Review of No Wonder by Emma Cooper, plus extract & guest post!

Today on Becca's Books, I'm delighted to be welcoming author Emma Cooper to the blog. Not only will I be reviewing Emma's debut novel No Wonder but I'll also be sharing with you a fabulous extract from the book as well as a brilliant guest post from Emma herself. So there's lots to read & sink your teeth into today!

Title - No Wonder
Author - Emma Cooper
Publication Date - November 24th 2015
Format - Kindle Edition (Provided via author)
Pages - 352

Perhaps now would be a good time to introduce myself? My name is Lucy. Lucy Butcher. There is nothing spectacular about my name except that it is mine. We could take it further and explain that the name itself means ‘as of light, born at first light, light complexion.’ Even my own name mocks me. Light, light, light. I can assure you, there is nothing light about the weight of my bottom. The Butcher part however, is much more in line with my interests and by that, I mean meat. Steak. Lamb. Food in general. 

I’m 31, soft around the edges, a wife, a mother to my three year old - Sam and … well that’s about it really. Surely there must be some other way to describe myself? Give me a minute. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, right, well … a lot has happened to me in the past year and as I sit here wondering when it all went wrong, I remember an ordinary day after I had put Sam to bed and was standing in front of my slightly wonky, slightly grubby bathroom mirror.

When Emma Cooper contacted me via Becca's Books to request a book review, I loved the sound of her novel No Wonder. The blurb, written by Lucy Butcher herself, introduced this story to me wonderfully, and leaving me hanging right on that very last line, I really couldn't wait to dive in and hear all about Emma's roller-coaster of a year.

Emma introduces us to Lucy Butcher and, quite like the blurb shows us, she's a down-to-earth, friendly, bubbly woman who suddenly finds herself in a tricky situation. Throughout this novel, I found myself siding with Lucy as her life took unforeseen twists and turns, and thoroughly enjoyed her personality and life, despite it not treating her kindly. Emma Cooper weaves a number of themes throughout her debut novel, from self-confidence and motherhood, to relationships and betrayal, not forgetting the important of following your dreams and going after whatever it is that you really want from life. Her young son Sam added a gorgeous splash of family life to the story, and together with her friends, this book follows the rebuilding of Lucy as she slowly begins to put herself back together.

Lucy, as a character, is a woman who I'm sure plenty of women could sympathise with. The stresses and worries she goes through as the book progresses are those we all encounter at one point or another. She was fun and charming, a real joy to read about, and I was thrilled to be beside her as she set out to discover herself. There were a number of likeable characters included alongside Lucy, characters who added so much warmth and entertainment to the story, and then a few not-so-likeable characters who I hoped would bugger off sooner or later. Emma really did a fantastic job of bringing this novel to life, taking me down some roads that surprised me completely yet brought out a side of Lucy that would help her move forward and strengthen her. The situations which arose within Lucy's story had me laughing and gasping in equal measure, and I couldn't wait to see where she'd end up by the time to novel came to an end. Emma Cooper had me wavering on whether the assumption in my head was correct, so I was anticipating the ending very much!

All in all, a wonderfully uplifting story involving family, love, friendship and decisions that might just change Lucy's life. From beginning to end, No Wonder by Emma Cooper had me invested in Lucy Butcher and I desperately wanted her to come out on top. Brilliantly written, humorous and satisfying, I'll be keeping an eye for the next book from Emma Cooper.

Becca's Books is awarding No Wonder by Emma Cooper with four stars!

No Wonder by Emma Cooper

‘Wow!’ We both said in unison.
‘You’ve,’ we laughed.  
‘You first.’
‘You copy cat! You’ve had your hair cut!’ I said, amazed at the man in front of me. ‘I mean really cut! You look so different.’ 
‘Really?’ Frank said as he self-consciously shuffled his feet, ‘You don’t think it looks a bit, you know, trendy?’
I burst out laughing, as if looking trendy could be a problem for a twenty-four year old! It was cut really short at the back and had a quiff thing going on at the front. It made him look older and, my god … lush. Gulp. 
‘I think that there was a bit of a mix up?’ He offered me the fiver that Nick had given him.
‘No, no, keep it.’ He began to protest. ‘Really,’ I insisted, nodding frantically.‘I’m sure he is glad to pay someone to take me away.’
Great. Terrific.
Now he thinks that I’m the type of person that needs financial assistance to get me out of their life. Frank looked puzzled.
‘It looks wonderful,’ I reiterated turning the subject swiftly back to his hair.
‘What does?’
My smile stopped still and my body froze. ‘You sounded so excited, I had to come and see what the fuss was about.’ 
Nick clapped his hands and rubbed them together grinning like a maniac. ‘I’m Nick by the way,’ he held out his hand. That’s nice, I thought. Frank carefully shook his hand. ‘Lucy’s husband.’ He added, still holding onto Frank’s hand. Poor little Frank’s face fell.
What I meant to say was Sexy, Funny Frank’s face fell in a very ‘above the age of consent’ way.
‘Not anymore.’ I said under my breath and fixed him with a ‘don’t mess with me’ glare.  
‘Do you need stronger contacts Luce? Your eyes look funny,’ he quipped. ‘So, from what I can gather, your mum has taken you for a haircut?’
‘Nick,’ I warned.
‘It’s a shame she didn’t take you to the opticians because then you would be able to see that,’ he threw his other arm around my shoulder, ‘my Lucy is a few years older than you.’ my jaw dropped as I watched Nick holding on to Frank’s hand. ‘I would think that a pretty boy like yourself would have lots of younger women after him, or is the problem, you know,’ he whispered ‘a bit more,’ he nodded at his crotch ‘personal.’
‘Nick!’ I shrugged off his arm and turned to face him ‘That’s enough.’
‘Actually,’ Frank pulled his hand away and straightened himself to his full height. ‘The only problem
I have right now is you.’
‘Frank, don’t … really, it’s not worth it,’
Jesus, he’s going to thump him.
‘Really?’ replied Nick.
Oh Christ.  That’s fighting talk.
‘Yes.’ Said Frank taking a step forward, ‘in fact mate,’ Wow! I hadn’t really noticed Frank’s height before, he must be 6’1?’’ 6’2’’? Anyway, he was a good head taller than Nick. ‘I think it’s you that has a problem.’ He looked down at Nick. ‘You couldn’t see what was right in front of you. You see, I’ve never met anybody like Lucy.’ He smiled. ‘She’s kind, funny and,’ he shrugged his shoulders, and looked up at the sky as if looking for inspiration. Beautiful? Gorgeous? 
‘Mine.’ Nick completed.  
‘What did I miss?’ asked Harriet.
‘Nothing. We were just leaving.’ 
I turned to Frank who, offered me his arm in a very grown up gesture and escorted me to his, to his... Oh arses.
Suddenly I felt like I was going to Glastonbury.
In a little black dress.

  Frank very grandly opened the door with a flourish. That is after he tried several times to open the
rusty handle before finally doing a very manly and superbly aimed kick at the lock. I heard my front door slam and discretely glanced over my shoulder and could see definite twitching of my lounge curtains. I wondered if it was Harriet or Nick. Probably both of them. Having a good laugh I’ll bet.
I climbed into the van with great difficulty making a very lady like ‘Urgh!’ as I pulled myself onto the - get this - purple and blue tie-dyed seat covers.  
I nodded with enthusiasm that I didn’t feel. As the engine chugged into action, we came to
an abrupt halt as an ear-splitting explosion shook the van to a standstill. I slowly lifted my head from
between my knees and prised my fingertips from my ears.
‘Oops,’ smiled Frank, ‘didn’t mean to scare you.’
‘No, no,’ I sat up and pulled the few strands of hair from my mouth. ‘Not at all, I was just, er, I dropped my, hah! Found it.’ I picked up an imaginary thing and put it in my pocket.
‘I think there is something wrong with the exhaust.  I keep meaning to get it fixed.’ 
I smiled, sympathetically or pathetically I’m not quite sure.
‘It just takes a couple of tries to get going.’ 

  As it turns out, The Van, once on the move, could shift with the best of them. I’d say we almost hit
40mph on the straight. Very impressive. So far, conversation had been a little bit strained to say the
least. I was finding it quite hard to talk whilst breathing in, sitting really straight and stretching my neck. Funny how the rings around my neck, not only resemble those of tree stumps but are also an accurate indicator of my age. I did notice him looking at me a bit strangely a couple of times, but I think that was probably because he was wondering what the hell he was doing with me in his Van.
‘Are you ok?’ I asked for the tenth time as we made our journey of unknown destination.
‘Yep.’  He nodded with a strained smile.
‘Are we nearly there?’
‘Shall I put on some more music?’
‘If you want.’
‘Well do you want some?’
‘I don’t mind.’
We sat in silence for another fifteen minutes until we finally turned into a car park and I watched with horror as we pulled up outside the ‘FUNHOUSE!!!’
I laughed. ‘Ha-ha.  Very funny.’
He grinned. ‘I thought you would like it.’
‘No seriously,’ I swallowed hard. ‘Where are we going?’  
He looked puzzled.  
My heart started to pound.
Oh Jesus Christ, he was seriously taking me to an adult’s playhouse, complete with ball pit, skittles,
trampoline and, more importantly, no bar!
‘But I’m not wearing,’ I glanced down, ‘appropriate clothes.’
'Nonsense, you look wonderful.’

  Oh well, at least he had cheered up.

First of all I would like to thank Rebecca for having me on her blog, the support I have received so far from book bloggers and writing groups has been phenomenal! The question I tend to get asked more often than not is, how do I manage to write when I have a full time job as a Teaching Assistant and have four children?  I thought about this question the other day when my heating broke down, so here it is, a day in the life of a working class mother of four who is desperately still trying to write…

The day my heating broke

At five thirty, I sneak downstairs to make my early morning cup of tea. This is the part of the day that I cherish, the calm before the P.E kit finding, lunch-box filling, permission-slip signing, storm. With bleary eyes, I smear some chocolate spread over six pieces of bread, pour the boiling water into my cup and hunt for the cling film. I return to the haven of my bed, fumble about for my Kindle, and enjoy ten minutes of unbroken peace before my two year old demands chocolate milk at the exact moment that the heating begins to clunk and clang. Sighing, I kiss my soundly sleeping partner on the nose, get out of bed, turn off the heating and grab the jabbering toddler, passing as I do my teenage daughter. She shuffles past me on auto-pilot, mumbles a ‘good morning,’ before slamming the bathroom door with unnecessary force.

  My other half, rolls out of bed, stomps about looking for matching socks and then disappears downstairs to inspect the boiler. Realising that I need the loo (we only have one bathroom) I knock on the bathroom door to hurry up the teenager but the only reply I get is from Ed Sheeran who is ‘Thinking Out Loud,’ of her phone. Children’s TV is blaring out of my bedroom as the toddler sits, twirling her hair into a knot.
‘Sweetie, don’t twirl your hair.’ I sigh knowing as I do that the damage is done. I sit clamping my legs together – yes I know, I should have paid more attention to my pelvic floor exercises - and try to untangle her mass of blonde curls whilst not blocking the view of Peppa Pig.  
‘Mom?’ My thirteen year old son stands sheepishly by the door. ‘I haven’t done my English homework.’
‘Well you need to be more organized,’ I reply.
‘Ahhhhh!  Hurt mine hair!’ Screams the toddler, who in her short life, has somehow managed to acquire a German accent. Ed continues to discover love from where he is, inside the bathroom.
‘Sssake!!’ I hear a definite tantrum from downstairs. ‘Heating is broken!’ He shouts, before a hurried ‘See you later!’ then slams the door, off on his way to work.
‘But the English teacher hates me…’
‘Noooo Mommmy! Mine hair! Mine hair!’
Arses. I look at the clock and realise I have only forty-five minutes to get ready.  Giving up on the hair, I waddle out of the bedroom, bang on the bathroom door again, past my distraught and go to grab my work clothes from the radiator in the hall, downstairs. The clothes on the radiator in the hall downstairs are sopping wet.
Bugger. The heating must have broken last night.

Half an hour later and I’m trying to zip up my pre-christmas skirt and blouse, both of which are straining at their respective buttons. I scrape my hair into a greasy pony tail (Teenage girl and Ed have used up all of the remaining hot water) ignore the wrinkles that need filling and blink on some mascara. Tssst, tsssst, tsssst. The sound of my eldest son as he unplugs an ear for a moment, murmurs something that resembles ‘morning’ and closes the bathroom door heavily behind him. I wrestle with the toddler who, it seems, wants to remain in just her pants all day. I bribe her into her clothes with chocolate buttons while my buttons are threatening at the strain of this ordeal. I throw packed lunches at hormonal teenagers, strap the toddler into the car next to the distraught thirteen year old, who I then deposit outside of the school gates, my stomach clenching at the sight of him trying to ‘man-up’ before his friends see that he’s been crying.

I arrive at work, having passed the now angelic toddler over to my partner and rush into class.
‘Miss Cooper? One of the year six girls has just been sick in the corridor.’
Fabulous. I heave and gag as I clean up the mess during which, the middle button from my blouse flies off. Perfect. I button up my cardigan to cover my newly inappropriate outfit, finish cleaning up the sick and head back into class.

I focus on the year six maths on the white board and make myself concentrate. Arses. I forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer.
‘Miss Cooper?’
‘Hmmmm?’ Twenty-three, curious ten year old faces, stare at me.
‘That’s right isn’t it? If you take the question and turn it into an algebraic equation?’
‘Ah, um,’ I glance at the teacher and then at one of the high achievers who is nodding with a frown at his work. 
‘Yes. Yes that’s what I would do.’ I say with conviction.
The break-time bell goes as I huff and puff my way to the kitchen, realising that I’m late for my toast
making duty. I slam-dunk the bread into the toaster, nip to the loo, wash my hands, run back into the
kitchen (noticing as I do that I had forgotten to put deodorant on this morning) where there is smoke
billowing out of the toaster. Pulling the blackened toast out, I ignore the coughs and splutters of the
children waiting in line and start buttering like an Olympian. Four loaves are toasted, buttered and sold and I just have time to knock back a cup of coffee before returning to class. 

  English and Guided Reading fly by (‘Miss, what does discombobulate mean?’) and then it’s lunchtime. I make a quick cup of tea and then, with a sigh of relief, close the small office door, pull out my memory stick and lose myself in my writing. The squeals and bustle of school life soon disappear from around me as I immerse myself in the new world that I am creating. Most days my characters will make me laugh, bite my lip with concentration and quite often cry as I sink further away from my routine daily life and into the life that I’m creating. My goal is to write of 500 words a day. This might not seem like much, but it is achievable. If I do that every day, as well as a little extra at the weekends, I have a chapter at the end of the week and I’m one step closer to my dream of being a full time writer.

For the last fifteen minutes of lunchtime, I moan at the heating repair company, who can’t come until the next day, while I stuff a sandwich into my mouth. The rest of the day passes without calamity, I finish off my 500 words while the frozen pizza is cooking and by eight o’clock the toddler is in bed, I have a glass of red wine in my hand and my lovely family around me in jumpers and wooly socks.

‘So?’ I ask my son.  ‘What happened about the English homework?’  He looks embarrassed and shakes his head.
‘It turns out that there was no English homework.’ He replies.

So there you have it lovely readers … granted, not every day is as chaotic as this one but this is how I manage to run a family, have a full time job and write. It might not be perfect, but it works.

Emma Cooper is a Teaching Assistant, successful writer and mother of four. Successful because by Sunday of each week, she has written 3500 words (100 of which will be re-written in a state of wine fuelled, self deprecation on Saturday night) has clean pants on and has not caught e-coli from the bottom of her fridge. She has three loves in life: reading, writing and her family, oh, and wine, pizza, films… maybe not three then. Maths is not one of her talents.

No Wonder is her fifth baby, with which she gained more weight during its pregnancy than the other four put together … truly a labour of love.

Emma describes her debut novel ‘No Wonder’ as more com-rom than rom-com, but that isn’t to say that she didn’t cry and fall in love with her characters whilst writing it.

You can find Emma Cooper on Facebook | Twitter


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