Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes

Marian Keyes, the No. 1 bestselling author of Rachel's Holiday, is back with her stunning new novel The Mystery of Mercy Close and the return of the legendary and beloved Walsh sisters.

Helen Walsh doesn't believe in fear - it's just a thing invented by men to get all the money and good jobs - and yet she's sinking. Her work as a Private Investigator has dried up, her flat has been repossessed and now some old demons have resurfaced. 

Not least in the form of her charming but dodgy ex-boyfriend Jay Parker, who shows up with a missing persons case. Money is tight and Jay is awash with cash, so Helen is forced to take on the task of finding Wayne Diffney, the 'Wacky One' from boyband Laddz. 

Things ended messily with Jay. And she's never going back there. Besides she has a new boyfriend now, the very sexy detective Artie Devlin and it's all going well. But the reappearance of Jay is stirring up all kinds of stuff she thought she'd left behind. 

Playing by her own rules, Helen is drawn into a dark and glamorous world, where her worst enemy is her own head and where increasingly the only person she feels connected to is Wayne, a man she's never even met. 

Utterly compelling, moving and very very funny, The Mystery of Mercy Close is unlike any novel you've ever read and Helen Walsh - courageous, vulnerable and wasp-tongued - is the perfect heroine for our times.

It's been too long since Marian Keyes appeared in my life and I had missed her.  As a girl with Irish blood, I may be slightly biased but her books have always been fabulous, and this is no exception.

Marian Keyes has suffered from crippling depression for a number of years and this is mirrored in her latest book, The Mystery of Mercy Close.  

It's extremely well written, and despite the extremely serious undertone, it's extremely humourous.  I found myself laughing out loud at things that you shouldn't really find funny, but Marian has that way of writing and after all, she is the perfect person to write about this topic.

The story itself is fantastically portrayed, and whilst I did guess where Wayne was, it was only a few pages before it was revealed.  Up until that point, it had been a complete and utter mystery.

Not predictable, funny but poignant and a very clever story which I loved.  Welcome back Marian Keyes.  Long may you be happy and keep writing for us all to enjoy.

The Returned by Jason Mott

Thank you to Samantha Allen at Cherish PR for the review copy of Jason Mott's The Returned.

"All over the world, people's loved ones are returning from the dead.
Exactly as they were before they died.
As if they never left.
As if it's just another ordinary day.

Jacob Hargrave tragically drowned over 40 years ago. Now he's on his aged parents doorstep, still eight years old; the little boy they knew they d never see again. As the family find themselves at the centre of a community on the brink of collapse, they are forced to navigate a whole new reality and question everything they've ever believed.

No one knows how or why this mysterious event is happening, whether it s a miracle or a sign of the end.
The only certainty is that their lives will never be the same again."

This isn't the sort of book I would usually jump at the chance to read, but reading the description intrigued me and made me want to read it.  As I started to read, I realised that it wasn't really what I was expecting, although I'm not sure what else I had been expecting in a book about people coming back from the dead years later.  It isn't zombie-esque, but the "returnings" causes the world to go into utter meltdown.  This book is about the story of a particular community and how they cope, or don't cope as the case may be.  

It doesn't really focus on the people coming back in the way I had expected - as in they didn't have deep and meaningful conversations about how much they've missed each other, and what caused their is more about the world's reaction to their return.

Having started reading, and immediately thought that perhaps this wasn't for me after all, I continued and actually really enjoyed it.  It isn't the sort of book that you can lie in bed at night and dream about it happening to you, but it was enjoyable.  It kept me turning the pages and at times, it was very moving.

I'm not particularly religious, and so I couldn't necessarily relate to that element of the book, but I see how it was important and I respect that.  It is about faith, and how different people react when confronted with the same situation.  It's also about love, and the things people do; things they never thought they would.  All in all, enjoyable I thought.

Once More with Feeling by Megan Crane

This winter, lose yourself in Sarah's world of life-changing decisions, friendship and old flames....

Sarah's suffered the very worst of betrayals.  But now with a new year around the corner, what better time to re-evaluate her life?

As she reconsiders every choice she's made, she starts to wonder if her life was so perfect after all, and if this might be the moment that her world changes forever...

This book has been sat on my bookshelf for some time, just waiting to be read.  I had been waiting for winter to set in, as the cover is so beautifully wintery.  The cover is a little deceiving; it makes you feel like it will be a christmassy book.  Whilst this book is the ideal book to settle down with in front of the fire on a crisp winter day, it isn't a Christmas eve read.  (For that I would recommend the author Scarlett Bailey and her fabulous Christmas books!)

I very much enjoyed this book.  It resonated with me, and I found it very easy to relate to Sarah.  Not because of the affair, but because of the back story which comes out as Sarah delves into her past to try and discover why she made the choices she did.  Did she settle for Tim? Has she really been as happy as she thought all those years? What happened to her dreams? How did she end up being the type of lawyer she always hated?

To answer all those questions, and try to work out how she ended up where she is today, Sarah takes a trip down or two down memory lane.  This is the point in the book where I really started to get into it.  I saw similarities between Sarah and Brooke's friendship and an old friendship of my own.  It made me smile, and I didn't want her to leave Brooke again.  But then came along her old flame, Alec.....

Alec....Alec is delicious and sounded like my perfect man! At this point, I wanted to dive into the book and take Sarah's place!

Megan Crane does a fabulous job at making you feel everything Sarah feels: disbelief, anger, frustration at her parents, confusion, love for an old friend, lust for an old flame....! The pace is perfect, and the storyline twists and turns to keep you turning the pages.

You know a book is good when it leaves you wanting more, and this book left me begging Megan Crane to write a sequel (quite literally, I actually tweeted her before I embarked on this review!).  It wasn't the predictable ending I expected and it only hints at the future, which I'm dying to know more about.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Thank you to Tessa at Transworld Publishers for the review copy of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry which was sent in return for an honest review of the book.

"When Harold Fry nips out one morning to post a letter, leaving his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other. He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone. All he knows is that he must keep walking. To save someone else's life."

This isn't the most believable story, but it was one that intrigued me.

Rachel Joyce doesn't hang about, but plunges straight into the storyline with Harold embarking on his walk in the first few pages.  Any "back story" to Harold and his life is discovered en route as he walks from his home in Devon to Berwick-upon-Tweed, through Harold's memories.

I struggled for the first part of the book, as I constantly found myself wondering how someone walking from one end of the country to the other would be able to fill a whole book, but it does.  I also at times thought "why wouldn't he just get on a train?" But I guess that is the whole point of the book - he has to walk to "save Queenie".  Harold meets a whole host of people on his way, and he also untangles himself from the person he had become to remember the person he was, to remember the people he loves.  

Meanwhile, Harold's wife, left home alone with only her neighbour for company, has the same sort of realising experiences.

The whole point of his walk is to "save" Queenie's life. Yet, when he arrives in Berwick-upon-Tweed, there isn't much made of the event.  It comes and it goes; blink and you might miss it, which I found a little frustrating.

There also wasn't much mystery.  You didn't wonder if he'd had an affair with Queenie all those years ago, as he says it wasn't a romantic gesture.  It's a mystery why he feels compelled to walk all that way for this particular woman, but I found that I didn't find myself second guessing and therefore I didn't really care all that much.

As my mum said, it would have been much more interesting if he'd turned up at the hospice and his love child was sat waiting by Queenie's bed.

There was also part towards the end of the book where Harold was joined by other people on his walk.  I didn't like this bit, it left me frustrated and I wanted them to leave.

All that said, it sounds like I hated it.  I didn't - whilst some of it was a little repetitive, overall I did enjoy it and the ending was good.  If anything, I would have liked to have seen more of his relationship with his wife.  

Good, if you just want some light-reading.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

Bridget Jones is back.....!

What do you do when a girlfriend's 60th birthday party is the same day as your boyfriend's 30th?

Is it wrong to lie about your age when online dating?

Is it morally wrong to have a blow-dry when one of your children has head lice?

Does the Dalai Lama actually tweet or is it his assistant?

Is technology now the fifth element? Or is that wood?

Is sleeping with someone after 2 dates and 6 weeks of texting the same as getting married after 2 meetings and 6 months of letter writing in Jane Austen's day?

Pondering these, and other modern dilemmas, Bridget Jones stumbles through the challenges of single-motherhood, tweeting, texting and redisovering her sexuality in what SOME people rudely and outdatedly call 'middle age'.

The long-awaited return of a much-loved character, Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy is timely, tender, touching, witty, wise and bloody hilarious.

By now, you will all have heard the "SPOILER" about the latest Bridget Jones book.  And if you haven't....stop reading now and hide under a rock until your copy gets delivered.

Yes, Darcy is dead.  And all of you that are outraged by this fact and as a result of your outrage are protesting by not reading the book, well you're quite simply missing out on the same old lovable Bridget.  Yes it is sad, and yes we all miss him (including Bridget), but GET OVER IT.

Think about it logically.  If Darcy was still alive, he and Bridget would be married.  You'd want them to be happily married and for it to last forevermore.....they would have their beautiful Darcy-like children and there would be the chaos that comes with children, but Bridget wouldn't have the dating disasters that we all came to love her for......unless she left Darcy.....and that would be even more outrageous.

I personally can't recall reading the first two books, although they sit neatly on my bookshelf, so I can't compare and reassure you that "Yes, it's just as good" or shake my head miserable and say "No, it's not the same, I preferred the first book" but what I can say is that it's enjoyable, it's funny, it made me laugh out loud and it made me cry.  It is the same old Bridget Jones, and as I read it, I can vividly see the spectacularly embarrassing moments being broadcast to me on the television in years to come.   

Helen Fielding most certainly hasn't lost it, she has perfectly captured Bridget Jones.  It is a different chapter in Bridget's life and you need to embrace that.

I was pleased to see that Daniel Cleaver still features, albeit occasionally.  Helen Fielding has his character well and truly nailed.....reading those passages is like listening to Hugh Grant speak to me, which quite frankly, is amazing in itself.

Of the new characters, I loved Bridget's children, especially her little girl....who sounds like the cutest thing on the planet.  

All in all, I enjoyed it.  Yes times had moved on since Bridget Jones first crashed into our lives, but it's still a great read, with or without Mark Darcy.  It made me laugh, it made me cry (more than once!) and when I'd finished, I closed the book with a smile on my face.

I know Helen Fielding didn't write this book with a film in mind, but we all know it will happen and it will make a wonderful film.  They're going to need to start looking for a very cute young mini-Bridget (think Karen from Outnumbered) and an equally as dashing mini-Mark Darcy.