Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Literary Fiction, Motivational, New Books

Freckles Cecelia Ahern 5*#Review @HarperFiction #Freckles @HarperCollinsUK @Cecelia_Ahern @fictionpubteam #BookReview

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
 
When a stranger utters these words to Allegra Bird, nicknamed Freckles, it turns her highly ordered life upside down. In her current life as a parking warden, she has left her eccentric father and unconventional childhood behind for a bold new life in the city.
 
But a single encounter leads her to ask the question she’s been avoiding for so long:  who are the people who made her the way she is?  And who are the five people who can shape and determine her future? Just as she once joined the freckles on her skin to mirror the constellations in the night sky, she must once again look for connections.

Told in Allegra’s vivid, original voice, moving from Dublin to the fierce Atlantic coast, this is an unforgettable story of human connection, of friendship, and growing into your own skin. 

Five people. Five stars. Freckle to freckle. Star to star.


Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Allegra or Freckles is a young woman finding her place in the world. She doesn’t relate well to others but enjoys her role as parking warden in Dublin. It is whilst doing her job she meets someone who tells her something she cannot forget. Her quest is to find the five people who define her. Told from Allegra’s viewpoint, the reader has intimate knowledge of Allegra’s often confusing world. The story has many layers and believable characters. Allegra draws the reader’s empathy, and you want her to succeed and be happy. Allegra develops as a character, learning from each encounter, and by the story’s conclusion, she knows herself.

The ending is poignant and uplifting and gives the reader hope that Allegra’s future is hopeful.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Friendship, Humour, Motivational, New Books, Romance

Finding Summer Happiness Chris Penhall 4*#Review @ChrisPenhall @RubyFiction @ChocLituk @rararesources #Summer #SecondChance #Escape #Friendship #Community #Romance #uplit

You won’t find happiness without breaking a few eggs…

Miriam Ryan was the MD of a successful events and catering company, but these days even the thought of chopping an onion sends her stress levels sky rocketing. A retreat to the Welsh village of her childhood holidays seems to offer the escape she’s craving – just peace, quiet, no people, a generous supply of ready meals… did she mention no people?
Enter a cheery pub landlord, a lovesick letting agent, a grumpy astronomer with a fridge raiding habit – not to mention a surprise supper club that requires the chopping of many onions – and Miriam realises her escape has turned into exactly what she was trying to get away from, but could that be just the thing she needs to allow a little bit of summer happiness into her life?

Amazon UK Amazon

I received a copy of this book from Ruby Fiction in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A gentle, humorous story that explores life’s pressures and how taking a trip, even if it is not what you expected, can give you a better perspective. Miriam finds running her successful company is damaging her health. Her escape is not what she expects. However, it helps her to come to terms with her past and present life.

The setting is well-described and integral to Miriam’s life changes. Believable characters add emotion and vibrancy to the story. There is a good mix of humour and poignancy with uplifting friendship, romance and self-realisation.

This is a lovely escapist summer read.

Chris Penhall

Chris Penhall won the 2019 Choc-Lit Search for a Star competition, sponsored by Your Cat Magazine, for her debut novel, The House That Alice Built. The sequel, New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun was published in August 2020. Her short story, Lily McKee’s Seven Days of Christmas appears in Choc Lit and Ruby Fiction’s Cosy Christmas Treats anthology.

Her new novel, Finding Summer Happiness, which is set in Pembrokeshire in South West Wales was published in May 2021.

Chris is an author and freelance radio producer for BBC Local Radio.
She also has her own podcast – The Talking to My Friends About Book Podcast in which she chats to her friends about books. Good title!

Born in Neath in South Wales, she has also lived in London and in Portugal, which is where The House That Alice Built is set. It was whilst living in Cascais near Lisbon that she began to dabble in writing fiction, but it was many years later that she was confident enough to start writing her first novel, and many years after that she finally finished it!

A lover of books, music and cats, she is also an enthusiastic salsa dancer, a keen cook, and loves to travel. She is never happier than when she is gazing at the sea.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Extract, Family Drama, Friendship, Motivational, Parenting and Famlies, Romance

Life’s What You Make It Sian O’Gorman 5* #Review @msogorman @BoldwoodBooks @bookandtonic @rararesources #boldwoodbloggers #BlogTour #BookReview #LifesWhatYouMakeIt

Dreams can come true, you just have to believe…

All new from Irish bestselling author Sian O’Gorman



After 10 years in London, working in a stressful City firm, Liv O’Neill returns home to Sandycove, a picturesque seaside village, just outside Dublin to care for her mother after a fall.

Whilst Liv reconnects with friends and family, she is amazed by Sandycove’s thriving community spirit with its artisan shops, delis and cafes – it’s not quite the place she left behind.

As village life begins to creep under her skin, Liv is forced to confront the things that drove her away.

Can Liv balance her past, present and future and find her own happy place?

And will a handsome young doctor help her make a decision about the life she really wants?

Suddenly her old life in London begins to seem extremely unappealing and Liv is forced to use her family’s past in order to forge a brand new future.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

The reader is instantly drawn to Liv, the main protagonist in this heartwarming story of love, life and second chances. Returning to her hometown, Liv finds the sense of community and completeness she’s missed. Family secrets, friendship rekindled, and romance are woven into the plot making it an engaging read. It’s about finding what makes you happy and being brave enough to follow your dreams.

The setting is intrinsic to the story. It’s described with powerful sensory imagery that draws the reader into the world. If you enjoy heartbreak, happiness and soul searching, this story delivers them all beautifully.

Extract from Life’s What You Make It – Sian O’Gorman

Chapter One

I really should buy my ex-boyfriend and his ex-girlfriend a drink or a posh box of chocolates to say thank you for getting back together, even if it was just for one night. And I should say an even bigger thank you to her for telling me about it. Because if Jeremy and Cassandra hadn’t met up at one of his friend’s weddings, there is the very real possibility that he and I might have carried on and then everything that did happen wouldn’t have happened and my life would have remained exactly as it was.

I was an Irish girl transplanted to London for a decade, swapping the seaside and village of Sandycove – with its little shops and the beach, the people, the way the clouds skidded in for a storm, the rainbows that blossomed afterwards – for the bright lights, the traffic and the incessant noise of London. My visits home had become sporadic to the point of paltry. There was never enough time for a long trip and so my visits were only ever two nights long. Even last Christmas I’d flown in on Christmas Eve and was gone the 27th. I’d barely seen Mum or my best friend Bronagh and when Mum drove me to the airport and hugged me goodbye, I had the feeling that we were losing each other, as though we were becoming strangers.

London had become a slog, working twelve-hour days for my toxic boss, Maribelle, who drank vodka from her water bottle and didn’t believe in bank holidays. Or weekends. Or going home for the evening. Or eating. Or, frankly, anything that made life worth living. If it wasn’t for my flatmate, Roberto, my London life would have been utterly miserable. Looking back now, I think the reason why I kept going out with Jeremy for six months, even though we were entirely unsuited, was because at least it was something. And if I’ve learned anything about life over the last year, it’s that you should do something, but never the least of it.

‘Olivia O’Neill,’ Roberto would say on a loop. ‘Liv, you need to raise your game.’ He wasn’t a fan of Jeremy, whom I’d been seeing for six months. ‘Leave Jeremy and dump Maribelle and make your own life.’

But how do you do that when you have forgotten what your own life is? How on earth do you find it again when you are the grand old age of thirty-two? I couldn’t start again. But then the universe works in mysterious ways. If you don’t get off your arse and make changes, then it gets fed up and starts making them for you. But anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself… let’s zip back to before it all began… before I discovered what really made me happy, took charge of my life and found my crown.

* * *

‘Olivia?’

It was Friday, the last day of May, and I was at Liverpool Street Station. Mum normally called at this time, knowing my route to work and that, by 7.32 a.m., I was always on the escalator, rising up from the underground, before the thirteen-minute trot to my office.

‘Hi, Mum, how are you? Everything okay?’

‘I am…’ She hesitated.

‘Mum…?’

‘I am…’ She stopped again. ‘I am fine… absolutely fine. It’s just we’ve been in A & E all evening… we got home back at midnight…’

‘A & E?’ I was so worried that I didn’t ask who the ‘wewas.

‘It happened the other night in Pilates,’ she said. ‘I reached down to pick up the ball and I felt my knee go.’

My speed walk through the station stopped mid-concourse, making a man in pinstripes swerve and swear at me under his breath. It didn’t make sense. My mother was fitter than me, this walk from tube to desk was the only exercise I did. She was fifty-seven and power walked her way up and down the seafront every evening, as well as the twice-weekly Pilates classes. ‘But you are brilliant at Pilates,’ I said. ‘Didn’t your teacher say you have the body of a twenty-five-year-old?’ I’d moved myself to the side of the newsagents’ kiosk, where I would buy my Irish Times to keep when I was feeling homesick – which was increasingly more frequent these days.

Mum gave a laugh. ‘She said my hips were the hips of a younger woman,’ she explained. ‘I don’t think she said twenty-five-year-old. My hip flexors have stopped flexing and I’m on crutches. It’s not the worst in the world and within a few weeks, with enough rest, I should be back on my feet. The only thing is the shop…’

Mum ran her own boutique in Sandycove, the eponymously named Nell’s. She’d opened it when I was just a toddler and had weathered two recessions and a handful of downturns, but was just as successful as ever. And even when a rival boutique, Nouveau You, opened ten years ago, Nell’s was definitely the more popular.

‘Jessica can’t manage the shop on her own,’ Mum continued. ‘I’ll have to try and find someone for the four weeks. I’ll call the agency later.’

‘Oh, Mum.’ I couldn’t imagine Mum on crutches – this was the woman who had only ever been a blur when I was growing up, coming home from the shop to make dinner for her second shift and all the business admin she had to do. I used to imagine she slept standing up, like a horse. I tried to think how I could help, stuck here hundreds of miles away in London. ‘What about your Saturday girl?’

‘Cara? She’s got her Leaving Cert in a week’s time. I can’t ask her. So… it’s just a bit of a hassle, that’s all.’

I really wished I was there to look after her. Maybe I could fly in this weekend? Just for Saturday night.

‘Please don’t worry,’ said Mum. ‘It’s only four weeks on crutches, and I’ve been ordered to rest, leg up… read a few books. Watch daytime television, said the doctor.’ Mum gave another laugh. ‘He said I could take up crochet or knitting. Told me it was very popular these days. So I told him that I was only fifty-seven and the day I start knitting is the day I stop dyeing my hair.’

‘But you’ll go mad,’ I said. ‘Four weeks of daytime television. Who will look after you?’

‘I can hobble around,’ she said. ‘Enough to make cups of tea, and I can get things delivered and, anyway, I have Henry.’ She paused for emphasis. ‘He was with me in the hospital and has volunteered to help.’

Mum had never had a boyfriend that I’d known of. She’d always said she was too busy with me and the shop. ‘And Henry is…?’

‘Henry is my very good friend,’ she said. ‘We’ve become very close. He’s really looking forward to meeting you.’ She paused again for dramatic effect. ‘We’ve been seeing each other since Christmas and… well, it’s going very well indeed.’

‘That’s lovely,’ I said. ‘Tell him I’m looking forward to meeting him. Very much. Who is he, what does he do?’ I really would have to fly over to vet him… maybe Maribelle might be in a good mood today and I could leave early next Friday?

‘Henry took over the hardware shop from Mr Abrahamson. Henry’s retired from engineering and needed something to do. He’s like that, always busy. He’s been a bit of an inspiration, actually,’ she went on, ‘taking on a business when he’s never run one before. And he’s trying to grow Ireland’s largest onion.’ She laughed. ‘Not that he’s ever even grown a normal-sized one before, but he’s read a book from the library on what you need, gallons of horse manure apparently, and he wants to win a prize at the Dún Laoghaire show in September.’

If anyone deserved a bit of love Mum did and considering I would not win any awards for daughter of the year with my generally neglectful behaviour, I was happy she had someone. And surely anyone who grew outsized vegetables could only be a good person.

But I felt that longing for home, that wish to be there. Even if she had Henry and his onions, I wanted to be there too. I restarted my speed walk to the office. Being late for Maribelle was never a good start to the day.

‘So you’re sure you’re all right?’ I said, knowing that going over probably wouldn’t happen this weekend, not with the presentation I had to help Maribelle prepare for on Monday. I passed the only tree I saw on my morning commute, a large and beautiful cherry tree, it was in the middle of the square outside the station and blossomed luxuriantly in the spring and now, in late May, all the beautiful leaves which I’d seen grow from unfurled bud to acid green were in full, fresh leaf. Apart from my morning coffee, it was the only organic thing I saw all day. If that tree was still going in all that smog and fumes and indifference from the other commuters, I used to tell myself, then so could I.

‘I’m fine,’ Mum said. ‘Don’t worry… Brushing my teeth this morning took a little longer than normal, but it’s only a few weeks… I’m getting the hang of the crutches. I’ve been practising all morning. Anyway, how is Jeremy?’ She and Jeremy were yet to meet.

‘Jeremy is…’ How was Jeremy? Just the night before, Roberto had described him as a ‘wounded boy, shrouded in a Barbour jacket of privilege’. But I felt a little sorry for him, especially after meeting his family last New Year’s Eve and seeing how he was treated. I hadn’t actually seen him for a week as he’d been at a wedding the previous weekend and we’d both been busy with work. ‘Jeremy is fine,’ I said. ‘I think. Sends his love.’

Jeremy wasn’t the type to send his love, but Mum didn’t know that. ‘Well, isn’t that lovely,’ she said. ‘Say we’re all really looking forward to welcoming him to Ireland.’

I really couldn’t imagine Jeremy in his camel chinos striding around Sandycove’s main street and speaking in his rather loud, bossy, posh voice. He’d stand out like a sore thumb.

‘And you’ll have to bring that dote Roberto as well,’ said Mum. ‘He probably needs a bit of time off as well, the little pet.’

‘I don’t think we’ll get him over,’ I replied. ‘You know how he says he can’t breathe in Ireland and starts to feel light-headed as though he’s having a panic attack. He says he’s done with Ireland.’

Mum laughed, as she always did when I told her something Roberto had said. The two of them were as thick as thieves every time she came to London, walking arm in arm around Covent Garden together, Roberto showing her all his favourite shops and deciding what West End show we would go to. ‘He’s a ticket, that one. Anyway, there’s the doorbell. It’ll be Henry with some supplies. I’ll call you later.’

‘Okay…’ I had reached my building. If you dislocated your neck and looked skywards, straight up the gleaming glass, my office was up there somewhere on the seventeenth floor. I had to go in, any later and it would put Maribelle in a bad mood and that wasn’t good for anyone.

In the lift, among the jostle of the other PAs, behind some of the other equity managers who, like Maribelle, were overpaid and overindulged, we ascended to our offices where we would spend the next twelve hours.

I thought of Mum at home in Sandycove. The end of May, the most beautiful month in Ireland, and I remembered the way the sun sprinkled itself on the sea, the harbour full of walkers and swimmers all day long, people in the sea as the sun retreated for the day, or the village itself with its small, bright, colourful shops and the hanging baskets and cherry trees, and Mum’s boutique right in the middle. I wished I was there, even just for a few hours, to hug Mum, and go for a walk with Bronagh. To just be home.

The doors opened on the seventeenth floor. It was 7.45 a.m. exactly and dreams of Sandycove would have to be put on hold as I had to get on with surviving Maribelle. I hung up my coat and sat down at my desk and switched on my computer. My screen saver was a selfie of me and Bronagh, taken last summer sitting on the harbour wall at the little beach in Sandycove. Every time I looked at that picture of the sun shining, the two of us laughing, arms around each other, seagulls flying above us, the pang for home got worse. I should change it, I thought. Replace it with something that doesn’t make me homesick, something that doesn’t make me think of all the things I am missing and missing out on. I clicked on my screen and up came the standard image of a scorched red-earth mountain, as far from Sandycove as you could get.

Sian O’Gorman

Sian O’Gorman was born in Galway on the West Coast of Ireland, grew up in the lovely city of Cardiff, and has found her way back to Ireland and now lives on the east of the country, in the village of Dalkey, just along the coast from Dublin. She works as a radio producer for RTE.

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Posted in Book Review, Motivational, New Books, Non-Fiction

Conversations on Love Natasha Lunn 4*#Review @Natashalunn @VikingBooksUK @PenguinUKBooks #nonfiction #interviews #love #relationships #motivational #BookReview #ConversationsonLove

After years of feeling that love was always out of reach, journalist Natasha Lunn set out to understand how relationships work and evolve over a lifetime. She turned to authors and experts to learn about their experiences, as well as drawing on her own, asking: How do we find love? How do we sustain it? And how do we survive when we lose it?

In Conversations on Love she began to find the answers:

Philippa Perry on falling in love slowly
Dolly Alderton on vulnerability
Stephen Grosz on accepting change
Candice Carty-Williams on friendship
Lisa Taddeo on the loneliness of loss
Diana Evans on parenthood
Emily Nagoski on the science of sex
Alain de Botton on the psychology of being alone
Esther Perel on unrealistic expectations
Roxane Gay on redefining romance
and many more…

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

An enjoyable and useful collection of emotional experiences, interviews and thoughts on love. It explores what it means to us and how it manifests in our lives. The writing is eloquent, engaging and transparent. The author shares her experiences and her motivations for writing the book. The interviews are intrinsically interesting and thought-provoking. Some experiences and ideas will resonate, but all are fascinating.

This book is a riveting read and also something to revisit at different times in your life.

Posted in Blog Blitz, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Friendship, Giveaway, Motivational, New Books, Romance, Travel

Happy Dreams at Mermaid Cove Marie Laval 5*#Review @MarieLaval1 @ChocLituk @rararesources #BlogBlitz #PublicationDay #BookReview #Giveaway #uplit #mobilelibrary #IsleofSkye #romance #books #friendship #secrets #mystery #community folklore #HappyDreamsatMermaidCove #tuesdayvibes

From the big city to a little yellow mobile library on the Isle of Skye …

When Jenna Palmer agrees to the new position of mobile librarian on the tiny Arrandale peninsular of the Isle of Skye, she knows she’s signing up for difficult working conditions and mediocre wages. But Jenna needs to get away, and a little yellow mobile library called Buttercup could be her escape to happier dreams …

However, whilst Jenna can get to grips with foggy island roads, local mermaid legends and even big purple monsters, she never expected to have to contend with a boss as grumpy as Daniel McGregor, or a young book lover as enthusiastic as his niece, Katrina.

Arrandale might represent Jenna’s safe port in a storm, but could she and Buttercup also become a beacon of hope to Daniel, Katrina and the entire island community?

Amazon UK Amazon

My Thoughts…

A lovely story of starting over and taking a chance on life. Jenna is reeling from an abusive relationship. Running a mobile library on a remote Scottish island seems to be the perfect escape for her. After a dramatic start, she warms to the community that welcomes her. There are plenty of conflicts too, which give her closure and help her realise how her present circumstances are helping her heal.

Her relationships with Daniel the Laird is full of ups and downs. He hides a kind heart and pain behind his gruff manner, but gradually they both learn to trust and share their secrets. The island is wrapped in folklore and mystery, and this adds to the novel’s interest.

Second chances, community and a little healing magic.

Marie Laval

Originally from Lyon in France, Marie has lived in the Rossendale Valley in Lancashire for the past few years. She writes both contemporary and historical romance. Her novels include best selling contemporary romantic suspense novels LITTLE PINK TAXI and ESCAPE TO THE LITTLE CHATEAU, which was shortlisted for the 2021 RNA Jackie Collins Romantic Suspense Awards, as well as A PARIS FAIRY TALE and BLUEBELL’S CHRISTMAS MAGIC. Her latest novel, ANGEL OF THE LOST TREASURE, was released in February 2021. Marie also contributes to the best selling Miss Moonshine’s Emporium anthologies together with eight author friends from Authors on the Edge.

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#Giveaway

Giveaway to Win 2 bracelets with glass found on a Northumberland beach, a pack of pencils, a mystery gift and some chocolate. (Open to UK Only)

Click on link to enter giveaway

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Giveaway link above. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for the fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Childrens Books, Friendship, Motivational, Parenting and Famlies

The Problem With Poppy Emma Sandford 4*#Review @ESandfordAuthor Illustrator Olena Osadcha @FullMediaLtd #Review #BlogBlitz @rararesources #BookReview #Kidlit #ChildrensBooks #TheProblemWithPoppy

Poppy the porcupine has always wanted to make a friend, but her defensive nature prevents her. When a young tiger cub stumbles upon her one day in the rainforest, she reacts badly and scares him away.

Determined to change her ways, she sets out to find him, but little does she know that the tiger cub is about to have a problem of his own. In the face of danger, will Poppy find a way to save the day?

The Problem With Poppy Website Shop Full-media.co.uk

Amazon UK Amazon

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A vibrantly illustrated children’s picture book about learning to trust, even when others have let you down. Poppy, the Porcupine is as prickly as her appearance, but with good reason. She wants to make friends but is frightened of being hurt. Her first meeting with Rory, the tiger cub, doesn’t go well. She perseveres and eventually makes a friend.

The problem of animal poaching is explored understandably, and the conclusion shows the importance of learning to trust and friendship positively. Parents and carers may need to remind their children of the dangers of traffic.

Overall this a colourfully illustrated story with good messages and likeable characters that should appeal to young children.

Emma Sandford is a Liverpool-born author and businesswoman based in Cheshire. For many years, she has wanted to write a children’s book that draws on her own experiences and helps young children overcome personal issues. One day, inspiration hit her: she realised that a porcupine has a very obvious defence mechanism where it shows its quills, stamps its feet and chatters with its teeth when feeling threatened.

Unfortunately, due to traumatic events in her life, Emma has also been defensive in situations where she didn’t need to be, and was frightened to let people get close to her. The Problem With Poppy is a fun way of teaching kids that while everybody has a natural defence mechanism, there is a time and a place to use it. By the end of the story, Poppy has learnt this valuable lesson and she makes a lifelong friend in the process.

Emma is planning on writing more books in the future that have similar important messages for youngsters. Watch this space!

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Guest post, Inspiration, Motivational, New Books

The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club Faith Hogan 5* #Review @GerHogan @Aria_Fiction @Hoz_Books #BlogTour #BookReview #GuestPost #SecondChance #Friendship #Life #Motivational #uplit #IrishFiction #TheLadiesMidnightSwimmingClub #MondayBlogs

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Easons (Ireland only)

I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This is a lovely heartwarming story set on the west coast of Ireland. It explores female relationships and the importance of living life to the full. The setting is an immense part of this story giving the women space to breathe and think. The relationship dynamics are relatable, and the author explores topical issues in an enlightened way.

Character-driven, it immerses the reader in the main protagonists’ lives, which is an emotional experience. Family drama, heartbreaking decisions and romance are interwoven into this literary puzzle, and despite the shocks and tears, it leaves you feeling uplifted.

Guest Post: The Ladies Midnight Swimming Club – Inspiration- Faith Hogan

It’s been a funny old year, I mean to quote those wonderful words, it’s been the best of times, it’s been the worst of times, certainly, it’s been an extraordinary fifteen months on this side of the pond and although I haven’t travelled to the UK since 2019 – that sounds much too long ago – this has been a year like no other in every part of the world.

Apart from the terrible tragedies that have moved each of us, even if they did not touch our lives directly, there has been such a complete upheaval of life as we’ve known it and sometimes, it feels as if we may never fully return to what went before as normal.

At the end of it all, I’ve found a much renewed love of the book that uplift my spirits. It’s been an essential part of my lockdown armoury. Losing myself in the words of favourite writers who can help me escape the worries that might otherwise have dragged me down further and let-s face it, the nightly news was as much as any of us needed to drift into the tragedies of life.

So, I’ve been reading lots of unashamedly uplifting, happy books. I think it’s helped me to see the positives of having been locked down in a way that has balanced out all the losses. And there have been many positives. While less air travel has meant travel is curbed, I’m also very aware that the environment has managed to get some much needed breathing space. It’s given us great family time – now we’re playing scrabble and regularly sitting down to watch TV programmes together that I’d never have watched otherwise. And it’s given us time to think; perhaps savouring the little things that we’d rushed about so much for before and missed out on the simple joy of them. Things like family meals, long phone calls with friends – when once a text flown off seemed to be as much as we could manage. And then, there have been so many who’ve had the opportunity to work from home and in some cases think of re-locating and maybe taking life off hold.

Yes, it’s been the best of times and the worst of times.

But the one thing I’m sure of, is that a good uplifting book is one of those things that has really come up trumps throughout, a little like scrabble and strangely, The Grand Tour – yep ,in the Hogan House we’re on a binge!

I wrote The Ladies Midnight Swimming Club the year before we’d even heard of Covid 19. I’d written it purely for the joy of telling a story that would uplift my own spirits and so far it seems to have had the same impact on readers who’ve picked it up.

It’s unashamedly feel good, gentle and ultimately heartening, you may cry at certain parts, but you will laugh much more and I hope, as you pick up the threads of Lucy, Jo and Elizabeth’s lives, you will feel you are on a journey with old friends – people you’ll root for, people you’ll be sad to say goodbye to at the end. Because, we all want a happy ending, don’t we and there’s nothing that we could want more than a happy ending for the people we love!

And, as we near the end of this extraordinary year, perhaps we’ve all learned something we hadn’t expected – happiness can be found in the most unexpected places and if we’re wise, we’ll grab it when we can. And happiness is the one thing that we can feel, no matter if we are living in the best of times or indeed, the worst of times…

So, go on, choose your own kind of happy today, jump in with the Ladies Midnight Swimming Club, I promise, you’ll feel better once you’ve dived in there….

Faith Hogan

Faith Hogan is an Irish award-winning and bestselling author of five contemporary fiction novels. Her books have featured as Book Club Favorites, Net Galley Hot Reads and Summer Must Reads. She writes grown up women’s fiction which is unashamedly uplifting, feel good and inspiring.

She is currently working on her next novel. She lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and a very busy Labrador named Penny. She’s a writer, reader, enthusiastic dog walker and reluctant jogger – except of course when it is raining!

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Memoir, Motivational, Non-Fiction

The Spirit of the Horse Pam Billinge 5*#Review @pam_billinge @Blackbird_Bks #BlogTour #BookReview #memoir #Motivational #nonfiction #Horses #Love #Life

Sequel to The Spell of the Horse.

The Spirit of the Horse is about following dreams, finding your truth and how much stronger joy can be when we learn to interconnect with all that is.

‘Masterful, uplifting and insightful, this book has left an indelible stamp on my heart.’ Justin Featherstone MC

When Pam follows her dream to a farmhouse with five acres in northern France, she is able to live alongside her horses for the first time. Here, in the heart of nature, deeper insights are revealed into the healing connection between horse and human and the incredible power of presence to transform. Might it be that learning to honour and communicate with another species helps us to reframe the way we perceive each other, as well as how we might see ourselves?

Paperback (£9.99) available to order from Waterstones

and all good bookshops and the usual online platforms.

Ebook (£3.99) Amazon UK iBooks

 [US]Kobo

I received a copy of this book from Blackbird in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I haven’t read The Spell of the Horse, the book this is a sequel to, but this book reads well without having done so, although it did make me keen to read the book that came first. This book hard to define but is very readable, with messages that everyone can take away and think about.

As a memoir, it is engaging and honest. It has depth, Pam’s experience working with her ‘herd’ to help her clients to work out their anxieties, future choices and problems, is emotional, fascinating and thought-provoking.

It’s compelling to explore the spiritual connection between humans and horses through case studies and Pam’s insights. This is a poignant and powerful book.

Pan Billinge – Photo Credit Sabine Coe Photography

Pam Billinge is a therapist, coach and author who specialises in embodied horse-led learning.

This unique approach relies entirely on the emergent relational process between horse and human. At her bases in the UK and in France, Pam supports people of all nationalities, ages and walks of life with their personal and professional development.

Through her workshops and her writing Pam wishes to share the healing wisdom of horses whilst advancing the cause of this
sometimes much-misunderstood species. She hopes also
through her work to reconnect us with the natural world from which we are too often separated.

Posted in Audiobook Review, Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Inspiration, Motivational

Growing Season Seni Glaister 5*#Review @SeniGlaister @HQStories Narrator Kristin Atherton #HarperCollinsAudioUK #Audiobook #BlogTour #Review #loss #selfrealisation #uplit #nature #life #love #GrowingSeason

Danny is riddled with anxiety. But he wants to be strong for his wife Sam. She’s been through so much already. If only he had someone to talk to.

Sam is facing a very different future to the one she expected. She’s ready to move on, yet other people won’t let her. If only she had someone to talk to.

Their new neighbour Diana is hiding from her past. She wanted a new life. Now she’s got it she feels angry and alone. If only she had someone to talk to.

Each of them is hiding their pain. Each of them needs to heal. But only when they learn to let each other in will they finally be able to grow.

I received an audiobook from HQ (Harper Collins Audio UK) via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This character-driven story features a multi-generational friendship. Told from three viewpoints Diana, Sam and Danny, it is a detailed emotional story that explores finding your true self, fitting in, honesty and loss.

It’s introspective and works well as an audiobook. The narrator is clear and engaging, voicing the characters believably and distinctly. The gentle pace enables the listener to know each character well, and the humour, insight and poignancy, make it an emotional read.

The parallels with nature that affects the characters’ lives are well crafted and make this an engaging, thought-provoking story.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Friendship, Motivational, Romance

Life After You Sian O’Gorman 5* #Review @msogorman @BoldwoodBooks @rararesources #boldwoodbloggers #BlogTour #BookReview #Love #Loss #Bereavement #Family #Romance #Friendship #Motivational #Heartwarming #SundayThoughts #LifeAfterYou

Meaningful and moving, a beautiful story with life-affirming qualities.

Milly Bryne’s world came crashing down when she lost her beloved Dad and boyfriend in a matter of weeks.
Losing her Dad has broken her family. Losing her soul mate made has made her give up on life and love.
After swerving from stability to chaos to despair, Milly finally believes she has her life back on track when the unexpected return of a familiar face to Ireland throws her life once more into a spin. Milly is forced to decide if her new life is the one for her, or if there is another path that will bring even greater riches of joy, excitement and fun into her world. Life just isn’t worth living if your heart isn’t in it?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I always love reading a book written by a true storyteller and this one of those. Milly is not coping, no one would know, but she’s still crippled with grief after losing her father five years ago, has a ruthless career that demands all her time and offends her moral code and was abandoned by her soulmate at the lowest point in her life. When her old lover returns, it forces her to look at her life and decide what she truly wants it to be.

Milly is a likeable and relatable protagonist. You want her to overcome her anxiety, learn to live with her grief and be happy. A diverse cast of characters both hinder and support Milly in this quest. Everyone is authentic and adds something to this enjoyable story.

The story explores how Milly and her family members experience, both anxiety and grief believably.

The story is heartbreaking and humorous in equal measure but ultimately heartwarming.

Extract from Life After You Sian o’Gorman

Chapter One

A low hum of chatter, the odd bray from the over-inebriated, the tinkling of Cole Porter from the grand piano in the corner, the soft lighting, the waft of the kind of perfume that hadn’t been bought as an after-thought in Duty Free, the pop of the champagne bottles. Siobhán held up her glass of fizz. ‘I could get used to this,’ she said, putting on a posh voice. ‘I may insist on always socialising in the Shelbourne.’

It was early April and there was a touch of spring in the air and we were both a little over-excited. It was a Tuesday which was enough to celebrate on its own, but we were at the launch of a new development for my boyfriend’s property company and although Ryan and I had been going out for three months, he and Siobhán were yet to meet.

She’d already peered across the room at him as he shook hands with and chatted to some of the other guests. ‘He’s handsome,’ she said, approvingly. ‘The kind of cheekbones that make him look like he’s sucking on a lemon or an eighties popstar.’

Siobhán and I had been best friends since our third year of high school when we both realised we shared a hatred of hockey and a love of talking to each other. We’d lived with each other many times over the years, her moving in with me when my then boyfriend, Darragh, left me five years earlier. Her partner, George, was often to be found on our sofa – normally asleep, wrecked from his early starts in a bakery.

Siobhán’s arm darted out to nab a handful of canapés as a tray bobbed past our heads. She handed one to me. ‘Being a corporate lawyer, you probably eat like this all the time,’ she said, mouth full, ‘expense-account lunches…’

‘I’m lucky if I get ten minutes to buy a sandwich. Normally, it’s just me and Catriona working through.’ Catriona was my boss, one of the partners at my law firm McCoyMcAvoy. I’d worked there since getting onto the graduate scheme, and had slowly made my way up to being junior to the firm’s only female partner. As corporate lawyers, we bent the rules to nearly breaking point, discovering legal loopholes and building cases so rock-solid that we always ensured our clients got their way.

‘Lunch is the most important meal of the day,’ Siobhán reminded me.

‘I thought it was breakfast.’

She held up a canapé. ‘No, I forgot. Nibbles and snacks are the best meal of the day.’ She grinned at me. ‘Can’t live without snacks.’

‘I’d die.’

‘We’d die together for the want of a good snack… talking of which, these are very nice, very nice indeed!’

Siobhán was small, with long, waterfall-wavy red hair, and always wore bright red lipstick. I was tall, with shoulder length light brown hair which I tied back for work, with minimal make-up. She wore long skirts and chunky cardigans and dangly earrings, whereas I couldn’t remember the last time I wore anything that wasn’t sensible. I couldn’t remember the last time I had done something that wasn’t sensible. But, then again, I was the one who’d signed up to be a lawyer and being sensible was part of the deal. Except, I wouldn’t mind some fun. It was exactly why I insisted on Siobhan coming tonight. It was at least something.

Sian O’Gorman

Sian O’Gorman was born in Galway on the West Coast of Ireland, grew up in the lovely city of Cardiff, and has found her way back to Ireland and now lives on the east of the country, in the village of Dalkey, just along the coast from Dublin. She works as a radio producer for RTE.

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