Friday, 31 July 2015

Book Review: Three Amazing Things About You by Jill Mansell

Three Amazing Things About You

"Hallie has a secret. She's in love. He's perfect for her in every way, but he's seriously out of bounds. And her friends aren't going to help her because what they do know is that Hallie doesn't have long to live. Time is running out...Flo has a dilemma. She really likes Zander. But his scary sister won't be even faintly amused if she thinks Zander and Flo are becoming friends - let alone anything more.
Tasha has a problem. Her new boyfriend is the adventurous type. And she's afraid one of his adventures will go badly wrong.

THREE AMAZING THINGS ABOUT YOU begins as Hallie goes on a journey. A donor has been found and she's about to be given new lungs. But whose?"

My review:

Jill Mansell is one of my favourite authors because I just know that whenever I pick up one of her books I'm going to enjoy it. Her writing style is always engaging, humorous and descriptive and I find myself catapulted into a world of wonderful characters, idyllic villages and intriguing story lines. There's something really comforting about picking up a Jill Mansell novel, and Three Amazing Things About You doesn't disappoint.

True to Jill's usual writing style, the book follows three different main characters - Tasha, Hallie and Flo who lead separate lives at first, but are linked without realising it towards the end. I'll say now that I really wish I could tell you who my favourite character was and why, but its an impossible task. Each of the main characters have some brilliant traits that make them so realistic and likable that it's hard to choose who I preferred. Tasha may just pip the others to the post just because she is introduced as 'bin girl', which is a hilarious first scene that is referenced to throughout the story and kept making me laugh.

The supporting characters are also brilliant, they have clear identities and are just as realistic and brilliant as the main characters. A few of my favourites were Rory's best friend, Joe, who is cheeky and funny but with a kind heart. The older people who Flo looks after in the care home are also great, providing interesting anecdotes and stories of their past. Jeremy, the cat that Flo is left to look after adds to the story and is brought to life by Jill's talent for making characters (even cats!) jump off a page and seem so real its hard to believe they are nestled in amongst the pages of a story. Even Lena, Zander's sister is so selfish and infuriating you grow to really dislike her, but she is still an integral part to the story, and I always believe that any character that provokes emotion is brilliant, even if they are annoying!

From the very start of the book and from the blurb you know that this is going to be an emotional story, but I must admit that I wasn't quite prepared for the twists and turns that would lead us to the end. I don't want to spoil anything but I will say that it leads to a pretty shocking turn of events that had me biting my lip so I didn't cry. Jill has created a story that provokes all sorts of emotion and will stay with you for a long time after reading.

Three Amazing Things About You doesn't disappoint - Jill Mansell just keeps getting better and better! If, somehow, this book has passed you by then what are you waiting for? Go grab a copy and become engrossed in a story full of emotion, brilliant characters and difficult decisions.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Book review: Scandalous Lies by Nigel May

'Lovers and liars, divas and sinners, welcome to a world of scandal, where one woman will pay the ultimate price. 

SUSPENSE: Georgia’s best friend, ballroom dancing sensation Mitzi, has vanished with boyfriend Foster while on holiday in California. Can Georgia get to the truth of their disappearance before it’s too late? 

SECRETS: Reality TV star Nova could give the Kardashians a run for their money. But while she allows millions of viewers into her fabulous home, she’s unaware what her husband, celebrity mogul Jacob, is up to behind closed doors … 

SEX: Tanya is filthy rich, married to a man who adores her but she is restless. And her sexual appetite is about to get her into a whole lot of trouble. 

SCANDAL: Victoria, once the trophy-wife, has lost her mojo. Determined to get her life and marriage back on track, she’s desperate to inject some excitement in her life – but at what cost? 

From the glitz of Hollywood to the glamour of Milan and the exotic luxury of India, Scandalous Lies is a deliciously unputdownable read.'

Okay now I'm going to start this post off with a confession: I'm not a big fan of 'bonk-busters', erotica or anything too sexy. I'm not a prude, I just usually don't enjoy that kind of read as much as my usual women's fiction preference. However, Nigel May has managed to change my opinion of this genre with his intriguing, racy and just all-round brilliant writing style.

Scandalous Lies centres around the disappearance of Mitzi and her partner Foster. On a break from their TV dancing careers, the lovers head to America for a glitzy RV trip. However, they don't return from the trip and end up missing. After the first few days the press lose interest in the story and so it falls to those that know them to either find them, or at least an answer as to what happened to them. 

Now this story has loads of character and at first, it's quite a feat to keep track of all the names. Don't let that put you off though, as each character has a vivid, unique personality that adds to the story, and all the characters link together nicely - you can see the connections the characters all have to Mitzi and to each other, which makes it easier to follow. To keep my review at a manageable length I won't go into each character and their scenario, I'll just give you a quick summary of some of my favourites.

Georgia and Charlie were up there as my favourite characters in the story. Georgia is a weather girl for an English breakfast TV show, and Charlie is the showbiz reporter for the same programme. Their relationship is really genuine (which seems to be a rare occurrence amongst the rich and famous of this story) - they are really in love and so happy. Their partnership is full of support, promise and affection which made it a joy to read. Not only are Georgia and Charlie great together, but separately too. Charlie is really supportive to Georgia as she struggles to deal with the unexplained disappearance of her friend. She is a really caring person, who just wants to find out what happened to Mitzi - even if her determination does put her at risk.

One of my other favourite characters was Nova (Charlie's mum). She is a reality super-star (think Kardashian heights), her every move is recorded and meticulously planned so it makes good TV (which provides some funny scenes!). Charlie doesn't join in her programme, nor does her partner Jacob, but they support her and also keep her slightly more level-headed than she would be if they weren't around. She isn't affected as such, just not quite aware of how things work without fame and fortune. Despite this she is still highly likable and an infectious, bubbly character who I thought was a key part of the story. 

Now as I mentioned above, this book is quite racy... so I think we'd better quickly talk about sex. This is one of the few books I've read where I haven't cringed at a sex scene - the language isn't too flowery or awkward and there's just the right level of race and passion. One character in particular is quite kinky and there was one scene that shocked me, but it didn't put me off  the rest of the story, because it actually added some depth to her character and explains some of her reasoning and thought processes. (I won't say what happens as I don't want to ruin it, but believe me, you'll know what I mean when you read it!)

The main reason I'm personally not a huge fan of bonk-busters is because I usually find that sex is the main focus of a story and everything else weakens because of it- characters, plot, location - they are all only there because of the sex, not the other way round, which makes for a pretty weak story (50 Shades, anyone?). However, this certainly doesn't happen with Scandalous Lies - all the characters are well written and have strong personalities,  the plot if gripping and well thought through and the description for the story (as well as the sex scenes) is equally as good. Nigel uses sex scenes as a way to add to the plot, not as the plot which, to me, makes a massive difference.

So there you go. I'm a convert to sexy reading and fully enjoyed this story. If you want some sexy, glamorous, star-studded, exotic reading this summer then grab a copy of Scandalous Lies - it'll more than deliver.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Book review: The Great Village Show by Alexandra Brown

"Tindledale is in a tizzy...
The Village Show competition is coming around again and after last year’s spectacular failure, the villagers are determined to win. Meg, teacher at the local school, is keen to help and to impose some much-needed order.
After a terse encounter with a newcomer to the village, Meg discovers that it is celebrity chef and culinary bad boy, Dan Wright. Meg thinks he is arrogant and rude but rumour has it that Dan is opening a new restaurant in the village which could really put Tindledale on the map.
As things come together, villagers old and new all start to come out of the woodwork, including new arrival Jessie who seems to have it all. But first impressions can be deceptive and Meg discovers that when it comes to Tindledale – and Dan – nothing is ever quite as it seems..."

My review: 

I had been waiting for what seemed like ages for The Great Village Show to come out, as it sounded like the perfect story for me-  I love anything set in a small village, as it pleases my inner Country Bumpkin. Finally, the kindle version came out earlier this month (with the paperback due out on 30th July) and I hurriedly downloaded it, reading it straight away. I'm pleased to say that the story did not disappoint at all, I loved it.

The story follows the villagers of Tindledale as they plan the village show, hoping it will be popular and woo the school inspectors that are currently threatening to shut down the school. Led by the 'country bumpkin' villager Meg, acting Head Teacher of the school, she sets out to make it the best village show ever

My favourite part of the story was definitely the location. Tindledale village sounds wonderful and somewhere I could quite happily live. I loved the 'everyone knows everyone' feel that it has, it reminded me of the village I grew up in and so, for me, was actually a comforting part of the story. Tindledale is like a warm blanket on a frosty morning. I know that might seem an odd way to describe it, but but it's true and if you read this story, I'm sure you'll see what I mean.  There's a sense of belonging and comfort within the village that had me smiling from ear to ear. 

If I'm entirely honest, I will say that I feel the story started off fairly slowly and I didn't engage with Meg as much as I thought I should in the first chapter. I was slightly worried that I would struggle with the rest of the book but I didn't - after the first few chapters something clicked into place and I was hooked, needing to know how the village show would turn out, what would happen to Tindledale school and what would happen to the villagers. There's some great characters - Megs mum is a personal favourite, she's loud, inappropriate and not exactly tactful, which was hilarious. I loved watching Meg develop and see her engage with the other villagers, embark on a possible romance and set out to make the show one to remember- which it definitely is. 

The Great Village Show is  a quaint, lovely story that I thoroughly enjoyed. It has a thrilling mixture of village life (and drama!) and bold characters all centered around the show. This is the perfect story to read for some escape from everyday life, to transport yourself to a completely different location. I loved it! 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Blog tour: Dear Darling by Ellen Faith

"I’m 30 years old and sat celebrating with a greasy pizza and a bottle of cheap plonk.’

On her 30th birthday, Ellie Darling decides that it’s time to start a diary. Mainly as a reminder for when she’s old and living with cats that she once had a life that wasn’t all bad. Even if it was one where at 30 years of age, she still refused to spend that extra £3 on the good wine instead of chocolate.

But when the only proposal she gets from her boyfriend on Valentine’s Day is that of a threesome, she decides that enough is enough! With a new, improved job as Personal Assistant to one of the most feared Partners at her law firm – one that she doesn't seem to be able to stop dreaming about – Ellie decides that this will be her year. And if she has to run errands for her boss’ neurotic Russian girlfriend or drag her best friend to a sponsored cycle with her now gay first love, then so be it. "

I was so excited to read Dear Darling after really falling for Ellen's writing style when I read Learn to Love Again earlier this year and was so chuffed to be part of the blog tour. A huge thank you to Ellen for a review copy of the story and to Tay at Chicks That Read for organising the blog tour.  

The story follows Ellie, who decides to document her life in a diary. I really enjoyed this form of writing style, having each chapter set out as a diary entry not only gave you a great insight into Ellie's life and connect with her as a character, it also broke up the chapters and made the timeframe easy to follow. 

After Ellie and her boyfriend break up on valentines day (not the most romantic way to spend the holiday) the rest of the story follows her trying to get back into the dating game. She has a slightly inappropriate, but understandable, crush on her deliciously handsome but slightly grumpy boss Adam. I loved watching their professional relationship develop, and it also provides a 'will they, won't they' storyline which intrigued me throughout as it's so obvious they would make a fab couple. He is the epitome of sexy boss and I swooned whenever he made an appearance, the sparks between the two of them are electric. 

I personally really enjoy stories that have strong friendships in them and this book definitely delivers on that front. Ellie's best friend Gina is a feisty, funny character who is a huge support to her during tough times. Hannah, who works with Ellie, is also a big part of her life and the three of them spend a lot of time together, even going on a girls holiday to Miami. Their friendship was one of my favourite parts of the story, I loved reading about the time they spent together, even when they were just sitting in with a takeaway and having a gossip - they reminded me of my friends and it made the story even more relatable. 

Speaking of relatable, that brings me to Ellie who is just fab. She's a really normal, personable character that could so easily be you, or one of your friends. She loves food (which makes her a winner in my eyes) and thinks nothing of watching crap TV with a takeaway and bottle of wine. Definitely my kind of girl. This, to me, is what made the story. I love relating to a main character - it keeps you interested, makes you root for them and pulls you in to the story, which is definitely what happened with Dear Darling. 

Overall this is a great story that I really enjoyed. The diary format is something different and easy to follow, all the characters jump off the page (even Sophie, the office bitch who made me glare at the book as I was reading she's so awful) and is brilliantly written. If you want a light-hearted, romantic story to read this summer then you've found it... Dear Darling is the book to get! 

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Six in Six, 2015 - my year in books so far...


I stumbled across the Six in Six 2015 meme over on The Book Jotter's blog and thought it looked like a great way to summarise my year in books so far. Jo has a few suggestions for different categories or you can make your own - I did a mixture of the two. My answers are below, with links to any books that I've reviewed. If you have a go, send me a link to your post below, I'd love to read it, and also remember to post back to The Book Jotter.

Six books I have enjoyed the most: (This was so difficult!)

1. Ivy Lane, Cathy Bramley 
2. I Let You Go, Clare Mackintosh
3. Summer at Shell Cottage, Lucy Diamond 
4. The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance, Kirsty Greenwood
5. The Broken, Tammy Cohen
6. Silent Scream, Angela Marsons

Six books by authors I've never read before: 

1. Learn to Love Again, Ellen Faith
2. The Very Happy Afterlife of Rosie Potter (RIP), Kate Winter

3. Fairytale Beginnings, Holly Martin
4. Don't Turn Around, Caroline Mitchell
5. The Temp, Emily Benet
6. The Great Village Show, Alexandra Brown

Six book covers I love:

1. Ivy Lane, Cathy Bramley
2. Appleby Farm, Cathy Bramley (can I just put all of Cathy Bramley's books?!)

3. The Day We Disappeared, Lucy Robinson
4. Just The Way You Are, Lynsey  James
5. His Other Life, Beth Thomas
6. Pippa's Cornish Dream, Debbie Johnson

Foodie stories I enjoyed:
1. The Dish, Stella Newman
2. The Cake Shop in the Garden, Carole Matthews
3. Game of Scones, Samantha Tonge
4. Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery, Jenny Colgan 
5. The Gingerbread Cafe Trilogy, Rebecca Raisin
6. Afternoon Tea at the Sunflower Cafe, Milly Johnson

Six books from some of my favourite authors:

1. The Year of Taking Chances, Lucy Diamond
2. Three Amazing Things About You, Jill Mansell 
5. I'll Take New York, Miranda Dickinson
6. Village Fortunes, Rebecca Shaw

Six books that are on my bookshelf, shouting out to be read 
1. The Love Shack, Jane Costello 
2. Trouble at the Little Village School, Gervase Phinn
3. The Dead Wife's Handbook, Hannah Beckerman
4. The Memory Book, Rowan Coleman 
5. The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins
6. Yours Truly, Kirsty Greenwood

Monday, 20 July 2015

Favourite TV Moments

 So, as much as I am a book-lover, I also love watching TV, in paticular box-sets. I'm definetly a binge-watcher, finding a series I love and immersing myself in it until I've finished. I have joined in the Hype for some popular series really late on (I only finished Breaking Bad earlier this year and am currently working my way through Game of Thrones). Last night, I watched a paticularly shocking and amazing episode of GoT that still has me reeling now, so I felt inspired to share with you some of my favourite moments in television.

WARNING: Spoilers included.

If you haven't yet watched (and are planning to) - Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Game of Thrones, The Good Wife, Friends (really?!) or One Tree Hill then don't read any further!!! You have been warned! 
So... here we go (bare in mind this is in no particular order)

The O.C.
Seth Cohen is one of my favourite fictional characters ever... nerdy, funny, sarcastic and handsome I swooned over him week after week when The OC donned our screens. I loved his relationship with Summer, and the scene where he goes out in the torrential rain ("Oh my god it's like The Day After Tomorrow Out There!") with a spiderman mask to protect his hair - obviously - only to slip and end up dangling form the roof, upside down with a cable holding his foot. Summer sees him like this and they reenact the famous kissing scene from Spiderman. SO much better with these two! ahhhh...

One Tree Hill
I absolutely LOVED One Tree Hill, my sister and I would spend weekends cuddled up on the sofa watching episode after episode. At uni, my housemates all loved it as much as I did so we'd also have One Tree Hill marathons (I know, we were WILD!). The episode that always sticks with me is 'For All You've Done'- the one where Dan ends up shooting Keith and killing him. I remember when the episode aired for the first time, my sister and I watched it together, neither of us expecting such a dramatic and sad outcome. We both ended up bawling our eyes out at it, especially at Lucas and Karen's reactions and I think it was the first time I've ever been truly shocked by a TV show.

The Good Wife 

This is one of my favourite TV programmes ever. I'm currently watching the latest series and I think it just keeps getting better. It's brilliantly written - smart, funny and at times, emotional. I absolutely love it. One of the most shocking episodes for me was when Will Gardener, one of the main characters, was shot and killed in the courtroom. I hadn't seen it coming at all, especially as his and Alicia's relationship was just starting to unfold. With this episode it wasn't just his death that got to me, it was the reaction of all the other characters hearing about it. When Alicia receives the phone call to say he's died just moments before she goes onto stage in front on hundreds of people, I bawled my eyes out. When Kalinder, usually hard and savvy, breaks down, I cried even more. When Dianne goes back to their office and stares across at his empty desk, you guessed it, I cried again. It was a brilliantly acted, emotional episode that had me shocked and weeping.

                                                       House of Cards
After binge-watching the first series when it was released on Netflix I so excited for Series 2. Thankfully, it lived up to expectation and episode 1 certainly shocked me. The programme revolves around Frank Underwood's need for power and his corrupt and immoral ways to get it. Murder isn't exactly a shocking act for him, but I was very, very surprised with the events of Series 2, episode 1. The series begins with Zoe Barnes threatening to expose his corrupt ways. He asks to meet her at the subway station. Before you even know what's happening BAM! he pushes her onto the tracks and in front of a train. It happened so quickly I was amazed - we even re-wound that part to check it had really happened! What really shocked me was that Kate Mara, the actress who plays Zoe, had played a massive part in the promotion for the new series, appearing on radio and TV and in magazines promoting series 2, so I really hadn't expected her to be killed off in episode 1!

Breaking Bad

I was pretty late to the Breaking Bad hype party, only watching it earlier this year. Although I found the first few episodes really slow, it soon picked up the pace and quickly became one of the best TV shows I've ever watched. The episode when Walter rigs an explosion device to kill Gus Fring is genuinely one of the best bits of TV I've ever seen. There is a HUGE explosion in a room, so you immediately think that everyone, including Gus, will be dead. But, Gus walks out the room, doing up his tie and looking seemingly normal - sure, a bit messed up, but no injury's at all to see. It's only when the camera slowly pans around do you realise that the other half of him is absolutely destroyed. He then collapses and dies. An amazing, teasing scene that I still think about now.

Game of Thrones 

Like I said above, I'm still working my way through this but watching last nights episode inspired me to write this post. The famous Red Wedding scene is absolutely brilliant and shocking, I woke up this morning still thinking about it! So you have Rob Stark, (king of the north and all-round major character), his mother, Catelyn, pregnant wife, Talisa, not to mention all his soldiers.  attending a wedding. Rob had betrayed his vow to marry one of the Frey girls, instead falling in love with and marrying Talisa instead. However, all appeared to be forgiven, Walder Frey said he understood why Rob had made that choice, and Edmure would marry one of the Frey girls instead. All seemed to be well and the wedding goes off without a hitch, followed by a happy ceremony-  the drinks are flowing, music playing and everyone having a pretty good time. I naively thought that was that, oooh what a lovely calm episode. Wrong! after the bride and groom leave to consummate their vows, the music changes and the doors are bolted shut. Tension sparks and you just know something bad is going to happen. Before you know whats happening, the Frey men attack, stabbing Talisa brutely in the stomach, shooting Rob and Catelyn with arrows and attacking the rest of Rob's men. Whaaaat?! Rob and Catelyn don't die straight away, so again naively I thought maybe it would pull through. But no. After a stand off, Roose Bolton puts a sword through Robs stomach ("The Lannister's send their regards") and Catelyn's throat is split, but not before a blood-curdling wail of grief fills the room. I was SO shocked, as soon as the music played I was sat on the edge of my seat, gasping in shock and yelling 'NO you can't kill the starks!'. I spend at least half an hour after words ranting to the other half  about it. Although I'm not happy it happened, it is absolutely bloody brilliant television. What a shock!


I thought it might be best to end on a happier, less bloody-death note. Friends is for me, one of the most quotable TV shows of all time and is just an absolute classic. There isn't any situation or time that Friends can't be watched. There are some brilliant episodes and catch phrases that stand out for me - 'pivot, pivot, pivotttt!', smellycat and 'we were on a break!' to name a few, but the very last final episode is one that will stick with me for a very long time. First of all when Rachel 'gets off the plane'. Really, we all knew that Ross and Rachel would be together, and I'd have been really shocked if she did end up leaving Ross behind and going to France. But the scene where Ross is listening back to the answerphone message she leaves him, deliberating as to whether to go or not, gets me everytime. "Did she get off the plane?!"... "I got off the plane!" one of the best TV moments there's been. Then the rest of the episode is bittersweet, as an audience you know it's coming to an end and you know that when the characters are crying, it's actually because the actors themselves are crying. A fitting end to one of the best sitcoms ever.

So, there you have it, some of my favourite moments in TV ever. I'd love to know what yours are and if you agree! Let me know in the comments below :)