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the unfinished symphony of you and me – lucy robinson

July 11, 2014 1 comment

The Unfinished Symphony Of You And Me

I received a free review copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Sally loved opera from a very young age – when her friends were all dancing around to the latest pop sensation, she was being enchanted by arias. And Sally has a fantastic voice, but since a heart-breaking bout of nerves as a child, she hasn’t had the confidence to sing in public.

In fact, the only place that Sally feels safe singing is in the warm, close dark of her wardrobe.

She very quickly accepted that she would never be prima donna, but turned her skills to something new, and ended up becoming a key member of the costume department at London’s Royal Opera House – very nearly a dream come true.

Even better, her beloved cousin (brought up as a sister since her aunt died when they were both very young) is also working there as a ballerina.

Life couldn’t be better as they embark on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure to New York. But love and life are unpredictable and the trip doesn’t go quite to plan.

Can Sally get on with the next stage of her life? Can she move on?

I have never read a Lucy Robinson book before, and I never get very excited by chick lit – although I have to say, I do read or listen to it occasionally as ‘filler’ when I’m feeling particularly tired. However, I really loved this – who would have thought that chick-lit and opera could mix?

Sally isn’t your normal skinny-minnie chick-lit heroine – she’s big and bold, clever, witty, self-deprecating and you want her to be your new best friend. Her raw pain in places broke my heart.

And Julian – the ‘perfect’ ex-boyfriend. I want Julian to be MY ex-boyfriend! He’s wonderful, quirky – a complete anti-hero.

And there is a fantastic secondary cast of characters, able to be even more flamboyant because of the setting. The wonderful Jan Borsos, one of Sally’s fellow students, has been written so well that I can’t believe he doesn’t exist. Jan Borsos MUST exist. Jan Borsos who everyone refers to with his whole name as anything less would be disrespectful.

Yes, it’s generally a chick-lit, but there are darker issues dealt with, and with a well-considered beautifully light touch. Lucy Robinson manages to create characters that you feel yourself searching for on the streets like old friends.

Oh yes, and she can get away with the sentence “How dare he wank on about spiritual connections after what he’d done to me?”

#respect

The Unfinished Symphony Of You & Me by Lucy Robinson will be published on 19th July 2014.

what alice forgot – liane moriarty

What Alice Forgot

I’ve had a bit of a dry reading spell lately as I’ve been so busy and tired. So I decided to look on my Wish List and just buy the first book that sounded interesting, but wouldn’t take too much brain power – just to see if I could re-ignite my reading passion.

I chose this, and hit the jackpot.

Alice Love couldn’t be happier. She is 29, madly in love with her husband Nick, and they’ve found the perfect house to buy for their new family. She’s 12 weeks pregnant with their first child, and everything about her life feels warm and amazing. It’s 1998 and they’re looking forward to the dawn of a new millennium.

We join Alice as she comes round, being bundled into an ambulance after a massive head injury. She’s concerned about the baby, and confused as to why she is in a gym. When she’s taken to hospital, everything gets more and more strange and confusing, until she suddenly finds out that it is in fact 2008 – and she’s just lost 10 years of her memory.

She is apparently now a constantly busy ‘supermum’ to 3 kids (who she has never met), and on the verge of divorce with her beloved Nick. She’s also not as close to her family – and her sister seems to resent her. How could this have happened? What could change in 10 years to make her life have veered so far off the route she felt like she was on just 10 minutes ago?

I have to admit, I haven’t read many Australian books – not through any conscious choice, I obviously just don’t really get to hear much about them.

Yes, this was chick-lit but it was extremely thought-provoking chick-lit. The character of Alice comes across very strongly – but it’s 28 year old Alice whose voice we hear, and the torment of her literally waking up to find that her madly-in-love-husband hasn’t just moved out, but seems to positively hate her is heart-wrenching.

There are chapters that intersperse Alice’s main narrative, to give additional overviews – her sister Elisabeth writes down her inner-most thoughts and feelings, filling in much of the decade that has passed, and then there are lighter blog entries from Alice’s grandmother, which throws another more mature perspective on events.

As I’ve been with my hubby for just just a few months over 10 years, that thought kept over-whelming me. What if it happened to him, and he woke up and couldn’t stand this older, tired, heavier me? Or if it was me, and I’d have to live through the pain of my nan and uncle dying all over again – and the fact that my gorgeous loving, bright, smart 4 year old daughter has turned into a sullen, spiteful, school-failing teenager. It’s hard enough living through it gradually, but an immediate transition would kill me!

I don’t think that the writing was particularly wonderful, but the characters were drawn very cleverly – with bits of story eked out slowly. Things that at first seemed surprising, were revealed further, little by little – and the pace was really good on this.  The feeling of confusion and devastation came across really well, and I found myself tearing up constantly – although the book wasn’t a downer at all – it had some great light moments.

A really clever premise, well executed – and with a great epilogue. It was a winner for me!

christmas at thornton hall – lynn marie hulsman

December 30, 2013 3 comments

Christmas At Thornton Hall

I received this as a Review Copy for an honest review.

Private chef Juliet Hill is sure that her perfect boyfriend is going to propose to her this Christmas – so the last thing she expects to find in his flat is a slutty thong that is most definitely not hers!

Unable to face being alone over the holiday, she accepts a job at her home-from-home Thornton Hall, the Earl of Gloucester’s ancestral pile, cooking up a storm for the family’s seasonal guests.

However, romance definitely isn’t off the cards as the sparks fly between her and head chef Edward, not to mention with her many-time boss Jasper Roth – and what is she to think when even her toe-rag boyfriend follows her like a lovesick puppy?

But there seems to be more going on wiith the family and tensions boil over when the Earl falls ill.

I’ve never been one for Christmas really, but this year, tried a few things to get myself more into the mood. This included picking out a book that was about Christmas, looked ‘chick lit’ and therefore a very easy read and might make me feel full of a bit of festive cheer. The fact that it was based around food definitely appealed to me too!

Juliet was actually a great character – believable and likeable. Messed up, confused, needy but not a total pushover – you know, like most girls.  The rest of the characters, not quite so believable really – very much secondary.

I also had a bit of a problem with the way that so many past events were referred to. I kept checking that Juliet hadn’t already appeared in another book and that this was a later book in the series.  It really felt that I should have been aware of what had gone on before (imagine dropping in on Becky for the first time in Shopaholic Ties The Knot).

Enough was explained that you did have the whole story eventually, but it was a little disconcerting to be drip fed the past in that way..

In fact even the start of the story felt like it was a continuation of a scene that I’d just missed.

Don’t get me wrong, as frothy easy-to-read chick-lit goes, it hit the spot. It did what it said on the tin (or the cover). However, part of me wonders whether there is a pre-Christmas Juliet story laying around somewhere!

thursdays in the park – hilary boyd

February 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Thursdays In The Park

I picked this up as it was just 20p on Kindle (and still is if you’re interested) and a few people I follow on Goodreads had given it pretty good reviews.

Jeanie is approaching her 60th birthday, and has spent well over half of that time married to George.  Although ‘content’, Jeanie can’t call her marriage a happy one as for almost ten years, George has withdrawn from the marital bed – and has never given a reason for this.

Although confused and hurt by her husband’s rejection, Jeanie carries on with life, throwing herself into her organic food shop and looking after her granddaughter every Thursday.

On one such Thursday, Jeanie bumps into Ray in the park, who is looking after his  grandson – and as the kids play, Jeanie & Ray chat.  And Jeanie feels the first bloom of attraction after so many years.  With George now retired and expecting her to do similar soon, could Ray offer Jeanie the joie de vivre that she has craved for so long?

I have to say that apart from the characters being more than twice the age that they usually are, this felt a pretty standard chick-lit book.  There were no surprises, no shocks (although in other reviews, people have seemed to be horrified that ‘old people’ might still have sexual desires – I plan to still feel horny at 60, so didn’t understand so much disgust with the subject!).

Jeanie & Ray and Jeanie’s best friend were the best written characters, but I felt that the secondary ones felt a little one dimensional.  George and their daughter and her partner seemed to be rather lacking.

I also felt that after 30 years of marriage, Jeanie might have been a little more understanding of her husband – he obviously had a lot of issues that needed to be dealt with, but it seemed quite juvenille in the way that she dealt with them.  It was all based around how difficult he had made her life, and not about what they could do together to make things better.  It didn’t feel in character for someone of her age and there were many times when I wanted to slap her. Hard.

All in all, a decent chick-lit book to pass the time with mild entertainment, but I wouldn’t put it on any ‘must read’ list.

table for seven – whitney gaskell

February 12, 2013 Leave a comment

Table For Seven

“Meat loaf,” Fran said, wondering if anything sounded less hip and cool.  unless meat loaf was so old-fashioned, it had suddenly become trendy again.  Probably not, she decided.  Unless it was made with bison meat and pureed rutabaga.

I was fortunate to get this as an ARC to review.

On New Year’s Eve, Fran & Will Parrish decide to host a dinner party for a few select friends.  The evening is such a success that they agree to hold it monthly, with one of them hosting each month.

The guests are Fran & Will, perfectionist Jaime and her husband Mark, Fran’s friend Audrey who was widowed very young, Mark’s friend Coop who is around temporarily from his exotic job and Fran & Will’s elderly neighbour Leland who can certainly give ‘the young ones’ a run for their money!

The story then plays out over the next year, based around each dinner party.

Is Jaime and Mark’s relationship under threat from the constant attention needed by his daughter from his previous marriage?  Does Fran need more than Mark is able to give her?  Is Audrey ever going to be ready to allow love back into her life?  Is Leland right about bacon? (Yes. He is!)

I really enjoyed this story. It’s refreshing to read about people more my age (you know, 29…ahem) who are still going through all the same stuff with their relationships and hang-ups as those in your ‘average’ chick-lit about people in their early 20’s.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re married, widowed or a parent – life doesn’t stop dead once you hit 35 or 40…it carries on, and so do all the insecurities and self-questioning that goes with it.

There are some great conversation pieces in this – including a long discussion about bacon (which can only ever be a good thing!).  The characters really came to life, and I felt quite attached to them. *I* wanted to be part of the dinner club!  However, there were a few moments that felt a bit ‘obvious’ (mainly based around Mark).

It’s warm and witty without being soppy and sentimental, with some great lines that give an insight into human nature.

Table for Seven will be published on 23rd April 2013.

getting skinny – monique domovitch

January 19, 2013 Leave a comment

Getting Skinny

Nicky Landry has recently opened Skinnys On Queen, the restaurant that she’s always dreamed of owning and running.  She seems to have a gift with food, much to the delight of her best friend (who is also her business partner).

At the official opening party, she believes her life is finally going in the right direction – she is pretty sure that her gorgeous boyfriend Rob is going to pop the question, the only downside in her life being the fact that the ‘perfect dress’ for the evening is rather too snug!

However, everything soon falls apart in a more dramatic fashion than she could possibly believe, leaving Rob lying murdered in her garden, her the prime suspect and Skinnys without customers.

Can she find out what happened to Rob, get herself off the hook and save her dream?

I really enjoyed this – a Canadian chick-lit detective murder mystery!

Nicky is a great character – strong, intelligent, with a great business head, but with the usual weaknesses that girls have.

The style was so easy to read, just like a proper chick-lit book, but also had that edge to it thanks to the murder mystery aspect.  I zoomed through very happily and finished in a couple of days.  Although there were many elements that were pretty obvious, that’s what you WANT from this kind of book, and when you don’t get it, you feel cheated!

I’ve noticed that on Goodreads it is billed as ‘Chef Landry Mystery #1’ so I am assuming (and hoping) that means there will be more written of Nicky.

My only quibble may have been due to this being an Advance Review Copy, and halfway through the book, Rob is referred to as Brad about 4 times over 2 pages.  I assume that this will be corrected in the final version!

Getting Skinny will be published on 4th February 2013 and is just £1.55 on Kindle.

playing on cotton clouds – michela o’brien

August 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Playing On Cotton Clouds

I had read a few great reviews of this book, and it sounded a nice nostalgic foray through the 80s to the present day, wrapped up in a big chick-lit bow.

We meet beautiful, confident Tara in the 80s, with Seth lusting after her.  He eventually wins her over, but his time with her is over all too soon, as she moves on.  He doesn’t move on though – even when Tara’s younger sister Livy finally manages to seduce him after secretly lusting after him for ages.

Seth’s best friend Aidan has always had a way with girls, but does that mean he’ll end up luckier in love than Seth himself?

There’s a great 80s backdrop to the start of the story, which moves on through the 90s and into the 00s as we follow mainly Livy & Seth’s lives.  We see the whole gang mature, grow up, make mistakes, just live.

It was an easy read, with likeable characters.  Occasionally I found the dialogue a little difficult, almost as if English wasn’t the author’s first language.  Most of the time, it was absolutely fine, but on occasion I felt that it was a slightly unnatural.

I did enjoy the book, but felt that there was a kind of enevitability to it all – which I guess we often want from chick-lit.  Perhaps I read it too close to the far more clever and challenging Twenty-Seven, but I just felt that there was some depth missing.

However, it would definitely amke a great beach read 🙂

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