18 May 2007

What Now?

I've spent much time buggering about with all the bits on bobs that sit on the side... and now, I'm not sure what to do....so at the risk of boring the pants off you all - here are a selection of my book reviews!

PS, I Love You - Cecelia Ahern. This debut novel by the daughter of Irelands PM had me hooked from the outset. Following the death of Gerry, her beloved husband, Holly discovers a series of letters left by him to help her get through her first year as a widow. The holiday booking situation had me openly crying as I read it on the bus, but it's not all heart-retching sadness! I await the possible film with bated breath, and more books by the very talented Ms Ahern eagerly.

Dot.Homme - Jane Moore. When a "friend" buys Jess an advert on an internet dating website for her birthday, she gets more than they, and she, bargained for when she actually starts dating some of the men who respond. Funny and well observed, this is Ms Moore's third novel and in my opinion a far more grown up read than The Ex-Files. As Jess dates her way through a list of oddballs and misfits, life gets in the way and the situation with her sister takes this book out of the "chick lit" frivolous world of boys, sex and cosmopolitans and into something far more deep and touching. I loved it.

An Eligible Bachelor - Veronica Henry. Shamefully I have to admit that this was the first title I had read by Ms Henry - maybe I was living under a rock - but I am now a firm fan. Based around the crumbling Eversleigh Manor and village, I was totally captivated by its residents and visitors alike, and whilst not my type at all - I loved Guy Portia! There are enough great characters contained in this story for three or four great books, both people you will love and people you will hate...and I confess to having an equal number in both camps. A great read and hard to put down.

Life Swap - Jane Green. This story tells of single, solvent and successful Vicky who temporarily swaps her life as Features Director at Poise Magazine in the UK with original American "Desperate Housewife" Amber, a mother, wife and member of the Women's League - and both women learn that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. I didn't find this one as addictive as Ms Greens previous titles, but it's still a cracking story with some interesting twists and turns, and some funny characters.

Brand New Friend - Mike Gayle. Brother of newsreader Phillip; Mike Gayle is that unusual male writer who can write chick lit for women that men love to read as well ….and I've loved everyone of his previous books. This, his latest, tells the story of Rob, a bit of a commitment-phobe, who finally ups sticks and moves to Manchester to be with his girlfriend, only to find himself friendless and feeling too old to make new ones... until that is he meets Jo. Why Mr Gayle's titles don't feature higher up in the bestselling charts I have no idea - he's great, and if this is the first of his you read, go and buy all his others immediately!

The Three Day Rule - Josie Lloyd & Emlyn Rees. As an avid reader of married couple Lloyd & Rees I was surprised by this one to be honest. Love Lives (the previous title) was a superb storyline, held together by great characters… but I found The Three Day Rule a bit... so what? I didn't like any of the Thorne family that feature, I didn't feel connected to the area the story is set in, and I wasn't overly interested in what happens to any of them. Having said that, at times it's quite funny and quite touching and obviously anything by Lloyd & Rees is head and shoulders above many other chick lit titles out there - so read it and see what you think.

Love Lives - Josie Lloyd & Emlyn Rees. I cried buckets throughout most of this story, and really resented having to put it down to work, hoover, eat, sleep! With great twists and turns, fantastic characters and a really unusual plotline, Love Lives is a great example of the genius of the Lloyd/Rees writing partnership. Set in and around Shorseby, a south coast seaside resort, Love Lives tells the stories of Lost Soul's Point from the perspective of four main characters, Ned - an architect with a heartbreaking past, Ellen - a deeply unhappy film maker, Jimmy - a troubled teenager and Verity - a hopeless romantic. Buy a bumper pack of tissues, turn off the phone and settle in with the curtains drawn.

Anybody Out There? - Marian Keyes. The smashing Ms Keyes has done it again. Beautifully written, hysterically funny in parts, heartbreakingly touching in others, Anybody Out There? tells the story of Anna Walsh (yes THE Walsh family are back) and her return from The Good Front Room to her home in New York. The "Where is Aidan" (Anna's gorgeous husband) plot felt like a total blow to the stomach when all was revealed, and as Anna picks up the pieces of her life and searches for him around Manhattan I both laughed and cried in equal measure. There is just something about Ms Keyes novels that make her head and shoulders above all other writers in her genre - maybe it's the characters, perhaps the plots, I don't know, but whatever it is - I love her books. You will too.

Love on the Rocks - Veronica Henry. Fantastic from start to end, Love on the Rocks follows the tale of when feisty ex-model Lisa and her stuffy architect boyfriend George take a chance on love and life and set up shop in the up and coming seaside resort of Mariscombe. From the moment Lisa smells Bruno Thorne (the handsome and mysterious local big cheese) in the bakers, we know something is coming... and when it does I was delighted. With superb supporting characters, and great hidden depths to the main characters this is a sure to be seen on all the beaches, all the trains and in all the parks this Summer.

West End Girls - Jenny Colgan. Whilst it's slightly tricky to believe that two sisters living in a council estate really would be entrusted with looking after their bonkers Grandma's flat in Chelsea whilst she's in hospital, I quickly got over my reservations and got into this great story. The two sisters involved couldn't be more dissimilar if they tried - Penny is blond, thin and (I think) horrible, whilst Lizzie is the perfect underdog - overweight, slightly bitter and downtrodden, and as they move "up west" and learn more about themselves and the world in which they now exist, the differences between them grow more evident. I never warmed to Penny and was delighted with how her life pans out at the end of this book; slightly disappointed that Lizzie seems to settle with the first man that walks past her on the King's Road - but on the whole - a great book.

Love Rules - Freya North.
One of the best books I've read in the past five years, Love Rules tells the tale of best friends Alice and Thea and the trials and tribulations of love - identifying it, finding it, keeping it, and living it. Ms North writes great characters and plots - and the relationship between the best friends is as believable as the relationships the girls have with the men in their lives. I fell in love with Saul (Theas boyfriend) very early on in the story, and the twist in their relationship had me questioning my own moral code. Suffice to say - I wouldn't have done what Thea did! A great read - buy this, then buy all Ms North's other books.

Practically Perfect - Katie Fforde. You are guaranteed to get good value for money out of a Katie Fforde book, and this, her latest, proves no exception. A smattering of sex, a handful of belly laughs, and a bunch of likeable characters all rolled into this fun, funny, light read make it a must have Summer book. As Anna takes on a renovation project in a small village in the country (which just happens to be close to the home of the mother of her one-that-got-away love), we meet her fantastically chaotic neighbour, bossy sister, and local planning officer/Greyhound trust inspector - who proves to be more important to Anna than he appears.

Handbags & Halos - Bernadette Strachan. This second offering from Ms Strachan had me tittering away on the journeys to and from work, and missing my stop a fair few times! Focussing on Nell's realisation that her life has become shallow and meaningless, we see her dump her boyfriend and move in with her scary Grandmother in posh Knightsbridge, sign up to the Helping Hands charity to "do good", juggle her life as celebrity faux girlfriend to the perma-orange Z list Blair Taylor and struggle to hold down her full time job at a theatrical agency...Full of well observed characters and a great plot, this book is a perfect way to loose an afternoon in the sun.

Home Truths - Freya North. I was so excited to see the McCabe sisters reunited for this new book from Ms North, having loved Pip, Cat and Fen individually in their own titles… when the girls' mother unexpectantly turns up at their Uncle Django's birthday party (having been on the missing list since running away with a cowboy from Denver when the girls' were tiny), it sets off a series of revelations that turns the girls' lives on their heads. Tackling the relationships between the girl's themselves, their partners, their Uncle and their mother, this story really gets to grips with the precious issue of "family", and at times it really touched a nerve with me. It may not as funny as some of her previous books, but it's just as gripping and keeps you glued till you turn the final page.

Flora's Lot - Katie Fforde. You can't go wrong with a Katie Fforde book - they are always guaranteed to make you smile, and keep you reading till the end, and this, her 11th title, doesn't disappoint. Flora has sub-let her flat and her life in London to join the family antiques business in the country she inherits a majority share in. With her pitiful knowledge of the business limited to Antiques Roadshow reruns she's hardly an ideal partner in the firm, but what she lacks in experience she makes up for in enthusiasm. Packed full of great characters - I loved the uptight Annabelle (fiancée of her stuffy cousin Charles), and a great story, I got a real warm glow feeling reading this book. This will make my read over and over again list for sure.

Lipstick Jungle - Candace Bushnell. More Jackie Collins than SATC, this book transports you to a world full of power, sex, designer clothes and hot, hot men, with the three ladies concerned (Wendy, Nico and Victory) living the lives of riley in New York City. I'm not ashamed to say - I really enjoyed! It's pacy, sexy and racy - everything one would expect from a co-writer of the award winning TV show SATC. But don't expect to see any Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte or Miranda characters. These ladies are feistier, louder and power hungry and whilst I didn't connect or sympathise with any of them - I couldn't help but admire them. Sip a Cosmopolitan, slip on your Blahnik rip-offs from Primark and fantasise that you too could be hot fashion designer, president of a movie house or editor of a monthly glossy mag. I did!

The Undomestic Goddess - Sophie Kinsella.
A departure from the Shopaholic series, this book tells the story of Samantha, a high-powered lawyer in London who one day makes a huge mistake at work, so huge it would ruin her chances of partnership and so runs out of her life - into the middle of nowhere. Winding up at the door of a massive country house she is mistaken for an interviewee housekeeper and gets the job. A chaotic yarn ensues with Samantha being as baffled by housework as she is by the shift in her attitude to her life. As she slows down and discovers that life doesn't have to be THAT hard she "finds herself" and falls in love with her new life. Whether her old life will ever catch up her kept me reading till the end... and whether she wants it back kept me thinking long after I'd closed the book.

Double Wedding - Patricia Scanlan. In places I really enjoyed this story about childhood friends Jessica and Carol. But overwhelmingly I wanted to punch both Carol for being so horrible and Jessica for being such a wimp! Both engaged to be married, Carol insists on a double wedding she’s so scared her fiancĂ© is going to do a runner – and doormat Jessica gives in and agrees. Interspersed with some funny moments and scenes it is a rather predictable tale of bickering family members and dodgy wedding guests and friendships pushed to the limit. The will they/won’t they get hitched question does keep you guessing and that kept me reading till the end.

The Surrender - Toni Bentley. This erotic memoir is not going to be for everyone, but if you liked “The Story of O" or "The Sexual Life of Catherine M" it will appeal. Since the Bible certain sexual practises have been forbidden. Apparently few women do it, and even fewer will admit to it – but when Ms Bentley meets a new lover who introduces her to new pleasures of the flesh she embarks on a journey of discovery. Daring, intimate and eloquent this may be – sexy it isn’t. Not really one to read out-loud to your Gran, or in public – and a few too many references to finding God for my liking.

My Horizontal Life - Chelsea Handler. I wasn’t aware of the author till I’d finished this book, but apparently she’s a cult figure (comedienne) in her native USA. This memoir of her one-night stands is funny, frank, raunchy and well written – but oh so American! Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, just an observation. As we follow Chelsea through her many many nights of lurve – the embarrassing ones, the uncomfortable ones, the red hot ones – we learn much more about her as a person as well as her penchant for passion.

Tongue in Cheek - Fiona Walker. No-one writes “posh” sex quite like Fiona Walker, and I’ve really enjoyed all her tales of romping in the country, including this one. Focussed around three main female characters - young teacher Mo, socialite Diana and ex dressage diva Anke – this story is a guaranteed page turner with some well thought out sub-plots, twists and turns and enough ooh blimey moments to keep engaged till the end.

Rachel Loosmore (Editor) - Sexy Shorts for the Beach. Short and snappy enough for each story to be read in one sitting, this is the 6th book in the charity range with £1 from each copy sold going to Cancer Research UK. With a great list of contributors including Tina Brown, Della Galton, Rosie Harris, Jane Wenham Jones and Dawn Wingfield, it’s a great little book to hide in your beach bag – and with almost all the stories relating to summer, the beach, love found and love lost – it’s perfect for the holiday season.

Jackie Collins – Hollywood Husbands. You have to get up very very early to beat a good romp through the corrupt, sexy, macho world that Jackie Collins consistently manages to create. Her old school style of Chick Lit has stood the testament of time – and this is by far my favourite of all her books. Following on from “Hollywood Wives” this tells the tale of unlikely best friends Manon Cable (movie superstar), Howard Soliman (studio exec and cocaine addict) and Jack Python (the hottest talk show host in town and the sexiest glasses wearer I’ve ever “met”), together with Clarissa Browning (Jack’s cold and detached actress girlfriend), Jade Johnson (a beautiful and sexy model with a terrible past), Silver Anderson (Jack’s sister and soap star diva), Whitney Valentine (Manons ex-wife) and Melanie-Shannon (Manons current wife). Confused you might be, but you’ll never be bored. Watch out for the scene with Silver and her sexy new lover in the jacuzzi. Blimey.

Jackie Collins – Lovers and Players. The Queen of Hollywood has returned this a stonker of a bonkbuster! Amy Scott-Simon a New York heiress is engaged to Max Diamond, a powerful real estate tycoon. At her hen party, she runs (unknowingly) into Jett, Max's younger half-brother who is fresh back from Italy and exile. Chris Diamond – an entertainment lawyer - flies into town to meet with his two brothers and their dad - Red Diamond, a bonkers billionaire. Working as Red's housekeeper is Diahann, whose stunning daughter, Liberty is busy pursuing her dream to be a singer, whilst Damon P. Donnell, hip-hop mogul supreme, pursues her. And then there’s Mariska, Max Diamond's Russian socialite ex-wife, a woman with more secrets than anyone, secrets that lead to her brutal and mysterious murder. Superb.

He Loves Me Not…He Loves Me - Claudia Carroll. This debut novel by the Irish actress is set in County Kildare and the crumbling mansion house Davenport Hall. When Daisy and Portia Davenports father abandons them and their mother (my favourite character - the crazy eccentric Lucasta), a family friend suggests that they turn the ancestral home over to be used as the location for a major new movie to earn them enough money to make the necessary repairs to the house. As Davenport Hall is taken over, we meet film stars Montana Jones, Ella Hepburn and Guy van der Post, and before you can say “Camera! Action! Cut!” there’s more sex and drama off screen than on! A great read. Buy this, and then buy the second title featuring Portia and Davenport Hall “The Last of the Great Romantics”.

Engaging Men – Lynda Curnyn. With three of her ex-boyfriends married (or shortly getting married) Angie DiFranco begins to wonder whether Kirk, her latest bf will pop the question and if so WHEN?!. What with holding down jobs as both a presenter on an early morning kids cable TV show and a telesales lady for a clothes catalogue in the afternoon (where we meet a great bunch of female characters) and coping with her crazy family she begins to formulate a plan to “nail down her man”. Short enough to read in one sitting it’s really funny and a lot deeper than you imagine it will be from looking at the cover!

Nights of Rain and Stars – Maeve Binchey. This is the first title I’ve read by Ms Binchey, maybe because it’s set in Greece (not her usual Ireland) and in today’s time (not the 1950’s). I was blown away. The beautiful story throws a bunch of strangers together at Andreas’s tavern, (a man missing his son who left home 9 years ago) on a stunning Greek island one balmy Summer season. Following a tragic shipping accident, we meet the main characters one by one. Fiona and her violent boyfriend; Thomas - a divorced man missing his son; Elsa who is running away from her lying ex partner; David who is trying to escape his overbearing family and Vonni, a middle aged Irish women who has lived on the island for years. Examining the issues of friendship and family, Ms Binchey creates a truly touching tale of strangers becoming friends, of people running away from their troubles and finding answers they never anticipated.

The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic – Sophie Kinsella. This, the first in a (so far) 4 book series focussing on the fantastic Rebecca Bloomwood is bar far my favourite. The book begins with four letters from the Endwich Bank (the Manager of which, Derek Smeath, reminded me of my own Bank Manager!), which introduce us to the scarily familiar; and yet totally original “Shopaholic” herself….and even ends with one! It’s a brilliant book – very, very funny and original, and we meet a variety of great characters, which we can grow to know and love in the following three books. If you buy just one book by Ms Kinsella, make it this one… and then, cause you’re hooked on the life of Rebecca, buy the others.

Shopaholic Abroad – Sophie Kinsella. Not only do we start this, the second in the Shopaholic series, with four letters from Derek Smeath (Manager of Endwich Bank); but also with the identical line.. “OK, don’t panic. Don’t panic”. In a work of pure genius, this book continues the life and times of “Shopaholic” Rebecca Bloomwood, who, whilst she’s now bagged Luke – the dynamic founder and owner of Brandon Communications – is still spending, shopping and living above her means but this time in New York. I didn’t find this quite as funny as The Secret Dreamworld… but it’s still a jolly good story, with the sort of characters we can all relate to… including Rebecca herself!

Shopaholic Ties the Knot – Sophie Kinsella.
There are only three bank letters beginning this tale (this time from Head of Customer Service at Second Union Bank New York, Walt Pitman), and the second “Don’t Panic” is omitted from the first real line…but this is undoubtedly the same Rebecca Bloomwood who we have grown to love in the Shopaholic series. Luke has proposed, and amid the hoo-ha of planning her dream wedding (both sides of the Atlantic!) Becky still manages to shop till she drops! It’s impossible not to buy this – after all, don’t you want to know what happens next?

Shopaholic & Sister – Sophie Kinsella. This, the latest in the bestselling Shopaholic series, brings us up to date with the crazy spending and mixed up world of Rebecca Bloomwood. She’s just married the gorgeous Luke and we start the story on her idyllic honeymoon in Sri Lanka, but all isn’t as hunky-dory as you would expect. For a start she’s still spending (in secret), she’s also unemployed and to top it all her best mate (the brilliant Suze) has a new best mate! Throw a long lost sister into the mix, and you’ve got a cracker of a story. I didn’t laugh quite as often at this one though, but when I did – the Diet Coke I was drinking at the time, came out of my nose!

Snap Happy – Fiona Walker. This was the very first Fiona Walker title I ever bought, about 8 years ago. It’s a thick old wedge of a book and a cracking read – so it’s one I return to time and time again. When uber photographer Jay from New York swaps apartments with Sean from London he also takes on housesitting duties for Poirot, a dirty talking macaw, and Juno…who happens to be a sexy, funny and terribly untidy stand up comic. With a great supporting cast (including the Bengal cat Bagel and U-boat the turtle) Ms Walker brings us a fantastic story, which is both funny and sad. When Jay says the words “don’t try to love me, people don’t” after being seduced by Juno, it breaks my heart …and the love story that develops between the two characters is beautifully written.

Marian Keyes – The Other Side of the Story. Un-put-down-able. A fantastic story that pulls at the heart strings as well as raising the spirits. When three very different women’s lives become overwhelmingly entangled you learn that there is always another side to every story. Jojo is the agent of Lily, who’s just published her first book and spends the advance for the second with lover Anton. Anton is the ex boyfriend of Gemma, Lily’s ex-best friend, who herself is now writing a book…. which ends up on the desk of Jojo. Each of the three women’s’ stories are so well written that I really cared what happened to them and in their own ways I loved them all. A beautiful book, that’s funny, romantic and touching. Classic Keyes.

Marian Keyes – Angels. Every one of Marian Keyes’s novels has that something special that make them enjoyable to read over and over again. She writes in a way that touches my soul, lifts my spirits and makes my roar with laughter. All at once. Every character she creates makes me feel like they have been written just for me. Angels is no different. The safe, steady, sensible Maggie Walsh has chucked in her job, her life and her marriage, and followed her bessy mate to Hollywood. As we find out the whys and the hows we learn much about Maggie and her fantastic family – and I ended up considering Maggie one of my bessy mates too.

Marian Keyes – Sushi for Beginners. If someone ever put a gun to my head and forced me to name my favourite Marian Keyes title, I fear I’d have to take the bullet. Every one of her books would appear on my Top 10 list, all with the number one next to them. Sushi for Beginners is my current number 1. As we flip between the US and Ireland we meet Lisa, Ashling and Clodagh – three women all on that tittering edge between complete breakdown and absolute happiness. It’s beautifully written, as all of Ms Keyes books are; they are great characters, as all of Ms Keyes characters are; and it’s a great story, ditto. You are never alone with a Marian Keyes book.

Other People’s Marriages – Shane Watson. This beautifully written book follows the lives and loves of Anna and her yoga practising boyfriend Richard, and their tight knit group of friends who she is using as case studies for her book about other people marriages; charity guru Valerie and her put upon husband Archie, Ruth and Dave (who just can’t seem to grow up) and divorced couple Tony and Jean. Due to the ages and lives of the characters, it seemed a much more “grown up” book than those I normally read, and it took me much longer than I was expecting to get into. But that’s not to say I didn’t loose myself in the story eventually, which kept me engrossed right till the end.

The Godmother – Carrie Adams. It took me just one afternoon sat in the sun to read this book. The life of Tessa and her superb circle of friends gripped me from the first word. Tackling everything from miscarriage, infidelity, death and one night stands, Carrie Adams has written the perfect antidote to all those sickly sweet tales of love and happy ever after, without being cynical or depressing. At 36 and single Tessa is battling with her inner body clock, whilst coping with the responsibilities of Godmotherhood…and the steady stream of “life” that’s thrown at her from every side. As her friends lives threaten to obliterate her own, she is engulfed by the simple truth that she is desperate for her own “happy ever after” but soon realises that the grass is very rarely as green as you envisage it to be.... I was moved to tears throughout this book, but it also has its fair share of belly chuckles. I can’t wait for Carrie Adams next one, and hope the move from Crime Fiction to Chick Noir is a permanent one.

Louise Candlish - The Double Life of Anna Day. Having loved Prickly Heat, but been a bit so-so with Sisters Avenue, I was looking forward to this, Louise's third title. It's the story of Anna - a high flying media sales guru, who after a year of being together has yet to meet her boyfriend Charlie’s' mum - so with the help of her "lifestyle coach" Vic, sets upon a fiendish plan.... I thought this was really fun read - very light hearted, with a healthy smattering of giggles and "ahh" moments along the way. As the plan to make friends with the future mother-in-law escalate, and take Anna on an art appreciation trip to Spain, her belief that Charlie is The One wavers, and as her job looks shaky so does her relationship. If you liked Prickly Heat, you'll like this.

Martina Reilly - All I Want Is You. Now writing under her real name Martina (previously known as Tina), this is the fourth title to be published by Little, Brown. I absolutely loved Flipside and Wish Upon a Star, and was really looking forward to this novel which tells the tale of Poppy Furlong who goes from living a perfect life in a perfect house, with a perfect son and a perfect husband - to a tiny house, with a son diagnosed with ADHD, a distant husband, a job in the Euro shop and the mother-in-law from hell on her doorstep. When her husbands’ business partner does a bunk with the dosh, Poppy's life comes crashing around her ears and every aspect of her life is affected. I'll be honest I didn't like Poppy at all until about two thirds of the way through the book... but towards the end, as she struggles to find her way in her new life, she really grew on me and I ended up feeling really proud of how she carves her own niche in the world. It's a very funny book, with a really novel plot, and some brilliantly written characters - and Martina has combined some serious issues with great humour.

Sarah Tucker - The Playground Mafia. An overwhelming plus for me, when reading Chick Lit, is if I like the main character. I don't mind if she's single, married, divorced, gay, a mother…. As long as I like her, or something about her. I didn't like the main character in The Playground Mafia, Caroline Gray. She's a newly divorced, single mother, who I found harsh, and hard, and frivolous. She has two best friends, who I like far more than her - Heather and Eva, and a few new enemy's - head honcho of the PTA Sarah Flint and her sidekicks. Caroline is having far more trouble settling into her son's new school than he is, and as the Playground Mafia gang up on her, her life.... well..... gets a bit worse I suppose for a short time before getting better again. I don't have kids, I've never been married (and therefore never divorced) and have forgotten my own playground experiences since last being in one some 20 odd years ago, so maybe it's just me that didn't really get the point of this book. See what you think. Maybe it's just me.

Cecelia Ahern - If You Could See Me Now. This is the third novel by the extremely talented Ms Ahern, and whilst I adored PS I Love You, her first, I wasn’t as blown away by her second, Where Rainbows End. If You Could See Me Now, however, had me hooked from the first page - and it was a book I kept trying to put down, to make it last longer, and was annoyed with myself that I couldn't make it last longer than just one day. It tells the heartbreaking tale of Elisabeth Egan, a control freak interior designer who's mother disappeared just before her 12th birthday, who's Dad is distant and who's crazy alcoholic sister Saoirse has a son, Luke, at just 16 who she can't care for. Elisabeth adopts Luke who is 6 when this story begins. I struggled to like Elisabeth at the start of this story - she's seemed a touch too hard-as-nails for my liking - but as the story unfolds of Luke's "imaginary friend" Ivan entering and changing their lives forever, I really felt for her. It's beautifully written, with fantastic characters and (I don't want to reveal too much and spoil it for you) as Elisabeth and Ivan's relationship develops some hidden truths emerge that had me bawling my eyes out. I will read this book over and over again, and look for Jinny Joe's in every field and garden I pass by....

Harriet Evans - Going Home. A fantastic first novel from start to end. With brilliant main characters and a superb supporting cast, this tale of Lizzy Walters, her family home (Keeper House), her ex-boyfriend (David) and her family, had me laughing out loud in parts, and nodding my head in sympathy in others. It's as much a story about family secrets and lies as it is about Lizzy and her boyfriend, and I found both stories as entertaining as each other. The story begins with the whole Walters clan enjoying their Christmas break at Keeper House and ends with a summer wedding... and the time in-between is spread between Lizzys London life (her job and shag buddy Jaden), the lives of her family back home at Keeper House (cousins, aunts and uncles) and the secrets they are hiding. It's not a taxing read, although it does have a fair few twists and turns, but it's beautifully written and I ended up feeling all warm and peaceful by the final page.

Louise Kean - Material Girl. From the author of "The Perfect 10" comes this tale of Scarlet, a beautiful make-up artist living and loving in London who is called in at the last moment to attend to ageing star Dolly Russell in the West End. As Scarlets' relationship with her man of three years, Ben, comes to head she takes some valuable advise from both Dolly (and the local Evening Standard seller) and learns that growing older can have some rewards.... and that making-do whilst making-up is never the right answer. A really though provoking novel in many ways, I did enjoy this book, although I found it hard to have any real sympathy for Scarlet. She is portrayed as being incredibly beautiful, if feeling a touch past her best at 31 - and by God she went on about how dysfunctional her relationship was! Reminding me very much of some conversations I've had with my own friends, I did laugh in all the right places, and some of the observations were spot on.... but I felt the ending was a bit too rushed and inconclusive.

Bernadette Strachan - Diamonds and Daisies. I loved The Reluctant Landlady and had really high hopes for this, Bernadette's third title. It is very very funny, and has a great plot and story with some fantastic characters and scenes - but I thought the main character, Sunny (Sandra) was a pain in the neck! A writer of those awful romantic novels that are sold strictly by mail order, Sunny is desperate for her own hero and fantasy love affair. In walks Fabio, an Italian Count who picks her up in the local laundrette. Soon Sunny is moving out of the flat she shares with her two cousins JoJo and Ellen, and embarking on the kind of life she is always writing about - all romantic meals, chivalry, money, great sex and class. With great sub plots and "also rans" (best friend Sarah's Porky Peeces escapades, on-the-run nun Sister Jane's publicity stunt, ex-boyfriend Patrick's StyleScaping career and the Chudleigh Cad's knicker fetish are my favourite) the book really rumbles along, but - and this is my only criticism - Sunny annoyed me!! Nothing specific, just a bit annoying....

Chris Manby - Marrying for Money. It feels like ages since the last Manby book…although maybe it's just ages since I've read one of hers. Either way, this was worth the wait. Whilst the first few pages made me think "Oh no - posh birds that I can't relate to" it quickly became clear that all isn't as it seems in the beach town of Little Elbow in the good old US of A. A mix of Desperate Housewives and Cinderella, it's a cracking good read with plots, twists and turns that made this a pleasure to kick back and enjoy. When the Grosvenor sisters rent out Rose House for the Summer, Queen of Suburbia Marcella's nose is put out of joint as one by one, the eligible bachelors of Little Elbow line up to woo the sisters. Marcella is a hateful creature and very very funny and I really liked the feisty Charity Grosvenor, but to be honest, found Grace a touch dull in comparison.

A Place Called Here - Cecelia Ahern. If you are expecting a sweet and gentle tale of boys, shoes and an exciting job in the media – turn away from this book now. It does have a love story, there are definitely shoes worn, and there is an exciting job – but that’s where the similarity to any other chick lit book you’ve ever read ends. Think Lost. Think Without a Trace. Think outside the usual chick lit formula. I loved this book. I loved everything about it. When Sandy Shortt’s was a kid, her neighbour Jenny-May goes missing. From that point on Sandy is obsessed with searching for missing things. Socks, toothbrushes, people. When she hits her teens, her worried family bring in Dr Burton to help Sandy with her obsessive compulsive disorder. Whilst he may not seem to help much, he becomes a permanent feature in Sandy’s life – one that she struggles to come to terms with. When Sandy leaves the Police force she sets up her own Missing Persons Agency and it’s whilst searching for a new client (Jack’s) brother, she herself goes missing, ending up in a place called Here…. I can’t begin to explain just how much I enjoyed this story of self-discovery, guilt and mystery. I’ll never be able to dismiss the missing pens and lighters again with quite so much ease….

The Summer Psychic - Jessica Adams. I've been a fan of Jessica Adams since I read Single White E-mail way back in 1999, but this for me is her best since then. It really reminded me of another title I've recently read, Cecelia Aherns "A Place Called Here", it's all psychic readings, missing dead cats and witches' covens in Brighton. Katie Pickard (the worst regional reporter ever - according to her lecherous boss Guy) is sent to interview Australian psychic Jim Gabriel, who amongst other things, predicts they will be married within the year....But Katie then goes and shacks up with deeply unsuitable ex-school fantasy Pete (think Pete Doherty and you're spot on), and a marriage looks unlikely. Or does it? With a back story of real life tragedies Jim predicts including the 9/11 terrorist attacks and tsunami; and random news stories including the £7m Damien Hurst shark, the date change of Charles and Camilla's wedding and the Ashes coming home - this story is beautifully written without being overly sentimental or slushy.

Sophie Kinsella - Shopaholic & Baby. Becky Bloomwood may not be my favourite Chick Lit character – but you can’t deny she’s makes a really good read…. This, the fifth in the Shopaholic series is, I think, my favourite so far. It’s very funny, and quite touching in places – and I liked the fact that Becky seems genuinely concerned about both giving birth and loosing Luke and the other troubles they both go through in this story. Filled with some great subplots and new characters, as well as the old faithful of Suze, Jess and the hysterical Janice, this title focuses on the impending birth of Baby Brandon, and the evil presence of celebrity obstetrician (and Luke’s ex-girlfriend) Venetia Carter….. is she a nutter or is she really after Luke… Becky will stop at nothing to discover the truth – including visiting a private dick in West Ruislip of all places!

Josie Lloyd & Emlyn Rees – The Seven Year Itch. Absolutely superb! The fab writing couple of Lloyd & Rees are back and have bought Amy and Jack with them. I adore both the main characters and have loved following their lives, separately and together since “Come Together” in 1999. This third instalment takes us seven years on and is told in the signature two-voice style of the authors which makes it incredibly punchy but oh too easy to speed through! It’s a raunchy, sexy and hysterically funny read, as well as being quite sobering and very honest. Whilst Jack questions whether marriage and being a father has stripped him of his “stud” credentials, Amy finds a lack of excitement in the same-old-same-old routine of being a wife and mother. When the feared 7 year itch starts to bother them both, will they scratch? I really couldn’t put this down the minute I started, and whilst I may not be a wife or mother I found myself feeling great empathy for Amy as the story unfolds. That’s the secret, I believe, of these two superb authors – you never feel alienated, so even if you haven’t personally experienced what they put their characters through, you can totally absorb yourself in the story. If you still haven’t read a Lloyd & Rees title, but love Mike Gayle, Belinda Jones, Jane Green or Jessica Adams, you will love this.

Mike Gayle - Wish You Were Here. I think Mike Gayle would probably cringe if he knew I classed him as one of my top ten Chick Lit authors (primarily I should think cause he's not a chick), but I just love his stories of men and their relationships with us crazy women..and this, his seventh title to date did not disappoint. Charlie has been dumped by long time girlfriend Sarah, and best mate Andy suggests a week's holiday to help him get over it, roping (mate from Uni) Tom along for the ride. As the week's events unfold Charlie, Andy and Tom's lives change forever and the relationship between the three grow ever stronger. I just adore the characters the author creates, they all seem to be the kind of men I know, and indeed, most of the men I've been out with, and getting a man perspective on relationship angst is the kind of insight I'd pay hard cash money for. I loved how 99% of this story takes place over just the weeks holiday, and the depth of character and plot building is superb - without ever feeling like it's being dragged out to finish a whole book. As enjoyable, surely, for men and women, this is a great example of how similar men and women really are (even down to pec envy on the beach), and once you've finished reading this, be sure to pass it on to the man in your life. Excellent.

Lisa Jewell – 31 Dream Street. If this book doesn’t become a film one day, I’ll eat my hat. It has blockbuster written all over it – in the vein of About a Boy, Love Actually, Four Weddings and Bridget Jones. It’s a superbly woven tale of the lives of the inhabitants of Peacock House, owned by Toby, overlooked by Leah and recently left by Gus … who turns both their lives around. This is a beautifully written book, which really draws the reader into the lives of the main characters, and by the end of the book I was genuinely caught up in a desire for happy endings for (nearly) all of them. I adored Toby, and it was a really refreshing angle for the lead character of a Chick Lit title to be a man…Though not overly sentimental, there is much poignant soul searching for all the characters involved, and the author carefully handles the twists and turns of their lives with grace. I loved Lisa’s books before this one - they are all funny and “real” and touching, but the bar has definitely been raised with 31 Dream Street. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year, and the feeling that I really care what the future holds for Con and Daisy, Melinda and Jack (who for some reason I picture as Anthony LaPaglia), and of course Toby and Leah….has stayed with me since I turned the last page. Thank you Lisa.

2 comments:

G.G. said...

Wow, our book tastes are so similar! I loved your list, because you've just given me a really god idea what to put on my Amazon order next. Also, I had not planned on reading "P.S. I love you" because Ahern's 2nd book ("Love, Rosie") was very disappointing to me - sounds like I would miss out on a good read, so I'll give Ahern another shot. I loved Green's "Life Swap" and I've enjoyed everything Katie Fforde Sophie Kinsella so far. For some reason, although I loved Sex and the City on TV, I find Candace Bushnell's books leave me cold. Thanks for all the great tips on what to read next!

SJP said...

OH MY GOD! A COMMENT! SWEET JESUS I'M EXCITED! Hi GG. Thank you so much for leaving the very first comment on my blog. So glad you liked my list - it's a very random pick from my own bookshelves... I'm reading a proof at the moment of my friend Louise Candlish's new book "Since I Don't Have You" which is coming out in August... once I've finished it, I'll let you know what I thought.... I know what you mean about Ms Bushnell's books as well, but I did enjoy Lipstick Jungle. So tell me more about the GG site?