23 July 2010

Book Review: Wicked Games by Sasha Wagstaff

Judd Harrington is back in England to cause a stir, and he's intent on succeeding. He brings along his wife Kitty who is petrified of Judd and his awful temper and his 2 sons, Elliot and Sebastian. None of Judd's family actually like him but live in fear of him. Ace, his third son, is the only one who is still in America and is still being controlled by him.

Life for Judd's arch-enemy Lochlin isn't going too well either. His record company Shamrock is struggling against the newly formed Jett Corporation, run by none other than Judd. His relationship with his wife Tavvy and son Shay has seen better days, and he's trying to stall his talented singing daughter Iris from joining the ruthless showbiz world.

Judd, however, has other plans. He's determined to sign Iris to his record label, and uses his son Ace to get her despite what Ace wants. Judd wants to make Lochlin suffer, and at any cost - he wants to ruin the Maguire family once and for all. Will the ruthless Judd Harrington succeed in destroying Lochlin and his family?

This is Sasha Wagstaff's second novel, but I hadn't actually picked up a copy of her debut Changing Grooms yet. When I was sent this by the publisher to review, I was drawn in by the eye-catching red, white and gold cover - it looks very elegant and certainly like a book I'd really enjoy. The book seems to be marked as a bit of a blockbuster, much in the vein of Tilly Bagshawe and Tasmina Perry, and having loved the formers books so far, I expected to enjoy this. Luckily, I wasn't at all let down and really liked the story - it travels around, has great characters and a thrilling story that keeps you guessing until the last page!

22 July 2010

Book Review: Desire by Louise Bagshawe

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

I've been a huge fan of Louise Bagshawe's books for a long, long time. It was actually her books that got me into Chick Lit quite a few years ago, so you can say I owe my obsession with the genre to her a little bit! Louise has recently taken a bit of a shift in the direction of her books, and perhaps she is all the better for it. Her latest two books, Passion, and now this one, Desire, have been a little darker and grittier than her previous releases and I must say that I really loved this one far more than I was expecting, and I just couldn't put it down!

Desire begins with a fairly shocking beginning, with the introduction of a mystery assassin and the storyline leading up to the murder of Josh. I love that from the beginning, the audience is in on who the murderer is, whether we know the assassin's identity or not, but this just makes it more exciting because you want everyone else in the book to know too, and therefore I just wanted to keep reading and finding out whether it would dawn on people what is going on. The pace of the book is very quick, with a lot happening very fast, and this continues right the way through the book.

The characters are all fantastic, especially the leading lady Lisa. She is a British character in amongst an American setting so she stands out immediately and that's important to the people reading the book as she is the one that requires our sympathy, and you have to want it to work out right for her. She is very likeable, and I enjoy her character development throughout the book. She starts off as a bit of a bimbo trapped in a world she doesn't understand, but as the story moves on, so does Lisa as a character and I really enjoyed this. Bagshawe has also written a great relationship with Sam, the American journalist who tries to help Lisa, and he's also very likeable, and a bit of a "hero" character!

As well as following these characters, the book moves across several different countries as well, and I really enjoyed this aspect of it. Bagshawe really translates each of these places onto paper really well, and I had no difficulty in imagining them in my mind when I was reading which made it all the more exciting. There were some great action scenes in there, which weren't too over the top and fitted well into the whole book. There are two big dramatic scenes which went really well in the book right near the end, and I was literally on the edge of my seat reading them, it was really well done and I couldn't believe how much I loved them!

I was a little worried about a chick lit book about an assassination because the two don't really go hand in hand but for this book it definitely works! Bagshawe definitely has a real talent for writing and I think that if this is the direction she is going to take her books in from now on, then it's going to be very successful because I can't think of anything else like it out there at the moment! The characters were all well written and believable, the plot was fast paced and exciting, and the book as a whole was just great. I loved it, and cannot recommend it enough, particularly if you like something a bit different from your normal chick lit! Fabulous! 

Rating: 4/5

20 July 2010

Author Interview: Alison Bond

I recently read and loved Alison Bond's new book A Reluctant Cinderella, and was delighted when Alison was kind enough to answer some of my questions about her and her books. If you haven't read A Reluctant Cinderella yet, I would definitely recommend that you do because it's a brilliant book, and don't let the cover fool you because it certainly isn't what you'd expect from that. Without further ado, here is my interview with the lovely Alison Bond.

Q1. Tell us about your book 'A Reluctant Cinderella'.

It's been a huge stretch between books, almost four years, and while I'd like to say I've been busy having children and moving to the Cotswolds (both of which happen to be true) the more honest reason is that my first attempt at a third novel was abysmal.  I tried my hand at romantic comedy that the likes of Sophie Kinsella and Jenny Colgan do so well and it didn't quite work out.  We spent a lot of time (too much time maybe) trying to make it better but in the end I threw up my hands and started all over again with A Reluctant Cinderella.  Obviously it was all terribly frustrating but looking back it was a very valuable lesson in writing what you truly want to write.   A Reluctant Cinderella is the kind of glamorous, twisting tale I feel much happier with.  Samantha Sharp is a powerful woman who encounters scandal at work, in her family life and in her love life.  It’s about how she deals with adversity by facing up to her past.

Q2. What sort of research did you have to do to be able to write this book?

Samantha Sharp is forced out of her high-powered job when evidence suggests that she’s been involved with some dodgy dealings.  She relocates to Krakow in Poland and a lot of the book is set there.  Krakow is one of my favourite cities so it wasn’t so much a case of research as writing about what I know.  We lived in Krakow for a while and I had such an affinity with the place that I think I must have been a Polish princess in a previous life.  Hopefully I managed to capture some of its mysterious charm in this book.   For everything else I used my imagination.

16 July 2010

Book Review: Men I've Loved Before by Adele Parks

Neil and Nat thought that their relationship was a  match made in heaven. They are both deeply in love, and have both decided that they don't want children. But when Neil suddenly springs on Nat that he actually does want to start a family with  his wife after all, she's distraught. She thought that their life together was perfect and that nothing would be a threat to their marriage. Nat starts to doubt everything about her relationship with Neil, and on a trip back to her parents, discovers her "Little Black Book" containing all the numbers of her ex-boyfriends. It makes Nat wonder if Neil really is 'The One', and if not, who is? And how is Neil going to cope with the fact his wife doesn't want his children? Does it mean the end for their perfect marriage?

I haven't read anything by Adele Parks for years. I remember reading something of hers a while ago when I just started reading chick lit but I didn't get on with it, and so I tended not to pick up anything by her again because I wasn't as open minded with books as I am nowadays! When I heard that Adele Parks had moved publishers, and that this was being touted as her best book yet, I was determined to give it a go and hoped that I'd like it. This is the author's 10th book and has been combined with a massive publicity drive so I was sure there had to be something there for me to enjoy, and I was right... it makes me wonder what other Adele Parks books I've missed out on in the past because this one was brilliant!

12 July 2010

Book Review: Single In The City by Michele Gorman

Hannah Cumming has moved over to the UK on a bit of a whim. She's an American who recently lost her job, and so decided to do something completely new and exciting... move to another country. However, when she gets here, Hannah realises that perhaps she's made a bit of a mistake because she hasn't really got a clue about anything. She's got no job, no place to live, and doesn't seem to understand half the things the British people around her are saying. Hannah's determined to make it work, and when she meets the lovely Mark, it looks like things might be on the up for her. But when the going gets tough, is Hannah going to get going again?

This is author Michele Gorman's debut novel, and it has to be said it's a pretty good one. Michele actually made the move over from America to the UK herself so I did wonder exactly how much of the book is autobiographical when I was reading it, but either way it is a great idea for a book and leant itself to a lot of comedic moments. The book was originally titled 'The Ex-Pat Diaries' but I think Single In The City suits it far better, and the cute little cartoon cover to go with it makes it pure chick-lit. It's certainly a book I would pick up off the shelf in a shop, and I think it'll definitely be popular with fans of the genre.

8 July 2010

Book Review: Pictures of Lily by Paige Toon

'Will you marry me?' I think of you, then. I think of you every day. But usually in the quietest part of the morning, or the darkest part of the night. Not when my boyfriend of two years has just proposed. I look up at Richard with his hopeful eyes. 'Lily?' he prompts. It's been ten years, but it feels like only yesterday that you left. How can I say yes to Richard with all my heart when most of it has always belonged to you? I take a deep breath and will myself to speak...Ten years ago when Lily was just sixteen, she fell in love with someone she really shouldn't have fallen in love with. Now, living in Sydney and engaged to another man, she can't forget the one that got away. Then her past comes back to haunt her, and she has to make a decision that will break her heart - and the heart of at least one of the men who love her. 

Pictures of Lily is the fourth novel from Paige Toon, an author who is quickly working her way into the top ranks of chick lit authors out there in terms of her fantastic books, and the expectation surrounding her new releases. When I first saw the gorgeous cover of the book, I couldn't wait to read it and was lucky enough to receive an ARC from the publishers, and I couldn't resist reading it as I was so excited about it. Paige Toon is known for bringing her characters back from other books so I wanted to see who'd make a reappearance in this book, and how it would pan out overall. I just hoped it would live up to my expectation and be as good as her previous 3 books!

I was surprised when I opened the book to find that our main character Lily was only 15 years old. To be honest, this didn't start me off of a good foot as I tend to avoid YA novels with characters of these age because I don't get on with them and prefer books with adults as central characters so I was surprised that Paige has brought such a young character in. I thought it would only be for a few chapters as an introduction but over a hundred pages in, we were still with the 15 year old... while I was enjoying it I was wishing the time away until we met Lily again as an adult which is a shame as I feel this really hindered my enjoyment for the rest of the book.

Eventually, we do see Lily as an adult, and that's when we meet our first characters from a previous book too, which is great because this is when I felt that the book really picked up for me and I started to enjoy it a bit more. Lucy and Nathan from 'Lucy in the Sky' pop up quite a bit in this book which is nice to see, and there is a mention of a few characters from 'Chasing Daisy' too. As the book goes on with the 'Will she, won't she" scenario, I did think the pace slowed down again which did annoy me slightly. I felt it seemed to take ages to get anywhere, and I was annoyed with Lily for being so indecisive, and actually somewhat cruel in parts, I really didn't warm to Lily at all. 'I loved the parts of the book set in Lily's work, she was a great character then but as soon as she was in a scene with Richard, she became a whiner again. I knew a certain something was going to happen, and I admit I really enjoyed it when it did, but it was still quite slow and lethargic, it didn't have the pace or rhythm of her previous books.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the read as I always expect to with Paige Toon's novels, I can't help but feel this doesn't match up to her previous 3 books in terms of charm and readability. Yes, I enjoyed revisiting characters from her previous books, but there was just something about it that doesn't make me want to shout about it from the rooftops like I did when I read Johnny Be Good and Chasing Daisy before. I actually toyed with giving this a 3 out of 5 but I am not sure it warrants that much of a low rate. It's really well written with good characters, but I felt it was all a bit slow paced for me, and I don't understand why half the book was set with a 16 year old - that's really not that age of character I look to read about in a chick lit book. It was a good read, but I still feel disappointed, maybe it's my fault for hyping it up too much.

5 July 2010

Book Review: I Heart Paris by Lindsey Kelk

Angela Clark is back again, and this time she's off to the city of love... Paris! Angela and her boyfriend Alex are quite happy trundling along in their relationship, but when Alex is told that his band has to go to Paris to promote themselves and their album, he wants Angela to come along too. She mentions it to her boss at TheLook.com where she blogs, and they quickly hook her up with a column in prestigious fashion magazine Belle to write a feature on Paris, and the trendiest parts.

Angela's somewhat worried, and it's not helped by the fact things seem to go wrong right from the off for her when she lands in Paris,  on a separate plane to Alex as well. As she struggles around the city with her guide sent to her by the French edition of Belle, Angela starts to find out more about Alex's past that she really didn't want to know, and even starts to doubt where she actually wants to be. Yes, she might "heart" Paris, but is Angela's own heart really where it wants to be?

This is our third outing with Angela Clark, the character who first popped up in last year's summer blockbuster read 'I Heart New York'. That book was a huge success, and Harper have been quick to put out the second, I Heart Hollywood, at the start of this year, swiftly followed by this summer's release, I Heart Paris. Strike while the iron's hot, hey?! I loved Kelk's first book, and while I enjoyed the second, it didn't quite live up to my hopes so I thought maybe this one would get the series back on track for me. The cover is gorgeous and certainly is a book I'd pick up off the shelves, and I fully expect this one will be a hit as readers will want to find out what's happening with Angela and Alex this time around!