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Tea and Talk at Sally Lunn’s with Book Reviewer JB Johnson

Sally Lunns Tea HousemailWelcome Jonty to Tea and Talk, lovely to see you here and to greet another great reviewer.

Right now we’re settled and waiting for refreshments to arrive my first question as always is to ask a bit about you.  Where  you live, your family, your work…oh and also any pets?

Hi! Thank you so much for inviting me! I’m thrilled to be here. So, you want to know a bit about me? Well, I’m very dull lol. I live in sunny Northern Ireland in a seaside town called Bangor (yes I know there’s one in Wales).  I’ve lived here all my life.  My husband is desperately keen for us to move away and for me to broaden my horizons! I’ve told him I’ll only go if we move to New Zealand!

I am very happily married for the second time and we will have been married for 6 years in August. I have two children – a son aged 20 and a daughter aged 15 who are affectionately known as Afro Boy and the Fashion Diva. My daughter has special needs so she keeps me pretty busy. I also have a step daughter aged 18 and a step son who is 12. Life can get a little crazy at times when we are all together.  And, last but not least we have a crazy dog called Floyd who provides hours of entertainment with his antics.

Work-wise, I am a social worker and have just recently left my job in child protection to move onto a new area of social work – inspecting nursery schools, playgroups and child-minders. It’s a far cry from the nitty-gritty field of taking kids into care but after 5 years of some pretty intensive work I found the hours and stress were just a bit too difficult with a family at home, especially as my daughter’s needs are changing as she is getting older. I am hoping to return to more therapeutic social work in the future, but for now I will content myself with a much better work / life balance and a huge reduction in stress. I’m also hoping to go back to University part-time and study something like family therapy.

What drew you to reviewing books and how long have you been doing this?

I began to review books in 2011 I think it was.  I won a copy of Kathryn Brown’s book Discovery at Rosehill through a competition at and wrote a review for the site. Since then, in addiction to blogging I have continued to write reviews for not only but also for and I have contributed to two anthologies with Plumtree Books also. I have always adored books and part of me holds a secret dream to write something half decent myself someday.  Last year I realised that requests for book reviews were getting to the point where my personal blog could not accommodate them. That blog very much was a place for me to discuss family life and educate about special needs and I didn’t want that getting lost amongst the book reviews. So, Brook Cottage Books was born and launched in December 2012 and now I run two blogs!

Are there any favourite genres or do you have a pretty broad taste in books?

Before I began reviewing books I used to be pretty stuck in my ways with regards genres. I never took a chance and tried new genres or even indie authors. I would have only read books by well-known authors and pretty much stuck to the Classics, horrors and thrillers. Now, I will pretty much read anything and I am amazed by what I find enjoyable now. I’d encourage anyone to try a new genre or read a book written by an indie author. I have discovered some wonderfully talented authors.

Have you any favourite books and why?

Oh that is a difficult question as there are so many books I adore. Some of my favourites would have to be a couple of the classics – Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice. I also adore Rebecca. As for modern writing I’m not sure I could answer that question because every time I try to think of a favourite book I end up with a huge list, but books such as The Passage series, Me Before You and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society would be among my favourites. One of my favourite books that I discovered through reviewing has got to be Somebody to Love by Sheryl Browne. I love Sheryl’s writing and we have become online friends through my love of her books. I’m looking forward to meeting her at the Festival of Romance in November.

You started a website, Brook Cottage Books, can you tell us something about that?

As I’ve previously said, Brook Cottage Books was started to meet the demand for reviews that I was receiving. I didn’t want the message of my personal blog to get lost amongst all the booky stuff. Brook Cottage Books attempts to be a source of information for those who adore books as much as I do. You can find author interviews, book reviews, book news, cover reveals and a whole host of other posts related to books. I regularly take part in blog tours to promote books and authors and as a result I’ve managed to get myself a little bit of paid work now doing a little bit of proofreading and final read-throughs. I’ve also recently edited a book (under my real name) Little White Lies and Butterflies by Suzie Tullett. It’s a fab read! Safkhet Publishing has been kind enough to take me on as an intern and let me gain more experience. I hope one day to make a bit of a living through the blog.

What is a ‘normal’ day for you?

Oh my goodness, there is no such thing as a normal day for me but I’ll attempt to describe my schedule. I usually wake anytime between 4.30am and 6am and sort some blog posts before getting my daughter ready for school. Once she goes to school I normally send a couple of emails, check the blog diary, clean the kitchen and then head to work. Throughout the day in work I try to check in with what’s happening on the blog, Facebook and Twitter and answer some more emails during any break I get in work. After work its household chores, attending to my daughter, walking the dog, going to the gym, reading, writing some more blog posts and answering emails. In between all that I do managed to squeeze in some time with my husband and son and my step children if they are staying with us. By that time its bedtime and I usually read in bed until about midnight. If I am lucky, my daughter will sleep for a few hours and I get some rest then. Sometimes however she is up most of the night so I read some more! No point in wasting good reading time!

Have you one great indulgence or passion?

One of my greatest passions in life is of course books. I love to be surrounded by them. I love the feel and smell of them and I am addicted to buying them! I am a total author groupie and nothing makes me happier than receiving books signed by the author. Books are actually taking over my life and it makes me so happy. I adore having the house to myself and lying on the sofa reading. I love it when the house is nice and quiet as this doesn’t happen very often. A nice glass of wine also helps me relax.

If you had three wishes to do anything you wanted what would they be?

1.       Be instrumental in educating the world about special needs and actually make a difference.

2.       Give up social work and have a career in the book world.

3.       Write a good book.

If you could invite four guests to dinner who would they be and why would you choose them?

Oh that’s another difficult question but I’ll give it a go!

1.       Temple Grandin – a major voice in the autism world and a lady of extreme courage.

2.       Stephen King –  I adore his books

3.       Daphne Du Maurier

4.       Alfred Hitchcock – you’ve gotta love his movies. Plus, he would get on so well with Daphne!

Thanks Jonty for a brilliant and very interesting interview, I know so much more about you now!  I also love Daphne Du Maurier – I’ve read all her novels and Frenchman’s Creek is my favourite.

If you are interested in learning more about Jonty simply click on any of her social network links below.