Friends of Bookends | Coming Home to Winter Island by Jo Thomas

Friends of Bookends | Coming Home to Winter Island by Jo Thomas

Wrap up warm and explore the breath-taking beauty of a remote Scottish island and an old house waiting to unlock enchanting family secrets.

Francine

Jo Thomas writes for an audience who wants a cosy comfortable read with a few hiccups along the way but with a reassuring satisfactory ending.

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.

Jen

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 again. 

This 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. 

Jo Thomas has hit her stride again and written a book where the reader cares about the characters. 

It 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. 

This 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. 

The 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.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and was disappointed to finish the story. 

I do hope there is a sequel very soon! 

Angela

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!

Linda

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.

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.

I 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.

I 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 story.

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.

Buy your copy of COMING HOME TO WINTER ISLAND by Jo Thomas here!

The Lost Orchard by Raymond Blanc

The Lost Orchard by Raymond Blanc

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.

Into the Dark by Karen Rose

Into the Dark by Karen Rose

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

‘Fast and furious’ Sun

Remember remember the 5th of November

Remember remember the 5th of November

If you haven’t got any plans to celebrate Bonfire Night then look no further as we’ve pulled together everything you need to host your sparkling fireworks night!

What to eat

Why not try this mouth-watering Spiced Toffee Traybake recipe from Mary Berry’s Fast Cakes before you head out to watch those fireworks!

Download the recipe here: Spiced Toffee Traybake recipe

Fast Cakes

What to listen to

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.’

Music recommendation from Clemmie Burton-Hill, Year of Wonder

Year of Wonder

What to read

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.

Norwegian Wood

 We hope you have a very happy Bonfire Night! 

BOOKENDS HALLOWEEN – Alison Littlewood

BOOKENDS HALLOWEEN – Alison Littlewood

Happy Halloween everyone! To celebrate Halloween, we’ve been asking some of our authors some ghoulish questions! This week, we’re talking to Alison Littlewood, author of the atmospheric ghost story, Mistletoe.

What are your favourite spooky reads?

So many books! It’s hard to name just a few, but some recent favourites include The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley, Little Eve by Catriona Ward and historical gothic The Corset by Laura Purcell. I just rattled through The Fisherman by John Langan and that became an instant favourite. I love a good ghost story and Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box certainly fits that bill. Sarah Lotz’s novella Body in the Woods is brilliant. I also enjoy short stories: Nathan Ballingrud’s North American Lake Monsters is an amazing collection, as is Priya Sharma’s All the Fabulous Beasts.

What book-to-film adaptations do you watch to get yourself in the Halloween mood?

I’m hoping that La Influencia, the Netflix movie based on a Ramsey Campbell novel, will be out in time for this Halloween. It certainly looks appropriate! And it’s been far too long since I watched Misery, based on the Stephen King novel, though I might just reprise The Shining too. Just don’t make me go in that room (shudders). Some newer movies I might revisit this year include The Silence, based on Tim Lebbon’s book – I couldn’t put it down – and The Ritual, developed from Adam Nevill’s incredibly haunting novel.

Of the characters in your book, who would you choose to trick, and who deserves a treat?

My poor main character in Mistletoe, Leah, has probably been through enough, so she would get the treat. At the outset she’s lost her husband and son and is trying to start anew by renovating a farmhouse in one of the more dismal corners of Yorkshire. She deserves to be jetted off somewhere fancy, though she’d probably settle for a good hot bath. As for the trick . . . ah, there is certainly a character who deserves it, though that might be telling! They’re pretty wily, though. When I was writing the ending they seemed to take over somewhat, upping the stakes from my original plan, so I’d be worried they might turn the tables on me!

What would the main character in your book dress up as for Halloween?

Well, Leah has run off to her farmhouse to make a new life for herself, but she’s also running away from all the festivities of Christmas, so she might well do the same for Halloween. I’m afraid she’d probably be unprepared. A dustsheet over the head might be the best she could manage, though when she begins to uncover her family’s history she is drawn into past events, so who knows, she might find a beautiful Victorian mourning gown all ready for her. 

What will you be reading on 31st October?

I rather enjoy books that remind me of childhood around Halloween. It’s such an evocative time of year. So I might re-read Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, about a young boy, Nobody Owens, who is raised by the ghosts in a graveyard after his family is murdered. I’ve always loved fairy tales too, so for a short fiction fix I’ll read the Fearie Tales anthology, edited by Stephen Jones. It has retellings of some childhood favourites, though it’s aimed at an adult readership and has a scary twist. There are some fabulous writers in there, including Neil Gaiman (again), John Ajvide Lindqvist, Angela Slatter, Robert Shearman and Tanith Lee, and there’s a delightfully impactful tale by Joanne Harris.

Mistletoe by Alison Littlewood

Mistletoe by Alison Littlewood is out now.

Author Johanna Bell on the inspiration behind The Bobby Girls

Author Johanna Bell on the inspiration behind The Bobby Girls

Johanna Bell shares the story of the real women who inspired her new book The Bobby Girls – the first in an uplifting, gritty saga series about Britain’s first ever female police officers.

The Bobby Girls is out now in eBook and audiobook!

With a grandad who fought in World War Two and a cousin who served in the Royal Marines, I’ve always had a strong interest in the World Wars. History lessons are still one of my fondest memories of school ‒ along with getting up to no good with my friends and trying to get out of swimming lessons, of course!

So, when the idea for The Bobby Girls came to me, I was excited to be working on something that would combine my love for our country’s history with my passion for writing. As a journalist, it was exciting to have the freedom to write a story around all the fascinating information I found out about the setting up and running of the Women Police Volunteers (WPV).

Of course, once you read The Bobby Girls you’ll see that the WPV wasn’t actually part of the police force – the women were very much on their own once the government accepted they were running out of men to step in and fill the breach and relented to allow the group to form in August 1914.

I was shocked to learn that the women who formed the organisation were given barely any help when it came to researching the regulations and tricks of the trade. The only help they were given was the name of an ex-sergeant, who passed on what he knew about procedures such as the giving of evidence, self-defence and the proper police step. Otherwise left to their own devices, they borrowed all the textbooks they could find that dealt with the work of male police. They taught themselves everything they could about psychology, police court procedure, children’s courts, first aid, drill and patrols. These self-taught officers then handed down their knowledge to recruits during an intensive six weeks of training.

It may sound odd that the women were happy with this set-up, but they were. This is because it was a far-cry from the rebuff they received from the police commissioner just two months before. In response to their begging for permission to form the organisation, he had simply shook his head and said: ‘You will get yourselves knocked on the head, and you surely don’t expect me to look after a lot of women.’ (From Suffragette to Fascist – The Many Lives Of Mary Sophia Allen by Nina Boyd). So for them to give permission such a short time later was quite the turn-around! The outbreak of war seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for the men in charge, and they finally bent to the will of women who had been campaigning for women to be involved in law enforcement for decades.

I found that there wasn’t a lot of detail available online about the WPV members and what they got up to on patrol ‒ which was difficult for me as I’ve always had an intense desire to know everything I can about a topic before I write about it. As a journalist, that’s vital. The Bobby Girls is historical fiction based on fact, and I felt like I needed to get to the heart of what these women experienced in order to really do justice to their memory and construct characters who truly reflected what they faced.

So, I booked myself in for a day at the Imperial War Museum’s research rooms – and found myself as happy as a kid in a candy store! I got to lose myself in accounts from the women heading the WPV, learning all about the dangers they faced patrolling the streets with their main aim being the protection of London’s women and children.

Prostitution was rife, as the presence of soldiers willing to risk their lives for the country overwhelmed many women, and the men in uniform with pay packets burning holes in their pockets were quite happy to take advantage of that. The recruits also had to look out for the women so desperate to make ends meet that they were willing to sell the only thing they had – themselves – in order to get by. One of the WPV’s tasks was to make sure women were moved along before they ended up arrested and charged with soliciting – a crime which had no repercussions for the man involved.

I was also able to handle one of the real recruits’ membership cards, and I took great pleasure in conjuring up an image of the owner, Amelia Davis, and imagining what life on patrol was like for her and her colleagues. There’s nothing quite like a trinket from the past to help trigger your imagination.

I must say that my absolute favourite find was the term ‘suffrajitsu’ – coined by the former suffragettes who joined the ranks and combined the moves they’d learned in their previous lives to deal with angry hecklers and police with the ju-jitsu they were expected to use to protect themselves while on patrol. I later discovered a picture board of a well-dressed lady effortlessly taking down a policeman ,which made me smile – especially as she managed to keep her fancy hat on in all but one of the photos! It just brought to life for me how strong and powerful these women were, despite first appearances.

I was able to use many of the anecdotes I read as inspiration for the encounters I had my characters experience in The Bobby Girls, and I hope you all enjoy reading the book as much as I did writing it.

If you’d like to keep in touch and hear more out the Bobby Girls, both real and fictional, please do follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

You can buy The Bobby Girls in eBook and audiobook now!

The Joys of a Staycation

The Joys of a Staycation

Erin Green, author of New Beginnings at Rose Cottage, writes about the beauty of going on holiday in the UK.

The 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 storyline.

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. 

New Beginnings at Rose Cottage is out now!

Bookends Halloween | A Spooky Q&A with Angela Clarke!

Bookends Halloween | A Spooky Q&A with Angela Clarke!

Next up in our Bookends Halloween series, we ask Angela Clarke – author of the brilliantly gripping On My Life – about her go-to Halloween films, her favourite spooky reads and more!

What are your favourite spooky reads?

I’m quite a wuss – and if I read anything too scary (especially just before bed), I will wake up screaming. Which Mr Ange doesn’t really appreciate. So, my favourite spooky reads tend to be toward the tame side – the hint of the paranormal, a mystery at the heart, and a satisfying resolution (so I can go to the bathroom on my own once again). I love Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer, The Adventure of the Speckled Band by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and, if I decide I didn’t need to sleep anyway, the genuinely terrifying The Lingering by SJI Holliday.

What book-to-film adaptations do you watch to get yourself in the Halloween mood?

I can deal with the psychological scares better than the paranormal ones (I am a crime writer after all), so I treat myself to a fortifying glass/bottle of wine, grip a cushion tight, and settle in for a serial killer session at Halloween. And the film adaptation of Thomas Harris’s Silence of the Lambs goes particularly well with that Chianti…

Of the characters in your book, who would you choose to trick, and who deserves a treat?

I would hand out a trick to David, the arrogant, bullying soon to be father-in-law of the unfortunate heroine Jenna in On My Life. He’s one of those entitled wealthy men of a certain age, far too used to getting his own way, and deserves a nasty fright! And I would give a treat to Jenna’s troubled but kind-hearted and heavily pregnant young cellmate Kelly (yes, they are in prison!). She really does deserve a bit of TLC – and she’d be delighted with a comfy chair, a gossip magazine and a Mars bar.

What would the main character in your book dress up as for Halloween?

Jenna is a happily engaged recruitment consultant, whose perfect life is shattered when she finds herself framed for the murder of her step daughter, sent to prison, and discovers she’s alone inside… and pregnant. She has to work out who is the real killer, as well as protect herself and her unborn child from violent inmates, all the while fearing she will be made to give her new baby to the very person she thinks framed her. Her green prison regulation tracksuit is probably the most horror-full costume she could wear. It’s the embodiment of her living nightmare.

What will you be reading on 31st October?

As I will be boarding the Orient Express to Venice on 31st October, I fear I’ve got to break with tradition and read Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. But I will do it wearing a mask – ha!

On My Life is out now in paperback, eBook and audiobook!

An exclusive extract from IN HER EYES, the gripping new domestic thriller from Sarah Alderson!

An exclusive extract from IN HER EYES, the gripping new domestic thriller from Sarah Alderson!

Read an exclusive extract from IN HER EYES, a gripping thriller about secrets in a seemingly perfect family, from the author of the equally twisty psychological thriller FRIENDS LIKE THESE!

From the author of FRIENDS LIKE THESE, IN HER EYES will keep you up all night.

You’re at home with your family.
You think you’re safe.
You’re wrong.

Ava’s life is the kind other people envy: loving husband; great kids; beautiful house. Until the night a violent home invasion turns the dream into a nightmare, and leaves her beloved daughter fighting to survive.

And then things get worse. Ava realises that the attack wasn’t random. Someone is targeting her family. Why? Who could hate them enough to kill?

Ava must find out what really happened that night, to save those she loves from even greater danger. But when everyone around you has been lying, how do you decide who to trust?

And Ava has secrets of her own…

For fans of THE SILENT PATIENT, THE WIFE BETWEEN US and PERFECT CHILD, IN HER EYES is a dark and twisty thriller.

You’re about to find out that home is where the hate is.

Pre-order IN HER EYES now – out in eBook and audiobook on 14th November!