This book is about a whole fantasy world based on Jane Austen's novels! And there's an obsession with Colin Firth as Mr Darcy! I wanted to enjoy this...moreThis book is about a whole fantasy world based on Jane Austen's novels! And there's an obsession with Colin Firth as Mr Darcy! I wanted to enjoy this novel. I really, really did.
I don't see why being in love with Firth's portrayal of Mr Darcy is something to be so embarassed about that you'd hide your DVDs in your plant pot? I show mine off with Pride (and get just a little Prejudiced if people tell me they don't like the mini series).
A lot of this book hinges on how Jane is hopelessly in love with Mr Darcy. When her great aunt dies, rather than leaving Jane money, she leaves her a trip to "Austenland" - an estate in Britain, separate from the technologically advanced society beyond its grounds, where Jane Austen's stories are played out by the paying clientele and the actors paid to bring their Austen dreams to life.
Jane's supposed to be expunging Darcy from her mind, so that when she goes back to reality she will be able to move on with her life. The way to do this is, of course, to live out Pride and Prejudice in Austenland. So she gets her version of Mr Darcy, complete with snub, and a character that is vaguely relatable to Wickham.
Each chapter opens with a short story about each of Jane's past boyfriends - some of them funny, some strained, some leaving you feeling sad for poor Jane.
Even though it wasn't anything spectacular and there were several scenes that left me feeling frustrated, by the time I'd finished the book the overall feeling was satisfaction.
Austenland is a long way from perfect, but it's not bad either. Just not really what I was expecting.(less)
I came up against some problems when getting into this book. The first and foremost was how utterly incapable I was of relating to the protagonist. She’s very materialistic, to say the least. Personally I have absolutely no interest in expensive clothes brands so reading about a character that is focused on such things is not always easy. She also felt very shallow, especially when at the very beginning her boyfriend is giving a speech and she’s thinking at him to hurry up and finish so they can go home and have sex. Maybe it’s just that I’m coming from a very different humour background, but that just didn’t work for me and it placed a wedge between me and the character.
When she loses her boyfriend and her job in one day, Leslee decides to move back to her hometown. Once there she mopes around on her best friend’s sofa for a couple of months before she’s forced to start pulling herself together. The story only actually focuses on her obsession with getting her romantic life back on track. There is no interest in her professional life. In fact, it gets completely ignored until towards the end she goes for one job and gets it immediately with no problems. There wasn’t enough balance here for me, especially as she admits that she only has $400 in her account when she arrives (and somehow manages to pay for endless taxi rides). I needed to see more of her worrying about her finances and her professional standing, and not just her attempts to secure herself a new man.
Her dating experiment was an original idea. I didn’t really feel that the basic idea was really worked on. The idea was to go on a series of dates, employing different techniques on each to try to find out what a man wants from a woman. Well, she did go on a series of dates and most of them led to some laugh out loud moments, but it didn’t feel like she was actually trying to do things differently each time. It was more like she reacted on instinct a lot of the time.
She roped in a friend to help her with this. Unfortunately I felt that this showed just how shallow she was. The only time she really showed any interest in this friend, Annie, was when she needed something from her to do with this BACHELORETTE project. As soon as she dropped the experiment, she dropped the friend as well and, at the end, admits to not having seen her in months. I did rather like Annie, though. She was more grounded in a group of other characters that were just weird at times (even if that weirdness did lead to laughs at times).
I also felt that Eric was not really given enough attention. I didn’t feel the relationship between them growing. There were some interactions between them and then a couple of hints at his interest in her, her potential interest in him… and then she got drunk and things get physical. This would have been a great opportunity to work on growing Eric’s character but instead he disappears and Leslee starts going on a few dates with someone else. I wanted to get to know Eric better. From the synopsis, I expected there to be more focus on him and her fighting her feelings for him.
The book wasn’t in anyway bad. It was a well-imagined plot that’s not really anything new in the chick lit genre but entertaining in its own right. I simply felt that the book focused on too much on certain things that were not as necessary and didn’t give enough time of day to other things that needed to be developed more.(less)
As of the very beginning things were not going to be easy for me with this book. Sod’s law and all that. For some reason the PDF wouldn’t covert to .mobi so I was stuck reading the book in PDF form, which is hard on my eyes. I ended up reading it on the Kindle as the boyfriend was using the tablet and I know from experience that reading from the PC screen no longer works for me. So I just had my nose smushed up against the screen and went from there!
The plot is fairly simple: Callie’s mother leaves a confession in a letter that, upon her death, was sent to the father she’d hidden Callie from all her life. Said father is Warren Sherbrooke, who happens to be running for president. The revelation comes as a shock to all parties involved but Warren is determined to meet this long-lost daughter and bring her into the family fold. His campaign manager, wife and step son, Dylan, aren’t convinced that she really is his daughter and not just some bawd with her own agenda trying to scam them / hurt Warren’s chances of winning the election. So Dylan offers to be the one to go and meet her in order to take her measure.
As soon as he sees her he can’t deny the family resemblance and knows that she is who the letter claims she is. Warren’s campaign manager is still wary though and Dylan agrees to keep an eye on her in order to make sure that she doesn’t do anything potentially disastrous, such as taking her story to the media.
Spending time together soon leads to initial attraction transforming into deep feelings taking root and it’s not long before their relationship turns physical. It can’t be that easy, though, and an overhead conversation leads to Callie feeling shattered and betrayed, and Dylan having to overcome old fears in order to ensure future happiness.
The vast majority of the book focuses on Callie and Dylan and what they get up to together. There are various activities and landmarks described, which the author certainly has a knack for, but I did occasionally find my interest waning as things took too long to get to the point. In fact, it isn’t until the 75% mark that the spanner actually gets thrown in the works. Although I did enjoy reading about their outings together and the author did a fantastic job of bringing Massachusetts to life for me, I would have preferred to see more interaction between Callie and the other Sherwoodes instead. She doesn’t get to spend very much time with her father at all, despite it being his desire to get to know her that pushes the narrative. The ending also felt a little rushed in comparison with how drawn out a lot of the rest of it was.
There are some minor continuation errors, such as Callie claims she’s only ever left Massachusetts once to go to Florida, but later in the book she talks about a school trip to New York. Now, admittedly I’m not all that familiar with US geographical layout, but I’m 99.99% sure that New York is not in Massachusetts, although I suppose it could be considered close enough that it’s not all that exciting (like how my home in France is close enough to Switzerland that a trip across the Swiss border is not all that out of the ordinary).
Generally speaking, I prefer my stories to have a little bit more conflict in them, but as an easy-read romance, this book succeeded in alleviating me of the headache my day had caused!(less)
I’m going to be honest here: I had a hard time even getting going with this story.
First of all, even as...moreFull review (and an excerpt) can be found here.
I’m going to be honest here: I had a hard time even getting going with this story.
First of all, even as it starts the two characters go against what the synopsis led me to expect of them, specifically Molly. For a woman abused in her youth, with trust issues and no time of day for men, it just didn’t feel natural to me when she immediately welcomed Carter’s physical advances. They were just little things, like laying his hand on her thigh, but it all felt as though it moved far, far too fast. I know it was supposed to be a whirlwind romance but the result of this is that I was not invested in the relationship between the two characters. I missed out on build up of feelings and consequently I wasn’t as interested in the outcome of their relationship as I would have preferred to be. I could have done with an additional 50 pages or so of Molly learning to be more open to the possibilities that Carter is offering her.
Second, the book is written in the third person but in a POV that has access to the characters’ innermost thoughts rather than just observing actions. The POV jumps between characters from one paragraph to the next with nothing to show that such a jump has taken place. Towards the beginning of the book I found it hard to keep up with the seemingly random jumps.
Once I’d actually got into the story, things started to improve for me. But as I eased into the style, I become more aware of the fact that there’s actually very little plot to it at all. Everything focuses on the relationship, but there’s never any doubt about the outcome there so you’re more reading to see their relationship than to watch them overcome the obstacles in their way. This said, there are an awful lot of romance books out there where you see this sort of thing. It’s just that I usually prefer mine with a more substantial plot around the romance itself.
Admittedly there is an attempt at an external threat when Molly starts receiving threatening letters. Unfortunately, this isn’t really explored to the full potential that it presented. All things considered, it resolved far too quickly and easily; the perpetrator’s reasoning isn’t really gone into beyond scratching the surface enough to establish a reason; and other characters’ involvement – however unwilling – isn’t even touched on.
This is balanced by Molly slowly learning to stand on her own two feet and make her own decisions outside of the supportive network that her adoptive family had set up for her when she came to them. She had to let go of the past in order to fully embrace her future. I vastly enjoyed this part of the story! Seeing her stand up to people who claim to have her best interests at heart (but are not listening to her when she tells them that this is what she wants) inspired a feel-good feeling that lasted throughout the rest of the novel.
Carter was possibly a little too on the perfect side, but again this is something you see a lot so I’m willing to overlook it.(less)
The decision to read this book was one of those spur of the moment things. It’s a very different sort of story to what I normally read but of course reading is all about expanding your horizons. I’m not the sort of person who really keeps to a limited reading sphere, so I figured I’d take a chance on the book!
When Elizabeth falls pregnant, Christian gives her an ultimatum: him or their unborn child. She chooses the child and walks out of his life. Six long years later, a chance meeting between Christian and a young girl draws him into the life that he’d turned his back on, the life that includes fatherhood. A small taste of what he had up until that moment never known is enough to make him crave it and he muscles his way into his daughter’s life, despite knowing that Elizabeth is less than comfortable with this change.
The story mostly focuses on the excursions that the three of them make as a family, showing the reader just how Christian is growing as a person in order to embrace the new role that he has taken on. He’s actually a very interesting character and I enjoyed observing his evolution from spoilt rich kid to doting father, even if I did often find the interactions between Christian and Lizzy (his daughter, not to be confused with Elizabeth, the mother). I suppose this reflects on my relationship with my parents. It’s a healthy relationship, but we tend to show our love through actions rather than endless direct proclamations.
Elizabeth was another matter entirely. She started off as a woman willing to make a difficult choice and ready to face the consequences of it. Unfortunately, while Christian evolved, I felt that Elizabeth devolved. Christian hurt her and she never got over the pain of his betrayal. I get it. Considering his actions, her reticence around him was taken too far and just ended up as a lot of repetition about how he’ll just hurt her again so she should keep her distance – but it’s so hard! I lose all respect for her when she held Christian accountable for her actions and made him responsible for them not having sex. When she then takes out all her fears on her daughter while claiming to be protecting her, she became a weak-willed character that was a shadow of the strong woman she’d been; a character I could not stand.
I understand why this is in the story but it just didn’t work for me personally. What’s more, once Elizabeth lost my respect, she failed to regain it before the story ended so I parted ways with her feeling dissatisfied with her character, and because of this ultimately with the story as a whole.
My copy of the book also had some formatting issues and I’d come across sentences like:
“He could wanted, but it would never change what he discarded us and he had no right in our likes. apologize all he did. He had”
Sometimes I could reconstruct these broken sentences but others I had no idea where the fragments were supposed to fit in. I couldn’t say for sure whether I missed anything important because of this.(less)
First things first in this review: this one is a very personal review. I suppose that they’re always personal, but in th...moreFull review can be found here.
First things first in this review: this one is a very personal review. I suppose that they’re always personal, but in this case it goes one step further. This book worked very well for me today in my current mood. I’ve been craving a good romance for a week or so now but the ones that I’ve read have not managed to tick all my boxes. This one came so very close to having ticked them all that it really tickled my fancy!
I almost never read books like this. If I feel like romance then I tend to read either historical or paranormal romance. It is very rare that I’ll read contemporary romance and most of the time I don’t really like it. I have to admit that this particular contemporary romance is fairly ‘safe’ – it follows a set list of plot devices that make it very cliché. Had I read this on another day when I was in another, less forgiving, mood, the story probably wouldn’t have worked so well for me.
As it is, happy circumstances mean that I was able to thoroughly enjoy the story of this in-office romance between two very damaged individuals. Of course, they are both the standard damaged characters: he, Cole, was betrayed by family he trusted so now he doesn’t let anyone get close; she, Meg, was dragged around the country in her youth by a mother who couldn’t keep her legs together. Each is attracted to the other but determined to fight the attraction: he because he doesn’t want to become any more dependent on her than he already is; she because she doesn’t want people to think that she slept her way to a better position within the company.
Add to this a business owner who’s not quite ready to let go of his baby, his wife who wants him to herself for the rest of their time together, a business rival who wants what Cole has and is willing to use nefarious means to get it, and you’ve got your base pieces for this story. It really doesn’t get much more complicated than that.
It’s a good, quick read for any who fancies a light corporate romance.(less)
I have to be honest as I start this review: I think that this is one of the most difficult reviews that I have ever writ...moreFull review can be found here.
I have to be honest as I start this review: I think that this is one of the most difficult reviews that I have ever written. Even in my own head I am very torn about this book. On the one hand, I did like the story and the message that it conveys, but on the other hand it was lacking something for me. But what, exactly, was it lacking? Well, I’m finding that I can’t quite put my finger on that. I’m going to try to figure it out for myself as I write this.
So what’s the book about? The synopsis covers that extensively. Emma, having always lived in her mother’s shadow as she strives for her approval, finally sets out to discover life and what she wants from it. So she goes to live with her aunt Daisy in the small town of Riverview and there she embarks on a voyage of self-discovery. She soon meets Nicholas and her voyage of self-discovery becomes the adventure of falling in love for the first time. But her summer happiness is doomed when Nicholas is diagnosed with cancer and Emma has to find new pillars of strength inside herself in order to be the rock that Nicholas needs to help him weather this storm.
I much preferred the second half of the story, but why? I think that the answer lies in the fact that in the first half of Blue Sky Days there is no threat in any form. There’s nothing hanging over their heads as the reader knows that the cancer problem is coming, but the characters don’t. It’s not even really the story of Emma and Nicholas falling in love as that happens right off the bat. It’s more a chronicle of what they did together that summer. There are two what I’m going to term “speeds”. Most of the time things were set on “play” and the reader would experience events as Emma lived them. Other times it was like things were on “fast forward” as Emma gave the lowdown on what they’d been doing until we’re caught up with her present again.
Because there was no threat to what was going on, to their happiness, I felt a bit like a voyeur standing at a window and looking in on these people, which in turn left me ill at ease. More than this, though, the physical interactions between the characters left me uncomfortable. Now, I consider myself to be a fairly touchy-feely person and I’m all about hugs and kisses (much to my boyfriend’s ever-lasting frustration!), but these characters took touchy-feely to a whole new level. They were constantly kissing each other on the cheek or forehead or hugging even when it was the first time they’d met. This may be a culture issue, I don’t know. Again, I just felt bordering on voyeuristic by the intimacy of it all.
I didn’t really feel the growing relationships between the characters at this point either. Daisy and Emma already had a close relationship before the events of the book even started; Maggie and Vince, Nicholas’s friends, didn’t really get much on-page time and the reader just had to take Emma’s word for it when she mentioned that they’d become friends during one of the fast forward passages; and I felt that the scenes between Emma and Nicholas were more a way of chronicling the events of the summer than really showing the evolution of their feelings as the feelings just seemed to be there as of the get go.
It was interesting to watch Emma come to find her own two feet with the help of these other characters but I found that my discomfort during this half of the story was often hard to overlook and the fact that for 50% of the book there was nothing to threaten their happiness meant that I felt that they had nothing to lose. Consequently, it was hard to stay interested at times.
The second half of the book really picked up. I know that some readers were reduced to tears when reading this half of the book as Nicholas has to fight leukaemia. Personally, I didn’t cry but I suspect that this stems from my difficulties connecting with the characters in the first half of the book.
Funnily enough this part of the story reflects events that took place in my boyfriend’s family just before I was drawn into the fold. We’re talking almost the exact same trials and tribulations as Emma and Nicholas and the same mentality on coming out the other side. It’s very true that such an experience leaves you with a very different outlook on life. There were a good number of quotes in this part of the book that really impacted me. The most important of these was something that Daisy says to Emma when Emma’s feeling close to breaking point as things go from bad to worse. "You're going to give him all you have, just like you've been doing, and when you don't think you've got anything left to give you're going to dig deeper and somehow find more strength..." I loved this quote. It meant so much to me. I wish I knew how to add quotes to GoodReads so I could add that one to my favourites, alas I don’t.
This was a very poignant insight into the horror that people – friends and family of cancer sufferers – go through every day. I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt, though my experience was diagnosed as terminal so there was never a point when raised hopes were dashed as they are in the book. I think the most striking scene for me was when Emma climbed into her car and just broke down, she felt so powerless and that translated really well.
In fact, the author’s ability to portray these feelings (as several of the characters end up feeling like ships without anchors) was really admirable. She’s got great talent for bringing such emotions to life for the reader. Had I connected with the characters better, I’m sure that I too would have been reduced to a blubbering mess.
Emma’s dad also makes his appearance in the second half after having been more or less absent for the first half of things. He’s supposedly breaking free from the chains that shackle him to his selfish, unfeeling wife but most of this goes on off-page so the reader doesn’t really get to observe his evolution. I would have liked to have seen more or it. As it was it felt like it was a little too much in the way of tying things up with that bow of perfection. It didn’t help that I found the mother’s character very hard to believe. I just feel that had she really been jealous that her only child chose to spend her time with her aunt instead of her mother, the mother would have gone to lengths to get her back rather than just keep pushing her farther and farther away at each point.
So I find that I’m torn about this book. I think really this is in part my own fault as the reader for not connecting very well with the book. When I look at it from a distance, I’m aware that this book is worth at least 4 stars, but it just didn’t work that well for me. I enjoyed it for the most part but I wasn’t invested in it.
The message, however, is perfect. May we all strive to make every day a blue sky day.(less)
***Warning: some spoilers concerning the relationship.***
The thing that hit me the most with this story is that througho...moreFull review can be found here.
***Warning: some spoilers concerning the relationship.***
The thing that hit me the most with this story is that throughout it all, Joe is such a hypocrite! He really rubbed me the wrong way. It’s established within the first few chapters that he has women in all the foreign cities he regularly visits and that he enjoys no-strings-attached sex with each of them. Fair enough. It is then established that he is attracted to Tess, does not really act on it then goes abroad to one of his broads. Again, fair enough. Then he starts sleeping with Tess and when he next goes abroad, he goes straight to his f*** buddy (‘scuse my French.) Not cool. Not only this, but he keeps it from Tess and then has the nerve to get all high and might when she keeps a secret from him. He really wasn’t a male character after my own heart and with lines like: “His head was full of Tess but his face is full of Nathalie”, I kept hoping that Tess would wake up, smell the coffee, dump this two-timing twat and find someone who recognises that she has a good heart and deserves to be more than just ‘sex at home’ as opposed to the various women who make up ‘sex abroad’.
What’s more, whenever they fight, Tess is always the one who ends up apologising profusely even when she’s not the one who was in the wrong. The dynamics of their relationship just didn’t work for me and in a romance that’s never good. The balance was all wrong and Joe’s revelations, when they finally come, don’t get addressed properly and he never has to atone for his sins while atone is all Tess ever seems to do!
What I did like:
- Wolf: A big lummox of a dog, you can never go wrong with that! Plus, I liked his characterisation.
- Em: very cute and a bit too well-behaved for a baby. Often I found the tags that accompanied her actions would leave me smiling. She might have been too quiet for a toddler (in my experience) but she made for a very cute non-speaking character.
- Seb: I suspect that I transferred my like to him when I decided that I really couldn’t bring myself to like Joe. I just wish he’d had a bigger role.
- The girl chat: now this was a relationship where the dynamics really worked for me, though I think it would have been better to have Tamsin and Lisa as two very different personalities rather than Lisa just basically being Tamsin’s northern, and present, clone. Despite this, I enjoyed the scenes where Tess and Lisa were letting their girly sides run wild.
- Mary, the home, and Em’s stardom there: these amounted to very cute scenes often reminiscent of a sad reality of the forgotten elderly that is all too present in our society.
- The feeling of solitude: this practically oozed from the pages when Tess was yearning for the company of someone who can actually talk.
What I didn’t like:
- Joe: for the reasons previously mentioned.
- The bridge comparisons: I get why they’re there but they’d just go on for far too long and I’d find myself zoning out.
- The descriptions of the town: again, they weren’t that frequent but when they did appear I felt like I was being whacked over the head with the big, long descriptions. I would have preferred them to have been more interspersed in the narration.
- The ending: the climax came at least 50 pages before the end and everything tacked on after that was essentially to ensure that the reader fully grasped that this is how it’s going to be from now on! Eat it up! Really, it was unnecessary and just prolonged the book. With careful editing I’m sure this thing could have been at least 100 pages shorter, if not 150.
However, I do have to give credit where credit is due and admit that despite my reservations, I did find myself drawn back to Secrets each time I put it down.(less)