For Emily by Katherine Slee

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Catriona dies unexpectedly, each one becomes a cryptic clue in a breadcrumb trail that apparently leads to her lost, unpublished manuscript.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 . . 

My thoughts:

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 is being published in paperback in the UK on Thursday 28th May 2020.

Katherine Slee:

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.

Website http://www.katherineslee.com



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Life and Other Happy Endings by Melanie Cantor


If your life was going to end tomorrow, what would you do today?


When she learns she has just three months to live Jennifer Cole decides to write 3 letters: one to her overbearing, selfish sister, another to her jelly-spined, cheating ex-husband, and the third to her charming, unreliable ex-boyfriend, each one saying everything she’s always wanted to say. Fearing the worst, Jennifer finds this unburdening feels great. But then as she’ll soon discover, the truth has a way of surprising you …

My thoughts:

Thank you to Ruth Richardson at Transworld Publishers for inviting me to read a digital proof copy of this book – my thoughts are my own and are not influenced by the gift.

Since receiving the digital review copy in February 2020, the title has changed from Death and Other Happy Endings to Life and Other Happy Endings. The paperback is being published on 28th May 2020 in the UK.

This book was a great summer 2020 read, following the life of Jennifer, who has been told that her extreme tiredness is in fact a terminal illness with only 3 months left to live. Whilst that may not sound like a cheerful book to read, a series of events happen which include lots of funny moments when Jennifer starts about setting her affairs in order, sending letters out to people she believes have wronged her and acting in ways she wouldn’t normally have done so.

It is difficult to comment further, without giving away spoilers, but please believe me when I say that this is a great book with plenty of twists and laugh out loud moments.


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One Year of Ugly by Caroline Mackenzie #bookreview

After fleeing crumbling, volatile Venezuela, Yola Palacio wants nothing more than to settle into a peaceful new life in Trinidad with her family. And who cares if they’re there illegally—aren’t most of the people on the island? But life for the Palacios is far from quiet—and when Yola’s Aunt Celia dies, the family once again find their lives turned upside down. For Celia had been keeping a very big secret—she owed a LOT of money to a local criminal called Ugly. And without the funds to pay him off, Ugly has the entire family do his bidding until Celia’s debt is settled. What Ugly says, the Palacios do, otherwise the circumstances are too dreadful to imagine.

To say that the year that follows is tumultuous for the Palacios is an understatement. But in the midst of the turmoil appears Roman—Ugly’s distractingly gorgeous right-hand man. And although she knows it’s terrible and quite possibly dangerous, Yola just can’t help but give in to the attraction. Where, though, do Roman’s loyalties lie? And could this wildly inappropriate romance just be the antidote to a terrible year of Ugly?

Combining the spark of Junot Diaz with the irresistible wit of Maria Semple, One Year of Ugly brilliantly explores cross-cultural struggles and assimilation from a unique immigrant perspective and introduces us to an extraordinary new voice in contemporary fiction.

My thoughts:

3.5 stars

This is a difficult review to write. Mostly I enjoyed the book, however there were issues for me which reduced the rating.

The positives – this is a fast paced story, full of detail (although sometimes a little bit too much detail – I now know more about strip clubs than I ever did before), some interesting characters and locations, and a family who had fled Venezuela to seek refuge in Trinidad.

The family suddenly find themselves indebted to a local gangster, Ugly, and have to work hard to repay the debt or face the consequences. The main character is Yola, an aspiring writer, who loves her family, misses her late aunt and falls in love with someone she probably shouldn’t.

The negative is that about 60% into the story, the choice of language worsens – maybe I’m old fashioned but I didn’t see the need for the C-word, which is a word I hate to see or hear. I skimmed over that section, and thankfully it didn’t get repeated later on. I know this is a personal hate but this is my personal review of the book.

Overall, the story was interesting and something very different. Thank you to The Borough Press for a digital review copy via NetGalley – my thoughts are my own.

The author:

Caroline Mackenzie is a Trinidadian writer whose short fiction has appeared in publications around the world. In 2017 she was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, and she won first prize for fiction in the 2019 Small Axe Literary Competition. Her debut novel ONE YEAR OF UGLY will be published in May (eBook)/July (hard cover) (UK) and July (US) 2020.

Caroline currently lives in Trinidad and is cracking away at novel #2.





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Book Review of Where We Belong by Anstey Harris

One summer.
One house.
One family learning to love again.

Cate Morris and her son, Leo, are homeless, adrift. They’ve packed up the boxes from their London home, said goodbye to friends and colleagues, and now they are on their way to ‘Hatters Museum of the Wide Wide World – to stay just for the summer. Cate doesn’t want to be there, in Richard’s family home without Richard to guide her any more. And she knows for sure that Araminta, the retainer of the collection of dusty objects and stuffed animals, has taken against them. But they have nowhere else to go. They have to make the best of it.

But Richard hasn’t told Cate the truth about his family’s history. And something about the house starts to work its way under her skin.
Can she really walk away, once she knows the truth?

My thoughts:
Thank you to Simon and Schuster UK for a digital advanced review copy via NetGalley – my views are totally my own.

This is the first novel I have read by Anstey Harris (I do have a copy of The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton on my bedside cabinet waiting to be read). I have seen great reviews for both, so was thrilled to be given the chance to read and review this.

The book is very different to anything I’ve read before. The story looks at loss, grieving, secrets, a teenager growing up, dealing with prejudice, and a museum full of treasures from the past.

The storytelling is wonderful, full of little details and flawed (but mostly) loveable characters. At this current time with the world hit by a global pandemic, it is a story to escape into and to feel uplifted by the community spirit.

A five star read for me – looking forward to getting a proper copy in a bookshop after lockdown.

The author, Anstey Harris:

Anstey Harris is based by the seaside in south-east England where she lives with her violinmaker husband and two dogs. She teaches creative writing in the community, local schools, and as an associate lecturer for Christchurch University in Canterbury.

Anstey writes about the things that make people tick, the things that bind us and the things that can rip us apart. In 2015, she won the H G Wells Short Story Prize for her story, Ruby. In novels, Anstey tries to celebrate uplifting ideas and prove that life is good and that happiness is available to everyone once we work out where to look (usually inside ourselves). Her short stories tend not to end quite so well…

Things that interest Anstey include her children and granddaughter, green issues and conservation, adoption and adoption reunion (she is an adopted child, born in an unmarried mothers’ home in Liverpool in 1965), stepfamilies, dogs, and food. Always food. She would love to be on Masterchef but would never recover from the humiliation if she got sent home in the first round.








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The Love Child by Rachel Hore #bookreview

A young mother’s sacrifice. A child’s desperate search for the truth . . . 
London, 1917

When nineteen-year-old Alice Copeman becomes pregnant, she is forced by her father and stepmother to give up the baby.  She simply cannot be allowed to bring shame upon her family. But all Alice can think about is the small, kitten-like child she gave away, and she mourns the father, a young soldier, so beloved, who will never have the chance to know his daughter.

Edith and Philip Burns, a childless couple, yearn for a child of their own. When they secretly adopt a baby girl, Irene, their life together must surely be complete. Irene grows up knowing that she is different from other children, but no one will tell her the full truth.

Putting hopes of marriage and children behind her, Alice embarks upon a pioneering medical career, striving to make her way in a male-dominated world. Meanwhile, Irene struggles to define her own life, eventually leaving her Suffolk home to find work in London.

As two extraordinary stories intertwine across two decades, will secrets long-buried at last come to light?

My thoughts:

4.5 stars

Thank you to Simon and Schushter UK for a digital copy via NetGalley during lockdown 2020 – my thoughts are my own.

This is the first book I’ve read by Rachel Hore although my Kindle tells me that I have bought (but not read) A Week in Paris and The Dream House – I have now bumped them up my tbr (to be read) list.

I enjoyed this historical fiction, set between the First World War and the start of the Second World War. Life was very different and an unmarried mother would be frowned on, so Alice is encouraged to give up her baby, Stella. The book follows the lives of Alice and Irene (formerly Stella).

The book covers adoption, mental health, challenging male dominance in medicine, birth control, family secrets, and the social changes after the end of the war. It is well written, full of historical detail and makes you care for the characters.

If you enjoy historical fiction and/or watching shows such as Call the Midwife, then I believe that you will also enjoy this book.

The author, Rachel Hore:

I’m the author of ten novels, the most recent of which is The Love Child. I came to writing in my forties, after a career in publishing in London. My husband and I had moved out to Norwich with our three young sons and I’d had to give up my job and writing was something that I’d always wanted to try. I originally studied history, so it was wonderful finally to put my knowledge to good use and to write The Dream House, which is partly set in the 1920s in Suffolk and London.

Most of my novels are dual narrative, often called ‘time slip’, with a story in the present alternating with one set in the past. I love the freedom that they give me to escape into the past, but also the dramatic ways in which the stories interact. My characters are often trying to solve some mystery about the past and by doing so to resolve some difficulty or puzzle in their own lives.

The books often involve a lot of research and this takes me down all sorts of interesting paths. For The Glass Painter’s Daughter I took an evening class in working with coloured glass. My creations were not very amazing, but making them gave me insight into the processes so that my characters’ activities would feel authentic. For A Week in Paris I had to research Paris in World War II and the early 1960s through films and books and by visiting the city – that was a great deal of work for one novel. Last Letter Home involved me touring a lot of country houses with old walled kitchen gardens in search of atmosphere and to explore the different kinds of plants grown there.

Places often inspire my stories. The Memory Garden, my second novel, is set in one of my favourite places in the world – Lamorna Cove in Cornwall – which is accessed through a lovely hidden valley. A Place of Secrets is set in a remote part of North Norfolk near Holt, where past and present seem to meet. Southwold in Suffolk, a characterful old-fashioned seaside resort with a harbour and a lighthouse, has been a much loved destination for our family holidays and has made an appearance in fictional guise in several of my novels, including The Silent Tide and The Love Child.

Until very recently I taught Publishing and Creative Writing part-time at the University of East Anglia, but I’ve just become a full-time writer, which feels a bit scary. My boys are all grown up now, but we still see a lot of them, and our black labrador, Astra, gets much more attention. My husband David is a writer, too (he writes as D.J. Taylor), so we understand each other’s working lives.

I find I have to have a regular routine with my writing, not least to keep the book in my head. My aim is to sit down at 9am every morning and write till lunchtime, then again the afternoon, but there is often something ready to interrupt this so I go with the flow.

I hope that you are able to find my books easily and enjoy them – I am always happy to hear from readers!

Happy reading!  

Visit Rachel at http://www.rachelhore.co.uk, or follow her on Twitter @rachelhore or Facebook



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The Glass House by Eve Chase #bookreview

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 . . .

My thoughts:

Thank you to Gaby Young at Micheal Joseph, Penguin Random House for a digital review copy of this book – my thoughts are my own. I’m looking forward to joining the blog tour – thank you for inviting me.

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.

The author, Eve Chase:

Website http://www.evechase.com/


Twitter EvePollyChase

Eve Chase is the author of Black Rabbit Hall and The Wildling Sisters, and the pseudonym of journalist and novelist Polly Williams. She lives in Oxford, England with her husband and three children.

Homeward Bound by Richard Smith #bookreview

George is a recently widowed seventy-nine-year-old. He nearly made it as a rock star in the 1960s and he’s not happy. Tara is his teenage granddaughter and she’s taken refuge from her bickering parents by living with George. Toby is George’s son-in-law and he wants George in a care home. 

George has two secrets. 1) He’s never revealed why his music career stalled. And 2) No-one knows just how much the disappointment of opportunities missed still gnaw at him. He craves one last chance, even at his age. When it presents itself, through the appearance of a long-lost distant relative – whose chequered past should set alarm bells ringing – he can’t resist. 

For Tara, living with her grandfather is a way to find her own path and develop her own musical ambitions. She isn’t prepared for the clash between different generations and living in a strange house full of her grandfather’s memories – and vinyl records.

They get off to a shaky start. George takes an instant dislike to the sounds from her bedroom that seem more suited to Guantanamo Bay than anything he would call musical. But as time plays out, they find there are more similarities – neither know how to operate a dishwasher – than differences, and parallels across the generations slowly bring them to recognise their shared strengths. But when Toby inadvertently sets in motion a chain of events, it leaves Tara with the same dilemma her grandfather faced five decades before with the same life-changing choice to make

My thoughts:

Thank you to Matador Books for a copy of this book – my thoughts about the book are my own.

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 (main character) – 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.

The author – Richard Smith:

Before I dedicated myself to writing my first novel (‘Homeward Bound’) I was a producer of TV commercials, sponsored documentaries and educational and promotional films. It took me around the world and into places not normally accessible to visitors – up to the top of the Elizabeth Tower to see Big Ben strike twelve, on a speed boat around the Needles and North Sea oil platforms, and to the Niger Delta in Africa . . . to name but a few. It’s been a privilege and made me a terrible tourist! While I always hoped my films were saying something useful and might even make a difference, rather worryingly two of them were featured in a British Library annual exhibition, ‘Propoganda’!

Writing the book meant giving up the filming (you can’t develop characters in a novel when there’s a video edit or a voice-over script to be delivered) and making writing a nine to five. My office was public libraries – free from distractions and with the discipline that I couldn’t go home until my laptop battery had run out of energy. 

‘Homeward Bound’ is fiction but it’s based on things I’ve seen, experienced or learned through my life (I’m 70 going on a bit more) and hopefully, readers will recognise the characters in the novel, finding them loveable and interesting, while reminding them of the passing of time and the value of family.





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Book Review for The Little Bookshop of Love Stories by Jaimie Admans

Publisher comments:

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:

Thank you to HQ Digital for a digital review copy via NetGalley – my views are my own.

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.



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BookReview Sing Me a Secret by Julie Houston

Publisher comments:

The four Sutherland sisters have all had very different paths in life, but one secret and a slighty tense production of Jesus Christ Superstar are about to bring them all back together again…

When the news that pop-superstar Lexia Sutherland is returning to Westenbury, not everyone is thrilled by the news – including Lexia. There are too many memories she doesn’t need to face – or need re-surfacing.

Meanwhile, Juno Sutherland just wants a little peace and quiet. As the local village doctor, she’s got her priorities in order; kids, job, husband, tenacious pony, a role in the village musical… So when the sexy new locum turns up – and steals her office – the last thing she needed was to be hit with rising temperatures and an over-active imagination.

Will these sisters be able to uncover the past, deal with the future and put on the performance of a lifetime?

My thoughts:

4.5 stars.

Thank you to Aria Fiction for a digital review copy via NetGalley – my thoughts are my own.

This is my second visit to Westenbury in the past couple of months – I recently enjoyed The Village Affair.

This time we meet a family of four sisters who have lots of secrets, both past and present. Each of the sisters has to face challenges at home and/or work.

I enjoyed the story of the Sutherland sisters – the author fills the story with highs and lows, great characters and village life.

Happy to recommend this book for an uplifting read.



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#BookReview The Wheelwright’s Daughter by Eleanor Porter #Blogtour

Martha is a feisty and articulate young woman, the daughter of a wheelwright, living in a Herefordshire village in Elizabethan England. With no mother Martha’s life is spent running her father’s meagre household and helping out at the local school whilst longing to escape the confines and small-mindedness of a community driven by religious bigotry and poverty.

As she is able to read and is well-versed in herbal remedies she is suspected of being a witch. When a landslip occurs – opening up a huge chasm in the centre of the village – she is blamed for it and pursued remorselessly by the villagers.

But can her own wits and the love of local stablehand Jacob save her from a witch’s persecution and death…

A brilliant and accomplished novel that perfectly captures the febrile atmosphere of Elizabethan village life in an age when suspicion and superstition were rife.


My thoughts:


Thank you to Boldwood Books for a digital review copy of this book – my thoughts are my own. Thank you to Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to join the Blog Tour.

This is the second book I’ve read recently set in Elizabethan England – the era when the Church of England had replaced Catholicism and the majority of people were unable to read. Many were willing to ‘snitch’ on neighbours to earn extra money to feed their families.

Martha, the main character is a headstrong intelligent young woman in an era when women were expected to be quiet and to stay at home. Her mother died when she was young, followed by her grandmother. Her father was a well respected Wheelwright who has turned to drink to help him forget the loss of his wife.

Martha has to deal with the village gossips, whilst trying to find enough food and fuel to survive. As the story evolves, she has a number of encounters with the villagers, some positive and others not. She has to use her inner strength to stay alive on a number of occasions.

The level of detail in the story is excellent, you really get to understand how hard life was. The saddest thing is seeing how a young woman with some basic knowledge of herbs and nursing skills can be suspected of being a witch. An interesting read and an impressive debut novel.

The author:

Ellie grew up in Herefordshire and now lives near the Malvern Hills. She’s taught in Hong Kong, London and Birmingham and published poetry and short fiction. Her novel THE WHEELWRIGHT’S DAUGHTER grew out of walks on Marcle Ridge where a 1571 landslip is still visible and marked on the map as The Wonder. The book tells the story of a world torn by division, where new beliefs jostle with tradition, where to be different can cost you your life. It introduces Martha Dynely, who refuses to be crushed, even when the horizon crumbles and buries her.


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