Book Review: Secrets in the Snow by Emma Heatherington

I have read and enjoyed previous books by Emma Heatherington, so when the publisher emailed to ask if I’d like to read her new book, I jumped at the chance.

Here’s the blurb:

“As the winter snow falls on the small Irish village of Ballybray, Roisin O’Connor and her young son, Ben, are saying goodbye to their beloved neighbour Mabel Murphy.  Mabel lived a bold and colourful life, but the arrival of her brooding nephew, ‘blow-in’ Aidan Murphy, just makes life more complicated for Roisin.
However, in one final act of love, a message arrives from Mabel that changes everything.  And as winter turns to spring and the cold snow melts, the secrets both Roisin and Aidan are hiding must be revealed at last…”

As with Emma’s previous books, this is set in Ireland – and the main rural setting is described beautifully. It also pops to Belfast and New York – 2 cities I love – which is exciting!

I have to say the storyline is reasonably predictable – lonely single Mum dislikes new stranger – clearly they’re going to fall in love! However, there are enough twists and turns to keep you interested. And sometimes all you want to read is a nice easy romance.

I loved the relationship between Roisin and her son Ben – he was clearly her world. And the relationship they’d both had with Mabel was lovely (and I think highlights the fact it’s nice to have friends of different ages to yourself).

I kept expecting more of Roisin’s relationship with her abusive ex husband, Ben’s Dad, who had passed away to be uncovered – I even suspected she’d bumped him off – but seemingly not!

This is not a taxing read, it’s not a complicated read – but it’s a lovely, escapist, easy read – and sometimes in these difficult times, that is exactly what is needed!

Thanks to the publisher and Net Galley for my ARC.

Book Review: Failosophy: A Handbook For When Things Go Wrong by Elizabeth Day

I really enjoyed Elizabeth Day’s previous books – most recently ‘How To Fail‘ – so when I saw she had a new book out I requested a copy off NetGalley, which I was kindly granted. However, I failed (at least I was on theme!) to read this before the book came out – but I’m only a few days behind the curve!

Here’s the blurb:

“In Failosophy Elizabeth Day brings together all the lessons she has learned, from conversations with the guests on her award-winning How to Fail podcast, from stories shared with her by readers and listeners, and from her own life, and distils them into seven principles of failure.
 
Practical, reassuring and inspirational, these principles offer a guide through life’s rough patches. From failed exams to romantic break-ups, from career setbacks to confidence crises, from navigating anxiety to surviving loss, Failosophy recognises, and celebrates, the fact that failure connects us all. It is what makes us human.
 
With insights from Malcolm Gladwell, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Lemn Sissay, Frankie Bridge, Nigel Slater, Emeli Sande, Alain de Botton, Mabel, Fearne Cotton, Meera Syal, Dame Kelly Holmes, Andrew Scott and many, many more, Failosophy is the essential handbook for turning failure into success.

This is only a short book – and the sort that I would like to dip into again. I can see it would be of comfort in times of failure – or perceived failure – in your life.

It builds upon Day’s How To Fail memoir – summarising failings, and what can be learnt from them. It uses both her own life experiences, and those of the many people who’ve been guests on her ‘How To Fail With Elizabeth Day’ podcast – which I really enjoyed.

Some I empathised with more than others – failing at my 20s was definitely up there for me. I remember weeping on my 25th birthday as I was living on my own having split up from my first husband – and it just wasn’t where I expected to be mid decade. My ‘life plan’ hadn’t featured a starter marriage and divorce by my quarter century. Everything had sorted itself out by the end of my 20s – and I wouldn’t have got there without these ‘failures’ – which kind of sums up some of the book.

I found where Elizabeth talked about her own miscarriage – and a guest about the ‘failure’ of his son dying – really emotional to read, and incredibly moving.

I’d almost finished the book – but there was still over 10% left on my Kindle – so I did wonder what would make up these last pages. It is details that guests gave Elizabeth of the 3 failures they would discuss on the podcast with her. Some were incredibly detailed, others just brief bullet points, but I found this really interesting (I am totally a nosy cow, so both the content and style of how they’d written them appealed!)

As I said, I’d definitely read this again – and I think it would be a great present for a friend going through a tough time. (I am a big fan of giving books as gifts, much more edifying than flowers.)

A thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the ARC and apologies for failing to review it before publication!!

Audiobook Review: Sh**ged Married Annoyed by Chris and Rosie Ramsey

I was introduced to the Sh**ged Married Annoyed podcast – starring Chris and Rosie Ramsey – by one of my cousin’s earlier this year. I’d loved Chris on Strictly last year – and started following Rosie on Instagram at a similar time (as she’d been nice to my aforementioned cousin in a DM on Insta). My cousin said the podcast reminded her of listening to me and my husband exchange banter and beefs in real life! (We’re a decade older than the Ramseys – but I’ll take the comparison!)

The podcast was a highlight of my lockdown life – and I’d download it religiously every Friday. I’d then listen to it in the car whilst ferrying kids about (albeit the legs of the journies without kids in the car – as it’s definitely 18+ listening).

Chris and Rosie may have mentioned – occasionally (!!) – about their book coming out. I’m currently in the habit of an audiobook in the car which is non fiction – and as the book is narrated by Chris and Rosie themselves, it felt like a super long podcast, so I downloaded the audiobook.

I don’t think you have to be a SMA to read / listen to the book – you’d still ‘get’ it (although might not just have got what I mean by SMA) but as the Ramseys themselves had said – why would you have paid to buy the book when there are all the free podcasts out there to listen to first?!?

Back to the book! Here’s the blurb:

This is not a self-help book. This book contains absolutely no advice that you should follow yourself.
SH**GED
Saturday nights out on the tiles, undying crushes, dating like it’s a competitive sport, awkward tales of dating woes, one-night stands, the walk of shame, ghosting, tears and break-ups.

MARRIED
Finding ‘the one’, meeting their parents, first holidays and romantic weekends away, engagement rings, big moment proposals, wedding bells, the hen do, the stag, the much anticipated – and feared – best man speech, the honeymoon of a lifetime.

ANNOYED
Who stacks a dishwasher like this? Empty milk cartons placed back into the fridge, pregnancy, sleepless nights, toilet seats up, toothpaste everywhere, less and less frequent date nights, DIY weekends, divorce.

Whether you’re sh**ged, married, annoyed, or, all of the above, Chris and Rosie Ramsey, hosts of the number one podcast, write hilariously and with honesty about the ups and downs and ins and outs of love, sex and relationships.”

So, some of the chapters are Chris and Rosie’s past – and some are prompted by questions for the public (pppppppppublic) – so it feels very much the same vibe as the podcast which I enjoyed.

My first surprise was that it wasn’t until 1 hour and 26 minutes in that Carl Hutchinson got a mention! #podcastjoke #IrealiseIamatwat

I totally agreed with Chris and Rosie ‘fessing up to their pasts when they got engaged. Thankfully the husband and I did similar (which meant I wasn’t totally surprised when my husband told me he’d historically slept with 4 of the other Mums at the parent craft class we went to when pregnant with our firstborn…….)

As with the podcast – the content is definitely adult, and quite sweary and ‘open minded about things of a sexual nature’ adult at that! But great fun.

The threesome chapter was ‘interesting’ – and as I have identical twin cousins it did make me wonder………….

I love the fact that Chris and Rosie clearly adore their son Robin – but also are quite happy to talk about the trials and tribulations of parenthood. I’m enjoying tracking the incubation of baby number 2 each week on the podcast!!

It wasn’t until the chapter on poo stories (Chris wanted it in, Rosie didn’t – the chapter I mean, see what listening to this podcast / reading this book does to one’s mind!?!) that I realised how different the book had been with Chris and Rosie essentially reading out what they’d already written – whereas the poo chapter felt much more like the podcast in that it flowed between the Ramseys in a much more banter-y (which is clearly a made up word!) way! Turns out in the secret chapter at the end – about the making of the audio book – that the poo chapter was done in reverse, in that Chris and Rosie read and discussed the questions from the public, and then this was transcribed for the actual book. Interesting. (I am such a geek, I love sh*t like this!)

Overall I loved the audiobook – all 7 hours and 36 minutes of it – actually, there were probably some minutes I didn’t ‘love’ and just ‘liked’ and some of the poo stories were GRIM – but still, 5 stars, would recommend!

(Or, if you’re new to Mr & Mrs Ramsey – maybe try the podcast for free first and see what you reckon before investing in the book!)

Book Review: Contacts by Mark Watson

“James Chiltern boards the 23:50 sleeper train from London to Edinburgh with two pork pies, six beers and a packet of chocolate digestives. At 23:55 he sends a message to all 158 people in his contacts, telling them that he plans to end his life in the morning. He then switches his phone to flight mode. He’s said goodbye. To him, it’s the end of his story – and time to crack open the biscuits.

But across the world, 158 phones are lighting up with a notification. Phones belonging to his mum. His sister. His ex-best friend. The woman who broke his heart. People he’s lost touch with. People he barely knows. And for them, the message is only the beginning of the journey.

Funny and wise, tender and deeply moving, Contacts is a beautiful story about the weight of loneliness, the importance of kindness – and how it’s never too late to reach out.

I’m not sure how I happened upon this book – potentially someone mentioned it on Twitter – but I was granted an advance review copy from NetGalley – and having never read anything by Mark Watson before, I thought I’d give it a go.

The blurb above gives the exact opening of the book – and it might be best to avoid if suicide topics would be a trigger for you. However, it’s beautifully written – with dark humour throughout – so don’t let me put you off before you’ve started.

The book intertwines James’s back story with current events in a clever way – so you start to learn how he’s got to this point. It definitely highlights reaching out to people all the time – not just when there is a big thing happening in their lives…

It’s told from James’s point of view on the sleeper train but also his flat mate, ex girlfriend, sister, ex best friend all in different places around the world – which adds to the drama.

I can’t say much more without giving the storyline away – and you really need to read it yourself, but I can say I really enjoyed it.

It’s out at the end of this month – so perfect half term read! Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my ARC.

Audio Book Review: More Than A Woman by Caitlin Moran

“A decade ago, Caitlin Moran thought she had it all figured out. Her instant bestseller How to Be a Woman was a game-changing take on feminism, the patriarchy, and the general ‘hoo-ha’ of becoming a woman. Back then, she firmly believed ‘the difficult bit’ was over, and her forties were going to be a doddle.

If only she had known: when middle age arrives, a whole new bunch of tough questions need answering. Why isn’t there such a thing as a ‘Mum Bod’? How did sex get boring? What are men really thinking? Where did all that stuff in the kitchen drawers come from? Can feminists have Botox? Why has wine turned against you? How can you tell the difference between a Teenage Micro-Breakdown, and The Real Thing? Has feminism gone too far? And, as always, WHO’S LOOKING AFTER THE CHILDREN?

Now with ageing parents, teenage daughters, a bigger bum and a To-Do list without end, Caitlin Moran is back with More Than A Woman: a guide to growing older, a manifesto for change, and a celebration of all those middle-aged women who keep the world turning.”

I’m a year older than Caitlin, also from the Midlands, with parents in their 70s and teenage kids and a bigger bum than I had a decade ago, and a To-Do list without end (although I’m not a writer – I’m an accountant and run a construction company with my husband) – but there are enough similarities that I’ve always enjoyed Caitlin’s writing (and her recent podcast chats with Sophie Ellis-Bextor on ‘Spinning Plates’ and Trish and Lorraine on ‘Postcards from Midlife’ ) Consequently I decided to pay good money (I usually blag free books!) for the audiobook of ‘More Than A Woman’ to continue my ‘non fiction books in the car’ activities.

It is so very, very good. Thought provoking, amusing, emotional – a real rollercoaster, in a good way!

It’s written in Caitlin’s trademark style and the audiobook is read by her too. It has laugh out loud moments aplenty. The 5 page ‘to do’ list could have fundamentally been mine (and yes, I do think about it during maintenance sex too!!) The fact that as a middle aged woman who basically has her act together you will be pulled in multiple directions – teenage kids, ageing parents, divorcing friends, friends and family having health crises – on top of running a family, house, social life and keeping down a job.

My husband is an amazing partner and father and does LOADS for the kids – much more than the average male in a relationship (partly due to the logistics of having our own company meaning we can be more flexible with when we both work). But he freely admits that the thinking and the ‘to do’ lists are firmly in my court. Partly this is because I am a total control freak – but also because, as a middle aged woman, just as Caitlin writes, you just do it. I arrived home last week to him in a massive panic as he was trying to cook the kids dinner, whilst logging one on to a Brownie Zoom, whilst waiting for the groceries to be delivered, and trying to find a gumshield and shin pads – all of which he’s been instructed to do, but he did find it stressful to do them simultaneously. (I did laugh a little bit!!)

But as well as laugh out loud moments, and ‘oh my God that is totally me’, there are also really emotional parts too. Caitlin shares a lot about parenting a child with an eating disorder. (Her daughter wanted the story shared to help other families.) It was really moving – and brilliant that there has been a positive outcome for their family. So often middle aged parents are seemingly embarrassed by their children’s mental health issues (even if the teenager is quite prepared to be open about it) but us middle aged and older parents have been brought up to keep schtum about mental health issues, as if brushing it under the carpet will mean it isn’t happening. Therefore positive outcomes are often not applauded – because the issue has never been mentioned in the first place. I’m very lucky that, as yet (with 4 kids I suspect it is firmly ‘yet’ and not ‘if’) we haven’t had to deal with anything like this – but I have learned so much from the book. I’d never thought about how saying ‘Mummy and Daddy just want you to be happy’ could be so much pressure on a child to be happy all of the time and thus not tell you that they’re sad. Sometimes we NEED to be unhappy to process ‘stuff’ and the same goes for kids. It’s really made me think that sometimes you do need to be Pooh sitting next to Eeyore just to be there – not telling the grumpy one to ‘buck the f*ck up’. This too shall pass.

Overall the book made me feel massively empowered! I intend to embrace my hag years with abandon. I will not apologise for being a middle aged woman, I will try not to worry about being too little – or too much (or some days both). And I am grateful for my coven – both in real life and online – who I know have my back every day (as well as having their own 5 page ‘to do’ lists / partners / kids / parents / pets (so many dogs when the kids hit teenage years!) / jobs / volunteering commitments / social lives / other friends / sports / book clubs etc, etc, et bloody cetera!)

We are definitely more than women!!

(And buy this book immediately so we can compare notes – or I’ll buy it for everyone for Christmas!!)

Book Review: Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

Ghosts

I loved Dolly Alderton’s sort of autobiographical best seller “Everything I Know About Love” and so when I saw she had her first novel coming out I wondered if I could get an ARC from NetGalley – and I could – hoorah!

Here’s the blurb:

“Nina Dean has arrived at her early thirties as a successful food writer with loving friends and family, plus a new home and neighbourhood. When she meets Max, a beguiling romantic hero who tells her on date one that he’s going to marry her, it feels like all is going to plan.

A new relationship couldn’t have come at a better time – her thirties have not been the liberating, uncomplicated experience she was sold. Everywhere she turns, she is reminded of time passing and opportunities dwindling. Friendships are fading, ex-boyfriends are moving on and, worse, everyone’s moving to the suburbs. There’s no solace to be found in her family, with a mum who’s caught in a baffling mid-life makeover and a beloved dad who is vanishing in slow-motion into dementia.

Dolly Alderton’s debut novel is funny and tender, filled with whip-smart observations about relationships, family, memory, and how we live now.”

I really enjoyed this book!

The central character is Nina, who I liked (despite being significantly older than her and with very different life experiences).  The book looks at her romantic entanglements – but also her relationships with others, her friends, parents, neighbours – and how they all intertwine. 

I almost feel like the relationships were dealt with in pairs:

Nina’s Mum (Nancy / Mandy) and her Dad:  it was clear Nina was a Daddy’s girl, and her relationship with her Mum is more ‘complicated’ and I liked how this progressed during the book.  Nina’s Dad’s dementia gets worse and worse – but was well written and true to life experiences of this horrible disease. 

Katherine and Lola: these are Nina’s friends – but from different life stages.  Katherine is a smug married, whilst Lola is on a permanent quest for love.  Their personal circumstances bring different strains to their relationships with Nina – and I think were written really well.

Max and Joe: Max is Nina’s new boyfriend and the ‘leading man’ of the book – whilst Joe is her long term ex who is still a best friend.  The first interaction between them was cringingly well written!  And Nina on Joe’s new fiancée’s hen weekend was also painfully good. 

Her upstairs and downstairs neighbours:  Lovely, slightly deaf older lady up above; grumpy, aggressive, scary Italian man down below. 

Whilst the ‘Ghosts’ of the title could be the current vocab of romantic partners who suddenly cut you off with no explanation, it’s clear Nina’s Dad is also encountering his own ghosts as he suffers with dementia.

Nina is quick witted, smart, sassy and independent and a great leading lady – and the book was a rollercoaster of emotions – sometimes I was laughing out loud, other  times having a little weep. 

A huge thank you to Netgalley and Penguin for my advance review copy.  Ghosts is out in October 2020 and can be pre ordered now. 

 

Audio Book Review: Glorious Rock Bottom by Bryony Gordon

Glorious Rock Bottom

 

I really enjoyed Bryony Gordon’s book about her mental health struggles, so when I saw her new book about alcoholism had come out, I actually purchased it (a rarity for me!).  Having recently discovered podcasts to listen to in the car, I thought I’d give Audible a go again (I dabbled some years ago but never got into it) – and because I like a plan, thought I’d do ‘non fiction’ audiobooks in the car – and leave the fiction for books at home.  Interestingly at a recent bookclub Zoom, some of the other members have non fiction downstairs and fiction upstairs – so it’s clearly ‘a thing’ to differentiate!

Here’s the blurb about the book:

“Bryony Gordon is a respected journalist, a number-one bestselling author and an award-winning mental health campaigner. She is also an alcoholic.

In Glorious Rock Bottom Bryony opens up about a toxic twenty-year relationship with alcohol and drugs and explains exactly why hitting rock bottom – for her, a traumatic event and the abrupt realisation that she was putting herself in danger, time and again – saved her life. Known for her trademark honesty, Bryony re-lives the darkest and most terrifying moments of her addiction, never shying away from the fact that alcoholism robs you of your ability to focus on your family, your work, your health, your children, yourself. And then, a chink of light as the hard work begins – rehab; twelve-step meetings; endless, tedious, painful self-reflection – a rollercoaster ride through self-acceptance, friendship, love and hope, to a joy and pride in staying sober that her younger self could never have imagined.

Now, I had high hopes for this book and really wanted to enjoy it and find it helpful in my own relationship with booze – but initially I didn’t. I found Bryony sharing her rock bottom really disturbing. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for oversharing – the whole village knows about my piles – but this was really disturbing stuff. Sexual encounters with almost strangers, being repeatedly unfaithful to her husband, endangering her child – and it upset me both to read it – but also to think of them reading it. It felt really intrusive and things that no child should ever read about their Mum (I guess I’m more careful of this now – when the kids were little I’d share with wanton abandon, but teenagers are sh*ts – and my daughter’s ‘friends’ would find photos and info off this very blog to take the p*ss out of her, and so I’m more careful – and thus was worried about Bryony’s daughter Edie in the future.) It felt like it was being deliberately written to shock – which I guess it was – but it felt like I was a voyeur for listening to it…..

However, I persevered, and I’m so pleased I did.

The love Bryony has for her family is clearly what ‘saved’ her along with her determination not to let drugs and alcohol take everything from her – probably including her life. This shines through in her writing – and hearing her read her own words, and her voice catch with the emotion a few times, was deeply moving.

Her description of rehab (private, as a day patient) and the 12 step programme – without breaking confidences – was still really informative.

The end of the book had me totally weeping buckets and I arrived at work having to explain why my mascara was all down my face!

This is not a self help book, this is alcoholism and drug addiction from Bryony’s personal point of view. It is not preachy, it is not expecting everyone to give up booze, it very much distinguishes between alcoholics and people who can consume alcohol at a sensible level. I will sometimes have a ‘non-alcoholic’ beer, just because I don’t want the fuzzy head of a couple of beers, but the chapter where Bryony has a non-alcoholic beer binge does highlight the fact that non-alcoholic drinks are for non-alcoholics – a distinction I hadn’t really considered before.

After my initial reticence I did enjoy the book – and I’m sure Bryony’s husband was completely supportive in her writing it – and they will deal with Edie being told about the contents in an age appropriate and loving way in the future and I shouldn’t have got all worked up about it.

At the end of the day, their loving family unit – and their conkers – have helped Bryony conquered her demons.

Book Review: V For Victory by Lissa Evans

V for Victory

Yet again using Red Magazine as my guide, I requested an ARC of V For Victory by Lissa Evans from NetGalley. Here’s the blurb:

“It’s late 1944. Hitler’s rockets are slamming down on London with vicious regularity and it’s the coldest winter in living memory. Allied victory is on its way, but it’s bloody well dragging its feet.
In a large house next to Hampstead Heath, Vee Sedge is just about scraping by, with a herd of lodgers to feed, and her young charge Noel ( almost fifteen ) to clothe and educate. When she witnesses a road accident and finds herself in court, the repercussions are both unexpectedly marvellous and potentially disastrous – disastrous because Vee is not actually the person she’s pretending to be, and neither is Noel.
The end of the war won’t just mean peace, but discovery…
With caustic wit and artful storytelling, Lissa Evans elegantly summons a time when the world could finally hope to emerge from the chaos of war. As sharply comic as Old Baggage and emotionally poignant as Crooked Heart, V For Victory once again shows Lissa Evans to be one of our most brilliant and subtle writers.”

Now – I didn’t realise until I saw on NetGalley – there are actually 2  books that precede this.   I hadn’t realised it was part of a set and so read it standalone – which was totally fine, and the relevant back story was fleshed out enough that it made sense.  However, if I’d known I probably would have read the other two books first – mostly because I’m a pedant who likes to do things in order.

The book tells the story of Noel and Vee and the interesting tenants of their boarding house near Hampstead Heath – and then a story running parallel, which interconnects at times, of Winnie a local ARP warden and her friends and family.

This is a beautifully written book and really evokes the feeling of London at this time in history.  The destruction and sadness – but with glimpses of happiness and normality.  The way the buildings are described – pre and post bombings – is wonderful, and makes it really easy to imagine being there.

The tenants of Green Shutters are an eclectic mix – and all teaching Noel different subjects.  He’s a geek (in a good way, I am a geek and see this as a compliment!) and interested in learning – I liked him a lot! I was also proud of his chicken keeping (my kids love our chickens too).

Winnie was a wonderful character – she just knuckled down and got on with life.  The sometimes strained relationship with her sister Avril was really well written – sibling rivalries – in this case even more so as twins  – was observed excellently.  The camaraderie between Winnie and her ARP colleagues – and many of the locals – was also beautifully portrayed. The letters between Winnie and her husband – who was away at war – were talked about a number of times – and the evolving story of them, particularly at the end of the book, was really moving – but also funny.

There are twist and turns involving Noel’s parentage which were really emotive – in very different ways.  One minute you were happy, then sad, then laughing, then shocked – the whole gamut of emotions was run!

This is not a bare knuckle ride of a book, it’s a beautiful, well written, evocative novel and I really enjoyed it.

If I had my time again I would probably read the series in order – but overall this was a lovely escapist read, and I would highly recommend it.  It came out yesterday – so you can buy it now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Scenes of a Graphic Nature by Caroline O’Donoghue

51yge50HJrL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

I saw this book reviewed in this month’s Red magazine – and so saw if NetGalley had any ARCs – and they did – so I was lucky enough to receive a copy the day before publication date (so at least that means if you like the sound of it you can get a copy immediately – rather than me tempting you weeks before a book comes out!)

Here’s the blurb:

“After a tough few years floundering around the British film industry, experimenting with amateur pornography and watching her father’s health rapidly decline, Charlie and her best friend Laura journey to her ancestral home of Clipim, an island off the west coast of Ireland. Knowing this could be the last chance to connect with her dad’s history before she loses him, Charlie clings to the idea of her Irish roots offering some kind of solace. But when the girls arrive at Clipim, Charlie begins to question both her difficult relationship with Laura and her father’s childhood stories. Before long, she’s embroiled in a devastating conspiracy that’s been sixty years in the making . . . and it’s up to her to reveal the truth of it.”

At the start of the book I have to confess to finding Charlie a bit of an annoying millennial – sorry, I know I’m an old fart – but I wanted to give her a good shake! But I persevered – as I generally like Sarra Manning’s recommendations – and the book did, thankfully,  improve.

The fictional island of Clipim off the West Coast of Ireland was, in my imagination, like Great Cumbrae off the West Coast of Scotland where we used to visit as children.  A very small island where everyone knows everyone else’s business!  This mythical place had been part of Charlie’s family history – but she’d never been.  In fact she’d never set foot in Ireland at all despite her proud half Irish heritage!  However, she’d made a film about her Dad’s  time in Clipim as a child and a terrible tragedy that had occurred back then which was being shown at the Cork Film Festival – so Charlie and her best friend Laura hopped across to Clipim too.

Once on Clipim Charlie begins to suspect there is more to the historic tragedy than meets the eye.  There are some weird goings on in the present day there too.

The book is part self discovery for Charlie, part friendship / relationship issues, part murder mystery – and consequently kept me interested.

Charlie’s relationship with her parents was tricky – she seemed to be a complete Daddy’s girl – and her relationship with her Mum was generally really strained.  It was a real shame for both of them, as with a very poorly father, it would have been better for them both if there’d been some more give and take.

And her best friend Laura seemed a bit of a cow at times I have to say.  Charlie’s relationship with Maria was interesting – and I do wonder how it developed between the end of the main book and the epilogue.

The book seems to conclude really quickly, within the last few pages – and it didn’t feel like there were PROPER answers.  And I was also left confused about some of the characters – who appear to have just been totally weird, but not for any specific reason! Benjamin Barry who ran the caravan park was completely odd, manipulative and weird – but with no explanation why.

Whilst the book is not based on a true historical incident, and Clipim is not a real island in Ireland – there were ‘Magadalene laundries’ as is referenced in the book with stories that are still being uncovered today.  The unfolding of the tragedy did seem totally believable – if terribly sad.

Overall I did enjoy the book and thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my ARC.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

The Thursday Murder Club

First things first, I need to confess that I LOVE Richard Osman.  I suspect he’s appeared on a Heat Weird Crush list at some point (Google confirms, winner in 2011) – but is clearly far more valid an entrant than Piers Morgan.  Richard is funny, quick witted, clever and an all round perfect crush.  OK, so Xander Armstrong might have the royal lineage and recording contract for easy listening stuff your Mum would listen to – but Richard is the star of Pointless for me.  (Although I am still a bit disappointed that my Mum and I never got past the application form stage – although perhaps there is a special pile designated for ‘potential stalkers of Richard therefore do not progress’)

Anyway – enough of my fan girling – but it’s safe to say I had high hopes for this book when I was approved for an advance review copy on NetGalley.

Here’s the blurb (in case ‘written by Richard Osman’ isn’t enough of a temptation for everyone):

“THE FIRST BOOK IN THE GRIPPING THURSDAY MURDER CLUB SERIES BY TV PRESENTER RICHARD OSMAN
In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.
But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.
Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.
Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?”

 

I ADORED this book.  As crime dramas go it’s more ‘Grantchester’ than ‘Line of Duty’ – but that was just perfect.

The central character OAPs are a diverse bunch who each bring skills from their younger lives to the team –  Elizabeth has some mysterious espionage background, Joyce was a nurse, Ibrahim a psychiatrist, and Ron a union firebrand.  Their relationship with Chris and Donna – the police in charge of the investigation – is hilarious, Elizabeth is the Queen of manipulation – and everyone ends up doing what she wants.

There are red herrings aplenty – and coincidences galore – but that all makes for a twisty turny read that I couldn’t put down.

I started highlighting sentences that I loved – but realised I’d end up having most of the book highlighted – so here are just a couple to give you a flavour:

“After a certain age, you can pretty much do whatever takes your fancy.  No one tells you off, except for your doctors and your children.”  This was very early on in the book and rang incredibly true, particularly following the recent lockdown – where I, and a number of friends, have had to deal with septuagenarian parents who think we are totally unreasonable for discounting ‘popping to get a paper’ as an essential journey and thus telling them off!

“I haven’t been to Ashford International, but I doubt a station would have ‘International’ in its name and not have an M&S.” This is just so British – and I could hear my late Nan saying something exactly like this! In the 1980s – so when there were far less mini M&Ss around – my Grandfather got my Nan to walk to the top of the Long Mynd in Shropshire by promising her there was an M&S at the top!

Whilst there are murders, there is also a lot of humour and laugh out loud moments.  There are also some really tender and emotional moments between the characters – and some big stuff is dealt with too – dementia, suicide, euthanasia, family relationships – but all done in a lovely way.

It’s funny, clever, quick witted – and you can almost hear Richard Osman saying some of the lines.  I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book where the personality of the writer is so personified in the way it’s written – but as a fan that doesn’t bother me (however if you don’t like Mr Osman, maybe don’t bother reading it!?)

The only slight bug bear is that the formatting is a bit weird – and mid paragraph you could jump scene from, say, the retirement village to the police station.  Initially I thought this might have been a clever ploy to keep the reader on their toes and potentially stave off dementia – but suspect that more likely it’s because it was a proof copy and this will be sorted before the book is actually released!

But aside from this – I thoroughly enjoyed this fabulous book – and I’m chuffed that it’s the start of a series.  I can not wait to see what the Thursday Murder Club get up to next.

A huge thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my advance review copy – I will be singing The Thursday Murder Club’s praises far and wide!