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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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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