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Willow and Holly are identical twins but their lives could not be more different mainly because of incidents from the past that Willow has learned to live with. Whilst Holly is comfortably married with two adorable daughters, Willow never seems to be able to hold down a relationship and has taken refuge in eating instead. If she is ever to move on and be as happy as her sister, she needs to confront her past - but is she strong enough to do so?
'Lessons in Laughing Out Loud', written by Rowan Coleman, is an emotional and absorbing read. Willow Briars is in her thirties and cannot exactly claim that her life is successful. Acrimoniously divorced, having no contact with her stepdaughter and working too many hours for a tyrannical boss, she cannot help but compare her life with her twin sister Holly's. But Holly has not had to live with the trauma that Willow endured as a child even though she has always been there to support and help her. However, one day she stumbles upon and old and tucked away second hand shop with a wonderful pair of shoes in the window that seem to be calling out to her. The shoes seem to transform Willow; not only her stature and looks but also her confidence and the way she sees herself. Also, the people who know her appear to be looking at her differently too. Transformed, she feels ready to tackle anything life has to throw at her which I probably a good thing when her fifteen year old stepdaughter turns up on her doorstep, pregnant and having run away from home.
What follows, is a fabulous engrossing tale of love and friendship and confronting one's fears. I always enjoy the way that Rowan Coleman writes, and 'Lessons in Laughing Out Loud' is so well crafted that I just wanted to read more and more. The author very cleverly delivers the story bit by bit, introducing new characters and dropping hints about what might happen, keeping my interest throughout. It is by no means predictable although I couldn't help trying to guess what Willow's secret might be. There is also a great balance of humour and emotion which meant that one moment I might be chuckling to myself and the next attempting to hold back the tears. Overall, it is quite a poignant read and the title is very apt seeing as Willow appears to have lost the ability to laugh out loud, also stemming from her childhood trauma.
I loved Willow's character as she was vulnerable one moment and quite strong the next. She was always prepared to face whatever challenges were thrown at her and that made her an extremely positive character rather than a weak one. Because I really liked her, I wanted things to turn out well. There were also a host of other intriguing and entertaining characters; Chloe, Willow's angry but scared step daughter, Victoria, her tyrannical boss and India, a young actress who ends up in hiding in Willow's flat whilst the press are hounding her because of an affair with an older married co-star and Serious James, an unlikely would-be stand up comedian. All these characters and more add to an entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable story that I hardly could bring myself to put down.
Lessons in Laughing Out Loud is available on Amazon for £4.50
This review has previously appeared under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk
Willow and Holly are identical twins. They are everything to each other. Holly calls Willow her rock, her soul mate, her other half. And Willow feels the same about Holly. They are alike in every respect except one - Willow is afraid on the inside. And all because of a secret - one that binds the sisters closely together and yet has meant their adult lives have taken two very different paths. Willow often feels there are large parts of her missing, qualities she only knows she's lacking because she sees them in her sister. For a very long time Willow has felt separated from Holly by one terrible moment in time - a moment that meant Willow's life was never the same again. And when the past catches up with her, Willow realises it's finally time for her to face her fears, and - with Holly's help - learn to laugh out loud once more...
I haven't actually read any of Rowan Coleman's books for a few years, although I honestly don't know why. I really enjoyed her 'Accidental Mother' series from a few years back, and when I was sent a copy of her latest book, Lessons in Laughing Out Loud, I was intrigued to find out more about the story as there was something that sounded interesting about it, not least the title for a start. The cover is a bit bizarre, certainly not the norm in the chick lit world but perhaps that was the idea - to stand out from the crowd a bit? Once I had finished the book, I have to say its one of the most moving and beautifully written novels I read in a long time - and its the first to actually have me crying tears for a very long time. Come the end I was sobbing for Willow, and it takes a great talent to move me to tears, let me tell you! Here is why you MUST read this book.
Although the blurb of this book initially talks about Willow and Holly being twin sisters, Holly barely features in the novel. This book is all about Willow, but I actually liked that it focussed more on one person as it helped us to really get into Willow's story and allowed it to develop without having to deviate too far from it. Willow is a fantastic character for so many reasons. She is great at her job as a PA, she is a great sister to Holly, a fab aunty to her nieces who lovingly call her Aunty Pillow, and best of all she's a wonderful step-mother to Chloe, the daughter of her ex-husband Sam. Something happened in Willow's past that holds her back, something we aren't made aware of for a good while into the book, but it is something quite shocking. I don't want to say what it is or any more about it actually as you need to read about it for it to work, but I felt Coleman handled the issue superbly, and while a few scenes made for startling reading, it was well covered and handled.
Perhaps the best thing about this book for me was the relationship between Willow and Chloe. Chloe has found herself in a spot of bother, and being only 16, she decides to run away from her dad to the only person she is sure will help her - her ex-step-mother. I felt Coleman really wrote this relationship really realistically, both the good and bad sides of it and it was wonderful to watch it grow and happen as the book progressed. It was also nice to see a fairly amicable relationship between Sam and Willow too, although again we don't know why the pair split up until a long way into the book. The storyline involving Chloe is another quite controversial one but again I felt Coleman had done the research and had the compassion in her writing to handle it well enough. The male characters were all well written too, from her ex-husband Sam, to the typical 'alpha male' character Daniel who I rather liked by the way, to his bumbling friend James who seemed a bit of a strange inclusion, but all the way through, you're never quite sure which, if any, of these Willow will want to end up with.
The refreshing thing about this book is that it isn't all about men, or a woman looking for the perfect man. Instead, its more about facing up to your demons, working on the broken relationships in your life with everyone important to you and moving forward, not looking back. It's positive, it's life-affirming and was just a joy to read. I actually found myself staying up til almost 2am to finish this because I had to find out what happened to Willow and how things would end for her and Holly. I can only imagine the emotions Coleman went through writing this as it really comes out in her writing, and as I say moved me to tears. There was something about this book that consumed me, and still months after reading it, it's still with me. I have to confess I wasn't mad about the whole 'magical shoes' idea, that was a bit far-fetched for me and I'm not madly into magical storylines but again, it felt okay within the book and wasn't too heavy. There is some humour to lighten up the more serious and hard-going storylines, but this is just a superb read that I highly recommend to ANYONE. I loved every page, and it's definitely up there as one of my favourite reads this year. Read it!
ISBN: 978-0099551263. Published by Arrow books on 21st July 2011. Pages: 384. RRP: £6.99
Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review for http://chicklitreviews.com
Thank you for reading.
After Rowan kindly gave an interview over on my blog I couldn't wait to read her latest book which I had been eagerly awaiting to be released. I loved Rowan Colemans previous book so I was hoping her new one would be as good if not even better!
Willow and Holly are identical twins. They are everything to each other. Holly calls Willow her rock, her soul mate, her other half. And Willow feels the same about Holly. They are alike in every respect except one - Willow is afraid on the inside. And all because of a secret - one that binds the sisters closely together and yet has meant their adult lives have taken two very different paths.
Willow often feels there are large parts of her missing, qualities she only knows she's lacking because she sees them in her sister. For a very long time Willow has felt separated from Holly by one terrible moment in time - a moment that meant Willow's life was never the same again. And when the past catches up with her, Willow realises it's finally time for her to face her fears, and - with Holly's help - learn to laugh out loud once more...
Rowan Coleman Strikes again! Our main Character Willow is such a warm and loveable character. She seems so down to earth which makes us connect with her straight away as she is a believable, realistic character. What made me love Willows character was that she seemed to be hiding a secret and this made her character more intriguing. We really want to see our heroine find some happiness in life but happiness doesn't seem to find Willow.
One of the other characters who come up a lot in this book is Chloe. Chloe has issues with Willow and I like the way that she is so much like the teenagers of today who are so stubborn and would not just let the situation go easily it took time for her to come around. I really liked her character she seemed so angry but I think this was just masking her vulnerability.
Rowan has based this story on many issues that seem to be becoming a regular occurrence in life now which makes the book feel a little deeper than her previous works. Although there is the deeper topic here Rowan approaches these issues gently without being judgmental and she manages to wind a little light hearted humour around the topics which manage to lighten the situation a little.
What I loved about this book was the mysterious element around the shoes ( I am saying no more as we do not do spoilers over here!) and the suspense. I really had no idea how this book was going to end or what the deep dark secret would be that seemed to be ruling poor Willow's life.
There really is a mixture of content in this book although there is a relative amount of romance and humour in this book there is so much more to this truly captivating storyline.
I really feel that this book was worth the wait and I would defiantly recommend you pick this book up and find yourself getting lost in this wonderfully written story. I only hope that Rowan doesn't keep us waiting too long for her next piece of work!!
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