Book Review: It Was Always You by Emma Cooper

Having very much enjoyed previous books by Emma Cooper, when I saw she had a new one coming out I requested a copy from NetGalley. I’d got my publication dates muddled and didn’t think it was out until September 2022 – but actually the Kindle edition was out on 1 June 2022 – so you can download it now if you like the sound of it!

Here’s the blurb:

“On the last night in October 1999 the clocks went back, and Ella and Will’s love began.
A teenage Ella sat around a bonfire drinking with her future husband and her oldest friend Cole.
As Ella wandered away from the group, she found herself leaning against a derelict
archway before passing out.
The next day, Ella remembered fractured images of a conversation with a woman
in a green coat and red scarf but dismissed it as a drunken dream.
Twenty-three years later, with her marriage to Will in trouble, and Cole spiralling out of
control, Ella opens a gift which turns her life upside down: a green coat and red scarf.
When she looks in the mirror, the woman from the archway is reflected back at her.
As the last Sunday in October arrives, Ella is faced with a choice.
Would she choose a different life, if she could do it again?

The book follows two timelines – ‘then’ in October 1999 and ‘now’ in 2022 (in a world with no Covid, as Emma explains before the book starts).

I adored this book! And devoured it super quickly (have just been a bit remiss in blogging about it – mostly because I don’t want to give away any spoilers!)

The title of the book means you know someone is going to declare undying love – but all the way through you’re not sure who it’s going to be – and if it’s going to be reciprocated.

As with other Emma Cooper books there is an element of mystery – with Ella being hypnotised in an attempt to unlock her memories of October 1999 to see what she could do, and if she could or indeed should, attempt to change history.

I don’t want to give any of the storyline away – especially the last chunk – but it’s totally worth reading!

Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for my ARC.

Book Review: Book Lovers by Emily Henry

I’ve really enjoyed Emily Henry‘s previous books – so when I saw she had a new one coming out, I requested a copy from Net Galley. Here’s the blurb:

Nora is a cut-throat literary agent at the top of her game. Her whole life is books.
Charlie is an editor with a gift for creating bestsellers. And he’s Nora’s work nemesis.
Nora has been through enough break-ups to know she’s the one men date before finding their happy-ever-after. To prevent another dating dud, Nora’s sister has persuaded her to swap her city desk for a month’s holiday in Sunshine Falls.
It’s a small town straight out of a romance novel, but instead of meeting sexy lumberjacks, handsome doctors or cute bartenders, Nora keeps bumping into…Charlie.
She’s no heroine. He’s no hero. So can they take a page out of an entirely different book?
Brimming with witty banter, characters you can’t help but fall for and off-the-charts chemistry, BOOK LOVERS is Emily Henry’s best novel yet.”

Yet again I really enjoyed this Emily Henry book.

Nora’s sister – who is called Libby (not many Libby’s in literature – so I was quite chuffed to have a namesake!) – takes Nora away for a month before Libby’s third baby is born. Nora loves romance novels (I was vicariously proud when one of my other favourite authors Mhairi McFarlane was name checked in the book!) and the sisters have a checklist of standard old school romance fodder to complete whilst on their month away together in the countryside.

As with previous books the main characters are based in the book industry – although this time as an agent and an editor rather than as authors – and I liked this variation on a theme. Also as with Beach Read you have to suspend belief a bit at the total coincidence that Nora would bump into her work nemesis, Charlie, whilst miles and miles way from Manhattan.

Sunshine Falls has a large group of ‘supporting cast’ who feature in the book – with some typical caricatures of ‘country life’ in there – but as Nora surmises, the tropes have to come from somewhere!

After their Mum’s death a decade before, the sisters are incredibly close – despite Libby now being married with an ever expanding family – and Nora is clearly still very much governed by her role as eldest sister.

Nora and Charlie’s relationship develops throughout the book – and the banter between them in texts and emails is brilliantly written. Cutting, witty, emotional – and entertaining.

I don’t really want to give too much away of the storyline, as you need to live it with the characters – but I thoroughly enjoyed it and would highly recommend it – and it’s available NOW!

A big thank you to the publishers and Net Galley for my ARC.

Book Review: The Saturday Night Sauvignon Sisterhood by Gill Sims

I’ve adored Gill Sims ‘Why Mummy….’ series, so when I saw she had a new standalone book out, I asked NetGalley for a copy – but there was tumbleweed silence from them. I thought I’d missed the boat – but then on publication date (12 May 2022) they suddenly approved a copy for me – and I’ve devoured it since! Here’s the blurb:

“‘Oh, for f*ck’s sake’ muttered Claire under her breath, as she opened the fridge to see what she could find for a no effort dinner. The children continued to fight behind her. They regarded any form of fish not encased in breadcrumbs as toxic, and were resistant enough to the delicious homemade fishfingers Claire had made for them, insisting they much preferred Captain Birdseye’s version. White wine was starting to look like quite an appealing dinner actually.  Maybe just a small glass.
‘Are you having wine, Mum?  You know you’re not supposed to have wine every night.  We did about alcohol units at school.  That’s quite a big glass of wine, how many units do you think are in it?’
’Bet the bastards didn’t tell you that wine is remarkably good at cancelling out whining though, did they?’ muttered Claire.
Claire’s family has gone nuclear. Her precious moppets keep calling Childline when she feeds them broccoli, she’s utterly Ottolenghied out at weekends, and her darling husband is having an affair with her best friend.
The question isn’t whether she needs a glass of wine, but is there one big enough?
Enter the Sauvignon Sisterhood, a new set of friends brought together by a shared love of liquid therapy. Together they might just be able to convince Claire that, like a good bottle of red, life really can get better with age. Or at least there’s more to it than the joy of an M&S non-iron school uniform.”

Yet again – I loved a Gill Sims book! Not least because of the many excellent characterisation of a real family life. Claire’s kids are in Year 4 and 6 – and with my youngest two in Years 5 and 7, I could totally relate. I loved the fact her kids threatened to call Childline (0800 double 1 double 1 – surely every child of the 80s / 90s can remember that?!) because she tried to feed them broccoli – one of mine once threatened the same when I’d left the lid off the tzatziki so it had a crust on the top #firstworldproblems

The book follows the implosion of Claire’s marriage – and her relationship with her best mate – as the ‘best mate’ and Claire’s husband have an affair. It then looks at Claire putting her life back together again, and gaining a new circle of friends – who are christened, right at the end of the book, The Saturday Night Sauvignon Sisterhood. As well as the new female friends – there are a couple of new love interests – one male and one canine.

As usual with a Gill Sims book the characterisations are great – and the true to life experiences of parenthood are spot on. It does feel like it ‘borrows’ from the ‘Why Mummy’ series in places – for example the ladies go to watch a poet perform, who could very easily have been Ellen’s sister in law from the previous series of books – but, I guess if a formula works, stick with it. (I’m now wondering if it is a cross over – now that would be cool!)

The school camping trip was horrific – but you could TOTALLY recognise the different groups of parents from your own playground experiences!!

There are a lot of twists and turns – one of them in particular quite shocking – which I felt really added to the book. Some pretty serious subjects subsequently get discussed.

Overall another fabulous book from Gill Sims which I would thoroughly recommend. And it’s available right now!

P.S. I have tried to edit out exclamation marks from this review as I do tend to use them with abandon – but it sounds like Gill has someone who does that from her own book drafts – so I’m clearly in good company with excessive punctuation usage!!

Book Review: Thrown by Sara Cox

I love Sara Cox and feel like we’ve grown up together – from drinking pints to keep up with the lads in the 90s, through multiple kids in the 2000s – and now settling down with good books. I really enjoyed her autobiography, and when I saw she had her first fiction book out, I asked Net Galley for a copy and was lucky enough to receive one. Here’s the blurb:

The wise and gloriously big-hearted debut novel from the much-loved broadcaster, Sara Cox
Becky: a single mum who prides herself on her independence. She knows from painful experience that men are trouble.
Louise: a loving husband, gorgeous kids. She ought to feel more grateful.
Jameela: all she’s ever done is work hard, and try her best. Why won’t life give her the one thing she really wants?
Sheila: the nest is empty, she dreams of escaping to the sun, but her husband seems so distracted.
The inhabitants of the Inventor’s Housing Estate keep themselves to themselves. There are the friendly ‘Hellos’ when commutes coincide and the odd cheeky eye roll when the wine bottles clank in number 7’s wheelie bin, but it’s not exactly Ramsay Street.
The dilapidated community centre is no longer the beating heart of the estate that Becky remembers from her childhood. So the new pottery class she’s helped set up feels like a fresh start. And not just for her.
The assorted neighbours come together to try out a new skill, under the watchful eye of their charismatic teacher, Sasha. And as the soft unremarkable lumps of clay are hesitantly, lovingly moulded into delicate vases and majestic pots, so too are the lives of four women. Concealed passions and heartaches are uncovered, relationships shattered and formed, and the possibility for transformation is revealed.”

This feels like a soap opera or a TV drama straight away. Four different women who live near each other but don’t really know each other – and how their lives intertwine, primarily around a new pottery class at their local community centre.

Each of the main characters has issues going on behind closed doors – and you get involved in all of their lives. I liked them all in their own ways – although Becky was my favourite.

I’ve never watched ‘The Great Pottery Throw Down’ – but it would appear Sara has learnt lots about potting from presenting it – and that threads through the book.

There are some gentle twists and turns – but I have to say I guessed some of the ‘shocks’ – and there were no OMG moments for me. It was a lovely, gentle, comfortable read and I did enjoy it. But I do wonder if it would have been published if it didn’t have a celebrity author?

Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for my ARC – and it’s out now if you fancy some pottery based escapism.

Book Review: London, With Love by Sarra Manning

I have often taken book reading advice from Sarra Manning from her column in Red Magazine – and enjoy following her on Twitter – so when I saw she had another book out, and having enjoyed one of her previous novels, I asked NetGalley for a copy – and was granted my wish.

Here’s the blurb:

London. Nine million people. Two hundred and seventy tube stations. Every day, thousands of chance encounters, first dates, goodbyes and happy ever afters.
And for twenty years it’s been where one man and one woman can never get their timing right.
Jennifer and Nick meet as teenagers and over the next two decades, they fall in and out of love with each other. Sometimes they start kissing. Sometimes they’re just friends. Sometimes they stop speaking, but they always find their way back to each other.
But after all this time, are they destined to be together or have they finally reached the end of the line?”

Hands up – I ADORED this book! Some of this I’m sure is because I am very similar in age to Jenny and Nick – they were 2 years older than me (I was going to add at the start of the book – but TBH they stayed 2 years older than me throughout the entire book!) The book starts with their paths crossing at 6th form college in the late 1980s – and then spans the decades through to now, meeting them at various points across the 30 years. Generally a TFL station (although occasionally a New York station) features as the backdrop to that chapter.

I know Sarra Manning loves London (if you follow her on Twitter you can be pointed in the direction of some fabulous Rightmove finds in North London that she would purchase if she won the lottery!) and London is most definitely an extra character in the book – which Jenny loves with a similar intensity.

Lots of ‘major events’ in my lifetime are used as the back drop to new chapters – I blogged about a couple back in the day myself – and other times like GCSE results day and the new Millenium which I also remember really clearly. Weirdly something else I’ve blogged about – remembering your friend’s childhood phone number, and how parents answer the phone, also features! I told you I loved this book because I could empathise so much.

The story of Jenny and Nick twists and turns, with supporting characters appearing and disappearing throughout – just as happens in real life, and I don’t want to give too much away – as you need to go on their journey (see what I did there?!) with them.

I have to say that the final chapter – set in the present day – made me WEEP. I don’t think, as yet, many books have addressed the pandemic and what we’ve all been through in the last 2 years, and this was done brilliantly and felt very ‘real’.

I would highly recommend ‘London, With Love’ to everyone – and it’s out later this week on 5 May 2022.

A huge thank you to NetGalley, the publisher – and Sarra Manning – for such a fantastic book.

Book Review: The Patient by Jane Shemilt

“When Rachel meets Luc, the attraction is instant.
But she is a doctor, and he is her patient.
She gives him the drugs he needs – but in doing so, risks everything.
And when a secret is exposed, they’re both in the firing line.
Not all patients are telling the truth.

The book centres on Rachel – a 49 year old GP. She is bored in her marriage to a local school teacher, and her grown up librarian daughter doesn’t seem to want anything to do with her – and she feels peri menopausal and invisible. Having a central character the same(ish!) age as me was interesting.

Rachel’s first dealings with Luc are as a patient – after hours one evening at her surgery – but this is only a very small part of the storyline.

Luc and his glamourous wife Ophelia, and extended family, have moved to Salisbury (the cathedral – famous for the fact that Russian spies like to visit it – is almost a character in its own right!!) and Rachel and her family are invited to their housewarming party – and from there the storyline develops.

The plot twists and turns – in Salisbury and France – and you’re never quite sure whom to trust. I have to say that some of the twists I guessed – whilst others were a total shock – which gave me the right level of smugness whilst still enjoying the ride!

I really enjoyed the book and will definitely look out for more books by this author in the future.

The Patient is released next week, 28 April 2022. Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for my advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: With This Kiss by Carrie Hope Fletcher

I’d heard of Carrie Hope Fletcher – as Tom from McFly’s sister! We then saw her in the title role of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical – Cinderella – and she, and the show, were brilliant – and I started following her on social media. When she posted she had a new book coming out, I saw if I could get an advance review copy on NetGalley – and I could! Here’s the blurb:

If you knew how your love story ends, would you dare to begin?
From the outside, Lorelai is an ordinary young woman with a normal life. She loves reading, she works at the local cinema and she adores living with her best friend. But she carries a painful burden, something she’s kept hidden for years; whenever she kisses someone on the lips, she sees how they are going to die.
Lorelai has never known if she’s seeing what was always meant to be, or if her kiss is the thing that decides their destiny. And so, she hasn’t kissed anyone since she was eighteen.
Then she meets Grayson. Sweet, clever, funny Grayson. And for the first time in years she yearns for a man’s kiss. But she can’t…or can she? And if she does, should she try to intervene and change what she sees?
Spellbinding, magical and utterly original, With This Kiss is one love story you will never forget.

I liked Lorelai and her flatmate Joanie (who I pictured wearing Joanie Clothing at all times!) from the start – and the premise of the book was different and clever. However, I felt when starting it – and it lasted throughout – that this was aimed at younger readers. I even wondered if it was tagged as ‘Young Adult’ fiction – but it’s not. It’s very safe – there’s no sex, drugs and rock and roll in it – and I’d be happy with my tween kids reading it to be honest.

The relationship between Lorelai and her friends and family are also explored – and change significantly during the book.

It’s a nice book and an easy read, and you’re rooting for Lorelai – but for me it didn’t set the world alight. I think I need something a bit more gritty and ‘grown up’!

Book Review: The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

I have really enjoyed Lucy Foley books before – both her amazing historical dramas spanning generations – and her more recent ensemble cast mysteries. So when I saw she had a new book out I requested and was granted an ARC. (Although didn’t read it quite as quickly as I should – so if you like the sound of it – you can buy it immediately, I’m not tempting you in advance!) Here’s the blurb:

“Welcome to No.12 rue des Amants
A beautiful old apartment block, far from the glittering lights of the Eiffel Tower and the bustling banks of the Seine. Where nothing goes unseen, and everyone has a story to unlock.
The watchful concierge
The scorned lover
The prying journalist
The naïve student
The unwanted guest
There was a murder here last night.
A mystery lies behind the door of apartment three.”

The book starts with wayward 20 something Jess going to visit her older half brother Ben in Paris. When she arrives at his apartment he isn’t there waiting for her as they’d agreed – and she senses something is amiss.

Thus starts the story of the inhabitants of a fancy apartment block. I don’t want to give too much of the storyline away, as you need to witness it evolve in real time! It’s told from lots of different points of view, all intertwining. I have to say that lots of the characters aren’t that likeable – but that was good! I was rooting for Jess throughout though (despite some seemingly ridiculous decisions on her quest to find out what has happened to Ben!)

Having visited a friend in a similar Paris apartment block many years ago (I was considering a secondment to the Paris office of the accountancy firm I worked for – but decided as I was only confident speaking French after drinking wine, I’d have to be permanently drunk! So Sydney was a better option for my liver!) it felt very accurately described – but the book touched on lots of areas of Paris – some most definitely off the tourist trail – but you really felt like you were at the different locations.

It twists and turns loads – as I would expect from a book by Lucy Foley – and towards the ends the twists have your head spinning! But it was great – and the ending wasn’t predictable. Another fabulous book.

A huge thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my advance review copy.

Book Review: Birmingham: It’s Not Shit: 50 Things That Delight About Brum


“You know that Birmingham isn’t shit. Sometimes, though, you can’t articulate exactly why…

In this funny, revelatory and occasionally even nostalgic collection, the team behind Paradise Circus explore the places, people and Brummie ephemera that delight us about the second city. It lays out the ineffable reasons why we say ‘Birmingham: it’s not shit’, and then effs them.
Meet at the ramp and Jon Bounds, Jon Hickman and Danny Smith will dally down Dale End and take you up The Ackers. Discover Aston Villa’s sarcastic advertising hoarding, learn why Snobs could literally be magical, and dig up what might or might not be buried under Spaghetti Junction.”

I was kindly ‘given’ this book for my recent birthday (actually, I bought it for myself the week before – but gave it to my husband so he could give it back to me to celebrate me turning 48 a few days later #jointbankaccount)

I loved it – and did that massively annoying thing of reading it in bed, laughing, and then dictating chunks to my husband who was just trying to watch the news in peace.

Admittedly I think it’s pretty niche. This is not a book to give to non Brummies in an attempt to win them over. This is firmly for people who’ve grown up within the 11 route. If you don’t know what that is (and have never even considered doing the Walkathon in the 80s / 90s) this is not the book for you.

But if you are an aficionado of Snobs and Mr Egg, you support Villa or Blues and have ever been taken up The Ackers – then you will enjoy it!

And whilst being a Brummie is a pre requisite to reading this – I reckon at 48 (just!), I’m pretty target age range too. I’ll get my Mum to read it and see if it still works at 72 (I’m not sure she’s ever been to Snobs or Mr Egg – but would still enjoy some of it I’m sure!) I’m not going to bother getting the teenagers to read it, they call Worcester ‘town’ for goodness sake #heathens #livinginB48

Right – I’m off to Venice in the summer with a trundle wheel to measure just how long those canals are (definitely less than Birmingham!) and if you like the sound of the book – you can buy it from Amazon – and also read why it’s had to be sold by the ‘untaxed behoth of capitalism’ here.

5* would highly recommend – the book and my home city!

Book Review: Old Friends by Felicity Everett

I’d seen this described as a twisty, turny, dark thriller – and here’s the blurb:

“Two couples, best friends for half a lifetime, move in together. What could possibly go wrong…?
Harriet and Mark have it all: successful careers, a lovely house in a leafy London suburb, twin boys on the cusp of leaving home. Yvette and Gary share a smaller place with their two daughters in a shabbier part of the same borough.
But when the stars align for a collective move north, it means a fresh start for them all. For Mark, it’s a chance to escape the rat race; for Harriet, a distraction from her unfulfilled dream of a late third child. Gary has decided to reboot the Madchester band that made him famous, while Yvette hopes it will give her daughters what she never had herself.
But as the reality of their new living arrangements slowly sinks in, the four friends face their own mid-life crises, and the dream becomes a nightmare…”

Now up front I would question the description and the blurb – I don’t know if the storyline changed, but it just doesn’t make sense, particularly the line ‘Yvette hopes it will give her daughters what she never had herself’ is just odd – given neither of the daughters make the move North. And the move North doesn’t happen until quite a way through the book – I just felt the blurb and reviews from other authors weren’t quite on the mark and thus I felt a bit short-changed!

It’s an easy enough domestic drama to read – but I didn’t feel it was very dark with twists and turns. I also found the way it was written a bit strange, you’d jump forward quite a large amount of time with no explanation – and then the intervening period would be filled in a bit (although I often felt there were gaps in explaining why things had happened).

It felt to be like it was trying to be Cold Feet but without any of the history the viewer has with the characters – and I didn’t have a strong view about any of the lead characters. Sometimes a book is as intriguing if you hate a main character as much as if you love one – but I found Harriet, Mark, Yvette and Gary all a bit dull and thus was apathetic about what happened to any of them.

I was quite surprised by the twist towards the end of the book – but even that didn’t save it for me.

To be honest it just didn’t sit well with me – and whilst there was nothing specifically wrong or offensive about the book, it just didn’t really float my boat.

Thanks to the publisher for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.