Review: Jill Mansell’s A-Z of Happiness by Jill Mansell

Title: Jill Mansell’s A-Z of Happiness

Author: Jill Mansell

Pages: 46 pages

The Blurb

In this delightful ebook, Jill Mansell gives readers an exclusive glimpse of her life as a writer. In Jill’s world there’s a bear (not a real one), lit up by fairy lights, with zillions of happy endings buzzing around, eating Chinese takeaway for breakfast, getting up late and tweeting A LOT. Oh, and there’s been an explosion in the glitter factory!

Recommended for all withdrawal symptoms from The Unpredictable Consequences of Love, and anticipation disorder for Three Amazing Things About You.

Includes A-Z of Happiness, A Day in the Life of an Easily Distracted Writer, Author Q&A- and the opening chapters of Three Amazing Things About You.

Not a novel – but a little happiness fix.

The Review

I’ve only ever read one of Jill Mansell’s books. It was called Rumour Has It and I remember reading it on a train coming home from my grandad’s house – the journey from Eastbourne to Liverpool is a long one. This may seem insignificant to you but I know a good book if I can remember where I was when I was reading it. And although I have only ever read one of Jill Mansell’s novels I do have a collection of her books which take up plenty of room on my bookshelves ready to be read one day.

I needed to read a book for the #ShortStorySaturday segment on my blog so I chose to read Jill Mansell’s A-Z of Happiness because let’s face it there is enough misery and dreariness in January so a book that guarantees happiness is already a winner in my eyes.

Jill Mansell’s A-Z of Happiness happens not to be a short story (I was fooled) but a non-fiction book of things that make Jill Mansell happy – sort of like Ronseal, it does what it says on the tin. And whilst it doesn’t quite fit the remit of ‘short story’ I am still going to include it here.

What I loved about this very little book (46 pages) is that it was utterly inspiring. I loved the section in which Jill Mansell describes her daily writing life and her Q and A was really entertaining. As an aspiring writer I enjoyed seeing how the other half (that being published writers) live.

Mansell’s A-Z of happiness has inspired a blog post (Wednesday, 4th February 2015) in which I will discuss my A-Z of happy things. It is so easy to slip into the moaning zone and grumbling about the bad things that go on daily. I choose the Jill Mansell way; I choose to find my happiness.

Jill Mansell’s A-Z of Happiness by Jill Mansell is available now.

You can follow Jill Mansell (@jillmansell) on Twitter.

Jill Mansell's A-Z of Happiness

Review: Age, Sex, Location by Melissa Pimentel

The Blurb

A hilarious and refreshingly honest foray into modern dating, Age, Sex, Location is Bridget Jones’s Diary for HBO’s Girls generation.

The last thing twenty-eight-year-old Lauren is looking for is love, so why do the men she’s dating assume she’s searching for The One?

With men running for the hills, Lauren takes drastic action and turns her love life into an experiment, vowing to follow the advice of a different dating guide every month.

From releasing her inner siren to swearing off sex completely, Lauren will follow The Rules and play The Game, all with the help of her disapproving best friend and her newly loved-up housemate.

But as she searches for the holy grail of no-strings sex minus the heartache, Lauren soon realises that dating is more complicated than just swiping right – and that the things you run from tend to always catch up with you…

The Review

Firstly, I would like to thank Francesca Pearce from Penguin for sending me a copy of Age, Sex, Location to review. I am truly grateful.

If I had to describe Age, Sex, Location in one word it would be refreshing. The reason for that is most books which are from the chick lit rom com oeuvre tend to be all about finding your perfect partner and yes, as readers, we are sucked in and actively encourage the writer to make sure that the heroine gets her knight in shining armour by the end. This is all well and good and I would never be one to knock that style of book but with Age, Sex, Location our heroine wasn’t looking for Mr Right, she was looking for Mr Right Now-for-a-quick-bit-of-how’s-your-father – an expression I have never quite understood. However, it was great for someone who has been in the evil world of dating to see just how fun it could have been.

The concept of using dating guides was extremely funny and the escapades that Lauren got up to and the situations that she found herself in were laugh out loud funny – to the extent that I got funny looks from those around me. We could say that using the dated dating guides that Lauren did was a fruitless task but who among us hasn’t sat and read a dating advice article and tried some the techniques suggested or watched Sex and the City and thought “yep, I’ve been there.” Just those two actions alone validate Lauren’s actions and in turn Pimentel’s inspiration for writing the book.

What I loved about this book is that it had a no holds barred sense of conviction about it. The purpose of our protagonist Lauren was clear and she did not care who knew it. She wanted to have sex without the drama. Even in today’s enlightened society it is still a taboo topic for a woman to be promiscuous without being labelled a hussy (I could have gone for harsher words but kept it clean for those of a delicate disposition). However, Pimentel has created a brilliant leading character in Lauren who you can’t help but like without judgement. It is definitely the skill of Pimentel for writing the character with such confidence and assurance in what her goal was. It makes the audience root for Lauren, you end up championing her along and willing her to have some great commitment free sex.

This book is really funny and a must read for anyone who has traversed the muggy waters of dating and survived….and also for those still lost in that mire. Read this book and gain some perspective.

Age, Sex, Location by Melissa Pimentel is available now.

You can follow Melissa Pimentel (@melispim) on Twitter.

age sex location

Review: Lost and Found by Brooke Davis

The Blurb

Millie Bird is a seven year old girl who always wears red wellington boots to match her red, curly hair. But one day, Millie’s mum leaves her alone in the Ginormous Women’s underwear rack in a department store, and doesn’t come back.

Agatha Pantha is an eighty-two-year old woman who hasn’t left her home since her husband died. Instead, she fills the silence by yelling at passers-by, watching loud static on her TV, and maintaining a strict daily schedule. Until the day Agatha spies a little girl across the street.

Karl the Touch Typist is eighty-seven years old and once typed love letters with his fingers on to his wife’s skin. He sits in a nursing home, knowing that somehow he must find a way for life to begin again. In a moment of clarity and joy, he escapes.

Together, Millie, Agatha and Karl set out to find Millie’s mum. Along the way, they will discover that the young can be wise, that old age is not the same as death, and that breaking the rules once in a while might just be the key to a happy life.

The Review

I like it when I read a book that I have picked for no other reason than I liked the cover (sorry) and I am presented with a quirky, unusual but extremely loveable story. This is exactly what I got with Lost and Found.

The story of a young girl who has been abandoned by her mother but forms unusual friendships with two old age pensioners, who in a sense have been abandoned by life, is not one that is often told. The connection between the three characters is through their mutual sense of loss. Whether it be a husband, wife or parents. And the unlikely friendship between the three is strengthened by sharing the adventure that they are on together.

Brooke Davis has created a wonderful story with Lost and Found. Her characters charm you with their innocence, their anger and their gumption to change their world. You cannot help but root for their success. The book leaves you feeling hopeful and warm inside. The best feeling that only the best stories can give you. Well done, Brooke Davis.

Lost and Found by Brooke Davis is available on the 29th January 2015.

You can follow Brooke Davis (@thisisbrooked) on Twitter.

Lost and Found

My Weekly TBR Pile – 26.01.15 – 01.02.15

Hello lovely people,

How have you all been? I am good. I know you didn’t ask but I am going to assume that you are all lovely polite people and that you are wondering about my well being.

So I’m not going to talk about the books that I have reviewed this week because all you really need to do is scroll down and you can see them.

I have a list of books that I plan to read and I am not veering from this list. I am sticking to it. Here they are.

Age Sex Location by Melissa Pimentel (Currently reading)

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Lillian on Life by Alison Jeean Lester

The Dead Wife’s Handbook by Hannah Beckerman

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

My Boyfriend Wrote A Book About Me by Hilary Winston

Love Hurts by Malorie Blackman

So yep, no one is going to veer me from my course.

Wish me luck!

L x

SSS Review: Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman

Title: Hansel and Gretel

Author: Neil Gaiman

Pages: 49 pages

The Blurb

This all happened a long time ago, in your grandmother’s time, or in her grandfather’s. A long time ago. Back then, we all lived on the edge of a great forest.

The Review

Neil Gaiman is one of those authors whose work I know for definite that I do not appreciate enough. Having dipped my tentative toes into his short stories, his novels for children and young adults and also his texts for older audiences and I have never been anything but impressed with Gaiman’s style and readability. He manages to evoke atmosphere and forces you to become lost in his story. It is this very reason why I was curious to read his version of the classic fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel.

The story hadn’t changed much from the one I knew as a child. In fact I would struggle to recall any differences, however, it was fun to refresh my memory of the fairy tale and also to look at the spooky images that accompanied the story – provided by the hand of Lorezo Mattotti.

Hansel and Gretel is a classic fairy tale that Gaiman and Mattotti have brought to life once again. It is a lovely (and quick) read and should be added to all children’s bookshelves.

Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman is available now.

You can follow Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) on Twitter

hansel and gretel

Review: Macdeath by Cindy Brown

The Blurb

Like every actor, Ivy Meadows know that Macbeth is cursed. But she’s finally scored her big break, cast as an acrobatic witch in a circus-themed production of Macbeth in Phoenix, Arizona. And though it may not be Broadway, nothing can dampen her enthusiasm – not her flying cauldron, too-tight leotard, or carrot-weilding dictator of a director.

But when one of the cast dies on opening night, Ivy is sure the seeming accident is “murder most foul” and that she’s the perfect person to solve the crime (after all, she does work part-time in her uncle’s detective agency). Undeterred by a poisoned Big Gulp, the threat of being blackballed, and the suddenly too-real curse, Ivy pursues the truth at the risk of her hard-won career – and her life.

The Review

Once again I have read a book that has proven to me that not choosing a career as a police detective was a good choice. Murder mystery Macdeath confounded me! This clever mystery story interweaves the Bard’s play Macbeth with its own narrative. Art begins to imitate life much to the panic of protagonist Ivy Meadows.

When I first started reading the book I didn’t think I would like the story, however, once I saw the cleverly assembled jigsaw of a mystery I began to get really intrigued and tried constantly to figure out who the killer was. Needless to say, I did not figure it out.

Whilst all the threads were woven with regards to the mystery, I still feel that there is more to learn about Ivy Meadows. Fortunately, Macdeath is only part one in a series of mystery stories so hopefully we will learn more about her in future books.

Macdeath by Cindy Brown is available now.

Macdeath

Review: Ethan’s Voice by Rachel Carter

The Blurb

Ethan can’t remember exactly when he stopped speaking or why. It is only when he meets Polly that he begins to wish things could be different. She is fun and exciting and helps him to see how vivid and colourful the world is.

Can Polly help Ethan to find his voice again?

The Review

Ethan’s Voice is a lovely, sweet and unusual tale of a young boy who is a selective mute. After a traumatic event Ethan has stopped talking altogether. His parents have tried everything to get him talking again but to no avail. It is controlling his life so much that Ethan is now home schooled. He is alone and has no friends.

Along comes Polly, a girl of a similar age to Ethan. She quickly understands the situation and doesn’t pressurise Ethan into speaking but she does provide him with some much needed companionship. It is this friendship which makes Ethan’s Voice such a beautiful read.

The book isn’t over dramatic, some of the things that happen within the narrative are simple and lovely and I think it is this that sets it apart from a lot of YA fiction. It is not dark or harsh or depressing; it has a hopeful quality that a lot of modern day stories often lack due to our jaded MTV culture. It is an impressive debut novel from Rachel Carter and I cannot wait to see what else she has in store for us all.

Ethan’s Voice by Rachel Carter is available now.

Ethans Voice

Review: A Thing of Beauty by Lisa Samson

The Blurb

Former child star Fiona Hume left the biz a decade ago, after she left rehab. She retreated to Baltimore and bought an old mansion downtown with dreams of restoring it into a masterpiece – maybe creating an artist’s studio for herself. And living an artist’s life.

That was the plan.

Ten years later, Fiona’s huge house is filled with junk purchased at thrift stores, yard sales, or picked up from the side of the road. Each piece was destined for a project, but all she’s got so far is a piece of twine with some antique buttons threaded down its length.

Her money has almost run out. She will soon lose her house and will be forced back into acting.

So it is that Fiona comes to rent out a room to a local blacksmith, Josiah. Little by little, Josiah magically transforms Fiona’s home into something beautiful. She comes to life again. Her relationships heal and she experiences, perhaps for the first time, what it means to be human, what it means to be loved, and what it means when we let go and allow the wondrous workings of forces far bigger than we are to take over.

The Review

I didn’t like A Thing of Beauty. A little blunt but it had to be said. The concepts of the story (or parts of it) were interesting but others just fell flat. For example, the main thread of the story about an ex-actress who has become a recluse due to a troubled time after being a childhood star would have been a great storyline had it been fully developed. I think that is what failed the story most, the under-developed storyline.

There were other glaring flaws – the main one being the over descriptive nature of the narrative. If I had been the editor I would have advised Samson to go back and remove the unnecessary descriptions of things as it became very tiresome. The old adage of ‘show, don’t tell’ needs to be applied to this book too. Samson described every street that her main character rode down on her bike and whilst this may be titillating for those who live in Baltimore it was just tedious for me.

The story did get better. About midway through I actually felt like there was a (much needed) shift in pace which made the latter half less exasperating. However, there were still glaring holes in the story such as Fiona’s collection of weird things – it was never fully explained why she did this. We never learned that much about her friend that died or why it had the impact it did on Fiona’s life. Everything seemed to be on the cusp of being explained but then never fully explored which was frustrating.

I guess this serves me right for choosing the book based solely on the prettiness of the cover.

A Thing of Beauty by Lisa Samson is available now.

A Thing of Beauty

Review: Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O’Porter

The Blurb

I just can’t imagine me without you…

50% Friendship, 20% Humour, 20% Betrayal,10% Sexual Content. 100% Honest.

It’s the mid-1990s, and fifteen year-old Guernsey schoolgirls, Renée and Flo, are not really meant to be friends. Thoughtful, introspective and studious Flo couldn’t be more different to ambitious, extroverted and sexually curious Renée. But Renée and Flo are united by loneliness and their dysfunctional families, and an intense bond is formed. Although there are obstacles to their friendship (namely Flo’s jealous ex-best friend and Renée’s growing infatuation with Flo’s brother), fifteen is an age where anything can happen, where life stretches out before you, and when every betrayal feels like the end of the world. For Renée and Flo it is the time of their lives.

With graphic content and some scenes of a sexual nature, PAPER AEROPLANES is a gritty, poignant, often laugh-out-loud funny and powerful novel. It is an unforgettable snapshot of small-town adolescence and the heart-stopping power of female friendship.

The Review

Often times one is grateful to be blessed with just one gift; maybe the gift of the gab or a special talent for acting, or even hunting out a great bargain. It is usually us uni-gifted people that tend to stare down our noses with jealous disdain at the bold and beautiful who can turn their talents to different mediums. One such multitalented lucky duck is none other than Dawn O’Porter.

For many a year have we admired her work as a TV presenter, bum wipe activist (seriously mine has never felt fresher….that was a bit of an overshare), documentary investigative journalist and probably most importantly she has shared her passion for one of the greatest movies ever made – Dirty Dancing. Oh yes, we here at Different Scene have many a reason to love Dawn O’Porter.

And now we have one more.

O’Porter has turned her hand to fiction. Her debut novel Paper Aeroplanes is due for release next week and showcases an extremely strong gift and flair for telling a story.

Set in Guernsey in the mid-90s, O’Porter paints a picture of a simpler time to grow up, not plagued by the incessant bitchery currently found through social media sites and texting whilst reminding us how difficult it was to be young. The story centres on the burgeoning friendship of Renee and Flo whose shared experience of loss, loneliness and embarrassing everyday situations develops the bond and the pace of the story. Without revealing too much this novel helps to remind us the value of friendship and to treasure those around us.

This is a book that everyone should read for all the reasons given already and also because for want of better way to put it – Dawn O’Porter can write. She has proven once again that she isn’t a one trick pony and whilst we should want to throw rocks at her for her excellence and mad skills, we won’t because she is Dawn O’Porter and we love her.

So, do yourself a massive favour, pre-order it, book in a couple of alone hours and lose yourself to a sense of nostalgia in this beautifully told story. You will be awfully glad that you have bought it.

Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O’Porter is available now.

You can follow Dawn O’Porter (@hotpatooties) on Twitter.

*Originally published on Different Scene

Paper Aeroplanes

My Weekly TBR Pile: 19.01.15 – 25.01.15

Hello Bloggeroonies,

So the past few weeks have been hardcore. Work has been hectic and if I am completely honest it hasn’t been quite enjoyable. Hey ho! On to happier things which are:

  • In about five weeks I am going to become an aunty for the first time.
  • I have lovely books that are going to be read.
  • Errrrrmmm….and I only have four weeks left in work. Whoop!

Anywho, I have had a really slow week because the book that I am reading is really pants but because of my ridiculous rule not to give up on a book I can’t stop reading it. Boo. So this week is actually going to have a throwback review.

I’ve decided to not list the books that I am going to read because to be perfectly honest I cannot be bothered – I’m in one of those horrible indecisive moods at the minute and even after a ridiculous amount of hours sleep I still feel meh!

Ooh also, I feel I should be honest with you all. I failed Banuary. And not just a little bit, I mean I completely, one hundred percent failed Banuary. I hang my head in shame….and start to read my book! Ah well, I’m weak, we all know it!

Anywho, hope you are all ok. Let me know what you are reading.

L x