Thursday, 22 September 2022

Janet Jackson's Yorkshire B & B by Becky Papworth - #BookReveiw #BlogTour

 

How would I describe Lavender Cottage? You'd never know from the outside quite how big the garage cottage is. It has a pitched, red slate roof you can actually touch if you stretch high enough - useful when clearing the gutters - and a small, pale green, uPVC door, which looks like wood, with two square casement windows either side. The duck-egg linen curtains in the windows are ones I knocked up myself. (Well done, Janet.) They look decent, as long as you don't interrogate them  too closely. They're not straight, plus I ran out of green and white cotton, so I went with a navy blue zigzag stitch. Hopefully it looks deliberate, like something Kirstie Allsopp might run up in a quiet morning.

***

Dental receptionist and Yorkshire lass Janet Jackson (no, not that one) has just turned her garage into a Bed & Breakfast - and without any experience at all, is now awaiting her very first guests.

What can possibly go wrong?

Helped by sulky teenage daughter Chloe and hindered by sex-mad sister Maureen, Janet lurches from one crisis to another, relying on her Yorkshire wit and wisdom to get her through with her bank balance, her love-life and her sanity intact.

A word of warning: if ever you've dreamed of running a B & B, read this book and, like Janet, you'll probably do it anyway.

***

I am so very glad that I was offered the opportunity of being part of the blog tour for this book. It is a little different to my usual reading fare but I enjoyed every word.

I think that its appeal to readers will largely lie with the main character, the titular Janet Jackson. She was a delightful character, and I think most readers will find something in her with which they will identify. The author has not only portrayed her as likeable and engaging, but has developed all of the other characters thoughtfully and thoroughly too. They each contribute to the story, and it will be quite some time before I forget about Maureen, who is Janet's sister and completely attention worthy in so many ways.

As we observe Janet being coerced by those around her, it was a joy to observe how she reins back control of her own life. I felt as though I was accompanying a friend on her journey rather than reading her story and I felt a little bereft to finish the book. I was left wanting more of Janet, her family and friends, and not forgetting the array of guests who frequent her B and B.

Written with humour throughout, this is a wonderfully pleasurable book to read and I recommend it to anyone who wants a lighthearted read but with enough depth to keep you enthralled.

ISBN: 978 1739794811 

Publisher: Can Can Press

Formats: e-book and paperback

No. of Pages: 254 (paperback)


About the Author:

Becky Paapworth has spent 20 years making people laugh as a TV Producer on shows like Have I Got News For You, Rab. C. Nesbitt and Citizen Khan. She's hoping to entertain readers with this account of running a B&B, some of it is based on her own experience (she's not saying which bits).




(Thank you Rachel's Random Resources for gifting me a copy of this book)

Friday, 16 September 2022

New Releases in October 2022

 As we approach the last quarter of 2022 there are some exciting books being published. There are some seasonal reads amongst them, and it's never too early to dive in to those.

Here are ten which look amazing.


Kitty Fisher: The First Female Celebrity by Joanne Major

Lucy Locket lost her pocket,

Kitty Fisher found it,

not a penny was there in it,

only ribbon round it.’


Generations of children have grown up knowing Kitty Fisher from the nursery rhyme, but who was she? Remembered as an eighteenth-century ‘celebrated’ courtesan and style icon, it is surprising to learn that Kitty’s career in the upper echelons of London’s sex industry was brief. For someone of her profession, Kitty had one great flaw: she fell in love too easily.

Kitty Fisher managed her public relations and controlled her image with care. In a time when women’s choices were limited, she navigated her way to fame and fortune. Hers was a life filled equally with happiness and tragedy, one which left such an impact that the fascinating Kitty Fisher’s name still resonates today. She was the Georgian era’s most famous – and infamous – celebrity.

This is more than just a biography of Kitty Fisher’s short, scandalous and action-packed life. It is also a social history of the period looking not just at Kitty but also the women who were her contemporaries, as well as the men who were drawn to their sides… and into their beds. In this meticulously researched, lively and enjoyable book we discover the real woman at the heart of Kitty Fisher’s enduring myth and legend.


The Ghost Woods by C.J. Cooke

In the midst of the woods stands a house called Lichen Hall.

This place is shrouded in folklore – old stories of ghosts, of witches, of a child who is not quite a child.

Now the woods are creeping closer, and something has been unleashed.

Pearl Gorham arrives in 1965, one of a string of young women sent to Lichen Hall to give birth. And she soon suspects the proprietors are hiding something.

Then she meets the mysterious mother and young boy who live in the grounds – and together they begin to unpick the secrets of this place.

As the truth comes to the surface and the darkness moves in, Pearl must rethink everything she knew – and risk what she holds most dear.


The Christmas Spirit by Debbie Macomber

Peter and Hank are lifelong friends, but when it comes to their jobs they couldn't be more different. Peter is a small-town pastor and is devoted to helping the community, while Hank runs the local pub and is never too far from a party. But this Christmas, everything is about to change . . .

Having never settled down, Peter and Hank believe their demanding jobs are keeping them from finding love. Convinced that the other has it easier, they hatch a plan to swap places the week before Christmas to put their theories to the test and find time for themselves.

But as Hank quickly becomes overwhelmed by nativity plans, and Peter struggles to control the rowdy festive pub-goers, they each begin to worry they're in over their heads. Luckily, church assistant Grace is on hand to help Hank navigate a church/life balance, and a young woman seeking shelter at the pub might be exactly what Peter needs to realise there's more than one way to help his community . . .

This Christmas, will Peter and Hank's stunt fall flat, or will it open their eyes to the possibility of love at last?

The Winter Garden by Nicola Cornick

Remember, remember, the fifth of November…

1605: Anne Catesby fears for her family. Her son, the darkly charismatic Robert, is secretly plotting to kill the King, placing his wife and child in grave danger. Anne must make a terrible choice: betray her only child, or risk her family’s future.

Present day: When her dreams of becoming a musician are shattered, Lucy takes refuge in her family’s ancestral home in Oxfordshire. Everyone knows it was originally home to Robert Catesby, the gunpowder plotter. As Lucy spends more time in the beautiful winter garden that Robert had made, she starts to
have strange visions of a woman in Tudor dress, terrified and facing a heartbreaking dilemma.

As Lucy and Anne’s stories converge, a shared secret that has echoed through the centuries separating them, will change Lucy’s life forever…
 
Sweeping generations from the 1600s to the present day, with the enthralling Gunpowder Plot at its heart, Nicola Cornick’s utterly enchanting new timeslip novel will sweep you off your feet. Perfect for fans of Lucinda Riley, Barbara Erskine and Kate Morton.


When Stars Align by E. K. McCoy

Dr. Augustus Owens is the trauma specialist working that pivotal night when a nearly unrecognizable woman is brought into the ER. As he works tirelessly to save her life, he notices a familiar jagged scar on the left side of her neck. He is overwhelmed by the gut-wrenching realization that the woman's life that balances in his hands is none other than his one and only lost love, Elsie McCormick.

When Stars Align is a riveting, heartwarming tale that explores love and destiny. E.K. McCoy ponders what role does destiny play in love? How much control do we really have in matters of the heart? Are second chances possible?


The Winter Rose by Katie Flynn

Liverpool, 1941: After German bombs shatter the life Cadi has built for herself in Liverpool, she is more determined than ever to sign up and do her bit. Joining the WAAF also means she is closer to her beau - until Jez is sent thousands of miles from home.

While Jez is in Africa, someone from the past starts spreading vicious rumours that could threaten their relationship, and Cadi finds herself torn between keeping secrets and telling the truth to protect those she holds dear.

Cadi has always believed that their love can weather any storm but as the snow sweeps in, she faces an impossible choice. Will her decision leave her broken-hearted or will Cadi and Jez be reunited in time for Christmas?

Being released in paperback on 27th October.


Mr Ma and Son by Lao She

Newly arrived from China, Mr Ma and his son Ma Wei run an antiques shop nestled by St Paul's Cathedral, where they try to make a living amid the smog and bustle of 1920s London. As they struggle with money, misunderstandings and the ways of the English - from the overbearing patronage of missionary Reverend Ely to their well-meaning landlady Mrs Weddeburn and her carefree daughter - can understanding, even love, blossom? Both a moving story of the Chinese immigrant experience and a bitingly funny satire on the English, Mr Ma and Son delicately portrays the dreams and disappointments of those seeking a new life in a distant land.

Translated by William Dolby, with an introduction by Julia Lovell.


The House of Lost Wives by Rebecca Hardy

Secrets. Lies.  And four missing wives.

1813. Lizzie's beloved older sister Esme is sold in marriage to the aging Lord Blountford to settle their father's debts.

One year later, Esme is dead, and Lizzie is sent to take her place as Lord Blountford's next wife. Arriving at Ambletye Manor, Lizzie uncovers a twisted web of secrets, not least that she is to be the fifth mistress of this house.

Marisa. Anne. Pansy. Esme - What happened to the four wives who came before her?

In possession of a unique gift, only Lizzie can hear their stories, and try to find a way to save herself from sharing the same fate.


The Wartime Bookshop by Lesley Eames

Alice is nursing an injured hand and a broken heart when she moves to the village of Churchwood at the start of WWII. She is desperate to be independent but worries that her injuries will make that impossible.

Kate lives with her family on Brimbles Farm, where her father and brothers treat her no better than a servant. With no mother or sisters, and shunned by the locals, Kate longs for a friend of her own.

Naomi is looked up to for owning the best house in the village. But privately, she carries the hurts of childlessness, a husband who has little time for her and some deep-rooted insecurities.

With war raging overseas, and difficulties to overcome at home, friendship is needed now more than ever. Can the war effort and a shared love of books bring these women - and the community of Churchwood - together?

The first in a brand-new nostalgic and heart-warming WWII series, perfect for fans of Donna Douglas and Elaine Everest.


The Cat Who Caught a Killer by L. T. Shearer

Meet Conrad the cat. You’ve never met a detective like him before.

Neither has Lulu Lewis when he walks into her life one summer’s day. Mourning the recent death of her husband, the former police detective had expected a gentle retirement, quietly enjoying life on her new canal boat, The Lark, and visiting her mother-in-law Emily in a nearby care home.

But when Emily dies suddenly in suspicious circumstances, Lulu senses foul play and resolves to find out what really happened. And a remarkable cat named Conrad will be with her every step of the way . . .

Monday, 12 September 2022

How We Disappear: Novella and Stories by Tara Lynn Masih - #BookReview #BlogTour

 

It's my job to bring ghosts back to life, to make them resurface and reform out of amorphous images and subconscious memories. To do this, I stare all day at closed circuit TV monitors, grainy footage from grimy cameras hung in corners that capture our worst moments. Or the deceptively mundane - a final purchase, a walk down a dark street, a bicycle flying past.

You see, I passed the many tests given by the police department so they can ferret out the super recognizers in our city... I was able to match up, on my computer screen, the array of faces to each other, to pick them out of lineups and mug shots and to match them to their CCTV scans...Out of 500 faces... I got just one wrong.

***

In How We Disappear, Masih offers readers transporting and compelling stories of those taken, those missing, and those neither here nor gone—runaways, exiles, wanderers, ghosts, even the elusive Dame Agatha Christie. From the remote Siberian taiga to the harsh American frontier, from rural Long Island to postwar Belgium, Masih’s characters are diverse in identity and circumstance, defying the burden of erasure by disappearing into or emerging from physical and emotional landscapes.

Described as “masterful” and as “striking and resonant” (Publishers Weekly), Masih’s fiction, crossing boundaries between historical and contemporary, sparks with awareness that nothing and no one is ever gone for good—and that the wilderness is never quite behind us.

***

I have long been a fan of Ms. Masih's writing and she has been on the blog on a few occasions. I adored her book, My Real Name is Hanna, and you can read my review by clicking here. She has also been on the blog in one of my Desert Island Books slots, which you can find here. She also appeared as a guest which you can read here.

This is a skilful collection of short stories, all focusing on the theme of loss. My particular favourite was Agatha: A Life in Unauthorised Fragments. It tells of the disappearance of Agatha Christie, and the author writes of those eleven days in which the famous Mrs. Christie was missing eloquently and engagingly. Even though it is a subject matter that I am already familiar with, it was a pleasure to re-familiarise myself with it through the pen of Ms. Masih.

As a collection of twelve short stories and a novella, and with each taking a different look at the theme of disappearance and loss, they hang securely together as a whole, with each passing seamlessly to the next.

It does not surprise me that the author has written this lovely collection of stories. She is an excellent storyteller and writes with intelligence, flair and sensitivity. I highly recommend this book.

ISBN: 978 1950413454

Publisher: Press 53

Formats: e-book, audio, hardback and paperback.

No. of Pages: 164 


About the Author:

Tara Lynn Masih is a National Jewish Book Award Finalist and winner of the Julia Ward Howe Award for Young Readers for her debut novel My Real Name Is Hanna. Her anthologies include The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction and The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays. How We Disappear: Novella & Stories is her latest collection of long and very short stories, and she’s published multiple chapbooks with the Feral Press that are archived in universities such as Yale and NYU. She founded the Intercultural Essay Prize in 2006 and The Best Small Fictions series in 2015.

Masih received a finalist fiction grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, an Inspirational Woman in Literature Award from AITL Media, and several national book awards including an IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award for her role as an editor.

(ARC courtesy of the author and NetGalley)

Tuesday, 6 September 2022

Women Like Us: A Memoir by Amanda Prowse - #BookReview #BlogTour

 

I guess the first question to ask is, what kind of woman am I? Well, you know those women who saunter into a room, immaculately coiffed and primped from head to toe? Those women who seem to have it all together? Raven-haired beauties who can pull off red lipstick? The women who teeter pertly on killer heels and in skinny jeans? The women who flick their hair with a sexy smile, as they stride in confidently to talk self-assuredly to whoever looks to be of most interest, and, with a manicured hand, grab a glass of bubbles from a passing tray as they go?

Well, if you look behind her, you'll see me.


***

From her childhood, where there was no blueprint for success, to building a career as a bestselling novelist against all odds, Amanda Prowse explores what it means to be a woman in a world where popularity, slimness, beauty and youth are currency—and how she overcame all of that to forge her own path to happiness.

Sometimes heartbreaking, often hilarious and always entirely relatable, Prowse details her early struggles with self-esteem and how she coped with the frustrating expectations others had of how she should live. Most poignantly, she delves into her toxic relationship with food, the hardest addiction she has ever known, and how she journeyed out the other side.

One of the most candid memoirs you’re ever likely to read, Women Like Us provides welcome insight into how it is possible—against the odds—to overcome insecurity, body consciousness and the ubiquitous impostor syndrome to find happiness and success, from a woman who’s done it all, and then some.

***

This must be one of the most candidly honest memoirs I have ever read.

I have been a fan of Ms. Prowse's writing for a while now. I have read and reviewed The Day She Came Back, and you can read my review by clicking here. The Food of Love also featured as one of my Tuesday Teaser posts and you can read that post by clicking here.

Prior to reading this book my impression of the author was that she is talented, intelligent and successful, and I still hold to that view. However, having read this book in which she describes her own view of herself, it could not be more different to mine. Amanda sees herself through utterly self-critical lenses and has struggled with not being able to judge herself by the beauty that she radiates from within.

She has written with courage and bravery and this book will touch many people. I suspect many of us judge ourselves critically for a whole plethora of reasons. There are many issues that I could identify with, and I have no doubt that this book will effect others similarly.

Unsurprisingly, as it has come from the pen of this inspiring author, the book is well written, and even though she takes us through her inner dialogue of self-criticism throughout, it never became repetitive to read and was engaging throughout. Instead, it was sad to read about the way she had viewed herself; how she never felt content to be the woman that she was and what a difficult journey she has been on.

I would encourage anyone who has ever felt lacking in some way, anyone who has struggled to see what a beautiful person they really are, and anyone who has judged themselves by the caustic comments made by others to read this book. Amanda's journey of self-acceptance is humbling to read and I applaud her for her courage and bravery in writing and publishing this book. 

ISBN: 978 1542038812

Publisher:  Little A

Formats:  e-book, audio and paperback

No. of Pages: 396


About the Author:

Amanda Prowse is an International Bestselling author whose twenty seven novels, seven short stories and recent non-fiction, autobiographical book, have been published worldwide in dozens of languages. Her chart topping No.1 titles What Have I Done?, Perfect Daughter, My Husband’s Wife, The Girl in the Corner and The Things I Know have sold millions of copies around the world.

A popular TV and radio personality, Amanda Prowse is a regular panellist on the Channel 5 show ‘The Wright Stuff’ and numerous daytime ITV programmes. She makes countless guest appearances on BBC and independent Radio stations where she is well known for her insightful observations of human nature and her infectious observational humour. 


(Bio photo and info courtesy of the authors own website)

(TY to Love Book Tours for a complimentary copy of the book)

Monday, 5 September 2022

The Invisible by Peter Papathanasiou - #BookReview #BlogTour

 

The men gathered around to inspect the contents of the hefty duffel bag, their Balkan accents almost as thick as their necks. They spoke in low voices, their heavy brows creased as they plotted and schemed. The silver-white sun beat down on their broad, sweaty backs.

"So, as we agreed, yes?" Lefty said. "We have a deal, right?"

The first thug continued to rifle through the bag, holding up individual items, rotating and inspecting them in his grubby hands before moving on to the next. He suddenly stopped his examination and looked up at Lefty with dark, suspicious eyes.

***

Burnt-out from police work, recently divorced and mourning the death of his father; Detective Sergeant George Manolis flies to Greece to reconnect with his roots.

Arriving in the Prespes region, a picturesque backwater straddling Greece, Albania and North Macedonia, he learns of the disappearance of his old friend Lefty - an "invisible" who lives without a scrap of paperwork. The police and certain locals believe he merely absconded, while others suspect foul play.

Reluctantly, Manolis agrees to work undercover to find him, delving into the complicated relationships of a tiny village where grudges run deep and even the landscape itself seems determined to keep its secrets buried.

It soon becomes clear that Lefty had made some powerful enemies and was in over his head in every possible way. With the clock ticking, the ghosts of the past continue to haunt the present, as Manolis's investigation leads him to uncover a dark and long-forgotten tradition.

***

When I began reading this book, I had not realised that it was the second in a series. However, it worked perfectly as a stand alone novel and I enjoyed it immensely.

I have read books set in Greece previously but they have been a lying on the beach in the sunshine type novel. This was completely different and much darker and depicted a side of the country of which I was not aware.

The author sets the scene perfectly, describing the culture, history and traditions of Greece in an unhurried manner which was perfect for this book. It is not a fast paced crime mystery. Instead, we join the main character as he inserts himself into the life of the village and familiarises himself with it's residents. Consequently, the reader feels that they are getting to know them alongside him.

Twists and turns are minimal and I enjoyed the meander through this part of Greece upon which the author takes his readers. Having said that, there was a nicely satisfying twist at the end which I had not anticipated.

If you like your crime books to be full of car chases and excitement then this book probably is not for you. However, if like me, you enjoy accompanying the main character and seeing a place and crime through his eyes then you will enjoy this book.

I heartily recommend it and have already ordered a copy of the first book in the series, The Stoning.


ISBN: 978 1529424423

Publisher: MacLehose Press

No. of Pages: 313


About the Author:

Peter Papathanasiou was born in northern Greece in 1874 and adopted as a baby to an Australian family. His first book, a memoir entitled Son of Mine, was published in 2019. Peter's writing has otherwise been published by The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, The Seattle Times, the Guardian, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Good Weekend, ABC and SBS. He holds a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from City, University of London; a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the Australian National University (ANU); and a Bachelor of Laws from ANU specialising in criminal law. The Invisible is the second in the DS Manolis Investigations, which began with The Stoning.


(Thank you to the publisher for an ARC)


Friday, 2 September 2022

Books to Read in September 2022

 


Welcome to the month of September!

Things that happen in September are - the children go back to school, the temperature drops, and on the 21st it is officially the first day of autumn.

In my neck of the woods there are several wet days forecast, and my goodness we need it, but I am thinking steaming mugs of tea, a comfy armchair and a pile of books. Who is going to join me?

The books which have caught my eye and I would like to read this month are:


How We Disappear by Tara Lynn Masih

Janet Jackson's Yorkshire B & B by Becky Papworth

The Sin Eater by Megan Campisi

The French House by Jacquie Bloese

We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride

Family and Kinship in East London by Michael Young and Peter Willmott

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

The Most Precious of Cargoes by Jean-Claude Grumberg

The Locked Room by Elly Griffiths

The Vanished Days by Susanna Kearsley

Wednesday, 31 August 2022

Reading Roundup - August 2022


Well, here we are at the end of August already! At this point in the year, I am hit by realisation that Autumn is not far away. There have been reports in the news recently that the trees think it is autumn already due to the unusually high temperatures that we have seen.

However, as I sit here writing this post, I can see only lush green leaves on the trees visible from my window, and I shall enjoy it while it lasts.

It has been a busy month, and I have not reviewed all of the books that I have read as the days and weeks have just whizzed speedily by. Still, I have read some good books and there have been some interesting and exciting features on the blog.

I was thrilled to interview Lorenzo DeStefano, author of the outstanding novel, House Boy. You can read the interview here, and my review of the novel here.

Carolyn Clarke told us about her Desert Island Books and you can read her interesting post here.. Carolyn is the author of the brilliant, And Then There's Margaret. You can read my review by clicking here.

There has also been a cover love posting featuring, The House Beneath the Cliffs by Sharon Gosling which you can read by clicking here.

In addition, my top ten new releases for September can be accessed here, and a library loans post here. 

Have you had a good reading month?


Books I Have Read

The Keepsake by Julie Brooks - I have recently taken part in the book tour for her previous book, The Secrets of Bridgewater Bay, which I preferred to this more recent book. If you would like to read my review you can do so by clicking here.

Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie - This was so almost my book of the month but the ending let it down.

Dark Music by David Lagercrantz - Translated from Swedish this is the first in a planned series. It was okay but I am not planning on reading the next one.

After Silence by Jessica Gregson - This wonderful book was my favourite this month. You can find my review by clicking here.

Nightshade by E.S. Thomson - This is number five in the Jem Flockhart series of books.

Pamela by Samuel Richardson - I think I would have enjoyed this more if I had read it in a physical form rather than on my kindle.

Before the Dawn by Emma Pass - I have not previously read anything by this author and I enjoyed reading this.

Shadow by Michael Morpurgo - This is an amazing story, written for children but to be enjoyed by all. You can find my review here.

Books I Didn't Finish

Four Riddles for Jane Austen by Gabrielle Mullarkey - The only reason I didn't finish this is that I had too many other reading deadlines to meet. What I did read I was enjoying and I will be going back to it at some point.

Books I am Partway Through

Psalms for the End of the World by Cole Haddon

Women Like Us: A Memoir by Amanda Prowse

The Invisible by  Peter Papathanasiou

Love Lesson in Starcross Valley by Lucy Knott


 (header photo courtesy of Alisa Anton/Unsplash)