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Thursday, 27 April 2017

Blog Tour - The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve


The Stars are Fire (Hardback)The brilliantly gripping new novel from the New York Times best-selling author of The Pilot's Wife (an Oprah's Book Club selection). Hot breath on Grace's face. Claire is screaming, and Grace is on her feet. As she lifts her daughter, a wall of fire fills the window. Perhaps a quarter of a mile back, if even that. Where's Gene? Didn't he come home? 1947. Fires are racing along the coast of Maine after a summer-long drought, ravaging thousands of acres, causing unprecedented confusion and fear. Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her difficult and unpredictable husband Gene joins the volunteers fighting to bring the fire under control. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie's two young children, the women watch in horror as their houses go up in flames, then walk into the ocean as a last resort. They spend the night frantically trying to save their children. When dawn comes, they have miraculously survived, but their lives are forever changed: homeless, penniless, and left to face an uncertain future. As Grace awaits news of her husband's fate, she is thrust into a new world in which she must make a life on her own, beginning with absolutely nothing; she must find work, a home, a way to provide for her children. In the midst of devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms - joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain - and her spirit soars. And then the unthinkable happens, and Grace's bravery is tested as never before.
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
ISBN: 9781408702987
This is the first Anita Shreve I have read in some time and it is definitely not going to be my last. I was drawn in to the story from the very start. I really liked Anita's style of writing, it is very atmospheric and I found myself living through the drought, snow and the fire. I really enjoyed reading about the style of living on the US coastline during 1947 and the dynamics within the families. It was a time where men went out to work and women stayed at home looking after the children and keeping house, however I think that life in America was different to that within postwar UK.

 I felt the story had a strong storyline, with characters who I sympathised with and I really felt for Claire, two young children and then pregnant with a third, which was conceived in violent circumstances. It is evident from the start that family life was not a happy place with Gene marrying Claire after loosing the love of his life. 

After the fire, life changes for the neighbourhood and while Gene is lost Claire has the oppurtunity to stand up and make things better for her family. The mysterious pianist who Claire finds squatting in the home previously owned by her mother in law, is the sunshine in her life for a short time but when he leaves Claire continues to work hard and gains independence making a better life for her and her family. However this is short lived when the police turn up on her doorstep and Claire's fortunes change again and a difficult decision must be made.

I really enjoyed the story and I think that although the story is set in 1947 and in America it is still relevant today. Women across the world are living in fear, with husbands who take charge or monopolise their families, leaving women and children living in daily fear (of course many men are also living in abusive relationships), however stories like this show that these relationships can be escaped and people can have a life after their fear. 

I think this is one of those books that could give many of its readers a positive message that things can improve and I hope that it is a book that is shared because it it a great story but also one that can give hope,

Thank you to the publishers, Little Brown, for inviting me onto this book tour in return for an honest review. 

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Blog Tour - The Beachside Flower Stall by Karen Clarke


The Beachside Flower Stall: A Feel Good Romance to Make You Laugh Out Loud - Beachside Bay 2 (Paperback)Carrie Dashwood fled Dorset ten years ago when her best friend Megan stole her love, local heartthrob Tom. Now she’s back to help run her aunt Ruby’s flower stall in idyllic Shipley. 

Trying to persuade herself that her feelings for Tom are in the past, Carrie plans to avoid him and Megan completely. But it’s not to be, because Ruby’s Blooms are arranging the flowers for Megan and Tom’s wedding. 

Soon Carrie’s crawling under the stall to hide and accidentally inventing an imaginary boyfriend... But with the stall’s finances in jeopardy and Ruby needing her niece more than ever, Carrie has to keep her emotions in check.

With bouquets to arrange, family secrets to uncover, and Tom unavoidably a part of her life again, can Carrie keep her cool, save the stall, and find her very own happy ever after?

Publisher: Bookouture
ISBN: 9781786811578




The Beachside Flower Stall is a return to Shipley, the second installment in the the Beachside Bay series. The book contains a whole new cast of characters although a few favourites from The Beachside Sweet Shop pop up too.

I really enjoyed The Beachside Sweet Shop and was looking forward to the second book, although unfortunately this book didn't grab me as quickly. However, I did enjoy the story as it got going, particularly as the meaning behind individual flowers were entwined into the story, reiminscent of Vanessa Diffenbaugh's The Language of Flowers.  There are a number of storylines throughout the book but I really enjoyed Ruby's story which was a heartwarming storyline.

There were also a number of times during the book when Karen Clarke's humour shone through and I found myself laughing out loud. 

The book can be read as a standalone novel, however it is the second visit to the beachside town of Shipley and the series is introducing the reader to a great cast of characters who I hope to meet up with again soon.  Karen Clarke has created a great setting and I look forward to returning again soon.

Thank you to the publishers, Bookouture, for inviting me to take part on this blog tour in return for an honest review. 

Friday, 14 April 2017

One Happy Tiger by Catherine Rayner

One Happy Tiger (Board book)

"Catherine Rayner has the marvellous gift for capturing the souls of animals in a few, rich washes of colour." - The Daily Telegraph. Help your toddler learn to count from one to ten with this stylish counting book from Catherine Rayner. The simple text gently touches on themes of happiness, friendship and the natural world, making it the perfect companion to the classic picture book, Augustus and His Smile. With sturdy board pages for little hands to turn, this beautiful tall-format board book encourages your child to practise their first numbers and develop their counting skills - and it's a wonderful gift for babies and toddlers too.
Publisher: Little Tiger Press Group
ISBN: 9781848692343

Catherine Rayner is a fabulous illustrator and one of my favourite books by her is Abigail, about a giraffe who is teaching others to count, and I often read this book at storytime with children.  
One Happy Tiger is about a tiger and is again a book about counting. Catherine has illustrated this book with her stunning illustrations which all feature a tiger, who is beautiful, striking and friendly and are accompanied by butterflies, insects and fish. I would love to have some of Catherine Rayner's artwork on my wall but I love having the books to hand to look through until such a time.
The book is toddler friendly with a sturdy board cover and thick pages for those small hands to enjoy.
Thank you to the publishers, Little Tiger, for sending me the book to review. 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Blog Tour - The Secrets of Ivy Garden by Catherine Ferguson


Today I am pleased to welcome Catherine Ferguson to my blog as part of her blog tour to celebrate the ebook pubilication of her new book, The Secrets of Ivy Garden.


The Secrets of Ivy Garden (Paperback)

The ebook bestseller is back with her next hilarious read - a fun, fresh tale of love, friendship and family secrets...When Holly breaks up with her boyfriend Dean, she's at a loss as to what to do next. But things go from bad to worse when her beloved grandmother Ivy dies - and Holly is left in charge of sorting out Ivy's house and garden. As she sorts through her grandmother's belongings and makes her way through the wilderness outside, Holly soon finds that there is more to Ivy than meets the eye, and uncovers a surprising family secret that changes everything...This is a heart-warming and hilarious story from Catherine Ferguson about starting over, learning to garden and most of all learning to love.
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 9780008253356

The publishers have kindly shared with me and my blog readers an extract from the book which I hope you all enjoy .....
I want Ivy so much right now, I feel as if my heart will break.

Last time I saw her, she was waving me off on the train back to Manchester.

I remember thinking how elegant she was that day. Normally, Ivy lived in casual trousers and tops. Life was too short, she said, for feeling like a trussed-up goose in the name of fashion. But she’d taken me for an early supper at a nearby pub before driving me to the station in Stroud, which was why she was all dressed up. Right then, on that station platform, she could have passed for a woman in her late fifties. Hard to believe she was seventy-two.

Actually, the way I usually remember her now is in the old gardening garb she used to wear, or in her hiking gear, fresh from walking in the country lanes around Appleton.

A painful lump wedges in my throat.

This is how it happens. I’ll just be starting to think I’m doing okay, coping well, beginning to make plans – then boom! The thought that I’ll never be able to see Ivy or hug her ever again sends a flood of grief washing through me.

Hot tears prick my eyelids. The nails-in-palms trick isn’t working. Then something Ivy used to say zips into my mind: Worry’s like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.

I swallow hard, picturing her giving me one of her no-nonsense pep talks. It’s almost as if she’s sitting right here next to me, a twinkle in her eyes, on the bench in her beloved Ivy Garden. Telling me not to worry because things are never as bad as they seem and I’ll figure it out somehow.

Of course! That’s where I need to be.

Ivy Garden.

Her favourite place in the whole world.

With my eyes still closed, I picture Ivy Garden the last time I saw it, on that final weekend I spent with her.

It was a hot August day. We wandered over the road and squeezed through the gap in the hedge, to the dappled woodland clearing that, over the years, Ivy had transformed into a sanctuary of peace and tranquillity.

She discovered the place years ago, when she was newly married to Peter, my granddad. He died long before I was born, when my mum was only three years old. Ivy never talked about Peter much, except to say he was ‘a good man’. She said that a lot whenever I asked her what he was like, so I still only had a rather hazy impression of him. He was a self-employed accountant and I got the impression he worked really hard. I think Ivy liked to escape the house and leave him in peace with his calculations. More than once, I heard her say laughingly that her ‘secret garden’ had kept her sane during her marriage.

The clearing in the trees was on public land, on the edge of a wood, and Ivy nurtured it into a lovely woodland garden. She planted shrubs, flowers and grasses for every season, so there was a rolling show of colour all year round, from the banks of snow­drops and crocuses as the frosts of winter melted into spring, to the glorious russets of autumn. Many of the villagers knew about the garden and would pop in for a chat while she worked. She often lounged on the old wooden bench reading the blood-curdling thrillers she loved, her feet up, with an old cushion at her back. She never seemed to mind being interrupted.

Someone once referred to it as ‘Ivy Garden’ and the name stuck.

We were there that blisteringly hot afternoon to pick lavender so that Ivy could make her perfumed drawer sachets to sell at the Appleton summer fete. She would run up the tiny white muslin bags on her old sewing machine and then fill them with the evocatively scented dried herb, tying them up with silky pink ribbon. The proceeds would be donated to the village hall commu­nity fund.
After we picked the lavender that day, she set her old gardening trug on the mossy ground and we sank on to the wooden bench under the dappled shade of an oak tree, and drank chilled pear cider straight from the bottle. It was a relief to be out of the sweltering sun and we lingered there a long time, soaking up the birdsong and the buzz of nature, as Ivy Garden weaved its magic around us.

I am currently reading The Secrets of Ivy Garden and am loving it. It is the perfect book to read this spring time and I am loving the descriptive writing of Ivy Garden and wish I could visit it as I think it is the perfect place to sit for a day, in the sun, and read a book and enjoy the peace, quiet and the wildlife and insects that are in the surrounding gardens. 

Thank you to the publishers. Avon, and Catherine for inviting me onto the tour and I will publish my review as soon as i finish the book.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Blog Tour - Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses by Carole Matthews

paperhearts_blog poster copy
Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses (Paperback)'A gorgeous novel that will delight' Katie Fforde A heart-warming and poignant novel of romance, family and second chances, Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses is Sunday Times bestselling Carole Matthews at her outstanding best. Perfect for fans of Jill Mansell and Milly Johnson. Christie Chapman is a single mum who spends her days commuting to her secretarial job in London and looking after her teenage son, Finn. It's not an easy life but Christie finds comfort in her love of crafting, and spends her spare time working on her beautiful creations. From intricately designed cards to personalised gifts, Christie's flair for the handmade knows no bounds and it's not long before opportunity comes knocking. Christie can see a future full of hope and possibility for her and Finn - and if the handsome Max is to be believed, one full of love too. It's all there for the taking. And then, all of sudden, her world is turned upside down. Christie knows that something has to give, but can she really give up her dreams and the chance of real love? Will Christie find her happy ending in ...Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses.

Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
ISBN: 9780751560268
Carole Matthews is one of my all time favourite authors and I often recommend her titles to my friends and unsuspecting shoppers in the book aisles and 'Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses' is, in my opinion, one of my top Carole Matthew's novels (along with The Chocolate Lovers series). 
'Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses' is also about another of my favourite pastimes, papercrafting and is based loosely upon the real life story of Christine Emerson, a single parent with an ill child, who is given the oppurtunity of a lifetime and a way to earn a living while continuing with a hobby that she loves. 
Although I had heard about Christine Emerson before this book and loved her work and have watched her on one of the Craft Shopping channels, I really enjoyed the story and it is a great fiction story even if the reader knew nothing about the lady behind the story. The story has a great character list and there is a lovely love story within as well as a strong woman who has as the saying goes, been dealt lemons, but she definitely makes lemonade and does the best thing she can for both herself and her family. 
I really liked the character of Finn, Chrissie's teenage son who is ill, but he is also a strong character who develops throughout the story and encourages his mother to follow her dreams and takes steps to make things happen.
I hope this book introduces lots more new readers to Carole Matthews and also encourages lots of readers to take a step into the papercrafting world. I know that Carole has developed a love for papercrafting and I hope others do too. I really enjoyed reading the book and felt lucky that I could visualise the contents of the boxes of goodies that arrived at Chrissie's house however it is definitely not a necessity of enjoying the book, although if you are a fellow crafter, it may add a few things to your shopping basket. 
Thank you to Carole Matthews and the publishers, Little Brown, for inviting me to be part of the blog tour in return for an honest review of this (fabulous) book. 

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Blog Tour - Murder on the Pilgrims Way by Julie Wassmer.




Murder on the Pilgrims Way - Whitstable Pearl Mysteries 4 (Paperback)Pearl receives a surprise present from her mother, Dolly - an early summer break at a riverside manor house that has been recently transformed into an exclusive hotel - the newly named Villa Pellegrini. Pellegrini - the Italian word for pilgrims - reflects the fact that the building lies on the old Pilgrims Way into Canterbury, and Pearl is looking forward to the break, not least because DCI Mike McGuire has been neglecting her due to his work. But when she discovers that she's actually booked in for a cookery course from the Italian celebrity chef, Nico Caruso, she begins to think again ...Pearl doesn't welcome instruction on cookery at the best of times, and certainly not from an arrogant chef like Caruso. She goes along, intent on challenging Caruso's egotism - and a long tradition of men dominating gastronomy - but soon finds herself distracted, not only by her enchanting surroundings but by the disparate selection of guests. She even begins to enjoy Caruso's attentions - and his cookery - until one of the guests goes missing and it becomes clear that murder is on the menu.
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
ISBN: 9781472124920

Murder on the Pilgrims Way is the latest book in the popular Whitstable Pearl Mystery series and it is a return to the cosy crime genre I enjoy. It is easy to relax and curl up with this book and loose oneself in the book for an entire weekend. Set in Kent, it invites readers into a riverside manor which has recently been refurbished into a posh hotel and it is here that a hotel guest goes missing.
I do not want to go into detail of the story line as I think that one of the best things about this Whitstable Pearl Mystery series is that Wassmer is a fantastic story teller who keeps the reader guessing until the very end, while also providing a story with a great cast of characters. 

Thank you to the publishers, Little Brown, for sending me the book to review and for inviting me to take part in the tour.

Blog Tour - My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal



My Name is Leon (Paperback)**A TIMES and INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER** **SHORTLISTED FOR THE COSTA FIRST NOVEL AWARD 2016** A brother chosen. A brother left behind. And a family where you'd least expect to find one. Leon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. They have gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo, and a belly like Father Christmas. But the adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing Pretend faces. They are threatening to give Jake to strangers. Since Jake is white and Leon is not. As Leon struggles to cope with his anger, certain things can still make him smile - like Curly Wurlys, riding his bike fast downhill, burying his hands deep in the soil, hanging out with Tufty (who reminds him of his dad), and stealing enough coins so that one day he can rescue Jake and his mum. Evoking a Britain of the early eighties, My Name is Leon is a heart-breaking story of love, identity and learning to overcome unbearable loss. Of the fierce bond between siblings. And how - just when we least expect it - we manage to find our way home.
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
ISBN: 9780241973387

'My Name is Leon' is one of those books that once read, are never forgotten. It is a beautifully written book which is all about Leon, an nine year old boy who, along with his baby brother, is fostered out, after his mum has an emotional breakdown. Leon has always been the main carer for his brother, and when Social Services decide that it is better for the brothers to be separated, finds it difficult to accept that he is a boy who should be looked after himself. The book is a great insight into the mind of a young boy who looses everything important to him, including his prized possessions of the Action Man figures he received as a present, his young brother and his mother who, although he should of felt resentment towards her for not looking after them both, was worried about her. It is also a great piece of social history, with the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, the riots and also the issues of being an Afro-Carribean person living in Great Britain during the time.
The story is told by nine year old Leon and his childish view of the world is a very clever way to tell this story. The things that are important to Leon, his Action Men figures, Curly Wurlys, the one photograph of his young brother are throughout the story and added to the freedom Leon has through the bike his Social Worker gifts to Leon all give a small insight to how Leon is feeling and what he feels unable to express through his conversations with others.

This is a relatively short book, however it is a very thought provoking story which I am sure would be perfect as a book group read. There are many issues and themes which lend themselves to in depth conversations between fellow readers. The book also gives an insight into the fostering and adoption process and gave me much to think about in relation to the issues concerning this.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants a book that stays with them long after they have read the last paragraph, however I do recommend that you have some tissues to hand as there are a few heart breaking moments within the book. 

Kit De Waal, the author is taking part in the Unbroken Voices panel event at Chipping Norton Literary Festival on Saturday 29th April 2017. I usually attend this festival and was looking forward to meeting Kit, but am now unable to visit the festival. I hope some of my blog visitors can make the festival - it is a great weekend.

Thank you to the publishers, Penguin, for sending me the book to review and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour to celebrate the paperback publication of My Name is Leon.