Book Review: Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You by Annie Lyons

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Eudora Honeysett is done – with all of it. Having seen first-hand what a prolonged illness can create, the eighty-five-year-old has no intention of leaving things to chance. With one call to a clinic in Switzerland she takes her life into her own hands.

But then ten-year-old Rose arrives in a riot of colour on her doorstep. Now, as precocious Rose takes Eudora on adventures she’d never imagined she reflects on the trying times of her past and soon finds herself wondering – is she ready for death when she’s only just experienced what it’s like to truly live?

This week I have been taking part in the One More Chapter Readalong for Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You by Annie Lyons, and today I am sharing my review of the book. I want to thank One More Chapter for my digital copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

It’s going to be very difficult to do this book justice in my review without giving away any spoilers because what I would really like to do is gush endlessly about how marvellous every word of the novel is and tell you in excruciating detail exactly why. However, this blog is, and always will be, guaranteed spoiler-free, so I’ll do my best by the book in more limited terminology.

Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You is one of those gems of a book that comes along quite quietly, without huge fanfare, but when you discover it you are torn between wanting to tell everyone you meet that they must read it immediately and hugging it to yourself as a cosy little secret. But since I am a kind and generous book blogger, I am going to share the secret with all of you. Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You is going to be one of my books of the year, without a shadow of a doubt. I absolutely loved it, have already bought the paperback, want to tell everyone I ever meet about it and am telling you that you absolutely must, must read it at once.

This is a story about loneliness and friendship and family and disappointment and giving up and not giving up and intergenerational relationships and death and all kinds of love and how life isn’t over until it’s over. It has a dual timeline, amazing characters and every single emotion you can think of ranging through it. It will make you laugh and possibly cry (don’t read it at bedtime unless you want to have to sleep on a soggy pillow) and, as soon as you have turned the last page, want to immediately go back to the beginning and start all over again.

Annie Lyons has created a superb character in Eudora Honeysett. She goes on one of the most transformative journeys of any fictional character I have come across in fiction this year. The Eudora I met in the first chapter of this book is a totally different person to the one I left on the last page. The author’s deftness in peeling back the layers of Eudora’s back story over the course of the book at the same time as showing her emotional journey in the present is a thing of joy to behold and I am full of awe and admiration for her skill in playing with the reader’s emotions in this way. Despite being a very prickly character when we first meet her, she is totally sympathetic and, by the end of the book I was completely and irrevocably in love with her as if she were real and a member of my own family. Anyone who loved Eleanor Oliphant, Susan Green from The Cactus or Ruth Hogan’s The Keeper of Lost Things is going to adore Eudora Honeysett.

But Eudora doesn’t go through this transformation in isolation. All changes need a catalyst, and Eudora’s comes in the form of a tiny, rainbow tornado of a next door neighbour who shakes up Eudora’s ordered but sterile life, completely against Eudora’s will. Rose is a bright force of nature and a more delightful character has never been written. She represents all that is good and pure and positive in this cynical world and is the perfect antidote to all the stress and worry and loneliness that we are currently experiencing. This book could not have come along at a more opportune time for all of us and, if you are looking for a cheering, uplifting, escapist read that addresses a lot of issues that we are all currently facing, look no further.

There are a host of other fantastic characters to support these two, including the adorable Stanley ,who everyone must want as their grandad, Rose’s mum and baby sister, and Montgomery, a cat full of personality. The plot is unique and thought-provoking. It really made me think about getting older, loneliness and what it must be like to contemplate your death in old age. The author does an impeccable job of capturing the unique perspectives of the different generations and their individual concerns. Every word of this book is believable and informative and reading it was an enriching experience, as well as being fun and emotionally moving. Quite an accomplishment.

I really cannot sing the praises of this book highly enough. If you haven’t realised by now, I adored it and think everyone should read it. I hope it gets a lot of attention, because it really deserves it. I know it is a book I will continue to think about long after I’ve finished it and will return to again. The pinnacle of uplit and the perfect book for a lockdown lift.

Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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After a career in bookselling and publishing, Annie Lyons published five books including the best-selling, Not Quite Perfect. When not working on her novels, she teaches creative writing. She lives in south-east London with her husband and two children.

Connect with Annie:

Website: https://annielyons.com/

Facebook: Annie Lyons

Twitter: @1AnnieLyons

Instagram: @annielyonsauthor

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Buddy Read: The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris #BookReview

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

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

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

I’ve had a copy of this book for ages, in fact it appeared on my Tempted By… feature back in January, but it has taken until now, and the lure of a buddy read by my friend, Kate, to finally bump it to the top of the TBR and now I am wondering why I waited so long!

Kate had just finished reading the author’s new book, Where We Belong, and was waxing so lyrical about how much she loved it that I said I was going to dig out that copy of her first novel that was languishing on my TBR, and Kate said we should do a buddy read, which was great fun. Needless to say, we both loved it. In fact, I’ve not seen a negative comment about this book.

It is an absolutely beautiful story about love, betrayal, loss and the redeeming power of music and friendship. I knew from the very beginning that the book was going to be something special. Anstey took the bold step of introducing two characters and immediately making them morally ambiguous, so to begin with you are wondering if they are people you should be rooting for or not. Grace then quickly becomes someone that you fall in love with and your sympathies are entirely with her from then on. Anstey draws her so clearly and believably, that you can feel her every emotion exactly as she does and, even when she makes bad decisions, you understand and forgive them because you know the place of pain they are coming from. There are very few characters that I have become so emotionally invested in over the course of my reading life and it is a real skill to achieve.

The pacing of this book is perfect, and there are several points where the author introduces truly shocking events that took me entirely by surprise. I found myself sending Kate WhatsApp messages riddled with excited/shocked/horrified emojis when I got to a part of the book that I knew was going to blow her away when she reached them. It is the kind of book that makes you sigh, and scream and cheer out loud, even though this makes you look like a lunatic if you are reading in public, because you are so invested in the story and the characters’ emotions.

I am not a connoisseur of classical music and did wonder if the exploration of instrument making and classical music would be beyond me, but it wasn’t at all. I found it fascinating and enthralling, and I was swept away by the passion that the characters obviously feel for it, even though I don’t share it. It made me want to go and listen to the music the book refers to, and then read the book again with a better understanding of how these particular pieces complement the story. There is a part towards the end of the book involving a musical interlude that almost made me cry, and then another part of the book towards the end which actually did make me cry. I felt sympathy for a character I had recently despised, and genuinely did not know how things were going to end until I had read the conclusion. I felt despair and pain and hope and joy throughout the course of the book, and marvelled at the skill it takes to truly arouse all these feelings in a reader.

The writer excels at using language and phrasing to evoke emotions and paint a very clear picture. I made note of some of my favourite parts so that I could study them, as a student of writing, later. I can’t write down my favourite quote, as it gives away a major plot point, but it is in the second paragraph of Chapter Eighteen! The imagery is so clear and deft, I am in awe of her. The beauty of the descriptions of Paris and the love she espouses for the city will take you straight there. The power of the emotional descriptions will break your heart. The beauty of the friendships will put it back together again. It is just marvellous.

In fact, it is the odd friendships that form the backbone of this book and really make it sing. It teaches you that, however alone you feel, there are always people out there who will reach out to comfort you in times of need, and they are not who you might expect. However much you try and shut the world out, it will creep in at the edges and hold you up when you feel all is lost. And the people who you think matter most may not truly be the ones you can rely on, so you need to keep our eyes and your heart open and trust yourself. It is, ultimately, life-affirming.

I absolutely adored this book and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a powerful read.

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Anstey Harris is based by the seaside in south-east England where she lives with her violinmaker husband and two dogs. She teaches creative writing in the community, local schools, and as an associate lecturer for Christchurch University in Canterbury.

Anstey writes about the things that make people tick, the things that bind us and the things that can rip us apart. In 2015, she won the H G Wells Short Story Prize for her story, Ruby. In novels, Anstey tries to celebrate uplifting ideas and prove that life is good and that happiness is available to everyone once we work out where to look (usually inside ourselves). Her short stories tend not to end quite so well…

Things that interest Anstey include her children and granddaughter, green issues and conservation, adoption and adoption reunion (she is an adopted child, born in an unmarried mothers’ home in Liverpool in 1965), stepfamilies, dogs, and food. Always food. She would love to be on Masterchef but would never recover from the humiliation if she got sent home in the first round.

Connect with Anstey:

Website: https://www.ansteyharris.com

Twitter: @Anstey_Harris

Instagram: @ansteyharris

The Lido by Libby Page Narrated by Clare Corbett #BookReview #audiobook (@LibbyPageWrites) @LitRedCorvette @OrionBooks @audibleuk #freereading #TheLido

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Meet Rosemary, 86, and Kate, 26: dreamers, campaigners, outdoor swimmers…. 

Rosemary has lived in Brixton all her life. But now everything she knows is changing – the library where she used to work has closed, the family fruit and veg shop has become a trendy bar, and her beloved husband, George, is gone. Kate has just moved and feels alone in a city that is too big for her. She’s at the bottom rung of her career as a journalist on a local paper and is determined to make something of it. So when the local lido is threatened with closure, Kate knows this story could be her chance to shine. 

And Rosemary knows it is the end of everything for her. Together they are determined to make a stand, to show that the pool is more than just a place to swim – it is the heart of the community. Together they will show the importance of friendship, the value of community and how ordinary people can protect the things they love. 

What a beautiful story this is. A story about an unlikely friendship between a young, anxious and lonely girl starting a new life in a city where she knows no one and an elderly woman who has lived in the same place all her life, but who has discovered that you still need new friends, however old you get. It is a story about community and what that means in a city that faces all the changes that modern life brings. It is a story about the things that are perceived as important versus the things that actually really matter. And it is a beautiful love story that spans half a century.

I loved everything about this book. The gentle storytelling. The genuine heart of the characters and their honest and down-to-earth friendships. The vivid descriptions of a lively neighbourhood and the changes that it sees over the decades. The ordinary and yet extraordinary love story between two people who were always meant to be together and who were each other’s everything. It’s about friendship and love and neighbourliness and old age and grief and loneliness and family and how a community lido represents all of this.

The book really moved me throughout. The characters really spoke to me, and made me care about them and the fate of the Lido. I was gently gripped by their individual plights, and what was affecting them as a community. It represented the very best of the way people can be, something we need more of in the current climate where everyone seems to be at loggerheads all the time. This is uplit at a time when we all need it.

Loved it, every minute.

The Lido is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Libby Page is the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Lido and The 24-Hour Café.

Before writing The Lido Libby worked as a campaigner for fairer internships, a journalist at the Guardian and a Brand Executive at a retailer and then a charity. She also shares her swimming adventures with her sister Alex at @theswimmingsisters.

Connect with Libby:

Website: https://libbypage.co.uk

Facebook: Libby Page Writes

Twitter: @LibbyPageWrites

Instagram: @libbypagewrites

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan Narrated by Jane Collingwood and Sandra Duncan #BookReview #audiobook (@ruthmariehogan) @TwoRoadsBooks @JaneCollingwoo1 @audibleuk #freereading #KeeperOfLostThings

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Meet the Keeper of Lost Things….

Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before.

Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners.

But the final wishes of the Keeper of Lost Things have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters….

At the risk of being accused of hyperbole, I am going to tell you that this may be the most perfect book I have read in a long while. It has absolutely everything I love in a good work of fiction, novelty of plot, sympathetic characters, romance, comedy, pathos, a hint of the supernatural and a fabulous ending. I adored every single minute I spent listening to it and I did not want it to end.

What a fantastic premise for a book, somebody picking up random items that have been lost in public and trying to get them reunited with their missing owners. I loved all the little stories that were attached to the missing items, the snippets of insight into everyday lives they gave -many of which took the most unexpected turn.

The characters in this book were just a delight, every single one of them, even the dreadful Portia who produced some of my favourite parts of the book – but more about that later. Anyone who reads this book could not help but fall in love with Rose, and wish her to get her happy ending, the marvellous and insightful Sunshine, gentle and generous Anthony and his heartbreaking story, Bomber and Eunice and their dogs… Everyone of them a beautiful and lovingly drawn portrait of a person that is essential to the story and will tug on the heartstrings of the reader, making them care very much about what happens to them, and the odd assortment of detritus that becomes so essential to their happiness. The way the characters and their stories and the objects were intertwined is so beautifully and cleverly done, reading it was just a joy.

This book made me feel everything. It was hilariously funny in places. I found myself actually laughing out loud at the parts where the plots of Portia’s novels were read out, proper big belly laughs. There were parts of the book that had my eyes pricking with tears – particularly the story of Eunice and Bomber, which was so gorgeous and real and sensitively drawn, they are characters and a story that will stay with me a good long while. And the ending, oh the ending had the hairs standing up on the back of my neck, and I mean that literally. I know it has taken me a long while to get to this book after its initial publication and the excitement surrounding that, but maybe this book was just waiting for the right time for me to find it. Maybe it was just what I needed right now and I would not have loved it as much if I had read it at another time. Whatever, all I know is that it has moved me and made me profoundly happy now that I have discovered it.

I think you can tell, I absolutely love this book. It definitely has a place on my forever shelf and I know I will come back to it again and again. The audio version is wonderful, the performances captured the characters beautifully but I look forward to reading it again soon in the physical version to see if I have a different reaction, if there are nuances to be found that I’ve missed. In any event, one of my favourite books of recent years, a definite keeper.

The Keeper of Lost Things is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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I was born in the house where my parents still live in Bedford. My sister was so pleased to have a sibling that she threw a thrupenny bit at me.

As a child, I loved the Brownies but hated the Guides, was obsessed with ponies and read everything I could lay my hands on.  Luckily, my mum worked in a bookshop.  My favourite reads were The Moomintrolls, A Hundred Million Francs, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the back of cereal packets, and gravestones.

I passed enough O and A levels to get a place at Goldsmiths College, University of Londonto study English and Drama.  It was brilliant and I loved it.

And then I got a proper job.

I worked for ten years in a senior local government position (Human Resources – Recruitment, Diversity and Training). I was a square peg in round hole, but it paid the bills and mortgage.

In my early thirties I had a car accident which left me unable to work full-time and convinced me to start writing seriously.  I got a part-time job as an osteopath’s receptionist and spent all my spare time writing.  It was all going well, but then in 2012 I got Cancer, which was bloody inconvenient but precipitated an exciting hair journey from bald to a peroxide blonde Annie Lennox crop. When chemo kept me up all night I passed the time writing, and the eventual result was THE KEEPER OF LOST THINGS.

I live in a chaotic Victorian house with an assortment of rescue dogs and my long-suffering husband.  I spend all my free time writing or thinking about it and have notebooks in every room so that I can write down any ideas before I forget them.  I am a magpie; always collecting treasures (or ‘junk’ depending on your point of view) and a huge John Betjeman fan.  My favourite word is antimacassar and I still like reading gravestones.

Connect with Ruth:

Website: http://ruthhogan.co.uk

Facebook: Ruth Hogan

Twitter: @ruthmariehogan

Instagram: @ruthmariehogan

Tempted by…Cleopatra Loves Books: The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg @cleo_bannister @BoroughPress @HarperCollinsUK #TheRedAddressBook #bookbloggers #amreading #readingrecommendations

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Meet Doris, a 96-year-old woman living alone in her Stockholm apartment. She has few visitors, but her weekly Skype calls with Jenny―her American grandniece, and her only relative―give her great joy and remind her of her own youth.

When Doris was a girl, she was given an address book by her father, and ever since she has carefully documented everyone she met and loved throughout the years. Looking through the little book now, Doris sees the many crossed-out names of people long gone and is struck by the urge to put pen to paper.

In writing down the stories of her colourful past―working as a maid in Sweden, modelling in Paris during the 30s, fleeing to Manhattan at the dawn of the Second World War―can she help Jenny, haunted by a difficult childhood, to unlock the secrets of their family and finally look to the future? And whatever became of Allan, the love of Doris’s life?

Today on Tempted by … I am featuring The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg, which I was persuaded to buy by reading this review on Cleopatra Loves Books.

The main draw of this book for me was the promise of a plethora of exotic locations across the story, which is always something I enjoy in a work of fiction if well done, and the fascinating study of an older character which Cleo describes as being unstereotypical. It sounds as if the author has put a lot of care into the character of Doris and telling her story accurately, and I think it has an interesting and charming premise. Doris is obviously a character that Cleo admired as a protagonist, which made me trust that she would be someone I could rely on to carry this fascinating-sounding story. Plus, I love the cover!

Cleo’s blog has been silent for the last six months, which is a massive shame and I am hoping that she has no abandoned it entirely, but it just taking a break, as it is a blog I have enjoyed following very much in the past. I really love the way Cleo is so forthright in her opinions, you always know exactly what she thinks of a book, clear about why she loves it or not and make an easy judgement about whether it may or may not be for you. She has enjoyed a lot of the same books as I, so our tastes mesh fairly well. I hope all is well with you, Cleo, and if anyone knows why she has stopped blogging, I’d love to hear. I miss seeing her reviews in my inbox.

If you would like to get your own copy of The Red Address Book, you can get a copy here.

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary Narrated by Carrie Hope Fletcher & Kwaku Fortune #BookReview #audiobook (@OLearyBeth) @QuercusBooks @CarrieHFletcher @KwakuFortune @audibleuk #TheFlatshare #freereading

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Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met….

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time. 

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rule book out the window….

I’m probably one of the last people to get round to reading (or listening) to this marvellous book, so I will be preaching to the choir here but, OMG, why did I wait so long to get to it? Now I understand what all the hype has been about and why the book has won awards, I absolutely blooming’ loved every second of it.

If you are one of the very few people who have not yet got to this book (and I advise you to correct that immediately), let me try and explain just what is so special about it. Firstly, of course, there is the genius premise behind the story. What would happen if a man and a woman were sharing a flat and a bed, but never meet? How much can you find out about someone just by sharing their living space? How intimate can you become with another person without actually ever seeing them face to face? On the audio version of this book which I listened to, Beth O’Leary explains how she came up with the idea behind the novel, and it was fascinating to hear what sparks a story idea and the process behind the story development, and I really thought it was a gorgeous story to hear and leant a new dimension to the book. The plot is so clever and unique, this is the first great thing about it, this is a love story that you’ve never heard before.

Secondly, the characters. Oh, how I love them. Tiffy is the kind of person you completely want as your best friend. Warm and open and caring. Scatter-brained and clever and creative and funny. She will worm her way into your heart immediately, and you will want to take care of her, hug her and make everything alright for her from the off. Then there is Leon. Also caring, but cautious and guarded and quiet and reserved. Careful not to give his heart away. Reticent, but warm and loving underneath. You know he and Tiffy are perfect for each other from the beginning, but how can they fall in love if they never meet, and will circumstances and other people get in their way. You will be desperate to know, desperate to help but THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO except hope and listen as the story unfolds. The author gives them such distinct and individual voices, it is always clear who is telling the story at any time throughout the dual perspective narrative and she perfectly conveys their personalities through their speech. There is also a supporting cast of friends and foes to round out the story, each one perfect for their role. I absolutely adored or loathed all of them as required.

The book is beautifully paced, funny, moving, engrossing and appealing all the way through. Not a scene, not a word is wasted. Things happen at exactly the right moment to propel the story on and keep the reader interested but the tension up. It is perfectly balanced and executed and, if I had read this book a month earlier, it would have made it into my Top 10 books of 2019 list. It is already a strong contender for 2020.

A final word about the audio version of this book. As this is a dual perspective narrative, from the alternating voices of Tiffy and Leon, it is read by two different narrators and it works beautifully. Both of them completely embody the characters they are portraying and they really bring the book to life. One of the things that really works for me about this novel is getting to see both sides of the events that happen in the book from the perspective of each protagonist and I think, having two different voices narrating these events in the audiobook, really brings this contrast to life and probably enhanced my enjoyment of the story. Audiobooks have become a big thing for me over the past 8 months (after being unable to read physical or ebooks for a period last year) and I am consuming more and more of them. This one is a particularly wonderful example and if you are a fan of audiobooks, this is one that is worth the investment.

The Flatshare is out now in hardback, ebook and audiobook, and will be published in paperback on 20 February. You can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Beth studied English at university before going into children’s publishing. She lives as close to the countryside as she can get while still being in reach of London, and wrote her first novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from work.

She is now writing novels full time, and if she’s not at her desk, you’ll usually find her curled up somewhere with a book, a cup of tea, and several woolly jumpers (whatever the weather).

Connect with Beth:

Website: https://betholearyauthor.com

Twitter: @OLearyBeth

Instagram: @betholearyauthor

Dear Mrs Bird by A. J. Pearce, Narrated by Anna Popplewell #BookReview #Audiobook (@ajpearcewrites) @picadorbooks @MacmillanAudio @audibleuk @AnnaPopplewells

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London, 1940. Emmeline Lake and her best friend, Bunty, are trying to stay cheerful despite the Luftwaffe making life thoroughly annoying for everyone. Emmy dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent, and when she spots a job advertisement in the newspaper she seizes her chance – but after a rather unfortunate misunderstanding, she finds herself typing letters for the formidable Henrietta Bird, the renowned agony aunt of Woman’s Friend magazine. 

Mrs Bird is very clear: letters containing any form of Unpleasantness must go straight into the bin. Emmy finds herself dismissing problems from lovelorn, grief-stricken and morally conflicted readers in favour of those who fear their ankles are unsightly or have trouble untangling lengths of wool. But soon the thought of desperate women going unanswered becomes too much to bear, and Emmy decides the only thing for it is to secretly write back…. 

I know, I am SO late to the party with this book. I have had the hardback version sitting on my TBR forever, and I had never got round to reading it for some reason, mainly pressures of all the blog tours I took on last year. I finally gave in and bought the audiobook with one of my monthly credits and, it was obviously fate that had stopped me reading it because I absolutely adored the audio version.

I just have to say from the off that Anna Popplewell does the most amazing job of narrating this book. Any of you who have read it will know that the author captures the patterns and peculiarities of speech from the era perfectly and, hearing this spoken aloud rather than reading it, really brings it to life. I could picture Mrs. Bird so clearly in my mind’s eye through the narration, it gave the novel an extra dimension and I would highly recommend listening to this in audio format. Not every book lends itself equally well to audiobook, and so much of the success depends on the narrator, this one is just beautiful.

Moving on from the format, I fell completely in love with this book. The premise was what drew me to it in the first place, the magical idea of a repressed wartime agony aunt refusing to deal with any Unpleasantness from her readers and a sympathetic young woman who relates only too well to the messes that women found themselves in during wartime. It was a genius way of demonstrating the perils of war in a completely fresh manner with a unique approach and it worked like magic. I have to say, I am not personally a fan of wartime books, I often find them quite traumatic, so the fact I loved this one so much is testament to the skill of the author.

The book is a delightful blend of gentle comedy and pathos. The situation the girls find themselves in is dire, but their friendships and love for those around them bolster them and pull them through, so when that is threatened, it puts their whole world into more peril than the war itself, and this is the real core story of the book. Our personal relationships are the things that hold us solid through the direst of times and anything that threatens those are the things that are truly dangerous. I absolutely adored the approach that the author took to this whole topic, it spoke to me on a really fundamental level and was the main reason that this book got under my skin.

The main character of Emmy was totally relatable as a modern young woman dealing with extraordinary circumstances. Flawed but wonderful, any reader would fall in love with her and be riding the highs and lows of her experience through every page. My twelve-year-old daughter, who listened to portions of this book while we were in the car, was fascinated by the name Bunty (which is ‘not a real name, Mummy’), and kept asking me what had happened during the portions of the book she had missed. Anything which can capture the imagination of a modern tween like this must be something special.

And what to say about the titular Mrs. Bird? Only that the author has created a character so much larger than life that anyone who reads this will never forget her. A Lady Bracknell for a new age.

I loved this book so much that I have given a copy to every one of my friends who hasn’t yet read it, nominated it as my Secret Santa book in my book club swap and gifted the audiobook to my writer buddy. I know it wasn’t published this year, but it is my read of the year for 2019, and I know I will come back to it again and again. Pure joy on the page, as close to reading perfection as you are ever likely to find.

Dear Mrs Bird is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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AJ Pearce was born in Hampshire, UK. Her favourite subjects at school were English and History, which now (finally!) seems to be making some sense.

She majored in American History at the University of Sussex, spending her Junior Year at Northwestern University in Illinois, USA.

She began writing as a hobby in 2005. In 2012 she came across a 1939 copy of a weekly women’s magazine and had the idea of writing a novel set in wartime London.

In 2016, following a seven-publisher auction in the UK, Dear Mrs Bird was acquired by Picador, and in the USA by Scribner after a similarly competitive auction.  Dear Mrs Bird was published in hardback in the UK in April 2018, becoming a Sunday Times Top 10 Bestseller two weeks later. It has been sold for translation in thirteen other countries.

AJ was one of The Observer’s New Faces Of Fiction Debut Novelists 2018, and was shortlisted in the Breakthrough Author category in the UK’s 2018 Books Are My Bag Readers Awards. Dear Mrs Bird was chosen as one of NetGalley UK’s Top Ten Books of 2018, and shortlisted in the US LibraryReads Favorites of Favorites 2018.

In 2019, Dear Mrs Bird was a Richard and Judy Book Clubpick. It was shortlisted for the Debut of the Year at the 2019 British Book Awards as well as the Royal Society of Literature Sir Christopher Bland Prize, and long listed for the inaugural Comedy Women in Print award.

In July 2019 it was further longlisted for the Goldsborough Books Glass Bell Award, and the Historical Writers’ Association’s Debut Crown 2019 for the best historical debut.

AJ is currently writing her second novel, the sequel to Dear Mrs Bird.

Connect with A. J. Pearce:

Website: https://www.ajpearce.com

Facebook: A J Pearce Writes

Twitter: @ajpearcewrites

Instagram: @ajpearcewrites

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy #BookReview (@charliemackesy) @EburyPublishing #TheBoyTheMoleTheFoxAndTheHorse #illustrated


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A book of hope for uncertain times.

Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons.

The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos. In Charlie’s first book, you will find his most-loved illustrations and some new ones too.

I kept seeing this book being mentioned on social media but wasn’t quite sure what it was all about. I thought it was a children’s book until I picked it up in Waterstones and immediately fell in love with it.

This is a book unlike any other. A combination of nuggets of wisdom passed on through the story of four unlikely friends, combined with beautiful, fluid pen and ink drawings of the cosy quartet, it is a book you can pick up and dip in and out of whenever time allows, or your soul needs a little succour.

This isn’t a book with a linear plot, as such, more a loosely connected series of thoughts and advice for anyone needing to be reminded that the world is generally a good place, people are mostly kind and generous and, in a society that seems to value only surface perfection, it is okay just to be a perfectly imperfect you. The author is obviously a very astute individual, the sentiments in the book really touched and moved me on almost every page.

It is very hard to describe what is so special about this book, you really should pick up a copy and take a look for yourself. It is full of warmth and comfort and kindness, as well as beauty and friendship. I found the messages in the books so powerful that I immediately bought five copies to send to my close writing friends as a reminder of how strong we are as a group. This is a book you will want to share with the people you love.

A beautiful book that you will return to again and again when you need a virtual hug and a reminder that things are never as bad as they seem. One of my favourite discoveries of the year.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is out now and you can get a copy here.

About the Author

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Artist Charlie Mackesy has been a cartoonist for The Spectator and a book illustrator for Oxford University Press. He has collaborated with Richard Curtis for Comic Relief, and Nelson Mandela on a lithograph project, ‘The Unity Series’. His first exhibition for the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse was in London in November 2018. Charlie lives in South London with his dog.

Connect with Charlie:

Website: https://www.charliemackesy.com

Facebook: Charlie Mackesy Art

Twitter: @charliemackesy

Instagram: @charliemackesy

 

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 Two Hearts of Eliza Bloom by Beth Miller #BookReview #BlogTour (@drbethmiller) @bookouture @NetGalley #TheTwoHeartsOfElizaBloom #NetGalley #PublicationDay

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She followed her heart to change her life, but she didn’t realise how much she left behind…

Eliza Bloom has a list of rules: long, blue skirt on Thursdays, dinner with mother on Fridays, and never give your heart away to the wrong person. Nothing is out of place in her ordered life…

Then she met someone who she was never supposed to speak to. And he introduced her to a whole world of new lists:
New foods to try – oysters and sushi
Great movies to watch – Bambi and Some Like It Hot
Things I love about Eliza Bloom

Eliza left everything she knew behind for him, but sometimes love just isn’t enough. Especially when he opens a hidden shoebox and starts asking a lot of questions about her past life. As the walls Eliza has carefully constructed threaten to come crashing down, will she find a way to keep hold of everyone she loves, and maybe, just maybe, bring the two sides of her heart together at last?

Oh, I am so VERY happy to be kicking off the blog tour on publication day for this most marvellous book! Happy Publication Day, Beth. The hugest thanks to Kim Nash at Bookouture for giving me a place on the tour and for my gifted copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

The blurb of this book doesn’t really give you a clue what to expect between the covers and gives very little hint of the main plot device of the novel, so it is going to be quite difficult to write a comprehensive, spoiler-free review. Still, I’m up for a challenge so let’s give it a go.

This is a ‘two worlds collide, fish out of water’ story about a couple falling in love from opposites sides of a divide that throws up a multitude of problems in their relationship. If you scout other reviews, you will probably find out what the differences are that divide them without reading the book, but I think that will be a shame for you and I would advise you going into the book naively and discover the secret for yourself as you read. For me, it was really eye-opening, as the world Eliza comes from is one that I know nothing about, and learning about the conventions and rules of the society in which she lives was fascinating and humbling; I’m embarrassed that I have never taken the time to learn more about it before.

However, aside from the particular issues Eliza’s background presents to the relationship, there is a lot in this story that rings true for anyone who has ever been in a relationship, especially one that has been entered into at a young age when, whilst we might feel we are adults, we are largely unformed and uninformed as people, and we are making life-changing decisions joining ourselves to other people when we don’t really know who we are ourselves. Through the book, the author explores all kinds of relationships that shape all of our lives, not just romantic ones. The bonds of family – spouses, parents, children, siblings, friends, extended family, wider community- their needs, expectations, ideologies, personalities, dynamics, all of these things affect each of us in different ways and impact our behaviour and decisions and part of life is learning where we fit, how to manage these things, when we should comply, when we should rebel, what is important and what isn’t. The arts of empathy, understanding and compromise are something we all need to learn, whoever we are and wherever we come from.

The author writes with sensitivity, warmth and approachability. Her characters felt so real to me, even though the world she is writing about is so alien in many ways, I was totally drawn in. The main character, Eliza, could be me, you, or any of us because, as humans, we have more similarities than we have differences, no matter who we are or where we come from, if we choose to see them and focus on them, rather than our differences. Given some of the current things going on in the world today, I think this message is an extremely relevant and important one to be getting out there, and this book does it beautifully.

This is a gorgeous story, the writing pulls you through with ease and pleasure. There was nothing but joy in the reading of it for me, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Pretty close to reading perfection.

The Two Hearts of Eliza Bloom is out today and you can get a copy here.

To read some alternative reviews of the book, please do follow the tour as detailed below:

Two Hearts - Blog Tour

About the Author

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Beth Miller is the author of two novels and two non-fiction titles, including For the Love of The Archers. She has worked as a sexual health trainer, a journalist and a psychology lecturer and is now a mentor and book coach. Beth is a member of the Prime Writers, has a PhD in Psychology, and is a world class drinker of tea.

Connect with Beth:

Website: https://www.bethmiller.co.uk

Facebook: Beth Miller Author

Twitter: @drbethmiller