Francesca "Franki" Amato is a tough-talking rookie cop in Austin, Texas-until an unfortunate 911 call involving her boyfriend, Vince, and a German female wrestler convinces her once and for all that she just isn't cut out for a life on the police force. So Franki makes the snap decision to move to New Orleans to work at her friend Veronica's detective agency, Private Chicks, Inc. But Franki's hopes for a more stable life are soon dashed when Private Chicks is hired by the prime suspect in a murder case to find out what really happened to a beautiful young boutique manager who was found strangled to death with a cheap yellow scarf.
When she's not investigating, Franki is hoping to seduce handsome bank executive Bradley Hartmann, but most of her time is spent dodging date offers from a string of "good Italian boys"-make that not-so-good ageing Italian men-that her meddlesome Sicilian grandma has recruited as marriage candidates. As Mardi Gras approaches and the mystery of the murdered shop girl gets more complicated, Franki must decipher the odd ramblings of a Voodoo priestess to solve both the murder and the mystery of her own love life.
I received a copy of Limoncello Yellow by Traci Andrighetti in exchange for my honest opinion.
New Orleans (or ‘Nola’ as it is apparently known by locals) is the perfect setting for this quirky mystery. Against a setting of Mardi Gras madness, a voodoo priestess, serenading Italian men and a retired stripper, it’s hard for detectives Franki and Veronica to tell a suspects from the eccentric locals.
After leaving her over-bearing family and cheating ex in Texas, Franki is looking to start over and finally find her niche. Solving a high profile murder seems like the way to get things off on the right foot.
Personally, I found this book refreshing. Traci Andrighetti focused on the crime, not the men! Sure, as in real life, Franki has her run ins with cute guys, and not-so-cute ones (thanks to her Nonna, who is worried she’ll die alone and keeps sending men to her ‘spinster’ grand-daughter). However, the mystery definitely remains in the forefront at all times.
I liked the way the main mystery was interwoven with a second crime, and both incorporated the unique characteristics of New Orleans – the story wouldn’t have worked anywhere else, and it definitely gave the story more depth. Plus, I could sympathise with Franki’s frustration at her family’s feeling that she’s not doing the right thing with her life, and her insecurity at being the loud Italian alongside her perfect, petite best friend and partner. So, triumph was all the more sweet, because I was really rooting for her!
Andrighetti set this up to be the first in a series, and left just enough loose ends to tie up the main story but keep the reader’s interest aroused for the next story. I really felt that the author’s personality, and Italian heritage, influenced and added to the feel of the book, and steered it clear of being a cookie-cutter chick lit mystery.
If, like me, you like to delve into something a little different from the same-same chick lit that we so often read, I would definitely suggest picking up a copy of Limoncello Yellow – you can get yourself a copy here or here. I must admit, it was pretty exciting to get an author signed copy of a book in the mail; but I promise that I didn’t let that sway my opinions!
Bangkok: a sizzling, all-embracing, exotic city where the past and the present intertwine. It’s a place where anything can happen… and anything really does happen. The paths of seven people cross in this metropolis. Seven seekers, for whom this city might be a final destination. Or perhaps it is only the start of a new journey?
A successful businessman; a celebrated supermodel; a man who is forever the outsider; a young mother who suddenly loses everything; a talented surgeon, who could not give the woman he loved all that she desired; a brothel’s madam; and a charming young woman adopted at birth. Why these seven? Why did they come to Bangkok now, at the same time? Do chance encounters truly exist?
I received a copy of this e-book in exchange for a review and my honest opinion.
Bangkok Transit by Hungarian blonde bombshell Eva Fejos is the Love Actually of travel fiction. Seven strangers find themselves in Bangkok, searching for something they’re missing; family, happiness, freedom… Fate intervenes, and the paths of these strangers cross amid the humidity and crowds of Bangkok.
I found this book fascinating. It took awhile to get into the swing of the story, as the narrative jumps rapidly between the perspectives of different characters, and they aren’t always identified by name. However, once you have a grasp of the different storylines, everything became much more comprehensible and I was drawn in.
Each character’s story had a missing element, which wasn’t revealed into late in the book, and cleverly kept me hooked. Admittedly, I picked the threads connecting the characters earlier than perhaps the author intended, but this didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book. Despite each story being based on sadness and emotion, Fejos didn’t write a miserable book; she managed to write an uplifting novel of discovery instead.
Fejos truly shines in her illustrative depiction of Bangkok culture. What could have been a shallow and predictable story full of ladyboys and prostitutes instead respectfully identified the deeper issues of poverty and gender identity that lie beneath the bright light of the big city. The culture is seamlessly woven into the story, enhancing the journeys that each character was undertaking.
My one gripe would be that each storyline came to a head and ended very abruptly. After unravelling each narrative so slowly and precisely, the sudden resolution of each was a little off-putting, and I would have liked just a smidge more information.
That said, the sudden ending was not enough to spoil the book, and I was left feeling quite tranquil, as if I myself had undertaken a journey of discovery alongside the other characters. I would definitely recommend reading this book, and will be tracking down some of the other books written by Fejos to see if they live up to the high standard set by her first novel.
This book is a perfect 3.5 stars. If you’d like to ignite your interest in the enigma that is Bangkok, you can get a copy from Amazon here. I’d love to hear what you thought!
The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in all of Paris
As dawn breaks over the Pont Neuf, and the cobbled alleyways of Paris come to life, Anna Trent is already awake and at work; mixing and stirring the finest, smoothest, richest chocolate; made entirely by hand, it is sold to the grandes dames of Paris. It's a huge shift from the chocolate factory she worked in at home in the north of England. But when an accident changed everything, Anna was thrown back in touch with her French teacher, Claire, who offered her the chance of a lifetime - to work in Paris with her former sweetheart, Thierry, a master chocolatier. With old wounds about to be uncovered and healed, Anna is set to discover more about real chocolate - and herself - than she ever dreamed.
I warn you now – this book requires a box of tissues. But it’s totally worth the tears!
Jenny Colgan is a member of chick lit royalty. Her beautiful books revolve around the lives of women you root for, and circumstances that we can all recognise. The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in all of Paris is no exception.
When Anna loses two toes in a freak chocolate factory accident, she slips into a downward spiral of depression, not knowing what to do with her thirty-year-old self. Then, her old French teacher suggests – or rather, forces – Anna to leave for Paris and work in a boutique chocolate shop, under a Chocolatier she knew, many years ago.
Anna’s life is turned upside down. Suddenly she’s living in a shoebox apartment with an omnisexual theatre bug who wears lots of sparkly makeup, speaking French to people who roll their eyes at her accent, and working insane hours at the most popular chocolate shop in all of Paris. And she’s loving it.
What she doesn’t realise is that her old French teacher and her new Chocolatier boss were once starcrossed lovers. After a lifetime, neither has forgotten the other, and Anna is drawn into fulfilling a romance of the ages. Along the way, she just might be falling into an epic romance of her own!
I adored this book. Colgan wove a beautiful Parisian scene, of tucked away restaurants and handmade chocolate delights. Anna’s adventures are emotional and captivating, but always believable – and often funny. With a cast of quirky and unusual characters, and the allure of a city as fabulous as Paris, the book wants for nothing.
Colgan also masterfully deals with the language barrier, allowing the reader to effortlessly understand which language is being spoken, without constantly having to explain, and while losing none of the flow of the story. Unless Colgan hadn’t pointed it out herself, I may not even have noticed her doing it, it was so seamless.
I had expected another feel-good chick lit book, but this novel took a turn for the more serious. I tend to get a little overly attached to fictional characters, and spent the last third of the book with tears flowing down my cheeks (and I have these giant tears, so I was drenched in no time). Adding such a serious dimension to chick lit, which is typically a lighter read, can be dangerous. However, Colgan pulls it off – the story was so beautiful and touching, that I was left sad but enchanted.
It’s rare that I extoll the virtues of chick lit like this, but this book was not ordinary. I have ready many of Colgan’s books, but this was by far the most captivating. For chick lit lovers out there, I cannot recommend it highly enough. In fact, I suggest you purchase a copy immediately – click here orhere. I want to hear all about what you thought, so get reading!
Oh – and did I mention that the book comes complete with an assortment of chocolatey recipes? What more could a girl want?!
When twenty-eight year old Haley Simpson, a sales associate for her best friend’s clothing boutique in Columbus, Ohio, begins a secret affair with the boutique’s potential New York City business partner, she digs a cavernous hole of deception that not only threatens to end her blossoming career, but to destroy a life-long friendship.
Jennifer Vessells's debut novel, LIFE IN PLAN B, encompasses everything classic chick lit should: the dynamics of friendship, the nuances of high-reaching career aspirations, and the struggles – both usual and unique – presented by romantic and familial relationships. An entertaining story at every turn, LIFE IN PLAN B is identifiable for readers of any age. In short, Ms. Vessells hits her debut novel out of the park!
I received a copy of this e-book in exchange for a review and my honest opinion.
This book made me remember that it is the characters that make a book good, but what you do with those characters that makes a book great. I think Life in Plan B was a good example of that, in some ways.
I loved the cast of characters. In fact, I liked them enough that I’d more than happily read about what happens next in their lives, should Vessells decide a sequel is in order. Protagonist Hayley resonated with me especially, because both she and I are struggling with the concept of what it means to live in your ‘Plan B’ life – ie; to not have achieved the dreams we had for our future selves.
The stumbling block for me came when I went to describe this book to a friend, and saw that it fit the standard chick lit girl-meets-two-hot-guys-and-makes-a-series-of-foolish-decisions-before-coming-to-her-senses plot. In many ways, I don’t mind this, because it’s the unique characters that add a point of difference. However, if you’re the kind of person who reads predominantly chick lit, it can get very predictable.
Vessells did throw in a few twists that blindsided me, which was great. She also gets credit for avoiding the obvious and cliche ending that many other authors wouldn’t have.
I can tell I’m fence-sitting a little here. Essentially, I really liked this book, the characters, and the little details in the subplots. That said, I am sick of reading the same main storyline on repeat, and would have liked this book even more had it deviated from that norm. I suppose that’s an ingrained part of the genre though, and so I can’t really penalise anyone for it.
So, I gave this book 4 stars; as a standalone piece of fiction, it was well-written and engaging. I just worry that it contributed to a wider problem in the chick lit genre. Maybe I should’ve saved those concern for a post of it’s own! You can get a copy of this paperback, with it’s super cute cover, from Book Depository here, Amazon here – or, the e-book here, if that floats your boat. And honestly, I recommend you read it!
Of Dreams and Shadows - Forget Me Not
D. S McKnight
Chick Lit Mystery
We live. We die. Is there anything more? Jenna Barton is about to find out. After moving to the coastal North Carolina town of Parson’s Cove, Jenna has unwittingly stepped into the middle of a mystery involving a missing child. Unfortunately, the predator is still on the loose and Jenna has become his new obsession. With a little luck and a bit of paranormal help, Jenna might survive.
I received a copy of this e-book in exchange for a review and my honest opinion.
Even though this book probably aimed more at a teen audience, I really liked it! The characters and most of the plot were fairly typical of teenage chick lit, but the characters were very likeable, especially the main character, Jenna. She was authentic, recognisable, and not at all annoying. The supporting cast of characters were equally quirky and fun. Throw in some romance and high-school drama, and you’ve already got the basis of a good read.
Where Of Dreams and Shadows differed was in the paranormal element. Before you turn away in disgust, expecting another vampire or werewolf forbidden love, STOP! There is none of that here. In this story, the paranormal storyline is completely unique, rather than a rewrite of the same old story that so many books are relying on these days. McKnight instead weaves a tale of shadows and history seamlessly into the otherwise unremarkable high-school plot, taking the book from average to compelling.
The darkness is intriguing from the very first page, and the reader is hooked, waiting to find out what really lies in the shadows of the backyard, and how Jenna will overcome it.
If you like a little paranormal mystery in your teen fiction, but you’re sick of vampires and werewolves, this book could be for you. Compelling and unusual, I’m intrigued by the ‘Book 1’ label on the cover – perhaps Jenna and co. will be back, entangled with some other paranormal force in their sleepy little town? If you’re interested in delving into it, you can find a copy on Amazon here.
A Headline in High Heels Mystery
Chick Lit Mystery
When an Armani-clad corpse turns up in the woods, crime reporter Nichelle Clarke smells a scoop. A little digging, and Nichelle uncovers a web of corruption that stretches all the way to Washington, D.C. Politics. Murder. And a dead lobbyist. It's everything Nichelle's ever dreamed of.
The cops are playing it close, the feds even closer, and Nichelle’s afraid her boss will assign the story to the political desk any day. Richmond’s new ATF SuperCop makes an arrest before she can say “Louboutin,” but Nichelle’s gut says he’s got the wrong guy.
Her sexy Mafia boss friend warns her off the case, her TV rival is hot on her designer heels, an ambitious copy editor wants her beat, and victims are piling up faster than she can track them down. As Nichelle zeroes in on the truth, it’ll take some fancy footwork to nab this headline before the killer nabs her.
I received a copy of this e-book in exchange for a review with my honest opinion.
‘Buried Leads’, the second book in the ‘Headline in High Heels’ series, quickly grabbed my attention and held it. This was one instance where I wrongly judged a book by it’s cover, but the strong writing proved me wrong!
The feisty lead character, Nichelle, is a journalist on the cops and courts beat, who does a little sleuthing on the side to fill the gaps in her articles. Perhaps it was my interest in journalism that kept me particularly hooked, and I enjoyed reading about the ins and outs of the paper she worked for.
The main story Nichelle was working revolved around a murder; throughout the book, as she pieced the puzzle together, the reader was kept guessing as to what had happened. I appreciated this; it can be pretty boring reading a book when you’ve figured out the ending before you’re 50 pages in!
Throw in a cast of interesting characters, a few handsome men, and a hint of political scandal, and ‘Buried Leads’ was a great read. For lovers of chick lit mystery, I recommend checking out this series – although I’d suggest you start with the first book in the series, unlike me! Amazon sells the paperback and the e-book, as well as the first book in the series. Oh, and did I mention the third instalment is coming out in April? Something to look forward to!
“One L” is the story of Scott Turow’s first year as a law student, at the prestigious Harvard Law School (HLS). When I first picked up this book, with its contemporary looking cover, I was excited to finally find a book about a young person’s experience in law school. It took quite a while (and several references to the Korean war) for me to realize that the book had actually first been published in 1977. I was very surprised; other than outdated cultural references, the content relating to life in law school seemed very relatable. It was at that moment that I realized that the institution of law schools everywhere has remained more or less the same for many, many years.
Turow begins his story by explaining how difficult it is to get into HLS (which, presumably, most law students are already aware of); they take only the best and brightest graduates. On the first day, with so many exceptional people in one room, you may expect personalities to clash. Instead, from Turow’s accounts, most of them seemed to bond in mutual terror of what law school might hold.
At first, I thought that the description of the fear must have been greatly exaggerated. Granted, I spent about a year getting used to ‘how uni worked’ (a luxury afforded to us in our five year degree), but my terror as a first year was never truly warranted. However, at HLS, things seemed to be quite different.
Excerpts from Turow’s journal show that their classes, including contracts, procedure, torts and ethics, covered content that was largely similar to what we have learned. The main difference lay in the method of teaching. Enter the ‘Socratic Method’ (the likes of which you will have seen in informative movies, such as ‘Legally Blonde’). Basically, this is when a teacher stands in front of the class and, instead of lecturing for an hour, raises issues and then fires questions at students. Failure to prepare adequately could mean humiliation at the hands of a teacher. It was this desire never to look stupid that fueled the fear in first year HLS students (‘One L’s).
Failure is repulsive to law students everywhere. The thought of it makes us sick. What would our days in law school be like if there was no choice but to over prepare for every class? Do every page of reading, BEFORE the lecture, and have enough coherent understanding of the material to be able to answer in depth questions about it? Personally, I believe that this method of teaching would encourage us to be better students, and help provide us with the critical and quick thinking skills that lawyers need. That said, there is no doubt that our stress levels would be even higher than they are now.
Other than talking about ‘the fear’, the continuous theme for the book is Turow’s awareness of what law school is making him become; the lack of opportunity to think freely (rather than interpreting and recognizing the thoughts of someone else), the harsh treatment of other students standing in your way, and a general loss of compassion. In Turow’s case, this is illustrated by his barring someone from his study group for not providing their share of the notes. At Flinders, a conversation in the courtyard last week about a law student’s general intolerance for ‘stupid people’ in law school, and ‘even more stupid’ people outside of the law school reflects a similar lack of compassion.
In many respects, HLS in 1977 is no different to Flinders Uni in 2012. There is an immense pressure to do well, which is perpetuated by the students around you. Grades seem paramount, in the desire to graduate with honours. Some students will drive you crazy with their inability to know when to stop asking questions, or when to shut up. Exams drive fear into the calmest of men.
Personally, I don’t know if it’s a good thing that law school has resisted a change in fundamental ideas over the last 35 plus years. Turow agrees, and the afterword added to the most recent publications of this book explains a little more about how law schools have begun to change for the better, and eliminate a fraction of the pressure on students. However, the overarching message of the book seems to be that it is imperative to hold onto your sense of right and wrong. It’s very easy to condemn someone for not ‘meeting the standard’ in law school, just as it is easy to let the fear cripple your passion. Maintaining a sense of balance is what will get you through law school; it is easy to forget that, though the admission process is far less harsh here than at HLS, your peers still needed to meet certain admission requirements that ensure we are reasonably evenly ranked in ability.
I found this book very interesting; previously an English teacher before going to HLS, Turow expresses his emotions clearly throughout the book; his anxiety, frustration, and eventual exasperation about the system show a clear progression of his state of mind during that first year. It may scare potential law students away, but offers a new level of insight, perhaps better suited to those already over the hurdle of admission. Give it a read! You can purchase it here.
Secret Shopper’s Revenge (and the two sequels, Secret Shopper Unwrapped and Secret Shopper Affair) is another perfect example of chick lit. Kate Harrison, once a former secret shopper herself, writes about her three ‘angels’ as they each find themselves at a new stage in their lives. Emily is recently divorced with a toddler, Sandie has been falsely accused of theft and forced to leave her dream job, and Grazia is mourning the death of her famous husband. Each is looking for a new direction, a new dream, and they find them together in stores across London.
As they get into the swing of secret shopping, the very different women become friends and slowly begin to overcome their problems.
While this book isn’t vastly different to the basic structure of any chick lit book, the characters are so well written that you can easily identify with them, and cheer them on. Also, each character is very different, allowing different readers to identify with their different personalities. There’s enough detail for the books to be page-turners, but not so much that you’re constantly flipping back through the book to remind yourself what has happened. As the series progresses, so do the characters and their friendship matures along with them.
I am not one of those people who looks down on chick lit as low-brow, second rate literature. I recognise that an easy read about women who face the same dramas as many of us do in everyday life can be relaxing after a hard day at the office, when picking up a 400-page book about a Russian espionage scandal seems a little too hard. I would definitely recommend this book to women out there who are looking for a fun, easy read – and to those who love to shop. If you love Annie Valentine, you’ll love SecretShopper even more! The trilogy can be purchased on a budget here, here and here.
Zoey and the Moment of Zen
When coffee shop owner Zoey Everwood takes her obsession with ex-boyfriend Braden too far, everyone — except Zoey — is convinced a bit of fun in the sun at the Moment of Zen Wellness Resort will help her get over him once and for all.
But Zoey's relaxing vacation turns out to be anything but peaceful when she meets Shane Lawson, a resort guest who bears a striking resemblance to Braden. And things get even more complicated when the resort's owner starts spilling secrets about Zoey’s aunt Nessa, the woman who raised her. Add a snarky Wellness Coordinator and Nate Holmes—Shane's grumpy friend—to the mix, and you've got the recipe for a perfect tropical storm.
When Zoey comes back home with a new husband instead of tacky souvenirs, she must convince everyone she hasn't completely lost her mind. As Zoey and Shane struggle to keep the magic alive outside the resort, Zoey discovers that she isn't the only one having trouble letting go of the past. And when Nate drops a bombshell that changes everything, Zoey must decide if the old saying is true—what happens at the Moment of Zen stays at the Moment of Zen.
I received a copy of this e-book in exchange for a review and my honest opinion.
I find myself somewhat wavering in my opinion of this book. On the one hand, I found quirky Zoe to be fairly relatable, with her inner monologue reminding me of my own. Her inability to get over her past relationship was frustrating, but also completely recognisable. On the other hand, I found the shotgun wedding around which much of the story is based to be completely unbelievable.
When Zoe’s friends and family force her to go on a holiday to get over her crummy ex, she meets a new man. In the course of four days, she meets, kisses and marries a stranger. It’s not that I’m opposed to the idea of a lightening fast marriage, but Lavoie married off these two characters before they’d even had a deep-and-meaningful conversation, and it felt forced. And, I suspected, doomed to fail.
The marriage was crucial to the progression of the book, and even though it annoyed me a little, I can see it’s usefulness as a plot tool. So, putting that aside, and focusing on what happened before and after the speedy nuptials, I can honestly say that I liked everything else much better!
I found Zoe’s friends to be believable, and I liked the incorporation of Zoe’s coffee shop business and her poet employee. The side stories involving her family and friends were interesting, but didn’t detract too much from the main storyline. Sure, Zoey’s final decision about who she wanted to be with seemed quick and slightly unsubstantiated, but it was what I was rooting for, so I was happy with it!
All in all, as far as chick lit goes, I think this is a great book, with an awesome cover (which, I’m sure you understand, always makes a book even better). Sure, there were a few things in the plot that bugged me a little, but overall the likeability of Zoey and her friends, and the fun twists and turns that they faced kept me intrigued. In fact, I’d like to read more about her antics and how she settles into her new relationship. How about a sequel, Cat? It would make an excellent beach read. And really, what more could you want on a sunny December day?!
Keen to read about Zoey’s relationship disasters? You can buy Lavoie’s book on Amazon here.
Can two people who are totally wrong for each other ever be right? She's a feisty, sly marketing exec intent on hiding her small-town roots. He’s a laid-back engineer with a shaggy mutt and a pushy ex.
When Joshua asks Melina out, she asks what kind of car he drives. She’ll do drinks, not dinner. She’s always in control. But with Joshua’s easy confidence and sharp wit, Melina is soon breaking the dating rules she made for herself.
Opposites attract—but friends think Melina and Joshua can’t possibly last. When crisis throws their world off its axis, Melina must confront her childhood family, the people she’s come to care about, and the destruction of her pristine image.
I received a copy of this book from Chick Lit Plus in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
I loved this book! I read quite a lot of chick lit, and can get sick of the oft repeated plot lines that make many of them very similar. Refreshingly, I found that “Won’t Last Long” stepped outside of the mould. Written from the perspectives of both the male and female main characters, the book did centre around their budding relationship and the baggage that they brought with them. However, the progression of their relationship was believable from the outset; there was no love-at-first-sight, or cliched one liners.
I found myself relating to the characters quite strongly; the idea of having an ‘ideal’ relationship in mind and trying to reconcile that with real life was one I’ve also struggled with, as well as the idea of maintaining a certain image for the sake of my career. So, personally, I could really empathise with the characters. That said, I suspect that many people would be able to identify with one character or another!
I did find that the second half of the book galloped along at a very rapid pace, compared to the first half, and some plot lines were wrapped up a little simply, but I didn’t especially mind, as I liked the ending! I thought it was a little strange that the ‘big secret’ that Melina was hiding didn’t create much drama, given the foreshadowing in the book, but overall that didn’t detract from the novel too much.
Always the benchmark of a good read, I read most of the book in one setting, because I was so intrigued by the plot. It had all the marks of great chick lit (romance, a DIY project, an adorable dog, and plenty of drama), without the same-old feeling. On the whole, I’d definitely recommend putting it on your summer ‘Must Read’ list!
If this book catches your fancy, you can purchase the book from Amazon here.