Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Christmas at the Gin Shack, which I’m sharing with Clair at Have Books, Will Read.
- Author: Catherine Miller
- Kindle Edition
- Category: Contemporary, Christmas, Book Review, Books, Reading
Gingle bells, gingle bells, gingle all the way…
Olive Turner might have lived through eighty-four Christmases, but she’ll never get bored of her favourite time of year. And this one’s set to be extra-special. It’s the Gin Shack’s first Christmas – and there’s a gin-themed weekend and a cocktail competition on the cards!
But, beneath the dazzle of fairy lights and the delicious scent of mince-pies, Olive smells a rat. From trespassers in her beloved beach hut to a very unfunny joke played on her friends, it seems that someone is missing a dose of good cheer.
Olive knows she’s getting on a bit – but is she really imagining that someone in the little seaside town is out to steal Christmas? More importantly, can she create the perfect gin cocktail before Christmas Eve – in time to save the day?
I hadn’t realised this was a sequel so I had a quick recap of the first book which gave me enough background to become involved with the characters and the story, without actually having read the previous book. Despite being an octogenarian and having been persuaded to move into Oakley West retirement facility by her son after a minor stroke, Olive Turner is determined to live life to the full. Olive’s original ‘gin shack’ was her beloved beach hut where she and her two friends and kindred spirits, Veronica and Randy, met to drink their favourite tipple, becoming known as the Oakley West Trio. The quest to find the perfect gin and tonic began with Olive and her late husband, and Olive has no intention of giving up on their dream. And it makes her feel closer to her husband and daughter when she toasts them at the end of each day.
Olive’s Gin Shack idea escalated and is now a bar in larger premises, run by her beach hut neighbour and good friend, Tony, with the help of the original trio and the beach hut community. Christmas is coming which is Olive’s favourite season, and the Gin Shack members are trying out various delicious sounding cocktail recipes to enter into the Best Christmas Cocktail competition.
The Gin Shack was famous for featuring different gins. Every week customers got to try two new gin varieties and a cocktail featuring one of those gins. They were already known for their cocktail specials so it made sense that they should try and become award-winners to give their reputation some official gusto. Plus, it would be a fun way to keep attracting customers. Having had such a struggle in its early days, they needed to make sure the Gin Club shack was here to stay.
I love the concept of this story; the idea of a beach hut community (I’ve always fancied owning a beach hut) and the Gin Shack. And there’s much more to the story than you might at first assume, including lots of Christmas spirit (of both kinds), seeing off pranksters and saboteurs and a touch of romance. It’s far removed from the typical Christmas themed romance however, with the gang of older characters intent on family and friends, maintaining the Christmas spirit and keeping their enterprise going. Olive is a likeable and realistic character with genuine age related issues and tragic events in her past. She has a great attitude to life with a larger than life personality and I love the way she embraces her new purchase as she overcomes the steep climb up from the beach. It’s a refreshing change to have the more mature characters in the forefront of the story.
Catherine Miller has crafted a delightful cast of characters of all ages with an engaging, feel good story full of emotion and humour, a perfect read for the season.
I chose to read and review Christmas at the Gin Shack based on a digital copy of the book supplied by Rachel’s Random Resources and the author/publisher.
When Catherine Miller became a mum to twins, she decided her hands weren’t full enough so wrote a novel with every spare moment she managed to find. By the time the twins were two, Catherine had a two-book deal with HQDigital UK. There is a possibility she has aged remarkably in that time. Her debut novel, Waiting For You, came out in March 2016. She is now the author of four books and hopes there will be many more now her twins have started school. Either that, or she’ll conduct more gin research on Olive’s behalf.
- Author: Judith Barrow
- Published: August 2017 by Honno Press
- Category: Historical Fiction, Book Review, Books
It’s 1911 and Winifred Duffy is a determined young woman eager for new experiences, for a life beyond the grocer’s shop counter ruled over by her domineering mother.
The scars of Bill Howarth’s troubled childhood linger. The only light in his life comes from a chance encounter with Winifred, the girl he determines to make his wife.
The prequel to the Pattern of Shadows series, A Hundred Tiny Threads explores the lives of Winifred Duffy and Bill Howarth up to the beginning of their lives together. Winifred lives with her mother, the very unpleasant Ethel, and her much nicer and long suffering father, and works in the family’s grocery shop. Winifred is an innocent, leading a very sheltered life ruled by her mother. Until the day Honora O’Reilly enters her life with her independence and talk of a better life for women, persuading Winifred to join the Suffragette movement. That, and meeting Conal, Honora’s brother, changed Winifred’s life in ways she could never have envisioned.
It hadn’t occurred to her before that she had such a small life, lived in such a small world. She’d paid no attention to politics in the past, so despite her protests to Honora, over the last month, she’d read any articles on the Suffragette movement she could find in her father’s copy of the Yorkshire Evening Post. The violence often meted out to the women aroused an anger in her she didn’t think she was capable of. The description of how one group of women, protesting outside Leeds town hall, were dragged by their hair to the local police station and beaten with truncheons sickened her. She had been unable to get it out of her mind for days afterwards.
The story alternates between the lives of Winifred and Bill Howarth, a young man who didn’t have the best of starts. Things were set to become so much worse for Bill with the terrible traumas and aftermath of life in the trenches during WW1 and his violent and cruel experiences with the Black and Tans. And although his nature was completely unappealing, the things he went through during the war went some way to explaining his character. I can’t even imagine what that experience would do to someone but I think Bill already had the beginnings of those tendencies that eventually came to the fore. Winifred, on the other hand, was an engaging character, easy to empathise with. There were no options for women in those days, and Winifred’s life was restrictive and quite sad for the most part. No wonder it wore her down. Having the story from both Winifred and Bill’s perspectives was very effective in building their characters, and gave the narrative impact.
Judith Barrow brings the characters and era to life, with authentic, vividly descriptive and atmospheric prose and dialogue. It’s an incredibly well crafted story and gives a compelling insight into life in the early part of the last century, the obviously well researched historical aspects are fascinating. No era is without its problems but life was certainly very challenging in the early 20th century. The reality is shown in a gritty true to life form. Nothing is glossed over; the harshness and hardships of everyday life, the horrors of the trenches and the aggressive treatment of the Suffragettes. I enjoyed the Pattern of Shadows trilogy very much and it was very satisfying to learn about Winifred and Bill’s early lives, the way their experiences shaped the people they became.
Judith Barrow, originally from Saddleworth, near Oldham,has lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, for thirty eight years.
She has BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University, a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University and a MA in Creative Writing with the University of Wales Trinity St David’s College, Carmarthen. She has had short stories, plays, reviews and articles, published throughout the British Isles and has won several poetry competitions. She has completed three children’s books.
She is also a Creative Writing tutor.
Author links ~ Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook
Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favourites, as well as books that were published over a year ago. Not to mention those that are languishing on the to be read pile for whatever reason.
Today I’m revisiting an audiobook I listened to a couple of years ago, narrated by the excellent Julia Whelan, Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
Just after midnight when Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go, Ethan offers to take her home if she wants to stay out a little longer. From then on the storyline splits into two timelines. One takes Hannah home with Gabby, in the other she stays with Ethan. The following chapters alternate simultaneously between the two parallel universes and show how Hannah’s life, and that of those around her, unfolds in each one.