Wednesday 26 August 2020

The Ghosts of Roseby Hall - Jeanette Taylor Ford

This is the first book I've read by Jeantte Taylor Ford and what a wonderful book to begin with!

Beth's parents have moved to Derbyshire and their new house is next to an old ruined mansion called Roseby Hall. Beth finds hersef being bewitched by the ruins and is inexplicably drawn to them when she first goes to visit her parents.

When Beth's personal circumstances change she leaves her London home and moves in with parents while she re-evaluates her life. Things begin to fall into place for her, a new venture and new friends but once again she feels the pull of Roseby Hall and strange things happen. Unbeknown to Beth, one of her new friends knows exactly what is going on and will have to act quickly or the consequences could prove to be fatal!

I throughly enjoyed reading this spooky tale of ghosts, romance and times gone by and raced through it in one sitting. I was enchanted by the descriptions of the countryside, but I was especially taken by those of Roseby Hall in all it's glory. When I discovered that it was inspired by an actual Grade 1 listed Georgian ruined stately home, I headed straight to good old Google to see it for myself and then realised that the building in the background of the cover looks suspiciously similar, if not the same as what I found online.

Despite being a relatively short book, it certainly wasn't lacking in any way. The plot was cleverly thought out, the characters were nicely devoloped and the writing was so wonderfully descriptive that I felt like I was within the walls of Roseby Hall witnessing the majestic interiors with my own eyes.

Jeanette Taylor Ford certainly knows how to tell a story and I will definitely be reading more of her books in the future.

Thursday 20 August 2020

One Perfect Morning - Pamela Crane

Don't be taken in by this book's innocent looking cover because the story inside is a very dark one! The cover automatically makes me think about Desperate Housewives and if, like me, you were a fan of the show, then you'll know just how dark some of the storylines were, so for me, the cover is a perfect choice for this captivating psychological thriller.

Mackenzie, Robin and Lily have been firm friends since meeting at college. Now many years later, despite having husbands and / or children they still retain their close friendship - or so they think!

Each one of them has a secret which they've kept to themselves, but as we all know, secrets don't always stay secret forever as this group of friends is about to discover. The trust that they've built up between them over the years is about to be tested to it's absolute limit and who knows if any of their relationships will be able to stay strong.

One Perfect Morning (or Little Deadly Secrets if you're in the US) is a tangled web of lies and deceit which kicks off with a real bang - murder and goes on to include adultery, drug misuse and rape, this book really does have it all. Told in alternating chapters between the three women, I loved learning about their backgrounds and discovering the skeletons in their closets. Each woman thinks that they're doing the right thing by keeping their secret, never thinking for one minute that it would ever come to light, until one particular event causes a major ripple effect and someone needs to start telling the tuth.

I was hooked from the outset, I couldn't click the pages on my kindle fast enough and I think I inhaled it rather than read it! Packed full of twists and turns. this is a psychological thriller that truly fits into the genre and does what it says on the tin!

This was the first book I've read by Pamela Crane and I will definitely be seeking out her other books after reading this little beauty and I was delighted to discover that there's a plethora of them for me to look forward to. Congratulations on a fantabulous book Ms Crane, you've just gained yourself a new fan! 😉

With kind thanks to author Pamela Crane and NetGalley for my review copy.

Tuesday 4 August 2020

Bookouture Books-On-Tour - With or Without You - Drew Davies

It was just another Saturday as Wendy Dixit watched her husband Naveem set out for another shift in his taxi, but then she got a phone call saying that he's been involved in an accident. With Naveem not only being in hospital, but in a coma, it means that Wendy has time to reflect on her life.

Having been used to her quiet, secluded life with her husband, she's now forced into situations where she has to communicate with strangers and open up which is something she's clearly not comfortable with. Her marriage to Naveem is self-absorbed, the two of them happy with their predictable daily routines, needing no-one else but each other. Naveem has his trains and Wendy has her books and together they tick along quite nicely. So being forcebly removed from this routine is a scary  position for Wendy to be in. She desperately wants not only her husband, but her life as she knows it back.

It took a little while for me to get into this book and I did struggle with the nature of Naveem's accident but this was purely for personal reasons and no reflection at all on the writing. I'm glad that I got past that though as this is a beautiful story about how quickly life can change and the repurcussions that these changes have.

Following Wendy on her journey of self discovery was thought provoking, just how well do we know the people around us, including our spouse. I particularly enjoyed watching her relationship with her neighbour Mrs Rampersad (or Mrs Ampersand as she will forever be in my head!) grow. Brushed off at first as an interfering busy-body, it was a joy to see Wendy flourish and embrace this new found friendship which was wonderfully scattered with subtle humour.

With or Without You is a gentle, thought-provoking and emotional read that will make you think about so many relevant topics from mortality, friendships, family, mental health issues, loneliness and how we find our own paths in life. Drew Davies is clearly a very accomplished writer and I'll definitely look out for his other books in the future.

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                                                       About the author

Photo courtesy of Drew Davies

Drew Davies was born in London and grew up in Whanganui, New Zealand. He attended the Unitec School of Performing Arts in Auckland and won a Playmarket New Zealand Young Playwright of the Year award in 2000. After a brief stint on a kiwi soap, he has worked in Search for the past 15 years. Drew’s other claim to fame is that Stephen Fry once called him droll. Either that, or he got his name wrong. He now lives in Wanstead, London.

You can find out more about Drew, his books and connect with him using the links below:

Be sure to follow the rest of the blog tour with these fantastic blogs

With kind thanks to the publishers Bookouture and NetGalley for my review copy.

Monday 3 August 2020

The Hippo hangs out . . . . with Catherine Berry

Today I'm thrilled to be hanging out with Catherine Berry, author of But you are in France, Madame. Let's dive straight in with the introductions.

Photo courtesy of Catherine Berry

Catherine was introduced to the French language at high school in Australia and whilst immediately fascinated with this subject had no idea that it would guide many of her life choices.  With a dearth of Maths teachers at the time of her high school graduation, she went on to complete a Maths Science degree imagining that this would be her passport to employment.

In fact, it was her French that led her from teaching posts in Tasmania to country Victoria, to France as an assistant to the English teachers at her allocated schools in Grenoble and back to Melbourne. A Graduate Teaching Diploma, a Graduate Diploma in Educational Management, a Certificate in TESOL, a Masters in Education and roles in educational leadership (Head of LOTE, Head of School, Head of Professional Development) followed. This, alongside her marriage and three children, meant that her inner Francophile took a back seat for quite some time.

A series of lucky coincidences ultimately led Catherine, her husband and young family to set out on a French adventure of their own. ‘But you are in France, Madame’ is this story. After several years living in France, Catherine returned to Australia, but unable to turn the page on their French adventure, she and her husband purchased a home in France (search for Our French Village House in Talloires on the Annecy Lake).

Welcome to The Hippo Catherine. Just from reading your bio I can't wait to chat to find out more about you and your book. Pull up a chair and let's get started.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
My book is a memoir so it would not have made much sense to me to write under a pseudonym, but I imagine that it would have freed me up to write more openly: balancing harmony and truth is hard.

Do you often hear from your readers and what do they say?
All the time… and I love it. In fact, before we left for France from Australia, I would write ‘teacher’ on my job description. Now, I’m caught between writer, self-employed and family consultant. Joking aside, I have communicated with many people from around the world who are either dreaming of doing a major family move, or those who want to bring France into their lives but are not quite sure how.

What advice would you give your younger self?
To trust in myself. I was never the popular kid at school, but I wish that I hadn’t let that influence what I did and said. 

What’s your favourite motivational phrase?
I deliberately do not have one. In fact, when I see someone’s Instagram account, or social media, flooded with supposed motivational sayings, I generally run a mile. Sure, occasionally, I get caught out and laugh loudly at cute drawings and funny sayings, despite myself. Generally, though, I love it when people are the motivation, and not just bandying around phrases.

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing etc come from?
Growing up in an era when households did not have television, there was one radio per household and the phone was attached to the wall – and generally in full earshot of all other family members – meant that escaping into books was hugely attractive. 

Image found on R Kikou Johnson

If you could spend time with a character from your book who would it be and why? What would you get up to?
Oh, I do. Everyday. I’d head straight back to the beginning.

You must have had fun if you want to do it all over again! 😉

You get a brilliant idea/thought/phrase at an inappropriate moment (eg in the shower or driving) what do you do?
I have a pen and paper next to the gear stick in the car and my ‘for later’ indecipherable thoughts fill the notes page on my phone. We are always told not to write down passwords in case our possessions fall into the hands of the wrong people. It would be fun to watch a crook trying to work out the passwords to all my accounts from the mumbo-jumbo on my phone.

If you were a superhero what would you be called, what would your super-power be and what would you wear?
Mum. Flicking bullies into outer space. I’m quite partial to the Wonder Woman outfit.

That sounds like a good super-power and I think you'd look good in a cape Catherine! 😀

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I think it's now time for me to tell you all about Catherine's book, But you are in France, Madame don't you?

At the collège for a parent-teacher interview, I met my daughter outside in the courtyard and she showed me up to her classroom. Her teacher was busy chatting, so we waited patiently in the corridor. When he did come out, he indicated that the meeting would take place downstairs and headed off with us in tow.

Before sitting down, I introduced myself using my first name, and put out my hand to be shaken. He mumbled back his full name as he took my hand, although I suspect he would have been shocked if I had actually dared use it. By this stage, I had already understood that teachers did not expect to be questioned about their practices. Of course, I did—question him, that is; politely and almost deferentially. There was a slight pause, as he dipped his head to better digest what he had heard. Then, with the assurance of a perfect, unarguable answer, he replied, “But you are in France, Madame”.

Some months before, my husband, three children and I had casually unzipped and discarded our comfortable Australian lifestyle and slipped on life in the country of haute couture. On arrival, there was no celebrity designer waiting for us, ready to pin and fit our new life to us; so we threw it on and wore it loosely, tightly, uncomfortably, any old how—until we learned for ourselves how to trim, hem and stitch à la française. This book is testament to the joyous, but not always easy, journey that we took along the way.

Our story ‘But you are in France, Madame’ was written from the heart. If you love France, reading about France, are curious about the lives of others or are planning your own trip to France, then this might just be the book for you.

I think this sounds like a wonderful book and being a self-confessed curtain twitcher (please don't judge me!) one that would make for fascinating reading.

You can find out more about Catherine, her book and connect with her using the links below:


I'd like to say a big thank you to Catherine for taking the time to stop by and chat with me today. It's been great fun getting to know you and I wish you lots of success with your book and for the future!