19 September 2008

Book Review: The Model Wife by Julia Llewellyn

Poppy Norton is a bit of a cliché, even she admits it. She was unlucky in love until she met News Presenter, father of 3 Luke Norton. The two begin a relationship on the sly, and accidentally Poppy falls pregnant. Luke decides to leave his wife Hannah to set up home with Poppy but soon finds out life with a young model and their newborn daughter doesn't quite match up to his twenty-year marriage. Fast forward 2 years, and Poppy's fed up of being ignored and left at home with daughter Clara so looks for a job herself. Things are not rosy in the Norton garden, but are they going to get better or worse?

I was quite surprised with this book to tell you the truth, it really didn't pan out as I had expected it to. From the start, it seemed like it was going to be a run-of-the-mill chick lit book about Poppy's life as a stay at home mum and perhaps getting her relationship to work again with Luke. But the book wasn't quite that at all, it was much more focused on Poppy as a person, and the effects that the affair and consequent marriage and baby had on everyone around them, including their friends and families.

I did like the character of Poppy at first, but for some unknown reason I found myself disliking her as I got further into the book. I did feel sympathy for her being married to a man who worked all hours God sent, and was often alone with her baby, but lets face it, that is life for a lot of families! I don't know why the author made such a big deal of that when it's a normal occurence. Daddy2harry works all day, comes home and Harry goes to bed, and I don't sit feeling sorry for myself like Poppy does!

But everything else in the book was enjoyable and fun to read. Luke's ex-wife Hannah has a column in a national paper in which she routinely slags off her ex-husband and his new wife, whom she fondly names 'the Bimbo'. These columns, which are dotted throughout the book are very funny to read, and provide a welcome relief from Poppy's moaning and whinging! Cleverly, the author has written this in the first person like a real newspaper article, with the main story being written in the third person so more like a story and made it easy to differentiate as you were reading.

I did enjoy the turns that the book took throughout which mirrored how things do indeed change in real life for people. Poppy managed to get her own job, and the story changed from there and I felt it was much more enjoyable. Poppy became much more edgy and interesting, and the way this affected not only her but Luke as well was good, and to be honest he deserved it! It was nice to see both sides of Poppy; the loving wife and mother, and also the party girl and model. The change of pace was a good feature of the book, and kept me very interested as you could tell something was brewing and I was desperate to know what it was! Cleverely done by the author, and a nice twist too.

The other characters throughout the book were also brilliant and added a lot to the story. Thea was Luke's colleague at the news station who has had a lifelong crush on him which has been unrequited. She's a strong career woman but when it comes to her private life, she's a mess. I wish she had been featured more in the book as I loved her scenes, and think she would have been good as a main character. Luke, Poppy's hubby, was just awful and God knows why any woman would be attracted to him to be frank! Hannah only appeared via the columns but was fantastic and it was nice to see her getting on with life.

At just under 500 pages, this is a bit longethe average chick-lit books I read, but the author has managed to fill all of those pages with a fantastic story which kept me interested all the way through. The way she changed the characters throughout was very good, and I liked this as it totally changed the book. Also, I liked how she set the scene of the book, and then went 2 years into the future to really explore how the relationship has changed, rather than trying to do it all in a matter of months. Good characters, a well written story and a very entertaining read. Recommended to chick-lit fans.

Rating: 4/5

16 September 2008

Book Review: Pastures New by Julia Williams

Amy Nicolson is a young widow who has recently lost her boyfriend and father of her son Josh in an accident. She wants to make a fresh start away from the memories and the mother-in-law Mary so moves to Nevermorewell, a small village miles away from home. Amy soon settles into village life and life on the allotments and makes some new friends for her and Josh along the way. Amy is just settling in when local Doctor Ben Martin stumbles into her life and leaves her all confused. Will love begin to grow on the allotments? Or are the secrets that bind them pull them apart?

I know that the story doesn't sound like the most exciting in the world, and it certainly isn't, but what it is is a lovely, heart-warming story of love, confidence, discovery and trust all stuck together by the wonderfully indulgent and enjoyable setting of Nevermorewell and a cast of lovely characters. The author Julia Williams has really opened the eyes of the reader when she created this little world, and totally allows you to lose yourself in her words and feel yourself being sucked into lifen the allotments with a warm cuppa in your hands!

This was what I really loved about the story to be honest. I do love a book where you can just close your eyes and imagine yourself there, sitting alongside the characters, and this is exactly what this book delivered on for me. I could imagine the little houses of Nevermorewell, the muddy but cared for allotments, and Amy's little terraced house, and this just added to the charm and authenticity of the story itself. Williams really has the knack for writing places that you can instantly imagine yourself in from the first few pages of the book.

As well as wonderfully written settings, Williams has created a likeable and funny group of characters to follow through the story. Being the main character, Amy was the main focus of the book and she was definitely a loveable character. I sympathised with her circumstances, losing her partner and having to leave all her memories behind, but this made me warm to her much more quickly and I therefore wanted things to work out for her. Together with her son Josh, the pair made a lovely family and Williams has written a brilliant relationship between the pair which is touching and heart-warming.

There are other characters throughout that play their own important part as well. Harry, an elderley gentleman who owns an allotment near Amys, is Amy's first friend in Nevermorewell. He also hits it off with her son Josh, and he features strongly through the book and is the sort of neighbour we would all want! Ben is Amy's love interest and close friend, a real man's man who loves his GP practice, his motorbikes and looking after his friends. He was so much like Amy that the pair were perfectly written and seemed so perfect for each other! Caroine is the town vamp and an awful woman but equally laughable, she provides a bit of welcome comic relief into the book. And finally Saffron, Amy's new business partner and stressed mother of young children, she's trying to rebuild her marriage as well as her business.

But what I really loved about this book was just the way it plodded along in its own little pace, but it never seemed boring! It was a slightly predictable love story with a somewhat inevitable outcome but that didn't bother me at all. I could really sit down and immerse myself in this fictional little world, and I came to really care about these people and this village. Williams clearly has a knack for writing things that will touch people, and this is certainly a great debut novel. The third person narrative is enjoyable and easy to read, sweeps all over the countryside and its ways of life, and draws you into Amy's world of love, discovery and finding your old self. Definitely recommended, a lovely read especially for these coming cold winter months, one to curl up with.

Rating: 5/5

4 September 2008

Book Review: A Good Girl Comes Undone by Polly Williams

She's on a roll. A glamorous job at a glossy magazine. A home of her own. A cute live-in boyfriend. Annie Rafferty has worked damn hard for all of it. If demands are made, she delivers. If people need her, she's there. And if she suspects something is missing? Well, she ignores it. 

But cracks start to appear. Her boyfriend leaves his job, and Annie paying the bills. Work descends into a handbags-at-dawn struggle for survival, and there's a new exec in the office - rude, opinionated but strangely attractive - questioning exactly what she's trying to prove. As Annie discovers her true desires, her meticulously planned life begins to unravel and darker, unexpected forces pull things in a shocking new direction . . . 

Sometimes you have to lose everything to get what you really want. 

As soon as I started this book, I knew that I was going to really enjoy it. It was much more along the style of her fantastic debut which I just couldn't put down with likeable characters, a great story and a brilliant first person narrative which just draws you into the story immediately and without taking too much time to warm up and really get going. Williams narrative is very engaging, a friendly voice which is fun and easy to read, without being too ridiculous in any aspect. As was the case in her previous novels, we are also introduced to the other 2 main characters within the first chapter, given a really good outline of the main character herself and a stonking first chapter which makes a great start to the book.

Williams has a knack for writing great characters which are realistic, funny and endearing to the reader. She knows what demographic are going to be reading her books, which is generally going to be woman aged between 18-40 years old, and thus makes her characters appeal well to the this range. The main character of Annie is a career-girl, proud of her job and proud of working her way through the ranks, loves her boyfriend and their brand new house, and also loves her family. She's got it all, and despite this, she's a lovely character who isn't at all unlikeable. She talks about her job at length in a funny humourous way, and you can really visualise her workplace and the characters there as well. The other characters are also well written, from her out-of-work boyfriend Nick who seems to resent Annie for having a job she loves, to her hopelessly in love sister Georgia who crashes at Annie's house after her latest love crisis.

The book goes along at a great pace, throwing you in at the deep end with Annie and Nick, and then moving along as their life continues and their roles chop and change. Williams has grasped human emotion fantastically in this book, from Annie's exasperation at Nick's lack of motivation through to Nick's annoyance at being nagged to get a job, and even to Annie and Georgia's parents, particularly their father who wants the best for his girls and will speak his mind to Nick about not having a job! She's created a great balance of humour within the story, mainly based around the offices of Glo! and Annie's job there, and also love, sorrow and confusion. Williams explores these throughout the book in a gentle way which is in keeping with the storyline, and never too heavy either.

The book is a great read, and I just wanted to keep reading it to find out what was going to happen to Annie and how things were all going to turn out. Williams has this talent of making you want to read on, engrossing you with the story and the characters, giving you twists and turns along the way as well to keep things fresh. Her narrative is a joy to read, with great descriptive writing, yet very realistic narrative as well, endearing you to the main character fantastically well, so you feel you almost know her! I loved the story, although it sounds like it may not be the happiest, it is an uplifting book which is a fun and fantastic read for anyone who loves a great story of change, love and finding yourself somewhere you didn't expect. 

Rating: 5/5