Book Review: Who’s That Girl by Mhairi McFarlane

Who’s That Girl?Who’s That Girl? by Mhairi McFarlane

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is how chick lit should be written.

I’ve read a couple of Mhairi McFarlane’s other books and enjoyed them but I think this may be her best yet. She somehow manages to create very real characters who don’t always act they way you want them to but who you can’t help but get behind. It isn’t your usual predictable chick lit but I think that’s why it really works. I laughed, I cried and I was completely hooked and didn’t want it to end.Read More »

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Book Review: Sleepless in Manhattan by Sarah Morgan

Sleepless In ManhattanSleepless in Manhattan by Sarah Morgan

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I was absolutely stunned to read the back of this book and find that Sarah Morgan has written 75 books. That is certainly impressive. What’s more impressive is that I still enjoy pretty much every one I read. I will admit I haven’t read all 75, probably more half a dozen, but she’s definitely one of my go to authors when I’m looking for a nice and easy romantic read for a lazy afternoon.

This book is no exception. It’s an enjoyable read, with great characters and a believable (at times sizzling) romance.

Synopsis

This story marks the start of a new trilogy set in New York and similar to her last Puffin Island series features three friends and their romantic entanglements. For this book center stage goes to Paige Walker. Paige spent her childhood in and out of hospital and now she’s pretty much all clear she’s determined to live life to the fullest and prove to everyone she can do it on her own.

She’s loving life in Manhattan and knows she’s a dead cert for promotion at work however her plans fall apart when instead she’s laid off. Unable to find another job she decides to go into business for herself but it’s a big risk for both her and those who depend on her.

She’s determined to go it alone but when things are slow to take off it looks like she’ll need some help. Unfortunately Jake Romano, her brothers best friend, seems like her best option but given their past he’s the last person she wants help from.

Thoughts

I think you can probably guess just from the synopsis how it all ends but I have to admit it’s an enjoyable journey. Yes the characters are a little bit stereotyped, yes a lot of it seems unrealistic (they all seem to live in huge apartments, Jake is a millionaire IT whiz), but who cares.

The author writes characters who are likeable and, one of the key things for me, these characters include a number of strong, independent, intelligent women. Almost every character male and female is of course stunningly attractive and there are a lot of troubled histories but you still can’t help rooting for them.

What I always like most about Ms Morgan’s books however is that she has a special talent for creating chemistry between the leads. There are far too many romances that fall flat because of that missing spark. Pretty much every book of hers I’ve read however has been a success on that level and this is no exception.  There are some very definite fireworks between Paige and Jake.

The plot is a little bit on the predictable side but the writing is very readable and the pacing is pretty much spot on. I had a few little gripes here and there but nothing too major.

Unfortunately I don’t tend to find this type of book particularly memorable, hence the low-ish score but it was definitely enjoyable at the time.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy.

Book Review: Chasing Daisy by Paige Toon

Chasing DaisyChasing Daisy by Paige Toon

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I was sooo tempted to give this book 5 stars for character Luis alone but I really can’t even though I’m fairly certain he is my future book husband. Yep I’m going all fangirl with this review. I think I’m in love.

If you can’t stand gushing, let me just say this is a sweet, funny and romantic book that I literally couldn’t put down from the moment I started it. If you don’t mind gushing, read on.

Synopsis

Anyway, the story (I should probably talk about that shouldn’t I). Chasing Daisy follows Daisy Rogers a 26 year old “bun tart” (aka catering assistant/waitress/dogsbody) for a Formula 1 team. She’s sworn off men following a bad break up from a celebrity and is trying to get away from her ex by travelling the world to different Grand Prix events as part of the teams catering staff. Her resolve to stay single wavers however when she meets the two new drivers on the team Will and Luis.

Luis, the Brazilian, is definitely a player, out partying all night and constantly surrounded with women. He has an incredible ability to drive Daisy crazy and she can’t stand him. Will on the other hand is very sweet, dedicated and determined to win. He’s the perfect man. The only problem, he has a long term girlfriend. Daisy tries to fight her feelings but starts to get attached. Is a relationship possible or will getting involved lead to a crash and someone getting hurt?

Thoughts

Safe to say I really, really loved this book. I’ve read a few of Paige Toon’s books before and have found them a little hit or miss. One I loved, another not so much. This one definitely tips her towards favourite author territory. It’s sweet, funny, sad and totally addictive. Kind of like Days of Thunder with a love triangle thrown in.

Setting the story within a Formula 1 team is chick lit genius. There are exotic locations, hot drivers, celebrities, drama and all of the excitement and anxiousness of the races. The story itself is slightly predictable. You can guess almost from the outset what the ending is going to be but I have to say it’s a very enjoyable journey (particularly if Luis is driving).

Daisy is a likeable enough character. I won’t go into her background too much as it’s all kept quite secret and would therefore give away spoilers but she’s quite fiery and determined which are characteristics I like. I do love how she can curse and swear at someone in Italian one minute and go completely tongue tied when speaking to someone she’s attracted to the next. I did feel like she occasionally over reacted to things (possibly her Italian blood) and that her ethics were a little dubious at times but I was still cheering her on most of the time.

I have to admit I wasn’t overly impressed with Will and couldn’t see the attraction myself. As soon as Daisy found out he had a serious girlfriend she should have had nothing to do with him and to me it seemed really wrong that at times he seemed to encourage her. He was quite sweet, attractive and dedicated to his career but I found him a little on the boring side particularly compared to Luis.

Luis, Luis, Luis. I think I’m in love with Luis. He’s definitely the bad boy of the racing world. Doesn’t follow his diet plan, stays out late with the mechanics drinking, has a gaggle of women hanging off him most of the time and loves stirring up trouble. His relationship with Daisy is explosive and fireworks most definitely fly whenever they meet. She can’t stand him and he takes great pleasure in winding her up, embarrassing her and generally just being a bit of a nuisance. Underneath it all though he seems like quite a sweet, funny and caring guy.

I can honestly say all of my favourite parts of this book featured Luis in one way or another. Daisy and him learning swear words in different languages, him embarrassing her in front of some important people, him standing up for her at an event, him trying to psyche out Will before a race. Fantastic scenes all.

I was very close to a 5 star review just for these but there were a couple of bits that stopped me. Firstly, there is quite a strong adultery is ok type vibe going on which I wasn’t too keen on. Also I felt like there were a few storylines that weren’t quite resolved and that left me feeling a little bit unsatisfied.

Overall though I’d definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a cute, romantic and easy read. I sat down and read the full book in a morning 🙂

Book Review: What Would Lizzy Bennet Do? by Katie Oliver

What Would Lizzy Bennet Do? (The Jane Austen Factor, #1)What Would Lizzy Bennet Do? by Katie Oliver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Confession time, when I first started reading this book I hated it. Well maybe not quite hated but I did worry that it wasn’t for me. I was expecting a straight re telling of Pride and Prejudice (one of my favourite stories) and as a result was initially disappointed to find that What Would Lizzy Bennet Do? is not that. However, as I kept reading I realised that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

There are a lot of similarities and a lot of references to Pride and Prejudice but there are a lot of differences as well. As soon as I accepted this wasn’t the story I knew I found it was actually a really good story in it’s own right.

Synopsis

Lizzy Bennet has lost her job in the city and is back at home staying with her two sisters (Emma and Charlotte) and her father while she tries to get back on her feet. She’s very excited to learn that the son of next door neighbours the Darcy’s is coming home for a visit as she has been in love with him for years and is hoping he’s realised he feels the same about her. Unfortunately she’s in for a bit of a disappointment as when Lizzy runs into Hugh Darcy it turns out he’s back to introduce his family to his new fiancée Holly James. Lizzy sets out to prove to Hugh what he’s missing and how much better she would be for him than Holly.

Meanwhile, Holly is meeting Hugh’s family for the first time and starts to realise she may not know him as well as she thought she did. His mother, Lady Darcy is less than welcoming and her ex, actor Ciaron, is back on the scene playing Wickham in a production of Pride and Prejudice filming at the family home. It all makes for a lot of tangled relationships, secrets coming to light and a lot of questions. Can Lizzy convince Hugh to ditch Holly and marry her? Does Holly really love Hugh and can she win his mother over? Why is Ciaron so interested in Lizzy’s youngest sister Charlotte and how much like Wickham is he really?

Thoughts

I have to admit to being a huge fan of Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice. I’ve read the book a few times, read a few different re tellings, watched the dramas on TV and am currently watching the film with Keira Knightly as I type. It’s probably one of my favourite stories (although as an aside, part of me is suspicious of the fact Elizabeth only really changes her mind about Darcy when she sees his house)

I think therefore I was expecting this to be more of a straight re telling in a way similar to Bridget Jones or Pride, Prejudice and Jasmine Field. Initially when I found out it wasn’t I have to admit to being a little disappointed. The characters do have the same names and similar personalities but it is quite a different story. It is however a good story so as soon as I accepted the differences I found that I actually really enjoyed it.

I think part of my initial issues were that I didn’t particularly like either Lizzy or Hugh. Lizzy comes across kind of nasty and immature and Hugh is pretty boring and stuffy. Lizzy hasn’t seen Hugh in years but for some reason thinks when she bumps into him he’s going to declare his undying love and ask her to marry him. When that doesn’t happen she’s unreasonably upset and does all she can to make Holly look bad and steal Hugh away (not particularly nice in my view). Hugh isn’t a particularly attractive hero either. He’s quite distant with Holly, keeps secrets and seems to take everyone else’s side but hers. Definitely not who I’d want to marry.

I have to admit that my sympathy was mostly with Holly which initially seemed wrong as I figured she was the “other woman” of the piece. She is however very likeable and I found myself rooting for her and hoping she’d prove all of the doubters wrong. I was also a pretty big fan of Harry, Hugh’s younger brother. He was funny, charming and quick to defend all of the ladies in his life. For me, both Holly and Harry were the attractions in this book rather than Hugh and Lizzy.

The writing is pretty good throughout. The dialogue is pretty formal, polite and almost period (think Downton Abbey) which was unexpected but it does work and, once I got used to it, I kind of liked it. The plot ticks along at a good pace and there are a few twists, turns and big reveals which keep you reading. As there are so many differences from P&P you can’t be too sure what the final outcome will be.

There were a couple of things that niggled a little at me (the horse riding bits mainly) and one or two things are a little unbelievable but I still enjoyed it a lot. It is the first in a trilogy so I am kind of tempted to keep reading to see what happens with the Bennets. A lot of the characters, Emma and Mr Knightley from the next in the series, do feature briefly in this one so I’m interested to see how their stories play out.

Overall I’d say What Would Lizzie Bennet Do? is worth a read but don’t expect the same story or characters as the original.

Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: You and Me, Always by Jill Mansell

You And Me, AlwaysYou And Me, Always by Jill Mansell

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I’ve been reading Jill Mansell books for years and think I’ve managed to get my hands on almost all at some point. She’s one of my go to authors when I’m looking for a sweet and funny contemporary romance and You and Me, Always is definitely that.

It’s well written, has fairly likeable characters and I will admit there were a couple of moments which were laugh out loud (or frantically cover your mouth so as not to laugh out loud cos you’re on the train) funny. Unfortunately though I think I picked the wrong time to read it as it just felt a bit too “lite” for me. It’s one of those books which is enjoyable at the time but doesn’t really leave a lasting impression.

Synopsis (from GoodReads)

On the morning of Lily’s twenty-fifth birthday, it’s time to open the very last letter written to her by her beloved mother, who died when she was eight.

Learning more about the first and only real love of her mum’s life is a revelation. On the same day, Lily also meets Eddie Tessler, a man fleeing fame who just might have the ability to change her world in unimaginable ways. But her childhood friend Dan has his own reasons for not wanting Lily to get too carried away by Eddie’s attentions.

Before long, secrets begin to emerge and Lily’s friends and family become involved. In the beautiful Cotswold village of Stanton Langley, nothing will ever be the same again…

Thoughts

I was very excited to get a copy of this book as Jill Mansell has always been one of my favourite authors but unfortunately, while I enjoyed it, I felt like it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

Like all of Jill’s books this is very well written, with some great descriptions and dialogue. There is quite a lot packed in as far as plot goes and the story moves along quite quickly. It is a little bit predictable and you know more or less from the start how it will end but it’s an enjoyable enough journey getting there. I did feel like there was maybe a little bit too much going on at times and it might have been better to keep things a little simpler but that could be just me.

My main criticism however was that there were a few bits that seemed a bit clichéd and I’ve seen a lot of the scenes done many times before in books and films. There is the possible romance with a famous person, disastrous internet dating and a few others that I won’t mention due to spoilers. Maybe I’ve just been reading too many romance books but I felt a bit “been there, done that” and as a result there wasn’t much that was particularly memorable or unique.

There is a good mix of characters which I’m sure everyone will be able to relate to or will recognise in one way or another. Main character Lily is particularly likeable. She’s young, full of energy and confidence and despite losing her mum at a young age she’s very positive and doesn’t take life too seriously. I loved her encounters with film star Eddie Tessler and her relationship with childhood friend Dan. The banter and teasing were most definitely the highlights of the book for me.

Unfortunately these were slightly offset by the book having one of my pet peeves. The 30+ year old single woman who is unlucky in love but absolutely desperate to meet someone and have a baby. I’m determined not to go off in a rant over this but let’s just say it’s something that winds me up.

Despite the occasional laugh out loud moment and my personal rage at a certain character I did feel it was a little bit light as far as emotion went. I didn’t feel a spark in any of the romances or much of anything else that I think I was supposed to. I think this may have been due to the book I’d just finished, After You by Jojo Moyes, which was packed with emotion so I’m probably being a little bit harsh but that was my experience. I’m fairly certain other fans of Jill will enjoy it more.

Overall I liked it, I just didn’t love it and I’m not sure I’ll remember it for long.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Perfect Match by Katie Fforde

The Perfect MatchThe Perfect Match by Katie Fforde

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really hate having to give two stars to a Katie Fforde book but considering how much the whole thing annoyed me I couldn’t justify giving it any more. Sorry.

Before this book I probably would have rated Katie Fforde as one of my all time favourite authors. I don’t know whether her writing has changed or if my tastes have changed but this book just really didn’t work for me.

Synopsis

There isn’t really much of a story, a twenty something estate agent Bella goes to stay with her 60 year old Godmother Alice after leaving her previous home and job to get away from a man. She’s now settled, dating her boss and fairly happy finding houses for difficult clients but then the man she tried to get away from, Dominic, reappears in her life as the relative of a friend. You can pretty much guess what happens after that. There are sub plots about her boss (and boyfriends) dodgy dealings and her godmothers romance with a younger man but that’s about it.

Thoughts

The writing is pretty typical Katie Fforde style and is an easy enough read (although I was disappointed to find a few errors) but it’s starting to feel a little bit dated and old fashioned to me particularly compared to some of my more recent reads.

I think what really bothered me however was main character Bella, I just couldn’t understand her and she frustrated me so much that at one point I almost gave up on the whole book.

Firstly she left her home and her job and moved miles away because she had a thing for a married man and was heartbroken when his wife got pregnant. Nothing, other than a kiss under the mistletoe, had ever happened between them so I don’t understand what all the drama was about. I’ve had feelings for co workers (married and single) but have never felt the need to move home and quit my job to avoid them. Get over it, they’re married.

Secondly, after she was “forced” to leave her life and job due to a crush on a man she then immediately gets into a relationship with her new boss. Did she not learn to keep work and romance separate? As a result she puts up with a boyfriend she doesn’t love, who regularly insults her and treats her atrociously because she doesn’t want to lose her job and have to move again. I mean come on. Can someone be so silly and weak? Chuck him and if he sacks you sue him for all he’s worth (unfair dismissal, sexual harassment).

Finally she meddles in things that are either none of her business or should be reported to the police. I won’t go into details as it’s a bit of a spoiler but who in their right mind gets involved in someone else’s custody battle or confronts a criminal to ask them to stop breaking the law.

OK mad rant over, it’s safe to say Bella annoyed me. The romantic interest wasn’t much better. I can’t really think of much to say about him. He seemed nice enough but nothing particularly special or exciting. He’s not actually in the story that much and they don’t spend a lot of time together so not much in the way of conversation or spark. I’m not sure I believed the supposed attraction between them which I think was the point of the book but maybe I was missing something.

So to sum up I didn’t like the characters, there wasn’t much in the way of plot and I didn’t really feel the romance. Maybe I was just in the wrong frame of mind. Other Katie Fforde fans may still love it but this one just wasn’t for me.

Book Review: What Might Have Been by Matt Dunn

What Might Have BeenWhat Might Have Been by Matt Dunn

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Really enjoyed this story by Matt Dunn. I’ve read a few of his books before and love the unique perspective a male writer brings to the chick lit genre. For me his books feel less flowery and romantic and much more realistic which I find quite refreshing.

In this story Evan, a sax player, meets Sarah in a jazz club one night. There is an instant attraction and they spend a perfect night together. Unfortunately however, Evan gets a big break which drives them apart. Left behind, Sarah decides to pursue a relationship with her boss David and after a few months agrees to marry him. Spotting the wedding notice in the paper Evan returns and tries to win her back. He has one week till the wedding to put a stop to it but is one perfect night enough for Sarah to ditch David and run off with Evan?

I actually listened to the audio book of this and found it very enjoyable . I’m generally not a fan of audios but this one worked well. I think because there is a lot of dialogue it was like listening to a drama.

There isn’t a huge amount that happens in the story so I can understand why some other reviewers have found it a bit dull and repetitive. Most of the time it’s Evan or Sarah seeking advice from friends about what they should do, Evan trying to convince Sarah to ditch David or Evan trying to get Sarah’s best friend Grace on side. They do tend to go over and over the same things but there is a lot of humour amongst it all and there is the odd “what!!!!” moment. It did remind me a bit of a soap opera as characters would occasionally and unexpectedly drop a bombshell. I kept expecting the Eastenders end credits tune to kick in (you’ll understand if you’re in the UK).

The characters are very well thought out and very rounded. Evan is really likeable as the man desperate to win back the woman he loves. He refuses to play dirty and despite trying to split up a couple seems very moral. Sarah I wasn’t so sure about. She’s clearly settling for David despite him being a not very nice person and someone she’s not attracted to. I can understand she was looking for security but a lot of her actions are questionable and to be honest I couldn’t comprehend what Evan saw in her.

The highlight of the book however is the secondary characters. I loved Evan’s friend and mentor Mel and his ex band mate. They are really well thought out characters and they definitely get the best dialogue. The advice they give is seriously dodgy but a lot of the time quite funny. Sarah’s flatmate Grace is also a fascinating character and I’d love a follow up which gives her a story of her own.

I have to admit I have my doubts about whether the relationship between Evan and Sarah would ever work as they spend more time fighting than they do being happy together. I’m also not so sure about the instant love thing so it seems like a lot of drama for not much reward but I was still cheering Evan on (mostly because David was so horrible).

The ending was a bit of a surprise but worked quite well and was probably right.

Overall I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes a relationship drama with less hearts and flowers and more realism and dry humour.