Tag Archives: Book Club

Secrets of The River by Jess McGlynn Book Review

Secrets of The River is the debut novel of blogger Jess McGlynn. Jess very kindly sent me an ebook version of her book in order for me to undertake a review.

  

Here’s the Blurb:

Some secrets simply can’t remain hidden… 

When Isabelle moves to a sleepy riverside village in France she thinks she is being given a second chance. 
Keen to leave behind the secrets of her past, she throws herself into village life where she meets cute American journalist Ed, rugged vineyard worker Matteo, and the dark and mysterious Hugo. 
Life should be good, but Isabelle’s arrival acts as a catalyst in the village and she soon discovers she isn’t the only one trying to escape her past and that sometimes there are things which simply can’t remain hidden. 
Isabelle must face her mistakes and rediscover herself in this wonderful romance set against an idyllic backdrop.

I really enjoyed this book. Set in France, it has a very relaxed, holiday feel to it and if you have ever been to France before then you will be able to picture the kind of village that Secrets of The River is set in. It’s the sort of place I’d just love to pack up my things and go and live, far away from the city. We meet Isabelle, just arriving in France after leaving the UK in tragic circumstances. Isabelle is hiding a secret surrounding these events and is trying to move on with her life. She goes to stay with her Sister and her family, but soon realises that things are not all as they seem within the village. 

Many people in the village have secrets or have run from their own past. She meets various characters of the village, such as Matteo, who works for Eric her brother in law, Rose, a young student and American Ed who is in France to write a historical article (or is he?) and Hugo, a tall, brooding man who is friends with Eric, her brother in law and whom Isabelle instantly has a connection with. One could say that the characters can at times feel a little stereotypical but I find you can relate to these characters given the situations they are in and also you warm to them pretty quickly. Characters like Hugo made me want to find out more about him and also what he was hiding. The way the characters and their stories interlink and run parallel make this story very readable and also interesting, you are keen to find out more and try and piece the mysteries together. Coupled with this is the romantic themes that run through the novel, a will they/won’t they which you hope will be positive! The story is told from various points of view, mainly from Isabelle but the dialogue can switch to another’s point of view half way through the page. This can get slightly confusing at times but generally I didn’t find this an issue. 

The story moves along at a relaxed pace but things do quicken up towards the end. Secrets are revealed and mysteries are solved. The nice thing about this book is that it had some twists that were not easily identifiable and  keep you guessing right till the end. The ending was lovely, just what I hoped it would be and put a smile on my face – what more could you want! I hope this isn’t the last we have seen of these characters, and I look forward to reading more from Jess in the future. 

I rated Secrets of the River 4 out of 5 stars.

Secrets of the River by Jess McGlynn is published by Jess McGlynn and is out now. 

My Week on Wednesday. On Friday. Ahem

 

My we

Well, this week seems to have flown past. I also can barely remember what I have done this week! As you may have realised, today is Friday, not Wednesday. Everything has taken twice as long to do this week for some reason (mainly Bubs related – see below!)

Me

I have started a new job this month, well, it’s a secondment but its in a role I haven’t done before. I am quite excited by this, there are a lot of changes happening at the moment and it’s been good to get involved in something new, and to challenge my brain a bit.

My sister has moved in with us as a temporary measure.  She has moved from London for various reasons, and I am glad I could help her out with my spare room. It is nice to have her around, actually. Having someone else in the house though is a big change and trying to get used to her, and all her stuff, is a little trying at times! It’s been a first good week though, and I am looking forward to having a few girly nights in with her (and hopefully a few nights out!). oh, and hopefully she will babysit for me too!

I am still going strong with my weight watchers, and whilst I have lost weight this week, it is still only a small loss (half a pound). I don’t mind as long as the numbers don’t go up, but I really would like to see a few more knocked off the scales soonish! I haven’t started any activity yet but it is high on my list of things to get sorted as soon as possible. I need to move!

Books

I have read a great book this week, We Were Liars. It is a book about a family, and the main narrator of the book is Cady, who is one of the grandchildren, whom everyone calls the Liars. After an accident occurs, Cady tries to put the pieces together as to what happened to her in Summer Fifteen. A great read and one that kept me thinking and wondering until the end! I feel like I need to read it again now though!

I also finished reading The Stolen Girl – and I have written a review here. I really enjoyed this book, another one with tension and wondering what has happened until the end!

Motherhood

Bubs is amazing me every day with her words. She is using two word sentences and it seems like new words are added to her vocabulary on a daily basis. With new words, and new learning, comes new frustrations, and new challenges for us.

This week, it has all been about naps. Not napping, or napping and then not wanting to sleep in the evening. We had two days with no naps, and then 5pm bedtimes. We have had days with two hour naps, and then 9pm bedtimes. I feel completely tired, and knackered. I don’t get any time in the evening to blog, or to do anything I want to really.

One good thing, is that the last few days she has started to eat better, we have had a few weeks now with her being ultra fussy with food. Yesterday she just picked up her spoon and ate all her dinner! She has had a good day today with food aswell,

Tonight, I am lucky. She has gone to sleep before 8.30pm – so we’re making progress. I am just sticking to the routine, being consistent, not bringing her downstairs at all, and it seems to be working. Hence why I can write my wednesday post on a friday night!

Tea

I have some lovely Pukka Tea to try and review on the blog soon, and I also have another tea-related drink coming soon. Watch this space!

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.

 

Guilty Pleasure: Books

My Guilty Pleasure would be my books.

To escape into a book, to shut off from the world for a while is bliss. I have always loved delving into a book but now I’ve had a baby time is precious and grabbing a book is definitely a guilty pleasure indeed. Washing up, laundry all get left for a while. I think you need to escape every now and then. You need to be able to switch off. Reading a book does that for me.

I have been trying to read all of the BBC list of Top 100 Books for about 2 years. I am slowly getting there and I plan to write a review for each one. I have read some interesting books I’d never have thought to read through going through this list. One being Life of Pi. I just finished Pillars of The Earth which I would also recommend.

I joined the Britmums Book Club and that is also great. Reading and talking to others about books is great indeed. My favourite book so far is the current one A Buddha In The Attic.

I also used to follow Dawn O’Porters twitter book club Cold Water Books and I do still try to but keep missing it. Best book I’ve read through this club is Let’s Talk About Kevin.

So books are my guilty pleasure. They are a great love of mine and I’ll always find time for them.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Ancient Light By John Banville – Britmums Book Club

This is a book review as part of the Britmums Book Club. I was lucky to be one of the first 100 to be sent a free book as part of the book club, in order to review this month’s book. I have tried to keep this review spoiler free but there may be a few things which have slipped my eye, so beware! This month’s book was:

Ancient Light, By John Banville

ANCIENTLIGHT

Now, I didn’t like this book when I first started to read it: It felt like a stream of consciousness, a rambling tale with no direction. However in the name of reviewing this book as part of the Britmums Book Club, I persevered. And I am glad I did.

The blurb states that this book is about an affair between a fifteen year old boy Alex Cleave, and the 35-year-old Mrs Gray, who happens to also be Alex’s best friend’s Mum. The tale is written from the perspective of the older Alex, 50 years on. Alex is still trying to come to terms with the death of his daughter 10 years ago.

The book is essentially the thoughts, words, memories of Alex in this specific time frame when he is writing his account of the affair. John Banville as been said to write the truth, and I can understand this now. He writes as Alex would think, would write, he goes off on tangents like we all do. He weaves within this, a tale which on the outset looks like  scandalous tale of an affair between a boy and a married woman, but what you actually get is Alex trying to make sense of his life, understand the women who have played big roles in his life. As an actor, Alex seemingly looks at things as if they were an ongoing play or saga, with him the starring role. I feel he thinks he can never out d the greatest acting of his career – that of when he was 15 years old. He seems to have been acting ever since, trying to figure himself out, acting as other people so he hasn’t had to delve too deep. What we have to remember here is that essentially this affair was an abuse, of a child by an adult. Whether Alex realises this or not, it has had a profound effect on him for the rest of his life.

Initially, Alex sounds very narcissistic, selfish and self centered. The book can be hard to read at times especially when you go off on a tangent, I kept reading but not reading the words, and having to back track, especially at the beginning.  Initially I think Alex sets off to write this book to show off about his past, this scandal, but in the end he starts to realise things about himself, and his life, and by the end of the tale I think Alex sounds more human, and definitely more weathered, and almost broken, as a person. I think essentially Alex feels lost, his daughter has died, he has no-one to look after him in old age, or so he feels. I think Mrs Grey was a mother figure to him, and he says this himself. He seems to have connections with women and then they are lost, gone, and forgotten.  His wife Lydia plays an extremely small part in the story, and it is as if the past has taken over Alex’s mind. However it is Lydia who is the constant, who is always there for him, despite his faults, which in the past seem to have been quite a few.

What I liked about this book, was that there was no happy ending, and only a small effort to tie up loose ends. Like life, we don’t know all the answers. I would have liked to have read more about his daughter and what happened to her but that’s the point – no-one knows. No-one will know. Just like in life, some things remain unanswered.

I found the parts Alex ‘talks’ about his latest film role, and the co-star, Dawn Devonport, a bit odd at first, but I can see here that Alex is comparing Dawn to his daughter, and is trying to help her, like he did is daughter (or perhaps like he should have done to his daughter). There are mirrors to his past in his present, and I think Dawn is a mixture of Mrs Grey/Cass to him. I also wonder about Cass as a child and the mental health issues she clearly had from a very young age. Why was this? One could question whether Alex may have had something to do with this, perhaps – this is left open ended, for the reader to make their own minds up about. Her suicide is also dramatic, and the facts surrounding her death sound unexplained. I feel reading this book Alex feels slighted by this act of his daughter, perhaps as if she did it to punish him in some way, maybe? Or perhaps because she did something that overshadowed him, perhaps.

I found it interesting how Banville uses Alex’s memory, and what he remembers of the past, and whether this was a true account of the past, interesting. The issues with the weather and the seasons, for example, could be imagery of Alex’s feelings regarding that moment in time – April – Spring – the start, the beginning of something exciting, Summer – the heat, the passion of an affair, Autumn, the slow ending as the warmth ends, and winter, cold, harsh, depressing. I think it is true, we all look back and remember things differently. One issue I still have though is that I do not believe how Mrs Grey and Alex met, and this is never really explained, and without knowing this, it is rather hard to believe it all ever happened as he says it does. Maybe that is the point as well.

By the end, I think Alex’s memory has been shown not to be accurate, which in turn displaces his confidence, and he starts to question himself more as a person. Finding out the truth about Mrs Grey, and hearing events spoken from another point of view, only adds to his melancholy.

By the end of the book, we know more about Alex, and his past, but in a way, we don’t learn much more either. However I think the journey that Alex goes on through this, is the important aspect. He is coming to terms with his age, his life, the events that have happened to him, and those around him. This is a book about one man’s journey to realise things about himself, and we are just there for the ride. But in the end, I enjoyed it, and it made me think about things such as the past, memories, and what the past means for our future.

As Banville writes, ‘everywhere we look, everywhere, we are looking into the past’ – that ancient light that takes years to reach us – that is the point of the book, I think. The past is always with us.

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.