Title: Guard Your Heart

Author: Sue Divin

Pages: 337 Pages

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

The Blurb

Boy meets girl on the Northern Irish border in Guard Your Heart, by Sue Divin.

Derry. Summer 2016. Aidan and Iona, now eighteen, were both born on the day of the Northern Ireland peace deal.

Aidan is Catholic, Irish, and Republican. With his ex-political prisoner father gone and his mother dead, Aidan’s hope is pinned on exam results earning him a one-way ticket out of Derry. To anywhere.

Iona, Protestant and British, has a brother and father in the police. She’s got university ambitions, a strong faith and a fervent belief that boys without one track minds are a myth.

At a post-exam party, Aidan wanders alone across the Peace Bridge and becomes the victim of a brutal sectarian attack. Iona witnessed the attack; picked up Aidan’s phone and filmed what happened, and gets in touch with him to return the phone. When the two meet, alone and on neutral territory, the differences between them seem insurmountable. 

Both their fathers held guns, but safer to keep that secret for now.

Despite their differences and the secrets they have to keep from each other, there is mutual intrigue, and their friendship grows. And so what? It’s not the Troubles. But for both Iona and Aidan it seems like everything is keeping them apart , when all they want is to be together . . .

The Review

Guard Your Heart is a modern day Romeo and Juliet story set in Ireland that shows the modern day impact of the troubles and how years of prejudice still runs rife in the country. In this story Aiden (a catholic) and Iona (a protestant) are thrown together when Aiden is attacked and Iona films it on her phone. She manages to stop the attack by threatening to go to the police with the evidence. Iona and Aiden’s love story starts with this one act of selflessness.

Among this story of forbidden love, prejudice, and religion is a story of class difference. How a persons station in life is determined by so many different factors and the hopelessness that you feel can be overwhelming.

Overall, I really liked Guard Your Heart. At times, I did feel the pacing of the story was a bit slow but the final third of the novel had me reading as fast as I could and making me lose my breath. The sign of great writing in my opinion.

Guard Your Heart by Sue Divin is available now.

For more information regarding Sue Divin (@absolutelywrite) please visit www.suedivin.com.

For more information regarding Macmillan Children’s Books (@MacmillanKidsUK) please visit www.panmacmillan.com.

Title: The Education of Ivy Edwards

Author: Hannah Tovey

Pages: 336 Pages

Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group UK

The Blurb

Adult life is hard. Send help. 

Ivy Edwards is thirty-one years old, funny, shameless, and a bit of a romantic. 

She’s also currently trying not to cry in the office toilet.

Partly because she’s just run out of money for fags. A bit because her mum continues to annoy her. Definitely not because she’s just been dumped by her fiancé.

With her London life in shambles and her family miles away in the Welsh valleys, Ivy doesn’t actually feel like she belongs anywhere.

At least, she has her friends – and a bottle of vodka.

Embarking on a journey of singlehood, Ivy is about to discover that sometimes, having your life fall apart can be surprisingly fun. 

The Review

Oh boy. Well I didn’t hate The Education of Ivy Edwards but I didn’t love it either.

The Education of Ivy Edwards is about a woman called Ivy whose life unceremoniously falls apart when her fiance dumps her. So you are made to feel sorry for Ivy pretty early on, yet as the novel progresses her choices are so frustrating that she becomes unlikable pretty quickly.

There are some good aspects to the story. Her sisters struggle with fertility is interesting as is the failing health of her grandfather. Ivy’s relationship with her mother deserved more attention than it was given.

I really did fail to connect with this book and felt that the redemption or the ‘education’ of Ivy Edwards came far too late in the novel to really turn my opinion around.

The Education of Ivy Edwards by Hannah Tovey is available now.

For more information regarding Hannah Tovey (@hannahctovey) please visit www.hannahtovey.com.

For more information regarding Little, Brown Book Group UK (@littlebrownUK) please visit www.littlebrown.co.uk.

Title: Rife – Twenty-One Stories from Britain’s Youth

Author: Nikesh Shukla (ed.)

Pages: 304 Pages

Publisher: Unbound

The Blurb

Young people in this country are facing a chasm of doubt and instability. Mental health problems are widespread, university fees are rising, job opportunities are drying up, and the prospect of ever owning a home is increasingly out of reach. But this generation is noticeably absent from the opinion columns, comment pieces and news reports of the mainstream media.

From the creative minds behind Rife magazine comes this anthology of twenty passionate voices, all under the age of twenty-four, writing across a spectrum of topics that matter to them. It holds a mirror up to the experience of young people in the UK today, with essays on money, mental health, sex, gender, inequality, education, crime and the future.

Bracing, honest and set against what can often seem an apocalyptic backdrop, these stories are nevertheless full of ideas and solidarity to draw on through these uncertain times.

The Review

Rife is a collection of stories about the problems that Britain’s Youth face today. These stories and essays cover mental health, sexual abuse, financial problems among many more. The collection highlights the struggles and shows you how the knock on effect from the previous generation are so impactful today.

I won’t lie, I struggled with this collection. This is for two reasons. The first being that I tried to read it in one gulp and Rife isn’t really the kind of book you can do that in. It needs to act as a palate cleanser. Maybe a commute read. Secondly, I felt that it was a little bit southern-centric. There were a few stories telling how northerners struggle but the majority featured writers living in the south and without trying to create division there is a divide between the north/south experience. However, Rife is a gritty, engaging read and the essays in it shouldn’t be dismissed.

Rife – Twenty-One Stories from Britain’s Youth by Nikesh Shukla is available now.

For more information regarding Nikesh Shukla (@nikeshshukla) please visit his Twitter page.

For more information regarding Unbound (@unbounders) please visit www.unbound.com.

Title: The Windsor Knot

Author: SJ Bennett

Pages: 288 Pages

Publisher: Zaffre/Bonnier Books

The Blurb

The first book in a highly original and delightfully clever crime series in which Queen Elizabeth II secretly solves crimes while carrying out her royal duties – now available to pre-order in hardback, eBook and audiobook. 

The morning after a dinner party at Windsor Castle, eighty-nine-year-old Queen Elizabeth is shocked to discover that one of her guests has been found murdered in his room, with a rope around his neck.

When the police begin to suspect her loyal servants, Her Majesty knows they are looking in the wrong place. For the Queen has been living an extraordinary double life ever since her coronation. Away from the public eye, she has a brilliant knack for solving crimes.

With her household’s happiness on the line, her secret must not get out. Can the Queen and her trusted secretary Rozie catch the killer, without getting caught themselves?

The Windsor Knot is the first book in the ‘Her Majesty The Queen Investigates‘ mystery series by SJ Bennett – for fans of The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, Agatha Christie and M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin.

The Review

You know what? Life is still a bit pants at the moment. We are still restricted to what we can do (it is June 2021 as I write this) and very little is making me feel good. Enter The Windsor Knot by SJ Bennett. This cosy crime is a wonderful story which positions the Queen as a Sherlock Holmes-esque character solving crimes and then going to walk the corgis. It is truly a wonderful read.

SJ Bennett’s mystery takes place at Windsor Castle after a soiree thrown by the queen. One of the quests is found murdered and the police try to solve the crime and keep the salacious gossip out of the papers. Little do they know that the Queen is a dab hand at solving mysteries. The race is on to see who will get to the crux of the murder first.

I really, really enjoyed The Windsor Knot. It was comforting and I finished it hoping against hope that the Queen has enjoyed a spot of crime solving during her years on the thrown. I think it would be truly wonderful

The Windsor Knot by SJ Bennett is available now.

For more information regarding SJ Bennett (@sophiabennett) please visit her Twitter page.

For more information regarding Zaffre (@ZaffreBooks) please visit www.bonnierbooks.co.uk.

For more information regarding Bonnier Books (@bonnierbooks_uk) please visit www.bonnierbooks.co.uk.

Title: Hamnet

Author: Maggie O’Farrell

Pages: 372 Pages

Publisher: Headline

The Blurb

TWO EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE. A LOVE THAT DRAWS THEM TOGETHER. A LOSS THAT THREATENS TO TEAR THEM APART.

On a summer’s day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home? 

Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week.

Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is a story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. It is also the story of a kestrel and its mistress; flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; and a glovemaker’s son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.

The Review

I love stories of sidelined characters throughout history. Alison Weir has created magic by telling the stories of Henry the 8ths wives and Maggie O’Farrell has created alchemy with her story about William Shakespeare’s son Hamnet.

Part of the brilliance about Hamnet is that we don’t really know a lot about Shakespeare beyond his plays. This gives O’Farrell great scope in creating a story using what little we do know to paint this brilliant tapestry of Shakespeare’s life.

O’Farrell took me to Shakespearean England. I was there through the tribulations of Shakespeare branching out. I witnessed his wedding and the birth of his children. I wept along with characters. That is the power of Hamnet.

It is a brilliant book and worthy of all the prizes and accolades bestowed upon it.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell is available now.

For more information regarding Headline (@headinepg) please visit their Twitter page.