Woohoo. Yes people, congratulations are in order. I am out of my reading shlump. Huzzah!

This week I managed to post no less than four – yes FOUR – reviews. I was quite proud of myself for that. So here they are:

Fat Chance by Nick Spalding

Us by David Nicholls

Zenith Hotel by Oscar Coop-Phane

Snow Angels, Secrets and Christmas Cake by Sue Watson

On top of that I also read and reviewed Arms Wide Open by Judi Caldwell. The review will be posted on Saturday, 25th October 2014.

I have a few books that are due for review this week but I am going to have an Ali McNamara week. Her latest book in the With Love series is due out on Thursday and since I haven’t read the previous two I have decided to get the whole series read in one go. I am midway through From Notting Hill With Love…Actually and so far I am loving it. So hopefully I will be that immersed in the series that I will get through them toot suite. Imagine Belle from Beauty and the Beast walking around with my nose in a book.

The books that I am supposed to read this week are:

Killing Keiko by Mark A Simmons

This Is Your Afterlife by Vanessa Barneveld

From Notting Hill with Four Weddings…Actually by Ali McNamara

Moone Boy: The Blunder Years by Chris O’Dowd and Nick Vincent Murphy

Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle

The Temp: The Complete Series by Emily Benet

The Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler Szarlan

So, once I get through my Ali McNamara fest I will try and get through some of these books. Fortunately for me I have three long train journeys this week so plenty of book reading will be done.

Hope you all have a great reading week.

L x

Synopsis

Sisters Tamsin and Sam couldn’t be more different. Tamsin is a social climber who likes having nice things, money and a circle of friends with the same perspective. Some would say she is a snob but she is definitely one with a heart. Sister Sam is the polar opposite – a free spirit who would rather be shunned by the social hierarchy than become part of the inner circle of bitchiness.

When Tamsin’s world comes crashing down around her it is Sam who picks her sister up off the floor just like Tamsin did for Sam five years earlier when Sam’s husband was killed. An event thay still plagues her and controls her decisions to this very day. Can these sisters pull together and get themselves back on track?

Review

Ok, the basics. I loved the two part narrative. The characters of Tamsin and Sam where clearly defined and Watson managed to create individual voices for them both. It is always interesting to read the same story from other peoples perspectives. Personally, I sometimes find that writers will either fail to create unique characters and they will oftentimes overlap or when they do manage to create the individual voice that they then create a Groundhog Day style of storytelling which becomes repetitive and boring. However, Watson escapes both of these writing potholes and has created a wonderful story that, if anything, is helped by the dual narrative; the pacing of the story is excellent and as a reader you don’t feel like the story becomes stuck or slow-moving.

I loved the way the sisters lives seemed to parallel each others. They both had loved and lost (due to equally distressing by very different reasons) and had to rebuild their lives. They both do this with the help of each other. I think the reason that I found the relationship between Sam and Tamsin so compelling is probably because it is a similar relationship that I have with my sister. I loved that they were best friends. They got on each other’s nerves at times but the underlying love was so evident. They only wanted what was best for each other.

I thought it was especially clever how Watson had her characters overcome their underlying prejudices – Sam and the mothers at school and Tamsin with a world that was less than what she was used to.

The overall theme of family was nicely juxtaposed with the theme of Christmas as both of these things tend to go hand in hand.

Having never read any Watson before (but have accidentally got one of her earlier releases sitting on my Kindle) I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I think the reason that I enjoyed it so much was that the main focus of the story wasn’t a romantic relationship. It was there but the relationship between the sisters was the main focus and I found that very refreshing.

Well done Sue Watson, you have put me in the Christmas mood.

Snow Angels, Secrets and Christmas Cake by Sue Watson is available now.

You can follow Sue Watson on Twitter @suewatsonwriter

Snow Angels

 

Title: Zenith Hotel

Author: Oscar Coop-Phane

Pages: 126

Synopsis

The lives of several Parisians are linked together through the use of local prostitute, Nanou.

Review

I really wanted to like this story. I had read so many great reviews about it. It was dark, gritty and was set in Paris. And ok, having had a lifelong love affair with France’s capital, I was willing to see it in a less than glamorous way. However, I didn’t get any of that. The setting could have been anywhere. There was no seedy underbelly of the specific location. The Arrondissements just merged into one.

The story itself thinly hangs together by the encounters with the prostitute Nanou. I think the main problem that I had with the text is my original problem with short stories; they feel underdeveloped. This is especially the case with Zenith Hotel. If Coop-Phane had just stuck with the protagonist and one punter then maybe the story would have felt a bit more developed.

I understand that the technique of having a few bit characters emphasises the lonely life of prostitution and the isolation that Nanou feels on a aily basis. I just don’t think it necessarily worked as a short story.

Furthermore, I don’t think that we, as readers, were able to empathise with Nanou. She is very one dimensional and the further into the story we got, the less we seemed to know about her. She didn’t develop. The story didn’t develop and neither did my liking of Zenith Hotel.

I was very disappointed.

Zenith Hotel by Oscar Coop-Phane is available now.

 

Firstly, I need to give a massive thank you to the lovely folks over at Bookbridgr for sending me a copy of Us – First Edition, Hardback and Signed. Thank you for the Bookgasm.

Synopsis

Douglas can feel his entire world slipping away from him. His wife, Connie, has told him that she wants to separate from him. His son, who hates him, is going off to college soon and Douglas knows that he will be all alone.

With one last family holiday planned Douglas intends to change his wife’s mind and make her fall in love with him again AND win back the love of his son.

This journey of familial and self discovery traverses Europe and fifty four years of making questionable decisions. Will Douglas be able to win back the good feelings of his family?

Review

I often start my reviews with how worried I was about reading the book and unfortunately I have to start this review the same way. Actually, I was more than worried. I was terrified. The reason being that a writer is only as successful as his/her last release and I loved David Nicholls’ last literary offering. I inhaled One Day up becoming an ignorant member of society and also my social group. I took the book everywhere I went, sneaking off for a quick read, ignoring friends on a day trip out to get through a few paragraphs. I was deeply invested in the lives of Dex and Em, Em and Dex.

When I heard about the new book by David Nicholls I was excited but that excitement was quickly taken over by fear. Would I love Us as much as One Day? Much like the many loves we have in our lives, they cannot be compared in a quantifiable way. All love is different. I loved One Day and I loved Us. No competition or drama. I just loved them both.

I shouldn’t have been nervous reading Us. I should have trusted that Nicholls is an author that I can depend on. With Us, he has not let me down.

The heart of the novel comes from the haplessness of Douglas. He can’t seem to connect with anyone or anything. His relationship with his son Albie is virtually non-existent; his wife wants a divorce and he is portrayed almost like a robot with feelings. You feel for him but equally you cringe at some of the blatantly idiotic things that he says and does.

Nicholls’ strength lies in making the normal seem entertaining. He doesn’t necessarily put his characters in stupid or frivolous situations to garner a giggle from his audience (although there are plenty of laughs to be had throughout this novel) it is in his understanding that the ordinary is often more compelling than a contrived (and in turn, transparent) situation.

Us is charming. There is no doubt about it. It takes you on a journey – not just the physical journey of the holiday that the family take but on a journey of discovery and realisation that life isn’t always going to live up to our expectations and that people will invariably let you down and that sometimes that very person is actually yourself.

I loved Us and I hope that everyone who reads it loved it too.

Us by David Nicholls is available now

 

Synopsis

With £50,000 at stake, Zoe and Greg Milton enter a competition that will change their lives forever. However, the chance to win comes at a cost – that cost is their dignity. The Milton’s have entered Fat Chance, a contest hosted by their local radio station which has the couple pitted against other overweight twosomes all in hope of winning the grand prize. How far will Zoe and Greg go to win?

Review

Nick Spalding never fails to entertain me. His books have the uncanny knack of making you realise just how funny and ridiculous real life situations can be. With his latest literary offering, Fat Chance, we can see that he is just as on form as ever.

The issue of being overweight is one that we don’t like to talk about. People who are skinny can’t know and will never know just how horrible it is to be overweight. Unless you have experienced it yourself, you just do not know. For the sake of total disclosure I, myself, lost two and half stone a few years back and I can vouch for the wonderful new world that being skinny opens up for you. However, I do not belong to the Kate Moss school of thought that nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels – Ms Moss clearly hasn’t eaten my cheesy pasta bake!

In writing it is hard to get that balance right. The balance of not sounding condescending or sounding like you pity the larger person or like a know it all that offers unhelpful and downright annoying advice. Fortunately, Spalding’s approach to the subject is one of empathy without making you feel belittled.

Don’t get me wrong, the one thing that Spalding excels in is making you feel shame. Every embarrassing event his characters go through, you equally feel. There were moments that I had to put down the book because I was too mortified to read on but that is actually the reason that I love his books. He can make me cringe with just a paragraph. For that I salute you Nick Spalding!

This book has the potential to entertain a wide berth of readers, from the skinnymalinks to the tubbos, the chubbychasers to the flabulous ones. If you are larger than a size 6 you will appreciate the things that Greg and Zoe; if you are one of those blessed with a brilliant metabolism then maybe it will make you think twice before you judge those who are larger.

Fat Chance by Nick Spalding is available now.

You can follow Nick Spalding on Twitter @NickSpalding

Fat Chance