Janet Gordon, who lives in Takeley, reviews bestsellers and early fiction for India…

Happy New Year everyone and I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. I know it has been extremely difficult for so many people, having to self-isolate and spend Christmas and Boxing Day alone.

My husband and I had pantomime tickets with my son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren at Hackney Empire, but that was cancelled, as was a night out with friends, so Christmas Day was very quiet. It was just my husband and I, along with a recently widowed friend and, of course, the cuddly Rollo Dog and his sister Amber Cat.

We feasted and sat down to gobble the turkey and enjoy Daniel Craig’s latest outing as James Bond in No Time To Die. I’m a movie phobic – I can’t sit still and I certainly can’t stand the noise of people munching and sipping – so waiting for the movie to come to Sky was torture! But oh the wait was worth it. What a wonderful film (tears and sniffles).

And so, with all the cooking, gift-wrapping, and a last-minute trip to buy another squeaky toy for Rollo after discovering his present under the tree, unwrapping it, and carrying it upstairs to show me, it was hard to find the time to read.

However, if you’re looking for some great reads to buy with your cash or Christmas vouchers, then here you go…

The Maid by Nita Prose (Harper Collins £14.99 – out Jan 22)

There’s a real buzz in the publishing world about this debut novel and it’s worth all the hype.

How many of us notice the maid cleaning our hotel room? Not many of us – in fact, we only notice when the maid doesn’t show up and clean.

Molly the Maid is all alone in the world after the death of her grandmother, whose morals, idiosyncratics and sayings Molly implicitly follows.

The Maid by Nita Prose (Harper Collins £14.99 – out 22nd Jan) (54244603)

Molly prides herself on leaving her assigned rooms absolutely pristine. No matter how messy, destructive, and frighteningly dirty the guests leave their rooms, Molly, the Regency Grand Hotel’s maid, will make it spotless. It is absolutely his reason for being in life. And so she knows so much about you.

But one day, Molly discovers Mr. Black, the hotel’s most infamous and wealthy guest, very, very dead in his bed. Murdered?

It’s a big mess that Molly just can’t get rid of. Molly, she thinks, has friends on the staff, and in trying to make things better and find out exactly what happened, she finds herself embroiled in dirty secrets behind the scenes.

Molly is an innocent in the world, just trying to do her best, follow her grandmother’s words and keep her at home. The Maid is a wonderfully different type of read that you will love.

And beware, the film rights have been won by Florence Pugh.

All About Me by Mel Brooks (Century £16.99)

Mel Brooks’ autobiography came out in November and surely no one made fun of any of his wonderful comedies such as Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and Silent Movie, to name just three.

Did you know he actually produced The Elephant Man? And of course, he conquered Broadway with The Producers (aka Springtime for Hitler). Who could ever forget the campfire scene from Blazing Saddles, or the singing monster Puttin’ On the Ritz in Young Frankenstein.

All About Me by Mel Brooks (Century £16.99) (54244610)
All About Me by Mel Brooks (Century £16.99) (54244610)

This is the story of Melvin Kaminsky, raised with his brothers in Brooklyn, New York. It’s a fascinating read, bringing along Gene Wilder, Anne Bancroft (Mel’s wife until his death in 2005) and so many other Hollywood stalwarts. It is a unique complete.

Blue Running by Lori Ann Stephens (Moonflower Books £16.99)

Blue Running was released in December and is totally different from most books I’ve read.

It’s set in Texas where everyone but everyone carries a gun, even young Blue (aka Bluebonnet Andrews), who grows up in the town of Blessing as a young orphan mother with an alcoholic father, the town’s deputy sheriff.

Blue Running by Lori Ann Stephens (Moonflower Books £16.99) (54244625)
Blue Running by Lori Ann Stephens (Moonflower Books £16.99) (54244625)

Without friends until she met Maggie. Innocent until she is accused of murdering her best friend, although it was an accident. Blue takes off, alone until she meets Jet, a 16-year-old pregnant runaway.

Lori Ann Stephens pulls out all the stops and it’s an uncompromising look at how America works today.

Confessions of a Forty-Something F##k Up by Alexandra Potter (Pan £8.99)

Nell feels like a failure and wonders how she got through her forties without life going exactly the way she wanted. Cue looking longingly at perfect Insta shots wondering how
Carry on.

Confessions of a Forty-Something F##k Up by Alexandra Potter (Pan £8.99) (54244621)
Confessions of a Forty-Something F##k Up by Alexandra Potter (Pan £8.99) (54244621)

Then she meets Cricket, an 80-year-old widow who is quite certain that life is for living and that you should do whatever you want, no matter what.

And so Nell’s podcast in which she confesses her failures begins to take off.

Breaking Point by Edel Coffey (Sphere £14.99 – out 20th Jan)

Susannah is the most successful pediatrician imaginable. Coupled with this busy job, she has two daughters, one of whom is just a baby. Her husband is also successful, but he is in need. Susannah is dressed for success.

Everything Susannah does is timed to the nth degree, so when her husband asks her to drop him off at his office, instead of baby Louise being strapped into her car seat in the front of the car, she’s placed in the back . And then her husband changes his office destination.

Breaking Point by Edel Coffey (Sphere £14.99 - out 20th Jan) (54244623)
Breaking Point by Edel Coffey (Sphere £14.99 – out 20th Jan) (54244623)

Susannah is now running late and has received a call from her secretary telling her that her morning list is overloaded and she needs to start as soon as possible.

Suzanne is stressed. The weather is hot and getting hotter and hotter. Burning even. And she arrives at the hospital parking lot and runs inside.

It is such a moving read with tragic and devastating consequences. I couldn’t put it down.