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The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. - Jane Austen

Milly Johnson – Sunshine Over Wildflower Cottage

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IMG_20160623_145804I’ve been looking forward to this book for ages, and it finally came out last Thursday. And for the first time, I went to meet Milly Johnson to get my copy signed! I was the second person in the queue and so excited to meet her, and she was just as lovely as I thought she would be!

We start the book with Viv, driving into a lovely (albeit extremely foggy) village called Ironmist, looking for her new job at Wildflower Cottage, an animal sanctuary. Viv is a very mysterious character, we find out that she doesn’t like animals, so it’s weird that she’d accept such a low-paying job in the sanctuary, even if it is just an admin job. To begin with, we’re left completely in the dark as to her true motives for being in Ironmist, and she remains an elusive character until much further through the book.

When Viv arrives at the cottage, she meets a lovely lady called Geraldine, who is completely attached to the cottage, but also seems to have secrets of her own. And she hears all about the owner of the sanctuary Heath, imagining him as a grumpy curmudgeonly old man. And it turns out that while she might have got the personality right, he’s most definitely not old, he’s a gorgeous young man, and it’s only his stroppy personality that stops Viv from falling head over heels for him at first sight. Well, that and whatever is her actual reason for coming to Ironmist. It doesn’t seem like she’s set on putting down roots here, just get what she wants and leave.

As well as Viv, we also follow the lives of Viv’s mum Stel and her group of friends, who call themselves the Old Spice Girls. Stel is a hopeless romantic, seeming to fall instantly in love with anyone who pays her attention, no matter how bad for her they turn out to be. But when she falls for Ian, the gardener at the hospice she works for, it looks like her luck has changed, he seems perfect!

But one thing we learn from Stel and her group of friends is that you might think that someone’s life is perfect, but you can only see what they let you see, and you don’t know what they’ve been through to get to the life they’re living now. As the saying goes, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. Everyone has secrets and it’s up to them when they choose to share them, all you can do is be a good friend until they’re ready.

I found this book completely gripping, full of romance, mystery, suspense, drama, friendship and of course, a gorgeous location! If I wasn’t on so many painkillers at the moment after my recent hospital stay and still falling asleep all the time, I would have devoured this book in one sitting!

I’d definitely recommend this book to any Milly fans, and anyone that loves a romance with a twist, it was a lovely, lovely book, probably my favourite Milly book so far!

My favourite quote came from the first page of the book, it really struck a chord with me:

“It looked both beautiful and weird; but then weird was good sometimes.”

We’re Engaged!!

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So I have exciting news for you, Cameron took me away for a few days at the beach in Scarborough, and while we were there, HE PROPOSED!

It was such a great weekend, obviously, and I still can’t stop smiling and looking at the gorgeous ring!!

I took absolutely loads of photos, but here’s a small selection for you 🙂

Review: Milly Johnson – White Wedding

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Milly Johnson - White WeddingWell it’s been a long time since I started reading this book, over six weeks in fact. But I’ll blame that on Game of Thrones since this book was abandoned in my bedside drawer while I went on a fantasy epic.

But after finishing Game of Thrones, and realising that I was going to a wedding last weekend, what a perfect time to pick this up again. Except not really, since I was hoping for a beautiful wedding to get me in the mood and nothing seemed to go right for these poor three girls.

Pretty much straight away you get a good idea of the personalities of the three ladies and where you think their story is heading. And although I may have been right in all three instances, there were some twists and turns along the way to keep it interesting.

I did find it hard to feel any empathy for either Max or Violet. I felt a connection to Bel, I really liked that character. But Violet was a bit wet for my liking (although understandably so) and Max was just way too stuck up and out there to be someone that I would like. But even though I couldn’t feel for the characters, I still couldn’t wait to read more about them to find out if I was right about their happy endings.

I did find this a very easy read, nothing too taxing for my poor brain, which was just what I needed after GoT. I wouldn’t say it was my favourite of Milly’s books, although I think I did it a disservice by reading it in two parts such a long time from each other, so maybe a re-read would make me feel better about the experience. Although with the length of my to-read pile, that isn’t coming any time soon!

3/5

Review: Milly Johnson – The Teashop on the Corner

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Milly Johnson - The Teashop on the CornerI’ve loved Milly Johnson ever since I first read The Yorkshire Pudding Club in a random set of books ordered from The Book People, and I can’t see that love diminishing any time soon, quite the opposite in fact! I could honestly read Milly’s books all day every day, although my poor to-read shelf wouldn’t be very happy about it if I did!

I read a lot of tweets in the build up to the book launch, which ramped up my excitement for the new book. I would have loved to make it to the actual launch event, but sadly I had to work. Next time, I’ll be there no matter what!

I knew just from the title of the book that it was going to combine two of my favourite things: books and tea, but the teashop sounded more delightful than I could have imagined; with all the lovely classic book themed stationery on sale, it sounded like my idea of heaven! If it actually existed I don’t think I’d ever want to leave, and that’s without meeting the lovely owner and her patrons who very quickly become treasured friends.

The book had everything I wanted from a book; happiness, romance, surprise and an (eventual) happy ending. Of course the happy parts wouldn’t be quite so happy if there weren’t sad parts to balance them out (after all, nobody has a perfect life), and this book contained plenty of that too. Each character is battling some demons in their life, things that have left their life in turmoil and in need of a fresh start. And some seem to be battling things that they’re not ready to talk about yet, although in true-to-life style, nothing can stay secret forever and facing up to the truth comes sooner than expected.

I wish I’d saved the final chapters of the book until I got home curled up with a cup of tea, rather than reading it at my desk on my lunch break at work and trying to hold in the tears. I felt a little emotionally battered at the end, put through a wringer and spat out the other side.

Milly has a knack of writing characters that I can instantly relate to. Not because I’ve been through the same things that they have, but because their life and their situations are written so intricately that you feel like you know each and every one of them personally.

I also love the fact that Milly is from Yorkshire and proud (just like me), and she uses Yorkshire front and centre in her books, unlike some authors who pander to the city-masses and set their books in London. Yorkshire is such a beautiful place, why would you want not want to use it as a backdrop for such a fantastic story?! It definitely wouldn’t have been the same if it had been set in a big city, the Yorkshire village backdrop is perfect for the characters who converge in the teashop.

Usually when a book is written from more than one perspective, I have characters that I prefer to read, and sometimes a character who I tend to read more quickly because I just want to get back to the others, but I didn’t find that at all, each character had something in them that made me want to get to know them more. As I said before, I really wish that the teashop existed, although if it did I’d be bankrupt within weeks with all the lovely book related items that are on sale!

I’m probably gushing a bit too much now and I should probably stop, but I have nothing but good things to say about Milly Johnson and her latest book. Time to dig up the back-catalogue and pick up the few books that I have left to read!

5/5

 

Tour de France Grand Depart Stage 2 – Huddersfield

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Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last few weeks, you’re probably more than aware that it was the Grand Depart of the Tour De France this weekend, and where else but my home county of Yorkshire! We don’t usually watch the Tour, but we knew that it was a spectacle not to be missed, and that we had to go and try and see it just to see what it was all about.

And boy, the atmosphere was incredible! We were one of the first people to arrive at the top end of Huddersfield in the morning to watch the cyclists fly along the ring road, and we had a long wait in store, arriving 3 hours before the preceding caravan and almost 5 hours before the cyclists! I’m glad we got there early though because by 11am, the crowds were starting to swell dramatically, and we still had our front row seats. We ended up sat next to a couple of families with small children, and the atmosphere there was lovely. Everyone was friendly and talking to each other and just generally excited about the whole thing!

The pictures that I took obviously don’t do justice to the beauty of the weekend’s course, being in the city centre of Huddersfield and not somewhere more picturesque like Howarth or Holme Moss, but hopefully they show a bit of what it was like! There’s also a video that Cameron took which shows the noise and excitement as the cyclists came through!

Review: Milly Johnson – A Spring Affair

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20131214-122735.jpgI’m a self confessed lover of Milly Johnson. What’s not to like, a down to earth Yorkshire lass who writes fantastic books. I’ve actually never read her spring/summer/autumn/winter books, so when I was at Barter Books in Alnwick and I saw the Spring and Autumn ones, I couldn’t resist. I’ll have to hunt down the Summer and Winter ones very very soon!

The story begins with lovely Lou Winters in a dentist’s waiting room. She picks up an old dog-eared magazine and stumbles across an article about clearing the clutter. It hits her in a rather strange way, and she decides that she’s going to hire a skip and get rid of all the stuff that has accumulated in her house during her marriage to the tyrannical Phil. To call him a control freak would be an understatement, constantly playing games to undermine Lou’s self esteem and make her feel worthless, so that in turn she feels grateful to have him as a husband.

But when the skip turns up at her door, so does a bounding great dog called Clooney, along with his handsome rugged owner, Tom Broom. Lou falls for him instantly, but she’s still loyal to Phil, so nothing happens except for a great deal of embarrassment on Lou’s part.

All the clearing out that Lou is doing has an impact in other areas of her life too. For a start, the physical exertion of lugging things down from the attic and up from the cellar gets her in the best shape of her life. She starts to thing about how she needs to clear out her life, and not just her home. A chance encounter with her old friend Deb brings back up plans they had to open a coffee shop together, but their relationship was torn apart a few years ago, for reasons I won’t divulge here to spoil the plot, so can they reconcile their hopes and dreams once more? Or will history repeat itself once again?

I absolutely loved the way that this book was written. A lot of books of this genre tend to have one chapter of Lou, one chapter of Phil, one Tom, then one Deb, etc. etc. I find that this can sometimes get a bit in the way of the flow of the book because you find yourself broken off at what seems like the most inopportune moments. But with this book, the switchover of characters wasn’t necessarily at the start of a chapter, and it just seemed to flow really naturally. I loved the way that we didn’t just get the story from Lou’s point of view, but we could also see what a piece of work Phil was, in his own words. And boy, is he a piece of work. I’ll not go any further now, because I really would suggest that you get yourself a copy of this book and devour it in the same way that I did!

5/5

Review: Frances Hodgson Burnett – The Secret Garden

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frances-hodgson-burnett-the-secret-gardenThis is a book that I started many times when I was younger and staying at my uncles house, but I was never there long enough to finish it and there was always something more exciting to do. So I guess 23 years old is as good a time as any to catch up on all those children’s classics that I’ve never read (Black Beauty next I think).

All the way through this book I felt very connected to little Mary; at first she was a spoilt little child, but a return to some good Yorkshire air puts her right. When I finished the book I was left with a sense of not very much having happened, but still a sense of having really enjoyed reading it. The ‘secret garden’ was described in so much detail and with so much enthusiasm that it felt almost like I was transported to a secret garden in the grounds of a grand house in the middle of the Yorkshire Moors.

As I’ve mentioned before, when Mary arrives at the house she is a spoilt and ‘ugly’ child, sent to live with her uncle when her parents are killed by an outbreak of Cholera in their house in India. At first Mary hates the bleak outlook of the moors but she is persuaded to go outside by the intrigue of a ‘secret garden’ and when she finally finds out where it is and how to get into it, she hatches a plan to bring it to life again after it has been locked up for ten years. All this with the help of a young boy called Dickon,who seems to have a natural ‘magic’ touch with nature – animals and plants alike.

While Mary is becoming more and more curious, she hears a strange crying sound, but no-one in the house will tell her what it is, ‘it must be the wuthering of the wind on the moors’. But inquisitive little Mary finds out where the noise is coming from and meets her cousin Colin, a sickly boy the same age as her who has been so pampered since he was born that he has the whole household scared of his temper tantrums. His father refuses to see him because his mother died in childbirth and he’s scared that Colin is very ill too. Colin is convinced that he is going to die before he grows up and that his back may be deformed – he’s overheard conversations between his nurse and the doctors that have led him to believe he’s very sick. But little does he know that his doctor would actually be next in line to inherit his father’s estate so he has little interest in making Colin better.

Stubborn Mary is the only one that can get through to Colin, and with Dickon’s help, they get Colin out of the house where the Secret Garden can work it’s ‘magic’. Before long, Colin is turning into a strong athletic boy and enjoying life more than he ever knew. They keep the secret very well, sharing it only with the robin that lives in the garden and the animals that follow Dickon around, namely two squirrels and a crow. The gardener Ben is let into the secret when he peers over the wall of the garden and catches them, but he’s a great help to Colin recovering his strength. When he is berating Mary for being in the garden, Colin stands up for the first time in his life to stick up for the girl who has helped him to get his life back.

The story ends very sweetly with Colin’s father returning from his travels to find Colin winning a race against Mary, which surprises the life out of him as he’s never seen his son out of bed. To the surprise of the staff of the house, they walk hand in hand laughing and joking back up to the house together.

I found the story very easy to follow, although the broad Yorkshire speak took a while to understand in parts – and I’m from Yorkshire! I do wish I’d read it when I was younger as I can imagine that the magic of the story is lost a bit on me now that I’m so much older, but I’m very glad that I finally took the time to read it.

3-5