Extract: The A to Z of Everything by Debbie Johnson

Chapter 3

Beacon C of E Primary School, 1986

‘I’m going to rub your nose in that dog poo, you stuck-up cow,’ says Jackie Wells, holding Rose’s face down on the grass by the scruff of her neck.

It’s Rose’s last year at little school, and she has committed the cardinal sin of being clever. She’s won all the prizes; she’s pretty and popular and even good at netball. Of course Jackie Wells hates her.

‘You don’t even have a dad, and if you did, my dad would beat him up,’ adds Jackie, sitting on Rose’s back. Rose has no doubt about that; Jackie’s dad looks like a Tonka truck.

She struggles, trying to throw her 11-year-old nemesis off her back, but only succeeding in wriggling ineffectually on the school playing field. She glances ahead, sees flat green grass and, not very far away, a lovely pile of dog mess is buzzing with flies.

If she was on her feet, she might stand a chance against Jackie – but unfortunately for her (and for Jackie), the child takes after her father and already weighs as much as that baby hippo they saw on the school trip to Chester Zoo.

Naturally enough, there are no teachers in sight, and the small circle of kids gathered around the spectacle seem to be enjoying it. The ones that aren’t – Rose’s friends – look twitchy and embarrassed and worried, but too scared of Jackie to intervene.

Rose tries to remind herself of her mother’s oft-repeated words, the ones about jealousy being the mother of all aggres­sion.

That might be true, Rose thinks, but it’s not much of a consolation right now. Not when her uniform is covered in grass stains and her face is smeared with soil and she’ll be eating poo for lunch.

She flails around, trying to kick Jackie with her Clark’s shoes, but can’t manage it. All that happens is that Jackie presses her face even harder into the ground, and for a terri­fying few moments, she can’t breathe at all. She can hear jeers and shouts and the brave, solitary cry of her best friend, Tasmin: ‘Leave her alone, or I’ll fetch Miss Cunningham!’

That is followed by a small, sad yelp, so Rose has to assume that Tasmin has paid the price for her courage.

Jackie pulls her head up, using Rose’s long, curly ponytail like a handle, and slams her face back down into the damp ground. She feels soil smash between her teeth and into her mouth, and again panics as the world goes dark.

Just as she is about to give up and accept her early death, there is an ear-splitting screech, and Jackie’s hefty weight is suddenly gone.

Rose takes a brief moment to suck in air, then rolls around so she can see what is going on. Poppy has arrived, in a blur of violence and fury, and is holding Jackie down while she punches her in the head. Rose has no idea how she is doing that, as she is not only two years younger than Jackie, but most of a baby hippo lighter.

‘Don’t!’ she yells, punctuating each word with a blow from her screwed-up fists, ‘Ever! Touch! My! Sister!’

Obviously, it’s at that point that Miss Cunningham arrives, and the group of spectators magically all disappear off to play football or collect ladybirds or talk about Zammo in last night’s episode of Grange Hill.

Miss Cunningham physically drags Poppy away from Jackie, who is left cowering and crying and, yes, Rose notices with some satisfaction, covered in smears of the exact same dog poo she was threatening her with just moments ago.

Poppy is trembling with anger, her long, scrawny body vibrating with emotion. She looks over at Rose, who is getting to her feet now, and is instantly calmed by her big sister’s smile. The smile that tells her that everything is okay, that it will all be fine, and that there is nothing to worry about.

Rose knows that Poppy is going to get into trouble for this. But she also knows, deep down, that she wouldn’t have it any other way. Rose might be the one who seems to look after them both – but when push comes to shove, it’s always Poppy who is willing to rush right in and batter someone. She’s her avenging angel, and anyone who crosses her pays the price.

Rose dusts herself down, and prepares the case for the defence. As soon as she is upright, Poppy flees from Miss Cunningham’s lecture, and throws herself into her arms. She’s so skinny, and she’s crying, and her hair is all messed up, and she looks a bit like a tramp.

Rose hugs her, and smooths her hair down, and whispers into her ear: ‘Thank you, Popcorn. And don’t worry – it’s all going to be okay.’

‘Mum’s going to kill me . . .’ Poppy mutters, the reality of the situation starting to sink in as Miss Cunningham prowls towards them, hands on hips and scowl on face.

‘Mum,’ replies Rose, 100 per cent sure this is true, ‘will completely understand. And she’ll probably take us out for tea to celebrate.’


P is for Paris where it all began. J is for Jealousy where it all came undone. But the most important letter is F. F is for Forgiveness, the hardest of all.

Sisters Poppy and Rose used to be as close as two sisters could be, but it’s been over a decade since they last spoke. Until they both receive a call that tells them their mother has gone – without ever having the chance to see her daughters reunited.

Andrea, though, wasn’t the kind of woman to let a little thing like death stand in the way of her plans. Knowing her daughters better than they know themselves, she has left behind one very special last gift – the A-Z of Everything.

‘Moving and uplifting all at once, I devoured this book about mothers, daughters, sisters and – ultimately – love’ Sunday Times bestseller Jane Costello

‘Funny and poignant – a celebration of life and the enduring power of love’ – Carys Bray, bestselling author of A Song for Issy Bradley

‘Heartbreakingly authentic, tender & inspiring. One of my top reads of 2017’ Irish Times bestseller Carmel Harrington


Click here to get your copy of the A to Z or Everything, released 20th April 2017.



Book Review: Wishbones by Virginia Macgregor

Book Review: Wishbones by Virginia Macgregor
Release Date:
18th May 2017
Publisher: HQ
Pages: 384
ISBN: 978-0008217297
Genre: YA
Buy: Paperback  Kindle
Rating: Image result for pink hearts Image result for pink hearts Image result for pink hearts Image result for pink hearts


What’s the Story?

Feather Tucker has two wishes:

1)To get her mum healthy again

2) To win the Junior UK swimming championships

When Feather comes home on New Year’s Eve to find her mother – one of Britain’s most obese women- in a diabetic coma, she realises something has to be done to save her mum’s life. But when her Mum refuses to co-operate Feather realises that the problem run deeper than just her mum’s unhealthy appetite.

Over time, Feather’s mission to help her Mum becomes an investigation. With the help of friends old and new, and the hindrance of runaway pet goat Houdini, Feather’s starting to uncover when her mum’s life began to spiral out of control and why. But can Feather fix it in time for her mum to watch her swim to victory? And can she save her family for good?


My thoughts…

When Feather Tucker’s mum collapses into a diabetic coma on New Year’s Eve, Feather realises that things have gotten a little out of control in the Tucker household.
Feather’s mum, Jo, is morbidly obese and refuses to even leave the house any more. She spends her days watching Strictly Come Dancing re-runs and binging on prawn cocktail crisps and pineapple syrup. When Feather hears the nurses at the hospital discussing her mum’s health and revealing that she could be dead in a matter of months, Feather decides that something must be done.
Along with the help of her best friend, Jake, Feather devises a complete lifestyle overhaul for her mum…However things don’t exactly go to plan, which isn’t helped by the lack of cooperation shown by Feather’s parents. Determined to get down deeper to the cause of the issue as to why Jo over-eats and refuses to leave the house, Feather ends up uncovering many a secret from her mother’s past…So what made Jo the way she is? As Feather comes to realise that things don’t just happen, there’s always a trigger for people’s behaviour, she is determined to find out what happened to turn her Mum into a fun-loving, passionate young women, to someone who can no longer fit through her own front door…
Throughout the course of her investigation there’s a new visitor to Willingdon. When teenager Clay arrives in the village, Feather is immediately drawn to him – however it soon becomes apparent that he has many problems of his own…
Whilst fighting to save those closest to her, Feather is also determined to succeed in the one thing she loves in life more than anything else – swimming. But can she focus on the Junior UK championships when she has other people’s problems to solve?

As a fan of Virginia Macgregor’s I was really excited when I heard she’d written a YA novel. I am LOVING reading YA at the moment, there’s been some fantastic releases so far this year and I was sure that this pairing would be a match made in heaven.
Wishbones certainly didn’t disappoint. It’s a hard-hitting read, packed full of energy and insight.
The novel centres around the sensitive issues of weight and eating disorders. At one end of the spectrum you have Jo; morbidly obese and slowly eating herself into an early grave. You then have teenager Clay who is suffering from anorexia. He refuses to eat and is constantly exercising. Having characters suffering from both extremes is hugely effective and it was both fascinating and heart-breaking to compare the difference in suffering. I also thought that it was very brave and clever of Virginia to create a male anorexia sufferer. I always feel as though male anorexia is something which isn’t discussed about nearly as widely as it should be, and looking at the statistics it’s a hugely prominent problem, but one that is often swept under the carpet. I really hope that this excellent and sensitively written novel helps to raise awareness of the condition; it certainly has for this reader.
Wishbones is written entirely from Feather’s perspective and this gives an insight into what it is like for those around eating disorder sufferers. My heart broke for Feather…She cared for her mum so much and only wanted what was best for her. The lengths that she went to in order to improve her mum’s health were incredible…and in doing so she regularly sacrificed herself and the things that were important to her. I honestly don’t know how she managed to carry around the things that she did AND compete in the swimming championships (I would have been an emotional wreck if I had half of what she did to deal with…) She is completely selfless and has a heart of pure gold. I don’t believe that there’s anything she wouldn’t do for anyone.  I really felt for her and at times I got so angry with her mum and dad. They were meant to be the ones looking out for her and all they appeared to be doing were keeping things from her and showing a complete lack of interest in her life. So many times I just wanted to give Feather a big squish and tell her everything was going to be ok.
However, I was massively intrigued to find out exactly what her parents were keeping from her…and why. I tried to piece together the clues but I couldn’t quite complete the puzzle. After barking up the wrong tree (quite spectacularly) a few times, all became clear and it certainly wasn’t what I expected. My opinions of certain characters then began to change…

I really enjoyed this powerful, hard-hitting novel. Virginia tackles sensitive subjects with tact and diplomacy and does a brilliant job of creating unique characters that you will genuinely care for. I took away a really important message from this book, namely how important it is to have the support of your family and friends when you’re going through a difficult time. So many characters in Wishbones were facing their own private battles and demons – but Virginia Macgregor shows that with the love and help from the right people, you can tackle anything.

A huge thank you to HQ for the opportunity to review Wishbones.




Book Review: Pieces of Happiness by Anne Ostby

Pieces of Happiness by Anne Ostby
Release Date:
1st June 2017
Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 352
ISBN: 978-0857524874
Buy: Hardback  Kindle
Rating: Image result for pink heartsImage result for pink heartsImage result for pink heartsImage result for pink hearts





What’s the story?

“I’ve planted my feet on Fijian earth and I intend to stay here until the last sunset. Why don’t you join me? Leave behind everything that didn’t work out!” 

When Sina, Maya, Ingrid, and Lisbeth each receive a letter in the mail posing the same question, the answer is obvious. Their old high school friend Kat–Kat the adventurer, Kat who ran away to the South Pacific as soon as they graduated–has extended the invitation of a lifetime: Come live with me on my cocoa farm in Fiji. Come spend the days eating chocolate and gabbing like teenagers once again, free from men, worries, and cold. Come grow old in paradise, together, as sisters. Who could say no? 

Now in their sixties, the friends have all but resigned themselves to the cards they’ve been dealt. There’s Sina, a single mom with financial woes; gentle Maya who feels the world slipping away from her; Ingrid, the perennial loner; Lisbeth, a woman with a seemingly picture-perfect life; and then Kat, who is recently widowed. As they adjust to their new lives together, the friends are watched over by Ateca, Kat’s longtime housekeeper, who oftentimes knows the women better than they know themselves and recognizes them for what they are: like “a necklace made of shells: from the same beach but all of them different.” Surrounded by an azure-blue ocean, cocoa trees, and a local culture that is fascinatingly, joyfully alien, the friends find a new purpose in starting a business making chocolate: bittersweet, succulent pieces of happiness. 

My Thoughts….

Kat has spent her many years of her life travelling the world and doing charity work with her husband, but after his death Kat decides to invite four friends from her past to come and stay with the on her cocoa plantation farm in Fiji where she now resides.

Now all in their sixties, Sina, Maya, Ingrid and Lisbeth are intrigued when they receive their invitation from Kat. Whilst it seems like an adventure of a lifetime on the surface; would upping and leaving their native Norway really be for the best?
Each facing their own private battles in life, can the five friends pull together and make a go of their new life amongst the cocoa trees by starting a new chocolate making business? It’s a touch-and-go journey of self-discovery, fresh starts, friendships and all importantly…chocolate.

From the moment I first clapped eyes on Pieces of Happiness I just knew it was going to be one of those books that was the perfect fit for me.
I loved the premise of the story and I couldn’t wait to acquaint myself with these five fascinating-sounding women. Each is struggling with certain areas of their lives, whether that be financially, mentally or facing troubles with family or relationships. I couldn’t wait to see how their lives would change when they left Norway and their old lives behind for the bright skies and cheery way of Fijian life.
I was eager to discover how they would each get on with their venture. Meeting old school friends from over forty years ago would be an adventure for anyone, but to move to a different country to stay with them and attempt to piece your life back together whilst starting your own business is a humongous task. And one which I couldn’t wait to read about…

I wanted to move to Fiji pretty much from the start of the story. I was enchanted by the colour, the atmosphere, the culture and the overall way of life. It absolutely fascinated me and the more I discovered the more I wanted to learn. It’s a credit to Anne Ostby’s wonderful writing with how she brought Fiji to life before my very eyes. I desperately want to go there and I had no trouble envisaging the sights, sounds and smells of The South Pacific from my rainy front room in England.
Then there’s the whole farming chocolate part…I mean WOW. As a full blown chocoholic I loved reading and learning about life on a coca plantation. I found it absolutely fascinating.

I also found the storyline to be really unique and unlike anything I’ve ever read before. This is always something that excites me as someone who reads a lot some books can become very samey, so to find a new author in Anne Ostby and a hugely refreshing plot line at the same time is an ultimate winner for me.

Engaging, well-written and hugely feel-good, Pieces of Happiness is a must read for chocoholics and bookaholics alike.

A huge thank you to Poppy at Transworld for the opportunity to review Pieces of Happiness.

My Deckchair Reading…

Summer 2017 is a mere 12 days away and as well as a juicy cocktail, a floaty floral dress and a nice tan, a Summer-TBR list is an essential. We all have a special summer TBR list…Y’know the one. When you have a week off work or go away somewhere you mentally compile a list of about 20 books you definitely WILL get through over your break. It never happens but the intentions are there which is all that matters.
I thought it would be fun to share a sneaky peak at my (ridiculously large) list of essential summer reading…Pass the margaritas.

Then she was Gone by Lisa Jewell
(Released 27th July 2017)

Click here to pre-order.

She was fifteen, her mother’s golden girl. She had her whole life ahead of her. And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone.
It’s been ten years since Ellie disappeared, but Laurel has never given up hope of finding her daughter.
And then one day a charming and charismatic stranger called Floyd walks into a café and sweeps Laurel off her feet.
Before too long she’s staying the night at this house and being introduced to his nine year old daughter.
Poppy is precocious and pretty – and meeting her completely takes Laurel’s breath away.
Because Poppy is the spitting image of Ellie when she was that age.
And now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back.
What happened to Ellie? Where did she go?
Who still has secrets to hide?


The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne
(Released 27th July 2017)

Click here to pre-order.

Eleanor, Richard and their two young daughters recently stretched themselves to the limit to buy their dream home, a four-bedroom Victorian townhouse in East London. But the cracks are already starting to show. Eleanor is unnerved by the eerie atmosphere in the house and becomes convinced it is making her ill. Whilst Richard remains preoccupied with Zoe, their mercurial twenty-seven-year-old lodger, Eleanor becomes determined to unravel the mystery of the house’s previous owners – including Emily, whose name is written hundreds of times on the walls of the upstairs room.



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Extract: The Vets at Hope Green by Sheila Norton

Extract: The Vets at Hope Green by Sheila Norton

When I left for Hope Green, the wind was bitterly cold, but at least the sun was shining, making it feel comfortably warm inside my ageing little Polo as I headed down the M3. I’d waited until the nausea had settled before setting off. It seemed that now it had started, it was going to be a regular thing every morning. In the last few days at work I’d really hoped that I wouldn’t have any further episodes, or I’d have had to come clean about the pregnancy sooner rather than later. But fortunately my morning sickness was limited to just that – the morning – and I left London feeling at ease, if a little hungry. I turned on the radio and sang along with the music, trying to get myself into a happier frame of mind for when I arrived at Nana Peggy’s. I was supposed to be there to keep her company, and I wasn’t going to be very good company if all I kept thinking about were my own worries.

I realised Claire had been right when she’d said Hope Green wasn’t going to be quite the same at this time ofyear as when I normally visited in the summer. Then, it always looked like a picture postcard, with every little pink or white thatched cottage sporting hanging baskets of brightly coloured summer flowers – geraniums, lobelias, fuchsias, petunias. Front gardens were full of roses, mari­golds, dahlias and sunflowers; grass verges were sprinkled with forget-me-nots and wild basil. The village had either won, or been runner-up, in a Best-Kept Village contest for as many years as it had been going, and the residents worked hard to keep their lawns immaculate, the paintwork of their houses spruce and their roadsides litter-free.

I’d never visited outside of the summer holidays – for other family occasions, Nana was usually brought up to the family home in Norfolk – so I was used to the village having a festive atmosphere, with tourists strolling along the main street taking photographs of the church, the duck pond and the ancient stocks on the village green, and families relaxing in the pub garden or outside the tea room. Luckily, Hope Green never got completely overwhelmed with visitors as, although it was only a mile from the sea, that area of the coast was inaccessible except by footpaths. The nearest seaside town was several miles away and the one road in and out of the village consisted of a long, winding and very narrow hill, which was enough to put off all but the most intrepid drivers if they weren’t familiar with the area. So, despite the village pub and only guest house usually being fully booked for the season, a large proportion of the visitors were walkers, and none arrived in coach parties. It’ll probably be really quiet and a bit dreary at this time of year, I told myself as I eventually turned off the main road on to the lane that climbed up to the village. The sun had suddenly gone in, and there was a spattering of drizzle on the windscreen. But that’s OK. It’ll suit me to be quiet and dreary at the moment. I just need a bit of peace and a chance to get my head together.

But coming into the village, I was welcomed by bright, colourful daffodils and grape hyacinths clustered around the village sign on the green. Despite the weather, the village still seemed to exude a warm, welcoming feel and I let out a huge breath that I had unknowingly been holding.


Click here to get hold of your copy of The Vets at Hope Green.