29 April 2009

Book Reviews - Rumour Has It by Jill Mansell

Tilly Cole is happy working in London, but realises that life isn't going to plan when her latest boyfriend moves out while she's at work. She decides she's had enough and moves to the small town of Roxborough where her best friend Erin lives.

She gets a job working for a gay Interior designer and his daughter, basically as their dogsbody but soon begins to love village life. But when Max's best friend Jack comes onto the scene, Tilly is knocked for six as she wasn't expecting to be attracted to anyone so soon.

Tilly is soon caught up in the lives and loves of all of Roxborough, but is she going to find love even when she doesn't want it?

Rating: 5/5

The premise of the story didn't sound too exciting when I initially read it on the back of the book, but I knew it wouldn't be a straight-forward story like you might expect from other authors. Jill Mansell has a way of creating stories and characters that the reader actually begins to care about and that is what drew me back to her book, and will make me read her older novels too. The story is actually relatively similar to 'An Offer You Can't Refuse' but again the twists and turns along the way makes it totally readable and a brilliant book. Also, I did feel that it was a tad predictable, especially regarding the ending but that didn't detract at all from my enjoyment of the book as a whole.

Mansell has chosen a female lead for this book, and as I always say, the lead character has to be likeable and hold the whole story together for me to want to continue the book. Luckily for me, I liked the character of Tilly straight away, mainly due to the way Mansell has written her. She is very unlucky in love and I felt sorry for her but as the story unravelled my opinion of her changed (not in a bad way!) but still I enjoyed the journey that she took along the way. However, for me it wasn't Tilly's story that gripped me the most, but that of her best friend Erin. To be honest, this is what I really loved about this book - it wasn't just the main story that I loved but even the minor storylines are fantastic too.

Erin is happy in her relationship but there is someone in Roxborough who isn't too happy. However, there is a shocking twist in here that took me completely by surprise but Mansell has tackled this perfectly and made such a wonderful story out of it, it really struck a chord with me. The characters involved all worked well in the context of this storyline and I loved it. There was a bit of a mystery about Jack that went on through the book, the relationship between Tilly and her employer Max and his daughter Lou was well explored, and Max's ex-wife Kaye pops up for her own good storyline too. All in all, you can see there is a lot going on in the book, but its not hard at all to follow along and that's because of Mansell's writing talent.

Mansell has chosen to write the book in the third person, and I do love this way of writing. To me, third person is like proper story-telling because you having it told to you, rather than the first person where you almost have to imagine the lead character talking to you. The third person factor also works well when you have a few storylines going on at once because it allows it to be easy to follow, and just feels like a classic story. Mansell really delves into the relationships of her characters from the word go, and doesn't shy away from the more tough times in friendships too. The relationships with the characters change throughout, and it just makes the book that bit more realistic and consequently enjoyable for me.

You can probably tell from the tone of my review that I really did love this book, and I wouldn't hesitate in recommending it not only for Jill Mansell fans, but also for people who just love a good story. It is a great book to settle down with in the evening because it is easy to read and very enjoyable, the characters are all likeable and the stories all interweave nicely and come together for a predictable but still satisfying end. It's a nice enough length for the stories to develop thoroughly, but not so long that you're bored by the end and Mansell seems to judge this perfectly. It's a brilliant review, and I really enjoyed reading this book, and felt a tad sad when it ended! I'll have to look out for her older stuff now to keep myself happy until her next book! Highly recommended!

28 April 2009

Book Review: The Importance of Being Married by Gemma Townley

Jessica Wilde isn't too interested in relationships, so when her elderly and ill friend Grace keeps pestering her about finding a man, Jessica decides to make one up, to the point where she marries him!

The only problem is she pretended to Grace that she married her boss Anthony Milton, and in Grace's will, she has left everything to Mrs Jessica Milton.

Jess realises if she wants her inheritance, she has to marry Anthony for real - but she only has 5 weeks to do so. Can she make Anthony fall in love in just a few weeks? And is it really what she wants?

Rating: 5/5

According to the author's foreword, she has somewhat based this story upon the play "The Importance of Being Earnest" by Oscar Wilde after reading it but I can't really comment on that much because I haven't read that story myself. To me, it just sounded like a fun if unrealistic and somewhat silly storyline, but I don't read books for them to be like real life because for me, reading is escapism and I do enjoy a silly read sometimes. I do get nervous reading new authors, especially if I've parted with my hard earned cash for them, but after reading just a few pages of this, I knew I would love it, and I actually found it hard to put down!

The book begins by introducing us to Jessica Wilde and her grandmother who is a nursing home. This is how Jess meets Grace, and it takes a good few pages to set the story for this book. However, I liked this because I felt like I was getting a really good background for the story and it allowed me to feel like I was straight in there from the off, which is always good for keeping a reader interested. I was unsure at first whether the introduction had gone on a bit long, but with hindsight it was very enjoyable and set the scene nicely. The rest of the book is Jessica trying to get her boss Anthony to fall for her, and what happens from then on, so it does cover a good amount of story albeit in a short time period in which the book is set.

Being written in the first person, the book had to have a likeable leading lady and Townley has definitely created that in Jessica Wilde. I sort of felt like Jessica had got what she deserved when her inheritance was left to her married name, after all no good comes of lying, but as the story unfolds I felt differently and really liked Jessica. She's a happily single woman in a good job in advertising, and its nice to see a strong woman in a lead role who isn't desperate for a man as these characters often are in "chick-lit". But Townley has made Jessica likeable which is important in a book aimed at women, and the way she developed throughout the story was well done and didn't seem too ridiculous.

The supporting characters were also good, although you can sort of see through most of them straight away and how things will turn out with them in the end. Anthony was a smary so and so, and although I didn't like him, he was very good for the story and made for some interesting reading. His colleague Max is clearly besotted with Jess but to my annoyance she just couldn't see it. He was a lovely man though and he balanced out Anthony very well. Helen is Jessica's best friend, and probably the nicest character out of all of them, and certainly the most normal as well! They all work well in the story, and its nice to see a range of characters in the book.

I was really impressed with this book, and indeed the authors writing style too. It had me engrossed from the first few pages and although the story seemed a tad ridiculous, it was a really fun read and something I quickly got into. The characters were likeable and fun, and made a silly storyline enjoyable which was important when you're looking at a story that is slightly unbelievable. Townley has used the first person narrative very well, and although this isn't my preferred method of story-telling, it works well in this book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would recommend it to people who like a light-hearted read to pass the time, because this did the job for me nicely. It was fun, and at 352 pages it's not too long either, it was just right. A highly enjoyable read, and I look forward to reading its sequel to be released in Jan 2010, "A Wilde Affair".

27 April 2009

Book Review: What My Best Friend Did by Lucy Dawson

Lucy Dawson
"When Alice meets Gretchen for the first time, it feels a bit like falling in love. Life's got a bit boringly grown-up of late: weekends at weddings and baby-showers, celebrating friends' transitions to a life she isn't quite up for yet, and, at home, a sweet-and-stable boyfriend she suspects she's outgrown. Gretchen Bartholomew, with her air of impulsiveness and intuitive style, is that rarest of things: a proper, new friend who knows how to have fun. Even the added complication of Gretchen's gorgeous brother, Bailey, might actually be just what Alice needs. Before she knows what's hit her, Alice's brilliant new best friend is turning her world upside down. But Gretchen has a dark secret, which - like a time bomb ticking in her hand - won't stay hidden for ever. The explosion may teach them both more than they ever wanted to know about how female friendships can go wrong."

Rating: 5/5

I really was not at all impressed with Dawson's first novel "His Other Lover" - she had written weak characters, an unsatisfying story and a dreadful ending so I was hoping that things could only get better with her second offering. The plot was again a look at the darker side of relationships, this time a platonic friendship between 2 women who meet on a whim and form a friendship without really knowing each other. It had similarities with Dawson's first book in that there is a bit of a mystery running throughout, but luckily for me and Dawson's other readers, the writing, characters and story are far better and makes a really good read!

The book starts off with a pretty explosive start and left me totally hooked, eager to find out what had caused the circumstances that the book began in. I think this was a good device by Dawson, leaving us desperate to read more and I was also intrigued to read the background to the characters as well, especially Alice who was quite interesting. I really liked the lead character of Alice who started off as quite a normal woman happy with her boyfriend and business, but is changed a lot by her new friend. As the reader, we can see how Alice changes and the effect it has on all her relationships but she herself can't see it which makes the dynamic of the book interesting. I disliked Gretchen from the off, I can't put my finger on why but she just seemed very unlikeable and this worked well with likeable Alice, making the readers emotion stir up enough to keep reading.

There were really only 2 male characters in the book, Alice's boyfriend Tom who wasn't actually present in a lot of the book, and Gretchen's brother Bailey, a bit more a presence than Tom and another likeable person. Dawson has definitely improved with her character writing because all the characters were believable as people and helped the story develop in a good way which worked well in the scope of the story. The issues covered by the author regarding the characters are well tackled, and the relationships chop and change well with these problems, adapting as necessary and this was really well done by Dawson. Gretchen and Bailey's relationship is particular was quite touching and written with a real sensitivity of the situation and for this, Dawson deserves real praise.

The thing I enjoyed most about the book was the way the author has approached the telling of this story. It starts off with a shocking start, and this is slowly revealed as the book progresses through alternate chapter flashbacks and eventually leading up to the present. When Dawson took me back to the past, I was sometimes wishing she would hurry up a little and get to the crux of the issue so I could find out why it was all happening as it seemed to drag in parts but it soon picked up pace again when we sent back to the present time and Alice's dilemmas were being uncovered. Dawson really did keep me guessing, and there were quite a few twists and turns along the way that surprised me and I liked that Dawson was able to do that. I thought it was going to be predictable, but it certainly wasn't, and I really was guessing right up until the last few pages.

If you like "chick-lit" with a bit of a difference, then 'What My Best Friend Did' just might be the book for you. It is a vast improvement on the author's debut novel and I thoroughly enjoyed the read. For a novel, it is quite short at just under 300 pages but it is a packed book full of twists, turns and a really good story. I didn't want to put it down of an evening because I was desperate to find out what was going to happen next, and I think all credit is due to the author for this. I am pleased Lucy Dawson made such an improvement in this book, and it really is such a good read I would most definitely recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the genre, you'll be gripped!