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):

“THE FIRST BOOK IN THE GRIPPING THURSDAY MURDER CLUB SERIES BY TV PRESENTER RICHARD OSMAN
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

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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.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Dear NHS: 100 Stories To Say Thank You

Dear NHS

It’s not often I pay actual money for a book – I’m super lucky that I get lots of advance review copies for free – but when I saw this was coming out, I was clearly more than happy to part with some cash when all of the profits are going to support NHS Charities Together and The Lullaby Trust.

Here’s the blurb:

“Curated and edited by Adam Kay (author of multi-million bestseller This is Going to Hurt), Dear NHS features 100 household names telling their personal stories of the health service. Contributors include: Paul McCartney, Emilia Clarke, Peter Kay, Stephen Fry, Dawn French, Sir Trevor McDonald, Graham Norton, Sir Michael Palin, Naomie Harris, Ricky Gervais, Sir David Jason, Dame Emma Thompson, Joanna Lumley, Miranda Hart, Dermot O’Leary, Jamie Oliver, Ed Sheeran, David Tennant, Dame Julie Walters, Emma Watson, Malala Yousafzai and many, many more.

All profits from this book will go to NHS Charities Together to fund vital research and projects, and The Lullaby Trust which supports parents bereaved of babies and young children.

Other writers include Chris O’Dowd, Johnny Vegas, Jack Whitehall, Chris Evans, Lorraine Kelly, Lee Mack, Jonathan Ross, Konnie Huq, Greg James, Frank Skinner, Louis Theroux, KT Tunstall, Sandi Toksvig and Kevin Bridges.

The NHS is our single greatest achievement as a country. No matter who you are, no matter what your health needs are, and no matter how much money you have, the NHS is there for you. In Dear NHS, 100 inspirational people come together to share their stories of how the national health service has been there for them, and changed their lives in the process. By turns deeply moving, hilarious, hopeful and impassioned, these stories together become a love letter to the NHS and the 1.4 million people who go above and beyond the call of duty every single day – selflessly, generously, putting others before themselves, never more so than now.

They are all heroes, and this book is our way of saying thank you.

Contributors include: Dolly Alderton, Monica Ali, Kate Atkinson, Pam Ayres, David Baddiel, Johanna Basford, Mary Beard, William Boyd, Frankie Boyle, Jo Brand, Kevin Bridges, Alex Brooker, Charlie Brooker, Rob Brydon, Bill Bryson, Kathy Burke, Peter Capaldi, Jimmy Carr, Candice Carty-Williams, Lauren Child, Lee Child, Bridget Christie, Emilia Clarke, Rev Richard Coles, Daisy May Cooper, Jilly Cooper, Fearne Cotton, Juno Dawson, Kit de Waal, Victoria Derbyshire, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Chris Evans, Anne Fine, Martin Freeman, Dawn French, Stephen Fry, Mark Gatiss, Ricky Gervais, Professor Green, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Mark Haddon, Matt Haig, The Hairy Bikers, Naomie Harris, Miranda Hart, Victoria Hislop, Nick Hornby, Sali Hughes, Konnie Huq, Marina Hyde, E L James, Greg James, Sir David Jason, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Jackie Kay, Peter Kay, Lorraine Kelly, Marian Keyes, Shappi Khorsandi, Nish Kumar, Stewart Lee, Joanna Lumley, Lee Mack, Emily Maitlis, Andrew Marr, Catherine Mayer, Alexander McCall Smith, Paul McCartney, Sir Trevor McDonald, Caitlin Moran, Kate Mosse, Jojo Moyes, David Nicholls, John Niven, Graham Norton, Chris O’Dowd, Dermot O’Leary, Jamie Oliver, Sir Michael Palin, Maxine Peake, Sue Perkins, Katie Piper, Ian Rankin, Jonathan Ross, Ed Sheeran, Paul Sinha, Frank Skinner, Matthew Syed, Kate Tempest, David Tennant, Louis Theroux, Dame Emma Thompson, Sandi Toksvig, Stanley Tucci, KT Tunstall, Johnny Vegas, Danny Wallace, Dame Julie Walters, Phil Wang, Emma Watson, Mark Watson, Robert Webb, Irvine Welsh, Jack Whitehall, Josh Widdicombe, Dame Jacqueline Wilson, Greg Wise, Malala Yousafzai, Benjamin Zephaniah.”

 

The introduction to the book is by Adam Kay – and he explains why there are actually more than 100 stories – but I’ll leave you to read that yourselves as it is amusing.  He also makes great use of footnotes – as ever!

Each of the ‘stories’ is very different.  There are letters, poems, stories, reminiscences – and a mixture of the current crisis the NHS is facing during the coronavirus crisis – and then people’s historic experiences.  All are very different.

I expected it to be total weep-fest – and I did cry – but not as much as I thought I would.

There was only one entry that I thought ‘well, you’re an attention seeking celebrity’ (and I won’t name names!) all of the others I thought were well written and thoughtful.

Clearly this book is for a great cause – and is rightly on the top of best seller lists.  It makes a perfect ‘toilet’ book – in that you can pick it up and put it down and can read it in small bitesize chunks. Although given the current climate – I’m not sure reading books in toilets is allowed – in fact it probably shouldn’t be allowed in any climate……

It made me think of how grateful I am personally to the NHS and how it’s helped, and continues to help, me and my family on an almost daily basis – but I won’t make this blog post all about us!

Assuming you’re one of the few people who haven’t bought this yet – I would suggest you do.   It’s a good read and you’re raising money for excellent causes.

#ThankYouNHS

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: In Case You Missed It by Lindsey Kelk

 

In Case You Missed It

I was going to say I recently read a Lindsey Kelk book, but turns out it was almost 4 years ago!  Time flies when you’re in the middle of a global pandemic and all that….

Anyway – when I saw she had a new book out, I jumped onto NetGalley – and was kindly given an advance review copy.  Here’s the blurb:

“When Ros comes home after three years away, she’s ready to pick up with life exactly where she left it. But her friends have moved on, her parents have rekindled their romance, and her bedroom is now a garden shed. All of a sudden, she’s swept up in nostalgia for the way things were.

Then her phone begins to ping, with messages from her old life. Including one number she thought she’d erased for good – the man who broke her heart. Is this her second chance at one big love? Sometimes we all want to see what we’ve been missing…”

Yet again – a fabulous book from Lindsey Kelk.

I liked Ros from the off – and her relationship with her friends was great. Despite the changes they all had going on in their lives they all looked out for each other completely (the exact opposite of the group of friends in the book Olive I read recently). And I was a bit sad that Ros didn’t share everything with them – as I knew they would have understood.

The description of Ros’s relocated childhood bedroom into her parent’s shed is hilarious – ALL of the 90s references right there!

Ros’s evolving relationship with her parents and sister was also explored. I loved the chats she had with her Mum later in the book.

Some of the romance storyline was a bit predictable (Patrick was a d*ck, John was ace) – but that didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the book.

The section about the teenager gaming sensation was very apt as I currently have a nocturnal 15 year old who is living his best lockdown life communicating with his friends online through his x-box. Sadly he hasn’t made millions out of it (he would say ‘yet’!!)

It was a book I really enjoyed and kept reading ‘one more chapter’ – and now I want to know what happened to all of the characters afterwards!

It’s out in a couple of days, and definitely worth ordering for an easy, fun, enjoyable, escapist read.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my ARC.

I’ve also remembered I have a hard copy previous book by Lindsey Kelk in my TBR pile (having been easily persuaded when someone (Sarra Manning I think – although it could have been Lindsey herself!!) tweeted to say it was 99p on Amazon) – so I will be reading it soon and adding it to the community library my friend has set up in her porch whilst the real library in our village is shut due to Covid19!

 

 

 

Book Review: Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

Invisible Girl

I’m sure I’ve read books by Lisa Jewell before – but clearly not since I started blogging about books, as my back catalogue of posts reveals none.  Anyway – I was lucky enough to have an advance review copy of ‘Invisible Girl’ from NetGalley.

Here’s the blurb:

“MIDNIGHT: In an area of urban wasteland where cats hunt and foxes shriek, a girl is watching …
When Saffyre Maddox was ten, something terrible happened, and she’s carried the pain of it ever since. The man who she thought was going to heal her didn’t, and now she hides, learning his secrets, invisible in the shadows.

Owen Pick is invisible too. He’s never had a girlfriend; he’s never even had a friend.
Nobody sees him. Nobody cares.
But when Saffyre goes missing from opposite his house on Valentine’s night, suddenly the whole world is looking at Owen.
Accusing him, holding him responsible for Saffyre’s disappearance …
INVISIBLE GIRL: an engrossing, twisty story of how we look in the wrong places for bad people while the real predators walk among us in plain sight.”

The book is told from the perspective of 3 different people – Saffyre (it took me a while to realise this was probably said Sapphire – reminiscent of Hermione in the Harry Potter books being Her-me-own in my head until the first film came out!) and Owen who are mentioned in the blurb – and then Cate.  Cate lives opposite Owen with her 2 teenagers and her husband Roan – who’s path has crossed with Saffyre in the past.

The books starts slowly – and you can see that the 3 threads of the story are going to intertwine, but not necessarily how.  It’s told over a relatively short time period – with these days being written about from different angles in a very clever way – with some flashbacks to explain  the situations people are in.

The pace builds and builds and twists and turns in a brilliant way.  Each of the main characters – and supporting characters – are explored, and you’re never sure whose team you’re on. And who’s a ‘baddy’ and who’s a ‘goody’ – in fact there is a total blurring of good / bad throughout.

I guess I empathised with Cate the most – as we’re a similar age and with teenage kids. However all of the characters are really well written and very different to each other.   One review I read said you needed to be familiar with the geography of that part of London to fully appreciate the book – but that’s rubbish – not knowing the area did not detract from my understanding of the book at all.

I don’t want to give anything away about the storyline as you need to experience the twists and turns for yourself – and spoilers would totally ruin the pleasure of this book.

But I would highly recommend pre ordering it for when it comes out in August – it was really very good and kept me guessing right to the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Just Like The Other Girls by Claire Douglas

Just Like The Other Girls

I’d read and enjoyed ‘Then She Vanishes‘ by Claire Douglas last year – so when the publisher emailed to ask if I’d like to read her new book – Just Like The Other Girls – I jumped at the chance.

Here’s the blurb:

”     *CARER/COMPANION WANTED FOR ELDERLY LADY*
*YOUNG FEMALE PREFERRED * COMPETITIVE SALARY*
*ROOM AND BOARD INCLUDED*

Una Richardson is devastated after the death of her mother. Hoping for a fresh start, she responds to an advertisement and steps into the rich, comforting world of elderly Mrs Elspeth McKenzie.
But Elspeth’s home is not as safe as it seems.
Kathryn, her cold and bitter daughter, resents Una’s presence. More disturbing is the evidence suggesting two girls lived here before.
What happened to the girls?
Why will the McKenzies not talk about them?
As the walls close in around her, Una fears she’ll end up just like the other girls. . .”

I enjoyed the book right from the beginning.  Una’s Mum has died, so she’s working as Elspeth’s companion  – and the book begins with her start in this new life.  Slowly she uncovers that her 2 predecessors have ended up dead – in totally different circumstances – but none the less, both dead.  Una starts investigating this as she’s concerned she doesn’t become the next fatality.  Her lovely relationship with her friend Courtney is also centre to this (I think Courtney rocked right through the book, and do hope she had a happy ever after).

Elspeth is clearly not as infirm as she wants everyone to believe, and her grumpy daughter Kathryn obviously has secrets too.  Elspeth doesn’t seem to care about Kathryn’s sons – her grandsons – at all, and Kathryn seems to keep her husband and sons very separate from her mother – despite spending a lot of time with Elspeth and helping to run the family businesses.

The story twists and turns brilliantly – with hints and clues here and there – some that are crucial and some that are total red herrings – but you’re not sure which is which until the very very end.

I don’t want to give too many of the twists away – as you need to experience them yourself with no spoilers – but boy they are good.

The chapters are written from different people’s points of view – and you ‘hear’ other people’s thoughts too, although you’re often not sure who you are ‘hearing’.  (Actually – I think I might want to go back to see if you are hearing the same person each time?)  But this writing style makes it exciting and the whole book has a real momentum.

By the time I got to the last few chapters I was almost holding my breath! And I was really happy with the way it all concluded for everyone – and it 100% wasn’t what I expected at all.

A massive thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my ARC – and I would highly recommend you pre order it for when it’s out in August 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: All The Lonely People by Mike Gayle

All The Lonely People

I really enjoyed the last Mike Gayle book – and so when I saw this on NetGalley I jumped at the chance of a review copy!

I didn’t read about the book in advance, I just thought ‘oh, another book with song lyrics as a title’ – but here you go with the blurb:

“Life is waiting to happen to Hubert Bird.
But first he has to open his front door and let it in.
In weekly phone calls to his daughter in Australia, widower Hubert Bird paints a picture of the perfect retirement, packed with fun, friendship and fulfilment.
But Hubert Bird is lying.
The truth is day after day drags by without him seeing a single soul.
Until, that is, he receives some good news – good news that in one way turns out to be the worst news ever, news that will force him out again, into a world he has long since turned his back on.
Now Hubert faces a seemingly impossible task: to make his real life resemble his fake life before the truth comes out.
Along the way Hubert stumbles across a second chance at love, renews a cherished friendship and finds himself roped into an audacious community scheme that seeks to end loneliness once and for all . . .
Life is certainly beginning to happen to Hubert Bird. But with the origin of his earlier isolation always lurking in the shadows will he ever get to live the life he’s pretended to have for so long?
From bestselling author Mike Gayle, All the Lonely People is by turns a funny and moving meditation on love, race, old age and friendship that will not only charm and uplift, but also remind you of the power of ordinary people to make an extraordinary difference.”

As I started reading I realised that Hubert was an octogenarian – interestingly at our virtual book club last week we’d discussed how almost all of us 40 somethings would often be put off a book if it was about old people – but how we’d actually read some wonderful books with older leads (‘Saving Missy’ and ‘A Man Called Ove’ are now on my TBR pile).  So I had high hopes that Hubert would win me over!

It’s set partly in the present day and partly in the 1950s when Hubert first came to the UK from Jamaica. With recent publicity of the Windrush generation this seemed particularly topical.  Equally at one point when Hubert is looking for lodgings he sees a poster saying ‘No blacks, no dogs, no Irish’ – which again is very relevant currently with all of the discussions about race in the UK and US.  It is clearly an integral part of the storyline – and his mixed race relationship with his wife Joyce – and is really well written and I found really informative and thought provoking.

The alternate flashback chapters race through the years at key times in Hubert’s life – between arriving in England and the present day explaining the relationship with Joyce and their children, Rose and David, and the twists and turns of their relationships.

In another highly relevant sentence – the long drive between London and Durham is referenced too!!

In the present day Hubert meets Ashleigh and her daughter Layla who have moved in next door and they strike up an unlikely friendship.  Now I have a silly niggle about Ashleigh.  When she’s in Hubert’s house for the first time she is looking at some of the books that Hubert’s professor daughter Rose, who lives in Australia, has written.  Ashleigh struggles over the world ‘Millenium’ in the title. However, Ashleigh is Welsh – and until 2016, the home of Welsh rugby in Cardiff was the Millenium Stadium (now the Principality Stadium) – so I just don’t think it’s a word a valleys’ girl would struggle with!  But I realise I am a totally overthinking pedant………..

Hubert and Ashleigh set about starting up a group to combat loneliness in Bromley.  Interestingly I also found this uber relevant.  At the start of the coronavirus crisis I was involved with setting up a group in our Worcestershire village to help people.  Initially this was for emergency shopping / prescription collection for the elderly and infirm who were shielding – but it quickly became evident that loneliness was a massive factor for people too – and lockdown was amplifying this.

The community feel of the group to combat loneliness also reminded me of the book ‘The Lido’ by Libby Page – I really think Hubert and Rosemary would have got along! It was all so lovely.

There were a couple of moments that were quite shocking and took the plot in a different direction – but it was all beautifully written, as you would expect from the author.

The final chapter was a surprise and not what I expected it to be at all – and I cried (although at the moment I cry at almost anything!)

I said on Twitter yesterday that ‘Half A World Away’ was my favourite lockdown read – but I think Mr Gayle has just usurped himself and takes Gold and Silver lockdown book awards from me – I really, really enjoyed this.  A great story – but also relevant, thought provoking. informative, emotional and just plain lovely.

Slightly off on a tangent, but I’ve always thought of Mike Gayle as a Brummie author – South Birmingham at that (fully explained in my last book review of one of his books) rather than a black author.  I’m not saying ‘I don’t see colour’ or anything tw*tty like that – I just didn’t think it was an issue for me when choosing what to read.  However, I then thought – if I looked at my reading history (usefully recorded in this blog) how many of the authors would be from exactly the same background as me – a white, working class made good, woman.  Is this because I’m instinctively drawn to books written by people like me? Is it because I look at recommendations in women’s magazines / blogs?  Is it that the publishing industry is also heavily biased?  I’m not sure I have any definitive answers – but it has made me think that I should consider this in book selections in the future.  Reading more widely – and getting differing opinions in life written by a variety of people – can only be a good thing.

Thanks Mike Gayle for another fabulous book, and to NetGalley and the publishers for my advanced review copy.  Pre order your copy now for later in July 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The New Girl by Harriet Walker

The New Girl

I saw this on NetGalley and it really appealed – although I did think it reminded me of the 2017 TV series ‘The Replacement’ starring Morven Christie and Vicky McClure – so I thought I would give it a go.

Here’s the blurb:

“Glamorous Margot Jones is the fashion editor at glossy women’s magazine Haute, and pregnant with her first child. Margot’s used to her carefully curated life being the object of other women’s envy – who wouldn’t want her successful career, loving husband, beautiful house and stylish wardrobe?

Maggie, a freelance journalist, certainly knows she doesn’t measure up. So when Margot gets in touch to suggest she apply for her maternity cover at Haute, Maggie seizes the chance at living a better life – even if it’s only temporary.

But the simultaneous arrival of Margot’s baby and a brutal end to her oldest friendship sends Margot into a spiral of suspicion and paranoia. Are Maggie’s motives as innocent as they seem? And what happens at the end of the year when Margot wants her old life back – especially if Maggie decides she doesn’t want to leave?”

The book starts with Margot pregnant and her best friend from school, Winnie,  who is also pregnant, having a stillborn son (I think readers need to know this – as this could undoubtedly be a trigger for some people).

Margot is trying to sort out her maternity cover at work – and decides to suggest an acquaintance who she’s met on a previous work trip – and Maggie ends up getting the job.

Whilst Margot is on maternity leave she starts social media stalking Maggie – and gets concerned that Maggie is doing things in a different way and if not better than she did, and won’t want to give up the job when Margot returns a year later.  Interestingly the TV series that I thought about when I read the blurb is referenced at this point – with Margot finding it too close to home to watch it!

Since her tragedy, Margot’s best friend Winnie has distanced herself from Margot – which Margot kind of understood initially, as her beautiful baby daughter Lila would be a constant reminder of Winnie’s son who died.  But there is clearly something that has happened in Margot and Winnie’s past that ties them together – and it involves a girl called Helen.  This is hinted at – and Margot even gets trolled by a social media user called @HelenKnows – but initially you don’t know if these are linked and what happened.

As well as professionally, Maggie starts to encroach on Margot’s home life – beginning dating her husband’s best friend.

So far, so suffocating!

The second phase of the book gives the back story on Margot, Winnie and Helen at school and you see everyone in a different light.  I found my allegiances switching chapter by chapter!

The third and final part of the book builds tension up and up.  There are some really short chapters that add to the pace (it actually made me laugh a bit as I, like many, am in the midst of homeschooling – and one of the tricks my 9 year old has been taught is to do short sentences when you’re trying to build the excitement!) but it builds and builds and twists and turns and is brilliant! You are almost holding your breath during one scene.  I don’t want to give too much away – but it was excellent.

Overall the book is very well written and structured and just a fantastic, escapist read.  I sometimes find ‘new Mum’ books a bit predictable, samey and without much depth – and have actually avoided them for a while as I felt they’d been ‘done’ (and maybe I’d moved on as my youngest was now 8) – but this felt like a ‘proper’ book, where the situation it was based on was just part of the storyline.  Having said that, it definitely captures the slightly manic stressed-ness of new motherhood, and the politics that can exist in female friendships at times.

This is described as cross between ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ (it’s set in a fashion magazine) and ‘Gone Girl’ (it’s a psychological thriller) – but I think it stands more than sufficiently on its own merit!

It’s already out on Kindle – and a total bargain at £2.99 – and out in hardback in a early July 2020.

Thanks to the publisher and Net Galley for my advance review copy.

 

Book Review: The Heatwave by Katerina Diamond

The Heatwave

I normally read books based upon recommendations from friends, or lists of ‘books to read’ etc – but there is a whole different story as to why I went for this one!  Basically the goddess who is Marian Keyes had tried to request it off NetGalley and was refused!!  So I tried and was immediately accepted.  Sometimes trying a different author for a random reason is worth the risk?!?

Here is the blurb that I hadn’t even looked at before requesting it:

“One summer. One stranger. One killer…
Two bad things happened that summer:
A stranger arrived. And the first girl disappeared.
In the wake of the crime that rocked her community, Felicity fled, knowing more than she let on.
But sixteen years later, her new life is shattered by the news that a second girl has gone missing in her hometown.
Now Felicity must go back, to face the truth about what happened all those years ago.
Only she holds the answers – and they’re more shocking than anyone could imagine.
The heatwave is back. And so is the killer.”

The book is set in 2 time periods – from Jasmine’s point of view – where her and Felicity were teenage friends – and then 16 years later from Felicity’s point of view in the present day.  Back in the day a girl went missing – and the same thing has happened again – and Felicity believes she is the only one who can solve this crime, and so leaves her husband and kids in the Lake District and heads back to her hometown in Devon.

Now there are some MASSIVE twists and turns.  I have to say I guessed a few of them very early on.  I felt quite smug and ‘I’m just so bloody clever’ – which I wasn’t disappointed in – however when I read other NetGalley reviews, others said the same – so maybe I wasn’t as smart as I thought!! However, even guessing these twists, it didn’t ruin the book for me – and there were plenty of other twists I didn’t get so I was still keen to keep reading. and find out what had happened then and now.

I found present day Felicity quite annoying, and it seemed ridiculous that she wouldn’t share with anyone what was going on – although as the story progressed you kind of realised why.  I felt quite nervous with her back in her old stomping ground – and sad that she didn’t appear to have any support from family or friends at all.

Back 16 years ago Jasmine and Felicity were both quite annoying – but they were 16 years olds so just perfectly written I suspect!  Their relationships with Tim ‘the stranger’ were complex and teenage and cleverly written – the teenage angst levels were high.

Overall I really enjoyed the twisty, turny story – and devoured it really quickly – and was suitably shocked by the time I got to the end.

I’m not sure ‘The Heatwave’ was really a vital component of the storyline – especially in the present day stuff – not that that detracted, but it’s the second book I’ve read recently where the title wasn’t really that relevant.

Having stumbled across Ms Diamond due to weird circumstances – I would definitely read books by her again – and it looks like there’s a chunky back catalogue series to get my teeth into.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for my advance review copy – it’s out on 25 June 2020 so just a few hours to wait!

 

 

Book Review: How To Fail by Elizabeth Day

How To Fail

My last book review was a gift off a sister – and so was this book after I put it on my birthday list (yes, I still write a birthday list at 46!!)

Here’s the blurb:

“Inspired by her hugely popular podcast, How To Fail is Elizabeth Day’s brilliantly funny, painfully honest and insightful celebration of things going wrong.
This is a book for anyone who has ever failed. Which means it’s a book for everyone.
If I have learned one thing from this shockingly beautiful venture called life, it is this: failure has taught me lessons I would never otherwise have understood. I have evolved more as a result of things going wrong than when everything seemed to be going right. Out of crisis has come clarity, and sometimes even catharsis.
Part memoir, part manifesto, and including chapters on dating, work, sport, babies, families, anger and friendship, it is based on the simple premise that understanding why we fail ultimately makes us stronger. It’s a book about learning from our mistakes and about not being afraid.

Uplifting, inspiring and rich in stories from Elizabeth’s own life, How to Fail reveals that failure is not what defines us; rather it is how we respond to it that shapes us as individuals.

Because learning how to fail is actually learning how to succeed better. And everyone needs a bit of that.”

I bloody LOVED this book.

I’d enjoyed Elizabeth Day’s novel The Party, and so had high hopes – and I was not wrong – it was great.  Some of it is definitely because we’re a similar age (actually I’m exactly the same age as her older sister) – and have some similar traits – but it was brilliant and really thought provoking.

As Ms Day has interviewed so many people for her podcast and other articles, there was lots of sharing of what celebrities would think about topics – and it felt almost like gossiping (in a nice way, as clearly all of the people interviewed had consented to it!) with a really well connected friend.

The first chapter is about Elizabeth’s life growing up – a chunk of which was in Northern Ireland.  It’s a place we’ve always visited – with family over there, and then one of my best friend’s heading to Belfast for Uni and not coming back (she married a local rather than disappearing, as I realise that might have sounded a bit sinister!)  I remember when we used to drive over as a family there were places we wouldn’t go in our English registered car – and clearly Elizabeth’s English accent marked her out as different too – something I’d never really thought about before.

Just like the author, this Elisabeth failed her first driving test too (I reversed round a corner and up the kerb……)  Having been a geeky girlie swot, it was the first thing I’d properly failed (although the B in GCSE Chemistry had felt like a failure in amongst all of the As the year before) and I didn’t like the feeling at all!  But it was a life lesson for the future.

The third chapter is about failing at your 20s.  I distinctly remember my 25th birthday, living alone in a bedsit on the edge of the red light district in Birmingham having recently split up from my first husband (second big failure time).  I was devastated – this is not how I’d imagined my mid 20s being.  In hindsight it was totally the right thing – and I then swanned off to work in Australia for a few months – without the baggage of people knowing I was a divorcee  – but it still felt like I’d failed big time.

This is turning into a confessional rather than a book review – sorry!

My mid / late 20s were then a minefield of dating.  Back then (thank goodness) there was no social media, camera phones and thus no permanent record of it!  And exactly as Elizabeth says – just when I’d decided I’d be happily single for a while, my second – and current – husband arrived on the scene…..

The failing at sport chapter includes a quote which describes me pretty much exactly.  Ms Day writes “I am an innately competitive person, which has some benefits in that it gives me monumental drive to do stuff, but it’s a trait that also manifests itself in negative ways:  I don’t like losing, and I don’t like being bad at things, especially if I can see no logical reason why I shouldn’t be good at them.” Yep – that’s me summed up right there!

A chapter I found particularly helpful was the chapter on failing at friendship.  I have a fabulous group of friends who I love very much and I know would drop everything for me in a crisis – but I’ve also experienced times when friendships I thought were for life have drifted apart.  This paragraph really resonated with me. “The challenge is taking friendship personally enough to invest your time and affection into it, but not so personally that you feel an emotional vortex when a friend goes through a different phase or wants to hang out with someone else for a while.  Most importantly:  a friend doesn’t owe you anything.  A friend has not made a commitment, has not signed a contract or walked down the aisle and promised to love you until death do you part.  A friend does not need to do anything or be anyone in order to make you feel better about yourself.  Of course, the greatest friends do this anyway, but it is not their job and you should not expect it of them,”

One chapter which I don’t have personal experience of is the failing at babies.  I recognise I’m incredibly lucky that I’ve been able to easily conceive 4 times, and give birth to 4 healthy babies.  Elizabeth writes so eloquently and emotionally about her ‘journey’ through IVF and a subsequent miscarriage.  It is still something that tends to go on behind closed doors for couples – so was a really thought provoking read.  I recently read Olive by Emma Gannon about someone who is childfree by choice – and that prompted me to think about this taboo – but those who are childless (the ‘less’ being such a painful part of the word) is also a taboo too.  Still.  In 2020.

The failing at anger chapter was another that rang very true – and again I think a lot of that is being a similar age.  To quote Ms Day, when talking about the #MeToo movement:  “It was, I think, an age thing.  I was thirty-eight at the time, and part of the sandwich generation of feminists.  We considered ourselves lucky to be standing on the shoulders of those pioneering women who fought the big legal battles again gender discrimination: for suffrage, for equal pay (ha!) and for workplace recognition.  But we also had to accept existing in an imperfect and sexist world.  We’d been raised with the societal assumption that ‘boys will be boys’ and that a bit of inappropriate behaviour on their part was par for the course.  ‘Trying it on’ was the phrase, as if sexual aggression were simply a matter of experimenting with a new look or hairstyle.”
This reminded me of an incident in the late 90s at a corporate dinner when I worked for one of the big accountancy firms.  A senior partner from the Manchester office put his hand down the back of my dress and asked ‘if everyone in the Birmingham office was as sexy?’  I didn’t feel I could be angry and kick him in the nuts or even say anything – he was in a position of power and I was a lowly trainee, so I just walked away.  Some years later he was fined a six figure sum and banned from being an accountant for a professional misdemeanour – but I have to say I was pleased!  A bit like when Al Capone was done for tax evasion – at least the baddie was done for something – but I definitely failed at being angry.

I think you can tell how much I enjoyed this book – I’ve quoted chunks, which I rarely do in reviews, but I want you all to see how great it is!

We actually discussed this book at our Zoom book club this week (like normal book club but not in the pub……..) and everyone who has read it raved about it – so it’s not just me!  I would definitely recommend it as a non fiction downstairs option #bookclubjoke #couldactuallybereadanywhere