Saturday, 30 May 2015

The year in Books May 2015

It has been another bumper month of reading here at The Willows.  
A mixture of books and kindle reads 10 books in all this month.

From the bookshelf 

  1. The Girl on the Train - Paul Hawkins
  2. The Forgotten Garden   - Kate Morton
  3. We are all completely beside ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler
  4.  The Dark Witch Book 1 of the O'Dwyer Trilogy - Nora Roberts
  5.  Behind Closed Doors - Susan Lewis
  6. The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz - Denis Avey

From the Kindle

  1.  The Villa  - Rosanna Ley
  2.  The Missing Half - Brooke Powley
  3. The Love of My Life  - Louise Douglas 
And not forgetting this months return to my childhood read 

  1.  Rikki-Tikki Tavi - Rudyard Kipling 

If you haven't had a chance to catch up with what I have been reading over the last month and want to know my thoughts you can click on the link above and it will take you back to my post. 

There have been some that I have loved, some that were OK but I wouldn't read again and are destined for the 'To go to the charity shop'  shelf.  Thankfully there weren't any that were so bad I couldn't wait to get to the end or even worse they were so bad I couldn't finish. 

They were all very different but my favourites this month have definitely been 

The Forgotten Garden  is Kate Morton's second novel and although she got great reviews for her début  novel The House at Riverton  I think this one is far better. I base this judgement on the size of the box of tissues required - BIG

I think everyone has seen or heard about The Girl on the Train. I heard about it whilst driving home listening to Simon Mayo's book club when Paula Hawkins came along to give a synopsis of her book.  I had put off reading this one as sometimes when a book is so hyped up I can be left disappointed when I actually come to reading it.  That definitely was not the case and if this is Ms Hawkins first attempt at writing fiction I can't wait to see what she will produce in the future.

And lastly I had downloaded The Missing Half sometime ago onto my kindle when Amazon had one of their 99p  sales.  It is Brooke Powley's début novel which can sometimes be a bit like Marmite can't they you either love them or hate them.  Fortunately I loved this one and everywhere I went my kindle would go just in case I got five minutes to spare and I have now downloaded her two follow on novels which I suppose should give you some idea of how good her first one was. 

So if you have clicked on to the link to my previous posts you will now understand my dilemma of which of the three to choose as my book of month. You don't want to read one really good book in a month followed by those that are a bit mediocre just to make the choice that little bit easier but I really think I have given myself a bit of problem this month. I have chosen to have two books as my book of the  month before now but I think choosing all three would be a little excessive don't you. Even a nice cup of tea in my favourite cup & saucer together with three biscuits has not made the job any the easier. 

But in the end I decided to go for

 The Missing Half  by Brooke Powley

So it is Goodbye to May and Hello June and hopefully some nicer weather than we have been having of late. Judging by my bookshelf/kindle  there is a whole lot more reading to be done over the summer months and it would be nice if some of that reading time could be spent in the garden with a nice glass of white.

Happy Reading one & all


Friday, 29 May 2015

The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz - Denis Avey

The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz is the extraordinary true story of a British soldier who marched willingly into Buna-Monowitz, the concentration camp known as Auschwitz III.

Denis Avey was being held in a POW labour camp near Auschwitz III. He had heard of the brutality meted out to the prisoners there and he was determined to witness what he could. 

He hatched a plan to swap places with a Jewish inmate and smuggled himself into the camp. He spent the night there on two occasions and experienced at first-hand the cruelty of a place where slave workers had been sentenced to death through labour.

Astonishingly, he survived.

For decades he couldn't bring himself to revisit the past that haunted his dreams, but now Denis Avey feels able to tell the full story - a tale as gripping as it is moving - which offers us a unique insight into the mind of an ordinary man whose moral and physical courage are almost beyond belief. 


I originally picked this book up in our local Tesco's,  They have a charity bookshelf where for a small donation to their chosen charity, this year being Diabetes UK, you can find some pretty good books. 
I think there is also an element of people getting rid of any books that they enjoyed but wouldn't read again as well as those that they didn't finish and probably never likely to and of course those that were that bad they couldn't wait to put them out for the charity shop.

My father in law has a keen interest in the first and second world wars and if I spot any books I tend to pick them up for him for when he visits.  And that is how I came to have a copy of this book.  Father in law will be due to visit at some point soon so I thought I should move it up the reading list so that I can pass it on.  

The first 100 pages of Denis Avey's  account are of his time in service and takes you up to the point where he becomes a POW.  He is put in a camp next to Auschwitz III.  He has seen the prisoners in their stripe pyjamas, with the Star of David, through the fence and he has heard the stories of what goes on within the camp, then he makes a decision to see for himself. He arranges to change places with a stripy prisoner not once  but twice in order to see first hand what goes on behind the fence. There was always the possibility that the stripy wouldn't turn up to change back but as the consequences of being found out were worse he did meet at the elected time and place to return to Auschwitz III. From page 169 Denis Avey continues his story after they have left the camp for the last time. From this point he continues to tell you of his journey back to blighty and how he adjusted to being back in England.


Did I enjoy this book?  I think from the very nature of the book you couldn't say that you enjoyed it. It was certainly informative and I think my father in law will be pleased with it. My only criticism would be that the title of the book suggests that it will be more about the time he spent in Auschwitz but that is only a very small proportion in comparison to  the before and after sections.
I still and always will have the deepest respect for those who spent time in the camps and lived to tell the tale the likes of which we would hope would never happen again.


So what next?

My next post will be my end of May round up with a quick look back at the books I have read over the month of May and which have been my favourites. Then of course I will have to decide which will be my book of the month which is going to be a hard decision to make again this month.

As always happy reading one & all


Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Behind Closed Doors - Susan Lewis

When fourteen-year-old Sophie Monroe suddenly vanishes one night, it looks at first as though she's run away from home.

Her computer and mobile phone have gone, and she's taken a bag full of clothes.

As the police investigation unfolds, a wealth of secrets from the surrounding community start coming to light. And it seems everyone has something to hide.

For Detective Sergeant Andrea Lawrence, the case is a painful reminder of the tragedy that tore her family apart over twenty years ago. She is convinced there is more to Sophie's disappearance than teenage rebellion.

But us the past clouding her judgement, preventing her from seeing a truth that neither she or Sophie's family would ever want to face?


Sophie disappears after a family argument but is not reporting missing for almost a week.  DS Lawrence finds this a little odd. If one of her children went missing she would be on it a lot quicker than that, especially after what happened in her own family all those years ago.

CCTV does not reveal much and you are left wondering is she hiding out at a friends house. Has she got mixed up with the wrong type of people or has she been abducted. Or could even be something a lot closer to home.


I have often seen Susan Lewis books on the bookshelf of the local supermarket or Waterstone but up until now hadn't read anything by this author.
For my birthday I was given a duo set of Susan Lewis books Behind Closed Doors and The Truth About You.  Seen as my birthday was in January and we are almost into June  I thought it was high time that I got to reading one of them.  I hadn't seen any reviews by anyone else so went into reading Behind Closed Doors with an unbiased view.
I did enjoy reading it. Susan Lewis description of how a 14 year old can sometimes behave (thankfully my own daughter who is now 21 was a pretty good teenager) was very true. How many times did we tell our parents life wasn't fare and how could they possibly understand anything when they were so old.  The way in which she involves DS Lawrence's background and home life makes the story all the more appealing.  
It must have been pretty good as I read over the bank holiday weekend and I did have other things to do apart from have a book in my hand.
Definitely worth considering as a holiday read as we will soon be upon that season.


For my next book I have chosen a memoir written by Denis Avey. 
It has taken Denis Avey seventy years to write his account of  his time during the second world war and how he managed to get into Auschwitz. 
I had originally picked this one up from the charity book shelf at our local Tesco's (currently collecting for Diabetes UK)  for my FiL who has a keen interest in the military, but having got it home I decided that may be I should read it before popping it in the post. 
As you can see by my book mark I am only a part way into this one and not quite at the point where he is taken POW by the Germans but already I am thinking I am going to need the tissue box to hand. 

Happy reading one & all.


Thursday, 21 May 2015

The Love of My Life - Louise Douglas

I miss him with every breath and heartbeat. He should have been my happy ending, he is the sad beginning of my story.

Olivia and Luca Felicone had known each other nearly all their lives, but when they fell in love as teenagers and eloped to London, they broke the hearts of those closest to them. Luca's parents run Marinella's restaurant, the colourful hub of life in the otherwise bleak north-eastern seaside town of Watersford, and his mother, Angela, has never forgiven Olivia for causing such a rift in her beloved family.

On a freezing January night Olivia's life is shattered when she learns that Luca has been killed in a car accident on the M1. She is left with nothing, and after suffering from weeks of overwhelming grief she abandons her job and returns North to where Luca has been buried in Watersford, just to be close to him - even though she knows she will not be welcomes at Marinella's.

Olivia's chance meeting with Luca's married twin brother, Marc, leads to the realization that he is experiencing a loss almost as painful as her own. Their desolation draws them into an affair which both know has no future, but fills the space where Luca should be. It is a course of action that can only spiral out of control, and when it does, the consequences are both explosive and cruel.


Olivia Felicone finds herself widowed when her beloved husband Luca is killed in a car accident.  His family insist he be buried near to their home in Watersford. Olivia can't cope being so far away from him and decides the only thing to do is move back to where they grew up as children.
Luca has a twin brother Marc and after a chance meeting Olivia and Marc become reliant on one another to get through their grief.
There is no love lost between Olivia and her mother in law Angela and with Marc's wife Nathalie. Olivia and Marc's friendship soon turns into more than either of them had anticipated.

Narrated by Olivia she takes you through her life growing up in Watersford and how she met the Felicone family and what lead her to fall in love with Luca.


This is the début novel of Louise Douglas and is a gentle read of love, loss, new beginnings and romance.  Not necessarily the normal type of book I would go for but never the less it was very good and certainly a worthwhile holiday read.

I have downloaded a further novel by this author and I think as time goes on her writing will improve there is certainly potential.


Moving on my next and possibly final read for May is going to be

Behind Closed Doors by Susan Lewis another new author to my bookshelf

Happy reading one & all


Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The Missing Half - Brooke Powley

When I was a little girl and children went missing it was just one of those sad things.  
It never happened to anyone I knew. It happened over breakfast or lunch. 
It happened to parents who were careless. 
Alice Winters is not a careless mother. 
Yet one awful day her two year old daughter is taken from her pushchair outside a village shop. 
Alice's life becomes every parent's worst nightmare as she begins questioning everything and everyone she knows, vowing to leave no stone unturned until Grace is found. 

Now ten years later, Alice believes that the publication of her book recollecting the events surrounding Grace's disappearance will be the final needle in the haystack needed to bring her home. 
Who had taken Grace and why? 
Will Alice ever be ready to accept the truth, no matter how difficult it is to hear? 


Grace disappeared when she was just 2 years old from outside the village shop.
That was in 1996.
10 years on she is still missing and her body has never been found.

In Brooke Powley's début novel she splits the story into two halves.
 In part one she is writing her book describing the events leading up to her daughter going missing and how this has affected her and her family for over the last 10 years.
The most important thing being that she has never given up hope that one day Grace will be found and reunited with her family.

In part two the story is picked up by Edd the Private Detective and takes you to the USA where members of a family may hold the key to finding out just what happened to Grace.


Released in January 2014  as Brooke Powley's début novel, I thought this book was fantastic.
Right from the beginning you forget that this is not a true story and are gripped for the whole 184 pages.  It is every parents nightmare that their child will go missing and sadly for some it is a reality. Obviously here in the UK it immediately brings the McCann family to mind and  all that they have done to try and find their daughter since she disappeared in 2007.
 They like Ms Powley's character Alice will never give up the search for their daughter.

I read this novel over two days, as I had to keep reading in order to know what the final outcome of Alice's story was going to be.  Definitely worth a recommendation and I have now downloaded her second novel to add to my ever growing number of books residing on my kindle.
Just as well D can only see those that find themselves on my bookshelf.

I am continuing with another selection from my kindle in Louise Douglas's The love of my life,  which by coincidence is her début novel.

Not read anything by this author before but at the time it was part of the kindle 99p deal and so it would have been rude not to have purchased it don't you think and I do like to support new authors.

Happy reading one & all


Sunday, 17 May 2015

The Villa - Rosanna Ley

When Tess Angel receives a Solicitor's letter inviting her to claim her inheritance - the Villa Sirena, perched on a clifftop in Sicily - she is stunned. Her only link to the island is trough her mother, Flavia, who left Sicily during World Warr II and cut all contact with her family.

Initially resistant to Tess going back to her roots, Flavia realises the secrets from her past are about to be revealed and decides to try to explain her actions. Meanwhile, Tess's teenage daughter Ginny is stressed by college, by her blooming sexuality and filled with questions that she longs to ask her father, if she knew where he was. 

 Three women, all seeking answers. 
Will Villa Sirena bring them together - or drive them apart.?


Tess Angel's mother has always been very secretive about her life in Sicily and has never discussed her reason for leaving or why she has refused to go back.

Out of the blue Tess receives a Solicitors letter telling her she has been left a villa in her mother's village back in Sicily. She has never heard of Edward Westerman and has no idea why he would have left her his villa.
Tess decides she will travel to Sicily and see for herself the place her mother grew up and the villa
Mr Westerman has left her in his will, but what about her daughter Ginny she is in the middle of her exams.
With everything organised Tess leaves for Sicily where she doesn't just find her villa but discovers family feuds and family secrets and a little romance.


Rosanna Ley's The Villa is a warm, romantic read in which you discover the lives of three generations of women. Tessa, her mother Flavia and her daughter Ginny.

A great holiday read and one I would definitely recommend,

Continuing with novels I've stored up on my kindle my next May read is

Happy reading one & all


Tuesday, 12 May 2015

DARK WITCH Book one of the cousins O'Dwyer Trilogy - Nora Roberts

Iona Sheehan has always felt a powerful connection to Ireland. So when her beloved grandmother confesses an extraordinary family secret, she can't resist visiting County Mayo to discover the truth for herself. 

Arriving at the atmospheric Castle Ashford, Iona is excited to meet her cousins, Connor and Branna O'Dwyer. And when she lands a job at the local riding school, she is soon drawn to it's owner - the charismatic, fiercely independent Boyle McGrath. Perhaps she has found her true home at last...

But Iona's arrival is no accident. The three cousins have inherited a dangerous gift from an ancestor known as the Dark Witch. And they are about to discover that some old legends can return to haunt the present.  


Ordinarily I love anything that's a bit of escapism and takes you into the world of witches and warlocks and the like, so I was really looking forward to reading this Nora Roberts novel, which is part of a trilogy.
Unfortunately I was left a little disappointed and it became a novel to read in order to get to the end and move onto something else rather than a novel you just couldn't put down.

 Set in Ireland the story is of the three cousins O'Dwyer who have inherited their grandmothers (The Dark Witch) powers and  who together need to combat their enemy Cabhan.

I thought the story would be more along the lines of how they would develop their powers and a strategy to rid themselves of Cabhan. Instead it seemed to start off well in the beginning loose its way in the middle and not really recover by the end.
There didn't appear to be much in the content of the novel and I couldn't decide whether it was in fact a romance novel as the later seemed to be the main element to the book and not done particularly well.

Nora Roberts is a prolific writer of novels with great reviews but I suspect that her many fans will be left more than a little disappointed with this one.
I was looking forward to reading the trilogy,  but as this one will be going on the shelf for the charity shop I don't think I will be purchasing the other two.

Moving on my next book will be one from the many that are residing on my kindle forming an orderly queue.

I have chosen The Villa by Rosanna Ley  

Happy reading one & all


Friday, 8 May 2015

Rikki-Tikki Tavi - Rudyard Kipling


This is the story of a boy and his weasel, a bird and a snake, India and the British Empire. 
Rudyard Kipling's dramatic tale, here excerpted from the greater volume of The Jungle Book, is the story of a loyal mongoose Rikki-Tikki Tavi, and the lengths that he must go to protect his adoptive human family.


Rikki-Tikki Tavi is a Rudyard Kipling short story of just 62 pages.

It is an enchanting tale of a little mongoose who is found by a family after a summer flood and taken back to their bungalow to recover. There he comes across Nag and Nagaina the husband & wife Cobra's. They have set their sites on killing the family especially the little boy Teddy but they hadn't banked on Rikki-Tikki Tavi.  
He may be small but he is strong enough to kill a Cobra snake and he will do anything to protect the family that gave him a home. 


I hadn't set out to read this book, I was actually looking for something else when I spotted it on my kindle listing and all my childhood memories of this little story came flooding back.
I have always been vertically challenged and this was a story my mother read to me when I was a child to try and instil in me that just because I was smaller than all of my peers that it didn't mean I couldn't achieve anything I set my mind to.


My next read is from my bookshelf and is 

Happy reading one & all


Thursday, 7 May 2015

WE ARE ALL Completely BESIDE OURSELVES - Karen Joy Fowler

What if you grew up to realise that your father had used your childhood as an experiment?

Rosemary doesn't talk very much, and about certain things she's silent. She had a sister, Fern, her whirlwind other half, who vanished from her life in circumstances she wishes she could forget. And it's been ten years since she last saw her beloved older brother Lowell.

Now at college, Rosemary starts to see that she can't go forward without going back, back to the time when, aged five, she was sent away from home to her grandparents and returned to find Fern gone. 


There have been many mixed reviews on We are all completely beside ourselves it appears to be very much a Marmite novel.

It is written in six parts and by the time you get to to the end of page 1 of part two the twist has been revealed therefore I can't tell you too much about the storyline or it will give it away.

What I can tell you is that at the beginning of the story (which is actually the middle) Rosemary is in college where no one knows about her family background and that's the way she would like it to stay.
She hasn't seen her brother since the disappearance of their sister but she is hoping that by going to college at Davis he may just get in touch and want to see her.
From here on out the story really is about Rosemary blaming herself for the disappearance of her sister.  She feels that Lowell  somehow blames her for it too and is hoping that if Lowell does get in touch that she will be able to get closure.


 I can't say this particular novel absolutely grabbed me and it was more that I had to keep reading to get to the end quicker.
I'm not sure that I agreed with all the hype that the book received there are definitely better novels around at the moment.
That's not to say that it wasn't well written but it did seem to loose it's way a little in some parts.

If you already have a copy it is worth reading but I don't think it's one that you should rush out and buy.

So on to my next read, which is going to be my return to childhood favourite reads and for the month of May that is going to be.

Happy reading one & all


Monday, 4 May 2015




Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. 
She knows it will wait at the same signal each time.
Overlooking a row of back gardens.

She's even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses 'Jess and Jason', she calls them.
Their life - as she sees it - is perfect.
If only Rachel could be that happy.


And then she sees something shocking.
It's only a minute until the train moves on, but it's enough.

Now everything's changed. 
Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she's only watched from afar.

Now they'll see: she's much more than just the girl on the train...


With getting up at stupid O'Clock five days a week come a weekend I still wake up at stupid O'Clock and inevitably I won't be able to get back off to the lovely dream I was having so I get up make a cup of tea and 
But this weekend I was also going to start my new book so I felt that an extra treat was in order.

Well what else do you do with a bank holiday weekend when the weather is blowing a hooley and all the housework is done. 

My new book is of course 'Girl on the Train' by Paula Hawkins. 
I had heard and read many great reviews about this particular novel, it was another recommended by Simon Mayo's Radio Two book club and was Colleen Nolan's recommendation on Loose Women (a daytime show here in the UK), but there are many of you who are taking part in Laura's The Year in Books Project 2015 who have recommended this one too. 

As it tells you above Rachel is a girl who travels everyday on the train into London and everyday the train stops at a particular signal giving her front row viewing of a row of houses.  She see's this particular couple every morning. She has never met them in person and knows absolutely nothing about them, so she gives them made up names and makes up a story in her head as to the lives they lead.
Then the girl she has named Jess disappears, it is all over the news and Rachel thinks she may have the answer to her disappearance. 
But here's the thing, will anyone take her seriously.


I used to read thrillers all the time when I was younger, half the time frightening myself stupid but I had heard such good things about this novel that I knew I was going to have to read it. I am so glad I did. 
 Paula Hawkins tells her story through three main characters, Rachel, Megan and Anna.  
I was gripped by the end of the first chapter and just when I thought I had got the twist something would happen that would have me thinking again. 

This is Paul Hawkins first thriller and has been optioned for a film by Dreamworks, I just hope if the film goes a head that they don't detract too from the book.

It's not uncommon for me to devour a book within three days but I think I have even surprised myself in the fact that I just couldn't put this one down, it is therefore definitely one I would recommend you should read.

So what will I do now?

Make a cup of tea and pick another book from the bookshelf of course.


We are all completely beside ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler has been residing on the bookshelf for sometime now. It has been recommended by a number of you taking part in The Year in Books Project 2015 so I thought it was time it came off the shelf.

Hope you are getting better weather than we are.

Happy reading one & all.


Friday, 1 May 2015

The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton

Before her eyes the garden changed. Weeds and brambles, decades in the growing, receded. Leaves lifted from the ground revealing paths and flowerbeds and a garden seat. Light was permitted entry once more.


On the eve of the First World War a little girl is found abandoned after a gruelling ocean voyage from England to Australia. All she can remember of the journey is that mysterious women she calls the Authoress had promised to look after her. But the Authoress has vanished without a trace.


Now an elderly lady, Nell travels to England to discover the truth about her parentage. Her quest leads her to Cornwall, and to a beautiful estate called Blackhurst Manor, which had been owned by the Mountrachet family. What has prompted Nell's journey after all these years?


On Nell's death her granddaughter, Cassandra, comes into a surprise inheritance. Cliff Cottage, in the grounds of Blackhurst Manor, is notorious amongst the locals for the secrets it holds - secrets about the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is at Cliff Cottage, abandoned for years, and in its forgotten garden, that Cassandra will uncover the truth about the family and why the young Nell was abandoned all those decades before.


The Forgotten Garden is the first of my reads to tell you about in  May. I started it last weekend but knew I wouldn't finish it before the end of April so it's just about scrapped through until today when I turned the last page.
 I get totally immersed in Kate Morton's novels and this one was no exception.
 I love her style of writing moving effortlessly from the past to the present and from the present to the past. I know some people find this style of writing a little confusing but, in doing so all the questions you have in your head from the previous chapter start to get answered in the next two and there are always  fantastic twist at varying stages of the book.
There is always so much to absorb and that was certainly the case within the 645 pages of  this novel and I warn you, chocolate and a box of tissues are compulsory when reading. And just when you think you have all worked out you get another twist at the end.

If you've never read a Kate Morton novel before I would certainly recommend this one it will have you totally hooked and you won't be able to put it down. Each chapter will leave you wanting to know more and you will find you just have to keep reading  no wonder it was on Richard  & Judy's Best of Summer reads after it's release.

I definitely think this is my favourite of her novels so far.

 I have now read  all Kate Morton's novels  apart from Distant Hours which is in the queue and will be one of my Summer reads leaving me ready for the Autumn when Kate Morton's next novel 'The Lake House' is released.

Happy reading one & all