26 April 2010

Book Review: Spotlight by Ilana Fox

A fallen star. A runaway bride. They're about to be pitted against each other by a very powerful man. Madison Miller has everything - beautiful, talented and just a little bit naive; she's the small-town girl who swept to victory on America's hottest talent show to become the nation's sweetheart. She's also head-over-heels in love with the man who's masterminded her career - the head-spinningly powerful, lethally attractive Beau Silverman. But there's trouble in paradise... Jess has bolted from her approaching wedding and a dead-end job in London to chase dreams of being a fashion designer in New York. But she's finding life in the Big Apple tough, until she meets a man who makes her an offer she can't refuse. It means a taste of a life she's never had - glamorous parties, paparazzi, haute couture - but at what price? Sweeping from the hotspots of LA to the coolest bars of New York, SPOTLIGHT cuts a gloriously fun swathe through the world of celebrity and glamour, with a page-turning story at its heart.

I was really excited to receive an ARC of Ilana Fox's second novel, because I really liked her debut book The Making of Mia. The gorgeous pink cover stuck out straight away when we spotted it online and I quickly got stuck in when a copy dropped onto my doormat a few weeks ago. The book is released on April 29th in large paperback, and in 2011 in standard paperback size, and I hope it's a success because it really is a good, fun read that you can lose yourself in for a few days!

I was surprised at the beginning of the book because it was not what I expected at all. I thought it would dive straight in to the showbiz life of Madison Miller, but instead Fox shows us the girl that Madison is before she finds her fame, and I love this. The book immediately reminded me of Anne-Marie O'Connor's Star Struck due to similar themes, e.g. both main character perform in singing competitions, but soon Fox's book breaks away from this and moves onto the aftermath of the competition. It took a while for us to meet the other female lead of the book, Jess, but there is a reason for this and I love how it unfolds throughout the book.

Madison is a character that appears, then promptly disappears for a while in the book but I did like her character anyway. She is quite weak compared the stronger male characters in the book, and for a while I did want to shout at her what was happening wasn't right and could she not see what was going on?! I liked how Fox kept it so that Madison was so wrapped in her own world that she couldn't see all this, and it made for interesting reading because you just want to keep reading on to see if it all dawns on Madison or not. Just as we lose Madison, we're introduced to Jess and I really loved the direction this took the book in. It became a little more sinister and different to what I expected, and Jess is so opposite of Madison that it made it fun to see the transformation of her into the new Madison.

I had expected that the book would be set in England because the author herself is English, but it's actually not which was quite a surprise to me, and made me wonder why the author had chosen to set the book somewhere abroad. The book is in London for a while when we first meet Jess but then it moves back over to America again where it stays. I felt the author had a great grasp on American life, and the showbiz circles that Madison/Jess walk in, and it felt very believable as I was reading it. She captures the madness around popstars these days perfectly and the whole feel of the book is well suited to its story.

I really did enjoy this read, and I especially enjoyed the little bit at the end where things take a more serious turn for a couple of the characters, and I applaud Ilana for tackling an issue like this in a chick lit novel because it is something that isn't widely spoken about in fiction. The characters are all likeable except for the male ones lol, but other than that the rest of the characters are great. I enjoyed the twists and turns along the way, I loved how the reader was in on the whole thing for the entire book and we are sat waiting for the characters to realise it too, a fact which made the book pretty unputdownable. A fun writing style and great story make a great book, recommended.

Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review!

23 April 2010

Book Review: Wild Things by Jo Carnegie

The Churchminster residents are thrilled when a glamorous film crew descends on their quiet village. But with just four months to prepare for the final of the 'Britain's Best Village Competition', the chaotic filming schedule may do more damage than good. Meanwhile Camilla grows suspicious of the attention boyfriend Jed is receiving from the film's demanding leading lady. And younger sister Calypso has caught the penetrating eye of dashing leading man 'Rafe Wolfe'. Brim-full with lavish garden parties, illicit affairs, sordid shenanigans and a sneaky bit of sabotage, not to mention a spot of fund-raising with 'Churchminster's Got Talent!

14 April 2010

Book Review: Desire by Louise Bagshawe

Lisa Costello is leading a charmed life – until she wakes up the morning after her glamorous Thailand wedding to find her new husband Josh dead in their bed, the murder weapon in her hand. She remembers learning at the wedding that Josh had been unfaithful, but she certainly doesn't remember killing him. As Lisa flees the scene for Europe, ex-FBI trainee Sam Murray is on her trail. Catching up with her, he's quickly convinced she's been set up, and they start to work out which of movie producer Josh's many enemies could be behind the hit. It's a race against time to unearth the truth and keep Lisa out of jail – or gunned down by the professional assassin tailing them. And the danger only adds to the excitement of the passion brewing between them...

12 April 2010

Book Review: A Summer Fling by Milly Johnson

When Christie comes to take over the reigns at the Bakery Department in which 5 ladies work, they don't expect to develop the friendships and bonds that they do, especially that they've barely spoken a work to each other in the many years they've already worked there! There's young Dawn who is planning her wedding to fiancé Calum, but starting to have niggly doubts about him and his lifestyle. Anna has been dumped by her fiancé Tony for younger woman Lynette but she still doesn't seem to be over him. She's sure that everyone sees the dowdy, hideous woman she sees when she looks in the mirror, but mysterious Vladimir Darq is out to prove her wrong.

Grace married her husband because of his children, not through true love, and now it's coming back to bite her in a big way. Can she get out before it takes a turn for the worse? And finally, there's Raychel who is hiding a secret past that no one else but her husband knows about. Will the other ladies be able to coax her out of her shell? All together, these women realise how much they need each other and the friendships that come with it too, and help is what they'll need to get them through some troubling times ahead!

This is Milly Johnson's fourth book, and it's not a secret to say that I have looked forward to this one for absolutely ages! I first read her debut novel The Yorkshire Pudding Club a few years back, and then quickly moved onto her next book The Birds and The Bees which was just a good! Her third book A Spring Affair was also brilliant (seeing a pattern here?!) so I had very high hopes for this one, and luckily Milly hasn't let me down again! I was so excited when I opened the parcel to discover a copy of this book and I actually started it there and then, I just couldn't wait, and finished it a day later. I was actually up until 1am because I couldn't bear the thought of going to sleep and not knowing how it was all going to end for everyone! I hope my review conveys just how much I adored this book, because it really does deserve a glowing review.

Immediately, I was drawn into the book because I met all the characters within the first few paragraphs, and that straight away set the scene for the book, showing us all the different characters and how they all are together before Christie is introduced into the mix. I actually expected that to happen a lot sooner but I am glad Milly makes us wait a little bit so we really get to know these characters before we start to see them change before our eyes. The book begins in April and progresses through the book until we end up in June, and I think the three month time-frame is perfect for the book and pace of the story.

I won't go into too much detail with all of the characters because there are quite a few, and I don't actually want to spoil anything about the book for you because it's such a brilliant read. What I love about Milly's books is how believable her characters are as people, and this is certainly the case in this book. My favourite character was definitely Christie, she is a breath of fresh air not only for her colleagues but for the book as a whole. She breezes through in her bright suits and really cheered me up, you just wish you had a friend like Christie! I also loved the character of Anna - she's very self-deprecating as a lot of us women are so I could relate to her in that respect, and I enjoyed seeing her character grow throughout the book very much.

Milly has been brave in this book and created a character that is totally unexpected, and not a character you would expect to see in a chick lit book like this at all, and that is Vladimir Draq. He's a Romanian designer that has a wonderful story with Anna, but also there is a bit of a mystery to him as well... is he a vampire? I was worried that this character would seem totally out of place in the book but I loved the whole mystery around it, and I think Milly has done a great job of integrating this storyline into the lives of these normal 5 women.

What I loved most about this book however was the emotion running right throughout it. It was funny and it made me laugh... it was sad and I felt the sadness along with the characters, and every other emotion that these people felt I felt like I did so too. Milly writes in such an easy to read way that you quickly find yourself plowing through the book and I'd devoured nearly half of it before I realised what was happening, I was so engrossed in it! It's got a real heart in it, and that's what will make it appeal to so many people out there who love a good, fun and emotional read. I can't tell you enough how much I loved it, there is nothing to dislike at all and if you don't pick up a copy, then you'll really be missing out on a superb read. Amazing!

Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review!

2 April 2010

Book Review: Scandalous by Martel Maxwell

Meet Max and Lucy Summers – half-sisters and the best of friends. Max is a gorgeous showbiz reporter whose life is a whirlwind of celebrity parties, glamorous bars, juicy gossip and gorgeous men. Lucy, a beautiful, elegant fashion writer, has always been the sensible one, taking care of her little sister and never seeking the limelight. But that all changes when she falls for Hartley, Britain’s sexiest royal bachelor, and her lovelife is suddenly splashed across the front pages of the tabloids.

When Hartley's ex-girlfriend starts scheming to get her man back, Lucy realizes that she’s up against more than just the paparazzi… Meanwhile Max, tired of the non-stop partying that her job entails, has finally met the perfect man but when she finds out who he really is, she realizes that they can’t be together. Can Max walk away from the love of her life? And will Lucy play the fame game in order to keep hers?

1 April 2010

Book Review: Wild Things by Jo Carnegie

When an A-list film set descends on the quiet village of Churchminster, so begins the village's most scandalous year...Meet the glamorous cast of Wild Things!Sophia – the leading lady who gets what she wants. And she wants...Jed – the village’s gorgeous gardener, living with devoted girlfriend...Camilla – sweet-natured and desperate for a baby, unlike her sister...Calypso – fiercely ambitious, and unimpressed by the penetrating gaze of...Rafe – dashing leading man, who quickly wins over Calypso’s grandmother...Clementine – whose only desire is for Churchminster to win ‘Britain’s Best Village’! 

This is the third in a series of books set in the village of Churchminster, and it's the second in the set that I have actually read myself. The first book, Country Pursuits, is the one I haven't read, but I thoroughly enjoyed the second outing calling Naked Truths which was released late last year. Surprisingly, the third book has already been released, just 6 months after it's predecessor but I was very much looking forward to meeting up with the Churchmister gang again. I have to say when I saw the purple and green cover I really wasn't keen because the two just seem to clash, but in reality it's much nicer than the image you are seeing on your computer screen, thank goodness!

The book has a slightly different shift of focus from the previous book, so if you were expecting it to pick up where the last one left off, then it's not I'm afraid! The characters who were the major players in the last book aren't so much around in this book such as Caro and her family, instead the focus shifts on to residents of Churchminster itself, not those based outside of it. We meet Granny Clem, an old lady who is Churchminster through and through, her grand-daughters Calypso, who runs an events business but is a bit of a free spirit, and Camilla who's happily settled with Jed but more desperate for a baby than she expected.

The fun bit about the book is the arrival of a big Hollywood movie into the sleepy Churchminster village, just when they are trying to win the `Best British Village' competition. With it comes the arrival of Sophia, the leading lady who is used to every man she meets falling under her spell whether or not they are otherwise engaged, and leading heart-throb Rafe who sets pulses racing around the village. Jo has captured the chaos of the movie's descent on the village perfectly, and it was fun to read about all the mishaps, and the way the residents went mad over it's arrival too.

The book is quite fast paced, and there are a lot of characters to get your head around initially, not really helped by the fact the 3 leading ladies all begin with the letter C, and I did find myself getting a little confused at the beginning for a while! However, once you are into the story, there is no problem at all, and you'll enjoy the journey of finding out what mad things are going to happen to the villagers next! It's quite a sexy read with some saucy scenes throughout with various couples, but they aren't out of place in the book in any way, and fitted in perfectly with the story. I enjoyed the ending too, it was a nice touch that things didn't go how I expected them too, and I'm glad Carnegie didn't take the easy route!

If you enjoyed the first two books by Jo Carnegie, then you'll definitely want to pick up a copy of Wild Things! The book was originally titled "Role Play" but I think the new one suits it much better overall. The characters are great fun and get up to things I certainly won't ever do, I loved Calypso in particular who really is the life and soul of the book, and old Granny Clem was pretty fun too! However, what I enjoyed most about the book was the serious storyline involving one of the characters that really took me by surprise but was so well done by Carnegie that I just have to mention it. She approached with a subtlety that befits the topic and its good to see such an important issue being raised in Women's fiction, well done Jo! It's a very enjoyable read, lots of fun and will definitely be a great beach read!

Rating:  4/5