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Monday, 31 December 2012
Thursday, 13 December 2012
Monday, 26 November 2012
by Janey Fraser
When Jilly’s husband David is demoted at work, she needs to make some money. She’s committed to staying at home with her three boys, and when she sees one of her wealthier friends having problems with her au pair, she thinks she has found the perfect solution: she’ll set up a website, work from the kitchen table, recruit helpful girls for welcoming families, and do everything so much better than the existing agencies. Or that’s the plan.
Jilly is a neither smart, thin nor rich; her teenager is hormone-ridden and her twin boys are....twin boys. David wants her to help family finances, but doesn’t want her work to impinge on family life. If she tries to be efficient at work, her domestic world falls apart, and if she tries to be a good wife and mother, her business goes into free fall. Sound familiar? All of this makes Jilly a much more appealing heroine than I had anticipated when I saw the title of this book. Au pairs? Middle-class angst? Women with too much time and money? Whilst it would be true to say that the characters in Janey Fraser’s entertaining novel are hardly on the breadline, she does a great job of drawing us in to each of their lives, showing us that there are always two sides to every story.
Paula, Jilly’s best friend, has plenty of money, a wayward husband, and an au pair from hell. As Jilly’s agency starts to take off, Paula becomes increasingly distant - does she disapprove of Jilly’s chaotic home life, or is there something else behind her frostiness?
Matthew, one of Jilly’s first clients, is mourning his wife, and trying to cope with what happened before her death, whilst dealing with his young daughter’s own grief and manipulative behaviour. His first au pair is a nightmare, but her departure involves Matthew in a tragic event. Can Jilly find him a perfect replacement?
Dawn has everything, and demands everything from her au pairs; her children are badly behaved and spoilt, but Dawn spends all her time at the gym or entertaining, and can’t give them the only thing they really want - her time. Her wealthy, successful husband seems so much more human, - long-suffering even - , as he humours Dawn’s endless demands; but is he all that he seems?
Into this mix come the au pairs - young, pretty and looking for fun. Personality clashes are inevitable, as their hosts expect childcare and cooking, whilst the girls are here to party. Marie-France, however, is different; her own mother came to Corrywood as an au pair, and went home pregnant - now Marie-France wants to find her father. Her impoverished but glamorous mother won’t even tell her his name; her boyfriend thinks she’s being unfaithful. She may be the best mother’s help on Jilly’s books, but her secret agenda ruffles the feathers of certain respectable locals - some of them not a million miles from Jilly’s own front door.
Janey Fraser has written a great story - we really do want to know what is going to happen to everyone, especially Marie-France - with characters who come to life and involve us in their struggles. Although the tone of the book is light and breezy, it also addresses more serious issues - culture clash, infidelity, bereavement, loneliness and parenting are all examined en route to a happy, if predictable, ending. A feel-good novel that manages to avoid many of the cliches of its genre.
Reviewed by Rosemary Kaye
Thanks to the publishers for the review copy of this book.
Thursday, 30 August 2012
Wednesday, 22 August 2012
Thursday, 16 August 2012
Sunday, 12 August 2012
Monday, 6 August 2012
Friday, 20 July 2012
Sunday, 15 July 2012
Saturday, 19 May 2012
Saturday, 5 May 2012
Tuesday, 10 April 2012
Balancing on the edge of the world by Elizabeth Baines is an intense collection of short stories, each on the theme of power – finding it, keeping it and losing it.
Baines’ characterisations are particularly vivid, ranging from comic to tragic but always retaining their believability. I laughed out loud in places but was incredibly moved and sometimes frustrated in others. The collection plays with different voices and points of view, keeping your attention from story to story, and I could clearly see the influence of Baines’ dramatic work for radio and stage.
The collection of 14 stories covers a lot of ground, from magic to metaphysics, while looking at “cool hard edges” and “the pain that had caused them”. My favourite pieces are Daniel Smith Disappears Off the Face of the Earth which contrasts one life-altering moment in the life of a teenage boy with “all the times and places in the history of the world” and Power, the haunting story of a young girl listening to her parent’s relationship fall apart.
Reviewed by Claire Marriott
Monday, 30 January 2012
By Titania Hardie
The House Of The Wind weaves together two plot lines, one set in modern day San Francisco and one in Tuscany in 1347. As the novel progresses the links between the two stories become more obvious and ultimately marry together beautifully.
The present day narrative begins very dramatically with the death of the fiancé of the main character Madeline. Her numbness following this event colours her personal life and her professional life and results in her family sending her to Tuscany, thus starting the long healing process.
The main character in the 1347 thread is Mia, and she’s also been bereaved. We learn that she has lost her mother in brutal circumstances and has been rendered mute. Mia is also in need of healing and her journey to recovery is triggered by the arrival of a beautiful and compassionate traveller.
The two stories work very well together. It took me longer to get into the historical narrative, but I think that’s the way it should be, and certainly as I read on I became equally wrapped up in it.
Both storylines are equally full of romance, action, pain and intrigue. Madeline and Mia are both fantastic characters
As well as great characters, this novel is notable for its fantastic settings and the way in which geographical locations become an integral part to the story. From the hustle bustle of San Francisco to the calm and serenity of the Tuscan countryside, the settings enhance the story and provide convincing atmosphere.
For an intriguing, absorbing and multi-faceted read I highly recommend this book.
Reviewed by Helen M Hunt
With thanks to the publishers for the review copy of this book.
Saturday, 21 January 2012
I just finished 'The Rook' and I began to worry about writing a review that would do the rating I plan to give this book some justice. I started making notes about my impressions before I was even a quarter through the book. It made such an impression on me that I went to find the author's website so that I could follow him on Twitter. I started feeding my thoughts into Goodreads as I got through different parts of the book, which is something I never do. I typically post Twitter updates but this seemed easier so that it would note the percentage I was at on my Kindle Fire when I made my note. I stopped reading yesterday and became concerned that I would not get to see more of this intriguing story after I finished the book. I jumped on the Internet and went to Daniel O’Malley’s website and saw that he has plans to do more stories in the Chequy world.
As I finished posting an update early yesterday on Goodreads I caught a glimpse of the overall ratings of the book and thought - impossible. We all read something and get vastly different impressions of what we read. Some things work for us and some things don’t. The beginning of this book did move so fast and have such a convoluted beginning that I had to re-read some parts. When I caught on to how things worked I knew I was one of the people for whom this book worked very much.
'The Rook' was one of those books that I knew I wanted to read and was watching for at least a month before its release date. I was drawn to it just from reading the synopsis and kept hoping for it to be released early. I bought and downloaded it first thing the morning it was released and made the mistake of taking a peek at it before starting work. It was a mistake because I was so totally enthralled that I wanted to send an email that I was leaving for the day and go find a good cup of coffee and a quiet, comfortable place to read for hours. I did tear myself from the book until that night and was really happy that I did not have to teach at the university that night.
This book has something for just about everyone. If you want a mystery, it is there. If you love action, the fight scenes with cool supernatural powers are there. If you like a bit of horror or gore, there is a bit of that too. It is not for romance readers, though there are a couple of irons in the fire that might prove interesting. One of the great things about this book that I wanted to mention separately was the author’s humor. I finally used the highlight feature of my Kindle Fire because there were several parts in this book that literally made me laugh out loud. A great example was when Myfanwy and her assistant Ingrid left a very important meeting and Myfanwy was still feeling things out from the memory loss. She asked Ingrid her impressions from the meeting and the scene went something like this. “Yes, I want to hear your thoughts on what we just saw”, Myfanwy said enthusiastically. “Did you think I brought you along for kicks? That was a classic date, with snacks and a show, and now I expect you to deliver the goods”. There are so many more humorous situations throughout the book.
Let’s take a look at the characters. Our heroine, Myfanwy, is pretty much the kind to whom most of us can relate. She is thrown into her world in the most terrorizing circumstances, with no memory and surrounded by dead bodies. We follow the person that Myfanwy becomes in her new life as she learns about her important position in a secret organization. She doesn’t just jump in and suddenly know how her powers work and kick butt in the name of justice. She has serious growing pains as she is thrown into situation after situation where she has to learn not only who she is becoming, but she also has to learn who Myfanwy was before things unfolded. Ingrid is a bit of a wild card because she is the person closest to Myfanwy as her executive assistant. There is an intricate system in place in the Chequy that utilizes some of the nomenclature of the game of chess. One of the characters that came in towards the end that I really liked was L’il Pawn Alan (No this is not his name or title. He is Pawn Alan but his stature and personality earned him this nickname in Myfanwy’s head) who, like Myfanwy, turns out to be more than meets the eye.
I can say that this book was a wonderful experience and I definitely look forward to more work from Daniel O’Malley!
Reviewed by Lady Techie