Tuesday, 9 September 2014

This summer I read....

After a summer with no laptop, I have a whole host of books to blog about.  The only way I can catch up is by doing a quick 'wrap up' post and then start afresh, so apologies for the short reviews coming your way, but here's what I've read this summer.

Little Lies- Liane Moriarty
The Blurb
Top ten bestselling author Liane Moriarty returns with another gripping read.

She could hear men and women shouting. Angry hollers crashed through the soft humid salty summer night. It was somehow hurtful for Mrs Ponder to hear, as if all that rage was directed at her . . . then she heard the wail of a siren in the distance, at the same time as a woman still inside the building began to scream and scream . . .

When a harmless quiz night ends with an act of shocking violence, the parents of Pirriwee Public School can't seem to stop their secrets from finally spilling out. Rumours ripple through the small town, as truth and lies blur to muddy the story of what really happened on that fateful night ...

The Review
I read and loved The Husband's Secret earlier this year and was totally ecstatic to be asked to review Little Lies.  I was hoping for more of the same, and by jove, I got it. 

Little Lies has a voyeuristic feel into community life-the playground politics at school, the secrets people keep, that relationships are not always how they look from the outside- and I was compelled to keep turning the pages as the characters lives unravelled before me (in every sense!). 

As a Mum myself I thought Moriarty did a great job of portraying the stresses of modern parenthood and how Mums are so often pigeon holed into categories of 'the career Mum', 'the young Mum', 'the hippy Mum'.

I found this an unsettling and gripping read which would have only been bettered by a more meaty ending.  However , fans of The Husband's Secret will enjoy this one just as much.

With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.

Barcelona-Philip Langeskov
The Blurb
And so Daniel and Isla return to the city where they celebrated their honeymoon. Daniel hopes it will be a reminder of headier days, but from the start, something seems to be conspiring against his plans: time, people, the city itself. A haunting and exquisitely written tale about love, sacrifice, and how the road not taken sometimes takes you instead.    

The Review
This little book caught my eye in Waterstone's, probably due to the glistening Sagrada Familia on the bright orange cover.  I love Barcelona and after a quick flick I impulse bought it. 

I am so glad I did.

Barcelona is an insight into the relationship between Daniel and Isla and it certainly packs a punch.  Written in vivid prose, Langeskov has written a novella which will linger in your mind leaving you with as many questions as answers.  This could be frustrating, yet somehow it is not, instead I felt wired, desperate to scrape further below the surface of both the marriage and the plot.

In many ways I was reminded of Wharton's novella Ethan Frome, which is one of my absolute favourite reads.  It is not a comfortable read, and sometimes downright heartbreaking, but I fell into it headfirst and drowned in its beauty.

I'll definitely be rereading this one.  I loved it. 

Leading Man- Benjamin Svetsky
The Blurb
'It was a preposterously glamorous gig, the sort of jet-setting occupation a shallow Matthew McConaughey character might have in a cheesy romantic comedy - until McConaughey's character falls in love in the second act and learns the greater bliss of settling down with a regular girl like Kate Hudson. Only I was stuck in my second act. The way things were going, I'd end up as Matthew McConaughey for the rest of my life, and nobody wants that.'

Max Lerner has it all figured out. He's got the girl - his childhood sweetheart Samantha. He's got the job - reporter for a national magazine. Life is sweet. Until his aspiring actress girlfriend leaves him for his childhood hero, Johnny Mars. Can Max win her back by throwing himself into the world of celebrities, hangers on and wannabes? Or will he get more of an education than he bargained for?

Uproariously funny and exquisitely poignant, LEADING MAN will take you back to your first love, your first heartbreak and the first time your heroes let you down.

The Review
Hmmmm.  Where do I start here? 

I thought this would be right up my reading alley.  I love books set in glamorous locations full of celebrity and debauchery.  I love books with good humour, and romance and first love. 

But I seriously struggled with this one.

Do you know how long it took me to read?  Eight months.  Yes, you read that correctly.  EIGHT MONTHS.  I read a few pages and then couldn't stand any more, but for some reason I wouldn't let this book beat me.  I kept slogging on (and it was a slog), waiting for it to pick up pace.  But it didn't.

So, what did I dislike?  Firstly, as mentioned above, it had an incredibly slow pace.  I am not someone who needs constant entertaining when reading.  I can accept passages, chapters or even whole books where not much happens.  But in order for me to enjoy a book I an engaging writing style and I didn't feel this offered me that.  Secondly, I couldn't tell if this was satirical or not.  At times I thought it must be, but even as I finished it I was left confused about just how seriously (or not) this book took itself.  Thirdly, I couldn't relate to the characters at all.  Max was self centred, and childish and generally an all round irritating man.

I hate writing bad reviews as I know how hard authors work, but this one just wasn't for me. I wish I hadn't persevered. 

The publisher sent me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.    

Trouble in Tinseltown- Aimee Duffy 
The Blurb
Part 1 of Summer Flings – a fun, flirty and laugh out loud rom com series of short stories.

Armed with a degree from Oxford that she doesn’t have a clue what to do with, Ciara Bree convinces her two best friends, Elle and Gem to spend their first summer of freedom backpacking across the globe. Now it’s time to shop, sunbathe, think about boys for a change, and party hard…

First stop: LA!

The girls hit Tinseltown for a few days of shopping, star spotting, and even a movie premiere!

But their plan to sneak into an exclusive celeb party in West Hollywood backfires. Elle’s gorgeous older cousin, Zack, is called to the rescue and despite knowing she should stay away, Ciara just can’t seem to resist him.

The Review

This sounded like a proper summer chick-lit romp and I couldn't wait to get started.  After all, the cover was gorgeous, begging me to read it.  'Read me, read me' it begged, in a voice like Gollum's...  Ok, maybe not, but you know what I mean.  So I sat in the garden on a beautiful sunshiny day and read it from start to finish (it's only a short read, the first in a series).

Friendships in fiction are always a winner, and Ciara, Ellie and Gem are a lively trio.  I found their bond appealing but couldn't really warm to any of the girls.  Maybe that was partly due to the length of the story, but it did mean I didn't care that much about what happened.

Whilst it had all the ingredients of a rollicking chicklit/NA read- girlfriends, relationships, humour, sex- it fell a bit short for me.  I think I'd have preferred it as a full length novel, or at least a longer novella.

Although I like Aimee Duffy's writing, I don't think I'll be rushing to read the rest of this series.  But a longer novel?  Yes please.

With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

The Blurb
A collection of interesting facts and hilarious hashtags to remind the world to seize the day—after all, you only live once

The reason the first CDs were designed to hold 74 minutes of music is that Beethoven's 9th Symphony is that length. #techieswithsoul #beethoven:stillhip

Presidents George Washington and Jimmy Carter both started their careers as farmers. #mrpresidenthadafarmeieio

It is a truth universally acknowledged that "You Only Live Once," so while some of us have been using the words "Carpe diem!" or "Seize the day!" to encourage our friends, it could be far more economical just to shout "YOLO!" This little book brings together a selection of fascinating facts accompanied by inspiring #hashtags to stir you into action. You’ll soon be seizing the day so firmly it'll be begging for mercy.

The Review
This is a tiny book, pocket sized and probably aimed at the stocking filler/token gift market.  Whilst there were some interesting facts, it really didn't inspire me to do anything out of the ordinary.  Don't waste your time reading this one.  After all, #YOLO.

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