Hedgehog Hotel by Patricia Smith

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Over the summer we were thrilled to find that yet again a small family of hedgehogs had taken up residence in our tiny garden. With hedgehogs increasingly under threat I couldn’t say no when Patricia Smith got in touch to see if I would review her book Hedgehog Hotel and I’d like to thank Patricia for sending me a copy of Hedgehog Hotel in return for an honest review.

Hedgehog Hotel is available for purchase here.

Hedgehog Hotel

hedgehog hotel

Funny, true stories about a family who are hedgehog carers and their interactions with these colourful, delightful little creatures. The stories include: Bedroom Shenanigans, The Diary of a Bald Hedgehog, The Three Bears, Two Sisters and a Witch and Isabel the Magnificent.

My Review of Hedgehog Hotel

A series of hedgehog based real stories.

If I’m honest, I hadn’t expected to be as captivated by this book of real life hedgehog stories as I was. There’s a joy behind the writing that is infectious so that I ended reading Hedgehog Hotel being glad for the twenty plus hedgehogs that have found their way to the author’s hedgehog hotel to be bathed, fed and nursed back to health. There’s also an attractive quality to the prose so that Patricia Smith’s love of nature comes through in her vivid descriptions.

The individual hedgehogs are lovingly described. I enjoyed Izzy’s ‘teenage strops’ for example. And although this is a collection of stories about hedgehogs and their individual characters and quirks, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the humans, not least because I felt I’d been given a glimpse into the life of a caring family doing their bit for the environment which gave me a hugely positive feeling.

There’s a surprising amount of practical advice and hedgehog information woven throughout the book, from the number of heartbeats a hibernating hedgehog might have to the difficulty of sexing a hedgehog and the inconvenience of having a hedgehog up your trouser leg!

However, the aspect I enjoyed most in Hedgehog Hotel was the inclusion of some wonderful photographs that accompany the accounts. They bring to life the characters we meet and are quite charming.

Hedgehog Hotel would make a good book for an older child who is beginning to express an interest in wildlife and for anyone, old or young, interested in these feisty, curious little creatures. I liked it.

About Patricia Smith

pat smith

Patricia Smith worked for fourteen years in technical support and as a computer programmer before changing career to help young people to improve their numeracy and English skills.

She has enjoyed writing stories all of her life and her first novel Time Split, which made several best sellers lists, was published in 2011. This was soon followed by her Distant Suns stories, Islands – The Epidemic and more recently the long awaited sequel to Time Split, Time Split – Briggs.

For more information, visit Patricia’s website. You’ll also find her on Twitter @ForTheLoveOfSF and Facebook.

Lottie Sparkles’ Magical Discovery by Petra Quelch

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I’m very fond of a children’s book here on Linda’s Book Bag and am delighted to be part of the Rachel’s Random Resources blog tour for Lottie Sparkles’ Magical Discovery by Petra Quelch.

Today I have my review of Lottie Sparkles’ Magical Discovery and a chance for a lucky UK or European reader to win a signed copy of the book. More details at the bottom of this blog post!

Lottie Sparkles Magical Discovery

Lottie Sparkles’ Magical Discovery is available for purchase on Amazon UK,Amazon USAmazon AU and the Book Depository.

Lottie Sparkles’ Magical Discovery

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Who wouldn’t like a magical jacket?

Lottie Sparkles is a little girl who loves everything sparkly,mainly clothes. Anything plain or dirty is a disgrace in Lottie s mind! When Lottie is sent to spend time with her lovely grandparents in the countryside, she is furious because that essentially means smelly animals, lots of puddles and hard work!

But what she certainly didn’t count on was coming face to face with a magical object…

My Review of Lottie Sparkles’ Magical Discovery

Lottie loves everything clean and sparkly so two weeks in the country is not her thing at all!

In Lottie Sparkles’ Magical Discovery Petra Quelch has created someone many children will be able to relate to perfectly. Lottie is sulky, determined to get her own way and yet able to learn from her adventures so that I can imagine children desperate to get into the attics of their own homes to see if they can discover something just as magical. Although Lottie is perhaps more traditionally appealing to girls with her passion for sparkly clothes, I loved the fact that Grandad George does the baking and cooking whilst Grandma Ada mucks out the animals and creates inventions in the shed as their roles suggest that gender doesn’t have to be constrained.

The narrative is well structured with a good variety of paragraph length and a perfect font for independent readers so that children can enjoy the book independently as well as with an adult.

There are some lovely illustrations to go with the story and as someone who has had sight problems since very early childhood I really appreciated the fact that Lottie wears glasses as this gives status to young children in the same position.

Lottie Sparkles’ Magical Discovery is an entertaining and enjoyable read for children.

About Petra Quelch

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Petra Quelch loves everything sparkly and glittery but hopefully, she says, she is not a diva like Lottie from her book. Aside from all the glitz and glamour, she is a collector of magical books, tea sets, movies and a huge fan of chocolate. She has two little girls also known as “The Little Book-Fairies” with a BIG imagination.

You can find out more by following Petra on Twitter @sparklyword and Instagram and finding her on Facebook.

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Giveaway

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If you live in the UK or Europe and would like the chance to win a signed copy of Lottie Sparkles’ Magical Discovery, click here.

Please note that this giveaway is run independently of Linda’s Book Bag. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.

Testament by Kim Sherwood

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Tomorrow I’ll be heading off to London for a panel meeting as shadow judge for The Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award where we will be discussing the four shortlisted books and choosing our winner. Consequently, today I have my final review and this time it’s Testament by Kim Sherwood. (In case you were wondering, I’ve reviewed the books in alphabetical order by title, not by any other preference!)

You’ll find more about the award here on Linda’s Book Bag and on The Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer’s Award website.

kim sherwood instagram

Published by Quercus imprint Riverrun, Testament is available for purchase through the links here.

Testament

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Of everyone in her complicated family, Eva was closest to her grandfather: a charismatic painter – and a keeper of secrets. So when he dies, she’s hit by a greater loss – of the questions he never answered, and the past he never shared.

It’s then she finds the letter from the Jewish Museum in Berlin. They have uncovered the testimony he gave after his forced labour service in Hungary, which took him to the death camps and then to England as a refugee. This is how he survived.

But there is a deeper story that Eva will unravel – of how her grandfather learnt to live afterwards. As she confronts the lies that have haunted her family, their identity shifts and her own takes shape. The testament is in her hands.

Kim Sherwood’s extraordinary first novel is a powerful statement of intent. Beautifully written, moving and hopeful, it crosses the tidemark where the third generation meets the first, finding a new language to express love, legacy and our place within history.

My Review of Testament

Eva’s attempts to record her grandfather’s life lead her to more discoveries than she might have imagined.

Testament is one of those books that is terribly difficult to review because it transcends the superlatives a reader might wish to apply to it. I found Kim Sherwood’s writing both beautiful and harrowing, deeply sad, yet ultimately uplifting, with an intensity that meant I had to force myself to breathe at times. It actually took me quite a while to read Testament as I had to take breaks to recover from what I’d just read.

The plot is skilfully constructed so that the events of the past reverberate and impact on the present completely convincingly. I loved the brilliant exploration of identity, of how we are shaped by the past, but equally, how we can construct our own identity, past and truths, even at the moment of being our most duplicitous. Silk is both nothing he claims to be and yet everything he claims to be, making him a complex, fascinating and compelling character. I felt I understood him completely and he became so real to me I wished I had known him personally too. The concepts of family, nationality and belonging swirl and eddy through the writing like the waters of the Danube itself, drawing me in to the narrative completely. I’m not usually a lover of dual time frames but thoroughly enjoyed them in Testament as the truth behind Silk’s life and Eva’s discovery of that truth merge together.

The quality of research that Kim Sherwood has put in to Testament is exemplary and I feel I have learnt a great deal more about the era; especially what happened to Jewish people post war. Reading Testament has reinforced what I thought I knew and shown me the ignorant acceptance of past times that I may have previously displayed so that I can honestly claim that this narrative has altered my perspectives. I found a real resonance in the exploration of grief and love too.

I loved the quality of the writing. Kim Sherwood’s description of place is so evocatively depicted through her use of the senses that it is possible to experience her settings almost first hand. Similarly, the immediacy of the action she describes is so vivid that events happening to Józef and László seem like films rather than text.

Kin Sherwood’s Testament is a powerful, absorbing and incredibly moving novel that has had a visceral effect on me, making me feel the emotional pain, the fear and the joy of the characters quite physically. I recommend it unreservedly. It’s quite wonderful.

About Kim Sherwood

Kim Sherwood - Headshot - No credited needed

Kim Sherwood was born in Camden in 1989 and lives in Bath. She studied Creative Writing at UEA and is now Senior Lecturer at the University of the West of England. Her pieces have appeared in Mslexia, Lighthouse, and Going Down Swinging.

Kim began researching and writing Testament, her first novel, after her grandfather, the actor George Baker, passed away and her grandmother began to talk about her experiences as a Holocaust Survivor for the first time. It won the 2016 Bath Novel Award, was longlisted for the 2019 Desmond Elliot Prize and shortlisted for the 2019 Author’s Club Best First Novel Award.

For more information, follow Kim on Twitter @kimtsherwood.

Stubborn Archivist by Yara Rodrigues Fowler

Stubborn Archivist

I’m delighted to share the third of my reviews as shadow judge for The Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award this year. Today I have my review of Stubborn Archivist by Yara Rodrigues Fowler. You’ll find more about the award here on Linda’s Book Bag and on The Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer’s Award website.

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Published by Little Brown imprint Fleet, Stubborn Archivist is available for purchase through the links here.

Stubborn Archivist

Stubborn Archivist

When your mother considers another country home, it’s hard to know where you belong. When the people you live among can’t pronounce your name, it’s hard to know exactly who you are. And when your body no longer feels like your own, it’s hard to understand your place in the world.

This is a novel of growing up between cultures, of finding your space within them and of learning to live in a traumatized body. Our stubborn archivist tells her story through history, through family conversations, through the eyes of her mother, her grandmother and her aunt and slowly she begins to emerge into the world, defining her own sense of identity.

My Review of Stubborn Archivist

An account of a young woman’s life.

Stubborn Archivist is a complex and intriguing read that held me spellbound even as it confused and beguiled me. I loved the title. With little conventional fictional plot, the narrative is, to some degree, an archive of one person’s life and whilst they have both British and Brazilian heritage, they have to cling stubbornly to their own sense of self and identity. I’m writing so generically about ‘they’ because other than being referred to frequently as the baby, the name of the woman is elusive, reflecting the looseness of her identity and her difficulty in defining herself and where she belongs.

The sections in Portuguese added a brilliant level of authenticity because my inability to read them perfectly mirrored the struggle in the protagonist’s life. Snatches of meaning came through, and at other times these meanings felt obfuscated so that I experienced some of the same frustrations and misunderstandings of the woman whose life is gradually being revealed by the narrative. I thought this was a hugely appropriate technique.

Similarly, the fractured structure of the book, looking sometimes more akin to poetry or a list than prose, the white space suggesting not all the protagonist’s life has been lived or defined yet, but rather that there is more to come, all contributed to the sense of searching for personal identity. I thought this was innovative and so effective. Although punctuation is used almost haphazardly on occasion, I felt this was perfect in delineating some of the truths in the book and leaving open interpretation or less definite elements at other times. Stubborn Archivist pushes the boundaries of conventional writing and makes the reader engage with the text on so many levels. The total lack of speech marks led me to wonder how much of the conversation had been filtered or falsely remembered and how much was true. There’s an unreliabilty in Stubborn Archivist that I found fascinating.

Frequently Yara Rodrigues Fowler’s writing is visual and poetic. Through imagery of food, flora and vividly lyrical descriptions the reader is transported to Brazil, rural England and London so that there is a deep sense of place and its relevance to identity in Stubborn Archivist. The contrast of heat and cold gave far more definition to Brazil and London than the young woman is able to find in her own identity. I also loved the way in which quite shocking or disturbing events are dropped into the narrative almost casually so that I actually exclaimed aloud on a couple of occasions.

The theme of identity is masterfully presented, especially through the physical effect on the protagonist’s body and through the inclusion of family oral history, because although it is individual and personal it also helps create a sense of national and political identity too. It had the added effect of making me recall my own family’s stories and thereby reconnected me to my own sense if self as well as to Stubborn Archivist as a reader.

Feminist, international and creative, Stubborn Archivist is a book I haven’t fully got to grips with. It will reward many readings and I have a feeling I have hardly scratched the surface of what it has to offer. It’s intriguing, frustrating and simultaneously beautifully written. I think you should read if for yourself!

About Yara Rodrigues Fowler

Yara

Yara Rodrigues Fowler is a British Brazilian novelist from South London. Her first novel, Stubborn Archivist, was published in 2019 in the UK and USA. It was called ’stunning’ by Olivia Laing, ‘visceral and elegant’ by Claire-Louise Bennett and ‘breathtakingly written’ by Nikesh Shukla.

Yara was named one of The Observer’s nine ‘hottest-tipped’ debut novelists of 2019 and longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize.

Yara is also a trustee of Latin American Women’s Aid, an organisation that runs the only two refuges in Europe for and by Latin American women. She’s writing her second novel now, for which she received the John C Lawrence Award from the Society of Authors towards research in Brazil.

For more information, follow Yara on Twitter @yazzarf. You an also visit her website.

Staying in with Heleen Kist, author of Stay Mad, Sweetheart

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It gives me very great pleasure to be part of the launch celebrations for Stay Mad, Sweetheart by Heleen Kist and to stay in with Heleen to hear more about the book. My thanks to Dylan at Red Dog Press for inviting me to be part of the blog tour.

I last stayed in with Heleen Kist to chat about her novel In Servitude in a post you can see here so I’m delighted to welcome her back again today.

Staying in with Heleen Kist

Welcome back to Linda’s Book Bag, Heleen. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me once again.

Hi Linda, thanks for having me. What a lovely fire you’ve got on – it’s freezing outside!

It is! Pull your chair nearer and tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it? 

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I brought my second novel Stay Mad, Sweetheart. I see you’ve still got In Servitude on your bookshelf from when I was last here. I’m honoured.

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Indeed I have and blog readers can find out more about In Servitude here from when we last stayed in together. So tell me, what can we expect from an evening in with Stay Mad, Sweetheart.

You might feel “both engaged and enraged” like one early reader said.

Oh. Sounds intriguing. Explain a bit more…

The book explores the grey areas of consent, insidious harassment and discrimination at work; and what happens when the women have had enough. It’s pacy, with short chapters and I’m told it’s hard to put down until the very end — when you’re left punching the air!

Jo Spain called it ‘a terrific new read’ and ‘on point topical and beautifully written’, which really made my day.

I imagine it did (and if you look along the shelf there you’ll see one of Jo’s books still waiting to be read next to In Servitude!)

It’s an intentionally thought-provoking book a bout everyday sexism and how easy it is to get carried away. I’m hoping it will leave you mulling over where the line is between right and wrong for some time.

I love a book that makes me think Heleen. I imagine a certain interview broadcast over the weekend will make readers even more interested in Stay Mad, Sweetheart! What else have you brought along and why? 

Hold on, while I unlock the carrier. Say hello to Scout, the ferret.

Scout the ferret

Wow! I think Scout must be the most unusual item an author has brought along. She’s very cute isn’t she? But why bring a ferret?

She’s owned by Craig, a photographer, one of my characters. Last year, a friend of mine dared me to include a ferret in this book and whilst at first I had no idea what to do with her, I ended up growing very fond of this pink-nosed creature.

My main character Laura has a cat named Atticus. You might recognise the literary reference: Scout & Atticus. It’s one of a few in the novel. Laura is a real book worm and her love of words is critical to the plot.

Now cats have come along before when authors have stayed in with me and if you look around you’ll see I’m a real cat lover Heleen, but the way Scout is curling up in front of the fire I think she might be converting me! To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favourite all time novels so thank you for reminding me of it as we’ve chatted about Stay Mad, Sweetheart

You’ve really whetted my appetite for Stay Mad, Sweetheart, Heleen and thank you for being here. Let’s find out more about it:

Stay Mad, Sweetheart

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THERE’S A FINE LINE BETWEEN INNOCENCE AND GUILT. AN EVEN FINER LINE BETWEEN JUSTICE AND REVENGE.

Data scientist Laura prefers the company of her books to the real world – let alone that cesspit online. But when her best friend Emily becomes the victim of horrific cyberbullying, she makes it her all-engulfing mission to track down the worst culprits.

Petite corporate financier Suki is about to outshine the stupid boys at her firm: she’s leading the acquisition of Edinburgh’s most exciting start-up. If only she could get its brilliant, but distracted, co-founder Laura to engage.

Event planner Claire is left to salvage the start-up’s annual conference after her colleague Emily fails to return to work. She’s determined to get a promotion out of it, but her boss isn’t playing ball.

As the women’s paths intertwine, the insidious discrimination they each face comes to light. Emboldened by Emily’s tragic experience, they join forces to plot the downfall of all those who’ve wronged them.

But with emotions running high, will the punishments fit the crimes?

Published tomorrow, 19th November 2019, by Red Dog Stay Mad, Sweetheart is available from all good bookshops, Amazon and directly from the publisher.

About Heleen Kist

Heleen Kist has been fondled, patronised and ordered to smile by random men. So she wrote Stay Mad, Sweetheart, a feminist tale of revenge. Whilst her professional knowledge of technology start-ups fed the novel’s setting, its theme of harassment and workplace discrimination required no research: it is familiar to all women.

Heleen was chosen as an up and coming new author at Bloody Scotland 2018. Her first novel, In Servitude won the silver medal for Best European Fiction at the Independent Publishers Book Awards in the USA and was shortlisted for The Selfies awarded at London Book Fair.

A Dutch strategy consultant living in Glasgow and married to a Scotsman, she’s raising their son to be a good man and their daughter to kick ass.

You can follow Heleen on Twitter @hkist and Facebook. Or sign up to her newsletter on her website here.

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The Space Race by Liz Butler

The Space Race

One of my most loved memories is watching the moon landings on television through a shop window when I was on holiday as a child in Minehead so when Liz Butler asked me if I’d like to review her children’s book The Space Race I readily accepted. My thanks to Liz for sending me a copy of The Space Race book in return for an honest review.

The Space Race was published by Matador on 31st October 2019 and is available for purchase in all the usual places including here.

The Space Race

The Space Race

And the race is on!

Meet Cat and Dog, two fiercely competitive characters who fight like only cats and dogs can!

The Space Race is a story about the extra-terrestrial adventures of Cat and Dog as they compete in the ultimate challenge – a race to the moon – to prove once and for all who is the best.

But who will win?! Who will be left to wear the pants of shame upon their head?! And can an old dog (or cat) learn new tricks?!

My Review of The Space Race

Cat and Dog decide to settle their differences with a race to the moon.

What a smashing children’s book!

Written in alternate end-rhyme, the language in The Space Race is so good because there’s no forcing of the sounds to fit. Instead, children have the opportunity to explore language in this exciting story with rhymes like ‘day’ and ‘say’ and homophones like ‘floor’ and ‘draw’, as the narrative unfolds. The rhythm of the language works really well read aloud, but equally it is simple enough for slightly older children to read and enjoy independently.

Children will recognise the conflict between Cat and Dog as being very similar to that they might have with friends or siblings and there’s a lovely moral that working together brings a much more positive outcome than does fighting! I love the fact that there is some peril in the story that is satisfactorily resolved so that young children can experience fear and excitement in a safe environment. There’s also humour, especially when the alien is sick, as well as the themes of competition, collaboration and friendship. Added to the opportunity to discover more about space by researching the moon and black holes, this makes The Space Race a brilliant children’s book.

The illustrations by Kate Gallagher are perfect for the text. They have a naive quality that is hugely appealing but also they help underpin the story flawlessly.

The Space Race is a cracking story for very young children. I thoroughly enjoyed it too!

About Liz Butler

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Liz Butler released her debut children’s story book, The Space Race, in October 2019. Liz works in education and has previously attended creative writing courses due to her passion for writing.

Children inspire her imagination and creativity and with two young children of her own, Liz loves nothing more than settling down with an excellent story book and letting their (and her) imaginations run wild!

For more information, follow Liz on Twitter @LizButl57860113. You’ll also find Liz on Facebook.

A Mrs Miracle Christmas by Debbie Macomber

A Mrs Miracle Christmas

Not having read Debbie Macomber before but hearing such good things about her writing, I was delighted to be asked to participate in the launch celebrations for A Mrs Miracle Christmas and would like to thank Rachel Kennedy at Penguin Random House for inviting me.

A Mrs Miracle Christmas was published by Penguin Random House imprint Arrow on 14th November and is available for purchase through these links.

A Mrs Miracle Christmas

A Mrs Miracle Christmas

Laurel McCullough is in desperate need of help.

Her beloved grandmother has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and the baby she and her husband Zach have longed for now seems like an impossible dream.

So when Mrs Miracle appears at the door, Laurel couldn’t be more relieved. She invites the nurse into her life and it’s not long before they become firm friends.

When her grandmother’s condition begins to improve, and as Laurel and Zach continue their desperate quest for a child, Laurel soon realises that there is more to Mrs Miracle than meets the eye…

My review of A Mrs Miracle Christmas

Laurel’s life is rather complicated!

Now, I’ve no religious belief or faith and I’ve never been a mother nor had any desire to be one, so A Mrs Miracle Christmas should be a book that I really didn’t enjoy. Hmm. Totally untrue! Whilst some readers may find it too sentimental, Debbie Macomber writes with such uplifting warmth, that I couldn’t help being drawn in to this lovely narrative. I read the book on a cold wet afternoon and it was the perfect story to transport the reader away into a world of love and positivity – even when life isn’t treating Laurel and Zach well. I think what I enjoyed so much was the knowledge that everything was likely to be resolved happily, though you’ll have to read the book yourself to see if that is true!

Although A Mrs Miracle Christmas is a light read, Debbie Macomber doesn’t shy away from tougher issues like dementia and infertility so that the book will resonate for many an ordinary reader dealing with similar issues in their own life. I felt especially sorry for Zach as he tries to do what he feels is best. So much of the attention in cases of infertility is focused on women, but here Debbie Macomber sensitively explores the impact on men too and I felt this added depth to the narrative.

I really enjoyed the reduced number of characters because with just Helen, Laurel, Zach and Mrs Miracle dominating, there is the opportunity fully to get to know them. I rather feel we could all do with a Mrs Miracle in our lives at times! I loved the way she embodies the concept that memories are important for us all as she guides Helen along.

A Mrs Miracle Christmas is a heartwarming, entertaining book that I very much enjoyed. It would be an ideal gift at Christmas, particularly, I think, for anyone living alone or in need of solace and cheer. It’s very uplifting and I ended it feeling more positive than when I set out to read it.

About Debbie Macomber

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Debbie Macomber is a No. 1 New York Times bestselling author and one of today’s most popular writers. In addition to fiction, Debbie has also published two bestselling cookbooks; numerous inspirational and nonfiction works; and two acclaimed children’s books. The beloved and bestselling Cedar Cove series became Hallmark Channel’s first dramatic scripted television series, Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove, which was ranked as the top program on US cable TV when it debuted in summer 2013.  Hallmark has also produced many successful films based on Debbie’s bestselling Christmas novels. Debbie Macomber owns her own tea room, and a yarn store, A Good Yarnnamed after the shop featured in her  popular Blossom Street novels. She and her husband, Wayne, serve on the Guideposts National Advisory Cabinet, and she is World Vision’s international spokesperson for their Knit for Kids charity initiative. A devoted grandmother, Debbie and her husband Wayne live in Port Orchard, Washington (the town on which her Cedar Cove novels are based) and winter in Florida.

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