Review | The Moon’s a Balloon by David Niven

Unbelievably charming. 5 shining Hollywood stars.

The Moon's a Balloon by David Niven - autobiography cover

The blurb:

One of the bestselling memoirs of all time, David Niven’s The Moon’s a Balloon is an account of one of the most remarkable lives Hollywood has ever seen.

Beginning with the tragic early loss of his aristocratic father, then regaling us with tales of school, army and wartime hi-jinx, Niven shows how, even as an unknown young man, he knew how to live the good life.

But it is his astonishing stories of life in Hollywood and his accounts of working and partying with the legends of the silver screen – Lawrence Oliver, Vivien Leigh, Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor, James Stewart, Lauren Bacall, Marlene Dietrich, Noel Coward and dozens of others, while making some of the most acclaimed films of the last century – which turn David Niven’s memoir into an outright masterpiece.

An intimate, gossipy, heartfelt and above all charming account of life inside Hollywood’s dream factory, The Moon’s a Balloon is a classic to be read and enjoyed time and again.

My take:

I don’t read as much non-fiction as I feel I should, particularly biography and autobiography. So I was stepping outside my comfort zone when I picked up David Niven’s autobiography, taking a chance on it mostly because I’ve always found him charming in films (A Matter of Life and Death is one of my favourites).

And I’m very glad I made the effort because The Moon’s a Balloon is absolutely cracking. “Gossipy” doesn’t do this wonderful series of tales justice. Niven does apologise in the introduction for the name dropping that is to follow and he is not building up false expectations. Every time you think he can’t possibly name a bigger star, he does. Then when he can’t name anyone further up the pecking order of Hollywood royalty he’s rubbed shoulders with, he drops in real royalty and chats with Winston Churchill just for fun.

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Review | Dead Famous: An Unexpected History of Celebrity from Bronze Age to Silver Screen by Greg Jenner

As meticulously researched as it is entertaining. Top stuff! 5 stars.

Dead Famous by Greg Jenner book cover

The (much shortened by me for the sake of brevity) blurb:

In this ambitious history, that spans the Bronze Age to the coming of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Greg Jenner assembles a vibrant cast of over 125 actors, singers, dancers, sportspeople, freaks, demigods, ruffians, and more, in search of celebrity’s historical roots. He reveals why celebrity burst into life in the early eighteenth century, how it differs to ancient ideas of fame, the techniques through which it was acquired, how it was maintained, the effect it had on public tastes, and the psychological burden stardom could place on those in the glaring limelight. DEAD FAMOUS is a surprising, funny, and fascinating exploration of both a bygone age and how we came to inhabit our modern, fame obsessed society.

My take:

I don’t read anywhere near as much non-fiction as fiction. This is simply because I can never read it as quickly and I often find my attention sliding away from the page. However, I really wanted to read Dead Famous because I’m a fan of Greg Jenner, particularly his BBC Podcast, You’re Dead to Me (it’s on BBC Sounds, please check it out, you won’t be sorry).

Jenner excels at making history accessible, entertaining and often funny. I chuckled many times while reading Dead Famous and once laughed out loud at such volume I made my kids jump! (It was at a particularly hilarious pun, if you’re wondering).

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Review | The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon

An entertaining office romance. 3/5 stars.

The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon

Thank you to Headline for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

Samiah Brooks never thought she would be ‘that’ girl. But a live tweet of a horrific date reveals the painful truth: she’s been catfished by her three-timing jerk of a boyfriend.

Suddenly Samiah – along with the two other ‘girlfriends’, London and Taylor – have gone viral. Now the three new besties are making a six-month pact: no men, no dating, just time to focus on themselves.

This means Samiah can finally focus on her exciting career in app development – so having the deliciously sexy and distracting Daniel Collins walk into her office definitely isn’t part of her plan…

But is Daniel really boyfriend material – or is he simply too good to be true?

My take:

I must say first off that 3 stars is a good rating from me! I know some reviewers and authors see it as negative, but I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to fans of the genre.

Now that’s out of the way, The Boyfriend Project is a fun contemporary romance that has a lot going for it. I loved the opening which is described in the blurb above. I was particularly delighted that when the three women find they’ve been dating the same man they join forces and turn on him, rather than turning on each other. And then that they go on to become great friends and a mini support network for each other is wonderful.

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Review | A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

We don’t need another hero.

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes book cover

Thank you to Picador/Pan Macmillan for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

My take:

It’s interesting that the blurb mentions Madeline Miller and Pat Barker. I’ve read The Song of Achilles and Circe (both by Miller) and The Silence of the Girls by Barker. I enjoyed A Thousand Ships more than the Barker but didn’t love it as much as either of Miller’s books.

Barker’s The Silence of the Girls disappointed me because I’d hoped it would retell events from The Iliad from the perspective of the female characters. But halfway through the narrative we switch from the female characters’ viewpoints to Achilles’, and I didn’t think we needed yet another male view on events. Thankfully, Haynes doesn’t do this in A Thousand Ships. Instead, we get an entirely female perspective as we skip between the stories of various characters featured in The Iliad (and, to a lesser extent, The Odyssey), including goddesses.

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Review | The Summer of Madness by Alexander Raphael

A great romantic short story.

The Summer of Madness by Alexander Raphael

The blurb:

My take:

Having taken his long-suffering girlfriend for granted one too many times, Kurt finds himself dumped. When the usual heartfelt apologies and begging fail to win her back he decides to make a grand gesture. And that’s how he ends up reading from Wuthering Heights every day outside the local train station. But will it work?

This is a terrific, romantic short story. It’s something you could download and read on your lunchbreak or even in your tea break for you speed-readers out there. It’s well-written, flows beautifully and is peppered with some lovely comedic touches.

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Review | The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

An entertaining tale about the kindess of strangers. 4/5 stars.

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley book cover

Thank you to Random House UK for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

One green notebook. Six strangers. The chance to start being honest…

Six strangers with one universal thing in common: their lives aren’t always what they make them out to be.

But what would happen if they told the truth instead?

Desperate to confess the deep loneliness he feels, Julian begins The Authenticity Project – a small green notebook containing the truth about his life – to pass on and encourage others to share their own.

Leaving it on a table in Monica’s café, a warm, friendly place where Julian escapes at his most lonely moments, he never expects Monica to find it and track him down. Or that his small act of honesty will impact all those who come into contact with the book, and lead to a life-changing world of friendship and forgiveness…

My take:

In The Authenticity Project the intersecting tales of six people come together in an entertaining story about the impact getting to know those we see every day can have on our lives. In this sense, I thought it was a good idea to base the narrative in London, as in a large town or city it’s easier to be constantly surrounded by people but know none of them and be left feeling lonely and adrift even though you may interact with hundreds of others on a daily basis.

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Review | Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

An entertaining puzzle mystery tailor-made for bookworms. 4/5 stars.

Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson book cover

Thank you to Faber & Faber for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

A series of unsolved murders with one thing in common: each of the deaths bears an eerie resemblance to the crimes depicted in classic mystery novels.

The deaths lead FBI Agent Gwen Mulvey to mystery bookshop Old Devils. Owner Malcolm Kershaw had once posted online an article titled ‘My Eight Favourite Murders,’ and there seems to be a deadly link between the deaths and his list – which includes Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.

Can the killer be stopped before all eight of these perfect murders have been re-enacted?

My take:

This is such a hard book to review without giving anything about the plot away… but I’ll do my best!

Firstly and most importantly, take a look at the list of books on the main character’s ‘Eight Favourite Murders’ list. If you haven’t read any of the titles and would like to read them at some point without having the endings spoiled, please read them before you read this book! The story here pulls no punches and reveals exactly who did it and how for each of the books on the list.

Rules for Perfect Murders is an entertaining puzzle mystery which plays with a lot of the most popular tropes of the murder mystery genre. It will instantly be of particular interest to bookworms: the main character is a book seller, a lot of the story takes place in a specialist bookshop and the plot revolves around the plots of other books. You’re sure to find this an interesting read if you are a fan of classic whodunnits in the vein of And Then There Were None.

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Review | Paris Adrift by E. J. Swift

More exciting in theory than practice. 3/5 stars.

Paris Adrift by E. J. Swift book cover

Thank you to Solaris for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

Determined to escape her old life, misfit and student geologist Hallie packs up her life in England and heads to Paris. As a bartender at the notorious Millie’s, located next to the Moulin Rouge, she meets Gabriela, who guides her through this strange nocturnal world, and begins to find a new family.

But Millie’s is not all that it seems: a bird warns Hallie to get her feathers in order, a mysterious woman shows up claiming to be a chronometrist, and Gabriela is inexplicably unable to leave Paris. Then Hallie discovers a time portal located in the keg room. Over the next nine months, irate customers will be the least of her concerns as she navigates time-faring through the city’s turbulent past and future, falling in love, and coming to terms with her own precarious sense of self.

My take:

Paris Adrift opens with a scenario familar to all sci-fi fans: a disastrous war in the future can only be prevented by travelling back in time to disrupt the events which will lead to humanity’s destruction. However, after an attention-grabbing opening chapter set a few hundred years hence, most of the story then takes place in the Clichy area of Paris in the early 21st century, with brief trips to other past time periods.

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Review | Mystery on Hidden Lane (Eve Mallow Mystery 1) by Clare Chase

An entertaining whodunnit

Mystery on Hidden Lane by Clare Chase

Thank you to Bookouture for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

Seasoned obituary writer Eve Mallow has a new assignment: to tell the life story of famed musician Bernard Fitzpatrick. A chance to spend a few days in the sweet little village of Saxford St Peter, walking the country lanes with her beloved dachshund Gus and meeting new people sounds like a dream. But it turns out that Bernard’s life was much less interesting than his death. On the day she arrives, news breaks that the charismatic cellist was the victim of a grisly murder. Could this quaint English village be hiding a dark secret?

As Eve starts to interview Bernard’s friends and colleagues, she finds that he’d ruffled a few feathers. In fact, from the keepers of the Cross Keys Inn to his own staff at High House, there’s barely a person in town who doesn’t have some reason to hate him… is one of the friendly villagers a cold-blooded killer?

Eve hoped Saxford St Peter would be the perfect escape from her busy city life. But there is darkness even in the most sunlit of settings. And when a second body is found, Eve becomes certain that one of the people she’s met must be the murderer. She has never done any detective work before… but is there something in her notes that can crack the case?

My take:

This is a very classic mystery in the style of Marple or Midsomer. A beautiful rural setting, small village gossip, a “genteel” murder (and by that I mean the death doesn’t involve gallons of blood and serial killers) … you know what to expect! So if you usually enjoy this sort of classic whodunnit, I highly recommend this book.

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Review | Secret Lives of Mothers and Daughters by Anita Kushwaha (@MsAnitaKushwaha)

Happy UK and US publication day!

Secret Lives of Mothers and Daughters by Anita Kushwaha book cover

Thank you to the author and HarperCollins Canada for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb:

Veena, Mala and Nandini are three very different women with something in common. Out of love, each bears a secret that will haunt her life—and that of her daughter—when the risk of telling the truth is too great. But secrets have consequences. Particularly to Asha, the young woman on the cusp of adulthood who links them together.

On the day after her eighteenth birthday, Asha is devastated to learn that she was adopted as a baby. What’s more, her birth mother died of a mysterious illness shortly before then, leaving Asha with only a letter.

Nandini, Asha’s adoptive mother, has always feared the truth would come between them.

Veena, a recent widow, worries about her daughter Mala’s future. The shock of her husband’s sudden death leaves her shaken and convinces her that the only way to keep her daughter safe is to secure her future.

Mala struggles to balance her dreams and ambition with her mother’s expectations. She must bear a secret, the burden of which threatens her very life.

Three mothers, bound by love, deceit and a young woman who connects them all. Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters is an intergenerational novel about family, duty and the choices we make in the name of love.

My take:

Tackling difficult and emotional themes such as the immigrant experience, mental health and identity, Secrets Lives of Mothers & Daughters is a moving story of the affection, obligations and traditions which maintain and break family bonds.

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