This Nowhere Place by Natasha Bell

Thanks to Jennifer Breslin of Penguin Michael Joseph for a proof copy of This Nowhere Place by Natasha Bell to read and review. I’m sharing my non spoiler mini review on this week of publication.

Synopsis:

Ten years ago, Mo arrived at the white cliffs of Dover, befriended by teenagers Cali and Jude.

They thought they’d save each other, yet within months their friendship would see two of them dead and the third scarred for life.

Now documentary maker Tarek and his film crew are in town, asking difficult questions about what happened that summer.

Because in the shadow of the white cliffs it’s easy for people and their stories to get lost . . .

And as Tarek will discover, the truth is something that must be unburied carefully.

Or it might just it bury you . . .

This Nowhere Place is a tense and atmospheric mystery about the aftermath of a fateful and fatal friendship, perfect for fans of Emma Cline and Jane Harper.

My thoughts:

This is a book that left me feeling sad about how jealousy, prejudice and poverty can damage lives. The story takes us to Dover in 2016 and in 2026, to meet a group of young women and a man looking to discover the truth.

Cali and Jude are best friends. Cali has had a troubled life, a mother with problems and a half sister who has escaped Dover to head to London. She tries to help Mo who is a refugee who has no friends or family. But can Jude cope with sharing her friend? Why is Cali struggling without help from her sister.

We have a series of flashbacks from some of the characters in 2026, to discover how two of the girls ended up dead and one scarred for life, as Tarek interviews Jude and Cali’s sister. But why is he so interested in Mo?

This was a gripping read featuring jealousy, poverty, mental health issues and immigration but a bleak depiction of modern Britain.

Author Bio:

Natasha Bell grew up in Somerset and has lived in York, Massachusetts and Chicago. She moved to London in 2015 to take an MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths, where she is now pursuing a PhD. She writes from her home in south-east London and teaches Creative Writing at City Lit. Natasha’s debut His Perfect Wife was published by Michael Joseph in 2018.

Ice Creams at Emerald Cove by Holly Martin

Thank you to Holly for the invitation to read and review book three in the series. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

Escape to the Cornish coast this spring with a trip to the beautiful Emerald Cove, where the sea sparkles in the sunshine, the sand glitters like gold, and true love is in the air. From the bestselling author of Sunrise over Sapphire Bay comes this gorgeously romantic and uplifting tale.

Skye Philips and Jesse Hamilton have a complicated relationship. They’ve been neighbours, best friends and even briefly married. But ever since Skye returned to the beautiful shores of Jewel Island to help her sisters Aria and Clover run their family hotel, she doesn’t know where she stands with Jesse.

When they’re together the chemistry between them sizzles, but with Jesse living in Canada and Skye on the Cornish island she calls home, they’ve kept things casual. Till now…

Jesse is coming to Jewel Island for the annual Pudding Parade and Skye knows this is her chance to tell him how she really feels. But putting her heart on the line isn’t easy when it’s been broken in the past. Will Jesse return her love? Or will she lose him for good?

Everything she’s ever wanted can be hers if she’s willing to take the chance, but is Skye brave enough to risk her heart once again?’

Set sail to the Cornish coast where sunshine, laughter and romance awaits. This stunning love story is guaranteed to steal your heart this summer; it’s the perfect read for fans of Sarah Morgan, Veronica Henry and Jill Mansell.

My thoughts:

It was wonderful to be back at the hotel, to meet the three sisters and the other regulars, especially Sylvia who writes erotic fiction in her eighties. We had met Skye and Jesse in the previous two books in this lovely series, but this time they take centre stage. Will they continue being ‘friends with benefits’ or will they both be able to move forward and realise how important they are to each other?

In addition to the ‘will they/won’t they’ romance, this book features puddings, ice creams and the seaside. It was lovely to read this during UK lockdown 3, to imagine being at a hotel and visiting the beach. Holly Martin has delivered another lovely escape from lockdown in a book, full of romance, friendship and sunshine.

Happy to recommend this book (and the others in the series) to anyone looking for an uplifting read about family, friendships and romance.

A Beautiful Spy by Rachel Hore

Thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for the invitation to join the blog tour today. Thank you to Simon and Schuster for the stunning proof copy to read. Last year I read and enjoyed the Love Child by Rachel Hore (my review can be found at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/05/13/the-love-child-by-rachel-hore-bookreview/)

Synopsis:

From the Sunday Times bestselling author of Last Letter Home, a Richard & Judy Book Club pick, comes a thrilling novel about a woman with an extraordinary life, based on a true story.

Minnie Gray is an ordinary young woman. She is also a spy for the British government.

It all began in the summer of 1928… Minnie is supposed to find a nice man, get married and have children. The problem is it doesn’t appeal to her at all. She is working as a secretary, but longs to make a difference.

Then, one day, she gets her chance. She is recruited by the British government as a spy. Under strict instructions not to tell anyone, not even her family, she moves to London and begins her mission – to infiltrate the Communist movement.

She soon gains the trust of important leaders. But as she grows more and more entangled in the workings of the movement, her job becomes increasingly dangerous. Leading a double life is starting to take its toll on her relationships and, feeling more isolated than ever, she starts to wonder how this is all going to end. The Russians are notorious for ruthlessly disposing of people given the slightest suspicion. What if they find out? Full of suspense, courage and love, A Beautiful Spy is a stunningly written story about resisting the norm and following your dreams, even if they come with sacrifices.

My thoughts:

Minnie Gray is going to be one of my favourite book characters. In 1928, she knows her own mind and it doesn’t involve settling down just because everyone expects it. Minnie is looking to make a difference to the world, and through a chance encounter, she finds herself in a very different world.

When we think of a spy, of course, we tend to think of James Bond. We never see him wrestling with trying to keep the very different elements of his life apart or find out how emotionally draining it is to keep so many secrets, or to miss out on having proper friendships with work colleagues and neighbours.

I enjoyed the way this story was written, so that we could understand the emotions Minnie felt during the various stages of her journey from living in Edgbaston, travelling to India and appearing in court. She had to deal with a large number of changes and secrets with very little help. I also loved the ending of the book, which reminded me how spirited Minnie is. A fascinating book that I will be awarding 5 star reviews to.

Author Bio:

Rachel Hore worked in London publishing for many years before moving with her family to Norwich, where she taught publishing and creative writing at the University of East Anglia before becoming a full-time writer. She is married to the writer D. J. Taylor and they have three sons. Her last novel, The Love Child, was a Sunday Times bestseller.

http://www.rachelhore.com │Twitter: @RachelHore │Instagram: @Rachel.Hore

The Domestic Revolution by Ruth Goodman @omarabooks @lovebooksgroup

Thank you to Kelly and Meggy of Love Books Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book. Regular readers of my blog will know that I don’t review many non-fiction books, but as the granddaughter of a coal miner this one appealed to me.

Synopsis:

A large black cast iron range glowing hot, the kettle steaming on top, provider of everything from bath water and clean socks to morning tea: it’s a nostalgic icon of a Victorian way of life. But it is far more than that. In this book, social historian and TV presenter Ruth Goodman tells the story of how the development of the coal-fired domestic range fundamentally changed not just our domestic comforts, but our world.

The revolution began as far back as the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, when London began the switch from wood to coal as its domestic fuel – a full 200 years before any other city. It would be this domestic demand for more coal that would lead to the expansion of mining, engineering, construction and industry: the Domestic Revolution kick-started, pushed and fuelled the Industrial Revolution.

There were other radical shifts. Coal cooking was to change not just how we cooked but what we cooked (causing major swings in diet), how we washed (first our laundry and then our bodies) and how we decorated (spurring the wallpaper industry). It also defined the nature of women’s and men’s working lives, pushing women more firmly into the domestic sphere. It transformed our landscape and environment (by the time of Elizabeth’s death in 1603, London’s air was as polluted as that of modern Beijing). Even tea drinking can be brought back to coal in the home, with all its ramifications for the shape of the empire and modern world economics.

Taken together, these shifts in our day-to-day practices started something big, something unprecedented, something that was exported across the globe and helped create the world we live in today

My thoughts:

I’m so glad I had the opportunity to read this fascinating book. Ruth’s writing style is excellent, the book is informative but also in a friendly way, rather than a boring factual textbook style.

The book looks at what the UK used for fuel before coal, and how the changes happened, primarily in London, then across the country. As coal use increased, the design of our houses, what we ate, how we cleaned all changed – hence the title of domestic revolution.

I’ve visited the National Coal Mining museum near Wakefield and went underground to see what the conditions were like for my grandpa and his family, but this book explains why so many people were needed to mine for coal, to provide heat, hot water and hot meals.

The book also reminded me about the old Aga that my grandparents had, explaining how it would work, allowing different types of cooking could happen simultaneously. I remember being equally scared and fascinated at the age of 4 when my grandpa made my toast with an open flame and toasting fork rather than the electric toaster we had at home.

I look forward to reading more of Ruth’s books. If you enjoy history and enjoyed watching Ruth’s programmes and/or the ‘Back in time’ series with Sara Cox on BBC2, then I recommend reading this book.

Author Bio:

For the first time, shows how the Industrial Revolution truly began in the kitchen – a revolution run by women. Told with Ruth’s inimitable wit, passion and commitment to revealing the nitty-gritty of life across three centuries of extraordinary change, from the Elizabethan to the Victorian age.

A TV regular, Ruth has appeared on some of BBC 2’s most successful shows, including: Victorian Farm, Edwardian Farm, Wartime Farm, Tudor Monastery Farm, Inside the Food Factory and most recently Full Steam Ahead, as well as being a regular expert presenter on The One Show. The critically acclaimed author of How to Be a Victorian, How to be a Tudor and How to Behave Badly in Renaissance Britain.

January 2021 round up

With the UK locked down again as we try to reduce the spread of Covid 19, I’ve had more reading time on the weekends and my midweek day off (I decided to have a midweek day off to enable me to do my essential food shopping when it is quieter).

I’ve finished 18 books this month from a variety of genres and publishers. Reviews for many of these have now been published on my blog or will appear in the next two weeks (I’ve been busy writing reviews this weekend).

I’ve been asked what was my favourite book of January 2021. I’ve enjoyed reading all the books, have given a few 5 star ratings but when pushed I will pick The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell (review being published on Tuesday 2nd February)

January books

Next month I have a number of books to read for blog tours in the second half of February and early March. Are you looking forward to reading any of these?

February books (also have some on NetGalley)

The Promise by Lucy Diamond

Thank you to Pan MacMillan for a digital review copy via NetGalley. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

Life isn’t a spreadsheet, Dan! You can’t fit people into boxes and charts.’

But Dan had never before come across a spreadsheet that had let him down. At the top of the page he’d listed all the best things about his brother that he wanted to emulate, then, in neat, typed columns below, he had thought up a number of ways in which he could try to fill in the gaps Patrick had left.

When faced with a sudden family tragedy, Dan’s mission is clear. He puts together a project to help pick up the pieces and support his grieving sister-in-law Zoe, plus her young children. This is Dan’s promise – to ensure his family’s happiness, and to try and live up to the man his brother was. 

But tying up loose ends brings a shocking secret to light, and calls into question everything Dan knew about his older brother. With more than just his promise on the line, Dan is faced with an ultimatum: Should he tell the truth and risk his family’s fragile happiness, or will his brother’s secrets end up becoming his own?

My thoughts:

As a regular reader of books by Lucy Diamond, I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review the latest book before publication.

This is the first book I remember by Lucy Diamond with a male main character. Dan has just lost his brother Patrick, who has left behind a widow, three children and their parents. Dan, we discover, has been a workaholic since his own marriage ended, and taking a break from work enables him to discover what he has been missing out with his family.

Still in work mode, Dan creates himself a spreadsheet to ensure that he can help Zoe and the children with family life and looking after Patrick’s business affairs. However, this idea becomes more complicated when he makes a shock discovery when querying a regular payment from Patrick’s business account.

The story shows how Dan realises that there is more to life than just work and that the ‘perfect family man’ brother he thought he had, wasn’t so perfect. I enjoyed this book, full of relatable characters and a mixture of sadness and humour. Hopefully the many other Lucy Diamond fans will also agree with me that this is another excellent story.

The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn

Happy publication day to Frances Quinn. Thank you to Clare Hey at Simon and Schuster for the copy of the book to read and review. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

The smallest man. The biggest heart. The mightiest story. A compelling story, perfect for fans of The Doll Factory and The Familiars.

Nat Davy longs to grow tall and strong and be like other boys, but at the age of ten, he’s confronted with the truth; he’s different, and the day when the stares and whispers stop is never going to come.

Narrowly escaping life in a freak show, he’s plucked from his family and presented as a gift to the new young queen of England – a human pet to add to her menagerie of dogs and monkeys. But when Nat realises she’s as lost and lonely as he is, the two misfits begin an unlikely friendship – one that takes him on an unforgettable journey, as England slides into the civil war that will tear it apart and ultimately lead the people to kill their king.

Inspired by a true story, and spanning two decades that changed England for ever, The Smallest Man is narrated by an irrepressible hero with his own unique perspective on life. His story is about being different, but not letting it hold you back. About being brave enough to take a chance, even if the odds aren’t good. And about how, when everything else is falling apart, true friendship holds people together.

My thoughts:

I read a large number of historical fiction books last year and I’m pleased to say that this is one of the best (I’ve given it 5 stars on Goodreads).

The story begins when Nat is a young boy, who has already been overtaken in height by his younger brother. He believes his mother, thinking that he will have a growth spurt soon. However, his childhood changes dramatically after the visit to the local fair, where he realises that he will never grow any taller.

Nat tries hard to grow and avoid being sold to the local fair, and he does escape this fate. But is being sold to the local Duke to become a living doll for the young Queen Mary, going to be any better?

Nat moves to a pampered life, no more going hungry, wearing beautiful clothes and relaxing on luxury furnishings but still misses his family. Thankfully he meets Jeremiah, who was also chosen for the royal palace for his unusual height (for being much taller than normal) and develops a much needed friendship. Nat is determined to prove he is a man, not just a boy and with help from friends, he becomes an important member of the Queen’s court, and he helps save the Queen on a number of occasions during the start of the English Civil War.

The storytelling is superb and the pages flew by. This is an era of history I knew very little about, but now feel I understand more. The hero of the story is Nat, who is determined to help his family and friends survive the Civil War, and is willing to risk his own life to do so. This is a fabulous debut novel and I look forward to reading more books by Frances Quinn.

Author Bio:

Frances Quinn read English at King’s College, Cambridge, and is a journalist and copywriter. She has written for magazines including Prima, Good Housekeeping, She, Woman’s Weekly and Ideal Home. She lives in Brighton with her husband and who Tonkinese cats. The Smallest Man is her first novel. Follow her on Twitter @franquinn.

For Emily by Katherine Slee

Today I’m sharing another of my 5 star reads from earlier in 2020. This is a debut novel and I’m thrilled to see that another novel is due in 2021.

Synopsis:

A little dedication goes a long way. That’s why Catriona Robinson, the country’s favourite children’s author, always dedicated her books to those who touched her life the most – not least Emily, her reclusive granddaughter. 

Emily never thought too much about these dedications. But when Catriona dies unexpectedly, each one becomes a cryptic clue in a breadcrumb trail that apparently leads to her lost, unpublished manuscript. 

It’s a mystery only Emily can solve. But to do so she will have to walk in her grandmother’s footsteps, into the wider world she’s spent her whole life hiding away from . . 

My thoughts:

Wow, just wow. This is the 80th book I’ve read this year (I was furloughed two months ago so I’m reading more than usual) and this is definitely one of my favourite books of the year.

I have a small confession. The main reason I looked at the book on NetGalley was because my own daughter is called Emily. I liked the sound of the synopsis and asked Orion Publishing Group for a digital ARC which I’m delighted to say they provided. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the free copy.

This is a stunning novel which left me feeling bereft when I finished it, not because I didn’t enjoy the ending (I loved the ending) but because I had become so involved in Emily’s journey of self discovery.

The book looks at how Emily’s grandmother, Catriona, sends her granddaughter on a ‘treasure hunt’ after Catriona dies. Emily needs to learn how to be more independent, how to deal with her past (including the tragic accident which killed her parents and left her seriously injured) and to meet the people who met and loved her grandmother after she left the UK for adventures rather than marry young and settle down.

Each chapter features a different bird, partly because Emily loves birds, especially drawing and painting birds. The stories of Emily and Catriona unfold as Emily travels to London, then France and Italy. She believes she is looking for the ‘last book’ her grandmother wrote, however the truth is much deeper.

The strands of the stories are woven so well, including the use of the birds, the main characters are easy to visualise and feel empathy for, and the love of books is apparent (book shops, libraries, books). I will be treating myself to a paperback copy of this book – and maybe a copy for my own Emily (she isn’t good at using bookmarks, so we won’t be sharing a copy!).

This book was published in paperback in the UK on Thursday 28th May 2020 and I look forward to finding a copy at our local independent bookshop.

Katherine Slee:

Katherine Slee has a Masters in Modern History from Oxford University and is a member of MENSA who left the crazy and chaotic world of investment banking to enter the crazy and chaotic world of being a stay-at-home mother to two children and wife to a workaholic husband. She grew up as a bit of a tomboy, with scars on her knees and mud in her hair, and as a result developed a taste for everything from Star Wars to whiskey, with a dash of ornithology thrown into the mix. When she’s not either reading or writing, she enjoys baking (with various degrees of success), photography and walking the dog. Her favorite place to be is on the beach in France, where the light is always surprising and the ice cream is the best she’s ever tasted.

Website http://www.katherineslee.com



View all my reviews

The Glass House by Eve Chase

Today I’m pleased to be sharing my review again for The Glass House, to celebrate the paperback publication day

Synopsis:

Outside a remote manor house in an idyllic wood, a baby girl is found.

The Harrington family takes her in and disbelief quickly turns to joy. They’re grieving a terrible tragedy of their own and the beautiful baby fills them with hope, lighting up the house’s dark, dusty corners. Desperate not to lose her to the authorities, they keep her secret, suspended in a blissful summer world where normal rules of behaviour – and the law – don’t seem to apply.

But within days a body will lie dead in the grounds. And their dreams of a perfect family will shatter like glass.
Years later, the truth will need to be put back together again, piece by piece . . .

My thoughts:

Thank you to Gaby Young at Micheal Joseph, Penguin Random House for a digital review copy of this book – my thoughts are my own.

Initially I was drawn to the cover design – which fits the book title perfectly. This is a book with a dual timeline – a feature of many historical fiction books at the moment, and this is an excellent example of it being used well.

The 1971 timeline looks at the Harrington family as they leave London to stay at Foxcote Manor in the Forest of Dean. The detailed descriptions of the darkness of the forest by Ruth, leave the reader in no doubt that this not going to be a light hearted and happy summer. Ruth has had a tragic past but had been enjoying her job looking after the Harrington children. However after a tragedy, the family are spending the summer away from home, a summer full of secrets, lies, a foundling and a sudden death. This is told by Ruth and the elder Harrington sibling.

Running alongside, we have the current day story of Sylvie, her mum who is rushed into hospital and her daughter Annie, all of whom have secrets from each other, some of which link back to the summer of 1971.

This is a book to curl up with and enjoy the magic of the storytelling. The darkness of events in 1971 is interspersed with the love Ruth feels for the young children in her care. Ruth has taken her own glass house, a terrarium to Foxcote Manor and this follows through both timelines.

I don’t want to spoil the story by giving any of the details away – this is a story that needs to be read and enjoyed in the order it is written in. As each new secret is revealed, a new mystery is created.

The author, Eve Chase:

Website http://www.evechase.com/


Twitter EvePollyChase

Eve Chase is the author of Black Rabbit Hall and The Wildling Sisters, and the pseudonym of journalist and novelist Polly Williams. She lives in Oxford, England with her husband and three children.

The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn

Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to join the blog tour. Thank you to Clare Hey at Simon and Schuster for the copy of the book to read and review. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

The smallest man. The biggest heart. The mightiest story. A compelling story, perfect for fans of The Doll Factory and The Familiars.

Nat Davy longs to grow tall and strong and be like other boys, but at the age of ten, he’s confronted with the truth; he’s different, and the day when the stares and whispers stop is never going to come.

Narrowly escaping life in a freak show, he’s plucked from his family and presented as a gift to the new young queen of England – a human pet to add to her menagerie of dogs and monkeys. But when Nat realises she’s as lost and lonely as he is, the two misfits begin an unlikely friendship – one that takes him on an unforgettable journey, as England slides into the civil war that will tear it apart and ultimately lead the people to kill their king.

Inspired by a true story, and spanning two decades that changed England for ever, The Smallest Man is narrated by an irrepressible hero with his own unique perspective on life. His story is about being different, but not letting it hold you back. About being brave enough to take a chance, even if the odds aren’t good. And about how, when everything else is falling apart, true friendship holds people together.

My thoughts:

I have read a large number of historical fiction books this year and I’m pleased to say that this is one of the best (I’ve given it 5 stars on Goodreads).

The story begins when Nat is a young boy, who has already been overtaken in height by his younger brother. He believes his mother, thinking that he will have a growth spurt soon. However, his childhood changes dramatically after the visit to the local fair, where he realises that he will never grow any taller.

Nat tries hard to grow and avoid being sold to the local fair, and he does escape this fate. But is being sold to the local Duke to become a living doll for the young Queen Mary, going to be any better?

Nat moves to a pampered life, no more going hungry, wearing beautiful clothes and relaxing on luxury furnishings but still misses his family. Thankfully he meets Jeremiah, who was also chosen for the royal palace for his unusual height (for being much taller than normal) and develops a much needed friendship. Nat is determined to prove he is a man, not just a boy and with help from friends, he becomes an important member of the Queen’s court, and he helps save the Queen on a number of occasions during the start of the English Civil War.

The storytelling is superb and the pages flew by. This is an era of history I knew very little about, but now feel I understand more. The hero of the story is Nat, who is determined to help his family and friends survive the Civil War, and is willing to risk his own life to do so. This is a fabulous debut novel and I look forward to reading more books by Frances Quinn.

Author Bio:

Frances Quinn read English at King’s College, Cambridge, and is a journalist and copywriter. She has written for magazines including Prima, Good Housekeeping, She, Woman’s Weekly and Ideal Home. She lives in Brighton with her husband and who Tonkinese cats. The Smallest Man is her first novel. Follow her on Twitter @franquinn.