Love Letters by Katie Fforde

Laura is a shy 26-year-old who is passionate about reading and works in a bookshop with her best friend, Grant. Unfortunately, the bookshop is going to close for good, and Laura is soon forced to consider her options for the future. Luckily for her, an author’s agent she meets at a signing event arranged by the bookshop in its closing days leads Laura to become an organiser of a local literary festival, which changes her life completely. She does new things that she never thought she would so, makes new friends, and meets a literary hero of hers, author Dermot Flynn.

Love Letters is a bit of a hit and miss story for me. Whilst I like that parts with Dermot and Laura, and the new friendships that Laura forges, there are places in the narrative which are weak and made me skip parts of the story. I also found the way in which Laura constantly pines over Dermot a bit irritating and there are sections which are dull and add nothing to the story. Some great moments but these are outweighed by some bad writing. 2.5 stars.

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Welcome To My World by Miranda Dickinson

27 year old Harri is a travel advisor yet she has never set foot outside of the UK. She wishes to see the sights around the world, in particular, Venice, which she deems is the perfect place for lovers. She finds a kindred spirit in Alex, an old school friend who has returned to town after spending the last 10 years travelling. He constantly regales Harri with stories about his adventures to her enjoyment.

 

Despite Alex enjoying his travels, one thing he yearns for is to find love. One romantic disaster to another, he soon asks Harri to help him. Around the same time, Alex’s mother, Viv, asks Harri to help her submit Alex into a magazine feature to find him a date (or many). Can any good come of this?

 

These events and many more soon lead to trouble. Harri soon feels her world crumble around her, and something has to change, but is she brave enough to take a risk?

I really enjoyed this story by Dickinson, yet it isn’t perfect. Much like It Started With A Kiss, there are parts which I glossed over, such as Harri visiting Viv at the allotments. These parts were less interesting and interrupted the flow of the story. Another thing I tired of was Harri’s constant thinking about how she never gets to travel, and yet she sees everyone taking a risk in their lives but fails to do so the same, and she always agrees to what boyfriend Rob wants too easily in their relationship (even though this is integral to the plot). Yet, as the story moves on, Harri starts to realise what she wants to do and takes action, earning a “yey” from the reader.

I think that the plot was really good, and I liked the main characters and friendships. The narrative is well crafted; at the beginning of each chapter, it flashes to a future event where Harri is in great turmoil, and as the story continues, it leads up to this event, which I was intrigued to discover. It all becomes clear as the book culminates in a fantastic ending, well worth reading. 4 stars!

An Offer You Can’t Refuse by Jill Mansell

17 year old Lola is blissfully in love with Dougie, but his mother is disapproving of their relationship. With Dougie about to go to university, his mother offers Lola £10,000 to break up with him, and she is aghast at this. Yet, new problems surface and Lola is forced to reluctantly take the money, breaking up with Dougie and starting a new life abroad. 10 years later, Lola returns to the UK and soon crosses paths with Dougie again. Upon seeing him, Lola realises that she still loves him, but Dougie seems far from forgiving. Lola sets her sights on winning him back, but can Dougie let go from the past?

The story is funny to read, and Lola is extremely likeable as the main character. Although you cannot always condone her actions, and her self-confidence is enormous, she comes across as a witty, smart and fun person. As a reader, you get gripped by her story. Some of the supporting characters were good, such as Blythe – her relationship with her daughter is a joy to read – loving but real, as Blythe is not afraid to confront her daughter at times. Sally is a good comical character although she can veer on irritating at times. One character that I have to criticise is Dougie. Mansell provides no insight into his character, so the reader is unaware that he still loves Lola until the very end, and throughout the story, he only really comes across as one-dimensional. He acts hateful towards Lola and there is nothing redeeming about him that the reader wants the two to get back together – in fact you think that Lola should find a new guy instead!

When it comes to the ending, as a reader, you are happy for Lola in that she got what she wanted, but it doesn’t seem to come together well. This is partly because there is no indication into how Dougie feels and he only decides to confront her towards the end about what happened in the past. Surely he would have thought to have done that earlier on in the story if he still loved her so much?! The part when he mentions that his mother approves of their relationship at the end seems tacked on. His mother spend so much effort and money in keeping the two apart and yet the reader is meant to believe that she is now ok with the whole thing?! The story resolves itself in a happy ending, albeit in an uneasy and uncohesive manner.

There are also issues in the story, such as Gabe and Sally’s romance. It was predictable but the way it was introduced into the story didn’t work for me. It seemed random and out of place. It isn’t really believeable that the two would become a couple. Similarly, I felt that the storyline between Gabe and Savannah was a bit of a distraction to the main story. It didn’t really add anything to the narrative and felt a bit tedious to read. I’m not criticising Gabe’s character completely though. I like the platonic friendship he shares with Lola, just not his romantic relationships.

Overall, it is a good story although let down by weak characterisation and poor plotlines. 3 stars (just)

A Minute to Midnight by Amy Silver

Since the age of 13,  Nicole Blake has made a list of five New Year resolutions with Julian Symonds, who is concealing a big secret. Over the next 20 years, Nicole and her friends cope with career highs and lows, new love and life changes, and the aftermath of everything being blown apart after one momentous event during noe year. Can Nicole get her life back on track and move on?

This was a surprising read, quite serious and heavy in its tone, yet I loved the way the story was pieced together, and the way in which the narrative was told through diary form in the past and present. It was interesting to see how the characters deal with the fall out of one momentous year, and the sacrifices that Dom makes for his wife at the end were touching. Silver has written a great story which kept me gripped and captivated. 3.5stars, almost a 4.

 

One Day DVD review

Based on the hit novel of the same name written by David Nicholls, how does this film adaptation compare?

The movie follows the path of two friends, Dexter (Jim Sturgess) and Emma (Anne Hathaway) after their graduation party as they try to make sense of life, career and love. Almost becomng lovers but not quite on the 15th July 1989, the audience follow their story on the 15th July of each ensuing year.

The best thing about this is the acting: Anne Hathway drea a lot of criticism about her “Northern” accent, but whilst it is undeniably shaky at times, it doesn’t detract from the performance she gives. She portrays Emma well – the witty, clever, at times vulnerable traits are all encapsulated in her acting. Jim Sturgess shines in this film though, amanging to portray Dexter at all stages of his journey well, still retaining likeability and charm, more appealing in the film than the book. The closing stages of the film are particulary good, and I felt like Sturgess’ performance really added to this. The two stars also share good chemistry between each other to pull this film off.

I read the book before watching the film, and it feels like this has missed out some key points and made changes that mean that it fails to embellish the story and characters fruther. Given the time constraints of the film, I understand that somse bits have to cut out, but Dexter’s spiral into destruction as his TV career rises and then falls wasn’t explored deeply enough, and you don’t get a sense of Emma’s struggle to find herself as that parts before she gets to that stage are missed out. The main characters are transformed into more perfect people, whereas in the book they were more flawed and real.

I also felt that the story goes too quickly and it isn’t clear to follow at times, for example, when Dexter visits his ill mother, he is under the influence of drugs, but this isn’t really made clear. In fact, apart from sweating, Dexter seems to continue to act normal, and it glosses over Dexter’s dark times. I think that whilst the idea of the book following one day a year works well in the book, it affects the story in the film. It feels choppy and if I didn’t read the book before, I don’t know if I would have understood the film as well. As it is a movie, you don’t get the opportunity to reveal a character’s inner thoughts or explore their lives more deeply, which helps the story telling in the book. Dexter and Emma’s relationship in the film seems to be one of constant love. This isn’t a negative, but in the story, it is more complex. At Tilly’s wedding in the movie, the audience is left with the impression that he still loves Emma, even though he is about to marry Slyive. In the book, he truly does love Sylvie at the beginning. When his wife leaves him in the movie, you don’t feel Dexter’s sadness or anger like you do in the book.

I like the general story idea and the acting is fantastic. Overall, I enjoyed the film, although I think it could have been done better. I do prefer the book, but this is a solid adaptation. 3.5 stars (a 0.5 extra for the acting).

It Started With A Kiss – Miranda Dickinson

Rejected after confessing her love for her best friend Charlie, Romily is taken aback when a handsome stranger surprises her with a kiss, only to disappear afterwards. Romily sets out to find this stranger, setting up a blog and going to great lengths to find him again, aiming to find him in a year’s time. Meanwhile, Charlie is having second thoughts about his feelings for Romily….
 
Dickinson creates a great friendship between Romily and the other members of her band, The Pinstripes, which is enjoyable to read, as is the relationship between Romily and her aunt and uncle. The characterisation and the initial plot idea is great. The way in which the author incorporates blog and email entries is unusual but adds to the realistic tale. Sometimes, the story lags and the narrative is less interesting in places, but the ending makes the journey worthwhile. Dickinson leads the reader into many a twist and turn in Romily’s quest to find the stranger, or true love. I certainly didn’t expect the ending that was given and was surprised, in a good way!
 
What is also interesting is how Dickinson has created Book Extras (similar to DVD extras).
 
Overall, the story was a good read, although it does feel slow in places. I feel like some of the story could have been edited better as I felt myself losing interest at times and skipping certain parts. The quest to find the stranger was gripping and I wanted to see how the stranger would re-emerge in the story. The story explores humour, sadness and love in a subtle manner and the ending is well written. 3 stars

Let’s Meet on Platform 8 – Carole Matthews

This is Matthews’ first book – it’s not one of her best but she manages to craft a good tale exploring the beginnings of an affair and the repercussions it has for everyone involved. There are no unlikeable characters at all, which is surprising in a story – usually there is some sort of bad character, but whilst these characters are flawed, as a reader you don’t really hate anyone. There are times however, when you dislike Teri and Jamie’s actions as they are immoral due to the situation.
The meeting at the train station is quite romantic and sets the beginning of what is a beautiful relationship between the two main characters. Yet nothing is easy in romance, and there are complications – in the form of a wife and two kids. Normally with these types of stories you expect an happy ending, and as you read further towards the end, you can’t imagine how Teri and Jamie will end up together, and they don’t. In the end, Jamie moves away with his family. The ending is quite bittersweet as they part for the last time, and it makes you wonder if the story were to continue what would happen to the characters. Would Jamie being in love with another woman cause him to get depressed, or stop his marriage from ever being a happy one? Teri falls pregnant at the end – would she tell Jamie, and if Jamie’s family ever found out what would happen. The story seems to end at a unusual point, and it doesn’t feel resolved. Or perhaps that was Matthew’s idea – to end it in a way that would still ask so many questions, exploring how an affair doesn’t always end so clear-cut. 3 stars