Book Review: The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

 

The Music Shop

The other week I was ‘post checking’ for my parents whilst they were on holiday.  Much like my mother, I can’t let a situation go unexplained – so bear with! I spotted this book in their hallway and asked if I could borrow it.  Mum explained it wasn’t theirs, but my Dad couldn’t read it at the moment because of an eyesight problem he has, and their friends were in no rush to have it back – so it was fine for me to borrow it.  (#neverknowinglyunderexplained)

I’d read previous books by Rachel Joyce – so thought it would be a lovely, pleasant read on holiday.

Here’s the blurb:

“1988. Frank owns a music shop. It is jam-packed with records of every speed, size and genre. Classical, jazz, punk – as long as it’s vinyl he sells it. Day after day Frank finds his customers the music they need.

Then into his life walks Ilse Brauchmann.

Ilse asks Frank to teach her about music. His instinct is to turn and run. And yet he is drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with her pea-green coat and her eyes as black as vinyl. But Ilse is not what she seems. And Frank has old wounds that threaten to re-open and a past he will never leave behind …”

I really enjoyed this from start to finish.  As with Rachel Joyce’s previous books, it’s really well written – and a lovely escapist read.  The fact that it talks about music was also great – as I’m a huge fan of lots of genres of music.

Frank is the main character, and his relationship with Ilse is the centrepiece of the story – but there is a whole host of ‘chorus’ parts that are wonderful.  A tattooist, two undertakers, a Polish baker, the Saturday boy, a café waitress – to name but a few.  The interactions between them all are beautifully observed and feel very real – you are rooting for the whole band of them.

Some of it is just lovely, and some is really moving.  I did weep a couple of times – particularly at the end.  Whilst set in 1988 – and then more recently – it does show how the British High Street has changed over the decades too.

The Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah is fundamental to the story line and is a piece of music I love (randomly, Alexa decided to play it for me the other evening which was lovely!)  I was rehearsal pianist for a production of it way back when I was in sixth form – and because the tenor section were rubbish, I had to bang out their notes – so consequently that is the part I always end up singing along #randomfact

I was not wrong in my expectations, and this is a lovely, escapist, pleasant read – in a world where more of those are needed!

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird

I loved Josie Silver’s previous book – One Day In December – so when the publisher emailed to ask if I wanted the secret Netgalley link to her next book, I jumped at the chance!

Here’s the blurb:

“Two love stories. One Impossible Choice.
Lydia and Freddie. Freddie and Lydia. They’ve been together for almost a decade, and Lydia thinks their love is indestructible.
But she’s wrong. Because on her 27th birthday, Freddie dies in a tragic accident.
So now it’s just Lydia, and all she wants to do is hide indoors and sob ’til her eyes fall out. But Lydia knows that Freddie would want her to live her life well. So, enlisting the help of his best friend and her sister Elle, she takes her first tentative steps into the world and starts to live – perhaps even to love – again.
Then something unbelievable happens, and Lydia gets another chance at her old life with Freddie. But what if there’s someone in her new life who wants her to stay?
A heart-breaking, uplifting story for fans of PS I Love You and Me Before You, this gorgeously romantic novel will make you laugh, cry and remind you of what a wonderful gift it is to love and to be loved.”

 This is such a clever book. I was going to say a Sliding Doors type premise – but it’s cleverer than that (and Lydia isn’t Gwyneth Paltrow)

Very early on in the book Freddie is killed – and Lydia’s life is changed forever – or is it? She has a portal back into her old life where the accident didn’t happen (this isn’t as weird and far fetched as it sounds – and flows really well in the storyline I promise!)

The relationships between Lydia and all of the other characters – family, friends, colleagues are all beautifully written and cleverly nuanced. Whilst less than major parts – her workmates are just lovely – and so caring when she goes back to work.

It also really makes you think about what would happen if a tragedy didn’t happen. (On a personal level, my mother in law passed away after a long fight with cancer a few weeks after I met my husband. She knew I existed – but she was too poorly for us to meet. I often think about how different for all of her family life could have been if she hadn’t died so young.)

Anyway – back to the book before we all get over emosh.

 It’s fabulous, and I really enjoyed it. I kind of guessed the ending-ish. But it twists and turns to get there, and you’re never quite sure what will happen next.

A couple of times Lydia seems to make crazy decisions – but it just pushes the storyline forwards in a new way.

Overall it’s a great book – and I would thoroughly recommend it.

Book Review: Messy, Wonderful Us by Catherine Isaac

Messy Wonderful Us

 

“One morning in early summer, a man and woman wait to board a flight to Italy. 

Allie has lived a careful, focused existence. But now she has unexpectedly taken leave from her job as an academic research scientist to fly to a place she only recently heard about in a letter. Her father, Joe, doesn’t know the reason for her trip, and Allie can’t bring herself to tell him that she’s flying to Italy to unpick the truth about what her mother did all those years ago.

Beside her is her best friend since schooldays, Ed. He has just shocked everyone with a sudden separation from his wife, Julia. Allie hopes that a break will help him open up.

But the secrets that emerge as the sun beats down on Lake Garda and Liguria don’t merely concern her family’s tangled past. And the two friends are forced to confront questions about their own life-long relationship that are impossible to resolve.

The dazzling new novel from Richard & Judy book club author Catherine Isaac, Messy, Wonderful Us is a story about the transforming power of love, as one woman journeys to uncover the past and reshape her future.”

 I saw this on Netgalley and it sounded interesting, so when the publisher emailed to ask if I wanted to read it, I said ‘yes please!’

Whilst I’ve not read anything by Catherine Isaac before – I had read and enjoyed books in her previous life as Jane Costello (not sure why she’s changed her writing name – I may have to Google it and find out!)

Early on in the book Allie discovers a family secret – which threatens her whole existence – and the book is basically the fall out from this, and her uncovering the truth.

It twists and turns – and the chunk in Italy is just beautiful. I’ve never been to Lake Garda (although have been to nearby Lake Como) but it really evokes the feeling of being there.

I liked Allie – and Ed – and their relationship is really interesting. The age old ‘can men and women really be platonic friends’ is looked at from a new angle. Their relationships with others were also explored in depth.

Some big juicy topics are covered throughout the book – which are really thought provoking and written about very well.

My only slight niggle with the whole book was the sections about Allie’s work in medical research. I am sure they were really well sourced and completely factually correct (in fact the acknowledgements at the end would back that up) but I felt they were too detailed and broke up the flow of the book. I am a total geek and love learning new and scientific stuff – but probably not in the context of a novel.

But I am sure I’m being over picky – and it didn’t ruin the book as a whole, which was a really good read. I romped through it at pace as I was so keen to see how it all played out.

It’s out next month, and I would definitely recommend it.

Book Review: Reluctant Adult by Katie Kirby (Hurrah for Gin)

The Reluctant Adult

I read Katie Kirby’s first book and really enjoyed it – and follow her on social media – but have to confess I didn’t read her second book. I’d felt that the Mummy blogger books had been published thick and fast, and as my children were older, I wasn’t enjoying them as much. However, when I saw that this next book wasn’t a standard Mummy book I thought I’d give it a go – particularly as the blurb rang incredibly true!!

“Do you overthink everything?
Do you struggle to say no to people?
Are you paying membership for a gym you never go to?
Do group chat politics make you want to throw your phone under a bus?
Are you overjoyed when people cancel plans so that you can sit at home in your pyjama bottoms eating Coco pops for dinner?

If so then this book is for you!

We spend our childhoods wanting to a be adults and, when we get there, find ourselves lost under a pile of life admin, half completed to do lists and anti-ageing face creams that promise to make you look as good as Natalie Imbruglia.

In her new book, Hurrah for Gin pinpoints with painful precision just how overwhelming life can be when you’re all grown up. From the worry spiral that keeps you up at 3AM, to maintaining a professional aura when you can’t stand other people – this is for everyone struggling to stay afloat.

Honest, relatable, funny and containing no useful advice whatsoever, take comfort in the knowledge that it’s not just you, we’re all as f*cked as each other.”

(And I was super excited on Katie’s behalf when THE Natalie Imbruglia liked her insta post!!)

This was another fabulous book. Funny, relevant, and just adulthood in book form!

I have to admit that I’d seen some extracts on social media before – but there was enough fresh stuff not to feel shortchanged for spending actual money on a book for once!

It’s a quick easy read that you can dip in and out of – a perfect book for the loo perhaps?! (Although I read it on my Kindle – and I’m not sharing that with anyone else whilst they’re on the toilet! Oh – and the stick men illustrations are fine on a Kindle too, as I know I was worried about this with the first book and so bought it in hard copy.)

Overall a funny escapist read again – to be read with or without gin!

Book Review: Secret Service by Tom Bradby

Secret Service

I think of Tom Bradby as the guy who reads the 10 o’clock news on ITV and sometimes says daft introductions, the newsreader who managed to blag himself a ticket to the Royal Wedding – and then the journalist who got the Harry and Meghan documentary scoop! But I didn’t realise he was also a published author – so when I saw this on Netgalley I thought I’d try it.

Here’s the blurb:

“The world is on the brink of crisis.
The Cold War is playing out once more on the global stage.
And governments will do whatever it takes to stay at the top . . .
______________________
To those who don’t really know her, Kate Henderson’s life must seem perfectly ordinary. But she is in fact a senior MI6 officer, who right now is nursing the political equivalent of a nuclear bomb.
Kate’s most recent mission has yielded the startling intelligence that the British Prime Minister has cancer – and that one of the leading candidates to replace him may be a Russian agent of influence.
Up against the clock to uncover the Russian mole, Kate risks everything to get to the truth. But with her reputation to uphold, her family hanging by a thread and a leadership election looming, she is quickly running out of options, and out of time.”

This isn’t a genre I read often – although is a TV type I would watch frequently – and it very much felt like watching something akin to Spooks.

The main character is Kate – and I admit to thinking it odd that a male author wrote the lead character as female (which I realise is ridiculous, as I never said that about JK Rowling and Harry Potter) – but he does get the working Mum / Mum to teenagers guilt down brilliantly (interestingly in the credits he says his wife helps write his books – so perhaps that explains it?)

The book feels very ‘of this time’ – Russian interference in foreign elections / personal lives of politicians being exposed etc etc! I suspect that Tom’s establishment and journalistic connections means a lot of this is very true to life!

You are rooting for Kate throughout – and a whole plethora of different events happen that would stretch the sanity of anyone – but she pushes through.

Her relationships with her family and also work colleagues are explored – and the interconnections are very interesting.

The ending feels a bit quick and forced – and I would have liked to have known exactly how the characters all got to that point – but I suppose it leaves you wanting more, which isn’t a bad thing?

Overall it was a good, fast paced read – and I really enjoyed it. I could imagine it being a TV drama. And I’ll definitely look at Tom Bradby’s back catalogue when I fancy reading this genre again.

 

 

Book Review: The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

The Flat Share

“Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.
But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…”

Having read an excellent – but emotional book most recently – I decided I needed something more light hearted, and a friend in my reading group had recommended this and it had sat on my kindle for ages – so I thought I’d crack on.

Chapter 2 revealed that Leon worked in a hospice – so I did wonder if I’d made the right decision ‘light hearted wise’!

The chapters are either written from Tiffy or Leon’s point of view (or sometimes as notes between them) and the styles are really different – so you never have to check back as to who you’re reading about – which is really clever.

I really liked Tiffy and Leon – and found I was rooting for them as a pair – rather than being TeamTiffy or TeamLeon.

It deals with some pretty heavy stuff – emotional abuse in a relationship being fairly fundamental to the whole book – but that doesn’t stop it from being and enjoyable and entertaining read.

There’s a sliding doors element – where Tiffy and Leon could meet in person so much earlier in the book – but them not meeting adds to the storyline.  When they do meet it is brilliantly awkward!

Overall it was a lovely, easy read that I really enjoyed.

 

 

 

Book Review: I Wanted You To Know by Laura Pearson

I Wanted You To Know

I read ‘Missing Pieces’ by Laura Pearson a while ago and really enjoyed it – so when I was offered the chance to read an advance review copy of Ms Pearson’s most recent book, I accepted it immediately.

Since reading Missing Pieces I have followed Laura on Twitter – and so knew she’d been through a breast cancer diagnosis whilst pregnant with her second child.  That personal experience has clearly been the driving force for this book.

Here’s the blurb:

“Dear Edie, I wanted you to know so many things. I wanted to tell you them in person, as you grew. But it wasn’t to be.
Jess never imagined she’d be navigating single motherhood, let alone while facing breast cancer. A life that should be just beginning is interrupted by worried looks, heavy conversations, and the possibility of leaving her daughter to grow up without her.
Propelled by a ticking clock, Jess knows what she has to do: tell her daughter everything. How to love, how to lose, how to forgive, and, most importantly, how to live when you never know how long you have.
From best-selling author Laura Pearson comes her most devastating book yet. Honest, heart-wrenching, and emotionally raw, I Wanted You To Know is a true love letter to life: to all its heartache and beauty, to the people we have and lose, to the memories and moments that define us.”

This book is absolutely, brutally, brilliant.

I cried A LOT reading it – and Laura doesn’t shy away from the shittiness of breast cancer at all – but it’s not all doom and gloom.  The relationships between Jess and her daughter / mother / best friend / father / ex boyfriend / best mate’s brother are all explored beautifully.

I guess I empathised most with Jess’s BFF Gemma.  One of my best friends had her own breast cancer journey a couple of years ago – and I was the one trying to be a supportive friend.  Admittedly I didn’t have to take care of a newborn like Gemma does in the book – but we did borrow her son as our 5th child for a week to take him away for half term.  It’s the balance of trying to keep things ‘normal’ whilst still recognising that things are never going to be normal ever again.  The letters Jess writes to Edie also made me really emotional – as there were many things my friend was scared she wouldn’t see – her daughter smashing her GCSEs and A-levels and turning 18, her son going to his Middle School prom and starting High School – all the type of things Jess addresses in her letters to her daughter who isn’t even a year old at the time.

Just like ‘Missing Pieces’ a dysfunctional family is central to the storyline – and written about so well – and you could totally empathise with lots of the characters (and want to punch others).

This is not a fun, easy, light hearted read – it really does make you think about being grateful for what you have RIGHT NOW – and speaking up for that, telling people what you think – and not waiting until it’s too late – or almost too late.

Whilst it made me do big snotty crying, I still really enjoyed this book – and a huge thank you to Netgalley for my ARC.  I know there will be people where this is a bit too close to home – and I’m not sure whether it would be a good or bad thing for someone in a similar circumstance to read it.

Most of all, and very selfishly, I’m bloody chuffed that my friend didn’t have to write letters to her children like Jess did………

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Lying Room by Nicci French

The Lying Room

I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by Nicci French before, but when the publisher emailed me to ask me if I’d like to read this new one – as I’d read books in a similar genre from them before – I jumped at the chance, as the blurb sounded good.

“Neve Connolly looks down at a murdered man.
She doesn’t call the police. 

‘You know, it’s funny,’ Detective Inspector Hitching said. ‘Whoever I see, they keep saying, talk to Neve Connolly, she’ll know. She’s the one people talk to, she’s the one people confide in.’
A trusted colleague and friend. A mother. A wife. Neve Connolly is all these things.
She has also made mistakes; some small, some unconsciously done, some large, some deliberate. She is only human, after all.
But now one mistake is spiralling out of control and Neve is bringing those around her into immense danger.
She can’t tell the truth. So how far is she prepared  to go to protect those she loves?
And who does she really know? And who can she trust?
A liar. A cheat. A threat. Neve Connolly is all these things.
Could she be a murderer?”

This is a brilliant fast paced domestic thriller with Neve as the central character – and looking at her relationships with her family and friends.

The storyline races through – and sometimes you feel like you’re reading it almost in real time – the adrenaline is pumping in you as a reader as much as the characters in the book.

It’s very cleverly written – and, like Neve, you’re not sure who you should trust and who you shouldn’t!

Some of the character’s back stories are unpicked in depth – but others just hinted at.  I kept expecting to find out more of what had happened in Neve’s daughter Mabel’s life historically (the mother / teenage daughter relationship is written brilliantly) – but it is never explained in full.

As well as the room that is lying, Neve’s house is also a focal point of the storyline – with friends coming and going all of the time.  The ‘craziness’ of it all really comes across in the writing.

The pressure builds and builds as the book progresses. The climax is brilliant – and not predictable at all – a really great read.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for my advanced review copy – and definitely think about pre ordering ready for publication in early October.

 

 

 

Book Review: So Lucky by Dawn O’Porter

So Lucky

I LOVED The Cows, Dawn O’Porter’s last book – and when I saw my friend had been sent an advance review copy of Dawn’s new book – So Lucky – I literally BEGGED to borrow it!  And I have to say there is now a queue of others who want to – as everyone in our book club adored The Cows.  In fact we’re all slightly obsessed with Dawn O’Porter and think she would be a very welcome attendee at our next book club meeting (where essentially we just sit in the pub drinking, discussing books we’ve enjoyed and going off on massive tangents. #Emilysweirdlipsdream)

So the minute I received it (pushed through my letterbox awaiting my return from holiday – how’s that for service – and the perfect post holiday pick me up!) I cracked on with reading it.

Here’s the blurb:

“I’M A MOTHER
I feel like I’m failing every day
I HAVE A CAREER
I have to shout to make myself heard
I’VE GOT THE BEST FRIENDS
Sometimes I feel so alone
I LOVE MY BODY
I don’t know who I am beyond it

Sometimes it looks like everyone is living their best life.
Everyone, except you.
But no life is perfect, everyone is fighting a private battle of their own – it’s just a struggle to say it out loud.
Fearless, frank and for every woman who’s ever doubted herself, So Lucky is the straight-talking new novel from the Sunday Times bestseller.
Actually, you’re pretty f****** lucky to be you.”

 

And boy was I not disappointed – it’s brilliant!

It reminds me a lot of The Cows – and that’s not a bad thing at all.  It tells the story of 3 women – Ruby, Beth and Lauren – and initially you don’t know how they’re all going to interact – but you just know that the stories are going to intertwine in a really clever way – and that’s exactly what happens.

Whilst the story is based on the 3 lead characters – it deals massively with their interactions with other people – as wives / lovers / mothers / colleagues / daughters / daughters in law / friends – and is brilliantly portrayed. Particularly the parental relationships are very raw / sad / emotional / beautiful – but all very different.

None of the characters is perfect – each has their own issues and things they’re dealing with, which isn’t what they project out to the world – which is kind of the point of the whole book.

Now I do need to issue a disclaimer at this point!  One of the characters suffers from horrible piles for a very specific reason.  I need to point out that my horrible piles, which I have blogged about before, are definitely not caused by the same thing……

The use of social media posts for one of the characters is very clever – and the comments by her followers underneath (and their Insta handles) are fabulous.

There are unusual topics covered in it – but that added to the quirkiness of it – and Dawn is never going to write a ‘vanilla’ book (I make that sound like I’m her mate, rather than just a stalker of her Instagram stories…….)

I really enjoyed how the book ended – it wasn’t predictable at all for any of the characters, which I thought was great. It’s witty, funny, clever and all wrapped up in some #girlpower – a fabulous combo.

It’s out on 31 October 2019 – which, let’s face it, could be an incredibly difficult day (don’t mention the B word) – so I would suggest pre-ordering this so you have something to distract you for a few hours, you won’t regret it – in fact you’ll be #SoLucky.

(I appreciate that I am an utter knob with that last line………)