Thursday, 23 June 2016

The Bad Mother's Diary by Suzy K Quinn

Juliette Duffy has had a baby. But motherhood isn’t quite how she imagined it. 

She doesn’t live in a cottage with roses around the door.
She doesn’t know how to get Daisy to sleep.
She doesn’t own a rolling pin.
And then there’s Daisy’s father.......

Juliette is a typical new mum, not sure if she's doing things right. She can't get her baby Daisy to sleep no matter who's advice she follows so she is physically and mentally exhausted. Nick, her partner is not helping matters, in fact he is like an overgrown schoolboy. They live in an apartment owned by Nick's  mum Helen who is always popping in while being no help at all while making it clear that she doesn't think Juliette is good enough for her darling son. 

Juliette would like to be the perfect mum, have a perfect Ikea home and only cook organic food but at the moment it's hard enough getting out of the apartment without her clothes being covered in baby stains.
I've been having problems getting in to some books recently and when this came in the post for review I started reading it and I couldn't stop. It is really funny and if you've had a baby you will relate to most of Juliete's problems. New mums will realise that everyone goes through the same trials as Juliette and maybe won't feel so alone.
Hopefully you won't have a partner like Nick. Oh how I would love to give him a good slap.

Juliette's parents run and live in a pub. Her mum doesn't believe in dressing appropriately for her age and size and this gives us some of the funniest moments in the book. Juliette's mum is also warm and kind and great with her granddaughter unlike the horrible Helen.
Alex is a knight in shining armour who has worshipped Juliette from afar for years and...he's rich.
Juliette will take some convincing as she doesn't want to be the one to break up her baby daughter's family as she thinks a father like Nick is better than no father at all.

Juliette is a lovely character and you just want everything to go right for her. I wanted to give her a hug and tell her it does get better. I loved her determination with her running even although she hated it.
I also loved the supporting cast of Juliette's sisters Laura and Brandi and her friend Althea and her wayward son who are hysterical. 

This book is ideal if you need a good laugh and don't we all need that from time to time. As it says in the title it is written in diary form but it flows so well that I almost forgot it was. 
It is peppered with the "f" word and if that offends then maybe it's not a read for you. It does usually annoy me especially if it's used aggressively but in this story it's just the way they speak and it didn't stop me from enjoying the book.
I loved the little paragraph from the author at the beginning and end of the book,nice touch.

Thank you to Suzy for sending me a copy of her book in exchange for an honest review.
You can find it on this link for kindle or on paperback.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Letting in Light by Emma Davies

Rowan Hill means many things to many people, but to Ellie Hesketh it represents new beginnings. Putting her life back together after a break-up is going to take time, but the crumbling country estate—as much in need of TLC as she is—seems the perfect place to do it.
But Ellie is not the only person for whom Rowan Hill is a refuge. There’s Will, damaged and complicated, whose secrets almost nobody knows. And Finn, his brother, who’s finally decided to stop running from his own past. As Ellie is drawn further into saving the estate, she can’t help but try saving the brothers too—and she’s sure she knows just how to go about it. The trouble is, she’s been accused of meddling before…
By turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, this story of friendship, forgiveness and unexpected romance reveals the lies we tell to hide dark secrets—and what can happen when we let in a little light.

After twelve years of marriage Ellie is betrayed in the worst way possible. Hurt and broken she is asked to take care of Rowan House inherited by her friend Jane and her husband. This is a welcome break for Ellie. While there she sees Will who lives in the big house next door she recognises him as the man who rescued her when she crashed her car near to the village,she instantly feels a connection with him.
Will is used to entering the house where Ellie is living to light fires for the old lady who lived there but that doesn't sit well with Ellie as she strives to be independent from men.
 Will is broken too and covers this by his dark and moody persona. Why does he chop wood in the middle of the night? And are the rumours Ellie heard in the village about him true?.

This is one of those books that is an effortless read. I knew what way the story was going but it's the getting there that uncovers hurtful truths. Can Ellie mend Will and in return can he mend Ellie.
Ellie's friends Jane and Helen are a good addition to the plot,perhaps we will hear more about them in another book.
An enjoyable read.
Paperback or kindle download.

Monday, 13 June 2016

The Butterfly Summer by Harriet Evens

What magic is this?
You follow the hidden creek towards a long-forgotten house.
They call it Keepsake, a place full of wonder ... and danger. Locked inside the crumbling elegance of its walls lies the story of the Butterfly Summer, a story you've been waiting all your life to hear.
This house is Nina Parr's birthright. It holds the truth about her family - and a chance to put everything right at last.

Two things happen when you are a Parr girl: when you are ten, you are told about your future role.

The second thing that a Parr girl at some point must learn is harder to tell of.

It is a dark work indeed, the business of this house, hidden from the world. 

This is a story of birthright, of inheritance and of family and how sometimes people can be destroyed because of what is expected of them.
Nina Parr's father was killed when she was very young. He died in the Amazon Jungle searching for rare butterflies. All he left her with is a life membership to the London library where Nina now spends most of her free time. One day a woman appears telling Nina that she's not who she thinks she is and leaves old photos for her. She also talks about a house called Keepsake and Nina's birthright.

 We are taken back to Nina's childhood where her mother is finding life as a single parent so difficult until Mrs Poll shows up having rented the top floor apartment in the large house they live in. She is like Mary Poppins and Nina loves her.
There are multiple stories in this book. we learn of Theodora (Teddy) and her friend Matty. I thought this part of the book was the most interesting and the story of Teddy was such a sad one. Teddy was so brave but there was someone who always beat her back down again.
After the first few chapters we go back to an ancestor who lived in the time of Charles 11 which is where we discover Keepsake.
 I became a bit lost and bored at this part of the book and put it down for about a week before going back to it but when I did it picked up and I couldn't stop reading it.
This book is completely different from any other by Harriet Evans. It is more complicated and a long read but worth it in the end. I think some of it could be cut back a bit to make it easier.
I liked Nina and Teddy and Nina's step dad. I couldn't understand Nina's mother and wanted to give her a good talking to, although there are lovely moments later on in the book between Nina and her mum.
I have said before that I love a good epilogue and this book did not disappoint me. I cried my eyes out while reading the end few pages, real tears dripping on my book. It was lovely but very sad.
So even although I found part of this book a bit hard going I'm recommending that you don't give up on as it is a really good read.
The Butterfly Summer kindle or paperback
You can download extracts from the book here

Saturday, 11 June 2016

My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry

When lawyer Lily marries Ed, she's determined to make a fresh start. To leave the secrets of the past behind.
But then she meets Joe. A convicted murderer who reminds Lily of someone she once knew, and who she becomes obsessed with freeing.
But is he really innocent?
And who is she to judge?

Lily and Ed are just married but things do not seem good between them. Ed is a frustrated artist and not good at communicating. Lily is a defence lawyer who is sent to a prison for the first time to interview a man Joe Thomas who is accused of killing his wife. He is a very strange man who somehow convinces Lily that he is innocent.
 We then meet Carla who's nearly ten. She is a neighbour who lives with her Italian mother Francessca. Carla,bullied at school and left to her own devices comes into contact with Lily who being kind and liking the girl agrees to look after her for her mother on a Sunday.
Ed enjoys having Carla around the house and she gives him new inspiration for his drawing.
Lily finds out what Francessca is really doing on a Sunday and breaks contact breaking Carla's heart in the process.
For quite a few chapters I couldn't think what Carla had to do with the whole story. I soon found out as it moved forward in time.
The very first page tells us that Ed has been stabbed to death so who did it?
Lily and Ed now have a son and are having trouble coping with his behaviour. There is a big secret regarding Lily's brother and why what happened has affected the rest of her life and the choices she makes.
There is so much to this story, so many twists and turns I couldn't put it down. I found Ed to be a spineless individual who's only concern was his art. Lily was unloved and had always felt like that. She made wrong choices which damaged her.
I have read so many reviews which have given away most of the story. I have enjoyed reading it without knowing what was coming and that is the way I'd like you to read it too. Just enjoy.
Thanks to the publisher for a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Kindle edition only 99p

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

House of Dreams by Fanny Blake

Only a weekend in Spain - what could possibly go wrong?
At their family hilltop villa, Lucy awaits the arrival of her brother and sister for their mother's annual birthday party. Although this time, their mother won't be there.
Struggling at Malaga airport with her fractious four year old, Jo has already lost her case and is dreading arriving without its precious contents.
For Tom, returning to Casa de Sueños stirs up all sorts of memories - then a beautiful face from his past appears . . .
Over one long, hot weekend, past secrets will spill out as three siblings discover more about their family and each other in this gorgeous, warm and witty new novel from Fanny Blake.

 I'll start by saying I loved this story. It's full of secrets and discoveries. One last birthday party for a mother who passed away is a way of bringing her three grown up children together.
Their mother Hope lived in a villa in Spain until she died and this is where her three children have been summoned to give her one last birthday party and scatter her ashes. We can tell that Tom, Jo and Lucy are not the best of friends and are not in touch with each other very often.
Tom is married to Belle who has always felt a bit left out when his sisters are around. As the villa has to be sold the furniture and contents also have to be split between the siblings. Needless to say this causes tension as no one sees eye to eye.
Hope has been very secrective about her life even to her children and has died not divulging some important things to them. Will any of her friends be willing to give her secrets away to her children?
Over one long weekend we see family dynamics change. A marriage ends, a lost love is seeked out and skeletons fall from the closet.
I couldn't put this book down once I started to read it. The villa sounded like the idyllic place to live with the vine covered pergola and the table set for lunch, I just wanted to be there too with a large glass of wine.
I haven't read many books by Fanny Blake but this book makes me want to read some more.
Amazon in papaerback or kindle

Sunday, 5 June 2016

A Guest Post by Fanny Blake author of House of Dreams

I'm delighted to welcome author Fanny Blake onto my blog today. Fanny's  new book, House of Dreams is set in southern Spain and she tells us here How she chooses her settings for her book.
My review will be online in the next few days.

How I Choose My Settings

One of the many pleasures of writing a novel is choosing the various settings, whether it’s a setting in the UK or abroad or, on a micro level, the buildings, the rooms or specific locations where the action of the novel happens.

The settings aren’t the first thing I think of when I’m writing a novel. My initial thoughts are with the characters, the tensions and conflicts between them and the journeys they’re going to take. Once I’ve settled on those, I start to think where they might live and which locations will add to the impact and point up what’s going on between them.

When planning House of Dreams, I remembered a walking holiday I’d been on in southern Spain and realised I wanted to set it therewanted to remove a family from their everyday lives and put them in a beautiful location to contrast with the darker issues and tensions running between them.  

Two sisters and a brother make an emotionally charged return to Casa de Sueñosthe house where they grew upIt’s a slightly rundown farmhouse on the mountainside below the white village of Gaucín with views that stretch south to the straits of Gibraltar. On a clear day you can see all the way to Africa.

The siblings have come to celebrate their late mother Hope’s life with her traditional birthday party, planned by her before she diedand to scatter her ashes. Hope found the house when she was a young woman with two childrenjust married to Walter, the father of her thirdTo her, Case de Sueños represented a place of new beginnings in which she could invest all her hopes and dreams. 

However, seeing the house through the eyes of her children, it becomes a very different placeThey have been shaped and influenced by growing up there so their memories give the place another character altogether. The house is full of things that illustrate the person Hope was: a sewing box; a wardrobe full of her old clothes; the piano and so on.

Houses and their contents say so much about the people living in them. For instance, in my novel With a Friend Like You, Beth lives in an oasis of calm, all white walls and minimal possessions, while her friend Megan’s house is messy, filled with stuff accumulated over the years. Those two houses say everything about those women’s characters to me. If I’m writing using a setting abroad then so far, I’ve chosen places I’ve visited, dipping into my diaries for colour and detail, revisiting if I can. I may use real streets or locations but I rarely use specific buildings. Instead I build my own to give me the particular interior space I want.

Setting conveys mood, is an indicator or shaper of character, and underscores the story, and is inextricably linked with all three. Getting it right makes all the difference.
Fanny Blake’s House of Dreams is published by Orion in paperback, £7.99 and is out now.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

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 orchard behind 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?

This is publication day for Alex Brown's latest novel.
We are back in the lovely village of Tindledale again, this time to Edith's cottage at the edge of the village.
April feels she has been neglecting her elderly aunt but she is grieving for the loss of her husband who she nursed through his illness. Her stepdaughter encourages her to visit her aunt as some time away from the house would do her good. April finds her aunt  confused and not doing very well so she decides to stay longer than she had planned.
 As April settles down there is a love interest which she is not sure she is ready for but more exciting than that is diaries she has found belonging to her aunts oldest sister Winnie who disappeared during the war under a cloud of gossip that she was having an affair with a married man.
When April was reading the diaries I didn't want her to stop. I certainly would never have predicted the outcome of Winnie's life.
Some of the charactors in the village we have read about in previous books pop in and out of the story which is nice.
I feel that Alex Brown's books  just keep getting better and I think this is her best one.
When I had finished the book I went back to the prologue to read about Winnie again.
If Alex reads this review I would like to plead with her to write a book about Winnie's life during the war from her point of view. We only heard about it from a third party and it was so interesting.
Amazon in paperback or kindle

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

The Postcard by Fern Britton

Secrets. Sisters. The summer that changed everything . . .

Life in the Cornish village of Pendruggan isn’t always picture perfect. Penny Leighton has never told anyone why she’s estranged from her mother and sister. For years she’s kept her family secrets locked away in her heart, but they’ve been quietly eating away at her. When an unwelcome visitor blows in, Penny is brought face to face with the past. And a postcard, tucked away in a long-hidden case, holds the truth that could change everything.

Young Ella has come back to the place where she spent a happy childhood with her grandmother. Now she’s here to search for everything missing in her life. Taken under Penny’s broken wing for the summer, the safe haven of Pendruggan feels like the place for a fresh start. Soon, however, Ella starts to wonder if perhaps her real legacy doesn’t lie in the past at all.

I'm delighted to be part of the blog tour for Fern's latest book. This is the first book of hers I've read.
 I know! Where have I been? So many books so little time.
Anyway I'm glad I was asked to review this book. What is it about Cornwall? Everyone seems to re-locate there and start writing novels.

This book is certainly set in Cornwall in a quaint little village called Pendruggan where Penny is the vicar's wife and has a nearly one year old baby girl.
I found Penny to be a bit strange and hard to like at first. She has her own TV company and has finished producing a series which was filmed in the village where she now lives and where she met her husband.
Penny was well loved by her father as a child but her mother was very cold towards her. There are many secrets connected to her family some even she does not know yet and she finds it so difficult to confide in anyone even her husband.
Penny has made a new life for herself away from her mother and sister but as her sister suddenly
 re- appears in her life again can either of them forgive each other? 

There are a host of characters in this book all with their own problems and stories to tell. 
Ella who is mentioned in the book blurb returns to the village where she spent her childhood with her gran. I did keep wondering if there was more to her story than the author has told us but I suspect there will be a sequel to this book, it really needs a sequel..
I always knew something explosive was going to happen but Fern leaves it until the last few pages and then I thought the book finished too soon hence the need for a sequel.
This was a good read and the descriptions of a close knit village where everyone knows each others business.

PS. After writing this review I looked online at Fern's other books and I found that the characters in this book are mentioned in her others. Although this is a stand alone read, if you enjoy it then you might want to check her others out too. I found one which tells the story of how Penny and her husband the vicar met. It all makes sense now and  I know for certain (I think) that there will be a story about Ella and what happens next and I am looking forward to reading it.
Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy of this book in return for an honest review.