Author Archives: Karen

The Secret Shopper’s Revenge by Kate Harrison

Synopsis (from back page)

Imagine shopping for a living, homing in on size-zero haute couture and shopping the shopgirls. Welcome to the world of the Mystery Shopper.

New mum Emily wants revenge on the stick-thin assistants who laugh at her post-baby tummy and post-baby budget. But frumpiness has its advantages when you’re wielding a secret camera. Store manager Sandie has a lifelong love of retail. Then she’s fitted up by an ambitious assistant and secret shopping is the only way to keep her passion alive. And glamorous widow Grazia can’t leave behind the high life, despite her chronically low bank balance. The more she’s buying and spying – the less time she has to mourn her husband.

They’re Charlie’s Shopping Angels, controlled by a mysterious figure who sends them assignments from heaven – and the occasional one from hell…

Review

Even though I’m not much of a shopper myself, in fact I hate it, the title of this book (along with the cover but more on that later) had me intrigued and after spotting it in my local library decided to give it a go…

Now having read it all I can say is that this is without a doubt a really enjoyable read that had me gripped right from the word go.

The story is actually told from the perspective of all three of the main characters, which although potentially could have been a bit of a disaster actually works extremely well. All three of them are strong, determined women who all have one thing in common – loneliness – but when fate brings them together it’s not long before friendship blossoms and it’s this friendship which is the main theme of this book…along with shopping of course.

While on the subject of shopping, the whole Charlie’s Angel set-up was a really novel way of doing it and made mystery shopping sound so much fun, even for someone like me who hates shopping with a passion. The whole idea of secretly filming nasty shop assistants with the potential of getting them fired will no doubt appeal to a lot of women, particularly those that have a bad experience with one in the past – secret shopping may be the way to get your revenge girls!

As previously mentioned the cover of this book was one of the reasons I picked it up and even though I know we should never judge a book by it’s cover, it is ultimately quite often the cover that first attracts us to a book and the cover of this one is very eye-catching to say the least. In fact it’s probably one of the best covers I’ve seen in a long time. The dust jacket is actually a bag while the cover itself is bright and colourful with a design that just screams ‘read me’ so full marks to the designer!

This is a really quick and easy read and although this is only my second Kate Harrison book, it is definitely my favourite so far.

Reviewed by Karen.
See the cover, and buy from amazon.co.uk

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling

Synopsis (from back page)

Harry Potter is a wizard. He is in his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Little does he know that this year will be just as eventful as the last…

Review

This, the second book in the series, carries on from where the last one left off and is just as good if not better.

All of our favourite characters are back, along with the introduction of a few new ones including that of the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher Professor Lockhart who has to be one of the funniest (minor) characters in the series particularly during the latter part of this book.

Like it’s predecessor the majority of the action takes place at Hogwarts however Harry does visit the Weasley’s house, The Burrow, for the first time and the descriptions used by the author to describe it are really detailed – so much so that you can quite literally picture it in your minds eye as if you are right there standing alongside Harry as he casts his eye over it for the first time.

While on the subject of the Weasley’s I have to admit that I really love the interaction between the various family members and the banter between the twins Fred and George is quite frankly hilarious at times. They really do make the perfect double act!

Although slightly darker than the previous book this is another hugely entertaining book that draws you in to the magical world of Hogwarts from the outset. Simply stunning!

Reviewed by Karen.

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Angel by Katie Price

Synopsis (from back page)

When Angel is discovered by a model agent, her life changes for ever. Young, beautiful and sexy, she seems destined for a successful career and, very quickly, the glitzy world of celebrity fame and riches becomes her new home.

But then she meets Mickey, the lead singer of a boy band, who is as irresistible as he is dangerous, and Angel realises that a rising star can just as quickly fall…

Review

I was initially a little sceptical about reading this book, mainly because of it’s connection to Jordan and the fact that it was ghost-written, however my nosiness finally got the better of me and now having read it I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised. Now don’t get me wrong it’s certainly not going to be winning any great literary prizes any time soon but if you want to just while away a few hours with some fairly frothy chick lit then it certainly works quite well.

The storyline itself focuses on the life of a glamour model and the seedier side of ‘celebrity’ life and although I personally wasn’t all that keen on the main character’s occupation or more to the point her drug habits, she was overall a fairly likable character albeit a little naive at times. I do have to admit though to being a little shocked at the things she was getting up to, particularly when you take into consideration that when the story first starts she’s only just turning seventeen. I don’t know maybe I’ve just led a very sheltered life but I did think that a couple of the subject matters were a little irresponsible to say the least when the book is primarily marketed at young girls.

Overall this is a fairly entertaining and enjoyable read although how Katie Price has the audacity to put her name to it when we all know she didn’t write it is beyond me. Okay so she may have come up with the initial plot line – which lets fact it is a pretty much carbon copy of her own life so it wasn’t exactly any great stretch of the imagination – but in all honesty any credit that is due should go to the real author, Rebecca Farnworth.

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling

Synopsis (from back cover)

Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy – until he is rescued by a beetle-eyed giant of a man, enrols at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, learns to play Quidditch and does battle in a deadly duel. The Reason: Harry Potter is a wizard!

Review

I’m sure this book needs no introduction and if you don’t know who Harry Potter is by now then you should be ashamed of yourself!

With that opening statement I guess it wont come as any big surprise to you to hear that this isn’t the first time I’ve read this book, and it definitely wont be the last. In fact if truth be told I’ve actually lost count of just how many times I’ve read it but I can quite honestly say that each time I pick it up I find it more and more enjoyable and more often than not I end up noticing things that I didn’t pick up on first, second or even third time around.

The attention to detail is quite literally superb and with the authors fantastic imagination it’s almost hard to believe that the magical world of Hogwarts is fictional. In fact if I’m entirely honest with you I have to admit that there is a part of me that secretly believes that it does indeed exist and that to my absolute horror I must be a Squib as I never received an invite! Oh the shame!

With very real, likable and imaginative characters that you fall in love with from the outset, the story is told in a way that makes you feel like you are right there with Harry as he starts his first year at school.

Although pure escapism, the story itself is totally believable and although primarily aimed at children is in fact suitable for all ages whether young or old.

A highly enjoyable and hugely entertaining read.

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Paper Moon by Marion Husband

Synopsis (from back page)

The passionate love affair between Spitfire pilot Bobby Harris and photographer’s model Nina Tate lasts through the turmoil of World War II, but is tested when his plane is shot down. Disfigured and wanting to hide from the world, Bobby retreats from Bohemian Soho to the empty house his grandfather has left him, a house haunted by the secrets of his childhood. Here the mysteries of his past are gradually unravelled.

Review

Paper Moon is an extremely well written and moving story that portrays life in post-war Britain very convincingly.

The story focuses mainly on Bobby Harris, a spitfire pilot who is left badly disfigured after his plane is shot down. Bobby is a wonderful and very believable character whose back-story which is told in a series of flashbacks is quite literally heartbreaking at times. And while the deep dark secret at the centre of it is quite shocking it’s revealed in a very gentle manner rather than in a vulgar and tasteless way which is the route that many other writers would have taken in order to get more shock value out of it. As it is here the author doesn’t make it seem seedy and tasteless and the scene itself is over very quickly with the story as a whole more about how Bobby deals with the aftermath and the repercussions of it rather than focussing on the actual event itself.

The secondary character of Nina is also very likeable and believable although I did find her to be a little shallow at times. There are also a few other characters that are brought into the mix throughout the course of the book and although slightly confusing to begin with as you are not initially aware of how they fit into the story, things pan out nicely and by the end the characters have came full circle and yes there is a happy ending in store for those characters that we have come to know and love.

A wonderfully written and moving story that will have you wiping away the tears long after you’ve finished reading it.

On a side note Paper Moon is actually the sequel to The Boy I Love and if I hadn’t have known before hand that is was indeed a follow on I would never have guessed as it holds up as a stand alone book extremely well. Although I personally haven’t read the first one I can quite honestly say that it didn’t affect my enjoyment of this one and I certainly don’t feel as if I’ve missed out on anything…although saying that I would like to read The Boy I Love at some point in the future, if only to get the full gist of the story.

Reviewed by Karen.

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Left To Die by Lisa Jackson

Synopsis (from back cover)

Nothing is more terrifying than being left alone to die…

One by one, the victims are carefully captured, toyed with, then subjected to a slow and agonizing death. Piece by piece, his exquisite plan takes shape. The police can’t yet see the beauty of his work – but soon, very soon, they will…

In the lonely woods around Grizzly Falls, Montana, four bodies have been discovered. Detectives Selena Alvarez and Regan Pescoli have been hoping for a career-making case, but this is a nightmare. Even with the FBI involved, Selena and Regan have nothing to go on but a killer’s cryptic notes, and the unsettling knowledge that there is much worse to come…

When Jillian Rivers opens her eyes, she’s trapped in a mangled car. Then a stranger, claiming to be a trail guide named Zane MacGregor, pries her free. Though she’s grateful, something about him sets Jillian on edge. And if she knew what lay out there in the woods of Montana, she’d be truly terrified. Because someone is waiting…watching…poised to strike and make Jillian the next victim…

Review

I have to admit that when I first started reading this book and found that one of the very first characters we’re introduced to is actually someone who had previously been abducted by aliens and experimented on, I was a little apprehensive about what I was letting myself in for and was beginning to think that maybe Left To Die wasn’t quite the kind of book I thought it was going to be after all. However I’m glad to report that after getting over that little hurdle it actually turned into a really gripping read and although a little slow to begin with, it soon picked up the pace and it wasn’t long before I was completely hooked.

Along with the three main characters – Alvarez, Pescoli and Jillian – who incidentally are all equally strong and likable, you also have a very colourful cast of minor characters including that of Ivor the alien abductee and Grace the ghost whisperer, all of whom bring a real sense of community spirit to the story even if some of them are a little wacko.

The only other major player here is the Star-Crossed Killer himself and as we don’t really learn all that much about him and as his identity is still unanswered by the end of the book I don’t feel like I know enough about him to have much of an opinion although obviously it goes without saying that he’s a bit of a psycho. I do however have a sneaky suspicion that it’s someone that we have already met and I could even take a wild guess and name him, but then again I may be completely wrong and as I don’t want to embarrass myself or spoil your enjoyment of it I wont.

The only downside of the book is that the story does continue in a sequel, which I personally didn’t realise prior to starting this one and which I only came to realise when there was no clear end in sight and I was beginning to run out of pages. This also means that it finishes on a bit of a cliff-hanger with at least one of our three main characters lives in limbo. I personally would have preferred the story to have wound up in this book rather than have it dragged out into a second one, however this is just my personal preference. On the other hand it is a very clever ploy by the author as it almost guarantees that I’ll read the follow-up.

Overall Left To Die is a really good, gripping, edge of your seat thriller and I will definitely be keeping an eye open for more books from this author.

Reviewed by Karen.

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Wishful Thinking by Melissa Hill

Synopsis (from back page)

Three women with three very different lives board the train to Dublin. Each of them looking for something out of reach.

Every day Rosie Mitchell desperately misses her late husband Martin, but will giving her grown-up children everything they want bring her happiness? And is it too late for Rosie to carve out a new life and find a new purpose?

Recently married Dara Campbell, successful solicitor in her mid-30s, has it all but is blinded by memories. Dara can’t see that her fantasy is standing in the way of a happy marriage. When faced with a blast from the past Dara has some tough decisions to make.

Louise Patterson is only 24 but has had a tough start in life and now she’s determined to live for the moment, but will her drive to appear the party girl in the face of mounting debts be her undoing? And are her new friends all they appear to be?

Can these women learn to look forward and accept the good things already in their lives? As the train heads towards Dublin little do they know that fate has something else in store for them.

Rosie, Dara and Louise realise that wishes don’t just grant themselves. You have to take your wish, and make it happen all by yourself.

Review

Wishful Thinking follows the lives of three women who are all connected by the same train journey, a journey that they make each morning. The story actually starts on the day that the train fails to arrive at it’s final destination and instead derails just a few miles into it’s journey. It’s at this point that the story jumps back four months earlier and where we’re introduced to our main characters for the first time.

This opening chapter immediately grabs you and makes you want to keep reading, not that I would have given up anyway as I am a huge fan of the author, but as the story unfolds you can’t help but worry about the fates of the three women who you come to know and love as if they were real people.

All three of these women are extremely likable, if a little naive at times, and I think it’s this fact that makes them so real and believable. The problems they all have are ones that real women have to deal with and as a result you can relate to them about everything that’s happening in their own lives.

In fact as they are all so likable I’m actually finding it really difficult to pick a favourite, so with this in mind I’m going to go with Twix the spaniel who I came to love from the very first moment she was introduced. Such a sweet little dog and without giving anything away I had tears literally streaming down my face a couple of times during the scenes involving her…particularly that last one which has to be one of the saddest things I’ve ever read.

Another thing that I loved about this book, was the fact that the three main characters were connected or should I say their lives intertwined in other ways other than the fact that they all happened to take the same journey each morning and yet they never actually officially meet. I thought this was a really nice touch and one that I didn’t expect…I guess I thought they would all end up having more of a history together so the fact that they never even spoke was a nice little surprise.

I’ve now read all of Melissa’s books and have loved every single one of them and even though I don’t think the twists in this book were quite as shocking or as unexpected as the ones featured in her other books, this was still a really good and enjoyable read and one that I’m sure I will read again at some point in the future.

Another page-turner from a fantastic storyteller.

Reviewed by Karen.

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Those Faraday Girls by Monica McInerney

Synopsis (from back page)

Sometimes the memories that bind us together can also keep us apart…

As a child, Maggie Faraday grew up in a lively, unconventional household with her young mother, four very different aunts and eccentric grandfather. With her mother often away, all four aunts took turns looking after her – until, just weeks before Maggie’s sixth birthday, a shocking event changed everything.

Twenty years on, Maggie is living alone in New York City when a surprise visit from her grandfather brings a revelation and a proposition to reunite the family. As the Faraday’s gather in Ireland, Maggie begins to realise that the women she thought she knew so intimately all have something to hide…

Review

Those Faraday Girls is split into two parts, the first of which starts off in 1979 on the day that the youngest member of the Faraday clan announces she is pregnant at the age of just 17. The story then follows the family over the course of the next 6 years as the new addition arrives and turns all of their lives upside down before culminating in a shocking event that tears the family apart. The second part jumps ahead to 2006, where Leo, the head of the family is on a quest to track down and reunite the family for one last family Christmas together and it’s here where the story really gets going.

Although set between Australia, the US and Ireland this is a real family orientated saga.

From the outset you are drawn into the lives of each member of the Faraday family and as a result you come to know and care about them as if they were one of your own. All of the characters are extremely different and although some of their traits are not altogether likable, you can’t help but like them and as such you find yourself rooting for them – hoping that all of their hopes and dreams come true along the way.

The plotline is well thought out and the story itself extremely well written. The words flow from the page in a way where you feel you are experiencing events as they happen rather than just reading about it from the outside.

Those Faraday Girls is a tale full of warmth, love and humour that will captivate you from the outset.

Reviewed by Karen.

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The Last To Know by Melissa Hill

Synopsis (from back page)

Eve knows what she wants. After nine good years and two lovely children, it’s about time Liam made an honest woman of her. After all, they’re as good as married anyway.

Eve’s sister Sam knows more than she should. Sam has always thought that Eve’s too good for Liam. And she can’t help but be suspicious about the long business trips to Australia that take him away from his family all too often.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Brooke knows nothing. Then a mysterious delivery arrives and promises to change her life forever. It seems someone doesn’t want Brooke to be the last to know…

Review

The Last To Know is a very cleverly written book that actually tells a story within a story and the way in which this is achieved is something that I personally have never come across before but one which I found to work extremely well here.

This book is in no way predictable or boring. In fact this one, like Hill’s previous ones, makes compulsive reading and will not only keep you on the edge of your seat but will also have you turning the pages long into the night.

I, probably like many other readers, had my own theories and ideas as to how the storyline would unfold but just as I thought I knew where the book was headed – bam – I was hit between the eyes with one hell of a twist which was not only completely unexpected but was totally shocking in itself and which left me literally gasping for breath. However this is not the only twist in the story, the second one which comes in the final half a dozen chapters or so is just as unexpected as the first, however it does tie up a few loose ends as to how all the characters are intertwined so in that respect it’s a very welcome one.

This is without a doubt an extremely compulsive read and one which I would highly recommend to everyone.

Reviewed by Karen.

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PS I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

Synopsis (from back page)

Childhood sweethearts, they could finish each other’s sentences and even when they fought, they laughed. No one could imagine Holly and Gerry without each other.

Until the unthinkable happens. Gerry’s death devastates Holly. But as her 30th birthday looms, Gerry comes back to her. He’s left her a bundle of notes, gently guiding Holly into her new life without him, each note signed ‘PS, I love you’.

As the notes are gradually opened, and as the year unfolds, Holly is both cheered up and challenged. The man who knows her better than anyone sets out to teach her that life goes on. With some help from her friends, and her noisy and loving family, Holly finds herself laughing, crying, singing, dancing – and being braver than ever before.

Life is for living, she realises – but it always helps if there’s an angel watching over you.

Review

PS I Love You has a very unique storyline and although in a way it’s a very simply written book it has the ability to grab you by the heartstrings and pull you in to what turns out to be one hell of a roller coaster ride of emotion.

The premise of the book, that being of a young woman coming to terms with the loss of her husband, could potentially have been rather hard to pull off however Ahern does it extremely well particularly as this is her first novel but you can’t fault her for the powerful emotion she manages to convey.

All of the characters, including that of the main character Holly, are ones that you can’t help but fall in love with and whether you’re laughing out loud at the friends drunken antics during Holly’s birthday night out or whether you have tears streaming down your face at witnessing Holly struggle to cope during her more private moments alone, this book is guaranteed to make you keep turning the pages – a definite page-turner if ever there was one.

This was actually a reread for me but I can quite honestly say that I enjoyed it just as much second time around as I did the first time.

Reviewed by Karen.

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