I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day by Milly Johnson

Thank you to Team Books and the City for a copy of this book. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

It’s nearly Christmas and it’s snowing, hard. Deep in the Yorkshire Moors nestles a tiny hamlet, with a pub at its heart. As the snow falls, the inn will become an unexpected haven for six people forced to seek shelter there…

Mary has been trying to get her boss Jack to notice her for four years, but he can only see the efficient PA she is at work. Will being holed up with him finally give her the chance she has been waiting for?

Bridge and Luke were meeting for five minutes to set their divorce in motion. But will getting trapped with each other reignite too many fond memories – and love?

Charlie and Robin were on their way to a luxury hotel in Scotland for a very special Christmas. But will the inn give them everything they were hoping to find – and much more besides?

A story of knowing when to hold on and when to let go, of pushing limits and acceptance, of friendship, love, laughter, mince pies and the magic of Christmas. 

Gorgeous, warm and full of heartfelt emotion, I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day is the perfect read this winter!

My thoughts:

As readers of my book blog may be aware, I was born and bred in Yorkshire but currently live in Wiltshire. I first discovered Milly’s books a few years ago and have been reading them ever since, both because I love the stories and because they remind me of home. My last review for One True North can be read at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/06/19/my-one-true-north-by-milly-johnson/

So when I received a copy of Milly’s latest book during UK Lockdown number 2, I curled up on the sofa with our adopted dogs, a blanket, a hot chocolate and headed to virtual Yorkshire.

This book has more main male characters than I remember in other books by Milly, all of whom came to life along with Bridge and Mary. I loved how all six of the main characters developed and evolved as the enforced Christmas snow in, birthday celebrations and mulled drinks allowed them to relax and enjoy each others company. As a woman of a certain age (in her 40’s), so many of the references to food, music, board games were relevant to my childhood and reminded me of childhood family Christmas school holidays.

I would struggle to pick a favourite character from the Figgy Hollow Six, all of them were at a crossroads in their lives, and spending a few days together helped them make some decisions. As is usually the case with Milly’s books, I giggled in various places but also had moist eyes – Milly provides a book full of emotion and warmth, magic and mystery.

This is a no spoiler review, so I’m not going to tell you any more about the story, just that you need to buy it and I hope you will enjoy reading it too. When I looked on Amazon today, there are 262 reviews already with an average rating on 4.8/5, so I’m not the only person giving this a five star rating. There are also plenty of lovely book shops selling it, you don’t have to go to Amazon. I’m off to order some cherry grenades, mince pies and mulled wine. Thanks Milly for another fabulous book and a reminder of Yorkshire.

Author Bio: (from Amazon.co.uk)

Milly Johnson was born, raised and still lives in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. She is the author of 17 published novels, 4 short story ebooks, a book of poetry and a Quick Reads Novella (‘The Little Dreams of Lara Cliffe’) and was an erstwhile leading copywriter for the greetings card industry. She is also a poem and joke-writer, a newspaper columnist and a seasoned after dinner speaker.

She won the RoNA for Best Romantic Comedy Novel of 2014 and 2016, the Yorkshire Society award for Arts and Culture 2015 and the Romantic Novelist Association Outstanding Achievement award in 2020. See her popular acceptance speech here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxzeFTvHXDo&fbclid=IwAR27aZML4er_dZLgD2e-URQdBoOK3L9hM8mauFpn3aFvAws7y3VVtXsYTvI

She writes about love, life, friendships and the importance of community spirit. Her books champion women, their strength and resilience and celebrate her beloved Yorkshire.

Her latest book – My One True North tackles the subject of moving on after grief with a light and joyous touch. The Daily Trumpet makes a large appearance and previous novels ‘The Teashop on the Corner’ and ‘Here Come the Girls’ are referenced.

Milly’s website is http://www.millyjohnson.co.uk. She is on Twitter as @millyjohnson, Instagram as @themillyjohnson and has a Facebook page @MillyJohnsonAuthor. She also has a monthly newsletter http://www.millyjohnson.co.uk/newsletter with exclusive, news, offers and competitions.

When I Come Home Again by Caroline Scott

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for a copy of this book to prepare for the Random Things Tours blog tour. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. This is the first book I’ve read by Caroline Scott but I have bought a copy of her debut novel, The Photographer of the Lost, from Bert’s Books ready to read later this year.

Synopsis:

They need him to remember. He wants to forget.

1918. In the last week of the First World War, a uniformed soldier is arrested in Durham Cathedral. When questioned, it becomes clear he has no memory of who he is or how he came to be there.

The soldier is given the name Adam and transferred to a rehabilitation home where his doctor James is determined to recover who this man once was. But Adam doesn’t want to remember. Unwilling to relive the trauma of war, Adam has locked his memory away, seemingly for good.

When a newspaper publishes a feature about Adam, three women come forward, each claiming that he is someone she lost in the war. But does he believe any of these women? Or is there another family out there waiting for him to come home?

Based on true events, When I Come Home Again is a deeply moving and powerful story of a nation’s outpouring of grief, and the search for hope in the aftermath of war.

My thoughts:

Having read the opening chapters during the summer of 2020, I was keen to continue reading this book to find out more about Adam. I felt as if I had rushed through the opening chapters on my Kindle and enjoyed taking my time to read them again in the printed book. Caroline’s style of writing brings each person and place alive.

I’m a mother, a sister and a wife, and I think that may have made this story more heartbreaking. The three women who come forward to ‘claim’ Adam are seeking their son (who was their sole reason for living from being young), their husband (who left on a sour note believing village gossip) and their brother (who they need to help bring up his children after his wife died in childbirth). All have been told by the government that their man is missing in action, all believe that he has not died and all believe that Adam is him. As we discover there are various reasons why Adam may not be one of them, from being too tall or having the wrong hair colour. How has their grief affected their ability to make an honest claim?

Alongside the story of Adam, we have the story of James, who is there to help Adam discover his identity. However James was in France during the War and finds that working with veterans is causing his own memories and nightmares to worsen. His wife’s twin brother was seriously injured during a battle and hasn’t been seen since, and James feels guilty that Nathaniel was only there because of him.

In November 1918, many families rejoiced to have their loved ones return home. However many of those loved ones were changed for ever, their physical and/mental health altered in ways that weren’t understood. This book looks at the aftermath of the war, the hopes and dreams of those who fought and those left behind. This is one of those books that will stay in my mind for a long time, beautiful but also heartbreaking. Personally I think that this book should be on school English Literature/History lists for the older students to see why there are no winners in the aftermath of a war.

Author Bio:

Caroline completed a PhD in History at the University of Durham. She developed a particular interest in the impact of the First World War on the landscape of Belgium and France, and in the experience of women during the conflict – fascinations that she was able to pursue while she spent several years working as a researcher for a Belgian company. Caroline is originally from Lancashire, but now lives in southwest France. The Photographer of the Lost was a BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick.

Further praise for The Photographer Of The Lost

‘This excellent debut is a melancholic reminder of the rippling after-effects of war’ – The Times

‘There’s only one word for this novel… and that’s epic… A beautifully written must-read’ – heat

‘A gripping, devastating novel about the lost and the ones they left behind’ – Sarra Manning, RED

‘[A] terrific first novel’ Daily Mail


‘Scott has done an amazing job of drawing on real stories to craft a powerful novel’ – Good Housekeeping


‘A poignant hymn to those who gave up their lives for their country and to those who were left behind’ – Fanny Blake


‘I was utterly captivated by this novel, which swept me away, broke my heart, then shone wonderful light through all the pieces’ – Isabelle Broom

@CScottBooks #WhenIComeHomeAgain

The Winter Garden by Heidi Swain



I’m pleased to share my review for the latest book by Heidi Swain on my book review blog today. Thank you to the publisher for a digital review copy, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. I’m not sure why it took me so long, but I only discovered Heidi Swain’s books earlier this year (when I read and enjoyed The Secret Seaside Escape – see my review at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/04/10/the-secret-seaside-escape-by-heidi-swain/ ). Therefore I hadn’t read the first two books in the Nightingale Square Series when I read this book (but have since and shared my reviews over the past few days). However I was still able to read and enjoy this book, so please don’t be put off by the fact there is a series of stories set in the area. This book is being published in the UK on 1st October 2020.

Synopsis:

Freya Fuller is estranged from her parents and has been following her childhood dream of becoming a gardener ever since. When an opportunity to design a winter garden opens up at a Victorian property in Nightingale Square, Freya jumps at the chance to make a fresh start. But while the majority of the residents are welcoming, local artist Finn seems determined to shut her out, and when Freya’s family make a surprise appearance, it seems that her new life is about to come crashing down . . .

The Winter Garden  is the perfect read this Christmas, promising snowfall, warm fires and breath-taking seasonal romance. Perfect for fans of Carole Matthews, Cathy Bramley and Sarah Morgan.

My thoughts:

Heidi Swain has created a great cast of characters, the majority of whom are lovely and then there is Jackson. Green fingered Freya leaves her home of three years behind, after Jackson inherits the property from his aunt Eloise, and she heads to Nightingale Square to help Luke Lonsdale establish The Winter Garden. She meets a fabulous community of people and the new local sculptor, Finn – who in my head, looked like Thor / Chris Hemsworth.

This book includes romance, friendship, new beginnings, festive fun and a gorgeous dog called Nell. We also have a trip back to Wynbridge (featured in the Secret Seaside Escape). Heidi Swain also mentions how gardening is good for our mental health (especially with all the anxiety about the global pandemic) and refers to books by Emma Mitchell (The Wild Remedy is a lovely book).

I needed an uplifting book to cheer me up and this was the perfect choice. A fabulous festive five star read for Christmas 2020 – a virtual hug in a book. So grab a copy of the book, a soft blanket and a mug of hot chocolate for a relaxing escape from the real world.



View all my reviews

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.

Sunshine and Sweet Peas in Nightingale Square by Heidi Swain

Today I’m sharing a mini review for the first in the series of the Nightingale Square books by Heidi Swain. Having read and enjoyed a proof copy of the third book in the series (The Winter Garden), I was thrilled to find the first two books on my Kindle (bought over the past couple of years but not read).

Synopsis:

Kate is on the run from her almost-divorced husband who is determined to have her back, and she has found the perfect place to hide… a little cottage on Nightingale Square in Norwich, far away from her old life in London. But the residents of Nightingale Square don’t take no for an answer, and Kate soon finds herself pulled into a friendship with Lisa, her bossy but lovely new neighbour.

Within a matter of days Kate is landed with the job of campaigning the council to turn the green into a community garden, meanwhile all the residents of Nightingale Square are horrified to discover that the Victorian mansion house on the other side of the square has been bought by developers. But when all hope is lost, the arrival of a handsome stranger is sure to turn things around! 

My thoughts:

I’m pleased to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my return visit to Nightingale Square. This book introduces the reader to a special part of Norfolk with a lovely community.

Because I had read book three before book one, I knew how some of the romances were going to progress in this story, but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment. This was a book to relax with, to enjoy the community events, the new friendships and the occasional misunderstandings. Heidi Swain has brought the characters to life and I would love to move there.

If you haven’t visited Nightingale Square with Heidi Swain, then I recommend you do.

Guest post by Laura Bambrey – author of The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness

I’m thrilled to share a guest post by Laura Bambrey on my book review blog today. Yesterday Simon and Schuster UK published Laura’s debut novel in ebook.

Today I’m pleased to welcome Laura to speak more about the main theme of her debut novel.

Hi Karen!

Thank you so much for having me on your wonderful blog and helping me to celebrate the publication of The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness

I wanted to talk a little bit about why I chose loneliness as the main theme of my debut. In reality it was Tori, my main character, who decided on it. She’s been pottering around in my head a lot longer than her story has. I’ve tried to get to know her several times, placing her in different situations and scenarios, with no luck. But then, at the beginning of 2019 when I finally committed to finding out her story, I realised where I’d been going wrong. I’d been busy trying to figure her out in relation to other people- but – other than three online-only friends – she had no one else in her life. And there it was – I had my theme.

I had to research loneliness and how it can affect you in order to understand Tori and tell her story. The first thing I did was to look back at my own experiences. I come from a loving family, I’m blessed with a wonderful partner and have lots of people – online and in real life – that I can turn to. But there have been those moments where I’ve felt truly lonely. Even saying that now, I can feel the shudder- the desire to delete that sentence. There is still so much stigma attached to admitting that you are, or have been, lonely.

– Sitting up at 2am, watching over my mum while nursing her during her last weeks. 

– A lunchtime walk at work while everyone else ate together. 

– Having a question and realising that the one person in my life who could answer it was gone. 

Of course, the entirety of this story was written before the pandemic burst into our lives. Sadly, loneliness has become even more prevalent – something we’ve all faced to some extent over the past four months. And still, it’s not talked about enough. I mean, did you know that there are 4 types of loneliness? Social, Emotional, Situational and Chronic. There’s so much to learn – so much we should be talking about!

It’s my hope that The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness will not only be an enjoyable, light look at some darker and more difficult issues like loneliness, loss, anxiety and phobias, but that it might also provide a bit of a conversation starter about them too.

Before I sign off I’d like to give mind.org.uk a shout out for their wonderful online resources. If you find yourself struggling or want to learn more, they’re a great place to start.

Thank you Laura for sharing this with us. I enjoyed reading your book and shared my review last month on this blog at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/07/02/the-beginners-guide-to-loneliness-by-laura-bambrey/

To purchase a copy of Laura’s book, visit:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beginners-Guide-Loneliness-Laura-Bambrey-ebook/dp/B087QPN2S5

US: https://www.amazon.com/Beginners-Guide-Loneliness-Laura-Bambrey-ebook/dp/B087QPN2S5

Synopsis of the book:

The perfect feel-good read from an exciting new voice in women’s fiction, for fans of Heidi Swain, Cathy Bramley and Jenny Colgan.

Tori Williamson is alone. After a tragic event left her isolated from her loved ones, she’s been struggling to find her way back to, well – herself. That’s why she set up her blog, The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness, as a way of – anonymously – connecting with the outside world and reaching others who just need a little help sometimes.

When she’s offered a free spot on a wellbeing retreat in exchange for a review on her blog, Tori is anxious about opening herself up to new surroundings. But after her three closest friends – who she talks to online but has never actually met – convince her it’ll do her some good, she reluctantly agrees and heads off for three weeks in the wild (well, a farm in Wales).

From the moment she arrives, Tori is sceptical and quickly finds herself drawn to fellow sceptic Than, the retreat’s dark and mysterious latecomer. But as the beauty of The Farm slowly comes to light she realizes that opening herself up might not be the worst thing. And sharing a yurt with fellow retreater Bay definitely isn’t.  Will the retreat be able to fix Tori? Or will she finally learn that being lonely doesn’t mean she’s broken . . .

Welcome to The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness! Where you can learn to move mountains by picking up the smallest of stones…

For more information about Laura Bambrey:

Laura Bambrey was born in Dorset but raised in Wales. She’s worked as a trapeze choreographer, sculpture conservator and stilt walker, amongst others, and spent most of her time collecting stories from the people she met along the way. 

She has spent many years as a book blogger and reviewer of women’s fiction and now lives in Devon with her very own romantic hero and a ridiculously fluffy rabbit named Mop. The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness is her début novel.

You can follow her on 

Twitter:             https://twitter.com/LauraBambrey

Facebook:        https://www.facebook.com/LauraBambreyBooks/

Instagram:       https://www.instagram.com/laura_bambrey_books/

Blog:               laurabambreybooks.blogspot.com

Here and Now by Santa Montefiore

I’m pleased to share my review for the latest book by Santa Montefiore on my book blog today. Thank you to Simon and Schuster for a digital review copy – my thoughts are my own and and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

Marigold has spent her life taking care of those around her, juggling family life with the running of the local shop, and being an all-round leader in her quiet yet welcoming community. When she finds herself forgetting things, everyone quickly puts it down to her age. But something about Marigold isn’t quite right, and it’s becoming harder for people to ignore.

As Marigold’s condition worsens, for the first time in their lives her family must find ways to care for the woman who has always cared for them. Desperate to show their support, the local community come together to celebrate Marigold, and to show her that losing your memories doesn’t matter, when there are people who will remember them for you . . .

Evocative, emotional and full of life, Here and Now is the most moving book you’ll read this year – from Sunday Times bestselling author Santa Montefiore.

My thoughts:

Occasionally I become so involved in an emotional story that I find myself crying. The last book to do that was The Sight of You by Holly Miller (reviewed at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/06/08/the-sight-of-you-by-holly-miller/ ) until I read the last few pages of Here and Now and found myself properly crying – this was not just moist eyes, but proper tears. So my first suggestion is when you buy the book (because you should), is to stock up on tissues too.

This is the first book I’ve read by Santa Montefiore and before you ask, I’m not sure why either. I requested the review copy via NetGalley back in March as the UK headed into lockdown and Simon and Schuster kindly approved it.

Marigold is a wonderful character, much loved by her family and neighbours and community. The way the story is written to show how her little episodes of forgetfulness become more serious is a heartbreaking tale uplifted by how her family and friends help her to stay happy. Marigold has been looking after her mum, her husband and daughters for many years, now they need to work together to help her.

The book is beautifully written, full of wonderful characters, some happy and some grumpy (Nan), humour (moles, christmas puddings etc), love (pink roses) and romance. At the time of reading this in July 2020, many of us are currently anxious about the global pandemic, a virus we cannot see whilst we also have an unseen condition which steals the memory of people that we currently cannot protect ourselves from. However, as the title suggests, we need to live in the here and now, to enjoy the small things – the birds singing, the food we eat, time with family and friends.

Thank you to Santa Montefiore for this wonderful story, I look forward to reading more of your books in the future.

Santa Montefiore (taken from Amazon):

Hi, I’m Santa Montefiore and I’ve been writing a novel a year for nineteen years now, which is quite astonishing as I didn’t really think beyond the first book, which took me five years to write. I didn’t think I had another in me, but here I am, celebrating my eighteenth and polishing my nineteenth for publication next year! Most of my novels are set partly in England and partly in a beautiful location, like Argentina, Italy or France. I write primarily for myself so I figure, as I’m going to be living in my imagination for the best part of six months, I might as well choose somewhere lovely. I adore nature, so I tend to plant my characters in rural settlings – by the sea or in the countryside – and most of them are stand alone, except Last Voyage of the Valentina and The Italian Matchmaker, and my recent trilogy, The Deverill Chronicles, which is set in Ireland from 1910 to the sixties. I love writing. I’ve always enjoyed stories, both reading them and writing them. I can’t imagine life without them. Not only are they entertaining, but they teach us so much about life – and enable us to live vicariously through characters who experience more drama than we do! I’m emotional. I love to be moved. There’s nothing better than sinking into a novel and empathising with the characters as they journey through the novel, experiencing both ups and downs…I love to laugh and cry and I want the book to stay with me after I’ve turned the last page. I don’t need a happy ending, but I need a satisfactory one. I hope I deliver satisfactory endings in my own novels.

I also write children’s books with my husband, Simon Sebag-Montefiore. The series is The Royal Rabbits of London, about a secret society of MI5 style rabbits who live beneath Buckingham Palace and protect the Royal Family from evil. Our son came up with the idea when he was six years old and it’s now being made into a movie by 20th Century Fox, which is beyond exciting. To see our characters in animation will be magical.

I live in London but rent a cottage in Hampshire, which is where I bolt to when I can no longer take the pace of the city and need to spend time in nature to find peace. We have two children, our daughter Lily and our son Sasha. We also have a Labrador called Simba who is definitely the most spoiled member of the family. My husband Simon is a historian, novelist and broadcaster. We manage to live and work in the same house without killing each other. My favourite place to write is at the kitchen table because it’s near the kettle and the fridge. If I start a packet of biscuits I can’t stop so I try not to start… but marmite toast is another matter, and a very serious one; nothing can separate me from that.


Visit me at http://www.santamontefiore.co.uk and sign up for my newsletter which I try to write every month, but sometimes struggle, so please forgive me if I miss one or two!

The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor

Today I’m absolutely thrilled to share my review for this stunning debut novel on my book blog today. Thank you to Jess Barratt at Scribner, a Simon and Schuster UK imprint, for this gorgeous proof copy – my thoughts about the book are all my own and not influenced by the gift. I will be treating myself to a hardback copy of the book, which will now include a sticker to confirm that this has been picked as a Radio 2 Book Club book.

Synopsis:

July, 1962
 
Sixteen year-old Evie Epworth stands on the cusp of womanhood. But what kind of a woman will she become?
 
The fastest milk bottle-delivery girl in East Yorkshire, Evie is tall as a tree and hot as the desert sand. She dreams of an independent life lived under the bright lights of London (or Leeds). The two posters of Adam Faith on her bedroom wall (‘brooding Adam’ and ‘sophisticated Adam’) offer wise counsel about a future beyond rural East Yorkshire. Her role models are Charlotte Bronte, Shirley MacLaine and the Queen. But, before she can decide on a career, she must first deal with the malign presence of her future step-mother, the manipulative and money-grubbing Christine.
 
If Evie can rescue her bereaved father, Arthur, from Christine’s pink and over-perfumed clutches, and save the farmhouse from being sold off then maybe she can move on with her own life and finally work out exactly who it is she is meant to be.  
 
Moving, inventive and richly comic, The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is the most joyful debut novel of the year and the best thing to have come out of Yorkshire since Wensleydale cheese.  

My thoughts:

As a Yorkshire lass, who was born in Sheffield, grew up in Rotherham, and attended University in Huddersfield and Leeds, I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to read this book early – described as the ‘best thing to come out of Yorkshire since Wensleydale cheese’. So did it live up to the claim?

The book starts with an introduction to Evie, who has just finished her last ‘O’ level exam (GCSE equivalent to those of you younger than 40) and is driving her dad’s MG. By page 5, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as Evie saw old Mr Hughes – this has to be the most unusual start to a book I’ve ever read – please don’t eat or drink whilst reading the first chapter.

I’m not going to give a round up of what happens in the story – I am going to tell you is why you should buy it. I loved the way the characters developed, how Evie deals with the prospect of having Christine as a step mum and helps her neighbours reconnect. This is a book that also made me realise how much life has changed for the young people of today in terms of career opportunities and life choices.

This year has been a challenging year for many of us with the anxiety of a global pandemic, and this book was a chance to escape and to laugh out loud. My mum would have been slightly older than Evie and I’m much younger than Evie, but lots of the Yorkshire phrases and characters seemed so familiar from my own experiences and stories from my mum. I read the Adrian Mole books back in the day (and watched the TV series) and this is so much funnier.

In addition to the humour, the attention to detail was superb – the descriptions of rooms, clothes, music and food etc. My favourite chapters included a visit to the Royal Beverly hotel (chapter 5), the village fete (chapter 12), a trip to Leeds with Caroline (chapter 14) and starting work at the hairdressers (chapter 16), all building up nicely to the finale.

This is a stunning debut novel and I’m pleased to hear that another novel is underway. After reading the novel, I’ve enjoyed discovering the Betty’s website and the music of Adam Faith (he was an actor in my day). I’m happy to confirm that this book is better than Wensleydale cheese (and I do love a good piece of Wensleydale with cranberries). My recommendation is to order the book and some Fat Rascals from Betty’s, find a comfortable chair, turn off your phone and enjoy revisiting the summer of 1962 with Evie. This is currently my favourite book of 2020.

Matson Taylor:

Matson Taylor grew up in Yorkshire (the flat part not the Brontë part). He comes from farming stock and spent an idyllic childhood surrounded by horses, cows, bicycles, and cheap ice-cream. His father, a York City and Halifax Town footballer, has never forgiven him for getting on the school rugby team but not getting anywhere near the school football team.

Matson now lives in London, where he is a design historian and academic writing tutor at the V&A, Imperial College and the Royal College of Art. Previously, he talked his way into various jobs at universities and museums around the world; he has also worked on Camden Market, appeared in an Italian TV commercial and been a pronunciation coach for Catalan opera singers. He gets back to Yorkshire as much as possible, mainly to see family and friends but also to get a reasonably-priced haircut.

He has always loved telling stories and, after writing academically about beaded flapper dresses and World War 2 glow-in-the-dark fascinators, he decided to enrol on the Faber Academy ‘Writing A Novel’ course. The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is his first novel. 

Matson has also put a playlist together for the book – to be found at https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4LzC95vqQAuZMKJ2WZtF5i?si=Vu9Tl88DT9yMx5kt0UBDWQ

The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness by Laura Bambrey

I’m thrilled to share my review for the debut novel by Laura Bambrey on my book review blog today. Thank you to Simon and Schuster UK for granting my wish on NetGalley to read and review – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

Tori Williamson is alone. After a tragic event left her isolated from her loved ones, she’s been struggling to find her way back to, well – herself. That’s why she set up her blog, The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness, as a way of – anonymously – connecting with the outside world and reaching others who just need a little help sometimes.
 
When she’s offered a free spot on a wellbeing retreat in exchange for a review on her blog, Tori is anxious about opening herself up to new surroundings. But after her three closest friends – who she talks to online but has never actually met – convince her it’ll do her some good, she reluctantly agrees and heads off for three weeks in the wild (well, a farm in Wales).
 
From the moment she arrives, Tori is sceptical and quickly finds herself drawn to fellow sceptic Than, the retreat’s dark and mysterious latecomer. But as the beauty of The Farm slowly comes to light she realizes that opening herself up might not be the worst thing. And sharing a yurt with fellow retreater Bay definitely isn’t.  Will the retreat be able to fix Tori? Or will she finally learn that being lonely doesn’t mean she’s broken . . .
 

My thoughts:

2020 will be remembered for many different reasons, primarily the global pandemic. One small positive of this, is that I have been able to read and review more books this year, and I now have another lovely debut novel to shout about to fellow booklovers – I really enjoyed reading The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness.

In March 2020 most countries across the world had to lockdown, to keep their populations safe from an invisible killer. Thankfully many of us have access to modern technology and can stay in touch with family and friends via messages or video chats. However, millions of people across the world will be in Tori’s situation – lots of virtual friends but no close real friends. In my grandparent’s generation, people tended to not move far from their families when they left home and had their own families. However, this has now changed, especially as more of us travelled for university courses or fell in love with another county or country when on holiday.

I moved to Wiltshire from Yorkshire just over 25 years ago, and although I’ve made some good friends, I do find myself feeling lonely at times without my family living nearby. Loneliness is a big issue in our world and Laura’s book shows how easy it is to end up in this situation, especially now more people are working from home every day.

I loved the way the characters developed in this story, my favourite characters were actually secondary characters – Doreen and Rowan, who both help Tori in so many ways. There is also a dog called Dennis in this story and all the best stories include a dog (with a handsome owner). The story looks at how Tori found herself feeling so isolated and lonely and why she found it hard to trust other people. It also looks at the dangers of social media – how we need to be careful when chatting to strangers. However, it is a voyage of self discovery for Tori during her stay at The Farm, and without any spoilers, this is an uplifting read, not a tale of doom and gloom.

Thank you Laura Bambrey for such a thought provoking and touching story. I look forward to seeing this ebook flying high in the digital book charts after publication at the end of July 2020.

Laura Bambrey:

Laura Bambrey was born in Dorset but raised in Wales. She’s worked as a trapeze choreographer, sculpture conservator and stilt walker, amongst others, and spent most of her time collecting stories from the people she met along the way. 

She has spent many years as a book blogger and reviewer of women’s fiction and now lives in Devon with her very own romantic hero and a ridiculously fluffy rabbit named Mop. The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness is her début novel.

You can connect with Laura on twitter @laurabambrey, on Instagram @laura_bambrey_books, on Facebook @laurabambreybooks, and via her author blog laurabambreybooks.blogspot.com

The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish

I’m thrilled to share my review for the latest book by Louise Candlish on my blog today.

Synopsis:

On the morning of Monday 23rd December, Jamie Buckby takes the commuter riverboat from his home in St Mary’s, southeast London, to work in Central London, noting that his good friend and neighbour Kit Roper has not turned up for the 7.30am service they usually catch together.
 
At the London Eye, where he disembarks for his job in a café behind the South Bank Centre, Jamie is met by the police. Kit has been reported missing by his wife.
 
As Jamie is taken in for questioning, he discovers someone saw him arguing with Kit on the boat home late on Friday night. The other passenger believes Jamie committed murder.
 
But what really happened? 

My thoughts:


This book was one of my May Spring Bank Holiday reads in our sunny back garden during Lockdown – thank you to Simon and Schuster UK for a stunning proof copy (my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the receipt of the free proof copy).

This is the first Louise Candlish novel I have read. I must admit that I have a copy of Our House sat in a large pile of books waiting to be read, after seeing many favourable reviews (it has now been moved up the pile).

The story kept me enthralled throughout – where is Kit? Who wanted him out of the way and why? Who is the other passenger? The suspense built nicely, the flaws in the main characters start to be divulged and there are lots of flaws and suspects. I enjoyed the location of the book too – a virtual visit to London during Lockdown.

As I would hate to give away any spoilers, I’m going to stop here and say that this is my favourite thriller of 2020 and a 5 star read. Full of suspense and twists, jealousy and lies. I have seen a lot of praise for this book in the media and I expect it will be topping the book charts, once published later this month

Louise Candlish

Hello! I’m the author of thirteen novels, including OUR HOUSE, a #1 bestseller in paperback, ebook and audio and winner of the British Book Awards 2019 Book of the Year – Crime & Thriller. My newest release is THOSE PEOPLE, which is in the same thriller or ‘suburban noir’ genre and reached #2 on the Sunday Times bestseller lists.

Before writing fiction, I studied English at University College London and worked as an illustrated book editor and advertising copywriter. 

Though my stories are about people facing dark – often dangerous – dilemmas, I try to get through the day without too much drama of my own. I live in a South London neighbourhood not unlike the one in my novels with my husband, daughter, cat and new puppy. Follow me on Twitter at @louise_candlish or find out more at louisecandlish.com or facebook.com/LouiseCandlishAuthor. I’d love to hear what you think of my books.



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