#BookReview by Lou of A Beautiful Spy By Rachel Hore @Rachelhore @simonschusterUK @rararesources #SpyFiction #CrimeFiction #HistoricalFiction

A Beautiful Spy
By Rachel Hore

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It gives me pleasure to announce that I am closing the blog tour for A Beautiful Spy By Rachel Hore. It shows the perilous and dark corners of the world in a mysterious and intense fashion. Thanks to Simon and Schuster for providing a print copy of the book and for Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to the blog tour. Find out more about the author and her book, as well as the rest of my thoughts in the review…

A Beautiful Spy

About the Author

Rachel Hore author photoRachel Hore worked in London publishing for many years before moving with her family to Norwich, where she taught publishing and creative writing at the University of East Anglia until deciding to become a full-time writer. She is the Sunday Times (London) bestselling author of ten novels, including The Love Child. She is married to the writer D.J. Taylor and they have three sons. 

Blurb

A Beautiful SpyMinnie Gray is an ordinary young woman. She is also a spy for the British government.

It all began in the summer of 1928…

Minnie is supposed to find a nice man, get married and have children. The problem is it doesn’t appeal to her at all. She is working as a secretary, but longs to make a difference.

Then, one day, she gets her chance. She is recruited by the British government as a spy. Under strict instructions not to tell anyone, not even her family, she moves to London and begins her mission – to infiltrate the Communist movement.

Review

Minnie Gray is the main protagonist, with the book predominantely sweeping through the 1930’s, but also hitting on more modern times every so often. In 1928, Minnie wants more for her life and she certainly isn’t into meeting the Chamberlains, even though they were increasingly making their mark in the House of Commons. Life moves swiftly on from that time and readers learn about Minnie and her upbringing. What she hadn’t initially realised was that her connections then were to change the course of her life. Through her connections, she certainly becomes far removed from being a dutiful and stay at home wife. She has the opportunity to be a government spy, with the remit to spy on Communist Russia and to delve deeper into UK supporters of the regime.

There’s a bit of glamour that’s in the backdrop of a deeper, darker world and has her eyes opened wide to what the propaganda really means and where meetings take place in places where no one would normally suspect anything untoward could possibly happen.

The book shows how dangerous some politics are, especially by those with no alliegence to a country. It also sets out how people are taken in by clever propaganda. There are comparison’s that can be made into the book that can be made today and not only just with Russia, but with anywhere that has a more nationalist party. Although the book is set in the past and is about the dark, dangerous, yet exciting world for a fictional protagonist, there are some lines here and there that can be linked to certain aspects of today’s world and also the world of so-called unlikely leaders being voted into power. The book doesn’t delve too much into the roads of Communism, as Communism, as readers will know, doesn’t start there, there are other books that demonstrate this, this shows more when Communism has already got its grip.

The book is a slow suspense, but none-the-less gripping, especially for those readers who find the life of a spy and keeping identities hidden, fascinating. This book is a bit different from some spy fiction in that it doesn’t totally glamourise it and can show what an anxiety inducing life it can be and how challenging it can be, and yet change a person a bit, as demonstrated in the tastes of books Minnie used to like, compared to her tastes since becoming a spy as her worldly view has changed. The book isn’t all blazing guns and gadgets either. There is however, intelligence and a life of characters that seems plausible, and there is the wrangling of Minnie and a glimmer of desire to be set free by MI5 to lead a life outside spying, but she has proven herself well and to be valuable and stays, but things get ever more dangerous…. until a point when, finally, readers will be able to breath again, as can the woman, who led a double life.

Time moves forwards to the 1940’s and Minnie’s life has changed again, as does the pace and tone, but some histories in life can’t totally be erased and nor can the residue, certain parts of life leave behind…

This is, overall, a fascinating and intense book that leaves you wondering what next for this “Beautiful Spy”, at each turn…

Social Media Links

Visit her at RachelHore.co.uk and connect with her on Twitter @RachelHore.

 

#BookReview by Lou – The Bookshop of Second Chances By Jackie Fraser @muninnherself #TeamBATC @simonschusteruk #RomanticFiction

The Bookshop of Second Chances
By Jackie Fraser

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Charming, uplifting, but without life’s complications in a Scottish town – The Bookshop of Second Chances is one you won’t want to miss! Thanks to Team Books And The City – part of Simon and Schuster for inviting me to the blog tour to review and for gifting me a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review. Please find more about the book in the blurb and the rest of my review below, as well as some buy links. Please note, I am not affiliated to anything.

The Book of Second Chances 2           The Book of Second Chances

Blurb

The Book of Second Chances 3Set in a charming little Scottish town, The Bookshop of Second Chances is the most uplifting story you’ll read this year!

 

Shortlisted for the RNA Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel Award 2021.

Thea’s having a bad month. Not only has she been made redundant, she’s also discovered her husband of nearly twenty years is sleeping with one of her friends. And he’s not sorry – he’s leaving.

Bewildered and lost, Thea doesn’t know what to do. But, when she learns the great-uncle she barely knew has died and left her his huge collection of second-hand books and a house in the Scottish Lowlands, she seems to have been offered a second chance.

Running away to a little town where no one knows her seems like exactly what Thea needs. But when she meets the aristocratic Maltravers brothers – grumpy bookshop owner Edward and his estranged brother Charles, Lord Hollinshaw – her new life quickly becomes just as complicated as the life she was running from…

An enchanting story of Scottish lords, second-hand books, new beginnings and second chances perfect for fans of Cressida McLaughlin, Veronica Henry, Rachael Lucas and Jenny Colgan.

The Book of Second Chances starts on Valentine’s Day. The day for lovers and shed loads of romance, but it is the exact opposite for Thea. She’s not got a lover anymore and needs to work out what furnture she wants and to top it all off, she’s also just lost her job. Just the year before, her Great Uncle Andrew died in Scotland. She’s pretty restrained, perhaps too nice, after all that, but then she also has her interests to protect too. You get a feel for her character and how she deals with things.

When a surprise letter is found from a solicitor, Thea’s life dramatically changes. It ups a lot of gears and suddenly she finds herself travelling to Scotland to a huge estate she has inherited, including a lodge and an array of precious first edition books. Jackie has created a history of the lodge, as though this was a true story and has made it feel like it is real and been around for centuries. It feels authentic as a result of her research and/or knowledge. It sounds amazing and many people would jump at the chance of staying, but Thea’s recent past holds her back initially as she considers selling it.

Readers, along with Thea then start to meet the locals, like Jilly and Cerys and get an impression of the surrounding areas.

This is also great for librarians who will appreciate the mention of The Dewey System and shudder at even the mere thought of repairing a book with sellotape. The chat about social media also seems so familiar too. There are lovely snippits of book and music as well.

The bookshop is absolutely wonderful, but all isn’t well with Charles and Edward there with a longstanding feud, with a dark and brooding atmosphere, as Thea discovers and ends up being caught up in. Life then becomes rather complicated for Thea in ways she wasn’t expecting, since she is trying to work out how to leave the complex life behind. Thea, however shows she is pretty reslient most of the time, which works really well for her characterisation. She has her principals, but there’s always that bit of a tug between going home to Sussex or staying in Scotland and making an area there her home. There is also the unescapable fact that there is romance brewing and that bookshop really providing a second chance at life, but you’ll need to read to find out all the nuances and if Thea really thinks this is so and will work well for her or not. It’s not a straight-cut decision to make, which brings some realism in this otherwise relaxing read.

The Bookshop of Second Chances is overall a warm, cosy delightful read that is highly enjoyable.

Buy Links

Waterstones       Bookshop.org     Amazon

#BookReview by Lou Home by Penny Parkes @CotswoldPenny @simonschusterUK @TeamBATC #Home #Fiction #ContemporaryFiction

Home
By Penny Parkes

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Home is engrossing and warm as well as intriguing as you open each door in different parts of the country as you travel with Anna as she does her job and meet different people who own the homes in this intriguing, warm,’Must Read’ book that you may have to take with you through every door you go through as it’s so compelling to read.
Find out more in the blurb and more of my thoughts in my review and then a bit about the author.
Firstly, thanks to Books and the City – Simon and Schuster publishers for inviting me to review for the blog tour and for gifting me with the book that has many doors – Home. The book was published 8th July and is her 5th book. It is a standalone.

Home Cover Pic

Blurb

‘Moving, hopeful and heartfelt… an ideal book group read’ AJ Pearce (who wrote Dear Mrs Bird, Yours Cheerfully)

A gripping and heartfelt story about overcoming the past and finding where you belong.

Anna Wilson travels the world as a professional housesitter – stepping into other people’s lives – caring for their homes, pets and sometimes even neighbours. Living vicariously.

But all Anna has ever really wanted is a home of her own – a proper one, filled with family and love and happy memories. If only she knew where to start.

Growing up in foster care, she always envied her friends their secure and carefree lives, their certainty and confidence. And, while those same friends may have become her family of choice, Anna is still stuck in that nomadic cycle, looking for answers, trying to find the courage to put down roots and find a place to call home.

Compelling, rich and evocative, Home is Anna’s journey to discovering that it isn’t where you settle down that matters, but the people you have around you when you do. 
Home Cover Pic

Review

What an invitation to open every door just by opening a book. Who could resist to see who lives behind each one and where in the country these lovely doors are located.

The book takes readers to different parts of the country on a journey, which means arriving, stopping for a bit before moving on and meeting more and more new people. It adds to the excitement and intrigue of this book, which is all very interesting. It also shows a certain way of life and the trade-offs, the need for self-protection, a certain strenght and resilience as well as maturity and more in Anna’s character makeup.

Live life in 2019 in: Oxford, Dittisham, Bath, London, Chipping Norton
Have a past between 1998 and 2019 in: Swindon, Coventry, Oxford

The book begins in 2019 in Oxford she then moves onto Dittisham and then Bath. Some owners she meets, others she doesn’t. The properties often sound wonderful and the people she does meet, colourful and full of life. Anna is in-fact a house-sitter and also has another dream job she is meant to be working on.
Housesittin sounds an amazing responsibility and wonderful job and one I didn’t know existed. I am now thinking of exchanging my job to be a house-sitter, this book makes it sound so interesting. 

The book shows that housesitting isn’t a walk in the park, with not only the house to keep safe and clean, but also sometimes pets and the comings and goings of other people and the rules that are left to follow to the letter.

Anna and her friend Kate are also into books in a big way and have a sense of joviality about them as well as the seriousness of life and how not even friendships are easy . They are terrifically conceived characters, who  have a certain pull and you want to get to know. What’s also great are these characters try not to take anything for granted, including their lives, the scenery, the architecture, they just take it all in and are continually awe-inspired

The book also goes back to Anna’s childhood and the social workers she had as part of her care package and what a hotchpotch of people she had. It also shows her growing up, so as much as lots of the book is set in 2019, this gives an interesting back-story. She also, in this time meets her dad, so you get to know him a bit and what happened that she was in care and in university. All in all it is nice to see her life to progress to where she is now, in 2019. It’s also interesting to see why she is how she is.

All that travelling and meeting new characters kept me absolutely engrossed! It is easy to say that I highly recommend this book.

About the Author

Penny Parkes survived a convent education largely thanks to a ready supply of inappropriate novels and her passion for writing and languages.
She studied International Management in Bath and Germany, before gaining experience with the BBC. She then set up an independent film location agency and spent many happy years organising shoots for film, television and advertising – thereby ensuring that she was never short of travel opportunities, freelance writing projects or entertaining anecdotes.
Penny now lives in the Cotswolds with her husband, two children and an excitable dog with a fondness for Post-its.
She will often be found plotting epic train journeys through the Alps, baking gluten-free goodies or attempting to reach an elusive state of organisation.
In 2017, Penny won the RNA Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year Award. This is her fifth novel.
Follow Penny on Twitter and Instagram: @CotswoldPenny

Home Blog Tour graphic

#BookReview of A Taste of Home By Heidi Swain @Heidi_Swain @harriett_col @simonschusteruk @TeamBATC #Fiction #Wynbridge

A Taste of Home
By Heidi Swain

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Today I am delighted to be on the blog tour for the delicious – A Taste of Home, the latest book by Heidi Swain. It’s a wonderful summer read down on the farm in Wynbridge.  Check out the blurb and review.

Available Now

A Taste of Home cover

Blurb

The delicious new novel from Sunday Times bestseller Heidi Swain:

Fliss Brown has grown up living with her mother on the Rossi family’s Italian fruit farm. But when her mother dies, Fliss finds out she has a family of her own, and heads back to England with Nonna Rossi’s recipe for cherry and almond tart and a piece of advice: connect with your family before it is too late…

Fliss discovers that her estranged grandfather owns a fruit farm himself, on the outskirts of Wynbridge, and she arrives to find a farm that has fallen into disrepair. Using her knowledge gleaned from working on the Rossi farm and her desire to find out more about her past, Fliss rolls her sleeves up and gets stuck in. But what will she discover, and can she resurrect the farm’s glory days and find a taste of home…?

Review

wp-1620377891927.jpgBeautifully written from the start, begins at a funeral in Italy. Through a short series of lovely composed letters by her mum, Fliss starts to learn a bit about Fenview Farm in Wynbridge and the significance.
There’s an air of excitement and intrigue to know more and to see how the next chapter in her life can begin. The book links past and present, exquisitely as Fliss goes on a journey of discovery. It sounds whimsical, but steers away from this. All isn’t completely well when she is in Wynbridge, starting with her grandfather, who she needs to connect with, but he is in a state of ill-health and until now, doesn’t know of her existance and the farm that is in desperate need of attention. The farm also bridges her Italian life and life in England as farms in both countries link as she draws upon her experiences for Fenview. Food is plays quite a significant part in this, from the fruit in the orchard to delights like cherry and almond tart.

Fliss also ends up acquainted to Eliot and Louise Randall, who her mother had written to and has to take her to the farm, where her mother had grown up.

There is a cosyness as life bumbles along and sparks of romance start to ignite. There is much flirtation and the subtleness is beautiful.
A Taste of Home has a feel-good atmosphere, that wraps around the challenges of life, a bit like a hug. There’s also the comfort of food here and there, so perhaps graze as you read or don’t read when feeling ravenous. There is a lovely tart and exquisite fruit to be found within the pages. Between that and the romance, it is sure to set people up for summer. It has a soft warmth in the middle of its complex, harder times. It’s easy to imagine it to be like the fruit tart within the book with harder edges and soft middle.

I thank Harriett Collins at Simon & Schuster publishers for gifting me the book, a packet of strawberry seeds, recipe and sweets. Please note, my review is purely based on the book and not been influenced by anything.

About the Author


Heidi Swain is the Sunday Times bestselling author of twelve novels. Heidi lives in beautiful
south Norfolk with her family and a mischievous cat called Storm. She is passionate about
gardening, the countryside, collecting vintage paraphernalia and reading.
To find out more, follow Heidi on twitter @Heidi_Swain
or visit her website: www.heidiswain.co.uk

 

#Review by Lou Happy Paperback Publication Day for The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor 5* @matson_taylor_ @ScribnerBooks @SimonSchuster #TheMiseducationOfEvieEpworth #Fiction

The Miseducation of Evie Epworth
By Matson Taylor
Rated: 5 stars *****

Written by Louise Cannon (Lou) – A reblog of my review for the Paperback Publication Day today.

Today I am delighted and excited to present to you my review of the heartwarming and funniest book I’ve read in ages – The Miseducation of Evie Epworth. It’s a book I highly recommend. Find out more about the author, the book and my review below.

About the Author

Matson Taylor Author PicMatson Taylor grew up in Yorkshire but now lives in London. He is a design historian and academicwriting tutor and has worked at various universities and museums around the world; he currently teaches at the V&A, Imperial College, and the RCA. He has also worked on Camden Market, appeared in an Italian TV commercial, and been a pronunciation coach for Catalan opera singers.

Miseducation of Evie Epworth Cover

The Miseducation of Evie Epworth pb

Blurb

Cold Comfort Farm meets Adrian Mole in the funniest debut novel of the year.
Yorkshire, the summer of 1962. Sixteen year-old Evie Epworth stands on the cusp of womanhood. But what kind of a woman will she become?
Up until now, Evie’s life has been nothing special: a patchwork of school, Girl Guides, cows, milk deliveries, lost mothers and village fetes. But, inspired by her idols (Charlotte Bronte, Shirley MacLaine and the Queen), she dreams of a world far away from rural East Yorkshire, a world of glamour lived under the bright lights of London (or Leeds).
Standing in the way of these dreams, though, is Christine, Evie’s soon to be stepmother, a manipulative and money grubbing schemer who is lining Evie up for a life of shampoo and-set drudgery at the local salon. Luckily, Evie is not alone. With the help of a few friends, and the wise counsel of the two Adam Faith posters on her bedroom wall (‘brooding Adam’ and ‘sophisticated Adam’), Evie comes up with a plan to rescue her bereaved father, Arthur, from Christine’s pink and over-perfumed clutches, and save their beloved farmhouse from being sold off. She will need a little luck, a dash of charm and a big dollop of Yorkshire magic if she is to succeed, but in the process she may just discover who exactly she is meant to be.

The Miseducation of Evie Epworth pb

Review

I love this book from the very first page. It is full of so much good humour. Humour, like writing and even my review, is subjective, but it takes skill to get humour down on a page well. Matson Taylor does this very well. What I really like is that it isn’t too silly and yet it is laugh out loud humour. It’s a hearwarming, cheery book with artistic placement of some words, which I enjoyed.

The pages are filled with so much energy, fun. Evie is 16 1/2, milk delivering teenager in 1960s, East of Yorkshire and is full of life. She also has an MG, her dad’s car that is, which she crashed, but is still good humoured. Evie loves the celebrities like Grace Kelly, who she tries to emulate in fashion, but her favourites are Adam Faith (who she wrote 3 times to and sadly he didn’t have the decency to write back. So sad), Shirley MacLaine and Charlotte Bronte. Then there’s The Queen, who she also idolises. She also seems to like Norse mythology and having fun with them. Who she doesn’t like too much and can be a bit scathing of is Christine, her soon to be step-mother and for good reason.

The book is set in Yorkshire. An area of the country I have explored some of and have loved. Evie’s dad has booked a trip to York to visit York Castle Museum ( which I recommend. It’s a place I’ve been to a few times and it never disappoints with its olde streets and ye olde shops inside it and fashions and more) and  Betty’s Tearooms (which I recommend you visit. It has a list of teas as long as your arm, perhaps longer and lovely cakes).

In her head she thinks about jobs she might do and can’t decide, but really all she wants is to be an assistant to Adam Faith. Evie is a character you would want to get to know. If she wasn’t a character in a book, you’d want to be friends with her. Her imagination is fabulously fun and pretty accurate for a creative, daydreaming, book reading 16 1/2 year old…

There are some philosophical musings around here and there about life.

The other people readers meet via Evie are amusing in the way that she sees them. There is however a kindness about her too. She has an interest in people who she can actually meet too, such as Mr and Mrs Scott-Pym and how Mr Pym was involved in the Spanish Civil War and was a journalist and realises she knows very little about them. It’s a thought isn’t it? How much do we really know the people in our neighbourhood? Evie learns a lot from her about her family. It’s an emotional tale. The emotions of cheerfulness and sadness are skillfully written by Matson Taylor.

There are sections of just a couple of pages or so called “Interludes” throughout the book, which is an original way of telling other character’s stories. They give little insights of life of Arthur and Mrs Scott-Pym before the 1960s. It works very well because readers then get to see Arthur before having a child and when he met his first wife, Diana. It’s tenderly written. It gives insight into Rosamund Scott-Pym’s life when Caroline, her daughter, was younger, which is interesting.

There’s a triple celebration and what better than to celebrate with cake. Not just any cake though, it may contain some Yorkshire magic and a real need for Christine to eat some, to the point I was hoping she would take a bite. I found myself very firmly on Evie’s side early on.

The village fete is full of fun, cakes and cattle. Matson Taylor pulls off a joyful atmosphere very well.

Evie’s first day of work in a hairdressing salon is when the real world really hits home, it’s funny between her client and herself as there’s plans of subterfuge. Find out what else happens in this amazingly funny book that I highly recommend and if Evie leaves home for London or Leeds. 

#BookReview by Lou of You Love Me by Caroline Kepnes @CarolineKepnes @jessbarratt88 @simonschusterUK #YouLoveMe #Thriller #PsychologicalThriller #EasterReading

You Love Me
By Caroline Kepnes

Rating: 5 out of 5.

You Love Me is the third in the series that began with “You”, which many may be familiar with in book or Netflix form or both. It’s an incredibly spine-chilling, intense psychological thriller series and this latest book is just as amazing! Just remember to breath as it sucks you into the twisted world of Joe Goldberg… Find out more in the blurb and my review. Hello You is available now!

Thanks to Jess Barratt at Simon Schuster for gifting me a copy of Hello You.

You Love Me

Blurb

The highly anticipated new thriller in Caroline Kepnes’s hit You series, now a blockbuster Netflix show . . .

Joe Goldberg is back. And he’s going to start a family – even if it kills him.

Joe Goldberg is done with cities, done with the muck and the posers, done with Love. Now, he’s saying hello to nature, to simple pleasures on a cosy island in the Pacific Northwest. For the first time in a long time, he can just breathe.

He gets a job at the local library – he does know a thing or two about books – and that’s where he meets her: Mary Kay DiMarco. Librarian. Joe won’t meddle, he will not obsess. He’ll win her the old fashioned way . . . by providing a shoulder to cry on, a helping hand. Over time, they’ll both heal their wounds and begin their happily ever after in this sleepy town.

The trouble is . . . Mary Kay already has a life. She’s a mother. She’s a friend. She’s . . . busy.

True love can only triumph if both people are willing to make room for the real thing. Joe cleared his decks. He’s ready. And hopefully, with his encouragement and undying support, Mary Kay will do the right thing and make room for him.

You Love Me

Review

High suspense, You Love Me is the third in the “You” series. Joe Goldberg is back!!! Librarians beware, he is lusting after one and wants real love and a family… Many people will be familiar with either the books or the Netflix series or both and this book does not disappoint! It still has intensity and Joe Goldberg still gives me the creeps and yet, still, I cannot take my eyes off the pages. No wonder he reels all these women in, with his odd charm, that both Guinivere Beck and Peach Salinger saw in him, who get a mention in this third installment. This time he has his sights set on Mary Kay, the librarian he works for, as he is on a quest to figure out some sort of “normal” lovelife and do things in a more normal manner than before…
There is however a whole mix of tension and egotism, paranoia and jealousy that still clutches to Joe as tries to frame himself as now being a good guy as old traits become apparent and pierce through.

I absolutely love the cleverness in style of writing. The way that simple small word – “You”, is written, is spine-chillingly evocative. “You” is completely full-on loaded with intensity as it punctuates the sentences stronger than any other word. Those familiar with the series won’t be disappointed how this continues within this book.

There are twists and turns that made me clutch the book a little tighter, in amongst the cleverly placed music and author references.

The book, in its plot and characters are multi-layered and complex in their actions and behaviours, especially Joe and it makes him to continuously be intriguing, even though he is not the type of guy who anyone would want to meet, but he is a type of dark, sinister, pretty dangerous guy who exists and who embodies many aspects that are within some guys, either singularly or multiple.

Mary Kay’s friends also get involved and it gets even twistier, as if that were possible, but Caroline Kepnes is a master at her craft, within her style of writing for a psychological thriller, such as this series.

Buy Links

Waterstones

Amazon

WH Smith