Six In Six – A Look Back At Some Of My Top Books Of 2017 So Far…

6 I saw this over at Cleopatra Loves Books, and thought it was a great idea to look back at books read so far in 2017. Hosted by Jo’s Book Journey, the idea is sharing 6 books, in 6 categories from the first half of the year. So here’s my choices:

6 Books I Have Enjoyed The Most 

 

 

6 Psychological Thrillers I Have Read & Enjoyed 

 

 

6 New To Me Authors 

 

 

6 Covers I’ve Loved

 

 

6 Books Which Took Me To The Past 

 

 

Six Books I Own & Can’t Believe I Haven’t Managed To Read Yet 

 

Book Review: His Other Life by Beth Thomas

He was hiding a terrible secret…

Grace’s new husband Adam seems like the perfect package. Good looking, great job, completely charming – almost too good to be true…


So when Adam suddenly disappears from Grace’s life, she is left bewildered and heartbroken. And with a lot of unanswered questions.


As she tries desperately to find him, Grace opens a Pandora’s Box of secrets and lies – and starts to learn that Adam wasn’t so perfect after all.


What shameful secrets was her husband hiding? Is Grace in danger? And can she survive the truth? However terrible it may be… (From Goodreads.com)


Published by Avon (UK) March 2015 

I had no idea what to expect from this book before I started it. The cover screams chick lit while the blurb hints at something more sinister. After finishing it, I’d say it definitely edges on the side of chick lit. But good chick lit, with a fresh and original slant, a mystery to solve and laugh out loud humour by the bucketful. 

Grace is endearingly scatty, frustratingly so at times, but I warmed to her. I loved the chatty style Beth Thomas wrote this novel in and it’s almost like a running commentary of Grace’s thought process. The secondary characters are equally as fun to read and I enjoyed the few hours I spent in their company. I laughed out loud on more than one occasion! 

The ‘mystery’ angle is interesting, especially given the popularity of psychological thrillers right now. If you’re expecting this kind of book though, you may be disappointed. His Other Life refuses to take itself seriously. The search for Grace’s missing husband verges on the ridiculous at times, and is definitely more parody than chilling’ who dunnit’. That said, I was quite surprised at a more serious tone towards the end. 

His Other Life isn’t going to appeal to everyone. Personally, I liked it. It was fun, it made me smile and I enjoyed Beth Thomas’s easy writing style. This book is perfect comfort reading, ideal for holidays and lazy weekends. If you love a romantic comedy with a bit of a different spin, then I think His Other Life would be a good bet.  

My copy was an advanced proof from the Amazon Vine Program

Book Review: To Marry A Prince by Sophie Page

One night is about to change Bella’s life for ever…

Bella Greenwood isn’t a fairytale girl. If pushed, she’d probably tell you that her perfect wedding would involve a handful of close friends and family. But as she’s never met anyone she’d like to marry, it’s a moot point.

Until, in a midnight garden, Bella is helped out of an embarrassing situation by a tall, dark, handsome man with laughing eyes. And suddenly her life changes for ever, because the man is the world’s most eligible bachelor: Prince Richard, heir to the throne.

Richard sweeps her off her feet, and before she knows it they’re engaged. Which is when Bella’s problems really begin. Suddenly she is public property, and as if it isn’t enough to have her every move watched – while also learning to curtsy and negotiating the etiquette of how to address her future mother-in-law – she soon finds herself embroiled in bridesmaid politics, a right royal hen night, and a wedding dress controversy that causes a national scandal…

Can this ordinary girl survive the preparations for her very own Royal Wedding? (From Goodreads)


So, the Royal wedding is fast approaching. The ‘Real’ Royal Wedding that is, between Prince William and Katie (soon to be Princess Catherine) and whether you care or not it’s pretty hard to ignore. Commemorative plates and mugs are popping up everywhere, bunting hangs in the shops and book stores are filled with wedding themed offerings. Just like this one, To Marry A Prince.

Firstly I’ll just say that other than mild irritation at the inconvenience caused with childcare arrangements that day (schools and holiday clubs closed, shops are not and yeah, I work in one) I’m not that interested in the Royal Wedding. I might switch the TV on to get a glimpse of the dress if I remember but that’s it. So you may be surprised to hear that I actually really liked To Marry A Prince by Sophie Page. It’s fun, cute and romantic and all round great read.

I guess every girl at some point has had the Cinderella dream. I’m no different and the fact Bella Greenwood gets hers really appeals. Of course deep down I would hate to be marrying a prince. I couldn’t cope with the media attention, protocol and tradition. Sophie Page picks up on what it would be like to be thrust under the spotlight by falling for the most eligible bachelor in the world with hilarious results. I liked Bella a lot. She’s brave, feisty and doesn’t bow or scrape to her in laws to be. Go girl. The attraction between Bella and Prince Richard (fictional Prince Of Wales in this book) is genuinely romantic and I was fully invested in both characters and wishing them well.

Personally, I have never seen the attraction of Prince William. Gimme a bad boy on a motorbike with tats and muscles any day. Prince Richard however did capture my heart just a teeny bit. Ok, I got a crush on him. He’s handsome, sexy, passionate and strong; definitely not what I was expecting! I liked how he was so torn between his loyalties and felt very sorry for him at times.

To enjoy this book you really need to be able to suspend belief quite a bit, you know some of things in this book would never happen and if this would annoy you then I’d say pass on it. However if you love a bit of a fairytale with funny dialogue and strong characters then I say read this instead of watching the real thing…I guarantee it will be much more fun. I did think that once Bella and Richard were engaged the book was a little rushed and thought one character, Chloe, underused. She would have made a fantastic villain but wasn’t really developed. Overall though I thoroughly enjoyed To Marry A Prince and read it over two days. Highly recommended!





Published by Arrow March 2011
Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review.

Review: The Secret Shopper Unwrapped by Kate Harrison

The Secret Shopper Unwrapped joins Emily, Grazia and Sandie two years after The Secret Shoppers Revenge ended. Things have moved quite a way for the three friends, who met in the first book as mystery shoppers for the secretive and shady Charlie. These days though, Emily is playing happy families with love of her life Will and keeping her own shop. Grazia is finally recovering from the death of her beloved artist husband, Leon, and tentatively making steps to a new relationship. Sandie, having made the biggest change of all, is now running her own shopping consultancy business and has moved in with her loaded ex boss, Toby and is blissfully in love. However, it seems that beyond the façade, all three woman are yet again in a period of turmoil and uncertainty. Can the friends come together again to help each other through their tough times?

What really stuck out for me in this book is that unlike the first, shopping was a mere whisper in the background this time around. Yes it’s still there, but it’s the three friends personal stories that manipulate the pages, and I liked this. I felt I really got to know and care for each and everyone.

Despite the fluffy shopping theme, some pretty deep and sensitive issues are tackled in this book, and with great sensitivity too. Sandie in particular has a pretty rough ride and has to make some heartbreaking decisions. In the original book, I didn’t really warm to her all that much. However, as we delve deeper into her life and her vulnerability is revealed, I really started to like and empathise with her very much. I also really enjoyed the softer side of Grazia, who, is revealed in this book. Her particular story is both sad and funny at the same time, and I loved the flamboyant and blunt, but incredibly kindhearted Italian glamourpus. I think what makes Kate Harrison’s characters work so well is the complete belief I had in them. They are real, down to earth and I can actually imagine knowing them.

The exception, or weak link, however was Emily. It’s not that she is terrible; on the whole I like her. I have a problem with her slight ridiculousness at times though, and I found one storyline involving her, pretty far fetched. I remember feeling the same when reading the first book, where her story dominated. In this one she plays less of a role, and the other characters manage to over shadow her so I didn’t find it too much of an issue.

The characters are given a first person narrative, and each speaks for a chapter at a time, titled with the name so it’s easy to tell whom you are with at anytime. I honestly think that even if the chapter was left untitled, once you knew the characters you would be able to identify them, as Kate Harrison gives each of them their own distinctive voice and personality. The friends don’t actually spend a lot of time together, and I think it especially to her credit that the author manages to create three very different personalities, keep them all distinctive, realistic and deep enough that by the end of the book you feel like you know them well. I do think that this book wouldn’t work as well as a stand-alone book, and would recommend that you read the first in the series, as a lot of background is set there. To keep fresh, Harrison introduces another character, Kelly, who slotted in beautifully. Again she is different and distinctive from the three original characters and with her Kate Harrison introduces a darker element to the book. Kelly was another fabulously real and believable character and I found her story intriguing.

‘Secret Shopper Unwrapped’ is themed around Christmas, and is quite festive. This was a perfect book to treat myself to over the recent holidays, but I think it could equally be enjoyed at anytime of the year. If you read and enjoyed ‘Secret Shoppers Revenge’ you will love this book, which takes us deeper into the lives of the three women. I’d highly recommend both of them, but I do think this is by far the better of the two. Kate Harrison’s secret shopper books manage to mix fun with serious issues and create very real characters that by the end you will feel are your own friends who you have laughed and cried with. I can’t wait for the third book in the series, due out in in 2011 I believe.
My Rating: 5/5

Published by orion in 2009
ISBN 978-1409107309

Book Review: The Secret Shoppers Revenge by Kate Harrison

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 – and sending the damning footage straight to head office. Store manager Sandie has a lifelong love of the world of retail – the glitz, the glamour, the stockroom. Then she’s fitted up by an ambitious assistant and secret shopping is the only way to keep her one passion alive. 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 or her fair-weather friends who’ve dumped her. They’re Charlie’s Shopping Angels, controlled by a mysterious figure who sends them assignments. But when they’re sent to stitch up a doomed shop owned by Will, the angels begin to feel divided loyalties …

I was attracted to the book by the ‘secret shopping’ aspect. Having worked in retail customer service and experienced the terror of mystery shop results, hoping I hadn’t been ‘shopped’ and failed. I was interested to read the secret shoppers take on things. I also really liked the cover, which is baby blue with pink glitter ribbons, it appealed to my girly side. Isn’t it just gorgeous?

The story is told in the first person, by 3 very different women. Each chapter is titled with the woman’s name so you know who you are reading from and don’t get confused. The story tells what brings them together as ‘Charlies Shopping Angels’ and covers a year of their lives. However, don’t be fooled into thinking this is a story just about shopping and bad service. It’s a story about friendship, self discovery and a little bit of girl power.

The 3 women are Emily, Sandie and Grazia.

Emily is a single mum, after being uprooted to London while pregnant by her husbands job, then dumped for Heidi in Sweden. She knows no one, is a bit over-weight, ditzy and unorganised. I really liked Emily, as I identified with her most, being not the most organized mum ever as well, and a bit low in self confidence. She provides the comedy in this book, and her experiences are wrote really well. A slightly irritating trait the author gave her is that she’s at times childlike, and comes across as stupid mostly in the middle area of the book. I’m dizzy and unorganized, but I’m not going to start jumping up and down clapping my hands in glee over a cream cake, I’m not sure why the Author felt she had to stupefy her like this, but it does pass in the second half of the book. I also found the story line involving her estranged husband a bit unbelievable, I can’t imagine any woman feeling threatened into submission over his silly demands. I do think if we are to feel sympathy for Emily here, he needed to be more menacing.

Sandie has worked and lived for a huge department store all her working life, until she is set up by her deputy and finds herself jobless. Now this woman really did confuse me. Why would anyone not seek legal advice, especially someone we are expected to believe is very intelligent, I don’t know. But she doesn’t, she accepts her unfair fate, and becomes a Shopping Angel. There’s not really that much to like or dislike about Sandie. She’s a bit wet and boring and has a touch of OCD.

Grazia is an Italian widow and haunted by her famous artist husband, and the debts he left her. The leader of the shopping angels trio, at first she comes across very cold, but then her feisty, passionate nature is revealed. She’s the strength in the group, although a bit of a culture snob. It was a bit difficult to feel any sympathy for her loss, as she seemed, in the first half of the book, to think her loss was greater as her husband was a ‘great young artist’ and she his muse. She often has conversations with him, and answers how he would have. This didn’t inspire images of passionate artistic love between two soul mates, it just made me think he must have been a spoilt brat with an over inflated ego, which she fed.

Overall, this is a good read. It’s original and funny enough, some of the characters are interesting, although there where parts I found very annoying. It’s interesting enough to keep you turning the pages, and delivers pretty much everything you want from a chick-lit book. I’d recommend this for poolside reading on holiday, or when you just want an easy fun read.