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The Ugly Sister - Jane Fallon

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    5 Reviews
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      11.02.2013 19:44
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      Jane Fallon has gone and stolen my heart again with another fantastically written book.

      I'm a massive bookworm, I would rather sit with my nose in a book than watch a movie. I'm always on a look out for one of those books that has you hooked and I tend to go for the 'real' books, I'm not a great fan of fantasy! I love drama and romance and after reading Getting Rid of Matthew by Jane Fallon I knew that she was the type of author that creates those story lines that would keep me addicted from start to finish. Jane Fallon is a talented author with great attention to detail and her characterisation skills are impressive, I've read all of the books she's written so far and I've fallen inlove with the characters and felt their aches and pains during the twisting and unexpected dramas, so considering this I didn't think twice about purchasing The Ugly Sister.

      Price: I bought this book a few months back in ASDA for £8.99 but at this moment in time it is available on the kindle for £4.99 and if you don't have a kindle prices start from around a penny!

      So without giving too much of the plot away, the book is basically about sibling rivalry (if you hadn't already guessed from the book title). Caroline otherwise known as 'Cleo' was scouted as a model when she was a teenager, with her stunning looks and lean body she was a knock out compared to Abi who is much smaller and earthier than her older sister. Caroline is transformed into her modelling alter ego Cleo and is whisked into the oh-so-glamorous world of modelling where everyone is fabulous and everyone tells you you're fabulous too. The relationship between the 2 sisters is strained and has been since Caroline became Cleo, Abi is struck by Cleo's selfishness and ignorance towards her family and former life yet is very surprised when Cleo invites Abi to stay for a few weeks for some sisterly bonding times and the alarm bells start ringing for Abi and the reader.

      As the reader, the relationship between the sisters is beyond petty, but Jane Fallon's writing style is effective and draws you into the shoes of each character giving the reader a holistic view of what's really going on. Fallon has a real talent for making her characters relatable and applies the unpretentious down to earth vibe that really warms the reader towards the main characters, despite the circumstances of what's going on. The reader also gets a feel of the frustration conveyed through the characters, I nearly threw the book across the room in more than one occasion at the sheer arrogance of Cleo and like Abi, I dreaded her coming home and entering the scene just because she was so self obsessed and vile! Having said that, Fallon done a great job of pushing and pulling the reader because quite often I would start to think of Cleo as a tortured soul and wanted to read on to see if she could explain her horrible behaviour and grew so frustrated at her antics!

      The most obvious theme of the book is that beauty is only skin deep and comes from within, and Fallon has very cleverly related this to all the characters. Abi, who is borderline boring and hasn't ever really felt attractive, begins to appreciate the beauty of her own life and the cherished relationship with her daughter, Cleo's daughters learn to accept themselves how they are and behave just like children should behave and Jonty, who is becoming disheartened by the flash lifestyle and is searching for something a little less superficial.

      I was disappointed by the ending, but I did feel the relief that all the rumpus was over with. With all of Fallon's books, I always finish them feeling like that calm after a storm because even though the ending isn't perfect the characters (and the reader!) are at peace and have worked their way through whatever drama there was. I really enjoyed The Ugly Sister and found that their many themes were very relatable as it wasn't always about the fame, money and celebrity status but the real things that matter in life when all that stuff fades out. It's not a particularly intense read but it's definitely a book that'll make your train journey feel like 5 minutes.

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      10.02.2012 12:58
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      Sometimes Sisters aren't always friends.....

      I have been a big fan of Jane Fallon since reading her first book Getting Rid of Matthew. I had put her latest one The Ugly Sister on my Christmas list, but it wasn't one that Santa chose for me so I was delighted to find it in the charity shop last week.

      Since her sister Caroline was scouted as a supermodel when she was 16, Abigail has always felt that she has been living in her sister's shadow. Twenty years on, they are virtually strangers - meeting up on rare special occasions and catching up by email - but when Abi finds herself without a place to stay over the summer due to a mix up with a flat purchase, Caroline (now Cleo) offers her a room with them for the summer. While Abi thinks this may be a chance for the sisters to regain the closeness they had as children, does Cleo have an ulterior motive for asking her sister to stay?

      It is hard not to like Abi - she is a fighter and when compared to her sister you really want her to do well. However I couldn't help but feel that she had wasted her life by not making the most of her intelligence, and chose to be kept in Cleo's shadow rather than fighting to be her own person. I was also a bit confused by the characterisation of Cleo - at times she seemed utterly reprehensible and shallow, but then there were flashes of vulnerability which just didn't seem to fit with where Jane Fallon was going with the character. I really liked Jon, and I felt he was written with just the right balance of metro sexual and manliness - however I felt he needed a little bit more backbone!! Jon and Cleo's daughters were sweet young girls, but they did seem to fall into the trap of sounding much to mature for their age, which is a problem I have found in a lot of recent chick lit portrayals of children.

      I found the book quite slow paced compared to Jane Fallon's earlier books, but this did not affect my enjoyment of it. To be honest I do not think the blurb on the back does not do the storyline justice, as it makes the book sound a lot shallower than it actually is - if I had not read her earlier works then I possibly would have passed this one back. That said, the undercurrent of brains versus beauty is an undercurrent throughout the book, which does give it a slightly shallow feel which is a shame because to me the real strength is the theme of sisters with differing personalities and clashes in the family which most readers will be able to identify with in some way - I am one of 3 girls and we are all very different in both looks and personalities, causing awful clashes at times so I could identify with the Cleo and Abi in a few ways!

      I would recommend this book, although there are better Jane Fallon books. I like the fact that her books are a bit darker than standard chick lit, and she touches on subjects that feel real, albeit sometimes uncomfortable. The ending was a bit of a disappointment, as I like my books to have a definite ending and I felt this was a bit lacking - however I feel the storyline made it quite hard to give a finite conclusion without changing the dynamic of the characters (I don't want to give away too much!) The ending does leave the door slightly ajar for a possible sequel.

      Available from Amazon for £4.62 delivered or £4.99 on Kindle

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        28.01.2012 20:11
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        A book by Jane fallon

        I noticed a book that my hubby was after getting available in Tesco so when I also saw this book too in the book offer, it made sense to buy them both together as this is one of my favourite authors and I was very excited to be able to buy it.


        The author:
        Jane Fallon has written three other books which are 'Getting rid of Matthew', 'Got you back' and 'Foursome' - I completely loved all of these as they were easy to read yet had elements that are true to life. They also had small bits that were quite amusing too so Jane Fallon has succeeded in her books now being classed as those that I would instantly buy without worrying that I wouldn't enjoy her style! Her first book is now also being turned into a film starring Jennifer Anniston which I am really keen to see!
        Jane Fallon is an English writer and her partner is none other than Ricky Gervais - she is also known for writing TV programmes such as This Life and Teachers.



        The plot:
        Abi has always been the plainer of the two sisters; the academic one with the brains and the one who tries to think of others and see the best in people. Considering she has lived in the shadow of her older sister Caroline or Cleo as she is now known, since the day Cleo was headhunted to be a model when she was sixteen, it is surprising she has still managed to be such a nice person!
        When her sister rings her up out of the blue to ask if she wants to come and stay for the summer, Abi can hardly say no, as this may be chance to regain the closeness they once had when they were young girls and get to know her nieces and brother in law better. However, Abi is in for a shock as soon she is the one looking after her nieces whilst Cleo has other things to do and she can see how unhappy her brother in law is. It looks like having the beauty, wealth and fame isn't making Cleo happy even after all these years and soon Abi starts to wonder who exactly is the ugly sister?


        Characters:
        I was instantly able to take to Abi as a person because she is very down to earth, mature and has good morals. I liked that the author had created somebody who even though she is all these things she is still a fun person who also knows how to have a laugh and therefore is pretty much the girl next door type character who many people would be able to relate to. I also found it easy to relate to her in the sense that she wondered if she had missed out on some big calling in life and couldn't work out what to do with herself. Overall, I liked Abi as she wasn't too nice to the point of being too good that she wasn't somebody a reader would be able to relate to but, she wasn't ever nasty or horrible. The only thing I sometimes did feel was that she let her sister walk all over her a bit too much!
        Cleo was a character that I guess the author wants you to dislike and this was fairly easy in the way she came across as being self-centered and stubborn as well as generally not treating the people around her very well at all. I think the author did a very good job of creating two characters that contrasted like this as it makes the book so much more interesting than if both sisters had been fairly similar apart from that of their looks.

        Price:
        The book was part of the on-going offer in Tesco and so it cost me £8 for two books making this one just £4. For a brand new book I think this is good value. You can also pick this up in various other shops and online. The actual RRP is £6.99 so I feel I picked it up at a good price indeed.


        Overall opinion:
        I once again really enjoyed Jane Fallon's work. The book had an interesting storyline with the two sisters who have no relationship and I felt this was something I could also connect with as my husband has a very rocky relationship with one of his brothers so I felt it was particularly easy to understand how frustrated Abi felt at Cleo.
        I liked that the book wasn't just about romance and dealt with important family issues and I wanted to keep reading to find out what was going to happen. I couldn't work out what was going to happen because I felt it was gearing up to an eventuality but, wasn't sure if the author would pull it off as I felt it was a strange situation for Abi to be in. I can't really explain more as this would give too much away of the plot but, I felt in the end that the author sort of left the ending open to interpretation. Not in a bad, cliff hanger way but, more of an ending that the reader can choose which way you think the characters will go.
        I did really enjoy this book, just as I did with all her other books and I will of course, be recommending it. I am already looking forward to reading the next one she brings out.

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          15.12.2011 14:50
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          Another good book from Jane Fallon

          Jane Fallon is already the very successful author of three great novels and she has just written her fourth - The Ugly Sister. I had high expectations of this book, having already really enjoyed her first three, and I was not disappointed. However, I'm not quite sure why but it did take me a little while to get into it.

          Sisters, Abi and Caroline (now calling herself Cleo), were very close when they were growing up despite being quite different. Caroline was the attractive one whereas Abi was more plain and studious. However, everything changed overnight when, at the age of sixteen, Caroline was spotted and offered a lucrative modelling contract. Abi could only watch as her sister's career took off and she became a national celebrity. Unfortunately, somewhere along the road to success, Caroline seemed to forget all about her younger sister.

          Many years later, and quite unexpectedly, Cleo (Caroline) has invited Abi to spend the summer with her and her family. Abi is looking forward to attempting to reconcile their differences but it seems that Cleo has other ideas and sees her sister as little more than unpaid help, expecting Abi to look after her daughters while she tries to restore her failing modelling career. It looks like it's all going to be a horrible mistake as far as Abi is concerned but gradually, whilst her sister is out trying to get modelling work, she becomes closer to her two spoilt nieces and Caroline's husband, Jon. It almost feels as if they are a real family unit! She can't help realising that Jon is pretty attractive too and it's also starting to become apparent that the feeling is mutual. This leads to all sorts of dilemmas as far as Abi is concerned; mainly should she follow her heart but sacrifice any chance of the relationship that she has been hoping for with Cleo for so many years?

          Although I found 'The Ugly Sister' a bit slow to start with, once it had got going I found it irresistible to put down. I could really empathise with Abi and it looked that there could be no happy endings to look forward to. I thought all of the characters really developed well and it was interesting to see the different values and attitudes between the two sisters. It also emphasised well how beauty is really only skin deep and if you are not really beautiful on the inside then whatever looks that you do have count for nothing. I also found the book quite thought provoking as Abi struggled with her conscience and I couldn't help wondering what I might do in similar circumstances. Hopefully I will never know!

          I really enjoyed 'The Ugly Sister' and towards the end could hardly put it down. My only slight criticism was that I did feel a little short changed by the ending which I found quite abrupt. I guess that I am the sort of reader that likes all the loose ends neatly sewn up. However, I guess that it does give the opportunity for a sequel if Jane Fallon chose to write one.

          Overall though, 'The Ugly Sister' is another great book from Jane Fallon and I really do recommend it.
          I would like to thank the publishers for sending me a copy for review.

          This review has previously appeared under my name at www.curious book fans.co.uk

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            30.09.2011 09:32
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            An excellent, fun, easy read that's just a little bit wicked.

            Abi hasn't really had much of a relationship with her sister Cleo since Cleo was discovered on the street and morphed into a successful and well known model. It's now more than 20 years later, and the sisters are hardly what you'd call close. But, with a summer to kill and nowhere really to kill it in, Abi takes up her sister's offer to move into her plush Primrose Hill pad and spend some 'quality time' with the family. Except...Cleo's idea of quality family time is to go to the gym. Or the spa. Or a comeback casting. Anywhere really, as long as it's away from them all. And with brother in law Jon at work during the day, Abi quickly starts feeling like the hired help, shuttling her nieces around town and seeing to their every need.

            This is a book with a clear message - it really is beauty on the inside that counts - and though the blurb on the back makes out there's a question to be thought about, I didn't need to consider it for more than a split second before deciding definitively who the ugly sister in this family was. Of course it helps that Abi is not wildly unfortunate looking - she's just normal, against Cleo's once stellar but now fading beauty. The children in the book - Megan and Tara - are delightful though I kept forgetting quite how young they were supposed to be as Tara especially seemed a bit old for a 10 year old. Maybe that's just what London pre-teens are like though.

            These are not people who lack drama, but as with many families a lot of it is made all the more captivating by the fact it bubbles under the surface, a mess of secrets and lies and confusing I know but does he or she knows.

            The detached narration took a little getting used to, and it's certainly unusual. But, I really liked it and thought it fitted the story well. It's a bit like reading a screenplay, and definitely gave the feel of an outsider looking in and commenting on the characters rather than the characters themselves telling you what they're feeling. It was remote, in a way, but far from cold, and it left me wishing more books were written in this style.

            I really enjoyed the book. It was well paced and intriguing without being over the top, and Abi only played second fiddle to her sister in some respects, still having her own defined character and life beyond the shadow of Cleo. It's a smart read that is touching and sassy in equal parts and has the sort of grip that Emily Barr's books used to have on me before they came just that little bit repetitive and predictable. This story, on the other hand, has so much more going for it. And going on, too, for that matter. There's a love triangle, then another love triangle. A case of mistaken identity that could come straight out of a Shakespeare comedy. A mid life crisis or two, and of course those secrets and lies that bring it all together. Rather than seeming overloaded, the parts all slot together neatly like an Ikea flat-pack, making a cohesive story that goes off left and right but never seems to need to double back on itself.

            This review first appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk to whom the publishers supplied a copy for review. Published this month, Amazon has it around the £4 mark, so about half price, with free delivery. A Kindler? Shell out a smidge more and you can have a copy too.



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