We Could Be BeautifulTitle: We Could Be Beautiful

Author: Swan Huntley

Pages: 354 Pages

Publisher: Doubleday Books

The Blurb

A spellbinding psychological debut novel, Swan Huntley’s We Could Be Beautiful is the story of a wealthy woman who has everything—and yet can trust no one. 

Catherine West has spent her entire life surrounded by beautiful things. She owns an immaculate Manhattan apartment, she collects fine art, she buys exquisite handbags and clothing, and she constantly redecorates her home. And yet, despite all this, she still feels empty. She sees her personal trainer, she gets weekly massages, and occasionally she visits her mother and sister on the Upper East Side, but after two broken engagements and boyfriends who wanted only her money, she is haunted by the fear that she’ll never have a family of her own. One night, at an art opening, Catherine meets William Stockton, a handsome man who shares her impeccable taste and love of beauty. He is educated, elegant, and even has a personal connection—his parents and Catherine’s parents were friends years ago. But as he and Catherine grow closer, she begins to encounter strange signs, and her mother, Elizabeth (now suffering from Alzheimer’s), seems to have only bad memories of William as a boy. In Elizabeth’s old diary she finds an unnerving letter from a former nanny that cryptically reads: “We cannot trust anyone . . . ” Is William lying about his past? And if so, is Catherine willing to sacrifice their beautiful life in order to find the truth? Featuring a fascinating heroine who longs for answers but is blinded by her own privilege, We Could Be Beautiful is a glittering, seductive, utterly surprising story of love, money, greed, and family.

The Review

Oh boy. This is another hit and miss for me.

Swan Huntley’s psychological thriller We Could Be Beautiful is set amongst the rich and elite of New York society. Catherine West, an art lover and exclusive card shop owner is swept away by a mysterious man, William. She and William sort of knew each other’s families when they were younger but the passage of time and loss of parents made them lose contact.

When William appears back in her life he does so like a tornado, within weeks they are in love and set to be married yet there is something distinctly off about William. Catherine has to figure out what it is before losing herself and her inherited fortune.

Meh. On the surface this story seems fine. It seems like it could have great potential but the characters were just so unlikable; in particular, Catherine. Now, for me personally, when you read a story about the elite society you have dreams and aspirations of having all that money and the comfortable life but Huntley subverted that by showing that rich people have problems too which I suppose is an interesting twist but the execution just left me asking ‘who cares?’

I’m sure that We Could Be Beautiful is a good book for some people but for it just didn’t hit the right notes.

We Could Be Beautiful by Swan Huntley is available now.

For more information regarding Swan Huntley (@SwanHuntley) please visit www.swanhuntley.com.

For more information regarding Doubleday Books (@doubledaybooks) please visit www.doubledaybooks.com.

2 Stars

The Blurb

A laugh-out-loud romance from the bestselling author of the Shopaholic series.

Meet Audrey: an ordinary teenage girl with not so ordinary problems.

Aside from her completely crazy and chaotic family, she suffers from an anxiety disorder which makes talking to her brother’s hot new best friend a bit of a challenge.

But Audrey has a plan to help her face her fears and take on the world again. First stop: Starbucks.

The Review

Shhh. Come closer. I’ve got a shameful secret to tell you. Are you ready? Ok, here it goes. I have never read a Sophie Kinsella book. Ever. Until I read Finding Audrey, I was a Sophie Kinsella virgin.

What a book to pop my Sophie Kinsella cherry.

Finding Audrey is about a young girl called Audrey (funnily enough) who has suffered a major setback in life. An incident so bad that it made her leave school and spend time in an institution for her mental health and anxiety problems. Now Sophie doesn’t really go out, she doesn’t communicate with anyone but her family and her therapist and she refuses to take off her sunglasses both in and outdoors, come rain or shine.

It is safe to say that Audrey has issues.

The story, although having mental health at its core is a really uplifting story about the slow and everlasting process of healing that mental health sufferers go through. The added element of it being a young girl who is suffering kind of hits a nerve; mental health isn’t singularly centred on a particular gender or age or social group. It can happen to anyone.

I really enjoyed reading Finding Audrey. Kinsella’s easy style of writing is engaging. The one thing that I wanted more from the story was to know the details of the incident that caused the mental health decline in Audrey. However, as much as I want to know I also completely understand why the reader wasn’t given details. In real life issues that lead to mental health problems can’t be quantified and what one person sees as a massive issue others may feel that it is trivial. Kinsella made a smart move by not revealing everything…as much as I am nosy and want to know.

This is a great story for anyone who thinks that they may be suffering from anxiety but also for anyone who may not have an understanding of mental health problems.

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella is available now.

Follow Sophie Kinsella (@KinsellaSophie) on Twitter.

Finding Audrey

The Blurb

‘My name is Raphael Ignatius Phoenix and I am a hundred years old – or will be in ten days’ time, in the early hours of January 1st, 2000, when I kill myself…’

Raphael Ignatius Phoenix has had enough. Born at the beginning of the 20th century, he is determined to take his own life as the old millennium ends and the new one begins. But before he ends it all, he wants to get his affairs in order and put the record straight, and that includes making sense of his own long life – a life that spanned the century. He decides to write it all down and, eschewing the more usual method of pen and paper, begins to record his story on the walls of the isolated castle that is his final home. Beginning with a fateful first adventure with Emily, the childhood friend who would become his constant companion, Raphael remembers the multitude of experiences, the myriad encounters and, of course, the ten murders he committed along the way . . .
And so begins one man’s wholly unorthodox account of the twentieth century – or certainly his own riotous, often outrageous, somewhat unreliable and undoubtedly singular interpretation of it.

The Review

The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix by Paul Sussman is a fantastical tale of one man and it chronicles his 100 years of life. It does so in a very unusual fashion. The story is told in reverse and the non linear story is made up of the main character – Raphael Ignatius Phoenix’s autobiographical writings on the walls of his final home.

Raphael Ignatius Phoenix plans to kill himself throughout the book and reminds you of that fact at every juncture. He has a very precise suicide plan mapped out but before that he unburdens all his ill deeds – in the most case a plethora of murders – as a kind of cathartic experiment before he eventually offs himself.

This is a very intriguing story and could be likened to both Forrest Gump and The Life and Times of Walter Mitty in that Raphael Ignatius Phoenix’s actions have an effect on real world events or indeed are placed within real time activities – e.g. the Second World War, Hollywood Heyday etc. Overall, it is a love story that transcends time and place.

There are some very admirable things about this book. It is magical in parts along with being quirky and funny. However, I can’t help but feel that due to the book being published posthumously that the story didn’t get the full editorial benefits it would have done if Paul Sussman had been alive. Some chapters felt dragged out and a lot of the times I would struggle to maintain interest. The frustrating thing is that the story has so much potential, however, I can fully appreciate that those who released The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix wanted to maintain the integrity of the author’s work and to also celebrate his voice. Therefore, this is not something I can hold against the book.

This is an interesting story but to me it does not feel polished. I would encourage people to read it to see if they share my opinion.

The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix by Paul Sussman

The final Testimony of Raphael Ignatious Phoenix