I’ve set myself the challenge to read and video review as many of the Richard & Judy Book Club Autumn 2017 picks as possible. Today I’m reviewing: Under A Pole Star by Stef Penny. Have you read it? What do you think?
Bit ill, bit puffy, bit late, but here is a video diary of all the books I’ve been sent over Autumn. Have you read any? Do you like the sound of any? What shall I read first? AND don’t miss your chance to win five of the books in the video…
I’ve set myself the challenge to read and video review as many of the Richard & Judy Book Club Autumn 2017 picks as possible. Today I’m reviewing: The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel. Have you read it? What do you think about the subject matter? And what do you think of the ONE BIG PROBLEM with this video?
So, I am mildly hungover in this video (can you tell?!), but here is my publication day review of Corrie Jackson’s latest Sophie Kent novel The Perfect Victim. Have you read it? Have you read the first? Would this make you want to read it?
Hi guys, here’s my publication day review of Susi Holliday’s The Deaths of December. How many Christmas things can you spot in it? I had to raid the loft. Would this make you want to read it? Have you read it? What do you think?
I met Daisy on Twitter, when I laughed so hard at one of her tweets a bit of the Crunchy Nut Cornflakes I was eating came out of my nose. Which seems like the perfect place to start discussing her book Meeting Your Match – Navigating The Minefield of Online Dating. We met online – see! The minefield could be my nose cavity! Ahem. Since the cereal snot incident I’ve come to know Daisy IRL, which is how I – a happily married woman who last dated when there was dial up (no, really) – found myself reading a book about Internet dating. I knew it’d be funny (see above) and I hoped I might learn how to sound less clueless or patronising when discussing dating with my single mates.
Daisy’s style is LOLsome: ‘We all like going to the movies, but do you go to watch Armenian films about genocide that have no subtitles and last 17 hours, or do you prefer films with so many exploding robots that the heroine faints right out of her bikini?’ And with her strong background in relationship, dating, and sex advice I knew Daisy would have some great tips. All the practical stuff is here: what to put in your profile, what not, which photos to use, which sites, how to initiate, chat, and close down. She walks you through first dates, via short term flings, and on to happy ever after. And sprinkled throughout are choice real life stories to commiserate with, laugh at, and inspire.
What I hadn’t bargained for is the compassion and care Daisy has put into this book. Speaking not like a fusty removed agony aunt, but like a loving older sister: checking you’re okay, that you’re doing things for the right reasons, that you’re happy. Deftly elevating Meeting Your Match far above a simple fun jokey guide. This book has heart, and not just in pictorial form on the cover. Having read it I am better equipped to empathise and support any single friends embarking on an online love adventure: I’ll give them Daisy’s book.
Meeting Your Match, Daisy Buchanan: wearing her heart on her sleeve 5/5
Full disclosure: I know Shelley personally. We have the kind of friendship that sprung from fireside chats in a writers’ retreat. Where your admiration for the person’s work, spreads to an admiration of them. I like Shelly. I love her book.
Vigilante has an amazing premise: a woman, a real woman, a mother, dresses up like a superhero and fights crime in her sleepy English town. Except this isn’t a cartoon caper of the likes of Kick Ass, this is a visceral, heartfelt act of courageousness by one woman who feels she is disappearing into the mundane mediocrity of her daily grind. Jenny Pepper is flesh and blood and very real. Not simply a midlife crisis, Jenny’s story is a battle cry against hers and the fate of many: the disappearing middle aged woman. She was once young, once lithe, once felt sexy, once full of dreams, and hopes and aspirations. Now she is invisible. Until she puts on her mask. Perversely, by covering up she becomes unavoidable – even if that means people laugh at her, or worse.
With a guttural scream Vigilante shakes what we’ve come to accept: that women reach a certain age and vanish into the background. It slashes through the sexualisation of young women. Tears at the social conditioning that tells us women are weak. Shreds the notion that only men are heroes. Fashion. Footwear. Roles. Sexuality. Society. Marketing. Motherhood. Expectations. Fear. Suppression. Sacrifice. Kick! Smack! Kerpow! Vigilante takes them all on. It shouts of the army of women that cook, feed, clean, that sacrifice their own bodies, their attractiveness, their dreams on the alter of their children. This is a story of love, and fear, and hope, and anger. The effortless fast-paced twists and turns of Jenny’s journey, ever closer to the dark corners of humanity, rip along like flayed fishnet stockings. I’m not playing dress up, I’m not playing at all: Vigilante is one of the great feminist novels of our age. It’s time to fight back. Ladies, don your masks.
Vigilante, Shelley Harris: Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No: it’s a great book! 5/5
The early arrival of my new nephew delayed this review of Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist. When I got the 5am call to baby-action I grabbed a handful of things enroute: spare pants, phone, wallet, house keys, and my copy of The Miniaturist. Come hell, high water, or a screaming baby I wasn’t going to miss out on what happened next. That’s how gripping this book is.
The Miniaturist is the story of eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman, who arrives to start her new life as wife of successful merchant trader Johannes Brandt, in Amsterdam 1686. Her husband is not at her grand new home to greet her. Instead Nella encounters her sharp-tongued sister-in-law Marin. Things are off to a shaky start. When Nella enlists the help of a mysterious miniaturist to furnish Johannes’ wedding gift of a cabinet-sized replica of their house, dangerous secrets start to surface.
Burton crams historical, visual and sensory detail into The Miniaturist. But far from leaden, her descriptions are as richly satisfying and as deftly executed as the sugar dusted treats that appear throughout the book. Seventeenth century Amsterdam is alive.
But its the pace and suspense of The Miniaturist which really elevates it. Taut and heart-stopping on occasion, Nella grabs you by the hand and runs with you through her life. A staggering story, full of emotional punch, this book has wonderfully strong, brave, and complex female characters at its heart.
Upon finishing I re-read the prologue, and it made me reconsider everything I’d just read afresh. A stupendous achievement. I don’t want to risk blurting out any spoilers, so I’ll just say: read this book, you won’t regret it.
The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton: A sugar coated star debut 5/5
Full disclosure: I know Claire personally. We’ve got pissed together in a staggering number of places. I’m a writer, I hang out with other writers, I knew it wouldn’t be long until I got round to reviewing a pal’s book. I’m not going to pull the wordy wool over your eyes and neglect to mention our relationship. That’s not cool. But I will let you know my policy for reading and reviewing my mate’s books (whether on a public forum or face to face): only say something if you liked it. Everyone’s different with different tastes, and even a bad book is hard to write. There’s no point needlessly hurting the feelings of your writing buddy if you don’t dig their work. However, if you love it, and you love them, it’s your duty to tell anyone who’ll listen how bloody brilliant it is. And McGowan’s book is bloody and brilliant.
The Dead Ground is the second in McGowan’s Paula McGuire series. Paula is a forensic psychologist in a current day Northern Ireland specialist team investigating missing persons. In The Dead Ground she is investigating a stolen baby and, in case with many dark twists and turns, soon the disappearance of a heavily pregnant woman…and more. Paula is also pregnant and she doesn’t know who the baby daddy is, and whether she wants to keep it. Let’s hear it for an interesting, multifaceted strong female lead. You know, like a real life woman.
Just like McGowan’s first book in the Paula McGuire series, The Lost, this one plunged me into a world I thought I was familiar with from the telly box news. Turns out I know nothing about post- troubles Northern Ireland. McGowan’s writing illuminates a unique culture, in which the tensions of the past permeate the present. It makes for a fascinating and complex backdrop to what is an incredibly gripping, and at times distressing, story. Be warned the prologue is particularly brutal. And to think I’ve slept in the same room as the mind that conjured that up.
The Dead Ground, Claire McGowan: a heart beating 5/5
This book is hot. In more ways than one. First it is everywhere. Walsh’s fourth novel has generated the kind of splash you imagine took place moments before the front cover image was snapped. Reviews are plastered throughout newspapers. It’s in all the bookshops. Everyone’s talking about it. Clearly a contender for a summer hit.
The story revolves around Jenn, whose holiday with her husband in Deià is disrupted by the arrival of her teen stepdaughter Emma, and her boyfriend Nathan. Nathan stirs something unexpected in Jenn. The second way in which this book is hot? It is good old-fashioned steamy, dripping with desire and the promise of sex. H.O.T.
The Lemon Grove is about many things: coming of age, and aging, youth, and middle age, rebellion, desire, experience and loyalty. It is about what we give up for those we love, and what we let go in ourselves. It’s refreshing and satisfying to read about a sexually active, sexually desirable middle-aged woman. More of that please. Women don’t cease being sexual at 45. At least I bloody hope they don’t.
Walsh’s skilful prose had me longing for a summer holiday of my own. You can feel the heat, hear the waves crashing on the beach and smell the lemons. Less than halfway in and I was craving a long tall drink to cool me down. Jenn’s story is intoxicating; the reader is pulled, as if with ease across the buoyant sea, toward an ending that clings to you like a wet swimsuit. This book quenches a thirst within.
The Lemon Grove, Helen Walsh – A refreshing glass of holiday lemonade 4/5