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Any Man of Mine
Any Man of Mine
by Rachel Gibson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Any Man of Mine.....better not be like him!, 25 May 2011
This review is from: Any Man of Mine (Paperback)
I was initially quite excited for this book. Rachel Gibson has been a favourite of mine since Tangled Up In You and See Jane Score, and even though her last book missed the mark with me, she was still on the 'auto-buy' end of my scale.

I don't know what happened here, but reading just the first few pages made me reel - it felt like this book had been written by a not-very-imaginative five-year old! Now I'm no snob when it comes to romance novels, and as I say, I am a fan of Gibson's - I'm all for the so-called "dumbed down" romance novels as long as they are entertaining. But this one felt incredibly poorly written - two-word sentences that hit me over the head with the obvious, repetition of the same thought in almost exactly the same way within a number of pages....having studied creative writing I am always - however reluctantly - aware of that old dictum, "Show, don't tell" and for 90% of this novel, I was *told*, and told, and told again.

Another problem for me was the utter lack of connection between the lead pair. Complex is fine, a little bit flawed is fine, but - spoilers ahead - Sam is near enough a complete sociopath, creep and all round jerk of a guy. Why on earth would a woman EVER give him a second glance, especially after being burned in the AWFUL way that Autumn had?! And as others have noticed before me, I never saw any indication of Autumn and Sam actually realising *why* they could forgive each other and fall in love again. Sam's "redemption" was non-existent. If I were in Autumn's situation, I wouldn't have given the man a second glance. Or at the very least ordered a prenuptial to safeguard her - and Connor's - future. At one point in the book, - spoilers - Autumn asks Sam why he is coming back into their lives, why he wants to kiss her and sleep with her again etc, and he shrugs and tells her, "I'm bored". Jaw-drop. *Seriously?!* This is the guy she ends up with?! Personally I wouldn't bet on the second marriage lasting any longer than the first.

Not to go off on a rant, but I am sick and tired of these so-called modern and feminist heroines who, after being abandoned by the hero, remain celibate for a ridiculous number of years for no good reason, while the hero goes off and sleeps with every passing girl. Is it such a bad thing to depict a divorced, young mother who - gasp, horror! - might actually have had a relationship or two since her divorce? Would she become undesirable to our wonderful hero then?

Anyway, even given all the romantic tropes and types, this one did not engage me at all. I'd give it a miss.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 14, 2011 2:32 PM BST


Take A Chance On Me
Take A Chance On Me
by Jill Mansell
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not Jill., 15 April 2010
This review is from: Take A Chance On Me (Hardcover)
With Jill's last couple of books, I have felt that there was something lacking. Nothing actually *wrong* with them, per se - perfectly pleasant and engaging. For a new/debut author, brilliant. But with Jill we've come to expect more. One startling thing that popped up for me after reading Take A Chance On Me was the lack of memorability.

If you asked me, at a moment's notice, to talk about Nadia Knows Best, or Staying At Daisy's, or even The One You Really Want, I could practically recite dialogue verbatim, or remember exact scenes or laugh out loud (without even going back to the text) at a particular situation.

Literally one day after reading Take A Chance On Me (and Rumour Has It, for that matter), I could not remember a single thing...aside from the two main characters' names! Not a scene, not a dialogue, not a sparky bit of writing! I actually had to go back and reread it through once more, and even then it was a struggle to recall. This is not what should be happening with Jill Mansell! I *love* her books, so much so that each one is on pre-order and I wait desperately for the next. After Rumour Has It, I was willing to think it a fluke...but this latest too seems rushed and phoned it. If her name wasn't on the cover, I wouldn't believe it was hers.

Now, to stress, there is nothing actually wrong with it. Like previously stated, it is a perfectly nice - if bland - novel, with a few cute scenes and situations. But as much as I love Jill's clever interweaving of many different threads and multiple love stories, I have started to feel as if the novels become increasingly overcrowded. There are myriad threads explored here, at the expense of the two main characters, Johnny and Cleo, who barely get any build up (though a little back story and a few sparky situations) before their happy-ever-after. Not like Jay-Nadia or Daisy-Dev, who bounce off the page almost into real life.

I don't know what it is, but I really hope that Jill shakes it off and comes back to her natural style. The writing hasn't changed, but it does seem as if her heart isn't in it.


The Breaking of Eggs
The Breaking of Eggs
by Jim Powell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.38

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classics are made of this..., 9 Mar 2010
This review is from: The Breaking of Eggs (Hardcover)
I was lucky enough to read this book in manuscript form when I was working for the literary agency it was picked up by. From the moment I picked it up, I was enthralled. Though the genre is not one I am overly familiar with, the ease with which the author (and his narrator) guides the reader through the highly political yet touchingly lonely life of Feliks Zhukovski is to be commended. It is a highly readable narrative, one that will not bore for even a page.

Feliks is essentially an idealist - resistant to change and, indeed, to action, he has gone through life merely existing. Moving from tree to post like a meandering, weightless leaf, with no sense of direction and no destination. His listlessness is well depicted in the narrative which, in the opening chapter, follows this pattern, seeming to mimic his inconsequential life. Feliks talks, and talks and talks; he has ideas, but not the courage to implement them. He has failures, and no real successes, save his business - a small travel guide steadily losing money in the post-Communism disillusionment. He is as we all are - afraid, lonely and a little bit lost.

It is, however (like much of life), a small act of friction that picks up wind and changes Feliks' direction. He is forced to sell his failing business, and sell it to those he vehemently opposed his whole life - the Americans. This tiny action causes a ripple that reverberates through Feliks' present, past and future - reuniting him with the brother he lost fifty years ago, forcing him to reconcile with ghosts from his past and learn a few home truths in the process. The blinkers that covered his eyes for fifty years, the edicts he based his whole identity on, they all fall away as he faces unassailable truth after unassailable truth - learning in the process that what he thought and what he had were never real.

For me, the most touching thing about this novel was the idea that Feliks' life needn't have been so - that a series of misunderstandings, unavoidable 'choices' and heartbreaking helplessness made him what he is, and that his life could have been very different. Feliks' loneliness is exquisitely portrayed by Powell - never melancholy, its' very self-deprecating humour is why he cuts an even more tragic figure, leaving the reader no choice but to feel for him and countless others like him. This is a very visceral portrayal of war - not the guns and battlefields, but the homes and lives destroyed in the news stories that never remain front-page for long. It paints a damning picture of the divisiveness of politics, and the very human cost of policies and decision beyond the control of ordinary people. The publication of this book at this time in our world history is not without irony. In this very moment, we remain at war with any number of nations, where servicemen and -women die every day, for reasons that most ordinary people don't even agree with, let alone condone. The anger that grips our generation is the same as the anger that gripped Feliks', as they was forced to endure horrifying brutalities with all the helplessness of slaves. What, a hundred years from now, will our future generations think of this period in history? Like Feliks, we are all displaced, a lost generation. And so a story such as this becomes extremely powerful as it literally lifts itself from the page (and from the pages of our collective past) and enters our world, our consciousness.

There are very few novels (and sadly fewer every year) that deserve a place in history as something monumental, to be read and loved and understood by everyone; something that five, ten, fifteen years later, someone could call a classic, and use it as an education of the past, to learn of the prejudices and faults of human beings and the strength and warmth of human spirit. Books such as To Kill A Mockingbird, 1984, Catcher in the Rye and, in my opinion, The Breaking of Eggs. I don't believe that I am exaggerating when I say that this is a classic from the moment it is picked up by a reader. I know that I will be reading my (pre-ordered) copy for years to come, and (like my favourite book of all time, To Kill A Mockingbird) will always find in it a new direction, a hitherto undiscovered nuance, a gospel of truth in every word and on every page. 'The Breaking of Eggs' is a gem, and to call it a novel does not do it justice. It is a discourse of politics, history, love and life; of individuals, and of us all. Do not miss this!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 1, 2010 10:45 PM BST


Night World #01: Secret Vampire/Daughters of Darkness/Spellbinder (Night World (Special Bind-Up Reissues))
Night World #01: Secret Vampire/Daughters of Darkness/Spellbinder (Night World (Special Bind-Up Reissues))
by L. J. Smith
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Night World - A trip down memory lane!, 25 May 2009
Like almost every reviewer here, I first read the Night World series when I was 13/14 years old. The two stories that always stuck with me were Poppy & James' Secret Vampire, and Ash & Mary-Lynette's Daughters of Darkness. Fantastic tales, they were the pre-Buffy Buffy, and far superior to ANYTHING Stephanie Meyer has ever written!

For many years I feverishly kept an eye out for anything new coming from L.J Smith, and when nothing was forthcoming, sadly pushed the thought out of my mind. I began to believe that we would never see anything new from this author. Then, when we moved house a few years ago, my very battered but very much loved copy of the above stories (again in a trilogy bumper edition) was misplaced, perhaps lost forever.

Then, just recently, while browsing the bestsellers shelves at my local bookstore, I saw this newly printed edition sitting next to the Twilight series, and couldn't believe my eyes. At first I thought it was a new story, but even the knowledge that this is a reprint didn't diminish my joy. I immediately and without thought bought the book, and have immersed myself in that world again. And it doesn't matter that I'm 22 and should find a "teen novel" just that - for teenagers; it's not as twist-and-conspiracy-heavy as many novels of the genre today but having attempted to read the first of the Twilight series (and throwing it down in disgust after a chapter or two), I have no qualms in asserting that, even ten years on this series is a joy to read and holds itself in better shape than many novels of today. It is not merely nostalgia - though there is that, of course - it is also because of the strong characters, funny dialogue and very 'human' experiences (despite the content) that makes this series so great and timeless. A modern classic, perhaps.

Now I'm once again back to my teenage years, back to eagerly awaiting the next L.J Smith and not caring that, for the purposes of categorisation, this is a children's series. A must read for those who haven't so far, and for those who loved it as I did back when.


Divine Evil
Divine Evil
by Nora Roberts
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More disturbing than I bargained for, 28 Jan 2009
This review is from: Divine Evil (Paperback)
I agree with others' reviews in that this novel should NOT be catagorised as a romance. I love Nora Roberts' work, particularly her romance-with-a-twist-of-murder-mystery works. I picked this up because it seemed like a romance; it was in the romance shelves and seemed along a similar vein as novels like Sanctuary and Tribute.

However, the subject matter made me extremely uncomfortable. Clearly I knew from the title and blurb that it had disturbing elements to it, but I did not expect there to be so much. I'm all for expanding my horizons, but the lengthy descriptions from the 'bad guys' point of view were disturbing and unnerving. There was no explanation as to how many people from the same, small town got into such a cult, and that bothered me. They all seemed evil in a very black and white way, without any cause or explanation.

The subplot - I say 'subplot' because it ended up being just that - of Clare and Cameron's romance was nice, if a little underdeveloped. I would have liked more of their relationship, more of Clare's relationship with her mother (of which we got nothing). I'd like to have seen a more concrete resolution of the creepy kid's obsession with Clare.

As a character, Clare often annoyed me. I'm all for the standard 'tortured-yet-defiant' brand of Roberts' heroines, but this one seemed less defiant and more pigheaded than most. Often she went into sulks just because Cam, as Sheriff, deigned to ask her a few questions. She was happy enough to point out the signs of Satanism elsewhere, but she was positively blockheaded about recognising those signs in her own father, and in the boy she wanted to befriend. Having said that, I did enjoy her relationship with Cam as it progressed.

One character I absolutely abhorred was one of Clare's friends: Jean-Paul. I don't know how many others felt this way but he irritated me from the word go; his peculiar mix of French and English and his somewhat effiminate way of speaking grated on my nerves and I couldn't help but wish that he would become a victim of the town's activities.

The end was extremely abrupt. After nearly a chapter (and in novel time, a week) of Clare's disappearance from the town, we got hardly half a sentence's worth of reunion before it was over, and we heard nothing more about her. We didn't get that 'closure' with Clare and Cam as I believe we should have - the snapshot into how they dealt with the fallout never came.

The twist that came instead was very powerful, and I must say, surprising (I knew it hadn't ended, but the person revealed as the mastermind was someone I'd never even considered, thanks to the way they had been portrayed throughout the novel). However, with the novel ending on such an 'evil' note, a sort of bad taste lingered with me a long time afterwards, and I didn't get the satisfaction I might have. I felt that, beginning and ending as it did with the 'divine evil', I couldn't see the novel as a romance, but instead as a paranormal/supernatural(?) mystery. It wasn't a completely useless read, and for fans of Roberts it is practically de rigeur, but if you are more prone than most to being emotionally disturbed by things such as cults and Satanism, I would think twice about picking this up.


When He Was Wicked: Number 6 in series (Bridgerton Family)
When He Was Wicked: Number 6 in series (Bridgerton Family)
by Julia Quinn
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.22

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Julia Quinn I've Read!, 5 July 2008
I want to start at the end, and agree with a fellow reviewer that the last line of this novel always brings tears to my eyes. It is quite possibly the most poignant and emotional last line I've ever read, and these themes resonate throughout this novel.

Michael and Francesca both share a common love - John Stirling, his brother and her husband. When John dies, these two are hit the hardest, and they have to find a way to deal with the loss of their beloved John. What makes it harder for Michael (not that Francesca knows this) is that he has always secretly loved Francesca, and has to struggle to keep his feelings hidden. Francesca, while she might not have been "in love" with Michael to begin with, nevertheless needs him in her life as much as he needs her, and the evidence for this is the immediate aftermath of John's death, when Francesca and Michael's relationship becomes strained and seemingly irrevocably changed.

What raises this novel above all of the others from this series is its serious contemplation of the idea of life after love, and also of second loves. Can one really fall in love twice? If so, can it ever be to the same degree as before, and will falling in love with someone new betray the memories of the previous love? These questions are raised throughout the novel and particularly in a wonderful exchange between Francesca and her mother Violet. To me, what the novel wants to tell us is that life provides us with many opportunities to love. They may not be to the same degree, or even of the same kind, but there is plenty of love to be found if only we could open our hearts a little more, and teach ourselves to ignore the guilt that our over-active minds can create, focusing on only what our hearts tell us. This is a beautiful love story, and even though it is set in the Regency period, it has a resonance for every generation and every period of time. I cannot say enough about this novel - if you read only one Julia Quinn novel, make it this one! And don't forget to check out the 2nd Epilogue that accompanies this novel (it can be found on Quinn's website) - it gives us more insight into Michael and Francesca's lives, and is as wonderfully written as this novel itself.


The Viscount Who Loved Me: Number 2 in series (Bridgerton Family)
The Viscount Who Loved Me: Number 2 in series (Bridgerton Family)
by Julia Quinn
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.19

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Introduction to Julia Quinn, 5 July 2008
This was my first glimpse into the world of the Bridgertons, and my first Julia Quinn novel. I picked it up from my local library very randomly, and I am glad I wasn't disappointed. In fact, this turned out to be one of my most favourite romantic comedy novels (Quinn or otherwise).

Anthony and Kate are an absolute delight. They're witty, funny and oh-so-malicious; they had me in fits of laughter at their antics. But at the heart of the story, they share a common fear - a fear that not only unites them but also allows them to let go of the past that they hold (unconsciously sometimes) painfully close to themselves. The Bridgerton series as a whole is a masterpiece, but as with every such series, there are some installments that are better, funnier and more clever than others, and "Viscount" is one of them.

The books do not *have* to be read in order (I began with this one and then went back to "The Duke and I", continuing with the series from there), but it is certainly interesting to read them in order, as the Bridgerton clan does tend to show up in every installment. I must say, the Bridgertons are the funniest family I have ever read (or, for that matter, seen!) and I can only marvel at Quinn's expertise in creating such a lovable family. Don't forget to check out the 2nd Epilogue that goes along with this novel (found on Quinn's website) - it is freakishly funny and features possibly the best literary invention ever - The Mallet of Death!


Nefertiti
Nefertiti
by Michelle Moran
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Judging a book by its cover does pay off!, 9 Mar 2008
This review is from: Nefertiti (Hardcover)
Like many of the reviewers here, I too was seduced by the entoxicating cover. I have always been passionate about Ancient Egyptian history, but I did not want to pick up this book for fear that it would simply be a history lesson. I needn't have worried, because though the story is rich in historical detail (which is, nevertheless, not one hundred percent accurate - and rightly so), it is also very well written; extremely readable.

The novel may be about Nefertiti, but it is Mutny who is the most interesting, the most sympathetic. Like 'The Other Boleyn Girl', 'Nefertiti' too deals with telling the story of a powerful (and power-hungry) queen, through the eyes of her less ambitious sister. And like the former novel, this too has fascinating insights into the 'other sister', the one forgotten by history. At one point in the novel (not that I want to spoil it for anyone!), a character tells Mutny that it is better to 'let history forget your name'. The novel proceeds to show us exactly why that is so - Nefertiti, who was never forgotten by history, suffers a fate far worse than her forgotten sister, and surely that is true of Anne Boleyn too.

The novel is well-written and engrossing, and in today's world that is a remarkable feat in itself.

If Nefertiti was reportedly the most beautiful queen in the world, then the cover of this novel has done her justice. It is THE most beautiful one that I have come across in a very long time! The publishers have, pun intended, struck gold with this cover. It draws you in immediately, and you cannot help by seduced, as Nefertiti and the rulers before her were, by the power of this immensely rich culture. 'Compulsive reading', indeed!


Tangled up in You (Little Black Dress)
Tangled up in You (Little Black Dress)
by Rachel Gibson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 4.67

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All Tangled Up!, 11 Feb 2008
This is my favourite Rachel Gibson read, esp. from the sort-of-series of 3 novels (a fourth to come) that feature the same 4 writer friends. The reason that this is my favourite - Maddie. She's just such a refreshing 'chick-lit heroine': kickass, in-your-face, rude, blunt and oh-so-sexy. Unlike her friends - of whom Clare and Lucy's stories have so far been explored - Maddie is the one with the most substance, the most depth and the most reality. Ditto for Mick, as opposed to the other men in the other 2 novels. The plot line is slick (to use Gibson's slightly over-used term!) and gripping, and the romance is hot like hell!

It's not necessary to read the other two novels - Sex, Lies and Online Dating & I'm in no Mood for Love - before you read this, but I found, having read them out of order and then going back to them in order again, that it was really fun to see how Gibson weaves snippets of her previous novels into the current ones. Small mentions of previously loved characters - such as the "after" part of the happily-ever-after - really make the reading experience whole. I also found that one of her earliest novels - Truly, Madly, Deeply - was also revisited in this particular novel, and we saw the 'after' of Delaney, Nick, Louie and Lisa, which was fun. It really adds that whole "small town" appeal that Gibson clearly strives for.

My only gripe about Gibson's novels, esp. the writer series, is that a lot of - try MOST of - the language is very similar. The vocabulary is quite limited, so often we see exact phrases being transported from one novel/situation to the next. Sometimes you forget which novel you are reading, because they all sound so similar. I think a variation of vocabulary - esp. to describe the sex scenes, which all sound the same, no matter how hot they are! - would definitely notch up an extra star.

But apart from that, I am overall quite pleased with Gibson's style and her presentation of the characters. Like I said, Maddie and Mick (and Snowball!) make this novel for me, and I can't wait for the fourth and final installment of the writer series, as well as any future Gibson offerings!


An Offer You Can't Refuse
An Offer You Can't Refuse
by Jill Mansell
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back on form!, 2 Feb 2008
I've been a fan of Jill Mansell's books for such a long time now, but as others have mentioned, I too was disappointed with her last few offerings. So while I was excited to see a new book out, I was also sceptical about it being as good as I remember Mansell's books to be. I'm glad to say that I was wrong! Lola is a FANTASTIC heroine - sparkly, fiesty and fun, someone all girls want to be. Dougie, though we see less of him than I would have liked, is superbly charming as "THE boyfriend", the one that will always be unforgettable, and the cast of supporting characters too have their moments of glory.

The best thing about An Offer You Can't Refuse is the complete and unblinding honesty with which the characters are portrayed - their jealousies, their insecurities, their love and their regrets - none of it is too fanciful or "out there". Definitely a must read for Mansell fans - this one is *almost* as good as Nadia Knows Best and Staying at Daisy's (I say *almost* simply because those two are my fave Mansell books and it's hard to beat them in my eyes!) and certainly an example of the magic that Mansell weaves so well. Of course, it's chick lit, but honestly - what in the world is wrong with a little GOOD chick-lit, anyway?!


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