Book Review: A Christmas Cracker, by Trisha Ashley

Publisher: Avon (Harper Collins)  |  Publication date: 22nd October 2015  |  Edition: Kindle (Review copy, via Netgalley)


A Christmas Cracker My Review

A Christmas Cracker by Trisha Astley Kindle CoverA Christmas Cracker is a cheery little marvel and provided me with a delightful distraction over the recent dismal days. This book has the “F” Factor – that’s Fantastically Festive and Feel good!

The village of Little Mumming in the Hamlet of Godsend and its random selection of quirky residents are such excellent company.  The story has just about everything: from perfectly chosen names of the characters and places, a snobby cat called Pye with human traits, not to mention that Marwood’s Magical Crackers seems the most welcoming workplace in the world – it was an absolute joy to read!

With the owners of the old factory mill being practicing Quakers they have a marvellous reputation for offering second chances to those in need. Yet it seems they could do with one themselves, as the products they sell need a much welcomed facelift, along with most of the staff who aren’t getting any younger! Over time, each employee has become a valued friend of the quirky owners and has their own story to tell, but I’ll let you get to know them for yourself. Let’s just say they’re keen as mustard and happy to leave their past behind them. Much like our main gal, Tabitha…

After being wrongly accused of fraud and losing everything only to gain a custodial sentence, Tabby is desperate to move on. But it seems that the shadows from her past just won’t let her go and they leap out to challenge her at unexpected intervals. You can almost hear her cry, “good grief, what next?!”

Since her mum passed away Tabby is without any family. Her one and only friend has tried to remain supportive but is experiencing difficulties of her own with a jealous husband watching her every move. So Tabby relies on the uncompromising kindness of Mercy Marwood, famed for her good, honest hospitality, plenty of mouth-watering food and an abundance of energy, despite her advancing years.

With Tabby’s artistic eye for design, Mercy hopes to turn her Cracker factory around by dragging it kicking and screaming into a popular attraction, while still retaining its traditional values. But Randal, her nephew, has other ideas for the mill and seems hell bent on making the new house guest and her cantankerous cat as unwelcome as possible. He cannot believe the family business will be profitable again and will take some convincing, but he’s facing a formidable team!

His rudeness is to be expected though, as Tabby recognises Mercy’s nephew from the awful past she’s trying to forget, the one just before she had been arrested. Well, you can gather that things get very interesting indeed as the headstrong battle for the survival of the mill plays out.

So, what did I find in A Christmas Cracker? A WONDERFUL STORY with a great BIG HEART! It reminds you that no matter how bleak things look there’s always hope – okay, you might miss it on the first couple of passes, but it’ll be waiting for you to stumble over it all in good time…

Rating: 4/5

PS. The recipes in the back of the book were a lovely touch too!

(My thanks to the publisher, Avon Books and Helena Sheffield, for providing a digital copy of this book for review via Netgalley.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Get into the festive spirit with this heart-warming, funny and simply gorgeous Christmas read.

The eagerly awaited new novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author.

This Christmas is about to go off with a bang!

Things can’t possibly get worse for Tabby. Framed for a crime she didn’t commit, she suddenly finds herself without a job. Then to make matters worse, Tabby’s boyfriend dumps her and gives her cat away to a shelter.

But rescue comes in the form of kindly Mercy. A master of saving waifs and strays, Mercy wants Tabby to breathe new flair into her ailing cracker business. Together, they’ll save Marwood’s Magical Christmas Crackers.

But someone has other ideas. Mercy’s nephew Randal thinks Tabby’s a fraudster. Stubborn, difficult and very attractive, her future depends upon winning him round. But it’s that time of the year when miracles really can happen. Standing under the mistletoe, Tabby’s Christmas is set to be one that she will never forget . . .


A Christmas Cracker Author Links

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Book Review: Hearts of Stone, by Simon Scarrow

Publisher: Headline  |  Publication date: 4th June 2015  |  Edition: Hardback (review copy)

Hearts of Stone - Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

The fierce courage of the men and women of the Greek Resistance is brought to vivid life in Sunday Hearts of StoneTimes bestseller Simon Scarrow’s powerful new novel of World War II.

1938. A perfect summer on the Greek island of Lefkas for three young people untroubled by the simmering politics of Europe. Peter, visiting from Germany while his father leads an archaeological dig, has become close friends with locals Andreas and Eleni. As the world slides towards conflict and Peter is forced to leave, they swear to meet again.

1943: Andreas and Eleni have joined the partisan forces resisting the German invasion. Peter has returned – now a dangerously well-informed enemy intelligence officer. A friendship formed in peace will turn into a desperate battle between enemies sworn to sacrifice everything for the countries that they love…

Hearts of Stone Review

Hearts of Stone is a vivid, brutal and often touching portrait revolving around the despicable nature of conflict and its everlasting affect.

Hearts of Stone by Simon Scarrow

Taking two time periods, it carefully interlaces events before the start of the German occupation of Lefkas and the surrounding Greek Islands during World War II. Reflecting on the friendships that were built during a time of peace that are tested by the horrors of war, exposed until only the bare bones remain. Then we have the present day and the life of Eleni, a resident of Lefkas during the war, a resistance fighter, and now a frail, elderly lady living in England, but it’s clear that her spirit remains unbroken.

I felt privileged to be able read this story with her fictional character at the heart of it. Moving back and forth in time as effortlessly as a breeze, the expertly written passages transport you to the Greek Island during a time of peace and in the midst of war. Piece by piece the events are revealed as Eleni retells her story to her granddaughter, Anna. Despite being a history teacher, she has never heard this side of her grandmother’s life before. It’s a harrowing eye-opener for all the family.

If Anna hadn’t been contacted via social media by Dieter Muller, the grandson of a German with an archaeological interest in the Island of Lefkas wanting to resume his own grandfather’s research, she may never have heard her Grandmother’s story at all. As the research was halted with the onset on the war, when Dieter’s grandfather was recalled to the ‘motherland’, Dieter now hopes to gain some insight into the original dig site, as Eleni knew both his grandfather and father when they were working on the Island.

The connections between Dieter’s relatives, Anna’s grandmother, and their mutual friends from the island of Lefkas closes a void spanning generations, and yet, the sense of unforgettable loss makes it difficult for Eleni to trust this young German under these seemingly innocent circumstances, although years have passed since the atrocities. After all, her old friendships had previously been tested beyond any imaginable limit, and her community was torn apart by the enemy.

Without any sensationalism, this is an unmistakably enthralling portrayal of a period in history where loyalty to one’s country and those you love is called into question; it seizes a raw emotion from the sacrifices that people were prepared to make for the greater good with both hands.

The writer has created some finely-tailored scenes of combat, and this account shows us that the aftershocks of such a time may never cease for the survivors.

Thought-provokingly recommended.

Rating: 4.5/5

(My sincere thanks to the publisher @EllaMatildaB  @headlinepg for providing a copy of this title for review.)

Hearts of Stone - Author profile 2

Simon Scarrow’s passion for writing began at an early age. Born in Nigeria, after a childhood spent travelling the world, he pursued his great love of history as a teacher, before becoming a full-time writer in 2005.

His Roman soldier heroes Cato and Macro first stormed the bookshops in 2000 in Under the Eagle and have subsequently appeared in a number of other bestsellers including: Centurion and The Gladiator.

Simon Scarrow is also the author of a quartet of novels about the lives of the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon Bonaparte. In addition he writes a young adult Roman series and develops projects for television and film with his brother Alex.

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