Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Book Review: My Map of You by Isabelle Broom

Holly Wright has had a difficult few years. After her mother's death, she's become expert at keeping people at a distance - including her boyfriend, Rupert.
But when Holly receives an unexpected letter explaining that an aunt she never met has left her a house on the Greek island of Zakynthos, the walls she has built begin to crumble. Arriving on the island, Holly meets the handsome Aidan and slowly begins to uncover the truth about the secret which tore her family apart.
But is the island where Holly really belongs? Or will her real life catch up with her first?

Look at that cover. Isn't it perfect? Can't you just imagine sitting there, in a taverna, looking out over the Ionian Sea. Well, read this book and you will feel that you really are there!

I was a little nervous about reviewing this book, because I have met the gorgeous Isabelle, book reviews editor at heat Magazine and now an author herself, on several occasions now, and she is so lovely, I was worried. Isabelle does great reviews of other books, but can she write them? And, would I like it?

Yes I am shamelessly showing off that I have met Isabelle Broom!

The answer is a resounding Nai - Which is Greek for yes! 

My Map of You is a beautifully written novel, which immerses the reader into Greek life, with all the sights, smells and sounds of the island of Zakynthos. I love the Greek Islands anyway, but Isabelle's descriptions made me want to hop on a plane right away. Mia bira parakalo!

Poor Holly; she's not had it easy. She's been hiding herself  back all this time - so much so that even she doesn't know who she is any more. She's been doing what she thinks everyone expects her to do, she has even held her boyfriend, Rupert, at arm's length. Ashamed and bitter about her late mother's alcoholism, Holly is rattled when she receives a letter from an Aunt she didn't know she had, leaving her a house in a place she's never been. She flies out to Zakynthos to sell the house, and find clues to the biggest secrets of her life.

Of course Holly falls in love with the island (who wouldn't?) and its warm, friendly inhabitants.  For the first time in her life she feels at home. There are some glorious characters here; Kostas the shop keeper, cheeky Nikos, and Annie. Oh, and then there is the hot, brooding neighbour, Aiden, who whisks her around the island on an adventure... but Holly is in love with Rupert. Isn't she?

It makes a refreshing change for the boyfriend to be a good guy in a book like this. He's not horrible to Holly at all, he adores her. He even flies out to the island to join her because he's missing her so much. For once the main character is at fault rather than her partner.

Holly's character grows as soon as she starts learning about and coming to terms with her past. She casts herself as the bad guy but is ashamed and remorseful. She is also a realist; she has a life - such that it is - back in the real world, in London.

I love that Holly doesn't care for the busy touristy resort of Laganas; she prefers the quieter traditional village life. Isabelle's love for the island really shines through the pages.

This is a story of intriguing secrets and self discovery, of friendship and love, and family. I really did enjoy reading it, and it has left me feeling very wistful for a proper Greek salad! And I would love to go on Isabelle's 'Map of You' Tour!

I've just got one final thing to say to Isabelle - Efharisto poli! To latrepsa!*

*Apologies for the poor attempts at Greek. I tried. 

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Book Review: Truth or Date by Portia MacIntosh

Ruby Wood is perfectly happy playing the dating game – until she has a red-hot dream about her very attractive flatmate, Nick. He might spend every day saving lives as a junior doctor, but he’s absolutely the last man on earth that fun-loving Ruby would ever date!
The solution? Focus on all of Nick’s bad points. And if that fails, up her dating antics and find herself a man! So what if she manages to make disapproving, goody two-shoes Nick jealous in the process…
Only, after a series of nightmare first dates, there’s still just one man on Ruby’s mind. Maybe it’s time to admit the truth and dare to ask Nick to be her next date?

Thank you to the author, Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I have to admit, it took me a while to warm to the main character, Ruby. The book is narrated by her, and boy is she chatty! She is an immature, sweary, boozy mess, who works in a coffee shop with her best mate Millsy, who is the male version of Ruby. Neither of them particularly care about the job they do, and Ruby doesn't seem to have any sense of responsibility (secretly I think I'd quite like to have been like her when I was younger!). Millsy at least has a passion for acting; something Ruby also is great at but has never pursued - she just uses her acting skills to get herself out of unsuitable dates!

Her flatmate Nick by comparison is a neat-freak, and on the surface the two appear to hate each other (although I don't think I'd ask someone I hate to lever me into fat-taming tights). His girlfriend Heather, is horrendous, and Ruby needs to figure out how to tell Nick that she's really not right for him. Which is easier said than done when Ruby realises that she actually fancies the pants of her flat mate, which leads to some hilarious antics.

I did find myself rooting for Ruby's character as she matures throughout the story, realising she cares for someone other than herself. She tries to turn herself into someone she's not, for example dying her outrageous pink hair a more regular brown, but soon realises that it isn't the answer. The change comes from within. Ruby grows up, though she will never be boring!  Portia's characters have a lot of depth to them, once you get to know them, which is perfect. It's great to be able to see beyond Ruby's brash exterior; after all, everyone has their flaws..

I'm so glad I read this book, despite any initial misgivings at the start. It turned out to be a highly enjoyable, funny riot of a novel, and I shall be seeking out more of Portia's work!

Friday, 8 April 2016

Book Review: Who's That Girl? by Mhairi McFarlane

An achingly funny story from the author of the bestselling YOU HAD ME AT HELLO.
When Edie is caught in a compromising position at her colleagues’ wedding, all the blame falls on her – turns out that personal popularity in the office is not that different from your schooldays. Shamed online and ostracised by everyone she knows, Edie’s forced to take an extended sabbatical – ghostwriting an autobiography for hot new acting talent, Elliot Owen. Easy, right?
Wrong. Banished back to her home town of Nottingham, Edie is not only dealing with a man who probably hasn’t heard the word ‘no’ in a decade, but also suffering an excruciating regression to her teenage years as she moves back in with her widowed father and judgy, layabout sister.
When the world is asking who you are, it’s hard not to question yourself. Who’s that girl? Edie is ready to find out.

I've been waiting for this book to come out and leapt on it as soon as I could my hands on it. Thanks to Netgalley and Avon for the review copy in exchange for an honest review. 

I love Mhairi's books. They're not cosy little rom-coms; they are full-on PMSL, LMFAO, sweary stories for those of us who like a bit of attitude in our reading. 

Edie, the heroine of Who's That Girl is far from perfect. She snogged someone else's husband, on their wedding day, and boy, does she pay for it. Even though Edie had been taken in by smarmy player Jack, she gets the blame. Everyone in her London life turns against her; even her so-called gay best friend turns out to be the archetypal backstabbing queen. The 'wronged bride' and Edie's so-called friends launch a vicious online hate campaign against her, forcing her into hiding. It's a relief when her boss, Richard, who thankfully does believe in her, sends her on a mission back in her home town of Nottingham. 

Only it's not such a relief to be back at home. Anyone who has made a life for themselves and then returns home, tail between their legs for whatever reason, will know that it's hard. Old family resentments and sibling rivalries flare, and Edie's younger sister Meg acts like the truculent teen, making it hard for Edie to settle back in. Their poor Dad is stuck in the middle of them, and he is still dealing with his own grief at the loss of their mother years ago. The three of them have been unable to move on. Mhairi deals with the serious issues of grief and depression with a touching sensitivity, contrasting with the hilarious scenes between the two girls reverting back to flouncing and bitching at each other. 

Margot, the dragon lady next door, provides a lot of insight for Edie. Disregarded by Meg and Edie's father, she is a fabulous lady who is stuck in her glamorous past. And she can bake a mean cake. She helps Edie come to term with her mistakes and past errors of judgement. 

Edie's mission is to ghost write the memoirs of the hugely popular film & TV star Elliot Owen. Edie's initial resistance to him and his world of fame is broken down when she gets to know the real Elliot. He really is a sweetie, and I'd have fallen for him - and his brother Fraser! 

I think this book is about Edie discovering who she really is, and about finding who you can rely on. Edie has genuine friends in both Nick and Hannah. 

I did question Edie's decision near the end of the book – okay it is a very mature decision to make and I can see why she does what she does, but the romantic in me was screaming at her for a good few pages. 

Again Mhairi has had me enthralled from beginning to end of Who's That Girl. I hate it when a great book ends! 

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Book Review: Armadillos by P K Lynch

Aggie is fifteen, a ‘sub’ from a ‘sub’ family, one of Texas’ downtrodden. Her father and brother enact that ‘sub’-ness on her, week in, week out. She has only the vaguest notion that there is something wrong with the abuse she endures and instead dreams of the outside world.
And then one day, Aggie walks out. But, like the armadillos that flourish in Texas’ barren landscape, she is a survivor.
In her escape, she gravitates to those who are just as maltreated as her. They offer Aggie the sense of family, albeit a thoroughly dysfunctional one, that she’s been searching for. But when she gets embroiled in a crisis involving stolen money, Aggie soon realises there are some problems you can’t run away from.
Thanks to Legend Press for the advanced reading copy.

From the outset, Aggie's story is heartbreaking and shocking, but told in a matter-of-fact manner rather than being melodramatic. Brought up to believe that her family's behaviour is normal, Aggie knows she doesn't like it, and leaves.

Armadillos is a tough story but easy to read, written beautifully, with Aggie's Texan drawl in my head from the beginning. Despite her sheltered upbringing, she proves to be an intelligent kid who knows how to get what she wants. She doesn't like conning people, but it's a means to an end for her.

Then she meets a girl called Freak, and is introduced to a new 'family', all with their own problems. 

It's a brilliant tale of survival, of friendship and self-discovery. The words flow naturally on the page, drawing us in to Aggie's world of hurt and pain, and her relationships with the larger than life yet utterly believable supporting characters.

I really did enjoy reading this book, and highly recommend it.