The Mummy Lessons by Helen Wallen

mummyThe Mummy Lessons: The laugh-out-loud novel for all exhausted parents and parents-to-be by Helen Wallen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After a tough pregnancy, Emily is determined to tackle motherhood like a pro. But she quickly learns that Insta-Perfect-Parenting (and sleep) is hard to come by, no matter how much money you spend in Mothercare.

Irritatingly, her friend Molly seems to be breezing it. But with a business venture as well as a baby, is she taking on too much?

Liz looks as though she might have it all worked out. But when a tragedy derails her new relationship, she has some serious decisions to make.

Celebrating female friendship, the highs and lows of motherhood, and the lifesaving power of a jumperoo, THE MUMMY LESSONS follows a year of highs and lows for Emily, Molly and Liz as they learn the hardest lesson of all: life doesn’t always follow the rules . . .

I received an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

I thoroughly enjoyed Helen Wallen’s first novel, “Baby Boom” so I was really keen to get stuck into book 2, “The Mummy Lesson’s” and find out what Emily, Molly and Liz were up to.

From the first page it felt like I was catching up with old friends and I sped through the pages getting lost in Emily and Molly’s mummy journeys. Everything I enjoyed from the first book was present in this sequel, the warm natural friendships between the women, the honesty about what it’s like to be a mother and the hilarity of the Whatsapp chats, but with an added dramatic storyline for Liz which kept me firmly on the edge of my seat terrified that Gerard and Liz might come to an end (Team Giz forever!)

I enjoyed the character development between books for Emily and Molly. Becoming a mother changes you in ways that are deeply personal and individual and it was so good to see each woman handle her new role in her own way. Equally, it was nice to see that when all three friends met up their friendships were exactly the same and none of them were left out.

As well as the realistic parenting parts of the book, the dramatic storyline added real tension to the plot. Liz is the character I relate to the least and I felt like we got a bit more of her in this book. She became a bit more vulnerable which was really interesting to read. I can’t help but feel like Liz’s story wasn’t completely resolved though, which has left me really hoping that book 3 is in the works!

I really recommend Helen Wallen’s books to anyone who enjoys a fun, hilarious contemporary page-turner. You don’t have to be a parent to enjoy these books, there’s plenty of plot and character for everyone to enjoy them. If you are a parent though you’ll laugh at the sheer accuracy of some of the descriptions in these books.

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris

indexThe Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb:

GRACE ATHERTON HAS FALLEN OUT OF LOVE … AND INTO LIFE

Between the simple melody of running her violin shop and the full-blown orchestra of her romantic interludes in Paris with David, her devoted partner of eight years, Grace Atherton has always set her life to music.

Her world revolves entirely around David, for Grace’s own secrets have kept everyone else at bay. Until, suddenly and shockingly, one act tips Grace’s life upside down, and the music seems to stop.

It takes a vivacious old man and a straight-talking teenager to kickstart a new chapter for Grace. In the process, she learns that she is not as alone in the world as she had once thought, that no mistake is insurmountable, and that the quiet moments in life can be something to shout about …

I received an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Within the opening pages of this book I wasn’t sure it was going to be for me. There was a lot of focus on violas, violins, cellos, classical perfomances, classy Parisian apartments and it all felt incredibley far removed from something I would enjoy.

However, after the incident in the Metro happens and the relevation that Grace and David were having a long term affair, my interest was piqued.

The story is full of passion, music, love and friendship and though some parts of the story are predictable (if a man has been stringing you along for the best part of a decade whilst he stays with his wife, your story probably won’t end happily…), Anstey Harris’ writing is beautiful and the story is weaved in a way that made me want to gulp it all down in one go. I loved Grace and so desperately wanted her to find a happy ending.

A lot of the themes of the book are sad, but the tone of the writing is so empowering that I felt a wonderful sense of wellbeing and peace once I’d finished reading.

Without a doubt the unlikely friendship between elderly customer Mr Williams, teenage shop assistant Nadia and Grace was the highlight of the book. It was a joy to read about their enthusiasm for music and their support of Grace.

I also really liked that once David’s true colours were revealed, Grace was fully focused on moving on. I would have found it too frustrating to read about that weasel of a man winning back her affections!

This book is a fantastic, warm read, perfect for a rainy afternoon to lighten your soul and your mood. Oh, and if you give it a chance all of the information about how violins and cellos are built is actually really fascinating.

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The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae: A perfect read for those who loved ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Stephanie Butland

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

I absolutely loved Stephanie Butland’s last novel, “Lost for Words” (it was set in a bookshop so no prizes for guessing why it appealed to me so much) and when I saw her book available on Netgalley I couldn’t click request fast enough.

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae follows Ailsa just a couple of months after the heart transplant she had been waiting for her whole life. We join Ailsa as she learns how to live, how to be an adult and how to navigate a life in which she suddenly has a future that involves more than hospital stays and dying.

I thought the premise to this book was really interesting. I’ve read a lot of books which focus on long term illness, but never a book which explores how somebody starts to rebuild their life once they have that operation they’ve been waiting for since birth. I don’t think I’d ever considered what it would be like for someone in that position, so used to waiting by the phone to hear of a possible organ and having people look after you as if you were a child, to suddenly be better and have to completely rebuild how they thought about themselves and develop some independence.

The book is written with the use of flashbacks to before the heart transplant and I enjoyed these glimpses into Ailsa’s previous life which helped to make me feel as if I knew both versions of Ailsa- with her old heart and with her new heart (which she names Apple).

I also really liked the use of Ailsa’s blog as a story telling device. It was in these sections that I felt Ailsa was being the most true to herself, and it added another layer to her personality.

The writing was completley addictive and I found myself swept into the story quickly. It was such a life affirming story and I really felt like I was with Ailsa as she experience new things and grabbed her new chance at life with both hands.

I absolutely loved the romantic storyline, but I also loved that having a boyfriend wasn’t Ailsa’s main priority and her career, hobbies, friends and family were much more her focus.

I would recommend this book to fans of Sophie Kinsella, Jojo Moyes and anybody who loves reading the equivalent of a hug in book form!

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The Cows by Dawn O’Porter

The Cows by Dawn O’Porter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I recived an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

I’ve followed Dawn O’Porter’s career for a while now, enjoying her social media presence and the documentaries she made several years ago on taboo topics such as mail order brides and polyamory. For this reason I was intrigued when I head the premise of this book, and thought that it couldn’t be more of a Dawn O’Porter topic to write about.

The shock value of this book, which was heavily picked up in the media and was all I’d really heard about before I sat down to read it, is that it follows Tara, a single mum in her mid-30s who is filmed (without her knowledge) masturbating on what she thinks is a deserted tube train late one Friday night. The book looks at how society reacts to such a bold display of feminine sexuality and how Tara’s life is effectively ruined because of a momentary lapse in judgement.

The book also follows two other women, who are in completely different situations but are equally facing judgement from society for not “following the herd” (which kind of explains the title of the book) or rather, not taking the traditional roles expected for women. Camilla is a rich blogger, happily single and adament she does not want children, whilst Stella is dealing with the loss of her Mother and identical twin sister to cancer and the knowledge that she has an 85% chance of contracting cancer in her lifetime unless she has her breasts and womb removed.

Once I started this book I found it very hard to put down. The three plots are each as gripping as each other and intertwine in a clever way. You do have to suspend your belief a bit as quite a bit of the action is somewhat far-fetched (I’m particularly thinking about the climax of Stella’s storyline here) but once you give yourself up to the madness it’s a bonkers and completely enjoyable thrill ride.

Dawn O’Porter can write women in a way not many people can. It’s clear she’s a people person in life and understands women of all kinds. She writes mothers and child-free women with equal believability and she really has a handle on the important issues facing women today. This book has an exciting fictional plot but underneath the craziness there’s a lot of truth which should give any reader a lot of food for thought.

Given the subject matter it’s not surprising that parts of this book are quite sexually explicit. I felt that this was approached in quite an empowering way for women. All of the sex in this book is on women’s terms, for the pleasure or benefit of the woman involved.

I couldn’t have asked for anything more in a piece of women’s fiction than I got in this book. It was a bit bonkers, really entertaining and thought-provoking.

The Cows is now available in paperback edition, click below to buy a copy.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cows-Dawn-OP…

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The One plus One by Jojo Moyes

The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jojo Moyes is without a doubt one of my favourite novelists of the moment. I first fell in love with her writing when reading The Last Letter from your Lover, a novel I only picked up in boredom when stuck at my mum’s house one rainy Sunday morning. I was so caught up in the story by the time evening fell I had to smuggle the book away from my mum’s so that I could finish it at home (which I did, that evening in bed, tears streaming down my face).

Then, last year I finally got around to reading the much critically acclaimed Me Before You and Jojo Moyes cemented her place as one of my favourite writers. She has a beautiful, simple way of writing about real life, and real love. Not prissy unrealistic romantic love that no normal person can recognise, but the solid, simple foundations that relationships are based on. The everyday occurrences and gestures that can make one person fall hopelessly for another person, turning life from grey to wonderful technicolour. The key to Jojo Moyes’ writing is that it is relatable whilst also being a fantastic escape.

The One Plus One is another breathtaking example of the brilliance of Jojo Moyes’ writing. Centred around single mum of two, Jess Thomas, the novel focuses on their chaotic, loving unconventional family of three (plus an enormous smelly dog), and their struggles to stay above the breadline and out of the way of the detestable bullies they live near on their estate. The main plot of the story focuses on their desperate attempts to fulfil their vast potentials as individuals against the seemingly insurmountable issues holding them back. Insurmountable that is until Ed Nicholls enters their lives and (unintentionally) takes them on an adventure that changes the way they all approach life, for good.

I loved The One Plus One. When I finished it, I spent a good while pondering who my favourite character was. It turned out to be a nigh on impossible task. From awkward Goth teenager Nicky, to adorable pre-teen maths whiz Tanzie, to clever but useless Ed, all of the characters in this book are inherently good people. This, again, is testament to Jojo Moyes’ writing, all of the characters have their own weaknesses and strengths. They all make mistakes, nobody is good 100% of the time, and the resulting characters walk right off the page into your head and nestle there long after you’ve finished the story.

If I did have to pick one character from The One Plus One as my favourite, it would be Jess. There’s something marvellous about her dedication to her children, her willingness to give up so much to give them all she can. She’s a true warrior, and her honesty and integrity even when she makes mistakes was so refreshing. I really found myself rooting for her to find happiness.

I would highly recommend this book to existing fans of Jojo Moyes, it’s another compelling read that will have you laughing and crying all the way to the last page. For anyone who hasn’t read Jojo Moyes’ work before, if you like romance, comedy and gritty realistic drama you will love The One Plus One.

This review first appeared on Nudge-books.com and Goodreads on 26th February 2014.

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The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke

The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mia and Katie Greene have a complex, turbulent relationship which, since the death of their mother, has only declined further. Katie, the sensible, strong, older sister is tired of looking after her younger sister; Mia is frustrated with always appearing to be the inferior, substandard Greene sister.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Mia announces she is leaving for a round-the-world trip with her best friend. Katie, though bemused by the suddenness of her sister’s actions, is relieved at the thought of having space away from their constant arguments- until she is woken in night by the police, informing her of Mia’s apparent suicide in Bali.

Gripped with grief, unable to believe that her strong-willed brave younger sister would ever commit suicide, and impelled by Mia’s travel journal, Katie sets off on a journey of her own mirroring Mia’s trip as closely as possible in the hope of finding out exactly what led to Mia’s death.

Lucy Clarke’s writing is beautifully poignant. She flawlessly encapsulates the complex emotions found within a sister relationship; the hate, love, jealousy, pride and admiration all rolled into one. The story is packed full of descriptions of the beautiful places the girls visit, however, the sister’s relationship remains the focal point of the book throughout. Katie and Mia’s voices are strong and unwavering and I didn’t find my attention straying from them for a single page.

I really loved the way Mia’s story was told through the voice of her travel journal. It made me feel a personal connection to her; something which is usually difficult to achieve with a character that dies before the story begins. Both Mia and Katie are deeply flawed characters; however, by the end of the book I felt an almost sisterly annoyance and love for each of them.

The sisters’ journeys intertwined beautifully, revealing secret after secret slowly and with maximum impact. Often when an author packs so many twists and turns into a novel I feel overwhelmed and the story loses its impact. This is not the case with The Sea Sisters. Each revelation was delivered with great effect, sending waves of emotions through me and making the book so gripping I kept having to tell myself to “just read one more chapter…”

I cannot recommend this book highly enough; the story and its characters will stay with me for a long time and I cannot wait to read more from Lucy Clarke in the future.

This review first appeared on Nudge-books.com and Goodreads on 3rd April 2013.

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The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke

The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mia and Katie Greene have a complex, turbulent relationship which, since the death of their mother, has only declined further. Katie, the sensible, strong, older sister is tired of looking after her younger sister; Mia is frustrated with always appearing to be the inferior, substandard Greene sister.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Mia announces she is leaving for a round-the-world trip with her best friend. Katie, though bemused by the suddenness of her sister’s actions, is relieved at the thought of having space away from their constant arguments- until she is woken in night by the police, informing her of Mia’s apparent suicide in Bali.

Gripped with grief, unable to believe that her strong-willed brave younger sister would ever commit suicide, and impelled by Mia’s travel journal, Katie sets off on a journey of her own mirroring Mia’s trip as closely as possible in the hope of finding out exactly what led to Mia’s death.

Lucy Clarke’s writing is beautifully poignant. She flawlessly encapsulates the complex emotions found within a sister relationship; the hate, love, jealousy, pride and admiration all rolled into one. The story is packed full of descriptions of the beautiful places the girls visit, however, the sister’s relationship remains the focal point of the book throughout. Katie and Mia’s voices are strong and unwavering and I didn’t find my attention straying from them for a single page.

I really loved the way Mia’s story was told through the voice of her travel journal. It made me feel a personal connection to her; something which is usually difficult to achieve with a character that dies before the story begins. Both Mia and Katie are deeply flawed characters; however, by the end of the book I felt an almost sisterly annoyance and love for each of them.

The sisters’ journeys intertwined beautifully, revealing secret after secret slowly and with maximum impact. Often when an author packs so many twists and turns into a novel I feel overwhelmed and the story loses its impact. This is not the case with The Sea Sisters. Each revelation was delivered with great effect, sending waves of emotions through me and making the book so gripping I kept having to tell myself to “just read one more chapter…”

I cannot recommend this book highly enough; the story and its characters will stay with me for a long time and I cannot wait to read more from Lucy Clarke in the future.

This review first appeared on Nudge-books.com and Goodreads on 3rd April 2013.

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