Good Taste by Caroline Scott – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

England, 1932, and the country is in the grip of the Great Depression. To lift the spirits of the nation, Stella Douglas is tasked with writing a history of food in England. It’s to be quintessentially English and will remind English housewives of the old ways, and English men of the glory of their country. The only problem is –much of English food is really from, well, elsewhere . . . 

So, Stella sets about unearthing recipes from all corners of the country, in the hope of finding a hidden culinary gem. But what she discovers is rissoles, gravy, stewed prunes and lots of oatcakes. 

Longing for something more thrilling, she heads off to speak to the nation’s housewives. But when her car breaks down and the dashing and charismatic Freddie springs to her rescue, she is led in a very different direction . . . 

Full of wit and vim, Good Taste is a story of discovery, of English nostalgia, change and challenge, and one woman’s desire to make her own way as a modern woman.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Stella is a novelist and loves her work, her first book, although well received, hasn’t brought her much income. She is thrilled and excited when her publisher has an idea for a follow up alongside a very generous advance. This is the third book I have read by Caroline Scott so I knew that I would feel different emotions when reading. There were parts of this novel that made me smile, usually when Stella’s friend Lucien featured but there were also those that made me very emotional. Some of the more emotional moments were from reading the letters that Stella received from those who wanted to share their recipes. At times these revealed family memories but also the hardship experienced by many at the time. I had never heard of the hunger marches or that so many shipyards, collieries and mills had closed. But much more upsetting were reading the pages from her mother’s diary. I felt that Elizabeth was just as strong a character as Stella and that I really got to know her on the pages that she featured. 

I know little about the history of food and what ingredients go into a meal. A few of the foods mentioned in the letters Stella received I had heard of. Both Chorley cakes and Eccles cakes are a local food and I have eaten both without knowing anything about the custom. Many of the foods I had never heard of, and on googling feeling grateful that I had never eaten them whilst also feeling shame because my grandparents families would have lived off food like this for most of their childhood. 

I loved this novel and can’t wait to see what will come next from this author. 

Wolf Pack by Will Dean – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

When there’s a pack on the hunt, nobody’s safe

A closed community

Rose Farm is home to a group of survivalists, completely cut off from the outside world. Until now.

A missing person

A young woman goes missing within the perimeter of the farm compound. Can Tuva talk her way inside the tight-knit group to find her story?

A frantic search

As Tuva attempts to unmask the culprit, she gains unique access to the residents. But soon she finds herself in danger of the pack turning against her – will she make her way back to safety so she can expose the truth?

Will Dean’s most heart-pounding Tuva Moodyson thriller yet takes Tuva to her absolute limits in exposing a heinous crime, and in her own personal life. Can she, and will she, do the right thing?

About The Book

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I have read a couple of books from this series but unfortunately not the book that preceded this one. It didn’t impact on my enjoyment of this novel, just made me regretful for what I missed. What I know is that Tuva feels a lot of guilt and pain and struggles with loneliness and all of this just increased my respect and liking for her. 

She is a journalist who works well with the local police force, they have a lot of respect for each other and this becomes increasingly evident as Tuva becomes the only person the small group of people who live in the Rose Farm compound, are willing to talk to. What also becomes more evident is her bravery, because nothing would have made me want to communicate with anybody in this group.

This is such a fascinating series. The almost sinister crimes that take place where anybody or all could be responsible. The danger that Tuva faces in her attempts to get answers, despite being in even more danger because of her deafness. The huge amount of snow that I can’t even begin to imagine. The descriptions of ‘Toytown’ as Tuva calls it, and it’s inhabitants. Some quirky, some odd, most loyal. But in particular, I enjoy this series because of Tuva herself. I love her resilience, loyalty and friendships, in particular with Tam and the young neighbour Dan.

I need to make a determined effort to catch up with this series,I’m sure this will make me appreciate it even more. 

The Hidden Palace by Dinah Jefferies – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

An island of secrets. A runaway. And a promise…

A rebellious daughter
1925. Among the ancient honey-coloured walls of the tiny island of Malta, strangers slip into the shadows and anyone can buy a new name. Rosalie Delacroix flees Paris for a dancer’s job in the bohemian clubs deep in its winding streets.

A sister with a secret
1944. Running from the brutality of war in France, Florence Baudin faces a new life. But her estranged mother makes a desperate request: to find her vanished sister, who went missing years before.

A rift over generations
Betrayals and secrets, lies and silence hang between the sisters. A faded last letter from Rosalie is Florence’s only clue, the war an immovable barrier – and time is running out…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I hadn’t realised when I started this book that it was the second part of a trilogy but I had no problem reading it as a standalone novel. There are references to earlier events but very few of them were relevant to the storyline.

Two separate timelines in three different countries. France in the 1920s, Britain in the 1940s and Malta covering both periods. It was the Maltese storyline that captivated me, I have visited both Valletta and Mdina and could identify many of the places mentioned. But it wasn’t just being familiar with the location it was Rosalie’s story. Her excitement at doing what she loved, the people she met and her guilt and regret at the way she left her family and homeland.

Florence was similar in many ways. Living in Devon, separated from her sisters and a difficult relationship with her mother, Rosalie’s sister. It did take me slightly longer to get to know her, maybe because of the novel I hadn’t read. But as she settled into her new life in Devon and decided to try and find Rosalie I enjoyed her storyline more.

This was a novel that showed the hardship experienced by many towards the latter end of WW2. The fear of bombing was one I had read before, the fear of running out of food wasn’t. The excitement when the war was over but being able to see how difficult it still was after with regards to travel and rebuilding lives. The entertainment offered, some of it innocent, some a little more dubious. It all felt real. 

This was the first book I had read by this author, I will definitely read more.

The Bleeding by Johann Gustawsson – translated by David Warriner – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

1899, Belle Époque Paris. Lucienne’s two daughters are believed dead when her mansion burns to the ground, but she is certain that her girls are still alive and embarks on a journey into the depths of the spiritualist community to find them.

1949, Post-War Québec. Teenager Lina’s father has died in the French Resistance, and as she struggles to fit in at school, her mother introduces her to an elderly woman at the asylum where she works, changing Lina’s life in the darkest way imaginable.

2002, Quebec. A former schoolteacher is accused of brutally stabbing her husband – a famous university professor – to death. Detective Maxine Grant, who has recently lost her own husband and is parenting a teenager and a new baby single-handedly, takes on the investigation.

Under enormous personal pressure, Maxine makes a series of macabre discoveries that link directly to historical cases involving black magic and murder, secret societies and spiritism … and women at breaking point, who will stop at nothing to protect the ones they love…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. This is the fourth book that I have read by this author and each time I have been left lost for words. Many authors use alternating  timelines throughout their novels but with differing levels of success.This novel worked perfectly. Three different timelines, two different countries but the three women who feature are all linked. When the husband of one of them, is murdered the link between them is slowly revealed. 

All three women were struggling to deal with the situation that they were in. In 1899 Lucienne wanted answers and turned to a medium, in 1949 Lina wanted revenge and befriended an elderly lady in a care home,and in 2002 Maxine wanted her loving daughter to lose her teenage anger, clinging to the memories of happy times. She threw herself into work, getting relief from her colleagues Jules and Gina.  Whilst all three captivated me it was Lina I wanted to read about most, she was the one who I had more sympathy for. 

But as I read more I realised I’d been duped. Nothing was as it seemed and I had no idea what would happen. It was a sinister, macabre, slightly confusing at times, book to read and I read it very quickly. I believe that it is the start of a new series, with the ending of this I have no idea what to expect. An absolutely brilliant novel. 

The Rising Tide by Ann Cleeves – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Vera Stanhope, star of ITV’s Vera, returns in the tenth novel in number one bestseller Ann Cleeves’ acclaimed series.

Fifty years ago, a group of teenagers spent a weekend on Holy Island, forging a bond that has lasted a lifetime. Now, they still return every five years to celebrate their friendship, and remember the friend they lost to the rising waters of the causeway at the first reunion.

Now, when one of them is found hanged, Vera is called in. Learning that the dead man had recently been fired after misconduct allegations, Vera knows she must discover what the friends are hiding, and whether the events of many years before could have led to murder then, and now . . .

But with the tide rising, secrets long-hidden are finding their way to the surface, and Vera and the team may find themselves in more danger than they could have believed possible . . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Despite watching most of the televised productions of Vera this is the first book from that series I have read. And despite having a lot of appreciation for the series, in particular Brenda Blethyn, this is the first time that I really felt that I got to know the real Vera. I could see her insecurities, her regrets and her devotion to her team that she wasn’t always capable of showing. I could also see how that affected her team, in particular Holly who often felt unappreciated or ignored. 

You got to meet the small group of friends immediately, school friends who were still in contact 50 years after leaving school and who met every five years on Holy Island. They didn’t  appear to have much in common or, at times, even that much liking for one another. There was resentment about each other’s lives even though they wouldn’t admit it to it.  I felt that their only connection was the guilt over the death of one of their group years ago. Annie featured the most out of all of them and she was the only one who I really had any liking for. She had suffered the biggest loss but had managed to move on and accept the way her life had turned out. 

But it was Vera who captivated me. With this case, she had to dig through fifty years of friendship and rivalry to try and work out if the deaths were connected. These  weren’t people who had only known each other for a brief period of time and  they were now at the time in their lives when they were thinking about retirement or illness. There was little that they could fear from her, apart from awkward questions about the past.

In her personal life, I liked her memories of Hector, her loneliness, her pretence at showing an interest in her colleague’s private lives and her fearful but wry acceptance that she was approaching the end of her career. I have read books previously where the leading detective’s private life was revealed but this portrayal stood out for its honesty. Especially in the closing pages of the novel where is was very easy to see her feelings.

I read this book easily as a standalone novel, I want to know what happens next but I also want to catch up on the earlier books in the series.