Thursday, 26 January 2017
After six blissful years with scientist boyfriend Owen, Bella Beecham was convinced he was about to pop the question she’d been longing to hear. Instead, he accepted a prestigious job in California and left England without a backwards glance. Now, Owen’s back in the village of Saffron Sweeting, and appears to be more eligible than ever. Bella’s determined that the man of her dreams won’t slip through her fingers again.
But her plans to tone up, trim down, and tempt Owen back into her life prove bittersweet. Although Bella’s talent for baking wins her new friends, her tasty treats have a disconcerting tendency to sabotage her own intentions. And as her increasingly bold attempts to recapture Owen’s heart stumble, Bella must question whether she’s chasing a guy who wants to be caught.
A British romantic comedy featuring both familiar characters and fresh faces, Sweet Pursuits explores how a young woman seeking her soulmate must first learn to love herself.
Whilst the book can be read as a standalone it is one of the novels set in Saffron Sweeting. So as I had previously read both of those books "Saving Saffron Sweeting" and "Secrets in the Sky" I began to feel right at home, it felt like catching up with old friends as I recognised characters from previous books and also re visited the lovely Bakery.
When Bella realises that her man that got away (Owen) is returning to Saffron Sweeting she sets out to win him back with some hilarious consequences. I was really captivated when she tried some culinary magic - but would it get served to the right person?
One of Bella's plans to win back Owen is to lose weight and she joins the couch to 5k programme. This aspect of the book I found quite motivational - especially at this time of year - her coach Leo gives some good advice and I found I was thinking about this when i wasn't reading the book. However all that good work was undone when I was introduced through the book to Mocha with Baileys, I tried it and wow it's good!
Pauline writes with great social observation and humour, so it really doesn't feel like reading a book, but just recognising people we all know or characteristics we identify with as they go about their daily lives.
A lovely gentle read. I'm giving this book 5 out of 5 stars. My thanks to Pauline for an advance copy of the book to review.
Saturday, 14 January 2017
When your Monday morning begins with a dead dog and ends with a dead boss, you know it's going to be one of those days. And breakfast TV reporter Cora Baxter has already had the weekend from hell, after the man she'd planned a fabulous future with unceremoniously dumped her. Now Cora's much-hated boss has been murdered - the list of suspects isn't exactly short, but as the enquiry continues the trail leads frighteningly close to home. Why is Cora's rival, glamorous, bitchy newsreader Alice Lomas, so devastated by their boss's death? What dark secrets are Cora's camera crew hiding? And why has her now ex-boyfriend vanished? The race to stop the killer striking again is on...
I have to say that I was attracted to this book because of the author. I've seen Jackie on QVC and wondered if she could write? As the book is based on a TV reporter and Jackie used to be one I had a feeling it would be a pretty good real life read. I'm pleased to say I was right on both counts - a great author and a great realistic portrayal of TV life.
The book is so funny - right from the beginning where the title of the book comes from and the crazy world of TV where everything has to be on time, even if its late! One of the funniest lines for me is where Cora is sorting through her mail and places a letter on the pile to save "in case I need to show to the police in the future". Although I am sure this is true to life and a downside to being in the public eye.
I loved the writing, all of the characters had a personality and some depth to their character. I was loving it so much that I actually devoured the book in just a couple of readings. I really enjoyed the TV aspect of the novel and that of course is where Jackie has come into her own by using her experience in TV to make such a realistic story line. The camaraderie between Cora and her crew shone through the book and made for entertaining reading. Woven through this is the murder and subsequent investigation to find the killer. Jackie also manages to fit a couple of romances in too, but it all flows together beautifully.
I did think early on that I may have guessed who killed Cora's boss, but I had no grounds for the suspicion. However, in true Agatha Christie style when the murderer is revealed you really had no way of knowing - and there is an ingenious twist to the writing near the end which sent me into a spiral of doubt.
I'm giving this book 5 out of 5 stars. I'm just sorry it took so long to get around to reading it as it was on my personal shelf and not a review book. However I enjoyed it so much I decided to share my thoughts.
Jackie has a follow on book featuring Cora out called The Deadline which is now on my To Be Read list!
Thursday, 12 January 2017
Praise for Two Days Gone
A January Indie Next Great Read
“…a suspenseful, literary thriller that will resonate with readers long after the book is finished. A terrific choice for Dennis Lehane fans.”—Library Journal, STARRED review
“Beneath the momentum of the investigation lies a pervasive sadness that will stick with you long after you've turned the last page.”—Kirkus Reviews
“…skillfully written thriller.”—Publishers Weekly
“…impressive novel…an intriguing thriller.”—Booklist
“…this novel [will] linger in readers’ minds well after Two Days Gone.”—Shelf Awareness
“Two Days Gone is a quiet, intense, suspenseful mystery about a man who has lost everything. Rich with descriptions and atmosphere….Two Days Gone is relentless in its suspense, and the final twists in the novel are sure to not disappoint.”— Foreword Review
“An absolute gem of literary suspense, pitting ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances and told in a smooth, assured, and often haunting voice, TWO DAYS GONE is a terrific read.”
—Michael Koryta, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Wish Me Dead
The perfect family. The perfect house. The perfect life. All gone now.
Thomas Huston, a beloved professor and bestselling author, is something of a local hero in the small Pennsylvania college town where he lives and teaches. So when Huston’s wife and children are found brutally murdered in their home, the community reacts with shock and anger. Huston has also mysteriously disappeared, and suddenly, the town celebrity is suspect number one.
Sergeant Ryan DeMarco has secrets of his own, but he can’t believe that a man he admired, a man he had considered a friend, could be capable of such a crime. Hoping to glean clues about Huston’s mind-set, DeMarco delves into the professor’s notes on his novel-in-progress. Soon, DeMarco doesn’t know who to trust—and the more he uncovers about Huston’s secret life, the more treacherous his search becomes.
Today I am part of the blog tour for this book and you can read an excerpt from the first chapter of Two Days Gone below.
The book begins with the discovery that Claire Hutson and her children have all been brutally murdered and her husband is missing. The book then takes turns to tell the investigation side through the eyes of Sergeant Ryan DeMarco and Thomas Hutson as he goes on the run.
There is a connection between the two narrators as Hutson is a well know crime novelist and DeMarco has not only read his books but been a part of research Hutson did for one of his books.
It seems pretty clear cut, that although there seems to be no reason to it, Hutson has murdered his family - otherwise why would he be on the run?
I really liked the two main characters in this book. DeMarco is almost channelling Columbo in his detective style, and I enjoyed it. He uses the writing of Hutson to try and second guess his motives and actions whilst on the run. He also has a little back story of his own running through the book and a complex relationship with his estranged wife.
Meanwhile Hutson gives a glimpse to what he is going through whilst on the run. At one point he becomes one of his characters in order to be able to carry on and get through his ordeal. I found this a really interesting perspective.
Both men are heading towards Annabel, the muse of Hutson's unpublished latest book. One man knows who she is and the other is trying to find out. This was the part of the book that hooked me in as the plot unravels to reveal whom Annabel is or whom Hutson wants her to be.
Just when I thought this book was done and dusted there were a couple of twists, and not ones I was expecting. At times I found this book terribly sad - so much loss between the pages. However, it also manged to be a really good mystery.
I'm giving this book 5 out of 5 stars.
My thanks go to Netgalley for a preview copy of the book to review.
First Chapter Excerpt
The waters of Lake Wilhelm are dark and chilled. In some places, the lake is deep enough to swallow a house. In others, a body could lie just beneath the surface, tangled in the morass of weeds and water plants, andremain unseen, just another shadowy form, a captive feast for the catfish and crappie and the monster bass that will nibble away at it until the bones fall asunder and bury themselves in the silty floor.
In late October, the Arctic Express begins to whisper south- eastward across the Canadian plains, driving the surface of Lake Erie into white-tipped breakers that pound the first cold breaths of winter intonorthwestern Pennsylvania. From now until April, sunny days are few and the spume-strewn beaches of Presque Isle empty but for misanthropic stragglers, summer shops boarded shut, golf courses as still as cemeteries,marinas stripped to their bonework of bare, splintered boards. For the next six months, the air will be gray and pricked with rain or blasted with wind-driven snow. A season of surliness prevails.
Sergeant Ryan DeMarco of the Pennsylvania State Police, Troop D, Mercer County headquarters, has seen this season come and go too many times. He has seen the surliness descend into despair, the despair to acts of desperation, or, worse yet, to deliberately malicious acts, to behavior that shows no regard for the fragility of flesh, a contempt for all consequences.
He knows that on the dozen or so campuses between Erie and Pittsburgh, college students still young enough to envision a happy future will bundle up against the biting chill, but even their youth- ful soulswill suffer the effects of this season of gray. By November, they will have grown annoyed with their roommates, exasperated with professors, and will miss home for the first time since September. Homeis warm and bright and where the holidays are waiting. But here in Pennsylvania’s farthest northern reach, Lake Wilhelm stretches like a bony finger down a glacier-scoured valley, its waters dark with pineresin, its shores thick on all sides with two thousand acres of trees and brush and hanging vines, dense with damp shadows and nocturnal things, with bear and wildcat and coyote, with hawks that scream inthe night.In these woods too, or near them, a murderer now hides, a man gone mad in the blink of an eye.The college students are anxious to go home now, home to Thanksgiving and Christmas and Hanukah, to warmth and love and light. Home to where men so respected and adored do not suddenlybutcher their families and escape into the woods.The knowledge that there is a murderer in one’s midst will stagger any community, large or small. But when that murderer is one of your own, when you have trusted the education of your sons anddaughters to him, when you have seen his smiling face in every bookstore in town, watched him chatting with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America, felt both pride and envy in his sudden acclaim,now your chest is always heavy and you cannot seem to catch your breath. Maybe you claimed, last spring, that you played high school football with Tom Huston. Maybe you dated him half a lifetimeago, tasted his kiss, felt the heave and tremor of your bodies as you lay in the lush green of the end zone one steamy August night when love was raw and new. Last spring, you were quick to claim an oldintimacy with him, so eager to catch some of his sudden, shimmering light. Now you want only to huddle indoors. You sit and stare at the window, confused by your own pale reflection.
Now Claire O’Patchen Huston, one of the prettiest women in town, quietly elegant in a way no local woman could ever hope to be, lies on a table in a room at the Pennsylvania State Police forensics lab in Erie. There isthe wide gape of a slash across her throat, an obscene slit that runs from the edge of her jawline to the opposite clavicle.
Thomas Jr., twelve years old, he with the quickest smile and the fastest feet in sixth grade, the boy who made all the high school coaches wet their lips in anticipation, shares the chilly room with his mother. The knife that tookhim in his sleep laid its path low across his throat, a quick, silencing sweep with an upward turn.
As for his sister, Alyssa, there are a few fourth grade girls who, a week ago, would have described her as a snob, but her best friends knew her as shy, uncertain yet of how to wear and carry and contain her burgeoning beauty. Sheappears to have sat up at the last instant, for the blood that spurted from her throat sprayed not only across the pillow, but also well below it, spilled down over her chest before she fell back onto her side. Did she understandthe message of that gurgling gush of breath in her final moments of consciousness? Did she, as blood soaked into the faded pink flannel of her pajama shirt, lift her gaze to her father’s eyes as he leaned away from her bed?
And little David Ryan Huston, asleep on his back in his crib— what dreams danced through his toddler’s brain in its last quivers of sentience? Did his father first pause to listen to the susurrus breath? Did he calm himself withits sibilance? The blade on its initial thrust missed the toddler’s heart and slid along the still-soft sternum. The second thrust found the pulsing muscle and nearly sliced it in half.
The perfect family. The perfect house. The perfect life. All gone now. Snap your fingers five times, that’s how long it took. Five soft taps on the door. Five steel-edged scrapes across the tender flesh of night.