When I heard about Mother of the Year by Karen Ross, I wasn’t entirely sure it was my kind of read. I’m not a mother, as I so often mention, and kids...moreWhen I heard about Mother of the Year by Karen Ross, I wasn’t entirely sure it was my kind of read. I’m not a mother, as I so often mention, and kids are the last thing on my mind. But then I saw the synopsis, and the beautiful blue cover with a cupcake on it, and I found myself very intrigued indeed, so when I received a copy of the book I was rather thrilled and couldn’t wait to dive it. It really is such a pretty looking book, and the cupcake even has a sparkler in it that’s all glittery. It’s a book that will most definitely pop on the shelves once it’s released, and the best part about it is it’s a fantastic read to boot.
When I initially heard the book and saw the synopsis, I thought the novel would focus more on Beth, than her daugther JJ. I thought JJ was (quite possibly) just a whiny teenager looking for affection from her mother, who works a lot, but that’s not true at all. Instead, JJ is a perfectly competent 24-year-old, with a steady job, steady boyfriend, and who just struggles with the concept of what her mother Beth does for a living, and sees it that her mother is always taking the mickey with the things she writes in newspapers, and the things she shows on TV. The first line is killer, “I think my mum would prefer a colonic irrigation to hanging out with me,” and that sets the tone of Beth and JJ’s relationship. I could hardly blame JJ, either, because the last thing in the world I would want is my mother airing my failings and other things that should be kept personal to the nation. I would probably hide in a corner, rocking back and forth, or move to another country entirely.
I thought the novel went at quite a pace. JJ was juggling a lot of stuff – her mother, a topic all of itself; her boyfriend Rob’s sudden desire to start a juice business; the fact her roommate Theodora was kicking her out of her room so she could build a sand sculpture; and vying for promotion at work. There is never a dull moment in JJ Jackson’s life, let me tell you, and I lapped it all up. I especially enjoyed reading about her work, at an advertising agency, I thought it was super interesting, to learn about a job I know very little about and which sounds massively rewarding (especially when you’re as clever as JJ). I was actually super disappointed when I reached the end of the book, I felt like I could have kept reading about JJ and her family and friends for another 420 pages, which is no mean feat; it’s not often I say that about a book, but in this case it was very true. JJ felt like a friend, like she was confiding in me and I thought her voice was really, really great.
Mother of the Year also allows us to see into Beth Jackson’s life, as sometimes near the end of chapters it would diver to a third-person perspective to catch up with Beth, and I enjoyed it. I also thought the addition of the newspaper articles was fantastic, allowing us a glimpse into what JJ had to put up with when she was a child, but it also showed how much Beth had put into being a successful, working mother. I was so absorbed in the novel, and I loved the addition of Asbo, a particularly naughty dog who belongs to Rob’s best friend Danny. Dogs in novels are always a winner as far as I’m concerned and all the bad bits Asbo does just endeared him to me even more. I can’t wait to see what Karen does next, she is a fantastic writer, who really got us into the heart and mind of the Jackson family, and JJ is particular was such a lovely, warm character. I would love to see a sequel, I think there’s loads of mileage left there, and I just loved the Jackson family! The narrative was amazing, it even made me LOL a few times, which is always a bonus (and a VERY difficult thing to do in writing, let’s be honest) and Karen is a bright new voice in Chick Lit, and long may she continue writing because this was a fantastic read.(less)
When I got an email from Penguin Australia about three of their new Destiny titles, I was pleasantly surprised to see they were actual Chick Lit title...moreWhen I got an email from Penguin Australia about three of their new Destiny titles, I was pleasantly surprised to see they were actual Chick Lit titles I could review (you have no idea how many emails I get for romances that are more bodice-rippers, books I just don’t read and don’t review showing that people sometimes don’t pay attention to the sites they’re emailing), I happily downloaded all three titles to my Kindle, and had to pick one to start first! I decided to start with Tweethearts because I absolutely love books set around the world of reality TV – reality TV is always fascinating, and when done right can be quite spectacular and offer insights on things you would never suspect.
Right off the bat I would like to say that I really liked Jemima Starler. I admire ANYBODY who is brave enough to go behind her boss’s back and set up a Twitter acount that basically slays her boss with every Tweet. That’s brave, and I liked it. I admire anyone who stands up for themselves and shows people that you can’t go behind someone’s back and try to stab them, as Jemima’s editor attempted to and I was so glad she got her comeuppance. I was so pleased that Jemima and Evie teamed up to get their own back on Georgia, because she was so horrible. I also have to admit that I read this novel because I love novels about celebrities, and Evie is a really sweet accidental celebrity – famous for going out with a footballer, but soon forging her own path, like being the host of new reality show Dance Like No One’s Watching and that’s pretty much what the book is based on, as Evie is hosting the show, Jemima gets a job as the social media girl, and Samson, Jemima’s flatmate, is a contestant.
Tweethearts was a fun, sweet read. Longer than I expected, but I very much enjoyed the glimpse into the reality show world, and I loved that it was set in Australia. Another plus about the book, because I love books set in Australia. I’ve never been, but I want to go, and getting to read a book set there is undoubtedly the next best thing to being there. I enjoyed getting to know Evie, Jemima and Samson. I do wish Jemima and Samson had had a chat about their relationship sooner, sometimes that’s all is needed, and they didn’t do that, until it became embroiled in the show. It would have made their lives so much easier if they’d been a bit more honest with each other earlier, it’s the same old tale! But, I enjoyed Tweethearts for the most part, and I very much enjoyed getting to know the characters.(less)
JoJo Moyes has rather risen up the Chick Lit/Women’s Fiction ranks in the past few years. Her hit novel Me Before You was read by literally everybody...moreJoJo Moyes has rather risen up the Chick Lit/Women’s Fiction ranks in the past few years. Her hit novel Me Before You was read by literally everybody and sold millions of copies and was just stratospheric, let’s be honest. It really launched JoJo as a major writer, and I can actually see why because it was amazing. I’ve only just read it a couple of months ago, but I totally see why all the hype was there for the novel, because it was simply amazing. So I’ve jumped onto JoJo Moyes’ amazing bandwagon and when I heard about her new novel I thought it sounded great, and I couldn’t wait to dive in, and was rather pleased to receive a copy to review (I almost squealed when I got it).
The One Plus One is such a clever, enjoyable novel. I think there’s a real lack of novels set in the real world, with characters who aren’t well-off, who DO struggle day-to-day, and for who life isn’t all happiness and roses, and I really enjoyed getting to know Jess, Tanzie and Nicky. They’re such real, honest characters, and I loved their funny little family. How they weren’t the regulation 2.4 family and I very much admired Jess for taking on Nicky, despite the fact he wasn’t even her child, it takes a special person to do that and I loved how she treated Nicky as if he was her own. I was reading the book and I felt so bad for them – Nicky, being bullied, which is awful, no person should ever have to go through that; Tanzie, this brilliant maths whizz, the smartest kid you will ever come across, and since maths was my thing at school, I totally felt an affinity with her (although she is WAY smarter than me, I could barely understand any of the maths stuff Tanzie was dealing with, with ease, may I add?) and then there’s Jess, working two jobs and just trying to put food on the table for the kids. Her spirit and determination to do the best for herself and her kids was amazing, and I loved her never-give-up attitude.
I love road trip novels, they’re actually my favourite kind of novel, and I like road trip novels with strangers even more! And Ed, who comes into the novel, like a knight on a white horse (or, rather, a man with a functioning car) and helps Jess, Nicky and Tanzie get up to Scotland for Tanzie’s competition that will hopefully see them get a bit of financial help. I loved their road trip, how it was awkward in the beginning and how it just sort of started to make sense the more they were all stuck in the car together, going a sensible 40mph so Tanzie didn’t get car-sick. I was even more excited that Norman, Tanzie’s dog went on the road trip! I love when dogs are included in road trips, and in EVERYTHING basically because my dogs mean the world to me and I’d take them everywhere if I could. I just flew through the novel – I just wanted to know what would happen next, and I couldn’t believe that just when everything was looking up it all went rather pear-shaped, which made me so sad. But there were so many good bits, and it’s probably the most feelgood novel of the year, despite the troubles everyone is in.
The One Plus One is such an amazing novel. It made me so happy to read, and I could barely put it down, I just simply had to keep reading, JoJo is a stunning writer, so good at making you care for her characters, and she always writes such interesting, clever characters. Although it also made me cry. There was rather a moment that I thought I wasn’t going to stop crying, and I have to admit, I was quite relieved when it wasn’t what I thought it was. Let’s call it a hiccup. But, I do rather hate JoJo Moyes for putting me through that! (Although the relief after it was rather nice…) I can’t say enough about this book, it’s warm and witty, and it was just so real. I love novels about down-on-their-luck characters, characters who are proper down-on-their-luck, not just mourning the loss of a husband, or a job. What Jess goes through is something LOADS of people are going through at the moment, and this just highlights the fantastic attitude people like Jess have toward surviving. It’s not a want, it’s a need and I loved The One Plus One so much. Such an incredible cast of characters, so unique and amazing, people you can really root for.(less)
When I spotted The Guestbook by Holly Martin on Netgalley, I had no idea what the book was going to be about. I knew the title, I knew the beautiful c...moreWhen I spotted The Guestbook by Holly Martin on Netgalley, I had no idea what the book was going to be about. I knew the title, I knew the beautiful cover, but I didn’t know how it was written, which meant that when I dived into the novel it was quite the surprise to find it wasn’t written like a normal novel, but is actually entries into a guestbook (perhaps the title should have warned me of what was to come?). But I actually love books written in varying mediums and so I was quite excited to get stuck into The Guestbook and to meet it’s (very) varying characters, along with owner Annie Butterworth (awesome name).
I actually enjoyed The Guestbook way more than I expected! It was a bit like opening up a random page on the Internet and reading everybody’s comments and opinions, but in the best way possible! Let me tell you, that Annie’s cottage, Willow Cottage, sounds like heaven on Earth. I find myself regularly saying this, as I keep reading books in houses/countries I would die to live in, but Willow Cottage definitely tops that list. I loved the sound of the cottage, and I loved that the community of Wells-By-The-Sea would stick their necks out on the line (or keep schtum) about any kinds of goings on. They’re my kind of people!
As for the actual guests at Willow Cottage, they were such a mixed and varied bunch, but I loved hearing from all of them. My favourite (and most memorable) was probably the lady with all the pets. Not regular pets, oh no! She had a goat, a snake, a tarantula (a tarantula which elicited screams every time it escaped and someone found her, no less!). I enjoyed getting to know Annie, Oliver and Sophie, too, they were the constants in the novel, and I was very much on the will-they-won’t-they see-saw of Annie and Oliver. (I totally wanted them to, obvs.) It was such a thoroughly enjoyable novel, with such a unique concept and one that never fails to make me happy. Holly Martin is a wonderful writer, and I enjoyed every page of The Guestbook, it was so sweet and so lovely and such a fantastic idea! I rather call for a sequel!(less)
When I read Nic Tatano’s debut novel last year I thought it was amaaaaazing. Wing Girl even made it into my top 15 reads of 2013 and quite easily make...moreWhen I read Nic Tatano’s debut novel last year I thought it was amaaaaazing. Wing Girl even made it into my top 15 reads of 2013 and quite easily makes it into my favourite books ever. It really was THAT good. It all just clicked for me, so I was obviously very pleased to hear Nic was writing a second novel and I was even happier to receive an early copy of Boss Girl to review, because I expected more of the same from Nic – ballsy heroines, who aren’t afraid to take on men and win, characters you root for and love from page one… and while Boss Girl DID offer all of that, I can’t really say I was sold on the premise of the novel. I thought it was a bit icky, actually.
It says a lot about an author’s writing when I can easily find the premise of a novel icky, but still overall enjoy the book, and this is what happened here. The premise made me feel really grossed out, because I am a girl who likes her novels simple. I like my heroine to meet her hero and for there to be a happy ever after. I do not like a heroine who freely sleeps around with men a) younger than her and b) who her best friends have also slept with. It’s hicky. It’s gross. It made my head explode, if I’m honest, all these women sharing around these men as if they were prime cuts of meat (which they were). I totally understand where Nic was coming from with the plot – after all, it’s what men have done for decades, but it’s the sort of thing where if a man/men does it, it’s OK (well, not OK, but it’s acceptable) and if a woman/women do it, then they’re promiscous and easy. That’s how life is, and that’s how women are seen if they do what Sydney and co do and I just honestly didn’t like it.
I’ll be honest, I would have loved the novel way more if it had less of the bed hopping and more of the initial premise of younger men paired on the news with older women. I just thought it sort of lost its high horse when all the women were sleeping with all the men. But apart from that, it was a fantastic premise and I do love how Nic (A MAN!!!!) gives us strong, independent women who aren’t afraid to go for what they want (and, kudos, Sydney did go for what she wanted…). I loved that the females were all sticking up for themselves, and banding together, I just so wished it had been on something other than men being treated as playthings. I just couldn’t get away from that, I so wanted to adore this novel as much as Wing Girl – and I would have, if I didn’t feel a bit offended on behalf of the men (believe it or not). Some of these men sounded so decent – especially Shawn, and Scott wasn’t so bad, I’ll be honest, there were a great cast of characters and I have to admit I did enjoy the courtroom battle, it was fun to see Sydney and all her friends tearing the opposition to shreds.
There were moments to savour, Sydney is actually a fantastic narrator, and I adored her friends Rica, Jillian, and Neely. They were just as ballsy, just as outspoken as Belinda and co in Wing Girl – we even had some fugeddaboutit’s which are always awesome and I ALWAYS try to say it in a New York accent, even though I am RUBBISH at accents. Nic Tatano is a fantastic writer, it amazes me so much that this man can tap into the head of a woman and write the kind of women characters that make me cheer loudly for, the type that many female Chick Lit authors just can’t seem to grasp. (Gemma Burgess also writes kick-ass female characters if you like kick-ass female characters like I do.) Boss Girl had an interesting premise, that will no doubt be a massive hit with some people, it just doesn’t sit well with my sensibilities. Apart from that, though, I did enjoy it and I love that Nic has used his newsroom background to give us a look into that business, it’s super fascinating. I was rather thrilled to see that Nic will have another new book out this year called It Girl and I will eagerly await it, because he is an amazing writer, and I can’t say that enough. It’s just the premise wasn’t for me.(less)
Amanda Prowse seems to be a new author on the Chick Lit block (although her novels probably err more on the side of women’s fiction than Chick Lit, bu...moreAmanda Prowse seems to be a new author on the Chick Lit block (although her novels probably err more on the side of women’s fiction than Chick Lit, but y’know, it’s all the same, isn’t it, so let’s not get into THAT debtate again). She self-published her novels initially before being picked up by Head Of Zeus in the UK and her novels have since been published by them. I’ve seen her novels out and about, but never actually picked one up so when I was noticed her new novel, A Little Love, I was very intrigued – an older heroine (rare in Chick Lit), about a bakery (I love cakes) and I really adore the cover. It really is a beauty to look at, so simple but so effective and I adore the fact they’ve put the Plum Patisserie logos on the bakery windows, that’s a very nice touch.
A Little Love is a very surprising novel, it had strands to it that I never expected. If I’m telling the truth, I expected a nice tale about a lady who owns a bakery and falls in love during her twilight years. The end, happy ever after. That was not the case at all! There was a lovely little romance cooking up – which definitely put me in mind of two grandparents falling in love, despite neither Pru nor Christopher being grandparents, but the book was about so much more than that. Pru and her sister Milly had to do something pretty terrible to be able to get Plum Patisserie off the ground, something Pru fears will one day come to light, and I have to be honest, I wasn’t all that bothered about what they had done. I don’t mean that carelessly, I cared a lot, I just think you can’t judge someone because of their past. Everyone deserves a chance at happiness, and I appreciated that Pru and Milly did what they had to, to make their dreams come true.
There was also a very sad strand to the book, which I’m loathe to spoil, but which occurs fairly early on. It was entirely unexpected, and it sort of shaped the way the book went forward from that. I was a bit disappointed – not in the incident, but in the fact we lost a really great character who I pretty much loved from the moment she appeared. She was sparkly and vivacious and the book was a bit lost without her, I will admit, but the book moved on from that very well. I really enjoyed getting to know Pru and Milly, and I liked the addition of young Meg, she was rather sweet and I thought it was really lovely of Pru to take her in, knowing how much she and Milly struggled when they were kids, too. It’s that kind of payback that really makes a book so warm and inviting and you always hope that if you’re down on your luck, there will be someone there – even if it’s a kind stranger – to help you out!
A Little Love was a wonderful read. Amanda Prowse is such a talented writer and easily sucks you into her stories. I loved hearing about Plum Patisserie, although it regularly made me feel hungry, and when you don’t have fresh pastries at hand, that can be super depressing. (And I didn’t have!) The characters were so great, and the novel, despite some really hard, sad times, was really sweet and uplifting. I will definitely have to read Amanda’s other novels now, because she’s so great at telling a story, so good at keeping you reading, and knows how to give you characters you will care so much for. It’s a really great, sweet read, and I very much enjoyed it.(less)
As soon as I heard about Hannah Beckerman’s debut novel The Dead Wife’s Handbook I knew this was a book I HAD to read. I knew it had the potential to...moreAs soon as I heard about Hannah Beckerman’s debut novel The Dead Wife’s Handbook I knew this was a book I HAD to read. I knew it had the potential to be a massive debut – and make Hannah Beckerman an instant Chick Lit favourite, and I adore the cover. I also really love novels about the afterlife – Heaven Can Wait by Cally Taylor, Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella, I think books like that offer a unique insight into something you don’t normally come across in Chick Lit, and I love authors unafraid to branch out into a topic some may find strange. I embrace it. I LOVE Chick Lit books with something different, it’s what sets them apart, and I was so excited to see if Hannah’s debut novel would be as amazing as the hype surrounding it and I am very pleased to report that The Dead Wife’s Handbook more than makes up for the hype surrounding it. In fact, if possible, it surpasses the hype, and it was amazing.
Chick Lit fans are always going to be a bit wary of a novel about a dead person. It just isn’t the Chick Lit style, is it? So far, I’ve found them to be amazing reads, personally. I can now add The Dead Wife’s Handbook to my list of favourite ghost-type Chick Lit. The Dead Wife’s Handbook is clever in so many ways. Firstly, it’s divided in to all the parts of grief people generally go through – denial, anger, acceptance, bargaining etc, which is a very clever tactic, and breaks up the book quite nicely. I sort of also liked how the book didn’t go into too much detail about where Rachel was. Instead, the book, quite rightly, took the approach that Rachel was in this place, and every so often a white light would appear/disappear and she would be able to view what was going on in the real world, as opposed to the ‘purgatory’ if you will of where she found herself. It was basically the story of how a dead wife had to see her husband and daughter move their life on, and it was all very real.
I was sort of torn over Rachel. I liked her, don’t get me wrong, but without sounding daft (or perhaps missing the point) she seemed superflous to the story. I understand she was there to watch over Max and Ellie, and I actually loved her narration, but the book would have also worked if she wasn’t there (but with a different title, and er, premise sorta. I’ve just convinced myself the book did need Rachel). But on the other hand, if Rachel hadn’t been part of the book, it wouldn’t have been half as emotional, and boy was it. The worst case of grief I’ve ever had to go through was losing my dog and that was bloody awful, so I can’t imagine what it’s like to not be able to see your kid any more. Or worse, to see your kid and not be able to do anything. Unbearable. It was so hard sometimes to keep reading about all these wonderful memories Rachel had, and to see her answering her loved ones but without them being able to hear, it was just devastating. Plus, that purgatory place sounds HORRIBLE.
My absolute favourite parts of the novel were the interactions between Max and Ellie. What they go through is so awful, so life-changing and I loved how they muddled through together, with family stepping in where necessary (but not overstepping, which was also pretty cool). Dads aren’t always given the best rap in books, but I would happily have Max as my dad, he was amazing. So whenever Rachel was judging him for something, I did cringe, like when it came to his new friend Eve, I felt Max judged his timing of everything quite well – as well as you can, when you’re factoring in how an 8-year-old grief-stricken girl will react and to see Rachel pounding on him was hard, because I felt she was quite judgemental. I could see her points of view as a mother, but on the other hand, she wasn’t the one going through the terrible loss and having to make life worth living again, so how do you judge when it’s OK to move on? It’s like people say, time’s a healer. It did create some friction for me, because I was actually Team Max. As you can see The Dead Wife’s Handbook tied me up in knots. I really, really enjoyed it, but there were definitely some times when I questioned the novel – all good novels should provoke questions, right? It was such a good book, Beckerman is an amazing writer, and this is one of the most beautiful portrayals of grief I will probably ever read. It totally lived up to the hype, and then some.(less)
Hester Brown has quickly become a firm favourite of mine, since I read her novel The Runaway Princess a year or so ago. I’d not read any of Hester’s p...moreHester Brown has quickly become a firm favourite of mine, since I read her novel The Runaway Princess a year or so ago. I’d not read any of Hester’s previous novels, thinking they were a bit posh for me but The Runaway Princess had sounded so intriguing, and so interesting, and it was SUCH an amazing read. I simply fell in love! So I very quickly got myself some more of Hester’s books, starting with The Vintage Girl (also published as Swept Off Her Feet). I was a little bit more hesitant about reading this book as it’s about antiques, not something that really interests me. Whenever I think antiques, I think David Dickinson and his tango-orange tan. Not a pleasant sight, right? But I decided to read it anyway, because I usually find that the subjects I know little or nothing about, or have no interest in, are usually the most interesting books, because I’m actually learning something as I read!
As I said, The Vintage Girl is about antiques. Evie Nicholson confesses on the very first page that she’s in love with anything old, including a tatty teddy-bear with a missing eye, which tells you all you need to know about Evie! (Although, to be fair, I probably would have bought the one-eyed teddy, because you just can’t leave a one-eyed teddy bear, can you? It would be positively cruel.) Evie loves anything and everything old and it doesn’t matter what it is, much to her boss Max’s consternation. She loves old photoframes, depicting happy couples, stuffed animal heads – you name it, Evie will most definitely buy it. So when her sister Alice offers her the chance to go up to Scotland for a few days to appraise a Scottish castle filled with antiques, Evie jumps at the chance. A proper Scottish castle? Yes, please! She fantasises about what it would be like to live in her own castle, and she’s soon knee-deep in the lives of the McAndrew’s desperate to find that one piece that will help them save the castle.
I actually loved diving into The Vintage Girl. I knew I would, despite my misgivings about antiques. I’m daft that way; it’s the topics that I think I have no interest in that always get me in the end. Plus Evie is such a fascinating, lovely character, so enthused by all these items that you can’t help but feel her enthusiasm rubbing off on you. I’m not about to go and start antiqueing, but I appreciate the business a little bit more, and I can see why old things fascinate Evie because, to be fair, they do have such awesome stories to tell and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the McAndrew’s ancestor Violet. She was an amazing character! The main draw for me came in the form of the McAndrews’ son Robert. I knew as soon as he appeared that he was going to be important to the story and I liked him immediately. If I’m being honest, I wanted to go and live in his little cottage (whether he was there or not is another matter, the cottage sounded heavenly).
The one bit of the novel I was really concerned about was the Scottish dancing – reeling. I’ve never heard of it, and initially it sounded so overly complicated that I feared it would never make sense but I actually liked learning about that, too. I’m not much of a dancer, but it’s something I would one day like to see in action because if done right it sounds as if it’s quite the spectacle! Hester Browne has written another brilliant novel, her storytelling style is so easy-going, so good and I will be forever thankful that I read The Runaway Princess because Hester has now become one of my must-read authors, and I am so looking forward to her next book which is out later this year. The Vintage Girl was so great, filled with some wonderful, unforgettable characters, some fascinating stories, and a fantastic-sounding ball (who knew they still had balls? I want to go to one!). Evie is such a down-to-Earth likeable character and I loved getting to know her!(less)