Book of the Week, fiction, The pile

Book of the Week: Double trouble special

Oh gosh.  I had such trouble picking this.  It came down to two choices – the latest Dandy Gilver book, which I devoured Sunday-into-Monday last week or  Jojo Moyes Me Before You, which I was *sure* I had read, and then realised that I hadn’t and really ought to get in there quick before the sequel arrives on Thursday.  But, if I make Me Before You this week’s BotW, then what happens if After You is amazing.  But then what happens if After You isn’t awesome – and I haven’t said my piece on Me Before You.  Basically, this boils down to a lesson in why I shouldn’t get behind with books.  Which is what this whole blog is about.  And you know I’ve written this whole opening paragraph without actually having decided – the post title just says Book of the Week and I’m still dithering.





Dang it. Double-header special it is.

So, lets start with Me Before You.  I’m sure you’ve all read it already (as I said, I was convinced that I had too), but in case you’ve missed it, it tells the story of Lou, who loses her job at a cafe and finds a new one, working for Will Traynor – whose life was changed forever in a motorbike accident.  If you haven’t read it and think I should say more about the plot, I’m sorry, but I don’t want to give too much away.  But it’s funny and romantic and it had me surreptitiously crying in public.  It could have been a very depressing book – there are some really serious issues in here and I was seriously worried that the ending was going to make me really miserable – but it’s not.  A lot of research has clearly been done and it wears it very lightly.  Will is clearly one individual, in a specific situation, who is making a certain choice – but there will be people out there who don’t like the way that this unfolds.*

On to Dandy Gilver and the Unpleasantness in the Ballroom, which is the 10th in the interwar-set detective agency series and finds Dandy in the ballrooms of Glasgow investigating threats made against a dancer.  I’ve read just over half of this series and this is as good as any of them.  I love the dynamic between Alec and Dandy (although as I’ve not read a couple of the early books so I think I’ve missed some bits there) and the dance hall world of Glasgow is compelling.  And despite the pretty covers, the plots are often quite dark and there’s a (relatively) high body count.  They’re smart and different and don’t rely on murder mystery cliches, but without going for lots of sexual violence.

So there you go – two books of the week this week, a lot of dithering and another lesson in why a big book backlog isn’t good!

* And I wish there could have been a magic fix ending, but that’s not how real life works.

Book of the Week, historical, literary fiction

Review: Letters to the Lost

Another bonus review on the blog today – Iona Grey’s Letters to the Lost.  This was my Curtis Brown Book Group book for March – and it would have been my book of the week back when I read it – except that it was a month from it’s release at the time, and I hate reading reviews of books and then not being able to buy them *rightnow*.  So here we are, the book comes out today and I can tell you about it.

Iona Grey's Letters to the lost
My copy was an advance copy – so my cover is different to the “proper” one

In modern day London, Jess breaks into an empty house to hide after running away from her violent boyfriend.  The next morning, a mysterious letter arrives at the house, and after opening it, Jess is drawn into the story of two lovers in 1942 – Stella and Dan, who is a US airman.  And in keeping with my no spoilers policy*, that’s about all I’m going to tell you about the plot.

I’m not usually one for a weepy – and you know from very early on that there are going to be tears involved in this – but I absolutely loved this book.  The characters felt real, the places felt real and the crying was definitely very real.  I had very definite views about what I wanted to happen to some of the characters (which didn’t always come true) and wanted it to be longer – even though it’s already really quite long.

So if you like timeslips, weepies, World War 2 set epic romances and non sappy saga-y type books, this may be for you.  It’d make a great holiday read – and if you’re a “normal” reader (which apparently I’m not, the speed I go through stuff) it’d probably last you a few days at the beach!

As I said, I got my copy in advance because I’m lucky enough to be in Curtis Brown’s Book group, but you can get your copy from Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles and for a bargain £3.99 (at time of writing) on Kindle.

* A policy which I’m increasingly realising means that I can’t say a lot of things that I really want to about books, but which stops me from being that person I hate, who ruins plots and shocks and reveals and spoils people’s enjoyment of books, so it stays!

Book of the Week, books, Chick lit, new releases, reviews

Book of the Week: The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes

What to say about this.  Really I should have been reading between Christmas and New Year – but as it had potential to be a weepy, I thought mixing it with nightshifts was a bad idea.  I had a meltdown over a relationship break-up at the start of a book during some nightshifts, so I thought I ought to avoid a book about a woman dying of cancer!  So, well rested and as emotionally stable as I ever get (that is to say, prone to tears when sad things happen or when people die in documentaries, even when I know it’s coming) I started in on this on commute to work.  And it nearly had me crying on the train not once, not twice, but three times.  On three separate train journeys.

Now I know what you’re saying: “Verity, why didn’t you stop reading the damn book on the train?” And the simple answer is that I couldn’t.  I had to know what happened next – how it all worked out for Rabbit and her family – and as I was on late shifts, the train was the only place where I was going to get a chance to do that.  But I did learn something – by the third train journey I’d scaled back the eyeliner and switched to waterproof mascara!

To go back to the beginning – The Plot.  Rabbit Hayes is dying.  She has cancer – it’s terminal – and the end is rushing towards her faster than anyone wants.  What will happen to her daughter Juliet? And to the rest of her tight-knit family?  But even though her mum and dad are still searching for a miracle, the reader always knows what’s going to happen to Rabbit.

Now I know that makes the book sound like a real downer – and like I said, I was in tears in places – but here’s the thing.  It’s not.  It’s funny and it’s rude and, most importantly, it’s life-affirming.  By the time it’s over, Rabbit may be gone – but you know that it’s ok and it’s going to be ok for everyone else too.  She was the glue that held her family together, but she’s helped them find a way to make it work without her.  And I don’t think that’s a spoiler.  You might cry for Rabbit – and be sad that it ended this way for her – but you’ll come away better for having known her.

I don’t usually do weepies.  The Boy is still borderline grumpy with me about the 2am crying fit that ensued at the end of The Fault in Our Stars after I insisted on staying up to read it to the end (Me: “I’ll have horrible dreams if I leave them like this” Him: “I don’t think reading til the end will make your dreams any more cheerful”).  There are a few books that I’ve studiously avoided reading because I know that they’re sad – and although I’ll read pretty much anything, I’d rather twiddle my thumbs than read anything from the “Tragic Lives” section of the bookshop. But this had such good reviews – and people whose books I love had raved about it – so I took the plunge, and I’m so glad I did.  Perhaps there are a few more books out there that I’ve been avoiding that I should be getting involved with. But maybe not on the train!

You can buy The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes everywhere.  It’s in Richard and Judy’s latest Book Club picks, so it’s in the Buy 1 get 1 for £1 promotion in W H Smith (or at least it was on Saturday), I’m expecting it to be all over the supermarkets and the high street book shops, but if you can’t wait or can’t be bothered to leave the house, you can buy it from Foyles or Waterstones or Amazon or Kindle or Kobo or my page on My Independent Bookshop (which gives money to my local Indie).

books, Chick lit, new releases, reviews, romance

Review: Unfinished Symphony of You and Me

This post was Not In My Plan for this week.  My carefully constructed plan of what to post when, in a nice pattern, on a regular schedule, constructed (and written) around my current batch of nightshifts.  Then I started reading Unfinished Symphony of You and Me on my dinner break at 3.45am on Wednesday morning.  And I’ve just finished it (it’s Saturday afternoon at the moment, but it’ll be Sunday when this publishes, because I can’t let go of the plan so much I post twice on the same day!) and it was too good for me to just add it to the books read list this week and say how much I’d enjoyed it.

I really loved this. I laughed, I cried, I couldn’t wait to find out what happened – but I didn’t want it to be over at the same time.  I’m kicking myself for not reading it sooner.

Lucy Robinson’s created a fabulous cast of characters and a heart-wrenchingly brilliant story that shows you the importance of living your life, taking control and following your dream and not waiting for someone* to sort it out for you.

I loved crazy, messed-up Sally’s journey to find herself as she takes her courage in her hands and faces her fears.  I was desperate to find out what had happened that summer in New York to turn her from the mousy wardrobe mistress into a student opera singer.  And I didn’t get too grumpy at the reveal being dragged out, once I finally found out what had happened and how totally ingenious it was.  There were a couple of points where I could see the car crash (metaphorically) coming and wanted to scream with frustration at Sally for being so stupid – but then it was so brilliantly done in the end that I Didn’t Mind**.

I don’t want to say too much else about the plot, because it’s another book where it would be all too easy for me to ruin it for everyone who hasn’t read this yet (go and buy it).  I will say though that Barry is my favourite mad housemate since Bing in Bernadette Strachan’s Reluctant Landlady.  And that’s saying something.

This is a perfect summer read.  Although if you read it at the beach, people may point at you when you start crying (I held out until nearly the end, which is surprising considering that post-nightshifts I get incredibly emotional).  And, of course, my idiocy means I’m reviewing it too late in August for many people who, unlike me, have already had their summer holiday.

Still, recapture that holiday reading feeling and go and buy yourself a copy of Unfinished Symphony of You and Me.  My copy came from Netgalley (in return for an honest review etc) but you can find it here, here, here and here (on Kindle) and I hope still in W H Smith and maybe even the supermarkets too.  So really you have no excuse.  I’m off book some tickets to the opera and to add everything else Lucy Robinson has written to my to-read list – and to try to resist the urge to Buy Them Now (because of that pesky backlog I’m trying to deal with). Go. Buy. Read. Enjoy.

Oh dear.  I think this may be another of my overly emotional crazy posts.  Like my moment over the first part of Harriet Evan’s new book.  This is why I plan things so I don’t have to be coherent on here during my nocturnal moments.

* A man

** And when you consider that I can barely read one of my formerly most read books any more because I’m so angry at the way that the third book in the series turned out, you’ll know that that’s a big deal.