Will I need space for a broken heart in my handbag?

Now and Then in Tuscany

Angela Petch

Will I need space for a broken heart in my handbag? 

 

 

 

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‘In my heart there was a storm that needed to break and my heart hurt like thorns on the wild rosa canina growing in the hedgerows…’

If you embark on this journey of discovery then be sure to prepare some delicious crostini, in advance, as you will not be able to put the book down….

This is a story of love wrapped up in an insight into rural history and customs of Tuscany. Meet ancient craftsmen and farmers, of Montebotolino, and marvel at the tenacity of their families; see how they survived difficult times.

The history of Giuseppe, a farrier and a cobbler, is completely absorbing.  Giuseppe was born at the beginning of last century.  His naivety leads him down some challenging paths, but this shapes the man, and ‘suffering begins the journey to wisdom.’   I found myself wanting to shout at Giuseppe and send him in the direction of love; the loves story is beautiful.

For me, the novel unlocked secrets of the enchanting holiday destination.  I have often wondered who had once walked along the ancient tracks, and who once lived in the ancient dwellings that nestle in the mountains.   As the title suggests, the reader delves into rural Tuscany as it is now and as it was back then at the beginning of last century. The reader has the privilege of meeting characters from the different generations and has more knowledge than the characters:  it is satisfying to fit the jigsaw together.  Indeed, there is a cleverly crafted narrative, in which there are emotional parallels in the lives of the characters from the past and the present.

Giuseppe’s grandson, Francesco, and his English wife, Anna have turned the ancient houses into holiday lets. Their son, Davide, encounters some of the emotional challenges of childhood that Giuseppe, his great-grandfather, had to face. Alba, Giuseppe’s great-granddaughter, faces choices about education very different to her great-grandparents.   Whilst Giuseppe’s grandson Francesco and his wife face different daily routines; this reminds us of how life has changed. However, the tenderness between the couples from both generations is crafted skilfully, and there is an exploration of love.

Life, in Montebotolino, was hard at the beginning of the last century.  Yet, the people had to make the most of nature’s larder, and the peasant food is so tempting.  It seems that the working people, from the past, shaped the menus in contemporary Italy, sadly many of their homes have been left empty as their lifestyle was too difficult. The charm, and majestic beauty of the Tuscan landscape is still there to seduce the modern traveller.  Fortunately, we can still see:

‘Cypress tree lined twisting white ribbon roads up hills towards impressive stone buildings…trees like stakes holding down the land.’

This story takes the reader beneath the surface of the magical holiday destination, associated with a paradise for the eye and the belly.

The transumanza is the Italian term for transhumance, the traditional twice yearly migration of sheep and cows from the highlands to the lowlands, and vice versa. The word literally means “crossing the land”. Ref:  Wikipedia

 

See My Reading for all my other reviews at jessiecahalin.com/my-reading/

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Originally posted 2017-04-22 09:37:05.

‘SHIP AHOY!’ There’s an entertaining mystery in my handbag

The Bookshop Detective 

Jan Ellis

 

It was a great treat for me to take another holiday in idyllic seaside town where:

‘To the east, the land fell away towards Combemouth; to the west a chain of scalloped shaped bays edged the land’.

The setting is vivid and the charming bookshop is inviting.  I settled back into my usual seat in The Reading Room and listened to the latest gossip.

Eleanor, the bookshop owner, is a kind, engaging character – she is someone that one could trust.  Her positive outlook led her to set up a new life in Combemouth six years ago.  Her philosophy of love is that ‘love is twenty percent attraction, thirty percent luck and fifty percent timing.’  She appreciates her good fortune to meet Dan and the fact that his love supports and guides her – proof that a second marriage can work. The previous book told Eleanor and Dan’s love story but this book tells a different kind of story.  In this novel, Eleanor is a glamorous, young ‘Mrs’ Marple:  forget the brogues, forget the tweed and dig out a vintage party frock.

The suspense story captured my imagination so much that I wanted to be there.  I could imagine a stage production of this mystery as it has all the right ingredients: the manor, the briefcase, the ring, the vicar…   Enter Eleanor, the Bookshop Detective, exit Dreary Deirdre.  Cue Daniel, waiting in the wings to support but something is troubling him. Is his ex-wife on the horizon?

Blow away the dust on Joshua’s books to reveal a ship. Can you see the ghost ship sailing in the distance and will this bring a bad omen?  Dim the lights as the ghost ship gets closer.  The characters present a tableau of the Victorian scenes.  But what happened to the poor boy who was flogged?  Can Eleanor’s investigation save the boy?  Why does someone think that Eleanor is ‘going to kill him?’

In a stage production, the actors would have to play many roles.  For instance, Erika and Deirdre could be the same actor, or could it be Erika and Daniel?  Could someone play the rock star and the vicar?  Surely Connie and Joyce could be the same actor.  Are there any clues here? You will have to read the book to find out.

I am getting carried away with this ‘detective lark’!  Jan Ellis is so clever at writing the dialogue that I became completely absorbed and wanted to be amid the drama.  Jan Ellis has skilfully woven the clues into the narrative.  I envied Eleanor’s knowledge and read the book greedily in one sitting.  I visited the bookshop, the fair and the parties so it was only right that I should be able to get involved in the investigation.

This book has been cleverly constructed so that it could be enjoyed without knowledge of Summer of Surprises and An Unexpected Affair.  However, I would recommend this delightful duo as a holiday read!  Begin at the beginning with An Unexpected Affair and let the drama unfold as you take a comfortable seat in the Reading Room. Jan Ellis is skilled at creating fun, engaging characters and drawing you into their world.

Jan Ellis

This novel presents a perfect escape: a cleverly constructed narrative.  What a brilliant idea to delve into the detective genre with the characters created in the romance genre -love it!

 

 

 

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Please read all my reviews on My Reading and my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Originally posted 2017-06-21 07:00:13.

My handbag is bursting at the seams

Check out my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Dear Authors,

My handbag is bursting at the seams…  

Thank you so much for the lovely review requests.

I have been overwhelmed with such lovely requests and have a long reading list for the next 6 months.

Authors work tirelessly to tell their stories, and the stories deserve to be sipped slowly, and savoured, like a good wine.  But don’t worry, I get drunk on words and not wine when I am reviewing!!!

You will find examples of my reviews on My Reading page at jessiecahalin.com/my-reading/

 

 

 

 

See the full details on my Review Requests page.

Check out my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

 

Jessie

@BooksInHandbag

Originally posted 2017-04-20 22:24:11.

A book stored in pocket between the sea and the sky

Keep Me Safe

Daniela Sacerdoti

I will place the lost souls in my handbag and KEEP THEM SAFE in a pocket between the sea and the sky.  Warning: this book will rouse romantic ramblings, inspired by the lyrical language of the book. 

 

The novel explores love and weaves a magic spell on the reader.  I will not give away the narrative, but it is a romance with a difference; it is a romance from a bird’s eye view.

 

Read the full enchanting review on My Reading.

 

Check out my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Originally posted 2017-04-15 07:00:10.

A little ray of sunshine in my handbag

Check out my blog at jessiecahalin.com

The sun always shines when you read a Moorcroft book! 

The sun just gets hotter and hotter ‘until any air has been too soaked in sunshine for relief’, and you feel, like Elle, as if you need an exhilarating swim to chase away the blues.

This is a great book to read, at any time; whether you are on holiday or just want a chance to escape a challenging week.

Read more of this review in My Reading.

 

 

Check out my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Originally posted 2017-04-08 11:56:13.

Find a compartment labelled ‘do not disturb’ in my handbag

Just for the Holidays

Sue Moorcroft

A book about a midlife crisis and teenagers but the book had me at helicopter pilot! 

 

 

Click here to buy on Amazon

I have been waiting for weeks to meet Leah. As soon as the book arrived, I made myself some strong coffee and lost myself in France.

As I opened the book, I could feel the ‘sheen on my skin where the sunshine streamed in through the window’. But the book isn’t just about the shimmering heat, a fast heart beat and copious amounts of rosé pamplemousse.  It is a wonderfully witty book that isn’t ‘Just for the Holidays’ because the consequences of the holiday will last forever.  This novel examines the fragility of the ‘protective shell’ surrounding teenagers that can shatter without their parents.  In turn, Moorcroft also shows how adult are left vulnerable and exposed when relationships breakdown.  However, you will still laugh all the way through novel and forget that you need to go to sleep – hence strong coffee needed.  You will also crave some expensive chocolate.

Prior to reading this novel, I was unaware of the challenges facing Leah as I had focused on the trail of clues in the #PostcardsJFTH.  One must admire Leah as she ‘rolls up her sleeves’, supports everyone and hopes that the ‘frost’ will thaw between her sister and brother-in-law. Leah’s ‘heart twists’ for the teenagers but also flutters when she feels the heat from a certain man. It is moving that Leah has an incredible capacity to empathise, putting the needs of others first.  It is equally endearing that she removes the halo from time to time. Who wouldn’t want Leah, with her ‘sunny personality’ and compassion, as a sister?

The narrative is as fast paced as Leah’s Porsche, but one longs to find out if the romance will become a harmonious melody rather than a sporadic drum beat.  Besides the events rolling on, there is a tremendous lyrical quality to the dialogue that drives you through the events.  The humour sparkles throughout the interactions and difficult situations. I am in awe of the way in which Moorcroft combines humour with a more challenging and sensitive subject.   Characters are built with precision as each word is selected with tender loving care: Moorcroft cares about her characters thus ensuring that the reader will also suffer from a ‘sore heart’ at times.

Read it and you will understand why Leah needs to get a massive ‘Do not disturb’ sign on her door.

A whole constellation of stars to be awarded to Sue Moorcroft for this funny, poignant yet heart-breaking read!  Must go now and bake the quick pecan toffee pudding to console myself for having finished the book.

Please see my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Originally posted 2017-05-20 08:28:52.

A pocket full of love, letters and loneliness in my handbag

Letters to Eloise 

Emily Williams

 

 

 

 

 

Set in the nineties, this first-person narrative is a tender tale of life’s journey. Initially, one can luxuriate in simplicity of university life until the narrative and the mystery begin to unfold.  Flora, ‘beautiful and talented’ is an engaging, likeable character from the outset.  Letters to Flora’s unborn child will be constructed from her inner dialogue.

The people in Flora’s life construct the narrative threads.  Although, surrounded by supportive friends and family, Flora is secretive.  Friends and family love Flora and there are tender moments.  For instance, the letter that Flora’s father writes to the unborn child is incredibly moving. Her mother’s silent support is beautiful while support from her friends evoke humour.  The constant in the narrative is the developing relationship that Flora has with Little Bump.  Flora’s experience of her difficult pregnancy and analysis of her relationships pull the reader into the story.  Is Flora hiding something?  Each time it seems as if a mystery has been solved, the narrative moves on.  Initially, the mystery of the child’s father intrigues.  The reader longs for a certain man to be the father, yet the undertones of something unsettling unnerves and nudges the reader.

As you get to know Flora, you want to protect and support her and Little Bump.  Flora’s need to confide in Little Bump successfully confirms her loneliness. One questions if she is truly’ happy’.  Flora seems naïve, vulnerable yet she successfully analyses her role in the two relationships in her life.  She explores how the relationships developed and moulded to the circumstances.  The juxtaposition of the two relationships reveal insight into Flora’s psyche. With one lover, she experienced the ‘distant music that guided our feet and our entwined bodies did the rest’. This is juxtaposed with ‘I winced. I glared around the small pungent smelling storeroom.’  Here, the discomfort is clearly signified in the language choices and reinforced through the punctuation.  One wants to warn Flora but was she already aware of it?  She is a clever student.

The plot moves in and out of contrasting past experiences with the two lovers.  Flora is ‘not entirely comfortable’, at times, and neither is the reader.   Humour is contrasted with despair.  A secretive, cliched relationship is compared with a natural, good humoured relationship.  Surely, the unconfessed love that she ‘wished [she] had told him’ is the shadow that is pressing on Flora’s mind.  Her memories of happier times provide support for Flora during the isolation of her pregnancy.  Williams skilfully builds layers of intrigue.  Flora becomes trapped in events and her silence.  She admits that:

‘It is all a cruel game, this life of mine, as I begin to lose track of what is real and what isn’t.’

The real cruelty isn’t fully in focus until the end of the novel. This novel is intriguing and offers far more than the blurb promises.  I completed the novel in the early hours of the morning as I could not abandon Flora.  This is a powerful exploration of a mother’s love for her unborn child, first love, seduction and love for family and friends.  Williams successfully explores some complex and challenging themes and places betrayal at the core.

This is a clever debut novel that will move you.

 

Click to buy on Amazon

 

Please see all my reviews at Books in Handbag and my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Originally posted 2017-07-19 07:00:35.