Keep Moving by Dick Van Dyke*
To say I was excited about reading this is an understatement. My sister and I watched Mary Poppins so many times when we were little that the tape in the video snapped and I watched Diagnosis Murder almost every morning when I worked in cinemas. In his ninetieth year, Dick Van Dyke wrote this book about how to grow old and still be dancing. And his advice includes eating a lot of ice cream. I loved this. It's so rare to see old age presented as something to be relished rather than endured. This was often funny, often touching, at times thought provoking; all of the essays come across as entirely genuine and Dick Van Dyke as someone I sorely want to sit down and have a very lengthy dinner with.
The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey
Gemma has been orphaned twice over - once when her parents died, once when her uncle did - and is now setting out into the world to find an education and a family history without a support network or a penny to her name. As Gemma winds through Scotland, I loved reading about the many familiar places she visits; I was also keen to find out more about her Icelandic roots and was intrigued by hints at spirits and magic wishes. The story itself was a bit slow for my liking and Gemma a little flat but apparently this is a reworking of Jane Eyre, which I have never read (I know!), so I guess the author faced certain limitations.
Making it Home by Emily T. Wierenga*
It wasn't until I picked this up to read it that I realised it was a Christian book; I did momentarily consider giving it a miss (not because I'm an atheist but because "inspirational" quotes make me roll my eyes - and, sure enough, there were a lot of those). However, as much as I don't share Emily's beliefs, she does write beautifully. She somehow manages to make her life sound idyllic whilst simultaneously being very open about her struggles with anorexia, miscarriage and a general, ongoing sense of not being enough.
The Year of Taking Chances by Lucy Diamond
Caitlin is grieving for her mother, Saffron is disenchanted with her job and Gemma is a stay at home mum who is feeling bored now her kids are both at school. When the new year deals them all unexpected blows, they rally one another and take some big chances. This is a book which you just know is going to have happy endings all round, but it's smart and full of rounded characters and I enjoyed finding out what the twists and turns were going to be.
*Provided by publisher or agent for review.