BOOK REVIEW: When My Ship Comes In by Sue Wilsher

I’m not a huge reader of historical fiction, however I do have a fondness for wartime fiction, and stories set in the 1950s, which has seen me gain quite a collection and to seek out books from new authors. It’s especially interesting to delve into the lives of women; women who worked, women who raised families, women who would strive to keep themselves and their families together during times of much poverty and sorrow.

When My Ship Comes In is the debut novel from Sue Wilsher. It had been on my to-read pile for some time, mainly because I was waiting for a weekend to devote to it. Once I had finished it, I wish I’d read it much sooner, because it’s such a brilliant book.

It’s 1959, and Flo Blundell is scarcely managing to make ends meet. Living in a cramped tenement flat near Tilbury Docks with her short-tempered husband Fred, young son Mikey and twin teenage daughters Babs and Jeanie, Flo earns money cleaning the upmarket cruise liners, as she struggles to keep the family fed and clean. After all, her mother always told her about the importance of keeping a family together. Yet Flo holds a secret dream of taking the children and escaping on one of the huge liners, to travel to Australia and begin a new life away from Fred’s violent hand.

But her dream is shattered when Fred’s drinking, and his short fuse, result in him losing his job at the Tilbury docks – and with it the flat in the Dwellings. However, the family is saved from inevitable poverty when Fred manages to land a job at the nearby leather factory, Monday’s.

Working at Monday’s seems like a dream in itself – the workers are trained well with opportunities for promotion and college, there are dinners and dances and social clubs, and the family find themselves in a new house full of modern gadgets that Flo had never imagined she’d own. There’s also the Young Wives Club, run by boss’s wife Maggie, who seems to take a liking to Flo.

Things are looking up for the Blundells – that is, providing that Fred puts an end to his drunken, violent ways. Any more trouble and the family will be out for good…

Meanwhile, Babs and Jeanie are adhering differently to their new lives at Monday’s. Babs is in awe at the attention from boys, and her talent at sewing. Jeanie on the other hand is quiet and studious, and jumps at the chance to get an education. Living in the shadow of her confident sister has never really bothered Jeanie that much, until a boy comes into her life and changes everything…

This is a wonderful novel about women with dreams, held back by those around them and society’s ideals. The book opens with a powerful scene, and immediately we get an insight into Flo’s situation. The reality of her coping, living day to day in a tiny bedsit with a family to take care of. She hadn’t intended to get pregnant so early, but it’s what life dealt her and she has worked hard. And when the opportunity arises for Flo to be a career woman and better herself, it seems the world is against her. A situation which a lot of women faced in the 1950s. Flo is a strong woman, willing to go against the odds to keep her family safe and cared for. Even when certain obstacles threaten to hold her back.

When My Ship Comes In is so hard to put down. It’s an emotional, gripping journey, a fantastic debut, and I loved every page. I’m looking forward to more from Sue Wilsher in the future.

Rating: 5/5

SERIES NEWS: Laura Lake returns in Last of the Summer Moet by Wendy Holden

Laura Lake, heroine of Wendy Holden’s brilliantly funny 2017 novel Three Weddings and a Scandal (previously published as Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings – personally I prefer the original!) returns in August for the next instalment in the series.

In Last of the Summer Moet, Laura’s back, and standing in as the editor of a glossy society mag. This time she’s dealing with her somewhat crazy BFF whose new country life isn’t going to plan...

Laura Lake, deputy editor of glossy mag Society, has been promoted to the hot seat while her boss recovers from 'exhaustion' in rehab. Finally she's in charge, but who can she share the free jollies with?

Not her international glamourpuss BFF Lulu, who's left Knightsbridge for Britain's poshest village. Lulu's busy living the good life at her new pile Riffs, a ex-rock star's ex-country mansion.

But not everything in her guitar-shaped garden is lovely; Lulu's attempts to join the hunt, act in the panto and grow the biggest marrow are blocked by the snobbish locals.

Who does she call on for help? Journo extraordinaire, Laura Lake...

BOOK REVIEW: Mummy With Benefits by Marilyn Bennett

I came across Marilyn Bennett’s novel Mummy With Benefits – The Fall From Grace on Netgalley, and was intrigued by the synopsis. It seemed like a fun, somewhat quirky tale of a journey into new motherhood. Main character Grace is about to become a mum, and she still isn’t completely sure which of her two friends is the baby’s father. Sure, Grace’s current setup isn’t exactly the perfect family life she imagined – but does it have to be?

Let me just state before I begin that this is going to be a bit of a strange review. The main reason? I just couldn’t finish this novel. And I absolutely hate giving up on books. Before I go on, I need to point out that I didn’t give up on it because it’s a bad book – not at all.

The blurb sounded great. The opening instantly hooked me. Marilyn Bennett has a great writing style that I fell for straight away; witty, real, with added humour. However, at the beginning of Mummy With Benefits I found myself confused as to what was going on. Characters appeared who, it seemed, had already been established; events were referenced that had not yet happened, mentioned as though I should have known about them already. I checked my Kindle, wondering if, in my haste to board my train home, I’d accidentally skipped a chunk of the novel. I hadn’t, but after a quick look on Goodreads and Amazon, it became clear what the issue was.

Mummy With Benefits is not a standalone novel. It is, in fact, a sequel to Marilyn’s previous book, Granny With Benefits.

Sadly, I hadn’t read Granny With Benefits, and wouldn’t have requested the sequel had I known what it was, simply because I hadn’t read the first. And judging by other reviews, I wasn’t the only one left confused by this book (although I did get to nearly 20% before giving up entirely). I just couldn’t finish it, and not because I didn’t like it – I WANTED to like it. I enjoyed the beginning, so much so that I now want to read the first book as well as this one. But there was just so little context that there was no point in carrying on.

I have read a few books which have been part of a series, in which previous events and characters are briefly explained so that you can pick them up without having to read the previous ones. Mummy With Benefits is not one of these books. Which isn’t at all a problem, IF readers are made aware from the start that this is a sequel. In this case, that fact is not made clear on the cover or book information, causing some readers to dive in and become quickly baffled.

That said, Mummy With Benefits is a fast-paced and fun book up to a point, and I know I would have enjoyed it had I read book one. Which I am now planning on doing, as like I said, I enjoy Marilyn Bennett’s writing style and I don’t want to miss out on what might be an excellent series. Until then, I’m going to give this book 2.5 stars, only because having not read the book entirely, it’d be unfair to give it a higher rating at this time. It’s definitely one to revisit though!

Rating: 2.5/5

Thank you to Netgalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

NEW YEAR, NEW READS: Five January women's fiction releases

It's a brand new month - the first of a brand new year! Now that the Christmas festivities have passed, it's time for the fresh, new feeling of a new chapter (or two! Or, y'know, thirty). I'm talking books as well as resolutions here...

Kicking off 2018 with the first selection of the new year, here are five upcoming releases to look out for this month.

This Love Story Will Self Destruct by Leslie Cohen
This is the classic tale of boy meets girl: Girl…goes home with someone else.

Meet Eve. She’s a dreamer, a feeler, a careening well of sensitivities who can’t quite keep her feet on the ground, or steer clear of trouble. She’s a laugher, a crier, a quirky and quick-witted bleeding-heart-worrier.

Meet Ben. He’s an engineer, an expert at leveling floors who likes order, structure, and straight lines. He doesn’t opine, he doesn’t ruminate, he doesn’t simmer until he boils over.

So naturally, when the two first cross paths, sparks don’t exactly fly. But then they meet again. And again. And then, finally, they find themselves with a deep yet fragile connection that will change the course of their relationship—possibly forever.

Follow Eve and Ben as they navigate their twenties on a winding journey through first jobs, first dates, and first breakups; through first reunions, first betrayals and, maybe, first love. This is When Harry Met Sally reimagined; a charming tale told from two unapologetically original points of view. With an acerbic edge and heartwarming humor, debut novelist Leslie Cohen takes us on a tour of what life looks like when it doesn’t go according to plan, and explores the complexity, chaos, and comedy in finding a relationship built to last.

Faking Friends by Jane Fallon
Best friend, soulmate, confidante . . . backstabber.

Amy thought she knew everything there was to know about her best friend Melissa. Then again, Amy also thought she was on the verge of the wedding of her dreams to her long-distance fiancé.

Until she pays a surprise trip home to London. Jack is out, but it's clear another woman has been making herself at home in their flat.

There's something about her stuff that feels oddly familiar . . . and then it hits Amy. The Other Woman is Melissa.

Amy has lost her home, her fiancé and her best friend in one disastrous weekend - but instead of falling apart, she's determined to get her own back.

Piecing her life back together won't be half as fun as dismantling theirs, after all.

Still Me by Jojo Moyes
Lou Clark knows too many things . . .

She knows how many miles lie between her new home in New York and her new boyfriend Sam in London.

She knows her employer is a good man and she knows his wife is keeping a secret from him.
What Lou doesn't know is she's about to meet someone who's going to turn her whole life upside down.

Because Josh will remind her so much of a man she used to know that it'll hurt.

Lou won't know what to do next, but she knows that whatever she chooses is going to change everything.

Million Love Songs by Carole Matthews
After splitting up with her cheating ex, Ruby Brown is ready for a change. She's single again for the first time in years and she's going to dive into this brave new world with a smile on her face and a spring in her step. The last thing she's looking for is a serious relationship.

Mason represents everything Ruby wants right now: he's charming, smooth and perfect for some no-strings-attached fun, and yet Ruby can't help feel that something is missing. Joe on the other hand is kind and attentive, but he comes with the sort of baggage Ruby wants to avoid: an annoyingly attractive ex-wife and two teenage children.

And though Ruby thinks she knows what she wants, is it what she needs to be truly happy? It's about to get emotional in Million Love Songs.

Between Me and You by Alison Winn Scotch
When their paths first cross, Ben Livingston is a fledgling screenwriter on the brink of success; Tatum Connelly is a struggling actress tending bar in a New York City dive. They fall in love, they marry, they become parents, and they think only of the future. But as the years go by, Tatum’s stardom rises while Ben’s fades. In a marriage that bears the fallout of ambition and fame, Ben and Tatum are at a crossroads. Now all they can do is think back…

A life of passion, joy, tragedy, and loss—once shared—becomes one as shifting and unpredictable as a memory. As the pieces of their past come together, as they explore the ways love can bend and break, Ben and Tatum come to see how it all went wrong—and wonder what they can do now to make it all right.