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

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

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!


Catching up. Life, radio, teaching, and the Man-Booker shortlist. Ah, and a lovely #wedding (@CFFBooks)

Hi all:

As you know I’ve been wondering in which direction my blogging is going and focused mostly on posting reviews and some posts promoting works by some of the authors I know and love. I thought it was time to catch up on some of the things I’ve been doing, in case you’re wondering what’s going on.

Inside The Hepworth Wakefield. If you are anywhere nearby, don’t miss this fabulous gallery.

I’m still dividing up my time between Spain (Barcelona) and the UK (Penistone). If you’ve been following my blog (perhaps even my older blog) for a while, you’ll remember that my father died a couple of years ago and my mother, who’d never had any serious health problems, had a heart attack last year and although she’s much recovered, she’s not as well as she was. As I’m an only child and have no other family (I’m pretty much a free agent and these days most of my work is online), there does not seem to be any point in trying to keep up with two places and the stress of always worrying about not being where one should be. If my circumstances don’t change dramatically in the next few months, in Spring next year I’ll put my house up for sale and go support my mother (well, it’s mutual support, really) back in Barcelona. So, if you know of anybody interested in a semi in Penistone, let me know.

Even the gardens at the Hepworth Wakefield are fantastic!

You’ll remember I’ve been volunteering at a local radio station, Penistone FM. To tell you the truth, that was one of the reasons that kept me coming back. I had a weekly programme on Thursdays from 1 to 3 pm and it was a great way to hear about local news, meet new people (both at the radio station and through calls and messages), and I must say I learned a great deal about time management (oh, you have to finish on time for the news, no matter what!). I had been thinking for a while that it was not fair to have such long gaps when I wasn’t there and contributing to everybody’s efforts (as the station is solely run by volunteers). It was recently decided that all volunteers will need to contribute more features regularly, something I wouldn’t be able to do as I spend long periods away. As there are also costs involved that will require paying a fee, and, as I’ve said above, I’m looking at leaving the UK in the next few months, I’ve resigned from the station. I love the radio (both as a listener and as a presenter) and I’ll try and become involved in Barcelona if I can (I know there is a radio station in Sants, the neighbourhood where I grew up, so you never know…).

You might remember this sculpture:

Carmela de Jaume Plensa
Sculpture by Jaume Plensa in front of the Palau de la Música Catalana.
Represents a girl from Barcelona, and it’s called Carmela.

Guess what I found at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park!

Jaume Plensa. Wilsis (check here. Their picture is better than mine)
As you can see, she feels very at home in Yorkshire.

A few months ago I told you about another project I’d joined. In the summer (June, to be precise), I became an instructor at the University of the People. You can check my original post here. You’ll be pleased to know that all involved (I and my students) survived the first course (English Composition 0101) and I’m teaching the same course again, with more students under my wing this time. What was the experience like? Fantastic. I had students from all over: from Japan to Egypt, Italy to Afghanistan, and there were quite a few occasions when conversations and exchanges got ‘lost in translation’. Yes, there was plagiarism, panic when the exam arrived, but most of the students did well and I hope they’ll do even better in their future studies. If you know of anybody who might be interested, as a student or as a teacher, please, spread the word!

If you follow my reviews, you’ll know I’ve been trying to catch up and read some of the books that had made it into the ManBooker Prize Longlist. Well, the shortlist is out.

This is it:

The 2017 shortlist of six novels is:

Title Author (nationality) (imprint)

4321 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (UK-Pakistan) (Hamish Hamilton)

Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) (JM Originals)

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)

Of those, the only one I had read and loved was Exit West (in case you missed my review, you can check it here) but I have somehow acquired Paul Auster’s 4321 since and I’ll do my best to read it before the actual Prize is announced. If you’ve read any of the others, let me know.

And, before I go, I’m house and pet sitting at the moment for a talented and generous author I think many of you must know, Christoph Fischer (I’ve just beta read one of his novels, and although I know it will be a while yet, if you love cozy mysteries and Eurovision, get ready for it!)

Christoph and his partner Ryan were very kind and invited me to their gorgeous wedding. It was in Carmarthen Registry Office, light, fun, and full of people happy to join these two men who always make everybody who meets them feel welcome.

I could not help but share a few pictures of the happy couple…

Ryan and Christoph and Carmarthen’s registry office. Don’t they look gorgeous!
Sunny in Wales! They are two lucky boys!

And, this video dedicated to them. I’m sure nobody who attended their wedding will ever listen to this song in the same way again:

Thanks very much to Ryan and Christoph for inviting me to their wedding, to Greta, Wilma, and Dora (their three dogs) for putting up with me, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, and click! And don’t worry, I’ll keep the reviews coming!


University of the People (@UoPeople) A great project I’m happy to be a part of #education

Hi all:

You know I have been sharing reviews as if there was no tomorrow, but apart from reading (well, it includes reading too), I’ve been up to other things.

Quite a while back (I think it was eighteen months ago or so) I read an article about courses and education one could access on-line with little investment. While checking the links, I came across The University of the People. This project, the brainchild of Shai Reshef (@ShaiReshef) who had a vision. Making education available to as many people as possible and removing the obstacles to its access. I was fascinated by the idea and decided to apply to become an instructor. I was sent a questionnaire last year but nothing came out of it. 

Recently, I was contacted again, a bit out of the blue. I sent another questionnaire and a day later we arranged for an interview (Skype is a great thing). They were interested and after completing some training, I’ve just started as an instructor of the English Composition 1 Undergraduate course. (Good luck, mostly to the students).

The University of the People is tuition free for students (they only pay the exam fees) and instructors and staff are not paid a salary (only a stipend). There are many institutions funding the project, and also many individuals collaborating with their time.

Here Shai Reshef explains better than I can:


I thought you might be interested in the project and you might know people who might be able to collaborate or benefit from it. I also wanted to ensure you knew what I was up to, as I suspect I might be quite busy, especially until I get used to the rhythm of things.
I hope to keep you posted on how it goes and I might share some interesting stuff with you.

Thanks to the University of the People for this opportunity, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment and of course, let anybody who might be interested know. 

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