The Girl from the Island by Lorna Cook

Thank you to Avon Books for a digital review copy of the third book by Lorna Cook via Netgalley. I have read and enjoyed The Forgotten Village and The Forbidden Promise (see my review at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/03/19/bookreview-the-forbidden-promise-by-lorna-cook/) .

Synopsis:

A world at war. 
One woman will risk everything. 
Another will uncover her story.

1940: When the island of Guernsey is invaded by the Nazis, two sisters are determined to rebel in any way they can. But when forced to take in a German soldier, they are shocked to find a familiar face on their doorstep – a childhood friend who has now become their enemy.

2016: Two generations later, Lucy returns to Guernsey after the death of a distant cousin. As she prepares the old family house for sale, Lucy discovers a box of handwritten notes, one word standing out: resistance. Lucy’s search for the author will uncover the story of a forgotten sister who vanished from the island one night, never to be seen again.

A timeless story of love and bravery, perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Rachel Hore.

My thoughts:

I’m pleased to say that this is another enjoyable historical fiction novel from Lorna Cook. This novel is based in Guernsey, a place I would like to visit after the Covid 19 pandemic has finished. It is only in very recent years that I became aware of how the Channel Islands had been occupied by the Germans during the Second World War.

This book looks at one family, who had to deal with the occupation, where neighbours were deported to prison camps, the wireless was banned and neighbours would inform on each other. How would Persephone and Dido cope with the challenges?

In this time slip novel, Lucy is back in Guernsey in 2016, after the death of her distant cousin Dido. When clearing out the house, Lucy becomes interested in some of the old papers she finds and sets out to solve the mystery about what happened to the residents of the house.

I enjoyed how the characters developed, the secrets revealed, the parallel sister stories and the historical details. As you would expect from a novel set during the occupation, there are some heartbreaking stories. But we also have happy and humorous moments too, when Lucy spends time with her new neighbour.

Happy to recommend to readers who enjoy time slip historical fiction novels.

The Scarlet Dress by Louise Douglas

Thank you to Boldwood Books for a digital copy of The Scarlet Dress to read and review via NetGalley. The book was published in February 2021 and I’m sharing my mini review today.

Synopsis:

Alice Lang was wearing her favourite scarlet dress when she disappeared twenty-five years ago, and her memory still casts a long shadow.

In the long, hot summer of 1995, twenty-two-year-old Alice Lang rents a caravan on a holiday park on the outskirts of the lively holiday resort of Severn Sands. She befriends Marnie, a shy, damaged little girl whose father is the park’s caretaker and whose mother died a few months earlier. Will, whose mother runs the bar, falls in love with Alice, and is unbearably jealous of anyone else she sees. Tensions rise until one evening Alice disappears from her caravan. She’s never seen again, and only her scarlet dress is found washed up on the shore.

A quarter of a century later, the town is run down and nobody comes there anymore. Mr and Mrs deVillars, former owners of the holiday park, have passed the failing business onto their son Guy, who promptly sells the land for development. Builders clearing the land to create an expanse of executive homes uncover human bones. It has to be Alice.

Will and Marnie’s lives were entirely shaped by what happened that summer, and now Alice has been found, they must struggle to pin down their memories, to escape the secrets of the past, the lies they told and the unbearable guilt they’re both carrying.

They need to find out what happened to Alice. Who killed her? And why?

My thoughts:

This is the first book I’ve read by Louise Douglas and I look forward to reading more in the future (I have The House by the Sea on my Kindle ready to start).

As the synopsis tells us, Alice went missing 25 years ago and her body has finally been found buried at the holiday park. So why was her scarlet dress found by the estuary? Who could have wanted to harm Alice – a visitor to the area?

The story follows Will and Marnie, both of them were severely traumatised by the disappearance of Alice. Will has been trying to solve the mystery for 25 years, having fallen in love with Alice that summer when he was just 19 and Marnie is scared about what happened to Alice, who had been kind to her during an already difficult year.

The main characters have to deal with the press and police interest into the events of 25 years ago. Will had always blamed Guy, but was it Guy? Who was the mystery person that Alice was going to share a bottle of champagne with on the evening she disappeared?

The setting seems very dark and drab, as the holiday site park has become a muddy building site. As Will and Marnie start to think about what happened during the three weeks Alice stayed at the holiday park, they start to remember conversations and events. How many secrets could they uncover?

I enjoyed how the story evolved. Although I had worked out who Alice was and why she may have been murdered quite early in the story, I didn’t know who the killer was until near the end of the story. Happy to recommend this book and I look forward to reading more by Louise Douglas in the future.

Here and Now by Santa Montefiore

I’m pleased to share my review for the latest paperback book by Santa Montefiore on my book blog today. Thank you to Simon and Schuster for a digital review copy – my thoughts are my own and and not influenced by the gift. Today is the paperback publication day and I’m looking forward to buying a copy to add to my Books and the City collection.

Synopsis:

Marigold has spent her life taking care of those around her, juggling family life with the running of the local shop, and being an all-round leader in her quiet yet welcoming community. When she finds herself forgetting things, everyone quickly puts it down to her age. But something about Marigold isn’t quite right, and it’s becoming harder for people to ignore.

As Marigold’s condition worsens, for the first time in their lives her family must find ways to care for the woman who has always cared for them. Desperate to show their support, the local community come together to celebrate Marigold, and to show her that losing your memories doesn’t matter, when there are people who will remember them for you . . .

Evocative, emotional and full of life, Here and Now is the most moving book you’ll read this year – from Sunday Times bestselling author Santa Montefiore.

My thoughts:

Occasionally I become so involved in an emotional story that I find myself crying. The last book to do that was The Sight of You by Holly Miller (reviewed at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/06/08/the-sight-of-you-by-holly-miller/ ) until I read the last few pages of Here and Now and found myself properly crying – this was not just moist eyes, but proper tears. So my first suggestion is when you buy the book (because you should), is to stock up on tissues too.

This was the first book I had read by Santa Montefiore and before you ask, I’m not sure why either. I requested the review copy via NetGalley back in March 2020 as the UK headed into lockdown 1 and Simon and Schuster kindly approved it.

Marigold is a wonderful character, much loved by her family and neighbours and community. The way the story is written to show how her little episodes of forgetfulness become more serious is a heartbreaking tale uplifted by how her family and friends help her to stay happy. Marigold has been looking after her mum, her husband and daughters for many years, now they need to work together to help her.

The book is beautifully written, full of wonderful characters, some happy and some grumpy (Nan), humour (moles, christmas puddings etc), love (pink roses) and romance. At the time of reading this in July 2020, many of us were anxious about the global pandemic, a virus we cannot see whilst we also have an unseen condition which steals the memory of people that we currently cannot protect ourselves from. However, as the title suggests, we need to live in the here and now, to enjoy the small things – the birds singing, the food we eat, time with family and friends.

Thank you to Santa Montefiore for this wonderful story, I look forward to reading more of your books in the future.

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex

Today I’m pleased to share my thoughts about The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex. Thank you to Picador, Viking Books and Pan MacMillan for a digital review copy via NetGalley.

Synopsis:

Cornwall, 1972. Three keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse, miles from the shore. The entrance door is locked from the inside. The clocks have stopped. The Principal Keeper’s weather log describes a mighty storm, but the skies have been clear all week.

What happened to those three men, out on the tower? The heavy sea whispers their names. The tide shifts beneath the swell, drowning ghosts. Can their secrets ever be recovered from the waves?

Twenty years later, the women they left behind are still struggling to move on. Helen, Jenny and Michelle should have been united by the tragedy, but instead it drove them apart. And then a writer approaches them. He wants to give them a chance to tell their side of the story. But only in confronting their darkest fears can the truth begin to surface . . .

Inspired by real events, The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex is an intoxicating and suspenseful mystery, an unforgettable story of love and grief that explores the way our fears blur the line between the real and the imagined.

My thoughts:

Having seen great reviews for this debut book, I was pleased to be able to start reading it myself. Very quickly we start to discover more about the men who vanished and the thoughts of the women they left behind. As the secrets and stories are slowly revealed the reader starts to find out what happened over the last few weeks before the men disappeared.

The suspense in the book builds beautifully and the writing created a story that I didn’t want to put down. The book brings to life the lifestyle of the lighthouse keepers, the daily routines and the difficulties of coping with being back in the ‘real world’. There are many elements to the story and I was kept guessing until the end.

A fascinating story that I’m happy to recommend. I look forward to reading more by Emma Stonex in the future.

The Dinner Guest by B P Walter

Thank you to One More Chapter and Harper Collins UK for the opportunity to read and review a digital copy via NetGalley. I’m taking part in the OMC Blogger Readalong this week and here is a mini non spoiler review.

Synopsis:

Four people walked into the dining room that night. One would never leave.

Matthew: the perfect husband.

Titus: the perfect son.

Charlie: the perfect illusion.

Rachel: the perfect stranger.

Charlie didn’t want her at the book club. Matthew wouldn’t listen.

And that’s how Charlie finds himself slumped beside his husband’s body, their son sitting silently at the dinner table, while Rachel calls 999, the bloody knife still gripped in her hand.

Classic crime meets Donna Tartt in this nerve-shredding domestic noir thriller that weaves a sprawling web of secrets around an opulent West London world and the dinner that ends in death.

My thoughts:

This was an interesting read. Rachel is arrested for the murder of Matthew after confessing to the police, but was she the killer? The synopsis mentions the word perfect four times – but were any of the four perfect?

The story moves back and forwards in time, as we discover more about how Matthew and Charlie met, and how they met Rachel. This story features secrets and lies, revenge and betrayal.

Few of the characters in the story were likeable but I was keen to keep reading, to find out who killed Matthew, and why. I enjoyed the story and I’m happy to recommend it. It is currently 99p on the Kindle in the UK.

The Museum Murder by Katie Gayle

Thanks to Sarah Hardy of Bookouture Books-on-Tour for the invitation to read and review the second book in the Epiphany Bloom mystery series. Regular readers of my blog may remember that I reviewed The Kensington Kidnap in December 2021 (see review at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/12/04/the-kensington-kidnap-by-katie-gayle/). This book was published in the UK yesterday by Bookouture, who kindly supplied a digital review copy for me to read and review.

Synopsis:

Epiphany ‘Pip’ Bloom, would-be detective and London’s unluckiest woman, finds herself in a real costume drama when she unearths a theft at a fashion museum.

The missing dress is a proper piece of Hollywood history, worth a fortune. And as Pip investigates, she finds the museum staff all had reasons to want the garment gone. From fancy boutiques to sketchy back alleys, Pip discovers the fashion world is not all glitz and glamour as she hunts down her prize.

As if she doesn’t have enough on her plate, Pip also has her growing feelings for her housemate Tim to contend with, a family of cats to feed and her mother keeps phoning about a shipment of llamas arriving any day now from South America.

But there’s no time for distractions because Pip’s not the only one after the dress. And for the most dedicated collectors, a piece like this is worth any price – even murder…

A laugh-out-loud, light-hearted cozy mystery for fans of M.C. Beaton, T.E. Kinsey and Joanne Fluke, that will have you reading late into the night.

My thoughts:

After over two months in lockdown in the winter in the UK, it was good to meet Pip again. When we left her at the end of The Kensington Kidnap, she was working for Boston Investigations. However, in true Pip style, she is now looking for another job so that she can pay her rent and continue living with her flatmate Tim.

As the synopsis above mentions, this time Pip finds herself looking for a missing iconic dress with a number of suspects to chat to and a suspicious death. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it is a cosy mystery with comedy moments, as we hear from Pip’s mother and find out more about why Pip has been asked to leave previous jobs.

Pip’s sister makes a reappearance, with her mixed up phrases, as do other characters from the Kensington Kidnap. However it would be possible to read this without reading book one because they are separate mysteries.

This book was a fun read, escapism from the real world and we all need that at the moment. Happy to recommend to all fans of cosy mysteries and amateur detective novels. Available in ebook and paperback formats now.

Author Bio:

Katie Gayle is the writing partnership of best-selling South African writers, Kate Sidley and Gail Schimmel. Kate and Gail have, between them, written over ten books of various genres, but with Katie Gayle, they both make their debut in the cozy mystery genre. Both Gail and Kate live in Johannesburg, with husbands, children, dogs and cats. Unlike their sleuth Epiphany Bloom, neither of them have ever stolen a cat from the vet.

https://www.facebook.com/KatieGayleWriter
https://twitter.com/KatieGayleBooks

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://bit.ly/3chaM1l

Apple: https://apple.co/3qzldlV

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3mTY1MV

Google: https://bit.ly/33QqdsO

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

Today I’m sharing a spotlight post for The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd published by Tinder Press on the 18th of March.

Synopsis:

Ana is born in Galilee at a time when women are seen as possessions, only leaving their fathers’ homes to marry. Ana longs to control her destiny. Taught to read despite her mother’s misgivings, she wants to be a writer and to find her own voice. A voice that will speak for the silenced women around her.

Betrothed to an elderly widower, Ana almost despairs. But an encounter with a charismatic young carpenter in Nazareth awakens new longings in her, and a different future opens up.

Yet this is not a simple love story. Ana’s journey will bring both joy and tragedy, but it will also be enriched by the female friendships she makes along the way.

The Book of Longings is an exquisite tale of dreams and desire, and of the power of women to change the world.

Please check out the blog reviews shared by the fabulous book bloggers listed above taking part in the Random Things Tours blog tour.

Author Bio:

Sue Monk Kidd is the author of The Secret Life of Bees, one of the most beloved novels of the 21st century. It spent 2.5 years on the New York Times bestseller list, and has sold over 8 million copies worldwide. It was long-listed for the Orange Prize (now the Women’s Prize for Fiction) and made into a film starring Sophie Okonedo, Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson. Sue’s subsequent novels, The Mermaid Chair, The Invention of Wings and now The Book of Longings, were all New York Times bestsellers.

Sue is also the author of several non-fiction books including the New York Times bestseller Travelling with Pomegranates, co-written with her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor. Sue lives in Florida.

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

Thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to turn the blog tour for this new historical fiction fiction book. Thank you to Harper Collins for a digital proof copy via NetGalley to read and review.

Synopsis:

1940. Three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes.

Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Awkward local girl Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles beneath her shy exterior.

1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter–the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together…

As the nation prepares for the royal wedding they must race against the clock to save one of their own.

My thoughts:

This is the first book I’ve read by Kate Quinn and I will be looking to read more of her books in the future. As a regular reader of historical fiction books, I loved the sound of the synopsis of this book, especially the setting of Bletchley Park.

As the book starts, we find out about how three girls from three very different backgrounds who came to work at Bletchley Park. We also discover that one of them is locked away in an asylum and she needs help to escape and to find out how the real traitor was.

This book features many stories within the main story. Osla is a debutante, battling to prove how clever she is as a linguist. Mab is determined to put her past behind her and find a way out of poverty. Beth needs to escape her bully of a mother and use her problem solving skills to help the war effort. The story covers romance, aspirations, a literary club, dedication to work, heartbreak, mental health and a traitor in their midst.

The book is full of historical detail and emotions, the highs of cracking a code and the lows of losing a loved one. At the end of the book the author explains how she based the book on real people, determined to ensure that this part of the war effort isn’t lost behind secrecy laws.

Although the workers at Bletchley Park were in less physical danger than the soldiers, sailors and aircrew during the war, the book reminds us about how their determination to succeed led to mental health issues for many of the workers, and a lifelong fear about betraying secrets.

This was an enjoyable read and a book I didn’t want to put down, an excellent way to spend a lockdown weekend. Happy to recommend to readers of historical fiction and/or readers of how women helped win the war.

Author Bio:

Kate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages. She and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia.

The Littlest Library by Poppy Alexander

Today I’m sharing a mini review for The Littlest Library. Thank you to Orion Books for a digital proof copy to read and review via NetGalley. This novel will be published in the UK later this week.

Synopsis:

It’s only the beginning of her story…

Jess Metcalf is perfectly happy with her quiet, predictable life – it’s just the way she likes it. But when her beloved grandmother passes away and she loses her job at the local library, her life is turned upside-down.

Packing up her grandmother’s books, she moves to a tiny cottage in a charming country village. To her surprise, Jess finds herself the owner of an old red telephone box, too – and she soon turns it into the littlest library around!

It’s not long before the books are borrowed and begin to work their magic – somehow, they seem to be bringing the villagers together once more…

Maybe it’s finally time for Jess to follow her heart and find a place to call home?

My thoughts:

Jess is a quiet soul who suddenly finds herself moving away from her home town of 30 years to a pretty village in Devon to settle into a house she bought on a sudden whim. As she settles into her new home, she discovers she is responsible for the red telephone box at the front of her property. I enjoyed how the love of books Jess and her grandmother enjoyed is woven into the story, there is a mini book club within the story.

Happy to recommend this book, it includes a great mix of local characters, books, romance and a timely reminder that community spirit is important to the mental health of residents, even in a pretty village. A lovely escape from Lockdown.

Author Bio:

Poppy Alexander wrote her first book when she was five. There was a long gap in her writing career while she was at school, and after studying classical music at university, she decided the world of music was better off without her and took up writing instead. She takes an anthropological interest in family, friends and life in her West Sussex village (think, The Archers crossed with Twin Peaks) where she lives with her husband, children and various other pets. 

Poppy’s first book – 25 Days ‘Til Christmas – has been translated into several languages.

She is generally lurking on social media so search for PoppyAlexanderBooks on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Poppy also writes as Rosie Howard.

The Twenty Seven Club by Lucy Nichol

I’m sharing my review today as part of the blog tour organised by Anne of Random Things Tours. Thank you to Lark and Lucy Nichol for a digital proof copy via NetGalley to read and review.

Synopsis:

It’s 1994. The music industry is mourning Kurt Cobain, Right Said Fred have re-emerged as an ‘ironic’ pop act and John Major is the country’s prime minister. Nothing is as it should be.  

Emma, a working-class rock music fan from Hull, with a penchant for a flaming Drambuie and a line of coke with her best mate Dave down The Angel, is troubled. 

Trev, her beloved whippet, has doggy IBS, and her job ordering bathroom supplies at the local caravan company is far from challenging. So when her dad, Tel, informs her that Kurt Cobain has killed himself aged 27, Emma is consumed with anxiety. 

Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix…why have so many rock musicians died aged 27?  And will Emma be next to join The Twenty Seven Club?The Twenty Seven Club is a nostalgic, often humorous, drug and booze-infused tale of friendship, discovery and anxiety as Emma tries, for once, to focus on life, rather than death

My thoughts:

I enjoyed my trip back in time to the nineties in the north of England. I was younger than Emma is in the story, but enjoyed the reminders of Diamond White alcopops, Findus crispy pancakes and referring to non students as ‘townies’.

Emma is struggling with the thought of dying at the age of 27 and worries that her lifestyle isn’t helping her, she is living on ready meals, alcohol and cigarettes. This book is the story about how her life changes as she faces up to her past and helps her best friend Dave through a health scare. There is a mix of humour and heartbreak, all wrapped up with rock music references and reminders of the nineties. Loved the dog and cystitis stories – if you read the book, you will know.

It did take me some time to warm to Emma , but I did enjoy reading this book. The book tackles some difficult topics well and as we get to know Emma better, we begin to understand why she is feeling so anxious about turning 27.

Author Bio:

Lucy is a mental health campaigner and PR consultant, and a former columnist with Sarah Millican’s Standard Issue magazine.  She has written for The IndependentThe I PaperNME, Red Magazine, Den of Geek, Men’s Fitness, Metro and Huff Post.  Her first book, A Series of Unfortunate Stereotypes, a non-fiction mental health memoir, was published by Trigger in 2018. Lucy has worked with the media in PR and marketing for almost 20 years and has experienced Generalised Anxiety Disorder for even longer.  

The Twenty Seven Club is immediately available in paperback from Amazon and an official launch will take place on 3rd March 2021 when the e-book will be made available along with the book’s playlist. You can also sign up to Lucy’s author newsletter

”Warm, joyous and thought-provoking. Music lovers will adore it!” Stephie Chapman, author of Swipe Right

“An honest and raw depiction of someone battling anxiety and deep-rooted fear. It also screams delicious 90s porn with a real working-class heroes vibe.” Claire Eastham, author of F**K I think I’m dying.

“Dazzlingly funny, dark and insightful. A brilliantly nostalgic blast from an era where shoe choice was everything, ‘townies’ were a thing, and the bands you followed told the world who you were about to become. Lucy Nichol is a stunning new voice in fiction.”

Guy Mankowski, author of Dead Rock Stars