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.

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