Chris Paling – Reading Allowed: True Stories and Curious Incidents from a Provincial Library

release-date2nd February 2017


51fooUYEWBLChris works as a librarian in a small-town library in the south of England. This is the story of the library, its staff, and the fascinating group of people who use the library on a regular basis.

We’ll meet characters like the street-sleepers Brewer, Wolf and Spencer, who are always the first through the doors. The Mad Hatter, an elderly man who scurries around manically, searching for books. Sons of Anarchy Alan, a young Down’s Syndrome man addicted to the American TV drama series. Startled Stewart, a gay man with a spray-on tan who pops in most days for a nice chat, sharking for good-looking foreign language students. And Trish, who is relentlessly cheerful and always dressed in pink – she has never married, but the marital status of everybody she meets is of huge interest to her.

Some of the characters’ stories are tragic, some are amusing, some are genuinely surreal, but together they will paint a bigger picture of the world we live in today, and of a library’s hugely important place within it. Yes, of course, people come in to borrow books, but the library is also the equivalent of the village pump. It’s one of the few places left where anyone, regardless of age or income or background, can wander in and find somebody to listen to their concerns, to share the time of day.

Reading Allowed will provide us with a fascinating portrait of a place that we all value and cherish, but which few of us truly know very much about …


review-3I work in a library, and I’ve always said that if all the library staff wrote their memoirs of their working day it would be a best-seller! This may not be a best-seller….yet but it’s definitely worth a read.

A few weeks back I saw there being a flurry of activity with this book coming in and going out. Curiosity got the better of me, and I looked more closely and found that a large number of library staff I work with had either read this book or had it on reserve. So, not one to be left out, I put my name down! Now books like this, for a library person, are great. I went through so many parts of the book going ‘yep, we do that’, ‘yep, that’s happened to me’ and ‘yep, that’s exactly what I’m like. Notable examples are spotting particular library regulars and finding yourself some very important work to do as far away from the desk as possible so you don’t have to deal with them and getting sidetracked by the books you are supposed to be shelving and find yourself propping up the shelves while you flick through a book!

One of the good things about this book is that it is set in the UK. Also I was very envious about the set up that this library has, especially the facilities team who deal with problem library visitors (yes we do get them!), blocked toilets (you have no idea what people shove down our library toilet) and vomitting children. We have to ourselves ‘evict’ our own problem customers, unblock our own toilets (and mop up the subsquent mess) and clean up after poorly children. This library worker in the book obviously has no clue about working in a proper library!!!

A good book, particularly if you are in this line of work, easily relatable and amusing in parts

Buy it here!

4stars


about-the-authorThis is Chris Paling’s first work of non-fiction. Chris’s fiction has been praised by Nick Hornby, Jonathan Coe, Giles Foden, Liz Jensen, Shena Mackay and many others. Chris also writes for the weekend papers and is a regular contributor to the Sunday Telegraph Travel section – and he has recently embarked on playwriting.

His broadcasting career spans radio and television. An acclaimed radio documentary maker, he co-conceived The Village, credited as the first ‘real-life’ soap. Set in the Hampshire village of Bentley, The Village ran for over 100 episodes on Radio 4 before transferring to television. A further hundred or so episodes were then broadcast on ITV and sold around Europe. The format was developed by the presenter Nigel Farrell into An Island Parish, which still scores highly on BBC 2. For the final 11 years of Chris’s Radio 4 career he produced Midweek with Libby Purves.

Lesley Pearse – The Woman in the Wood

release-date29th June 2017


51p+eZNuufL._SY346_Fifteen-year-old twins Maisy and Duncan Mitcham have always had each other. Until the fateful day in the wood . . .

One night in 1960, the twins awake to find their father pulling their screaming mother from the house. She is to be committed to an asylum. It is, so their father insists, for her own good.

It’s not long before they, too, are removed from their London home and sent to Nightingales – a large house deep in the New Forest countryside – to be watched over by their cold-hearted grandmother, Mrs Mitcham. Though they feel abandoned and unloved, at least here they have something they never had before – freedom.

The twins are left to their own devices, to explore, find new friends and first romances. That is until the day that Duncan doesn’t come back for dinner. Nor does he return the next day. Or the one after that.

When the bodies of other young boys are discovered in the surrounding area the police appear to give up hope of finding Duncan alive. With Mrs Mitcham showing little interest in her grandson’s disappearance, it is up to Maisy to discover the truth. And she knows just where to start. The woman who lives alone in the wood about whom so many rumours abound. A woman named Grace Deville.


review-3Thank you to netgalley and the publishers for this review copy.

15 year old Maisie and her twin brother, Duncan, are sent to live with their grandmother following the admission of their mother to a psychiatric hospital one night in 1960.  They quickly settle to life in the country, finding themselves allowed much more freedom to explore.  They hear tales of The Woman in the Wood, Grace Deville – a mysterious woman whom local people avoid.  When they find themselves near her home, Grace threatens them never to come back.  One day, Duncan doesn’t return home…..

Was so excited to be approved for this book, I love Lesley Pearse!!  I have read so many of her previous books and it seems that she can write just about any story in any timeline, with this one being set in the sixties.  The story begins well with Maisie and Duncan’s mother being taken in the dead of night to an asylum.  She appears to have some sort of mental illness, but in the years that this book is set it is obvious how people with mental health problems were treated and view compared to today.  Maisie and Duncan were never allowed to see her and were sent, by their father, to live with their paternal grandmother.  They weren’t keen to go but once there realised that grandmother didn’t really want anything much to do with them and they were left to their own devices, with much more freedom being in the countryside than living in London.  As weeks turn in months, Maisie and Duncan begin to distance themselves from each other, with both finding new and different friends.  One night, Duncan doesn’t return home.  Nobody has seen him or know where he might be.  There are rumours that the Woman in the Wood, Grace Deville, is a bad lady and people start to look in her direction, thinking that perhaps she may have done something bad to Duncan.  Duncan’s grandmother believes that he has simply run away, but Maisie can feel that something bad has happened to him.  One day a body is found….is is Duncan?

This was a mix between a crime story and a family saga!  The story gets you from the beginning and keeps you going on a rollercoaster of emotions.  Lesley is a great storyteller and you don’t want the story to end!  A chilling mystery with great characters!  Well recommended – five stars!

Buy it here!

5stars


about-the-authorLesley Pearse’s novels have sold over seven million copies in the UK alone. Her twelve most recent books, including The Belle Trilogy, Dead to Me, Stolen, Without a Trace, Remember Me, Trust Me and Never Look Back, have all been huge bestsellers and are available as Penguin paperbacks. Lesley lives by the sea in Devon now, has three daughters and two grandsons and two granddaughters and a King Charles Cavalier called Stan.

MJ Arlidge – Love Me Not

release-date18th May 2017


51iOvTVzO4LShe Loves Me
A woman’s body lies in the road. At first it looks like a tragic accident. But when Helen Grace arrives on the scene it’s clear she’s looking at a coldblooded killing. But why would anyone target a much-loved wife and mother?

She Loves Me Not
Across town, a shopkeeper is killed while his customers are left unharmed. But what lies behind the killer’s choices?

She Loves Me
Who lives? Who dies? Who’s next? The clock is ticking.

She Loves Me Not
If Helen can’t solve this deadly puzzle then more blood will be shed. But any mistake and it might be her own …


review-3This is book number 7 in the Helen Grace series. Whilst it can be read as a standalone book, it does make sense for continuity of the story to read the series in order.

Helen comes across a body in the road on her way to work one morning. What appears to be a car-jacking gone wrong turns into a killer on the loose. Someone is going round with a sawn off shotgun and shooting people dead at point blank range. Why and who is doing this? It’s down to Helen, freshly released from prison, and her team to work this out and fast!

So excited for this book. I love Helen Grace and it was great to catch up with her again. This book is set over 24 hours in real time. You get to find out who is doing the killing quite early on in the story, but you don’t find out why until much later. It’s great to have Helen back where she belongs, leading her team and on more than one occasion straddling her big motorcycle in favour of a police pool car! Helen does have a few demons to put to rest though, the big one being having to work with DS Joanne Sanderson who was convinced of Helen’s guilt in the previous book.

The story focuses on a ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ storyline – two young people on a killing spree, but for what reason? The story is fast paced, with short chapters which kept the interest going page after page. There are so many murders, and some of the descriptions are a bit gruesome, but you just keep ploughing through to get to the end to find out how the hell Grace and her team are going to stop this pair.

This story is on a par with the classic fast paced American crime writers such as James Patterson….actually, this story and this whole series is much better! Set in the UK, it’s in places that are recognisable with people you feel like you know. Give me Helen Grace over Alex Cross any day!!

Five stars!

Buy it here!

5stars

Georgia Hill – Summer Loves (Millie Vanilla’s Cupcake Cafe #2)

release-date

2nd June 2017


51dQPsW5u2L

review-3

Thank you to netgalley and the publishers for this review copy.

This is the second instalment of Millie Vanilla’s Cupcake Café series.  This series is best read in order to understand the story properly.  We are back in Berescombe and back with Millie and her Cupcake Café.  We are introduced to new characters, mainly Dora and Mike.  Dora is a successful Berescombe actress who has made her name as a soap star in the States.  Unfortunately, her series has been cancelled and she returns home for a while and gets persuaded to star in Berescombe’s own theatre performance directed by her first love – the aptly named Mikey Love.

I loved the first book, and felt that it was left on a bit of cliff-hanger between Millie and Jed.  I was excited to receive this book and couldn’t wait to get stuck back into the ‘will they-won’t they’ storyline.  I felt this instalment look a little longer to get into than what the first book did.  It focussed more on Millie’s actress friend Dora and felt that you didn’t really get back on to the Millie/Jed storyline until well into the book. 

I did enjoy this book, but not as much as the first one.  It felt, for me, that there was just too much Dora/Mike and not enough Millie/Jed.  There was also not enough Cupcake Café!!  In the first book, the setting of the café on the seafront was just as enticing as the romance building between Millie and Jed, but a lot of this book was based in the theatre, which wasn’t as exciting for me!!  But, as before, the story is left on cliff-hanger and I can’t wait for the next and final instalment in Millie’s life!!  I’m sure I will love the final part and it will wrap everything up nicely!!

4stars

Buy it here!


about-the-authorGeorgia Hill writes rom-coms and historical fiction and is published by Harper Impulse, the digital-first imprint of Harper Collins.

Her first novel, Pursued by Love has now been re-released as Pride and Perdita.

She lives near the sea with her two beloved spaniels, a husband (also beloved) and a ghost called Zoe. She loves the novels of Jane Austen, eats far too much Belgian chocolate and has a passion for Strictly Come Dancing.

Find her on Twitter @georgiawrites and at http://www.georgiahill.co.uk

Major Colin Burgess – Behind Palace Doors: My True Adventures as the Queen Mother’s Equerry

release-date1st August 2007


511UV8R-5zL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_She was described as the most dangerous woman in Europe by Adolf Hitler; Noel Coward said people who spent any time with her were always reduced to ‘gibbering worshippers’; she adored Margaret Thatcher and disliked Germans; she found the French comical and hankered for the old days of Empire and Commonwealth. Above all, though, she was loved by the nation and in this affectionate and often hilarious inside story of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, her former equerry Major Colin Burgess reveals what life was like living with the most private of all the Royals. “Behind Palace Doors” is a unique and warmly remembered historic insight into one of our longest-surviving institutions. Constantly fascinating and packed with previously untold stories, this is also a celebration of a life gone – and a way of life fast disappearing.


review-3I’d seen this book coming in and out a few times at the library where I worked. I figured it was a fairly new release so reserved it for myself, but when I received it realised it had in fact been out for several years now. Considering that, it was still being requested and there was a queue of reservations waiting for me to return it showing its popularity.

I also assumed Major. Colin Burgess was an oldish gentleman, as many of these types of books are written by people who have been in service for many years. Wrong again! At the time of his service, Major Burgess was an young man and in the Irish Guards, where the majority of the Queen Mother’s equerries came from. The length of service was for only 2 years, and one is “invited” to come to interview, you don’t choose to apply!

The result was 2 years service to one of the most formidable women this country has seen. Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother was a very private person but this book shares a small snapshot of the kind of woman she was in private. Her sense of humour was obviously very dry, and Major Burgess shares plenty of anecdotes of his time spent with her.

I love books about the Royal Family, and I loved this one so much! Fabulous!! Five stars!

5stars

Buy it here!

about-the-authorMAJOR COLIN BURGESS was commissioned into the Irish Guards in 1987. After completing the Army Pilots course in 1990, he worked as a helicopter pilot serving in operations in Northern Ireland and Central America. Between 1994 and 1996 he worked as equerry to the Queen Mother and was made a Member of the Victorian Order by the Queen at an investiture at Buckingham Palace. Since leaving active service, Colin has worked in television production and management, managing the UK division of Wingspan Air and Space Channel (subsequently becoming part of Discovery’s aviation and space channel Wings), and producing over 87 broadcast documentaries.

Tom Bale – Each Little Lie

release-date29th June 2017


51Bmv6+2tHLSingle mother Jen Cornish is just trying to hold things together for the sake of her seven-year-old son Charlie. Until the day when she does an impulsive good deed to help a neighbour, setting off a terrifying chain of events that quickly spirals out of control…

When she is arrested for a crime she didn’t commit, Jen quickly starts to wonder if someone is playing a cruel game with her – or is she losing her mind?

Desperate to clear her name with the police, she must first untangle a chilling web of lies. But someone is watching her every move – and it isn’t just Jen who is in danger.

They’re watching her child as well.


review-3Thank you to Netgalley and the Publishers for this review copy.

One day, Jen Cornish does a good deed. She sees a neighbour has dropped his keys in his garden. She tries to catch up with him to let him know, but he has gone. She decides to leave him a note on his door to say she has them, but she’s late for work and she doesn’t have a pen. She makes a hasty decision to go into his house and look for a pen and paper. While in there, she notices a collection of expensive artwork which she admires before leaving the house, taping the note to his door. Later that day, the police turn up at her door arresting her for a crime she didn’t commit.

I chose to read this one as I have previously read another of Tom Bale’s books (See How They Run) which I really enjoyed. Whilst I enjoyed this one, I have to admit that it wasn’t as good as the previous one. The story began promising, Jen doing something which could happen to any of us – a neighbour dropping a set of keys. When she then decided to use those keys to go into his house (for a perfectly innocent reason) had me shouting Nooooo!! At the time, there was no reason to suggest there was anything untoward about the situation, but even so, you just wouldn’t have gone into someone’s house – push the keys back through the letterbox, come back later with them, hand them in to the police station….but not go into their house to look for a pen!! Even so, I still didn’t think at this point the story was going to carry on as it did. I didn’t expect Jen to be arrested, and certainly didn’t expect it to begin to look like she was being set up.

As the story moves on, it begins to become clear who is trying to set her up. I won’t spoil the plot by going any further here, but to be honest I did start to get confused by it all about half way through. There seemed to be a lot of people involved in the story, and I found it hard to remember who was who! The story, thankfully, picked up again towards the end, and I quite enjoyed it. I would have liked maybe a bit more story explaining what happened after (you’ll understand when you read it) as it felt a bit rushed. Moral of this story….don‘t trust anyone!!

Four Stars!

4stars

Buy it here!


about-the-authorTom Bale is the author of eight books, including the bestsellers SEE HOW THEY RUN and ALL FALL DOWN. He has been writing since the age of seven, and completed his first novel at fifteen. After twenty years and hundreds of rejection slips, his first novel SINS OF THE FATHER was published under his real name, David Harrison. With his next book, SKIN AND BONES, he acquired an agent, a pseudonym and a book deal that enabled him to write full time. He lives in Brighton with his family. Visit his website at http://www.tombale.net, follow him on Facebook, or on Twitter: @t0mbale (zero instead of “o”).

Ali McNamara – The Summer of Serendipity

release-date13th July 2017


518nO01z0xLOne summer, property seeker, Serendipity Parker finds herself on the beautiful west coast of Ireland, hunting for a home for a wealthy Irish client. But when she finds the perfect house in the small town of Ballykiltara, there’s a problem; nobody seems to know who owns it.

‘The Welcome House’ is a local legend. Its front door is always open for those in need of shelter, and there’s always a plentiful supply of food in the cupboards for the hungry or poor.

While Ren desperately tries to find the owner to see if she can negotiate a sale, she begins to delve deeper into the history and legends that surround the old house and the town. But for a woman who has always been focussed on her work, she’s remarkably distracted by Finn, the attractive manager of the local hotel.  But will she ever discover the real truth behind the mysterious ‘Welcome House’? Or will the house cast its magical spell over Ren and help her to find true happiness?


review-3Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for this review copy.

Serendipity Parker is a property seeker, seeking out her clients dream home. Whilst looking for her latest property, she finds herself in Ireland with her assistant Kiki. In the small town of Ballykiltara, she finds the ideal property, known locally as The Welcome House. Wanting to put her negotiation skills into use she begins to try and track down the owner to see if they could be persuaded to sell. The only problem is none of the locals seems to know who the house belongs to, but they do tell her the house has been a local legend for hundreds of years – its door is always open for those in need of shelter and there is always a supply of food in for the hungry or poor. Whilst trying to ignore the local myths and legends, Ren sets about on a mission to find out the true story behind The Welcome House but she finds herself being distracted by Finn, the mysterious manager of the hotel she is staying in. Can she find out the truth about The Welcome House?

What a wonderful magical story! I have read Ali McNamara books before, so knew this wasn’t going to be your usual chick-lit romance story. As usual, Ali has added a dash of mystery and magic to a story packed with love, friendship, myths, legends and good old Irish charm. The setting sounds beautiful and all the characters are so likeable. Whilst you can to some degree guess the ending, it is done so differently (you’ll understand what I mean when you read it). I love how the mystery and magic make it so different to all the other books out there. Fabulous read!

5 Stars!

5stars

Buy it here!


about-the-authorAli McNamara is a writer and author of eight novels.

The latest of which, The Summer of Serendipity, will be published in July 2017.

Her debut, From Notting Hill with Love…Actually, the first of three ‘Notting Hill’ books, became an instant bestseller.

Ali has had much overseas success with her books – particularly Breakfast at Darcy’s which was a Top Ten bestseller in Italy. Her novels Step Back in Time and Letters from Lighthouse Cottage were nominated for the Romantic Novel of the Year.

Ali lives in Cambridgeshire with her family and her beloved Labrador dogs. When she isn’t writing, she likes to travel, read and people watch, more often than not accompanied by a good cup of coffee!
Her dogs, and a love of exercise keep her sane!

To find out more about Ali visit her website: http://www.alimcnamara.co.uk
or follow her on Twitter: @AliMcNamara & Facebook too.