BLURB: “When Anna takes over Longhampton’s bookshop, it’s her dream come true. And not just because it gets her away from her rowdy stepchildren and their hyperactive dalmatian. As she unpacks boxes of childhood classics, Anna can’t shake the feeling that maybe her own fairytale ending isn’t all that she’d hoped for. But as the stories of love, adventure, secret gardens and giant peaches breathe new life into the neglected shop, Anna and her customers get swept up in the magic too. Even Anna’s best friend Michelle – who categorically doesn’t believe in true love and handsome princes – isn’t immune. But when secrets from Michelle’s own childhood come back to haunt her, and disaster threatens Anna’s home, will the wisdom and charm of the stories in the bookshop help the two friends – and those they love – find their own happy ever afters?”
REVIEW: I absolutely adored this book right from the moment I read the blurb. I think the fact that I run a book blog pretty much screams from the rooftops that I’m an avid book lover, and Anna has what would be pretty much my dream job – running an independent bookshop with lots of personal touches that becomes an area of significance for the local community, and causes even those characters whom we think will never get along to forge bonds. What is less known about me from readers of the blog is that I also adore dogs. We rescued a retired greyhound in 2013 and he is the most important thing in the world to me; I don’t know what I did without him in my life to cuddle, push my books on the floor, fall asleep on my laptop and tear up the grass in the garden by pretending he’s still running on a racetrack. So it was lovely for me to find a chick lit book that combined my two favourite things (other than pizza) – books and dogs – and, more importantly, that wasn’t predictable. This is a problem that often puts me off reading chick lit, but this book was far more meaningful than any ordinary fluffy piece of fiction. Dillon deals with real issues while still making the book entertaining, heartwarming and extremely difficult to put down! Anna’s struggles with her home life, where she feels out of place after her husband’s three daughters from a previous marriage – Becca, Chloe and Lily – arrive with their dog Pongo (who sounds very similar to my own dog in terms of his behaviour!) and soak up all of her husband’s attention and her own time. Anna’s desire for a baby of her own is something I think Dillon writes brilliantly; the reader really feels for Anna, and feels her pain when others around her get their wish while she is left looking after other people’s children rather than her own. Anna’s difficulties are mirrored by her best friend Michelle, who is pretty miserable herself after having to abandon her own dog in order to run away from a psychologically abusive ex-husband, whom her family all adore and are desperate for her to return to. Both women form a strong bond, and even when their ups and downs begin to turn them away from each other, this is still a story of real and true friendship, and of realistic relationships that aren’t always as perfect – or as fulfilling – as we might expect them to be. When I finished the book I was sad to leave the characters behind, as they are all so likeable and I had grown attached to many of them; especially the dogs, Pongo and Tavish. I would highly recommend this book and look forward to reading more of Dillon’s novels!
BLURB: “Princess Mia’s life in New York City is one glamorous whirlwind. Not only does she have to deal with nosy gossip columnists on a daily basis and the paparazzi following her every move, she’s also expected to enchant wealthy strangers at royal engagements. Speaking of engagements…Mia’s gorgeous long-term boyfriend Michael has popped The Question on an exotic Caribbean island. Finally they’re ready to settle down…or so she thought. When Mia and Michael return from their romantic hideaway, they discover that they are embroiled in a scandal of majestic proportions! A scandal that could turn the normally calm Michael into a runaway groom….Worse still, a scheming politico is trying to force Mia’s father from the throne. Mia may be ready to wed, but is she ready to rule as well?”
REVIEW: I grew up absolutely obsessed with the original Princess Diaries series. When I was younger I used to get the audiobooks out from my local library and listen to them before bed, and in my teenage years I devoured every book in the series over and over, and cried my eyes out when I finally finished what I thought would be the final instalment. I had always identified with the shy, geeky, awkward girl that Mia was on the inside, and losing her felt like losing a friend I’d had for years. So you can imagine how excited I was when I read that a new installment was to be released. Cabot has not changed Mia a bit, despite the events that have occurred in the life of our favourite Genovian Princess since she graduated from high school in the last book; her stepfather Mr Gianni is dead, leaving the way open for her father to win back her mother at last; her close friends Tina Hakim-Baba and Boris Pelowski (now an international superstar) have broken up; and she is being attacked by protesters, and a mysterious stalker, over her plans to allow refugees into Genovia.Thankfully, some things have stayed the same for Mia; her boyfriend Michael has remained a constant and I was ecstatic to read more about their relationship – and for him to propose! – in this novel. She also still has her best friend Lilly Moscovitz, Michael’s sister, and her beloved cat Fat Louie. Over the course of the novel, however, which retains Cabot’s witty, funny and briliiantly relatable style, many twists and turns take place which make Mia’s path to the throne even more stressful than usual. I don’t want to spoil them here, but I will say that there will be many surprises for previous readers of the series, all of them guaranteed to bring a smile. I can’t wait to see if Cabot is going to write any further books about the brilliant Mia Thermopolis, and I will certainly be reading them if she does.
BLURB: “Eight years ago, Anne rejected the man she loved because her friends and family persuaded her that he wasn’t rich or important enough. In all that time, she’s never found anyone to match Captain Wentworth – and now he’s back: successful, sophisticated and still single. Unfortunately for Anne, it’s his turn to reject her. With her snobbish father and spoiled sister always ready to embarrass her in polite society, and her refusal of Wentworth still fresh in everyone’s mind, Anne wonders if she’ll ever find the courage to follow her heart again. And if she does, what can she do to regain the affections of her Captain?”
REVIEW: I’m currently taking a module on Jane Austen and Georgian society at university, so I thought it would be a good time to go back to some of the novels that I couldn’t remember as well. Persuasion was one of the first Austen novels I read and, as a thirteen-year-old girl, I found myself feeling a great affinity with Anne – doesn’t ever girl have some point in her teenage years where she is spurned by a boy and consequently feels invisible? I know I did, and because of this relationship that my younger self developed with Anne, she has always been one of my favourite Austen characters. In returning to the novel whilst being in a much more stable position in my personal life, I found myself feeling much more sympathy for Anne than I had done when I was younger, when I simply saw Anne as an echo of myself. Anne Elliot seems to be the only rational, humane person in a family ruled by pride, stubbornness and snobbery. Her father refuses to face up to their money problems while her sister, Mary, constantly expects Anne to be at her beck and call and frequently embarrasses her with her overbearing nature; a nature that does not sit well in polite society. Anne is constantly forced to make sacrifices for her family; missing out on society gatherings to look after Mary’s sick child, for example, or playing the pianoforte while everyone around her dances and is merry (though this does appear to be something she herself prefers, as she clearly does not relish being the centre of attention). The biggest sacrifice Anne makes, however, is that of her own happiness, and this occurs before the timeline in which the book is set. Pressured by her interfering family and friends, Anne feels compelled to reject a proposal from the man she loves, Captain Wentworth. Consequently, when the book opens, she is twenty-seven and still on the shelf, with little hopes of getting married – until Captain Wentworth returns to Uppercross. He seems to pay little attention to Anne and appears to be instead focusing his attention on Louisa Musgrove, whilst Anne is unwilling drawn into an affection with Mr Elliot, her cousin, who turns out to be not quite as amiable as he seems. Being an Austen novel, both Wentworth and Anne eventually realise that misunderstanding and miscommunication have led to them delaying their reunion and, as they are both still in love, they are finally able to be joined in marriage after eight years of misery and longing on both their parts. I enjoyed this novel just as much the second time around as I did the first time I read it, and also found new messages within that I hadn’t understood or noticed when I read the novel before – for this reason, I would highly recommend it.
BLURB: “It’s 1923 and London is a whirl of jazz, dancing and parties. And Violet, Daisy, Poppy and Rose Derrington are desperate to be part of it. Stuck in an enormous crumbling house in the country, with no money and no fashionable dresses, the excitement seems a lifetime away. Luckily the girls each have a secret ambition:
Rose – The Novelist
Poppy – The Jazz Musician
Daisy – The Film Director
Violet – The Perfect Debutante who will catch the eye of a Prince…”
REVIEW: I do still love to read some YA fiction every now and then, especially if it’s historical, as it keeps me interested without me having to think too hard like I do with uni books! The story of the four Derrington sisters is a fun and engaging story, simple and easy to read, although many parts of it often felt a little rush. The sisters, however, are all extremely relatable and the reader grows very fond of them; particularly Daisy, the sister through whom the story is focused. The idea of each sister having a different ambition – and very different personalities – allows many different kinds of reader to find a sister that they can relate to, giving the book a high level of accessibility to a wide range of teenage girls. The idea of the high society and a debutante ball is also something that will appeal to many teenage girls, and is something I myself still find fascinating and exciting – Harrison’s descriptions of such social scenes bought them vividly to life and made them all the more enjoyable. I would recommend this if you’re looking for a very light read, particularly if you enjoy YA fiction with a bit of history thrown in :)
BLURB: “Part biography, part cultural history, The Creation of Anne Boleyn is a fascinating reconstruction of Anne’s life and an illuminating look at her afterlife in the popular imagination. Why is Anne so compelling? Why does she inspire such extreme reactions? And what really was the colour of her hair? And perhaps the most provocative question concerns Anne’s death, more than her life: how could Henry order the execution of his once beloved wife? Drawing on scholarship and popular culture, Bordo probes the complexities of one of history’s most infamous relationships and teases out the woman behind the myths.”
REVIEW: Considering that this book is essentially a book exploring the historiography of Anne Boleyn, and considering the fact that historiography is generally extremely dry, I was not expecting to fall in love with this book as much as I did. In exploring the myths surrounding Anne Boleyn from both during and after her lifetime, and looking closely at her portrayal in media and historical fiction/non-fiction, Bordo dispels many of the legends surrounding in a way that is sometimes ruthless, but always brilliantly researched and often highly amusing. Bordo says many of the things I have often thought myself about some of the portrayals of Anne in popular culture; particularly how she is portrayed in The Other Boleyn Girl, in which her brother George is also depicted terribly. I originally read this book as part of my dissertation research, not for enjoyment; but I found myself liking it so much that I read it too quickly to take notes, and had to go back and go over the relevant sections! I especially enjoyed reading of the interviews Bordo had with various actresses who have played Anne Boleyn, which shows us not only how they feel about Anne, but also how this influenced their enactment of the role. This book is highly informative, witty and brutally honest – and I loved every page. I would highly recommend it.
BLURB: “Ambitious and talented people flocked to become courtiers at Kensington Palace in search of power and prestige. But the palace was also full of skullduggery, politicking and secrets – successful courtiers needed level heads and cold hearts. From the Vice Chamberlain with many vies to Peter the Wild Boy, treated by the court as a pet, to the long list of discarded royal mistresses, Worsley throws new light on the dramatic lives of these eighteenth-century royal servants.”
REVIEW: In this book Worsley presents a fascinating insight into the inner workings of the Georgian court during the reigns of George I and George II, the estranged father and son who were far more alike in their rulings than either could ever have imagined. Worsley takes as her focus sixteen courtiers, who can be seen by the public in a beautiful painting by William Kent. This painting rests alongside the grand staircase at Kensington Palace, and depicts numerous figures including George II’s mistress Henrietta Howard, George I’s Turkish servant Mustapha, and the infamous Peter the Wild Boy, who turned up at court one day and found himself an instant sensation. Worsley makes case studies of each of these characters, and each of their individual stories tells us something not only about the Kings they served, but also about how the court was run. To be successful at court, each of these figures explored by Worsley makes their own sacrifices, fearing for their position and in terror of any scandal. This book is hugely entertaining and very informative, and ignited my interest in a great many Georgians that I hadn’t previously heard of or read much about – for example, Henrietta Howard, whom I shall definitely endeavour to learn more about. I would highly recommend this book, and would suggest that it might be particularly useful to someone who has previously not studied much on the Georgian court, as it gives an insight into a wide variety of people and allows us to see what their lives would have been like individually.
BLURB: “All she wants is a perfect Christmas Eve wedding…it’s been on Anna’s wish-list since she was a little girl, dreaming of a far happier family life than she’d ever experienced. Only now – two weeks before her big day – her perfect husband-to-be drops a bombshell…But nothing’s going to stop Anna’s plans – not even the pesky inconvenience of discovering her groom already has a wife!”
REVIEW: I’ve been reading this book as a bit of light reading to counteract dissertation research and historical non-fiction, and I found it thoroughly entertaining. The novel tells the story of Anna, a woman who obsessively colour-codes, lists and organises even the most minor details of her life – as you can imagine, her wedding is meticulously planned, and the most important part of all of the wedding plans is that Anna is determined to have her wedding on Christmas Eve. Things take an unexpected turn when Anna, convinced that her fiance Tom is cheating on her, ropes her best friend and flatmate Liv (who has hidden feelings of her own for Tom) into coming with her to spy on him. What she discovers, however, isn’t a recent affair; it is one long past. Tom admits that he is still married to a stripper he wed in a bar while drunk in Las Vegas, but their relationship ended abruptly with her departure to New York and his subsequent return to England. Determined not to miss out on her Christmas wedding fantasy, Anna decides to take matters into her own hands and fly to New York herself with the divorce papers. It is at this point in the novel, however, that the story becomes more predictable when Anna meets Miles on the plane journey to New York. Miles is an old acquaintance whom Anna hasn’t seen since they had a disastrous blind date eight years before, but as the two follow their separate courses in New York, both determined to achieve very different dreams, they find themselves relying on each other for support, guidance and friendship in a way that soon blossoms into much stronger feelings. Meanwhile, left in charge of Anna’s wedding, Liv is struggling herself with her feelings for Tom, feelings that she is finding more and more difficult to hide. I will not reveal any more of the story, and will leave it for you to find out how this tangled web of affections is resolved in the end, but I am pleased to say that, unlike so many ‘chick-lit’ books, the ending was not apparent from the very beginning, and took some thorough working out. Bailey writes in a witty, heartwarming and entertaining manner that makes the book difficult to put down, and I’m sure this book would make a particularly lovely festive read – I’m almost sorry I didn’t save it until Christmas myself!