Throwback Thursday: All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

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Throwback Thursday is a meme created by Renée at It’s Book Talk to share old favourite books rather than just the new shiny ones. This is a great idea to bring back to life some much-loved books. Please feel free to join in.

This week I have chosen:

AllCreatures Great and Small by James Herriot.

51hjQ8hOi2L._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_If Only They Could Talk is the first book in this series of eight (I have the box set).

What a wonderful trip down memory lane this book was. I remember watching the TV series back in the 70’s and 80’s and picking this book up for the first time was like settling down by the fire with old friends.
Set in the Yorkshire Dales, this is the first book in a series by rookie vet James Herriot and his new life in the countryside and among the animals and his struggle to win over the old Yorkshire farmers and eccentric characters he meets there. There were so many times when I literally laughed out loud (once in a quiet hospital corridor while waiting for someone to come out of the theatre – which got me a few horrified looks!). The character of Mrs. Pumphrey and her dog Tricki Woo had me bent over crying with laughter!
I just loved this book. I live in Yorkshire, about an hour from the Dales, and it made me want to jump in my car and head off to Herriot country; the whole place just came alive with his passion for the region. In the words of James Herriot while describing his beloved countryside – “I felt like I could breathe.”
The characters are all so brilliantly drawn that I feel I know them all. To get to know about these burly Yorkshire farmers (with all their local dialect thrown in to boot) is a joy and a privilege.

 

Verdict:

I love a book that makes me laugh but I rarely read one (or more – there’s a whole series!) that has me howling out loud. Picking up the books in this series is like catching up with a friend for a glass of red wine by the fire.

This book is a real tonic – highly recommended.

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Review: The Hourglass by Tracy Rees

51vjrbn217LWhat I thought:

I bought this book on a whim because I saw that it was set in Tenby. I had spent Christmas week in a cottage in Pembrokeshire last year and visited (and fallen in love with) the coastal town of Tenby. This book turned out to be exactly what I needed this week too: I had an urge to be swept to another place and to enjoy the company of characters I cared about (the kind you think about even when you’re not reading the book). It was both those things and more.

Set in a dual timeframe, The Hourglass follows Chloe in 1950 and Nora in 2014. Chloe is a teenager from a tiny Welsh village who, for 3 weeks every summer, goes to Tenby to stay with her cousins and where she runs free, swims in the sea and picnics on the beach with her best friend Llew who lives in the town. It’s a magical time for Chloe and I could feel her excitement and joy at being there. Fast forward to 2014, Nora is on the cusp of her 40th birthday and coming to the realisation that she is in a relationship that’s going nowhere and in a job that has burned her out. She is questioning her whole life and after suddenly jacking her job in one day, finds herself drawn to the Welsh town of Tenby where she once visited as a child while staying with her Grandparents. Booking a week there in a hotel, Nora finds that she can suddenly breathe again: she wakes at leisure, takes long walks along the coast and reads books that aren’t business related. She feels so drawn to Tenby that she decides to stay on and rents a house overlooking the beach with a new friend.

I lived in the pages of this book for 4 days and even began to read slower because I didn’t want it to end. I was invested in the characters and I missed them when I wasn’t reading. The town of Tenby was the perfect setting for this book and I completely understood Nora and her desire to flee from the rat-race (who doesn’t have that dream every now and then?), to be still, to live in the moment. And I just loved Tenby in the 1950’s as Chloe is growing up. In both eras, Tracy Rees has managed to capture the allure and magic of this small coastal village with its pastel-coloured houses along the seafront and it’s sand dunes. It has made me want to go back there again and soon.

Verdict:

The perfect escapist read. Evocative and heartwarming, The Hourglass has secrets, drama and nostalgia. Honestly, one of my favourite books of the year so far. I loved every minute of this book and have already downloaded the authors other two books onto my Kindle.

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Review: The Last Piece of my Heart by Paige Toon

last pieceWhat I thought:

I have long been a fan of Paige Toon’s books. She is one of those authors whose books you just know you will love; a go-to author. Women’s Fiction, chick lit, holiday reading, call it what you will – when all said and done, they are feel-good and will melt the hardest of hearts.

What I like about Paige Toon’s books is that characters from previous books quite often pop up (no plot spoilers, usually just a brief mention by way of a call or email but it always puts a smile on my face to hear from them). In The Last Piece of my Heart, Bridget re-locates to Cornwall to ghostwrite a sequel to a best-selling novel, only the widow of the author who wrote the first book is still grieving and not especially pleased to see her. I don’t want to say more than that, as I find that with these books it’s best to get swept up in the unfolding story without knowing which direction it might go in  (I say that because in some of Toon’s books we’re not actually sure who the lead character will end up with).

I do like books like this in between crime and more literary reads – I consider them palate-cleansers, and I don’t mean that to sound in any way derogatory, as some have become firm favourites of mine; a respite or an escape, real comfort reading. What I especially love about Paige Toon’s books, among all of this genre that I enjoy, is that they are probably the books that make me root for the characters the most. We watch them fall slowly for each other and cheer them on towards the hoped-for conclusion.

Verdict:

Another belter. Feel-good, romantic, pure escapism. Big thumbs up.

Have you read any of Paige Toon’s books? Which other authors from this genre would you recommend?

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for my copy of this book in return for my honest review.

Review: This Love by Dani Atkins

this-loveWhat I thought:

Dani Atkins is one of my author crushes. Of her 5 books, I have read and adored 4 of them (and still have one to read, which makes me happy). In fact, Our Song was in my Top 10 books for 2016. Dani’s books have a reputation for being tear-jerkers and they really are, but in a way that breaks your heart and lifts it up at the same time.

In This Love, Sophie lives a fairly reclusive life, not allowing herself to get close to many people for fear of losing them, thanks to a tragedy in her teens that has never let her go (or rather she has never let go of). One autumn night, a fire breaks out in her apartment and she is helped to safety by a random passer-by, Ben. What results is a friendship that alters the way Sophie looks at life. With a cast of colourful and endearing characters that surround what has become the authors trademark, a story about life and death, this is yet again a wonderful book to get lost in.

I would have loved to have heard more about some of the characters – what happened after Henry wrote the letter after 72 years? what was the reaction of the wife whose husband learned the piano secretly just for her? Did Carla ever get to any of the places on her travel wish-list? These would almost make stories in their own right and I, for one, would love to read them.

Verdict:

As with the previous books, I found This Love to be pure escapism. Real relationships, friendships, love and romance. Never corny, always charming. This book is about letting go, opening up to new experiences, looking forward and learning to live again. If you’ve never read any of Dani Atkins’ books I can highly recommend them. Feel-good reading at its best.

 

 

A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart

512kltzit-lWhat I thought:

I hadn’t heard of this book until the reveal of Richard and Judy’s new Spring book club reads, but it had some great reviews and sounded like it might be a book I would enjoy.

Alex Rowe is newly estranged from his wife Jody and moves in with his childhood friend, Dan. Alex and Jody had been having problems as they have an autistic son, Sam, who has taken every ounce of their attention since he was born eight years ago. I don’t have children and can only imagine how hard it is to raise them, but autism brings its own set of unique issues that must be incredibly difficult to navigate. Alex had been withdrawing as he didn’t seem to know how to get through to Sam and was living his life walking on egg-shells just waiting for the next outburst that he knew he wouldn’t be able to deal with. The author has a son who is autistic and I would imagine that many of the feelings he describes are ones he’s lived with as it certainly felt very authentic; I held my breath along with Alex on many an occasion worrying that Sam would be upset or overwhelmed by something that he wouldn’t know how to fix.

The book focuses on Alex’s realisation that it is him that needs to change in order to understand his son. He starts to read books but it is the video game of Minecraft that finally begins to break down the barriers between them. It wasn’t plain sailing and the road ahead of them still has to be carefully navigated but they finally start to trust each other.

I don’t know about video games either and there was a lot of Minecraft talk in this book which sometimes resulted in me skimming parts. I guess it was appropriate, however, to the plot as it was the vehicle to their bonding. The strengthening of their relationship unfolded slowly but was a joy to watch.

“”Daddy!”

It’s the sweetest sound, piercing four days of blank grey silence. My son, miles away, but suddenly right here under the same boxy clouds.”

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“I struggle to my feet, taking his hand and walking on, thinking it is all over, this little window of intimacy.

But when we stop at a road, he slips his hand out of mine for a second, then softly pats me on the back.

“My Daddy,” he says.

And the moment is so perfect, I feel the stars will fall upon us.”

Verdict:

I really enjoyed this book. It was simple and sweet and felt genuine. I wasn’t so drawn to some of the other main characters however: Dan never felt fully fleshed out to me and Alex’s sister Emma was a complete enigma (I just couldn’t fathom a strong enough reason she had for not wanting to come home or speak to her mother). The ending, however, was just lovely. Heart-warming and feel-good.

My Sweet Revenge by Jane Fallon

jane-1The Blurb:

“I want to make my husband fall back in love with me.

Let me explain. This isn’t an exercise in 1950s wifeydom. I haven’t been reading articles in old women’s magazines. ‘Twenty ways to keep your man’. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

I want him to fall back in love with me so that when I tell him to get the hell out of my life he’ll care. He won’t just think, ‘Oh good’.

I want it to hurt.”

Paula has had Robert’s back since they got together as drama students. She gave up her dreams so he could make it. Now he’s one of the nation’s most popular actors. And Paula’s just discovered he’s having an affair.

She’s going to remind Robert just what he’s sacrificing. And then she’s going to break his heart like he broke hers. It will be her greatest acting role ever.

Revenge is sweet. Isn’t it?

  What I thought:

Once upon a time I was a book snob. I refused to read anything that had high-heels, handbags or anything pink on the cover. Then one day, on a total whim, I bought “Getting Rid of Matthew” by Jane Fallon. I can’t remember what made me pick it up but I’m only glad that I did. What I discovered between the pages was something totally unexpected: pacey, funny and pure escapism.

My Sweet Revenge is no different. Characters to root for, ones to despise and somebody who will get their comeuppance. Paula is a wife and mother who gave up her dreams of acting to raise her family and now works (happily) in a bakery. She has put on weight over the years (haven’t we all) but she doesn’t realise how she and husband Robert have drifted apart until she sees a text on his phone that exposes his affair with a co-worker. As soon as she realises that she doesn’t actually want him back, she sets about plotting her revenge by getting him to fall for her again so she can tell him where to go. Paula is a very likable character and you instantly want to egg her on to make Robert pay. Saskia, who also narrates part of the book, is a great villain of the piece: skinny, vain, obsessed with herself (a bit of a caricature but a fun one that you love to hate). Deceit, drama, fun, and twists are the ingredients for My Sweet Revenge and like any good desert, once you’ve started you can’t stop.

  Verdict:

There were enough curve-balls to keep the momentum going and enough humour to keep the pages turning quickly in this latest book by one of my favourite authors in this genre. It’s a sassy and enjoyable read and what I would class as a “palate cleanser” read. I did find Paula’s transformation a bit unbelievable but was prepared to overlook this for the light-hearted read that it was. Big thumbs up for Fallon again!

I was kindly provided a review copy of this book by Netgalley and Penguin Books in return for my honest review.

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The Perfect Match by Katie Fforde

18104694What I thought:

I first discovered Katie Fforde’s books about 8 years ago when I was feeling down in the dumps and asked a bookseller friend to recommend something that would cheer me up and not be too taxing on the brain. She recommended Practically Perfect by Katie Fforde and ever since then I have devoured most of her others (and still wait with eager anticipation for any new releases).

That said, the last few years, her books seem to have been lacking some of the magic of her earlier ones for some reason. I always liken Fforde’s books to a soothing balm or a warm, cosy blanket but for whatever reason the latest few have not lived up to their predecessors for me.However, as muchThe Perfect Match was not of the calibre of her earlier books (for me) I still thoroughly enjoyed reading it and always looked forward to getting back to it.

Ok so the things I didn’t like about this book: Bella, our protagonist. I never really connected with her at all; she never jumped off the pages for me, with secondary characters such as Jane Langley and even the Agnews who are hardly in it, feeling more rounded than Bella. What I love about Katie Fforde’s books is that they always have simple, honest women at the centre (but women who have a backbone at least). Bella needed a serious shake in my opinion: she had stayed with a man she didn’t even much like for two years and when he “announced” that they were getting married she didn’t even respond, just moaned about it instead. Now I know that Nevil (the “fiance”) was meant to be a pig and we’re not meant to like him but when he constantly has digs at Bella for being too fat, she just accepts it. I felt like yelling at her to stand up for herself! To be honest, I never really bought the whole Bella story at all so it was fortunate that her housemate and godmother, Alice, was having a romance of her own as I routed far more for her than I did for Bella.

    In Summary:

I love Katie Fforde books and will always look forward to the latest book each year but this one lacked the sparkle of her older books. I’m not sure if the author is running out of steam or ideas or what but the last few have felt lacklustre for me. Having said that, I still thoroughly enjoyed reading it. If you’ve never read a Katie Fforde book and you like comfort reads then do yourself a favour and pick one up, but maybe start with Practically Perfect, The Summer of Love, Love Letters or Flora’s Lot.