Thursday, April 26, 2012

Just Say Yes - Phillipa Ashley

We first meet Lucy Gibson as she is trying to duck past the mob of paparazzi lying in wait for her outside her front door. In the last few days she has become public enemy number one after she turned down her boyfriend Nick’s marriage proposal on live TV. Lucy needs to find some peace, especially as one of the articles mentions the name of the law firm where she works as a marketing assistant. After seeing the firm’s name in the press, one of the partners at Able & Lawson suggests Lucy take a month off work, until things die down a little. Things only seem to be getting worse, however. When Lucy sees a close up photo of her bum without a visible panty-line, on the middle-page spread of one rag, brandishing the headline “NICKERLESS” across the page, she decides she cannot take any more.

Her best friend, Fiona, has the idea that they should leave London and escape to her hideaway cottage in the Cornish countryside where she often goes to write her crime novels. So they head off with Fiona’s “kitchen-sized” dog, Hengist, to the sleepy surfer town of Tresco Creek.

Not long after they arrive at Creekside Cottage, Lucy encounters Josh Standring, the owner of Tresco Farm and the other three cottages next to Fiona’s, which he runs as holiday lets. Mistaking him for paparazzi they don’t get off to the friendliest start, but, over the time Lucy is there, she and Josh get to know each other better – or so Josh thinks!

This is the first Phillipa Ashley novel I have read and I quite enjoyed it. The ending is predictable and most of the characters a little shallow for my reading taste, but overall, the story flows easily and it is a quick read. Even though there is some retrospective story-telling at first, it is not confusing at all and provides an important perspective to the story. I liked the Lucy at the end of the book much better than the Lucy at the beginning when she first met Nick. As she grew from being a ditsy girl who needed a man to define her, into a more independent woman she became more realistic to me and I found myself empathising with her much more.

This book is entertaining, light hearted and would make a good summer read.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Nadia Knows Best - Jill Mansell

We first meet Nadia Kinsella when she is steering her car as it is sliding out of control on packed ice. Eventually the car comes to a stop as it ploughs into a ditch and Nadia is happy to be alive and unhurt. Not knowing where she is and realising the battery on her phone is dead, she decides to sit out the snowstorm in the car and take a chance someone will pass by and stop to help her. That’s where she first meets Jay Tiernan. He invites Nadia to walk with him to the nearest village as it is not far away, according to his map. When they get there they find a local pub and negotiate with the drunken landlord to spend the night in his one spare room as the storm looks set to continue overnight. The attraction between them is undeniable but Nadia already has a boyfriend and is not the cheating type, so, even though they end up sharing the same bed at the pub, nothing more than familiar chatter and banter happens between them. Soon after she makes it home safely, Nadia is unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend!

A year and a half later, by chance, she bumps into Jay again, but this time she is single and it is he who has responsibilities. Jay has moved into Nadia’s home town and is renovating a property there. Soon their lives become a tangled mix of working together, longing for each other and indecision. To make matters even more complicated, Nadia’s boyfriend has moved back home having given up his life in Hollywood. He wants Nadia back and is determined to get her. Eventually, Nadia realises she has some difficult choices to make.

The thing I enjoy most about Jill Mansell’s books is the way all of her characters play such a big role in the story she is telling. They are not peripheral to the plot, they are an integral part of it and at times one could be forgiven for wondering who the main character is. Nadia has two sisters, Claire the selfish artist and Tilly the sensible teenager, an eccentric, irresponsible mother who abandoned all of her daughters when they were babies and who changes lovers almost annually, an understanding, kind father who is shy and steadfast, an irrepressible grandmother who brought the girls up and who has been hiding a dark secret for over half a century, a supermodel boyfriend who gained fame and fortune after Nadia entered him into a modelling competition and Jay, the handsome, successful business man who ends up becoming Nadia’s boss. There are other characters at the centre of this story, too. Even though they are not main characters, they are so well drawn they could well be.

Nadia Knows Best is a delightful read and Jill Mansell does not disappoint with the writing, the plot or the ending. I particularly loved the last scene in the book which made me laugh out loud.

This book is definitely a keeper for me!


Thank you to the folks at Sourcebooks for sending me a copy of Nadia Knows Best to review.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Secret Dreams of Sarah Jane Quinn (Harper and Lyttle Series no. 2) - Sharon Gerlach

Sarah Jane Quinn works at Harper and Lyttle in an office full of work cubes. She has lots of dreams and longs, one day, to own the bed and breakfast inn she stayed in as a child. She also yearns to catch the attention of her work-mate, Collie Tate, who she has an enormous crush on. Collie, however, has other priorities. As a single dad his life is dominated by a custody battle for his child which consumes his thoughts and attention. Sarah finds herself way down on his list of concerns. She has a fraught relationship with her family and her sister is always number one in her mother’s eyes. Sarah realises she is only useful at family gatherings to help with the food preparation and the washing up.

It seems, that all her life she has been well down everybody’s list of priorities and one of her biggest dreams is to one day be someone’s number one concern. So, when Gus Haldermann shows a great interest in Sarah, she is flattered and bemused at his attention. She cannot help but find the handsome and charismatic director of Human Resources rather irresistible.

Then one day, Sarah is brutally assaulted at work by a violent stalker. She barely survives the attack and it takes her a long time to recover. During this time she realises she must choose between the two men in her life and re-evaluate her priorities, especially if she is to one day be top of anyone’s list.

All I can say is; I loved, loved, loved, this book! Not only was the story interesting but the characters were so well drawn, by the end of the story I felt as if I worked at Harper & Lyttle with them all myself. The dialogue was spot on, too. If Sharon Gerlach has not had some experience working in an office with cubes, I would be really surprised. She captured the humour, wit and politics of office life so succinctly that it was like listening in over the wall. At times the repartee was laugh out loud funny and I was completely enthralled. I also loved the ending of the story and it did not disappoint.

I found this book on Amazon for free. It is the best free download I have ever had from Amazon and I will definitely look out, and pay for, other books in the Harper & Lyttle series and by Sharon Gerlach


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing - Melissa Bank

Having recently decided to sort through my bookshelves and weed out books to add to a re-read pile and those bound for the second hand book shop, it became apparent that there were an enormous number of good and great books which had found their way to those shelves over the past few years. After the agony of selecting items for the book shop and the re-read pile, my dilemma became in which reading order to put the keepers. It was proving to be even more of a stressful challenge than the initial selection, so calling upon the services of my constant companion and often attacker of any moving body parts, Nobbs (aka Gabe at the vets surgery), I charged him with the task of making the choice for me.

Nobbs selection only confirmed what great taste he has when he chose Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank.

Jane Rosenal is searching for love, a fulfilling career and herself. She is feisty, witty and often in need of approval from the men in her life, her boss and her family. She goes from being self assured to losing her confidence completely and back to finding her inner strength again. It is a life journey of self discovery and often bitterly painful experiences.

Melissa Bank writes with a certain economy of words and razor sharp dialogue which join together to paint a complete picture of Jane and her experiences. There are many references to the characters following rules and playing games in this story and at the same time the reader is made aware, by the selection of story topics, that the real game being played out here is life itself. In, My Old Man, we find teenage Jane out on the balcony of her aunt’s apartment sipping brandy and curious to know about the neighbours below who are out on their balcony, arguing. In the next section, Best Possible Light, we are introduced to the Solomon family and it isn’t until close to the end of this story we are told they are the neighbours living below Jane’s aunt, referred to in the previous story. Clearly Melissa Bank wanted to see if the reader was paying attention and playing along with her little game too.

Using humour in the face of despair, Jane never fails to take lessons from those around her. Her searching curiosity and questioning nature lead her to move on from relationships when she understands their true meaning. All these experiences help her to finally realise that she will not settle for anything she doesn’t instinctively know to be right, for her.

There are parts of the book which are hard to read without feeling terribly sad or despondent for Jane and there are parts which are laugh out loud funny.

Teenage Jane:

Meeting her brother’s girlfriend for the first time:
Julia chose words carefully and used ones I’d never heard spoken – she sounded to me like she was trying out for a job as a dictionary.
My mother eyed me: Do not smirk.’

Trying to plan what to do during the summer break from school:
‘ “I need new experiences, Mom.”
“What about an internship,” she suggested, “in something you are interested in”
I reminded her that I don’t have any interests.
You like to draw, “ she said.
I told them I was thinking of being a waitress.
My dad said, “Practice by clearing the table” ‘

Adult Jane:

On meeting her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend:
Bella takes both my hands in hers, as though she has been waiting a long time to meet me. She says “Janie,” my childhood nickname, and I am so thrown off by her warmth that I say “Belly.” ‘

Speaking at her best friend’s wedding:
‘ “Then,” I say, “there was our sea-horse period, when we were told that we didn’t need mates; we were supposed to make ourselves happy just bobbing around in our careers.”

Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing is a superb book, excellently written. On the re-read I felt the characters and their experiences far more intensely than on the first one. This is definitely a keeper for me.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

It's a Kind of Magic and For Better, For Worse - Carole Matthews

Carole Matthews is one of my favourite authors. Her work is funny, charming, often fairytale-like and reading her books always cheers me up. Thanks to the great review of It's a Kind of Magic from the lovely Dot at Dot Scribbles, I wanted to re-read a couple of Carole's books again and so I did.

It's a Kind of Magic is a fairy tale, quite literally!

Emma and Leo have been an item for five years. They are constantly breaking up and getting back together again, usually because of Leo's unreliablity especially when he teams up with his two best friends, Grant and Lard. When Leo turns up for Emma's thritieth birthday dinner a couple of hours late, drunk and dishevelled after being with his mates, Emma can't help but wish that things were different and Leo would change. Of course, they fall out again and Leo heads home alone, too drunk to drive, so he walks.

As he is passing over Tower Bridge Leo meets the beautiful Isobel and he instantly falls under her spell, which is only to be expected as she is a fairy and has chosen Leo to be her human mate. Leo is bewitched with her from that moment on, but, all the time he thinks of Emma and what she means to him. Emma notices how Leo is changing before her very eyes. She realises that at her insistence Leo has moved on and has met Isobel and Emma doesn't like it one bit. If she is to win Leo back she must do some things that are out of character for her and so she begins to change herself. The results are very amusing and the tale takes on a couple of surprising turns.

This is a magical tale of love and change and friendship. My favourite parts of the book are centred around the dialogue especially that between Leo, Grant and Lard. I just adore their banter and Carole Matthews writes this extremely well.

If you want to escape the real world for a few hours and sample some magic then I would highly recommend you pick up this book.


For Better, For Worse.

Josie Flynn has just signed her divorce papers after being married to Damien for five years. The day after, she heads off to New York to be bridesmaid at her cousin, Martha's, wedding. It is with some trepidation that she sets off as this is the first time she has travelled alone on such a journey. She finally takes her seat on the plane and finds herself sitting next to Matt Jarvis who is a music journalist and also a nervous flyer. He orders a couple of stiff drinks after take- off and soon he and Josie fall into easy conversation despite her mother’s warning not to speak to strange men on the flight. She doesn’t think that Matt is strange at all and as they get to know each other better, it transpires that Matt is also recently divorced. After they swap divorce horrors and in spite of Josie’s good intentions to arrive in New York sober and hydrated, she ends up joining Matt in a few stiff drinks, too.

They arrive in New York very drunk and much the worse for wear and have a plan to meet up again later to visit the Statue of Liberty together. They have a wonderful time and agree to meet up for dinner later that evening. Unfortunately, Matt arrives one and a half hours late having been waylaid by the pop group he has come to New York to interview. They literally pass each other on the street, but, fail to see each other.

The rest of the story revolves around Matt trying desperately to find Josie again and of course, Josie’s cousin’s wedding. As always with Carole Matthews writing there are some laugh out loud moments and some great dialogue. At the same time she touches upon some serious topics such as fidelity, growing up, grief and family ties in this book. In spite of this For Better, For Worse is a great read and very entertaining.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Time to begin the reviews again! Staying at Daisy's - Jill Mansell and Bubba and The Dead Woman - C.L. Bevill

Since we last spoke I have been very busy reading both "real" books and ebooks on my Kindle.

Yes! It is true. A Kindle found it's way to me (via my lovely brother who thought I should have one for my birthday) and even though I expected it to be an unlikely outcome, I have actually enjoyed searching for books and using it. So far I have read 21 books, have one filed in a collection called "Unfinished" (for obvious reasons) and have 46 more waiting in the TBR pile.......

The type of books I have chosen to download onto the Kindle are quite different, in terms of genre, from books I would buy from a book shop. I have surprised myself, truth beknown.

So, onto reviews. I will be posting over the next few months about all the real books and ebooks I have read since we last chatted. Some of the real books I have read are in the photo below. Oh yes! I have also read 6 Marian Keyes, tonnes of Alexander McCall Smith and lots of M.C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin series which are not included in this photo.

Do you use a Kindle?

What is your experience downloading titles?

Staying at Daisy’s - Jill Mansell (paper book)

Other than “Rumour Has It”, “Staying at Daisy’s” is the only other Jill Mansell book I have read. I wasn’t overly impressed with Rumour has It, primarily because I found it to be too formulated and predictable. Even though predictability is quite usual in most light romance books and generally speaking we all know the main characters will all live happily ever after, this one was just a little too tidy to entertain me and the main female character, Tilly, was a little annoying at times. However, when I picked up Staying at Daisy’s and read the blurb on the back cover I thought I should give it a try. I always believe in giving something a second chance (restaurants, bars, books, authors, cities, airlines, etc. etc) especially if first time round they didn’t impress too much – working on the premise that it may have just been a bad day, or the chef’s day off or jet lag, I will usually go back for seconds! So, I was rather pleased I did this with Jill Mansell’s work as I really enjoyed Staying at Daisy’s

Daisy MacLean runs the country house hotel, owned by her father, Hector. He is a larger than life character and loves to entertain his guests by singing and dancing and getting them to do the same. He has a well-kept, long standing secret, as do many of the characters in this story. History affects the current plot significantly and all of the main characters are wrapped up in interconnected intrigue which leads them to be embroiled in each other’s lives in unusual and unexpected ways.

Without giving any of the plot away at all, the reason this book was so enjoyable for me was entirely because of the characters. With the exception of Dominic and Annabel’s sister, Jeannie, I liked them all, including Annabel herself. I even liked the dog, Clarissa!!

If you want to be entertained by interesting, likable characters who are not perfect but seem real, then I wholeheartedly recommend to sneak between the covers of Staying at Daisy’s.


Bubba and The Dead Woman – C. L. Bevill

This was the first C.L. Bevill ebook I read. The main reason I downloaded it for my Kindle was that I was quite taken with the blurb, encouraged by the reviews on and it was free! I also liked the fact that it was set in a small town in East Texas and had a main character called Bubba Snoddy. We find out very early on that Bubba used to be in the military and stands at 6 feet 4 inches tall, weighs 250 pounds and is a gentle giant. He is smart and patient in that “Southern Hospitality” way and finds himself in all kinds of trouble in this story, through no fault of his own.

Having lived in mid-south USA for several years myself, when I read anything set in the south I can hear those southern accents as I read the dialogue. This book was no exception and I thoroughly enjoyed it. So much so that I will definitely BUY the next ebook in the series, just to see what happens to Bubba next. I liked C.L. Bevill’s writing style and as a result of reading this book I searched for more of her work, which I also found on Amazon.

So back to Bubba and The Dead Woman. Bubba is a mechanic at Bufford’s Gas and Grocery Store which is owned by a mean man called George Bufford who is currently off gallivanting with his secretary in the Bahamas whilst his wife is taking care of the store at home. When we first join Bubba he is on the phone to a very disgruntled Bufford employee who should have been working that night with Bubba, but, for some reason is resigning over the phone. Because of this and as it is Mrs Bufford’s night off, Bubba ends up being the only employee working at Bufford’s for the whole of the night shift. When he gets home from work the next morning he finds a dead woman lying head first in the long weeds at the side of the caretakers house, which is where Bubba lives. Things get more complicated from there and before you know it Bubba is in the thick of a mystery that involves confederate bullion and the long arm of the law.

This was an adorable book to read, I loved every minute of it and really grew fond of Bubba, his dog, Precious and his mother, Miz Demetrice. The characters were very reminiscent of many people I met whilst living in mid-South USA and the way the small town picture is painted is indeed accurate, as I recall it. If you want to be entertained and smile for a few hours then read this book. It is free on and is an absolute treat.


Have you read either of these books? What are your thoughts?