Book Review: The Songs Of Us by Emma Cooper

The Songs of Us.png

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! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Book Review: One Day In December by Josie Silver

One Day in December

I saw this book reviewed and it sounded great, so I popped onto NetGalley and saw I could get an advance review copy – which was very exciting.  Here’s the blurb that enticed me:

“Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist. After all, life isn’t a scene from the movies, is it?
But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic…and then her bus drives away.
Laurie thinks she’ll never see the boy from the bus again. But at their Christmas party a year later, her best friend Sarah introduces her to the new love of her life. Who is, of course, the boy from the bus.
Determined to let him go, Laurie gets on with her life.
But what if fate has other plans?

Following Laurie, Sarah and Jack through ten years of love, heartbreak and friendship, One Day in December is a joyous, heart-warming and immensely moving love story that you’ll want to escape into forever, for fans of Jojo Moyes, Lucy Diamond and Nicholas Sparks.”

I LOVED this book right from  the start!  I expected it to be a bit like ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls, and be about the same single day in December spanning the decade – but it wasn’t.  It was written either from Laurie or Jack’s point of view and jumped weeks / months at a time.  Because of that every chapter was really important – to compare it to an album, it was all killer and no filler!

I have to say I  guessed roughly what the ending would be – but wondered how the author would get us there without the main protagonists hating each other or being complete sh*tbags to each other.  It twists and turns dramatically – and I don’t want to give too much of the story away (I loathe reviews that do that) – but it really did keep me enthralled.  So much so that my husband thought I may have fallen asleep / drowned in the bath – but actually I was just lying in lukewarm water wanting to finish the book before I got out! (Apologies for the visuals that may have created…….)

Laurie was a great central character, and I really liked her and was rooting for her from the start.  She was a lot younger than me – but that didn’t stop me enjoying the book. The ending of the book is wonderful – and in fact the last few chapters did have me weeping for many different reasons (good job I was in the bath!)

I’ve read that the author wanted to write a Christmassy novel that would be the literary equivalent of festive films like ‘Love Actually’ or ‘The Holiday’ – and she has most definitely succeeded.  However I also think One Day In December would make a fabulous film…………

I wasn’t sure how to shoe horn this into my 2018 Reading Challenge – so, I am taking a bit of a flyer on ‘A book from a local author’! In the book Laurie’s parents live in a village in the suburbs of Birmingham (as do I) and her Dad is an Aston Villa fan (as am I).  People aren’t often written as Villa fans unless there is a local connection – so my fingers are firmly crossed that Josie Silver is local(ish!).  Her bio says she lives in a small Midlands town – so hopefully within 20 miles of Alvechurch and that can count as local!!

If I were you I would definitely pre order this ready for a festive read this Christmas.

 

 

 

Book Review: The Invitation by Keris Stainton

The Invitation

“When Piper James unexpectedly gets a message from her insanely hot teenage crush Rob Kingsford, inviting her to their school reunion, her heart flips. She hasn’t seen Rob in eight years – and he’s always been the one who got away

Throw in some old friends (and frenemies), a sister on the edge of a meltdown and a few too many cosmos and you have all the ingredients for a real night to remember… Will Piper and Rob finally get together, the second time around?

A hilarious and uplifting story about conquering your demons and being true to who you are.”

I saw this on Netgalley and it looked just my bag – and needed after a particularly complicated, heavy read last time – so I downloaded a free advance review copy! #yaytofreebooks!!

I haven’t read anything by Keris Stainton before – but having seen her compared to Mhairi McFarlane – I had high hopes!

It was a lovely, easy read – and I liked Piper from the start.  The fact that she’s not stick thin is vital to the storyline in a number of ways – but it’s mentioned in passing rather than weight / size specific – which I really liked.  I also liked the body positive message that Piper gave out – that shaming her on social media for being overweight was unacceptable – but equally so was shaming others for being ‘too skinny’.  Nobody should be shamed for their size – whatever that might be. #getsoffsoapbox

Whilst the blurb talks about the relationship between Piper and Rob – it’s actually much more than that.  It deals with sibling relationships, relationships between male and female platonic friends, the effects of grief, relationships with older relatives – and feels much more nuanced than some straight rom coms.

I suspect I’m a bit older than target audience (and until there were some raunchier scenes I had thought would be a good book for my 14 year old, in fact she’d probably still think it was fine!!) but even this middle aged Mum of 4 enjoyed it.

I devoured it in a matter of hours, and would definitely read books by this author again.  I’ve noticed that it’s down as a 99p download on Kindle once it comes out in June – and it’s most definitely worth the price of half a cappuccino!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager

Final Girls

 

“Three girls. Three tragedies. One unthinkable secret.
The media calls them the Final Girls – Quincy, Sam, Lisa – the infamous group that no one wants to be part of. The sole survivors of three separate killing sprees, they are linked by their shared trauma.
But when Lisa dies in mysterious circumstances and Sam shows up unannounced on her doorstep, Quincy must admit that she doesn’t really know anything about the other Final Girls. Can she trust them? Or can there only ever be one?
All Quincy knows is one thing: she is next.”

FINALLY – a book I can review in real time – hoorah!  This was out last year, but a lovely friend just let me borrow it – and it’s good!!!

It cycles between Quincy’s current life – written in the first person – and historic events, written in the third person.  I liked this different style of writing (but I am such a geek!)

Quincy lives in New York, and I enjoyed that it felt quite familiar having been there a few times recently.  The descriptions of Central Park in particular were great – both in the daytime and at night.  I can imagine it being a very different place after dark – but I don’t plan to find this out.

I liked Quincy and was rooting for her from the start – although sometimes she needed a bit of a shake!!

The story twists and turns significantly – in a good way – and some of the twists are very unpredictable – particularly towards the end – but it kept me intrigued and consequently I devoured it in just a few days.

The descriptions of some of the crimes are quite gruesome – needed for the story – but still quite vicious, so don’t read this book if you’re of a sensitive disposition!!

I’m not sure where this will fit into my 2018 Reading Challenge as yet. One of the categories is a female author writing under a male pseudonym – but this is the exact opposite!  Riley Sager is a gender neutral name chosen by a male author who had previously been published, but apparently felt this new genre would be more readily accepted as a ‘female’ author.  Interesting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distinct lack of book reviews!!

I didn’t want you all to be concerned (I know, I over think my own importance!) that I wasn’t reading at the moment. What with being lent advanced copies of books by Netgalley and a lovely friend in the industry,  I keep reading books that I can’t immediately review, as blog posts are embargoed until nearer their release date.  It is severely hampering my blog stats – but never mind, come the summer, I’ll have a plethora of posts about new books!!

However, I do need to start ticking off categories in my 2018 Reading Challenge, as I’m running out of ways to shoe horn in books I’ve been given – but I’m my mother’s daughter, and can’t resist a freebie…….

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Letters to Iris by Elizabeth Noble

Letters to Iris

 

I am trying to be a bit more selective about what advanced review copy books I request from Netgalley – partly so I don’t get stuck with any more duds – but also because I want to be able to read them and give timely feedback so that I have a good reviewer rating and so when something I’m desperate to read comes along I can be approved!  (I am naturally a total geek too……)

Anyway – I saw this on there, and it really appealed so I decided to request it and was accepted (it still makes me do a happy dance every time this happens)

Here’s the blurb:

“Tess has a secret – one which is going to turn her life upside down in just nine months’ time.

The only person she can confide in is her beloved grandmother. But Iris is slipping further away each day.

Then chance brings a stranger into Tess’s life.

Gigi’s heart goes out to Tess, knowing what it’s like to feel alone. She’s determined to show her that there’s a silver lining to every cloud.

As their unlikely friendship blossoms, Tess feels inspired to open up.

But something still holds her back – until she discovers Iris has a secret of her own. A suitcase of letters from another time, the missing pieces of a life she never shared.

Could the letters hold the answers that Tess thought lost for ever?

An uplifting, unforgettable story about keeping secrets, taking chances and finding happiness where you least expect it.”

 

Initially the stories of Tess and Gigi appear completely separate and you’re not sure how they’re going to meet up – but then about 25% of the way through, they meet at a care home they both have relatives at. The care home sections were quite relevant to me, as my maternal grandmother has become a resident of one recently – so now they are much more on my radar than ever before.

I was immediately intrigued by both Tess and Gigi’s stories – I found both interesting, in completely different ways.  Tess writes to her unborn child – and that made me think about my own pregnancies – in a fond, reminiscing kind of way!

The book made me laugh – and cry – which is always good.  Whilst Tess and Gigi are the main characters, the supporting characters are also great and well rounded.  I particularly liked Tess’s friend Holly (whose daughter is a similar age to my eldest, and so was probably the character going through the most similar issues to me) and also Gigi’s daughter in law Emily – who was just lovely.

I won’t give too much of the story away (I loathe reviews that do that) and it is reasonably predictable – but in a comfortable and safe way, with some twists and turns along the way.  It does, as you expect from the start, encompass the whole ‘circle of life’ (sung in a Disney way, obvs!)

Now being a bit of a geek, I thought the book was really well written – it felt like it had been written with care and attention to detail and language.  Sometimes I feel some modern books seem a bit ‘disposable’ and have been written quickly by the author – this felt like it had been lovingly crafted rather than banged off to meet a deadline. (I hope you understand what I mean and I don’t sound like a total snobby weirdo?!?)

A big thank you to Netgalley and Penguin for my free advance review copy in return for my honest opinion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Why Mummy Drinks by Gill Sims

Why Mummy Drinks

I arrived home from work the other evening to find that our lovely nanny had left a copy of this book on my desk to read.  I’m not sure if it is a bit concerning that she chose a book called ‘Why Mummy Drinks’, I’m hoping she realised it was a novel and wasn’t giving me a self help book?!?!?

Another friend had raved about this last year – and I have read some of Gill Sims Facebook posts about ‘Peter and Jane’ which spawned this book – so I was looking forward to it.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Why Mummy Drinks is the brilliant novel from Gill Sims, the author of the online sensation Peter and Jane.

It is Mummy’s 39th birthday. She is staring down the barrel of a future of people asking if she wants to come to their advanced yoga classes, and polite book clubs where everyone claims to be tiddly after a glass of Pinot Grigio and says things like ‘Oooh gosh, are you having another glass?’

But Mummy does not want to go quietly into that good night of women with sensible haircuts who ‘live for their children’ and stand in the playground trying to trump each other with their offspring’s extracurricular activities and achievements, and boasting about their latest holidays.

Instead, she clutches a large glass of wine, muttering ‘FML’ over and over again. Until she remembers the gem of an idea she’s had…”

I have to say I enjoyed it straight away!  There have been other books written about motherhood – Hurrah for Gin‘s springs to mind immediately as one I’ve reviewed – and they were good, but in this, Peter and Jane are 8 and 6 – almost exactly the same age as my youngest two children, and so it was sooooo much more currently relevant than newborn related books.

As well as laughing (and shaking in an attempt not to wake my sleeping husband)  – I was nodding in total agreement (I have a 6 year old who still wants to keep taking the lovely pink Calpol and not to have to have the 6+ version. Equally I have a 14 year old who insists on still taking the 6+ sweets style Calpol rather than proper paracetamol tablets – I’m not sure 6+ Calpol is designed for period pain…….. )

The book is written in the style of a diary – school year diary not calendar year diary – and all the major events are covered!  Christmas was a particular favourite for me – but I won’t ruin it for you by telling you what happens.  There was also a family trip to The Savoy – which we did last year (and the stress about not having WAG style luggage was real!) – and the swimming pool, that we loved, got a mention too.

Savoy bathrobes
Giving the Savoy bathrobes some good press for once!

There are people in it – from the school gates / friends / family – who you will recognise IMMEDIATELY.  Clearly I’m not going to name names (well, not unless you buy me a gin or two!) but you will totally recognise people you know.   I texted one of my sisters as I was part way through the book as I knew she’d love it (and she never reads my book review blog posts – how rude!) and she downloaded it instantly – and then texted me to complain she was not getting through any of her ‘to do list’ for the weekend as she loved it so much she couldn’t put it down!!

It’s a bit sweary, there’s a recurring alcohol theme throughout, it’s fabulously middle class and suburban – and just bloody brilliant!  It reminded me of the TV programme Motherland that covered similar topics (but I have to say, I think ‘Why Mummy Drinks’ is better, and I preferred Ellen to Julia as the main character.)

I’m not sure where this will fit into my 2018 Reading Challenge – but I don’t care!  It was worth going off piste because it was so good.  And I am DELIGHTED there is to be a sequel so we can find out what happens to Ellen, Simon, Jane and Peter next – in Why Mummy Swears which is out in July – hoorah!

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

A new deli opened in our village at the end of last year – Gin & Pickles.  I love it very much and am a loyal customer already – coffee & cake in the morning, lunchtime platters of cold meats and cheese, and evenings filled with gin have already featured in my visits.  Let alone the huge quantities of take away items we acquire most weeks to enjoy back at home!  I thought I couldn’t love it any more – until I popped in the other day and the lovely owner, who’d seen a couple of friends recommend this book to me on social media, gave me her copy to borrow!  Gin, pickles – and books to borrow – practically heaven on earth?!?

The Keeper of Lost Things

I had high hopes for ‘The Keeper of Lost Things’ as lots of people had recommended it, so here’s the blurb:

“Meet the ‘Keeper of Lost Things’…
Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before.

Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners.

But the final wishes of the ‘Keeper of Lost Things’ have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters…”

My high hopes were not disappointed – it is a truly lovely book.

The relationships, initially between Laura and Anthony, but then between Laura, Freddy and Sunshine are great.  Reasonably predicable but the interactions develop in a lovely and endearing way, and you want the best for all of them.

The story of these characters – and the house, Padua, which is practically a character in itself, are interspersed with stories from decades earlier about seemingly unrelated characters called Eunice and Bomber.  You kind of guess they’re going to end up converging – but I didn’t work out exactly how this would happen until very near the end of the book (I won’t ruin it for you!) The chapters set in a care home – well, two different care homes – were particularly poignant, as my Nan has recently become a care home resident.

There are also stories in italics – which ‘could’ be how the items that Anthony has been collecting were lost – but for the bulk of the book you’re not quite sure if they are his imagination or actual facts.

It is not a difficult read – and you have to go with the coincidences, particularly at the end, but it’s a lovely, escapist, enchanting read – which I think would appeal to a cross section of all ages.

Sunshine is my favourite character – I’d like her to come round and make me ‘the lovely cup of tea’ and have a chat sometime.  (That will make sense once you’ve read the book!!)

This is fitting into my 2018 Reading Challenge category of “A book recommended by someone else taking the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge”. I’m getting a bit ahead of myself and have ticked off two of the advanced categories without doing all of the initial ones – but we shall be optimistic for the next 9 and a half months!

Book Review: The Lido by Libby Page

The Lido

One of the advanced categories on my 2018 Reading Challenge was a book by someone with the same first or last name as you.   I then saw this debut novel reviewed (I suspect in Red Magazine, that’s where I get a lot of my book recommendations from) and finally saw I could get an advance review copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review – it seemed so serendipitous that I had to read it!!

Here’s the blurb:

“Meet Rosemary, 86, and Kate, 26: dreamers, campaigners, outdoor swimmers…

Rosemary has lived in Brixton all her life, but everything she knows is changing. Only the local lido, where she swims every day, remains a constant reminder of the past and her beloved husband George.

Kate has just moved and feels adrift in a city that is too big for her. She’s on the bottom rung of her career as a local journalist, and is determined to make something of it.

So when the lido is threatened with closure, Kate knows this story could be her chance to shine. But for Rosemary, it could be the end of everything. Together they are determined to make a stand, and to prove that the pool is more than just a place to swim – it is the heart of the community.

The Lido is an uplifting novel about the importance of friendship, the value of community, and how ordinary people can protect the things they love.”

It is such a really lovely book.  You are rooting for Kate from the start – she reminds me, in some ways, of Eleanor Oliphant – in the debut novel hit of 2017 ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’.  A loaner who struggles a bit with other people and who comes out of her shell as the book progresses.

Rosemary is similar in age to my Grandmother and honorary Grandmother – and reminded me in particular of my honorary Grandma – who despite being in her very late 80s is up for anything! This photo of Grandma on holiday in a pool with a beer would be very ‘Rosemary’ too!

Grandma

The book also looks back over the life and marriage of Rosemary and her husband George – it is such a fond and loving partnership that endured many many years – just like honorary Grandma and Grandad.

The main storyline of the book is the proposed closure of the lido in a Brixton Park by evil property developers (I say that with tongue firmly in cheek as it’s a hat I also wear when not reading books!!) but the relationships between the various characters and the community of Brixton really fills the story out.  The descriptions of Brixton – both the urban areas – but also the parks – are really evocative, even though it’s not a place I know at all.

I enjoyed the interaction between all of the different characters – but it’s the relationship between Kate and Rosemary that is vital to the story – and life changing for both people.  I can see how it could happen in real life too.

The community spirit was fabulous – and reminded me of the village where I live – not a suburb of London, but still with a wide cross section of people who often all pull together for local causes.

Kate’s relationships not just with Rosemary but with her sister, housemates, parents, colleagues are all explored – it’s so lovely seeing Kate blossom.

The ending was great – not exactly what I would have predicted either, which is always a bonus, and had me weeping (which isn’t difficult to be fair!!)

Overall this is a beautifully written book, which is an easy and enjoyable read – perfect for whilst lounging round a lido this summer maybe?!?

 

 

Book Review: Coming Home by Fern Britton

I was lucky enough to be part of Fern Britton’s blog tour for the book The Postcard last year, so when the publisher emailed to ask if I wanted an advance copy to review so that I could be part of the blog tour again, I did a little happy dance!

It was also perfect timing, as I could pack the book for our half term sojourn to the French Alps.  Reading a lovely book with a glass of vin chaud whilst watching everyone else hurtle down the slopes sounded perfect!  (This was on medical advice following a recent op – but let’s just say I wasn’t gutted that I couldn’t ski – and actually, I’m not sure the consultant specifically prescribed hot booze………)

In case you’ve been living under a rock Fern Britton is the highly acclaimed author of six
Sunday Times bestselling novels. Her books are cherished for their warmth, wit and wisdom, and have won her legions of loyal readers. Fern is a judge for the Costa Book Awards and this year has supported the Reading Agency by writing a short novel to encourage less confident adult readers. A hugely popular household name through iconic shows such as This Morning and Ready Steady Cook, Fern is a much sought – after presenter most recently presenting, The Big Allotment Challenge (BBC2), For What It’s Worth (BBC1), Culinary Genius with Gordon Ramsay (ITV) and her advent series Fern Britton Meets (BBC1). Fern has now also turned her talents to acting, with her new role in the stage musical Calendar Girls, which is directed by Gary Barlow. Fern lives with her husband, Phil Vickery, and her four children in Buckinghamshire and Cornwall. To find out more, connect with her on twitter @Fern_Britton and http://www.facebook.com/officialfernbritton.

 

Coming%20Home%20book%20jacket.jpg

About Coming Home:

“When the only place you want to be is home…

When Ella’s beloved grandmother dies, she comes back to the beautiful Cornish coast to heal her heart. There she finds her home again and discovers a new life, and new love … But she also opens a treasure trove of secrets. Sennen left Cornwall a young single mum but unable to cope. She left her children, her family and part of her. She’s spent the years hiding from her past, hiding from herself.  Now it’s time to come back. To Cornwall. To face her mistakes. To pray for forgiveness. To hope for a future with her daughter.”

Now, to paraphrase my previous post, there was an Eastenders style duff, duff, duff at the end of ‘The Postcard’ for Ella – so I’d hoped we’d be revisiting Pendruggan and her story – and that is the premise for this book, which I was very excited about!  I love the way Fern’s books set in this particular Cornish village have stories of different characters you’ve met before weaving in and out of storylines with new people – it’s so clever, and feels like you’re meeting up with old friends again.

I therefore had high hopes!

And boy was I not disappointed.

The book starts in current day Pendruggan – just after the previous book concluded – but also gives the back stories for the current characters by going back in time to the 70s and 90s. Each era is described so well – but just as I mentioned before, how Fern weaves in people from previous books, so she does with locations in these ‘historic’ settings.  The settings also move from Cornwall to Spain, London and India – and back again – with each area beautifully described (adds the Taj Mahal to the ‘to visit’ list!)

The reunion of Sennen with her daughter Ella and son Henry is not straightforward (but I guess it would be a bit of a dull book if it was!) and that is the crux of the book.  It explores the various parent / child / grandchild relationships really well – they are all so different.

I liked Ella and was rooting for her throughout the book.  Henry I wanted to slap quite hard on frequent occasions!!!

I don’t want to give away too many of the twists and turns – that would ruin the reading enjoyment for you – but it’s definitely worth it.

I’m also very pleased that the door has most definitely been left open for a further trip to Pendruggan in the future.  The whole series is a lovely, easy, escapist read – perfect for a Sunday afternoon, so download it now – or order a hard copy for next week!!

This has slotted beautifully into my Reading Challenge as a book I’ve been given (in lieu of an honest review).