Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins

Published 15 January 2015 by Doubleday

From Goodreads:

To everyone else in this carriage I must look normal; I’m doing exactly what they do: commuting to work, making appointments, ticking things off lists. 

Just goes to show.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and every evening. Every day she passes the same Victorian terraces, stops at the same signal, and sees the same couple, breakfasting on their roof terrace. Jason and Jess seem so happy together. 

Then one day Rachel sees something she shouldn't have seen, and soon after, Jess disappears. Suddenly Rachel is chasing the truth and unable to trust anyone. Not even herself.

Tense, taut, twisty and surprising . . . The Girl on the Train creeps right under your skin and stays there.

* * * * 

When I first started reading this, I could immediately identify with Rachel, the eponymous girl on the train.  Much of my daily commute is spent looking out of train windows however Rachel goes one step further than me.  She actually makes up a life for one of the couples in the houses that she passes each day.  She sees ‘Jess and Jason’ (who are actually Megan and Scott) as having the perfect life – far different from the reality of hers.  Appearances, however, can be deceiving and when Rachel deliberately involves herself in their lives, she opens up a whole can of worms and puts herself in danger.

I love these twisty tales full of intrigue with unreliable narrators and flawed and dysfunctional characters.  Rachel is in her thirties, divorced and lonely.  Her ex-husband Tom lives with his new wife Anna and their young child in the house that he and Rachel used to live in and Rachel just can’t let go. She is also an alcoholic and her life is something of a car crash.   When she thinks she sees something from the train that doesn’t look right, she just has to get involved but because of her alcohol induced blackouts, she only has a very hazy recollection of events and is unsure whether what she does remember is fact or fantasy.  

The narration is shared by three women, Rachel, Megan and Anna and the timeline jumps from past to present, depending on who is narrating, so to keep up, you need to keep an eye on the dateline at the beginning of each chapter, although it is easy to follow.  None of the main characters, the men included, seemed particularly likeable or trustworthy and my allegiances and sympathies shifted throughout the book.  The story starts off slowly, introducing the characters and their backstory and then the pace and tension escalates.  Piece by piece we are fed information and have to decide who to believe.  Secrets are gradually exposed - but which of them would do anything to keep their secret hidden? 

To go into any more detail about the story would spoil it.  Paula Hawkins has created a cleverly structured storyline with a cast of such convincing characters and the intrigue and plot twists will really mess with your mind. This is a cracker of a read and if, like me, you are a keen fan of psychological thrillers and mysteries then I can highly recommend this one.  I certainly will be eagerly awaiting this author’s next book.

This was the cover of my proof copy - a brilliant idea and I actually prefer this to the real cover above. 

I received my paperback copy from the Amazon Vine review programme. 

About the author: 

Paula Hawkins worked as a journalist for fifteen years before turning her hand to fiction. 

Born and brought up in Zimbabwe, Paula moved to London in 1989 and has lived there ever since. The Girl on the Train is her first thriller.

You can find out more by following on Twitter

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Atlas of Us - Tracy Buchanan

Published 3 July 2014 by Avon

From Goodreads:

How far would you go for the one you love the most?

When Louise Fenton flies to Thailand to find her mother after the Boxing Day tsunami, she fears the worst when the only trace she can find is her mother's distinctive bag. In the bag is a beautifully crafted atlas owned by travel journalist Claire Shreve, the mementos slipped in-between the pages charting her struggle to find her place in the world following a life-altering revelation, and a tumultuous love affair.

Louise treks across Thailand's scarred landscape, exploring Claire's atlas to try to make sense of the connection between this woman and the mother she is so desperate to find.

As devastated people are beginning to put their lives back together, Louise uncovers the secrets that nearly destroyed Claire and the man she loved – the same secrets her mother has been guarding all these years …

The Atlas of Us will take you on a moving and enthralling journey across the globe, and into the most intimate spaces in a relationship. And it will find its way into your heart.

* * * * 

The Atlas of Us is Tracy Buchanan’s debut novel and my, what a debut it is.  The story begins with Louise Fenton arriving in Thailand following the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami to look for her estranged mother Nora.  One of the first things she finds is her mother’s bag containing her passport plus an inscribed journal, the ‘Atlas of Us’, with notes and photographs belonging to another woman, a journalist called Claire Shreve.   Whilst Louise continues her search for her mother and tries to work out why she would have such a treasured possession belonging to someone else, Claire’s story begins and the reader is taken on a journey travelling the world until eventually the link between Claire and Nora is revealed.

By the time I had finished this book, I felt as though I had been with Claire on her travels.  From Exmoor to Australia, the author’s former career as a travel journalist certainly shone through and bought the story and places to life.

I remember watching the media coverage of the 2004 tsunami disaster and the images of the aftermath still haunt me to this day; I simply can’t imagine how terrifying it must have been.  Although most of the story centres on Claire, the times spent with Louise and her young guide Sam, describe in detail the heartbreak and devastation of lives lost and the wreckage left behind.  

This is very much a story of love, loss, regret…and also secrets.  Claire Shreve was a complex character and the man she fell in love with, Milo James, even more so.  If you believe that we all have a soul mate then Milo must surely be Claire’s true love.  However their lives and their relationship are complicated and nothing can be taken for granted.

The main characters are believable and compelling.  As the story centres so much on Claire and her life, I did feel that Louise was partly on the side-lines and I would have liked to have known more about her and her mother Nora.  Louise’s continuing search appears briefly throughout, interrupting Claire’s story, and whilst her character too is very well written, she didn't appear enough to make much of an impact.  We know that she had a difficult relationship with her mother and I felt that both characters were interesting enough to deserve a bigger part of the story.   Louise’s husband Will also makes (thankfully) brief appearances – he was just horrible and if I had been Louise he would certainly have been shown the exit door very quickly.

I really enjoyed this story; I found it difficult to put down and I look forward to hopefully reading more by Ms Buchanan. The drama and plot twists make this more than just a love story and the excellent characterisation and skilful plotting pull all the threads together to make for an engrossing read.  There are themes and experiences in the book that are personal to the author and it is clearly written from the heart.   I loved the gorgeous book cover – it suits the story perfectly.

Source:  I purchased this book from Amazon.  At the time of writing this review the Kindle version is currently only £1.49 - an absolute bargain for such an excellent book.

About the author:

Tracy Buchanan is a web journalist and producer who lives in Milton Keynes with her husband, their little girl and their one-eyed Jack Russell. Tracy travelled extensively while working as a travel magazine editor, sating the wanderlust she developed while listening to her Sri Lankan grandparents’ childhood stories – the same wanderlust that now inspires her writing.

You can find out more about the author from her website, Twitter and Facebook

Thursday, 16 October 2014

No Safe House - Linwood Barclay

Published 25 September 2014 by Orion

From Amazon:

The sequel to the Sunday Times No.1 Bestseller No Time for Goodbye

Seven years ago, Terry Archer and his family experienced a horrific ordeal that nearly cost them their lives. Today, the echoes of that fateful night are still audible. Terry's wife, Cynthia, is living separate from her husband and daughter after her own personal demons threatened to ruin her relationship with them permanently. Their daughter, Grace, is rebelling against her parents' seemingly needless overprotection. Terry is just trying to keep his family together. And the entire town is reeling from the senseless murder of two elderly locals.

But when Grace foolishly follows her delinquent boyfriend into a strange house, the Archers must do more than stay together. They must stay alive. Because now they have all been unwillingly drawn into the shadowy depths of their seemingly idyllic hometown.

For there, they will be reconnected with the man who saved their lives seven years ago, but who still remains a ruthless, unrepentant criminal. They will encounter killers for hire working all sides. And they will learn that there are some things people value much more than money, and will do anything to get it.

Caught in a labyrinth between family loyalty and ultimate betrayal, Terry must find a way to extricate his family from a lethal situation he still doesn't fully comprehend. All he knows is that to live, he may have to do the unthinkable....

* * * * *

No Time for Goodbye was my very first Linwood Barclay book back in 2008 and I loved it – so much so that I have read every single book of his ever since.  No Safe House catches up the Archer family 7 years later and I couldn’t wait to read it.

You don’t need to have read No Time for Goodbye as there is enough back story here to give you the gist of the previous story without going into too much detail, however I would recommend that you do read it as not only is it such a good book, but you get to know the characters.  If I’d had time, I would have re-read it before reading this, as I had forgotten some of the finer plot details and minor characters which re-appear here. 

The Archer family are still trying to deal with the fallout from their ordeal 7 years before.   Daughter Grace is now 14 years old and is trying to be a normal independent teenager however her mother Cynthia, still fearful of past events, is over protective and Grace feels suffocated and frustrated. When feelings reach boiling point, Cynthia decides to put some distance between them for a while and moves out to a rented apartment, where she becomes re-acquainted with Vince Fleming, a career criminal from her past.  Grace then makes a bad decision which puts her family in danger and sees her father Terry having to deal with the consequences. Running alongside is a separate thread of murder and a hunt for something or someone unknown. This side of the story seemed rather disjointed at first and although the threads do come together, there were some parts, particularly the telephone conversations, that I found annoying.   

I was so looking forward to this sequel but was left feeling disappointed. So, where did it all go wrong?  I’m all for escapism but I felt I was being asked to suspend belief just a little too far with this story.  Terry Archer was an ordinary law abiding teacher and one of Barclay’s typical ‘normal family guy’ types who can get into bad situations by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  He was my favourite character in the previous book but I didn’t feel the same this time.  With this story, I can accept that Terry was trying to protect his family but even so, some of his decisions (and Cynthia’s too at times) were just too stupid and seemed totally out of character.     

Although there were plenty of the trademark Barclay twists and turns, there was too much of a comedic feel and the nail-biting tension and skilful plotting that I am used to with his previous books was missing for me.  

It’s certainly not a bad book (I felt the second half had more pace than the first) but it’s not one of my favourites. I normally race through his books as I can’t put them down but I struggled with this one and it was rather a lacklustre read for me. Having said that, he still remains one of my favourite authors and I still want to read whatever he writes but please Mr Barclay, go back to the thrills and tension of your earlier novels.

My thanks to Netgalley and the Publisher for the e-copy to review. 

About the author:

After writing four comic thrillers featuring the character Zack Walker, Linwood turned to darker, standalone novels, starting with No Time for Goodbye, which became an international hit. The novel has been translated into nearly forty languages, was the single bestselling novel in the UK in 2008, and has been optioned for film by Eric McCormack. Since then, all of Linwood’s novels have appeared on bestseller lists, and more his books have been optioned.

You can find out more about the author via Website, Twitter or Facebook

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Q&A with Vanessa Greene - author of 'The Seafront Tea Rooms'

I am delighted to welcome Vanessa to My Reading Corner as part of the Tea Time Tour for The Seafront Tea Rooms.

What would your choice of tea and cake/s be for a sumptuous afternoon tea and do you have anywhere special that you like to go to?

I’d go for Florentines, macaroons and lemon drizzle cake. With a slice of Battenberg thrown in too. Then Earl Grey or Jasmine tea. In terms of tea rooms, I really like Drink, Shop, Do in Caledonian Road, where I had the launch party for my previous novel, The Vintage Teacup Club. It’s a converted Victorian bathhouse and there’s a good dose of old-fashioned glamour but with quirky modern touches. For a more traditional tea, you can’t beat Betty’s tearooms in York, which is featured in the book.

I enjoyed your previous books, The Vintage Teacup Club and the follow up short e-story Tuesdays at the Teacup Club. What inspired you to write these books? Do you enjoy baking?

Thank you. So you’ve noticed that tea and cake are a common theme! They are what bring the women together, but actually it’s friendship itself that’s inspired me to write the stories. Good friends are there through everything – break ups, work changes, family crises – and somehow, often armed with just a warm cup of tea and a hug, they have the power to make everything OK. They can also drive you forward in life, to achieve ambitions you might have thought were out of reach – and that’s what I’ve enjoyed exploring in The Seafront Tea Rooms.

With each new book do you already have the characters planned in your mind before you begin writing or do they come to you as the story progresses?

With this novel, the characters were all really clear in my mind before I started. I had my baby son last June, and while I was keen to start writing, I also wanted to take time out for maternity leave. I’m glad I did, because in those six months, in the times when he napped, or when we were walking endlessly around the local park, I got to know Kat, Seraphine and Charlie really well! So when I started writing I already had a good idea of what they were going to get up to.

What is the most useful piece of advice you have received as a writer?

That’s an interesting question. I think it was to write the first draft for you. Sharing your work with people whose opinions you value can be brilliant, but you need to see what’s there and work with it yourself first.

What are the most difficult and the most enjoyable aspects of writing?

I love that every day I get to escape into an imaginative world and stay there with people I like/am interested in enough to have created them! For instance today I’m in a cold house with a broken boiler, with unwashed hair and a cardigan that belongs in a charity shop, but for two thousand words this morning I was on a picturesque beach in Greece drinking a gin and tonic. It was bliss.

The thing I find most challenging is working alone so much. I write very often in cafes and the library, and chat with fellow writers, which all helps. But ultimately, whether it’s hitting a deadline, beating a bout of writer’s block or figuring out your ending – it’s down to you. I love it when a book comes out because my role changes and I get to be sociable again!

What do you do to relax?

The truth? Collapse on the sofa with a glass of wine and watch a DVD. Grab five minutes on Twitter while eating biscuits with one hand and steering my toddler away from the power cables with the other. As you can see, a writer’s life is all glamour!

Finally, what are you working on at the moment and are you able to share any of the story with us?

I’m currently writing my next novel for Sphere, The Beachside Guesthouse. As teens, Bee, Rosa and Joanne went to a Greek island and had the holiday of their lives – now in their late twenties, they’ve fallen out of touch. But when the converted windmill they once stayed in comes onto the market, Rosa is tempted, and she and Bee fly out to start reliving that dream. But is anything that easy? And can they ever forgive themselves for letting Joanne go?

The Seafront Tea Rooms is published by Sphere and you can read my review here.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Competition - Win an exclusive 'Saving Grace' scented candle

Published by Macmillan on 25th September 2014.  

From the number one bestselling author of Tempting Fate and The Accidental Husband comes Jane Green's stunning new novel about a shattered marriage and a devastating betrayal

A perfect stranger wants her perfect life.

Grace Chapman has the perfect life, living comfortably with her husband, bestselling author Ted, in a picture-perfect farmhouse on the Hudson River in New York State.

Then Ted advertises for a new assistant, and Beth walks into their lives. Organized, passionate and eager to learn, Beth quickly makes herself indispensable to Ted and his family. But Grace soon begins to feel side-lined in her home - and her marriage - by this ambitious younger woman.

Is Grace just paranoid, as her husband tells her, or is there more to Beth than first thought?

To celebrate the publication of Saving Grace, the publisher, Macmillan are giving away 1 'Saving Grace' scented candles. The perfume was personally created by Jane Green. 

To be in with a chance of winning, just leave a comment below before 20 October 2014.  A winner will be selected at random. 

The publisher will despatch the prize direct and takes full responsibility for delivery.   Competition is open to UK/Ireland entrants.  

Good luck! 

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Malcolm D Welshman - Author of 'Pets Aplenty'

I'm delighted to welcome Malcolm to My Reading Corner as part of the Pets Aplenty blog tour with SilverWood Books.

They say you should write about what you know. And that certainly applies to me. Having been a vet for forty years, I had accumulated a mass of animal anecdotes which served me well when it came to writing my three novels. 

However in all those encounters with animals the most affecting and poignant was the relationship I had with an African Grey parrot called Polly. Yes, I know, not the most original of names, but nevertheless a most unique bird. So I’d like to tell you a bit about our life together.

I first met Polly in 1958 when she was a sleek bundle of grey in the confines of a rusty cage in Ibadan, Nigeria. After much bartering with the trader, the cage exchanged hands and the African Grey parrot became ours.

Polly and I soon became firm friends and that friendship endured over 20 years. After my Dad's tour of duty in the army, Polly came back to the UK with us.  She was forever seeking me out. Once I found her waddled up the road as I was coming home from school.

‘Wotcha mate,' she said as I leant down to allow her to scramble onto my arm. Polly was swiftly carried back into the bungalow and returned to her cage in the kitchen.

It was here she picked up and imitated the sounds of daily life.  Only deafeningly magnified.  Cutlery into a drawer was like scaffolding collapsing.  Filling the kettle, Niagara Falls.   We acquired a dog, a Maltese.  He was a constant source of delight for Polly.  She’d imitate the back door bell.  Yambo would come trotting through barking.  ‘Go in your box, Yambo,’ she’d command.  The little fellow meekly obliged.  ‘Sit Yambo,’ she’d order. The dog sat.  Then she’d burst out laughing.

Polly learnt the African word for food – chop.  A portion of buttered toast was always on offer at breakfast time. She’d waddle up and down her perch saying ‘Chop ... chop,’ sweetly in my tone of voice. If ignored, her tone of voice changed.  ‘A gruff , demanding ‘Chop ... chop,’ in my father’s military voice.  And once when the buttered toast was still not forthcoming, she uttered a loud emphatic ‘What’s the ruddy matter with you?’ 

For twenty years, Polly had been a wonderful, witty companion.  

Then, as an inexperienced, newly qualified vet, I found I was going to have to operate on her, wondering whether she would ever survive to talk again. An ugly cancerous mass had grown on her neck. The local vet had said it as inoperable. But I couldn't lose twenty years of wonderful companionship without trying to remove the growth myself.

With the lump removed and her neck stitched up, I laid Polly gently on a pad of cotton wool.   As the anaesthetic wore off, she tried to clamber back on to her perch.  At her fifth attempt she made it and sat, huddled, her beak clamped to a bar to stop herself from toppling off.  

There followed a desperate time.  Daily I caught her up to give her an antibiotic injection.  There was no struggle.  No squawk.  She ate nothing for three days.  On the third evening I tried with a tiny portion of banana smeared on my finger.  Polly tottered across her perch, looked at me with eyes devoid of sparkle, but raised her head, opened her beak with difficulty and tweaked my finger.  A little of the mashed banana slid on to her tongue.

‘Go on, swallow it girl,’ I cajoled.  There was a gulp as her beak closed and the banana disappeared.  I felt a flicker of hope.  Maybe she’d pull through.   The next morning as I approached her cage, Polly slowly waddled across her perch, pressed her head down against the bars of the cage and in a croaky voice, my voice, said ‘Wotcha mate!’

I knew then she was on the road to recovery.

Many other tricky operations have appeared through the surgery door over the ensuing years. But I only have to hear that chirpy ‘Wotcha mate! in my head to have doubts about my ability to cope fly from my mind. 

 All thanks to Polly.  My ever loving friend.

So you see how special she was.

And she’s certainly been instrumental in my writing. If you’ve a good idea or story, then you should reuse it whenever possible. I wrote about Polly from my point of view for the magazine, My Weekly – I was their vet columnist for 15 years. I then wrote the tale from my father’s point of view for Parrots Magazine and from my mother’s for a WI magazine. Ten years on I rehashed it for the Lady magazine when I was writing occasional features for them.  Then three years back, The Daily Mail took the story. A year later there was a study on how African Grey parrots are the most intelligent birds in the world. The Daily Mail asked me to write a piece around that topic. And… surprise… surprise… Polly was prominent in that feature. Is she mentioned in any of my three books? Uhm… ‘fraid so. So you see, a good story can run and run. Hope you can run your eye over Pets Aplenty, my latest novel. No Polly this time but there are a few parrot tales in it. There’s one particular bizarre encounter with a Quaker parakeet belonging to a fireman called Julian, who when dressed up preferred to be called Julianne. Intrigued? You’ll have to read the book to discover what happens.


The Kindle version of Pets Aplenty is currently only 97p on Amazon.  You can read my review here

Thursday, 9 October 2014

The Seafront Tea Rooms - Vanessa Greene

Paperback Published 9 October 2014 by Sphere

From Goodreads: 

The Seafront Tea Rooms is a peaceful hideaway, away from the bustle of the seaside, and in this quiet place a group of women find exactly what they've been searching for.

Charismatic journalist Charlotte is on a mission to scope out Britain's best tea rooms. She knows she's found something special in the Seafront Tea Rooms but is it a secret she should share? Kathryn, a single mother whose only sanctuary is the 'Seafront', convinces Charlie to keep the place out of her article by agreeing to join her on her search. Together with another regular, Seraphine, a culture-shocked French au pair with a passion for pastry-making, they travel around the country discovering quaint hideaways and hidden gems. But what none of them expect is for their journey to surprise them with discoveries of a different kind . . .

* * * *

The Seafront Tea Rooms is Vanessa Greene’s second full length novel and once again as with the previous books, I was drawn to the pretty teacup featured cover.  

I liked the first novel, The Vintage Teacup Club and was keen to read this latest one.  Just like the previous book, it features characters that first meet as strangers but whose live are enriched by their friendship and support for each other.   

This story is set in Scarborough where Kat is now adjusting to life as a single mother to Leo.  She has split from Leo’s father, Jake, following a difficult relationship; however on her own, and with Jake unable to contribute, finances are tight and her attempts at finding a suitable job are not going well.  The Seafront Tea Room is her place of refuge and her only treat to herself. 

Charlie, a magazine journalist, has had her heart broken and is having to deal with a difficult boss.   She needs to prove herself to further her career so comes up with the idea of a feature on the best tea rooms however an unexpected family crisis means that she needs some help with the research if she is to keep her job.

Séraphine lives with her family in France.  She wants to experience more of life and also to get away from a difficult situation at home.  When a family acquaintance gives her the name of a friend in Scarborough looking for an au pair, it seems as she has been the perfect opportunity to find a solution to her problems.  

The common link in all three women’s stories is Letty.  Letty is the owner of The Seafront Tea Room and both her, and her delicious cakes, are much loved by her regular visitors who are keen to keep the Seafront a local secret. She has created a very special tea room and a sanctuary from the stresses of daily life and when the three women strike up a friendship at the Tea Room, their lives become intertwined.  There is a back story to Letty which the reader gradually discovers.  She is quite secretive about her past and although very kind and caring, she doesn't give much away.  

With likeable and engaging characters, the lives - and loves, of these three women are woven together in a charming and warm hearted story. Initially brought together by their love of tea and cake, they are all seeking to change their lives for the better and when they each have their own family troubles to deal with, it’s to each other they turn. 

The short chapters make this a very ‘moreish’ read and I had many of those ‘just one more chapter…..’ moments before putting the light out.   There were one or two surprises but even if I did predict how much of the story would end it didn’t matter at all.   I enjoyed my time spent at The Seafront Tea Rooms  - this is a perfect book to curl up with on a cold day with several cups of tea and plenty of cake.   For the keen bakers, there are some cake recipes contained at the back of the book which sound irresistible.

My thanks to Stephie at Little, Brown for the paperback copy to review. 

About the author: 

Vanessa Greene grew up in north London, and has a passion for car boot sales, chocolate muffins and travelling. She's an aspiring dog-owner, so when she's not writing, she might well be following golden retrievers round her local park trying to make friends with them.

Vanessa's first novel, The Vintage Teacup Club, published to rave reader reviews and won an instant place in their hearts. She lives in Crouch End with her fiancé and is currently working on her next novel.

If you would like to get in touch with Vanessa you can contact her on Twitter and Facebook 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Pets Aplenty by Malcolm D Welshman

Published 1st September 2014 

Genre: Fiction (Humour / Animals)

I'm delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Pets Aplenty.  My review is posted below but do check back on Saturday 11 October when I will be be hosting a guest post written by Malcolm. 

Join novice vet, Paul Mitchell, in a further six months of hilarious escapades he experiences while working at Prospect House Veterinary Hospital. He's confronted by a ravenous pig while sunbathing naked in a cornfield. He locks jaws with a caiman with scale rot and battles with Doug, a vicious miniature donkey that's always sinking his teeth into him. It ends with a Christmas pet blessing which erupts into pandemonium as frightened pets and owners scatter through the pews. Throughout his adventures, Paul is loyally supported by the team at the hospital - in particular Beryl, the elderly one-eyed receptionist, and, Lucy the junior nurse - together with whom he shares this merry-go-round of mayhem. It's a gripping, fast page-turner that's guaranteed to keep animal lovers entranced.

* * * * 

Dear Mr Vet

Thank you for saving Furry.  I was very worried he might have died or something worse might have happened. 

Lots of love from Emma. 

Pets Aplenty is the third book by Malcolm Welshman (the first being Pets in a Pickle and Pets on Parade, the second).  I hadn’t read either of these before I started Pets Aplenty but it didn’t matter at all – this can easily be read as a standalone.

Having been a huge fan of the James Herriot books in my teenage years, I always enjoy reading about animals and their escapades and this book was very enjoyable indeed.  From the very first chapter where Paul has been coerced by his colleagues to dress up as a huge rabbit in the name of fundraising and hop around the local shopping precinct whilst being photographed by the local paper, I was hooked.

There are many entertaining and humorous tales to enjoy – as well as some sad ones.  Paul Mitchell may be a young vet still finding his feet but he is a very likeable character and deals with his patients, even the most difficult ones, with respect and humour – we meet Jimmy, the transgender confused parrot; Miss Piggy, the Houdini of the porcine world, Emily the springer spaniel (who stole my heart – when you read her story you will see why).  Having read the story of the escaped python, I’m so glad I that don’t live next door to a vet who takes his work home!

Paul’s colleagues at Prospect House, the veterinary surgery, have their own distinct characters – from beady eyed Beryl the receptionist who rules with a sharp tongue, to Lucy, the young nurse from Paul’s past. They each play a part in this story and it’s the human interactions, as well as the animal ones, that make for such an enjoyable read.

Pets Aplenty is very entertaining and has been written with warmth and humour.  It may not be suitable for younger children (there are some adult themes) but if you’re looking for a well written, witty read (with plenty of puns) then I’m sure you would enjoy this.

My thanks to SilverWood Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and for providing the e-book for review.

About the author:

Malcolm Welshman is a retired vet who has worked at London Zoo, in a small animal hospital and as a consultant dealing with exotics. He has written for newspapers such as The Sunday Times and The Daily Mail and national magazines including The Lady, Yours, Cat World and Dogs Today and was the My Weekly vet for fifteen years. He is a BBC Radio panellist and a guest speaker worldwide on cruise ships.

You contact Malcolm via his WebsiteBlog: Facebook or Twitter

Thursday, 2 October 2014

A Cornish Affair - Liz Fenwick

Published May 2014 by Orion

From Amazon:

Running out on your wedding day never goes down well. When the pressure of her forthcoming marriage becomes too much, Jude bolts from the church, leaving a good man at the altar, her mother in a fury, and the guests with enough gossip to last a year.

Guilty and ashamed, Jude flees to Pengarrock, a crumbling cliff-top mansion in Cornwall, where she takes a job cataloguing the Trevillion family's extensive library. The house is a welcome escape for Jude, full of history and secrets, but when its new owner arrives, it's clear that Pengarrock is not beloved by everyone. 

As Jude falls under the spell of the house, she learns of a family riddle stemming from a terrible tragedy centuries before, hinting at a lost treasure. And when Pengarrock is put up for sale, it seems that time is running out for the house and for Jude.

* * * 

When young American Jude Warren leaves her fiancé John standing at the altar in Cape Cod, she faces the wrath of her family and disappointment of friends who can’t understand why she couldn't go through with the wedding to her handsome fiancé.  Jude couldn't explain that she felt she was marrying John more to please her parents (especially her mother) than herself. Ever since her sister Rose died, Jude had felt second best and finally, she wanted to lead her own life.

So now jobless and homeless, she flees to Oxford and to Barbara, an old family friend.  Barbara arranges a job for her with Petroc Trevillion at his estate in Pengarrock, Cornwall.   Petroc has a lifetime's worth of research papers that need cataloguing and as an archivist, Jude seems perfect for the job and does her best to bring some order to his chaotic ways. However Jude's feelings are bought into conflict when Petroc's estranged son Tristan appears on the scene.  What follows is a story of historical family intrigue and riddles concerning lost jewellery together with a little touch of will they/won’t they romance.

I’m a sucker for a lovely cover and the gorgeous cover of this first attracted me.  I adore Cornwall and the chance to read a story set in one of my favourite places was irresistible.  It was clear that the author knows the area well and the descriptions of the old house and surrounding Helford River were beautifully and lovingly written.  For me, the crumbling Pengarrock was the real star of the book.  It sounded idyllic and it’s no wonder that Jude fell in love with the house.  

The main characters were well defined although it took me a while to warm to Jude.  She was feisty and didn't hold back in speaking her mind but there was just something about her character that stopped me fully engaging with her. There were occasions when when I felt the storyline was a little weak and I kept waiting for something to happen to move the story along, but it was an easy and pleasant read, made even more enjoyable by the sense of place.   I now have Liz's first book, The Cornish House and the latest, A Cornish Stranger on my Kindle waiting to be read.      

My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the digital copy to review. 

About the author:

Writer, ex-pat expert, wife, mother of three, and dreamer turned doer....

I was born in Massachusetts, and after nine international moves I now live in Dubai with my husband and two mad cats - Snowy and Sooty. I made my first trip to Cornwall in 1989, bought my home there 7 years later and although I live in Dubai, my heart is forever in Cornwall, creating new stories.

You can follow Liz Fenwick via her website, Twitter and Facebook

Monday, 22 September 2014

The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me - Lucy Robinson

Published 19 June 2014 by Penguin

From Amazon:

Sally is an incredible singer but she sings only in her wardrobe where nobody can hear her. She'd rather join a nudist colony than sing in public.

That is until she ventures to New York where a wild and heady summer of love and loss changes her forever. No longer able to hide in the shadows, Sally must return home to London to fulfill a promise she cannot break - to share her voice.

But just as she's about to embark on her new life, a beautiful man turns up on Sally's doorstep bearing a sheepish smile and a mysterious hand-written message.

How did he find her? Why is he here? Does he hold the truth to what happened back in New York? And, with him back on the scene, will she still have the courage to step into the spotlight?

My thoughts:

The story begins with an Overture and an introduction to Sally and her current life.  Sally Howlett is in her wardrobe, terrified and about to start her post-graduate diploma in opera at the Royal College of Music.  Apart from a disastrous experience on stage as a child, the only singing she had done was in her wardrobe, with her teddy bear Carrot.   The wardrobe is her sanctuary, where she can sing and feel safe.   She is just an ordinary girl from a council estate in the Midlands who has an extraordinary talent for singing opera – however she has no self-confidence and despite others telling her how good she is, she refuses to sing in public. Sally lives with her flatmate Barry, a fabulously camp ballet dancer from Barry Island.  The Overture ends with a mysterious man from Sally’s past appearing at her door and having an M&S pork belly dinner slung at him. With an introduction like that how can you not be hooked!

I very much enjoyed Lucy Robinson’s latest story.  Sally is a very likeable, quirky character with insecurities and vulnerabilities that are familiar to all of us. The story jumps back and forth in time, starting with the back story to Sally’s childhood and family, focusing in particular on her relationship with her troubled cousin Fiona.  Sally starts her opera career as a dresser with the Royal Opera House and Fiona was a soloist with the Royal Ballet.  When all three - Barry, Sally and Fiona, are included on a Royal Ballet tour to America the story of their time there gradually emerges and we learn why Sally’s life changed so drastically.

There are some wonderful characters here that come into Sally’s life, some I loved and others I wanted to slap. Besides Barry and Fiona, there is the wonderful Jan Borsos – a Hungarian who walks his way across Europe to get to his place at the RCM; the two faced, spiteful Violet and the lovely Helen who becomes a great friend to Sally. Finally, the mysterious Julian Jefferson – who is he really and how does he fit into Sally’s life?

Despite the jumping timescale, the story is not at all difficult to follow and is very well structured.  Part way through the book there was an “oh” moment, when suddenly everything fell into place.  This took me completely by surprise and was very cleverly written. 

I don’t want to give away any of the story as its best discovered through reading. The cover on my proof copy said “prepare for public-transport belly laughs” – I didn’t find the book hilariously funny but I did have many snort and chuckle moments - the writing is witty and enjoyable with depth and substance to the story and so much more than ‘fluffy chick lit’.  

My thanks to Real Readers and Penguin for the paperback copy to review.

At the time of writing this review, the Kindle version is available from Amazon for just £1.99.   An ebook version is also currently available from Penguin for £1.99.  

About the author:

The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me will be Lucy Robinson’s third book and follows on from the tremendous success of The Greatest Love Story of All Time and A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger. 

Prior to writing Lucy earned her crust in theatre production and then factual television, working on documentaries for all of the UK’s major broadcasters. Her writing career began when she started a dating blog for Marie Claire about her fairly pathetic attempts at Internet dating.

Lucy was brought up in Gloucestershire surrounded by various stupid animals. She studied at Birmingham University and lived in London for many years before disappearing off to South America to write her first two novels. 

She now lives in Bristol with her partner, The Man. She likes dogs and cheese and horses and seals and cake and baths and she blogs daily about funny things that have made her smile today. 

You can follow Lucy Robinson via her website, Twitter and Facebook