It Happened In Venice – Molly Hopkins

Evie Dexter is on holiday in  a beautiful country with her handsome husband-to-be Rob – what could be better? Well, for Evie, there is one thing that is troubling her – the fact that “Saint” Rob cheated on her with his former flame, Helen, whilst on tour. Since then, he has put all of his efforts into proving Evie that he is the one for her but can Evie ever forgive and forget? Throw into the mix the growing role that multi-millionaire client of Insignia Tours, John, plays in her life and splitting her work life between touring and working at Nikki’s restaurant and it becomes clear that life isn’t as easy as Evie once thought it was…

 

Overall, I thought that this was a good read, and there is more of a story here than It Happened in Paris, which was mainly about Evie and Rob having sex. This allows the reader to see more to her character whilst she navigates through obstacles (some that are very  unexpected) that are thrown in her way in humorous and at time, emotional ways.

 

The ending is no surprise and you can kind of  guess it from reading the first book. However, it makes a happy ending for Evie, who is a great character. 4 stars

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Starter For Ten – David Nicholls

Starter for Ten

Brian Jackson is studying English Literature at university. It is a whole different world to the one he has been accustomed to for eighteen years as he tries to avoid social pitfalls, make new friends, reinvent his image, try not to antagonise the strong-minded Rebecca Epstein, get the girl of his dreams, Alice…all whilst trying to do well academically. It is not an easy task for Brian, who soon focuses his efforts on entering on the university’s team for University Challenge, something that holds significance for him and his father, and something that could hold the key to improving his social status and popularity. If only he could avoid the numerous obstacles that life keeps throwing his way to reach the finals…

 

Starter For Ten is a hilarious coming-of-age story as Brian stumbles from one misfortune to another, a particular cringeworthy moment is when he meets Alice’s parents. Talking of Alice, his relationship with her seems doomed from the start – you can sense that she isn’t really committed as much as Brian is, and it is a bit weary as Brian acts so obliviously to this when it is obvious that Rebecca is in love with him and has more in common with him. It is only at the end when Brian realises this, and we don’t even read about him making that realisation. David Nicholls captures the awkwardness of those first moments in going to university and trying to fit in against a backdrop of cultural references and political notes from the 1980s, such as the styles and Spencer’s unemployment. Despite the title, the emphasis is more on Brian getting to grips with life and standing on his own two feet, having the courage and conviction to gain what he wants. However, the parts surrounding the quiz are humorous, in particular, quiz freak Patrick’s obsession with winning after his defeat the previous year. The culmination of the University Challenge plot strand was unexpected and made for an unusual ending!

 

This was a great read but I felt it lacked the emotional punch that One Day had (due to personal preference I think).  The supporting characters in Starter For Ten aren’t given enough description to make them feel real and as though you can connect and sympathise with them. However, I would still recommend this highly.

The California Club – Belinda Jones

It has been some time since they have last seen each other but the Brighton Belles are reuniting! It starts off with Lara, Zoe, Sasha and Elliot (plus one unwanted girlfriend) meeting at the airport as they are about to embark on a trip to the sunny shores of California. Things have changed since they last met: Zoe craves celebrity stardom, Sasha is confused as to whether she is more than a pretty face and struggling to find any meaning to her life, and Lara has been in love with Elliot for 10 years and counting. However, Elliot is getting married to the highly strung Elise…Lara is also contemplating wehther to sell her mother’s cherished B and B, which holds fond memories for her and her friends.

When the four meet fifth member Helen they are amazed at how much she ahs changed from the practical and serious woman to the carefree and content Californian chick that now stands before them, and it is all thanks to the California Club, Helen hints at mysteriously. Soon the four friends and Elise are intrigued and get involved with the California Club, which forces them to face us to their problems, and realise their dreams…

I thought that this was a hilarious and sassy read, and Lara made a fantastic main character, although her B and B story felt a bit misplaced. The bonds between the five friends are so strong and believable that it really adds to the story. I also liked Joel: cocky, arrogant but kind, and I thought he would have made a better fit for Lara rather than Elliot, a guy who has been so blind for the last 10 years (and counting) that his best friend harbours feelings for him. He later confesses that he had feelings for her but his explanation that he wanted to get the “bad relationships” out of the way before he declared his true feelings for her was a bit bizarre. Elliot makes a nice friend but as a romantic hero, he was quite cowardly and irritating.

From the two novels by Jones that I have read, both set in California, the emphasis is on the heroine ending up with the man who she has always loved, rather than any prospective partners that crop up along the way. In California Dreamers, although it was strange, I embraced the reunion of Jonathan and Stella, but here, I was wanting Lara to move on from the man she has wasted 10 years over only to get nothing during that time. However, I am growing to admire Belinda Jones as a writer – her style is great, striking a perfect balance between tenderness, emotion and humour without being too crass. The California Club was another great read of hers although I didn’t like the ending. 4 stars (despite Elliot).

The Book of Awesome – Neil Pasricha

So life is dull, depressing and dark…but what about all the little things that make the world a more awesome place to live in? Neil Pasricha has taken it upon himself to document all the things that he considers to be awesome, from high-fiving a baby to the joys of bubble wrap (pop pop). It is a funny list, and it really makes you realise or reconsider all previously forgotten awesome things. For me, some of the things are less awesome than others. The book ends after a poignant tribute to Pasricha’s late friend, which contrasts to the light hearted tone of the rest of the book, before embarking on a last awesome thing: a philosophical note (thinking about all of the things that ahd to happen or not happen to put you here on earth in this time and place), which I found less awesome (I’m not really an existentialist thinker) that managing to squeeze through the gap in a doorway as the door is closing  and you don’t lay a hand on the door (it is impressive but I did this about 8 years ago, and the person behind me was not impressed). Some of the things on the list made me laugh and I recommend this as a read that will brighten up your life – awesome! 4 stars.

Read more about Pasricha and awesome things at his blog:  http://1000awesomethings.com/

 

With Or Without You – Carole Matthews

Lyssa and Jake have been together for 4 years and are trying for a baby, something that Lyssa desperately craves. However, countless unsuccessful IVF attempts and big lifestyle changes put pressure on their relationship. One morning, Jake drops a bombshell on Lyssa – he is unhappy with their relationship and he is leaving her. Lyssa is devastated and even more so when she discovers the secret that Jake has been hiding. Lyssa attempts to rediscover herself by going to Nepal, and soon realises what is truly important in life.

This is a great story, some of the IVF and trying-to-conceive description is a bit graphic, but it is inspiring to read about Lyssa and her journey, and her acceptance with not being able to conceive. Jake seems like a cruel character although a little down that line, you feel some sympathy for him too. The expedition to Nepal was fascination – reading the descriptions and about the culture was great. The comparisons that Lyssa makes between Nepal and England are interesting although she does overdwell on the consumerism culture of our nation a little too much for my liking.

Pip’s role is a bit unknown – what purpose is he meant to serve, but you feel sorry for him as the one who has fallen in love with doesn’t reciprocate his feelings. In addition, the abortion that Lyssa had is depicted as something that will become a major bombshell to be revealed later on, but is quickly forgotten in the narrative. That being said, overall, this is a great read. 4 stars!


All The Single Ladies – Jane Costello

Sam Brooks thinks she has it all but is left stunned when her boyfriend Jamie suddenly announces that he is dumping her as he wants to move to South America. Jamie insists that he still loves her but this is something that he has to do. Sam sets her sights on trying to win him back using seduction, a little bit of stalking, a fabulous makeover and sighing up to a dating agency to find men to make him jealous. Jamie soon decides that he has made the wrong choice and wants Sam back, but is that what she really wants?

This is a hilarious read as Sam enters mishap after mishap in her quest to win Jamie back. Jamie is a frustrating man and it becomes incredulous as to how Sam is over-focused on winning him back. Jamie is a selfish ditherer and coupled with another revelation later on in the novel, make you sympathise with Sam, which is testament to what a great character she is. She is warm, funny and real. Sam’s encounters with her dates were also great to read, and she meets one date in particular who changes her outlook on life. The ending was fantastic as Sam decides what she wants, and the final scene is sweet. The concurrent storylines about Julia’s parentage and Ellie’s alcoholism provides a serious contrast that also complements that frivolity and light heartedness of the main narrative.

A good read, although Bridesmaids still ranks as Costello’s best novel. 4 stars.

California Dreamers by Belinda Jones

Stella is nursing a broken heart after boyfriend Jonathan chooses the Navy over her. Unable to let go of the past, she is offered a make-up artist job for famous actress, Marina Ray, in California, and the two of the become good friends. Yet, can leaving her old life really help her to move on, and does Stella really want to move on in the first place?

This is a great, witty story with a very likeable main character in Stella, and you really want her to find happiness as she starts her journey to find out what she really wants from life. It could be argued that she never moves on from her past relationship, but in the end, her journey leads her to find out what is most important in life, and it is truly interesting to read. California Dreamers provides a great insight into the world of Hollywood, the pressures of enlisting in the Navy and how a love so strong can withstand any barriers. The characters that Stella meets are fascinating too, especially Bodie the dog! My only gripe is the sudden change in Milo, who changes from dream guy who seems to genuinely have feelings for Stella to a drunken playboy only interested in a fling. This change seems very sudden, and paves the way for a predictable, although lovely, ending.

All in all, California Dreamers is a dream of a story! 4 stars!