Title: Is This Love?

Author: CE Riley

Pages: 224

Publisher: Serpent’s Tail

The Blurb

Did you mean to marry me? Did you understand the vows that we took? J’s wife has left, and J is trying to understand why. How could someone you loved so much, who claimed to love you once, just walk away? How could they send divorce papers accusing you of terrible things, when all you’ve ever done is tried to make them happy?

Narrated by J in the days, weeks and months after the marriage collapses, and interspersed with the departed wife’s diary entries, Is This Love is an addictive, deeply unsettling, and provocative novel of deception and betrayal, and passion turned to pain. As the story unfolds, and each character’s version of events undermines the other, all our assumptions about victimhood, agency, love and control are challenged – for we never know J’s gender. If we did, would it change our minds about who was telling the truth?

The Review

Sadly, Is This Love? was a DNF for me. I promise you, I gave it a good try. I got to 41% before I stopped. The premise was good. The opposing views of what it is like to go through a break up and the different ways that each person in a couple perceives the events of their relationship. However, both characters were unlikeable, they had no redeeming features, they both seemed to be unreliable narrators and I just didn’t root for either of them.

I can deal with a slow story if I like the characters. Equally I can deal with characters who aren’t very nice if the story is good but for me Is This Love? failed on both.

Is This Love? by CE Riley is available now.

For more information regarding Serpent’s Tail (@serpentstail) please visit www.serpentstail.com.

Title: Teen Couple Have Fun Outdoors

Author: Aravind Jayan

Pages: 208 Pages

Publisher: Serpent’s Tail

The Blurb

It is a day of triumph for Appa and Amma, who have driven home a shiny new Honda Civic to show off to their neighbours in Blue Hills housing colony. But their eldest son Sreenath is behaving strangely, and it soon becomes clear why: a secretly filmed video of Sreenath and his girlfriend Anita has been posted to a porn site, and nearly everyone they know has seen it. The ensuing war – with Sreenath and Anita on one side and their families on the other – becomes a news sensation, emblematic of a wider generational struggle.

The novel is narrated by Sreenath’s younger brother, who is twenty years old and eager to escape his hometown and embrace his brother’s rebellious spirit. But to keep his family together he will have to compromise his integrity and, in doing so, bring buried tensions between him and his brother to the surface. Full of dark comedy and insight about Indian society, shame and the online generation, this is a poignant story about now told by a narrator who will beguile and surprise you.

The Review

I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked up Teen Couple Have Fun Outdoors. I think based on the title and cover I was expecting a lighthearted YA book and since I never read blurbs (I know, I know…) I was in for a bit of a shock.

The story is about a teen couple who (like Ronseal – it does what it says on the tin) have fun outdoors. A little too much fun, you know what I’m sayin’?

All of this is normal for a set-up of a novel but when you factor in geographic location and the culture of the two teenagers (Anita and Sreenath) you begin to understand the impact of their actions.

Teen Couple Have Fun Outdoors in an eye-opening look at cultural traditions and modern day youth sometimes clash and the wider impact and implications that follow. It is, at times, uncomfortable to watch the disintegration of the families and you cannot help get frustrated that neither side (young or old) can appreciate the others perspective.

Overall, it is hard to say I enjoyed the books that was so fraught with drama but it was engaging and the juxtaposition of culture values with modernity was an interesting take.

Teen Couple Have Fun Outdoors by Aravind Jayan is available now.

For more information regarding Serpent’s Tail (@serpentstail) please visit www.serpentstail.com.

Title: Are We Having Fun Yet?

Author: Lucy Mangan

Pages: 320 Pages

Publisher: Serpent’s Tail

The Blurb

Meet Liz: all she wants is some peace and quiet so she can read a book with her cat Henry, love of her life, by her side. But trampling all over this dream is a group of wild things also known as Liz’s family. Namely:

Richard – a man, a husband, no serious rival to Henry.

Thomas – their sensitive seven year old son, for whom life is a bed of pain already.

Evie – five year old acrobat, gangster, anarchist, daughter.

And as if her family’s demands (Where are the door keys? Are we made of plastic? Do ‘ghost poos’ really count?) weren’t enough, Liz must also contend with the madness of parents, friends, bosses, and at least one hovering nemesis. Are We Having Fun Yet? is a year with one woman as she faces all the storms of modern life (babysitters, death, threadworms) on her epic quest for that holy grail: a moment to herself.

The Review

What an absolutely joyous read. Lucy Mangan’s debut novel Are We Having Fun Yet? looks at the mundanities of everyday life and oddly in doing so she celebrates them too.

Are We Having Fun Yet? follows a year in the life of Liz as she notes down the humdrum in her diary. The dishwasher breaking, school events, yummy mummy spats, visits to the grandparents all feature in this epistolary tale. You get the sense that Liz is a little let down by life and she expected a lot more from it. The question of “is this it?” remains unspoken but lingers in each chapter.

We see pure joy when Liz is with her friends and see the person who she was before life, family, marriage and mortgages got in the way. It was funny seeing the contrast but the overall message that I took from Are we Having Fun Yet? is that while Liz feels like she is no longer the person she was and is sometimes dissatisfied with the person she is now she is really an amalgamation of them both and whilst the every day doesn’t seem exciting, contentment shouldn’t be sniffed at.

Are we Having Fun Yet? is a cracking read that will leave you with a smile on your face and will have you laughing out loud.

Are We Having Fun Yet? by Lucy Mangan is available now.

For more information regarding Lucy Mangan (@LucyMangan) please visit her Twitter page.

For more information regarding Serpent’s Tail (@serpentstail) please visit www.serpentstail.com.

Title: An Extra Pair of Hands – A Story of Caring, Ageing and Everyday Acts of Love

Author: Kate Mosse

Pages: 208 Pages

Publisher: Serpent’s Tail

The Blurb

As our population ages, more and more of us find ourselves caring for parents and loved ones _ some 8.8 million people in the UK. An invisible army of carers holding families together. 

Here, Kate Mosse tells her personal story of finding herself as a carer in middle age: first, helping her mother look after her beloved father through Parkinson’s, then supporting her mother in widowhood, and finally as ‘an extra pair of hands’ for her 90-year-old mother-in-law.

This is a story about the gentle heroism of our carers, about small everyday acts of tenderness, and finding joy in times of crisis. It’s about juggling priorities, mind-numbing repetition, about guilt and powerlessness, about grief, and the solace of nature when we’re exhausted or at a loss. It is also about celebrating older people, about learning to live differently _ and think differently about ageing. 

But most of all, it’s a story about love.

The Review

I have read a few Kate Mosse books, loved her Languadoc Trilogy so when I saw that she had released a non fiction book, I won’t lie to you, I was intrigued. Especially when I saw its association with the Wellcome Collection. I have to say, I wasn’t disappointed.

In An Extra Pair of Hands Kate Mosse explored what it is like to become a carer for those who has once cared for you. Having gone through this myself recently I say it is the moment you become an actual adult. You may have a mortgage, a car, be married and even have kids of your own but when your parents become your responsibility the whole axis of your world goes of kilter. And it is terrifying.

Mosse explore this so well in her book looking at the practicalities of looking after a parent, taking control of things you never had to do before but mainly she looks at the emotional side of things both of you as the carer and the parent whose loss of independence and having to rely on others can be hard to accept.

The one thing that Mosse does stress is that through all the hard times and though you may feel really negative about becoming a carer at certain points (we are all human) that it is an absolute privilege to be able to give back to those who have given to us.

An Extra Pair of Hands is a heartbreaking yet uplifting read.

An Extra Pair of Hands – A Story of Caring, Ageing and Everyday Acts of Love by Kate Mosse is available now.

For more information regarding Kate Mosse (@katemosse) please visit www.katemosse.co.uk.

For more information regarding Serpent’s Tail (@serpentstail) please visit www.serpentstail.com.

Genre: Humour

The Gist: A celebration of the kind of people that you find shopping in bookshops.

Small Review: Following the success of Diary of a Bookseller and Confessions of a Bookseller, Shaun Bythell’s third release is a closer look at the customers that he has encountered over the years and how they fall into idiosyncratic categories.

Long Review: In a world full of YouTube videos and handheld computers. one of the industries hit hardest by the advancement of technology was that of the bookshop and seller. However, Shaun Bythell’s bookshop – called The Bookshop – has provided him with both an income and a career as a writer. Shaun Bythell’s career as a book seller has been celebrated in his first two releases Diary of a Bookseller and Confessions of a Bookseller (both brilliant reads) and his latest offering looks at the colourful cast of shoppers who have allowed him to keep his shop open. 

The world of bookselling suffered a massive blow this year during the Pandemic and a lot of small independent businesses have sadly had to close. Strangely, during the pandemic reading increased however, with cheap paperbacks all the more readily available from supermarkets and online sellers again the independent shops have been hit the hardest. 

Shaun Bythell released his latest book Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops during the pandemic and it really is a celebration of the weird and the wonderful. Once again, his book is chock-full of stories and experiences from his time as a bookseller. He reminds us that the kind of service and community that a local bookshop can create can never be found in a supermarket or online. 

What is utterly charming is that all of these things haven’t seemed to change Bythell. Known for keeping people at arms length you actually feel that sensation when you read his book. It takes skill to invite someone into your world but to not allow them to get too close.

You really should buy this book for the book-lover in your life. Just do me a favour and buy locally. Your bookshops need you.

Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops by Shaun Bythell is available now.

For more information regarding Serpent’s Tail (@serpentstail) please visit www.serpentstail.com.