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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog EAT THE POOR (GALBRAITH & POLE BOOK 2) by Tom Williams (@TomCW99) A supernatural mystery with a sharp sense of humour #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you another book from Rosie’s Book Review Team that I discovered thanks to some of the reviews by other members. They were right!

Eat the Poor (Galbraith & Pole Book 2) by Tom Williams

Eat the Poor (Galbraith & Pole Book 2) by Tom Williams

A werewolf is on the loose in London.

Chief Inspector Pole, the vampire from the mysterious Section S, teams up once again with his human counterpart to hunt down the beast before the people of the city realise that they are threatened by creatures they have dismissed as myths.

Time is short as the werewolf kills ever more recklessly. Can Galbraith and Pole stop it before panic spreads through London?

Galbraith and Pole start their search in Pole’s extensive library of the arcane, accompanied by a couple of glasses of his excellent malt whisky. All too soon, though, they will have to take to the streets to hunt the monster by the light of the moon.

But the threat is even greater than they think, for in its human form the werewolf is terrifyingly close to the heart of government.

This is Tom Williams’ second tongue-in-cheek take on traditional creatures of darkness. Like the first Galbraith & Pole book, Something Wicked, this will appeal to fans of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London.

You never know when the forces of darkness may be released and there will be no time for reading then. Buy Eat the Poor before it’s too late.

https://www.amazon.com/Eat-Poor-Galbraith-Pole-Book-ebook/dp/B09ZG373VR/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Eat-Poor-Galbraith-Pole-Book-ebook/dp/B09ZG373VR/

https://www.amazon.es/Poor-Galbraith-Pole-Book-English-ebook/dp/B09ZG373VR/

Author Tom Williams

About the author:

Tom Williams used to write books for business. Now he writes novels set in the 19th century that are generally described as fiction but which are often more honest than the business books. (He writes contemporary fantasy as well, but that’s a dark part of his life, so you’ll have to explore that on your own – ideally with a friend and a protective amulet.)

His stories about James Burke (based on a real person) are exciting tales of high adventure and low cunning set around the Napoleonic Wars. The stories have given him the excuse to travel to Argentina, Egypt, and Spain and call it research.

Tom lives in London. His main interest is avoiding doing any honest work and this leaves him with time to ski, skate and dance tango, all of which (before covid) he thought he did quite well. In between he reads old books and spends far too much time looking at ancient weaponry.

Tom’s blogs appear regularly on his website, https://tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk where you can also find details of all his books. You can follow him on Twitter as @TomCW99 or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTomWilliams

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.

The description of the novel sets up the plot quite clearly, and I won’t elaborate on it. Readers can find elements of the police procedural novel (one flexible enough to allow for a supernatural element rather than one where logic and realism to the minutest detail are the required standard) with an unlikely and seemingly unsuited couple of investigators, and the tongue-in-cheek approach suits beautifully the description of the inner workings of the police department, and the way promotions and a career in the police are likely to progress for those who care for the actual job and are not that keen on cultivating influences and playing political games within the force.

The ironic commentary on UK politics helps make the story even more memorable. After recent shenanigans in the UK Parliament, one can’t help but wonder if a conservative MP with pretty radical (and classist) views, with the peculiarity of being also a werewolf, would really be that much worse than what had been happening. (And, of course, readers in other countries would wonder the same as well, as although the details might be different, the behaviour of the political classes has been less than stellar pretty much around the world).

There is a mystery that owes plenty to the cozy genre (despite some vicious murders and the addition of the supernatural Others that usually belong in the horror genre) and is likely to attract people who are more interested in quirky and original characters than in the investigation itself.

I haven’t read the first novel in the series, so I don’t know anything about the background story between Pole and Galbraith, and I can confirm that this book can be read as a stand-alone. There are some references to the previous case, but those are contextualised and don’t affect the action or the development of the story. Of course, having read this book, I’d like to know more about the first case, but that is to be expected, having enjoyed this one so much.

The story is narrated in the third person from two of the characters’ points of view (mostly, although there are some paragraphs and comments from an outside observer’s perspective), those of Galbraith and of the criminal they are trying to track. That gives readers a better understanding of the personality of the perpetrator and the circumstances behind the crimes, some of which are well beyond anybody’s control. That doesn’t make the criminal more likeable, at least to me (his politics are quite extreme, although looking at the general political situation, it is evident that many people share similar views), but it allows us to follow his reasoning and to see how easy it could be for someone to move from similar type of thoughts to action. Despite the light tone of the story and the amusing characters and events, there is more than a slight touch of social criticism and a call to attention that is impossible to miss. From feeling privileged and proud of one’s achievement to thinking that those who aren’t as well-off as one is are undeserving of any help or assistance there is but a small step.

Chief Inspector Galbraith is a sympathetic character, and especially those readers of a certain age who have seen their jobs change and become enmeshed in bureaucracy and a never-ending litany of meetings and committees are likely to identify with him. (I had to nod at many of the situations, and some of his reflections as well).

Pole is a mysterious character who never quite reveals much about anything, especially himself —he mentions Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes, and it is impossible to read about his character and not think of Doyle’s creation—, but there are moments when his real feelings and emotions filter through the hundreds of years of containment and good breed. I came to like him more and more as the story progressed, and I hope there will be plenty of occasions to get to know him better in future books.

I’ve talked about the baddie already, but towards the end of the novel, a new character was introduced and became one of my favourites. Robson is a masterpiece, and he makes the closing of the investigation totally memorable. (And no, I won’t say anything else about him).

Those readers who dislike head hopping and sudden changes in viewpoint don’t need to worry, as each chapter is told from a single point of view, and it is clearly marked. Oh, and I love the old-style titles of the chapters. They are a joy.

You’ve probably guessed that I enjoyed the ending from my mention of Robson, but apart from the resolution of the case, there are a couple of scenes at the end that I also enjoyed. Especially because Pole and Galbraith share a moment that reminded me of Casablanca’s closing scene when Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains disappear into the fog. Very understated and very moving.

So, if you enjoy mysteries but are not a stickler for realism, love quirky characters and appreciate a touch of the paranormal, have a sense of humour, and like to look at politics and society from a critical but seemingly light-hearted point of view, you should give this novel a go. The author has written plenty of historical novels and has a talent for highlighting trends, connections, and behaviours that many might not perceive. I have discovered another author whose books I’m eager to learn more about, and I’m sure I won’t be alone in this.

Thanks to Rosie and her team for the support and the suggestions, thanks to the author, and especially, thanks to all of you for visiting, reading, liking, commenting, sharing… Don’t forget to keep cool, safe, and smiling!

Oh, and before you go, I wanted to let you know that from the 20th of August, for a week or so, we’ll be having a local festival (la Festa Major de Sants), and we’ll be doing live coverage at the radio, so I’ll be quite busy. Just in case you don’t see me much around, don’t worry, I’m just busy doing radio-related things. 

Have fun!

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview THE OTFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY by John Dolan (@JohnDolanAuthor) Put your sense of humour to the test if you dare! #humour

Hi all:

One of my favourite authors is back again, and this time he’s thrown us a curb-ball.

The Otford English Dictionary by John Dolan

The Otford English Dictionary by John Dolan

Not to be confused with The Oxford English Dictionary, this is a reference book for the incurably cynical. Containing hundreds of definitions of a corny or inappropriate nature, it is the ideal gift for that person who hankers after the Good Old Days before political correctness, and who thinks a damn good hiding is still the best cure for anxiety.

If you are easily offended, you should probably buy a proper dictionary; though that won’t make you feel any less depressed about the modern world. But, let’s be honest, what could?

https://www.amazon.com/Otford-English-Dictionary-John-Dolan-ebook/dp/B09VF8XDXM/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Otford-English-Dictionary-John-Dolan/dp/B09VF8XDXM

https://www.amazon.es/Otford-English-Dictionary-ebook/dp/B09VF8XDXM/

 About the author:

“Makes a living by travelling, talking a lot and sometimes writing stuff down. Galericulate author, polymath and occasional smarty-pants.”

John Dolan hails from a small town in the North-East of England. Before turning to writing, his career encompassed law and finance. He has run businesses in Europe, South and Central America, Africa and Asia. He and his wife Fiona currently divide their time between Thailand and the UK.

He is the author of the ‘Time, Blood and Karma’ mystery series and the ‘Children of Karma’ mystery trilogy.

https://www.amazon.com/John-Dolan/e/B008IIERF0/

Author John Dolan

My review:

I have been a fan of John Dolan’s books for a number of years now, and although he is best known for his two pretty special detective/mystery series, set mostly in the Philippines, he’s published other books that fit less easily into a standard genre (not that his mysteries are formulaic in any way), and I’ve enjoyed it enormously as well. I’d read anything Dolan publishes without hesitation, and this unique book is further evidence of that. I didn’t know I needed this unique dictionary until I became aware of its existence, but now, it’s difficult to believe I’d manage all this time without it.

How can I comment on this book? As the description says, it is a dictionary. Not an exhaustive one, of course, as this is a rather short book, but a lot of us would be able to navigate most aspects of our everyday lives using the words in this dictionary. Although, depending on what we are doing and who we’re interacting with, we’d be better off keeping the definitions to ourselves. Because incurably cynical or not, most everybody would find something to feel offended about, or at least, feel one’s sense of humour stretched to the limit. Unless, of course, you have learned to laugh at yourself, and then, well, you’ll have a ball.

The book combines some of the best characteristics of what is considered “British humour”: we have puns and wordplay; we have a very dry sense of humour; we have self-deprecation; we have touches of the absurd and the whimsical; we have rude and politically incorrect comments (that ring so very true!); a fair bit of lateral thinking; and, of course, tons of wit.

I’m not sure what else can I say… The list of warnings would be too long to include (no topic is left untouched and nothing is safe or sacred here), and, this is not a book to read all in one go, although it is difficult to stop once you get going. On the other hand, you need to have your wits about you, because some of the definitions rely on pronouncing the words aloud, others on thinking outside of the box or making unusual connections, and you might miss much if you don’t give each definition sufficient time. So, read it in small doses, nip in and out of its pages, and go back to it again and again. I recommend rationing its laughs and pleasures to make it last because we all need a good dose of cynicism and a smart retort every so often.

It’s difficult to choose what to share to give prospective readers an idea of what to expect, but I’ll share a bit of the introduction, where the author explains his intentions and one of his definitions.

 If you are looking for a learned work to assist with your wordsmithing, this is not it. If, on the other hand, you like an unseemly chuckle to relieve an otherwise tedious day, then this might be your thing. Of the definitions you will find in these pages, some are corny, some rely on wordplay, some need to be read out loud, and many are downright inappropriate for the modern age.

 DOLANIC: adj. Term invented by the egotistical author of this tome to describe his writing: dark, peppered with gallows humour and often politically incorrect.

Now you know. If you aren’t put off by any of the comments above, congratulations. This dictionary is for you. Enjoy! And if you haven’t read any of Dolan’s previous books, what are you waiting for?

Thanks to the author for all the chuckles, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to share, like, comment, click, review, and keep smiling. 

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog HEARTLESS HETTE (HEARTH AND BARD TALES) by M. L. Farb (@FarbMl) A wonderful fairy tale about the power of laughter, magic, and stories #RBRT #fairytale

Hi all!

I bring you another one of the books from Rosie’s Book Review Team, and I loved it! Here it comes.

Heartless Hette by M. L. Farb

Heartless Hette by M. L. Farb

Come to Germania, where a clockwork heart rules and a fool advises–and a laugh can bring both to their knees.

When Princess Hette refuses a sorcerer’s proposal, he retaliates by stealing her heart—literally.

Desperate to resist his influence, Hette makes herself emotionless, stifling all feelings until she can find her heart and win it back. Only Konrad, the despised Court Fool, knows where to find the sorcerer, and he has his own curse to battle.

Riddles and magic plague their path, including a memory stealing witch, an unbeatable knight, and a magic book that would as soon drown them as lead them to their destination. Yet, if Hette can’t find the sorcerer in time, her heart will be the least of her losses.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B099YWX9VT/
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B099YWX9VT/
https://www.amazon.es/gp/product/B099YWX9VT/

Author M. L. Farb

About the author:
Ever since I climbed up to the rafters of our barn at age four, I’ve lived high adventure: scuba diving, hiking, climbing, and even riding a retired racehorse at full gallop—bareback. I love the thrill and joy.
Stories give me a similar thrill and joy. I love living through the eyes and heart of a hero who faces his internal demons and the heroine who fights her way free instead of waiting to be saved.
I create adventures, fantasy, fairy tale retellings, and poetry. I live a joyful adventure with my husband and six children. I am a Christian and I love my Savior.
https://mlfarbauthor.com/
https://www.amazon.com/M-L-Farb/e/B07TKYDNHD/

My review:
I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.
I am not going to say this is not going to be a long review. I hope it isn’t, but I’m not very good at keeping reviews succinct, especially when I am enthusiastic. And I can tell you now, I loved this novel/fairy tale retelling. But I am decided not to make it heavy. I love fairy tales, and if you want to read about them from an academic or more analytical perspective, there are many books you could check. Among my favourites, I recommend Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy tales and, although it is a work on comparative mythology, Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, because the quest motif features not only in mythology but also in fairy tales, and it is central to this story. But my review is just going to tell you why I had such a great time reading this novel.
The author explains where the idea for this story came from at the end of the book, and it was a combination of the dream of one of her sons and her own inspiration of combining it with a classic fairy tale, ‘The Princess Who Never Laughed’ (not one I’m very familiar with, although I think I might have read it once, a long time ago). There are multiple references to other fairy tales, mythological and magical beings, and objects throughout the story, and also true facts, inventions, and knowledge, and the author’s research shines through, although always at the service of the story and its many adventures. I do recommend reading all the back matter of the book because the author explains the meaning of the names of the characters; she shares some of her research (who knew CPR was so old?); and also includes some reflections about the story, which she calls “food for thought”, that would make great starting points for endless discussions at book clubs.
Retellings of all kinds of stories are all the rage, and retellings of fairy tales are quite popular as well. By choosing one of the, perhaps, not so mainstream fairy tales, Farb gives herself plenty of room for manoeuvre, and she makes great use of it. I love the characters. Hette is a favourite of mine, perhaps because we have much in common. No, I’m not a princess, and no, I don’t have a long queue of men knocking at my door, but her love of knowledge, her no-nonsense attitude, her determination to lead her own life, despite conventions, and her decision not to marry (precisely because she wants to be in charge of her future and her kingdom) spoke to me. She is not perfect, though. She is also rigid, lacks a sense of humour, is determined to not let her emotions rule her, and can appear cold and uncaring, but she is honest to a fault, and she discovers many things about herself and others by the end of the story. I also loved the other characters who accompany her in her quest: Konrad, the Fool (fools are always interesting, and he is one of the best); Demuth, a maid who is much more than that; Peter, a talking toad who is also more than a toad (of course). They all teach Hette the importance of friendship, help her learn to look beyond appearances, jobs, and titles, and to appreciate different types of knowledge and points of view.
There are many other wonderful beings and characters scattered throughout the books: sorcerers, witches, magical owls that love riddles, knights gone mad, Nereids, a wolf-man (not a werewolf as such, at least not your standard one), a Kobold (a German house spirit, a pretty naughty one in this case), and many more, but one of the things I most enjoyed in the story is how most of the characters are not cardboard cut-outs and simply good or bad, without nuances. Even the bad characters have depth and are not just “bad” but have their reasons and sometimes have survived pretty extreme experiences that go some way to help us understand the kinds of beings they are now. We also come across all kinds of magical objects and places (rivers of fire, mountains of ice, stone horses, books and sextants with their own ideas, mechanical hearts…), and of course, secrets, curses, and plenty of stories as well. In fact, the main story is framed by another one, like John, a new steward working at a rural estate is forced to attend a performance by a bard, a female bard, even though he thinks it’s a waste of time and nobody should be allowed to attend before all the “important work” is finished. By the end of the story, it seems John has plenty of food for thought of his own.
Apart from the wonderful characters, as you’ll probably have guessed from my comments about the other characters and magical objects, the quest Hette and her friends embark on sees them through many adventures, and anybody with a bit of imagination and a willingness to join these motley crew is likely to enjoy the wild ride, full of scary moments, puzzling events, riddles galore, difficult decisions, sacrifices, heartache, revelations, laughs, and plenty of moments that will make one think and wonder. In my opinion, this story is suitable for most ages (apart from perhaps very little children, although parents will be the best judges of that), and although there are scary moments, and the characters are put to the test, both physically and mentally (the challenges do take a toll on their health and their spirit as well) and suffer injuries and even violence, this is not out of keeping with the genre, or extreme and gore, and I think most older children would enjoy it.
The writing is beautifully descriptive, rich, and fluid; the pace of events is fast (and at some point we get an added ticking clock, so things accelerate even more), and the imagery is vivid and should capture most readers’ sense of wonder and imagination. You can check a sample if you want to make sure you’d enjoy the writing, but here go a few snippets:
“A promise is but the stomach’s wind after dinner, all stink and no substance.”
“Yes, many things are foolish to those who only see things in categories. But life doesn’t sort out so neatly.”
“Seeing paradoxes and allowing that something may be two things at once is one key to wisdom.”
“Who but fools can tell the truth to the great one? Priests are too timid and ministers too selfish.”
I’m sure you already guessed that, but in case you needed me to tell you, the story ends happily, and there is the promise of a short story with more adventures for the main characters coming up soon.
In summary, this is a delightful fairy tale for all ages, that works wonderfully even if you don’t know anything about the original story, full of heart, inspiring, funny, and packed with wonderful characters, all kinds of scary and challenging adventures, and a perfect ending. Recommended to all of those who are young at heart and love a story full of imagination, romance, and, especially, magic.

Thanks to Rosie and all the members of the group for their hard work and ongoing support, thanks to the author for this joyful experience, thanks to all of you for reading, commenting, sharing, and, please, remember to keep safe, and always keep smiling. 

 

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#Bookrecommendation THE FALSE DA VINCI by Francisco Tessainer #Historicalfiction with a twist

Hi all:

As you know, I translate books by other independent authors every so often, and I share them with you once they have been published. A Spanish author (from Zaragoza), whom I had met, and we even worked together at a book fair, Francisco Tessainer, asked me to translate his book into English. I had been quite intrigued by the premise of his book (the subtitle of the book is: What if Leonardo’s life had been a fraud?) and was thrilled at the prospect. And I enjoyed every minute of it. This is not a regular review, but I thought I’d share it with you, and I recommend it to those of you who enjoy alternative historical fiction, although it is not exactly that, but an interesting “what if” that fits around the facts of Leonardo Da Vinci’s life, offering them an alternative interpretation. It has a wicked sense of humour, and I must confess I learned a fair bit about Da Vinci’s life, even if it was through the lens of this peculiar version of Da Vinci.

 

The False Da Vinci: What if Leonardo’s life had been a fraud by Francisco Tessainer

The false Da Vinci: What if Leonardo’s life had been a fraud by Francisco Tessainer

In the fifteenth century, when human life was worthless; and in a territory (current day Italy) then divided into powerful city-states; a man who looks extraordinarily similar to Leonardo Da Vinci takes advantage of an accident to impersonate the great master. But, as he does not possess Da Vinci’s talents, he soon realizes that if he wants to keep up the ruse he must appropriate the works of other artists. After savoring the advantages brought by his new name, the protagonist decides to employ the same methods used by the mighty of his time to preserve his newly acquired privileges.

The False Da Vinci is a suspenseful novel full of intrigues and crimes that plays with a possible/alternative past based on real events, and tries to get a closer look at the unresolved mysteries surrounding the figure of the great master: his private life, and the paradox that, in fact, he wasn’t just one man, but three, four, five, six…

Link:

http://leer.la/TheFalseDaVinci

Author Francisco Tessainer

About the author:

From a noble land (Zaragoza), whose people are often labelled “stubborn”, he camouflages that truth with the adjective “tenacious”. And it had to be so because, he was also born under the sign of Taurus and, to top it all, through his veins flows German blood (his grandfather was born in Augsburg). Therefore, with your permission, he’s, at the very least, “stubborn”. An economist by degree and working on the supply chain as a profession, he caught the bug of the written word after being bitten by a book at a very early age. The False da Vinci is his fourth novel, although in fact and by his own admission, the first one he dared to allow others to read. As the saying goes: “Nature never rushes, yet everything gets done.”

Later he also published on Amazon the novels (not yet translated into English) ¿Y después el bienestar? y Ruido de lluvia.

Web: franciscotessainer.com  twitter: @tessainescritor

mailto:frantessainer@gmail.com

So, if you enjoy historical fiction, especially alternative historical fiction, like the Italian Renaissance, and appreciate a somewhat twisted sense of humour, check a sample of the book and see how you feel.

Thanks for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and keep safe, smile, and keep reading! 

 

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog One Year of Ugly by Caroline Mackenzie (@BoroughPress) (@HarperCollinsUK) A memorable, witty and dark comedy. Highly recommended.

Hi all:

I bring you a book that although it might be an acquired taste, I enjoyed immensely.

One Year of Ugly by Caroline Mackenzie

One Year of Ugly by Caroline Mackenzie

‘Deliciously dark’ EMMA JANE UNSWORTH
‘Funny and important’ LAURA JANE WILLIAMS

It was Aunt Celia who got us into the whole mess. The entire Palacios family thrust smack into the middle of a crime ring.

Meet Yola Palacios.

Having escaped crumbling, socialist Venezuela, Yola and her family are settling into their peaceful new life in Trinidad.

But when her beloved Aunt Celia dies, the family once again find their lives turned upside down. For Celia had been keeping a very big secret – the Palacios are seriously in debt to a local criminal called Ugly, and without the funds to pay him off, they must do his bidding until the debt is cleared. So far, so ugly.

In the midst of the turmoil appears Román – Ugly’s distractingly gorgeous right-hand man. And although she knows it’s foolish, not to mention dangerous, Yola just can’t help but give in to the attraction. Could this wildly inappropriate (and very messy) romance be the perfect antidote?

Told with wry humour and irresistible wit, ONE YEAR OF UGLY is devastatingly funny, blisteringly fresh story of family, first love, and finding home.

https://www.amazon.com/One-Year-Ugly-raucous-debut-ebook/dp/B07W3PXWTS/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/One-Year-Ugly-raucous-debut-ebook/dp/B07W3PXWTS/

https://www.amazon.es/One-Year-Ugly-raucous-debut-ebook/dp/B07W3PXWTS/

About the author:

Hello there and welcome to my author page! This being my first rodeo as a published author, I’m thrilled to even be able to write that sentence. I suppose that’s the most important thing to know about me – I’m a first timer in the daunting world of publishing, and my debut novel ONE YEAR OF UGLY, out May (UK) and July (US) 2020, is the book that made that happen.

What else is there to know about me? I’m a French Creole (née de Verteuil) born and raised in Trinidad. I studied abroad for five years, first in France then in the UK, earning a BA in French and Spanish studies and an MSc in specialised translation. I’m now back living in Trinidad with my family and a veritable menagerie of tropical animals too bizarre to get into here.

As a new(ish) mum, I’m still navigating the demands of motherhood to figure out my new writing routine, but I’ve managed to get back to writing consistently every day, which is nothing short of a triumph. Novel #2 is consequently well underway.

To wrap up with a few fun facts:

  • The illicit stripclub setting in ONE YEAR OF UGLY was inspired by the two + years I spent waitressing/hostessing at a Spearmint Rhino during my undergrad studies in Brighton. You could call me a connoisseur of the stripclub industry.
  • I am a lifelong francophile and fantasise about moving to Martinique one day.
  • Reality TV is my most shameful yet effective means of unwinding. Nothing says ‘switch off your brain and rock back’ like a Bravo or MTV original series.

Follow me here and on Goodreads for updates on ONE YEAR OF UGLY’s upcoming release and to check out what books (and bad TV shows) I’m loving these days.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8285902.Caroline_Mackenzie

My review:

Thanks to the Borough Press (Harper Collins UK) and NetGalley for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

This is a debut novel, and what a debut! Although I hadn’t heard of the author before, I was thrilled when I realised that we had a few things in common (I’ve also worked as a translator, and we’re both alumnae of Sussex University. Go Sussex!), and I am sure this will not be the last novel I read by Mackenzie.

This novel touches on many things, and although it does it with wit and humour (at times a very sharp and quite dark sense of humour), the themes it delves in are quite serious. Illegal immigrants (in this case, Venezuelans in Trinidad) that try to settle into their new life, but whose already uncertain and danger-ridden existence becomes more complicated when they are blackmailed into doing all kind of other illegal things to settle the debt a member of their family, Aunt Celia, left unpaid upon her sudden death. The Palacios, an extended but close family, with their traditions, their unique personalities, their traditions from home and from their adopted land, their parties and meals together, with their quirks and their not-quite-upstanding members, are suddenly thrown into the hands of the criminal underworld, and their lives become even more dangerous. There is blackmail, housing other illegal immigrants, being tracked and followed, having to work all hours to keep their non-paying guests, being threatened and pushed around, and some of their members are even driven out of their minds by the pressure. To all these events (and more that I’m keeping quiet), we have to add life as usual for this family, and that includes secret love-children, a young girl’s pregnancy, dangerous love affairs, strong women (some with a flair for drama), weak-willed men, heavy drinking, unfaithful husbands, grief and mourning, mental illness, trying to fit into a completely different place and being the object of prejudice and suspicion. The author explains her reasons for choosing to write a comedy in her note at the end, and they make perfect sense to me. First, because, as she says, some people might resist reading another book that deals in some of these very serious topics if they are presented in a straightforward manner, but a comedy might reach those readers, and also because comedy and humour are great weapons to deal with dark situations and to endure and keep hope alive when things are tough. The author does a great job, both in dealing with the illegal immigration angle and also in creating a family that we love (or at times, love to hate).

There are many characters, some pretty major (not all the members of the family have important roles, but we do get to know them fairly well by the end of the novel, although there are plenty of surprises, and I’m not only talking about Aunt Milagros here), and others that only pass-by, like some of the illegal immigrants they are forced to house through the year, and in many cases, they are depicted like a cartoonist would do, exaggerating some traits for comedic purposes, but affectionately. Yola, the main protagonist, who narrates the story in the first-person, is intelligent, witty, hard-working, and although she might not see eye-to-eye with all the members of her family, she loves them fiercely and would do anything for all of them, even for the new arrivals that she’s not so keen on. Aunt Celia, who has died just before the story starts, is also very present in the novel, as she had been writing her biography/memoir, and the manuscript is passed on to Yola, who is also a writer and translator, and whom the majority of the members of the family think of as the most suited to follow in Aunt Celia’s steps (and become the family’s official bitch). Celia’s book is priceless, and we get to hear her voice through Yola’s reading. Then we have Ugly, who although doesn’t turn up often, his few appearances are very memorable. And Román, the romantic hero (yes, I know, the name is self-explanatory), who at first appears more of an antihero, but there is more to him than his gorgeous looks, and, well, let’s say the romance side of the story is bound to satisfy most readers keen on the genre. I liked Yola, and although some of her actions seemed pretty unreasonable and inconsistent, she is fully aware of it. As we’re inside her head, it’s easy to empathise, especially because she’s put in pretty impossible situations at times, and it’s difficult to imagine what else she could do. I also liked most of the members of her family, and yes, Aunt Celia and Aunt Milagros truly shine through. The female characters are more memorable than the males (other than Román and Ugly), but they are also familiar, and it’s likely that most readers would identify people they know who share characteristics with them. As is the case in all families, you might have your favourites, but there’s so much history shared that you feel for them. Yes, I’ll miss the Palacios.

The writing is sharp, witty, and eminently quotable. It flows well and although I know many readers don’t like first-person narratives, I enjoyed this one, and also the fragments from Aunt Celia’s memoirs. There are words and expressions in Spanish (I’m not from Venezuela, but the Spanish terms are well-written, and the research has paid up), but they do not impede the understanding of the text, and rather add to the atmosphere and the realism of the piece. I have highlighted the text extensively, but I’ll try to share a few examples of the writing. As usual, I’d recommend prospective readers to check a sample first, to see if it suits their taste. (Some reviewers did not like the humorous tone when dealing with such serious matters, but I felt that was one of the strong points of the novel).

Her wit was as lethal as a syringe of cyanide.”

Only a real political genius like him, with his communist sympathies despite everything we’d been through in Caracas, would name his kid after Fidel Castro.”

Our immigrant story is as classic and unchanging as any Hans Christian Andersen fairytale —the tale of the illegal refugees who risked it all to live like cockroaches, hiding in the dank cracks of an unknown society where they hope no one will find them, antennae forever twitching, listening for the heavy boot of National Security, only to discover that the strange new place they call home has all the ugliness of the world they left behind, except worse, because here you’re stripped of rights, dignity, personhood.”

’Life is a big piece of sugarcane’. ‘Sugarcane?’ ‘Yes, a maldito sugarcane! You have to bite down hard and suck as much sweetness out of it as you can.’”

The ending is open to interpretation and to what we have learned and think about Yola. I liked it, as I liked the whole book, and whichever choice readers think she goes for, it is certain to be hopeful and positive (although this being Yola, not without a touch of irony and ambivalence). Considering what happens during the book, the ending is perhaps too neat, but this is a comedy so it goes with the territory, and I think most readers will enjoy it.

This is a great debut novel, which deals in serious topics using a comedic register that in my opinion works very well but might not suit everybody. The characters are wonderful, if somewhat cartoonish at times, and the family Palacios is likely to stay with readers for a long time. I recommend this novel to people interest in finding new authors, and who don’t mind the use of dark comedy to discuss important issues. I highly recommend this book and I am looking forward to the next novel by the author.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for this fabulous novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click (the book is published on the 14th of May 2020, so you might need to wait a couple of days to get it if you read this on the day it goes live), review, and always keep smiling!

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog LIARS & LUNATICS IN GOOSE PIMPLE JUNCTION: A GOOSE PIMPLE JUNCTION MYSTERY, book 5 by Amy Metz (@authoramymetz) A cozy mystery full of Southern charm, wit, and many laughs

Hi all:

I catch up on a series I love today. Perfect for any holidays!

LIars & Lunatics in Goose Pimple Junction by Amy Metz

Liars & Lunatics in Goose Pimple Junction: A Goose Pimple Junction Mystery, book 5 by Amy Metz

It’s election season, and there’s a new candidate in town. Virgil Pepper is determined
to take the job from Goose Pimple Junction’s long-time mayor. Virgil is a charming and
charismatic candidate but someone who will say anything (and mean none of it)
to get what he wants. Three things top his list: to become mayor, to acquire Jackson
Wright’s land, and to make Caledonia Culpepper one of his many conquests.

Wynona Baxter is back, and she’s a new woman. Now Daisy has a new identity, new life,
and new business–ironically named Killer Cupcakes. But the town soon finds out that
isn’t the only kind of killer in town. Book five of the Goose Pimple Junction mystery series
combines political hijinks, delicious cupcakes, Goose Juice moonshine, the ups and downs
of finding true love, and, of course, murder.

It is said that “It’s a basic truth of the human condition that everybody lies. The only
variable is about what.” Lying in politics, lying for personal and professional gain,
lying about an identity . . . What are the folks of Goose Pimple Junction willing to
lie for . . . and what are they willing to die for?

https://www.amazon.com/Liars-Lunatics-Goose-Pimple-Junction-ebook/dp/B07WMZV27F/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Liars-Lunatics-Goose-Pimple-Junction-ebook/dp/B07WMZV27F/

https://www.amazon.es/Liars-Lunatics-Goose-Pimple-Junction-ebook/dp/B07WMZV27F/

Amy Metz
Author Amy Metz

About the author:

Amy Metz is the author of the Goose Pimple Junction mystery series. She is a former first grade teacher and the mother of two grown sons. When not writing, enjoying her family, or surfing Pinterest and Facebook, Amy can usually be found with a mixing spoon, camera, or book in one hand and a glass of sweet tea in the other. Amy loves unique Southern phrases, cupcakes, and a good mystery. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky. Find out more at http://authoramymetz.com

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Metz/e/B008NA07X4

My review:

The author provided me with an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review. This in no way influenced my opinion.

I have read and enjoyed some of the books in the collection, but I somehow missed number 4, and that, perhaps helps me tailor my comment also towards readers who might be considering reading this book without having checked the rest. Yes, the story is self-contained, although there are references to events that have taken place in previous books, and a lot of the characters will be familiar to those following the series, who will be in a better position to understand the background to some of the interactions and also the web of relationships and the ins and outs of life at Goose Pimple Junction. And yes, in case you’re wondering, I love the name of the place! So, regarding the issue of reading it as a standalone, I’d say one does not need to have read all the books in the series to enjoy it, but because some of the characters have names and nicknames (witty and funny, I admit), and their relationships are not always evident, it might get a bit confusing to follow the story if you are totally new to it. On the other hand, as I said, I had missed one of the books, and I could pick up the narrative without any problem. I am convinced, though, that reading them all in order enhances the experience, and it’s like visiting a familiar place where you always have fun and renew old friendships every time you go.

The way the story is told is quite interesting, and it adds to the mystery. We start with a murder (a new character, Virgil, who is in the race to become the mayor of the town, is murdered in mysterious circumstances), a confession, and then we go back to several months before the event, counting back to the time of the crime, and then moving forward with the investigation. It works well, because we keep mulling over in our minds how everything we read might relate to the crime (and there are other suspicious deaths as well), and this results in plenty of red herrings, more and more suspects and plenty of possible motives (Virgil is far from a nice man, as we discover. In fact, he is a narcissist who treats women badly, and his business practices and politics aren’t much better either). Although told in third person, the narration follows the points of views of several of the characters, without ever giving us an advantage when it comes to solving the mystery. We might think we know what has happened, and we are privy to some information the sheriff department don’t have, but things are, of course, not as straightforward as they seem to be.

As the mystery part of the plot advances, we also get to learn more about some new arrivals to the town (not totally new, but I’ll avoid spoilers), and also catch up on what has happened to those inhabitants we have come to know and cherish. There are romances developing, a new cupcake shop (if you’re on a diet, I’d take care with the book, as there are many reference to Killer Cupcakes, both the shop and the actual items), there are shady business deals (moonshine liquor, buying land with coercion and under false pretences), there is Oktoberfest to spice up things and bring in the party atmosphere (the fancy dresses, mostly wordplay related, bring in plenty of chuckles), and the ending is very satisfying, and it hints at even better times to come for Goose Pimple Junction. (Yes, I want to move there, or at least go for a very long holiday).

The story flows well, moves at good pace, and the combination of the mystery aspects with the lives of the characters is seamless. I highlighted so many parts of the dialogue, funny repartees, and quotes, that I was unable to choose just a few to add to this review, so my recommendation is to check a sample of the book if you’re trying to decide if you’ll enjoy it or not. I wonder if a list of characters, with their names, nicknames, and relationships might serve as a memory aid for readers visiting the town again, and might also assist readers totally new to the series.

The Southern-style sayings and the dialect of the region (Tennessee), the peculiar lingo and expressions of some of the townspeople, the new characters (I liked Daisy, but her mother, Kaye, must be my favourite new addition), and the quotes at the beginning of the chapter (all about lying and liars), give this book its unique flavour, and people who’ve read previous books in the series and loved them, will have a blast with this one.

I recommend this book to lovers of cozy mysteries, especially those who enjoy stories set in the Southern part of the USA and prefer their crimes laced with plenty of humour, wit, and local flavour. I think the novel works better as part of the series, and I’d recommend people who like the sound of it to start at the beginning, with Murder and Mayhem in Goose Pimple Junction (you can check my reviews of the first three books in the series, here). I hope to keep on visiting the town in the future, that is, if I don’t manage to move there!

Thanks to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to share if you enjoy it or know somebody who might, and above all, enjoy the holiday season!

Oh, and before I forget!

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog There She Goes by Lynne Shelby (@LynneB1) A light-hearted read recommended to lovers of rom-com, theatre, and London.

Hi all, I bring you a fun and light read, thanks once more to Rosie Amber, the heart of Rosie’s Book Review Team.

There She Goes by Lynne Shelby

There She Goes by Lynne Shelby

‘A delightful romantic read set amidst the drama, hopes and dreams of aspiring stage stars – a must for theatre lovers!’ – Grace Lowrie, author of Before We Fall

When aspiring actress Julie Farrell meets actor Zac Diaz, she is instantly attracted to him, but he shows no interest in her. Julie, who has yet to land her first professional acting role, can’t help wishing that her life was more like a musical, and that she could meet a handsome man who d sweep her into his arms and tap-dance her along the street…

After early success on the stage, Zac has spent the last three years in Hollywood, but has failed to forge a film career. Now back in London, he is determined to re-establish himself as a theatre actor. Focused solely on his work, he has no time for distractions, and certainly no intention of getting entangled in a committed relationship…

Auditioning for a new West End show, Julie and Zac act out a love scene, but will they ever share more than a stage kiss?

https://www.amazon.com/There-She-Goes-share-Theatreland-ebook/dp/B07PDZMMT2/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/There-She-Goes-share-Theatreland-ebook/dp/B07PDZMMT2/

https://www.amazon.es/There-She-Goes-share-Theatreland-ebook/dp/B07PDZMMT2/

Author Lynne Shelby

About the author:

Lynne Shelby writes contemporary women’s fiction/romance. Her debut novel, ‘French Kissing’ won the Accent Press and Woman magazine Writing Competition. She has done a variety of jobs from stable girl to child actor’s chaperone to legal administrator, but now writes full time. When not writing or reading, Lynne can usually be found at the theatre or exploring a foreign city – Paris, New York, Rome, Copenhagen, Seattle, Reykjavik – writer’s notebook, camera and sketchbook in hand. She lives in London with her husband, and has three adult children who live nearby.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lynne-Shelby/e/B010MG2OSW/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team,(authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

In case you’re in a hurry (I know my reviews can go on a bit), I thought I’d give you a quick summary of my opinion. I had plenty of fun reading this novel. Although it does not break any new ground and there are no huge surprises, the characters are likeable, and if you love theatre (musical theatre in particular), you’re curious about what happens behind the curtains, enjoy romantic comedies not heavy on sex or drama, and fancy a visit to the London theatrical district, you’ll enjoy this novel.

This is the second in Shelby’s Theatreland series, but it can be read independently (although I guess from the teaser at the end of this novel that you might recognise some of the characters in the other novel in the series if you read it as well). I’d never read any of the author’s novels before, although I know her romantic comedies are popular and having read this one, I can see why.

The novel tells the story of Julie, a struggling actress, who’s only been out of acting school for one year, and whose life is split between the day (rather late-evening/night) job (handing leaflets for a London night club), and trying to land an acting job. She tells her story in the first person, and she is young, dynamic, attractive and talented, although she is not aware of how truly good she is. She shares a shabby apartment with her friend and fellow aspiring actress, Alexa, who is always ready for a good time, and although happy to have casual relationships, has her exacting standards when it comes to finding “the” man of her life. Julie is far more romantic, and she meets the man all readers will guess is the male romantic lead, Zac, very early on in the book. There is a certain deal of “will they/won’t they” going on at first, but let me reassure you that it doesn’t take long for things to go in the right direction, at least for a while. There are chapters also told from Zac’s perspective, although far fewer, narrated in the third person, and this allows us to gain some insight into his true thoughts and feelings, while at the same time keeping some information hidden. Zac is, of course, gorgeous, extremely talented, and has some acting credits to his name already, but he has been away for a while and needs to find his way back into the London stage, and there are hints of darkness and secrecy about him and his relationship with Julie.

As I mentioned at the start of this review, there are no major surprises when it comes to the romance side of things. The course of true love, etc., etc., is true here as well, and that is the case for several relationships that appear in the book (not only Julie and Zac’s, but also Alexa and her partners, particularly Tim, and there is also the story of Charlie, a friend of Alexa’s from acting school, and his long-term girlfriend Suzanne), but they don’t drag on to the point where one loses interest, and there is no excess of drama. There is sex, but the scenes are pretty mild and not very explicit. I’m not a fan of erotica and tend to avoid it as much as I can, and I was not bothered at all by the scenes in this book. If I had to rate the degree of heat, on a scale of 4, this would be, at most, a 2. I wouldn’t say this is a PG book, but a lot of the action takes place behind closed doors. And, of course, there is the obligatory HEA. And it is pretty satisfactory all round.

The characters are not complex and don’t deal with any major issues, although they are not cardboard cut-outs either. What brings them to life and makes them distinctive are the relationships they have with each other (particularly their friendships, which feel real), and also their love of acting and theatre. Julie and Alexa’s relationship, in particular, is one of the things I most enjoyed in the novel, and their shared apartment felt like home by the end of the novel. There are some nasty characters (egotistical and self-centred rather than truly evil), but there are no extremes of behaviour or true evil, and most of the characters are quick-witted, caring, and have a sense of fun.

I am a fan of theatre, and of musical theatre in particular (although I also love straight plays), and I enjoyed the talk about agents, acting schools, auditions, rehearsals, dance classes, and the imagination the author displays when she comes up with the plots and names of musicals (some sound like adaptations from well-known books), plays, and also theatres, and she shows a great knowledge of the topic, and love for its history (there are some homages fans of the genre are likely to pick up). As we follow Julie and her friends, through the process of auditions and the dreadful wait for “the call” we share in the excitement, and the joy and/or disappointment. It is a fascinating world, which Shelby manages to immerse readers in, managing to keep it light. (If you’d like a lighter version of A Chorus Line, you might have found it in this book). I am Spanish, and appreciated the fact that Zac Díaz, the hero, is of Spanish heritage and uses Spanish expressions often, and Joe García, the main name in musical theatre according to the novel is also Spanish. And I had great fun imagining what La Pasionaria, The Musical, would be like.

The writing style is fluid, it flows well, it is light and airy, full of amusing references and fun moments, and although we might feel sure we know where things are heading, we can’t help but keep turning the pages. There is a secret, something that makes us wonder about the hero of the novel and his true character, and there is a reveal at the end. I guessed what it was, but I must admit that I had several theories I kept swapping and changing throughout most of the book, and the author is good at hinting and misdirecting us, keeping us guessing.

I recommend this novel to anybody looking for a romantic comedy, especially to lovers of theatre (musical theatre in particular) and of London. Although there are no major surprises, the author manages to combine engaging characters, a fascinating background (there’s no business like show business, indeed), in a wonderful setting (London’s West End). I know where to go for my next theatrical romance!

Thanks to Rosie and her great time, thanks to the author, and thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, comment, share, click, review, and always keep smiling!

 

 

 

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog The Not So Perfect Plan to Save Friendship House: A heartwarming, uplifting comedy about friendship, community and love by Lilly Bartlett (@MicheleGormanUK) #RBTR

Hi all:

Today, although we are already in September, I bring you a light read to recover from the holidays and put you in a good mood if you’re back to work. Another fabulous finding from Rosie Amber’s great group of reviewers.

Book Review The Not So Perfect Plan to Save Frienship House by Lilly Bartlett
The Not So Perfect Plan to Save Friendship House by Lilly Bartlett

The Not So Perfect Plan to Save Friendship House: A heartwarming, uplifting comedy about friendship, community and love by Lilly Bartlett

Meet Phoebe, who’s 28, and Laney, Dot and Maggie, who are 68, 78, and none of your business. Together they’ll prove that age doesn’t matter when it comes to friendship, belonging and an unquenchable zest for life.

A hilarious, uplifting novel about the ties of community, the strength of love and how nobody is truly ordinary.

When Framlingham’s famously all-female senior living home goes co-ed, a war between the sexes is declared.

Stuck in the middle, chef Phoebe Stockton is desperate to help her friends’ plot to keep the community that means so much to them. It’s become her life raft, too. She finds comfort in her beloved career that might finally make her parents proud. But Phoebe’s darling Nick is lining up on the other side of the battle, and their relationship is suffering collateral damage.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. If the home’s owner can’t improve business by moving the men in, he’ll have to evict everyone.

The women aren’t about to let that happen.

https://www.amazon.com/Perfect-Plan-Save-Friendship-House-ebook/dp/B07DS77MF5/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Perfect-Plan-Save-Friendship-House-ebook/dp/B07DS77MF5/

Author Lilly Bartlett (Michele Gorman)
Author Lilly Bartlett (Michele Gorman)

About the author:

Lilly Bartlett’s cosy romcoms are full of laugh out loud moments, quirky characters and guaranteed happily-ever-afters.

Lilly is the pen-name of Sunday Times and USA Today best-selling author, Michele Gorman, who writes best friend-girl power chick lit under her own name.

BE SURE YOU DON’T MISS LILLY’S NEXT BOOK. Copy and paste this link into your browser: http://eepurl.com/dr5RGX and sign up for her newsletter (only around 3 per year) to get the chance to read her books FOR FREE before they are published!

https://www.amazon.com/Lilly-Bartlett/e/B06XH1DZW7/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and thank Rosie Amber (check here if you would like to have your book reviewed) and the author for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

Sometimes it seems as if all the books and movies on offer are centred on young protagonists, and I’m not only talking about Young Adult books. However, recently there has been a move towards including older protagonists and subjects. I enjoyed the two Dutch books about Hendrik Groen, a man in his eighties living in a nursing home, and have watched a few movies, usually choral, about older protagonists (like The Exotic Marigold Hotel). The setting of this novel, in a residential home, and the promise of a comedy made it sound like the perfect choice for me.

The first-person narrator of the story is Phoebe, a chef who had a very successful career in a bistro before disaster struck. She loves her job at the residential home (The Jane Austen Home for Ladies, and, as we discover, the name is meaningful in several ways), but has always felt frustrated because her parents (and her mother, in particular) do not seem to value her job and are dismissive of her career. To make matters worse, her mother (a larger-than-life character) dies suddenly at the beginning of the book, but her internalised voice keeps gnawing on her confidence.  Her best friend, June, is the manager of the home, and she fancies Nick, who is the official physiotherapist but also takes on any odd jobs going on (art therapy, gardening, handyman…). I know some readers don’t like first-person narratives, although Phoebe is unassuming, witty and an excellent friend. (On the minus side, her lack of self-confidence can make her sound paranoid and bitchy, and she keeps mulling over things, unable to decide what to do, trying hard to feel comfortable in her own skin and accept the credit for her achievements). We learn some surprising things about her family life together and by the end of the book, although I don’t have much in common with her character, I felt connected to her and appreciated her role as a narrator. Her friendship with June is convincing and their relationship is one of the strongest points of the book.

I also loved the residents of the home, and in many ways (not only due to my age, I hope), I felt closer to them than to the protagonist. We get to know some of them more than others (Maggie is fabulous and I loved Dot, Laney, Sophie, and yes, even Terence). They all feel real, with their foibles and their endearing traits, and make the book memorable. We follow the intrigues that have to do with the home and the changes that take place there (from a women’s only place to a mixed one) and learn about its inhabitants, their secrets, and their past lives. We are both observers and participants in much of the action, and we feel invested in their fates. We learn the importance of accepting people for who they are and moving beyond appearances and prejudices.

There are several romances with happy, or at least hopeful, endings (for the young and the older generations), broken hearts and disappointments, secrets and lies, and there is also the connection (pointed out through references to the book club and their discussions) to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I would not call the novel a variation on Pride and Prejudice but if we think of Austen’s text as we read it we can discover nuances that might be easily missed otherwise.

Although there are many amusing lines in the novel (and some pretty touching ones as well. As we know, humour can be an excellent defence mechanism against hurt), I thought I’d share a few (remember that I got an ARC copy, so there might be some changes to the final version of the novel):

We’ve never let something as trifling as the spectre of death stand in the way of a good snipe.

My mother didn’t get ulcers, she gave them.

He’s a perv-whisperer.

‘Nice as piles,’ he grumbles. ‘Same pain in the arse.’

She wouldn’t like my ponytail, though. I did try taking it down, but having it up in a hair tie the entire weekend meant my hair had a ridge along the back that gave it a very White Cliffs of Dover effect.

I’m surprised he doesn’t need an oxygen tank with all the social climbing he’s been doing.

The writing flows well and fits in perfectly with the voice of the narrator, who can spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about her beau but is also attuned to the feelings of the residents and her friend. There are plenty of amusing events taking place throughout the novel that keep the action moving, but the characters are much stronger than the plot and by the end of the book (that I enjoyed) they have all become good friends (or most of them have).

The author defines her books as light reads, as beach novels, and says her readers describe them as “feel-good.” All that is true, although behind all the funny goings-on the book illustrates the importance of keeping expectations and prejudices under control, and it reminds parents that they should encourage their children to find fulfilment in their own terms rather than expect them to make their parent’s dreams come true.  If you are looking for a light read, full of memorable characters, plenty of humour, and a big deal of heart, I’d recommend this novel. And, if it existed in real life, I wouldn’t mind working at the home (and in time even living there) either.

Many thanks to Rosie and her team, to the author for her fun novel, to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click , review, and keep smiling!

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Book review Book reviews

#TuesdayBookBlog #Bookreview ON THE BRIGHT SIDE by Hendrik Groen (@PenguinUKBooks) The Old-But-Not-Dead Club strikes again. A truly inspiring read, whatever your age.

Hi all:

Today I bring you the review of a book that I had been looking forward to for a while. Some of you might remember my review of the first book but…

On the Bright Side. The New Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen
On the Bright Side. The New Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen

On the Bright Side by Hendrik Groen

‘A funny but also touching diary praised for its wit and realism’ BBC Radio 4 Front Row

The Old-But-Not-Dead Club return, in the sequel to the INTERNATIONALLY BESTSELLING The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen83 ¼ Years Old, bringing with them some life-affirming lawlessness.

Chaos will ensue as 85-year-old Hendrik Groen is determined to grow old with dignity: to rise up against the care home director. NO more bingo. NO more over- boiled vegetables. NO more health and safety.

85-year-old Hendrik Groen is fed up to his false teeth with coffee mornings and bingo. He dreams of escaping the confines of his care home and practising hairpin turns on his mobility scooter. Inspired by his fellow members of the recently formed Old-But-Not-Dead Club, he vows to put down his custard cream and commit to a spot of octogenarian anarchy.

But the care home’s Director will not stand for drunken bar crawls, illicit fireworks and geriatric romance on her watch. The Old-But-Not-Dead Club must stick together if they’re not to go gently into that good night. Things turn more serious, however, when rumours surface that the home is set for demolition. It’s up to Hendrik and the gang to stop it – or drop dead trying . . .

He may be the wrong side of 85, but Hendrik Groen has no intention of slowing up – or going down without a fight.

Praise for Hendrik Groen

‘A story with a great deal of heart, it pulled me in with its self-deprecating humour, finely drawn characters and important themes. Anyone who hopes to grow old with dignity will have much to reflect on’ Graeme Simsion

‘There are many laughs in this book but it’s so much more than just a comedy. It’s a story about how friendship, selflessness and dignity lie at the heart of the human experience. When I’m an old man, I want to be Hendrik Groen’ John Boyne

‘I laughed until I cried and then laughed and cried some more’ David Suchet

‘Thoughtful, anxious and gruff… Laced with humour’ The Best New Fiction Mail on Sunday

‘Amusing [and] wickedly accurate’ ***** FIVE STARS Sunday Express

‘Highly entertaining … a fiction so closely based on the observation of real life that it is utterly convincing’ Daily Express

‘Full of off-beat charm and quirky characters’ Cathy Rentzenbrink, Stylist

‘Hendrik pens an exposé of his care home. This geriatric Adrian Mole made me laugh and think. Terrific’ Fanny Blake, Woman and Home

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bright-Side-Hendrik-Groen-ebook/dp/B074R9K8Q1/

https://www.amazon.com/Bright-Side-Hendrik-Groen-ebook/dp/B074R9K8Q1/

Editorial review:

Review

Amusing [and] wickedly accurate … I was constantly put in mind of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, another comi-tragedy concerning the tyranny of institutions of the unwanted. Enjoy Groen’s light touch but do not be fooled by it. We live in an ageing society. The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen is a handbook of resistance for our time (***** FIVE STARS Sunday Express)

A story with a great deal of heart, it pulled me in with its self-deprecating humour, finely drawn characters and important themes. Anyone who hopes to grow old with dignity will have much to reflect on (Graeme Simsion)

There are many laughs in this book but it’s so much more than just a comedy. It’s a story about how friendship, selflessness and dignity lie at the heart of the human experience. When I’m an old man, I want to be Hendrik Groen (John Boyne)

I laughed until I cried and then laughed and cried some more (David Suchet)

Thoughtful, anxious and gruff… Laced with humour (Best New Fiction Mail on Sunday)

Highly entertaining … a delightful and touching saga of one man’s way of coping with old age … we may assume that Hendrik Groen is a character of fiction. But it is a fiction so closely based on the observation of real life that it is utterly convincing (Daily Express)

A joy to read, as much concerned with friendship and dignity as it is with the debilitating effects of aging … An entertaining and uplifting story of a man in the winter of his days, stoic in the face of bureaucratic nonsense and an unabashed need to wear a nappy. Imagined or not, this is the diary of someone who wants nothing more than to be allowed see out his days with dignity and respect. It’s not too much to ask, really, is it? (John Boyne Irish Times)

Full of off-beat charm and quirky characters (Cathy Rentzenbrink Stylist)

Praise for The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83¼ Years Old ()

Very funny (Jeremy Paxman Financial Times)

From the Inside Flap

85-year-old Hendrik Groen is fed up to his false teeth with coffee mornings and bingo. He dreams of escaping the confines of his care home and practising hairpin turns on his mobility scooter. Inspired by his fellow members of the recently formed Old-But-Not-Dead Club, he vows to put down his Custard Cream and commit to a spot of octogenarian anarchy.

But the care home’s Director will not stand for drunken bar crawls, illicit fireworks and geriatric romance on her watch. The Old-But-Not-Dead Club must stick together if they’re not to go gently into that good night. Things turn more serious, however, when rumours surface that the home is set for demolition. It’s up to Hendrik and the gang to stop it – or drop dead trying . . .

He may be the wrong side of 85, but Hendrik Groen has no intention of slowing up – or going down without a fight.

My review:

Thanks to Net Galley and to Penguin UK-Michael Joseph for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

A while back I read The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old (check my review here) and loved it. I was on the lookout for the next one, and when I saw the next one was available for download at NetGalley I did not hesitate. It has now been published and I could not pass the chance to share my review.

Hendrik explains what has happened since his last diary (yes, he is older now) and decides to write his diary for another year, as a way to keep his brain going. He is now 85 and he needed some time to get over some of the sad events of the last book. But the Old-But-Not-Dead Club is still going strong, with new members and plans, including regularly exploring international cuisine (more or less), a short holiday abroad, and an attempt at local (extremely local) politics. Hendrik’s voice is as witty and observant as it was in the first book, although there is perhaps a grittier and darker note (he is feeling low, everything is getting tougher and unfortunately, life gets harder as the year goes along). But not all is doom and gloom and there are very funny moments, as well as some very sad ones. His comments about politics and world events, always seen from an elderly population’s perspective, are sharp and clear-sighted and will give readers pause. Some of them are local and I suspect I was not the only one who did not know who many of the people where or what anecdotes he referred to at times (I must admit that although I know a bit about Dutch painters, I know little about their politics or music, for example), but even if we cannot follow all the references in detail, unfortunately, they are easily translatable to social and political concerns we are likely to recognize, wherever we live. Funding cuts, social problems, concerns about health and social care, crime, terrorism, global warming feature prominently, although sometimes with a very peculiar twist.

The secondary characters are as wonderful and varied as in the previous book. Some of them have moved on (physically, mentally, or both), and we get to know better some of the ones that only briefly appeared in the previous volume. We also have new arrivals at the nursing home, and a more direct involvement in the home’s politics (with anxiety-provoking news present as well. Is the nursing home going to close?). I loved some of the proposed and adopted rules (a complaint-free zone to avoid wallowing in conversations about ailments and illnesses, a high-tea facilitated by the residents, an art exhibition, even if the artist is not the most sympathetic of characters…) and the sayings of the residents. Of course, life at a nursing home comes with its share of loss and although I don’t want to reveal too much, I can say the subject of death is treated in a realistic, respectful, and moving way.

I shed some of the quotes I highlighted, to give you a taster (although I recommend checking a sample and seeing what you think. And, although it is not necessary to read the first book first, I think it works better knowing the characters and their journey so far):

The idea of using care homes to look after the comfort, control and companionship of the elderly is fine in principle. It just fails in the execution. What old age homes actually stand for is infantilizing, dependence, and laziness.

One in four old people who break one or more hips die within the year. That number seems high to me, but it’s in the newspaper, so there is room for doubt.

It’s always astonished me to see the wide support clowns and crooks are able to muster. Watching old newsreels of that loudmouth Mussolini, you’d think now there’s a bloke only his mother could love. But no, millions of Italians loved him.(Yes, I’m sure this can make us all think of a few people).

Difficult new terms that tend to obscure rather than clarify, especially when uttered by policy-makers. It often has to do with hiding something —either a budget cut, or hot air, or both at once.

Managerial skills alone don’t make for better care, it only makes for cheaper one.

And, a great ending (and one we should all take up this year):

A new year —how you get through it is up to you, Groen; life doesn’t come with training wheels. Get this show on the road. As long as there’s life.

The tone of the book is bitter-sweet, and, as mentioned, it feels darker than the previous one, perhaps because Hendrik is even more aware of his limitations and those of his friends, and is increasingly faced with the problem of loneliness, and with thoughts about the future. But, overall, this is a book that makes us think about the zest for life, about living life to the full, and about making the best out of our capabilities. As I said on my previous review, I hope I can meet a Hendrik if I get to that age, and I’ll also make sure to join the Old-But-Not-Dead Club and be an agitator and enjoy life to the end. Don’t ever settle for the easy way out.

A great book for those interested in the subject of growing old, in great characters, and in an out-of-the-ordinary setting. It has plenty of adventures and events (even trips abroad and international cuisine), although it is not a book I’d recommend to people who love fast action and high-octane thrillers. If you enjoy first-person narrations, love older characters, and don’t mind thinking about the long-term (ish) future, I recommend this very inspiring book.

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin for the book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

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#TuesdayBookBlog 31 Days of Wonder by Tom Winter A story about ‘normal’ life and human relationships at all levels, with no fancy action, no sex, but a lot of heart. #31DaysofWonder @CorsairBooks @wintrybits @millsreid11

Hi all:

Today I bring you a book I was approached to review. I had (have) quite a long list of books to read, but somehow it seemed quite different to the books I had been reading recently, and I remembered that a change is a good as a rest. So, here it is:

31 Days of Wonder by Tom Winter
31 Days of Wonder by Tom Winter

31 Days of Wonder by Tom Winter

‘And in that instant, he knows in his heart that today is a momentous day; come what may, he and Alice will meet again, and life will never be the same.’

Alice is stuck in an internship she loathes and a body she is forever trying to change.

Ben, also in his early twenties, is still trying to find his place in the world.

By chance they meet one day in a London park.

Day 1
Ben spots Alice sitting on a bench and feels compelled to speak to her. To his surprise, their connection is instant. But before numbers are exchanged, Alice is whisked off by her demanding boss.

20 minutes later
Alone in her office toilets, Alice looks at herself in the mirror and desperately searches for the beauty Ben could see in her.

Meanwhile, having misunderstood a parting remark, Ben is already planning a trip to Glasgow where he believes Alice lives, not realising that they actually live barely ten miles apart.

Over the next 31 days, Alice and Ben will discover that even if they never manage to find each other again, they have sparked a change in each other that will last a lifetime. In 31 Days of Wonder, Tom Winter shows us the magic of chance encounters and how one brief moment on a Thursday afternoon can change the rest of your life.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06X9DNWFS/

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06X9DNWFS/

Author Tom Winter
Author Tom Winter

About the author:

Biography

Tom Winter’s debut novel, Lost & Found, was published in five languages. In August 2013 it was chosen as the Book of the Month by the Mail on Sunday’s You Magazine book club. That summer, the Kindle edition was also a No. 1 bestseller on Amazon UK. In Germany, Apple iBooks called it one of the ten books that everyone should read over the holidays.

Tom’s second book, Arms Wide Open, was published in 2014. Hello! magazine called it ‘a bittersweet joy of a book’, while Saga magazine said it is ‘utterly compelling… Winter has a lethal eye for family tensions.’

His third novel, 31 Days of Wonder, will be released in August 2017.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tom-Winter/e/B00GSPKM1I/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and Little Brown Book Group, Corsair, for offering me an ARC copy of this book (due for release on the 10th of August 2017) that I freely choose to review.

This is a deceptive book. Written in the third person, from the alternating point of view of the two protagonists, where all the action stems from a casual encounter between the two, it feels familiar and we think we know what we’re going to get and where we’re going.

We have two young protagonists (the title reminded me of 300 Days of Summer, although this is chronologically linear, or almost, as the last entry cycles back to the first, from Alice’s point of view this time), Alice and Ben, both quirky, who are not the most popular and do not fit in well with ‘normal’ life (whatever that might be), for different reasons. Alice is overweight, loves food, and as she is doing an internship in advertising is constantly reminded of how important appearances are. She tries to be cheerful and never be negative but does not always manage. We might think she is a bit like Bridget Jones, and well, perhaps there are similarities, but although she has her crazy moments, she goes out of her way to do the right thing and is neither self-absorbed not careless and clumsy by design. Ben has a mental illness (bipolar), but he is not the typical young man who rebels against his condition, refuses to accept advice, and wants to do his own thing. He takes his medication, he questions his odd experiences, and he is fully aware of his shortcomings (that seem to have little to do with his pretty well-controlled illness).  He can be impulsive and he talks too much, but he tries his best not to upset anybody.

The two protagonists have plenty in common. They both share an apartment with somebody (Ben with David, his best friend; Alice with Mae, a young landlady from hell), have jobs that do not make them happy, have a difficult and cold relationship with their closest relatives (for Alice, her parents, for Ben, his grandparents), and are looking for something, even if they don’t know what.

Their chance encounter sets things in motion. As I said, readers are likely to believe that this is going to be a romance story where the two protagonists will be separated by circumstances and misunderstandings, going through a number of adventures, and will eventually come together at the end, for the happy ever after, Alice losing weight and showing people at work she is a true winner, and Ben overcoming his self-doubts and becoming a new man. If you have read the description carefully, you might have noticed that it hints at things not being that straightforward (or even twisty but getting us to the expected point). This is not a mystery novel, but I will try and avoid spoilers nonetheless. Let’s say that both protagonists discover things about themselves and those around them, especially that we should not always focus on living up to other people’s expectations (that we might internalise and make ours), but instead, we should try and find what makes us happy, whatever unlikely and even uncool that might be.

The two main characters are well-drawn and likeable. The secondary characters are also well-drawn, some more likeable than others (Ben seems to be blessed with better luck in friends and even in relatives, as his grandmother becomes much more lovable by the end. Alice is less lucky, and her parents, friends, flatmates and bosses are fairly horrible, although Chris has some potential and her parents… well, let’s say they change). There are surprising moments, sad moments, beautiful moments, and ‘aha’ moments of realisation. I suspect readers will identify more with one of the characters than with the other. Ben has the more rounded and significant experience (he insists on doing things from the beginning, even if he has to change plans along the way).  Alice seems to be a victim of the circumstances (some self-created). She makes-up things rather than taking action and finds it difficult to say no or give her true opinion. But she does have some memorable scenes and it is difficult not to root for her, although overall I preferred Ben’s character. (And loved the parrot).

A well-written and easy to read story, that flows well, with comedic moments and some sadder ones, that I recommend to people who enjoy stories with quirky characters about ‘normal’ life and human relationships at all levels, with no fancy action, no sex, but a lot of heart.

I will be following the author and will be eager to see what he writes next (and I’m also intrigued by his previous novel).

Thanks to NetGalley, to the publisher and to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW! And remember, the book will be published on the 10th of August. (I have a friend, her son, and her daughter [my goddaughter] coming to stay with me next week, so I thought I’d share this ahead of time. If any of you knows where to find last minute tickets for the Warner Studios Harry Potter experience, let me know!)

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