The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness – Laura Bambrey

The perfect feel-good read from an exciting new voice in women’s fiction, for fans of Heidi Swain, Cathy Bramley and Jenny Colgan.

Tori Williamson is alone. After a tragic event left her isolated from her loved ones, she’s been struggling to find her way back to, well – herself. That’s why she set up her blog, The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness, as a way of – anonymously – connecting with the outside world and reaching others who just need a little help sometimes.

When she’s offered a free spot on a wellbeing retreat in exchange for a review on her blog, Tori is anxious about opening herself up to new surroundings. But after her three closest friends – who she talks to online but has never actually met – convince her it’ll do her some good, she reluctantly agrees and heads off for three weeks in the wild (well, a farm in Wales).

From the moment she arrives, Tori is sceptical and quickly finds herself drawn to fellow sceptic Than, the retreat’s dark and mysterious latecomer. But as the beauty of The Farm slowly comes to light she realises that opening herself up might not be the worst thing. And sharing a yurt with fellow retreater Bay definitely isn’t. Will the retreat be able to fix Tori? Or will she finally learn that being lonely doesn’t mean she’s broken… 

Welcome to The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness! Where you can learn to move mountains by picking up the smallest of stones…

The Beginners Guide to Loneliness

The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness is the debut novel from Laura Bambrey, and from the outset I could see why it was picked from the Books and the City’s #DigitalOriginals #OneDay2019 open submissions day.

I could resonate with how the lead character felt so was enthralled following her personal journey in dealing with this once at the retreat and also in the past.

I found that Tori was a believable, relatable and loveable character that I was cheering for from the start. There were also many wonderful characters, and a nice variety, that she meets at The Farm. I especially enjoyed Doreen, Bay and the adorable dog Dennis.

There is so much warmth and hope in this book that makes it such a feel-good and heart-warming story. Throughout Laura tackles many different issues that society deals with which results in many people at some time feeling lonely; grief, breakdown of relationships, social media and more. It shows that many people can result in feeling the same way although for many different reasons. The way that Laura deals with these issues across Tori’s story, and those also at the retreat, is done so beautifully and with compassion.

This book definitely struck a chord with me and left me wondering if the blog exists and when I can go on this retreat? It sounds like exactly what I need!

I’m already itching to see what Laura writes next!

A Patchwork Family – Cathy Bramley

Love, friendship and family come in all different shapes and sizes…

Gina has been going with the flow for years – she’d rather have an easy life than face any conflict. She runs her childminding business from her cottage at the edge of The Evergreens, a charming Victorian house and home to three octogenarians who have far too much fun for their age.

But when The Evergreens is put up for sale, Gina and her family of friends face losing their home. To protect her business and save them all from eviction, Gina must take a stand and fight for the first time in her life.

As Gina’s ideas for saving The Evergreens get bigger and bolder, she starts to believe it might just be possible. The only thing is, does she believe in herself?

A Patchwork Family

This is another fabulous book by Cathy Bramley. A book that is easy to read and easy to get lost in.

Gina, the leading character, is kind, self-less and down-to-earth. She is passionate about her childminding business and when she faces losing her home she uses this passion to try and find a solution, not just for her but also for the residents of The Evergreens.

A wonderful aspect of this book is the mix between the generations and the relationships that are built around these. The elderly and the children are able to learn from each other. The elderly residents of The Evergreens are able to teach the children ‘old fashioned’ skills and aspects of life whilst the children bring a joy to the older generation and an aid in facing and dealing with their loneliness. The two generations come together to help Gina fight the battle for The Evergreens.

The characters are great and all are relatable as well as providing a great sense of humour to the book. They all bring different aspects to the story, each dealing with their own problems but they also bring a sense of comradery and show that family isn’t always about those that you are born into.

The story captivated me from the start and it gives a sense of warmth, hope and love.

The Gin O’Clock Club – Rosie Blake

Bring the sparkle and fizz back into your life with the help of The Gin O’Clock Club.

Lottie is always in a hurry, rushing through her days ticking tasks off her to-do lists. Teddy is worries about his granddaughter – and he knows that his late wife, Lily, would have known exactly what to say to make things better. Now that Lily has gone, it’s up to Teddy to talk some sense into Lottie.

With the help of Arjun, Geoffrey and Howard, the elderly reprobates who make up his Gin O’Clock Club, Teddy makes a plan to help Lottie find her way back to the things that really matter – family, friendship and love. But as Lottie balances a high-powered job with her reluctant attendance at whilst drivers, ballroom dances and bingo, Teddy wonders if she’s really ready to open up her heart to the possibility of true happiness…

Laugh, cry and fall in love with this colourful cast of characters in THE feel-good novel of the year.

The Gin OClock Club

Rosie Blake kindly gifted me this book and I am so grateful she did, it is the perfect tonic (get it?).

Lottie is struggling to get the perfect work life balance and it is affecting her relationship with boyfriend, Luke. Her grandfather, Teddy, can see that she is struggling and wants to help but doesn’t know how. With the help of his friends from the gin o’clock club they concoct a plan to make Lottie take notice of the smaller, fun things in life again.

This book is absolutely brilliant, from the story to the characters, it has you smiling from the very beginning. Each character brings with them a different sense of humour.

Not only do we see Lottie revalue her life and learn ourselves the importance that we strike the right work life balance for our health, but also the value of friendship. A key part of the story involves Teddy and his friends, Arjun, Geoffrey and Howard and the importance of their relationships. I’m sure I am not alone in forgetting how lonely it can be for the older generation, our grandparents, when they have lost their spouse for example. And it is through this that I feel that Lottie comes to learn the importance of her own relationships with Luke and her best friend Amy.

I loved all the characters involved in this book, and it is definitely the feel-good book that it appears to be.

Warning: you will want to drink gin whilst reading this! Cheers.

New Rules – Lily Hayden

Kate Miller has it all; a glittering career, a wonderful home life and a promotion in the bag. She knows the rules for success, and nothing will stop her from getting to where she wants to be.

Ellie Stephens, on the other hand, can’t catch a break; she’s trapped in a vicious circle of dead-end jobs and red-flag relationships until she’s paired with Kate in their company’s brand-new mentoring scheme.

Ellie just can’t seem to get to grips with Kate’s ruthless recipe for success no matter how hard she tries, leaving her wondering if she’s the problem. Two new men in her life, affable-but-mysterious Freddie and Kate’s drop-dead gorgeous ex Liam try to help her muddle through and figure out how to get ahead.

Meanwhile, Kate’s perfect life is unravelling and where once everything she touched turned to gold, it’s suddenly falling apart. Her work nemesis is throwing obstacles in her way at every turn, her home life is in tatters and her first love is suddenly back in her life. Kate is more confused than ever; is it time to break those rules?

New Rules Cover

Thank you to Rachel’s Random Resources and Lily Hayden for allowing me to be part of the blog tour for New Rules.

This was a great story and I was hooked from the start.

What I enjoyed the most was the contrast between the two lead characters, Kate and Ellie. Kate is a successful career woman, wife and mum and in control whilst Ellie appears to be a lost cause, with an ongoing on-off relationship and a job that doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.

The two come together in their company’s new mentoring scheme. Ellie admires Kate and thinks she has it all, whilst Kate despairs at the disorder of Ellie’s life and her lack of ambition. But what we learn is not all is as it seems, Kate seems to be losing the handle on everything whilst Ellie does has the drive to achieve more with her life.

At the start of the book I couldn’t connect with Kate’s character, but as it went on and we unearth more about her I felt like I understood her more. Whilst with Ellie’s character I found her completely relatable.

The contract between the characters is also shown through their viewpoints, with the story being told from each of their sides.

The supporting characters, especially Freddie and Liam, I found fun adding extra twists as well as support.

I think Lily Hayden has done a great job of representing life through the workplace, and the variety of characters that you come across.

New Rules Poster

The Secret Seaside Escape – Heidi Swain

The Secret Seaside Escape

Heidi Swain

Escape to the seaside with the brand-new, feel-good romance from Sunday Times bestselling author Heidi Swain!

Tess Tyler needs a break. Weighed down by her high-pressure job and her demanding father, she’s left little time to take care of herself. But after a shocking discovery sends her spiraling, she flees to Wynmouth, the seaside town she fell in love with as a child, in search of some much-needed relaxation.

With its sandy beaches, stunning rock pools and welcoming community, Tess feels like she can finally breathe again. And as she grows ever closer to local barman Sam, she dares to dream that she might never return to her real life. But when a familiar face returns to town, Tess realises that there are secrets in Wynmouth too, and that her own past may be about to catch up with her….

The Secret Seaside Escape

I am a huge fan of Heidi Swain, even though before reading The Secret Seaside Escape I had only read her festive books.

The Secret Seaside Escape is a standalone novel by Heidi, although I am hoping that we are going to be able to return to Wynmouth in the future.

As with all of the books I have read by Heidi, she creates a wonderful community within her books, one that you feel like you are part of instantly. It feels like you know the characters, as if they are your friends, and it allows you to become completely absorbed into their world.

Tess is the lead character in this book and she escapes to the seaside town of Wynmouth, the location of her childhood holidays, from her stress filled life. Knowing that she needs to escape her current situation as well as deal with a discovery from the past she knows that the relaxed slower pace on the coast will help her to deal with everything.

Whilst Tess is in Wynmouth we are introduced to a number of great characters, Sophie, Sam, Joe and Hope. They all bring their own element of fun and intrigue to Tess’s life as well each having their own story to unravel.

The lesson in the story of needing to take some time and to slow down is clear from the start. Whilst getting lost into this book it allows you to do the same with the slower, relaxed pace of the book.

Heidi’s books are a great means of escapism, and I can’t wait for my next installment.

Hello, Again – Isabelle Broom

Hello, Again – Isabelle Broom

Philippa Taylor (Pepper to her friends) has big dreams. When she closes her eyes, she can picture exactly who she ought to be. The problem is, it’s about as far away from her real life in a small coastal town in Suffolk as she can imagine.

So when her elderly friend Josephine persuades Pepper to accompany her on a trip to Europe, she jumps at the chance to change her routine. And when Pepper bumps (literally) into the handsome Finn in Lisbon, it seems as though she might have finally found what she’s been looking for.

But Pepper knows all too well things are rarely as they seem. Her own quiet life hides a dark secret from the past. And even though she and Finn may have been destined to find each other, Pepper suspects life may have other plans as to how the story should end.

A romantic and sweeping story about friendship, love and realising that sometimes it’s about the journey, not the destination.

Hello Again

Despite not having yet read them all, yet, I absolutely love Isabelle Broom’s books and this one may just be my favourite so far.

Hello, Again is an enchanting love story that transports you around the world.

Pepper is lost in life and takes the opportunity to travel to Europe with Josephine, her elderly friend who has her own love story to tell. It is as they travel to Lisbon and Barcelona that Pepper learns lessons about love and life from Josephine and also Finn.

The characters of Pepper and Josephine are captivating and both have aspects that I am sure everyone can relate too. It is how their stories entwine that is one of the many reasons why this book is so lovable.

One of the features of Isabelle’s books that always makes me pick them up is the escapism and her ability to transport you across the world with her writing. In this book alone she features, Suffolk, Lisbon, Barcelona, Hamburg and Guernsey. She writes in such a way that not only are you caught up in the characters stories but also as if you are right there on the streets of the places you are reading about.

I adored this love story and can’t wait to pick up another of Isabelle’s books.

The Eve Illusion – Giovanna and Tom Fletcher

The Eve Illusion

Giovanna & Tom Fletcher

Eve is the last girl on earth.

For the last sixteen years, Eve has been a prisoner. Guarded by the Mothers. Trapped by her fate. Watched by the world.

Until she took her chance, and she escaped.

Eve finally has the freedom she has wanted for so long, and with Bram she shas the love. But both come at a price. In this dangerous new world beyond the Tower, the regime is only ever one step behind. And together with the desperate rebel group fighting against them, Eve has found herself in more danger than she ever could have imagined.

With everything stacked again them, can Eve and Bram survive?

The Eve Illusion

I couldn’t wait for this second book by Giovanna and Tom Fletcher, following on from Eve of Man, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

Starting where Eve of Man left off whilst giving us a reminder of the cliffhanger in this second installment of Eve’s story we jumped straight into the action, which continued all the way throughout the book.

As with the first book the book is written from different viewpoints, Eve, Bram and in this book an addition of a third, Michael. The distinct voices between the characters keeps the book moving at a fast pace and keeps you guessing at every twist and turn in the story. Slightly darker than the first book, in here we discover more of the characters motives and true colours.

Once again Giovanna and Tom have left the book a cliffhanger ahead of the third and final installment of the book. Hopefully we won’t have to wait long for this next one because I’m desperate to find out what happens next!

 

Still Me – Jojo Moyes

Still Me

Jojo Moyes

Lou Clark knows too many things…

She knows how many miles lie between her new home in New York and her new boyfriend Sam in London.

She knows her employer is a good man and she knows his wife is keeping a secret from him.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to meet someone who’s going to turn her whole life upside down.

Because Josh will remind her so much of a man she used to know that it’ll hurt.

Lou won’t know what to do next, but she knows that whatever she chooses is going to change everything.

Still Me

This is the third instalment from Jojo Moyes of Louisa Clark’s story. We initially met Lou in Me Before You which quickly became one of my favourite books and stories. After You was the second book and I didn’t enjoy that nearly as much as the first and was disappointed. So when it came to reading this third book, Still Me, I was pleasantly surprised.

Lou pushes her comfort zones once again and moves to New York for her new job. Whilst in New York her life is turned upside down. A lengthy book which is full of twists, turns, secrets and surprises from start to finish.

The story that this book follows I enjoyed, it felt like it was truer to Louisa’s character than I felt the second book did. Moving to New York to work for the Gopnik’s Louisa finds herself put in difficult positions both professionally and personally. Things don’t go to plan but Lou handles it in true Louisa Clark style.

I really enjoyed the characters that we were introduced in this latest instalment, especially that of the elderly lady, Mrs De Witt, that lives in the apartment block that Lou is working in. There is also Josh, another new character, who Lou meets in New York, whose effect on her gives everything a new spin which she wasn’t ever expecting.

One of my favourite features of this book is how Will Traynor is interweaved in. There are snippets from letters from his own move to New York that he had sent his mother. This allows Lou to continue to feel his influence on her and to settle her when she is struggling.

I don’t think any sequels would ever live up to Me Before You, as previously stated it is one of my all-time favourites, but all in all I really enjoyed this book and found it to be a good follow up.

The Little Teashop in Tokyo – Julie Caplin

The Little Teashop in Tokyo

Julie Caplin

Grab your passport and escape to a land of dazzling skyscrapers, steaming bowls of comforting noodles, and a page-turning love story that will make you swoon!

For travel blogger Fiona, Japan has always been top of her bucket list so when she wins an all-expenses paid trip, it looks like her dreams are coming true.

Until she arrives in vibrant, bustling Tokyo and comes face-to-face with the man who broke her heart ten years ago, gorgeous photographer Gabe.

Fiona can’t help but remember the heartache of their last meeting but amidst the temples and clouds of soft pink cherry blossoms, can Fiona and Gabe start to see life – and each other – differently?

The Little Teashop in Tokyo Cover

Today is the final day of The Little Teashop in Tokyo blog tour and I am very grateful to be taking part thanks to Rachel’s Random Resources, Julie Caplin and One More Chapter.

Before reading this book Japan was never somewhere that was high on my ‘must-go’ list, but now well it has certainly shot up. From the moment that Fiona steps off the plane I feel I am right there with her. Julie Caplin takes you across the globe so that you feel you are standing right next to Fiona as she travels. Throughout this whole book I was learning about a culture that I knew very little about and it has made me want to know more.

Fiona is a lovable character, and goes on a journey of self-discovery throughout these pages, as does photographer Gabe. And along their individual journeys there is their love story, a story that started ten years earlier. Gabe is also a lovable character, who appears lost and fed up with life.

Fiona is a travel blogger who has won a trip to Tokyo where she is to be mentored for a photography exhibition. Her reluctant mentor is Gabe, who Fiona first met ten years earlier. During her mentor programme they both learn things from the other resulting in a renewed lease of life for them both.

Underlying their own journeys is their love story, where they open the others eyes to what life could be like.

Alongside Fiona and Gabe, there are some wonderful characters, especially those of the family Fiona stays with, three generations which teach her, and me, the history of the traditions.

From the start I found myself smiling as I read along and felt I was transported into Japan and Fiona and Gabe’s stories.

And isn’t the cover just gorgeous!

This is the perfect escape, especially for those missing travel during this pandemic.

The Little Teashop in Tokyo Poster

I Heart Hollywood – Lindsey Kelk

I Heart Hollywood
Lindsey Kelk

Angela Clark can’t believe her luck…she’s living in New York with a dream job and a sexy boyfriend.

Sent to Hollywood to interview hot actor and fellow Brit James Jacobs, she’s in at the deep end amid the thin and beautiful of Rodeo Drive. The only person who seems genuine is James, despite his ladykiller reputation. But then the paparazzi catch them together at Chateau Marmont, and Angela finds herself in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons…

Can she convince her boss, her best friend and – most importantly – her boyfriend not to believe all they read in the papers? And will Hollywood ever win Angela’s heart?

I Heart Hollywood

I Heart Hollywood is the second of Lindsey Kelk’s I Heart series.

Picking up where I Heart New York left off we return to Angela Clark’s story. Having settled into New York life, she is sent to Hollywood to interview actor James Jacobs. As you can imagine things don’t go to plan and Angela finds herself making the headlines.

Just like the first book, this was filled with many laugh-out-loud moments. Easy to read and get absorbed into. I actually found this one funnier and it had me smiling all the way through.

As with I Heart New York the characters, returning and new, brought the fun to story and play big roles in the journey of Angela through this book.

Angela is thrown in head first out of her depth with the interview and it is fun following her trying to find her feet in the A-List world whilst overcoming the obstacles placed in her way.

I highly recommend this book, no second album syndrome here. I would also suggest that you read the first book in the series first to understand the story so far.