Fencing

Tomorrow child number 3 starts her first fencing lesson at her new school.

Fencing

Totally different to any fencing her father did in his youth!

Obviously I mean this…………..

Fencing 2

 

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………)

 

 

 

Book Review: Till The Cows Come Home by Sara Cox

Till The Cows Come Home.jpg

I’ve always felt an affinity with Sara Cox.  We were both born in 1974, although I was the school year above (honestly, why is that still ‘a thing’ in your mid 40s?!) I spent the 90s being a ‘ladette’ and keeping up with the lads booze consumption-wise.  Admittedly Sara’s ‘party girl years’ were spent being a model around the world and making it in the world of TV – whilst I was training to be a chartered accountant in The Midlands – but otherwise, practically parallel lives?!  Thankfully my exploits never made the Daily Mail (but if anyone has back copies of the Birmingham Chartered Accountants Student Society newsletters – there are some dodgy photos of me at BCASS Balls!!) We both then had short lived first marriages, and thankfully longer lived second marriages – and our kids are similar ages.  In fact some Christmasses ago Sara and I shared a tweet exchange about a particular Sylvanian Families house we were both having to put together for our firstborns – when they were about half the age they are now! I made the move from Radio 1 to Radio 2 at a similar time to Sara – admittedly only as a listener rather than a presenter – but on numerous occasions Sara has read out my texts (in the olden days) and more recently tweets – which I like to think is because we are kindred spirits (and not just because there wasn’t much sent in by listeners that day……)  Anyway – when I saw Sara had written a book about her childhood I was keen to read it – and as I’ve said before, I’m lucky enough to be sent loads of free books to review – so it’s quite unusual for me to part with cash for a book – but in this case I did!

Here’s the blurb:

“Till the Cows Come Home is DJ and TV presenter Sara Cox’s wonderfully written, funny coming of age memoir of growing up in 1980s Lancashire.
The youngest of five siblings, Sara grew up on her father’s cattle farm surrounded by dogs, cows, horses, fields and lots of ‘cack’. The lanky kid sister – half girl, half forehead – a nuisance to the older kids, the farm was her very own dangerous adventure playground, ‘a Bolton version of Narnia’.
Her writing conjures up a time of wagon rides and haymaking and agricultural shows, alongside chain smoking pensioners, cabaret nights at the Conservative club and benign parenting. Sara’s love of family, of the animals and the people around them shines through on every page. Unforgettable characters are lovingly and expertly drawn bringing to life a time and place.
Sara later divided her childhood days between the beloved farm and the pub she lived above with her mother, these early experiences of freedom and adventure came to be the perfect training ground for later life.
This funny, big-hearted and often moving telling of Sara Cox’s semi rural upbringing is not what you’d expect from the original ladette, and one of radio’s most enduring and well loved presenters.”

 

The book tells the story of Sara’s life (and how she ended up Sara rather than Sarah professionally at least) from her birth and childhood, up until she started on TV with The Girlie Show.  It’s not strictly chronological – but basically is – with some meanderings, just as you’d expect if you were chatting to a mate. In fact, because Sara’s voice is so familiar – you can almost hear her saying what she’s written and it feels like chatting to a mate – albeit a bit one sided.  (Actually, if you were to buy the audiobook you would exactly hear it in Sara’s voice!)

Being the same age, loads of the reference points were the same – shops, TV programmes, dress sense, sickly sweet drinks etc – which was great.

I grew up in the suburbs of Brum – and not on a farm – but in recent years we have acquired chickens, pigs and horses – and so lots of those references were also apt.  We also have a horse traumatised by a plastic bag blowing the breeze…….

I really enjoyed the romp through the 80s and 90s and was keen to know how the story developed – as this isn’t the ‘Sara’ that you have read about in the papers over the years.

The book made me realise we have other things in common too – a shared love of our families – immediate and extended, and more than anything, a powerhouse 4 foot 11 inch mother to credit for where we are today (although my Mum is probably now going to comment that she’s actually 4 foot 11 and a half?!)

All in all a great read – and I look forward to a future instalment in a few years time.

 

 

Number plates!

The husband and I recently had new cars.  The first 2 letters and numbers are the same – but I needed to find a way to remember the last 3 letters on each car.

Mine is LCM – I’m Libby, the husband is Mark – Libby Cuddles Mark – perfect. (Even if the kids made vomming noises at this suggestion!)

His is KHG.  My immediate thought was Kana Hates Graham – using another 2 family members as reference points.  This prompted the 7 year old to ask, incredulously, ‘why does Auntie Kana hate Grandad?’   I had to explain I’d made it up purely to remember the reg – and sure enough, I won’t forget it now!!

 

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Book Review: Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Daisy Jones

I am lucky enough to be sent loads of books to read – and my TBR pile physically, and electronically, is always large – so it’s quite unusual for me to pay hard earned cash for a book.  However, I kept seeing this book EVERYWHERE in the summer of 2019 as one of THE books to read.  So total FOMO made me purchase it!

Here’s the blurb:

“They were the new icons of rock and roll, fated to burn bright and not fade away.
But on 12 July 1979, it all came crashing down.
There was Daisy, rock and roll force of nature, brilliant songwriter and unapologetic drug addict, the half-feral child who rose to superstardom.
There was Camila, the frontman’s wife, too strong-willed to let the band implode – and all too aware of the electric connection between her husband and Daisy.
There was Karen, ice-cool keyboardist, a ferociously independent woman in a world that wasn’t ready for her.
And there were the men surrounding them: the feuding, egotistical Dunne brothers, the angry guitarist chafing on the sidelines, the drummer binge-drinking on his boat, the bassist trying to start a family amid a hedonistic world tour. They were creative minds striking sparks from each other, ready to go up in flames.
It’s never just about the music…”

I started this on holiday – and it felt really ‘different’ straight away.  (I said this about The Goldfinch many years ago, and certain friends still haven’t forgiven me!!)

It’s written in the style of interviews with all of the characters – but interwoven so it’s as if the various accounts are being talked through by the protagonists as they happened.  This means it feels really fast paced and keeps you wanting to read on.

It totally evokes the 70s vibe – and you do feel immersed in the rock and roll world of the time.

About 90% (yes, I read it on my Kindle) of the way through you get a bit of a shock – which I loved – but I don’t want to tell you what that is, as it would ruin the surprise for you – but it’s great, and emotional.

Throughout the book lyrics of songs are mentioned in part – but at the end of the book, the lyrics to all of the tracks – which are almost characters in the book themselves – are written out in full.  I found myself weeping reading them as they had so much meaning (and I’m quite pathetic and cry a lot!!)

I really enjoyed it – so EVERYONE was right!

 

 

Number facts!

 

GCSE-Results.jpg

Tomorrow our eldest gets here GCSE results – and for the first time ALL of the subjects are graded by numbers not letters – so here are some related number facts for you!

  • 1-9 is how the exams are now graded.  We’re optimistic for not too many lower ones, but so you have a comparison, an old school B is a 6, A is a 7, A* is an 8, and they’ve introduced a 9 which is nominally an A**
  • 10 is the number of subjects the daughter has sat.
  • 9 is the number of subjects she would like to have sat.  She really wanted to drop Spanish, but did too well in her mock. We bumped into some old friends on holiday whose eldest son also didn’t particularly enjoy his Spanish GCSE – although his tactic of just adding ‘O’ to the end of an English word to get the Spanish equivalent sounds like a top tip.
  • 1 is the number of Bs I got at GCSE.  And it was in Chemistry.  No one ever asked what the 8As were in – just what that annoying B was!
  • 0 is the number of GCSEs her Dad got.  This has not held him back – and he’s done brilliantly with his entrepreneurial spirit and hard work – but it’s been tricky, not for the daughter, but for other family members who argue ‘well, if Daddy / Uncle Mark hasn’t got any GCSEs, why do I need to bother?’
  • 12 is the number of years she’s worked really hard at school.  Whilst there was loads of revision and working studiously over the GCSE years at school, she’s always been really dedicated.  You can guess who she takes after!?
  • 25 is the kilograms of revision she took with us to Australia last Christmas as her mocks were just after we got back.
  • 29 is the number of years since I got my results – and as a parent, the slightly nauseous feeling on the build up to results day is incredibly reminiscent of nearly 3 decades ago when I was waiting for mine.

 

Good luck to everyone waiting for their results tomorrow – and the associated parents.

GCSE results do not define you, they are a stepping stone to the next stage in life, and only really pathetic people are still bitter about their results when they’re in their mid 40s……..

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: Rewrite The Stars by Emma Heatherington

Rewrite The Stars

I enjoyed ‘A Miracle On Hope Street’ by Emma Heatherington last year – and this is another offering by her with Christmas themes (although only loosely).  I was lucky enough to be offered a free copy from Netgalley in return for an honest review (and it wasn’t until the end and the mention of Bradley Cooper gifs (I was surprised it wasn’t David Beckham to be honest) that I remembered my friend was the author’s editor!

Here’s the blurb:

“It’s never too late to say I love you…
A stunning Christmas romance for fans of Josie Silver and Jojo Moyes
From the moment they meet one December day there’s something between Charlotte Taylor and her brother’s best friend, Tom Farley. But Tom’s already taken and Charlie has to let him go…
It’s another five years before their paths cross again only a secret from the past forces Charlie to make a choice. She promises herself she’ll never look back…
The years pass and Charlie moves on with her life but she can never forget Tom. He’s always there whispering ‘What if?’.
Can Charlie leave the life she has built for one last chance with Tom? Or is the one that got away not really the one at all…?”

I really enjoyed this!

Charlotte / Charlie and Tom’s paths cross over the period of the book – starting at a one off meeting and then progressing.  Some of this happens at Christmas – but that’s not a massive feature of the book (so don’t think you need to save it until the festive period to properly appreciate it or anything, I was fine reading it by the pool in the sunshine!)

Whilst the Charlie / Tom relationship is the main thread running through the book – and who doesn’t love a ‘the one who got away’ story – their relationships with other people are also really well developed.

It’s set it Ireland in a number of different rural and city locations – and they are described really well and evoke the differing vibes of the geographical areas.

It weaves historic information in with present day so that the whole back story is eventually unravelled.  I did guess some of it – but that didn’t detract from the book and wanting to finish reading it.

Occasionally I did want to punch Charlotte and tell her just to be honest – but I guess that might not have been such a twisty and turny book!! Overall it was a lovely easy read and I’d recommend it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Postcard by Zoe Folbigg

The Postcard

I’d seen this on Netgalley and it really appealed – but I realised it was a sequel, and I am a dyed in the wool rule follower – so went on a hunt for ‘The Note’ first!  I found it for free on Amazon and so quickly devoured – and enjoyed that first.  Now here is the blurb for The Postcard:

“A year after the kiss that brought them together in a snowy train-station doorway, Maya and James are embarking on another journey – this time around the world.
The trip starts promisingly, with an opulent and romantic Indian wedding. But as their travels continue, Maya fears that ‘love at first sight’ might not survive trains, planes and tuk tuks, especially when she realises that what she really wants is a baby, and James doesn’t feel the same.
Can Maya and James navigate their different hopes and dreams to stay together? Or is love at first sight just a myth after all… “

I read the first chapter and was completely confused and thought I’d been hoodwinked – as it was seemingly totally random!  However, it soon became evident that there were two stories running concurrently which I suspected would link up further on (which they did!)

As well as following Maya and Train Man’s story, and the story of Manon (the one I thought had hoodwinked me!) it also follows the story of Maya’s BFF, Nena, back in London who is starting life as a mother.  The inter connection of them all was done really well (and whilst I know the story of Maya and Train Man is true to life – I wondered how much of this, and the interconnecting stories, was too?)

The descriptions of places on Maya and James’s travels was great – and really evoked the feeling of being there (even if ‘there’ involved self administered colonics!!!) but equally Nena’s story – drowning in life with a newborn – was also really believable.

As with the first book in the series, it was an easy read that kept me intrigued and wanting to read on and I enjoyed it.

I was lucky enough to be given an advanced review copy from Netgalley – but you can buy this later this week!  (But I would recommend reading The Note first to appreciate The Postcard fully)

My 7 year old always asks what I’m reading – and so she knows it’s been The Note followed by The Postcard – so she’s been coming up with suggestions for the next book in the series – The Piece of Paper, The Book etc etc.