Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Berlin Zookeeper

Two women. One shocking wartime secret. And a family mystery just waiting to be discovered...

Berlin Zoo, 1943: Ten-year-old Adelaide and her newborn sister are orphaned after a devastating night of bombing. Heartbroken and frightened, Adelaide runs to her mother’s closest friend, Katharina Heinroth, and the kind zookeeper takes the two little girls under her protection. As the bombing intensifies, Adelaide tries to shut out the horrors of war by caring for her tiny sister and playing with the adorable baby monkeys. But when Katharina organises a dangerous operation to enable children and animals to escape the battle-scarred city, something goes wrong. And Adelaide has to promise her adopted mother to keep a shocking secret. A secret that will change Adelaide’s life forever.

Berlin Zoo, 2019: Bethan Taylor notices the elderly lady sitting on the bench next to her seems confused, her thoughts flitting between past and present. Ada talks of her childhood, played out in an underground bunker beneath the animal enclosures during the war. As Ada’s story unfolds, Bethan is surprised to hear a name she recognises…

Katharina Heinroth is at the top of a list of German names Bethan found in a hidden compartment of her late mother’s jewellery box. Bethan’s father couldn’t tell her anything about the crumpled piece of paper and she’s been searching for the meaning ever since.

As the two women are brought together by the pain of the past can they help each other to heal? And after decades of silence, can Ada help Bethan to uncover a long-buried family mystery?

An unforgettable and heart-wrenching novel of a brave orphan girl and a shocking wartime secret, inspired by a true WW2 story.

This is a fascinating story, unusual in that it takes place in war-torn Germany with ordinary people of the time, and that is a perspective we are not often exposed to.  Not all Germans were Nazis, and they had a horrific time during WW2.  This is an extraordinary story of survival and resilience, and it is also a mystery as, in the present day, Bethan tries to discover the truth of her ancestry which her mother had failed to uncover before she died.  It is beautifully written and the characters engaging.  The admirable, extraordinary attempts by the keepers to keep Berlin Zoo going and its animals alive and safe despite the privation and widespread destruction towards the end of the war are inspiring, and the members of the Zoo Family become ever closer in their efforts.

Bethan is our present day heroine who manages to secure a temporary prestigious post at the zoo to develop her veterinary knowledge and experience, as well as the opportunity to discover who she is and an interlude to reconsider where her life is going. 

I found this book hard to put down, enjoying the mix of historic heroism in the course of everyday life, the relationships within the zoo community and also a satisfying element of love and romance.
It was engrossing, satisfying and thought provoking and a really good read.

This review should have been posted in 7th May, but was delayed by illness.  Unfortunately I missed my stop on the book tour organised by Bookouture, but I caught the next available opportunity and, hopefully, better late than never.  Apologies, Anna Stuart and Bookouture.

The Inn at Tansy Falls by Cate Woods

Happy publication day to Cate Woods for The Inn at Tansy Falls.
I am honoured to have been asked to participate in the blog tour for this enjoyable novel, and really loved reading it.  Being stuck in bed with a non-Covid virus was almost a pleasure when I had a trip to the Inn at Tansy Falls to entertain me.

Poor Nell has had a lot of loss and sadness to deal with, and then she receives this letter:

Dearest Nell, if you’re reading this letter, I’m already gone. You’re my best friend in the world, and as my last request I’m asking you to lay me to rest hundreds of miles away, in my crazy gorgeous, totally one-of-a-kind hometown of Tansy Falls. I know you’re a born-and-bred city girl, but hear me out. After first losing Adrian, and then me… I know your heart is hurting, Nell. I think you’ll find that you need Tansy Falls as much as I do.

So, I’ve got it all planned out. For two weeks, you’ll be staying at the sweet, local inn and every day you’ll be trying something new. And if you follow my instructions to the letter, you may discover there’s more to my story than you think. A surprise something… or someone at the end of it? Only you can find out!

Some last advice before you set off, Nell. Don’t forget your sturdy boots and make sure to give Boomer, the inn’s resident dog, a belly rub from me. Stay well away from former quarterback Brody Knott (boy, do I have some stories about him!). And finally, let the future bring what it brings. While Tansy Falls may look small, I know better than anyone that new beginnings can be found in all kinds of places. That little Vermont town you’d never heard of? Well, it might suddenly begin to feel just like coming home…

Stunned and bereft following the death of her best friend, she debates whether to ignore the challenge of a trip to the USA at her behest, but with little to keep her at home, she decides that she has little to lose by taking ten days out of her mundane life to fulfil Megan's last wishes.

What she doesn't expect is that by stepping out of her comfort zone, putting herself into the control of someone else (albeit her beloved bestie) and daring to say yes, she is going to have the experience of a lifetime and opportunities she would never have dreamt of.  

Cate Woods paints an immersive picture of Vermont in the "muddy season" and it was so pleasurable to be transported into this world as Nell experienced it.  It was cheering to witness the effect of the journey,  and the transformative consequences of it.  I loved this story and am now champing at the bit to read the sequel Cate is writing, as well as longing to see Vermont for myself.

A little about Cate Woods: Cate Woods made the most of her university degree in Anglo-Saxon Literature by embarking on a career making tea on programmes including The Big Breakfast, Who Wants to be a Millionaire and French & Saunders. After narrowly missing out on the chance to become a Channel 5 weather girl, she moved into the world of magazine journalism, then ghostwriting and now writes novels under her own name. She has written two best-selling romantic comedies – Just Haven't Met You Yet and More Than a Feeling – and a festive novel, The Christmas Guest, under the name Daisy Bell. Cate lives in London with her husband and two children.

Want to know what other people thought about this book?  These are the other participants of the book tour, and the dates they are posting their reviews.

You can purchase The Inn at Tansy Falls at 
your local book shop, Hive Books UK,

Friday, January 29, 2021

Blog tour: Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano


February 2020, when what we worried about were named storms that caused flooding and disrupted our travel plans, I was invited to Penguin HQ in London to meet author Ann Napolitano, to launch her novel, Dear Edward, in the UK.  It was a grand day out, and meeting Ann was a delight.  Over afternoon tea, Ann told us how she came to write Dear Edward, answered our questions about the story and we were able to talk about our reactions to it, too

Now I've been invited to participate in the blog tour to mark Dear Edward's paperback release on 4th February, and it's lovely to look back on that day, before Covid lockdowns changed our lives so utterly.

Dear Edward was inspired by the true story of a boy who, against all the odds, was the sole survivor of an air crash.  Edward's family take a flight across America from New York, to start a new life on the West Coast.  Unfortunately the plane comes down on the way and miraculously Edward survives.

Although this sounds incredibly tragic, the book is actually very uplifting, as Edward and others who care for him learn to live despite their losses.  Growing up means negotiating the hopes and expectations of others as well as our own, and this is forced on Edward in the absence of the shelter of his birth family.  It is not a disaster novel, but a positive story of love and recovery.

As the publishers say, Dear Edward is:-

 "A transcendent coming-of-age story about the ways a broken heart learns to love again.

One summer morning, a flight takes off from New York to Los Angeles: there are 192 people aboard. When the plane suddenly crashes, twelve-year-old Edward Adler is the sole survivor.

In the aftermath, Edward struggles to make sense of his grief, sudden fame and find his place in a world without his family. But then Edward and his neighbour Shay make a startling discovery; hidden in his uncle's garage are letters from the relatives of other passengers - all addressed him.

Following the passengers' final hours and Edward's unique coming-of-age, Dear Edward asks one of life's most profound questions:

What does it mean not just to survive, but to truly live?"

I was engrossed by this book and enjoyed it very much.  It provides so much food for thought and is sensitively and thoughtfully written.  It vividly illustrates a skilfully told story of the passage from childhood to adulthood and the negotiation we all have to make of becoming our own person.  It would also provide interesting threads of discussion for book clubs.  I am very happy to recommend it and look forward to reading more from Ann Napolitano.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Island by C.L. Taylor


The blurb:

Lost meets The Hunger Games in the thrilling new young adult novel from C.L. Taylor, the Sunday 

Times and million-copy bestselling author.


Welcome to The Island.

Where your worst fears are about to come true…

It was supposed to be the perfect holiday: a week-long trip for six teenage friends on a remote tropical island.

But when their guide dies of a stroke leaving them stranded, the trip of a lifetime turns into a nightmare.

Because someone on the island knows each of the group’s worst fears. And one by one, they’re becoming a reality.

Seven days in paradise. A deadly secret.

Who will make it off the island alive?

My thoughts:

Although this book is marketed for young adults, it could be enjoyed by a much wider audience.  This retired grandmother certainly found it very enthralling and enjoyable.

Take a group of six sets of parents who have known each other since ante-natal classes and developed the habit of taking an annual holiday together.  Transport them all to an exotic setting, Thailand, where one of the children is to celebrate a birthday with a trip to a remote and uninhabited island off the coast for a week of wilderness living together with their teenaged friends.  

When things go wrong and all six are forced to face their greatest fears, it is hard to know just what is happening and who is behind it.  Cally Taylor has written an engrossing, enthralling and enjoyable thriller which paints a vivid backdrop to challenges which will test the resilience of these young people to the full.  It is a brilliant read which I highly recommend.

Thanks to NetGalley and HQ for access to an advance readers copy in return for a fair and honest review.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Jane Corry's New Book: Cover Reveal

Exciting news: Jane Corry has a new book being published this summer, and I am privileged to be able to be part of the cover reveal today, so you'll know what to look out for in June! 

To read what I thought of her last book, read here.  And to find out more about Jane and her books (published by Penguin) follow this link.


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

"I Made A Mistake" by Jane Corry

They said: 

In Poppy Page's mind, there are two types of women in this world: those who are faithful to their husbands, and those who are not. Until now, Poppy has never questioned which she was.
But when handsome, charming Matthew Gordon walks back into her life after almost two decades, that changes. Poppy makes a single mistake - and that mistake will be far more dangerous than she could imagine.
Someone is going to pay for it with their life . .

What I thought:

Monday, August 17, 2020

The Search Party by Simon Lelic


They Said:-

Monday, August 10, 2020

Just Like The Other Girls by Claire Douglas


This was a really engrossing story, set in my local area so I can confirm that the locations are authentic and well-drawn.  Ageing but spry Elspeth feels safer with someone living in as a carer/companion in her Clifton mansion, and recruits Una to this role.  It is a strange set up - Aggie comes in daily to cook and there is a gardener and a cleaner, too.  Newly bereft Una is in need of a home and the good rate of pay is attractive so that she can save up to realise her dreams.  She is to have two days off per week, and on those two days Kathryn, Elspeth's daughter, who lives nearby with her husband and sons, provides the support that Elspeth requires.  She also manages Elspeth's art gallery in the arcade in Clifton Village, so she's a busy lady.

Una is thrilled to find that her room is in fact a suite of rooms in the attic and has never enjoyed so much space to herself.  However, it soon transpires that this household also holds secrets and all is not as it seems.

This psychological thriller is probably Claire Douglas's finest work so far, an absolute joy to read as the suspense and mystery increase and danger threatens.  There are twists and surprises as the story unfolds and the characters are interesting and engaging.  I am very happy to recommend this book and look forward with pleasure to reading Claire Douglas's next offering.