Review: Sweetpea by C J Skuse

sweetpeaWhat I thought:

WARNING: THIS BOOK IS A RIOT! IT WILL HAVE YOU LAUGHING OUT LOUD, SHOCK YOU AND MAKE YOU UNABLE TO PUT THE DAMN THING DOWN.

As soon as reviews started appearing on my Twitter feed about this book, I knew I had to have it. It sounded hilarious and although I have learned to be a little dubious about books that are marketed as “a cross between x and x”, in this case, it is totally warranted. Bridget Jones really does meet Dexter, and what a joyous combination they are!

Rhiannon, aka Sweetpea, writes about her life in a diary. She moans about her boyfriend, her weight, her friends who do nothing but talk about weddings and babies, her dull job and the array of off characters she has to work with. That all sounds rather normal, right? Well yes, except that Rhiannon always starts her diary entries with a list of people she would like to kill:

“People who chat at the cashier in the supermarket, even though there’s a queue behind them – I’m all for being pleasant when you’re packing your bag, but when the card’s been pulled out or the change has been given, kindly fuck off. Don’t linger and talk about your kid’s Easter play or your operation. AND DON’T THANK ME FOR WAITING. I DIDN’T HAVE A CHOICE!”

The above quotation is one of the milder comments from this book. There is dark humour and then there is black-as-coal humour and this definitely falls into the latter. Even I, who can F and blind with the best of them and am not easily offended, let out a slow whistle on the odd occasion. This book is dark, it’s crude, it’s shameless, it’s but it’s utterly and absolutely freaking hilarious!

Rhiannon is a psychopath and a serial killer. She spends her life reminding herself of “The Act” – how she has learned to be normal around other people so as not to raise suspicion – when in fact most of the time she is reminiscing about one of her kills or plotting her next one. But yet, despite this, I loved Rhiannon. Loved her! She is a riot of sarcasm, profanity and grumbles about much of the same things that annoy the rest of us (or is that just me?).

“1. Cold callers – I swear a circle of Dante’s Inferno is missing some inhabitants.

2. Those self-righteous people who brag about not throwing anything away for an entire year – how do you recycle your fanny rags? Seriously?

3. Whoever sits in my office chair when I’m not there and adjusts the height.”

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“Bought an iced bun on the way to lunch but it turned out to be a depressingly bad iced bun. You would think there’s no such thing – it’s just a bun and icing, right?

WRONG.

For a start it was stale and there was a live fruit fly stuck to one end. And if that wasn’t enough, half of my icing was stuck on the bun next to it in the window and the bitch with the tongs never even scraped it off and put it back on mine. So rude.”

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And then there are gems like this:

“Believe it or not, this is not the most awkward I’ve ever been around Jim and Elaine. I had food poisoning once at their house one Christmas – I was up all night in their bathroom, Jackson Pollocking the ceramic and letting off excruciatingly loud farts. At one point Jim came in and asked me if I wanted a cup of tea. My mouth tried to answer but my arsehole beat him to it.”

I don’t normally do star ratings on my blog but as I am required to on sites like Amazon and Goodreads, I initially thought I would give this a 4-star rating, purely based on my opinion that Sweetpea ended with a whimper rather than a bang and left me wanting. However, having thought about it, I am still going to go with 5 stars, as apart from that I loved every minute of reading this book.

Verdict:

Sexually explicit, graphic, stabby, and not for the feint of heart. Utterly brilliant!!!

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I received a copy of this book via HQ and Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Have you met Sweetpea yet? Dare you????

Review: Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker

tall oaksWhat I thought:

When two bloggers recommend the same book within the space of a couple of days (and heartily!) my interest is usually piqued enough to check it out. Tall Oaks was that book. A bargain on Kindle; I downloaded, read the first page to see what the fuss was about, and kept on reading… and reading…

This isn’t your average crime novel. And while I am a massive fan of crime (probably my favourite genre) I am also a massive fan of books that make me laugh out loud. This book did both. It also contains one of my favourite ever characters – Manny, a 17-year-old wannabe gangster who is utterly hilarious and had me shaking with laughter on many an occasion. I defy you not to fall in love with Manny and his potty-mouth and hair-brained ideas and I defy you not to howl with laughter at Roger and the swimming pool scene! Genius.

So, to the plot. Three-year-old Harry Monroe is taken from his bedroom one stormy night and the book deal with the fallout of this and the impact it has on his mother Jessica and the other residents of Tall Oaks. The cast of characters is so brilliantly drawn that I felt I knew them all personally. All their quirks, flaws and insecurities were laid bare and I loved them all the more for it. The thread that runs through the book is Harry’s disappearance, but the real star of the show is Tall Oaks itself. There is humanity in this town is palpable and despite the stifling heat of that summer and the suspicion and media circus, I loved this place. I miss Manny et al now I’ve left them. Not everything is as it seems, not all people are who they say they are, and there is an almighty twist that brings Tall Oaks to its mighty conclusion.

Verdict:

Honestly, I don’t know why this book isn’t better known and I’m going to do my damnedest to shout about it from the rooftops now and get people reading it. Honestly, it is such a great book – mystery, humour, humanity, the whole works. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!!

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Have you read this book yet? Have I persuaded you to read it if not? I’d love to hear what you think.

 

My Sweet Revenge by Jane Fallon – my moment of fame on launch day #MySweetRevenge #BookReview

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A few weeks ago I reviewed Jane Fallon’s new book My Sweet Revenge which I absolutely loved. Yesterday was launch day and look arrow_outline_pink_up !!!

I must admit I am slightly (OK, maybe a lot) excited by this.

If you haven’t read any Jane Fallon, her books are funny and pure escapism and I have really enjoyed every one I have read so far.

My review of My Sweet Revenge is here. Let me know what you think when you read it; I’d love to know your thoughts.

My Sweet Revenge by Jane Fallon

jane-1The Blurb:

“I want to make my husband fall back in love with me.

Let me explain. This isn’t an exercise in 1950s wifeydom. I haven’t been reading articles in old women’s magazines. ‘Twenty ways to keep your man’. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

I want him to fall back in love with me so that when I tell him to get the hell out of my life he’ll care. He won’t just think, ‘Oh good’.

I want it to hurt.”

Paula has had Robert’s back since they got together as drama students. She gave up her dreams so he could make it. Now he’s one of the nation’s most popular actors. And Paula’s just discovered he’s having an affair.

She’s going to remind Robert just what he’s sacrificing. And then she’s going to break his heart like he broke hers. It will be her greatest acting role ever.

Revenge is sweet. Isn’t it?

  What I thought:

Once upon a time I was a book snob. I refused to read anything that had high-heels, handbags or anything pink on the cover. Then one day, on a total whim, I bought “Getting Rid of Matthew” by Jane Fallon. I can’t remember what made me pick it up but I’m only glad that I did. What I discovered between the pages was something totally unexpected: pacey, funny and pure escapism.

My Sweet Revenge is no different. Characters to root for, ones to despise and somebody who will get their comeuppance. Paula is a wife and mother who gave up her dreams of acting to raise her family and now works (happily) in a bakery. She has put on weight over the years (haven’t we all) but she doesn’t realise how she and husband Robert have drifted apart until she sees a text on his phone that exposes his affair with a co-worker. As soon as she realises that she doesn’t actually want him back, she sets about plotting her revenge by getting him to fall for her again so she can tell him where to go. Paula is a very likable character and you instantly want to egg her on to make Robert pay. Saskia, who also narrates part of the book, is a great villain of the piece: skinny, vain, obsessed with herself (a bit of a caricature but a fun one that you love to hate). Deceit, drama, fun, and twists are the ingredients for My Sweet Revenge and like any good desert, once you’ve started you can’t stop.

  Verdict:

There were enough curve-balls to keep the momentum going and enough humour to keep the pages turning quickly in this latest book by one of my favourite authors in this genre. It’s a sassy and enjoyable read and what I would class as a “palate cleanser” read. I did find Paula’s transformation a bit unbelievable but was prepared to overlook this for the light-hearted read that it was. Big thumbs up for Fallon again!

I was kindly provided a review copy of this book by Netgalley and Penguin Books in return for my honest review.

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Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

In three words:

Beautiful, funny, heart-breaking

What I thought:

Many years ago I read a book called The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes and I loved it. Why then has it taken me this long to pick another of her books up? If I loved Ship of Brides then I ADORED this!

Me Before You stars a young, eccentricly dressed young woman called Lou Clark who has lost her job at the local cafe and has to make a choice about her next job betweenworking in a chicken factory or being a carer to a disabled man. At the time, neither seem appealing but Lou opts for the role of carer which is where she meets Will Trayor. Will is in his mid thirties and up until his accident he was a high-flying, adrenaline-junkie, career-minded business man with a great appartment in London and a gorgeous girlfriend. Since the accident which left Will quadriplegic, he is now living with, and being cared for by, his parents and hating every second of it. The first meeting between Lou and Will is anything but comfortable and Lou begins to wonder what she has let herself in for. Before long though, Lou has decided to try to make Will’s life a happy one again and show him that it might just be worth living afterall.

What is amazing about this book is that despite dealing with a serious subject matter such as the right to die, Me Beofre You is infused with humour and comic relief that had me howling at parts. Believe me, the humour is needed and Will is one of the funniest characters I have read for a while. Moyes never sugar-coats Will’s condition and this and his sarcastic sense of humour are what makes him so human

Now a warning: Do not read this book in public! I am not kidding when I say that I sobbed my way through the last 50 or so pages, and from reading other reviews I am not alone. You would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by this book.

Verdict: Highly, highly recommended. I was so invested in this small cast of characters that I felt as though I had lost friends when I finished this book. The growing friendship between Lou and Will is one of the most touching and heart-breaking I have ever read and I found myself willing them on at every turn of the page:  I still find myself thinking about them now.

 

  Have you read this book or anything else by Jojo Moyes? What did you think?

 

Day 34 – A book I wish I had written

Coulda, shoulda, woulda…

To be honest, I never actually get to the end of a book and I wish I had written it; if I did then I should have been an author. What I do do at the end of a great book is close it in awe and admiration and respect for an author that can conjour up a world so real that I have actually been there, lived through what the characters have lived and been gutted to leave them behind at the end. If I were to name books that had that effect on me I would include favourites such as The Secret History, The Magus and The Hunger Games as those are books I truly envy the author their imaginations. However, I am going to chose abook that I absolutely loved, lived and laughed through and that book is….

Behind The Scenes At The Museum by Kate Atkinson. Atkinson is probably better known for her Case Histories series books with Jackson Brodie (Started Early, Took My Dog was the latest) but BTSATM is one of her stand-alone books and I remember reading it on holiday in Morocco: I fell in love almost from the first line of the book and it never let me go from then on. Not only was it laugh-out-loud funny in many places (and I love funny books!) but it was also quirky, magnetic, nostalgic and emotional. If I had written a book I would love it to be something like this one.

 

  Do you ever finish a book and wish you’d written it yourself?

 

Day 29 – A favourite book with animals in it

Oh but they do talk, James….

This is THEEEE most difficult challenge day yet.  I am a huge animal-lover and I have a real soft spot for books with them, about them or narrated by them. Funnily enough, if a book is supposed to be narrated by a child, unless it is really well done – e.g. ROOM – then they generally make me cringe. However, a book narrated by a dog……well! That’s differnt. It cvan be heartwarming or pure comedy gold.

After umming and ahhhing for ages which book to pick (I don’t want to offend said animals who didn’t quite make it, you see) I have decided to include twelve books today. Yes, TWELVE!

So, in no particular order:

Animal Farm by George Orwell

I read it in one evening and even skipped dinner for this book. I cried my way through half of it and I still think about those animals now. Boxer broke my heart (if you’ve read it you’ll know what I mean :().

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst

This book is actually called Lorelei’s Secret in the UK, but I bought it when I was in NYC on a long weekend about 6 or 7 years ago and read it on the flight home. A man’s wife dies by falling out of an apple tree and the only witness is the couple’s dog, Lorelei, so he tries to teach her to speak to that she can tell him what happened. Loved it.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

You all know what I think about this book. I fell in love with Richard Parker the bengal tiger. Still love him now.

Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong

My all-time favourite book, and not just because there are animals in it but it’s all the better for them being there. Wolves, horses, foxes, they’re all in there. And if the baby wolf cub doesn’t break your heart, I think it’s possible you may not be human. Sigh.

Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

Yes, the rather sexy R-Patz stars in the recent movie (always a bonus) but before even he came along, I fell in love with Rosie the elephant and Queenie the dog in this book. Superb book.

A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg

Read this on a plane to Norway one Christmas and it melted my heart. A little girl, Patsy, lives on a trailer site near a little town in Alabama and becomes befriended by some of the residents. She makes friend with a redbird called Jack who becomes her bestfriend. Truly heartwarming.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

I didn’t read this book as a child. In fact I read it for the first time two years ago. Black Beauty is a lovley natured horse who has a great life but his owners are forced to sell him and he starts a life of hardship and cruelty. But even among this there are kind, gentle people who want to help him and of course he makes lots of horsey friends. Lovely.

Dog Boy by Eva Hornung

I just loved this book and can’t understand why it’s not better known. In freezing, communist Moscow and 4 year old Ramochka is fending for himself on the streets when he follows a stray dog to its den and becomes one of their pack. This book is all about the bond between human and animal and it affected me so profoundly that I bawled my eyes out. Fantastic book.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Enzo is the most loyal and lovable dog in the world and he tells us the story of his family through his eyes. Cry much?

Homeless Rats by Ahmed Fagih

I will be reviewing this book tommorow so keep a look out for it.

If Only They Could Talk by Jame Herriott

And finally, if I absolutely HAD to pick one then the prize would go to the James Herriot series. I have only read the first two out of my boxset and I love knowing that I have all the rest to come. James Herriot is a vet in the Yorkshire Dales and his books are laugh-out-loud funny. James tried to fit into the town of hardened Yorkshire farmers and animals with minds of their own. My fabourite characters were Mrs Pumphrey and her dog Tricki Woo had me bent over double, crying with laughter!

  Do you like books with animals? Which other ones can you recommend to me?