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This novel tells the story of two young women, trying to come to terms with their pasts. Georgetown Easy moved to small-town England with her mother and aunt when she was just a young girl, but she really wants to find the father she never knew. Her search takes on a physical and metaphorical journey.

Meanwhile Helena Jones knows her past, but wants to leave it where it belongs and escape the self-imposed confines of her life. Always at loggerheads with her layabout brother Troy, Helena has been the sensible twin for as long as she can remember, and now she is ready for change.

About 65% of the novel is narrated by Georgetown, and the remainder is mainly narrated by Helena. with a page short parts narrated by a young lady named Aurelie who blasts her way into the lives of the many characters, and leaves all of them changed.

There’s a lot to like about this book. Georgetown’s scenes and conversations with her mother and aunt are very believable and peppered with humour. I really liked her character and heart. Helena was less interesting to me, and without the difficult relationship between herself and Troy, she would not have been a particularly memorable character.

But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the novel because I did, although I think it started to lose it’s way somewhat towards teh end. The titel comes from the name of a blues bar where the characters often met and I must admit the scenes set there did make me wish there was somewhere like that near to where I lived!

Overall, an assured debut – I would probably read more by Kat Pomfret.

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I’d been meaning to watch this film for ages and when I finally got around to it I was not disappointed!

Saint Ralph aka The Miracle of Saint Ralph stars Adam Butcher as the titular character, a 14 year old boy at Catholic school in the 1950s, who has a mother desperately ill in hospital. When a nurse tells him that it will be a miracle if his mom recovers he decides that he will create the miracle that is needed by running and winning the Boston Marathon. One of his teachers, Father Hibbert (Campbell Scott, one of my faves) offers to train him against the wishes of the strict headmaster Father Fitzpatrick (Gordon Pinsent).

Considered to have absolutely no hope when he begins training, Ralph is determined to complete his mission and the local town starts to see his as an embodiment of their hopes and desires and everyone who initially laughed at the idea starts to support him. He also provides a new lease of life to Father Hibbert, who gave up some of his own athletic dreams when he joined the priesthood.

This is such a sweet film, with lots of humorous moments – although it isn’t really a comedy, and lots of poignant moments. All of the main cast are excellent, including Jennifer Tilly as the nurst who looks after Ralph’s mom, and by extension, Ralph himself. Campbell Scott is perfect as the slightly rebellious priest, and I defy anyone to watch this and not end the film with a smile on their face.

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This book has been sitting on my to-read shelf for years – fourteen to be precise!! I finally decided it was about time I read it, and I kind of wish I had picked it up earlier because it was much more enjoyable than I expected. You would be forgiven for looking at the cover and assuming that it was standard chick-lit fare (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but there’s more to this book than that.

The book is narrated by Sophie Applebaum, who is 12 years old in the first chapter, and the middle child in a loving family. Each chapter jumps on a few years from the one before it and the reader therefore has to fill in the gaps themselves. Additionally each chapter could be read as a standalone short story, which is the same format as Melissa Bank’s previous book ‘ A Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing’.

Sophie focusses a lot on her romantic relationships, but there are also other themes at play – death, illness, lost friendships, job worries and other factors are all part of the story.

I liked Sophie very much. She was very funny, and as she narrates in the first person I have to assume that Melissa Bank is also very funny with a quick sense of humour. The character was identifiable, as were her relationships with her friends and family, especially her two brothers. The story doesn’t really build up to one event, but rather it is slices of life. The somewhat disjointed storytelling might not appeal to everyone, but I really enjoyed it and will look for more by Melissa Bank – and new time I won’t leave it fourteen years to read them!

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Lorrie is a single mother of two teenagers, single since the loss of her partner some years before. She is shocked to hear from her first love, Antoine, who broke her heart thirty years earlier when she was 16. Despite the misgivings of her best friend Stu, Lorrie decides to meet up with Antoine again…but can you ever really go back? And is Lorrie destined to be with someone else?

Throw in problems at work, due to the beauty company Lorrie works for being taken over by a large corporation, and the headache that is Lorrie’s mother’s wedding, and our heroine certainly has her hands full!

I really enjoyed this audiobook, excellently narrated by Emma Gregory. Lorrie was an adorable character and I also loved her children, Cam and Amy, there were lots of genuinely funny moments and a few very touching ones. I will say that Lorrie’s mother was awful – utterly selfish and thoughtless, but still a believable character.

This was first experience listening to/reading Fiona Gibson and while I do think the ending was quite predictable from early on, I would definitely listen to another of her books.

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Journalist Marianne Power decides to get her life in order with the use of self-help books. She plans to read one self-help book a month and follow their suggestions for the whole of that month to see what, if anything, actually works.

I expected a light-hearted tongue-in-cheek look at the huge self-help market, and although the book started off that way, it soon became apparent that this experiment was causing more problems than solutions for Marianne, and in fact there were some upsetting moments. It was a fascinating read, and definitely helped sort the wheat from the chaff – there are a LOT of people out there making a lot of money out of other people’s desire to improve or change their life, and some of them just made me really angry as they are so obviously taking advantage of their readers. Tony Robbins for example, who promises to change your life at one of his events – where the cheapest tickets are £500!! And ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne, which tells you that if you want something to happen, you just have to imagine that it has. Send yourself a fake cheque for a lot of money, and actual money will be bestowed! Yes, seriously.

Marianne Power is an engaging and likeable narrator, and this book certainly provided a lot of food for thought. I recommend it to all.

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There’s been so much hype around this book that before reading it, I was worried that I might be disappointed. I wasn’t! This is such an enjoyable and clever book, which was a genuine pleasure to dive into.

In a sleepy retirement village, four pensioners hold a weekly murder club, where they study past unsolved murders and try to work out who might have committed them. It’s a bit of fun and keeps their brains active, but when they suddenly find themselves very close to an actual murder, they decide to put their skills to work investigating who the killer is. Leader of the group is the indomitable Elizabeth, newest member Joyce is the reader’s portal to how their investigation is going, as part of the novel is made up of her diary excerpts. Ron, a former rebel rouser who loves to kick back against authority, and the suave pilates-obsessed Ibrahim, retired psychiatrist, make up the quartet.

I’m not going to say too much about the actual murder itself, but I will say that there were plenty of twists and turns, some genuinely funny moments, and some moments of genuine pathos. All of the people who live in the retirement village have either lost loved ones, or are faced with the prospect, and are all well aware of their own mortality. But they are all spirited, and determined to help solve a crime.

The two police officers in the story – PC Donna de Freitas, and DCI Chris Hudson – are also great characters. So often in stories featuring amateur detectives, the police can be made to look incompetent, but that is not the case here; the police themselves are diligent and resourceful and clearly good at their jobs.

Anyway – there’s a sequel in the works, and a film apparently on the way, and I am looking forward to both. Highly recommended.

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Brian Bilston has been hailed the poet laureate of Twitter – a 21st century title if ever there was one! – and while I generally struggle with poetry, I have found his poems delightful, amusing, and utterly relatable. Here, he writes as a fictional version of himself, having decided that he is going to write a poem every day of the year, while also keeping a diary of his year. (The poems are all included in his diary, and while there are a minority of days when he doesn’t write one, he more or less keeps his resolution.)

The Brian Bilston of this story is a likeable character, with a sharp eye for life’s minutiae, and while he often writes about the mundanity of life, he always makes it highly enjoyable. He is also a genius at wordplay!

Brian and his wife Sophie have broken up and she has fallen for a new, indefatigably enthusiastic man; his relationship with his teenage son is strained; work is boring to Brian and he has no interest in it; the insufferable fellow poet Toby Salt is finding fame and fortune, much to Brian’s disgust – in fact the only bright spots in his life are his cat and Liz, the new lady at his poetry club, but he can’t seem to get things going with her.

As we follow Brian through his calamitous existence, there is a smile or laugh to be had on every page, even though much of the story is actually quite poignant, and there is a mystery element thrown in which was enjoyable, although probably not necessary. I found myself rooting for Brian throughout, although I sometimes wanted to give him a good shake as well.

Overall I would certainly recommend this book and I do hope that Mr Bilston releases another novel before too long.

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I’ve read this book before, but it was several years ago, after reading Bridget Jones’ Diary. I admit that when I reread the first book, I felt somewhat disappointed and wondered if I would feel the same way after rereading this one, the first sequel.

Bridget starts off this book in a good place. Happy relationship, good friendships etc etc, but naturally she can’t help screwing things up. Through a colossal and somewhat unbelievable series of misunderstandings, she and Mark end up splitting up (don’t these people ever actually just sit and TALK to each other).

As before, her friends Shazzer and Jude feature heavily and while they are both well meaning and loyal, they are also full of ridiculous advice. This books takes Bridget to such far flung shores as Rome and Thailand, sees her life threatened, and her having to live through several embarrassing and cringeworthy situations.

On the positive side, it’s an undemanding read – perfect for that strange week between Christmas and New Year when you have no idea what day it is, or what’s going on (which is when I read it) and Helen Fielding definitely knows how to write humour. I did on several occasions burst into giggles.

On the other hand, Bridget herself is – let’s face it – a hot mess. Living her life according to self-help books which usually contradict each other and only having herself to blame for lots of the problems that arise just made me frustrated. For example, at one point she gets the chance to fly to Italy and interview her favourite actor. Instead of preparing her questions beforehand, packing in advance and getting an early night the evening before she is due to fly, she fails to prepare anything, gets drunk the night before, doesn’t pack and therefore misses her flight, causing everything to need to be rearranged. She is always late for work and it’s always her own fault. So when people say that Bridget is relatable, I have to say – to WHO exactly?

So overall, a slightly frustrating experience rereading this. But not altogether unenjoyable. Maybe I’ll pick it up again in another 15 years and see what I think then.

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This is a collection of twelve (volumes one and two are put together here) monologues, which were performed on the BBC in the late 1980s (volume 1) and late 1990s (volume 2). Some were also performed with different actors in 2020.

All but two of the collection are narrated by female characters, and there is fairly common theme of loneliness or isolation. They are not cheerful, although they are also not without dark humour. However, they are all entirely believable – Bennett certainly knows how the human psyche works, and unlike a lot of male writers, he knows how to write women.

People’s favourites were inevitably vary but the ones I enjoyed the most were A Chip in the Sugar, A Lady of Letters and Waiting for the Telegram. However, and unusually for a collection, there are no duds here. Highly recommended.

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This is author and screenwriter William Goldman’s classic spoof fairy tale, which tells the story of Buttercup (the most beautiful girl in the world) and Westley (former farm boy turned swashbuckling hero) and their eternal love. Except that it is SO much more than that. There are pirates, kidnappings, death, swords, giants, princes, heroic escapes, magic and more besides. Apart from Buttercup and Westley, the main characters are Inigo Montoya and Fezzik the Giant, not to mention the numerous others, all of whom were highly entertaining in their own right.

It is framed in an unusual way – in the edition which I read, there is first of all a proper introduction by Goldman (I often skip introductions, but this is worth reading), and then a part where Goldman himself reminisces about being a young boy who had the story read to him by his father. The conceit is that Goldman claims that The Princess Bride was written by S. Morgenstern – who is in actuality entirely fictional – and he (Goldman) has merely edited it to get rid of the boring bits, and only tell the entertaining parts. Throughout the story itself, Goldman often interrupts the narrative to explain that he has cut part of the story and gives a brief synopsis of what happened in the part that he has cut. It sounds complicated, but all makes sense when you are reading it.

I actually didn’t realise quite how accomplished Goldman was – he wrote screenplays for such incredible and successful films as All The President’s Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Misery. He also wrote several novels including Marathon Man, which was turned into an excellent film. His talent is undeniable, and his originality shines through in The Princess Bride. I am not normally a lover of fantasy fiction, which is why it took me so long to get around to reading this, but I would recommend this whether it is a genre you enjoy or not.

Truly deserving of it’s classic status.

 

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