Practically Perfect by Katie Fforde

Anna’s heart is set on redesigning and rebuilding a small cottage, investing her time, energy and money in it. She quickly makes friends with mother-of-three Chloe and acquires a new greyhound, Caroline. However, is the cottage too much work? Things aren’t helped by buildings inspector, Rob Hunter, who stands in the way of building her dream cottage…
 
 
Practically Perfect is a sweet, charming story, yet I think it is overlong. At times, Fforde has the tendency to drag the story out, and it feels like there is no pace to the story at tall, and makes reading it difficult. Some people may enjoy the oh-so slowness of the narrative but for me, it doesn’t always work. However, I did enjoy the story and the characters, although I thought that the argument between Anna and Rob after the fire felt a bit out of place, but this was soon resolved by a lovely ending. The appeal of this story (and generally most of Fforde’s work) is that you get drawn into the story of the main character – nothing eventful happens, it is a slow burner, although sometimes a little too slow paced for my liking. 3 stars.
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Twitchhiker by Paul Smith

Paul Smith is shopping at a supermarket when an idea suddenly comes into his mind – to travel to the other side of the world (which he judges as Campbell Island in New Zealand) only using Twitter – accepting travel and accommodation offers from strangers to achieve his goal. What could go wrong? Will he succeed?

 

Paul Smith proves himself to be a more-than-competent writer: clever, informative, honest and witty writer that manages to engage the reader into following his story, and what a story it is. Smith’s actions to fulfil his dream are inspiring as he prepares to take a huge risk in what seems to be an impossible, if not dangerous, task, placing enormous trust in the hands of strangers on Twitter. At times, he reveals his feelings about his bi-polar disorder, his family and his moments of self-doubt along the way, but the people he meets via Twitter are more than happy to help and encourage Smith to keep going on his journey. Whether he achieves it or not is something I won’t spoil, but Smith treats us to vivid descriptions of the places he visits in stupendous detail, making it a joy to read for travel fans, but this book is for anyone really – it is life-affirming, inspiring, and hilarious to read. One criticism I have is that it lagged in some places and failed to capture my interest but on the whole, it is a good and captivating read. 3.5 stars.

Bookends by Jane Green

Cath, Si, Josh and Portia were best of friends at university, until something happened that caused their friendship to change. Ten years later, Cath, Si and Josh have lost contact with Portia, until she returns unexpectedly, sparking off changes in the lives of the three friends.

This is a gripping story as I wanted to read about what had happened to separate Portia from the group. After that, Green presents the stories of Cath, who is unwilling to find love, Si, who falls in love too easily, and Josh , who is happily married to Lucy. Their stories are fascinating to read, and the return of Portia shakes things up, as Cath and Si are suspicious about Portia. Green writes moments of humour, friendship and love well, as well as creating the right tone for Si’s illness storyline. The dialogue is excellent and bubbly, and Green manages to produce a chemistry between the friends that is believable. A great read. 4 stars.

Stick or Twist by Eleanor Moran

 

Anna is tired of her relationship with Adam, which gives her safety and security, but nothing else. Things have become boring and passionless. Anna decides it is time to get out fast, but will she live to regret her decision?

 

Moran presents a very funny and frank tale exploring what love is. The main character, Anna, can appear to be a bit selfish at times, but largely she comes across as a realistic and refreshingly honest character with a dry sense of wit that I became really interested in her story. Anna is on a quest to find love and soon she finds herself in romantic trouble, that leads her to reflect on and question her relationship with Adam.

 

The supporting characters are  a bit hit and miss – I didn’t find Polly likeable at all (a bit too nice and what she does in the book is a definite no-no in friendship), and Susie I was indifferent too. Horst and his mannerisms were wonderfully quirky as is his attempt to find love, and his role as “knitwear designer” at one of Anna’s magazine shoots. Tom was an ok character although he felt a bit bland, where Harry and Lucas were the archetypal bad boys/ slimy toads. The story does get predictable at times – you can tell when Anna is making a choice that is going to lead to bad consequences later on, and who Anna will end up with at the end. However, I did enjoy reading Stick Or Twist, but it would have been nice to see more development and depth to the supporting characters. 3.5 stars.

 

I Heart Hollywood by Lindsey Kelk

 

The second instalment of the I Heart series sees Angela Clark being sent to LA, accompanied by best friend, Jenny, to interview British actor, James Jacobs, famed for his great acting talent, as well as his womanising. Struggling to find the courage to tell boyfriend Alex that she loves him, she leaves these words unspoken as she flies to LA, and worries that Alex might cheat on her. It soon turns out that she herself is the one that she needs to worry about, as she finds herself snapped in compromising photos with James, and the media comes to believe that the two of them are having a relationship, which far from impresses Alex, even though it couldn’t be further from the truth. Angela finds her reputation, her job and her love life on the line: can she salvage one of the these, if any?

 

I really enjoyed I Heart New York so I thought I would try reading the sequel. For me, it wasn’t as good – the story is nothing special and it is unbelievable to read as Angela lurches from one disaster to another, and is quite slow to grasp the obviousness of another disaster she Is about to head into (re. James and Joe). Everything did get resolved in the end although it felt uneasy when Alex seemingly forgave Angela and apologised for his trust issues despite Angela having her own trust issues and doing what she did. One character who I found irritating was Jenny and her double standards – one minute she is telling Angela to sleep with James, and then after James and Angela are photographed kissing, Jenny is chastising Angela for cheating on Alex. Her words are quite inconsistent and don’t make sense.

 

All in all, it is a fair story – the twist concerning James was good, but otherwise, the story fell flat and felt like an average read, although I did want to keep reading on to find out what happened to the characters I enjoyed reading about in I Heart New York. 3 stars.

Wedding Season by Katie Fforde

Wedding Season

Sarah is a driven career focused woman who works as a wedding planner, but refuses to believe in love herself after having her heart broken in the past, but dashing photographer Hugo is proving to be a bit of a distraction. Can he be the one to make her believe in love again? Her friends Bron and Elsa also have their own issues. Elsa is unconfident and shy, but a makeover and meeting Laurence promises to change all that. Bron is in a stale and loveless relationship with Roger and stuck in a job she abhors. Can she find the courage to break free?

Wedding Season is an easy, gentle story and the friendship between the three women is strong. Nothing momentous happens; it is a bit of a slow burner. In my opinion, it is a fine story although it takes too long to reach the ending, and this could have been tightened up in editing in my opinion. It is a story built on misunderstandings (which can be sometimes frustrating) and reluctances to move on from the past, but overall it is a pleasant, albeit slow in places, book to read. 3 stars.

The Way We Were – Elizabeth Noble

Susannah is coming close to her 40th birthday and life as she knows it has been a bit of a disappointment. She is in a stale relationship with Douglas and playing step-mother to his three children. Everything seemed bright when she was younger but she hates life now. The re-emergence of her first love, Rob, turns her world upside down – she still loves him but he is married now. Can Susannah and Rob ever re-capture the way things were?

 The Way We Were

This is an ok story – you don’t particularly feel close to any of the characters but I did feel gripped with Rob and Susannah’s relationship in the past and present. The ending was quite sad as Susannah comes to grips with leaving happy memories in the past where they belong. I thought that half-telling the story from the past was good but Noble drops this method after Susannah’s deceit – it would have been interesting to see the immediate fallout from her confession. It is quite a bleak love story and very character driven. The frequent and explicit descriptions of sex were a little off-putting for me, but the story is a fair, if heavy, read. 3 stars.