Today I’m sharing my review for The Push, the debut novel by Ashley Audrain, published yesterday by Michael Joseph Books. Thank you to the publisher for a digital proof copy via NetGalley, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.
What if your experience of motherhood was nothing like what you hoped for – but everything you always feared?
‘The women in this family, we’re different . . .’
The arrival of baby Violet was meant to be the happiest day of my life.
It was meant to be a fresh start.
But as soon as I held her in my arms I knew something wasn’t right. I have always known that the women in my family aren’t meant to be mothers.
My husband Fox says I’m imagining it. He tells me I’m nothing like my own mother, and that Violet is the sweetest child.
But she’s different with me. Something feels very wrong.
Is it her? Or is it me?
Is she the monster? Or am I?
The Push is a heart-pounding exploration of motherhood, obsession and the terrible price of unconditional love.
As readers of my blog will know, I tend to go for uplifting books or cosy murder mysteries, rather than ‘darker’ books, but after seeing great reviews, I decided to challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone and find out more.
This debut novel is well written and found that I didn’t want to put it down. Quickly I was drawn into the mystery of motherhood in this family. Three generations of mothers, each struggling with motherhood. This is a very clever debut novel which left this reader wondering who was the problem. Do we need to have a good example of a mother, to be a good mother ourselves? Can a child be that manipulative? Why was Fox so unhelpful?
I’m a mother of two teenagers and this book left me feeling very uncomfortable because it felt so plausible. Being a mother isn’t easy, despite the rise of the Instagram picture perfect family suggesting otherwise. The Push features a family with many issues and tragedies. It is definitely a book that will stay with me for a while and I look forward to hearing the views of other readers. I also look forward to reading more by Ashley Audrain in the future.
ASHLEY AUDRAIN previously worked as the publicity director of Penguin Books Canada. Prior to Penguin, she worked in public relations. She lives in Toronto, where she and her partner are raising their two young children. The Push is her first novel.
Today I’m sharing another of my 5 star reads from earlier in 2020. This is a debut novel and I’m thrilled to see that another novel is due in 2021.
A little dedication goes a long way. That’s why Catriona Robinson, the country’s favourite children’s author, always dedicated her books to those who touched her life the most – not least Emily, her reclusive granddaughter.
Emily never thought too much about these dedications. But when Catriona dies unexpectedly, each one becomes a cryptic clue in a breadcrumb trail that apparently leads to her lost, unpublished manuscript.
It’s a mystery only Emily can solve. But to do so she will have to walk in her grandmother’s footsteps, into the wider world she’s spent her whole life hiding away from . .
Wow, just wow. This is the 80th book I’ve read this year (I was furloughed two months ago so I’m reading more than usual) and this is definitely one of my favourite books of the year.
I have a small confession. The main reason I looked at the book on NetGalley was because my own daughter is called Emily. I liked the sound of the synopsis and asked Orion Publishing Group for a digital ARC which I’m delighted to say they provided. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the free copy.
This is a stunning novel which left me feeling bereft when I finished it, not because I didn’t enjoy the ending (I loved the ending) but because I had become so involved in Emily’s journey of self discovery.
The book looks at how Emily’s grandmother, Catriona, sends her granddaughter on a ‘treasure hunt’ after Catriona dies. Emily needs to learn how to be more independent, how to deal with her past (including the tragic accident which killed her parents and left her seriously injured) and to meet the people who met and loved her grandmother after she left the UK for adventures rather than marry young and settle down.
Each chapter features a different bird, partly because Emily loves birds, especially drawing and painting birds. The stories of Emily and Catriona unfold as Emily travels to London, then France and Italy. She believes she is looking for the ‘last book’ her grandmother wrote, however the truth is much deeper.
The strands of the stories are woven so well, including the use of the birds, the main characters are easy to visualise and feel empathy for, and the love of books is apparent (book shops, libraries, books). I will be treating myself to a paperback copy of this book – and maybe a copy for my own Emily (she isn’t good at using bookmarks, so we won’t be sharing a copy!).
This book was published in paperback in the UK on Thursday 28th May 2020 and I look forward to finding a copy at our local independent bookshop.
Katherine Slee has a Masters in Modern History from Oxford University and is a member of MENSA who left the crazy and chaotic world of investment banking to enter the crazy and chaotic world of being a stay-at-home mother to two children and wife to a workaholic husband. She grew up as a bit of a tomboy, with scars on her knees and mud in her hair, and as a result developed a taste for everything from Star Wars to whiskey, with a dash of ornithology thrown into the mix. When she’s not either reading or writing, she enjoys baking (with various degrees of success), photography and walking the dog. Her favorite place to be is on the beach in France, where the light is always surprising and the ice cream is the best she’s ever tasted.
Today I’m pleased to be sharing my review again for The Glass House, to celebrate the paperback publication day
Outside a remote manor house in an idyllic wood, a baby girl is found.
The Harrington family takes her in and disbelief quickly turns to joy. They’re grieving a terrible tragedy of their own and the beautiful baby fills them with hope, lighting up the house’s dark, dusty corners. Desperate not to lose her to the authorities, they keep her secret, suspended in a blissful summer world where normal rules of behaviour – and the law – don’t seem to apply.
But within days a body will lie dead in the grounds. And their dreams of a perfect family will shatter like glass. Years later, the truth will need to be put back together again, piece by piece . . .
Thank you to Gaby Young at Micheal Joseph, Penguin Random House for a digital review copy of this book – my thoughts are my own.
Initially I was drawn to the cover design – which fits the book title perfectly. This is a book with a dual timeline – a feature of many historical fiction books at the moment, and this is an excellent example of it being used well.
The 1971 timeline looks at the Harrington family as they leave London to stay at Foxcote Manor in the Forest of Dean. The detailed descriptions of the darkness of the forest by Ruth, leave the reader in no doubt that this not going to be a light hearted and happy summer. Ruth has had a tragic past but had been enjoying her job looking after the Harrington children. However after a tragedy, the family are spending the summer away from home, a summer full of secrets, lies, a foundling and a sudden death. This is told by Ruth and the elder Harrington sibling.
Running alongside, we have the current day story of Sylvie, her mum who is rushed into hospital and her daughter Annie, all of whom have secrets from each other, some of which link back to the summer of 1971.
This is a book to curl up with and enjoy the magic of the storytelling. The darkness of events in 1971 is interspersed with the love Ruth feels for the young children in her care. Ruth has taken her own glass house, a terrarium to Foxcote Manor and this follows through both timelines.
I don’t want to spoil the story by giving any of the details away – this is a story that needs to be read and enjoyed in the order it is written in. As each new secret is revealed, a new mystery is created.
As we approach the end of 2020, I’m sharing some of my five star reviews for my favourite books of 2020. Thanks to Transworld / Penguin Random House for the opportunity to read and review this fabulous debut novel. This book helped me find my reading mojo during lockdown one.
Six strangers with one universal thing in common: their lives aren’t always what they make them out to be.
What would happen if they told the truth instead?
Julian Jessop is tired of hiding the deep loneliness he feels. So he begins The Authenticity Project – a small green notebook containing the truth about his life.
Leaving the notebook on a table in his friendly neighbourhood café, Julian never expects Monica, the owner, to track him down after finding it. Or that she’ll be inspired to write down her own story.
Little do they realize that such small acts of honesty hold the power to impact all those who discover the notebook and change their lives completely.
After seeing great reviews for this book, I finally started reading my review copy and didn’t want to put it down. I was desperate to find out what happened but also didn’t want the story to finish.
I loved the story telling in this book, the way the lives of the strangers become entwined as they each embark on their journeys of self discovery, how they face up to what happened in their past and how they move forward, all aided by The Authenticity Project book.
I would love to be able to go a visit Monica’s cafe, to sit with a hot chocolate in the Library area, even more so now that we are in lockdown two, as I write.
As other reviewers have commented, this would make a good film or TV series. One of my favourite books of 2020, so uplifting and enjoyable. I will be adding a copy of the paperback to my bookshelf when it is published in February 2021.
Author info (from Amazon):
Clare Pooley graduated from Newnham College, Cambridge and spent twenty years in the heady world of advertising before becoming a full-time mum.
Clare lives in Fulham, London with her long-suffering husband, three children, dog and a cupboard filled with alcohol-free beer.
Clare is the author of the hugely popular blog, Mummy was a Secret Drinker, under the pseudonym Sober Mummy.
You can also find Clare on Facebook.com/SoberMummy
I’m pleased to share my thoughts about this new novel being published by Bookouture. Thanks to Sarah Hardy for inviting me to join
A missing teenager, a mysterious cult and a case of mistaken identity – just another day’s work for Epiphany Bloom.
Epiphany ‘Pip’ Bloom is down on her luck. She can barely afford cat food, and just because Most has three legs doesn’t mean he eats any less. So she absolutely can’t afford to mess up her latest temp job. But when she walks through the door of the private investigation firm, her new boss mistakes her for a missing persons expert. He then charges her with finding Matty Price – the teenage son of two A-list celebrities – who has mysteriously disappeared from his home in Kensington.
It ought to be a disaster, but Pip reckons it’s actually an opportunity. She’s always been curious (nosy, her mother calls it) and has an uncanny knack for being at the wrong place at the right time (she doesn’t want to know what her mother thinks of that). After years of trying to find something she’s good at, has Pip managed to walk straight into the job she was born to do?
She owes it to herself and poor missing Matty to find out.
But searching for Matty takes Pip into the strange, intimidating world of the rich and famous. And it soon becomes clear that some of these people’s love for themselves doesn’t extend to their fellow humans.
As Pip investigates further, she realises the question isn’t whether Matty ran away – it’s whether she will find him alive and make it home safely herself…
An absolutely brilliant, light-hearted cozy mystery for fans of M.C. Beaton, T E Kinsey, Lauren Elliott and Joanne Fluke, featuring an irresistible new heroine.
Having read the synopsis to the book, I hoped the book would live up to the ‘hype’. I’m thrilled to say it does because Pip is a fun character, with a heart of gold but also she is a magnet for disasters. All the way through the story, we find out why she never holds job down for very long. I loved the way these ‘excuses’ were subtly dropped into the story, and they made this reader smile.
I’m hoping this will be the first of a series. Pip has been given the job to find a missing teenager due to a mix up, and she is determined to solve the case. With the help of her gorgeous landlord, her parenting blogger sister and some new friends, she starts to work out where Matty may be hiding or being held.
This story flowed so well, as Pip got herself further into the investigations and discovers that she isn’t the only person pretending to be someone else. I’m thrilled to have discovered another new fantastic author to follow in 2020, and look forward to reading more in the future.
Katie Gayle is the writing partnership of best-selling South African writers, Kate Sidley and Gail Schimmel. Kate and Gail have, between them, written over ten books of various genres, but with Katie Gayle, they both make their debut in the cozy mystery genre. Both Gail and Kate live in Johannesburg, with husbands, children, dogs and cats. Unlike their sleuth Epiphany Bloom, neither of them have ever stolen a cat from the vet.
Today, I’m sharing another of my reviews from February 2020, for another 5 star read. Saving Missy by Beth Morrey is now available to pre-order in paperback, out in March 2021
Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. Woman meets dog…
The world has changed around Missy Carmichael. At seventy-nine, she’s estranged from her daughter, her son and only grandson live across the world in Australia, and her great love is gone. Missy spends her days with a sip of sherry, scrubbing the kitchen in her big empty house and reliving her past–though it’s her mistakes, and secrets, that she allows to shine brightest. The last thing Missy expects is for two perfect strangers and one spirited dog to break through her prickly exterior and show Missy just how much love she still has to give. Filled with wry laughter and deep insights into the stories we tell ourselves, The Love Story of Missy Carmichael shows us it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. It’s never too late to love.
Thank you to HarperCollins and Beth Morrey for a digital copy via NetGalley – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.
This was one of my favourite books of 2020 and I have been busy recommending it. The story starts slowly as we meet Missy and find out how small her world has become. Beth Morrey has created a wonderful ensemble cast (human and canine), who work together to help Missy find friendship, family and hope.
As a dog rescuer (we adopted Jake 2 years ago), I loved the relationship developing between Missy and Bobby, and the interaction with the other dog walkers.
In a world where we spend more time with our online ‘friends’ than our real friends, this is a reminder that humans need social interaction and to belong to a community, and that loneliness is a big issue. My father-in-law always had a dog and they kept him going, giving him a reason to get up and to go out.
A stunning debut novel which should be enjoyed with a dog curled up in your lap.
Today I’m revisiting one of my first 5 star reads of 2020, back before lockdown and furlough were words used on a daily basis, and when cafes were allowed to open. Currently available in hardback and ebook formats, this will be published in paperback in February 2021 and can be pre-ordered now.
Welcome to the café that never sleeps. Day and night Stella’s Café opens its doors for the lonely and the lost, the morning people and the night owls. It is many things to many people but most of all it is a place where life can wait at the door. A place of small kindnesses. A place where anyone can be whoever they want, where everyone is always welcome.
Meet Hannah and Mona: best friends, waitresses, dreamers. They work at Stella’s but they dream of more, of leaving the café behind and making their own way in life.
Come inside and spend twenty-four hours at Stella’s Café; a day when Hannah and Mona’s friendship will be tested, when the community will come together and when lives will be changed…
After reading and enjoying The Lido, I was thrilled to be given a digital review copy of The 24-Hour Cafe by Orion and NetGalley in return for an honest review.
It did take me some time to get into the story of Hannah and Mona’s friendship, however once I got going, I didn’t want to stop reading – thank goodness it was the weekend.
I loved how Libby Page brought the characters to life – I felt as if I was in the cafe myself being busy people watching. The development of the story of the friendship of Hannah and Mona was the main part of the story, but with so many other stories interwoven, the depressed new mum, the homeless student, the newly weds, the other cafe staff.
This is not Lido 2 (some other reviewers seemed disappointed) but is another beautifully written book by Libby Page which explores friendships.
Libby Page previously worked in marketing, moonlighting as a writer. She graduated from The London College of Fashion with a BA in Fashion Journalism before going on to work as a journalist at the Guardian. THE LIDO is her first novel. It was pre-empted within 24 hours of submission for six figures in the UK, pre-empted for six figures in the US, and will be published in 2018 by Orion UK and Simon & Schuster US, followed by eleven other territories around the world.
Libby has been a leading campaigner for fairer internships and has spoken on TV and in parliament in support of fair pay for interns. Libby has been writing from an early age and when she was 16 she wrote an illustrated book called Love Pink to raise money for Breast Cancer Care.
After writing, her second passion is outdoor swimming. Libby lives in London where she enjoys finding new swimming spots and pockets of community within the city.
Thank you to Kelly at Love Book Tours for inviting me to join the blog tour for this thought provoking book and for the digital review copy. I have read and enjoyed many of Amanda’s fiction books over the past few years, but this is the book that will stay with me for many years.
Josiah was nineteen with the world at his feet when things changed. Without warning, the new university student’s mental health deteriorated to the point that he planned his own death. His mother, bestselling author Amanda Prowse, found herself grappling for ways to help him, with no clear sense of where that could be found. This is the book they wish had been there for them during those dark times.
Josiah’s situation is not unusual: the statistics on student mental health are terrifying. And he was not the only one suffering; his family was also hijacked by his illness, watching him struggle and fearing the day he might succeed in taking his life.
In this book, Josiah and Amanda hope to give a voice to those who suffer, and to show them that help can be found. It is Josiah’s raw, at times bleak, sometimes humorous, but always honest account of what it is like to live with depression. It is Amanda’s heart-rending account of her pain at watching him suffer, speaking from the heart about a mother’s love for her child.
For anyone with depression and anyone who loves someone with depression, Amanda and Josiah have a clear message—you are not alone, and there is hope.
I’ve had the review copy sat on my Kindle for a few weeks, ready to read and review but I decided to wait until I had listened to Josh and Amanda being interviewed for a recent Reading Agency event when they were interviewed by Natasha Devon from http://www.natashadevon.com. Having heard Josh and Amanda read from their book and talk about it, I settled down to read. This was a book I didn’t want to put down and this resulted in a late night of reading.
As readers of my book review blog know, I have many books this year due to having been furloughed. However this is one of the most important books of the year, and should be read by parents, teachers and anyone working with young people. During our recent work safeguarding training, we were told that one in six young people in the UK are now said to be living with a mental health issue, exacerbated by the current global pandemic.
Thank you to Josh for being so open and articulate about what happened, how his world changed and became grey. As Josh points out, there wasn’t one major incident that caused his depression, it was a combination of events and life experiences. Thank you to Amanda for also being honest about what she and the rest of the family did or didn’t do during this time. When we have children, we tend to learn as we go, with help from family and friends and in the age of filtered Instagram families, it can be difficult to remember that few people (if any) are actually experiencing perfection. Hopefully this book will help many other families who find themselves in a similar situation.
I work with young people and this book has given me more clues about what to look out for, than any of the ‘educational’ publications I’ve read, because it is written by someone who has depression, rather than someone who works with people with depression. I lost my own brother to depression five years ago when he turned 40. I have struggled to understand why he didn’t reach out but having read Josh’s story, I now realise that he was trapped in his own grey world.
This is an emotional, well written read about a topic which many people find it difficult to talk about. As I said above, this is a book that parents and teachers should read. I will be recommending this to family and friends. Most definitely a five star read.
Josiah (Josh) Hartley lives in an isolated farmhouse in the West Country, but close enough to Bristol to enjoy its music scene. He is an animal lover and servant to two French Bulldogs. Equally happy at a music festival or watching rugby with his mates, he likes the outdoor life and with Devon only a short drive away often heads to the sea to surf and sit on the beach watching the sun go down. After a stint at the University of Southampton and another at the University of Bristol and one unsuccessful suicide attempt, Josh decided to write about his descent into mental illness and the depression that has held him in its grip for the past few years. The Boy Between carries the overriding message that things can and often do get better. It’s a book of reflection, raw, honest and full of hope: the proof being that Josh is still here and now excited about what comes next. He is ready to catch any opportunities that life throws his way, quite a thing for someone who only three years ago was living in a world gone grey, ready to disappear from the face of the earth…
Amanda Prowse likens her own life story to those she writes about in her books. After self-publishing her debut novel, Poppy Day, in 2011, she has gone on to author twenty-five novels and six novellas. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages and she regularly tops bestseller charts all over the world. Remaining true to her ethos, Amanda writes stories of ordinary women and their families who find their strength, courage and love tested in ways they never imagined. The most prolific female contemporary fiction writer in the UK, with a legion of loyal readers, she goes from strength to strength. Being crowned ‘queen of domestic drama’ by the Daily Mail was one of her finest moments. Amanda is a regular contributor on TV and radio but her first love is, and will always be, writing. This is her first work of non-fiction.
Thank you to Boldwood Books and Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation to join the blog tour. Thank you also for a digital review copy of the book, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.
Eighteen months ago, Sophia Jones finally walked out on her unhappy life.
With a tricky divorce ongoing, money is tight and so when friends offer her a housekeeping job while they’re away travelling, she accepts.
Nate McKinley is hesitant when his brother, Gabe, offers him the use of their home in the picturesque village of Wishington Bay. But he has a book to a write and an imploded marriage to recover from, so maybe a change of scene is exactly what he needs.
As Wishington Bay works its magic, friendship blossoms between Sophia and Nate. For Nate, finally feeling able to be himself with someone who is honest and down to earth is a revelation.
But Sophia has a secret and a jealous colleague is determined to blow her cover. Can she really keep her old life in the past or is it destined to destroy this new, happy one too?
Take a trip back to Wishington Bay this winter and find out…
A deliciously heart-warming and romantic read, perfect for a cosy winter’s evening, from the author of the bestselling Winter’s Fairytale.
This is the first book I’ve read by Maxine Morrey and I enjoyed my visit to Wishington Bay. I did quickly realise that Maxine had set a book in the area before (Coming Home to Wishington Bay) but that didn’t stop me enjoying this story.
Sophia and Nate are both running away from heartbreak, and need to make new lives
The course of true love never runs smoothly, especially when jealous work colleagues and ex partners get involved. However, the majority of the residents at Wishington Bay are keen to help the two recent arrivals, and there is a four legged cupid involved too.
A lovely book to curl up with on a cold winter evening. My recommendation is to team this up with a mug of hot chocolate and a cosy blanket. And relax…
Maxine Morrey is a bestselling romantic comedy author with eight books to her name including Winter’s Fairytale and the top ten hit The Christmas Project. She lives in West Sussex. Her first novel for Boldwood, #No Filter, was published in November 2019.
I’m pleased to be sharing my review for this feel good festive read on my book review blog today. Thank you to Zaffre Books for a digital review copy via NetGalley, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. The book is being published in the UK on 29th October 2020.
Recently divorced, the family home sold and her son all grown-up, Clare is at a crossroads. She’s dedicated her whole adult life to her family, and now it’s time she did something for herself.
In the lead up to Christmas, Clare decides that a bit of time in the countryside might be just what she needs, so she moves back to Little Bramble, the village she grew up in. But living with her mum for the first time in years – and not to mention Goliath the Great Dane – can be challenging.
When Clare finds herself running the village Christmas show, it feels like she has purpose in her life again. Bringing together people from all sides of the community, and all walks of life, will Clare manage to pull off a festive feat like no other? And will she find the new start in life – and possibly love – that she’s been looking for?
The Country Village Christmas Show is the perfect romantic read to get cosy with this winter.
This is the first book published by Cathy Lake (aka Rachel Griffiths). The blurb and the gorgeous cover drew my attention to this book, plus the feature on Readers First.
I felt sorry for the main character, Clare, at the start of the story – her happy life had vanished in a relatively short space of time as her marriage faltered, her job was made redundant and she ended up moving back in with her mum and a very large dog called Goliath.
However Clare soon starts to rekindle old friendships and make new acquaintances on her voyage of self discovery, although the path to romance is a tricky one to negotiate.
A great mixture of characters, a canine friend, Christmas preparations and three generations of a family working together provided a cosy autumnal read. I look forward to reading more by Cathy Lake.