An Accidental Proposal – Matt Dunn

Edward Middleton is finally getting married, or so he thinks. He cannot be sure whether the night before was a true proposal or simply an informal talk about his feelings on marriage with Sam. Needless to say, Edward perseveres with the wedding, and things only get much tougher from thereon. Their ideas of the perfect wedding clash (with Edward wanting a wedding with all-the-frills and Sam wanting to keep it a more low-key affair), Edward’s ex-girlfriend Jane returns, Sam may be cheating on Edward, and Edwards wakes up the morning after his stag night to see a mystery woman leaving his side in his hotel room. Will Edward and Sam’s wedding ever take place, or will their relationship survive?

Having enjoyed the previous 2 books in the series, The Accidental Proposal was a disappointing read. It felt overlong and Edward’s constant rambling and obsession about his love life is ever more present this time around. He jumps to conclusions, and refuses to listen to sensible advice (although it does come from Dan). Edward is a more frustrating and annoying character this time around. Dan’s story is that he wants to change who he is to win “The One Who Got Away” Polly back at Edward’s wedding. Apart from that, there isn’t much of a plot. Actual events are few and far in between as most of the text is taken up with Edward’s obsession about his relationship.

Although the book is overlong, the story ends at an odd place as it leaves many things unresolved (is there another sequel in the pipeline? Could I take another sequel?). Edward has so many insecurities and trust issues that it is questionable whether his marriage can be a success. If things are this bad now, they can only be amplified later. Sam is far too good for him, and whether Dan reforms his character and manages to win back the girl remains unanswered.

Not the best of sequels to a promising and funny series. 2 stars.

 

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How I Escaped My Certain Fate – Stewart Lee

Comedian Stewart Lee takes a look at the highlights and lowlights of his long career, from his early stand up shows to the Jerry Springer Opera to Edinburgh to his promised BBC TV series to his career as we know it today.

Lee presents a detailed account of his life, and varies it with articles he has written, and transcripts of his live shows. As well as his life, he also writes about the alternative comedy scene, and the lives and his views on other comedians, so I learnt a lot about this! Lee is a great writer but whilst there are some funny, intelligent moments, at others, the book feels a little dull in places. The idea to include his live shows is unusual, as is the use of footnotes to add additional information or his feelings about a certain event. However, in some places, there can be an over reliance, and it can interrupt the flow of the main text, especially as some times the footnotes last over a page!

This is a great book for Stewart Lee fans, and I found this book an enjoyable read on the whole. Although I haven’t really seen much of Lee’s material, after reading this, I wouldn’t mind watching a show of his… 3.5 stars.

Ex-Girlfriends United – Matt Dunn

Dan Davis is not a happy chappy – he is finding it hard to meet women, and it is all thanks to new website Slate Your Date, where he has truly been slated. Dan knows that this is not good – for his sex life and his career, in which he has just won the part of aptly-named Wayne Kerr in the new ITV5 soap, Close Encounters. He hatches a plan with his best friend Edward to get rid of these bad reviews before he starts appearing on-screen. Meanwhile, Edward has troubles of his own: things with his girlfriend, Sam, couldn’t be better, but he didn’t account for the return of his ex, Jane, and it seems that she wants him back…

A sequel to The Ex-Boyfriend’s Handbook, Matt Dunn presents another easy reading tale featuring the characters we got to know in the first books. Dan is still as obnoxious and arrogant as ever, Edward is still naïve and manages to land himself in the most luckless of situations but both provide good entertainment.

Although the blurb suggests it is more about Dan, the story actually focuses on Edward more, who has to deal with Jane’s return ever since she suddenly left him in the first book. It becomes plainly obvious that Edward should cut off all ties with his ex, but this doesn’t seem to enter his head, and the situation escalates until it reaches the heights of arghhhhhh! Soon, Edward is in danger of losing his smart, funny and beautiful girlfriend. We also see another depth to Dan’s character. At first glance, he appears shallow and heartless but there is one woman whom he truly loved…and lost: Polly. Dunn’s development of the characters and their relationships (for instance, Edward’s friendship with Dan, his relationship with Sam) is excellent, and this is a great read. It waivers slightly when Edward dithers about Jane and what he wants but I enjoyed reading this, although it wasn’t as good as the first book in my opinion. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series, The Accidental Proposal. 3.5 stars

Best Man – Matt Dunn

Adam is shocked to learn that best friend Nick is getting married and even more shocked to meet Nick’s fiancee, Sandra. Clearly she is far from suited to Nick and only interested in his money but how can Adam persuade his best friend to see this, especially as he is asked to best man for their upcoming wedding?

Best Man is a well written, funny and crude story. Although the story is centred around Nick’s wedding, it takes a closer wedding at Adam and his views on love & commitment, & how his world is turned upside down after meeting Charlie, an applicant for a PA role at his internet porn company. Adam’s story is witty but emotional as he is faced with deciding what he wants from life. Although the themes and events are nothing new, this is a solid read from Dunn. 3 stars

Unlike A Virgin – Lucy Anne Holmes

 

Gracie Flowers has always been organised thanks to her 5 year plan but things start to go awry as she reaches her 27th birthday – she loses out on a big promotion at work, her boyfriend gets his mother to dump her over the phone and her own mother has great big money worries. And things only get worse. This soon leads Gracie to realise that nothing should stop  her from achieving her dreams in life…

 

This is a funny, laugh-out-loud, crude (a bit too crude sometimes) novel which also weaves in the poignancy and sadness of Gracie and her relationship with her father and the plotline about her baby. I was kept captivated by Gracie, who is a fantastic and fabulous character, and the other characters, such as Wendy, probably the best friend a girl could ask for. The romance storyline with Anton, who is twice Gracie’s age, is a bit uncomfortable to read, but Holmes makes clear that these two are meant to be together – their likes, their past and the way in which events draw them together. Gracie finally gets what she has been chasing in her life, something she has long forgotten, and you really cheer her  on as a reader. 3.5 stars.

Welcome To Rosie Hopkins’ Sweet Shop of Dreams – Jenny Colgan

Welcome To Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop Of Dreams

Rosie Hopkins is 31, working a series of temp jobs in nursing and is living in a stale relationship with Gerard. She loves London and is surprised to hear a call which takes her to the countryside, a small village called Lipton, to care for her ill great aunt Lilian and get to grips with Lilian’s old sweet shop. Things get off to a frosty start between the pair, but the two women soon bond and it is soon clear that they are quite similar in many respects: both are headstrong, quick witted and both are having trouble in love…

At first, the story begins quite slowly as Colgan initially sets up the plot. Gerard is very frustrating – he is very attached to his mother (perhaps too attached), and doesn’t seem to love Rosie genuinely. He is extremely hesitant and treats her as a dogsbody to cook and clean for him. It is a wonder that Rosie has put up with him for 8 years, puzzling her friends and the reader.

The story really picks up when Rosie arrives in Lipton as she gets to grip village life and the residents of Lipton. She meets Moray, the handsome doctor, and Jake, a local farm worker. Rosie’s sparky relationship with both of these men was fantastic to read. As a reader, I was guessing that Rosie would fall in love with one of these guys but sadly not. Jake falls in love with someone else and Moray turns out to be gay (slightly inexplicable and disappointing). Stephen’s story is interesting as it is clear that he is traumatised but I just didn’t take to his character as well as I did to Moray and Jake. At the scene where Stephen collapses in the pub was a clear indicator that he would end up with Rosie, which was a bit disappointing and from them on, I slightly felt that I lost interest in Rosie’s story – it all seemed a bit formulaic and bland by then.

One character I thought was constantly engaging was aunt Lilian – she is vibrant, funny and sarcastic, and her story in the 1940s which is told bit by bit kept me gripped. It was heartbreaking and tragic, and really made you feel for Lilian losing her love. The way it is juxtaposed with Rosie’s story later on in the novel was clever, although Lilian’s story was more interesting and had greater impact.

Similar to Meet Me At Cupcake Cafe , this is a sweet story that makes you pander for sweetshops of the past. Colgan’s narrative has some fantastic moments earlier on, but drops off as the focus turns to Rosie falling for Stephen. Other characters such as Edison and the stereotypical villain, Roy Blaine – the dentist (!), provided entertainment in the novel, but Lilian’s story is excellent and serves as the highlight of the book. 3.5 stars.

My Boyfriend’s Back – Chrissy Olinger

Jack is on his way to a school reunion, where he hopes to reunite with Rori, whom he has loved for ages. Unfortunately, his plans are cut short when he is apprehended by nemesis and former bully, John Lydon. And their car crashes. An angel Norman descends to Earth to tell Jack that he has a second chance at life due to his previous virtuous behaviour, but things go wrong when Jack’s soul returns to the wrong body and he is now John Lydon! The only way Jack can make things right is to make Rori fall in love with him in 3 days as John Lydon (and he can keep his life and John’s body), or he faces returning to his normal body, losing Rori forever and John dies. Can Jack make Rori fall in love with him before it is too late?

It is a smart idea, and I like the scenes with the angels, but overall, the idea doesn’t really get executed properly – there are so many plotholes and things that are glossed over. A major one is the deal that is made where Jack has to get Rori to fall for him. Why would Jack want to keep John’s body? After all, Rori wants Jack, not John. If Jack returns to his normal body, why does he face losing Rori forever? This isn’t really explained, but there are major issues. The story all gets tied up too quickly for my liking. 2 stars.