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SQUADPOD SANTEMBER – Extract: The Disassembly of Dorren Durand by Ryan Collett

Published: May 13th, 2021
Publisher: Sandstone Press
Genre: General Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

As part of the Squadpod’s Sandtember, I’m featuring an extract from The Disassembly of Doreen Durant on the blog today. Thank you to Sandstone for the extract and proof.



From her apartment window, Doreen Durand witnesses a horrific accident.
The police want to know what she saw. Doreen doesn’t want to tell them – or anyone. But when she runs away it’s straight into the fantastic world of the wealthy and mysterious Violet Cascade. With one rogue police officer in pursuit, and life becoming more bizarre by the day, Doreen is caught up in a surreal game of cat and mouse.



Chapter One.

The first weekend after Whitney left, a man showed up at the apartment unannounced. He knocked on the door too many times in a row, then rang the doorbell. Doreen ignored it at first – slightly scared, but also sleepily negligent – but when he drilled one more ungodly time on the doorbell, she pushed her hair around into something not haphazard, slipped on a pair of sweatpants, and answered it.
‘Whitney, right?’ said an older, grizzled man. He wore a stained t-shirt that wrapped too-tight around his globe of a gut and extended a callused hand in greeting. ‘I’m Jack.’
‘Sorry, no,’ said Doreen, not saying her name and not taking his hand. 
‘I’m here for the couch.’
‘The couch? What?’
‘You must be the roommate. Whitney gave me the address. I’m here for the couch you girls were selling.’
Doreen looked over her shoulder at the sofa in the living room, one of the few things Whitney had left. There was the sofa, a coffee table, an empty TV stand, and not much else. ‘I didn’t know she was selling it,’ Doreen said to the sofa. Jack craned his neck to try to see around her. 
‘I’m sorry, I don’t want to cause a fuss,’ he said. ‘She posted an ad for the couch the other day. I said I was interested and we made a deal over email. I already sent her a hundred bucks – pretty good deal for a couch that nice. She said this morning would be a good time to pick it up. She said you might be the only one here, but it was fine to stop by.’ 
‘Right,’ said Doreen. She picked at nothing behind her ear and squinted at the man. ‘I guess, yeah, you have to take it. Sure.’
Jack called down to a younger man who had been waiting in a pickup truck in the parking lot and the two of them came inside, thudding across the living room carpet in heavy, dusty boots, Saturday-sweaty. They lifted the long sofa, but struggled to shimmy it out the front door. The apartment was built in the seventies – Whitney said she had had to sign a waiver about lead paint or something – and its age showed whenever furniture was moved around like this. The floor creaked, the walls were too easily scuffed. The wood around the doorframe might as well have been made of fabric and seemed to stretch around the sofa squeezing through. 
‘That’s it. There we go,’ said Jack. They marched it down to the pickup and threw it in the back. After they had it secured, Jack turned and nodded a mannish goodbye up at Doreen on the balcony, who shrugged and went back inside. 
A brighter rectangle of carpet remained where the couch had been. Whitney had bought it, so she had sold it. That was it. Logic, running its course around Doreen like a river running dry. 
What else had she bought? Doreen paced around and took inventory of all the things in her life that were not her own and could also vanish without warning. It was true, she hadn’t bought any of the furniture in the apartment – Whitney had been living there for almost a year before she came along – but the sudden removal was still jarring. For a minute, it felt like her life was being uprooted without her, but that was followed quickly by the realization that these roots were never hers to begin with.
This scene repeated itself all weekend and the following weekend as well. With no warning, strangers showed up at the apartment asking for Whitney, explaining the transaction they had made and requesting entry. One after the other, the coffee table, the TV stand, the kitchen table and chairs, the decorative poufs, a mirror – all disappeared, taken away by strangers – men and women of varying ages and degrees of inclination towards small talk, like ants touring the shell of some dead animal, taking what they needed. 
After the second weekend of this, Doreen still hadn’t communicated with Whitney. An aggressive-aggressive text message would have been more than appropriate to send by now, but she didn’t. 
It wasn’t that she was actively refusing to communicate – the idea of reaching out, of snidely asking if anyone else would be coming by, just wasn’t there to be had. She sat on the carpet in the empty living room alone and did nothing while the dwelling around her disappeared. The trappings of life flew away. Sounds reverberated differently in the emptiness. She had no idea what to do with herself.
She started letting things go. Nothing extraordinary, but little things like letting the few dishes that were left pile up in the sink, leaving wrappers and pop cans on the floor, letting the long black tails of chargers for different electronics dangle out across the living room. It wasn’t depression, she thought, it was simply a letting go. A closing. She felt a valve in her mind turn off, and another turn on, leading somewhere else, with some other function entirely. There was a miraculousness to it. She felt weightless. She had read once, in some quasi-self-help, tip-ridden pop-up article, about the importance of letting go – a more dressed-up version of spring cleaning, sponsored by a cleaning company – and how it could clean the mind, reformat the authenticity of life. Doreen wasn’t sure this was what was happening to her, but whatever was happening she allowed it. 
She lost track of time. She started to forget things, like turning the lights off in the kitchen or in the living room before bed, leaving them on all night. Other times, she’d spend a whole day forgetting to turn them on, dwelling in the dark. She would run the air conditioner at arctic levels or not at all. She started sleeping at odd times throughout the day, napping all the time. She went to work, then came home and disrobed right in the living room, leaving her clothes on the floor. She dragged Whitney’s bare mattress into the living room and fashioned it into a couch, which became a multi-purpose nest as the clutter gathered, until another stranger came and took that away, so then she dragged her own mattress out and never slept in her bedroom again. 
After nearly two months of this, like an amoeba left to morph and transform (some might say break down), new household problems cropped up. That strange smell from the laundry machine – maybe it wasn’t mold, maybe there was a dead rat behind it, Doreen wondered but did nothing about it – then the rust forming in the tub. The toilet and the kitchen sink continually clogging. These combined dangerously with her new listlessness – outliers that threatened to taint the overall image of her well-being as not one of letting go and living lightly, but one of neglect and mental illness. Objectively speaking, anyone stepping foot in that apartment would see more than a few reasons for concern, but after the strangers stopped coming to take her things away, she was left alone. 
The only person who saw the inside of Doreen’s apartment now was a delivery boy named Tyler, who caught glimpses of the chaos behind her when she opened the door for her dinner. She had stopped grocery shopping entirely and had taken to ordering in expensive meals every night when she came home from work. Money was another thing she felt herself letting go and she let it fly, ordering the best meals from the best places.
‘Sorry, I know it’s probably not my place to ask, but are you OK?’ Tyler finally asked one evening. He had just dropped off a platter of sushi. 
‘What do you mean?’ said Doreen. She leaned out. Her long hair draped like a privacy curtain between him and the scene behind her. He craned his neck to see past her. He shrugged.
‘You’re ordering food every night, tipping me way too much money, and – I don’t want to be rude – but your apartment looks kind of messed up.’
‘Messed up?’ Doreen adjusted her jacket. She was still wearing her work clothes on this occasion. She looked professional, with a blue blouse with a high collar, a dark skirt, and a freshly dry-cleaned white jacket. Behind her though, was a nest of blankets, empty take-out boxes covered in crumbs, unopened mail, cords for electronics, silverware, mugs. Also, all of the lights were off and the blinds were closed. Doreen and Tyler were standing in almost total darkness. 
‘Not messed up,’ said Tyler. ‘It’s just that it doesn’t seem healthy to still have your take-out boxes from yesterday and the day before all thrown around back there. It looks like you’ve just let the trash stay there. And the lights are always off. Did they cut your power or something? Do you have any furniture?’
‘How would I have charged my phone and used it to order dinner if I didn’t have power?’ said Doreen without missing a beat. 
Tyler fumbled over himself.
‘I’m sorry, I was just saying—’ 
Doreen leaned back into the living room and turned on the light, the mess behind her lit up in all its glory, then she stepped outside and stood next to Tyler, closing the door behind her. The two of them faced each other, illuminated by the orange glow through the window. Shadows cut across Doreen’s diamond-shaped face. 
‘Is that better?’ she asked. ‘Now that you can’t see it? 
‘I just wanted to make sure everything was OK,’ said Tyler. ‘I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything.’
‘No, you shouldn’t have.’ 
The next evening, when Tyler came back with a bacon cheeseburger, two orders of sweet potato fries, and a strawberry shake from a hip new gastropub, Doreen was standing outside the front door already, waiting for him. The porch light was on this time and the door was closed behind her. She accepted the food, thanked Tyler and stayed standing there until he left. He got on his motorcycle, consulted his phone for his next delivery, and drove off. Once he was out of the complex and Doreen could no longer hear his motorcycle bumbling off into the night, she finally went inside and closed the door. Nothing had appeared out of the ordinary this time except for a small pile of dead grass, dirt, and a bottle cap on the ground, and the porch light itself, which had been twisted upside down. 



Ryan Collett is a writer, knitter, and animator. He grew up in Oregon and now lives in London where he works as an editor. He also runs a popular YouTube…



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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: The Idea of You by Robinne Lee

Published: July 8th, 2021
Publisher: Penguin UK
Genre: General Fiction, Romance Novel, Contemporary Romance
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this sizzling summer romance. Thank you to Penguin UK for the invitation to take part and the gorgeous ARC.






To the media, Hayes Campbell is the enigmatic front-man of a record-breaking boyband.

To his fans, he’s the boy of their dreams.

To his label, he’s gold-dust.

And to Solène Marchand, he’s the pretty face that’s plastered over her teenage daughter’s bedroom wall.

Until a chance meeting throws Hayes and Solène together . . .

The attraction is instant. The chemistry is electric. The affair is Solène’s secret.

But can it really stay that way forever?



“I was just making sure it was you, and not the idea of you.”

Sexy and seductive, The Idea of You is the perfect book to binge-read this summer. I devoured it in just a few hours, unable to turn away from this compelling bonkbuster. 

I think all teenage and tween girls daydream about dating their favourite celebrity. But in this sizzling summer romance, it is the tween’s mother who is caught up in a steamy May/December romance with the lead singer of her daughter’s favourite group. Solene was reluctant to even go to the concert, let alone date Hayes Campbell, frontman of boyband August Moon. She is almost twice his age and, determined not to be a cliché, tries to resist their instant chemistry. But it is futile and she is soon caught up in  a secret romance. 

“Love, she said, was not always perfect, and not exactly how you expected it to be. But when it descended upon you, there was no controlling it.”

On the surface, Hayes and Solene have nothing in common and it seems like this could and will be nothing but a passing physical relationship. Combined with the world of celebrity and social media this felt like a very modern love story while also being pure escapism for both the reader and the characters themselves. But as time went on, their love story felt authentic. It felt real. I believed it, adored it and was rooting for it. I wanted them to overcome all the obstacles in their way and find happiness with each other. 

Robinne Lee is no stranger to the world of showbiz. And it shows. The story screams of someone who knows that world intimately, offering us  a glimpse into the glitz and glamour. But she is also not afraid to show us the darker side of celebrity. The things that are overwhelming and terrifying. It is a fascinating and thought-provoking look at a world that we usually only get to see the shiny, perfect and alluring side of. I enjoyed how she explores the price of fame through the characters and asks when is it too much to pay? The scariest parts for me were the crazy fans. I have never understood how some people can do such extreme and aggressive things in the name of ‘love’ for a celebrity, and while none of it surprised me, the idea that people can be treated in such a way simply because they fell in love with a famous person is appalling. I think the internet and social media has made it harder for celebrities and those associated with them. There’s less privacy these days and people are much braver hiding behind a keyboard than they would be in real life. It made me glad I’m not a part of that world. 

“I realised in that moment that my life as I knew it was over.”

The psychology of Hayes and Solene’s relationship was fascinating. Solene is torn between her desires and her responsibilities and her heart and her head. She feels terrible guilt over their age difference and the pain it will cause her daughter when she finds out. But she can’t stay away from him. Hayes longs to be seen for who he really is, rather than as Hayes Campbell, rock star, and how he sometimes struggles to know who he can trust because of his fame. Then there is Isabelle,  twelve-years-old and convinced she is in love with the band members, this relationship will break her heart. Each perspective is written with such sensitivity and realism that it leaps from the page. You can’t help but feel for them all. 

The author also explores themes of ageism and sexism throughout the story. She looks at how society and the world of show business view women as they age. How they can find themselves feeling invisible and unimportant. She also addresses the sexism that occurs in May/December romances and how an older man with a younger woman barely causes people to blink an eye, yet there is so much criticism of an older woman with a younger man. 

Sharp, sassy and salacious, this is as addictive as any tabloid magazine. This dazzling and funny debut is the perfect summer bonkbuster to get lost in. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5
Steam Rating: 🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆



The Idea of You is actor, writer, and producer ROBINNE LEE’s debut novel. A graduate of Yale University and Columbia Law School, Robinne was born and raised in Westchester County, New York. Robinne has numerous acting credits in both television and film, most notably opposite Will Smith in both Hitch and Seven Pounds and as Ros Bailey in Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children.



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Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: The Painting by Alison Booth

Published: July 15th, 2021
Publisher: Red Door Press
Genre: General Fiction, Mystery, Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this moving novel. Thank you to Midas PR for the invitation to take part and Red Door Press for the ARC.



A young Hungarian woman confronts her family’s past in an engrossing quest for a stolen painting.

When Anika Molnar flees her home country of Hungary not long before the break-up of the Soviet Union, she carries only a small suitcase – and a beautiful and much-loved painting of an auburn-haired woman in a cobalt blue dress from her family’s hidden collection.

Arriving in Australia, Anika moves in with her aunt in Sydney, and the painting hangs in pride of place in her bedroom. But one day it is stolen in what seems to be a carefully planned theft, and Anika’s carefree life takes a more ominous turn.

Sinister secrets from her family’s past and Hungary’s fraught history cast suspicion over the painting’s provenance, and she embarks on a gripping quest to uncover the truth.

Hungary’s war-torn past contrasts sharply with Australia’s bright new world of opportunity in this moving and compelling mystery.



“The portrait was home, it was family, it was the uncle she’d never met, it had become a part of who she was.”

The Painting is an simple yet enlightening portrait of totalitarianism, immigration, family and self-discovery.  It tells the story of Anika, a Hungarian immigrant living in Australia with her Aunt after being forced to flee her oppressive homeland during communist rule. One of the few possessions she brought with her was a painting from her family’s secret collection that she is shocked to discover is actually a very valuable piece by a French Impressionist. When it is then stolen in what looks like a targeted theft, questions about the painting’s origin force Anika to face uncomfortable questions about her family’s past. 

After loving the author’s novel The Philosopher’s Daughter last year, I jumped at the chance to take part in the blog tour for this book. Compelling, mysterious and skillfully written, the author drew me into Anika’s world, taking me back to a period in time that I knew little about, offering me the chance to be educated while also being entertained. 

“A cobweb of lies and concealments, that’s what a police state was. That’s what families became.”

The book is clearly well researched and the author writes with compassion, bringing  to life the fear and suspicion that grips those who lived under the communist regime before the fall of the Soviet Union. Anika and her family are unable to communicate freely as the secret police listen to their phone calls and open their letters and after the break in she is scared to reveal any emotion or give information to the police even though they are there to help her. I think where we see the greatest effect of her upbringing though is in her distrust of everyone she meets. She is suspicious and unable to put her faith in anyone but her family, which affects every facet of her life. It can’t be easy to alter your entire way of thinking, and I enjoyed watching Anika’s journey as she slowly learned to see the world in a different way. 

“She felt sick at heart about what she might discover in Budapest. It could blow her family apart. She would have to take things slowly, very slowly. One question at a time.”

When Anika learns the true origins of the painting her whole world falls apart and she is forced to question what secrets her family might be hiding. How did her grandparents amass their secret art collection? Could there be more to their secrecy than fear of the Hungarian secret police? She has to confront the fact that they could be very different people from who she has always believed and I admired her bravery in seeking the truth at the cost of her own comfort. I appreciated the sympathy with which the author wrote these parts of the story, making me feel like I really understood Anika’s anxiety, heartache, and the strength it took her to find answers. 

This book surprised me. I was expecting a book that focused on an investigation into the missing painting but instead found myself reading a story that focused on what the painting meant to Anika and the other characters. The author intricately weaves their stories together, crafting a captivating and moving novel that I would definitely recommend. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰



Alison Booth was born in Melbourne and grew up in Sydney. She is a professor at the Australian National University and the author of three novels: Stillwater CreekThe Indigo Sky and A Distant Land, all set in the fictional town of Jingera. She lives with her husband in Canberra’s inner north, and has spent two decades living and working in the UK.



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Emma's Anticipated Treasures First Lines Friday Support Debuts

First Lines Friday: Victoria Park by Gemma Reeves

“At the end of Wolfie’s garden in a shed he built in the summer of 1951, the same year he turned nineteen and opened the kosher deli next to Victoria Park. He scavenged timber from a house shattered by the Blitz, and laid the roof with red clay tiles prised from the rubble.”

What is your first read of 2021? Today’s first lines are taken from mine, which is Victoria Park, a debut novel which is published on January 7th. I’m not far into it, but I’m really enjoying it so far and finding it a refreshing and uplifting read.


Mona and Wolfie have lived on Victoria Park for over fifty years. Now, on the eve of their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary, they must decide how to navigate Mona’s declining health. Bookended by the touching exploration of their love, Victoria Park follows the disparate lives of twelve people over the course of a single year. Told from their multiple perspectives in episodes which capture feelings of alienation and connection, the lingering memory of an acid attack in the park sends ripples of unease through the community. By the end of the novel, their carefully interwoven tales create a rich tapestry of resilience, love and loss.

With sharply observed insight into contemporary urban life, and characters we take to our hearts, Gemma Reeves has written a moving, uplifting debut which reflects those universal experiences that connect us all.

Keep an eye out for my review on January 14th as part of the blog tour.This sounds like the perfect way to start my reading year.

You can pre-order a copy here.

book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

All The Lonely People by Mike Gayle

Published: July 23rd, 2020
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: General Fiction, Pensioners in the Pages

‘A heartwarming story about the power of community and human connection. Hubert Bird stole my heart’ Beth O’Leary, author of The Flat-Share and The Split

Hubert Bird is not alone in being alone.
He just needs to realise it.

In weekly phone calls to his daughter in Australia, widower Hubert Bird paints a picture of the perfect retirement, packed with fun, friendship and fulfilment.

But Hubert Bird is lying.

The truth is day after day drags by without him seeing a single soul.

Until, that is, he receives some good news – good news that in one way turns out to be the worst news ever, news that will force him out again, into a world he has long since turned his back on.

Now Hubert faces a seemingly impossible task: to make his real life resemble his fake life before the truth comes out.
Along the way Hubert stumbles across a second chance at love, renews a cherished friendship and finds himself roped into an audacious community scheme that seeks to end loneliness once and for all . . .

Life is certainly beginning to happen to Hubert Bird. But with the origin of his earlier isolation always lurking in the shadows will he ever get to live the life he’s pretended to have for so long?

From bestselling author Mike Gayle, All the Lonely People is by turns a funny and moving meditation on love, race, old age and friendship that will not only charm and uplift, but also remind you of the power of ordinary people to make an extraordinary difference.


“But what about all the lonely people?“

I read this charming, funny and moving story back in the summer but have never got around to reviewing it. I’m trying to finish reviews for all the books I’ve read this year and this is the first backlist review I’m posting.

This is a story about loneliness, about how you can find friendship even in the most unlikely places with people totally unlike yourself. It is also a story about giving yourself permission to live again after loss.

“And in that moment, as he attempted to stem his tears, Hubert realised something he hadn’t quite understood before now: he was lonely, really lonely and most likely had been for a very long time.” 

I fell in love with Hubert Bird, the eighty-four-year-old man at the heart of the story. I challenge anyone not to. In dual timeliness we are taken through the events of his life – the struggles, heartache, love and joy – and learn how he ended up living alone, isolated, with only his cat, Puss, for company. I particularly enjoyed his sweet love story with his late wife, Joyce. Theirs was a true love that survived despite the challenges and opposition of a mixed race relationship in Sixties Britain.

His friendship with his neighbour Ashleigh and her daughter Layla in the present day was also really moving. I love these cross generational relationships and seeing what each person learns from someone so different to themselves. I loved how they slowly broke down his walls and showed him he doesn’t need to be the same age as someone to be their friend.

“Apparently loneliness is a bigger killer than cancer. Can you imagine that? There’s a bigger killer than cancer in the world and no one’s doing anything about it.”

One of my first thoughts upon reading this book was why on earth I’ve waited so long to read a book by Mike Gayle. Reading this I fell in love with his writing and the way he weaves such serious and important topics into the story without it ever feeling heavy. I was also fortunate to take part in a chat with the man himself as part of the Tasting Notes Book Club, where he charmed every one of us with his wit and intelligence. I will definitely be reading more of his stories in 2021 and have been buying them in anticipation.

All The Lonely People is a truly special book that will capture your heart and make you think. One of my favourite books of this year, this is one not to be missed.


Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮


Mike Gayle was born and raised in Birmingham. After graduating from Salford University with a degree in Sociology Mike moved to London with ambitions of becoming a music journalist. This didn’t happen however and following a slight detour in his five-year plan he ended up as an agony uncle for teenage girls’ magazine Bliss before becoming Features Editor on the now much missed Just Seventeen. Since those early days Mike has written for a variety of publications including The Sunday Times, The Guardian and Cosmopolitan.

Mike became a full time novelist in 1997 following the publication of his Sunday Times top ten bestseller My Legendary Girlfriend, which was hailed by The Independent as ‘Full of belly laughs and painfully acute observations,’ and by The Times as ‘A funny, frank account of a hopeless romantic.’

To date Mike is the author of twelve novels including Mr Commitment, Turning Thirty and Wish You Were Here. His books have been translated into over thirty languages.

You can read more about Mike’s books here.

After stints in Manchester and London Mike now lives in Birmingham with his wife, kids, two sheds and a rabbit.



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book reviews

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline

Published: October 22nd, 2020
Publisher: Allison & Busby
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: General Fiction, Historical Fiction

Happy Publication Day to this outstanding novel. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Allison & Busby for the eBook ARC.


London, 1840. Evangeline, pregnant and falsely accused of stealing, has languished in Newgate prison for months. Ahead now lies the journey to Australia on a prison ship. On board, Evangeline befriends Hazel, sentenced to seven years’ transport for theft. Soon Hazel’s path will cross with an orphaned indigenous girl. Mathinna is ‘adopted’ by the new governor of Tasmania where the family treat her more like a curiosity than a child. Amid hardships and cruelties, new life will take root in stolen soil, friendships will define lives, and some will find their place in a new society in the land beyond the seas.


“Maybe she would always be alone and apart. Always in transition, on her way to someplace else, never quite belonging. She knew both too much and too little of the world. But what she knew, she carried in her bones.” 

The Exiles is a beautifully written, layered and nuanced piece of historical fiction. Set in London and Australia in the 1840s, it is a story about women, survival and redemption. It is a story about our need to belong, about love, loss and how we carry those we love inside us wherever we go.

The voices of three very different female characters tell their stories, which entwine as the novel progresses. Mathinna is an orphaned eight-year-old Aboriginal girl who is taken from her home by Lady Jane Franklin, an explorer who likes to collect anything to do with native people and wants to see if the child can be educated and ‘tamed’. Evangeline is a naïve young woman from a small village working as a governess who finds herself pregnant and alone on a transport ship to Australia after allowing her rage to get the better of her when she is falsely accused of theft. And, finally, there is Hazel, a seventeen-year-old girl who is on the transport ship with Evangeline after being forced to steal by her mother. 

“Here she was, torn from her family and everyone she knew at the whim of a lady in satin slippers who boiled the skulls of her relatives and displayed them as curiosities.”

Each woman has a character that is rich and compelling, a spark that draws you to them and makes you root for her and care about her story. And while their lives and stories may be different, they also have similarities. Each of them have been exiled from their home and those they love and all face the harsh reality of being female in a time and place where that is hostile and unforgiving towards women. They all navigate these obstacles with strength, resilience and determination. 

This is the first time I’ve read anything by this author, and I was struck by her exquisite storytelling and how she seamlessly wove fact and fiction together to create this lush and atmospheric tale. Her imagery makes you feel like you’re there and I could see so clearly the bleak, grim and squalid conditions of the prisons, slave ship and orphanage and could almost feel the heat of the sun bearing down on me in the Australian bush. She writes every character, however big or small, with authenticity, and the research that has gone into the novel leaps from its pages. I will definitely be buying her back catalogue and devouring it as soon as possible. 

“She’d learnt that she could withstand contempt and humiliation — and that she could find moments of grace in the midst of bedlam. She’d learnt she was strong.”

A powerful, heartbreaking and thought-provoking book, I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮


Christina Baker Kline is the author of seven novels, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Orphan Train. Her other novels include Bird in Hand, The Way Life Should Be, Desire Lines, and Sweet Water, as well as Orphan Train Girl, a middle-grade adaptation of Orphan Train. Her essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Money, More, and Psychology Today, among other publications. She lives in New York City and on the coast of Maine.

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Blog Tours book reviews

When Life Gives You Mangoes by Kereen Gretten

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: General Fiction, Children’s Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this charming debut. Thank you to Pushkin Press for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook ARC.


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

Nothing much happens in Sycamore, the small village where Clara lives – at least, that’s how it seems. She loves eating ripe mangoes fallen from trees, running outside in the rainy season and escaping to her secret hideout with her best friend Gaynah. There’s only one problem: she can’t remember anything about the previous summer.

When a quirky girl called Rudy arrives from England, everything starts to change. Gaynah stops acting like a best friend, while Rudy and Clara roam across the island and uncover an old family secret. As the summer reaches its peak and the island storms begin, Clara’s memory starts to return and she must finally face the truth of what happened last year.


“Something happened that made me forget everything that happened last summer.”

Nothing exciting ever happens in the small town of Sycamore. And since the incident with the witch-doctor, no-one new ever comes to visit. A summer the same as every other is stretching out in front of Clara. Until new girl Rudy arrives from London and changes everything. Now things are looking like they might be exciting after all. It would be perfect, if only Clara could remember what happened last summer that made her too scared to go into the water…

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this book as it’s been a while since I read children’s fiction.

I read it quickly, immersed in the tropical setting and scary yet innocent world of young Clara. Her every emotion was palpable and there were many times my heart broke for this child. I wanted to help her, even if I had no idea what was causing her pain. The author captures the fun, freedom and innocence of childhood on a small island while also looking at the fear, frustration and pain that children also experience. She examines topics such as friendship, family, mental health, trauma and forgiveness through an age-appropriate lens that I think will make young readers feel seen.

Charming, heartfelt, thoughtful and mysterious, this is a beautifully crafted debut and a wonderful story for the young reader in your life.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰


Kereen Getten grew up in Jamaica where she would climb fruit trees in the family garden and eat as much mango, guinep and pear as she could without being caught. She now lives in Birmingham with her family and writes stories about her childhood experiences. When Life Gives You Mangos is her debut novel.

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Postscript by Cecelia Ahern

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio, Hardback
Genre: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction.

Happy paperback publication day to this wonderful novel. Thank you to HarperCollinsUK for my gifted copy of the book and for asking me to share my review in celebration of the paperback publication.


Dear readers,

In October 2002 I began writing a story that would change my life. As I poured my heart and soul into PS, I Love You, a novel that began as a story simply for myself, I had no idea the impact it would have around the world and on my own life.

So it is with great excitement that I give you its sequel, Postscript, a book intended to honour its predecessor, all its fans and supporters, and with the aim to bring Holly Kennedy forward, to discover the woman she is now seven years after the death of Gerry.

I am so proud of this story and I hope you enjoy being reacquainted with old friends, enjoy meeting new characters. I have loved every moment of writing this very special book and I hope it will hold a special place on your bookshelf as it does in my heart.

Cecelia x


The long-awaited sequel to the international bestseller PS, I Love You!

It’s been seven years since Holly Kennedy’s husband died – six since she read his final letter, urging Holly to find the courage to forge a new life. 

She’s proud of all the ways in which she’s grown and evolved. But when a group inspired by Gerry’s letters, calling themselves the PS, I Love You Club, approaches Holly asking for help, she finds herself drawn back into a world she worked hard to leave behind.

Reluctantly, Holly begins a relationship with the club, even as their friendship threatens to destroy the peace she believes she has achieved. As each of the people calls upon Holly to help them leave something meaningful behind for their loved ones, Holly will embark on a remarkable journey – one that will challenge her to ask whether embracing the future means betraying the past, and what it means to love someone forever.


“In one second, almost two and a half million emails are sent, the universe expands fifteen kilometres and thirty stars explode, a honey bee can flap its wings two hundred times, the fastest snail travels 1.3 centimetres, objects can fall sixteen feet, and ‘Will you marry me?’ can change a life. Four babies are born. Two people die. One second can be the difference between life and death.”

Poignant, emotive and uplifting, Postscript is a story of life, death, love and hope. Exquisitely written, it tackles the difficult topics of death and grief with sensitivity and candour, and also gives hope in its message of the power of love and healing.

The story picks up seven years after the death of Holly’s husband, Gerry, and six years after she read the last of the ten letters he left for her to read after he passed. Holly is trying to move on with her life. She’s working at a vintage clothing shop, Magpie, with her sister Cara and has been dating Gabriel for two years, who she worries she’s using as a stop-gap until she can be reunited with Gerry once more. But that isn’t who she wants to be. So she finally agrees to move in with him and begin to move forward.

“We all have something that unexpectedly derails us when we are motoring smoothly, blissfully, ardently. This encounter with the club is mine. And it hurts.”

Meanwhile Ciara has a podcast series called How To Talk About and has asked Holly to take part in the episode How To Talk About Death. Reluctantly, Holly agrees. The crowd are particularly interested in Gerry’s letters and some people express that they wish their loved ones had left them letters like he did for Holly. One lady in particular is keen for Holly to keep sharing her story and maybe even write a book. She keeps coming into the shop and Holly tries to evade her thinking she’s a bit of a stalker. When she learns the woman is part of something called the PS I Love You Club she’s had enough. But in time she begins to connect with the small group and help them as they try to leave behind a small piece of themselves for their loved ones to cherish, changing not only their lives, but hers too as she begins to re-examine what Gerry’s letters meant and what they could continue to mean. 

What a book! I read PS I Love You when it was first released and was both thrilled and apprehensive when I learned that there was to be a sequel. Would it live up to the emotive power of the first book? It didn’t take long to realise that my concerns were unfounded. Postscript exceeded all my expectations and even surpassed the first book for me. I fell in love with the author’s writing style all over again. She knows just how to stir emotion, how to break your heart one moment and then make you laugh the next. The vivid imagery and metaphors were spectacular and I couldn’t put this book down.

“We want to control our deaths, our goodbye to the world, and if we can’t control it, we can at least control how we leave it behind.”

For me, the best parts of this book were Holly’s interactions with the members of the PS, I Love You Club. They are an eclectic group whose commonality is they’ve all been diagnosed with a terminal or life-long, degenerative illness. Joy has MS and is preparing for life in a wheelchair, losing her ability to communicate and needing a feeding tube, Bert has emphysema, Paul is in remission from a brain tumor for the second time but is preparing for it possibly returning, and teenager Ginka has cervical cancer. They all have their own reasons for wanting to leave parts of themselves behind and each teach Holly something different about life, love and grief. Amongst this group Holly slowly finds a safe harbour where she can talk about Gerry without worrying she’s making them uncomfortable or having to edit what she says.

The story and character that touched me the most was Ginka. She’s just sixteen-years-old and is a single mother to baby Jewel. She has no family – they disowned her after she announced her pregnancy and cruelly told her that the cancer is God’s punishment for her sins – and lives with the heartbreak of knowing there’s no one who knows to care for Jewel and tell her about the mother who adored her. She’s practically a child herself yet is facing more pain and hardship than most of us can imagine. As a mother the idea of strangers raising my children would be terrifying. The relationship that develops between Ginka and Holly was my favourite and I loved their scenes together. Her story is just one example of this author’s magnificent talent for writing characters and stories that reach into your soul.

This novel was a truly breathtaking read that reminded me why Cecelia Ahern is such a beloved author. She tackles a difficult subject in a beautiful and powerful way and reminds us to cherish every moment with those we love. I highly recommend this book and don’t think you need to have read the first one to enjoy it.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮



After completing a degree in Journalism and Media Communications, Cecelia wrote her first novel at 21 years old. Her debut novel, PS I Love You was published in January 2004, and was followed by Where Rainbows End (aka Love, Rosie) in November 2004. Both novels were adapted to films; PS I Love You starred Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler, and Love, Rosie starred Lily Collins and Sam Claflin.

Cecelia has published a novel every year since then and to date has published 15 novels; If You Could See Me Now, A Place Called Here, Thanks for the Memories, The Gift, The Book of Tomorrow, The Time of My Life, One Hundred Names, How To Fall in Love, The Year I Met You, The Marble Collector, Flawed, Perfect and Lyrebird.

To date, Cecelia’s books have sold 25 million copies internationally, are published in over 40 countries, in 30 languages.

Along with writing novels, Cecelia has co-created the US ABC Comedy Samantha Who? and has created many other original TV projects.

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Blog Tours book reviews

The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon by Sarah Steele


Published: August 6th, 2020
Publisher: Headline
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction

Today is my stop on the blog tour for this spectacular sunner debut. Thank you to Rosie at Headline for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.


To unravel the story of that long-lost summer, she had to follow the thread…

Florence Connelly is broken-hearted; her beloved grandmother has just died and her marriage has collapsed.

But things change when she opens a box of vintage 1960s dress patterns, discovered inside her grandmother’s wardrobe. Inside each pattern packet is a fabric swatch, a postcard from Europe and a faded photograph of a young woman wearing the hand-made dress. Why did Flo’s grandmother never speak of this mysterious woman – Nancy Moon?

Her life in tatters, Flo decides to remake Nancy’s dresses, and to head across to the Continent to re-create Nancy’s Grand Tour of 1962. As she follows the thread, Flo begins to unravel an untold story of love and loss in her family’s past. And perhaps to stitch the pieces of her own life back together…


“Most journeys begin with a goodbye: to a friend or a loved one, often to a lover, and sometimes a place… Some goodbyes last merely a few hours, but some will have to last a lifetime.”

This riveting and uplifting debut encapsulates the essence of summer. It transported me from Brighton and Hove to Paris, Antibes, Capri, Venice and Tuscany, so vividly that I could feel the summer sun beating down on me and the breeze in my hair.

Florence is mourning the loss of her grandmother and her marriage when she comes across vintage dress patterns from the 1960s, each containing mementos from a European adventure taken by her Great Aunt – Nancy Moon. But Flo has never heard of Nancy before. Why did her family keep her a secret? And why has she never been seen or heard from again since that trip?

Florence decides to solve the mystery of what happened to Nancy, embarking on a pilgrimage retracing Nancy Moon’s Grand Tour; remaking the dresses and following in her footsteps, slowly unravelling the untold story of her family’s past.

There’s been a bit of a buzz about this book and I had heard some great things, but I still wasn’t expecting to fall so completely in love with Nancy, Florence and this beautifully told story of family, love, loss and long-held secrets. The author’s lyrical prose and rich imagery brought the story to life as clearly as if I was watching it play in technicolour on a movie screen.

The author effortlessly moves between the dual timeliness, immersing you in their world and the mystery of what happened to Nancy. The characters are compelling, likeable and memorable, and the narrators – Florence and Nancy – are relatable and easy to connect with. But there is something about Nancy that made her leap from the page; an air of glamour and mystery that radiates from her and reminded me of the aura surrounding Marilyn Monroe or Grace Kelly; that movie-star lustre, beauty and mystery that makes them feel out of reach.

Heartwarming, uplifting, emotional and immersive, The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon is a must-read, encapsulating the essence of summer like the sun is shining from the pages

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮


Sarah Steele (c) Eoin Schmidt-Martin

Sarah Steele trained as a classical pianist and violinist in London, before joining the world of publishing as assistant at Hodder and Stoughton. She was then for many years a freelance editor. She now lives in Stroud and in 2018 was the director of Wordfest at Gloucester Cathedral, which culminated in a suffragette march led by Helen Pankhurst. The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon is her debut novel.

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Blog Tours book reviews

The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor


Published: July 23rd, 2020
Publisher: Scribner UK
Format: Kindle, Paperback, Audio
Genre: General Fiction, Humour

Welcome to my spot on the tour for this spectacular debut. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Scribner UK for the gifted copy of the book.


July, 1962

Sixteen year-old Evie Epworth stands on the cusp of womanhood. But what kind of a woman will she become?

The fastest milk bottle-delivery girl in East Yorkshire, Evie is tall as a tree and hot as the desert sand. She dreams of an independent life lived under the bright lights of London (or Leeds). The two posters of Adam Faith on her bedroom wall (‘brooding Adam’ and ‘sophisticated Adam’) offer wise counsel about a future beyond rural East Yorkshire. Her role models are Charlotte Bronte, Shirley MacLaine and the Queen. But, before she can decide on a career, she must first deal with the malign presence of her future step-mother, the manipulative and money-grubbing Christine.

If Evie can rescue her bereaved father, Arthur, from Christine’s pink and over-perfumed clutches, and save the farmhouse from being sold off then maybe she can move on with her own life and finally work out exactly who it is she is meant to be.

Moving, inventive and richly comic, The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is the most joyful debut novel of the year and the best thing to have come out of Yorkshire since Wensleydale cheese.


“I am Evie, sixteen and a half, as wise as a tree, as tall as time, the fastest milk bottle in East Yorkshire, hurtling towards Womanhood.
This is all really strange.”

Witty, uplifting and simply irresistible, I devoured this book in almost one sitting; staying up until 3am to finish it. As a proud Yorkshirewoman I admit that it was the setting of this novel along with the brilliant cover that drew me to this book, but it is the delightful story between the pages and the fabulous characters that will make it linger in my heart long after reading.

1962. Evie Epworth,, sixteen-and-a-half, is on the brink of womanhood. But she has no idea what kind of woman she wants to be or what she wants to do next. She lives on a small farm in Yorkshire with her dad, Arthur, and Christine, the gold-digging housekeeper. This novel follows Evie over the course of one summer as she tries to figure out womanhood, the future, and how to help her dad escape Christine’s evil clutches.

“I don’t think I’m ready to be an Adult.
It’s all far too complicated and messy. Not to mention unfair. And cruel. In fact being an adult is so far proving pretty unpropitious (adjective – disappointing, not very promising). It’s not at all what I thought it would be like.
They don’t tell you this part of being an adult in Bunty or on the telly, about having your world torn asunder and being thrown into a world of enforced coiffured labour, wicked stepmothers and grisly water features.”

I love Evie Epworth. From the moment I opened the book and she leapt from the page I adored her. Feisty, funny, quirky, intelligent and caring, Evie is easy to like and root for and is someone I would love being around in real life. I loved how she would randomly  give the reader the definition of a word she’d read in the dictionary they kept in the downstairs loo. I think she could be one of  my favourite comic heroines of all time.

There is a lively cast of compelling and memorable characters in the book but the only one I hated was Christine. Christine was the epitome of the evil stepmother:  narcissistic, cruel, vapid and greedy. She is a wonderfully written villain and I loved her dynamic with Evie that was ripe for conflict, which the author exploits to perfection. 

Matson Taylor is a comedy master. He had me hooked from the first page with his witty, offbeat prose and he clearly has a talent for uproarious characters you won’t soon forget. Using richly drawn imagery he brought the Yorkshire countryside of the 1960s and the community he’d created to life as  vividly as any movie screen. 

Fresh, wry, and laugh-out-loud funny, this addictive debut  was like a hot cup of Yorkshire Tea on a cold day. It evoked a real sense of home for me and was a joy to read from beginning to end. Mastson Taylor is sensational new talent and I am excited to see what he writes next. 

I do have one small complaint about this book before I finish. And that is that the  many mentions of Bettys made me hungry and I started browsing online for their cakes. I’m still craving them days later! 

All jokes aside, I highly recommend this book if you need a pick-me-up, or are just wanting something fun to read.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

Matson Taylor Author Pic


Matson Taylor grew up in Yorkshire but now lives in London. He is a design historian and works at the V&A museum, where he teaches on the History of Design programme and spends a lot of time trying to convince people that the luxury goods industry helped win the Second World War.



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