Title: The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes

Author: Ruth Hogan

Pages: 352 Pages

Publisher: John Murray Press

The Blurb

Once a spirited, independent woman with a rebellious streak, Masha’s life has been forever changed by a tragic event twelve years ago. Unable to let go of her grief, she finds comfort in her faithful canine companion Haizum, and peace in the quiet lanes of her town’s lido.

Then a chance encounter with two extraordinary women – the fabulous and wise Kitty Muriel, a convent girl turned magician’s wife turned seventy-something roller disco fanatic, and the mysterious Sally Red Shoes, a bag lady with a prodigious voice – opens up a new world of possibilities, and the chance to start living again. But just as Masha dares to imagine the future, her past comes roaring back …

The Review

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan is the kind of book that I would describe as a warm hug. You get yourself completely involved with the intricacies of the lives of the characters and after you have turned the final page there is a nice feeling of satisfaction.

It is a multi-perspective story yet all the characters have lives that interconnect. The main character is Masha is suffering with a loss however it is through her relationships with other people that she can finally start to let go of the past. These fabulous characters show her that there is a future but also a present.

I really enjoyed reading The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes. It was a heart-warming story which makes you reflect on any sadness that you are holding on to. It is the kind of book that makes you feel better – even when you didn’t feel like you were holding on to anything in particular. That is the power of Ruth Hogan’s The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes.

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan is available now.

For more information regarding Ruth Hogan (@ruthmariehogan) please visit www.ruthhogan.co.uk.

For more information regarding John Murray Press (@johnmurrays) please visit www.johnmurraypress.co.uk.

Title: I Carried a Watermelon – Dirty Dancing and Me

Author: Katy Brand

Pages: 249 Pages

Publisher: HQ

The Blurb

I Carried a Watermelon is a love story to Dirty Dancing. A warm, witty and accessible look at how Katy Brand’s life-long obsession with the film has influenced her own attitudes to sex, love, romance, rights and responsibilities.

It explores the legacy of the film, from pushing women’s stories to the forefront of commercial cinema, to its ‘Gold Standard’ depiction of abortion according to leading pro-choice campaigners, and its fresh and powerful take on the classic ‘coming of age’ story told from a naïve but idealistic 17-year-old girl’s point of view.

Part memoir based on a personal obsession, part homage to a monster hit and a work of genius, Katy will explore her own memories and experiences, and talk to other fans of the film, to examine its legacy as a piece of filmmaking with a social agenda that many miss on first viewing. One of the most celebrated and viewed films ever made is about to have the time of its life.

The Review

It was the coronavirus isolation of 2020 and everyone was stuck inside and it didn’t occur to me to mind….okay that’s a lie. I was bored (but safe and lucky). So I decided to read I Carried a Watermelon. The reason was two-fold: 1) I like Katy Brand, I think she is funny and 2) I love Dirty Dancing. I don’t just love Dirty Dancing, I LOVE Dirty Dancing. It is a love that a few people have. An obsessive love, a love in which no one can speak badly about Dirty Dancing because I will fall out with them. I got the sense (cleverly through the title of the book and the picture on the cover of Katy Brand brandishing a watermelon) that Katy Brand liked it too.

I Carried a Watermelon is a fantastic memoir – it is funny, light hearted, silly in places but overall it connects with the reader through this shared love of the classic 80s film Dirty Dancing. Brand walks you through her childhood when we relied of video cassettes with the threat of them being worn out or in Brand’s case hidden by her father, the depression – when the remake was made (I wasn’t as brave as Brand – I saw it in snippets, I couldn’t watch the whole thing). But through it all she has this really positive attitude and pro-women-gung-ho-ness about her.

I loved it. I genuinely couldn’t put it down and I am so very jealous that she got to go to the real life Kellerman’s resort.

One thing is for sure, I will not be putting Katy Brand’s I Carried a Watermelon in the corner – that was a bit tenuous but you know what I mean.

I Carried a Watermelon by Katy Brand is available now.

For more information regarding Katy Brand (@KatyFBrand) please visit www.katybrandofficial.com.

For more information regarding HQ (@HQstories) please visit www.hqstories.co.uk.

Title: The Panic Years

Author: Nell Frizzell

Pages: 288 Pages

Publisher: Random House/Transworld Publishers/Bantam Press

The Blurb

The Panic Years: something between adolescence and menopause, a personal crisis, a transformation.

The panic years can hit at any time but they are most commonly triggered somewhere between the ages of twenty-five and forty. During this time, every decision a woman makes – from postcode to partner, friends to family, work to weekends – will be impacted by the urgency of the one decision with a deadline, the one decision that is impossible to take back: whether or not to have a baby.

But how to stay sane in such a maddening time?
How to understand who you are and what you might want from life?
How to know if you’re making the right decisions?

Raw, hilarious and beguilingly honest, Nell Frizzell’s account of her panic years is both an arm around the shoulder and a campaign to start a conversation. This affects us all – women, men, mothers, children, partners, friends, colleagues – so it’s time we started talking about it with a little more candour.

The Review

I am 36 years old. Well, I will be 37 this year and so this book, The Panic Years by Nell Frizzell should, in theory, speak to me.

Nell Frizzell is looking at things that society deems important to a 30+ year old. Things like marriage, children, and early menopause. And whilst I have thought about those things they aren’t necessarily a massive concern. I can see the reasons why Frizzell wrote about them and I admire her candid approach – at times she comes across as a little cuckoo and obsessed with time running away from her – but I think for me personally I didn’t mirror her concerns. I think The Panic Years would be a perfect book for someone looking for reassurance – in particular about becoming a mum – but it didn’t resonate with me because I don’t necessarily want the same things as her.

The Panic Years is well written and I think more books like this are needed. Women need to have their voices heard on subjects that are generally kept quiet and hidden and it needs bold voices like Nell Frizzell and so I admire her greatly for her writing and her honesty.

The Panic Years by Nell Frizzell is available now.

For more information regarding Nell Frizzell (@NellFrizzell) please visit her Twitter page.

For more information regarding Random House UK (@penguinrandom) please visit www.penguinrandomhouse.com.

For more information regarding Bantam Press (@BantamPress) please visit www.bantam.press.

Title: Last Lesson

Author: James Goodhand

Pages: 288 Pages

Publisher: Penguin Random House

The Blurb

Last year, Ollie Morcombe was a star pupil, popular and a gifted musician.

Then, after the accident, everything changed. Now he’s an outcast, a prime target of the school bullies who have made his life a living hell.

Today – the last day of the school year – he’s brought those bullies a gift. A homemade pipe bomb.

What has driven a model student to plan an unspeakable revenge? And with the clock ticking down to home time, what can anybody do to stop him?

The Review

Last Lesson focuses on Ollie who has been through some massive change in the past 12 months and they have had a profound effect on him and how he is handling life. For Ollie, he can only see one option. To get revenge on the people that have been making his life hell. He plans to kill them all in their last lesson of high school.

What a complex topic wrapped in a really readable novel. James Goodhand has looked at many complicated issues within his novel Last Lesson. He looks at the hierarchy within the school system, he looks at grief and he looks at mental health.

I think what Goodhand has done well with Last Lesson is to look at the complexities of mental health and its correlation with extremism. He has handled it sensitively and without pushing blame or agenda other than trying to help you spot the signs.

It seems strange to say I enjoyed this novel because I shouldn’t have enjoyed a novel which has such a sad message but it is hard not to like it. Goodhand is a great writer who engages you in the story and really makes you care for the characters. It will be interesting to see what he writes next.

Last Lesson by James Goodhand is available now.

For more information regarding James Goodhand (@goodhand_james) please visit his Twitter page.

For more information regarding Penguin Random House (@PenguinUKBooks) please visit www.penguin.co.uk.

Title: How it Was

Author: Janet Ellis

Pages: 427 Pages

Publisher: John Murray Press/Two Roads

The Blurb

Marion Deacon sits by the hospital bed of her dying husband, Michael. Outwardly she is, as she says, an unremarkable old woman. She has long concealed her history – and her feelings – from the casual observer. But as she sits by Michael’s bed, she’s haunted by memories from almost forty years ago…

Marion Deacon is a wife and mother, and not particularly good at being either. It’s the 1970s and in her small village the Swinging 60s, the wave of feminism, the prospect of an exciting life, have all swerved past her. Reading her teenage daughter’s diary, it seems that Sarah is on the threshold of getting everything her mother Marion was denied, and Marion cannot bear it – what she does next has terrible and heart-breaking consequences for the whole family.

The Review

After finishing How It Was by Janet Ellis I was left feeling conflicted. I wasn’t sure what I was feeling and then it hit me. I was unsatisfied. Not by the novel, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed reading How It Was but Janet Ellis has brilliantly managed to make her reader feel the same sense of ennui that her protagonist feels.

Ellis perfectly balances displaying the humdrum but also making you feel the desire that Marion Deacon feels for a different life. The novels languorous pace highlights the stifled feelings of our protagonist who takes any kind of excitement where she can and her lack of appreciation for the things that she has.

How It Was isn’t a frenetic novel.  You keep pace with the mundane existence of the characters everyday lives which allows you to feel things as they happen. It is a novel that shows the consequences of wanting for more or thinking that the grass is always greener. It is almost a warning of be careful what you wish for.

How it Was by Janet Ellis is available now.

For more information regarding Janet Ellis (@missjanetellis) please visit http://janetellis.com.

For more information regarding John Murray Press (@johnmurrays) please visit www.johnmurraypress.co.uk.

For more information regarding Two Roads (@TwoRoadsBooks) please visit www.tworoadsbooks.com.