Monday, 7 May 2012

Baby Be Mine by Paige Toon

Baby Be Mine by Paige Toon

Another predominantly pastille book!  Have the printers run out of any other colour range?  I have decided the next book I review will be black with huge luminous green writing - just for the hell of it.   I need some variation.  Mind you, if you love the chicklit genre and celebrity culture, this is the book for you, even if you're as sick of pastille book covers as I am.  Don't let the cover put you off!

Yes this is a romance, yes this focuses on celebrity, yes this is a bit tedious in places, but yes I liked it.  I'm almost ashamed to admit it.  It seems I have more a of a leaning towards this sort of thing than I thought.

So what happens?  Meg works for rockstar Johnny; Meg falls in love with Johnny; it all goes wrong so Meg then falls for Johnny's best mate, Christian; Meg has a quick fling with Johnny again but refuses to leave Christian; Meg finds out she's pregnant with Johnny's baby but daren't tell Christian in case he leaves her. *Takes a breath*.  The stage is set!  (probably very bad punctuation there, but it's been a while since school, sorry)

As the baby grows older he begins to look more and more like Johnny and Meg's secret is out.  Christian leaves her and she begins the rocky road to accepting her new life as the mother of a baby fathered by a multi-millionaire, off the rails, rockstar.  The main hook of the book is 'Will Meg tame Johnny and his alcoholic, drug taking, wild ways and turn him into the father Meg needs him to be - and will he leave his horrible pop-star girlfriend and love her again instead?'

Meg's baby is always her priority, and the book spends quite a bit of time showing how responsible Meg is as a mother so it did focus on other themes other than romance, although I did find it all a little shallow.  There were a few bits in the book that puzzled me too.  Meg has a fling with someone mid-plot and Paige Toon hints at a past where this man had to fight for his living and mentions a distant look in his eyes - no further explanation is given.  I got the impression that the author had plans for this character that never actually got to print.

I suspect if you dream of one day living in LA surrounded by A-list premieres and sky blue swimming pools - you will absolutely love 'Baby Be mine.'  Meg is whisked away to beautiful locations on the back of a motorbike, is showered with gifts of new cars, credit cards with no limit and is treated to all the trappings that money can buy.  Every now and then I found myself rolling my eyes at the excessive luxury - but that is central to the plot so I suppose I can't complain too much.

Anyway!  Baby Be Mine was as addictive as an episode of Saturday night trashy TV, you can't tear your eyes away from it, but you know you should really be doing something useful like picking the blu-tac out of the carpet maybe.  This isn't a great book by my standards (but what do I know!), but it's certainly compulsive reading.  Go on...grab a copy and drift off into a lifestyle that most of us can only dream of!

If you'd like a copy of this book it is published by Simon and Schuster and can be found here for £5.91 (precisely).  Perfect for slotting into your beach bag as you saunter down to the sunbeds on your summer holidays.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

All The Single Ladies - Jane Costello

All The Single Ladies  - Jane Costello

Before I start this review, let me just apologise in advance because... I just can't help myself here:

*sings Beyonce style whilst wearing ridiculously high heels and a dodgy black leotard that makes my bum look big* 'All the single ladies, All the single ladies, All the single ladies, All the single ladies......Oh Oh-oh Oh Oh-Oh, Oh,OoOh, Oh-oh Oh!'  *waves a hand covered in tin foil cos I can't find a metal glove* 

There I've got that out of my system, now for my review.

Initial impressions, the cover is nice, it looks fun, light-hearted, girly and feminine.  There are three skinny women on the cover throwing love hearts around, there's also a recommendation from Cosmopolitan comparing this book to Sophie Kinsella.  All these things made me think that 'All The Single Ladies' would be fun, fashionable and maybe a bit too sickly sweet for me.  But no!  If this book was a sweet it would be caramel with a hint of sea salt - it's sweet, but not overbearingly so.

 All in all it was a fantastic read, I turned into a hermit for 48 hours and read as much as I could, whenever I could.   Jane Costello is obviously a very talented author and I'll certainly read her other books if I can get hold of any more of them.  I really admired her writing style, although she didn't go in for reams of character descriptions and oodles of adjectives - Jane Costello very carefully built up the scenes in the book and the main character's view through detailed, realistic dialogue.  I felt as if I was the invisible fourth friend in the group, sat listening in to their conversations as they gossiped and chatted about love, life and lots of things in-between.  Every character is given a back story and reads as if they were real.  This is a huge strength in this book and the main reason I loved it so much.

A plot summary! Samantha Brook's long term boyfried has left her, after having what can be summarised as a 'mid life crisis'  She is abolutely heart broken and with the support of her best friends Ellie and Jen, she vows to get him back at any cost.  If this means dating other men and parading them in front of him, or looking gorgeous in the places where he's most likely to be, or by pretending she's not heartbroken - then so be it!  Samantha throws herself into a full blown plan of action - her man will be hers again!  Or will he?

There are plot twists and turns you don't quite expect, and a lot of laughs along the way.  Within the story there are sub-plots too and it's not all as straightforward as you might think.  Yes, this is a romance, no this is not predictable.  I can't stand being able to predict what happens in a book, and this kept me guessing right up until the last page. This is Chicklit at its very best.

I'll give this a 9/10, I'm only deducting the one point because the book cover is generic and rather typical of this genre which I find a tad boring.   But.....this was the only flaw I could find.  A great read and one I'd recommend to anyone who loves light hearted romance, rounded characters and above all a good giggle.

If you'd like to buy a copy of this book you can find it here for £6.49.  Its a keeper!

P.S.  The spacing has gone nutty on this blog and I can't stop it from leaving irregular gaps. Sorry.  Blogger is being an arse.   Thanks for your patience :O)

Monday, 23 April 2012

An Autumn Crush by Milly Johnson

An Autumn Crush by Milly Johnson

The tag line is 'As summer ripens to autumn, will friendship blossom into love?'
Eek I thought!  It's a Mills n' Boon rip off.   I'm not saying I hate Mills and Boon, but you have to admit they're kind of predictable.  So, with very little enthusiasm I started turning the pages, after all Simon and Schuster were kind enough to send me the book:  the very least I could do was read and review it.  I expected a plot line you could fit on the back of a business card, actual fact the plot line could have been written on the back of maybe two business cards - this was forgivable though as it was a downright enjoyable read.
The characters are very likable and the situations they find themselves in are believable too.  I found the pace of the book good and wasn't tempted to skip pages at any point, and was really quite on the edge of my seat every now and then.  I'm not saying this is Tolstoy or anything, but this isn't bog standard crappy romance either.  Milly Johnson has a sense of humour which is reflected in her writing, and many of the situations had me chuckling away to myself.  She also writes with an enthusiasm that bounces you along with the plot. 
My only criticism is that there's too many wrestlers in it!  Yes I know that sounds bizarre.  From reading the intro to the book it seems Milly is a huge fan of wrestling and you can tell!  Towards the end of the book I began to wonder if the town they lived in was solely populated by wrestlers, even the florist was a wrestler! I know the main characters move in wrestling circles, but it all gets a bit much.  
Briefly summarised Florence, a writer of poetry for a card distributor, moves in with Juliet, an office worker who quietly lusts after her boss.  They become close friends and through a couple of plot twists and turns Juliet begins a relationship with Steve and Florence falls in love with Guy.  This is after they both experiment with Internet relationships that turn out to be rather dramatic dead ends. 
All in all, I had fun reading this book.  It had me smiling and laughing and I liked the characters. 'An Autumn Crush' is a lovely way to spend a good couple of hours curled up in front of a warm fire - ideally in Autumn when I should have reviewed this. (I am a bad book blogger! *slaps hand* 

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

'Me Before You' by Jojo Moyes

If you only read one book this year, I recommend this one.  It is an absolute gem of a book and one that took me on a rollercoaster of emotions.  It truly is a 'I can't put it down, even to scratch my nose' kind of book. Loved it, loved it, loved it!

It's a little difficult to write about it in too much detail without spoiling the story for you, but I'll do my best.

The main characters are Lou Clark, a small town girl looking for a job; and Will Traynor who is a quadraplegic in need of constant care. As far as Lou is concerned she is employed by Will's mother to care for Will, make sure he's kept company and to do what she can to make his life comfortable.

Will is cast in a very tragic position, due to a horiffic accident where he was an innocent bystander.  He is left with almost no movement at all, from being a high powered company manager with a very active lifestyle and a new relationship he has become a prisoner in his own body unable even to feed himself.  Constantly ill, in pain and alone apart from carers and his immediate family, he is a shadow of his former self.

Gradually Lou and Will become friends and Lou begins to understand his situation a little more.  Eventually they become very close, and it becomes clear to both of them that they care more for each other than they would like to admit even to themselves.  In an attempt to restore Will's faith in life Lou arranges to take him on holiday to Mauritius where they realise that they cannot live and cannot live without each other.

This book is beautifully written and the characters become more alive on every page.  Lou is uncertain about herself and her abilities, but has untapped reserves of resilience, adaptability and a fabulous sense of humour.  She is also incredibly determined.  Will is a broken man, despite this he still retains a wry wit and an inquiring mind - which Lou does her best to fuel in an attempt to give him hope.

The tragedy is that there is no hope with this kind of injury and Will is trapped in his useless body.  He sees his only way out as death.

I laughed at the many jokes and funny situations in this book, I sobbed my heart out at the end and loved the characters as if they were friends of mine.  Me Before You is touching, tackles a very difficult subject, namely euthanasia, and is heartbreaking whilst still remaining life affirming.  I didn't think those two themes could work side-by-side, but they do here.  Perfectly.  Read it!

Many thanks to WHSmith for sending me this book as part of the Richard and Judy Book Club 2012, you can buy your own copy HERE for just £3.99 (on Sale).

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Driving Over Lemons - An Optimist in Andalucia by Chris Stewart

Oh dear, has it really been that long since I posted a review?  I am a bad, bad, BAD book blogger.  I've been too busy reading books and not writing about them. I intend to remedy this!

So here we go!

Driving Over Lemons - An Optimist in Andalucia by Chris Stewart

Let's start at the very beginning, what is the book about?'s a non-fiction narrative about growing and ocassionally driving over lemons I suppose?  And setting up home in Andalucia in Las Alpujarras which is south of Granada.  This 'home' is actually a ramshackle farm without running water or electricity which Chris Stewart (the author) and his wife decide to fix up and turn into a working farm complete with sheep, lemon and olive groves, a couple of dogs, chickens and a lot of bugs by the sounds of it.

To be absolutely honest, it could actually be summarised as the written version of 'The Good Life' set somewhere much hotter and without the posh neighbours.  It's the sort of book that makes you want to sell all your earthly possessions, up-sticks and just go with the flow somewhere warm.  Or maybe that's just me.

There's the trials and tribulations of buying the property, living with the a previous owner who is too attached to his old home to move on, adventures in poultry keeping, sheep farming, house building, water walking (as in directing water to nourish plants, not as in Jesus & miracles), pig despatching, or is that dispatching.  I'm not sure if I've just typed about posting pigs via Royal Mail or killing them, it was the latter by the way. My english teacher would be tutting right about now.

I definitely enjoyed the book, it wasn't a 'I can't put it down' read, it was more of a relaxing meander through the pages. There are no huge heartbreaks, unless you count the death of their kitty which even then died of a surfeit of slightly dodgy smoked salmon - not a bad way to go for a cat with a taste for fish - just a journey through the days. I never felt my heart racing, wondering what would happen, but I did feel very engaged and entertained.  Imagine sitting on a National Express coach next to a really interesting person for 5 hours or so, telling you all about their life - that's the feeling I got from Driving Over Lemons.

This book is well written and has a light hearted, self deprecating sense of humour that appealed to me.  It did lack a little depth somehow, but that was almost the beauty of it.  You almost find yourself falling in love with the views that Chris describes, even though you've never seen them.  The people become familiar in the same way that they became familiar to Chris and his wife (and eventually his daughter who was born out there); it is a lilting narrative that drifts from one aspect of farm life to another.  There's no deep issues to make you think, no painful tugs on the heart strings, no huge belly laughs - but there is a quiet tale that draws you on till the very last page.  I was sad when the book ended, I wanted to know how life carried on.  Personally I think a book is a good book if you feel a pang of sadness when you realise there's no more to read.

Driving Over Lemons is a calm, optimistic, upbeat book about making the best of things and the best of people.  Definitely one to read and savour.  Apparently there is a sequel to the book, not that I'm hinting or anything......(Kay stares with lost puppy eyes at WHSmith ;O) sent me a copy to read for review purposes, and for that I am very thankful!  Thank you! If you'd like your own copy they have them on sale HERE for £4.91

Thursday, 13 October 2011

RHS Growing Vegetables & Herbs

Now I'm no expert alottmenter (alottmenteer?), in fact I'm an absolute amateur.  I only began growing my own fruit and vegetables about a year and half ago and it's been a voyage of discovery, paved with greenfly and bamboo stakes.  It's been fun, but it has been difficult to know what to do or how to do things at times.  There's a plethera of information out there, in the form of books, websites, hints & tips from fellow gardeners etc - and I for one, have been mightily confused sometimes.  That's why a book like this is so helpful, it's all in one place and it works very much like a reference book.  I suspect I'll be referring to, and re-reading it for many growing years to come. 

RHS Growing Vegetables & Herbs is set out in a very practical way.  It begins with a chapter called 'Why grow your own?', moving onto 'Rules & Tools,' then onto 'Crop Protection' before digging into the subject of how to grow almost every vegetable I think I've ever heard of (and some I haven't!).    This is a very easy to follow format and one that lends itself to both casual browsing and more indepth reading.  I've found myself flicking through and gleaning tid-bits of information from the specific veg growing chapters, and spending a little longer reading and learning about the types of soil, digging techniques and protected cropping and other more general gardening topics.  It is a both a good read, and a great gardening resource. 

The illustrations and diagrams are clear too.  It always helps to actually see how things are done, as well as having techniques described.  This book includes a 'Sowing Guide' which will come in very handy, a 'Glossary' for those of us who don't know their 'Topdressing' from their 'Tilth' (namely me) and practical, down to earth advice.  

One thing I noticed which I particularly like, is that the chapters are subtly colour coded.  So if you're amidst a mass seeding frenzy and you need a little advice, you don't have to flick through the page numbers whilst scattering soil everywhere - if you know the book well enough you can quickly skip to the bit you need. 

In summary!  If I said this book was a 'grower' would you throw plant-pots at me?

RHS Growing Vegetables & Herbs was sent to me by Octopus Publishing to review.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

On Nature, Unexpected Ramblings on the British Countryside

On Nature, Unexpected Ramblings on the British Countryside

I could not have been sent a more appropriate book for my interests than 'On Nature, Unexpected Ramblings on the British Countryside'.  There is almost nothing that fascinates me more than nature and the natural world.  I quite literally rubbed my hands together and squealed when this arrived in the post.

This book is written by a diverse smattering of writers from many backgrounds, all of which are anchored by their love of the British countryside.  It has been compiled by 'Caught by the River'  which is a website equally interesting and well worth a look around.  Link is above if you're curious!

Personally I thought the range of writers and their sometimes dramatically contrasting writing styles was a winning combination.  It was never, at any point boring, and at no junction did I consider skipping a few pages to find a more interesting bit.  The writers, to list them are (deep breath): Stuart Maconie, Chris Yates, Bill Drummond, Charles Rangeley-Wilson, Colin Elford, Martin Noble, Ceri Levy Tracey Thorn John Wright, Richard Adams, John Andrews, Jon Berry, Sarah Boden, Mathew Clayton, Mark Dredge, Paul Evans, Harry Griffin, Nick Hand, Dan Kieran, Richard King, Dexter Petley, Nick Small and Michael Smith.  (Bet you couldn't say all that one in one go!)  Some of the names you may recognise, others are less familiar, but equally worth their place here.

Each and every single writer is passionate about their topic and it really shows. Speaking of which, the subjects range from the experiences of a falconer; how to catch trout; a man's obsession with damsons; night fishing, the language we use to describe nature and habitat; how to be a lazy naturalist and far, far more.  I don't want to list them all for fear of spoiling the surprise in case you decide to buy this book - because I have to say each new chapter is like opening a brown paper parcel that's just arrived in the post.  You really have no idea what to expect.  Obviously the theme is nature, but the spread of interests covered is huge.

There were a few stand out favourites for me.  I loved the chapter entitled 'The Lazy Naturalist' by Nick Small.  It appealed to my lax attitude to observing nature.  Never in all my years have I set out with a pair of binoculars and sat in a bush for hours observing birds on a lake noting types of swans and marking them off in my bird book / bible - which is something I think a proper dyed-in-the-wool bird-watcher probably does.  I'm far more likely to casually stand in front of our kitchen window observing blue tits and sparrows bickering over stale bread.  However this make me no less enthusiastic about our feathered friends than the true 'twitcher' as I believe they're called.   Nick Small seems to share my thoughts exactly.  You don't necessarily have to go to Outer Mongolia to watch fan tailed eagles soaring overhead to satisfy an interest in nature, you can find so much simply in your back yard.

Another one that really intrigued me was 'On the Road to Damascus' by Bill Drummond.  You might not know the name, but if I said KLF and the 'Justified Ancients of MuMu' that might ring a few bells?  You really wouldn't expect to see him here would you, but this is the nature of the book; it is exactly as it says  in the title: 'Unexpected'.  Bill appears to have an absolute, almost pathological passion for Damsons.  He doesn't just say 'I like damsons, you can use them in gin or jam' though - he interweaves them through periods of his life, how damsons were grown at his old house whilst talking about old relationships and the history of the house for example.  He uses damsons, of all things, as a narrative tool.  Very, very clever!

Throughout the book there are beautifully simple, eye-catching, black and white illustrations. They are in themselves a feature that add so much, and I loved finding them at the start of each new chapter.  These served as a preamble for what was to come, and captured the spirit of each tale very neatly.

'On Nature' is unique, originally and exquisitely written and makes for brilliant reading.  I'd recommend it to anyone.  If you don't have an enthusiasm for nature when you start reading this, you will have by the end of it.  10/10 :O)