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To My Best Friends - Sam Baker

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3 Reviews

Genre: Fiction / Author: Sam Baker / Paperback / 400 Pages / Book is published 2011-05-26 by Harper

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    3 Reviews
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      20.12.2011 22:55
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      A book by Sam Baker

      I read a few reviews of this book and it sounded my kind of read so it was added to my book list and when I saw it on the shelves, I wasted no time picking it up. I have just finished reading it and as it is an author that is new for me I thought best to share my review of it.

      The author:
      Sam Baker is an English author who has been the editor of some really well known magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Just Seventeen and Company and is currently still working as an editor in chief of Red magazine. She is married to novelist Jon Courtenay Grimwood so I guess writing is a big thing in their household! She has one other book published named 'The stepmothers support group'.

      The plot:
      Nicci is dying and she wants to make sure everything is ok for her family and friends before she goes so she writes a letter to each of her closest friends, Jo, Lizzie and Mona and also one to her husband David. To Jo, she has left the care of her three year old daughters who she knows has been struggling to conceive. To Lizzie, she leaves her garden for her to tend to and for Mona she leaves her precious husband.
      David is mortified by Nicci expecting him to move on and with one of her friends too but, Nicci cannot have imagined the way things would change when she was gone and how difficult everything would be for everyone involved to want to respect her last wishes.


      Characters:
      We have a whole host of people in this book who really play a major part. Of course Nicci is one of them but, she is least seen in the book apart from a few chapters for flashbacks to her life and when she introduces us to the story at the beginning when she is writing the letters. She comes across as a woman who cares about her family and friends very much and somebody who has lived her life as full as possible.
      Her husband David is a lovely man who is struggling at first, as expected, to cope but, with help from friends, he is learning to live without Nicci and bring his daughters up as best as he can. I felt the author did well by the way she has created him to be thoughtful and loving and she really brought his feeling to life.
      All of Nicci's friends are very different and I liked how the author has given the reader the chance to hear the story from each of their angles. I thought this was a clever way for the reader to connect with all of them and understand each of them separately. I don't think there was any one character that I preferred over the others as there were things I liked and disliked with each but, I felt the relationships all worked really well and that the characters were all well developed and written.

      Price:
      As always this book was bought as part of a book deal in Tesco's in their on-going two books for £8 deal. Making this book just £4, I feel it was definitely worth the money. You can also pick it up in various book shops or online for around the same prices depending on where you buy it.

      Overall opinion:
      I really enjoyed this book which is always a bonus when it is an author I have never read before as it means I will have another to look out for! I liked that the book was very flowing; it didn't feel bogged down by too much unnecessary information and even though it deals with death, it doesn't get too heavy on the actual part of dying but, more of the aftermath and the effect on the people left behind.
      I thought that the concept was very interesting of somebody leaving letters to the people that matter the most especially as there were specific instructions to each of them. I at first, felt that it seemed a bit wrong on certain levels, especially for her to 'leave' her husband to one of her friends and her children to another however, as the book got going it became obvious of her intentions and how she just wanted the best for everybody.
      Overall it was a lovely book as it was interesting, flowed well and the characters were all well developed and I wanted to read about them and their lives. I read reviews that said the book is sad and I cannot really say it made me sob as Jojo Moyes has stated on the back of the book cover, but, it does make you think of death and what happens to the people around you.
      After finishing the book I felt it had been a good read and I will definitely recommend it to other people and will also be looking out for more of her books to now read.

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        07.06.2011 11:32
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        when a best friend has gone...

        If you are looking for the perfect holiday read, you've come to the right place. This book asks, and answers a question that most women will understand "Do you ever know your best friends as well as you think?".

        The story involves the friends of the deceased Nicci who has bequeathed her most precious possessions, namely her garden, her children and her husband to her best friends, Mona, Lizzie and Jo. The friends are a tight-knit group who have known each other for years, their friendship being forged in their college years and seeing them through the arrival of husbands, lovers and, for some children. As the novel starts the friends are coming to terms with the death of their friend from what we assume is cancer, maybe just maybe there's more reasons than they can imagine behind who she chose to bequeath her husband, her garden and her children, and maybe doing so isn't quite the strange thing to do that it might seem...

        I found that Nicci was as real a character as I've come across in novels of this genre, despite it being clear from the very first few lines of the book that she has died. Totally stylish and seemingly having it all in her life, once she has died, her three friends and also her husband David will find out that they didn't know as much as they thought they did. Whilst grieving, they go through the wardrobe that is the catalogue of her life, literally, and each piece they look at has a special memory. Meanwhile it's revealed that there is perhaps more to Nicci than they ever knew and aspects of her life that,until now, had been unknown to them- what was she hiding and why? These become the difficult questions that the characters have to ask themselves. As life starts to go on they will realise there is a reason each of them has been entrusted with the area they have as, beyond the grave, Nicci seems to be directing things her way. The interest in the book is seeing the turns that life without Nicci will take, and learning about her through their memories and the things she has left behind.

        This book, despite some of the subject matter inevitably being rather sad, is a light and interesting read which has been well written. The author's own life being firmly fixed in the world of magazines (she's the Editor of "Red") does, I think, make her well placed to write about a character who knows about fashion, the references to various designers and looks could have seemed rather other-done or smug; I'm no fashionista I have to say, but I think everyone probably has a friend like Nicci who can make anything look good, and so I didn't find the clothes talk too over-egging the story. In general I found all the characters believable and the dialogue was very real.

        There were moments of humour within the story too and the portrayal of contemporary family life in the various households in this book rang very true. Though, truth be told I didn't find the direction the plot took that surprising really, it was satisfying and the book was well paced and written throughout. Though the ending was no huge shock the journey to get there was, on the scale of slightly grown up chick-lit, very enjoyable. This isn't high literature but it is a very good read, about friendship, loss and how life goes on.

        I really enjoyed this book and will probably read it again - recommended, this is I should think set to be one of the must-buy holiday reads of this year.


        I received the book as part of the Amazon Vine Programme - book published in May this year and widely available

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          04.06.2011 11:32
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          A good women's fiction book

          When Nicci Morrison becomes very ill and knows she is going to die, she decides to write letters to each of her best friends with instructions for them, from everything to their love lives to how to help raise her young twin girls who will be left without a mother. However, Nicci doesn't count on her friends finding it difficult to cope with her requests. Mona is left Nicci's husband David, which puts the two of them in a very awkward position, and one neither particularly wants to go through with. Jo is left Nicci's twin girls to look after, as Nicci felt that she'd be a great mother considering she can't have children of her own. And finally, Lizzie is left Nicci's beloved garden, but is completely rubbish at gardening and is sure she is going to fail. Will Nicci's best friends be able to cope with Nicci's bequests and will it do damage beyond the death of their best friend to everyone?


          I read Sam Baker's last release The Step-Mothers Support Group a few years when it came out and really loved it, so when I saw Sam was back this summer with her new book, I couldn't wait to read it. I have to admit, I am not a huge fan of the cover, I think its a little bit bland for my liking - yes, it fits in with the story of the book but it really wouldn't be a cover that would attract me to picking up the book which is a shame, but luckily for me, the story inside more than makes up for it so I am glad that I picked the book and gave it a read. With the subject matter, it is a little depressing but there are light tones in there which stop it being completely miserable, thank goodness!

          The book begins with a very poorly Nicci starting write her letters to her friends, and so the book does start with a fairky depressing tone. Soon after this, it cuts to Nicci's funeral and aftermath so for a few pages there really isn't anything that happy about it which was odd yet I was strangely compulsed to keep reading. Due to Nicci dying so early on, we don't get to know her as a character at all, only through the memories of her friends, which are interspersed throughout the present day story, and are flashbacks relating to certain items of Nicci's clothing that are special to her, and I really loved the way Baker approached this style of telling Nicci's story. It was also a look back at the other characters too, which was interesting comparing them to their current personas.

          The other 3 female characters were easy to follow because they were all so different. Yes, they are all Nicci's friends but that is where the similarities end really - Mona is a single mum, working hard to provide for her young son whilst hiding a huge secret from her friends, one she knows they won't approve of. Lizzie is married but very unhappily so, and desperately wants to have children. Jo is a step-mother, something she loves, and the accountant for Nicci's clothing shop but she really wants a child of her own with her husband. I love how Baker weaves all these stories together, the characters were all very likeable, and had their own problems to deal with, as well as the passing of their best friend. It affects them all in very different ways which I think was a realistic representation of such an event, and as such you can sympathise with the women and how they all deal differently with how life turns out after Nicci's death.

          Yes, the main premise of the book is quite sad, and yes some thing do happen in the book which don't necessarily make it a very happy one and while I do feel it could have done with a few more happy things in it to just cheer it up slightly, I really did enjoy the book as a whole and found myself really absorbed by the entire story and finding out how things would end up for the women. While Nicci's cancer is a big part of the book, Baker doesn't go too much into detail with it and I think just the general mentions and feelings in the book were enough. I have to say I really loved the journey that Nicci's widower David took throughout the book as well, not often in chick lit do we see how a wife's death affects a husband yet Baker is careful to treat David's story with respect and I felt it was realistically done and a pleasure to read. The writing style, the characters, the growth of these characters all made for a fantastic reading experience and I would definitely recommend it.

          ISBN: 978-0007305544. Published by Harper on 26th May 2011. Pages: 400. RRP: £6.99.

          Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review for http://chicklitreviews.com

          Thank you for reading.

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