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4.1 out of 5 stars
To My Best Friends
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 1 June 2011
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Nicci Morrison has always been the lynch-pin holding her best friends - Jo, Lizzie and Mona - together. She, along with her husband David and twin girls, is the centre of their circle of friends, loving to have everyone around her for Sunday dinners and big occasions, and not shy of dishing out advice about fashion, relationships and anything else at the drop of a hat. So when she dies tragically young, her best friends are cut to the quick and mourn her loss. But Nicci, being Nicci, has already anticipated this, and leaves them each letters containing the most unusual bequests.
To childless Jo, Nicci leaves the duty of mothering her little girls. To unhappy Lizzie, Nicci leaves the care of her neglected garden. And to Mona, Nicci leaves the duty of loving her husband David...

'To My Best Friends' is well-written and full of spot-on observations about friendship, love and family. The plot structure is clever and original, and every character has an interesting, well-thought-out storyline. I loved the fashion reminiscences that stylish Nicci's wardrobe of clothes threw up, along with the depths in Nicci's character that were gradually uncovered. All in all, a great read, and thoroughly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 2011
So many parallels with real life: this novel is inhabited by believable characters you feel you know after just a few chapters. An absorbing storyline which surprised in ways that were emotionally satisfying. I stayed up too late to continue reading; I was late for work the next day in order to finish it. And days later the characters are still in my head. Reading it was a beautiful, heart-wrenching experience.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I had never read any of Sam Baker's books but thought that this sounded a little different to the norm'. That is one thing I was right about as this book stretches into areas that people may not be that comfortable reading about.

We meet Nicci very early on and soon realise that she is on her death bed, and her final wishes are put into letters to her husband and her three close friends. Her three friends are Mona, the young single Mum who struggles with commitment. Jo who is stepmother to her husbands kids but struggles to conceive her own, and Lizzie who is very unhappily married.

Very early on I liked Nicci's husband David as his grief is all too real and there are no hidden agendas with him. The book itself is a little different and because of the sort of storyline it is, it made for really interesting reading.

I liked Lizzie and Jo but if I am honest I never really warmed up to the character Mona. The story spans many months following Nicci's death and it is nice to see how all the characters progress following the death of Nicci. Having said that, although the grief is clear I think Sam Baker has done a cracking job of not making it too depressing. It is real life with a capital R, but done sensitively and with feeling.

I also liked the fact that although some parts of the ending I was happy with Sam Baker wasn't frightened to leave some things open ended, much like life itself. I will definitely be looking out for more Sam Baker books as I thoroughly enjoyed this one (albeit a sad story). Her writing style is easy to read and the book flowed well for me. This may not be everybody's cup of tea but I quite enjoyed it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 6 June 2011
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I found "To My Best Friends" an enjoyable read punctuated with sadness. The book opens with Nicci who is dying prematurely from cancer. She is writing three letters, one for each of her best friends. This is the only time that Nicci is in the story as such, with the rest of her story shown through flashbacks. Mona, Lizzie and Jo were her friends and they have each been bequeathed something precious from Nicci. She wants Mona to have love in her life and wants her to look after Nicci's husband David, Lizzie is to have her beloved garden, and to Jo who cannot have children of her own, she gives the care of her three year old twins. Nicci has obviously wanted everyone to be happy and content after she has left them, but the friends all have their own lives and their own and secrets that they haven't shared.

The characters in the book were fresh and well developed and I found myself getting immersed into the story from very early on. It reminded me a little of Cecelia Ahern's Ps I Love You. That is not to say it was the same, it isn't, but I found it to have the same poignancy. The dialogue was realistic and I liked the way the characters interacted with one another, and the way the story flowed. That's not to say I liked all of the characters. In fact I wasn't too keen on Nicci herself - a little too perfect - but that had nothing to do with the writing, it was just the way I felt about Nicci.

I would recommend this book if you are a fan of chick lit and want to lose yourself in a good but poignant read :)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 9 June 2011
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Nicci Morrison is dying of cancer and so she writes letters to her best friends Mona, Jo and Lizzie leaving them her most precious possessions after her death, including her husband, David, and twin girls Charlie and Harrie!
The 4 women have been through all sorts of experiences down the years and Nicci has always been "the leader of the gang", in control, dispensing advice and comments on all aspects of their lives. She was always the strong one, but it is only after her death, that her secrets, and vulnerabilities, come to light as her husband, and best friends, come to terms with the contents of her letters and facing life without her.
Sam Baker weaves a totally believable, sometimes poignant, often witty and entertaining story which tells of the impact Nicci had on her closest friends and family, both before, and after, her untimely death. It is one of the most entertaining books I have read in a long time and I did not want it to end as I was thoroughly enjoying each of the characters.
Ms Bakers style reminds me of Patricia Scanlan's books where you are taken into the midst of a group of close friends and get to share their daily lives with all the ups and downs that go with friendship, love and family.
"To My Best Friends" is definitely worthy of 5*, and is one I would highly recommend as a holiday read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a lovely book, it starts from the sad premise of a woman, Nicci, who dies of cancer and, of course, has some poignant moments, but ultimately it is about the power of love and friendship. The four main female characters of Nicci, Mona, Jo and Lizzie have a believable friendship with its ups and downs, but strong enough to stand the test of time. I found them to be engaging characters each with different strengths and weaknesses. I liked the fact that Nicci is not portrayed as a saintly figure because she is dead, as sometimes is the case in similar books, through the memories of her friends they grieve for her but also do not forget her faults. There are some interesting men in the book too, David and Si are lovely while Gerry and Neil are not so nice! Things don't turn out the way Nicci planned them in her letters, but was her plan really as simple as it seemed? I recommend you read this book to find out, I am sure you will enjoy it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I had seen this book so many times and was always put off because I thought It would be very sad. It seemed similar to 'The Love Verb' by Jane Green, which I hated and really upset me. Anyway, I decided (apprehensively) to give it a go.

And, I'm really glad I did. Although the book does start with the death of someone, this is not the main emphasis of the story. We meet Nicki's (the girl who dies) friends/family and how they cope with her death. But it's not all doom and gloom. In fact there are some really funny moments! It goes along at a great pace and I found it difficult to put down.

It lost half a star as sometimes I felt like the characters didn't particularly like Nicki. They almost 'mocked' her and I don't think that is something the friends of someone who had just died would do.

A very enjoyable read, which I would highly recommend. I look forward to more of this author's work.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
If you are looking for the perfect holiday read, you've come to the right place. This book asks, and answers a question that most women will understand "Do you ever know your best friends as well as you think?". The story involves the friends of the deceased Nicci who has bequeathed her most precious possessions, namely her garden, her children and her husband to her best friends, Mona, Lizzie and Jo.

I found that Nicci was as real a character as I've come across in novels of this genre, despite it being clear from the very first few lines of the book that she has died. Totally stylish and seemingly having it all in her life, once she has died, her three friends and also her husband David will find out that they didn't know as much as they thought they did. Whilst grieving, and going through the wardrobe that is the catalogue of her life, it's revealed that there is more to her, and as life starts to go on they will realise there is a reason each of them has been entrusted with the area they have as, beyond the grave, Nicci seems to be directing things her way.

This book, despite some of the subject matter inevitably being rather sad, is a light and interesting read. I found all the characters believable and the dialogue was very real. There were moments of humour and the portrayal of contemporary family life in the various households in this book rang very true. Though I didn't find the direction the plot took that surprising, it was satisfying and the book was well paced and written throughout.

I really enjoyed this book and will probably read it again - recommended, this is I should think set to be one of the must-buy holiday reads of this year.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The book begins with a very poorly Nicci starting write her letters to her friends, and so the book does start with a fairly depressing tone. Soon after this, it cuts to Nicci's funeral and aftermath so for a few pages there really isn't anything that happy about it which was odd yet I was strangely compulsed to keep reading. Due to Nicci dying so early on, we don't get to know her as a character at all, only through the memories of her friends, which are interspersed throughout the present day story, and are flashbacks relating to certain items of Nicci's clothing that are special to her, and I really loved the way Baker approached this style of telling Nicci's story. It was also a look back at the other characters too, which was interesting comparing them to their current personas.

The other 3 female characters were easy to follow because they were all so different. Yes, they are all Nicci's friends but that is where the similarities end really - Mona is a single mum, working hard to provide for her young son whilst hiding a huge secret from her friends, one she knows they won't approve of. Lizzie is married but very unhappily so, and desperately wants to have children. Jo is a step-mother, something she loves, and the accountant for Nicci's clothing shop but she really wants a child of her own with her husband. I love how Baker weaves all these stories together, the characters were all very likeable, and had their own problems to deal with, as well as the passing of their best friend. It affects them all in very different ways which I think was a realistic representation of such an event, and as such you can sympathise with the women and how they all deal differently with how life turns out after Nicci's death.

Yes, the main premise of the book is quite sad, and yes some thing do happen in the book which don't necessarily make it a very happy one and while I do feel it could have done with a few more happy things in it to just cheer it up slightly, I really did enjoy the book as a whole and found myself really absorbed by the entire story and finding out how things would end up for the women. While Nicci's cancer is a big part of the book, Baker doesn't go too much into detail with it and I think just the general mentions and feelings in the book were enough. I have to say I really loved the journey that Nicci's widower David took throughout the book as well, not often in chick lit do we see how a wife's death affects a husband yet Baker is careful to treat David's story with respect and I felt it was realistically done and a pleasure to read. The writing style, the characters, the growth of these characters all made for a fantastic reading experience and I would definitely recommend it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 31 May 2011
Sam Baker creates real characters - that could be your best friends too, I'm sure. The concept of this story is really original. Nicci Morrison bequeaths her most treasured people to her best friends, the friends that have taken her through thick and thin. The friends that she trusts because they represent stability. Of course this has its drawbacks, that was what Sam intended and it made for a genius twist. It encompassed love and loss and how friendship can get you through most things, no matter how hard they are to deal with.

To My Best Friends, as you can imagine, is as good as getting a group of your best girls around, opening the wine and dips and having a good old girlie gossip. It's fun, original and fresh. The characters are really rounded, nothing out of the ordinary, which makes them so likeable. But, for me, it was Sam's knowledge and love of fashion that made the book extra special. Dipping into memories to tell us about the different fashions gone by was a great idea and enabled me to recognise Nicci as a character too. I also liked the way that Sam so easily got inside the heads of her male characters. The emotion, from both sexes, spilled out way beyond reading between the lines.

My only criticism is that I didn't want the book to end and could quite easily have continued in the lives of Mona, David, Lizzie and Jo, and their kids. Which I always find is the best compliment I can give.
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