Monday, 23 October 2017

Book Review - Christmas at the Little Knitting Box by Helen J Rolfe - Rachel Reads Randomly Book #74

Amazon UK
Title:  Christmas at the The Little Knitting Box
Author:  Helen J Rolfe
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Author supplied reveiw copy
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: 29th November 2016
Rating: 5 Stars

Christmas is coming and New York is in full swing for the snowy season. But at The Little Knitting Box in the West Village, things are about to change …

The Little Knitting Box has been in Cleo’s family for nearly four decades, and since she arrived fresh off the plane from the Cotswolds four years ago, Cleo has been doing a stellar job of running the store. But instead of an early Christmas card in the mail this year, she gets a letter that tips her world on its axis.

Dylan has had a tumultuous few years. His marriage broke down, his mother passed away and he’s been trying to pick up the pieces as a stay-at-home dad. All he wants this Christmas is to give his kids the home and stability they need. But when he meets Cleo at a party one night, he begins to see it’s not always so easy to move on and pick up the pieces, especially when his ex seems determined to win him back.

When the snow starts to fall in New York City, both Cleo and Dylan realise life is rarely so black and white and both of them have choices to make. Will Dylan follow his heart or his head? And will Cleo ever allow herself to be a part of another family when her own fell apart at the seams?

Full of snow, love and the true meaning of Christmas, this novel will have you hooked until the final page.

Cosy, colourful, beautifully written, kept me guessing throughout and well its Christmas in New York what's not to love!  

This is a rather warm and cosy story, its a rather sweet romance, and at the same time its so much more than that. Its a hug of a book with characters that I felt connected to instantly. 

When I say colourful, wow did Helen Rolfe swallow a colour dictionary, so many different shades of the various yarns mentioned. I could visualise all the various tones and decided that it must be a very pretty knitting shop with them all on display.  And the descriptions of the various wools and yarns were also well researched, and thankfully my wool allergy doesn't kick in just reading about it! 

It truly was a beautifully written story,  at times I was almost in tears just from things in the characters pasts, others I was just amazed how much I felt I knew both Cleo and Dylan. We see things from both of their perspectives, so I was able to fall for Dylan's children, as well as enjoy the interactions between Cleo and her new assistant Kaisha. 

There was a real will they, won't they feel to the Dyland and Cleo story - I imagined just about ever scenario as to what may happen, apart from the real one, and I honestly had no clue which way it would go until the last few pages.   In fact we don't even find out at least one of the secrets until really late on, and it does explain some of the hinted at thoughts throughout. 

As you know from fiction and movies, Christmas in New York is magical,  and I really feel as though I have experienced a Christmas period in this book from just before Thanksgiving, all through the run up to the big day and onwards. And in this book we get Christmas markets, lights, food, carols just the whole spirit of the season, it was wonderful. 

Christmas at the Little Knitting Box is a fantastic festive tale. 

Thank you so much to Helen Rolfe for this copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Rachel Reads Randomly - Vote #75

Thank you everyone for your input last time. The results of the last vote were:

5 Votes -  An Auchenvale Christmas by Emily Anne Brandon
6 Votes - Winter at West Sands Guest House by Maggie Conway
8 Votes - Christmas at the Little Knitting Box by Helen Rolfe

What an incredibly close vote that was I really wasn't sure which book I would be reading until I counted them all up. Having now read Christmas at the Little Knitting Box I'm so glad it won,such a fabulous book and has reminded me that I really need to read more of the Helen Rolfe books I have on my kindle. 

It's official, its the run up to Christmas, give or take Halloween, hence its time for us to do a few weeks of Christmas random reads, or until I run out of eligible books! This is purely as I only like reading them at this time of year, and never like having too many left over year to year! For the next couple of months, there will only be 3 choices each week due to the smaller pool to pick from. I have added in this year a few of the wintery sounding books too, just for a bit of variety!  

Below is my initial theory for this feature, and then a bit further, what you are all waiting for... This weeks's vote! Enjoy!

I am also awful at deciding what book to read next, as I often have about 10 titles or authors jumping into my brain at any time, shouting at me to read them, and I tend to worry I have made the wrong decision while reading a perfectly good book. I am hoping this will save me having to make at least 1 choice a week, while possibly providing a review to the site of a book you all either love or are curious about yourselves. 

So what I am proposing, is my lovely loyal readers of Rachel's Random Reads, select one book for me to read a week, and I will post the review the following week. 

This week's random numbers are...

And the books these numbers correspond to are...

So the 3 choices with my gut feeling responses are:

4 - Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber - Lovely author, know I'll enjoy this book, but it didn't win the other week when it was up for the vote! 
5 - Christmas Secrets in Snowflake Cove by Emily Harvale  - Amazingly beautiful cover that I revealed last week and an author that I truly love reading
6 - Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair by Heidi Swain - At the risk of being repetitive another author that I love and a book that I really want to read. 

If I was picking, which thankfully I'm not, I have no clue where I'd start this week so good luck! I loved all three of these authors, I have read significant amounts of each of their books, they can definitely all write a good Christmas book - all I ask is please not a tie, as I don't want to pick! 

And authors, if its your book up on this feature, feel free to take part, vote for yourself, or stir up excitement amongst your fans! 

Pick your favourite or the one you most want me to review, or just the one you are curious about, and leave me a comment below, before midnight on Wednesday. 

I look forward to seeing what I will be reading over the weekend, courtesy of you all. 

The explanation if you haven't seen the feature before. 

How is this going to work?

Every Monday, I am going to have a post like this, which is going to have some choices on it. I am planning on using to select 7 random numbers, to coincide with my spreadsheet of unread books.  

I will from that produce a list of hopefully 5 books, I reserve the right to veto any books, and will give reasons for them, if it occurs.

I will take screenshots and post them, of the chosen books, and also give you my instinctive reactions to the choices (without checking blurbs or any other info about them, which could be interesting as there are probably many forgotten about books on my spreadsheet!). 

Your task is to post a comment on this post, with the book you would like me to read this week. At midnight on Wednesday I will take a tally of the votes and the book with the most, I will read and review for the following Monday, where you will also get a new choice post. 

In the event of a tie, I will chose which one appeals most, for the Monday review, and possibly try and read and review the other to appear when I can. 

I am hoping this will provide some variety to the books appearing, and will let me potentially read or discover some great authors that I have wanted to read but not got around to yet.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Fab Firsts - Q&A with Emily Elgar

Fab Firsts is my regular Sunday feature, that is going to be highlighting books that are firsts. When interviewing authors, it will be about their first book, as well as other firsts in their lives. When reviewing books for this feature, there will be a mix of debuts, first books in a series, the first time I read an author, and possibly other firsts depending on what I can think of!

If you are an author wanting to take part in Fab Firsts then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you.

I hope you enjoy this look at a variety of hopefully fabulous firsts, while making some sort of dent in my review and paperback TBRs which are my current main focus!

Hello! I’m Emily Elgar, a debut novelist. My book If You Knew Her is being published in the UK on August 24th 2017 by Little, Brown and in 10 other countries – god, it still feels amazing and completely surreal to write those words! 

1) Can you tell us a bit about your first book? 

If You Knew Her is a suspense novel. It’s about a woman called Cassie who is in a coma. Frank, the patient in the bed opposite Cassie, finds out a secret about her, a secret that is still threatening her life. Frank is the only one who can save her but Frank has locked in syndrome and can’t move or speak…

2) What was your original inspiration to become a writer, and to write your debut? 

I’m not sure there are any writers who aren’t devoted readers. I have always adored books but for a long time it felt too audacious to write one! I was at a turning point in my life, I felt restricted and perhaps a bit bored. I needed something to shake things up so I booked myself on a writing course, and then I booked another, and another until I ran out of money and only then did I start writing If You Knew Her.

3) How long did it take you to write your first book? 

Three years – two while working part time and one year as a full time writer. 

4) If you could do anything differently in retrospect, what would you change about your debut, or how you went about writing it? 

I would try and plan more! I’m the kind of writer who loves to chase after ideas even when they disappear down rabbit holes. That’s fine, but sometimes I find the rabbit hole is a dead end and I’m totally lost. 

5) Was your first book self or traditionally published, and how did you go about making that decision? 

My book is traditionally published and I suppose my brilliant agent made that decision for me!

6) Do you have any tips for other first time authors? 


Tell us about your first…

7) Memory – Running head first smack into a glass door

8) Person you fell in love with – Shane from Neighbours

9) Prize you won – The Keep Trying prize in primary school.

10) Album you purchased – Radiohead The Bends. 

11) Sport you enjoyed participating in – I’m terrible at sports but for a while I loved Rounders

12) Embarrassing moment you can remember – My mum turning up at a sports day at school dressed as a clown. All the mums were supposed to be dressing up, but they changed their minds at the last minute and my mum hadn’t got the message. MORTIFYING.

13) Pet – Henry a white duck

14) ..choice of alternative career if you weren’t an author – Helicopter pilot

15) … time you felt like an adult – Pending.

16) Dish you cooked – oven fish and chips when I was about 10. My sister and I cooked for my parents and we made ourselves chef hats and drew moustaches on our faces.

17) … time you were really scared – I still can’t look at a sink plug without seeing the clown from IT 

Thank you so much for answering my questions. It was a pleasure to meet you at Jane Corry's launch party, and I really hope you mean the original Shane from Neighbours, as the latest Shane (different character) is really quite new and not as good looking!


Originally from the Cotswolds, Emily Elgar studied at Edinburgh University and went on to complete the novel writing course at the Faber Academy in 2014. She currently lives in East Sussex with her husband. If You Knew Her is her first novel.

Social media: Twitter: @emily_elgar

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Book Review - One Day in December by Shari Low

Amazon UK
Title: One Day in December
Author: Shari Low
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Aria
Publication Date: 1st September 2017
Rating: 3 Stars

By the stroke of midnight, a heart would be broken, a cruel truth revealed, a devastating secret shared, and a love betrayed. Four lives would be changed forever, One Day in December.

One morning in December... 

Caro set off on a quest to find out if her relationship with her father had been based on a lifetime of lies. 

Lila decided today would be the day that she told her lover's wife of their secret affair. 

Cammy was on the way to pick up the ring for the surprise proposal to the woman he loved. 

And Bernadette vowed that this was the day she would walk away from her controlling husband of 30 years and never look back. 

One day, four lives on a collision course with destiny...

It's odd I had been looking forward to reading this book as I tend to love everything that Shari Low writes, but this just didn't work for me, for over half the book.  Now I understand that everything needed to be set up to make the conclusion more interesting, but I had to read through the rest to get there. 

It is in fact  clever book, all the action takes place over the course of one day, but whereas in a thriller that would make it fast paced, I found the pacing rather sedate. For it follows the actions of four seemingly at first unrelated people, until you very early on work out how they may be connected. 

Herein lies my first problem with the book, of the 4 focal characters, I was only engaged and interested in two of them, so every other chapter I was losing interest as I just wasn't as bothered about their stories.  

Also at some points you were seeing the same action but from different perspectives which is nice, unless you aren't keen on repetition!  I think the other small problem I had was the major turnoff of about 4 pages of characters at the start of a kindle book - had it been a paperback I would have referred back and forth quite happily to get my bearings quicker, but on the kindle I just got scared at how much I was going to have to remember if I read the list! 

All that being said I found the book to be well thought out and cleverly crafted. It was not my favourite of Shari Low's books but I didn't hate it either, especially as I did finally become engaged in the whole story and was even feeling rather emotional at one point.  

Thank you to Aria and Netgalley for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Friday, 20 October 2017

Guest Post - Why I Write Psychological Thrillers by Gillian McAllister - Blog Tour

I started out my literary career writing women's fiction. I was signed by my agent for a women's fiction novel and I wrote another before that, which had a few near misses with agents. One was about a woman who leaves her boyfriend for another man and the second was about a woman who is childless by choice.

It took my novel getting rejected by publishers for me to take a step back and consider what it was I really wanted to write. Because, actually, since starting that novel, my reading habits had changed, and that's what got me thinking. I - along with lots of other readers! - had read Gone Girl, and The Girl on the Train, and had had my appetite whetted. The rise of the female psychological thriller has been a really interesting trend to observe, and it doesn't show any signs of dying down yet, both in books and on television. There's something eerily compelling about the 'it could happen to you' element of them, together with the grounded domesticity of the setting and the chilling but often understated crimes at their centre. I still can't get enough of them.

For some reason, I had never really thought about writing psychological thrillers even though they were what I had exclusively started reading. I thought they involved plotting that was beyond me (and they are difficult to plot) and I also still wanted to write primarily about relationships. 

So that's what got me thinking about what I could write that might combine my interests. What if I could write a book with the structure and pace of a thriller, but one that is still ultimately about people's relationships? I could think of a few authors who did such things - Liane Moriarty, Louise Doughty - but not many. But - sometimes - that's an indication that you should, not that you shouldn't. 

So I set about plotting my debut, Everything But The Truth, about a woman who catches sight of evidence on her boyfriend's iPad that he has committed a crime. And then, after that, I had the idea for my second: what if you were followed home by a man who wouldn't leave you alone in a bar? What if you pushed him, without thinking, and seriously injured him? And what - then - if the narrative split, showing both the path where you call 999 and confess, and the one where you walk away, and go on the run? 

It was with that book that I really found my groove. Sure, they're psychological thrillers, but they're also examinations of dubious legal/moral situations, explorations of relationships under stress, and character studies. My third is no different - about a woman accusing of harming her sister's baby - and my fourth won't be, either. I guess the lesson is: write what you really do want to read, even if it doesn't yet exist on the shelf. Especially if it doesn't yet exist on the shelf. 

Thank you so much for this great post Gillian. I am looking forward to reading Anything You Do Say. 

Gone Girl meets Sliding Doors in this edge-of-your-seat thriller
Joanna is an avoider. So far she has spent her adult life hiding bank statements and changing career aspirations weekly.
But then one night Joanna hears footsteps on the way home. Is she being followed? She is sure it's him; the man from the bar who wouldn't leave her alone. Hearing the steps speed up Joanna turns and pushes with all of her might, sending her pursuer tumbling down the steps and lying motionless on the floor.
Now Joanna has to do the thing she hates most - make a decision. Fight or flight? Truth or lie? Right or wrong?

Book Review - Covent Garden in the Snow by Jules Wake

Amazon UK
Title: Covent Garden in the Snow
Author: Jules Wake
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Harper Impulse
Publication Date: 20th October 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

Tilly Hunter has fabulous friends, her dream job as a make-up artist with a prestigious opera company and Felix, her kind and caring husband to be. It looks set to be the most perfect Christmas yet!

But when a monumental blunder forces her to work closely with new IT director Marcus Walker, it's not only the roast chestnut stalls on the cobbles of her beloved Covent Garden that cause sparks to fly…

Super serious and brooding, Marcus hasn’t got a creative bone in his sharp-suited body. For technophobe Tilly, it's a match made in hell.

And yet, when Tilly discovers her fiancé isn’t at all what he seems, it's Marcus who's there for her with a hot chocolate and a surprisingly strong shoulder to cry on … He might just be the best Christmas present she’s ever had.

Had me laughing from the first page! 

There was something about Tilly's utter uselessness with computers that had me interested in her character almost instantly. It may have had something to do with her clicking on an attachment called "Santa Baby" or that yanking a plug out is her way of rebooting a computer, but she endeared herself to me very fast. 

The other thing that struck me very quickly in this story is just obviously it was set in Covent Garden and how well either the author knows the area or researched it at around Christmas time.  There were mentions of details or events that I just wouldn't have expected to see such as the Christmas lego display and the Christmas pudding race (which my family is involved with somehow, and I've never met anyone else that has heard of it!). 

It was the attention to detail throughout that impressed me, the behind the scenes at an opera company, as just how the wigs are created and some of the costume changes that aren't seen were so impressive. I'm a fan of the theatre so seeing this level of detail really interested me, and added a lot to the overall picture for me. 

Then there was Marcus, who is the IT Guru come to show Tilly the error of her technophobic ways! He grew on me as the book progressed. There is far more to him than first meets the eye, and I only 100% put two things together perhaps a chapter or so before Tilly.  

I enjoyed seeing how Tilly's relationship with her sister changed over the course of the book, and in fact with her parents too. 

Covent Garden in the Snow hits all the right notes for an entertaining and highly enjoyable story this Christmas, I loved it. 

Thank you so much to Netgalley and Harper Impulse for this copy which I reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Extract - Christmas at Hope Cottage by Lily Graham - Blog Blitz

They say that bad things happen in threes.
Emma Halloway, who made a point of not believing this sort of thing, found herself, nonetheless, wondering if there wasn’t a grain of truth to the superstition after all, on that particular, soggy, Tuesday afternoon, while she lay in a pool of her own blood on the ice-cold concrete, the ambulance sirens getting steadily closer.
She supposed, looking back, that the break-up Post-it left on her morning cup of tea had been the first.
[note start]
I just can’t do this any more.
P.S. Might not be the best time to mention it, but just so you know, you’re out of washing powder. [note ends]
The postscript was typical Pete. He was breaking up with you, yes, but heaven forbid you might run out of clean underwear.
It’s what had attracted her to him in the first place. His practicality, his evenness, the fact that he was the polar opposite of everything she’d ever known growing up in Whistling, Yorkshire, where time stood still, families passed down centuries-old feuds like genetic maladies and people believed that the food the women in her family made could heal anything, even broken hearts.
Pete had been her ticket up the rabbit hole, away from all those Mad Hatters and March Hares. Her ticket away from Jack Allen most of all. The boy she’d given her heart away to at the age of six, who she’d spent the past four years trying to forget.
For a long time after she found Pete’s message, while she sat on the kitchen floor surrounded by the shards of the mug she’d thrown onto the linoleum, her eyes filled with hot, unshed tears, she’d tried to work up some blame that didn’t point inward. Some anger towards Pete. Breaking up with someone on a Post-it note was a fairly shitty way to end a four-year relationship, after all.
When she tried to phone him, it went straight to voicemail. Ten minutes later he texted back a response.
[TEXT START]You know I love you. But the only one who seems oblivious to the fact that you don’t feel the same way – is you. I can’t do this any more. Please, Em, don’t reply.[TEXT ENDS]
But, of course, she did. Letting sleeping dogs lie wasn’t part of her make-up. [TEXT START] Pete! I do love you, don’t be silly.[TEXT ENDS]
He didn’t respond, so she sent another.
[TEXT START]I’ll try harder, okay? I’ll do anything, please don’t do this. We can work this out, can’t we?[TEXT ENDS]
But he didn’t reply. Not even then. Which was when the tears really came.
Emma supposed – lying on the concrete, the pain starting to build, the flashing lights approaching – that the second bad thing was really a result of the first.
She’d decided, once she got up from the kitchen floor, her eyes puffy and swollen, a painful, barbed knot in the space where her heart used to be, that her weekly food column for the Mail & Ledger, and this week’s topic a cheery look into the history of Christmas food, could wait until the urge to throw herself off her building passed. To help it along, she’d decided to get some fresh air, and some vodka. She took her bicycle, the one Pete had bought her as a surprise in a rare display of spontaneity when she’d mentioned a longing for an old-fashioned bike, complete with wicker basket and floral-print panniers. It was a painful, sunlit memory that she tried to ignore. As she pedalled for the off-licence a few blocks away, she couldn’t help noting, somewhat wryly, that the basket, which had enjoyed an innocent life till then, filled with baguettes and flowers and Emma’s overflowing research bag, was now about to experience a significant fall from grace as a large bucket for an obscene amount of booze.
Which just goes to show that someone upstairs was having a bit of a laugh, because instead of getting a respite from her awful day, she’d just cycled into the little street round the corner when she was hit by the postal van.
With the bicycle wheels whirring above her head, her blood blooming on the concrete and the sharp, searing pain burgeoning in her skull, Emma might have expected that the day couldn’t possibly get any worse, but when the driver asked for her name, Emma realised, suddenly, that actually it could.
The driver, whose hands were shaking, looked dismayed when she told him who she was. Eyes wide with horror, he explained, ‘I had this package on the passenger seat and it fell off. I took me eye off the road for just a second to put it right, it was just a second mind, but then I hit you. It was like you came out of nowhere. But what’s really bizarre,’ he said, his large, grey eyes almost popping, ‘was – I was on my way to drop this off at your house! Crazy, innit?’ he asked, hefting a monstrous package from the car and bringing it down to where she could see. ‘Huge fing too,’ he muttered.
Which was when Emma started to laugh, the type of laugh when, really, you’re about to cry; when you realise how cruel fate can be. A type of laugh she was all too familiar with, being born a Halloway. Emma realised, judging from the size and shape of the package, that her grandmother had sent her the stupid family recipe book. The one she believed would change Emma’s life, and get her to admit that her life in London had been nothing but pain and heartache, and now as a result of The Book, everything would get better. Only it had done the opposite, as usual.
Sometime after that she must have passed out.
She woke up in hospital, feeling as if she were being buried alive beneath a slab of cement, and gave a cry of pain and fear. Close to the bed, a nurse with large brown eyes blinked in surprise, backing away from the bed in shock. The next thing she knew, there were a half dozen people in the room, though she couldn’t make any of them out clearly. Behind them were strange glittering colours, seeming to flash before her eyes. She blinked, trying to make sense of any of it, but couldn’t.
Everyone began speaking at once, creating a cacophony of voices, painful and overwhelming, as if fishhooks were repeatedly pricking her ears. Emma clapped a hand over an ear, and felt another jolting stab of pain, noting through her strained vision that the other hand looked as if it had been pieced together like something for Frankenstein’s monster. Protruding from it were scary-looking pins, surrounded by a heavy white cast.
Her throat turned dry in fear. Something had gone horribly wrong. The noises were coming from the people around her and the sounds were unfathomable. At last, she saw a pair of lips move and registered the word ‘blanket’. It was the nurse from earlier. She looked down and could see, rather hazily, what looked like a thin blue covering over her legs.
‘Take it off!’ she hissed. With hesitant, shaking fingers, the nurse lifted it off, and just like that the pain stopped and so did her screams. She blinked back her tears. Struggling to understand. What had they put on her? Why had it hurt so much?
People crowded closer, and her head began to spin, her heart to race. Were they speaking another language?
No. It wasn’t that. The sounds were simply incomprehensible, the objects around her a blur; only when she focused hard on their lips did the babble change, miraculously, into words.
Then someone in a white lab coat mouthed three of the scariest words imaginable: possible brain damage.
It took a few days before they knew for sure, though Emma didn’t need the tests, or the scans, or the people who came into the room with clipboards who kept asking questions, to know it was true; she could feel it. Everything felt wrong.
It had taken some time before her vision registered that the flashing lights weren’t coming from her own head but a somewhat garish display of Christmas lights, despite the fact it was only October.
‘We start Christmas early here,’ explained a brown-haired nurse with gold tinsel threaded in her ponytail, with a small, slightly embarrassed giggle. Emma felt lost, disorientated. In another life she would have shared a grin, understood, as a fellow Christmas lover, appreciated the sentiment and the need for some cheer in a place such as this. Now, all she felt was gratitude when the nurse switched off the lights, providing immediate relief to Emma’s overwhelmed senses.
Sounds didn’t make sense: she could confuse the sound of the television with the telephone, and the click-clack of heels with the opening of a drawer. She couldn’t taste any of the food they brought and it didn’t seem to have a scent. When the giggly nurse told her that she’d be taking the flowers some thoughtful friend had sent into the nurses’ station due to their powerful perfume, she realised she hadn’t been able to smell them either; or anything else, for that matter.
She saw everything in double, which caused splitting headaches and nausea as she felt off balance too. Perhaps worst of all was the way that nothing felt the way it should: a breeze could feel like a flame, while someone’s touch might feel like ice, or nothing at all.
After a few days, a doctor explained, sitting on the edge of her bed and making sure that she could read his lips. He’d brought along a small whiteboard with a black marker just in case she couldn’t understand him, though she found that impossible to read, as the letters scrambled so much when she tried to focus on them. Luckily, if she concentrated on his mouth the words made sense, though they were hard to face nonetheless: ‘As well as your left leg and arm, which were broken, it appears your accident has caused some damage to your olfactory nerve – which has affected your senses. From what we’ve gathered, the best way to explain it is to picture your senses as if they were sets of wires, and some of these have moved slightly out of place, while others appear to have crossed or been cut off for the moment.’
She nodded. The word she would have used was scrambled, like an egg. The definition wasn’t her real interest though, not at this stage; what she wanted was a prognosis, if she could only find the right words. But speech was tricky; she had to think hard those first few days, choose words carefully, hunt for them.
She swallowed, tried to focus on the doctor’s face, saw, as if through a fog, blue eyes and a stubbled jaw, several times over like a row of negatives. ‘How long will I be like this?’ she asked, finally.
‘It’s hard to say. It may well be temporary; we have every reason to hope that is the case. However…’
Emma looked away. It was funny how just one word could undermine all the ones before it. Yet. But. Nonetheless. However.
With difficulty, she tuned in to the rest of his words, focusing on his lips to match the sounds, but she found little comfort in them.
‘I have personally never encountered an injury like this before, and from the literature available, it’s unclear – it could be months or…’ His voice trailed off and she realised that it was possible she could be like this for a long time, perhaps even permanently.
‘Our main concern, however, was that with an injury of this kind you would need care. Or that you may need to be moved to a treatment centre. But luckily, that isn’t something you need to worry about.’ He permitted himself a small chuckle. ‘I dare say you are in rather good – if a little eccentric – hands.’
While Emma was still wearing a puzzled frown, the door opened and an attractive, older woman paused before the entrance. She was tall, slim and wiry. She had wide blue Halloway eyes, the blue of lobelias and Cape starlings and secret springs. Her wild hair perched on her shoulders like a living thing, in a salt and pepper mix that was tending more to salt nowadays. She wore faded blue denim dungarees, a collared shirt printed with springing hares and an expression that always made those around her sit up just that little straighter, like she could tell just by looking at you what you were thinking.
‘Don’t worry our lass,’ said her grandmother, with a wry smile, taking a seat next to her, and patting her hand. ‘I’ll be taking you to Hope Cottage in the morning. The girls and me are working on a recipe, you’ll see, you’ll be right as rain soon enough,’ she went on with a wink.
Other people had nans, or grans; Emma had Evie. It had never occurred to Emma that it might be strange to call her grandmother by her first name, till it was too late and the habit had stuck. It suited her though. Evie had always been something of an original.
‘That’s the spirit,’ said the doctor, giving her grandmother the look people often gave Evie Halloway, which was part admiration, part bewilderment.
Emma closed her eyes, stifling a groan. This was the third thing, she realised. It wasn’t bad exactly, she did love Evie – and her crazy aunts, even if she was sure the whole lot of them needed medication – but in its own way this was the worst of the three, as it was everything she’d being trying to avoid: going back to Whistling, back to her ex Jack Allen and back to Hope Cottage.

In the little village of Whistling, with its butterscotch cottages and rolling green hills, snow is beginning to fall. Christmas is coming, and Emma Halloway is on her way home.

When twenty-eight-year-old food writer Emma Halloway gets dumped then knocked off her bike, she’s broken in more ways than one, and returns to her family’s cosy cottage in the Yorkshire Dales. Emma hasn’t been back in some time, running from her crazy relatives and her childhood sweetheart, Jack Allen.

Emma’s grandmother is determined to bake her back to health and happiness, as the Halloways have done for generations. Surrounded by old friends and warm cinnamon buns, Emma starts to believe in her family’s special talents for healing again. But then in walks Jack with his sparkling hazel eyes, stirring up the family feud between them. 

As the twinkly lights are strung between the streetlamps, Emma remembers just why she fell for Jack in the first place... and why a Halloway should never date an Allen.

The infuriating new lodger, Sandro, doesn’t believe anyone should have to choose between love and family. With a little bit of Christmas magic, can Emma and Jack find a way to be together, or will Emma find herself heartbroken once more?

An utterly gorgeous Christmas romance about the importance of family, freshly baked biscuits, and learning to trust your heart. Perfect for fans of Phillipa Ashley, Debbie Johnson and Debbie Macomber.

About the author:

Lily grew up in dusty Johannesburg, which gave her a longing for the sea that has never quite gone away; so much so that sometimes she'll find sand grouting the teaspoons, and an ocean in a teacup. She lives now in the English countryside with her husband and her sweet, slobbering bulldog Fudge, and brings her love for the sea and country-living to her fiction.

Book Review - The Treatment by C.L. Taylor

Amazon UK
Title:  The Treatment
Author: C.L. Taylor
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: HQ Young Adult
Publication Date: 19th October 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

“You have to help me. We’re not being reformed. We’re being brainwashed.”

All sixteen year old Drew Finch wants is to be left alone. She's not interested in spending time with her mum and stepdad and when her disruptive fifteen year old brother Mason is expelled from school for the third time and sent to a residential reform academy she's almost relieved.

Everything changes when she's followed home from school by the mysterious Dr Cobey, who claims to have a message from Mason. There is something sinister about the ‘treatment’ he is undergoing. The school is changing people.

Determined to help her brother, Drew must infiltrate the Academy and unearth its deepest, darkest secrets.

Before it’s too late.

I feel a bit dazed, I'm not completely sure what happened in real life for the past couple of hours, as I was completely absorbed in The Treatment. I suspect there is a chance I may have nightmares tonight, as a result of what Drew and Mason had to go through in this book. 

I'll admit I was a bit worried whether an author I absolutely love was able to write a Young Adult book that I would also enjoy, being quite a bit older than the YA audience, however other than the characters being a bit younger, the situations were gripping, the writing draws you in and hopefully my breathing my return to normal. 

I was hooked on The Treatment, absolutely none of it played out how I expected and I absolutely could not put this book down once I started reading it. You are warned - clear time in your busy day to sit and just read this book. 

It is so different to almost everything I have ever read, the only thing I can think of is I felt some similarities to The Demon Headmaster series, but given its been perhaps over 20 years since I read those I don't recall the specifics other than the same general feeling I had reading those.  The book is terrifying but not in a horror sort of way, just that its chilling what can happen to the human mind. 

I really can't say much about the plot, as it moves as a quick enough pace that I may accidentally give away spoilers. Suffice to say Drew is one special young woman, and I really liked her, whereas most of the other characters I wasn't sure on. It is the sort of book where you really aren't sure who you can trust. 

The Treatment is C.L. Taylor at her best, its been ages since I was this hooked on a book to the extent that I didn't even think about doing the many other things I should have been doing! i was only interested in the story and didn't even notice the time going past which is a good indication of how absorbed I was. 

Thank you to Netgalley and HQ Young Adult for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 
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