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(Audiobook narrated by Alex Tregear)

Imogen is a single mother with a demanding job, who hasn’t had a holiday in years. So when her friend Meredith wins a luxury break in Barcelona, the two of them and their other best friend Nicola decide to take full advantage. After all, Meredith is pregnant, so who knows when they will get the chance again. However, things start to go wrong from the start, with Imogen having to sort out work problems despite being on holiday and coping with her demanding mother’s phone calls. And then there’s Harry – the fellow holidaymaker who is the first man to pique Imogen’s interest since Roberto, the father of her daughter.

I have listened to Jane Costello before and have previously enjoyed her books. Initially I enjoyed this one too, but I must admit that after a while, it started to grate on me somewhat. It is narrated by Imogen, and honestly…I just wanted to shake her and tell her to stop being such a doormat. This woman is on holiday for the first time in several years, and she receives several telephone calls a day from her boss and other colleagues, expecting her to sort out a problem that was not caused by her in the first place!! And she just puts up with it.

Additionally, I had to ask just how many ridiculous mishaps can happen to one person? It made it really hard to believe in the story when embarrassments and clumsy mishaps happened to Imogen time and time again, supposedly for comedic effect.

Anyway the ending was predictable, and well signposted, but I find that’s usually the case with chicklit.

I would listen to more by Jane Costello, but that is based on my previous experience, rather than this particular read. It’s not awful but it’s certainly not great either.

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Walk, Don’t Run was Cary Grant’s last film, and (unbeknown to me prior to watching) is a remake of an earlier film The More The Merrier.

Grant is William Rutland, a British businessman who arrives in Tokyo during the 1964 Olympics and is unable to find a room to stay. He has arrived two days early, meaning that the hotel room he had booked is not yet available. He finds a room to let in the apartment of a young woman named Christine Eaton (Samantha Eggar). Christine had advertised for a female flatmate but reluctantly agrees to let Rutland stay as she feels it is her patriotic duty. Rutland then invites a young athlete named Steve Davis (Jim Hutton) to also stay at the apartment, in the hope of playing cupid for Christine and Steve.

The two youngsters are very different people but eventually start to get along fairly well. However there are obstacles to their romance, not least Christine’s stuffy diplomat boyfriend Julius Haversack (John Standing).

This film has one major point in it’s favour, that is Cary Grant. Grant himself declined to play a romantic lead at this point in his career as he felt that he was too old to be believable in such a role. He subsequently retired from acting to raise his daughter. In all fairness, Samantha Eggar and Jim Hutton are also both very good in their roles. The film itself though is ultimately something of a let-down. It’s not bad, but it starts with a bang and ends with a whimper.

Still, as a fan of Cary Grant, that alone makes it worth the watch, so while I wouldn’t recommend it necessarily, I wouldn’t mind if I had to sit down and watch it again.

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One Touch of Venus is a lighthearted romantic comedy starring Robert Walker and Ava Gardner, with support from Eve Arden, Tom Conway, Dick Hayes and Olga San Juan.

Walker is Eddie Hatch, a worker in a posh department store who is asked to fix a curtain behind which is a statue of Venus (Gardner). He impulsively kisses the statue and is astonished when Venus comes to life and starts to follow him round. Hatch is already in a relationship with Gloria (San Juan) so chaos and comedy ensue when he tries to keep Gloria and Venus from meeting, while also coming under suspicion from his boss Mr Savory (Conway) who believes that Hatch has stolen the now missing statue.

The 1980s film Mannequin clearly borrowed heavily from this film, and while I enjoyed Mannequin, I think One Touch of Venus is superior. Ava Gardner certainly is goddess-like, and Walker has a gift for physical comedy and they carry the film well together.

San Juan was great supporters were Conway and Dick Hayes (as Hatch’s friend Joe). However Eve Arden, as Mr Savory’s personal assistant stole most of the scenes she was in, with her acerbic and witty comments.

This film had slipped under my radar and I only spotted it by accident. I’m glad I did though, and would recommend it to fans of classic old movies.

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Vivacious Lady stars a young James Stewart as botany professor Peter Morgan and Ginger Rogers as the title character – a nightclub singer named Francey. When Peter and Francey meet, it’s love and first sight and they impulsively get married. However, Peter is then faced with the prospect of telling his conservative parents – not to mention his fiancee Helen! – what he has done. Lots of comedy ensues as he struggles to find the right time, and the couple have to hide their romance.

This film is a sparkling delight from start to finish. James Stewart is just so bloody likeable and sincere in everything he ever did, and Ginger Rogers had perfect comic timing, which made her shine in a hilarious fight scene. Not that she has the monopoly on physical comedy in this film – Stewart’s character getting drunk is terrific (he does a splendid drunken scene two years later in The Philadelphia Story) and there is a wonderful dance scene with Rogers, James Ellison as Peter’s cousin Frank, and Beulah Bondi as Peter’s mother Martha.

With Charles Coburn playing Peter’s father, who takes an instant dislike to Francey, and great turns from Frances Mercer as Helen, this is a great cast who all seem to be enjoying themselves. And this certainly translates to the viewer, because I can’t imagine anyone finishing this film without a smile on their face.

In short, this is called a classic for a very valid reason. If you like films from this genre, then don’t miss this one!

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This is author and screenwriter William Goldman’s classic spoof fairy tale, which tells the story of Buttercup (the most beautiful girl in the world) and Westley (former farm boy turned swashbuckling hero) and their eternal love. Except that it is SO much more than that. There are pirates, kidnappings, death, swords, giants, princes, heroic escapes, magic and more besides. Apart from Buttercup and Westley, the main characters are Inigo Montoya and Fezzik the Giant, not to mention the numerous others, all of whom were highly entertaining in their own right.

It is framed in an unusual way – in the edition which I read, there is first of all a proper introduction by Goldman (I often skip introductions, but this is worth reading), and then a part where Goldman himself reminisces about being a young boy who had the story read to him by his father. The conceit is that Goldman claims that The Princess Bride was written by S. Morgenstern – who is in actuality entirely fictional – and he (Goldman) has merely edited it to get rid of the boring bits, and only tell the entertaining parts. Throughout the story itself, Goldman often interrupts the narrative to explain that he has cut part of the story and gives a brief synopsis of what happened in the part that he has cut. It sounds complicated, but all makes sense when you are reading it.

I actually didn’t realise quite how accomplished Goldman was – he wrote screenplays for such incredible and successful films as All The President’s Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Misery. He also wrote several novels including Marathon Man, which was turned into an excellent film. His talent is undeniable, and his originality shines through in The Princess Bride. I am not normally a lover of fantasy fiction, which is why it took me so long to get around to reading this, but I would recommend this whether it is a genre you enjoy or not.

Truly deserving of it’s classic status.

 

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This audiobook was narrated by Colleen Prendergast, who I have previously enjoyed listening to as a narrator. She did a great job here too, but unfortunately I did not particularly enjoy listening to this book.

The story is narrated by Nina Penhaligon, an actress on the brink of making it big in television. After making a massive blunder and embarrassing her agent, she decides to get away from it all and goes to stay with her brother in Devon. There she meets up with an old friend named Theo, who has problems of his own. Theo and his wife Kate’s marriage is floundering after they struggle to get over a traffic loss. Nina gets involved with helping Theo set up his holiday let business and falls for the quieter pace of life in Devon, as opposed to the hustle and bustle of London.

In between trying to help Theo and Kate mend their marriage, Nina also has to find out the truth about her own family history, help her brother see that too much work is not good for him, get involved with trying to save a local landmark, and of course, there’s a big dollop of romance in there too.

I’ve long ago come to the conclusion that chicklit is not a genre which really works for me, but when listening to audiobooks, I can sometimes enjoy it. This one started out fairly well, but it went on for so SO long. I felt that a few of the storylines could have been cut out completely and the book would have been better for it (I’m not going to be too specific here, as I don’t want to give away spoilers). It seemed to be about twice as long as it needed to be. The other thing was that the way the holiday let business got set up was just unrealistic. Nina basically happens upon Theo’s rundown, unkempt and completely unfurnished holiday cottages, and transforms them in ONE AFTERNOON!!

I appreciate that we are meant to be rooting for Nina, but I found her quite annoying by the end of it. They should have just called her a fairy godmother, given her a magic wand and have done with it. She managed to solve the problems of practically everyone in the village, and it felt like she was going around sprinkling her fairy dust everywhere. The other problem was that some of the plot points were so obviously signposted that it seemed incredible that Nina didn’t spot what was coming herself.

On the positive side (yes, there is one!) I thought the Devon setting was lovely and it did  make me think that I too would love to live in a place like that.

I should mention again that this is not really a genre I read a lot, because I generally find it very predictable, which was one of my niggles with this book. I’ve read several other reviews of this book, most of which rate it really highly, so if you do enjoy chicklit, then don’t be put off giving it a go. Unfortunately it just wasn’t really for me.

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Ghost Town stars Ricky Gervais – in his first Hollywood role – as Bertram Pincus, an irascible, antisocial dentist, who has little interest in other people. However, after a standard hospital operation he suddenly finds that he is able to see ghosts. Everywhere. And they all want something from him. Recently deceased Frank (Greg Kinnear) is desperate to stop his widow Gwen (Tea Leoni) remarrying, and begs Pincus to help break up her relationship. Pincus agrees merely to get Frank off his back, but starts to realise that not only is Gwen’s finance a decent man, but that Bertram himself is developing feelings for her.

Whether or not you enjoy this film is going to depend largely on whether or not you enjoy watching Ricky Gervais. For my money, he is a superb comedian and I’ve never watched anything he has done without thoroughly enjoying it. He’s irritable but also very relatable and brings pathos to the role of Pincus, especially towards the end of the film. Tea Leoni and Greg Kinnear are also both excellent in their roles. There is a lot of humour to be found here, and when the film ended I had a big smile on my face.

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Nadia and Daniel are two commuters who get the same tube every morning (or whenever Nadia gets up on time to make it). They don’t know each other but Daniel would like to get to know Nadia so places an advertisement in ‘Missed Connections’ a local newspaper section dedicated to people who have seen someone on their commute who they would like to get to know.

And so begins a series of messages between the two, a number of failed attempts at meeting, and several near misses. Will ‘train guy’ and ‘coffee spill girl’ get it together? Read on and find out…

I listened to the audiobook of Our Stop, and thank goodness I did. Because honestly if I had been reading the physical book, I would probably have thrown it across the room in annoyance. To give them their due, Carrie Hope Fletcher and Felix Scott did a great job of narrating Nadia and Daniel, who both told the story from their point of view. I also liked the idea of it – two people meeting in what is essentially an old fashioned way; there was scope for romance, humour and surprise. But this book unfortunately did not work for me. The main problem was with the two main characters; in Nadia’s case, the author gave Nadia a highly skilled job in artificial intelligence as a shortcut to demonstrating that Nadia was an intelligent, modern and independent woman. What would have been more convincing would have been to have actually portrayed her as those things. Instead, she is shown as incapable of setting an alarm because she keeps getting drunk (you’re an adult for crying out loud – you should know how to set an alarm and get to your well paid job on time). She misreads obviously signals, and gets jealous when her best friend and work best friend grow close.

Daniel is portrayed first and foremost as a very woke (I bloody hate that expression but it’s appropriate here) and socially aware young man. So far, so good. Except that I really don’t need it ramming down my throat in every sodding scene. At one point he and his mate are discussing a TV show called Lust Villa (obviously based on the actual abominable TV show Love Island) and he is saying things like, “I just think it’s so hetero-normative.” Purrlease!!! He is almost a parody character at times, and drove me potty. And the date at the end of book was vomit inducing.

Sorry, but it’s just my opinion, and I’ve no doubt that lots of people probably loved this book, so don’t be put off if chick-lit is your thing. I listened to the end because once I’ve started a book I feel the need to finish it, but it definitely is not my thing!

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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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The Thorn Birds has been on my tbr shelf (I laughingly refer to it as a shelf as if there aren’t that many books I have not yet read – ha!) for about six years. It’s not generally the kind of book I go in for, but I bought it for some reason – I have a feeling my aunt recommended it – and just occasionally I like to get caught up in a sweeping saga, so in search of some escapism (at the time of writing, most of the world is on lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic) I decided this might do the trick.

Pretty much all I knew about The Thorn Birds prior to reading was that there was a tv series adaptation in the 1980, starring Richard Chamberlain; I knew it was about the love between a woman and a Catholic Priest, and apparently it was extremely scandalous!! With this in mind, the book turned out to be a bit of a surprise. I was expecting a love story but this is more of a family saga, concentrating on three generations of the Cleary family. It takes place from the early to mid/late 20th century on a homestead in Australia (mainly) and at the centre of it is Father Ralph De Briccassart and his love for Meggie Cleary. It starts as a paternal type of love as Meggie is only a child when they first meet, and Ralph is a young priest, but as she grows older, their love becomes more – but Ralph’s vocation is always between them.

A lot of the book is given over to other characters – in the beginning, Meggie’s brothers and parents; and later on the net generation of the family, Justine and Dane. The hardships and realities of running a sheep station in Australia.

I did more or less enjoy the book – clearly it was well researched and it did hold my attention for the most part. However, I did not particularly warm to Meggie and I certainly didn’t like Ralph, who seemed particularly mercenary and manipulative. Nonetheless, I am glad I read it although it wouldn’t be a story I would probably want to reread at any point.

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