Thursday, 9 June 2022

 One Last Letter from Greece

by

Emma Cowell


It's paperback publication day for One Last Letter from Greece by Emma Cowell. My lovely friend Julie Williams has already read it and has kindly agreed to review for me. She has already told me that I would love it, so I am going to get myself a copy and take it with me on my Greek cruise in September!

The breathtaking, escapist debut novel from Emma Cowell, perfect for fans of Victoria Hislop, Carol Kirkwood and Karen Swan.

Devastated by her mother’s death, Sophie longs to get away from an empty house full of memories and a life that hasn’t quite turned out as she had imagined.
 
So when a chance discovery among her mother’s belongings hints at a past Sophie knows nothing of, she jumps at the opportunity for escape and a chance to heal. The magical, idyllic Greek town of Methoni awaits…
 
But Sophie – determined to uncover her mother’s secrets – is about to discover so much more. Among the tranquil waters and cosy tavernas, Methoni’s locals offer Sophie the answers she craves, along with unexpected romance and, if she’ll take it, a chance at her own happiness…
 
Will walking in her mother’s footsteps help Sophie discover who she was meant to be all along?...

Review

Sophie is left in the throes of grief and uncertainty when her beloved flamboyant Mother Lyndsay dies way too soon. Left with a feeling of despair he decides to take a trip to Greece in the hope of finding a painting missing from her Mothers collection. 

As soon as she sets foot on Greek soil she is overwhelmed by the friendliness the community offers. A chance meeting with Theo who comes to her aid after she treads on a sea urchin sets her broken heart fluttering. 

Both have their own problems and had previous relationship disasters but the spark between them is more like a flame and hard to extinguish. A secret is then uncovered that rocks their world leaving them both with challenges and decisions to overcome.

One Last Letter from Greece is a beautiful story and I was hooked from the start. Tears of sadness and joy surround this tale making it an emotional ride but one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

This gorgeous, emotional, sentimental story will resonate with any daughter who has lost their mother.

My thanks to Net Galley and the publishers Harper Collins for the ARC.



Monday, 16 May 2022

The Summer Fair

by

Heidi Swain

REVIEW BY JULIE WILLIAMS


Thank you so much to my lovely friend Julie Williams who has very kindly reviewed yet another of Heidi's books and you can read her great review below. 

Review

I love Heidi Swain’s book so I was so pleased to be back in Nightingale Square with its familiar characters and new ones.

This time we are introduced to Beth who has the lucky opportunity to move into the square after previously living with a group of people who take her for granted and are downright messy. 

Beth moves in to house share with Eli who seems to keep to himself and is almost perfect except he plays loud music when he is in. This is a problem for Beth as she has eradicated music totally from her life for a while now due to events in her past. 

Beth works in a care home which she loves and especially adores its quirky residents who definitely keep her on her toes.

Her past catches up with her when she discovers her old friend Pete working in a local music shop, at first she avoids him but soon realises that this is impossible. 

Between Pete, Eli and the care home residents Beth’s love of music is rekindled and a spark is ignited with a special character.

This book can be read as a standalone but as all Heidi’s previous ones are fabulous they too are too good to miss.


Thursday, 12 May 2022

 


The House at Strone

by

Claire Nielson

 

When three children spend a summer alone in an old house by the sea,
they little dream what mysteries and adventures are going to enthral and
challenge them.


I am absolutely delighted to be able to do a Q&A with the author of The House at Strone. This is a children's book and I haven't hosted anything like this before, although I do read some YA books! but this one sounds such a lovely read that I had to host on Boon's Bookcase!

About Claire:

With a long career in television and theatre, author Claire Nielson enjoys an incredibly colourful life. From leaving school at 16 and saving money to run away to Italy with her best friend, appearing in household shows including Taggart, The Two Ronnies and Fawlty Towers, to co-founding a successful drama workshop company, Claire's time has been busy and fulfilling.

Family is important to Claire who enjoys telling her grandchildren stories of the special childhood holidays she enjoyed at her grandfather's home in Strone. After years of begging her to write these stories down so they (her grandchildren) can tell these stories to their own children, lockdown provided the perfect opportunity for Claire to pen her first children's book, The House at Strone. Now living in Stratford-upon-Avon with her husband, actor Paul Greenwood, when Claire isn't writing stories, she enjoys playing the piano (albeit badly!), cooking, walking and painting.



Author Q&A

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?

I think, as soon as I could read, I began to make up stories I hoped people would believe in, though for a long time my only success was with my doting grandmother. Between the ages of ten and thirteen, to my great delight, I was lent an old hunting lodge in the middle of a wood near Strone. (I know!) I turned this into a rather primitive theatre, in which I persuaded my reluctant friends to act plays I had written, often having to chase after them on my bike to force them to attend rehearsals. This soon turned me towards acting rather than writing which leads me straight into to the answer of the next question…


What did you do as a job before becoming a writer?

Well, apart from a short stint in a cigarette factory after I left school, I’ve been an actor all my life, (still am when I get the chance) but I kept writing and was lucky enough to be commissioned to write several non-fiction books published by Thorsons, Parkgate Books, Ebury Press and Princess House.

My acting career kept me very busy. Having trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Dramatic Art (now Royal Scottish Conservatoire), I won a year’s contract to The Citizen Theatre, Glasgow. This began a long career in theatre, including London’s West End, The Globe, and Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop. I also appeared in many TV plays, drama series and comedies, including Dr Finlay’s Casebook, Upstairs, Downstairs, The Brothers, The Crow Road, Taggart, Monarch of the Glen, The Two Ronnies, and Fawlty Towers. In my mid-forties I fulfilled a lifetime ambition to study and was lucky enough to be accepted as a mature undergraduate at King’s College, Cambridge, to read English literature. After getting my degree I was able to return to acting, writing and teaching with more solid ground under me.


How did you carry out the research for your book?

Having lived through the period in which The House at Strone adventures occur, I didn’t have to do a huge amount of research, but I had to try to make sure that all the post-war details, about rationing etc, were correct. The Internet was helpful on those details, and I also used books about the area to jog my memory, in particular Life on the Shore, a self-published memoir by Alex C. Thomson. I also studied old maps and checked remembered places with John, my elder brother. He still lives in Scotland, in a beautiful part of the Trossachs, called Brig o’ Turk.


Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?

The easiest aspect is the exercise of imagination upon real or half-remembered impressions. The hardest is the subsequent editing and refining.

What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?

To be honest, because I seem to do a lot of other things, (acting, painting, etc) I fit in my writing whenever I can, though I do try to do some every day. I find first thing after breakfast the best time, but also, strangely, around five o’clock in the evening. I mostly sit at a desk in a tiny room that is more like a corridor, but where I can shut the door and concentrate. It adjoins the room I call my studio, where all my art stuff lives, so, sometimes when I get stuck with the writing, I can go and muck about with paints for a while to refresh me.


When you're not writing, what do you like to read?

I am a bit of a glutton when it comes to books. I often have two, or three on the go at once, to suit whichever mood I happen to be in. I love the classics, all the usuals, but find, having lived so long, that they are many having to be re-read now. Why they are classics is, of course, because they mean different things at different times in your life. I am also much enjoying the widening range of writers being published and translated now. This is really exciting, often challenging, but always mind-stretching. Exploring the literature of different cultures has made me much more critical of the accepted norms of many of the novels I swallowed whole in my youth!


How important do you think social media is to authors in today's society?

Funny you should ask that, because I’m just finding out how important it is! It’s been quite a journey of discovery for me and probably very good at preventing me from becoming too much of a stick-in-the-mud. I’ve tried hard as an older person to keep up-to-date with technology but there is no doubt that the digital generation can show me a thing or two. Having said that, I think it might also be quite fun for them to read my

book, The House at Strone, to see what kids got up to before even television was around. We still managed to have a lot of fun and perhaps we had more adventures because we were outside so much, interacting with nature and wilderness more than a lot of children have the chance to do now.


Could you tell the readers a bit about your book?

My book, The House at Strone, is about three children who stay by themselves for a whole summer in an old house by the sea. Quite challenging at the best of times but this is 1947 when post-war food shortages are at their worst and rationing more severe even than during the war.

The House at Strone is a real house. It’s still there, standing on the shores of the Holy Loch in Argyleshire on the Firth of Clyde. It belonged to my grandfather. We children adored it and went to stay there every holiday. Then my grandfather died, my mother needed to go into hospital and because my dad was a GP and ran a busy practice in Glasgow, we managed to persuade our parents that we three children, my sister Elsa, thirteen, my brother John, eleven, and I, just eight, could spend a summer holiday there all by ourselves. This is the true basis of the story, but I took the situation, the atmosphere and some of the real characters and wove them, with a lot of fiction, into an adventure novel. I illustrated it myself to try to capture some of the visual impressions still strong in my mind from my childhood.

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

 Queen of Thieves

by

Beezy Marsh


When I very first saw the cover for this book, I just knew I was going to love it! I come from South East London and know a lot of the places mentioned. I am very proud of my heritage and it brings back so many memories reading about the area. There was always "knock off" goods available when you went into pubs, but the story of Alice Diamond is on a whole new level! Below is my review and I know for sure that this is going to be one of my Books of the Year.


Gangland was a man's world - but the women knew different

London, 1946.

Alice Diamond, the Queen of the Forty Thieves, rules over her gang of hoisters with a bejewelled fist. Nell is a slum girl from Waterloo, hiding a secret pregnancy and facing a desperately uncertain future.

Sensing an opportunity to exploit Nell's vulnerabilities, Alice takes her under her wing and, before long, Nell is experiencing the secret world of hoisting, with all the dangers - and glamorous trappings - that comes with this underworld existence.

Alice has a longstanding feud with Billy Sullivan's all-male gang in Soho, and thinks Nell could be a useful weapon in her vendetta. But Nell has a secret agenda of her own, and is not to be underestimated. And the more she is exploited by both Alice and Billy, the more her hunger for revenge grows. As she embraces the seedy underbelly of London, will she prevail in carving out her own path to power and riches...

...and crown herself the Queen of Thieves?

Review

When I very first saw the cover for Queen of Thieves, I added it to my reading wish list as I knew it was going to be a book that I would love and I wasn't wrong! 

Alice Diamond (what a name!) is a woman you do not want to get on the wrong side of. She is the ringleader for a gang of women shop lifters (hoisters). She runs her business with an iron rod, well actually, it's a blade, but you get my drift!

Alice is always on the look out for new talent and when she comes across Nell in the pub, she knows she will be an asset to the firm, but Nell is unmarried, pregnant and generally down on her luck. Prime pickings for someone like Alice to bring into the fold and teach her the ways of the Forty Thieves.

Nell may be vulnerable, but she has a spirit that nobody can break, especially Alice Diamond and when she is taken under Alice's wing and taught how to shoplift, she thinks this could be the beginning of a career path that could make her fortune.

Poor Nell is at her lowest ebb, having found herself pregnant with Jimmy's baby. She loves Jimmy dearly, but he just doesn't show her the commitment she craves and as for having to tell her parents that she is pregnant, that just doesn't bear thinking about, but as she is starting to show, it's something she will have to do sooner rather than later. 

Alice has a rival by the name of Billy Sullivan and when she sends Nell to work for him in his club in Soho to spy on him and report back to her what he is up to, little did she know that she would be fighting for her own survival as top dog in gangland London...

This is an absolute corker of a book. The characters are relatable and some you love and some you don't! I think this is just the beginning for Alice and Nell and I am keeping everything crossed that there will be a sequel because the ending was just brilliant!

Thank you Beezy for a wonderful insight into what was a true part of London's post war gangland and I really would love to read more about the women hoisters of London Town!

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

 

In the Bleak Midwinter by Carol Rivers

 


THIS CHRISTMAS, SHE'LL FIGHT TO KEEP HER FAMILY TOGETHER


1919.
 Two months after the Armistice that ended the Great War, life in London's East End is slowly returning to normal. But for 25-year-old Birdie Connor, the battle is only just beginning . . .

Frank, Birdie's older brother, has been sent to prison for deserting his army post whilst fighting in Belgium, and the shame heaped on the Connor family by their neighbours is unrelenting. Wilfred, Birdie's widowed father, has disowned Frank and vows that he will never set eyes on his son again, but Birdie cannot believe that her brother is guilty

When Frank escapes from prison and comes to find Birdie in secret, she promises to help him and is determined to prove his innocence. But little does she realise that she is exposing herself to danger as Frank gets himself deeper and deeper into trouble.

Helped by the Connors' lodger, the handsome Harry Chambers, will Birdie be able to find the proof that Frank needs in time to reconcile him to their frail father before it is too late? And can she build a future to keep herself and her younger brother, Patrick, safe?

 

 Review

Birdie is trying to keep everything together since her mother died after having her brother Pat. Her father Wilfred is coughing so much it is now causing him to have seizures, but won’t go to the doctor. Her brother Frank is in prison having been accused of desertion during the war.

One evening she looks out of the kitchen window when she thinks she sees a shadow in the yard. When she goes outside a hand is put over her mouth to stop her screaming, but she hears Frank’s voice in her ear.  

When she speaks to him he tells her that he has escaped from prison to try to get to France to prove his innocence as he didn’t desert his post.

Birdie tries to go on doing her day to day chores by dressmaking to earn a living and dreaming of the day she marries her fiancé Don.

Don and his mother run a local shop which is neither clean or value for money. His mother Aggie is always trying to save a few pennies and thinks nothing of ripping off the customers with food that is well past its’ sell-by-date!

Birdie comes from a very strict Irish catholic family and dreams of having the big white wedding in the local catholic church, as does her father because he knows it was her mother’s wish, but Don and his mother have other ideas and think a quick register office “do” with some sandwiches after will do the trick – all in good time to open the shop again in the afternoon!

Meanwhile Frank gets involved with some undesirables who are hiding him away, but are they doing it for the right reasons?

Bridie confides in her friend Flo about her upcoming marriage to Don, but she doesn’t think he is worthy of her and tries to make her see sense.

Harry is Bridie’s lodger and when she tells him of Frank’s predicament, he is more than happy to help her find him to declare his innocence, but does he have an ulterior motive to be near to Bridie?

I have read many of Carol River’s books and this is up there with the best. It has everything you need from a wartime saga including love, loss, happiness, sadness and everything else in between!

A great read for any saga lover.