Blog Tours · Reviews

REVIEW!! Yours Cheerfully by A J Pearce

Image description: the cover of Yours Cheerfully has a pastel blue title text and an illustration of a typewriter on a pastel pink background

London, November 1941.

Following the departure of the formidable Henrietta Bird from Woman’s Friend magazine, things are looking up for Emmeline Lake as she takes on the challenge of becoming a young wartime advice columnist. Her relationship with boyfriend Charles (now stationed back in the UK) is blossoming, while Emmy’s best friend Bunty, still reeling from the very worst of the Blitz, is bravely looking to the future. Together, the friends are determined to Make a Go of It.

When the Ministry of Information calls on Britain’s women’s magazines to help recruit desperately needed female workers to the war effort, Emmy is thrilled to be asked to step up and help. But when she and Bunty meet a young woman who shows them the very real challenges that women war workers face, Emmy must tackle a life-changing dilemma between doing her duty and standing by her friends.

As I said when I first read A J Pearce’s first novel – the delightful Dear Mrs Bird – some books really do come along at just the right time. And after the rough ride that was 2020, it feels like we could all do with some cheerfulness and support in our lives. So it really is the perfect time for the irrepressible Emmeline ‘Emmy’ Lake and her colleagues at Women’s Friend to make their return in Yours Cheerfully!

It’s all change at Women’s Friend following the departure of the formidable Henrietta Bird. The good-natured Mr Collins has assumed the role of editor and Emmy is now free to assist the understanding and practical Mrs Mahoney on the problem page. More importantly, however, Women’s Friend has been given An Important Task.

Called for a high-level meeting at the Ministry of Information, Emmy and the rest of the Women’s Friend team are tasked with helping to recruit female war workers. Emmy is thrilled to be asked to step up and help but, when she and her best friend Bunty meet a young widowed mother on the train, she begins to realise the challenges faced by some of the women trying their best to do their duty to the country. Before long, Emmy is back on the campaign trail and getting involved in helping her new friends as only Emmy can – but what is she prepared to risk to stand up for her friends?

A J Pearce has done a fantastic job developing her returning characters – and bringing in some interesting new faces. Emmy grew so much during the course of Dear Mrs Bird and, in Yours Cheerfully, we see her develop further as both a young woman and a young journalist. I really empathise with Emmy because she does make mistakes and she sometimes gets herself into a right tangle – but her heart is always in the right place and, whilst she’s becoming increasingly aware that sometimes you can’t just push away your worries, she’s determined to Make a Go of It and do her best to support her friends, her family, and her beloved boyfriend Charles.

I also really loved the focus of Yours Cheerfully, with its depiction of women’s war work and the challenges faced by working mothers – challenges that still haven’t been adequately solved to this day. As with its predecessor, there’s a real sense of the challenges of wartime life beneath Emmy’s cheer and spirit, and the novel doesn’t shy away from depicting the tragedy and often grim realities of the war years.

This is also bought across in the other strand of the novel – Emmy’s relationship with her boyfriend, Captain Charles Mayhew. Although now stationed back in England, the demands of the war place constant constraints on Emmy and Charles’s relationship – and there’s the ever present possibility of redeployment to contend with. I loved how Pearce balanced Emmy’s pride in Charles with her worries about him being sent back into the front lines of the fighting.

As with Dear Mrs Bird, there is an accomplished lightness of touch in Yours Cheerfully. A J Pearce has, yet again, walked the line between the realities of life on the UK’s Home Front in World War II and the uplifting, hopeful story of Emmy and her friends with great skill. As I said in my Dear Mrs Bird review, the deft lightness of touch that allows such a story to work on so many levels is a real testament to the skill of the author.

The story does work perfectly well as a standalone so readers unfamiliar with Emmy could certainly dive straight in here – although I’d recommend picking up the first book anyway because you’d be missing a treat otherwise! Fans of Dear Mrs Bird are, however, sure to adore Yours Cheerfully – it really is the perfect sequel, and an ideal novel for picking up and diving into to take your mind away from the challenging times we find ourselves in.

Yours Cheerfully by A J Pearce is published by Picador and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to Camilla Elworthy at Pan Macmillan and to Picador for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

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Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! The Lock In by Phoebe Luckhurst

Ellen and Alexa have survived hangovers, dodgy landlords and most of their twenties together.

But can they survive this?

One Saturday morning, while nursing The Hangover from Hell, a flooded kitchen leads best mates Ellen and Alexa, and hapless housemate Jack, into their attic to turn off the water supply.

But when Ben – Alexa’s date from the night before – walks in, the door slams, the handle breaks and all four of them are trapped.

Cue The Worst morning-after-the-night before.

As the hours tick by, Ellen nurses her sore head and watches as her best friend falls for this handsome stranger.

Only for a horrifying realisation to hit. She is sure she knows Ben from somewhere.

Frantically searching her memories, Ellen tries to piece together exactly how they’ve met before.

When a distant memory finally comes to her, she desperately wonders: could Ben really be who she thinks he is . . .

And more importantly, what on earth is she going to do about it . . .

Every so often you need a breath of bookish fresh air to reinvigorate your reading life. For me that often means turning to genres and books that I don’t read regularly – rom-coms being one of my ‘refresh’ go-to genres. Add in a locked-room element, some nineties nostalgia, and some all-too relatable protagonists, and you’ve got a book that – for me at least – was bookish fresh air and reading fun times stuck between two covers.

The Lock In is the story of millennial housemates Ellen, Alexa, and Jack. Ellen and Alexa have known one another since university – and having survived many a night out and the perils of early adulthood, are now negotiating love, landlords and early career perils in the lively London suburb of New Cross. Housemate Jack, meanwhile, is the slightly wobbly third wheel to Ellen and Alexa’s longstanding friendship.

When Ellen wakes up with the mother of all hangovers to find the kitchen under several inches of water, its the start of a very unusual Saturday. Deciding to search for a stop-cock in the attic (the fuse box was there, makes total sense right?), Ellen and her housemates soon find themselves locked upstairs – along with the charming but worryingly familiar Ben, Alexa’s Hinge date from the night before.

Stuck in the attic with no phone signal, no way out, and a kitchen that is still rapidly filling with water, the novel follows Ellen, Alexa, Jack, and Ben as they attempt to MacGyver their way out of the situation – and keep their relationships intact whilst doing so.

There is a strong element of the ludicrous about The Lock In – the novel is a, at its heart, a Generation Rent farce and, as such, it casts a comical side-eye at many experiences that will be familiar to those who grew up in the nineties, attended university at as the new millennium dawned, and are now rattling through their thirties and wondering when they’re supposed to be ‘grown up’. From MSN Messenger conversations to the CBD period products, Phoebe Luckhurst successfully takes aim at many of the staples of millennial culture whilst also conveying the concerns a generation trapped in cycles of rented housing, dating apps, and entry level jobs.

Given the premise, you do have to suspend disbelief a little to fully appreciate some aspects of The Lock-In. Even at the height of my university years, I doubt I’ve had begun my hunt for the water stop cock in the attic, for example. But get past the more ridiculous elements of the premise – and some of the deus ex machina that conveniently help the plot along it way – and there are plenty of laughs to be had here. I frequently laughed out loud at the situations the hapless housemates found themselves in, and I really enjoyed the interactions between the four main characters.

I also really liked the characters – despite not always seeing them at their best! Whilst I related most to Alexa, I found Jack’s awkwardness and Ben’s good natured-ness charming. Ellen – probably the most complex of the four – provides much of the comedy in the novel, with her slightly spikier personality and ability to place her foot firmly in her mouth at all times. Whilst not always likeable, her fallibility is very relatable – and her decade-long friendship with Alexa is really well portrayed.

Whilst the plot is a little thin on the ground in places – there really is only so much you can do with four people trapped in an attic – The Lock In whips along at a brilliant pace. I read it over a weekend and it would make for the perfect holiday read. The ending was, admittedly, a little disappointing – not because of what happens but because I wasn’t sure how much some of the characters had developed as a result of what happens to them during the book.

That said, I’m not sure you pick up a book like The Lock In for character development and serious meaningful life changes – or at least, that certainly wasn’t why I picked up this book and so those less developed elements didn’t bother me. I wanted a fun read and The Lock In certainly provided that in spades – I chuckled my way through Alexa, Ellen and Jack’s escapades and regularly laughed out loud at certain all-too-relatable paragraphs (reading too much into MSN Messenger conversations? Totally been there).

As a light-hearted and feel-good read about the perils and pitfalls of contemporary life, The Lock In is a perfect comedy balm. As I said at the start of my review, it was a breath of bookish fresh air in my reading life and I’d recommend it to anyone else looking for a feel-good rom com for the millennial generation.

The Lock In by Phoebe Luckhurst is published by Michael Joseph and is available as an ebook now, with hardback publication on 22 July 2021. The book is available to order/pre-order from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 30 June 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content – and follow #TheLockIn to find out more!

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR REVIEW!! Hire Idiots by Prof. I. M. Nemo

HireIdiots-ForWeb Front‘This is a work of fiction.Any resemblance to the living or the dead is purely coincidental and ought to make you ashamed at the comparison.’

PROMINENT PROFESSOR STABBED TO DEATH AT KINGSLEY COLLEGE

Unfortunately, the murder may get lost in the confusion of new vice presidents, marketers, focus groups, assessors and protesters as the administration tries to make education profitable.

There’s no time for mystery! Professor Clarence Van Dyke finds himself bewildered by the changes, but determined to get to the bottom of the killing. He wants his friend to rest in peace – or perhaps he just wants to spend more time with the attractive Detective Riordan. But isn’t he the primary suspect?

I don’t often choose to review ‘funny’ books. Humour is such a selective thing that it can be difficult to covey on the page so I’ve often picked up a novel that is billed as ‘hilarious’ and it’s failed to raise even a smile.

I couldn’t however pass up on the opportunity to read Professor I. M. Nemo’s (yes, it’s a pseudonym) Hire Idiots, a darkly comic novel set in the world of academia. As a PG student, it’s a world I know well and so I figured I’d get the in-jokes – and dark humour tends to be my sort of thing. And I did, indeed, get a good chuckle out of the book on more than one occasion.

Brimming with snark, Hire Idiots takes a sidelong glance at the world of academia, using the murder of a prominent (and, therefore, intensely disliked) academic as an opportunity to take a dig at the commercialisation of education and the ridiculousness of long-held academic traditions. Along the way there’s also some joking at the expense of the murder mystery genre, the study of English Literature, and the many stereotypes associated with university education.

Some of the jokes did, I have to admit, fall a little flat for me. In particular, whilst I appreciate that it is meant to reflect the personality and insecurities of the main character, I didn’t like the fact that nearly every female character is introduced via a description of how physically attractive (or otherwise) they are.

Nor did some of the characters come across as particularly well-rounded – but then this is a novel that is meant to ridicule the one-note nature of some parts of academia and is deliberately using that to create its satire. As I said at the beginning, humour is a very individual thing, so what didn’t land for me may well have others in peels of laughter.

And a lot of the book did make me laugh. To get the most from the jokes, I think some experience of higher education helps – although there’s quite a lot of digs at the general absurdities of workplace culture as well. And Hire Idiots is, for me anyway, definitely at its strongest when it is sending up the absurd nature of corporate ‘Newspeak’ and the sort of  ‘Blue Sky’ thinking that sees thousands spent on marketing whilst no one thinks to put pennies towards actually delivering the services being advertised.

Plus there’s a tidy little murder mystery that is filled with some nice jabs at the tropes of the genre as well.

A quick read that whips along and neatly satirises both the absurdities of academia and current trends in working culture, Hire Idiots is sure to offer a chuckle and raise a wry smile amongst readers looking for an amusing way to pass an evening or two.

Hire Idiots by Professor I. M. Nemo is published by Fox Spirit Books and is available now in paperback and ebook from all good booksellers and online retailers including the Fox Spirit store and Amazon

My thanks go to the publisher for providing an e-copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, as well as to Emma from Damp Pebbles Blog Tours for inviting me to take part in, and organising, this blog tour. The tour continues until 29 September so check out the other stops along the way for more reviews and content!

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