Book of the Week, fiction, reviews

Book of the Week: The Unsinkable Greta James

So, I had a really hard time picking today’s choice, because I loved Lessons in Chemistry *and* The Unsinkable Greta James and I could only pick one. But as Lessons in Chemistry is all over the place – including in paperback at the airport – I thought I’d write about Great today because you might not already have heard of it.

Greta James is an indie music star. She’s had magazine covers and sold out gigs and a few hit songs. So why is she on a cruise around Alaska with her dad weeks before she’s due to be launching the always tricky second album? Her parents were meant to be taking the trip together for their fortieth wedding anniversary, but her mum died suddenly three months before the cruise. And at her first gig after her mother’s death, Greta had an onstage meltdown that went viral. So she’s on the trip with her dad, attempting to ignore what’s going on with her career and trying to improve her relationship with her dad. Because her mum was the supportive one – who encouraged her to follow her dreams and her dad was… not. Will this trip bring them closer together or drive them further apart than ever? Also on board the ship is author Ben Wilder – who is there to deliver a lecture about his book about Jack London’s Call of the Wild, but is struggling with writing his follow up…

I really enjoyed this. I do like a book about a musician (see Daisy Jones and the Six) and I love stories about family relationships (see Guinevere St Clair and Young Pretenders most recently) and it’s only a couple of weeks since I wrote a post about mysteries set on ships, so we know that I like them too. And this does everything that I was hoping it would do. Greta is passionate about her music and determined to succeed and her fractious relationship with her dad, her blossoming relationship with Ben and her grief and anxiety about the death of her mum add up to a fascinating leading character. And it’s a minor thing, but I really liked how explicit the book was about the work and the practice that had gone into Greta’s success – she plays her guitar, you hear about the hours she puts in to playing and composing. I feel like you don’t always get to hear about that in books about people in the arts – it’s portrayed like a magical thing that comes easily to people. And maybe to some people it does, but I think to a lot of musicians and other artists of various kinds it actually comes after thousands of hours of work and the first song you write (or painting you make, or book you write) isn’t the one that’s the big success – it’s the 5th or sixth or tenth or thirtieth.

I hate the term women’s fiction, but that’s the best I have got for this. It has a romantic plot strand but it’s not primarily a romance. And it’s much easier to read than literary fiction (another label I hate) tends to be. I read it across two evenings once the actual physical copy arrived chez moi after I bought this as part of my sample reading spree the other week. I’m not sure where I saw it recommended. I thought it was from Goodreads, maybe in their Anticipated Summer reads article, but no. So it could have been twitter or the algorithm because I can’t find it in any of my book-ish emails. Anyway this is the first Jennifer E Smith book that I’ve read and I shall keep my eyes out for more because it was a really delight.

I bought mine in hardback because after reading the sample I thought it might be one I would want to lend (and I think the prices for the physical copy vs the ebook were not that far apart on the day I bought it) and I have already sent it out on loan! I can’t see that it’s in stock in any of the Foyles stores so it may be one that you do have to order rather than pickup in a store, but it’s also available in Kindle and Kobo. The paperback is out early next year….

Happy reading everyone

Authors I love, Book News, books, reviews

The Grand Duchess of Nowhere

This is where my review of Laurie Graham’s latest book The Grand Duchess of Nowhere would usually be – but in exciting news, I’ve actually reviewed it over on the wonderful Novelicious.  You can read my thoughts Ducky’s Adventures by clicking here.

And in case you’ve found your way over here after reading Novelicious and come to see what I write about – Hello!  It’s lovely to see you.  This blog started as a means of forcing me to take action against my burgeoning to-read pile and to try and control my book buying.  It hasn’t entirely worked.  You’ll find I post a weekly list of everything that I’ve read, a monthly update on the state of the pile and what I’ve bought and then other posts reviewing books that I’ve read, authors that I like and just general recommendations.

Please do go and read my review of The Grand Duchess – and then go and buy a copy.  And if you’ve already read (and I hope loved) Ducky’s story, then go and fill in a gap in your Laurie Graham back catalogue.  If you’re new to Ms Graham’s work, may I recommend Gone With the Windsors (my favourite) or At Sea or Mr Starlight.  But really they’re all good.

Chick lit, fiction, new releases, Uncategorized

Review: The Honeymoon Hotel

Today’s review is Hester Browne’s latest book The Honeymoon Hotel – which was out last week in the UK and I’m reviewing today because NetGalley was showing the US release date and I didn’t realise…

I’ll start by saying that Hester Browne creates the sort of characters and lives that I love.  I adored Melissa/Honey from the Little Lady Agency* and Evie from Vintage Girl (or Swept Off Her Feet depending on when you bought it) is a hoot.  Browne also creates worlds that I wish I could be a part of – a bit posh, filled with glamour and balls and parties but in a subtle, achievable way – you can believe that you too could be part of a world like that with a bit of luck and hard work (and better networking skills).

The Honeymoon Hotel is the story of Rosie, who at the start of the novel is unceremoniously left at the altar**, and her life as an events coordinator (mostly weddings) at a posh, glamorous, retro-in-a-Golden-Age-of-Hollywood way hotel in London.  She’s angling for a promotion, but her plans are thrown off track by the arrival of the owner’s son Joe to learn the business…

I *really* enjoyed The Honeymoon Hotel – once again, Browne has created a world that you believe in and characters that you buy into – I was rooting for Rosie all the way through and wanted it to turn out “right” for her.  I’m quite a shy person in real life and not good with crowds of strange people, but I found myself thinking “Oooh.  Hotel events planning, that sounds like so much fun” as I read about Rosie’s job at the hotel.  I loved the supporting characters as well, and although he gave me the pip at first, as I got to know him I really liked Joe.  I would liked to have find out more about his dad Lawrence (and what he was up to when he kept disappearing) and I wanted a little bit more comeuppance for one character who shall remain nameless in the interests of avoiding spoilers.

If you haven’t read any of Hester Browne’s books before, this might be an ideal place to start – a quirky and interesting set up, an engaging central character and a cast of characters that all seem perfectly real and plausible.  I could have read about them for twice as long – and could happily have coped with another chapter or an epilogue of what happened next.

My copy of The Honeymoon Hotel came from Netgalley in return for an honest review – although I’ll probably buy myself a copy of the paperback so that I can put it on an actual shelf next to her other books! You can buy Honeymoon Hotel from all the usual suspects like Foyles, Waterstones, on Kindle, if you’re in the US on Amazon.com or in a new twist, you can buy it through my page on My Independent Book Shop so a portion of the sale goes to an independent book shop near me – and where you can also buy other books that I’ve reviewed recently.  I’m hoping that Honeymoon Hotel will be widely available in the supermarkets as well and that it will do really well.

 

* It’s a measure of how much I love Hester Browne’s characters, voice and world that I’m still coming back despite my disappointment with the third Little Lady book.  Although I will say that the first book appeared at a time when I wanted a boyfriend who didn’t make me sleep in a tent for holidays or sneer at my theatre habits and in consequence I possibly over-identified and over-invested in the central relationship, and so the third book pushed me into a rant on the scale of certain elements of the True Blood fans at the end of that series.

**The regulars amongst you will notice that this is my second book in a week featuring a hotel with a worker who was jilted. You wait ages for a book about a hotel and then… etc