Book Review: V For Victory by Lissa Evans

V for Victory

Yet again using Red Magazine as my guide, I requested an ARC of V For Victory by Lissa Evans from NetGalley. Here’s the blurb:

“It’s late 1944. Hitler’s rockets are slamming down on London with vicious regularity and it’s the coldest winter in living memory. Allied victory is on its way, but it’s bloody well dragging its feet.
In a large house next to Hampstead Heath, Vee Sedge is just about scraping by, with a herd of lodgers to feed, and her young charge Noel ( almost fifteen ) to clothe and educate. When she witnesses a road accident and finds herself in court, the repercussions are both unexpectedly marvellous and potentially disastrous – disastrous because Vee is not actually the person she’s pretending to be, and neither is Noel.
The end of the war won’t just mean peace, but discovery…
With caustic wit and artful storytelling, Lissa Evans elegantly summons a time when the world could finally hope to emerge from the chaos of war. As sharply comic as Old Baggage and emotionally poignant as Crooked Heart, V For Victory once again shows Lissa Evans to be one of our most brilliant and subtle writers.”

Now – I didn’t realise until I saw on NetGalley – there are actually 2  books that precede this.   I hadn’t realised it was part of a set and so read it standalone – which was totally fine, and the relevant back story was fleshed out enough that it made sense.  However, if I’d known I probably would have read the other two books first – mostly because I’m a pedant who likes to do things in order.

The book tells the story of Noel and Vee and the interesting tenants of their boarding house near Hampstead Heath – and then a story running parallel, which interconnects at times, of Winnie a local ARP warden and her friends and family.

This is a beautifully written book and really evokes the feeling of London at this time in history.  The destruction and sadness – but with glimpses of happiness and normality.  The way the buildings are described – pre and post bombings – is wonderful, and makes it really easy to imagine being there.

The tenants of Green Shutters are an eclectic mix – and all teaching Noel different subjects.  He’s a geek (in a good way, I am a geek and see this as a compliment!) and interested in learning – I liked him a lot! I was also proud of his chicken keeping (my kids love our chickens too).

Winnie was a wonderful character – she just knuckled down and got on with life.  The sometimes strained relationship with her sister Avril was really well written – sibling rivalries – in this case even more so as twins  – was observed excellently.  The camaraderie between Winnie and her ARP colleagues – and many of the locals – was also beautifully portrayed. The letters between Winnie and her husband – who was away at war – were talked about a number of times – and the evolving story of them, particularly at the end of the book, was really moving – but also funny.

There are twist and turns involving Noel’s parentage which were really emotive – in very different ways.  One minute you were happy, then sad, then laughing, then shocked – the whole gamut of emotions was run!

This is not a bare knuckle ride of a book, it’s a beautiful, well written, evocative novel and I really enjoyed it.

If I had my time again I would probably read the series in order – but overall this was a lovely escapist read, and I would highly recommend it.  It came out yesterday – so you can buy it now!








Book Review: Scenes of a Graphic Nature by Caroline O’Donoghue


I saw this book reviewed in this month’s Red magazine – and so saw if NetGalley had any ARCs – and they did – so I was lucky enough to receive a copy the day before publication date (so at least that means if you like the sound of it you can get a copy immediately – rather than me tempting you weeks before a book comes out!)

Here’s the blurb:

“After a tough few years floundering around the British film industry, experimenting with amateur pornography and watching her father’s health rapidly decline, Charlie and her best friend Laura journey to her ancestral home of Clipim, an island off the west coast of Ireland. Knowing this could be the last chance to connect with her dad’s history before she loses him, Charlie clings to the idea of her Irish roots offering some kind of solace. But when the girls arrive at Clipim, Charlie begins to question both her difficult relationship with Laura and her father’s childhood stories. Before long, she’s embroiled in a devastating conspiracy that’s been sixty years in the making . . . and it’s up to her to reveal the truth of it.”

At the start of the book I have to confess to finding Charlie a bit of an annoying millennial – sorry, I know I’m an old fart – but I wanted to give her a good shake! But I persevered – as I generally like Sarra Manning’s recommendations – and the book did, thankfully,  improve.

The fictional island of Clipim off the West Coast of Ireland was, in my imagination, like Great Cumbrae off the West Coast of Scotland where we used to visit as children.  A very small island where everyone knows everyone else’s business!  This mythical place had been part of Charlie’s family history – but she’d never been.  In fact she’d never set foot in Ireland at all despite her proud half Irish heritage!  However, she’d made a film about her Dad’s  time in Clipim as a child and a terrible tragedy that had occurred back then which was being shown at the Cork Film Festival – so Charlie and her best friend Laura hopped across to Clipim too.

Once on Clipim Charlie begins to suspect there is more to the historic tragedy than meets the eye.  There are some weird goings on in the present day there too.

The book is part self discovery for Charlie, part friendship / relationship issues, part murder mystery – and consequently kept me interested.

Charlie’s relationship with her parents was tricky – she seemed to be a complete Daddy’s girl – and her relationship with her Mum was generally really strained.  It was a real shame for both of them, as with a very poorly father, it would have been better for them both if there’d been some more give and take.

And her best friend Laura seemed a bit of a cow at times I have to say.  Charlie’s relationship with Maria was interesting – and I do wonder how it developed between the end of the main book and the epilogue.

The book seems to conclude really quickly, within the last few pages – and it didn’t feel like there were PROPER answers.  And I was also left confused about some of the characters – who appear to have just been totally weird, but not for any specific reason! Benjamin Barry who ran the caravan park was completely odd, manipulative and weird – but with no explanation why.

Whilst the book is not based on a true historical incident, and Clipim is not a real island in Ireland – there were ‘Magadalene laundries’ as is referenced in the book with stories that are still being uncovered today.  The unfolding of the tragedy did seem totally believable – if terribly sad.

Overall I did enjoy the book and thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my ARC.





Book Review: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

The Thursday Murder Club

First things first, I need to confess that I LOVE Richard Osman.  I suspect he’s appeared on a Heat Weird Crush list at some point (Google confirms, winner in 2011) – but is clearly far more valid an entrant than Piers Morgan.  Richard is funny, quick witted, clever and an all round perfect crush.  OK, so Xander Armstrong might have the royal lineage and recording contract for easy listening stuff your Mum would listen to – but Richard is the star of Pointless for me.  (Although I am still a bit disappointed that my Mum and I never got past the application form stage – although perhaps there is a special pile designated for ‘potential stalkers of Richard therefore do not progress’)

Anyway – enough of my fan girling – but it’s safe to say I had high hopes for this book when I was approved for an advance review copy on NetGalley.

Here’s the blurb (in case ‘written by Richard Osman’ isn’t enough of a temptation for everyone):

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.
But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.
Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.
Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?”


I ADORED this book.  As crime dramas go it’s more ‘Grantchester’ than ‘Line of Duty’ – but that was just perfect.

The central character OAPs are a diverse bunch who each bring skills from their younger lives to the team –  Elizabeth has some mysterious espionage background, Joyce was a nurse, Ibrahim a psychiatrist, and Ron a union firebrand.  Their relationship with Chris and Donna – the police in charge of the investigation – is hilarious, Elizabeth is the Queen of manipulation – and everyone ends up doing what she wants.

There are red herrings aplenty – and coincidences galore – but that all makes for a twisty turny read that I couldn’t put down.

I started highlighting sentences that I loved – but realised I’d end up having most of the book highlighted – so here are just a couple to give you a flavour:

“After a certain age, you can pretty much do whatever takes your fancy.  No one tells you off, except for your doctors and your children.”  This was very early on in the book and rang incredibly true, particularly following the recent lockdown – where I, and a number of friends, have had to deal with septuagenarian parents who think we are totally unreasonable for discounting ‘popping to get a paper’ as an essential journey and thus telling them off!

“I haven’t been to Ashford International, but I doubt a station would have ‘International’ in its name and not have an M&S.” This is just so British – and I could hear my late Nan saying something exactly like this! In the 1980s – so when there were far less mini M&Ss around – my Grandfather got my Nan to walk to the top of the Long Mynd in Shropshire by promising her there was an M&S at the top!

Whilst there are murders, there is also a lot of humour and laugh out loud moments.  There are also some really tender and emotional moments between the characters – and some big stuff is dealt with too – dementia, suicide, euthanasia, family relationships – but all done in a lovely way.

It’s funny, clever, quick witted – and you can almost hear Richard Osman saying some of the lines.  I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book where the personality of the writer is so personified in the way it’s written – but as a fan that doesn’t bother me (however if you don’t like Mr Osman, maybe don’t bother reading it!?)

The only slight bug bear is that the formatting is a bit weird – and mid paragraph you could jump scene from, say, the retirement village to the police station.  Initially I thought this might have been a clever ploy to keep the reader on their toes and potentially stave off dementia – but suspect that more likely it’s because it was a proof copy and this will be sorted before the book is actually released!

But aside from this – I thoroughly enjoyed this fabulous book – and I’m chuffed that it’s the start of a series.  I can not wait to see what the Thursday Murder Club get up to next.

A huge thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my advance review copy – I will be singing The Thursday Murder Club’s praises far and wide!



Book Review: If I Could Say Goodbye by Emma Cooper



I loved both of Emma Cooper’s previous books – so when I saw her third was being published in September 2020 I dived onto NetGalley to see if I could get an advance review copy – and I did!

Here’s the blurb:

“Jennifer Jones’ life began when her little sister, Kerry, was born. So when her sister dies in a tragic accident, nothing seems to make sense any more.

Despite the support of her husband, Ed, and their wonderful children, Jen can’t comprehend why she is still here, while bright, spirited Kerry is not.

When Jen starts to lose herself in her memories of her sister, she doesn’t realise that the closer she feels to Kerry, the further she gets from her family.

Jen was never able to say goodbye to her sister. But what if she could?

Would you risk everything if you had the chance to say goodbye?”


I am gutted – but I didn’t love this as much as Emma’s last two books.  Possibly because I totally bloody adored them and so had high hopes – but it just wasn’t quite there for me.

I have to say initially I found this a bit disturbing.  Jen’s grief feels really personal – and being part of that felt intrusive.  The person I felt most sorry for throughout the whole book was her poor husband Ed – he really was left having to deal with everything.

I know grief is a very individual thing – and I will literally be GUTTED when either of my sisters do pass away – but at the same time, Jen seemed to totally desert her husband and kids though her grief.  I am incredibly lucky that aside from the circle of life grandparents passing away, I have never had anyone close to me die – but I have seen a friend lose her child, and another friend her husband.  Clearly they were DEVASTATED by this – and still some days are worse than others – but at no point did they totally neglect their still living children and family members.  The whole storyline felt totally alien.  I guess it’s based upon an individual’s mental health which is completely personal to that human – but as a reader, I found it really hard to be empathetic with Jen at all when she still had her life to live, and her husband and kids to support her and who needed her support.

Jen’s relationship with her sister’s partner, Nessa, also felt odd to me.  Initially stilted and forced, to then over friendly and weird.  I felt sorry for Jen’s parents who effectively lost both daughters after the accident.  The fact Jen was adopted and Kerry wasn’t felt forced into the storyline.

Maybe if there had been some back story to the sisters relationship – as clearly they must have been much closer than regular sisters – it may have made more sense.  And I also felt I didn’t know Jen enough ‘pre accident’.  However the story very much implied her behaviour post accident was totally different to how she was pre accident.

As with Emma’s previous books it was well written, funny, prompted me to laugh out loud a number of times, and had lots of current themes etc.  But for me, it just didn’t quite hit the mark – but as I say, this could have been due to my unrealistic expectations. Possibly if I’d not had these high hopes it wouldn’t have felt like it wasn’t quite right.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my advance review copy.