Book Review: Those People by Louise Candlish

Those People

Last year I read the fabulous Our House by Louise Candlish which I loved – and so did loads of other people and it’s subsequently won awards!  So when I was emailed by the publisher a few weeks ago to see if I’d like an advanced review copy on Netgalley, I jumped at the chance!

Here’s the blurb:

“You don’t like them. They’re not like you. Are you one of Those People?
Until Darren and Jodie move in, Lowland Way is a suburban paradise. Beautiful homes. Friendly neighbours. Kids playing out in the street. But Darren and Jodie don’t follow the rules and soon disputes over loud music and parking rights escalate to threats of violence.
Then, early one Sunday, a horrific crime shocks the street. As the police go house-to-house, the residents close ranks and everyone’s story is the same: They did it.
But there’s a problem. The police don’t agree. And the door they’re knocking on next is yours. “

The story is set on a suburban London street – it is so terribly middle class – with ‘play out Sunday’ organised by some of the parents, and some typical alpha female mothers.  I have to say it reminded me quite a lot of our village (mentioning no names).  When we moved into our house almost 14 years ago there had been upset about them being built, and we were known as one of ‘those people’ in one of ‘those houses’ for quite a while!!

Back to the book!

Some new neighbours move in – who the existing residents immediately look down their nose at – and there are issues with parking and noise and dog poo (honestly, it could be our village Facebook page…….)

But then disaster strikes (no spoilers here, although it wasn’t what I expected) and the road becomes infamous.

Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different resident of the street – and it’s interesting to see how their stories all interlink – and the relationships, publicly and behind closed doors, being revealed.

I have to say that I didn’t really take to any of the characters – but that didn’t detract from the book at all – I was really keen to find out what was going on and read through it quickly to keep the pace.

The twists and turns are great – and you’re never quite sure who you should be siding with.

I also liked the use of modern communication methods – the residents Whatsapp group (all our neighbours in ‘those houses’ have iphones, so we have an imessage group!) and the Facebook pages for the various local community groups. It just felt very true to life in 2019.

Whilst there wasn’t a final shocking sentence, as there most definitely was in Our House, the last chapter does leave you wondering what would happen next!!

I would definitely recommend this when it comes out in June.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Book Review: How It Ends by Saskia Sarginson

How It Ends

*Showing off* I was emailed by the publisher to see if I’d like to have an advanced review copy of this book, as they noticed I’d read similar on Netgalley before.  Clearly this made me feel like some sort of social media book influencer – like I should be taking arty photos of the new book with a fancy filter, and perhaps an avocado in shot – so of course I said yes.  I’ve never knowingly turned down a free book – which in some instances I probably should have – so I did at least check the blurb before I said yes this time (I’ve learned from having to read a dire book last year to ensure my Netgalley stats didn’t suffer!)

Here is the blurb:

“1957: Within a year of arriving at an American airbase in Suffolk, the loving, law-abiding Delaney family is destroyed. Did they know something they weren’t allowed to know? Did they find something they weren’t supposed to find? Only one girl has the courage to question what really went on behind closed doors . . .

Hedy’s journey to the truth leads her to read a manuscript that her talented twin brother had started months before he died, a story inspired by an experience in the forest surrounding the airbase perimeter. Only through deciding to finish what her brother started does Hedy begin to piece together what happened to her family.

But would she have continued if she’d known then what she knows now?

Sometimes, it’s safer not to finish what you’ve started…”

The book starts in the mid 50s (although has flashbacks to the second World War) when the Delaney family are posted to Suffolk from their current base in Iowa.  The descriptions of the different settings are excellent – and having been to military accommodation (although UK forces not US) it did all ring true.  However, I have one bug bear from the start of the book (which is possibly a bit pedantic!) but it involved white goods.  A big fuss is made about there not being a fridge in the UK house – and Ruby wants to use hers that she’s brought from the US – so a colleague arranges for a car battery to be put in the kitchen so the fridge can be powered.  This is then never referred to again – and yet a big deal of it was made initially – just seems like a bit of a white elephant reference, with the world’s never ending car battery saving the day. Then a few chapters later the family are ‘stacking the dishwasher’ after a meal.  So – the kitchen didn’t have a fridge but did have a dishwasher, in 1957 rural England.  It just didn’t sit right – and that put me on edge (which I appreciate is possibly just me overthinking and I probably should have just gone with it………..)

The first part of the book is very gentle, setting the scene – and filling in the back story of the Delaney family.  The parts about Christopher’s scoliosis are written beautifully – and how caring his Mum and twin sister Hedy are is clearly evident.

Slowly, though, things disintegrate.  I’m not going to give away any spoilers – but big stuff happens!

The second part of the book follows Hedy’s life at her Uncle’s farm – which is where her Mum, Ruby, grew up – although had been estranged from her UK family since before the twins were born.  This section was much more fast paced – both in the speed of the writing and the years that are jumped through. Again the writing really evoked the feel of a run down farm and the hard work involved in working it.  The intertwining of previous parts of the story is done really well.

There are some big themes running throughout the book – family, illness (physical and mental), sexuality, love (seemingly unrequited in some cases), responsibility, to name but a few – and these are all written really well and keep you absorbed.

The ending ties up lots of loose ends, which I always like in a book.

Moving on from my white goods issues and thus initial suspicion – I did really enjoy this book.

I’ve ended up not finishing this until after the date it was published – but at least that means you can go and order it immediately if you want to!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Permission by Saskia Vogel

You know how sometimes a book acts as a huge brake on your reading list – well, this has been one of those for me – it’s taken me 6 weeks to get through what is essentially a ‘novella’ ………..

I’d seen the book in Stylist Magazine’s list of books for March  (As a total aside – and not relevant to the review at all – way back in the mid / late 90s I was good friends with one of the older sisters of the now Stylist Magazine book editor #quitealooseclaimtofame)  As ‘Permission’ hadn’t been published yet – I hopped on to Netgalley and requested it – and was sent an advance review copy – yay!

Now – here is where the problems start (all of which are self induced!)

The ARC couldn’t be sent in a Kindle friendly format – so I would either have to read it on my desktop (impractical), phone (too small) or another Apple product.  I found an old ipad (literally, an original one from many moons ago) and charged it up – and managed to successfully download the book to it.  However, it also had Candy Crush on the ipad – which I had removed from my phone years ago due to a massive time wasting addiction………..

Permission

I also hadn’t read the blurb – only the couple of sentences on the Stylist website – and so wasn’t sure what to expect.  Here is the blurb I hadn’t read:

“A raw, fresh, haunting, emotionally and sexually honest literary debut.
When Echo’s father gets swept away by a freak current off the Los Angeles coast, she finds herself sinking into a complete state of paralysis. With no true friends and a troubled relationship with her mother, the failed young actress attempts to seek solace in the best way she knows: by losing herself in the lives of strangers. When by chance Echo meets a dominatrix called Orly, it finally feels like she might have found someone who will be nurturing and treasure her for who she is. But Orly’s fifty-something houseboy, Piggy, isn’t quite ready to let someone else share the intimate relationship he’s worked so hard to form with his mistress.

Permission is a love story about people who are sick with dreams and expectations and turn to the erotic for comfort and cure. As they stumble through the landscape of desire, they are in a desperate search for the answer to that sacred question: how do I want to be loved?”

I often read whilst lying next to my 7 year old willing her to go to sleep – and somehow reading about BDSM when she could glance over at the ipad felt a bit inappropriate – so I didn’t tend to read it then.

I also often read whilst on the loo (I have blogged about my bowel issues before – #TMI) but kept being tempted by a few games of Candy Crush, just to use up my 5 lives, before I started on the novel – I am truly an addict.

So – what should have been a few hours read has turned into weeks on end, but I finally finished it this weekend.

Firstly – the writing is beautiful and really evocative of the Californian coast, and you really feel for Echo after the loss of her father and the strained relationship with her mother.  However, I just didn’t really get the whole BDSM stuff – and some of the writing around it was a bit weird.  It really wasn’t my bag at all – which is possibly why I was so easily distracted and didn’t devour it within hours, like other Netgalley readers have said they did.

It feels quite a ‘different’ book – how I felt about The Goldfinch when I read that (but thankfully it’s a tiny tiny fraction of the number of pages than Ms Tartt’s tome!)

I can see this being quite a marmite book – and I am definitely in the ‘don’t like’ camp.

Now, I’m going to hide the ipad again, let it run out of battery life, and NEVER WASTE TIME PLAYING CANDY CRUSH AGAIN!!!

 

 

 

 

Second generation of Fitbit addicts!!

My youngest 2 children decided that they wanted Fitbits a few weeks ago.  As it was just before Easter, and I knew they’d get loads of chocolate anyway, I suggested they had them as an Easter gift in lieu of an Easter egg from us. What a healthy option!

They have worn them loads since – and are very competitive with each other – and me and their Auntie!

The other night I went to put the 7 year old to bed and she said ‘I think I’m going to wear my Fitbit to sleep in tonight’

I replied ‘Oh, do you want it to monitor your sleep?’

To which she responded ‘No, but if I get up in the night for a wee, I don’t want to miss out on the steps’

I have created Fitbit monsters………….

Fitbit Alta

Gin for the win – again. Oh, and some vodka!!

I have blogged before about my love of gin, and since then a fabulous shop stocking, amongst other things, a huge range of gin has opened in our village.  I believe it was a complete coincidence that such a shop opened so close to where we live, and there wasn’t a demographic study completed to securitise funding against the future gin consumption of the local area………  Gin & Pickles is great for a coffee and cake, when it’s too early for gin, and gin and a cheese & meat platter later in the day.

Gin & Pickles has also hosted some gin tastings which I’ve gone to. The first couple I went to were hosted by The Gintleman, as in my first gin blog, and thankfully I’ve always consumed so much gin, lots of the information is forgotten between tastings!  The most recent gin tasting was by Chase Distillery.  This was a fortnight before my birthday – and the lovely brand ambassador, Tilly, mentioned that you could do tours of the distillery – and that they have a sister hotel that you can go to for a meal or even an overnight stay before or after your tour – and they will ferry you between the two places.  This seemed an ideal birthday present from my husband to me (which obviously I sorted out myself #controlfreak) and last week we headed off for our tour of Chase and overnight stay at Verzon House.

We arrived at the hotel, checked in, and had a welcome drink – a gin and tonic, natch!

de64ccef-12b2-4d17-97c2-e20fca0295b4
Welcome drinks – gins, of course!

 

We were then whisked 20 minutes away in a mini bus to the Chase estate.

The tours can be anything up to 15 people – but there were only 5 on ours.  There was us, a guy who had just started work for Chase, and then a couple from Devon.  (Turns out they were actually originally Brummies like us – but had moved to Devon to run a hotel).  We were a lively bunch – but that definitely added to the tour.

It was incredibly interesting – and almost emotional – I was so proud of them growing the potatoes which they make initially into vodka (using spring water from on site and wood to power the wood burning stoves from the site too) – which then is either flavoured as vodka, or distilled with juniper to become gin!  So when people say they like vodka but don’t like gin, it’s often because they don’t like the taste of juniper (or in my sister’s case, we realised it was the tonic with the gin that was the issue – she’s now a gin and rose lemonade kind of girl!)  But for people to say they like gin but don’t like vodka is a bit weird!

We got to smell and taste the output at different stages which was ‘interesting’ – my husband was not backward in some of his descriptions (it tastes like petrol etc!)

It’s also amazing to think that every bottle of booze with the Chase name on it goes through that distillery – Fat Betty and Ginny are working super hard (these are machines rather than staff members, of which there are 54 now – the new bloke on our tour being the 54th!!)

After we’d looked at all of the gin memorabilia, including the entire range of bottles – and smelt lots of botanicals, and posed for photos in front of Fat Betty – we then got to go downstairs and try LOTS of the produce!  Given we already own most of the gins, we tried lots of the vodkas – and I am a total convert.  The straight potato vodka is lush – just so smooth compared to teenage experiences with cheaper grain based vodkas!  And the flavoured ones wonderful – we came home with quite a few!!!   The bottles we acquired being presented in potato bags was a fab touch.

img_18557be09973-4e33-4330-ac89-84415c8b27bfIMG_1873IMG_1447

We were then escorted back to Verzon House to prepare for dinner.

The hotel room was lovely – although somewhat warm (not helped by the husband having a boiling hot bath in the middle of the bedroom!)  There is quite a lot of stuffed animal art on the walls – it didn’t bother us (although the husband impersonating all of them got a little wearing!) but we did wonder what a vegetarian might think if they stayed there?!

The food was AMAZING!  The cocktails were great too.  There wasn’t a huge amount of atmosphere in the restaurant, but it was a mid week stay in March – so not many tables.  All of the staff were really attentive and did a great job.

Breakfast the next morning was served in the bar rather than the restaurant – and we were the only guests – but it was plentiful and tasty.  I’d recently been converted to the product of another sister company, Willy’s Apple Cider Vinegar, and thought I’d miss my daily dose whilst away – but they had some with breakfast! The husband wasn’t converted though…….

Overall it was a fabulous experience and one we’d highly recommend.  There is a shop at the distillery so you can get products at bargain prices – but you really should do the tour as well! And you can get almost the entire range at Gin & Pickles too – to save the drive to Herefordshire.

 

img_1909
Our purchases!

 

This is not a sponsored post, we bought and paid for everything at all of the places mentioned above, I’m just sharing the love of gin – and now vodka! Cheers! 

 

 

 

Book Review: After The Last Dance by Sarra Manning

After The Last Dance.jpg

I am a sucker for a bargain – and Sarra Manning, who I know through being a Red Magazine subscriber, where she tells me what to read each month – mentioned on Twitter that this book from her back catalogue was a good deal on Kindle, so I downloaded it.

Here is the blurb:

“After the Last Dance: Two women. Two love affairs. One unforgettable story

Kings Cross station, 1943. Rose arrives in London hoping to swap the drudgery of wartime for romance, glamour and jiving with GIs at Rainbow Corner, the famous dance hall in Piccadilly Circus. As the bombs fall, Rose loses her heart to a pilot but will lose so much more before the war has done its worst.

Las Vegas, present day. A beautiful woman in a wedding dress walks into a seedy bar and asks the first man she sees to marry her. When Leo slips the ring onto Jane’s finger, he has no idea that his new wife will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

So when Jane meets Rose, now a formidable older lady, there’s no love lost between them. But with time running out, can Rose and Jane come together to make peace with the tragic secrets that have always haunted their lives?”

It sucked me in right from the start.  Initially the stories are very separate, and I was guessing how they might come together – but it’s not obvious – and there are twists and turns throughout the book.

I enjoyed the wartime setting for Rose – and thought it was very well written and really evoked the feeling of London during the Blitz.  Equally the chapters set in the present day were also great – and felt very different – as I guess they should.

The back stories for Rose – and how she got from the innocent teenager to the formidable businesswoman – and on a smaller timeline for Leo and Jane – were cleverly revealed as the book went through.

I felt the flipping from one time period to another kept a real momentum through the book and kept me wanting to read just a little bit more each night.

Overall I really enjoyed the whole book – and felt it well written and structured with excellent content – which makes me want to read other books by Sarra Manning.

 

 

 

Making a boob

bp-fy347blkb-large

Last week it was my birthday.  My lovely husband decided he would pop into our local Bravissimo store to buy me some underwear as a pressie.  He couldn’t remember my size – but knew that they would have the information on my account – so asked for the bra he’d selected – and matching knickers – in the last size I’d bought.  Sensible.

Apart from the fact that the last bras I’d bought were for our 15 year old daughter………

I haven’t been that size since 4 children and about 4 stone ago!!

But it’s ok – I will pop in and exchange them (and change the thong for some proper fat pants too!!)  It’s the thought that counts!

P.S.  The photo is a lovely Bravissimo model, and not me nor our offspring – although it was that bra!

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Absolutely Smashing It by Kathryn Wallace

Absolutely Smashing It

I have come across Kathryn Wallace’s postings on social media before – where she writes under the name ‘I Know, I Need To Stop Talking’ with some hilarious parodies of the omnipresent (if you have small children starting to learn to read) Biff, Chip and Kipper Robinson (slight show off that I know their surname!!) and other musings on life as a parent.

Then my oldest friend (oldest as in she came to visit me in hospital when I was born rather than in her own age being substantial!) noticed that the publisher had tweeted to see if any book bloggers wanted an advanced review copy – and she suggested me!  Never one to turn down a free book, I immediately sent my details, and the book arrived the very next day!

Here is the Amazon blurb:

”  “SAM! AVA! Get downstairs, NOW. Have you done your TEETH? HAIR? SHOES? Come on, come on, come on, we’re going to be bastarding late again. No, I haven’t seen Lego Optimus Prime, and nor do I give a shit about his whereabouts. Sam, will you stop winding your sister up and take this model of the Shard that I painstakingly sat up and created for you last night so that I wouldn’t be in trouble with your teacher. I mean, so that you wouldn’t be in trouble with your teacher. No, it doesn’t smell of ‘dirty wine’. Well, maybe it does a little bit. Look, Sam, I haven’t got time to argue. Just hold your nose and get in the car, okay? AVA! TEETH! HAIR! SHOES!”

Gemma is only just holding it together – she’s a single parent, she’s turning 40 and her seven-year-old daughter has drawn a cruelly accurate picture which locates Gemma’s boobs somewhere around her knees. So when her new next-door neighbour, Becky, suggests that Gemma should start dating again, it takes a lot of self-control not to laugh in her face.

But Becky is very persuasive and before long Gemma finds herself juggling a full-time job, the increasingly insane demands of the school mums’ Facebook group and the tricky etiquette of a new dating world. Not only that, but Gemma has to manage her attraction to her daughter’s teacher, Tom, who has swapped his life in the City for teaching thirty six to seven year olds spelling, grammar, basic fractions – and why it’s not ok to call your classmate a stinky poo-bum…

It’s going to be a long year – and one in which Gemma and Becky will learn a really crucial lesson: that in the end, being a good parent is just about being good enough.”

 

As expected, the book is all about the stresses and strains of parenthood – and is pretty sweary! It is true to life in lots of ways – everyone who has waited in a playground can identify the different types of parent! And feels quite similar in genre to lots of the Mummy bloggers who have gone on to write books (such as Why Mummy Drinks ) – but I guess parental experiences are quite similar, so that’s why they feel alike.

I liked Gemma and wanted everything to work out for her personally – not just as a mother and as an employee, but as an individual too.  Her friendship with Becky was also explored  – and definitely shows the importance of having Mum friends that you actually want to be friends with – not just because they have children the same age.

This book is not going to set the literary world alight – it is a simple, easy, non-challenging read – but sometimes that’s what you want after a long day of parenting.  There are some laugh out loud moments (so much so that I was told off by the 7 year old for making her bed shake when reading it one evening as trying to get her to sleep!) and I didn’t regret reading it – but I’m not sure #absolutelysmashingit has been achieved.

Thank you very much to the publishers for my free ARC – and the book has now made it’s way across the Irish Sea to the aforementioned oldest friend for her to read too.

It’s released on 7 March 2019.

 

Parents’ evening funtimes

 

parents-evening.jpg

Tonight 3/4 of the children had parents’ evening.

  1. Parents’ evening for G, year 2 – I cried*
  2. Parents’ evening for E, year 4 – I cried**
  3. Parents’evening for L, year 9 – I laughed hysterically, but at least I didn’t cry***

 

*G has been chosen, with one of her friends, to represent their class in the school talent show.  She is playing the piano whilst her friend does an interpretative dance.

**E has had the same lovely teacher for 3 of the past 4 years.  The whole class and teacher have been through some pretty traumatic stuff in that time, that no one – and especially first school kids – should have to face.  They’re all leaving first school in the summer, so it’s quite emotional.

***We sat down to talk to L’s English teacher who commented that he was such a hard working student!!!!!!!!

 

Super proud of all of my super stars – even the one who escaped parents’ evening today.  Whilst I’m chuffed with their academic achievements – I’m more pleased at the fact the teachers all seem to like them, and the other skills of caring, inclusion, empathy that the staff have talked about.   This parenting lark can be pretty stressful and unforgiving at times – but nights like tonight I am pleased we’re doing something right.  Time for a celebratory pancake!

 

Book Review: Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane

Don't You Forget About Me

 

I LOVE Mhairi McFarlane and have read all of her back catalogue.  In fact, I have signed copies of all of her books after a prosecco-fuelled bid on a charity auction lot last year…….. I’ve been lucky enough to have been sent advanced review copies before – but somehow I must have fallen off the radar, and I didn’t notice it on Netgalley – and so it wasn’t until this was published that I realised there was a new book!  I immediately downloaded it – not begrudging paying for once, as I had high expectations – as I have loved all of the historic books.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“It began with four words.

‘I love your laugh. x’

But that was twelve years ago. It really began the day Georgina was fired from The Worst Restaurant in Sheffield (© Tripadvisor) and found The Worst Boyfriend in the World (© Georgina’s best friends) in bed with someone else.

So when her new boss, Lucas McCarthy, turns out to be the boy who wrote those words to her all that time ago, it feels like the start of something.

The only problem? He doesn’t seem to remember Georgina – at all…”

 

I was completely correct not to have begrudged spending hard earned cash on this – it was excellent – and possibly my favourite Mhairi McFarlane to date.

It flashes back to sixth form – and I can soooooo remember that time, and it really evoked those memories (despite being a very long time ago for me!) and then the present day when Georgina is initially working in an awful Italian restaurant.  I really liked Georgina – although did want to give her a shake a couple of times!

The relationships with her extended family were described brilliantly, and similarly that with her friends and colleagues – you really feel like you get to know everyone.  The passive aggressive notes from her housemate were a particular favourite!

The ending is brilliant (the friendship group reminds me quite a lot of Bridget Jones – but in a good way, not a copying way!) and I loved it.  As with many of Mhairi’s books I want a sequel or a spin off, pretty please??

I like the fact that whilst this is ‘chick lit’ it is bloody well written, structured and uses long words!  It’s an easy read – but feels like time has been invested to make it a decent quality book.  It had me crying with laughter – and then sobbing with high emotion – which has to be the sign of a good book?

It’s out now on Kindle (and a bargain at just 99p) – or next week in paperback – so treat yourself!