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** My thanks to the folks at Trapeze and NetGalley for my copy of this brilliantly laugh out loud book **

 

Description:

Part autobiography, part self help, part confession, part celebration of being a common-or-garden woman, part collection of synonyms for nunny, Sarah Millican’s debut book delves into her super normal life with daft stories, funny tales and proper advice on how to get past life’s blips – like being good at school but not good at friends, the excitement of IBS and how to blossom post divorce.

If you’ve ever worn glasses at the age of six, worn an off-the-shoulder gown with no confidence, been contacted by an old school bully, lived in your childhood bedroom in your thirties, been gloriously dumped in a Frankie and Benny’s, cried so much you felt great, been for a romantic walk with a dog, worn leggings two days in a row even though they smelt of wee from a distance, then this is YOUR BOOK. If you haven’t done those things but wish you had, THIS IS YOUR BOOK. If you just want to laugh on a train/sofa/toilet or under your desk at work, THIS IS YOUR BOOK.

 

My Thoughts & Review:

How to be Champion is a book that I wish had been written earlier, it’s sort of like a manual for life as a young un, and reminds us that bullies don’t always win.
If you’ve ever seen Sarah Millican live then this book reads as though she were there on the sofa with you recounting the tales of her past.  You can hear her voice as she describes how vital it was to find out if you could wear glasses to disco dance, or how big her admiration is of her parents.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all sunshine in the garden, she does tell the reader about how rubbish life could be too, her warts and all frankness is refreshing and her sparkling wit shines though in her writing.

I found I was reading this aloud in sections to my husband and laughing so hard that I had tears rolling down my face, some sections of this are outrageously hilarious and this book proved to be just the “pick me up” that I needed after a stressful week.  I applaud her for her stance on body image, self-esteem, and mental health.  Millican has become an unofficial spokesperson for our generation and does so with great effect.  In at least two of her stage shows she has made a very clear point of mentioning that she has accepted her body image and no longer cares what others think (paraphrasing here), she is who she is and is happy with that and it’s wonderful to see, there so many of us who can empathise with the sentiments and indeed she almost gives you the confidence to say “sod it, this is me, like it or bugger off”.  We’ve all been there, in a changing room trying on clothes that don’t fit and ended up buying a bag instead. 

Her brand of humour is stuffed into this book in spades and I for one love it.  As I mentioned above, it really does read as though you’re sharing a cuppa and a cake with Sarah, it feels like she’s telling her tales directly to you and only you despite the fact there are thousands of copies of this book out there in the hands of lucky readers.

This is a book that I will treasure, and probably keep to pass on to my daughter once she’s old enough.  A book that I wish I’d had in my teens to let me know that there  are some horrible people who will be bullies, there will be times when you wish the ground would swallow you up because of embarrassment but ultimately it’s ok, you can still be champion at the end of it all.

An uplifting and heart gladdening read that made me laugh, nod along in agreement and left me feeling bloody champion about it all!

You can buy a copy of How to be Champion via:

Amazon UK
Wordery
Book Depository

 

 

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Published: 13 October 2016
Reviewed: 30 November 2016

5 out of 5  stars

Copy supplied by Elliott & Thompson

 

Description:

How well do you know your words?

Buxom used to mean obedient
A cloud was a rock
Raunchy originally meant dirty

Brimming with hidden histories and tantalising twists, The Accidental Dictionary tells the extraordinary stories behind ordinary words.

Our everyday language is full of surprises; its origins are stranger than you might think. Any word might be knocked and buffeted, subjected to twists and turns, expansions and contractions, happy and unhappy accidents. There are intriguing tales behind even the most familiar terms, and they can say as much about the present as they do the past.

Busking, for instance, originally meant piracy. Grin meant to snarl. A bimbo was a man, nice meant ignorant, glamour was magic and a cupboard was a table…

Focusing on 100 surprising threads in the evolution of English, The Accidental Dictionary reveals the etymological origins and quirky developments that have led to the meanings we take for granted today. It is a weird and wonderful journey into words.

So, let’s revel in its randomness and delight in its diversity – our dictionary is indeed accidental.

My Thoughts & Review:

I never thought I would see the day that I would be reviewing a dictionary.  Dictionaries are books that live on the shelf, usually forgotten about and only ever used to win a game of scrabble or to settle an argument over the spelling or meaning of a word.  With the advancements in modern technology, we no longer need to know how to spell, we have gadgetry that does that for us – be it smartphones, computers etc.  But this dictionary is different, instead of the ubiquitous ‘aardvark’ at the beginning, we begin with the word ‘affiliate’ and explore the original use of the word all the way to the current uses in a light and carefree tone.

What struck me most about this book is the fact that some of the words contained within the beautifully designed covers are ones we use everyday and few of us know the true meanings of these words.  Take for instance, ‘fetish’, it originally meant ‘talisman’, the author takes care to research the first uses of the word to ensure accuracy as well as making this a very interesting read.  I particularly enjoyed ‘Tiddlywink’, ‘Ragamuffin’ and ‘Refrigerator’, words I would never have considered to have any other meaning that the ones we know of today.

This is the perfect book for fans of language, people who thrive on knowing the unique meanings of words, the origins and the history of phrases.  I would thoroughly recommend this book, it’s a fascinating read and one that you don’t have to read all in one sitting to appreciate it.  In fact, I dipped in and out of this one over the course of a week, reading a few entries at a time means you don’t feel bogged down with information  but still appreciate the time and work that went into this book.   The writing is humorous, but clear and concise.

Probably one of my favourite books this year and one that I will be sure to return to many times.

You can buy a copy of The Accidental Dictionary here.

 

About the Author:

Paul Anthony Jones was born in South Shields in 1983. He is the author of four books: ‘The British Isles: A Trivia Gazetteer’ (2012); both ‘Haggard Hawks & Paltry Poltroons’ (2013) and its sequel, ‘Jedburgh Justice & Kentish Fire’ (2014); and language fact book ‘Word Drops’ (2015). ‘Haggard Hawks’ has since been featured in both The Guardian and The Huffington Post, and has spawned its own popular word-related Twitter account, @HaggardHawks, which was named one of Twitter’s best language accounts by Mental Floss magazine in 2014. The daily word and language facts of the @HaggardHawks account inspired ‘Word Drops: A Sprinkling of Linguistic Curiosities’, published by Elliott & Thompson in April 2015.

Besides his interest in etymology and language, Paul is also a classically trained pianist. He lives in Jesmond in Newcastle upon Tyne, where he drinks far too much coffee and reads far, far too many books.

Courtesy of Amazon

 

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Author: P.I. Paris

Published: 15 September 2016
Reviewed: 16 September 2016

5 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Black and White Publishing in return for an honest review

 

Description:

When the residents of a Highland care home discover that the new owners are about to substantially put up the fees, they know that dramatic action is called for. But what can a group of senior citizens possibly do against a big organisation? For Dorothy, the situation is serious. If she can’t raise money she’ll have to leave all her friends, like dear Miss Ross. 

In protest, the residents barricade themselves into the lounge. However, their rebellion fails, so worldly-wise Joan suggests a most unusual way to cover the rise – a very naughty chat line for men who want to talk to older women ‘in a particular way’! As their lives take a series of unexpected turns, things get increasingly out of control …

Casting Off is a hilarious, poignant tale of friendship, loyalty and sacrifice – and how it’s never too late to try something new.

 

My Thoughts & Review:

Casting Off combines two great loves of mine, books and knitting (surely the name of the blog part of that away?).  So when Laura at Black and White Publishing got in touch to offer me this book for review I immediately jumped at the chance – the description had me chuckling instantly.

Set in a Highland care home, we encounter a variety of different characters that you instantly adopt as friends,  Miss Ross a retired head mistress, Dorothy delightfully innocent and humorous, Mrs O’Reilly the mischievous one and Joan who seems to know something about most things – including saucy chatlines.

Each character in this is wonderful in their own way, Miss Ross who may seem prim and set in her ways has an enormously large heart and cares deeply about her friends, enough to take action when this whole scandal sets in motion.  Dorothy, bless her, so innocent to the ways of the world but incredibly funny with it.  Mrs O’Reilly, well she’s a wee trickster and a half, reminds me somewhat of my own grandmother and in all honesty, she’s the sort of old person I want to be – keeping the young uns on their toes and still sharp as a tack.  Joan, well her initial appearance causes some ripples for Miss Ross, but her heart is is the right place, she’s a hoot!  She brings life to the home, her jovial manner shines brightly from the pages and the reader cannot help but smile when she suggests the plan of the chatline – it seems such a normal thing for her to say!

The serious issues that are addressed in this book are handled with sensitivity but at the same time do not sugar coat reality.  With the advancements in technology and social media the dangers have also increased, so it was good to see topics such as grooming and sexting handled to raise awareness of how prevalent they are in society.  The way that they were explained to the older generation was very well done, I hope that mini plays like the one in the book are used in schools to illustrate the point to the younger generation.
Seeing the “older” perspective of some of these issues was also quite interesting, not something I would have really given much thought to, but their attitudes were refreshing, not all  of the characters reacted as I would have imagined to certain things, I guess we write people off once they reach a certain age, forgetting they were once young and so may have faced similar situations, a hat tip to the author for reminding us that everyone is entitled to a life, a past and a future.

The humour in this book was superbly written.  I know I chuckled out loud several times reading this, my poor husband continuously looking up from his DIY to check I wasn’t laughing at him or his efforts.  There’s something so lovely about the innocent humour of Dorothy – the callers to the chatline are expecting something…..well different from what they get when Dorothy answers their calls.  Her innocence makes certain parts of the narrative exceedingly hilarious, you’ll know the section when you get to it….

The diary passages written by Miss Ross interspersed between the chapters are touching to read.  This is a character that publicly is quite reserved, not one for telling her innermost thoughts and worries, and so to see them written down gives a greater insight to this character and means the reader is able to connect more with her.

This book is perfectly described on the front cover “A hilarious, poignant story of knitting, friendship, sacrifice and saucy chatlines”.  It’s a great book to curl up with in an afternoon and enjoy some quiet time.  The short chapters make it a quick and enjoyable read, but they’re sneaky as they hook you in and keep you reading on!  I love the idea that you’re never too old to try something new, and the ladies and gents in this definitely proved that.  I won’t lie, there were many emotions reading this book, the skill of the author evoking sadness, delight and frustration shows how well written this is.

Having enjoyed this book I am keen to read other books by this author, his book The Italian Chapel set in Orkney will definitely be added to my ever groaning reading list!

You can buy a copy of Casting Off directly from the publisher or from a variety of different retailers.

About the Author:

Author, playwright and journalist P I Paris lives in the Highlands of Scotland and is best known for the historical fiction and non-fiction books he wrote about the Italian chapel, built during WW2 by Italian POWs in Orkney. His contemporary novel, Men Cry Alone, broke new ground in raising the profile of domestic abuse against men.

His stage play, Casting Off, played to sell-out audiences in the autumn of 2015. The hilarious storyline is taken to new heights in this latest novel by the same name.

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When the residents of a Highland care home receive letters informing them that the new owners are about to substantially increase fees, their quiet days of knitting, chatting and trips to the local garden centre are threatened. Dorothy faces the prospect of having to move out, something her good friend former headmistress Miss Ross refuses to accept. But what can a group of elderly people do against a big organisation? The arrival of worldly-wise, three-times married Joan soon galvanises the residents into action, stirring long-dormant passions to fight against injustice. After a protest march goes badly wrong, the residents get national news coverage when they barricade themselves into the lounge. However, their brief flurry of fame has little impact.

As the new fees eat dangerously into dwindling savings, they need to make money fast or Dorothy will have to leave. When the irrepressible Joan suggests they set up a sex line for men who want to talk to older women ‘in a particular way’, their lives take a turn they could never have expected, with consequences that soon get out of control.

 

I am very excited to welcome you to the blog today as I have a fantastic treat for us all.  I am thrilled to share a fantastic guest post with you by the author of Casting Off, P.I. Paris on how a play became a novel, knitting and humour.

Without further ado, let me hand over to our revered guest…..

Knit

Early in 2015 I began writing a stage play about three elderly women in a Highland care home who have to devise a way to raise money when new owners substantially increase the fees, the high cost of residential care being in the news a lot at the time. My characters were often knitting and this pastime subsequently became an integral part of the storyline. The title seemed obvious … Casting Off.

The play toured in the Highlands during the autumn and the response took everyone by surprise, particularly me! The idea seemed to catch people’s imagination and even on the first night, innocent Dorothy, prim Miss Ross and worldly-wise Joan played to a sell-out audience. However, as far as I was concerned that was the end of it. I had also produced Casting Off and it had dominated my life for six months.

It was an email, which I so nearly didn’t send, that changed everything. Just before the tour started I told the managing director of Black & White Publishing in Edinburgh about the play. He sent me his best wishes along with that never to be forgotten observation … great idea for a novel. A NOVEL! I hadn’t considered this but as soon as I read his reply I knew this was what I had to do.

My target was 75,000 words and the stage script was a little over 10,000, so the book was a totally different proposition. I needed to carry out further research and create many more characters, subplots, surprises and secrets!

It’s amazing how tiny incidents in life can form the basis for a scene. A couple of years ago my wife and I went into a large wool shop. Catherine wanted to knit an Aran jumper for me. But the shop had no wool. To be accurate, it didn’t sell anything with more than twenty per cent wool content.

I couldn’t help feeling I had walked on to the set of the Monty Python cheese shop sketch. We didn’t buy anything. But the incident came back to me when writing a chapter where Dorothy and some of the other care home residents are having tea at the local garden centre.

‘You can actually buy quite a good selection of wool here,’ said Dorothy, ‘in the craft section. The last time I went into a wool shop they didn’t have any.’

‘No wool?’ queried Walter in disbelief.

‘Their balls only had twenty per cent content at most. I was quite cross.’

‘Steady on, Dorothy,’ he said. ‘I hope it didn’t lead to violence.’

‘I went up to the desk. “You tell me, young man,” I said, “how you can look me in the eye and say that your balls have come from a sheep.”’

A lot of the humour in the book comes from Dorothy’s innocence, but this also proves to be one of her greatest strengths, protecting her when, desperate to raise money, the three friends set up a sex line for men who want to speak to a mature woman ‘in a particular way’.

Although the play and novel are essentially comedies they both examine loneliness, friendship and sacrifice plus how reaching out to strangers can completely change our lives. The book takes these ‘serious’ themes further, including storylines on prostitution, grooming and sexting.

Producing Casting Off proved to be a huge learning curve and a scary amount of commitment, but it was tremendous fun and I have made many new friends because of reading a newspaper article about care home fees all those months ago.

You can buy a copy of Casting Off directly from the publisher or from a variety of different retailers and don’t forget to check out the other blogs on the tour!

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Author: Rosie Blake

Published: 2 June 2016
Reviewed: 3 September 2016

4.5 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Corvus in return for an honest review

 

Description:

Isobel quits her dead-end job and travels the world seeking the man she believes she is meant to be with. A hilarious and irresistible romantic comedy about a globetrotting quest to find love. Perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella, Lindsay Kelk and Mhairi McFarlane.

Isobel Graves moved to LA determined to be the Next Big Thing. Instead, she is dressed as a giant prawn handing out fliers promoting a fish market. Rather than attending glamorous parties and dating exciting men, her evenings consist of watching box sets with her sort-of boyfriend, whose idea of romance is a late-night drunken text.

Where did it all go wrong?

When Isobel catches sight of Andrew Parker, her childhood sweetheart, in the background of a TV news story she feels it’s a sign. If she’d stuck with Andrew everything would have turned out better. Now she just needs to find him…

Join Isobel as she travels from LA to Devon and to a remote Malaysian island in search of true love.

My Thoughts & Review:

How To Find Your (First) Husband is the first of Rosie Blake’s books that I’ve read, but it certainly won’t be the last.  The flowing style of writing is delightful, and her sense of humour appeals so much to me.

This book centres around Isobel Graves, who at the tender age of eight married her childhood sweetheart in the school playground.  But unfortunately wedded bliss was short lived and he dumped her two weeks later.
Fast forward a good few years and Isobel is now living in LA and dreaming of being a presenter.  But instead of the glamorous life she had hoped for, she’s regularly dressing up as a shellfish or vegetable to hand out fliers.  Seeing Andrew Parker in the background of a section on the news is a sign/fate/kismet which leads her to make the decision to track him down by flying to England and subsequently to the remote Malaysian island Tioman Island to convince him to fall in love with her.

Right from the very beginning Isobel comes across as a very realistic character, chaotic yet lovable.  The characters that surround her are equally as brilliant, each with their own quirks – her best friend Mel is a hoot!
The descriptions of the settings are awe inspiring, especially the detail in Tioman Island – that’s one place I would love to visit (yes I did google it to see if it lived up to Blake’s descriptions….and wow!!)

The pacing of the novel is good, brisk and exciting.  It’s the sort of book you can pick up one afternoon and easily while away a few hours whilst wrapped up in this heart warming tale about friendship and rediscovering your first love
Blake weaves an enchanting and delightful tale, her sense of humour comes through her writing so impeccably making the novel a pleasure to read.

 

You can buy a copy of How To Find Your (First) Husband here.

About the Author

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Author Image & Information courtesy of https://rosieblake.co.uk/

Rosie spent her university years writing pantomimes based on old classics. The 2003 production of ‘The Wizard of Odd: Search for the Ruby Strippers’ enjoyed critical acclaim. This was followed a year later with a successful showing of ‘Harry Potter: The Musical’ (complete with moving opening number, ‘In my Cupboard I will Stay’).

Rosie has written features for Cosmopolitan, The Lady, The Sunday People, Reveal and Best Magazine. Her first rom com HOW TO GET A (LOVE) LIFE was published in 2014. Corvus, an imprint of Atlantic Books, published HOW TO STUFF UP CHRISTMAS in 2015 and HOW TO FIND YOUR (FIRST) HUSBAND in 2016.
To find out more about Rosie’s books go to her website https://rosieblake.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @RosieBBooks

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