Book Review: You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi McFarlane

I have friends in high places who let me have top secret things. This makes me sound like Olivia Pope in Scandal – just without the amazing coats, shoes and sex with the President of the US!! (By the way, if you haven’t watched Scandal – then have a box set gorge – it is brilliant. In fact, it may have to have a blog post all to itself sometime soon!)

So – back to the top secret things. The aforementioned friend works in the book industry (more about her here) and so let me borrow a copy of a book not released until next month (blog post embargoed until October) and the sampler of a new book by Mhairi McFarlane ‘It’s Not Me It’s You’. It was only the first few chapters but I LOVED IT – this is what Amazon has to say about it so I’m not ruining any surprises:

“Delia Moss isn’t quite sure where she went wrong. Everything was going smoothly. Ok, she had a slightly rubbish job working for the council and she hadn’t seen her best friend Emma in god knows how long, but she’d been working up to proposing to Paul for months. This. Was. It.

But with one annoying little ‘beep beep’, Delia’s life is turned upside down and rather than stick around and commit GBH by punching her cheating scumbag boyfriend (who still wants to be with her) in the chops, she decides the best thing to do would be get some head space and leave for London.

But a new city is never going to be the answer, and with a dodgy new job in media PR, where a suspicious yet devastatingly handsome journalist seems to be sniffing around and endangering her job, Delia can’t run forever. Where did the old Delia go? And can she get her back?”

I literally CAN NOT WAIT until 6 November 2014 when it will wing it’s way to my Kindle.

Anyway – the secret sampler thing totally worked as marketing, as I obvs went and downloaded Mhairi McFarlane’s first book ‘You Had Me At Hello’ immediately – and I loved that too!!

You had me at hello

It is written totally in the style I would love to write if I ever do brave the book writing thing, and as if the narrator (Rachel in this case) is chatting to you, the reader, as her mate.  I guess the fact that I’m a similar age to the author (OK, just the other side of 40 to her!) means lots of similar reference points.  It flicks between the present day and uni days with ease and is a fabulous mixture of romance / humour / good guys v bad guys and some real laugh out loud moments (where you accidentally wake your husband up when you’re reading in bed way too late!)   There was a slightly ‘close to the bone’ moment for me when a character said that Rachel, having not seen her since uni, could be 15 stone and shouting at her 4 children – yep, anyone from the University of Southampton class of 1995 – that’s me now!!

It was a great read – and I’d love to know what happens to all of the characters next – which I think is always the sign of a good book – leave them wanting more (possibly the sign of a good ‘lost love’ too?!)

Oh – and you can be as lucky as me and read the first few chapters of ‘It’s Not Me It’s You’ as they are at the end of the Kindle edition of ‘You Had Me At Hello’!

Books – books and more books

I love reading.  I always have, from Enid Blyton’s Five and Seven (Famous and Secret respectively), through Sweet Valley High and Judy Blume (I could probably still find the rude bits in ‘Forever’) to the deeply condescending entitled ‘chick lit’ genre of more recent years – interspersed with a ‘critically acclaimed’ to justify the grammar school education!

A fortnight’s holiday used to mean a suitcase full of paperbacks – but 4 kids and a Kindle has reduced the excess baggage charges (book-wise anyway – although the space this year was replaced with gin – see comment re holidaying with 4 children…..)

I swore for a long time that I wouldn’t succumb to the new fangled Kindle – in the manner of my 85 year old Grandmother – but once I’d tried it, I confess to being a convert.  It does hurt marginally more when you drop it on your face when you fall asleep reading – but that is probably one of the few cons (the other being when you aren’t allowed to read it on take off and landing on flights – but could read a normal book!!)

I do feel slightly guilty for not using my local library so much nowadays – although my children more than make up for that!  My Dad was never allowed to borrow books from the library as a child in the 40s / 50s as my Nan reckoned the books there had germs – but I have let my kids run the risk!

I have never joined a ‘book club’ but quite often my Facebook feed will end up in a pseudo-bookclub chat – as I have a lot of friends who like to read (this definitely says something about my circle of friends – in a good way!) And one of these friends suggested I should blog about books – so here we are (this is the second time I’ve taken up one of her content suggestions for this blog – the other was periods – this should be less messy!)

So – henceforth – I plan to do a short(ish – longer than Twitter – shorter than a magazine) book review when I finish a book – and I would really welcome your comments both on the books I review – and suggestions for what I might like based on my reading history – I am always looking for recommendations (I often rely on Viv Groskop in her monthly review column for Red Magazine – but there’s always scope for more!)

We’ve been on holiday for the last fortnight – so this is peak reading weeks for me – so I thought I’d kick off with a brief review of what I’ve read – and this should also give you an insight into what I like (and don’t!)

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Secret History
I struggled through The Goldfinch – another of Ms Tartt’s tomes (I read it on Kindle and nearly passed out when I saw the size of the hardback that someone else was reading!) – last year, enjoying the different style of writing – but struggling with the content and waffly-ness of it at times – and at the start of The Secret History was concerned it was going to be the same.  From the outset you know that a certain event is going to happen – and I found the build up to that a bit drawn out – but once that was done, I enjoyed it much more (guess I’m just impatient?!)  I have to say I didn’t particularly like any of the characters in the story (American University students) which always makes a book more of a struggle if you couldn’t really care about any of them – however, I enjoyed the Latin / Greek references (back to that grammar school education again!) – but it definitely wasn’t an easy read.  At least I can tick a ‘critically acclaimed’ off the list – and I wasn’t beaten by it!

Little Lies by Liane Moriaty (seemingly called Big Little Lies in the USA!)
Little lies

This was a Red Magazine recommendation – and I have really enjoyed some of her other works (What Alice Forgot, The Husband’s Secret) so I downloaded it immediately.  This was a great break from The Secret History – and I devoured it in a day (and night – holiday insomnia has it’s perks!)  She writes well, from the aspects of lots of different characters, and her topics (family life, suburban Sydney – where I lived for a while) are really relevant to me.  Although I’d like to think the PTA events at the schools my kids go to aren’t quite so scary!!  Interestingly, like The Secret History – you know that a certain event is going to happen in this book too – but I didn’t feel I needed to get to that point to enjoy the book. 

The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriaty
Hypnotists Love Story
I downloaded this after checking the authors history and what I had and hadn’t already read. It was lovely – another easy read – but not too cheesy.  Again – set in Sydney – which brings back fond memories.  I would have poo pooed the ‘hypnotist’ element of it historically – but with recent experiences I was not so cynical – which probably meant I enjoyed it more!

New Beginnings by Fern Britton
New Beginnings
I have to confess to loving Fern a little bit.  Who cares that she lost weight with a gastric band and advertised Ryvita at the same time – I always think she would be a fabulous mate who you could have a real laugh (*drink*) with (and Phil could cook dinner for us all!) – and her stint on Strictly Come Dancing a couple of years ago made me love her even more (I hold her sparkly dress on the Strictly tour totally responsible for the one I had made for my 40th party!!)  I’ve read lots of Fern’s books – mostly set in Cornwall – and they’ve been a good easy read (particularly as I’m normally reading at home whilst trying to get small kids to sleep – so can’t concentrate on anything too mentally taxing in between demands for milk / water / nappies changed / extra blankets / aircon on / the toilet etc etc) This one isn’t set in Cornwall – and I think is her debut novel – it’s set in the world of TV – so I guess sticking to what she knew.  It’s about a 40 something mother – so lots to empathise with.  As with a lot of Fern’s books, it left me wanting to know what happened to all of the characters next – which I think is the sign of a good read!

Tickled Pink by Christina Jones

Tickled Pink
This was an Amazon Prime Kindle library suggestion (I only recently found out that our Prime membership entitled us to b borrow Kindle library books for free – and no risk of germs from this library either!!) and my Kindle knows me well it would appear!  Initially I was a bit confused by all of the different characters (although admittedly this may have been compounded by the Portuguese Vinho Verde I was knocking back!) – but I soon settled into it.  It’s a total rollercoaster and therefore not predictable – which I enjoyed.  You really get for the sleepy English village in which it’s set – I’d quite like to visit it now!

So there you have it – my Summer 2014 reading list! It’s 6 weeks before I go away again – so I doubt there’ll be another book review until then – but I look forward to everyone else’s suggestions and comments.  In the style of Strictly ‘Keep Reading!’