Review of A Very Distant Shore by Jenny Colgan

A Very Distant Shore by Jenny Colgan

My rating:  3.5/4 Stars

Genre: Fiction – QuickReads

A very distant shore by Jenny Colgan – Cover


My rating: 3.5/4 Stars
Genre: Fiction – QuickReads
📖 I’ve only read Jenny Colgan’s work before in The Anniversary edited by Veronica Henry quick reads collection, which was a very enjoyable read. So, I picked up this book with high hopes. Known as a writer of romantic comedy fiction a light-hearted up-lifting book was what I was after, between reading some more serious pieces. However, that’s not exactly what I got with this book.
✍️ A Very Distant Shore is a tale about a remote Scottish Island of Mure which is in desperate need of a doctor. When Saif, a refugee doctor turns up, it captures the attention of the whole Island. Local schoolteacher Lorna has her own problems with an elderly ailing widowed father to look after. Perhaps the two of them are just what each other needs?
🗺 The setting was interesting, the writing was great, and I really did begin to care for the characters, especially Lorna. I really geared myself up to love this book. However…
💔 Negatives: Spoiler Alert So, I was expecting a rom-com with a happily ever after. Instead, I got a heartbreak and a death. The book finished and I was left feeling fairly flat and a bit cheated.
💭 Overall View: Brilliant little book. The refugee storyline was very interesting (possibly more so with what is happening in the world with Ukraine right now). The ending was a bit more down than I would like but still an interesting little book.




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Review of The Visitors Book and other ghost stories by Sophie Hannah

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Genre: Horror, Paranormal

The Visitors Book – Cover


📖 This collection contains four short stories:
• The Visitors Book
• The Last Boy to Leave
• Justified True Belief
• All the dead mothers of my daughters friends

✍️ The Visitors Book is a story about Victoria and her strange partner Aaron who get into a huge row when she refuses to sign the visitors’ book at his London flat. Although from the short glance Victoria had at the book, there is something rather peculiar about the names in it, soon Victoria realises she could be in danger.

👫 The Last Boy to Leave is a heartbreaking short story and probably my favourite within the book. After relocating to a new area, Jen and Greg decide to throw their son Max a birthday party in their home. It soon descends into chaos with kids, running around everywhere, practically destroying the house and ignoring all Jen’s rules. Yet one young boy stops and helps Jen to clean and tidy, he’s polite and kind, yet something is not quite right about him.

👓 Justified True belief is such an interesting short story centred around medical health. The theory is pretty much those with an illness can detect others with the same illness. It’s very difficult to say more than that without spoiling it but it was a really good concept and I would have happily read this as a longer story/novel as it seems to have a lot of possibilities.

🗺 All the dead mothers of my daughters friends was probably my least favourite of the collection. It was probably quite accurate but it pretty much focused on snarky in-fighting between mothers at a school playground.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

Aaron closes his eyes. ‘Will this argument ever end?’ he murmers.
‘Would you prefer me to back down and say, “You’re quite right, I’m so sorry”?’
‘Yes, I would. And then I’d like you to sign my visitors book.’
‘Jesus! Your obsession with getting me to sign that stupid book is bordering on the creepy, Aaron. Why does it matter so much to you?’

💭 Overall View: I enjoy a good ghost story and this was an enjoyable, short, sweet collection. I preferred The Last Boy to Leave and Justified True Belief to the other stories. They had just the right level of creepy and believable to them which I prefer. All in all, though an enjoyable collection and I look forward to reading more by this author.

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The Visitors Book – Extract

Review of Too Good to be True by Ann Cleeves

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Fiction – Crime Thriller – Police Procedural

Cover – Too Good To Be True



📖 Ann Cleeves is an author who has been on my radar for a while now (several people have recommended her novels to me). This book appeared on the quickreads collection and thought it would be a great opportunity.

✍️ This book follows Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez to a small village in the Scottish Borders where his ex-wife has summoned him to help investigate a suspicious death of a local schoolteacher, Anna. The local gossips (which amounts to most of the town) suspect Sarah’s current husband of having an affair with Anna (and perhaps being involved in her death).

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

‘But you don’t really think he killed her?’ the first woman said. ‘Not Tom! He’s a doctor. A kind man. He looked after my mother when she had cancer and he couldn’t have been more caring.’
‘It’s just too much of a coincidence.’ It was Gail again. ‘Something weird was going on there. If the Kings didn’t kill her, they drove her to suicide.’
Jimmy Perez couldn’t stand any more of their unkindness. He drank his coffee in one go, paid the bill and went outside.

👓 This was an enjoyable book, and I particularly enjoyed the writing style. It was easy to read but maintained its believable elements. The characters were interesting, and the mystery was good (and not too easily guessable).

💔 Any Negatives? Well, this is part of a series. So, a lot of the character depth, particularly around Perez probably features elsewhere in the series. This is a standalone book and can be read as such, but I do wonder if it’s more enjoyable to those already familiar with the series.

💭 Overall View: Great pace, characters, and location. Good writing and the mystery certainly left me guessing.

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Review of Tempest in a Teapot by Kate Valent

Tempest in a Teapot by Kate Valent
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tempest in a Teapot – Cover

📖 Tempest in a teapot follows a young lady named Charlotte, a baker’s daughter she is both excited and nervous when she is invited to a party of the upcoming wealthy family the Steepe’s. However, everyone knows the Steepe’s are after a noble match to elevate their standing within society, so when Charlotte is selected by the (rather odd) heir to the Steepe family, Martin to be his fiancée, based purely on her favourite tea, Charlotte’s world turns on its axis.

✍️ This is such an intriguing little book. From the first page, I was quite drawn to it. Charlotte is a great character, a hard worker used to her family’s ways. She devours books (particularly penny bloods which are not the most suitable reading for the young ladies in society) and dreams of writing her own. After her surprise engagement, Charlotte crosses paths with the beautiful but frightening Bertram (Martin’s cousin) who is determined to break the engagement off and that Martin should be marrying someone within high society. Yet, the more time Charlotte spends with Martin and his intriguing, quirky ways, the more she actually starts to fall on him.

👓 This book is a fantasy book with much of the side story being around runes and their use (originally by the wealthy but with more and more making their way to the working class). The book is set in a somewhat historical Victorian setting (I suspect 1851 as there is a reference to Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition, but please don’t hold me to that!), with many of the traditions, mannerisms (and class systems) referenced from that time period.

👫 Great range of characters, both Martin and Charlotte were cute and sweet (and innocent enough to make the traditional love story elements of the book work. I enjoyed the side characters and storylines such as the spirited Hawke sisters (envious of being women in a man’s world), the straight-talking Laoise, and the misadventures of Oolong the dog.

🗺 Tempest in a teapot (American English), or storm in a teacup (British English), is an idiom meaning a small event that has been exaggerated out of proportion. One of the things I love about this book title is it is actually a direct quote from the book. There’s always a sense of satisfaction when the title makes sense.

💔 Any Negatives: I guess, perhaps the book is a little obvious. There is no great mystery about what is going to happen next. You know who the good guy is, who the bad guy is and that ultimately love will win. But I think that is endearing in itself and didn’t detract at all from the story. I can certainly see this tea-ing off (pun intended) a Bridgerton style series.

💭 Overall View: an enjoyable romp through a magical Victorian world (with tea and cakes!). What’s not to like?!

📣 Disclaimer: I received an advance reader copy of this book for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.


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Writing Extract:

Tempest in a TeaPot – Extract

Review of Notting Hill Carnival by Candice Carty-Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cover – The Notting Hill Carnival


Genre: Romance – Quick Reads – Retellings

📖 This book is pretty much a modern-day remake of Romeo and Juliet. The story primarily follows a girl named Sapphire who once was the leader of a gang called the Red Roses. She’s turned her life around, got a job and is trying to go straight as it were. Unfortunately, the leader of the Gold Teeth Gang has other plans and Sapphire soon finds herself being pulled back into that old world. On her way to the Notting Hill Carnival, Sapphire finds herself forming a friendship with a boy named Apollo but they both soon have their loyalties tested when they find out they each belong to rival gangs.

✍️ This book is part of the “quick reads” collection which I like to intersperse between larger novels. The idea of this collection is exactly as it says on the tin (or should that be cover), a shorter than a normal book by world-leading authors (less than 100 pages). One of the things I quite like about these books is that they force the authors to cut out a lot of the waffle that sometimes goes on in books. This keeps the stories quite fast-paced with a lot happening in less time. This book carries a lot of action and a lot of background despite its short number of pages, and I enjoyed that. The romance aspect perhaps could have developed more (as I’m sure it would have in a longer book) but I’m sure the reader got the gist and was willing the couple to triumph.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

‘Do I know you from somewhere?’ he said back, smiling.
Sapphire stifled a laugh. This was the oldest trick in the book, though she hadn’t heard it for a long time. All work and no play in the last few months had made Sapphire feel like nobody would ever be attracted to her.
‘I don’t think so’, she smiled. He was kind of cute. Not as big as the guys she usually went for, but she did like his eyes.

🗺 This book takes place in London (probably obvious by the title) but I enjoyed the author’s descriptions of the areas. You really got a feel for the turf was between the gangs and the busy carnival bringing it all to a head.

💔 Any Negatives: Possibly could have done with a little more romance but to be honest the amount of story packed into such a short book it would have been difficult to achieve this.

💭 Overall View: A brilliant little story and a great tribute to a classic. The story felt sassy and strong-willed. The main character was well portrayed, and you did find yourself willing her to triumph. Overall, very enjoyable.

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Review of Women & Power by Mary Beard

Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cover – Women and Power


📖 I picked this book up at the airport on the way to a holiday. I had never heard of Mary Beard prior to it and it was just the concept and the initial pages which pulled me in but I must say it was an enjoyable read and I felt quite empowered after reading it.

✍️ The book is based on two lectures previously given by Mary Beard. Short but to the point. The historical aspects of the book were most intriguing. It explores the male authority within the western culture from multiple historic viewpoints, Greek, Roman, it even has a quick look at Queen Elizabeth the first and her most famous words “I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too” or were they?

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

In the early fourth century BC, for example, Aristophanes devoted a whole comedy to the ‘hilarious’ fantasy that women might take over running the state. Part of the joke was that women couldn’t speak properly in public – or rather, they couldn’t adapt their private speech (which in this case was largely fixated on sex) to the lofty idiom of male politics.

👓 I wouldn’t say I agreed with every concept approached in this book, however, like all good books, it was certainly thought-provoking. Beard’s arguments are very compelling. It also stayed with me for quite some time after reading.

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At the time of reviewing this book it is on sale for £2.84 at Amazon (affiliate link):

https://amzn.to/3rW2DFY

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Review of The art of spirit capture by Geoff Le Pard

The art of spirit capture by Geoff Le Pard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genre: Paranormal, Mystery, Romance

📖 I have followed Geoff Le Pard’s writing online for some time, and it is always clever, witty and above all engrossing. So, despite this being the first novel of his I have read, I started it with high expectations. Despite these exposures to Geoff’s writing, I have never read anything quite like this (from Geoff or indeed any other author). The concept is brilliant, so unusual, it left me desperate to unravel the story and hoping for a happy ending for all.

✍️ The story is told from the viewpoint of Jason. Jason has lost his job, lost his girlfriend and his brother is in a coma. Life is in a pretty dark place. When he receives a phone call from a country lawyer explaining that he and his brother are beneficiaries to a recently deceased aunt, it gives him a chance to have a small break away from his everyday life.

👫 What Jason doesn’t expect is to come across an old childhood friend Lottie (Charlotte) who seems to switch between being open and helpful to distant and secretive. I loved how Jason and Lotte’s relationship evolves throughout the novel. I also enjoyed how Jason’s view of his aunt’s dog Viscount changes during the story.

👓 I would describe this book as a mystery at its core. Really the story is about Jason’s long-deceased uncle, Ben who possessed a gift of capturing a piece of spirit in a glass form. It is expected by many that Jason will know the secret to these creations and will continue to make them for the town. The captures are loved by many, but some people in the town mistrust the spirit captures or have had bad experiences with them, because of this the town is divided on whether the creation of these items should continue and expect Jason to make that decision.

Will Jason figure out how to create the captures, and if he does will he want to?

🗺 Setting: This book is mostly set near Lewes in the British countryside with occasional sprints back to London.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

“It’s still there. Ben used it as his main workshop until he died. Heather and I checked it out in the summer and it was still standing. We should take a look.”
“Is it in the middle of the woods?”
“Yes, In a clearing. There are other buildings now. It –“
“That stile! Near the tree I fell out of. That leads to it, doesn’t it?”
“That’s right, though it’ll be pretty overgrown. Ben walked that way from the cottage.”…

💭 Overall View: As mentioned, I went into this book expecting a quality story, which is what I got, and more. The characters and their relationships were very well handled, some subtle and intriguing, others brash and loud. The mystery was great and enjoyably, I hadn’t figured out the ending before I got to it. The touch of magic within this book is so endearing it and after reading I found myself thinking about the spirit captures, the concept is just marvellous. Highly recommended.

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At the time of reviewing this book, it is on sale for £1.99 at Amazon (affiliate link): https://amzn.to/3JLsp8e

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Review of The Anniversary (short story collection)

The Anniversary by Veronica Henry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cover – The Anniversary. Image by KL Caley


📖 A collection of short stories which all revolve around an anniversary of some kind (finished off with a few recipes from the Hairy Bikers). This book contains short stories from Fanny Blake, Elizabeth Buchan, Rowan Coleman, Jenny Colgan, Philippa Gregory, Matt Haig, Veronica Henry, Andy McNab, Richard Madeley and John O’Farrell.

✍️I’m pleased to say that the entire collection was enjoyable and featured quite a range of stories, timelines and writing styles. See below a quick summary of a few of them to whet the appetite:

The Other Half by Fanny Blake is about a young single mum who has taken on a taxi job to support her family after her husband ran off with her best friend. It’s a funny, warm, light-hearted story with a great ending.

Moment of Glory by Elizabeth Buchan is a wonderful flash into the second world war. Ellen, now a stay-at-home mother, was working at a top-secret signals base. She gives us a little insight into life at the station. It’s a sweet uplifting story, championing motherhood. The type of tale you would expect to find in a people’s friend magazine.

Birthday Secrets by Rowan Coleman is an intriguing little tale giving an insight into families discussing LGBTQ+ within the household and opening up to partners/parents about it. It’s a kind, positive story and handled with a brilliant sense of positive normality.

May Day by Philippa Gregory was my favourite story of the bunch. It follows Henry VIII sixth wife, Katherine Parr but more interestingly it tells the story of St Tryphine, a woman forced against her will to marry her father’s husband. Exploring her husband’s castle, she finds some secret rooms which contain several of the murdered remains of her husband’s previous wives. The two stories are brilliantly woven together. Historical fiction at its finest.
💭 Overall View: Needless to say, I liked this book. It is part of the “quick reads” collection which I like to intersperse between larger novels. The idea of this collection is exactly as it says on the tin (or should that be cover), a shorter than normal book by world-leading authors. Well worth the £1 cover price and highly recommended.

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The facts are only ever a part of a story. Philippa Gregory
The facts are only ever a part of a story. Philippa Gregory Quote.

Review of Lockdown by Peter May

Lockdown by Peter May

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Cover - Lockdown by Peter May
Cover – Lockdown by Peter May


📖 I loved the premise of this book but I especially loved the Foreword. May began researching and writing this book in 2005, but there was little interest in the book world for it and some editors thought the idea of London in lockdown too far-fetched. If only they’d known then what we do now.

✍️The book itself centres around detective Jack McNeil who is asked to investigate the mystery of a murdered child’s bones. Jack himself is on the last day of the job instead of taking things easy and wrapping up he finds himself on a chase across London to unravel the case. His own family are hit with heartbreak in relation to the virus.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

(Page 273)
‘I’ll scream!’ she said in a voice made so tiny by fear that it barely penetrated the dark.
MacNeil said breathlessly, ‘If you scream, then so will I.’
Something in his voice stopped her struggling. She lay on the ground below him, gasping for breath, a strange wiry creature in a tweed jacket and skirt with a white blouse and pearl necklace. ‘Who the hell are you?’ she gasped.
‘Detective Inspector Jack MacNeil. Who the hell are you?’

👓 I would just like to mention I love Peter May’s work. His Lewis trilogy is a personal favourite, and I would highly recommend that collection to anyone. I wish stars were out of 10 instead of 5 as this book is a solid 7 out of 10.

👫 Jack McNeil is a great character. Your usual flawed policeman, with a troubled family/home life and a girlfriend within the medical department. All quite cliché but you do warm to him and find yourself willing him to succeed.

Dr Sarah Castelli is another great character. A clever, fearless, sixty-year-old Canadian. She’s tough as old boots and will do anything to get the answers she needs. The only problem with Dr Sarah Castelli is that despite the pivotal part she plays in the book and particularly the finale, we are only just introduced to her on page 277 of a 399-page book. I feel like such a crucial character to the plot should have been introduced and established earlier, not just thrown in towards the end.

🗺 This book is set in London and whilst it is probably trying to be realistic (and perhaps to Londoners it is), for me, it felt a bit like we were being dragged from pillar to post with every great London eye mark thrown in for effect.

💭 Overall View: I did enjoy this book and Peter May’s writing style is brilliant. The characters were interesting and the plot was clearly very well researched. I wish the book had maybe been edited a bit to tie some of the strands together a bit neater. You would think everyone would avoid the mention of Lockdown never mind actively choosing to read about it, but I’m glad I did. Brilliant crime drama, very dark in places, fast-paced and full of action.

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Review of The Five People You Meet in Heaven

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Ruby Pier amusement park maintenance worker Eddie is 83. Spotting a problem with one of the rides he rushes to help, upon spotting a small child dangerously close to the ride, Eddie dives to save her. That is the last thing he remembers, he awakens, young, no longer aching and with a guide ready to reveal the story of Eddie’s life. Eddie’s next journey begins, with many flashbacks to his life on earth.



I honestly think this is one of the best books I have read in a while. I’m not entirely certain what genre it is, spiritual, personal discovery with a dash of adventure. I bought this from an independent bookshop, drawn in initially by the title and then the blurb. It’s not a genre or an author I have read before, but I really enjoyed it.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

Eddie was skeptical. His fists stayed clenched.
“What?” he said.
“There are no random acts. That we are all connected. That you can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind.”
Eddie shook his head. “We were throwing a ball. It was my stupidity, running out there like that. Why should you have to die on account of me? It ain’t fair.”
The Blue Man held out his hand. “Fairness,” he said, “does not govern life and death. If it did, no good person would ever die young.”

This book is mainly told through Eddie’s eyes or memories but with each guide they also present a snapshot of their stories, how Eddie interacted with them, seeing the things he couldn’t see. It was such a clever representation of “walking in another man’s shoes”.

I loved the range of characters in this book. Each one interesting and complex, yet ultimately simple. They did their best with what they knew. This book is so beautifully crafted. The writer really compels you to think about your actions and interactions big and small. So much of the story resonates with events we all have in our lives, angers we hold onto, opportunities we think we have missed, yet it shows the other side of the coin, the light, the things we gain in return for losses. Its messages are subtle but thought-provoking.

Overall View: An emotional rollercoaster ride of a book. It was everything I had hoped to find in the title and so much more. The novel actually leaves you feeling uplifted and full of hope. This book will stay with me for a really, really long time and I would happily recommend, even encourage others to read it.

I actually bought this book from a cute little independent bookshop in Richmond named Castle Hill Book Shop. Tucked off down a little side street away from the market square and castle I was delighted to come across this little hidden gem and in turn, find this wonderful little book. The beauty of supporting an independent bookshop is being drawn to treasures like these that I would be very unlikely ever to have found by browsing online. After all this time, I still love the magic of a bookshop.

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