Golden Lies – Barbara Freethy

Golden Lies

Riley McAllister gets more than he bargained for when he visits an open day for an antiques TV show with his grandmother and a Chinese golden dragon statue that has been hiding in the attic for many years. The statue draws the attention of the Hathaway family, in particular, David Hathaway. He offers to buy the statue from Riley and his grandmother and organises for the statue to be kept overnight in his store for tests and examinations. Riley is wary but concedes in the end. News soon emerges that David has been attacked in Chinatown and the statue is missing. Why was he there? Who was the culprit? Where is the statue now? It is clear that the Hathaway family have a lot of deep secrets and together with David’s daughter Paige, Riley soon discovers that the statue is a lot more important that he once thought, and wanted by a lot of people who will do anything to get it. Riley soon develops feelings for Paige, but his history leads him to question who he can really trust…

 

Overall I enjoyed the story – mainly the mystery surrounding the statue, and the way that Paige and Riley’s falling in love was gently interweaved through the narrative. I thought that the parts which alluded to sex detracted from the pace of the novel and the main mystery itself. It did come across at times as not knowing what genre it wanted to be. The other plot threads such as David’s affair and the introduction of Alyssa added to the story but the ending seemed a little rushed. I also thought Riley’s character could have been developed a little further – his actions and speech did seem confusing as he often switched moods, and more could have been explained about his parents. 3.5 stars.

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50 Ways To Find A Lover – Lucy Anne Holmes

50 Ways to Find a Lover

Struggling actress Sarah Sargeant is cynical about love, and is put forward by her father to enter a dating reality show. Sarah misses out on a spot in the show, but soon comes up with the idea of setting up her own blog as she details her 50 ways to find love, and the results on her love life. Her blog garners widespread interest but will it do more harm than good, or can she find love through her blog and find the one?

I enjoyed reading this, the main story was very god and I like the Eamonn/Marcus twist. It was a hilarious read and the friendships between Simon, Julia and Sarah are a joy to read. They seem real and very honest. I did however feel that Holmes overdwells on sex during the novel – the narrative, Simon’s business and Sarah’s blog. It may suit some people but for me it did get a bit much at times. It was a better read than Unlike A Virgin and the ending was great: romantic with some hilarious moments. 3.5 stars


Dead Until Dark – Charlaine Harris

This is the first of the True Blood book series, where Harris presents us with Bon Temps, a small town where vampires and humans co-exist freely but not easily. Sookie Stackhouse has a gift, or something she labels a curse: to be able to read the minds of other people. One person she cannot read the mind of is Bill Compton. There is more to Bill that meets the eye and it isn’t long before she starts falling for him, but will the uniqueness/strangeness of their relationship get in the way of their love? Or perhaps it will be the unwelcome attentions of another vampire, or the fact that he brother has been arrested for committing several murders, which are associated with vampire-hate crime, that poses a great obstacle?

This was an enjoyable read, a much better written version of the vampire-human romance genre made famous by Twilight. Some of the narrative and plot is a little odd but that could be due to the new vampire world that Harris has created. It is a good introduction to the series and I am looking forward to reading the other stories! 3.5 stars


RSVP – Helen Warner ***Magic 100***

It’s Toby and Rachel’s wedding day on 17th July 2010 and you are cordially invited to celebrate their special day with them.

Clare, Anna and Ella are surprised to receive their invitation. For Anna, Toby was the love of her life, but something awful happened in the past that drove the pair apart. Clare is Anna’s best friend and encourages her to attend the wedding to get over Toby. Clare doesn’t subscribe to Anna’s belief of “The One” but it made to rethink this later on…Ella is a maneater, but the one man she wanted didn’t want her – Toby. The story is told through the viewpoints of Clare, Anna, Ella and Rachel, who is having doubts about her upcoming nuptials. Will any of these women find the happiness that they are seeking, and will the wedding go ahead without any hitches?

The wedding day itself actually takes place mid-way through the story, which was a surprise as I was expecting it to provide a climax to the story. However, it leaves a lot of room for the characters’ development although the pace of the story drops off slightly. Warner’s way of writing takes some getting used to – she writes as an outside observer commenting on the characters’ actions and thoughts, which feels a little detached. For the characters, you don’t really engage with them, which can be possibly attributed to Warner’s style. Yet, the choppy way in which she retells the story (using flashbacks and constant switching between the characters’ viewpoints and their stories) is something that keeps the reader captivated and longing to read how the rest of the story unfolds.

Characters
ANNA: at first, I sympathised with the character who has to deal with her feelings for Toby and the way Ella destroyed her relationship and happiness in her life. At the wedding, she finally gets her happy ending, and it feels like her story has been resolved far too early. Yet later on, it appears that things haven’t been fully resolved between Toby and Anna in terms of the past. Anna has trust issues in terms of Rachel and her “realisation” at the end when Toby fails to show up at the church on time. This isn’t addressed properly which gives the impression that their marriage isn’t going to be easy. From feeling sympathy for Anna and liking her, she ends up annoying.

RACHEL – her story was a little dull but you do feel sorry for the way Toby treats her, and yet she behaves with dignity and grace, which is admirable. It is also good that she finds love at the end.

CLARE – a great friend to Anna, you feel for her when she has her own troubles in life and love. Straight-talking but a compassionate character, she seems to be the best character out of the four.

ELLA – totally unlikeable as she is a bitch to start off with, and this continues later on in the book. It is only after her husband dies that she changes character (whether this is Warner’s attempt to redeem Ella and make more likeable remains to be seen) and she goes through tragic events, but her story ends on an optimistic note.

A riveting story, although there are a few issues with some of the events, the characters aren’t particularly likeable and the pace drops off towards the end, but worth the read. 3.5 stars

 

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