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Posts Tagged ‘friendship’

This is the story of two very different men who went to the same prestigious school, but years later neither of their lives have turned out the way they were expected.

Since the incident that caused James DeWitt to suffer a severe brain injury, robbing him of his job, his friends and his girlfriend, James lives back at home with his parents and spends his days watching DVDs.

Meanwhile, Danny Allen, former scholarship pupil at the school and destined to have a successful and industrious career, has more or less given up on life. He is a recovering alcoholic, with a failing relationship and no job. It is only when he is told that he needs to find employment or lose his benefits that he ends up working in a care home, where he encounters James and they strike up a friendship.

I’ll leave the description at that, as I don’t want to give away any spoilers.

The story is narrated by James and Danny, with each taking alternate chapters. I really liked the book and found it to be an undemanding read, despite the subject matter. Mike Gayle has always written enjoyable novels, but usually on a much lighter note. Here he delves into more serious issues, such as learning to live with a brain injury which meant that James had lost his independence, and Danny struggling as he blamed himself for a tragic event in his past. I think I could see where the book was going and the ending was no real surprise; however, it is not a thriller or a whodunnit and every ending doesn’t need to have a twist.

If you are a fan of Mike Gayle or authors such as Nick Hornby, I would certainly recommend this book.

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As it turns out, this oddly titled movie is in fact perfectly titled, because this little gem is both beautiful and fantastic.

Jessica Brown Findlay is perfect as Bella Brown, a young woman who started life as a foundling baby, raised in a strict Catholic orphanage, and now lives a reclusive life, working in a library, and apparently having no non-essential contact with anyone else.

She very obviously has OCD although this is not specifically stated. But while her house is completely ordered and everything is in exactly it’s right place, the same does not apply to the garden – in fact, so unruly and overgrown has she allowed the garden to become, that she is threatened with eviction if she cannot get it sorted out within a month.

Her curmudgeonly neighbour Alfie (the always brilliant Tom Wilkinson) begrudgingly gets involved, and his former cook the widowed Vernon (Andrew Scott), who leaves Alfie’s employ after one too many insults, starts working for Bella. Alfie and Vernon become the first real friends Bella has ever had, and as the garden takes bloom, so indeed does Bella – but I won’t say more, as I think anyone watching this should see the story unfold and be as captivated by it as I was.

There is something quite magical about this film; it’s whimsical and sweet, and I ended up loving every character. The three main cast members could not be bettered, and there is a small but excellent supporting cast including Anna Chancellor as Bella’s exasperated – and exasperating boss. It left me smiling and I would honestly recommend this film to anyone who wants a film that will make your day better.

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I think I may have found a new favourite author. After listening to and loving her novella Evidence of the Affair, this was my next audiobook of hers (I have also bought Daisy Jones and the Six, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo as physical books). This was narrated by Julia Whelan, who I think did a great job (tiny niggle: all the men sounded exactly the same, but that didn’t bother me).

The story centres on Hannah Martin, who has moved back to Los Angeles where she grew up, following a bad break up in New York. She moves in temporarily with her best friend Gabby and Gabby’s husband Mark. On Hannah’s first weekend back home, they go out to a club and Hannah meets her former and first love, Ethan. At the end of the night she has to decide whether to go home with Gabby, or to stay out with Ethan…and this is where the story splits in two, Sliding Doors style.

In the first scenario, Hannah leaves with Gabby and Mark, and is involved in a road accident which lands her in hospital. In the second scenario, she stays at the club with Ethan, and their relationship starts to develop. The two stories are told in alternate chapters, which show the differing paths that Hannah chooses and how they both unfold.

I loved the way it was told; it never got confusing, and it perfectly illustrated how the choices we make affect the courses of our lives. I liked both stories, but on balance I slightly preferred the scenario which started with her leaving the club with Gabby.

It’s difficult to say more without revealing spoilers, but I definitely enjoyed this, and if you like ‘what if’ scenarios, I think you might enjoy it too!

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Okay, this was another audiobook which I listened to over a few long runs. I mention this because I find that books I can quite like as audiobooks are often books that I know I wouldn’t enjoy if I read them as a physical book and this is one of those. The reason is because when running, I want something to divert me and keep me occupied while exercising. When I’m reading a physical book I want it immerse myself in it; it’s not a diversion from something else I’m doing. For this reason I can listen to chick-lit audiobooks but I rarely actually read one. This was narrated by Gerri Halligan, who did a good job, although I did find her American accent slightly questionable (but not enough to annoy me).

The story is narrated in alternate chapters by three characters…

Gemma Hogan is still smarting from her ex-boyfriend Anton falling in love with her ex-friend Lily. Life only gets more complicated for her when her father leaves her mother after 35 years of marriage, causing her mother to go to pieces. Gemma finds herself having to babysit her mother at the age of 32.

Lily is blissfully happy with Anton and their daughter Emer, but she can’t help feeling guilty about Gemma, and is convinced that karma will catch up with her and Anton at some point. She writes a book which is a runaway success, but the publishing world is a fickle business.

Jojo is the literary agent who takes on Lily as a client. Jojo is a strong independent and successful woman – who just happens to be in a relationship with her married boss. She is in a cutthroat business and has a complicated love life. Will her career ambitions and her clandestine romance clash?

I found the story somewhat diverting and it did hold my attention for the most part (it seemed to drift along aimlessly for a little while in the middle, and I think the book would have been more effective if it had been shorter). There’s no doubt that Marian Keyes can write humour very well; however for me the main problem was that I didn’t like many of the characters. Gemma was my favourite out of the main three. She was funny and hapless but obviously intelligent. She was also, in my opinion, far too good for Anton and wasted way too much time feeling sad about him.

I didn’t really like Jojo or her boss Mark. I didn’t like that he was cheating on his perfectly lovely wife, and treated his children like a liability that stopped him from having fun with his bit on the side. I didn’t like that Jojo was complicit in that deception. She was portrayed as a tough woman who takes no s**t, but she was happy to wait around for her cheating boyfriend to let her down time after time.

And Lily!! Don’t get me started. She was supposed to be sweet and sensitive but she came across as such a wet weekend. I felt like shaking her and telling her to get a bloody grip. And Anton just annoyed the heck out of me. Feckless with money and generally  irresponsible, he was full of pipe dreams, which Lily was expected to finance. I kept wanting her to find a backbone and chuck him out.

With all that said, there were things about this book that I enjoyed; I preferred the first third, which featured Gemma’s job a lot more than later, and there was a side character (Johnny) who I enjoyed hearing about.

I remember reading some of Marian Keyes’ other books many years ago – I loved them. This one was not as enjoyable, but whether that’s because of the book or because of my changing tastes, I’m not sure. I probably would give another book of hers a go, as it was pretty undemanding, but it wouldn’t be top of my list.

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In the late 80s, the Thunder Girls were the biggest girl band on the planet. Chrissie, Carly, Roxanne and Anita had the world at their feet, until it came to an abrupt end. Three of their careers were destroyed and the friendship was in tatters.

Thirty years later, they are invited to get back together for a reunion gig, but after all the backstabbing, betrayals and recriminations, can they even bear to be in the same room?

This book follows the girls throughout their separate lives, which include divorce, children, addiction, and bankruptcy. Not to mention that while they are planning the huge comeback which will see them back on the pedestals, someone else is plotting to bring them down…

I wanted a book that was undemanding and light hearted, and this book fitted the bill. It wasn’t always light hearted, but it also wasn’t ever to be taken too seriously. There’s a fairly healthy dollop of Jackie Collins-esque storylines here (although without the X-rating), mixed in with The Bold and the Beautiful type scenes and some of the events require a suspension of disbelief, while others were were predictable.

This is not the kind of book that wins literary prizes and nor is it meant to be. But if you want some pure escapism, this might do the trick.

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I listened to this audiobook while out running (not in one go, that would have been a LONG run!) and I realised something about the difference in enjoyment for me between physical books and audiobooks. When I’m reading a physical book, I want to be absorbed and completely drawn into it – for me, chicklit does not really do this, because it’s so easy to predict what’s going to happen. But when I’m out running, I just want something to distract me, something to occupy my mind. It doesn’t need to be *too* absorbing – it’s doing the same job as listening to music or podcasts does for others. So I enjoyed this book a lot, while acknowledging that if I was reading a physical copy I would not have liked it half as much.

Sophie Mayhew is married to John, a conservative government minister who is widely expected to be the next prime minister. Known in the papers as ‘Sophie the trophy’, her role is to basically look good on her husband’s arms and support him in all he does. It’s a job she does very well – until a story breaks about an affair her husband has had, and she  *doesn’t* toe the line. Instead she tells the papers precisely what she thinks about her husband’s behaviour and decides she needs time to herself. She ends up in the small Yorkshire village of Little Lost, near where she went to school. There, she finds friendship, acceptance and peace. She befriends Tracey, the local publican, who helps her out with somewhere to stay – and Tracey’s brother Elliot, the handsome local vicar, who sets all the local womens’ hearts racing. As Sophie grows closer to Tracey, Elliot and his little boy Luke, she starts to wish she didn’t have to go back to her old life. But reality is calling – will she answer?

Okay. So it’s chicklit, and that means you can probably guess what happens at the end from the scenario above. But getting there is great fun and there are plenty of other parts to this story, which as Tracey’s love life and Elliot’s estranged wife. I liked hearing about Little Lost and enjoyed the way that life in a small village was portrayed, with everyone pulling together and looking out for each other.

John and his family, as well as Sophie’s own family, were with one exception, all horrible. Selfish, critical and arrogant – I can’t believe that she didn’t walk out years earlier!

If you like chicklit, I would recommend this book. For me, the audiobook was extremely well narrated by Coleen Prendergast, who had a voice that perfectly fitted the story (I’m not surprised to learn that she has narrated the audio versions of Johnson’s other books too).

Overall, it’s not really my genre, but it’s one of the best in it’s own genre, and gets a good rating from me.

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I listened to this audiobook, narrated by Tom Kotcher, over the course of several days. it is billed as the first in the Karen Pirie series, but Officer Pirie is very much on the periphery of this story (I suspect it was to ‘test the waters’ before writing a series based around a particular character).

It’s a book of two halves; the first half is set in 1978, when four students – who are known by their nicknames, Ziggy, Gilly, Weird and Mondo – in St Andrews stable across the body of a young woman named Rosie Duff, who is vaguely known to them. She has been attacked and left for dead. The police launch an investigation which fails to find the killer, but suspicion falls upon the four lads, and follows them around for the rest of their time at the university.

25 years later, the police reopen the cold case, but things take a strange turn when two of the former students are murdered and the remaining two decide that someone is taking revenge on them for the murder of Rosie. With the police not seeming to get anywhere, the two men decide to do some sleuthing of their own.

This is the first Val McDermid book I have ever read or listened to, and I have to say that I did enjoy it. Tom Kotcher did a good job narrating, with the exception of his American accent, which was pretty atrocious. Fortunately there are only a couple of American characters and neither of them feature very heavily, so that was not really an issue.

McDermid describes the tension and atmosphere extremely well, and I did feel that the four young men were all very distinctive; their relationships with each other were also well portrayed and formed a large part of the story. As for the mystery itself – I did actually figure out who the killer was when I was about a third of the way through, but nonetheless I still liked listening to the novel.

Based on this book, I would definitely try more by this author.

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I’m not sure how this film managed to slip under the radar to the extent that it has. After all, it stars two very well known actors, and one of them is Keanu Reeves – a man who it’s virtually impossible to dislike (it might even be illegal at this point!)

Anyway, I love Keanu and I think Winona Ryder is a terrific actress in this kind of role so I looked forward to watching this film, and I wasn’t disappointed. Frank (Reeves) and Lindsay (Ryder) meet up when they both travel to the same destination wedding – one which neither of them wants to attend. Initial animosity turns to friendship and affection, but both have tainted views of relationships and want to insulate themselves against pain, so determine that they should not get involved.

if that sounds angsty, the film itself isn’t. It’s charming, very funny and unusual in that Frank and Lindsay are the only two characters who actually speak throughout the film. It’s so cleverly done though, that it was only after I had finished watching that I actually realised this. There are other people in it of course – but they don’t have lines.

Both characters have the potential to be very unlikeable. Frank is a narcissist, and Lindsay verges on neurotic – so casting two likeable actors was a smart move on the part of the filmmakers, because while you are not blind to their very human flaws, you also actually do care about these characters and get invested in their story (at least I certainly did).

It’s a rather lovely film, and I would certainly recommend it.

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In Liverpool in 1985 Adam, Kathleen and Jocelyn are teenagers and best friends, who are brought together by an unusual nativity play. They all have high hopes for their future – Adam wants to be a writer, Jocelyn wants to be a singer, and Kathleen wants to be an embalmer (yep!) Their lives might be messy and chaotic, but they are filled with friendship and laughter.

Fast forward 30 years, and Kathleen is an alcoholic, Adam is consumed with guilt over a big secret, and Jocelyn is dead.

This is where the story starts, but from then on, it jumps backwards and forwards in time between 1985, 2015 and the intervening years. It also switches narrators between the three main characters, and another character named Billy, whose role in the story I won’t reveal.

The constant character and timeline switches were handled well, and I didn’t feel that they got confusing, although it would have been easy for them to do so. I read this book in two days, which – for me anyway – means that it was easy to get into, and that the writing flowed well. I found myself looking forward to picking it up again each time I had to put it down. However, it was darker in tone than I was expecting. The cover quotes led me to anticipate a dark comedy, and this was more of a drama with a bit of comedy thrown in. I didn’t like Jocelyn much, and I didn’t particularly feel invested in Adam’s character. I quite liked Kathleen, although her behaviour left a lot to be desired at times. But of all the characters, she seemed the most hopeful, the most eager to believe in the possibility of a decent future.

There was a plot twist at the end, which I guessed about halfway through, but this is not a mystery where a plot twist can change your perspective about everything that has gone before, so it didn’t really affect my enjoyment of the book. No. if I had to have one major gripe, it was that the events that took place relied VERY heavily on coincidence, which did require me to suspend my disbelief several times.

I won’t spoil the ending for anyone, but suffice to say that while this was not what I was expecting and I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I had hoped, it was still a worthy read and I would definitely check out more novels by Jonathan Harvey.

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I listened to this audiobook while out on a longish run. It’s a shortish audiobook at about an hour and a half, so perfect for my purposes.

Told entirely through letters, this is the story of a growing friendship between Carrie and David, who each discover that their spouses are having an affair with each other. What initially starts as Carrie’s attempt to find out her husband’s motivations for sleeping with someone else becomes a real friendship, as the two support each other, and help each other through the tough time.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this audiobook. The narrators were Julia Whelan, George Newburn, James Daniels and Dara Rosenberg, although we only hear from the cheating spouses Ken and Janet through Carrie and David reading the letters which they have sent to each other. All the narrators were excellent and I really liked both David and Carrie, even though it was only a short story. It was interesting seeing their different reactions to the affair and their contrasting hopes for the future.

I would definitely read/listen to more by this author and recommend this book highly.

 

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