I’m pleased to share my review for The Tuscan Contessa by Dinah Jefferies on my book blog today – the ebook is currently 99p on the Kindle. Thank you Penguin Books for a digital review copy via NetGalley – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.
In 1940s Tuscany, Contessa Sofia de’ Corsi’s peaceful home in a medieval villa among the olive groves has been upturned by the arrival of German soldiers. She is desperate to help her friends in the village fight back in any way she can, all while keeping her efforts secret from her husband Lorenzo, who fears for their safety.
When Maxine, a no-nonsense Italian-American, arrives in Tuscany to help the resistance, the two women forge an uneasy alliance. Before long they find themselves entangled in a dangerous game with the Nazis, each trying to save the ones they love…
This is the first Dinah Jefferies novel I’ve read, although I do have a copy of one of her previous books on my Kindle ready to read. I enjoyed listening to Dinah talking to Catherine Isaac recently on a Facebook Live meet the author session about how she researched the story.
This book is so beautifully written that I could imagine myself in Italy watching the story unfold. Sofia, Maxine and the other women in the story are so strong and so determined to believe that the Allies will rescue them from the Germans. I’ve read many books about life in France during the Second World War but this is the first one set in Italy.
Dinah brought the area to life, with vivid descriptions of buildings, food and people. The end of the story, as all the smaller stories are woven together, is a very emotional read – I’m sure I was holding my breath in places and I also had damp eyes a few times during the book.
I’ve enjoyed reading a lot of historical fiction novels recently and this is now one of my favourites.
Dinah Jefferies (from Amazon):
Dinah was born in Malaya in 1948 and moved to England at the age of nine. In 1985, the sudden death of her fourteen year old son changed the course of her life, and deeply influenced her writing. Dinah drew on that experience, and on her own childhood spent in Malaya during the 1950s to write her debut novel, The Separation.
Now living in Gloucestershire with her husband and their Norfolk terrier, she spends her days writing, with time off with her grandchildren.
I’m thrilled to share my review for Dear Emma Blue today – thank you to Trapeze books / Orion Publishing for granting my wish on NetGalley for a digital advanced review copy – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.
At sixteen, Emmie Blue stood in the fields of her school and released a red balloon into the sky. Attached was her name, her email address…and a secret she desperately wanted to be free of. Weeks later, on a beach in France, Lucas Moreau discovered the balloon and immediately emailed the attached addressed, sparking an intense friendship between the two teens.
Now, fourteen years later, Emmie is hiding the fact that she’s desperately in love with Lucas. She has pinned all her hopes on him and waits patiently for him to finally admit that she’s the one for him. So dedicated to her love for Lucas, Emmie has all but neglected her life outside of this relationship—she’s given up the search for her absentee father, no longer tries to build bridges with her distant mother, and lives as a lodger to an old lady she barely knows after being laid off from her job. And when Lucas tells Emmie he has a big question to ask her, she’s convinced this is the moment he’ll reveal his feelings for her. But nothing in life ever quite goes as planned, does it?
Emmie Blue is about to learn everything she thinks she knows about life (and love) is just that: what she thinks she knows. Is there such thing as meant to be? Or is it true when they say that life is what happens when you are busy making other plans?
This is one of my favourite books of 2020. Emmie is a character that I took to my heart – a mother who wasn’t interested, an absent father and a teacher who breached his duty of care. This book looks at relationships and friendships, how they change and evolve over time, and how sometimes people aren’t as honest as they should be.
The book begins as Emmie and Lucas are about to turn 30 – they met aged 16 after Lucas found a balloon in France with Emmie’s contact details (and details about what had happened to her at school), and became friends. The story follows on from the 30th birthday, but also takes the reader back in time to Emmie’s childhood, teenage years and the years of friendship with Lucas and his family.
Life has never been easy for Emmie and people have let her down throughout her life. However with support from sometimes the least likely people, this is Emmie’s opportunity to face her demons and move forward with her life.
Thank you Lia Louis for your sublime storytelling – this was a book I didn’t want to put down. I enjoyed travelling over to France with Emmie, as she spent the year after her 30th birthday making some major changes to her life and uncovering some secrets.
This is already available in ebook format in the USA and is due to be published in ebook and paperback in the UK in August 2020.
I’m pleased to share my review for The Blitz Detective by Mike Hollow, published by Allison and Busby last week. Thank you to the publisher for a digital review copy via NetGalley – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. This book was published previously as Direct Hit (The Blitz Detective).
Saturday 7th September, 1940.
The sun is shining, and in the midst of the good weather Londoners could be mistaken for forgetting their country was at war – until the familiar wail of the air-raid sirens heralds an enemy attack. The Blitz has started, and normal life has abruptly ended – but crime has not.
That night a man’s body is discovered in an unmarked van in the back streets of West Ham. When Detective Inspector John Jago is called to the scene, he recognises the victim: local Justice of the Peace, Charles Villiers. The death looks suspicious, but then a German bomb obliterates all evidence. War or no war, murder is still murder, and it’s Jago’s job to find the truth.
I enjoyed this crime fiction / historical fiction book. I must admit that I was initially drawn to the book after reading the synopsis because the victim’s surname is Villiers and I am employed by the social mobility charity Villiers Park Educational Trust.
An older detective is working with a young detective to solve a murder of a local businessman and magistrate, complicated by the evidence being destroyed by a German bomb. I enjoyed the criminal investigations and also the historical details – 1940’s London was brought to life.
I look forward to reading more of the books featuring DI Jago – a number of the other books by Mike Hollow in the series are being republished by Allison and Busby over the next few months.
Mike Hollow information (from Goodreads):
I first got into print when I was eleven. A boys’ comic published a feeble limerick I’d sent them and paid me five shillings, a fat sum at that age. But the postal order was nothing compared with seeing my words in print.
After that I kept writing – teenage poems for a late-1960s “underground magazine”, then grown-up poems, and later a happy mix of copywriting, journalism, editing and translating. All ways of getting paid for playing with words.
My CV? I was born in 1953 in the Essex County Borough of West Ham – home of the Blitz Detective – on the eastern edge of London. I grew up mainly in Romford and went to the Royal Liberty School, then studied Russian and French at Cambridge University.
My first job was translating for the BBC, and I did various jobs there for sixteen years before moving to work in communications for development agency Tearfund, travelling widely in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In 2002 I went freelance as a writer, editor and creative project manager. Now I earn a living by translating and spend the rest of my time in the cellar of my house in Hampshire chronicling the adventures of the Blitz Detective.
Why write detective novels? Because I enjoy reading them and I love to create entertaining stories. Why set them in that place and time? Because overnight the Blitz turned everyday existence into a life-and-death struggle for ordinary people – and some of them were my family.
I’m thrilled to share a guest post by Laura Bambrey on my book review blog today. Yesterday Simon and Schuster UK published Laura’s debut novel in ebook.
Today I’m pleased to welcome Laura to speak more about the main theme of her debut novel.
Thank you so much for having me on your wonderful blog and helping me to celebrate the publication of The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness.
I wanted to talk a little bit about why I chose loneliness as the main theme of my debut. In reality it was Tori, my main character, who decided on it. She’s been pottering around in my head a lot longer than her story has. I’ve tried to get to know her several times, placing her in different situations and scenarios, with no luck. But then, at the beginning of 2019 when I finally committed to finding out her story, I realised where I’d been going wrong. I’d been busy trying to figure her out in relation to other people- but – other than three online-only friends – she had no one else in her life. And there it was – I had my theme.
I had to research loneliness and how it can affect you in order to understand Tori and tell her story. The first thing I did was to look back at my own experiences. I come from a loving family, I’m blessed with a wonderful partner and have lots of people – online and in real life – that I can turn to. But there have been those moments where I’ve felt truly lonely. Even saying that now, I can feel the shudder- the desire to delete that sentence. There is still so much stigma attached to admitting that you are, or have been, lonely.
– Sitting up at 2am, watching over my mum while nursing her during her last weeks.
– A lunchtime walk at work while everyone else ate together.
– Having a question and realising that the one person in my life who could answer it was gone.
Of course, the entirety of this story was written before the pandemic burst into our lives. Sadly, loneliness has become even more prevalent – something we’ve all faced to some extent over the past four months. And still, it’s not talked about enough. I mean, did you know that there are 4 types of loneliness? Social, Emotional, Situational and Chronic. There’s so much to learn – so much we should be talking about!
It’s my hope that The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness will not only be an enjoyable, light look at some darker and more difficult issues like loneliness, loss, anxiety and phobias, but that it might also provide a bit of a conversation starter about them too.
Before I sign off I’d like to give mind.org.uk a shout out for their wonderful online resources. If you find yourself struggling or want to learn more, they’re a great place to start.
The perfect feel-good read from an exciting new voice in women’s fiction, for fans of Heidi Swain, Cathy Bramley and Jenny Colgan.
Tori Williamson is alone. After a tragic event left her isolated from her loved ones, she’s been struggling to find her way back to, well – herself. That’s why she set up her blog, The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness, as a way of – anonymously – connecting with the outside world and reaching others who just need a little help sometimes.
When she’s offered a free spot on a wellbeing retreat in exchange for a review on her blog, Tori is anxious about opening herself up to new surroundings. But after her three closest friends – who she talks to online but has never actually met – convince her it’ll do her some good, she reluctantly agrees and heads off for three weeks in the wild (well, a farm in Wales).
From the moment she arrives, Tori is sceptical and quickly finds herself drawn to fellow sceptic Than, the retreat’s dark and mysterious latecomer. But as the beauty of The Farm slowly comes to light she realizes that opening herself up might not be the worst thing. And sharing a yurt with fellow retreater Bay definitely isn’t. Will the retreat be able to fix Tori? Or will she finally learn that being lonely doesn’t mean she’s broken . . .
Welcome to The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness! Where you can learn to move mountains by picking up the smallest of stones…
For more information about Laura Bambrey:
Laura Bambrey was born in Dorset but raised in Wales. She’s worked as a trapeze choreographer, sculpture conservator and stilt walker, amongst others, and spent most of her time collecting stories from the people she met along the way.
She has spent many years as a book blogger and reviewer of women’s fiction and now lives in Devon with her very own romantic hero and a ridiculously fluffy rabbit named Mop. The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness is her début novel.
Today I’m pleased to share a review for a non fiction book on my blog. Thank you to Penguin UK for a digital proof copy via NetGalley – apologies for the delay in reading and reviewing.
Synopsis (from Goodreads) :
An award-winning medic and scientist makes the game-changing case that genetic females are stronger than males at every stage of life
‘A powerful antidote to the myth of a “weaker sex”‘ Gina Rippon, author of The Gendered Brain
Here are some facts: Women live longer than men. They have stronger immune systems. They’re better at fighting cancer and surviving famine, and even see the world in a wider variety of colours. They are simply stronger than men at every stage of life. Why? And why are we taught the opposite?
Drawing on his wide-ranging experience and cutting-edge research, Dr Sharon Moalem set out to understand why men are consistently less likely than women to thrive. The answer, he reveals, lies in our genetics: the female’s double XX chromosomes offer a powerful survival advantage.
Moalem explains why genetic females triumph over males when it comes to resilience, intellect, stamina, immunity and much more. And he calls for a long-overdue reconsideration of our male-centric, one-size-fits-all view of the body and even of how we prescribe medications – a view that still frames women through the lens of men.
Revolutionary, captivating and utterly persuasive, The Better Half will make you see women, men and the survival of our species anew.
This book was published back in April 2020 in the UK, at the start of Lockdown. I had a dip in my ability to concentrate and read mostly ‘light fiction’ full of uplifting stories. However, as a female in the middle of a global pandemic, I really should have read this because I now appreciate that my body may be more able to fight Covid-19 than those of the males in our house.
This was an interesting read. Admittedly I didn’t fact check the science but I did understand the majority of it, with my A level science and medical underwriting knowledge. My major concern was discovering that women are much more at risk of autoimmune conditions (a cousin has MS) and that many medicines haven’t been tested on women, so the dosages are based on men..
Definitely worth a read, to see why the X and Y chromosomes mean that we have different health issues and the risks to be aware of.
Sharon Moalem, MD, PhD, is an award-winning physician-scientist and geneticist. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Survival of the Sickest and Inheritance, an Amazon Best Science Book of the Year, among other books. His work brings together evolution, genetics, and medicine to revolutionize how we understand and treat disease, and his clinical research led to the discovery of two new rare genetic conditions, and to his discovery of a first-in-class antibiotic which targets ‘superbug’ infections. His books have been translated into more than 35 languages.
I’m thrilled to share my review for the new book by Lauren North. The Perfect Betrayal was one of my favourite books last year, so I was pleased to have chance to read and review her second novel, after taking part in the social media cover reveal a few months ago. Thank you to Transworld for a digital review copy via NetGalley – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.
Jenna is a wife, a mother, a doctor. She’s also the victim of a stalker.
Every time she leaves her house, she sees him. Disturbing gifts are left at her door. Cruel emails are sent to her colleagues. She has no idea who this man is but she feels powerless against him.
Until the day he is brought into her hospital after a serious accident, and Jenna is given the chance to find out once and for all why this man is tormenting her. Now, the power is all hers.
But how many lines is she willing to cross to take back control of her life?
I devoured this story very quickly, wanting to find out who was stalking Jenna. As a mum of two, the thought of having someone watching my family was at the back of my mind as this story unfolded.
The suspense kept building as the main characters were introduced, until I was suspicious of almost everyone. This is very dark in places, as Jenna struggles to cope with the presents being left for her and the emails accusing her of being a bad mother and an incompetent doctor.
Another tense thriller from Lauren North that I will be recommending to family and friends, this book keeps you guessing until the very end.
Lauren writes psychological suspense novels that delve into the darker side of relationships and families. She has a lifelong passion for writing, reading, and all things books. Lauren’s love of psychological suspense has grown since childhood and her dark imagination of always wondering what’s the worst thing that could happen in every situation.
Lauren studied psychology before moving to London where she lived and worked for many years. She now lives with her family in the Suffolk countryside. Readers can follow Lauren on Twitter @Lauren_C_North and Facebook @LaurenNorthAuthor
I’m pleased to share my review for this tense thriller by Holly Rae Garcia today on my book blog. Thank you to Blackthorn Book Tours for inviting me to join the tour (my first with Blackthorn) and providing a digital review copy – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.
Rebecca Crow’s four-year-old son is dead and her husband is missing.
Divers find her husband’s car at the bottom of a canal with their son’s small, lifeless body, inside. The police have no suspects and nothing to go on but a passing mention of a man driving a van. Guilt and grief cloud Rebecca’s thoughts as she stumbles toward her only mission: Revenge.
James Porter knows exactly what happened to them, but he’ll do anything to keep it a secret.
James didn’t plan to kill Rebecca’s son, but he’s not too broken up about it, either. There are more important things for him to worry about. He needs money, and his increasing appetite for murder is catching the attention of a nosy detective.
This was an unusual book for me because we met the murderer at the beginning of the book, no trying to work out ‘who did it’ in this story. Instead this is a story about how the grief of the murder of her only child drives Rebecca to seek the ultimate revenge.
This is well written and all too believable. A mother racked with guilt and grief looking for the thief / killer who enjoys the thrill of the kill, especially when he keeps getting away with it. It was difficult not to feel sympathy for Rebecca, even as the story unfolded, as her desire for revenge lead her to become the hunter. It is difficult to say any more without giving any spoilers.
I raced through the story, and didn’t want to put it down – the sign of an excellent story. I’m looking forward to reading future novels by Holly Rae Garcia and will be recommending this book.
Holly Rae Garcia:
Holly Rae Garcia’s debut novel, Come Join the Murder, was released on March 27th, 2020 by Close to the Bone Publishing (UK). Her short fiction has been published by Siren’s Call, The Bookends Review, Rue Scribe, Pen to Print, The Australian Writers’ Centre, and Trembling With Fear along with a few anthologies. Holly lives on the Texas Coast with her family and five dogs.
This Little Book is about being present to the wonders that exist around us At Ground Level, discovering all that we fail to see when we spend so much of our lives chasing bigger, better, faster, more, endeavouring to fly higher.
Everything else seems much more desirable around us than ourselves, or our lives and loves, after a long day at the slug farm.
When do we decide how to proceed with the life we have built thus far: Joy, Passion,
Marriage, Divorce, Suicide, Enlightenment? Choices we have made. What if you built from a place of strength rather than always feeling diminished and unfulfilled? A life built upon the life you have, rather than the elusive life you imagine, yet fear. Build a great life in balance with your best self and your nurtured relationships. Transformation is seeing the hidden gems that truly exist in plain sight.
We have all heard someone say, The grass is greener on the other side. Is it?
Most of us were 4 or 5 years old when the belief structure we made with life set in: I
am stupid, I am weak, I don’t deserve, etc. We engaged believing that we should spend
our lives proving that we are who we believe everyone else thinks we are. Breaking the
cycle of doubt is essential. Loving self is the first love.
The grass is greenest where you are!
Born in Scotland and raised in Zimbabwe and South Africa, Gary Finnan splits his time between Sonoma Wine country in California and his farm in Aiken South Carolina, along with his wife Eva and two daughters. Gary is an award-winning inspirational author.
The sun is shining as Rachel and her gorgeous beau, Tom, prepare to tie the knot at Primrose Farm.
It takes a village to pull off the perfect country wedding and Rachel couldn’t be more grateful for her friends and family as they roll out the haybales and string up the bunting – all she needs to do is focus on her Happy Ever After.
But no wedding is without drama. A face from the past is looking to stir up trouble in the village and there’s a secret following Rachel all the way up the aisle . . .
With old friends, new promises and a little borrowed time, will Rachel get the wedding of her dreams?
First of all, I need to say what a gorgeous cover this book has – I know I only have a digital proof copy at the moment but I’m looking forward to getting a paperback copy of this book when it is published in July 2020.
Thank you to One More Chapter at Harper Collins for approving my NetGalley request to read and review. I enjoyed the first two Pudding Pantry books and was eager to find out what happened next for Rachel, Maisy, Jill, Ruth and the friends of Primrose Farm in the Cheviot Hills.
At the start of the book, wedding plans are in preparation for Rachel and Tom’s big day. As the current pandemic has forced the postponement of many weddings in 2020, it felt even more special to be able to read this.
Alongside romance, puddings, farm life, desserts, community spirit, children, cake, the story also covers issues with ex partners, missing loved ones and recognising that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I loved being back at Primrose Farm and would like to thank Caroline Roberts for giving me a wonderful escape on a wet and windy lockdown bank holiday Saturday.
A delicious, delightful story and a much need uplifting read, plus a recipe book (recipes are included in all three Pudding Pantry books). A five star read too.
Caroline Roberts information from Goodreads:
Family, friends, food, a glass of bubbly and, of course, a good book make me smile. I love writing emotional stories about love, loss, betrayal, and family, that explore how complex and yet beautiful love can be. I also like to write romantic comedy, letting the characters have a bit of flirty fun too! I believe in following your dreams and working hard towards them, which led me to Harper Impulse (Harper Collins) and a publishing deal (woop!) after many years of writing. Stunning Northumberland is my home – sandy beaches, castles and gorgeous countryside that have inspired my writing.