c 2018 | Garden, Tea, Cakes, (Books) and Me

December 2018 Book Reviews

December Book Reviews Book Blogger

It's the final of my book review posts for 2018, it includes a top Children's book, some festive reads, a gripping thriller audio book and a contemporary read. I've smashed my reading challenge of 20 books having finished 39 book I am currently reading number 40, The Affair by Lee Child which I hope to finish on New Year's eve.

First book up, why I am only just reading Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone by JK Rowling. My niece who is now 12 years old felt she was ready to discover the world of Harry Potter, and so we formed our special Christmas family book club. My eldest sister, cousin, niece and me!  We've all finished the book by Christmas Eve, and I've since pulled together some questions or prompts for discussion at our book club meeting at the beginning of 2019 and there is even a little quiz for fun. We will then have popcorn at the ready as we will be settling down to watch the film too. See we have already been 'Harry Pottered'. 

On with the book reviews... 

I will never giveaway any spoilers in my reviews, just my honest opinion on how I found the book. So you can read my review with the confidence it will not ruin the story for you.
December Book Reviews Harry Potter Book family club

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Synopsis: When a letter arrives for unhappy but ordinary Harry Potter, a decade-old secret is revealed to him that apparently he's the last to know. His parents were wizards, killed by a Dark Lord's curse when Harry was just a baby, and which he somehow survived. Leaving his unsympathetic aunt and uncle for Hogwarts, a wizarding school brimming with ghosts and enchantments, Harry stumbles upon a sinister mystery when he finds a three-headed dog guarding a room on the third floor. Then he hears of a missing stone with astonishing powers which could be valuable, dangerous - or both. An incredible adventure is about to begin!

My Review: I loved JK Rowling's writing style, bringing the human (muggle) world together with the magical world of wizardry. The relation of Harry with his unloving aunt and uncle who adopted him when he was a baby, is told in a humorous way yet you can still feel Harry's sadness. Slowly Harry discovers he is not a muggle but possess magic, and what better place to learn magic than at the school of magic - Hogwarts. Here Harry meets new friends and discovers more about his true family. We are introduced to some great characters who I can not wait to discover more about them in the books to come.

A shorter book than I was expecting, I so wanted to explore more of Hogwarts, so much history, magic and fantasy. A wonderful read for both child and adult, well I guess a trillion book sales can't be wrong, I will be looking forward to following Harry's adventures.

Christmas book reads recommendations

Christmas Under the Stars by Karen Swan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Synopsis: In the snow-topped mountains of the Canadian Rockies, Meg and Mitch are living their dream. Just weeks away from their wedding, they work and play with Tuck and Lucy, their closest and oldest friends. Meg and Lucy are as close as sisters - much to Meg's sister's dismay - and Tuck and Mitch have successfully turned their passion for snowboarding into a booming business.
But when a polar storm hits, tragedy strikes. Alone in the tiny mountain log cabin she shares with Mitch, Meg desperately tries to radio for help - and it comes from the most unexpected quarter, a lone voice across the airwaves that sees what she cannot.
As the snow melts and they try to live with their loss, the friendship Meg thought was forever is buckled by tensions, rivalries and devastating secrets. Nothing is as she thought and only her radio contact understands what it is to be truly alone. As they share confidences in the dark, witnessed only by the stars, Meg feels her future begin to pull away from her past and is forced to consider a strange truth - is it her friends who are the strangers? And a stranger who really knows her best?
My Review:
This was to be my Christmas read of the year. But other than the word on the front cover there is nothing festive about this book, though there is lots of snow in the story!

A love story based in the town of Banff in the Canadian Rockies. There were two surprises within storyline, I really did not expect not to be able to predict the story. This was a very quick read. The big interest within the book for me was I have visited Banff and some of the surrounding areas mention, so that did keep me hooked in to the story, I possibly would not off finished it otherwise. I just enjoy a more meaty read with a more complex story and characters.

Christmas book reads recommendationsMurder on Christmas Eve: Classic Mysteries for the Festive Season by Cecily Gayford
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Now this is more like a Christmas read. A nice collection of murder mystery short stories, mostly with a festive theme. Tricky to get any detail or suspense into a short story, so you are never going to be kept you on the edge of your seat for long.
This book is great way of being introduced to new authors, all of which were new to me. There was one of the short stories I did not particularly enjoy The Four Seasons by Michael Innes, odd because my sister who also read the book really enjoyed that particular story.

I particularly enjoyed the writing style and stories by Iain Rankin, Ellis Peters and Val McDermid.  A good book for the festive season, read it and then past on to a friend.

While I was sleeping book review uk book blogger

While I Was Sleeping by Dani Atkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Synopsis: I don't remember what happened or what has changed. I can still hear your voices but you can't seem to hear me. I was about to be married and had everything to look forward to. Now I have to find a way back - to you, to our family, to us.
My Review: After a terrible accident Maddie is in a coma. She is trying to find a way to come back to Ryan and her family. But whilst Maddie has been sleeping the world and people around her have carried on living. Can Maddie adapt to this change, should she have to. I had strong views on two areas of the storyline, one involved a telling a big lie which had me seething. 

I struggled with Ryan, I wanted to like him, for all those endless visits to the hospital - how could I not like him, such utter loyalty. I thought Dani Atkins really captured how Maddie's parents must of felt and heavens knows how her Dad managed. Then there is Chloe, well Chloe didn't know Maddie until after the accident, when she would read to her. Yes I liked Chloe, though was surprised with a twist in her the storyline.

An enjoyable read, not a story I've read in a book previously, though I am sure there are others that have covered the topic.

Though I do want to shout about something and it is now that I am regretting not publishing any spoilers and giving away the storyline. I so wanted this book to end differently and to tell you how I wanted it to end!
audio book review book blogger

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Ellie Mack was the perfect daughter. She was beloved by her parents, friends, and teachers. She and her boyfriend made a teenage golden couple. She was days away from an idyllic summer vacation, with her whole life ahead of her. And then she was gone. 
Now her mother, Laurel Mack, is trying to put her life back together. It's been 10 years since her daughter disappeared, seven years since her marriage ended, and only months since the last clue in Ellie's case was unearthed. So when she meets an unexpectedly charming man in a cafe, she is surprised at how quickly their flirtation develops into something deeper. Before she knows it, she's meeting Floyd's daughters - and his youngest, Poppy, takes her breath away. Looking at her is like looking at Ellie. And now the unanswered questions she has tried so hard to put to rest haunt her anew...as well as some new ones about Floyd and Poppy....

My Review:
It's always a sign that you have enjoyed a book when you find yourself picking up another book by the same author. That's just what I did when I had finished listening to Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell. A surprising novel that took me on a journey I did not expect. Often a kidnap story is told from the view of the victim, the kidnapper or the police searching for them. So it was different from the start to hear it from Laurel the mother of Ellie the missing 15 year old, and it also being set 10 years later.

Ellie has never been found, her disappearance destroyed her family, and ten years later the story begins. Very cleverly written, and very dark in places. There is one particular sentence, in an average story it would mean very little, an every day occurrence you would think nothing of, but in the context of this story - it sent a wave of horror through me. The story builds and with some subtle clues the reader discovers how 10 years later the truth of Ellis disappearance is unravelled. How quickly you find this out will depend entirely how quickly you pick up and decipher the story, some thing the author tells very well indeed.

Eventually, quite a way into the book, we are introduced to Ellie and and hear the story of her kidnapping from her perspective.

Lisa Jewell writing style was easy to read, allowing the story to develop at a steady pace, keeping the reader intrigued and bought into the story. An excellent read, my favourite of the month.

Other books read during 2018
Check out some of my previous book reviews here.

What's next on my bookshelf
Actually there is quite a lot of books left on my bookshelf, some that I have hesitated in reading, and some that are new, for some reason I keep adding more books!  So I have plans for 2019, all will be revealed very soon.
 ~ Leave me a comment if you have any book recommendations ~

You can keep up to date with my past and present reads by visiting my Goodreads page, see the link in the sidebar on the right hand side of your screen. Find out more about my Reading Challenge for 2018, I am making great progress.

Follow my Book Shelf & Reading Challenge Pinterest board
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Book Review The Almanac A Seasonal Guide to 2019

Book Review The Almanac A Seasonal Guide 2019 Lia Leendertz

The Almanac - A Seasonal Guide to 2019 by Lia Leendertz, when I started to read this little book of loveliness I realised it was not a book you read and put down but one that stays with you through the year ahead. It contains more than just facts and information but provides inspiration, even a leading hand to helping the reader to see nature, the evening skies, and even your garden differently. This book will be by my side as the rain pours or the sun shines, as the days pass it will be my companion in the year ahead. 

The introduction of the book also helps you decide how the book can fit within your lifestyle, how much time, ability or even inclination you can spare.  Lia describes it as a toolkit for the reader to pick out the elements that suit them, so for me I can not always embrace the high energy suggestions due to my physical disability. But that does not mean I can not enjoy or learn from them.

The book has a section for each month of the year ahead and within each month you will find:-
  • Keys dates of the month
  • The naming of the month
  • Traditional tale for the month
  • Weather 
  • Sea 
  • Sky at Night 
  • Nature
  • The Garden
  • The Kitchen
  • Recipes
  • Seasonal Song 
Book Review The Almanac A Seasonal Guide 2019 Lia Leendertz

The weather expectations and key ranges for temperature, rain, sun and length of day. There is also a table of sunrise and sunset times.

The Sea
Listing average sea temperatures and spring and neap tides, along with a table of high and low tides.

Sky at Night
I was most interested by The Sky at Night section, detailing what phases of the moon will be seen during the month.  Which planets will be visible to the naked eye and where in the sky you will find them. I find it fascinating staring up into the evening sky, you will even find meteor showers listed. Now if only I could stay up long enough. 

The Kitchen
Fruit and vegetables you can find in season at your greengrocers  or ready for harvesting in your veg patch. You will also find cheese of the month in this section, along with a seasonal recipe or two. I am looking forward to making the Cherry Shandy suggested in August.

The Garden
Guidance for what to plant or harvest in accordance with the phase of the moon. Garden jobs of the month, glut of the months and flower of the month feature in this section.

What sights and sounds you can expect to experience, from birds to insects to the crops in the farmers fields. Learn more about natives leaves and plants. Whenever I am outside or enjoying the view from the comfort of my garden room I always have an eye out for the birds. Even as I type this review, laptop balanced on my knee in the garden room I have a Crows harrying a Sparrow Hawk in the Copper Beech tree. 

A special mention to the beautiful illustrations throughout this book and particularly on the book cover all by Celia Hart. They are just heart warmingly divine.

As I started to explore the contents of this most pleasing of books, I found myself jumping ahead to my birthday month just to see what my cheese of the month would be. Westcombe Ricotta, if you are as keen to know as I was, for cheese of the month is just one of interesting facts you will find in The Almanac. 

The Almanac - A Seasonal Guide to 2019 by Lia Leendertz is a hardback book priced £10 and is available from all good high street book shops and online.

I want to thank Octopus books for supplying me with this much thought of book for review. 

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Book Reviews October / November Part 2

book reviews October November Eleanor Oliphant

Time for second part of my October / November book reviews, I have already reviewed some great books in part one.  In this blog post you will find reviews for Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, Worth Dying For by Lee Child (Jack Reacher #15), The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon and Mad Dogs and Englishmen by Ranulph Fiennes. 

My latest Book Reviews 
I will never giveaway any spoilers in my reviews, just my honest opinion on how I found the book. So you can read my review with the confidence it will not ruin the story for you.
book reviews October November Eleanor Oliphant

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
My rating: 5  of 5 stars
Synopsis: Eleanor Oliphant has learnt how to survive – but not how to live.Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?
My Review
Firstly my hat goes off to the synopsis on the back cover of this book. If it had in the most basic of terms described the subject matters with in the book, quite simply I would have put it straight back on the shelf. 

I really do not want to talk too much about the contents, as it is this very funny, sad, surprising journey through the book I found so interesting. I would truly be ruining this experience if I elaborated any more.  The main characters Eleanor, Raymond, Sammy her friends, her mother are wonderfully written. You really do feel you are part of Eleanor's journey. 

The writing and editing of the story of Eleanor Oilphant, stands out from the many other books I have read this year. Such a touchingly clever book. I loved the way we followed Eleanor through her daily life and the very special way she encounters every day activities. Please please read this book, you will not regret it. How on earth is Gail Honeyman ever going to follow up on this her debut novel - outstanding!

book reviews October November Trouble with goats and sheep

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
My rating:  3 of 5 stars
Synopsis: England, 1976. Mrs Creasy is missing and The Avenue is alive with whispers. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly decide to take matters into their own hands.And as the cul-de-sac starts giving up its secrets, the amateur detectives will find much more than they imagined…
My Review
The Avenue wakes to discovers one day that Mrs Creasy has disappeared. Thus follows close knit neighbours doing there best to discover what has happened to Mrs Creasy, whilst trying to hide their own secrets and lies.

This book came very close to being a 'did not finish'. The story itself was good and quite enjoyable. However I found the first 200'ish pages to be over descriptive, making sure that every reference to the 1970's was included and ticked off a to be included list. I was pleased that this seemed to subside through the remainder of the book, which meant that I skipped less paragraphs and enjoyed the book more.

I did enjoy the story being told from the perspective of 10 year old Grace in 1976. But found the ending to be rather disappointing and unexplained, well at least to my satisfaction. Gave it 3 stars, if you lived through the hot Summer of 1976 I'm sure you will enjoy this book.
Mad Dogs and Englishmen by Ranulph Fiennes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
book reviews October November Mad Dogs Englishmen
Discover Sir Ranulph Twistelton-Wykham-Fiennes's personal expedition to trace his extraordinary family through history. From Charlemagne 'himself a direct ancestor of the author' to the count who very nearly persuaded William the Conqueror to retreat at Hastings, many members of this unique clan have lived close to the nerve centre of the ruler of their day.They number in their ranks a murderer, a wife poisoner, a poacher, England's greatest female traveller of the 17th century, and an extortionist Lord High Treasurer, teen cousins who eloped, a noble lord hanged for manslaughter, another hanged for adultery with the King's wife, and many who, as admirals or major-generals, won famous battles. The Fiennes' behind Cromwell provided the castle in which the Parliamentarians made their first secret moves, the same building in which twenty-one successive generations of the family have lived for 600 unbroken years . . . And that is just a taster. Ranulph Fiennes tells the story of his unconventional, exceptional family, and reveals the ingredients for the man described by the Guinness Book of Records as 'the world's greatest living explorer'.
My Review
This book had been recommended to me from someone who knows I love English history, and what a read it was.

Following the history of England from the norman invasion to present day through just one family was truly fascinating. This is not a brief look at Ranulph Fiennes family tree. But an interesting and detailed exploration of the Fiennes family and how they were influential during many of the key dates in England history. Involved in both the making of royal dynasties and the downfall of royalty.

You need to be a lover of history to really appreciate this book, the level of detailed research and the records kept by the Fiennes family is phenomenal. The book includes many photos and historical illustrations and of course a number of family trees, to help with the understanding.

An excellent read and one I have put back on my bookshelf as I am sure I will want to revisit it again some day.
Book Jack Reacher Worth Dying For Lee Child Review

Worth Dying For by Lee Child

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Synopsis: There's deadly trouble in the wilds of Nebraska...and Reacher walks right into it. First he falls foul of the Duncans, a local clan that has terrified an entire county into submission. But it's the unsolved case of a missing eight-year-old girl, already decades-old, that Reacher can't let go. The Duncans want Reacher gone-or dead. And it's not just past secrets they're trying to hide. They're awaiting a secret shipment that's already late-and they have the kind of customers no one can afford to annoy. For as dangerous as the Duncans are, they're just the bottom of a criminal food chain stretching halfway around the world. Reacher - bruised and battered - should have just kept on going. But for Reacher, that was impossible.
My Review Worth Dying For is another great chapter in the life of Jack Reacher, book 15 in the series. Lee Child has perfected the formula for great action thrillers, and you will not hear me complain. I do enjoy Child's writing style, I never find myself skipping paragraphs as with some authors. 

I was rooting for the small community in this book that were being controlled by the Duncan family. They communicate and support each other via a phone tree, yep I had never heard of that either.  The ending to this book was a little predictable, but there were plenty of clever twists through the story. I enjoyed the majority of characters, though I felt the Italian 'baddies' were a little clichéd. 

What's next on my bookshelf
I have just started reading While I Was Sleeping by Dani Atkins. I am planning to read my first Val McDurmid book, in December, but I also want to read a Christmassy book too. 

But the big news is during I will be taking part in our first ever family book club! Drum roll please our first book is... Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Yes I know you had thought everyone has read Harry Potter. Who's in the book club - my niece who is 12 years old, my sister, brother in law and my cousin and I. None of us know anything about bookclubs so let me know if you have any top suggestions. 

 ~ Leave me a comment if you have any book recommendations ~

You can keep up to date with my past and present reads by visiting my Goodreads page, see the link in the sidebar on the right hand side of your screen. Find out more about my Reading Challenge for 2018, I am making great progress.

Follow my Book Shelf & Reading Challenge Pinterest board
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Festive Afternoon Tea at Wyevale Garden Centre Telford

Festive afternoon tea Wyevale Telford

I am already in full Christmas mode, and have a number of Christmas related activities on my festive to do list. Christmas market is already ticked off my list and this week I also ticked off a Festive Afternoon Tea at my local Wyevale Garden Centre in Telford. 

My sister and I had arranged to meet my parents, who had arrived well before us and were enjoying the many Christmas decorations in store. Christmas vibes were building as we walked through towards the restaurant, lots of twinkly lights and many beautifully decorated trees. 
Christmas Afternoon Tea Wyevale Telford

The Festive Afternoon Tea was booked in advance, so when we arrived at the restaurant our table was all ready for us, and festively decorated. There was even a festive coloured table cover and Christmas crackers, which was a lovely edition. 

Read on to find out what you get for your pennies. The Wyevale  Garden Centre Festive afternoon tea for 2 people is just £16 or £22 for 2 people if you also order prosecco.
Christmas Afternoon Tea Wyevale Telford
If you are like myself and a little fussy over your sandwich fillings fear not, let the store know in advance they can make sure like me that there was no sage and onion stuffing in your sandwich. I had also ordered a gluten free afternoon tea for my sister.

Wyevale Garden Centre 

Festive Afternoon Tea Menu


Somerset brie, cranberry & spinach on white farmhouse loaf

Turkey, sage & onion stuffing with mayonnaise on malted, seeded farmhouse loaf

Cakes and Scones

St Clements cake

Blackberry pavlova

Mini macarons

Festive iced fruit cake

Cranberry & cinnamon scones with clotted cream and jam


Tea or regular coffee and complimentary re-fills

optional Prosecco 
Christmas Afternoon Tea Wyevale Telford

Afternoon Tea is served!

We were asked for our drinks order as soon as we were seated, our drinks and festive afternoon tea was served straight away on chrome and 3 tiered white china cake stands. Nina who served us talked us through the goodies on our cake stands. We pulled our Christmas crackers with a bang, as our Prosecco was also served.

All the sandwiches were absolutely delicious, lots of flavour and the bread soft and fresh, including the gluten free bread. My mum particularly enjoyed the turkey and stuffing on the malted, seeded farmhouse loaf.
Christmas Afternoon Tea Wyevale Telford
Brie, Spinach and Cranberry and Turkey and Cranberry (no stuffing) Sandwiches
We were asked a number of times if we wanted any top ups of tea or coffee. I have to say I loved the style of the teapots and the pourer was dribble free. Is it just me that notices these things, yep probably! Nothing more annoying than making a mess when you pour your cuppa.
Cranberry Cinnamon Scones Christmas Afternoon Tea
Cranberry and Cinnamon Scones

Cakey Goodness

Onto the cakes and scones - all of them were tasty. There was a good balance of cakes - the meringues were sweet and light, Christmas cake rich and fruity, the macarons small enough to eat when you think you have no more room left. But I was bowled over with the St Clements cake, lovely and citrusy with a buttercream filling. I am always popping into Wyevale Garden Centre so will be on the look out for this on the cake counter.  

The Cranberry and Cinnamon scone, I have eaten a lot of scones but have never before tried this combination of flavours. It was very nice, not a tiny dinky scone but a well sized one, so you would only need one scone. Fruity and just the right amount of cinnamon, well done to Wyevale Garden Centre for thinking up something different. Of course I lavished it with clotted cream and jam - well, you have to don't you.   

Festive afternoon tea Wyevale Telford

Gluten Free  

My sisters afternoon tea differed slightly, and was served on her own 3 tiered cake stand. All her bread was gluten free, and no stuffing on her turkey sandwich. A nice Bakewell Slice replaced the St Clements cake and the scone was a gluten free fruit scone, which gain her approval. Gluten free scones do not have a great track record when we have eaten out for afternoon tea and are usually not eaten. So it is good to know that Wyevale Garden Centre have sourced a make my sister approves of.
Gluten Free Festive Afternoon Tea Wyevale Telford
Gluten free fruit  scone, Christmas cake and Bakewell slice
We had an enjoyable and relaxed afternoon, and were not rushed at any time, the staff were very attentive to asking if we need any top ups.  We didn't quite manage to eat everything and I don't like waste so was very pleased when the staff packaged up our leftovers for us to take home. 

I would not hesitate to recommend a Wyevale Garden Centre Festive Afternoon Tea, it's great value for money and a lovely way to spend some festive time with family or friends. Another bonus is due to the out of town locations as we get nearer to Christmas you won't have the worry of traffic, parking or hoards of shoppers.  
Gluten Free Festive afternoon tea Wyevale Telford
Gluten Free Options
Festive Afternoon Tea at participating Wyevale Garden Centres is served at 2.30pm between 17 November and 24 December. Cost £16 for 2 people, £22 if you also have prosecco. 
Festive afternoon tea Wyevale Telford

Festive afternoon tea Wyevale Telford

Disclosure: Thank you to Nina and the restaurant team for a lovely afternoon, and thank you Wyevale Garen Centre for inviting my family and I to enjoy a complimentary VIP Festive Afternoon Tea at the Telford store.

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Book Reviews October / November Part 1

I have read an eclectic selection of books the last few months, including listening to my first full length audio book.  I have also read what I think is going to be my book of the year. As I have quite a few book reviews to share with you I am going to spread them over two separate blog posts.

Here are a few of the book titles to tease you with Blood and Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson a murder thriller set in the 1780's.  A dystopian Earth, Eve of Man by Giovanna & Tom Fletcher. Eleanor Olilphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman voted 2018 Book of the Year winner by British Book awards. War Gardens by Lalage Snow a non fiction book discovering how people and their gardens exist when war rages around them. 

My latest Book Reviews 
I will never giveaway any spoilers in my reviews, just my honest opinion on how I found the book. So you can read my review with the confidence it will not ruin the story for you.
Thanks to Mantel publishing for sending me a pre published copy of Blood and Sugar to review and also to Quercus Books for the hardback edition of War Gardens. 

Blood & Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson
My Rating: 5 of 5 star
Synopsis: June, 1781. An unidentified body hangs upon a hook at Deptford Dock – horribly tortured and branded with a slaver’s mark.Some days later, Captain Harry Corsham – a war hero embarking upon a promising parliamentary career – is visited by the sister of an old friend. Her brother, passionate abolitionist Tad Archer, had been about to expose a secret that he believed could cause irreparable damage to the British slaving industry. He’d said people were trying to kill him, and now he is missing . . .
To discover what happened to Tad, Harry is forced to pick up the threads of his friend's investigation, delving into the heart of the conspiracy Tad had unearthed. His investigation will threaten his political prospects, his family’s happiness, and force a reckoning with his past, risking the revelation of secrets that have the power to destroy him.
And that is only if he can survive the mortal dangers awaiting him in Deptford...
My review
Whilst this book is a murder, mystery, thriller the place and era of it's setting make for a dark, hard to read and shameful chapter of British history. 

It is clear from the depth of detail throughout the story that the author thoroughly researched this period of time. You can almost smell the damp, dark, filthy and squalid conditions during this time. Laura immerses the reader not just into the story but into the  souls of the characters. I felt such utter shame at the descriptions of actions taken by the slave merchants. 

It is not just a case of solving a murder, a very complex case of intrigue, lies, blackmail and treachery. Interesting to see how the different levels of society interact throughout the story. The story twists and turns, when you think it can not get any darker it does.  As the book unfolds your view of characters change, people are not who you think they are and more blood is to be shed. One of the characters totally let me down, I was certainly taken in with their persona.

There is nothing predictable about this crime thriller.  I could certainly see this making it's way to our tv's as very a dark period drama.
Laura does not hide away from the graphic nature of the slave ships and it's merchants, it makes for difficult reading at times.  I was grateful for the cast of characters at the front of the book, if nothing to remind myself where some of the characters loyalties lay or not as the case may be. The book is 425 pages in length. The historical notes at the rear of the book help the reader to understand how factual incidents during the 1780's influenced the story of Blood and Sugar. A great debut novel by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

Published by Panmacmillan Blood and Sugar is available to buy from 24 January 2019.

Molly and the Cat Cafe by Melissa Daley
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
No synopsis on this book, I think my review says it all. 
Cat runs away from new home, cat finds another new home this time at a cafe. Cafe owner re name's cafe to cat cafe. Not much else to say. A very light read, and reasonably enjoyable.
My mum gave me this book to read, to be fair it was a great palette cleansing read having just finished the dark historical thriller Blood and Sugar. If you dare there is even a sequel to Molly and the Cat Cafe, but I think I will give it a miss.

Eve of Man by Giovanna & Tom Fletcher
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Synopsis Against all odds, she, survived.The first girl born in fifty years.They called her Eve...
All her life Eve has been kept away from the opposite sex. Kept from the truth of her past.But at sixteen it's time for Eve to face her destiny. Three potential males have been selected for her. The future of humanity is in her hands. She's always accepted her fate.Until she meets Bram.Eve wants control over her life. She wants freedom.But how do you choose between love and the future of the human race?
My Review
An interesting concept as to where our future may venture. Novels involving the decline in the birth of female babies have been written before, so it's not entirely new. 
The planet has slowly been destroyed by man. Eve's life has been sheltered, protected from men. She knows little of the real world, other than information fed to her through her mothers. Eve has a very distorted perception of history and the present.  Bram is there to re-enforce that world to Eve, though they never actually meet. 
As the story progresses through Bram we uncover more about the current circumstances of the real world, including Bram's family - which is integral to the story. What will happen with Eve to ensure the survival of the human race. 
Some futuristic novels can be immensely complicated, this one isn't. A very enjoyable dystopian novel, and I was delighted to find it was the first of a trilogy.  I was surprised to discover a good way through the book the actual location of where the story is set, I had anonymised the location as a new generic city, so it actually came as a surprise.  
Now to work on my patience whilst I wait for the next book in the series.

Red Rose, White Rose by Joanna Hickson
My rating 4 out of 5 stars
Synopsis The powerful story of Cecily Neville, torn between both sides in the War of the Roses.In fifteenth century England the Neville family rules the north with an iron fist. Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland, a giant of a man and a staunch Lancastrian, cunningly consolidates power by negotiating brilliant marriages for his children. The last betrothal he arranges before he dies is between his youngest daughter, nine-year-old Cicely, and his ward Richard, the thirteen-year-old Duke of York, England's richest heir.Told through the eyes of Cicely and her half-brother Cuthbert, Red Rose, White Rose is the story of one of the most powerful women in England during one of its most turbulent periods. Born of Lancaster and married to York, the willowy and wayward Cicely treads a hazardous path through love, loss and imprisonment and between the violent factions of Lancaster and York, as the Wars of the Roses tear England's ruling families apart. 
My Review
There is nothing I enjoy more than historical fiction. For me this was a first, I did not read this book but listen to it as an audiobook. Which I enjoyed greatly. 

I have not read any Joanne Hickson novels, so a new author to me. The story was narrated in a Yorkshire accent, which added greatly to the authenticity of hearing the story. 
This is not a novel just full of castles, it talks about the land and it's people. Describes in detail, houses, furniture and clothing which I found really interesting. The places in the book are all so familiar, particularly for me Ludlow and the Welsh Marches. The story of Cecily Neville, is not one I knew in any depth, the author captured how strong Cecily was but how fraught and fragile her life was during the turmoil years of the War of the Roses.  Even those in the same family had split loyalties. 
The only thing I missed from listening to this as an audiobook, which I suspect the printed book had was a copy of Neville family tree. Following my recommendation of this book, my sister has read the first novel by Joanna Hickson and has ordered the second she has enjoyed it so much.

What's next on my bookshelf
I am currently reading Ranulph Fienes, Mad Dogs & Englishmen a book about his family history, it's a fascinating read. I have ordered the 15th Jack Reacher book Worth Dying For from my local library. I have also received a copy of The Almanac - A Season Guide to 2019 by Lia Leendertz from Octopus Books. A few years back a read a book called The Forest of Hands and Teeth,  the first of a series and an excellent zombie read, I am looking to introduce myself to the next book.

The second part of my book review will follow in a few days.

 ~ Leave me a comment if you have any book recommendations ~
You can keep up to date with my past and present reads by visiting my Goodreads page, see the link in the sidebar on the right hand side of your screen. Find out more about my Reading Challenge for 2018, I am making great progress.
See my blog post for 13 items you need for the perfect reading nook

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