I would most like to find under the tree a parcel containing a beautiful and wondrously flattering red velvet maxi dress with long sleeves. I got outbid for one on eBay last week and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. (I’m such an idiot – why, why didn’t I increase my bid??!)
We just get each other a ‘little something’ to wrap up for Christmas day, as our presents are usually an experience; theatre tickets and vouchers for alpaca trekking are always on my wish list! I think things to look forward to and memories to be made are far better than ‘stuff’. And it makes Christmas shopping so much easier!
Wrap up warm and explore the breath-taking beauty of a remote Scottish island and an old house waiting to unlock enchanting family secrets.
Jo Thomas writes for an audience who wants a cosy
comfortable read with a few hiccups along the way but with a reassuring
I found Ruby, the main character selfish and self centred.
Determined to made a success of her singing, when she has to abandon her plans,
she acts as a spoilt child.
When she reaches Winter Island she is suspecious of Lachlan
, who clearly carers for Hector, just as it appears Isla is suspecious of Ruby.
From the start you know where this is heading but key
elements makes it worth continuing.
The introduction of singing in relation to dementia is
topical, though Ruby’s voice does come and go when it seems convenient.
So too is the the production of gin which is highly popular at the moment.
With her extension of her enforced stay, Ruby attitudes
soften towards the island and Lachlan. She forms a bond with her estranged
grandfather before the obvious outcome happens.
The descriptions of the island dies create a vivid image of
the magical island which adds realisation and enhances the story
Having all issues are revolved, the reader is left
satisfied. An easy to read follow up to her previous novels, fans will not be
disappointed, but for me it’s a little bit predictable.
A successful venture and romance is assured in this light, cosy story.
The definition of a good book is one which when you are
forced to put it down, you are just waiting for the moment you can pick it up
is such a book and a lovely story movingly told in a quiet peaceful, yet
entertaining way. The pace of the story is perfect, not hurried and is
all the better for that, arriving at a very satisfactory conclusion.
Thomas has hit her stride again and written a book where the reader cares about
is quite a shock to read of Ruby who loses her voice at a crucial time in her
career. While attempting to rest and fulfil the dreams of her boyfriend, she
learns from the family solicitor that the grandfather she has never known has
dementia and needs to leave his dilapidated home on Winter Island. He has been
a whisky and gin maker but needs a care home placement now that his health is failing.
care is currently being provided by Lachlan, the sitting tenant, who stands in
the way of Ruby selling the ancestral home. Lachlan has all the skills to restore
the house and business, but Ruby suspects his motives. She regards him as a
much resented obstacle to allowing her to return to life as a singer in a band
far away from the Scottish Island.
story is about the development of a business, the love of family, friends and
community and the importance of being true to oneself and one’s roots.
thoroughly enjoyed it and was disappointed to finish the story.
I do hope there is a sequel very soon!
Jo Thomas is a very reliable writer: I know when I pick up her books I will be entertained by a feel-good story; in a fantastic location; with a rugged leading man and…that I will frequently feel hungry whilst reading! Coming Home to Winter Island has all of these things, in spades.
Singer Ruby has lost her voice but, before she can head to Tenerife to a healing retreat, she must visit her father’s former home: Winter Island off the coast of Scotland to decide the future of her long-lost Grandfather. At the ‘big hoos’ she finds her Grandfather suffering with dementia, and an unexpected lodger (the aforemention rugged leading man.)
What follows is a heart-warming winter tale of the meaning of family; the healing power of music; a gin-related mystery and the power of living in the moment. I found Ruby to be an adequate protagonist, although at times I felt I was more concerned about her voice than she was; so keen was she to rush out into heavy storms and shout above the wind! As always, I enjoyed the mouth-watering descriptions of food, and the lush landscape Jo Thomas creats. My imagination looks forward to Thomas’ next offering…My stomach and my waistline – they need to wait a while!
I’ve long been a fan of Jo Thomas’s writing and so it was with
some trepidation that I began Coming Home to Winter Island because
I didn’t want to be disappointed. I most certainly wasn’t. In fact, I think Coming Home to Winter Island is
one of the author’s most perfect books and I adored it.
almost goes without saying that Jo Thomas transports her reader to what ever
setting she has chosen. This time it is the gorgeous Scottish Island setting
where Teach Mhor house is situated where the author’s descriptions of weather,
flora and fauna give such a vivid sense of place. Those wonderfully created
moments with the stags or streams and on the beach, for example, add both
warmth and depth to the story as well as a glorious sense of place.
loved the quality of research that has gone into the gin making aspects of the
book. I think it’s because it feels comfortable knowing that there won’t be any
glaring errors in the methodology to distract from the enjoyment of the read.
found all the characters so real in Coming Home to Winter Island and
although Ruby may not initially agree, I was in love with Lachlan from the very
first moment I met him. However, it was Hector’s predicament that really
touched me. The concept of ageing and what is best physically and emotionally
for a person are considerations that resonated so deeply that I found Coming Home to Winter Island quite
an emotional reading experience. Indeed, the themes of identity as Ruby finds
out what is truly important to her, community, love and friendship are
beautifully presented here so that Coming Home to Winter Island affords
an opportunity for reflection at the same time as being a wonderfully entertaining
All the hallmarks of a Jo Thomas book are present in Coming Home to Winter Island, from warm, flawed and believable characters through a captivating plot in a brilliantly described setting, encompassing romance and challenge. I loved every word. It’s a glorious book to savour.
Picked as one of the Telegraph’s cookbooks of the year 2019.
‘I began to dream about an orchard filled with thousands of fruit trees… Today we have an orchard with over 150 ancient varieties of apple. Each one has its heritage in a village or a county that used to thrive on that particular variety. They tell the story not only of what we have lost in Britain but also what we could regain.’
Over the past seven years, Raymond Blanc has planted an orchard of 2,500 trees in the grounds of his hotel-restaurant in Oxfordshire. Yielding about 30 tonnes of fruit for his kitchen each year, it is full of ancient and forgotten varieties of British apples and pears, along with walnut trees, quince, medlars, apricots, nectarines, peaches, plums, damsons and cherries. A further 600 heritage fruit trees have been added from Raymond’s home region of Franche-Comté in France.
The Lost Orchard is a love letter to each of these varieties, complete with beautiful black and white drawings, photographs of Belmond Le Manoir and fascinating information and anecdotes about each fruit, along with recipes and stories.
Sunday Times bestselling author Karen Rose is back with the gripping fifth instalment of the Cincinnati series. Fans of James Patterson, Karin Slaughter and Tess Gerritsen will love this unputdownable race to stop a serial killer out for revenge.
When Michael Rowland saves his younger brother Joshua from the clutches of his stepfather, he runs for his life with his brother in his arms. From his hiding place he sees the man who has made their lives a misery taken away in the trunk of a stranger’s car, never to be seen again.
Doctor Dani Novak has been keeping soccer coach Diesel Kennedy at arm’s length to protect him from her dark secrets. When they are brought together by the two young brothers who desperately need their help, it seems they might finally be able to leave their damaged pasts behind them.
But as the only witness to the man who kidnapped and murdered his stepfather, Michael is in danger. As Diesel and Dani do all that they can to protect him, their own investigation into the murder uncovers a much darker web of secrets than they could have imagined.
As more bodies start to appear it’s clear that this killer wants vengeance. And will wipe out anything that gets in his way…
Praise for Karen Rose:
‘Intense, complex and unforgettable’ James Patterson
‘Karen Rose writes the kind of high-wire suspense that keeps you riveted’ Lisa Gardner
A great fireworks display needs to have an explosive soundtrack. And who better to recommend then BBC Radio 3 presenter, Clemency Burton-Hill? In her book, Year of Wonder, Clemmie explains why Music for the Royal Fireworks by George Frideric Handel (1685–1759) is THE piece of music to play when kicking off your fireworks display:
‘Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks has nothing to do with today’s tradition of Guy Fawkes’ Night and bonfires in Britain, but as pyrotechnical music goes, it’s hard to beat.
The piece was actually written to accompany a huge fireworks display in London’s Green Park in 1749 to celebrate the end of the War of the Austrian Succession and the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, seen as a major success for Britain. Before the grand ceremony took place in central London near the royal residence of St James’s Palace, a full public rehearsal was staged at the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, south of the river. Astonishingly, more than twelve thousand people rocked up, each paying two shillings and sixpence. The unexpected turnout caused a solid three-hour traffic jam of carriages on London Bridge – at the time the only way to cross the Thames around that stretch of the river.
This boggles my mind: I’m trying to think of pop stars, let alone classical composers, that could today command a paying audience of over twelve thousand people for a rehearsal. It just goes to show how central this music used to be to audiences of all backgrounds; and how the label of ‘classical’ or ‘popular’ is so nonsensical, so restricting, so pointlessly alienating. Popular music, surely, is just stuff people like to listen to; back in the day, everyone liked listening to this.’
Now that you’ve got your hearty food and fireworks playlist sorted, the final thing to do is build the perfect bonfire, and Norwegian Wood is just the thing to help!
“You know exactly where you are with a woodpile. Its share price doesn’t fall on the stock market. It won’t rust. It won’t sue for divorce. It just stands there and does one thing: It waits for winter. An investment account reminding you of all the hard work you’ve put into it. On bitterly cold January mornings it will bring back memories of those spring days when you sawed, split, and stacked as you worked to insure yourself against the cold. There’s that twisted knot that just wouldn’t surrender to your ax. And isn’t that the log you pushed in at the wrong angle, making the whole pile collapse? Yes, that’s the one all right. Well, winter’s here, and now it’s your turn to feed the flames.”
Whether you’re a seasoned woodcutter, or your passion is yet to be kindled, Norwegian Wood is the perfect fireside read, and the ultimate companion this bonfire night.
raindrops are pounding my window pane as I type so, at this precise moment, it
seems incredibly difficult to justify a staycation within the UK. Today, we
have rain which sounds beautiful but, when you’ve counted down the days on the
calendar to your annual leave, is not ideal for your holiday weather. The
weather is frequently stated as the reason why people don’t holiday in the UK.
But – and here’s my theory on life – if you have the right clothing the weather
doesn’t truly matter. The weather is only ever a pain when you’re incorrectly
dressed so, given that October’s arrived, my suggestion would be woolly
jumpers, sturdy boots and a big brolly.
Last summer, I was invited on a UK
staycation to Brixham, Devon – not a place I’d visited before or even paid much
attention to. I’d heard friends comment on how beautiful the scenery was, the
geographical delights of the area but nothing had really piqued my interest.
The invite was to stay in a rented
holiday cottage and chill out – that was the recipe for the week. So we packed
the car to the hilt, trundled along numerous motorways and ate at pit-stops
along the way. It felt like the British summer holidays of my childhood when
I’d visited other coastal locations.
Although Brixham was different.
On arrival, our car weaved through
narrow streets lined with pastel-painted cottages, climbing high within the
horseshoe landscape surrounding the picturesque harbour and I fell in love!
Brixham really is the picture-perfect postcard location – I can’t imagine an
amateur photographer being unable to capture the money shot for a travel guide.
Our little group happily
participated in the traditional activities of a British staycation: we ate fish
’n’ chips on the harbour wall, consumed ice cream at every opportunity, annoyed
the seagulls diving bombing our walks and indulged in cream teas.
I was supposed to be chilling out,
supposed to be relaxing and indulging myself with down time but, within four
days of my arrival, my muse had absorbed enough details and began weaving a
What if three women, unable to take
staycations with their family and friends, arrived in Brixham to share a
holiday cottage? What if their ages and interests were entirely different? What
if their life experiences were questioned and acknowledged within this near-perfect
setting of Brixham – where the sun shines daily, the sights are to die for and
daily life revolves around enjoying one’s self? Is it ever too late for a new
beginning in life?
A book was born amidst the nostalgic
sights, sounds and smells of a truly British holiday, which had been long
forgotten by me. New Beginnings at Rose Cottage answers those questions
posed on day four of my staycation.
I wanted to explore how a near-perfect
location can enable a woman to question the life she is leading. I wanted to show
her the true beauty which is hidden in the unlikeliest surroundings which
colours our lives and makes them joyous. Brixham is renowned for its steep
hilly streets but the views from the top of each road are breathtaking and worthy
of every bit of energy spent in hiking. Life’s like that in many respects – we
each choose where to plough our time and energy and we hope that the end result
is breathtaking and worthy of our dedicated efforts.
My staycation to Brixham was so successful that this year, when the same invite arrived for a week’s holiday in St Ives, Cornwall, I didn’t hesitate to accept. St Ives, somewhere I had never visited before, worked its magic too and on day four a new idea was born. As an author, I can honestly say staycations work for me and my muse – and long may that continue to be a new tradition in my life.
Granny Smiths are good for this recipe. I have suggested rolling out the dough to make round biscuits, but if you want a chunkier, rustic-looking cookie, just divide the mixture into thirty equal pieces, flatten them very slightly and then bake them as below.
MAKES: approx. 30 cookies
5cm pastry cutter 200g self-raising flour 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda 160g rolled oats 100g demerara sugar 1 apple, such as Granny Smith, Bramley or Red Windsor, grated 60g dried cranberries 120g unsalted butter 30g maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 180°C/160˚C fan/gas 4.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and bicarbonate of soda.
Add the oats, sugar and grated apple and stir until evenly distributed.
Remove 4 tablespoons of the mixture and set aside. This will be used to top the cookies and give a crumble effect.
Stir the cranberries into the mixture in the bowl.
In a small saucepan on a medium heat, melt the butter with the maple syrup. Add this to the flour and fruit in the bowl, mixing well until it comes together in a crumbly dough.
Lay a large piece of greaseproof paper on a flat surface and spoon the mixture onto it. Lay a second sheet of greaseproof paper on top and then, with a rolling pin, roll over the top until the mixture has flattened to 1cm in thickness.
Transfer to the fridge to chill for 10 minutes.
Using a 5cm pastry cutter, cut out circles of the dough and arrange on two baking trays lined with greaseproof paper, leaving a gap of about 5mm between each one. Sprinkle each cookie with some of the reserved crumble mixture and bake in the preheated oven for 10–12 minutes until lightly golden.
Once the cookies are baked, remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
Once cool, you can store them in an airtight container.
It begins with the discovery of a tattered photo, a letter and a tiny leather shoe…
World War Two, Poland. Alina and Tomasz are childhood sweethearts. The night before he leaves for college, Tomasz proposes marriage. But when their village falls to the Nazis, Alina doesn’t know if Tomasz is alive or dead.
2019. Life changed beyond recognition for Alice when her son, Eddie, was born with autism spectrum disorder. She must do everything to support him, but at what cost to her family? When her cherished grandmother is hospitalised, a hidden box of mementoes reveals a tattered photo of a young man, a tiny leather shoe and a letter. Her grandmother begs Alice to return to Poland to see what became of those she held dearest. In Poland, separated from her family, Alice begins to uncover the story her grandmother is so desperate to tell, and discovers a love that bloomed in the winter of 1942. As a painful family history comes to light, will the struggles of the past and present finally reach a heartbreaking resolution?
To celebrate Halloween 2019, we will be asking some of our authors some spooky questions! First up is Jenny Blackhurst, author of The Night She Died and Someone is Lying…
What are your favourite spooky reads?
Am I allowed to say The Foster Child? No? Okay, in that case when I was younger I was a big Masterton fan, Walkers, in particular was horrifying as a teen. The Withered Arm by Thomas Hardy freaked me out.
What book-to-film adaptations do you watch to get yourself in the Halloween mood?
You can’t go wrong with Stephen King, and with the second part of IT out in time for Halloween I’ve recently watched the first part to get myself ready. Silence of the Lambs is another favourite. I love horror, Halloween is my favourite time of year and I’ve started watching scary movies already. I don’t even care that it’s not a book-to-film adaptation I’m going to say it. Hocus Pocus is the best.
Of the characters in your book, who would you choose to trick, and who deserves a treat?
I feel like Susan Webster from How I Lost You deserves a treat, I really put that poor woman through an emotional wringer. As for a trick, that’s harder to choose because I actually like the majority of my characters! I rarely have a true bad guy so I guess it would have to be Jack, also from How I Lost You because he was a genuinely bad person for no apparent reason.
What would the main character in your book dress up as for Halloween?
There is actually a Halloween party in Someone is Lying! Karla and Marcus are ring masters, Miranda is a witch, Peter and Mary-Beth King go as Beetlejuice and the Grim Reaper and Felicity is Harley Quinn. Alex is completely inappropriate, as always, and doesn’t deserve a mention.
What will you be reading on 31st October?
This Halloween I’ll be reading The Taking of Annie Thorne by CJ Tudor because it sounds deliciously creepy.