I never really got into Downton Abbey until the latest series, but now I am an absolutely huge fan. I'm not sure why it took me so long to get into it...moreI never really got into Downton Abbey until the latest series, but now I am an absolutely huge fan. I'm not sure why it took me so long to get into it, but thankfully this book has been released and so now I can read up on what I've missed!
When The Chronicles of Downton Abbey arrived, like any Downton fan, I was so excited to have a copy in my hands! After just a quick flick through, I already knew that I loved this book. I couldn't wait to have a better look at it. This is the 'official companion' to all three seasons and gives us an in-depth look at the main characters who inhabit the Downton estate. This book is not a story, but a 'chronicle' of fictional characters.
There are a lot of different characters explored in this book, from both upstairs in the lavish house and downstairs in the servants' quarters. The character description goes into great depth, it seems that nothing has been left out and through learning about one character, we also get to learn about others and of the general happenings of the estate. I'm sure that even if you haven't missed an episode, there is a whole lot more to learn about the much loved characters, yet it doesn't give too much away if you haven't seen the whole series yet. There are a lot of interesting historical facts added in to this, as expected, which adds even more realism to the Downton story. The characters' factual history and emotions are both explored well.
Alongside all of the fascinating information, this book is presented beautifully. The interesting facts are illustrated with images of on-set props and gorgeous photographs from the television series - to simply look at the pictures in this is a real treat. You could easily revisit any section of this book again and again without getting bored.
As you can probably tell, I really enjoyed this book! If you know anyone who likes Downton Abbey, do buy them this for Christmas - it truly is a perfect gift for any fan. If you are interested in this period of history, this may also be for you, or even if you just want to see what all the fuss is about - I doubt you will be disappointed! (less)
Despite her huge popularity, I hadn't gotten around to picking up a book by Melissa Hill until this Christmas. Though the Charm Bracelet is the first...more
Despite her huge popularity, I hadn't gotten around to picking up a book by Melissa Hill until this Christmas. Though the Charm Bracelet is the first book that I have read by her, I am sure it won't be the last - it was everything that I was expecting in the most positive way.
The Charm Bracelet immediately had me sold as it based around Christmas time - I love Christmas and prefer my reads to be as seasonal as possible, so I had to give this one a go. Of course, this book also has such a fun and intriguing premise - our main character, Holly, works in a vintage clothing store and finds a charm bracelet, which someone has mistakenly sent inside a jacket pocket, to the store. Holly has a charm bracelet herself and knows how important and sentimental they can be to the owner, so she sets out to find who it belongs to.
Alongside the story of Holly, we are introduced to another main character called Greg, who is still finding himself - he has left his steady job in order to pursue his dreams, which causes some relationship problems and in turn, his whole lifestyle gets shaken up. Initially, Greg's story seems very separate from Holly's, but as the story progresses, both story lines become interlinked.
I really enjoyed learning about both Holly and Greg as well as about the owner of the bracelet. I really don't want to spoil it for anyone, so I won't go into detail, but the story behind the owner was one of the most special parts of the book for me - it was very touching. Holly works through each charm on the bracelet and tries to find out the history behind it. For anyone who has ever owned a charm bracelet, you will find yourself reminiscing.
The characters were all well written and well thought out - each had a good history which was particularly 'solid' and contributed a lot to the plot of the story which moved at a good pace and was so easy to read continuously. If you're into chick-lit, Christmas and easy, indulgent reads, this is certainly a book I would recommend. I look forward to reading more by Melissa Hill in the future.(less)
Dawn French is a person that almost everyone knows and a person who a lot of people love, simply for her ability to make you laugh. I've not read anyt...moreDawn French is a person that almost everyone knows and a person who a lot of people love, simply for her ability to make you laugh. I've not read anything that has been written by her before, but I have wanted to. When I read the blurb for Oh Dear Silvia, I immediately picked it up and started reading.
I love the idea behind this book - The whole book takes place in Coma Suite 5, where Silvia, a friend, lover and mother lies in a coma. The story is told through several people - her ex-husband (Ed), her sister (Jo), her daughter (Cassie), her 'lover' (Cat), her housekeeper (Tia) and her nurse (Winnie). There isn't really a progressive plot as such, but this is more of a collection of memories, wishes and thoughts have about Silvia and how she has changed each narrator's life. I find books like this very intriguing, so I was interested in seeing what each person had to say.
Though there are quite a few narrators, they were all very distinctive and even if it didn't have their names at the beginning of each chapter, you'd know who they were. I was very impressed with the authenticity of each character, as they were all so very different, though you could still sense that some of the characters were connected (Ed and his daughter). I was also impressed with the depth of each character - the character building through the chats to Silvia in the suite was very well done. We get to see many different sides to the characters as they go through various emotional stages. Interaction between the conscious characters was also fantastic, particularly towards the end. I also enjoyed the use of dialect.
As expected, there were some hilarious comedy moments from French (I particularly liked the scene with the 'healing' animals - I was laughing out loud!), which balanced out the more serious backbone of the story. Though this is written by a comedienne, it does have quite a lot of serious issues brought up which added sincerity and seriousness to the writing, which I appreciated.
To explain my rating of this book, although there was a lot of elements of this book which I enjoyed, it did take me a while to get into it. At first I was very unsure about the book. There were parts that held my attention and some parts I struggled with. At the beginning, I didn't enjoy the writing, particularly the way most of the words were underlined for emphasis. I got used to it, then different dialects were brought in which, again, made me unsure. I did find Winnie's Jamaican dialect to be charming, though I was unsure about Tia. Tia is foreign and her children taught her to use lots of swearing and incorrect words when talking - sure, it was funny at the start, but I found it to be tiresome after a while and didn't like it. Our most serious character in the book is probably Ed, who I did enjoy reading about, but sometimes, in contrast with the other characters, felt a little dull.
Overall, I was impressed with Oh Dear Silvia, and though I was unsure of it at first, I was glad that I stayed with it as it improved from the midpoint onwards. I think that this book will appeal to a lot of readers, and I would certainly be willing to read more fictional novels by Dawn French.(less)
I had only read one book written by Jane Green prior to this one, but it didn't stop me being very excited to pick this one up! I really enjoyed Green...moreI had only read one book written by Jane Green prior to this one, but it didn't stop me being very excited to pick this one up! I really enjoyed Green's fun and relaxed style of writing in Jemima J, and was even more impressed with her latest release, The Holiday. I was also impressed with the other two short stories, The Second Wife of Reilly by Jennifer Coburn and Mistletoe and Holly by Liz Ireland.
I am not usually completely taken by short stories, I prefer the depth of a longer novel, but I am happy to say that I enjoyed this book a lot. Admittedly, I enjoyed Holiday and Mistletoe and Holly substantially more than The Second Wife of Reilly, but it was always a pleasure to pick up this book for some light festive reading. This is a very unchallenging book and with it's very tame content, suitable for both young adults and adults alike.
In Holiday, our main characters are Sarah and Eddie, a couple who used to be blissfully in love, but unfortunately are struggling - both seem to have stopped caring for themselves as much as they used to, and Sarah feels as though she's become a one-parent family. When Eddie is offered a job away from home, the couple decide on a temporary break so that they can assess both their relationship and themselves. I liked the authenticity of this story - it seemed the most realistic of the three and had a good amount of substance. The relationship was really well explored and I also loved the extra element that the children added to the book. This was a really warming, festive start to the book and I couldn't wait to see what the next story brought!
The Second Wife of Reilly was the second short story in the book. In this story, we are introduced to Sarah, wife to Reilly, a nice, trustworthy man - the only problem is that she's worried that Prudence, his ex-wife might try to get back with him. Sarah, along with a friend, decides to try and find a partner for Prudence by pretending to be her on the internet. To be honest, the story was very farfetched and utterly unrealistic, yet it still managed to be readable - I found whole thing silly, yet humorous. This isn't a story that you'll enjoy if you're seriously analysing or criticising it, but as an unchallenging work of fiction, it's decent.
The final story in the book was Mistletoe and Holly. Holly and her childhood friend, Isaac, are heading home for Christmas with one difference this year - Holly is taking her new boyfriend, Jason, to meet her family. Unfortunately, Jason doesn't turn out to be as perfect as he first seems. This story is very predictable, but it is also very, very sweet which definitely outweighs the predictability! Though this story was a little more uneven, or not as solid, as Holiday, I did find this the most enjoyable story of the three. It was probably the most 'Christmassy' feeling of the three too, which meant it was a lovely ending to the book.
I would recommend this book to those who like festive reads and to anyone who likes chick-lit. It's not a perfectly written book, but it is perfectly enjoyable! I would certainly like to read more books by Jane Green in the future and I'm also interested in checking out more of Liz Ireland's work after this book. (less)
This is the second Christmas themed book I've read by Debbie Macomber, again featuring the Shirley, Goodness and Mercy, three Christmas angels who are...moreThis is the second Christmas themed book I've read by Debbie Macomber, again featuring the Shirley, Goodness and Mercy, three Christmas angels who are also prayer ambassadors, aiming to help those on earth who take the moment to make a prayer, or need a miracle. This time, the angels have a young apprentice angel to guide...
Once again, this is a book that is typical of Macomber. It's typical comfort reading material - the type of book that you could snuggle up with and read contentedly all night. It is marketed as a Christmas themed book, but it is more than suitable to read at other times of the year - it doesn't really feel like a seasonal book. The book starts with Gabriel making his first blunder, making two strangers bump into each other on New Year's Eve. The angels watch as things unfold between the two strangers, adding even more trouble into the mix throughout. The angels added some humour and a fun to the book, but I still found the angels to be a bit childish and so a bit of a disappointment to read.
Lucie and Aren are the two people who meet on New Year's Eve and, initially, everything seems great - this chance meeting could be perfect. However, it turns out that Aren is an anonymous food critic and Lucie is a chef at one of the restaurants that he critiques. As their meeting wasn't to God's plan, of course their friendship couldn't run smoothly... thanks to the angels who once again do something mistakenly, things only get worse. We follow both Lucie and Aren through their ups and downs which are very well written. I like how Macomber really tries to get into the mind and emotions of her characters. Both characters are likeable and realistic in their thoughts and feelings. Honestly, the pace of the book was a little too quick for me - some things seemed a little glossed over and I think that the book could have benefited from some more length.
As this book is written by Macomber, it is predictable and you should expect a happy ending for everyone, however that isn't necessarily a bad thing. This is another book from Macomber that won't disappoint her fans. If you're looking for a relaxing, romance book then this would be a good quick read, whether it's Christmas or not! (less)
Once Upon a Christmas is the second book that I’ve read by Sarah Morgan, but I know it certainly won’t be the last! Last year, I read Angels in the Sn...moreOnce Upon a Christmas is the second book that I’ve read by Sarah Morgan, but I know it certainly won’t be the last! Last year, I read Angels in the Snow and really enjoyed it, so when I heard about her newest book, Once Upon a Christmas, I jumped at the chance of reviewing it and I am so happy to say that it didn’t disappoint
This book is separated into two interlinking stories, one telling the story of Bryony and Jack, the other of Helen, Bryony’s best friend and Oliver, Bryony’s sister. Though they are two separate stories, thankfully neither of them lack in depth. I did prefer Bryony’s story slightly more than that of Helen and Oliver, but both stories were really enjoyable. Though the stories were rather predictable, they were lovely to just sit back, relax and read - this really is a perfect winter book! There are lots of Christmassy references in this book, so it does really immerse you into the atmosphere and setting - however, it wouldn’t put me off reading it at other times of the year.
I really liked meeting all of the characters that we were introduced to as they all had vibrant personalities - even the secondary characters felt very real. The way that the characters interacted with each other was very lifelike and so the book felt realistic. The chemistry between Bryony and Jack was fantastic to read about - I really got drawn into their relationship and willed them on. Jack’s relationship with Bryony’s daughter was touching and I loved the family dynamic. The chemistry between Helen and Oliver was also well written, but for me, it did feel a little sudden or rushed, nevertheless, I grew to love them both as a couple. I thought that their was just the right amount of romance in this book. I thought that for the most part, the story moved on well and I enjoyed the anticipation of the next move. The romance wasn’t too sickly sweet for me, but passionate and loving. For those who enjoy more steamy scenes, there are a couple in the book that are sure to satisfy, without being too over the top.
I must admit that I was left a little disappointed about the lack of exploration of Bryony and Helen’s friendship - though Helen is Bryony’s best friend, we never really got to see them interact and if we did, I think that may have been beneficial for the connection of the two stories.
This really was a fantastic Christmas read which I’d highly recommend to anyone who is wanting an easy, festive read. It’s always nice to read something light and heartwarming at this time of year, and with lovable characters alongside a beautiful wintery setting, Once Upon a Christmas will not disappoint! (less)
Okay, I'll openly admit it, I was very wary of reading this book, simply because it was written by someone from Glee and I really don't like Glee. How...moreOkay, I'll openly admit it, I was very wary of reading this book, simply because it was written by someone from Glee and I really don't like Glee. However, I wanted a quick read so I picked this one up and gave it a go. I'll be honest and say that I'm glad I gave this book a chance - though it was pretty much what I expected, I wasn't disappointed.
Struck By Lightning is the journal of Carson Phillips, a high school senior who is determined to get into Northwestern and become a top editor. Carson is also a bit of an outcast at his school, meaning it's difficult for him to get any support in writing a literary magazine which is essential for his university application. As no one will willingly help him, Carson turns to blackmail in order to get other members of the school to write for his magazine.
Carson is a character who feels very real. Though he wasn't particularly nice at the start, I did understand where he was coming from a lot of the time and I think that a lot of people will be able to connect with him in some way - he did tend to say things that a lot of us probably secretly think to ourselves at some point. I don't know whether I liked or loathed Carson, my opinion upon him changed a lot throughout, though I am very glad that he did seem to grow as a person as he realised some of his naiveté in regards to other people. Initially, Carson was pretty self absorbed, intolerant and not very understanding of others - he just saw what people were like on the surface. The whole story is about Carson discovering more about himself and the others around him and it succeeds in doing that.
The rest of the characters in the story were complete clichés, but it actually didn't matter one bit - in fact, it just added more to the whole feeling of the book. Though the book is generally quite humorous and easy to read, it does touch on some serious issues, such as alcohol abuse and dementia. I think that Colfer did a good job of interweaving these storylines in, not allowing them to completely bog down the book, but to add a some integrity to the book. I was quite impressed with how Colfer made the story seem realistic, inserting all sorts of elements from teenage life.
Overall, this was a fun enough book and for anyone who wants a fun, quick read, this is for you - it's amusing, authentic and easy to read. If you're a fan of Chris Colfer, I'm pretty sure this would make the book even better! (less)
I will be honest and say that, at first look, I wasn't expecting all that much from this book. At first look, Hold On is a very thin book and it has t...moreI will be honest and say that, at first look, I wasn't expecting all that much from this book. At first look, Hold On is a very thin book and it has the accolade of being a 'Blue Peter Book Award Winner' on the front cover - I thought that this would mean it would be perhaps a little juvenile for me. However, as soon as I read the blurb, I knew that this was a book that I'd have to give a go!
My favourite books are those that feature real emotion and problems and this book certainly fits that description. Hold On tells the story of John, a boy who has committed suicide. We are told the story through John's friend, Annie, who finds John's diary, describing the last weeks of his life. Through this way of narrative, we got to learn a lot about both characters. I enjoyed the way this was written - it was a little different, it was simple and it worked extremely well. I was a little worried that it might have become a little confusing but it didn't at all, it was very easy to follow despite the complexity of the story.
I enjoyed reading about Annie and John equally. I thought that both characters were interesting and very well developed, despite the shortness of the book. Though the story is a mere 176 pages, the whole story managed to have such fantastic depth, something that I didn't expect but was really impressed with. It was also interesting to see the impact of bullying on two different people - the victim (John) and the friend of the victim (Annie). Gibbons did a wonderful job of portraying a difficult situation very realistically. Though Annie may have acted a little controversially to the bullies after John's death, I thought it was realistic and effective. It was also interesting to see how other people (teachers, friends and family members) were coming to terms with John's death too.
This is a book that certainly surprised me as it was much, much better than I thought a short book could be. This novel is dealt with a serious situation well and I'd imagine could be a very influential book. This one is definitely not a light hearted read, but it is an important one which is emotional and packs a punch. I would certainly not hesitate to pick up another book by Gibbons who has truly impressed me. Highly recommended! (less)
Though I am a massive fan of the Morganville Vampires series, I have never read anything else by Rachel Caine. When I heard that Devil's Bargain was g...moreThough I am a massive fan of the Morganville Vampires series, I have never read anything else by Rachel Caine. When I heard that Devil's Bargain was going to be re-released here in the UK, I thought it was definitely time to try some of her other work and I was very excited to do so.
From the blurb, Devil's Bargain appears to be a book that has a very strong supernatural/paranormal element to it. However, when I began reading the book, it wasn't quite what I expected. The story did flow well as it was, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I could have - this is probably because I was expecting something else, something more. I am only used to reading paranormal books that are aimed towards young adults, so perhaps this was the main difference for me - the writing in this book is probably more suited to adults. This isn't a bad thing at all - just not something I'm used to for this genre and something that I will have to get used to.
The thing that mostly bothered me about this book was that it felt certainly more like a thriller rather than a supernatural book, despite the description. The story starts when we meet our main character, an ex-cop, Jazz in a bar where she is approached by a man, James Borden, and offered a job of a lifetime. Jazz is naturally suspicious and so contacts Lucia Garza, her potential business partner. They meet up, learn about each other, discuss the business and although still slightly suspicious, decide to accept the offer. There is a lot of mystery about who Jazz and Lucia are actually working for and why, but towards the end we learn that there is a connection with The Cross Society and a psychic convicted murderer. The psychic element of the book only comes in around the last half of the story and I personally would've liked it if we had got to learn more about it. I hope, and expect, that this will be further developed along the series. The story is very eventful and something is always happening. However, despite all of the action, I wasn't completely compelled by the book - it wasn't something that I was eager to keep picking up.
The characters in Devil's Bargain are a positive point of this book. Both female lead characters definitely have kick-ass attitudes. I really liked Jazz's confidence and her determination. Though Lucia definitely had a different personality, she was the perfect business partner for Jazz and they interacted extremely well- the strength in this book, for me, was certainly the character interaction. I thought Manny, Jazz's friend was probably the most intriguing character and I would love to learn more about him. There was romance in this book, but to be honest it was a little too predictable for me and I'm glad that it wasn't the main focus.
Overall, whilst Devil's Bargain was a decently written book, I didn't feel as though it was anything exceptional. I did have high expectations for this book, so perhaps that was why I was a little let down! The thing that disappointed me most about this book was that there wasn't enough supernatural substance for me - however, if I was aware of that before reading, then I'd probably have enjoyed it more. The writing style flowed well, the story was never slow - something was always happening and for me, the characters were certainly the best part of the book. Recommended for thriller and paranormal fans who want an easy, action packed read!(less)