19 July 2011

Book Review: California Dreamers by Belinda Jones

Ever wished you could make-over your life?

Make-up artist Stella is an expert at helping other people change their images, but when it comes to transforming herself, she doesn't even know where to start.

So when her new friend, glamorous Hollywood actress Marina Ray, summons her a movie set in California, Stella can't resist the chance to start afresh - it is the land of sunshine and opportunity after all!

But are they really friends or does Marina have an ulterior motive? What is the secret that both women are hiding about the nautical (but nice) men in their lives? And what will it take to really make both of their California dreams come true?

In a Pacific Coast journey that takes in Los Angeles, the world's most romantic ranch and California's very own castle in the sky - this story of friendship, long-distance love, kissing (and making up) is the perfect escapist read.

I adore Belinda Jones' book and her releases are one of the one I really look forward to each year. Her past few releases have been fantastic holiday books, about far flung destinations that you can really get lost in, and stories that are extremely readable. I have to admit I was a little surprised when I received a copy of  California Dreamers as the book was really thin compared to most of Jones' others books (just over 300 pages) but I hoped the story inside was just as good, albeit slightly shorter than before! The cover is absolutely gorgeous, one of my favourite summer covers as it happens, so I quickly delved in when it arrived, but I have to say I wasn't as impressed as I have been before by Belinda's books which was a shame!

My initial issue was with the fact that the book didn't really seem to go very far, despite the fact it moves quickly over to LA, has a good cast of characters and is based on a movie set. I found that Stella got the job in America very easily and in that respect it moved quickly over to LA where she began to work on the movie set, yet after that it slowed right down and in parts, I really struggled to wonder where it was actually headed, and what big event was coming up in the book. It took almost until the end for something to happen, and even then it was a bit of an anti-climax because I wasn't expecting that ending and it seemed a bit out of the blue for me. I literally sat there thinking "is this it?" because it really didn't seem like that could be the big ending that the book was working up to. When I turned the last page, it just felt like something was missing somewhere, like I couldn't have possibly finished the book there!

Stella is a good character, a British make up artist suddenly given the job of a lifetime after she finds some surprise common ground with one of the world's biggest models and actresses, Marina Ray. This friendship happens a bit too perfectly and quickly for my likking, but I guess it enables the book to move on quickly and get going with the movie storyline. I liked her, she is a good narrator for the book and I could understand how she felt a bit out of the loop with the richer and more powerful characters around her. Marina was likeable too, something I didn't expect but she did have her annoying parts that got on my nerves a bit, such as taking Stella for granted so much... I really wanted Stella to turn around for once and say no to her! The male characters are a bit few and far between to be honest, and my favourite was Marina's other half.

I found it interesting that the US Navy plays such a big area of the book as it isn't something you often read much about within the chick lit genre. Jones chooses to write that 2 of the female characters have/had boyfriends within the Navy and the impact that has had on their relationships, both good and bad. This is hammered home quite a bit by the characters, a little too heavily in parts but it makes for interesting reading as it isn't something I would usually find in a Belinda Jones novel! Despite the fact Stella is a make up artist, there isn't actually a lot in the book about make up, it is briefly mentioned in scenes where Stella is doing her job but it does seem a bit glossed over. This is the second book recently with the character having a make up artists job and in both, no great detail is bestowed upon the reader which is a shame.

Overall, this was a good summer read but just didn't live up to my expectations unfortunately. It's a good book but doesn't compare to the likes of my favourite Belinda book 'Out of the Blue' 'Livin' La Vida Loca' and 'The California Club'. For me, there wasn't enough about the place of LA, my favourite part of Jones' book is her descriptions of the exotic locations and the fun the characters get up to. In this book, Stella was too wrapped up in her job and the film, which didn't really overly interest me unfortunately and so I found my interest waning in parts which was a real shame. I'm sure it is going to be a summer hit, but for die hard Belinda fans, I'm sure that you will see what I mean about it not quite getting to the heights of her previous books when you read it, which is a such a shame. Perhaps its my fault for building it up so much, but I know what fantastic books Belinda Jones can deliver, and sadly this just wasn't up there for me!

Rating: 3/5


  1. Stacey Bennett19 July 2011 at 17:19

    I have only just started reading this so will let you know what I think x

  2. Will have to get a copy of this, I too LOVE Belinda Jones books so this is a must read although I am slightly aware that as this review says I too love reading about the exotic, still you never know until you try a book so it's worth giving it a good shot.

  3. I have to admit, I totally agree with Chloe. I have always loved Belinda's books and enjoyed 'travelling' to the locations, but I just couldn't get into this one as much, which was a real shame. I hope the next one will be back up to Belinda's usual exotic locations/descriptions.

  4. i read this whole book in one afternoon and really enjoyed it. i agree that as a belinda jones book it was disappointing, but take away the name and any expectations and it's still an enjoyable read. perfect escapism on a sunny afternoon

  5. Stacey Bennett25 July 2011 at 17:34

    Not long finished this one and have to say enjoyed it to begin with then gradually started to lost interest in it. Glad that I have read it though x

  6. I have to say I quite liked the change of scenery for a Belinda Jones novel and I enjoyed learning about LA and the facts that she always brings out (Jones must be a fountain of knowledge!) I really enjoyed this book and I would recommend it to anyone.
    I will admit on a few occasions I missed the exotic locations, but it was nice to have a novel by her that was a little bit different and I loved all the descriptions of the mansion/hotel/lavender fields.