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 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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Little Disasters by Sarah Vaughan


I’m pleased to share my review for the new book by Sarah Vaughan – thank you to Simon and Schuster UK for a digital review copy via NetGalley. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the free digital proof copy.

Synopsis:

A new thought-provoking novel exploring the complexity of motherhood and all that connects and disconnects us.

You think you know her…but look a little closer.

She is a stay-at-home mother-of-three with boundless reserves of patience, energy, and love. After being friends for a decade, this is how Liz sees Jess. 

Then one moment changes everything. 

Dark thoughts and carefully guarded secrets surface—and Liz is left questioning everything she thought she knew about her friend, and about herself. The truth can’t come soon enough.

My thoughts:

This is a very emotional book, beautifully written and all too believable. It is almost 18 years since I attended the antenatal classes for our first child and this book made me think carefully about the other parents-to-be we met.

The story is set ten years later when Jess takes baby Betsey to hospital because she seems unwell but in fact has a fractured skull. Her friend Liz, from the antenatal class, is a doctor at the hospital and has to involve the police and social services.

As the story evolves, we have flashbacks to how the antenatal group bonded over sleepless nights and mum’s nights out. Alongside the mystery of Betsey’s injury, Liz is dealing with her mother, who we discover has had a difficult relationship with her children.

This is a fast paced story, I didn’t want to put it down. As a mum of two, this reminded me how different life is when you become a mother, especially if you aren’t sleeping properly, have a poorly child and feel isolated from the world. We are very good at bottling up our feelings or hiding how we feel. I remember crying over a neighbour in my early days as a mum, she made my a cup of tea, sat me down and did my ironing. Sometimes we can help a mum by listening and/or doing something practical to help, sometimes professional help is needed. In my opinion, Sarah Vaughan has captured this perfectly in the story.

This is the first book I’ve read by Sarah Vaughan and I look forward to catching up on her previous books.

Sarah Vaughan:

Sarah Vaughan read English at Oxford and went on to be a journalist. After training with the Press Association, she worked for The Guardian for 11 years as a news reporter, health correspondent and political correspondent before leaving to freelance and write fiction.

Her 3rd novel, Anatomy of a Scandal, was an instant international bestseller, a Sunday Times top five bestseller, a kindle number 1 bestseller, a Richard & Judy pick, and was longlisted for the Theakson’s Old Peculier Crime Novel and shortlisted for awards in France, Sweden and the UK. It has been translated into 22 languages and is being adapted for TV.

Her 4th novel, Little Disasters, will be published in France, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, the UK on April 2 and the US on August 18. She lives in Cambridge with her husband and two young children. 

For more information about how Sarah writes, what inspires her writing, what books she enjoys reading – check out the Twitter Q&A session from Wednesday 5th June using #AtHomeWithBATC


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The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris

GRACE ATHERTON HAS FALLEN OUT OF LOVE … AND INTO LIFE

Between the simple melody of running her violin shop and the full-blown orchestra of her romantic interludes in Paris with David, her devoted partner of eight years, Grace Atherton has always set her life to music.

Her world revolves entirely around David, for Grace’s own secrets have kept everyone else at bay. Until, suddenly and shockingly, one act tips Grace’s life upside down, and the music seems to stop.

It takes a vivacious old man and a straight-talking teenager to kickstart a new chapter for Grace. In the process, she learns that she is not as alone in the world as she had once thought, that no mistake is insurmountable, and that the quiet moments in life can be something to shout about …

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton is the story of a woman who has her heart broken, but then puts it back together again in the most uplifting and exquisite way.

My thoughts:

I’ve had this book on my shelves since Christmas and finally got round to reading it after enjoying Anstey’s latest book, Where We Belong.

Initially I found myself not sympathetic with Grace, with her situation with David. However the more we find out about what happened during her time at the music college, the more I understood why she had continued to remain with him.

Loved the characters of Nadia and Maurice – how they helped Grace to help herself overcome some major obstacles and move forward with her life.

Grace is a flawed character, unable to play music in public after her life was turned upside down by one day at music college at the age of 19. I know some reviewers had no sympathy for Grace, but if you read the book to the end, then you discover the full story about what happened on that day at college.



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The Love Child by Rachel Hore #bookreview

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

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

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

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

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

My thoughts:

4.5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

The author, Rachel Hore:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading!  

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



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