Tuesday, 11 August 2020

This Time Next Year - Sophie Cousens

About the book… 
Quinn and Minnie are born on New Year's Eve, in the same hospital, one minute apart.

Their lives may begin together, but their worlds couldn't be more different.

Thirty years later they find themselves together again in the same place, at the same time.

What if fate is trying to bring them together?

Maybe it's time to take a chance on love...

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About the author… 
Sophie Cousens has worked in television for twelve years. She attributes surviving this long to always knowing where the Post-it notes are kept, and her ability to carry six coffee cups at once. This is her first novel.

Contact Links: 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SophieCous

My thoughts…
I enjoyed This Time Next Year sooo much.  The title alone strikes of hope and expectancy and the book cover simplicity and elegance.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect and was pleasantly surprised to be thrown into the depth of a beautiful story that traversed every emotion possible.  The story crisis crosses back and forth over a twenty year period from the birth of two babies born a minute apart in the same hospital to when they first meet by chance at a party to celebrate Quinn’s birthday, New Years Eve 2019.

Can you imagine being one of two ladies, from different walks of life who meet in the maternity ward of a hospital on New Years Eve - one Tara isn’t coping at all, the other Connie strong and practical.  Connie supports and calms Tara throughout her labour, sharing advice and practical tips. Imagine Connie reaction when Tara walks away with £50k pride money for giving birth to the first baby born just after midnight on New Years Day1990 and the name Connie shared she was going to call her baby.

Quinn and Minnie couldn’t be more different but there’s an electric connection that attracts and repels them throughout this book, they couldn’t have been born from two more different backgrounds.  Sophie Cousens traversed the class divide and paraded a supporting cast of characters across the pages of This Time Next Year, each and every one of them diverse, with characteristics that created images of them so visible in my mind.

The story was at times hilarious and made me laugh out loud or quietly cringe on behalf of Minnie and the situations she ended up in, she really did seem to have ‘bad luck’ follow her around, something she grew up thinking was because of Tara stealing what should have been her birth name Quinn.  Luckily best friend Leila was always there to pick up the pieces.  In Leila, Sophie really did get the best friend characterisation spot on.  I loved their relationship and hilarity that followed the pair around - ooh to have been a fly on the wall, watching the scenes unfurl for real would be amazing.

This Time Next Year is a fabulous story that spans the ups and downs of life and emphasises how relationships are more important than physical assets and wealth. Family and friends are the strongest foundations.

This was a book that made me smile a lot, I’d love to see it turned into a film - It’d be a real pick me up, perfect for a day when you need a little bit of a pick me up.

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Sunday, 9 August 2020

A Walk Along the Beach - Debbie Maccomber

About the book… 
A heart warming tale of the love of sisters and finding inner strength you didn’t know you had by bestseller Debbie Macomber. 

Sisters Willa and Harper mean the world to each other.

Inseparable since the loss of their mother as teenagers, the Lakey sisters are perfect opposites. Quiet, demure Willa has always admired Harper's sense of adventure. She enjoys her peaceful routine as a café owner in their coastal hometown of Oceanside.

When a handsome customer shows interest in Willa, Harper urges her sister to take a chance on love. Then Harper receives crushing news that threatens to bring everything to a halt.

Only by supporting each other will the sisters be able to face the trials to come. And though the time ahead may be tough, Willa and Harper will discover that the darkest times can lead to the most beautiful rewards.

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About the author… 
Debbie Macomber is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and one of today’s most popular writers with more than 200 million copies of her books in print worldwide. In her novels, Macomber brings to life compelling relationships that embrace family and enduring friendships, uplifting her readers with stories of connection and hope. Macomber’s novels have spent over 1,000 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Thirteen of these novels hit the number one spot.

A devoted grandmother, Debbie and her husband Wayne live in Port Orchard, Washington, the town which inspired the Cedar Cove series.

My thoughts…
Reading a Debbie Maccomber novel is like sitting down with a best friend you get everything you expect and then some.

A Walk Along the Beach follows the story of Harper as she navigates her life and is forced outside of her comfort zone by sister Willa.  The role of protector to her brother and especially her sister Willa is a hard one to shake. Harper has spent most of her adult life being a sort of surrogate mother to sister Willa and brother Lucas after their mother died of cancer, her sense of responsibility compounded even more when sister Willa was diagnosed with cancer too.

I found reading A Walk Along the Beach was like stepping inside a virtual reality but with characters I felt I already knew and loved. The sisters were at total ends of the spectrum personality wise.  Their characters shaped by the lives they’d lived growing up.  Harper solid, dependable and cautious.  Willa, flighty, outgoing and daring.  Brother Lucas, solid and dependable but living away from the sisters not as close or invested in their day to day lives, despite that it was very easy to see how much they loved and cared for each other.

This was a book about taking baby steps outside of your comfort zone, about learning to let go, to trust, to accept as well as give love and support.  It was about grief and sadness, hope and happiness.  It’s about learning to let others share the responsibilities and allowing yourself happiness too.  Its  about being their for your friends but also letting them be there for you.

The story ebbed and flowed with every emotion possible.  I smiled and laughed as well as quietly crying and then noisily sobbing before returning to the happy smiling - the pace, content and story was pitched perfectly.  The more I read the more I loved it.  As ever Debbie Maccomber has nailed reality in both the story and setting as well as the characters, I was invested in the whole package 100% and felt sad when I turned the last page and had to leave Oceanside and it’s residents behind.

Thank you to Rachel Kennedy at Arrow Publishing for the opportunity to read and review A Walk Along the Beach, which I highly recommend, it was such an uplifting read.

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Tuesday, 21 July 2020

All the Lonely People - Mike Gayle

About the book… 

All the Lonely People is by turns a funny and life-affirming meditation on love, race, old age and friendship that will not only charm and uplift, but also remind readers of the power of ordinary people to make an extraordinary difference. Written with Mike’s trademark charm, humour and approachability, All the Lonely People is an intergenerational story of loneliness, friendship and hope, seen through the moving life story of one Windrush-generation elderly man, Hubert Bird.

In weekly phone calls to his daughter in Australia, widower Hubert Bird paints a picture of the perfect retirement, packed with fun, friendship and fulfilment.

But Hubert Bird is lying.

The truth is day after day drags by without him seeing a single soul.

Until, that is, he receives some good news - good news that in one way turns out to be the worst news ever, news that will force him out again, into a world he has long since turned his back on.

Now Hubert faces a seemingly impossible task: to make his real life resemble his fake life before the truth comes out.
Along the way Hubert stumbles across a second chance at love, renews a cherished friendship and finds himself roped into an audacious community scheme that seeks to end loneliness once and for all . . .

Life is certainly beginning to happen to Hubert Bird. But with the origin of his earlier isolation always lurking in the shadows will he ever get to live the life he's pretended to have for so long?

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About the author… 
Mike Gayle was born and raised in Birmingham. After graduating from Salford University with a degree in Sociology Mike moved to London with ambitions of becoming a music journalist. ... To date Mike is the author of twelve novels including Mr Commitment, Turning Thirty and Wish You Were Here.

Contact Links: 
Twitter: @mikegayle

My thoughts…
Huge thanks to Jenny Platt at Hodder for introducing me to Hubert Bird.  What an absolutely inspiring character, I couldn’t help but be drawn to him.  He is, on the surface at least, a stereotypical, set in his ways old man but underneath his carapace  is a multi-faceted person who had ‘done good’ despite the challenges that life had through at him.

The story ebbs and flows between Hubert as he is now a widowed, 84 year old, living alone, counting the time until his next phone call from his daughter who’d emigrated to Australia and then back to 1958 when Hubert first arrived in the UK from Jamaica after following his best pal Gus, sold on the idea of a better life.  The reality wasn’t quite the picture that he’d expected, it seemed he had swapped one form of hardship for another and a better life was hard fought.  The West Indian migrants weren’t welcomed by everyone and resentment was high, ignorance gave white, English people the upper hand.

Mike Gayle spins two era’s seamlessly together bringing Hubert to life as we get to know who he is and who he has become.  This is a special book, that pulled at the heart strings - it’s all about family - doing the best for your family and never letting them know you are suffering.  Hubert doesn’t believe in ‘warts and all’ he’s spun a story so vivid to his daughter, he can’t keep up, he struggles to remember what tales he’s told and all because he doesn’t want to be a burden, doesn’t want her to know the hardships he’s suffered or the lonely existence he’s living.

Then she tells him she’s coming home for a visit.  The pace of the book picks up as we walk side by side with Hubert as he tries to construct the lies he’s told into reality before Rose finds out how he’s really living.  Mike Gayle carefully constructed Hubert and it was humbling to watch the real person emerge as the years and layers of thick skin are removed bit by bit until the past meets the present and Hubert can just be, this truly is a poignant read that is very sad in places and difficult to read - loneliness comes in various forms and so does love, family and friendship but only to the degree we allow ourselves.

Hubert’s journey was immense and an absolute pleasure to travel with him.   His story will stay with me for a long time and All the Lonely People is a book that needs more than one reading, a book that should be read slowly to absorb the words and reflect.  To understand why some characters are who they are, life and what it throws at us moulds us as much as the parents and family we come from.  I loved this book, I know it’s one that I will be recommending to everyone. It’s fiction at its best, so much truth wrapped up in the words, if you can imagine it, you believe it and Mike Gayle writes like he’s painting a picture.

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Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Weddding Bells at the Signal Box Cafe - Annette Hannah

Author: Annette Hannah
Published By: Orion Dash

Publication Day: 6th July 2020

About the book… 
When single mum Lucy Woods moves to Railway Cottage to be near her grandad, the last person she wants to bump into is her childhood crush and best friend’s brother Dom. Whilst he is as arrogant as ever, he has grown up into an absolutely drop dead gorgeous hunk. Dominic Cavendish is a bitter divorce lawyer who doesn’t believe in Happy Ever Afters but when his Gran meets Lucy’s Grandad in the nursing home, hilarity ensues, and the sparks begin to fly.

About the author… 
Annette Hannah is a Liver Bird who relocated to leafy Hertfordshire in the 80’s and now lives near a river with her husband, two of their three grown up children and a crazy black cocker spaniel. She writes Romantic comedies in settings inspired by the beautiful countryside around her and always with a nod to her hometown. As an avid reader she became a book blogger and eventually realised her dream to become an author in 2020.

She loves long walks along the river, travelling to far flung places, the odd glass of Pinot Blush and spending time with her friends and family.

Contact Links: 
Twitter: @annettehannah

My thoughts…
Oh my!  Where do I start?  When I heard Annette Hannah had written a book and was asked to be part of the cover reveal for it I couldn’t wait to read it, the cover is just gorgeous.  Oh boy and when I did read it it was good - everything I hoped for and more.

The story centres around Lucy a single parent to an adorable son Jackson.  They have gone to stay in her grandads cottage - Railway Cottage to be close to him whilst he recuperated from an illness.  It kills two birds with one stone and has come at just the right time for Lucy who is looking for a fresh start, she’s bit the bullet and is setting up a new venture as a Wedding Planner. Stepping into her grandads cottage is like shrugging on a cozy coat for Lucy - it rekindles all of the happy times spent there as a child visiting both her grandparents.  She also feels a semblance of guilt because she hasn’t visited as often as she should have since her gran passed her way and since she had Jackson to care for.

Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Cafe is an absolutely delightful read.  Annette has created characters that are diverse, colourful and totally believable.  The adventures that Jackson and Baxter the family dog go on are nothing compared to the antics that Lucy’s granddad gets up to with Violet another resident in the home where Douglas Lucy’s grandad is staying.  She is also the grandmother as it happens of Lucy’s childhood crush Dom, brother of her childhood best friend Abbie.

The story flips back and forth between the various characters as Lucy finds her feet and decides to also set up in business with her grandad to renovate the old Railway Signal Box that is no longer used but, owned by her Grandad - he was the signalman when Lucy was young and it’s a place of happy memories for them both.

This book has it all it has there’s lots of hearts and flowers and romance as you’d expect but there’s also serious aspects to the story that are tempered by total hilarity.  It was a dream reading this and brought back so many memories of my childhood too.  I travelled on a train from the village where I lived with a few other children to another town every school day and on the way home if we managed to get on the platform early enough before our train was due the signalman would let us into the signal box to help pull the levers for the train going the other way.  Winters evenings eating scouse, which ironically I ate only last week - proper homely comfort food; just like this book -comforting, warm and totally delightful.  There was plenty going on and the descriptions are so vivid it wasn’t hard to imagine myself popping into the Signal Box cafe or strolling along the tow path.

Annette you’ve nailed it an amazingly wonderful read that I highly recommend - now when’s your second going to be published?

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Sunday, 7 June 2020

Little Disasters - Sarah Vaughan

About the book… 
A new thought-provoking novel exploring the complexity of motherhood and all that connects and disconnects us.

You think you know her…but look a little closer.

She is a stay-at-home mother-of-three with boundless reserves of patience, energy, and love. After being friends for a decade, this is how Liz sees Jess.

Then one moment changes everything.

Dark thoughts and carefully guarded secrets surface—and Liz is left questioning everything she thought she knew about her friend, and about herself. The truth can’t come soon enough.

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About the author… 
Sarah Vaughan read English at Oxford and went on to be a journalist. After training with the Press Association, she worked for The Guardian for 11 years as a news reporter, health correspondent and political correspondent before leaving to freelance and write fiction. Her 3rd novel, Anatomy of a Scandal, was an instant international bestseller, a Sunday Times top five bestseller, a kindle number 1 bestseller, a Richard & Judy pick, and was longlisted for the Theakson's Old Peculier Crime Novel and shortlisted for awards in France, Sweden and the UK. It has been translated into 22 languages and is being adapted for TV. Her 4th novel, Little Disasters, will be published in France, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, the UK on April 2 and the US on August 18. She lives in Cambridge with her husband and two young children.

Contact Links: 
Author website: http://www.sarahvaughanauthor.com/
Twitter: @SVaughanAuthor

My thoughts…
An incredible heartfelt read

Amazing!! Little Disasters is an incredible heartfelt read that is full of raw, emotional writing that won’t fail to tug at your heartstrings. At times it made for uncomfortable reading such was the emotive subject but I was compelled to read on, to get beneath the skin and lives of four friends, their husbands and children. Their lives intertwined so closely, yet each wrapped up in their own that sometimes it’s impossible for them to see what’s going on around them. The tug of loyalties between friends, family, ethics and values was the beating heart in this book as they each were pulled in different directions. It’s a book that will resonate with all mothers out there whose babies have a will of their own, who are not text book perfect in every way. For mothers who feel the need to portray swan like perfection but are paddling like mad below the surface.

This was an emotional read that was compelling to read and held my attention right to the last sentence, I highly recommend it. Sarah Vaughan has created characters that are well rounded yet flawed, They fit together perfectly and as a reader I was thoroughly invested in each and every one of them. It’s a highly emotive read that gripped me and dragged me headlong into this heartfelt but often painful story, it shook my senses and Meade me question so many times - what would I do........ I am left feeling slightly bereft now it’s concluded but I’m happy that it didn’t have a cliched happy ever after ending for everyone - it never could when you’ve built a story on the stresses of real life and lay bare the fragile vulnerabilities that live in all of us at one time or another.

Saturday, 6 June 2020

Little White Lies - Philippa East

About the book… 

She only looked away for a second…

Anne White only looked away for a second, but that’s all it took to lose sight of her young daughter.

But seven years later, Abigail is found.

And as Anne struggles to connect with her teenage daughter, she begins to question how much Abigail remembers about the day she disappeared…

Addictive, edge-of-your-seat dark women’s fiction perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, BCC drama Thirteen, and Emma Donoghue’s Room

Buy Links: 

About the author… 

Philippa East grew up in Scotland before moving to Oxford and then London to train as a Clinical Psychologist.
A few years ago, Philippa left the NHS to set up her own part-time practice and dedicate more hours to writing. The result was her debut novel LITTLE WHITE LIES, published by HQ/HarperCollins in 2020.

Philippa now lives in the beautiful Lincolnshire countryside with her husband and cat. She loves reading (of course!) and long country walks, and she also performs in a local folk duo called The Miracle Cure. Alongside her writing, Philippa continues to work as a psychologist and therapist.

Her next book - another twisty and compelling tale - is due out in 2021.

Contact Links: 
You can find Philippa on Twitter: @philippa_east

My thoughts…
This was a gripping read that engaged from the very first chapter. It’s about an extended family that was hurtled into a yawning black hole when Abigail their daughter went missing aged 8 - leaving a cavernous hole in her extended families lives. Little White Lies explores the relationships within the family as they each try to get their lives back on track when Abigail is suddenly back home with them after turning up in a police station 7 years after going missing.

Every page and chapter I read raised so many questions, I made suppositions and tried to second guess who was involved and why she went missing - each and every version I imagined was wrong, way off the mark!  My attention was held and never wavered as the story wound back and forth between Abigails home and her family to that of her aunt and uncles house - there is tension in both but why? She was clearly very close to her cousin Jess before she disappeared but that situation in itself brought so many questions of it’s own. Things just didn’t stack up.

The author expertly wove this story, binding the fragile characters together so tightly that it was inevitable there would be devastation not if but when the ties broke. The Tension was palpable and the whole book saw me reading with an anxious feeling in my gut.

It’s a desperately sad, yet completely compelling read that climaxed in a way that had my heart in my mouth.  I sat, my mouth gaping open; one hand on my kindle the other covering my mouth whilst I silently prayed with everything I had.

This was a shocking, at times uncomfortable read that was gripping to the very last page. I highly recommend this book to all psychological thriller fans - Philippa East is an author I will have on pre-order for her next book due out in 2021.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Sunshine and Second Chances by Kim Nash

About the book… 

It’s never too late to be offered a second chance at life.

Debs is newly single, Fiona is caring for her mum, Samantha is grieving, and Liv has the perfect life – or so she’d like her friends to think…

This year, these four life-long friends are turning fifty, and Liv is determined they will honour their promise to each other – made on a beach at sunrise twenty-nine years before – to celebrate this milestone together.

And what better place than a gorgeous villa where they will be spoiled and enjoy the stunning beaches, picturesque fishing towns and glorious climate of the Algarve?

But time away from home doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder. Sometimes it makes the thought of returning to your life too hard to bear. Especially with more than one gorgeous Portuguese man making hearts unexpectedly flutter...

It begins as a reunion in the sunshine, but little do the four friends know what life-changing decisions they’ll all be making before their flight home.

A heart-warming, feel-good summer read about friendship, love and second chances.

Buy Links:

About the author… 

Kim Nash is an author of uplifting, funny, heartwarming, feel-good, romantic fiction.

She lives in Staffordshire with son Ollie and English Setter Roni, is Head of Publicity for Bookouture and is a book blogger at www.kimthebookworm.co.uk.

Kim won the Romantic Novelists Association's Media Star of the Year in 2016, which she still can't quite believe. She is now quite delighted to be a member of the RNA.

When she's not working or writing, Kim can be found walking her dog, reading, standing on the sidelines of a football pitch cheering on Ollie and binge watching box sets on the TV. She's also quite partial to a spa day and a gin and tonic (not at the same time!) Kim also runs a book club in Cannock, Staffs.

Sign up to be the first to hear about new releases. Your e-mail will not be shared with anyone else and you will only contacted about Kim's books.

Amazing Grace was her debut novel with Hera Books and came out in April 2019.

Escape to Giddywell Grange is Kim's second novel and was published in September 2019.

Sunshine and Second Chances is Kim's third novel and will be published on June 4th 2020.

Contact Links: 

You can read Kim's Blog here: www.kimthebookworm.co.uk
Connect with Kim on Social Media here:
Twitter: (@KimTheBookworm) https://twitter.com/KimTheBookworm
Instagram: @Kim_the_bookworm

My thoughts…

Sunshine and Second Chances is Kim Nash’s third novel and is an absolute lush of a book, it’s just lovely, lovely, lovely!

It was a story about four friends who pledged on a shared holiday celebrating their 21st birthdays that no matter what they were doing with their lives they’d meet up and do the same again for their 50th birthdays.

Olivia, Samantha, Debs and Fiona are living quite different lives and each of them are at a point when they need to step back to take stock, for different reasons they each need and dread this holiday in equal measures.  They arranged to meet in the airport in Faro, Portugal and when they do the last twenty nine years are stripped away as if they have never happened.  

I got to spend a week virtually eating, drinking and lazing in the sunshine with the girls as they unwound and relaxed, the tensions of their everyday lives unfurling out of them as they settled into the easy comradeship of long established friendships, sharing secrets, giving and taking advice and remembering what true friendship is all about.

This was a dream of a book, perfect for the lazy Sunday I spent reading in the unaccustomed sunshine in my back garden in England.  I could have quite quickly packed my case and joined them in a heartbeat - in fact I started looking at travel agents websites for villas in Portugal as soon as I closed the final page.

Kim has captured the very essence and importance of slowing down, giving and sharing quality time with friends.  Good friends truly are the best tonic anyone could have and Kim has captured that essence perfectly.  Her descriptions of the villa and surrounding towns are so vivid I could imagine walking out of my patio door and onto the terrace to join the ladies for a gin and tonic before dinner.  Or sitting in a pretty harbour eating at sunset - I’m smiling just writing this remembering!  I loved all of the characters and was thoroughly engaged with their stories and so wanted happy endings for them all.  

This is a perfect, feel good read that will will wrap itself around you and warm your heart.  I’ll defy any reader not to be trawling the travel brochures looking for holidays to Portugal after reading this and the next time I’m feeling a bit jaded or low because the skies are grey and I’m cooped up inside I’m going to take this book and re-read to lift my spirits.

Huge thanks Kim for writing such a belter of a book, I can see so much of you in this book, you really have put your heart and soul in it and I’m honoured to count you as one of my friends - we don’t get to see each other too often but when we do it’s like we saw each other yesterday.

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