28 August 2009

Book Review: Do Not Disturb by Tilly Bagshawe

Do Not Disturb is set in the world of hotels. Honor Palmer is a hotel heiress who is forced to take over the running of Palmers Hotel in East Hampton when her father dies. The local residents do not take kindly to this so Honor has to build up her reputation again. She has to do this in spite of her publicity-seeking sister Tina who is bleeding the sisters inheritance dry, and a new modern, sleed hotel ran by world-famous hotel Anton Tisch opening up down the road. Not to mention competing with the Spanish womaniser Lucas Ruiz who is running the new Tisch hotel, the Herrick.

As usual, Bagshawe has a novel with a few main characters, all of whom have an equal importance throughout the novel. All are given a good and strong background, allowing you to get to know them well and in detail, a useful thing for a fairly substantial sized novel (as this one is nearly 500 pages). As mentioned, the main character is Honor Palmer. She is a strong-minded and strong-willed woman who is incredibly determined that her hotel will be a success. She is written as a ruthless businesswoman-type character, although we are shown weak and vunerable sides to her personality, especially concerning her body-image and need to be loved.

It is interesting to see how she changes around the different characters in her life, and how they all impact on her. She has created an enemy for Honor in the Spaniard Lucas Ruiz, the man initially in charge of the Herrick. He is an opposite of Honor, hot-headed, confident and arrogant, convinced he is destined to run a world class hotel at his young age. Exchanges between the pair are unpleasant but make for interesting reading!

Another major character in the book is the Billionaire hotelier and owner of the Tisch group of hotels Anton Tisch. Anton is a ruthless German hotel mogul who has built up a world famous empire in the hotel world. He is known for his promiscuity, paying off women who end up bearing his children as a result of their liaisons, and incredibly disliked. And God forbid anyone who cross him as they'll be crushed like an ant beneath your shore. He is a horrible character, slimy and completely unlikeable but it does make you want to keep reading just to see if he is going to get his comeupance.

The whole story of people competing to make the better hotel has been done a few times before, as its a good thing to write about and to read as well. But Bagshawe has created a great set of characters which you get really involved with by the end of the book. Each are different people clashing over their dreams and although you are meant to like some, and hate others, you can't help but want them all to succeed at the end because it is their dream to make it work! Some of the other minor characters also play a key role in the book too, Sian, a young journalist, Lola, the daughter of a Boston millionaire; and Tina, Honor's sister. All crop up regularly through the book in vital roles which also keeps you involved.

There is one thing that I don't like about Tilly Bagshawe's novels I must admit. This was not just apparent in this particular novel, I found it also to be the case in her first novel, and will probably be the case in her second book too. I don't really like the crude language used when she writes a sexual scene in a book. I especially don't like how she uses the C-word - in my opinion it is the foulest word in the English language and I HATE seeing it in print, and it really is unpleasant. It isn't necessary in this great story, and for me spoilt some of the love scenes in the book. I really hope she writes these scenes in a better way in the future as I might be put off her reading her books in the future if she doesn't.

So what did I think? To be honest, I found it took me a little while to get into the book, although I can't really pinpoint why this is as it is a great story! As the book progresses, it becomes a great battle of personalities and determination, of crushing your enemy and coming out on top of everyone else. It is quite lengthy for a chick-lit book but doesn't drag on with nothing happening - each chapter is necessary and I wasn't bored at any point. In fact, I just got more involved towards the end, I ploughed through the last 150 pages in a very short time! A really good exciting read, and another super novel from Tilly Bagshawe.

Rating: 4/5

26 August 2009

Book Review: Who Gets Fluffy? by Judith Summers

Annie Curtis has decided enough is enough with philanderer husband Mark, and on Christmas Day tells him their marriage is over.

They decide to carry on living together with their dog Fluffy in order to maintain an amicable divorce, but that is thrown into chaos when Mark decides to go for full custody of Fluffy.

Annie is outraged because to her, the dog is her baby. Annie is determined to win the battle between the pair as several shocking truths come out, and Annie's life is turned upside down...

Now I'll be honest and say that I don't particularly understand people substituting children for dogs, or indeed treating their dogs like they are humans, but I was prepared to let this go for the sake of the story! As I said, the cute cover of a little doggy clutching a Christmas stocking in his mouth was too cute to resist, and I hoped the story would be good enough to make me want to read it! The book started off quite well, introducing us to the character of Annie in her solicitors office discussing the demise of her marriage and terms of her divorce. I actually thought she was a bit of a sap at the beginning because of certain things she says, but thankfully my opinion did change a bit as the book goes on!

As the book begins with the divorce of the pair, I was wondering whether the author Judith Summers was going with the story after this, but thankfully all because clear. The majority of the book is told to us in flashback style, with Annie recounting the main reason for her divorce, and then as the story progresses, how she got Fluffy, how she met Mark and then later on the "custody battle" over the dog. As its told this way, we do cover a good time period in the book and therefore get to know the characters quite well too. Because of this, I felt I could enjoy the book more because I knew the ins and outs of the lives of Annie and Mark, and consequently felt something for both of them as the book progressed!

From the start, I could tell that the book was going to be quite funny and I was definitely right. It has me laughing throughout, albeit not huge bellows of laughter but still made me at least crack a smile on quite a few occasions! Summers writing style is incredibly easy to read and you really don't have to work too hard when you read this because it just flows so well and is thoroughly enjoyable to read. Summers has chosen to write in the first person from the character of Annie's perspective and this allows the story to become really in-depth about Annie's emotions and life, which I felt gave the comedy book a bit of a more grown-up edge.

The book is really a good read, and definitely falls into the chick-lit genre of books but for me that is not a bad thing! However, what I felt was a bit different about it was a few twists and turns that the book took towards the end that really surprised me. They weren't the sort of twists you'd expect in this type of book at all, and for me it sort of made it a bit more realistic and gritty than it otherwise would have been. The overall ending seemed a bit disappointing to me but did work well for the story and rounded things off in a nice way, not leaving any endings untied just like you'd expect from this sort of book. Summers' writing is great, very easy to read and just a thoroughly funny and enjoyable read. I'd highly recommend to anyone who is a fan of the genre, and I've already passed my copy on to my mum who I am sure will love it. Recommended.

Rating: 5/5

25 August 2009

Book Review: Divas by Rebecca Chance

Lola Fitzgerald has a pretty charmed life. She has every designer piece of clothing she wants, holidays on tap and homes around the world courtesy of her rather rich father.

But Lola's world is thrown into disarray when her father falls into a coma and Lola's stepmother Carin cuts off all of her funds immediately. Her situation gets worse when Lola discovers the existance of her father's mistress Evie Lopez, and her fiance is thrown into rehab for drug addiction.

Lola wants back what is rightfully hers but she is forced to team up with Evie to catch Carin out and get her out of her life once and for all.

"Divas" is the debut novel for Rebecca Chance, and she follows the line of great "bonkbuster" authors such as the Bagshawe sisters Louise and Tilly, Lulu Taylor, Jo Carnegie and Olivia Darling who have all embraced the gritty side of "chick-lit" and done so brilliantly as well. The striking purple cover of the book immediately took my eye, and it made me want to read it, and the recommendations from Louise Bagshawe and Olivia Darling were great and well placed for a book like this as well!

The story mainly follows the character of Lola Fitzgerald, very much a pampered rich girl who lives off Daddy's trust fund. However, the twist in this book is that she has to learn to live without it (albeit not very successfully!) and contend with the wicked stepmother too. Although I didn't expect to, I absolutely loved the character of Lola because she was very likeable, and because of the twists and turns in the story, you sympathise with her character and grow to like her despite her sometimes selfish attitude!

Evie is the other main character in the book, and I didn't like her as much as Lola. She seemed far more mercenary than Lola, and although that fitted in with the plot, I just didn't warm to her as much and consequently didn't care as much for her story. As her story became more interwoven with Lola's, I began to care more for it but still not the character so much. Even so, she was a good enough character and served a good purpose for the story which was interesting enough. My favourite character was Lola's fiance Jean-Marc - he was hilarious and lit up every scene he was in because he was just so funny! Chance has clearly put him in there for the comic relief and it works, he's fab and I wish he had been in the book a bit more!

The book moves locations throughout and I found this really fun and exciting to read. It moves from London to New York and even to Italy for a little part of the book, and I liked this. Chance has clearly done her research when it comes to the locations mentioned as she describes things very well and it was very enjoyable to read. You can vividly imagine all the posh hotels Lola stays in, the shabby room that Evie has to camp down in and the plush home of Carin quite easily because of Chance's vivid writing, and it really is a joy to read. The writing style is easy to read and enjoyable and the book moves at a great pace with some shocking twists and turns along the way. The sex scenes in the book are sometimes quite graphic in their descriptions so perhaps if that isn't for you, skip over those parts as they aren't too frequent but I didn't find them too OTT and they didn't seem unnecessary in the book either.

This is a fantastic read, and I would thoroughly recommend it. It's a brilliant read full of fun, shocks, sex and a great story and I really couldn't put it down once I had started reading it. It surprised me along the way, and the shocks kept me completely hooked, I didn't expect half of them as they happened! For a debut novel, I think this book is brilliantly written and is definitely a recommended summer read (what's left of it!) but a book you can enjoy all year too. I loved every page and was disappointed when it ended, so I can't wait to read more of Rebecca Chance's work in the future! A superb read, very highly recommended!

Rating: 5/5

24 August 2009

Book Review: Holly's Inbox by Holly Denham

Holly Denham works as a receptionist at a big bank in London, and is slowly getting used to her job, alongside her colleagues, keeping in touch with her ever eccentric family and her best friends Jason and Aisha.

The "story" unfolds through the emails sent between Holly, her friends and family and basically gives the ups and downs of Holly's life, from getting a new boyfriend, learning her job and trying to keep track of her Granny who is living it up at her OAP home.

The story does unfold quite slowly throughout the book but does work up to a nice and surprising climax at the end.

Holly's Inbox is based on the emails of a receptionist working in London called Holly Denham. It all started with an online website, www.hollysinbox.com, which was apparently revealing Holly's emails to the web in real time. This was a real craze online, somehow I missed it so I was quite eager to read the books and find out what it was about. I've since done a bit of digging and found out it is indeed fiction, and was just chick-lit revealed as emails in real time. It's a strange idea to me, but there you go.

As I mentioned, although it has been marketed as if Holly is a real person, but she is indeed a fictional character. I really warmed to her through reading her emails, she's very funny and the writing style is very natural and easy going. As the emails are written as they were "sent", you get to form your own opinions about Holly and the other characters in the book, although the way Holly is written you are definitely supposed to like her and want to read on to find out more about her! Because it is meant to be written by a normal woman, you get a really good glimpse into the life of a modern woman, happy and sad!

Other characters in the book include my favourite Jason, who is Holly's gay best friend and absolutely hilarious. The conversations between Holly and Jason were light relief throughout and were really a joy to read. Aisha was another of Holly's friends and although she was nice enough, she got on my nerves a lot and I found myself wanting to skip her emails. The last main character is Holly's fellow receptionist, Patricia, or Trish as she is on her emails. The banter between the two women was very realistic but so enjoyable to read and I found myself really liking Trish as her and Holly grew closer.

At over 700 pages long, this book does look like an enormous chunk of reading material but really, it isn't. The book, as mentioned, is set out in email form with a To and From, Subject line then the body of the email which is rarely over a few lines long. As the emails are short, they don't cover anywhere near a whole, even half probably, so you can easily sit and read a load of pages at once because of the spread-out layout the book. This allows you to dip in and out of the story quite easily, and was fairly easy to pick up too as the story was easy to follow and slow to develop. I found myself getting really involved in the book and easily reading 100+ pages in one sitting, so it didn't take me long to get through the whole book.

It is an easy read, written in a bit of an unusual way but I think that adds to the charm of it to be honest. The characters were all great, especially Holly, Jason and Trish and you can feel yourself getting more involved in the story as it developed, and I was desperate to find out how it was all going to end for Holly and co. It is funny, and a very light-hearted read so I would definitely recommend it as a holiday read, perfect for chilling out and taking your mind off the day, immerse yourself in someone else's life for a while!

Rating: 4/5

21 August 2009

Book Review: Step On It, Cupid by Lorelei Mathias

This book follows the main character of Amelie Holden, a woman who works in London in the competitive field of advertising. She and her best friend Duncan are assigned a new project involving Speed Dating much to Amelie's horror.

She decides to research Speed dating thoroughly and ends up on several Speed Dating nights. Her Aussie boss Joshua is driving her mad with his motivational speeches, her ex-boyfriend Jack is suddenly back on the scene and she begins to eye up an actor she met on a speed-dating night.

Will Amelie and her colleague Duncan be able to create the perfect slogan for Fast Love? Is Amelie destined to be alone forever?

Step On It, Cupid is part of the Little Black Dress (LBD) set of books which are published regularly. These are books which are relatively short stories giving you a few laughs, a good story and are a staple of a girl's bookshelf. This is the first of the LBD books I have read, and am pleased to see that there are plenty more by LBD. The author of this book, Lorelei Mathias writes a fabulous debut novel with this title, and has just released her second book, also published by LBD entitled Lost For Words.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is pure chick-lit without a doubt, and this is my favourite genre of book so I was very happy to read this one. The author does a great job of keeping us all guessing right the way through the book as to who, if anyone, Amelie is going to end up with. She writes the relationships throughout the book really well, and they are all believable, to the point where you are thinking Amelie must be mad to be liking these awful men! There are laugh out loud parts, parts which make you think that you will NEVER go on a Speed Dating Night, and just a great story weaved throughout that is easy and very enjoyable to read.

All the characters are very realistic people, all different, with different traits and personalities, which I think is what makes them work so well together. Amelie is incredibly scatty, a trait which annoys the hell out of me, yet is endearing to her friends. Her colleague Duncan is shy and retiring and I couldn't help but wonder throughout if he had a thing for Amelie! Amelie's best friend Claire is a great character, someone I wouldn't mind having for a best friend, and her boss Joshua is so upbeat you have to wonder if he is taking something!

One other thing I enjoyed about this book was the different writing style throughout. There would be a chapter written in the third person, then the next chapter would be in the form of a diary written by Amelie. This made a nice change and I found the diary chapters really funny and honest. It was easy to make the transition between the two, it wasn't at all disjointed, and I think this makes the book different from other books in this genre. I think it is a great addition by the author to write it in this way!

So would I recommend this? Yes, I would! It is pure chick-lit as I said before so won't appeal to people who dislike that genre but for fans of it, I hope you will love this. It's a great fun story, which twists and turns, and makes you laugh out loud, and importantly keeps you guessing right up to the end. Superbly written, I am glad I chose this one! I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.

Rating: 5/5

19 August 2009

Book Review: Vintage by Olivia Darling

Vintage follows three women who enter the man's world of wine-making, well champagne making to be exact. Madeleine Arsenault is the daughter of a French champagne-maker, and is left his vineyard when he dies. Madeleine wants to produce a vintage wine of her own, and is determined to prove her critics, who don't believe a woman can create a great wine, wrong and to rise to the top of her game.

Kelly Elson, a chambermaid in a hotel is also left a vineyard in a will, but unlike Madeleine, she doesn't want anything to do with it. Under the guidance of trustee Hilarian and and vineyard keeper Guy, she decides maybe there is something to be done in the wine business after all.

Finally, we have Christina Morgan, an American supermodel whose marriage is in tatters, much like her career. Christina only takes on the vineyard as she has nothing else to do, but quickly realises she enjoys the work of making a new bottle of wine, and is determined to make a success of her vineyard.

The three female lead characters are all incredibly different, yet all have the same aims despite their different backgrounds and initial attitudes to their situations. Written in the third person, the book flicks easily between the characters in a comfortable reading style which transports you into the glamorous lives of the women. By the end, you are left feeling real empathy for all the women, and are completely absorbed in the story, feeling every emotion along with them. My favourite was certainly Madeleine, with her steely determination to succeed against the odds. However, all were likeable (although not at first in my opinion!) and even though they are all so different, worked well inside the story together.

I must admit it took me quite a while to get into this book. The start wasn't overly captivating, and left me a bit cold, so much so that I was able to put it down and not be desperate to pick it up again. However when I got past the first quarter of the book, it took a turn and drew me in - I just didn't want to put it down! You were suddenly thrown deep into the lives of the women - almost as if the author suddenly grabbed hold of what she was writing and took it on a complete u-turn from average to amazing!

The book does contain some quite graphic sex scenes as well, which don't seem out of place in the book. They aren't overly gratuitous and manage to fit in perfectly where they are written, so it doesn't seem like they are there purely for the sake of it. There is some coarse language used, but that seems to be commonplace in novels these days, so nothing too unusual there. Despite these scenes, romance isn't actually a main theme through the book, more a sub-theme, but it fits in well with the book and adds a different angle to the story as well as the wine-making side. Luckily, the author doesn't go into too much detail about wine-making, giving us just enough knowledge that we can understand the very basic processes without boring us!

Overall, once I got past the shaky start, I was thoroughly gripped by the book and really enjoyed what I was reading. The story was easy to follow, despite quite a lot of characters appearing throughout the book, and I think this is a credit to the author Olivia Darling. A very sexy fun read, not to be taken too seriously, but makes for very pleasant reading! I really enjoyed it and I was actually quite sad to turn the final page!

Rating: 4/5

Note: Olivia Darling is a pseudonym of author Chris Manby.

17 August 2009

Book Review: A Good Girl Comes Undone by Polly Williams

Annie Rafferty is a woman who has it all. She's just got the job of Deputy Editor at Glo! Magazine, has just bought a big house with long-term boyfriend Nick and life is all rosy.

But soon Annie's world is about to come crashing down around her when Nick resigns from his job, leaving her with the bills, a depressed sister and nagging parents who don't think she should have to be the bread-winner.

But Annie soon discovers who she really is, and ends up going in a totally different direction...

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

14 August 2009

Book Review: Star Struck by Anne-Marie O'Connor

Catherine Reilly still lives at home with her sisters and her father, for whom she is the carer. She's single and not particularly outgoing, which is why it is a complete shock for her family when Catherine applies to be on the global singing competition "Star Maker".

She auditions and amazingly makes it through - but Catherine really doesn't have a clue of the madness that awaits her as she carries on in the competition. Richard Forster, the worlds music mogul, has got his eye not only on Catherine but a few others in the competition too. Is it all going to be too much for the shy girl from Ireland or will she be able to make all her dreams come true and become a true star?

As soon as I heard about this book, I was desperate to read it. I love all the music reality shows such as X Factor, every year I tell myself not to watch it but I always keep coming back for me and I'm on the edge of my seat on the finale night wondering who is going to win! This book takes the format of X Factor, with the audition stages and beyond, judges and mad auditionees too. I wondered how original the book would be if its based on such an enormous production that everyone knows inside-out, so I was intrigued to find out. Also, this book is author Anne-Marie O'Connor's 3rd book (1st with Ebury but 3rd overall) so I was hoping it was going to be one that would impress me.

The book begins before Catherine goes into the audition process, so we get to know a little bit about her in her real life and her family too. There are 3 sisters and a dad that play vital roles in the book, and luckily for us they are great characters. Mick, Catherine's dad is awful but perfect for the story even though I could see the final twist coming a mile off because of the way it was written. The 3 sisters; Jo, Claire and Marie are all very different, but Jo was my favourite by far, she was very feisty and put a little something into the book that would have been missing without her.

Our leading lady Catherine was lovely, although you could see how the book was going to pan out because of the way she was. I very much liked her, she was very realistic and modelled on the "Leona" sort of character I would imagine. You can believe that she is a real person, although not necessarily someone suited to the competition. Alex was another character that I really liked, and the pair of them were well written and nice people, which is a complete antithesis of most of the other characters! I loved the "Mr Nasty" character of Richard Forster who couldn't have been anyone other than Simon Cowell, although the inclusion of a wife, Cherie, was quite a good twist.

O'Connor's writing style is very easy to read, and I found myself ploughing through the book without even realising it. It follows the format of X Factor quite rigidly so there wasn't all that much imagination used there but it didn't really matter because funnily enough, it wasn't all about the competitions. The book chooses to focus a lot on Catherine's family, and the story frequently goes back to Ireland and the Reilly family, which kept the narrative fresh and interesting. One thing that really bugged me however was a few typos of famous names that really should have been picked up before the book went to print, and it did annoy me a tad.

Overall, this is a very good, light-hearted summer read that follows a very popular theme at the moment. Reality TV is all around us whether you like it or not, and this book jumps on the bandwagon of this but it has its own little twists along the way to keep the reader interested. I liked all the characters, the direction of the book and the ending wasn't what I expected which was also pretty good! I read it very quickly without realising it so perhaps it wasn't all that deep or detailed, but it was very good reading. I liked the writing style and the story and I look forward to reading more books from author.

Thank you to the publishers Ebury Press for sending us a copy to review.

Rated: 4/5

12 August 2009

Author Interview: Sheila O'Flanagan

Sheila O'Flanagan, one of Ireland's best authors, has been writing books since 1999 when her first title Suddenly Single was published. 10 years and 15 books later, Sheila's new book The Perfect Man is due for release next month in the UK (September 2009), and the paperback of her 14th novel Someone Special (which I loved!) shot to the top of the UK bestseller's list! We had a chance to ask Sheila some of our burning questions, and she was lovely enough to answer them for us. So here is the our author interview with the lovely Sheila O'Flanagan!

Q1. Tell us about your latest book in a sentence.

Romy is very happy working in Australia and away from her difficult extended family, but having to come back to Ireland to take care of her mother after an operation means that the problems she'd left behind have to be dealt with.

Q2. What inspired you to write about an archaeologist in 'Someone Special'? Do you have an interest in this subject?

Actually yes. - I'm very interested in ancient civilisations like the Romans and the Egyptians. Programmes like Time Team have made archaeology more relevant to a lot of people too. But it can be very painstaking work and I don't really have the patience for it. I went to Egypt a number of years ago and there was something amazing about seeing all those ancient monuments and tombs, knowing that they were part of such an advanced society. And more interesting than tombs of the pharoahs  were the tombs of the workers which were painted with pictures of them going about their daily lives - so there were paintings of bakers carrying sheafs of wheat, for example. But the research I did for Someone Special was on the type of dig Romy does, which are very common in Ireland and the UK. Most local/national authorities now commssion digs before they allow new building projects or roads etc to go ahead so that historical remains aren't destroyed. As I mention in the acknowledgements, the archaeologists at the site were very helpful, but I visited in February which was really cold and not very glamorous but nevertheless very, very interesting.

Book Review: Could It Be Magic? by Melanie Rose

Jessica Taylor was happily walking her dogs and meeting a nice man when she was struck by lightning and life as she knew it changed beyond belief. When Jessica wakes up, she finds she is now Lauren, a mother of four and married to Grant, whether she likes or not. She's not sure if it's a dream, but when she goes to bed as Lauren, she wakes up as Jessica. She soon comes to realise that she is living both lives - she's Lauren when Jessica sleeps, and vice-versa.

As she settles into the life of Lauren, Jessica starts finding out things about Lauren that she doesn't like, things that might tear her new family apart. Will she be able to keep up with living 2 lives, or is she going to ruin both without meaning to? Can Jessica convince anyone of her dilemma, or is the magic just for her?

Melanie Rose first published this book in 2005 under the title of 'Being Lauren' with a small independent publisher. It was so popular that Radio 4 listeners voted it one of their favourite reads. The book was then snapped up by publishers HarperCollins and re-released under the title of Could It Be Magic? in April this year, and has been a hit since. Melanie has already got her second book up on Amazon with the title of Coming Home, and judging by how much I loved this I shall be looking out for this!

When I first started reading this book, I got strong hints of Sophie Kinsella's book Remember Me? because of the idea of memory loss and having to adapt to a life totally different to what you expected. However, as the story went on, it took another path and went off in another direction which I wasn't expecting. It's not like anything else I've ever read, I would love to know where the author got the idea from because it's great and there are some shocking twists and turns along the way which left me totally surprised and hooked on reading more because I couldn't put it down!

I loved the character of Jessica straight away. The book begins just before the lightning strike so we aren't given all that much time to understand her or her life, but because of this, the author allows her life to develop throughout the book as both Jessica and Lauren, and its so interesting to see how the character adaps and changes as per whose body she is in. There is no worry about finding it hard to keep up with whose story you follow because it's blatantly clear, and the change from Lauren to Jessica and vice-versa is made crystal clear by the author. It's a strange one because although the narrator remains the same, the story changes frequently but its so fun to read, I loved it!

As there are really 2 stories, there are quite a few characters but again Rose has made them all so different you don't worry about keeping up at all. Jessica's "man" Dan is so lovely, just the kind of man you'd like to meet! Grant, Lauren's husband, on the other hand is horrible and it is brilliant reading the dynamic between he and Jessica (when she is Lauren of course). Lauren's 4 children are so well written as well, and Rose covers an important issue within this which I think is so well done, with real understanding of the problem and how it is dealt with. I was impressed with this, and felt that the author has really done her research and covered an difficult illness with tact and sincerity.

I found this book is extremely readable, and I struggled to put it down of an evening because I wanted to find out what was going to happen to Jessica/Lauren next! As I said before, there were some shocking bits throughout the book that I didn't expect at all, and for me they just made the book even better. The quality of writing here is so high, and I can see why HarperCollins snapped this author up when they read this outstanding debut. I loved every page, it is such an original idea and is a fabulous read. Highly recommend - chick lit at its best!

Rating: 5/5

10 August 2009

Book Review: Should I Stay Or Should I Go? by Jessica Adams

Alice has agreed to move all the way to Australia with her boyfriend Nash, but there is a small problem - Alice isn't all that sure that she wants to be with Nash anymore. They don't get on anymore, they get on each others nerves and Alice is a bit fed up. So when she finds that Nash has been unfaithful, she knows her decision is made and decides to go to Australia by herself. Alice is a bit nervous and unsure of herself but with the help of her cousin Joel, she finds somewhere to live and begins to try to settle in Australia.

But there are certain things Alice can't get her head around - will she be able to let go of her English-ness and embrace her new culture, and will she be able to control her emotions towards her hunky cousin Joel?

I've never read any of Jessica Adams' books before so I wasn't sure what to expect from this one which is usually a good thing for me! She's written 5 previous novels which have all sold well on Amazon, so I was hoping for some good things from her sixth novel. Jessica divides her time between Australia and England, so I knew that when she wrote about Australia it was going to be with experience and authenticity so I really looked forward to the read. The cover is quite eye-catching, with a bold picture of a woman and the title in red text, and I think it looks like it fits firmly into the "chick-lit" genre. I started it one evening and quickly found it's one of those books you don't want to put down once you've started it!

The idea behind the story is very good - a couple about to emigrate yet break up just before they go. I fully expected Alice not to go but of course this wouldn't have made the story very long and ended it a bit abruptly! Alice was a fabulous character that I really warmed to immediately, and I think she was a great narrator for the story. She is very likeable and real, you can see yourself struggling with the decisions that Alice has to make and that enables you to like her and care about what direction the story takes and how it moves through the book.

The other characters are all well written as well. Nash is horrid and I don't know why Alice was with him at all really. He does pop up throughout the book which keeps Alice's links to the UK alive and you can see the deterioration of their relationship too. I loved the character of Heidi although I do wonder how much of an exaggeration she was compared to real Australians. Alice's mum is fabulous and I loved the whole thing with "the Google" (you'll get it when you read it!) and her scenes made me laugh whenever they appeared which was brilliant - I wish we had seen more of her! Joel was just the perfect hero, everything Alice needed throughout the book and the developing relationship between them was written so well.

I really enjoyed the part of the book set in Australia. It's somewhere I haven't been but would love to go, so to read it from an English persons point of view was fun and interesting. Adams seems to grasp the sense of feeling out of your depth in another country and you sense Alice's intrepidation and uncertainty through her writing. Adams has written in the book in the first person with Alice as the narrator, and consequently we get all of her feelings on everything, so it's essential for the reader to like her, which wasn't a problem for me. I loved every page of this book, and I loved the shocking twists and turns along the way, one of which was gripping reading and took the book in a totally different direction for a while. It's an excellently written book with brilliant character, great narration and a story that hooks you in from the first page until the last. I loved it, and will definitely be reading more of Jessica's work! Highly recommended.

Many thanks go to the publishers Black Swan for sending us a copy to review!

Rating: 5/5


8 August 2009

Book Review: Recipe for Disaster by Miriam Morrison

Two successful chefs, Jake Goldman and Harry Hunter are at war. Jake works hard for everything he has, working for the best chefs as a cleaner to learn his trade, and just about keeps his restaurant afloat. Harry on the other hand, has everything handed to him on a plate, and doesn't have to put too much effort into his work. Jake's new restaurant Cuisine is doing well, but he is angered to find out Harry is opening a restaurant in the same town, just as competition for him. Jake decides he has to work that bit harder to stay in business, but is Harry going to play fairly?

The other main character in the book is Kate Walker, a journalist who works for the local paper. After a disastrous relationship with her editor, Kate realises she needs a big story to keep her reputation. So she decides to do an undercover job to expose the bad side of the Restaurant buiness. She gets a job as a waitress for Jake's restaurant Cuisine, and soon befriends Jake and his staff, and actually enjoys being a waitress. But Kate keeps getting tangled in her lies about her fake life as a writer she invented to get the job at Cuisine, and finds more trouble when she finds herself finding Jake rather attractive...

This story was so easy to read, and thoroughly enjoyable I just couldn't put it down! The book starts off introducing us to the main characters by flashbacks to their early careers, and how the animosity between Jake and Harry built up, so you can see why the two men are at logger-heads with one another! This is a good device used in the book, and quickly gets you involved with the characters so you want to find out more, and of course keep reading! Also, the fact that the book is written in the third person allows it to flick between the characters easily, and makes an easy transistion throughout, so I must give full credit to the wonderful writer!

Of course, there are some more minor characters, mainly those who work in Jake's kitchen. We have Tess, another young chef, Godfrey who is a farmer and wannabe chef, Hans the barman, kirsty the head waitress and there is also Georgia, Jake's model girlfriend who hates food. How ironic considering she is dating a chef. Even though these are minor characters, they are all given a good background so they do play a great role in the book, and the fact you know them well makes for easy smooth reading.

Being set in a restaurant, there are of course many bits about cooking and food in the book. The author has clearly researched this in great detail, because she uses lots of technical terminology in the book, which isn't always explained but just adds to the books authenticity! Lots of foods and meals are mentioned, and some of the descriptions used in the book make your mouth water. I think the detail and ideas put into this book are just superb, and make it very enjoyable. She really has made the cooking aspect of the book sit nicely alongside the romance and comedy throughout, which is wonderful to read.

I adored this book and think the author has done an amazing job with this book. The characters are likeable - you actually care what happens to them, and it is so involving you can't put it down! I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys a light-hearted and fun read, and especially to people who love food, because this book is simply delicious! I do hope this author Miriam Morrison writes many more books!

Rating: 5/5

7 August 2009

Book Review: The Making of Mia by Ilana Fox

This novel tells us the story of Jo Hill, a young girl whose dream is to work for a national glossy magazine as a journalist, but she is sure her appearance is going to stop her dream from becoming a reality. We first join the book when Jo is a schoolgirl taking her A-Levels at a posh school, although she is a London girl from near Peckham. Jo loves reading her magazines, eating chocolate bars and generally hiding herself away from the other girls, and gets a shock when her A-Levels do not go her way. Jo has to get a job working in a cafe, until her friend Amelia helps her out with a job at a restaurant.

Eventually Jo gets a job working as a secretary for the one of the glossy magazines, strangely enough called Glossy, and she believes this is the foot in the door to get her dream job of journalist on the magazine. The girls are incredibly to Jo because of her plump appearance and she is soon miserable. And even though she eventually gets promoted to PA of the magazines chief editor, Jo is still unhappy and ignored. After a showdown with her boss Joshua, Jo flees England to stay with her friend Amelia for a holiday in Florida. But Jo is not set to return the woman that she was, but will people realise that Jo has become Mia??

As I mentioned, I really did think that this book was going to be another remake of the infamous book and movie, The Devil Wears Prada. However, when I began to read it, I realised that the book was actually quite different, especially in the story. Yes, the two characters in both books wanted to be journalists, they didn't fit in and had to change how they were. But that is where the similiarities end. I found the character of Jo Hill, the lead in this book, was much more likeable that Andie in TDWP. Also, I found that the story was much more focused on the personal life and feelings of Jo, rather than just her job.

I really did love Jo character, and you really did want everything to work out for her in the end. All the way through, I was thinking how much I was behind her, and at no point did I dislike her. I felt so sorry for her when she was being bullied by her peers at school and at the magazine, and I did wonder why anyone would want to work in an industry where image is everything and the person that you are is nothing. Jo's best friend is actually one of the prettiest girls in school but sees the great person that Jo is inside, and helps Jo with her image and her lack of self-confidence. I really liked Amelia's character and the fact she didn't care about her friend's appearance and only saw the good inside her.

The character of Jo's boss at the magazine was Joshua, and a truly horrible man! He was instantly hateable, with his cocky manners and the rude way in which he spoke to all his staff, as if he thought he was better than all of them. I actually really hated him, and I really wanted Jo to get his revenge on him and humilate him just like he deserved!

This really is a story of the Ugly Duckling who turns into the beautiful swan and gets revenge on all those who have smited her just because of how she looks, and despite her talent as a writer. Like many women, Jo lacks the self-confidence and belief in herself to change how she looks, and the drastic measures she resorts to are quite horrifying and make for a little bit of unpleasant reading, although it makes you realise that you perhaps a bit happier with your own lot than you realised! It is well written, lively, fun and a really uplifting read, one I would recommend that you all read, as it's just a good romp through London, the USA and the life of Joanne Hill...or is it Mia Blackwood?! This is a superb debut novel and I look forward to Ilana's second boko Spotlight due out in 2010!

Rating: 5/5

6 August 2009

Book Review: How Not To Shop by Carmen Reid

Annie Valentine is back! Annie, a successful personal shopper at The Store has hit the big time. She's been offered a slot on a primetime TV show as a fashion advisor, and she can't wait. But things go slightly wrong when Annie realises she has a tiny budget, unwilling participants and a co-star from hell.

While she's trying to perform miracles, her ever patient boyfriend Ed is waiting for her at home with her 2 children... but Ed wants his own baby, even though it couldn't be further from Annie's mind. Is Annie able to handle the work and home pressures? Or is fame not all its cracked up to be?

'How Not To Shop' is the third book in the Annie Valentine Series by Carmen Reid. The first 2 are 'The Personal Shopper' and 'Late Night Shopping', and I've read both. I wasn't overly keen on the first book of the series but I was intrigued to see the direction of the next book so I read that which was much better. I really enjoyed Annie's second adventure so when I saw Carmen had a third book coming out I was excited. How Not To Shop follows Annie after she leaves her job at The Store so is a totally different setting, but it really works!

Obviously this book will make much more sense if you read it after you have read the first two books because of the chronological storyline. However, if you like the sound of this and haven't read the others, it is possible to enjoy this one, you just may not get some of the references to previous things that have happened to Annie and her friends/family. I managed to get into this book incredibly easily, and found myself slipping into the life of Annie quickly and seamlessly, and the reminders along the way helped bring the previous 2 books back for me.

Annie is the same as ever, funny, fame-hungry, mad and obsessed about shopping. I really didn't like her in the first book but I very much liked her in this one. It's very funny and Annie seems to lurch from one disaster to the other in an incredibly amusing way. You are endeared to her because of her endless disasters, and her attitude in this book was brilliant. She stands up for herself, does a good job and holds a family together, and is a likeable character which is essential for a book where the lead character is a female and is read by females! If you hate Annie, you might hate the book which isn't good!

The other characters in the book are brilliant and thread an excellent story between the main story of Annie and her TV career. Ed, her other half is the perfect man, and is the perfect contrast to eccentric Annie. He is a calming influence, and I defy any woman reading the book not to love Ed! Annie's children are less prominent in the book, but her best friend, Russian millionairess Svetlana is hilarious and has a shocking yet hilarious storyline throughout the book too which takes it in a totally different for a while which was fabulous to read and not what you'd expect from this book!

Despite the laughs and disasters of Annie, the book does have some more serious undertones for the readers that make it seem a bit more realistic. Annie's sister has fertility troubles and this is covered sensitively by Reid, and is a credit to her writing skills. She manages to convey the desperation for Dana to have a baby with Annie's unwant of one with Ed, and balances the two to create a mature and interesting storyline that will have you feeling every emotion along with the two. It was great to have this story running alongside the funnier ones because it grounds the book a bit and adds a more adult theme to the book.

For Reid, this is an excellent return to a brilliant character, and I loved every second of this book. It's my favourite of the series so far, and I would love for her to write a fourth as I think she's left it open enough at the end for that to happen which would be brilliant! All the shopping references as seen in the first 2 books are there - mentions of designer clothes, costs and descriptions are perfect, Reid must do some lovely and fun research to write these books! If you loved the first 2 books, this is a must-read for you and even if you haven't read them, this is a great light-hearted summer read, especially if you love your shopping!

Rating: 5/5

5 August 2009

Book Review: The Best Day of Someone Else's Life by Kerry Reichs

Vi Connelly loves weddings, and it's a good job that she does really. She attended her first wedding when she was just 6 years old, and caught the wedding bug from there!

Vi knows that a wedding is meant to be the Best Day of Your Life, and can't wait for her own wedding. But now in her twenties, Vi finds herself becoming a bridesmaid over and over again for all of her friends, leaving Vi wondering if she'll ever get to be the bride.

Vi still loves loser ex-boyfriend Caleb, and can't seem to move on from him, so will she ever have the Best Day of HER Life?

I haven't read many novels based around weddings, so this was going to be a relatively new theme to me, leaving me not having many expectations about this book, and with an open mind about the story too. The character of Vi is a very good, strong main female one and works well as the first person narrative voice in this book. She's very likeable, as her dialogue is very honest and easy to read, and really endears you to her character. She's a very realistic person, from being tired of being a bridesmaid over and over to worrying about finding the love of her life.

The weddings were the other main theme in the book, without a doubt and they were very well done. The author has very cleverly made sure that each wedding featured in the book was different in some way, even if we knew barely anything about the bride and groom. The first few weddings in the book were Vi's close friends, so we knew the characters and the weddings were written about in more detail. However, the latter half of the book featured a wedding every other chapter, so we didn't really meet any of the brides or grooms, they were briefly mentioned by Vi and then the story quickly moved on again.

This was my main problem with the book. I felt there were just too many characters to keep up with! The main character Vi was very well written but she had two groups of friends, one in her hometown and the other where she now lives and works. There were about four friends in each group, and I was constantly getting confused between the two groups and all the different names. I kept having to flick back in the book to check up on who was who, and it was really hampering my enjoyment of the book as I felt I couldn't properly keep track of it, and I got frustated at constantly having to go back and forth between the pages.

The main plot line was really Vi and her love life, and the discovery of Vi's feeling about this as the book progressed. This was really well done, as Vi's character was developing throughout the book at a believable pace and you were feeling for Vi through every wedding she had to go through as well. Her ex-boyfriend Caleb was also well written, clearly a character you are meant to hate, but who you could also see why Vi fell for him despite what a horrible man he was! There weren't really any other strong males in the book, and I felt this was a shame as it really lacked a male influence, and took nearly three-quarters of the book for a decent male character to appear.

Unfortunately, I was left feeling very relieved as I turned the last page of this book. I just felt I had to concentrate too hard to enjoy it properly, and I couldn't keep up with the characters as there were just too many of them to follow easily. Although the main character of Vi was well written, the rest of the novel is a bit of a let-down, dragging a bit particularly towards the middle with too many weddings, too many characters and sadly that lets it down a lot for me, and I won't be hurrying to read more material from this author again.

Rating: 2/5

4 August 2009

Author Interview: Lindsey Kelk

Lindsey Kelk's first novel I Heart New York hit bookshops in July and has been a hit. I loved the book, and could fully imagine myself in poor old Angela's shoes, although I bet my luck wouldn't have been as good as hers! We were thrilled to see Angela's next adventure I Heart Hollywood is coming in January 2010, followed by the third installment I Heart Paris later that year. We managed to get an exclusive interview with Lindsey herself, and she gives fans a fab bit of news about her I Heart... books, read on to find out what!

Q1: Tell about us about your latest book in a sentence!
I Heart New York is a funny book about a girl who loses everything in London and has to find it all over again in New York.

Q2: Where did you get the inspiration for I Heart New York? Is Angela based on you and your experiences?
Unfortunately for me at the time, it was more based on what I wished was happening in my life rather than what was actually happening! I'd just got back from a holiday to New York, it was cold and horrible in London, I was broke after Christmas and everything in my life was just a bit generally rubbish and so I started writing the story as a way of escaping my every day life. I love New York, I love shopping and I love boys so it just made sense. Also, I think my bank manager was happier with this than another flight to New York ending up on my credit card.

Angela and I started out quite alike, we had the same job and the same hair but she went shorter and lighter and I went longer and darker. Weirdly, we're more alike now, two years after I wrote the book. I got dumped by my boyfriend of seven years and have moved to New York, so maybe I'm based on Angela? Life imitating chick lit. Although I'm not sure that's very healthy.

3 August 2009

Book Review: Return to Sender by Zoe Barnes

Holly has always known she was adopted by her parents, Maureen and Harry Bennett when she was a baby. But when her beloved mother dies, Holly decides she wants to know more about her biological mother, even though she doesn't know where to start. Her sisters Jess and Grace are a bit opposed to the search, but eventually come around when she meets Private Investigator Phil Connell.

Together the pair set out to find Holly's mum so she can put together the pieces of her life, but is it just going to be Holly's roots that the pair discover? Can the Bennett family help not only Holly in her quest, but each other in their own times of woe?

Zoe Barnes is a well known Women's Fiction author and I have enjoyed several of her books. They are always realistic stories with likeable characters, and her latest offering certainly follows suit. '''Return to Sender''' focusses on the issue of adoption and how it affects not only the adopted child, but also that of their immediate family. Adoption isn't a subject I have come across much in the Women's Fiction genre so I hoped that Barnes would do it justice, but not in an unrealistic way that would spoil my enjoyment of the story.

As there is quite an emotional side to the whole plot, it was quite vital that the reader is able to connect with Holly and her plight for finding out about her mother. Barnes approaches this issue in a very good way, making there a good reason for searching for her and therefore the reader is on the side of Holly. She's a very likeable girl who doesn't seem bothered at all that she is adopted, which I think is great. In fact, the only resentment of it seems to come from her sisters, Jess and Grace, but this isn't too awful to read and you can see why they feel this way as the story progresses. Holly does come across as a real person, and her relationships with her sisters, her PI and others in the book are so well written that you can believe they are real which is all due to Barnes' writing talent.

Barnes has touched on the positives and negatives of an adopted person trying to find their natural parents in the book, and I think it was important that she did this. Of course, not all adoption searches end in a new happy family, and Barnes makes Holly's inner struggles with the decision to search for her mother clear, and with a weighted argument for both sides. Through the book, Barnes speaks with knowledge about the Isle of Man, and it was done very well as I felt I could visualise the small island in my head, even though I have never been there. Everything about it was written in detail, and sat well with the leisurely pace of the book.

Aside from adoption, the other main thread running through the book is relationships, and how they can survive change. There are lots of different relationships in this book; Holly and her boyfriend Murdo, Holly and Phil her PI, the 3 sisters, the sisters and their dad, Jess and her husband Kev, Grace and her husband Steve, and these are all well documented and followed as the book progresses. All the relationships go through change in different ways, and Barnes has a great way of getting into the soul of a character and putting into words how they feel. The book was written in the third person which surprised me as I thought this story would work well in the first person, but was equally as great in the third, leaving the reader as an entertained observer.

You can probably tell that I loved this book, and rightly so. It is a great story that kept me wanting to read more, but that didn't aim to come to a sickly sweet conclusion as you might expect. It was a very mature account of adoption and its effects on families, and every issue was well explored and detailed in the book. Holly and her family were realistic and nice characters, I cared about what happened to them and wanted Holly to find her mum, although I wasn't expecting the eventual outcome of the book. The ending is left totally open for a sequel with a big shock, and I really hope that Zoe Barnes choosing to follow up this brilliant novel with one just as fantastic. Highly recommended, and a very enjoyable book.

Rating: 5/5