Book Review: Buy Buy Baby by Helen Mackinven

Buy Buy Baby

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Having read and enjoyed Helen Mackinven’s first book Talk of the Toun, reviewed here, I had positive expectations for this one. I wasn’t disappointed.

The plot is essentially a quest. It is narrated in alternate chapters by two women Carol and Julia. They are both on the same mission. They want to have a baby. But both of them are single and have given up on finding a long term partner with whom to have a family. Then a very practical solution presents itself but it comes at a cost.

Although set in a (fictional) suburb of Glasgow, with characters who speak in the local Scots dialect, this novel has widespread appeal. The characters are recognisable. Some are likeable, others not. All of them are realistically flawed.

The book could have been a very bleak read but the author uses a light touch and just enough humour, albeit some of it black, to ensure the mood and message are hopeful. Yes the loss of a child, loneliness, marital infidelity, and an unflinching portrayal of domestic violence are in there, but the main characters are most definitely not hopeless victims. They are feisty, warm and determined to help themselves. They also come across as authentic.

The other characters, too, are very well drawn as are the relationships between them. There are the ups and downs of best friendships, the rubbing along of sisters, the bond of aunt and niece. There’s the annoying, snobby neighbour and even a long-suffering dog. Carol’s boss, Isobel comes across as an absolute gem and ‘Paedo’ Pete makes quite an impression too.

I particularly liked the mothers of Carol and Julia both still very much involved in their grown-up daughters lives and both demonstrating that the love and support you offer your children is lifelong and doesn’t end when they become adults.

Yes, this is a book with motherhood in all its forms very much to the fore. And it’s a story of hope and resilience in the bleakest of situations. A most satisfying read.

Type of Read: Afternoon on the sofa, bedtime, on the commute, on holiday – this one ticks lots of suitability boxes.

 

Back Cover Blurb:

What price tag would you put on a baby?

Set in and around Glasgow, Buy Buy Baby is a moving and funny story of life, loss and longing. Packed full of bitchy banter, it follows the bittersweet quest of two very different women united by the same desire – they desperately want a baby.

Carol talks to her dog, has an expensive eBay habit and relies on wine to forget she’s no longer a mum following the death of her young son. Cheeky besom Julia is career-driven and appears to have it all. But after disastrous attempts at internet dating, she feels there is a baby-shaped hole in her life. In steps Dan, a total charmer with a solution to their problems.

But only if they are willing to pay the price, on every level…

 

Buy Buy Baby is published by Cranachan Publishing and is available in paperback and as an e-book.

Book Review: Talk of the Toun by Helen Mackinven

Talk of the Toun 2Genre: Contemporary Fiction

It’s 1985 in central Scotland in this pre-coming of age story by debut novelist, Helen Mackinven. And it’s an impressive debut.

A natural storyteller, Mackinven presents an, at times, claustrophobic (in a good way), sharply observed story of growing-up, of the early teenage years of Angela and Lorraine, of the ups and downs of their intense friendship, of moodiness, menstruation and the mysteries of boys. All the 1980s stuff is there, ra-ra skirts, Frankie goes to Hollywood and Cagney and Lacey on the telly.

There’s a lot that’s colloquial and local in this tale, but the themes are universal in terms of both place and era. The characters at times aren’t particularly likeable, but that’s because they’re human failings are very much on show. And the author skilfully uses their flawed humanity to make them interesting and real. It’s to the author’s credit that the reader comes to care very much about Angela and Lorraine. Read More »

Fame and Fortune from Writing

Helen Mack MonetIn this recent series of posts – ‘Writing for Love or Money’ I wanted to explore what motivates writers to write, how money can be made from writing even without a traditional publishing contract – and to discover if money is ever the main motive. As part of the series I have invited several authors to contribute a guest post on what motivates them. The contributors write very different  things and for different reasons. I hope you enjoy discovering more about all of these talented writers.

 

The first guest post is from Helen Mackinven. Helen has recently completed an MLitt in writing. She’s a fellow Scot and twitter friend of mine. She is currently working on her first bestseller. You can find out more about her over at her own blog here http://helenmackinven.wordpress.com You can also find her on twitter at @HelenMackinven

She originally posted the piece below on her own blog in June last year.

THANK YOU HELEN! – over to my guest:

Fame and Fortune from Writing by Helen Mackinven

“There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream.”  But the inspirational quote makes no mention of how much chasing a  dream might cost in pounds and pennies. Like the dress stashed at the back of the wardrobe (it was a bargain, and I’ll get lots of wear out it, honestly!), sometimes it’s best not to admit to the true cost of spending money on something you love.  And I’m all for listening to Jessie J’s advice, “It’s not about the money, money, money… Forget about the price tag.”

But it was still a great feeling this week to receive the first cheque I’ve ever been given for writing.  Woo Hoo! I won 2nd place in the Roy Wood Short Story Memorial Competition run by Alloa Writers group.

You can read my story, ‘Practice Makes Perfect’, here.

And my picture  was in, drum roll please, the Alloa Advertiser (okay it’s not the Arts section of the Glasgow Herald but I’m all for keeping it real and supporting local newspapers striving to report what matters most in the community, e.g. page 3 has the headline, ‘Bin torched in Alloa’ and page 5 ‘Lamb bitten’ yes, these are actual news story, even as a fiction writer, I couldn’t make them up).

So over and above being a media star in Clackmannanshire (I daren’t go near the Hillfoots in case I’m mobbed for autographs), the £50 was most welcome as a very small step towards offsetting the thousands of pounds I’ve spent  on following my writing ambitions.  To date, there’s been Arvon residential courses x 2, numerous day courses/conferences/workshops, author events, books, not to mention the biggies giving up the day job to do the MLitt course. If I added up the cost, eh, well… let’s not go there! I don’t think hubby would want to see the actual figure in black and white.

On Twitter this week, lots of folk I follow made me laugh with the hashtag #thingsnottosaytoawriter and one of the most common phrases was a variation on “So what do you do for money?” I could relate to that, especially after ignoring the voice of reason and giving up my day job.

But once I’m a successful writer, I’ll be able bask in my fame and fortune, right? And I don’t need to worry about bagging that rare elusive beast-a traditional publishing deal; I can always self-publish and cut out the middle man.  The phenomenal commercial success of trash books like Fifty Shades of Grey should surely spur me on (or turn me on if the ‘mummy porn’ hype is true).

So what am I waiting on? I could upload the two books I’ve already written today, sit back and rake in the profits…

EL James is making more than $million EVERY WEEK!!!

Maybe not, in fact it’s highly unlikely that I would become rich by going down the self-publishing route. A recent article in the Guardian, ‘Stop the press: half of self-published authors earn less than $500’ made it very clear that the millions of dollars made by the likes of EL James and Amanda Hocking are the exceptions.  If you’re like me and want to be a writer, you’re not in it for the money (although as Tesco says, every little helps).