24 February 2011

Book Review: Denial by Coleen Nolan

The ladies of Girl Talk are back, and out for revenge against their former boss James Almond after their unceremonious sacking from their hit day time talk show. Julia is still recuperating from her horrific car crash, and has been shunning the public eye ever since. She's still determined to make James pay for ruining her life, at whatever cost. Karen King is off the bandwagon when it comes to her diet, and has piled on the pounds once more, convincing herself as well that her husband Dave is having an affair behind her back. Faye Cole is coping with life as a single after husband Mike's desertion after her lesbian affair with co-presenter Cheryl. Faye is struggling with the demands of baby Daisy, and is turning to something else to get her through the day. Will the 5 women, all out for revenge, make James pay for ruining their careers in one fell swoop? Or is he the one who will get the ultimate revenge?

Denial is the follow up to Coleen Nolan's fabulous debut novel Envy, which both Leah and I loved last year. I was surprised to be honest that she chose to bring back the characters, as often a sequel can disappoint if it isn't done properly but I am really pleased to say that bringing back the Girl Talk characters was absolutely the right move by Nolan, and made for a great reading experience! You can read this as a stand alone novel if you want to, as things are explained well enough for you to get the gist of Envy's storyline but it of course works better if you have read the previous novel.

21 February 2011

Book Review: The Girl's Guide to Homemaking by Amy Bratley

Juliet was desperate to buy a home with her boyfriend Simon, and when she lays her eyes on Lovelace Avenue she knows that is her home. However, things go badly wrong for Juliet when she finds out that Simon has been sleeping with her best friend Hanna. She throws Simon out, and starts living as a bit of a slob, unsure that she even wants a home without anyone to share it with. Juliet is heartbroken and so she turns to the homemaking books of her beloved grandmother Violet to get her through. She finds herself making beautiful aprons and other homely goods that make her feel like she has a purpose. Juliet finally feels like she has a little control back in her life, and like she's ready to move on from Simon. Is Juliet going to find true love, and her real home, ever again?

I will be honest and say I was initially drawn to this book by its beautiful cover. It's really different, quite old-fashioned looking but after reading it, it suits the book absolutely perfectly and makes it even more kitsch and charming! This book is author Amy Bratley's debut, and while this is a somewhat overdone subject in chicklit - girl finds out boy is cheating on her, girl struggles to move on but does so and pursues new love - but Bratley dresses this up within a desire to create a real home, and all the things that go with that. I was utterly charmed by this book, and really enjoyed every single page, I found myself not wanting to put it down, even as the clock ticked on every night.

17 February 2011

Book Review: The Accidental Proposal by Matt Dunn

Ed Middleton is back, and he's an engaged man. Well, sort of. Actually, he isn't sure whether girlfriend Sam actually meant to propose to him or not, and his best friend Dan has decided he's got to find out once and for all. Once Ed has determined the fact that Sam does indeed want to marry him, he has the problem of organising a wedding that is going to suit the both of them. Then there's the added problem of what exactly went on on Ed's stag night - neither Dan or Ed can remember a thing, yet signs are that something untoward went on. What on earth has Ed been up to this time, and is he actually going to make it up the aisle with Sam in the end?

Matt Dunn has quickly become of my favourite chick-lit authors, and always offers something brilliant and funny for a male perspective, a fresh view in chick lit I have to say! Matt has written about the characters of Ed and Dan twice before, in The Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook and Ex-Girlfriend's United, both of which were hilarious and so I was thrilled to learn he was bringing them back for a (probably final!) outing. The cover has broken away from the other two which is somewhat of a shame to those who like their matching covers but I quite like the fun and carefree look of the new one, it certainly stands out with its bright blue and knitted imagery. I was just hoping that this third outing for Ed and Dan wouldn't be disappointed, and of course I was right!

10 February 2011

Book Review: You Don't Have To Say You Love Me by Sarra Manning

Neve Slater is a thin girl trapped in a larger girl's body. Despite losing 13 stone, she still can't get into her head the fact she now has a great figure, and is convinced that no man will ever find her attractive. No man except her beloved William of course. He lives in America but is returning home soon and Neve can't wait to surprise him with her new look. However, she realises she has no experience in relationships at all, and together with sister Celia sets about getting some. She meets Celia's editor Max, a man Neve is convinced wouldn't look twice at her. But when he appears interested, Neve decides to use him for practice for her upcoming relationship with William. But when Neve starts to develop deeper feelings for Max, is she going to cut and run or stick out her "pancake relationship" permanently?

I haven't read anything by author Sarra Manning so far, You Don't Have To Say You Love Me is Manning's second adult novel following 'Unsticky', but she has also written a host of teen novels too. The cover of this book isn't exactly my thing - I far prefer the supermarket versions with the petals which you can see here, but of course I tried not to judge the book by its cover as we're always told not to do! I was a little unsure about the book's premise - is it right in this day and age to be writing about women changing their figures just to make men fall in love with them? Either way, I hoped Manning had a trump card up her sleeve with this book and sat down to read the 500+ page novel.
The character of Neve is our leading lady. I have to say while I liked Neve at the beginning of the book, I found myself disliking her more and more as the book progressed. She was absolutely fixated with her weight and her appearance, to the point where it became incredibly irritating to hear her harp on about it although its made clear by the narrative she is far from either of these things. I know myself that when a woman feels bad about herself, nothing is going to change her mind, even if she really did look like Claudia Schiffer, but for some reason with Neve I found myself much like Max - getting irritated and impatient with her. I think this therefore put my mind in a negative thought throughout the book - lack of sympathy for the lead character is always a problem for the likeability overall.

The other characters were much more pleasing to me. One of my favourites was Celia, Neve's younger sister. She's slightly mad, loving her funky fashion and not really having any responsibilities, but she was such  a welcome change from Neve's constant diatribe that I really enjoyed everytime she popped up in a scene. Likewise Max. He was clearly written to be the boy we all love to hate, but I found myself liking him despite this. I could see his predatory side wasn't particularly good, but when he was with Neve, he was very different and I loathed Neve for how she was treating Max. I was actually wishing Max would just tell Neve to shut up sometimes, I was egging him on in my mind anyway! The final character, and one I disliked again, was William. I couldn't stand his arrogant letters to Neve, and could see how the whole thing was going to end up immediately, there was no surprise element there at all for me.

While it might sound like there was nothing I liked about the book thus far, that isn't true. I thought the book itself was well written. The narrative from Neve's perspective was easy to read, and Manning's first person narrative was enjoyable, albeit annoying at times when she is being self-deprecating. The story itself was good - I could see how it was going to end up, but I liked the journey it took to get there. I did find it a little slow at first and I found it hard to get into the book initially, but once I was around 1/3 of the way in, it did pick up and I really did start to enjoy the pace of the book and the story itself. I especially loved Manning's brief detour into the world of WAG's with Neve, this was humorous and enjoyable and a nice change from Neve's day to day life as an archivist.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, but I do have reservations about it. I did find the whole plot line of losing weight to impress a guy a bit too shallow - I certainly expect more from today's chick lit and I was a bit surprised to see Manning go down this route. I believe Neve was written to be a sympathetic character,  but I just couldn't feel sorry for her at all. She was too negative all the time for me, and it grate on my nerves, to the point where I didn't want to pick the book up at times. There are a couple of other storylines in there that were very well done, especially the one with Neve and her sister-in-law Charlotte, but the one between Neve, Max and William just seemed a bit trite to me, and I wonder whether Manning missed the mark with this one. The writing is good, the plot was at times good also but my problem with the basic premise of the book still stands, as did my dislike of the main character Neve.

Rating: 3/5

9 February 2011

Book Review: Love Is On The Air by Jane Moore

Cam Simpson's life is pretty steady. She's been in a good relationship with boyfriend Dean for 7 years, but they seem to have settled into a pattern of drudgery and boredom. He's happy to sit and watch the football or CSI for hours on end, but Cam is fed up - she doesn't want to be sat around waiting for him, she wants fun and excitement. She and her 2 best friends Ella and Saira take a girls-only holiday,and by chance bump into a couple of British guys, Tom and his mate Jake. Cam doesn't expect anything to come of it, but when she returns, she hears a radio message that turns her world upside-down. Suddenly, Cam begins to doubt everything about her life, but especially her relationship with Dean. But can she hurt the man who has been with her for 7 years? Which decision will Cam make, and will it be the right one?

I love Jane Moore's novels and have read everything that she has written so far, so I was pleased to find out Jane was back this year with a new book as it's been a couple of years since her last, Perfect Match. The cover of this jumped out at me immediately - it's lovely and bright and summery, certainly making a change from all of the wintery books we are seeing around at the moment, and it made me want to pick it up and devour it straight away. Jane's last book was a very serious one about a couple making a child to save the life of another, so it seemed like this book was going to be a lot more light-hearted, albeit still about a serious subject, so I sat down, eager to read more.

3 February 2011

Book Review: To Touch The Stars by Jessica Ruston

Violet Cavalley is the owner of a world famous hat company that she has built from scratch herself, she's raised the three children whom she adores more than anyone in the world and she's now retiring from the world she knows and adores, ready to leave her multi-million pound empire for her children to carry on in her name. However, despite the outward glamour and glitz of the Cavalley family lies some deep and dark secrets that are threatening to come out and ruin the family's reputation for good. Is Violet going to be able to stop the rumours from entering the public domain, or is the secret the beginning of the end for Cavalley's?

This is author Jessica Ruston's second novel, and whilst I haven't had the oppotunity to read her first, Luxury, just yet, after thoroughly enjoying To Touch The Stars, I certainly want to read that as soon as possible because Ruston is certainly a great talent within the women's fiction genre, and it certainly makes me look forward to reading more work from this author. I was drawn to this book immediately by the beautiful cover - the shiny silver stars combined with the vivid blue imagery is beautiful and certainly complements the book itself perfectly - this is a fantastic cover, and it's great to see a publisher getting it spot on for a cover.

2 February 2011

Book Review: The Woman He Loved Before by Dorothy Koomson

Libby always thought that she was happy in her marriage with husband Jack. She knows he has a past with his former wife Eve, but as he's reluctant to ever talk about it, Libby doesn't want to go to there. There's also the fact that in the back of her mind that she thinks Jack is still in love with Eve, and there's nothing that she can do about it. When an accident occurs, it leaves Libby wondering even more if Jack really does love her, or whether their whole marriage is a sham. Soon, she finds out some shocking truths about Eve, things she's not sure even Jack knows about his other wife, and Libby starts to wonder if she is going to end up just like Eve too... Libby's scared and frightened and feels stuck in a circle of hell with no way out...

Dorothy Koomson has quickly worked her way up to my top few chick lit authors of all time, and I eagerly await the release of any book that she brings out, simply because they have all been brilliant and Koomson hasn't let me down so far! Koomson's books always seem to have an element of mystery to her books - we know certain things about the characters and certain events, yet there is always something in the background we don't know everything about, and this is usually the crux of the story, and ends up shocking the reader, something I love about her books. Her last novel, The Ice Cream Girls, certainly didn't disappoint on this front, and now this one manages to trump even that, I was absolutely glued to this book from start to finish.