Cafe Tropicana – Belinda Jones

Ana Langston has dreamed of opening her own cafe and finally musters up the courage to bid on what would be her ideal location for her cafe, only to be outbid at the last moment. However, opportunity arrives in the form of her estranged father, who has recently got married without inviting his own daughter to the wedding. He offers her the chance to run her own coffee shop in Costa Rica, the chance of a lifetime, but there is a catch…Soon Ava has to contend with the moody Santiago, one of her father’s employees, and a romantic distraction in the form of extreme sports enthusiast, Ryan. For so long, troubles in life and love have made her focus on what she truly wants out of life – can she find it in Costa Rica?

 

For me, this is one of Jones’ weaker reads. I thought that the attempt to psychoanalyse Ava and Kiki’s lives based on their childhood was a bit odd and not executed properly. The ending still doesn’t resolve all these problems. Some of the business planning was a bit tedious and slowed down the pace of the story. I did like the romance between Santiago (although he still remained a bit of a mystery by the end of the book) and Ava, which played out well. Ollie was a humourous character too, I wish he was in the book more! 3 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

Desperately Seeking… – Evelyn Cosgrave

Hurt by men in the past, Kate finds herself settling for Keith – a generous, nice kind man deeply in love with Kate and willing to care for her and be with her for the rest of their lives. Despite this, there is a major problem – Keith just doesn’t ignite that special spark within Kate’s heart. Nevertheless, Kate is determined to press on with a life with Keith and soon finds herself in the midst of planning her wedding to Keith. Everything would be fine, except  she soon has her head turned by someone she really shouldn’t…

 

It is an ok read, but the story feels a bit predictable and non-eventful. I was interested to see how Kate and Keith’s relationship would develop, and in the end, you feel quite sorry for Keith. Whilst Kate is a witty character, she can come across as selfish and irresponsible, and doesn’t know what she wants. The rest of the characters aren’t really developed enough for the reader to be engaged and fascinated with their stories. Another thing I would take issue with is that Kate and the man she ends up are meant to have been in love for ages, but this is only really established towards the end of the story, although there is obvious reference towards the man’s feelings earlier on in the novel. The man’s situation is bizarre and his love for Kate feels a bit forced, which is possible due to lack of development of the characters and narrative.

 

It’s an adequate read and I was interested to see how Kate’s situation would resolve itself, but Desperately Seeking is nothing special. 3 stars.

Tickling The English – Dara O’Briain

Popular host of Mock The Week and stand up comic, Dara O’Briain, takes a look at what makes the English so quintessentially English. What defines Englishness? O’Briain seeks to answer this taking a look at history and using is tour dates to provide a view of Modern England. It is a witty, interesting book, and the parts that include his gigs and sections of his personal life are often the most humorous and fascinating bits to read, which often had me laughing out loud. However, sometimes O’Briain’s writing feels a bit long-winded and heavy, especially with the large focus placed on history and geographical facts, which caused me to lose interest at times. O’Briain is a funny comedian, but this book is a bit hit and miss. 3 stars

Millie’s Fling – Jill Mansell

After preventing successful author, Orla Hart, from committing suicide, Millie couldn’t imagine how much her life changes after that. She loses her boyfriend, her job and her dignity after playing an unintentionally insensitive joke on the owner of a lost wallet she found. When Orla decides to base her next novel on Millie’s life, it marks a surprising turn of events, in more ways than one.

 

It is a well written story but it is largely uneventful for me. The relationship between Hugh and Millie was nice to read but ultimately bogged down by Hugh clinging on to his guilt and grief. The storyline between Hester and Nat seemed like a big anti-climax, and the way that the storyline was resolved was unbelievable. Hester’s one night stand with Lucas didn’t seem to have a big impact at all on matters. I liked the ending when Hugh and Millie were reunited but it felt like the ending was a bit rushed, leaving behind a lot of unanswered questions: did Con ever reveal the truth to his parents about his sexuality? How would Orla react to Millie concealing such a big secret about her love life? What happened to the book that Orla was writing about Millie?

 

A nice read, but there are some major weaknesses which mean that this isn’t one of Jill Mansell’s best works, 3 stars.

Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married by Marian Keyes

Lucy Sullivan and her co-workers go to vist Mrs Nolan, a fortune teller, and Lucy is stunned to hear that she is going to get married! She soon meets Gus, a wandering, charming but penniless musician whose views on life interest Lucy…and that’s not all she is interested in…Could Gus be the one? It soon transpires that nothing is as it seems…

 

This is a generally good story – I thought the way that Lucy’s depression and her father’s alcoholism were detailed was excellent. Lucy does have a tendency to be slightly overbearing and over-obsessive, especially when it comes to Gus, and a bit too willing to please everyone, which although it is connected to her personality, does come across as annoying, as is the fact it takes her to realise who she should really be with. On the whole though, Lucy is a likeable character, although it is questionable as to why she is friends with Karen (who needs enemies, eh?). Her best friend Daniel is a great character – he is the only one who is truly there for Lucy and their relationship and sparky interchanges was nice to read. Gus was a confusing character as the reader never got to learn much about him except that he was a crazy sponger. As you read on, it is hard to see the attraction of Gus, which Lucy is so blindly caught up in. It is a relief when she finally sees him what he is. The ending was happy and everything was resolved nicely. 3 stars.

Fairytale of New York by Miranda Dickinson

 

Rosie Duncan has been living in New York for 6 years after experiencing a painful heartbreak in the past that has caused her to lose belief in love. Things seem to look up when she meets Nate. Can she learn to love again?

I thought that this was the weakest of Dickinson’s books. The general premise is ok, but not perfect. It becomes blindingly obvious who Ed has fallen for earlier on, but Rosie is annoyingly slow to work out who it is. Nate is a confusing character – at the end, I couldn’t work out what kind of relationship he wanted with Rosie – love or friendship? Does he really love Caitlin? The idea that Nate realised that Rosie had feelings for someone else sits uneasy, as throughout the book, it isn’t made clear that Rosie does love Ed. The reader only gets glimpses of her real feelings at the end, and the actual ending itself rushes the story in my opinion. It would have been nice to read Rosie falling for Ed for definite rather than having fleeting thoughts of him. Another weakness is the James and his scandal storyline – this doesn’t add anything and made for a dull section of the novel.

I did like the core friendships and the sparky dialogue between the main characters (although the way confesses his feelings at the end was a bit cringe worthy) and the references to Mr Kowalski, their dearly departed friend and former boss were good.Overall, an ok read, but not fantastic. 3 stars.