20 October 2008

Book Review: Baby Proof by Emily Giffin

Claudia has never wanted children, and she was worried about finding a man who would share her feelings on the subject. But when she meets Ben and finds out he thinks the same as her, the pair marry and are happily settled. But soon their friends start having children, and Ben starts to change his mind about babies. However, Claudia isn't willing to change hers and she faces one of the toughest decisions of her life. Will she be willing to lose Ben over it?

Considering most stories in the "chick-lit" genre you seem to read either seem to be about unexpected pregnancies, the woman wanting babies and their husband not, or families as a whole, this book seemed really different to me and I was interested to see how Giffin was going to tackle the issue of the female character not actually wanting to have children, which after all is something that does happen in real life. Also, considering that Giffin has 3 children herself, I wondered how much she was going to be able to get into the head of a character who didn't want the family the author has.

Although both characters had the same ideas when it came to children, it was pretty obvious that one of the characters was going to change their mind about this in order to give the novel direction and Giffin has done this change in a subtle manner. It didn't happen immediately, you could see hints that Ben was thinking about babies, and I did feel a lot of sympathy for him when he couldn't get his wife to even think about babies with him. Ben is well written, and is clearly meant to be the more sympathetic of the 2. I couldn't really warm to Claudia, I found her to be quite stand-offish but although I didn't agree with it, I could understand her personal thoughts about not having children.

I found this book cleverly plays on your emotions because for most people, the natural thing to do one you've found your love is to settle down and have a family with them. But Claudia doesn't want the family. The odd thing for me was she didn't seem to have much of a reason for not wanting children, she just didn't feel maternal enough. I feel if there had been a stronger reason for it I could have felt a little more involved in the book but as it happened I couldn't stop myself feeling that she was being a bit selfish, and I know that's quite wrong of me! Giffin used the sad lives of Claudia's sisters to emphasise the situation as well, as one sister was having IVF to have a baby, and the other has 3 children and her marriage is in tatters. This is what made me dislike Claudia a bit more, but again you can't hate her just because of her own feelings.

Giffin's first person narrative from Claudia's perspective allows you to delve right into the mind of Claudia from meeting Ben to the pair struggling with their differences towards children later on and the following story. As with her previous novels, its really well written and an enjoyable read, especilly beause it tackles an issue which I haven't seen widely in this genre. The characters were nice, although I would have liked Ben to feature a bit more but its understandable why he didn't. This is a very readable book which tackles a good subject in an excellent way, and I would recommend it.

16 October 2008

Book Review: The Ballroom Class by Lucy Dillon

"When three couples join a new ballroom class, they're all looking for some magic in their lives.Lauren and Chris are getting married, and Lauren's dreaming of a fairytale wedding with a first dance to make Cinderella proud. Not wanting to be shown up on the dancefloor, her parents Bridget and Frank have come along too. They normally never put a foot wrong, but Bridget's got a secret that could trip them up unexpectedly. Meanwhile Katie and Ross are looking for a quick-fix solution to their failing marriage even though neither is quite sure who's leading who anymore.As friendships form over the foxtrot, the rumba rocks relationships, and the tango leads to true love, all the students in the Ballroom Class are about to face the music and dance..."

As a fan of dancing shows such as Strictly Come Dancing, the recommendation on the front and inside few pages from Arlene Phillips, judge of Strictly, pleased me and made me think that this would definitely be one for those of us who love to watch dancing shows. I found Dillon has written a book here with a great insight into the world of dance, although perhaps not as much as would be suggested by the title and cover of the book. I would have liked to have a lot more about Angelica's life as a dancer, and the short parts where the book flashes back to this time are too few and far between for me!

The dancing which occurs in the book is good, but isn't anything overly special. She does use a bit of technical language, but for those of us who don't understand it, don't worry as it is explained. Because of the characters, most of the dancing is very simple and you almost learn the dances along with them which I think made it a fun read. It did make me want to jump up off my seat and do a little box-step for myself a few times, but I managed to restrain myself! The great description of the dance nights held at the hall, the costumes and music did bring it all to life in a wonderful way, and I so much wanted to be there with them.

Dillon's characters are all well-written, and you can see feel compassion for all of them, despite their individual circumstances. I found myself caring for all of them, and wanting them to all work it out and be happy! I particularly felt for Katie who was struggling as a working mum, and I can only imagine how hard it was for her to leave her children. The relationship between her and Ross was so well written, you do feel like a fly on the wall in their home, which shows how good Dillon's writing is! The other characters were just as enjoyable, with Lauren and Chris' mad wedding plans coming to life and Bridget's inner turmoil affecting all parts of her life. Of course, I can't not mention Angelica, the dance teacher, and her story is an intriguing one! Her story gets revealed as the book goes on, and this little mystery is enough to keep you reading up until the end! Brilliantly done by Dillon.

This is a novel that really gets to grips with human relationships, their ups and downs, but of course love that will get you through anything, as long as that love is there. As well as the woes, there are plenty of laughs courtesy of Lauren and mother-in-law Irene's elaborate wedding plans, and these two never failed to make me smile! The dancing element really served to bring all of the characters together in one place, and to develop the individual storylines, and I loved the dancing scenes. They were so well written, you could clearly visualise that big old Glitterball on the hall ceiling, and the swishy dresses they wore for the classes! A really wonderful piece of escapist reading, a definite much for not just fans of dance, but also for those who love a fantastic read! For a debut novel, this is superb, and I do hope Lucy Dillon continues to write brilliant books. 

Rating: 5/5

You can buy The Ballroom Class as a paperback or as an eBook now.

15 October 2008

Book Review: Any Way You Want Me by Lucy Diamond

Sadie is happily settled in her relationship, engaged to her lovely fiancé Alex with their 2 young children. But Sadie is convinced that there must be more to life, and begins to exaggerate the truth about her life in emails, meeting new people and catching up with old friends. But things take a massive twist for Sadie when she embarks on an affair with Mark, a distant friend. Can Sadie juggle her own family life, and the secret life she is hiding from her children and Alex? And will Sadie ever learn things don't always go to plan when it comes to relationships and families?

This is most definitely a chick lit book, but where it differed for me was the way the whole thing was written, and the attitude towards Sadie throughout the book. Being written in the first person, you got to hear Sadie's innermost thoughts and desires, and also her hates as well, and to be honest, from these I thought she was a pretty horrible person. At the beginning, she clearly loves her children and Alex, but soon the cracks begin to show and it was from then I really disliked her. I don't normally take a dislike to characters in books, but I made an exception for Sadie!

The idea for me that a woman could threaten her family life by having an affair is terrible, and perhaps this is why I couldn't like her. I didn't like the way she thought about her life, about her fiance and how she seemed to think she was stuck in a rut with her life... sacrificing a few personal freedoms is all part and parcel of being a mum, and I just couldn't understand why Sadie was so negative about her life. The author has clearly thought about the turns she wants this novel to take, because everything seems to happen to perfect timing and you could definitely guess what was going to happen, it was slightly predictable.

The characters themselves were all very well written. Although I didn't like her, Sadie's narrative was good fun to read, she was very bubbly and friendly sounding, and she certainly didn't hold back on her feelings. The way she described her other half Alex made him sound lazy and horrible, but I think he was probably a very nice guy! Mark was the only other main character, and I could smell him a mile off, not a nice chap at all. I could see how he was going to develop and was frankly a bit annoyed that Sadie couldn't! Overall, none of the characters were particularly nice people, all deceiving each other and not being honest, but I guess that is what some people can be like!

Although the main characters were good, there were far too many sub-characters for me to keep track of and this affected my enjoyment of the book a bit. I did find myself flicking back through the book to see who someone was and this was a pain. There were too many of Sadie's friends who popped up to irregularly for me to know or care about them, her sisters again weren't there much and I easily confused them, and there were too many of Alex's colleagues to keep track of. This was a pity, as with less characters, I may have enjoyed the book a bit more.

Overall, this is an okay chick lit book which does the theme of the book on a slightly different way to other books in the genre, but for me it wasn't something I could relate to at all, and consequently I found myself disliking the characters because of their actions. The story was relatively predictable, with a few bits along the way which surprised me but nothing major. A good writing style really saved this book for me, and I have got Diamond's second novel to read, so I do wonder whether it'll be an improvement on this. A good book, but definitely has its niggles for me.

Rating: 3/5

8 October 2008

Book Review: The Second Husband by Louise Candlish

Kate Easton is divorced, and lives with her 2 children, 17 year old Roxy and 9 year old Matthew. They are struggling financially so decide to split their house up and have a tenant. Davis Calder decides to move in, and he and Kate strike up a friendship which soon becomes something more. But Kate is about to unleash a secret set to devastate the whole family, and rock it to its core. Can relationships survive the fall out, and will Kate ever get over the betrayal?

I thought the premise of the book sounded good, but judging by the tag line on the cover of the book, and the blurb on the back, I realised after I started reading it that I had probably guessed the twist that was going to appear in the book. When I realised this, I was actually pretty annoyed because this sort of thing shouldn't be spoilt, let alone on the front cover of the book. I think its a bad decision to have used the tag line they did as it is definitely too obvious (and I have asked a few people about this who have agreed), so for this I have had to take stars off the book rating overall.

Story-wise, this is the first Louise Candlish novel I had read, although I do have another of her books on my shelf, I just haven't gotten round to reading it yet. I found her writing very enjoyable, and the first half of the book was very enjoyable, covering all the background that sets up the story well. Maybe the background was a bit too long, she could have got to her destination much faster but I actually enjoyed the read. It was the second half to do with the secret I had more of a problem with. As I had guessed the secret, there was no shocking moment, and the rest felt like a bit of an anti-climax and I think Candlish could have done a lot more with these characters and the situation.

The characters themselves were well written and I did find myself thinking all the right emotions towards them. Kate, the main character, was a very nice woman and you could warm to her and sympathise with her situation and dislike of men due to her ex-husband. Alistair, her ex, was a slimy creature although towards the end of the book I did find myself liking him a bit more. Davis was completely suspicious, I didn't like him at all and you could tell something was a biit funny there. And finally, Roxy and Matt her children were typical child charcters, well written and did their job in the story well enough.

To be honest, although I had guessed the story, I was quite cross at Kate for not guessing it! There were really obvious hints being dropped throughout, and some of them were so blindingly obvious, it was quite daft she didn't suspect something. I don't know why Candlish chose to do it this way, because I found her non-suspicion a tad implausible and it did impair my enjoyment of the novel because of it. I feel that what could have been a good excitable plot turned into a bit of a farce. Key plots twists are revealed on the cover, the main character doesn't get anything until its front of her face, and it seemed to take a bit long to get where it was going, with the end half of the book really a bit rushed.

Don't get me wrong, this is a good enough read, because Candlish has a nice easy to read writing style, but I just feel there are too many factors which annoyed me to give this book a high star rating. I am so disappointed that the publishers chose to put the tag line they did on the cover, and consequently the novel didn't have the shock factor that I believe was intended. Good characters make up a bit for this, but not enough to save the story completely. A real shame, but still a good read if you have the time.

Rating: 3/5

2 October 2008

Book Review: It's A Kind Of Magic by Carole Matthews

Emma and Leo are complete opposites. Leo is unreliable, a bit childish and doesn't take life, love or his job all too seriously, yet his girlfriend Emma is strict, reliable, tidy and enjoys her life being in order. This is why, when Leo turns up at Emma's 30th birthday drunk and incredibly late, she decides the pair are splitting up. But on his way home, a newly single Leo bumps into a lady on Tower Bridge named Isobel. Strange things then start happening to Leo and Emma, but neither can work out what is going on. Emma realises she wants Leo back but is it too late? And just who is the mysterious Isobel?

I haven't read a Carole Matthews book before, so I was interested to see what her story writing was like, and how well she wrote her characters. As you can see from the plot, there are two main characters, Emma and Leo. You are meant to like both of these people, as opposite as they are, but I just couldn't warm to Emma as much as I could Leo. Although Emma is the character who is the most wronged, I just found her slightly annoying and a bit irritating, although I can't really put my finger on why! Despite all his bad points, Leo is the loveable rogue of the story, and it's his character which kept me reading the book even when in parts I was getting a bit perplexed by the whole thing.

I don't want to say too much about Isobel as I don't want to spoil it for anyone who is going to read this book, but she isn't the sort of character I would expect to find in an adult's novel to be honest. I can see that Carole Matthews has gone for a different type of novel here, but for me it just didn't really work properly. The main storyline is an enjoyable one, but it is the twist involving Isobel which made the story less believable and bordering a bit on the ridiculous, which is a shame. I like my novels to be a bit realistic, with good characters and a good writing style, but Isobel and her storyline seemed out of place in this book unfortunately.

Matthews' writing style is very likeable and easy to read, which made the book an enjoyable and pleasant read for me. As she had two main characters, she has used two different writing styles to differentiate between the two. This wasn't confusing at all, and actually made it easier in places for the reader. Emma's chapters of the book are written in the first person, so we get a much deeper and more personal look at her feelings, whereas the Leo and Isobel chapters are in the third person, like an observer's point of view. Despite this, Leo is well-written, and probably the most realistic character in the book, and his feelings and personality are well captured by Matthews. Leo's friends Grant and Lard are two fantastic secondary characters, likeable and very funny, and the friendship between the three is very touching, particularly towards the end of the book.

It's A Kind of Magic was definitely not what I expected from this well-known Women's Fiction writer, but it was still an enjoyable read all the same. It's a good basic storyline, one which has been done many times before but this one has a surprising twist, even though I myself wasn't keen on it. 'Matthews' clearly had strong ideas on where this book was going, and although I did enjoy it, the Isobel element of the book was just a tad too strange and out of place for my liking, but I am sure there are plenty out there who will love it! The book made me smile a lot, it is a happy and upbeat book, and this adds a charm to it as well. It's very well written, with likeable characters, good narrative voices and nice small chapters (93 in total in the book!), it's an easy and pleasant read.

Rating: 4/5

19 September 2008

Book Review: The Model Wife by Julia Llewellyn

Poppy Norton is a bit of a cliché, even she admits it. She was unlucky in love until she met News Presenter, father of 3 Luke Norton. The two begin a relationship on the sly, and accidentally Poppy falls pregnant. Luke decides to leave his wife Hannah to set up home with Poppy but soon finds out life with a young model and their newborn daughter doesn't quite match up to his twenty-year marriage. Fast forward 2 years, and Poppy's fed up of being ignored and left at home with daughter Clara so looks for a job herself. Things are not rosy in the Norton garden, but are they going to get better or worse?

I was quite surprised with this book to tell you the truth, it really didn't pan out as I had expected it to. From the start, it seemed like it was going to be a run-of-the-mill chick lit book about Poppy's life as a stay at home mum and perhaps getting her relationship to work again with Luke. But the book wasn't quite that at all, it was much more focused on Poppy as a person, and the effects that the affair and consequent marriage and baby had on everyone around them, including their friends and families.

I did like the character of Poppy at first, but for some unknown reason I found myself disliking her as I got further into the book. I did feel sympathy for her being married to a man who worked all hours God sent, and was often alone with her baby, but lets face it, that is life for a lot of families! I don't know why the author made such a big deal of that when it's a normal occurence. Daddy2harry works all day, comes home and Harry goes to bed, and I don't sit feeling sorry for myself like Poppy does!

But everything else in the book was enjoyable and fun to read. Luke's ex-wife Hannah has a column in a national paper in which she routinely slags off her ex-husband and his new wife, whom she fondly names 'the Bimbo'. These columns, which are dotted throughout the book are very funny to read, and provide a welcome relief from Poppy's moaning and whinging! Cleverly, the author has written this in the first person like a real newspaper article, with the main story being written in the third person so more like a story and made it easy to differentiate as you were reading.

I did enjoy the turns that the book took throughout which mirrored how things do indeed change in real life for people. Poppy managed to get her own job, and the story changed from there and I felt it was much more enjoyable. Poppy became much more edgy and interesting, and the way this affected not only her but Luke as well was good, and to be honest he deserved it! It was nice to see both sides of Poppy; the loving wife and mother, and also the party girl and model. The change of pace was a good feature of the book, and kept me very interested as you could tell something was brewing and I was desperate to know what it was! Cleverely done by the author, and a nice twist too.

The other characters throughout the book were also brilliant and added a lot to the story. Thea was Luke's colleague at the news station who has had a lifelong crush on him which has been unrequited. She's a strong career woman but when it comes to her private life, she's a mess. I wish she had been featured more in the book as I loved her scenes, and think she would have been good as a main character. Luke, Poppy's hubby, was just awful and God knows why any woman would be attracted to him to be frank! Hannah only appeared via the columns but was fantastic and it was nice to see her getting on with life.

At just under 500 pages, this is a bit longethe average chick-lit books I read, but the author has managed to fill all of those pages with a fantastic story which kept me interested all the way through. The way she changed the characters throughout was very good, and I liked this as it totally changed the book. Also, I liked how she set the scene of the book, and then went 2 years into the future to really explore how the relationship has changed, rather than trying to do it all in a matter of months. Good characters, a well written story and a very entertaining read. Recommended to chick-lit fans.

Rating: 4/5

16 September 2008

Book Review: Pastures New by Julia Williams

Amy Nicolson is a young widow who has recently lost her boyfriend and father of her son Josh in an accident. She wants to make a fresh start away from the memories and the mother-in-law Mary so moves to Nevermorewell, a small village miles away from home. Amy soon settles into village life and life on the allotments and makes some new friends for her and Josh along the way. Amy is just settling in when local Doctor Ben Martin stumbles into her life and leaves her all confused. Will love begin to grow on the allotments? Or are the secrets that bind them pull them apart?

I know that the story doesn't sound like the most exciting in the world, and it certainly isn't, but what it is is a lovely, heart-warming story of love, confidence, discovery and trust all stuck together by the wonderfully indulgent and enjoyable setting of Nevermorewell and a cast of lovely characters. The author Julia Williams has really opened the eyes of the reader when she created this little world, and totally allows you to lose yourself in her words and feel yourself being sucked into lifen the allotments with a warm cuppa in your hands!

This was what I really loved about the story to be honest. I do love a book where you can just close your eyes and imagine yourself there, sitting alongside the characters, and this is exactly what this book delivered on for me. I could imagine the little houses of Nevermorewell, the muddy but cared for allotments, and Amy's little terraced house, and this just added to the charm and authenticity of the story itself. Williams really has the knack for writing places that you can instantly imagine yourself in from the first few pages of the book.

As well as wonderfully written settings, Williams has created a likeable and funny group of characters to follow through the story. Being the main character, Amy was the main focus of the book and she was definitely a loveable character. I sympathised with her circumstances, losing her partner and having to leave all her memories behind, but this made me warm to her much more quickly and I therefore wanted things to work out for her. Together with her son Josh, the pair made a lovely family and Williams has written a brilliant relationship between the pair which is touching and heart-warming.

There are other characters throughout that play their own important part as well. Harry, an elderley gentleman who owns an allotment near Amys, is Amy's first friend in Nevermorewell. He also hits it off with her son Josh, and he features strongly through the book and is the sort of neighbour we would all want! Ben is Amy's love interest and close friend, a real man's man who loves his GP practice, his motorbikes and looking after his friends. He was so much like Amy that the pair were perfectly written and seemed so perfect for each other! Caroine is the town vamp and an awful woman but equally laughable, she provides a bit of welcome comic relief into the book. And finally Saffron, Amy's new business partner and stressed mother of young children, she's trying to rebuild her marriage as well as her business.

But what I really loved about this book was just the way it plodded along in its own little pace, but it never seemed boring! It was a slightly predictable love story with a somewhat inevitable outcome but that didn't bother me at all. I could really sit down and immerse myself in this fictional little world, and I came to really care about these people and this village. Williams clearly has a knack for writing things that will touch people, and this is certainly a great debut novel. The third person narrative is enjoyable and easy to read, sweeps all over the countryside and its ways of life, and draws you into Amy's world of love, discovery and finding your old self. Definitely recommended, a lovely read especially for these coming cold winter months, one to curl up with.

Rating: 5/5

4 September 2008

Book Review: A Good Girl Comes Undone by Polly Williams

She's on a roll. A glamorous job at a glossy magazine. A home of her own. A cute live-in boyfriend. Annie Rafferty has worked damn hard for all of it. If demands are made, she delivers. If people need her, she's there. And if she suspects something is missing? Well, she ignores it. 

But cracks start to appear. Her boyfriend leaves his job, and Annie paying the bills. Work descends into a handbags-at-dawn struggle for survival, and there's a new exec in the office - rude, opinionated but strangely attractive - questioning exactly what she's trying to prove. As Annie discovers her true desires, her meticulously planned life begins to unravel and darker, unexpected forces pull things in a shocking new direction . . . 

Sometimes you have to lose everything to get what you really want. 

As soon as I started this book, I knew that I was going to really enjoy it. It was much more along the style of her fantastic debut which I just couldn't put down with likeable characters, a great story and a brilliant first person narrative which just draws you into the story immediately and without taking too much time to warm up and really get going. Williams narrative is very engaging, a friendly voice which is fun and easy to read, without being too ridiculous in any aspect. As was the case in her previous novels, we are also introduced to the other 2 main characters within the first chapter, given a really good outline of the main character herself and a stonking first chapter which makes a great start to the book.

Williams has a knack for writing great characters which are realistic, funny and endearing to the reader. She knows what demographic are going to be reading her books, which is generally going to be woman aged between 18-40 years old, and thus makes her characters appeal well to the this range. The main character of Annie is a career-girl, proud of her job and proud of working her way through the ranks, loves her boyfriend and their brand new house, and also loves her family. She's got it all, and despite this, she's a lovely character who isn't at all unlikeable. She talks about her job at length in a funny humourous way, and you can really visualise her workplace and the characters there as well. The other characters are also well written, from her out-of-work boyfriend Nick who seems to resent Annie for having a job she loves, to her hopelessly in love sister Georgia who crashes at Annie's house after her latest love crisis.

The book goes along at a great pace, throwing you in at the deep end with Annie and Nick, and then moving along as their life continues and their roles chop and change. Williams has grasped human emotion fantastically in this book, from Annie's exasperation at Nick's lack of motivation through to Nick's annoyance at being nagged to get a job, and even to Annie and Georgia's parents, particularly their father who wants the best for his girls and will speak his mind to Nick about not having a job! She's created a great balance of humour within the story, mainly based around the offices of Glo! and Annie's job there, and also love, sorrow and confusion. Williams explores these throughout the book in a gentle way which is in keeping with the storyline, and never too heavy either.

The book is a great read, and I just wanted to keep reading it to find out what was going to happen to Annie and how things were all going to turn out. Williams has this talent of making you want to read on, engrossing you with the story and the characters, giving you twists and turns along the way as well to keep things fresh. Her narrative is a joy to read, with great descriptive writing, yet very realistic narrative as well, endearing you to the main character fantastically well, so you feel you almost know her! I loved the story, although it sounds like it may not be the happiest, it is an uplifting book which is a fun and fantastic read for anyone who loves a great story of change, love and finding yourself somewhere you didn't expect. 

Rating: 5/5

24 August 2008

Book Review: Platinum by Jo Rees

Hell hath no fury like three women scorned...

Peaches Gold - a tough-talking, knockout brunette. She's LA's most infamous madam, with a flourishing business and ambition to match.

Emma Harvey - a happily-married, multi-talented redhead. She's English society's darling, but her latest investment has just put her whole future at risk.

Frankie Willis - a super-smart, adventurous blonde. She's the new stewardess on board a luxury mega-yacht and is about to find love where she least expected.

Three very different women. One common enemy...

Yuri Khordinsky - the ruthless, all-powerful billionaire.Whatever he wants, he gets.

But this time he's crossed the wrong women.

And now it's revenge time...female style.

Being a story that has 3 main characters, the author Jo Rees has written the book in the third person and has chosen to dedicate a chapter at a time to each character, allowing us to get a good glimpse into their lives and the background story before diving into the main crux of the story. This allows us to develop a likeness for all 3 of the characters, show us their differences and engross yourself a bit in the unbelievably glamourous lives of the three women. I immediately warmed to Frankie, found Emma a little hard to like but loved Peaches because she was so outrageous! All 3 are incredibly different, each living in a different part of the world; Frankie on the boat in the Carribean and Marrakesh, Peaches in LA and Emma in England, adding to the sumptuousness of the novel!

You can probably tell from the storyline that this isn't a novel set in the "real world" with realistic characters - each of them lives a life most of us could only dream about, but I quite enjoy this style of book actually! It's nice to occasionally be transported out of your day to day life of being a mum around the world to Marrakesh, to the Cannes Film Festival, the dark depths of Moscow and the staely homes of London all in one novel as well! Rees really does a great job in bringing these places to life in the story, making you feel as if you are there with the three women, living the life of luxury! And this is what I really loved - the author has a great ability to make you dream about these places and really visualise them, which makes the novel just a fantastic read overall.

The story is primarily a revenge story, but I will say that it did take a while to get into the whole reason for the revenge against Yuri, and what exactly happened to the women to make them want revenge. In a way, I preferred this as you could get to know the characters well enough, and then when they were wronged, you wanted them to win against Khordinsky's character and therefore you get passionate about it, despite how silly it might seem. I did wonder how Rees would be able to weave 3 totally different characters together in a way which would work, but she has done just that. They knit nicely together when required, but not in a sickly sweet way, purely in a business/revenge sense and this works for the purpose of this book.

I didn't expect to like this book to be honest, because it sounded somewhat unrealistic and a little bit silly, but once I started reading it, I just didn't want to put it down! I was desperate to know what was going to happen to the women to make them want revenge, and then after that, I wanted to see how they were going to exact their revenge on him. The characters were strong, likeable women who were incredibly well written, the places in the story were well written and I loved travelling the world in one book.There were nice characters, horrible Russian mafia characters, American FBI officers and posh society friends, and each of them helped make the book a rich world that the reader can really imagine and get involved in! It's a fun read, a real page turner and I'd definitely recommend it as a great summer read!

Rating: 5/5

21 August 2008

Book Review: Lessons in Heartbreak by Cathy Kelly

"Izzie Silver left the small Irish town of Tamarin behind her for life in New York. She's big, beautiful, and dreams of her own model agency for plus-sized women (what her grandmother would call healthy.) Life is good -- but she's just broken one of her cardinal rules and fallen for a married man. On the other side of the ocean, Izzie's aunt Anneliese discovers the pain of infidelity for herself. Her husband Edward has been having an affair with her best friend, Nell. Devastated and angry, Anneliese is facing the realisation that she is now alone. When Lily, the matriarch of the family is taken ill, the family must put their own problems aside. Izzie, intrigued by her grandmother's past begins to discover things she never knew about wise, calm Lily. Annaliese feels despair build as Lily, the one person who could have helped her, starts to slip away. And the lessons each of the women learns -- past and present -- bring both joy and heartbreak. Lessons they will carry with them forever."

The book flips between New York and Ireland, whcih makes for interesting reading, but Cathy Kelly has such a way of writing that you don't struggle with the movement in the book, and it flows incredibly well, so much so that nothing seems out of place and blends so nicely. The book is written in the third person, which I think enables the ease of movement in the story and allows for the author to delve into the thoughts and feelings of each character without it taking over too much. Oh, and as well as the global movement, we also move through time in the book, flipping back to Lily's childhood in World War riden Britain. It was actually these flashback chapters I enjoyed most in the book, as they were so detailed and you could totally lose yourself in Lily's world, amazingly written.

The plot of the book isn't the most cheerful, and consequently doesn't make for the happiest of reading either. As the title suggests, the book is about heartbreak, and how this has taken its toll on each of the character, and how we are all affected in different ways. Izzie for example, she works like a trogan to get through her grief, whereas Annelise is much more emotional and delicate, and this really comes through when you are reading. Lily on the other hand, is much more of a mystery and you have to wait until you are quite a way into the book for the story about Lily's heartbreak to become more obvious, but it truly is a real love story.

The characters are very well-written and I enjoyed the chapters based on each of the women. Strangely, although they are all family, the characters are rarely in scenes together through the book, and somehow this works. We get to see them as individuals, and also as family members, and the true characters really shine through. They are all different, yet fundamentally the same and they are so realistic and believable, you can just feel their emotions with them and sympathise. It is a talent of Kelly to write in such a way where you feel emotionally involved with the characters, and her realism really hits home when reading her novels.

I did enjoy this book a lot, although I must say I felt relieved when I got to the end of the book. At 464 pages, the book is pretty long, and although it is doesn't drag and bore you, it is quite tiring and draining to read, as the books really pulls on your emotions and draws you in. It isn't the happiest read, because the characters are going through heartbreak but at the same time, it is incredibly realistic and readable, and also very consuming. If you enjoy an engrossing novel which leaves you feeling a bit drained but also that you've been on a real journey, I'd recommend that you tried this one. A great read, if a little depressing, but it makes you grateful for what you've got! 

Rating: 4/5

14 August 2008

Book Review: Out Of The Blue by Belinda Jones

Selena Harper always thought she had the perfect job: working on a luxury cruiseship, she's whisked around the world from Alaska to Zanzibar with excitement and adventure awaiting her in every port. But as she prepares for her latest shore-leave - and finds herself unexpectedly deserted by her newly-engaged best friend - she begins to wonder if life on the ocean wave really is her dream come true. Why is she the only one who isn't settling down? And how can she be feeling homesick when she has no home?

On a whim, she agrees to spend a week on the idyllic island of Crete, in the company of Alekos, a man she's convinced is an incorrigible womaniser. Steeped in mythology, the island soon starts to work its magic on Selena - and, more worryingly, so does Alekos. Is he really the cad she's always thought him to be? Or could it turn out that his home is where her heart is?

I've read 2 of Belinda's previous novels, both set in the USA and I adored both of them, devouring them both in just a couple of days, loving every word that was written and just escaping into the fantastic writing of Jones and her wonderfully descriptive scenery which creates the worlds her characters live in. Luckily for me, this book was exactly the same, with vivid descriptions of people, places and feelings all adding up to a hugely enjoyable and brilliant escapist novel.

I've never been to Greece, or indeed Crete, yet after reading this, you almost feel like you were there along with Serena and Alekos! Jones really seems to have the knack of describing a place in such vivid and vibrant ways that it immediately sets the scene in your head and you just want to immerse yourself right into the warm sea and soft sand. Her descriptions of the windy roads, old fashioned buildings, monasteries and general way of life in Crete opens up a new world to the reader and allows you to escape into Serena's world for the time you are reading the book.

The story itself isn't really anything new, or that hasn't been done before in the chick-lit genre. Right from the beginning really, I could sense how things were going to end up, it was just how the story would get from a to b that was the fun part. The story had a few twists and turns along the way but ended up at the expected conclusion (for me anyway) but that didn't quash my enjoyment of the book in any way. In fact, it was Jones' writing skills that make her books so enjoyable for me. She gets right into the heart of the story, transporting you along with the characters, on a rollercoaster of feelings and beautiful scenery along the way.

The characters were all well-written, as I've come to expect from Belinda Jones' books and make the story all the more readable. Serena was a very good leading lady, taking the reader along her emotional turmoil with her, although I did find her a tad indecisive and annoying at times! She really seemed to have a funny approach to Alekos's character which did infuriate me slightly, but I guess this is just part of the puzzle of the story unfolding along. Alekos was clearly the arrogant man you're meant to hate at the start but whom you warm to throughout the book and Jones has written him very well and I quickly found myself warming to him. Other characters include Greg, an English tourist whom Serena befriends, Serena's best friend Jules and a few minor characters throughout the book. All together, they are a good cast and weave a good story well enough to actually get into the characters.

The book is actually written in the first person from Serena's point of view which allows the reader to get right into her mind and follow her all around Crete and Athens with amazing descriptions along the way. As usual, Jones has created another marvellous escapist bit of chick-lit which is guaranteed to bring a little bit of sunshine into your mind despite this awful English weather. I could fully imagine myself sitting along with Serena on the Crete beach, with the sea lapping and the sun beating down, and to tell you the truth, I was really disappointed when this book ended! It was a joy to read, wonderfully descriptive detail of Greece, a nice set of characters, and a fun story overall. Definitely recommended, and another hit from the fantastic Belinda Jones!

Rating: 5/5

7 August 2008

Book Review: Glitz by Louise Bagshawe

"The four beautiful Chambers girls are rolling in money, thanks to the trust fund set up by their reclusive, super-rich uncle Clem. But when he summons his nieces to his mansion in the Seychelles to announce his engagement to Bai-Ling, a woman young enough to be their baby sister, the girls know the party could be over.

Can they stop the wedding? What happens when four pampered princesses have to cope without their trust fund? Who will learn to stand on their own two feet... and who will fall?"

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Glitz - Louise Bagshawe
All that's Glitzy isn't Gold - Glitz - Louise Bagshawe Fiction Book
Newest Review: ... the money is turn up every Christmas to his place in the Seychelles and pretend to like each other for 2 weeks. But when he summons them u... more

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All that's Glitzy isn't Gold
Glitz - Louise Bagshawe

mummy2harryMember Name: mummy2harry

Glitz - Louise Bagshawe

Date: 04/07/08
Advantages: Glamourous storyline
Disadvantages: Not nice characters, some plot flaws, not her best
When I first started reading Women's fiction a few years ago now, Louise Bagshawe was one of the first authors I read, and it was really her books which made me love the chick-lit genre. I have all of her earlier material on my bookshelf upstairs, and they are all fantastic stories which are so well written. Sadly her last few books have had a massive drop in quality and enjoyability, so when I heard about her latest novel, I decided I'd get it from the library instead of buying it like I usually do with her books.

Athena, Juno, Diana and Venus Chambers have a life to be envied of. All 4 live off of their rich Uncle Clement's trust fund money, all being given £500,000 a year to live on. But their perfect lives are about to be given a shake up, when old Uncle Clements announces he's found a bride and is going to stop their Trust Fund as of the day he marries her. Trouble is, Clement's future bride is a twenty-something Thai woman, and the Chambers cousins are sure she is only after their Uncle for his money. Can the cousins who can't stand each other unite the force Bai-Ling away from their Uncle, and keep their money?

Upon reading the plot, I was quite pleased, thinking that it sounded like a very good storyline which was somewhat back to the standard of Bagshawe's older books. As I began reading, the book went straight into the story, firstly introducing us to Uncle Clem and then to the Chambers cousins. The book is written in the third person, which is a necessity with 4 main characters in the book and another major character alongside these. It works well, with a good narrative that is easily readable and not too taxing on its reader. Bagshawe uses great descriptive language when talking about the Chambers women, thoroughly describing everything from their hair, to their make-up to intricate details about their clothes and a lot of designer name-dropping.

As you can tell by their names, the Chambers women aren't your average thirty-something year old ladies. Each of them is unique, with their own ambitions, and none of them really get on. Juno lives in London with her husband Jack, a wannabe chef, but her marriage is struggling and Juno doesn't know how to handle it. Her sister Athena is an incredibly clever woman, working at Oxford University trying to become an Oxford Don. Their cousins are Venus, a bimbo actress trying to hit the big time and circulating as one of London's IT girls, and her sister Diana, another trendy It girl who loves to be seen in the right places. They are not written about in a nice way, perhaps intending for you to dislike them. I didn't warm to any of them throughout the whole book, they're all pretty nasty women, selfish and all about the money.

Despite not liking the characters, I found that Bagshawe has really created a great atmosphere around these women, really transporting you into the world where these women can afford anything they want, without having to worry about the cost of it or where its come from. She's clearly researched this lifestyle, with great detail of society parties, sumptuous dinners and expensive labels of clothing and make up. She's also gone to great length to create a great world for these women, with wonderful expensive homes which are greatly detailed from decor to the paintings. This gives a great setting for the story, and the world in which the Chambers women lives is well written and easy to imagine thanks to this.

Despite the well written lives and surroundings of the Chambers women, there was just something about this book which still doesn't live up to her earlier novels that I really loved. The story, although a good plot, just didn't really seem to go anywhere. It was fairly obvious from the beginning how things were going to go, and I had guessed the ending from about halfway through. There was just nothing special about the book, its characters which, although they were written fairly well were all unlikeable and I think it was this fact which made my enjoyment slightly less than it would have been if I'd liked the characters. I think every book should have a main character which is likeable and the reader can somewhat relate to, but this book just didn't have that. The characters lived in a world I couldn't relate to at all, they were all horrible women and even Bai-Ling and Clement weren't great either.

I really expected to enjoy this book, espeically as I liked the sound of the plot so much. But as is the case with the 2 novels previous to this one (Sparkles and Glamour), there has been something missing from her books which I don't feel makes the book as good as it could be. The story is quite standard, with no major twists or turns to keep you reading, and the third person narrative is fairly basic and not exactly involving. The characters are well written but are horrible people and so not likeable in the slightest. It's disappointing as a fan of Bagshawe's work, but its readable enough for a light read.

Rating: 3/5

6 August 2008

Book Review: The Love Of My Life by Louise Douglas

"‘I miss him with every breath and heartbeat. He should have been my happy ending. Instead, he is the sad beginning to my story.’ Olivia and Luca Felicone had known each other nearly all their lives, but when they fell in love as teenagers and eloped to London, they broke the hearts of those closest to them. Luca’s parents run Marinella’s restaurant, the colourful hub of life in the otherwise bleak north-eastern seaside town of Watersford, and his mother, Angela, has never forgiven Olivia for causing such a rift in her beloved family. On a freezing January night Olivia’s life is shattered when she learns that Luca has been killed in a car accident on the M1. She is left with nothing, and after suffering from weeks of overwhelming grief, she abandons her job and returns North to where Luca has been buried in Watersford, just to be close to him – even though she knows she will not be welcome at Marinella’s. Olivia’s chance meeting with Luca’s married twin brother, Marc, leads to the realization that he is experiencing a loss almost as painful as her own. Their desolation draws them into an affair which both know has no future, but fills the space where Luca should be. It is a course of action that can only spiral out of control, and when it does, the consequences are both explosive and cruel."

When I read the plot of the book, I thought it sounded very interesting, and I was intrigued to see how the author was going to tackle the issue of a widow having a relationship with her brother-in-law, and also in trying not to make the lead character of Olivia hateable because of it. Amazingly, Douglas has succeeded in making the story believable and yet allowing you to still like Olivia, and understand why she is continuing in her actions. Olivia is a very likeable character, and because of the way the story is written, you do feel very sorry for her, and almos develop feelings of hatred towards the Felicone family for their treatment of Olivia.

The thing that made this book unique for me was the way in which the author has chosen to approach the story. The book starts in the present day, Olivia telling us her husband has died and it begins around the day of Luca's funeral. But after this, the book goes into Olivia's past, beginning with her as a small child and developing with Olivia as she grows into a teenage girl, living a life with boys, love, sex and the Felicone twins. Douglas has chosen to write both the past and present together in the book, with alternating chapters making the book easy to read. One chapter is set in the present, and immediately following that is another chapter on the past, somewhat explaining things mentioned in the previous chapter or earlier in the book.

It is the use of this style of writing which keeps the mystery element of the story alive. From the start, it is obvious that the Felicone family don't like Olivia, particularly Marc's wife Nathalie, but we have no idea why this is. Throughout the book, I was shocked at the family's treatment of Olivia, and the book was fairly slow in revealing the truth and why things were so bad between the two groups. I did get a bit annoyed at having to wait for the vast majority of the book to be read before we found out the truth about why things are so bad, but it does add something to the story, a real mystery and certainly makes you want to keep reading on.

The characters are cleverly used in the book. Olivia is he narrator of the book, telling us the story in the first person. She is likeable and you really feel for her after the loss of her husband. The Felicone family make up the bulk of the other cast members. Luca's mother and father, Angela and Maurizio are Italians, and work hard, but Angela clearly has a problem with her daughter-in-law although we don't know why. There are 3 other brothers; Stefano, Carlo and Fabio who we don't really meet other than briefly at Luca's funeral, Marc's wife Nathalie, a horrible woman who I hated throughout the book and had no sympathy for at all, and of course Marc himself. I wanted to dislike him for taking advantage of a grieving widow but I just couldn't. The writer has made him a sympathetic character and this is why the relationship between he and Olivia works so well, you completely understand why it is happening and the feelings behind it. As well as the Felicone's, we also briefly meet Olivia's sister Lynette and her awful mother, a character I couldn't stand but was well written.

Considering this is a debut novel, I absolutely loved it. Although the blurb of the book proclaims that the book is about the affair between Olivia and her brother-in-law Marc, I felt this wasn't the total plot. With the story being told in alternate chapters and different points in Olivia's life, we are led through many different stories, feelings, emotions and stages of Olivia's life. We learn about her friendship with the Felicone twins growing up, how it changed, and how things turned out so awfully between the couple and the family. The author has really grasped all human relationships and emotions in this book, keeping you guessing about things all the way. It was a joy to read, and I just couldn't put it down. I was desperate to find out what had happened between Olivia and the Felicone's, and the story which led up to this was so detailed and well told, you felt like you were right in the middle of it with Olivia. An amazing debut, and one I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone. Superb.

Rating: 5/5

You can buy The Love Of My Life in paperback and as an eBook now.

11 June 2008

Book Review: Late Night Shopping by Carmen Reid

Uber-busy Annie Valentine - mum to two demanding children and personal shopper in a swanky London fashion store - is now intent on setting up a shoe and handbag empire of her own, and she'll do anything to get there.

But what about her adorable new man? As someone who wants nothing more than a quiet life, Ed is shocked to discover Annie staking their home on her success, and now their relationship is on the line.

Is Annie's surprise remedy - an extravagant friends and family holiday to Italy - really what they all need? Especially when a dashing Italian businessman promises to fulfil Annie's every dream . . .

This book is a sequel to Carmen Reid's bestseller, The Personal Shopper. We return to the character of Annie Valentine who is where we left her at the end of the pevious book. She's loved up with Ed, a handsome teacher, and her 2 children Lana and Owen. Annie's job as personal shopper is still going well, but Annie is determined to branch out on her own, even though Ed isn't too keen. But even so, Annie sets about creating her own business, involving a small family holiday to Italy, a rather suave Italian business-men and family fights galore. Can Annie make it work, and will she and Ed survive the turbulent times?

You might be thinking why am I reading this book if I didn't like the prequel, but I must say, I'm not one to write someone off after just one book, so I did want to give Carmen Reid another try...and of course, this being a bargain helped! Anyway, I will straight away that I really did enjoy this one a lot more than the first one, I just felt it read a lot more pleasantly, the characters were nicer and it was just a much better read in my opinion. I feel that the main reason for this was because the main character of Annie was a lot funnier and much more likeable in this book than the last. I liked how her relationship with Ed had mellowed her out a bit, and therefore the story between these two was believable and a really nice love story to read.

It is almost as if Reid has taken the characters from the previous novel, taken a good look at them, given them a shake and created this book about them. Annie's children feature quite heavily in this book, and she has given a great view of a 16 year old stroppy teenage girl and a shy musically gifted 10 year old lad. Again though, I found Annie's attitude to parenting a tad annoying and a bit lacklustre, although the way she has developed Ed, Lana and Owen's relationship is well done, and a credit to step-parenting in novels. As well as this family, Annie's sister Dinah and daughter Billie are in this book much more and are again nice enough characters.

My favourite bit of the book was definitely the section set in Italy, which I would say is the middle third of the book. What is supposed to be a nice family getaway quickly turns mad courtesy of Annie, but it keeps you wanting to turn the pages because of the twists and turns and you as the reader can see exactly what Annie is getting herself into, yet she seems blissfully unaware. Despite being able to see what is going to happen, it was still enjoyable because Annie was hilarious and so naive that you couldn't help but like her and want to find out how she was going to deal with everything. Descriptions of Italy and its countryside were well done, leaving you wanting to be there basking in the sun drinking Italian coffee!

For me, this book was a great improvement on its predecessor and left me feeling sad as I turned the last few pages. If you enjoyed The Personal Shopper, you will definitely like this one so I'd definitely get hold of a copy! Annie is as mad as ever, but it works within the story as everything else seems so relatively calm, it just reads well and almost seems right. The relationship between Ed and Annie is much more detailed and realistic, and I really did love the character of Ed. The mother and children bond is also explored more and Carmen Reid has really approached this in a good way. Shopping as ever is very prevalent in the book, with lots of designer names being dropped, descriptions of gorgeous clothes, accessories and Annie's love of this really comes across. It was a great book to read and I thoroughly enjoyed it, I'm glad I did give Carmen another Reid!

Rating: 4/5

22 May 2008

Book Review: The Glamourous Double Life of Isabel Bookbinder by Holly McQueen

There's an aroma of fresh coffee and warming bagels as gorgeous bestselling novelist Isabel, 27, welcomes us into her sunny apartment, light glinting off the huge Tiffany diamond studs in her ears...

For Isabel Bookbinder, there's no doubt about where she's headed.

Reasons to become a bestselling author:
- Opportunities to swish new Super-hair and captivate the lovely Joe Madison
- Prove to father that Really Am Not a Waster
- Leave column inch-measuring days at the Saturday Mercury behind

Potential setbacks:
- Don't yet have 'Yoko' bag, as carried by arch rival with book deal, Gina D... or honed size eight figure (useful for interviews)
- Hmm. Am also at the centre of a major political sex scandal
- Paparazzi are doorstepping my parents and boring boyfriend Russell

Of course she hasn't yet quite got round to putting pen to paper yet, but Isabel's not one to let a little thing like that stand in her way ...

The plot does indeed sound a bit silly, and this is my general consensus of the book really. Although this book definitely falls into the chick-lit genre, I am sure that it isn't as intelligent as most books I read, and I just found it all a bit too silly and childish for my liking. I do like books which can make me laugh, but this just tried too hard. Books such as the fantastically wonderful Shopaholic series are funny, not at all patronising and very enjoyable. This one didn't match up, and left me pleased it had finished.

My main problem with the book wasn't the writing style, or even the plot, it was the main character herself. Isabel Bookbinder was just plain annoying, and very childish to be honest. I think the author has tried to make her likeable and funny, but I just didn't take it to be that way. Isabel's first person narrative through the book was very well written, with good description throughout the book, but some of Isabel's personal thoughts and things were incredibly annoying. Also, I found Isabel's thoughts about her novel and how successful she was going to be, and also her stupid rantings about personal shoppers etc.....aagghhhh they really annoyed me.

But perhaps the most stupid and annoying thing about this book happened at the end of the chapter, each and every chapter throughout the book, and annoyed me so much, I simply stopped reading them when I got about halfway through the book. These endings to chapters were pretend magazine articles, letters or lists that Isabel had written about her being a super successful author, or things she had to do or letters to MI5 begging them not to kill her. They were ridiculous, stopped the flow of the book completely and just didn't add anything to it at all. Just thinking about it now makes me cross, and glad that I've finished this book!

The idea of a writer writing about a wannabe author is a good one, after all they can draw on their own personal experience and inject a little realism into the book. But the scrapes and incidents that Isabel found herself in were quite unbelievable and a bit silly to be honest. There is a fair amount of humour in the book, some of which is funny, but the rest sort of washed over me a bit, leaving me a bit cold. As well as Isabel, we do meet her family, mainly her parents. Her mother is a bit obssessive about her daughter and her job, and her father is a horrible man thinking whatever his daughter does isn't good enough, leaving you wondering if this is why Isabel has turned out as strangely as she did.

The book started off quite positively, introducing us to Isabel, her colleagues at the newspaper at which she works and Isabel's ideas about being a novelist, but I found it quickly desended into farce and into a book which I didn't find enjoyable to read at all, and actually couldn't wait to end. Although the narrative was well written, and kept the author on track for the entire storyline, weaving throughout the story well, the character was not completely likeable and some of her ramblings became incredibly annoying and made me want to stop reading, which was a real shame. It is chick-lit but sadly chick-lit at its worst, with unbelievable characters, ridiculous additions to the story and a horrid lead character. I wouldn't recommend this book, and its a disappointing debut for Holly McQueen. 

Rating: 1/5

15 May 2008

Book Review: Revenge of the Wedding Planner by Sharon Owens

'Revenge of the Wedding Planner' is the story of Mags Grimsdale, a 40-something woman who works at Dream Weddings, a small wedding planning business run by her best friend Julia Sultana. But Mags isn't your average 40-something mother of four - she's a goth with long black hair, has gargoyles in her house and is keeping a secret or two. Julia sends Mags' life into disarray when she dumps her latest boyfriend, can Mags keep it all together - her family, friendship and of course, Dream Weddings?
The plot sounded pretty interesting to me, and was pretty good to start with. Mags was quite a fun character to read, and her first person narrative made very pleasant reading, which stumbled along, describing well Mags' life and her thoughts as well. However, that's really where the good things about this book ended for me. All of the other character in the book (perhaps apart from Mags' husband Bill) were all hideous - they were whiny, selfish, rude and generally not very nice people! Julia was the worst offender, and you have to wonder why Mags' would still stay friends with someone who treats her like that! She was very selfish and quite a user towards Mags. Her background is explained (quite extensively I must add) by Mags early on in the book, but this didn't make me any more sympathetic to her, quite the opposite actually. I think it was supposed to evoke sympathy from the reader, but just didn't from me.

We also get to meet 2 of Mags' children, Alexander and Alicia-Rose. Her daughter leaves the book a little way through (not through death!) so we don't see much of her but Alexander on the other hand, seems to be the son from hell. I feel Owens has rather exaggerated with his character, to the point of being so incredibly annoying I found myself wanting to skip his parts because he was so irritating to me! Other characters through the book included Mags' sisters, Jay; Julia's boyfriend, and the odd wedding couple.

Now, the awful characters isn't my biggest gripe with the book. I had a real problem with the amount of narrative in the book! Usually when I read a book, I expect to have an equal amount of dialogue and narrative from the author, but this book was so heavy with the narrative, it became very hard going after a while. I found myself checking how many pages there were until the end so that I could move onto another book because reading it at times was a real chore, and I was just bored with it. Dialogue betwen the characters was quite rare, and when it did occur, it was pretty short, and it soon launched back into its pages and pages of Mags' narrative once more. Owens' writing style itself is pleasant enough, Mags being quite funny to read, but the long narrative just wasn't sustainable from the characters and just went on far too long for me, and therefore really dented my enjoyment of the book overall.

The story was pleasant enough, with a couple of twists and turns throughout, not to mention a quite explosive ending, but it just didn't really do it for me unfortunately. I felt it was a little bland, far too narration-heavy, and the title didn't really make much sense for me - where was Mags' revenge?! I couldn't see it anyway. I was really looking forward to this book but I was actually relieved when it was finished. I hate reading a book when it feels like a chore, and that is what this was for me. Very disappointing, I'm quite unsure about trying any more of her work after reading this.

Rating: 2/5

2 May 2008

Book Review: The Birds and The Bees by Milly Johnson

"Romance writer and single mum Stevie Honeywell has only weeks to go to her wedding when her fiancé Matthew runs off with her glamorous new friend Jo MacLean. It feels like history repeating itself for Stevie, but this time she is determined to win back her man. She isn't going to act as he might expect. She isn't going to wail and dig her heels in, she is simply going to pretend to let him go whilst she pursues a mad course of dieting, exercising and self-improvement.

And it feels like history is repeating itself for Adam MacLean too, who is also determined to win his lady, Jo, back with the same basic psychological tactics. Then he is going to initiate his master plan: Getting together with Stevie to drive Jo wild with jealousy.

So, like the Scottish country jig 'The Birds and the Bees', the couples all
change partners and learn some revealing truths about each other along the way. But what happens when Adam's master plan actually starts to work? And just who will Stevie be dancing with when the music stops?"

The plot sounded quite interesting, although nothing incredibly new, but I started reading, looking forward to the story that was going to unfold throughout the book. The main character through the story is Stevie, a really likeable person, and she is very well written by Milly Johnson. I did find her obsession with Matthew a tad annoying in places, but you can understand that she loves him and just wants him back again. Although she was overall a nice character, there were parts of the book, especially those involving Adam, where I thought she wasn't so nice and I found myself getting annoyed at her there.

What made me laugh in the book was the character of Adam, he had an incredibly broad Scottish accent (and it was written like that in the book too!) so it was hard to understand him at points. But he did translate his words for Stevie, and the raport between the two at these points made me laugh! I didn't expect to like Adam, but I actually did and thought he was a great character.Other character include the horrid and manipulative Jo, wimpy Matthew, Stevie's bevt friend Catherine and her husband Eddie, and of course Stevie's son Danny aka Dannyman!

The book was written in the third person, so is told like a story. Most of the book follows Stevie and her feelings but it does deviate occasionally to follow Adam, Catherine and the cheating idiots that are Matthew and Jo. The authors narrative is very easy to read and make for very pleasant reading, which I think is what appeals to me about her books. I dislike books that I feel I have to work at, I just want to be able to read and enjoy, and Milly Johnson's two novels have delivered on that for me without a doubt. One thing which did particularly stand out for me was the incredibly well written relationship between Stevie and Danny, the author has picked up on the close mother-son bond so well, and is completely believable and quite touching in parts!

As I said, the main story is nothing really new, a woman being cheated on by a man but it is the plan to get the two couples back together in the end that made this book a bit different for me. The story moved at a good pace, not too quickly, but it didn't drag on either. The author paused to go into more detail for important areas, and was therefore able to skim over things which didn't matter so much, and this balanced out the story quite well. I found myself not wanting to put it down in the evening because I just wanted to find out what was going to happen next, and if it was all going to work out in the end!

The book is most definitely in the chick-lit genre of novels, but for me is definitely at the upper end of the scale! It is a lovely story, with a fantastic narrative that grabs you in and makes you want to keep reading and not want to put it down. The characters were great with Adam and Stevie being likeable, normal people, to the awful Matthew and Jo who although were awful, made for fun reading! I'd say this is definitely anothre triumph for Milly Johnson, and I can't wait for her next one! A superb book I'd recommend to anyone who loves a great read!

Rating: 5/5

21 April 2008

Book Review: Johnny Be Good by Paige Toon

If your boss was the hottest rock star on the planet, would you mix business with pleasure? I'm Meg Stiles. This is my leaving party. And that song we're making a mockery of? That's written by one of the biggest rock stars in the world. And I'm moving in with him tomorrow. Seriously! I am not even joking. Well, maybe I'm misleading you a little bit. You see, I haven't actually met him yet ...No, I'm not a stalker. I'm his new PA. His Personal Assistant. And I am off to La-La Land. Los Angeles. The City of Angels - whatever you want to call it - and I can't bloody believe it! Celebrity PA to wild boy of rock Johnny Jefferson, Meg's glam new life in sun-drenched LA is a whirlwind of showbiz parties and backstage passes. Cool, calm Christian, in town to write his famous friend's biography, helps keep Meg's feet firmly on the ground. But with Johnny's piercing green eyes and a body Brad Pitt would kill for, how long will it be before she's swept right off them again? 

 Toon has really written another super novel here, with fantastic characters who are so all well written and brilliant, you want to read on and find out more about them! The book is written in the first person in Meg's narrative. This works well within the book, because we are seeing LA from an English person's perspective, so you immediately feel at ease with her and can easily follow her story. Toon has a great writing style which is fantastic for first person, and the natural flow of Meg's story makes a great reading experience, and draws you in to Meg's character and consequently the story.

The character of Johnny was completely over the top and outrageous, but because he is supposedly a "rock-god", this really does work! He's clearly a bad boy, and you can see Meg's attraction to him right from the start, but he is actually a more complicated character than initially appears. His story continues alongside Meg's throughout the book, and the contrast between the two characters makes for a great chemistry and therefore I really enjoyed reading it! Johnny is extremely mad, but he is a fantastic character, and definitely one you love to hate. Christian is the other main character in the book, a fellow English character for Meg (although Johnny is English, he comes across as more American than Meg or Christian), and the most likeable of the group. He is Johnny's best friend from childhood and his happy demeanour and naivety endear you very much to him, and his softness compared to Johnny's brashness throughout the book was picked up on throughout by myself.

The story was really good, and I very much enjoyed the way that the book went all around the world with characters, giving us a really good look at what the life of a PA is like. I liked the way that Paige makes the character of Meg very real and likeable, showing that she is struggling with the job, and hasn't made her too much of a supergirl, able to do it all. Toon has really explored all levels of Meg and Johnny's relationship, and I just wanted to keep reading all the time to see how things were going to change, as they did pretty much every chapter! I also enjoyed the cleverly sly reference to the main characters (Lucy and Nathan)from Toon's debut novel Lucy in the Sky in this book, a very clever tie in for those who notice, and a good sneaky update!

Toon has really tapped into the chick-lit market with gusto once again, and has come up trumps with her second novel, which I can say I thoroughly enjoyed, perhaps a tad more than her debut even! She has an easy to read writing style, a great set of likeable characters in some outrageous circumstances, and a story with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing right up until the end. The only thing I didn't like about the book was the open ending - I would have liked it all wrapped up nicely with a definite ending but Toon has left it quite open and unfinished. Hopefully we'll get a reference to them in Toon's next novel as she did for Lucy in the Sky in this book! I'd still strongly recommend the book to anyone who loves a bit of fun chick-lit, because it's great and so enjoyable!

Rating: 5/5

17 April 2008

Book Review: Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

"Shay Bourne becomes the first person in decades to be sentenced to death in New Hampshire, when he is found guilty of the cold-blooded killing of a policeman and his step-daughter. After eleven years on Death Row, the end is coming for Shay.

Until he sees a news piece about a young girl who urgently needs a heart transplant.

June's husband and daughter died at Shay Bourne's hands, and she thought her greatest desire was to see him killed. Then her remaining daughter is hospitalised, and she realises that there is something she wants even more: for Claire to live. Shay Bourne is offering June's daughter a miracle - a second chance. But at what cost?"

Like all of Picoult's book, this one has a controversial main storyline and a court case, so nothing new there. Even though they all follow the same format, they make for wonderful reading and every page absorbs me, I just have to keep reading to find out more. This particular book tackles the issue of the Death Penalty in the United States, and at the same time, the issue of Organ Donation. You wouldn't have thought both topics could evolve in the same storyline but amazingly they do, to great effect.

As you can see, the plot is pretty full-on and its certainly not a book you want to dive into lightly. You have to sit and concentrate on every word, and the book really tests your own thoughts on the issues within; the death penalty, organ donation and also religion. As well as the main themes, religion plays a major part in the book because Shay seems to be performing miracles from within the prison. Can a murderer really be Jesus reincarnated? There are just so many questions in the book, and my head was spinning after finishing some chapters, and I just couldn't stop thinking about the things that Picoult was writing about, which is a real talent.

Interestingly, although the story evolves around Shay Bourne completely, we never actually hear from the character himself. The book is written from several points of view, all in the first person, which makes for interesting and varied reading. Firstly, we hear occasionally from June, the one most affected by Shay's actions. She is clearly bitter and we get a real insight into her personal battles with herself over whether or not she should let her daughter have the heart of a convicted double-murderer. The fact June's chapters occur rarely make them more powerful when you read them, and the short length of them also add something to them. She is concise, and often makes you turn around any sorry feelings you might develop towards Shay, so in turn, the author is making you question every feeling you have for Shay!

We also hear from Lucius, Shay's next-door inmate, also in prison for murder. He has AIDs and is suffering bad health, and the two form some sort of friendship within the prison. Lucius seems to believe in the miracles Shay seems to be performing, but doesn't have religious beliefs himself. Lucius' chapters were really good to read, as they offered an insight into prison life and were incredibly well written, with deep insights into all sorts of things. Maggie Bloom is Shay's attorney who is going to help him die in a way which enables him to donate his heart. Maggie isn't confident, but is passionate about her work as a lawyer, and is determined to help Shay. Her father is a Rabbi, but despite this she doesnt have strong religious beliefs in any form. You can see Maggie's feelings towards Shay at the end changing a lot, and it is interesting the way Picoult does this gradually, and also affects your own feelings also.

The final character we get told the story by is Father Michael, a priest who becomes Shay's spiritual advisor. However, Father Michael has a secret to hide from Shay, because he knows if it comes out, Shay won't want to know him. Still Michael carries on as his advisor, and the two become close, with Shay trusting his deepest thoughts to the priest. However, I did find some of the priests chapters hard-going because of all the religious text describing various things to do with the Bible, the Gnostic gospels and also even delving a bit into the Jewish faith. Hard-going but definitely interesting.

The use of the first person writing in the book, despite it being narrated by multiple characters was incredibly interesting, and is one of the key features in any of Jodi Picoult's books. It works well though, because of the controversial topics used, it is so interesting to see many points of views, and Picoult seems to be able to switch from one person to another seamlessly without its feeling stunted or that it doesn't flow properly.

For me, Picoult's talent lies in creating a very powerful book which for days after, you are still contemplating the issues of and you know it has left a mark on you. I was incredibly moved by My Sister's Keeper, the first of Picoult's novels I read, and this has coninued through every novel I have read from her. This one in particular however, was especially powerful, with a really controversial theme at its heart. tH Death Penalty is certainly a tough one to debate, especially as we don't have it in this country, and to be honest, this book made me glad we don't have the ability in this country to sentence someone to death. There are too many issues surrounding the whole thing, and Picoult is careful to bring each one of these to light in her novel.

This is truly an amazing book to read, and you must give it a try, even if you haven't read any of Jodi Picoult's previous work. This isn't her best book, but comes extremely close. I read this in just a few days, despite being a real chunk of a book, it is incredibly absorbing and I just couldn't put it down. The human emotion in the books draws you in, causing your feelings to change from one chapter to the next, and by the end, you're left questioning everything you had thought from the start. Even as write this now, I can't put my finger on my own views on this, I flit from one viewpoint to another, and for me, this is where Picoult's talent lies...making her reader feel the emotions of the book, and able to pull their own conclusions from it. A truly wondeufl piece of literature, simply superb. 

Rating: 5/5

8 April 2008

Book Review: Take A Look At Me Now by Anita Notaro

"Most of us can remember a defining moment in our lives. A split second when time stood still and our lives changed forever. For Lily Ormond, that moment came late one night when she answered a knock on the door and discovered that while she'd been smashing garlic and rosemary and watching the soaps, her sister Alison had drowned.

Coming to terms with losing her only sibling and best friend was devastating, becoming a mother overnight to Ali's three-year-old son Charlie was mind-boggling, but discovering that her identical twin had been leading a secret life for years was almost Lily's undoing...

And so begins a journey linked with four men who'd been part of a life she hadn't even known existed. A journey that forces Lily to come to terms with a father who'd never really cared for her, a child who needs her too much and a sister who wasn't what she seemed."

What made this book so interesting for me was the way it was written. Each chapter has the name of a character at the top which indicates who that chapter focuses on. Chapters for Lily are written in the first person, and chapters for all of the other characters are written in the third person, making it easy to distinguish which type of story we are reading about.

The other characters are William and Beth, a middle-aged couple who have 2 children. William used to be a client of Alison's and now decided he wants Lily as well. James and Tamsin (James is another former client) are going through a struggle to have a baby and Alison's death means major changes for them. Richard (yes, another former client) and his model fiance Daisy are soon to be married but will Alison's death change Richard's perspective? And Dave and Marie seem to live separate lives, will Dave stay faithful to his wife after Alison's death?

As you can see, there are quite a few characters in the book, but don't let this fact make you think that the book might be hard to read. Notaro introduces all of the characters very well, making them all very different people from different walks of life who all visited Alison for different reasons. Each one of the characters weaves into the story very easily, and it is clever how Lily forms different relationships with them all, seemingly unaware about the link that the men had with her sister.

One thing I disliked about this book was the relationship between Lily and Charlie, her sister's son. Charlie doesn't live with Lily after Alison's death, but all she does is speak about how badly she misses him and wants him. Yet the scenes with the 2 of them are few and far between, and in my mind Lily doesn't seem to be doing enough to get Charlie with her, especially as he is the last link she has left to her sister. It seemed to me as I was reading that perhaps Notaro finds it easier to write about the relationships between adults, and not so much between children and adults, which is a shame. In my opinion this is what brings the book down from 5 stars to 4, because I simply couldn't away from my thoughts about this particular area of the book.

Other than that flaw, I found the book was a wonderful read. You were really transported into Wicklow and Lily's life, and her struggle to follow her dreams after the loss of her sister. The multi-character story-telling made for a good reading experience, and allowed the story to flow well, as well as allowing us a detailed look at each character in turn. I really enjoyed the book, and I think it is definitely my favourite Anita Notaro read so far. 

Rating: 4/5