The First Time I Saw You by Emma Cooper #BookReview (@ItsEmmaCooper) @headlinepg @NetGalley @RNATweets #NetGalley #TheFirstTimeISawYou #FictionCafeWriters

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Lost:
Six-foot-two Irish man who answers to the name Samuel McLaughlin.
Has weak shins and enjoys show tunes.
If found, please return to Sophie Williams.

Before Sophie met Samuel she saw the world in grey.
Before Samuel met Sophie, he never believed in love at first sight.

When they first meet, something tells them they are meant to be.
But fate has other ideas.

Now they have lost each other and can’t see a way back.
But they’ve already changed each other’s lives in more ways than they ever expected…

I am delighted to be sharing my review today of The First Time I Saw You, by the author of one of my Top Ten Books of 2018, Emma Cooper. My thanks to Headline for my copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I am probably not alone when I say that I always approach follow up books to ones I have loved with some trepidation. When you have loved a book as much as I loved Emma’s debut, The Songs of Us, you want the next one to be just as good, but there is always the fear that it will not live up to the heights the last one achieved. I fell so in love with the story of Melody and her family and the book had such a huge impact on me, I really could not see how The First Time I Saw You was going to match it.

Well, Emma is a clever thing because the way she did it was to make this one feel completely different, but in a way that was still compelling and affecting. At least, that is how it felt to me. I found The Songs of Us extremely funny, whilst still being heart-breaking and plumbing real emotional depth. The First Time I Saw You is a horse of a different colour, with less of a comedy element but the same complex familial relationships, the same emotional rollercoaster and the same examination of personal relationships between two flawed people, put under strain.

It took me no time at all to fall in love with Samuel (it may have has something to do with  him being Irish, I may just have a little bit of a thing for Irish men). It took me a little longer to warm to Sophie. In fact, the situation was pretty much a reversal of the way I felt about the male and female characters in the last book, but this was very important for the story development. One of the most riveting parts of the plot for me was the development and softening of Sophie, the way she changes throughout the book and how she, and we, uncover the reasons she is the way she is, how her history has shaped her and how the events in the story shape her going forwards. Damaged characters, flawed characters, complicated characters – these are the things that gives books richness and depth and make them extraordinary.

Samuel’s plot arc, for me, was both devastating and uplifting. Because I fell in love with him from the first chapter and was totally on his side, what Emma did to him almost broke me, and seeing him go through his ordeal and claw his way back to where he wanted to be was excruciating. I lived every trial, every setback, every disappointment as if he were a real person I cared for deeply. I was willing him on, wanting him to get his happy ending, mentally begging Emma to help him. It is a rare gift for an author to be able to make characters come so alive and matter so much to readers in this way, and Emma totally has this. It is the thing I love most about her writing, what embeds it in my heart.

This book left me deeply affected, just as the last one did, but in a very different way. Despite the fact that this book turns out very differently (I am desperately trying to get my point across without spoiling either book for people who have not read them yet), in some ways it was a more difficult and melancholy read for me. That may not make any sense to people who have read them both, but it is how I felt. Some people may be disappointed that this book perhaps wasn’t as lighthearted as the previous novel. I say it shows bravery, diversity and a complexity of ability that makes Emma a talented author, who will continue to surprise and push her readers and I, for one, cannot wait to see what she does next.

The First Time I Saw You is challenging, heart-breaking and uplifting and will not disappoint anyone who recognises talent and enjoyed Emma’s previous book. New readers should grab both and indulge themselves in some excellent writing tout suite.

The First Time I Saw You is out now on Kindle and available for pre-order in audiobook and paperback and you can get a copy here.

About the Author

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Emma is a former teaching assistant, who lives in Shropshire, with her partner and four children. Her spare time consists of 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 her 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 of situations. She was so fascinated by the idea of combining the two, that she began to write Melody’s story. Working full-time with a large family meant that Emma had to steal snippets of ‘spare’ time from her already chaotic and disorganised life; the majority of her novel was written during her lunchtime in a tiny school office. She never expected to fall so deeply in love with the King family and is overwhelmed that others feel the same.

She has three loves in life: reading, writing and her family…oh, and music, cheese, pizza, films – Maths is not one of her talents.

Connect with Emma:

Website: https://emmacooperauthor.wordpress.com

Facebook: Emma Cooper Author

Twitter: @ItsEmma Cooper

Instagram: @itsemmacooper

The Two Hearts of Eliza Bloom by Beth Miller #BookReview #BlogTour (@drbethmiller) @bookouture @NetGalley #TheTwoHeartsOfElizaBloom #NetGalley #PublicationDay

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She followed her heart to change her life, but she didn’t realise how much she left behind…

Eliza Bloom has a list of rules: long, blue skirt on Thursdays, dinner with mother on Fridays, and never give your heart away to the wrong person. Nothing is out of place in her ordered life…

Then she met someone who she was never supposed to speak to. And he introduced her to a whole world of new lists:
New foods to try – oysters and sushi
Great movies to watch – Bambi and Some Like It Hot
Things I love about Eliza Bloom

Eliza left everything she knew behind for him, but sometimes love just isn’t enough. Especially when he opens a hidden shoebox and starts asking a lot of questions about her past life. As the walls Eliza has carefully constructed threaten to come crashing down, will she find a way to keep hold of everyone she loves, and maybe, just maybe, bring the two sides of her heart together at last?

Oh, I am so VERY happy to be kicking off the blog tour on publication day for this most marvellous book! Happy Publication Day, Beth. The hugest thanks to Kim Nash at Bookouture for giving me a place on the tour and for my gifted copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

The blurb of this book doesn’t really give you a clue what to expect between the covers and gives very little hint of the main plot device of the novel, so it is going to be quite difficult to write a comprehensive, spoiler-free review. Still, I’m up for a challenge so let’s give it a go.

This is a ‘two worlds collide, fish out of water’ story about a couple falling in love from opposites sides of a divide that throws up a multitude of problems in their relationship. If you scout other reviews, you will probably find out what the differences are that divide them without reading the book, but I think that will be a shame for you and I would advise you going into the book naively and discover the secret for yourself as you read. For me, it was really eye-opening, as the world Eliza comes from is one that I know nothing about, and learning about the conventions and rules of the society in which she lives was fascinating and humbling; I’m embarrassed that I have never taken the time to learn more about it before.

However, aside from the particular issues Eliza’s background presents to the relationship, there is a lot in this story that rings true for anyone who has ever been in a relationship, especially one that has been entered into at a young age when, whilst we might feel we are adults, we are largely unformed and uninformed as people, and we are making life-changing decisions joining ourselves to other people when we don’t really know who we are ourselves. Through the book, the author explores all kinds of relationships that shape all of our lives, not just romantic ones. The bonds of family – spouses, parents, children, siblings, friends, extended family, wider community- their needs, expectations, ideologies, personalities, dynamics, all of these things affect each of us in different ways and impact our behaviour and decisions and part of life is learning where we fit, how to manage these things, when we should comply, when we should rebel, what is important and what isn’t. The arts of empathy, understanding and compromise are something we all need to learn, whoever we are and wherever we come from.

The author writes with sensitivity, warmth and approachability. Her characters felt so real to me, even though the world she is writing about is so alien in many ways, I was totally drawn in. The main character, Eliza, could be me, you, or any of us because, as humans, we have more similarities than we have differences, no matter who we are or where we come from, if we choose to see them and focus on them, rather than our differences. Given some of the current things going on in the world today, I think this message is an extremely relevant and important one to be getting out there, and this book does it beautifully.

This is a gorgeous story, the writing pulls you through with ease and pleasure. There was nothing but joy in the reading of it for me, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Pretty close to reading perfection.

The Two Hearts of Eliza Bloom is out today and you can get a copy here.

To read some alternative reviews of the book, please do follow the tour as detailed below:

Two Hearts - Blog Tour

About the Author

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Beth Miller is the author of two novels and two non-fiction titles, including For the Love of The Archers. She has worked as a sexual health trainer, a journalist and a psychology lecturer and is now a mentor and book coach. Beth is a member of the Prime Writers, has a PhD in Psychology, and is a world class drinker of tea.

Connect with Beth:

Website: https://www.bethmiller.co.uk

Facebook: Beth Miller Author

Twitter: @drbethmiller

 

Tempted by….Portobello Book Blog: Dear Mrs Bird by A. J. Pearce @portybelle @ajpearcewrites @picadorbooks #DearMrsBird #RichardAndJudyBookClub #bookbloggers #amreading #readingrecommendations

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London, 1941. Amid the falling bombs Emmeline Lake dreams of becoming a fearless Lady War Correspondent. Unfortunately, Emmy instead finds herself employed as a typist for the formidable Henrietta Bird, the renowned agony aunt at Woman’s Friend magazine. Mrs Bird refuses to read, let alone answer, letters containing any form of Unpleasantness, and definitely not those from the lovelorn, grief-stricken or morally conflicted.

But the thought of these desperate women waiting for an answer at this most desperate of times becomes impossible for Emmy to ignore. She decides she simply must help and secretly starts to write back – after all, what harm could that possibly do?

Today’s Tempted by… is a book that is going to be familiar to practically everyone and I am quite ashamed to say that I haven’t read yet. It is Dear Mrs Bird by A. J. Pearce, a Sunday Times Bestseller and Richard and Judy Book Club pick, but it was this review by Joanne at Portobello Book Blog that first drew my attention to this book, almost a year ago. (My TBR is totally out of control, I cannot believe how long this book has been languishing on the pile!)

I am not a massive fan of books set in wartime in general, but I was absolutely intrigued by the approach this book is taking to the subject – the main character answering agony aunt letters that are too Unpleasant for the real agony aunt to answer – and the way Joanne describes it made it sound both light-hearted but moving at the same time, so it sounded just my kind of book. Everyone has been raving about it, and the plot sounds so original, I was really drawn in by the hints at the personality of Mrs Bird, as well as the friendship between Emmy and Bunty that it would appear to be a ‘must read.’ Anyway, who wouldn’t want to read a book where one of the main characters is called Bunty and everyone speaks with capital letters at the front of words?

Joanne’s blog is one of the very earliest that I discovered, long before I started blogging myself. In fact, hers is one of the blogs that inspired me to start my own. I was always finding reviews for new books that I hadn’t come across and sounded interesting, and the reviews were always detailed, fair and honest and enticing. She often puts little personal details in as well, and I think it is very attractive when we get a feel of the person behind the blog through their reviews. If you feel like you are making a friend through reading their book reviews, that makes a blog a big draw for me. Joanne is a very well-established and respected book blogger and you should definitely go and check out her blog here.

If Joanne’s review has tempted you to pick up Dear Mrs Bird, you can get a copy here. As for me, this book will not be languishing on the TBR for much longer. I will be reading it in a couple of weeks as part of The Fiction Cafe Reading Challenge 2019, for the category of ‘an uplifting book,’ so watch out for my review coming next month.

The Six Loves of Billy Binns by Richard Lumsden #BlogTour #Extract (@lumsdenrich) @TinderPress @annecater @Bookywookydooda #RandomThingsTours #TheSixLovesOfBillyBinns

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At well over a hundred years old, Billy Binns believes he’s the oldest man in Europe and knows his days are numbered. But Billy has a final wish: he wants to remember what love feels like one last time.

As he looks back at the relationships that have coloured his life – and the events that shaped the century – he recalls a lifetime of hope and heartbreak.

This is the story of an ordinary man’s life, an enchanting novel which takes you on an epic yet intimate journey that will make you laugh, cry, and reflect on the universal turmoil of love.

I am delighted to be taking my turn today on the blog tour for The Six Loves of Billy Binns by Richard Lumsden. My thanks to Anne Cater for offering me a place on the tour and to Tinder Press for allowing me to publish an extract from the book for you today.

Extract

One

I have to get this out.
I have to get it down before it’s gone for good.
While it’s still clear in my head.
While they’re all sat beside me, as alive now as they were then, these people I once loved.

Mary.
Hello, Mary. Do you remember me?
You were my first, though there may have been others before you; slips of things, stolen moments behind a mar- ket stall or in the straw of a cattle barn, but nothing to match the time we shared together. That first eruption of love when the world shifts and everything glows orange.

You died much too young, of a broken heart if I remem- ber right. Not sure if it was me or someone else who broke your heart, but we were never meant to last, you and me. Too many complications along the way, what with one thing and another.

Still, I loved you, Mary old girl.

Then Evie.
I loved you, Evelyn Ellis. For a lifetime, if I’m honest.

 

We were the right age for love when we started out. You were my forever girl.

A love that should have lasted to the end, but the world doesn’t work that way.

I loved you from the first moment I saw you. You might say that isn’t true, but you’d be wrong. I loved you then as I love you now.

These dry embers, buried deep, set alight once again at your memory. A fire that burned quiet for the rest of my life.

Archie.
My little boy.
I loved you, son, as soon as I knew you’d sparked into life. Knew you were a boy. I felt you kicking, your tiny feet.

Knew it would be you, Archie Binns. With your scruffy knees poking out of your shorts. Your pockets full of mar- bles; the catseye and the oxblood, the jasper, the aggie and the ruby. Your little hands.

Do you remember how we climbed trees together?
You know how much I loved you.
I’m not sure if I ever said it to you, not out loud anyway.

Not in words so you could hear. But you knew it, didn’t you, son?

Vera.
I was unhappy when I first met you, Vera. Forty-something, was I? Life was on a downward spiral, then you showed up out of the blue. You were so beautiful and you made me very happy.

 

page5image5766720page5image5756736page5image5757120page5image5763264You caused me trouble, too. I paid a price for loving you, that’s for sure. For a while I was lost in the wreckage, but isn’t that what we hope for when it comes to the end: to know we didn’t just pass by but lived through some- thing real along the way?

Everyone should be lucky enough to have a Vera once in their lives. Despite the trouble. Despite the price you end up paying.

To be taken to the edge and made to jump. To love until it hurts.

Mrs Jackson.
Black Betty.
Didn’t think I’d ever get those feelings again, much later on in life. After Evie and Vera and the rest of them. But suddenly there you were. You brought me out of retire- ment, you might say.

We were old when we met. Not proper old like I am now, of course. I was still able to do something about it back when you showed up, and we made it good, the two of us, when there wasn’t much pickings around.

Some lovely years together, me and Mrs Jackson. Funny, still calling you Mrs Jackson after all this time.

Mary, Evie, Archie, Vera, Mrs Jackson.
Five of them in all.
Five loves? Is that it?
It doesn’t sound much after all this time.
I recall the names, but the faces come and go.
When you first meet someone, you don’t know how

page6image5638976page6image5639168page6image5639360long they’ll be in your life for. It could be minutes or it could be forever.

You don’t know when it starts.
And you don’t know when it stops.
Some endings are final, others take you by surprise. Their last goodbye.
The world drags them away and all that’s left is a fading memory, turning to dust like the flesh on these old bones.

I want to remember what love feels like, one last time. To remember each of the people I loved, to see them all clearly again.

I’ll start with Mary.

Get it down on paper, all the details, before it’s gone for good.

While it’s still clear in my head.

If you enjoyed this short extract from the book and would like to read it in full, you can buy a copy of The Six Loves of Billy Binns here.

If you would like to read some reviews and see more content relating to the book, please do follow the blog tour as set out on the tour poster below:

six lives of billy binns blog tour poster

About the Author

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Richard Lumsden has worked as an actor, writer and composer in television, film and theatre for 30 years. As an actor his films include Downhill, Sightseers, Sense & Sensibility and The Darkest Hour, as well as numerous television shows and theatre productions. THE SIX LOVES OF BILLY BINNS is his first novel.

Connect with Richard:

Website: http://richardlumsden.com

Twitter: @lumsdenrich

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The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker by Jenni Keer #BookReview #BlogTour (@JenniKeer) @AvonBooksUK @RaRaResources @RNATweets #Giveaway #RachelsRandomResources #NetGalley #TheHopesAndDreamsOfLucyBaker

the hopes and dreams of lucy baker

I am delighted that it is finally my turn on the blog tour for this debut novel by my fellow RNA member, the lovely Jenni Keer. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker and to Avon Books for my copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Make sure you read down to the end of the post for details of a fabulous giveaway.

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Meet Lucy, aged 25, and Brenda, aged 79. Neighbours and unlikely friends.

Lucy Baker is not your usual 25-year-old. She is more at home reading and knitting in her cluttered little flat than going out partying and socialising.

79-year-old Brenda is full of wise and wonderful advice, but when she’s diagnosed with dementia her life begins to change. Before her memories slip away for ever, Brenda is desperate to fulfil one last wish – to see Lucy happy.

Gifting Lucy the locket that helped Brenda find her own true love, she hopes to push her reticent neighbour in the right direction. But is Lucy Baker ready for the opportunities and heartbreaks of the real world? It’s about time she put her knitting needles aside and found out…

The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker will be the most charming, heart-warming and feel-good novel you will read this year, perfect for fans of Ruth Hogan and Gail Honeyman.

2019 has got off to a stellar start with the quality of the books I have read so far, and I guess it is a streak that has to end some time… but not with this book because this is a novel which has maintained the very high standard of reads with which I’ve started the year. It is a book which has wrapped me in a cashmere blanket of happiness and given me a long, warm hug, leaving me feeling tingly, moved and with a big smile on my face and a small tear in my eye. Quite a feat.

The central story in this book is the unlikely friendship between Lucy and Brenda, which spans easily the decades that divide them age-wise. In most ways, age doesn’t matter because Lucy is mature and wise beyond her years and Brenda is young at heart, but in other ways the age difference is telling, because of the effect it is having on Brenda’s body and mind. Jenni displays the closeness between the two, but also this physical deterioration of the human body with such tenderness and pathos that the book can’t fail to grab hold of the stoniest of hearts and squeeze it until it feels something (a bit too much in my case, since I’m a big softy and blub at the slightest provocation).

I was totally in love with both Brenda and Lucy. They felt very real and alive to me and their friendship was completely believable and genuine and just a delight to behold. They both really care about the other and want what is best for them, and they bring out the best in each other. They really understand each other and have so much in common, despite the age difference, which is the basis for a true and enduring friendship and it is just gorgeous.

I really enjoyed watching Lucy come to life and blossom and expose more of her personality throughout the book. I felt like a proud parent watching her grow in confidence and stature across the pages. There were times when I wanted to reach into the pages and shake her, or warn her not to trust someone, that they were not what they seemed to be, and that it is the hallmark of a truly enthralling book, where the people are so real to you that you are completely engrossed in the story as if you are another character yourself involved in their lives. I was rooting for her all the way through, sharing her joys and triumphs and sadness and, when the book ended, I felt like I was leaving behind a good friend. Luckily, she will still be waiting there between the pages of the book next time I want to meet up with her.

The other story arc is a fairly simple boy meets girl, but is elevated beyond the mundane by the charm of the characters, a good dose of humour and a touch of magical realism. It is a winning recipe for a memorable story that you will be sorry ends and you will definitely want to return to. Added to this is the warmth and ease of Jenni’s writing, which I just loved. One of my favourite lines popped up early on in the book:

But the night-black cat had vanished completely into the cat-black night.’

This is one of those lines that, as a writer, you mentally high-five yourself for writing and I gave the author a little cheer of congratulation as I read. It is also one of those ‘kill your darlings’ lines that you are always told you should cut (although the premise that you should cut any line you think is great always baffles me – you should just leave yourself with all the lines you aren’t happy with? Odd idea!) and I am SO glad that Jenni’s editor didn’t make her cut this one! From here on, I knew I was going to enjoy every word and there were numerous other bits I highlighted to go back to.

What more do I need to say? I absolutely loved every word of this book and can’t wait to grab the paperback for my collection so I can come back to it next time I want a book that will just make me happy. Go and buy it and give yourself a treat.

The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker is out now as an ebook and the paperback, which will be released on 21 March, is available for pre-order. You can get them both here.

Giveaway

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Please enter the giveaway to win The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker goodies (UK Only) by clicking the Rafflecopter link below. Prize contains – Thornton’s fudge, a Nu notebook, a Hopes and Dreams bookmark and a set of five “Scratbag” blank greetings cards designed by Jenni Keer.

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*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

To follow the rest of the tour for this book and get some comparable reviews, check the details of the other blogs taking part on the poster below:

the hopes and dreams of lucy baker full tour banner

About the Author

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Jenni Keer is a history graduate who embarked on a career in contract flooring before settling in the middle of the Suffolk countryside with her antique furniture restorer husband. She has valiantly attempted to master the ancient art of housework but with four teenage boys in the house it remains a mystery. Instead, she spends her time at the keyboard writing women’s fiction to combat the testosterone-fuelled atmosphere with her number one fan #Blindcat by her side. Much younger in her head than she is on paper, she adores any excuse for fancy-dress and is part of a disco formation dance team.

She is very tall and also carries around a knitted version of Poldark, so is easy to identify in a crowd!

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Connect with Jenni:

Website: https://jennikeer.co.uk

Facebook: Jenni Keer

Twitter: @JenniKeer

Instagram: @jennikeer

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman #BookReview (@GailHoneyman) @HarperCollinsUK @PamelaDormanBks #EleanorOliphant

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Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

So, now I am sure I have achieved my goal of being the last English-speaking person in the western world to read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, I thought it was about time I got round to it and posted a review. The only problem is, since every other book blogger on the face of the planet has already read and reviewed this book, ad infinitum, what could I possibly have to say that hasn’t been said already?

I have to admit I was little concerned going in, as the book has had such hype that I didn’t believe it could possibly live up to my expectations. At the same time, I have read more and more reviews recently by people who have abandoned the book at an early stage, having been unable to get on with the main character at all. This included my own mother, although she and I have very different tastes and opinions on most things anyway.

I needn’t have worried. I absolutely loved every page of this book. I thought the character of Eleanor was unique and intelligent and really insightful and the whole story so well-drawn from beginning to end that I could not help but get drawn in to her world and life. What a sad and touching and lonely life she has had, until her friendship with Raymond changes everything for her. My heart is bruised from how much this story pummelled it with wave after wave of emotional wrenching. It has been a long time since it has had such a workout.

I guess I can understand how some people can find Eleanor jarring, she does not represent the social norm, but that is the entire point. This is the reason she is so isolated and uncomfortable with her peers. The discomfort that the reader might feel is illustration of why people like Eleanor become so socially isolated and lonely, but if we, as the reader and as people in society, push past this, we find the real person underneath who just longs to belong and is well worth knowing and Raymond is the model of what we should be. Warm, tolerant and understanding, I just loved him, although he himself might not be seen by society on first glance as the perfect specimen.

When I am reading, I tend to make little notes of pages where a particular line or paragraph has caught my eye as something that has touched or spoken to me or is worth remembering. I don’t think I have made as many notes on a book of parts I wanted to revisit as I did on this book. It was like the author was speaking directly to me, or even speaking my own thoughts at times. The final paragraph of Chapter 8. Halfway down page 106. The penultimate paragraph of page 174. The third paragraph of page 195. The top of page 238. A small phrase three-quarters of the way down page 286. The phrase on page 305, “Yellow tights did not, I noticed, flatter a sporty calf.’ All of these held small phrases or images that were joyful or moving or resonant or delightful to me. You will all have your own favourites, I’m sure. Some of it made me cry. Some of squeezed my chest so tight I grew short of breath. Some of it was just too painfully….truthful.

This book is marvellous. It, and Eleanor, are truly worthy of every minute you invest in reading it, and re-reading it will I am sure be equally beneficial. Anyone who does not persevere and try to find some bond with the character is missing out. A profoundly honest book that feels like it was written just for me.

If there is any chance at all that you haven’t got a copy of this book, you can buy it here.

About the Author

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Gail Honeyman’s debut novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, won the Costa First Novel Award 2017, and has been longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Desmond Elliott Prize.

As a work in progress, it was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize. Since publication, translation rights have sold to over thirty territories worldwide, Reese Witherspoon has optioned it for film and it was chosen as one of the Observer’s Debuts of the Year for 2017. Gail was also awarded the Scottish Book Trust’s Next Chapter Award in 2014, and has been longlisted for BBC Radio 4’s Opening Lines and shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.

Gail lives in Glasgow.

Connect with Gail:

Twitter: @GailHoneyman

The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper #BookReview #BlogTour (@ItsEmmaCooper) @headlinepg @annecater #RandomThingsTours #TheSongsOfUs #UpLit

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So very happy to be taking my turn today on the blog tour for The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper as I absolutely love this book, and the person who wrote it. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me on to the tour so I get another chance to rave again about this wonderful book ahead of its paperback publication tomorrow. I reviewed this book originally back in March so, when you read the review below that I am reposting today, you may recognise one of the lines from it quoted above. Yes, that’s me, on a poster! Fame at last..kind of.

The Songs of Us Cover

“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.

(Blogger note: I love this book so much I have made my two best friends wait until now for their birthday presents just so that I can give them a copy each.)

The Songs of Us is out now on Kindle and in paperback tomorrow and you can (or I should say, must) get a copy here.

To see if my fellow bloggers are as effusive about this book as I am, follow the tour below:

The Songs of Us Blog Tour Poster

About the Author

Emma Cooper Author Picture

Emma Cooper is a former teaching assistant, who lives in Shropshire, with her partner and four children. Her spare time consists of 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 her 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 of situations. She was so fascinated by the idea of combining the two, that she began to write Melody’s story. Working full-time with a large family meant that Emma had to steal snippets of ‘spare’ time from her already chaotic and disorganised life; the majority of her novel was written during her lunchtime in a tiny school office. She never expected to fall so deeply in love with the King family and is overwhelmed that others feel the same.

Connect with Emma:

Facebook: Emma Cooper

Twitter: @ItsEmmaCooper

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