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      14.03.2014 15:30
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      A stunning read!

      Cecelia Ahern is one of my all-time favourite authors, ever since her debut novel PS I Love You, she's been able to capture me with her writing and her storytelling ability. There is no other author I read that is like Cecelia Ahern. She's incomparable and none of her books are anything like another, she's truly unique and an author I pre-order as soon as it's physically possible. I nearly passed out with excitement when I received a copy of her new book How To Fall In Love, it is SUCH a beautiful looking book with its blue cover and gold fonts, and I can't wait to see the finished hardback book because I'm sure that will look even better!

      How To Fall In Love is an amazing novel. Cecelia Ahern just seems to get it right every single time, there's never a misstep in her writing, she always seems to be on point and How To Fall In Love is no different. The plot is just amazing, and it's such a simple premise: After talking a man, Adam, down from committing suicide, Christine tells him that she can change his life, that she'll teach him how to love life before his next birthday, and he reveals that it's in two weeks. So Christine has two weeks to make Adam fall back in love with living, otherwise he gets to take his life, successfully this time. Sure it may sound a bit morbid and you may wonder just WHY Christine is getting involved with someone who may or may not be unbalanced, but actually, that didn't worry me at all. I didn't care that Adam was thisclose to suicide, in fact I embraced it because it's what made the novel. Can you imagine if hypothetically somebody did that for every single potential suicide? It would be a pretty amazing thing, just saying.

      How To Fall In Love is mostly a book about hope. It's about having the hope that even at your lowest moments, it can all come good again and that suicide isn't the answer. Adam and Christine's story isn't just a tale about Christine helping Adam, of course it isn't, because Christine's life isn't perfect - she's just left her husband, who's having a difficult time getting over it, her family life isn't exactly perfect, and she's living in a tatty apartment in the same building where she works. It's a story of two people helping each other and it is fabulous. I was so touched by Christine's ability to want to help, I loved how Adam was receptive enough to allow Christine to try and help him, and I loved the two as characters. Neither are perfect, but I loved them despite their flaws. I totally fell for Adam, and I wanted to save him just like Christine did!

      I adored How To Fall In Love so much. It made me smile, it made me believe in love (not that I ever forget, so many I should say it reinforced my belief in love? Who knows), and it was special. Cecelia Ahern hits it out of the park with every single novel she writes, like I said before she cannot do any wrong. I literally raced towards the end of How To Fall In Love with my heart thumping, hoping so badly that I would get the ending I wanted, and the book just delivered on every single aspect. This is going to be a massive book, and rightly so because it is truly amazing. I say again that Cecelia is one of the most gifted, natural storytellers and Christine narrates this story beautifully. You will fall in love with it and I do not apologise for saying something that is clearly so cheesy, because it is actually true.

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        03.06.2011 19:21
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        Loved it

        "I've discovered the secret to successful singledom. I'm acting like a man. And it's working." After breaking up with her boyfriend of, well, forever, Abigail Wood must learn how to be single from scratch. Her dating skills are abysmal, and she ricochets from disaster to disaster - until Robert, one of London's most notorious lotharios, agrees to coach her. With his advice, she learns to navigate the bastard-infested waters of the bar scene and practices the art of being bulletproof. The new Abigail is cocky, calm, composed...but what happens when she meets her match?

        Last year I read a fantastic debut novel, it was 'anti-romantic' and it was an insanely modern take on life as a singleton in London. That book was The Dating Detox by Gemma Burgess. I absolutely adored it, and when I heard Gemma was writing a second novel to be published in early 2011, I couldn't wait to find out more. I thought the synopsis sounded fab, I loved the cover and when I received a proof copy I couldn't wait to get stuck in! Thankfully for me, A Girl Like You was just as good as The Dating Detox!

        Whereas The Dating Detox focused (as you might expect) on the main character, Sass, going on a dating detox (see what I did there?), A Girl Like You is all about getting back on to the dating scene and surviving. Because contrary to what Abigail believes, dating isn't fun, dating is a chore. So it's a Godsend when her flat-mate Robert offers to help her navigate the London dating scene and before you can say 'relationship' Abigail is loving and leaving men at every turn. I thought the plot was fantastic. I wasn't completely sure I would be taken in by the book because, frankly, acting like a man would when it comes to dating seems a bit mean and cold-hearted, but it worked. I loved how Abigail went from being shy to being cocky and confident, it suited her and so did the loving and leaving.

        But while Gemma tells a good story, it's her characterisation that really blows me away. She introduces us to six or seven characters and as the book progresses they evolve and change and become like one big happy family. It's the wonderful Abigail who takes us through the novel and I loved her immediately. Because we're chucked straight into the story, with Abigail sobbing in a hotel in Japan, I was instantly sympathetic towards her and couldn't wait to find out how it had gotten like that. Abigail was just like Sass, she was fun and someone you could imagine being friends with and that's all I ask from a main character! As for Abigail's friends, Plum, Henry and her sister, Sophie, I found them a very tight circle, and I found Plum particularly hilarious. As for Robert, Abigail's flatmate and London lothario, I liked him. In the beginning, I didn't expect to. He breaks hearts wherever he goes, and doesn't seem the type to settle down but as he and Abigail get to know each other better and begin a friendship, we learn a lot more of him and by the time the first quarter of the book was up I loved him. I am rather fickle like that, I feel.

        During the book the lovely Abigail goes through men like I go through hot dinners, I knew who I wanted her to end up with. In fact, I would have cried if the ending had been any different to how I wanted it to be. Because despite wondering how on Earth it could ever work out, I knew that the man I wanted Abigail to end up with was perfect for her. It really was that simple for me, and I was so so pleased to get the ending I wanted. A Girl Like You was just fantastic, from beginning to end and I was grinning like a total idiot by the time I turned the last page. Gemma Burgess may have only had two books published but she has the potential to become a huge Chick Lit star. Her witty way with words, and the way she just tells it like it is is hugely appealing, and it's just so different to most Chick Lit I read, it's a simple as that. I really, really hope Gemma is working on a third novel, because if not then that would be a talent wasted, I am not joking and I absolutely can't wait to get myself a finished copy of A Girl Like You. I hugely recommend you read it, it was fab!

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        03.06.2011 12:42
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        A good enough read which shows potential

        Ruby Matthews has a plan. Twelve jobs in twelve months, until she finds the one of her dreams... After an unexpected redundancy, Ruby begins to question her priorities. Inspired by a quote from Kahlil Gibran about loving your work, she launches her mission to find the ideal job. Her year of gainful (and sometimes painful!) employment includes nannying for clients in the South of France; dealing with embarrassing ailments in a Harley Street Clinic; waiting tables in a buzzy Soho cafe; and meeting the celebs of years gone by in a home for retired actors. And even though love is no longer top of her list, relationships just seem to start happening along the way - which sees her handing out some P45s of her own! But will any of the jobs, or men she meets, see her dreams come true? Or will Ruby just end up back where she started?

        The first I heard of Nicola May's self-published debut novel came when I was on Twitter one day and Scott Pack mentioned that Working It Out shouldn't be a self-published novel and that it's better than most of the Chick Lit out there today. I thought that was quite a thing to say so when Nicola emailed us to ask if we would like to review the novel, I jumped at the chance. It sounded like a great read, and I've never read a novel with the same premise as Working It Out. I thought the novel was fascinating, but I did have some problems with it.

        The best part about Working It Out is indeed its fascinating premise that sees Ruby Matthews take on 12 entirely different jobs in 12 months. It's a great way to hook the reader in and the short, snappy chapters lend itself to some easy reading. The novel is some 313 pages long but it's an incredibly quick novel that I managed to speed through in about three hours once I got going. I found each of the jobs Ruby finds herself doing fascinating, I loved that she was willing to try any job at all in her bid to complete her task and end the year having tried 12 new jobs. My favourite job of hers was her first, when she worked as an auxiliary nurse at an old people's home. I thought the characters we were introduced to during that time were incredibly sweet - even so sweet as to make me tear up when Ruby left. The other jobs were equally as enjoyable, though some were briefer than others so some jobs we didn't really get 'into' as much as I'd have liked.

        The issues I had with the novel were two-fold: Ruby's relationship with men was borderline slapper and some of the writing was questionable. I'm a Geordie, I speak like a Geordie, but when I write my reviews I do not write like a Geordie (and if I wrote a novel I wouldn't either) and it irritates me no end when people do that in books. You don't have to have your Geordie character call everybody 'Pet' and say 'Whey aye' all of the time. For the record, I have never in my life called anybody pet and I rarely say whey aye. It's one thing for somebody to speak like that but there's no right way to make that come across on the page. It's just cringe-worthy, if I'm totally honest. I feel the same way with Scottish characters, Irish characters, and American characters. No matter what the author, trying to make your characters seem authentically Geordie/Irish/Scottish/American/whatever doesn't work, I'm afraid. It just doesn't translate.

        My second problem is Ruby's love life. I can understand people fall for who they fall for. Truly, I can. But Ruby, throughout the novel, finds every single man she meets attractive and after a while it starts to grate. I had no idea who we were meant to be rooting for mainly because the men were presented in such a way that most of them were rather vile. There was 'Gorgeous George' who spoke about Ruby's bum most of the time, then we had Bentley, an old man (which grossed me out I'm sad to say), then there was Adam, who was actually particularly nice. Then there was George's flatmate James (the Geordie). Finally, there was Justice. I found it hard to believe Ruby was REALLY that attractive to seemingly attract all of those guys. To be honest, I'd have taken out Justice, James and Bentley. It was unfortunate that Ruby's love life was so tangled, because the novel wasn't long enough to let it all work out without seeming over the top.

        Overall, though, Working It Out was a quick and (mainly) pain-free read. With some work I could definitely see why so many people are talking about the novel. It has a beautiful cover (the best self-published cover I have ever seen in fact), the writing flows nicely (bar the Geordie-isms) and the initial premise of the novel is inherently interesting. The characterisation lets it down, but a good editor could help to fix that, particularly as George doesn't necessarily come across as the dashing hero I'm sure he was meant to be. I would definitely recommend picking up Working It Out though, because it's a breezy read and one Chick Lit fans will appreciate. I'd definitely read more of Nicola's work if she decided to self-publish it - and I hope she does decide to self-publish more of her work, she does have the talent.

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          02.06.2011 20:13
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          Brilliant novel from Gayle

          Despite the example of their own parents' enduring marriage, the three Bachelor brothers show no signs of settling down. Adam has a string of glamorous girlfriends, but they aren't suitable wife material. Luke has just proposed to Cassie but his refusal to consider having children looks like an insurmountable barrier. And baby of the family Russell is in love with the one woman he can't have. Then their father announces he has been thrown out of the family home and this proves a dramatic catalyst for lots of soul-searching. Are all three Bachelor brothers totally hopeless cases or just late starters?

          I'm no secret that I'm a huge Mike Gayle fan. I've read all of his novels, except for The Life and Soul of the Party and I've enjoyed them all except for Wish You Were Here. Dinner For Two is my personal favourite and I see a new Mike Gayle to be a brilliant thing because his books are just so easy to get into. And because he's a man, he offers a different kind of Chick Lit. He offers it from a lads perspective and like Matt Dunn that gives them a bit of an original edge because they're the only two male Chick Lit authors I know of. I was very pleased to receive a paperback copy of Mike's latest book The Importance of Being A Bachelor in the mail back in February and although it's taken me until April to read it, it was a thoroughly entertaining read.

          Whereas Mike's earlier novels seemed to focus on just one man, his later books have widened the scope a little bit and they focus on multiple characters. The Importance of Being A Bachelor focuses on the Bachelor family. There's Joan and George, who have been married almost forty years and their three kids Adam, Luke and Russell. The family are close, with the boys spending each Sunday at their family home having a Sunday roast. So when George and Joan split up the boys are in turmoil. Sure they're all in their thirties now (or almost in Russ's case) but the shock of the split sends shockwaves through their own lives. I thought the plot was a very relevant one, because really, when your parents have been together a whopping (almost) forty years, it does come as a bit of a surprise. And despite how old the boys are, I could understand their confusion and resentment of knowing their parents marriage isn't as perfect as they all thought.

          The books main focus is relationships. The Bachelors relationship as a family, the lads are forced to confront just how little they knew of their father as they find themselves having to accept him into their home. And the Bachelor boys have to confront their own relationships. Luke's not only with his girlfriend Cass but with his long-gone ex Jayne who took his daughter away. Adam is the perennial bachelor, by name and nature, dating supermodels rather than anyone with substance. And the baby of the family, Russ, has to deal with his unrequited love. I thought each separate issue was equally absorbing, and it set the lads apart easily. I liked how the lads had to deal with their parents breaking up and I thought Mike Gayle did that in a very realistic way.

          I thoroughly enjoyed all of the characters. Because Mike is a man, he taps into the psyche of a man very easily and it's brilliant getting a story from the man's point of view for a change. My favourite of the Bachelor brothers was probably Russell, I felt so much sympathy for him over the love he had that he could never admit to and I really got myself attached to him. I also loved Adam, too, he's the definition of man-about-town until a conversation with his mates about who will get married next forces him to confront his own dating issues. Luke was my least favourite brother, I don't know why, he wasn't terrible, but I wasn't as invested in him as I was his brothers. I also really felt for George and Joan, it's clear that despite the breakdown of their relationship, they do love each other and the revelations surprised me. What I think Mike does best though, is the way he writes his female characters. I loved Angie, Russ's best friend, Cass, Luke's girlfriend, and Steph, the girl Adam meets. They were all strong, confident(ish) females, and I loved all three of them.

          Mike Gayle is a brilliant storyteller. After the so-so Wish You Were Here, which was the last Mike Gayle book I read, The Importance of Being A Bachelor is a triumphant return to form. The story itself was wonderful and I adored the characters. I really felt into the story and I breezed through it whilst watching the football on a Saturday afternoon. I can't wait for Mike's next novel and I'm gutted we have to wait until 2012 as he scrapped Turning Forty as he wasn't happy with it, but I'm sure The Hen and Stag Weekend will be a fab read and will be worth the way. It's a brilliantly written novel, Mike's writing style is seems just so relaxed and I always find it a pleasure to read one of his novels because the book just flows so smoothly. I would very much recommend picking up The Importance of Being A Bachelor, it was a brilliant read and I didn't have any faults with it at all. It was just plain brilliant.

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          • RSVP - Helen Warner / Fiction Book / 26 Readings / 23 Ratings
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            02.06.2011 16:33
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            A good read, but the last 200 pages are slow

            Anna's world is rocked when she receives an invitation to her ex Toby's nuptials - Toby was The One, The Love of Her Life, The One That Got Away. Will attending his Big Day finally give her the sense of closure she so desperately craves? Or will it only re-open old wounds? Clare is Anna's best friend, the person who was there for her when she and Toby split all those years ago. But little does Clare know that Toby's wedding day will also change her own life for ever. Ella is a classic femme fatale. She loves men and leaves them without a backward glance. But the one person who's never fallen for her charms is Toby. As he prepares to get hitched, is it too late for a last-ditch attempt to win his heart? Finally, Rachel is the blushing bride-to-be. This should be the happiest day of her life. So how come she feels nothing but a terrible sense of foreboding?

            Helen Warner's debut novel RSVP is one I've been wanting to read since I first heard about it. It sounded like a really amazing novel, and that if done correctly it could very much launch Warner as a must-read Chick Lit author. But what really sold the book to me was the cover. It's a lovely light blue set out like a real wedding invitation with the title in an embossed font. It's hugely appealing (I'm a total sucker for a pretty cover and RSVP's cover is one of the best I've ever seen). It looks even better in real life, with a chocolate covered ribbon as a bookmark. I couldn't wait to dive in, and for the most part, I enjoyed the book but I did have a few niggles.

            Despite looking and sounding very wedding-y, RSVP isn't chockful of weddings as you might expect. Although a wedding does play a major role in the novel, the major focus of the novel is pre-wedding and post-wedding with only a few pages dedicated to the actual wedding itself. But because the wedding in question changes a lot of things, it does make it an integral part of the novel, because without the wedding we wouldn't have our story now, would we? The wedding in question is that of Toby and Rachel, who after being together for six years have now decided to get married. After making a pact with his university friends, Toby then invites his ex, Anna, who hasn't exactly gotten over him despite the fact they haven't been a couple for a decade. Along with her best friend Clare, they decide to attend the wedding in the hope of getting some closure. Also invited is Ella, the girl at the center of Anna and Toby's break-up, who is now unhappily married to Max. It's a brilliant plot, and I was definitely wondering what was going to go down at Toby and Rachel's wedding. And it didn't let me down.

            The first half of the book is very impressive, it pulled me in like a good'un, but after the wedding fiasco, I found my interest dwindling a little bit. During the first half of the book there are numerous flashbacks, explaining how Anna and Toby met, got together and eventually split up and how Ella was a part of that. But in the second half, there are no more flashbacks, and it was mainly full-steam ahead in present day 2010. Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of good plot points, Ella and Clare's stories in particular kept me hooked but the Rachel/Anna/Toby triangle was a bit drab. I liked the fact the big dramatic part of the novel wasn't saved until the end but was instead put in half-way, but all that excitement kind of leant the end of the Rachel/Anna/Toby story to a bit of a flat conclusion. But Ella's story in particular kept me gripped, which I have to admit surprised me because for the first portion of the novel I couldn't stand her.

            The characters are interesting, to say the least. Despite the fact that I found Anna to be a very warm and likeable character, I did question how she could still be hung up on somebody a decade later. Maybe it is possible, but it's the kind of thing that seems improbable. I did like Anna, though, very much and through the flashbacks I could see why she was so devoted (though I still didn't 'get' it). Clare was probably my favourite character, she's not as central as Anna and doesn't get as much page-time, but I liked her and I liked her plot. Like I said in my previous paragraph, I didn't like Ella for the first half of the book, but she grows up a lot as the novel progresses and in the end I couldn't help liking her. She has a bit of a tough time, realises the error of her ways and all that, and eventually there is a light at the tunnel to show she can be a better person. As for Rachel, I expected to hate her, I really did, for 'stealing' Toby. But, actually, she was a fantastic character. I'd have even liked to have seen more of her. There aren't many male characters in the novel, just Toby, James, Max and Marco and all were very well written.

            RSVP is written in a very peculiar way. The bulk of the novel is set in 2010, and for that, Warner has gone for a third-person-present-tense narrative which, I must admit, I found strange. I love the present tense narrative, but I don't believe it's right to use when writing from third-person. It didn't mesh well with me, and it would have been a lot easier to use past tense, it must have been a total pain to make sure it was all (excuse the pun) present and correct. Not only that, though, but because we had flashbacks, they were told in past tense, so the alternative tenses could get annoying. I found it easy to switch back and forth, I just didn't like the use of the present tense. The novel is very easy to get into though, and up until the wedding fiasco, it was well on course to become one of my favourite novels. However the pace slowed and I did find that it dragged a little after that, particularly where Anna was concerned. As far as debut novels go, it was enjoyable and I did want to see how it was all going to pan out, particularly for Ella and Clare. I would recommend the book, and I will be reading Warner's next novel, I was just a bit disappointed with the lack of pace during the last 200 pages.

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          • Fame - Tilly Bagshawe / Fiction Book / 18 Readings / 13 Ratings
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            01.06.2011 16:28
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            Good beach read but with depth

            The raw, sexual beauty of Sabrina Leon demands the attention of all who come into contact with her. Plucked from obscurity at the age of seventeen she's the new darling of the film scene, bagging lead roles in the hottest blockbusters. But Sabrina Leon has a problem. There's a youtube sensation on the web that's set to destroy everything she's fought for... Hotshot movie producer Dorian Razmirez has struggles of his own. A bitter feud with rival producer and playboy, Harry Greene, has resulted in the plug being pulled on every project he goes near. Casting the disgraced Hollywood diva Sabrina Leon in Wuthering Heights is a risk that might cost him what remains of his career. Viorel Hudson, with his jet-black hair, high, slanting cheekbones and smooth, coffee coloured skin, was always destined for great things. Now he's scored a role that every A-lister in Hollywood auditioned for - Heathcliff in Dorian Razmirez's Wuthering Heights. He may be at the height of his career, but is he ready for his latest role? For a five million pound pay cheque, it's a risk he's willing to take. Set against a backdrop of a sumptuous crumbling English country house, the film-set of Wuthering Heights is going to be as salacious as the setting is beautiful.

            I've heard lots about Tilly Bagshawe, her sister is Louise who also writes Chick Lit novels, and she has quite a few fans. However, I generally don't like the big blockbuster novels because usually there's just so much going on that there needs to be a cast list at the start of all of the books! However during 2011, I've been getting into them more and more - Hollywood Sinners by Victoria Fox, the upcoming The Strip by JJ Salem, Daddy's Girls by Tasmina Perry and I've found them to be wonderfully exotic novels that allow me to fully immerse myself in the fiction. So when I received Fame earlier in the week, I was thrilled. I thought it sounded brilliant and where else to start with my first Tilly Bagshawe novel than with her latest book? Let me tell you, I bloomin' loved it.

            Fame is a rather massive novel, coming in at just under 500 pages, but let me tell you, every single page is worthy of being in this novel. I absolutely breezed through the novel, and if I'm honest, I am kind of surprised at how much I loved the book. I thought the plot was fantastic, the suspense is there right from the first page as the Prologue of the novel begins at the Oscars ceremony before spooling back to right before Dorian Rasmirez's adaptation of Wuthering Heights is even filmed. We're slowly introduced to all the players in the novel. There's Sabrina Lyon, a wildly talented actress who's a bit of a wild child; Viorel Hudson, saved from a life of poverty in Romania by his 'saint' of a mother; Tish Crewe, who runs an orphanage in Romania and whose father owns Loxley House; Dorian Rasmirez, the director of the Wuthering Heights remake and then there's Harry Greene, Dorian's huge rival, who's desperate to take Dorian down! Those are the main characters in the novel, although there are plenty others like Tish's son, Abel, Dorian's wife and daughter, and other characters like that.

            I must admit, every time I read a novel like this, with so much going on and so many characters I feel as if I'm going to hate the characters. And then I'm surprised when, actually, I like them. Because most of them are actors (or in Dorian's case a director), they're obviously not like you and me. Because they're rich! And famous! And beautiful! And although Sabrina, Viorel and Dorian are all of those things, Bagshawe writes them in such a way that although they have many faults, they are human beings. And although I didn't agree with much of what they did, I found myself liking them anyway, despite myself. They're all very larger than life, but they are all presented in such a way that people like us, when reading the novel, can sympathise with them rather than hate them for being ungrateful rich people. Tish is probably the most normal of the characters and I found myself entranced by her story. I loved her son, Abel, he was such a cute little character. As the novel neared its conclusion, I found myself rooting for them all to get their happy endings. I generally don't expect love stories in books like this, but there were some brilliant ones during Fame!

            Fame is set in Derbyshire, LA and Romania and Tilly has undoubtedly done a lot of research into all of the areas. The glitz and glamour of LA compared to the stark and poor Romania was shocking and eye-opening. I've never read a novel set in Romania before, and I found it fascinating learning all about the children who are orphaned or put into care or are in need of Tish's help. It did rather put into perspective just how grateful the famous people should be to be so rich and well cared for. I thought the setting in Derbyshire was amazing. I absolutely loved every page that was set in the Crewe's ancestral home Loxley Hall. I could imagine the filming playing out really easily, with the brooding fog and wide expanses of land and the crumbling family pile. I could see Sabrina and Viorel in their costumes as they filmed. Many a time, you don't get a feel for a novel's location, but in Fame you really do. Tilly mentions in her acknowledgement that she and her husband run a charity named FRODO to help young Romanian children and her passion for that runs clear during those scenes in Romania. The book is even dedicated to two children she met (Abel and Viorel) and I think that is one of the sweetest things ever, it really puts your in life into perspective when you're able to learn about somebody who has a much worse life than yours.

            This book blew me away. Tilly's ability to spin a wonderful novel are in abundance here and I just kept turning the pages, wanting to read more, more, more. It is definitely a novel people will be taking on their holidays this year, because it is indeed a definitive beach read. It seems wrong to call it a beach read, actually, because yes you can read it on a beach but it's not a trashy novel at all. I honestly have no complaints at all about the novel, I loved the characters (most of the time, anyway), I thought the locations were perfect, and the writing was superb. Tilly wipes the floor with most writers out there, her prose is just immense. I will be eagerly buying up Tilly's previous novels and I will be eagerly awaiting her next read. I can see why she's so popular, it's hard to have a story that flows brilliantly from beginning to end, but Fame does that and it does it easily. The pages just whoosh by and I was sad to see it finish, although the finish was superb, too. I am a total sucker for happy endings and anyone else who loves happy ending will be more than satisfied with Fame. It has it all, it really does.

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              31.05.2011 16:33
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              Good summer read

              There comes a point in a girl's life when she just needs to hang out with her girlfriends - preferably in Greece - so they can laugh, reminisce and perhaps indulge in a holiday romance or two. Beth has reached that point, and being a woman who likes to organise things, she arranges the holiday of her dreams for her and her three best friends. However, the bars, clubs and wild nights of their imaginings are a far cry from the slow, quiet pace of life on Liminaki. But if they thought that meant they were in for a peaceful time, they soon discover their mistake. For a start, Ginny drives everyone mad talking about her bleeping wedding. Anna falls hook, line and sinker for the waiter. Beth succumbs to the charms of a handsome sailor. And something is definitely Up with Kirsten. And then Beth's boyfriend turns up at a Very Bad Moment... surely things can't get any more complicated?

              I'm a big fan of Allie Spencer, I thoroughly enjoyed her two Little Black Dress novels Tug of Love and The Not-So-Secret Diary of a City Girl so it's fair to say that I was incredibly happy when I saw Allie had scored herself a new deal with Arrow, an imprint of Random House, and that her novel Summer Loving would be released in 2011. Once I knew a copy was on its way to me, I was ecstatic and I was very eager to read it. It took a while to arrive - pesky postal system - but once it did I started it immediately. It took me a mere two days to finish, and for the most part I thoroughly enjoyed the novel.

              I love, love, love, love, love novels set in holiday destinations. Greece, Spain, Italy, I swallow them whole because I've only ever holidayed in Alicante in Spain, Tenerife in the Canary Islands and Florida in the USA. Summer Holiday is set in Liminaki in Greece, I've never heard of the island, but I like the idea of visiting Greece so the setting of the novel made me love the novel immediately. Spencer presents Liminaki is such a wonderful way, sure it doesn't have bars or a huge nightlife presence, but the slow pace of life and quiet of the island sounds wonderful. I've got no idea if it is an actual Greek island but if it is (and even if it isn't) Spencer has very much presented Greece in a very beautiful light. Usually book destinations are a secondary thing when I'm reading novels but I was really impressed by how detailed Liminaki was and it was definitely a massive part of the novel.

              Obviously the beautiful setting isn't all that the book is about and we follow four best friends throughout their two week holiday: Beth, Kirsten, Anna and Ginny. They're friends, have been for ages, but because they're dotted about all over the World they rarely have a chance to meet up so take the opportunity to holiday in Liminaki and re-establish their friendships with each other. I liked the plot of the novel and for the most part I thought it was presented very well but there were a few things I had an issue with. All of the girls have their own problems, but rather than sharing them the way regular friends would (if I had a problem, I would certainly discuss it with a friend), instead all four try to tackle their problems in secret. For me that was a bit false. Because surely you just don't do that? I couldn't understand Kirsten's hesitance to tell her best friend her troubles. I also thought the Ginny/Beth tension was horribly obvious. I knew precisely what had gone on there and it was very much as cliched as I expected it to be, sadly. But for the most part I was happy with how the plot went, how it panned out.

              Aside from a few minor niggles I found the characters to be delightful. Beth's irrational anger over the fact the guy she meets, Dan, used to work at the bank that killed her business aside, I liked Beth. She was very real, very likeable and as our leading lady it was probably a good thing I liked her so much. Anna was probably my second favourite character, I loved her sweet nature and the slow-burn romance she had with Nick, I would have loved if we could have seen their relationship develop through their eyes rather than Beth who narrates the story. Kirsten was a well-rounded character, although, again I question her need for secrecy. I never really found any love for Ginny; for the entire novel she was just a pain in the proverbial. I couldn't understand why three lovely people like Beth, Kirsten and Anna would be friends with someone like Ginny. As for the male characters, I fell head over heels for both Dan and Nick. I think Nick probably edges it for me, though! He was just so wonderful and dreamy (believe me, I am the type of person who doesn't use the word 'dreamy').

              I must say, I didn't think Summer Loving was as well written as the other two novels Allie has had published. For starters (and yes, pernickety Leah is alive and kicking right now) there is an absolute deluge of colons in the novel. There are colons where there should be commas or full stops and it took all of my wills not to get a marker pen and smudge them out. Truly, if someone who edited this novel looked through it now and counted up the colons they would cry into their manuscripts. I know I'm picky, and I'm going to resist to point out the editing errors I noticed, for fear of you all hating me (I can't help it! Honest!). Despite my pernickety-ness I did thoroughly enjoy the book. I really and truly hope that Allie is busy writing a new novel that will be out next year, because she is so good at writing an easy holiday read that manages to have it all. Romance, relationships, friendships and, best of all, a sunny destination! I'd definitely suggest packing this one in your suitcase this summer or sitting in the back garden with it on a sunny afternoon, it will transport you all the way to Liminaki and you'll feel as though you've had a holiday yourself once you've finished!

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                30.05.2011 18:08
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                Not worth your money, honestly.

                What happens when the power of love challenges the love of power? 'So, have you met the Prime Minister before?' Suave PM Julian Jenson has just been re-elected. The nation's darling, he has an elegance and natural charm in public. But in private the cracks are starting to show. At his side is his wife, Valerie. Trim, tall, well educated but deeply unhappy - with her son and daughter away at school, alcohol is becoming a trusted friend. Sally Simpson is at the peak of her game. Powerful editor of the bestselling magazine Celeb, she can't wait to take her rightful place by Julian's side. Sexy TV reporter Isla McGovern has caught Julian's eye, and she will do anything (or anyone) to get to the top. When the three women meet, so begins a perfect storm, and only one can emerge as the First Lady.

                When it was announced Kay Burley would be writing a novel, I wasn't in the slightest bit interested. Celebrity novels make me want to cry, because more often than not they just aren't that good. There are exceptions to the rule, absolutely, but to be honest a celebrity getting a book deal takes away a book deal from someone who has written all of their life. I then read a review of First Ladies, and even the review made me cringe at just how bad First Ladies sounded. However, I received a copy to review, and I wanted to see for myself just how bad it was. With the greatest of respect to Kay, she should have stuck with her day job.

                The idea of First Ladies is a good one, but to be honest it's so poorly executed that I don't really know where to begin. Although the synopsis makes it sound as though the three ladies go head-to-head for Julian's affections, that couldn't be further than the truth. There is no battle. Each woman just thinks, separately, that the Prime Minister wants to be with them. The women - Valeria, Isla and Sally - are all bit-part players because at the end of the day the entire novel revolves around Julian Jenson. The three women don't even meet each other until the end of the novel (except for the first chapter, which basically sets it up, but then that meeting doesn't occur properly until the end). It was very anti-climatic. I did finish the novel, which I suppose is a feat in itself but I never really felt anything for it. I was just turning the pages, to see what (if anything) would happen.

                For the first 50 or so pages, I did sort of like the book. It didn't seem terrible, but then it all gets ruined by the writing. This book in terms of writing skill is atrocious. It reads like a very bad Mills and Boon novel. Julian Jenson is the slimiest Prime Minister I think I've ever read about. As the Prime Minister he should be a man of power, but instead he comes across like a lovesick puppy, consistently saying "Dance with me, darling". It made me cringe to hear the way Kay portrayed him. That is not how a Prime Minister should be portrayed and I do not even want to know who Kay based Julian on. You're meant to think the male in a Chick Lit novel is someone you could be attracted to. I wanted to throw up on Julian. I wanted to punch him because he made me feel sick. Every time he opened his gob, all I could think was "ew" because I knew he was going to spout some kind of terrible guff (and I don't even say 'guff'. But that's what he spouted). You wouldn't think it would be hard to write a male character, but Burley proves to be the exception. Her male character writing is horrible.

                As for the females. Isla, Valerie and Sally. I felt kinda sorry for Valerie. Her husband was a total sleazeball. But, really, I didn't really care for any of the characters. It's hard for sympathy to remain for Valerie when she's little more than a pill-popping drunk. Isla and Sally don't fare better. Isla is meant to be 'intelligent' but she comes across as a total idiot because she knows nothing. Both Sally and Isla are happy to sleep with someone who is married but the worst part is, I never felt that any of them really loved each other. Sally and Isla didn't love Julian, they loved the idea of being in No 10. Julian didn't love them, he didn't love anybody but himself frankly. There was only one character in the whole novel I enjoyed and that was 'spin doctor' Ben (do you know he's a spin doctor? Seriously, he's a spin doctor. Spin doctor. Spin doctor. Spin doctor! That's how much we're reminded of Ben's job). I found him mildly amusing, but Kay didn't know which way to take him. She hinted at his sexuality, but didn't take it anywhere, it was rather mildly pointless.

                Like I said, the idea for the novel was interesting. But somebody else should have written it. Kay Burley is not a writer, I'm sorry but if I ever hear her call herself one I'll probably smash my TV. She'd have been better off getting it ghost written, it would have been infinitely less cringe inducing. A novel shouldn't make me feel embarrassed to be reading it. Despite finding it an easy read, I did spend most of the time wondering where Kay got the inspiration for her writing. She must have, seriously, read the entire Mills and Boon catalogue before sitting down to write because it's toe-curlingly bad. It wasn't racy, it wasn't juicy, it was just bad. As much as I love Tasmina Perry as an author, I would love to know how she thinks First Ladies is a "juicy read". Unless she blended it up, and drank it, then I suppose it could indeed be "juicy". I've got no idea who the novel is based on, although the Internet tells me Tony Blair? Personally I hope not. That's just gross, and, well I doubt ole' Tony would be happy frankly. Fact is, I don't want to know who it's about. I just want to get as far away from the book as I can and it'll be a sad, sad day if Kay writes another one. Kay Burley, we do not need you in the Chick Lit world. Honestly, you're not helping our cause.

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                  28.05.2011 15:56
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                  Not as good as Melissa's other novels

                  When the baby is found on the doorstep of Ella's café, everyone asks - what sort of parent would abandon their child? Jess feels increasingly left out as the only non-mum amongst her friends. Terrified she might lose them altogether, she embarks on becoming a mother too. But is she really ready? Hollywood actress Ruth Seymour is home in the small town of Lakeview for the summer. But has an ill-advised fling with a handsome co-star resulted in a seriously unplanned consequence? Nina has come to live with her estranged father, Patrick, after a bad break-up. But will she ever dare tell him about the secret she is concealing? One thing's for sure: someone knows more than they're telling. And the truth won't stay hidden forever...

                  I'm a huge fan of Melissa Hill. Her novels regularly surprise me and each twist and turn is something I guess at and inevitably get wrong. There are now only two of her novels I haven't yet read and it will only be a matter of time before I do. Her latest book - and the one I'm reviewing - it The Truth About You which came out last year. It's sat on my shelf for ages, mainly because Melissa is an author I like to keep on my TBR shelf because she's the kind of author who I enjoy reading because she always keeps me guessing. But with a new Melissa book around the corner, it was time for me to find out all about the surprise baby left on Ella's cafe door!

                  The start of The Truth About You is brilliant. There's a Prologue where we learn about the abandoned baby and it definitely grabbed my attention. We're then introduced to our three main characters: Nina, Jess and Ruth. All are pregnant or, in Jess's case, want to get pregnant and the novel is definitely very baby-centric. I must admit, as a girl in her early twenties, books about pregnancy do have the tendency to bore me. It's not really something that interests me and I don't get all the hype mothers-to-be feel. I just don't have the attention span to focus on a novel so centered around babies and The Truth About You is heavily-pregnancy influenced. It's inescapable.

                  In part, I think all the baby stuff goes a long way to explaining why I skim-read the majority of the novel. I got 200 pages in and nothing was happening. It kills me to say that, but although there were many balls up in the air - the abandoned baby, mainly - there was no advancement on that. It was like the baby was abandoned, we were told of it and then it didn't come up again in any capacity except for the ending of the novel. Instead all we got was Nina and Ruth struggling with their pregnancies and Jess desperately trying to get pregnant so she can fit into her friends' mummy club. I kept waiting for something to happen, but for me the book just fell really flat.

                  I must admit, despite my thoughts on the plot itself, part of my enjoyment of the novel came from the characters. Because they were very well written. Nina is the lynch-pin of the three, moving back to Lakeview after breaking up with her boyfriend and I warmed to her fairly quickly. She has to deal not only with her pregnancy but with a reticent dad. I wasn't expecting to find myself liking Ruth, who is an actress in LA, but I found her more down-to-Earth than I expected and she definitely surprised me. As for Jess, I liked her less of the three. Her wanting of a child did come across as hasty, and I was with her husband Brian, it was as if she wanted a child merely so she could join her friends' mummy club so she wasn't left out any more. Those three make up the bulk of the novel but I'd also like to mention Ella, who is integral to the story and seemed like such a wonderful woman.

                  As is always the case with a Melissa Hill novel, there is a bit of a twist at the end and I must admit, it did surprise me (which is not a surprise). But I just couldn't get past the slow-going middle of the novel. It needed more action, more anything, just something to give it a kick. The book's well written, but the lack of any forward-motion in the plot really hindered the read for me. It says it all that I managed to skim-read the last half of the book but didn't actually miss anything of note. I had such high hopes for the book and I'm just so sad they weren't fulfilled. It could have been quite a novel, but the whole abandoned baby thing just seemed to be put on the back-burner (understandably, though, since Nina, Ruth and Jess were pregnant for most of the novel). It won't stop me reading Melissa's other novels, but I'm just disappointed I didn't enjoy The Truth About You more.

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                    27.05.2011 19:03
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                    A stunning novel

                    Enter a vanished and unjust world: Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Where black maids raise white children, but aren't trusted not to steal the silver... There's Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own son's tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from College, who wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared. Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. No one would believe they'd be friends; fewer still would tolerate it. But as each woman finds the courage to cross boundaries, they come to depend and rely upon one another. Each is in a search of a truth. And together they have an extraordinary story to tell...

                    It's probably fair for me to say that although I'm a fairly clever person, there are aspects of life that I know nothing about. Like many people, I am well aware that the world used to be divided into two groups. The white people and the coloured people. To this day, it makes me angry, but back then the world was an entirely different place and that's just how it was then. But as far as it goes, that's pretty much all I knew. I don't know why it was, I don't know what brought about the change that sees people from all walks of life mix together in the twenty-first century as (I'd guess) most young people don't, because to put it in the nicest way possible: what is it to us? (That goes for lots of things, too, not just the way white people and coloured people couldn't mix). So when Danielle posted up the movie trailer for The Help, I took a look, out of interest more than anything else. I watched it and I was shocked; it looks like an amazing movie, but the whole premise of the movie was surprising. So because I am well aware that books are miles better than their movie adaptations, I downloaded The Help onto my Kindle and a week later, let me tell you it is one of the most astounding books I will ever, ever read and I feel like a better person for have reading it.

                    There is not a chance my review will do The Help justice. It's the kind of book you have to read to see just how good it is. It's tempting for me to just end this review right now and say: read it. Because if you haven't read it, then you're missing out. You're missing out on a book that will go down in history as a classic. The Help is about so much more than showing us what life was like for coloured people in the 1960s. It's probably even about things I couldn't even describe or even realise, and I will still be thinking about it long after I've read it. The book has absolutely everything, despite the situation Aibileen and Minny find themselves in, despite the fact they spend their time waiting on white people, the book still managed to bring a smile to my face. A smile of hope, a smile that despite just how bad they were treated, they didn't let it get them down. The book made me sad, it gave me tears in my eyes. It was suspenseful, particularly as Aibileen, Skeeter and Minny find themselves waiting for everything to come to a head. I truly feel as though I've spent more than a week with these people. It's as if I truly know Aibileen, Skeeter, Minny - even Mae Mobley. It truly gets under your skin and doesn't let you go.

                    Every single character is written with such depth that - I am not joking - it's as if you're there watching it play out, I was hoping Minny, Aibileen and Skeeter could pull off what they were doing, I was hoping Miss Leefolt and Miss Hilly would get exactly what they deserved. Despite how horrific Miss Hilly is, and she is a truly horrific and spiteful woman, you can still feel for her. I may not have liked what she did at all, but she just leaped off the pages along with every one else. Even Jackson, Mississippi seemed incredibly real to me. I could feel the heat and the cold, I could see Aibileen's house and Skeeter's house. Minny was the sassiest character I have ever come across, I have an awful lot of love for Minny. Honestly, you have to read this book just so you can meet Minny. Aibileen was very much the ying to Minny's yang, she was a lot less hot-headed and her love for Mae Mobley and her dissent for the way Miss Leefolt treated her daughter was plainly evident. Aibileen was more of a mother to Mae Mobley that Miss Leefolt ever would be and that made me sad. Skeeter impressed me the most, because she's the one who steps forward with the great idea. She's the one who sees that the way the white people treat the coloured people is wrong on so many different levels.

                    What took me most about the book is way in which Kathryn Stockett has written it. The writing is just so authentic, it isn't written 'properly', it's written exactly how I presume people in the 60s spoke. It just made the book all the better. I'm not the kind of person that usually enjoys novels written like that, I prefer my books to be written properly, otherwise I generally find myself getting annoyed but there is no other way Stockett could have written The Help, because the way in which it was written just luminates the story more and more. The Help could have easily been an angry novel, Stockett could have easily managed to make Aibileen and Minny angry and resentful for everything they had to go through - I mean no matter who you are, the thought that a coloured person had to have their own bathroom back then makes my blood boil, because it's so humiliating - and yet despite all of that, Aibileen, Minny and many of the other maids, have wonderful stories to tell. It isn't all doom and gloom, and despite the fact the book is indeed a tough read from the perspective that things back then were just horrific for coloured people, the book is still uplifting in so many ways. It manages to encapsulate so many feelings in its 544 pages and there is not a dull moment whilst you read this novel.

                    I know it's wrong of me to judge Ms Stockett, but when I read what the book was about I assumed she was a coloured lady. I truly did, but that's not true at all. Ms Stockett is very much white and has first hand knowledge of what it is to grow up with coloured help. She's undoubtedly poured a lot of what she remembers from the time into the novel, and it must have been so difficult for her and she mentions as much in the back of the novel. How she wondered how well the book would be received, how she was worried about writing the novel in the first place. She's worried she has told too much, but I disagree heatedly. Because no matter how much she tells, I'm fairly sure there is still a lot, lot more that could be told. Kathryn Stockett hasn't, as I've said, written the book to show that white people were horrible people back then, she's presented it exactly how it was back then, warts and all, yes, but with the good moments, too. She's shown that even before the civil rights revolution times may have been a-changing. I'm not going to pretend I know about times back then. I'm 21 years old, all I know is what I will learn from the Internet. But I do think The Help has educated me a lot, too. I applaud Kathryn for writing this novel, it is an astounding work of fiction. I have so many questions I would love to ask Kathryn about the novel. I read lots of books, I love lots of books, I give lots of books 5 stars, but this is one of those books that I would give infinity amount of stars, the amount of praise I have for this novel is overwhelming and I implore everybody to go out and buy The Help if you haven't already read it. You only need to go and see the thousands (yes, thousands) of reviews on Amazon.com to know that this is a special, special novel and I truly hope the movie does it justice (from the trailer it looks like it will - Octavia Spencer looks EXACTLY as I pictured Minny whilst reading). You won't regret reading The Help, I promise you.

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                      26.05.2011 18:32
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                      Another great novel

                      Eve knows what she wants. After nine good years and two kids together, it's about time Liam made an honest woman of her.Eve's sister Sam knows more than she should. Sam's always thought Eve was too good for Liam. Then she learns the truth about his business trips to Australia, and her suspicions are confirmed. And Brooke, safe on the other side of the world; knows nothing. Until a mysterious delivery arrives for her and promises to change her life forever. It seems someone doesn't want Brooke to be the last to know . . .

                      I'm a huge fan of Melissa Hill, and have all of her books on my bookshelf. I've read the majority of her books but I still have a few left to read, and one of those was The Last To Know. I heard from a friend that it needed total concentration to read, and it's taken me until now to have a free day to dedicate to the book. I was hoping for another fab, plot-twist-y read and I got exactly what I was looking for.

                      Now, I don't want to give too much away about the plot because the beauty of a Melissa Hill book is discovering the plot as you read the book, rather than have everything spelled out to you in the synopsis or when reading a review. Basically, the plot revolves around Aussie Brooke, who is a book editor at a major Australian women's fiction imprint, and when she receives a manuscript entitled The Last To Know she quickly becomes engrossed in the story of its characters. But all is not what it seems, and it turns out that the truth really can be stranger than fiction. We also meet Eve, Sam and Anna, three girls living in Dublin and London as they make relationship changes, hope to get married, and stick with their jobs. I was immediately taken in with the plot and I was intrigued as to how it would all unravel because in true Melissa Hill style, I knew it would undoubtedly be less than straightforward.

                      I thought the cast of The Last To Know was very well rounded, and very well characterised. I immediately liked Eve. She's the mother to two children, has been with her partner, Liam, for 9 years and is hopeful of a marriage proposal sometime soon. She seems very downtrodden with life when we first meet her but after she and her sister Sam to a bit of a life swap, she really comes into her own. I also liked Sam, Eve's sister and a best-selling author in London. Her life is the polar opposite of her sister and I liked her spunkiness. As for Anna, I wasn't totally convinced about her. I was never really taken with her to be honest and it was only at the end of the book that it all made sense to me. I also really disliked Eve's partner Liam, he was barely in the book due to his work as a wine importer but whenever he was around, I couldn't wait for him to disappear again. I loved Brooke, and she was one of my favourite characters.

                      As with all of Melissa's books The Last To Know is incredibly well written. It's told in the third-person, allowing us to get the full scope of the story. But as usual in a Hill book, we don't get the full scope of the story until the end. I love the way Hill can somehow tell a story without revealing everything until the final few chapters. It must take immense strength to not blurt it all out beforehand. A lot of the twists and turns came as a surprise to me, because as usual I had my own thoughts and suspicions and thought I had the story cracked when it turns out that as usual I was completely and utterly wrong. I would get dispirited but it's my fault for trying to second guess Melissa. I hugely enjoyed The Last To Know and although I didn't enjoy it as much as some of her previous works, it's still a notable novel that all Hill fans will lap up.

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                      25.05.2011 22:15
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                      Good, with flaws.

                      Allison Glenn tried to hide what happened that night...and failed. The consequence? Five years in prison. Now she's free. But secrets have a way of keeping you caged...When Allison is sent to prison for a heinous crime, she leaves behind her reputation as Linden Falls' golden girl forever. Her parents deny the existence of their once-perfect child. Her former friends exult in her downfall. Her sister, Brynn, faces the whispered rumours every day in the hallways of their small Iowa high school. It's Brynn - shy, quiet Brynn - who carries the burden of what really happened that night. All she wants is to forget Allison and the past that haunts her. But then Allison is released, and is more determined than ever to speak with her sister. Now their legacy of secrets is focused on one little boy. And if the truth is revealed, the consequences will be unimaginable for the adoptive mother who loves him, the girl who tried to protect him and the two sisters who hold the key to all that is hidden.

                      Heather Gudenkauf burst onto the scene last year with her debut novel The Weight of Silence and it was picked for the TV Book Club. I have the book on my shelf but I haven't yet managed to pick it up. I then noticed her second novel was up on Amazon, called These Things Hidden and I thought it sounded very intriguing. I managed to snag myself a proof copy and I read it the day after it arrived, as it's been a while since I've read something in the Jodi Picoult mould. I found it to be a very quick read, the short chapters lending to it a carry-on-reading feel and overall I was fairly impressed with the novel.

                      I'm going to keep my review short and simple as the novel is best read when you don't know too much about the plot. The book focuses on four women: Allison, who has just gotten out of jail; Brynn, Allison's sister; Charm, who is looking after her ill step-father; and Claire, adopted mother to son Joshua. They each have connections to each other and what happened the night Allison drowned her little girl has ramifications for them all. We follow each character, during short, sharp chapters as the story unfolds as to what really happened the night Allison's daughter was drowned and exactly how Charm and Claire were involved. I thought the plot was very well drawn-out and I liked seeing how Allison had to adjust to life on the outside after 5 years in jail. At times the plot was rushed, but on the whole I liked the pacing of it.

                      Despite everything Allison has done, I did find myself feeling sympathetic towards her. Yes, it's wrong to kill a child, but I could understand the method behind the madness. I don't agree with it, but I can see why she was driven to do that. I didn't particularly like Brynn, Allison's sister, I just never clicked with her really, though it was painfully clear that night had changed her irrevocably. Charm was my favourite character, the way she cares for her sick step-father and everything she does just made me like her all the more. There was something about her that just clicked with me and I looked forward to the chapters that featured her. Claire was also a character I enjoyed. You can feel how much she wants a child so when she adopts Joshua, you can see how her world is now complete.

                      These Things Hidden is well-written, told in third- and first-person narrative, with short chapters that make it easy to 'just read one more'. There isn't much wrong with the book, not really, but for such a difficult subject matter, it does seem like a too-light read. I didn't see the depth to it, I suppose, and it might have been better to flesh out some scenes a bit more. It definitely needed a bit more gravitas because although the subject matter has kept me thinking since I've finished it, it's not because of the book, it's just what the book inspired, it's not a topic you see covered every day and so I find myself debating it. The book just seemed too light and some of the things were a bit implausible. I do however applaud Gudenkauf for tackling the subject, despite the 'light' feel to it, I think she has done it well. I knew on some subconscious level how it would end, but I think overall I liked the novel. Implausible, yes, but highly readable all the same and I will definitely go back to read The Weight of Silence and look out for further novels from Ms. Gudenkauf.

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                        25.05.2011 15:04
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                        Good enough

                        Notorious party-loving 'It Girl' Lyric Charlton has it all - the lineage, the looks and the lifestyle. A moneyed upbringing at the heart of one of the upper class's most well-connected families, a finishing school education and an address book bursting with the world's most powerful and high-profile people has crowned her the glamorous poster girl for the aristocratic glitterati. But when her doomed relationship with suave boy-about-town Ralph Conway means she takes the good times too far, she is packed off to rehab by her worried parents, and the public shame and private humiliation that follow means Lyric's only option seems to be to retreat into sober obscurity. But what no one can predict is the dramatic chain of events her exile sets in motion. For Lyric's treatment is the start of much more than a life as an ex-addict. It's the catalyst that exposes a complex web of deceit and betrayal - and leads Lyric on an increasingly dangerous quest to find the final missing piece of the jigsaw of her life...

                        I admit, when I heard notorious IT-girl Tara Palmer-Tomkinson was writing a novel, I wasn't entirely impressed. Celebrity novels rarely impress me, and most of the time they don't even bother to write the books themselves (and what makes it even more galling is that they say they did write it themselves and/or don't thank their ghostwriter which irritates me). However, when I saw the book in the book swap one day, I picked it up, not expecting a good read at all. The best thing about picking up the book with no expectations meant that the fact I enjoyed it was a real plus point.

                        Inheritance starts very well, throwing us into a situation we know nothing about where Lyric finds herself in danger, before heading back three years before, two years before, one year before, before telling us the story as to how Lyric ended up with her life in mortal danger. It was a clever way to introduce us into the story, and I was instantly intrigued as to what had happened to Lyric. Tara Palmer-Tomkinson states in her Acknowledgements that the book is entirely fictional, but there is little doubt that Lyric is based on the woman herself but that didn't really bother me and I found myself getting very involved in the story. There are many twists and turns throughout the book, some were a bit obvious, but the plot was very intriguing and kept me reading!

                        There's quite a large cast in Inheritance, as with most novels like it, and although Lyric is the main character there are plenty of other characters for us to get our teeth into. I wasn't a huge fan of Lyric's name (and I would assume it's meant to be ironic as we also have a Truly Stunning in the novel) but I liked Lyric. Yes, she has her faults what with her drug addiction but we don't see much of it, we see the aftermath of her rehab stint and she seemed likeable enough. We also have Lyric's parents, her best friends as well as some evil characters, and it is quite the well-rounded cast. Not many of them made as much as an impression as Lyric bar one of the villains who is unforgettable, but the rest of the cast added to the general story well.

                        The only problems I had with the novel was the time-jumping. We know Lyric had a drug addiction, but her entire rehabilitation wasn't included in the novel, just the mention of her release from rehab. I thought that was a shame, as it would have been a nice inclusion in the book because, with the greatest of respect to Tara, if anyone can write about a stint in rehab, surely it's her? There were a few more time jumps like that, that broke up the story a bit, but apart from that I thoroughly enjoyed Inheritance. It wasn't what I expected at all, and I mean that in a good way. I also hugely admire the fact Tara admits to have help with the novel, thanking someone called Claire in her Acknowledgements saying that although it's her story, feelings and things, she can't type, and not a lot of celebs admit to having help with writing a novel and happily pass it off as their own. All in all, I will definitely be picking up a second of Tara's novels should one come out.

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                        24.05.2011 18:40
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                        Good addition to the series

                        Die-hard romantic, Kay Ashton, uses her inheritance to open a B&B in the seaside town of Lyme Regis and is dumbstruck when the cast and crew of a new production of Persuasion descend, needing a place to stay. Kay can't believe her luck - especially when she realises that heart throb actor Oli Wade Owen will be sleeping under her very own roof! Meanwhile, co-star Gemma Reilly is worried that her acting isn't up to scratch, despite landing a plum role. She finds a sympathetic ear in shy producer, Adam Craig, who is as baffled by the film world as she is. Kay thinks the two are meant for each other and can't resist a spot of matchmaking. Then, when Oli turns his trademark charm on Kay, it seems that she has found her real-life hero. But do heroes really exist?

                        Up until this latest release, Victoria Connelly has only had two novels published in the UK, with a further three (or four, I can't remember) published in Germany. I've read both of her UK novels, the first being Molly's Millions so when I heard about her new Jane Austen-inspired trilogy, I was instantly intrigued and I devoured A Weekend With Mr Darcy last year. It was filled with warmth and humour and it was a cracking good story, so I was really looking forward to its companion novel (they're not sequels, they're companions) and I enjoyed The Perfect Hero just as much as Victoria's previous novels.

                        I adored the plot of The Perfect Hero. The book starts before Kay moves to Lyme Regis to open her B&B, giving us a bit of background info on her. The book then throws itself straight into the plot as Kay finds herself surrounded by actors as a new film of Jane Austen's novel Persuasion gets under way. I must admit, I am not a Jane Austen fan myself, as I haven't read any of her novels (blasphemy, I'm sure but I am planning to when I get my Kindle) but I do love modern takes on Jane Austen, and novels that revolve around Austen's own novels. I think Victoria Connelly knows Austen's novels well and the backdrop of Persuasion is a very good one.

                        What really brought the novel to life, for me, was the seaside town of Lyme Regis. Connelly really knows the town well, and brings it to life with flair. Her descriptions make it easy to visualise the place if you've never been (as I haven't) and I desperately wanted to walk along the Cobb. I loved the thought of staying at Wentworth House and seeing the Cobb from my bedroom window. It takes a lot for me to be able to visualise a place (even places I know!) so for me to crave Lyme Regis says a lot. Usually books don't focus too much on location, I mean the amount of novels set in London that only passingly mention streets, or the Thames, is plenty and I never feel as if I'm 'in' London when reading a novel set there. It's always just a backdrop. But with The Perfect Hero, Lyme Regis makes up a big part of the novel and it's abundantly clear from descriptions and constant references to the Cobb and what not.

                        I thoroughly enjoyed the cast of characters in The Perfect Hero. Kay is undoubtedly the main focus on the novel, but we get to know many of the people involved in Persuasion, particularly Gemma, an actress and Adam, the producer and writer. Then there's the other actors involved: the handsome Oli, Sophie and Beth. I liked Kay, but I didn't like her stupid fantasies featuring Oli. They were a bit fantastical, and undoubtedly in there for a reason, but for me, I found them a bit cringe-worthy. I adored Gemma, though, she seemed so sweet and shy and totally unlike any actress you've ever heard of. As for Adam, I admit, I had a total crush on him and found it amusing Kay was so oblivious to him all the time. As for Oli, the supposed heartthrob, I wasn't entirely taken with him at all. There just seemed something off about him for me, and I just couldn't take him seriously. Generally it was a well-rounded cast of characters, ones I was pleased to get to know.

                        Now I must admit, I knew Oli's secret. As soon as Kay made the comparison, it all became clear about Oli. It was disappointing for me to figure it out when Kay was clearly still utterly clueless (she seemed very naive, what with Adam and then Oli). So when it did all come out, and it all became clear to Kay and everyone else I wasn't surprised. But I did thoroughly enjoy the rest of the novel. It had all the warmth of Victoria's previous novels and I loved the nod to Lorna Warwick from A Weekend With Mr Darcy. I'm thoroughly looking forward to the third Austen-inspired novel which will be out in 2012. I don't think The Perfect Hero was as good as A Weekend With Mr Darcy, but it was a worthy companion with the only disappointment being Oli's secret. It's well worth reading though even if you haven't read A Weekend With Mr Darcy as, like I said, they aren't sequels to each other, just companion novels!

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                          23.05.2011 19:55
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                          Brilliant read

                          Abby Rogers is the least health-conscious 28-year-old you're ever likely to meet and her only concession to healthy eating is eating on blueberry muffin instead of her usual two. So when her best friend Jess invites her to her running club, Abby can think of no worse way to spend her time. However, the thought of seeing Dishy Doctor Oliver on a regular basis propels her to say yes. After a disastrous first session, puking included, Abby vows to never run again. Until she finds out something shocking about friend and co-worker Heidi and soon Abby's running for more than just the fun of it.

                          I am a huge, huge fan of Jane Costello. In fact, that's an understatement. I'm a massive fan. As soon as I read her second novel The Nearly-Weds I was hooked. I then devoured Bridesmaids and, more recently, My Single Friend. So it's safe to say that when I saw a fourth novel up on Amazon called Girl on the Run, I was excited! Jane's novels are always a pleasure to read, and the pages just fly by for me whenever I read her novels. So when I received a copy of Girl in the Run I was bursting to read it (just my luck I was busy finishing off two books in a series) but I cleared them out quickly and finally, finally I got to read Girl on the Run and I bloomin' loved it.

                          Girl on the Run is, as you might expect, about running. A new trend in Chick Lit it has to be said with Fiona Gibson releasing a novel about running earlier in the year called Mum on the Run. Obviously, the motivation behind the running in both novels is to get fit, but with Girl in the Run, it's also about raising funds. I don't want to spoil what the funds are for, but you do find out early on in the book so it's not exactly a big secret. I liked the reasoning behind Abby's desire to complete a half-marathon and is much better than it solely being about getting fit (despite the fact that that is a big benefit, too). It added gravitas to the plot without being overly contrived.

                          Right from the off, the book had me hooked. Abby runs someone over within the first few pages and I loved her panic when she thought she'd killed the man she'd banged into. And the laughs continue steadily throughout the book. I don't think a book this year has made me laugh as much as Girl on the Run did. Jane just seems to have a natural affinity for putting comedic moments into her novels. They don't seem forced, they're just part and parcel of her characters and bring their personalities to life that bit more. Each page flows perfectly and I was hooked for 455 pages. I was hugely worried about Abby's fixation with Dishy Doc Oliver, and I did think that might ruin the book for me, but it didn't.

                          I loved Abby. Seriously, I want to meet this girl. She's in the exact same mould as Costello's previous characters: Evie, Lucy and Zoe. She's warm, she's funny, she's the kind of girl you want to be, the kind of girl you want to know. The characters around Abby are just as warm and engaging, from her work colleagues - Heidi, Matt and Priya - to her parents, to her best friend Jess. Even Tom, who Abby runs over at the beginning, comes back into the book (which delighted me no end, let me tell you). Seriously, of all the Chick Lit males I've put my name to (Luke Brandon and Johnny Jefferson amongst others), Tom has shot up the list, he was a fantastic character and I loved the banter between him and Abby. I didn't much take to Oliver, the Dishy Doc, he just rubbed me up the wrong way, from that very first meeting with Abby.

                          I knew the ending of Girl on the Run from page 5. Why, then, did I love the book so much? I hear you ask. Because of what it took to get there. For me, when I'm reading a Chick Lit novel, knowing who my main character is going to end up with is meant to be predictable. I'm meant to know, loud and clear. For me, the getting there is what makes the book for me. What turns the plot takes, what obstacles get in the way and although I'd love a romance that takes the bull by the horns and doesn't take until 10 pages before the end to get going, I doubt that's every going to happen so the distractions in novels like Girl on the Run are what I judge the book on. Along with the plot and characters and writing style. Jane Costello has one of the most pleasurable writing styles I've read, her chapters are short and snappy and allow for that 'Just one more...' feeling and the fact she narrates from her main character's point of view makes it all the better. I was surprised by Girl on the Run, by how much I loved it because there's always a nagging doubt that this will be the book that might not be as good as the previous ones, but for me, this was Jane at her best and I lapped up every page.

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