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18th June 2016 – Book Review : Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

 

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five stars 2

A classic in any genre is a few and far between phenomenon. But when this phenomenon occurs, it endures. It endures through decades and time, inspiring generations, pop culture and even life and the way we live it.

One such classic in women’s fiction and the so-called ‘bonkbuster’/chick lit genre is Jacqueline Susann’s acclaimed classic ‘Valley of the Dolls’. Any chicklista worth her salt will have read this at some point or the other. I recall reading my mother’s copy of the book underneath my blanket using a flashlight (when I read it, it was deemed too ‘forward’ and ‘racy’). So imagine my delight when I found out that Virago was re-publishing the book on its 50th Anniversary and they wanted me to review this as part of the 50th Anniversary blog tour! This book captured the imagination of readers everywhere and exposed the pill popping culture of Hollywood and beyond. On the surface if exposes the sordid and empty lives of the cream of the Hollywood elite but at a more basic level, it unveils the tragedy and the hopelessness of the human condition….indeed it shows us that sometimes when it appears to the world that you have everything…wealth, talent, adulation and admiration of million, you still ultimately end up with nothing.

So what is a doll? In old school Hollywood terminology, a doll is a pill. If we were to refer to this fantastic book, the pills in question would be Secconols  or when required, Diet pills and the like. Why were these so important? The heroines in this novel relied on these, loved these and ultimately, these brought their downfall. These pills were the main characters in the novel and the novel really revolved around them, although they made an entrance after the first one-third of the book.

The story follows Anne, Neely and Jennifer, three hopefuls who had their own individual goals, aspirations and dreams, all three starting out in the Big Apple NYC aiming high and hoping to reach their ambitions. Anne wanted to escape her New England background and live life on her own terms, Neely, a rare, raw and talented singer/performer wanted to break out of her humble roots and turn into a big Broadway star and Jennifer, with her drop dead gorgeous looks wanted to turn into a big Hollywood star and ultimately bag a rich husband who would support her and love her throughout her days.

So did any of them achieve what they wanted? They did and they didn’t, this my lovely readers is something for you to find out and it is worth finding out, believe me. This lovely book is a page turner, an enduring classic, it always was and it always will be, even in 2016. It is also no wonder this was made into a move in 1967.

Readers will love Anne, for her upstanding principles, her drive, her unswerving loyalty to her friends and her ultimate vulnerability to her one weakness in life, Lyon Burke. Lyon Burke, a grey character, who loved Anne, but not enough. Not enough to give her all of his body, heart and soul as she deserved. Life is kind to Anne who starts out as a secretary to Theatrical Attorney Henry Bellamy but reaches the height of fame as a ‘Gillian Girl’, becoming a cover girl/model, her face being featured on television screen nationwide. Lyon Burke is her Achilles heel, the one chink in her armour and she can do anything to be with him forever. And it is Lyon Burke who ultimately drives Anne to let the ‘dolls’ into her life, she had no choice really….If there is one character that you will love and despair for in the novel, it will be Anne.

Readers will love Jennifer, for the inner child that lives within her, for her lost childhood and dreams of having a husband and family of her own. Saddled with a materialistic parent who keeps fleecing her for any sum of money she can get her hands on, Jennifer is a sad and complicated character with a shady and licentious past which she has kept under wraps. The ‘dolls’ help keep her sane, she realises that she has outstanding beauty, however she also realises that she has zero talent and her beauty will fade and she will only be able to sustain her fame for a limited time. The love of a good (and also wealthy) man and a family is her main goal, and although she turns into a hugely popular Hollywood Star, it is all she has ever wanted. She does achieve this goal, put pays a grave and final price for it all. If there is one character that you will grieve for, it is Jennifer.

Readers will both love and hate Neely. Neely starts out as an eager, excitable seventeen year old, participating in her sister and brother in law’s Vaudeville Shows, innocent in her youthfulness, hope and vigour. If anything, she is the character I felt the most fond of initially, as she had a charm that none of the characters in the novel did and the author gave various clues as to how brilliant her raw and rare talent was. During the course of the novel, Neely, with the help of her most loyal friend Anne, gets a rare break when an old and established star kicks out her under study in a play and the director is persuaded to hire her instead. This launches her career as a huge Broadway star and then later a Hollywood Superstar. At this juncture, the ‘dolls’ enter her life, helping her to sleep at night and lose the weight that the Hollywood studio heads keep wanting her to keep off. The dolls help her achieve the stardom that she desires but also unleash her arrogant, untenable monstrous ego. She turns egotistical and selfish as several other stars with her level of talent and popularity do and like those before her, she starts on a path of wilful self-destruction. Loyalty and friendship mean nothing to her. If there is on character that the readers will both adore and then despise in turn, it is Neely.

I read the book in one sitting and believe that if you love books and are a fan of this genre, it is nigh impossible that you will not do the same. If I could give this book more than five stars I would. Thus dear reader, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary, if you have never read this book, please buy it and read it. If you have read this book some years ago, like me, same advice, please buy it and read it. It is truly one of a kind and comes along rarely!

About the Author:

Jacqueline Susann is a legend in American publishing. Susann was the first

author to have three consecutive #1 books on the New York Times Bestseller List. She was

married to her beloved husband, producer Irving Mansfield, until her untimely death

on September 21, 1974, after a courageously fought battle with breast cancer. Susann’s

intensely private twelve-year fight to overcome the disease was not known publicly

until after death. She was 56.

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18th March 2016 – Guest Post by Rosa Temple, author of Natalie’s Getting Married

imageI am extremely pleased to introduce this lovely guest post on all things wedding by one of my favourite chick lit authors Rosa Temple, author of Natalie’s Getting Married, I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did!

Inspiration to Write Natalie’s Getting Married
By Rosa Temple


As strange as it may seen, when the character of Natalie first popped into my head, her getting married was one of the last things I envisioned her doing. I knew from the start I wanted to write a romantic comedy and I wanted to write a heroine who could appeal to lots of women, mostly because they could relate to her.


Straight away that told me that, like the rest of us, Natalie has got to make mistakes and she mustn’t be perfect – who is? But I wanted her to have the likeability factor. I wanted readers to want to be her friend and be there for her through all her ups and downs and give her a jolly good shaking when she was so obviously messing up.


I guess the idea of setting her in the context of getting married made her decision making that much more important to the reader; getting married, or not, is one of the biggest things we’ll ever do in life.
Originally I intended for this book to be a series of novellas that looked at the various aspects of Natalie’s life and came up with series titles like: The Gap Year and Natalie in Paris. (If you read the book, though, you’ll know she never ends up in Paris, but LA instead).


So once I got my character in my head and the various characters that would support her, I did what I usually do – get my notebook and pen and start writing. Today I looked at the early drafts and saw how differently the book could have gone. As I continued to write I got swept away to the point of no return and so consumed by what was happening with Natalie that the story was unfolding before me without me planning it and the inspiration to keep going came from a need for me to know what happened next.


So I guess it was Natalie herself, and her supporting cast that inspired the story. I just listened to them and tapped away on my laptop.
In the end the story was a three part novella series that I sent out to lots of beta readers so I could get honest feedback. I was pleasantly surprised by the response – beta readers loved the story, they related to Natalie and fell in love with one particular character (I also love him).
I put it to the beta readers that I might just make one novel out of the three part series and they all agreed. Thus, Natalie’s Getting Married was born.


Some early readers have commented that they can’t wait for the sequel. I don’t have one planned. I think Natalie’s whirlwind of a life has worn me out – and that’s before I even got any wedding cake!


My Top 5 Wedding Locations – in no particular order 🙂


1. Many of you will know that I’m a big fan of old movies and musicals, a la Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers and Audrey Hepburn. I have this picture in mind of Audrey Hepburn starring in Funny Face with Fred Astaire, in a scene where they push off on a raft that floats along a beautiful river with blossoming trees and flowers on either bank and they are dancing on the raft. Well, imagine a massive floating raft carrying all your wedding guests along that river, the bride in the wedding dress Audrey wears in the film and no one gets sea sick, and the raft stops by the river bed where there is dancing and a big cake. A bit out there, I know, but definitely one I’d consider if my hubby ever wanted to renew our vows!


2. The next one was not only a dream, but a reality – a Caribbean wedding just like the one I had on the island of Dominica. (Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic.) If you don’t know Dominica, look it up and get married there. You won’t regret it.


3. I like the idea of a themed wedding, something that shows the personality of the bride and groom. For example, having your guests hike to the top of a mountain if you are an explorer or underwater if you love to swim. Guaranteed to cut down the number of guests if you want to keep it small!


4. Another wedding destination would be Westminster Abbey. Yes, you guessed it – a royal wedding, along with millions of spectators from all around the world, cameras following your every move and the a killer dress to make everyone jealous.


5. Lastly – and going the complete opposite to the above – how about returning to the place your man first proposed (provided it’s legal and isn’t for adult viewers only). For me that would be the Italian restaurant my husband and I had our first date. Not long after that, he proposed to me there. How suitable would the place you first decided to get married be for the wedding itself?


And there you have it – my top 5 places to have a wedding. What are yours?

About Rosa Temple

Rosa Temple began writing romantic comedies and chick lit because of her passion for what she calls the ‘early chick lit films’, like: Sabrina, Barefoot In the Park and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. She honed her skills as a ghost writer, gaining experience writing romantic novellas, both sweet and on the slightly steamy side. In her notebooks, she constantly jotted down story ideas of her own and she eventually completed her first novella Sleeping With Your Best Friend and now, the full length novel, Natalie’s Getting Married.

Rosa Temple is a Londoner and is married with two sons. She is a reluctant keep fit fanatic and doer of housework and insists that writing keeps her away from such strenuous tasks. She spends her days creating characters and story lines while drinking herbal tea and eating chocolate biscuits.

To find out more about Rosa and to catch up on all her musings please join her here on http://rosatemplewrites.blogspot.co.uk/?m=1

 

 

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 It gives me great pleasure to reveal the cover of Clutch by Lisa Becker, a chick lit romance chronicling the dating misadventures of Caroline Johnson, a single purse designer who compares her unsuccessful romantic relationships to styles of handbags – the “Hobo” starving artist, the “Diaper Bag” single dad, the “Briefcase” intense businessman, etc. With her best friend, bar owner Mike by her side, the overly-accommodating Caroline drinks a lot of Chardonnay, puts her heart on the line, endures her share of unworthy suitors and finds the courage to discover the “Clutch” or someone she wants to hold onto.  
Author Bio

In addition to clutch: a novel, Lisa Becker is the author of the Click Trilogy, a contemporary romance series comprised of Click: An Online Love Story, Double Click and Right Click. She’s written bylined articles about dating and relationships for “Cupid’s Pulse,” “The Perfect Soulmate,” “GalTime,” “Single Edition,” “Healthy B Daily” and “Chick Lit Central” among others. She lives in Manhattan Beach, California with her husband and two daughters. To learn more, visit http://www.lisawbecker.com. 

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Cover Reveal – Clutch by Lisa Becker

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3rd August 2015 Book Review – Starstruck by Ruby Preston

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4 stars

I believe my lovely readers that we all love a good drama/soap opera/musical show from the stateside, all those you watch the Nashvilles and the Empires and the Glees yell ‘yay!’ now or forever hold your peace. With my own penchant for watching US shows of this bent and going down to London to watch musicals featured at the West End, when an opportunity to review Starstruck which is written by actual Broadway producer Ruby Preston came my way, I was very, very eager to read and review this to say the least. As per the premise of the book, the reader does learn what goes on behind and in front of the scenes at a Broadway show and also learns the hidden politics, drama and intrigue that occurs when production is under way.

The story follows Scarlett Savoy, a young up and coming producer who is finally launching her play ‘Swan Song’ at Broadway and has hired as her leading lady Hollywood super-diva Bliss, who is an old pro at the Hollywood game but is in over her head as far as the Broadway life is concerned. This is her first foray into the world on ‘live acting’. Added to which, Scarlett and Bliss have a bone of contention, in form of Scarlett’s semi live in relationship with her financer Lawrence who also used to be Bliss’s ex.

Bliss, in accordance with her spoilt Hollywood diva personality wants to hog the lime light and wants the play to be all about her and does not seem to hold any respect for the cast and crew of ‘Swan Song’ or for the matter the young producer, Scarlett. In fact, one, as a reader, questions several times, Scarlett’s choice in hiring someone like Bliss to head her show when she already has the extremely talented and professional understudy Kelly, who could have been Scarlett’s choice of heroine the first place. This gives the reader a good idea of how shallow the business could be where real talent is sometimes forcibly cast aside in favour of the glitz, glamour and the crowd pulling ‘kaching!’ of Hollywood. Bliss means big bucks and huge crowds for ‘Swan Song’ thus the whole cast and crew of the production, including the show’s no-nonsense publicist Karen have to put up with her diva antics.

Added to this already explosive mix, comes in Marco as Bliss’s ever-suffering publicist when Bliss has a bit of a wobbly opening night. Marco also just happens to be Scarlett’s ex-flame and it seems both of them still have some unfinished business….

I felt that I as a reader (who has not read the previous two books in the saga and is reading this as a stand alone) could have been given a little more background on Scarlett’s past faux relationship with Graham and current arrangement with Lawrence, whom as a character, I found extremely charming. Who would not want a Lawrence in their lives, the dinners, the massages, the encouragement! We also know that Scarlett had history with Marco, but I would have liked to have known a bit more of their past and how they became as close as they obviously were.

However, what makes this book very readable and stand out for me are the glimpses the reader gets into the world of Broadway show production, the struggles of the cast and crew, the blood, sweat, tears and damage limitation that goes on backstage coupled with the faux image of perfection and glamour that the whole cast, headed by the producer Scarlett, portray to the media and the audience. Indeed, you feel for both Scarlett and Marco, both of whom are being manipulated and being stretched to the very limits of their patience by the arrogant Primadonna Bliss who after realising that she was struggling with hitting high notes on her songs and acting live rushes off back to LA, leaving the show sans the lead actress.  The trials and tribulations that come Scarlett’s way after this form the rest of the story.

I was quite charmed by old-timer and producer extraordinaire of the times past, Fay who not not only offers Scareltt valuable advice through the course of the novel but who also in the end turns out to be Scarlett’s very own mentor and fairy godmother in disguise, helping her to finally make her brand spanking new Broadway show a success and gives the reader the ‘alls well that ends well’ happy ending which we all love!

This book gets a well-deserved four stars and is worth reading just to learn more about the all the creative aspects and technicalities of producing and presenting a Broadway show. Additionally, this is absolutely perfect as a summer/beach read.

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14th May 2015 – Book Review – Beautiful Liar by Tara Bond

liar image

four and a half

Summer is nearly here and the lovely book people (yes, this means the delightful authors, book publishers, book publicists extraordinaries) have lined up a bevy of amazing, fantabulous books for all of us book nuts to enjoy.

Simon and Schuster in particular have some amazing offerings this season and one of them is Tara Bond’s ‘Beautiful Liar’. I must say the cover of the novel did intrigue me, it got me thinking could this be one of those Fifty Shades of Grey inspired novels? I must say I am not into those, apologies to those who are, I definitely do not judge you, its just not my cup of tea!

However, I was very, very wrong. Beautiful Liar is a New Adult novel, however I feel that all of us chick lit fans with enjoy this tremendously as well. This is my first foray into reviewing a novel aimed at the ‘tweens’ and I was definitely impressed with the author’s writing, plot and well fleshed out characters.

This story is about Nina Baxter, a nineteen year old girl with the weight of the world on her tiny shoulders. Her widowed, single mother is an alcoholic who keeps getting into trouble and one day when she accidentally sets fire to their apartment, her world comes crashing down as her 14 year old sister April is taken into care. Nina who feels like the responsible one is their dysfunctional family, sets about trying to get back the custody of her sister and the only way she can do this is to find a way to earn money…..lots and lots of it.

Now before you start getting any naughty ideas, Nina has a plan. She approaches her dead father’s old employer, the filthy rich Duncan Noble for a job and he gives her one in his private, exclusive members only club Destination. Enter the enigmatic, handsome and riske’ Alex Noble, the black sheep of the Duncan family and his older, straight-laced brother Giles Noble.

Nina knows Alex is bad news, as he is no stranger to recreational drinking or drugs and he definitely does not play by his father’s or brother’s rules. Nina fights her growing attraction to Alex, while sending her alcoholic mother to rehab, adapting to her new job and trying to console her sister April who is stuck in a foster home. To further complications, Nina’s mother took a loan from a local thug and it falls upon Nina to repay this.

Nina has a hidden talent, she is great at playing poker and one day Alex Noble discovers this. He offers Nina a rolling job as dealer at his secret Poker parties which the rich and the suitably rotten frequent and offers her a handsome sum for her efforts. She grudgingly accepts as she needs to return the loan money. As Nina begins to work for Alex, he learns more about Nina’s tough past and the current problems that she is facing. One day when thugs ransack the dinghy room that she is renting, he offers to clear the loan and a room to stay in in his own apartment until she fulfils all her dues to him. Nina accepts reluctantly and from there on we see a fiery, tumultuous and at times beautiful relationship between Alex and Nina develop. However, all is not straightforward and there are many secrets in Alex’s past which have the power to hurt Nina and drive her away from him.

No spoilers here, as I would like you, my blog post reader, to go and read the novel. However I can promise you this, you will not be disappointed. What I like the most about this novel is that your hero is not a perfect, holier than though character. He definitely has some negative not so perfect traits to him. These make him very, very human. And he is willing change for Nina and change he does. There is a huge twist in the tale at the end which had me going ‘I so did not see that one coming!’. This novel also describes in great clarity the difference between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. The contrast between Nina’s downtrodden, sleazy and downright creepy neighbourhood and the glitzy, shiny and glamorous world of Mayfair that the Noble family inhabit is stark.

Lastly, our heroine Nina is admirable. You can almost be forgiven for thinking at times, is she only nineteen. You root for her when she overcomes all odds and gets her family back together and wins the battle against the social services and provides her sister with a happy home and her mother with a new and improved life. Nina’s mother comes across as a selfish, thoughtless alcoholic who has put the lives of her daughters in jeopardy but the reason for her downward spiral into alcoholism is explained amply in the end.

A well-deserved four and half stars for this lovely gem, I urge you to read this novel.

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6th March 2015 – Book Review and Excerpt : Beauty and the Bridesmaid by Lisa Souza

beauty and the bridesmaid

Dear readers I am back again after a long hiatus to write another book review for a book from that very, entertaining and mostly ‘pink’ genre that is lovingly termed chick lit.

And what a great book to do it with. Yes ‘Beauty and the Bridesmaid is Lisa’s first book and I certainly hope that it is not her last. It would be unfair to merely term this book ‘Chick Lit’ as it is much more than that. The book is about Dorothy AKA ‘Dot’ who is an ugly duckling who never quite turned into a swan. Overweight Dorothy has always been the bridesmaid and never the bride, even playing bridesmaid at her own mother’s wedding which proves to be a turning point for her, when she meets the very camp and very gay image consultant Kennedy J.

After enduring several wedding playing the bridesmaid and a dating self help group, software tester Dot finally has had enough and fed up of being the fat and plain girl, decides to change her image entirely. The make over advice is offered free by Kennedy J which Dot gladly accepts, especially since she has recently discovered that the very handsome blast from her high school past John Miller works at her company Microcosm, and she definitely wants to catch his eye! After undergoing nips, tucks, sadistic workouts, hair and make up overhauls and the like all of which are very graphically discussed in the novel with no rosy before and after scene with the bits in the middle edited out, the newly emerged plastic surgery swan Dot re-christens herself ‘Alana’ and prepares for her new life as a pretty girl. What follows is the story of Dot/Alana’s new life and the twists and turns it brings after her transformation.

The book is very well written is and is at times quite dark with serious themes, so it is not quintessential, fluffy pink material.

Spoiler Alert – serious topics such as rape and death have also been dealt with here, under the guise of this book being chick lit, however this is in no way a criticism of the novel as the author uses a light hearted tone throughout the novel and keeps the reader entertained and engrossed.

Due to her new transformation, Alana/Dot gets plenty of attention, even from the hotter than hot John Miller, who always thought plain and fat Dorothy Lindell was beneath him. Thanks to her new transformation, he does not recognise her and is keen to make her his girlfriend. Enter the odious Jack Weston, John’s best friend and the high school bully who always went out of his way to be especially rude and despicable to Dot. Jack has a dark and sinister secret and some terrifying habits which he is unable to break and which are about to have a very, very detrimental effect on Alana/Dot’s life.

The book light heartedly looks at important relationships and how these can also be fickle and unreliable. People in Dot’s life, that are constantly letting her down. Her own mother is not the kind of caring mother that a girl such as Dot needs, she comes across as very self obsessed and vain. The reader feels for her, when she comes back pain-ridden from her various nips and tucks and the only person there to help her is her reluctant colleague from work who is filled with embarrassment at being roped in to do the several personal tasks Dot needs help with. Help comes from an unlikely source, as Elvira the goth girl from the dating self help group becomes Dot’s carer and confidante and soon becomes a genuine friend. Elviran also has a sinister connection with Jack Weston, which forms one of the key elements of this story.

Without giving too much away, I would urge everyone to read this book, not just fans of the chick lit genre, as it light heartedly looks as several key themes and issues. I read this book in one sitting and was up in the wee hours finishing it.

I read with mixed emotions, anger and frustration at Dot’s mother and so called friends for not standing by her or helping her see what an intelligent and good person she was, cheering her on for her courage to go through the nips, tucks and pain to get the face and body she wanted, rooting for her when she finally gets her man, the high school stud John and sighing with relief when he does not turn out to be the self centred egoistical jerk that she thought he was, feeling her pain and disillusionment when life lets her down and things don’t go as planned and feeling ecstatic when she finds out that her cloud did have a silver lining after all and alls well that ends well.

The author’s story and writing flows and this is an excellent first novel. I do hope that Lisa keeps writing fabulous novels with great themes and story lines such as this one.

The book is available at Amazon and is published by West Coast Media.

Below is an excerpt from the novel, to give you a taste of how great this book is!

John Miller. You rang?” He towers over my desk, and my girl brain does the math, pegs him for maybe six one or so. His name rings a bell somewhere far in the back of my mind. Sparks fly as he brushes the clutter from my desk and ravishes me right there, amid the monitors. I kid, I kid. I shake his hand and scootch my chair over, waving at a similar one stashed next to the wall. With some difficulty he wedges the other chair in and we get right down to it, the business of debugging.

Developers don’t make me nervous as a general rule and few resemble George Clooney. Okay they never do. They look like Bill Gates or Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons: they have bad hair cuts, and questionable hygiene. They hug themselves, and rock back and forth. They wear ugly shoes and are significantly overweight. And most are super bright, very competent types. Wait…I just described myself. Maybe I should consider a move into development? What little I can make out of jMiller, however, breaks the mold. At least as far as I can discern in the eerie glow of a computer monitor. He also looks vaguely familiar, like I know him. Miller’s a common name… “Didn’t mean to freak you.” I inhale deeply, trying to re-oxygenate my tired mind. That proves a big mistake. A whisper of some very male cologne tickles my tired nose and slams into a weakened side of my brain, practically knocking me from the chair. Holy cow he smells good. “You just caught me off guard, is all. Sorry to hassle you at this

hour, but Greg says anything that crashes the build – ”“I know, I know. ‘When you crashes da build, you misses da milestone.’ Greg thinks he’s quite the wit.” He grins, flashing movie star teeth. “Stupid catchphrase has been burned into my brain. It’s like that Head-On commercial where they just bore it into you. I could slap the crap out of him.” His eyes skim over the monitor. “Don’t sweat it. I have a pretty good idea where it failed. That jackass Samir probably forgot to rename his module to the new naming specs, so when I instance it here – ” he points at a line on the screen, “I’m doomed.” “Doomed!” I chime in. Too tempting. Can’t be helped. It cried out for repetition. “Doomed!” He quickly follows up. We grin at each other and he shows off the superstar smile again, teeth gleaming in the dark. And again, familiar. Some dim, lizard part of my brain recognizes him. With those teeth, maybe he’s done a TV commercial. He types furiously for a few minutes then hesitates. “Do you have source control on

this machine?” I get up to stretch. If he didn’t smell so fabulous, I’d collapse for certain, but now I have a mini adrenaline rush. “I have Source Safe but I don’t have security access to do check-ins.” He nods, and net connects to his machine, stops, looks up again, “You don’t mind me using your machine? Saves me running over to another building.” “Heck no. I’ve just been sitting too long.” He glances over at the romance novel cracked open on the desk and smiles at the monitor. “Power reading?” I grimace. “Don’t start with me. This test has been running since… well since forever. Pay me overtime or let me read my trashy romance in peace.” “As you wish, sis.” He returns his attention to the issue at hand. The two fingered typing style works for him: his hands fly over the keys. “So easy. Seconds to compile…and done. I’ll just check this in. I’ll log it so Greg doesn’t blow a hemorrhoid.” He stretches. Fun to watch. I sense the presence of many muscles, so foreignto computer scientists. And to me personally. “I better phone Jaime to restart the build,” he says. I stare at his shoes, as that is a safe place to look. Converse. Basic white. Old school. “He’s going to kill you, you know.” I caution. “Oh no doubt, no doubt.” He gets to his feet and the light from the hall illuminates him fully. I risk looking up. “But we’ve enjoyed our little midnight romp long enough. When I call Jaime, I’ll redirect responsibility on Samir. He will in turn, point at Raul for changing the naming conventions midway through a project build. I will be the genius who averted disaster.” He closes his eyes briefly, lowering the high beams. “You may as well head home. You can’t retest till the next build.” That clinched it. I know him, all right. I swallow hard, shake my head slowly. “No bus at this hour. I’ll crash here.” “Poor transportation choice. Stay and Greg will have you rerunning the entire regression test in a couple of hours. Think this through.”

I try and smile sadly. “The trials of a software tester. I knew I should have stuck with my first career choice: high priced hooker.” He snorts a laugh. Oh, the things which emerge from my mouth when I’m nervous. “You need a ride? I can give you a lift.” My quota of stupid comments is not quite up. What comes out is, “That’s nice of you, but I live clear out in Monroe.” “That’s not a drive. That’s an adventure.” His turn to yawn. “Well you can’t say I didn’t offer, sis. I’m gonna book. See ya.” “Later jMiller.” He leaves. When he is definitely gone, I will Google him. But I wait for a few minutes, because I need to know for certain he won’t make a surprise return. Because if my guess is correct… Invisi-gal, Googling. When I track down the correct John Miller, I put my face in my hands, shake a little, take a few deep breaths. So much for Prince Charming.’

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30th November 2014 – Book Review ‘Its Not Me, Its You’ by Mhairi Mcfarlane

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four and a half

After bring us some great books such as ‘You had me at Hello’ and ‘Here’s looking at You’, Mhairi McFarlane is back with a bang! I have loved reading Mhairi’s books and when I received this book for review, I say unreservedly without exaggeration that I was very, very excited at the prospect of getting my hands and indeed my eyes on this one!

‘It’s Not Me It’s You’ is about the unique, irrepressible Delia, our ginger haired, retro fashion loving Geordie heroine who is living a fairly mundane existence with her bar owner boyfriend Paul, working as the local council’s PR  and pretty much hiding her bright, shining light under a bushel, so as to speak. Things get a little bit interesting when the council starts getting ‘cyber trolled’ by someone called the ‘Peshawari Naan’ and it falls on Delia to find the culprit. Added to this, after ten years with Paul, Delia, understandably pops the question, with an expectation that Paul will whole-heartedly accept her marriage proposal and be as ready to make a lasting commitment as her.

To her (and also the reader’s) dismay, Paul is for want of a better word ‘underwhelmed’ and on the very night Delia accidentally intercepts a text meant for Paul from the woman that he is cheating on her with. This sets off a chain of events that change Delia’s life forever. Leaving the unfaithful and ungrateful Paul, who has been cheating on her with the much younger Celine, Delia leaves in tears, seeking refuge with her parents. After this, a particularly trying day at work, she finally decides to leave her old job at the council and departs for London, to live with her successful lawyer friend, Emma, planning to put all the events that transpired behind her and embarking on a new life.

In London, Delia finds work with the slightly shady and dubious Kurt Spicer, owner of PR agency Twist and Shout along with fellow newbie team mate Stephanie. Alongside this, she keeps in touch with her old enemy turned cyber friend ‘Peshawari Naan’ and tries to get accustomed to the London life, one day at a time. Enter Adam West, a journalist who seems to have an agenda against Kurt and ‘Twist & Shout’. Thinking that keeping on Adam’s good side might be beneficial for the agency, Delia agrees to meet him one day and after a particularly disastrous meeting, leaves her client folder behind, giving Adam perfect fodder to blackmail her.

What transpires after this is what makes up the rest of the story, where we find that things aren’t always what they seem, people can be helpful in ways that we cannot imagine and our spirited, fiery heroine is capable of a lot of things which she herself did not realise. I do not want to give away more of the story here, as, dear reader, I would want you to discover the the rest of the tale yourself! However, this book has some amazing characters, especially our brave, humorous, talented and supremely gutsy heroine Delia. Delia also has a hidden talent, she is an expert caricature artist, who loves to draw and write comics in her spare time and has been working on a comic called ‘The Fox’. All credit goes to Mhairi for writing this brilliant book and interspersing ‘The Fox’ into various situations in Delia’s life.

I was also particularly impressed with the development of Adam West’s character, he came in as a slightly suspect character who was ‘posh’ and a little bit superior in his attitude, all cynicism and looking down his nose at the red haired Geordie girl with the questionable fashion sense, but as the reader got to know him, they couldn’t help but fall a little in love with him. He really, really redeemed himself, especially towards the end of the novel and that letter! Oh that letter that he wrote to Delia….swoon…. Some justification for Paul’s appalling behaviour and his cheating ways is also given and although as a reader I still did not sympathise with him, I understood what drove his behaviour.

Kudos to Mhairi for writing another winner! This book made me laugh, cry, sigh and read until the wee hours of the night! I loved the story and apart from the heroine Delia, I also loved the other characters and their quirks! The reclusive but witty Peshawari Naan, Delia’s shy, gamer brother Ralph, the posh journalist Adam West who hid a heart of gold, the successful lawyer Emma who has Delia’s best interests at heart, Stephanie who is Delia’s coffee buddy, confidante and partner in all crimes (justified or otherwise) and Kurt, the seedy, two-faced boss who likes to live the London life and work with dodgy, immoral celebrities.

This book gets a rightful four and a half star rating and I hope Mhairi keeps writing more of her fabulous books for us readers! I, for one am keenly waiting for her next masterpiece!

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