Secrets in the Snow by Emma Heatherington

Thank you to Rebecca Bryant from Harper Fiction for inviting me to join the blog tour for the new book by Emma Heatherington. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift of a review copy.

I enjoyed reading and reviewing Emma’s previous book, Rewrite the Stars last year (review can be found at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2019/10/29/rewrite-the-stars-by-emma-heatherington-blog-tour-29-10-19/).

Synopsis:

As the winter snow falls on the small Irish village of Ballybray, Roisin O’Connor and her young son, Ben, are saying goodbye to their beloved neighbour Mabel Murphy.  Mabel lived a bold and colourful life, but the arrival of her brooding nephew, ‘blow-in’ Aidan Murphy, just makes life more complicated for Roisin.

However, in one final act of love, a message arrives from Mabel that changes everything.  And as winter turns to spring and the cold snow melts, the secrets both Roisin and Aidan are hiding must be revealed at last…

buy link:  http://smarturl.it/SecretsInTheSnowPBO…

My thoughts:

Thank you to Emma Heatherington for another lovely book to escape into on an autumnal day. This is one of those books I didn’t want to stop reading once I started it, and I stayed up late to enjoy finding out more about Roisin and Aidan.

Roisin and Aidan have both had to deal with tragedy and being told to what to do by other people. Mabel’s funeral is where they first see each other, unaware that Mabel will be sending them messages to try to encourage them to help each other.

Although the gorgeous cover of the book and title suggest a winter book, we actually spend a year with Roisin and Aidan. This is a year of discovery for both, to deal with issues from their pasts and to plan their futures, without Mabel.

The book has a few twists in the story, as we find out more about their past histories, and as misunderstandings occur. I loved the ending, although I had been imagining a different ending only a few pages earlier. This was a lovely book to curl up and enjoy, and I will be recommending this to fans of romantic fiction.

Author Bio:

Emma Heatherington has penned more than thirty educational short films, plays and musicals as well as eleven novels, two of which were written under the pseudonym Emma Louise Jordan.
She was ghost-writer to Irish country music legend Philomena Begley and Liverpool born Nathan Carter, whose autobiography Born for the Road was nominated for an Irish Book Award.
Emma’s novel, The Legacy of Lucy Harte, was an eBook bestseller in both the UK and US.
She lives in her native Donaghmore, Co Tyrone, with her partner Jim McKee and their children Jordyn, Jade, Dualta, Adam and Sonny James.

Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly

Today I’m sharing my review for this new book being published by Hot Key Books today. I received my copy via Readers First after reading the opening chapters and requesting a copy.

Synopsis:

From Jennifer Donnelly, author of the acclaimed New York Times bestseller Stepsister, comes a fairytale retelling that’ll forever change the way you think about strength, power, and the real meaning of “happily ever after.”
Once upon a time, a girl named Sophie rode into the forest with the queen’s huntsman. Her lips were the color of ripe cherries, her skin as soft as new-fallen snow, her hair as dark as midnight. When they stopped to rest, the huntsman took out his knife . . . and took Sophie’s heart. 

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Sophie had heard the rumors, the whispers. They said she was too kind and foolish to rule — a waste of a princess. A disaster of a future queen. And Sophie believed them. She believed everything she’d heard about herself, the poisonous words people use to keep girls like Sophie from becoming too powerful, too strong . . .

With the help of seven mysterious strangers, Sophie manages to survive. But when she realizes that the jealous queen might not be to blame, Sophie must find the courage to face an even more terrifying enemy, proving that even the darkest magic can’t extinguish the fire burning inside every girl, and that kindness is the ultimate form of strength. 

My thoughts:

This is my first novel by Jennifer Donnelly and I have to say that I was very impressed. This is a modern version of Snow White and personally I believe that it is the best version I have read. I enjoyed watching Once Upon a Time on TV over the past decade and this would make a great film or TV show too.

Sophie has been bullied to believe that a Queen cannot be kind or to care about other people and finds herself facing death. However the kindness of strangers at her time of need, and the repayment for her own kindness from the past, mean that Sophie may be stronger than she thinks when facing her enemies.

A great retelling full of dark magic, a poisoned apple, a handsome prince, an archer and an evil stepmother with a reminder about how to seize your own happy ever after.

Cows Can’t Jump by Philip Bowne

Today I’m taking sharing a second book review on my book blog as part of the Cow’s Can’t Jump by Philip Bowne, published by Neem Tree Press blog tour organised by the lovely Anne Cater at the Random Things Tours. Thank you for providing a copy of the book – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by my gift.

Synopsis:

17-year-old Billy has just left school with no A levels and he’s desperate to escape middle England. As a grave-digger, he’s working the ultimate dead-end job. Billy’s home life isn’t any better. In the evenings, he observes his dysfunctional family: his Grandad’s engaged to a woman half his age, his xenophobic Dad’s become obsessed with boxing, and he suspects his deeply religious Mum is having an affair. 

All the while, celebrities are dropping like flies and Britain is waiting for the EU referendum. Everything is changing, and Billy hates it.

Meeting Eva, though, changes everything. She’s Swiss, passionate about Russian literature, Gary Numan, windfarms and chai tea, and Billy gambles everything for a chance to be with her.

When things start to go wrong, Billy’s journey across Europe involves hitch-hiking with truckers, walking with refugees, and an encounter with suicidal cows. But the further he goes, the harder it is to be sure what he’s chasing – and what he’s running from.

My thoughts:

Thanks for visiting my book blog today for my review on this debut novel by Philip Bowne. This book won the Spotlight First Novel Prize from Adventures in Fiction, has been long listed for the Not The Booker Prize from the Guardian and left me laughing, blushing and feeling sad in places.

This is one of a handful of books I’ve read this year with a male main character. Billy is turning 18 in 2016, the year of the Brexit referendum and the American Presidential election. As the synopsis mentions, Billy is in the ultimate dead end job as a grave digger at the start of the book. However his life changes when he starts work at an International School and falls for Eva.

We follow Billy as he struggles with his jobs, his parents and his first big romance. When he tries to put the money together to visit Eva in Switzerland he ends up in more trouble. When he finally flies out to Switzerland, he ends up on a grand tour of Europe to find Eva. In a year when many of us are unable to travel, then join Billy as he treks across mainland Europe to meet the love of his life.

This book is full of so many interesting characters, including Christoph, the owner of the cows who can’t jump. I enjoyed how the story looked at Billy’s relationships with his family, work colleagues and the people he met on his travels. This book is modern, funny, tragic and poignant, a stunning debut novel, and I look forward to reading more by Philip Bowne in the future.

Author Bio:

Philip Bowne lives in London and works as a writer for The Wombles, a children’s entertainment brand. 

Like his protagonist, Billy, Phil attended a failing and severely under-resourced school in Bicester, Oxfordshire. However, unlike Billy, Phil ended up studying English Literature and Creative Writing at university.

While studying, Phil published short stories in literary magazines and anthologies in the UK, US, Canada and Germany. After graduating, Phil spent time in Europe and the US, working and volunteering in various roles and settings: repairing boats at Lake Como, housekeeping at a mountain lodge in California and working with charity Care4Calais in the former Calais ‘jungle’ refugee camp.Cows Can’t Jump is Phil’s debut novel, which he worked on while managing a bar in London. As well as a writer for The Wombles, Phil also works on a number of independent writing projects, including a musical set in 1970’s Soho and a sitcom set in a failing leisure centre.

The Christmas Swap by Sandy Barker

Today I’m happy to be sharing my review for the latest book by Sandy Barker, The Christmas Swap. Thank you to One More Chapter for a digital proof copy and to Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to join the blog tour.

Synopsis

Christmas is coming and best friends ChloeJules, and Lucy are needing change… so swapping homes for the holidays could be the perfect present for all of them!

Australian Chloe spends her Christmas in a sleepy village in Oxfordshire, England. She is totally star-struck when she discovers who lives across the road.

Lucy, who has jetted off to snowy Colorado for her dream-come-true white Christmas, is taken into the fold of Jules’s loud and brash family, discovering more about herself in a few short days than she has in years.

And Jules leaves the cold climes of Colorado to spend her Christmas on a beach with Chloe’s friends in Melbourne, finding that time away is just what she needed.

The only thing better than one Christmas romance is three, and this wonderful festive novel is perfect for fans of Sarah Morgan, Holly Martin and Karen Swan.

Purchase Links 

https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-christmas-swap

https://books.apple.com/gb/book/the-christmas-swap/id1522992097

https://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/the-christmas-swap,sandy-barker-9780008390044

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-christmas-swap/sandy-barker/9780008390044

My thoughts:

Having read many of Sandy’s previous books, I was pleased to be given a sneak preview of her new festive novel.

2020 has been the year when many of us haven’t travelled far, with holidays and family reunions curtailed by the global pandemic. So I was thrilled to be able to travel around the world with the May Ladies at Christmastime. I loved how everyone swapped to experience Christmas differently – to have snow guaranteed or to be able to visit a warm beach.

In each Christmas location, each of the May Ladies also met and fell in love with a gorgeous man, so this book is full of travel and romances. Personally I would have chosen the chance to travel to sunny Australia to meet Dexter the dog, but the rum hot chocolates after spending time in the snow was also very tempting.

This is a fabulous festive read, with fun stories from each of the three countries, all interwoven by the catch up video calls between Chloe, Lucy and Jules – thank goodness for video calling in 2020. I felt much more festive reading this in mid September and I’m happy to recommend it.

Author Bio:

Sandy Barker is a writer, traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list. She loves exploring new places, outdoor adventures, and eating and drinking like a local when she travels, and many of her travel adventures have found homes in her novels. She’s also an avid reader, film buff, wine lover and coffee snob.

Social Media Links – 

https://www.facebook.com/sandybarkerauthor

https://www.instagram.com/sandybarkerauthor

https://sandybarker.com/

One Family Christmas by Bella Osborne

Thanks to Avon Books and Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to join the blog tour for One Family Christmas by Bella Osborne. Thank you to Avon Books for a digital review copy – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

A big family. A whole lot of secrets. A Christmas to remember…

This year, Lottie is hosting one last big family Christmas at the home she grew up in – just like her Nana would have wanted.

But when her relatives descend on the old manor house, Lottie gets more than she bargained for. Every family has its secrets, but in this family, everybody has one!

So, between cooking a Christmas dinner, keeping tensions at bay and a stray dog out of mischief, she has plenty on her plate (and not just misshapen sausage rolls and a frozen turkey). And then her first love shows up – nine years after he walked out of her life.

Can Lottie make their last family Christmas one to remember… for the right reasons?

A festive treat to curl up with this Christmas, perfect for fans of Milly Johnson and Trisha Ashley.

My thoughts:

I only discovered Bella Osborne’s books this year, when I read Meet Me At Pebble Beach (which I heartily recommend). So I was pleased to be given an early opportunity to read and review her new festive novel, One Family Christmas.

The opening chapters are actually quite sad, as Lottie and her family say goodbye to Nana Rose. Lottie manages to persuade everyone to return to stay at the Manor House, for one last Christmas, before it is sold and the proceeds split between the family.

Lottie’s family are an eclectic mix, elderly Great Uncle Bernard and his carer, Lottie’s widowed brother, his young daughter Jessica and ‘new’ girlfriend Emily, her mum Angie and latest of many boyfriends, Scott, and her uncle Daniel and his family. As the ‘blurb’ states, everyone is nursing a secret, and these will be revealed over the Christmas period.

Lottie is trying to achieve a perfect family Christmas, which isn’t easy when her ex boyfriend, Joe and a stray dog arrive on Christmas Eve, she forgets to defrost the turkey and a surprise present goes missing from the tree.

I loved this book, so many laugh out loud moments, especially with little Jessica, Dave the dog and Duchess the cat. After a stressful day, this was just what I needed – a book to escape into, full of festive fun, a dysfunctional family, romance and disasters waiting to happen. Lottie is a wonderful main character with a heart of gold.

Another lovely book by Bella Osborne, and I’m already looking forward to 2021 for her next book.

Purchase Links

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B085XQXDB9/

Universal Amazon link – http://mybook.to/OneFamilyChristmas

KOBO – https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/one-family-christmas

Author Bio :

Bella has been jotting down stories as far back as she can remember but decided that 2013 would be the year that she finished a full length novel. Since then she’s written six best selling romantic comedies and she’s been shortlisted three times for the RNA Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year Award. 

Bella’s stories are about friendship, love and coping with what life throws at you. She lives in The Midlands, UK with her husband, daughter and a cat who thinks she’s a dog. When not writing Bella is usually eating custard creams and planning holidays.

For more about Bella, visit her website at http://www.bellaosborne.com or follow her on social media.

Social Media Links – 

Twitter – https://twitter.com/osborne_bella

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/BellaOsborneAuthor/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/bellaosborneauthor/

A Surprise Christmas Wedding by Phillipa Ashley

Thank you to Avon Books for providing a digital review copy of this gorgeous book via NetGalley. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. This is published in ebook format on 19th October and in paperback on 26th November 2020.

Synopsis:

It’s been a year since Lottie’s fiancé walked out, leaving her heartbroken. But things start to look up when she lands her dream job at a beautiful Lake District estate, with a handsome groundskeeper for a neighbour.
 
So when Lottie is asked to organise a last minute Christmas wedding at Firholme, she can’t wait to get started. Until she meets the couple, and discovers that Connor, the man who broke her heart, is the groom-to-be.
 
As snow falls on the hills, can Lottie put aside her past to organise the perfect winter wedding? And will there be any festive magic left to bring Lottie the perfect Christmas she deserves?
 

My thoughts:

This is a lovely festive read. Lottie has had a tough year, with a broken engagement and supporting her sister through her cancer treatment. Jay, her new neighbour and work colleague, is also nursing a broken heart.

The story features secrets, half truths, comedy moments, reindeers, Christmas trees, decorations and romance. Will getting to know Jay, and his gorgeous dog, Trevor help Lottie to cope with organising a wedding for her ex? This is a no spoiler review so you will need to read the book to find out.

A lovely story to provide an escape from the stress and anxiety of 2020. I only discovered Phillipa’s books this year (see my review at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/05/29/bookreview-a-perfect-cornish-escape-by-phillipa-ashley/) but have been busy adding more of her books to my Kindle to curl up with over the winter. I recommend enjoying this one with a mug of hot chocolate whilst listening to some Christmas music.

Should We Fall Behind by Sharon Duggal #BluemooseBooks

Thank you to Kevin at Bluemoose Books for this proof copy of Should We Fall Behind by Sharon Duggal, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

Jimmy Noone escapes his difficult life in a small town and finds himself living on the streets of a big city where he meets Betwa, who brings with her a chance of real friendship and a glimpse of new hope. Betwa disappears and Jimmy walks across the sprawling metropolis searching for her.

He arrives on Shifnal Road on the other side of the river where people from all over the world live side by side yet some inhabitants are so isolated they seem to have disappeared altogether. Jimmy becomes the catalyst for their lives colliding. 

Journeys to the street and to the city are retraced, so too are stories abundant with lost dreams, unrivalled friendship, profound love and stifling grief, each underpinned with the subtle threads of commonality which intersect them all.

Should We Fall Behind is about the passing of time, and the intricate weaves of joy and suffering, love and loss which shape human life along the way. It is about the people who have somehow become invisible, and how their stories make them visible once more.

My thoughts:

2020 is my year of reading books by new authors and from new publishers, aided by being furloughed from work at the moment. I’m so pleased that I have been able to discover the writing of Sharon Duggal and will be looking to read more books published by Bluemoose Books.

Jimmy is a young man who has travelled far from home seeking a new life but is currently homeless. Meeting Betwa encourages him to open up about how he ended up where he is, so when she goes missing, he starts to look for her.

As Jimmy looks for Betwa, he meets Rayya at Shifnal Road, who looks after him with food parcels and other home comforts. Rayya left India many years ago with her husband Satish, who is now lost in his own world. Rayya would have loved to become a mother and reflects on this.

Next door to Rayya there are two flats. Upstairs, Tuli (age 6) lives with her mother, Ebele. Tuli wants her mother to stick to her promises about going outside and to have a warm home, like their downstairs neighbour Grandy (aka Grace and Mandy). Tuli enjoys spending time with Grace (who has chocolate) and being allowed into their garden. Her mother struggles to trust people, especially men.

Ebele’s flat on Shinfal Road is owned by her employer, Cypriot born Nikos Makrides, who owns the furniture shop. His wife died recently and his children are living thousands of miles away in Canada. His uncle was a good friend to Rayya and Satish. He employs Daban, who has worked as a carer for Satish and met Jimmy when working as a pub doorman.

I enjoyed how Sharon Duggal slowly drip fed information about each of the main characters, about their past and their present situations, so that the reader can start to understand how they ended up so lost and lonely. As I started the book, I found myself making judgements about characters which changed totally during the course of the book – a timely reminder that we should never make snap judgements, but should look at the full picture.

As the story develops, the lives of the main characters become more interwoven and the neighbours are suddenly visible to each other. This story is full of tragedy and heartbreak, of lost loves and opportunities, but also gives the characters the chance to slowly move forward, to try to stop history repeating itself and to allow others to help.

I’ve read a wide mixture of books in 2020, but this is one that will stay with me for a long time. I work for a social mobility charity and this is a timely reminder about how we need to ensure that the young people we work with aren’t allowed to become invisible. In this era of Instagram influencers and the strange obsession with celebrities, this book reminds us about the real lives not being edited by photo filters. A 5 star read for this reader.

Author Bio:

Sharon Duggal’s acclaimed debut novel, The Handsworth Times (2016) was The Morning Star’s ‘Fiction Book of the Year 2016’ and Brighton City Reads 2017. Her short stories appear in anthologies including The Book of Birmingham and Love Bites. Her second novel, Should We Fall Behind, is published by Bluemoose Books, Oct 2020.

#CoverReveal for Street Cat Blues by Alison O’Leary @RedDogTweets #StreetCatBlues

Synopsis

A quiet life for Aubrey?

After spending several months banged up in Sunny Banks rescue centre, Aubrey, a large tabby cat, has finally found his forever home with Molly and Jeremy Goodman, and life is looking good.

However, all that changes when a serial killer begins to target elderly victims in the neighbourhood.

Aubrey wasn’t particularly upset by the death of some of the previous victims, including Miss Jenkins whom Aubrey recalls as a vinegar-lipped bitch of an old woman who enjoyed throwing stones at cats, but Mr Telling was different.

Mr Telling was a mate…

Author biography

I was born in London and spent my teenage years in Hertfordshire where I spent large amounts of time reading novels, watching daytime television and avoiding school. Failing to gain any qualifications in science whatsoever, the dream of being a forensic scientist collided with reality when a careers teacher suggested that I might like to work in a shop. I don’t think she meant Harrods. Later studying law, I decided to teach rather than go into practice and have spent many years teaching mainly criminal law and criminology to young people and adults.

I enjoy reading crime novels, doing crosswords, and drinking wine. Not necessarily in that order.

#CoverReveal The End of Where We Begin by Rosalind Russell @ImpressBooks1 @Ros__Russell @lovebooksgroup

Veronica is a teenager when civil war erupts in South Sudan. Lonely and friendless after the death of her father, she finds solace in her first boyfriend, and together they flee across the city when the fighting breaks out. On the same night, Daniel, the son of a colonel, also makes his escape, but finds himself stranded by the River Nile, alone and vulnerable. Lilian is a young mother, who runs for her life holding the hand of her little boy Harmony – until a bomb attack wrenches them apart, forcing her to trek on alone.

After epic journeys of endurance, their lives cross in Bidi Bidi in Uganda – the world’s largest refugee camp. There they meet James, a counsellor who helps them to find light and hope in the darkest of places.

The End of Where We Begin is a gripping and intimate true life account of three young people whose promising lives are brutally interrupted by war. It documents their heart-breaking and inspiring battle to keep moving on through the extremes of attack, injury, exile and trauma. It is a story of the bonds of community and resilience in adversity – a powerful message for our troubled times.

Author Bio

Rosalind Russell is a journalist who worked for more than a decade as a foreign correspondent for Reuters and the Independent in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Her reporting has included the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq and Burma’s Saffron Revolution. She lives in London with her husband and their two daughters. Burma’s Spring is her first book.

Buy Link 

https://amzn.to/34vBxK8

The Little Christmas Shop on Nutcracker Lane by Jaimie Admans

Thank you to HQ Digital for a copy of this gorgeous book via NetGalley. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. I enjoyed reading Jaimie Adman’s previous book, The Little Bookshop of Love stories back in July (see my 5 star review at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/07/11/the-little-bookshop-of-love-stories-by-jaimie-admans/). The ebook is published this week (https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08GS33BGP/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_GZCHFbQ7JYKXD) and the paperback on 10th December 2020.

Synopsis:

Nia Maddison has always believed that wishes come true on Nutcracker Lane. So, when she gets the opportunity to run her own Christmas gift shop on the most magical street in town, it feels like her wishes have been finally granted.

But working late one night, Nia discovers yet another boyfriend has cheated on her. As she trudges home – alone, again – she passes the (supposedly) magical nutcracker and half-joking thinks a wish can’t hurt. Cracking a nut in its mouth, she wishes to find Prince Charming.

The next day Nia gets to work to find another decoration shop has opened directly across the lane from her own, and she can’t resist having a nose around.

Whilst there, she accidentally backs into a human-sized Nutcracker, knocking it over and breaking it. Mortified, she flees from the store but when she gathers her resolve to go back and apologise, she stumbles across the gorgeous shop owner James, who looks exactly like Prince Charming…

Could her Christmas wish from the night before really be coming true?

My thoughts:

I have to admit that after reading the first couple of chapters, that I thought I wouldn’t enjoy this book as much as the Little Bookshop of Love Stories. However, something magical happened and this quickly became my favourite Christmas book of 2020.

Nia and James are so different, one loves everything to do with Christmas, whilst the other loathes Christmas. However, after literally bumping into each other, they need to work together to bring back the magic of Christmas to Nutcracker Lane.

I loved how Jaimie has crammed so many Christmas traditions into one story – the food, the sweets, the decorations, the board games, the Christmas Carols and the mistletoe. In 2020, when many of us will have to forgo our normal traditions due to the social distancing rules, this book brought the magic of a non Covid Christmas to life.

If you would love to escape for a few hours, then grab a copy of this fabulous festive and romantic read, a big mug of hot chocolate, some peppermint creams and a festive blanket as soon as possible.