Adult Fiction, Fiction, Relationship Stories, Summer Reads

Summer Reading – Mr Doubler Begins Again

Books to be swept away with this summer…

There are SO MANY great books around at the moment and so I’d like to share a few that I think are particularly exciting.  I’m not going to plop them all together in one post but give each the opportunity to shine in it’s own right…

Hold on to your hats… here are my summer 2019 recommendations.

Mr Doubler Begins Again by Seni Glaister

Adult Fiction

 

Here’s the synopsis:

Baked, mashed, boiled or fried, Mr Doubler knows his potatoes. But the same can’t be said for people. Since he lost his wife, he’s been on his own at Mirth Farm – and that suits Doubler just fine. Crowds are for other people; the only company he needs are his potato plants and his housekeeper, Mrs Millwood, who visits every day.

So when Mrs Millwood is taken ill, it ruins everything – and Mr Doubler begins to worry that he might have lost his way. But could the kindness of strangers be enough to bring him down from the hill?

Mr Doubler Begins Again is a nostalgic celebration of food, friendship, kindness, and second chances, perfect for fans of Rachel Joyce and Joanna Cannon.

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This is such a deliciously lovely read and one that is perfect for sinking into during the summer.  I was lucky enough to meet Seni last year at the HQ Summer Showcase and I reviewed the novel her on Tales earlier this year which you can read here.  It’s now published in paperback and if you haven’t yet welcomed Mr Doubler not your life I urge you to do so right now.

Mr Doubler Begins Again will be published in paperback by HQ, an imprint of HarperCollins, on August the 22nd.  It is available now in hardback, audiobook and eBook and  you can find where to buy it here (also your local indie will be able to get hold of it too if they don’t already have a copy.). 

Hardback ISBN: 9780008284985

Paperback ISBN: 9780008285012

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Read it already?  Please feel free to let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

Happy reading and I hope you have a fabulous summer!

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Adult Fiction, Fiction

Mr Doubler Begins Again by Seni Glaister

Potatoes, gin and friendship…

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Do you ever come across a book that you just know you’re going to love? Well last summer I was invited along to the HQ Stories Summer Showcase and I met some wonderful authors that night and discovered some fantastic new books. One of the things I remember most about the evening was how friendly everyone was; the authors, the members of the HQ team, and the other guests. The evening was a great success and each author and novel was beautifully presented. I was introduced to Mr Doubler for the first time and I knew, straight away, that he and I were going to get along.

So it was here on a beautiful summers evening that I had the pleasure of meeting Seni and discovering the rather wonderful Mr Doubler. I was delighted to bring home an early proof copy well ahead of it’s publication date in January. I am a keen gardener and I have even grown my own potatoes down on my allotment, so possibly that may have been what drew me to this particular table but I think it was also a combination of Seni’s warm smile and the beautiful display of proof copies bearing the quote ‘Not every journey takes you far from home…

So what’s the story about…

Synopsis

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Baked, mashed, boiled or fried, Mr Doubler knows his potatoes. But the same can’t be said for people. Since he lost his wife, he’s been on his own at Mirth Farm – and that suits Doubler just fine. Crowds are for other people; the only company he needs are his potato plants and his housekeeper, Mrs Millwood, who visits every day.

So when Mrs Millwood is taken ill, it ruins everything – and Mr Doubler begins to worry that he might have lost his way. But could the kindness of strangers be enough to bring him down from the hill?

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This is a wonderful novel and such a pleasure to read. Oh how I loved Mr Doubler and what a joy it would be to sit with him in his warm, inviting kitchen, enjoying one of his expertly produced G&T’s and a slice of homemade cake.

For quite some time Doubler has plodded along quietly on Mirth Farm, with only his potatoes and his housekeeper, Mrs Millwood, for company. He has been perfectly content with his well-ordered, predictable life. His only concern is his potatoes, his ‘secret’ project and the occasional visit from his ‘well-meaning’ children. Until that is, Mrs Millwood is taken ill and his life is turned upside down.

Although I had been looking forward to reading this novel for quite sometime I actually picked it up after suffering from a dose of flu. I’d felt so ill I couldn’t even read and then as I began to feel better Mr Doubler called to me. He was the perfect tonic and a brilliant escape for those moments when life is just feeling a little too gray and drizzly. He made me feel like spring was on the way.

Now novels about old men finding their way have been done and enjoyed before (A Man Called Ove and of course The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry are examples that come to mind and that I very much enjoyed) but Mr Doubler is very different, wonderful and completely memorable in his own right.

So what is it that I loved about this novel? Well the writing itself is beautifully done. It carries you along, sweeping you away with the story. Seni has the ability, somewhat Harry Potter like, to pull you into the book so you can almost smell the food on Doubler’s table and hear the sounds of the birds as he takes an early morning stroll around his land.

As he stood at these edge-lands, he allowed his brain to settle into nothingness. It was still dark. He stopped and listened. A bird sang from a hazel branch not far from him. The pure sound cut through the dark and distracted Doubler from his quandary.

‘Hello robin!’ Doubler said, under his breath for fear of disturbing the gutsy singer. ‘It’s a bit early for that racket, isn’t it?’

The lone, tentative voice was almost immediately joined by another flute-like refrain from just behind him. The birds sensed the dawn before any trace of the new day had become obvious to Doubler. These birds, the robin and perhaps a black-bird, were soon joined by several others and now, after just a few moments of listening, the chorus was beginning in earnest and it was impossible to separate one song from another. Together, this competing cacophony should have jarred, but instead it united to form a harmonious ensemble that appeared to be led by one unseen conductor.

Full to the brim with endearing (and a few rather unlikeable) characters, Mr Doubler Begins Again is a joy to read; a celebration of an ordinary man who has done the best he can through some rather difficult circumstances. Doubler shows us the importance of the ‘ordinary folk’, the impact they have, and that each and every one will leave an important legacy in the friends and memories they leave behind. At times I found it incredibly poignant and sad, but at others I was whooping in delight for Mr Doubler and the friends who came to his aid. I cheered him on right until the very last page, and I’m still cheering him on now. There is much more than potatoes beneath the surface of this quiet, old recluse who lives on the hill. I was saddened that those who should have known him the best, were the ones who seemed to not understand him at all. This kind, old soul. What an incredible friend he would be.

Yet even an old recluse like Doubler needs a little help from time to time and this small community found its way into my heart and I feel as though I have learnt so much from them. There are times when we feel like we know what is best for others but in reality only they can know what will bring them contentment and happiness. This novel has taught me that things are rarely black and white. There is always more to the situation than you can see. It taught me that the easy option is not always the best. That each of us, no matter how old we are, are valued and that there is no age limit on hopes and dreams.

One of the characteristics I loved most about Doubler was his absolute unwavering opinions and his lack of fear in expressing them. From his idea of a perfect lunch (potatoes), to the precise ingredients and method of making a gin and tonic. His appreciation of perfectly blended tea and the effort and time he gives to laying on tea and cake for his guests. As, with the assistance and encouragement of Mrs Millwood, he slowly returns to the community, he begins to understand how much he can actually contribute to the lives of those around him and just what that gives him in return. Doubler is a man with a big heart and oh, how I would love to try a sip of his gin.

Gin

The making of gin, as I have recently discovered, is quite an art and the mix of botanicals makes each recipe unique. It has of course recently had a resurgence of popularity. In my childhood I recall it as being the choice of drink by the evil Miss Hannigan (played by the rather wonderful Carol Burnett ) in the 1982 movie Annie, as she literally bathed in the stuff. The drink of drunks and down and outs. Then as an adult myself I enjoyed it cold, mixed with tonic and a slice of lemon. About six months ago I treated myself to a gin subscription (absolute decadence I know but I’m worth it) with The Craft Gin company.

My first delivery from Craft Gin included the most delicious Burleigh’s gin, mixers and oh so scrummy chocolate.
My second box had a rather festive ( but good enough to drink any time) bottle of Tarquin’s Cornish Christmas gin.
I love roses… especially in a glass of Naud’s gin!

Every two months I receive a unique craft gin, mixers and edible treats and also a magazine talking about… yes you guessed it, gin. So it was a total delight when I came to read Mr Doubler chatting about gin. It actual makes my mouth water just thinking about the scene in his kitchen when he first shares his homemade produce. It put me in mind of Joanne Harris’ Chocolat and the way she was able to bring the taste and smell of chocolate so expertly alive within the pages of her book. Seni does the very same here with Mr Doubler and gin.

‘I am, however, not going to overwhelm you. I expect you’re all familiar with the G and T, the ice and a slice. And that is what I shall prepare for you because I want you to notice the gin, not the accompaniments. Some gins lend themselves to this classic treatment. But it is very possible to tease out the flavour of a gin by the addition of other flavours. I am not a gin pedant – in fact, I would go as far as to consider myself more liberal than most.’

While Doubler spoke, he cut the lemon into thin slices, allowing the scent of citrus to fill the room.

‘All gin makers use a mix of botanicals to flavour their spirit. We all know and love juniper berries, and this is, of course, the flavour that we associate with the spirit. Indeed, it is essential to qualify as a London dry gin, as I’m sure you all know. But, depending on the distillery, you might find notes of any number of spices, herbs, plants or other flavourings – for example, coriander, angelica, orange peel, lemon peel, cardamom,orris,cinnamon, nutmeg, cassia bark, almond, liquorice or cubeb. When you’re mixing a drink yourself, it is advisable to accentuate the flavour of the botanicals that have been used to craft it, so a gin that has used rose and cucumber to enhance its flavour might well benefit from the addiction of a slice of cucumber or a couple of freshly picked rose petals. If there are no citrus notes at all, you should steer clear of lemon or lime.’

Now Doubler has certainly given me food for thought when it comes to mixing a gin based beverage and I very much look forward to a little experimentation (with a little bit of help fromThe Craft Gin Club.) Now it’s not everyday you come across a recipe for a cocktail within a novel but there is actually a ‘Mirth Farm’ recipe created by The Mixology Group and I’m delighted to be able to share it with you here. It sounds like the perfect summer cocktail to me.

Mirth Farm Garden Cocktail

SERVES 1

INGREDIENTS

50ml good quality gin

5cm piece of cucumber

20ml lemon juice

20ml cucumber syrup

8-10 mint leaves

Soda

Garnish with large mint sprig

and borage flowers

METHOD

Add all but soda to a tall glass

and lightly muddle.

Fill glass with crushed ice and

the add a dash of soda.

There are plenty of recipes for cucumber syrup on the internet so why not make a small batch and give it a try. It sounds perfectly refreshing.

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Whatever your tipple be it gin, wine or a nice cup of tea, I definitely recommend reading this rather wonderful novel and welcoming Mr Doubler into your life…it will be all the better for it.

Mr Doubler Begins Again was published in January 2019 by HQStories.

You can follow Seni on Twitter: @SeniGlaister

You can follow HQStories on Twitter: @HQstories

The Craft Gin club have exclusive offers for new members so do check out there website here.

Thanks again to HQStories for inviting me to the showcase last summer and to Seni for my copy of Mr Doubler (and for signing it too).

Publisher Showcase

HQ Fiction Summer Showcase = A whole lotta fantastic books coming our way.

First of all…

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This was my view for the evening on Thursday June 14th 2018.  The photograph, taken on my phone, certainly doesn’t do it justice but it gives you an idea.  Add to this a constant flow of delicious canapés, Prosecco and a room full of authors all keen to talk about their soon to be published novels and you have a pretty wonderful Thursday evening.

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This was of course the Fiction Summer Showcase for HarperCollins imprint, HQ.  It is a relatively new imprint within the powerhouse that is HarperCollins and this was their first Showcase.  It was wonderful.  Not only did everyone have a name badge (saving many an awkward moment) but the room was full of warm, friendly people who were all there because of one common interest – a love of books.

The whole team was lovely and made you feel instantly welcome and at home.  It really was a wonderful evening and I returned home not only with a lovely big bag FULL of books but with an unbreakable, Cheshire Cat grin on my face.

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HQ – One Place, Many Stories

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HQ really do have a wealth of stories coming over the coming months.  Something for everyone.

As I walked out of London Bridge Railway Station I was momentarily blown away by my surroundings.  This is the first time I had been to this part of London and The Shard looked absolutely stunning reaching up towards the blue, June skies.  It actually made me feel dizzy to look up.

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After entering The News Building I was whisked up in the lift and emerged onto a floor dedicated to the celebration I was attending this evening.  Coats were hung and drinks given.  A super start to the evening.

The authors were scattered around the room, along with their books and a themed table that in some way reflected the tale they were telling.  A majority had finished copies or proofs whilst others gave just a tantalising glimpse into what is coming later this/early next year.

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Author Jenny Oliver with her latest novel ‘The House We Called Home’.

The House We Called Home by Jenny Oliver

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The House where Stella and her sister Amy grew up never changes – the red front door, the breath-taking view over the Cornish coast, her parents in their usual spots on the sofa.  Except this summer, things feel a little different…

Stella’s father is nowhere to be seen, yet her mother – in suspiciously new Per Una jeans –  is curiously unfazed by his absence, and eager to talk about her mysterious dog-wlaking buddy Mitch.

Amy has returned home with a new boyfriend she can’t stand and a secret to hide, and Stella’s husband Jack has something he wants to get off his chest too.  Even Frank Sinatra, the dog, has a guilty air about him.  This summer, change is in the air for the Whitethorns….

Warm, funny and gloriously feel-good, this is the perfect summer read for fans of Lucy Diamond and Milly Johnson.

The House We Called Home is due to be published on the 12th of July 2018.  It looks a perfect summer read.

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The Beauty of the Wolf by Wray Delaney

The Beauty of the Wolf by Wray Delaney

I have to say I was a little star truck upon meeting Wray (the pen name of Sally Gardener – award winning children’s novelist). She has created some wonderful novels/stories for children and so I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to receive a (signed:) proof of her latest novel The Beauty and the Wolf – A timely retelling of Beauty and the Beast, reversing the gender roles of the original fairytale.  The proof itself has a stunning purple and gold foil cover and is certainly eye-catching.
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In the age of the Faerie Queene, Elizabeth I, a period of ruffles and lace, of wrought velvet and blanched satins, two newborn babies are cursed, one with unimaginable beauty and the other, in its mirror image, a beast.  But how could beauty ever be a curse?

Not only will all be blind to Beau’s true self, for all will lust after him but none will have the power to see past such an enchanted face – but the curse shall cause his own father’s death.

Meanwhile the beast, Randa, is locked away in her father’s cellar – lonely and hidden away.  She longs for love, but how could anyone ever see past her wings and beak and fierce talons?

Is it possible that these two cursed creatures could be one another’s salvation when all hope is lost?

The Beauty of the Wolf is due to be published on the 21st of February 2019.

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After the Snow by Susannah Constantine

After the Snow by Susannah Constantine

Susannah Constantine is a well know TV personality and fashion journalist so it was a treat to meet her in the flesh and hear her chatting about her debut novel, After the Snow.  The paperback is due to be published in November but it is available in Hardback if you can’t wait that long.  I’m really looking forward to this one AND I know there is another on it’s way from Susannah so I’m doubly excited.  She was incredibly warm and friendly and it was an absolute pleasure to meet her, Oh and I discovered she doesn’t live too far away from me. 🙂

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All eleven-year-old Esme Munroe wants for Christmas is for her mother to be on one of her ‘good’ days – and, secretly, for a velvet riding hat.  So when she finds an assortment of wet towels and dirty plates in her stocking, she’s just relieved Father Christmas remembered to stop at The Lodge this year.

But later that day Esme’s mother disappears in the heavy snow.  Even more mysteriously, only the Earl of Culcairn seems to know where she might have gone.  Torn between protecting her mother and uncovering the secrets tumbling out of Culcairn Castle’s ornate closets, Esme realises that life will never be the same again after the snow…

Susannah Constantine provides a rare glimpse into the secret lives of the scandalous upper classes.  Perfect for fans of ‘Downton Abbey’ and ‘The Crown’.

Now, before I move on I just have to share this from the back cover of the book.

And there was Princess Margaret,

soaking in the bath.

A cigarette dangled in one hand and she clutched her

whisky in the other, her face fully made-up, the rest of

her body hidden beneath the surface.

 

The soft humming of a popular tune could just be

heard floating up out of a side-window.

 

‘Lexi and Esme,’ called a velvety voice from below,

‘I know you’re up there.  I can see the reflection of your

grubby faces in the mirror.’

 

The Princess took a sip from her crystal tumbler 

and stubbed her cigarette out in the soup dish…

After the Snow will be published in paperback on 15th November 2018 but is out now in  hardback

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Mr Doubler Begins Again by Seni Glaister

Mr Doubler Begins Again by Seni Glaister

Now thesis one title that I was keen to see/hear more of and the table display made me even more intrigued.  I absolutely love the sound of this novel.  The synopsis made me think of A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman and the Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick.  I don’t mean to compare but it gave me the same warm, lovely feeling.  Seni was so lovely to chat to and I really can’t wait to get reading.

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Seni Glaister, author of ‘Mr Doubler Begins Again’

Mr Doubler lives alone at Mirth Farm, on top of a hill.

Back when she was around, Doubler’s wife was always surrounded by friends.  But Doubler is different.  The only company he needs are his potato plants and his housekeeper, Mrs Millwood, who visits every day.

So when Mrs Millwood is taken ill, it suits everything – and Doubler begins to worry that he might have lost his way.  But could the kindness of strangers be enough to bring him down from the hill?

 

 

Mr Doubler Begins Again will be published on the 24th January 2019 (but I have a feeling this will definitely be worth the wait.)

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I Invited Her In by Adele Parks

I Invited Her In by Adele Parks

We are going to have to wait until the 20th of September for I Invited Her In but the good news is that Adele has a wonderful backlist of titles to read first if you haven’t discovered her yet.  I’m really excited about this one.  It sounds like a super thriller and one that will have me on the edge of my seat.  Adele was an absolute pleasure to meet.

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When Mel hears from a long-lost friend in need of help, she doesn’t hesitate to invite her to stay.  Mel and Abi were best friends back in the day, sharing the highs and lows of student life, until Mel’s unplanned pregnancy made her drop out of her studies.

Now, seventeen years later, Mel and Abi’s lives couldn’t be more different.  Mel is happily married, having raised her son on her own before meeting her husband, Ben.  Now they share gorgeous girls and have a chaotic but happy family home, with three children.

Abi, meanwhile, followed her lover to LA for a glamorous life of parties, celebrity and indulgence.  Everything was perfect, until she discovered her partner had been cheating on her.  Seventeen years wasted, and nothing to show for it.  So what Abi needs now is a true friend to lean on, to share her grief over a glass of wine, and to have some time to heal.  And what better place than Mel’s house, with her lovely kids, and supportive husband…

This dark, unsettling tale of the reunion of long-lost friends is a thoroughly gripping exploration of wanting what you can’t have, jealousy and revenge.

I Invited Her In by Adele Parks will be published on the 20th of September 2018.

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Liz Fenwick, author of The Path To The Sea

The Path To The Sea by Liz Fenwick

Oh my, it was such a pleasure to meet and chat with Liz.  We talked about Cornwall and the joys of research and glorious houses full of stories waiting to be told.  And she had the most delicious fudge too. We still have to wait a while for this one as it’s not published until April 2019 but it is definitely one for my reading pile.

The Trewin women all had their secrets but Joan, the matriarch, is keeping hers until her deathbed.

On a summer’s night in 1965, at a party in her glorious cliff-top home in Cornwall, she made a choice…her country or love.  The morning after, a body was found at the foot of the cliff path.

But a little girl saw what happened that night.  Not only did she witness the awful events played out on the cliff path, she lied and made it worse.  And now, decades later, the past is catching up with the Trewin women, as a deathbed confession puts Nicola on the trail of a mystery which has remained undisturbed for fifty year, offering a chance to unpick the past…

No cover for this one as of yet I’m afraid as it’s THAT new.

The Path To The Sea by Liz Fenwick

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The Plus One by Sophia Money-Coutts

The Plus One by Sophia Money-Coutts

IMG_20180614_182711__01.jpgThis looks great fun, light and pure escapism.  Perfect for a summer read.  I can imagine myself relaxing on a warm, summers day and escaping into this one.

Sophie was incredibly warm and friendly.  I think she had fun with this and is looking to make her readers smile.  When she signed my copy she said ‘I so hope this makes you laugh!’ and oh my goodness do we need books that do that these days. :). Can’t wait!

The Plus One [n] informal ‘a person who accompanies an invited person to a social function or a reminder of being single, alone and absolutely plus none.’

Polly Spencer is fine.  She’s single, turning thirty and only managed to have sex twice last year (both times with a Swedish banker called Fred).  but seriously, she’s fine. Even if she’s still stuck at ‘Posh!’ magazine writing about royal babies and the chances of finding a plus one to her best friend’s summer wedding are looking worryingly slim.

But it’s a New Year, a new leaf and all that.  Polly’s determined that over the next 365 days she’ll remember to shave her legs, drink less wine and generally get her s**t together.  Her latest piece is on the infamous Jasper, Marquess of Milton, undoubtedly neither a plus one nor ‘the one’.  She’s heard the stories, there’s no way she’ll succumb to his charms…

The Plus One by Sophia Money-Coutts will be published  on the 9th of August 2018.

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How to Keep a Secret by Sarah Morgan

How to Keep a Secret by Sarah Morgan

This one was just published on the 14th of June.  The table was wonderfully decorated with a miniature beach scene – a perfect holiday read and with more to come from Sarah later this year with The Christmas Sisters in November and One Summer in Paris in April 2019.  Lots to look forward to from Sarah.

Screen Shot 2018-06-23 at 21.09.46Matriarch Nancy knows she hasn’t been the best mother but how can she ever tell her daughters the reason why? Lauren and Jenna are as close as two sisters can be and they made a pact years ago to keep a devastating secret from their mother – but is it time to come clean?

Lauren’s teenage daughter Mackenzie masks her own pain by keeping her mother at a distance.  Her mother, aunt and grandmother keep trying to reach her but will it take a stranger to show her the true meaning of family?

When life changes in an instant, the Stewart women are thrown together for a simmer and suddenly they must relearn how to be a family.  And while unravelling their secrets might be their biggest challenge, it could also be their finest moment.

A story about family, being brave and opening up to new love, ‘How to Keep a Secret’ is a feel-good  and emotional novel that will keep you hooked until the final page.

How to Keep a Secret by Sarah Morgan was published on the 14th of June 2018.

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This was the first Showcase from the HQ team and it was a wonderful evening.  The setting and location was perfect and the team warm and welcoming.  It can be quite daunting walking into a room full of people but I never felt out of place and always felt welcome.  I had met some wonderful people on this sunny evening in London and I came home with a bag full of books.  It has created one problem though – I really don’t know what to read first.  What I can say is that I’m looking forward  to reading each and every one.  I look forward to sharing my thoughts on them with you too.

That you HQ for inviting me to your Summer Showcase.  I had a fabulous time.