Thursday 28 August 2014

Review ~ The Time of Our Lives by Jane Costello.

Title: The Time of Our Lives.
Author: Jane Costello.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK.
Genre: Chick Lit.
Release Date: March 27, 2014.
Source: Bought.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK

Three best friends. One five-star hotel. Will it be the holiday of a lifetime . . .?

Imogen and her friends Meredith and Nicola have had their fill of budget holidays, cattle-class flights and 6 a.m. offensives for a space by the pool.

So when Meredith wins a VIP holiday at Barcelona's hippest new hotel, they plan to sip champagne with the jet set, party with the glitterati and switch off in unapologetic luxury.

But when the worst crisis of her working life erupts back home, Imogen has to juggle her BlackBerry with a Manhattan, while soothing a hysterical boss and hunting down an AWOL assistant.

Between a robbery, a run-in with hotel security staff and an encounter on a nudist beach that they'd all rather forget, the friends stumble from one disaster to the next. At least Imogen has a distraction in the form of the gorgeous guy who's always in the right place at the very worst time. Until, that is, his motives start to arouse a few suspicions . . .

Hilarious and heart-warming by turns, The Time of Our Lives is Jane Costello at her romantic best.

The Time of Our Lives is the first Jane Costello book I’ve read and I have to say, not picking up one of her books before is single-handedly the worst book related decision I have ever made. The Time of Our Lives is chick lit at its complete and utter best. It has all the components of a typical chick lit novel – friendship, humour, romance, drama – written with such vivacity and style that bounces off the pages and had a warm and inviting feel to it, making me feel like I was more of fourth friend the whole way through rather than being told the story of three strangers’ holiday. Jane puts this book together perfectly.

Okay so I did read the synopsis before buying the book, and it made me smile, really, but I did not expect just how hilarious this book was actually going to be. Seriously I don’t think I have laughed out loud this much reading any book before. Jane Costello’s wit and humour is simply wonderful to read – it definitely worked on me because I was just smiling and laughing on virtually every page. Though that’s not to say this book doesn’t have a more touching, poignant feel at times because it does. But I don’t think I can express that too much other than by saying that Jane has thought of everything.

Meredith has won a VIP holiday to Barcelona – taking with her her best friends Nicola and our main character, Imogen. As we learn from the beginning of the book, an expensive holiday is an exciting thing. Finally, they can avoid the disasters of the budget holidays they’re used to! Or maybe not… If you ask Imogen to promote a competition to win a luxury holiday, I don’t think she’d have too many kind words to say. She definitely wouldn’t be able to tempt me into entering, anyway. I absolutely loved her character. She was very down to earth and great to read. Her holiday is massively interrupted by work and it was just so funny. Her interaction with boss David was one of my favourite parts here – oh if he was my boss… I would lose the plot! But I just loved how dramatic he made everything. Just from her flight alone, you could tell this was not going to be the easiest, most relaxing of holidays for Imogen. The situations she would get herself in were brilliant to read. For example, her attempt to get cream for her foot was one of those subtle, witty moments that has now left me reading all the labels on my beauty/skincare products, just to be on the safe side… Honestly, it felt like nothing would go right for Imogen and that just made her all the more endearing.

Meredith and Nicola both have their own stories here – we learn plenty about them and soon realise Imogen isn’t the only one with a life to sort out. But it was Imogen’s story that really appealed to me. Her phone calls to her daughter were sad because I thought she was a great mother but there was that one thing upsetting Florence which stopped her from showing much love and appreciation towards her mum. I also can’t forget to mention journalist Harry – more for the fact that I am completely in love with this fictional character…. The Time of Our Lives provided me with some of my favourite book characters ever.

It’s safe to say this was a learning curve of a holiday for the girls. It was a learning curve for me too – learning about this fantastic author that I have been missing out on. Jane Costello’s writing style flows flawlessly. It really is wonderfully written. We’re brought on this journey with the characters and can feel every emotion with them. There was one twist in particular that Jane wrote in which I didn’t see coming, either because I was completely immersed in the story it had never crossed my mind or because the book was just that well written. Regardless, it was credit to Jane for some top-class writing. I was expecting to enjoy The Time of Our Lives but it was much, much better than I had been anticipating. This book had it all and though I’ve read plenty of brilliant chick-lit novels lately, this one is staying with me and is easily one of my favourites, ever.

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Review ~ Deliver Us to Dublin... With Care by Aimee Duffy.

Title: Deliver Us to Dublin... With Care (Summer Flings #7).
Author: Aimee Duffy.
Publisher: HarperImpulse.
Genre: Romantic Comedy.
Publication Date: August 28, 2014.
Source: Review copy.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK

The final instalment of Summer Flings – a fun, flirty and laugh out loud rom com series of short stories.

Miserable, lonely and broken hearted, Ciara returns to Dublin on a mission to sort out her life. A job is at the top of the list but a visit to the doctor has surprising repercussions.

She refuses to drift apart from her friends now that real life has begun, struggles to fit new relationships into her life and still has to deal with everything else fate throws her way.

But even Ciara should know that there’s always something a little bit special to be found at the end of the rainbow…

The ideal summer treat for those relaxing days soaking up the sun!

Deliver Us to Dublin… With Care is the final instalment in what has been a brilliant summer series by Aimee Duffy. We’ve been brought plenty of laughs, romance and drama and in Dublin, after the fascinating way Flirting in Florence ended, there was a lot to be wrapped up. Having been with Ciara, Elle and Gem on their whole road trip journey, I really feel like I’ll miss the characters but I thought the culmination to the series did their stories justice.

This novella is written in a slightly different format to the previous six, with quite a lot of it being set in emails between the girls. I enjoyed the change in style but would have preferred a little less of the emails and more things actually unfolding in the story. There was a moment where I thought things fell a little flat because we were being told a series of things happening without much chance for a reaction. I did really like how the emails gave us a different insight into the characters emotions though and seeing Aimee still building Ciara, Elle and Gem’s personalities even in the final part of the series was really interesting to read.

The main focus in this book was on Ciara. Back in Dublin, I was intrigued by how things were going to turn out for her and whether she’d get any of the life she hoped for – her friendships and future had been a big talking point throughout the series and of course, I wanted to see if she got her HEA too! It wasn’t the all too typical predictable finish to a series – there were one or two things which took me by surprise and Aimee excels again in her character development and just great writing. I’m sad to see the series end but looking forward to more from this author who definitely has a new fan in me :)

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Review ~ The Dead Wife's Handbook by Hannah Beckerman.

Title: The Dead Wife's Handbook.
Author: Hannah Beckerman.
Publisher: Penguin.
Genre: Women's Fiction.
Release Date: February 13, 2014.
Source: Bought.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK

'Today is my death anniversary. A year ago today I was still alive.'

Rachel, Max and their daughter Ellie had the perfect life - until the night Rachel's heart stopped beating.

Now Max and Ellie are doing their best to adapt to life without Rachel, and just as her family can't forget her, Rachel can't quite let go of them either. Caught in a place between worlds, Rachel watches helplessly as she begins to fade from their lives. And when Max is persuaded by family and friends to start dating again, Rachel starts to understand that dying was just the beginning of her problems.

As Rachel grieves for the life she's lost and the life she'll never lead, she learns that sometimes the thing that breaks your heart might be the very thing you hope for.

Hannah Beckerman gives an unforgettable exploration of love and loss in her first novel, The Dead Wife's Handbook.

The Dead Wife’s Handbook is without a doubt, the most beautifully written novel I have ever read. I read this book a few months ago and simply because of how stunning it was, and how I really couldn’t write anything to do Hannah Beckerman’s writing justice, I never wrote my review. Which led me to my bank holiday re-read of a book I thought I could love no more, and one which massively proved me wrong. I’m not sure whether it’s because I have still been thinking about the characters in this book since the first time I read it, or because seeing my mum pass away six weeks ago has made me connect so much more with the grief and emotions the characters feel in this novel, but second time around, The Dead Wife’s Handbook felt more beautiful and thought-provoking than I could ever have imagined.

That this novel is Hannah Beckerman’s first book is beyond ridiculous. She masters the art of emotional, moving writing here like no author I’ve read. Hannah comes across as an immensely talented author and her originality shone through in The Dead Wife’s Handbook. Rachel is the protagonist in this book, which begins on the first year anniversary of her death. In the afterworld, she has been granted brief moments of access to watch over her husband, Max and her young daughter, Ellie, alongside her family and friends. I think lots of people believe that when they die, they would want their loved ones to live their lives and be happy but for Rachel, having to watch her family try to move on, is extremely painful. I couldn’t help but empathise with her, because of course she wanted Max to be happy, but how difficult must it be to see him dating new people, and bringing a new woman into her daughter’s life?

The book is set into the different stages of Rachel’s grief, from shock, denial, anger and more. I though this simple way of laying out the novel was really effective, and it helps us follow the progression of grief well. The stages of grief felt very real and believable. I found it easy to relate and understand a lot of the feelings in this book, not just Rachel’s but those of Max and Ellie too, along with other family members such as Rachel’s mum. This story is by no means just about Rachel – Max and Ellie are still coming to terms with the loss of the woman they loved more than anything and seeing them try to adjust, and struggling a lot of the time, was what had me reading with a lump in my throat. Because it has to be said that The Dead Wife’s Handbook can’t be read without tears.

Ellie’s character was my absolute favourite. She was a brave little girl, caring and thoughtful. Losing your mum at any age is horrific so losing your mum when you’re six, and can’t really understand why she’s never coming home, is agonising. Hannah’s writing of Ellie’s character blew me away. Ellie’s fragility was really endearing, and all her questions and doubts, especially when Eve was on the scene, were so believable. Though this book is about what Rachel is seeing after death, for me the main theme of this book was love, and Hannah nailed it perfectly. Every emotion in this book, every event which happened and every setback the characters faced, it was all out of love, some unconditional and some just impossible to ignore. The concept of this novel is poignant, but the little touches like a certain memory Max and Ellie share about Rachel, or certain words spoken by several of the characters, gave this book an uplifting feel which Hannah did amazingly well to pull off. The Dead Wife’s Handbook is a life-affirming novel, written in a gorgeous manner about something close to my heart, which makes it a special novel for me and one of my all-time favourites.

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK

Review ~ Daughter by Jane Shemilt.

Title: Daughter.
Author: Jane Shemilt.
Publisher: Penguin.
Genre: Psychological Thriller.
Publication Date: August 28, 2014.
Source: Netgalley.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK

How well do you really know those you love?

Jenny loves her three teenage children and her husband, Ted, a celebrated neurosurgeon. She loves the way that, as a family, they always know each other's problems and don't keep secrets from each other.

But when her youngest child, fifteen-year-old Naomi, doesn't come home after her school play and a nationwide search for her begins, secrets previously kept from Jenny are revealed.

Naomi has vanished, leaving her family broken and her mother desperately searching for answers. But the traces Naomi's left behind reveal a very different girl to the one Jenny thought she'd raised. And the more she looks the more she learns that everyone she trusted has been keeping secrets.

How well does she really know her sons, her husband? How well did she know Naomi? If Jenny is going to find her, she'll have to first uncover the truth about the daughter she thought told her everything.

Without even really knowing why, I had high expectations for this novel. I couldn’t wait to get started with it and I was not disappointed with this clever, incredibly well pieced together plot. Daughter was a startling, highly impressive debut by Jane Shemilt – an author I will definitely be looking out for more from.

Daughter presents the uncomfortable notion of how any parent would feel if one day, their child never came home. Jenny, Ted, Ed and Theo are a family whose lives are turned upside down the day Naomi doesn’t come home. A family threatening to be torn apart, racked with guilt and blame. The novel switches back and forth in time, from before the disappearance, the day of the disappearance and the time after Naomi’s disappearance. The regular switches in time, though executed well, did take a bit of getting used to but once I did, about a third of the way through, Daughter became the desperately difficult to put down kind of novel I’d been anticipating.

This novel is a mystery, as to how and why Naomi disappeared and what has or has not happened to her. But more intriguing to me was the psychological insight into a person and more so into a family. How a simple interaction, a simple conversation could actually be so much more than that. How the ease of one white lie could transform into a whole lot more and a series of coverings up. These were the motions Jenny went through as she began to consider how much she could trust her family – the family she once believed were as honest and as open as they come. It’s certainly a plot that could make you second guess your own relationships. Jane Shemilt has a fascinating way of turning plausible situations into a stunning piece of fiction.

Daughter was gripping and tense. I personally had no clue what was going to be revealed and where things were going to go – and I loved that. What I enjoyed even more was how subtle the plot and the twists were. There was no need for amateur dramatics and over the top incidents to capture my attention – it was written in a much more impactful and shocking style which made it feel grittier, and more real. The ending is one which I think will get mixed reviews but for me, I thought it was brilliant. I read this novel a little while ago and it, along with its characters, has stayed with me ever since. It made for a fantastic read.

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK

Monday 25 August 2014

Review ~ Thirteen Weddings by Paige Toon.

Title: Thirteen Weddings.
Author: Paige Toon.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK.
Genre: Chick Lit.
Release Date: May 8, 2014.
Source: Bought.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK

Bronte never expected to see Alex after their one night together, but she never stopped thinking of him. So when she arrives at work one day to find that Alex is a new colleague, she is secretly thrilled. The only problem is that Alex is now engaged to the girl he was on a break from the night they met.

Determined to move on, Bronte becomes a part-time wedding photographer, alongside her day job. Surrounded by loving couples, tearful bridesmaids, mischievous pageboys and interfering mothers-in-law, she struggles through wedding after wedding whilst her heart is slowly torn apart.

As Alex’s own wedding day draws ever nearer, their chemistry becomes harder to ignore. Bronte must decide whether to fight for the man she loves, or to let him go forever.

Paige Toon is the author that transformed me into a chick-lit lover, and so a new book written by her is always an exciting time for me. Given that I’m not really a massive fan of reading about weddings, or love triangles, Thirteen Weddings was probably a strange choice of book for me to read but Paige Toon has never let me down so far and she definitely didn’t here. Actually, Thirteen Weddings has been my favourite of her novels so far.

That cover and synopsis would sell any book to me but Thirteen Weddings had a lot more to it than what’s revealed on the back of the book. It’s more than Bronte simply not being able to let go of her one night stand – it was at times a light read, and always entertaining but then in turn, there were some heavier themes worked into the plot, in Paige’s typical stunning fashion. What I was intrigued by the most was Bronte’s new job as a wedding photographer, since we learn early on that she is not a believer in marriage and has a general fear of churches too. It was a fascinating story.

If I’m honest, as soon as I read the prologue, I was kind of disappointed it was just the prologue because I loved it. So much so, I would have been happy to see the story continue straight on from then onwards rather than a year and a half later. Although that might have had something to do with the fact that I fell a little bit in love with Alex at the beginning and his obvious chemistry and connection with Bronte was great to read. Further on in the book, Thirteen Weddings brings us a love triangle though not the one I’d been envisioning before reading. The introduction of Lachie made me feel about as confused as Bronte did about her feelings. Lachie was such an uplifting character – I couldn’t read his involvement in the book without a smile on my face, even though my heart was always with Alex. I could understand both ways for Bronte and thought Paige wrote this aspect of the book smoothly and it was unpredictable.

From the beginning, I thought I knew where this story was going to go but throughout, there were twists and lots of brave and bold writing that I couldn’t be sure of anything. I felt like I was reading a Paige Toon novel at her absolute best. Her gorgeous writing is so easy to read – I love how she touches on and mentions characters from previous books because we all like to know how the characters we left behind are doing don’t we? Friendship was a big theme in Thirteen Weddings too and I adored so many of the characters we meet. Bronte’s friendship with Bridget and Maria was a real joy to read and I loved how supportive Bridget was, especially with the cracks beginning to show with Poppy, who had a really interesting sub-plot here.

There was really nothing for me to dislike about Thirteen Weddings. The concept of photographing thirteen weddings did make me think it might become a little repetitive but that was not the case at all. Each wedding was different from the rest and some of the people Bronte met during her wedding photography, in fact most of them, were nuts and completely livened up the book. I fell in love with Paige Toon’s writing all over again and it was a satisfying ending, only marred by the fact that it had actually ended. I will be waiting impatiently for more from this brilliant author.

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK

Review ~ It Had To Be You by Ellie Adams.

Title: It Had To Be You.
Author: Ellie Adams.
Publisher: Transworld.
Genre: Women's Fiction.
Release Date: August 28, 2014.
Source: Netgalley.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK

The worst break-up ever . . . Could be the best thing that has ever happened to her

Lizzy Spellman has been dumped. At a party. While wearing a Henry VIII costume. By the man she thought was The One. Someone even filmed it, so now she’s a massive YouTube hit sensation too.

Just when she thinks things can't get any worse, she meets the rudest, most cynical man in the world, and gets a new mission in life. To prove him wrong.

Love does exist, and she’s going to find it . . .

From the moment I first heard about It Had to Be You, I was really excited to read it. When I look forward to a book that much, I’m always a little nervous it’s going to let me down but from page one, I knew I had nothing at all to be worried about here. I loved the cover, the plot and frankly absolutely everything about this fab chick-lit book.

It was mad and outrageous and it’s true that maybe at times I was thinking, that would never happen. Of course, I could be wrong and maybe somewhere deep into the internet you could find a video of the poor soul who, just like Lizzy, gets dumped by their boyfriend whilst dressed as Henry VIII and then gets caught headbutting that same new-found ex-boyfriend. But the point was I really didn’t care because this book was great fun. It had me laughing at some inappropriate moments and generally, I was reading with a smile on my face the whole way through.

I love romance in my novels and It Had to Be You had plenty of that but what I love even more is a book which strongly features some proper friendship. Lizzy, Poppet and Nic did not have a completely perfect friendship but it was real and believable and I adored reading it. All three were very funny characters and when together, so entertaining. Nic was really straight talking and really amusing with how blunt she was, even if maybe she took things too far at times! Poppet was a little less brash than Nic but fun and loyal and the kind of best friend you’d want.

As for the romance, it took a little while for us to get to the main part of it but I really enjoyed the way it was paced. I loved the dialogue between Lizzy and her love interest – they had very different personalities and it was very funny seeing their clashes and after the way they first came into contact with each other, you just knew things weren’t going to be straight-forward for them. I did have a bit of a soft spot for the guy and his all-out awkwardness when it came to love.

I could compliment It Had to Be You all day and I think partly that might be because I found the right book at the right time. It was purely some of the best chick lit I’ve read in a long time and I’ve missed the characters since it was over, which is always the sign of a good book. I enjoyed the romance, the friendship and the focus on other everyday life things like careers and family (Lizzy’s relationship with her brother was one of the highlights for me) and really It Had to Be You just made me happy, and I can’t fault a book for that.

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...