How to be Happy by Eva Woods

howtobe

Length: 432 pages

Please note that the cover leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book and is only £0.88 at this moment!

Another note: This book is also published under the name ‘Something Like Happy”

What they say: Annie has been sad for so long that she’s forgotten how to be any other way. Until she meets Polly.

Polly is everything that Annie is not. She’s colourful, joyful, happy. Because if recent events have taught Polly anything, it’s that your time is too short to waste a single day.

Polly has one hundred days to help Annie find happiness. Annie’s convinced it’s impossible, but so is saying no to Polly. And on an unforgettable journey, Annie begins to realise that maybe, just maybe, there’s still colour to be found in the world.

But then it becomes clear that Polly’s about to need her new friend more than ever…and Annie will have to decide once and for all whether letting others in is a risk worth taking.

The Review: I had been hankering for this for a long time after I’d requested it on Netgalley. I knew it was going to be a tear jerker, but just was never in the frame of mind for laughing through the tears and so I stayed away but I am so so happy I finally got to it because what a gem this book is !

We begin with our lead, Annie Hebden, trying to get the attention of a receptionist in a hospital. The receptionist isn’t taking to Annie’s firm approach and so ignores her but quickly jumps for a stranger who seems to be of the more positive demeanor. And so it is that we meet Polly. Polly decides to latch onto Annie and begins to turn up everywhere, at her house, at her work, and we wonder what her story is. I can’t give away too much but I will just say that both Annie AND Polly have reasons to hide away from life and I knew I was in for a both a treat and a rough time.

This book was magnificently done, a real lesson in writing, in particular the way you didn’t dislike Annie even though she was like a rain cloud and Polly like the sun. Polly decides she’s going to change Annie’s life and make her see that there’s more to life than just getting through each day. The surrounding characters were fantastic, the settings perfection, and the genius of the new heading for the one hundred chapters (not all long, don’t worry!), that showed us the one thing Annie had to do to change things blew me away.

This is  a very special book and a very special mention has to go for Polly but in particular the moment when we actually got to SEE her. I had her in my mind as something and then suddenly started bawling crying when I really saw her ( trying not to cry now actually!) There was so much comedy and joy and heartbreaking aches in this book and it blew me away.  If this isn’t in my Top ten at Christmas (yes, I know I chickened out last year!), I will be so so shocked. Thanks so so much to Netgalley and Sphere for this book in return for an honest review and to all the bloggers whose posts convinced me I needed to suck it up and read something that required me to be braver.

Rating: 5/5

The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells by Virginia MacGregor

the astonishingreturnofNorahWells

What They Say: One ordinary morning, Norah walked out of her house on Willoughby Street and never looked back. Six years later, she returns to the home she walked away from only to find another woman in her place. Fay held Norah’s family together after she disappeared, she shares a bed with Norah’s husband and Norah’s youngest daughter calls Fay ‘Mummy’.

Now that Norah has returned, everyone has questions. Where has she been? Why did she leave? And why is she back? As each member of the family tries to find the answers they each need, they must also face up to the most pressing question of all – what happens to The Mother Who Stayed when The Mother Who Left comes back?

From the author of What Milo Saw, comes this powerful, emotional and perceptive novel about what it takes to hold a family together and what you’re willing to sacrifice for the ones you love.

 

The Review: First off thanks to Netgalley and Sphere publishers for the copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Let me start the review by saying that when I tweeted first about this book I accidentally called it ‘The astonishing return of Virginia MacGregor.’ This was obviously a slip up on my part but actually, quite apt, as it WAS astonishing that the person who gave us such a gem as ‘What Milo Saw’ (click for review) should give us a second book that was so different and yet equally as unputdownable! Oh and just to add, if some of this review, rings bells with any of you, it’s because I reviewed this book as part of the Bout of Books readathon a while ago,

It is about two mums ‘The Mum who left’ (Norah )and The Mum who stayed (Fay). The Mum who stayed is credited as having kept everything together when the mum who left walked out six years ago, but now the mum who left is back.  The setting of ‘Astonishing Return of Norah Wells’ is 77 Willoughby Street, and we are transported there early on to meet the inhabitants, the husband, Adam, teenage daughter, Ella, and a child, Willa, who calls the mum who stayed ‘Mummy.’ The story is told from the viewpoint of the two mums, the husband and the two children, and looks at at the disruption and confusion caused by Norah’s return.

‘The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells’ makes us think about who the mother really is and thus started me thinking about for example the questions that arise as a result of surrogacy, adoption, fostering. Is a mother a mother because she gave birth to a baby or is it the person who raises the child? I loved that it wasn’t black and white, as life never is, and some of my prejudices towards one of the mothers were addressed, hence I learned something about both myself and my (sometimes biased) attitudes as a result of reading. Always a good thing.

I had a bit of a lull before the 50% mark, the pacing was a bit up and down for me but in general surprises were brilliant, and excellently done, and I would never have dreamed of putting it down. The telling of the story from an overseeing voice at times is magnificently done, I’m sure other authors, had they seen that it could have been done this way, could have tried to do it for the whole book, but I don’t think it would have worked, the different characters’ points of views put with this voice work gorgeously.

This book had it all, the tension, the surprises, I cried, I laughed, and at one point I laughed through tears, which a book has never caused me to do before. It was atmospheric, beautiful and had characters that were vivid and very, very real. The ending was unusual and unexpected, and I appreciated it. One thing to look out for is the relationship between little Willa and the dog, Louis. It’s a special one that will wow you.

This is one to put on the wishlist (unfortunately, at over £7 at time of posting this review, it’s a bit of an investment, though when you look at all the 99p books we buy without thinking, maybe some of these could be sacrificed?) Anyhoo, as I said before, hopefully this book will do really well and we’ll be seeing a lot more from Virginia MacGregor. Highly recommended.

Rating: 4.75/5

Bout of Books 15 readathon (Come on, join in!)

the astonishingreturnofNorahWellsfriendslikethesethegreenhillsofhome

So to start off, where better to find out about the Bout of Books 15 than from the bout of books blog itself?!

They say: You were going to read that week anyway, right?  Read with us.

The Bout of Books Read-a-Thon was created by Amanda @ On a Book Bender on a complete whim in August 2011*. It took on a life of its own and was such a hit that Amanda decided to do it again and turn it into a somewhat regular occurrence.

  • Bout of Books is a week long read-a-thon, usually from 12:01am on a Monday through 11:59pm on a Sunday in whatever time zone you are in.
  • It is low pressure, meaning participants are only asked to push themselves to read more than they normally would during any given week. There is no competition between readers.
  • How much time a reader wants, and can commit, to read, tweet, or network with fellow bloggers is left to individual preference. All challenges and giveaways are optional.
  • Networking with fellow bloggers is actively encouraged, though never required.
  • Use Twitter to post updates throughout the read-a-thon. Everyone will be tweeting with the #boutofbooks hashtag.

So, anybody with me here?

They say as many or as little as you want, so I’m going to aim for three and if I get more read than that happy out and if I don’t I’ll just slink away in defeat(must get three read, must get three read!)!

It started up yesterday, Monday 4th Jan 2015, but entry is open until the end of Tues 5th Jan 2015.

Anyhoo, here’s my three and I’ll keep you updated daily to let you know how I’m doing.

My three books are The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells by Virginia MacGregor, (Available for preorder now, and thanks so much to the publisher for the advance copy, I cannot tell you how happy I was to get this after reading and adoring What Milo Saw) I started this last night and am hooked already!) Friends like these by Hannah Ellis, which looks like a nice, easygoing read and The Green Hills of Home (which is substantially shorter, a bit of a cheat you might say, especially given how much I adore Ms. Bennet’s writing, but as I said I’ll top up if I get the chance to!) Happy Reading!!

Berni:)

DAY 2!

Am nearly 50% into The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells by Virginia MacGregor, because it’s just that good. I was actually irritated with my husband last night that he wanted to spend quality time and watch a movie, I swear I would have finished it! So it’s about two mums ‘The Mum who left’ (Norah )and The Mum who stayed (Fay). The Mum who stayed kept everything together when the mum who left walked out six years ago but now the mum who left is back.  The story is told from the viewpoint of the two mums, the husband and the two children, one of who calls the mum who stayed ‘Mummy.’ By the way it sounds like I’m giving you spoilers but it’s pretty much all in the blurb. I have been on the edge of my seat numerous times, and can’t wait until tonight to get to the other half!!

 

DAY 3

It bothered me a little that I hadn’t mentioned yesterday that I had a bit of a lull before the 50% mark, the pacing was a bit up and down for me but am now up to 80% and the surprises have been brilliant, and excellently done. I’m really enjoying and still not sure as to how it’s going to end. The telling of the story from an overseeing voice at times is magnificently done, I’m sure other authors, had they seen that it could have been done this way, could have tried to do it for the whole book, but I don’t think it would have worked, the different characters points of views put with this voice work gorgeously.

DAY 4

Am finished and now cannot wait to write the review (and yes, I do realise this is a review of sorts!) This book had it all, the tension, the surprises, I cried, I laughed, and at one point I laughed through tears, which a book has never caused me to do before.

 

DAY 5

20% into ‘Friends like these’ and I’m really enjoying it. Is light and bubblegummy, perfect for the time of the week. It starts with Marie, in a pharmacy looking for a pregnancy test just weeks after she ‘caught her ex boyfriend in bed with some dumb blonde.’ There’s been few mix-ups and ‘oops’ moments so far and it’s flying along. The protagonist is a tad negative, but as you probably know by now I generally find it difficult to warm to a lead and instead empathize with their best friend, so at least I’m sticking to my normal reading pattern!;) Will keep you posted!

 

DAY 6

So in ‘Friends Like These’ Marie is losing her best friend who is moving to New York. She feels she has nobody else and as the story goes on we’re meeting more and more possible friends and boyfriends for her. There are some very funny scenarios, including Marie ending up in an Overeaters Anonymous type club which she actually thinks is speed dating and a ‘Hangover’ type morning after. I finished up at 58% (went to see the new Star Wars movie, which was AMAZING!)

DAY 7

Finished Friends Like These. It absolutely flew by. I beyond enjoyed it, though I found it hard to connect with Marie sometimes, and there were times I found that there was so many things happening, and this, coupled with the range of characters got a little bit confusing. A fun read, light, funny and fluffy. Review to come. I’d love to say I got into The Green Hills of Home then, but I actually started to write a new short story tonight so happy out:)

Conclusion: Obviously I didn’t even get to my quota of three books, but I enjoyed the week, in particular I liked that I had a definite plan in place, plus I loved reading reviews from other bloggers.