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The Dog Share-Fiona Gibson.

Published by Avon Books. Audiobook available from 4/3/21 on all platforms.

First of all, I’d like to thank Ellie Pilcher for adding me to the blog tour for Fiona Gibson’s excellent: The Dog Share on Audio Book. Please check out all the other bloggers on the tour too-I’m in excellent company!

I’m a big fan of Fiona Gibson’s books they’re always packed full of relatable characters, a great plot and plenty of humour. This one has a dog in as well which is, well a bit obvious really, considering the title! Anyhoo!

Two years previously, Suzy & Paul visited the island of Sgadansay for a holiday. While they were there, they fell in love with everything about it. They also visited the Whisky distillery and on a whim Paul decides that, as it’s up for sale, and he has some inheritance money, he is going to buy it-despite neither of them having the first clue about how to run such a business.

Fast forward, two years and it’s all a bit of a mess. Paul has gone and Suzy is left to pick up the pieces!

After one particularly hard day, Suzy returns to the holiday let she is currently staying in and during the night, she hears scratching at the door: a little dog presents himself. She temporarily names him ‘Scout’ until she can return him to his owner. Dogs have an incredible knack of knowing how to bring out the best in people and are adept at joining people together-Scout is no different.

This chance meeting leads to a wonderful story about, love, hope and forgiveness-I definitely had a tear in my eye at times!

The audiobook was brilliantly narrated by Cathleen McCarron and Robin Laing, they captured both the essence of the characters and the location-I really enjoyed listening to it!

I’m biased because I love anything with a dog in, but this really is a great book. 5⭐️

The Rose Code-Kate Quinn

Published by Harper Collins-out now!

First of all, I meant to write this review ages ago. I often write reviews straight after I’ve read the book because it’s fresh in my mind but some books you just need to analyse and give a bit of reflection on before getting your thoughts down: this book was one of them. I never meant to leave it quite so long though but better later than never!

Bletchley Park was once the home of Britain’s elitist code-breakers; shrouded in secrecy, scores of dedicated men & a few women worked tirelessly to crack German military codes.

At the start of WWII, three women from hugely different backgrounds, but each with an aptitude for puzzles & code breaking find themselves on the team at Bletchley Park & with a united determination to do much more than their bit for the war effort.

The three women are:

Osla Kendall, a bright, society girl who counts Prince Phillip among her suitors but is intent on proving that she isn’t some ‘silly deb’ and wants to help with the war effort.

Mab Churt, has had a tough start & is living in a poorer area of London but determined to find her way up and out, through hard work, grit and stoic determination to marry well.

Beth Finch, is a shy girl, lacking confidence and living under the shadow of her controlling God-fearing mother. She is almost resigned to her fate staying in the house and being miserable for ever, but she can complete a crossword in 8 minutes with no mistakes and so fate has other ideas in store for her at Bletchley Park.

Over their time at working at the mansion, the three women forge a strong friendship, boarding together and working together, but as events unravel, the pressure of the war, and having to keep their jobs secret takes its toll & they become horribly estranged from each other.

Time passes, and the young Princess Elizabeth is due to marry the dashing Prince Phillip: Britain is gripped with Royal Wedding fever! As the event draws nearer, the three women need to heal old wounds in order to come together to combine their skills and save the country one more time!

I’d never read a Kate Quinn book before and, if I’m really honest, stories about espionage and war are not really my thing but OH MY GOODNESS! I’m so happy I picked it up!

Kate’s talent for characterisation is outstanding: each one of the girls has their own story to tell, and they are told so lovingly & honestly. The history woven through them has been carefully researched to create an absolutely gripping story. It really has everything: love, heartache coupled with heart-stopping intrigue & suspense.

A wonderfully crafted story, like stepping back in time-absolutely topping! 5⭐️

👤The Shadow Man👤 Helen Fields

Published by Avon 4/2/21

I always have a huge sense of excitement when a new Helen Fields book arrives, I’ve read and reviewed all of her books and they’re always brilliant! The Shadow Man is no different.

However, I made the school girl error of starting reading this before bed when my husband was on a late night at work! Chapter one starts with a sleeping woman being watched over by a stranger 😱. I hastily closed the book and picked it up again in the morning during daylight!

What follows, is an absolutely gripping story where three victims from different backgrounds go missing in odd circumstances. Edinburgh’s usual MIT team are either off sick or supporting Interpol (if you’re hoping to catch up with Luc Callenach or Ava Turner, they’re not featured in this book but pathologist Alisa Lambert & Detective Superintendent Overbeck are!)

Each victim, who are strangers to each other, are ‘collected’ by The Shadow Man and locked in a flat. Whenever he comes back to see them, his strange erratic behaviour makes them fear for their lives! They need to escape. But how?

Instead, Detective Inspector Baarda is drafted in from London ably assisted by Dr. Connie Woolwine (an American forensic psychologist) and work together to try to solve the case.

But can Baarda & Connie piece together what is happening before it’s too late? Or will time run out for all three of the victims?

This has Helen Field’s usual trademarks all over it: a well written plot, superb characterisation, particularly being able to write from the perspective of a terrifying serial killer & then that of the victims, the whole time building this amazing suspense.

I always think Helen’s books are the reading version of watching a scary film from behind a cushion, you’re absolutely petrified but you can’t help reading on to the end!

Helen Fields has written another gripping, captivating book which is totally worthy of 5⭐️

Christmas at the Island Hotel-Jenny Colgan🎄🎅🏽🏝🏨🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿⛸👨🏼‍🍳🇳🇴🐶😇

Published by Sphere an imprint of Little Brown

I absolutely love Jenny Colgan books, especially the ones based on her Scottish island of Mure! Although it’s fabulous as a stand-alone, it’s alway great to catch up with the inhabitants and see how they’re getting on and ‘Christmas at the Island Hotel’ is no exception!

Flora’s brother, Fintan, is grieving the loss of his husband Coltan. Coltan wanted to revamp an old hotel on the island but sadly passed away before he could fulfil his dream.

Fintan is finding it hard to muster the enthusiasm but Flora, who is on maternity leave from her own bakery, is gently nudging him in the right direction! Somehow they need to cobble together a good staff team & ensure that everything is ready for their Christmas opening!

That’s easier said than done! They end up with a mercurial French chef, an absolutely inept kitchen boy who has never cooked anything in his life and a sweet kitchen assistant, who is painfully shy and whose mum is incredibly difficult to live with after the death of her husband.

Intertwined with this we get to look in on the some of the other islanders and catch up with them: Saif & his children, who are Syrian refugees & have settled on Mure; Lorna, the head teacher who suffers such turmoil as she adores Saif but their relationship has to remain secret; Jan & Charlie, who have recently had a baby and my favourite, Agot, who is the daughter of Innes & Eilidh & is absolutely brilliantly hilarious!

In fact, humour runs all the way through this story & there are some fabulous laugh out loud moments which segue into more sensitive elements. Jenny Colgan is a master storyteller & the reader cares very much about each character and their own particular story.

Also there is always a dog! This particular story focuses on Bjårk, Konstantin’s dog who absolutely steals the show at one point!

This is a wonderful Christmas story which is about love, friendship, family & acceptance. It’s a perfect gift 🎁 but buy two, one for you & one to gift! 😃

📚If you do buy this book, please consider buying from your local bookseller during these challenging times, they are all working hard with online orders and are happy to post anywhere! 📚🎄

Funny & heartwarming, an fabulously entertaining Christmas story. 5⭐️

Christmas Wishes-Sue Moorcroft🎄⛸🇸🇪❤️🇬🇧🎄⛸

Published by Avon

Special thanks to Sabah Khan for sending a hard copy to me!

I should start by saying that I love Sue Moorcroft books and consider the village of Middledip a place packed full of old friends, so I was excited to catch up with old ones & meet Hannah & Nico.

Hannah is from the village originally, but currently finds herself living in Stockholm, Sweden running her own bookshop. She lives in a great apartment with her Swedish boyfriend, Albin, and appears to have it all.

By chance, she meets up with Nico, who is from Sweden originally, but went to school in England when his parents split up; he also happens to be one of Hannah’s brother’s oldest friends.

They both are attending a family wedding later in the year and spend time at dinner, catching up on what has been happening in their lives together.

But Nico is battling his own demons, and Hannah’s home life, quite unexpectedly, starts to unravel. Her Gran has an accident and she goes home to Middledip to stay with her and help her recover. When she arrives, she discovers that Nico has also moved into the village…

Will they become more than old friends? Can the Christmas magic help their love to blossom or is it best they remain as they are?

Sue Moorcroft has a great talent for creating characters that the reader can relate to. Whilst Middledip remains the cosy village that we all know and love (although this book can be read as a stand alone too) the setting switches to Sweden too. Both are packed full of description enabling the reader to vividly visualise both places in their winter finery! The plot is crafted so carefully too and character’s thoughts and feelings are carefully considered. I thought the part, without giving too much away, around Nico’s children and particularly Maria was heart wrenching and sensitively written and the relationships between father, daughter & sisters was just beautiful.

This is an absolutely fabulous Christmas read, perfect for a Christmas gift. Buy two though, one for yourself & one to gift! 😃

📚Please also support local independent booksellers too, especially through Lockdown! Your custom means the absolute world to small businesses at this time. 📚

Packed full of Christmas sparkle; I loved it! 💫 5⭐️

The Heatwave-Katerina Diamond.

Published by Avon-25 June 2020. Thank you to Sabah Khan for the proof copy.

*Updated 30th July 2020 thanks to Ellie Pilcher for adding me to the Audiobook Blog Tour available on Audible.com (8hrs 18 mins)

This audiobook version is read superbly by Charlotte Worthing & I really feel she does the story justice with her tone and pace that she reads. During lockdown, I’ve enjoyed listening to audiobooks & this is no exception.

I always get excited when a Katerina Diamond book arrives to review and, this time, I was even more keen to read it as this book is a stand alone and doesn’t feature the popular Detectives Miles & Grey from her previous books.

Each chapter is a ‘Then’ flashback and a ‘Now’ flash forward; between them both, the story is knitted together to reach its breathtaking crescendo!

THEN

Felicity and Jasmine are teenagers, with completely different backgrounds. Jasmine’s family are affluent and can afford a big house; they frequently embark on altruistic working holidays where they can make a difference to local communities living in poverty. They’ve also employed a stranger, new to the area, as a handyman. Jasmine can’t believe her parents are allowing him to lodge in a property in their garden when they barely know him. He’s been perfectly civil to her but something about him puts her on edge.

In contrast, Felicity lives with her mum, who is frequently drunk and has a string of boyfriends. As a result, she spends more time at Jasmine’s than her own home. She drinks too much and craves male attention, which has given her a bit of a reputation. Despite their different family circumstances, they are best friends. They think growing up in Sidmouth is boring, even though others might think growing up in a holiday resort is fun. This summer in particular, what happens in this sleepy seaside town is far from idyllic: a girl goes missing.

NOW.

Sixteen years after she flees her home, vowing never to return, Felicity hears on the news that another girl has been taken; she initially struggles with her moral compass because she has built a new life in the Lake District and has her own family now, a family who know nothing of her past. She doesn’t want to go home, but memories from that summer come flooding back and she knows she has to do the right thing and return because she knows too much.

This book is set through a sizzling British summer, which if you grew up here in the UK, you can easily relate to. The clever description makes you feel as if you are transported there between the pages. That dull heat, that makes you feel sleepy, the days when you get dressed and minutes later need to change, hanging out with your friends later because it is still light & the hot sticky nights when you can barely sleep.

Ever since I finished this book, I have been trying to articulate how it made me feel while reading it. I think you know that when you read a Katerina Diamond book, you will mostly be holding your breath throughout-that’s standard-but there is something about how she uses the weather in this tale. She cleverly personifies it to match the tension in the plot; that feeling of oppression & heat before a storm which makes the story so fantastic & believable. Whilst the stories couldn’t be more different in content, it reminded me of when I read ‘A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ by Tennessee Williams in the way the heat sets the backdrop of the story.

It seems that Katerina Diamond can do no wrong; an incredibly talented writer with the ability to use strong characterisation, and cleverly crafted edge-of-the-seat plots to come up with bestseller after bestseller: The Heatwave will be no different. I loved it. 5/5

#katerinadiamond #harpercollins #avon #bookreviewsbyboo #survivetheheatwave?

Meet Me in Bombay-Jenny Ashcroft.

Paperback published by Sphere- 11th June 2020 Hardback out now!

Normally I keep my reviews fairly brief but this book spoke to my heart & I sincerely hope you won’t mind indulging me a little with this slightly longer review.

First a little context as to why I wanted to read this particular book immediately!

Personal Family History:

My English Great Grandfather, Eric Leighton MBE, was Head of the Military police in Bombay and eventually, Nagpur, India. He was a bit of a cad by all accounts and was married three times! My nan & her sister, June, were born there. When she was 7, June was sent to a boarding school in the South of India at a Hill Station in the Nilgiri Hills.

 

There are lots of stories about them growing up in India; June remembers travelling with her mother to accompany her father, who was also responsible for visiting the Rajahs at their palaces to make sure they were governing along British lines. She visited their palaces, some incredibly sumptuous and grand and some extremely run down, with swimming pools full of frogspawn! June and her mother had to go to the women’s quarters with the Ranee (the Rajah’s wife) but she does remember eating with the Rajahs.

Both Gt. Grandpa & June’s mother became sick with Diptheria and were incredibly ill, her mother, sadly, died and Eric consoled himself by marrying the pretty Irish nurse, Doreen Kelly, who had looked after him. Like you do.

Doreen had my Nan and, when she was a few months old, took her back to the UK to stay with my Gt. Gt. Grandpa Harry.

One morning he went for a walk and when he returned, he could hear my Nan crying. After a short search, he found her crying in a drawer, where she had been sleeping, and her mother had vanished. They never saw her again and my Nan was sent back to India. Great Grandpa, obviously moved on again and Auntie Reenie, thankfully, lasted a whole lot longer than his previous wives!

Nan’s parents also went to lots of parties and their social life was centred on The Club with other Brits and some wealthy Indians.

She talked of the ‘unbearable heat’ with Punkah Wallahs-operating the fans, mostly the deaf servants were selected so that they didn’t overhear conversations! Her father had a ‘Bearer’ who was devoted into him and as the troubles started some of the Indian servants were attacked just for working for the British. There was a cook, a water carrier and boys who worked in the kitchen and the sweeper who had to empty the commodes. The houses had no running water and toilets had two doors. The inside one led to the house and an outside one was used by the sweeper (untouchable caste) to empty the commode. They kept a pet mongoose who job it was to get rid of the snakes!

She remembered the parties her parents would attend at The Club and at the house. The bungalows that they lived in, how she was looked after by her, much adored, Ayah-one of the many servants they had. How they would keep the tiger cubs in the garden after their mothers had been shot on a hunt &, when we discussed the very poor treatment of some Indians & the effect of ‘colonialism’, she was philosophical about how things were. Especially when catching my horrified expression, she would exclaim ‘Thankfully things have changed, but that’s just how it was darling!’

Coincidentally, my dad is from Bombay too-its name didn’t change to ‘Mumbai’ until 1995-he immigrated to Watford in the early 1970’s with his brother in search of a better life, and left my grandparents, Ali & Lila, there until a few years later when they came too. My mum was 17 when she met him and she was pregnant at 20-Eric was her grandpa-much to the absolute horror of my Nan & Grandad, and it wasn’t until I was a year old that they allowed my mum to visit the house again! Talk about two completely different backgrounds-I’m like a fusion of the two parts of India!

For me, I always feel a little conflicted. I’m so proud of my ‘English’ family, I adored my late Great Grandpa and he received an MBE for his work in India and Africa. When I went to the palace to receive my MBE, I know they would all have been bursting with pride! When I teach, I always explain that some parts of our British history are not always pleasant, especially the events around Partition. Equally, I’m as proud of my Indian background, the culture, the heritage and my dad’s hard work to build a new life in a foreign country & staying true to his Muslim faith.

You’re probably thinking ‘Fab Boo, now we’re up to speed with your family tree, but what’s that got to do with the book?’ I’m getting to that bit, bear with me; you’ll soon see!

When this book arrived, I picked it up straight away. I’d read ‘Island in the East’ and had thoroughly enjoyed it but, because this one was set in Bombay, I knew I couldn’t wait and I devoured it on my sun lounger in the garden yesterday!

Honestly, this book was superb from the very first line.

If you’ve stuck with me this far…thank you: it’s all about this amazing book from here!

The story, in case you haven’t yet worked it out yet, is set in Bombay! 🤣

Maddy Bright lives with her, slightly uptight, mother and her much adored father, who is the Head of the Bombay Civil Service. They live a charmed life enjoying all of the excitement of the Bombay social scene. I absolutely love the description of the city here; the complete assault on the senses that a busy Indian city has, the irrepressible heat, the noise in the markets & station, the smell of spices and the myriad of colours of the fabrics, street food, spices, fruit, vegetables, flowers that stall holders sell & so, so many people!

The thundering hooves of the polo ponies, the refreshing gin & tonics packed full of almost instantly melting ice, the food that wilted almost as soon as it was put on the table, not to mention slurping Kulfi in a race against time to eat it before it completely melted!

Jenny Ashcroft completely & utterly captures the way of life of the English in colonial India, just as my nan described it to me all those years ago.

Maddy’s mother is keen for her to settle with Guy, a surgeon 20 years Maddy’s senior and Maddy, whilst incredibly polite, struggles to take this idea particularly seriously. Then, through her friends, siblings, Della & Peter, she meets Luke Devereaux, and everything changes from that point on. It’s 1914, and despite the threat of war coming from Europe, they fall in love & continue their, seemingly idyllic lives in Bombay but word from the Civil Service offices reveal that Luke and Peter and several of the other officers, need to make plans to train Indian troops in order to begin to mobilise into Europe.

The inevitable happens and the men go off to fight, leading battalions of young Indians, who had probably never left the security of their villages before to fight for a country and an enemy they had never seen.

The way that Jenny Ashcroft writes about their (both English & Indian) experiences in the war is quite magnificent. I think it would have been easy to dismiss the part that the Indians played in this conflict, perhaps suggesting that they were inferior in battle in some way. She doesn’t.

1.4 Indian men, 22% Sikh, fought alongside and died with British troops-fighting the Empire that oppressed them in their own country. We can’t change our colonial history, and it is horrifying to know that despite their sacrifice, so many Sikhs were killed in 1919 in the Jallianwala Bagh massacre: British troops opened fire on thousands of unarmed men women & children who had gathered in some gardens in Amritsar. Not much of a way to thank them for all that they did is it?

However, it is clear throughout this story what sacrifices they made too, how they bravely & selflessly went out and fought in a strange country struggling with the language, & different climate, especially the snow, and I applaud her for that.

A Sikh regiment, 1914 France. Picture: Getty.

Jenny Ashcroft’s description of the trenches is accurate and vivid, and the character’s thoughts and feelings are equally as honest and true to life as I imagine they would have been: bravery, courage & selflessness intertwined with anxiety, fear and futility. One particular scene on the battlefield, although fictional, could have been any one of the real sons, husbands, fathers or uncles who had had similar experiences and was written so vividly, and she captured it so perfectly, that it had me weeping quite uncontrollably.

Luke and Maddy are obviously separated but they write to each other constantly, and like all families with men at war, she anxiously awaits his safe return. But life isn’t straightforward and Maddy’s life is going to change forever again.

I don’t really want to comment on how the story is constructed, because I don’t want to ruin it, except to say that it is written from several different character viewpoints, which weave the plot together beautifully. Half way through, I thought I knew where the story was going and then it twisted a completely different way again, and again AND again. It is utterly compelling- and I cried again at the end. My husband looked up in alarm from his newspaper and simply said ‘Whatever is the matter?’

I summarised the story and said ‘Isn’t it amazing that someone can make you feel such emotion that you cry real tears about fictional characters just from the words they’ve written on the page? What an exceptional talent.’ Then continued to sniffle for about twenty minutes!

I’ve never met Jenny Ashcroft, and of course the words are all her exceptional talent, but it felt like she had heard my nan’s stories too and embellished them beautifully, so that I could envisage her 1920’s India in all of its vibrant, exotic, glittering detail.  Hopefully now you understand the reason for Boo’s family history lesson at the start!

To confirm, you don’t need an Indian family history to appreciate this wonderful book! It is a stunning story of love, loss, devotion and loyalty & I loved every single word of it. Thank you Jenny. 5🌟

 

 

Never Saw You Coming- Hayley Doyle.

Published 2nd April 2020-Avon Books

Zara Khoury has decided to give up her life in Dubai to set up home in Liverpool. She’s had a steamy online relationship with Nick, who also lives in the city, and she thinks it’s as good a time as any to settle with him and go back to uni. An opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start afresh!

Jim Glover is also feeling restless, stuck in a humdrum job with security, but no prospects and being a carer for his mum. His friends are all beginning to settle down and they see him as dependable, predictable Jim. He needs something to change, he just doesn’t know how to go about it, until he receives a phone call which, quite literally, changes his life!

Two very different characters with, it seems, nothing in common, cross paths and what ensues is not just a physical journey but an emotional one too.

There was so much that I enjoyed about this book. I loved the way that Hayley Doyle captured the relationships between Jim & his family and that she included all the Scouse colloquialisms in their dialogue. Similarly, she captures Zara’s thoughts and feelings about her fractured family sensitively too. I think this makes you warm to the characters easily and therefore have an invested interest into how their lives progress.

The thing I enjoyed most was the overriding humour, even in the face of adversity-there are so many laugh-out-loud moments in this book!

Never Saw You Coming is an enjoyable romantic comedy, which I could definitely see being made into a film in the not too distant future! What a superb debut; I couldn’t put it down! 5/5🤩

The Forbidden Promise-Lorna Cook.

Published 19/3/20 Avon Books

I really enjoyed Lorna Cook’s last book ‘The Forgotten Village’ set between two different periods and ‘The Forbidden Promise’ is written in a similar way with the story set between 1940 and present day at Invermoray House in Scotland.

Constance has just fled her own 21st birthday party in the summer of 1940, she tries to collect her thoughts on the edge of the loch which is part of her family’s estate. In the serene surroundings, the sound of a spluttering aeroplane’s engine seems out of place.

Astounded, she watches a Spitfire appear low over the water and crash. She dives into the water to help the pilot and, once safe on the bank, he begs to be kept hidden while he recovers. Against her better judgement, she agrees to help him and guides him to an unused ghillie’s cottage. (Gillie or ghillie is a Gaelic term for a man or a boy who acts as an attendant on a fishing, fly fishing, hunting, or deer stalking expedition, primarily in the Highlands- I had to google it!🙈)

Much later that evening, she makes her way back to the family home, hoping that no-one has missed her and torn between what to do for the best.

Flash Forward to the present day and Kate has left her employment as a PR Manager in London, under a cloud. In order to find her a new job, her friend Jenny has applied for several on her behalf. She successfully interviews for a position at an estate called ‘Invermoray’ in the Scottish Highlands run by Liz and her son, James, who want to run it as a bed & breakfast.

When she arrives, she is dismayed to find the house in a state of disrepair, that there isn’t much of a business to promote and that James, Liz’s son, has no idea that she had been employed and is furious.

As she awkwardly waits for mother & son to discuss what happens next, she begins to take in her surroundings. There are many portraits around the room and on the table, next to the bookshelves, is a Bible. As she turns the pages, she can see a long line of family names written carefully in ink, which she presumes are the current family’s ancestors. As she looks down the page, the name Constance Mclay has been, very deliberately, scrubbed out…

Lorna Cook, then cleverly weaves the two periods of the house’s history together. The tone of Constance’s story is more formal than Kate’s and the author consistently keeps each era’s formality & characterisation true to the period throughout the chapters. It’s sublime!

The plot is brilliantly written, it is in no way predictable-I thought I had it sussed, but was completely wrong. It’s a wonderful story about love, loss, family & friendship. 5/5🤩

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