22 May 2008

Book Review: The Glamourous Double Life of Isabel Bookbinder by Holly McQueen

There's an aroma of fresh coffee and warming bagels as gorgeous bestselling novelist Isabel, 27, welcomes us into her sunny apartment, light glinting off the huge Tiffany diamond studs in her ears...

For Isabel Bookbinder, there's no doubt about where she's headed.

Reasons to become a bestselling author:
- Opportunities to swish new Super-hair and captivate the lovely Joe Madison
- Prove to father that Really Am Not a Waster
- Leave column inch-measuring days at the Saturday Mercury behind

Potential setbacks:
- Don't yet have 'Yoko' bag, as carried by arch rival with book deal, Gina D... or honed size eight figure (useful for interviews)
- Hmm. Am also at the centre of a major political sex scandal
- Paparazzi are doorstepping my parents and boring boyfriend Russell

Of course she hasn't yet quite got round to putting pen to paper yet, but Isabel's not one to let a little thing like that stand in her way ...

The plot does indeed sound a bit silly, and this is my general consensus of the book really. Although this book definitely falls into the chick-lit genre, I am sure that it isn't as intelligent as most books I read, and I just found it all a bit too silly and childish for my liking. I do like books which can make me laugh, but this just tried too hard. Books such as the fantastically wonderful Shopaholic series are funny, not at all patronising and very enjoyable. This one didn't match up, and left me pleased it had finished.

My main problem with the book wasn't the writing style, or even the plot, it was the main character herself. Isabel Bookbinder was just plain annoying, and very childish to be honest. I think the author has tried to make her likeable and funny, but I just didn't take it to be that way. Isabel's first person narrative through the book was very well written, with good description throughout the book, but some of Isabel's personal thoughts and things were incredibly annoying. Also, I found Isabel's thoughts about her novel and how successful she was going to be, and also her stupid rantings about personal shoppers etc.....aagghhhh they really annoyed me.

But perhaps the most stupid and annoying thing about this book happened at the end of the chapter, each and every chapter throughout the book, and annoyed me so much, I simply stopped reading them when I got about halfway through the book. These endings to chapters were pretend magazine articles, letters or lists that Isabel had written about her being a super successful author, or things she had to do or letters to MI5 begging them not to kill her. They were ridiculous, stopped the flow of the book completely and just didn't add anything to it at all. Just thinking about it now makes me cross, and glad that I've finished this book!

The idea of a writer writing about a wannabe author is a good one, after all they can draw on their own personal experience and inject a little realism into the book. But the scrapes and incidents that Isabel found herself in were quite unbelievable and a bit silly to be honest. There is a fair amount of humour in the book, some of which is funny, but the rest sort of washed over me a bit, leaving me a bit cold. As well as Isabel, we do meet her family, mainly her parents. Her mother is a bit obssessive about her daughter and her job, and her father is a horrible man thinking whatever his daughter does isn't good enough, leaving you wondering if this is why Isabel has turned out as strangely as she did.

The book started off quite positively, introducing us to Isabel, her colleagues at the newspaper at which she works and Isabel's ideas about being a novelist, but I found it quickly desended into farce and into a book which I didn't find enjoyable to read at all, and actually couldn't wait to end. Although the narrative was well written, and kept the author on track for the entire storyline, weaving throughout the story well, the character was not completely likeable and some of her ramblings became incredibly annoying and made me want to stop reading, which was a real shame. It is chick-lit but sadly chick-lit at its worst, with unbelievable characters, ridiculous additions to the story and a horrid lead character. I wouldn't recommend this book, and its a disappointing debut for Holly McQueen. 

Rating: 1/5

15 May 2008

Book Review: Revenge of the Wedding Planner by Sharon Owens

'Revenge of the Wedding Planner' is the story of Mags Grimsdale, a 40-something woman who works at Dream Weddings, a small wedding planning business run by her best friend Julia Sultana. But Mags isn't your average 40-something mother of four - she's a goth with long black hair, has gargoyles in her house and is keeping a secret or two. Julia sends Mags' life into disarray when she dumps her latest boyfriend, can Mags keep it all together - her family, friendship and of course, Dream Weddings?
The plot sounded pretty interesting to me, and was pretty good to start with. Mags was quite a fun character to read, and her first person narrative made very pleasant reading, which stumbled along, describing well Mags' life and her thoughts as well. However, that's really where the good things about this book ended for me. All of the other character in the book (perhaps apart from Mags' husband Bill) were all hideous - they were whiny, selfish, rude and generally not very nice people! Julia was the worst offender, and you have to wonder why Mags' would still stay friends with someone who treats her like that! She was very selfish and quite a user towards Mags. Her background is explained (quite extensively I must add) by Mags early on in the book, but this didn't make me any more sympathetic to her, quite the opposite actually. I think it was supposed to evoke sympathy from the reader, but just didn't from me.

We also get to meet 2 of Mags' children, Alexander and Alicia-Rose. Her daughter leaves the book a little way through (not through death!) so we don't see much of her but Alexander on the other hand, seems to be the son from hell. I feel Owens has rather exaggerated with his character, to the point of being so incredibly annoying I found myself wanting to skip his parts because he was so irritating to me! Other characters through the book included Mags' sisters, Jay; Julia's boyfriend, and the odd wedding couple.

Now, the awful characters isn't my biggest gripe with the book. I had a real problem with the amount of narrative in the book! Usually when I read a book, I expect to have an equal amount of dialogue and narrative from the author, but this book was so heavy with the narrative, it became very hard going after a while. I found myself checking how many pages there were until the end so that I could move onto another book because reading it at times was a real chore, and I was just bored with it. Dialogue betwen the characters was quite rare, and when it did occur, it was pretty short, and it soon launched back into its pages and pages of Mags' narrative once more. Owens' writing style itself is pleasant enough, Mags being quite funny to read, but the long narrative just wasn't sustainable from the characters and just went on far too long for me, and therefore really dented my enjoyment of the book overall.

The story was pleasant enough, with a couple of twists and turns throughout, not to mention a quite explosive ending, but it just didn't really do it for me unfortunately. I felt it was a little bland, far too narration-heavy, and the title didn't really make much sense for me - where was Mags' revenge?! I couldn't see it anyway. I was really looking forward to this book but I was actually relieved when it was finished. I hate reading a book when it feels like a chore, and that is what this was for me. Very disappointing, I'm quite unsure about trying any more of her work after reading this.

Rating: 2/5

2 May 2008

Book Review: The Birds and The Bees by Milly Johnson

"Romance writer and single mum Stevie Honeywell has only weeks to go to her wedding when her fiancé Matthew runs off with her glamorous new friend Jo MacLean. It feels like history repeating itself for Stevie, but this time she is determined to win back her man. She isn't going to act as he might expect. She isn't going to wail and dig her heels in, she is simply going to pretend to let him go whilst she pursues a mad course of dieting, exercising and self-improvement.

And it feels like history is repeating itself for Adam MacLean too, who is also determined to win his lady, Jo, back with the same basic psychological tactics. Then he is going to initiate his master plan: Getting together with Stevie to drive Jo wild with jealousy.

So, like the Scottish country jig 'The Birds and the Bees', the couples all
change partners and learn some revealing truths about each other along the way. But what happens when Adam's master plan actually starts to work? And just who will Stevie be dancing with when the music stops?"

The plot sounded quite interesting, although nothing incredibly new, but I started reading, looking forward to the story that was going to unfold throughout the book. The main character through the story is Stevie, a really likeable person, and she is very well written by Milly Johnson. I did find her obsession with Matthew a tad annoying in places, but you can understand that she loves him and just wants him back again. Although she was overall a nice character, there were parts of the book, especially those involving Adam, where I thought she wasn't so nice and I found myself getting annoyed at her there.

What made me laugh in the book was the character of Adam, he had an incredibly broad Scottish accent (and it was written like that in the book too!) so it was hard to understand him at points. But he did translate his words for Stevie, and the raport between the two at these points made me laugh! I didn't expect to like Adam, but I actually did and thought he was a great character.Other character include the horrid and manipulative Jo, wimpy Matthew, Stevie's bevt friend Catherine and her husband Eddie, and of course Stevie's son Danny aka Dannyman!

The book was written in the third person, so is told like a story. Most of the book follows Stevie and her feelings but it does deviate occasionally to follow Adam, Catherine and the cheating idiots that are Matthew and Jo. The authors narrative is very easy to read and make for very pleasant reading, which I think is what appeals to me about her books. I dislike books that I feel I have to work at, I just want to be able to read and enjoy, and Milly Johnson's two novels have delivered on that for me without a doubt. One thing which did particularly stand out for me was the incredibly well written relationship between Stevie and Danny, the author has picked up on the close mother-son bond so well, and is completely believable and quite touching in parts!

As I said, the main story is nothing really new, a woman being cheated on by a man but it is the plan to get the two couples back together in the end that made this book a bit different for me. The story moved at a good pace, not too quickly, but it didn't drag on either. The author paused to go into more detail for important areas, and was therefore able to skim over things which didn't matter so much, and this balanced out the story quite well. I found myself not wanting to put it down in the evening because I just wanted to find out what was going to happen next, and if it was all going to work out in the end!

The book is most definitely in the chick-lit genre of novels, but for me is definitely at the upper end of the scale! It is a lovely story, with a fantastic narrative that grabs you in and makes you want to keep reading and not want to put it down. The characters were great with Adam and Stevie being likeable, normal people, to the awful Matthew and Jo who although were awful, made for fun reading! I'd say this is definitely anothre triumph for Milly Johnson, and I can't wait for her next one! A superb book I'd recommend to anyone who loves a great read!

Rating: 5/5