Archive | January, 2011

Book Review: My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares

31 Jan

Daniel tells me that he’s always loved me. That I feel the same. That I always have.
Not just in this life, but in my last life, and all my lives before.
But I don’t remember him.
He says he is always searching for me. Always hoping that one day I will remember. But it is only he that carries the memory of our love.
I know that finding true love is never easy. Perhaps you have fought for it. Perhaps, like Daniel, you have endured the pain of it being unrequited.
But I hope your quest ends happily.
I hope you never have to face the heartbreak that inevitably awaits us.
This is our extraordinary, unforgettable story.

Ann Brashares is probably best known for her young adult ‘Summers of the Sisterhood’ series. ‘ My Name is Memory’ is her second adult novel and quite different to her previous romantic contemporary fiction offerings  as it explores the notion of soul, rebirth and the implications not only of living through numerous lifetimes but of being able to remember all of them in detail.

‘My Name is Memory’ is the story of Daniel and Lucy. It is an epic love story told over two millennia. In a very early life Daniel discovered that he had ‘the memory’; his soul moves into a new body when he dies but he remembers everything about his previous lives including a heartbreaking encounter with a young girl a North African village in 541 A.D.

The book begins in 2004 as Lucy prepares for her Senior Ball – the very last event of High School. Lucy loves Daniel from afar and has done so throughout high school. Little does she know that her crush is the result of a relationship that spans centuries. A brief encounter with Daniel at the ball leaves Lucy scared and confused; scared by the intensity of feeling and her connection to Daniel, who is essentially a stranger in her eyes and confused by Daniel’s insistence on calling her Sophia and that they have met before.

The story progresses in alternating chapters with Daniel recounting his lives and encounters with Lucy as Lucy’s life moves forward to college and graduate school. ‘My Name is Memory’ is very much Daniel’s story; the chapters relating to his past are narrated in the first person and I enjoyed both the historical element and the strong male voice that Brashares has created.

Lucy’s journey of self discovery through the course of the book is also well written and enjoyable as she tries to make sense of her encounter with Daniel. I liked that fact that her character was not only sceptical but went out of her way to avoid and then find other explanations for the link between her and Daniel. My only criticism being that when she does finally accept the truth, I found her lack of trust in her own instincts and her reactions to another character whose soul has been interlinked with her own almost as long as Daniel’s, disappointing and totally unbelievable in places.

Brashares has certainly thought the implications of living many lives through and at times the book and Daniel’s musings are very philosophical, giving the reader plenty to think about. Although I liked the complex and well developed mythology, I found the book quite slow to start as the characters are introduced and Daniel begins to tell of his early lives. Having said that, as the plot progressed, I really appreciated the detailed build up of the story and the layers to both Daniel and Lucy’s characters and the depth of background to their stories so I would urge readers to stick with it.

For me, the story really got going when Daniel meets Constance in 1918. This is when their romance takes off and the link between Constance and Lucy had me fascinated.  I found the last third of the book an absolutely gripping read and am very much hoping that Ann Brashares produces a sequel as the ending was left far too open for my liking!

Although written for an adult audience, ‘My Name is Memory’ will definitely appeal to young adult readers as well. The paperback release last week saw a re-branding from the hardback cover shown on the left to the much ‘darker’ cover shown on the right above. I couldn’t resist doing a cover comparison for this book as the two covers are so different. The new cover should certainly attract the attention of paranormal romance fans but I actually think this is a very heartwarming and romantic book which appeals to my belief in soul mates and I’m not sure the dark cover goes with the story. Personally I prefer the hardback cover but I’d love to know what everyone else thinks.

4/5

You can find out more about Ann Brashares and her books at: http://annbrashares.com/

A version of this review also appears at: www.libripopulus.co.uk

My top five most anticipated chick lit books of 2011

26 Jan

As regular readers will know I’m a huge fan of the ‘chick lit’ genre and a few weeks ago I put a ‘top five’ feature together for book site Libri Populus on chick lit books to look out for this year. Since then I’ve found a few of updates on the books I chose so so I thought I’d share my five most anticipated chick lit reads for this year with you over here too.

Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal (Arrow, 14th April)

A whole generation of teenage girls grew up reading about the loves and lives of twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield and their friends in Sweet Valley. I for one spent a large part of my teenage years wishing I attended Sweet Valley High. And this year they’re back. Sweet Valley Confidential moves us forward ten years to catch up with Jessica and Elizabeth at 27. I mentioned this one in a news feature when I first heard about it last year and I recently stumbled upon the Random House cataclogue for the first half of this year which includes a plot summary :)

Haven’t you ever wondered what happened to Jessica and Elizabeth?

It’s been ten years since we last caught up with the Wakefield twins, and a lot has happened. Jessica has married a millionaire, while Todd and Elizabeth have settled down to a life of quiet contentment in Sweet Valley. But when Jessica leaves her controlling and demanding husband and turns up on her sister’s doorstep, old passions are aroused, and the unthinkable happens. After all, didn’t Jessica go out with Todd first? Heartbroken, Elizabeth leaves Sweet Valley and tries to carve a name for herself as a theatre reviewer in New York. But she is burning with rage at what Jessica and Todd have done to her. For all of her life she’s been the good twin, the sweet twin, the play-by-the-rules twin. Now it’s time Elizabeth got her own back. But if she gives into the impulse for revenge, will she lose the second, unexpected chance at love that’s been waiting quietly for her in Sweet Valley for nearly ten years?

The Making of Us by Lisa Jewell (5th May, Century)

In a hospice in Bury St Edmunds, a man called Daniel is slowly fading away. His friend Maggie sits with him every day; she holds his hand and she listens to the story of his life, to his regrets and to his secrets. And then he tells her about the children he has never met and never will, conceived with women he has never slept with, never even touched. Four of them, apparently, two boys, two girls. He talks of them wistfully. His legacy, he calls them. Lydia, Robyn and Dean don’t know each other. Yet. And they are all facing difficult challenges. Lydia is still wearing the scars from her traumatic childhood and, although she is wealthy and successful, her life is lonely and disjointed. Until an unexpected letter from her long-lost uncle reveals a shocking truth about her childhood. Dean is a young man whose life is going nowhere. He is jobless and about to have a baby with a girl who hates him. But then one afternoon, life flips over and leaves him somewhere he never expected to be: a single dad to an ill daughter and he is forced to re-evaluate his whole life. Robyn is eighteen. She is training to be a doctor and is determined one day to be a paediatrician, just like her father. She has never met her father. Neither has her mother. He was an anonymous donor, and that’s exactly what she wants him to stay – a character in her own personal fairy tale. Until the day she meets the man of her dreams and falls in love. He looks like her, he thinks like her, he even has the same freckle in the same place on his left hand. It could be just a coincidence, but she needs to be sure before she can allow herself to be with him. It’s time for her to open the envelope her parents gave her on her eighteenth birthday. And Daniel’s children slowly find their way into each other’s lives…

No cover image for this one yet but it sounds just as gripping as my favourite Lisa Jewell novel, The Truth About Melody Browne and I can’t wait for it to be released!

The Single Girl’s To-Do List by Lindsey Kelk (Harper, 9th June)

Lindsey Kelk is a fast rising star in the wonderful world of chick lit. Her first three novels form the I Heart … series (insert New York, Hollywood and Paris for books one to three), the latest of which is on the Romantic Novelists’ Association long list for the ‘Pure Passion Romantic Novel of the Year’ award. This summer will see Ms Kelk release her first standalone novel which will focus on the newly single Rachel Summers; a London make-up artist in her twenties.

Rachel Summers lives every area of her life according to a to-do list and so far, she is ticking most things off. She has a job she loves (make-up artist to the stars), the perfect boyfriend, a cosy London flat and a fantastic circle of friends. All that remains on her life to-do list is to get married, have a baby and live happily ever after. Simple. Well, not quite… Suddenly, Rachel’s perfect boyfriend wants to take a break. She’s convinced it’s just cold feet but when the break turns into a split, her best friends Emelie and Matthew step in and come up with the ultimate heartbreak cure – the single girl’s to-do list, the top ten things Rachel must see and do to kick-start her fabulous, new single life. But nothing can prepare her for the adventures that unfold as the to-do list takes them all over town and even abroad, and proves to all three that love is out there if you’re willing to take a chance…

Baby Be Mine by Paige Toon (Pocket Books, 21st July)

To understand what all the fuss is about you’ll need to read, or have read Paige Toon’s second book Johnny Be Good which was published in 2008 and posed the question If your boss was the hottest rock star on the planet, would you mix business with pleasure? The book ended on the most excruciating cliff-hanger as pregnant Meg wondered over the identity of the father of her unborn child. Three long years later and we finally have a sequel – and hopefully some answers! Aside from wanting to know what happened to Meg and rock star Johnny, Paige Toon is one of my favourite chick lit authors and her books are always excellent summer page turners.

‘He’s not mine, is he?’ That’s the question I fear the most. You see, I have a secret. My son is not fathered by my boyfriend, but by one of the most famous people that ever lived. And he doesn’t even know it. One-time celebrity personal assistant to wild boy of rock Johnny Jefferson, Meg Stiles is now settled and living in the south of France with her doting boyfriend Christian and their son Phoenix. But they’re living a lie – a lie that will turn their lives upside down and inside out – because Meg’s son doesn’t look like Christian, he looks like his rock star father, and sooner or later, the world is going to realise…

It Started With A Kiss by Miranda Dickinson (Avon, 10th November)

Miranda’s recent novel Welcome To My World was one of my favourite books of last year and her debut, Fairytale of New York was a worldwide hit and Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller so I’m eagerly anticipating her next book. If you like your chick lit heart-warming and romantic then Miranda is the author for you. She excels at cosy winter reads and It Started With a Kiss looks set to continue the trend as Romily, a singer in a wedding band, searches for a handsome stranger who rescued her in her moment of need and then disappeared into the crowd.

So that’s my top five – I’d love to hear your views on my choices and get your recommendations for other books to look out for in the comments section below.

In my mailbox (20)

23 Jan

In My Mailbox is hosted by the Story Siren to highlight books bought, borrowed or received each week and is a great way to find lots of new ideas for books to read.

Just two for me this week – one for review and one that I just had to buy!

For Review

Marrying Out of Money by Nicky Schmidt
Kindle Edition out now; Paperback release 30th March 2011
Publisher: Prospera

‘Marrying out of Money’ is the story of Lou Hubbard, modern-day heiress to a billion pound fortune, who is determined not to marry aristocratic playboy Harry Stomeworth in an arranged marriage. In order to extricate herself, she decides to become as undesirable as possible, but things go awry when she finds herself falling for a man who repulses her.

Bought

Bloody Valentine (A Blue Bloods Novella) by Melissa de la Cruz

I love this series so couldn’t wait to add this one to my collection and I’ve just started reading it.

They’re Young, Fabulous and Fanged…Vampires have powers beyond human comprehension: strength that defies logic, speed that cannot be captured on film, the ability to shapeshift and more. But all too often the only thing that eludes their grasp is love. So when two young lovers are kept a part by a centuries old decree, they’ll be forced to learn that, in matters of the heart, not even immortals have total control…or do they?

So that was my mailbox this week. Happy reading everyone!

World Book Night

22 Jan

I picked up a leaflet in my local library yesterday about World Book Night and it reminded me to apply to be a giver. So I’ve just visited the website and submitted my application.

For those who aren’t aware, World Book Night will take place on 5th March 2011. The aim is to give away a million books across Britain and Ireland. The books will be handed out by 20,000 givers – members of the public like you and me. All you have to do to have a chance of becoming a giver is fill in the short application form on the World Book Night website: www.worldbooknight.org

There are 25 books to choose from to give away and each giver will get 48 copies to hand out. The selection of titles is fantastic and includes both adult and young adult books. I’ve chosen one of my favourite books – Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell so keep your fingers crossed for me!

The original closing date for entries was 4th January but this has now been extended and you have until 9am on 24th January to apply so get those entries in quick! Let me know if you decide to apply and are successful – it’s a wonderful opportunity for book lovers to share their love!

February book release preview – my wish list

19 Jan

Lots of exciting new releases in February so here are my six hot picks for the month …

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sarra Manning
Released
3rd February
Published by Corgi
Website
: http://sarramanning.blogspot.com/

I love reinvention stories and this sounds fab!

Sweet, bookish Neve Slater always plays by the rules. And the number one rule is that good-natured fat girls like her don’t get guys like gorgeous, handsome William, heir to Neve’s heart since university. But William’s been in LA for three years, and Neve’s been slimming down and re-inventing herself so that when he returns, he’ll fall head over heels in love with the new, improved her.

So she’s not that interested in other men. Until her sister Celia points out that if Neve wants William to think she’s an experienced love-goddess and not the fumbling, awkward girl he left behind, then she’d better get some, well, experience.

What Neve needs is someone to show her the ropes, someone like Celia’s colleague Max. Wicked, shallow, sexy Max. And since he’s such a man-slut, and so not Neve’s type, she certainly won’t fall for him. Because William is the man for her… right?

The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell
Released
3rd February
Published by Headline
Website
:http://www.maggieofarrell.com

I’m a huge fan of Maggie’s books and the paperback of her latest novel is released next month. This book won the 2010 Costa Novel award and now in the running for Book of the Year which is announced on 25th January. Good luck Maggie!

When the bohemian, sophisticated Innes Kent turns up by chance on her doorstep, Lexie Sinclair realises she cannot wait any longer for her life to begin, and leaves for London.  There, at the heart of the 1950s Soho art scene, she carves out a new life for herself, with Innes at her side.  In the present day, Elina and Ted are reeling from the difficult birth of their first child.  Elina, a painter, struggles to reconcile the demands of motherhood with sense of herself as an artist, and Ted is disturbed by memories of his own childhood, memories that don’t tally with his parents’ version of events. As Ted begins to search for answers, so an extraordinary portrait of two women is revealed, separated by fifty years, but connected in ways that neither could ever have expected.

The Girls’ Guide to Homemaking by Amy Bratley
Released
4th February
Published by Pan Macmillan
Website
:http://www.panmacmillan.com

This is Amy’s debut novel so I’m really looking forward to discovering a new writer.

‘What makes you happy? What do you want from life?’

I ran through a list of things that I supposed would make me sound cool. And then I told the truth.

‘A home,’ I said. ‘A home with some people in it I love.’

On a mission to have the perfect home, with tweeting bluebirds and a white picket fence, Juliet hits a major stumbling block – reality. On the first night with her boyfriend in their new flat, Juliet discovers that Simon has been sleeping with her best friend. After growing up in a dysfunctional family with secrets that haunt her, there’s no way she is prepared to build her nest on a broken branch.

Heartbroken and seeking an escape from her troubles, Juliet retreats into the comforting world of her grandmother’s 1950s homemaking manuals, discovering tips like ‘put a ribbon in your hair to brighten your husband’s day’ and though Juliet knows that won’t get her anywhere, she discovers that craft and homemaking are back in style. Taking control of her life, Juliet is determined to get her home with a heart. But who will win hers?

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Released
8th February
Published by Headline
Website
:http://www.panmacmillan.com

So excited about this one – I think it’s going to be huge! Look out for a review very soon and check out the brilliant website which launched today.

An epic, richly inventive, historically sweeping, magical romance.

When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it’s an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft. Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she’s kept at bay for years; one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires. Sensing the significance of Diana’s discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire genticist. Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels…

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
Released
17th February
Published by Hodder
Website
:http://www.sarahaddisonallen.com/

I’m so excited that this is finally coming out in paperback. Addison Allen’s The Sugar Queen is one of my favourite books ever so very much looking forward to reading this one.

Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew, she realises that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life. Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbour, Julia Winterson, bakes hope in the form of cakes, offering them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth – but also in the hope of rekindling a love she fears might be lost forever. Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily’s backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.

Crystal Balls by Amanda Brobyn
Released
26th February
Published by Poolbeg Press

Website:http://amandabrobyn.com

I love the cover of this one and I’ll admit to having a fascination with tarot cards and fortune telling too! This sounds like a fun and funny debut!

Crystal Balls is a comedy about a girl who becomes addicted to psychic & clairvoyant readings. She, subconsciously, begins to act out those bogus readings which of course take her further away from the truth and from where she is supposed to be, naturally causing chaos and distraction in her life.


Book Review – Beautiful Creatures by Lulu Taylor

17 Jan

Everyone has heard of the Beaufort twins, but few have ever seen them…

On the eve of their 21st birthday, at one of the most lavish parties society has ever seen, Octavia and Flora Beaufort are launched into the world.

For Octavia, it is one of the most thrilling nights of her life, an evening glittering with the promise of her future. But Flora shrinks from the limelight, fearful of what lies beyond the walls of her over-protective aunt’s house.

As Octavia is swept into a whirlwind of lavish spending and fashionable society, she grasps eagerly at whatever she wants: clothes, houses, men… even a department store. But Flora yearns for security – and when she is rescued from harm by a kind stranger, she seems to have found the love and protection she craves. Prey to all kinds of dangers, the twins soon realise that without each other, they run the risk of losing everything. But is it already too late…?

Beautiful Creatures is like a modern day Fairytale, telling the story of beautiful twin sisters hidden away from society by their wicked aunt until the day they are twenty-one. Opening with a lavish ‘Marie-Antoinette’ themed birthday party where Octavia and Flora Beaufort are introduced to the social elite, Beautiful Creatures is glamorous and dramatic and despite being over six hundred pages is a real page turner and a surprisingly quick read.

As the clock strikes midnight on their birthday, the twins are pushed into the spotlight and their reactions are telling. Octavia shines and thoroughly enjoys the attention; Flora is petrified and tries to shy away from the limelight. And so the scene is set for the rest of the book. The twins come into their inheritance (a seriously huge amount of money) and are free to leave the clutches of their aunt and uncle. They immediately head to London where Octavia persuades Flora to buy a state of the art Chelsea townhouse. While Octavia hits the town in true ‘It Girl’ style, Flora finds it difficult to leave the house and shies away from confrontation of any kind.

Readers of the gossip columns will recognise the hangouts and antics of Octavia’s friends as she falls in with a crowd of girls who are famous for being famous and although the characters are all fictional, reading this book felt like I’d been given an insider view of a very exclusive world. Flora on the other hand keeps to herself and avoids society as much as possible.

Like any fairytale, there are plenty of handsome heroes to tempt Flora and Octavia but also a good helping of wicked villains and both girls have a lot to learn as they meet and fall for powerful men.  This book does need to come with an ‘Adult’ warning; not only are there some seriously sexy scenes, underneath the glitz, some very serious issues are brought to light, including abusive relationships and some readers may find parts of the book hard to stomach.

The book is split into three parts starting in Summer 2008 and moves at a good pace with part two starting two years later as the girls are living apart for the first time. Flora thinks she has found her prince charming and Octavia is leading a jet-set lifestyle, literally mixing business with pleasure as she attends an endless round of parties with her business advisor boyfriend.

I loved the way that Octavia and Flora’s back stories were woven into the plot, particularly the element of mystery surrounding their abandonment by their mother which is not resolved until the end of the book and allowed for a number of twists that I hadn’t predicted. There are also several excellent sub-plots including a running feud between Octavia and Amanda Radcliffe, whose family own a luxury central London department store which Octavia decides she’d like to own.

Lulu Taylor paints a fantastic picture of high society, with six figure shopping sprees, fashion shows, exotic travel and a glamorous and often bitchy crowd of supporting characters, Beautiful Creatures is pure escapism and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have to admit that it’s a while since I read a blockbuster like this so Beautiful Creatures was like a little reading holiday for me and had me gripped from beginning to end.  This is the third book from Lulu Taylor and I’ll definitely be looking to read her others!

5/5

Beautiful Creatures is released on 20th January and I’d like to thank Amelia at Arrow (Random House) for sending me a copy to review.

You can find out more about Lulu Taylor and her books at: http://lulutaylor.co.uk

A version of this review also appears at: www.libripopulus.co.uk

In my mailbox (19)

16 Jan

In My Mailbox is hosted by the Story Siren to highlight books bought, borrowed or received each week and is a great way to find lots of new ideas for books to read.

It’s been a quiet blog week for me this week as I’ve had a nasty little virus and have been sick for most of the week. To cheer me up my husband sent me an Amazon gift voucher (an early birthday present!) so I treated myself to some fab new books for my Kindle. I also received an interesting package through the post this week which was a lovely surprise.

For Review

This is more of a preview than for review but I thought you’d like to see the package that came from Sphere earlier this week. My ‘Cougars Survival Kit’ arrived on Tuesday and certainly made me smile.

The box included a sample of the book and having read the first chapters I’m dying to know what happens next. Cougars will be released on 17th March 2011.

Cougars by Claire Irvin

Caroline Walker has it all. At 42, her immaculate looks and toned body are of a woman half her age. She’s a successful entrepreneur, and juggles her career with domestic bliss: wife of City trading sensation Les Walker, and mother to their teenage daughter Rachel. But when Caroline learns that Les has been having an affair, her perfect world falls apart. Caroline is suddenly single – something she hasn’t been in a very long time. With the help of Maryanne, her outgoing and ex-Hollywood starlet friend, Caroline’s life is transformed into a glamorous social whirl as she discovers her missing twenties. And the young men she should have been dating then, too … But is Caroline ready to put the past behind her? And can true love really strike twice?

Bought – Kindle Books

Saving CeeCee Honeycut by Beth Hoffman

I’ve heard lots of good things about this book recently and I love a good Southern tale so I’m really looking  forward to reading about CeeCee.

Twelve-year-old CeeCee is in trouble. For years she’s been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille— the crown-wearing, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town. Though it’s 1967 and they live in Ohio, Camille believes it’s 1951 and she’s just been crowned the Vidalia Onion Queen of Georgia.

The day CeeCee discovers Camille in the front yard wearing a tattered prom dress and tiara as she blows kisses to passing motorists, she knows her mother has completely flipped. When tragedy strikes, Tootie Caldwell, a previously unknown great-aunt comes to CeeCee’s rescue and whisks her away to Savannah. Within hours of her arrival, CeeCee is catapulted into a perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricities—a world that appears to be run entirely by women.

The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne

I’ve been wanting to read the Little Lady Agency Series (there are three books in all) since I read Hester’s last book, The Finishing Touches.

When sweet, naive Melissa seeks a job with her old Home Economics teacher she is half way through the interview before it dawns on her that Mrs McKinnon isn’t interested in her cookery skills, but is in fact running an escort agency. Melissa panics, but she needs the cash – and what harm can providing lonely men with stimulating conversation over dinner do? More exciting still, she’ll get to wear a disguise…

Enter her alter ego: Honey. As flirty and feminine as a Bond girl, as confident and sexy as Mary Poppins in silk stockings, Honey brings out a side to Melissa she never knew she had. A side that will get her into hot water, (and out of it) and that she’ll never want to lose…

Little Lady Big Apple by Hester Browne

At home, Melissa is a pushover in an Alice band.

But at the Little Lady Agency, she transforms herself into blonde bombshell Honey: a super confident supernanny to hapless men all over London – with a desk diary that’s bursting.

Only now her American boyfriend Jonathan has invited her to New York for a holiday – on the condition that Honey and the blonde wig stay at home. Reluctantly leaving the agency in the hands of her tactless best mate and terrifying sister, Mel flies out…

Before she knows it, she’s agreed to polish the talented but rude rising star Ric Spencer, who just so happens to be an ex, while having to juggle Jonathan, his manipulative ex-wife, a wilful terrier, and escalating crises back in England.

Can Melissa put the manners back into Manhattan? Or is this a challenge only Honey can tackle?

So that’s my mailbox this week. Now I’m off to see what was in yours!

Book Review – A Girl Like You by Gemma Burgess

12 Jan

“I’ve discovered the secret to successful singledom. I’m acting like a man. And it’s working.”

After breaking up with her boyfriend of, well, forever, Abigail Wood must learn how to be single from scratch. Her dating skills are abysmal, and she ricochets from disaster to disaster – until Robert, one of London’s most notorious lotharios, agrees to coach her.

With his advice, she learns to navigate the bastard-infested waters of the bar scene and practices the art of being bulletproof. The new Abigail is cocky, calm, composed…but what happens when she meets her match?

A Girl Like You is the second novel from Gemma Burgess and the first book by her that I’ve read. It’s is a witty, sharp and very funny jaunt through the shark infested dating waters of London.

The book starts with high drama as main character Abigail Wood has a very tearful meltdown in the shower of her hotel suite at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong. Further drama ensues as a nameless male character swoops to the rescue. It soon becomes clear that said male is not the man Abigail wants to have come running in her hour of need, but before we can find out more the prologue ends and chapter one whisks us back six months to a slightly more controlled Abigail preparing to go on her first date.

Just as Gemma no doubt intended, I was left wondering firstly, what (or who) on earth had happened to Abigail to put her in such a state and secondly, who was this mysterious man who has travelled half way round the World to find her even if she didn’t want to see him. He seemed nice enough to me. Being the nosy person that I am I had to know, so I found myself racing through the pages thoroughly caught up in Abigail’s life.

Abigail is nice and likeable. She’s 27 and as she confesses in the first chapter, has spent all of her ‘dating’ life so far in a relationship with a man she met at university. Having shuffled along in a comfortable but ultimately not very exciting relationship for seven years, she finally called it quits and finds herself single and facing her first proper date, slightly later in life than she’d anticipated.

Her first date isn’t great; she talks too much, asks too many questions and drinks too much to clam her nerves. There is a lot in Abigail’s situation that readers will identify with and the story is told entirely from Abigail’s point of view which gives the reader access to all of her thoughts, feelings, observations and self analysis as she keeps up a ‘sex and the city’ style running commentary on her dating adventures.

As Abigail analyses that first disastrous date with flatmate Robert, she realises that she has a dating guru right in front of her. Robert is handsome (of course) and of the ‘leave them before they leave you’ school of dating, firmly attached to his bachelorhood and more than happy with his string of casual relationships. Abigail adopts Robert as her dating mentor and before we know it our protagonist is ‘dating like a man’ and thoroughly enjoying herself as she bar hops her way around London with newfound confidence and Robert as her guide.

Then Abigail meets Dave. Dave is the male equivalent of the new Abigail. It is excruciating to watch Abigail trying to maintain her cool detachment as she falls head over heels for Dave.  With a well written cast of supporting friends and family, Abigail tries her best to follow the rules that she has created for herself but this is chick lit with a kick and Burgess tells it like it is, which is how we find poor Abigail having her shower-based meltdown. Her writing style reminds me of American chick lit authors Candace Bushnell and Lauren Weisberger but with more humour and I think Burgess is a refreshing addition to the British chick lit scene.

Gemma’s take on chick lit is edgy, modern and laugh out loud funny and I’ll definitely be looking to read her first novel, The Dating Detox soon. A Girl Like You has a surprisingly romantic ending with a well illustrated message about how to get by as a single girl or guy in 2011. A a good read to perk up these dark January nights.

4/5

You can find out more about Gemma Burgess and her books at: http://www.gemmaburgess.com/

A version of this review also appears at: http://libripopulus.co.uk/

In my mailbox (18)

9 Jan

In My Mailbox is hosted by the Story Siren to highlight books bought, borrowed or received each week and is a great way to find lots of new ideas for books to read.

I’ve had a bit of a hectic start to the new year so haven’t been able to post a mailbox post since before Christmas.

As you probably already know, I got a Kindle for Christmas so I’ve been busy downloading lots of new books to read (all links go to Amazon summaries):

Kindle Books:

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent

PopCo by Scarlett Thomas

The Infernal Devices 1: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

The Observations by Jane Harris

The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato

I also had some book gift vouchers for Christmas so splurged on the following (Links go to Amazon):

Entangled by Cat Clarke

A Girl Like You by Gemma Burgess

Unsticky by Sarra Manning

My Last Dutchess by Daisy Goodwin

Matched by Ally Condie

Looking forward to seeing what everyone else got – happy reading!

Book Review – 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

7 Jan

Ginny, aged 17, is left 13 little blue envelopes by her free-spirited young Aunt Peg. Little does she know just how much they will change her life…• Inside envelope No 1 is money and instructions to buy a plane ticket.• Inside envelope No 2 are directions to a specific London flat• Inside envelope No 3 a note to Ginny says: Find a starving artist.• And because of envelope No 4 Ginny and a man called Keith go to Scotland together, with somewhat disastrous – though utterly romantic – results.

This book was recommended to me by a friend on Twitter and is the first book by Maureen Johnson that I’ve read. Right from the start, I thought the premise for 13 Little Blue Envelopes was really original. Virginia (Ginny) is sent a package by her eccentric Aunt Peg which includes thirteen envelopes and some instructions. The instructions are that Ginny must get herself a passport, a plane ticket and a backpack and prepare to go on a journey. She isn’t allowed to take any maps, guidebooks or money and must do what the letters say. Ginny does as she is told and finds herself on her way to London where her adventures really begin!

I have to say that I admired Ginny immediately for being up for the challenge set by her aunt. It takes a lot to pack up a bag and jet off under normal circumstances, but with the added complications that you don’t know where you’re going to be staying or who with and are only allowed to contact your family and friends by letter or postcard, I personally would find it challenging!! Ginny rises to the occasion brilliantly and this made me love her straight away.

Maureen Johnson captures the feeling of arriving in a new country and the strangeness even when the language is familiar very well. The descriptions of Ginny’s first forays into London were absolutely spot on and brilliantly written. I also loved the pace of the book and the fact that, as a reader, I was in the same situation as Ginny in not knowing where the story was going to go next. Peg sets Ginny a series of challenges which result in her meeting a wonderfully eclectic cast of characters and visiting a host of European countries. The descriptions of people and places really appealed to my sense of wanderlust.

At it’s heart though this is a book about love, loss and growing up. As Ginny works her way through the envelopes she finds herself in situations that really push her to her limits, and she learns a lot about herself and her wayward aunt. There is a quirky and truly romantic element to the book that I really enjoyed as Ginny meets student Keith and their paths cross in unlikely ways.

As the book reaches the last few envelopes there are a number of twists to the story that I wasn’t expecting and Johnson retains an element of secrecy and suspense right to the end. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it as an excellent read for young adult and adult readers alike. A sequel, The Last Little Blue Envelope will be out in April 2011 and I can’t wait!

5/5

You can find out more about Maureen Johnson and her books at: www.maureenjohnsonbooks.com