Publication Day Review: Love Life by Nancy Peach #BookReview

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Today is publication day for Love Life, the debut novel by Nancy Peach. Happy publication day, Nancy. I have been lucky enough to have received an advanced copy of the book for the purposes of review, and am delighted to share that review with you today. Huge thanks to the author and her publisher for providing me with a digital copy of her book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Palliative care doctor, Tess Carter, is no starry-eyed heroine. After all, if your dad left without a backward glance and you found your last boyfriend in bed with another guy, you wouldn’t believe in romance either. And the voices in Tess’s head – you know, the ones that tell you you’re not good enough, not pretty enough, not clever enough – well, these voices are very loud. Very loud indeed. Especially when the disagreeable son of one of her patients starts challenging her every decision.

Edward Russell might have a big job and a posh voice, but Tess is determined not to let him get to her, especially if she can get her inner monologue to stop with the endless self-sabotage. And Edward, it turns out, may be less of a prat than he first appears…

In the real world, where gentlemanlike manners and out-of-the-blue declarations of love are a story-book fantasy, it’s up to Tess to decide whose voice to listen to … and how to make her own heard.

A romance book set in a hospice might not be something many feel-good book lovers would rush to pick up but, like the tag line in the book says, ‘Love can be found in the most unexpected of places’ and, similarly, a moving and uplifting love story can be found in the most unexpected of plot lines.

The main character is Tess, a young doctor working in palliative care in a hospice. Tess has been very hurt and let down by most of the men in her life (except her brother, Jake, who I was kind of in love with by the end of the book), so she is swearing off love and concentrating on her career. This approach is tested by the reappearance of a face from the past, which sets in motion the romantic escapades of the book.

Tess will be a very relatable character to most readers of the novel. Despite everyone around her being able to see that she is a capable, caring, genuine, accomplished human being who anyone would be privileged to know, she is riddled with self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy and is constantly at war with these feelings which hold her back from having the kind of life she dreams of. This is amusingly illustrated by the warring voices she has in her head, one always telling her what an abject failure she is, the other trying to buoy her up. The fact that the second voice is that of Jane Austen added an extra layer of amusement for me, as the author has captured her voice perfectly. Whilst we may not all have voices literally talking to us as Tess does, we can all relate to what the author is trying to demonstrate – how loud and persuasively our inner critic can seem to us and how much they can influence how we feel and act.

There is no getting away from the fact that the book deals with a difficult topic, that of grief, and how grief again affects the way we act towards those around us. However, the topic is obviously something that the author is experienced in, understands and manages to deal with with a light and sympathetic but authentic touch. She manages to capture the emotion without the book straying into the realms of the terribly depressing, which I think is quite a skill, and may be unexpected to people who are taken back by the blurb. Readers should not let the idea that the book deals with end-of-life issues put them off. As someone who has dealt with a tragic and deeply personal loss in her life, I found the writing relatable and also slightly comforting. The scene in the church near the end, in particular, resonated deeply with me but in a positive way. It’s a hard sensation to describe but I did not come away from this book feeling maudlin.

The chemistry and relationship between the two main characters was believable and charged with heat. I had worried that it might feel inappropriate, given the circumstances of the plot, but it didn’t, even when a scenario in the book WAS inappropriate (people who have read this will know what I mean!) I really wanted Tess and Ed to end up together, I cared deeply about the outcome. The author did a good job of leaving the question of whether it would work out or not hanging, and it caused me real pain to think they wouldn’t. You cannot possibly ask for more from a romance novel that to create this kind of investment by the reader in your characters and their story.

If I had any complaint at all about this book, it would be that I felt the author slightly over-egged the pudding on the use of colloquial dialogue for the Yorkshire-based characters (and I speak as a native of the county) and I wish this has been dialled back slightly. Also, I took the quote in Chapter 8 about people whose well-read and well-loved books remain looking pristine being untrustworthy as a personal affront, as my books always look like they have just come from the shop no matter how many times I have read them! However, if you are a serial book-abuser from any other county in the UK, none of this will bother you at all, I’m sure.

Joking aside, I really loved this book. It dealt sensitively with some difficult issues, portrayed a believable and enthralling relationship, and walked the line between humour and pathos beautifully. I have no hesitation in recommending the book at all and back up this recommendation with the fact that I have purchased a copy of it myself for future re-reading. There is no better accolade I can give a book than spending my hard-earned cash on it.

Love Life is out today as an ebook, and will be available in paperback and audiobook formats on 9 December. You can order you copy here and anywhere else great books are sold.

About the Author

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Nancy is a writer of commercial women’s fiction, a mother of three and an owner of various ridiculous looking pets including a dog who unexpectedly grew to be the size of a small horse. She is also a practicing doctor working for both the NHS and a national cancer charity. Over the years her medical job has provided her with an insight into many aspects of human behaviour, across all walks of life, and she is endlessly fascinated by the people she meets. She has always loved to write and finds the process incredibly therapeutic as well as being a welcome diversion from some of the less glamorous aspects of her other roles. Being a medical doctor, her sense of humour is already quite dark; she prides herself on being able to find comedy in challenging scenarios and has found this to be an essential skill in both her domestic and working life. Love and laughter are the best of medicines and she tries to channel as much of them as possible into her blogs www.mumhasdementia.com  and www.nancy-peach.com as well as her books – casting a wry and discerning eye over the human condition and tackling heavyweight issues with a light comedic touch. 

Nancy’s work has been longlisted for the Comedy Women in Print Prize and shortlisted for a Harper Collins / Gransnet competition. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and is represented by Tanera Simons at Darley Anderson Literary Agency. Her debut novel Love Life is published by One More Chapter at Harper Collins.

Connect with Nancy:

Website: https://nancy-peach.com/

Facebook: Nancy Peach Writer

Twitter: @Mumhasdementia

Instagram: @nancy.peach

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The 2021 Romantic Novel Award Winners Interviews with…. Clare Pooley

Awards

In my final interview in the series, I am chatting to the winner of the 2021 Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel Award with her novel, The Authenticity Project, … Clare Pooley.

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Clare, congratulations on your win in the Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards 2021 with your novel The Authenticity Project and thank you very much for agreeing to appear on my blog during the entry period for the 2022 awards.

You seemed rather shell-shocked to hear your name read out as the winner of the award on the night. How did you feel in that moment?

Ha ha! I was totally shell-shocked! It had been such a strange year, with all the excitement building up to my publication date and then, just a couple of weeks before the big day, BANG – a global pandemic. With all the bookshops closed, I worried that my little story didn’t stand a chance. So, to have such a wonderful accolade from such a fabulous organization was a real thrill. 

The Authenticity Project is your debut published novel, but many writers spend years writing and working on dozens of discarded manuscripts before they finally have one accepted for publication. How long have you been writing and is The Authenticity Project the first novel you have written to completion?

I loved writing as a child, and dreamed of being a novelist, but then I went into the advertising business, spent decades working hard and playing harder, and forgot about my writing. 

Then, six years ago, my drinking habit got out of control and I knew I had to quit. I turned to writing as therapy – in an anonymous blog I called Mummy was a Secret Drinker. That blog turned into a memoir – The Sober Diaries. 

Once I’d started writing, I couldn’t stop, so I turned to fiction. The Authenticity Project was a story I’d had going round and round my head for years, so once I finally started putting it down on paper it flowed really easily, and I wrote the initial draft in under six months.

Aside from this award, this book has received so much love and admiration from everyone, including every one of my fellow bloggers I recall reading it. Did you anticipate the success this book would have before it was published and how has it made you feel? What pressure does that put on you for your next project? Do you have something already underway?

Thank you, I’m blushing! 

It’s always terrifying putting something you’ve created out into the world, so when people embrace your characters and love them as much as you do it’s an incredible feeling. I’m particularly thrilled with the messages I’ve had from people who’ve said that my story helped them through the dark days of the pandemic, restoring their faith in humanity. 

But yes, that does pile on huge pressure with book two! In fact, I wrote a whole second book which I threw in the bin because I didn’t think it was good enough! I then started all over again, and the new novel is out in the spring. I wish I could tell you the title, but we’re still arguing over that one!

Uplit has been a growing trend ever since Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and we have never needed it more than over the past eighteen difficult months, a fact reflected in the outpouring of love for your novel. Did you set out to write an uplifting story, or was it just the way it unfolded on the page? 

Because I started writing as therapy, I’m naturally drawn to stories that attempt to make sense of the world, that take issues and try to find a way through them, and that make connections and friendships between people. I like to feel better about the world when I’ve finished writing a novel, and I hope my readers feel the same. I think if I tried to write psychological thrillers, I’d end up feeling incredibly miserable!

Authors often describe their characters taking on lives of their own and changing the direction of the novel as it is written, how much control did you have over the characters in this book, or did they insist on going their own way once you released them from your imagination on to the page?

That’s such a good question! I started off with a vague idea about my characters and what they might do, but they totally morphed and developed as I wrote, and often changed the direction of the story completely! There’s a major twist near the end of the story which nobody I’ve spoken to has seen coming, and I’m sure that’s because it was a total surprise to me too! One of the greatest joys of writing fiction is the magic that happens when you set your characters free and see where they take you.

Your book has a very original premise, which is one of the things the reviewers seem to love about it and, as blogger and prolific reader, a refreshing and unique idea is certainly something I get excited about. What first sparked this particular storyline and how long did it take to develop into the finished novel?

The inspiration for the story really came from my own experience. My life six years ago looked perfect from the outside, but the truth was very different, as I grappled (like Hazard in my novel) with a terrible alcohol addiction. I told the truth about my life in a blog, and that act of authenticity changed my life and the lives of thousands of people who read it. Which got me thinking: what would happen if other people shared the truth about their lives with strangers? I turned that thought around in my head for a couple of years before I dared to start putting it down on a page…

I noticed one reviewer speculate that the book would make a great Richard Curtis film. Do you agree and do you have any thoughts on who you would like to be cast in such an adaptation? Has there been any interest in developing the book for the screen?

I have actually sold the film and TV rights, so watch this space! I would LOVE Bill Nighy to play Julian, and Bradley Cooper to play Hazard. But I haven’t yet got further than that. I love it when readers start casting the film version, which I often see on social media!

Thank you so much for answering my nosey questions so brilliantly, and good luck with the next book.

The entry period for the Romantic Novel Awards 2022 is open now and will close on 30 September. Further details on entry can be found on the romantic Novelists’ Association’s website.

Clare’s award-winning novel, The Authenticity Project, is available in all formats here and I will be reviewing it on the blog soon.

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Six strangers with one thing in common: their lives aren’t always what they make them out to be.

What would happen if they told the truth instead?

Julian Jessop is tired of hiding the deep loneliness he feels. So he begins The Authenticity Project – a small green notebook containing the truth about his life.

Leaving the notebook on a table in his friendly neighbourhood café, Julian never expects Monica, the owner, to track him down after finding it. Or that she’ll be inspired to write down her own story.

Little do they realize that such small acts of honesty hold the power to impact all those who discover the notebook and change their lives completely.
 
About the Author
 
Clare Pooley spent twenty years in the heady world of advertising, working hard and playing even harder. When she realised that her alcohol habit was out of control, she quit drinking and started a blog called Mummy was a Secret Drinker. The blog went viral and became a memoir – The Sober Diaries.
Clare then turned to fiction, and her first novel – The Authenticity Project – was published in thirty languages, became an international bestseller and was the winner of the RONA debut novel award. Clare’s second novel is out in Spring 2022.
 
Connect with Clare:
 
 
 
Instagram: @clare_pooley
 
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Introducing The Romantic Novel Awards Interview Series

Awards

For fans of romantic novels and industry insiders, The Romantic Novel Awards are the highlight of the year, where the best writing in the genre is celebrated and rewarded. The entry period for the 2022 awards is now open, closing on 30 September 2021.

To celebrate the awards, and in anticipation of next year’s ceremony, I am delighted to be bringing you a series of interviews with the winners of The Romantic Novel Awards 2021, where we will be discussing their writing, their careers, their views on what makes for an award-winning romance novel, and what winning this award meant to them.

The interviews will be running weekly every Thursday, beginning Thursday, 8 July and going right through until the beginning of September. The interviewees are:

The Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel Award Winner – Clare Pooley for The Authenticity ProjectBantam Press

The Libertà Books Shorter Romantic Novel Award – Kate Hardy for A Will, a Wish and a Wedding, Mills & Boon True Love

The Romantic Saga Award – Shirley Mann for Bobby’s War, Zaffre, Bonnier Books UK

The Romantic Comedy Novel Award – Carole Matthews for Sunny Days and Sea Breezes, Sphere, Little, Brown

The Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller Award – Louise Douglas forThe House by the Sea, Boldwood Books

The Fantasy Romantic Novel Award – Christina Courtenay for Echoes of the Runes, Headline Review

The Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award – Milly Johnson for My One True North, Simon & Schuster

The Goldsboro Books Historical Romantic Novel Award – Catherine Tinley for Rags-to-Riches Wife, Mills & Boon Historical

The Sapere Books Popular Romantic Fiction Award – Julie Houston for Sing Me a Secret, Aria, Head of Zeus

I’m really excited to share these interviews with you, I know you will enjoy reading them as much I have enjoyed doing them, so I hope you will join me and my guests over the coming weeks in this celebration of romantic fiction.

For more information about the awards, please visit the Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards page.

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Book Review: The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin #BookReview

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An extraordinary friendship. A lifetime of stories. Their last one begins here.

Life is short. No-one knows that better than seventeen-year-old Lenni living on the terminal ward. But as she is about to learn, it’s not only what you make of life that matters, but who you share it with.

Dodging doctor’s orders, she joins an art class where she bumps into fellow patient Margot, a rebel-hearted eight-three-year-old from the next ward. Their bond is instant as they realize that together they have lived an astonishing one hundred years.

To celebrate their shared century, they decide to paint their life stories: of growing old and staying young, of giving joy, of receiving kindness, of losing love, of finding the person who is everything.

As their extraordinary friendship deepens, it becomes vividly clear that life is not done with Lenni and Margot yet.

Every so often a book comes along that affects you so powerfully that you can’t stop thinking about it, and it lives on in your mind and your heart long after you have turned the last page. The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot is one such book. It’s a really surprising thing to say about a book that deals with terminal illness in a young person, but this book is warm, uplifting, powerful and even joyous in places and it is definitely going to be one of my books of the year.

Lenni is an absolutely extraordinary character. Seventeen-years-old and living in hospital, in the end stages of a terminal disease, you would think she would be a person for whom your main emotion would be pity. However, Lenni is not someone who allows that. She doesn’t feel any for herself, and she is so fierce, forthright, determined, sparky, generous and full of life, that you simply can’t feel it either. I absolutely adored her right from the beginning of the book, until the end; fell so deeply in love with her that the book broke me apart as her story unfolded. But pity, no, that was not one of the things I was left feeling. She is probably now one of my favourite ever characters from a novel.

Add then to this scenario, Margot, a fellow hospital resident. Margot is 83 and has lived a full, rich, long and surprising life. Her friendship with Lenni may seem odd at first but, as the story develops, you realise these two have a lot in common and have come into each others’ lives at a time when it is just what the other person needs most. The relationship between them is so honest and genuine and absolutely beautiful that even thinking back on it now it makes my heart swell with love and joy. For these two people to have found each other at this moment… I completely believed it and revelled in the pure truthfulness of it.

As well as Lenni and Margot, there are a host of other wonderful characters in the book that aid the two of them, who are also full of life and personality and fantastic to read. Lenni’s relationship in particular with the hospital chaplain who is close to retirement is a highlight of the book and gorgeously developed. This author has a sharp eye for personality and a real skill in getting it on to the page and I have real admiration for her writing.

As well as Lenni and Margot’s relationship in the present, the book also revisits events from the pasts of both characters, so we really get to know them and understand why they have ended up where they are, needing to make friends in each other. Obviously Margot’s past is longer and more detailed that Lenni’s, and it is really wonderful thing to follow, exploring a genuinely believable life, and full of human emotion – all the pain, joy, grief, loss, excitement and confusion that pepper every life. I thought the concept of the paintings was a unique and clever way to explore these aspects of the book, the whole thing hung together perfectly.

If I had a small niggle about the book, it would be in the behaviour of Lenni’s parents. As a mother, I can honestly say that, of either if my children were in the same position, there is not a cat in hell’s chance that I would do as they do, and I don’t know anyone who would. I understand the motivations that the author gave them for behaving the way they do, but I just could not buy into it. Maybe there are people who would behave this way, but I think it is outside the norm and took a greater suspension of disbelief to accept than I am capable of. However, this did not detract in the slightest from my enjoyment of the book and no one should let it put them off because it is fairly insignificant to the course of the story.

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot is an absolute gem of a book that I think everyone should read. It delighted my soul, I’m sure it will do the same for you. Uplifting, moving and full of hope, I absolutely adored it.

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Lenni and Margot took me seven years to write and I’m very excited that their story is now reaching readers here on Amazon.

Before I started working on writing fiction full-time, I spent my days in academia, writing things that nobody wanted to read (not even my mum!). I have a PhD in Applied Linguistics but I don’t use the title ‘Dr’ on official documents because I’m scared of being asked to help in a medical emergency and having only a thesis on linguistics to help.

I like to write at night and I like to be alone when I do. When I’m not writing, I can be found trying to be funny in various improv groups or watching my recently-adopted cat sleeping under my desk.

Connect with Marianne:

Twitter: @itsmcronin

Instagram: itsmariannecronin

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Book Review: A Bicycle Built For Sue by Daisy Tate

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Getting on her bike will change everything…

Sue Young has never asked for much apart from a quiet life. She’s always been happy with her call centre job and dinner on the table at six o clock; that was until a tragedy tore her tranquility into little shreds.

With her life in tatters, Sue is persuaded to join a charity cycle ride led by Morning TV’s Kath Fuller, who is having a crisis of her own, and Sue’s self-appointed support crew are struggling with their own issues. Pensioner Flo Wilson is refusing to grow old, gracefully or otherwise, and a teen goth Raven Chakrabarti, is determined to dodge the path her family have mapped out for her.

Can the foursome cycle through saddle sores and chaffed thighs to a brighter future, or will pushing themselves to the limit prove harder than they thought?

I’m delighted to be posting my review today of A Bicycle Built For Sue by Daisy Tate. Daisy kindly provided me with a digital proof of the book for review, and I have done so honestly and impartially.

I’m so far behind with writing my reviews at the moment, that I need to apologise for anyone waiting for one from me, which is at least four or five people. As much as I like to think that I am a ruthlessly organised blogging robot, and most of the time I am, underneath I’m just a fallible human and I’ve been thrown off course in recent weeks. I am doing my best to get back on track and all outstanding reviews will be posted in the next few weeks, I hope.

So, this review should have gone up yesterday and my apologies go to Daisy for being a day late. But now I have got round to posting, I have to say that this book took me totally by surprise.

This is a book I went into with absolutely no pre-conceptions or expectations. I hadn’t seen any reviews or heard anything about it at all. Daisy approached me and asked me to read it, and the blurb sounded interesting, so I agreed. It started off as a quite fun, pleasantly different family saga, but over the course of the novel evolved into something so much more profound and I was completely blown away. I’m now wondering why I haven’t seen more buzz around this book, because it is something quite special.

We have the story of three very different women thrown together into friendship by a quirk of circumstance, who seem to have very little in common to begin with, but it becomes apparent that this is an illusion and they can relate to one another in unexpected ways. And when it boils down to it, for me, this is the fundamental take away from the novel. That, as human beings with human emotions and the experiences of living, we all have more in common that we know if we just stop, listen and try to understand.

The characters in this book are very disparate but all relatable. We have teenage Raven, trying desperately to find her place in a world where she doesn’t know where she fits, or who she is. Her parents have certain expectations of her, but she is not sure if they fit with her needs and the process of asserting her individuality in the face of their demands is a painful one. There is Sue, whose contented view of her life is shattered by a tragedy she did not see coming and which has filled her with guilt and doubt to the point that she can’t see her way forward. Then we have Flo, a septuagenarian who worries that time is running out and is resisting old age with every fibre of her being. An unlikely trio who find ways to bond and help each other out.

They decide to take on the challenge of a charity bike ride along the route of Hadrian’s Wall, with daytime TV host, Kath, who has her own demons and relationship problems to deal with. Over the course of the challenge, all four women learn so much about themselves and what they want and need going forward, drawing strength from one another along the way, that they come out at the other end different people with changed perspectives and new levels of self-awareness.

This may seem like an extremely unlikely scenario, but the author writes with such honesty and conviction, such charm and understanding that the resulting story is something so moving and truthful that it reduced me to tears. By the end of the book I was completely in love with all of these amazing females and their relationships with each other that I was cheering them on to the finish and beyond, and I was very sorry when the story ended. The whole thing was humorous and charming and entertaining, but with some serious issues underpinning the narrative that were handled in a very sympathetic and illuminating way. I adored everything about it, it may end up being one of my books of the year and that was certainly not something I was expecting when I began it.

This is an astonishing story hiding beneath an unassuming facade. The blurb doesn’t do the depths of the tale justice and I wish it had much more buzz surrounding it. It needs to be out there, being read and discussed and loved and praised. I hope this review is a start. Read the book. Shout about it. It deserves it.

A Bicycle Built For Sue is out now as a ebook and will be published as a paperback and audiobook in January. You can buy a copy here and the ebook is currently a 99p bargain!

About the Author

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Daisy Tate loves telling stories. Telling them in books is even better. When not writing, she raises stripey, Scottish cows, performs in Amateur Dramatics, pretends her life is a musical and bakes cakes that will never win her a place on a television show. She was born in the USA but has never met Bruce Springsteen. She now calls East Sussex home.

Connect with Daisy:

Website: https://daisytatewrites.com/

Facebook: Daisy Tate

Twitter: @DaisyTatetastic

Instagram: @daisytatewrites

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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

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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.