Book Review: Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

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I was approached by the publisher to read this new book by bestseller Mary Bethe Keane as I’d apparently reviewed similar books in the past.  It already had decent reviews on Netgalley – so I downloaded a copy.  It then sat on my Netgalley bookshelf for ages whilst I read other things!  I was motivated to start it on holiday as the Netgalley publication date was quoted as 8 August 2019 – today – but that doesn’t actually appear correct, as it’s got loads of Amazon reviews now too!

Here’s the blurb:

“A gripping and compassionate drama of two families linked by chance, love and tragedy
Gillam, upstate New York: a town of ordinary, big-lawned suburban houses. The Gleesons have recently moved there and soon welcome the Stanhopes as their new neighbours.
Lonely Lena Gleeson wants a friend but Anne Stanhope – cold, elegant, unstable – wants to be left alone.
It’s left to their children – Lena’s youngest, Kate, and Anne’s only child, Peter – to find their way to one another. To form a friendship whose resilience and love will be almost broken by the fault line dividing both families, and by the terrible tragedy that will engulf them all.
A tragedy whose true origins only become clear many years later . . .
A story of love and redemption, faith and forgiveness, Ask Again, Yes reveals the way childhood memories change when viewed from the distance of adulthood – villains lose their menace, and those who appeared innocent seem less so.
A story of how, if we’re lucky, the violence lurking beneath everyday life can be vanquished by the power of love.”

This is an epic story covering 40+ years of two families and their intertwined lives.  Big stuff happens (I won’t give a spoiler, don’t worry!) that impacts everyone massively.

You get to know the various family members – but it really centres around Kate and Peter, with everyone else ensemble members.

Whilst I wanted to read on and find out what happened – it was all a bit dull and slow moving.  I kept waiting for something exciting to occur – but I kept waiting!

I guessed what the title of the book referenced  – but expected it to be a direct quote – but it wasn’t quite – which just seemed odd (or badly edited?)

Maybe I’m just not a literary fiction kind of girl – and I am sure some people will really enjoy it – but it just didn’t really float my boat.

But thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for my advance review copy!

 

 

 

Book Review: Beneath The Surface by Fiona Neill

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I read – and enjoyed – The Betrayals by Fiona Neill last year, and so was chuffed when the publisher emailed me to ask if I’d like an advanced review copy – clearly I said yes!! I finished it last week – on publication date – but it’s taken me this long to write a review – but at least that means if you like the sound of it you can download it immediately!

Here is the Amazon blurb:

“After a chaotic childhood, Grace Vermuyden is determined her own daughters will fulfil the dreams denied to her. Lilly is everyone’s golden girl, the popular, clever daughter she never had to worry about. So when she mysteriously collapses in class, Grace’s carefully ordered world begins to unravel.

Dark rumours swirl around their tight-knit community on the edge of the Fens as everyone comes up with their own theories about what happened. Consumed with paranoia, and faced with increasing evidence that Lilly has been leading a secret life, Grace starts to search for clues.

Left to her own devices, ten-year-old Mia develops some wild theories of her own that have unforeseen and devastating consequences for the people she loves most.

Beneath the Surface explores the weight of the past upon the present, the burden of keeping secrets and what happens when children get caught in the undercurrents of adult relationships. “

Again – I really enjoyed this domestic drama, which twists and turns just like Fiona Neill’s previous book.  I guess I also empathised with Grace even more having daughters of a similar age (although I’ve got so many kids, I often have one or two that are the right age for characters in books!!!)

As it says in the subtitle ‘everyone lies’ – and you know that people are lying from the start – but you’re not quite sure why or how, but it all becomes clear as the book progresses – eventually!

Lilly is superficially a golden child and girlie swot at school – but is leading a secret teenage life.  Her younger sister, Mia, is a more complicated character who struggles fitting in at school – and has two friends, Tas (from the local traveller community) and Elvis (an eel she keeps in a bucket in her bedroom!).  Patrick, the father, is in financial difficulties – and Grace, the mother, is desperately trying to provide a stable family environment for her daughters that she didn’t have herself.  There are other peripheral characters – an Aunt and Uncle, teenager friends, other parents – and everything intertwines.

The descriptions of the dust problems in their new house, the geography of the Fens and the bad weather are also really evocative (not sure I’ll be going to the Fens on holiday any time soon!)

Overall I did enjoy this and was pleased to see how it all panned out and would recommend it. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my ARC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making a boob

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Last week it was my birthday.  My lovely husband decided he would pop into our local Bravissimo store to buy me some underwear as a pressie.  He couldn’t remember my size – but knew that they would have the information on my account – so asked for the bra he’d selected – and matching knickers – in the last size I’d bought.  Sensible.

Apart from the fact that the last bras I’d bought were for our 15 year old daughter………

I haven’t been that size since 4 children and about 4 stone ago!!

But it’s ok – I will pop in and exchange them (and change the thong for some proper fat pants too!!)  It’s the thought that counts!

P.S.  The photo is a lovely Bravissimo model, and not me nor our offspring – although it was that bra!

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: I’m Absolutely Fine! : A Manual For Imperfect Women by Annabel Rivkin and Emilie McMeekan of The Midult

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‘I have been waiting for this book my entire life. It’s brilliant.’ – Claudia Winkleman

‘A genius book. So funny, so wise, so cool and above all so USEFUL. I couldn’t love it more. I am buying it for every one of my friends.’ – India Knight

‘I’m absolutely fine but I slightly need to pee, I followed the road less travelled and now I don’t know where the hell I am, I may bleed to death shaving my legs, my soul aches, another week has ended without me becoming accidentally rich, I just put my keys in the fridge, unexpected object in the bagging area, I’ll have a café mocha vodka Valium latte to go please, where’s my phone? My anxieties have anxieties, no… not like that – here, I’ll do it, do I have to do everything? WTF?’

Is it just me? We gnaw on that, don’t we? Is it just me? Well, look around. Look at the rage, the resolution, the ‘hear me roar’, the panic, the power, the chin hairs, the shame, the empathy, the conversation, the sheer potential.

Welcome to Midulthood. A place where we recognise that we are all more alike than we are unalike. Of course it’s not just you. If we’re not in it together, we’re not in it at all…

From sex (What Could Possibly Go Wrong) to self-image (Does This Straightjacket Make Me Look Fat?), I’m Absolutely Fine is a wry look at real life, real wisdom and real information framed in fun.”

 

 

A few weeks ago I was in hospital having (yet another) surgery on my piles – and whilst scrolling through Instagram spotted a competition to win a copy of this book on the lovely doesmybumlook40’s page:

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So, obviously I had to reply:

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A few days later I got a message saying I’d won copies for me and my friend and asking for our addresses – how exciting!

When it arrived (signed, get me!) I started reading straight away. In fact, I left it by the toilet as it was perfect to dip in and out of with my numerous post surgery toilet trips. (Although I DEFINITELY don’t think it was written as a toilet book, in fact who would have books in the toilet nowadays *whistles nonchalantly*)

On a geeky book loving note – it is a beautiful weight, and has a ribbon bookmark inside – retro and gorgeous!

Now I expected to LOVE this – the recommendations by Claudia Winkelman and India Knight added to my expectations (I secretly want to be BFFs with them both) and I really did enjoy lots of it.  Some of the lists had me crying laughing – just soooooo accurate.

This one in particular has been in the press loads, so I don’t feel guilty sharing it:

“20 THINGS YOU KNOW IF YOU’RE A MIDULT

1. Nothing good happens at three in the morning.

2. You should never buy the smallest size you can get into.

3. Everyone needs therapy.

4. Grey hair is beautiful, grey roots make you look deranged.

5. Time flies.

6. You are probably a little bit of an alcoholic. Unless you are actually an alcoholic, in which case you may have given up drinking.

7. You are always hungry.

8. If you check out of technology, you are checking out of life. Don’t do it.

9. If someone has no old friends, there is a problem.

10. Infidelity doesn’t necessarily mean it’s over. Contempt does.

11. Things get stuck in your teeth.

12. Something always hurts.

13. And then you think it’s cancer.

14. You know more and less at the same time. You think they might cancel each other out. So where does that leave us?

15. Good sleep is better than good sex.

16. Moths make you panic. Even talking about them: panic.

17. You have 25 different kinds of herbal tea. You don’t much like any of them. You’d rather have a Diet Coke. But you probably won’t.

18. Swearing f***ing helps.

19. This is the rush hour of life: we have spots, wrinkles and possibly braces.

20. If you need to cancel, you need to cancel.”

But lots of the other lists are even funnier (and ruder!) but you need to buy the book for those #nospoilershere!!

I guess the fact I overshadow ridiculously means I often know things aren’t just me (I was amazed how many friends had period issues / had had endometrial ablations and privately messaged me when I publicly discussed them) but I still enjoyed empathising no end.

Most of the book I absolutely loved – but occasional chapters I felt were a bit neurotic and self indulgent. Maybe if I was at a different stage in my life I may have empathised more – but it seemed like a totally different world that I didn’t quite get. I feel bad writing that – especially when it was a lovely free copy – but I do like to be honest.

Overall, though, I definitely enjoyed it – and will dip in and out of it again in the future – and probably quote the lists incessantly to people!

I now follow The Midult on social media – and totally concur with most of their posts – so I’m very glad to have found them.  This would make a perfect Christmas present for ‘women of a certain age’!!

Piles of rubbish

So – the aforementioned piles op happened a week ago. There has been an unexpected whizz back to the hospital for an overnight stay for some post op bleeding – but I’m now at home and feeling loads better.

I am, however, using laxatives and lots of fruit and veg to ensure everything keeps ‘moving’ and my internal wounds can heal.

My stomach sounds like there is some kind of chemistry experiment going on in there with loads of fizzing and gurgling,

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and I fear I may never be able to fart again for the fear of horrific follow through.

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#neverknowinglyundershared

Oh, so tired…..*

* To the tune of Bjork’s ‘Oh, so quiet’
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Comes to something when you’re looking forward to your piles operation next week because you get a general anaesthetic and a chance to lie around in a hospital room for the day………………………

 

Book Review: Happier Thinking by Lana Grace Riva

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I was emailed by the author of this book asking if I’d like a copy to read and review.  Never one to turn down a free book I said yes!  Here’s the blurb:

“Changing how you think is possible. I wasn’t always so sure that was true until I experienced it myself, but I know now we don’t have to just accept unhappiness. Not always anyway. This book is my collection of tips and suggestions that have helped me achieve happier thinking. It’s sort of a gym for my mind. I’d love to tell you it was easier than the real gym but well… it’s not really. It takes time, effort, and practice but it’s absolutely well worth the rewards.”

It is a little book and I read it in a couple of sittings.  Nothing in it is earth shattering, and you’ve probably read similar in magazine articles about positive thinking and being happy – but it was great having it all in one place.

I found myself thinking about what Lana had said later in the day.  Things like, just because the day started badly, you don’t have to assume the whole 24 hours will be a write off.

I can immediately think of a number of ‘glass half empty’ people that this book would be great for.  I can also imagine it’s the sort of book I need to read relatively regularly just to remind myself to be more positive and see the best in situations.

I don’t want to share too much of it – as that would ruin it if you read it.  The summary at the end is also the chapter titles – and a really good aide memoir for positive thinking.

Whilst I don’t think this is a world changing book – it could definitely be a mood changing book, and if it helps one person – then it’s definitely a good thing.

 

 

 

 

University (Parcel) Challenge

We have just seen my eldest niece for the final time before she goes off to a foreign country for University (Wales!).

a) How can she be old enough to leave home?
b) What excitement can we send her through the post?!

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There is actually form for this where her family is concerned.  When her Dad, my brother in law, was on tour (with the RAF – he wasn’t in a pop band, despite how good he is at karaoke!) we took great pleasure in sending him ‘interesting’ parcels.  The first – which he was quite chuffed and possibly a little smug about (before he opened it) was a Cliff Richard calendar!!  That stayed on the wall in the mess long after he came back home.  We also sent a bucket and spade when he was in the desert (and some sensible stuff too I promise!)

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Back when I was at uni – a quarter of a century ago – there was no social media or smart phones to stay in touch with family and friends at home.  Your options were to queue up for the payphone (with your fancy pants card that meant you could phone home cheaper than using cash) or rely on Royal Mail.  I remember being so excited whenever I got post.  My Nan would send chocolate, Auntie Mavis would send stamps, and my sister (my niece’s Mum) once sent me a letter with a little plastic bag inside with her nail clippings and the weird bits she’d pulled off her verucca using whatever the 90s equivalent of Bazuka was.  I am hoping her parcel sending will have improved since she was 13, or my poor niece is going to be very disturbed ………

So what to add to the first care package? I’m thinking multivitamins, ear plugs, alka seltzer, antibacterial handwash, Berocca, Pot Noodles, an ironic 90s indie poster to go on her wall, a pair of Doc Martens (all students still wear them, right?), sick bags, spare mobile phone for when she loses hers, name stickers for her contents in shared fridge, family photo, cuddly toy, sink unblocker (although she has a fancy pants en suite – none of the ‘sink in the corner of your room’ to vomit in and block), air freshener, Febreeze, can of Red Bull…….

and possibly a fake passport and a wad of cash in case my husband and one of her other Uncles do go down to fresher’s week like they’re ‘promising / threatening’ so she can leave the country very quickly…….

 

 

 

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!!!

 

 

 

Prosecco woes

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My Sunday night revealed my not so scientific experiment that prosecco and a fancy HP slice desktop don’t combine to make a palatable cocktail.  In fact – the prosecco destroys the computer within SECONDS, even if it’s less than an inch of spillage out of the top of your flute much like the photo (although it was my hand rather than a second glass it was chinking against!)

Anyway – the WONDERFUL IT support company we used managed to rescue the hard drive (the fizz had completely screwed the mother board but not got as far as the data) and transferred it all on to a new machine for me.  Admittedly it isn’t now the fancy pants one you can charge your phone just by leaving it on the top of – but given my phone doesn’t have that functionality anyway, it doesn’t matter all that much.  And most importantly, they sorted it out by close of play on Tuesday – which is excellent service.

** This is not a paid plug for Infuse Technology, but just credit where credit is due.**

So I think everything is sorted, ok, the printer isn’t working yet, and I can’t access the work server, and I’ve lost half of my calendar appointments – but at least I can post on Facebook and Twitter and do the internet shopping.

However now comes the major stress – trying to remember all of the passwords to the websites that were just saved on my previous computer.  There are various combinations of different people and places – and my husband helpfully asks why I don’t just have the same one for everything – but there are the ones you have to change regularly, the ones that specify certain numbers of upper case / lower case / special symbols, the ones that have to be a certain length, the ones that can’t be anything you use for anything else – it just goes on and on.  I’m trying to ruin just the one evening by sorting as many as possible in one go and logging on to every website I ever use.

I will be the person rocking in the corner, nursing a drink, but keeping it well away from the computer….