My One True North by Milly Johnson

My One True North by Milly Johnson

I am a huge Milly Johnson fan, have read everything she has ever written, and My One True North is one of her best. I liked the inclusion of characters and settings from previous books in the teashop and on the cruise ship; a seamless part of the story if you had not read the other books, but a nice bonus for her legions of fans.

Laurie and Pete meet at a bereavement counselling group – Molly’s Club – which takes place in the teashop featured in Milly’s book The Teashop on the Corner. Unbeknown to them both, their partners, Alex and Tara, had been killed in the same road accident six months previously. They had also been in a relationship and were planning a future together. Gradually we learn a little bit more, and a little bit more, until we have a full picture of what actually happened between Alex and Tara. By the end, I felt more sympathetic towards them; if they had been more open and honest, some of the pain and suffering they caused could have been avoided.  

Laurie is a solicitor and part of her job is dealing with lawsuits resulting from all the errors printed in the Daily Trumpet. Examples of these typos are printed throughout the book, in between chapters, and provide a bit of light relief. Pete is a fireman and the shock of having attended the fatal accident has taken its toll, and left him traumatised.

The story is well written and the characterisation excellent; some of the less-sympathetic characters seemed so real that I was glad when they got their comeuppance. The Yorkshire setting is a large part of what makes Milly Johnson’s books special. The grief and sadness are overwhelming at times, but it is ultimately an uplifting tale about the power of second chances.

I enjoyed the last few chapters about the cruise to see the Northern Lights, and catching up with the characters from Here Come the Girls. My only slight criticism would be that I found the ending a bit abrupt – I would have liked a bit more. I’ll just have to be patient until Milly’s next book comes out.    

The Cat and the City by Nick Bradley

The Cat and the City by Nick Bradley

The Cat and the City is an imaginative debut from Nick Bradley; the writing is very accomplished and the concept is intriguing. It is not quite a novel, but much more than a collection of short stories. Normally, I find them very unsatisfying and disjointed, but the stories in The Cat and the City are connected, no matter how tenuously, and highlight the loneliness and alienation of living in a city with more than thirty-seven million inhabitants.

The green-eyed calico cat weaves its way in and out of the lives of the various characters in this book – some native Japanese, some foreign – and shines a spotlight on their story before moving on. The connections are not always obvious, but if you keep reading it will all start to make sense.  

The writer plays with different styles – haiku, manga, science fiction to name but a few – to give us a warts-and-all portrait of life in Tokyo in the period leading up to the 2020 Olympic Games. Although written from a Western perspective, the writer displays a vast knowledge of Japanese culture that felt authentic to me (I have never been to Japan, but would love to go there someday).

I chose to read this book because of the subject matter and the attractive cover art; I was not disappointed. Obviously, I enjoyed some of the stories more than others, but overall it was beautifully written and thought provoking. Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Season of Second Chances by Aimee Alexander

Season of Second Chances by Aimee Alexander

Season of Second Chances opens as Grace, with her children Jack and Holly, drives away from her life in Dublin towards a new start in West Cork where she grew up. Grace will take over from her recently retired father, Des, as a local GP; she will be ‘Young Doctor Sullivan’ to the locals.

At this point we have no idea what Grace is running away from, only that it must be serious to justify such extreme action. Initially, her father has no idea why they have come to Killrowan, but is happy to have them there. Since he retired, and found out he was in the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease, he has been feeling a bit pointless. Having his daughter and grandchildren there seems to give him a new lease of life.

The story is told from multiple points of view; we see the past, and the present, through the eyes of Grace, Des, Jack and Holly. This gives us a much more rounded picture of why they had to leave, and how they are getting on now. It also makes us realise that Simon, Grace’s husband, is not going to leave them alone. A sense of imminent menace pervades the narrative.

Aimee Alexander depicts small town life perfectly; the claustrophobic feeling of everyone knowing everyone else’s business, and putting their own interpretation on it. At first, the patients don’t want to see Grace as they are suspicious of her big city ways, but slowly, by persevering and doing a good job, she wins them round.  

The ending is satisfying, but leaves just enough loose ends for a sequel which I understand the author is currently writing; I look forward to visiting Killrowan again very soon. I will also be looking out for other books by Aimee Alexander as this was the first one I read, but it won’t be the last.

Season of Second Chances is well written with believable characters, a great location, and humour to offset the seriousness of the underlying threat. As the full extent of the abuse is revealed, Grace finds the strength and courage for a new beginning. I loved the way she realised that she could do whatever she wanted, now free of her husband’s controlling influence – simple things like what she wore, how she styled her hair and being able to spend time with friends both old and new.

Thanks to the author for a copy that I review as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT

Miss Tavistock's Mistake by Linore Rose Burkard

Miss Tavistocks Mistake by Linore Rose Burkard

In Miss Tavistock’s Mistake, Margaret, orphaned at the age of nine, is living in Yorkshire as the ward of the Duke of Trent. Finding life at Toadingham a bit dull, and eager to meet the elusive Captain Rempeare again, Margaret hatches a plan to go to London for the rest of the season. In the meantime, Gabriel Rempeare turns up unannounced and, having believed some not very flattering things she read about him in the papers, Margaret pretends to be someone else.

Instead of just owning up, Margaret now proceeds to carry the deception to ridiculous lengths. On arriving in London, Gabriel is tasked with introducing her to society. What follows is a tale of misunderstanding and miscommunication, and it becomes increasingly obvious that she has completely misjudged Captain Rempeare; then, as now, it is a mistake to believe a lot of what you read in the press.

A lot of research has gone into the period detail in this novel which I found fascinating – stories of naval battles and life at sea, the wonderful variety of food that was eaten and the colourful slang words and expressions that were common in Regency England.

The main characters are very likeable, the villains suitably nasty and there are a lot of laugh-out-loud moments as we join Margaret on her first visit to London. We can understand why she is reluctant to come clean about her identity – she has dug herself a pretty deep hole – but by the final scene she has nowhere left to turn. It is fortunate that Gabriel is a very patient man, and we have to bear in mind that Margaret is still only nineteen.

I really enjoyed Miss Tavistock’s Mistake and would definitely recommend it. My only criticism would be the cover; it’s a bit busy, and doesn’t do the book justice. This is the first book by Linore Rose Burkard that I have read, but it certainly won’t be the last. It’s always great to find a new author with a substantial back catalogue.

Thanks to the author for a copy that I review as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT

Grown Ups by Marian Keyes

Grown Ups by Marian Keyes

I had not read a book by Marian Keyes for quite a few years, so thought I’d try Grown Ups as I had seen a lot of good publicity about it. This is the story of three brothers, Johnny, Ed and Liam, and their families and friends. We are thrown right in at the deep end with a huge argument at Johnny’s fiftieth birthday party. Cara (Ed’s wife) has concussion which has loosened her tongue, and her revelations tear everyone apart.

At this point we have no idea who all these people are, and it is very confusing. The story now jumps back in time, and we are gradually able to make sense of it all. As a plot device it is unsubtle, and it distracted me from the story. I eventually decided to just read the first chapters again.

It’s not so easy to judge when reading on a kindle, but this book seemed much longer than average; I think it would have benefitted from a good edit. There were an awful lot of characters introduced in a short space of time. This made it quite difficult to tell who was who, and meant that they were not as well developed as they could have been.

Grown Ups is well written, but there is not much in the way of plot. The action mostly takes place at a series of extravagant family gatherings hosted by Johnny and Jessie. Marian Keyes explores some fairly serious subjects – bulimia, refugees, money, online retail, age difference in relationships – but none is gone into in enough depth. I did enjoy Grown Ups, but it could have been so much better.  

Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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