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  • Title: Lucy’s Last Chance
  • Author: Elle Sweet
  • Publication Date: 12th August 2020

Copy received from author and blog tour organiser for review purposes.

Description:

Lucy was a high-powered attorney who had a nervous breakdown after her husband left her.
Broken, she came to the town of Moonshire Bay to start over as a yoga instructor; determined to find inner peace in all things this time around.

Brant is running for Mayor and running after Lucy, but she is scared of his drive and need for success.

Can Lucy realize she’s stronger than she thinks and take a chance on love?

My Thoughts:

I was delighted to take another trip to Moonshire Bay and properly meet a character who had intrigued me from a previous book, the owner of the yoga studio, Lucy.

In Lucy, the reader finds someone with a past. Someone who has been hurt and has learned to move forward and do what’s best for them, but she also accepts that it’s been some time since she’d felt any desire towards love or companionship.
Enter Brandt, the town mayor. By all accounts, Brandt seems like a lovely guy, although at times a little foolish … his plans are well meant, but often lead to misunderstandings where matters of the heart are concerned.

For fans of the Small Town Romance series written by Elle Sweet, they will soon recognise the various locations mentioned throughout the book, and it almost feels like catching up with an episode of your favourite Netflix drama, there’s a lovely homey feel to it. The story itself has just the right amount of action and detail to hold your attention, making it the perfect read for an afternoon curled up on the sofa with a cuppa. And fear not, although it is book four of the series, you can jump straight in and start reading now.

Elle Sweet brings her character to life from the pages with detailed backstories and rounded personalities. And it’s fair to say that Moonshire Bay comes alive too, I could almost see the main street of the town, the properties mentioned … and if Lucy runs more yoga classes like the final one in the book, I’ll be booking a ticket to move to Moonshire Bay!

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  • Title: The Siege of Caerlaverock
  • Author: Barbara Henderson
  • Publisher: Pokey Hat (an imprint of Cranachan Publishing)
  • Publication Date: 6th August 2020

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Enemies within.

Enemies without.

Nowhere to hide.

12-year-old Ada is a laundress of little consequence, but the new castle commander Brian de Berclay has his evil eye on her. Perhaps she shouldn’t have secretly fed the young prisoner in the tower.

But when the King of England crosses the border with an army over 3000 strong, Ada, her friend Godfrey and all at Caerlaverock suddenly find themselves under attack, with only 60 men for protection.

Soon, rocks and flaming arrows rain from the sky over Castle Caerlaverock—and Ada has a dangerous choice to make.

My Thoughts:

Before I say anything about the story that has been magically woven by one of my favourite authors, can I just direct you to the stunning artwork that adorns the covers of this book. Granted, the image here doesn’t do it justice. The gold foil is magnificent, there’s a grandness to this book that comes from the cover alone, and that’s before you open the pages and get swept away by the wonderful writing and beauty of the illustrations that head each new chapter.

I’ve been a fan of Barbara Henderson’s writing for some years now, after falling in love with her debut Fir For Luck that was published in 2016, her name has been on my list to watch out for on social media for updates about new books. Barbara is a very approachable and friendly author, with an enthusiasm for history that has readers keen to find out more.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to see a siege through the eyes of a 12-year-old? If so, this is the book for you! In The Siege of Caerlaverock readers meet Ada and Godfrey, who despite their status form a true and powerful friendship. A laundress with a kind heart, compassion and the strength to face those who scare her makes young Ada the sort of character that many readers will instantly connect with and take into their hearts. Godfrey, the new Page boy to Lord Maxwell, is young but brave. And while their time together is short, it is definitely packed with excitement, danger and bravery.
What stands out the most for me throughout this entire story is how real these characters felt. I cared what happened to them, I worried about them being injured or harmed by those who wished them ill, I wondered what happened to them after I finished reading the book. Not only does Barbara Henderson bring her characters to life, she brings the scenes alive too. Carefully weaving historical fact and detail together, this is a read that plays to the senses of the audience. You can almost smell “that “ smell (you’ll know it when you get to that part), you can feel the chill in the air, you can feel the ground underfoot as Ada crosses the courtyard into the castle and goes about her day … you are truly transported when you read on of Barbara’s books. Forget VR headsets and programmes, just read a book by Barbara for that total immersion!

With each new book that she writes, I think there’s no way she can better what she’s already penned, but somehow she does. And although her books may feature a main character that is a child, they can be read by any aged reader. Her books can be loved by any aged reader, and this reader certainly loves them!


And if my review wasn’t enough to get your attention, I have a wonderful post from Barbara about her love of castles to share with you, along with some fantastic pictures.
Grab a cuppa and a cheeky biscuit, and read on!

My Enduring Fascination with Castles – by Barbara Henderson

I love a good castle story – mainly because I can think of no better place to set a tale than a castle – be it the tall and imposing kind or the crumbling ruin. From my bedroom window in the house I grew up in, I could see a medieval lookout tower on the horizon. Peeking out among the tall pine trees which clad the hill, it was a constant signal from the past. Who stood there and looked out over the rolling hills at night? Who sent word that enemy armies were on the move? The building itself acted as a fertiliser for my already overactive imagination.

I also grew up near Schloss Homburg – an incredibly well-preserved medieval stronghold in the part of Germany where I grew up. If we had visitors, that’s where we’d take them. The castle also put on plenty of events and re-enactments – bringing the past to life in such an engaging way. I built castles from rocks and bricks on our living room floor, never far from the old spinning wheel my mother still has. It looked like it had come straight out of a Grimm’s fairy tale! German folklore and fairy tales are largely rooted in the medieval period and their appeal continues. The very first play I saw performed live in a theatre, a few years later, was a medieval love story between a knight and a lady of the castle. I was hooked – on Drama and on history, and both of these have gone on to play major roles in my life. I now work as a Drama teacher and write historical stories for young people.

In 1991, I moved to Scotland to study – the CASTLES! I lived a stone’s throw from Edinburgh Castle, and everything about that city simply evokes the past, in so many ways which really fuelled my imagination. In all weathers, the old stonework took on a new hue and I felt small – in a good way. I wa simply part of the flow of history while the stones stayed still. A move to Aberdeenshire beckoned. Choosing a house for our young family was easy – the one at the beginning of the clifftop walk to Dunnottar Castle would do nicely, thank you very much. Our children wore the primary school uniform with pride: the badge was a picture of the castle ruin. We joined the national Trust for Scotland and Crathes, Drum and Fraser castles became our alternate weekend hangouts.

Now living in the Highlands with our teenagers, there were new crumbling stones to discover, new stories to unearth. The landscape and the built heritage here evokes the past like few other places. Inverness castle is now my most frequently visited dog-walk destination, sometimes twice a day. It may not be as old and as impressive as some of its predecessors, but for now it’s mine. This was especially true of lockdown. Normally, the esplanade is crowded with tourists, but for four whole months it felt like I had it to myself – me and the statue of Jacobite heroine Flora MacDonald. 

Even on holiday, we tend to seek out a castle if we can. And so it happened that on a very rainy April day in 2018, I stumbled upon Caerlaverock Castle and its medieval history. Within seconds through the door of the exhibition I was hooked. The huge missiles which crashed at the castle walls in 1300 were displayed in real size. The accompanying displays told the tale of the siege, the David and Goliath story of 60 versus three thousand.  It had all the drama I could possibly ask for, and the highest of stakes. Above all, it had the very best setting for an adventurous and atmospheric tale: a medieval castle. I hope that many others will be inspired to visit Caerlaverock, and that they will be fascinated and enchanted with the place as I was.

I may never live in a castle of my own, but dotted around this fantastic country, these buildings are nothing less than windows into the past. They are ours to enjoy and ours to protect.

A gift, and a responsibility too. What is your favourite castle? 
Follow the blog tour!

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  • Title: Photographing Kate
  • Author: Elle Sweet
  • Publication Date: 15th July 2020

Copy received from author and blog tour organiser for review purposes.

Description:

After Kate’s husband of over twenty years is sentenced for embezzling and fraud, she loses everything and needs to start over. She decides to visit Moonshire Bay to regroup at the urging of her friend, Claire, who owns the diner there.

Knowing she needs a way to support herself, she rekindles her passion for photography and starts to think maybe staying in Moonshire Bay is her best chance at happiness.
Zach is the town attorney and a confirmed bachelor. After a scarring experience with love and almost marriage in his younger days, he vowed never to get any closer to a woman than a casual relationship.

When Zach meets Kate, the wounded look that lingers behind her smile grabs him and he wants to know her better, but Kate was burned by her lawyer ex-husband. Even if she wanted a relationship it wouldn’t be with a member of that profession.

Zach tricks Kate in order to get to know her better. When she finds out, will she understand and forgive him or will it push her further away?

My Thoughts:

I’ve found that my reading tastes have changed slightly during these past few months. Reading has become a much needed escape, but it also has to be something I can do either first thing in the morning or last thing at night. I say first thing in the morning as there’s something so nice about curling up with a cuppa and a book, listening to the birds and enjoying a rare peaceful hour or so before everyone else gets up.

Photographing Kate was the perfect book for one of those mornings. Although it’s book three of the Moonshire Bay series, it can be read easily without the other books, indeed I read this book before any of the others of the series … breaking my own rule about reading a series in order.

Without rehashing the plot, this is a tale about a woman starting over. Kate’s life has been turned upside down, shaken and then flung about a bit more. Taking advice from her dear friend Claire and one of her daughters, Kate makes a trip to Moonshire Bay for a break and spend time with Claire. She didn’t expect to fall in love with the place, she didn’t expect to find a job or a man.
With a character that many readers will relate to, or feel a strong connection with, Kate is endearing but feisty. Her anxieties about starting over feel real and understandable, the panic and worry about what people will think of her because of her husband’s court case is well written.

Zack on the other hand, now there’s a character that is hard to work out. His backstory is one I found interesting, his relationships with his father and Rhoda show different sides to this character, and seeing how the various people in the town view him is intriguing. Whilst his actions may be questionable at times, his head and heart not always working in unison, I would happily go on a picnic with him.

I loved the setting of Moonshire Bay, it sounded like a lovely place, the descriptions brought it to life and had me wishing I could visit there. Looking forward to the next book of the series and getting to know more of the characters of Moonshire Bay.

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  • Title: Holiday Date
  • Author: Debbie Ioanna

Copy received from author and blog tour organiser for review purposes.

Description:

Relationships are tested in this highly anticipated sequel to ‘Blind Date’.

Jenny is back in this romantic comedy, and this time she has her man. Life is wonderful as she switches her sex dreams for the real thing with her hunk, Zack. As well as feeling loved up, she must also console her recently-single best friend, Sarah. Those much-loved blind dates make a welcome return as Jenny gets the sweet taste for vengeance.

After a girly holiday to Rome, and a somewhat unexpected vegan experience, Zack whisks Jenny abroad for a romantic holiday of their own. However, jolly holidays aren’t on the menu when faced with a twenty-something stunner in the next villa.

Holidays take the centre stage for this sequel, where relationships are put to the test, at home and abroad.

My Thoughts:

Having read and enjoyed the previous book by Debbie Ioanna, I was looking forward to catching up with Jenny and seeing how life was treating her. In Blind Date, Jenny’s life was filled with fun, and disastrous dates that her mother had set up for her. Taking control of her life and destiny, after that embarrassing incident with the Chinese food, she finds love and happiness with the man of her dreams.
So, what can Debbie Ioanna offer readers when they dive into Holiday Date? More of the same giggle inducing fun that has readers feeling great appreciation for Jenny helping her friend Sarah with her blind dates as a form of payback. On their trip to Rome, Jenny and Sarah have the break they needed. The sights, sounds and flavours of Italy delighting them and I have to admit to being very jealous, the biscotti they had sounded absolutely delicious! The vivid imagery used brought the scenes to life, I could almost see the lovely landmarks, the picturesque setting and the wee guest house.

As well as the relationship between the friends, readers also get to meet Jenny’s family when there is a catch-up. Thankfully with Zack there for support, things aren’t as awful as Jenny might have imagined them being … unless you count the menu.

It’s fair to say that family and holidays play a huge part in this book. When Zack introduces Jenny to his parents they are invited to join them abroad at their villa.
Jenny’s insecurities are something that many readers will sympathise with. Being part of Zack’s life and seeing the people important to him is fine until she meets the stunningly beautiful young woman that has been part of Zack’s life up until now. Immediately Jenny worries and spirals into panic that her perfect relationship is doomed.

As a secondary thread to the plot, readers get to see Sarah’s disastrous dates as she dips her toes back into the dating pool. One date in particular is enough to make you cringe, but at the same time chuckle out loud, grateful that it’s not you that was in that situation.

I really enjoyed these books, they provided a much needed escape; bringing laughter and heartwarming happiness at a time when doom and gloom was prevalent. I’d highly recommend them as the perfect summery read, and look forward to seeing what Debbie Ioanna writes next!

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Hello July! It’s been quite a while since I’ve sat down and pulled together a post for The Quiet Knitter blog, partly because I’ve been kept busy with my daughter being home from school, but also because I’ve been proofreading for some fantastic indie authors.

Today’s Celebrating Indie Publishing post is a little different, instead of sharing a book that I’ve read and loved – there will be more of those posts soon – I have decided to shine a spotlight on a new indie publisher that I discovered during the past few weeks.

Please welcome to the stage Hobeck Books! I am thrilled that the people behind the name were able to take a coffee break and chat with me about who they are, what their plans are, and generally talk books with me. The bonus for me was that I didn’t need to share the yummy homemade cakes I’d just made with my daughter.

“Hobeck Books is the brainchild of founders Rebecca Collins and Adrian Hobart. The idea first struck us at the end of 2018 – why not create a publishing house harnessing the traditional publishing know-how that Rebecca’s twenty-five years in the industry brings, with the digital and multimedia experience that Adrian’s career in the BBC offers? Eighteen months on, we’ve made that idea a reality, signing our first authors and publishing our first books. It has been an exciting adventure and we have been learning as we go. No two days are the same. We celebrate our successes and learn from our mistakes, but we both agree – this is the most rewarding and fulfilling work we have ever done.

Publishing is changing so fast, and it is now possible to create books of great quality with unprecedented speed and flexibility, reacting to audience demand in an instant. Digital marketing allows publishers and authors to reach readers across the globe in ways that were unthinkable even five years ago. We are building Hobeck Books to be at the forefront of this revolution.

Beyond that, we felt that our approach had to be different, so we place great importance in the way we work with our authors, collaborators and our readers. We want this to be an open creative relationship, rather than the ‘top down’ and committee-led approach taken by traditional publishers. We describe our approach in a simple tagline: ‘Trad Values, Indie Spirit.’ In other words, we work to the highest possible industry standards of editing, cover design, copywriting and book production, but we retain the nimbleness to try new approaches in these areas, as well as marketing and communication with our authors and readers. At risk of sounding a little folksy, we want to build a ‘Hobeck family’ spirit between everyone we work with and our readers.

Future plans

We are actively building our list of authors, beginning with British actor and bestselling crime author Robert Daws. We are thrilled to be working with someone of Robert’s talent and experience and are delighted with the enthusiasm with which he has embraced our approach to publishing. His third Sullivan and Broderick murder mystery novel, Killing Rock will be published by Hobeck on July 14th, with the previous two bestselling novels, The Rock and Poisoned Rock refreshed with new covers designs and typesetting. Robert is already working on a fourth in the series, Blood Rock, which we plan to release in 2021. Robert is also putting his acting skills to use, and we will be releasing all the novels as audiobooks this summer.

We are close to announcing further exciting signings to our portfolio of authors, and we remain open to submissions. We’re also writers ourselves: Adrian is writing a time-travel thriller Out of Time, featuring Commander Rafe Edwards, a British wartime spy who is pitched into the twenty-first century, where the changes in society seem almost as threatening as the government agents sent to kill him. Rebecca is also working on her first novel, Outside, inspired by the lockdown experience, a love story of two people confined indoors for different reasons: one through fear and the other through circumstance.

We are also working with a range of first-time writers with natural story-telling skills who perhaps have not considered writing fiction before or had the creative and nurturing environment to find their confidence and voice. We offer them the space and time needed to develop, and the creative and emotional support to hone their craft. We have faith in their raw ability and are happy to wait as long as it takes for their books to be ready.

Ultimately, we aim to build Hobeck Books into one of the leading independent publishers of crime, thrillers, suspense and historical fiction in the UK, whilst retaining our core values and open approach to publishing.”

A huge thank you to Rebecca and Adrian for joining me today, and can I just say that Out of Time sounds like something I am really looking forward to, please come back and tell us all about it, but also when we can pre-order it! I’m quite intrigued by Outside, I really want to know what the stories there are and find out more about those characters!

If you want to find out more about Hobeck Books, their authors and their books, then head over to the website https://www.hobeck.net/ or you can find them on Twitter https://twitter.com/HobeckBooks or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/hobeckbooks10/

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  • Title: The Cabinet of Calm
  • Author: Paul Anthony Jones
  • Publisher: Elliott & Thompson Ltd
  • Publication Date: 14th May 2020

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Sometimes we all need a little reminder that it’s going to be okay… Open The Cabinet of Calm to discover a comforting word that’s equal to your troubles.

The Cabinet of Calm has been designed to be picked up whenever you need a moment of serenity. Just select the emotion listed that reflects whatever you’re feeling and you’ll be offered a matching linguistic remedy: fifty-one soothing words for troubled times.

These kind words – alongside their definitions and their stories – will bring peace, comfort and delight, and provide fresh hope.

Written with a lightness of touch, The Cabinet of Calm shows us that we’re not alone. Like language, our emotions are universal: someone else has felt like this before and so there’s a word to help, whatever the challenge.

So much more than a book of words, The Cabinet of Calm will soothe your soul and ease your mind. It’s the perfect gift.

My Thoughts:

Books are often the thing that many people turn to in a time of need; they provide a means of escape, a form of comfort and indeed they are way to cope when in an uncertain world. And I definitely think that The Cabinet of Calm is a book that deserves its place on the shelf of “books for the soul”.

I am a huge fan of Paul Anthony Jones’s books, each of them has a place on my bookshelf and I’ve worked my way through them more than once, enjoying the luxurious feel of the language within, learning new things and allowing myself to be carried off on a wave of pure escapism and joy.

A heartfelt introduction from the author at the beginning of this book makes you stop and think about the importance of words, the power they hold and the comfort they bring. And as you weave through the pages of the delights in the book, so many resonate …

Take for instance “mooreeffoc”. Jones writes “when we become bored by the everyday world and the sights and sounds in it, taking a step back and appraising it with a fresh pair of eyes can be all that is needed to revitalise our thinking, gain a better understanding of it and revive our interest or approach to it“, a timely reminder to change the way we look at things, or change the way we think about things, may in turn change the way we feel.

A spellbinding and almost melodic collection of words, there is quite likely a word for whatever you’re feeling at the moment. As I flicked through the pages initially I was drawn to certain words and terms, feeling that I agreed with many or thought “so that’s what that feeling is called”. I love a book that gives me knowledge and Jones’s books always do that. Often it’s those phrases you’ve always wondered about but never taken the time to stop and look up, or you’ve just long accepted a meaning for the phrase without question.

A hugely recommended book, and one I would say would make the perfect gift for the word lover in your life.

Now to go and deal with a child with a case of the bocksturrocks

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  • Title: The Betrayal
  • Author: Anne Allen
  • Publisher: Sarnia Press
  • Publication Date: 20th October 2017

Copy purchased via Amazon.co.uk

Description:

Book Six of The Guernsey Novels is another dual-time story set during the German Occupation and present-day Guernsey and is likely to appeal particularly to fans of the book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Treachery and theft lead to death – and love

1940. Teresa Bichard and her baby are sent by her beloved husband, Leo, to England as the Germans draw closer to Guernsey. Days later they invade…

1942. Leo, of Jewish descent, is betrayed to the Germans and is sent to a concentration camp, never to return. 

1945. Teresa returns to find Leo did not survive and the family’s valuable art collection, including a Renoir, is missing. Heartbroken, she returns to England.

2011. Nigel and his twin Fiona, buy a long-established antique shop in Guernsey and during a refit, find a hidden stash of paintings, including what appears to be a Renoir. Days later, Fiona finds Nigel dead, an apparent suicide. Refusing to accept the verdict, a distraught Fiona employs a detective to help her discover the truth

Searching for the rightful owner of the painting brings Fiona close to someone who opens a chink in her broken heart. Can she answer some crucial questions before laying her brother’s ghost to rest?

Who betrayed Leo? 

Who knew about the stolen Renoir?

And are they prepared to kill – again?

My Thoughts:

Like the previous post for this blog tour, I want to add that I read this book back in 2018 for a blog tour and absolutely loved it. And because I loved the book so much, I bought a copy straight after to add to my collection on my digital bookshelf. Having read it again for this blog tour, I’ve added some extra thoughts to my original review.

The mystery of this book appealed to me, what was the connection between the events in the 1940s and 2011?  And the beauty of these books is that they can all be read as standalone novels, despite being part of The Guernsey Novels series.

With a story that moves back and forth between the two time settings, readers learn about Leo and his wife Teresa on Guernsey, how they are preparing for invasion by the Nazis and their parting is of necessity.  Once Leo gets his wife and child to safety he awaits his fate along with the remaining islanders.
In 2011 Fiona stumbles upon the body of her twin brother Nigel in their antique shop, an apparent suicide that makes no sense to Fiona or any of their friends.  She sets out to prove to the police that they are wrong, not realising the danger she might be putting herself in.

I enjoyed the way that the stories of Leo and Fiona ran alongside each other, each of their lives filled with moments of heightened emotions, whether trauma and fear, happiness and love.  I perhaps felt a little more connected to the tale of Leo and the Nazi occupation due to having an interest in stories set in this time.  Leo’s life was undoubtedly lonely once he got his wife and child to safety, reading the short narrative where he mentions his love for them both was heart warming and when he recounts the memory of meeting his wife for the first time, it gives readers a wonderful insight into this character.
It did feel that Fiona’s story took up more of the narrative and it needed to, it was the driving force of the plot.  But I felt less connected to it, less invested, but this is down to personal preference. And I always applaud an author who can create a character that intrigues me but possesses characteristics or quirks that don’t instantly gel with me. 

The descriptions of the settings are so clear and vivid, Guernsey sounds like such a beautiful place and so appealing.  The beaches sound breathtaking and the way that the scenery comes to life through the writing makes this a delight to read.  I enjoyed the way that this history of the island was told through the characters and indeed finding out more about the way that the occupation impacted on the lives of the islanders was very interesting.

A well written mystery with touches of romance and danger, and highly recommended!

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  • Title: The Inheritance
  • Author: Anne Allen
  • Publisher: Sarnia Press
  • Publication Date: 8th April 2019

Copy purchased via Amazon.co.uk

Description:

How close were Victor Hugo and his copyist?

1862 Young widow Eugénie faces an uncertain future in Guernsey. A further tragedy brings her to the attention of Monsieur Victor Hugo, living in exile on the island only yards away from Eugénie’s home. Their meeting changes her life and she becomes his copyist, forming a strong friendship with both Hugo and his mistress, Juliette Drouet.

2012 Dr Tess Le Prevost, Guernsey-born but living in England, is shocked to inherit her Great-Aunt’s house on the island. As a child, she was entranced by Doris’s tales of their ancestor, Eugénie, whose house this once was, and her close relationship with Hugo. Was he the real father of her child? Returning to the island gives Tess a fresh start and a chance to unlock family secrets.

Will she discover the truth about Eugénie and Hugo? A surprise find may hold the answer as Tess embraces new challenges which test her strength – and her heart.

My Thoughts:

I should add a note that I read this book last year around publication date for a blog tour and absolutely loved it. And because I loved the book so much, I bought a copy straight after to add to my collection on my digital bookshelf.

The linking of two timelines always appeals to me in a novel, and I know from the outset that any of Anne Allen’s books will be just the right mix of modern day and historic setting. With characters in 2012 and 1862, we span a few centuries but see in both of these times circumstances that impact on society then as much as they do now.
Eugénie in 1862 is mourning the loss of her new husband, his death at sea robbing her of happiness and companionship, and so a chance meeting with Victor Hugo opens her eyes to a world she could never have imagined. She is a character that we slowly watch transform through the pages, the once quiet and withdrawn young woman becomes more confident, more sure in her own skin and begins to move on after the early tragedies that befell her. The friendships she forms are a lifeline for her, they are a comfort to her and they enable her to be Eugénie again, and not just a sad widow.
2012 brings the reader the story of Tess, a young doctor finishing off her training in Exeter. Stunned to learn that she has inherited the home of her Great- Aunt on Guernsey, she makes the life changing decision to move back to her beloved island, and make a life there. But if that wasn’t enough to deal with, there are the simple matters of family politics, clearing out the possessions of her Great-Aunt and unravelling a myth that has run through her family for generations, thrown into the mix.

In both Eugénie and Tess, we see strong female characters who take control of situations they are in. There are times that life throws them a curveball, makes things somewhat difficult for them, but these women are wonderful to watch, they take it in their stride, use the events to give them courage, strength and ultimately adapt.
The mystery element of the plot is fascinating, readers follow Tess as she pieces Eugénie’s life together to form a narrative that gladdens and breaks the heart in equal measure, as well as experience events through the perspective of Eugénie. In Anne Allen’s hands, this is done with sympathy as well as highlighting the harshness of situations that her characters find themselves in.

There’s something comforting about picking up a book from this author, she has a wonderful way of bringing a story alive with rich and atmospheric settings, I felt like I could see the sights of Guernsey, like I could see the houses that she described, I felt like I got to know the characters and became so invested in them. I shared their frustrations, their sorrows, their confusion and eventually, their happiness.
Of all of the Guernsey novels, I think that this has been my favourite so far, I can’t quite put my finger on what it was that grabbed my heart, but something about this book has lingered on after I read the last page. It’s perhaps just my head wondering “what next?” for Tess, her family and her friends, but I do know that I thoroughly enjoyed this book and absolutely recommend it, and all of the books.

All of the books in this series can be read as standalone.

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  • Title: Sisters of Berlin
  • Author: Juliet Conlin
  • Publisher: Black and White Publishing
  • Publication Date: 16th April 2020

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Berlin 2014.
The 25th anniversary of the fall of the Wall, and the city is gearing up for a celebration of unity and liberation. But, beneath the surface, are those for whom the divisions and allegiances of the past remain close to home.

In her hushed and leafy corner of Berlin, Nina’s life is a comfortable, conventional one– until her younger sister Marie, a free-spirited writer, is attacked and left for dead.

For Nina, Marie’s brutal demise – and that of her unborn child – tips her own carefully controlled life into a nightmare. Stonewalled by official incompetence and subterfuge, Nina begins to realise that her sister’s past and the secrets of the once-divided city are connected in unimaginable ways. As she seeks out justice for Marie, Nina becomes caught in a tangle of obsessions, lies and hidden truths that threatens to destroy her marriage, her livelihood and all that she holds dear.

My Thoughts:

Juliet Conlin is one of those authors that you just know will hold your attention and entrance you with her wonderful writing and transport you entirely to the scenes of her book, and so when I heard about Sisters of Berlin, I was keen to read it and find out what she had lined up.

It has to be said that in each of her previous books there is a wonderful human element, Conlin creates realistic characters that come alive as you read about their lives and you cannot help but become invested in them. You share in their grief, their happiness, their confusion and equally when their lives spiral out of control, you feel the disorienting crashes of that whirlpool as it tosses you to and fro. And that is much the case for Nina in this book. Her once happy life is turned upside down after the murder of her sister Marie, and she feels that she cannot rely on the police to get to the bottom of the case. Delving into the dark corners of Marie’s life, Nina discovers things about her sister that leave her questioning just how well she knew her and she is faced with some dangerous truths that shake the foundations of her life, career and family.

Using this narrative, the reader experiences the story from Nina’s perspective and watches her struggle to connect the pieces of Marie’s life as her own crashes around her. We see her try to continue with family life, being a dutiful wife and mother, trying to support her parents while avoiding their pre-existing issues. Her frustrations at not being able to connect the dots between the things she uncovers in Marie’s life feel very real and I have to admit that at times, I did want to scream and shout on her behalf.

The superb atmosphere created in the book helps the reader feel connected with the narrative, you can see the detailed locations mentioned in the book, you can smell the odours, experience unease at the situations that occur … this is an intense and enthralling read. The themes explored throughout are powerful ones, and I feel that Conlin has used a respectful and sensitive approach to ensure that readers form their own opinions based on what they read, and astutely whilst the actions and dialogue of the characters offer opposing views, it is ultimately left open for the reader to make the final decision about what is morally acceptable when it comes to secrets, mental health, domestic abuse and how we deal with them socially.

A hugely powerful read, wrought with complex and human characters who live on in your head long after you’ve finished reading. It reminds you to take note of those around you and hold them close, not take too much for granted and to tear down the barriers that separate us.

My thanks to Love Books Group for inviting me to be part of the blog tour for this book, and to Black and White Publishing for my review copy.

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  • Title: On Forgiveness
  • Author: Richard Holloway
  • Publisher: Canongate Canons
  • Publication Date: 9th February 2002

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

‘Full of human wisdom, this is a psychologically acute and absorbing approach to a very important subject’ PHILIP PULLMAN

In this inspiring work, Richard Holloway tackles the great theme of forgiveness. One of the most important books on this essential topic, On Forgiveness draws on the great philosophers and writers such as Frederick Nietzsche, Jacques Derrida and Nelson Mandela. Both timely and a timeless modern classic, On Forgiveness is a pertinent and fascinating discourse on how forgiveness works, where it came from and how the need to embrace it is greater than ever if we are to free ourselves from the binds of the past.

My Thoughts:

Richard Holloway is one of Canongate’s most beloved authors and, on 5th March, Leaving Alexandria was the latest of his books to join the Canons collection. To celebrate this wonderful achievement the folks at Canongate are running a blog tour with reviews of Richard’s books so that more readers can experience his wise and fascinating writing.

Whilst a compact book, this is nevertheless a wise and thought-provoking read. There are four chapters, Religion without Religion, Reclaiming the Future, Managing the Chaos, and Redeeming the Chaos, all laid out as though you were listening to Holloway speak. His insightful thoughts take you on a journey as you read, he highlights passages of poems and meditations to emphasise his points, as well as the Bible.
This may not be a manual for forgiveness, it doesn’t give you the right or wrong ways to go about things. Forgiveness isn’t as simple or clear cut as that, but what it does do is give you something to think about. It asks you to consider what forgiveness is in a given situation, what it means to those involved, the actions that lead to the point where forgiveness is necessitated.

A wonderful wee book that I think I will no doubt come back to from time to time. For me this is a book that inspires deep thinking and a profound sense peace as I read, helping me slow down and take the time to really consider things and process it all.

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