Thursday 19 August 2021

Did You Miss Me? by Sophia Money-Coutts | Book Review

[AD/Gifted - I received a proof copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.]

Did You Miss Me? by Sophia Money-Coutts - 4/5

"Nell Mason is extremely happy with her life – or at least, that’s what she tells herself. She’s lucky to have a high-powered job as a lawyer, even if it does come with an eccentric set of billionaire divorce clients. And she’s absolutely fine living with her sweet, if slightly dull, boyfriend Gus in their London flat where they have very sensible sex once (OK, sometimes twice) a week. She’s definitely not stuck in a rut.

But when Nell bumps into childhood friend and first love Arthur Drummond who broke her heart fifteen years ago, she’s more than a little shaken. The seemingly perfect life she’s worked so hard for starts to feel, well, less perfect. Maybe Nell’s been kidding herself all these years. Can she ever get over her first love?"

Sophia Money-Coutts is one of those authors that I know I'll read everything by. I loved What Happens Now? and The Wish List and I feel the exact same way about Did You Miss Me?

Thirty-four year old Nell has been with boyfriend Gus for eleven years. Both of them are lawyers, Nell working with high profile divorce cases. They live in London and their routine is sort of monotonous by this stage. They have sex on a Friday morning before work and do the same thing every weekend.

Nell's father has an accident and she is brought back to her hometown of Northcliffe as she needs to look after him for a while. She crosses paths with Art, the boy (now man) that she was enamoured with as a teenager. He is now married and living in New York with his wife and teenage son but is back home for a couple of weeks following his father's death.

I love Money-Coutts's style of writing. We hear about Nell and Art's life together 15+ years ago and what exactly happened between them. The family dynamic between Nell, her parents and brother Jack is great too. She realises while being back at home that she enjoys the slow pace of life there, which is the complete opposite of her life in London. Being back in touch with Art and living this different life for a while makes her reassess things.

This book had me laughing out loud and I really cared about the characters. 

Tuesday 17 August 2021

Backstories by Simon van der Velde | Book Review

[AD/Gifted - I received an eBook copy for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.]

Backstories by Simon van der Velde - 5/5
Backstories – ‘the stand-out most original book of the year’ - is a collection of stories each told from the point of view of one of my personal heroes, (or villains) back when they were just another Jew or black, or queer – back when they were nobody. Bullied, assaulted or psychologically abused, their road to redemption was never easy, and for some there would be no redemption, only a descent into evil.

These are the stories of people you know. The settings are mostly 60’s and 70’s UK and USA, the driving themes are inclusion and social justice - but the real key to these stories is that I withhold the protagonists’ identities. This means that your job is to find them - leading to that Eureka moment when you realise who's mind you've been inhabiting for the last twenty minutes.

I should also add that this is a book that operates on two levels. Yes, there’s the game of identifying the mystery activist or actor, singer or murderer, but there is then the more serious business of trying to understand them. This in turn leads to the challenge of overlaying what you now know about these famous people onto what you thought you knew – not to mention the inherent challenge to your moral compass.

These are people you know, but not as you know them. Peel back the mask and see.

This book is dedicated to the victims of violent crime, the struggle against discrimination in all its forms and making the world a better place for our children. That is why 30% of all profits will be shared between Stop Hate UK, The North East Autism Society and Friends of the Earth.

This is probably one of the most interesting books I've ever read. It is a collection of short stories, each a backstory on a celebrity or famous figure. Although there are facts included, there has been a bit of creative licence used.

They are told in a way that we need to work out who the story is about with clues peppered in, like a nickname or quote. It is very clever and gives us just enough information to work the person out. I was able to get them all but I went straight to Google to double check - I never thought I'd ever search "What height is Paul Simon in feet?" The stories were sometimes funny, sometimes serious and some made me a little shocked.

I don't want to give too much away because Backstories is such an entertaining read and everyone should give it a go! I loved the concept and the author wasn't afraid to shy away from harder topics.

Monday 9 August 2021

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey | Audiobook Review

[This post contains affiliate links.]

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey - 5/5

"I've been in this life for fifty years, been trying to work out its riddle for forty-two, and been keeping diaries of clues to that riddle for the last thirty-five. Notes about successes and failures, joys and sorrows, things that made me marvel, and things that made me laugh out loud. How to be fair. How to have less stress. How to have fun. How to hurt people less. How to get hurt less. How to be a good man. How to have meaning in life. How to be more me.

Recently, I worked up the courage to sit down with those diaries. I found stories I experienced, lessons I learned and forgot, poems, prayers, prescriptions, beliefs about what matters, some great photographs, and a whole bunch of bumper stickers. I found a reliable theme, an approach to living that gave me more satisfaction, at the time, and still: If you know how, and when, to deal with life's challenges - how to get relative with the inevitable - you can enjoy a state of success I call 'catching greenlights.'

So I took a one-way ticket to the desert and wrote this book: an album, a record, a story of my life so far. This is fifty years of my sights and seens, felts and figured-outs, cools and shamefuls. Graces, truths, and beauties of brutality. Getting away withs, getting caughts, and getting wets while trying to dance between the raindrops.

Hopefully, it's medicine that tastes good, a couple of aspirin instead of the infirmary, a spaceship to Mars without needing your pilot's license, going to church without having to be born again, and laughing through the tears.

It's a love letter. To life.

It's also a guide to catching more greenlights-and to realising that the yellows and reds eventually turn green too.

Good luck."

There is no way I could give this less than 5/5. Firstly, I listened to it through Audible and I loved that is was narrated by McConaughey himself. I know that he doesn't describe it as an autobiography but it does feel that way a little. The idea behind the name is that green lights help us grow and progress. Can we turn red and amber lights into green ones?

I would never call myself a fangirl of McConaughey. He was never my favourite actor but I didn't dislike him either. I love him after listening to this book and grinned like an idiot the whole way through.

I was drawn in at the very beginning when he described his mother and father's relationship. The story follows McConaughey from a child right up to today. We hear his life experiences from his father attempting to sue a skincare company for giving Matthew acne to his life as an exchange student in Australia, being arrested and landing his most well-known movie roles.

Did I quote the Dazed and Confused "Alright, alright, alright!" line with him? Of course I did. It was so interesting getting a bit of insight into these characters he played and backstories of the movies.

Hearing about how he met his wife was wonderful and his reaction to becoming a father. I belly laughed at his mother's reaction to them having a baby out of wedlock.

I did not want to stop listening and I am sad I finished it! Thoroughly recommend!

Thursday 5 August 2021

A Narrow Door by Joanne Harris | Blog Tour Book Review

[AD/Gifted - I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

A Narrow Door by Joanne Harris - 4/5

"Now I'm in charge, the gates are my gates. The rules are my rules.

It's an incendiary moment for St Oswald's school. For the first time in its history, a headmistress is in power, the gates opening to girls.

Rebecca Buckfast has spilled blood to reach this position. Barely forty, she is just starting to reap the harvest of her ambition. As the new regime takes on the old guard, the ground shifts. And with it, the remains of a body are discovered.

But Rebecca is here to make her mark. She'll bury the past so deep it will evade even her own memory, just like she has done before. After all...

You can't keep a good woman down."

This is the first book by Joanne Harris that I have read and it surely won't be my last.

A Narrow Door is the third book in a trilogy. I was unaware of this but I will be reading the other two. It can work as a standalone as I didn't feel lost but I definitely want to read more about this world.

Rebecca Buckfast, née Price, has taken the role of Head at St Oswald's Academy. Previously a school solely for boys, not even with any female staff, they are merging with Mulberry House meaning that they will now have female students and staff.

Remains are found on the school grounds by The Brodie Boys, students at St Oswald's and they report it to teacher Roy Straitley. He informs Rebecca Buckfast and thus ensues our story.

Rebecca begins to tell essentially her background story to Straitley and therefore us, the reader too. We discover that Rebecca's older brother Conrad was a pupil of a nearby school, King Henry's, that was very similar to St Oswald's. 

He went missing at the age of fourteen, when Rebecca was five years old. Her parents kept the home a shrine to him and gave Rebecca less attention.

As Rebecca tells these stories of her childhood, the birth of her daughter at aged 16, finding husband Dominic when her daughter was six years old and then becoming a teacher at King Henry's, the very school her brother attended when he went missing, we discover that she may know something regarding his disappearance.

This book is wholly atmospheric and masterfully written. The stories from Rebecca's past are weaved brilliantly into her storytelling to Straitley. You shouldn't like Rebecca Buckfast but she is the perfect anti-heroine.


A massive thank you to Compulsive Readers for organising the blog tour and Orion for the copy of the book. You can find information on where to find blogger reviews from the other tour participants in the graphic below.

Tuesday 3 August 2021

Underbelly by Anna Whitehouse | Blog Tour Book Review

[AD/Gifted - I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Underbelly by Anna Whitehouse -
"Lo and Dylan are living parallel lives, worlds apart.

Lo is the ultimate middle-class mother, all perfectly polished Instagram posts and armchair activism.

Dylan is just about surviving on a zero-hours telemarketing job from her flat, trying to keep food on the table.

But when they meet at the school gates, they are catapulted into each other's homes and lives - with devastating consequences..."

I was in a bit of a reading slump before I started Underbelly and this is just what I needed to pull me out of it.

Underbelly is told from the points of view of two women; Lois and Dylan. Lois is a middle class mother to four-year-old Scout and is married to Johno. She boasts an Instagram following of tens of thousands of people and makes a living from ads on social media.

Dylan is a single mother to four-year-old son Noah and in stark contrast to Lois, doesn't share her life online in the same way. She has escaped a violent relationship and is keeping under the radar. She does however, write an anonymous blog about her past.

These two ladies are thrown together after their children start school together and their lives change completely.

I started my "blogging life" as a parent blogger but moved into book blogging when I decided I didn't want to share my children online as much anymore. I still follow a lot of parent bloggers and online influencers so I am well aware of what goes on when it comes to trolls and negative comments. 

Lois (and eventually Dylan) fall victim to these online keyboard warriors with devastating consequences, from both comments on their personal posts but also threads about them on a specific message board solely for gossiping about influencers (no prizes for guessing what that is based on!) 

Honestly, I could not put this book down and my emotions were all over the place! It does describe the reality of living your life online, how people think that they know every single thing about your life and think that because you put yourself out there, they can say what they like.

I must also add trigger warnings for domestic abuse, baby loss and self harm. 

A massive thank you to Orion for having me on the blog tour. You can find information on the other bloggers taking part in the infographic below.