Sweet Pastries and Sourdough at the Little Duck Pond Cafe by Rosie Green

I am so excited to be involved in another blog tour for this author, as she is now a firm favourite of mine. I’ve read a few books from this long and successful series, though in typical Ceri style I’ve dipped in and out and not read them in the right order, and I love that this author makes that easy to do with this series. Once again, this is a gorgeous cover and I had high hopes that the book inside would be even more gorgeous.

Blurb:

Ellie’s brand new enterprise, the True Loaf Bakery, is finally open and classes are due to start. But when Katja’s ski-ing holiday ends in disaster, a new teacher must be found very quickly. Anita is up for the challenge, but – fresh from a break-up and an operation that’s left her feeling physically and emotionally vulnerable – the last thing she’s looking for when she moves to Sunnybrook is a new relationship. So it’s Sod’s law that she should find herself with not one but two guys vying for her attention. Sven, from Denmark, is a bit of an enigma – but maybe passion lurks beneath his cool reserve?

And as for twenty-five-year-old football coach Ross – surely she’d be asking for trouble getting involved with a gorgeous man a decade her junior? (Although her football-mad son Rufus seems to love him.)


Moving in with Bertha proves a real comfort – but can Anita get to the bottom of what’s troubling the older woman?


Anita’s job at the True Loaf Bakery is only temporary, but she finds herself drawn ever deeper into life in the village – especially when she finds a child’s bracelet from long ago, in the rubble of the newly-renovated building. Solving the mystery of who it belongs to takes Anita on a journey of discovery – a journey that might just help her discover what her own heart really needs…

My thoughts:

I have adored this uplifting and beautiful book. Rosie’s easy and honest style of writing allows me to quickly build a connection with the characters, especially Anita and Bertha.

I love the fact that the basis of the story is romance and repairing yourself after a relationship breakdown, but the author explores other quite pertinent issues for women of Anita and Bertha’s age, including menopause, family and making peace with the past.

The narrative is dramatic and provides lots of twists and turns throughout. Once again, I was left unsure which path Anita would take and whether Anita and Bertha would have the happy ending they deserve?

Overall, this has been a heart-warming and engrossing book about acceptance and second chances.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

In The Company of Men by Veronique Tadjo

I was drawn to this book as it sounded like a wonderful hybrid of two of my favourite genres – memoir and literary fiction. I also thought it might be quite important and relevant considering considering the current situation surrounding Coronavirus.

Blurb:

In a series of moving snapshots, Véronique Tadjo illustrates the terrible extent of the Ebola epidemic: the doctor who tirelessly treats patients day after day in a sweltering tent, protected from the virus only by a plastic suit; the student who volunteers to work as a gravedigger while universities are closed, helping the teams overwhelmed by the sheer number of bodies; the grandmother who agrees to take in an orphaned young boy cast out of his village for fear of infection. And watching over them all is the ancient and wise Baobab tree, mourning the dire state of the earth yet providing a sense of hope for the future. Acutely relevant to our times in light of the coronavirus pandemic, In the Company of Men explores critical questions about how we cope with a global crisis and how we can combat fear and prejudice.

My thoughts:.

I have devoured this thought-provoking and powerful book. Despite its small page numbers, it packs in a lot of interesting exploration of quite complex themes.

We are told that “Humans today think they can do whatever they like.” And “My village was rich. Its riches were beautiful. But when the villagers wished to possess wealth, the village disappeared.” I think these quotes highlight some important points the book makes about our capitalist and consumerist society, resulting in a loss of a community spirit and a disconnection with the natural world.

The narrative clearly describes the heroic and important role health care professionals played during this unpleasant and often devastating epidemic. We are told: “The nurse’s courage is a jewel she wears on her chest with her benevolence and pride.”

The epidemic is compared to a war, and the doctors at the forefront to astronauts. This to me implies that their actions are so selfless and show such determination and dedication, that their actions appear “out of this world”.

The writer uses multiple perspectives, first person narration and present tense effectively, so that as a reader you become completely invested in the power of the story and you feel a witness to the devastation. I also love how she gave a voice to a huge range of characters impacted by the virus and the actions of the human population of this country, some of which were very unexpected.

It is impossible, I believe, to read this book without drawing comparisons to the current situation. The writer describes how life changed and normal life was put on hold, how physical contact was prohibited and the narrative serves as a warning against carrying on as we have done.

Overall, I have found this a profound and thought-provoking book that really made me reflect on our connections within human society and the natural world. It is an eye-opening book that reminds us of the importance of healthy lifestyles, relationships, and harmony with the natural world.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

No Place Like Home by Jane Renshaw

I was so excited to be involved in this blog tour and read this book as Jane Renshaw’s book, The Child Who Never Was, was hands down the best psychological thriller I read in 2020.

Blurb:

They wanted the simple life. What they get is simply terrifying.

The Hendriksen family, Bram, Kirsty and their two kids, are living the dream. They have left the rat race of the big city and moved into a gorgeous, custom-built house in the Scottish Highlands. Bram has already planted up a vegetable plot and is planning to create a wildflower meadow and keep chickens and goats.

But then a dead crow appears on their washing line, their vegetables are weedkilled and someone shoots at Bertie, a gentle guide dog belonging to Kirsty’s mother.

The police say it’s nothing to worry about, it’s just bored local teenagers hanging out in the woods. But Bram is sure that more sinister forces are at work, that these events may be connected to a terrible secret in Kirsty’s past.

And he’s right. As the campaign against them escalates, the family is pulled down into a relentless spiral of terror and violence until the home they always dreamed of becomes a nightmare from which they may never escape.  

No Place Like Home – the stunning psychological thriller from the author of The Child Who Never Was. 

My thoughts:

Wow! She’s done it again. This book has a slightly different feel to it than the previous book, giving it an original feel, but all Jane’s talents at writing in this genre still shine through.

There is extreme darkness in unexpected places in this extraordinary book. A nice, nuclear family, making the move to have a more quiet life now one of their children has flown the nest and they feel more financially stable. Yet their quiet countryside life is soon interrupted with some quite dark and terrifying goings on. The narrative just gets darker, and darker, and darker, starting off with some pretty sick pranks, Internet trolling and vandalism, and ending at the complete other end of the spectrum in terms of criminality. I just loved how this dark and tense atmosphere was established so quickly, and the fact that it juxtaposed so well with this well-to-do domestic life, made it all the more exciting.

There is a huge strength in the way this writer builds characters. Each one has some kind of redeeming or likeable quality, or you are able to see how they are guided or jaded by innocence or loyalty. I have loved getting to know their backgrounds and working out what makes them tick, and then sitting back and watching the action when those issues inevitably arise.

Once again, I have been unable to put this book down and it has provided twist after twist. The tension is ramped up and the ending is explosive and unexpected.

Overall, I have those to be an inescapably dark and consuming book that has hooked me from the first line: “They had wrapped nylon wire around and then around his ankles to hog-tie him, so he couldn’t do anything…”

I have every confidence in saying that this is a five star read and Jane Renshaw has definitely secured her place alongside Lisa Jewell and Arianne Richmonde as my favourite writers in this genre.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I am here to kill you by Chris Westlake

I was drawn to this book by the original title and the dark and engaging cover. I’ve never read anything by this author before but it’s fair to say I’ve been captivated by this book so I’m keen to go back and read the prequel.

Blurb:

The members of a local support group in a sleepy welsh town are captivated by the new arrival, Sheena Strachan. Each member of the group has a reason for attending. Some hide dark, sinister secrets, and for others it is the highlight of their week.

But what are Sheena’s motives for attending?

The group’s leader, Rose, unexpectedly stops attending meetings. She goes into hiding, and quickly becomes an outcast. And then she is arrested for her estranged husband’s murder.

Did Sheena really have no involvement in his killing?

With Sheena at the helm, the group goes from strength to strength, both in numbers and commitment. But their behaviour is changing. No story is to leave the room. They trust nobody. Men are the enemy. The residents of the previously peaceful town start turning against each other.

Was this Sheena’s plan all along?

One mystery, however, stands out more than all the others.

Who is here to kill who…?

My thoughts:

I have been completely hooked on this book from the opening pages. The characters hide behind a facade of quiet village life and in some cases perfect marriages, successful jobs and beautiful homes. There is a cast of intriguing, cunning, manipulative and unpleasant characters and in lots of cases they seem very frustrated or angry about their current situation. It turns out I actually like books with awful characters, as long as it’s well written like this one is.

The writer uses multiple perspectives which ensure that the psychological element is strong and we get inside these characters’ heads. This sometimes makes the narrative very dark, but also adds to the tension and drama.

The book slowly reveals unexpected connections and relations between the characters until we are faced with the explosive, violent ending. But who deserves to die? And why?

Call me sexist or a closet feminist, but I loved the female secret society in the book and the fact that so much of the control and force of the novel was driven by the female characters.

Overall, I have found this to be a completely gripping, unpredictable and original book that I have struggled to put down. I actually feel like calling this book ‘original’ is not a strong enough word to describe the clear huge amounts of thought and planning that seem to have gone into this book to ensure that it is nothing like other psychological fiction books out there at the moment (in my opinion anyway), whilst still using the best elements of the genre for the benefit for the story.

This is a narrative driven by issues of revenge, frustration and betrayal. It explores these issues in refreshingly new ways and of course it was nice to read a book set in Wales (though I certainly wouldn’t want to be a Pontbach resident!). I feel honoured to have had the opportunity to review it as part of team DBT. Thank you to Emma and the author for my advance e-copy. If I could give it more than 5 stars, I would.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

His First Wife’s Secret by Emma Robinson

I was drawn to this book as I devoured and loved Emma’s last book, My Husband’s Daughter. The cover alone of this book made me emotional, so I was intrigued to find out more about the connection between these two characters.

Blurb:

The tears began to flow. ‘I can’t do this on my own,’ Emily sobbed. ‘I don’t know how.’

When Emily’s husband dies in a terrible accident, she’s not the only wife he leaves behind.

Because, before their whirlwind romance and Emily’s discovery she was pregnant, Pete had been married to Caroline for more than twenty years. A devastating tragedy had torn them apart. But there was a part of Pete that had never fully left his first wife and a secret that would bind them together, forever.

Finding herself lonely, heartbroken, and forced to face life and motherhood alone – Emily is surprised that Caroline offers her support. But Emily knows she needs someone she can trust and rely on. Even if it’s the woman her husband loved before her.

A tentative friendship develops and their lives become entwined. Their bond grows ever stronger as Caroline steps in to help when Emily’s baby arrives unexpectedly early. But it’s not just Caroline hiding a secret. Both of the women who once loved Pete have things they can never admit, without risking a friendship that might be the only thing keeping them both afloat.

When grief begins to take its toll on Emily, she feels sure that Caroline is the only person who can save her and baby Dylan… But should she trust the woman he loved before her – with her life… Or her child’s?

An utterly devastating, but ultimately uplifting, emotional women’s fiction novel about friendship, motherhood and loss. Perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, Susan Lewis and Jojo Moyes.

My thoughts:

This book has definitely lived up to, or maybe even exceeded my expectations. There are so many layers to the book and its characters. Emma writes with such a rawness and honesty that it really impacts and touches you as a reader.

Despite their misgivings, mistakes, and sometimes questionable choices, I really felt a connection with, and sympathy for both the main characters: Caroline and Emily. They appear realistic, complex and in many ways loyal.

Both characters explore the issues of motherhood and specifically, the nature of motherhood as a force of unconditional and limitless love, as well as the high expectations placed on women as mothers. Emma writes about being criticised as a mother:“Words like hailstones on the head of a parent just trying to get it right.” I could totally relate to this as a mother. I feel huge expectations and it triggers my anxiety, and I really feel the difference in the expectations placed on my partner.

This is a highly dramatic and emotionally charged book which makes this a great page turner. I was completely invested in the story and rooting for Dylan’s safety and wellbeing in particular.

Overall, this is an intense and beautiful story with an uplifting message around acceptance and friendship, and one that I have adored reading. I definitely feel this writer is comparable in terms of style and talent to Jodi Picoult and Amanda Prowse.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Summer Secrets at Streamside Cottage by Samantha Tonge

I was drawn to this book as I read Samantha’s previous book, The Winter We Met, last year and really enjoyed it. I also loved the beautifully illustrated cover and the way the title just rolls off your tongue.

Blurb:

A new start can come from the most unexpected places…

It’s been years since Lizzie Lockhart spoke to her parents. But she was safe in the knowledge she knew everything about them. Once upon a time, they were as close as could be. Until they weren’t.

After receiving the earth-shattering news of their passing, Lizzie decides it’s time to unearth some family secrets and find out just who her parents really were… starting with Streamside Cottage. A cottage Lizzie never knew existed, in a place she’s never heard of: the beautiful English village of Leafton.

Leaving behind London, and the tattoo parlour she called home, Lizzie finds herself moving to the countryside. Faced with a tight-lipped community, who have secrets of their own, Lizzie is at a loss for what to do, until her rather handsome neighbour, Ben, steps in to help.

As Lizzie finally begins to piece together the puzzle of her family history she realises she has to confront the truth of the past in order to face her future.

My thoughts:

This is a very original and interesting book that covers some important themes including: family, parenthood, memories and identity, as well as touching on mental health issues.

Once again, Samantha has proved her excellence whilst creating likeable and relatable characters. I really felt like I went on a journey with Lizzie, who comes across as a clever and caring young lady, and I was glad that she eventually got the closure she needed.

This was more of a slow burn read and I have to say it didn’t grip me in the same way the previous book did. However, I do feel that there was a brilliant balance of domestic drama and romance, and I wasn’t expecting that to come across so well.

The ending is executed perfectly, and though some of it was predictable in a comforting and satisfying way, some elements of the ending and the build up to it were completely surprising and unexpected.

Overall, I would describe this is an uplifting and cosy book which has its fair share of secrets and mystery, which is great for nosy readers like myself!

⭐⭐⭐.5

My Husband’s Girlfriend by Sheryl Browne

I was keen to be involved in this blog tour as I have previously read Trust Me by this author which I really enjoyed.

Blurb:

Tucking her little boy Ollie into bed one night, Sarah notices his beloved teddy bear, which she bought him when he was born, is missing and in its place is a new toy given to him by her ex-husband’s new girlfriend, Laura. When she asks Ollie about it, he begins to shift uncomfortably, before whispering ‘Laura told me a big secret and she said I can never tell you’.

Sarah’s heart sinks. But when she raises her concerns, nobody wants to listen. To everyone else, Laura is the perfect stepmother and Sarah is just the jealous ex-wife. But Sarah knew the moment she met Laura she couldn’t trust her, from her overly perfect stepmother act to the way she evaded questions about her own history.

Soon Ollie is asking to spend more time with his dad and Laura, and shrinking away from Sarah. Then, when she calls to him in the garden one day, Ollie doesn’t answer back. The garden is silent. Ollie’s sandpit is empty. Ollie has disappeared.

My thoughts:

Once again, the psychological element of this story is strong. For the most part, I didn’t know who to trust, believe, or who was in the wrong. This is helped by Sheryl choosing to write from multiple perspectives, but mainly Sarah and Laura’s.

Despite not being the main character in many ways, much of the psychological analysis focuses on Laura, (the husband’s girlfriend) and it was really interesting to uncover all aspects of her personality and unpick why she is the way she is.

For me, this was a slow burn read, and much of the action was packed into probably the last 20%, though there were some surprising and creepy events prior to this.

Overall, this has been an entertaining and unpredictable read that I would recommend to fans of psychological fiction and authors such as Shalini Boland, Arianne Richmonde and Miranda Rijks.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Moonlight Over Muddleford Cove by Kim Nash

I am very excited to be involved in the blog tour for this book as I know Kim Nash is a highly anticipated and well-loved author of romantic fiction. I also think the cover of this one is beautifully illustrated.

Blurb:

When thirty-four-year-old Nellie Wagstaff loses her job and discovers her fiancé is a cheating scumbag in a single day, she feels like the world has come crashing down. And that’s before the solicitor’s letter, along with a request to visit a place she hasn’t thought about for a very long time.

Heartbroken, Nellie escapes to the beautiful seaside town of Muddleford in Dorset, where she discovers she’s inherited more than she ever bargained for. Nellie never knew why her mother stopped talking to her sister, but now childhood memories of Muddleford come flooding back: long hot summers, the sea glistening beyond the sandy cove… and a stolen kiss with a boy called Jack.

Jack, now a devilishly handsome vet, has the local pet owners swooning over him, and as Nellie and he become close once more, and she gets used to gossiping with the locals and sipping wine at her beach hut with sand between her toes, she’s sure she can feel sparks flying once more. But just as she thinks she might be able to open her heart again, her newest frenemy, the glamourous Natalia, tells her a secret about Jack that changes everything.

Nellie will never know why her mother and aunt parted ways. She’ll sell the house, forget about Jack, and get back to real life. Because there’s nothing for her in Muddleford… is there?

My thoughts:

After reading, I can see how the cover hints at some of the more reflective and thought-provoking aspects of her novel.

Nell is at a cross-roads in her life, and has some big decisions to make which should not be taken lightly. Straight away, I found Nell to be a likeable and relatable main character. She is someone who loves a list and thinks hindsight is crap. This reminded me of me, and I was invested in her journey from the outset.

I also loved Jack and he may well be my new top fictional crush. He is a respectable family man, who earns an honest living and provides support for Nell when she most needs it. But will there be more to their relationship than a trusting and close friendship?

The friendship between Nell and Shivani really highlights the importance of having someone you can rely on throughout life’s ups and downs. Probably my favourite aspect of the book was the interaction and dialogue between these two characters, as the effective use of colloquialisms and the honesty of their exchanges really brought the story and characters to life and made for some entertaining reading!

Overall, this has been a heart-warming and emotional read about love, loss, trust and true friendship. The dramatic opening gripped me and hooked me in, and I found myself unable to put this one down so I have devoured it in one sitting. Kim Nash is definitely a new favourite and I would recommend her books to fans of Mary Jane Baker, Portia Macintosh and Paige Toon.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Chasing The Sun by Judy Leigh

I was drawn to the book by this beautiful and bright cover. I mean, honestly, who wouldn’t like to be one of these women right now? It looks idyllic! I am also falling in love with this author’s books and featured her earlier release, Heading Over The Hill, on my blog last year.

Blurb:

Molly’s seventieth birthday comes as something of a shock. The woman in the mirror certainly looks every day of those seventy years, but inside Molly feels she still has so much more living left to do. Widowed and living alone with her cat Crumper, Molly fears she is slipping into a cliché of old age.

When Molly’s sister Nell appears on her doorstep, distraught that her husband of more than forty years, Phil, has left her for a younger lover, the women decide to seize the day. By the morning, flights are booked, bags are packed, and off they go for an adventure in Spain.

The sun, the sea, the new friends and the freedom are just the tonic for broken hearts and flagging souls. But even Spain isn’t enough to revive Molly’s spirit. A solo journey to Mexico is booked as Molly continues to chase the sun and to chase happiness. Will she find what she’s looking for in Mexico, or will she discover that true contentment can’t be found on a map, but it might just be found in a new flame.

My thoughts:

I loved Heading Over The Hill, and found it be one of those books that at the time I think, “aw that was really lovely”, but later sit back and realise it was even better than I first thought. I wasn’t sure this book would top it, but it has.

Judy is an expert at what she does. The character development again, is spot on. I loved how she was able to fully develop both Molly and Nell’s characters. They are likeable and fun yet complex characters, who have had their fair share of hurt and grief, and I could really sympathise with their desire to live life to the fullest and enjoy every moment.

This has been quite a dramatic yet uplifting read. There are so many humorous and heart-warming moments. For example, Judy really brings the hilarity of seeing a seventy year old woman take up horse riding, to life. She also explores in quite some detail, yet sensitively, the notion of loneliness and the need for an identity and a home.

Overall, I have found this to be a captivating and brilliant book to get lost in. I have visited two beautiful countries, encountered some wonderful characters and some who can only be described as slime bags. Judy Leigh has a gift for creating characters that could easily be your aunty or next door neighbour. I was rooting for them, and fully invested in them from the beginning. I’d highly recommend this book to fans of authors such as Jessica Redland, Milly Johnson and Jill Mansell.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Drowned City by K J Maitland

I knew this was a blog tour I just had to be involved in as I had been drawn into the hype and attraction surrounding this book long before a blog tour was even announced. It is a unique and original tale that tells a story about what happened after the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605…

Blurb:

Gunpowder and treason changed England forever. But the tides are turning and revenge runs deep in this compelling historical thriller for fans of C.J. Sansom, Andrew Taylor’s Ashes of London, Kate Mosse and Blood Sugar.

1606. A year to the day that men were executed for conspiring to blow up Parliament, a towering wave devastates the Bristol Channel. Some proclaim God’s vengeance. Others seek to take advantage.

In London, Daniel Pursglove lies in prison waiting to die. But Charles FitzAlan, close adviser to King James I, has a job in mind that will free a man of Daniel’s skill from the horrors of Newgate. If he succeeds.

For Bristol is a hotbed of Catholic spies, and where better for the lone conspirator who evaded arrest, one Spero Pettingar, to gather allies than in the chaos of a drowned city? Daniel journeys there to investigate FitzAlan’s lead, but soon finds himself at the heart of a dark Jesuit conspiracy – and in pursuit of a killer.

My thoughts:

I was looking forward to reading a book that mixes two of my favourite genres: historical fiction and thrillers. Though this book does fulfill this ambition, as it provides an inescapable and atmospheric sense of place and time, I did find it a little heavy on the detail at times which slowed down my reading of it.

I liked the main character of Daniel and found him easy to identify with. He seems like a ‘normal’ guy, for want of a better phrase. He tries to make the best of every situation and plunges into situations with bravery and determination, despite often being nervous or unsure of what to expect. There were a lot of other background characters and as I didn’t develop a connection with any of them, I was glad to feel invested in Daniel’s journey and able to follow the twists and turns with him.

Overall, this has been an evocative and interesting read that has taken me out of my reading comfort zone. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of historical fiction, especially those who enjoy detailed and fully immersive narratives.

⭐⭐⭐