Where Ideas Grow

A blog for students of creative writing at York St John University

What the Editors Read in April

This has, unfortunately, felt like the coldest April in a very long time. Bundled under blankets, the Where Ideas Grow team have worked hard to edit, publish, and promote your wonderful writing this month. Thank you for warming our hearts and minds in the process.

Luckily, this cold weather served as a perfect excuse to stay inside, wrap up warm, and read. As the weather begins to slowly pick up, we (alongside lots) will begin migrating outside, enjoying our stories outside cafés , in lovely Spring-smelling parks, and by the iconic River Ouse. Want to do the same, but don’t know what to read? Allow us to give you some recommendations!


‘The Switch’ by Beth O’Leary

Genre/category: Contemporary fiction  

Page count (including epilogue + acknowledgments): 336 pages 

Synopsis: ‘When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.

Once Leena learns of Eileen’s romantic predicament, she proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love. Meanwhile Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire. But with gossiping neighbours and difficult family dynamics to navigate up north, and trendy London flatmates and online dating to contend with in the city, stepping into one another’s shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected.’ – Waterstones 

Personal rating of content: 4/5


  • This novel is so incredibly heartwarming. It tugs on the heartstrings and leaves you with a warm, fuzzy feeling. This novel made me miss my nan very much, and was potentially the cosiest book I’ve read so far this year.
  • I love Beth O’Leary as an author, and I adored her novel ‘The Flatshare’ in a similar way. O’Leary has a wonderful knack for storytelling, and ‘The Switch’ reflects this in full. Her characters are charismatic and full of life, befriend-able and easy to empathise with. She also has a strong grip on ‘character’ as a literary concept. Her two protagonists – Leena and Eileen – are both decades apart in age, with Leena being in her late-twenties and Eileen being in her late-seventies. Yet, she was still able to enter into the mind of both characters, bringing them to life on the page.
  • A central theme within the novel is grief. It is made clear from almost the very start of the novel that ‘Carla’ – Leena’s sister and Eileen’s granddaughter – has passed away. The grieving aspect of this novel was written with tact, care, and complexity.
  • As is common with O’Leary, the dialogue in ‘The Switch’ is realistic, which helps the reader to imagine the characters, their voices, and the settings that surround them.


  • This novel, to some, can be slow in parts. It’s entertaining, and comforting, but nothing of dire consequence happens. There is a ‘high’ in the novel, towards the end, but it is resolved very quickly. The stakes in ‘The Flatshare’ were not particularly high, but I would probably say they were higher than in this novel.
  • I personally feel that, while Eileen’s romantic relationship at the end of the novel was built up throughout the majority of the story, its final execution felt rushed. I couldn’t understand it from Eileen’s perspective.
  • The plot is predictable. The one “plot-twist” in the novel can be seen from a mile away. (I won’t spoil!)
  • Perhaps this is silly, but I was kind of disappointed they didn’t switch bodies, haha. 

Personal rating of cover: 5/5

Similarly to ‘The Flatshare’, I LOVE the cover. Simplistic, but very pretty. 

Favourite quote: ‘You were healing. You’re still healing. You’ll maybe always be healing. And that’s OK. It’ll just be part of what makes you you.’

Would I recommend?:

YES! If you fancy a feel-good, comforting book, this is it! However, be aware that this book covers certain topics such as infidelity, manipulation, cancer, and grief. 


“Daisy Jones and The Six” by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre/category: Documentary-style historical fiction

Page count (including epilogue and acknowledgments): 368

Synopsis: Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ’n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend. (Goodreads)

Personal rating of content: 4.5/5


This is a very fast-paced book that uses a unique form of storytelling, as it is structured in the way of an interview/documentary. The whole book is told in dialogues and from the perspectives of plenty of characters. However, it is done well because it is never a problem to differentiate who is talking.

The author’s writing style and character creation are two of her strongest qualities. She makes it feel as if she is writing non-fiction about a real band, and it almost came true with the TV show developed by Prime Video, putting her words into the screen and even recording a lot of the songs. The characters are so well-thought, vivid, and developed, that the reader can appreciate them as real people and it feels like we can get to know each one personally.

I learned a lot about the music industry in the seventies, and I found it so interesting in comparison to how things work now. Taylor Jenkins Reid does a phenomenal job at researching.


There were just a few scenes that felt repetitive and where there was a bit of confusion with who was talking or who did something. But other than that, I didn’t find any more cons.

Personal rating of the cover: 6/10

I don’t adore the cover but it does match the vibe of the story.

Favourite quote: This book has a lot of powerful quotes. I would say one of my favourites is: “We love broken, beautiful people. And it doesn’t get much more obviously broken and more classically beautiful than Daisy Jones.”

Would I recommend?: Yes! It’s an amazing read that I think could be enjoyed by many.


‘The Hair Carpet Weavers’ by Andreas Eschbach

Pages: 314

In a distant universe, since the beginning of time, workers have spent their lives weaving
intricate carpets from the hair of women and girls. But why? Eschbach’s mysterious,
poignant space opera explores the absurdity of work and of life itself. (Blurb, Penguin
edition, 2020)

Rating: 4/5
Eschbach’s work of science fiction is thought-provoking and extremely well-written. Feeding
the information to the reader like breadcrumbs, each chapter we are introduced to a new
character and where they lie on the hierarchy of carpet makers. His writing is fluid and
accessible, yet also thoughtful and touching.
As the novel climaxes, you begin to piece together why the workers are making the carpets,
until the final reveal at the end. It is a work of absurdism and makes you question your own
goals and working life, your relationships and place on the Earth. It is my favourite type of
sci-fi: one that deals with life’s biggest questions in a strange and eerie matter that leaves
you feeling troubled afterward. The plot reminded me subtlety of the lamplighter character in
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince (one of my favourite novels), and the message
portrayed in Eschach’s work echoes too, but in a more nihilistic and sinister way.

Though the formation of each chapter focusing on a different character entirely made for an
interesting reading experience, I sometimes found it difficult to keep track of the many names
and positions of the characters. Additionally, it was saddening that some characters I enjoyed
reading about never made a second appearance throughout the entirety of the novel. Some of
Eschbach’s female characters do not have much attributed to them other than having large
breasts and blonde hair.

Favourite Quote:
“I don’t know the people in the city anymore, he thought. He had already reached the point in a
carpet maker’s life when he no longer left the house. Among all the feelings coursing through him
at that moment was a powerful disillusionment: the boundless disillusionment of a man who has
taken on a great and arduous enterprise and has failed shortly before reaching his goal.”

Personal rating of cover: 4/5

I love the collaborating design covers of Penguin’s new science fiction range, with their
simplistic line drawings and retro feel.

Would I recommend?
Yes. Eschbach’s work is accessible science fiction that can be interpreted and discussed in many
ways, and can certainly make for interesting perspectives on the point of life, work, hierarchy,
religion, and government.


‘A Walk From the Wild Edge’ by Jake Tyler 

Genre: Creative Non-Fiction

Page count: 322

Synopsis: After coming terrifyingly close to suicide, Jake Tyler was determined to take back control of his life from the clutches of depression With only a pair of walking boots and a backpack, he left his home town of Maldon and began a 3000-mile walk around the British mainland. In documenting every step of his adventure, Jake shares the ways in which his road to recovery was enhanced by the kindness of strangers, who helped him to better understand himself and the power of human connection. The story unpacks finding piece within oneself by embracing your surroundings. 

Personal content rating: 3/5 


it a thoughtful exploration into mental health and mental illness, it highlights the struggles of the human experience and the battle of a man that is needed of a change of environment and perspective. 

It pulls no punches as it documents Tyler’s scraps and misadventures while on his travels. There are points that are humorous and poignant and really emphasise that the journey to improving mental health isn’t linear, there are relapses and misters throughout but you have the choice to keep going 

It brings to light how important nature is to us as humans, not only does it need to be preserved it needs to be cherished because it can add so much to our outlook and mood in life. As someone that loves the outdoors and the natural world it struck a chord with me in how important it is in my own life 


While the book is about the 3000 mile walk the Tyler is on, there is actually very little detail about the actual scenery throughout and more talks about his state at each point rather than what he’s actually observing. He has a tendency to skip any description  about the walks he is on, which as a reader who loves reading powerful description felt like a missed opportunity for me personally 

It does feel a little bit self absorbed to me, Tyler seems unaware of his privilege at being able to set out and achieve his quest. While I admire his courage and tenacity it feels a little hollow in places and doesn’t get across a real love of outdoor places which I was hoping for. 

It did feel a little long, by the end I did find myself wondering if parts could have been cut or the format could have been shifted to a short memoir or essay rather than a full length book

Cover rating: 3/5 

While I love the mapped background and the obvious links to the walk that the author embarked on. I did wonder if it was a non fiction book that was maps or something similar rather than a creative memoir. 

Favourite quote:

I have to say the epilogue blew me away and may be my favourite I’ve ever read. Specifically, 

‘My thoughts drifted back to that morning when I’d forgotten it was possible to feel so alive’ 

Would I recommend? 

I would recommend because it sends such an important message around mental health and male mental health. However I wouldn’t necessarily recommend if you want to read a memoir that is heavy in description of nature. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t without its flaws in my opinion.


‘Sealed’ by Naomi Booth

Genre/ category: Dystopian, eco-horror, feminist, speculative fiction

Page count (including epilogue and acknowledgments): 184

Synopsis: Timely and suspenseful, Sealed is a gripping modern fable on motherhood, a terrifying portrait of ordinary people under threat from their own bodies and from the world around them. With elements of speculative fiction and the macabre, this is also an unforgettable story about a mother’s fight to survive.

Heavily pregnant Alice and her partner Pete are done with the city. Above all, Alice is haunted by the rumours of the skin sealing epidemic starting to infect the urban population. Surely their new remote mountain house will offer safety, a place to forget the nightmares and start their little family. But the mountains and their people hold a different kind of danger.With their relationship under intolerable pressure, violence erupts and Alice is faced with the unthinkable as she fights to protect her unborn child. (Dead Ink Books website)

Personal rating of the content: 3.5/5


  • Sealed captivated me from the very first page, hooking me in with the opening line of “We came out here to begin again.” 
  • I loved the commentary on motherhood and the sheer power of the female body- particularly during pregnancy and childbirth. The body was described in an unflinchingly honest and macabre way that I’ve never seen before. 
  • A gory, body horror-filled backdrop is the ideal backdrop for this exploration of motherhood and the anxieties of pregnancy.
  • This dystopian/ post-apocalyptic story felt a LOT closer to reality than many others I’ve read, which intrigued me as much as it did scare me. The environmental disasters which occurred in the book reflect ones which are currently happening in our own world, leaving us to question ecological/ environmental factors in our own lives. 
  • The final act of the book was fantastic- it was an explosion of action and I couldn’t put it down. The plot had gradually been building towards this point so it was great to see it unfold, and the author narrates this section in an exhilarating and exciting fashion. 
  • I’m also a huge fan of an unreliable narrator and Alice fits this perfectly- everyone around her believes her to be a paranoid hypochondriac, labelling her as the typical ‘hysterical woman’ (surprise, surprise), making it even more haunting when she may be the only one speaking truth after all… 


  • I think due to the short length of the book, the side characters often felt slightly one-dimensional, particularly the protagonist’s partner, Pete. I would have liked the author to explore their relationship further as for me, this was one of the most interesting aspects of the story. 
  • Similar to the point above, I found the ecological and apocalyptic themes SUPER fascinating and would have loved it if there was more time spent explaining these. 
  • Personally, I am someone who likes all of my questions answered by the end of a story, yet this one finished on a cliffhanger of some sorts, with the reader wondering what happens next. I appreciate the dramatic impact of this, but was invested in knowing what happened to the characters next.
  • Overall- I just wish the book was longer!! 

Personal rating of the cover: 4/5 (cover with the yellow background). Dead Ink always has fantastic cover design with bold colours and strong typography, and Sealed is no different.

Favourite quote?

‘Maybe Pete’s right and all of this anxiety is just the hormones. Maybe I see danger everywhere because of an instinct to protect. Pete makes it sound as though it’s a positive thing, as though all of my apocalyptic imaginings are a healthy maternal response that’s just got a bit out of hand’. (p.72). 

Would I recommend it? 

Definitely- this is a gripping dystopian thriller which is different to anything I’ve ever read before!

Where Ideas Grow Editorial Team

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