Wednesday 20 February 2013

Book Review:: A Passionate Love Affair With a Total Stranger by Lucy Robinson

Title: A Passionate Love Affair With a Total Stranger
Author: Lucy Robinson
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 434
Review by: Catriona

A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger by Lucy Robinson, author of The Greatest Love Story of All Time, is a hilariously funny and gorgeously romantic story about falling in love when you least expect it. Charley Lambert has put considerable effort into achieving a perfect life. She has The Job. The Wardrobe. And The Flat. Her womanising, junk food-loving housemate Sam lowers the tone a bit but that aside, things are peachy. Then she breaks her leg in three places, watches her unrequited love propose to someone else and - worst of all - is forced to hand over her job to her nasty deputy while she recovers. Workaholic Charley fears that she will soon go mad. Desperate for something to do, she discovers her talent for helping the lovelorn online. And then William arrives in her inbox. Within hours of his first email, her world starts to change. Helpless, she watches herself fall in love with this man and begins to realise that she's not who she thought she was. But will she be brave enough to turn her back on her old life - all for a total stranger? 

Catriona's Review::

"Maybe there will be a way around all this mess, I thought hopefully. After all, I wasn't a bad person. I was just doing my best in what had turned out to be a fairly imperfect life"
I loved this quote from the book and I think that it totally sums up what started out looking like your usual, run of the mill contemporary romance novel, but turns out to be so much more! When I was first introduced to the main character of charley, I could so identify with her control-freak nature, the way she threw herself into her life, and her need for everything to be perfect, but she also made me feel totally on edge, like she was actually about to explode! Those of us with busy lifestyles will all be able to identify with that feeling! When she breaks her leg in three places and has to relax an recuperate for a long period of time, her life begins to change in ways she didn't even expect, and as a reader, we get to identify with a whole other side to her character, and yet it is a side which is equally likeable, and equally easy to recognise in ourselves!

This novel has two main turning points, the first is when charley begins her First Date Aid website. I loved the idea of this website, helping people to write emails to those who have grabbed their attention on Internet dating sites. Again Lucy Robinson captures these dating sites so well, in loved how tried to life some of the exchanges were, and even the fact that there is definitely a need for someone to help you write these emails, they can be seriously hard if you are not getting anything from the other person! Charley begins emailing William and falls in love with this witty, sensitive guy, the only hitch is that he is emailing her client and not charley! However this proves to be a turning point in the novel because this is where the real feelings and emotions in the novel kick up a gear. Not only does this novel deal with affairs of the heart. But it completely examines the challenges that we face in today's modern world. The need to be perfect, the need to be in control of a million different things all at once, and the feeling of wondering why we are on this constant treadmill-is there not an easy way to achieve the things we want out of life?

In her second novel, Robinson yet again provides laugh out loud comedy mixed with love and real-life emotions. I think she really brings all of the characters in the novel to life, and most people will be able to find something within main character charley that they can identify with. When charley is struggling with her own affairs of the heart, the authors describes the emotions that she is going through perfectly... " This cycle-scummy snoggy sugary thoughts followed by sharp crushing disappointment-was killing me. I'd escaped my 'work' prison only to check into an even more merciless jail. It was torment." 

This novel has a fabulous storyline and a host of strong, funny characters, but I think it is the way that this author deals with some of the issues facing us in our lives today, with humour and insight but, most of all, with real emotion, that readers will enjoy the most. If you are expecting this to be a completely fluffy, run of the mill, chick lit story, then think again! Any reader will be able to take so much out of this novel, and I am confident that, like me, you will not be able to put it down!

"We're far better off out of all that relationship bollocks...turns us all into mentals."

Book Review:: The Greatest Love Story of All Time by Lucy Robsinson

Title: The Greatest Love Story of All Time
Author: Lucy Robinson
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 496
Review by: Catriona

It's Fran's thirtieth birthday and things are good . . .

She's bluffed her way into a Very Posh Job and her outlandishly handsome and talented boyfriend Michael is escorting her to the Ritz with a bulge the shape of a ring box in his pocket.

But something has gone wrong. Very wrong. By the end of the evening Fran is howling in bed with a bottle of cheap brandy and one of Michael's old socks.

In her quest to figure out why her life has suddenly gone down the pan, Fran comes up with a failsafe plan: live like a badger, stalk a stranger called Nellie and cancel her beloved Gin Thursdays in favour of drinking gin every night. But then Fran's friends force a very different plan on her and it's nowhere near as fun. How could eight dates possibly make her feel better?

But eventually she agrees. And so begins the greatest love story of all time . . .

Catriona's Review:
One of the reasons I loved this no so much is because it went completely against my expectations. I bought it on audiobook and so I didn't read the blurb, I just went on the title to decide what it might be like. Instead of straightforward romance, this book provides romance, friendship, sex, and extremely clever comedy! Initially I was worried I wasn't going to be able to get into the novel because it starts in the midst of main character Fran and her friends rallying round her in her hour of need. I felt a bit like I had just joined a party here everybody knew each other and I had to catch up quickly, but once I had indeed caught up, got the know the characters, I was instantly involved in this fabulously funny tale.

I really liked the characters in this novel and the relationships between them. I think that main character Fran is a very real representation of what one might feel like if they had been unexpectedly dumped rather than proposed to on their thirtieth birthday. She has to deal with issues of alcoholism, nepotism, and other everyday trials and tribulations of thirty-something women. The fact that the characters and issues contained in this novel were so realistic meant that I found myself, gasping in parts, laughing in others and completely shouting down one of the characters towards the end of the novel when they were blatantly lying to another character!

One of my favourite things about this novel was the Internet dating messages that Fran receives when friend leonine makes her join a dating site. Again these were so true to life, it was hilarious, this author has obviously done her research well into this area and I found myself waiting for the next message that Fran would receive from possible suitors as if it were me on my own dating profile, waiting for the next message! I also really really loved the character of Glaswegian Dave (despite the fact that the narrator of the audiobook could NOT do a Glaswegian accent in any way, shape or form!) he is however, an amazing character, straight to the point, yet lovely and completely out for what is best for Fran! I'm sure any reader will warm to him straight away.

Have thoroughly enjoyed this novel, laughed, grasped and 'awwed' my way through the entire thing, I really look forward to reading Lucy Robinson's next offering. I am sure this will be a sure fire hit with any reader, and certainly a case of 'you shouldn't judge a book by its cover'!

Monday 18 February 2013

Review:: Playing at Love by Ophelia London

Playing at Love by Ophelia London
Publisher: Entangled Publishing {BLISS}
Format: Kindle
Review by: Mary

Show choir teacher Tess Johansson loves three things: music, her job, and sharing that passion with her students. But when a school budget crisis forces funding to be pulled from either the sports or music programs, she finds herself going head to head with Jack, the gorgeous new football coach who broke her heart fifteen years ago.

Jack Marshall wants two things: to be closer to his young daughter and to make his mark as a football coach. Taking the new job, with the promise that he’d have time to build a solid team, gave him both. But now he must win the season with a group of boys who aren't anywhere near ready or he’ll lose everything he’s worked so hard for. Being pitted against Tess, the summer love he never forgot, is like being fourth and long with only seconds on the clock.

On opposing sides of a fierce battle and with everything at stake, Tess and Jack find themselves torn between doing what it takes to win and doing what it takes to be together.

I'm so addicted to these BLISS books. They are just fun. Playing at Love sounded like a cute book and I really like cutesy books. 

really enjoyed the romance. And isn't what this story is really about?! Tess and Jack knew each other way back when. First kiss and all that. 

It's a stand off. Football vs Choir. Whomever wins gets to keep the program at the high school. The other has to go. There were a few details that were shaky with me about this. The principle said he didn't want parents and tax payers throwing money at the problem because that wouldn't actually help. But, I couldn't see why it wouldn't. The problem was that the schools reserve had been wiped out. Why wouldn't money solve the problem?? What exactly was the problem if it wasn't money? Also, why not cut other programs that weren't such an integral part of the community. I wasn't sure the details were really thought through there. It took away from the story for me. I like things to be plausible--realistic. 

Friday 8 February 2013

Book Review:: Cleopatra Ascending by Maureen Lipinski

Cleopatra Ascending by Maureen Lipinski
Publisher: Flux
Pages: 223
Format: Kindle
Review by: Christy

Sweet Sixteen = You're a Queen
Despite living with a shaman, a witch, and a muse for sisters, Rhea Spencer feels like a normal teenager-even if she is the reincarnation of Cleopatra. But all that changes on Rhea's sixteenth birthday, when her visions of the Egyptian queen start unraveling a very different version of history, and Declan, a hot representative of the secret Order of Antony, shows up on the doorstep to keep her from being kidnapped. Together, Rhea and Declan travel to Egypt to stop the Octavians, a dark cabal trying to tap into Rhea's growing powers. The cabal seeks to access the magic deep below the desert sands, a potentially devastating force that only Rhea can protect.

Christy's Review: 
I love books about ancient Egypt and Egyptology, so I was really excited to read this book, simply from the title/cover art. This book had a LOT of potential. A great premise, a captivating cover… but to be honest, I was let down by the story. There was a lot going on in. Tons of subplots, tons of characters and intersecting universes (too many, in my opinion). Overall, I loved the concept and I really liked Rhea’s character. But there were too many unanswered questions and false starts in the plot line, and the climax of the book was far too short. In fact, the entire book was far too short. It reads like a cliff notes version instead of an actual book. All in all, SO much potential. But too much unanswered, too many gaping holes.

I’d love to see more from this author, but ultimately it needs to be better fleshed out, better planned and better described. Give me the juicy details!

Thursday 7 February 2013

Book Review:: All He Ever Dreamed by Shannon Stacey

All He Ever Dreamed by Shannon Stacey
Publisher: Carina
Pages: 194
Format: Kindle
Review by: Mary
Disclosure: received for review

Josh Kowalski is tired of holding down the fort—better known as the Northern Star Lodge—while his siblings are off living their dreams. Now that his oldest brother has returned to Whitford, Maine for good, Josh is free to chase some dreams of his own.

As the daughter of the lodge's longtime housekeeper, Katie Davis grew up alongside the Kowalski kids. Though she's always been "one of the guys", her feelings for Josh are anything but sisterly. And after a hot late-night encounter in the kitchen, it's clear Josh finally sees her as the woman she is.

Katie's been waiting years for Josh to notice her, but now that he has, she's afraid it's too late. Giving her heart to a man who can't wait to leave town is one sure way to have it broken. But Josh keeps coming up with excuses not to leave—could it be that everything he's ever wanted is closer than he could have imagined?

I really love the Kowalski family. This whole series is awesome. It was my first experience with adult contemporary romance. Now, I can't get enough! I've been dying for Josh's story and it is finally here. 

I love best friend stories. It just feels the most real. The most plausible. Or maybe it is just how I think it really should be. Friends first.. It's just a nice sweet story you guys. Easy to read and easy to love. You'll even love the background characters. I just love this If you don't know the Kowalski's yet then you need to head on over to The Northern Star and check in to the lodge for a week and read these books!! Josh is probably my favorite Kowalski so far!  

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Book Review:: The School Gates by Nicola May

The School Gates by Nicola May
Publisher: Nowell Publishing
Pages: 301
Format: Paperback
Review by: Catriona

At 3.10 pm every weekday, parents gather at Featherstone Primary to collect their children. For a special few, the friendships forged at the school gates will see them through lives filled with drama, secrets and sorrows.

When Yummy Mummy Alana reveals the identity of her love-child’s father, she doesn’t expect the consequences to be quite so extreme. Ex Czech au pair Earth Mummy Dana finds happiness in her secret side-line, but really all she longs for is another child. Slummy Mummy Brenda’s wife-beating husband leads her down a path she never thought possible, and Super Mummy Joan has to cope when life deals her a devastating blow. And what of Gay Daddy Gordon? Will he be able to juggle parenthood and cope with his broken heart at the same time?

Four very different mothers. One adorable dad. And the intertwining trials and tribulations that a year at the primary school gates brings.

I was really looking forward to this book, not just because I am a teacher who stands welcoming parents at the school gate every morning! This author hooks the reader into the story straight away, introducing each of the families featured in the book, as if each family is a character in itself, I really enjoyed the opening and felt immersed in what was going on in the story right from the word go. It was fabulous as well because each of the families was a completely different unit, realistically representing each of the families that meet at school gates all over the country every morning, Nicola May did really well to portray this so realistically!

The setting of the school was also completely realistic, based on a real school that made me quite jealous, it sounded so lovely. I'm not normally a massive fan of novels that aren't set in big cities, but I found this setting really easy to picture as the community as a whole was described really well. Once I had been hooked in by the initial character introductions, the novel carried on being a total page turner! The characters' stories were relatable but there were so many twists and turns I found myself gasping out loud! I laughed at parts, especially some of the school commits parts that I could totally recognise, but I shed a few tears too. Parts of every day life are dealt with that might make the reader uncomfortable, but they do happen every day to people like this and so I completely understand them being included in the book! 

This was a fabulous,y easy read that has a bit of everything in, a bit like a really meaty soap opera with a bit of extra feeling behind it. I would love to find out what happens next to some of the characters as they move on, perhaps the teacher featured in the book could have a story of his own to tell? Whether you experience The School Gates on a daily basis or not, I think you will find something to enjoy within the pages of this book!

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Bookish Memories

I have a few books that bring back memories from when I read them. These books ignited my love of reading and will always hold a special place in my heart. I connected on some level with them. I love it when that happens!

Check out some of my bookish memories.

Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery

My older sister was obsessed with these books. I wasn't a reader yet. I liked books, but I hadn't fallen in love with them yet. I was a little jealous. So, I checked out the books from the library {{she wouldn't let me borrow hers} and I read all 8 books in one week. I was hooked. I'll always love Anne for making love reading.

The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

I had seen City of Bones everywhere and people were raving about it but I tried to read it twice and couldn't make it past the first chapter. Then my sister begged me to read it. I just had my son and was waking up every 3 hrs to feed him and couldn't get back to sleep myself. So, one night I grabbed it off my shelf. I devoured it. I downloaded the kindle app on my iPod and grabbed the next 2 books. I read 3 books in 24 hrs. A personal best. I love being so into a book I literally can't do anything else.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyers

I had friends fro years telling me to read Twilight. I didn't even know it was big. Well, it wasn't big when my friends were telling me to read it. So, I finally read it. Loved it. Got obsessed and bought New Moon before entering the cinema on date night with my husband. I read it during the movie. Yeah. I know. I was crazy! by the time my husband woke the next morning I had read New Moon and Eclipse. Now he thinks I'm crazy.

These is My Words by Nancy Turner

My sister tried for months and months to get me to read These is My Words. I trust her recommendations more than anyone's. Period. But, I couldn't find the book {this was before the e-reader}. So, she mailed it to me. All the way to Scotland. It showed up soaked completely through. I put it in the oven to dry. I read it. I loved it. I cried harder than I ever have for fictional characters. I actually had to call my sister when I couldn't stop crying. She answered the phone and I let out a sob. She said, "You finished it didn't you?" I love this book so hard. These character's are my friends. They are my family. I want to crawl inside this book and live in it.

What bookish memories do you have? 

Monday 4 February 2013

Review:: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 313
Format: Paperback
Disclosure: Sent for review from Penguin
Review by: Mary

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at Cancer Kid Support Group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

There is a lot of hype with this book. Serious hype. When Penguin sent this for review this week I thought, "well, here goes nothing!" John and Hank Green are on tour in the UK right now so what a better time to read it when the author is so close?

I've never really been into cancer books.  I read to escape and kids with cancer just breaks my heart. I didn't want it to be so sad that I was just sobbing my eyes out. I was pleasantly surprised. The writing is top notch. Just beautiful. I can see why this books has been on the NYT Best Seller list for so long. The writing alone is gorgeous. It felt real too. The dialogue between mother/daughter, boyfriend/girlfriend and friends just flowed. Getting the dialogue of a teenager can be tricky. It has been awhile since I was a teenager, but this sounded spot on to me. 

Hazel has cancer. It will take her life. The drugs she is on are only prolonging her life for the moment. Yet, she seems well adjusted. Whatever that really means for a cancer patient?? Augustus has been cancer free for 14 months, but he's lost a limb. One is sick, the other is not. Their friendship blooms in the midst of it all. There is a small romance. Of course, how could there not be? 

This story is so much more than a tragedy. It is a cancer book people. Don't tell me you don't know what is going to happen. It is full of these little life lessons. "The world is not a wish granting factory."  Stuff to ponder and some of it makes you want to scream, "WHY?!?!?!? IT ISN'T FAIR!!" Life isn't fair. It isn't. 

What a beautifully written story. It deserves all the praise and glory it is getting. 

Friday 1 February 2013

Book Review:: Everbound by Brodi Ashton

Everbound by Brodi Ashton
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Pages: 368
Review by: Christy

Nikki Beckett could only watch as her boyfriend, Jack, sacrificed himself to save her, taking her place in the Tunnels of the Everneath for eternity — a debt that should’ve been hers. She’s living a borrowed life, and she doesn’t know what to do with the guilt. And every night Jack appears in her dreams, lost and confused and wasting away.

Desperate for answers, Nikki turns to Cole, the immortal bad boy who wants to make her his queen — and the one person least likely to help. But his heart has been touched by everything about Nikki, and he agrees to assist her in the only way he can: by taking her to the Everneath himself.

Nikki and Cole descend into the Everneath, only to discover that their journey will be more difficult than they’d anticipated — and more deadly. But Nikki vows to stop at nothing to save Jack — even if it means making an incredible sacrifice of her own.

In this enthralling sequel to Everneath, Brodi Ashton tests the bonds of destiny and explores the lengths we’ll go to for the ones we love.

Christy's Review:
The second installment of the Everneath series does not disappoint! I loved the first book in this series from the moment I saw it, from the stunning cover to the original premise, it was a fantastic find. Book two is a perfect continuation of the franchise. Nikki’s quest to recover Jack from the tunnels is perfectly paced and intriguing at every turn.

The love triangle (or is it more of a lopsided rectangle? [yes, I know that is mathematically impossible]) is a great blend of discovery and creativty, and compassionate to all parties involved. It is quite clear that the author is just as in love with all of her characters as they seem to be with each other.

Brodi Ashton’s storytelling ability is a breath of fresh air. Her re-imagining of classic myths and tales is never stale or predictable, as many revisionist stories can be.

The ending of this book could not have been more perfect in any way. The stakes have just been raised! Bring on book three!! (And please hurry!)

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