The Sandycove Supper Club – Sian O’Gorman

From the very start I was enchanted by Roisin Kelly and her friends and family – they were just so real and loveable. What I didn’t like, however, was the way her Husband Brody treated her. He was a complete waste of space. As for the hamster – I couldn’t believe that he went against Roisin’s wishes! True to firm, Roisin ended up loving the little rodent, regardless.

Roisin was a true people person – you couldn’t meet anyone kinder, and she contributed to my immense enjoyment of the book. I just hated the way that certain people took advantage of her.

Roisin was guilty of wanting the best for everyone; a real people pleaser and one just had to hope that this wouldn’t backfire on her. The supper club, as a fundraising idea,, was a perfect use of the skills of Roisin and her friends. Roisin genuinely seemed to be a talented chef and her food sounded divine. Surely her skills were wasted in the admin department of the local planning department.

Relationships feature heavily in this book, with them generally being a bit of a disaster!, it could be argued that Roisin’s divorced parents had the best relationship in the book.

I loved the Irishness in the book – the places, language and the people and they stirred a yearning in me to perhaps visit the area.

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Old Friends Reunited – Maddie Please

I must confess to feeling somewhat thrilled at the thought of getting my teeth into a brand new Maddie Please novel – guaranteed to keep me entertained! Once again I shall revel in a wondrous book, with good, strong heroines – gorgeous, real people, not in their Twirties. I am bored of stereotypical gorgeous characters in their twenties (or thirties at a push!) These thoughts were somewhat echoed by Bea’s thoughts when she was being grilled by Seraphina and her friends, about her back catalogue. No longer a gorgeous Twirty-something myself, I am of course neither bitter nor twisted, and most certainly, not jealous! One thing I am certain of, like Bea, is the lasting affect of a cutting comment from a teacher in a school report, regardless of your age. Personally I simply cannot forgive my PE teacher, back in the day, who deemed it appropriate to declare in my report that I ‘lacked spring’. I still can’t forgive her, to this day!

Our Heroine, Bea, is an author and so I couldn’t help but wonder how much of our author, Maddie Please, resides in Bea. I just adored her honesty – the way that she sometimes wrote herself a daily plan – and very occasionally stuck to that plan, and the way that she thought about the number of calories in her pudding – but very soon got over it!

I immediately empathised with Bea, and I loved the idea of her reuniting with the rest of the ‘BAGgies’ group from her boarding school days, Audrie and Gin. I felt that Bea had dealt with the fallout from her divorce, with impeccable dignity, and she deserved a break. Little snippets of subtle humour lit up the book throughout, for example Bea, after sharing a couple of bottles of wine with Audrie, and about to embark on a rich dinner, wonders whether or not she has packed any Gaviscon. Bea wondering, when the dog has sniffed her feet, and subsequently sneezed – whether or not she needs Odour Eaters! I also had to suppress a laugh at the idea of Bea waking up the morning after devouring a couple of bottles of wine with Audrie, declaring that she has ’badger’s breath’, and then proceeding to google what badgers eat – then deciding that the cuss must be truly worthy of them, considering their diet! As for Bea tumbling unceremoniously into the fountain – I have no words! Also when thinking, of plots for her book, worrying about earwigs on the ground, when considering passionate love scenes! These are just a few of the examples of Maddie Please’s wonderful sense of humour.

I initially felt for Audrie, with her talk of divorce, although the actual facts of the matter did cause me to emit a bit of a snuckle (snort/chuckle). Poor Victor, being accused by a seemingly paranoid Audrie, of wanting a divorce, just because he wants to retire!

Laurent was a delight, and I found myself hoping that Audrie was completely wrong about him – could he even offer one of the three longtime friends a spark of romance? (I must confess to desperately trying to find a satisfactory alternative to ’old friends’). Bea certainly made him laugh – in a good way – all too rate a commodity these days?

One thing did seem fairly certain about Bea’s French holiday – there seemed to be plenty of things to call upon her attention – not helping with her writer’s block at all, but then it may be that a break from all work, was just what she needed! She is currently wasting too much time trying to think of writing avoidance techniques, like watching programs about making chocolate biscuits, buying beautiful new notepads, and over analysing how to drink her coffee! Regardless, Bea certainly needs to breath new life into her current (feeling old to her) book – but does she have the wherewithal to do so in France? I just felt certain that Laurent could help in some way – but how to ’use’ him without upsetting Audrie?!

Alas we never did dig further into the details of ’The one With The Batman Underpants’. Perhaps we will find out more in a sequal?

The Highland Hens – Judy Leigh

Mimi – surely she personifies to an extent, how we all want to be if we have the privilege of achieving the ripe old age that is 88, although I do not condone rudeness, however old you are! Mimi seems to be the much loved matriarch of a family of ’interesting’ characters, each of whom brings a little ‘je ne sais quoi’ to the family. I did find myself rather feeling for Fin, as he tried to justify the behaviour of his family members, whilst conducting a legal battle against his erstwhile wife Karen, who seemed to be living up to her name somewhat! Mimi however seems fairly oblivious to it all, provided that she is surrounded by people in her life that tell her she is beautiful, and who are interested in her former stage presence.

I immediately warmed to Jess, especially with the way that she behaved towards Mimi; she showed true compassion and empathy. I liked to think that there was some kind of spark between Jess and Mimi’s Son, Hamish, or was there more of a latent spark between Jess and Angus, Mimi’s rather angry, grumpy, temporarily wheelchair bound Son.

Lots of questions arise along the way:

  • What’s the story behind Angus’ accident on the Inverness road? Why has it made him so bad tempered?
  • What happened to Augustine?
  • Can we see Jess remaining in Scotland?

I found myself fascinated by Mimi – the way that she didn’t seem to have a care in the world. I think that a bit of misinformation though – I think Mimi did care about her friends and family, and I felt as though she would only be truly happy when her dear Sons were happy. Mimi seemed very happy under the care of Jess, but I did think at times that the care was a mutual thing, with the pair of them both benefitting immensely from each others’ company.

This book captured my heart with its themes of love, love lost and family and I found myself totally immersed in the story, to an extent that I didn’t want the book to end – and when it did, it broke my heart.

Please read this rather marvellous book for yourself – what’s not to love!

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New Family Required – Carmen Reid

For a change I thought I might start by talking about what I didn’t like about this book – but then that would make for a very short review, because I loved everything about this story of family and mystery.

Sasha was a great multi-faceted heroine and I loved everything about her and little family. On a wider level, her family history was utterly compelling.

Sasha’s wider family is however a little more complicated. Why has Sasha always felt like the odd one out amongst her siblings?

This book provided me with a whole different outlook on life – Sasha being an ’ordinary’ woman with an extraordinary upbringing – by a posh family in ancestral type mansion.

Sasha has a wonderful sense of family, albeit a frustrated sense at times.

The book is full of mystery:

  • Why does Sasha feel like the odd one out amongst her siblings?
  • What has Ben been up to?
  • What is Loulou’s secret?
  • What are Sasha’s parents hiding?
  • What have Sasha’s siblings been up to without Sasha knowing?

You will of course need to read this great book for yourself to find out what happens.

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Finding Happiness at Heritage View – Helen Rolfe

I must admit to being more than a little excited to have been given the opportunity to read and review the latest book by Helen Rolfe – Finding Happiness at Heritage View. I have read many books by this author and I have enjoyed them immensely, so I am trusting that this offering will not disappoint in any way. I am also looking forward to bumping into some ’old’ characters, as well as meetingsome new favourites.

I have often said that I can tell whether or not I will enjoy a book, by it’s cover, going against the old adage to not judge a book by its cover. indeed I found myself drawn to the happy picture painted on this front cover. What I am confident of, is the fact that this latest Heritage Cove book will be equally great as a one-off, standalone read, or as part of the Heritage Cove series. What’s not to love.

I was delighted to be reacquainted with Lucy the blacksmith, and I immediately warmed to her friend Hazel, who ran the village stables with her Brother, although there did seem to be an air of mystery about her; some kind of equine accident in the fairly near past.

The book starts with Lucy and Hazel attending a life drawing class, with the opportunity to draw a rather delectable male model. We swiftly moved to Awkward Moment 101 the next day, when The Model turns up at the stables the next day to enquire about livery for his horse. If that weren’t excruciating enough, it transpires that The Model is Gus, the new village vet! Gus also seems to come well equipped with his own mysterious ’issues’, including a ten year old Daughter, Abigail, who has been in an accident and has a badly scarred face. I did feel for Abigail and her suffering – at such an impressionable age, too. Other children can be very cruel too, which must always be at the forefront of Gus’s mind.

I found a lot of hidden meaning in the book – when considered properly, the whole story is a lot more deep and meaningful than it appears on the surface, with some very intelligent writing.

Peter is a lovely boy – he personifies Hazel’s issues, having been bitten by a horse when younger, yet being willing to take lessons and learn to ride properly. ‘Once bitten, twice shy’. Parenting is a prevalent issue throughout the book, with Levi’s Father at one extreme, and others such as Gus, Daniel and Hazel’s parents at the completely opposite (more attractive) end of the parenting spectrum. We are however warned not to write people off, with the euphemism of Hazel putting a bad apple on the compost heap, yet being warned not to immediately write off all other apples. This trait – I guess it could be badged as the art of forgiveness, is reflected in Gus and Abigail’s treatment of Julie, and their ability to forgive her – and indeed Sarah being able to forgive herself.

There are lots of questions that need answering – that you will need to read the book for yourself, in order to resolve.

  • Why is Hazel wary of teaching Abigail?
  • What is the mystery in Gus’s life?
  • What had happened to Abigail – why is she scarred?

What I found lacking, was any information on Arnold’s life, and I thought that a deeper look into his life would make for a great next chapter in this rather marvellous series of books.

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Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow – Jessica Redland

A gripping, uplifting book, that had me captivated from the start, to the very last word, with the descriptions of Sam and Josh’s Tanzanian honeymoon proving particularly delightful.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this series of books, to the extent that I feel genuine sorrow at this being the 5th book in the set. If you have not read any of this series before, then rest assured it is a fantastic stand alone read, although once you have read one of the series, you will undoubtedly want to read the rest of the quilogy. My solace as we approach the end of this series, is twofold. The marvellous Jessica Redland will have time to come up with another new addition to her book family, that she will want to share with her family of readers/fans, and secondly we still have ‘Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow’ to look forward to towards the end of the year. I was however thrilled to read that this won’t be the last that we hear of the rescue centre, in Jessica’s books. I do however have a confession! I am very strict about reading books for review in order of publication date – but this beauty – I simply had to get stuck into it as soon as I got my hands on it, and I was not disappointed.

Anyway, enough of me extolling the literary virtues and talent of Jessica Redland; once you have enjoyed this book (which you invariably will), then try out the other books in this series if you haven’t already, and look up Jessica’s other novels – you owe yourself a treat!

The first couple of pages of the book offer a ’who’s who so far’ from the series so far – a fantastic reminder to both ‘Hardened Hoggers’ and those new to the series, together with an ’in a nutshell’ reminder of the story so far. Although I consider myself a HH, I still found these thoughtful reminders really useful, so a big thank you for them!

Prior to Josh and Sam’s wedding, there seemed to be ’relationship rumblings’ between Josh’s Aunt Lauren, and Sam’s Father, although this was seemingly knocked on the head at the end of the previous book in this series, when Jonathan was seen dancing with his ex Wife Deb (Sam’s Mum), with the pair of them looking close. This was a prime example of the kind of plot twists I have come to expect from Jessica Redland. She really is the Queen of the unexpected. Lauren featured heavily in this last book of the HH series, and I found it most revealing, to find out a bit more about her earlier life. The reality behind what had happened to her Husband Shaun was a compelling mystery and I found myself hooked – desperate to find the truth.

Debs, Sam’s Mother, is an astonishingly complex character, whom I had initially thought of as downright unpleasant, especially with her treatment of Sam. Over Time, however, it has been revealed that she is suffering from mental illness, to which her behaviour can be attributed. I have found her character fascinating – the way that experiences in her life have built up in the way they have. During this series, the reader has gradually been able to get a greater understanding of her character and the way she is like she is. Debs is the onion of Hedgehog Hollow and gradually we have been rewarded by being able to peel away layer after layer of bad experience, getting inexorably closer to the ’Real Debs’. Sam’s relationship with her Mother has improved over time, and I have great hopes for them having a more normal relationship one day. As for her relationship with Sam’s Father, Jonathan, one has to wonder whether there is any hope for a resurrection of their relationship?

Riley, with his mesmerising eyes, made for an intriguing character, and I enjoyed the initial dynamic between him and Lauren. It felt as though Lauren had been unlucky in love all too often, and was well overdue a little luck in that department. Why on earth had Shaun left her so suddenly over twenty years ago?

I found myself genuinely caring about Riley’s Cad-Factor (how big a cad he is, or isn’t). It is undoubtedly testimony to Jessica Redland’s writing, that one finds oneself caring so passionately about fictional people and events.

Lauren makes for a very interesting character. I empathise with her and the seemingly one sided romantic affection between her and Jonathan – an all too real situation, broached by the author, but would she fare any better with Riley, whose Cad-Factor seemed to be rising exponentially! Is his C-F rating off the scale, or should Lauren give him the benefit of the doubt? is she misjudging him unfairly?

I can honestly say that I enjoyed every word of this book, from start to finish. I positively devoured it, yet found myself wanting more, as soon as I had finished. I loved the continuity throughout the books and I am in awe off Jessica Redland’s talent and memory, for remembering exactly who is who and how they are related. The way Jessica dealt with Lauren’s back story was beautiful – written with such sincere empathy. I don’t have any personal experience of what Shaun and Lauren went through, but I felt as though I gained a whole more understanding of the issues they went through.

I really felt for Sam with the feelings she was going through, regarding whether or nor she was ready to be a Mother. People are often all too judgemental and demanding on the topic of having children/trying to get pregnant, and the subject can open up a whole can of worms. The subject was dealt with in a very sensitive way in this book though, and so I have hight hopes for the Christmas HH finale. I have enjoyed every single book in this series, and as I have finished each individual book I have wondered to myself how the next book can possibly live up to the one I have just read. Jessica Redland just manages to pull it off every time though, when each new book surpasses its predecessors. I have no doubt that the final book will be the best and I can only replace my sadness with the hope of a new series from Jessica, to get my teeth into.