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I do love it when I read an author's debut novel and I find it to be a brilliant read, so much so that I really look forward to the next material they are going to release. One such author was Sam Holden, whose debut book 'Diary of a Hapless House-husband' was a complete hit with me last year. I was pleased when I saw on Amazon he was bringing out a follow up to that book entitled 'Growing Pains of a Hapless House-husband' last month, so I reserved my copy at the library, and finally managed to read it, hoping I'd enjoy it just as much as its predecessor.
Sam Holden has been a stay-at-home Dad to his 2 children Daisy and Peter since he was made reduntant from his Management Consultant job last year. His wife Sally works among in the Intelligence Services, and Sam feels somewhat lonely at home with only his toddlers for company. Sam decides he needs to publicise his Holden Childcare programme and meets TV producer Dom. Luckily for Sam, Dom thinks Sam might have a hit shot with his idea and so 'WonderHubby' is born. Sam tells his tales and woes in his humourous diary format, so follow along and find out what its like to be the star of WonderHubby, and family-life with the Holdens.
You would be forgiven for thinking that this is autobiographical because the name of the author and lead character in the book are indeed the same, but don't be fooled. Sam Holden is the pen-name of a well-known author journalist (although we aren't told exactly who), and this book, as well as the first, is based loosely of Sam's experience of being a stay-at-home Dad to his children, but of course some is fictional and these 2 elements are combined to create an unusual style of writing and story. The book is written entirely in a diary format, with entries being quite random, sometimes every day and then others missed out which does make it seem more like a real diary I suppose. It's obviously written in the first person by Sam, and consequently everything we see and hear is his own viewpoint, but luckily for the readers, he is a very good storyteller and the diary entries are really funny and easy to read.
Although the writing style is very easy to read, and I did find myself laughing out loud a few times, I did have quite a problem with this book this really only occured to me after I was around halfway through the book and just continued up until I turned the last page. The first book seemed natural and plodded along at a good pace, just entertaining the reader as we read along with Sam's daily life. The problem with this follow up book for me is that I felt Holden was just trying too hard to be entertaining to his audience. I can't lie and say I didn't find it entertaining because I did, but it just seemed in parts a bit contrived and that he was adding things in purely to be sensational and give you a bit of shock factor out of the blue. One particular shock was actually a tad disgusting and I felt it a bit out of place in this novel to be honest and I feel it was this that actually lowered the tone of the novel which was so disappointing to me.
The characters were good, although the book mainly follows Sam and so it is he whom we really get to know the best out of the few people within the book. Those who have read his previous novel will know about the character, and he is the same in the second book, very funny, likeable and generally a strong lead character within the book. His wife Sally doesn't appear very much in the book but when she does, we just seem to see her going to bed, having an argument with Sam or being a mum. She's a working mum but I just couldn't make myself like her simply because she wasn't in the book enough for me to care about her. The other character we saw a lot of in the book was Dom, the man behind Sam's new television show "WonderHubby". I didn't like this character at all, he seemed really slimy and over-the-top, and quite a horrible person actually! Some of the things that came out about him were not very nice, and I didn't enjoy any of the parts with him in it, and Holden putting in a character like this really disappointed me because I just couldn't stand him. There were smaller characters throughout too, none important enough to mention, but they didn't really add too much to the story.
I was hoping for an enjoyable and funny read, much in the same vein of Holden's first book but sadly I was left disappointed by what I read this time around. Although the elements were there in terms of story, story-teller and the ideas within the book for it to be a great story, but it really just fell flat for me throughout to be honest. The whole idea of the television show was slightly odd and seemed unrealistic, and I'm not sure how much the author can have drawn on his own experiences for something like that, making me doubt the other stuff in the book too. Holden is definitely a talented writer who has the knack for writing books based on life, families and relationships, but this one just is simply nowhere as good as the first. If you are at all tempted to try this author, I'd highly recommend you reading his first novel and not really bothering with this one!
ISBN: 978-0099518075. Published by Arrow Books in September 2008. The paperback contains 400 pages. Available on Amazon for £5.49
Author Info: http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/h/sam-holden/
Thank you for reading.