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! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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: 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.

 

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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).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

The Austen Escape

I was lucky enough to be given an advanced review copy of this way back last summer – but because it didn’t fit into a category for my 2017 Reading Challenge – and I was still optimistic of completing it – I didn’t get around to reading it until now!!  I’m hoping this doesn’t count as a strike against me on the wonderful Netgalley!!

Anyway – enough of my soul searching – here’s the blurb:

“Falling into the past will change their futures forever.Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues-particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings arise, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.”

I was concerned – a bit like when I read Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld – that my lack of recent Austen reading would count against me as I wouldn’t pick up on the clever intertwining of old and new storylines and nuances in the characters etc – but I decided not to stress about that and just get on with reading it as a standalone book.

I also didn’t look into the author or publishing house before starting to read this (a mistake I won’t make again) – I was still at the stage of being delighted and honoured to have been permitted to read a book before it was officially published to decide if I should read it or not!!

I found this book soooooo dull.  It was boring from start to finish (but I did finish it as I hate to be beaten by a book)

The American style of writing annoyed me (why is it necessary to miss out words like ‘of’?) and the descriptions of Bath I found very poor (admittedly it’s a city I’ve been to lots – but I would question if the author ever had).

It was just soooo boring.

About half way through a friend pointed out this was published by a Christian publishing house subsidiary of Harper Collins.  I have to say that you wouldn’t know that from the content itself – it’s not preachy at all – but there is a definite absence of sex, drugs and rock & roll.  Not that I’m saying those are pre requisites for a good book – in fact my book of 2017 Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine doesn’t contain any of them – but it was just so lame.  The most risque element was a ‘shoulder bump’.  I also felt the writing style was dull and insipid.

I persevered – but only because I don’t like to not finish a book (despite me saying I would not be beholden to any books this year!!)

I am unsure who I would recommend this to.  It was too modern for my Nan in it’s content – and not sure of anyone else who would appreciate such nothingness.

But – it has taught me to be more circumspect about what I accept to read going forward!

Thanks Netgalley for the advance review copy – and for the life lesson!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Our House by Louise Candlish

Our House

I’d seen this book in ‘books to read in 2018’ lists – and then saw the author Clare Mackintosh (whose books I’ve enjoyed before) saying ‘If 2018 brings a better book than Our House I will eat my hat. Addictive, twisty and oh so terrifyingly possible’

So – I hopped onto the wonderful Netgalley – and was approved to download an advanced copy.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“On a bright January morning in the London suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought in Trinity Avenue.
Nothing strange about that. Except it is your house. And you didn’t sell it.

When Fi arrives home to find a removals van outside her house, she is completely blind-sided. Trinity Avenue has been her family’s home for years. Where are all their belongings? How could this have happened? Desperately calling her ex-husband, Bram, who owns the house with her, Fi discovers he has disappeared.

The more Fi uncovers, the more she realises their lives have been destroyed by a nightmare of their own making. A devastating crime has been committed, but who exactly is the guilty party? What has Bram hidden from her – and what has she hidden from him?”

From the start I LOVED this book – it had me intrigued immediately.

It’s written from Fi and Bram’s perspectives – and flicks between time periods – so you need to be on the ball with it – but I didn’t find that distracting.  In fact, it added to the intrigue and kept the pace high!

At different points I felt empathetic towards different characters – but fundamentally I was #TeamFi – and desperately wanted everything to end up ok for her and her boys.

The twists and turns are exciting – but also quite believable.  I liked the use of modern technology and how that would impact on the crime(s).

I also loved that Bram was suspicious when someone called him Abraham on the phone.  The girls at work always know it’s a cold call for me when someone asks for Elisabeth!

It really was hold your breath at times waiting to see how things would pan out – and the ending is FABULOUS. At about 85% (yep, Kindle reading) I thought it was concluded, and was concerned I was going to be short changed with ads for other books etc – but NO – it was the best 15% of the book still to come!!

I would definitely recommend pre ordering this for when it comes out in April (on the last day of the tax year #randomfact) – but I will also be looking at the author’s back catalogue as I loved this so much.

This is also category one of my 2018 Reading Challenge ticked off – ‘A book published in 2018’.

 

Reading Challenge 2018!

Back in mid January last year I decided to join some friends in the Pop Sugar reading challenge 2017.  Now, I didn’t quite tick off all of the categories – but I’m quite pleased with what I managed, and you can look at all of my reviews in the ‘2017 Reading Challenge’ category on this blog.

2017 Reading Challenge
A book recommended by a librarian The Unpredictable Consequences of Love by Jill Mansell
A book that’s been on your TBR list for way too long The Cows by Dawn O’Porter
A book of letters The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan
An audiobook Crackanory – too cracked for TV
A book by a person of colour  …
A book with one of the four seasons in the title One Endless Summer by Laurie Ellingham
A book that is a story within a story The Forever House by Veronica Henry
A book with multiple authors Scummy Mummies by Helen Thorn and Ellie Gibson
An espionage thriller  …
A book with a cat on the cover Family Ghouls by Alex A King
A book by an author who uses a pseudonym The Summer House By The Sea by Jenny Oliver
A bestseller from a genre you don’t normally read  …
A book by or about a person who has a disability Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon
A book involving travel The Break by Marian Keyes
A book with a subtitle The Love of the Game:  Parenthood, Sport and Me by Mark Chapman
A book that’s published in 2017 After You by Mhairi McFarlane
A book involving a mythical creature The Nothing Girl by Jodi Taylor
A book you’ve read before that never fails to make you smile  …
A book about food The Wonder by Emma Donohue
A book with career advice Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
A book from a nonhuman perspective The Bees by Laline Paull
A steampunk novel Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
A book with a red spine Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
A book set in the wilderness  …
A book you loved as a child  …
A book by an author from a country you’ve never visited  …
A book with a title that’s a character’s name The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey by Rachel Joyce
A novel set during wartime To My Daughter In France by Barbara and Stephanie Keating
A book with an unreliable narrator The Woman Who Ran by Sam Baker
A book with pictures Strong Woman: The Truth About Getting To The Top by Karren Brady
A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
A book about an interesting woman Running Like A Girl by Alexandra Heminsley
A book set in two different time periods The Party by Elizabeth Day
A book with a month or a day of the week in the title  …
A book set in a hotel The Girl from the Savoy by Hazel Gaynor
A book written by someone you admire There Is No Good Card for This: What To Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love by Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell
A book that’s becoming a movie in 2017  …
A book set around a holiday other than Christmas A Catered Fourth of July by Isis Crawford
The first book in a series you haven’t read before Watermelon by Marian Keyes
A book you bought on a trip The Postcard by Fern Britton

A friend in the Facebook group we’ve set up to share book reviews and ideas said she’d downloaded the 2018 challenge – and of course, I couldn’t say no – so I’ve had to join in too!  I don’t think I’m going to beat myself up about it so much this year – and will read off piste if I want to. Equally, this year if I’m not enjoying a book I’m not going to persevere! Life’s too short and all that.

You can read more about the challenge itself here – but here’s the summary of topics:

2018 reading challenge

And in a paraphrase of Strictly Come Dancing – keeeeeeeep reading!