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.

The Promise (DS Imogen Grey #4)

The Promise (DS Imogen Grey #4)

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

Synopsis:

When troubled teen Connor moves to Exeter from the US to escape his past, he finds himself embroiled in a world of popular kids and easy girls. Everyone wants to be his friend, but they don’t know about what he did…and they don’t know about his father.

As Connor’s life in England begins to unravel, DS Adrian Miles and his partner Imogen Grey are working up against the clock to catch a serial killer who dates his victims before he kills them. Determined to uncover the truth, Imogen is forced to act as bait – but will she take it too far and risk her own life?

Thoughts:

When I requested this book, I requested it purely on the cover and tag line alone. I wasn’t aware that it was part of a series. Yet I’d heard it didn’t matter so on I went with reading it. It did take me a while to read but that was just because I was super busy. When I did pick it up, I was completely engaged with the story.

This story is all about the chase of a serial killer who seems to be dating his victims before he brutally kills them. It also involves the story of troubled Connor who has moved to Exeter from the US to escape the terrible things that he has done. Connor immediately fits in with the cool crowd and ‘easy’ girls. The Promise follows those two story lines that become very intense.

I don’t know the characters as well as I may have done had I read the books prior to this. However, I don’t think this really affected my enjoyment of the story. The Promise was much more darker than I had expected. I do enjoy dark thrillers though. I’m not sure what that says about me. I thought Katerina Diamond had created a very intriguing story line. I do love unpicking a mystery. I enjoy a story that is both character driven and action packed and The Promise has this in abundance.

The reason why I didn’t rate this book any higher is that I thought it was a little long. I think if it had been condensed slightly, it would have had a much faster pace.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

An enjoyable read. Katerina Diamond is a great writer!

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!

I Let Him Go- From The Mother Of James Bulger

I Let Him Go: From the mother of James Bulger

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

On 12th February 1993, Denise Fergus’ life changed forever. As she was running errands at New Strand Shopping Centre, she let go of her two-year-old son’s hand for a few seconds to take out her purse. Denise never saw her son again.

For the first time since that moment 25 years ago, Denise tells her extraordinary story in this heart-wrenching book, an unflinching account of that terrible day. What if she had never taken James shopping? What if she had turned right coming out of the butcher’s, instead of left? Denise’s initial hope after seeing her son on CCTV with other children quickly turned to devastation when, two days later, James’ body was found.

His death reverberated around the world and his killers became the youngest ever convicted murderers in UK legal history. Four minutes is all it took for them to lead James away from his mother to his death. Denise took up a tortuous legal battle for James, and it was her astonishing strength and love for her son that ultimately helped to change the way the law treats victims of crime.

This is a mother’s tale of finding a way through the despair to remember the happiness and wonderful memories that James brought his family. Above all, Denise doesn’t want her son to be remembered as a murdered child, and with this beautifully written book, she does just that.

Thoughts:

This was an incredibly tough book to read. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read a book on such a sad subject, but I decided to give it go after reading some wonderful reviews. I Let Him Go is all about how Denise and her family coped after the brutal murder of her son, James Bulger. I’m not a mother, but this book completely broke my heart. I can’t even imagine the pain Denise and her family went through. It’s terrifying. It seriously is one of the most horrific crimes against a child in U.K history.

As you read Denise’s thoughts you realise that she doesn’t ever try to analyse the whys of the terrible crime. She never asks herself why the killers did what they did. Instead she focuses on what James was like in the short time he was in her life. She discusses her family and how they dealt with the terrible tragedy. I was blown away by her strength especially through her dealings with the legal system.

I haven’t read much about Denise before this book, but as I understand it a lot of false claims have been made about her. I liked reading her point of view on what happened. After all, Denise was there when James was taken away. I don’t think she’ll ever forgive herself for letting go of his hand but I love how she’s determined to keep his memory alive. The James she knew and loved. She didn’t concern herself with details about his murder.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!- Obviously, this a tough read with very sad subject matter. It may not be for everyone.

A heart-breaking read!

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- The Creakers

The Creakers

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

What would you do if you woke up to find all the grown-ups had disappeared?

If you’re like Lucy Dungston, you’ll do anything to get to the bottom of it.

With no grown-ups, chaos descends on Lucy’s town. Kids are running wild, building roads of trampolines and eating cereal for every meal – but Lucy wants her mum back, and nothing is going to stop her.

Not even the monsters who live in the upside-down world beneath her bed…

Tom Fletcher’s bestselling story is packed with stinkerful black-and-white illustrations by the disgustingly talented Shane Devries and is perfect for kids to read independently or together with a grown-up!

Thoughts:

I have been meaning to read this book for some time now or anything middle grade by Tom Fletcher after enjoying his picture books with Dougie Poynter. I decided to pick The Creakers to read because I’d heard amazing things about it. I can confirm that Tom Fletcher is a wonderful middle grade writer. I enjoyed this book so much that I’ve decided to use it for my first book club book at school. Yes, that’s right. This bookworm teacher is starting a book club for the kids!

The Creakers centres around Lucy and some neighbourhood kids. When Lucy wakes up one morning, she finds out that all of the grown-ups in the world have gone missing. Initially, all of the other kids were excited by this. They could do what they want! Lucy started to wonder why, how and where they had gone. Lucy discovers that there are creatures under her bed that could be potential suspects for the parent-napping. They’re called the Creakers. Lucy wants her mum back and the Creakers won’t be able to stop her!

I absolutely loved this book! Tom Fletcher’s writing style somewhat reminds me of Lemony Snicket. I love the way he addresses the reader before the chapters. It’s engaging and often funny. The whole way through reading this book, I was thinking about how much children would enjoy it. It’s so entertaining and I’m pretty sure will have many children across the land looking under their beds in search of the Creakers.

I loved how there were a mix of responsible and silly children within the story. Very true to life, that’s for sure! Lucy is a brilliant character, I can imagine that many children will dress up as her for World Book Day. It’s lovely to have a girl as a lead. She’s strong, clever and sensible. I think she’s a great role model for children.

The illustrations by Shane Devries were absolutely adorable and suited the story perfectly. I really enjoyed this story and look forward to The Christmasaurus at some point!

For Beth’s wonderful review, please check out her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit Challenge (September):
Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing- Judy Blume