Sweet ‘n’ sour books from… Down Under

Today on Sweet ‘n’ Sour books, we’re having two very different books in two genres, both set Down Under and both by the same author.
(Each S&S post features one romance or feel-good book and its blurb, and one in a crime fiction genre. Click the covers to see the books on Amazon.)

 

Sweet: Walking in the Shadow, by Carmen Radtke

Jimmy Kokupe is the miracle man.

1909, Quail Island. On a small, wind-blasted island off the east coast of New Zealand a small colony of leprosy patients is isolated but not abandoned, left to live out their days in relative peace thanks to the charity of the townspeople and the compassion of the local doctor and matron of the hospital.

Jimmy Kokupe is a miracle: he’s been cured. But he still carries the stigma, which makes life back on the mainland dangerous and lonely. To find a refuge, he’s returned to the camp to care for his friend, fellow patient old Will, and disturbed young Charley. Healed of his physical ailments and dreaming of the girl he once planned to follow to a new life in Australia, Jimmy meets ‘the lady’, the island caretaker’s beautiful but troubled wife who brings their food. Can she help Jimmy forget his difficult past and overcome his own prejudices towards his mixed parentage, and find the courage to risk living in freedom?

This is a fabulous read, one of my top favourites this year. Jimmy’s story sucked me in; I read it almost in one go, desperate to know what happened, wanting things to end well for him and unable to see how they ever could. Is there a happy end for Jimmy? Read it and see!

 

Sour: Murder at the Races, by Carmen Radtke

Nothing is a dead-cert in a race against a cold-blooded killer…

1931. Frances Palmer is overjoyed when her brother Rob returns to Adelaide as a racecourse veterinarian. But all is not well on the turf, and when a man is murdered, there is only one suspect – Rob.

Frances and her boyfriend, charming night club owner Jack Sullivan, along with ex-vaudevillian Uncle Sal and their friends have only one chance to unmask
the real murderer, by infiltrating the racecourse. The odds are against them, but luckily putting on a
dazzling show where everything depends on sleight of hand is what they do best. But with time running out for Rob, the race is on…

This is the second standalone story featuring Frances and Jack, and it reminds me a little of Agatha Christie’s books. And Uncle Sal is truly a wonderful creation… A fun read!

Let’s have those New Zealand sheep again to finish off with:

 

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The ‘O’ books… #A-Z books 📚

This is an adaptation of something I saw on Twitter – people were posting 26 books in 26 days, each title beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. However, I’m planning on taking around 26 months to get to Z. Each month I’ll post a newish book I’ve enjoyed, plus a children’s book and an older book.

 

It’s the ‘O’ books today:

 

I’ve read and enjoyed several of Sarah Denzil’s books now, and this is a good one. Leah is a nurse in a psychiatric hospital, where she meets Isabel, who was convicted, years ago when she was fourteen, of killing and mutilating a child. But not everyone thinks Isabel was guilty… One For Sorrow is a well-written, tense read with plenty of twists and turns before we arrive at the end.

 

 

 

 

My children’s book isn’t really a children’s book this month, but I read it when I was about twelve, so we’ll have it anyway. If you’re looking for a fun, laugh-out-loud read, look no further. Monica Dickens is Charles Dicken’s great-grandaughter, and this is her account of a few years of her life in the 1930s, which she spent working as a cook-general. She then goes on to try her hand at nursing, and we can read about that in the follow-up, One Pair of Feet. I absolutely loved both books!

 

 

 

 

Superintendent Roderick Alleyn is confronted by pagan revelry, morris dancing and the winter solstice in this book, first published in the 1950s. And then there’s Mrs Bünz… A nice gory read!

 

 

 

Coming next month: the ‘P’ books.

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Yarn-bombed in Switzerland – part 2

A couple of weeks ago I was on Sharon Booth’s lovely blog, with a selection of photos from this summer’s yarn-bomb trail in our town – click HERE to see the post and pics. Since then, I’ve walked round the rest of the trail.

 

Down at the harbour, we have a set of knitted flags on trees, to match the real ones on poles.

Switzerland, Germany and Austria, and you can see them all in this photo.

Behind the old town, some woolly animals are chasing up and down trees:

I think the cat’s the best one, but I love the mouse, too.

 

 

And there’s a lizard…

 

 

 

 

 

And a snake…

 

 

 

 

 

And some birds. Flamingoes?

 

 

 

Around the corner is the wool shop where the idea came from:

This one’s further round towards the lake. Lovebirds…

Meanwhile, the Gasthaus Römerhof is being invaded by giant butterflies.

To finish off, we’ll go back to the harbour, where the lunchtime boat is just reversing out:

 

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Sweet ‘n’ sour books from… Cornwall

I’ve never forgotten the holidays I spent in Cornwall as a child – that sea! So here we are with a sweet ‘n’ sour post from the south west of England. Each S&S post features one romance or feel-good book and its blurb, set in an area I’ve visited, and one in a crime fiction genre. Click the covers to see the books on Amazon.

 

Sweet: The Little Shop in Cornwall, by Helen Pollard

Claudia thought she knew how this summer was going to go. Turns out, she didn’t have a clue…

It’s been two years since Claudia arrived on the beautifully rugged Cornish coast with nothing but a suitcase to her name. She’d walked out on the husband who had never loved her, ditched the corporate job she’d never wanted and vowed that no gym membership card would come within ten feet of her ever again.
Swapping boardrooms and cocktails for a little shop right at the end of the beach road should have been a bit of a shock. But from the moment she first laid eyes on the empty, run-down store, Claudia knew this was where she was meant to be all along.

After all that upheaval, Claudia was looking forward to a quiet summer, full of the usual holiday makers and long walks along the clifftops. But life in her patch of paradise is about to change in more ways than one.
Enter recently widowed Jason, dragging his sullen teenage daughter Millie in tow. Millie and Claudia immediately hit it off. And while Millie loves everything about Claudia’s free-spirited way of life, practical architect Jason is less than thrilled about his daughter’s new interests. He doesn’t shy away from telling Claudia exactly what he thinks and sparks fly every time they meet.

But as circumstances throw Claudia into Jason’s path in increasingly unexpected ways, she begins to glimpse what lies beneath his fiery temper and sharp tongue. Claudia was sure her new life was perfect in every way. But was there something missing after all?

If you enjoyed Helen’s Little French Guesthouse series, you’ll love this one too! I only wish I’d read it on a Cornish beach… And isn’t it a gorgeous cover?

 

Sour: Dark Deception by Amanda James

Who can you trust when the past won’t let you go?

Kerensa and Leo are a happily married young couple who live in Cornwall. Leo works part-time in London as an investment advisor to wealthy businessman Paul Donaldson. The couple hope to start a family soon, and life couldn’t be better.  

But Leo has been stealing from Paul – and Paul isn’t the sort of man you steal from.  

When Leo realises Paul knows what he’s done, he has no choice but to resort to drastic measures.  

Meanwhile, after discovering that she’s pregnant, Kerensa can’t wait for her husband to return home so that she can share her news. But Paul has gone missing… 

After receiving a threatening phone call from Paul, Kerensa realises how much trouble her family are in.  

Just how far is Paul prepared to go to get revenge? And will Kerensa ever be happy or safe again? 

I read most of this book with my heart in my mouth – and the ending! I don’t think anyone would see that coming – and as it’s only 99p TODAY ONLY, there’s no excuse not to buy it…

And a lovely photo of Cornwall to finish off with:

 

 

 

 

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The ‘N’ books… #A-Z books 📚

This is an adaptation of something I saw on Twitter – people were posting 26 books in 26 days, each title beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. However – I’m planning on taking around 26 months to get to Z. Each month I’ll post a newish book I’ve enjoyed, plus a children’s book and an older book.

 

Today, we have the ‘N’ books:

 

No Longer Safe is one of Alison Waine’s standalone psychological thrillers, and it’s a cracker. Alice is pleased when old university friend Karen invites her to a reunion in a remote cottage in the middle of winter. But then others arrive too, and things start to go horribly wrong… This is a book that really does have a shocking twist at the end!

 

 

 

 

I remember having this book as a small child – it was such a funny name, Bunkey – though I have to say, the story has vanished from my memory. The Noddy books were everywhere back in the 60s, but I’m not sure how prevalent they are in the UK today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I read Nineteen Eighty-Four as a home reader when I was at secondary school in the 70s, and afterwards we couldn’t wait to see what 1984 would bring! It’s years since I’ve re-read it, but it’s as chilling now as it was back then. Big Brother is watching you…

 

 

 

Look out for the ‘O’ books next month!


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(Almost) Silent Sunday…

The trees by the harbour have been yarn-bombed with positivity:
(The words you can see are listed in English at the bottom of the post.)

(Cool, in love, heartfelt, happy, magnificent, optimistic, thankful, charming, heavenly, proud, recovered, fantastic, hopeful, pretty, festive, cheerful, special, joyful)
Let’s remember the good words!

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Sweet ‘n’ Sour books from…Scotland

I spent the first twenty-two years of my life in Scotland, so a sweet ‘n’ sour post from north of the border is a must. Mind you, it wasn’t until I came to Switzerland that I met Alison Baillie and Jo Bartlett, the two writers whose books feature today. Both books are really good reads with a flavour of the area, perfect for the present time, when we can’t travel as much as we’d like to.

 

Sweet: A Highland Practice, by Jo Bartlett

Dr Evie Daniels has recently lost her mother. Unable to save the person she loved most in the world, she considers giving up medicine altogether; especially when her fiancé is unable to understand her grief. Instead she decides to leave her life in London and fulfil her promise to her mother to see as much of the world as possible. Her first stop is to escape to the wilds of the Scottish highlands and a job as a locum in the remote town of Balloch Pass. It’s only ever meant to be the first step on her journey, though, a temporary job she has no intention of sticking with. There’s a whole world to see and a promise to fulfil, after all.

But she doesn’t expect to be working with someone like Dr Alasdair James – a hometown hero – whose own life changes beyond all recognition when his best friend dies and leaves him guardian to two young children. With enough drama in their personal and professional lives to fill a medical encyclopaedia, they soon develop a close friendship. Can it ever go beyond that when Evie’s determined to see the world and Alasdair has commitments at home he just can’t break? Or are they destined to be forever in the wrong place at the wrong time?

I thoroughly enjoyed my outing to the Highlands with this book – and the house on that cover image is very similar to the cottage where I spent my teenage summers, on the Isle of Arran – happy memories!

 

Sour: Sewing the Shadows Together, by Alison Baillie

More than thirty years after thirteen-year-old Shona McIver was raped and murdered in Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh, the crime still casts a shadow over the lives of her brother Tom and her best friend Sarah. 

When modern DNA evidence reveals that the wrong man was convicted of the crime, the case is reopened. So who did kill Shona?

Soon Sarah and Tom find themselves caught up in the search for Shona’s murderer, and everyone is a suspect. The foundations of Sarah’s perfect family life begin to crumble as she realises that nothing is as it appears.

Dark secrets from the past are about to emerge, but can they uncover the truth before the killer strikes again?

This is such an atmospheric read. Most of it takes place in and around Edinburgh, and you can tell that Alison Baillie knows the area intimately. A fabulous thriller.

We’ll finish off with a photo of Scotland this time – isn’t it lovely?

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How (not) to name your minor characters…

I may be having problems with my current work-in-progress… Draft one was completed and polished a few months ago and went to my fabulous editor for the first edit. (Edit 1 is mainly about the plot, structure and character development) Back it came, and I started on draft two, incorporating my editor’s suggestions for giving one of the child characters a more extensive role in the story, while cutting down on her mother’s contribution. So far, so good.

I like my characters in this one. The main characters are all nice people, and the two children were great fun to write. I worked my way through draft two, then let it rest for a while before getting it out again and going through it with (hopefully) fresh eyes.

Character names are tricky. I always seem to fixate on one letter – Ward Zero, for instance, came back from its first edit with the news that my characters included Megan, Marianne, Mhairi, Mim and Martha. Not to mention Roger and Rita and Ralph. And Nora and Netta. And Jack and Jim. I vowed back then not to make the same mistake again, started a names list, and renamed practically everyone in Ward Zero.

So, confident that my names in this book, which is still a title-free zone, would all pass the starting-letter test and hadn’t appeared in an earlier book either, I began to check through draft two.

By the time you get to this stage, you’ve read your own book roughly eleven million times, and it’s easy to miss things. I was slightly less than halfway through when I came across Jill the librarian. She’s a nice lady, appears in one chapter only, and has two sentences to speak. She almost doesn’t need a name, but I called her Jill anyway. Two pages further on, the main characters were exiting the library, when a thought struck. Wait a minute… WAIT A MINUTE – wasn’t the police officer in the last couple of chapters called Jill too? Quick check… yep, she was.

So Jill the librarian became Paula, and on I read, tweaking as I went, and eventually I came to Jill the police officer. She doesn’t have a big role either, but she’s mentioned a few times and she talks more, too. I came to the end of her role, and hesitated. Maybe better just check that I really did change all mentions of the librarian to Paula. I put ‘Jill’ into the word-search box, and up came Jill the police officer’s role, as well as – several mentions in chapter three. But… Jill the police officer wasn’t around in chapter three and neither was Jill the librarian, so this must be… yes, another Jill. (This one’s an assistant in an exclusive clothes shop and in chapter three she can’t go to work because she’s moving her mother into a care home.)

It was a bit of a head on desk moment. The problem was, of course, these minor characters were so minor they never made it to the names list…

When I need a name quickly, I usually dive into Facebook or Twitter, and the first name I see there wins the role, providing it’s not already in the story. Jill the shop assistant became Marie, and on I checked to the end of the book. And we’ll see what happens when it goes for edit number two.

One day, I’ll get all my characters into a story with suitable names for their ages, no same starting letters and no repetitions. Maybe. But it wasn’t this book.

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The ‘M’ books… #A-Z books 📚

This is an adaptation of something I saw on Twitter – people were posting 26 books in 26 days, each title beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. However – I’m planning on taking around 26 months to get to Z. Each month I’ll post a newish book I’ve enjoyed, plus a children’s book and an older book.

We’re halfway through the alphabet now – today, it’s the ‘M’ books:

 

 

First up is Murder in the Fens by Clare Chase.
I’m a big fan of Clare’s Tara Thorpe books, all set in and around Cambridge – you couldn’t wish for a more scenic backdrop to a murder mystery series. A young woman’s body is found, her pockets full of wilting flowers. An affair gone wrong – or is there more to the story? Tara and the team investigate.

 

 

 

 

I first read Mister God This Is Anna by Fynn when I was a young teenager. It’s one of those books that stays with you in more ways than one – the copy I have here at home is the same one I read all those years go. It’s a book to go back to, and ponder – Anna’s outlook on the world does us all good, and the illustrations are wonderful.

 

 

 

 

My ‘older’ book isn’t very old, this time, but I loved all Ann Granger’s Mitchell and Markby mysteries – I wish there were more of them!
In Murder Among Us, a gala hotel opening in the village of Bamford is rudely interrupted by the discovery of a body… Fortunately, Chief Inspector Markby is there with Meredith Mitchell.

 

 

 

Look out for the ‘N’ books next time!

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

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Sweet ‘n’ sour books from… Yorkshire

With both family and friends living in this lovely area, I’ve been to Yorkshire more often than any other part of England – so that’s where I’ve chosen for my second sweet ‘n’ sour books.
In each S+S post, I’m featuring one romance or feel-good book, and one in a crime fiction genre, both set in the same area. Click the covers to see the books on Amazon, and don’t worry, you don’t have to eat them…

Sweet: There Must Be An Angel, by Sharon Booth

When Eliza Jarvis discovers her property show presenter husband, Harry, has been expanding his portfolio with tabloid darling Melody Bird, her perfect life crumbles around her ears. Before you can say Pensioner Barbie she’s in a stolen car, heading to the North Yorkshire coastal village of Kearton Bay in search of the father she never knew, with only her three-year-old daughter and a family-sized bag of Maltesers for company.

Ignoring the pleas of her uncle, Eliza determines to find the man who abandoned her mother and discover the reason he left them to their fate. All she has to go on is his name – Raphael – but in such a small place there can’t be more than one angel, can there?

Gabriel Bailey may have the name of an angel but he’s not feeling very blessed. In fact, the way his life’s been going he doesn’t see how things can get much worse. Then Eliza arrives with her flash car and designer clothes, reminding him of things he’d rather forget, and he realises that if he’s to have any kind of peace she’s one person he must avoid at all costs.

With the help of beautiful Wiccan landlady, Rhiannon, and quirky pink-haired café owner, Rose, Eliza is soon on the trail of her missing angel, and her investigations lead her straight into Gabriel’s path. As her search takes her deeper into the heart of his family, Eliza begins to realise that she’s in danger of hurting those she cares about deeply. Is her quest worth it?

And is the angel she’s seeking really the one she’s meant to find?

This was the first of Sharon Booth’s books I read – it’s huge fun and a brilliant feel-good read! And check out the lovely new cover images this series has!

 

Sour: The Murder Mile, by Lesley McEvoy

Forensic Psychologist Jo McCready is assisting DCI Callum Ferguson on a murder inquiry when one of her patients is found brutally murdered. 

Jo was the last person to see Martha Scott alive. She was helping Martha unlock a repressed memory, but during the session, Jo unlocked more than she bargained for. An alter personality introduced himself as the reincarnation of Jack the Ripper – and thanked Jo for setting him free to kill again.

As Ferguson’s team race to find Martha’s killer, a series of copycat killings begin, replicating ‘The Autumn of Terror’ in 1888. But if Jack is just a figment of Martha’s damaged mind, who killed her?

As the body count rises, Jo must construct a profile to stop the murderer recreating the terror of the most infamous serial killer of all time. But not everyone is on Jo’s side. The Police Intelligence Unit have their own profiler, Liz Taylor-Caine, who resents Jo’s involvement as a contributing expert in the case.

Suspicion about Jo’s involvement in the killings increases when someone close to the team becomes one of Jack’s victims. And as the anniversary of the final and most gruesome of all the killings looms, Jo discovers that the killer has one murder on his mind that is far closer to home…

This excellent book is Lesley McEvoy’s debut novel and was one of my top reads last year. Like me, she uses a mixture of real and fictional locations in her writing, which means it’s easy to imagine the settings. I raced through this one with my heart in my mouth, and I can’t wait to read her next!

We’ll finish off with a lovely Yorkshire photo – the Cow and Calf Rocks, near Ilkley.

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