Talking About ‘Three Things About Elsie’ with Bibliobeth!

Three Things About Elsie

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
The Trouble With Goats and Sheep

Synopsis:

There are three things you should know about Elsie.
The first thing is that she’s my best friend.
The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.
And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.

84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?

From the author of THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP, this book will teach you many things, but here are three of them:
1) The fine threads of humanity will connect us all forever.
2) There is so very much more to anyone than the worst thing they have ever done.
3) Even the smallest life can leave the loudest echo.

CHRISSI: We both read The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by the same author. How do you think this book compared?

BETH: I really enjoyed The Trouble With Goats and Sheep but for some reason, it wasn’t a five star read for me like I know it was for so many other readers. I wasn’t expecting to be completely blown away by Three Things About Elsie at all. I knew I would probably enjoy it as I thought with her first novel, Joanna Cannon had a very engaging writing style and wrote fantastic characters but I still wasn’t prepared for how much I would end up enjoying this. It was an emotional. poignant and stellar piece of fiction that had a huge impact on me.

BETH: Without spoilers, how fitting did you think the title of this book was?

CHRISSI: I thought it was a very fitting title to the story. Throughout the story, we know two things about Elsie and there’s something else about her too…which I can’t spoil. I think the title was a good match and there was lots of reference to it within the story which was a lovely touch.

CHRISSI: What feelings did this book evoke for you?

BETH: SO many feelings. In her first book, Joanna Cannon chose to focus on two young girls as protagonists, with Elsie she has gone to the other end of the spectrum and we see the lives of Florence, Elsie, Jack and many others in a retirement home. I loved the relationship between Florence and Elsie in particular but also liked that this novel had a hint of a mystery about it regarding the re-emergence of a character from their past and why it evokes such feelings of fear in Florence as a result. This novel also touches on memory loss and dementia which was quite hard to read about and heart-breaking in points but ultimately, I think the author handled it very sensitively and it was an intensely moving read for me.

BETH: Did Florence’s failing memory change your understanding of events at Cherry Tree? Does it make her a less reliable narrator?

CHRISSI: I do think that Florence’s failing memory did make her a less reliable narrator for sure. I wasn’t sure if she was talking to herself, remembering things wrong or hiding secrets that she wanted to keep locked away. The story really did unravel slowly, with a very mysterious element, it took me a while to understand what was going on.

CHRISSI: Did you feel engaged with the story all the way through?

BETH: I honestly did. I adored the way in which we got little throwbacks to Flo and Elsie’s past as the mystery of the new resident at the retirement home continues to unravel but I think my favourite parts about this novel were the little pearls of wisdom that Joanna Cannon throws in, some of which really spoke to me on a personal level and I even tweeted about, I felt so strongly at the time! For example: “Sometimes you go through an experience in life that slices into the very bones of who you are, and two different versions of yourself will always sit either side of it like bookends.”

BETH: What do you think makes Florence ultimately realise that she HAS lived an extraordinary life, in the end?

CHRISSI: I think when Florence is lying reminiscing about what she does remember of her life, her memories with Elsie make her realise that her life has been quite remarkable. She is forced to think of secrets that she’s kept hidden. It is her interactions with Elsie that makes her think about her life and all of the events that have happened to her.

CHRISSI: Did you have a favourite character? If so, who?

BETH: I loved all the characters to be honest, even the ones who were meant to have a more malevolent side to them! Obviously, I had a soft spot for our leading lady Florence and often wanted to be there having a chat, a cup of tea and some Battenberg cake with her but I also really enjoyed the character of Jack who is so supportive to Flo that it made my heart burst a little bit. Handy Simon is also a fabulous character and I found myself really rooting for him to find happiness all the way through the novel.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I’m not sure. Personally, I don’t think I gel with this author’s writing style. It’s nothing against Joanna Cannon’s writing. I can see and appreciate that she’s a talented writer. It just doesn’t work for me. I found this book to be a little drawn out and I lost interest in it. Don’t get me wrong, there were some lovely moments within this story and some very quotable moments. I was extremely busy when I was reading it (so may not have invested as much in it as I wanted to) and I enjoy a faster paced story. I feel really bad because I know so many people love this book. However, we can’t love them all and the blogosphere would be very boring if we all agreed.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Without a doubt!

CHRISSI: Yes!

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Notes On A Nervous Planet

Notes on a Nervous Planet

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

The world is messing with our minds.

Rates of stress and anxiety are rising. A fast, nervous planet is creating fast and nervous lives. We are more connected, yet feel more alone. And we are encouraged to worry about everything from world politics to our body mass index.

– How can we stay sane on a planet that makes us mad? 
– How do we stay human in a technological world?
– How do we feel happy when we are encouraged to be anxious?

After experiencing years of anxiety and panic attacks, these questions became urgent matters of life and death for Matt Haig. And he began to look for the link between what he felt and the world around him.

Notes on a Nervous Planet is a personal and vital look at how to feel happy, human and whole in the 21st century.

Thoughts:

I absolutely adored Reasons To Stay Alive. I thought it was such a raw, honest look at depression and anxiety from someone who truly knows how it feels. I thoroughly enjoyed Notes On A Nervous Planet which looks at how technology and the media is affecting our minds.

Notes On A Nervous Planet is an important book because it really explores how technology now can affect our mental health. Goodness knows social media isn’t all that it’s made out to be. We only see segments of people’s lives that they choose to share. Yet we still let ourselves be affected by what we see online. Matt Haig speaks openly and honestly about the dangers of technology and social media and how it has impacted his life.

I love how in both of his books he writes short, witty chapters. Within the pages there’s so much insight though. Matt Haig is a writer that really makes me think. I love the advice he gives as well on how to be happier today. He had some great tips that definitely made me stop, think and discuss with friends. Not many authors can do that.

Reading a Matt Haig non-fiction book makes me feel like I’m talking to a wise friend. I adore Matt’s writing style and his honesty. He honestly made me feel like this messy world could and should be a happier place.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

Whilst I preferred Reasons To Stay Alive, I still thought this book was incredible. Matt Haig writes such insightful things that really resonate with me.

Talking About ‘The Wife Between Us’ with Bibliobeth!

The Wife Between Us

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous wife and her obsession with her replacement.
You will assume you are reading about a woman about to enter a new marriage with the man she loves.
You will assume the first wife was a disaster and that the husband was well rid of her.
You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships.
Assume nothing.

CHRISSI: What were your first impressions of this book?

BETH: This novel is written by two authors – Greer Hendrick and Sarah Pekkanen, sadly neither of whom I’m familiar with. I’m always a bit nervous when I read a book that is written by two people, no matter who those two people are. I always wonder about how the writing process and how they manage to write together coupled with worrying that it might feel a bit disjointed as a result. I’m not sure why I feel this as my last experience with dual authors was very positive! Luckily, I had nothing to worry about. From that very first read of the synopsis, I was hooked and remained that way from the beginning to the end of this novel – it was fast-paced, easy to read and very compelling.

BETH: When you read that startling synopsis do you think it prepared you for the story within? Or were you still surprised by the twists and turns?

CHRISSI: Confession time! I didn’t read the synopsis before I read this book. When I looked at your question, I just had to look it up. What a cracking synopsis! After reading this book, I know it had so many twists and turns along the way. I think if I had read it prior to starting the story I may have been very cautious about the characters and events that happen in the story.

CHRISSI: Did you find any of the characters in this book likeable? If so, who? And if not, did it affect your enjoyment of the story?

BETH: Good question! Hmm. I don’t always need to find a character likeable to enjoy a story. Sometimes, I even prefer to read about more unlikeable individuals as I think it makes for a juicier narrative but it was quite hard with The Wife Between Us. I say that because I didn’t particularly like ANY of the characters. I disliked one of them intensely (but the less said about that the better), I disliked others to different degrees and I felt indifferent to others still! I did however, really like Aunt Charlotte, she was a lovely addition to the novel.

BETH: How do you think this novel compares to others in the genre?

CHRISSI: It’s an interesting one. This genre is so heavily populated, yet I do think it’s a book that stands out. I quite often can guess where a book is going yet with this one, it did surprise me. I definitely had a WTF moment when reading it and the ending did surprise me. I didn’t predict the ending and I’m pretty sure my mouth did actually fall open during the last chapter. It also stands out because it’s written by two authors. I can often struggle with this as their styles can be so different, but with this book it really, really worked!

CHRISSI: Without spoilers, were you able to predict the ending?

BETH: Nope. Not at all. Not even a little bit. I texted you about 42% through and I was like: “I’m so confused right now!” and although I then started to understand what was going on quite quickly afterwards, the twists and turns were not over by a long shot. There are still a multitude of surprises to be found throughout the second half of the book and particularly at the end. I love a novel where I can’t see something coming and it’s completely unpredictable and that’s what The Wife Between Us was for me.

BETH: Did you enjoy the relationship between Vanessa and her Aunt Charlotte in this novel? How did it differ to the one she had with her mother?

CHRISSI: Good question! The relationships in this book are fascinating. I feel like Vanessa’s relationship with Aunt Charlotte was much stronger than her relationship with her mother. They seem incredibly close. Aunt Charlotte seems to somewhat have Vanessa on a pedastal. I feel like Aunt Charlotte would tell Vanessa what she wanted to hear, whereas her mother might question her actions more?

CHRISSI: Do you think this book would make a good film?

BETH: Ooh, yes. Absolutely! I can totally see perhaps Reese Witherspoon and Patrick Dempsey in some of the lead roles and I think if it’s done in the right way, with the right cast, screenplay and director, it could be absolutely explosive. I’d definitely watch it. I would also hope that I would have forgotten the ending by then so I could be surprised and shocked all over again!

BETH: Would you read another book by these authors?

CHRISSI: I would! I see that the authors have another book coming out next year. I’m definitely intrigued to read that!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Yes! 3.5 stars!

Mother (Book Review)

Mother: A gripping emotional story of love and obsession

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Harper Collins UK

Synopsis:

Cath had twenty-five perfect days with her newborn daughter before Mia’s deadly illness was diagnosed.

As her life implodes, Cath’s despair drives her to a parental support group where she meets a father in a similar situation, the dangerously attractive Richard – charming, handsome and adamant that a cure for their children lies just over the horizon: everything Cath wants to believe.

Their affair – and the chance to escape reality – is unavoidable, but carries catastrophic consequences: the nature of Mia’s illness means that Cath’s betrayal endangers not just her marriage but the life of her baby.

Can she stop herself before it’s too late?

Thoughts:

I really liked the sound of Mother so I was super excited to start it. I wasn’t into the book before I read this one, so I was desperate for it to be a success. It really was!

It centres around Cath who finds out her long wanted baby has Cystic Fibrosis. (Cystic Fibrosis is a terrible disease, one I’ve had some close experience with after caring for a child with CF!) Suddenly, Cath and her husband Dave’s life has turned around. She becomes obsessive over germs, not wanting her baby Mia, to pick up any germs that could potentially put her life in danger. Cath meets Richard at a CF support group. His teen daughter has CF too. Cath and Richard have an immediate connection and Cath’s little family all begin to suffer…

This story is ultimately very sad, I almost felt Cath’s pain as she went through life trying to protect her daughter. It was so hard to read about relationships being strained because of Mia’s diagnosis. I know some families do get through living life with a child with an incurable disease, but it was clear to see the pressure that Cath and Dave were going through. Their relationship was on shaky ground after the loss they had previously gone through. Mia having CF just seemed utterly cruel. But CF is a cruel disease, like many others out there.

The characters aren’t overly likeable in this story and I wanted Cath to become stronger, but at the same time I could totally understand why she acted the way she did even if I didn’t agree with her actions.

I think this was a strong debut and I’d definitely be interested to read what Hannah Begbie writes next.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A sad but well-written story!

Talking About ‘You Me Everything’ With Bibliobeth!

You Me Everything

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Jess and her ten-year-old son William set off to spend the summer at Château de Roussignol, deep in the rich, sunlit hills of the Dordogne. There, Jess’s ex-boyfriend—and William’s father—Adam, runs a beautiful hotel in a restored castle. Lush gardens, a gorgeous pool, delectable French food, and a seemingly never-ending wine list—what’s not to like? Jess is bowled over by what Adam has accomplished, but she’s in France for a much more urgent reason: to make Adam fall in love with his own son.

But Adam has other ideas, and another girlfriend—and he doesn’t seem inclined to change the habits of a lifetime just because Jess and William have appeared on the scene. Jess isn’t surprised, but William—who has quickly come to idolize his father—wants nothing more than to spend time with him. But Jess can’t allow Adam to let their son down—because she is tormented by a secret of her own, one that nobody—especially William—must discover.

CHRISSI: What do you think of this book’s title? Does it fit or would you call it something else?

BETH: Ooh, tough question. I have to admit, the title You Me Everything is rather generic but I don’t know if that’s necessarily a bad thing. It could encompass a number of different relationships that Jess has in the book – for example with her parents or more specifically her mother, or the one she has with her son OR the one she has with the father of her son, Adam. Maybe the title is actually about about all three?! In that way, it’s quite a good title I think because it doesn’t give anything away about how the story or any of these relationships could be portrayed in the novel.

BETH: Were you initially pulled into this story by the prologue or did it take you a bit longer to become invested?

CHRISSI: I was definitely invested from the very beginning. I feel like it was some sort of wizardry or something because I don’t usually get invested so quickly. I was desperate to find out more about Jessica. I even wanted to know more about Adam although I wasn’t so keen on him as character. I wanted to know if my first impressions of him were correct. I won’t say if they were or not though!

CHRISSI: Without spoilers, what did you think of Jessica and Adam’s relationship?

BETH: This is going to be so hard to talk about without spoilers but I’ll do my best. Adam is a very strange, not necessarily likeable character, particularly when we first meet him and as a result, I didn’t like him at all, especially in the opening chapter when Jess is giving birth to their son, William. There were times when I didn’t buy into their past, present or future situation at all and I found myself getting quite frustrated with it, I have to admit. Then the author throws in a twist that I wasn’t quite expecting and I found myself feeling slightly differently – I won’t say if it’s for better or for worse!

BETH: What did you think of the relationship between Jess and her son William?

CHRISSI: I feel like overall Jess wanted the best for her son. Jess still feels hurt from the way her relationship ended with William’s father, but she has reason to want William and his father to be close. I liked how she swallowed her pride to ensure they had a relationship. I feel like Jess is such a strong character. Although she did have her family supporting her through bringing up William, she was a single parent. William is incredibly well-adjusted and perhaps wiser than Jess gives him credit for. I think their relationship was utterly believable and I loved how much they clearly cared for one another.

CHRISSI: Did you think the relationships within this story were realistic?

BETH: I think I might have touched on that in my previous answer regarding Jess and Adam, the latter of which I was especially suspicious of throughout the narrative. As for the other relationships, I did find them quite realistic, particularly Jess’s relationship with her mum which at times, broke my heart (if you’ve read this already, you’ll know what I’m referring to!) I also really enjoyed Jess’s relationship with her son William whom she raised practically on her own as a single mother and in turn, found Williams’s relationship with his father, Adam difficult to stomach for perhaps obvious reasons.

BETH: Jess has to make some very tough decisions in this novel. Without spoilers, do you think she always did the right thing or would you have acted differently?

CHRISSI: Ooh yes, Jess certainly has tough decisions to make. It’s hard to discuss without spoilers but I shall do my best. I feel like Jess was very much guided by what her parents wanted her to do with regards to William’s relationship with his father. I could understand why she wanted to stay at home and think I would have that struggle as well. I think I would want to be more truthful with people around me, but I can totally see why she kept some things secret. I’m sitting on the fence with this answer really, but I can see why Jess made the choices that she did. She’s a strong, inspirational character who keeps going despite the hardships she’s facing.

CHRISSI: This book has been compared to Me Before You. Do you see the similarities and do you feel like this is a fair comparison?

BETH: It’s even got a similar title – er…kind of. I can see the similarities i.e. female protagonist, difficult romantic relationship and health issues BUT I would hate to compare it to one of my all time favourite reads as I don’t think it’s fair to compare a story that can stand on its own perfectly well and has major differences which make it very UNLIKE Me Before You. The only way I can compare it is to say that I really liked the female lead, appreciated the moments of joy and heart-break and was touched by a fair few passages in the narrative.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would! I thought Catherine Isaac had a very engaging writing style. I really liked how her characters were developed. I loved how this story was an emotional read too. It certainly had depth.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Talking About Last Letter Home With Bibliobeth!

Last Letter Home

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

On holiday with friends, young historian Briony Andrews becomes fascinated with a wartime story of a ruined villa in the hills behind Naples. There is a family connection: her grandfather had been a British soldier during the Italian campaign of 1943 in that very area. Handed a bundle of letters that were found after the war, Briony sets off to trace the fate of their sender, Sarah Bailey.

In 1939, Sarah returns with her mother and sister from India, in mourning, to take up residence in the Norfolk village of Westbury. There she forms a firm friendship with Paul Hartmann, a young German who has found sanctuary in the local manor house, Westbury Hall. With the outbreak of war, conflicts of loyalty in Westbury deepen.

When, 70 years later, Briony begins to uncover Sarah and Paul’s story, she encounters resentments and secrets still tightly guarded. What happened long ago in the villa in the shadow of Vesuvius, she suspects, still has the power to give terrible pain. 

CHRISSI: What were your initial impressions of this book? Did it hook you from the start or did it take you a while to get stuck into the story?

BETH: I have to admit, like a lot of books in the past (and very recently!) I judged this book by the cover again. WHY do I keep doing that?! I thought it looked like a bit of a fluffy, contemporary romance which is a genre I’m not really into but I was willing to give it a chance, especially when you told me that you thought I would enjoy it and that it had a historical edge that reminded you of one of my favourite ever books, The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. However, I do have to be honest and say I wasn’t initially hooked by the beginning. When a narrative flows across two time periods, I often find myself preferring the historical tale and this was the same initially speaking, for Last Letter Home too.

BETH: In one of the very first scenes, Briony in contemporary times is trolled for some remarks she makes on feminism on a TV show. How do you think this affects her self esteem initially in trying to find information out about her mysterious grandfather?

CHRISSI: I think initially, Briony was really knocked by the after effects of the TV show. It takes her a while to get over how she was treated in the aftermath. Trolls are evil and can totally affect your self-esteem and self-worth, so this was utterly relatable. I feel like Briony was quite unstable at the start of the story and deeply affected. However, getting stuck into finding out more information about her grandfather draws Briony out of her shell and begins to give her some self belief. She has determination, that’s for sure.

CHRISSI: Do you think the dual timeline worked for this story?

BETH: At the beginning, it took a little while for me to get into it. I kept getting the main character in the contemporary time period, Briony messed up with Sarah in the historical period and it took me a little while to get their stories and who they’re involved with in the present time straight in my mind. However, once I had got this sorted, I really enjoyed how the dual time periods told such a fascinating story (from BOTH women’s points of view) and there were certainly secrets revealed that I wasn’t anticipating.

BETH: Were you aware at any points of the men “not to trust” and the men “who could be trusted,” in the narrative? Was it interesting to see the parallels between Briony and Sarah’s own lives?

CHRISSI: I’m always wary of characters in books which might say something about me. I was sure that Paul could be trusted as he seemed to be such a sweetheart. I loved reading about his interactions with Sarah. I really enjoyed the dual narrative of this story. It was interesting to see how Briony and Sarah shared many qualities with one another. They were both persistent, driven characters in their own time. I also liked how both story lines had elements of betrayal and deceit within them.

CHRISSI: Did you have a favourite narrative?

BETH: The historical narrative was hands down my favourite narrative. Although its not as overtly romantic as The Bronze Horseman, I can really see why you made that connection. I felt so awful for Sarah and her love interest in the novel, the strange triangle she found herself in and how other people’s attitudes at the time affected how she should be behaving/where she should be looking for a husband. I only wish we had heard more about her younger sister, who I found an incredibly intriguing character.

BETH: Sarah and her younger sister both have to deal with death at quite a young age – how do you think they cope with this as individuals?

CHRISSI: Good question! Sarah definitely dealt with the death in the family better than her younger sister. Sarah became really supportive towards her family. Sarah’s sister very much closes herself off from talking about death. She appears to be coping less well but I can’t say too much without spoilers! 🙂

CHRISSI: Did you feel like the chapters based during WWII were realistic?

BETH: I did. It wasn’t overtly graphic but it felt really authentic. It was simply the story of how normal people cope in extraordinary circumstances when food is reduced, danger is prominent and they are forced to live their lives they may not necessarily have imagined living them. One of the stand on scenes in the entire novel for me has to be when Paul is sent away to Italy as part of the war effort and has to witness a very difficult event, something that ends up changing his life forever.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I think it would depend on the subject matter. I did really enjoy Rachel Hore’s writing and the story was interesting, but she wasn’t an author that I’d read automatically when her book released.

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Yes! 3.5 stars

The Liar’s Room

The Liar's Room: The addictive new psychological thriller from the bestselling author of THE HOUSE

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Penguin Books UK

Previously reviewed by the same author:
The House

Synopsis:

ONE ROOM. TWO LIARS. NO WAY OUT…

Susanna Fenton has a secret. Fourteen years ago she left her identity behind, reinventing herself as a counsellor and starting a new life. It was the only way to keep her daughter safe.

But everything changes when Adam Geraghty walks into her office. She’s never met this young man before – so why does she feel like she knows him?

Then Adam starts to tell her about a girl. A girl he wants to hurt.

And Susanna realises she was wrong. 
She doesn’t know him. 
BUT HE KNOWS HER. 
AND THE GIRL HE PLANS TO HURT IS HER DAUGHTER…

Thoughts:

I was excited to get my hands on a copy of The Liar’s Room after really enjoying Simon Lelic’s book The House. I actually think this book was a much stronger read than The House. It was clever, manipulative and so easy to read. I raced through the book eager to find out what was going on. This book has definitely made me quite the fan of Simon Lelic’s writing!

The Liar’s Room has so much going on within its pages. It centres around Susanna and her new client Adam. Susanna has a secret that goes back so many years. She has reinvented herself, not realising that her new client knows more about her than he initially lets on. Adam talks about wanting to hurt a girl. Susanna soon realises that the girl is her daughter, Emily. Susanna is determined to protect her daughter. Adam takes Susanna on a trip down memory lane and she finds out that she is closer to him than she had ever expected to be!

This is one of those books that is SO hard to review without spoiling it, so apologies for my vagueness. I will say that this book has some utterly fascinating characters. I was so eager to find out the truth between lies. I had moments of not really trusting many of the characters and I love that. I adore an unreliable narrator/characters. I thought this book had them in abundance.

With a seemingly simple plot, a counsellor and a client, Simon Lelic really wove a tangled web. The story was incredibly intense. I loved how the characters were trying to get the upper hand at points. It really was quite the battle. I also really appreciated how there were journal entries within the story from Emily. I thought this was a clever touch and really added to the story.

I am excited to read more from Simon Lelic in the future. He has a compelling writing style and his books keep me guessing.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A wonderful thriller! It definitely didn’t go where I expected!