Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Family Drama, Guest post

The Bells of Little Woodford – Catherine Jones – 4* #Review #BlogTour @lacekate @HoZ_Books #GuestPost #Extract

The town of Little Woodford seems peaceful and picture-postcard beautiful, with its marketplace, ancient church and immaculate allotments. But behind the tranquil facade, troubles are brewing.

Olivia Lewthwaite, a former town councillor, a pillar of the WI and all-around busybody, has been forced by her husband’s gambling debts to sell their house – her pride and joy. She hates the new estate they’ve moved to and knows she needs to humble herself to apply for a job.

To make matters worse, a thoroughly disagreeable woman has bought Olivia’s beloved Grange and sets about objecting to everything she can, from the ringing of the church bells to the market stall selling organic local meat.

It isn’t long before the town is in turmoil.

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I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

If you love small town values and interactions, ‘The Bells of Little Woodford’, will appeal. The second book in the series, it reads well as a standalone, but it’s such a lovely series, read my review of ‘Little Woodford – The Secrets of a Small Town’ and enjoy this too.

Olivia, is coming to terms with her fall from grace, too involved in everyone else’s business and the town’s many organisations, her own family took second place, and now she has to pick up the pieces.

Losing her home is part of the price she has to pay, but the new owners seem determined to disrupt and dismantle everything important to the town unless someone stops them.

This story has a comforting, realistic ethos, the characters, values and peccadillos of the town, and it’s residents are recognisable and make this an enjoyable book to read. The plot is simple, but it reflects ordinary life in a small town. Coupled with the complex, easy to like or dislike characters this story is a wonderful escape.

Grab yourself a cup of tea, a slice of homemade cake and wallow in the camaraderie, gossip and ordinariness of Little Woodford.

Guest Post – Catherine Jones – The inspiration behind Little Woodford

‘Write what you know’ is the advice people give to authors. That suits me fine as I’m not a fan of doing research – I’d rather just get on with telling the story. Which is why many of my previous books have an army theme as I was in the army myself, I married a soldier and I am the mother of one.  Twenty-five years ago my husband left the forces and we moved to a little middle-England market town, not far from Oxford and where we have lived ever since. I love this town with a passion: it has everything a town could want; three supermarkets, several churches, a weekly market, cricket, tennis and rugby clubs, a bustling high street, a nature reserve, a theatre and seven – yes, seven – pubs! In fact, I love this place so much I’m on the town council. When it was suggested to me I ought to write about the lives of ordinary people and the kind of stuff that goes on behind their front doors – the stuff you might not want your neighbours to know about – I instantly knew exactly where I would set my story. If you know my town, it is pretty recognisable as all the elements are there – with the exception that Little Woodford only has one pub.  Of course, as an author, I have to be immensely careful to make sure that everyone in the book is completely fictitious but that hasn’t stopped many of the locals asking me if this or that character isn’t actually based on X or Y.  The one character that I haven’t been asked about is Olivia Laithwaite, one of the main protagonists; she’s a councillor, rides a bike, is a bit of a busy-body, likes to know what’s going on and has several children. I’m not saying Olivia and I are clones, but there are a lot of people in the town who are!

Extract From The Bells of Little Woodford – Catherine Jones

She waved goodbye to the boys – both engrossed in chatting to their mates in their lines and both oblivious of her farewell – before she made her way out of the playground and began to head down the hill towards the centre of the town and her house. As she turned onto the main road she glanced across it to her friend Olivia’s vast barn conversion. The estate agent’s shingle, hammered into the front lawn, announced that it was ‘sold subject to contract’. Olivia must be moving out soon. Bex paused and thought for a second about the mess her house was in and how she ought to be dealing with that… sod it, the mess could wait. Checking for traffic, she crossed the road then scrunched up the gravel drive. She hadn’t seen Olivia for weeks and she might well want a hand if she was in the middle of packing up. To offer some help was the least Bex could do for her friend – after all, when Bex had been swamped by her own unpacking, and Olivia had been a complete stranger, she’d come to introduce herself to the new arrival in town and ended up spending the evening with Bex, helping to unpack and organise the kitchen. When Bex had first met Olivia she hadn’t been sure she was going to like her. It had been obvious from the start that she was somewhat bossy and opinionated and, with her blonde bob and skirt-blouse-and-court-shoe apparel, she looked every inch the town busybody she so obviously was. But she was a doer and grafter and, even more than that, she was kind. And when Olivia had discovered that her public-school son had a drug habit and her husband had gambled away their life savings, her dignity in the face of such a crisis had been admirable. She was even making the best of having to sell up her ‘forever’ home to stop the family from going bankrupt. Bex was very fond of her.

She rang the doorbell and waited patiently for it to be answered. She was slightly taken aback when it was opened by Olivia’s son, Zac.

‘Hi, Zac – no school?’

‘St Anselm’s doesn’t go back till next week,’ he told her.

Hello, Bex,’ called Olivia from the other side of the monstrous sitting room. She was busy wrapping up an ornament in newspaper. ‘Long time no see. How are you?’ She pushed a stray lock of hair off her face. ‘Zac, be a love and put the kettle on.’

Zac loped off into the kitchen area on the far side of the room, skirting piles of cardboard boxes and a massive roll of bubble wrap.

‘St Anselm’s always gets a bonkers amount of holidays,’ said Olivia. ‘It seems to me that the more you pay for a child’s education, the less time he spends in the classroom.’

‘Quality not quantity,’ contradicted Zac over the gush of the tap as he filled the kettle.

Olivia raised an eyebrow. ‘I don’t think your last year’s exam results back up that argument.’

‘No… well…’ The back of Zac’s neck glowed pink. He flicked the kettle on. ‘I’ll take Oscar out for a walk if you two are going to talk.’ He grabbed his dog’s lead and whistled. Oscar, a black and white border collie, bounded out of his basket and headed for the front door.

When they’d left, Olivia crossed the room herself and got a couple of mugs out of the cupboard.

‘How’s it all going?’ asked Bex, following her.

‘What? The move, paying off Nigel’s debts or Zac’s recovery from drugs?’ Olivia sounded weary.

‘Oh, sweetie…’ Bex gave Olivia a hug. ‘I’m sorry.’

Olivia gave her a thin smile. ‘Don’t be. Honestly, we’re getting there. Zac’s fine – still clean – and I think I should be grateful he’s sowed his wild oats in a safe little place like this and that the guy who supplied him with all the drugs is doing time in nick and out of the picture. Without him around I think the chances of Zac backsliding are pretty slim although I don’t think he will anyway – he’s learned his lesson. I dread to think what would have happened if he’d got addicted at uni where he’d have been just another anonymous junkie student.’

‘True,’ murmured Bex. That’s one way to look at things, she supposed.

‘And Nigel’s debts will be cleared once we’ve got the money for this place and move into our new home.’

‘And that’ll be…?’

‘In a fortnight if all goes according to plan.’

‘Do you know who’s bought this?’

Olivia shook her head. ‘Not a clue – to be honest, I don’t want to know. The estate agent handled all the viewings and Nigel’s dealt with the paperwork. I… I…’ She stopped. ‘I found it all a bit upsetting.’

Bex reached out and squeezed her friend’s arm.

Catherine Jones lives in Thame, where she is an independent Councillor. She is the author of eighteen novels, including the Soldiers’ Wives series, which she wrote under the pseudonym Fiona Field.

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Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Literary Fiction, Romance

5* #Review – Susan Lewis – One Minute Later @HarperCollinsUK @HarperFiction @susandlewis@fictionpubteam

You think your life is perfect.

You think your secrets are safe.

You think it’ll always be this way.

But your life can change in a heartbeat.

Behind every secret lies a story.

With a high-flying job, a beautiful apartment and friends whose lives are as happy as her own, Vivienne Shager is living the dream. Then, on the afternoon of Vivi’s twenty-seventh birthday, one catastrophic minute changes everything.
 
Forced to move back to the small seaside town where she grew up, Vivi remembers the reasons she left. The secrets, lies and questions that now must be answered before it’s too late. But the answers lie in thirty years in the past…
 
Shelley Raynor’s family home, Deerwood Farm, has always been a special place until darkness strikes at its heart. When Vivi’s and Shelley’s worlds begin to entwine, it only takes a moment for the truth to unravel all of their lives.

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I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Authentic, emotional, mysterious and romantic are the perfect words to describe this enthralling story. Told primarily from Vivi and Shelley’s points of view, you wonder what there can be to connect two women who are so different in all aspects of their lives. Both their stories are absorbing. Vivi’s story is at the present time, Shelley’s mainly retrospective but one unconnected incident puts their lives on a collision course.

This a story of family life, relationships and friendship but there is an underlying mystery, which is gradually solved as the story develops. The story is suspenseful, as in the midst of ordinary events you are metaphorically waiting for ‘the other shoe to drop’.

So many people’s lives turn on a moment in time and the main body of the story focuses on the fall out from this event, and its consequences. The characters are complex, flawed and so believable. Reading this story is like being a voyeur into the character’s lives, the events are realistic as are their emotional responses and motivations.

The romance is sweet yet passionate, and selfless, it is the basis of the two main protagonist’s lives and what binds the families in the face of adversity. There is a multitude of poignant moments in this book, which enrich it. The plot’s twists make solving the underlying mystery complex and satisfying.

The emotional ending is beautiful to read and surprisingly hopeful. The messages peppered throughout this story are important for the reader to take on board.

Posted in Book Review, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

My Sister is Missing – #4*Review – Carissa Ann Lynch @HarperImpulse @KillerReads @carissaannlynch

A twenty-year-old local mystery that has never been solved.

A bone-chilling VHS tape depicting a horrific crime.

Neighbors with something to hide.

And a sister who is missing.

Emily has to find out the truth. But is her sister Madeline the victim…or the one to blame?

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I received a copy of this book from Killer Reads via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This is an atmospheric tale, with a small town setting, twisty plot and well-crafted characters. Excellent pacing and flow make this such an absorbing and easy read. 

Told from Emily’s point of view, as she answers her sister’s request to return to her home town after many years of absence, you discover that Emily is not keen to return, but the reasons why only become clear as the story progresses.

Ordinary events take on sinister connations and everyone has secrets. Emily’s fear and not knowing who to trust comes across well in this story. She feels alone and vulnerable, but this is what makes her determined to solve her sister’s disappearance, whatever the personal cost.

A good domestic suspense novel, that draws the reader in, from the first page.

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

Snow Angel Cove- 4* Review – RaeAnne Thayne

A fresh start is all Eliza wants for Christmas…

Nothing short of a miracle can restore Eliza Hayward’s Christmas cheer. The job she pinned her dreams on has gone up in smoke and now she’s stuck in an unfamiliar little town for Christmas.

Enter Aidan Caine. He can help Eliza find the perfect Christmas project – the renovation of his lakeside guest lodge. Soon he sees how quickly he could fall for her. But is he’s willing to risk his heart on a festive romance that could lead to forever?

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My Thoughts…

A lovely small town, festive romance with some characters from a well-established series. I haven’t read the other series, but I still enjoyed this book. The story is emotional with a simple plot, perfect for Christmas romance. The characters are realistic and easy to empathise and the setting is a small town at a festive time of year. I received a copy of this book from Mills&Boon via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review

A Path to the Lake – Elizabeth Crocket – Author Interview and 4 *Review

Kate Browning longs to experience a life of her own again after caring for her parents the past two years. However, her sister Heather’s escalating depression threatens to thrust Kate into the role of family caregiver once again.

 Hungry for companionship, Kate begins a relationship with Frank Fetiscina, who was there when she and Heather needed him.
 A part-time writer, she is offered an opportunity writing an inspiration column for the local paper by the editor, Tom Smythe. Kate is instantly attracted to him, and they begin a flirtatious and sexual relationship with no ties between them.
 While Kate is on a date at the bistro with Frank one evening, Tom walks in unexpectedly. Tired of the expectations Frank places on her and the lack of commitment from Tom, Kate tells them she is done and storms out, realizing it’s time to take charge of her own life again.

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Author Interview – Elizabeth Crocket

What are the inspirations behind your story ‘A Path to the Lake?’

Jane, I was sitting on a bench by the lake one day, when a very large man lumbered by walking his dog. We engaged in some small talk that led to an enjoyable conversation. He was kind and lovely, and the character of Frank Fetiscina was born. I already had an idea of who the protagonist, Kate Browning, would be and once Frank entered the picture, the story started to come to life for me.

Do you have a set writing process? If so, can you describe it to us, and say why it works for you?

When I started writing A Path to the Lake, I became consumed with it. I started writing at my kitchen table and went back to it at every opportunity. I have written two more novels since A Path to the Lake, and quickly became consumed each of them, too. I suppose I can say that it worked for me, just because I finished all three. I sometimes wonder if my sense of urgency had anything to do with having had a really challenging cancer journey a few years before. Or maybe it’s just my personality!

How do you create your characters, are they from real life or are they purely a product of your imagination?

One or two of the characters in my books may initially have characteristics of people I have known, but quickly the characters all take on a life of their own. The things some of my characters do, surprise even me. They become people that I can visualize, who are completely separate from me.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

If I am reading a book to relax and enjoy, it’s women’s fiction. I have also read many autobiographies over the years, and of course, a book of Japanese short form poetry or contemporary poetry is always on my coffee table.

I know you also write poetry. What made you decide to become a writer and what made you write a novel?

I have always written, in one form or another, whether it was writing poetry or journaling at the end of the day. Writing a novel was a personal goal for me.

What’s next for Elizabeth Crocket? Are you writing another novel?

I recently found out my second novel, Full of Grace will be released this fall or next spring. My third novel, The Smell of Roses, is due out sometime in 2019. All three of my books are women’s fiction, and all have a strong romantic element. 

Thank you for this interview, Jane. I am honoured to be a part of your wonderful blog!

My Thoughts…

It’s lovely to read something different, and this story is like a breath of fresh air.

Kate has spent the last few years as a carer for her parents when her mother loses her battle with cancer, the only light on the horizon is the prospect of getting her life back, but her sister’s mental health deteriorates, and she finds herself in the caring role again.

Kate’s story is poignant, heartwarming and complex. She experiences love and friendship and a creative new career as she forges a new life.

The relationships are typical of any small town, but the dialogue is unique to North America and takes a little getting used to but remains authentic and informative.

The story is peppered with short poems and inspirational quotes, which add depth to the story, and insight into Kate’s motivations, personality and thoughts.

An insightful tale of coping with illness, the importance of family and friends and giving something back.

I received a copy of this book from the author and Crimson Cloak Publishing in return for an honest review.

Elizabeth’s short-form Japanese poetry has been translated into several languages and published internationally. Her chapbook, “Not Like Fred and Ginger”, published by Red Moon Press, was shortlisted for the prestigious Haiku Foundation Touchstone Distinguished Book Award. Her chapbook “Extra Candles” was also published by Red Moon Press.

Elizabeth has had short fiction and poetry widely published online and in print. Samples of her work can be found on her website, elizabethcrocket.wordpress.com. She has a diploma from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Elizabeth is married, has grown children, and six grandchildren.

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A Little Bird Told Me – Marianne Holmes – 4*Review

Besides, if you were one-half evil, wouldn’t you want to know about the other half?

In the scorching summer of 1976, Robyn spends her days swimming at the Lido and tagging after her brother. It’s the perfect holiday – except for the crying women her mum keeps bringing home.

As the heatwave boils on, tensions in the town begin to simmer. Everyone is gossiping about her mum, a strange man is following her around, and worst of all, no one will tell Robyn the truth. But this town isn’t good at keeping secrets…

Twelve years later, Robyn returns home, to a house that has stood empty for years and a town that hasn’t moved on, forced to confront the mystery that haunted her that summer.

And atone for the part she played in it.

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 My Thoughts…

Told from Robyn’s point of view as a child and a young woman this mystery of family secrets, relationships, friendships and violence plays out in the historic heatwave of 1976 and reprises twelve years later when Robyn and her brother Kit return to the town where that life-changing Summer took place.

The characters and setting are realistic and vivid if you lived through the 70s and 80s the ethos and events will be recognisable. The childhood characters make this story memorable. Significant events are glossed over, and smaller ones assume prominence through Robyn’s eyes, adding to the mystery and suspense of this family drama.

Parts of the story is slow and confusing, but this is intentional, to reflect the child who is living through and observing adult behaviour that she doesn’t fully understand. The mystery once revealed is tragic if not entirely unexpected, and there is a good resolution of most of the questions this story raises.

Perfect for those who appreciate literary fiction and enjoy authentic characters and settings.

I received a copy of this book from Agora books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

Posted in Book Review

Poppy’s Place in the Sun – Lorraine Wilson – 4* Review

Sometimes you need to lose yourself to find your way home…

With only her trusty dogs Peanut, Treacle and Pickwick by her side, Poppy Kirkbride could be forgiven for having doubts about her move to a quiet village in rural France. But as the sun shines down on her ramshackle new home, Poppy knows she’s made the right decision. A lick of paint, and some TLC and her rustic farmhouse will be the perfect holiday retreat – Poppy’s dream come true.

Poppy is welcomed by her fellow villagers, except for brooding local vet Leo Dubois, who makes it clear Poppy isn’t welcome in his village – or his life! Leo might be gorgeous, but Poppy won’t be told what to do by an arrogant Frenchman – no matter how kind and gentle he is to her dogs!

Determined to stay, Poppy tries to understand the enigmatic Frenchman better. But as the two get closer, Poppy sees another side to Leo – a man with heartbreak of his own. Falling in love with Leo is easy, but can he ever return Poppy’s love? And what would this mean for her dream life and place in the sun?

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My Thoughts…

Poppy is a likeable, independent character who makes her dreams reality when she moves to France. Things don’t go to plan, and she finds herself alone in a French village she knows little about, in a property that requires renovation and with a neighbour who makes no secret of the fact he wants her gone. Not the most auspicious of starts but Poppy is determined to succeed and sharing her journey with its ups and downs is a pleasurable read.

Well researched and with a precise local knowledge you learn about village life in France and its history in entertaining conversational bites, the detail is there but cleverly interwoven into the story without inhibiting the pace or the character development.

The book’s stars are the animals, the loveable dogs and quirky donkeys, they have individual personalities which bring them to life, and they provide many of the story’s comic and tender moments.

Another favourite character is Joanna who Poppy helps even though she is running from something. We learn Joanna’s secrets, but she is worthy of her own story and happy ever after too.

Romance is a major theme, and Leo and Poppy have a tempestuous relationship, which is often passionate with realistic, sensual love scenes that underpin the couples emotional development. The ending is believable and happy and makes a satisfying conclusion.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.