Friday, 29 July 2011

Review of Purge by Sofi Oksanen

Thanks to Atlantic Books for sending me a copy of Purge to review!!
Purge has become an international publishing sensation.  It has been hailed by The Times as ‘a phenomenon’ and they say Sofi Oksanen is ‘Finland’s hottest crime writer who will soon be as well-known as Stiefg Larsson’.  Purge is sold in an astonishing 38 territories, is a top 10 bestseller globally, winner of a number of literary awards and has been hailed as a ‘masterpiece’ in every language.
** What the back of the book says **
Deep in an Estonian forest, two women – one young, one old – are hiding.
Zara is a prostitute and a murderer, on the run from brutal captors, men who know about inflicting punishment.  Aliide offers refuge but not safety; she has her own secrets, traitorous crimes of passion and revenge committed long ago, during the country’s brutal Soviet years.
Both women have suffered lives of abuse.  But this time their survival depends on revealing the one thing history has taught them to keep safely hidden: the truth.
A haunting, intimate and gripping story of suspicion, betrayal and retribution against a backdrop of Soviet oppression and European war.

** What I thought  **
This is one of the hardest reviews I have had to write.  The book is heavily layered, and I am certain that even the slightest spoiler would do just that……spoil it! Therefore, I’m not going to reveal anything about the plotline itself.  But what I will say is that Sofi Oksanen takes you on an extremely powerful journey spanning 56 years in which suspicion and betrayal change the lives of those involved forever, and ultimately end in retribution.
The wonderful thing about this book is that you can become immersed in the subdued but intense and powerful writing.  The book contains some relatively explicit sexual violence in places.  I read one review which said that it wasn’t a problem that it existed, it was a problem that it wasn’t elegantly written.  But to me that IS the point, there isn’t anything elegant about sexual violence, so it shouldn’t be glossed over with an elegant style of writing.  Sofi Oksanen perfectly captures the brutality of the situation.
Despite the extremely serious issues confronted (sex-slave trade, soviet oppression, WWII, family betrayal) Oksanen makes the book personal and this draws you in.  The book spans from 1936 – 1992 and jumps back and forth to differing points between these time frames as Oksanen pieces the overlapping lives of the two women.  The pace is excellent, and it fits together extremely well. 
If I’m honest, I was never very good at history at school and so the background to this book wasn’t that familiar to me.  I don’t think this took too much away from it for me, although perhaps it may have been even better had I had a little more understanding.  Although it is a fairly major part of the book, it is also background to the lives of the central two women to the story and so it isn’t necessary for you to know every minor detail beforehand.  You learn as you go along, not only about their lives but also the history that has made them that way.
Initially I was a little underwhelmed with the ending.  However, I re-read the last few pages of the final narrative part (part 4) and actually it is incredibly clever with all the plans laid for everyone to end up in what Aliide thinks is their rightful place.  The book has a fifth part, which is made up of Top Secret Reports.  These left me a little confused, although they add a few minor details which piece together certain things, I thought they were unnecessary and I wish the book had ended with the narrative at part 4.
All in all, an intensely powerful read which is well worth it!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Giveaway Winner Revealed!

Congratulations to:


who has won the proof copy of The Truth about Celia Frost!!

Please DM me on twitter, or email me (email address is on contact tab above) with your address and I'll get your copy out to you!

** Chosen by!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Review: The Making of Us by Lisa Jewell

Firstly I have to thank the Official Lisa Jewell Page on Facebook for running a competition which brought a copy of this fabulous book to my front door!! Secondly, let me tell you how much I loved it!!
** What the back of the book says **
In a hospice in Bury St Edmunds, a man called Daniel is slowly fading away. His friend Maggie sits with him every day; she holds his hand and she listens to the story of his life, to his regrets and to his secrets. And then he tells her about the children he has never met and never will. He talks of them wistfully. His legacy, he calls them.

Lydia, Dean and Robyn don't know each other. Yet. And they are all facing difficult changes. Lydia is still wearing the scars from her traumatic childhood and although she is wealthy and successful, her life is lonely and disjointed. Dean is a young man, burdened with unexpected responsibility, whose life is going nowhere. And Robyn wants to be a doctor, just like her father – a man she's never met. But is her whole life built on an illusion?

Three people leading three very different lives. All lost. All looking for something. But when they slowly find their way into each other’s lives, everything starts to change …

** What I thought **
This book is a heart-warming story of a journey of self-discovery and of finding completeness and identity by finding each other.  In addition to the standard life, love and friendship thread, this book addresses sperm donation, meeting previously unknown siblings and parents, death and single friends coping with the loss of their closest friends to a new life with baby and partner in tow.  I loved the unusual topic (there’s nothing worse than reading the same old storyline re-hashed over and over again but I’ve never seen this topic explored before) and despite being packed full of sadness, tragedy and emotional events, it was an incredibly enjoyable read. 
The last (and I am ashamed to say, I think only) Lisa Jewell book I read was The Truth about Melody Browne which I loved.  I found the way Jewell brings the story to life, and pieces it together bit by bit incredible and refreshing.  Jewell doesn’t provide predictable linear storylines, but builds the picture in pieces and at the perfect pace.  Jewell’s latest book doesn’t disappoint and contains the same powerful writing that pulls you in and keeps you turning the page until suddenly you find yourself at the end of the book.
Jewell’s characters aren’t in the slightest 2D.  The chapters of this book alternate between the different characters, but the book is told in the third person.  This works exceptionally well as the each person is built up in the own right, before their lives become entwined.  Jewell writes with wonderfully expressive descriptions and although it is a very sad and moving story (my eyes filled up with tears on more than one occasion), it is full of warm people who you deeply care about.  Despite the alternating chapters, I found the book to flow exceptionally well.  Often with changing points of view, I find myself frustrated or confused but this certainly wasn’t the case with this book.
As I neared the end of this book, with only a few pages left to go, I was concerned that I was going to be disappointed.  However, I was wrong and should never have doubted Jewell; the ending is perfect, satisfying and drawn together completely.  I closed this book with a smile on my face.  Whilst I eagerly wait to see what Jewell comes up with next, I’m going to delve into her back-catalogue and catch up on what I have clearly been missing out on!  I can't recommend this book highly enough, and it is certainly one of my favourite books so far this year!

A review of What Women Want by Fanny Blake

** What the back of the book says **
Friends for life. Then he came along…

Bea’s contending with a new boss, power-hungry colleagues and a stroppy teenage son, not to mention the anxieties of returning to the dating game.
Stressed-out Kate is coping with an empty nest and the growing realisation that her marriage has lost its shine.
Finally, Ellen, who has devoted herself to her children and her art gallery following her husband’s death, is falling head over heels in love with Oliver.
They have always known that they can depend on each other, no matter what.  But with Oliver in their midst, will their friendship survive?

** What I thought **
In this book we meet three women, one in the process of a divorce, one happily married but with her last child leaving home, and one who was widowed ten years ago and has spent the last ten years focusing on her children.
I felt the characters were all drawn very well.  I loved Bea who is feisty and determined, but sometimes finds it hard to control her jealousy and has a few little insecurities.  Kate comes across as loving but sensible.  I felt for her when she was struggling with her empty nest and an ever distant husband.  Finally, there is Ellen.  I have to say I found her frustrating at times, but actually that’s what makes the writing so excellent – that’s the point – you’re meant to be frustrated by her blindness to Oliver’s deceptive nature! It’s frustrating that she can’t see through Oliver, but she thinks she is in love, and women will be able to relate to situations where you literally can’t see the wood for the trees.  Sometimes it takes a friend, and it needs to be your best friends otherwise you’ll just close up and shut them out, to show you the truth.  The descriptions of Ellen are written very well, especially when you think she’s finally going to do something about Olive and turf him out on his ear, but then he’ll do something (sometimes just look at her, or pull her close) and she’ll melt into him.
I was suspicious of Oliver from the start, but I suppose the back of the book told me that something was going to go awry.  I really liked the descriptions of him clicking his nails; its little things like that that really bring a book to life and for me this was one of them. 
The interaction between characters is very clever.  Bea has known Ellen for much longer than Ellen has known Kate, yet Bea can’t help but think that perhaps Kate and Ellen get on much better.  We’ve all probably experienced a similar situation, but this book shows you that actually none of you are loved or valued any less, it’s just that your different character strengths play different parts in each other’s lives.
This is a lovely story of a friendship which is put to the test but pulls through the other side.  Do they say ‘men will come and go, but friends last forever’?  – If they don’t, they certainly should and this book is the perfect illustration of that.
If I had to criticise the book for anything, I’d say it was a little slow starting off.  It took me a little while to get into it (not to warm to the characters, which happened instantly) but before I really started to get that urge to keep page turning to know what was going to happen with the Ellen-Oliver-saga! But that moment did come, and I eagerly read on until I’d turned the last page!
I’ve read some other reviews which say you need to be in your 40’s/50’s to appreciate and enjoy this book.  I totally disagree, Fanny Blake certainly doesn’t alienate the younger reader; I’m in my 20’s and don’t feel I would have gained anything more from reading this book if I was another 20/30 years older.
What Women Want is a warm, witty and heart-warming tale of the lengths women will go for their friends, and is full of little details that really bring it to life!  Not just a story of friendship, but also career women, family life and relationships. 
Finally, I can’t possibly leave this review without saying that this book has given me my favourite saying of the year; ‘vertiginous heels’ – Amazing, I’m going to use this phrase as much as possible in the future!!!
Finally we have a special treat today as Fanny Blake kindly has answered some questions to go along with this review of her debut novel:

You’ve been a publisher, a freelance journalist and a writer – a similar story to Bea, is anything else from Bea’s character based on you?  

I think there’s a bit of me in each of the three main characters, Bea, Ellen and Kate. I do share Bea’s insecurities about her weight and appearance - and wish I didn’t! But I hope I share her sense of humour and that I’m as loyal as she is to her friends. Unlike her, I am happily married, so I haven’t had to go back to the dating game. If I did, I think I would probably make the same mistakes as her.

Was writing novels always a dream of yours when you worked as a publisher?  

No. Once I became a publisher, my role as an editor meant that I saw how difficult being a writer could be so any thoughts of becoming one were firmly buried. It wasn’t until I left Penguin that I was asked to do some journalism. I was nervous at first but then became more confident and a couple of years later, leaped at the chance to write some non-fiction TV tie-ins. After that I ghosted for several people and learned a lot about structure, voice and pace. I discovered that knowing those things in theory is nothing like putting them into practice. At last I was ready to try my hand at fiction. So it took quite a time for me to get there.

How do you decide on a plot? Do you take a lot of inspiration from real life events and people? 

I take inspiration from wherever I can get it. People I know, newspaper stories, something I’ve read or overheard. But I also spend time gazing at people on public transport, making up stories about them – that helps too.

What does the process of writing a novel actually involve? When sitting down to write, do you start at the beginning and work methodically through, or write bits and then piece them together? 

I think everyone works differently. I like to start with the characters firmly in my head and with a pretty clear idea of the journey each of them are going to take. I don’t like to have everything planned and plotted to the last detail because I find that as the characters develop, ideas come into my head and although the characters reach the planned ending, the path there often changes. So I do start at the beginning and work my way through to the end.

It was refreshing to read a book that wasn’t based on a group of 20-something girls, did you make a conscious decision to base What Women Want on a more mature group of friends? 

It wasn’t a conscious decision exactly, but being ‘more mature’ (!) myself, it seemed natural to write about women with whom I could identify and with whose problems and dilemmas I sympathised.

You say you’re an epic time waster – can you give us an example of how you procrastinate? 

The internet and Twitter provide an endless source of enjoyable distraction. I can spend a whole morning putting off writing if I’ve got to a bit that’s difficult or that I haven’t thought through properly. Otherwise, I can spend hours over crosswords I can’t finish.

What’s it like to ghost write and do you find it less rewarding? 

It’s fascinating. It’s allowed me to meet interesting and talented people and to find out about lives and worlds that I knew little about. I’ve found it extremely rewarding, but it’s a different kind of reward from the one you get when writing something for yourself.

Do you think everyone 'has a novel in them' or do you think some people are just born to write?

No, I don’t think everyone has a novel in them. Some people may be born to write, but I think that others can learn to develop and improve  their craft by reading as much as they can and by writing, writing, writing.

Finally, can you tell me anything about your next book, Women of a Dangerous Age? Also you’ve got a third one in the works….can you tell us anything about that, or is it top secret for now?

Women of a Dangerous Age is about two women, Lou and Ali, who have reached the dangerous age when they’re both asking themselves the questions. ‘Is this it? Or is there still time to change the direction of my life?’ They meet on holiday in India, but when they get home, a shocking coincidence brings them closer together and makes them decide to shake up their lives and take a new tack before it’s too late. The novel’s about women, relationships and why it’s never too late to change … It’s being published in March 2012.

I can’t tell you about the third one quite yet. The characters are just about there, but I’ve got a lot more thinking to do before I can talk coherently about it.

** Thank you once again Fanny for playing an active role in this blog post! You can follow Fanny Blake on twitter here - an amazingly friendly and down-to-earth woman who will always get back to you! I can't wait to get my hands on your next book **

Thursday, 14 July 2011

This Party's Got to Stop by Rupert Thomson

Thanks go to Granta Books Twitter Page for sending me a signed copy of this book. 

I have to admit, I don’t usually read non-fiction by choice.  However, this is my second encounter in the last year; my last being Original Gangster by Frank Lucas (You’re probably more likely to recognise his life as being dramatized in the film American Gangster with Denzel Washington).  I am always pleasantly surprised when I start reading a non-fiction book.  There is no constant waiting for the up-down, will they-won’t they, predictable storyline to come out; it’s real and whilst it might not be the fairy tale you’re dreaming of, it’s refreshing.

Rupert Thomson is the author of eight novels, and this is his first venture into non-fiction.  Thomson doesn’t focus (or really do more than briefly touch upon) his successful career; this is a story based on the significant relationships in his life.

The inside cover says:

“Thomson has produced one of the most beautiful and unforgettable memoirs of recent years; a moving and disarmingly funny portrait of a family undergoing turmoil and change.

Thomson’s mother died suddenly when he was very young.  On the death of his father, twenty years later, the three brothers – Rupert, Robin and Ralph – returned to the family home to confront both their grief and each other.  While the rest of the country focused on the miner’s strike, on the struggle between Thatcher and Scargill, they took their dad’s old pills and tore the house apart.

When the three brothers went their separate ways, a rift opened up between Thomson and his youngest brother.  More than two decades go by before Thomson began to unravel the mystery of the falling-out and to piece together a portrait of the mother he could never remember.

This Party’s Got to Stop is an honest, wry account of mismanaged goodbyes, of time lost and time wasted, of mourning gone wrong and murder plots never quite carried out.  It reveals the complexities of family life in graphic and heartbreaking detail.”

The book jumps around a lot over a number of decades, and at times my inability to focus on specific details (i.e. dates) made me wish the book came with a built in time line for me to study! But it does work exceptionally well, gaps are filled in as you read and it all comes together very well in the end.

I particularly liked that each chapter was given a title, which comes out at some point in the chapter.  It wouldn’t always be the main focus of the chapter, but would spring up and make me say “Ah, that’s why this chapter is called that”.  A nice touch, simple but effective in my opinion.

Not being a writer myself, I could be completely misguided in this belief but I’m going to come out with it anyway.  I think (possibly!) it’s easier to write fiction - to let your imagination run away with you.  However, writing a memoir like Thomson’s requires a certain level of detail and authenticity.

This Party’s Got to Stop doesn’t have an elaborate plot, but consists of honest memories, bound together by various relationships over a number of decades.  It takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions and explores the complexities of family life really quite well.  We all have probably experienced (or know somebody who has) a situation getting out of control resulting in a feud that should never have happened in the first place, a simple lie which you end up regretting forever, the longing to ask questions or tell somebody something but knowing you no longer can.  This book touches on all those aspects and is a truly touching tale of a fragmented family.  The honesty that Thomson writes with has to be admired and you can’t help but get swept along with him.  The last part of the book is my favourite - hopefully making the reader stop and think – things aren’t always how they seem, what you perceive to be, might be seen in a completely different light be somebody else and perhaps if you swallowed your pride or insecurities (or whatever it is that is holding you back) and just talked about it – things would be much simpler and resolved long before they spiral out of control.

A moving, yet refreshing read - thoroughly enjoyable.  I'm now intrigued to read some of Thomson's fictional works.

Monday, 11 July 2011


I have just reviewed 'The Truth about Celia Frost by Paula Rawsthorne' which is due to be released on 1st August 2011.  I am giving you a chance to get your hands on a proof copy of this book before it is released in August!

There are 3 possible routes of entry: the first is mandatory, the second and third are available for bonus entries:

1. Leave me a comment on this post telling me what book you're most looking forward to reading this summer, what you're looking forward to doing this summer, anything you like.   Please ensure you leave me your twitter username or email address, so that I can contact you in the event you are the winner.

2. For an bonus entry, please tweet the following "I'm entering @kirstylou29 's blog competition to win a proof copy of The Truth about Celia Frost. Enter here:"

3. For a second bonus entry, simply follow this blog using Google Friend Connect on the right hand side.

Terms & Conditions:
One entry per person (plus two possible bonus entries)
Competition ends at 11.59pm on 22nd July 2011.  Entries after this time/date will not be counted.
Winners will be chosen at random after the competition closes.
Winners names will be posted on the blog. 
While I will endeavour to contact all winners, if winners have not responded within 5 days I reserve the right to redraw.
There is one prize, consisting of a proof copy of The Truth about Celia Frost by Paula Rawsthorne (Cover and text may not be identical to the published version available from 1st August 2011)
Prizes are not transferable or exchangeable.
UK only.
To enter the competition all participants must comply with the basic entry requirements stated or the entry will not be counted.
 Multiple or third party entries will not be counted.

The Truth About Celia Frost by Paula Rawsthorne

Celia Frost is a freak. At least that’s what everyone thinks. Her life is ruled by a rare disorder that means she could bleed to death from the slightest cut, confining her to a gloomy bubble of safety. No friends. No fun. No life. But when a knife attack on Celia has unexpected consequences, her mum reacts strangely. Suddenly they’re on the run. Why is her mum so scared? Someone out there knows and when they find Celia, she’s going to wish the truth was a lie... A buried secret; a gripping manhunt; a dangerous deceit: what is the truth about Celia Frost? A page-turning thriller that’s impossible to put down.

Another debut novel, and another book I managed to read in one sitting.  This is a book aimed at young adults, and, it does make a unique and intriguing read.  It was certainly nice to read a YA book which didn’t have any vampires, werewolves or wizards anywhere in sight.  The characters are well portrayed and their interactions are dealt with extremely well.
Just as I was wondering whether this book was going to be completely different and not involve some sort of love interest – BANG! Meet Sol.  There is clearly some sort of tension between Celia and Sol, but throughout the book they do remain best friends.  This was a refreshing change, and I really liked Sol and his family. 
The storyline kept me wondering for a while, and it is intriguing but it became clear to me the moment the character appeared in the book who it was who was searching for Celia.  However, I have to say, at no point did I guess the reason for the search and so I was kept guessing until the moment it was revealed.
The book also faces up to some serious ethical issues, which are really quite thought-provoking.  For me, it brought back memories of studying ethics at school and in particular of Utilitarianism (i.e. that the right thing to do is the thing that brings about the greater good and benefits society as opposed to the individual, no matter what that thing is).  It also touches on the delicate subject of a daughter’s relationship with her mother, (and in this case, it is one which is particularly strained), as well as dealing with the gangs and violence which come as part of the grim Bluebell Estate that Celia moves to.
Paula is one of the winners of the Undiscovered Voice of 2010 competition, and seems to be set to become a bright star in the young adult fiction genre.  For me, it was an easy and enjoyable read, but I wasn’t as gripped as I imagine slightly younger readers would be! Saying that, I’ll certainly keep an eye out for Paula’s future works to see what else is on the horizon.
** A thank you goes to Usborne Publishing's Twitter Page for sending out this book for review **

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James

I won this book from Global Cool @booksinpublic on twitter.  I was impressed when Postie delivered it wrapped in beautiful brown paper with black dots; it looked beautiful.  Thank you for introducing me to such a wonderful author!

I only read the back of the book before I started this book which simply states:
A devastating secret
A life torn apart
A new friend to help you forget
But what is she isn’t who she seems?
There is a more detailed synopsis on the inside of the front cover, which I didn’t notice until I’d finished reading the book, and for this I am grateful. I think that synopsis gives more information than it should.  Personally I think it would make you start looking for answers before you get too far into the book.  I liked the simplicity and very open four sentences on the back of the book.

My mother always said to me that she could always tell within the first few lines of a book whether she was going to enjoy it, and frustratingly, the saying ‘mother knows best’ seems once more to be appropriate here.  From my experience, every book I have ever picked up, I have known instantly how I will feel about the book.  This was no exception; there is a brief prologue which begins “I didn’t go to Alice’s funeral.  I was pregnant at the time, crazy and wild with grief.  But it wasn’t Alice I grieved for.  No, I hated Alice by then and was glad she was dead.  It was Alice who had ruined my life, taken the best thing I’d ever had and smashed it into a million unfixable pieces.  I wasn’t crying for Alice but because of her.”  I was intrigued, and drawn in instantly.
As you begin to read, there are instant hints at some dark secret lurking deep within Katherine’s past and this information is released bit by bit as the novel is told from three different points in time.  The majority of the book is told when Katherine is 17, as she tries to move on and deal with the devastating tragedy of her sister’s death and this is when she meets Alice.  There are brief interludes which go back in time to when Rachel was alive, which is how we discover what exactly happened to Rachel, and forward in time to life after Alice when Katherine has a little girl, Sarah.  The shifting chapters aren’t in the slightest disrupting to the storyline, and work exceptionally well at drawing you in and providing you with little nuggets of information just as the time is right.  The pace is perfect right to the very end.
Katherine is a loveable character; she appears insecure and dreams of being the person she feels inside and we soon discover that she feels she can’t be this person anymore due to a sense of guilt that she shouldn’t be happy when her sister has been deprived of her life.  I was instantly suspicious of Alice, she keeps referring to secrets that Katherine might have and she clearly has a hidden agenda from the start.  As her character is developed, I did start to wonder whether she was just totally unaware of how self-obsessed and bitchy she is, or whether she was being purposely deceptive.  Rebecca James does a wonderful job in portraying these characters, even the secondary characters. 
As a psychological thriller, it isn’t scary in a terrifying way but more of a creepy way.  There were moments when my heart was thumping harder than usual, and I had a strong desire to know more – a consequence of some really excellent writing.  All in all, I found it quite gripping and in fact did read it in one sitting.  I have to admit, I guessed the major twist quite early on, but this isn’t because it’s obvious (I think it may well have been a fluke, or perhaps too many TV detective shows leaving me constantly looking for something sinister and connections).  Saying this, it didn’t actually take anything away from the book as even though I thought I knew, this wasn’t confirmed until the very end (at just the right moment) and honestly, any other twist could have been possible.  There are lots of other twists along the way, which will keep you guessing right until the very end. 
Having finished the book, I took to google to find out a bit more about Rebecca James.  I learnt that this was her debut novel, and was astonished.  I am incredibly impressed that her debut novel is put together so perfectly; the switching chapters setting a perfect pace, the writing style, the wonderfully drawn characters and the way they interact with each other to produce such a chilling story.
It would appear the rest of the world has taken to this book just as I have, and it is said to have become a publishing phenomenon.  If you take a look at Rebecca James’ blog you will see the differing covers for different international versions.  I have to say, I love the UK’s version; it is simple yet effective with the silver elegant writing surrounded by barbed wire on a striking red background.  It is perfectly illustrative of Alice who can be equally charming as she can be chilling.
I see that James’ second novel is on its way, in fact the second draft is with the UK agent as I write.  James has set herself up to be a huge author of the future and has already been compared with the likes of JK Rowling and Stephanie Meyer (Twilight series author).  For once, the hype of a “publishing phenomenon” with “international appeal” seems to be entirely justified.  I look forward to James’ second novel with eager anticipation and strongly recommend this debut novel to all readers!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Starting Over by Sue Moorcroft

I was sent this book to review by Choc Lit, along with a lovely bar of chocolate to nibble on whilst I read along.  My first taste of Choc Lit, and it was delightful!
New home, new friends, new love. Can starting over be that simple?
Tess Riddell reckons her beloved Freelander is more reliable than any man - especially her ex-fiancé, Olly Gray. She's moving on from her old life and into the perfect cottage in the country.
Miles Rattenbury's passions? Old cars and new women! Romance? He's into fun rather than commitment.
When Tess crashes the Freelander into his breakdown truck, they find that they're nearly neighbours yet worlds apart. Despite her overprotective parents and a suddenly attentive Olly, she discovers the joys of village life and even forms an unlikely friendship with Miles. Then, just as their relationship develops into something deeper, an old flame comes looking for him ... Is their love strong enough to overcome the past? Or will it take more than either of them is prepared to give?

Quite simply, this is chick-lit at its best!  It’s understandable how it has reached number 3 in The Small Publishers Top 20 Fiction List and why it is one of Choc Lit’s top 10 bestsellers. 
I’ve not read any of Sue Moorcroft’s books before, but I absolutely adore her style of writing.  I felt an instant warmth to the characters.  The way of village life was put across very well, and I found the book very visual; I actually think it would make a wonderful film!
When I first started reading the book, it struck me that it was going to one of those predictable storylines.  After all, it begins with Tess accidentally driving her car into the back of Ratty's breakdown truck.  After an initial thorny meeting, it is clear that these two strong characters are going to end up together at some point.  Yes, it is relatively predictable: they have their ups and downs, but there are a couple of twists along the way which aren’t at all forced to keep your interest. The book is paced exceptionally well, and most importantly the ending is one that is satisfying so that you can close the book with a smile on your face (and not one of those, “but what actually happened!?!?” moments that leave me extremely frustrated!).  In fact, I smiled a lot throughout the book - mostly brought about by Ratty!! Who wouldn't want a man like him in your life to chase you across fields, and pull you into a strong embrace!  Choc Lit's slogan of "Where heroes are like chocolate - irresistible" certainly works exceptionally well for this book!

This isn't just a love story, there are heart-warming moments centered around village life, friendship and family life (Angel's children, in particular the way Jenna calls Tess 'Teth' and Toby calls Ratty 'Watty' melted my heart every time!).  It also explores the parent-adult child relationship extremely well, and is something I think most of us can relate to.

I see from Sue’s blog that she is about one-third of the way through the first draft of her latest book, Dream a Little Dream.  This is also set in Middledip (the village that ‘Starting Over’ and ‘All That Mullarkey’ are set in).  I look forward to the release of this book, and in the meantime will get my hands on a copy of All That Mullarky.  You can keep up to date with Sue at her blog here and Choc Lit here.

Pearl by Deidre Purcell


In 1920s’ rural Ireland, Pearl Somers lives happily with her parents, her sisters Opal and Ruby, and her little brother Willie, in the gate lodge of Kilnashone Castle, where her father is chauffeur to Lord and Lady Areton. But one dreadful night, a series of dramatic events unfold and the lives of all – elite and ordinary – are changed forever. Over 40 years later, Pearl has become a successful writer. Yet there is one story she has never told, until her young cousin Catherine confesses a secret of her own that opens a door to Pearl’s past – one she thought had been firmly sealed forever. When Catherine discovers Pearl’s story of heartbreak and yearning, she determines to do her best to reconcile past and present. But is it too late for Pearl to find her own happy ending?

This is another author that I had never encountered before.  The cover is elegantly beautiful and fits with the book perfectly.  The book is set in Ireland, and having Irish roots myself, this alone is enough to get me hooked! There is even a mention of my grandparents’ home harbour-town, Courtown in County Wexford!
I must admit it took me a few chapters to get into, but I think that is because the previous couple of books I’d read had been aimed at younger readers.  Once I’d adjusted, I really enjoyed the book.  It’s tragic, yet enchanting.  A totally different kind of love story; not clichéd or predictable but unique and beautiful.
Purcell finds inspiration from her own family history in the making of this novel: her grandparents lived in the gate lodge of Durrow Castle where her grandfather was a chauffeur for the Flower family who, like Pearl’s own father, ended up leaving Ireland to work for the family when they returned to England.  Also like Pearl and Opal, Purcell’s mother and aunt came to Dublin as young girls to work in a café.  I felt this connection in the authenticity of the book and I think it really helps bring the book to life.
This unique storyline is told from alternating points of view of three women within the family (two sisters, and a younger cousin from a different generation) and from alternating points in time (children, young women, and older women).  Purcell’s writing style is fluent, and it works perfectly to bring the story together and to life.  Gems of information are released at just the right time to keep you reading on.  I have to say, my least favourite chapters were those told by Opal as I found her particularly difficult to engage with.  However, her chapters are the fewest in number, and do work to bring the novel together.
This isn’t just an ordinary chick-lit novel, but an enchanting love story from a wonderful Irish author!

Monday, 4 July 2011

The most beautiful illustration that you will never forget your first love…..!

Pictures of Lily by Paige Toon
'Will you marry me?'
I think of you, then. I think of you every day. But usually in the quietest part of the morning, or the darkest part of the night. Not when my boyfriend of two years has just proposed. I look up at Richard with his hopeful eyes.
'Lily?' he prompts.
It's been ten years, but it feels like only yesterday that you left. How can I say yes to Richard with all my heart when most of it has always belonged to you? I take a deep breath and will myself to speak...
Ten years ago when Lily was just sixteen, she fell in love with someone she really shouldn't have fallen in love with. Now, living in Sydney and engaged to another man, she can't forget the one that got away. Then her past comes back to haunt her, and she has to make a decision that will break her heart - and the heart of at least one of the men who love her. 

I have just finished this book and I am sat here with tears streaming down my face! I am a HUGE die-hard romantic and so this was the perfect book for me!
I’ve previously read Paige Toon’s ‘Chasing Daisy’ and so had high expectations for this book.  Having read the back of the book, I was already hooked – the combination of that with Paige Toon’s name to it was all I needed to know to know this was going to a brilliant chick lit book that would keep me page turning for hours. Did it disappoint? The answer is a resounding NO!
The first 12 chapters are set 10 years ago when Lily first moves to Australia at the age of fifteen.  Ever since a small child my favourite animal has been the Koala (and in fact my first ever stuffed animal was a Koala who still sits on my bed today!), and so I adored the first part of the book just for the heart-warming descriptions Lily gives of the Koalas and Kangaroos.  These early years also deal with Lily learning to drive (something we can all relate to) and Paige captures perfectly the typical first crush.  For me the line “I know I’ll relive this moment over and over again” is one that rings true from my own life.
As I read the book I could literally feel her heartbreak – I think that partly comes from being such a sucker for romance but also from the way it is written; every detail is perfect.  All in all, these beginning chapters totally and utterly capture falling in love and heartbreak.
The remaining chapters of the book are based on her life 10 years on.  Her heart has not forgotten her first love, and this is affecting her new life as she has never been able to give herself fully to anything else again.  The part of the book where she is thinking about life without her boyfriend are extremely well written.  From personal experience, Paige perfectly captures the pain that you feel about losing someone you love but just don’t love with all your heart.  Yes, the book is predictable but this doesn’t take anything away from it and I constantly had to refrain myself from checking the last page as I was afraid there would be a twist resulting in an ending different from the one I wanted.
If you’re a helpless romantic, this book is perfect.  It kept my heart racing as I lived Lily’s life with her!