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Laura Hartley (London)
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How to be both
How to be both
by Ali Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.60

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Requires a lot of effort on the part of the reader, 27 July 2015
This review is from: How to be both (Paperback)
There are two editions of How To Be Both: one with George's part first, and the other with Francesco del Cosso's part first. I was fortunate enough to have George's part first, and thank god I did. I'm not 100% sure I would have even continued reading this book from start to finish if I had started with del Cosso's narrative. In George's narrative we learn about her life in Cambridge with her father and younger brother after the devastating death of her mother. George's father chooses to deal with the pain by drinking away his sorrows and so George is left to deal with her sense of loss and grief, and that of her brother's, by herself and predictably she finds herself lonely and confused. The other half of the book follows del Cosso, a painter in the 1460s who is desperately trying to get his work recognized - but del Cosso has a secret, and not all is as it seems.

The two stories might seem completely unrelated, but Ali Smith knits the two together with some very clever crafting. We move backwards and forwards through time in this novel as a whole and in the individual's narrative so we see del Cosso's paintings in a museum in George's world, but George is also becomes a part of del Cosso's world in the 15th century. This book is all about how everything is both one thing and another and this movement through time demonstrates how time means both nothing and everything. For example, George's mother is both constantly present, and yet never present and this is something that poor George has to learn to cope with.

I really enjoyed George's part of the story - she's a character that you grow to love and you feel a deep sense of sympathy for her. She's feisty and strong-willed, even in her grief, and she's a great female lead. del Cosso's part was far less interesting in my opinion and I often found myself incredibly bored. The writing doesn't have much structure and I found myself swimming in a load of words that had no meaning to me. This was incredibly disappointing and really ruined the story for me. His narrative wasn't all bad, of course there were also some very intriguing passages and many interesting questions were raised but the frequent lapses into (what I thought were) incomprehensible passages makes it quite hard work getting through his half of the story.

Whilst the point of releasing these two editions was to reinforce the fact that this book can be read it either order and that both ways are fine, I would have to disagree with this strongly. George's part of the story really sets the story up and explains how the two different stories fit together. Yes, the two stories are linked in such a way that both of them regularly make references to the other half of the story; however, to begin reading del Cosso's part would put the reader at a huge disadvantage and leave a lot more questions unanswered. Any mention of George and her life would have very little meaning in del Cosso's part if you did not already know a bit about her situation. No matter which way round your edition of this book is, I think it would be a good idea to read the first half, then the second half, then the first half again, to truly understand all the links between the two novels and pick up anything that you may have missed the first time.

This is an unconventional story that requires a lot of effort on the part of the reader in order for them to really enjoy it. Through the movement in time, many interesting questions are raised about identity, gender, sexuality, friendship, morality - lots of hard hitting topics that can really be quite mind boggling if you're not paying attention. I can imagine this being studied in schools or literary book groups, but I think for the average reader, this might be a bit too stylistic. If you're not willing to commit to this book, you're not going to get the full experience and you probably won't enjoy it. There are many, many complex layers to this story and it's quite easy to just skip over all of these which will result in the reader being incredibly confused. When I finished this book, I don't think I really understood it at all, but then I went to a book group meeting about it and my eyes were opened. Without the interpretations of these other bookish people, I no doubt would've put this down as a dead-loss, one that just wasn't for me. However, now that I have a greater understanding of it, I can appreciate Ali Smith's style and content so much more.

Everyone who I've spoken to who has read How To Be Both said that they have a love/hate relationship with it. I guess that's funny since the title, and the contents, is all about to be two contrasting things at once. I was actually doing work experience at Penguin Random House at the time that this book was being prepared for release and it was being set up as the big release of the year. Since it went on to win a heck of a lot of awards, I guess their predictions were correct. However, prizes do not always equal reader enjoyment and I have to admit that at some points during the novel I was incredibly bored, and at others I was really engrossed. This book is what you make of it - if you're willing to put in the time and effort to properly explore all the different themes and layers that Ali Smith has created, then you will no doubt enjoy it. If not, well, good luck my friend.


How To Be Parisian: Wherever You Are
How To Be Parisian: Wherever You Are
by Anne Berest
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.89

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you're buying this for the glossy pages, then you won't be disappointed, 16 July 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I picked up this title because it kept cropping up on bloggers' pages and since I've just moved to Paris for my year abroad, it seemed like an appropriate title to get me into Parisian life. The book itself is very glossy - hardback, thick glossy paper, lots of large high quality pictures and illustrations and funky formatting. This book is evidently meant to please the eye and that it most certainly does. Some passages of this book are quite long and others are very bitty and short. Some parts are written in prose, others are simply bullet pointed ideas. This means that's book is easy to pick up and put down, you don't need to dedicate a chunk of your time to reading it. You don't even need to read it in order as there isn't much of a structure to it. For the most part, each two page spread has a discusses a certain part of Parisian life, so each part is short and snappy, and you can dive in and out of different sections whenever you please.

All the random aspects of life that you probably didn't think you needed advice on are covered in this book so you get a very rounded view of how the Parisian women lives her life. There are tips on how to dress, how to shop, how to eat, how to act on a date, how to woo a man, which perfumes to wear, which colors to wear in winter etc. etc. etc. At the end of the book there are also lists of recommended places to visit, eat and shop at, which will no doubt be handy for those that are actually visiting Paris.

How To Be Parisian doesn't seem to be aimed at any particular age group of women so is sure to be enjoyed by teenagers and retirees alike. There are some passages detailing how to behave in your youth, and others about how to behave so that you age gracefully. There are a lot of timeless tips in here, which I genuinely found to be rather inspiring. They're the sort of tips that are handed down from mother to daughter for generations and you can get quite a good picture of the respect that these women have for their mothers.

There were some parts that I didn't particularly agree with, especially those concerning love as the advice given almost seems to condone, and indeed encourage cheating. All the romantic advice is along the lines of 'treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen' and seems to involve a lot of hiding who you really are for the sake of Parisian 'etiquette'. These parts are a little frustrating to read and I can only assume the authors haven't heard of a little thing called feminism. Their portrayal of Parisian women as incredibly independent women is something that I really liked, but in some passages they took it a bit too far and made it sound like all Parisian women were downright arrogant. Confusingly it seems to advocate both being yourself and keeping yourself in check on a date. This book is full of contradictions, but apparently that's the way that Parisian women are.

Really this is just an insight into the lives of four particular 'Parisian' women and their thoughts on how to go about life's daily business and no more than that. The content is lighthearted and funny, this book doesn't take itself seriously and it is by no means a true guide to the Parisian woman. A lot of the 'advice' is incredibly clichéd and plays off a stereotype that probably doesn't fit most Parisian women and I think a lot of this book is just four women having fun with writing. This book would make a good gift for those who love Paris and makes for a nice, quick Saturday afternoon read.


The Rosie Project: Don Tillman 1
The Rosie Project: Don Tillman 1
by Graeme Simsion
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's rare to find a love story as gently and finely developed as this, 12 July 2015
Don is a little different. He has Asperger's syndrome (though he himself fails to recognise this) and so can be rather blunt and socially awkward. Often missing basic human signals Don frequently misinterprets situations and thus finds himself with very few friends and no wife. Here comes in: The Wife Project. Don creates a questionnaire that he believes is a foolproof way of finding a wife. Although there are four answers to every question, only one of them is correct in Don's eyes and a woman must score 100% on the test before he'll consider taking her out on a date. But then there's Rosie, the complete opposite of what Don is looking for, but something keeps bringing him back to her.

I've heard so many good things about The Rosie Project ever since it was published so I couldn't wait to get my claws into this on my holiday away. This is the perfect holiday read for those who are looking for something that is light-hearted and funny but not wishy-washy. Whilst this book is about finding love, its not sappy in the slightest because it is written from the perspective of Don and he is the sort of man who listens to reason, and not his emotions (the few that he has). It's incredibly funny because you get to see right into the mind of Don, a bizarre man, who doesn't think like the rest of us. His reactions to social situations and general human interaction are incredibly amusing, as is his lack of comprehension. To the reader, it is obvious what is going on, but to Don it is not, so you yourself feel like you're a part of the novel, keeping something from Don. You know something that that doesn't and there's always something exciting about knowing something your favourite character does not. I grew very fond of him as the novel progressed and his character development over the course of the story is truly heart warming.

Rosie, too, is a character that you start to root for, and I really admired her for treating Don like an adult, like any other man, and didn’t change, adapt or explain anything to him, preferring to leave him to develop himself. There are a lot of unspoken thoughts and feelings in The Rosie Project, which are all glaringly obvious to the reader, so the more you read, the more desperate you are for all to be revealed and a real sense of momentum builds up. Despite this, I wouldn't say that the story is all that predictable in that Graeme Simsion still leaves the possibility for sudden plot twists and as Don is not your typical man, you can never be quite sure what he's going to do.

This isn’t the sort of romance that gives you butterflies, it’s not a whirlwind romance and it’s not love at first sight. This story develops a beautiful relationship between two people who are both a bit quirky and it is because of that you keep reading. It’s not full of grand gestures; this is about true love based on personalities, which I thought was very refreshing.

What’s more, the plot isn’t all about Don and Rosie, it’s much bigger than that. This pair work incredibly hard trying to solve the mystery of who Rosie’s father is – an experiment that leads them on many adventures, all of which are hilarious. The ‘romance’ is at once one of the main features and one of the side notes. It’s always there but rarely explicitly discussed.

In addition to Rosie and Don there are Don’s best friends, Gene and his wife Claudia. These supporting characters are essential to the plot line, slowly helping Don along without explicitly giving him a shove in the right direction. Claudia acts as a sort of mother figure to Don, offering him kind advice whenever he is in need. Gene is the opposite – he is a researcher in human attraction who’s trying to sleep with women from every single country. For research purposes of course. There are lots of characters in this book that have ‘clashing’ personalities, and yet somehow Graeme Simsion manages to mash them all together giving each individual character a different role in the novel.

All in all, this is a fantastic and hugely funny read. At the start of the novel, Don is the sort of man who has his weekly schedule planned out to the hour and throughout the novel we see huge changes taking place in life, all because of Rosie. This novel is quite as predictable as it may first seem Rosie’s spontaneity mixed with Don’s unpredictability make it difficult to really know what’s coming next. It’s rare to find a love story as gently and finely developed as this so I’d highly recommend this to anyone who’s bored of your stereotypical fictional romances.


Minions [DVD]
Minions [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sandra Bullock
Price: £9.99

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A real feel-good film!, 9 July 2015
This review is from: Minions [DVD] (DVD)
The minions have taken the world by storm since they first appeared on cinema screens in 2010, garnering huge marketing opportunities and now, finally, they have their own film. Minions serves as a kind of prequel to the two Despicable Me films and tells the story of how the minions came to be. Starting off as small microorganisms, the Minions have ben around for even longer than humans have. This troupe of little yellow creatures live to serve and they've gone through evil mastermind after evil mastermind though the ages. From T-Rex to Napoleon, the minions have worked for the biggest baddest villains around - the trouble is, these villains are not particularly successful and never seem to stick around for very long. However, the minions now find themselves without a master and fall into a deep depression. Then, Kevin decides that he's had enough of this and gathers together Bob and Stuart to accompany him to try and find a new boss. There is hope amongst the minions once more. The three brave minions find themselves recruited by Scarlett Overkill, the first female super-villain, and their adventures continue from there.

The first question that I asked myself when I heard about the Minions film, and I'm sure I wasn't alone in this, was how on earth can you make a film about a bunch of characters that don't speak? I was convinced that the movie would be a waste of time as we'd just have to listen to nonsensical sounds with the occasionally 'banana' thrown in - but I was wrong. The producers cleverly steered around this problem by creating the minions a language of their own. This language ressembles the same minion-noises from the previous two films, but is actually a mixture of lots of different European languages: Spanish, French, Italian, German, English - maybe even more that I didn't recognise! Anyone who has a basic understanding of any of this will be able to make out the meanings behind the minions gestures, which is a great help for understanding the basics of what's going on and creates much hilarity as well. Of course, a lot of the time, it is still just nonsense.

As for other voices in this film, there are a lot of famous voices behind the characters, but none stood out more than Geoffrey Rush, the narrator. This film almost starts out like a bedtime story with Rush taking you through the minions history and he’s so passionate and enthusiastic with his narration that you can’t help but be engrossed by the story. Sandra Bullock is the voice behind Scarlett Overkill, blending good with evil, demonstrating that she can play a range of characters and I cannot think of anyone better suited for this character.

There's no doubt about it - this movie is silly. Very silly. But it's also hilarious. I was sat in a cinema screen with people of all ages, from 4 years old to 40 years old, and everyone was having a good time, laughing at the jokes and cooing at the minions. Some of the things that happen are absolutely ridiculous but its impossible not to find the minions hilarious. Part of what makes them so funny is that they try so hard to do good, but fail to do so miserably, and that’s certainly a good description of their antics in Minions. This film pokes fun at quite literally everything so it’s literally a laugh a minute. A good part of the film is set in England so for British people this is sure to be a laugh because it plays up English stereotypes to the max. There are very few films I’ve been to in which everybody in the cinema was constantly laughing loudly out loud (LLOL?) with such a happy vibe.

Minions is a real feel-good film with bright characters, constant comedy, cute characters and a great soundtrack to boot. You get to see how the minions function as a group and its really heart warming to see their interactions with each other. Even the evil villain, Scarlett Overkill, can’t help but love them. There are underlying themes of friendship and family, which gives it a slightly deeper dimension that older viewers will appreciate. Perhaps it will even teach children the values of friendship and teamwork – who knows.

The soundtrack perhaps wasn’t quite as good as the previous films as I can’t really remember what specific songs were played anymore, nor one song that really stood out. However, compared to most films, the soundtrack was on-point. There are lots of big hits on it and they’ve somehow managed to find the perfect song for each scene. Of course the animation is as good as it always has been, perhaps slightly more impressive than usual given that there are more explosions than usual.

I can imagine that Minions will be a very hit or miss film, with lots of people finding it just a little bit too silly. For me, however, it was the perfect blend of storytelling, comedy and cuteness. I would even go so far as to say that Minions is better than the Despicable Me films. This film shows that the Minions are characters in their own right and the producers behind this film have done something truly incredibly by managing to turn these yellow creatures into protagonists. What’s great is that it works as a standalone film but also as a part of the Despicable Me series as there are some (seamless) ties to the first two films. Not one to miss.


Paris For One (Quick Reads)
Paris For One (Quick Reads)
by Jojo Moyes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £1.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as I expected from Jojo Moyes, 6 July 2015
Paris for One is part of the Quick Reads collection by Penguin to try and encourage those who don't have time to read. This title certainly serves its purpose well as it is only 95 pages long, but Moyes has packed in a full-blown adventure into this short story. It's the sort of story that you can pick up and put down again as you go about your business, no harm done. The story is lighthearted without any complications and it's not the sort of read that you need to dedicate a chunk of your time to. It's the story of Nell, who isn't particularly adventurous and has never been to Paris. She makes a spur of the moment decision to book two Eurostar tickets for herself and her boyfriend but things start to fall apart when he doesn't meet her at the train station in London. Ploughing ahead, Nell goes to Paris by herself, assuming that her boyfriend will meet her in Paris, but everything changes when she gets there.

This story is a piece of classic chick-lit, i.e. a highly predictable, romantic, but somewhat unrealistic, tale. I am a big fan of Jojo Moyes but I have to say I was actually a little disappointed in this short story. Whilst I appreciate that it is difficult to fit a decent story into such a small number of pages, I couldn't help but feel that some pages were a little floosy and meaningless. There are others, however, which are examples of really good story-telling - much more Jojo Moyes style - and I really enjoyed these. I read this book over several days, only reading a few pages at a time, and I found my interest waning during some passages but peaking during others. This story was quite hit and miss with me with some parts just being a little too silly for my liking.

That said, the character development is quite good and somehow you really get to know Nell and exactly what sort of girl she is from 95 short pages. You get a feel for who her friends her and what sort of life she's lived, which is amazing given how short this story is. As a reader, you start to root for Nell to go forth and be adventurous for once in her life (though it is glaringly obvious what the outcome of this story will be).

All in all, this a nice, short read, great for taking on holiday with you or reading on the train. It's not too deep but you still get to know the characters quite well and can see Nell's character development throughout which is heartwarming. There was some bits that were too 'chick-lit' for me, if that makes sense, but on the whole it was a decent story. It's got nothing on any full novels that Moyes has written though, so if this is your first taste of Jojo Moyes I highly recommend that you pick up some of her other titles!


Kiss Me Organics - Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder Culinary Grade - Japanese (113g)
Kiss Me Organics - Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder Culinary Grade - Japanese (113g)
Offered by KissMeOrganics
Price: £22.00

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great energy booster, 30 Jun. 2015
The Tea
This tea comes in the form of a bright green powder that looks incredibly unnatural despite the fact that it is quite the opposite. The powder is made from ground up tea leaves and that is why matcha tea powder is so much better for you than normal green tea. Instead of drinking the essence of the leaf, you’re consuming the entire leaf, ergo you reap even more benefits. Matcha is basically green tea on steroids.

The Taste
I’m not the biggest tea fan and matcha is probably one of the strongest out there. Suffice to say I find the tea far too strong when simply mixed with water, however, there are numerous other ways to use and consume this powder that I discovered from Kiss Me Organics recipe guide. You can easily dilute the taste with some simple concoctions so you can still benefit from all those anti-oxidants. As with normal green tea, you can add half a teaspoon of matcha to hot water and drink it like that, however, this is when the matcha flavour is most potent. There are so many different matcha tea recipes out there but my favourite has to be matcha tea with milk (cold or hot) to make either a latte or smoothie style drink. This significantly reduces the bitter taste that matcha is associated with and it's actually a rather nice drink. Mixed into your daily smoothie, orange juice, cereal milk, latte, whatever it is you drink - the taste becomes a lot less bitter.

Matcha doesn’t just have to be a drink, it can also be used in your cooking or baking. For example, adding matcha powder to your cupcakes makes a more savoury delicacy that’s still full of anti-oxidants. You can add it to pretty much any baking recipe for example matcha pancakes or muffins, all of which carry the matcha taste but with a much less strong flavour.

How to make the tea
Whatever you're mixing your matcha powder into, be it water, milk, yoghurt or whatever, you've got to make sure that you've really stirred it well. Ideally, you'd get a special tea whisk which you are supposed to use when preparing matcha, but the majority of people don't have access to this so some serious stirring is required. If you fail to mix the matcha powder in properly you end up with a thick, green sludge at the bottom of your glass, which is, putting it mildly, vile. This does mean that preparing the tea can take a little bit longer than, say, your standard English tea, but it's definitely worth it in the end.

The benefits
Supposedly, matcha tea, 'green tea on steroids', can boost your metabolism, reduce the redness of skin, improve energy, nutrient balance, weight control and sensitive skin from within. I have to admit I haven't seen any effect on my metabolism or weight, but as for energy, I feel brighter, more alert and full of energy pretty much immediately after drinking this tea. This tea does contain caffeine, but it's not the sort that gives you anxiety or other negative effects if you drink too much of it.

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So all in all, Kiss Me Organics matcha tea works wonders. The matcha powder comes in a resealable bag that keeps the tea fresh and stops you spilling powder all over the place and since you only using a small amount of matcha powder at a time, each bag lasts pretty long. I would highly recommend matcha green tea to those who are looking for a natural substance to help give them an energy boost or lose weight. The effects of this tea are pretty quick and with just one cup a day, it couldn't be easier to turn yourself into a better you.

*I received this product free of charge from the supplier. All opinions are my own.


ORDEL® Talos Tan Felt Laptop Stand Sleeve Case Cover For All Apple Macbook Pro & Retina & Air 11" 13" 15" (13")
ORDEL® Talos Tan Felt Laptop Stand Sleeve Case Cover For All Apple Macbook Pro & Retina & Air 11" 13" 15" (13")
Offered by Ordel
Price: £19.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Will save your laptop from any minor disasters, 30 Jun. 2015
A Mac laptop is a smart looking piece of technology and as such a smart looking laptop case is needed. Laptop cases can be incredibly expensive and often the quality isn’t that great but Ordel’s Talos laptop case is very affordable and professional looking. I am using it for my 13” Macbook pro retina display.

What’s good about it?
The sleeve is made from felt with faux leather sides and a magnetic clasp. The inside of the case is soft so there’s no risk of your laptop getting scratched by this case. The clasp isn’t fiddly at all so there’ll be no fumbling around when you’re trying to get your laptop in and out of this case. The magnetic clasp means that it snaps shut instantly and then you can be on your way with your laptop tucked safely under your arm. The laptop slides easily into the case and it fits well, though your laptop may move around slightly in it. If you want to slide a few sheets of paper in there with it, the case will definitely allow for that.

What’s not so good about it?
It’s not the thickest of cases, nor is it waterproof so if you wanted something to protect your case from the elements, this probably wouldn’t do so well. It’s sufficiently padded to protect your case from small knocks and falls but it’s unlikely to shield your Mac from any big disasters. If you’re just using this case to look professional at work and save your laptop from scratches then this will do just fine.

Final thoughts…
All in all this is an excellent case for the price you pay. The design is very professional so it’s sure to look chic at work or at university. Most importantly, it will save your laptop from minor bumps throughout the day and you can rest assured that your Mac will remain undamaged.

NB: Product was received for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


Losing It
Losing It
by Helen Lederer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Light entertainment, 24 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Losing It (Paperback)
Losing It by Helen Lederer is the comic tale of a middle-aged Z lister, Millie. She was once a celebrity of sorts but those days are gone and she is now in debt, divorced and desperate. Just as things are starting to look really bleak for Millie, a fantastic opportunity comes her way, giving her that chance to finally sort her life out. She is offered £20,000 to lose weight. Seems like a pretty good deal right? The problem is, Millie has absolutely no willpower and cutting down on the amount she eats proves to be pretty difficult for her. But no weight loss, no money. After an eye opening trip to Papua New Guinea to visit her daughter, Millie truly begins her weight loss journey. It's full of ups and downs (mostly downs), but will she pull it together and meet her weight loss target and get the money she so desperately needs?

Losing It reminds me a lot of Bridget Jones. She's just a little bit (*very) tragic and I think every woman will be able to see a bit of themselves in Millie. She's desperate, single, and she can't keep her hands out of the fridge. We relate to her because she's human. Maintaining a household, keeping a steady relationship, having a successful career and staying fit and healthy are all difficult things to do individually, let alone all at once, which is what a lot of women are expected to do these days. Millie fails and fails again, but she doesn't stop trying so you find yourself rooting for Millie, willing her to succeed as if her success will guarantee yours too. If Millie can do it, there's hope for us all.

Although the novel focuses on Millie's life, the host of supporting characters are all incredibly entertaining in their own ways as well, which makes the story far more interesting. There are numerous sub-plots including one about Millie's daughter and one about her best friend. Her daughter's boyfriend, a Papua New Guinean, Eugene, is just very strange and doesn't speak particularly good English and you can imagine being thoroughly weirded out by him if you were to meet him in real life. There's also Millie's boss, Esther, who is stern and unforgiving, but you (unexpectedly) grow to love her by the end of the novel.

The plot doesn't have all that much to it really as it's Millie as a character that is the main focus of the novel. Sure, lots of funny things happen, but they're all pretty mundane things that would happen in day-to-day life that are only made funny by the fact that they all happen to Millie. There are some laugh out loud moments, however, and you can't get through a single page without Millie blundering something or other. Lederer's sense of humour is great and it really shines through in this story. Whilst some moments are laugh-out-loud hilarious, readers will go through the majority of this story silently mocking Millie and scoffing at how pathetic she is at times. That said, it will no doubt be in the back of every woman's mind that she could very well be in the same position as Millie one day.

In conclusion, Helen Lederer's Losing It is a great read for those looking for some light entertainment. The story is an easy read that you'll easily get through in just one short afternoon. This will probably appeal most to middle aged women, especially those going through a bit of a crisis, as Millie embodies the everyday woman. Perfect for fans of Dawn French and Sue Townsend, this is a great piece of women's fiction that you will no doubt enjoy.


Be Careful What You Wish For (The Clifton Chronicles)
Be Careful What You Wish For (The Clifton Chronicles)
by Jeffrey Archer
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Takes a while to get going, but when it does, it's really thrilling, 14 Jan. 2015
Be Careful What You Wish For is the fourth book in The Clifton Chronicles by Jeffrey Archer (something that I didn't realise until I'd finished reading the book so silly me). It begins with a car crash involving two young men, but we are uncertain as to which one was killed in the crash. It turns out there is a feud between the families of the two boys and Don Pedro Martinez is trying to bring down the esteemed Barrington family. Throughout the book we see various different plots to destroy the Barrington's family shipping business but whether Don Pedro Martinez is successful in his plans will remain a mystery...

I have to be honest, I didn't think that I was going to like this book before I started reading it, nor when I had read 150 pages of it. It was not until after I'd read about a third of the book did it really begin to pique my interest. This book contains several passages which have either strong political or financial themes and I found these parts of the books much less accessible as a reader. That said, I haven't read many political novels or anything of the sort so this was very much a new reading experience for me and I imagine existing Archer fans would've greatly enjoyed these details passages.

The plot gets more and more complicated as time goes on and you begin to see how all the different characters fit into the action but Archer keeps the motives and relations between characters under wraps for the most part of the book. Archer is incredibly good at keeping the reader in suspense and weaving a tale so thick that it's impossible to predict what's coming next. There's a lot of two-ing and fro-ing in this novel as you see the Barrington's and the Martinez's fight to destroy the reputation of the other and there's absolutely no way of predicting the results of each party's ploys. This story gets more and more exciting as it goes on, constantly surprising the reader with new and game-changing information that throws what you thought you knew about the story out the window. If you like to be kept on your toes, then this is the series for you.

Perhaps this was because I haven't read the previous books in the series, but I didn't really feel like I connected with any of the characters. This is not the story of one person, but the intersecting and overlapping stories of many, many characters. As a result, it is not only hard to to wrap your head around who's who, but also to form any sort of emotional attachment to any character. This was a disappointment, but did not necessarily let the book down. The complex nature of the plot means that this book is very much about what is happening, rather than what each character feels about what is happening. Another factor is that the character's don't have very strong relationships between each other so there isn't anything for the reader to connect with. Instead, you remain removed from the busy plot but your interest is still maintained because you want to find out which character's plans will ultimately succeed. The characters have a business-like relationship with each other and thus I felt like I had a business-like relationship with the book. This story was created to entertain me and entertain me it did.

All in all, Be Careful What You Wish For was a highly entertaining novel (once it got going) and I would highly recommend it to existing Archer fans and to those that have never read his books I suggest you pick one up. This book ends on one hell of a cliffhanger so I am eager to get my hands on the next instalment of The Clifton Chronicles (released in February this year). This book takes quite a bit of time to get your head around but if you're a fan of political or business-related drama, entwined with family drama, then this is the series for you.
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The Maze Runner (Maze Runner Series)
The Maze Runner (Maze Runner Series)
by James Dashner
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A unique and terrifying world, 26 Sept. 2014
The Maze Runner is a young adult dystopian story and it's not hard to see why this story was snapped up by 20th Century Fox as it's a gripping story full of twists and turns set in a world that will no doubt make an impression on the big screen. This story starts when Thomas arrives at the Glade in the box. Thomas has absolutely no memories about his past or who he is and is very confused by his surroundings, which is to be expected given that the Glade is occupied up of a small group of teenage boys (no adults and no girls) and is enclosed within the confines of massive stone walls. Thomas soon discovers that these boys are trapped in the Glade, which is surrounded by a huge maze, full of dangerous creatures called Grievers. Everyday, the walls open, revealing the Maze and the Gladers send out 'runners' to try and figure out a way out of the Maze. The Gladers have already been trapped for two years but they still haven't found a way out. Why? Because every night, once the stone walls close, the walls of the maze change. Escape seems futile. Everyday is the same in the Glade, that is, until Thomas shows up, when everything starts to change. Ordinarily, only one new person arrives at the Glade a month, but the day after Thomas arrives, another person is delivered via the box. A girl. A girl that recognises Thomas, no less. Things are changing in the Glade and it seems like the time to finally escape has come - but only if they can figure out the code - and their escape mission will not be easy.

Although the story is written in the third person, it follows Thomas as he tries to figure out what the hell is going on - what happened to him (and the other boys), where they are and what their purpose is. I didn't connect as much with Thomas as I expected to but he is definitely a strong male lead and a great character to read about. Not all of the characters in the story like Thomas and I think that that feeling rubbed off slightly on me as there were times when I questioned whether I really trusted him. With so many character with little to no memory of who they are and where they've come from, it can be a little difficult figuring out which characters to trust and the success of this story is probably down the huge amount of suspense that the reader feels. It is not until the very end of the story that anything really becomes clear and when it does, you kinda wish you hadn't found out what's really going on.

Dashner has created a unique and terrifying world which will probably haunt me in my dreams tonight. It's very Hunger Games-esque as you've got a group of young kids fighting for survival against what they assume is a system adults created to test them. (Why they are being tested, they have no idea). The difference is however, these kids are working as a group to try to survive so themes of friendship and how a society should function are important. Although all the main characters are children, if their age was never mentioned, I could very well believe that this was a tale for adults. This is classified as a YA novel, however, there is nothing remotely 'childish' about this book. This is a serious tale of survival and I have to be honest, Dashner's imagination frightens me.

There isn't much romance in this story but you can see that there is something developing between Thomas and Teresa, the only girl in the camp. There are some nice moments between these two but this definitely isn't one of the main plot points though I look forward to this blossoming in the future books. I am a big fan of romance in YA books, but in this case, I didn't really care that there wasn't all that much of it because there was so much going on in terms of friendships and the developing ties between different characters.

All in all, The Maze Runner is definitely up there with top YA titles such as The Hunger Games and The 5th Wave and if you haven't read it yet, then you absolutely must pick up a copy before the film comes out next month. The cliffhanger at the end of The Maze Runner makes sure that readers will want to pick up the next book and I cannot wait to see how the plot develops from here. I absolutely tore through this book and finished it in no time, desperate to find out what was going on. Dashner has now been added to my list of favourite authors and I would give this story 5 stars simply for the terrifying world that Dashner has created.
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