When the Music Stops by Joe Heap

I’m pleased to be sharing my review as part of the blog tour organised by Anne at Random Things Tours. Thank you to Anne and Harper Fiction for a digital review copy, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

This is the story of Ella.
And Robert.
And of all the things they should have said, but never did.

‘What have you been up to?’
I shrug, ‘Just existing, I guess.’
‘Looks like more than just existing.’
Robert gestures at the baby, the lifeboat, the ocean.
‘All right, not existing. Surviving.’
He laughs, not unkindly. ‘Sounds grim.’
‘It wasn’t so bad, really. But I wish you’d been there.’

Ella has known Robert all her life. Through seven key moments and seven key people their journey intertwines.
 
From the streets of Glasgow during WW2 to the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll of London in the 60s and beyond, this is a story of love and near misses. Of those who come in to our lives and leave it too soon. And of those who stay with you forever…

My thoughts:

I was hooked by the blurb for this book but still wasn’t prepared for how the story started and how we meet Ella. The story starts with a storm which leaves Ella holding her baby grandson on a damaged boat, trying to keep him alive until rescuers find them.

During the time stranded on the boat, Ella revisits seven key moments in each decade of her life and meets seven people who she had lost during her lifetime. Each meeting is also linked to a piece of music, from the book of music Ella chose with her dad in Glasgow. The audio book version will include the songs played in full.

Ella’s journey takes her from Glasgow to London. Joe’s writing brings each of the seven periods in time to life, from the school days in Glasgow to the first flat in London to being in a maternity ward as a geriatric mother. I’ve read many books this year whilst furloughed, and this is one of the most poignant. This book is full of emotion and I was caught up in each story, shedding a few tears along the way.

This is a no spoiler review, so you will need to read the book to find out if Ella saved her grandson. A five star book in my humble opinion, a lifetime of experiences captured in one stunning story. It will also make you think about who you would like to meet again, to maybe have a different conversation with. I’ve had Joe’s debut novel, The Rules of Seeing, on my Kindle for months and I look forward to reading it soon.

Book launch event:

On Thursday 28th October I attended Joe’s online book launch event organised by his publisher. It was fascinating to hear about Joe’s inspiration for the book, from how his grandparents met to becoming a father himself, to linking The Seven Ages of Man by Shakespeare to the life of a woman linked by music. The Jack Shapiro who wrote the music in the book is a work of fiction based on Jack Sands, his grandfather.

Author bio:

Joe Heap was born in 1986 and grew up in Bradford, the son of two teachers. His debut novel The Rules of Seeing won Best Debut at the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards in 2019 and was shortlisted for the Books Are My Bag Reader Awards. Joe lives in London with his girlfriend, their two sons and a cat who wishes they would get out of the house more often.

For more information, please contact felicity.denham@harpercollins.co.uk | 0208 307 4203

When I Come Home Again by Caroline Scott

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for a copy of this book to prepare for the Random Things Tours blog tour. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. This is the first book I’ve read by Caroline Scott but I have bought a copy of her debut novel, The Photographer of the Lost, from Bert’s Books ready to read later this year.

Synopsis:

They need him to remember. He wants to forget.

1918. In the last week of the First World War, a uniformed soldier is arrested in Durham Cathedral. When questioned, it becomes clear he has no memory of who he is or how he came to be there.

The soldier is given the name Adam and transferred to a rehabilitation home where his doctor James is determined to recover who this man once was. But Adam doesn’t want to remember. Unwilling to relive the trauma of war, Adam has locked his memory away, seemingly for good.

When a newspaper publishes a feature about Adam, three women come forward, each claiming that he is someone she lost in the war. But does he believe any of these women? Or is there another family out there waiting for him to come home?

Based on true events, When I Come Home Again is a deeply moving and powerful story of a nation’s outpouring of grief, and the search for hope in the aftermath of war.

My thoughts:

Having read the opening chapters during the summer of 2020, I was keen to continue reading this book to find out more about Adam. I felt as if I had rushed through the opening chapters on my Kindle and enjoyed taking my time to read them again in the printed book. Caroline’s style of writing brings each person and place alive.

I’m a mother, a sister and a wife, and I think that may have made this story more heartbreaking. The three women who come forward to ‘claim’ Adam are seeking their son (who was their sole reason for living from being young), their husband (who left on a sour note believing village gossip) and their brother (who they need to help bring up his children after his wife died in childbirth). All have been told by the government that their man is missing in action, all believe that he has not died and all believe that Adam is him. As we discover there are various reasons why Adam may not be one of them, from being too tall or having the wrong hair colour. How has their grief affected their ability to make an honest claim?

Alongside the story of Adam, we have the story of James, who is there to help Adam discover his identity. However James was in France during the War and finds that working with veterans is causing his own memories and nightmares to worsen. His wife’s twin brother was seriously injured during a battle and hasn’t been seen since, and James feels guilty that Nathaniel was only there because of him.

In November 1918, many families rejoiced to have their loved ones return home. However many of those loved ones were changed for ever, their physical and/mental health altered in ways that weren’t understood. This book looks at the aftermath of the war, the hopes and dreams of those who fought and those left behind. This is one of those books that will stay in my mind for a long time, beautiful but also heartbreaking. Personally I think that this book should be on school English Literature/History lists for the older students to see why there are no winners in the aftermath of a war.

Author Bio:

Caroline completed a PhD in History at the University of Durham. She developed a particular interest in the impact of the First World War on the landscape of Belgium and France, and in the experience of women during the conflict – fascinations that she was able to pursue while she spent several years working as a researcher for a Belgian company. Caroline is originally from Lancashire, but now lives in southwest France. The Photographer of the Lost was a BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick.

Further praise for The Photographer Of The Lost

‘This excellent debut is a melancholic reminder of the rippling after-effects of war’ – The Times

‘There’s only one word for this novel… and that’s epic… A beautifully written must-read’ – heat

‘A gripping, devastating novel about the lost and the ones they left behind’ – Sarra Manning, RED

‘[A] terrific first novel’ Daily Mail


‘Scott has done an amazing job of drawing on real stories to craft a powerful novel’ – Good Housekeeping


‘A poignant hymn to those who gave up their lives for their country and to those who were left behind’ – Fanny Blake


‘I was utterly captivated by this novel, which swept me away, broke my heart, then shone wonderful light through all the pieces’ – Isabelle Broom

@CScottBooks #WhenIComeHomeAgain

The Marriage of Innis Wilkinson by Lauren H. Brandenburg

I’m pleased to join the blog tour for The Marriage of Innis Wilkinson, organised by Fern Lindsey-Tolley of Lion Hudson. Thank you for a paperback copy of the book, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

It is said that something magical happens during the festival season in Coraloo, something unexplainable. People tend to be a little crazier, reckless. Maybe it’s because it coincides the full moon, but Coraloo’s constable, Roy Blackwell, is beginning to think it’s something else. That said, Roy has other things on his mind, like marrying Margarette Toft. A controversial decision as the Toft and the Blackwell families have a hatred for one another that is older than the town itself.

Tradition collides with superstition as the feuding families compete to organize the events surrounding the most talked about wedding in the history of Coraloo. Despite the array of minor catastrophes that ensue, and the timings clashing with a four-week long festival celebrating a legendary beaver, Roy and Margarette hold fast and declare they will do whatever it takes to wed.

That is until Roy unearths a town secret – a murder involving a pair of scissors, an actor with a severe case of kleptomania, and the mysterious marriage of Innis Wilkinson. Can good come out of unearthing the past – or will only heartbreak follow?

My thoughts:

This is the first book I’ve read by Lauren, so I haven’t read the The Death of Mungo Blackwell, where the Blackwell and Toft families were introduced. However that didn’t cause any problems to understanding the story here.

Coraloo sounds like an old fashioned town in the United States, where tradition is very important and the slightest change causes shock. The engagement of Margarette Toft and Roy Blackwell causes a huge shock to the feuding Toft and Blackwell families – suddenly they will be linked by marriage.

There are some fantastic quirky (and slightly scary) characters in this story and poor Margarette does her best to please both families whilst planning her wedding in a few weeks and working full time as a teacher. Roy Blackwell is the local Constable, who sees very little crime but then discovers a possible past murder linked to Innis Wilkinson.

This is very different from anything else I’ve read this year, and I really enjoyed it. There is plenty of drama, intrigue, romance and fun for everyone to enjoy. I did find myself wondering if the engaged couple should elope to be able to have the wedding they actually wanted and deserved, but I’m pleased to say that Lauren provided a wonderful alternative ending. Happy to recommend this charming story.

Author Bio:

Lauren H. Brandenburg happily blurs the lines between traditional genres in both middle grade and humorous contemporary fiction. Lauren is a former junior high and high school English teacher who stepped away from her profession to raise and homeschool her two children. She currently lives with her husband, Jamie, and their children in a lovely little town just south of Nashville, Tennessee where they eat and laugh a lot.

www.LaurenHBrandenburg.com

The Windsor Knot by SJ Bennett

Today I’m sharing my thoughts about the Windsor Knot by S.J. Bennett, being published today. Thank you to Bonnier Books, Zaffre Books and Readers First for a copy of the book – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

The first book in a highly original and delightfully clever crime series in which Queen Elizabeth II secretly solves crimes while carrying out her royal duties.

The morning after a dinner party at Windsor Castle, eighty-nine-year-old Queen Elizabeth is shocked to discover that one of her guests has been found murdered in his room, with a rope around his neck.

When the police begin to suspect her loyal servants, Her Majesty knows they are looking in the wrong place. For the Queen has been living an extraordinary double life ever since her coronation. Away from the public eye, she has a brilliant knack for solving crimes.

With her household’s happiness on the line, her secret must not get out. Can the Queen and her trusted secretary Rozie catch the killer, without getting caught themselves?

The Windsor Knot is the first book in the ‘Her Majesty The Queen Investigates’ mystery series by SJ Bennett – for fans of The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, Agatha Christie and M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin.

My thoughts:

I must admit that when I first saw this synopsis, I did wonder whether I would find this too far fetched. However after reading and enjoying the first chapters, I quickly ordered the book via Readers First. The book arrived on Friday and was finished by Saturday evening (helped by the fact my husband went out!).

The book cover and end papers are stunning – as regular readers of my book review blog will know, I love dogs and the end papers and back cover include corgi illustrations. The dogs make regular appearances in the story, as do the Queen’s horses.

As a fan of Agatha Christie, and the recent ‘Thursday Murder Club’ by Richard Osman, I’m pleased to say that I did enjoy this amateur detective novel – the murder mystery, the Queen’s own investigation, the humour and the characters created by S.J. Bennett.

I loved the conversations between the Queen and Prince Philip, and could imagine their voices. My favourite character is Rozie, who quickly finds herself helping the Queen in ways she wasn’t expecting when recently employed by the royal household, assisted by a very small group of loyal ex-employees. Great to see a book full of strong female characters.

If you enjoy the more ‘gentle’ murder mystery stories, then I hope you will enjoy this book as much as I did.

The Last Blast of the Trumpet by Marie Macpherson @PenmorePress1 @scotscriever @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours #bookblitz

Blurb: The Last Blast of the Trumpet

Conflict, Chaos and Corruption in Reformation Scotland

He wants to reform Scotland, but his enemies will stop at nothing to prevent him.

Scotland 1559: Fiery reformer John Knox returns to a Scotland on the brink of civil war. Victorious, he feels confident of his place leading the reform until the charismatic young widow, Mary Queen of Scots returns to claim her throne. She challenges his position and initiates a ferocious battle of wills as they strive to win the hearts and minds of the Scots. But the treachery and jealousy that surrounds them both as they make critical choices in their public and private lives has dangerous consequences that neither of them can imagine.

In this final instalment of the trilogy of the fiery reformer John Knox, Macpherson tells the story of a man and a queen at one of the most critical phases of Scottish history.

Author Bio

Scottish writer Marie Macpherson grew up in Musselburgh on the site of the Battle of Pinkie and within sight of Fa’side Castle where tales and legends haunted her imagination. She left the Honest Toun to study Russian at Strathclyde University and spent a year in the former Soviet Union to research her PhD thesis on the 19th century Russian writer Mikhail Lermontov, said to be descended from the Scottish poet and seer, Thomas the Rhymer. Though travelled widely, teaching languages and literature from Madrid to Moscow, she has never lost her enthusiasm for the rich history and culture of her native Scotland.

Writing historical fiction combines her academic’s love of research with a passion for storytelling. Exploring the personal relationships and often hidden motivations of historical characters drives her curiosity.

The Knox Trilogy is a fictional biography of the fiery reformer, John Knox, set during the 16th century Scottish Reformation. Prizes and awards include the Martha Hamilton Prize for Creative Writing from Edinburgh University and Writer of the Year 2011 awarded by Tyne & Esk Writers. She is a member of the Historical Writers’ Association (HWA), the Historical Novel Society (HNS) and the Society of Authors (SoA).

The Art Fiasco by Fiona Veitch Smith

Thank you to Fern Lindsey-Tolley at Lion Hudson Limited for inviting me to join the blog tour for The Art Fiasco. I loved the sound of the synopsis, which I’ve listed below.

Synopsis:

It’s 1924 and Poppy Denby is heading up to Northumberland to celebrate her father’s sixtieth birthday. She stops off in Newcastle en route to visit her Aunt Dot, who has temporarily relocated from London to renovate a house she’s inherited. One of Aunt Dot’s guests is the world-renowned artist, Agnes Robson, who is staging an exhibition at the Laing Art Gallery. Reluctantly, Poppy is roped in to help when the artist’s press liaison man falls ill.

She soon discovers that the local press has dug up some dirt on Agnes relating to the tragic death of a young art teacher in Ashington Colliery, twenty-seven years earlier. As she tries to suppress the story, Poppy begins to suspect that the teacher might have been murdered and that the killer may still be on the loose…

‘Poppy Denby’s latest investigation combines an intriguing cold case mystery with a murder puzzle set in Newcastle in 1924. Complete with map and cast of characters, this is great fun for fans of mysteries set during detection’s Golden Age.’ Martin Edwards, CWA Diamond Dagger winner and author of The Golden Age of Murder.

My thoughts:

This is the first book I’ve read by Fiona Veitch Smith, so I haven’t read any of the previous Poppy Denby Investigates books but that wasn’t a problem to understanding the story. However I would now like to go back to read the earlier books.

Poppy Denby is a reporter and amateur detective. On a short break to visit family, she finds herself involved in helping solve the murder of Agnes, who was preyed on by an art teacher when young.

I cannot comment on the accuracy of the historical features of the book, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Poppy, Delilah and Yasmin are strong female characters in an era when many women still didn’t have the right to vote.

I enjoyed this murder mystery story, as there were a number of people in the frame for murder for a variety of reasons. We also have a mystery about the history of a couple of paintings, a suspected blackmail, a sixtieth birthday, romance and the opening of a play. If you enjoy murder mysteries and/or historical fiction then I recommend trying this book – this was one of those books I didn’t want to put down and stayed up late into the night to read.

About the author

Fiona Veitch Smith is the author of the Poppy Denby Investigates novels, Golden Age-style murder mysteries set in the 1920s, about a reporter sleuth who works for a London tabloid. The first book in the series, The Jazz Files, was shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger, while subsequent books have been shortlisted for the Foreword Review Mystery Novel of the Year and the People’s Book Prize. She is formerly a journalist, having worked on the arts and crime beats of a Cape Town newspaper, and lectured in journalism in the UK for over a decade. She is currently the Deputy Editor of the CWA’s Red Herrings Magazine. http://www.poppydenby.com.

The first book in the series, The Jazz Files, sees Poppy arriving in London from her home in Northumberland to look after her paraplegic Aunt Dot. Aunt Dot is an infamous suffragette who was crippled in clashes with the police outside the Houses of Parliament in 1910. She encourages Poppy to apply for a job at The Daily Globewhich is owned by American expat, Rollo Rolandson, a hard-drinking but highly astute newspaperman who has dwarfism. On Poppy’s first day on the job a senior reporter dies under suspicious circumstances and she takes over the story he was investigating before his demise. It involves the mysterious death of a suffragette seven years earlier and the powerful people who are now trying to hide the truth

The Country Village Christmas Show by Cathy Lake

I’m pleased to be sharing my review for this feel good festive read on my book review blog today. Thank you to Zaffre Books for a digital review copy via NetGalley, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. The book is being published in the UK on 29th October 2020.

Synopsis:

Recently divorced, the family home sold and her son all grown-up, Clare is at a crossroads. She’s dedicated her whole adult life to her family, and now it’s time she did something for herself. 

In the lead up to Christmas, Clare decides that a bit of time in the countryside might be just what she needs, so she moves back to Little Bramble, the village she grew up in. But living with her mum for the first time in years – and not to mention Goliath the Great Dane – can be challenging. 

When Clare finds herself running the village Christmas show, it feels like she has purpose in her life again. Bringing together people from all sides of the community, and all walks of life, will Clare manage to pull off a festive feat like no other? And will she find the new start in life – and possibly love – that she’s been looking for?

The Country Village Christmas Show is the perfect romantic read to get cosy with this winter.

My thoughts:

This is the first book published by Cathy Lake (aka Rachel Griffiths). The blurb and the gorgeous cover drew my attention to this book, plus the feature on Readers First.

I felt sorry for the main character, Clare, at the start of the story – her happy life had vanished in a relatively short space of time as her marriage faltered, her job was made redundant and she ended up moving back in with her mum and a very large dog called Goliath.

However Clare soon starts to rekindle old friendships and make new acquaintances on her voyage of self discovery, although the path to romance is a tricky one to negotiate.

A great mixture of characters, a canine friend, Christmas preparations and three generations of a family working together provided a cosy autumnal read. I look forward to reading more by Cathy Lake.

Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior

Today I’m sharing my review for this lovely book again to celebrate the paperback publication yesterday AND the announcement that this has been chosen as one of the Richard and Judy book club books. Thank you to Random House (Penguin UK) for a digital review copy via NetGalley – my thoughts are my own. This is also known as How the Penguins Saved Veronica in the United States.

Synopsis

Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she’s never seen without her ruby-red lipstick.

Although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone.

She can be found either collecting litter from the beach (‘people who litter the countryside should be shot’), trying to locate her glasses (‘someone must have moved them’) or shouting 
instructions to her assistant, Eileen (‘Eileen, door!’).

Veronica doesn’t have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she’s going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies.

But today . . . today Veronica is going to make a decision that will change all of this.

My thoughts:

This is one of my favourite books of the year. Veronica McCreedy is a wonderful older lady who makes major changes to her life after being hidden away from the world, mostly at home. I love the way the story develops and the reader is hooked.

Hazel Prior has created a wonderful cast of characters and interspersed the story with facts about penguins. The story looks at how life events have changed Veronica and how spending time with a small group of scientists and thousands of penguins can dramatically change your outlook.

I loved this book and will be buying copies for Christmas presents. In this current time of uncertainty and anxiety, this book is uplifting and I would love to see it turned into a TV drama. If you enjoyed Saving Missy by Beth Morrey, you may enjoy this too.

Hazel Prior

HAZEL PRIOR lives on Exmoor with her husband and a huge ginger cat. As well as writing, she works as a freelance harpist. Ellie and the Harp-Maker was her first novel.

A Village Vacancy by Julie Houston

Thank you to Victoria Joss at Aria Fiction for a digital review copy of the latest book by Julie Houston. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. The book is published today and and can be ordered now at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B087JY3HCM/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_IuZEFb46HPJHF

Synopsis:

As the Yorkshire village of Westenbury mourns the loss of one of their own, the women can’t help but contemplate who will fill the vacancy in one handsome widower’s life…

Grace Stevens has decided it’s time to move on without her husband. He’s off gallivanting around Cornwall in search of a new life, and good riddance. It’s time to go back to teaching, so Grace returns to Little Acorns and takes on an unruly class of pre-teens. As she deals with disasters in – and out of – the classroom including an accidental dalliance with her most troublesome pupil’s dad, helping track down a drug ring and keeping up with her closest girlfriends, Grace begins to wonder more and more about the sparkle in David’s eyes and the sparking chemistry between them.

Could Grace be the one to fill this village vacancy?

My thoughts:

The first book I read by Julie Houston was A Village Affair earlier this year (primarily about Carrie Beresford), and more recently, Sing Me A Secret, (primarily about the Sutherland sisters). This book features these characters, plus many more from previous books about Westenbury.

It did take me some time to get to know all the characters, there seemed to be a larger number of main characters in this book compared to the previous couple I had read. I enjoyed finding out how everyone had got on after the last book, but life quickly changed for many of the residents again with a car accident, an illicit dalliance, marriage breakdowns, false accusations, toxic relationships and troubled teenagers.

There are many laugh out loud moments (especially with the children and the lovely lollipop lady), but also some darker moments, especially within the ‘county lines’ story and the toxic marriage.

I enjoyed my return visit to Westenbury, and I’m sure that many other readers of the Westenbury series will enjoy their return visit too.

Secrets in the Snow by Emma Heatherington

Thank you to Rebecca Bryant from Harper Fiction for inviting me to join the blog tour for the new book by Emma Heatherington. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift of a review copy.

I enjoyed reading and reviewing Emma’s previous book, Rewrite the Stars last year (review can be found at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2019/10/29/rewrite-the-stars-by-emma-heatherington-blog-tour-29-10-19/).

Synopsis:

As the winter snow falls on the small Irish village of Ballybray, Roisin O’Connor and her young son, Ben, are saying goodbye to their beloved neighbour Mabel Murphy.  Mabel lived a bold and colourful life, but the arrival of her brooding nephew, ‘blow-in’ Aidan Murphy, just makes life more complicated for Roisin.

However, in one final act of love, a message arrives from Mabel that changes everything.  And as winter turns to spring and the cold snow melts, the secrets both Roisin and Aidan are hiding must be revealed at last…

buy link:  http://smarturl.it/SecretsInTheSnowPBO…

My thoughts:

Thank you to Emma Heatherington for another lovely book to escape into on an autumnal day. This is one of those books I didn’t want to stop reading once I started it, and I stayed up late to enjoy finding out more about Roisin and Aidan.

Roisin and Aidan have both had to deal with tragedy and being told to what to do by other people. Mabel’s funeral is where they first see each other, unaware that Mabel will be sending them messages to try to encourage them to help each other.

Although the gorgeous cover of the book and title suggest a winter book, we actually spend a year with Roisin and Aidan. This is a year of discovery for both, to deal with issues from their pasts and to plan their futures, without Mabel.

The book has a few twists in the story, as we find out more about their past histories, and as misunderstandings occur. I loved the ending, although I had been imagining a different ending only a few pages earlier. This was a lovely book to curl up and enjoy, and I will be recommending this to fans of romantic fiction.

Author Bio:

Emma Heatherington has penned more than thirty educational short films, plays and musicals as well as eleven novels, two of which were written under the pseudonym Emma Louise Jordan.
She was ghost-writer to Irish country music legend Philomena Begley and Liverpool born Nathan Carter, whose autobiography Born for the Road was nominated for an Irish Book Award.
Emma’s novel, The Legacy of Lucy Harte, was an eBook bestseller in both the UK and US.
She lives in her native Donaghmore, Co Tyrone, with her partner Jim McKee and their children Jordyn, Jade, Dualta, Adam and Sonny James.