November 9 by Colleen Hoover

imageI’m not much of a one for romance I must admit and so when November 9 was selected for Kimba at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer’s online book club (you can join here on facebook) I did have a bit of an “oh oh” moment.  Still, reading books you wouldn’t normally is all part of being in a book club so off I went and bought a copy.

November 9 is the story of two teenagers, Fallon and Ben, who meet on the day Fallon is about to move from LA to New York to start her life again after living in limbo for two years since being injured in a house fire.

They spend the day together and then, as Ben takes Fallon to the airport, agree to meet at the same time / in the same place the following year and every year after that for five years – or until they are 23 because that is the age Fallon has decided you are old enough to know your own mind.

It’s a familiar idea, and I was reminded of movies like An Affair to Remember where misunderstandings and miscommunications lead to lots of heartache before everything turns out well in the end (it has to right, this is a romance?).  Saying that, though, it didn’t feel old or stale because  Colleen Hoover has a really nice writing style.  The novel and the story felt fresh and modern and I found that I really liked Ben and Fallon.

I did find them a little to old for their ages – I am not sure I would have been quite as wise as Ben when I was 18 – at least on the surface.  Then their actions showed just how young and naïve they really were.  It meant there were layers to the plot I didn’t expect and I found myself turning the pages quicker and quicker as the book went on.  I had to know how it ended.  And, whilst I may have let slip, there is a happy ending (spoilers – sorry!) there is a great twist before you get there that I didn’t see coming.

Will I rush out and buy another romance novel as a result of this? probably not but I may well pick up another book by Colleen Hoover when I come across it because I liked November 9 a lot.

Emma

 

 

Fuzz McFlops by Eva Furnari

Over the past six months, as my daughter has gotten a little older, she has been wanting to read longer books with more detailed stories. Bear Snores On and The Gruffalo aren’t quite enough for her. When I got the chance to review Fuzz McFlops then, I thought it was worth a go.

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Fuzz McFlops is one of the most famous rabbit-writers in the land, but ever since his classmates teased him about his lopsided ears at school he’s lead a lonely life, writing sad stories such as The Withered Carrot. Now he’s started receiving some scandalous, outrageous and rather eye-catching letters from one of his fans. Who is she? And why does Fuzz’s funny, too-short ear start twitching every time he replies to her shocking notes? As their correspondence continues, Fuzz McFlops begins to wonder where this tale is heading, and whether he might not discover a happy ending for once, after all…

One of the the things we’ve struggled with as we transition into “big girl books” is that my daughter doesn’t have the greatest attention span and so there still needs to be enough in the way of illustrations to keep her interested and help her understanding. Fuzz McFlops seems to have found that balance and she really enjoyed it. I did too, a big plus as I won’t mind reading it again – and I’m sure we will.

It’s a really sweet love story about a misfit rabbit poet (Fuzz) and a reader (Charlotte) who feels the need to point out his stories aren’t that cheerful. Her honesty encourages Fuzz to tell her how he feels and helps him grow in confidence. Suddenly his ears that aren’t the same length don’t seem to matter too much. The moral you find in kids books is there but it doesn’t beat you over the head which I thought was a good thing.

A slight downside is this is a translation of a Brazilian story and so every now and then something does feel as if it has been lost in translation – the poems Fuzz writes don’t rhythm for example and a few sentences feel clunky and were hard to read out loud. I am not sure my daughter noticed these though. She just liked the tale and the drawings, which I thought were great – bright, colourful and not babyish as at all – which means, overall this was liked a lot my mother and daughter and one I would recommend.

Emma

Note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.

This Book Will Save Your Life by A. M. Homes

553476Richard is in pain. What type of pain, he isn’t sure and the doctors can find nothing wrong.  But still he hurts. Lying in the hospital bed, he realises that he doesn’t know who to call. His ex-wife, his estranged son, the brother he hasn’t seen in years, his parents who have decamped to Florida and who he doesn’t speak to either? He is, it turns out, a man very much alone and the pain isn’t so much to do with his heart but with his head.

A self-made man with a lot of money, Richard lives like a recluse.  His life is one of routine, exercise and health food. He has trainers, nutritionists and a cleaner he doesn’t speak to but no friends. He watches stocks and shares and makes money but doesn’t leave his house for months. Now, sitting in hospital, he realises he doesn’t want to go home and he doesn’t want to be alone.

Finally, after years of inertia, Richard starts to live. It’s a strange living, one that starts in a donut shop and where he meets and makes friends with misfits, movies stars and novelists.  His son comes to visit and they begin to rebuild their relationship.  Along the way, he rescues a horse, a dog, and a kidnapped woman. It’s all a bit surreal and very funny. By the end I was really rooting for Richard who hadn’t quite figured it all out but you get the feeling he is doing more than existing.

You might be able to tell – I enjoyed this book. I like A. M. Homes, the way she writes. Her novels make me laugh and I love her take on the world, which is slightly off centre. I came to her books late and am slowly working my way through them. So far, this is my favourite and I can’t wait to read more. 

Emma

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

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Maud has dementia, meaning she doesn’t always know where or when she is, what she is doing, has just done or is supposed to do. Her life is full of her carers and daughter telling her things she can’t remember, what not to eat, where not to go, what not to buy and who not to call. There are a lot of nots and they all seem to result in Maud being mainly at home, on her own.

To try and help her, she has notes stuck to walls, doors, shelves, reminders of how to take care of herself. Notes lie in stacks on the table and fill her pockets and handbag. They don’t seem to do much to help. They might, if she could remember when she had written them and if they were still relevant.

One note she knows is still relevant, is the one that tells her her best friend, Elizabeth, is missing. Elizabeth is the only person who makes her feel normal, despite her illness. Maud hasn’t seen her in a long time, although she isn’t sure how long, and is convinced Elizabeth’s no good son is most likely responsible. A fact confirmed when she finds Elizabeth’s house is empty. A house she can’t stop going back to.

The problem is no one believes her, worse they don’t listen to her when she tries to tell them. Instead, they brush her off or humour her, depending on who “they” are – her daughter, her carer, the son, the police. Maud refuses to let go of Elizabeth though, determined to discover the truth. It’s hard, though, when she doesn’t know when she last saw her best friend and only remembers she is missing or what she’s done about it when she finds a note. This means she does a lot of the same things, like visiting the police station to file a report, again and again.

Whilst Maud’s grasp of the present is fleeting, her past seems to be becoming clearer and clearer, especially memories of her sister Sukie who, like Elizabeth, went missing not long after the end of the war. She was never found but, now, Maud starts to unravel what might have happened to her.

Emma Healey does a great job of moving between past and present and of creating the two worlds Maud inhabits, the clarity of her youth and the muddle of her old age. For me, this mix of the then and the now, make Maud a really rounded character. I felt I got to know her a little better with each chapter and care for her more with each page.

I thought Emma Healey presented Maud and how her illness affected her and her family sympathetically without over sentimentalising. I liked, for example, that her daughter was caring but that she was obviously stressed by being the primary carer and sometimes snapped and that we got a glimpse of how frustrated Maud felt. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have dementia or be a carer but I do think I got a window into that world.

As well as good characters, I found the book to be well written and compelling and an excellent debut. It wasn’t the most difficult mystery to solve, there weren’t the red herrings and twists you would find in crime fiction, but I don’t think it was meant to be. For me, this was more about the people, and family, and loss and it didn’t take a step wrong. Really, really liked it and a recommended read.

Emma

Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse

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Before We Met was one of those books that got me with the “blurb” on the back cover. It sounded intriguing, and like something I would enjoy reading.

A whirlwind romance. A perfect marriage. Hannah Reilly has seized her chance at happiness.Until the day her husband doesn’t come home…

I have to say it was both, although for the first chapter or two I was a bit worried it was going to be run of the mill thriller. I thought it was also seeming a bit too obvious. Thankfully I was wrong.

Hannah goes to the airport to pick up her husband, Nick, who doesn’t turn up. A frantic night of worrying is followed by a phone call saying he missed his flight and so decided to stay in New York. Hannah should feel relieved…if Nick’s Assistant hadn’t told her Nick was supposed to be in Rome, not New York. An attempt to find out the truth leads Hannah into a web of lies, leaving her to question everything she knows about her husband, her marriage and her life.

The great thing about the book for me was how many twists and turns there were. Every time Hannah thinks she’s found the truth, it turns out she’s wrong and every time I thought I had the ending sussed, it turns out I was wrong too. Meaning I kept reading, finishing the book in a day or so.

It also meant there was a great pace to the book, one that never let up. I really did feel as if I was being dragged along with Hannah herself, who I grew to like, although I would have liked her to be a bit more solid as a character. There were times when I thought Lucie Whitehouse relied on the twists and red herrings rather than developing Hannah. The same is true of Nick, who felt a little wooden and very much the stereotype of the perfect, gorgeous, successful husband.

This meant I couldn’t say I loved the book but I did like it a lot. I’ll be reading more Lucie Whitehouse and will recommend the book.

Emma

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

Title: The Dud Avocado
Author: Elaine Dundy
Published: 1958
Source: Library
Rating: 4 out of 5

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It’s 1958 and Sally Jay Gorce, hair “dyed a marvelous shade of pale red so popular with Parisian tarts”, is an aspiring actress in her early 20’s and living in Paris courtesy of her rich Uncle Roger who, after one too many runaway attempts as a teenager, told her he would pay her way for two years once she had finished college so she could have the adventures she dreamt of having.

“I just want to eat about a hundred million oysters and two tons of caviar and go swimming naked in champagne…”

Dying her hair is just one of the many ways she has embraced the Parisian way of life; she hangs out with artists, stays up late drinking absinthe and has become the lover of an Italian diplomat (not his mistress, he already has one of those). From pretty much page one of the book, her life is disorganised and chaotic; when we meet her, she is in an evening gown in the middle of the day as she slept late and missed picking up her clothes at the dry cleaners.

“That’s the story of my life. Someone’s behavior strikes me as a bit odd and the next thing I know all hell breaks loose.”

The Summer of Dead Toys by Antonio Hill

Title: The Summer of Dead Toys
Author: Antonio Hill
Genre: Crime
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summer of Dead Toys

What is it about?

Inspector Hector Salgado has just returned to Barcelona after an enforced holiday; he was suspended after brutally beating the key suspect in a pedophilia / human trafficking ring. The suspect has now disappeared and Hector is the prime suspect for having made him disappear. While he waits to hear if his career is over, Hector is asked by his boss to take a second look at the case of the accidental death of a young man, something his mother doesn’t accept. The young man was a member of one of the most powerful families in Barcelona and things need to be handled carefully. Hector agrees (can he do anything else?) and finds out that the boy’s mother may be right, especially when he comes across Iris.

What did I think?

I really enjoyed The Summer of Dead Toys, although I admit I wasn’t sure in the beginning. I would say for the first few chapters I found myself putting it down a fair bit. Then, something clicked and I read the second two thirds in a day or so.

Just What Kind of Mother Are You by Paula Daly

Title: Just What Kind Of Mother Are You?
Author: Paula Daly
Genre: Suspense
Rating: 4 out of 5

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What is it about?

Lisa is a busy and stressed. She has three kids, a husband who works nights, and a job she needs to keep. Things keep getting on top of her and she feels like she can’t do anything right. Unlike well off, stay-at-home mum, Kate.

Lisa and Kate are friends through their 13 year old daughters and Lisa can’t help comparing herself. She always comes out worse. They can’t get much worse when Lisa forgets to tell Kate that Lucinda can’t do a sleepover because her daughter is ill. And then Lucinda goes missing.

At 13, the police might normally consider Lucinda a runaway. Only Lucinda isn’t that type of girl. She is a little timid, well behaved, young for her age. Just like the last girl that went missing a week or so before, and the one that goes missing a few days later. While the police begin the hunt for Lucinda, guilt pushes Lisa to do the same. This being a thriller, it is probably no surprise that Lisa finds out Kate’s life isn’t quite as perfect as it seems.

What did I think?

Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty

Title: Apple Tree Yard
Author: Louise Doughty
Genre: Suspence
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Source: Purchased

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What is it about?

Yvonne Carmichael is fifty-something, happily married and a well respected scientist. When she meets “X” she does something totally out of character and begins an affair, one that has terrible consequences and ends with her and her lover in court and facing prison. Apple Tree Yard opens with the court case and then takes us back to the start of the affair. It isn’t explained why the two are on trial but given they are at the Old Bailey, you know it can’t be good. You assume it’s murder but you can’t be sure.

What did I think?

I had been looking forward to reading Apple Tree Yard for a while and it was a book I couldn’t put down when I started reading because I wanted to know what happened. Or, at least, I wanted to know why Yvonne and “X” were on trial. Whether they were guilty or not didn’t interest me so much because I didn’t care about them.

Emma's Secret by Steena Holmes

Title: Emma’s Secret
Author: Steena Holmes
Genre: Popular Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5

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What is it about?

After being missing for two years, five year old Emma has been returned to her family, who are struggling to adjust, especially her mom Megan. Megan is terrified of letting Emma out of her sight. Her eldest daughter feels guilty, her middle daughter resentful. Her husband, Peter, seems to be losing himself in work and, Megan fears, the arms of his attractive business partner.

As for Emma, she is trying to readjust at the same time as dealing with the loss of the only family she remembers – Dottie, the elderly woman with Dementia who took Emma thinking she was her granddaughter and is now dead, and Jack, who Emma thought was her grandfather. Jack is still alive but barred from seeing Emma. He had no idea what his wife had done, believing she had rescued Emma from their drug addict daughter. When he found out, he returned her to her family. Now he’s alone.

It might not be so bad for Emma if her mom could let go but she can’t. She tries to dress Emma differently, pretends to mail pictures Emma draws to Jack, and refuses to say either Dottie or Jack’s name in her house. The fact that this hurts Emma doesn’t seem enough to stop her, neither does the fact that her other daughters are also hurting and her husband is pulling away. In fact, Peter is keeping a big secret from Megan. And so is Emma. Both worry what will happen when Megan finds out.