Wednesday 30 November 2022

Book Haul: Too Many New Books to Fit Into a Tumbnail! 2023 Releases & Special Editions...


Guest Review: Dreaming Under an Island Skye by Lisa Hobman

After three wonderful years of marriage, librarian Juliette Fairhurst’s heart is shattered when her husband, Laurie, is taken from her much too soon.

Devasted, Juliette decides to take a sabbatical and reconnect with her mother’s birthplace, the village of Glentorrin on the picturesque Isle of Skye.

Welcomed by most of the villagers, Juliette throws herself into an idyllic community life, taking on the role of temporary summer guardian at The Lifeboat House Museum; a role that offers her the perfect escape from the tragedy of her real life.

During her time on the island, Juliette clashes with brooding single dad and artist, Reid Mackinnon and is befriended by his son Evin and dog Chewie. It’s clear that divorced Reid is struggling and scarred by his own painful experiences.

Can these two lost souls find a lifeline to rescue each other?

Or will their pasts scupper their second chance at real happiness?

Review: This is the first in a collection of books by this author set on the beautiful island of Skye, just off the west coast of Scotland. Even though I was unfamiliar with the author, I was drawn to the book by its lovely cover that promises a trip to a hauntingly beautiful setting by the sea. I listened to the audio format of the story and very much enjoyed the presentation by the narrator, who had me captivated by the tale from start to finish.

The central female character in the book is university librarian Juliette, who has lost her beloved husband, Laurie, after a painfully short marriage. After struggling to come to terms with her loss, she eventually decides to take a sabbatical and spend some time on the island of Skye, visiting the village of Glentorrin where her mother was born. Having been welcomed by the locals, Juliette volunteers to take over running the small village museum, a post that comes with a charming cottage where she can live for the season. Her idyllic life in the village is rather spoiled by some run-ins with local artist Reid MacKinnon, although his young son Evin and huge hairy dog Chewie become her firm friends. As she learns more about Reid, she begins to understand his moody behaviour and think that maybe they can help each other recover, and perhaps she could even learn to love again.

This is a marvellous story of friendship and love helping two lost and damaged individuals to find a way forward. I loved all the characters in the book and was drawn to the peaceful island setting. Everything there was so well described that I could envisage myself strolling through the village and into the shops and the welcoming atmosphere of the pub. Reid was lucky to find somebody willing to put in the effort required to help him escape from his depression. Equally, Juliette was lucky to find an environment where she could heal. For me, the star of the story was Evin and his dog; what a lovely lad. I am now looking forward to meeting some of these characters again in the next story in this collection. 

To order your copy now, just click here!

Tuesday 29 November 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Cozy Vibes


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. 

I know I did something very simillar last top 10 that I did but I can do cozy vibes until the cows come home!

Saturday 26 November 2022

Guest Review: Out of Bounds By Val McDermid

'There are lots of things that ran in families, but murder wasn't one of them . . .'

When a teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car and ends up in a coma, a routine DNA test could be the key to unlocking the mystery of a twenty-year-old murder inquiry. Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie is an expert at solving the unsolvable. With each cold case closed, justice is served. So, finding the answer should be straightforward, but it's as twisted as the DNA helix itself.

Meanwhile Karen finds herself irresistibly drawn to another case, one that she has no business investigating. And as she pieces together decades-old evidence, Karen discovers the most dangerous kinds of secrets. Secrets that someone is willing to kill for . . .

Review: This is the fourth book, published in 2016, in the Karen Pirie crime thriller series. It can be read as a standalone, but it does follow on from the third book, so I would recommend reading the series in order. Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Karen Pirie, head of Police Scotland’s Historic Cases Unit based in Edinburgh, is recovering from a tragic event. The story begins in 2016, when the results of analysis of a blood sample from the teenage driver of a vehicle involved in a serious accident shows what forensic scientists refer to as a familial match to a sample from an undetected rape and murder of a young woman in Glasgow 20 years earlier. This means that the person from whom the material originated was an older, close relative of the driver. This new lead in the cold case gives Karen Pirie and her assistant, Detective Constable (DC) Jason Murray, an opportunity to revisit the original investigation. At around the same time as the road traffic accident, a man is found dead from a gunshot wound in Kinross. It is unclear whether this was a suicide, or something more suspicious. However, when Karen discovers that the man’s mother was among a group of victims murdered by an explosive device 22 years earlier, she takes it upon herself to investigate these two incidents. At the time, in 1994, the explosion was thought to be the work of an Irish terrorist group. However, nobody claimed responsibility for the attack, no arrests were made and the case remained officially undetected. Karen argues that this means that investigation of the explosion falls within her remit, and also that the death of the woman’s son is somehow linked.

The book follows Karen and Jason as they try to unravel the two historic crimes, while also attempting to delve further into the current potential crime. I found it to be fast-paced, with many twists. It is set mainly in Scotland, in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Kinross, and also in London. As in her previous books, I found that the forensic science aspects of the plot were well researched. In addition, Val McDermid is adept at describing locations, and having actually eaten in one of the cafes mentioned in the book, I could picture myself in some of the locations. It was also interesting to discover some of the nuances of the Scottish legal system. In this book, we discover a more vulnerable side to DCI Pirie, but this does not detract from the usual determined manner in which she pursues her investigations. I should add a care warning that there is a lot of strong language in the book. I listened to the audiobook version and, again, thought that the narrator, Cathleen McCarron, brought it to life with her varied voice characterisations.

I enjoyed following the thrilling story as the detectives tried to unravel the various lines of investigation. However, I do have one minor quibble. At the end of the book, it is implied that Karen Pirie has solved the 1996 Glasgow murder case. Indeed, she discusses with an advocate the means of obtaining the evidence that will provide the final piece in the jigsaw. However, I do not believe that the book states explicitly that this has been achieved. Notwithstanding this minor glitch, this book should appeal to anyone interested in crime fiction, and is another excellent addition to the Karen Pirie series.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Thursday 24 November 2022

Guest Review: The Christmas Holiday by Phillipa Ashley

She’s planned the perfect Christmas. But fate might have other ideas…

Krystle didn’t have a normal childhood and longed for warm family Christmases with presents under the tree. Now she makes sure everyone else has the perfect Christmas she never had, bringing beautiful decorations to cheer as many people as possible.

With her festive business booming, she decides to celebrate by renting a secluded house in the Lakes, with a plan to make this the ultimate yuletide getaway.

But fate immediately throws a spanner in the works in the form of a broken-down car, a flooded river and Max; a man who despises Christmas.

Krystle becomes determined to show Max the joys of the holiday. She won’t take no for an answer.

Can she melt Max’s Grinch-like heart? And can he show her that life doesn’t need to go to plan to take you somewhere magical…

Review: I have been looking out with anticipation for the annual Christmas book from Phillipa Ashley. I have been a regular reader of her books for some time now, and have never failed to love her festive publication. This one is set in the Lake District, one of my favourite parts of the UK. The cover is absolutely beautiful, promising the reader a snowy Christmas trip to the countryside.

The story centres on Krystle, who has planned her dream vacation in the Lake District with boyfriend Brett, staying for 2 months in a large manor house that she plans to fill with all the decorations for a real family Christmas. Following a difficult start in life, Krystle now has a highly successful business sourcing Christmas decorations and planning commercial and domestic displays. Her dream holiday doesn’t get off to the best start as the couple have to be rescued from a swollen river after their expensive car gets stuck within sight of their destination. Their rescuer, Max, is a seemingly unpleasant recluse with a hatred of Christmas. Even when they reach their lovely rental property, things don’t improve, as Brett can’t forget about work and eventually leaves Krystle on her own. In his absence, she becomes more and more involved with local events and tries to involve Max in the festivities. The pair become friends as they share the difficult times in their past, but will their friendship develop into something more?

This was a wonderfully heart-warming Christmas romance which I can confidently recommend. It has a great mix of drama, humour and Christmas activities. The setting of Krystle’s remote holiday let amongst the snow covered mountains is beautifully described in a way that is guaranteed to make the reader want to set off for a visit. The characters in the story are all likeable, with the possible exception of Brett, but then he and Krystle didn’t seem well suited from the start. I liked that both Max and Krystle had interesting, if sad, back stories that emerged gradually as the book progressed. It was rewarding to witness how Krystle managed to find a way past Max’s gruff exterior and dislike of all things festive to discover the person beneath. I also loved that Krystle became so involved with the community while she was staying there. This is definitely a book that anyone would be delighted to find in their Christmas stocking.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Friday 18 November 2022

Review: Flappy Investigates by Santa Montefiore

 Flappy returns in the fabulously fun follow-up to Flappy Entertains from bestselling author Santa Montefiore, and this time something is amiss in the village of Badley Compton . . . 

Binoculars at the ready, Flappy Scott-Booth is set to investigate.   Newcomers have moved in, a young couple from London, delightful no doubt but they do need to know their place. Who better to teach them the ways of this close-knit community than Flappy herself?

But Flappy has other distractions. An ardent admirer, a New Year’s Ball to organize and manifold appearances to be kept up. How much time and effort it all takes!  Add to the mix the sudden arrival of her son Jasper with his utterly charming persona and total lack of ambition and drive, accompanied by his pretentious wife and their two highly-strung children - and Flappy is on ultra-high alert.

Review: It was so great to be back in Flappy world again. Badley Compton is a small place with a big personality. So much is going on in the village...according to Flapp. New people have moved in, her children are home to visit and so, as you can imagine, Flappy is very busy!

She is such a complex character, I feel like we went on a whole journey with her in Flappy Entertains and yet I think she does grow and change over the course of this book too. I was worried about having Flappy's son in this book because I thought they might have a strained relationship or else I wouldn't like the way she treated him. To be honest I was worried that she would use him in a game of oneupmanship i the village but their realtionship is interesting and I think their relationsip is one of the reasons we see somewhat of a change in Flappy over the course of the book. 

There are definitely some laughs to be had as the storyline progresses. Flappy is in a quandry about so many things. In the process of her investigations she gets herself in some compromising positions and we also get to see a little more of her husband in this novel which makes for some light hearted moments too. Overall though, Flappy's heart is in the right place and so this book is definitely a comfort read and something short and sweet to warm your soul during a cold time of the year. 

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Wednesday 16 November 2022

Guest Review: The Little Paris Patisserie by Julie Caplin

In a cosy corner of Paris, a delicious little patisserie is just waiting to be discovered. And romance might just be on the menu…

As the youngest of four, Nina Hadley has always had her big brothers telling her what to do. So, when she’s given the chance to move to Paris and help run a patisserie course, she can’t say au revoir quick enough!

There’s just one problem: high-flying chef Sebastian Finlay is the owner of the patisserie. He’s also her brother Nick’s best friend – and the man she has secretly been in love with since forever.

Amongst the mouth-wateringly delicious eclairs and delicate macaroons, Nina’s culinary creations aren’t the only tempting thing she’s working with…

Review: This is the third book in an ongoing series of currently 10 ‘Romantic Escapes’ by Julie Caplin, an author new to me. Although part of a series, it was possible to read this story, and I assume the others, as a standalone. I was looking forward to being taken on a trip to Paris, with hopefully some delicious patisserie products to sample; I was not disappointed.

The story centres on Nina, the youngest in a family of four, with three well-meaning elder brothers to look out for her, although she sometimes felt she would like to get away on her own for a while. She has been floating from job to job but has not found one that is just right. When her brother’s best friend and successful chef Sebastian needs help running a patisserie course in Paris, she jumps at the opportunity to grab some independence for a while, and perhaps expand her cooking skills at the same time. The only drawback is that she had a teenage crush on Sebastian and is still secretly in love with him although he displays no romantic feelings towards her.

I very much enjoyed this book and would recommend it to other readers, particularly if you like the idea of visiting Paris and have a taste for fine patisserie. There are some eminently likeable and interesting characters in this book, but I’m afraid that, for me, Sebastian was not one of them. He was the archetypal moody and bossy chef, not at all appreciative of what Nina was doing for him. However, Sebastian’s behaviour did not cure Nina’s amorous feelings towards him and I kept hoping that he might see her as someone other than his friend’s little sister. On the other hand, the people who Nina met through the course were all friendly and supportive of her efforts to learn to produce fine pastries. My mouth was watering at the descriptions of the eclairs and macarons she produced. Having enjoyed this book, I will be looking out for some of the other titles in this series, all of which seem to involve a visit to somewhere new and interesting.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Tuesday 15 November 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books with Aww Moments


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. 

So I have made this one slightly more flexible by going with books that made me go aww rather than just their aww moments...

Monday 14 November 2022

Review: The Christmas Wish by Lindsey Kelk

 Newly single lawyer Gwen Baker is hoping that a family Christmas – countryside, a mountain of food and festive films –

will salve the sting of her career hanging by a thread and her heart being trampled on. Because everyone else has their life sorted: even Dev, her boy-next-door crush, is now a tall, dark and handsome stranger with a fiancée. She can’t help wishing her future was clearer.

Then Gwen wakes up to discover it’s Christmas day all over again. Like Groundhog Day but with turkey. And family arguments. On repeat.

As she figures out how to escape her own particular Christmas hell, Dev is the one bright spot. He might be all grown-up but underneath he’s just as kind and funny as she remembers.

Maybe, just maybe, her heart can be mended after all.

But how do you fall in love with someone who can’t remember you from one day to the next?

Review: A new Lindsey Kelk book is always a treat but when it is a new Lindsey Kelk book set at Christmas following the pattern of one of my favourite films and it’s a beautiful, strokable hardback edition, that is my idea of heaven right there. This book has Kelk’s usual mix of heart and humour, real life with absurd things going wrong that you know this author has probably experienced at one time or another. You don’t have to have read any of Lindsey’s other books to enjoy this one though. Whether you are new to this author or have read all of her books multiple times, this one is for you.

Gwen is a great character to spend this book with because she is wonderfully imperfect and living in the real world like all of us. She is having a moment, an existential crisis, a journey of self-discovery and she is doing this while she is ‘home for the holidays’ because that’s the perfect time for this to happen. When I describe her in this way I know I have already sold you on this but when I add in the fact that she gets to spend Christmas day over and over and over again like Groundhog Day but she is Billy Murray, you know things can only get better. I loved going on this journey with her and seeing her grow and her mindset change over the course of the novel.

What is wonderful about living the same day over and over again is that we also get to see more of our supporting cast again and again. Gwen gets to know her long suffering mum and her slightly emotionally repressed dad a lot better over the course of the book and so we do too. It was a real treat to be disc covering these characters through the main character and I love this as a writing choice on the part of this author. We have cousin Manny and of course the matriarch of the family-Nan. They were great characters and provided some real comedy moments too.

Of course, this is a romcom and we have former crush and boy next door Dev to get to know in this novel too. The wonderful thing about Dev though, is that is isn’t always around. Because he is the boy next door and he doesn’t know that Gwen is living Christmas again and again, we get to know him again and again. He doesn’t feature in every Christmas day and so Gwen is just free to do her own thing whilst he is doing his. I loved this balance and this old friendship that the two have. It made for more ‘will they, won’t they’ moments as well as keeping the book about Gwen and not just her search for someone to ‘complete’ her.

There were moments where I laughed out loud, several of them, I also read a few chapters of this in audiobook form and so I can highly recommend that narration as well as the beautiful hardback. I think there really is something in here for everyone. It is a Christmas book but I think it would work as a funny read to let you escape at any time of year. I loved it and I think you will too!

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Saturday 12 November 2022

Guest Review: Fry’s Ties By Stephen Fry

Every single one of Stephen Fry's ties - whether floral, fluorescent, football themed; striped or spotty, outrageous or simply debonair - tells an intimate tale about a moment in Stephen's life.

Inspired by Stephen's hugely popular Instagram posts, this book will feature beautiful, hand-drawn illustrations and photographs to celebrate his expansive collection of man's greatest clothing companion: The Tie, in all its sophisticated glory.

Review: I had always looked on the comedian and television presenter Stephen Fry as a posh person who always seems to “talk down” to people. Therefore, it was with a sense of trepidation that I started to read this book, which was a gift, about ties. I needn’t have worried. Although it does confirm the author’s posh credentials, I was pleasantly surprised to find that a book about neckwear was an interesting read with snippets about the history of this fashion accessory and sprinkled throughout with witty comments.

I understand that the book, published in 2021, is a compilation based on a series of Instagram posts during the Covid lockdown in which Stephen Fry posted a picture of a tie from his vast collection alongside notes detailing its provenance. There is an introduction describing the dress code for men during his early years. I am a few years older than the author, so I too remember a time when my father wore shirts with a detachable, starched collar, and when boys and men almost always wore ties (just look at pictures of the crowd at Wembley for the 1966 World Cup Final in which most of the spectators are wearing a tie). The main part of the book comprises colour images of ties from the author’s collection with accompanying text describing the tie, the history of its designer and manufacturer and when and from where the tie was acquired. There are also illustrations demonstrating the different ways of knotting a tie.

Having accrued a reasonable tie collection during my working life and having seen changes in fashion over the years, I found this to be an entertaining and witty book about this particular clothing item. It was quite nostalgic to read about some of the retailers that no longer have a presence on British high streets. It is an easy read since one can sit down for a long session, or just dip into a few selections at a time. If you enjoy an amusing introduction to such a niche topic, then I would recommend this book.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Wednesday 9 November 2022

Guest Review: The Cornish Cream Tea Bookshop by Cressida McLaughlin

Ollie Spencer has started a new life in the idyllic Cornish seaside town of Port Karadow. Throwing herself into her job at the town’s bookshop, A New Chapter, is one way to make friends. The shop is glitzing up for first Christmas and Ollie hopes her inspired ideas will give the shop the edge it needs to dazzle the town.

But far from being the Sugar Plum fairy the place needs, Ollie is fast becoming its Christmas pudding. With the bookshop’s success at stake, Ollie turns to twinkly-eyed café owner Max for help. Can he help Ollie to turn the page, and put the sparkle back into her Cornish dream?

Review: I can’t believe that this is already the seventh book in the Cornish Cream Tea series from Cressida McLaughlin. Like many others, I have been enjoying this series and looking forward to each new release, with its mix of familiar and new characters. All of the books can be read as standalone stories, but I love the fact that so many of the people I have ‘met’ previously get to play a part, however small, alongside the newcomers. I’m sure that many readers will be drawn to the idea of a book set in a bookshop, as well as a story set at Christmas, as illustrated by the gorgeous pink cover. 

The story centres on Ollie Spencer, who has moved from London to the pretty Cornish seaside town of Port Karadow to work in the town’s new bookshop run by Thea, who featured in the last book in the series. Ollie has previously worked in a large London bookstore, specialising in events organising, but, for many reasons, needs a fresh start. She is lucky to be able to rent a barn conversion in Port Karadow from her friend’s grandfather, and moves in with her adorable chocolate labrador. She quickly gets to know many of the town’s inhabitants, but is instantly drawn to Max, who owns the coffee shop she visits each day on the way to work. With Christmas fast approaching, Ollie is keen to help make this a successful first festive season for the bookshop, but not all of her events go as well as planned. However, with her new friends, in particular Max, giving help and encouragement, she is determined to see her ambitions realised.

Gosh, I loved this story, as evidenced by how quickly I read it. It has so much going for it, from the beautiful location, to a cast of interesting characters, a blossoming independent bookshop, a host of twinkly festive events and a budding romance. Ollie’s drive and determination are amazing, but she has to learn to accept support from those around her, which is in abundance in this town with its warm community spirit. She is lucky to have got to know Max; quite apart from supplying delicious coffees and pastries, he was protective and provided her with reassurance. It would be hard for any reader not to want the two of them to end up as a couple. I highly recommend this heart-warming festive book; I hope that there will be more to come in this enjoyable series. 

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Tuesday 8 November 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I'd Like to Catch Up on/Finish


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. 

This is a good topic this week, there are definitely some books I would love to pick up that will either start or continue a series...

Thursday 3 November 2022

October 2022 Reading Wrap Up: Book Vs Movie Audiobooks & a Paperback!

 Well October wasn't a great reading month in terms of getting through my TBR but it felt like a good reading month in terms of what I actually read so I will take that!

I will break it down into kinds of books that I read because I did read my ebook partly as ebook and partly as audiobook because that counts too!


Physical Books


My videos

Wednesday 2 November 2022

Guest Review: To Italy, With Love by Nicky Pellegrino

Love happens when you least expect it...

Assunta has given up on love. She might run her little trattoria in the most romantic mountain town in Italy, but love just seems to have passed her by.

Sarah-Jane is finished with love. She's hiring an old convertible and driving around Italy this summer - it's the perfect way to forget all about her hot celebrity ex-boyfriend!

But when Sarah-Jane's car breaks down in Montenello, she has to stay longer than she intended! And the trouble is, love is everywhere...

Review: I have read, and enjoyed, a few of Nicky Pellegrino’s books, with stories set in Italy and brimming with the culture and, especially, cuisine of the country. This book is a sequel to an earlier title, A Dream of Italy. I have not read the earlier book, but did not find that prevented me from enjoying the current story.

This story centres on two women. Assunta has lived in Montenello, considered the most romantic mountain town in Italy, all of her life. She currently runs a trattoria there, where she prepares a meal daily for the local residents, but she is beginning to find the work too much for just one person. She also wonders if she will ever find love. Sarah-Jane has included Montenello in her road trip itinerary after reading an article about this romantic place where the mayor has sold off some of the cottages for just one Euro in the hope of regenerating the dying town. She has been badly let down by her celebrity chef ex-boyfriend and hopes to overcome her heartbreak while seeking out her Italian ancestry in the company of her cute little dog Baxter. Unfortunately, Sarah-Jane’s car decides to let her down, and she ends up stranded in Montenello, where there is a wedding almost every day to remind her of her loss. As her stay becomes more and more extended, she begins to relax, enjoy her surroundings and become drawn into the lives of the town’s inhabitants.  

I can recommend this charming story that left me with a desire to travel to Italy and enjoy some of the delicious food cooked up by Assunta and Sarah-Jane in this unusual town. I loved the characters in the story and the wonderful sense of community in the town. I felt for Assunta who worked so hard to feed her friends but felt that love was never going to come her way. How frustrating to watch all those weddings but fear that it may never be her turn. I also felt sorry for Sarah-Jane who had been taken for granted and used by her boyfriend; it was heart-warming to see her change as she spent more and more time in the town. What a great idea the mayor has had in selling the cottages so cheaply rather than let the town die completely. The story is cleverly told from the point of view of each woman in turn; it is lovely to see their friendship develop gradually through their common love of cooking.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US