After the untimely death of Jill’s adult son Davey, grief sinks its teeth into her marriage and she uproots to north Norfolk with six-year-old grandson Jack Junior, Davey’s son.
A year on, Jill has settled into a cosy cottage in Widmore Bay, which she’s renting from Mary, her neighbour, Jack Junior is attending the local school, and Jill is running her own food van business, Veggi Bakes and Shakes. But Christmas is looming, and while little Jack is bouncing with excitement, Jill can’t bear the agonising memories that resurface with a season she once loved. In short, she can’t wait for it to be over, but fate has other ideas.
Whilst I loved the Christmassy feel to this novel, it was the poignancy that powered through it that did it for me. It took me on a roller coaster of emotions – one moment I was laughing, and the next I was welling up. The writing is truly stunning. Eva captures the essence of Christmas beautifully with her intricate descriptions, and the dialogue between the characters is so well executed that it draws you in and makes you feel as if you’re there, in the story. The cast of characters – estranged husband, Jack Senior, level-headed daughter, Molly, recovering addict, Gabby (Jill’s daughter-in-law), and Irish neighbour, Mary, have so much depth that I could see them in my mind’s eye. I must admit, I particularly enjoyed the scenes between Jill and her landlady/friend/childminder Mary. Oh, how I’d love a Mary living next door to me.
A Gift called Hope is a fun but emotional read. It’s a story about love and loss, grief and coping and hope. Not your usual cosy Christmas story but much, much more.
With so many ebook offers online these days, we really are spoilt for choice when it comes to buying books. I often buy books on impulse, which is why my ‘to be read’ pile is heaving. Sometimes I make good choices, other times not so good. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with the novel I bought on a whim, it might be that it’s just not doing it for me or that I’m not in the mood for that particular genre. ‘Maybe you shouldn’t be so hasty when buying books,’ my husband said. ‘Perhaps you should be more prudent with your selections.’ This got me thinking, what makes us buy a book in the first place? I spoke to a few readers.
Let’s start with the cover because it’s usually the first port of call. ‘I would say an attractive or unusual cover is the first thing to draw me when browsing in a shop,’ said avid reader, Joy, ‘and even if I’ve never heard of the author, if the blurb on the back interests me, I’ll buy the book. To me, the visual aspect is very important. Like food, clothing, etc., if something catches your eye, you want to take a closer look.’
A lot of readers seem to be influenced by the cover of a book because it reflects the theme of the novel, giving you a gist of the story. ‘The cover helps a lot,’ Caroline, a self-confessed bookaholic, explained, ‘It has to convey the mood of the book e.g. mystery, romance or thriller.’
‘A book jacket needs to stand out on the shelf, or if it’s a thumbnail in digital format then it needs to be striking enough to catch the potential buyer’s attention,’ said Anna, another book lover. ‘If it doesn’t scream out read me then the sale could go to an adjoining book on the stand.’
But should we always judge a book by its cover? Not according to book-loving Barbara, ‘I always used to be influenced by book covers, but after joining a reading group and having my eyes opened to different genres I would now try anything. This is the reason my’ to read pile’ has got bigger!’ A very valid point, I think.
The author is a very popular decision factor when it comes to buying a book. ‘I think it’s a combination of things,’ Fran told me. ‘Author reputation at the top, then cover probably. I am also a sucker for a punchy title.’
Readers tend to stick with an author because they like their style, their voice, and usually their themes. When a reader connects with an author, loyalty ensues. ‘Loyalty to the author,’ Jan told me, ‘anticipation of the latest novel is important to me. Cover must stand out too, and not too long. 500 pages max.’ That’s pretty long to me, Jan.
However, although author loyalty prevails, readers are always on the lookout for new material to read, often willing to give an unknown or new author’s book a go, which in turn can lead to author loyalty. ‘If I’ve read something by them that I like,’ Carol enthused, ‘I’ll always try the rest.’
Book reviews are easily accessible online. You only have to go onto Amazon or Goodreads to find out what other readers thought of a book you’re considering. But book reviews weren’t at the top of the list with my panel of readers. ‘Author if it’s someone I really like,’ Lisa told me, ‘then the cover, followed by blurb or reviews.’ Cynthia’s choices are similar, ‘Firstly the author, followed by blurb and then the cover. I also look at the reviews.’
A book review, even a bad one, can be useful if it’s constructive. However, at the end of the day, it is down to a reader’s personal choice and taste. ‘I don’t go on reviews ever, ’Kerrie pointed out. “My opinion would probably be completely different!’ Kerrie does have a point as reading is a very subjective.
Although book reviews didn’t appear to carry much weight with my reader panel, the reverse was true when it came to books recommended by friends and book bloggers.
‘I go on recommendations by friends mainly,’ Karen said, ‘book reviewers too but to a lesser extent. I might read reviews, but make my own mind up generally.’
Books recommended by family and friends also scored high when reading a book by a new or unknown author, as Sally explained. ‘If it was recommended to me and I liked the sound of it, then I definitely would read it.’
Booklover, Jan, puts recommendations at the top of her list. ‘After recommendations, it would be cover to attract me, then blurb, then I read the start of the third chapter (if it’s in a bookshop) or page through to the middle of the sample on Amazon, then decide.’ Good strategy, Jan.
Once you pick a book off the shelf, the next thing you’re likely to do is to turn it over and read the blurb. A blurb can be a hooker or a sinker at this point. ‘Blurb first,’ avid reader, Leanne, told me, ‘as that’s what got me reading again.’
The purpose of a book blurb is to give the reader a concise account of the storyline and hook them at the same time. ‘A blurb has to be catchy and brief,’ bookworm, Sarah, insisted, “I always turn the book over and read the blurb. It’s the make or break point for me.’
The title of a book can be one word or several, but it must hold intrigue and curiosity. It’s the first thing that a reader sees or hears, so it needs to be punchy. ‘The title may interest me,’ Lorna said, ‘if it’s intriguing I’ll buy it.’ And Jayne’s thoughts were similar. ‘The title grabs my attention first, then I’ll read the blurb.’
Although many readers step outside their comfort zone and read something different occasionally, we all have our preferred genre and generally tend to stick to it. ‘When choosing for my Kindle I usually start off with the genre,’ Maureen said. ‘Crime, thriller, mystery, romance or whatever – then line up a few likely candidates.’
Genre is a good place to start if you’re not sure what to read next. ‘It helps to narrow things down,’ Dani told me. ‘I then tend to look at the author and blurb, and make a decision based on this. But I’m also happy to read a debut novel as well as books by authors I’m not familiar with or whose work I’ve not read before.’ Nice one, Dani. New authors need all the love and support they can get.
The font can also influence a reader’s book choice. ‘If the font is too small, I find that unfriendly,’ book enthusiast, Jane, pointed out, ‘even though I have good eyesight.’ Jane raises a good point. A book with tiny or illegible font can spoil the reader’s experience and can give the impression that the book hasn’t been professionally produced.
But as well as font, there is also the weight and overall size of a book that some readers may consider before buying. ‘Now I am disabled,’ Caroline said, ‘I am also looking at the size and weight of a book!’
Final word from me
My research concludes that book buying is based on a mixture of factors. My book buying strategy goes something like this – first port of call is cover, then of I like the sound of the title, I read the blurb, if I like the sound of the story-line, I read the first paragraph (my POV preference is first-person, present tense, by the way, so that always helps). If the author’s style is engaging, the deal is done. Sold!
If there’s anything you’d like to add, please feel free to leave your comments below. I’d love to hear your feedback.
I’m not going to lie, the idea of audiobooks had never really appealed to me. What was the point? They couldn’t possibly give me the same satisfaction as reading a physical book, holding it in my hands, turning the pages, losing myself in the story. Then one day I received an email, a free thirty-day trial on Audible. I can never resist a freebie, so I gave it a go. The first book I downloaded was a disaster. It bored me. I couldn’t concentrate. I wasn’t enjoying the story. I hated the experience, even though everyone was raving about the novel, even though it was going to be made into a film! Every author’s dream. But I simply couldn’t get into it. I kept drifting off, thinking about other things, then losing the gist of the story when I eventually fell back into the loop. No, I said to my husband, it’s not for me. However, a few days later I decided to give it another try because you can exchange a book and pick another, and low and behold, I loved it!
I can now be found listening to books whilst I’m floating around the house with a fluffy duster, scrubbing the bathroom until it sparkles, or doing the loathsome ironing. It just makes all the household chores …. Okay, steady on, nothing will make housework enjoyable. But listening to books does make time fly.
So, I’m now an audiobook fan. Admittedly, I don’t enjoy them as much as reading but I like them and they do have their place. So, why the initial hatred? It was a combination of several things really. And now that I know my preferences I tend to choose wisely. The narrator is important. If I don’t like the voice, I can’t listen, even if the book is a bestseller, even if I love the author’s work. And, as with reading, the story and the voice of the author has to grab me from the onset, perhaps even more so with audiobooks, because you need to concentrate that little bit more and can easily be distracted.
I listen to audiobooks mostly when I’m doing household chores, or on a long walk. But friends have told me that they listen whilst they’re driving, during their commute, whilst they’re pounding away on the treadmill, knitting, cooking, gardening, or even doing a jigsaw puzzle. There definitely is a place for audiobooks in my life, and the bonus is that I can now have two or three books on the go – a paperback, a kindle and an audiobook. Happy days.
If you fancy having a go, Audible run a 30 day free trial offer and, listen to this (no pun), you get to keep the book you download during the trial period regardless of whether you keep your subscription or not. After 30 days you will have to pay the full price of £7.99 per month. I do enjoy being a member of Audible and they do have good offers at regular intervals, including some great free podcasts. I’ve listened to Derren Brown’s Boot Camp and Real Crime, so far.
Kindle Unlimited is also worth looking into. It offers 1000s of audiobooks as well as ebooks, and they’ve always got free offers going on.
If you don’t fancy a subscription, you can listen to books for free from your library. Ask them for a passcode and download the Libby app. Libraries have many fabulous audiobooks on offer. You get to listen for seven days. If you don’t finish within that time, you can borrow again, providing no one else is waiting for it. If you’re a member of Netgalley, or if you’d like to sign up, they offer reviewers audiobooks too.
You can listen to audiobooks on your phone, iPad, tablet, or computer. I usually listen on my iPhone or hook it up to Alexa. If you decide to give it a try, hope you enjoy!
Nancy Cornish, a waitress in a Cornwall cafe, has a fascinating talent – she can see and talk to dead people and can object-read (delve into people’s past by holding an item that belongs to them.) Charlie, her DS husband, is dismissive of his wife’s psychic abilities. But then one day something extraordinary happens – she helps him solve a crime. Nancy quickly realises her vocation in life is to help people via her gift. So, to Charlie’s surprise and utter dismay, she hands in her notice at the local café and sets up as a PI – psychic investigator, working from her summerhouse in the garden.
This novel delivered on all levels for me. I was looking for something different, something heartwarming yet exciting, and I found it right here. Nancy, the narrator, hauled me in and kept me turning the pages eagerly. I thought the paranormal aspect of the story was beautifully executed. The characters are colourful and believable. The plot is mysterious and suspenseful, and the writing is excellent.
The Cornish Connection is an intriguing and beautifully composed tale, which held my attention from beginning to end. If you’re looking for a heartwarming read and bit of escapism, then this is the book for you. Can’t wait for the next instalment.
Well, I just don’t know what to say to you anymore. You just drop by whenever you feel like it, raise my hopes, then go off to Spain, Greece, or wherever takes your fancy. And don’t get me started on Cyprus. It’s 35c over there today. Thirty-five! I mean, how could you? You spend all summer with them. Every year! I hardly ever see you.
Yes, I have tried self-tanning lotions but they’re all fake. FAKE, I tell you. What? Which incident with the sunbed? I don’t…oh, wait a minute. Ahem. That was ages ago, it meant absolutely nothing. I was desperate, wasn’t thinking straight. Yes, I know they can hurt you, thank you very much. Look, it was just one-off, okay. I didn’t even enjoy it. I mean, you’re always letting me down, aren’t you? Promising to show up then sending all that gust and rain in your place. It’s too much to bear. I’ve had to go into therapy. Me! Can you believe it? They’ve even put me on vitamin D.
Of course, I know you’re worshipped worldwide, but what about poor us in the UK? We’re your biggest fans, you know. In fact, whenever you turn up we take to Twitter and Facebook proclaiming our joy of your arrival. What do you mean I complain when you’re here? I’ve never…oh, hang on. That’s only when you’re a bit full-on. You must admit, you can be a bit over-generous and muggy, can’t you? I mean 38c in London, it’s unthinkable. I could barely type, and you kept me up all night with all that heat. I mean, is a cool breeze at night too much to ask for? No, a fan won’t do, I can’t sleep with all that noise. Open all the windows? You really are being silly now. What if a bat or insects fly in and chew all my toes off while I’m asleep? What then, hmm?
Anyway, I’ve had enough of your excuses and quite enough of your downpours, to be honest. I don’t think I can cope with this anymore. I’m leaving you for a light lamp. No, don’t try to stop me! My mind’s made up. Yes, yes, I’ll see you around. Bye.