Wednesday 29 June 2016

Review: Songs of Love and War by Santa Montefiore

Their lives were mapped out ahead of them. But love and war will change everything…

West Cork, Ireland, 1900. The year marks the start of a new century, and the birth of three very different women: Kitty Deverill, the flame-haired Anglo-Irish daughter of the castle, Bridie Doyle, the daughter of the Irish cook and Celia Deverill, Kitty's flamboyant English cousin.

Together they grow up in the dreamy grounds of the family's grand estate, Castle Deverill. Yet their peaceful way of life is threatened when Ireland's struggle for independence reaches their isolated part of the country.

A bastion of British supremacy, the castle itself is in danger of destruction as the war closes in around it, and Kitty, in love with the rebel Jack O'Leary and enflamed by her own sense of patriotism, is torn between loyalty to her Anglo-Irish family and her deep love of Ireland and Jack.

Wrenched apart by betrayal, their world turned to ash, the girls' friendship seems all but lost as they are swept to different parts of the globe. Yet, they have one thing in common: a fierce and unwavering longing for Castle Deverill and all the memories contained within it.

Review: this was very different to my usual reading material. Although I have read a few of Santa Montefiore's books previously, none of them have been quite as 'historical' as this one and so I have to admit I struggled to get into this one a little initially. I think that the thing I struggled with the most was keeping track of who all the characters were and how they related together. The structure of the books was that it was divvied into 3 parts. There was also a prologue and a epilogue. I loved the structure of the book and my favourite part, the part that had me really gripped was the third part. I felt, by this point that I had got to knew the characters and really invested in them so from this pint onwards I couldn't stop listening to it! 

The characters were an interesting mix of English and Irish during the time when English weren't really welcome in Ireland and it was a fairly dangerous place to be. We also has a mix of the right families and their servants. These characters went through so much drama and created so much drama, I can't really single any one character out as a favourite. I really liked the journey that maid Bridie went on. I won't give away any spoilers but I'm sure you'll be championing her from the start! 

Of course the setting description in this one was beautiful. The description of the Irish landscape is just breathtaking. Some of the book is set in New York and I could totally picture the scenes as Monterfiore was describing them. There are also so bits set in England and I think that this author really captures the mood at the time in her descriptions. As I say, this book was quite different for me. I enjoyed it overall. I have it in paperback but actually listened to it in audiobook. I'd really quite like the chance to go back to beginning of the book and read the first couple of chapters because the epilogue takes the book full circle, if you read it I would really recommend flicking back to the beginning after you're done! 

Tuesday 28 June 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I'll be taking on vacation 28/6/16

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists over there at The Broke and the Bookish. I'd love to share my lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Ok I feel like this is a bit of a naughty list because they're books that I SHOULD have read a while ago but didn't but I'm going to have 4 flights which involve several waits at the airport as well as the flights themselves. One of the flights is 13 hours so will involve some sleeping too but generally I feel optimistic about reading whilst travelling and then some bedtime reading too hopefully. I'm hoping to pop an audiobook when we're on in the car to so here goes...

1. The One we Fell In Love With by Paige Toon
2. Geek Girl: ahead Over Heels by Holly Smale

3. One Hot Summer by Kat French

4. The Haters by Jesse Andrews

5. Down Under by Bill Bryson (audiobook)

6. I followed The Rules by Joanna Boulari

7. The Shoemaker's Wife/All The Stars in The Heavens by Adriana Trigiani 

8. Sunshine Over Wildflower Cottage by Milly Johnson 

9. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

10. Wildflower Bay by Rachel Lucas

So there you have it, this is a mix of Ebooks, audiobooks and paperbacks so I should hopefully have plenty to read at any one time! 

Monday 27 June 2016

Guest Review: The Canal Boat Cafe Part 4 by Cressida McLaughlin

Hilarious and touching, The Canal Boat Cafe series will appeal to fans of Game of Scones, Wickham Hall and The Grand Reopening of Dandelion Cafe.
Summer Freeman has been trying to make a go of the Canal Boat Café, but her love life is in rough waters. Mason, the handsome photographer from the boat next door, has left Willowbeck, and Summer’s Bichon Frise, Latte, misses his Border Terrier, Pocket, almost as much as Summer misses Mason.
But the sunshine has arrived and with the help of the roving river folk who are in Willowbeck for a festival, Summer tracks him down. The course of true doesn’t run smoothly and when the unthinkable happens, Mason and Summer must face up to their past if they are to save Willowbeck and the community she has grown to love. Will Summer finally drop anchor and call Willowbeck her home?

Review: This is the 4th, and final, part of this e-serial revolving round the cafe housed in a canal boat and the experiences of its owner. The complete Canal Boat Cafe novel is to be published soon, along with some bonus material should you prefer to read it in its entirety.

In this instalment, the main characters are all there again - Summer, the owner of the cafe, the locals in the town of Willowbeck where her boat is moored, her neighbouring boat owners, and a group of traders based on other canal boats. The romance that was developing nicely between Summer, and her 'floating neighbour', Mason, seemed to have hit stormy water at the end of the last part of the serial, and we are left wondering if they can rekindle their relationship. There is plenty of other drama in this last part of the story as well. In fact, the tension is kept up right to the end.

I have really enjoyed this story right from the first part. There has been a strong and varied cast of characters in each instalment and a great deal of action too. I think it would make a great holiday read, and might well encourage a few of us to take to the water for our next break. 

Thursday 23 June 2016

Review: Who's That Girl by Mhairi McFarlane

When Edie is caught in a compromising position at her colleagues’ wedding, all the blame falls on her – turns out that personal popularity in the office is not that different from your schooldays. Shamed online and ostracised by everyone she knows, Edie’s forced to take an extended sabbatical – ghostwriting an autobiography for hot new acting talent, Elliot Owen. Easy, right?
Wrong. Banished back to her home town of Nottingham, Edie is not only dealing with a man who probably hasn’t heard the word ‘no’ in a decade, but also suffering an excruciating regression to her teenage years as she moves back in with her widowed father and judgy, layabout sister.
When the world is asking who you are, it’s hard not to question yourself. Who’s that girl? Edie is ready to find out.

Review: I listened to this book on audiobook and it was one of those that I would stay in the car to listen to the end of the chapter once I got home from work and even tried to sneak in some lunchtime listening if I could manage it too. I love Mhairi McFarlane's books because they just tell it how it is. Her writing is very honest and is therefore very funny! The start of this book in particular was extremely relatable to me because it began with a journey from the south of England to Harrogate and I started listening to this on the journey from the south of England to Harrogate. I have to say, as well, i was very pleased with the attention to detail in the section of the book set in Harrogate from the taxi firm to the fact that there are very few trains early in the morning, it was all spot on!

I wasn't entirely sure about Edie as a character to begin with because I was worried she would be a bit silly and annoy me, but in the end she really did seem to have her head screwed on right and so I felt i could let my guard down and warm to her. I think my worries were based on the fact that she does seem to regress to becoming a teenager again when she is forced to move back home. Her sister is involved in the story at this point and she is absolutely hilarious, she definitely provided a lot of the comedy in this novel! I really liked getting to know the character of Elliot as well. It was interesting to read about a fake celebrity, a bit like reading Billy and Me, and I think that he was very well-written as a character because I really did feel a bit starstruck whenever he came into a scene!

I really enjoyed the story line, everything that happened was totally plausible and yet it provided total escapism to me on a couple of very long journeys. I think that there were some elements of the storyline that were predictable but there were enough twists and turns to keep it real and keep you guessing. I liked the fact that it wasn't all set in London, I was able to picture places the characters went and the kind of reception that they received there. I would really recommend this book on audiobook but if you already have a hard copy then I'm sure you'll have a fun time too!

To order your copy now, click here!

Tuesday 21 June 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten 2016 Releases so Far 21/6/16

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists over there at The Broke and the Bookish. I'd love to share my lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

There have been so many good releases this year so far (mind you I can't wait for the second half of the year to see what that brings!) I haven't read all the releases I want to have read but hopefully you'll agree with some of the items on this list...

1. Summer Nights at The Moonlight Hotel by Jane Costello

2. Who's that Girl by Mhairi McFarlane

3. Moranifesto by Caitlin Moran

4. The Missing by CL Taylor

5. The Night that Changed Everything by Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice

6. These Days of Ours by Juliet Ashton

7. Making it up as I go Along by Marian Keyes

8. Our Song by Dani Atkins

9. The One with The Engagement Party by Erin Lawless

10. Match me If You Can by Michele Gorman

Sunday 19 June 2016

Guest Review: the Canal Boat Cafe Book 3 by Cressida McLaughlin

Summer Freeman, who runs the Canal Boat Café in the waterside village of Willowbeck, is having the time of her life. She’s navigated the café out of some stormy waters and her best friend is helping her try out some new recipes. Summer and her neighbour Mason, as well as their dogs Pocket and Latte, are spending more and more time together and after a romantic evening in together (which her nosy friends won’t stop interrupting), Summer is excited about where things are headed…Until things run adrift.

As seasons change and secrets are uncovered, Summer has to decide who she can trust, including Mason. Can she find love and make a new life for herself in Willowbeck? Or will she choose to keep her heart below deck?

Review: This is the third and penultimate in a series of short stories about a cafe contained in a canal narrow boat and the adventures of its owner. All four parts will eventually be published as a complete story, although each part could feasibly be read in isolation. 

In this part, Summer Freeman, who has inherited the boat-cum-cafe from her mother, is once more settled in a permanent mooring on the canal in the peaceful town of Willowbeck. She has left behind some friends she made in a travelling group of canal boat traders and resumed acquaintance with her mum's old friend and fellow boat owner, Valerie, and other 'neighbours' in the town. Some of Summer's family also appear on the scene.  Finally, there are some interesting developments in the romantic relationship between Summer and the slightly mysterious Mason who lives in his rather smart sounding narrow boat in the next mooring. 

I very much enjoyed this instalment and am becoming more and more drawn into the plot with each part of the story. I think that Cressida has done a good job of building up the back stories of the various characters at the same time as moving the present time action along. I am waiting with anticipation for the final part to see how the whole affair plays out. I'm sure I won't be disappointed. 

Friday 17 June 2016

Review: The Barn on Half Moon Hill by Milly Johnson

Cariad Williams has been writing to Franco Mezzaluna since they were kids. But he has never written back. And now he has become a famous film star. What's more, he is due to visit Winterworld, the Christmas theme park where Cariad works. The only problem is that she has boasted to her friends that he is her boyfriend and now everyone will find out about her lie...
An exclusive short story from Milly Johnson to raise funds for the Care for Claire charity.

Review: This is a lovely short story from Milly Johnson that is easy to read and really quite charming. I read it in only a few hours, not really wanting to put it down. As usual, Milly has written with humour and an understanding of real people. 

The story revolves around Cariad Williams and her fascination with film actor Franco Mezzaluna. Although originally from Wales, Cariad moves to Yorkshire to work in Winterworld, the theme park that is central to Milly's novel, A Winter Flame. It was nice to revisit the theme park and some of the characters from the earlier story; there is also the hint that Milly may return to their story in future. The story of what happens with Cariad and Franco, and indeed the barn on Half Moon Hill, is quite magical and refreshing. I can't really say any more than that without giving it all away.

All profit from this ebook exclusive short story from Milly Johnson will go to help a lady who lives in the same community as Milly and who tragically lost her children, her home, indeed everything, in a fire started by her ex-husband. So, if you like the sound of the story, please buy it and contribute to the fund set up to help this brave lady. 

Thursday 16 June 2016

Review: The Best Thing that Never Happened to Me by Laura Tait & Jimmy Rice

One boy + one girl = two sides to this love story...

Everyone remembers their first love.

Holly has learnt that life isn't about seizing the moment. She might have harboured dreams about travelling the world as a teenager, but she let go of those – just as she let go of Alex.

But what if the feelings never really went away?

Alex wants to make every moment of his new job count. It’s a fresh start in a new city, and he knows that moving to London has nothing to do with Holly. Well, probably.

How do you know if it was meant to be… or never meant to happen at all?

Review: how did it take me so long to read this book? I totally read Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice's books in the wrong order but if you end up doing that I can now confirm it doesn't matter. It was my love for The Night That Changed Everything (read it now) that gave me the shove to read this one. I actually downloaded the audiobook which mean that Holly and Alex's voices were distinct from each other and I'm really glad I shelled out for this one because that aspect made it and even more fun read. I found myself reading this is any opportunity I got, sitting in the car when I got home from work so that I could hear the end of the chapter! 

I think out of the two main characters, I preferred Alexk over Holly, I know you shouldn't pick favourites and before you say anything, it's not just because he is a fellow teacher who went from teaching up north to teaching in a challenging London school (is he actually me?!) but I really liked the way he handled his life. He went for things and really made the most of what he had, whether that was a challenging class or a challenging room mate. He is a little naive when it comes to certain aspects of his life, including he friendship with Holly but I loved that about him. Best freind Kevin provides some pure comedy moments and I had some laugh out loud times in my car when he was involved. I really liked Holly too, I just felt frustrated by the choices that she made in life, as I'm sure I was meant to as a reader, she evoked real emotion in me which means she was incredible well-written as a character! 

I loved the dual narrative of this book and also that fact that we have flashbacks so we get to hear from both characters and find out what has gone before in their friendship as well as where it stands now. It was a total Ross and Rachel type of relationship where you are willing things to happen between them and then Italians and Stray cats get involved (that was in Freinds not in the book but the thing they are hit with are essentially the same thing!) and you actually feel yourself getting more and more tense with each moment that passes. If you are a real romantic, you will love every moment of this love story not love story and if you are more of a cynic then you will love the missed opportunities too. Definitely definitely pick up both of these books now and read them in any order you like, I guarantee you'll have fun! 

Wednesday 15 June 2016

Guest Review: The Little Village Bakery by Tilly Tennant

Help yourself to a generous slice of Victoria sponge, a perfect cup of tea and a big dollop of romance. Welcome to the Little Village Bakery. 

Meet Millie. Heartbreak has forced her to make a new start and when she arrives at the old bakery in the little village of Honeybourne she is determined that this will be her home sweet home. Her imagination has been captured by the tumbledown bakery but with no running water and dust everywhere, her cosy idea of making cakes in a rural idyll quickly crumbles. 

Luckily the locals are a friendly bunch and step in to help Millie. One in particular,Dylan, a laid-back lothario, soon captures her attention. 

But just as Millie is beginning to settle in, an unexpected visitor from her past suddenly turns up determined to ruin everything for her. It’s time for Millie to face the skeletons in her closet if she’s going to live the dream of running her little village bakery, and her blossoming romance with Dylan. 

Review: Tilly Tennant is a new author to me, but I was pleased to give this book a try as it sounded right up my street. Although the bakery of the title is central to the story, the whole tale is a wonderful and entertaining mix of romance and suspense.

The main character in the story is Millie, who has landed up in the little village of Honeybourne, where she has bought the old and, as it turns out, rather dilapidated village bakery. At the beginning of the tale, we have no idea what has driven Millie from her life in the town of Millrise to buy this building unseen with the idea of establishing a new life and a new business for herself. There is just the hint of a very tragic incident in her past that has led to her persecution by other people in the town and made her want to flee.

Honeybourne turns out to be a rich source of interesting characters, as can be found in many small communities. These include: Jasmine, a great friend to Millie from day one; her husband, Rich; her rather layabout brother Dylan; a local schoolteacher, Spencer; and, last but not least, the local busybody and source of much amusement, Ruth. A somewhat less pleasant character appears from Millie's past in the form of Rowena, who was really quite scary.

I found the story a little difficult to get into initially, especially as I wasn't sure what kind of person Millie was going to turn out to be. However, it soon began to grab my interest, and in the end had me picking it up at every opportunity to find out what would happen next. There were some incidents that had me laughing out loud and other parts that made me fearful for the village's inhabitants. All in all, I thought there was an excellent mixture of mystery and romance throughout. The whole book was very well written.

Tilly has promised another story focusing on these characters soon. I shall be looking out for it with anticipation. 

Monday 13 June 2016

Review: The One With The Engagement Party by Erin Lawless

Nora Dervan is getting married... but her four bridesmaids are more full of secrets than champagne.

Bea has barely gotten past the fact that her two best friends are seeing each other, and now they’re engaged, and Cleo is rather distracted by the hot new colleague she absolutely, definitely must not sleep with. Daisy is dreading the singles’ table, whilst Sarah’s own marriage hasn’t turned out to be all she hoped it would be...

Review: this is the first part in a four part serial by Erin Lawless. firstly, as soon as the title/cover was revealed I knew I wanted to read this book because of the title. It sounds like an episode of friends and that excites me. Then when I found out it was about four girls and four guys, it seemed even more meant to be, plus you guys know I love a good serial! Obviously the first part in a serial is a bit of a scene setter and so I was expecting to meet all of the characters and find out what drama would unfold over the following 3 novellas, but what I got was a surprising 'good things come in small packages moment' this had it all and I loved every moment. 

Obviously the main focus here is on the characters and each of them gets their own moment in the sun in this novel. The whole wedding setting is great because there is so much scope for drama. Bridesmaids who have the potential to clash, things that have the potential to go wrong and of course possible bridezillas. There hasn't been too much for that so far, this installment is about falling in love with these girls and guys and the storyline as a whole is very much, placing them in their lives. Let me tell you, in terms of what is going to unfold as we move on to future instalments has the potential to be big. I don't want to say any more because-spoilers-but I loved the plot of this one. 

The characters.... I really engaged with bride Nora. I'm planning my own wedding right now and so I really related to her. I also loved reading about Sarah because she is kind of the outsider of the bridesmaids, being in the party because she is married to best man Cole. I've been that wife/girlfriend kind of involved in the wedding but not because I was with a member of the wedding party-it's a hard job and I'm sure, along with her own personal struggles, things are going to be tricky for Sarah. I loved reading about Bea as well because she sounds like great fun and there is definitely something sparky between her and Eli. But Cleo and Gray-oh my goodness I so can't wait to find out more about them, they are the kind of people you totally know would hit it off but don't know if they ever realise it themselves and it just warms your heart to read about them. I loved them, I loved the afternoon I spent with them and this book and have already preordered the next instalments so they will hit my kindle as soon as they possibly can. 

This is definitely a series I recommend you get into! 

Thursday 9 June 2016

Review: Thirtynothing by Lisa Jewell

Ever wondered what happened to your first love?
Imagine bumping into them twelve years later and realizing you still fancy them rotten. That's exactly what happens to Dig Ryan when he sees Delilah again.
Now imagine you're Nadine. You and Dig have been best friends for fifteen years. And you've finally realized that you're in love with him. So when Delilah - who always was your nemesis - returns, you're mad with jealousy and can't help behaving childishly. Like phoning your first love Phil - just to get your own back ...
Thirtynothing is a story of ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends and friends dabbling with yesterday when they really should be thinking about today.

Review: aww it was so nice to be reading some Lisa Jewell again. This is one author where I haven't managed to catch up with her back catalogue yet and so I find myself downloading the audio books of the older novels, or even the ones I have on my shelf waiting to be read, and I absolutely devour them! I loved the fact that I could hear this author's voice even in one of her earlier books, as this is one of my favourite authors, it was reassuring to see that her voice hasn't changed much over the years, even if the kind of novels she writes are now worthy of being part of the Richard and Judy book club!

Dig and Delilah are classic characters. They were once exceptional friends and this could have developed into something more that developed over time and as they grew up, but didn't. There are so many many misunderstandings in this book and this is the major linchpin around which the story takes place. I loved their story. I loved hearing about where they are now and how they used to be then. I particularly like that fact that we get to see things from both of their points of view-I love when a book gives me the opportunity to do that. There are twists and turns a-plenty in this novel and nothing is ever as it seems. There is also some real love and some real drama. There were a couple of painful scenes that I found either difficult to take or found myself deeply cringing as I read them.

I like that fact that we have these two characters as our main subjects. Delilah is a classic female over analyser and worrier. She is brilliant because she really sin't sure what she wants when it comes to life, or when it comes to men but she really knows what she doesn't want. This makes her totally relatable and I really wanted to be able to jump into the book and offer her some advice! Dig is also someone I would have liked to have given a good talking too but in a sit down and listen kind of way. He has his life a little more sorted but it still hung up on a fantasy from hsi younger years that he doesn't seem to realise will never come to fruition. He provides a lot of comedy moments in the book and these come right from the opening chapter so be prepared to laugh and gasp along with Dig's antics!

I so enjoyed this book and it was great to go back and read something that I'd wanted to for a long time! I like the fact that Lisa Jewell has combined real life drama and love with real comedy and OMG moments. Her writing makes sense and is totally relatable whilst still offering some escapism and a world to really get lost in. If, like me, you have some Lisa Jewell back catalogue to catch up on then what are you waiting for?

Wednesday 8 June 2016

Always with Love by Giovanna Fletcher

Sophie's got used to being the girlfriend of Billy Buskin, the biggest movie star in the world. Sort of. 

But when she and Billy take a trip to visit his family in Los Angeles, she quickly discovers she's totally unprepared for the chaos of Hollywood, the paparazzi and Billy's controlling mother.

And when Billy extends his stay in LA, leaving Sophie to fly home to Rosefont Hill alone, it seems there's more than just miles between them. 

Now Sophie must decide if they can overcome their differences for good. Because not every love story lasts the distance . . .

Review: This was a nice, cosy read that I listened to on a long car journey and finished off sitting in the garden in the sunshine, it is the perfect time of year for this book to be resealed because it really is a lovely one to read in the sunshine, wherever you are! This book is a sequel but you definitely don';t have to have read the first book in order to enjoy this one, there are lots of little catch-ups along the way, meaning that you find out what has gone before for Sophie and Billy and you don't have to have insider knowledge from the first book, or indeed the Xmas special! It is also good if, like me, you read a lot of books and you need your memory jogging of what happened with an event in the previous novel. I will say that I feel that I had a bit more depth of knowledge of the characters, having read Billy and Me, but my mum (who was listening with me) hadn't read Billy and Me and knew what was going on just fine!

I really liked catching up with these characters again, I found Sophie just as relatable as before. Billy of course was as charming as ever, although I did get quite a selfish edge to him during this reading, I don't think I liked him quite as much as I did in the previous novel... The real gem of this book for me was new addition Lauren, Billy's sister. She is a real breath of fresh air and is a massive fan of Sophie's. She becomes a real key player in this book and I really enjoyed getting to know here. We also see newcomers Rachel and Peter who really mix things up, along with the other members of Billy's family, It was interesting to see how these new characters fitted in with the characters we already know and love.

Although the storyline was somewhat predictable, I took comfort in that. I enjoyed the fact that I could see where it was going. There was a similar pattern to the previous novel and plenty of drama and emotion all of the way through. Thankfully there weren't too many weepy moments and definitely some laugh out loud moments. I'm not sure how young Sophie is meant to be portrayed but the way she deals with some of the things that are thrown at her she seems to be less worldly than I would imagine her to be. The storyline as a whole had a particular resonance for me because of the fact that it deals with a relationship which must survive the distance of the Atlantic, I was just jealous because Billy obviously has enough money to fly whenever he wants and I don't!

All in all this was a nice read, I enjoyed the audiobook and I would definitely recommend it being on your TBR this summer!

Monday 6 June 2016

Guest Review: The Plumberry School of Comfort Food Part 2 by CathyBramley

Despite the drama of the opening day, Verity and the rest of the team are determined to tighten up their apron strings and make a success of the cookery school – even their previously hot-tempered chef is showing his soft side and getting stuck in. 

The charming village of Plumberry is working its magic on Verity too, and as Verity's plans for a major event at the cookery school come together, the whole community starts to get involved... 

But as friendships bubble and a sprinkling of romance is added to the mix, will Verity get her fingers burnt just when things were looking peachy? 

The Plumberry School of Comfort Food is an irresistibly charming novel told in four parts - following the adventures of Verity Bloom in love, friendship and cooking. This is Part Two.

This is the second part of a serialised story from a favourite of mine, Cathy Bramley. Her books are always entertaining, and this one is proving no exception. Part one left the poor reader on the edge of the cliff wondering what was going to become of the school and its owner, so I got round to reading this next instalment asap.

The story revolves around Verity Bloom, who has moved to the lovely Yorkshire village of Plumberry to help her friend Gloria get her new cookery school off the ground. This was meant to be a temporary arrangement for just a month while Verity is between jobs, but it looks like it will last a lot longer. Although Gloria has had a serious accident and is incapacitated, Verity, along with Michelin-star chef Tom, and friends Mags and Pixie, are proceeding with the courses planned for the opening of the new school. As with all new ventures, there are a few teething problems, but things are progressing nicely. Verity's relationship with Tom, both in and out of the kitchen, is strained at times, but there may be a hint of a romance there. Any disagreements between them are forgotten when a bad storm hits the village and everyone has to pull together to help the community.

I enjoyed watching the relationships amongst the characters in the story develop further in this part. I like that Verity is such an upbeat person, always ready with new ideas and solutions to problems. I'm sure that I wouldn't be the only person to envy her this ability. Once again, Cathy Bramley has described this quaint little village and the setting for the cookery school so well that I can picture all the lovely food shops and the converted mill that houses the cookery school.  As with the last part of the book, Cathy has added a few mouthwatering recipes at the end. So, if the story has inspired you to cook, there are some dishes to try. Looking forward to part three!

Wednesday 1 June 2016

Review: Summer at Skylark Farm by Heidi Swain

For everyone dreaming of escaping to the country, fall in love this summer at Skylark Farm...

Amber is a city girl at heart. So when her boyfriend Jake Somerville suggests they move to the countryside to help out at his family farm, she doesn't quite know how to react. But work has been hectic and she needs a break so she decides to grasp the opportunity and make the best of it.

Dreaming of organic orchards, paddling in streams and frolicking in fields, Amber packs up her things and moves to Skylark Farm. But life is not quite how she imagined - it's cold and dirty and the farm buildings are dilapidated and crumbling.

But Amber is determined to make the best of it and throws herself into farm life. But can she really fit in here? And can she and Jake stay together when they are so different?

A story of love in the countryside from the author of the bestselling The Cherry Tree Café. Perfect for Escape to the Countrydreamers, Cath Kidston fans and Country Living addicts!

I was really looking forward to reading this second offering from Heidi Swain, having thoroughly enjoyed her debut novel, The Cherry Tree Cafe. I was hoping to find the same good standard in this book as there was in the first, and I wasn't disappointed. I found it an easy read that pulled me in from page one and kept me engaged throughout. 

The main characters in the story are Amber and her boyfriend Jake. They are both working for the same company, but while Amber is finding herself practically on call for her boss and enjoying the challenges of the job, Jake has his heart being pulled more and more to the family farm and his elderly Auntie Annie, who is struggling with the farm and her health. Things come to a head and they both move to Skylark Farm to help out. They meet up with some lovely people in the village of Wynbridge, where the farm is located. These include Jemma and Lizzie from the Cherry Tree Cafe; it was great to meet up with them again. Life on a farm is very different for city girl Amber, and there is a quite a bit of humour as we see her coping with tasks she never thought she would have to deal with. I was really cheering for her though as she turned her back on the life she knew and just simply got on with whatever she was faced with, even Jake's ex, Holly - now she really was a nasty piece of work!

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a thoroughly good read. It makes a lovely follow up to The Cherry Tree Cafe, although you don't have to have read that before this of course. It would be a good one to stow away in your holiday luggage.