blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: A Village Vacancy – Julie Houston*

From the bestselling author of A Village Affair comes a laugh out loud new Westenbury tale…

As the Yorkshire village of Westenbury mourns the loss of one of their own, the women can’t help but contemplate who will fill the vacancy in one handsome widower’s life…

Grace Stevens has decided it’s time to move on without her husband. He’s off gallivanting around Devon in search of a new life, and good riddance. It’s time to go back to teaching, so Grace returns to Little Acorns and takes on an unruly class of pre-teens.

As she deals with disasters in – and out of – the classroom including an accidental dalliance with her most troublesome pupil’s dad, helping track down a drug ring and keeping up with her closest girlfriends, Grace begins to wonder more and more about the sparkle in David’s eyes and the sparking chemistry between them.

Could Grace be the one to fill this village vacancy?

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Julie Houston is the author of THE ONE SAVING GRACE, GOODNESS, GRACE AND ME and LOOKING FOR LUCY, a Kindle top 100 general bestseller and a Kindle #1 bestseller.

She is married, with two teenage children and a mad cockerpoo
and, like her heroine, lives in a West Yorkshire village. She is also a teacher and a magistrate.

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My thoughts:

I’ve read one other of this author’s books and they’re really fun reads so I was very excited about being on this blog tour and not disappointed in the slightest.

Centering on the residents of a Yorkshire village (my Grandad’s from Yorkshire and I can hear the accent in my head when I read, which is lovely) and all their busy lives, at first A Village Vacancy doesn’t seem like a hugely serious book, but underneath the comings and goings of this group of women and their families are the darker moments.

County lines drug dealing is a big concern at the moment, with young people and children drawn into drugs and couriering by dangerous gangs, often without any of the adults in their lives having a clue what’s going on.

As is the case here, the children of the residents are struggling with parents separating, school bullies, and the other emotional trauma that comes with growing up, and this can make them vulnerable.

But Julie’s book is hugely redemptive and there is hope at the end for these fragile children and their parents.

There’s also lots of other storylines to enjoy too, from Grace’s love life, to David moving on after his wife’s death, and the wonderful friendships between Harriet, Grace, Juno, Izzy and Juno’s sisters. There’s also a horse called Harry Trotter, some dogs, peacock chicks, chickens and other assorted creatures to enjoy (including lots of children!).

I loved Grace, and her adorable daughter Petroniella (as someone with a mouthful of a name I winced in sympathy – parents stop punishing your kids with names no can spell or pronounce!) and also Juno and her two, Tilda and Gabe, the first year of secondary school can be monstrous.

I’m off to order all the other books set in this village about these characters and curl up on the sofa under my reading blanket.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Missing Piece – Catherine Miller*

Broken Heart Syndrome: A sudden and acute form of heart failure, brought on by emotional or physical distress.
After years of studying cardiac medicine, thirty-one-year-old Keisha knows the heart inside out. She knows the average heartrate for each age group, she can name every valve, and she can tell you exactly how much blood it pumps daily.
The one thing she doesn’t know is how to fall in love. And nor does she want to. The secret her tattoo covers is a reminder that the best way to protect a heart is to never let it feel in the first place…
Seventy-nine-year-old Clive is Subject Five in Keisha’s latest research project. He’s been in love since he was seventeen, ever since he met Nancy at a tea dance. But last night, his beloved wife was killed. Suddenly, he has no one to waltz with. He has woken up in hospital, a widower diagnosed with Broken Heart Syndrome.
These strangers, brought together by a broken heart, must face up to the truth of their pasts. Can Clive teach his new friend that until you’ve loved, you haven’t lived? And can Keisha help him see that it’s never too late for a second chance?

For anyone who has ever felt the pang of heartbreak and feared you might never heal again, this beautiful tale teaches us how to dust ourselves off and seek happiness again. Fans of Jojo Moyes, Josie Silver and Rosie Walsh will love this moving and uplifting story.

Amazon: https://bit.ly/33XtC9B

When Catherine Miller became a mum to twins, she decided her hands weren’t full enough so wrote a novel with every spare moment she managed to find. By the time the twins were two, Catherine had a two-book deal with Carina UK. Her debut novel, Waiting For You, came out in March 2016.

Catherine was a NHS physiotherapist, but for health reasons she retired early from this career. As she loved her physiotherapy job, she decided if she couldn’t do that she would pursue her writing dream. It took a few years and a couple of babies, but in 2015 she won the Katie Fforde bursary, was a finalist in the London Book Fair Write Stuff Competition and highly commended in Woman magazine’s writing competition. Since then she’s had four novels published.

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My thoughts:

This was a lovely story about lost love, remembering the past, and falling in love.

Clive has fragmented memories of something happening but they don’t quite add up, so Keisha and George try to help him find out what really happened, along the way there’s a speed dating event, some time on the allotment and drinking beetroot juice (yuk!).

This was a genuinely lovely and warm book and I really enjoyed it, another sweet reading treat for the colder days and nights.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: When Life Gives You Mangoes – Kereen Getten*

A summer she can’t remember A friendship she won’t forget.

Nothing much happens in Sycamore, the small village where Clara lives – at least, that’s how it looks. She loves eating ripe mangoes fallen from trees, running outside in the rainy season and escaping to her secret hideout with her best friend Gaynah.

There’s only one problem – she can’t remember anything that happened last summer. When a quirky girl called Rudy arrives from England, everything starts to change. Gaynah stops acting like a best friend, while Rudy and Clara roam across the island and uncover an old family secret.

As the summer reaches its peak and the island storms begin, Clara’s memory starts to return and she must finally face the truth of what happened last year.

My thoughts:

This was a beautifully written, moving and sensitive story about loss and friendship. Clara has blocked out the painful memory of last summer and lives with the knowledge that something is wrong, but unsure what it is.

Making a new friend and reconnecting with her uncle, who doesn’t leave his house, starts to slowly help her recover the memories and explore her grief.

Powerful and bittersweet, this is a stunning piece of fiction and belongs on a bookshelf in every home.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Promises at Indigo Bay – Ellyn Oaksmith*

Read my review of Summer at Orchard House.

Our life together meant more to me than he could possibly imagine. I just wanted another night. I thought I knew what was coming. A proposal. If only it had been that simple.
Things are finally working out for Stella Gallagher. Unlucky in love and faced with limited options in her small town, she was beginning to give up on romance altogether, until mysterious Italian Paolo Gentillo moved to Chelan…
Paolo is smart, kind, gorgeous and, most importantly, they’re completely obsessed with each other: Stella has finally found her match. Everything would be perfect, except there are things she hasn’t told Paolo—she doesn’t know how he’s going to feel about her when he finds out about her past…
So when Paolo proposes, Stella panics: it’s way too soon. She wants to be with him, but suddenly they’re talking about forever. He doesn’t even know the real her, she’s scared to face up to her secret, and she’s never felt so alone. Is the damage from her past going to threaten her chance at a perfect future?

A heart-warming story about learning to trust in yourself and the people you love, Promises at Indigo Bay will show you that it’s never too late to try for your happy ending. For fans of Robyn Carr, Carolyn Brown and Debbie Macomber.

Ellyn Oaksmith is the USA Today and Kindle bestselling author of the Blue Hills Series, featuring the Alvarez family.

After graduating from Smith College and attaining her MFA from The American Film Institute, Ellyn began her writing career as an award-winning screenwriter in Hollywood. Her books explore the same themes as her screenplays: grit, humor, family and love.

Ellyn lives on one of Seattle’s many hills with her husband and spends as much time as possible on the water as part of a competitive rowing team.

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My thoughts:

I loved Summer at Orchard House and was excited to read the newest Chelan novel – and I wasn’t disappointed.

Stella is the town’s hairdresser and salon owner, she has a wonderful Italian boyfriend, a house she loves and a supportive best friend and bonus family.

She isn’t close to her own parents and has a tragic history she keeps trying to forget. Then Paolo announces his visa is about to expire and they should get married.

This sends Stella into a tailspin – and Olivia suddenly isn’t such a great best friend anymore. Now she’s having to confront her past and deal with Paolo’s overbearing Italian mother.

I had an Italian best friend growing up and I know all about the Italian mamas and their sons – my friend had two brothers. I knew Stella was in for a rough ride, nothing comes between Italian women and their precious sons.

But Stella finds a deep well of inner strength and somehow manages not to be completely crushed by all the things she’s dealing with.

A really enjoyable read, and a delightful slice of escape as the rain pours down and the wind rattles the dodgy panes in my windows.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Illustrated Child – Polly Crosby*

Romilly lives in a ramshackle house with her eccentric artist father and her cat, Monty. She knows little about her past – but she knows that she is loved.

When her father finds fame with a series of children’s books starring her as the main character, everything changes: exotic foods appear on the table, her father appears on TV, and strangers appear at their door, convinced the books contain a treasure hunt leading to a glittering prize.

But as time passes, Romilly’s father becomes increasingly suspicious of everything around him, until, before her eyes, he begins to disappear altogether.

In her increasingly isolated world, Romilly turns to the secrets her father has hidden in his illustrated books, realising that there is something far darker and more devastating locked within the pages…

The truth.

The Illustrated Child is the unforgettable, beguiling debut from Polly Crosby.

My thoughts:

Every story I’ve read about children whose parents write them into books seems to end with a rather sad child trapped in the pages of the books their parents write – so it is for Romilly.

Her father’s beautifully illustrated stories sell – especially as people think there’s a treasure hunt hidden within, but this brings fans, treasure hunters, and a life lived trapped inside the disintegrating house Romilly and her father, slowly succumbing to early onset dementia, live in.

There is a treasure hunt, of sorts, but it is for Romilly alone. As she grows up, her mother and grandmother drift in and out of her life, along with her sole friend Stacey, she starts to solve her father’s clues and unravel her own past.

A sad, sweet book, I really wanted to rescue Romilly and Monty the cat, their lives are so small and lonely. I don’t think turning your child into a fictional version of themselves is very healthy – as Romilly points out, the version of her people believe they know never ages while she does – the little denim dress and red tights stop fitting her and Monty loses a paw, but in the four books she remains forever eight years old and innocent.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Nesting – C.J. Cooke*

The grieving widower. The motherless daughters. A beautiful house in the woods. And a nanny come to save the day….

So what if Lexi isn’t telling the truth about who she is? Escaping to the remote snows of Norway was her lifeline. And all she wanted was to be a part of their lives.

But soon, isolated in that cold, creaking house in the middle of ancient, whispering woods, Lexi’s fairytale starts to turn into a nightmare. With darkness creeping in from the outside, Lexi’s fears are deepening.

Lexi knows she needs to protect the children in her care. But protect them from what?

C.J. Cooke is an acclaimed, award-winning poet, novelist and academic with numerous other publications under the name of Carolyn Jess-Cooke.

Born in Belfast, she has a PhD in Literature from Queen’s University, Belfast, and is currently Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, where she researches creative writing interventions for mental health.

She also founded the Stay-At-Home Festival.

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My thoughts:

I love weird Gothic novels with creepy houses, sinister trees and monsters so this book really appealed to me. It’s also a really good example of how to do Gothic horror in the 21st Century. While all the characters have mobile phones and WiFi etc, the terrifying apparition and the way the forest seems to fold in on people defy the rational technology we all hold so dear. You can look things up but an ipad won’t stop a ghost or in this case a nokk (a Norwegian water spirit and not a friendly one).

Reeling from his wife’s sudden death and the literal collapse of his previous dream house, Tom has thrown himself into building an architectural masterpiece hanging from a cliff in the Norwegian forest. His two young daughters are being taken care of by Sophie, who isn’t who she says she is at all. There’s an unhappy housekeeper (shades of Mrs Danvers), a creepy basement, an elk that seems to be entering the house, a frustrated business partner and his exercise obsessed wife. Throw all these things together and it’s a wonder anyone makes it out alive.

I thoroughly enjoyed this creepy book, although I will be avoiding houses built on fjords for good, they don’t seem entirely safe or friendly.


*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Winter Garden – Heidi Swann*

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 . . .

My thoughts:

I am utterly useless with plants and can just about keep a cactus alive but I do enjoy a beautiful garden and I could easily picture the stunning one Freya creates in this delightful book.

Perfect for curling up and getting cosy with this winter, the love story between Freya and Finn, the lovely little Nell, the kind and welcoming locals, the healing of nature, the crafts and creations people make, it all adds up to a really pleasurable read.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Other Woman – Amanda Brookfield*

‘No one gets to the heart of human relationships quite so perceptively as Brookfield.’ The Mirror

On a normal day, in a normal house, on a normal street, wife and mother Fran has had enough. She packs a case, leaves a note for her bullying husband Pete, and one for her beloved twenty-year-old son Harry, and heads to the airport – and freedom.

In another house, on another street, Helena is desperately baiting her husband Jack into a fight.
These days it feels like the only way to get Jack to take notice of her. Passionate, volatile, increasingly fragile, Helena is fast running out of hope.

What Helena and Fran don’t know, is that soon their lives are going to come crashing together in ways neither expect nor understand. And if Fran and Helena are going to change their own futures, then first they will have to change each other’s.

Amanda Brookfield is back with a triumphant, crackling story about love, marriage, lies and fate,
and how our destinies can be changed by the smallest decisions. Perfect for fans of Sheila O’Flanagan, Jane Fallon and Jane Green.

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Amanda Brookfield is the bestselling author of many novels including Good Girls, Relative Love and Before I Knew You, and a memoir, For the Love of a Dog starring her Golden Doodle Mabel.
She lives in London.

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My thoughts:

What starts out as a seemingly normal affair gone awry slowly folds out into the full horrors of living with human monsters fuelled by anger and addiction. Both Fran and Jack are running from the spouses they hate when they meet – they both find something in each other that’s lacking in their marriages.

But things aren’t going the way they want and soon Fran has to make some serious decisions about her life. Jack’s wife Helena has to do the same if she wants her husband back.

Two women with their happiness at stake need to find the strength to get what they really want out of life.

Enjoyable and at times shocking, there was a moment when I genuinely gasped with horror, this ultimately redemptive novel is a great read and Fran a strong and courageous character.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Haunted Shore – Neil Spring*

A CHILLING GHOST STORY SET IN THE HAUNTING WILDERNESS OF SUFFOLK
When Lizzy moves to a desolate shore to escape her past, she hopes to find sanctuary. But a mysterious stranger is waiting for her, her father’s carer, and when darkness falls, something roams this wild stretch of beach, urging Lizzy to investigate its past. The longer she stays, the more the shore’s secrets begin to stir. Secrets of a sea that burned, of bodies washed ashore — and a family’s buried past reaching into the present.
And when Lizzy begins to suspect that her father’s carer is a dangerous imposter with sinister motives, a new darkness rises. What happens next is everyone’s living nightmare . . .

From the bestselling author of The Ghost Hunters and The Lost Village, The Haunted Shore is a terrifying tale of suspense that does not let up until the last page is turned.

My thoughts:

Well this was suitably weird and creepy.

I’ve read a few books now set on Orford Ness, which is a former military base on the Suffolk coast, it was a secret base and not declassified til the 1970s so lots of stories and rumours persist about it.

This book dips into some of the rumours and mysteries surrounding the area, now a bird reserve, as well as mentioning some of the wider Suffolkian stories.

The Ness is remote and I imagine quite eery, especially in bad weather, making it the perfect setting for this story of regret and revenge.

Lizzy has made a serious mistake at work and having been fired she flees back to the family home, a converted tower on the Ness. Her father is suffering from dementia and her brother has hired the rather unpleasant Hazel to look after him.

Lizzy takes an instant dislike to her, and as events start to spin out of control, she becomes more and more afraid of Hazel and the amount of control she has over her dad, Cliff.

This book was really sinister and I could imagine all the strange noises and creepy things Lizzy thinks she’s experienced, the desolate shoreline slowly revealing its secrets.

The ending has so many twists and turns that I just couldn’t believe what was real and what the characters were imagining, which I think is the point.

It was really, really good and perfect for the short days and gathering nights of autumn. Plus, my husband, a Suffolk native, is going to take me to see the Ness for myself, so I can soak up the atmosphere for myself.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: All About Us – Tom Ellen*

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

Ben’s always loved 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?

All About Us is a captivating novel of heartbreak and loss, friendship and hope – and how the choices we make throughout our lives will shape our destiny.

My thoughts:

This was lovely, a sweet, sad, ultimately redemptive, heart warming story about love and how relationships and people change over time.

Ben is at a crossroads in his life and the chance to go back and relive moments from his past allows him to better understand what he wants from his present and future.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.