Friday Night Drinks with…. Sheila Turner Johnston @SperrinGold @colourpoint #FridayNightDrinks #MakerOfFootprints

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Tonight I am delighted to welcome to the virtual blog bar for Friday Night Drinks, author…Sheila Turner Johnston.

Sheila Turner Johnston

Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening, Sheila, it is lovely to have you on the blog. First things first, what are you drinking?

Hi Julie, thank you for inviting me this evening! I’ll have a pure apple juice with ice please, with a tonic water mixer on the side. If the bar is out of that, make it a tonic water and bitter lemon. 

If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

It’s hard to narrow this down, but we could have dinner in the Europa Hotel and then take in a show next door at Belfast’s historic Grand Opera House.

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Sounds fabulous, Belfast is top of my bucket list for my next city break. If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

Only two? Oh dear! Well, I’m interested in ancient and medieval history and the Tudors, so I’d like to have a chance to talk to Cicero, the Roman senator and orator. He lived in and influenced pivotal times when the Roman Republic became an Empire. I’m sure he would have a lot to say about Brexit and the EU! There are so many women to choose from also but it would be fascinating to meet Emmeline Pankhurst. Her views on the current feminist movement, in contrast to the struggle she had in the early twentieth century, would be very interesting.

We haven’t had either of them on Friday Night Drinks before, so great choices. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

Right now I’m involved with publicity for my novel Maker of FootprintsIt’s a contemporary novel exploring relationships that get complicated when personal boundaries are challenged. One book blogger described it as a love story that is lifted into something more. I like that! Where do I want it to go? Into the best seller lists of course! Apart from that, I am doing final revisions on my next novel and hope it will be out before the end of this year or early next year. Fingers crossed! 

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

I’ve been writing for a long time, and during my student years my main method of creative expression was poetry. I had the scary and wonderful experience – especially with hindsight – of reading my poetry at a meeting of the English Society at Queen’s University with none other that Seamus Heaney in the audience! I remember him sitting in an armchair, eying me thoughtfully and puffing on his pipe – which was allowed then. He was one of my lecturers as well.

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My biggest challenge is defeating procrastination. I am very easily distracted and have too many interests to find it easy to focus. Everything ever written about how writers invent displacement activities applies to me with bells on!

Seamus Heaney, I am so jealous! What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

The ‘one big thing’ changes as time and events move on. For example, my elder son asked me some years ago if there was something I would really like to do and hadn’t yet done. I said I’d like to write a novel. He said “Ok, then write one.” So I did! The next thing I really wanted to do was write another one – and I did! So I suppose what I’d like to achieve is a regular output of good novels that people enjoy. If I had to push the boat out, I’d love to see one of my novels made into a movie! In case any film producers are listening to us this evening, Maker of Footprints is just perfect for the big screen – all the scenes are there ready to go! Well, you did say “be ambitious”! 

Book-to-movie is the most common ambition amongst authors on this feature, it has to be said! What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I’m excited to see my next novel published and nervous about what people will think of it. It tackles a difficult subject and involves a controversial relationship. I loved writing it. I also have novel number three started. It’s giving me a few headaches at the moment and all the displacement activities are having a party!

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

Unlike you, I’m afraid I’m not a great traveller. I get travel sick, agonizingly sore ears on aeroplanes etc. However, three years ago I screwed up my courage and went to Italy on an special interest archaeology holiday. Amongst many fascinating places, we visited Pompeii and Herculaneum, places I had always wanted to see. I’m so glad I did that. Apart from that, I find the UK and Ireland endlessly interesting and hope to visit more places closer to home, especially sites of historic interest. 

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I love Ireland. My partner, who is from Dublin, is taking me on a road trip along the south and west coasts next month – it was my birthday present – I cannot wait. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

Scraping the barrel a bit to answer this question! I suppose I could tell you that my mother was from Belfast in Northern Ireland and my father was from Cork, far down south in the Republic. So I can say that my brother and I are very early examples of cross-border co-operation!

You should be in charge of Brexit! Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

Goodness, that’s a tough one. The one that seems to float to the top of my mind is one you’ve probably already read, Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks. That book should be required reading for everyone, especially GCSE and A level history students. It evokes the mud-soaked horror of war, not from the elevated perspective of generals and governments, or even history textbooks, but through the eyes of the men who were really there, in the mud and the foxholes and the tunnels. From an Ulster and Irish point of view, Faulks’ description of the Battle of the Somme is particularly vivid and memorable. It’s as close as I imagine anyone could get – or want to get – to actually being there.

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1910. Amiens, Northern France. Stephen Wraysford, a young Englishman, arrives in the French city to stay with the Azaire family. He falls in love with unhappily married Isabelle and the two enter a tempestuous love affair. But, with the world on the brink of war, the relationship falters. With his love for Isabelle forever engraved on his heart, Stephen volunteers to fight on the Western Front and enters the unimaginable dark world beneath the trenches of No Man’s Land. From award-winning writer Sebastian Faulks, Birdsong is an exceptionally moving and unforgettable portrait of the ruthlessness of war and the indestructability of love.

So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

I’ve never had a hangover! The obvious failsafe way to avoid one is not to drink too much in the first place, but that is probably not what you mean! I do get really bad headaches sometimes and I reach for the ibuprofen and then just lie down and moan a lot till it goes away.

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Besides reading?! A lovely walk along some of our fabulous north Down coastline, time with my family, church on Sunday morning, a meal in a nice restaurant and maybe a film on TV. A packet of giant chocolate buttons would be in there somewhere too!

Sheila, it has been an absolute delight to chat with you, thank you so much for joining me and I wish you lots of luck with your writing.

Sheila’s debut novel, Maker of Footprints, is out now as an ebook and paperback and you can get a copy here.

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Meeting him was easy. It was knowing him that burned bone.

Paul Shepherd is dangerous. He crashes into Jenna’s life like an asteroid into an ocean. Willful and exhausting, he stirs feelings that make her confront all that has kept her safe – and bored.

Relentless and determined, he needs Jenna with a desperation she does not understand. Jenna discovers that, although she can try to hide from Paul, there is nowhere to hide from herself.

But he is married…

What do you do when you discover you are not the person you thought you were?

This is one of those rare books that touch the soul – a story of irrevocable change, tragedy and indestructable love.

Sheila Turner Johnston was born in west Cork, Ireland and spent her childhood in different counties the length and breadth of the country, as the family moved wherever her father’s job took him. She attended Queen’s University, Belfast, and apart from managing to graduate against all her expectations, one of her best experiences was reading her poetry to an audience that included Seamus Heaney. 

Sheila has won prizes for both fiction and non-fiction, and has written many articles for both local and national publications. She and her husband Norman founded the publishing stable Colourpoint Creative Ltd, which is now owned and managed by their two sons.

Maker of Footprints is her first published novel.

You can find out more about Sheila and her writing on her website and on Twitter.

Please join me back here next week when I will be having drinks with author, fellow RNA member, blogger and Bookouture Publicity Manager, Kim Nash.

On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder #BookReview (@TimothyDSnyder) @TheBodleyHead @MMFlint #politics #nonfiction #brexit #OnTyranny #Fahrenheit11/9

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History does not repeat, but it does instruct.

In the twentieth century, European democracies collapsed into fascism, Nazism and communism. These were movements in which a leader or a party claimed to give voice to the people, promised to protect them from global existential threats, and rejected reason in favour of myth. European history shows us that societies can break, democracies can fall, ethics can collapse, and ordinary people can find themselves in unimaginable circumstances.

History can familiarise, and it can warn. Today, we are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to totalitarianism in the twentieth century. But when the political order seems imperilled, our advantage is that we can learn from their experience to resist the advance of tyranny.

Now is a good time to do so.

Over the weekend, the Irishman and I watched Michael Moore’s latest documentary, Fahrenheit 11/9, charting the 2016 US Presidential election campaign and how the presidency of Donald Trump came about (I know what you are thinking, what wild party animals we are!) The documentary featured a gentleman named Timothy Snyder as one of the commentators, who was identified as ‘the author of On Tyranny.’ Since I found his comments in the documentary interesting, I decided to buy a copy of the book.

It arrived on Monday and I dove in immediately and read it in one sitting. At only 126 pages long, it only took me an hour to get through but, aside from its length, the things that compelled me to read it cover to cover in one sitting, and then read it straight through again the following morning, were the frightening historical lessons contained within the pages which are now scarily relevant to what is going on in the political world today, and which we need to remember and heed in order to avoid ending up in horrifying places we swore we would never go to again. Although this book is primarily drawing parallels between the European political history of the last century and the current situation in America, unfortunately our country is now facing a lot of the same issues.

The basic premise of the book is that, although history does not repeat itself exactly, in times of crisis it can flag up the warning signs that alert us to the fact we are heading down a dangerous path, and provide us with the knowledge and tools to avoid repeating historical mistakes. The book is in a very easy to digest format, with twenty lessons we can learn from twentieth century European political history, followed by a brief explanation of the context and how it may be currently manifesting in our society. Some of these ideas were not new to me, I have seen them mooted in other places during my reading and research over the past four years, but some were and, reading all of them brought together in one place and explained so clearly and concisely, was a hard slap to the face which will make any reader sit up and think, on whichever side of the political divide you find yourself. In the current unsettled and unsettling climate, this can only be a good thing.

I have seen a lot of extremes in political discourse recently, particularly on Twitter, with one side talking about the rise of fascism and the other saying this is arrant nonsense. Whatever stance you take, this book is a valuable read which might make you take a step back and consider the truth of what is actually happening. In this book, the author seeks not to say ‘this is definitely where we are heading,’ but ‘look, THINK, remember, be aware, decide where you stand and take action.’ Prevention is far, far better than the cure that proved necessary in the past. There is a famous quote, ‘eternal vigilance is the price of freedom’ which the author uses in this book. This is true today and, in contrast, apathy and inaction are surely its end.

Given the events of the last week in Parliament, some of the chapters rang with particularly resounding alarm bells. ‘Defend institutions,’ was the first, as we have seen our Parliament battling with the Executive for sovereignty over the Brexit issue and, in the last 24 hours, the independence of the judiciary being attacked. ‘Remember professional ethics’ is another topic that I particularly, as an ex-lawyer who follows a lot of legal accounts on Twitter, have seen being strenuously debated in relation to the Government’s suggestion that they may challenge or disregard the Benn Law passed this week and how members of the legal profession sitting in Government should position themselves if it takes such a step. The pieces of advice regarding critical thinking, being willing to say what you believe rather than following the herd and about using language wisely, gave me pause. The book will make you question who you want to be in the current climate and what you are prepared to stand for. Only by standing out and breaking the status quo can change be effected. How brave are we prepared to be as individuals in defence of our values?

There were a couple of quotes that really stood out to me. “The odd [American] idea that giving money to political campaigns is free speech means that the very rich have far more speech, and so in effect far more voting power, than other citizens” and ‘The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.” Two similar ideas that, given the controversy that surrounds the electoral spending and social media influencing during the referendum campaign, must make each of us question just how freely our votes are given and how much we are being influenced by people with their own agendas on both sides of the divide.

Is this too dramatic? I don’t know. I, for one, am certainly finding the current situation alarming. It is tempting to hide from the turmoil, assume it will all sort itself out eventually and we can just hide under the covers (literal, metaphorical or book, take your pick) until it does. The message behind this volume is history has shown us repeatedly that this strategy does not work. We have to pay attention and take action or accept that we have stood by while our values are eroded. This book is a wake up call. It really should be mandatory reading, particularly for those in positions of authority. Maybe we should crowdfund a copy being sent to each of our 650 MPs. After all, they have little else to do for the next five weeks.

On Tyranny is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Michael Moore’s new film, Fahrenheit 11/9, featuring Timothy Snyder is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

About the Author

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Timothy Snyder is one of the world’s leading historians of the twentieth century. An expert on eastern Europe and on the Second World War, he has written and edited a number of acclaimed and prize-winning books about twentieth-century European history.

His internationally bestselling Bloodlands won the Hannah Arendt Prize, the Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding, and has been translated into thirty-three languages.Black Earth was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the annual prize of the Dutch Auschwitz Committee.

He is Levin Professor of History at Yale University and a frequent contributor to newspapers and journals on both sides of the Atlantic.

Connect with Timothy:

Website: http://timothysnyder.org

Twitter: @TimothyDSnyder

Period by Emma Barnett #BookReview (@Emmabarnett) @HQstories @Charlo_Murs #Period #amreading #freereading

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‘Don’t be revolted, lead the revolt – preferably with a grin on your face and a tampon tucked proudly behind your ear.’

Emma loathes her period. Really, she does. But there’s something she loathes even more: not being able to talk about it. Freely, funnily and honestly. Without men and women wrinkling their noses as if she’s pulled her tampon out and offered it as an hors d’oeuvre.

But somehow, despite women having had periods since the dawn of time, we’ve totally clammed up on anything to do with menstruation. Why, oh why, would we rather say ‘Auntie Flo’ than ‘period’? Why, in the 21st century, are periods still seen as icky? Why are we still so ignorant about such a fundamental bodily process?

Now, in Period., Emma draws on female experiences that will make you laugh, weep (and, most probably, squirm), in a fierce and funny rallying cry to smash this ridiculous taboo once and for all.

Because it’s about bloody time.

I have been waiting for this book to come out since I heard the editor, Charlotte Mursell of HQ Stories, raving about it back in March. Once I finally got hold of my copy, I was eager to start, and I raced through it. Odd, you might think, to be so keen to read a book about periods but, as the tag line says, this is the book we have all been waiting for and it’s about bloody time it was written.

Those of a squeamish disposition may want to look away from this post, because it is going to be blunt and revealing.

No, actually don’t, because the whole premise behind this book is that periods are a natural bodily function and we should be talking about them, loudly and proudly, all genders, and that the stigma surrounding periods and the silence that shrouds the topic is inherently unhelpful to everyone, perpetuates a certain level of female oppression and needs to stop.

Sound a bit heavy? Well it isn’t, this book is brash, ballsy and downright hilarious, as well as dealing with the subject openly, honestly and head on and should be read by everyone. As a 47-year-old woman who has almost run the full gamut of the female reproductive cycle from starting through child-bearing to now being perimenopausal, I could relate to a lot of what was being said here, and found myself cheering along, whilst also being shocked by some of the information imparted, enraged by other parts, questioning why I had never thought of some of the issues, laughing out loud in horrified solidarity at people’s embarrassing experiences and finally asking myself if I really was as open about this subject as I always thought or complicit in the silence that surrounds this final taboo topic.

I always think of myself as being fairly honest, very opinionated and not at all squeamish. I am the eldest of four girls, have two daughters and three step-daughters, all either in or rapidly approaching their teens, so periods are something I have been surrounded by almost continuously my entire life and something I have to talk about regularly. In the spirit of honesty encouraged by the book, and to illustrate that I have had to be open about my periods from the beginning, I will share my own ‘starting my period’ story with you.

It happened on my thirteenth birthday. Yes, the actual day itself, heralding in my teens and the start of womanhood at the same time. The only hitch was, I was staying over at my friend Alex’s house for the night and had arrived unprepared. Mortifying. Luckily, Alex and I had been friends a long time and I knew her mother well. She was (I’m sure she still is, I have not seen her for many years) a kind and sensible woman, who didn’t make a fuss but just helped me calmly and quietly, sparing my blushes, an act for which I have ever been grateful. Alex also had an older sister, so her mother had already been through this process and was suitably equipped, much to my relief.

The next morning my grandad died and my parents’ concerns were, understandably, entirely taken up with the fall out of that, so the whole episode went largely unremarked upon by my own family. My highly-anticipated birthday trip to Alton Towers was cancelled and the whole thing did not feel like something to be celebrated. My mother then presented me with a glamorous belt to wear around my waist which went through loops at either end of the massive sanitary towels I was given (the days of sticky fixing, slim towels were way in the future) and not much more was said about the matter. I had crippling cramps throughout my teens, which often made me cry with pain, taught myself how to use tampons and just got on with my life, accepting monthly discomfort as simply something to be endured.

I have tried to be much more open with my own daughters than my mother was with me, talking to them well in advance about what to expect, reacting calmly when my eldest started her periods and encouraging her to talk to me and ask any questions she has about anything to do with her body. I must have done reasonably okay, as she does talk to me, as do my step-daughters, although she does sometimes complain that I am a bit too open about bodily functions. She will probably be horrified by this post if she reads it. Parents are SO embarrassing, aren’t they?

I must admit I have to a degree been guilty of perpetuating the idea that periods are something to be ashamed of by giving her the requisite discreet pouch of sanitary products to take to school. Maybe I should be advising her to walk proudly through the corridors clutching them openly. However, I am not sure at 14 and quite shy, that she is ready to be such a period pioneer and I would not force her to face up to ridicule. We obviously still have a way to go before this topic is one that people of all ages can be open about, and I think the older generation will have to lead the way. This book is definitely a step in the right direction.

You may be thinking, this is all very well and interesting, but is talking about these things quite so bluntly really necessary? Why should I read this book? The answer is absolutely yes. Emma gives many reasons why we need to be more open throughout the book, but one issue really stood out to me as an important reason why we should do away with the shame surrounding periods and anything to do with the female reproductive system, and it is to enable women to speak openly with doctors when they feel something is wrong and to be listened to and taken seriously. I have another personal anecdote that illustrates how important this is.

Several years ago, when I first went back on the Pill after starting a new post-divorce relationship, the tablet the doctor gave me resulted in periods of a duration and severity I had never before experienced in my 27 years (at that point) as a menstruating woman. I knew something was wrong and went back to see the doctor. He (yes, it was a he) told me it was just teething troubles and it would bed down. Fast forward a few weeks and I found myself on a Saturday evening in A&E, having had to leave an evening out with friends because I was soaking through a Super Plus tampon every ten minutes and thought I was haemorrhaging. I have never seen so much blood, even post-childbirth. The A&E doctor gave me a tablet to stop it and told me I had to go back to my GP and insist he change my prescription. He did. We women know our own bodies, we know what is normal for us, we need to listen to them and feel able to talk honestly and forcefully to people when we know something is wrong and we deserve to be listened to and taken seriously. Our instincts are the best way to intercept serious problems at an early stage, and the more open we can be about what is normal for each of us and what is not, the better off we all will be. Emma stresses this point in the book and she is 100% correct.

So, next time I am at the doctors filling my pill prescription, I will be asking why it is necessary for me to bleed once a month (hint, it’s not for my benefit), making sure I think about donating sanitary products when giving to food banks and considering the different circumstances women may be in and how they might feel about their periods when I’m talking about them. This book is eye-opening and thought-provoking and should be read by everyone. I will certainly be passing it around amongst my acquaintances. Baby steps in the right direction.

Period is out now and you can get your copy here.

About the Author

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Emma Barnett is an award-winning broadcaster and journalist. By day, she presents The Emma Barnett Show on BBC Radio 5 Live in which she interviews key figures shaping our times, from the Prime Minister to those who would very much like to be. By night, she presents the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme, Newsnight, on BBC Two and hosts Late Night Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4.

Emma was named Radio Broadcaster of the Year by the Broadcasting Press Guild for her agenda-setting interviews. Previously, she was the Women’s Editor at The Telegraph. She now writes a weekly agony aunt column, ‘Tough Love’, in the Sunday Times Magazine and is a proud patron of Smart Works. Period is her first book.

Connect with Emma:

Twitter: @Emmabarnett

The First Time I Saw You by Emma Cooper #BookReview (@ItsEmmaCooper) @headlinepg @NetGalley @RNATweets #NetGalley #TheFirstTimeISawYou #FictionCafeWriters

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Lost:
Six-foot-two Irish man who answers to the name Samuel McLaughlin.
Has weak shins and enjoys show tunes.
If found, please return to Sophie Williams.

Before Sophie met Samuel she saw the world in grey.
Before Samuel met Sophie, he never believed in love at first sight.

When they first meet, something tells them they are meant to be.
But fate has other ideas.

Now they have lost each other and can’t see a way back.
But they’ve already changed each other’s lives in more ways than they ever expected…

I am delighted to be sharing my review today of The First Time I Saw You, by the author of one of my Top Ten Books of 2018, Emma Cooper. My thanks to Headline for my copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I am probably not alone when I say that I always approach follow up books to ones I have loved with some trepidation. When you have loved a book as much as I loved Emma’s debut, The Songs of Us, you want the next one to be just as good, but there is always the fear that it will not live up to the heights the last one achieved. I fell so in love with the story of Melody and her family and the book had such a huge impact on me, I really could not see how The First Time I Saw You was going to match it.

Well, Emma is a clever thing because the way she did it was to make this one feel completely different, but in a way that was still compelling and affecting. At least, that is how it felt to me. I found The Songs of Us extremely funny, whilst still being heart-breaking and plumbing real emotional depth. The First Time I Saw You is a horse of a different colour, with less of a comedy element but the same complex familial relationships, the same emotional rollercoaster and the same examination of personal relationships between two flawed people, put under strain.

It took me no time at all to fall in love with Samuel (it may have has something to do with  him being Irish, I may just have a little bit of a thing for Irish men). It took me a little longer to warm to Sophie. In fact, the situation was pretty much a reversal of the way I felt about the male and female characters in the last book, but this was very important for the story development. One of the most riveting parts of the plot for me was the development and softening of Sophie, the way she changes throughout the book and how she, and we, uncover the reasons she is the way she is, how her history has shaped her and how the events in the story shape her going forwards. Damaged characters, flawed characters, complicated characters – these are the things that gives books richness and depth and make them extraordinary.

Samuel’s plot arc, for me, was both devastating and uplifting. Because I fell in love with him from the first chapter and was totally on his side, what Emma did to him almost broke me, and seeing him go through his ordeal and claw his way back to where he wanted to be was excruciating. I lived every trial, every setback, every disappointment as if he were a real person I cared for deeply. I was willing him on, wanting him to get his happy ending, mentally begging Emma to help him. It is a rare gift for an author to be able to make characters come so alive and matter so much to readers in this way, and Emma totally has this. It is the thing I love most about her writing, what embeds it in my heart.

This book left me deeply affected, just as the last one did, but in a very different way. Despite the fact that this book turns out very differently (I am desperately trying to get my point across without spoiling either book for people who have not read them yet), in some ways it was a more difficult and melancholy read for me. That may not make any sense to people who have read them both, but it is how I felt. Some people may be disappointed that this book perhaps wasn’t as lighthearted as the previous novel. I say it shows bravery, diversity and a complexity of ability that makes Emma a talented author, who will continue to surprise and push her readers and I, for one, cannot wait to see what she does next.

The First Time I Saw You is challenging, heart-breaking and uplifting and will not disappoint anyone who recognises talent and enjoyed Emma’s previous book. New readers should grab both and indulge themselves in some excellent writing tout suite.

The First Time I Saw You is out now on Kindle and available for pre-order in audiobook and paperback and you can get a copy here.

About the Author

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Emma is a former teaching assistant, who lives in Shropshire, with her partner and four children. Her spare time consists of writing novels, drinking wine and watching box-sets with her partner of twenty-four years, who still makes her smile every day.

Emma has always wanted to be a writer – ever since her childhood, she’s been inventing characters (her favourite being her imaginary friend ‘Boot’) and is thrilled that she now gets to use this imagination to bring to life all of her creations.

The Songs of Us was inspired by Emma’s love of music and her ability to almost always embarrass herself, and her children, in the most mundane of situations. She was so fascinated by the idea of combining the two, that she began to write Melody’s story. Working full-time with a large family meant that Emma had to steal snippets of ‘spare’ time from her already chaotic and disorganised life; the majority of her novel was written during her lunchtime in a tiny school office. She never expected to fall so deeply in love with the King family and is overwhelmed that others feel the same.

She has three loves in life: reading, writing and her family…oh, and music, cheese, pizza, films – Maths is not one of her talents.

Connect with Emma:

Website: https://emmacooperauthor.wordpress.com

Facebook: Emma Cooper Author

Twitter: @ItsEmma Cooper

Instagram: @itsemmacooper

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson #BookReview @cox_eleanorc31 #SummerReading #freereading #readingrecommendations

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An elderly artist and her six-year-old grand-daughter while away a summer together on a tiny island in the gulf of Finland. As the two learn to adjust to each other’s fears, whims and yearnings, a fierce yet understated love emerges – one that encompasses not only the summer inhabitants but the very island itself.

Written in a clear, unsentimental style, full of brusque humour, and wisdom, The Summer Book is a profoundly life-affirming story. Tove Jansson captured much of her own life and spirit in the book, which was her favourite of her adult novels. 

So, my cousin Eleanor lent me this book about a year ago and urged me to read it as soon as possible because she thought I would love it. My family and friends don’t recommend books to me very often because I have usually read everything before they get their mitts on it and I am recommending it to them or, in the case of my friend, Mary, because she thinks I won’t like it. This mostly tells me that my friend, Mary, does not read my blog or she would know that I will read almost anything and my tastes are wide, diverse and not particularly highbrow. (I will wait and see if she mentions this review to me as a way of testing whether or not I am correct!)

Anyway, bloggers being bloggers, I have had this book on my TBR ever since and had not found a slot in which to, well slot it, until I gave myself a summer off blog tours to do some free reading. I wish I had not waited so long because she was right, I did love it.

This book is the story of a young girl and her grandmother whiling away a summer on a remote island off the coast of Finland. Whilst not specifically written as a biography, the book is based on the author’s own childhood experiences and you can feel the love and affection for these memories she had shining from the page.

The book is an unusual construction, more akin to a series of related short stories or anecdotes than a linear tale, but I think this is part of its charm. It is a series of snapshots of events that stand out in the course of a summer when the rest of the days were probably all much the same, as summer days tend to be. And when I say stand out, they stand out in small and insignificant ways by and large, because mostly nothing huge happens. But this is the way of childhood, the things that are important are things that are insignificant when we get older and busier and more wrapped up in adult concerns. We don’t have the time to focus on the millions of tiny miracles that happen every day. These are the privileges of childhood and, as evidenced by this book, of old age when life again slows down and we can appreciate what is around us once again. Life come full circle, generations in tune.

This is the beauty of this book, the gentle, slow, true understanding and affection between these two generations sharing a quiet, slow summer on a small island. There are misunderstandings and arguments, moments of sadness, moments of fear, moments of joy and lots and lots of love. It really portrays a warm and real and beautiful relationship between two people and it really made me feel happy and hopeful. I will repeat that – happy and hopeful. What more could anyone ask for from a book? An unusual but very special read that deserves a place on anyone’s bookshelf, to be reached for a times when one’s soul needs a salve. Thank you for the recommendation, Eleanor. Oh, and happy birthday. xx

You can get a copy of The Summer Book by Tove Jansson here.

About the Author

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TOVE JANSSON (1914-2001) is revered around the world as one of the foremost children’s authors of the twentieth century for her illustrated Moomin chapter books.

The Day We Meet Again by Miranda Dickinson #BookReview (@wurdsmyth) @HQStories @NetGalley #TheDayWeMeetAgain #TeamSparkly #NetGalley

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Their love story started with goodbye…

‘We’ll meet again at St Pancras station, a year from today. If we’re meant to be together, we’ll both be there. If we’re not, it was never meant to be . . .’

Phoebe and Sam meet by chance at St Pancras station. Heading in opposite directions, both seeking their own adventures, meeting the love of their lives wasn’t part of the plan. So they make a promise: to meet again in the same place in twelve months’ time if they still want to be together.

But is life ever as simple as that?

This review is four days later than I intended, but sometimes circumstances get away from us and I hope it is better late than never! Anyway, here is my review of the latest book by Miranda Dickinson, The Day We Meet Again. My thanks to Miranda and the publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially, and apologies for not getting this up sooner.

I loved the premise of this book as soon as the blurb was released – two people who meet by chance and fall instantly in love, only to be immediately parted for a year. Is love at first sight a thing and can it survive an immediate separation? I couldn’t wait to find out, being a huge, squishy romantic at heart. I appreciate this one may not be for the cynical amongst you, although it is so good it might just change your mind.

The two main characters are immediately appealing. Phoebe, full of nerves and self-doubt, pushing herself to take an adventure alone that none of her friends think she is capable of. Sam seems something else in her and, his belief in her gives Phoebe courage to take that step and go on that journey to find herself and her purpose. Sam is on a different quest, he is in pursuit of answers about his own history but may also end up discovering more about himself than he anticipated, and having Phoebe there in the background might also give him courage to face those discoveries.

The challenges for the couple over the twelve months they are apart are fascinating. Can you really love someone you have only just met and don’t really know? How much can you trust them? How do you communicate across hundreds of miles without misunderstanding? How do changes in you affect the way you feel about another person? What should you put first, your own dreams or the love of your life? All of these questions are explored with real understanding and tenderness by the author in this book and will have you wondering what you would do when faced with similar dilemmas.

The first part of this book follows Sam and Phoebe on their separate travels; Phoebe through France and Italy; Sam to Scotland. As someone who is a sucker for a book featuring travel, I loved this aspect and the writing was so evocative of their journeys and the locations, I was itching to book a ticket to Paris and Rome and Glasgow and Mull. A book to both satiate and irritate your wanderlust at the same time.

The final third deals with what happens when Phoebe and Sam meet again at the end of the year, and parts of it had me screaming at the pages in a total WTF moment (excuse my language, but there is no other way to describe it). You know you have become truly engaged by the characters and the story in a novel when you start shouting at them for making the wrong decisions! I was totally charmed and involved in this relationship from the beginning to the end and could not read fast enough to find out how it was going to end, whilst at the same time as now wanting it to. A perfect recipe for great romantic fiction.

The Day We Meet Again is a book I loved. Romantic, entertaining, engaging, thoughtful, tender and moving, I relished every word. A very accomplished novel from an author whose writing keeps getting better and better. I highly recommend it.

The Day We Meet Again is out now and you can get your copy here.

About the Author

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Miranda Dickinson has always had a head full of stories. Born in Wolverhampton, in The Black Country, West Midlands, she grew up in Kingswinford and dreamed of one day writing a book that would reach the heady heights of Kingswinford Library… Her first novel, Fairytale of New York (2009) was discovered on Authonomy.com – HarperCollins’ site for unpublished authors. Within three weeks of its release, Fairytale of New York had entered the Sunday Times Top Ten Bestsellers List, where it remained for five weeks – making it the world’s first crowd-sourced bestseller. The novel was also shortlisted for the RNA’s Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2010 at the Pure Passion Awards.

Miranda is a six-times Sunday Times Bestseller, with Fairytale of New York, Welcome to My World, It Started With a Kiss, When I Fall in Love, Take a Look at Me Now, I’ll Take New York, A Parcel for Anna Browne and Searching for a Silver Lining. Her Christmas novella, Christmas in St Ives, is a festive treat and also a prequel to her ninth novel, Somewhere Beyond the Sea. She is an international bestseller in four countries and her books have been translated into fifteen languages. To date, she has sold one million books worldwide. The Day We Meet Again is her tenth novel and publishes on 5th September 2019.

Miranda is the founder of WriteFoxy – resources, vlogs and inspiration writing days for writers of all ages and abilities. Her popular vlogs feature her own publishing journey for each new novel, together with advice for authors and lots and lots of hats!

Miranda lives in Dudley with her husband, Bob and daughter, Flo. She is also a singer-songwriter and recently released her first solo album, About Time.

Connect with Miranda:

Website: https://miranda-dickinson.com

Facebook: Miranda Dickinson Author

Twitter: @wurdsmyth