Goodreads book review: The Christmas Promise by Sue Moorcroft

The Christmas Promise: The perfect cosy festive treat!The Christmas Promise: The perfect cosy festive treat! by Sue Moorcroft

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this up because it’s a Sue Moorcroft book. I tend to read anything she releases!

Ava Bliss makes couture hats. She’s fiercely independent (to the point of irritating people ). She’s also being threatened with porn bombing by her sleazy, creepy ex. The ex is a total douchbag, but seems almost a different person when sober, so you can see what Ava saw in him at first. A lot of the book deals with the all too familiar threat of porn bombing – specially, pointing out that the victim did nothing wrong by posing for someone they trusted. This is likely to be thing that stops people from getting help, so it was good to see it tackled head on like this.

Issues aside, it’s a lovely story about an independent woman struggling to make a success of her business and a man who is trying very hard to be a good son. The relationship between Sam and his mother is beautiful. I dare you to read it without melting.

The celebs who walk into the story are brilliant (and realistic).

I live in a town where there’s a race course and lots of hat shops, but I’d never stopped to think about hats and the people who make them. I learned a lot about hats through reading this book. I’ll look at those hat displays with new understanding now!

All in all a lovely, festive story. My thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for the review copy of the book.

View all my reviews

Inheritance Books: Kate Frost

This week’s guest on Inheritance Books is Kate Frost. Welcome to the sofa, Kate. I’m sorry, we haven’t had a guest in a while. Let me dust it down for you. There you go. I’ll go put the kettle on, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself.

KateFrostHeadShotI live in Bristol, a city I was born in and have always lived in, apart from three fabulous years spent at university in Aberystwyth. I grew up in the 1980s in a Victorian terraced house with a park at the end of the road. I have fond memories of my childhood with Sunday afternoon tea in front of the telly watching nature programmes; camping holidays with my Mum, Dad and younger brother getting bitten by mosquitos, discovering beautiful places and having barbeques in the rain; and Christmas spent with my Grandparents on their farm in Norfolk. I also have vivid memories of being in hospital when I was seven and undergoing open heart surgery to fix a hole in my heart. I was at that blissful age where it was an adventure rather than a traumatic experience. It also put me on the path to becoming a writer, as I had an amazing home tutor during the months following the operation, who taught me all about dinosaurs and how to write stories.

I studied drama while at Aberystwyth, but after graduating got disillusioned with the whole audition process of having to look a certain way or know the right person to get a role. I started writing again and over the next few years had articles and short stories published in magazines such as New Welsh Review and The London Magazine. I had various jobs along the way including being a bookseller at Waterstones, a Virgin Vie consultant hosting make-up parties, and putting my drama background to good use working as a Supporting Artist appearing in the films Vanity Fair, King Arthur and The Duchess. I did a MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University in 2004-05 and then wound up working out of hours for NHS Direct for a few years while I finished writing my debut novel, The Butterfly Storm and built up my freelance writing business writing blogs and features for easyJet.  

The past few years have been busy. I got married in 2008, and later that year we bought a house in need of complete renovation so spent the next couple of years doing it up. We then got our dog, Frodo, a gorgeous Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, struggled through four rounds of fertility treatment, during which I published The Butterfly Storm, finished writing my first children’s book and was made redundant from NHS Direct. In February 2014 our miracle son was born and now my life is happy and hectic and revolves around a very energetic toddler while trying to write novels.

 

Which book have you inherited from the generation above? Why is it special?

Narnia seriesThe Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – well in fact C.S. Lewis’ whole series of Narnia books. They weren’t passed on to me but bought for me by my parents. Despite my mum being a prolific reader now, she was never interested in reading when she was a child, as she was too busy playing outside (she lived on a farm near the north Norfolk coast) to be interested in books. As an adult she realised what she’d been missing out on all that time and encouraged me to read. I remember being about eight or nine years old and getting swept up in Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy’s adventures and devouring the whole series of seven books. I also remember being bitterly disappointed when the back of my wardrobe didn’t lead into a snowy Narnia. But my love for books was cemented and I quickly realised the power of imagination, and so started writing my own stories.

Yay! An excellent choice!

 

Which book would you like to leave to future generations? Why? 

Year of WondersI’m fascinated by the Restoration period with the plague and the Great Fire of London and so I loved Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, a novel about the plague set in 1665-66. I first read it when I was in my mid-twenties, just as I was really focused on writing for a living and not long before I did my Creative Writing MA, and so it was a book that influenced me greatly. It’s also one of a handful of books that I wish I’d written.

Apart from being based on a true story, which in itself is fascinating, it’s beautifully written, descriptive, emotional and poignant. It’s one of those novels that stays with you long after you’ve read the last line and I’d encourage anyone to read it.

I’ve not read that. It sounds really interesting. Thank you for sharing your favourite books with us Kate. Good luck with the book.

 

BTAB_eB_cov_FINAL

Kate’s latest book Beneath the Apple Blossom is out now. You can find out more about Kate on her website, Facebook or Twitter (@kactus77)

 

Book review: Falling by Julie Cohen

FallingFalling by Julie Cohen  (In the US it’s called After the Fall)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I saw this book up on Netgalley, I grabbed it because I’ve never, ever been disappointed by a Julie Cohen book. This is what I call a ‘burning dinner’ sort of book – one I couldn’t bear to put down for very long, so I end up reading it while stirring things on the hob. It’s lovely!

Jo is struggling to keep everything going. She is a really, really nice person and tries to help everybody. But somewhere inside, she’s still getting over the death of her first husband. Her second husband’s betrayal seems almost an incidental annoyance compared to how much she feels about her first husband. I sympathised with Jo, especially when it came to the bits where the kids were going nuts. Oh yes.

Lydia is in love with her best friend and can’t come out about her sexuality without risking losing her best friend. She’s about to sit her exams too, so the pressure is really on. The high pressure environment of school and the casual cruelty of teenagers was really well captured. Lydia was a fantastic character.

Honour was my favourite. She’s old, cantankerous and fiercely independent. The way she treated Jo at the start was shocking, but she mellowed wonderfully as the story progressed. She was wonderful. When I grow old, I totally want to be as fiery as Honour (although, maybe not as rude!)

This is a wonderful book about how we orbit each other, trapped in our little worlds without really understanding what other people are going through. I especially liked that Jo and Honour were in-laws, because it was different to a mother-daughter relationship (whilst also being fairly similar to a mother-daughter relationship in so many ways).

This is a wonderful book. Go buy it.
(I received a free copy from Netgalley, in return for an honest review)

Buy link UK

Buy link US (After the Fall)

Goodreads Book review: Falling by Julie Cohen

FallingFalling by Julie Cohen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I saw this book up on Netgalley, I grabbed it because I’ve never, ever been disappointed by a Julie Cohen book. This is what I call a ‘burning dinner’ sort of book – one I couldn’t bear to put down for very long, so I end up reading it while stirring things on the hob. It’s lovely!

Jo is struggling to keep everything going. She is a really, really nice person and tries to help everybody. But somewhere inside, she’s still getting over the death of her first husband. Her second husband’s betrayal seems almost an incidental annoyance compared to how much she feels about her first husband. I sympathised with Jo, especially when it came to the bits where the kids were going nuts. Oh yes.

Lydia is in love with her best friend and can’t come out about her sexuality without risking losing her best friend. She’s about to sit her exams too, so the pressure is really on. The high pressure environment of school and the casual cruelty of teenagers was really well captured. Lydia was a fantastic character.

Honour was my favourite. She’s old, cantankerous and fiercely independent. The way she treated Jo at the start was shocking, but she mellowed wonderfully as the story progressed. She was wonderful. When I grow old, I totally want to be as fiery as Honour (although, maybe not as rude!)

This is a wonderful book about how we orbit each other, trapped in our little worlds without really understanding what other people are going through. I especially liked that Jo and Honour were in-laws, because it was different to a mother-daughter relationship (whilst also being fairly similar to a mother-daughter relationship in so many ways).

This is a wonderful book. Go buy it.
(I received a free copy from Netgalley, in return for an honest review)

View all my reviews

Inheritance Books: Romy Somner

Children Reading

A rather different Inheritance Books today from Romy Somner. She asked if she could have three copies of the same book. I thought this was really charming. So, instead of the usual style, I’ll let Romy explain. (While I have a nice sit down on the sofa).

Inheritance Books: The Enchanted Wood a blog post by Romy Sommer

Romy 2014Considering how our bookshelves are overflowing, it seems unreasonable to have three hard cover copies of the same book. But when you look closer and see that the books in question are Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree series, you might realise that these books represent three generations of our family.

For three generations of women in our family, The Enchanted Wood was the start of a love not only for Enid Blyton’s books, but for reading.

Enchanted Wood

The cloth-bound version dates back to the early 1950s and belonged to my mother when she was a child. Then there are the books from the early 80s which I grew up with – their black and white line drawings exactly how I still picture the characters.

Line drawingThe newest versions are the set I picked up off a bargain books table on a whim for my own daughters. Even though they hardly needed another copy, I wanted desperately for them to love these stories as much as I did, and the full colour, glossy pages were too attractive to ignore.

New colour versionI’ll admit, these newest books disappointed me. It turns out they aren’t Enid Blyton’s original words, but rather modern re-tellings of the stories. They might make the stories more accessible to today’s children, but I far prefer reading to my daughters from the earlier books. It has lead to some fascinating conversations, including what the purpose of a handkerchief is or how clockwork toys work. We go off on tangents, exploring how children lived decades ago.

So not only are these books treasured for their memories, but they’re still very much in use today. While I read from one of the older books, my daughters get to sit with the newer one and look at the corresponding pictures. And in the process we’re making a whole lot of new memories to pass on to the generations to come.

What a lovely post. I have a set of the new ‘updated’ (I call them sanitised) versions, but I remember reading ones with line drawing in when I was younger. 

Thank you for sharing your Inheritance Books with us Romy. All the best with your new book.

Not a Fairy Tale_SmallerRomy’s latest book Not A Fairy Tale is published by Harper Impulse and is available to buy now. You can follow Romy on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads or on her website/blog.

Inheritance Books: Kate Lord Brown

This week’s Inheritance Books are from lovely Kate Lord Brown.Hi Kate, welcome to the Inheritance Books sofa. (Yes, we have a sofa now! And cushions. Did you see the cushions?) Anyway, biscuit?

Please, tell us a bit about yourself.

kate I’m the desert living author of ‘The Perfume Garden’ and ‘The Beauty Chorus’. When I was four, my mother put a yellow cloth bound copy of the 1001 nights on the top shelf of my wardrobe because it was ‘too advanced’. Naturally, I was captivated, and clambered up the wardrobe at every opportunity for a spot of clandestine reading, (this is a good trick if you desperately want your children to learn, say, Shakespeare or algebra). I have no idea what happened to that copy, or if it influenced me working and living in the Middle East. My family and I have lived in the only true desert country in the world for five years, which sounds rather exotic and ‘English Patient’ but we have just had the worst sandstorms in fifty years which was – frankly – like a gritty apocalypse.

It must feel awfully cold and clammy for you on the sofa then. Let me shut the window. There. 

Where were we? Oh yes. Which book have you inherited from a generation above? Why is it special?

Puffin Book Of Children's Verse coverOne book I have tucked safely away in storage in the UK (along with a library which fills half a container), is the treasured germolene pink copy of ‘A Puffin Book of Verse’ inscribed wonkily by Katy Lord in felt tip, and given to me by my parents at a time when I still pronounced ‘Anonymous’ as ‘Anymouse’. It was required reading at prep school, and from its pages we learnt a poem each week off by heart. I had the great good fortune to have teachers who genuinely loved literature. It instilled in me a love of the rhythm and beauty of language, and along with battered copies of the Observer’s books of Wild Flowers, Horses and Dogs it transports me back to early childhood growing up in a wild and beautiful part of the West Country.

Which book would you like to leave to future generations? Why?

LittleprinceBoth my children were given their own copies of ‘The Little Prince’ – it was a book we read over and over again when they were small (those lovely, cosy tea/bath/bedtime story times), and we wore out the BBC audio cassette on the school runs to and fro along the Meon Valley from Petersfield. It’s a children’s book, but in a very gentle, magical way teaches important lessons, which I hope sunk in, about living a good life and the importance of trusting your heart. The children gleefully rescued a French rag doll Little Prince from a yard sale here for me, and he sits tucked in among my notebooks – we’re past bedtime story times now, but every time I catch a peek of him he reminds me of a lovely period of our lives, (and I love his yellow ‘fro). princeHe also sits above the files for the new book I’ve written about the artists’ Schindler, which features Consuelo de St Exupery, wife of Antoine who wrote ‘The Little Prince’. She was the inspiration for the Little Prince’s ‘Rose’, and I like the idea that they are together.

Thank you for sharing your Inheritance Books with us, Kate. All the best with your new book. I just love the cover!

perfume gardenKate’s book The Perfume Garden is available to buy now. You can find out more about Kate on her website, or chat to her on Twitter (@katelordbrown). 

Inheritance Books: Linda Chamberlain

This week’s Inheritance Books are from Linda Chamberlain. 

Hi Linda, welcome to Inheritance Books. Can I get you anything? Tea? Cake? Chocolate biscuit? While I’m getting that, please tell us a bit about yourself.

author picThanks for having me here Rhoda (my pleasure) but I’m immediately uncomfortable because I’m going to have to talk about Me. There’s one person I hate talking about and that’s myself. It’s not that I’m boring or haven’t done anything, loving these biscuits by the way, it’s just that I would much rather talk about you, the weather or what’s in the papers. With such a personality, it had to be journalism after leaving school – a job that gives you a notebook and a licence to knock on doors and ask anything you like. Rarely does anyone ask about the interviewer so it was the perfect career for 20 years or more.

Children make careers awkward, which is fine because that’s their job, and so this mum turned to writing fiction and playing with horses. Besides my family, they are my twin passions. So now I blog and campaign about the way horses are treated and I’ve published my debut novel The First Vet. It’s a story of love and corruption and has everything in there that I care about. Did I mention that it’s very romantic and people tell me they can’t put it down when they want to go to bed? They also love that it’s inspired by a historical figure, Bracy Clark – the man who led the first horse into the newly opened Veterinary College in 1793.

That sounds fascinating. I love the name Bracy (makes a note). Which book have you inherited from generations above? Why is it special?

IMG_3785I’m glad you asked me this and don’t let me eat any more of those chocy biscuits although I could take an oatcake for the horse at home! My inheritance book is something my dad gave me.  It’s called Universal Knowledge A-Z and is a little encyclopaedia. There’s nothing remarkable about it but his name is written inside and dated 1938 and it also has my childish scrawl underneath his in joined-up writing but with no date – so through this book we are still connected even though he has passed away.  I used the book throughout school and I still use it to this day but more for fun and to annoy my children.  It’s got everything in it – so long as it happened before 1938. Neville Chamberlain, no relation, was Prime Minister but hadn’t yet cried ‘Peace in our Time’ thereby ruining his reputation for appeasing Hitler. The entry for Chauvinism is beautifully historic and informative for example.  The word comes from a French soldier of that name who served Napoleon with blind devotion. In the 1930s the word chauvinism indicated an extravagant zeal for the glory of one’s country and had nothing to do with attitudes of men towards women. I guess male chauvinism was the norm. I used to love getting out Universal Knowledge every time one of my children asked an obscure question; it was a time for family bonding over dinner and the answer often threw up more questions than it solved.

Which book would you leave for future generations? Why?

This can’t be a book that I simply enjoyed. It has to be something worthy for future Whispers 'Horse' hoarselygenerations. So I give you The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans. It became a best seller in the 1990s. I was a young mum, managing to make time occasionally for horse riding. But the horse world was going crazy with new ideas. Instead of ‘breaking’ horses so they could be ridden people like Monty Roberts were fighting for them to be ‘started’ in a kinder way. He was one of the new breed of whisperers and so Evans’s book became a best seller against that background. It’s still in print and worth reading whatever you like to do in your spare time. My own copy is battered and discoloured but has a few reads left in it. The book and the people who inspired it made such an important contribution to how we care for horses and should be listened to. The book still moves me – it’s a reminder of what can happen when these sensitive animals are treated badly and it shows what rewards we can reap when we connect with them respectfully. It’s a battle that I’ve joined to some extent. My blog is about keeping horses naturally and by that I mean remembering how they have evolved and how they would live if we didn’t fence them in and ride them.  So The Horse Whisperer is a book that should stay with us.

Thank you for sharing you favourite books with us, Linda. All the best with the First Vet.

CoverLinda’s debut novel The First Vet is available on Amazon. You can read more about her and horses on her blog  (www.nakedhorse.org.uk) or stalk her on Twitter (@lindyloocher)

Inheritance Books – Cara Cooper

This week’s Inheritance Books are from Cara Cooper.

Hi Cara, Welcome to Inheritance Books. Tell us a bit about yourself.

CaraThank you so much for inviting me on your blog. I write sweet romance pocket novels for My Weekly and People’s Friend. These are bite-size novellas, the sort you can read just in an afternoon on the sofa or a morning in the garden. I also have a serial in progress that I am writing for People’s Friend. My beautiful daughter, pictured with me (left) often helps me at the proof reading stage and is invaluable in going through the manuscript to help me make corrections. I hope one day she might become a writer too although I think she’s more likely to turn to crime as Tess Gerritsen is one of her favourite authors. As in many of my pocket novels, my serial was initially inspired by a place – Sorrento in Italy. Like most of us when we go on holiday, I tend to fall in love with the destination and think how much more interesting and exciting it would be to live there. Writing a novella about places helps me to live in them, if only in my head! One childhood holiday destination I’ve always loved is the Isle of Wight which featured in my book ‘The Sanctuary’ available as an e-book from Astreaea Press via this link  ‘The Sanctuary’ first came out as a pocket novel and the large print version from Ulverscroft can be found in UK libraries.

 Which book did you inherit from the generation above? Why is it special?

the naked islandThe book I have inherited from my father is Russell Braddon’s ‘The Naked Island’. An extraordinary book detailing Braddon’s four years spent in a POW camp. It might at first seem a strange book to recommend to a teenager but as a fifteen year old as soon as my father leant me his battered old paperback I was hooked. For this is a true tale of horrendous privation which Braddon told with such wry good humour it turned out as a positive reaffirmation of life and friendship under the most difficult of circumstances. The book is illustrated by fellow prisoner, Ronald Searle. In the days well before the internet, ‘The Naked Island’ often regarded as the best war book of all time became a bestseller simply by word of mouth. The fact that it is a far from miserable book says everything about Russell Braddon’s abilities as a writer, and his abilities as a man to turn a negative experience into a positive one.

 Which book would you leave to later generations? Why?

The books I would leave to future generations are any of P G Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster books. Another of my father’s favourite authors, reading Wodehouse is like drinking a fizzy tonic. His books are set in an innocent world of eccentric buffoons with ridiculous names like Gussy Finknottle. The scrapes which Bertie Wooster gets himself into are absurd and convoluted but the stories are beautifully crafted. All comes well in the end, with the help of the infinitely superior manservant Jeeves. If you ever feel like a short story with a real feelgood factor, turn to Wooster.

I hadn’t heard of The Naked Island before. I shall check it out. As for Wodehouse, I couldn’t agree more. Thank you so much for sharing your favourite books, Cara. Take care. Toodle pip.

Cara Cooper can be found on Facebook and The SanctuaryTwitter @caracooper1 and at her blog. The Sanctuary’ available as an e-book from Astreaea Press. The Sanctuary’ first came out as a pocket novel and the large print version from Ulverscroft can be found in UK libraries.

Inheritance Books – Fay Cunningham

This week, the lovely Fay Cunningham shares her Inheritance Books.

Hi Fay, welcome to the blog. Please tell me a bit about yourself.

My name is Fay Cunningham and I am a writer. 

Even when I was doing multiple other jobs like PA to a CEO, secretary at the East Anglian Examinations Board and a sales rep for Empire Stores, I still considered myself a writer. It began at school, I think, when I was about 11years old and got an award for writing a short story about a dog. From then on I was hooked. I am an only child and my friends lived mostly in my head.

When I was very small I lived with my grandmother and my aunt. My grandfather was an invalid and bed-ridden, but I remember sitting on his bed while he read me a story. He died when I was about six years old and I wish I had been given time to know him better. My grandmother and my aunt were avid readers as well, so I think I get my love of books from them. The house was always full of books and my reading was never censored, even when I was very small. I read Pilgrim’s Progress when I was ten, and I know there was a copy of Lady Chatterley in the house because I remember flipping through it. I think I found it rather boring.

I had a long absence from writing while I was bringing up three daughters and looking after grandchildren. I am now retired so I have time to write. I love writing, but I like living too, particularly holidays abroad, so I make sure writing doesn’t take up all my time. I write crime and romantic suspense and I am a member of the RNA. All my books are available on Amazon.

Which book have you inherited from a generation above you? Why is it special?

I have inherited several old books from my grandmother: a 1909 copy of The Water-Babies (the original title has a hyphen) by Charles Kingsley with illustrations by Warwick Goble; and a 1916 copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-glass and What Alice Found There (again, the original title of the book). This has illustrations by John Tenniel and the pictures are just magical.

Which book would you like to leave to future generations? Why?

I loved Water Babies as a child, and I will definitely leave this to my great grandchildren – if it lasts that long. I was taught that books are for reading, so all the old ones are a bit the worse for wear, but very much loved. Not only for the wonderful stories, but for the memories that live within each page.

I remember reading The Water Babies and finding it slightly scary. I can’t remember why it scared me though. It was probably the chimneys.

Thanks for sharing your Inheritance Books, Fay. Hope to see you again soon.

Fay’s latest novella ‘Love or Marriage‘ is available on Amazon.