Gym and Slimline – Emma Burstall

I have been revisiting some of my early reviews that were before the conception of this blog. One of them, is the very first ARC I got. It was spiral bound and I was most excited to read it for a magazine, especially as I got £30 for doing so. The only time I have been paid for my writing I hasten to add. The review had to be a lot shorter than what you see below. 

However, it first introduced me to Emma Burstall and I have read all of her books since. Her most recent one being Tremarnock. I have seen an author manage to embrace female friendships, deal with some pretty tough problems and watch the author’s writing change. Tremarnock is a long way from Gym and Slimline, but it still has had the same impact and I have followed the author with interest. 

The Review:

This book is about four women who make the decision to join the new local gym and become involved in each others lives not just in the classes but also outside as well. They all have their secrets and passions which they choose not to share with the entire group, but keep to them and portray an image of coping well with whatever life throws at them.

There is no timescale to this book, you have no sense of how long a period of time these events are taking but they are happening and it is very much real for Percy, Suzanne, Patrice and Carmen. The author cleverly uses a class timetable to split the book up and we are launched straight into the warm up (very important!) introducing us to all the main characters and a little bit about each of them. As the story develops and the girls find new classes to inflict upon themselves we slowly find out more about them and their lives. This is what I think makes a good book, to tell us everything in the first few pages means you can lose interest in the plot and lose faith in the characters if you know everything there is to know about them. 

Percy is trying to hold everything together, whilst her marriage is seemingly crumbling around her and her addiction is just getting out of control. Suzanne is trying to balance the fact that she is a successful career woman with four children that need her time and love but also a younger husband that just might be fed up of being walked over. Patrice is stuck in a sexless controlling marriage and cannot see a way out without causing upset, and just why is her husband behaving in such a strange way. Carmen is determined not to be the only one who doesn’t have children and plots to change the situation.

The relationships these characters have are all intertwined and weave nicely throughout the book. At times (like life) it is only just a couple of them, or all of them trying to make sense of what is happening but without actually sharing all the detail with each other.

The author has used some very modern references within this book to relate it to the here and now, anyone who goes to the gym will recognise the class names, the equipment used even the descriptions of the changing rooms are spot on in my opinion. The issues the four women deal with were perhaps common seventy years ago but they were not dealt with in such an upfront way. Percy’s addiction is an old one but with a modern twist on it and Suzanne’s situation is perhaps becoming more and more common. Patrice is dealing with a problem which in the past would have been not talked about and swept under the carpet. Carmen’s dreams were shattered and she is still trying to rebuild them.

A great book for escaping into and you will be drawn into their story very quickly and very easy. Worth a read.

First published on Amazon Aug 2008

Trouble at the Little Village School – Gervase Phinn

I am back for my second term at the Little Village School.

I am coming back to heartwarming characters, gossipy village ladies and some tension. Enough to keep you turning the pages.

The closure of the school seems to have been to dealt with, but now there will be an amalgamation of schools and it seems that the headteacher Elisabeth Devine has more battles to face.

She has drawn out so many of the teachers who will now inspire and encourage the young minds that they are meeting every day, but she has also made them look closely at their own happiness.

One of those young minds Oscar, seems to be challenging as always and gives the school caretaker much to mutter about.

There is of course Danny who you think has found a more settled life into which to grow. It seems someone else has other ideas and the author brings into the story social services and the battles of right and wrong in not just the best education for a child but also the best home environment you can have. It raises questions about what is best for the child?

In this book as we wait to find out how exactly the amalgamation of two schools is going to work and whether the board of governors and local councillors can agree on a solution which doesn’t appear to be in their own interests. We learn more about Elisabeth and her son. Progress is made but then something from the past brings back memories and can perhaps disrupt future plans.

Of course this book takes you right into the depths of Yorkshire and the wonderful humour it brings. I much enjoyed it and look forward to finding out more about the school and all the characters which make the village what it is.

There is much I could and wanted to say about this book, but I have probably failed to do so in my review, because I would either simply regurgitate the story or because I have come to review the book a long time since I have read it. I think probably the latter and it proves my point that when you read some really cracking books, it is work reviewing them at least 24 hours since you have finished them, especially as to me they are still part of you, you can still be absorbed in the story, the places and the characters. 

Note to self! 

Sunshine and Spaniels – Cressida Mclaughlin

I am back in Primrose Terrace and I get the chance to look behind another of the resident’s doors thanks to Cat and her Pooches.

Of course Cat being the main protagonist of these novellas who we met in book one, Wellies and Westies is still growing her dog walking business – Pooch Promenade and she hosts a puppy picnic, to spread the word and get everyone together so they can share.

It is her she meets the bundle of fun that is Olaf along with two of his owners young girls Lizzie and Emma, they have sneaked out of their house whilst their mum is looking after their baby brother Henry. When Cat takes the girls and Olaf home, she meets Frankie who seems to be struggling to cope.

Surely Cat can help in some way even if it means walking the dog for a trial period?

Along with new characters in this novella we still have time for Polly, the trainee veterinary nurse and her grumpy brother Joe, who Cat lives with. It seems that Polly has caught the eye of the local ice cream parlour owner and that maybe Joe is not as grumpy as we first thought?

Cat only seems to have eyes for Mark, but he flits in and out of Primrose Terrace with alarming speed and never seems to really commit. Is he too good to be true? Or is it simply his personality? Cat is just not sure and then….

…….well you and I are going to have to wait until part three, Raincoats and Retrievers is out in September.

Thank you to netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

I wasn’t sure whether I was going to go any further with this series of novellas. But actually the book came at the perfect time. I needed a light read, I needed something which would hold my attention enough whilst I was dealing with exhaustion and could not possibly focus on the current crime novel I was reading. 

This book fitted the bill and I have to confess, I want to know what happens now so will certainly be looking out for the next part. 

The Rose Revived – Katie Fforde

This is one of the Katie Fforde novels where you get a lot packed into the pages and a story which covers not just three very different women but three very different men too!

Sally, May and Harriet are thrown together when they all end up working for a cleaning company. They need to make some money. Sally is an actress, between roles, Harriet is hiding from something and May is trying to keep her head above water – literally as she needs to pay the mooring fees for her beloved narrow boat.

However, all three of them are proverbially taken to the cleaners and thrown together in their plight they decide to set out on their own. It is only then that we begin to see the real stories behind these women.

Through friendship they discover what they really want in life and it seems that male company might seem a dream it is going to be a reality for them all by the end of the book.

Whilst the cleaning company is a vehicle to get these women together and moving forward, we are taken through what it is like to be living on a narrow boat with May’s trials and tribulations. Sally’s quest to find something better, even if it means getting her perfectly groomed self a bit dirty. I loved this particular part of the story. Or maybe quiet Harriet’s secret talent and expressing it more freely away from the constraints of her family.

This is not my favourite Katie Fforde, I think I would be hard pressed to name my favourite but it is a lovely indication of the quality of writing and atmosphere of Fforde’s novels. I will say that her later novels, do not pack as much in as this one does. This is one of her very early novels and as you read through all her work you can see how styles and plots have developed.

However they are all worthy of a read!

It is only when I go to look back at how many of Katie’s books I have read do I realise that this is her second novel. Therefore it all makes sense that I can see how her books and writing has developed as the years have gone on. 

I am going to treasure my copy as it is signed by the author herself. 

Sneezing Sunday Snippets

It has been a while and I have not posted anything or had anything scheduled to post on the blog for a week – due to a combination of work, exhaustion and not enough reviews being written!

I thought I would pop in and say I am here;

Sneezing  – Hay Fever seems to be on us already and I foolishly drove home the other day with the windows of car open because it was too hot! I really should know better!

Eating – Sneezing makes me eat more, I am sure, in fact I know it does. Diet needs to be reigned back in, but I enjoy baking so much…..

Reading –  I have been honest gov’. It is just the reviews which seem to have been put off. I have read some good stuff as well.

Circuiting – (not sure if that is an allowable word) but I have embraced this exercise class wholeheartedly, my body seems to be taking a lot longer to enjoy it.

Watching – not very much. I am much intrigued by the move of Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans to presenter of Top Gear. The vitriol that has poured forth about this man is unspeakable. We may not all agree but out-and-out threats seem rather childish. One tweet to @chrisevans read simply. “DIE”. His response, “well I expect so eventually”. I think that sums it all up.

Thinking – I am being encouraged from outside sources to write something. Not sure what it will be but I am probably thinking initially of an article and see where it may lead me. Any thoughts of how you get an article published would be gratefully received.

Cuddling – there is a new addition to my family that will arrive in a few weeks time permanently, but in the meantime, weekly catch ups are a joy. I will post more about it soon.

Now I am off to write some reviews…..I promise.

 

Six in Six 2015 Version

This is the fourth year for 6 in 6!

I started it in 2012, gave it another go in 2013 and went into 2014, it seems only right to keep it going and it is a reasonably good meme to join in if you rarely do them.

The idea being that as the end of June approaches and we are then halfway through 2015,  let us share the books we have read in those first 6 months. In fact let’s share 6 books in 6 categories, or simply just 6 books. Whatever you want to and the same book can obviously feature in more than one category.

6

Here are some ideas for headings for your 6 book choices:

  • Six new authors to me
  • Six authors I have read before
  • Six authors I am looking forward to reading more of
  • Six books I have enjoyed the most
  • Six books I was disappointed with
  • Six series of books read or started
  • Six authors I read last year – but not so far this year
  • Six books that took me on extraordinary journeys
  • Six books that took me by the hand and led me into the past
  • Six books from the past that drew me back there
  • Six books from authors I know will never let me down
  • Six books I must mention that don’t fit nicely into any category
  • Six books I started in the first six months of the year and was still caught up with in July
  • Six trips to Europe
  • Six blogging events I enjoyed
  • Six bookish things I’m looking forward to
  • Six Espionage or Historical Novels I enjoyed
  • Six Cool Classics
  • Six Non-US/Non-British Authors
  • Six From the Non-Fiction Shelf
  • Six books that didn’t live up to expectations
  • Six books that I had one or two problems with but am still glad I tried
  • Six books that are related to The Great War or Second World War
  • Six bookshops I have visited
  • Six books I’ve read in an English translation

All you have to do is pick 6 categories that you want to use or come up with your own  (If you do: please comment and I can add them to this list for future years).  Then pick 6 books that fit into those 6 categories and post to your blog. Post any time in July, because I bet we all have books to finish in June that may well fit into a category!

I would be grateful for a link back to this blog and of course please spread the word! I will be back in July with my 6 in 6.

Half the World Away – Cath Staincliffe

Imagine your daughter taking a year out and going to travel, finding she likes China and decides to stay longer.

Your contact is through the wonders of technology, Skype, email, scant phone calls and watching what she writes on her blog.

Then the contact stops. The emails stop, the phone just rings, the blog posts cease. You know the exact date and time you last heard anything.

How long before you do anything?

Lori is the daughter and Jo her mother, Tom her father, long since divorced in Cath Staincliffe’s new novel which is so wrought with tension and emotion, I read it within two days. Something about the storyline, the characters and the vivid writing drew me right in. I was learning something new at every page as I tried to make sense of what was happening to Jo and Tom as they are half the world away from their daughter.

Travelling to China seems to be the only way to further the progress of making contact with Lori. Jo now has to make a choice, as she will now be half the world away from her two younger children and Nick her husband. She leaves at a crucial point in their marriage and family life.

It is now Jo who is making all the contact through the wonders of technology. How can she possibly spilt herself in two?

In China, Jo and Tom face suspicion and antipathy about their cause. The police seem to be doing nothing, the consulate the channel through which to communicate, just tells them to wait and see. The waiting is becoming unbearable, the system so different from the west, the language, the culture, the heat, the smells, the landscape, the understanding of a new world.

Despite all this Jo and Tom come to a decision and create their own destiny. Their only aim to find their daughter.

To say any more will stop you going and reading this book, of which you must read. It was a fascinating read, and had me wrung out emotionally by the end. What made it all the more fascinating, was the unknown, we shared reading Lori’s blog posts and just as Jo and Tom did, they abruptly stop.

As readers we simply have no idea what has happened. There are no clues. And what made this more interesting, the book did not finish at the end. A concept difficult to explain without having actually read it, but you get to see the whole circle and whilst the actual end leaves you with more questions that answers, it gave me one clear answer. You can actually be half the world away from someone even if you are in the same continent, country, county, town, street or home.

Simply read this book.

Thank you to netgalley and the publishers at Little, Brown Book Group for allowing me a copy of the book to review.