The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin
c/o Curtis Brown
Gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. I was a little hesitant to read this - it was the second book in a row about somebody dying in a cancer hospice and the first hadn't sat quite right with me. But this one was wonderful. Although death is a constant presence, the book focuses on the love shared by a sometimes chaotic, sometimes bickering, sometimes incredibly generous family and the people closest to them. This could have been maudlin but is instead touching, funny and - as much of a cloying cliché as it is to say this - ultimately life-affirming.
The Ship by Antonia Honeywell
c/o Curtis Brown
The world has gone to crap - floods; failed crops; mass slaughter of the poor - so sixteen year old Lalla's father rounds up 500 of the most inspiring people he can find and they set sail on a ship stocked with enough food to last them several decades. Everyone seems happy... except for Lalla who becomes increasingly concerned about her father's ethics and whether or not there's a longer term plan. I've got to admit: I found Lalla pretty irritating and that made it hard to side with her (even though she was probably right) but the premise is an intriguing one.
The Madness of Modern Parenting by Zoe Williams
More of a big essay than a book, this one was right up my street. Williams looks at the alarmist way pregnancy advice is presented; likewise advice about newborns; why breastfeeding is a class issue; our ability to make women feel bad regardless of whether or not they return to work; recent shifts in attitudes towards fathers; and the highly stressful way in which we educate our children (and why). All of which, under the current circumstances, was interesting to me.
Us by David Nicholls
c/o Curtis Brown
I'll admit: I didn't expect to enjoy this. It sounded far too schmaltzy for my liking - a middle aged man trying to save his marriage; a surly teenaged son; a month long family trip around Europe. It had all the ingredients to irritate. But it turned out to be truly lovely. The characters are all believably flawed; the relationships were convincing; the trip had plausible ups and downs. I couldn't quite decide how I wanted this to end - I wanted all the characters to be happier but it wasn't always clear how best for that to happen - but I sat up late reading until I found out how it did.
Nine Uses For An Ex-Boyfriend by Sarra Manning
I was in the mood for something lightweight and chick-litty and this sounded like the ideal thing. I've enjoyed the Sarra Manning books I've read previously (especially Adorkable which I think is a blogger must read) and this didn't disappoint... although it wasn't as feelgood as it looked! When Hope finds out her boyfriend of thirteen years has cheated on her, it sparks three long months of doubts, rage, break ups and reconciliations. This is all frustrating and will be familiar to anyone who has ever been through a painful split, right down to the questionable decisions Hope makes along the way. This was a quick, engaging read but don't go into it expect a cupcake-fuelled romp!
The Woman in the Movie Star Dress by Praveen Asthana
c/o Doublewood Press (via Netgalley)
A woman working in a Los Angeles vintage store which specialises in clothes worn by movie stars realises that, by taking peyote before wearing the outfits, she can inherit some of the previous owners' personalities. Unfortunately, the previous owners' personalities are sometimes a little at odds with her own... Vintage clothes, Hollywood and a bit of a mystery all made this appeal to me. The plot turned out to be pretty decent but the book itself read a lot like a first draft - a few more edits would have been of huge benefit (note: the author tells me there's another edit in the works).
Girl Runner by Carrie Snyder
c/o John Murray Press (via Netgalley)
I loved this book (despite it being *shudders* pro-running). Aged 104, Aggie Smart is recollecting her life. Her childhood on a Canadian farm was filled with family tragedy; her youth involved an incredible stint as an Olympic athlete; her later life includes a journalism career but seems to keep circling back around to the needs of her family. Okay, that description makes it sound kind of sentimental and/or grim. It's really not. It's a beautiful book filled with love, hope and strong, generous women. Very much worth a read.
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