Book Review: One Day In December by Josie Silver

One Day in December

I saw this book reviewed and it sounded great, so I popped onto NetGalley and saw I could get an advance review copy – which was very exciting.  Here’s the blurb that enticed me:

“Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist. After all, life isn’t a scene from the movies, is it?
But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic…and then her bus drives away.
Laurie thinks she’ll never see the boy from the bus again. But at their Christmas party a year later, her best friend Sarah introduces her to the new love of her life. Who is, of course, the boy from the bus.
Determined to let him go, Laurie gets on with her life.
But what if fate has other plans?

Following Laurie, Sarah and Jack through ten years of love, heartbreak and friendship, One Day in December is a joyous, heart-warming and immensely moving love story that you’ll want to escape into forever, for fans of Jojo Moyes, Lucy Diamond and Nicholas Sparks.”

I LOVED this book right from  the start!  I expected it to be a bit like ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls, and be about the same single day in December spanning the decade – but it wasn’t.  It was written either from Laurie or Jack’s point of view and jumped weeks / months at a time.  Because of that every chapter was really important – to compare it to an album, it was all killer and no filler!

I have to say I  guessed roughly what the ending would be – but wondered how the author would get us there without the main protagonists hating each other or being complete sh*tbags to each other.  It twists and turns dramatically – and I don’t want to give too much of the story away (I loathe reviews that do that) – but it really did keep me enthralled.  So much so that my husband thought I may have fallen asleep / drowned in the bath – but actually I was just lying in lukewarm water wanting to finish the book before I got out! (Apologies for the visuals that may have created…….)

Laurie was a great central character, and I really liked her and was rooting for her from the start.  She was a lot younger than me – but that didn’t stop me enjoying the book. The ending of the book is wonderful – and in fact the last few chapters did have me weeping for many different reasons (good job I was in the bath!)

I’ve read that the author wanted to write a Christmassy novel that would be the literary equivalent of festive films like ‘Love Actually’ or ‘The Holiday’ – and she has most definitely succeeded.  However I also think One Day In December would make a fabulous film…………

I wasn’t sure how to shoe horn this into my 2018 Reading Challenge – so, I am taking a bit of a flyer on ‘A book from a local author’! In the book Laurie’s parents live in a village in the suburbs of Birmingham (as do I) and her Dad is an Aston Villa fan (as am I).  People aren’t often written as Villa fans unless there is a local connection – so my fingers are firmly crossed that Josie Silver is local(ish!).  Her bio says she lives in a small Midlands town – so hopefully within 20 miles of Alvechurch and that can count as local!!

If I were you I would definitely pre order this ready for a festive read this Christmas.

 

 

 

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Book Review: The Invitation by Keris Stainton

The Invitation

“When Piper James unexpectedly gets a message from her insanely hot teenage crush Rob Kingsford, inviting her to their school reunion, her heart flips. She hasn’t seen Rob in eight years – and he’s always been the one who got away

Throw in some old friends (and frenemies), a sister on the edge of a meltdown and a few too many cosmos and you have all the ingredients for a real night to remember… Will Piper and Rob finally get together, the second time around?

A hilarious and uplifting story about conquering your demons and being true to who you are.”

I saw this on Netgalley and it looked just my bag – and needed after a particularly complicated, heavy read last time – so I downloaded a free advance review copy! #yaytofreebooks!!

I haven’t read anything by Keris Stainton before – but having seen her compared to Mhairi McFarlane – I had high hopes!

It was a lovely, easy read – and I liked Piper from the start.  The fact that she’s not stick thin is vital to the storyline in a number of ways – but it’s mentioned in passing rather than weight / size specific – which I really liked.  I also liked the body positive message that Piper gave out – that shaming her on social media for being overweight was unacceptable – but equally so was shaming others for being ‘too skinny’.  Nobody should be shamed for their size – whatever that might be. #getsoffsoapbox

Whilst the blurb talks about the relationship between Piper and Rob – it’s actually much more than that.  It deals with sibling relationships, relationships between male and female platonic friends, the effects of grief, relationships with older relatives – and feels much more nuanced than some straight rom coms.

I suspect I’m a bit older than target audience (and until there were some raunchier scenes I had thought would be a good book for my 14 year old, in fact she’d probably still think it was fine!!) but even this middle aged Mum of 4 enjoyed it.

I devoured it in a matter of hours, and would definitely read books by this author again.  I’ve noticed that it’s down as a 99p download on Kindle once it comes out in June – and it’s most definitely worth the price of half a cappuccino!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tooth Fairy – part 2

I’ve blogged before about how even after 15 years of parenting – and 4 kids – the tooth fairy can still be a bit rubbish in the Price household!

tooth_fairy

Well, 2 days ago, child number 4 lost a tooth.  It was duly put under her pillow – and the next morning – was still there.

We had been having some electrical issues with the RCD in the house blowing every couple of hours  – so the husband and I had been up regularly in the night jiggling fuses about (this is not a euphemism!) and so we used that as an excuse – as clearly the tooth fairy couldn’t risk being seen by one of us.

Then yesterday the aforementioned child number 4 won a little pot at her big brother’s school fete.  I suggested that this would be perfect for the tooth to go in under her pillow – and so the tooth fairy could find it easily. This morning the pot was opened excitedly – to find the tooth and no coin inside. Whoops.  I suggested perhaps the tooth fairy couldn’t get the lid off the pretty pot, so maybe it should go under the pillow without the lid on this evening.

Half an hour ago child number 4 came downstairs as a 2nd tooth had come out!  To which I exclaimed ‘the tooth fairy must have known this was going to happen, and so that’s why she hasn’t been!  She can do two trips for the price of one tonight and leave double money.’

That tooth fairy is very clever (if a little forgetful!)

Book Review: Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling The Novel by Emer MyLysaght and Sarah Breen

Oh My God

I saw the wonderful Marian Keyes recommend this book on Twitter (it’s already been published in Ireland – where it’s set) and then found it was to be published in the UK in May – and so I could download an advanced review copy from Netgalley – so that I did!

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen, the creators of the much-loved Aisling character and the popular Facebook page ‘Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling’, bring Aisling to life in their novel about the quintessential country girl in the big smoke.

Aisling is twenty-eight and she’s a complete … Aisling. She lives at home in Ballygobbard (or Ballygobackwards, as some gas tickets call it) with her parents and commutes to her good job at PensionsPlus in Dublin.

Aisling goes out every Saturday night with her best friend Majella, who is a bit of a hames (she’s lost two phones already this year – Aisling has never lost a phone). They love hoofing into the Coors Light if they’re ‘Out’, or the vodka and Diet Cokes if they’re ‘Out Out’.

Ais spends two nights a week at her boyfriend John’s. He’s from down home and was kiss number seventeen at her twenty-first.

But Aisling wants more. She wants the ring on her finger. She wants the hen with the willy straws. She wants out of her parents’ house, although she’d miss Mammy turning on the electric blanket like clockwork and Daddy taking her car ‘out for a spin’ and bringing it back full of petrol.

When a week in Tenerife with John doesn’t end with the expected engagement, Aisling calls a halt to things and soon she has surprised herself and everyone else by agreeing to move into a three-bed in Portobello with stylish Sadhbh from HR and her friend, the mysterious Elaine.

Newly single and relocated to the big city, life is about to change utterly for this wonderful, strong, surprising and funny girl, who just happens to be a complete Aisling.”

First things first, I’m a Brummie with limited Irish connections – and so I think some of the references in this sailed right over my head, and I couldn’t even attempt the pronunciation of some of the names  – but lots of it I did get, or could take a good guess at what it meant.  Total target market would be late 20s / early 30s Irish women – but that doesn’t mean I didn’t, and others wouldn’t, enjoy it.  The book goes in heavy on the Irishness at the start – and from reading other Netgalley reviews, I think that’s put some people off, as they just didn’t get it at all – but I’m not one for giving up – so persevered, and I’m glad I did as the story develops a lot more and you get to know Aisling and her family and friends much better.  I suspect (although have not followed the Facebook group so can’t be sure) – that it started off with lots of the jokes off the Facebook page – but then had to be filled out with proper novel!

I liked Aisling straight away – in her no nonsense way.  I was slightly concerned that I am *quite* Aisling with some things. Actually I think some of my friends should be more worried about the likeness, given Aisling works in pensions administration #mentioningnonames.  In some ways Aisling’s naivety reminded me quite a lot of Eleanor Oliphant in one of my favourite books from last year, and there is a definite ‘Bridget Jones for 2018’ vibe going on too – Aisling knows the Weightwatchers points in EVERYTHING!

I was surprised that a chunk of the storyline is about a brain tumour – that’s not mentioned in any of the blurb I’d read – and, unfortunately, I know quite a lot of people who are involved in their own brain tumour issues at the moment – and this could easily blindside them.  I will definitely be giving people a heads up about that part of the book – although maybe I’m just hyper aware of them and it wouldn’t be such an issue for other people.  Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children and people under 40, despite receiving less than 1% of the national spend on cancer research. You can donate here if you want to help find a cure for this horrible disease. Anyway – back to the book – which isn’t all doom and gloom at all.

You find yourself laughing at and with Aisling, cringing with her, crying with her – and all the time wanting the best for her. Big topics – particularly in Ireland – like gay marriage and abortion – are part of the storyline, but are weaved into it as normal everyday things, you don’t feel like a drum is being banged.

It’s generally an easy read book, with real laugh out loud moments, but also a heart.  I’m not sure middle aged English women are target market – but I did still enjoy it.

This fits into my 2018 Reading Challenge as a book written by two authors.   Thank you Netgalley for my free copy in return for an honest review.

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager

Final Girls

 

“Three girls. Three tragedies. One unthinkable secret.
The media calls them the Final Girls – Quincy, Sam, Lisa – the infamous group that no one wants to be part of. The sole survivors of three separate killing sprees, they are linked by their shared trauma.
But when Lisa dies in mysterious circumstances and Sam shows up unannounced on her doorstep, Quincy must admit that she doesn’t really know anything about the other Final Girls. Can she trust them? Or can there only ever be one?
All Quincy knows is one thing: she is next.”

FINALLY – a book I can review in real time – hoorah!  This was out last year, but a lovely friend just let me borrow it – and it’s good!!!

It cycles between Quincy’s current life – written in the first person – and historic events, written in the third person.  I liked this different style of writing (but I am such a geek!)

Quincy lives in New York, and I enjoyed that it felt quite familiar having been there a few times recently.  The descriptions of Central Park in particular were great – both in the daytime and at night.  I can imagine it being a very different place after dark – but I don’t plan to find this out.

I liked Quincy and was rooting for her from the start – although sometimes she needed a bit of a shake!!

The story twists and turns significantly – in a good way – and some of the twists are very unpredictable – particularly towards the end – but it kept me intrigued and consequently I devoured it in just a few days.

The descriptions of some of the crimes are quite gruesome – needed for the story – but still quite vicious, so don’t read this book if you’re of a sensitive disposition!!

I’m not sure where this will fit into my 2018 Reading Challenge as yet. One of the categories is a female author writing under a male pseudonym – but this is the exact opposite!  Riley Sager is a gender neutral name chosen by a male author who had previously been published, but apparently felt this new genre would be more readily accepted as a ‘female’ author.  Interesting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distinct lack of book reviews!!

I didn’t want you all to be concerned (I know, I over think my own importance!) that I wasn’t reading at the moment. What with being lent advanced copies of books by Netgalley and a lovely friend in the industry,  I keep reading books that I can’t immediately review, as blog posts are embargoed until nearer their release date.  It is severely hampering my blog stats – but never mind, come the summer, I’ll have a plethora of posts about new books!!

However, I do need to start ticking off categories in my 2018 Reading Challenge, as I’m running out of ways to shoe horn in books I’ve been given – but I’m my mother’s daughter, and can’t resist a freebie…….

 

 

 

 

 

Time capsule briefcase

Last night I sorted out a briefcase to take to fancy London today. These days it’s pretty rare for me to use such a bag – and that was clearly evident when I sorted out the contents of the interior pockets:

  1. Business cards from an office we moved out of over 5 years ago.
  2. Ibuprofen with a use by date of 2011! I’d forgotten just how many I use to pop – before pilates sorted my back out.
  3. Medium sized tampons – this was definitely pre children 3 and 4, super plus all the way since then!!

 

Because of all of the above, I didn’t risk eating the chocolate coins that I also found……………..

 

Briefcase.jpg

Book Review: Letters to Iris by Elizabeth Noble

Letters to Iris

 

I am trying to be a bit more selective about what advanced review copy books I request from Netgalley – partly so I don’t get stuck with any more duds – but also because I want to be able to read them and give timely feedback so that I have a good reviewer rating and so when something I’m desperate to read comes along I can be approved!  (I am naturally a total geek too……)

Anyway – I saw this on there, and it really appealed so I decided to request it and was accepted (it still makes me do a happy dance every time this happens)

Here’s the blurb:

“Tess has a secret – one which is going to turn her life upside down in just nine months’ time.

The only person she can confide in is her beloved grandmother. But Iris is slipping further away each day.

Then chance brings a stranger into Tess’s life.

Gigi’s heart goes out to Tess, knowing what it’s like to feel alone. She’s determined to show her that there’s a silver lining to every cloud.

As their unlikely friendship blossoms, Tess feels inspired to open up.

But something still holds her back – until she discovers Iris has a secret of her own. A suitcase of letters from another time, the missing pieces of a life she never shared.

Could the letters hold the answers that Tess thought lost for ever?

An uplifting, unforgettable story about keeping secrets, taking chances and finding happiness where you least expect it.”

 

Initially the stories of Tess and Gigi appear completely separate and you’re not sure how they’re going to meet up – but then about 25% of the way through, they meet at a care home they both have relatives at. The care home sections were quite relevant to me, as my maternal grandmother has become a resident of one recently – so now they are much more on my radar than ever before.

I was immediately intrigued by both Tess and Gigi’s stories – I found both interesting, in completely different ways.  Tess writes to her unborn child – and that made me think about my own pregnancies – in a fond, reminiscing kind of way!

The book made me laugh – and cry – which is always good.  Whilst Tess and Gigi are the main characters, the supporting characters are also great and well rounded.  I particularly liked Tess’s friend Holly (whose daughter is a similar age to my eldest, and so was probably the character going through the most similar issues to me) and also Gigi’s daughter in law Emily – who was just lovely.

I won’t give too much of the story away (I loathe reviews that do that) and it is reasonably predictable – but in a comfortable and safe way, with some twists and turns along the way.  It does, as you expect from the start, encompass the whole ‘circle of life’ (sung in a Disney way, obvs!)

Now being a bit of a geek, I thought the book was really well written – it felt like it had been written with care and attention to detail and language.  Sometimes I feel some modern books seem a bit ‘disposable’ and have been written quickly by the author – this felt like it had been lovingly crafted rather than banged off to meet a deadline. (I hope you understand what I mean and I don’t sound like a total snobby weirdo?!?)

A big thank you to Netgalley and Penguin for my free advance review copy in return for my honest opinion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Why Mummy Drinks by Gill Sims

Why Mummy Drinks

I arrived home from work the other evening to find that our lovely nanny had left a copy of this book on my desk to read.  I’m not sure if it is a bit concerning that she chose a book called ‘Why Mummy Drinks’, I’m hoping she realised it was a novel and wasn’t giving me a self help book?!?!?

Another friend had raved about this last year – and I have read some of Gill Sims Facebook posts about ‘Peter and Jane’ which spawned this book – so I was looking forward to it.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Why Mummy Drinks is the brilliant novel from Gill Sims, the author of the online sensation Peter and Jane.

It is Mummy’s 39th birthday. She is staring down the barrel of a future of people asking if she wants to come to their advanced yoga classes, and polite book clubs where everyone claims to be tiddly after a glass of Pinot Grigio and says things like ‘Oooh gosh, are you having another glass?’

But Mummy does not want to go quietly into that good night of women with sensible haircuts who ‘live for their children’ and stand in the playground trying to trump each other with their offspring’s extracurricular activities and achievements, and boasting about their latest holidays.

Instead, she clutches a large glass of wine, muttering ‘FML’ over and over again. Until she remembers the gem of an idea she’s had…”

I have to say I enjoyed it straight away!  There have been other books written about motherhood – Hurrah for Gin‘s springs to mind immediately as one I’ve reviewed – and they were good, but in this, Peter and Jane are 8 and 6 – almost exactly the same age as my youngest two children, and so it was sooooo much more currently relevant than newborn related books.

As well as laughing (and shaking in an attempt not to wake my sleeping husband)  – I was nodding in total agreement (I have a 6 year old who still wants to keep taking the lovely pink Calpol and not to have to have the 6+ version. Equally I have a 14 year old who insists on still taking the 6+ sweets style Calpol rather than proper paracetamol tablets – I’m not sure 6+ Calpol is designed for period pain…….. )

The book is written in the style of a diary – school year diary not calendar year diary – and all the major events are covered!  Christmas was a particular favourite for me – but I won’t ruin it for you by telling you what happens.  There was also a family trip to The Savoy – which we did last year (and the stress about not having WAG style luggage was real!) – and the swimming pool, that we loved, got a mention too.

Savoy bathrobes
Giving the Savoy bathrobes some good press for once!

There are people in it – from the school gates / friends / family – who you will recognise IMMEDIATELY.  Clearly I’m not going to name names (well, not unless you buy me a gin or two!) but you will totally recognise people you know.   I texted one of my sisters as I was part way through the book as I knew she’d love it (and she never reads my book review blog posts – how rude!) and she downloaded it instantly – and then texted me to complain she was not getting through any of her ‘to do list’ for the weekend as she loved it so much she couldn’t put it down!!

It’s a bit sweary, there’s a recurring alcohol theme throughout, it’s fabulously middle class and suburban – and just bloody brilliant!  It reminded me of the TV programme Motherland that covered similar topics (but I have to say, I think ‘Why Mummy Drinks’ is better, and I preferred Ellen to Julia as the main character.)

I’m not sure where this will fit into my 2018 Reading Challenge – but I don’t care!  It was worth going off piste because it was so good.  And I am DELIGHTED there is to be a sequel so we can find out what happens to Ellen, Simon, Jane and Peter next – in Why Mummy Swears which is out in July – hoorah!

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

A new deli opened in our village at the end of last year – Gin & Pickles.  I love it very much and am a loyal customer already – coffee & cake in the morning, lunchtime platters of cold meats and cheese, and evenings filled with gin have already featured in my visits.  Let alone the huge quantities of take away items we acquire most weeks to enjoy back at home!  I thought I couldn’t love it any more – until I popped in the other day and the lovely owner, who’d seen a couple of friends recommend this book to me on social media, gave me her copy to borrow!  Gin, pickles – and books to borrow – practically heaven on earth?!?

The Keeper of Lost Things

I had high hopes for ‘The Keeper of Lost Things’ as lots of people had recommended it, so here’s the blurb:

“Meet the ‘Keeper of Lost Things’…
Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before.

Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners.

But the final wishes of the ‘Keeper of Lost Things’ have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters…”

My high hopes were not disappointed – it is a truly lovely book.

The relationships, initially between Laura and Anthony, but then between Laura, Freddy and Sunshine are great.  Reasonably predicable but the interactions develop in a lovely and endearing way, and you want the best for all of them.

The story of these characters – and the house, Padua, which is practically a character in itself, are interspersed with stories from decades earlier about seemingly unrelated characters called Eunice and Bomber.  You kind of guess they’re going to end up converging – but I didn’t work out exactly how this would happen until very near the end of the book (I won’t ruin it for you!) The chapters set in a care home – well, two different care homes – were particularly poignant, as my Nan has recently become a care home resident.

There are also stories in italics – which ‘could’ be how the items that Anthony has been collecting were lost – but for the bulk of the book you’re not quite sure if they are his imagination or actual facts.

It is not a difficult read – and you have to go with the coincidences, particularly at the end, but it’s a lovely, escapist, enchanting read – which I think would appeal to a cross section of all ages.

Sunshine is my favourite character – I’d like her to come round and make me ‘the lovely cup of tea’ and have a chat sometime.  (That will make sense once you’ve read the book!!)

This is fitting into my 2018 Reading Challenge category of “A book recommended by someone else taking the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge”. I’m getting a bit ahead of myself and have ticked off two of the advanced categories without doing all of the initial ones – but we shall be optimistic for the next 9 and a half months!