Welcome to my reading month!
April’s books have been just as fabulous as the ones I read in March. I should say, here and now, that if I don’t particularly enjoy a book, or don’t even finish it (rare) I don’t mention it at all. I move on and find a book I do love. So you’ll never find a negative review of any book on my blog, only positive ones. After all, just because I don’t enjoy a book doesn’t mean someone else won’t love it, and I’d hate to put anyone off reading it. I’m not a book blogger as such. I’m just sharing the love for the books I think others might love too. Here then are the books I’ve read and enjoyed during April.
The Chosen Ones
Vengeful Magic: urban fantasy
My first read this month was Vengeful Magic by TJ Green. A couple of my newsletter subscribers recommended her books to me after reading my Witches of Castle Clair series. They thought I’d enjoy them. Funnily enough, one of my book reviews had mentioned that the reader had found my books while she was looking for something to read while waiting for the next TJ Green book to come out, so I knew I’d have to check them out.
I’m so glad I did, because I absolutely love them. TJ Green has four series out: Rise of the King, White Haven Witches, White Haven Hunters, and Storm Moon Shifters, and although I’ve only read one of those series so far I definitely intend to read the others. Like me she writes about British witches, and her stories are set in the Cornish village of White Haven. We clearly share a love for King Arthur and other British mythology and legends – not to mention Cornwall! The series I’m reading at the moment is White Haven Witches, which is about a group of friends who are witches living in a place that’s definitely prone to magical events and visitations. Vengeful Magic is book 8 in this series.
When lost treasure is discovered, supernatural creatures unleash violence across Cornwall.
Midsummer is approaching and Avery, Alex, and the White Haven witches, are making plans to celebrate Litha, but everything stops when paranormal activities cause havoc.
Smuggler’s gold is found that dates back centuries, and a strange chain of events is set in motion; Newton needs magical help.
The witches find they are pitted against a deadly enemy, and they need the Cornwall Coven. But not all are happy to help – a few members have never accepted White Haven, and their enmity puts everyone in danger.
Some things are meant to stay buried…
This is a real action-packed adventure, full of mystery and intrigue. There’s a very real sense of danger, too, as the witches encounter vicious and surprisingly strong enemies. Without giving away spoilers, I’ll just say that at one point it does seem that the witches have no chance against such aggressive adversaries, but somehow they always find a way. Not all enemies are strangers, and Avery, Alex and the gang have to face up to some unpleasant truths as they struggle to save White Haven from terrible danger.
Unable to leave the world of White Haven behind, my next read was:
Chaos Magic: urban fantasy
The rules have changed.
Reeling from the events that revealed other witches were behind the attack on Reuben and Caspian, the White Haven witches don’t know who to trust.
The search for those who betrayed them tests their resources and their abilities, and as the fallout shatters alliances, they draw on their friends for support.
But it’s not easy. The path they follow is dark and twisted and leads them in directions they can’t predict.
Knowing who to trust is the only thing that may save them.
This book carried on from where Vengeful Magic left off, so naturally I had to get straight to it. Now the witches are trying to find out who betrayed them, but this time they’re not alone. They have the help of Newton and the police team who have been assigned to investigating paranormal events in White Haven, as well as the other witches of the Cornwall Coven. The problem is, they’re not sure that all those who are supposed to be helping them can be trusted.
I love seeing the other characters taking a much bigger role in these two books. Usually it’s mostly from Avery’s or Alex’s point of view, but now we’re finding out more about what’s going on with the other witches, as well as Newton and his team. I’m also enjoying Caspian’s character arc. He’s gone from being the witches’ main enemy to being a true friend to them all. I feel quite sorry for him as he’s doing his best to deal with unrequited love and put aside his personal feelings to help the witches any way he can.
This is another action packed adventure, and I’m looking forward to continuing this series and exploring TJ Green’s other work.
Summer Nights at The Starfish Café: contemporary romance
Welcome back to The Starfish Café for a glorious summer, but with a few dark clouds on the horizon…
A new beginning…
As her summer wedding to Jake approaches, Hollie is excited for their new beginning as a family. But when some unexpected news threatens the future she and Jake had hoped for, Hollie will need to find the strength to overcome heartache once more.
A fragile heart….
Single mum, Kerry, loves her job at The Starfish Café, but behind the brave smiles and laughter with customers there is a sadness deep within. So when someone from her past re-appears in her life, Kerry can either hide away or face her demons and try to finally move on from her heartbreak.
A summer to remember…
For Hollie and Kerry it promises to be an emotional rollercoaster of a summer, but the community at The Starfish Café will always be there to help them through – after all, with courage nothing is impossible…
And now, as they say, for something completely different…
I love all Jessica Redland’s books, so I knew I was in for a treat when this landed on my Kindle. Summer Nights at The Starfish Café is the third and final book in the Starfish Café trilogy, and I will admit that this is my favourite series of Jessica’s. There’s just something about the location, I suppose. Beautiful Starfish Point on the North Yorkshire coast, not far from the beaches of Whitsborough Bay, and yet somehow a million miles away with its colony of seals and peaceful setting.
I’m also really fond of Holly and Jake. In fact, Jake is possibly my favourite of Jessica’s heroes. This couple have been through an awful lot to get to where they are, so it’s great to see them in such a happy place at the beginning of the book. Naturally, things can’t stay that way for long, and in this story Holly and Jake have to go through yet more sadness and trauma.
Running alongside Holly’s story is that of her employee, a single mum who’s been badly let down in life. Kerry’s story was one I really enjoyed. With four young children to bring up she’s not expecting to find romance any time soon, and she’s far too busy to worry about that. But love can happen at the most unexpected times in the most unexpected places. With a face from her past threatening her happiness and peace of mind, will Kerry take a chance on love once again? Or will she let it slip through her fingers?
As it’s a Jessica Redland book, you just know that they’ll all get their happy ending before too long, and sure enough this book ends on the happiest possible note. I will admit, though, that as I read that final page my eyes did fill with tears. It’s a beautiful end to the story, and a magnificent end to a wonderful series. Can’t wait to head to the Lake District with this author next!
The Mysterious Affair at Styles: murder mystery
Meet Hercule Poirot…
A refugee of the Great War, Poirot has settled in England near Styles Court, the country estate of his wealthy benefactor, the elderly Emily Inglethorp. When Emily is poisoned and the authorities are baffled, Poirot puts his prodigious sleuthing skills to work.
Suspects are plentiful, including the victim’s much younger husband, her resentful stepsons, her longtime hired companion, a young family friend working as a nurse, and a London specialist on poisons who just happens to be visiting the nearby village.
All of them have secrets they are desperate to keep, but none can outwit Poirot as he navigates the ingenious red herrings and plot twists that contribute to Agatha Christie’s well-deserved reputation as the queen of mystery.
As I mentioned last month, I’m taking part in the Read Christie 2023 Challenge, and April’s choice was actually Sparkling Cyanide. However, I’d recently watched that episode of Poirot and I decided I’d rather read an alternative. The Read Christie Challenge always gives several suggestions as alternative reads, and when I saw The Mysterious Affair at Styles listed I knew that was the one I’d like to read. It’s the first Hercule Poirot book – in fact, it’s Agatha’s first published novel. I’ve seen the television adaptation before, but I’d never read the book and I’d always wanted to.
Well, I have to say I really, really enjoyed it. It’s one of the best Agatha Christie stories I’ve read in fact. I love the mystery which, even though I knew the identity of the killer, was so well written that I was carried along with the narrative and my knowledge didn’t detract from the pleasure of reading at all. This story is told through Hasting’s eyes, and oh my does he make me laugh! These challenges have shown me how witty Agatha Christie is – something I possibly didn’t appreciate before. Here’s an example that really amused me:
“Who put it in the chest, I wonder?”
“Someone with a good deal of intelligence,” remarked Poirot dryly. “You realize that he chose the one place in the house to hide it where its presence would not be remarked? Yes, he is intelligent. But we must be more intelligent. We must be so intelligent that he does not suspect us of being intelligent at all.”
“There, mon ami, you will be of great assistance to me.”
I was pleased with the compliment. There had been times when I hardly thought that Poirot appreciated me at my true worth.
“Yes,” he continued, staring at me thoughtfully, “you will be invaluable.”
That passage made me laugh out loud. Poor Hastings! I’m loving the Agatha Christie books, and if you’ve ever wanted to read one of her stories but never got round to it, this is definitely a good place to start. Or why not join in with the challenge?
Rhythms of the Heart: contemporary romance
Annie is struggling through the aftermath of grief…
Having been widowed for eighteen months, 39-year-old Annie Ellis is searching for a way to support herself.
When she runs into Harry Moon — an old flame from her teenage years — her life takes a direction she never expected.
Separated from his wife and now working as a concierge at Moondreams House — a large local estate — Harry understands what it is like to feel alone. As their friendship progresses, Annie confides her ambition to run a dance school. Admiring her vision, Harry encourages her to rent the ballroom of Moondreams House for her new venture.
Happy with her career path, Annie’s grief over her late husband slowly eases. Believing she is ready for romance, she begins to look for someone to share her new beginning…
Will Annie make a success of her dance school? Is love on the horizon?
Or will the pain of the past hold her back…?
This is the first book by Ros Rendle I’d ever read, and it’s a lovely, gentle story of grieving widow Annie who decides it’s time to move on with her life. She bumps into her teenage sweetheart, Harry, and through him is introduced to Moondreams House. Annie is a qualified dance instructor, and wants to start teaching, and the ballroom at Moondreams House seems the perfect place to hold them. But the owner of the house is stuck in the past, and dealing with his own grief. Although he agrees to her request, it’s with reluctance, and Annie is unsure how long the agreement will hold.
Harry, meanwhile, is nursing a secret, and it’s stopping him from building a new life for himself. Can he and Annie help each other through and look to the future?
This is a sweet story of finding courage and having faith that second chances are possible. I enjoyed the way Annie and Harry take tiny steps towards creating the life they each desire, and along the way help to heal other lonely people and bring new life to the house itself, too.
Both the main characters take action to make their lives better, and even though they’re both nervous, and Harry in particular is dealing with trauma, neither of them gives up. It’s lovely to see the students of the dance class become a close-knit community, willing to band together and help when the chips are down. Overall this is a very enjoyable and easy read, and as it’s the first in a series there should be plenty more to come from Moondreams House.
A New Home in the Dales: saga
To follow her dream, she’s gone from city to village – but can she ever fit in?
October 1940. Bobby Bancroft is working as a typist for a city newspaper, but she longs to be breaking the news herself. She is thrilled to secure a junior reporter role at The Tyke, a magazine serving the Yorkshire Dales.
However, when Bobby moves to Silverdale, she discovers rural life is a different world. The close-knit villagers and cantankerous local animals prove difficult to win over, while mischievous vet Charlie seems determined to lead her astray.
As Bobby struggles to find her place amongst the dalesfolk, she wonders if she’s made a huge mistake. Will the city girl ever make a home of the beautiful but hostile countryside of the Dales?
An uplifting, lively World War Two rural saga that fans of Annie Murray, Rosie Hendry, Gervase Phinn and James Herriot will love.
I haven’t read a saga for years, but the subject matter of this one proved irresistible. For a start it’s the Yorkshire Dales, and you know how much I love that place! Secondly it has strong All Creatures Great and Small vibes, and that’s one of my favourite programmes. Thirdly, it has a strong female protagonist, working in a man’s world, and that appealed. And finally, Betty Firth is another pen name of Lisa Swift/Mary Jayne Baker/Penny Blackwell (how she keeps track of them all I have no idea!) and I’ve always wanted to read one of her books. This seemed the perfect place to start.
Oh, how I loved this book! This is the first in a new Made in Yorkshire series, and I can’t wait for the next one. It’s set at the beginning of the Second World War and features Bobby Bancroft, who wants nothing more than to be a reporter. She’s working on a newspaper in Bradford, but is reduced to making tea, typing, and covering for a lazy male reporter who gets the credit for her work. When she’s offered a job in Silverdale on a local magazine called The Tyke, Bobby grabs the opportunity. But life in the Dales isn’t what she imagined. The locals are unfriendly, the conditions are hard, and local vet Charlie is a distraction she definitely doesn’t need or want.
There was nothing I didn’t love about this book. Bobby’s a likeable and gutsy heroine, with a refreshing belief in her own abilities, a strong independent streak and a burning ambition for a career in journalism. She’s also warm and caring, with a heart of gold and a strong sense of responsibility towards her family, particularly her father, who’s still suffering terribly after his experiences in the First World War.
Knowing that careers are frowned upon for married women, she is determined not to be seduced by incorrigible flirt Charlie. Luckily, he makes that easy for her by flirting with every other woman in the Dales, and by appearing to be smitten with one attractive woman in particular. Nevertheless, the two of them strike up a real friendship, and Charlie helps her navigate her way through tricky times, dealing with the locals who don’t trust outsiders.
The community at Silverdale is beautifully drawn, and I loved everyone in it. The old farmer, Andy, who’s conducting a romance by mail; his granddaughter Mabs, who is smitten with Charlie; Topsy, the lady of the manor, who draws everyone to her with her scatty charm and outgoing nature; and especially Reg and Mary. Reg is Bobby’s boss at The Tyke, and is also Charlie’s older brother. Mary is Reg’s wife, and becomes Bobby’s friend and ally in a world of men.
As the year rolls on, Bobby is finding her place in the Dales, but then a shocking event pulls her home and threatens the life she’s been building for herself. Soon she has a very real choice to make about her future, and it’s not as clear cut as she’d imagined it would be. I loved how realistic this was, because Bobby genuinely was pulled between two worlds, and I could see the pros and cons of each. However, I will say I was delighted with her final decision!
Honestly, I could see this as a Sunday night television series, and I’d definitely be watching. It’s beautifully written, the characterisation is excellent, and the story is strong and keeps you turning the page to see what happens next. Bobby is someone I was rooting for from the beginning, and I can’t wait to return to Silverdale to see what happens next.
The Woman on the Island: crime fiction
Ann Cleeves returns with a delicious short story featuring DCI Vera Stanhope.
Set before The Rising Tide, Vera goes on a day trip to Holy Island, eager to escape the pressures of work. When there she is reminded of the day decades earlier when she, as a teenager, went with her father Hector on another day trip, and the mystery woman he met there . . .
Vera already knew then that Hector kept secrets, but this time the fledgling investigator was determined to find the truth, never realizing it would mean taking her first step onto a path to becoming a detective . . .
I suppose this is a bit of a cheat, because it’s not a novel but a short story. However, I wanted to read it as I’ve got the hardback edition of The Rising Tide which I want to read during May, and this is the prequel to it. Actually, it includes the first two chapters of The Rising Tide, so if you’re not sure whether or not to buy that this is a good way to find out, especially as The Woman on the Island is FREE to download.
So yes, it’s a short story, but honestly it quite clearly says that in the blurb. I’m quite annoyed to see some negative reviews criticising it for not being a novel! I mean, for one thing, read the description, and for another, you got it for FREE! Aarrgghh!
Anyway, it’s a short but intriguing story in which Vera visits Holy Island to escape the pressure of work. While there she reminisces about another trip she made there in her youth, with her father Hector. I can’t really say more than that because, as I say, it’s a short story – very short. But it does reveal why Vera decided to become a detective, and then, as I say, there are two chapters of The Rising Tide to read if you choose to. I didn’t because I want to read the whole book in one go. Any Vera story is worth reading in my opinion, so if you’re a fan of either the books or the series, or both, dig in!
Finally for this month..
The Little Board Game Café: contemporary romance
An irresistible story of love, friendship and the power of Games Night, perfect for fans of Holly Martin and Christie Barlow.
When Emily loses her job, house and boyfriend all within a matter of days, she’s determined to turn a negative into a positive and follow her dream of running a small café in the gorgeous Yorkshire village of Essendale.
But she quickly finds she’s bitten off more than she can chew when the ‘popular’ café she takes over turns out to secretly be a failing business. Emily desperately needs a way to turn things around, and help comes from the unlikeliest of places when she meets local board game-obsessed GP Ludek. But when a major chain coffee shop opens on the high street, Emily is forced to question if she’ll ever be able to compete.
Has she risked everything on something destined to fail? Or can a playful twist, a homely welcome, and a sprinkle of love make Emily’s café the destination she’s always dreamed of?
This was such a gorgeous book! I was invested in Emily’s story from the first page and she never lost my attention for a minute. She’s the sort of heroine we’d all love to have as a friend, despite her flaws and hang-ups. Emily’s been through a lot, so I can forgive her anything – even when she hurts the absolutely wonderful Ludek, who melted my heart from the beginning. It’s not often we get geeky heroes, but Ludek was perfect. His obsession with board games just adds to his charms, and I loved how Emily was quickly drawn into his world and how they gelled with each other so easily.
I love the setting of Essendale, which made me think of Hebden Bridge straight away. It may or may not be based on that town, but that’s what I visualised and it worked for me. There’s a strong community which builds around the café, and I loved all the characters that gathered around Emily: her supportive (mostly) best friend, Kate; the fabulous Mr B; the shopping trolley ladies; the board games group; Julia and her son, Boy George (loved that!); and Margery, to name a few.
The back story of why Emily finds it so hard to commit to Ludek was well-handled. I had every sympathy for her as her past unfolded, and wanted to give her dad a big hug.
Despite facing many challenges and unexpected obstacles, Emily keeps going. Even in her darkest hour, when it seems all is lost, she finds a way through with a little help from her friends. And that was the real joy of the story. She began the book feeling alone and lost, but throughout the story she gathered people to her, bringing joy and companionship to people who’d been as lonely as she was.
This is such an uplifting, positive and heartwarming book, and I read it in one day, turning the pages with increasing eagerness to find out what happened next. It was easy to read (and I mean that as a compliment) and lifted my spirits so that, when I finally reached the end, I turned off my Kindle with a smile on my face and a feeling of contentment in my heart. You really can’t ask for more than that.
I’m looking forward to seeing what Jennifer Page writes next.
So that’s it for my April reads, but I’ll be back at the end of May with another bunch of books I’ve enjoyed. There’s a lot on my list, so I’d better get started! Happy reading.