The Blurb

Former child star Fiona Hume left the biz a decade ago, after she left rehab. She retreated to Baltimore and bought an old mansion downtown with dreams of restoring it into a masterpiece – maybe creating an artist’s studio for herself. And living an artist’s life.

That was the plan.

Ten years later, Fiona’s huge house is filled with junk purchased at thrift stores, yard sales, or picked up from the side of the road. Each piece was destined for a project, but all she’s got so far is a piece of twine with some antique buttons threaded down its length.

Her money has almost run out. She will soon lose her house and will be forced back into acting.

So it is that Fiona comes to rent out a room to a local blacksmith, Josiah. Little by little, Josiah magically transforms Fiona’s home into something beautiful. She comes to life again. Her relationships heal and she experiences, perhaps for the first time, what it means to be human, what it means to be loved, and what it means when we let go and allow the wondrous workings of forces far bigger than we are to take over.

The Review

I didn’t like A Thing of Beauty. A little blunt but it had to be said. The concepts of the story (or parts of it) were interesting but others just fell flat. For example, the main thread of the story about an ex-actress who has become a recluse due to a troubled time after being a childhood star would have been a great storyline had it been fully developed. I think that is what failed the story most, the under-developed storyline.

There were other glaring flaws – the main one being the over descriptive nature of the narrative. If I had been the editor I would have advised Samson to go back and remove the unnecessary descriptions of things as it became very tiresome. The old adage of ‘show, don’t tell’ needs to be applied to this book too. Samson described every street that her main character rode down on her bike and whilst this may be titillating for those who live in Baltimore it was just tedious for me.

The story did get better. About midway through I actually felt like there was a (much needed) shift in pace which made the latter half less exasperating. However, there were still glaring holes in the story such as Fiona’s collection of weird things – it was never fully explained why she did this. We never learned that much about her friend that died or why it had the impact it did on Fiona’s life. Everything seemed to be on the cusp of being explained but then never fully explored which was frustrating.

I guess this serves me right for choosing the book based solely on the prettiness of the cover.

A Thing of Beauty by Lisa Samson is available now.

A Thing of Beauty

The Blurb

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting down the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the ‘natural wonders’ of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself – a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. How far will Violet go to save the boy she has come to love?

The Review

What can you say about All the Bright Places? Sometimes a book comes along that is so beautiful that describing it defies words. However, I shall give it a try.

All the Bright Places is a classic boy meets girl book, however, it has a contemporary twist. Imagine, just like Violet did, meeting the boy you are destined to fall in love with when you are both contemplating suicide by jumping off a building. This is not exactly the norm. Consequently, what it does highlight is the ever growing numbers of teen suicide and also how difficult it is in a high school environment (or any environment really) to ask for help when you are struggling mentally or emotionally.

What is beautiful about Violet and Finch’s relationship is that it shows how help and comfort can come from the most unlikely of places. It also shows the cruelty of school children. If only one person reads this book and changes the negative way that they act towards another person then Jennifer Niven has done a remarkable job.

When reading All the Bright Places you will laugh, you will cry but most of all you will fall in love with a beautiful friendship that is formed in the face of adversity.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven is available now.

You can follow Jennifer Niven (@jenniferniven) on Twitter.

All the Bright Places

The Blurb

Movie addict Scarlett O’Brien is finally living the jet-setting life she’s dreamed of – but it all hangs by a shiny, golden thread.

Flying between London and New York, running two businesses, planning her wedding to handsome fiancé, Sean, with best friends Oscar and Maddie – life couldn’t be better.

But then Scarlett meets paparazzi darling, Gabriella Romero, and life suddenly becomes even more extravagant and glamorous. As she begins to experience the other side to being rich and famous, it’s not only Scarlett’s perfect wedding that’s put in jeopardy, but her whole world.

The Review

I am a huge fan of Ali McNamara’s writing and I have yet to find a book of hers that I dislike. It is always a worry having to read and review an author whose work you like just in case they have written a stinker. Fortunately for me From Notting Hill with Four Weddings…Actually is still in the high calibre of rom-com chick-lit we have all come to expect from McNamara.

I love that with a series of books you don’t have to get to know your main characters again. It is like being welcomed back into the family fold. You know the characters foibles and personality traits and so less of your time and concentration is taken up by this and you can focus more on the story. Like the previous two books in this series – From Notting Hill with Love Actually and From Notting Hill to New York…Actually – there is an element of mystery with From Notting Hill with Four Weddings…Actually. What McNamara does so succinctly is throw in some very impressive red herrings. I must admit I was disappointed when certain clues were given and I came up with my own assumptions but like a true mastermind writer McNamara pulled the rug from under me…that cheeky minx!

From Notting Hill with Four Weddings…Actually is a fantastic part of an already brilliant series and fans of the previous two books will not be disappointed.

From Notting Hill with Four Weddings…Actually by Ali McNamara is available now.

You can follow Ali McNamara (@AliMcNamara) on Twitter.

Find out all the latest news about Ali McNamara on her website www.alimcnamara.co.uk

From Notting Hill with Four Weddings

The Blurb

They used to send each other letters. The return address was always the same:  Dept. of Speculation. They used to be young, brave and giddy with hopes for their future. They got married, had a child, and skated through all the same calamities of family life. But then, slowly, quietly something changes.

As the years rush by, fears creep in and doubts accumulate until finally their life as they know it cracks apart and they find themselves forced to reassess what they have lost, what is left, and what they want now.

Written with the dazzling lucidity of poetry, Dept. of Speculation navigates the jagged edges of a modern marriage to tell a story that is darkly funny, surprising and wise.

The Review

I had heard many a great thing about Dept. of Speculation prior to reading it and was therefore very excited to start, however, I genuinely did not get it. It read like a detailed synopsis of a story that hadn’t been fully formed.

I understand that this style of writing was used solely to create an impact such as the lack of character names signified that the act of adultery can happen in any marriage and by giving the characters identities in this way creates a separation between the reader and the fictional character on the page. What this also did was make it very difficult for the reader (or this reader, at least) to form an emotional attachment or car for the character.

I personally feel that the author opted for style over substance. Ironically, the substance was there it was just never fully explored.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill is available now.

Dept of speculation

Happy New Year Bloglets,

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and New Year. I got some lovely books for Christmas that I cannot wait to delve into. But before I can do that I seriously need to make a dent in my ever growing ‘To Be Read’ pile.

This is the first TBR blog that I have written in two weeks therefore I have a few blog posts to tell you about. The past few books that I reviewed include:

Trouble by Non Pratt

Ticker by Lisa Mantchev

A Christmas Feast and Other Stories by Katie Fforde

Jessie Hearts NYC by Keris Stainton

The Last Virgin Alive by Stephanie Crosby

We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a true story by Josh Sundquist

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

I Don’t Care About Your Band by Julie Klausner

No Place Like Oz by Danielle Paige

I have one review up and coming next week; I really need to get a wiggle on with that.

I am currently reading The Year of Taking Chances by Lucy Diamond. I’ve never read anything by her before but I am really enjoying it so far.

Now, it has come to my attention that I have a lot of books. This is not a big shock or anything but I have realised that I have a lot of books that I am itching to read. Therefore, I have resolved to read one review book and one personal book. I know that this will slow down my reviewing rates on NetGalley and BookBridgr but I do want to read some of the books that I have personally picked up.

With that in mind, from now on I will try to read in the following way:

1 x Review Book

1 x Personal Book

1 x Short Story

1 x Library Book (I work in a school and vet the YA literature before they are available for the students in case they are inappropriate for lower school)

If I have any time after that I will grab another review book.

Sounds like a great plan. How long this plan will last one never knows.

Wish me luck!

L x

Ps – I would love to know what you are all reading so please leave me a comment and let me know.