Friday, 23 December 2011

Last Christmas by Julia Williams

I really enjoyed this book because it felt warm, festive and delivered a nice Christmassy message. There were ups and downs for all of the characters throughout the book - as in real life - and because these characters were so loveable, I found myself hoping things would work out for the best. The village that the book is set in (Hope Christmas) sounds idyllic, and the various characters found within it were well written and charming. Ralph Nicholas was a particular favourite because of the mysteriousness behind him. The only negative I have to say about this book is some of the names chosen for the characters, such as Cat Tinsall, Noel Tinsall and Gabrial North. It seems a bit of a cheesy way to make the story more Christmassy, but I don't think it needed this touch. However, other than that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I give it 9/10.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

The Magic of Christmas by Trisha Ashley

I really wanted to love this book, because I have loved all of the other Trisha Ashley books I have read before. But there was something about this one that didn't quite click. I couldn't connect with the written style - the first person didn't work for me as it was very bitter and sarcastic in tone and, although I know Trisha hates this piece of criticism, she did use too many exclamation marks. This made it hard for me to connect with the main character, Lizzy. Other more appealing characters to me, such as Annie, did not feature enough and characters I did not like, mostly Nick, featured a lot. Nick was supposed to be the main love interest in the story but I found him totally unappealing. I know I sound like I'm really criticising this book, but I did enjoy some parts of it. It just wasn't for me on the whole, when the synopsis suggested it would be perfect, which was a little disappointing. I give this book 5/10.

Audiobook: The Wedding Planner by Melanie La'Brooy

This audiobook took me a while to get into for a couple of reasons. Firstly, being set in Australia meant that the narrator put on an Australian accent for the characters, which was a little irritating, particularly the voice for Mimi. And secondly, it was partly about celebrity, which is something that I am not that interested in. However, as the story progressed and I began to get to know the characters, I started to enjoy the story. There were some interesting revelations about various characters, and whilst the main character, Mimi, annoyed me quite a lot, I could see why her character was this way. I give this audiobook 5/10.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

The Secret of Happy Ever After by Lucy Dillon

This book is definately going on my list of all-time-favourite books. I've always enjoyed reading Lucy Dillon's books but this is my favourite so far. That may be because one of the subject matters is a bookshop (because I work with books), and another involved dogs (because I have a dog!). But it was also very well written and had some lovely and warming story lines. The two main characters were different types of women but I felt I could relate to both of them and always wanted to find out more. As Michelle's past slowly revealed itself, I couldn't help but read on because I was so intrigued by the events in her life that had made her who she was. And because I shared a love of children's books and reading with Anna, I felt as if I knew her like a best friend. There was not one bad point to this book and I couldn't put it down, so I give it 10/10!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell

I really enjoyed this book. I immediately felt connected to the main character, Ellie, and felt for her because of her husband's death. Even though conjuring up her husband in her mind and having conversations was a little strange, it was her character's way of dealing with his death and it made me sympathise with her. I didn't feel so connected to the character Roo. Firstly, the name is a bit of a strange choice, and secondly her circumstances of being with a married man were a lot less easy to sympathise with, as was her methods of repenting for her past actions. At first I liked Todd's character but I did not like his storyline as it progressed, especially how he acted towards Roo. However, the main storyline which revolved around Ellie was really enjoyable to read, as was the sub-plot involving her father-in-law, and the style of Mansell's writing is easy and pleasant to read as always. I give this book 8/10.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Audiobook: Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult

I really enjoyed this story as it was very gripping. As Jodi Picoult usually does, the story is told from the perspectives of several characters, which I feel helped me get to know and understand them all well. Deliah was my favourite character and her chapters were always the most enjoyable. Andrew's chapters, I felt, were often very dark and told of some traumatic scenes from prison, which I did not personally enjoy but could see why they were important. The only character I could not really feel connected to was Fitz. Although this may have been because the narrator reading his part sounded very angry and sounded as if he was shouting all the time. There were parts where I started to lose interest, but I was glad to have stuck it out as there was a really good ending with some interesting twists towards the end. I give this audiobook 7/10.

Friday, 28 October 2011

You Don't Have To Say You Love Me by Sarra Manning

I'm still a bit undecided about this book. I really love the story. I think the messages it projects are really important: to love yourself the way you are and that things do not always live up to your high expectations. I liked the character of Neve and also Max. But there was something about the way it was told that didn't quite work for me. It seemed very much revolved around sex, and some of the language used to describe the sex scenes was a bit distasteful. There were sex scenes randomly placed throughout, that felt that they were there just for the sake of it. I also felt that I couldn't connect to all of the characters, such as Neve's brother and sister, and that their characters could have been explored a bit further. However, I did enjoy the book, I just feel it could have been much better. I give this book 5/10.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

A Summer Fling by Milly Johnson

I quite enjoyed this book once I got into it and got to know the different characters. Each of the main characters were loveable and had some twist to their story. Raychel's was particularly surprising and helped me to understand her character better. My favourite characters were those who were with awful men but managed to overcome these and move on, showing their strength as women. Grace was perhaps my favourite, as you could see how much she loved her children and how much she had to go through in order to allow herself to follow her head and heart. Probably the only character I did not like that I was supposed to was Vladamir Darq because of the whole 'vampire' idea surrounding him, which seems to be a strange craze at the moment. I do not think it is particularly attractive in a man, and there were too many cliched jokes about him. Other than that, though, I generally enjoyed this book. I give it 8/10.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Audiobook: The Enchanted by Charlotte Bingham

I've recently gotten into audiobooks and this was a brilliant one to get me started. I really loved the story of this one, and all of the different characters that are brought together as part of it. Kathleen was my favourite character because of her connection to her horse, The Enchanted. But there wasn't a single character I didn't grow to love by the end, except those you are supposed to hate such as Lynne's ex, Gerry. I don't know much about horse racing, but I really enjoyed the descriptions of the races and really felt my heart pounding as if I were really there. It took me a while to get used to the narrator, as her Irish accent was a bit strange at first, but by the end I couldn't have imagined it any different. I give this audiobook 9/10.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The Summer Season by Julia Williams

I really enjoyed this book and getting to know the characters within it. It was interesting to see the story progress from the perspectives of the main characters, who slowly revealed their pasts to the reader. I particularly liked the chapters which revealed the story behind Heartsease House with the lives of Edward and Lily. The gardening aspect of the story was also enjoyable, with the descriptions of the gardens. The only part of the book that I didn't like was Kezzie's use of drugs, mostly because she didn't stop using them after they nearly ruined her relationship. I like a story where the characters learn from their mistakes and has some sort of moral lesson behind it. I give it 8/10.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Warnings of Gales by Annie Sanders

Although it has taken me a long time to read (due to being busy), I quite enjoyed this book. I instantly warmed to the character of Imogen but it took me a while to like Jo, who at first irritated me a little. But in many ways, this reflected how the characters' feelings developed throughout the book. By the end, I loved both of these characters in their own way. The other main female character was Sophie, but I didn't feel very connected to her so felt she could have been developed a bit more. However, I did enjoy how the story was told from the two perspectives of Imogen and Jo, who both clashed and were on very different journeys in their life. It reveals how women can totally misunderstand each other but eventually realise the grass isn't always greener on the other side, which I feel is an important message, and deal with their own problems head on. I give this book 8/10.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I don't normally read many non-chick-lit type books, but this was a present which came highly recommended so I decided to give it a go. It was actually really good, though, so I was pleasntly surprised. It took a while for the plot to take off, but when it finally did I was hooked. There were some really surprising twists in the story which I didn't expect. And I felt that I really got to know a lot of the characters in depth. Although sometimes I got confused between some of the Spanish names which seemed similar at first. And another complaint is that the author sometimes came across as a bit pretentious when he chose to use long and complicated words and sentences when describing ordinary things. I'm still going to be reading chick lit most of the time, but it was interesting to read something different for a change. I give it 8/10.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Wonderful Weekend Book by Elspeth Thompson

I do not usually read many non-fiction books all the way through, but this one was difficult to put down! As someone who loves taking pleasure in the small things in life, this book was perfect for me. I picked this book up off the shelves at my local library on a whim but totally fell in love with it. I love the way it goes through activities to do by season, as I feel that people do not really appreciate the changing seasons enough. Whilst some things were maybe not in my price range (such as buying expensive bedding), other suggestions could be took up by anyone. I do not usually review non-fiction books, but this was something special, which I read like a novel, and so I give it 9/10.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

The Girls' Guide to Homemaking by Amy Bratley

I really enjoyed this book. I loved and felt really connected to the main character, Juliet, although this may be because she is very similar to me! I felt empathetic towards her and her situation and enjoyed watching her solve her problems and develop as a person. I particularly liked the theme of homemaking and how Juliet used her gradmother's homemaking manual to help her build her new life. I loved hating her (ex)boyfriend, (ex)best friend and (ex)boss throughout the story, too. I also enjoyed the revelations that were gradually revealed about Juliet's past and family, that let me get to know her better as a character. It was a thoroughly enjoyable story. I give it 10/10.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

One Day in May by Catherine Alliott

At first, I wasn't so sure this book was for me, but as I got into the story and I grew to love the main character, Hattie, I found myself really enjoying it. I liked her best friend, Maggie, and her family, some of which you got to know better during the chapters that described her past. I also really enjoyed the twist in the story towards the end of the book. The type of books I usually read are fairly predictable (which I actually love), but I was genuinly surprised by this revelation, and not in a bad way. I feel it really added to the story. I also liked how the story ended, as it almost had a moral message behind it and showed Hattie's development as a character. I give this book 8/10.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Recipe for Disaster by Miriam Morrison

I quite enjoyed this book. I really liked the character of Jake, who I felt I knew very well from the stories told from his past and all his thoughts and feelings. I don't usually like male narrators but this was done very well. The story was also told from the viewpoint of Harry and Kate at times. Harry was a brilliant character to hate, as all his thoughts corresponded with his evil actions, so it was easy to dislike him. However, I didn't feel as attached to Kate as I should have done. I couldn't really sympathise with her that much when she couldn't come clean to Jake about being a journalist instead of a waitress, and I felt he forgave her far too easily. Also, when he banged his head and temporarily forgot who she really was, it was difficult to tell when and exactly what he remembered. Other than that, I liked the storyline and the style of writing. I give it 8/10.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Making Your Mind Up by Jill Mansell

I can't really put my finger on it, but even though I did enjoy this book, it didn't grab my attention as much as some of Jill Mansell's other novels. I think the problem was that I didn't really love the main character, Lottie, or the main love interest, Tyler. However, I did really enjoy the sub-plot of Cressida's story, but I was disappointed because I felt that it was never properly concluded. I also liked the sub-plot of Lottie's ex-husband, Mario, and how he changed for the better because of his love for Amber. So even though I enjoyed this book to some extent, I didn't get the feeling that I couldn't put it down like with some books. I give it 6/10.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Sowing Secrets by Trisha Ashley

I really enjoyed this book. The plot seemed familiar to something I've read before, and it was predictable, but I'm not the type of person to moan about that. In fact, I feel quite comforted by it! I really liked the sound of the village that it is set in, and the gardens that are described, particularly the roses. I felt very close and attached to the main character, Fran, and felt very defensive of her when her husband, Mal, was saying horrible things to her about her weight. Gabe the gardener was a brilliant leading man, seemingly nice and ruggedly handsome. Overall, the book was just a really cosy read, similar to how Katie Fforde writes, and she's may favourite author so that is a real compliment. I give this book 9/10.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

I absolutely loved this book. As soon as I picked it up, I fell in love with it and couldn't put it down. I loved the main character Issy and all of the characters like Pearl, Helena and even Caroline! The only problem was that it made me want to eat cake all the time because they sounded so delicious! The cafe sounded perfect and I could picture it exactly in my mind, with the courtyard and all. Gramps was a lovely character and it made me sad when he died. The only thing I didn't like was at the very end when Austin hinted that he would be leaving the country and he wanted Issy to go with him and she seemed happy to. It kind of goes against everything she stood for and undermined the journey she'd been through in setting up the cafe. But other than that, everything else was perfect! I give it 10/10!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Laying the Ghost by Judy Astley

I can't really decide whether I liked this book or not. I didn't dislike it, but I wasn't drawn to it, either. However, my opinion might be tainted by the stress of exams at the moment so I will try not to be too harsh. The problem was that I never felt truly connected to the main character, Nell. And I didn't really like how some sections of the book were from the perspective of her teenage daughter, Mimi. I also didn't like the character of Steve. Although I knew I wasn't supposed to like him, the whole S&M side of him was just strange. The storyline of him stealing the letter for Patrick and writing a fake reply was good, though. And I did like the character of Ed and wished I'd heard more from him and his budding feelings for Nell. However, what I did really like was Nell's career as an artist and I enjoyed the descriptions of her work and her studio. Overall, I'd give this book 6/10.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Mother of the Bride by Kate Lawson

I chose to read this book because of the Royal Wedding and I'd read a good review about it and because it has been sitting on my bookshelf unread since Christmas. I think I'b been putting it off because I wasn't sure I'd like a wedding story, but I absolutely loved it. I loved all of the characters you were meant to love and hated all the characters you were meant to hate! I particularly like Molly and Jess and felt I really got to know them throughout the book. My dislike of Max grew steadily throughout the book as Jess slowly began to realise that maybe he wasn't the right man for her after all. I particularly liked the description of Jess's little cottage, it sounded like my ideal home! So I was pleasantly surprised with this book. I give it 9/10.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Sweetest Thing by Cathy Woodman

I absolutely loved this book! It is exactly what I look for in a romantic novel. Whilst it is clearly predictable, it is enjoyable to divulge into the world of Talyton St. George again. I loved the character of Jennie, and her two little girls who were incredibly sweet. I wasn't so sure about the sub-plot of her son drinking alcohol when he was down - he was only fourteen - but at least it brought them all together by the end of the book. I loved how each chapter had the name of a cake at the beginning, and then how that cake somehow featured in the chapter. And I also loved all of the animals in the story. I hope Cathy Woodman brings out more books like this as it is exactly what I'd hoped for when I bought it! I even bought a copy from Waterstones rather than wait longer for the cheaper copy to be released because I'd really enjoyed the previous two Talyton St. George novels. It was nice that we saw some of the same characters briefly from those stories, too. I give it 10/10!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

It's Now or Never by Carole Matthews

I really enjoyed this book, it was actually very inspirational. I loved both the characters of Annie and Lauren and felt like I got to know them really well throughout the book. I felt proud of them when they finally achieved what it was they wanted/needed. Although the character Jude was horrible, he was written really well, and seeing the transition of Lauren falling out of love with him was actually enjoyable, because he just kept making more and more mistakes and got what he deserved! I didn't like the character of Greg, though, even when he changed at the end. I'm not sure why, but he just irritated me a little bit. But a good book overall. I give it 8/10.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Ballroom on Magnolia Street by Sharon Owens

When I picked this book up, I wasn't sure I was going to like it because of the synopsis on the back. However, the story wasn't that much like the synopsis at all! There were hints on the back of the book that suggested that Kate was going to hit on Johnny Hogan and this seemed strange. However, she actually intended the double wedding to be with Kevin McGovern. The entire way through the book I was thinking 'When is she going to leave Kevin and go after Johnny?', but she never did and I was glad about that. The synopsis also suggested that Johnny got involved with his newly-discovered son's wedding, when he didn't even go! But despite the fact the story didn't really match the synopsis, I did really enjoy the book. I really liked the characters of Marion and Eddy. At first Sharon annoyed me a little bit but I grew to love her. Kate annoyed me almost the entire way through, but her character needed to be this way to show how she changed towards the end. I give this book 7/10.