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Thursday, 15 April 2021

A Postcard From Paris by Alex Brown


I have been a fan of Alex Brown's from her very first novel, enjoying the busy Carrington's department store before moving on and visiting Tindledale village on many occasions, so when I was asked to take part in the blog tour to celebrate the publication of 'A Postcard From Paris' I jumped at the chance.

A Postcard From Paris is Alex's latest book and I really believe her books are just getting better and better. The story begins is written along two time lines with two narrators: Joanie in the present day and the mysterious Beatrice Crawford (Trixie) who lived through both World Wars and, for some reason unknown to Joanie has left her her Perfumery and luxuriant home in the heart of Paris.

I am not going to give away any of the story lines as I would love all of my  blog readers to enjoy the secrets and magic for themselves. Alex has very cleverly bought back the department store Carrington's and also the beautiful Tindledale village into this book and it is lovely to be reminded of books gone by. They are slipped seamlessly into the storyline

I loved Trixie's diary entrires which were used to tell Trixie's story and it added another dimension to the story as her thoughts, feelings and emotions are retold. I love books that include these kind of entries into their stories - what a great way to learn about pre and post war time Paris! Alex must of done hours of research into this period and it has really added to this beautiful book.

I read this book very quickly and I will confess, I had to message Alex at 10pm in the evening to tell her just how much I loved A Postcard From Paris. Her descriptions of Joanie wandering around Paris taking in the scenery reminded me so much so of my own honeymoon in Paris over 20 years ago. Alex bought the sights and sounds of Paris into my imagination and has lit a need to revisit Paris in the future with my lovely husband.

I would love all of my blog readers to join Alex, Trixie and Joanie in Paris and the publishers, Harper Collins, have very kindly given me an extract to share with my blog readers while you wait for your copy to arrive. So sit back and get ready to be transported to Paris ..................

Tindledale, in rural England, 1916

Beatrice Crawford craved adventure. Yearning to escape the confines of her provincial young ladyhood and find her purpose, to be a positive influence in the world. A woman of substance, just like Lady Dorothy Fields, the inimitable, flame-haired woman who had ignited the dimly lit village hall earlier this evening with a very rousing speech. Beatrice had listened intently as Lady Dorothy had talked about her nursing work with the Voluntary Aid Detachment, or VAD, carrying out her patriotic duty to look after the brave soldiers fighting in fields far away for King and Country in the Great War. 

 After buttoning up her cotton nightie, Beatrice sat at her dressing table and brushed out her ebony curls then, securing them away from her face with a tortoiseshell clip, she pressed cold cream over her cheeks and  neck, sweeping down and across her collar bones. Going over in her mind the events of such an extraordinary evening, she recalled with wonder the atmosphere in the village hall. It had been quite thrilling. An audience of young women just like her, suffragettes too, with little tricolour brooches pinned to their lapels, sat shoulder-to-shoulder, all united in their desire to do so much more for the war effort than endure a stifling life made up of endless tedious occupations such as light domestic work or embroidering samplers in silent drawing rooms. Her younger companion, Queenie, the housekeeper’s niece, who was already doing her bit by working in an ammunitions factory in the nearby town of Market Briar, had almost missed out on hearing Lady Dorothy’s speech. Queenie had arrived late and in a fluster, discreetly brushing a sheen of fine raindrops from her wool beret and gloves, whispering a grateful, ‘Thank you, Trixie,’ before sliding onto the chair that Beatrice had saved for her at the end of the row. Exchanging a clandestine glance, Beatrice had pressed her friend’s hand in reply, both of them knowing and secretly delighting in their small act of defiance. For Beatrice’s stepmother, Iris, had forbidden Queenie from using ‘Trixie’ as a suitable pet name for her stepdaughter, citing it ‘undignified, and quite common!’ But Beatrice liked being Trixie:  it made her feel more alive, jolly and without constraint, and so the two friends had continued with it whenever Iris was out of earshot.

 Beatrice and Queenie had forged an unlikely friendship five years ago when Iris had insisted that the then 13-year-old Beatrice ‘must be perfectly fluent in at least two languages if she were to be a refined debutante and catch a suitable husband.’ Eight-year- old Queenie, known to be a quick-witted and fast-learning young girl, with a tumble of auburn curls and sparkling, impish green eyes, was brought in from the village each day to be taught French and High German, in order that Beatrice might practise her own conversational skills. As for Beatrice’s rudimentary French and German writing skills, they had been deemed beyond hope and were to be forgotten about forthwith. Even though Beatrice’s stepmother was French, she was far too engaged in a hectic social life – which frequently took her to glamorous parties in London, Paris, Monte Carlo and beyond – to idle away her time on academia, especially when, according to Iris, Beatrice hadn’t ‘shown enough flair in her younger years’. Iris had also declared that revision was a tedious waste of time, and that Beatrice should show humility and recompense for her shortcomings by learning alongside an uneducated and much younger village girl, who would most  likely pick it all up in half the time that it had taken Beatrice. ‘So that ought to keep you on your toes!’

 So, together with her French and German conversational skills, thanks to her insistent stepmother and Swiss governess, Miss Paulette, there were now only ten lectures and ten lessons in first aid and nursing standing between Beatrice and her ambition to help the soldiers fighting on the front line in France. Not that it was imperative to have language skills, but Beatrice thought it might give her a little something extra to offer, and Lady Dorothy had explained that it wasn’t only English-speaking soldiers who required nursing. There were Frenchmen too. Some German soldiers, prisoners of war, as well. Of course, she would need practical first-aid training. A hospital in London perhaps, that’s what Lady Dorothy had recommended, to get a foot in the door and to show her mettle. And they really were rather keen to recruit volunteers. 

 Drawing her knees up to her chest and placing her slippered feet on the edge of the velvet cushioned chair, Beatrice wrapped her arms around her legs and hugged the feeling of possibility into her, for she could see a way forward now. It was as if a light had been switched on deep within her, sparking a frisson of hope that she felt barely able to contain. Not that the bleak  battlefields of France were a cause for elation. Certainly not. No, it was very much more than that. She had to do something. The newspapers were full of lists. The names of soldiers killed in the trenches. Pages and pages of men, some only mere boys. Thousands on the very first day of the war in 1914 and it had been relentless ever since. Fathers. Sons. Cousins. Uncles. Nephews. Her own dear brother, Edward, having enlisted at the start of the war, had mercifully been missing from the lists so far. But for how much longer? Beatrice carried a perpetual sense of foreboding that seemed impossible to shake off. Although, for the first time in her life, she felt that she also had an opportunity, a sense of purpose. 

 Of course, Father would protest, preferring she marry Clement Forsyth, the odious son of his banker in London, but how could she when her heart was with another? A secret love. Because Bobby worked in the stables, mucking out and tending to the horses, and so would never be suitable husband material as far as Father was concerned. Beatrice’s heart had almost broken in two when Bobby had gone away to fight for his country, and not a moment went by when she didn’t think of him, wrapping an imaginary shield of safety around his beautiful body so he would return to her arms once more. The only comfort being that Bobby and Edward were together in the same PALS battalion. Queenie’s older brother, Stanley, too, along with many of the other men from the village, with their camaraderie to keep their spirits up until they could return home. Beatrice treasured the photograph of Bobby that she kept hidden inside her diary, alongside the pages where she had written about her endless love for him. 

 Instead there was Clement, who had pursued Beatrice from first seeing her at 17 years old in the exquisite gown of white satin with lace trim that Iris had shipped over from Paris especially for the Queen Charlotte’s Ball, the pinnacle event of the debutante season. He had been relentless from then on, constantly calling on Beatrice at home and always appearing by her side at society events – Royal Ascot, Henley Regatta, King George’s coronation gala, not to mention all the other balls at various grand estates and castles that she had been wheeled out to by her overbearing stepmother. And woe betide if another ‘debs’ delight’ so much as glanced in Beatrice’s direction, for Clement had become insufferable in warning them off with one of his supercilious glares and a territorial hand on her arm. Fortunately, all talk of marriage had been suspended for now since conscription had started on 2 March and Clement had reluctantly taken a commission in the army. And Beatrice’s stepmother would protest even more to her going to France, branding her desire to volunteer as a nonsensical notion that should be stopped at once, of that Beatrice was certain. 

 ‘It’s not becoming for a young lady of your standing to take up such menial work. Mopping floors and changing soiled bed linen. Whatever next! Your poor father, having to shoulder such embarrassment from his own flesh and blood is quite unforgivable. And if you refuse to give up such whimsical ideas and continue to rebuff a perfectly suitable marriage proposition, then I fear you will become too old and contrary for any respectable gentleman to consider taking as a wife. You will spend the rest of your days as a spinster!’ is what Iris had spluttered in outrage over supper one evening when Beatrice had first mooted the possibility, some months ago, of her helping out at the Red Cross auxiliary hospital set up in the Stanway Rectory on the outskirts of the village. Beatrice remembered the evening vividly, because later, in the privacy of her bedroom suite, she had written down her stepmother’s hurtful words in the diary which she kept locked in a burr-walnut wood writing slope that had belonged to her darling mother, and now to her. Spinster! Beatrice had even underlined the word several times and had then spent a great deal of  8 time pondering on whether being a spinster might not be the curse that Iris perceived it to be. Especially if she couldn’t be with Bobby and the alternative was to be the reluctant wife of Clement Forsyth. 

 Beatrice was only 18 years old and a young lady should be 23 to be accepted for an overseas voluntary nursing post, Lady Dorothy had explained. But with her nineteenth birthday next month, Beatrice was determined to find a way around the rule and would increase her age if required to do so. She wasn’t usually one for lying but if that is what it took, then so be it. And the other women in the hall had spoken about this after the meeting with such nonchalance, declaring it impolite to ask a lady her age. It was a minor detail to be disregarded for the greater good of the country. So there really was no time to waste. Beatrice was resolute. With her whole life ahead of her, which was far too precious to fritter away in a suitable but nonetheless loveless marriage, she wondered about romance. And love. True love, like the love she had with Bobby and the love that her mother had shared with her father before her life had been cruelly cut short. 

 Beatrice had only been 4 years old when it had happened, Edward 7 and away at boarding school. Their mother had died giving birth to another daughter who hadn’t survived either, and from then on Beatrice s had felt terribly alone, with long hours spent gazing from her bedroom window, hoping to find a fragment of comfort in the view, out and across the undulating, sun-drenched fields and faraway into the distance, past the wooden water mill that powered through the river, over and over, its melodic rhythm like balm to her grieving young soul. Beatrice had seen a rainbow one time and wondered if over the glistening arc of the petroleum-coloured streaks was where heaven lay, and if she might go there to be reunited with her beautiful mother. 

 She missed her dreadfully. Baking and sketching together, Beatrice had adored sharing these activities with her mother, along with perfume making and flower pressing, where they would wander through the fields to pick wild flowers and mix them into a scented potion, keeping the brightest blooms to slot into the press for drying and applying to scrapbooks. Beatrice still had the scrapbooks but couldn’t bear to look through them after her mother had died. 

 As time had ticked on and Beatrice’s memory of her mother, radiant and enthused with the sweet scent of rose perfume, always with a smile and a kiss for her adoring husband, had faded, Beatrice had grown up and managed to forge a slice of happiness for herself. Immersing herself in her diary-writing and reading  10 books, Little Women being her favourite. Beatrice had drawn strength from the vibrant and strident March sisters, developing a passion for gaiety and curiosity about the joie de vivre that Miss Paulette had spoken of in those French lessons she’d had as a child. 

 Where was all of that now? Beatrice knew there was a shortage of suitable men, thanks to this dreadful war; not that she wanted another man when her true love was Bobby, but she also knew her own mind and that she would most likely go mad if she didn’t take this opportunity to escape. If she were to remain a spinster for the rest of her life then so be it, but at least she would be in charge of steering her own destiny. There really was no other option, for surely she would suffocate into oblivion if she were to end up leading a very insignificant life as the demure wife of a bombastic banker. Besides, there were only so many samplers one could possibly endure embroidering day after day, with just piano recitals and letter writing to break the monotony. She needed more. Much more. And she had very much more to give in return. 

Yes, the decision was made. Beatrice was going to join the VAD. She would volunteer at the rectory hospital first, progress on to a London hospital while completing her training, and then she would broaden her horizons further and travel to France where she  would make beds, change dressings and bathe injured soldiers. And she would feel honoured to do so. She would wear a blue uniform with a pristine white apron and linen cap secured with a safety pin at the nape of her neck and feel extremely efficient, knowing that her work there was worthwhile and of the utmost importance. She nodded her head as if to underline the biggest decision she had ever made in her life. 

 Lady Dorothy had captured Beatrice’s imagination with photographs of herself in her own uniform. In one photograph, Lady Dorothy was even wearing khaki trousers tucked inside long leather boots, just like a man. In another, she was driving a motor ambulance and giving the photographer a rousing wave from the open window. And in that moment, Beatrice knew that she would very much like to have this experience too. She could already drive, having driven Father’s motor car in the grounds around the house. Sidney, the gamekeeper, had shown her the ropes, and she had mastered the steering wheel and brake in no time at all. So, it was settled, Beatrice was to become a woman of substance and make a positive difference at last . . . just as soon as she had Father and Iris onboard with her marvellous escape plan. 

|Thank you to the publishers, Harper Collins. for sending me the book to review in return for an honest review. I really did enjoy it and I hope my blog readers will also enjoy it as much as I do.

Saturday, 29 August 2020

The Doctor Will See You Now by Dr Amir Khan


60 hours a week

240 patients

10 minutes to make a diagnosis

Welcome to the surgery.

Charting his 15 years working as a GP, from rookie to becoming a partner in one of the UK's busiest surgeries, Dr Amir Khan's stories are as much about community and care as they are about blood tests and bodily fluids.

Along the way, he introduces us to the patients that have taught him about love, loss and family - from the regulars to the rarities - giving him the most unbelievable highs and crushing lows, and often in just 10 minutes. There is the unsuspecting pregnant woman about to give birth at the surgery; the man offering to drop his trousers and take a urine sample there and then; the family who needs support through bereavement, the vulnerable child who will need continuing care for a long-term health condition; and, of course, the onset of COVID-19 that tested the surgery at every twist and turn. But, it's all in a day's work for Amir.

The Doctor Will See You Now is a powerful story of hope, love and compassion, but it's also a rare insider account of what really goes on behind those surgery doors.

'The Doctor Will See You Now: The highs and lows of my life as an NHS GP' is an account of Dr Amir Khan, a doctor who featured on the popular Channel 5 programme, GP's Behind Doors. 

I watched GP Behind Closed Doors and I must admit, Dr Amir Khan was my favourite GP. He looked to have a very calming demeanor and took time to listen to and explain things to his patients, caring about them and their family. This is again reflected in this book as he talks about how he goes above and beyond for his patients. As I read the book I could hear Amir's voice coming out of the page and I devoured the book very quickly. It is a really well written book and I would love to read another book my Dr Amir Khan to hear more tales of his life in the inner city practice,

There are many great patients included in this book, of course names have been changed, but it really shows how varied the life of a GP really is.  Some of the characters pop up more than once in the book. As it is a book about a GP, there is of course a wide variety of emotions and I found myself empathising and was close to tears on a number of occasions but then found myself laughing out loud in the following chapter. It does show how varied and unusual the life of a GP really is.

There are great stories about Amir's career in General Practice including his first day as a fully fledged GP and not only did he have to tell an unexpected patient that they were pregnant, but also that she was in labour and the birth was imminent. 

The final chapter of the book reflects on the current Coronavirus pandemic and is a heartfelt account of life as a GP during this very difficult time and pays tribute to the NHS and medical profession which I found very poignant.

Thank you to Ebury Publishing for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Maybe I’m scared to be happy…

Meet Hannah – she’s been her mum’s sole carer since she was eighteen. Now alone after Martha’s sudden death, Hannah feels lost in the only place she’s known as home, Hope Street. Coming up to a milestone birthday, she’s wondering what her purpose in life is.

Meet Doug – a workaholic, he’s in the office from dusk ’til dawn, and when he has a heart attack. Now on the mend, he needs to de-stress his life and focus on living it, to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Doug moves to Hope Street, number 35. Hannah lives at number 34, directly opposite. From the moment they meet, there’s a spark.

But there are secrets too. Hannah’s mum has been keeping something from her, her sister left over twenty years ago, and there can’t be such a simple reason why Doug has moved to Somerley. Can there?

The Man Across the Street is the first of a new series by bestselling author, Marcie Steele. It features a host of characters living on Hope Street in the market town of Somerley, also featured in The Somerley Series. Each character will have their own standalone story in books to follow.

'The Man Across the Street' is the first book in a new series of books set in Hope Street in Somerley, a market town in England. 

I love books which are part of a series, based in a village or, as this one, a street. I enjoy meeting the characters and having the opputunity to learn more about the residents, their back stories and watching them following their dreams or relationships developing or falling part. I am looking forward to returning to Hope Street again in future books.

The book is an easy read and is relatable to real life, I can picture Hope Street and Hannah and Doug are both characters who could easily live next door to its reader. Marcie Steele has created a fantastic setting and cast of characters.

Marcie Steel is actually Mel Sharratt, a fantastic crime author, who has written a number of gritty crime novels. It is difficult to imagine that this cosy read has written by the same person but they are and I enjoy both sides of Mel's writing!

Thank you to the publisher and to Sarah Hardy of Books on the Bright Side Publicity and PR for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and for a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Blog Tour - You Can Change The World by Margaret Rook

You Can Change the World!: Everyday Teen Heroes Making a Difference Everywhere

This inspirational book tells the stories of more than 50 of today's teenagers who've dared to change the world they live in. It's been written to show other teens they can do the same. Bestselling author Margaret Rooke asks teens about their experiences of being volunteers, social entrepreneurs and campaigners, online and beyond. They explain how they have survived in a world often obsessed by celebrity, social media and appearance, by refusing to conform to other's expectations.

If you want to achieve against the odds and create genuine impact, this book may be the encouragement you need. The interviews cover race, sexuality, violence, grief, neurodiversity, bullying and other issues central to life today.

Read about teens from around the world including:
- Trisha, 18, who has invented a way of preventing bullying online
- Dillon, 18, who takes damaged and donated clothing and upcycles it for the homeless
- Guro, 13, who persuaded a pop band to portray women differently in its video
- 'Happy D', 19, who learned to read at 14 and found ways to build his confidence
- Heraa, 19, who fights Islamophobia online

- Ruben, 18, bullied because of Down's Syndrome, now a successful actor
- Lucy who, at 14, walked into Tesco head office and persuaded them not to sell eggs from caged hens.
- Cameron, 17, who has cerebral palsy and was side-lined by soccer teams who set up his own team 'Adversity United'
- Alex, 18, who broke his back on his 15th birthday and says his injury has taught him to care for others
- Amika, 18, who fights 'Period Poverty'

- Jesse, 15, who's seven feet tall and embraces his stature
- Billy, 18, who wore full make up every day at high school

A fantastic book that captures the work of young changemakers. Powerful and inspiring, a catalogue of real role models. It will make you want to chase your passion. After all what better cause is there?
Matteo Bergamini, CEO & Founder, Shout Out UK

'You Can Rule The World ' is a truly inspirational book that should be shown to every teenager regardless of age, colour, ethnicity or ability or country of origin.

The book contains a number of real accounts of teenagers lives who have achieved great things and, for many of them, have changed the world around them.

I particularly was impressed by Lucy and Happy D, who both had very different backgrounds. Lucy, at the age of 14, took on Tesco's and lobbied for them to stop selling eggs from caged hens - a huge task which changed the dairy industry for ever. Happy D's story was very different and learnt to read at the age of 14, ignoring the opinions of his peers and learnt to read, which opened up a world of possibilities for him.

The book is very well written and each story is told compassionately and engages the reader. I enjoyed learning about each child and found their stories inspirational and heartwarming. It really shows that anybody is capable of achieving what they strive to with hard work and determination.

This is a great book to give to a teenager with low confidence or who is currently overcoming difficulties. It would also be a great addition to a school or college library and highlighted to the students.

Thank you to Random Things Blog Tours and Jessica Kingsley Publishers for a copy of the book and for an invite to join in the blog tour in return for an honest review.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

Blog Tour - Six Steps to Happiness by Suzie Tullett

When Ronnie’s husband, Nick, leaves her for their next-door neighbour, Gaye, Ronnie’s life starts to fall apart.
Devastated by the break-up of her marriage, Ronnie is desperate for Nick and Gaye to set up home elsewhere. But Nick and Gaye won’t budge.
To add to her problems, Ronnie’s daughter and mother-in-law decide to stage an intervention. With her family keeping a close eye on her, Ronnie is forced to become more devious in her actions to get rid of Nick and Gaye.
But just how far will she go?
And is moving on ever that easy?
Six Steps to Happiness is a hilarious look at just how far one woman will go to recover from a broken heart and find happiness again.
'Six Steps to Happiness' is a fantastic romantic comedy which I devoured between festive reads. It was a breath of fresh air with some great characters, who I became invested in and loved seeing their relationships form.
There are some great comedic sections to the story, as well times of sadness and tears. The story is one of those that makes you forget all about your own dramas as you become invested in Ronnie's life.
Thank you to Bombshell Books (an imprint of Bloodhound Books) and to Book On The Bright Side Publicity & Promo for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and for a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

BlogTour - High Heels and Beetle Crushes by Jackie Skingley

A compelling memoir of post-war Britain. Jackie Skingley grew up with limited career choices but joining the Women's Royal Army Corps offered her a different life, living and working in a military world, against the backdrop of the Cold War. Packed full of stories reflecting the changing sexual attitudes prior to the arrival of the pill and the sexual revolution of the mid 60s, Skingley's memoir denotes a shift in the political and social fabric of the era. Follow her relationships with the men in her life from finding her first true love, which through a cruel act of fate was denied her, to embarking on a path of recovery.

I love reading books that are full of social history and 'High Heels and Beetle Crushers' is one such book. I really enjoyed reading about post war Britain from a woman's point of view, Jackie Skingley.

The author, Jackie, grew up in post war Britain, and was determined to enter the Military world, a world which was dominated by men and one which women struggled to enter into. However Jackie was very determined and got into the Women's Royal Army Corps. I really enjoyed reading about Jackie's determination and her successes in her career.

However, this book is not just about life in the military. As I said this is a book about social history and Jackie talks about the many of the historical milestones that took place and the  book really bought history to life. Parts of it have also been covered in 'Call the Midwife' on BBC1 and was really good to learn more about it from someone who lived through it. 

This is a great book for anyone who loves reading about social history or who is wanting to learn more about the position of women through the ages.

Thank you to Chronos Books and to Rachel's Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and for a copy of the book in return for an honest review. 

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Who Did YouTell by Lesley Kara


I really enjoyed reading Lesley Kara's debut novel, The Rumour, and have been eagerly awaiting her second release and 'Who Did You Tell?' is a fantastic second novel.

The book's main character is a recovering alcoholic. I have a close relation who is currently two months sober and I am trying my hardest to support them but find it difficult as I don't know (or understand) what is currently going through their mind. However, I found that 'Who Did You Tell?' gave me an insight into their mind - I would be very interested to know how Lesley approached this difficult subject when she was researching this book.

|However, this is a book about so much more than a recovering alcoholic trying to stay sober and not give in to the demon drink. Lesley has written a brilliant psychological thriller, which is full of suspense and drama as it appears someone is trying to play with the main characters thoughts and life. The book really allows the reader to get into Astrid's mind as she tries to work out who could know her secrets, those that she thought only she knew, and who wants her to fail.

I highly recommend this read. It really is a great book that will stay with you for many a weeks after that final last word.

Thank you to Transworld and to Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and for a copy of the book in return for an honest review.