WHO’S THAT GIRL by Mhairi McFarlane

What’s the one thing you DON’T do at a wedding?

When Edie is caught in a compromising position at her colleagues’ wedding, all the blame falls on her – turns out that personal popularity in the office is not that different from your schooldays. Shamed online and ostracised by everyone she knows, her boss suggests an extended sabbatical – ghostwriting an autobiography for hot new acting talent, Elliot Owen. Easy, right?

Wrong. Banished back to her home town of Nottingham, Edie is not only dealing with a man who probably hasn’t heard the word ‘no’ in a decade, but also suffering an excruciating regression to her teenage years as she moves back in with her widowed father and judgey, layabout sister.

When the world is asking who you are, it’s hard not to question yourself. Who’s that girl? Edie is ready to find out.


Title : Who’s That Girl
Author : Mhairi McFarlane
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 544
Genre : women’s fiction / contemporary romance
Publisher : HarperCollins
Release Date : November 19, 2015

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 5 star review

Even though I can probably admit to myself that this isn’t my usual five-star feeling, I can’t help but award it top marks anyway. Because McFarlane, as she so often does, does so many things right with this book, with her characters, with the situations, life lessons, and emotions she explores; and add to it that this might be the more romance-forward of her books..? It was so great. Though, having said that, it might be one of the less outright funny ones, too. Definitely clever, lots of banter and some great one-liners, but this author often makes me laugh as hard as she makes me cry and this had a softer hand with both of those things.

She didn’t want to be That Girl. The girl with the sad story attached. She wanted to define herself, not be defined by an event over which she had no control [..]. That’s what people with comfortable lives who were only playing the victim didn’t understand, how they gave themselves away – if you’d actually been one, you were desperate to shed the label. You craved the normality that had been taken from you.

As usual, McFarlane sets up a circumstance in such an everyday person way, with a character who is not perfect and has to work through what has gone wrong. In this case, having a friendship with an affianced coworker that crossed some emotional boundaries; which then leads to a complication when, on said coworker’s wedding day, he kisses her. And she’s caught reacting too slowly and is then, well, caught by the bride. The blame game then goes full force and because of being emotionally compromised by the man, and the friendship, she is caught between some real guilt and some real betrayal when he is forgiven and she isn’t and, of course, has to recalibrate while she hopes things blow over.

You built him up to be something he wasn’t. We women are prone to it, I think. No matter how grown up and independent we think we are, I swear we have a brain illness from childhood where we think a man on a white horse is going to turn up at some point and fix everything. And when he doesn’t turn up, and he can’t fix anything even when he does, we think we did something wrong.”

I think, hands down, one of my favourite things about every single McFarlane is the friend group. And this one is no exception. And through those friends, and even some strangers, Edie faces some very different conversations and perspectives not only on the messy situation but also how the treatment that lead her to it is something she allows to happen to her over and over. The real talk was real. But seriously, the friend group? A+. Made even better when pitted up against those she thought were her friends but turn out not to be.

What happens now, do we all go on dating sites and start Veet-ing our privates? If there’s one thing to be said for long-term relationships, it’s the freedom to have un-groomed genitals. Pubic fashions can come and go and you care not a jot.
Hairy’s back in anyway. Hairy’s the new bald.”
I’m not Veet-ing my balls for any woman. And I’m pretty sure demand for my bare ballsack is nil. When did people start liking this macabre stuff?

Sidenote, while it is always very satisfying and romantic when a love interest stands up for their person, it’s even more satisfying when the main character does it for themselves. And Edie’s moment? Beautiful. It would’ve been better had she not had to, of course, but still.

Look. That isn’t real life. That person they’re talking about isn’t you. There’s another version of you, multiple versions of you, walking around out there. You have to let it go, or you’ll go mad. Trust me on this. Keep these words in your head : those who know me better, know better.

What necessitated that beautiful moment was the relentless bullying and smear campaign against her. McFarlane tackles online bullying and how social media makes it easy to be vile others because people are turned into targets, symbols, or abstract archetypes, not.. well, human beings. And it was hard to read. Because we’ve all seen it happen to others or been impacted by it ourselves. This does, however, work as an interesting contrast as there is a character dealing with fame and the media on a larger scale and how, even when mostly positive, being talked about, with everyone assuming things about you or spinning a narrative, is difficult.

Find the man who appreciates you at your best, not the one who confirms your worst suspicions about yourself.”

As for the romance, it was so easy to root for it because the reader, unlike Edie, is far from oblivious to the love interest’s intentions. And we had lots of page time to really know him, too, even without his POV. There was something that worried me about how it would pan out but.. I can’t say more for spoilers. I can see why the ending is a bit polarizing but honestly I think that’s part of why this gets a five. It made me so happy because I thought for sure we’d end with something else.

The way I see it, you get people who are important to you, for as long as you get them. You never know how long it will be. You have to accept it and make use of the time you have.”

I mentioned the humour was a little toned down and so were the emotions. But this does also deal with grief, two kinds, and you will very likely get choked up a few times. I know I did. There’s even a sticky family dynamic that got to me, too.

Who’s That Girl is funny without being a comedy, is emotional without being devastating, sweet without any sugary cringe, and full of those good warm fuzzies when a character comes out stronger and knowing themselves better, especially when surrounded by a great support group.

Definitely recommend.


FRECKLES by Cecelia Ahern 🎧

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

When a stranger utters these words to Allegra Bird, nicknamed Freckles, it turns her highly ordered life upside down. In her current life as a parking warden, she has left her eccentric father and unconventional childhood behind for a bold new life in the city.

But a single encounter leads her to ask the question she’s been avoiding for so long: who are the people who made her the way she is? And who are the five people who can shape and determine her future? Just as she once joined the freckles on her skin to mirror the constellations in the night sky, she must once again look for connections.

Told in Allegra’s vivid, original voice, moving from Dublin to the fierce Atlantic coast, this is an unforgettable story of human connection, of friendship, and growing into your own skin.

Five people. Five stars. Freckle to freckle. Star to star.


Title : Freckles
Author : Cecelia Ahern
Narrator : Amy McAllister
Format : Audiobook
Length : 10 hours, 40 minutes
Genre : Women’s Fiction
Publisher : Harper Collins Audio
Release Date : September 2, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 2.5 star review

Headlines:
Quirky
Small town
Eclectic cast

I’m always up for reading a book by Cecelia Ahern, she always brings the unexpected with her women’s fiction and contemporary tales. This one however, didn’t hit the spot for me although the format of audio was pretty great and kept me going.

The protagonist, Allegra (Freckles) was an incredibly quirky character with some neurodivergent characteristics (it seemed). She was endearing in lots of ways and as a character I was drawn in. Add in Tristan, Pops, Spanner and others, there were lots of pluses. There were also a bunch of characters I couldn’t stand like Becky and Carmencita, the latter being horrendous and she was supposed to be. I felt rather mixed about the characters by the end.

I struggled with the plot most of the way through. At first, I felt engaged with this small town, her life as a traffic warden and the strict routine of the day, but it lost its shine with repetitiveness. By half way, the pace was slow and I’d lost interest. I didn’t feel much by the culmination.

The narration was excellent and it truly kept me going throughout the book. So this was the right format for me. Sadly, overall Freckles didn’t work its way into my heart and I do feel a little disappointed.

Thank you to Harper Collins for the review copies.

Thank you to netgalley and Harper Collins Audio for the early review copy.

JUST LAST NIGHT by Mhairi McFarlane – double review!

International bestseller Mhairi McFarlane explores lifelong friendships, long-buried secrets, and unexpected love in a heartfelt, emotional new novel, perfect for fans of Evvie Drake Starts Over, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird, or In Five Years.

Eve, Justin, Susie, and Ed have been friends since they were teenagers. Now in their thirties, the four are as close as ever, Thursday night bar trivia is sacred, and Eve is still secretly in love with Ed. Maybe she should have moved on by now, but she can’t stop thinking about what could have been. And she knows Ed still thinks about it, too.

But then, in an instant, their lives are changed forever.

In the aftermath, Eve’s world is upended. As stunning secrets are revealed, she begins to wonder if she really knew her friends as well as she thought. And when someone from the past comes back into her life, Eve’s future veers in a surprising new direction…

They say every love story starts with a single moment. What if it was just last night?


Title : Just Last Night/Last Night
Author : Mhairi McFarlane
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : women’s fiction
Publisher : William Morrow Paperbacks/Harper Collins
Release Date : May 4, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★/ ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 5 star review

‘I’ll just pick this up to kill an hour or two before dinner’, she thought. ‘That’s all. Just dip my toe in and then read the rest later or tomorrow.. ‘

.. fast forward to four hours later when I have not even moved from the couch. I swear. No pee breaks, no food, nada. I love that feeling. Also I should’ve known better because not only is it me but it’s also a McFarlane book.

Is my face covered in tears? Yes. Was this exactly what I (even limited #NoBlurber that I am) thought it would be? Nope. Did I love it anyway? Obviously.

This feels like the most McFarlane book to McFarlane since I read Don’t You Forget About Me in 2019. I’ve experimented with some of the author’s backlist, read her most recent release, and now this one. But this is the closest I’ve got to that all-consuming feeling I first had a few years ago upon discovering this author. If you’ve read her before, you know exactly what I mean.

I’m honestly without any kind of words. I’m just feelings. I laughed, I cried, I did both some more, and mostly I just marveled at how good she is at creating complicated messes that don’t feel like someone who is contriving to write about complicated messes. It feels like eavesdropping on real lives, people you sort’ve know, and are therefore invested in. No perfect specimens, no uncomplicated situations. Just real.

I still have a few McFarlane’s to dip into but in looking back through my memories of what I have read I think where I waffle is sometimes I’m just not into the romance element. I’m here for the wit, the biting truthbombs, and the friendships, but sometimes I’m not sold on the romance. I do still think Don’t You Forget About Me tops the chart, even in that respect, but this was the closest I’ve had since. And just, overall, I loved every single thing about it, too.

If you’ve yet to try this author you absolutely must.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Deep and thoughtful plot
Riding the waves of grief
Behind the face of friendship

I thoroughly enjoyed this latest Mhairi McFarlane book, it was definitely my favourite of hers so far. This is a story all about friendships, unpeeling the layers, finding why you love your friends so much but also finding the real, the skeletons, the unsavoury. Friendships are messy and Last Night really explored that.

Eve was the protagonist but she was alongside the cast of Susie, Ed, Justin and later Finlay. The overarching plot theme was grief. I felt like this was represented so well, seeing friends and family members grieve differently, dealing with the practicalities of death and then the overwhelming emotions. I was gripped and invested by this journey.

Grief often is a catalyst for change, it can facilitate a re-examining of your life and events and this happened to Eve and others. I loved seeing the grudging friendship develop between her and Finlay and what a story that ended up being. Even though this was a story about grief, there were many funny and sarcastic lines that tickled me.

“Is it too soon for me to say “You’re a fucking menace in a polka dots, sister”was an absolutely incredible line?!” Justin whispers.

Thank you to Harper Collins for the review copy.

THE GODMOTHERS by Monica McInerney

‘I don’t want two wishy-washy godmothers,’ Jeannie had said that afternoon in the country hospital when Eliza was only a day old. ‘No dolls. No pink dresses. Just lots of adventures. Lots of spoiling. The pair of you like two mighty warriors protecting her at every step.’

Eliza Miller grew up in Australia as the only daughter of a troubled young mother, but with the constant support of two watchful godmothers, Olivia and Maxie. Despite her tricky childhood, she always felt loved and secure. Until, just before her eighteenth birthday, a tragic event changed her life.

Thirteen years on, Eliza is deliberately living as safely as possible, avoiding close relationships and devoting herself to her job. Out of the blue, an enticing invitation from one of her godmothers prompts a leap into the unknown.

Within a fortnight, Eliza finds herself in the middle of a complicated family in Edinburgh. There’s no such thing as an ordinary day any more. Yet, amidst the chaos, Eliza begins to blossom. She finds herself not only hopeful about the future, but ready to explore her past, including the biggest mystery of all – who is her father?

Set in Australia, Scotland, Ireland and England, THE GODMOTHERS is a great big hug of a book that will fill your heart to bursting. It is a moving and perceptive story about love, lies, hope and sorrow, about the families we are born into and the families we make for ourselves.


Title : The Godmothers
Author : Monica McInerney
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 400
Genre : Women’s Fiction
Publisher : Welbeck Publishing
Release Date : January 21. 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Set in Edinburgh and Ireland
Female strength throughout
Compelling storyline

I just got swept away with The Godmothers and Eliza as the main protagonist. Eliza was the daughter of the rather chaotic Jeannie and god daughter to Maxie and Olivia. This was a story about women, focusing on female relationships but also about these womens’ relationships with the men in their lives.

Eliza was so relatable; she had fears, a lack of confidence and self-belief and yet a determination and strength that made me love her. Her godmothers were special characters too but Eliza did take the stage.

Throughout this book, complex mother-daughter relationships were explored and I thought that was so well written and resonnant. Families are difficult things and this book navigated that context that alongside those ‘family’ you choose yourself. The context of Edinburgh then Ireland made the whole reading of this so welcome. I could visualise the settings and quite frankly, mid-lockdown I needed that.

There were some big reveals in this book, Eliza’s roots, the truth of who her mother really was as a person and finding an unexpected romance. The romance didn’t dominate but it was so well placed.

The Godmothers was an all engrossing read that tackled the grittiness of familial relationships without being depressing. I found this an uplifting read with a fantastic, normal heroine. I’ve already clicked some of Monica McInerney’s back catalogue.

Thank you to Welbeck Publishing and EDPR for the early review copy.

THE SWITCH by Beth O’Leary

Eileen is sick of being 79.
Leena’s tired of life in her twenties.
Maybe it’s time they swapped places…

When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.

Once Leena learns of Eileen’s romantic predicament, she proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love. Meanwhile Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire. But with gossiping neighbours and difficult family dynamics to navigate up north, and trendy London flatmates and online dating to contend with in the city, stepping into one another’s shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected.

Leena learns that a long-distance relationship isn’t as romantic as she hoped it would be, and then there is the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – school teacher, who keeps showing up to outdo her efforts to impress the local villagers. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, but is her perfect match nearer home than she first thought?


Title : The Switch
Author : Beth O’Leary
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Quercus
Release Date : April 30, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

THE SWITCH grabbed my attention from the first few pages with characters that were interesting from the start. In fact, the first 20% of this read was so strong, getting you on board with ‘the switch’.

Told in alternating POVs between Leena, a 20-something ambitious professional and Eileen, her 79 year old grandmother, these two swap residences. I did wonder how into Eileen’s POVs I would get, but honestly she was truly engaging and incredibly fun. The Yorkshire Dales versus London contexts were a fun contrast.

I would describe the storyline as cutely predictable and generally enjoyable. The characters in the dales were a little bit like ‘The Vicar of Dibley’, an eclectic mix and sometimes a bit stuffy. I did sometimes want to crank things up a bit. Meanwhile, Eileen in London was funny and her storyline was adorable. There were some serious tones to the story and while that was in the background, it brought somber notes to the characters and made them real.

The culmination and wrap up rushed to a sprint at the end but it made for a satisfying ending to this light and funny book.

Thank you to Quercus Books for the early review copy.

THE EDUCATION OF IVY EDWARDS by Hannah Tovey

Ivy Edwards is thirty-one years old, funny, shameless, and a bit of a romantic. She’s also currently trying not to cry in the office toilet.

Partly because she’s just run out of money for fags. A bit because her mum continues to annoy her. Definitely not because she’s just been dumped by her fiancé.

With her London life in shambles and her family miles away in the Welsh valleys, Ivy doesn’t actually feel like she belongs anywhere.

At least, she has her friends – and a bottle of vodka.

Embarking on a journey of singlehood, Ivy is about to discover that sometimes, having your life fall apart can be surprisingly fun.

Sometimes, heartbreak can be the best education . . .

The Education of Ivy Edwards is perfect for fans of Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love, Holly Bourne’s How Do You Like Me Now?, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag.


Title : The Education of Ivy Edwards
Author : Hannah Tovey
Format : Ebook
Page Count : 336
Genre : Women’s Fiction
Publisher : Piatkus
Release Date : May 7, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5 – 4 stars

THE EDUCATION OF IVY EDWARDS was months of a journey in Ivy’s life as she navigated some of the biggest life changes imaginable. Ivy was a thirty-something protagonist that was incredibly real, irritations to boot. The story started with a relationship break up and tracked her slow demise across the months of grief and trying to cope.

The narrative for Ivy’s life was witty, with inner monologue that kept you chuckling and endeared you to her, just when you were most irritated with her. Ivy was all about friendships and family and she leaned on them a lot in this time period.

I sat down at my desk and closed my eyes. I can do this, I thought. I am an adult, I have a degree and I frequently make my own packed lunches.

I struggled somewhat with Ivy’s self-destructive streak and the friendships that came along with that, such as Dan and Rob. Her reliance on alcohol and drugs was frustrating but probably realistic of that 30-something professional, working in the big smoke and spiraling down, looking for a crutch.

As the story reached it’s culmination, I held my breath because I thought the journey might be for nothing, that Ivy had learnt nothing. I was satisfied however with the end.

If you’re looking for something real, less cookie-cutter and more sitting on gutter drunk, reciting your woes, then this is the read for you. It felt fresh and the writing was fun and willing to ‘go there’ with difficult topics and taboos.

Thank you to Piatkus Books for the early review copy.

IT’S NOT ME, IT’S YOU by Mhairi McFarlane

Delia Moss isn’t quite sure where she went wrong.

When she proposed and discovered her boyfriend was sleeping with someone else – she thought it was her fault.

When she realised life would never be the same again – she thought it was her fault.

And when he wanted her back like nothing had changed – Delia started to wonder if perhaps she was not to blame…

From Newcastle to London and back again, with dodgy jobs, eccentric bosses and annoyingly handsome journalists thrown in, Delia must find out where her old self went – and if she can ever get her back.


Title : It’s Not Me, It’s You
Author : Mhairi McFarlane
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 545
Genre : women’s fiction/romance
Publisher : HarperCollins
Release Date : November 6, 2014

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

At the onset of writing this review I was still hmm’ing and haw’ing over my rating for this one (but by the time you see if it’ll have a nice shiny star value up above) because sadly I’m still comparing everything to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. This had a similar ish vibe to McFarlane’s latest, IF I NEVER MET YOU, in regards to where our leading lady finds herself relationship-wise at the beginning of the book but things spiral out much differently and I appreciated that.

Compared to the usual idiots I meet, he wasn’t a git. He was pleasant. He was.. benign.”
Tumours can be benign.”
That is so fucking deep! Write that down.”

I found this one easier to connect to on the emotional front than I did her latest, and I loved the complexity she made in the story’s romantic villain (I have to quantify this because there’s an actual villain). That’s the thing about this author’s books; I’m discovering that you may not always enjoy the journey, or love every second of it, but it’s all so painfully real and genuine and complex. You can’t fault her for that. This one did err a bit into the unreality with regard to where our lady finds herself along the journey to self-discovery and reflection and it was that bit I didn’t quite love. But it did get us on the road to the end game.

Oof. One night with you and he’s turned into a love-letter writer. You must have an incredible pelvic floor.

Additionally, I also appreciated how this could’ve gone an obvious route with regards to romance but it took a left turn along the way and I like that McFarlane made us wait a bit instead of just giving us the first available option. Well done.

So, again, yes, I enjoyed, one bit even had me howling so loud and long they probably heard me in the UK, but all around love, full body sobs of sadness or joy or both? Not quite and no. It does deserve a round up, though, because ontop of everything good or great mentioned? We have yet another fantastic female duo of besties, a delightfully awkward but also beautiful family dynamic (shout out to Ralph because he’s amazing!), and one of the best love letters I’ve had the pleasure to read. Delia might not have been my favourite McFarlane heroine (Georgie4ever), but I have absolutely no regrets about reading this or spending time with these characters.

IF I NEVER MET YOU by Mhairi McFarlane – double review!

If faking love is this easy… how do you know when it’s real? 

When her partner of over a decade suddenly ends things, Laurie is left reeling—not only because they work at the same law firm and she has to see him every day. Her once perfect life is in shambles and the thought of dating again in the age of Tinder is nothing short of horrifying. When news of her ex’s pregnant girlfriend hits the office grapevine, taking the humiliation lying down is not an option. Then a chance encounter in a broken-down elevator with the office playboy opens up a new possibility.

Jamie Carter doesn’t believe in love, but he needs a respectable, steady girlfriend to impress their bosses. Laurie wants a hot new man to give the rumor mill something else to talk about. It’s the perfect proposition: a fauxmance played out on social media, with strategically staged photographs and a specific end date in mind. With the plan hatched, Laurie and Jamie begin to flaunt their new couple status, to the astonishment—and jealousy—of their friends and colleagues. But there’s a fine line between pretending to be in love and actually falling for your charming, handsome fake boyfriend… 


Title : If I Never Met You
Author : Mhairi McFarlane
Format : ARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : women’s fiction
Publisher : William Morrow Paperbacks/Harper Collins
Release Date : March 24, 2020/January 1, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3.75 star review

This is only my second McFarlane, whereas I’ve read a lot of contemporary writing by a lot of authors, but I think I can safely say that no one writes real life quite like her.

Laurie knew that most people were murdered by someone they knew; she’d stood up in court and argued or the killers’ bail applications while they wept not only about their fate, but about their loss. In this moment, she understood why.

IF I NEVER MET YOU is a women’s fiction title, much like the other one I read by her, DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME, but this one does have a higher romance-content than the latter. That isn’t to say you’re going to get any page time detailing swoony kisses or hot and heavies between the sheets, but instead you’re going to read a romance (fake romance, did I mention the fake dating trope?) that is heavily reliant upon friendship. And while I love me some romance, I love when the characters are friends, too.

Laurie noticed that someone “finishing” with someone else was such a savage language. They canceled you. You are over. Your use has been exhausted.

That said, I am finding it hard to nail down my feelings on this one. There is so much intelligence, strength, and emotion in McFarlane’s writing. This one deals with the emotional devastation and grief in the post-breakdown of an almost two decades long relationship, and where one goes after surviving that; particularly when one’s ex is a total cad. Throw in some maybe-not-so-healthy desire for revenge, the perfect playboy to get it with, and you have a fake dating meets office romance meets friends to real lovers story. But there’s even more than that, too.

“Oh, for fu– I’m sick of this perception of me as the greatest man slag of the northwest.”
Then be less man slag. Be the unslaggy man you want to see in the world.
Pfft. I’m selective.
Then select fewer of them.”

Complicated family dynamics, guilt and grief, enduring female friendships, and, of course, hilarity. And a cat named Colin Fur.

Are you girls ready to order? Need me to explain anything?
We’re not girls. So you can explain your mode of address.”
Hey, y’all look pretty young to me.
Oh, you dear sweet fool, she will now verbally decapitate you.”

I think part of why I find this one harder to rate than the other, which was such a no-brainer, is that for all the emotions, I didn’t quite get caught up in any of them. I very much liked both of these characters, each with their stories that made them so much more than what they were perceived to be, and also deserved so much more for themselves, and I quite liked their respective besties, but.. yeah, just not quite the same charm or outright love. But it’s still such a great story, and so well written, whilst balancing that very real ‘life is messy and sometimes imperfect’ dose of reality, and I’m still a thousand percent keen to dive into the author’s backlist that I’ve yet to explore.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 3.5 – 4 star review

It’s been a long while since I’ve read Mhairi McFarlane and I’m glad to be reacquainted. IF I NEVER MET YOU was a read of phases for me, one of difficult angst for the first part and then a slow relax into a great story for the rest. I think I was expecting lightness from the start and that early heavy context took me by surprise initially. On reflection, that start made this a deeper story which I really appreciate.

Laurie was an incredibly likeable heroine from the start and it was not at all difficult to get on her side when she was wronged. I hated that sitution, the perpetrator and the demise of things. I loved the strong, successful women that Laurie was and her ability to keep her professional head throughout; I honestly thought that was completely realistic of so many women.

The ensuing story of Laurie and Jamie was pretty damn fun, full of tension and banter. So many lines were highlighted and I loved being the fly on the wall, stalking their dates and plotting. Jamie was a deeper character than I expected but I still think I’d have liked to have known him a little better.

This book was a Mancunian’s gift, set in the city and even more fun for me, visiting places around my work setting. I loved every single Manchester bit.

This was delightful Saturday read, I powered through it in a day, reluctant to put it down. It had some shades of predictability but that made it no less fun. Highly recommended for the kind of romantic read that has you laughing out loud.

GROWN UPS by Marian Keyes

They’re a glamorous family, the Caseys.

Johnny Casey, his two brothers Ed and Liam, their beautiful, talented wives and all their kids spend a lot of time together – birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, weekends away. And they’re a happy family. Johnny’s wife, Jessie – who has the most money – insists on it.

Under the surface, though, conditions are murkier. While some people clash, other people like each other far too much . . .

Everything stays under control until Ed’s wife Cara, gets concussion and can’t keep her thoughts to herself. One careless remark at Johnny’s birthday party, with the entire family present, starts Cara spilling out all their secrets.

In the subsequent unravelling, every one of the adults finds themselves wondering if it’s time – finally – to grow up?


Title : Grown Ups
Author : Maria n Keyes
Format : eARC
Page Count : 656
Genre : Women’s Fiction
Publisher : Michael Joseph
Release Date : February 6, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 2.5 star review

GROWN UPS as you might guess, really showed what a mess grown ups can be. This was a family saga of epic proportions both in length of book but also in depth of shambled relationships and lives. This was definitely a less funny offering from Marian Keyes, but I wouldn’t have minded the lack of humour if the story had worked better for me.

The story centred on three families, brothers, wives and children. The brothers weren’t particularly close but the other people around them included some particularly strong personalities in Jessica, Ferdia, Nell and Liam. The character I probably liked the most was Nell but like is too strong a word, the rest of them I disliked or felt ambivalent about. I didn’t make connections with the characters as I had hoped at all.

The pacing of this story is somewhat slow, every element of the story was told in great depth, usually from multiple perspectives. So you can imagine that it takes 650 pages. This was like observing a slow motion house of cards collapsing over time. At the end, I did not feel wowed in any way or particularly satisfied at any of the outcomes.

I’m sad about this book, having read most of Marian Keyes books but you can’t like them all, I guess.

Thank you to Michael Joseph for the early review copy.

THE GIVER OF STARS by Jojo Moyes

England, late 1930s, and Alice Wright — restless, stifled — makes an impulsive decision to marry wealthy American Bennett Van Cleve and leave her home and family behind.

But stuffy, disapproving Baileyville, Kentucky, where her husband favours work over his wife and is dominated by his overbearing father, is not the adventure — or the escape — that she hoped for.

That is, until she meets Margery O’Hare, a troublesome woman — and daughter of a notorious felon — the town wishes to forget.

Margery’s on a mission to spread the wonder of books and reading to the poor and lost — and she needs Alice’s help.

Trekking alone under big open skies, through wild mountain forests, Alice, Margery and their fellow sisters of the trail discover freedom, friendship — and a life to call their own.

But when the town turns against them, will their belief in one another — and the power of the written word — be enough to save them?

Inspired by a remarkable true story, The Giver of Stars features five incredible women who will prove to be every bit as beloved as Lou Clark, the unforgettable heroine of Me Before You


Title : The Giver of Stars
Author : Jojo Moyes
Format : Hardback
Page Count : 448
Genre : Women’s Fiction
Publisher : Michael Joseph, Penguin Books
Release Date : October 3, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

I should know…know that when I read a Jojo Moyes book that it’s going to pack an emotional punch but with this blurb, I just didn’t see it coming. THE GIVER OF STARS had me invested quickly and feeling like a family member to the librarian sisterhood, so that when things happened, I felt devastated and scared to read on. The themes of misogyny, racism and feminism made this both emotional and empowering.

The context of reading, teaching poor and downtrodden women, children and men to read through the distrubution of books was in the background but it also powerful to observe. These women on their riding rounds also comforted the sick, grieving and took on the role of friends, confidentes and substitute mother figures.

I didn’t expect this book to be unputdownable, but it was as Moyes made the mundane work of Alice, Margery, Izzy and Beth’s lives totally readable and absorbing. Alice was the main protagonist, an English newly-wed, a little prissy but a genuinely sweet woman. The life she found in Kentucky was not at all what she expected and I tore my hair out over her and Bennett’s relationship. There were some revolting men in this book but then there were also some fantastic characters in Fred and Sven, they were the light in my reading and this book.

There was a second supporting protagonist in Margery and she really captured my heart. I loved her rebelliousness, her unconventional ways and willingness to be different. Her later storyline had me distraught, sad and prone to weeping. I just did not know where this book was going to end, there were so many possibilities.

I have come away from this read inspired. Jojo Moyes took me on a journey with this story and I am all the richer for it. This is historical women’s fiction at it’s best and I will remember this book for years, I am sure.

Thank you to Michael Joseph for the review copy.

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