Friday, 19 December 2014

Mini Reviews: The Christmas Surprise by Jenny Colgan

My Rating:1 Star2 Star

There is more than one surprise in store for sweetshop owner Rosie Hopkins this Christmas... 

Rosie Hopkins, newly engaged, is looking forward to an exciting year - especially as the little sweetshop in Lipton she owns and runs continues to thrive. She's also enjoying helping out her best friend, Tina, as she prepares for her big wedding to local lad Jake. But fate is about to strike Rosie and her own fiance, Stephen, a terrible blow, threatening all they hold dear. And it is going to take all their strength, as well as the loving support of their families and their friends, to hold everything together. From GoodReads

I’m almost guaranteed to love a Jenny Colgan novel and especially the Rosie Hopkins stories because they’re set in an English countryside village that snows at Christmas and there’s hot chocolate and everything is wonderful. For that reason alone, aside from the fact that I love these characters the best, I was looking forward to this novel.

To me, this novel felt extremely forced and predictable. I knew Rosie was pregnant before she was, I knew what would happen when they visited the African village and I knew what the real ‘Christmas surprise’ reveal was going to be. I don’t mind knowing where the lovely happy ending is going and that everything is going to turn out to be fantastically alright by the end, but this novel just felt entirely too formulaic to be fun. It also lacked the trademark charm of Colgan’s writing – the love interests were fighting about some pretty serious issues, the surrounding townspeople lacked a lot of the humour and loveableness that attracted me to them and Lilian – the real gem of the novels – felt like an afterthought or a cameo appearance.

There was a lot of serious drama to wade through in The Christmas Surprise from heavy financial burdens to serious medical problems and deep family rifts. It felt to me that in trying to work out all these very serious issues, the book didn’t have time to get around to the fun and the magic of Christmas. Considering that Colgan’s was one of the first Christmas books I read, and something that got my heavily into the genre, this novel felt like a disappointment.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Mini Reviews: The Christmas Party by Carole Matthews

My Rating:1 Star2 Star

Louise Young is a devoted single mother whose only priority is providing for her daughter, Mia. Louise has a good job in a huge international corporation and she's grateful for it. The only problem is her boss who can't keep his hands to himself, but Louise can handle him. What she really doesn't have time for is romance - until she meets the company's rising star, Josh Wallace. 

Louise usually says no to evenings out but she's decided to let her hair down tonight. It's the office Christmas party, she has a pretty dress to wear and she's looking forward to some champagne and fun. She's completely unaware that others around her are too busy playing dangerous games to enjoy the party - until she's pulled into those games herself . . . 

Romance is in the air and secrets are about to be uncovered. It's going to be a night to remember at The Christmas Party. From GoodReads

I have absolutely loved Carole Matthews last two Christmas novels. The Christmas Party had none of the warmth and love of those two. Set mostly over the course of one night at a corporate Christmas
party, the night is full of politics, secrets and betrayal. With a rotating character narration, we get inside the heads of several very unhappy, unfaithful and unlovable characters. Nearly all of them are trapped in unhappy marriages, regretting where they have let life take them, or understanding that regret is all that lies ahead.

This was certainly not the kind of novel I was expecting, especially considering Matthews previous works. While it certainly had some relevant things to say, and the realisation moment happens for a lot of these characters because it’s Christmas, I want my Christmas books to be about snow falling and warm fireplaces and people coming together as they gain a new perspective on life. This novel did not fill me with snuggly feelings and a craving for Christmas pudding, instead I felt grim and lost faith in humanity and any appreciation for life after 30. The ending is decidedly lacking in the normal cheery ending one would expect in a Christmas novel and I actually found the end quite depressing – the outlook for some of these characters just felt cruel.

However, for those that don’t enjoy the more saccharine Christmas tales but still want some festivity ad whimsy, this could probably be a good Christmas book to try.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

It Felt Like a Kiss by Sarra Manning

My Rating:1 Star

Meet Ellie Cohen, one of the most perfect girls in London.

Ellie manages a swank Mayfair gallery, but it’s her life that’s a real work of art. Great job, really good hair, loyal friends, loving family. It’s only her succession of lame duck boyfriends that ruin the picture.

Oh, and the world-famous rock-star father she’s never met, who won’t even acknowledge her existence.

Then Ellie’s perfect life is smashed to pieces when her secret is sold to the highest bidder and her name, face (and pictures of her bottom) are splashed across the tabloids. Suddenly everyone thinks she’s a gold-digging, sex-crazy, famewhore.

Enter David Gold. Charming and handsome David Gold. On paper he’s even more perfect than Ellie, if only he wasn’t her father’s ruthlessly ambitious lawyer whose job is to manage the crisis – and her. He certainly doesn’t think that Ellie’s the innocent party and she doesn’t trust him at all. So why is it that every time they’re alone together, damage limitation is the last thing on their minds? From GoodReads

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sarra Manning is one of my absolute favourite books and one I love to revisit when I need a pick me up. Every novel of hers I’ve read since I have been so excited for something equally magical and been sorely disappointed to the point where I think I won’t try again.

The characters in YDHTSYLM are rich, deeply emotional and endearing with a great deal of heart but also of personality. The three novels I have read since, including It Felt Like a Kiss have included characters that make inexplicably terrible decisions and, in this novel, have less personality than wet cardboard.

Ellie is the art gallery working daughter of cool, hippie single mother Ari and the secret love child of world renowned – and Knighted – millionaire rock star Billy Kay; a man who has never acknowledged her existence. She is, for the most part, okay with not having had her biological father in her life and has watched from a distance as he and his legitimate daughters are splashed all over the news and the tabloids.

Then, the latest in a string of poorly chosen ex-boyfriends, Richie, decides to sell Ellie’s birth certificate to the papers to pay for his coke habit. Ellie is thrust into the spotlight as the attention seeking white trash daughter out to steal Billy Kay’s good name and hard earned fortune. Woe is Ellie and life is hard as she is hounded by the press, watches lie after lie be printed about her, is fired from her job, fights with her mother and for some reason finds her father’s lawyer very attractive.

Forgetting the extreme soap opera style plot of this novel, which actually ended up being the best thing about it, this book was a disaster from start to finish. The characters, plot and style felt completely cold and empty and entirely void of soul – made even more disappointing by the fact that I KNOW Sarra Manning can write extremely well.

Ellie is a bland porridge of a character. She works in an art gallery – because all stereotypical chick lit novels require girls to have ‘glam jobs’ – and goes to musical festivals with her friends and her mother on weekends. Yet despite this making her sound interesting and someone with passions, she doesn’t speak about either with much enthusiasm. While she claims to be very interested in art, there’s no explanation of how she got into the field, she doesn’t once converse with someone about the brilliance of art and the only sign of her passion for it is that she’s very good at being an event co-ordinator. Again, while she may have grown up backstage of a summer music festival, she does not seem that invested in music and it felt to me she was only going because she saw it as ‘the done thing’ and was attempting to get cool by association points. According to her friends, she’s not picked a single decent guy to go out with and has ended up being the AA sponsor, money giver and AHA! moment to all the men that pass by her so that they are hopefully fixed for the next girl. Apart from being good at holding back tears and a healthy dose of binge drinking, that is the sum total of Ellie’s personality. Doesn’t seem like enough to be the heroine of a novel, does it?

The love interest is even less interesting. David Gould aka 50 Shades of Copyright Infringement, is a rich entertainment lawyer who looks very good in a suit. His apartment gives minimalism a bad name in his anti-clutter campaign and he has a string of blondes for his sexcapdes because of reasons.

The two meet at a musical festival, though why 50 Shades of Copyright Infringement is there I don’t know, when they brush arms and feel tingles that almost made me put the book down then and there. They meet again when Ellie’s scandal hits the tabloids and it is revealed that Dreamy Tingles is in fact Billy Kay’s lawyer with zero emotional intelligence and a deep seated belief that everyone is evil and that Ellie must have sold her own story to the paps for cash. In order to help minimise the press, 50 Shades hides Ellie in his secret minimalist lair for a few days while she throws tantrums, he broods in a suit and they eventually snog and he gropes her boobs. When Ellie finally recognises that she has terrible taste in men and runs away to Paris, 50 Shades follows her because copping a feel of Ellie’s magical breasts is all he needed to discover that he was a soulless lawyer parasite who had no significant relationships but who is now completely cured.

As I said before, this novel becomes even more disappointing when you take into account the fact that Manning can write well. She is capable of writing characters with passion and a great depth of expressive feeling. She has written love interests with charm and humour and relationships that grow and evolve over time. Her characters can have wonderful relationships with friends, family and partners that make us laugh, cry, swoon and feel joy.

Yet the only character that comes close to inspiring any of this in me was Chester, Ellie’s pseudo father figure and lifelong friend of Ari who is basically the Luke from Gilmore Girls of the story. Chester alone would never have been enough to redeem this novel, and sadly it was enough to put me off Manning’s writing for good.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Quote of the Week (94) Say Something Cool

Think of something to say. Keep him here. Something funny and interesting and cool.
"I put my wellies on because I was sure it was going to rain and now my feet are getting horribly moist," Ellie said, and it was the single worst thing she'd ever said to anyone. 
Sarra Manning
It Felt Like a Kiss

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

In My Library Bag (December) THE CHRISTMAS EDITION



There's a little bit of festive cheer for you, because my pictures are a bit FAIL on that front. Also, IT'S A BOOK CHRISTMAS TREE THAT IS COVERED IN CHRISTMAS LIGHTS AND IT'SN'T THAT SUPER PRETTY!!!!!


What's that you say? "Other people like to borrow Christmas books from the library too!"    TOUGH. 

We have: 

The Christmas Surprise by Jenny Colgan
The Christmas Party by Carole Matthews
Christmas in the Snow by Karen Swan
Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand
The Christmas Wedding Ring by Susan Mallery
It Must Have Ben the Mistletoe by Judy Astley
I Heart Christmas by Lindsey Kelk 


I have shown CONSIDERABLE restraint on the Christmas movies this year been watching Christmas movies since September and graciously allowed others to watch them now. Except for these. 

On Sunday I watched K-9 Adventures: A Christmas Tale WHICH WENT TO VERY DARK PLACES MULTIPLE TIMES FOR WHAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE A CHILDRENS MOVIE but I liked it, it's kind of like a movie trying to be the first Home Alone but failing. But it's FUN. The singing is a bit awful though. AND MY GOD THOSE DARK PLACES WERE DARKER THAN CRIMINAL MINDS. 


Sunday, 30 November 2014

Quote of the Week (93) Counting down to Christmas

“There are some wonderful aspects to Christmas. It's magical. And each year, from at least November, well, September, well, if I'm honest, May, I look forward to it hugely.” 
Miranda Hart
Is It Just Me?

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