Book Review: The Anniversary by Hilary Boyd

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I was lucky enough to be sent an advanced review copy by Penguin of this new book out in September 2018 in return for an honest review.  Here’s the  blurb:

“Is the one you tried to forget the one you can’t live without?
Stella once thought that if she never saw Jack again, it would be too soon.
But life has other plans for her and her stubborn, handsome ex-husband.
Looking after their daughter in a time of need, Stella finds herself unwillingly reunited with the man she shared the best years of her life with – followed by the worst.
Where tragedy once tore them apart, now Stella and Jack are being drawn back together. But each of them has a new partner and a new life.
Should they fight temptation?
Should the past remain the past?
Or are some loves simply meant to be?”

The book is set in the current time – but with flashbacks to the family tragedy 27 years earlier.  The back story is filled out over time in a way that keeps you wanting to know more. Whilst you find out early on what the result was of the tragic event – you don’t know how and why it happened (and I won’t ruin it by giving too much away here – I loathe reviews that ruin a fundamental part of the story – and I’m pleased the blurb doesn’t in this case).

I really liked Stella and Jack – and you’re routing for them both in different ways.

Their daughter Eve (co-incidentally one of my daughter’s too) is very much stuck in the middle – and I found her a bit annoying at times, but pregnancy can make anyone a bit annoying (I’ve done it 4 times, and I’m sure was annoying every time!!)

I devoured the book in a few hours on holiday – but it felt like the kind of book you want to romp through as it moves at quite a pace – and you’re picking up the history too.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was a reasonably easy read – although appeared to have some randomly complicated words in at times – you could almost picture the writer using the synonym feature on her computer to get a fancy pants word as it generally wasn’t highbrow language!!

I don’t think I’ve read anything by Hilary Boyd before – but I will be sure to look out her back catalogue now for other holiday reads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: The Rules of Seeing by Joe Heap

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I was lent a copy of this by a friend – and told it was really ‘different’.  Now, I’m always nervous of ‘different’ having used exactly that word to describe Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch’ – some of my friends still haven’t forgiven me for putting then through that!  Anyway – I read the book without reading the blurb first – which is always a risk!!

But here it is for you:

“Nova is 32 years old and she is about to see the world for the very first time.
Jillian Safinova, Nova to her friends, can do many things. She can speak five languages. She can always find a silver lining. And she can even tell when someone is lying just from the sound of their voice.
But there’s one thing Nova can’t do. She can’t see.
When her brother convinces her to have an operation that will restore her sight, Nova wakes up to a world she no longer understands. Until she meets Kate.
As Kate comes into focus, her past threatens to throw them into a different kind of darkness. Can they each learn to see the world in a different … and open their eyes to the lives they could have been living all along?”

I LOVED this book – from start to finish.  It’s difficult to know what category to put it in – there is a lot about the physical act of seeing, but also non physical blindness to things going on around you – as well as a romance and thriller aspects – very difficult to pin it down to a genre.

The whole concept of ‘curing’ a ‘broken’ sense is something I hadn’t even considered until a few years ago when a friend’s son was diagnosed as profoundly deaf at birth.  Cochlear implants were an option for him – and as someone with no experience of the deaf world at all, I just assumed it was a no brainer, and anything to make a child ‘normal’ (I cringe writing that now) should be grabbed at.  I hadn’t realised – until my very patient and forgiving friend – explained to me the complexities of ‘curing’ deafness has massively opposing views in the deaf community.  At the age of about 1, my friend’s son did have the implants and is thriving as a funny, feisty, bright, articulate, handsome, loving and loved 6 year old – and his implants are something that will be an intrinsic part of his life forever.

I think this gave me slightly more of an insight into Nova’s operation than I would have had if I’d not even considered ‘repairing a broken sense’ before. Obviously in her case it’s totally different as it’s sight not hearing, and she’s 32 – so has lived without seeing anything properly her entire life to date.  She’s an independent, successful woman working as an interpreter for the police – and the aftermath of her operation plays out for her professionally, personally and psychologically.

Nova’s path crosses with Kate in hospital. I have to say I’d made assumptions about how Kate’s injuries would pan out – and I was totally and utterly wrong! But their lives become entwined in a complex and ever changing way. The support they show each other – in different ways at different times – is beautiful and very real.

Also, being a ‘builder’ in my day job helped me appreciate some of Kate’s geeky architect references, for example the soundproofed new flat – I love it when there are seemingly irrelevant facts that interest me!

Nova and Kate’s relationships with family and friends are fundamental to the story but work really well – you see them as rounded people without any of it being forced – it’s just written really well. I don’t want to give too much of it away – you need to see what I mean when you read it.

This book does make you think about how we ‘see’ – and Nova’s rules of seeing are dotted throughout – some are practical – and some with a much deeper meaning – but all very cleverly done.

I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone and everyone!

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

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I am trying to tick off some categories in my 2018 reading challenge – and this book by Amy Schumer is a previous Goodreads Peoples Choice winner #yay. My husband and I watched ‘Trainwreck’ a few years ago – and he was surprised how much the Amy Schumer character reminded him of me…… (this is a compliment – I think?!)  We watched some of her stand up and found that very entertaining too (probably I enjoyed it more than him – even though he doesn’t mind a vulgar sex reference much!!)  Anyway – I wanted to find out more about the real Amy – rather than the semi autobiographical one from Trainwreck (and was hoping I wouldn’t be massively disappointed in the whole Greatest Showman / PT Barnum autobiography debacle from earlier this summer)

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“In The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy shares stories about her family, her relationships, her career, good – and bad – sex, recounting the experiences that have shaped who she is today: from the riches to rags story of her childhood to her teenage quest for popularity (and boys) to becoming one of the most sought-after comedians on the planet and an outspoken advocate for women’s rights.
Whether she’s experiencing lust at first sight in the queue at the airport, discovering her boot camp instructor’s secret bad habit, or candidly discussing her father’s multiple sclerosis, Amy Schumer proves to be a fearless, original, and always entertaining storyteller. Her book will move you, make you laugh, catch you completely off guard, and answer this burning question: is it okay for a 35 year-old woman to still sleep with her childhood teddy bears?”

First up – I really enjoyed the book.  It’s quite explicit sexually – but that’s not a huge surprise if you’ve seen any of Amy’s previous work!  But it’s also very soul bearing emotionally.  Both as a woman – but also in her role as a daughter.  I hadn’t appreciated that her father had multiple sclerosis – this touched a nerve having watched a family friend – the Dad of one of my best friends – go through this diagnosis and live with MS for 30 years until he eventually passed away a few years ago.  I note from a bit of Google research that Mr Schumer has undergone some stem cell research (mentioned in the closing chapters of the book) and has successfully stood again – which is AMAZING news.

Amy is very open and honest throughout the book – again, as you would expect from her stand up.  I thought it very interesting how she would class herself as an introvert – despite her chosen career.

I loved her relationship with her sister, brother in law and niece – they are clearly a really vital and loved part of her world.  Her relationship with her Mum is more ‘interesting’ and is explored in some depth at different times in her life.

The book also emphasised just how hard she worked for years on end before becoming an apparent ‘overnight success’ – and I hadn’t really thought before how a comic has to be continually working on their act – as she says, it’s not like being a musician where everyone wants the old classics people want new stuff all the time!  (The complete opposite of a Take That concert where everyone pops to the loo whilst they play the new stuff, willing them to sing Relight My Fire so they can do the Lulu bit – or maybe that’s just me?!?!?)

I found the book interesting, funny, thought provoking, emotional and really enjoyable.  And a million times better than the P T Barnum autobiography!!

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The House We Called Home by Jenny Oliver

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I have to confess to being a bit of a fan girl of Jenny Oliver’s (when I met her in real life I was a) a bit drunk and b) a bit embarrassing by introducing myself as THE Libby Price (as she’d named a character after me in a previous book after my husband bid for it in a charity auction!) )  She is a friend of a friend – and I believe this book in hard copy has dedication to the aforementioned friend – but I couldn’t find that on the Kindle version (which is currently 99p – what a bargain!)

Here’s the blurb:

“The house where Stella and her sister Amy grew up never changes – the red front door, the breath-taking view over the Cornish coast, her parents in their usual spots on the sofa. Except this summer, things feel a little different…
Stella’s father is nowhere to be seen, yet her mother – in suspiciously new Per Una jeans – seems curiously unfazed by his absence, and more eager to talk about her mysterious dog-walking buddy Mitch.
Stella’s sister Amy has returned home with a new boyfriend she can barely stand and a secret to hide, and Stella’s husband Jack has something he wants to get off his chest too. Even Frank Sinatra, the dog, has a guilty air about him.
This summer, change is in the air for the Whitethorns…
Warm, funny and gloriously feel-good, this is the perfect summer read for fans of Veronica Henry and Milly Johnson.”

I really enjoyed this from the start.  Stella is having difficulties with a  challenging 13 year old son – and I totally empathise with that! Not that I’ve dumped mine at my parents – yet!

I liked the fact that the book revolved around the extended family – and so there were lots of central characters. Whilst Stella was the one I empathised with most – I liked most of them – although wanted to slap some of the on a number of occasions!!

A chunk of the book is based on competitive swimming – we have good friends who swim in that world (ridiculous pun most definitely intended!) and so I could empathise with some of that too!

Having holidayed in Cornwall and Portugal in the last few months I had some of the locations in the bag already too – which is always useful!  I’m a sucker for any story that includes a pastel de nata reference! #Portuguesecustardtart

I have to admit that a couple of friends had said this was utterly amazing and they had wept through it – and maybe I’m a hard hearted cow – but I didn’t find it that emotional – but I did really enjoy it.

For 99p – you can’t go wrong!

P.S. Whilst I can concur with the Veronica Henry reference in the blurb – this blows any Milly Johnson I’ve ever read out of the water!!!

 

 

 

Book Review: Brave by Rose McGowan

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My friend offered to lend me this – and my immediate comment was ‘oh, the Harvey Weinstein book’ – I couldn’t have been more wrong – I will explain why in a minute.

First – here’s the blurb:

”  “My life, as you will read, has taken me from one cult to another. BRAVE is the story of how I fought my way out of these cults and reclaimed my life. I want to help you do the same.” -Rose McGowan

A revealing memoir and empowering manifesto – A voice for generations

Rose McGowan was born in one cult and came of age in another, more visible cult: Hollywood.

In a strange world where she was continually on display, stardom soon became a personal nightmare of constant exposure and sexualization. Rose escaped into the world of her mind, something she had done as a child, and into high-profile relationships. Every detail of her personal life became public, and the realities of an inherently sexist industry emerged with every script, role, public appearance, and magazine cover. The Hollywood machine packaged her as a sexualized bombshell, hijacking her image and identity and marketing them for profit.

Hollywood expected Rose to be silent and cooperative and to stay the path. Instead, she rebelled and asserted her true identity and voice. She reemerged unscripted, courageous, victorious, angry, smart, fierce, unapologetic, controversial, and real as f*ck.

BRAVE is her raw, honest, and poignant memoir/manifesto—a no-holds-barred, pull-no-punches account of the rise of a millennial icon, fearless activist, and unstoppable force for change who is determined to expose the truth about the entertainment industry, dismantle the concept of fame, shine a light on a multibillion-dollar business built on systemic misogyny, and empower people everywhere to wake up and be BRAVE.”

The book follows Rose’s life – not quite chronologically, but pretty much – and what a life it’s been.  She was brought up in a Children of God cult in Italy – and then moved back to the US as a child.  It was all very tumultuous, and she legally emancipated herself from her parents as a teenager.

It talks you through her time in Hollywood – which again has been eventful.  She doesn’t name Harvey Weinstein in the book (hence the fact I was so wrong in my description of it) as she doesn’t want to name ‘the monster’ – but what he did to her was horrific – and explained in great detail.  The fact that Ms McGowan was one of the first women to ‘out’ the monster has been widely reported – and thank goodness she had the balls to do it.  She is clearly (and rightly) very angry about what happened to her – and the knock on effect it had throughout her career in ‘the industry’.

Later on she talks about a Director she was in a relationship with – initially calling him RR.  But by the end of the book Robert Rodriguez has been fully named.  She also talks about her relationship with Marilyn Manson (which coincidentally was then mentioned in a film I watched yesterday)

I’m pleased I read this – and it was informative – albeit disturbing.  I feel much more briefed about the origins of the #metoo movement. Even in my accountancy profession I witnessed sexual harassment – but nowhere near on this scale – it really is shocking.

I wish Rose McGowan the best of luck for the future and applaud her for changing Hollywood, hopefully forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

So – if you’re reading this in the UK it’s 7½ deaths – but in America, where it’s already been published, it’s just 7.  I’m not sure why we get an extra half a death over this side of the Atlantic – but I am assured it’s the same book.

Anyway – I was very kindly given an advance review copy (well, advance for the UK market) from Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Here’s the blurb:

“The Hardcastle family is hosting a masquerade at their home, and their daughter Evelyn Hardcastle will die. She will die everyday until Aiden Bishop is able identify her killer and break the cycle.

But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up each day in a different  body as one of the guests. 

Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend. But nothing and no one are quite what they seem. 

Deeply atmospheric and ingeniously plotted, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a highly original debut that’s an Agatha Christie mystery in a Groundhog Day Loop, with a bit of Quantum Leap to it. “

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This really is an intriguing and very different book!  (Different in a much better way than when I described Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch’ as different – before various friends get panicky!)

Each day Aiden Bishop wakes up in a different host’s body.  He stays in that body for a day (during the host’s waking hours) or until the host dies.  It therefore flips between hosts, days, hours of the same day, with alarming frequency.

I am very glad that I am on the wagon at the moment – as it was tricky enough to keep track of when stone cold sober – and definitely would not be a book to read when even mildly inebriated!! Even in my abstemious state, it was still tricky to keep a handle on entirely what was going on…….

Often with books I get cross with the author (and editor!) for not spotting loopholes in plots and inconsistencies – but it was pretty much impossible to even begin to dissect the plot with this one!  The interview with the author at the end says that he had a wall full of post it notes and a spreadsheet to ensure all of the characters and plot lines were consistent whilst writing the book – and unless I’d recreated this, I really don’t think it was possible to keep up, you kind of just have to go with it (which for a control freak like me is a bit tricky!)

The hosts that Aiden uses each day are all very different – physically / emotionally / mentally – and that is very cleverly portrayed.  You’re never quite sure who you’re rooting for though.  The house where it’s set – Blackheath – is also really well described and you can picture yourself inside it – and it’s grounds. It is very atmospheric.

Overall I enjoyed this – although I’m pretty exhausted having finished it – and am looking forward to something a bit lighter and less taxing for my next read!  Reading something with a new ‘concept’ is a refreshing change – and I’m already interested to see what the author writes next!

Definitely put this on your list for when it’s published in the Autumn.

It’s slotting into my 2018 Reading Challenge as a book about time travel.