Wednesday 29 May 2024

Guest Review: The Secret Beach by Veronica Henry

Nikki finally owns the little coastguard cottage of her dreams - and it's a few steps away from the hidden beach that means so much to her.

But when a handwritten note lands on her doorstep, she realises it's only a matter of time before the heartbreaking truth of her past is uncovered.

Twenty years ago, her whole world was turned upside-down when a terrible storm rolled into the small seaside town of Speedwell.

Ever since that night, Nikki has been keeping a secret. One she knows has the potential to destroy the lives of those she loves most.

Because as sure as the tide turns, there are no secrets in a small town...

Review: I have been eagerly awaiting the release of this new book from Veronica Henry, one of my favourite authors. The title suggests that once again I will be treated to a story set by the sea and I am already anticipating imagining the sound of the waves as I read. This book is set in the small Cornish seaside town of Speedwell, where 20 years previously the lives of the inhabitants had been turned upside down by a tragic summer storm, an event which is commemorated annually in the town.

The story centres on Nikki, who has finally had the opportunity to buy the coastguard cottage she has had her eye on for many years. Although in need of a large dose of TLC, the cosy cottage is in a marvellous position set high above a small cove that is hidden from view and accessed only by a precarious set of steps. The lovely beach below is associated with memories of an earlier time in Nikki’s life and a guilty secret she has kept for over twenty years. Her happiness at moving into her dream home and meeting up with her handsome new neighbour is marred by the arrival of an anonymous note. Someone apparently knows her secret, but who, and moreover what will happen if the truth comes out?

I can highly recommend this latest book from Veronica Henry. Its pages are populated with a cast of strong characters and filled with details of their lives, past and present. The story flits between present day and what happened to Nikki and her family twenty years ago. This is not my favourite form of narrative, but it was used to good effect here. Alongside the drama, there is also plenty of romance. I liked Nikki’s next door neighbour very much. He was very supportive and non-judgemental as well as easy on the eye. Nikki’s secret emerges slowly as the story progresses and the potential consequences of its being revealed become clear. I liked the way in which the reader is kept guessing as to the identity of the writer of the anonymous note; I certainly didn’t work it out. Although the book has an idyllic setting by the sea, there are copious reminders of its dangers.

To order your copy now, just cick here!

Saturday 25 May 2024

Guest Review: Past Lying By Val McDermid

Edinburgh, haunted by the ghosts of its many writers, is also the cold case beat of DCI Karen Pirie. So she shouldn't be surprised when an author's manuscript appears to be a blueprint for an actual crime.

Karen can't ignore the plot's chilling similarities to the unsolved case of an Edinburgh University student who vanished from her own doorstep. The manuscript seems to be the key to unlocking what happened to Lara Hardie, but there's a problem: the author died before he finished it.

As Karen digs deeper, she uncovers a spiralling game of betrayal and revenge, where lies are indistinguishable from the truth and with more than one unexpected twist . . .

Review: This is the seventh, and latest, book in the Karen Pirie crime thriller series. It follows on chronologically from the previous books, so I would recommend reading the series in order. Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Karen Pirie is head of Police Scotland’s Historic Cases Unit (HCU) based in Edinburgh. The story is set mainly in April 2020, with Scotland, and the rest of the United Kingdom, in lockdown as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic. During this time, people had to stay indoors, mixing only with people in their own “bubble”, and only being allowed outside for one hour’s exercise per day. Karen’s assistant, Detective Constable (DC) Jason Murray, is staying in his flat with his fiancĂ©e. Karen is joined in a separate “bubble” by a newcomer to the HCU, Detective Sergeant (DS) Daisy Mortimer.

With the country in lockdown there is little work for the Unit to do except going through some old files, until Jason receives a telephone call from a librarian on furlough from the National Library of Scotland. She explains that, prior to lockdown, she had been cataloguing the papers of a crime writer who had passed away suddenly. Amongst the papers was an unfinished manuscript detailing the abduction, murder and concealment of the body of a young woman by a writer in such a way that the finger of suspicion points at a fellow writer. The librarian believes that there are some uncanny similarities to the unsolved disappearance of an Edinburgh University student the previous year, especially due to the unusual medical condition suffered by the victim in the manuscript and the missing student. On receiving the report of this conversation, Karen Pirie decides that this should be investigated by the HCU. The book then follows the investigation as it grapples with the restrictions of lockdown and the ever pervading menace of Covid to try and bring answers to the missing student’s family.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by the actress Lauren Lyle who played Karen Pirie in the television adaptation of the first book in the series. I found it to be as exciting as previous books in the series, although of necessity slower paced as Karen and her team journeyed through the eerily quiet streets of Edinburgh. There were plenty of twists in the plot, and the author wove skilfully the reality of the Covid pandemic and its effects on people’s lives into the story. As another absorbing entry into the Karen Pirie crime series, I would recommend this book.

To order your copy now, just click here!

Wednesday 22 May 2024

Guest Review: Love in Provence by Jo Thomas

Escape to the beautiful lavender fields of Provence this summer

Del moved to the south of France three years ago and hasn’t looked back. She’s found new friends, new purpose, and new love with gorgeous Fabien.

But just as harvest on her little lavender farm is due to begin, Del gets some shocking news. With no time to dwell as she welcomes a new crew of lavender pickers, she unexpectedly waves goodbye to Fabien for the summer.

Usually cooking – the thing she loves best – would help soothe her troubles, but Del doesn’t remember how . . . And then chef Zacharie comes to town, dropping another bombshell!

Over one summer in Provence that’s full of surprises, friends old and new rally round. Can they complete the harvest and pull the community back together? And if Fabien returns, will Del finally get her happy-ever-after?

Review: This is a sequel to an earlier book by Jo Thomas, entitled Escape to the French Farmhouse. I always look forward to Jo Thomas’s books, sure of a compelling story, and this title definitely did not disappoint. As usual, she transports her readers to a beautiful location, this time a charming village in Provence. The stunning, bright cover of the book beautifully illustrates what to expect from the story within; you can almost smell the lavender. I enjoyed meeting up with many familiar faces and finding out what had transpired in the period between the two stories, but you would not have needed to read the previous book to enjoy this one. 

The story once again centres on Del, who moved three years ago from England to Provence, where she now lives with partner Fabien (previously spelt Fabian) in a large farmhouse surrounded by lavender fields. She has made many friends in the village where she lives and, with support from a local chef, has developed a love of cooking, incorporating the local herbs and lavender into her dishes. As the lavender harvest is almost upon her, the Mistral sweeps through the village, bringing with it great changes in Del’s life, mostly unwelcome ones. It seems there is one blow after another, and she must face most of them without Fabien by her side. Luckily, she finds support from some unexpected sources as well as her old friends. There are so many worries over and above whether the harvest can be completed, and, most of all, will Fabien come home?

I highly recommend this latest book from Jo Thomas. Whether or not you have read her previous story about Del and her new life in Provence, this charming and romantic tale is bound to prove an enjoyable read. I loved so many of the characters in this book. Del herself certainly had a hard time of it and I felt for her facing so many problems as they stacked up. However, the sense of community in the village came across once more. The surprise for Del and the reader was the way in which the itinerant lavender pickers came to the fore and pitched in. They were a really interesting group, and often a source of humour. As I usually find with Jo’s marvellous writing, I really felt that I was there in the village with Del every time I sat down to read. Of course, there was also all that lovely food that was being produced and described all through the book, making even me want to go into the kitchen and cook.

To order your copy now, just click here!

Saturday 18 May 2024

Guest Review: Treasures of Lord’s By Tim Rice

Review: Lord’s cricket ground in North London is the headquarters of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and is considered to be the world headquarters of cricket. This iconic ground, especially its pavilion and adjoining museum, is home to a huge collection of artworks and other artefacts connected with the history of the game. This book, compiled by the lyricist Tim Rice, is a concise, lavishly illustrated volume describing some of the more famous items in the collection. The author is probably best known for his collaboration with musician Andrew Lloyd Webber, but he is also a keen student of cricket and has been a former president of the MCC.

The opening chapter of the book describes the founding of the ground and its forerunners (the current site is the third venue founded by Thomas Lord) and its subsequent development. This is followed by chapters and illustrations covering the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries (the book was published in 1989), and a final chapter on some of the more idiosyncratic artefacts. These include the famous “Ashes” urn, which was presented to the captain of the England/MCC touring team in Australia in 1883 and which is competed for in Test Match series between England and Australia.

Comprising a mixture of text covering the history of the ground and famous players; illustrations of the artworks; and detailed notes about the provenance of the artworks, their subject(s) and the artists who created them, this is a fascinating insight into the treasures housed in cricket’s headquarters. It should appeal both to followers of the game and those interested in art history.

To order your copy now, just click here!

Saturday 11 May 2024

Guest Review: Ark Royal By Christopher G. Nuttall

If you wish for peace, prepare for war.

-Royal Navy Motto

Seventy years ago, the interstellar supercarrier Ark Royal was the pride of the Royal Navy. But now, her weapons are outdated and her solid-state armour nothing more than a burden on her colossal hull. She floats in permanent orbit near Earth, a dumping ground for the officers and crew the Royal Navy wishes to keep out of the public eye.

But when a deadly alien threat appears, the modern starships built by humanity are no match for the powerful alien weapons. Ark Royal and her mismatched crew must go on the offensive, buying time with their lives And yet, with a drunkard for a Captain, an over-ambitious first officer and a crew composed of reservists and the dregs of the service, do they have even the faintest hope of surviving ...

... And returning to an Earth which may no longer be there?

Review: Those expecting this book to be about one of the five different ships that served with the Royal Navy under the name “Ark Royal” will be disappointed. Instead, it is a science fiction book about a space carrier with this name. However, there are parallels; Ark Royal serves with the Royal Navy which now operates in space, and carries several squadrons of starfighters which can be deployed during combat through its launch tubes. There are other similarities in the book in that other space vessels of the Royal Navy are also named after former warships.

At the beginning of the book, Ark Royal is an obsolete museum piece, with heavy armour plating and outdated systems, held in orbit around Earth. Its skeleton crew consists mainly of personnel who have been assigned because the Navy couldn’t think of anywhere else to post them. This includes the ship’s captain Ted Smith who has a drink problem. Humankind has expanded into other star systems and set up colonies on their planets and asteroids. However, some of the systems at the further reaches of humans’ exploration have been attacked by aliens, who appear to have superior weapons that can destroy modern spaceships. It is decided to bring Ark Royal out of mothballs and send it to combat the aliens in the hope that its heavier armour will afford it protection against the aliens’ weaponry. The book describes how reservists are called up to bring the crew to full complement and to ready the ship and its squadrons for combat. There follows tense battle scenes as the Ark Royal confronts alien spacecraft.

This is the first in a series of books by the author, and introduces readers to the space vessel and the various members of its crew. I listened to the audiobook version and enjoyed the narrator’s voice characterisations. I thought the story bore some resemblances to other science fiction dramas, such as Star Trek and Star Wars. Overall, I found this to be a thrilling science fiction adventure, although the ending did leave some loose ends to be picked up in subsequent books in the series.

To order your copy now, just click here!

Friday 10 May 2024

April 2024 Reading Wrap Up

April wasn't too bad of a reading month. I had high hopes about reading on plane journeys which I did a tiny bit of but nowhere near what I thoguht I would (hello binge-watching parks and recreation!) and so I relied on those quick reads that I had pre-ordered to get me through this month!

Technically I did read a little bit of ebook because I started reading Date With Destiny on the plane but I read the vast majority of it in the paperback proof copy. I also think it's funny that audiobooks is normally my biggest category but I wasn't really doing many things this month that required the listening to of audiobooks and so paperbacks for the win!

Physical Books


Thursday 9 May 2024

Review: Date With Destiny by Lucy Vine

 Ginny is about to turn 32. It’s a year she’s been thinking about for a long time. Sixteen years ago she crossed paths with a psychic who made some key predictions about her thirty-second year…

Three bad things: A heartbreak, a loss of independence, and a death.

Three good things: A life-changing trip, reconnecting with someone, and meeting her soulmate.

The issue is that Ginny is due to get married in a month… but it’s all nonsense, obviously. But when some of those pesky predictions start coming true she starts to wonder what might happen next…

Review: I love Lucy Vine books so much, she just seems to write to appeal to my lifestyle and my sense of humour and so how could I complain? The speed with which I tore through this book once I picked it up was intense, I just couldn’t put it down, I wanted to read on and find out what would become of Ginny, her friends, her family and, most importantly, her psychic predictions!

Ginny is great because she is so easy to relate to. She works in her family’s jewellery business (which definitely gave me Bridesmaids vibes) and she has a pretty settled life at the start of the novel. Then something shakes everything up like a snowglobe and we get to be with her as she tries to piece her life back together and move on with this set of psychic predictions hanging over her. I think my favourite of the predictions was definitely her life-changing trip, it was clear what it was going to be and it made me laugh out loud whilst reading a LOT!

Ginny’s team behind her are a varied bunch and I always love that shout Lucy Vine books, she really does make her characters like the kind of people you have as friends in real life. People aren’t all the same age in a friendship group, people come and go and people have very different lifestyles and are still able to be friends. I always feel like I am seen and I am represented in one of her books and I loved Ginny’s friends and family in Date With Destiny! I thought it made a real change that Ginny’s sister was part of the group and was just accepted even though she was younger and I like that the friends didn’t always go down the cliche route when it came to major life events!

This book was just a really good time! I was invested in the story straight away, behind Gunny every step of the road. Lucy Vine made me laugh, she made me think and she entertained me from start to finish. I highly recommend Date with Destiny, I think it’s got something for everyone and definitely one that should be in your bag this summer!

To orde your copy now, just click here!

Wednesday 8 May 2024

Guest Review: Under a Summer Skye by Sue Moorcroft

A chance encounter is about to change everything for Thea Wynter.

The moment she arrived on the Isle of Skye, life changed for Thea. Running from a succession of wrong turns, she comes to the island in search of blue sea, endless skies, and mountains that make the heart soar. Here, she feels at peace.

As head gardener at Rothach Hall, life is exactly how she wants it, with her days spent working in the glorious clifftop garden and her evenings in the cosy local village.

But an encounter with a stranger from the mainland brings with it an unexpected turn – and only time will tell if he is friend or foe.

It seems that even on Skye, life can catch up with you, and Thea is soon faced with the past she left behind – and with it, the family she’s never met…

Review: This book is the first title in the Skye Sisters Trilogy from this author. I have read and enjoyed many of Sue Moorcroft’s books; they always transport the reader to an interesting new location. As the title suggests, the books in this trilogy will be set principally on the picturesque island of Skye, off the west coast of Scotland.

The central character in this story is Thea Wynter, one of three sisters adopted from different families by a couple who died tragically young. Thea and her middle sister Ezzie live in Skye, where they work at Rothach Hall as head gardener and assistant manager, respectively. The eldest of the sisters, Valentina, lives in Edinburgh. Thea and Ezzie have good reason for having made the move from Suffolk to their more remote location, which is explained as the story progresses. Thea is content with her peaceful existence on Skye, but is not unhappy with the sudden changes caused by the introduction into her life of Deveron, who accepts a job as seasonal gardener at the hall, and Daisy a cute stray dog who she fosters. Thea hits it off with Deveron immediately, but doesn’t suspect that he may have an ulterior motive for befriending her. As if this is not enough upheaval, it looks as if Thea’s past may be catching up with her at the same time as she is suddenly confronted with news about her birth mother, who she previously knew nothing about.

I found myself quite captivated by this book, with its complex characters and glorious setting, and do not hesitate to recommend it; it would make a lovely summer holiday read. There was a lot going on in Thea’s once simple life all of a sudden and she was fortunate to have copious amounts of support from the community around her. It was a scary prospect when it seemed certain that a secret she had kept hidden might be about to escape. The tension built up by the author was palpable. I liked most of the characters in the story, but a couple of them were most unpleasant. Cuddly Daisy the dog sounded an extremely lively companion. Of course, Thea and her sister were fortunate to be living in such a lovely spot with the sea almost on their doorstep. I’m certain that many readers will be considering making the journey to Skye themselves by the time they finish the book. I look forward to reading the next book in this trilogy.

To order your copy now, just click here!

Tuesday 7 May 2024

Top Ten Tuesday: Books With May Flowers on The Cover


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. 

What a cute idea, I didn't realise I had read so many books with flowers on the cover...

Monday 6 May 2024

May 2024 TBR

 May is traditionally a bit of a mad month for me with SATs at school, 2 busy bank holiday weekends and a half term week which is often filled with catching up on things ready for summer 2 at school so let's be kind and gentle on myself when I make this TBR...

May releases

14th May

9th May

April Books I Missed

Nonfiction Pick

Book Vs Movie Read