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Step inside the home of Holly Mac and meet her successful, distinguished husband Marcus, notice how beautiful her home is and how gorgeous her children Daisy and Oliver are. You might say that they are the perfect family, but you would be very wrong…Holly is desperately lonely. She has spent her entire marriage trying to be the perfect wife but she is missing the one thing she really wants – a husband she can talk to, a soul mate to share everything with, someone like her first love and best friend Tom. Then a terrible tragedy finds Holly reunited with some old friends, and she soon realises that they too are each beset by their own problems. There’s Saffron, a Hollywood actress and a recovering alcoholic, in love with a very famous and very married actor. Then there are Paul and Anna who have a great relationship but months of IVF have destroyed them financially and Anna still isn’t pregnant. As the safety net of Holly’s life begins to unravel, she’s about to confront her problems head-on but is she ready for the change? And faced with a second chance at life, will she take it?
‘Second Chance’ follows the lives of four old school friends who are reunited after twenty years, when their friend Tom dies in an accident. They’ve all drifted apart and built separate lives for themselves; only when they’ve reconnected through their shared grief do they realise how much they’ve missed out on through not staying in touch.

Holly is really the main character in the book. She’s a married mother of two who’s discovered that she’s lost her true self sometime during the years of marriage to her controlling husband. It is Holly who is worst hit by Tom’s death; they’d been very close and Tom’s death brings to the surface everything else that’s wrong with Holly’s life. Is Holly strong enough to become herself again? Or has she spent so long pretending to be someone else that she now believes that’s all she can be?

Olivia, on the other hand, has found herself suddenly single again. She’s always been the quiet outsider of the group and says she’s fulfilled and happy in her life, but the others suspect differently. How will they find out if she’s really as content by herself as she claims?

Next is Paul, married to the beautiful and talented Anna; they‘re young, wealthy and in love. In fact their lives seem to be perfect, but they’re unable to have the baby that they so desperately want. Paul and Anna were definitely my favourite characters and I found myself really rooting for them and their baby dreams.

Finally, there’s Saffron, an actress based in LA who’s still waiting for her big break; a break which seems to be getting further away the older she gets. Is Saffron’s lifestyle as glamorous as she lets on, or has she got her own secrets just waiting to be uncovered? I really enjoyed reading about Saffron’s exploits and I loved the way that Jane Green uncovered her character little by little. I was very satisfied with Saffron’s ending.

Ever since I read my first Jane Green book I haven’t been able to get enough of her brilliant writing style; it’s easy to read and she’s very entertaining. She’s very capable of adding both tragedy and humour into her stories with equal skill. I couldn’t wait to start this book; the idea behind it seemed promising and the characters were an interesting bunch. However, I got to the end of the novel feeling a little disappointed – it just seemed to lack something. I don’t know whether it simply dragged on too long or whether the characters or the storyline just weren’t strong enough, but I didn’t end up enjoying this book nearly as much as Jane Green’s others. I would still recommend this novel, but I would advise readers to try some of Jane Green’s other work as well to get a better idea of what she is capable of.

3 stars

Lara has always had an overactive imagination. Now she wonders if she is losing her mind. Normal twenty-something girls just don’t get visited by ghosts! But inexplicably, the spirit of Lara’s great aunt Sadie – in the form of a bold, demanding Charleston-dancing girl – has appeared to make one last request: Lara must track down a missing necklace Sadie simply can’t rest without. Lara’s got enough problems of her own. Her start-up company is floundering, her best friend and business partner has run off to Goa, and she’s just been dumped by the love of her life. But as Lara spends time with Sadie, life becomes more glamorous and their treasure hunt turns into something intriguing and romantic. Could Sadie’s ghost be the answer to Lara’s problems and can two girls from different times end up learning something special from each other?

Lara’s life is going from bad to worse; her new business is a disaster since her partner failed to return from holiday, her love life is in tatters, and her parents think that she is in need of psychiatric help. Then Lara meets Sadie. At Sadie’s own funeral.

Sadie is Lara’s one hundred and five year old aunt who has just died and returns as a ghost in need of help. As Lara is the only person who can see Sadie, it looks like she’s the girl for the job and she finds herself wrapped up in trying to hunt down Sadie’s dragonfly necklace, without which Sadie cannot rest in peace.

Lara lands herself in some very funny situations during her endeavours, to the extent that her exploits had me snorting with laughter at some points – much to my husband’s amusement.

I would never normally choose a book with a ghost as one of the main characters as I prefer my books to have at least a slight element of realism in them; I actually only read this book because I have enjoyed all of Sophie Kinsella’s other books so much. Having said that, I’m very glad that I gave this a chance; it’s really original and Sadie is an absolutely wonderful character: so vivacious, funny and superbly annoying at times!

What I loved most about this book was the relationship which developed between Lara and Sadie. This really is the main focus of the novel, and a focus which makes it very different from most of the other chick lit books around. The downside to this was on first reading, I was left a little disappointed with Lara’s love interest, Ed; I think because he’s introduced relatively late in the story compared to other chick lit books, and because of the focus on Lara and Sadie’s relationship, he’s not as prominent a character as the reader would expect the ‘love interest’ to be. I felt a little let down by this, but on second reading, I liked his character far more than I did and appreciate that it must be Lara and Sadie’s relationship which is at the forefront; Lara’s relationship with Ed is perhaps more for her life after Sadie has gone.

This book really has got everything: lots of laughs, a proper villain, some romance and some really touching moments between Lara and Sadie.  All in all, I’d have to say it’s my favourite of Sophie Kinsella’s stand-alone novels to date.

4 stars

Twenties Girl is available from Waterstones HERE

Want more Sophie Kinsella? Check out our review for MINI SHOPAHOLIC

From the white heat of Miami to the implants of LA, the glittering waters of the Caribbean to the deserts of Arabia, Olivia Joules pits herself against the forces of terror armed only with a hatpin, razor sharp wits and a very special underwired bra. How could a girl not be drawn to the alluring, powerful Pierre Ferramo, with his hooded eyes, impeccable taste, unimaginable wealth, exotic homes across the globe and a rather dubious French accent? But is it possible that Ferramo is actually a major terrorist, bent on the western world’s destruction. Or, is it all just a product of Olivia Joules’s overactive imagination. Join Olivia in her heart-stopping and hilarious quest to save the world in this witty, contemporary and utterly unputdownable thriller.

‘Olivia Joules and the Over-Active Imagination’ is a stand-alone novel from ‘Bridget Jones’ author Helen Fielding.

I have read and enjoyed both Bridget Jones books and Helen Fielding’s previous novel, ‘Cause Celeb’. However, I was a little reticent about reading this as I thought that after her success with Bridget Jones, Fielding would continue in the same vein but would find it hard to recreate another character as individual and captivating as Bridget. I was pleasantly surprised; this turned out to be very enjoyable and original.
Now I’m not claiming that the character of Olivia Joules is by any means as lovable as Bridget Jones, but you can relate to her to a certain extent. The novel centres around her adventures as a journalist desperate to be taken seriously but, with a reputation of letting her imagination getting the better of her, she is stuck writing articles on face creams. When she spots Osama Bin Laden at a party in Los Angeles she knows that this is her big chance and she won’t rest until she proves herself right. What the reader needs to work out is whether she is in fact just being paranoid or whether there could in fact be some truth behind her claims.

What starts off as a run-of-the-mill article soon leads her into a huge quest encompassing Miami, LA, the Caribbean and Arabia, enlisting the help of the secret services, being invited to the Oscars, and trying out as any spy gadgets as she can get her hands on!

It’s quite interesting to read what is essentially a girlie spy novel. It contains some hilarious moments as well as some very exciting edge-of-your-seat type stuff with plenty of twists and turns. I think that Fielding’s characters are so successful because she writes them with such conviction that you understand them and their actions completely, even though they may do some stupid things and end up in ludicrous situations.

I don’t think that Helen Fielding has let herself down with this novel. It’s more a case that Bridget Jones was such a gem of a character that whatever came after would never quite live up to expectations. As long as you can block Bridget from your mind before you begin to read this you should really enjoy it!

4 stars

Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) thought motherhood would be a breeze and that having a daughter was a dream come true –  a shopping friend for life! But it’s trickier than she thought –  two-year-old Minnie has a quite different approach to shopping.

She can create havoc everywhere from Harrods to Harvey Nicks to her own christening. She hires taxis at random, her favourite word is ‘Mine’ , and she’s even started bidding for designer bags on ebay.

On top of everything else, there’s a big financial crisis. People are having to Cut Back –  including all of Becky s personal shopping clients – and she and Luke are still living with Becky’s Mum and Dad. To cheer everyone up, Becky decides to throw a surprise birthday party on a budget but then things become really complicated.

Who will end up on the naughty step, who will get a gold star and will Becky’s secret wishes come true?

Becky Brandon is back! But this time, she has an accomplice.  In Sophie Kineslla’s latest offering, Becky is joined by her daughter Minnie, who, at the age of two, can already hail a cab and ask to be taken to Starbucks for a muffin.

‘Mini Shopaholic’ is the sixth in the Shopaholic series and has been very eagerly awaited by Sophie Kinsella fans, myself included. The series centres around the antics of Becky, a personal shopper, who is married to businessman Luke Brandon. Becky has a serious shopping addiction; she just can’t resist any form of shopping at all, and this is the basis of the many hilarious situations that she finds herself in.

When we last saw Becky she had just given birth to daughter Minnie. She and Luke had moved in with her parents after the purchase of their house fell through and Luke’s company ran into problems. Minnie is now two and they are all still living with Becky’s parents due to a series of misfortunes whilst attempting to a buy a property.

In ‘Mini Shopaholic’ we see Becky doing her best to cope with the country’s financial crisis and organise an inexpensive surprise party for Luke. Oh, and she also needs to convince a childcare guru that Minnie doesn’t need to be dragged off to Utah to deal with her rather demanding nature.

Shopaholic fans will see the return of lots of their favourite characters, such as Suze, Tarquin and Danny, as well as Becky’s terrifying mother-in-law Elinor. There are also some new faces, in particular Luke’s assistant Bonnie.

There were some very funny moments (such as Becky’s visit to Poundland and Minnie ordering sixteen Miu Miu coats from the internet), but I felt that the new character of Bonnie seemed quite incomplete. By the end of the book I still had no idea about her homelife or what she really thought of Becky. I am also continually surprised by Sophie Kinsella’s decision to never show Luke’s father, who surely would have made the effort to attend a massive party which was being held for his only son.

I think that Sophie Kinsella should get a lot of credit for being able to make Becky come across as such a likeable character. She has many flaws and I find myself getting annoyed with her in each of the books as she gets herself into all sorts of scraps, but, ultimately, I’m always rooting for her to succeed. Sophie Kinsella also manages to come up with something different for each book in the series and really manages to keep the reader gripped. I read this book in one sitting, only getting up to get more tea and to check that my children and husband weren’t feeling too neglected.

I really enjoyed the scenes between Becky and Minnie; they were often very funny and despite the exaggerations of fiction, a lot of parents will find elements of them very true to life!

A reader new to the Shopaholic series would, I think, enjoy this book, but perhaps not as much as someone who has followed Becky’s dramas from the offset. I do feel however that I should issue a word of warning for those new readers – this really is a very frivolous book; entertaining and hilarious in parts, but totally frivolous.  That said, and despite my few and minor other criticisms, I would recommend this book to any chick lit fan; if you’re in the mood for a little escapism than you won’t find much better than the Shopaholic series and its latest addition!

4 stars

You can buy MINI SHOPAHOLIC at Amazon UK

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