Book Review: The Anniversary by Hilary Boyd

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I was lucky enough to be sent an advanced review copy by Penguin of this new book out in September 2018 in return for an honest review.  Here’s the  blurb:

“Is the one you tried to forget the one you can’t live without?
Stella once thought that if she never saw Jack again, it would be too soon.
But life has other plans for her and her stubborn, handsome ex-husband.
Looking after their daughter in a time of need, Stella finds herself unwillingly reunited with the man she shared the best years of her life with – followed by the worst.
Where tragedy once tore them apart, now Stella and Jack are being drawn back together. But each of them has a new partner and a new life.
Should they fight temptation?
Should the past remain the past?
Or are some loves simply meant to be?”

The book is set in the current time – but with flashbacks to the family tragedy 27 years earlier.  The back story is filled out over time in a way that keeps you wanting to know more. Whilst you find out early on what the result was of the tragic event – you don’t know how and why it happened (and I won’t ruin it by giving too much away here – I loathe reviews that ruin a fundamental part of the story – and I’m pleased the blurb doesn’t in this case).

I really liked Stella and Jack – and you’re routing for them both in different ways.

Their daughter Eve (co-incidentally one of my daughter’s too) is very much stuck in the middle – and I found her a bit annoying at times, but pregnancy can make anyone a bit annoying (I’ve done it 4 times, and I’m sure was annoying every time!!)

I devoured the book in a few hours on holiday – but it felt like the kind of book you want to romp through as it moves at quite a pace – and you’re picking up the history too.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was a reasonably easy read – although appeared to have some randomly complicated words in at times – you could almost picture the writer using the synonym feature on her computer to get a fancy pants word as it generally wasn’t highbrow language!!

I don’t think I’ve read anything by Hilary Boyd before – but I will be sure to look out her back catalogue now for other holiday reads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

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I am trying to tick off some categories in my 2018 reading challenge – and this book by Amy Schumer is a previous Goodreads Peoples Choice winner #yay. My husband and I watched ‘Trainwreck’ a few years ago – and he was surprised how much the Amy Schumer character reminded him of me…… (this is a compliment – I think?!)  We watched some of her stand up and found that very entertaining too (probably I enjoyed it more than him – even though he doesn’t mind a vulgar sex reference much!!)  Anyway – I wanted to find out more about the real Amy – rather than the semi autobiographical one from Trainwreck (and was hoping I wouldn’t be massively disappointed in the whole Greatest Showman / PT Barnum autobiography debacle from earlier this summer)

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“In The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy shares stories about her family, her relationships, her career, good – and bad – sex, recounting the experiences that have shaped who she is today: from the riches to rags story of her childhood to her teenage quest for popularity (and boys) to becoming one of the most sought-after comedians on the planet and an outspoken advocate for women’s rights.
Whether she’s experiencing lust at first sight in the queue at the airport, discovering her boot camp instructor’s secret bad habit, or candidly discussing her father’s multiple sclerosis, Amy Schumer proves to be a fearless, original, and always entertaining storyteller. Her book will move you, make you laugh, catch you completely off guard, and answer this burning question: is it okay for a 35 year-old woman to still sleep with her childhood teddy bears?”

First up – I really enjoyed the book.  It’s quite explicit sexually – but that’s not a huge surprise if you’ve seen any of Amy’s previous work!  But it’s also very soul bearing emotionally.  Both as a woman – but also in her role as a daughter.  I hadn’t appreciated that her father had multiple sclerosis – this touched a nerve having watched a family friend – the Dad of one of my best friends – go through this diagnosis and live with MS for 30 years until he eventually passed away a few years ago.  I note from a bit of Google research that Mr Schumer has undergone some stem cell research (mentioned in the closing chapters of the book) and has successfully stood again – which is AMAZING news.

Amy is very open and honest throughout the book – again, as you would expect from her stand up.  I thought it very interesting how she would class herself as an introvert – despite her chosen career.

I loved her relationship with her sister, brother in law and niece – they are clearly a really vital and loved part of her world.  Her relationship with her Mum is more ‘interesting’ and is explored in some depth at different times in her life.

The book also emphasised just how hard she worked for years on end before becoming an apparent ‘overnight success’ – and I hadn’t really thought before how a comic has to be continually working on their act – as she says, it’s not like being a musician where everyone wants the old classics people want new stuff all the time!  (The complete opposite of a Take That concert where everyone pops to the loo whilst they play the new stuff, willing them to sing Relight My Fire so they can do the Lulu bit – or maybe that’s just me?!?!?)

I found the book interesting, funny, thought provoking, emotional and really enjoyable.  And a million times better than the P T Barnum autobiography!!

 

 

 

 

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!!!

 

 

 

Book Review: Brave by Rose McGowan

Brave

My friend offered to lend me this – and my immediate comment was ‘oh, the Harvey Weinstein book’ – I couldn’t have been more wrong – I will explain why in a minute.

First – here’s the blurb:

”  “My life, as you will read, has taken me from one cult to another. BRAVE is the story of how I fought my way out of these cults and reclaimed my life. I want to help you do the same.” -Rose McGowan

A revealing memoir and empowering manifesto – A voice for generations

Rose McGowan was born in one cult and came of age in another, more visible cult: Hollywood.

In a strange world where she was continually on display, stardom soon became a personal nightmare of constant exposure and sexualization. Rose escaped into the world of her mind, something she had done as a child, and into high-profile relationships. Every detail of her personal life became public, and the realities of an inherently sexist industry emerged with every script, role, public appearance, and magazine cover. The Hollywood machine packaged her as a sexualized bombshell, hijacking her image and identity and marketing them for profit.

Hollywood expected Rose to be silent and cooperative and to stay the path. Instead, she rebelled and asserted her true identity and voice. She reemerged unscripted, courageous, victorious, angry, smart, fierce, unapologetic, controversial, and real as f*ck.

BRAVE is her raw, honest, and poignant memoir/manifesto—a no-holds-barred, pull-no-punches account of the rise of a millennial icon, fearless activist, and unstoppable force for change who is determined to expose the truth about the entertainment industry, dismantle the concept of fame, shine a light on a multibillion-dollar business built on systemic misogyny, and empower people everywhere to wake up and be BRAVE.”

The book follows Rose’s life – not quite chronologically, but pretty much – and what a life it’s been.  She was brought up in a Children of God cult in Italy – and then moved back to the US as a child.  It was all very tumultuous, and she legally emancipated herself from her parents as a teenager.

It talks you through her time in Hollywood – which again has been eventful.  She doesn’t name Harvey Weinstein in the book (hence the fact I was so wrong in my description of it) as she doesn’t want to name ‘the monster’ – but what he did to her was horrific – and explained in great detail.  The fact that Ms McGowan was one of the first women to ‘out’ the monster has been widely reported – and thank goodness she had the balls to do it.  She is clearly (and rightly) very angry about what happened to her – and the knock on effect it had throughout her career in ‘the industry’.

Later on she talks about a Director she was in a relationship with – initially calling him RR.  But by the end of the book Robert Rodriguez has been fully named.  She also talks about her relationship with Marilyn Manson (which coincidentally was then mentioned in a film I watched yesterday)

I’m pleased I read this – and it was informative – albeit disturbing.  I feel much more briefed about the origins of the #metoo movement. Even in my accountancy profession I witnessed sexual harassment – but nowhere near on this scale – it really is shocking.

I wish Rose McGowan the best of luck for the future and applaud her for changing Hollywood, hopefully forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

So – if you’re reading this in the UK it’s 7½ deaths – but in America, where it’s already been published, it’s just 7.  I’m not sure why we get an extra half a death over this side of the Atlantic – but I am assured it’s the same book.

Anyway – I was very kindly given an advance review copy (well, advance for the UK market) from Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Here’s the blurb:

“The Hardcastle family is hosting a masquerade at their home, and their daughter Evelyn Hardcastle will die. She will die everyday until Aiden Bishop is able identify her killer and break the cycle.

But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up each day in a different  body as one of the guests. 

Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend. But nothing and no one are quite what they seem. 

Deeply atmospheric and ingeniously plotted, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a highly original debut that’s an Agatha Christie mystery in a Groundhog Day Loop, with a bit of Quantum Leap to it. “

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This really is an intriguing and very different book!  (Different in a much better way than when I described Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch’ as different – before various friends get panicky!)

Each day Aiden Bishop wakes up in a different host’s body.  He stays in that body for a day (during the host’s waking hours) or until the host dies.  It therefore flips between hosts, days, hours of the same day, with alarming frequency.

I am very glad that I am on the wagon at the moment – as it was tricky enough to keep track of when stone cold sober – and definitely would not be a book to read when even mildly inebriated!! Even in my abstemious state, it was still tricky to keep a handle on entirely what was going on…….

Often with books I get cross with the author (and editor!) for not spotting loopholes in plots and inconsistencies – but it was pretty much impossible to even begin to dissect the plot with this one!  The interview with the author at the end says that he had a wall full of post it notes and a spreadsheet to ensure all of the characters and plot lines were consistent whilst writing the book – and unless I’d recreated this, I really don’t think it was possible to keep up, you kind of just have to go with it (which for a control freak like me is a bit tricky!)

The hosts that Aiden uses each day are all very different – physically / emotionally / mentally – and that is very cleverly portrayed.  You’re never quite sure who you’re rooting for though.  The house where it’s set – Blackheath – is also really well described and you can picture yourself inside it – and it’s grounds. It is very atmospheric.

Overall I enjoyed this – although I’m pretty exhausted having finished it – and am looking forward to something a bit lighter and less taxing for my next read!  Reading something with a new ‘concept’ is a refreshing change – and I’m already interested to see what the author writes next!

Definitely put this on your list for when it’s published in the Autumn.

It’s slotting into my 2018 Reading Challenge as a book about time travel.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne

Last year – I gave ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ as a gift to a number of friends because I loved it so much and just wanted to share the love.  Thankfully they all agreed it was a great book (could I have remained friends with them if they hadn’t?!?)  One of these friends reciprocated recently, sending me an Amazon gift card with the explicit instructions that I had to buy this book!  She’d been gifted it too – so was passing on the book love (a trend I very much plan to perpetuate):

How do you like me now

 

Here’s the blurb:

“‘Turning thirty is like playing musical chairs.  The music stops, and everyone just marries whoever they happen to be sitting on.
Who the f*ck is Tori Bailey?
There’s no doubt that Tori is winning the game of life. She’s inspired millions of women to stick two fingers up at convention with her bestselling memoir, and she has the perfect relationship to boot.
But Tori Bailey has been living a lie.
Everyone around her is getting married and having babies, but her long-term boyfriend won’t even talk about getting engaged. And when her best friend Dee – her plus one, the only person who understands the madness – falls in love, suddenly Tori’s in terrifying danger of being left behind.
When the world tells you to be one thing and turning thirty brings with it a loud ticking clock, it takes courage to walk your own path.
It’s time for Tori to practise what she’s preached, but the question is: is she brave enough?
The debut adult novel by bestselling author Holly Bourne is a blisteringly funny, honest and moving exploration of love, friendship and navigating the emotional rollercoaster of your thirties.”

I liked this book IMMEDIATELY – although within the first 2 chapters both my profession as an accountant and the football team I support had been dissed

“Why can’t he support a better football team? One that actually wins? If you’re going to chain your emotional well-being to the outcome of a football team, why pick Aston Villa?”

but I didn’t take it personally!!

The very clever observational writing – initially of wedding etiquette in recent times is cringeworthingly good.  And I am going to make a suggestion to one of my friends who is quite senior in the West Midlands police about getting copies of thumb print trees from weddings to keep as evidence for future crimes!!

Social media is an integral part of the storyline – and it’s interesting to see it played out so much.  I am guilty of being a massive oversharer – but I like to think I overshare the good and the bad – so you might get a post about an amazing holiday in Abu Dhabi – but you’ll also know all about my piles (my husband is concerned he can’t go to buy a loaf of bread in our village shop without someone asking about my arse and its problems!!)  However I know an awful lot of people who filter (metaphorically and photographically) what they post – giving a massively different view of their lives to what is actually happening. I always find it crazy when people filter the f*ck out of a picture – when half of their ‘friends’ see them on the school run and know they don’t look like that!

Anyway – enough of me ranting about two faced / filtered posters – and back to the book!

The social media ‘branding’ is vital for Tori – it’s what her book sold, and what her public expect.  She can’t post that she’s doubting whether her chap really is ‘The One’ because that would bugger up brand Tori (similarities to Brand Beckham anyone?!). However her friends are settling down and popping out kids – and she’s not sure where she and ‘rock man’ are going to – and where either of then want to be.

It’s been said it’s a Bridget Jones for millenials – and I can see that it definitely has Bridget connotations – but Tori is very different.  Interestingly it’s whether she should escape a long term relationship rather than trying to find a man that is the crux of the storyline.

It is a really quick read – and you canter through it – wanting to find out what’s going to happen to Tori next.  A couple of times I wanted to give her a shake – or maybe a cuddle – and tell her that it will all be ok whatever happens.  It definitely made me appreciate yet again doing all of the school / university / first marriage / accountancy training contract (honestly, I wasn’t like a regular accountant #injoke)  / second marriage / first couple of kids – before social media was a thing. The additional pressure that must put on ‘the youth of today’ is horrific #oldfart.

I would suggest at mid 40s I’m slightly older than target market – but I really enjoyed the book (phew, I can still be friends with the donator!).  Unsurprisingly, given the blurb, the language is quite strong, and there’s an occasional (and that’s the point, only occasional) sex scene which is a bit eurgh – but it’s a vital part of the storyline.

Now I’ve lined this up for a category in my 2018 Reading Challenge, but due to an incident with a glass of prosecco and my computer, I can’t remember what it is – but it will be added once I’m operational again.

This would make a perfect, swift, holiday read – so I’d definitely recommend downloading / buying / borrowing from the library this summer.   I will also be looking at other books by Holly Bourne – and recommending the YA stuff to my 15 year old.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Betrayals by Fiona Neill

I have to confess that I was given an advanced review copy of this by NetGalley – but it sat on my Kindle unread for months and months.  Not because I didn’t want to read it – but other stuff took priority.  However this has worked out for the best as it ended up a Richard and Judy Book Club pick for 2017 – and so it can knock off the ‘celebrity book club’ category on my 2018 Reading Challenge!

The Betrayals

Here’s the blurb:

“None of them would forget that week on the wild Norfolk coast.
Best friends Rosie and Lisa’s families had always been inseparable.

But that summer, Lisa had an affair with Rosie’s husband Nick.
And now, after years of silence, she sends Rosie a letter begging for help. A letter that exposes dark secrets.
Daughter Daisy’s fragile hold on reality begins to unravel.
Teenage son Max blames himself for everything that happened that long hot summer.
And Nick must confront his own version of events.
There are four sides to this story.
Who will you believe?”

So the book is told by each of the family members in turn – the parents, Rosie and Nick, and their children Daisy and Max.  Some of it is present day – and some of it is 8 years ago when their lives imploded.

It is VERY clever – and the way it weaves in Rosie and Nick’s careers is well thought through and plotted.

I can totally see why it makes a good book club choice as it’s so intricate – and you’re rooting for different people at different times, so there would be lots to discuss.

The term OCD is thrown about just because someone is a bit anal about you not wearing shoes in their house, or if people like their light switches all facing the same way (both of these could possible be referencing myself!) – but this shows just how debilitating proper OCD can be – with rituals, phrases and other behaviour patterns that can destroy a normal life.

There were a number of times when I shouted at my Kindle, as the characters just needed to discuss matters together and be honest with each other – but clearly that would have made for a less interesting book!

The betrayals are varied – the standard husband / wife betrayal, but also between best friends, siblings and family friends – it’s all riddled with it!

Overall I enjoyed the book – and am glad I have FINALLY got round to reading it.

 

 

Book Review: Missing Pieces by Laura Pearson

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I saw this on Netgalley and thought it looked interesting and so requested it – and was delighted to receive an advance review copy.  Although I’ve been a bit slack and not read it until after publication – but at least that means you can buy it now, rather than me tempting you and then you having to wait – for which I have form!!

Here’s the blurb that enticed me:

“What if the one thing that kept you together was breaking you apart?
All Linda wants to do is sleep. She won’t look at her husband. She can’t stand her daughter. And she doesn’t want to have this baby. Having this baby means moving on, and she just wants to go back to before. Before their family was torn apart, before the blame was placed.
Alienated by their own guilt and struggling to cope, the Sadler family unravels. They grow up, grow apart, never talking about their terrible secret.
That is until Linda’s daughter finds out she’s pregnant. Before she brings another Sadler into the world, Bea needs to know what happened twenty-five years ago. What did they keep from her? What happened that couldn’t be fixed?
A devastating mistake, a lifetime of consequences. How can you repair something broken if pieces are missing?”

Now – I don’t like reviews to have spoilers, but sometimes parts of the storyline are so fundamental, and also so difficult for people who’ve been through situations, that I think the blurb needs to be upfront.   So – if you don’t want to know any more then stop now – but I think it needs to be said that this book’s entire premise is based around the death of a young child.  Having watched a friend lose her son (in his instance to an evil b*stard brain tumour) I think it could be really upsetting for someone to pick up this book not knowing that was going to blindside them within the first chapter.

The first half of the book is set in the immediate aftermath of the death of Phoebe in the mid 80s.  It is written just beautifully and is very emotional.  I found it hard going at times – emotionally.  But you wanted to keep reading and know what happened.  Each chapter is at a new date and it specifies the number of days since Phoebe’s death – starting in single digits and increasing.

The book is set in Southampton – where I went to University – and the campus, and the Common both feature – and I always like having such reference points – although geographical knowledge definitely wasn’t fundamental to enjoying the book.

The second half of the book is much closer to now – in fact 9,000+ days from Phoebe’s death.  It’s very interesting picking up with the characters – from the Sadler family and peripheral people – after such a large period of time has passed. This chunk of the book finally explains what actually happened to Phoebe – and how many of the central characters blames themselves for the events of that fateful day. It felt like the whole  book was building to the point where you found out what happened.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom, and the way the individuals develop is really interesting.  It ends with potential new beginnings for most of the characters – which is lovely after a read that was harrowing at times.

This is Laura Pearson’s debut novel – but I am sure it won’t be her last, as it is really good, well written, pacy and keeps you wanting to read on. I’m not sure there could be a sequel – although I’d love to know what happens to Esme and Bea in particular.

Now – again – I’m going to try and shoe horn this into a category on my reading challenge 2018 – this time I’m going for ‘A book with song lyrics in the titles’, as Missing Pieces is a song by Jack White.  And yes, I did have to Google that – but it felt quite apt, as my son’s guitar teacher had cancelled his lesson that night as he was off to see Jack White in concert in London. #spooky.  Equally it could fit into ‘A book that involves a bookstore or library’ – let’s see what categories I need to juggle about with come December!

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Life of P.T. Barnum, written by himself

I have spent a large proportion of this year trying to shoe horn books I’ve been given into categories in my reading challenge – but I decided I needed to try and tick off some of them properly – as broadening your reading is surely the main reason for doing a challenge such as this?

The very first category is ‘A book made into a movie you’ve already seen’.  I – along with most of the world – have recently seen The Greatest Showman – and loved it.  In fact the soundtrack has become the Price family soundtrack of the summer, as it’s something everyone from my 46 year old husband who doesn’t like some of the kids rap music, down to the 6 year old who knows ALL OF THE WORDS – will listen to.   But back to the film, I did wonder how much of it was true – and what bits of his lifestory were missed out as it was only a standard feature film – so I thought reading about Phineas would be great fun.  I saw on Amazon that he’d written an autobiography, so thought I’d try that.

P T Barnum

 

Here’s the (somewhat cynical!) blurb from Amazon:

“For more than fifty years, Phineas T. Barnum embodied all that was grand and fraudulent in American mass culture. Over the course of a life that spanned the nineteenth century (1810-91), he inflicted himself upon a surprisingly willing public in a variety of guises, from newspaper editor (or libeler) to traveling showman (or charlatan) and distinguished public benefactor (or shameless hypocrite).   Barnum deliberately cultivated his ambiguous public image through a lifelong advertising campaign, shrewdly exploiting the cultural and technological capabilities of the new publishing industry. While running his numerous shows and exhibitions, Barnum managed to publish newspaper articles, exposés of fraud (not his own), self-help tracts, and a series of best-selling autobiographies, each promising to give “the true history of my many adventures.”   Updated editions of The Life of P. T. Barnum appeared regularly, allowing Barnum to keep up with demand and prune the narrative of details that might offend posterity. The present volume is the first modern edition of Barnum’s original and outrageous autobiography, published in 1855 and unavailable for more than a century. Brazen, confessional, and immensely entertaining, it immortalizes the showman who hoodwinked customers into paying to hear the reminiscences of a woman presented as George Washington’s 161-year-old nurse, the impresario who brought Jenny Lind to America and toured Europe with General Tom Thumb, and the grand entrepreneur of the American Museum of New York. Above all, it ensures that Barnum would be properly remembered . . . exactly as he created himself. ” 

Obviously as I started the book I couldn’t imagine him looking like the photo on the cover of the book – he had to be Hugh Jackman!

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Initially the book talked about Barnum’s childhood – there was lots about his family, school friends and quite a lot about his local church.  In the film his Dad was a tailor – and whilst that was referenced in the book – his Dad had lots of other jobs too.

It’s written in quite an amusing style – which feels weird when you know it was written almost 200 years ago – and it is quite evident that Barnum loved telling a tale (and bigging his own part – I’m sounding as cynical as the blurb now!!)

What I found odd was the story of Barnum’s wife in the film makes great play of her family being wealthy and him taking her away from this and her parents looking down their noses – but in the book, Charity was the daughter of a tailor herself – and her parents didn’t live in a big house.  It seems strange that the film-makers took such a different tack.

I  have to say from about 35% through the book I started to tire of Barnum’s almost diary aspect of the story – and the tricks he played on other people, or other people played on him.  How much money he made, what the expenses were.   It just felt quite repetitive.  A lot was also made of his religious upbringing and how the church featured in his every day life – which wasn’t referenced in the film at all.

Just when I thought I might give up (which I HATE doing – but life is too short for dire books) it was the bit where they do a tour in the UK for Queen Victoria.  Now, in the film it’s a real ensemble trip – but actually it was for General Tom Thumb.  But – not only did they go to London, but they also came up to Birmingham – where I live!  There was quite an extended passage about Stratford upon Avon – and visiting the various Shakespeare houses / churches – and then about going to Warwick Castle and Kenilworth Castle (which was already a ruin in the mid 1800s!)  It talked about the road from Warwick to Coventry having the most beautiful views of any stretch of road in England! Now I’ve driven the A46 many times, and have never really been bowled over by the vistas – but it was still great to read about areas I know well – and actual buildings I have been in too. It really caught my imagination again (phew!)

Barnum then mentions he tried to buy Shakespeare’s birthplace to have it shipped to the US but was thwarted by locals buying it instead. I can confirm it’s still in Stratford as we visited last year!

Lots and lots is made of Barnum’s vow of temperance – and how he persuaded many others to take the pledge. Something else overlooked in the film completely (in fact I can remember him and Zac Efron dancing about with beers!)

Introducing Jenny Lind to the masses is discussed – but unlike the film, he wasn’t caught in a compromising photograph causing marital strife – or did he just chose to omit this from the autobiography??

His family are barely mentioned at all until the very final chapter – and even then it’s only to give the details of his 4 daughters.  There’s a 7 year age gap between the first 2 (who were much closer in the film), and then a daughter who died as an infant, before a 4th that survived.

All in all this is not the best book I’ve ever read – but interesting to read something written in the 1850s.  The film clearly took total artistic licence – which I guess isn’t a surprise – but I’m still not sure what was true and what was Barnum spin!

But at least I’ve ticked off ‘A book turned into a movie you’ve already seen’ from my 2018 Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Songs Of Us by Emma Cooper

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This is another book I saw reviewed in a magazine and then actively sought an advance review copy on NetGalley.   And I was so pleased I did – this book is FAB-U-LOUS.  I think it’s my favourite read since Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – and that is saying something.

Here’s the blurb:

“If Melody hadn’t run out of de-icer that day, she would never have slipped and banged her head. She wouldn’t be left with a condition that makes her sing when she’s nervous. And she definitely wouldn’t have belted out the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ in assembly at her son’s school.
If Dev hadn’t taken the kids to the zoo that day, then the accident wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have left Flynn and Rose without a dad. Or shattered the love of his life’s heart.
But if they hadn’t seen the missing person report that day, they might never have taken the trip to Cornwall. And, in the last place they expected, discovered what it really means to be ‘Us’.”

Melody is a single Mum – trying to do the best for her 2 children – but with the added complication of a condition that makes her sing songs when she’s nervous.  The eclectic mix of songs she chooses is just brilliant – and the fact she doesn’t get the lyrics right all of the time is amusing and endearing. Both Flynn and Rose have ‘complications’ to deal with – linked too, or probably because of, their father’s disappearance – but all wrapped up in your standard teenage angst.  I thought this particularly well observed and written (mostly because of having teenagers myself!).

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away – and there is a HUGE plot change in the middle that takes the wind out of your sails – but it only adds to the amazing roller coaster the book takes you on.

Whilst the major plot lines revolve around the immediate family – the peripheral characters are also really important and fundamental to the story line in lots of ways.  It was good to see how their stories panned out too.  How people deal with a crisis can be so different – and whilst you can see that, for example, Melody’s Mum has the best of intentions – she does like any crisis to be firmly centred on the impact on her rather than the main protagonist for that specific issue.

I really didn’t want to put this down – even though the final 15% had me weeping LOADS – but it is great.  It’s written well – but not in a ‘I’m a really high brow novel’ kind of way – but in a ‘fun, clever, witty, emotional, entertaining, but still written with eloquence and care’ kind of way.  I can also definitely see this being made into a film / TV series – the soundtrack would be immense!

I’d decided to slot this into my 2018 Reading Challenge as A Book About Mental Health – but is it???

The Songs of Us is published in September – but you can pre-order a copy now.  Thank you Netgalley for my copy.

ETA – have just seen you can download it for Kindle NOW – and it’s only 99p.  DO IT, you won’t regret it!!! 

ETA (again!) – there is a Spotify playlist that goes with the book which is a) brilliant and b) reminds you of the bit of the book where each track appears, which is just lovely!