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

Lots of Book Reviews and a Reading Challenge Update

2018 Book Review Reading Challenge Garden Tea Cakes and Me

Big news about my 2018 reading challenge, at the very end of June I hit my target of reading 20 books! Whoop whoop, this is good stuff and I have enjoyed being driven to embrace reading by giving myself a challenge.  I don't intend to take my foot of the reading pedal, but with a busy few weeks socially in July I'll be lucky to get one book read in the month. But I do have quite a few book reviews to share with you, including one I think will be in my top 3 books of the year.

This blog post will cover book reviews of six books with strictly no spoilers, so grab yourself a cuppa and delve into my good the bad and the amazing of the book world.

  • Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister
  • Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys
  • Explore the Garden at Chatsworth by Peter Drew
  • The Daughters of Gentlemen by Linda Stratmann
  • The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory
  • All By Myself Alone by Mary Higgins Clark

2018 Book Review Reading Challenge Garden Tea Cakes and MeAnything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister

Joanna is an avoider. So far she has spent her adult life hiding bank statements and changing career aspirations weekly.
But then one night Joanna hears footsteps on the way home. Is she being followed? She is sure it's him; the man from the bar who wouldn't leave her alone. Hearing the steps speed up Joanna turns and pushes with all of her might, sending her pursuer tumbling down the steps and lying motionless on the floor.
Now Joanna has to do the thing she hates most - make a decision. Fight or flight? Truth or lie? Right or wrong?

Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are no spoilers in this review, so read on knowing I won't ruin the book for you, and what a book it is!

I was in turmoil reading this book, I was totally captivated by the position the main character Joanna found herself in. Having turned around and pushed someone she believed was following her, she looks to find them fall down some steps and not get up again. Very quickly you start to imagine how you would react and the decisions you would make. Do the right thing and call the emergency services, I mean who wouldn't. Or run and do nothing and tell no one, live with the lie!

The story follows both scenarios, with each chapter headed either 'Conceal' or 'Reveal' it was not until the end of the book that I realised this, I'm not one for taking much notice of the titles of chapters. It was very easy to follow the two storylines, there was no way to mix them up.

I know that I could never have walked away and do nothing, the guilt would leave me a wreak. A lie that big eats you up, something the author Gillian McAllister captures really well in Joanna's 'conceal' life. Although the reveal story is not necessarily the easy option, Joanna still has to live with the consequences of her actions, and the reaction to them from her family and friends. Joanna's would be attacker has a family who what answers too.

This is a very relatable read, compelling, a real page turner.

I read this book for the June read of The Bookmatchmaker Bookclub, an online bookclub and a great suggestion is was too. Find out which books are on the reading list this year or to find out more about this online bookclub check out their website The Bookmatchmaker Bookclub.
The book is 389 pages and I read it in 2 1/2 days, my fastest read of the year.

Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys
2018 Book Review Reading Challenge Garden Tea Cakes and Me

England, September 1939Lily Shepherd boards a cruise liner for a new life in Australia and is plunged into a world of cocktails, jazz and glamorous friends. But as the sun beats down, poisonous secrets begin to surface. Suddenly Lily finds herself trapped with nowhere to go ...Australia, six-weeks laterThe world is at war, the cruise liner docks, and a beautiful young woman is escorted onto dry land in handcuffs.What has she done?

Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lily Shepherd is about to set sail on a journey from England to Australia. Taking advantage of the government scheme offering £10 fares for young women to work for 2 years as housemaids in Sydney, Lily embarks on a 6 week voyage on an cruise liner. It's 1939 and there is much talk of war, by the time Lily arrives in Sydney world war II has been declared.

This period drama had elements of an Agatha Christie thriller, the author describes beautifully the fashions and style of the time. As the ship is British the class system in Britain is reflected onboard - first class, tourist class and third class passengers are all on separate decks.

It really is voyage of discovery for Lily, the ship calls at a number of ports including Gibraltar, Singapore, and Egypt all offering her the once in a lifetime chance to see the places she has read about. Lily befriends Helena travelling to warmer climates with her brother Edward for his health. The class system on board becomes blurred as Lily socialises with a glamorous married couple Max and Eliza from first class. Her friendship with Maria a Jew from Austria fleeing persecution for a new life is frowned upon by her travel companions.

Lily does her best not to fall in love with Edward or to succumb to the pestering of unwanted attention of other men on board. The mix of different nationalities and talk of war makes for a tense atmosphere on board, with not everyone getting agreeing and some quite awful attitudes for those of other nationalities. Mix with your own class, mix with your own type. During the voyage you can sense the tension building, you know that something is going to happen and you know its going to be something awful but you are not sure what. Then it happens, not what I was quite expecting or to the person I was expecting either so it was still a shock. Then the story settles down again, and I was left thinking was that it, as bad as it was I was expecting worse. Just as I was starting to think well that was a little disappointing - boom, one sentence in this book changes the way you have just viewed many parts of the storyline. Very cleverly done, something I did not see coming at all. Then there is more involving some major characters, murder, lies intrigue this book has it all.

I liked the way the story was wrapped up once the ship arrives in Sydney. You have lots of questions about what really did happen and the author has a nice way of wrapping the loose ends up and answering those questions that as reader you have.

Very enjoyable read, thoroughly recommend it.

It was with this book I hit my 20 book target, and what a book to do it with. 'High five'! I some how also managed to find the time to crochet a cover for my new phone, complete with a meconopsis poppy.

2018 Book Review Reading Challenge Garden Tea Cakes and MeExplore the Garden at Chatsworth by Peter Drew

No synopsis for this book as it is a guide book around the garden and estate at Chatsworth House in Cheshire. 

Review Explore the Garden at Chatsworth by Peter Drew
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This guide book is just over 60 pages, and every page is a thoroughly enjoyable read. The gardens at Chatsworth demonstrate the history of gardening and garden design over the years, this guide is cleverly written to also includes this history. Using historical documents you can see how some of the features in the garden have since been altered, adjusted and moved around as interests and fashions changed. So many different aspects and feats of engineering to enjoy. It is also clearing shown how each earl and duke have developed the garden.

There are some clear maps demonstrating the different areas of the garden and how to best move through them.

It has certainly piqued my interest for a return visit, I realise now just how much I managed to miss out on my first visit.

The Daughters of Gentlemen by Linda Stratmann

2018 Book Review Reading Challenge Garden Tea Cakes and Me
The second book in the series of Victorian murder mysteries set in London, with a clever and determined female sleuth. Frances Doughty is a young sleuth on her first professional case, trying to discover who distributed dangerously feminist pamphlets to the girls of the Bayswater Academy for the Education of Young Ladies. Armed with only her wits, courage, and determination, she finds that even the most respectable denizens of Bayswater have something to hide, and what begins as a simple task soon becomes a case of murder. As election fever erupts and the formidable ladies of the Bayswater Women's Suffrage Society swing into action, Frances’ enquiries expose lies, more murders, and a long-concealed scandal—and she makes a powerful new friend. 
The Daughters of Gentlemen
by Linda Stratmann

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second book of the Frances Doughty crime thrillers set during the victorian period, and I much stronger book than the first, A Poisonous Seed.

The story continues on from the end of the last book, so it is worth reading the first book. Frances needs to find an income and a new home or she will have to move from Bayswater and live with her uncle, and her maid Sarah will be without a home and a job. A lifeline is found when Frances is approached by the board of Bayswater Academy for Young Ladies, and is asked to investigate who is distributing feminist pamphlets.

Frances takes on her first case as a private detective, this sees her maid Sarah now become her companion and apprentice detective. This complex mystery set in 1880's invites you into Frances's world of solving a crime not something a lady of the day should be doing - follow her steps as she investigates. Frances explores the worlds of ladies of society, servants, police, politicians and journalists. But this simple investigation soon turns into something far more sinister, with lives at risk. I loved that there was so much going on in the storyline, not just the main crime to be solved but some mini ones that Sarah has to solve too.

This story also touches on important aspects of history, it was very apt to be reading about the Women's Suffrage Society when this very month 100 years ago women were given the vote in the UK.

These books have many characters and weaving storylines, you have to pay attention so no late night reading and dozing off. Really enjoyed it and can not wait to read the next book from my library.

The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory
2018 Book Review Reading Challenge Garden Tea Cakes and Me
Jane Grey was queen of England for nine days. Her father and his allies crowned her instead of the dead king’s half sister Mary Tudor, who quickly mustered an army, claimed her throne, and locked Jane in the Tower of London. When Jane refused to betray her Protestant faith, Mary sent her to the executioner’s block, where Jane transformed her father’s greedy power grab into tragic martyrdom.
“Learn you to die,” was the advice Jane wrote to her younger sister Katherine, who has no intention of dying. She intends to enjoy her beauty and her youth and fall in love. But she is heir to the insecure and infertile Queen Mary and then to her half sister, Queen Elizabeth, who will never allow Katherine to marry and produce a Tudor son. When Katherine’s pregnancy betrays her secret marriage, she faces imprisonment in the Tower, only yards from her sister’s scaffold.
“Farewell, my sister,” writes Katherine to the youngest Grey sister, Mary. A beautiful dwarf, disregarded by the court, Mary keeps family secrets, especially her own, while avoiding Elizabeth’s suspicious glare. After seeing her sisters defy their queens, Mary is acutely aware of her own danger but determined to command her own life. What will happen when the last Tudor defies her ruthless and unforgiving Queen Elizabeth?

Review The Last TudorThe Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love reading about the Tudor period of history, and this novel about the Grey sisters did not disappoint. You follow the lives of Jane Grey who very briefly was Queen of England if for just a few days. Katherine Grey who marries the love of her life to the displeasure of Queen Elizabeth I, much like her sister Mary.

It was a real eye opener for me, just how tricky and complex life at the court Elizabeth I was. If you were invited to be part of the royal court you did as the queen commanded, or suffer the consequences. I don’t think I would of survived 5 minutes! The intrigue, scheming, blackmail made for many unhappy lives particularly for the Grey sisters.

Queen Elizabeth I refuses to marry, and will not grant any of her close relatives permission to marry for fear of them providing a clear heir to the throne of England. Other threats for the crown from England, Scotland, France and Spain make for a very paranoid monarch. All 3 Grey sisters suffered greatly at the hands of the Queen.

This book gave me an understanding of why Elizabeth I never married, and how woman were pawns and manipulated in the power play of royal houses. Though I can’t help but think why on Earth didn’t the Grey sisters learn from each other’s mistakes.

Another enjoyable Philippa Gregory book.

All By Myself Alone by Mary Higgins Clark

2018 Book Review Reading Challenge Garden Tea Cakes and Me
Fleeing a disastrous and humiliating arrest of her husband-to-be on the eve of their wedding, Celia Kilbride, a gems and jewellery expert, hopes to escape from public attention by lecturing on a brand-new cruise ship—the Queen Charlotte.
On board she meets eighty-six-year-old Lady Emily Haywood, “Lady Em,” as she is known throughout the world. Immensely wealthy, Lady Em is the owner of a priceless emerald necklace that she intends to leave to the Smithsonian after the cruise.
Three days out to sea Lady Em is found dead—and the necklace is missing. Is it the work of her apparently devoted assistant, Brenda Martin, or her lawyer-executor, Roger Pearson, and his wife, Yvonne, both of whom she had invited to join them on the cruise? Or is it Professor Henry Longworth, an acclaimed Shakespeare scholar who is lecturing on board? Or Alan Davidson, a guest on the ship who is planning to spread his wife’s ashes at sea? The list of suspects is large and growing.
Celia, with the help of her new friends Willy and Alvirah Meehan, who are celebrating their forty-fifth wedding anniversary, sets out to find the killer, not realising that she has put herself in mortal danger before the ship reaches its final destination.


All By Myself Alone by Mary Higgins Clark
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My second Mary Higgins Clark book, a straightforward murder mystery set on board an exclusive transatlantic luxury cruise liner. You will find there are no spoilers in my review.

This novel is a straightforward murder mystery, I certainly wouldn't describe it as a thriller. The story revolves around jewels, deception, and embezzlement. There are a key number of characters who could be the next murder victim or murderer. There are clues a plenty, most of which I followed though I critically failed to identify the murderer. Which I'll be honest there are clues but I did not put two and two together. It's no Agatha Christie, an easy read with reasonable characters, a mix of the likable and annoying.

I should add the cover and title of this book are very misleading, there is absolutely nothing scary or dark about the story. In that respect it was quite a disappointment. The more I am reading through my review of this book the more I want to revise my 3 star score, very mediocre, so many better books to read, don't believe the hype on the back cover. 

Currently Reading...The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton, I still, yes still have a number of Philippa Gregory books on my bookshelf waiting to be read. 

Do let me know if you have any book recommendations. You can find out more about the books I am currently reading or vote on which book I should read next on my Instagram account Garden Tea Cakes and Me.
Read my previous reviews including:- 
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Jack Reachers 61 Hoursthe thriller I See You or Jesse Burton's The Muse.

Goodreads What to follow me or see what the other books I have sitting on my GoodReads virtual bookshelf, pop over to my Goodreads page.
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