Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe

Books

Last summer I read in Womens Weekly or a magazine similar about a review of Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe. All highly recommending it as ‘comedy gold’ and full of humour and supposedly a great summer read. So of course I went out and bought it. The synopsis says it’s about a woman and her three children moving to a village that’s a little suspicious of an attractive divorcée so the two daughters go on a hunt to find their mother a husband to gain some respect within the village. Sounds good right?

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Okay, so I’m thinking about two prepubescent girls who have some very immature and cute criteria for their mother’s husband. You know the stuff, a man who likes ponies (and will hopefully buy them one each) but it is exactly the opposite. They are way too mature for their ages, in my opinion, with emphasis on sex, pregnancy (termination and miscarriage feature), which I just don’t think children of that age should really have an in-depth knowledge of.

They go on this hunt to find ANY man (married, single, other) and secretly invite them to the house and literally set it all up so that their mother will have sex with these men and get pregnant (because pregnancy = husband) and none of it really sat well with me I’ll be honest. This book is set in the 1960s so it’s understandable why sex and pregnancy is important to ‘hook a man’ but I still couldn’t get over the fact that young kids were so aware of it.

The story follows the two daughters and is written from the second daughter, Lizzie’s, perspective. They analyse all the men in the town and their suitability as a husband for their mother, constantly adding and deleting from their ‘Man List’. Writing to the men, pretending to be their mother, to get them to come to the house and they went from there…

There is a good plot with one of the men that turns into a little mystery/man, you’re a douche! moment but from the beginning, as the reader, you already know something’s up anyway and wonder why on earth the characters haven’t already ditched him.

Man at the Helm is certainly not the comedy fest I was led to believe it would and I am disappointed in it because otherwise, had the reviews not raved about how hilarious it was, I might have enjoyed it more. It’s just the fact I was expecting one thing and ended up with the opposite.

It actually took me nearly 3 weeks to read this book simply because I did not want to continue. I was eager to get it finished before The Girl on the Train was released so I could devour that but it took a back seat until I finished this.

I give this book a 2/5 stars because it was still a good story but I honestly felt uncomfortable with the nonchalant way the young girls were talking about sex and its associations. I also downgraded it because it just wasn’t funny and I expected that from a book reviewed as ‘comedy gold’.

If you’ve read this book and enjoyed it, let me know. I wouldn’t not recommend it to people but now you know it isn’t the funny story you may have expected.

RebeccaJane xo

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A Year of Being Single by Fiona Collins

Books

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Steven’s mum gave me £20 in Google Play gift cards for my Christmas one year and normally, I would spend that on games or in-app purchases for The Sims on my tablet. Since someone *cough* Steven *cough* broke my tablet, I only have my phone left and I don’t like playing games on my phone so I’ve been using the gift cards to buy ebooks through the Google Books app. I normally read on the Kindle app because it shows you (as you’re reading), how far you’ve read and how much is left is in the chapter too, but Google Books has been fine too.

I do struggle a little with reading ebooks simply because it doesn’t feel real to me if that makes sense? I like to turn the pages myself and be able to put the book down before checking Facebook rather than just closing the app but anyway, I got this ebook for 99p and is currently the same on Kindle too.

It’s about three women – Imogen, Frankie and Grace – who are sick of men. Imogen being constantly disappointed with men; Frankie sick of her husband acting like a fifth child and not appreciating all she does for the family; and Grace, who discovers her husband is cheating. They decide to make a charter, a pact to be single for a year and avoid men at all costs. To become independent women and learn to love themselves again. It goes horribly wrong… As all three women meet men they think are perfect, they have to keep their new romances secret so they don’t let down the sisterhood.

It’s actually a very funny story. From the moment we were introduced to Richard, I was head over heels. He was my hunk from the lot from the get-go. Honestly, go read this book and you’ll see what I mean.

So the three main characters – Imogen, Frankie and Grace – are all different personalities and in different situations so it’s only natural to connect to some more than others. I wasn’t a fan of Grace’s character. I sympathised with her for the circumstances but she became annoying in the way that if one of my friends were like her, I’d have to shake some sense into them!

Frankie is probably my favourite ‘single lady’ *cue Beyoncé* because she seemed very down to earth and like me. I mean, I don’t have kids or any similarities life-wise, but she’s just a fantastic character and someone I could really relate to. She was funny, kind and a good mother!

Imogen is a career-driven woman with no (public) intentions to get married and have kids. She only dates losers and has never found ‘the right man’. I liked her character too but not as much as Frankie. Frankie was ma gurl.

I really enjoyed this book and I don’t want to give away any spoilers but for 99p it’s a short n sweet read and definitely worth it. I give this book a 4/5 stars because it wasn’t really about being single. They all had a secret romance so they never lasted being single for very long but the message of being independent and taking back control of your life still stands and powers through this book.

Have you read this book? What’s your favourite quick summer read?

RebeccaJane xo

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Disney’s A Whole New World by Liz Braswell (A Twisted Tale #1)

Books

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I don’t know many (if any) people who dislike Disney. I would watch The Disney Channel every morning before school with shows like The Little Mermaid, Hercules, Timone and Pumba and, of course, Aladdin. So you can imagine my excitement at a retelling of one of my favourite Disney films.

I was in Morrisons and browsing the book section for a deal when I came across A Whole New World by Liz Braswell. On the cover, it says ‘A Twisted Tale’ and ‘What if Aladdin had never found the lamp’ so naturally, I was intrigued and all like ‘omg that sounds so cool, I have to have this!’ and at £3.50, I went straight to the check out.

The synopsis on the back cover starts with ‘this is not the story you already know’ Okay so we’re off to a good start, because I know that story pretty well. It goes on to say that Jafar becomes a power-mad ruler and Jasmine and Aladdin have to unite the city against Jafar.

It sounds really good! I thought, based on the cover design and the synopsis telling me it’s definitely NOT the story I know, that this book was going to have a kind of historical fiction-y style to it. Instead of animated comedy, it was going to be more intense – about revolutionaries and dictators and rebellions. I was wrong. Although, I was led to believe that is how it was going to progress, it ended up being the complete opposite.

The prologue set me up for a great story. It starts with Aladdin as a young boy with his two friend Duban and Morgiana. We’re introduced to Aladdin’s mother – which really opens your eyes to his childhood and why he is such a caring Street Rat, in comparison to the others. The prologue really set the scene for me being more about friendship and the importance of family. Y’know, because Jafar is supposed to batsh*t crazy so I just thought it would focus on him and his friends and family, telling the story from a different angle (it’s called A Twisted Tale after all).

So the Prologue kinda set me up for something great to come but the first chapter opens EXACTLY where the movie does. And for the first 80 pages, this book is IDENTICAL to the movie with the dialogue, scene, everything. Everything is the same. It’s like the author was too lazy to write a decent story so they spent 20% of the book copying the movie script. This was sooo disheartening for me because I had high hopes for this book.

I feel cheated because the cover (front and back) specifically say ‘What if Aladdin had never found the lamp’ but he does find the lamp, it’s exactly the same as the movie – he finds it, but instead of Abu quickly stealing it back from Jafar before they collapse into the Cave of Wonders, Jafar keeps the lamp. So how did Aladdin never find the lamp when he did?

And the cover telling me it’s ‘not the story you already know’ except it is though, isn’t it? At least the first 80 pages are identical to the story I already know with literally no deviation from it whatsoever. This incredibly annoyed me. I was lied to, to an extent anyway.

After the first 80 plagiarised pages, the story basically just skips to the end of the film where Jafar has the lamp and uses it to become the most powerful sorcerer. There are a few differences in the beginning of Jafar’s reign (I won’t spoil it for you) but that was the basic jist of what I got. It does then take on it’s ‘twist’ when Aladdin reunites with his childhood friends (I’d been waiting to meet them again since the Prologue) and they have to fight Jafar to save the city and the people.

It does become a good revolutionary tale about the underdogs taking back control from a power-hungry dictator. I just really wish it took a different turn from the beginning because all the action and exciting reading happens in the last 100 pages (at least for me it did). The writing is very easy to read and the story is easy to follow too, but I kept confusing myself over the pronunciation of Morgiana (I kept calling her Morgana, from Merlin?) but other than that, it was fine. There were moments where I really felt they could have done something different and others where I thought it all worked really well.

Overall, I did enjoy this book but I am just so disappointed in being told it was going to be completely different and having it being very much the same. I basically watched half the movie while reading this book, which is not what I wanted when I bought this. I expected a dark tale, a not-so-happy-ending fairytale gone bad but it was still a good book.

I would give this 3/5 stars simply because it isn’t what I was led to believe and the story did take it’s time to get to the action because of this, but it was still enjoyable. I will probably read another in the A Twisted Tale series by Liz Braswell but I’ll probably just stick to the stories I like, such as The Little Mermaid or Sleeping Beauty.

Have you read this book? What’s your favourite Disney movie?

RebeccaJane xo

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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Books

I don’t even need to give any background on why I’m reviewing this book. It has been all over the internet for quite some time now. People are calling it the new ‘Gone Girl’ so I was obviously really interested in this book.

I prefer paperbacks over hardcovers so I have been waiting months for this book to be released and on May 5th, it finally was and I could not wait to get started.

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I never actually knew what this book was about before purchasing. After hearing people comparing it to Gone Girl, I assumed it was another book with a psycho female protagonist – and after reading the blurb on the back which basically says that Rachel passes the same set of houses on her daily commute and creates little personalities and stories behind one of the couples in the houses. One day she sees something and suddenly there’s a missing person and Rachel is at the centre of it all.

I was expecting Rachel to be a total psychopath after creating her perfect couple and then realising they’re not as perfect after all, she forces her way in and ties them up until they become her idea of perfect. That’s basically where I thought this story was going, but it didn’t take that turn down psycho lane.

The Girl on the Train is about Rachel, an alcoholic whose life is pretty shit at the moment – her ex-husband has moved on and is married to a woman named Anna who lives in their old house that her train passes by every day on her way to and from work. In a house nearby, Rachel becomes slightly obsessed with a couple she sees as ‘perfect’. One day she sees something and the story goes from there. Rachel needs to find a way to prove her innocence, or at least remember if she even is innocent (drunken blackouts play a key role in this book).

It’s got an interesting writing style – written from the perspective of the three females and in a diary-style entries adds an interesting twist as we’re only getting little snippets from their day and then we have to try and piece it all together as we read on. The three narrators add extra depth because we get to see both sides to the story, especially when it comes to Rachel and her ex-husband’s new wife, Anna’s relationship.

The Girl on the Train is also the only book I’ve read where I did not like any of the characters at all. I just could not relate to them in any way and throughout the book, I began to hate more than others and then hate them a little less and the circle just went on and on. It didn’t put me off the book though – never even crossed my mind really. The story is interesting and at times, can be a little boring, but in the sense that you just want to tell the characters to stop being whiny little so and so’s.

I do read a lot of crime/mystery as it’s my favourite genre, so the ending was easy to predict for me but the story was still enjoyable. I would give this book a 4/5 stars because it was a really good read. I can’t imagine myself re-reading it though because there weren’t any twists that caught me by surprise but I am looking forward to seeing the movie later this year – although I’m not quite sure how good it will be in comparison.

Have you read The Girl on the Train? Let me know in the comments!

RebeccaJane xo

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All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

Books

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I recently signed up to NetGalley – an online place for professional readers to review proofs and publishers to get feedback. Basically, you scroll through the different recommendations, genres, authors etc and request to review it. The publishers then choose whether to approve you or not and if you’re approved, you’ll be able to download it to your kindle app or device and start reading. You can also leave your reviews and feedback for the publishers through this website too. When I first signed up and was looking at the titles available for me to request, I was instantly drawn to All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda. I mean, look at that cover. It’s beautiful. I love the blue and aqua sky with the bold orange font really pulling me in. I read the blurb – basically, ten years ago a girl name Corinne disappeared and her friends Nicolette (the narrator), her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson were all at the centre of the investigation and really took its toll on the town of Cooley Ridge. Nicolette moved far away and started a new life but returns to help her brother out with their dad who is suffering from dementia. Not long after she returns to the town, another girl goes missing – Tyler’s new girlfriend and the group’s alibi the night of Corinne’s disappearance – Annaleise. The book is told in reverse over a 15-day period, so it starts on day 15 and works backward to tell the story.

The reverse storytelling is an interesting aspect I haven’t read before and it was addictive. As the reader, you’re reading from the present into the past, so the characters have knowledge than we don’t and as we read on, we have to keep reminding ourselves that the characters don’t know what’s going to happen, but we do! It’s not as confusing as it sounds but rather, a very clever way of unraveling the mystery.

As we travel back in time, each day gives us clues to the previous and hints towards the future that we’ve just read. We get more information about the disappearance of Corinne, from ten years ago, as well as some clues as to the disappearance of Annaleise.

Like a typical suspense novel, the climax and twists and turns are saved for the end, except it’s actually the beginning of the story chronologically, and really puts the rest of the book into perspective. You think about everything you’ve read to try and piece it all together and then you realise you were completely wrong with your theories and wonder how you ever fell for it in the first place.

Megan Miranda does a fantastic job of having twist after twist that even I, a member of the Scooby Doo fan club and CSI detective, couldn’t solve. All my theories did pan out, but there was always something more to the story. Some added bit of extra information that later in the book, made my proud moments of detective work seem irrelevant. It was both infuriating and enticing all-in-one. I hated and loved the characters and kept wondering just what the real truth was.

All The Missing Girls is a story of lies, secrets and the lengths we go to protect them. The characters aren’t as innocent as they seem. The story certainly isn’t what it seems.

I had a few unanswered questions which at first, I wondered how the author would bring it all together in the end, or if any would just remain unanswered, but all loose ends were perfectly tied up in a well-written finale.

I give All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda a 5/5 stars. This book is released on June 28th 2016 in hardcover but as a paperback fan myself, I will be eagerly awaiting its release, fingers crossed later this year!

Let me know in the comments if this is something you’d read.

What are your thoughts on novels told in reverse? 

RebeccaJane xo

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Recently Read

Books

I’ve been wanting to introduce book reviews for a while now but I just didn’t know where to start. So I’ve decided to do a ‘recently read’ or ‘currently reading’ style posts to ease myself in. I’ve been getting back to reading regularly and am really enjoying my ‘me-time’ in the evenings with a book. I used to be all about crime and mystery genres but I’ve noticed myself going for the odd historical fiction or chick lit lately and I’m liking the variation in writing style between the different genres. There’s a completely different atmosphere and I love it. Anyway, here’s what I’ve read lately.

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THE FORTUNE HUNTER – DAISY GOODWIN

Back in January and February, my papa was in the hospital and we visited him every day. There were a few days where there were stalls set up with donated books in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support – you donate some money and can take a book. I found this book there and figured it sounded pretty interesting.

It’s set in 1875 England. A lady’s man names Bay Middleton has been courting young heiress Charlotte Baird – much to everyone’s disapproval. One day, the beautiful Empress of Austria – Sisi – rides into town to join the Hunt and she and Bay begin an affair.

I’ve described it very poorly but honestly, this was such a good book! Charlotte is a budding photographer and Bay is a rider with dreams of winning the Grand National. It’s loosely based on a true story which makes this even more powerful to read. Imagining the real people in this situation is amazing. Everyone thinks Bay is only courting Charlotte to get to her fortune but she’s fallen madly in love with him and the old-fashioned chivalry makes me feel all giddy like a little girl. If only men still made a big deal about the first kiss eh?

My favourite part (bar the whole dang book) is the last few chapters. These, to me, make the rest of the book the build-up. It’s all led to these final few moments. Charlotte finds out about Bay and the Empress. Humiliated, she decides to start anew in the land of the free – America and books herself on the next boat. Bay finally gets his dream and runs in the Grand National, but he needs to decide who he truly loves – Charlotte, the mousey gentle young woman who took a chance on him when the world told her no? Or Sisi, the married Empress of Austria who gave him an adrenaline rush with her superb riding skills?

I’d give this book a 4/5 stars because I honestly enjoyed it so much. There are some truly laugh out loud moments that I had to dog ear to recite to Steven later. Cheesy lines like ‘I am only sorry you are not wearing your uniform tonight so I can see what perfection looks like’ make this book a great read. My favourite being in the ending but I won’t ruin that for you in case you decide to read it for yourself, which I highly recommend!

A MONSTER CALLS – PATRICK NESS

A Monster Calls is a book I purchased because I really liked the cover design. Yes, I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but this cover is gorgeous and I am glad I did because I might not have bought it based on the blurb alone, which would have been disastrous. This book is very emotional and really pulls you into the storyline. It’s about a young boy named Conor who’s mother has cancer and his father basically buggered off years ago and has a new family in the US. Conor is a child and is caring for himself pretty much, while his mother has her treatments. Almost every night, the yew tree which stands tall in the garden, comes to life and calls to Conor. When Conor eventually answers this Monster back – the tree explains he’s here because Conor called him.

This is a book around a young boy dealing with his mother’s illness and the Monster tells Conor three stories, which coincidentally, fit perfectly with Conor’s circumstances. The only reason Conor can think of, that the Monster would show up, is to help his mum.

For me, the most heartbreaking and full on tears-streaming-down-my-face moment – even though I knew it was coming – was when the Monster tells Conor, ‘I did not come to heal her…I came to heal you’ Cue me bawling my eyes out on the swinging chair in my garden and Bandit wondering what the hell is wrong with me.

I give this book a 5/5 because it is simply beautiful. I could feel myself in Conor’s shoes and could completely empathize with his character. It’s a fantastic book and I didn’t know there was a movie based on this book which will be coming out later this year. The Monster is voiced by Liam Neeson, not sure how I feel about that but hey, I’m looking forward to it.

MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN – RANSOM RIGGS

This is another book which has a movie coming out later this year and I’m crazy excited about it. This is a book which contains found photographs and intertwines them throughout the story – it’s honestly incredible. This is the first book of a trilogy and I’m already looking forward to reading the second book – Hollow City – but annoyed that the third doesn’t come out for another year!! Anyway, the book is about a 16 year old boy named Jacob whose grandfather escaped Nazi Germany and found refuge in an orphanage on an island off the coast of Wales. His grandfather told him stories of children with special powers and fighting monsters – all of which rationalised by Jacob’s father. Until, Jacob’s grandfather is murdered by a strange and dangerous creature and Jacob ends up in therapy – his grandfather’s dying words ringing in his mind. He finds himself seeking closure by travelling to the island his grandfather told him about.

Jacob reaches the island (with his dad of course, not a crazy teenager runaway) and discovers the former orphanage had been blown up in WWII. He searches for any clues that may still exist about his grandfather’s past and finds himself crossing into a magical ‘loop’, the day the orphanage was destroyed, where he meets all his grandfather’s childhood friends and the headmistress, Miss Peregrine. Although troubles spoil the happiness and the children find themselves fighting for their lives.

It’s a real page-turner and although the first half is a bit slow, with the build up to all the interesting bits, it’s still a fantastic read and I found myself trying to read as much as I could until my eyes couldn’t stay open any longer. I love that this book also contains the first chapter of the second book, which made me very happy as I was desperate to know more. I’ll just have to wait to read the second book to see what happens properly.

I’d give the peculiar children 4/5 stars. I absolutely loved this book and cannot wait to watch the film. I hope it does the characters justice!

I realise this was a super long post but I think I’ll stick to these group posts until I get the knack for book reviews. I’m never sure how much detail to go into as I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone. Any tips on book reviews are very welcome!

Let me know some of your recent reads in the comments. I’m on the hunt for some new material!

RebeccaJane xo

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