Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Cafe by Jessica Redland


Thank you to Boldwood Books for the digital review copy via NetGalley – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. This book is being published today in ebook format.

Synopsis:

A few minutes of courage might change your life… 

Emotionally, Tara Porter finds the festive period a challenge. Christmas Day is a reminder of the family she lost, and New Year’s Eve holds bitter memories of the biggest mistake of her life: marrying Garth Tewkesbury. Shunning invitations to celebrate, she seeks refuge in her flat with only her giant house bunny, Hercules, for company. 

Professionally, though, it’s the best time of year. Tara’s thriving café, The Chocolate Pot, is always packed. With the café hosting a wedding and engagement party, it’s shaping up to be the café’s best Christmas ever. 

When former nemesis, Jed Ferguson, threatens the future of The Chocolate Pot, Tara prepares for a fight. The café is everything to her and she’s not going to let anyone or anything jeopardise that. 

Tara badly misjudged ex-husband Garth and, since then, has refused to let anyone in. After all, if you don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you. But has she misjudged Jed too? Is it possible that he’s not the arrogant, deceitful man from whom she bought the café 14 years earlier? Can she find the courage to find out for sure?

My thoughts:

This is the first book I’ve read by Jessica Redland and I thoroughly enjoyed it. However I did find myself craving for a hot chocolate and some freshly baked chocolate brownies in the middle of the August 2020 UK heatwave.

Great characters, a wonderful setting (I wanted to move into the cafe), a large house rabbit called Hercules and a young woman called Tara who needs to take some steps forward to start living her life again.

I’m happy to recommend this uplifting book – full of new beginnings, romance and cake.






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The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

I’m thrilled to share my full review for this impressive debut novel today. Thank you to Viking Books and Penguin Books UK for a digital review copy via NetGalley – my views are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved killings.

But when a local property developer shows up dead, ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

The four friends, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron, might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My thoughts:

I must admit that this was even better than I expected – sometimes when a book receives lots of hype, it can leave you disappointed. But this one deserves the hype.

As someone who enjoys amateur detective stories (I started with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys as a teenager), this was an enjoyable read. Great characters, most of them over 70, and so many topical British comments including Pizza Express for an alibi! A book full of secrets and more than one murder.

The story flowed well, a few red herrings, and lots of different stories inside one book. Personally I’m hoping for a sequel so we can meet the Thursday Murder Club again.

Author Bio:

Richard Osman is an author, producer and television presenter. The Thursday Murder Club is his first novel. He is well known for TV shows including Pointless and Richard Osman’s House of Games. As the creative director of Endemol UK, Richard has worked as an executive producer on numerous shows including Deal Or No Deal and 8 Out of 10 Cats. He is also a regular on panel and game shows such as Have I Got News For You, Would I Lie To You and Taskmaster.

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We are Family by Nicola Gill

I’m pleased to share my review for the new book by Nicola Gill on my blog today. I reviewed her debut novel The Neighbours earlier this year. Thanks to Avon Books UK for a digital review copy via NetGalley – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. This book is being published on the 3rd of September 2020 in ebook and paperback.

Synopsis:

Laura has a laid back attitude to life. Her home isn’t spotless, and after a hard day she likes to take to bed with a block of cheese.

Jess, on the other hand, is your classic overachiever: The Big Sister, Chief of Chivvying, Queen of the family WhatsApp. Her life is picture-perfect.

Laura and Jess lost their dad when they were kids, and now their mum is gone too. And one of the hardest times in life is made harder by the fact they can’t agree on a single thing, from where to scatter the ashes to whether “passed away” is even an acceptable term.

But when Laura starts pushing her own boundaries and Jess agrees to let other people in to her (not so) perfect life, the two women realize they need each other more than ever. They might not be ready to admit it, but family is everything…

A funny, tender and thoroughly entertaining read for anyone who loves Marian Keyes, Ruth Jones, and Fleabag.

My thoughts:

The story starts with the death of the mum of Laura and Jess. Laura is a kind person, eager to help, but is being let down by friends, work and her partner. Her sister Jess appears to have a perfect life – rich husband, immaculate house and well behaved children.

The story follows Laura and Jess as they try to deal with the death of their mum, 25 years after the sudden death of their dad and to build a new sibling relationship.

I really enjoyed this book, it dealt with some difficult topics, but included humour too, especially in relation to the children of Laura and Jess. Both Laura and Jess need to make changes in their lives and to move forward, instead of letting the past spoil their relationship.

An enjoyable read during the global pandemic of 2020.



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Queen Bee by Jane Fallon


I’m pleased to share my review of the latest book by Jane Fallon today. Thank you to Penguin UK -Michael Joseph for a digital review copy via NetGalley, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. The book was published in the UK on 9th July 2020.

Synopsis:

Welcome to The Close – a beautiful street of mansions, where gorgeous Stella is the indisputable Queen Bee . . .

It is here that Laura, seeking peace and privacy after her marriage falls apart, rents a tiny studio. Unfortunately, her arrival upsets suspicious Stella – who fears Laura has designs on her fiancé, Al.

When Laura stumbles on the big secret Al is hiding, suddenly Stella’s perfectly controlled world, not to mention Laura’s future, are threatened.

Taking a chance on beating Al at his own twisted game, these two former strangers are fast becoming best friends.

But has Laura forgotten that revenge never comes without a sting in the tail?

My thoughts:


I’ve read a few Jane Fallon novels over the years and enjoyed them, so I was pleased to receive a digital review copy back in January 2020. As lockdown hit the UK in March, the publication date was moved to July 2020 and I only read the book in June. Sadly, this was my loss as this is an enjoyable book.

This is a no spoiler review so I will be careful not to spoil any of the surprises in store for the characters. Laura has moved into The Close, a ‘posh’ area after splitting up with her husband and needing somewhere to rent – she is in the ‘servants flat’ owned by Gail and Ben. Laura is an entrepreneur – running her own cleaning company and employing a number of staff. The people she meets in The Close lead very different lifestyles and probably wouldn’t know what a vacuum cleaner was.

One of the residents is Stella, who with her two mini me daughters, aren’t nice to Laura and her daughter. However due to a series of events, Laura and Stella suddenly find that they have more in common than they ever expected.

I really enjoyed the book and likened it to a modern day Downton Abbey – where the ‘rich’ people have no idea how the majority of people live – everything is done for them. I laughed out loud at the ‘pizza in the oven’ story.

The Close is full of secrets and I enjoyed how Jane Fallon shared them one by one, changing your opinion about some of the characters as the story unfolded. There is so much more that I would love to share about the book but I don’t want to give any spoilers. I recommend this for your staycation 2020 summer read.

Jane Fallon:

Jane Fallon is an English producer and novelist, most famous for her work on popular series Teachers, 20 Things To Do Before You’re 30, Eastenders and This Life. She has also written many successful novels.

Fallon has been in a relationship with popular comedian Ricky Gervais since 1982, after they met while studying together at the University College London. The couple has lived together since 1984 and are based in North London.


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The Little Bookshop of Love Stories by Jaimie Admans

I’m thrilled to share my review for this gorgeous book again to celebrate the paperback publication this week. Thank you to HQ Digital for a digital review copy via NetGalley – my views are my own.

Synopsis:

Today is the Mondayest Monday ever. Hallie Winstone has been fired – and it wasn’t even her fault!

Having lost her job and humiliated herself in front of a whole restaurant full of diners, this is absolutely, one hundred percent, the worst day of her life.

That is until she receives an email announcing that she is the lucky winner of the Once Upon a Page Bookshop!

Owning a bookshop has always been Hallie’s dream, and when she starts to find secret love letters on the first pages of every book, she knows she’s stumbled across something special.

Things get even better when she meets gorgeous, bookish Dimitri and between them, they post a few of the hidden messages online, reuniting people who thought they were lost forever.

But maybe it’s time for Hallie to find her own happy-ever-after, too?

My thoughts:

This is the first book I’ve read by Jaimie Admans – I saw positive comments on Twitter about the book and was pleased to be approved – I was missing visiting real bookshops and looked forward to a virtual visit.

Hallie is a great character – I giggled through the opening chapter describing how she lost her waitressing job. Her love of books and passion to keep Once upon a Page open was a delight to read. The book looks at her family relationships and how her friendship with the ‘resident artist’ develops.

This was a great feel good read, full of books, love for books and community spirit. A perfect book to read for book lovers.

Jaimie Admans:

Jaimie is a 32-year-old English-sounding Welsh girl with an awkward-to-spell name. She lives in South Wales and enjoys writing, gardening, watching horror movies, and drinking tea, although she’s seriously considering marrying her coffee machine. She loves autumn and winter, and singing songs from musicals despite the fact she’s got the voice of a dying hyena. She hates spiders, hot weather, and cheese & onion crisps. She spends far too much time on Twitter and owns too many pairs of boots.
She will never have time to read all the books she wants to read.

She has been writing for years but has only just plucked up the courage to tell people.
She is the author of chick-lit romantic comedies Kismetology and The Chateau of Happily Ever Afters, and young adult romantic comedies Afterlife Academy, Not Pretty Enough, and North Pole Reform School.

Find out more on http://www.jaimieadmans.com or find me on Twitter @be_the_spark



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The Ringmaster’s Daughter by Carly Schabowski

I’m thrilled to be sharing my review for the Ringmaster’s Daughter by Carly Schabowski on my book review blog today – this thought provoking book is now one of my favourite book of 2020. Thank you to Bookouture for a digital review copy via NetGalley and for inviting me to join the blog tour. My thoughts about the book are my own and not influenced by the free copy (or by the author’s dogs – we also have a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel)

Synopsis:

Circus people don’t ask who you were before, or what god you believe in… when you join the circus, you are family, whatever your past.

Paris, 1940. Twenty-year-old Michel Bonnet lives on the edge of the law, finding work where he can breaking in horses on the outskirts of the city. But when the Nazis invade, Michel takes refuge as a stowaway on a rickety train bound for the rural south. It’s a journey that will change his life forever.

The train is property of Le Cirque Neumann – a travelling circus owned by the troubled and irritable showman Werner Neumann. Neumann offers Michel a job caring for the company’s horses – a lucky break, but with an unusual condition attached. Michel must keep to himself and never speak of what he sees behind the glittering curtain of the big top.

But as Michel finds himself pulled into the strange and wondrous world of the great spectacular it becomes more difficult to keep his promise. Why does the man with the performing monkey never speak, and the sword swallower turn his face away? Who are the silent, shadowy figures who flit like moths between the wagons when the sun is down? It’s clear that Neumann is keeping his performers hidden away… but why?

And how can Michel win the love of the beautiful and exotic trapeze artist Freida – the graceful, green-eyed star of Neuman’s spectacular – when he’s been forbidden to even meet her gaze?

A heartbreaking and uplifting wartime novel– perfect for fans of Water for ElephantsThe Nightingale and The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

My thoughts:

In May 2020, during the early days of furlough, I saw this book listed on NetGalley. Both the cover image and the synopsis appealed – I enjoy ‘modern’ historical fiction having studied the twentieth century during my O level course.

The book starts in Paris, just as the Germans are marching in, in the summer of 1940 and the British are heading home via Dunkirk. Carly Schabowski sets the scene of a city in turmoil, with neighbours running away and bomb damage being repaired. We are introduced to Michel, a shy young man, who is the main character. It was only after reading the book, that I realised that this is one of very few books I’ve read recently where the main character is male and is the first male historical fiction main character (the other books were of crime or thriller genres).

Michel escapes Paris (with help from his neighbour Betrand), and ends up travelling with the Le Cirque Neumann, looking after their horses. As the synopsis states, Werner, the Ringmaster keeps his performers away from Michel. The book follows Michel as he slowly becomes trusted by Werner and we discover the history of the various performers.

This wasn’t a book about a circus for me, but a book about how dangerous it was to be living in France in 1940 if you were Jewish, Catholic, disabled, gay or had a rare genetic condition. The circus performers all had reasons to hide and heartbreaking stories to share – including the one who made himself mute so that he couldn’t tell anyone where his family had fled to.

I was entranced by the story telling and could see this book as a movie. The detailed descriptions brought the locations and the show in the Big Top to life. I realised how much I had been encouraged to care for the characters when we reached the end of the book and I was holding my breath to find out what happened next. There are many friendships and romances to discover amongst the heartbreak and betrayals.

This is a beautifully written historical fiction book, dealing with some difficult topics and sadly even in our modern times, some of the same intolerances still exist. As I said earlier in my review, this is one of my favourite books of 2020 and I will be busy recommending it.

Carly Schabowski

Carly Schabowski worked as a journalist in both North Cyprus and Australia before returning to Oxford, where she studied for an MA and then a PhD in creative writing at Oxford Brookes University. Carly now teaches at Oxford Brookes University as an associate lecturer in Creative Writing for first and second-year English literature students. 
Twitter:  @carlyschab11

Buy Links:
Amazon: https://bit.ly/3eMifEf

Apple: https://apple.co/34mzW9h

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2RmjnoF

Google: https://bit.ly/38oTs77

The Hopes and Dreams of Libby Quinn by Freya Kennedy

Today I’m sharing my review for this lovely book again. The book is currently free on the Kindle in the UK – time to grab a copy and enjoy visiting Ivy Lane.

Synopsis:

Libby Quinn is sick and tired of being sensible. After years of slogging her guts out for nothing at a PR company, she finds herself redundant and about to plough every last penny of her savings into refurbishing a ramshackle shop and making her dream become a reality.

She hopes the opening of bookshop on Ivy Lane will be the perfect tribute to her beloved grandfather who instilled a love of reading and books in her from an early age. When her love life and friendships become even more complicated – will Libby have the courage to follow her dreams? Or has she bitten off more than she can chew?

My thoughts:

Thank you to Boldwood Books for a digital review copy – my thoughts are my own.

I really enjoyed this book. Libby Quinn has loved stories since she was tiny and dreams of owning her own bookshop – something many avid readers would also wish to be able to do. This book follows her as she tries to make her dream into reality and remembers how she loved reading with her grandfather.

This was a great book to read during our current lockdown situation – it emphasised the importance of family, friendships and community support. Libby’s bookshop idea sounds lovely – books, desks and a coffee shop area.

An uplifting book in a time of uncertainty.

The author:

Freya Kennedy is the pen name of Derry based author Claire Allan – who is perhaps best known for her psychological thrillers!
However, before turning a life of crime, Claire wrote women’s fiction for Irish publisher Poolbeg Press, her reinvention as Freya Kennedy will see her bring some love, laughter and heart-warming happiness to readers.
A true Derry girl, Freya Kennedy has lived all her life in the north of Ireland. She worked for 18 years as a journalist and has been writing full time since 2016. 
She is a huge fan of all kinds of books, from Marian Keyes (she cried the first time she met Marian), to Rowan Coleman, to Jane Fallon, to Jojo Moyes.
She also enjoys a good murder!
She continues to live in Derry with her husband, her two children, two cats and the best dog in the world.



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Summer in Provence by Lucy Coleman

Today I’m sharing my review for this gorgeous book again – having read and reviewed this at the start of Lockdown in the UK. Thank you to Boldwood Books for my digital review copy – my thoughts are my own.

Synopsis:

Is a change as good as a rest?

When married couple Fern and Aiden have a windfall, their reactions could not be more different. While Fern is content to pay off their mortgage and build a nest egg before starting a family, her husband is set on traveling the world. 

Fern’s not much of a back-packer so, before she knows it, the idea of a ‘marriage gap year’ takes shape. And, as Aiden heads off to the wilds of Australia, Fern chooses the more restful Provence for her year out. 

Set amidst the glorious French scenery, Château de Vernon offers a retreat from the hustle and bustle of normal life, and Fern agrees to help out in return for painting lessons from the owner – renowned, but rather troubled, painter Nico.

As their year unfolds in very different ways, will the time apart transform their marriage, or will it drive Fern and Aiden even further apart…

My thoughts:

Before we go any further, the cover design of this book is stunning and fits the story perfectly.

This was an intriguing story – so often books begin with the end of a relationship but this time, the main characters, Fern and Aiden, were ‘on a break’ after a lottery win – but as with Ross and Rachel in the TV Show ‘Friends’ – would they have different opinions about what this meant for their relationship?

Aiden heads across the world, eager to try new experiences. Fern stays nearer to home, heading to the Haven in Provence. Both meet new people and develop new skills but how will this change the dynamics of their relationship?

Without giving any spoilers, I enjoyed how the story evolved, as Fern rediscovered her passion for painting and helping others. The Haven came to life, as did Provence – we may not be able to travel to Provence in person at the moment but I have now added this to my list of places to visit in the future.

I enjoyed this book and I recommend it as a feel-good read.

Lucy Coleman:

From interior designer to author, Linn B. Halton – who also writes under the pen name of Lucy Coleman – says ‘it’s been a fantastic journey!’

Linn is the bestselling author of eighteen novels and counting – including A Spring to Remember, Summer on the Italian Lakes, Snowflakes over Holly Cove, The French Adventure and A Cottage in the Country. She is represented by Sara Keane of the Keane Kataria Literary Agency.

When she’s not writing, or spending time with the family, she’s either upcycling furniture or working in the garden.

Linn won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award; her novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards.

Living in Coed Duon in the Welsh Valleys with her ‘rock’, Lawrence, and gorgeous Bengal cat Ziggy, she freely admits she’s an eternal romantic.

Linn is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors. Linn writes feel-good, uplifting novels about life, love and relationships.

Visit Linn & Lucy’s websites at: 
https://linnbhalton.com/ and https://lucycolemanromance.com

to register for quarterly newsletters and competitions.





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The Wheelwright’s Daughter by Eleanor Porter

Today I’m pleased to share my review for this recently published book again. This book is currently free on the Kindle in the UK.

Synopsis:

Martha is a feisty and articulate young woman, the daughter of a wheelwright, living in a Herefordshire village in Elizabethan England. With no mother Martha’s life is spent running her father’s meagre household and helping out at the local school whilst longing to escape the confines and small-mindedness of a community driven by religious bigotry and poverty.

As she is able to read and is well-versed in herbal remedies she is suspected of being a witch. When a landslip occurs – opening up a huge chasm in the centre of the village – she is blamed for it and pursued remorselessly by the villagers.

But can her own wits and the love of local stablehand Jacob save her from a witch’s persecution and death…

A brilliant and accomplished novel that perfectly captures the febrile atmosphere of Elizabethan village life in an age when suspicion and superstition were rife.


My thoughts:


Thank you to Boldwood Books for a digital review copy of this book – my thoughts are my own.

This is the second book I’ve read recently set in Elizabethan England – the era when the Church of England had replaced Catholicism and the majority of people were unable to read. Many were willing to ‘snitch’ on neighbours to earn extra money to feed their families.

Martha, the main character is a headstrong intelligent young woman in an era when women were expected to be quiet and to stay at home. Her mother died when she was young, followed by her grandmother. Her father was a well respected Wheelwright who has turned to drink to help him forget the loss of his wife.

Martha has to deal with the village gossips, whilst trying to find enough food and fuel to survive. As the story evolves, she has a number of encounters with the villagers, some positive and others not. She has to use her inner strength to stay alive on a number of occasions.

The level of detail in the story is excellent, you really get to understand how hard life was. The saddest thing is seeing how a young woman with some basic knowledge of herbs and nursing skills can be suspected of being a witch. An interesting read and an impressive debut novel.

The author:

Ellie grew up in Herefordshire and now lives near the Malvern Hills. She’s taught in Hong Kong, London and Birmingham and published poetry and short fiction. Her novel THE WHEELWRIGHT’S DAUGHTER grew out of walks on Marcle Ridge where a 1571 landslip is still visible and marked on the map as The Wonder. The book tells the story of a world torn by division, where new beliefs jostle with tradition, where to be different can cost you your life. It introduces Martha Dynely, who refuses to be crushed, even when the horizon crumbles and buries her.


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The Summer We Ran Away by Jenny Oliver

I’m pleased to share my review for the latest book by Jenny Oliver today. Thank you to HQ Books for the gift of a digital copy via NetGalley – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

Julia’s perfect life is in crisis. 

It was meant to be the party of the summer…

In Cedar Road, everyone is preparing for Lexi’s ‘White Hot’ summer party. For one night, parking squabbles and petitions are put aside as neighbours sip Prosecco under the fairy lights and gather by the hot tub to marvel at Lexi’s effortlessly glamorous life with Hot Hamish.

For Julia, it’s a chance to coax husband Charlie out of his potting shed and into a shirt so they can have a welcome break from the hellish house renovation they’ve been wrestling with. And it’s a chance for Julia to pretend – just for a night – that her life is as perfect as Lexi’s.

But when, during the party, one of Julia’s WhatsApp messages falls into the wrong hands and reveals her most intimate thoughts, things reach boiling point…
    
And when all the neighbours know exactly what you’re thinking, there’s only one thing to do.

Run away.

It’s going to be a summer Julia will never forget…

My thoughts:


As we are currently in the middle of the Covid 19 pandemic, this book is a timely reminder of the dangers of being in WhatsApp groups (other social media channels are available). Julia broke the number one rule – never share your screen passcode, especially not when you’ve been sharing adult fantasies about the husband of your neighbour with a friend.

The opening chapters of this book are very funny, we know from the blurb roughly what is going to happen but the writing of this exceeded my expectations. I found myself cringing on behalf of Julia.

The rest of the book involves Amber, another neighbour of Julia. I enjoyed how the friendship developed between Amber and Julia, and how they both worked through their life challenges.

This was a fun summer read with some soul searching for Julia, Amber and Charlie. I enjoyed reading the book over a sunny weekend. There are elements of Bridget Jones, Mama Mia, and Thelma and Louise in this feel good read. This is the first book I’ve read by Jenny Oliver and I will now look to read her previous books.


Jenny Oliver:

Jenny Oliver is a bestselling author of contemporary fiction. Twice nominated for the RNA Best Contemporary Novel award, Jenny’s books explore the ups and downs of relationships and an unwavering belief in happy ever after. In the past she has had jobs ranging from an elf in the Disney store, a personal trainer, journalist, editor and now, by far the best, a writer. In her spare time she can be found cajoling her family out to car boot sales, trying to reign in her competitiveness on the netball court and subtly eavesdropping on strangers’ conversations as inspiration for her next book. 

Follow her on Twitter @JenOliverBooks Instagram JenOliverBooks Facebook JennyOliverBooks or go to the website jennyoliverbooks.com to find out more about Jenny, her books and read her blog!

Jenny’s new book, The Summer We Ran Away hit the shelves in June 2020. If you are looking for some bite-size reads why not try her Cherry Pie Island novella series. Or if it’s YA you love – check out Chelsea High, coming August 2020!


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