The 24-Hour Café by Libby Page

The 24-Hour Café by Libby Page

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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.

Synopsis:

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…

My thoughts:


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.

The author:

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. 



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The Country Village Christmas Show by Cathy Lake

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.

Synopsis:

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.

My thoughts:

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.

Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Cafe by Jessica Redland


Thank you to Boldwood Books for the digital review copy via NetGalley – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. This book is being published today in ebook format.

Synopsis:

A few minutes of courage might change your life… 

Emotionally, Tara Porter finds the festive period a challenge. Christmas Day is a reminder of the family she lost, and New Year’s Eve holds bitter memories of the biggest mistake of her life: marrying Garth Tewkesbury. Shunning invitations to celebrate, she seeks refuge in her flat with only her giant house bunny, Hercules, for company. 

Professionally, though, it’s the best time of year. Tara’s thriving café, The Chocolate Pot, is always packed. With the café hosting a wedding and engagement party, it’s shaping up to be the café’s best Christmas ever. 

When former nemesis, Jed Ferguson, threatens the future of The Chocolate Pot, Tara prepares for a fight. The café is everything to her and she’s not going to let anyone or anything jeopardise that. 

Tara badly misjudged ex-husband Garth and, since then, has refused to let anyone in. After all, if you don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you. But has she misjudged Jed too? Is it possible that he’s not the arrogant, deceitful man from whom she bought the café 14 years earlier? Can she find the courage to find out for sure?

My thoughts:

This is the first book I’ve read by Jessica Redland and I thoroughly enjoyed it. However I did find myself craving for a hot chocolate and some freshly baked chocolate brownies in the middle of the August 2020 UK heatwave.

Great characters, a wonderful setting (I wanted to move into the cafe), a large house rabbit called Hercules and a young woman called Tara who needs to take some steps forward to start living her life again.

I’m happy to recommend this uplifting book – full of new beginnings, romance and cake.






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The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

I’m thrilled to share my full review for this impressive debut novel today. Thank you to Viking Books and Penguin Books UK for a digital review copy via NetGalley – my views are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved killings.

But when a local property developer shows up dead, ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

The four friends, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron, might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My thoughts:

I must admit that this was even better than I expected – sometimes when a book receives lots of hype, it can leave you disappointed. But this one deserves the hype.

As someone who enjoys amateur detective stories (I started with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys as a teenager), this was an enjoyable read. Great characters, most of them over 70, and so many topical British comments including Pizza Express for an alibi! A book full of secrets and more than one murder.

The story flowed well, a few red herrings, and lots of different stories inside one book. Personally I’m hoping for a sequel so we can meet the Thursday Murder Club again.

Author Bio:

Richard Osman is an author, producer and television presenter. The Thursday Murder Club is his first novel. He is well known for TV shows including Pointless and Richard Osman’s House of Games. As the creative director of Endemol UK, Richard has worked as an executive producer on numerous shows including Deal Or No Deal and 8 Out of 10 Cats. He is also a regular on panel and game shows such as Have I Got News For You, Would I Lie To You and Taskmaster.

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We are Family by Nicola Gill

I’m pleased to share my review for the new book by Nicola Gill on my blog today. I reviewed her debut novel The Neighbours earlier this year. Thanks to Avon Books UK for a digital review copy via NetGalley – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. This book is being published on the 3rd of September 2020 in ebook and paperback.

Synopsis:

Laura has a laid back attitude to life. Her home isn’t spotless, and after a hard day she likes to take to bed with a block of cheese.

Jess, on the other hand, is your classic overachiever: The Big Sister, Chief of Chivvying, Queen of the family WhatsApp. Her life is picture-perfect.

Laura and Jess lost their dad when they were kids, and now their mum is gone too. And one of the hardest times in life is made harder by the fact they can’t agree on a single thing, from where to scatter the ashes to whether “passed away” is even an acceptable term.

But when Laura starts pushing her own boundaries and Jess agrees to let other people in to her (not so) perfect life, the two women realize they need each other more than ever. They might not be ready to admit it, but family is everything…

A funny, tender and thoroughly entertaining read for anyone who loves Marian Keyes, Ruth Jones, and Fleabag.

My thoughts:

The story starts with the death of the mum of Laura and Jess. Laura is a kind person, eager to help, but is being let down by friends, work and her partner. Her sister Jess appears to have a perfect life – rich husband, immaculate house and well behaved children.

The story follows Laura and Jess as they try to deal with the death of their mum, 25 years after the sudden death of their dad and to build a new sibling relationship.

I really enjoyed this book, it dealt with some difficult topics, but included humour too, especially in relation to the children of Laura and Jess. Both Laura and Jess need to make changes in their lives and to move forward, instead of letting the past spoil their relationship.

An enjoyable read during the global pandemic of 2020.



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Queen Bee by Jane Fallon


I’m pleased to share my review of the latest book by Jane Fallon today. Thank you to Penguin UK -Michael Joseph for a digital review copy via NetGalley, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. The book was published in the UK on 9th July 2020.

Synopsis:

Welcome to The Close – a beautiful street of mansions, where gorgeous Stella is the indisputable Queen Bee . . .

It is here that Laura, seeking peace and privacy after her marriage falls apart, rents a tiny studio. Unfortunately, her arrival upsets suspicious Stella – who fears Laura has designs on her fiancé, Al.

When Laura stumbles on the big secret Al is hiding, suddenly Stella’s perfectly controlled world, not to mention Laura’s future, are threatened.

Taking a chance on beating Al at his own twisted game, these two former strangers are fast becoming best friends.

But has Laura forgotten that revenge never comes without a sting in the tail?

My thoughts:


I’ve read a few Jane Fallon novels over the years and enjoyed them, so I was pleased to receive a digital review copy back in January 2020. As lockdown hit the UK in March, the publication date was moved to July 2020 and I only read the book in June. Sadly, this was my loss as this is an enjoyable book.

This is a no spoiler review so I will be careful not to spoil any of the surprises in store for the characters. Laura has moved into The Close, a ‘posh’ area after splitting up with her husband and needing somewhere to rent – she is in the ‘servants flat’ owned by Gail and Ben. Laura is an entrepreneur – running her own cleaning company and employing a number of staff. The people she meets in The Close lead very different lifestyles and probably wouldn’t know what a vacuum cleaner was.

One of the residents is Stella, who with her two mini me daughters, aren’t nice to Laura and her daughter. However due to a series of events, Laura and Stella suddenly find that they have more in common than they ever expected.

I really enjoyed the book and likened it to a modern day Downton Abbey – where the ‘rich’ people have no idea how the majority of people live – everything is done for them. I laughed out loud at the ‘pizza in the oven’ story.

The Close is full of secrets and I enjoyed how Jane Fallon shared them one by one, changing your opinion about some of the characters as the story unfolded. There is so much more that I would love to share about the book but I don’t want to give any spoilers. I recommend this for your staycation 2020 summer read.

Jane Fallon:

Jane Fallon is an English producer and novelist, most famous for her work on popular series Teachers, 20 Things To Do Before You’re 30, Eastenders and This Life. She has also written many successful novels.

Fallon has been in a relationship with popular comedian Ricky Gervais since 1982, after they met while studying together at the University College London. The couple has lived together since 1984 and are based in North London.


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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



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The Ringmaster’s Daughter by Carly Schabowski

I’m thrilled to be sharing my review for the Ringmaster’s Daughter by Carly Schabowski on my book review blog today – this thought provoking book is now one of my favourite book of 2020. Thank you to Bookouture for a digital review copy via NetGalley and for inviting me to join the blog tour. My thoughts about the book are my own and not influenced by the free copy (or by the author’s dogs – we also have a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel)

Synopsis:

Circus people don’t ask who you were before, or what god you believe in… when you join the circus, you are family, whatever your past.

Paris, 1940. Twenty-year-old Michel Bonnet lives on the edge of the law, finding work where he can breaking in horses on the outskirts of the city. But when the Nazis invade, Michel takes refuge as a stowaway on a rickety train bound for the rural south. It’s a journey that will change his life forever.

The train is property of Le Cirque Neumann – a travelling circus owned by the troubled and irritable showman Werner Neumann. Neumann offers Michel a job caring for the company’s horses – a lucky break, but with an unusual condition attached. Michel must keep to himself and never speak of what he sees behind the glittering curtain of the big top.

But as Michel finds himself pulled into the strange and wondrous world of the great spectacular it becomes more difficult to keep his promise. Why does the man with the performing monkey never speak, and the sword swallower turn his face away? Who are the silent, shadowy figures who flit like moths between the wagons when the sun is down? It’s clear that Neumann is keeping his performers hidden away… but why?

And how can Michel win the love of the beautiful and exotic trapeze artist Freida – the graceful, green-eyed star of Neuman’s spectacular – when he’s been forbidden to even meet her gaze?

A heartbreaking and uplifting wartime novel– perfect for fans of Water for ElephantsThe Nightingale and The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

My thoughts:

In May 2020, during the early days of furlough, I saw this book listed on NetGalley. Both the cover image and the synopsis appealed – I enjoy ‘modern’ historical fiction having studied the twentieth century during my O level course.

The book starts in Paris, just as the Germans are marching in, in the summer of 1940 and the British are heading home via Dunkirk. Carly Schabowski sets the scene of a city in turmoil, with neighbours running away and bomb damage being repaired. We are introduced to Michel, a shy young man, who is the main character. It was only after reading the book, that I realised that this is one of very few books I’ve read recently where the main character is male and is the first male historical fiction main character (the other books were of crime or thriller genres).

Michel escapes Paris (with help from his neighbour Betrand), and ends up travelling with the Le Cirque Neumann, looking after their horses. As the synopsis states, Werner, the Ringmaster keeps his performers away from Michel. The book follows Michel as he slowly becomes trusted by Werner and we discover the history of the various performers.

This wasn’t a book about a circus for me, but a book about how dangerous it was to be living in France in 1940 if you were Jewish, Catholic, disabled, gay or had a rare genetic condition. The circus performers all had reasons to hide and heartbreaking stories to share – including the one who made himself mute so that he couldn’t tell anyone where his family had fled to.

I was entranced by the story telling and could see this book as a movie. The detailed descriptions brought the locations and the show in the Big Top to life. I realised how much I had been encouraged to care for the characters when we reached the end of the book and I was holding my breath to find out what happened next. There are many friendships and romances to discover amongst the heartbreak and betrayals.

This is a beautifully written historical fiction book, dealing with some difficult topics and sadly even in our modern times, some of the same intolerances still exist. As I said earlier in my review, this is one of my favourite books of 2020 and I will be busy recommending it.

Carly Schabowski

Carly Schabowski worked as a journalist in both North Cyprus and Australia before returning to Oxford, where she studied for an MA and then a PhD in creative writing at Oxford Brookes University. Carly now teaches at Oxford Brookes University as an associate lecturer in Creative Writing for first and second-year English literature students. 
Twitter:  @carlyschab11

Buy Links:
Amazon: https://bit.ly/3eMifEf

Apple: https://apple.co/34mzW9h

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2RmjnoF

Google: https://bit.ly/38oTs77

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.



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Summer in Provence by Lucy Coleman

Today I’m sharing my review for this gorgeous book again – having read and reviewed this at the start of Lockdown in the UK. Thank you to Boldwood Books for my digital review copy – my thoughts are my own.

Synopsis:

Is a change as good as a rest?

When married couple Fern and Aiden have a windfall, their reactions could not be more different. While Fern is content to pay off their mortgage and build a nest egg before starting a family, her husband is set on traveling the world. 

Fern’s not much of a back-packer so, before she knows it, the idea of a ‘marriage gap year’ takes shape. And, as Aiden heads off to the wilds of Australia, Fern chooses the more restful Provence for her year out. 

Set amidst the glorious French scenery, Château de Vernon offers a retreat from the hustle and bustle of normal life, and Fern agrees to help out in return for painting lessons from the owner – renowned, but rather troubled, painter Nico.

As their year unfolds in very different ways, will the time apart transform their marriage, or will it drive Fern and Aiden even further apart…

My thoughts:

Before we go any further, the cover design of this book is stunning and fits the story perfectly.

This was an intriguing story – so often books begin with the end of a relationship but this time, the main characters, Fern and Aiden, were ‘on a break’ after a lottery win – but as with Ross and Rachel in the TV Show ‘Friends’ – would they have different opinions about what this meant for their relationship?

Aiden heads across the world, eager to try new experiences. Fern stays nearer to home, heading to the Haven in Provence. Both meet new people and develop new skills but how will this change the dynamics of their relationship?

Without giving any spoilers, I enjoyed how the story evolved, as Fern rediscovered her passion for painting and helping others. The Haven came to life, as did Provence – we may not be able to travel to Provence in person at the moment but I have now added this to my list of places to visit in the future.

I enjoyed this book and I recommend it as a feel-good read.

Lucy Coleman:

From interior designer to author, Linn B. Halton – who also writes under the pen name of Lucy Coleman – says ‘it’s been a fantastic journey!’

Linn is the bestselling author of eighteen novels and counting – including A Spring to Remember, Summer on the Italian Lakes, Snowflakes over Holly Cove, The French Adventure and A Cottage in the Country. She is represented by Sara Keane of the Keane Kataria Literary Agency.

When she’s not writing, or spending time with the family, she’s either upcycling furniture or working in the garden.

Linn won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award; her novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards.

Living in Coed Duon in the Welsh Valleys with her ‘rock’, Lawrence, and gorgeous Bengal cat Ziggy, she freely admits she’s an eternal romantic.

Linn is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors. Linn writes feel-good, uplifting novels about life, love and relationships.

Visit Linn & Lucy’s websites at: 
https://linnbhalton.com/ and https://lucycolemanromance.com

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