The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper #BookReview (@ItsEmmacooper) @headlinepg #NetGalley #TheSongsofUs

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“If Melody hadn’t run out of de-icer that day, she would never have slipped and banged her head. She wouldn’t be left with a condition that makes her sing when she’s nervous. And she definitely wouldn’t have belted out the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ in assembly at her son’s school.

If Dev hadn’t taken the kids to the zoo that day, then the accident wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have left Flynn and Rose without a dad. Or shattered the love of his life’s heart.

But if they hadn’t seen the missing person report that day, they might never have taken the trip to Cornwall. And, in the last place they expected, discovered what it really means to be ‘Us’.”

So, I have just got off a seven-and-a-half hour trans-Atlantic flight where I had planned on watching ‘Darkest Hour’ and grabbing a few hours sleep. Instead, I sat up all night and devoured Emma Cooper’s new novel from cover to cover in one sitting and I don’t regret a single second of lost sleep.

This book is, quite frankly, astonishing. It manages to be funny and heart-wrenching at the same time, and explores some huge themes of love, loss, personal struggle and family, deeply but without being the least bit heavy-going or preachy.

It starts off with a hilarious scene in a supermarket which launches us straight into the complicated and mad world of the main character of Melody King who, following an unfortunate accident, has the embarrassing habit of launching into song at times of stress and anxiety, which leads to some extremely toe-curling but funny moments. Her two children, Flynn and Rose, both in those awkward teenage years and struggling with complicated issues of their own, tend to find this less amusing. I absolutely love the way Emma has chosen the perfect appropriately inappropriate song for Melody to sing at any given moment.

The book is written in the first person from the points of view of four main characters, Melody, Flynn, Rose and Dev, Melody’s missing husband. Each has a distinct voice, totally fitting their character and the personal stresses they are under and Emma has done this so well that we are right inside each of their individual heads, seeing the situation from four totally different points of view with the tint that their specific outlooks gives to the situation. It is so cleverly and perfectly done that we have a complete emotional insight into the whole perspective of the situation they are in, you can’t help getting sucked right into the drama.

And, oh, how much did I love these characters. Emabattled, troubled, sullen but warm-hearted Flynn. My heart broke for him and I was willing him to conquer his demons and become the amazing person you can see under the surface. Brilliant but confused Rose, fragile but not, having to grow up faster than she perhaps can cope with and trying to take control in dangerous ways. I just wanted to fold her in my arms and take care of her. And Melody. I don’t really know what to say about Melody except she is so perfectly imperfect, so valiant. She has stolen into my heart and taken firm root.

This book is a rollercoaster that takes you to unexpected places emotionally and has left me bruised, battered but ultimately uplifted. It is such a brilliant portrayal of how flawed and struggling people can be, but how love and family will hold us up and help us overcome if we have each other. I know I will go back and re-read this book soon, and I will feel exactly the same way about it again. It made me laugh and cry and I didn’t want it to end, to let go of these characters that took such firm hold of me in such a short space of time. This book is something really special, I might even venture to say, perfect.

Just don’t finish it on a jumbo jet full of hundreds of curious people as it comes in to land whilst wearing non-waterproof mascara.

The Songs of Us is out on Kindle on 31 May and in paperback on 20 September and is available for pre-order here.

Thank you to Headline and NetGalley for the copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author

Emma Cooper is a former teaching assistant, who lives in Shropshire with her partner and four children. She spends her spare time writing novels, drinking wine and watching box-sets with her partner of twenty-four years, who still makes her smile every day.

Emma has always wanted to be a writer – ever since childhood, she’s been inventing characters (her favourite being her imaginary friend ‘Boot’) and is thrilled that she now gets to use this imagination to bring to life all of her creations.

The Songs of Us was inspired by Emma’s love of music and her ability to almost always embarrass herself, and her children, in the most mundane situations. She was so fascinated by the idea of combining the two that she began to write Melody’s story. The majority of her novel was written during her lunchtime in a tiny school office.

 

The Boardwalk Trust by Avery Duff #BookReview (@AveryDuffAuthor) @AmazonPub #TheBoardWalkTrust #NetGalley

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“With the flawless sky above and the boardwalk below, Robert Worth has set up shop on Venice Beach with an eye on Delfina Famosa, his unexpected first client. A whip-smart homeless kid, Delfina reaches out to Robert to keep her father, Teo, out of trouble. The pair claim to be beneficiaries of the seven-figure Famosa trust, and Delfina wants him to have their backs in court. But in a city of illusions, nothing is what it first appears to be.

Robert should be taking his own advice—always keep his professional distance. Yet every sharp turn and revealed secret draws him closer to his clients. And the closer he gets, the greater the danger.

All he wants now is for everyone to get what they deserve. For some, he hopes it’s not too late. For others—they won’t even see him coming.”

This novel is the second in the author’s Beach Lawyer series. Regular readers of my blog will recall that I was quite critical of the first novel in the series, Beach Lawyer which was also the author’s debut. I am really pleased to say that I enjoyed this latest book much more. The majority of the issues I had with the first book do not recur in this one, and you can see how much the authors has developed in his writing.

The second novel still focuses on Robert Worth, who has left his slick law firm and set up practice on a table on the Venice Beach boardwalk, helping the needy of the neighbourhood. Not the most lucrative of business, but after his big success at the end of the previous novel, he is currently solvent and able to take on the seemingly simple case of a query into a family trust for a troubled dad and his daughter currently living in their van. Obviously, things turn out to be more complicated than they first seem, and this is the meat of the story.

There were a few things for me which made this a better story this time around. Firstly, there was none of the minutiae of legal practice discussed in this book, which dragged the first book to a crawl in the early chapters. Duff has managed to fold the legal explanation necessary for the plot much more smoothly and succinctly into the narrative this time around, so it doesn’t interrupt the momentum and flow of the story.

Secondly, the plot itself is a lot more straightforward, easier to follow and far less convoluted than the last time. I wasn’t lost in the twists of turns of who was who and was was what and having to go back and try and catch up on the constant switching as in the last book, which again broke up the momentum and stopped me getting engrossed in the last book.

The third, and most major improvement, was in the warmth of the characters in this book. Last time, none of the characters had my sympathy and I just really did not care what happened. This is a major failing in any novel. This time, both the main characters of Robert and Gina were much more likeable and just, human, in a way they weren’t before and I was far more invested in their success this time around. In addition, his new clients, Delfina and Teo Famaosa were appealing from the start and I was immediately rooting for them in a way that was impossible with the characters from the last instalment, who were mostly unpleasant. I really wanted things to turn out well for all the main players here, and their plight kept me turning the pages until the end.

There is plenty of action and devilment to liven up the plot throughout and keep you on the edge of your seat, much more so than in the first book where it was all shoe-horned in at the end, a vast improvement.

This novel still has its issues. The first chapter could have done with some serious editing. It contained too many cliches and practically the whole list of ‘Things You Should Never Do When Writing’. I feared that I was going to be disappointed again, but once I pushed on through the opening pages, it improved quickly and hugely, so this was obviously an anomaly. The other main problem comes at the end, where I fear the main plot twist comes too late, and then there is a mad rush to get everything explained before he runs out of chapters. It is a pacing problem that still needs looking at. However, these problems did not hugely detract from my enjoyment of the book and I would recommend it to friends who enjoy legal thrillers. Plus, I will definitely read the next in the series, and there cannot be a better endorsement than that.

The Boardwalk Trust is out on 17 April 2018 and you can pre-order a copy here.

Thank you to Thomas & Mercer and NetGalley for the copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author

Avery Duff was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he attended Baylor School and graduated summa cum laude. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he earned a JD from Georgetown University Law Center and joined a prestigious Tennessee law firm, where he became a partner in five years. Duff’s screenwriting credits include the 2010 heist drama Takers, starring Matt Dillon, Idris Elba, Paul Walker, T.I., Jay Hernandez, Zoe Saldana, Michael Ealy, and Hayden Christensen. Avery Duff lives at the beach in Los Angeles and spends his time writing fiction. His first novel, Beach Lawyer, was an Amazon Charts Most Read and Most Sold book.

 

The House of Birds and Butterflies: The Dawn Chorus by Cressida McLaughlin #BookReview #NetGalley #TheDawnChorus (@CressMcLaughlin) @HarperCollinsUK

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“Abby Field is living the dream. As events coordinator at the Meadowsweet nature reserve on the idyllic Suffolk coast, every day is an adventure with the birds and the butterflies, and she couldn’t feel more at home. When another local nature reserve is chosen as the hot location for a new television series, however, Meadowsweet looks set for seasonal hibernation unless Abby can whip up a creative plan to keep the visitors flocking.

With the help of the Meadowgreen villagers, and her cute rescue huskie, Raffle, can Abby rescue the nature reserve from oblivion? Or will she be distracted by the arrival of a brooding and annoyingly handsome new neighbour”

This is the first part of the four part serialisation of Cressy’s new book, and it is absolutely delightful. Now anyone who has read my blog will know I am a big fan of Cressida’s books. Her last novel, The Once in a Blue Moon Guesthouse, was my favourite so far and I can already feel this new one worming its way under my skin in the same way.

The main character is Abby Field, who works as a kind of ‘park ranger’ and events co-ordinator at the Meadowsweet Nature Reserve. Abby loves the reserve, and is passionate about the wildlife it protects – the book is filled with little descriptions of the wildlife she encounters day by day which is quirky and interesting – and when it is threatened with falling visitor numbers and competition from a local rival, Abby is charged with reviving its fortunes by her mysterious and slightly cold boss, Penelope, who obviously has a story going on. Throw in a attractive new neighbour with his own demons, and there is plenty of meat to the story.

Like all of Cressida’s characters, Abby is easy to warm to. She is enthusiastic and engaging – I love the way she interacts with the children in the story – but feisty too. I was drawn in to wondering what Penelope’s story was and hope that we find out more about the grand but neglected Swallowtail House that is in someway linked to her past. The first part left lots of questions in the reader’s mind, but also managed to end at a point that was as satisfactory as a partial story is ever going to be. (There is a reason I usually wait for the complete paperback – I am so impatient and would normally devour one of these books in a day or two!)

This author is very adept at including a lot of detail about the location so we can see it clearly in our minds’ eye, but not so much that it drags the story to a crawl and this book is no exception. There is also a rounded cast of local characters, but the main draw if the nature reserve itself. I have never read another book in this genre set in a nature reserve and it makes a refreshing change from all the cafes, stately homes and hotels. I am looking forward to seeing where the story goes in the next three instalments.

Cressida’s books are as light and sweet and cleverly layered as a lemon meringue pie, and I defy you to take a bite and come away without a smile on your face. Roll on part two.

The House of Birds and Butterflies: The Dawn Chorus is out now and you can buy a copy here. Part two, The Lovebirds, will be released on 6 April and can be pre-ordered here.

Thank you to HarperCollins and NetGalley for the copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author

Cressy was born in South East London surrounded by books and with a cat named after Lawrence of Arabia. She studied English at the University of East Anglia and now lives in Norwich with her husband David.
Cressy’s favourite things include terrifying ghost stories, lava lamps and romantic heroes, though not necessarily at the same time. She doesn’t (yet) have a dog of her own, but feeds her love vicariously through friends’ pets, and was once chased around a field by a soaking wet, very mischievous Border Collie called Wags.
When she isn’t writing, Cressy spends her spare time reading, returning to London or exploring the beautiful Norfolk coastline.