Saturday 31 May 2014

Book Review The Summer Without You by Karen Swan

Rowena Tipton isn't looking for a new life, just a new adventure; something to while away the months as her long-term boyfriend presses pause on their relationship before they become engaged. But when a chance encounter at a New York wedding leads to an audition for a coveted house-share in the Hamptons - the beach scene for Manhattan's elite - suddenly a new life is exactly what she's got.
Stretching before her is a summer with three eclectic housemates, long days on white-sand beaches and parties on gilded tennis courts. But high rewards bring high stakes and Rowena soon finds herself caught in the crossfire of a vicious intimidation campaign. Alone for the first time in her adult life, she has no one to turn to but a stranger who is everything she doesn't want - but possibly everything she needs.

My Musings
Romance in the Hamptons, a perfect Summer read but as usual Karen Swan blends a richer story of friendship, loss, intrigue and murder set against an idyllic setting.

Ro is left in the lurch when her long term boyfriend decides to go off for 6 months with 2 days notice. By chance she ends up sharing a cottage in The Hamptons, play pad for the rich and famous, with Hump, Greg and Bobbi who's own stories interweave and evolve throughout.
Does Ro stop moping after her boyfriend, she she learn to be more independent and will she ever stop wearing his clothes? At first you feel sorry for Ro left in the lurch  then irritated she can be a big clingy and wet. You want to give her a kick at times.

Enter her gorgeous neighbor, Longstory who commissions Ro to put together a film of his family from old footage. This part of the book is the most poignant and heartrending as the description of the footage comes in diary form and you feel like your spying on their life as does Ro. She also warms to him through these snippets of his life as does the reader. This growing relationship between them is really endearing and a little tinged with sadness but the chemistry between Ro and Longstory is there for all to see.

Drop in some environmental issues, treachery and murder and you have the makings for a sparkling summer read that ticks all the boxes.

If you like this you will enjoy
Christmas at Claridges by Karen Swan +Review
Prima Donna by Karen Swan

Monday 19 May 2014

Book Review The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

A gripping novel set in Belle Époque Paris and inspired by the real-life model for Degas’s Little Dancer Aged Fourteen and a notorious criminal trial of the era.

Paris. 1878. Following their father’s sudden death, the van Goethem sisters find their lives upended. Without his wages, and with the small amount their laundress mother earns disappearing into the absinthe bottle, eviction from their lodgings seems imminent. With few options for work, Marie is dispatched to the Paris Opéra, where for a scant seventy francs a month, she will be trained to enter the famous ballet. Her older sister, Antoinette, finds work — and the love of a dangerous young man — as an extra in a stage adaptation of Émile Zola’s naturalist masterpiece L’Assommoir.

Marie throws herself into dance and is soon modelling in the studio of Edgar Degas, where her image will forever be immortalized as Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. Antoinette, meanwhile, descends lower and lower in society, and must make the choice between a life of honest labor and the more profitable avenues open to a young woman of the Parisian demimonde — that is, unless her love affair derails her completely.

Set at a moment of profound artistic, cultural, and societal change, The Painted Girls is a tale of two remarkable sisters rendered uniquely vulnerable to the darker impulses of “civilized society.”

My Musings
Two sisters who struggle to survive in the underbelly of society in The Belle Epoque of Paris. Both have dreams that lead them to make wrong decisions and you are drawn into this dark and mysterious world of the not so glamorous life in the theatre. You can see and smell  their Paris in which young girls used and abused by rich men. This is fascinating tale based on fact that Buchanan has spun into a vibrant dark world. These few threads of truth draw the reader in and really make us care about the girls and their survival. There is something magical about The Little Ballerina by Degas and the book really imagines and brings life to the art of Degas. Particularly fascinating to me was the relationship between Degas and Marie, the younger sister who models for him for a couple of yearas. It is an impersonal and cold relationship of a voyeur studying his model and creating something beautiful and sensuous. This love and passion are strictly kept for his drawings, paintings and finally the creation of his statue. There is no real friendship from him or caring or interest. The love in the book is imbued into the relationship between the sisters and what they will sacrifice for each other. A beautiful dark novel for those interested in ballet, theatre, art and historical novels.

For more books on ballet or art see my two book lists below
A List of Books for Ballet Lovers
A List of Books For Art Lovers

Tuesday 6 May 2014

Book Review Happily Ever After by Harriet Evans


You can’t escape the ties that bind. The past catches up with you no matter how far you try to run…
This is a story of a girl who doesn’t believe in happy endings. Or happy families. It’s the story of Eleanor Bee, a shy, book-loving girl who vows to turn herself into someone bright, shiny and confident, someone sophisticated. Someone who knows how life works.
But life has a funny way of catching us unawares. Turns out that Elle doesn’t know everything about love. Or life. Or how to keep the ones we love safe….
Absorbing, poignant and unforgettable, Happily Ever After is a compelling story of a fractured family and a girl who doesn’t believe in love.

My Musings
I always liked Harriet Evans especially after reading her first book, Going Home but this was far darker than her previous books which I wasn't expecting. It deals with Elle at different stages of her life and her alcoholic mum, how it effects her and her family and relationships. 
It does have have romance in it but I felt this dealt with Elle's growth and how she deals with the drama in her life. There are times you find Elle very irritating and I felt she brought the disasters on herself. Sometimes you want to shake her. But then you think well aren't we all guilty of doing silly things at the wrong time. It does deal sensitively with the scarring nature other peoples addictions can have I feel but someone who has dealt with this in real life may think differently. The romantic element is somewhat an afterthought although there are some really romantic moments. Its also a really big book and at times got a bit fed up and thought she may have needed a stricter editor. Its supposed to be Chick lit but I felt it was trying to be a more serious and the book cover did not portray this at all. This was  more about the struggle to lead a life after coming from a dysfunctional family. Not really the sort of escapism I was looking for or used to by Harriet Evans. It is worth a read but its not her usual light read which is why I rated it OK.

Saturday 3 May 2014

Book Review Goblin Fruit by Laini Taylor


From the author of the astounding must-read novel Daughter of Smoke and Bone, comes a vividly imaginative short story, Goblin Fruit (from the award-winning short story collection Lips Touch: Three Times). 

Kizzy wanted it all so bad her soul leaned half out of her body hungering after it, and that was what drove the goblins wild, her soul hanging out there like an un-tucked shirt.

Beware of souls that want too much. 

Kizzy's family are from the Old Country. They cut the heads off chickens, have anvils in their yard and sing songs in a language that her teachers have never heard of. They believe in talking foxes, witch soldiers and goblins who crave the souls of a particular type of girl. Girls who wish they were prettier, had normal relatives and, most of all, were noticed by the boy they have fallen for at school. 

My Musings

This is a mix of gothic/ grimms fairy tales. Three Dark and seductive stories . The shorter stories lack the punch of her Daughter of Smoke and Bone series but still an enjoyable holiday read if your a fan, Which I am!

Each story recounts different types of seduction and love. They go from modern day to a past time in India and introduce goblins, demons and monsters. All the heroines are fiesty and strong but not all have a happy ending. There are two sides to every coin and sacrifices have to be made. Nothing is black and white in the world of Laini Taylor which is what attracts me to her books. Her visual building of different worlds and characters are astounding. Boy does she have an imagination! I enjoyed just for that.