Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Anniversaries and Announcements

Hi everyone. Today is the 3rd blogiversary of polka dots and whimsy. *Imagine a sad picture of me alone in the flat throwing confetti and popping party poppers in the dark* 

I've been determined for most of the year to get to the three year mark and it's very exciting to be finally here. Also very sad, because along with the anniversary comes the announcement: I am retiring from the life of a book reviewer. 

It has been an exciting adventure, full of terrifying socialising with strangers and fun and whimsy and reading lots of lots of books. I thank everyone for their part in this adventure, and I may even become so desolate and lonely that I come back every now and then to make sure that you haven't forgotten about the cupcakes and the polka dots. 

Goodnight, good luck and have your sonic screwdrivers at the ready!

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Mini Review: The Christmas Wedding Ring by Susan Mallery

My Rating:1 Star2 Star3 Starhalf Star

In her youth, Molly Anderson couldn't help crushing on gorgeous bad-boy Dylan Black—even though he only had eyes for her older sister. When things didn't work out between them, he said goodbye to Molly as well, vowing they'd have a great adventure when she grew up. Years later, dumped by her fiancĂ© just before Christmas, she's finally ready to take Dylan up on his promise.

A guarded Dylan always had a weakness for Molly, and when she waltzes back into his life—grown-up and gorgeous—he's stunned. So why not whisk her away for some no-strings-attached fun?

Laughter-filled days and late-night kisses are changing Molly's life, for good. The only gift she truly wants now is Dylan's love, but when he discovers the secret she's been keeping, she may lose him again—this time forever. From GoodReads.

Molly Anderson has had the worst week of her life:
On Monday she got fired.
On Tuesday her fiancĂ© rang her call collect from Mexico to say he’d run off with his secretary.
On Wednesday she found a lump in her breast.

Desperate to get away, she remembers a promise her sisters ex-boyfriend made to a 14 year old Molly to come find him when she needed to escape. Enter Dylan: reformed bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks that now owns a successful motorcycle design company with his own reasons to escape. When an all grown up Molly and the boy she was infatuated reconnect and go on a getaway for two, romance is definitely in the air.

The Christmas Wedding Ring is exactly the kind of Christmas book I was looking for. It’s fun; with some great dialogue between the two leads and despite some more serious, emotional patches it’s a sweet story and perfect for curling up and reading in one sitting. I really enjoyed the two characters getting to know each other as adults, they had some great conversation where the banter was actually funny and the conversation always flowed really well. While Molly’s insecurities and withdrawal was used a little too much for my level of angst, Dylan was always there to be dreamy and rescue her from herself.

For anyone that has ever dreamed of running away with the bad boy on the back of his motorbike, or anyone wanting a sweet romance to cheer up their Christmas spirit, this is definitely a great choice.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Quote of the Week (96) The Ultimate Bedroom

The Doctor: Mum's bedroom. Grown-up. Your basic boring. Lily and Cyril's room. I'm going to be honest--masterpiece! The ultimate bedroom. Sciency wiency workbench, a jungle, a maze, a window disguised as a mirror, a mirror disguised as a window, a selection of torches for midnight feasts and secret reading, zen garden, mysterious cupboard zone of tranquility, rubber wall, dream tank, exact model of the rest of the house--not quite to scale, apologizes--dolls with comical expressions .The Magna Carta, a football, Cluedo!, a yellow ball.
Cyril Arwell: Where are the beds?
The Doctor: Well, I couldn't fit everything in. There had to be sacrifices. Anyway, who needs beds when you've got... hammocks! I know.

The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe

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.
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