#BookReview STILL LIFE by SARAH WINMAN #audiobook


ABOUT THE BOOK


By the bestselling, prize-winning author of When God was a Rabbit and Tin Man, Still Life is a beautiful, big-hearted, richly tapestried story of people brought together by love, war, art, flood… and the ghost of E.M. Forster.

We just need to know what the heart’s capable of, Evelyn.
And do you know what it’s capable of?
I do. Grace and fury.

It’s 1944 and in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as the Allied troops advance and bombs fall around them, two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening together.

Ulysses Temper is a young British solider and one-time globe-maker, Evelyn Skinner is a sexagenarian art historian and possible spy. She has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the ruins and relive her memories of the time she encountered EM Forster and had her heart stolen by an Italian maid in a particular Florentine room with a view.

These two unlikely people find kindred spirits in each other and Evelyn’s talk of truth and beauty plants a seed in Ulysses mind that will shape the trajectory of his life – and of those who love him – for the next four decades.

Moving from the Tuscan Hills, to the smog of the East End and the piazzas of Florence, Still Life is a sweeping, mischievous, richly-peopled novel about beauty, love, family and fate.


PUBLISHED BY FOURTH ESTATE


PURCHASE LINK


Amazon

Blackwell’s

MY REVIEW

I listened to the audio version of this book – exquisitely read by the author!! A must listen!!

Simply superb!!! The most wonderful story!! This was everything I love in a book! Endearing characters, amazing settings and historical backdrops! All blended to create a world you get sucked in to and you’re bereft when the book finishes! I want to be back in the East End. Back in Tuscany and Florence! And back with the most wonderful creation of characters that enchant you with their lives!

The start of the book is the meeting of a young English soldier in WW2 meeting with an elder art historian, and their connection is instantaneous. What follows is their lives over a number of years and how those war years stay strong in their minds. In both their lives their friends become family, and you are taken along for the ride through their private and professional lives, their loves and losses, their highs and lows…both in England and in Italy. They all endure so much throughout their lives but that sense of community and support never goes away and you really connect with the passion they all show – be it for art, their surroundings, or for one another.

It was all so spellbinding! I laughed ( a lot!), tears were shed and I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. Still can’t!! Glorious!!


★★★★★

#BookReview AND AWAY by BOB MORTIMER #Audiobook



ABOUT THE BOOK


Bob Mortimer’s life was trundling along happily until suddenly in 2015 he was diagnosed with a heart condition that required immediate surgery and forced him to cancel an upcoming tour. The episode unnerved him, but forced him to reflect on his life so far. This is the framework for his hilarious and moving memoir, And Away…

Although his childhood in Middlesbrough was normal on the surface, it was tinged by the loss of his dad, and his own various misadventures (now infamous from his appearances on Would I Lie to You?), from burning down the family home to starting a short-lived punk band called Dog Dirt. As an adult, he trained as a solicitor and moved to London. Though he was doing pretty well (the South London Press once crowned him ‘The Cockroach King’ after a successful verdict), a chance encounter in a pub in the 1980s with a young comedian going by the name Vic Reeves set his life on a different track. And now, six years on, the heart condition that once threatened his career has instead led to new success on BBC2’s Gone Fishing.

Warm, profound, and irrepressibly funny, And Away… is Bob’s full life story (with a few lies thrown in for good measure).


PUBLISHED BY GALLERY UK


PURCHASE LINK


Amazon

MY REVIEW


I listened to the audio version of this book.

How can you not love Bob Mortimer?! He’s one of those people who comes across as being a blooming nice bloke! And listening to him read his autobiography has been a wonderful delight!

Mixing the happier times with the sad, his life has been one of variety! He mixes the stories of the past in well alongside the time he finds himself in hospital about to undergo a heart bypass. From the shyness he suffered, to trying out a number of jobs along the way, to meeting up with Vic Reeves to set him on the path to TV fame, it was just fascinating to hear him looking back over his life and how it has all panned out!

Lots of laugh, and happy memories from his many TV shows, made for a very enjoyable listen!


★★★★★

#BookReview YOURS CHEERFULL by A.J.PEARCE



ABOUT THE BOOK


From the author of the “jaunty, heartbreaking winner” (People) and international bestseller Dear Mrs. Bird, a new charming and upliftingnovel set in London during World War II about a plucky aspiring journalist.

London, November 1941. Following the departure of the formidable Henrietta Bird from Woman’s Friend magazine, things are looking up for Emmeline Lake as she takes on the challenge of becoming a young wartime advice columnist. Her relationship with boyfriend Charles (now stationed back in the UK) is blossoming, while Emmy’s best friend Bunty, still reeling from the very worst of the Blitz, is bravely looking to the future. Together, the friends are determined to Make a Go of It.

When the Ministry of Information calls on Britain’s women’s magazines to help recruit desperately needed female workers to the war effort, Emmy is thrilled to be asked to step up and help. But when she and Bunty meet a young woman who shows them the very real challenges that women war workers face, Emmy must tackle a life-changing dilemma between doing her duty and standing by her friends.

Every bit as funny, heartwarming, and touching as Dear Mrs. BirdYours Cheerfully is a celebration of friendship—a testament to the strength of women and the importance of lifting each other up, even in the most challenging times.


PUBLISHED BY PICADOR


PURCHASE LINK


Amazon

MY REVIEW

I listened to the audio version of this book.

Having loved Dear Mrs Bird, I was so pleased that the characters would be back for another installment, and it hasn’t let me down! It’s one of those ‘nice’ books that are a pleasure to read. You enjoy the characters so much that they become like friends as you watch over their progress.

This book is set a few months after DMB, and life at the magazine during the war continues to throw up new issues and challenges for the staff. And with it being a magazine for women, the focus on the role of women during the war is top priority, so that sets Emmy off to look at new ways of incorporating the lives of women as she forges on with her journalist career.

There’s still a snobby attitude by some towards the ‘Friend’ magazine, and that only just makes those working there more determined to do the best for their readers. The advice column is still a major success and it is giving women a voice. And with the magazine asked to help get women to help out with the war effort, I loved seeing how creative Emmy and the others were in finding ways to show the impact that women can have in a positive way.

The research and attention to detail was top notch once more, and really bought home the issues facing women at the time – dealing with worrying about their loved ones, whilst trying to carry on as normal and raise their families not knowing what was round the corner. And proving the power of coming together to raise awareness and fighting for their rights. Some things never seem to change… unfortunately!

Looking forward to book three already…. if there is to be more!!

★★★★

#BookReview UNSETTLED GROUND by CLAIRE FULLER #Audiobook

ABOUT THE BOOK


What if the life you have always known is taken from you in an instant? What would you do to get it back?

Twins Jeanie and Julius have always been different from other people. At 51 years old, they still live with their mother, Dot, in rural isolation and poverty. Their rented cottage is simultaneously their armour against the world and their sanctuary. Inside its walls they make music, in its garden they grow (and sometimes kill) everything they need for sustenance.

But when Dot dies suddenly, threats to their livelihood start raining down. At risk of losing everything, Jeanie and her brother must fight to survive in an increasingly dangerous world as their mother’s secrets unfold, putting everything they thought they knew about their lives at stake.

This is a thrilling novel of resilience and hope, of love and survival, that explores with dazzling emotional power how the truths closest to us are often hardest to see.

PUBLISHED BY FIG TREE

MY REVIEW

I listened to the audio version of this book.
This author has such a wonderful way with the characters she creates! This isn’t a joyful book to lift the spirits, but it’s a story of the impact of family secrets on characters who have been shielded from the world for so long that when their world is shattered they don’t really know how to process what is happening.


Twins Jeanie and Julius are in their 50’s and still live at home with their mother. She’s protected them from the ‘real world’ so when she passes, the reality hits them hard. Their mother never accepted help from others, so they are determined to do things their own way despite a lack of money and lack of real awareness of how the world operates.
We hear more of the story from the viewpoint of Jeanie, who seems to have a fairly optimistic approach to what life throws her way and hates the fuss of people in the village offering their help. She has her gardening to help her escape and that is her distraction from the unfolding events of being evicted from their home.


You couldn’t help but feel for the twins – they’d always been looked on as odd by the locals, but to them they were living a ‘normal’ family life, helping their mother, pulling together and just getting on with things – never making a fuss. The more they begin to see the world for what it’s really like, and the more the secrets about the past begin to reveal themselves the more shocking the story becomes!


The slow pace really allows you to get under the skin of these characters and adds to the impact of the revelations as they are discovered. The realisations of being lied to, the consequences that those lies have made…. just devastating! A beautifully written book.


★★★★

#BookReview THE LAST BOOKSHOP IN LONDON by MADELINE MARTIN #AudioBook



ABOUT THE BOOK


Inspired by the true World War II history of the few bookshops to survive the Blitz, The Last Bookshop in London is a timeless story of wartime loss, love and the enduring power of literature.

August 1939: London prepares for war as Hitler’s forces sweep across Europe. Grace Bennett has always dreamed of moving to the city, but the bunkers and blackout curtains that she finds on her arrival were not what she expected. And she certainly never imagined she’d wind up working at Primrose Hill, a dusty old bookshop nestled in the heart of London.

Through blackouts and air raids as the Blitz intensifies, Grace discovers the power of storytelling to unite her community in ways she never dreamed—a force that triumphs over even the darkest nights of the war.


PUBLISHED BY HANOVER SQUARE PRESS



MY REVIEW


I listened to the audio version of this book – brilliantly read!

This was a really endearing and often emotional read, set in WW2, and showed that importance of escaping into books at such a torrid time for the inhabitants of London. The refuge of books and a bookshop became so important to everyone, not least those managing to work in them.

Grace is the centre of the story and she moves to London in 1939 with her friend, as they want a more exciting life! An unfortunate time to move as things turned out! She’s eager to work in a bookshop and her dream becomes reality when her landlady helps her get a temporary post at a nearby bookshop. The owner is very set in his ways and reluctant to have someone else help out, but she soon proves invaluable as she starts to tidy and rearrange the store to attract new customers.

I loved that she wasn’t really into books when she started working there, but the enthusiasm of the visiting George, helped start her on her book journey and soon she’s devouring books in numbers and able to recommend books to customers who are looking for an escape from life in London during the war.

Seeing life go on amidst the war was really well captured – how life would appear normal one minute, and then they’re all in shelters the next. How people adapted to the horrors of bombing raids and coming to terms with death and destruction around them just proved how resilient humans can be, no matter how heartbreaking life could prove to be.

It’s a book of hope and I found it really touching that the characters became family to one another and supported one another.


★★★

#BookReview EDIE RICHTER IS NOT ALONE by REBECCA HANDLER #Audiobook

ABOUT THE BOOK


Funny, acerbic Edie Richter is moving with her husband from San Francisco to Perth, Australia. She leaves behind a sister and mother still mourning the recent death of her father. Before the move, Edie and her husband were content, if socially awkward―given her disinclination for small talk.

In Perth, Edie finds herself in a remarkably isolated yet verdant corner of the world, but Edie has a secret: she committed an unthinkable act that she can barely admit to herself. In some ways, the landscape mirrors her own complicated inner life, and rather than escaping her past, Edie is increasingly forced to confront what she’s done. Everybody, from the wildlife to her new neighbors, is keen to engage, and Edie does her best to start fresh. But her relationship with her husband is fraying, and the beautiful memories of her father are heartbreaking, and impossible to stop. Something, in the end, has to give.

Written in clean spare prose that is nevertheless brimming with the richness and wry humor of the protagonist’s observations and idiosyncrasies, Edie Richter is Not Alone is Rebecca Handler’s debut novel. It is both deeply shocking and entirely quotidian: a story about a woman’s visceral confrontation with the fundamental meaning of humanity.

MY REVIEW

I listened to this on audiobook.

This is one of those quiet, unassuming books that you find you can’t stop thinking about once you’ve finished the last page. It’s the story of Edie Richter who is dealing with a father who has dementia, and the stresses and strains that places on her and her family – and the feelings when he’s not around anymore and the consequences of her actions that can never leave her.

Edie is a very quiet character – seemingly just getting on with what life throws her way, while never showing what’s on the inside. We get inside her head so see the quandry and dilemmas she faces and that really comes to the fore when her and her husband move from America to Australia, and a different way of life and being so far from home allow her thoughts to fester and the strain begins to take its’ toll.

It’s a really touching book, full of humorous little sides, alongside the more heartbreaking and deeper emotional points that the reality of humanity shows us. The little observations that Edie encounters are perfectly portrayed and that inner battle with herself is just haunting to watch, as she finds it easier to open up to a stranger than her own family as she still puts on that brave face to most of the world.

The relationship with dad and daughter was extremely touching, and having had relations with dementia, I found myself totally understandin the ‘playing along’ with scenarios to keep the peace and not upset the sufferer. The unpredictability of the illness would make life very precarious for the family and watching people deal with it differently also added a different dimension.

A short read that really packs a punch!


★★★★

#BookReview I AM DUST by LOUISE BEECH #Audiobook

ABOUT THE BOOK


The Dean Wilson Theatre is believed to be haunted by a long-dead actress, singing her last song, waiting for her final cue, looking for her killer…

Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years. But who will be brave enough to take on the role of ghostly goddess Esme Black, last played by Morgan Miller, who was murdered in her dressing room?

Theatre usher Chloe Dee is caught up in the spectacle. As the new actors arrive, including an unexpected face from her past, everything changes. Are the eerie sounds and sightings backstage real or just her imagination? Is someone playing games?

Is the role of Esme Black cursed? Could witchcraft be at the heart of the tragedy? And are dark deeds from Chloe’s past about to catch up with her?

Not all the drama takes place onstage. Sometimes murder, magic, obsession and the biggest of betrayals are real life. When you’re in the theatre shadows, you see everything.

And Chloe has been watching…

PUBLISHED BY ORENDA


MY REVIEW

I listened to the audio version of this book… wow!

Intoxicating
Atmospheric
Moving
Dramatic
Unforgettable
Spine Tingling
Triumphant!!

I think that pretty much sums up my thoughts on this book! I always love the stories that Louise creates, and this one just gets under your skin from the get go. With 2 timelines, the past and present, we are based at a theatre and following the story of Chloe who is working there as an usher. She’s always wanted to be an actress but this is the closest she has got to her dream! The show Dust is set to return to the theatre, 20 years after the opening, which went down in infamy due to the murder of the main character. She’s thought to haunt the theatre still….

In Chloe’s past, she and 2 friends mucked around with a ouija board and had some chilling encounters that have played a big part in how their lives panned out. As the past starts to reconnect with the present, Chloe is facing some haunting challenges ahead that makes her think she might be losing her mind.

The 2 timelines worked so well with each other!! Having the backdrop of the Theatre alongside the tragedy of Dust from 20 years ago, it really sets the scene for so many questions and wondering just what happened back then and seeing how messing about with the ouija board had such an impact and why Chloe is key to it all.

I couldn’t stop listening to this once I’d started! I found myself picturing the theatre, imagining the terror and confusion of the characters as things played out, and hearing the voices of the past whispering their truths…….. loved it!!!


★★★★★

#BookReview GOOD SAMARITANS by WILL CARVER

ABOUT THE BOOK


One crossed wire, three dead bodies and six bottles of bleach

Seth Beauman can’t sleep. He stays up late, calling strangers from his phonebook, hoping to make a connection, while his wife, Maeve, sleeps upstairs. A crossed wire finds a suicidal Hadley Serf on the phone to Seth, thinking she is talking to The Samaritans.
But a seemingly harmless, late-night hobby turns into something more for Seth and for Hadley, and soon their late-night talks are turning into day-time meet-ups. And then this dysfunctional love story turns into something altogether darker, when Seth brings Hadley home…
And someone is watching…
Dark, sexy, dangerous and wildly readable, Good Samaritans marks the scorching return of one of crime fiction’s most exceptional voices.


PUBLISHED BY ORENDA BOOKS

MY REVIEW

I listened to the audio version of this book.

If you are looking for a book to uplift you, fill your soul with cheer then this is NOT the book for you!! It is dark, moody and very, very bleak!! But if you’re after an absorbing story that leaves you shocked and chilled to the core! It explores characters who play on the insecurities of humans at their lowest point, with no remorse.

There is Ant who works for the Samaritans – looking for a way to get over the death of his close friend who had killed himself – and what better way than to listen to others who are just reaching out for someone to listen to them in their hour of need.

Then there is Seth, who seems bored with life and finds his only joy is to make random phone calls late at night saying he has nobody to talk to. His wife, Maeve, hears him downstairs and knows he speaks to strangers but says nothing to him that she knows about his secrets.

Hadley is a young woman who is struggling with life, so she reaches out to the samaritans – one night she talks to Seth though and instantly connects with him, so when she calls the samaritans again to talk to him, she gets Ant instead and he becomes intrigued by this Ant person she talks about as nobody who works there has that name.

And then there’s Detective Pace who is investigating some unexplained murders – brutal crimes that shock those who discover the bodies – and there are just no links or leads forthcoming.

What follows is a messed up, twisted exploration of human interaction. There is an awful lot of graphic sex scenes which I did find a little distracting and unnecessary, when there’s far more twisted goings on at work in the minds of some of these characters!!

I read this series back to front and this was my least favourite of the Pace books, but still a chilling and explosive start to a very twisted series!!

★★★★

#BookReview NOTHING IMPORTANT HAPPENED TODAY by WILL CARVER #AudioBook

ABOUT THE BOOK


When strangers take part in a series of group suicides, everything suggests that a cult is to blame. How do you stop a cult when nobody knows they are a member?

Nine suicides
One Cult
No leader

Nine people arrive one night on Chelsea Bridge. They’ve never met. But at the same time, they run, and leap to their deaths. Each of them received a letter in the post that morning, a pre-written suicide note, and a page containing only four words: Nothing important happened today.

That is how they knew they had been chosen to become a part of the People Of Choice: A mysterious suicide cult whose members have no knowledge of one another.

Thirty-two people on that train witness the event. Two of them will be next. By the morning, People Of Choice are appearing around the globe; it becomes a movement. A social media page that has lain dormant for four years suddenly has thousands of followers. The police are under pressure to find a link between the cult members, to locate a leader that does not seem to exist.

How do you stop a cult when nobody knows they are a member?

A shocking, mesmerisingly original and pitch-black thriller, Nothing Important Happened Today confirms Will Carver as one of the most extraordinary, exciting authors in crime fiction.

PUBLISHED BY ORENDA BOOKS

MY REVIEW

I listened to the audio version of this book.

Holy crap!! This was bloody brilliant! Yes it’s very dark, deals with an extremely sensitive topic (suicides), and is properly twisted BUT once you are under the spell of the writing you’ll find yourself absolutely chilled and spellbound and just amazed at how well the story is constructed and executed!!

It’s a book like no other I’ve read, especially in the way it unfolds. It starts with the mass suicide of 9 people at a bridge in London, witnessed by unfortunate commuters on a train passing by. What follows is a chain of events that leads to more suicides in seemingly random fashion, bringing together total strangers and leads those investigating the deaths scratching their heads trying to make any sense of it all.

The author does a brilliant job of giving you little flashes into the lives of those brought together through ‘The Chosen Ones’ – they receive a letter in the post, carry on with their day as normal and then all come together at various times and locations to end it all. But what drives them to take the word of a letter as gospel? And who is pulling the strings behind it all to make it happen?

It explores how cults survive in the world and how they choose their members wisely. We see personal stories of people struggling inwardly, believing that they’re ‘nobody’ and not making an impact on the world around them – easier enough to do nowadays in this social media obsessed world where we all filter out the negative and only portray the positive. Where the badly behaved are indulged, the lack of parenting skills are exploited, someone else is always to blame, the reality of life is airbrushed to within an inch of its’ life – the world we live in is laid bare in this book and it was stunning to see it so brazenly ripped apart!

As Detective Pace becomes more and more involved with trying to understand these deaths, we are able to see his life behind the image he portrays, and the darkness that follows him around explored.

I was totally transfixed by this story. It also looks at famous real life killer and how they got away with their crimes for so long, or what drove them to it and this added an even darker undertone to the story. What is it that turns people so evil or so negative?

This was a chilling, perceptive and exceptional story!

★★★★★

#BookReview THE HAPPY MEDIUM by ANNMARIE O’CONNOR #Audiobook


ABOUT THE BOOK


The speed of modern culture combined with the hyper-connectivity of technology has shifted our perspective from good enough to never enough. We are now primed to expect more, to aspire to better, and to want nothing less than the best.

The reality? It s making us miserable.

So if you d like to swap the weight of having it all for having more with less, then get ready: it s time to discover your happy medium.

This isn t a mantra of mediocrity. Rather, it s about finding balance in a full-throttle culture.

Offering a paradigm-shifting manifesto for Generation Burn-out, The Happy Medium will help you gain perspective and get rid of unsustainable expectations of what constitutes a life well lived.

You ll discover what you really need so you can get more of what you actually want, and begin to define your happiness on your own terms.


MY REVIEW

I listened to the audioversion of this book.

I found this to be a really enjoyable listen, full of lots of tips and hints to lighten the load on ourselves on a daily basis! It’s so easy to be bogged down in all that we don’t have, or what we’re not doing, instead of concentrating on what we do have and what we have achieved, and in this book the author does a great job of making you feel like you’re not alone in feeling so overwhelmed by all that life throws your way and it’s all about finding balance and perspective.

A lot of the hints seem to focus around social media and the internet! We are constantly comparing ourselves to others and there’s no escape from it with 24/7 internet, so taking time away from being online, posting less and stopping the notifications are helpful ways to break us from that almost incessant need to ‘check in’ and check others out!

She includes different exercises to try to help change your routine and outlook on life which I found quite helpful, as well as lots of little tips to make you see things a little differently instead of always feeling ‘less than’ or that you’re not doing enough.

Happiness in an inside job and this book helps you realise that no matter how much you chase that elusive feeling of perfection and ‘having it all’, it won’t happen until you are thankful for what you have.

★★★