Shopaholic Abroad by Sophie Kinsella

shopaholic-abroad

This is also known as: Shopaholic Takes Manhattan

Synopsis:

Will travel broaden the mind…or just loosen the purse strings?

For Rebecca Bloomwood, life is peachy. She has a job on morning TV, her bank manager is actually being nice to her, and when it comes to spending money, her new motto is Buy Only What You Need – and she’s really (sort of) sticking to it. The icing on the brioche is that she’s been offered a chance to work in New York.

New York! The Museum of Modern Art! The Guggenheim! The Metropolitan Opera House! And Becky does mean to go to them all. Honestly. It’s just that it seems silly not to check out a few other places first. Like Saks. And Bloomingdales. And Barneys. And one of those fantastic sample sales where you can get a Prada dress for $10. Or was it $100? Is Becky too dazzled to care?

Shopaholic Abroad – for the biggest culture shop of your life.

This is the second installment of the Shopaholic Series, and just as fabulous as the first. However, it is very similar to the first book. Does that spoil the story? Not at all! Becky is taken to New York by Luke, and ends up spending a ton. She is in a whole heap of debt – and soon her secrets become known to everyone when the Daily World exposes her.

This story is full of all the usual antics – shopping, friends, Luke, embarrassment, love and debt. The storyline is similar to Confessions of a Shopaholic and how Becky spends too much shopping, and has to work her way out of debt. There is a lot of time spent in London too, which I was surprised about – in fact, most of the storyline was based in London, which is one of the downsides of this book. However, I love this series! Becky is self-obsessed and a bit irritating but I still didn’t want anything bad to happen to her and rallied behind her when horrid things happened to her. And I loved Suze – I want a flatmate like her! She is so lovely, looking out for Becky as well as pursueing her own career.

I enjoyed the story – it was fast-paced, predictible and fun. I love Kinsella’s writing, fluid and enjoyable. Yes it is chessy and very girly, but I loved it! This is an easy read – and I highly recommend it. And I love the ending! I am looking forward to the next installment!

9/10

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The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

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Synopsis from Amazon:

‘You’ve never heard of The Tales of Beedle the Bard?’ said Ron incredulously. ‘You’re kidding, right?’ (From Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) Published by the Children’s High Level Group in association with Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, The Tales of Beedle the Bard is the first new book from J. K. Rowling since the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The Tales of Beedle the Bard played a crucial role in assisting Harry, with his friends Ron and Hermione, to finally defeat Lord Voldemort. Fans will be thrilled to have this opportunity to read the tales in full. An exciting addition to the canon of Harry Potter, the tales reveal the wonderful versatility of the author, as she tackles with relish the structure and varying tones of a classic fairy tale. There are five tales: ‘The Tale of the Three Brothers’, recounted in Deathly Hallows, plus ‘The Fountain of Fair Fortune’, ‘The Warlock’s Hairy Heart’, ‘The Wizard and the Hopping Pot’, and ‘Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump’. Each has its own magical character and will bring delight, laughter and the thrill of mortal peril. Translated from the original runes by Hermione Granger, the tales are introduced and illustrated by J. K. Rowling. Also included are notes by Professor Albus Dumbledore, which appear by kind permission of the Hogwarts Headmasters’ Archive. CHLG is a charity co-founded by J. K. Rowling and Emma Nicholson MEP and campaigns to protect and promote children’s rights and make life better for vulnerable young people. The Children’s High Level Group is a charity established under English law. Registered Charity Number: 1112575.

If you are a Harry Potter fan, this book is for you. It contains five wizard fairytales, and notes made by the Professor Albus Dumbledore. Like with Muggle fairytales, they contain moral messages and words of wisdom to the budding wizard. They are short and thoroughly enjoyable. The notes made by Dumbledore had me chuckling – what a great character! I loved how the books linked back to the Harry Potter series, making the book a must-have for Potter fans.

My favourite Tale was “Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump“- very funny. A great washer woman. A fiery character who taught a valuable lesson and had a genius laugh.

As ever, Rowling writes in an engaging and fun way, and although this is predominantly a child’s book, adults will appreciate the book too, with some subtle adult humour and comments. This was a gripping and fun book to read, and I loved the illustrations, done by Rowling herself. This is a great companion to the much-loved Harry Potter books, and I highly recommend this little gem.

10/10

Facing the Storm by Tim Keegan

This is a great historical source. Keegan has travelled to South Africa and interviewed four Africans who suffered under Segregation and Apartheid. The stories are all different and give an excellent insight into what life was like in South Africa during the twentieth century. All of them suffered different degrees of racism, yet survived in different ways. Some made a name for themselves, starting their own business, whilst others just worked on white farms. This is oral history at its best. This book gives such an incredible insight into how contradictory the Segregation and Apartheid laws were, and how because of that the laws could be manipulated and exploited to enable a higher quality of life. In the latter half of the book Keegan evaluates what he has heard and explains the historical important of this source.

I found this book easy to read and enthalling. Sometimes the hardships were difficult to read, and the level of racism is sometimes shocking – too shocking for words, but it was inspiring to read how they overcame their difficulties. This is an unique book and important historical source, and a really good read. It is short – only 170 pages, and full of truely amazing stories.

10/10

Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

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Synopsis:

Being trained by the Assassin’s Guild in Ankh-Morpork did not fit Teppic for the task assigned to him by fate. He inherited the throne of the desert kingdom of Djelibeybi rather earlier than he expected (his father wasn’t too happy about it either), but that was only the beginning of his problems…”Pyramids” (the book of going forth) is the seventh Discworld novel – and the most outrageously funny to date.

This Discworld novel follows Teppic as he trains as an assassin (yep, I thought that was funny too) and then becomes king of the pyramid country that is Djelibeybi (pronouced De- Jelly-Baby, another that made me laugh). The problem beginnings when Teppic has to build a pyramid for his father, something they both think seems a ridiculous idea. The book sees exploding pyramids, crazy priests and gods going mad. And of course, a visit from Death.

So far, this has been the worst Discworld novel in my opinion. I felt it took a little while to get going, and there were some times I found myself tuning out. However, towards the end, the action picks up and it is fair to say the book is exciting and hilarious. It was definitely worth persevering for.

As ever, Pratchett transported me to a different area of the Discworld, and I was happy to go. The descriptions were such that I could clearly picture the area and the characters were as funny as usual. My favourite was probably Teppic’s father, as he watched himself being mummified and listening to him chat to people who couldn’t hear him. His journey of self-discovery in death was very humorous.

Although I eventually enjoyed this book, it has not been my favourite. However, I am eager to get to the next one in the series.

7/10

The Secret Shopper’s Revenge by Kate Harrison

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Synopsis:

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 . . .

What a great idea for a book! As someone who has worked in shops, I know all about secret shoppers, so to read a book following three of them was wonderful! The story follows Emily, with her gorgeous baby boy Freddie, who has been left by her husband Duncan, but who still tries to control and manipulate her; Sandie, who loved her job in retail until Marsha set out to destroy everything for her – including the loss of her job, her replacement job and flat; and Grazia, a widow with an artist husband who left no will but a mountain of debt. She faces the choice – how will she survive, sell the house or the paintings? All three embark on secret shopping, as Charlie’s Shopping Angels, where they meet the lovely Will…

Well I really enjoyed this book. All the angels were great, I liked all three of them and wanted the best for all of them. Of course, my favourite character was baby Freddie, he just seemed adorable, especially when he started walking and talking. I loved how friendships were formed and how plans were plotted to help each other. And I loved the ending. Predictible but fantastic 🙂 I even loathed some of the horrid characters, including Duncan and Marsha. I wanted karma to come and get them. For me, a sign of a good book is when I get involved with the characters and develop feelings for them – whether positive or negative, and that happened in this book.

I felt the idea of “Charlie and his Angels” – including how he chose to communicate with them – in disguise through a web-cam was a little cheesy, but that was my only complaint.

We see endless amounts of shopping, strength of character, friendships develop, secrets revealed, revenge taken and people falling into love. An all round great book – especially if you like shopping!

9/10

The Other Side of the Stars by Clemency Burton-Hill

I received this book from Headline to review.

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Synopsis:

An unforgettable story of a young woman striving to find herself amidst the glitz and glamour of the film world.

Actress Lara Latner is enjoying a golden summer – her new play is the toast of London’s West End, and she and her boyfriend Alex are setting up their first home together.  But when her agent calls with an extraordinary opportunity – her potential break into Hollywood – she is plunged into turmoil.  For the part, the lead in an American remake of a classic French film, is the role that made her mother, tragic actress Eve Lacloche, a legend.  Lara does not know what to do.  How can she bear to leave Alex, and their precious home for the months of the shoot? How can she ever hope to measure up to Eve’s luminous performance? But perhaps it is only by stepping into her mother’s shadow that Lara can hope to truly understand her, and to lay the past to rest.

This is Burton-Hill’s debut novel, and if all her books are to this standard, she will have a long writing career in front of her. The story follows Lara from London to New York and Paris in pursue of her dream – acting. However, her latest, and biggest role to date is to play the lead in the film that was her mother’s masterpiece. On this journey of acting and self-discovery, she learns a lot about her family, in particular her mother, and some shocking secrets. The book is split into parts, some of the parts are set in the present, others in the past. One section is about Eve, her mother. This gave a wonderful insight into her and her own struggles, which we then saw revealed in more detail through Lara’s discovery.  I liked the way this broke up the book and gave glimpses at what might have happened.

I liked Lara. She was a girl with a tragic past, seemingly trying to do the right thing, even if she got that wrong. She worked hard, was honest and open, and I felt I connected with her. I was cheering her on and there were times I wanted to yell at her for making bad choices. In fact, all the characters were well written, and I liked all of them. I was interested in them all and the role they played in this story.

Burton-Hill writes about challenging issues as well; such as depression over a decade ago, when people did not know that it was an illness, and the effect that had on sufferers. Also about long distance relationships, what death can do to a family, and of course, we get a glimpse into the acting, Hollywood world.

My complaints are few. The first, was the Epilogue was a touch predictible, and not really necessary I felt. The second, was I felt the mention of Facebook was a little cheesy. And the third is the amount of swearing and smoking – both of cigarettes and joints – I felt both were a little too much. Other than that, I really enjoyed this book, and it is a wonderful debut novel.

8/10

One Man’s Falklands by Tam Dalyell

This book is an inside look at the the government during the Falklands War, which was fought in 1982 between Argentina and Britain. Both wanted sovereignty over these islands out in the Atlantic Sea, and instead of coming to a peaceful settlement, they fought each other, with Britain coming out victorious. This book is written by Tam Dalyell (a profile of him can be found here), who was a Labour MP who protested against the War. In his writings we see the events of the War pan out in front of us, along with what politicians were thinking and doing – and yes they were often different – and what he himself thought and would have done if he held power. He is critical of Margaret Thatcher and her way of dealing with the situation, and he is critical of how Parliament did not stand up and oppose her, they just went with what she declared, even though she often did not consult them.

I liked his writing. He gave a clear history of the Islands, the build up to war, and then the conflict itself. I liked his honesty and how he seemed prepared to lose his position for standing up and declaring what he thought. I liked how he assessed what happened, the cost, what might happen after the war and whether it was worth it.

This is a great historical source, giving an inside glance at what one politician thought, and conversations and how Parliament dealt with this crisis. He looks at other countries and what they thought too – all together fascinating. It is a short book, full of information and easy to read.

8/10