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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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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