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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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So, obviously I had to reply:

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

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

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

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

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

“20 THINGS YOU KNOW IF YOU’RE A MIDULT

1. Nothing good happens at three in the morning.

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

3. Everyone needs therapy.

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

5. Time flies.

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

7. You are always hungry.

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

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

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

11. Things get stuck in your teeth.

12. Something always hurts.

13. And then you think it’s cancer.

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

15. Good sleep is better than good sex.

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

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

18. Swearing f***ing helps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Book Review: A Miracle on Hope Street by Emma Heatherington

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This book popped up on my Facebook feed a few times and so I hopped onto Netgalley to see if I could get an advanced review copy – and I was accepted.

Disclaimer:  It was only when I read the ‘thanks’ at the end of the book that I found out one of my friends was the editor for the book!!  Thankfully that didn’t colour my judgement as I only found out afterwards.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Remember the true meaning of Christmas with this heartfelt and beautiful novel from bestselling author Emma Heatherington.

Can a single act of kindness change a life forever?

To many people, Ruth Ryans has everything: the perfect job, a beautiful home and a loving family. But as Christmas approaches, Ruth feels lonelier than ever.

Then Ruth meets Michael. A man who she showed kindness to during his darkest moment. That one single act, his miracle, helped change his life forever.

Ruth decides to make this Christmas the most perfect one ever, opening up her home to those who need her help – the lonely, the lost and the ignored.

Actions speak louder than words and Ruth Ryans’ kindness will create little miracles for everyone … including her own battered heart.”

Initially I was a big confused and overwhelmed by the number of different characters – but it soon became evident they’d all written to Ruth Ryans in her capacity as an agony aunt – so that then made sense!  I also wasn’t entirely sure where it was set – not that it matters – but I worked out during the book it was Ireland, but not Dublin, although can’t be more sure of the geography than that!

Once I got into it, I really enjoyed it.  It gave a true festive feel – and whilst it’s out now (I finished it on publication day!) – I think it would be a perfect read in late December – maybe over the Christmas holidays in fact.

You really get a feel for how lonely people can be – and how this is magnified at a time like Christmas.  It also shows how a bit of kindness can go a long way – from Ruth’s initial contact with Michael,  through to her opening up her home to the lonely, lost and ignored.  Each of the characters that write to Ruth are fleshed out and you feel you get to know them as Ruth does – which I enjoyed.

There is a twist in the middle – which I have to say I guessed – but that didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the book. (I won’t tell you what it is, as I hate book reviews with massive spoilers).

Overall I really enjoyed it as a fun, easy, but still thought provoking, read.  I also think it would make a lovely festive film.

I’m not sure I can fit it into a category of my 2018 Reading Challenge – as I’ve already got books in the slots it would fit –  but I’m trying not to get too hung up on that – and read things I want to read as well!

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Rules of Seeing by Joe Heap

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I was lent a copy of this by a friend – and told it was really ‘different’.  Now, I’m always nervous of ‘different’ having used exactly that word to describe Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch’ – some of my friends still haven’t forgiven me for putting then through that!  Anyway – I read the book without reading the blurb first – which is always a risk!!

But here it is for you:

“Nova is 32 years old and she is about to see the world for the very first time.
Jillian Safinova, Nova to her friends, can do many things. She can speak five languages. She can always find a silver lining. And she can even tell when someone is lying just from the sound of their voice.
But there’s one thing Nova can’t do. She can’t see.
When her brother convinces her to have an operation that will restore her sight, Nova wakes up to a world she no longer understands. Until she meets Kate.
As Kate comes into focus, her past threatens to throw them into a different kind of darkness. Can they each learn to see the world in a different … and open their eyes to the lives they could have been living all along?”

I LOVED this book – from start to finish.  It’s difficult to know what category to put it in – there is a lot about the physical act of seeing, but also non physical blindness to things going on around you – as well as a romance and thriller aspects – very difficult to pin it down to a genre.

The whole concept of ‘curing’ a ‘broken’ sense is something I hadn’t even considered until a few years ago when a friend’s son was diagnosed as profoundly deaf at birth.  Cochlear implants were an option for him – and as someone with no experience of the deaf world at all, I just assumed it was a no brainer, and anything to make a child ‘normal’ (I cringe writing that now) should be grabbed at.  I hadn’t realised – until my very patient and forgiving friend – explained to me the complexities of ‘curing’ deafness has massively opposing views in the deaf community.  At the age of about 1, my friend’s son did have the implants and is thriving as a funny, feisty, bright, articulate, handsome, loving and loved 6 year old – and his implants are something that will be an intrinsic part of his life forever.

I think this gave me slightly more of an insight into Nova’s operation than I would have had if I’d not even considered ‘repairing a broken sense’ before. Obviously in her case it’s totally different as it’s sight not hearing, and she’s 32 – so has lived without seeing anything properly her entire life to date.  She’s an independent, successful woman working as an interpreter for the police – and the aftermath of her operation plays out for her professionally, personally and psychologically.

Nova’s path crosses with Kate in hospital. I have to say I’d made assumptions about how Kate’s injuries would pan out – and I was totally and utterly wrong! But their lives become entwined in a complex and ever changing way. The support they show each other – in different ways at different times – is beautiful and very real.

Also, being a ‘builder’ in my day job helped me appreciate some of Kate’s geeky architect references, for example the soundproofed new flat – I love it when there are seemingly irrelevant facts that interest me!

Nova and Kate’s relationships with family and friends are fundamental to the story but work really well – you see them as rounded people without any of it being forced – it’s just written really well. I don’t want to give too much of it away – you need to see what I mean when you read it.

This book does make you think about how we ‘see’ – and Nova’s rules of seeing are dotted throughout – some are practical – and some with a much deeper meaning – but all very cleverly done.

I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone and everyone!

 

 

 

 

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: 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):

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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: 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 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!