blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Other Parents – Sarah Stovell

In a small town like West Burntridge, it should be impossible to keep a secret.

Rachel Saunders knows gossip is the price you pay for a rural lifestyle and outstanding schools. The latest town scandal is her divorce – and the fact that her new girlfriend has moved into the family home.

Laura Spence lives in a poky bedsit on the wrong side of town. She and her son Max don’t really belong, and his violent tantrums are threatening to expose the very thing she’s trying to hide.

When the local school introduces a new inclusive curriculum, Rachel and Laura find themselves on opposite sides of a fearsome debate.

But the problem with having your nose in everyone else’s business is that you often miss what is happening in your own home.

My thoughts: what at first felt like it was going to be a gossipy PTA, school drama, evolved into something much more thought provoking and complex story, pulling in family make up, depression, sexual assault, divorce, sex work, child abuse and neglect, bigotry and organising a school fete. All the big important stuff, and some of the less so.

Rachel and Erin are dealing with Rachel’s children’s backlash to their relationship and their parents’ divorce – son Reuben seems unbothered, but his sisters, Maia and Tess both seem to be furious. While Tess acts out by being rude, teenage Maia goes off the rails. But Rachel has taken her eye off the ball and Maia ends up hurt.

Meanwhile Laura is struggling with raising her son as a single parent without much in the way of support or money. When Max’s dad reappears, she starts to reassess all the things she’s had to do to just survive.

Jo is the new Head of the primary school and headed for a clash with Kate, head of the PTA, over her petition against the school teaching LGBTQ+ relationships as part of the curriculum. A clash that drags Rachel, Erin and Laura in and as things start to go tragically wrong in their personal lives, does anyone really care about the Christmas fete?

Funny, sad, moving and ultimately redemptive, this a fascinating read about how we don’t see what’s going on behind the facade at the school gate.

*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: Finding Edith Pinsent – Hazel Ward

A moving story of love, loss and friendship that breaks and uplifts your heart.
Netta Wilde has a task to complete.
She’s agreed to go through the late Edith Pinsent’s diaries and possessions personally. The problem is, she’s been busy sorting out her own life. But she’s in a better place now. She’s free of her
manipulative ex, has a new love in neighbour, Frank and has reunited with her kids.
What better time to begin Edie’s story?
But the path to discovery is not easy.
There are missing diaries to contend with, boxes of memories to uncover and revelations that turn everything on its head. Revelations that make Netta question if her own life really is sorted.
Delving deeper into Edith’s history, Netta is overtaken by a need to revisit her own past and put things right, but to do that she has to find the two people who once meant everything to her.
As her two challenges intertwine, Netta realises that Edith had a purpose for her. One that she must fulfil.
Bit by bit, the house yields a lifetime of secrets and the real Edith Pinsent begins to emerge.
But will it be the Edith everyone thought they knew?

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Hazel Ward was born in inner city Birmingham. By the time the city council packed her family off to the suburbs, she was already something of a feral child who loved adventures. Swapping derelict
houses and bomb pecks for green fields and gardens was a bit of a culture shock but she rose to the occasion and grew up loving outdoor spaces and animals.
Strangely, for someone who couldn’t sit still, she also developed a ferocious reading habit and a love of words. She wrote her first novel at fifteen, along with a lot of angsty poems, and was absolutely
sure she wanted to be a writer. Sadly, it all came crashing down when her seventeen-year-old self walked out of school in a huff one day and was either too stubborn or too embarrassed to go back.
It’s too long ago to remember which.
Against all odds, she somehow managed to blag her way into a successful corporate career until finally giving it all up to do the thing she’d always wanted to do. Shortly after, she began to write her debut novel Being Netta Wilde.
Hazel still lives in Birmingham and that’s where she does most of her writing, although she spends a lot of time in Shropshire or gadding about the country in an old motorhome. Not quite feral
anymore but still up for adventures.
For updates on Hazel’s books, freebies and various other bits of stuff you can join Hazel’s Reader’s Club

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My thoughts: I really liked this book, I found the sections about Edie’s past really interesting and Netta was a great character to read about too. As she learns more about Edie and her life, she begins to rethink a few of her own past actions and look at what she really wants from her life now.

I liked the way the story moved between the different plots and the way my perception of Edie changed as the story unfolded – she was a lot more complex and lively than the old lady Netta thought she knew of. A really enjoyable read about learning to live your life the way you really want.

*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 Library – Bella Osborne

Two lonely bookworms. An unexpected friendship. A library that needs their help

Teenager Tom has always blended into the background of life. After a row with his dad and facing an unhappy future at the dog food factory, he escapes to the library.
Pensioner Maggie has been happily alone with her beloved novels for ten years – at least, that’s what she tells herself.
When they meet, they recognise something in each other that will change both their lives for ever.
Then the library comes under threat of closure, and they must join forces to prove that it’s not just about books – it’s the heart of their community.
They are determined to save it – because some things are worth fighting for.

Bella Osborne has been jotting down stories as far back as she can remember but decided that 2013 would be the year that she finished a full length novel. In 2016, her debut novel, It Started At Sunset
Cottage, was shortlisted for the Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year and RNA Joan Hessayon New Writers Award. Bella’s stories are about friendship, love and coping with what life throws at
you. She likes to find the humour in the darker moments of life and weaves these into her stories.
Bella believes that writing your own story really is the best fun ever, closely followed by talking, eating chocolate, drinking fizz and planning holidays. She lives in the Midlands, UK with her lovely husband and wonderful daughter, who thankfully, both accept her as she is (with mad morning hair and a penchant for skipping).

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My thoughts: once upon a time I was a librarian, I practically lived in various libraries growing up so it made sense. I love libraries, I love the random hodge podge of books and the way they smell and the people who work in them (all of whom are incredibly interesting) and the fact that it’s all free. That you can read any book you like and never have to worry about whether you can afford it is wonderful. Whole worlds live in libraries.

Terry Pratchett wrote that book shops are genteel black holes that know how to read – so are most libraries. Even the small ones, like the one in this book.

Sadly the threatened closure of libraries is all too real, we live in a world now that doesn’t really value them properly. It’s not just a quiet place full of aging hardbacks; they’re vital and alive.

This book celebrates all of these uniquely wonderful places and brings Tom and Maggie together – a lonely teenage boy and an equally friendless old woman. They both have deep sadness inside them, and when they become friends, they start to heal. The fight to save their library, to protect what makes it special, helps them too. Both make new friends, and come out of their shells.

Tom’s unhappy home life starts to mend as Maggie encourages him to speak to his dad and gives him a place to stay when home isn’t safe anymore. In turn Tom helps Maggie face up to her past and confront the mistakes she made. There’s also lambs and puppies being born and a lot of cake. It’s a warm, gentle and hopeful book, people can change and can grow. They just need some love. Much like libraries.

*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 Little Shop of Hidden Treasures – Holly Hepburn

When Hope loses her husband, she fears her happiest days are behind her. With her only connection to London broken, she moves home to York to be near her family and to begin to build a new life.  
 
Taking a job at the antique shop she has always admired, she finds herself crossing paths with two very different men. Will, who has recently become the guardian to his niece after the tragic death of her parents. And Ciaran, who she enlists to help solve the mystery of an Egyptian antique. Two men who represent two different happy endings.
 
But can she trust herself to choose the right man? And will that bring her everything she really needs?

My thoughts:

This was lovely, I cried, I laughed and I thoroughly enjoyed reading Hope’s story. I want a sequel! I want to know what happens next with Hope and Will and how Brodie grows up and the kittens and the wonderful shop that brought them together.

Originally published as a 4 part ebook, this is a sweet, charming story about grief and love and moving on. Hope has moved to York, closer to her family, following her husband’s early death, and applies to work at a wonderful antiques shop – The Ever After Emporium. There she meets Will and Brodie and discovers a mystery. Unravelling it introduces her to more new friends and a wonderful romantic love story from the 1930s.

She begins to live again, finally feeling happy and content. She starts to date, takes up belly dancing and develops new skills at her work, but it’s the friendships that take centre stage, and could lead to more. The characters are so well written and the book feels infused with joy and love. Something Holly Hepburn is very good at doing.
 

*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

Book Blitz: Anything Could Happen – Lucy Diamond

Your big secret is out. What next?

For Lara and her daughter Eliza, it has always been just the two of them. But when Eliza turns eighteen and wants to connect with her father, Lara is forced to admit a secret that she has been keeping from her daughter her whole life.

Eliza needs answers – and so does Lara. Their journey to the truth will take them on a road trip across England and eventually to New York, where it all began. Dreams might have been broken and opportunities missed, but there are still surprises in store…

Anything Could Happen is a warm, wise, funny and uplifting novel about love, second chances and the unexpected and extraordinary paths life can take us down.

My thoughts: this was a lovely, fun read about family and not having any regrets. Eliza wants to find her biological dad, Laura isn’t so sure about digging in the past, she thinks she’s moved on, but she does have some questions.

Ben has no idea about any of this, he’s living in Cambridge and blissfully unaware of how much his life is about to change.

This book cut right through the winter gloom, it’s upbeat and everyone in it gets their lives stirred up but not in necessarily bad ways, maybe it’s time to make some changes in their lives.

*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 Unravelling – Polly Crosby

When Tartelin Brown accepts a job with the reclusive Marianne Stourbridge, she finds herself on a wild island with a mysterious history.

Tartelin is tasked with hunting butterflies for Marianne’s research. But she quickly uncovers something far more intriguing than the curious creatures that inhabit the landscape.

Because the island and Marianne share a remarkable history, and what happened all those years ago has left its scars, and some terrible secrets.

As Tartelin pieces together Marianne’s connection to the island, she must confront her own reasons for being there. Can the two women finally face up to the painful memories that bind them so tightly to the past?

Atmospheric and deeply emotional, The Unravelling is the captivating novel from the author of The Illustrated Child.

My thoughts: despite coming from one, there’s something a bit spooky about islands – especially the small ones. Part way between the UK and Holland, the island here – Dohhuhland – aka Dogger Bank (the remains of ancient Doggerland – Google it if you’re interested in ancient history – I found it really interesting) in the shipping forecast, is certainly very creepy in this story of generational trauma and family.

Inspired by the history of Orford Ness – a place I am definitely going to have to visit next time we go to my in-laws, the number of books it’s popped up in, the story Marianne slowly reveals to Tartelin is one of terrible sadness and loss.

Tartelin is no stranger to grief herself – she has recently lost her beloved mother, and she empathises deeply with the older woman, at the same time as finding her extremely difficult. She also begins a sweet romance with a young tourist on the island – Jacob, there to see the wildlife (Orford Ness is a nature reserve now) and he provides an outlet from the claustrophobia of Marianne’s partly closed up house.

Marianne has lost almost everyone in her life – and is haunted by her losses, but there is someone she hurt who might return, if Tartelin can convince her. In doing so Tartelin also learns to say goodbye to her beloved mother. Moving and quietly beautiful, this was a beguiling piece of historic/contemporary fiction with Gothic undertones and a gently redemptive conclusion.

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

books

Books of the year 2021

Here’s my round up of 5 of my absolute favourite reads this year. There’s no particular order, just 5 books I really enjoyed.

This book I adored – and you can read my thoughts on it here.

This made me cry, in a good way. It was so lovely and I just totally loved it.

This was lots of fun and a bit weird and huge – honestly it might be the chunkiest book I read all year but it was totally worth it.

Illumicrate sent me some cracking titles in this year’s boxes, it was hard to choose which ones I liked the most but this is definitely up there. Brand new series, amazing adventure, clever magic system and excellent characters.

Inspired by Chinese history, this is cracking. There’s so much going on and it has one of the most interesting protagonists I’ve read.

Overall I read a lot this year, what with not really being able to go anywhere I had plenty of time on my hands and a tbr that seems to grow whenever I’m not looking directly at it. There were lots of super massive chunky books, lots of excellent new series’ kicking off and a few coming to a close. I’m really excited to see what 2022 has in store for us readers.

My 5 books are all super queer, and diverse, something I definitely want to read more of – diverse books equal diverse stories and I want new and interesting ideas, not reruns of the same old. So I will be stocking up on sequels and new titles from as wide a range of authors as I can.

What did you read this year? What did you love? Have you read any of this little list, if so, what did you think? Let me know.

books, reviews

Book Review: Sounds Like Love – Laura Ford

I posted a promo for this book a while ago but wasn’t able to find time sadly to read and review it then so here are my thoughts today.

Wendy is a bright spark who wants to find love and travel the world, but she questions how her dreams can become a reality as her world changes around her.When Wendy arrives at her beloved grandmother’s house to collect a box of keepsakes, she picks up more than she bargained for – a green-eyed tabby cat with amazing qualities. This is just the start of a high-speed adventure, leading Wendy towards bright new horizons… if only she’ll give the cat a chance…

My thoughts: this was a sweet story about a girl, a cat and coming to terms with loss. Both the loss of Wendy’s grandmother and that of her hearing. I have partial hearing loss in my right ear so I could appreciate how Wendy felt, the slow loss of one of your senses, especially when you’re a music lover like Wendy, is very hard to deal with.

But the cat she inherits might just be part of the solution – she’s a pretty special little tabby cat. And Wendy’s awful parents have no idea what they’ve passed on. And then there’s Simon, the sweet man Wendy meets who works at the animal shelter, could there be more to their meet cute?

Complete with sweet illustrations by the author, this a charming and heartwarming.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Under the Rainbow – Celia Laskey

When a group of social activists arrives in a small town, the lives and beliefs of residents and outsiders alike are upended, in this wry, embracing novel.

Big Burr, Kansas, is the kind of place where everyone seems to know everyone, and everyone shares the same values—or keeps their opinions to themselves. But when a national nonprofit labels Big Burr “the most homophobic town in the US” and sends in a task force of queer volunteers as an experiment—they’ll live and work in the community for two years in an attempt to broaden hearts and minds—no one is truly prepared for what will ensue.

Furious at being uprooted from her life in Los Angeles and desperate to fit in at her new high school, Avery fears that it’s only a matter of time before her “gay crusader” mom outs her. Still grieving the death of her son, Linda welcomes the arrivals, who know mercifully little about her past. And for Christine, the newcomers are not only a threat to the comforting rhythms of Big Burr life, but a call to action. As tensions roil the town, cratering relationships and forcing closely guarded secrets into the light, everyone must consider what it really means to belong. Told with warmth and wit, Under the Rainbow is a poignant, hopeful articulation of our complicated humanity that reminds us we are more alike than we’d like to admit.

My thoughts: each chapter is a glimpse into the life of a different resident of Big Burr, from the newcomers trying to change prevailing attitudes to the lifelong residents who want things to either stay the same or who long for change.

This was a really interesting way to tell the story of a small town, everyone has a different perspective on things and some events you only learn about second or third hand, the way you might in real life. On the whole the LGBTQ+ activists are left alone, apart from a few really obnoxious individuals (who kidnaps a cat like that?). Big Burr might have been seen as the most homophobic town but underneath the surface, things are not quite so clear cut.

*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

12 Days of Clink Street: The Lottery – Peter J. Venison

The annual celebration of publisher Clink Street is back and full of great books. Check out the poster below my review to see all the fab bloggers taking part.

If you found an unsigned lottery ticket, what would you do if it turned out to be worth millions? Hand it in or claim the prize? Follow the twisting path of Maggie and Greg when faced with this dilemma. Who are the winners and who are the real losers? What is the price of honesty and does winning bring happiness? Can you do more good in the world if you are rich or poor? Find out in this intriguing tale of an ordinary family.

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My thoughts: this was an entertaining and enjoyable read about what happens to an ordinary family whose whole world is turned upside down when they find a winning lottery ticket in the park. Suddenly insanely wealthy, Greg and Maggie decide to keep it quiet while also doing things they’ve always wanted to do.

Greg starts investing and growing his hospitality recruitment business, splashing out on a fancy car once he feels he can justify it to friends with his business successes, meanwhile Maggie wants to donate to wildlife charities, specifically ones that save African elephants (something my sister, who is obsessed with pachyderms, could definitely get behind).

Of course their plan to do all this but not let their sudden and obscene wealth change them doesn’t quite work and over the next few years things change massively for them and their children. Maggie becomes an international environmental champion and Greg becomes one of the wealthiest businessmen around. Things in their personal lives change dramatically too. Can their family survive all of this?

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