Category Archives: Book Club Reviews

Going Out In The Midday Sun by Kate. A. Hardy #bahlsenbookclub review

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Going Out In The Midday Sun is a really good read. It’s based around the lives of four Londoners in the late 90s, and their lives all interweave with each other. Here’s the blurb:

Four Londoners out of 8 million – through a series of coincidences their lives begin to intertwine. . . Set in the ‘halcyon’ days of the late nineties, heading towards the great millennium . . . Going out in the midday sun is part one of a trilogy spanning twenty years, in which the heroes are challenged with the everyday – love, babies, earning, family disputes – as well as a new life in France, a communal enterprise, astonishing amounts of bureaucracy, duck gizzard salad, and possibly the end of the world.

It’s a refreshing book that plays with this kind of storyline. Things happen where the characters follow their hearts, not their heads and you are just willing them to do it. There are the set stereotype of characters (the gay one, the unrequited love, the unlucky in love singletons, the people wondering where there life is going…) but that’s where the stereotype stops in my opinion. The characters are well written and you really get to know them. They become people you have a vested interest in, and at no point did I question what they were doing – as in they made choices which seemed natural for the character to do. The book is filled with moments humour, sadness and also of sexual tension, it’s written really well and is not cringey at all. I love all the nostalgia that the book brings back to me, and the way the lives of the characters weave around each other. It’s a true escapism book, and I was really drawn to the characters which made me want to keep reading. There was just something about this book which really appealed to me.

I am really pleased that there are more books to read, as this is the first book in a trilogy which spans over 20 years. I am really looking forward to seeing where these stories go. I would rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.

I was sent this book as part of the Bahlsen Book Club. All thoughts and Opinions are my own

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A Single Breath by Lucy Clarke Bahlsen Book Club Review

A Single Breath by Lucy Clarke is this month’s Bahlsen Book Club Review.

Here’s the Blurb:

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The deeper the water, the darker the secrets

There were so many times I thought about telling you the truth, Eva. What stopped me was always the same thing…

When Eva’s husband Jackson tragically drowns, she longs to meet his estranged family. The journey takes her to Jackson’s brother’s doorstep on a remote Tasmanian island. As strange details about her husband’s past begin to emerge, memories of the man she married start slipping through her fingers like sand, as everything she ever knew and loved about him is thrown into question. Now she’s no longer sure whether it was Jackson she fell in love with – or someone else entirely…

The truth is, it was all a lie . . .

This book gets right into the story and from there on the twists and turns of the plot unwind. At first it appears to be a simple story of a woman grieving at the loss of her husband in tragic circumstances, but the story unravels and it becomes so much more than that. Eva, so distraught at the loss of her husband, travels to Tasmania (where he was from, but where they had never visited together) to meet the people who knew and loved Jackson. But from there she starts to learn things about Jackson she never knew before. I really enjoyed this book, and the quick pace helped to keep things interesting. I loved the fact it was set in Tasmania and I loved the descriptions of the area. Eva is a likeable character, and you soon start to empahsise with her and her situation. The main characters are well developed and you get to know them as the story unfolds. It would have been very easy for this book to have been quite predictable, but Lucy has written this in a way that the twists and turns do take you by surprise. I found the story realistic and believable, even tho some aspects of the story were out of the ordinary. It made me think how in this day and age, it is so easy to meet people and perhaps never really know their past, their life before they met you. I thought it was a great idea for a book which was really well executed.

 

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I was sent a copy of A Single Breath as part of the Bahlsen Book Club. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

A Mother Dimension By Mink Elliott Review #bahlsenbookclub

So this month’s lovely book for the Bahlsen Book Club is A Mother Dimension by Mink Elliott. Mink has self-published this latest book after having other novels traditionally published. The book world is changing so much at the moment, and being to self-publish stories must be quite liberating! See the full chat with Mink over on the Bahlsen Blog.

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Here’s the blurb:

Kate O’Reilly, mother of three on the cusp of her 45th birthday, has got a thing about the past. Her husband, Seamus and long-standing best friend, Georgia, both call her chronic nostalgia an obsession – but Kate sees it as her safety harness, her private Prozac, her coping mechanism of choice. Because when being a wife and mother is weighing her down, making her feel trapped and overwhelming her, all Kate needs to do is take a quick trip down memory lane – to where the music was better, her social circle was wider, her self-esteem higher, her hair thicker and her waist much, much thinner – and voila! All is right with her world again. 

But when a freak electrical storm propels her back in time to 1996 for real, Kate can’t believe what’s happening. Soon, however, she’s elated, because this is the moment she’s been waiting for all these years – her chance to re-live those good old days and actually do all those things she’s been fantasizing about. 
Armed with little more than the optimism of youth, the benefit of hindsight, a taut-again tummy and just the one chin, Kate sets out to discover what might have happened if she’d only done things a little bit differently. And why some things really are best left in the past… 

I really enjoyed this book. This was a light hearted, fun read and I enjoyed reading it as much for the story as for the trip down memory lane! I am a big fan of everything 80s and have recently started to look back at the 90s just as fondly. I think there must be something about having a baby that does this to you, to look back to your youth, and the fun you used to have.

Kate, the main character in the book, is also looking back with her rose-tinted specs. A way to escape the monotony of the daily grind, Kate fantasizes about her past and what fun she had being a PR for a magazine company. A bolt of lightening sends her back to the 90s, and when the rose-tint has faded, Kate sees things in a totally different light. She needs to work out how to get back to the future, but also has an opportunity to right some wrongs, and make a few changes!

I loved the fantasy element to this book. I kept thinking what would I do or say if I had to go back in time to those days sans bebe. Although I am younger than Kate by 15 years, I could still empathize with her thoughts and feelings, and relate to her thinking about the past. I kept imagining what I would do or say if I met an ex-boyfriend, or if I knew what was coming up next in my life.

The story flows well, and I really enjoyed the other characters in the book too. I liked the element of mystery surrounding Kate’s parents and brother, and trying to work out what was going on there. I also loved all the 90s references to the Euro 96, and all the music, as I love it so much! I was really caught up in the moment with this book, I even wanted to break out my Oasis CDs and sign along to the Spice Girls!

I enjoyed the ending of the book, but a part of me felt a mind blown. I guess I feel the same about Back to The Future – if things have changed in the future, from what you know, is it really reality? There would be bits about your life you would not have a memory about, perhaps? Or the wrong memories? My mind boggles at the concept, and whilst this is not a criticism of the book, it just got me thinking!

Overall I felt this was a great read, and one I really enjoyed. The whole tone and way the book was written was refreshing and easy going. I will definitely read other books by Mink as I loved her writing style, easy going and most of all, funny! I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars

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I was sent an electronic version of this book as part of the #bahlsenbookclub. However all thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

The Judas Scar by Amanda Jennings – Britmums Book Club Review

The Judas Scar is the second novel by Amanda Jennings. I’d heard good things about this book and the plots really intrigued me.

Here’s the blurb:

Scars. We all carry them. Some are mere scratches. Others run deeper.

At a school rife with bullying, Will and his best friend Luke are involved in a horrific incident that results in Luke leaving.

Twenty-five years later their paths cross again and memories of Will’s painful childhood come flooding back to haunt him. His wife, Harmony, who is struggling after a miscarriage that has hit her hard, wishes Will would open up about his experiences. But while Will withdraws further, she finds herself drawn to the charismatic stranger from her husband s past, and soon all three are caught in a tangled web of guilt, desire, betrayal and revenge.

I was hooked on this book from the moment I picked it up. The tension and suspense is created right from the beginning, and the relationships of the characters are very quickly revealed to be not as they seem. The fallout of having a miscarriage, and Harmony’s emotions following this tragic event, are played out alongside events when the past comes back to haunt Will. It almost feels quite intimate to be acquainted with these characters at such a raw time, and it is well described.  I felt like I knew these characters, I was invested in them and I wanted to find out more about them, and their actions caused me to be almost shouting at my book at times!

The tension is further increased when Will meets someone from his past, and this brings back memories from his childhood, which centre around his public boarding school and the bullying he and his friend Luke was subjected to. His issues regarding the miscarriage and the events of the past seem interlinked in some way, in that Will doesn’t feel good enough to be a father. It is also clear he has his own complex feelings about his own father. It soon becomes apparent that this resurfacing of old memories is affecting his relationship. As he tries to battle with his own feelings regarding the past, and as secrets are revealed, he pushes Harmony away, and both characters seem to be on a path of self-destruction.

It is very hard to talk about this book without giving a lot away, so I am trying my best. The decisions both characters make, whilst both seemingly out of character, you can see as a reader why they are making these decisions, and just know things will not run smoothly. I found the character of Luke to be dark, moody and you just know that it isn’t a coincidence that he has come back into Will’s life. All the characters add something to the story, and extra layers of personality.

All the while you are wondering what happened in the past, and why, and the tension builds to a great crescendo. I wasn’t disappointed by the ‘big reveal’, and there is something of a twist within a twist, which I also thought was good – I didn’t see it coming. The book ties all these ends nicely together, and the ending of the book, whilst nothing too explosive, did surprise me a bit. I like the fact that everything within the book is believable – it doesn’t extend beyond the realms of reality, and that is refreshing and also makes the book believable, and raw. You can believe that things like this actually happened.

This book is dark, there are parts that are so well described it is almost painful to read on. It really does conjure up the image of what the public school life and bullying must have been like and also the heartache of a couple who are torn apart by the things that happen to them in life. I was so engrossed by this book, I could have happily read it all on one go, it was compulsive and I would say, addictive.

I would gladly give this book 4 out of 5 stars, in my opinion it is a must-read. I am eager now to read Amanda’s other book, Sworn Secret.

I was sent a copy of The Judas Scar as part of the Britmums Book Club. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

What I’ve Read…..April

This month has been a much better month for reading. I somehow managed to get my mojo back – probably as a way to escape the stresses of moving! So as usual I am linking with Muttering Mummy’s What I’ve Read Linky and here’s what I have read this month:

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The Book Thief

This book was reviewed by Muttering Mummy is last month’s round-up. I really liked the idea of the story – the story is narrated by death and tells the story of a girl Leisel who is living in Germany in World War 2. It is written in a different style to most books – the narration flits between the present, the past and what is going to happen – and it is told in quite a conversational style. The book is interesting as it charts the time in this young girls life, growing up as well as facing the issues that living in Nazi Germany brings – and I liked the fact it was based there – not a point of view you usually get with a World War 2 based book. The book is sad, it is not exactly a happy ending and I liked the realism described within the book. I would have loved to have known more about Death and his role; I think there is scope there for another story. The message I took from the book was – why are we doing these things to each other (War, Murder, etc) – what’s the point of it? I think you could ponder the meaning of the book for quite a while but that’s what I got out of it. The book was easy to read, and I wanted to know more – it kept my attention throughout, even though you can see where it is ending, even from the beginning!

The School Gates by Nicola May

I received this book as part of the #Bahlsenbookclub and I wrote a review here. This is not my normal kind of book, it is what you would class as a ‘chick lit’ book, but I enjoyed it nonetheless and I found it funny and I wanted to read more. I read it very quickly and I think it would be an ideal holiday read. The book is about a group of mums and dads who are all linked by their children attending the same school. Each character has an issue going on behind closed doors such as domestic violence, affairs, being a single parent etc. and so there is a lot going on in the book. The ending is particularly good and a great twist.

Divergent

This is a dystopian book set in a futuristic Chicago where people at 16 decide what ‘faction’ they want to live in. Each faction has different skills and roles in society in a bid to prevent further wars and unrest as what happened many years ago. Before they choose, every child has an aptitude test which reveals which faction they would be best suited to. Beatrice’s results are abnormal and she is classed as Divergent – but must keep this a secret. Beatrice has been brought up within the Abnegation faction, but what faction will she choose at the Choosing Ceremony? Her decision leads her to find out more about herself and who she really is. I found this book really interesting, it is similar to The Hunger Games but I felt I was drawn into this story more and I wanted to read more. Yes there are a few cheesy bits as it is classed as Young Adult and they always seem to need to add a romantic angle, but it wasn’t too bad! As with all these books, I am more interested in the wider world and what is happening there as well as the central story – I am keen to find out what lies outside the perimeter fence! This is the first book in a trilogy so I wonder if I will find out!

Above All Things

This book is a fictional novel about the relationship between George Mallory, the Mountaineer and his wife, Ruth. It is based on the events of the 1924 Everest Climb when George tried to get to the summit – something that had not been achieved before. I didn’t actually know the outcome of this book, although many people seemingly do. The book was filled with apprehension throughout; the book depicts this Everest climb as well as a day in the life of George’s wife Ruth – waiting for news of her husband. The waiting, the wondering is really well written and you are literally turning the page in anticipation. It’s easy to forget in those days that news took weeks or months to get back home. I found the chapters about Ruth’s day a bit boring but I guess that’s the point! I found the ending rather emotional. A good read.

This month, I would recommend Above All Things – let me know what you think!

Bahlsen Book Club Review: The School Gates by Nicola May

I am delighted to be a part of the Bahlsen Book Club. This is the first book for the club and I am very excited about it. As well as the book I was sent some yummy Bahlsen biscuits to aid my reading, and they were scrummy – I am obsessed with the Caramel ones!

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So, onto the book.

The School Gates by Nicola May

This is not my usual type of book – I admit I tend to not read what people describe as ‘chick lit’ books but I am also always keen to try new things and so I wasn’t put off by the fact this book is about a group of mums and dads who know each other through the school gates – dropping their children off at primary school mornings and afternoons. I think it is a scenario we all know or have experienced so we can all empathise!

There are the typical characters – the snobby mums, the posh mums, the mum with lots of children, the rich, the poor, the au pairs and the child minders and the gay dad. Yes, this can seem a bit stereotyped but to be honest I could relate to all the characters!

The plot of the book is really a lot of smaller stories intertwined – each mum or dad in the book has their own issues going on behind close doors, and the story follows them all through one school year. I liked the way the book was split into terms as well.

The blurb on the back explains the stories well:

At 3.10pm every weekday, parents gather at Featherstone Primary in Denbury to collect their children.

For a special few, the friendships forged at the school gates will see them through lives filled with drama, secrets and sorrows. When Yummy Mummy Alana reveals the identity of her love-child’s father, she doesn’t expect the consequences to be quite so extreme. Ex Czech au-pair Earth Mummy Dana finds happiness in her secret sideline, but really all she longs for is another child. Slummy Mummy Mo’s wife-beating husband leads her down a path she never thought possible, and Super Mummy Joan has to cope when life deals her a devastating blow. And what of Gay Daddy Gordon? Will he be able to juggle parenthood and cope with his broken heart at the same time?

Four very different mothers. One adorable dad. And the intertwining trials and tribulations that a year at the primary school gates brings

The book was easy to read and I enjoyed the slightly comic and friendly style it was written in. It was easy to get into the book and I was interested in the characters and what would happen to them.

The book is a bit cheesy at times, and a bit predictable but there were definitely parts that I didn’t expect – especially the ending!- and it reminded me of a TV programme – I think it would be good on the TV. The chapters do go from character to character sort of like in ‘scenes’ in a TV programme and I quite liked this style.

Some characters I would have liked to have known more about – such as Robbie (I was intrigued by his flat mate John as well) and the teacher Mr Chambers. I has expected there to be more about the school in it but it is more about the parents lives’ in between the school pick up times.

There are lots of themes within the book and I enjoyed the way it weaves in and out of the characters lives. I liked the way friendships were formed such as with Mo and Joan, Inga and Gordon and Dana and Alana. There were some really funny moments in the book – especially with Inga and Gordon.

My only criticisms (more like questions really!) are that I felt The domestic violence issues initially were quite hard hitting but I felt they were resolved in a quite convenient way. I also couldn’t understand what the ‘devastating blow’ was for Joan as described in the blurb – I couldn’t understand why she did what she did with Charlie or at the end of the book – both seem to go against her character (although I would love to know what happened next!) I also did not really ‘get’ the relationship between Alana and Stephen – after all this time, after a one night stand 6 years ago, why would Alana suddenly fall in love with him?

Apart from these questions, I enjoyed the book and the plots. I really enjoyed Dana’s story and I liked the fact that this wasn’t necessarily a happy ending, it was quite realistic. I liked the way I could empathise and relate to the characters. The book made me laugh and kept my attention throughout. Yes, there was a few convenient resolutions and a few cheesy moments but I liked the escapism the book gave me, and how easy it was to read. It was a great book to read over the Easter holidays.

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Britmums Book Club: Clare Balding: My Animals and Other Family Review

Clare Balding

My Animals and Other Family

This is a heartwarming book. If you’ve ever had a pet, you will know how important they are to you in your life. Clare writes about her life, mentioning the pets that she has had along the way. It is fair to say her life is filled with animals, and many funny acedotes and major events involved them. Her Dad being a top racehorse trainer, she mingles and mixes with the racing elite, completely oblivious to any relevance or importance people may have. She even used to meet the Queen and ride a pony given to her by the Queen!

I am have enjoyed this book. I love reading anecdotes and tales of other peoples lives. It is much more entertaining than reading about a persons life from A -Z – this way, the interesting and unusual spring out form the page, important moments are highlighted – the boring bits (like anyones life) are skipped – and that is fine by me. You find out a lot about Clare and her family thorugh her tales – she doesn’t need to spell it out for you.

It reminds me of my childhood – I started thinking what tales would I mention in such a book? Clare has such a wealth of tales, some funny, some sad, and her experiences are something we can all relate to, albeit in slightly different surroundings. When I was younger, I used to feel that my pet dog, Tansey, was the only friend I had, and I would talk to her about everything. I can see from this book that Clare also felt this way. It is amaxing how animals can support you, protect you, and be there for you like no-on else can.

I have never really understood horse racing, but always enjoyed the Grand National, and whilst the book is very much concentrated on a lot of horsey things, and horse racing, it was easy enough to pick up and understand. In fact I found it all very interesting.

It was a delight to read, and I was almost sad when the book finishes, as Clare is at University. The Epilogue covers briefly what happens next, but in a way I’d love to read another book about Clare’s career at the BBC especially. I don’t know how she would do that in the same style though.

I would thoroughly recommend this book, it was a really good read.

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Buddha in the Attic: Britmums Book Club Review

BUDDHA

Buddha in the Attic is a brilliant story of how Japanese Women were sent over to the USA as mail order brides for Japanese Men living and working in America. The story documents their journey from Japan to America, and what their life was like once they got there. It then covers the time leading up to the second world war, and how the Japanese were treated in America as the War went on.

I loved this book. I loved the way it was written, in the third person, a collective of people together telling their story. It pulled you into the story and made you want to know more, especially when there was only little tidbits of stories from all the women. Their hopes and dreams for the future, and their eventual disappointment at what they had come to, breaks your heart a little bit as you read.

The book is written in such as poetic, descriptive way, the words flow along the page, and it is a true delight to read. It is a very clever concept, and the author has done so well to weave all these stories into one voice, and write it in this collective way. I was very impressed with the structure and the form of the writing.

I find the ending haunting, mystical, and I enjoyed hearing things from the other perspective. I would have loved to have had the story continue to find out what happened next, but I believe that the author’s other book focuses on this more, and so I shall be reading it! I enjoyed the fact that this book ends in this way – it felt abrupt, incomplete, and you are expecting the story to continue a little, but on reflection, this is exactly how the Japanese must have felt, and how it must have looked to their neighbours – an abrupt end to their lives living in those towns.

This book is historical, biographical and above all a really interesting read. I would recommend you give this a read, especially as it is very easy to read and a quick read too.

I genuinely did not realise what happened to the Japanese in America during the war, and I was really surprised and shocked at their treatment. This book gave me a glimpse into a part of history I had not really considered before, and it was engrossing. You felt akin to these women, you felt their embarrassment, sadness, pain. It was such a good read and I finished it very quickly indeed.

I have written this review as part of the Britmums Book Club, and was lucky enough to be one of the first 100 to sign up to get the book sent to me.

Britmums Book Club book review: Honour by Elif Shafak

Britmums Book Club Review: Honour by Elif Shafak

I was lucky enough to be one of the first 100 People to sign up to this months BritMums book club and receive a free copy of the book. Please be aware that I do discuss the book in this review and there may be a few unintentional spoilers.

The book centres upon Esma, and her coming to terms with her brother’s actions where he has committed a murder. Through this the story of the family is told, from Turkey to England, covering several generations. Issues such as culture, religion, ethnicity, racism, discrimination, love and hate are all covered by the story.

I found this book easy to read and if I didn’t have an 8 week old to look after I would have read it very quickly indeed. I enjoyed the structure of the book and the way it concentrated on specific times and events in the lives of the characters, rather than one long story about their lives. It was a bit like a jigsaw puzzle putting the pieces together and I enjoyed the initial mystery of who had committed the murder and how it had happened. I liked the way the book leaves you to fill in some of the gaps.

The way the book focuses on Honour and what this means for each character was of interest to me. The culture clash of the two countries Turkey and England, and the way the three children in the story adapt to the english culture in such different ways was also interesting to read. I felt that through the generations whilst times changed, the sanctity of ‘honour’ in the family was constant and did not change. History repeated itself several times and the family did not seem to grow or adapt. It made me think about our own culture and what we may feel is ‘honour’.  Our society has grown and changed over the years and many things that were dishonourable or shameful in the past were now widely accepted, for example sex outside of marriage. It also made me think about my own family and what is considered acceptable, and how we deal with this as a family. I can’t imagine how you would feel you needed to commit such a violent act in order to preserve your Honour.

I found it interesting that the men in the story were the ones who did more to dishonour their families and yet their actions were accepted and not vilified; and yet Pembe’s innocent love affair caused so much ‘shame’ and eventually led to murder. The Uncle commented that ‘some men only have their honour’ and to some extent I can understand why these acts are committed. When you have nothing else to barter with, your reputation is something you hold dear.

As a mother it is interesting reading as it describes how Pembe did her best to raise her children well, and she doted upon her eldest son and yet he comitted such as awful crime. Do we as parents have some liability for our children’s actions? Should we encourage more openness and honesty? Every member of the Toprak family seemed to have their own secrets and it was this that prevented them from perhaps averting disaster.

I felt the ending was slightly rushed and I would have liked to have read more about Pembe after the murder and her life. I thought that Pembe may have taken on her twin sisters identity rather than just go back to Turkey. I also wanted her to meet with Elias again and felt frustrated that this did not happen. In the end I felt whilst Pembe lived out her life in Turkey, she was still a prisoner of sorts just like her son. She still did not get to achieve what she had wanted to. It seemed ironic that her daughter, with all the oppourtunities in England, seemed to have followed a similar path in that as a housewife, when she had dreams of becoming more.  However her family life appeared to be a much happier one, it still seemed bittersweet that for all her headstrong ideas as a young woman, she had not followed her dreams through to a reality.

The character of Iskender, as an older man, was a likeable one despite knowing he had committed such a crime. He appeared a confused teenager who was stuggling to fit in with two different cultures. The book never really discusses why he chose to act the way he did in detail; yes he did it to protect the family honour but why go to such extreme measures? I feel this is where the extremist element to the story with the Orator could have been developed more as I felt this part of the story shaped the way Iskender thought about his Mother and her actions. Whilst it is described what happens during the murder, we do not know what is said to Iskender in the days leading up to this.

Overall this book is extremely well written, with several really interesting characters. It was easy to read and even with my having to keep putting down and picking up again it was easy to follow. The story was gripping with an excellent plot twist. I would reccomend this book and would be keen to read more from the author.