Monday 22 May 2023

BLOG TOUR: The Bad Neighbour - Jennie Ensor

In March 2020, the Covid pandemic hits the sleepy English village of Brampton. At the start of lockdown, local busybody Tara Sanderson sets up a community group to help vulnerable residents through the crisis. Elderly Elspeth Chambers, her longstanding neighbour and friend, accepts Tara’s offer to buy food and collect medicine for her.

But it isn’t long before neighbourliness and community spirit turn sour. Tensions arise when Tara becomes jealous of Elspeth’s emerging friendship with Ashley Khan, a recent arrival in Wilton Close.

Suspecting there is more to Tara’s hostility toward them than meets the eye, Ashley and Elspeth start to uncover their neighbour’s long-buried secrets, and realise that Tara is capable of almost anything...

What did I think?

I've been a fan of Jennie Ensor's books since I read her stunning debut, Blind Side, in 2016 and her fifth novel, The Bad Neighbour, is just as stunning.  Set during the Covid-19 pandemic, the reader is part of the Brampton community as they come to terms with lockdown and whilst the majority of people will do anything to help others, there's always one who will simply help themself.

It gave me chills reading about this dark time in our recent history and I relived the fear and confusion that many of us felt through the exquisite characters that Jennie Ensor has created.  The sense of community that we all saw in our own cities, towns and villages is portrayed beautifully but the plot darkens when one neighbour isn't as community minded as she appears.

Tara is a character that everyone will love to hate; she is so selfish, jealous, petty and scarily dangerous.  Tara gives the outward appearance that she is helping her elderly neighbour, Elspeth, but she doesn't want to do it for nothing and reading about her antics made my blood positively boil.  Just when you think she can't do anything worse...she outdoes herself.

Deliciously dark and hugely entertaining, The Bad Neighbour is a beautifully written, compelling read that I couldn't put down.  Filled with drama and tension, as well as a brilliant cast of characters, it would make a fantastic TV series.  I absolutely loved it!  Very highly recommended

I received an ARC to read and review for the blog tour and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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Wednesday 17 May 2023

BLOG TOUR: Where Do I Go From Here? - India Rigg

Another thing checked off Seffy's list - a promotion before she's thirty! But that's not the kind of thing you can brag about on Facebook - that's reserved for engagements, weddings and photos of adorable little children. When it comes to those milestones, Seffy's struggling; she's divorced, heart-broken and reeling from a recent infertility diagnosis.

Then her best friend suggests she takes a sabbatical, goes travelling, and creates a new list - one full of mile-high clubs, hot strangers and sketchy mushrooms. Maybe amongst all that chaos, she might find a way back to herself - even if that way involves travelling halfway around the world.

But when life's a series of negatives, how far would you go to find a positive?

What did I think?

Where Do I Go From Here? is a really fun book to read but it also covers serious topics such as work/life balance, infertility, miscarriage and divorce.  I really enjoyed Seffy's story and my heart was breaking for her as we relive her struggle to conceive through her letters to Aphrodite.

Seffy is approaching her thirtieth birthday as a childless divorcee and the only thing left to tick off her list is a promotion at work.  Seffy is a workaholic and her job is the only fulfilment she has in her life, but there's more to life than work and Seffy is about to find that out.  Seffy's bag is packed and she's off travelling for nine months!

I loved Seffy's relationship with her friend Harry and I was fuming at Luke for divorcing her at her lowest ebb, however, there are always two sides to every story and I was guilty, as usual, of jumping to conclusions.  

India Rigg tackles the difficult subject of infertility with honesty and sensitivity and it really makes you think about what's hiding behind people's smiles.  It's surprising how many couples suffer from infertility and/or have experienced miscarriage so what you may think is an innocent question: 'Do you have children?' is like sticking a knife into their heart and giving it a good twist while you're in there.

Heartbreaking and humorous in equal measure, Where Do I Go From Here? is an entertaining and thought-provoking novel that I thoroughly enjoyed.  It's beautifully written to perfectly balance light-hearted fun with sensitive and emotional subjects.  I wish I'd read it in my thirties when I treated work as my life.  

I received an ARC to read and review for the blog tour and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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About the author:

Born in North Norfolk, India grew up along its picturesque coastline before leaving to study Cell Biology at Durham University and embark on a career in Marketing.  Expanding from the tiny towns of East Anglia to the hustle and bustle of the big city made her see the world for all its wonders and faults - it's a big place to try and change yourself but India wants to give muted societal issues a voice and give scary topics a friendly face. She believes all good ideas come from a spicy Bloody Mary, a niche documentary and over-hearing conversations in cafes.

Follow India Rigg on Instagram: @indiegram__

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Thursday 11 May 2023

The Sixpenny Orphan - Glenda Young

'Please, sir, take us both. We only have each other. We don't know how to live apart.'

After the death of their parents, sisters Poppy and Rose are taken in by widow Nellie Harper. But whilst they have a roof over their heads, the young orphans are unloved, unwanted, and always hungry, with only one pair of boots between them. Keen to make money, Nellie hatches a plan to sell the girls to the mysterious Mr Scurrfield. But when the day comes for them to leave, Scurrfield reveals he will take only one of the sisters - and he will decide which it will be on the turn of a sixpence.

Ten years later, Poppy is married with three children. Not a day goes by when she doesn't think about Rose, but after many years of searching, Poppy has accepted that her sister is lost to her. That is until a letter suddenly arrives, revealing Rose's fate and breaking Poppy's heart. Determined to be reunited with her beloved sister, Poppy sets out to bring Rose home.

What did I think?

It is always a pleasure to read a Glenda Young novel and The Sixpenny Orphan is no exception.  I absolutely love these sagas set just after World War I in the coal mining village of Ryhope in Sunderland.  The past is brought vividly to life through the warm and evocative writing of natural storyteller, Glenda Young.

This book starts in 1909 when orphans Poppy and Rose are children living in the farming community of Ryhope with Nellie the knocker upper.  I didn't even know such a role existed but in the days before alarm clocks, the coalminers needed somebody to wake them up before their shift at the pit.  Nellie has plans to turn the girls from a burden into a commodity but when a man from Sunderland turns up to buy them, he will only take Rose.

Oh my heart broke for these two girls.  They have had so much heartache in their short life since the death of their parents and then living in such awful conditions with a woman who doesn't care about them.  Splitting them up is devastating for both Poppy and Rose but we really see what Poppy is made of when she hatches a plan to bring Rose home as the book jumps forward ten years to 1919.

This is a novel that entertains from start to finish.  The characters are so realistic and the scenery so vivid that I could picture it clearly in my mind.  Of course it helps a little that I know Ryhope well but I can't walk through the village now without replaying scenes in my head from Glenda's fantastic novels.

There is so much to love about this book: the wonderful characters and the challenges they face, the entertaining and compelling storyline and the jam tarts that I could almost taste.  Even the dedication page gave me a lump in my throat!  The dirty and cramped living conditions in a coalmining village must have been awful, but the resilience and fierce determination of Glenda's female characters completely warms your heart.

The Sixpenny Orphan is such a heartwarming, heartbreaking and entertaining read that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend.  I used to say I wasn't a saga reader but then I discovered Glenda Young's novels: this is not just a saga, this is a Glenda Young saga and it's simply wonderful.

I received an ARC to read and review for the blog tour and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

About the author:

Glenda Young credits her local library in the village of Ryhope, where she grew up, for giving her a love of books. She still lives close by in Sunderland and often gets her ideas for her stories on long bike rides along the coast. The novels are inspired by Glenda’s love of soap opera, and are dramatic with lots of action and wonderful female characters. There’s a lot of warmth and humour too. 

A life-long fan of Coronation Street, Glenda runs two hugely popular fan websites including the Coronation Street Blog since 2007 and the original fan website, online since 1995. Glenda is also the creator of the first ever weekly soap opera, ‘Riverside’ which appears in The People’s Friend, the longest running women’s magazine in the world. 

As well as her gritty sagas, Glenda writes a fun, cosy crime series set in a Scarborough B&B. Glenda has had short fiction published in Take a Break, My Weekly, The People’s Friend and Best and in 2019 was a finalist in the Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais Comedy Award.

For updates on what Glenda is working on, visit her website and to find out more find her on Facebook @GlendaYoungAuthor Twitter @flaming_nora and Tiktok @glenda_young_author

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Wednesday 10 May 2023

Homecoming - Kate Morton

Adelaide Hills, Christmas Eve, 1959. At the end of a scorching hot day, beside a creek in the grounds of a grand and mysterious mansion, a local delivery man makes a terrible discovery. A police investigation is called and the small town of Tambilla becomes embroiled in one of the most shocking and perplexing murder cases in the history of South Australia.

Sixty years later, Jess is a journalist in search of a story. Having lived and worked in London for almost twenty years, she now finds herself laid off from her full-time job and struggling to make ends meet. A phone call out of nowhere summons her back to Sydney, where her beloved grandmother, Nora, who raised Jess when her mother could not, has suffered a fall and been raced to the hospital.

At a loose end in Nora's house, Jess does some digging into her past. In Nora's bedroom, she discovers a true crime book, chronicling the police investigation into a long-buried tragedy: the Turner Family Tragedy of Christmas Eve, 1959. It is only when Jess skims through the book that she finds a shocking connection between her own family and this once-infamous crime – a crime that has never been truly solved. And for a journalist without a story, a cold case might be the best distraction she can find . . .

An epic novel that spans generations, Homecoming asks what we would do for those we love, and how we protect the lies we tell. It explores the power of motherhood, the corrosive effects of tightly held secrets, and the healing nature of truth.

What did I think?

At 628 pages long, you can see why Homecoming is described as an epic novel and although it might be weighty to hold, it is easy to read.  With a dual timeline set in 1959 and 2018, this is the story of the Turner family and the devastating event in their family history that Nora Turner-Bridges has done her utmost to protect her granddaughter Jess from.

In 1959, the residents of the small town of Tambilla in Australia are preparing for Christmas but this is a Christmas Eve that they will never forget.  Nobody knows what happened to the Turner family that day and it is a mystery that gripped the nation.  Fast forward to 2018 and Jess had no idea that this happened to her ancestors until she found a book about the tragedy.   Through reading excerpts from the book, we, along with Jess, relive that fateful Christmas Eve in 1959.

This really is an epic novel and I think it's absolute genius to have a book within a book to relive the timeline in the past.  I love family secrets so I very quickly found myself immersed in the story and the only reason I had to put the book down was from my arms aching.  I loved the theme of 'home' running throughout the novel, it really made me think about what 'home' means to me.

Beautifully written with a very intriguing mystery at its heart, Homecoming is a compelling novel that swept me away to Australia and I thoroughly enjoyed my virtual visit.  I thought I had it all worked out but this is a multi-faceted mystery with so much to be uncovered.  

I received a beautiful hardback copy for the Tandem Collective readalong and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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Monday 8 May 2023

Freya's French Farmhouse (The Blossomwood Bay Series Book 2) - Daisy James

Welcome to Freya's French Farmhouse, the second book in a brand new series from the author of the Hummingbird Hotel series and the Cornish Confetti Agency series.

Escape to the French Riviera!

After losing her aromatherapy studio in the Blossomwood Bay fire, Freya Farnham finds herself at a loose end, especially when her trusty Renault decides that it’s time to head to the scrapyard in the sky. Now she has no excuse not to agree to her parents’ request to head to the pretty village of Saint-Julien to find out why her late Uncle Toby’s gorgeous French farmhouse isn’t selling, even when the real estate agent, Xavier Deschamps, advertises himself as "the best in the whole of Provence".

As soon as she arrives, Freya realises what the problem is, and so, with the help of handsome local car mechanic Jacques Jordan, she invests her last euro in a kaleidoscope of cleaning products and sets about transforming the drab and dusty dwelling into a chic and shiny château. Little did she know that in the process she would discover more about her family’s history than she bargained for.

Can she come to terms with her past? Or will the demons that have been snapping at her heels since childhood prevent her from seizing the chance to achieve a much-longed-for sense of belonging in the friendly community where she’s treated as one of their own?

Why not join Freya as she explores the lavender-infused Provençal countryside, and enjoy a trip filled with fun, fragrance, and delicious foodie treats with a dash of heart-warming romance thrown in for good measure!

What did I think?

No matter what the weather is like outside, you can always rely on Daisy James to whisk you off to sunny climes.  Freya's French Farmhouse is the second book in the Blossomwood Bay series but it can definitely be read as a standalone as it has its own contained storyline with cameo appearances from some of the characters we met in book 1 (Tilly's Tuscan Teashop). 

Freya inherited her love of fragrance from her late Uncle Toby so when she loses her aromatherapy studio in the Blossomwood Bay fire, she takes the opportunity to make one final visit to Uncle Toby's farmhouse in France before it is (hopefully) sold.  The farmhouse has been on the market for quite some time and although it is a little unloved and shabby, Freya can't understand why it hasn't sold and it's a mystery she's determined to get to the bottom of.

With family secrets to unearth, romance to blossom and skulduggery afoot, this is a hugely entertaining story in a truly gorgeous setting.  Daisy James writes in Full HD with the vivid sights, sounds and smells of Provence all vying for attention in my imagination.  There's always something unforgettable in Daisy's books that makes me smile and in this instance it's the 'procrastination pixies' - they always visit me too!  

I don't often share quotes from books but Daisy's writing is so beautiful that I wanted to share a small excerpt here as only Daisy James could make dust sound pretty:
"...the shafts of golden sunlight that sliced through the gaps in the shutters highlighting the dust particles as they danced a jolly jig to an inaudible tune."
I don't physically travel but I don't need a passport to experience the world through my books, and Daisy James paints such beautiful pictures through her writing that I feel as if I'm actually in the breathtaking location she has chosen to write about. 

I adored Freya's French Farmhouse and I didn't want my virtual visit to Provence to end, although I'm already looking forward to my virtual trip to Hawaii in the next Blossomwood Bay book: Holly's Hawaiian Holiday.  

I received a digital ARC to read and review for the blog tour; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from:
Amazon US

About the author:

Daisy James loves writing stories with strong heroines and swift-flowing plotlines. She especially likes to create sunshine-filled settings in exotic locations - the Caribbean, Tuscany, Cornwall, Provence - so she can spend her time envisioning her characters enjoying the fabulous scenery and sampling the local food and drink.

When not scribbling away in her peppermint-and-green summerhouse (garden shed), she spends her time sifting flour and sprinkling sugar and edible glitter. She loves gossiping with friends over a glass of something fizzy or indulging in a spot of afternoon tea - china plates and teacups are a must.

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Monday 1 May 2023

Hyphenated Relations - Daniel Maunz

Sam Daly is leading a life of quiet isolation following the death of her husband, Mike. She is content to merely put in her eight hours at work each day before heading home to lose herself in a book, only to restart that cycle the following morning. But Sam's self-imposed cocoon is threatened after her eccentric father-in-law Harold stumbles back into her world to announce that he is getting remarried to the mysterious Marcie Porter, who is burdened by her own complex family history.

The last thing Sam wants is to get involved with Harold's new endeavour. But after getting wind that Marcie's four children intend to sabotage the wedding, Sam is reluctantly drawn into a new family drama and all that comes with it, whether it be the development of unexpected alliances or butting heads with ruthless enemies. While navigating these landmines, Sam finds herself struggling to come to terms with the painful past she had been holding away at arm's length for so long.

Through these trials and tribulations, Sam is also forced to confront the one question that she had sought to avoid since her husband's passing—whether she is done with the notion of "family" after all.

What did I think?

Wowzers!  What a book!  I didn't just like it, I LOVED IT!  I laughed (a lot), I cried (a little) and I enjoyed every single second aboard this hugely entertaining emotional rollercoaster of a novel.  Just like Daniel Maunz's outstanding debut novel, Questions of Perspective, Hyphenated Relations is a book that will stay with me long after turning the final page.

This is a character driven novel with family at its huge heart.  The characters are an eclectic bunch and I loved all of them, even the sneaky, conniving ones.  Sam is the main character and she is suffering from the most painful of emotions: grief.  It seems as if a large part of Sam died when she lost her husband, although she escapes through her love of books (which made me love her even more).  

Sam has distanced herself from her former father-in-law so it's quite a shock to her system when he comes back into her life in the funniest way.  Humour is evident throughout the book, even though some serious subjects are touched upon and it very much reflects the ups and downs of real life.  

I don't think I fully appreciated the wonderful front cover until I was partway through the book and saw the initials on the leaves of the tree.  It makes me emotional just looking at it to write my review as it makes me grateful to think of the people who have touched my life in my own family tree.

This is one of those books that make you want to read it again as soon as you finish it.  I'm already missing all of the characters and I want to re-experience their stories again; I'm sure I'll even laugh in the same places and maybe even find some humour I missed when I was rapidly devouring this wonderful book as if I had been starved of words for weeks.

Entertaining, emotional and humorous, Hyphenated Relations is an unforgettable novel that has reminded me that life may be short but it is precious.  Don't let this wonderful book fly under your radar - Daniel Maunz is a true literary star and one of the best things about book blogging is being introduced to such amazing authors that I may not have otherwise discovered.

Very highly recommended - DO NOT MISS THIS BOOK (yes, I'm shouting from the rooftop, it's THAT good)!

Many thanks to Daniel Maunz for sending an ARC across the Atlantic; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon