The minute I saw you by Paige Toon

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on ‘the minute I saw you‘ by Paige Toon. A huge thank you to Sara-Jade of Books and The City for this gorgeous book which popped through my letterbox just before Christmas 2020.

Synopsis:

When Hannah meets Sonny, she’s irresistibly drawn to him: he’s sexy and confident, but only in town on holiday. That’s fine with Hannah – she doesn’t do long-term relationships. And luckily for her, neither does Sonny. But before they can even so much as kiss, Sonny receives some shocking news and commits to making serious life changes – ones that can’t and won’t include romance.

With even a short fling now off the cards, Hannah and Sonny settle for being friends. But as summer hots up and their chemistry shows no signs of cooling, they start to question their reasons for shutting each other out.

Are they both too broken to find love? And if they tear down the walls between them, will they still like what’s on the other side?

My thoughts:

My initial thoughts are why has it taken me so long to read one of Paige’s books. I have five sat on my Kindle at the moment. I bought them during lockdown part 1 to read on holiday later in the year. The holiday didn’t happen and so they are still waiting to be read.

I picked this book up over the Christmas holidays when our local area was plunged into Tier 4 as rates of Covid had doubled in just a week, and my anxiety levels had also risen. Now was not the time to be reading something depressing.

I partly chose this book from the to-be-read shelves because it is set in Cambridge, where I should be this month with a group of students and work colleagues. It is a beautiful part of the world and I hope to head back there again one day soon.

The story revolves around Hannah and Sonny, who are both fighting demons from their past, which have made them act differently and could stop them finding the happiness they both deserve. The story flows well, as slowly we find out more about what has happened in the past and how they can help each other with friendship to move forward.

There are so many fabulous characters in this book, including Archie and Matilda, plus the four legged best friend Bertie, who spent more time visiting pubs and people than any of us did in 2020. This book tackles both fun and serious issues but in a sensitive and skilful way, so that the reader is left feeling uplifted by the experience.

Happy to recommend this fabulous book for anyone wanting an emotional read (the gorgeous dragonflies from the cover feature in the story too). I’m looking forward to reading more from Paige in the future too.

Author Bio (from Amazon):

Paige Toon was born in 1975 and grew up between England, Australia and America, following her racing driver father around the globe. A philosophy graduate, she worked at teen, film and women’s magazines, before ending up at Heat magazine as Reviews Editor. Paige is married, has two children and lives in Cambridge.

Visit Paige’s website at paigetoon.com to sign up to her free book club, ‘The Hidden Paige’, and say hi to her on Twitter @PaigeToonAuthor and Facebook.com/PaigeToonAuthor

There are more reviews this month on my book blog for other Books and the City Books, including these:

Christmas Island by Natalie Normann

Today I’m sharing a mini review. Thank you to One More Chapter for a digital review copy on NetGalley to read and review. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

In the bleak midwinter… 
A really frosty wind is making Holly’s life absolutely miserable

After all the years of hard work it took Londoner Holly Greene to become a doctor, now it could all be taken away and she only has herself to blame. She’s retreating to her brother’s rustic home on an island off the coast of Norway to lick her wounds. Only, it’s the middle of winter and icy slush plus endless darkness isn’t exactly the cheery, festive getaway she had imagined.

Nearly stumbling off the edge of a cliff in the dark, Holly is saved by Frøy, a yellow-eyed cat of fearsome but fluffy proportions, and his owner – grouchy, bearded recluse, Tor. Tor has his own problems to face but the inexplicable desire to leave a bag of freshly baked gingerbread men on Holly’s doorstep is seriously getting in the way of his hermit routine.

Call it kindness, call it Christmas, but Holly’s arrival means midwinter has never looked less bleak.

My thoughts:

Thank you to One More Chapter for inviting me to read the book. I didn’t realise until I started the book, that this follows on from Summer Island, but the main characters are new and I was able to read this without having read Summer Island.

Holly has escaped London and travelled to Norway to rest and reflect on what happened at work. Tor has escaped Oslo and is enjoying the solitude, until he saves a weary Holly, with assistance from a cute cat. Can Holly help Tor escape his self imposed exile and can Tor help Holly learn about Norwegian food and customs?

The story is set over the Christmas period, as Holly looks forward to spending Christmas with her older brother Jack, the main character in Summer Island and features food, friendship, romance and furry four legged friends.

I enjoyed my virtual visit to Norway and must admit that I’m now tempted to visit Norway once the global pandemic is over, to try all the fabulous sweet treats. Thanks to Natalie Normann for a festive treat of a story.

Parents and Teachers by Sara Madderson

Thank you to Sara Madderson for a copy of her book so that I could prepare for the Random Things Tours blog tour organised by the lovely Anne Cater. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

At two of London’s most exclusive prep schools, there are strict rules against parents fraternising with teachers. Well, that’s the theory, in any case.

Jenna, a Year 3 teacher at St Cuthbert’s, catches the eye of the school’s highest-profile parent, a world-famous action movie star, with far-reaching consequences. Meanwhile, over at Chiltern House, Astrid is still licking her wounds after her husband left her. Her daughter’s PE teacher, Callum, may be her best chance of rediscovering her joie de vivre.

Astrid’s friend Natalia, whose life revolves around motherhood these days, finds herself questioning everything she’s taken for granted when her husband becomes embroiled in a #MeToo scandal.

Really, the only ones behaving themselves are the kids … 

  • Paperback : 294 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1916353045
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1916353046
  • Product Dimensions : 12.7 x 1.88 x 20.32 cm
  • Publisher : Madderson (19 Sept. 2020)

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Parents-Teachers-only-ones-behaving/dp/1916353045

My thoughts:

I’ve worked in schools, from nursery through to sixth form, so when I saw the synopsis for this book, I was keen to read it.

As the byline states, the children are the only ones behaving at the two exclusive prep schools. Despite being told at the beginning of the year, that the staff and parents should not have any relationships other than the traditional parent-teacher relationship, not everyone was listening.

In places this story was like a modern day version of a Jilly Cooper novel, full of passionate people and glamourous lives. However, in 2020, some of the relationships are recognised to be inappropriate with older men taking advantage of young women or trying to. Initially I thought Jenna was being naive to get involved with a married man and father of a child in her class, but afterwards thought it was more a case of a #MeToo issue, with a young woman being taken advantage of by the older rich man.

Overall, I enjoyed the fast paced, often humorous and fabulously glamorous story, and could imagine this being made into a TV drama full of very attractive people. I wonder who would play Callum, the hot PE teacher…?

Author Bio:

Sara Madderson is an author, entrepreneur, wife and mother. She was born in Ireland and moved to the UK with her family when she was ten years old. She lives in London with her husband Chris, their two children, Paddy and Tilly, and their cocker spaniel Charlie.

Before turning to writing, Sara worked in finance for a decade and then ran her own fashion brand, Madderson London, for eight years. She earned her MPhil in Early Modern History from the University of Birmingham.

Metamorphosis is Sara’s first book. Given that she spent most of her childhood writing and designing clothes, she’s now seen both of her childhood career dreams come true! She’s enjoyed the adventure of publishing independently as much as she’s enjoyed the writing process itself. She’s now completely hooked on writing!

Twitter @saramadderson

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.

Secrets in the Snow by Emma Heatherington

Thank you to Rebecca Bryant from Harper Fiction for inviting me to join the blog tour for the new book by Emma Heatherington. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift of a review copy.

I enjoyed reading and reviewing Emma’s previous book, Rewrite the Stars last year (review can be found at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2019/10/29/rewrite-the-stars-by-emma-heatherington-blog-tour-29-10-19/).

Synopsis:

As the winter snow falls on the small Irish village of Ballybray, Roisin O’Connor and her young son, Ben, are saying goodbye to their beloved neighbour Mabel Murphy.  Mabel lived a bold and colourful life, but the arrival of her brooding nephew, ‘blow-in’ Aidan Murphy, just makes life more complicated for Roisin.

However, in one final act of love, a message arrives from Mabel that changes everything.  And as winter turns to spring and the cold snow melts, the secrets both Roisin and Aidan are hiding must be revealed at last…

buy link:  http://smarturl.it/SecretsInTheSnowPBO…

My thoughts:

Thank you to Emma Heatherington for another lovely book to escape into on an autumnal day. This is one of those books I didn’t want to stop reading once I started it, and I stayed up late to enjoy finding out more about Roisin and Aidan.

Roisin and Aidan have both had to deal with tragedy and being told to what to do by other people. Mabel’s funeral is where they first see each other, unaware that Mabel will be sending them messages to try to encourage them to help each other.

Although the gorgeous cover of the book and title suggest a winter book, we actually spend a year with Roisin and Aidan. This is a year of discovery for both, to deal with issues from their pasts and to plan their futures, without Mabel.

The book has a few twists in the story, as we find out more about their past histories, and as misunderstandings occur. I loved the ending, although I had been imagining a different ending only a few pages earlier. This was a lovely book to curl up and enjoy, and I will be recommending this to fans of romantic fiction.

Author Bio:

Emma Heatherington has penned more than thirty educational short films, plays and musicals as well as eleven novels, two of which were written under the pseudonym Emma Louise Jordan.
She was ghost-writer to Irish country music legend Philomena Begley and Liverpool born Nathan Carter, whose autobiography Born for the Road was nominated for an Irish Book Award.
Emma’s novel, The Legacy of Lucy Harte, was an eBook bestseller in both the UK and US.
She lives in her native Donaghmore, Co Tyrone, with her partner Jim McKee and their children Jordyn, Jade, Dualta, Adam and Sonny James.

The Christmas Swap by Sandy Barker

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.

Synopsis

Christmas is coming and best friends ChloeJules, 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.

Purchase Links 

https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-christmas-swap

https://books.apple.com/gb/book/the-christmas-swap/id1522992097

https://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/the-christmas-swap,sandy-barker-9780008390044

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-christmas-swap/sandy-barker/9780008390044

My thoughts:

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.

Author Bio:

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.

Social Media Links – 

https://www.facebook.com/sandybarkerauthor

https://www.instagram.com/sandybarkerauthor

https://sandybarker.com/

Poppy’s Recipe For Life by Heidi Swain

Today I’m sharing my thoughts about Poppy’s Recipe for Life by Heidi Swain. Although this is book 2 in the Nightingale Square series, this was actually the third book I read, having read the new The Winer Garden book first. This was published in 2019 and has been sat on my Kindle for a few months.

Synopsis:

Things haven’t always been straightforward in Poppy’s life but her dreams are finally within her reach.

She’s moving into a cottage in beautiful Nightingale Square, close to the local community garden, where she can indulge her passion for making preserves and pickles. She may not have the best relationship with her family but she is surrounded by loving friends, and feels sure that even her grumpy new neighbour, Jacob, has more to him than his steely exterior belies.

But the unexpected arrival of Poppy’s troubled younger brother soon threatens her new-found happiness and as the garden team works together to win community space of the year, Poppy must decide where her priorities lie and what she is prepared to fight for … 

My thoughts:

Readers of The Nightingale Square series met Poppy in the first book, Sunshine and Sweet Peas in Nightingale Square, when Poppy served Kate and Luke in the shop. It was great to find out more about Poppy and the other shop keepers, and to see how life in Nightingale Square is treating the residents since Sunshine and Sweet Peas in Nightingale Square ended (my review is at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/09/25/sunshine-and-sweet-peas-in-nightingale-square-by-heidi-swain/)

Poppy has had a difficult time growing up with a non maternal mother, but has made a life for herself with good friends. Moving into Nightingale Square makes life even better, despite Mr Grumpy living next door.

I enjoyed how the new characters evolved and mixed with the original members of Nightingale Square. This book is set a few months later than book one, so there are some new additions to the Square as well as Poppy.

There is also a bookshop in need of refurbishment, with a dog in need of a new friend – this storyline alone was worth 5 stars. Poppy endures a number of challenges she wasn’t expecting including looking after her younger brother and helping friends, with a number of setbacks sent to try her.

This is a lovely feel good book, full of hope, a sprinkling of romance and an abundance of community spirit. I enjoyed the first book, Sunshine and Sweet Peas in Nightingale Square, but I think I enjoyed this one even more. A 5 star read for me.

Tomorrow I will be sharing my review for the latest book in the series – The Winter Garden.

How It All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi

Thank you to Readers First and Hot Key books for a copy of this new Young Adult book by a new author to me. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. The book is published in the UK today.

Synopsis:

Eighteen-year-old Amir Azadi always knew that coming out to his Muslim family would be messy, but he wasn’t expecting it to end in an airport interrogation room. Now, he’s telling his side of the story to the stern-faced officer.

Amir has to explain why he ran away to Rome (boys, bullies, blackmail) and what he was doing there for a month (dates in the Sistine Chapel, friends who helped him accept who he is, and, of course, drama) . . . all while his mum, dad and little sister are being interrogated in the room next door.

A nuanced take on growing up brown, Muslim and gay in today’s America, HOW IT ALL BLEW UP is the story of one boy’s struggle to come out to his family, and how that painful process exists right alongside his silly, sexy romp through Italy.

My thoughts:

I must admit that I enjoyed this book more than I expected after reading some very mixed reviews on Goodreads – this book appears to have created some strong feelings amongst the readers.

The author states at the end of the book that the story behind the story was personal to him. The story flows well, as we discover what happened to Amir after he fled the USA to get away from a teenage blackmailer who had threatened to tell Amir’s family at the school graduation ceremony that Amir was gay.

Amir has a summer of self discovery in Rome whilst his family try to track him down. An interesting read – although personally I didn’t enjoy reading the ‘nipple story’.

I will be passing on my copy to the teenagers I work with and will be interested to hear their thoughts.

All About Us by Tom Ellen

Today I’m pleased to be starting a new month by sharing my review for this gorgeous new book by Tom Ellen, published recently in ebook format. It will be published in paperback on October 15th in the UK by HQ, who kindly sent me a digital proof copy via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Synopsis:

If you could turn back the clock, would you choose a different life?

Ben usually loves the month of December, but this year, with his relationship with Daphne on the rocks, it’s missing its usual magic. And then his old friend Alice gets back in touch. Ben’s always thought of Alice as the one that got away, and he can’t help but wonder: what if he’d done things differently all those years ago?

He never imagines he might get to find out… but when a stranger sells Ben a mysterious watch one freezing winter’s night, he’s astonished to wake up the next morning on 5th December 2005: the day he first kissed Daphne, leaving Alice behind.

Now Ben must make the biggest decision of his life, all over again. But this time around, will he finally find the courage to follow his heart?

Two loves. Two lives. One destiny…

My thoughts:

I loved this romance/time travel story and I’m gutted that I had left it on my NetGalley shelf for so long (NetGalley had it down as an October 2020 publication date).

As the synopsis states, Ben is wondering what would have happened if he hadn’t got involved with his wife Daphne and had romantically pursued his University Halls neighbour, Alice. This book mixes up Sliding Doors, Doctor Who and A Christmas Carol to provide the reader with a great story, so many ‘what if’ moments and a dose of magic.

I started this book one evening and found myself unwilling to put it down, despite the long list of jobs on my to do list. This is one of a small handful of books I’ve read this year that has been written with a male main character and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I also enjoyed the fact that Ben talks about having a lots of ‘mardy’ books on his bookshelf (to try to appear cool). As a Sheffield born lass now living in Wiltshire, when you tell someone they need to stop being mardy, they don’t understand you.

A great story with believable characters, where Ben gets chance to visit certain key dates in his life and starts to realise what is important to him. I have seen lots of great reviews for this book, and I’m happy to add my own 5 star rating – definitely one of my favourite books of 2020. I look forward to reading more books by Tom Ellen in the future.

Tom Ellen:

Tom is an author and journalist from London, England. He is the co-writer of three critically acclaimed Young Adult novels: LOBSTERS (which was shortlisted for The Bookseller’s inaugural YA Book Prize), NEVER EVERS and FRESHERS. His solo adult debut novel is the romantic comedy ALL ABOUT US (HQ/HarperCollins, published October 2020). His books have been widely translated and are published in 20 countries. He is a regular contributor to Viz magazine, and has also written for Cosmopolitan, Empire, Evening Standard Magazine, The Daily Mash, Glamour, NME, ESPN, ShortList, Time Out London, Vice, Stylist and many more.

The Back Up Plan by Elsie McArthur


Thank you to Elsie McArthur for a copy of her debut novel – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. This is a 4.5 star read for me.

Synopsis:

That’s the question for thirty-something Marsaili McKenzie. Ten years after fleeing her tiny coastal village for dreams of fame and fortune in the big city, she finds herself on the brink of an existential crisis. Far from being the star actress she once imagined, she’s still working as a barmaid in a Glasgow theatre while all around her, her friends and family are getting engaged, pregnant or promoted. 

It’s all she can do to keep her head above water. But as a new year approaches, she resolves to give her acting dreams one last shot. That is, until a couple of unexpected distractions arrive on the scene. 

Will Hunter is undeniably handsome, as well as being aloof, socially awkward, posh and in the middle of a nasty divorce. And to make things even more complicated, he’s also her new boss. 

Local boy made good, soap star Euan Campbell, is the epitome of a charismatic leading man. His easy-going charm soon sweeps Marsaili off her feet, but is there more to him than meets the eye? 

To top it all off, Marsaili finds herself inexplicably drawn back to the simple, rural life she used to loathe. Can she finally figure out which dreams are worth pursuing, and would it really be so bad to resort to her back up career after all? 

Join Marsaili as she navigates the choppy seas of love, family, friendship and self-discovery. This heart-warming novel is full of romance, laughter and more than enough drama to keep you on the edge of your seat!

My thoughts:


Firstly, I need to mention the stunning cover which fits the story perfectly (although I may be biased because my daughter is a redhead too). As someone who lives in landlocked Wiltshire in the middle of the global pandemic, a glimpse of the sea was much appreciated.

Marsaili (rhymes with parsley) grew up in rural Scotland with a loving family but is living and working in Glasgow looking for a dream acting role. This book follows how her life starts to change after meeting her baby niece for the first time. There are some great comic moments, some romantic opportunities and plenty of drama, not just on the stage of the theatre.

I enjoyed the writing style of the story, full of detail to transport the reader to the theatre, a train, a wedding or a restaurant. The characters quickly became real and the story flowed over the pages. I was able to read the book over a quiet day at the weekend.

I love how Marsaili enjoys helping at her friend Isla’s Primary School – nice to see a positive story about helping/working in a school.

If you enjoy reading books about family, friendship and romance, and would like a virtual visit to Scotland, then please read a copy of the Back Up Plan. I’m looking forward to reading Elsie’s next book, which is released later this year.

Elsie McArthur:

Elsie McArthur is an independent author of women’s fiction. After studying law at university, and then re-training as a primary school teacher, she now lives in the Highlands of Scotland with her husband, two kids, a couple of badly behaved dogs and a cat with a superiority complex. As well as continuing to work part time as a teacher, she is now indulging in her first love of writing. Her first book, ‘The Back Up Plan’, was released in January 2020. Her second novel, ‘Love, on the Rocks’ – a tale of love, loss and starting over set on the remote Scottish island of Inniscreag – is due for release in Summer 2020.

View all my reviews