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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Reviews for Glitz - Louise Bagshawe

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.