Russian born Alena has decided to leave her country to come to the UK to find work. Like many migrants, Alena believes that the answer to hers and her family’s financial woes lies in the opportunity laden London. Having had her work placement set up by a family friend Alena travels to the UK full of optimism and dreams of a better life that includes financial stability, opportunity and designer clothes. What Alena isn’t prepared for is that her dream is a fallacy. Nor is she prepared for her dream to become a nightmare.

Someone well versed in the woes of everyday life in the UK is Dave. Dave is trying to get through each day under the radar; just do his job, get paid and go home. This is a rigmarole that suits the quiet life that he craves. He once had dreams of travel but all that has passed now. However, a chance encounter with Alena throws his world completely off kilter.

Can Dave’s peaceful nature quiet and calm the storm that is Alena’s life?

I won’t lie to you Thirst is a hard novel to read. Not because it is composed of difficult vernacular or in a different language but purely because Kerry Hudson gives the full nitty gritty on a dark and sinister topic; that topic being human trafficking and having immigrants being sold into the sex trade. At times I felt as if my heart was literally breaking for Alena. What made it worse is that she seemed to be unable to forgive herself for her situation; almost like she believed she deserved to be treated like a piece of meat on a market stall. It was truly harrowing.

But this is what makes Hudson such a good writer. She had my heart in my mouth with the desperation of Alena’s situation.

Dave’s story somewhat parallel’s Alena’s in the fact that they both get themselves into situations that they feel that they have no control over. Dave is trying to fulfil the wishes of his dying mother and gets himself trapped by a set of circumstances that were never part of his life plan. Both of the characters are trapped. Not only by what life puts in their way but how they both feel responsible for the way things are.

Their love story is lovely to follow. I think what makes it so enjoyable is the coy innocence of it all. You see them both giving the bare minimum of themselves away, slowly peeling away layers as their relationship grows. It was rather lovely to read.

Thirst is a quirky love story but be warned, if you read books for pure escapism then this book isn’t for you as it does deal with difficult subjects and has a very real insight into the sinister underbelly of the life that some immigrants face.

Thirst by Kerry Hudson is available now.

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Ove is a man who is set in his ways. He has a routine that he sticks to daily. He is angered by people who pay no heed to the rules. He is grumpy, cantankerous and a right old curmudgeon. He is also a man with more yesterdays than tomorrows.

The thing with Ove is that he dislikes change and all of a sudden everything in his life is changing. He has new interfering neighbours; his working hours have been cut due to his age and he cannot get his head round new fangled technology. Ove is a simple man. However, all the recent changes begin to open him up to a word of possibilities – possibilities that Ove reluctantly begins to accept.

Can Ove open himself up fully to these changes?

I was initially dubious about this book. I saw similarities to Mr Frederickson from Disney’s Up and if I am really honest I saw similarities to my own granddad who spends his days bemoaning that things aren’t like they used to be. It was through these similarities that I really fell in love with Ove. He tried his very hardest to be unlikeable but your just couldn’t help but become enamoured with this unlikely hero.

As a whole, A Man Called Ove tackles the larger issues of loss – loss of loved ones; loss of time and mostly loss of control. Ove strives to right the wrongs that the authorities, his bosses, the man sets for him. As I have said, Ove is a simple man but he knows what it right. And he diligently fights for the right thing throughout the book. You see this grumpy old man open up to the people and possibilities around him and grow; he is warm and loving he just didn’t have a chance to show it.

For anyone unsure about reading this book I would implore you to give it a try. If we are lucky we get to grow old but that doesn’t mean that we become feeble or helpless or unable to make decisions for ourselves. The elderly should be shown compassion and reverence not shot down for being older. This book reminds us to have empathy and respect for those who are older than us. A Man Called Ove – like the older generations around us – should not be ignored. Read this book.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman is available now.

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So most people have a bucket list which includes stuff like walking the length of the Great Wall of China, swimming with dolphins, skydiving and other such devil may care things. However, my bucket list includes something a little less risky; something low key but time consuming.

My goal is to read all 200 books on the BBC Big Read List.

I have read a few already but one day I will read them all.

Here is the list of book I have read already and the ones I have yet to read.

The titles crossed out are the books I have read. The ones in bold are the books I own therefore I can get on with reading.

1)      The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

2)      Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

3)      His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

4)      The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

5)      Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – JK Rowling

6)      To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

7)      Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

8)      Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell

9)      The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis

10)   Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

11)   Catch-22 – Joseph Heller

12)   Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

13)   Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks

14)   Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

15)   The Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

16)   The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

17)   Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

18)   Little Women – Louisa May Alcott

19)   Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernieres

20)   War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

21)   Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell

22)   Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – JK Rowling

23)   Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – JK Rowling

24)   Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – JK Rowling

25)   The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

26)   Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

27)   Middlemarch – George Eliot

28)   A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving

29)   The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

30)   Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

31)   The Story of Tracy Beaker – Jacqueline Wilson

32)   One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

33)   The Pillars of the Earth – Ken Follett

34)   David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

35)   Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

36)   Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson

37)   A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute

38)   Persuasion – Jane Austen

39)   Dune – Frank Herbert

40)   Emma – Jane Austen

41)   Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

42)   Watership Down – Richard Adams

43)   The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

44)   The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

45)   Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

46)   Animal Farm – George Orwelll

47)   A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

48)   Far From the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

49)   Goodnight Mister Tom – Michellle Magorian

50)   The Shell Seekers – Rosamunde Pilcher

51)   The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

52)   Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

53)   The Stand – Stephen King

54)   Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

55)   A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

56)   The BFG – Roald Dahl

57)   Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

58)   Black Beauty – Anna Sewell

59)   Artemis Fowl – Eoin Colfer

60)   Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

61)   Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman

62)   Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

63)   A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

64)   The Thorn Birds – Colleen McCollough

65)   Mort – Terry Pratchett

66)   The Magic Faraway Tree – Enid Blyton

67)   The Magus – John Fowles

68)   Good Omens – Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

69)   Guards! Guards! – Terry Pratchett

70)   Lord of the Flies – William Golding

71)   Perfume – Patrick Suskind

72)   The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist – Robert Tressell

73)   Night Watch – Terry Pratchett

74)   Matilda – Roald Dahl

75)   Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

76)   The Secret History – Donna Tartt

77)   The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

78)   Ulysses – James Joyce

79)   Bleak House – Charles Dickens

80)   Double Act – Jacqueline Wilson

81)   The Twits – Roald Dahl

82)   I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith

83)   Holes – Louis Sachar

84)   Gormenghast – Mervyn Peake

85)   The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy

86)   Vicky Angel – Jacqueline Wilson

87)   Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

88)   Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

89)   Magician – Raymond E Feist

90)   On the Road – Jack Kerouac

91)   The Godfather – Mario Puzo

92)   The Clan of the Cave Bear – Jean M Auel

93)   The Colour of Magic – Terry Pratchett

94)   The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

95)   Katherine – Anya Seton

96)   Kane and Abel – Jeffrey Archer

97)   Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

98)   Girls in Love – Jacqueline Wilson

99)   The Princess Diaries – Meg Cabot

100)   Midnight’s Children – Salmon Rushdie

101)    Three Men in a Boat – Jerome K Jerome

102)    Small Gods – Terry Pratchett

103)    The Beach – Alex Garland

104)    Dracula – Bram Stoker

105)    Point Blanc – Anthony Horowitz

106)    The Pickwick Papers – Charles Dickens

107)    Stormbreaker – Anthony Horowitz

108)    The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

109)    The Day of the Jackal – Frederick Forsyth

110)    The Illustrated Mum – Jacqueline Wilson

111)     Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

112)     The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – Sue Townsend

113)     The Cruel Sea – Nicholas Monsarrat

114)     Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

115)     The Mayor of Casterbridge – Thomas Hardy

116)     The Dare Game – Jacqueline Wilson

117)     Bad Girls – Jacqueline Wilson

118)     The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

119)     Shogun – James Clavell

120)    The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham

121)     Lola Rose – Jacqueline Wilson

122)     Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackery

123)     The Forsyte Saga – John Galsworthy

124)     The House of Leaves – Mark Z Danielewski

125)     The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver

126)     Reaper Man – Terry Pratchett

127)     Angus Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging – Louise Rennison

128)     The Hound of the Baskervilles – Arthur Conan Doyle

129)     Possession – AS Byatt

130)     The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov

131)      The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

132)      Danny The Champion of the World – Roald Dahl

133)      East of Eden – John Steinbeck

134)      George’s Marvellous Medicine – Roald Dahl

135)      Wyrd Sisters – Terry Pratchett

136)      The Colour Purple – Alice Walker

137)      Hogfather – Terry Pratchett

138)      The Thirty-Nine Steps – John Buchan

139)      Girls in Tears – Jacqueline Wilson

140)      Sleepovers – Jacqueline Wilson

141)       All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque

142)       Behind the Scenes at the Museum – Kate Atkinson

143)       High Fidelity – Nick Hornby

144)       It – Stephen King

145)       James and the Giant Peach – Roald Dahl

146)       The Green Mile – Stephen King

147)       Papillon – Henri Charriere

148)       Men at Arms – Terry Pratchett

149)       Master and Commander – Patrick O’Brian

150)       Skeleton Key – Anthony Horowitz

151)        Soul Music – Terry Pratchett

152)        Thief of Time – Terry Pratchett

153)        The Fifth Elephant – Terry Pratchett

154)        Atonement – Ian McEwan

155)        Secrets – Jacqueline Wilson

156)        The Silver Sword – Ian Serraillier

157)        One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey

158)        Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

159)        Kim – Rudyard Kipling

160)        Cross Stitch – Diana Gabaldon

161)        Moby Dick – Herman Melville

162)        River God – Wilbur Smith

163)        Sunset Song – Lewis Grassic Gibbon

164)        The Shipping News – Annie Proulx

165)        The World According to Garp – John Irving

166)        Lorna Doone – RD Blackmore

167)        Girls Out Late – Jacqueline Wilson

168)        The Far Pavilions – MM Kaye

169)        The Witches – Roald Dahl

170)       Charlotte’s Web – EB White

171)        Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

172)        They Used to Play on Grass – Terry Venables and Gordon Williams

173)        The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway

174)        The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco

175)        Sophie’s World – Jostein Gaarder

176)        Dustbin Baby – Jacqueline Wilson

177)        Fantastic Mr Fox – Roald Dahl

178)        Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

179)        Jonathan Livingstone Seagull – Richard Bach

180)        The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

181)         The Suitcase Kid – Jacqueline Wilson

182)         Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

183)         The Power of One – Bryce Courtenay

184)         Silas Marner – George Eliot

185)         American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis

186)         The Diary of a Nobody – George and Weedon Grossmith

187)         Trainspotting – Irvine Welsh

188)         Goosebumps – RL Stine

189)         Heidi – Johanna Spyri

190)         Sons an Lovers – DH Lawrence

191)          The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera

192)          Man and Boy – Tony Parsons

193)          The Truth – Terry Pratchett

194)          The War of the Worlds – HG Wells

195)          The Horse Whisperer – Nicholas Evans

196)          A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

197)          Witches Abroad – Terry Pratchett

198)          The Once and Future King – TH White

199)          The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle

200)         Flowers in the Attic – Virginia Andrews

 

Brigitte Green has to escape. Her life in New Orleans has come to a crashing halt since her friend and mentor Rosa has died. Rosa’s last instruction to Brigitte was to go to Paris and find love, find someone to tango with.

Brigitte heeds this advice and high tails it to Paris to start a new life; a new life that doesn’t involve prostitution and shame. Brigitte wants to have a life that involves love and romance.

Enter Eva Laroche. Eva is working as a tour guide to subsidise her university education in law. She and Brigitte meet and initially despise each other but eventually their defences drop and the potential for romance blossoms.

So initially I read this book to indulge in my love for Paris; that was the defining factor in my choice of novel. I didn’t know what the subgenres of the book were (incidentally they are LGBT, family drama, history, romance etc) but what I got was a captivating story of love, not only of another person but also love of oneself.

The love story between Brigitte and Eva is a classic hate-turns-to-love story. You can’t help but root for them. You want them to get together and become LGBT heroines to parallel the historical love stories between women that Thrasher includes in First Tango in Paris. However, Brigitte is so ashamed of her past that she struggles to love and have pride in herself.

The historical elements of the story are fascinating. Unfortunately, I do not know enough about Parisian women through history (or their lesbian inclinations) to verify Thrasher’s writing. Either Thrasher has a creative mind and has manipulated historical events to suite her purpose or she has just thoroughly researched the historical elements. Whatever the truth is, this subject makes for interesting reading and made me want to read further into some of the key figures in French history.

I really enjoyed First Tango in Paris. The storyline flowed with effortless ease and the characters had me rooting for them. I can’t ask for much more in a novel.

First Tango in Paris by Shelley Thrasher is available in America on the 15th July 2014.

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Becca Stone is stuck in a rut. She is approaching thirty, single and in a mind numbingly boring job. So when the chance for a promotion comes up she grabs the opportunity with both hands.

Suddenly her life starts to fall into place, she meets the man of her dreams and her new job role as PA to a difficult celebrity chef is challenging her in ways she didn’t think possible. Is it all too good to be true?

As quickly as things fall into place Becca’s life begins to fall apart. Will she manage to be the same old Becca when everything in her life is changing so suddenly?

I am a big fan of chick-lit. I went through a phase of not being able to read it because I found some of the storylines tired and clichéd. So for a while I simply stopped. I changed genre and after a few months I was back on track with good old comfortable reliable chick lit.

Comfortable and reliable. Those are the two words that I would use to describe Yes, Chef! It is not that the book isn’t good. It has some really entertaining parts. However, it was the comfort of knowing exactly what was going to happen that got me through the narrative. The reliable tale of a girl who will eventually get the guy even though she won’t realise that he is the one even though he has been there in front of her face this whole time is one as old as time. It was just a tad clichéd.

I personally just felt that at times it came across a little disjointed. The storyline had potential but it didn’t flow seamlessly. It jumped from different time periods using quick recaps to fill in the missing time which, for me, read awkwardly. Also, the narrative voice seemed to be unsure; at times the novel read like it was trying to replicate a voice from Bridget Jones and then at other times it dropped this tone altogether. It left me befuddled.

The latter half of Yes, Chef! was better than the beginning part. To begin with I did find Becca Stone difficult to like. She was self-involved and whiny. In this sense, you can see the development of the character because by the end of the novel I actually quite liked her but I didn’t want to keep reading to find out what happened next to Becca. I didn’t root for the characters as much as I have done with other books in this oeuvre.

The sad thing is that I genuinely do think that the book has potential to be better than it is. However, the book as a whole just wasn’t for me.

Yes, Chef! by Lisa Joy is available from the 14th July 2014

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