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24 November 2017

Review: A Pearl for My Mistress by Annabel Fielding

England, 1934. Hester Blake, an ambitious girl from an industrial Northern town, finds a job as a lady's maid in a small aristocratic household.

Despite their impressive title and glorious past, the Fitzmartins are crumbling under the pressures of the new century. And in the cold isolation of these new surroundings, Hester ends up hopelessly besotted with her young mistress, Lady Lucy.

Accompanying Lucy on her London Season, Hester is plunged into a heady and decadent world. But hushed whispers of another war swirl beneath the capital… and soon, Hester finds herself the keeper of some of society’s most dangerous secrets…

A story of class, scandal and forbidden passions in the shadow of war. Perfect for fans of Iona Grey, Gill Paul and Downtown Abbey.

Source: Review Consideration

5 Words: Love, politics, war, privilege, fear.

This was definitely an unconventional story, and I loved it. I loved the contrast between rich and poor, the power struggles and the fear.

There was something very sumptuous about this book. The descriptions were rich and vivid and brought the world to life as I read.

21 November 2017

Top Ten Tuesday #108

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

This week is Top Ten Books I'm Thankful For

These books have just brought an extra something to my life, they're the ones I reread when I'm down and look at to remember how they make me feel.

  1. Lucas by Kevin Brooks
  2. Possessed by Kate Cann
  3. Darkmere by Helen Maslin
  4. Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick
  5. Fashionistas by Sarra Manning
  6. Pirates! by Celia Rees
  7. Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
  8. Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle
  9. Harry Potter by JK Rowling
  10. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Which books are you thankful for?

15 November 2017

Blog Tour: Christmas at the Candied Apple Café by Katherine Garbera

There’s nothing so magical as Christmas in New York…
Santa is coming to New York!

Snow is falling, excitement is high and the delicious scent of chocolate drifts along Fifth Avenue – the Candied Apple Café is ready for Christmas! And no one is busier than publicist Iona Summerlin. With so much to do, she doesn’t have time to think about men, dating, or the fact her last boyfriend ditched her for her brother… Relationships are off the menu!

Hotel boss Mads Eriksson is not looking forward to the first Christmas since losing his wife. His six-year-old daughter Sofia has lost her belief in Christmas magic along with her mother, and he has no idea what to do. But an unusually festive business meeting at the Candied Apple – and meeting the beautiful Iona – starts to defrost Mads’ frozen heart, and suddenly life seems full of light and sparkle again.

If only they dare to believe, maybe all their Christmas dreams will come true!

Katherine’s Christmas Playlist

For me one of the best parts of Christmas is signing my favorite holiday songs. Some of them are classics and others are new renditions by my favorite artists. Here is my top ten Christmas playlist.
  1. Must be Santa by Bob Dylan
  2. Soul Cake by Sting
  3. Christmastime is Here by the Vince Guaraldi Trio
  4. The Coventry Carol by Alison Moyet
  5. Winter Wonderland by Eurythmics
  6. Do You Hear What I Hear by Whitney Houston
  7. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Rascal Flats
  8. Angels We Have Heard on High by Aretha Franklin
  9. Mary, Did You Know? By Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd
  10. Christmas In Hollis by Run-DMC
But we really love the songs that my kids have grown up singing in the car, like Lou Monte’s Domenick the Donkey, is a very silly song and my kids love it. Lou Monte has a special place in my family’s musical collection. An Italian American singer we listened to his albums when I was growing up and would go to my maternal grandmother’s house on Sunday for a lunch that lasted all day long. So when my kids were little I made a tape with his music on it to share with them.

We also really love Rudolph The Rednosed Reindeer to sing in the car, with all kinds of answer-back made up lyrics and echos. It’s so much fun.

14 November 2017

Top Ten Tuesday #107

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

This week is Ten Books I read as I was growing up

This list Top Ten Books I Want My Future Children to Read, but I don't want kids. So instead I'm taking a trip down memory lane and listing the top ten books that I grew up reading, and a little bit about how they shaped me. They are books I come back to again and again, so many years after I first read them.
  • Lucas by Kevin Brooks
    The injustice, the prejudice, the people who would stand against it all and try to stop it. The hopelessness. This book makes my cry and it makes me think and it makes me rage.
  • The Black Magician Trilogy by Trudi Canavan
    Good and evil isn't always so black and white, and I loved how this series explored that. The fantasy world comes alive on the pages and I could smell the streets of Imardin. As angry as the under-estimating of Sonea made me, it also made me grin like a loon when she proved them all wrong.
  • Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick
    I have learnt so much about early medieval history from Elizabeth Chadwick. It was a period that was barely glanced at when I was in school, so everything I know I have researched myself. Often prompted by this author's books.
  • Junk by Melvin Burgess
    This book is truly a look at a different side of life for most people. It's dark and gritty and challenges your preconceptions. I love the way Gemma leads Tar, how toxic their relationship is, how everything goes to shit and it's everyone's fault in one way or another.
  • Possessed by Kate Cann
    This was probably the first book I read where the main character was not only working class, but a person of colour. I loved the story, how Rayne's past shaped her and how she rallied against what people thought her future would be. I loved the tensions and how rich vs poor played out against a haunted castle and dark magic.
  • Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
    I was pretty late coming to this book. Despite it being a children's book and one I would have loved as a child, it wasn't until my early teens that I picked it up. And I still loved it and read it every Christmas and whenever I'm ill. There's something so soothing about these girl-power orphans.
  • Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
    I think there is a lot of universal love for this series. For me it was the power and strength of friendship that I loved, how those strong bonds of friendship created unbreakable loyalty. Yup, I'm a  Hufflepuff through and through.
  • Pirates! by Celia Rees
    There was something about this  piratical tale of loyalty and power that had me hooked. I fell in love with Nancy and Minerva, and learnt a lot in the process about the family you are born with and the family you create with friends.
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
    I absolutely adore this book. When it was first put into my hands by my high school librarian I didn't think I would enjoy it, but I've now read it so many times I can quote passages from memory.
  • The Water Horse by Dick King-SmithWhen I was in primary school, I would read this book again and again. I had it out of the school library so much that I doubt anyone else had a chance to read it. Me hiding it behind a shelf when it wasn't on my ticket probably helped with that too.

Which books shaped you?

12 November 2017

Blog Tour: The Cosy Christmas Chocolate Shop by Caroline Roberts

Emma is the proud owner of The Chocolate Shop by the Sea, nestled in the heart of the cosy seaside village that’s become her home. With Christmas right around the corner, she and her assistant Holly are busy cooking up the locals’ festive favourites.

From cinnamon hot chocolates to reindeer lollipops, Christmas wouldn’t taste the same without a little cocoa magic. And for Emma it’s the perfect distraction from her romantic pains of the past. So when the shop’s miserly landlord threatens to hike up the rent, Emma’s Christmas and New Year suddenly look a lot less cheerful.

With the whole village rallying behind her – and loyal spaniel Alfie by her side – Emma’s determined to hold onto her chocolate-box dream.

The chocolate calendar countdown is on. Can Emma rescue her business and her broken heart?

We all know I love books, but there is a special place in my heart for local authors. So when I found out that Caroline Roberts had another book out I squeaked with excitement and jumped at the chance to get in there with a mini-Q&A. I have previously had the lovely author on to talk about castles, something we have in abundance in Northumberland, and you can read that post here.

But here are three wee questions to get to know the author, and her new book The Cosy Christmas Chocolate Shop, a little better.

Q&A with Caroline Roberts

We know Alfie is inspired by your own lovely dog! Could you tell us a little bit about him?

It’s a she, called Meg. She’s a brown cocker spaniel and has been a best friend for years. She has walked a lot of Northumberland with me, even doing the training for my marathon Moonwalk, through the landscapes that inspire my books. We’ve often gone out on research missions together to get more details on locations such as Bamburgh Beach for My Summer and we did the coastal walk to Craster for The Cosy Christmas Chocolate Shop. She can’t walk so far now though, bless her, as she’s getting rather old at 15 and is a bit blind and deaf.

Without giving too much away, the novel is also about grief and loss. Could you tell us a bit about why that’s something which is important to you?

I think the love stories in my novels need roots in real issues, and real-life relationships can be complex. I wanted Emma to have had a difficult past and to explore how that might impact on her relationships in the future. I think it also defines a lot of her characteristics. I did some research on this type of grief, and it was so interesting and heart-wrenching to learn about.

Why do you think gorgeous seaside towns like your fictional Warkton-by-the-Sea appeal to readers so much? What is it about them that allows us to escape?

There are such beautiful locations in Northumberland. You can imagine escaping to the settings in my books as they are quite idyllic. Warkton-by-the-Sea is a mash-up of Craster harbour with the main street of Warkworth with its pretty stone cottages. The harbours, sandy bays, dunes, castles, and the colours of sea and sky come across vividly as I know and love the area so much. I think another factor is that they are also small villages with close communities that feel warm and supportive, somewhere you’d like to go and stay or to live.