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.
Today I’m sharing my review for this lovely book again to celebrate the paperback publication yesterday AND the announcement that this has been chosen as one of the Richard and Judy book club books. Thank you to Random House (Penguin UK) for a digital review copy via NetGalley – my thoughts are my own. This is also known as How the Penguins Saved Veronica in the United States.
Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she’s never seen without her ruby-red lipstick.
Although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone.
She can be found either collecting litter from the beach (‘people who litter the countryside should be shot’), trying to locate her glasses (‘someone must have moved them’) or shouting instructions to her assistant, Eileen (‘Eileen, door!’).
Veronica doesn’t have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she’s going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies.
But today . . . today Veronica is going to make a decision that will change all of this.
This is one of my favourite books of the year. Veronica McCreedy is a wonderful older lady who makes major changes to her life after being hidden away from the world, mostly at home. I love the way the story develops and the reader is hooked.
Hazel Prior has created a wonderful cast of characters and interspersed the story with facts about penguins. The story looks at how life events have changed Veronica and how spending time with a small group of scientists and thousands of penguins can dramatically change your outlook.
I loved this book and will be buying copies for Christmas presents. In this current time of uncertainty and anxiety, this book is uplifting and I would love to see it turned into a TV drama. If you enjoyed Saving Missy by Beth Morrey, you may enjoy this too.
HAZEL PRIOR lives on Exmoor with her husband and a huge ginger cat. As well as writing, she works as a freelance harpist. Ellie and the Harp-Maker was her first novel.
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.
Christmas is coming and best friends Chloe, Jules, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
I’m pleased to share my review for this beautiful book today on my book blog. Thank you to One More Chapter of Harper Collins for a digital proof copy via NetGalley – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. The ebook is published today in the UK and the paperback is due to be published in November 2020.
A moving and heartwarming love story perfect for fans of Me Before You and One Day in December…
Leila’s charm bracelet tells a story of love, a story of loss, a story of hope. This is the story of her … and the story of Jake.
When Leila Jones loses her precious charm bracelet and a stranger finds it, she has to tell the story of how she got the charms to prove she’s the owner. Each and every one is a precious memory of her life with Jake.
So Leila starts at the beginning, recounting the charms and experiences that have led her to the present. A present she never could have expected when she met Jake nearly twenty years ago…
This is the first book I’ve read by Ella Allbright/Nikki Moore and it won’t be the last. The story telling was superb, I loved the way that Leila and Jake kept spending small periods of time together, whilst you wondered if this would be the time that they finally realised that they belonged together properly.
The story covers some tough topics including domestic violence and mental health issues, but there are also lots of funny moments too. As the book title suggests, there is a charm bracelet at the centre of the story and the end of the book had me in tears as Leila searched for the last charm. This was a beautiful and emotional read, and I’ve given it a 5 star rating.
A self-confessed reading addict, Ella Allbright writes commercial women’s fiction set in her beautiful home county of Dorset. Her first novel in this genre – The Last Charm – will publish in August 2020 (ebook) and November 2020 (paperback) with One More Chapter, a division of HarperCollins. She’s currently hard at work on her next book, and is represented by agent Hattie Grünewald at The Blair Partnership.
Ella also writes as Nikki Moore, the author of the popular #LoveLondon romance series. A number of the novellas featured in the Top 100 short story charts on Kobo and the Top 20 in the Amazon UK bestsellers Holiday chart, and in 2018 the collection was released in Italy. Her first published work was the short story A Night to Remember in the best selling Mills & Boon / RNA anthology Truly, Madly, Deeply. Her debut romance Crazy, Undercover, Love was shortlisted for the RNA Joan Hessayon Award 2015.
When not writing or reading, she can usually be found working in her HR day job, walking the family’s cute beagle puppy or watching a Netflix series!