You Belong to Me – Karen Rose

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“You Belong to Me” sounds like a trashy romance novel, but don’t let that put you off. In actuality, it is a crime novel. It revolves around the story of a young girl, who, years ago, was beaten and raped while onlookers did nothing. Now, those onlookers are, one by one, being murdered. Set in Baltimore, a homicide detective and forensic pathologist must follow the trail to find a killer who is taunting them, and always seems to be one step ahead.

Karen Rose - You Belong To MeI picked this book up, and didn’t put it down for four hours. That may not seem like much, but seeing as I started it at midnight, reading through to 4am was impressive. This was a notch above your typical catch-a-killer book. Starting out, the reader immediately garnered a pretty good idea of what the bad guys’ motive was, but over the next few hundred pages, the twists and turns Rose used kept the plot riveting. The different threads of the story combined slowly, without driving the reader insane.

Rose avoided numerous cliches; Lucy the pathologist could have been just a pathologist with a secret, and in many other books, that’s all she would have been. However, in this book, Lucy was also a black-leather-wearing, violin-playing, mysterious pathologist. A random, but interesting, extra layer to her character. Not only were the characters full of background depth but all the extra information was somehow relevant to the plot, making it all that much better.

Rather than weigh the reader down with complicated criminal procedures, or an overly-detailed backstory, Rose managed to keep the pace of the story fast and flowing; you were drawn into the plot and carried along with the characters, discovering as they did, rather than fighting to keep up. I will admit, the romance-sounding title was not entirely off base – somehow, among murders and break-ins, the characters found time for some fairly intense moments. But they were well-written, so didn’t detract from any crime solving!

I’ll admit, towards the end, things started getting a little slow… but the story was so good that I almost didn’t notice. Plus, all the loose ends were tied up neatly, and I love that. Recommended! Buy a copy cheaply (and with free postage!) here.

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A Winter’s Tale – Trisha Ashley

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This wintery novel (available online here) is an excellent example of the best kind of chick lit. All the required elements are there; a heroine undergoing a transformation (be it in life, appearance, location…), an ounce of mystery, an unlikely love interest, some crazy family members, and a plot that offers something unique and different to the thousands of other chick lit novels out there. Trisha Ashley’s tale of Sophy Winter and her sudden inheritance of a stately home in the English countryside is a fantastic read, especially if you’re looking to ease your way into the world of chick lit!

Trisha Ashley - A Winter's TaleI really loved this book. Set in the English countryside, Sophy unexpectedly inherits the family home she left so long ago. Amongst mystery, the debts and the dusty rooms of Winter’s End, Sophy rediscovers her passions and embarks on a large-scale restoration of the manor house so it can re-open to the public. Along the way, she faces her demons, reacquaints herself with the family ghost, and finds love.

This may sound like a fairly typical chick-lit novel. Perhaps it’s my love of novels where they make over something dreary that had swayed me, or maybe my preference for English chick lit authors over American ones (trust me, there IS a difference!), that influenced my opinion of the book. Either way, it was a very enjoyable read. The characters were unique, and quirky, and the plot wasn’t trite. In fact, the comparably longer length of this chick-lit novel managed to fit in more than many others do, without making it a heavy or over-long read.

“A Winter’s Tale” is a must-read for people looking for something a little different within the chick-lit genre, and a love of swoon-worthy gardeners. Check it out!

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Eat, Memory – Amanda Hesser

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Amanda Hesser - Eat, MemoryA clever idea by Amanda Hesser saw writers across America contributing essays about what food means to them; twenty-six authors shared stories about their favourite food memories. There were Jews cooking the passover meal in Berlin, a brother cooking comfort food for his Autistic sister on their birthday, Indian’s trying their best to introduce their families to the delicate French cuisine, an ode to garlic, and one to gravy, and gripes by those who don’t love food about people forcing them to eat desserts.

The great variety of stories lent itself to a very interesting read. These acclaimed writers, with their wide swath of life experiences, were able to paint pictures that made your mouths water. Not to mention the stories are accompanied by the relevant recipes, so that we can cook similar delicious morsels at home.

Rather than just be a book of people describing a meal that they’ve eaten, this book cleverly is more about the strong emotions that can be attached to something as simple as a meal. That feeling is something everyone can relate to, and reading the anecdotes triggers memories of the reader’s own memorable meals.

This book isn’t very long, and each individual essay only spans a few pages, so it’s a great book for food-lovers with not much time on their hands. Definitely worth a look. You can get a copy here.

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How to be Single – Liz Tuccillo

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Liz Tullico, author of He’s Just Not That Into You, and How to be Single is renowned for her female-empowering novels, and was an executive story editor for Sex and the City. HJNTIY (come on, give me the acronym, it’s a really long title) is now a major motion picture, with a star studded cast, including the lovely Ginnifer Goodwin and Justin Long. We all know how fantastic SATC is, I don’t have to sing any praises there. It was on the wave of this success that Tullico’s How to be Single hit the market.
Liz Tuccillo - How to be Single

I’ll admit that I haven’t read HJMTIY, although I have seen the movie and know the general plotline. When I read How to be Single, I thought that it would be a similar self-help type book, written from the point of view of a fictional character. It sounded quite bizzare, but as soon as I sunk my teeth into it, I knew it was more than a platitudinous ‘be happy with who you are’ airport novel.

Protagonist Julie Jenson has had enough with bad dates, failed relationships and girls nights out on the town that end in the emergency room. Julie is the pioneer for her group of friends, all of whom are having an awful single time. So, she sets out to find answers. Taking one for the team, she takes leave from her job and travels to Iceland, Brazil, India, Beijing, Bali, Paris, Australia, Rome and Rio de Janeiro. She seeks out single men and women to figure out how they handle the single lifestyle. Interspersing stories from Julie’s single friends back in the USA, How to be Single combines chick literature with travel writing. Excellent combination, if you ask me.

This book was incredibly engaging. Not only did Tucillo provide insight into many different cultures in the world, and how their people interact with each other, but the uplifting stories that are shared by the characters that Julie meets leave the single girl less despairing about the single life. Apparently, people in other countries handle being single with way less drama than Australians, Americans and the English. Who knew?

The characters in the novel would be easily be described as four dimensional if that was a real thing. Slightly crazed post-divorce Georgia, dating-for-a-living (literally) Alice, Serena who is taking the swami pledge to find enlightenment and Ruby who has been mourning her cat for months… any reader can find something of themselves in one of these girls.

Tucillo writes with humour, and straight-forwardly takes us around the world on a journey to find single satisfaction. Just the right amount of tough love and sensitivity. This book isn’t going to make you want to kill yourself for being single, nor is it going to make you take a lifelong vow of celibacy. It will, however, make you laugh and teach you a little something about not taking yourself too seriously.

This book was fantastic. Well done, Liz. This book is on my must-read list. If I’ve convinced you, you can get yourself a copy here.

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