelain – and Delft Blue is born. But when tragedy strikes, Catrin has a hard choice to make.

I thought this book might be a bit hard going to read as it is set in Amsterdam in 1654 and translated into English. I needn't have worried as I found it quite an easy read. I was awful at History I school ,I found it very boring but books like this set around historical events always awaken my interest.
Poor Catrin, married to a brute of a man who beats her for no reason,it is no wonder when he dies she can only feel relief. Catrin has a secret and before anyone finds out she has to leave her home and family. Secrets have a way of catching up on you and Catrin flees further than she intends to and ends up in Amsterdam. Everything is settled for a while but once again Catrin has to move and this time to Delft. This is where Catrin finds her niche in life, painting China and we hear the story of how Delft Blue porcelain began. 
I loved the descriptions of old Amsterdam and Delft. The excitement of traveling through the waterways on any kind of craft which was usually carrying goods for trading. The horror of the plague as it spread through the towns and villages and the fear held by everyone.
Catrin experienced hardship along the way but her meeting of each of three brothers and their friends helped her to live,love and find peace with her past.
This was a good read and there was never a dull moment throught the story. I don't think you have to love historical books to enjoy this,it's not too heavy on the history.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown


The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six...'
1645. When Alice Hopkins' husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.
But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women's names.
To what lengths will Matthew's obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?
Based on the true story of the man known as the Witchfinder General, this exquisitely rendered novel transports you to a time and place almost unimaginable, where survival might mean betraying those closest to you, and danger lurks outside every door.

I'm delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour for the debut novel The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown.
It is with trepidation that Alice returns to her brother's house in Manningtree. She hasn't heard from him in years and they didn't part on the best of terms when she married a man her brother didn't approve of. Returning as a pregnant widow is not going to please her brother and Alice decides to hide her pregnancy from him for as long as possible.
I suspected that this might be a scary read and didn't want to read it before bedtime as I feared I might dream about it all night. It was actually worse than scary because I knew it to be based on truth.
What struck me the most was that good people did nothing. Once Matthew, the Witchfinder's General had started on his murderous road no one stood in his way. He was aided and abetted by rich men and by fear. Alice tried to make things slightly easier for the accused women but by doing so I feel she made herself complicit in his dealings.
I enjoy reading books that are based on true facts from history. We are told this story from the point of view of Alice who is the fictitious sister of Matthew. She has no idea what her brother is involved in and is horrified when she has to accompany him on his witch finding expeditions. 
The harsh life of living in the seventeenth century was shown through simple things like an old loaf of bread on a table as the only nourishment, riding a horse for miles on end being the only transport, and sharing a bed with a stranger in an inn.
This is a good first novel from Beth Underwood. I found the beginning a bit slow but it picked up pace and I was soon desperate to find out how Alice would survive her life with her brother.
There was also something really sad throughout the book. The fact that if misfortune fell on rich people they blamed it on being cursed or by some witchery by either poor or simple people. Babies dying young, horses being lame, crops failing. You name it and it was blamed on these so called witches.
I think the only truly evil person was Matthew himself and I wanted him to come to a sticky end.
Talking about the end.I loved the ending of this book,it also scared me and I think it calls for a sequel.
As I said at the start I was worried about reading this book mainly because I'm a scardey cat and easily spooked. There is no doubt that it's a thought provoking subject and although I wasn't scared I did jump at a shadow or two one day after reading it.
There are other people in the story who grab your attention. One is Rebecca and another is Grace, Alice's mother in law. I would like to have read more about the other women who were being held for trial I think it would have made me even more sympathetic towards them.
After finishing this book I've found myself googling witch trials and Matthew Hopkins as my curiosity about the subject matter has grown.
I hope to read more by Beth Underwood in the future.

About the author......

Beth Underdown was born in Rochdale in 1987. She studied at the University of York and then the University of Manchester, where she is now a Lecturer in Creative Writing. The Witchfinder’s Sister is her debut novel, and is based on the life of the 1640s witch finder Matthew Hopkins. She first came across him while reading a book about seventeenth-century midwifery. As you do.

Friday, 17 February 2017

My Sweet Revenge by Jane Fallon

I want to make my husband fall back in love with me.
Let me explain. This isn't an exercise in 1950s wifeydom. I haven't been reading articles in old women's magazines. 'Twenty ways to keep your man'. That couldn't be further from the truth.
I want him to fall back in love with me so that when I tell him to get the hell out of my life he'll care. He won't just think, 'Oh good'.
I want it to hurt.
Paula has had Robert's back since they got together as drama students.
She gave up her dreams so he could make it.
Now he's one of the nation's most popular actors.
And Paula's just discovered he's having an affair.
She's going to remind Robert just what he's sacrificing.
And then she's going to break his heart like he broke hers.
It will be her greatest acting role ever.
Revenge is sweet.
Isn't it?

What is it they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? Well Paula's plan doesn't go the way she wanted it either. I thought the plan to get her cheating husband Robert to fall back in love with her and then dump him was a bit vindictive, and yet how else could she make sure he didn't get his happy ever after? 
After eighteen years of marriage and being a stay at home mum Paula knows she has let herself go. 
She is overweight by about three or four dress sizes and she has decided to do something about it.
Paula's battle to get fit and lose weight was very well written as it happened very slowly, it wasn't one of those quick fix diets.
Walking to work instead of getting the bus, walking a bit faster each day even although she was left exhausted and soaked in sweat, and finally getting herself a personal trainer.  Paula started eating healthily and making sure her hubby piled on the pounds at the same time. Maybe revenge is the best weapon to have in the fight to get fit and lose weight.
As Paula becomes friends with the woman her husband is having an affair with we are told the story from her and then Paula's point of view.
There were no dull moments in this book although towards the end it seemed like a bit of a comedy farce it did keep me guessing what would happen right to the end.
The characters seemed real and while Paula was likeable and will have you rooting for her, Robert and the woman he was cheating with deserved all they had coming to them.
A good light read.

The One Memory of Flora Banks

I look at my hands. One of them says FLORA BE BRAVE.

Flora has anterograde amnesia. She can't remember anything day-to-day: the joke her friend made, the instructions her parents gave her, how old she is.
Then she kisses someone she shouldn't, and the next day she remembers it. It's the first time she's remembered anything since she was ten.
But the boy is gone. She thinks he's moved to the Arctic. 
Will following him be the key to unlocking her memory? Who can she trust?

This book is classed as YA but I honestly couldn't find any difference in it to an adult fiction book.
Emily Barr is a brilliant author so I trusted it would be a good read.
As it says above Flora has anterograde amnesia after having a brain tumour removed when she was ten years old,she is now seventeen. Flora is helped in life by her best friend Paige but when she betrays Paige their friendship is over. 

Flora's mum wraps her in cotton wool and does not let her lead a normal life but when her son needs his parents they have to leave their daughter at home in the care of Paige. Of course, Flora forgets that Paige no longer wants to be her friend and forgets to tell her parents, so just how will Flora cope on her own?
Flora has to write everything down to remind herself what to do in all different situations. On her hand is written, FLORA BE BRAVE and this girl must be one of the bravest characters I have met in a book.
As Flora takes it upon herself to follow a boy to the Artic I never believed she would get there in one piece. As she meets new people along her journey who don't know of her medical condition I worried about her and when turning the page I was concerned what trials Flora would face next.

This was a book I really enjoyed, yes some parts could be a bit repetitive but that's what happens with memory loss and it didn't annoy me,it was part of this story. Flora was a lovely character, one you just want to hug and make everything okay for her. 
It's about love and loss and trying to work out just how this old world and the people in it work.
Surprisingly this is the fourth book in a row I have read with memory loss as it's theme. This is the second I have written a review for so two more to come.

The paperback seems to be cheaper than a kindle copy so hey,what's not to like?

Thursday, 9 February 2017

If Ever I Fall by S.D. Robertson

Dan’s life has fallen apart at the seams. He’s lost his house, his job is on the line, and now he’s going to lose his family too. All he’s ever wanted is to keep them together, but is everything beyond repair?
Maria is drowning in grief. She spends her days writing letters that will never be answered. Nights are spent trying to hold terrible memories at bay, to escape the pain that threatens to engulf her.
Jack wakes up confused and alone. He doesn’t know who he is, how he got there, or why he finds himself on a deserted clifftop, but will piecing together the past leave him a broken man?
In the face of real tragedy, can these three people find a way to reconcile their past with a new future? And is love enough to carry them through?

I was looking forward to reading this book after reading the blurb but I'm sorry to say it didn't live up to my expectations. 
Dan, Maria and their seven year old daughter Ruby are experiencing a bereavement which none of them are coping with. Maria has asked Dan for a trial separation and he has to leave the family home. 
This is very upsetting for Ruby as her family is falling apart. Maria is also coping with OCD which escalates when she is under stress. 
Later we meet Jake who has bumped his head and lost his memory. He is being looked after by a retired doctor, but is he all that he seems to be? And just who is Jake?
This book started well and I was enjoying it for quite a few chapters. I thought it jumped back and forward too much. We had, after the death, before the death, and all different befores  and afters in between. 
The story of Jake and the Dr, Miles was very gripping in parts and kept me turning the page. The rest of the story was told by Maria in letters that she writes to someone who will never read them. Maria is the reason that Dan is finding life so hard as she takes her grief out on him.
Some chapters seemed quite repetitive and then I reached the ending. That was when I became disappointed and I cannot tell you why. If I told you I would be giving away the whole storyline. I can tell you I felt quite annoyed with what transpired.
I haven't seen any reviews of this book yet as when writing this it has not been published. S.D Robertson's first book Time to Say Goodbye [which I haven't read ] has great reviews. 
This is only my opinion. It is billed as a tear jerker and you may love it.
I would love to know what you thought if you read it.