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An update and April favourites

Long time readers might have noticed that I've struggled to get on here and blog about much for a good long while. Last year was obviously an awful one for everyone. I am very lucky in a lot of ways that my family and friends have all remained safe over the pandemic but I did lose one of my lovely friends under the saddest circumstances last summer and it has and continues to hit me hard. Added to that the usual pressures that come with my day job have just intensified exponentially over the last year. All of those things combined has led to me struggling to keep to any kind of decent sleep pattern and thus my ability to plough through books and write about them in any kind of coherent fashion has severally diminished compared to the halcyon days when I started blogging and was getting through and reviewing 200+ books a year.

So here we are in 2021 and into my 11th year of blogging and I'm hoping this is a new start and with me making a proper return to my little blog and finding a bit of myself again. Thank you to all the publishers who have helped to get me back here me back through offering me blog tour slots, review copies and inviting me to events particularly so to the lovely Alice at Harpercollins and Meggie at David Fickling (who quite frankly got more information than they needed when they emailed me and were so very kind sensitive in their replies which was appreciated more than I can say) and SJV at S&S (who invited me to the loveliest event in December that made me realise that all this bookish geekery is something I need to feel myself).

So I can't promise I'll be back here as regularly as I was. The day job is still ridiculous so I'll still be relying on a combo of twitter, instagram and goodreads but at the very least I'm going to sharing my favourite reads each month, taking on a few more blog tours for my favourite authors and we'll see where we go from there.

So starting as I mean to go on. Here are my favourite reads of April 2021

Lives like mine by Eva Verde

Mother... To three small children, their heritage dual like hers.
Daughter... To a mother who immigrated to make a better life but has been rejected by her chosen country. 
Wife... To a man who loves her but who will not defend her to his intolerant family.
Woman… Whose roles now define her and trap her in a life she no longer recognises…
Meet Monica, the flawed heroine at the heart of LIVES LIKE MINE.
With her three children in school, Monica finds herself wondering if this is all there is. Despite all the effort and the smiles, in the mirror she sees a woman hollowed out from putting everyone else first, tolerating her in-laws’ intolerance, and wondering if she has a right to complain when she’s living the life that she has created for herself.
Then along comes Joe, a catalyst for change in the guise of a flirtatious parent on the school run. Though the sudden spark of their affair is hedonistic and oh so cathartic, Joe soon offers a friendship that shows Monica how to resurrect and honour the parts of her identity that she has long suppressed. He is able to do for Monica what Dan has never managed to, enabling her both to face up to a past of guilty secrets and family estrangements, and to redefine her future.

Why I loved it

I thought this book was excellent. Firstly for the way in which it discusses racism and shows you a first hand example of it affecting the main character Monica's life. I defy anyone to read it and not feel angry and frustrated on her behalf. Secondly because I think the book really shows the various ways in which women are stretched on a daily basis trying to fulfil so many roles all at once whilst being judged every single time one of the many and varied plates they are spinning wobbles. It felt very relevant and relatable

Sunrise by the sea by Jenny Colgan

New York Times bestselling author Jenny Colgan returns to the setting of her beloved Little Beach Street Bakery series for a timely and heartfelt novel set in a Cornish seaside village.

Marisa Rosso can't understand why everyone else is getting on with their lives as she still struggles to get over the death of her beloved grandfather, back home in Italy. Everyone loses grandparents, right? Why is she taking it so badly?

Retreating further and further from normal life, she moves to the end of the earth--the remote tidal island of Mount Polbearne, at the foot of Cornwall, hoping for peace and solitude, whilst carrying on her job as a registrar, dealing with births, weddings, and deaths, even as she feels life is passing her by.

Unfortunately--or fortunately?--the solitude she craves proves elusive. Between her noisy Russian piano-teaching neighbor, the bustle and community spirit of the tiny village struggling back to life after the quarantine, and the pressing need to help save the local bakery, can Marisa find her joy again at the end of the world?

Why I loved it

I won't say too much about this one as it isn't out for a good while yet but I will say that I loved it. I love Jenny's books and being back on the island with Poppy and with the new characters was a real treat. I inhaled this and finished it pretty much in one sitting.

What we're scared of by Keren David

Evie and Lottie are twin sisters, but they couldn't be more different.

Evie's sharp and funny. Lottie's a day-dreamer. Evie's the fighter, Lottie's the peace-maker. What they do have in common is their Jewishness - even though the family isn't religious. When their mother gets a high-profile job and is targeted by antisemitic trolls on social media, the girls brush it off at first - but then the threats start getting uglier. . .

What We're Scared Of is a taut thriller, a tale of sibling friendship and rivalry - and a searing look at what happens when you scratch beneath the surface.

Why I loved it

This book is so important. It has clear messages about modern day anti-Semitism and discusses the impact it is still having in the UK. This is so incredibly important and something that needs to be discussed with young people whom this book is targeting. I teach about the holocaust to teenagers and having a book like this set in contemporary Britain will provide a brilliant follow on for me to recommend after we have finished studying it to show young people that the holocaust isn't just something that happened long ago and couldn't happen again. Particularly so as the number of survivors who are still with us and able to tell the world about their stories for themselves is becoming smaller over time.

When the beat drops by Anna Hecker

Seventeen-year-old Mira has always danced to her own beat. A music prodigy in a family of athletes, she’d rather play trumpet than party—and with her audition to a prestigious jazz conservatory just around the corner (and her two best friends at music camp without her), she plans to spend the summer focused on jazz and nothing else.

She only goes to the warehouse party in a last-ditch effort to bond with her older sister. Instead, she falls in love with dance music, DJing…and Derek, a gorgeous promoter who thinks he can make her a star. Suddenly trumpet practice and old friendships are taking a backseat to packed dance floors, sun-soaked music festivals, outsized personalities, and endless beats.

But when a devastating tragedy plunges her golden summer into darkness, Mira discovers just how little she knows about her new boyfriend, her old friends, and even her own sister. Music is what brought them together…but will it also tear them apart?

Why I loved it

This book appealed to the part of me who loves to dance to something with a cracking beat ideally in a crowd so big that no one notices me. Sadly this hasn't happened in such a ridiculously long time and I was probably too old for clubbing even before this pandemic meant it wasn't an option anyway. It's a fun read with some serious themes and I really enjoyed it. Another one I devoured in one greedy sitting.

The Forbidden Promise by Lorna Cook

The stunning new story of love and secrets from the Number One bestselling author of The Forgotten Village

Scotland, 1940:
War rages across Europe, but Invermoray House is at peace. Until the night of Constance’s twenty-first birthday, when she’s the only person to see a Spitfire crash into the loch. Constance has been longing for adventure – but when she promises to keep the pilot hidden, what will it cost her?

Kate arrives in the Highlands to turn Invermoray into a luxury bed-and-breakfast, only to find that the estate is more troubled than she’d imagined. But when Kate discovers the house has a murky history, with Constance McLay’s name struck from its records, she knows she can’t leave until the mystery is solved…

How will one promise change the fate of two women, decades apart?

Why I loved it

I loved this book because it has got me back onto a bit of a historical fiction kick. I love history and all the various stories that come with it. I love modern history particularly and therefore this was definitely one of those books where I knew there was a good chance I'd love it. I certainly did. The setting and the romance was pitch perfect. I cannot wait to read more of Lorna's books

The Secrets of Saffron Hall by Clare Marchant

New bride Eleanor impresses her husband by growing saffron, a spice more valuable than gold. His reputation in Henry VIII’s court soars – but fame and fortune come at a price, for the king’s favour will not last forever…

When Amber discovers an ancient book in her grandfather’s home at Saffron Hall, the contents reveal a dark secret from the past. As she investigates, so unravels a forgotten tragic story and a truth that lies much closer to home than she could have imagined…

Why I loved it

I've been meaning to read this book for ages and finally got to it last weekend. I'm not mad for early modern history unless it is done well and this really was. I loved the mystery behind the story. I loved both of the story threads, one set in the past and one contemporary. I loved the local setting. If you love historical fiction or contemporary novels you love this completely. Excitingly no sooner did I finish this book that Clare's next book popped up on netgalley (yes I have a kindle now. No I don't really like it at all. I blame the pandemic and the fact that my lovely local library has been shut or not doing reservations for most of the last year) so I have that lined up ready and waiting for me in the not too distant future.