20.3.19

BOOK REVIEW: You Can Take Her Home by Anna Jefferson

That moment when you realise...
you have absolutely no clue.
Emily Jones is a new mum: she's bought the swank buggy, planned her labour soundtrack, read the books. Then her little girl actually arrives and Emily realises, she has all the gear, no idea- and only the rest of her maternity leave to figure it out. Lonely, but not alone, it's the women Emily makes friends with in the first year who will see her through to the other side. 

Publisher: Orion
Pages: 343

You Can Take Her Home Now is one of the funniest books I have ever read. Anna Jefferson writes about first time mum Emily Jones and the book is told entirely from Emily's perspective. In a nutshell it is Emily's experience of the first year of motherhood- the highs, the lows and the very messy moments. It is frank and hilarious, I had laughed out loud several times before I even finished the first chapter:
"Just relax" the doctor says perkily. "We had to cut through several layers of your vaginal wall to get your baby out, so I'm going to sew it up for you. You won't feel a thing for now. I'll tidy it up best I can so it'll be nearly as good as new." I don't think I ever want to use my vagina again. She might as well just sew the whole thing up.
I've read several fictional accounts of having a newborn but this has by far been the best. I identified with so much of it and I couldn't stop reading. That first year is such a roller-coaster and I think Anna Jefferson has done an excellent portrayal within this book.

Emily and Nick bring their baby home with no idea of what they are doing. They are faced with the tiredness, breastfeeding and the huge task that simply leaving the house has become. Nick returns to work and Emily is adapting to her new role as a mum. She is mourning the lost relationship of her childhood best friend Rachel but she soon has two new first time mum friends, Helen and Tania. They provide her with much needed support and understanding that she needs.
Jefferson is brutally honest about motherhood and the many different emotions experienced during those first few months:
I just need to stop the constant chatter in my brain, the constant self-evaluation, the endless guilt. The guilt is so overwhelming, I feel like I'm drowning in it.
I can remember feeling so guilty in those early days. Guilty that I wasn't enjoying every single moment of it, guilty that I would do anything for an uninterrupted night's sleep, guilty for watching daytime TV instead of going to a baby massage class.
This book sounds very serious but it has a great balance. A huge dose of reality matched with excellent humour. I do think that being able to laugh at stuff is one of the best ways of dealing with parenthood, that and alcohol helps too.

You Can Take Her Home Now is an unflinching look at becoming a first time parent. Emily and Nick have to navigate this path whilst being exhausted and very much resenting each other at times. I thought it was interesting how Jefferson explored the different roles we take on when having a baby. Although Emily and Nick have had a baby together, their experience of day to day life with a newborn varies greatly and they have to find a way to stay united.
I can highly recommend this book, I believe You Can Take Her Home will be hugely popular with readers, it is a fantastic debut.

Many thanks to Orion for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, the book is published on 16th May. 

7.3.19

BOOK REVIEW: Freefall by Jessica Barry

Surviving the plane crash is only the beginning for Allison.
The life that she's built herself- her perfect fiance, their world of luxury- has disappeared in the blink of an eye. Now she must run, not only to escape the dark secrets in her past, but to outwit the man who is stalking her every move.
On the other side of the country, Allison's mother is desperate for news of her daughter, who is missing, presumed dead. Maggie refuses to accept that she could have lost her only child and she sets out to discover the truth.
Mother and daughter must fight- for survival and to find their way through a dark web of lies and back to one another, before it's too late...

Publisher: Vintage
Pages: 351

Freefall is Vintage's lead debut thriller for 2019 and I think it's going to be be big! I flew through it in just over a day, it has the feel of a good thriller/adventure story. A relentless pace is set from the beginning and it is packed full of twists and turns.
Allison has survived a plane crash which is pretty terrifying on its own but we soon learn that she is still in grave danger. She knows that someone is after her with the objective to killer her, she must get to a place of safety if she is to survive.
Allison's mother, Maggie has not spoken to her daughter for two years when she hears of the crash. She will not believe that Allison is dead and starts investigating herself.
She is stunned to learn about the person her daughter has become, she is a stranger. Determined to get to the truth, Maggie continues delving into matters, unwittingly putting herself and Allison in danger.
Jessica Barry has written a fantastic debut. The chapters alternate between Allison and Maggie and we build up a picture of what happened in their past to lead them to be estranged. Both women hit their lowest points in this book which was interesting as the author showed them dealing with it in very different ways.
Barry is looking closely at the bond between  mother and daughter; Maggie and Allison's relationship has totally broken down  but that link is still there holding them together.
Freefall keeps you guessing, it was a very satisfying feeling when it all slotted into place. The clues are all there and Jessical Barry ties it all together beautifully at the end.
I want to say that this felt like a good, traditional thriller and I do not mean that in a derogatory way. I felt as though it had all of the perfect elements without trying to hard or relying on a shock-factor and so on.
Freefall is a brilliant debut from Jessica Barry and I hope that she writes many more.

Many thanks to Vintage for sending me a copy of the book to review, Freefall is available now!  

4.3.19

BOOK REVIEW: Himself by Jess Kidd

1950. A teenage girl is brutally murdered in a forest. But somehow, her baby survives.
1976. A mysterious and charming young man returns to the remote coastal village of Mulderrig, seeking answers about the mother who, it was said, had abandoned him on the steps of a Dublin orphanage.
With the help of its oldest and most eccentric inhabitants, he will force the village to give up its ghosts. Nothing, not even the dead, can stay buried forever.

Publisher: Canongate
Pages: 358

Simon of Savidge Reads talked about Jess Kidd and I was intrigued, her books sounded fantastic and as usual, Simon was spot on!

I read her latest novel, Things in Jars first which was fantastic, I'll be posting my review closer to its release date in April. Once I had finished that one, I knew that I needed to devour Jess Kidd's back catalogue so I thought the best place to start was with her debut novel from 2016, Himself. It is is hard to believe that Himself if a debut, it is beautifully written and highly accomplished. Jess Kidd's talent is obvious from the very first page.

The book flits between 1950 when a young girl is brutally murdered in the Irish village of Mulderrig leaving her baby behind and 1976 when that baby in the form of orphan Mahoney, returns to the village in search of the truth. It is not going to be easy though, superstition surrounds his mother's disappearance and the villagers do not want to talk, especially those who know too much. However, Mahoney is determined and with the help of a few inhabitants, dead and alive he slowly uncovers clues as to his mother's fate. Mahoney can see dead people and Mulderrig is full of them, ghosts if you like, although Mahoney sees them differently:
That just like any other dead person, his mind, if you can call it a mind, has ceased to exist. For the dead don't change or grow. They're just echoes of the stories of their own lives sung back in the wrong order: arsewards. They're the pattern on closed eyelids after you turn away from a bright object. They're twice exposed film. They're not really here, so cause and effect means nothing to them.
I loved the supernatural element of the book and the way in which Jess Kidd plays with it; sometimes it provides tragedy and other times much humour. Himself is beautifully written. I thoroughly enjoyed the way Jess Kidd uses language. She elevates the ordinary to the extraordinary and it is a joy to read:
Words are capable of flying. They dart through the windows, over fences, between bar stools and across courtyards. They travel rapidly from mouth to ear, from ear to mouth. And as they go, they pick up speed and weight and substance and gravity. Until they land with a scud, take seed and grow as fast as the unruliest of beanstalks. 
I find her writing has a real rhythm that leaves me wanting more at the end of each chapter. There are so many fantastic characters within the book but the one that stood out for me was Mrs Cauley. She takes Mahoney under her wing and sets out to help him find the truth. Sitting in her bed, surrounded by piles of books and papers, she is a cross between Miss Havisham and an overly theatrical Miss Marple. She is kind, caring and clever with some excellent one-liners:
As much as I revel in your visits lets make this snappy, I've a Dubonet and a bed bath on the agenda this afternoon.
I cannot find fault in this hugely entertaining tale. Despite being set in the 70's, it has a distinctly gothic feel, full of mystery and the supernatural. I cannot wait to read another book by this author, I can highly recommend Jess Kidd's excellent work.

28.2.19

BOOK REVIEW: Maybe This Time by Jill Mansell

Mimi isn't looking for love when she spends a weekend in Goosebrook, the Cotswolds village her dad has moved to. And her first encounter with Cal, who lives there too, is nothing like a scene in a romantic movie- although she cannot help noticing how charismatic he is. But Cal's in no position to be any more than a friend, and Mimi heads back to her busy London life.
When they meet again four years later, it's still not to be. Cal is focusing on his family, and Mimi on her career. The Cal dives into a potentially perfect new romance whilst Mimi's busy fixing other people's relationships. It seems as if something, or someone else always gets in their way. Will it ever be the right time for both of them?

Publisher: Headline
Pages: 424

I knew that I was in for a treat with Jill Mansell's latest book, Maybe This Time. Mimi goes to visit her dad and his partner Marcus in the beautiful Cotswold village of Goosebrook. On her first visit she meets Cal who she instantly likes but she quickly becomes aware that he is not available. When Mimi returns from London four years later, Cal is still there and still very attractive but he has just begun a new relationship and Mimi's career is keeping her busy and taking her on a different path. Mimi and Cal have great chemistry but there always seems to be obstacles between them. Once all of the distractions have disappeared, will Cal and Mimi finally get their act together or are they just not meant to be?
Mimi is a fantastic creation, she fits effortlessly into life at Goosebrook and it is clear to see that she is one of life's good people. I loved the interaction between her and Cal, the dialogue they share is natural and I was so hopeful that they would get together.
The setting of Goosebrook is a great feature of the book. It is your typical, slightly eccentric English country village. Its inhabitants are very close to each other and it was lovely to see Mimi being taken under their wing and quickly becoming a valued member of their tight-knit community.
My favourite character in the book is CJ, he is the highly successful author Mimi works for at one point. He says it like it is and is a bit of a drama queen. I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the book as it contained such a lot of humour but also because you see Mimi realise how capable she is and her confidence is given a well needed boost.
I think Jill Mansell has a great knack of creating highly memorable romantic moments in her books. She slowly builds up the chemistry between the characters and then it suddenly hits you.
Maybe This Time is warm and witty. It has a fabulous romantic feel and I can highly recommend this highly entertaining book.

21.2.19

BOOK REVIEW: If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman

A twist that will break your heart... An ending that will put it back together.
Audrey's family has fallen apart. Her two grown-up daughters, Jess and Lily, are estranged and her two teenage granddaughters have never been allowed to meet. A secret that echoes back thirty years  has splintered the family in two, but is also the one thing keeping them connected.
As tensions  reach breaking point, the irrevocable choice that one of them made all those years ago is about to surface. After years of secrets and silence, how can one broken family find their way back to each other.

Publisher: Orion
Pages: 368

If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman is a truly powerful read. The story is so compelling that I couldn't put it down, I had read the whole book in under 12 hours. It's a tricky one to review without giving the plot away but here goes!
Audrey has two daughters, Lily and Jess and they both have teenage daughters Phoebe and Mia born just weeks apart. But this is not a happy family, Jess has refused to speak to her sister for over thirty years and has no wish to acknowledge her niece who is so similar to her own daughter. Something happened one morning before school in 1988 and Jess won't reveal what the event was but the consequence is that she refuses to have anything to do with her sister. Audrey has decided to make one last attempt at mending her broken family but perhaps even she is not prepared to discover the secret Jess has kept for most of her life.
This book is so well written, you are left guessing as to what happened that fateful morning for the majority of the book. I had imagined all manner of things but I still did not foresee the final twist. Each time I reached the end of a chapter, I  just couldn't stop myself from continuing to the next one.
Each chapter is told from either Audrey, Jess or Lily's perspective plus there are some flashbacks to Audrey's childhood. This offered a great perspective and built upon the mystery, initially I thought that maybe Lily knew what Jess was so angry about but didn't want to tell her mother but it quickly became apparent that Lily has no idea why her sister has excluded her.
Hannah Beckerman explores the complexities of female familial relationships. The bond between mothers and daughters and also of sisters is such an interesting subject to examine. The author looks at how all three females are effected by events in their past and the consequences and negative impact it is having on their present lives. Jess in particular is so focused on her daughter Mia not making the same mistakes that she did that she has lost sight of who her daughter is and what her true aspirations might be.
I had forgotten just how emotional Hannah Beckerman's writing is. There were several times I found myself with tears streaming down my face. As a mother to a  young daughter I could totally put myself in these character's shoes and it is truly heartbreaking at times.
I urge you to read If Only I Could Tell You, when I reached the last page I felt like I had just read something extremely special. I think a lot of people are going to be talking about this book, it is fantastic.

Many thanks to Orion for allowing me to read a proof copy of this book via Netgalley, If Only I Could Tell You is published today. 

10.2.19

BOOK REVIEW: A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

The Centre for women's reproductive health offers a last chance of hope- but nobody ends up their by choice.
Its very existence is controversial, and to the demonstrators who barricade the building everyday, the service it offers is no different from legalised murder.
Now life and death decisions are being made horrifyingly real: a lone protester with a gun has taken the staff, patients and visitors hostage.
Starting at the tensest moment in the negotiations for their release, A Spark of Light unravels backwards, revealing hour by hour what brought each of the people- the gunman, the negotiator, the doctors, nurses and women who have come to them for treatment- to this point.
And certainties unwind as truths and secrets are peeled away, revealing the complexity of balancing the right to life with the right to choose. 

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 355

I am a big fan of Jodi Picoult's books and her last book, Small Great Things totally blew me away. However, I have very mixed feelings about her latest book, A Spark of Light. I heard the author talking about it on Radio 4 and the idea sounded fantastic but I came away feeling a little disappointed once I had reached the end.
The premise is that a group of people have been taken hostage at a Women's Health Centre by a gun man. In America, women's health centres deal with female reproductive health and they also carry out abortions. This is obviously a highly contentious issue and I was impressed by how far Picoult went in tackling it. She looks at many different angles and viewpoints, religion, gender, age, sexuality, ethics and morality. I do feel that she engaged in the subject well but the book fell down for me by being overly complicated. The story begins with the final negotiations and works its way back, I didn't have a problem with this but the problem was the number of characters involved. I was fully focused when reading but there were so many times when I was too confused to enjoy the story properly. Each character has their own back history which is a fantastic way of examining different view points. But the sheer amount of characters and jumping back and forth took away the impact of the actual story for me which was a shame.
I still felt quite invested in these characters so I was disappointed when there was a lot of loose ends, I didn't even want happy endings for them all but I was looking for some form of conclusion.
For me, A Spark of Light has a fantastic and important core element in the issue it is tackling but I did not feel that it was executed effectively.

4.2.19

BOOK REVIEW: A Rose Petal Summer by Katie Fforde

'She'd recognised him the moment he'd entered the room, but he didn't appear to remember her. Of course it had been nearly pitch dark when they had met, and so long ago. He laughed and Caro's heart gave a lurch...'
He was the one who got away, the young man with whom Caro spent one magical evening in Greece, and whom she's never forgotten.
Now years later, they've met once more in a beautiful old house in Scotland. Soon Caro is falling in love, all over again.
But will the one summer he falls for her?

Publisher: Century Books
Pages: 387
Published on February 21st

Katie FForde's books are always a delight and A Rose Petal Summer is bound to be a hit. Caro and Alec met as teenagers one night on a Greek island and she has never forgotten him. In the present day, Caro takes on the job of companion to an elderly man in the Scottish Highlands and she recognises his son Alec the moment he walks into the room. He is effectively her new employer but he doesn't show any signs of recognising her. Does she still have feelings for him and how will he react once he remembers their previous encounter?
I really took to Caro, she seems like a genuinely good person but she can look after herself too. She normally lives on a houseboat in London so Scotland is a real change for her but she quickly falls in love with the beautiful surroundings. It is so strange for her to see Alec again, he is divorced with a beautiful daughter called Rowan who Caro takes under her wing. He is back in Scotland to run the family estate but he harbours a desire for a different kind of occupation. Caro can see glimpses of the young man she met all those years ago and the attraction is still there. When Alec divulges his aspirations to her she falls in love with him more and is determined to help. Add into this story, wayward teenagers, a Hollywood power couple, a romantic mystery to solve plus a wedding to plan and you have a very entertaining story indeed.
I loved the locations in this book, Katie Fforde moves from the Scottis
h estate to Caro's quirky boat in London, to a beautiful chateau in France. They all have their own delightful charm and make it so easy to get caught up in the story.
A Rose Petal Summer is a romantic read about two people finding each other again. A lot has happened to Caro and Alec over the years so it is interesting to see if that spark between them is still there. This is great book to lose yourself in for a few hours, I can highly recommend it.

Many thanks to Alice at Penguin for sending me a copy of the book to review, A Rose Petal Summer is published on 21st February. 

BOOK REVIEW: You Can Take Her Home by Anna Jefferson

That moment when you realise... you have absolutely no clue. Emily Jones is a new mum: she's bought the swank buggy, planned her labour...