Thursday, 10 February 2011

Walking Back to Happiness by Lucy Dillon

Newly widowed Juliet has nothing left in her life since the death of Ben except their dog, Minton and daytime TV.  Despite her family's best efforts it is only when she is forced into looking after her parents ageing Labrador, Coco, that she begins to face the world. She finds that dogs are easier to cope with than people, but through the doggie network she finds herself in great demand for her dog-walking, pet sitting skills.  An attractive spaniel leads to her meeting her gorgeous, freshly divorced owner too.
With her fledgling career, Juliet and Minton are still rattling around a tatty semi with the loudest neighbours ever.  Despite her reluctance to become involved in the Kelly's raucous rock 'n' roll lifestyle, their lodger Lorcan, becomes a trusted friend as he gradually helps refurbish the "forever house" in her own way and gently helps to become more sociable.
As she moves past the first year alone, Juliet realises that she needs people around her and she has to rebuild not just her own life but the relationships within her family.

I was looking forward to this as I loved "Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts" and this has the same type of pretty, twinkly cover!  It revisits the town of Longhampton and gives brief references to the dog rescue centre and a few characters from the previous book.  It's definitely a dog-lovers book and Minton is a complete star!
I did enjoy it, but not quite as much as "Lost Dogs", mainly as it seemed to take a while to get going.  Juliet's grief is (obviously) the major point of the narrative, but that also means that she doesn't do or say a lot whilst in the throes of despair.  Juliet is a pleasant enough character and her actions are totally believable, but she's a bit dull.  Her mother, the nicely interfering Diane, is realistic and well meaning, but I didn't really get to like the high-powered sister, Louise.  Post-baby crisis didn't excuse her behaviour or attitude for me, I just found her a spoilt brat, type.  The Michael and Lorcan set up was no contest for me...give me a handyman anytime!  The Kelly family next door were light relief and added much needed humour at times.
It's a gentle, cosy, heartwarming read and handles a bittersweet theme very well.  I will definitely buy her next book, it just didn't quite hit the mark as much as her earlier one with me.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Godmother: The Secret Story of Cinderella

Lillian lives in a seedy flat in New York and works in a bookstore.  She recalls her previous life as a fairy and how being chosen to be Cinderella's Fairy Godmother was her undoing.  Lil is banished from the magical land and forced to live as a human where she grows old and has to hide her beautiful white feathered wings.  Flashbacks of her previous life show how the rather vain and selfish Lillian seeks to get her own wish rather than ensuring Cinderella and the Prince fulfil their destinies. Now Lil is lonely, miserable and desperate to return to her fairy friends, she sees her chance to redeem herself through helping her bookstore boss, George find true love with the quirky Veronica.
What starts as an interesting premise disintegrates as the story develops and the reader is left with the dilemma of deciding whether it's a fairytale ending or a serious case of undiagnosed mental health issues brought on by guilt and trauma in Lillian's youth.
Lillian is pretty unlikeable at any stage in the book and everyone else is so thinly characterised to be completely insignificant.  There's also one particular image quite early on that was just eeeuch!
So I think it's pretty clear that I didn't like this book.
Godmother came as an Amazon recommendation and as I love twists on traditional fairy tales, I assumed this would have been just right for me...unfortunately, not. I just didn't get it.

Monday, 7 February 2011

This Charming Man by Marian Keyes

Charming politican Paddy De Courcy is finally getting married.  This announcement throws several women into turmoil as Paddy isn't all he first appears.  The book charts the history of Lola, Grace, Marnie and Alicia's relationship with him and how he affected their lives.  All four women write from their divergent viewpoints.
Lola is a dippy stylist who thought she'd met the love of her life.  When she finds out about his forthcoming wedding to Alicia, she goes into meltdown and is convinced by her band of devoted friends to drop out and recover in a small cottage in a village filled with Irish stereotypes (a bit like the old TV show Ballykissangel).  Here she gets a fling with a surfer dude and has her Friday nights taken over by a bunch of cross-dressers.  As she grows used to life without Paddy she starts to remember what her relationship was really about and that love wasn't what kept her bound to him.
Grace is a journalist with an odd family, a beloved aging Auntie with cancer, a fantastic bloke and an alcoholic twin sister, Marnie.  Grace is frantically trying to keep all the balls in the air but a guilty secret is making it really difficult.  Marnie is a deluded drinker who had the perfect life but throws it away with her empty vodka bottles.  The sisters know Paddy from way back when he was Marnie's first love and he's proven to be an impossible act to follow.  Alicia is the lucky lady who's going to marry Paddy, but does she know what's she's letting herself in for?
I ought to say I have a good history with Marian Keyes, I relied on her earlier books as my major holiday reads and loved them.  However, in the past few years her novels seem to have become thicker and thicker and as I haven't had a pure beach holiday for such a long time, I have missed most of her later books and so got this from a friend to do a bit of a catch up!
Sadly, I didn't think this was great... (dare I say it?) it just seemed a bit boring, lacked humour and was way too long, it could have easily lost 300 pages.
I know Keyes can do the "darker" stuff, particularly addiction as some of her earlier stuff touched on, but alcoholism, depression, sex trafficking, domestic violence and the machinations of politicians aren't what I want in my chick lit.  She does cover the horrendous themes sensitively, but it just didn't sit right with the pretty, fluffy cover.
The Marnie sections were almost indulgent in their misery and I didn't care enough about her to wallow in all the gloom and self pity; Grace was almost as bad in that she inspired little empathy.  The only flashes of humour came from Lola and due to the other aspects of the book, the silly situations she finds herself in managed to feel a bit forced.  The abbreviated, text talk writing of Lola's sections were also annoying to read...yes, they were in character, but I'd have preferred it to be done differently.
I still think Marian Keyes is brilliant...she's a witty and clever lady, but this isn't (in my opinion) her best.