The Foundling by Stacey Halls

The Foundling by Stacey Halls

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Today I’m sharing another of my 2020 5 star read reviews from February 2020.

Synopsis:

Six years after leaving her illegitimate daughter Clara at London’s Foundling Hospital, Bess Bright returns to reclaim the child she has never known. Dreading the worst – that Clara has died in care – the last thing she expects to hear is that her daughter has already been reclaimed – by her. Her life is turned upside down as she tries to find out who has taken her little girl – and why. Less than a mile from Bess’ lodgings in the city, in a quiet, gloomy townhouse on the edge of London, a young widow has not left the house in a decade. When her close friend – an ambitious young doctor at the Foundling Hospital – persuades her to hire a nursemaid for her daughter, she is hesitant to welcome someone new into her home and her life. But her past is threatening to catch up with her and tear her carefully constructed world apart.

From the bestselling author of The Familiars, and set against the vibrant backdrop of Georgian London, The Foundling explores families, secrets, class, equality, power and the meaning of motherhood

My thoughts:

I have a confession. I still haven’t read The Familiars by Stacey Halls (it is on my Kindle ready to go).

However after seeing great reviews and reading the opening chapters of The Foundling, I decided to use my Readers First points in January 2020 to ‘buy’ a copy of this book. The hardback book is beautiful to look at, a stunning cover design.

The story is based on the true Foundling Hospital in London, set up to help children who had parents unable to care for them. From the opening chapter, when a young woman asks to give up her baby born just hours earlier, we are transported back in time to 1747 to watch the baby lottery.

The descriptions of Georgian London are of two different worlds – the rich and the very poor. The story is told from the view of both main characters and we are slowly drip fed information to help explain what happened after the visit to the Foundling Hospital. As a mother, this is a heartbreaking read in places.

I’ve been happy to recommend the book, it is one of the best historical fiction books I’ve read. Thank you to Readers First and Manilla Press for my copy.



View all my reviews

The Boy Between by Amanda Prowse and Josiah Hartley @mrsamandaprowse #JosiahHartley @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours

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.

Synopsis:

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.

My thoughts:

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.

Author Bio:

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.

You can find her online at www.amandaprowse.com, on Twitter or Instagram @MrsAmandaProwse, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/amandaprowsenogreaterlove.

The Windsor Knot by SJ Bennett

Today I’m sharing my thoughts about the Windsor Knot by S.J. Bennett, being published today. Thank you to Bonnier Books, Zaffre Books and Readers First for a copy of the book – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

The first book in a highly original and delightfully clever crime series in which Queen Elizabeth II secretly solves crimes while carrying out her royal duties.

The morning after a dinner party at Windsor Castle, eighty-nine-year-old Queen Elizabeth is shocked to discover that one of her guests has been found murdered in his room, with a rope around his neck.

When the police begin to suspect her loyal servants, Her Majesty knows they are looking in the wrong place. For the Queen has been living an extraordinary double life ever since her coronation. Away from the public eye, she has a brilliant knack for solving crimes.

With her household’s happiness on the line, her secret must not get out. Can the Queen and her trusted secretary Rozie catch the killer, without getting caught themselves?

The Windsor Knot is the first book in the ‘Her Majesty The Queen Investigates’ mystery series by SJ Bennett – for fans of The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, Agatha Christie and M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin.

My thoughts:

I must admit that when I first saw this synopsis, I did wonder whether I would find this too far fetched. However after reading and enjoying the first chapters, I quickly ordered the book via Readers First. The book arrived on Friday and was finished by Saturday evening (helped by the fact my husband went out!).

The book cover and end papers are stunning – as regular readers of my book review blog will know, I love dogs and the end papers and back cover include corgi illustrations. The dogs make regular appearances in the story, as do the Queen’s horses.

As a fan of Agatha Christie, and the recent ‘Thursday Murder Club’ by Richard Osman, I’m pleased to say that I did enjoy this amateur detective novel – the murder mystery, the Queen’s own investigation, the humour and the characters created by S.J. Bennett.

I loved the conversations between the Queen and Prince Philip, and could imagine their voices. My favourite character is Rozie, who quickly finds herself helping the Queen in ways she wasn’t expecting when recently employed by the royal household, assisted by a very small group of loyal ex-employees. Great to see a book full of strong female characters.

If you enjoy the more ‘gentle’ murder mystery stories, then I hope you will enjoy this book as much as I did.

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.

Homeward Bound by Richard Smith

I’m pleased to share my review for Homeward Bound as part of the blog tour organised by Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources. Thank you to Matador Books for a copy of this book – my thoughts about the book are my own. This is a debut novel and one I’m happy to recommend.

Synopsis:

Homeward Bound features 79-year-old grandfather George, who didn’t quite make it as a rock star in the ‘60s. He’s expected to be in retirement but in truth he’s not ready to close the lid on his dreams and will do anything for a last chance. When he finds himself on a tour of retirement homes instead of a cream tea at the seaside his family has promised, it seems his story might prematurely be over. 

He finds the answer by inviting Tara, his 18-year-old granddaughter, to share his house, along with his memories and vast collection of records. She is an aspiring musician as well, although her idea of music is not George’s. What unfolds are clashes and unlikely parallels between the generations – neither knows nor cares how to use a dishwasher – as they both chase their ambitions. 

My thoughts:

Having read the blurb on the back of the book, I was keen to find out more. This is the third book I’ve read this year with an elderly protagonist – the other books being Saving Missy and Away with the Penguins.

The story looks at George and his family after the recent loss of his wife. His son-in-law, the obnoxious Toby, is desperate to put his father-in-law into a retirement home. George finds a compromise by inviting his granddaughter Tara to share his house near her new University so she can keep an eye on him and report back to her mum, Bridget.

During the story, we find out more about how George’s dreams and ambitions in the music world were derailed, how Tara needs to find her own path in life (and not be railroaded by her boyfriend) and how Bridget needs to find some happiness. Tara and George develop a new relationship, based on their enjoyment of music.

There are lots of funny moments to make you laugh out loud but also heartbreaking moments too. As readers of my reviews know, I always appreciate a dog being included in the story and George has Hunter, his ageing Labrador. I also thoroughly enjoyed the music references and found myself watching Homeward Bound by Paul Simon on You Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHI2nWdRdXw

This is a book I’m happy to recommend as a feel good but thought provoking read. Ideal for all ages.

Purchase Links 

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/homeward-bound-richard-smith/1136313433?ean=2940163088645

https://www.waterstones.com/book/homeward-bound/richard-smith/9781838591595

https://www.ink84bookshop.co.uk/product-page/homeward-bound-by-richard-smith

The author – Richard Smith:

Richard Smith is a writer and storyteller for sponsored films and commercials, with subjects as varied as caring for the elderly, teenage pregnancies, communities in the Niger delta, anti- drug campaigns and fighting organised crime. Their aim has been to make a positive difference, but, worryingly, two commercials he worked on featured in a British Library exhibition, ‘Propaganda’.

@RichardWrites2    

richardsmithwrites.com





View all my reviews

The Little Bookshop of Love Stories by Jaimie Admans

I’m thrilled to share my review for this gorgeous book again to celebrate the paperback publication this week. Thank you to HQ Digital for a digital review copy via NetGalley – my views are my own.

Synopsis:

Today is the Mondayest Monday ever. Hallie Winstone has been fired – and it wasn’t even her fault!

Having lost her job and humiliated herself in front of a whole restaurant full of diners, this is absolutely, one hundred percent, the worst day of her life.

That is until she receives an email announcing that she is the lucky winner of the Once Upon a Page Bookshop!

Owning a bookshop has always been Hallie’s dream, and when she starts to find secret love letters on the first pages of every book, she knows she’s stumbled across something special.

Things get even better when she meets gorgeous, bookish Dimitri and between them, they post a few of the hidden messages online, reuniting people who thought they were lost forever.

But maybe it’s time for Hallie to find her own happy-ever-after, too?

My thoughts:

This is the first book I’ve read by Jaimie Admans – I saw positive comments on Twitter about the book and was pleased to be approved – I was missing visiting real bookshops and looked forward to a virtual visit.

Hallie is a great character – I giggled through the opening chapter describing how she lost her waitressing job. Her love of books and passion to keep Once upon a Page open was a delight to read. The book looks at her family relationships and how her friendship with the ‘resident artist’ develops.

This was a great feel good read, full of books, love for books and community spirit. A perfect book to read for book lovers.

Jaimie Admans:

Jaimie is a 32-year-old English-sounding Welsh girl with an awkward-to-spell name. She lives in South Wales and enjoys writing, gardening, watching horror movies, and drinking tea, although she’s seriously considering marrying her coffee machine. She loves autumn and winter, and singing songs from musicals despite the fact she’s got the voice of a dying hyena. She hates spiders, hot weather, and cheese & onion crisps. She spends far too much time on Twitter and owns too many pairs of boots.
She will never have time to read all the books she wants to read.

She has been writing for years but has only just plucked up the courage to tell people.
She is the author of chick-lit romantic comedies Kismetology and The Chateau of Happily Ever Afters, and young adult romantic comedies Afterlife Academy, Not Pretty Enough, and North Pole Reform School.

Find out more on http://www.jaimieadmans.com or find me on Twitter @be_the_spark



View all my reviews

The Hopes and Dreams of Libby Quinn by Freya Kennedy

Today I’m sharing my review for this lovely book again. The book is currently free on the Kindle in the UK – time to grab a copy and enjoy visiting Ivy Lane.

Synopsis:

Libby Quinn is sick and tired of being sensible. After years of slogging her guts out for nothing at a PR company, she finds herself redundant and about to plough every last penny of her savings into refurbishing a ramshackle shop and making her dream become a reality.

She hopes the opening of bookshop on Ivy Lane will be the perfect tribute to her beloved grandfather who instilled a love of reading and books in her from an early age. When her love life and friendships become even more complicated – will Libby have the courage to follow her dreams? Or has she bitten off more than she can chew?

My thoughts:

Thank you to Boldwood Books for a digital review copy – my thoughts are my own.

I really enjoyed this book. Libby Quinn has loved stories since she was tiny and dreams of owning her own bookshop – something many avid readers would also wish to be able to do. This book follows her as she tries to make her dream into reality and remembers how she loved reading with her grandfather.

This was a great book to read during our current lockdown situation – it emphasised the importance of family, friendships and community support. Libby’s bookshop idea sounds lovely – books, desks and a coffee shop area.

An uplifting book in a time of uncertainty.

The author:

Freya Kennedy is the pen name of Derry based author Claire Allan – who is perhaps best known for her psychological thrillers!
However, before turning a life of crime, Claire wrote women’s fiction for Irish publisher Poolbeg Press, her reinvention as Freya Kennedy will see her bring some love, laughter and heart-warming happiness to readers.
A true Derry girl, Freya Kennedy has lived all her life in the north of Ireland. She worked for 18 years as a journalist and has been writing full time since 2016. 
She is a huge fan of all kinds of books, from Marian Keyes (she cried the first time she met Marian), to Rowan Coleman, to Jane Fallon, to Jojo Moyes.
She also enjoys a good murder!
She continues to live in Derry with her husband, her two children, two cats and the best dog in the world.



View all my reviews

The Sight of You by Holly Miller


I’m pleased to share my review for this beautiful book, the debut novel of Holly Miller. Thank you to Hodder and Stoughton for granting my wish to review a preview copy via NetGalley after seeing such many positive comments on social media – I now understand why so many people love this book.

Synopsis:

Joel is afraid of the future.
Since he was a child he’s been haunted by dreams about the people he loves. Visions of what’s going to happen – the good and the bad. And the only way to prevent them is to never let anyone close to him again. 

Callie can’t let go of the past.
Since her best friend died, Callie’s been lost. She knows she needs to be more spontaneous and live a bigger life. She just doesn’t know how to find a way back to the person who used to have those dreams.

Joel and Callie both need a reason to start living for today. 
And though they’re not looking for each other, from the moment they meet it feels like the start of something life-changing. 

Until Joel has a vision of how it’s going to end . . .

My thoughts:


The Sight of You is the story of Joel and Callie – I loved the way the characters developed and began to interact with each other. This is a really difficult book to review without giving away any spoilers – it should be read without any hints or clues about what will happen – and without any interruptions. I curled up on the sofa and ignored the family to enjoy the story of Joel and Callie.

As we currently live in very uncertain times (this book is set in non-Covid times so people can still socialise normally and sit in a cafe – if only!), this book gives you a break from reality to fall in love with Joel and Callie. This is a book that made me cry at the end – a good sign of being emotionally involved in the characters and their lives.

The Sight of You is published in hardback and ebook on 11th June in the UK, and in paperback in January 2021. One of my favourite books of the year, thank you Holly Miller. I totally agree with the Hodder and Stoughton marketing slogan – “the love story of 2020 that will break your heart”.

Amazon purchase links https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07RHV8LF5/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_45G2EbMRY623E

Waterstones purchase links https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-sight-of-you/holly-miller/9781529324341



View all my reviews

Book Review for Hello, Again by Isabelle Broom

Today I’m thrilled to share my review of this beautifully written book – Hello, Again by Isabelle Broom.

Synopsis:

Philippa Taylor (Pepper to her friends) has big dreams. When she closes her eyes, she can picture exactly who she ought to be. The problem is, it’s about as far away from her real life in a small coastal town in Suffolk as she can imagine. 

So when her elderly friend Josephine persuades Pepper to accompany her on a trip to Europe, she jumps at the chance to change her routine. And when Pepper bumps (literally) into the handsome Finn in Lisbon, it seems as though she might have finally found what she’s been looking for.

But Pepper know all too well things are rarely as they seem. Her own quiet life hides a dark secret from the past. And even though she and Finn may have been destined to find each other, Pepper suspects life may have other plans as to how the story should end.

My thoughts

Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton for a digital review copy via NetGalley – the comments are my unbiased opinion.

I’ve read a few books by Isabelle Broom and have enjoyed being whisked away to different countries such as Sri Lanka, Greece and New Zealand. This book offers a scenic tour of three European cities in Spain, Portugal and Germany – all of which sounded wonderful in very different ways.

The story follows Pepper as she finally starts to move forward with her life after the tragic loss of her sister many years ago. Visiting Lisbon and Barcelona with her older friend and art client Josephine inspires Pepper to seek out happiness, resolve family conflicts and find creative inspiration.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Beautifully written as usual, characters to care about, relationships to develop and an epilogue that made me weep. I’ve also found myself googling how to make mosaics having been inspired by the story.

The ebook publication date has been brought forward to 4th June 2020 and the paperback is due to be published on 9th July 2020 in the UK – these can be ordered from https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B083L7QWGB/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_Jf40EbD79868C

Isabelle Broom was born in Cambridge nine days before the 1980s began and studied Media Arts in London before joining the ranks at heat magazine, where she remained for 12 years. Always happiest when she off on an adventure, Isabelle now travels all over the world seeking out settings for her novels, as well as making the annual pilgrimage to her true home – the Greek island of Zakynthos. Currently based in Suffolk, where she shares a cottage with her two dogs and approximately 467 spiders, Isabelle fits her writing around a busy freelance career and trying not to be crushed to oblivion under her ever-growing pile of to-be-read books.

If you like pictures of dogs, chatter about books and very bad jokes, you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @Isabelle_Broom or find her on Facebook under Isabelle Broom Author.







View all my reviews

Book Review for The Hopes and Dreams of Libby Quinn by Freya Kennedy

Libby Quinn is sick and tired of being sensible. After years of slogging her guts out for nothing at a PR company, she finds herself redundant and about to plough every last penny of her savings into refurbishing a ramshackle shop and making her dream become a reality. She hopes the opening of bookshop on Ivy Lane will be the perfect tribute to her beloved grandfather who instilled a love of reading and books in her from an early age. When her love life and friendships become even more complicated – will Libby have the courage to follow her dreams? Or has she bitten off more than she can chew?

My thoughts:

4.5 stars

Thank you to Boldwood Books for a digital review copy – my thoughts are my own.

I really enjoyed this book. Libby Quinn has loved stories since she was tiny and dreams of owning her own bookshop – something many avid readers would also wish to be able to do. This book follows her as she tries to make her dream into reality and remembers how she loved reading with her grandfather.

This was a great book to read during our current lockdown situation – it emphasised the importance of family, friendships and community support. Libby’s bookshop idea sounds lovely – books, desks and a coffee shop area.

An uplifting book in a time of uncertainty.

The author:

Freya Kennedy is the pen name of Derry based author Claire Allan – who is perhaps best known for her psychological thrillers!
However, before turning a life of crime, Claire wrote women’s fiction for Irish publisher Poolbeg Press, her reinvention as Freya Kennedy will see her bring some love, laughter and heart-warming happiness to readers.
A true Derry girl, Freya Kennedy has lived all her life in the north of Ireland. She worked for 18 years as a journalist and has been writing full time since 2016. 
She is a huge fan of all kinds of books, from Marian Keyes (she cried the first time she met Marian), to Rowan Coleman, to Jane Fallon, to Jojo Moyes.
She also enjoys a good murder!
She continues to live in Derry with her husband, her two children, two cats and the best dog in the world.



View all my reviews