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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview OLIVE by Emma Gannon (@HarperCollinsUK) For fans of Sex and the City and Birdget Jones’s Diary #chicklit

Hi all:

I was intrigued by the topic of this book. After all, I’ve never had children and I’m happy with it, but I realised not that many books touch on that. Well, there were good and bad things about this book, but I don’t think it was for me.

Olive by Emma Gannon

OLIVE by Emma Gannon

The debut novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author, Emma Gannon.

‘Thoughtful, searching, funny, and (most importantly) honest’ Elizabeth Gilbert
‘Brilliantly observed’ Sophie Kinsella
‘It’ll give a voice to countless women’ Marian Keyes
‘Utterly distinctive’ Emma Jane Unsworth

OLIVE is many things.

Independent.
Adrift.
Anxious.
Loyal.
Kind.
She knows her own mind.

And it’s ok that she’s still figuring it all out, navigating her world without a compass. But life comes with expectations, there are choices to be made and – sometimes – stereotypes to fulfil. So when her best friends’ lives branch away towards marriage and motherhood, leaving the path they’ve always followed together, she starts to question her choices – because life according to Olive looks a little bit different.

Moving, memorable and a mirror for anyone at a crossroads, OLIVE has a little bit of all of us. Told with great warmth and nostalgia, this is a modern tale about the obstacle course of adulthood, milestone decisions and the ‘taboo’ about choosing not to have children.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07YCWZ8X6/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07YCWZ8X6/

https://www.amazon.es/dp/B07YCWZ8X6/

Author Emma Gannon

About the author:

Emma Gannon is an author, award-winning podcaster, speaker, and columnist who was named one of Forbes UK’s “30 under 30” in 2018. She is the former social media editor of British Glamour and has been published everywhere from the Times (UK) to Teen Vogue. Her popular interview podcast, Ctrl Alt Delete, where she discusses work, culture, and careers with interesting people from all walks of life, has been nominated for a Webby Award and has been recommended by Wired, Esquire, Elle, Red, Marie Claire, and many more. This is her second book. She lives in London.

https://www.amazon.com/Emma-Gannon/e/B07CNBMD9B

My review:

I thank NetGalley and Harper Collins for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

I’ll try to be brief, as I think my review won’t be very relevant to a lot of people, because I am not a big reader of chick-lit, and I have no previous knowledge of the author, who is better known for her work as a podcaster, writer and editor in magazines, and non-fiction. I am sure both, fans of this genre and of the author, will enjoy the novel.

This is a novel that reminded me of Sex and the City (there are four female friends whose lives have taken different directions but remain close) although set in London and more modest (and they are not as obsessed with shopping), and Bridget Jones’s Diary (yes, the London setting works well, and the many disasters the main character gets involved in also resonate).  We have the four friends, who’ve known each other since they were children and shared an apartment in London while at university. We have a writer, writing for an online magazine (like the author of the book), a lawyer, an artist, and a therapist. The main events of the book take place at a particular point in their lives, and it is told, in the first person, through Olive’s (Olivia but she hates her name and most people call her Ol) point of view. Olive is at a point of crisis, as her long-term relationship (nine years) with Jacob has come to an end. He wanted to have children, and she didn’t, and that became a deal-breaker in the end. Olive is not the only one going through a crisis, and the rest of the women in the book are too. These crises centre on the issue of having or not having children (mostly) and how that can change a woman’s life. One of the friends is about to have a baby; one already has three kids and her relationship is not quite as good as it seems; one is desperately trying to get pregnant (on her second round of IVF), and then there is Olive. The story moves chronologically forward, but there are also interspersed fragments of the past (the year is clearly indicated) that helps give us some background into the friends’ experiences together and how things have changed with time and their altered circumstances.

What I liked about the book: I enjoyed the London references (not long descriptions but rather a feel for the locations and the atmosphere), the British-speech (especially the colloquialisms), the quotes from random women on the issue of being child-free at the end of each chapter, and some of the side characters (Olive’s old neighbour, Olive’s sister, and Colin, a colleague, were among my favourites). I also enjoyed the insights into the workings of an online magazine (it’s evident the author knows what she is writing about), and some of the interactions between the friends (although for me, those set early on in their relationship and the ones where Olive is with only one of her friends worked better than the big events or the four women’s reunions). I also liked the final section of the book, around the last 10%, when Olive seems to finally grow up and gain some true insight into her situation and understanding of others’ circumstances and is no longer so self-absorbed.

What I disliked about the book: I am not sure how much I liked any of the main characters. I didn’t dislike them either, and I sympathised with some of them (especially Isla, although I can’t say I’ve ever felt like her), but they were as expected. Nothing particularly original, distinctive, or diverse about them. Upper to middle middle-class women, with no particular financial difficulties,  fairly successful in their careers, whose only issues seemed to be their preoccupation with having children or not (and their relationship with their partners, but to a far lesser extent) and the fact that their friendship seemed to be deteriorating due to other aspects of their lives. I am not saying this is not important, but… I was intrigued by the main topic, which is something not often discussed, but I am not sure the humorous tone of the book served it well. I felt at times frustrated by how slowly time seemed to move (Olive is set to attend a club meeting for child-free women early on in the novel, and it seems to take forever for that day to arrive), and I realised that it was in part because of the inserts of past episodes, and in part because the central character has not changed at all in her outlook or behaviour through the years. As I have said, this changes towards the end of the book, and I felt that made the book feel more realistic and interesting, but it was a bit too little too late for me.

In sum, this is a light read about a serious topic that is not usually discussed in this genre. I recommend it to lovers of chick-lit, especially if they enjoy a London setting, and to readers who follow the author. Although the final message is a positive one, I think women struggling with the issue of childbearing might find some of the content upsetting, and they should approach it with some caution.

I wonder if I might have enjoyed this book more, or found it more helpful, when I was younger, but we all change.

Thanks to NetGalley and to Harper Collins for the copy of the book, thanks to the writer, and especially thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, keep smiling, and above all, keep safe.

 

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog The Not So Perfect Plan to Save Friendship House: A heartwarming, uplifting comedy about friendship, community and love by Lilly Bartlett (@MicheleGormanUK) #RBTR

Hi all:

Today, although we are already in September, I bring you a light read to recover from the holidays and put you in a good mood if you’re back to work. Another fabulous finding from Rosie Amber’s great group of reviewers.

Book Review The Not So Perfect Plan to Save Frienship House by Lilly Bartlett
The Not So Perfect Plan to Save Friendship House by Lilly Bartlett

The Not So Perfect Plan to Save Friendship House: A heartwarming, uplifting comedy about friendship, community and love by Lilly Bartlett

Meet Phoebe, who’s 28, and Laney, Dot and Maggie, who are 68, 78, and none of your business. Together they’ll prove that age doesn’t matter when it comes to friendship, belonging and an unquenchable zest for life.

A hilarious, uplifting novel about the ties of community, the strength of love and how nobody is truly ordinary.

When Framlingham’s famously all-female senior living home goes co-ed, a war between the sexes is declared.

Stuck in the middle, chef Phoebe Stockton is desperate to help her friends’ plot to keep the community that means so much to them. It’s become her life raft, too. She finds comfort in her beloved career that might finally make her parents proud. But Phoebe’s darling Nick is lining up on the other side of the battle, and their relationship is suffering collateral damage.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. If the home’s owner can’t improve business by moving the men in, he’ll have to evict everyone.

The women aren’t about to let that happen.

https://www.amazon.com/Perfect-Plan-Save-Friendship-House-ebook/dp/B07DS77MF5/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Perfect-Plan-Save-Friendship-House-ebook/dp/B07DS77MF5/

Author Lilly Bartlett (Michele Gorman)
Author Lilly Bartlett (Michele Gorman)

About the author:

Lilly Bartlett’s cosy romcoms are full of laugh out loud moments, quirky characters and guaranteed happily-ever-afters.

Lilly is the pen-name of Sunday Times and USA Today best-selling author, Michele Gorman, who writes best friend-girl power chick lit under her own name.

BE SURE YOU DON’T MISS LILLY’S NEXT BOOK. Copy and paste this link into your browser: http://eepurl.com/dr5RGX and sign up for her newsletter (only around 3 per year) to get the chance to read her books FOR FREE before they are published!

https://www.amazon.com/Lilly-Bartlett/e/B06XH1DZW7/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and thank Rosie Amber (check here if you would like to have your book reviewed) and the author for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

Sometimes it seems as if all the books and movies on offer are centred on young protagonists, and I’m not only talking about Young Adult books. However, recently there has been a move towards including older protagonists and subjects. I enjoyed the two Dutch books about Hendrik Groen, a man in his eighties living in a nursing home, and have watched a few movies, usually choral, about older protagonists (like The Exotic Marigold Hotel). The setting of this novel, in a residential home, and the promise of a comedy made it sound like the perfect choice for me.

The first-person narrator of the story is Phoebe, a chef who had a very successful career in a bistro before disaster struck. She loves her job at the residential home (The Jane Austen Home for Ladies, and, as we discover, the name is meaningful in several ways), but has always felt frustrated because her parents (and her mother, in particular) do not seem to value her job and are dismissive of her career. To make matters worse, her mother (a larger-than-life character) dies suddenly at the beginning of the book, but her internalised voice keeps gnawing on her confidence.  Her best friend, June, is the manager of the home, and she fancies Nick, who is the official physiotherapist but also takes on any odd jobs going on (art therapy, gardening, handyman…). I know some readers don’t like first-person narratives, although Phoebe is unassuming, witty and an excellent friend. (On the minus side, her lack of self-confidence can make her sound paranoid and bitchy, and she keeps mulling over things, unable to decide what to do, trying hard to feel comfortable in her own skin and accept the credit for her achievements). We learn some surprising things about her family life together and by the end of the book, although I don’t have much in common with her character, I felt connected to her and appreciated her role as a narrator. Her friendship with June is convincing and their relationship is one of the strongest points of the book.

I also loved the residents of the home, and in many ways (not only due to my age, I hope), I felt closer to them than to the protagonist. We get to know some of them more than others (Maggie is fabulous and I loved Dot, Laney, Sophie, and yes, even Terence). They all feel real, with their foibles and their endearing traits, and make the book memorable. We follow the intrigues that have to do with the home and the changes that take place there (from a women’s only place to a mixed one) and learn about its inhabitants, their secrets, and their past lives. We are both observers and participants in much of the action, and we feel invested in their fates. We learn the importance of accepting people for who they are and moving beyond appearances and prejudices.

There are several romances with happy, or at least hopeful, endings (for the young and the older generations), broken hearts and disappointments, secrets and lies, and there is also the connection (pointed out through references to the book club and their discussions) to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I would not call the novel a variation on Pride and Prejudice but if we think of Austen’s text as we read it we can discover nuances that might be easily missed otherwise.

Although there are many amusing lines in the novel (and some pretty touching ones as well. As we know, humour can be an excellent defence mechanism against hurt), I thought I’d share a few (remember that I got an ARC copy, so there might be some changes to the final version of the novel):

We’ve never let something as trifling as the spectre of death stand in the way of a good snipe.

My mother didn’t get ulcers, she gave them.

He’s a perv-whisperer.

‘Nice as piles,’ he grumbles. ‘Same pain in the arse.’

She wouldn’t like my ponytail, though. I did try taking it down, but having it up in a hair tie the entire weekend meant my hair had a ridge along the back that gave it a very White Cliffs of Dover effect.

I’m surprised he doesn’t need an oxygen tank with all the social climbing he’s been doing.

The writing flows well and fits in perfectly with the voice of the narrator, who can spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about her beau but is also attuned to the feelings of the residents and her friend. There are plenty of amusing events taking place throughout the novel that keep the action moving, but the characters are much stronger than the plot and by the end of the book (that I enjoyed) they have all become good friends (or most of them have).

The author defines her books as light reads, as beach novels, and says her readers describe them as “feel-good.” All that is true, although behind all the funny goings-on the book illustrates the importance of keeping expectations and prejudices under control, and it reminds parents that they should encourage their children to find fulfilment in their own terms rather than expect them to make their parent’s dreams come true.  If you are looking for a light read, full of memorable characters, plenty of humour, and a big deal of heart, I’d recommend this novel. And, if it existed in real life, I wouldn’t mind working at the home (and in time even living there) either.

Many thanks to Rosie and her team, to the author for her fun novel, to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click , review, and keep smiling!

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview Faking Friends by Jane Fallon (@janefallon). A fun revenge story, set in the world of acting. Recommended if you’re looking for a light read set in London #fakingfriends And an important message about the @UoPeople

Hi all:

Today I bring you a chick-lit story, with betrayals, lies, toxic friendships, and an interesting setting.

Faking Friends by Jane Fallon
Faking Friends by Jane Fallon

Faking Friends by Jane Fallon

Your best friend stole your fiancé. Do you run away and hide, or start planning your revenge? Find out in Sunday Times bestselling author Jane Fallon’s BRAND NEW novel.

‘A deftly plotted, witty tale of revenge. It’s a romcom with attitude – a perfect wicked pleasure to begin a NEW YEAR OF READING’ The Mail on Sunday

Best friend, soulmate, confidante . . . backstabber.

Amy thought she knew everything there was to know about her best friend Melissa. Then again, Amy also thought she was on the verge of the wedding of her dreams to her long-distance fiancé.

Until she pays a surprise trip home to London. Jack is out, but it’s clear another woman has been making herself at home in their flat.

There’s something about her stuff that feels oddly familiar . . . and then it hits Amy. The Other Woman is Melissa.

Amy has lost her home, her fiancé and her best friend in one disastrous weekend – but instead of falling apart, she’s determined to get her own back.

Piecing her life back together won’t be half as fun as dismantling theirs, after all.

‘I’ve just finished this . . . it’s FABALISS. I was SO GRIPPED’ Marian Keyes

‘Barbed, twisty and full of deliciously dry wit, this is smart stuff to race through’ Sunday Mirror

‘Hugely compelling . . . I loved it and just couldn’t put it down!’ Ruth Jones

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Faking-Friends-Jane-Fallon-ebook/dp/B073XB75JY/

https://www.amazon.com/Faking-Friends-Jane-Fallon-ebook/dp/B073XB75JY/

Author Jane Fallon
Author Jane Fallon

About the author:

Jane Fallon is the multi-award-winning television producer behind shows such as This Life, Teachers, and 20 Things to Do Before You’re 30. Her debut novel “Getting Rid of Matthew’ was published in 2007 and became a Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller as have her subsequent books ‘Got You Back’, ‘Foursome’, ‘The Ugly Sister’, ‘Skeletons’, ‘Strictly Between Us’ and ‘My Sweet Revenge”
Her 8th novel Faking Friends is available now to pre-order in both paperback and for Kindle.
Join Jane on Twitter – @janefallon or at her website www.janefallon.co.uk

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jane-Fallon/e/B001JS23XE/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

This is the first time I read one of Jane Fallon’s novels, and I’ve realised she has quite a following, and this is not the first novel she writes about revenge.

In this case, we have an actress, Amy, (not a big star, but an actress who has struggled from bit-part to bit-part until she managed to get a regular role in an American crime series. Well, or so she thought) who goes back home to surprise her childhood-friend Mel for her birthday, and she is the one to get a nasty surprise when she discovers her fiancé, Jack, is having an affair and somebody has taken her place. It does not take her long to discover that her supposed best-friend has stabbed her in the back, and rather than confronting both, her fiancé and her friend, she decides to try and get a new life and show them that she can make it on her own, before letting them know she is aware of their betrayal. This creates many awkward and difficult situations and a complex net of lies and deceit that will keep readers turning the pages.

Photo by Genessa Panainte on Unsplash
Photo by Genessa Panainte on Unsplash

The book is narrated in the first person, mostly from Amy’s point of view (who alternates what is happening in the present with the story of her friendship with Mel), although towards the last third of the novel we also have a few scenes when we follow Mel’s point of view, and that gives us some insight into her plans (more than her feelings, that we don’t know in detail, other than her wish to give Amy’s her comeuppance) and a different perspective on Amy’s relationships. (Sometimes both points of view might alternate in a single chapter, although it is easy to tell them apart).

Amy is a likeable character, although her reaction to the betrayal and her insistence in carrying on with her revenge plans for months and months and dragging others into it (including her friend Kat and Kat’s husband, Greg, two great characters, and Simon, a new love interest she meets when she moves back to London) make her less so at times, and she appears immature and too dependent on Mel’s friendship. Although both, Mel’s current behaviour, and what we learn about the history of their friendship, shows Mel in a very negative light (she is full of herself, self-aggrandizing, self-centred, vain, shows clear narcissistic personality traits, and is jealous of Amy’s good fortune, never giving her any credit and ruining her other friendships), sometimes, when Amy fights fire with fire, she goes so far that we have to wonder if they are not as bad as each other. Eventually, though, Amy has some scruples and there are lines she won’t cross, and it is easy to see that her friendship with Mel has made her doubt herself and lose her confidence. When a friend dismisses everything you do and only uses you to make herself feel better, she is not a friend, as Amy discovers.

There are a number of other characters (university friends, relatives, love interests, agents, etc.) that create an interesting and varied background, and London also provides a realistic setting for the story, from the difficulties of finding an affordable apartment, to the landscape, shops, food, and transportation. I particularly enjoyed the insights into the acting career (that the author has good knowledge of), that go beyond the glamor and big successes we are used to in films and books. Amy is a working actress who has to fight tooth and nail for tiny parts (woman in park, woman in pub), who is no longer young, and who has dedicated plenty of time to the career because she loves it, not because she thinks she will become famous and make it big (most of the time she can hardly make a living out of it). The fact that Mel, who also wanted to become an actress, and who was the more attractive and popular of the two when they were younger, never made it is a particularly nice touch.

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

The novel is enjoyable, full of lies, deceit, and twisted individuals, but it is a pretty light fare. There is some suspense, but it is not difficult to guess some of the events; there are some pretty funny moments, and some cringe-inducing ones too. Although the book exemplifies a toxic friendship, it is not a treatise in psychology and it is not a guidebook or a serious treatment of the subject (there are true memoirs and books written by experts if you are interested in the topic), but a light revenge novel, whose final message is a hopeful and positive one. Although the character goes through much heartache during the book, she learns from the experience, and she discovers who she really is and who her true friends are. (And, to be honest, she seems to be much better off without Jack, as there does not seem to be much love lost or chemistry between them).

Fallon’s style is fluid and the novel is easy to read and moves at good pace, although I don’t think the main characters will stay with me for long. A solid chick-lit book, set up in the world of acting, and one I’d recommend to those of you who enjoy revenge stories (and might have fantasised about your own).

Thanks to NetGalley, to Penguin UK and to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, and REVIEW!

Ah, and some great news! You’ll remember that I became an instructor at the University of the People a few months ago (and it’s going well, although due to the move I’ve taken this term off) and we’ve just had some great news. Olympic gymnast medalist Simone Biles has become a student, Global Ambassador and there is now the Simone Biles Legacy Scholarship Fund at the UoPeople.

Here she is being interviewed and showing her courage and strength:

Always be brave!

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreviews Two romances: NO PLACE LIKE YOU by Emma Douglas and A WEDDING AT TWO LOVE LANE by Kieran Kramer (@KieranKramer) (@StMartinsPress)

Hi all:

I must confess that my list of books is an avalanche, rather than a list at the moment. I have a long list of books from NetGalley pending reviews (and quite a few independent as well, and I intend to read them all) and I am grateful for reminders of the dates of publication of books. And as both romances are from the same publisher, I thought I’d share both of them together.

 

No Place Like You by Emma Douglas
No Place Like You by Emma Douglas

No Place Like You: A Cloud Bay Novel by Emma Douglas

In Emma Douglas’ new novel, No Place Like You, home—the island village of Cloud Bay—is where the heart is. . .

Leah Santelli always knew that Zach Harper, son of a rock legend and her best friend’s brother, was painfully out of reach. Then, on the night of her eighteenth birthday, Leah shocked herself by asking for—and receiving—the gift she wanted: one night of passion with Zach before he left town to pursue his rock star dreams. Now, years later, Zach is back in Cloud Bay to record his first solo album. His return could also be Leah’s big chance to step up her own music career. But getting the producing credit she needs means spending long hours with Zach in the recording studio…and falling back into the habit of longing for him, for better or worse.

Zach used to believe that a man must put his past behind him. But coming back home for Cloud Bay’s famed music festival has allowed him to finally make amends with his family and, much to his surprise, reunite with Leah. He might have left her once but now it seems he can’t stay away. Trouble is, even though the heat between them burns hotter than ever, Leah has old wounds in need of healing before she can give Zach a real chance. Can he find a way to convince her that they can make more than just great music together—and that she’s the one that he wants for all time?

https://www.amazon.com/No-Place-Like-You-Cloud-ebook/dp/B071HT66KL/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/No-Place-Like-You-Cloud-ebook/dp/B071HT66KL/

Author Emma Douglas
Author Emma Douglas

About the author:

Emma Douglas has read like a wild thing since she was small. She discovered romance novels at an age that way probably way too young but she survived unscathed. When she realized you could make up stories as well as read them, she started taking notes about what the characters wandering through her head were telling her and then, eventually, books happened. Before the books happened she did the usual things (was a band geek (and a geek generally), had crushes on rock stars and fictional characters, spent chunks of her summers on an island beach, got a degree in something sensible that doesn’t involve writing about kissing, became a black belt in internet procrastination, fell down the rabbit-hole of craft, traveled a bit, indulged her love of baked goods, got bossed around by cats, began a quest for the perfect margarita, and napped to recover from all of the above. She still does most of that plus the writing thing from a tiny house in Melbourne Australia which her feline overlords have kindly agreed to share with her.

https://www.amazon.com/Emma-Douglas/e/B06WGRYQ84/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to St. Martin’s Press for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

Although I am not a big reader of romance, this novel is an example of what I think is a subgenre of it, the romance that takes place in the world of music and musicians. The setting of the novel is a small imaginary American island called Cloud Bay, off the coast of California, best known for a music festival and for being home to the musicians of a well-known band and their families. Grey Harper, the singer and leader of the band, passed away a few years back, and his family members and associates have been keeping the music festival and the studio going, quite successfully, but although the business is going well, their personal lives have seen a fair amount of turmoil.

The story centres on the second generation of the family, on Zach, Grey’s son, and Leah, a good friend of his sister Faith, and daughter of the sound engineer of the band. She also does sound engineering and producing now, and has had a crush on Zach since they were teenagers, and they have a bit of a history together. Their professional and personal lives get entangled in a way that seems impossible to avoid in Cloud Bay, and no matter how determined they are not to allow things to get complicated, they do.

The author manages to create a good sense of place and of the strange and slightly incestuous relationships that happen in such a setting, where everybody knows everybody and nobody can step outside of the house without somebody knowing about it. Nothing is private and the actions of one person have far-reaching consequences. I particularly enjoyed the exchanges between the female friends (Faith and Leah in particular) and the wedding preparations (Leah is due to get married after the festival, at the end of the summer), as their friendship is portrayed in an easy and natural way and the way they support and care for each other is heart-warming and feels real. Those and other elements of the novel reminded me of a chick-flick (there are plenty of cakes, pastry, and ice-creams as well) but the fact that half of the story is told from the point of view of Zach gives it a different emphasis.

As for the romance, although both of the characters are gorgeous, as is to be expected, this is not a love-at-first-sight story, as Leah and Zach know each other and have a bit of a history (however brief) together. I found it interesting that their behaviour at times goes counter to the traditionally expected male and female roles, as Leah is the one to initiate their relationship (both in the past and now), and she is the one to suggest a no-strings-attached sexual relationship, while he initially resists (although his resistance doesn’t last long). I don’t think you need to be an eager reader of romance novels to suspect how things are going to go from the beginning, and although there are some twists and turns, there are no major surprises. There is sex, but it is not very explicit (described in a lyrical and poetic manner), and although I do not like erotica or sex scenes, as I feel they slow the action, I don’t think many readers would feel offended by it (but I would not class it as “sweet” or “clean” either). The ending… I think romance readers will enjoy it, and there is a hook to keep people coming to read the next novel, although it is a side-story not directly related to the romance.

The story is told in the third-person from the alternating points of view of Leah and Zach. This is not always separated into chapters, but the transitions are clear and not confusing. As mentioned above, the division between the characters is not down to standard gender roles, and they both seem to behave more in keeping with their characters and their history (that we get snippets of thanks to their conversations and memories throughout the book) than with traditional male or female roles. There is a moment of crisis towards the end of the book, and I felt that the novel’s pace grew faster at that point, while until then it had moved steadily. I realised later that this is the third book in the series (for some reason I thought it was the first) so I am not sure how well it fits in with the whole series, although I had no difficulty following the novel (but I imagine the background story would increase the expectations and enjoyment). I must admit that I did not think there was much depth to the characters and they seemed to act younger than they were (Leah had been married, and Mina, Zach and Leah’s sister, is a widow), but perhaps they have developed slowly and it is unfair to judge them by the events in a single book. Leah is a fairly rounded and sympathetic character, and I felt she behaved in a consistent manner, although I was not as convinced about Zach, who has much to atone for.

The music business background will be of interest to those who enjoy that genre, and the descriptions of the way the characters feel about music are inspiring, but it is not as detailed or technical as to interfere with the enjoyment of readers of other types of romance.

In sum, a romance set in the background of the rock music business and in a lovely setting, which will be enjoyed by lovers of the genre and followers of the series, but with few surprises for the rest of readers.

And…

A Wedding at Two Love Lane by Kieran Kramer
A Wedding at Two Love Lane by Kieran Kramer

A Wedding At Two Love Lane by Kieran Kramer

Never say never when it comes to love.

Greer Jones has made a real name for herself at the elegant matchmaking agency Two Love Lane. For a lot of reasons―including a past engagement she broke off―practical tech expert Greer is more interested in the business of love than the experience of it, but she can’t help but covet a gorgeous wedding gown that’s the prize in an upcoming cocktail-party contest. In a moment of brazen inspiration, Greer asks a handsome Brit she’s only just met to accompany her to the party. He agrees―and Greer believes her date is a starving artist. Little does she know the truth. . .

Ford Smith, as he calls himself, is actually Stanford Elliott Wentworth Smythe, the Eighth Baron of Wickshire. Fresh off a breakup with a money-grubbing siren who deceived him all the way to the altar, Ford has no desire to fall in love―especially with Greer who, like the desired wedding gown, is beautiful but only skin-deep. But soon Ford realizes that there’s more to Greer than meets the eye. Her professionalism is matched only by her passion for life and love. .and, best of all, she has no idea that he’s to the manor born. Could it be that true love is priceless after all?

https://www.amazon.com/Wedding-At-Two-Love-Lane/dp/1250111064/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wedding-Two-Love-Lane/dp/1250111064/

Author Kieran Kramer
Author Kieran Kramer

About the author:

USA Today bestselling author Kieran Kramer is a former journalist and English teacher who lives in the Lowcountry of South Carolina with her family. She’s a game show veteran, karaoke enthusiast, and general adventurer.

UNUSUAL FACTS (From the author’s blog)

~I’m a $34,000 winner on The Wheel of Fortune. A decade before that, I won on Family Feud. Yes, I kissed Richard Dawson. He was a real sweetheart!

~I ran with the bulls at Pamplona in Spain, one of the craziest and most exciting things I’ve ever done.

~I scooped The New York Times from my computer at home as a freelance journalist for The Charlotte Observer by accidentally inciting a feud between John Rosemond, family psychologist, and parenting expert, and the renowned pediatrician Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, over the topic of potty training; the story was picked up by The New York Times and Dr. Dean Edell of talk radio fame.

~I spent my entire junior year in college at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, where I pulled pints of ale as a barmaid at the university pub and listened to bagpipes a lot from my dorm window.

~I grew up one of seven kids on Johns Island, a rural sea island near Charleston, SC, and helped build my family’s log home. I also played in the pluff mud, sat on docks daydreaming, rode below the bowsprit on my parents’ sailboat and watched dolphins swim mere feet away, and in general, lived an idyllic Lowcountry life.

~A certified English teacher, I subbed regularly at the local high school while writing my first book, When Harry Met Molly. I love teenagers because they’re so misunderstood.

~I’ve been married for twenty-eight years to a great guy named Chuck, a Commander in the US Navy Reserves, and we have three kind, musically-inclined kids, all of whom have been brought up on the Beatles as the family’s go-to band.

~I’m obsessed with almost every Real Housewives franchise, and of course, I love Southern Charm, even though almost no one on the show is from Charleston. I appeared with my daughter in one episode at a ball.

~I’m in my second year of a full-time, on-campus MFA in Creative Writing program at The College of Charleston. I’m loving being a student again with all the twenty-somethings! This semester, one of my classes is on Oscar Wilde–how I love that guy. It’s a true joy and privilege to be learning…don’t ever stop, ladies and gents! Keep challenging yourselves!

~I’ve occasionally rescued vulnerable cats and dogs and gotten them safely situated…I seem to stumble into those situations. It’s a never-ending problem, isn’t it? I think the most good I can do is take care of my own pets well. I love our two tabby cats, Benny and Joon, so much that my kids call me a crazy cat lady, and our sweet old black lab mix, Striker, is my constant companion.

https://kierankramer.com/

My review:

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and to NetGalley for offering me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

Although this is book two in The Two Love Lane series (a series about the owners of a matchmaking agency), I have not read the first one and can confirm it can be enjoyed as a standalone read, although I’m sure that knowing the set-up and the characters would add to the reading experience.

I don’t want to discuss in too much detail the plot, as the description introduces the main characters and some of the main themes. There is  a contest for a wedding dress, that ends up becoming a reality show, an English baron (quite a few of the reviewers have commented that considering his father and his older brother are alive and well, that does not make sense), a nasty store owner and his side-kick who become the villains of the piece (well, perhaps), several side-plots (a designer with an interesting idea and a hidden love story, the background stories of both protagonists and their families, the stories of the other couples involved in the contest, and  a big win at the TV quiz show The Price Is Right), and Charleston. The Charleston of the book is a genteel and lovely place, full of great restaurants, fascinating shops, and lively characters. It is also a welcoming place where people from all over are made to feel at home, and where everybody feels inspired.

Many of the usual tropes and themes of romantic novels are at play here, and also quite a few typical of chick-lit. Greer is alone and very good at finding love for others but not so good at getting finding her own. She is obsessed with creating the perfect wedding, not only for her clients but for herself, and has been collecting wedding scrapbooks since she was a child. Although she is supposed to be the logical one in charge of the technical side of things at the agency and the ever important algorithms, she plunges head first into crazy situations and keeps denying what is plain to see. We have an English nobleman, who is, of course, very attractive and also a talented painter, but needs a muse to find his true art. He’s been jilted at the altar but still offers to play Greer’s fake partner. We have pretend relationships, secrets, will they won’t they, not quite love-at-first-sight, but close enough, and a good cast of secondary characters that all sound interesting enough in their own right (Personally, I’d love to hear more about Miss Thing). Ah, and donuts, cakes, wonderful wedding dresses, intrigue, and misunderstandings galore. There are plenty of fun moments, some sad ones, and some inspiring ones (I was particularly interested in Ford’s struggle to connect with his art), and the book is an easy and light read, although I agree with some reviewers that it tries to pack so many things in that at times it feels too busy, and some of the side-stories deserve more time and development than what they get.

The characters are likable enough (I’ve never been obsessed about weddings, but quite liked Greer’s idea of entering the contest as a single participant), and although the novel stretches our suspension of disbelief on occasions, I don’t think it goes beyond genre expectations. The writing is fluid, with nice local touches and British expressions, and includes descriptions that put readers right in the middle of the action, without overdoing it.

After spending a fair amount of time with the characters, the ending felt a bit rushed, and I agree with reviewers that felt there should have been another chapter to clarify matters (I think we all felt as if they had banged the door on our faces), although perhaps the author has something up her sleeve and it has something to do with the next book. (Let me clarify. It does not end up on a cliff-hanger, but we miss the big event, perhaps because after talking about it so much, it could never have lived up to everyone’s expectations).

A light and fun read, recommended if you need an injection of sun and romance, in a great setting, with many secondary stories to keep you occupied if you easily get bored.

Thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and both authors, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview The Bucket List to Mend a Broken Heart. A warm and uplifting rom com by Anna Bell (@AnnaBell_writes) If you need a gentle romantic comedy that will leave you with a smile, try this.

Hi all:

To prepare for the New Year (Happy New Year’s Eve, by the way) I thought you might want a fun comedy, light and fluffy, but also about change, that is something we often think about around this time of the year. So, if you like romantic comedies…

The Bucket List to Mend a Broken Heart by Anna Bell. Cover
The Bucket List to Mend a Broken Heart by Anna Bell

The Bucket List to Mend a Broken Heart. A warm and uplifting rom com by Anna Bell

Description

A hilarious new romantic comedy for fans of Lindsey Kelk and Jane Costello from Anna Bell, the bestselling author of Don’t Tell the Groom.

Abi’s barely left her bed since Joseph, the love of her life, dumped her, saying they were incompatible. When Joseph leaves a box of her possessions on her doorstep, she finds a bucket list of ten things she never knew he wanted to do. What better way to win him back than by completing the list, and proving they’re a perfect match?

But there’s just one problem – or rather, ten. Abi’s not exactly the outdoorsy type, and she’s absolutely terrified of heights – not ideal for a list that includes climbing a mountain, cycling around the Isle of Wight and, last but not least, abseiling down the tallest building in town . . .

Completing the list is going to need all Abi’s courage – and a lot of help from her friends. But as she heals her broken heart one task at a time, the newly confident Abi might just have a surprise in store . . .

My review:

Thanks to Net Galley and to Bonnier Publishing for offering me a free ARC copy of this novel that I voluntarily have decided to review.

The plot of this novel fits perfectly in the category of chick lit or romantic comedy, and I could almost watch the movie in my mind’s eye as I read it. Abi , Bridget Jones’s spiritual sister, is suddenly dropped by her boyfriend of almost a year, Joseph (“the one”) and she’s desperate. She comes across his bucket list by pure chance and, clutching at straws, thinks that if she were to achieve all the items on the list (more or less) and share the pictures on Facebook, he would realise what a mistake he’d made and go back to her. Abi (and as we learn as we read, Joseph also) is not very adventurous. In fact, she’s worried about everything and scared of almost everything (especially heights). Her friend Sian, a fun character and a great contrast with Abi, doesn’t really like Joseph much, and her attitude to love is so different to Abi’s that she decides to lie to her and everybody else, and tells them that the list is her way to try and get over her break-up. On hearing that, everybody offers to help her. And, indeed, she needs all the help she can get.

The book becomes naturally organised around Abi’s adventures in trying to fulfil her bucket list, which go from pathetic to funny, passing from embarrassing. Apart from the events surrounding the ten items in the list, she’s also getting in trouble at work, at first through her own doing, and later bizarre things start to happen and she suspects that there might be foul play.

The novel is written in the first person from Abi’s point of view, and although she’s not the most insightful or reliable narrator, to begin with, and her weakness and her obsession with Joseph might make the reader cringe, eventually she does discover herself as a separate person and one capable of much more than she gives herself credit for. She is surrounded by a likeable supporting cast (and a few not so likeable when not openly bitchy) and through them, readers can appreciate that she is perhaps not the best at judging how she comes across to others. The author is also adept at giving us enough clues to allow us to make our own minds up rather than accept Abi’s biased conclusions, not an easy thing to do when the events are shown from a single perspective.

The writing is fluid and easy to read and although readers of the genre will probably guess what’s going to happen pretty much from the word go, the fine details are enjoyable, and there is a touch of intrigue to keep us interested beyond the pure romance. And for those who love romance, although we see Joseph mostly from Abi’s starry-eyed perspective and he is hardly a real person, Ben, who is almost too perfect to be true (other than by the tiny detail of having a girlfriend) is somebody easy to like and one to root for. And my bet is that you’ll like Aby by the end of the story and you’ll be wondering about the psychological benefits of bucket lists for yourself. I particularly appreciated the final words by the author who acknowledged there was a personal basis behind the seed of the novel.

In sum, a light and easy to read the novel, satisfying if you’re looking for an amusing and sweet read, with no erotica, and no shocking surprises. Great for those moments when you don’t want to test your brain and want a read that will leave you with a smile.

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1785760378/

https://www.amazon.com/Bucket-List-Mend-Broken-Heart-ebook/dp/B0196P0S5G/

https://www.amazon.com/Bucket-List-Mend-Broken-Heart/dp/B01IRUATFK/

Thanks to NetGalley, the publishers and the author for this fun book, thanks to you all for reading, and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK!

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