Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller

notes on a scandal

Synopsis from Amazon:

When the new teacher first arrives, Barbara immediately senses that this woman will be different from the rest of her staff-room colleagues. But Barbara is not the only one to feel that Sheba is special, and before too long Sheba is involved in an illicit affair with a pupil. Barbara finds the relationship abhorrent, of course, but she is the only adult in whom Sheba can properly confide. So when the liaison is found out and Sheba’s life falls apart, Barbara is there…

Sheba is a new teacher at school; she is a pottery teacher and is instantly spotted by Barbara. She is different from the other new teachers, she keeps herself to her room and doesn’t participate in staff room gossip. Sheba meets Steven Connolly in detention, where she discovers he has some artist talent. She starts giving him tutorials after school, where their relationship blossoms. Soon they are having a sexual affair, a pupil and a teacher. During this time the friendship between Sheba and Barbara has been blossoming. Sheba confides in Barbara about Connolly. This affair cannot remain hidden forever, and when the people find out what has happened Barbara is there for Sheba; but what is her motivation?

This is a book which focuses on a controversial issue – pupils having sex with students when they are underage. Heller is brave writing this book, especially as she questions the portrayal of these teachers, and the different treatment male and female offenders receive. Heller looks at reasons why teachers would enter into this relationship, the effect feelings have over a person, regardless of age and who will stand beside you whatever you have done. She also studies spinstership, how the woman is portrayed and what it could do to you.

I enjoyed this book but I didn’t like the characters – I was gripped by the story and what the outcome would be. I found it an interesting read; a sensitive subject manner and I wanted to know how Heller would write it. I found Barbara manipulating and judgmental and Sheba delusional and a liar. This is a good read because even though I didn’t like the characters they did spark a reaction.

This was not a fast read but a well written book and a good read.

8/10

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The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella

the undomestic goddess

Synopsis from Amazon:

The story of a girl who needs to slow down. To find herself. To fall in love. And to discover what an iron is for…Samantha is a high-powered lawyer in London. She works all hours, has no home life, and cares only about getting a partnership. She thrives on the pressure and adrenalin. Until one day…she makes a mistake. A mistake so huge, it’ll wreck her career. She walks right out of the office, gets on the first train she sees, and finds herself in the middle of nowhere. Asking for directions at a big, beautiful house, she is mistaken for the interviewee housekeeper and finds herself being offered the job. They have no idea they’ve hired a Cambridge-educated lawyer with an IQ of 158 – Samantha has no idea how to work the oven. Disaster ensues. It’s chaos as Samantha battles with the washing machine…the ironing board…and attempts to cook a cordon bleu dinner. But gradually, she falls in love with her new life in a wholly unexpected way. Will her employers ever discover the truth? Will Samantha’s old life ever catch up with her? And if it does…will she want it back?

Samantha is one of the best lawyers in England – then she discovers a memo on her desk that needed urgent attention a few weeks before. This is a £50 million mistake. When she realises what has happened, she flees. She jumps onto the first train and ends up in the countryside. When she stops at a house for help she is mistaken as a housekeeper. Not knowing what she is doing she accepts the job. Except she doesn’t even know how to use a toaster, how is she going to cope? And will London ever find her?

This was a fun book. This is easy chick-lit reading. I found it amusing and a quick read. It wasn’t particularly believable, but I was hooked anyway. Kinsella is great at this genre. She writes wonderful characters, amusing characters and ones you can easily fall in love with. I liked Nathaniel’s mother, a solid lady, happy to look out for her son and Samantha, and happy to help in every way.

I think you will only enjoy this if you like Kinsella’s work and if you like chick-lit. However, I loved it! It only took me a couple of days to finish it. Yes it was predictable and unrealistic, but thoroughly enjoyable.

9/10

PS I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

ps i love you

Synopsis:

A wonderfully warm and heartfelt debut from a stunning new talent. Everyone needs a guardian angel! Some people wait their whole lives to find their soul mates. But not Holly and Gerry. Childhood sweethearts, they could finish each other’s sentences and even when they fought, they laughed. No one could imagine Holly and Gerry without each other. Until the unthinkable happens. Gerry’s death devastates Holly. But as her 30th birthday looms, Gerry comes back to her. He’s left her a bundle of notes, one for each of the months after his death, gently guiding Holly into her new life without him, each note signed ‘PS, I Love You’. As the notes are gradually opened, and as the year unfolds, Holly is both cheered up and challenged. The man who knows her better than anyone sets out to teach her that life goes on. With some help from her friends, and her noisy and loving family, Holly finds herself laughing, crying, singing, dancing — and being braver than ever before. Life is for living, she realises — but it always helps if there’s an angel watching over you.

Holly is lucky; she found her soul mate when she was young. Except she is unlucky – he dies young of a brain tumour. Her life is ripped apart. What is she going to do? Her husband has dead. Yet her mother is holding a letter for her, one from Gerry. There is a note for every month of the rest of the year, which will help her carrying on living.

This is a well written, touching book. To lose your u at a young age must be horrendous, and that is how Ahern writes it. It is so sad, very heartbreaking. Ahern looks at what losing your spouse does to you, how relationships change, who are your real friends, and how you can keep going. I loved the idea of notes, and everything Gerry set up for her to help her. What a lovely thing to do. It was so beautiful that he was there supporting her through these few lines a few. Ahern’s writing is gripping and draws you into the story. I felt the emotions Holly was feeling, and could have cried along with her.

I don’t think I have a favourite character in this book. Everyone was well written and I liked how they developed over the year. It was interesting to see how Gerry’s death affected everyone. It was good to see how Ahern remembered the other characters and incorporated their grief in the book too.

It is important to note that not all the book is sad, and there are moments of joy, fun and laughter. Ahern looks at a range of emotions and the rollercoaster of grief.

I really enjoyed this book. It is chick-lit, but it explores a hard issue. It did not take long to read this book – it was just a good novel.

9/10

31 Dream Street by Lisa Jewell

cover-dreamstreetSynopsis from Amazon:

Leah and Toby have lived across the street from one another for years without meeting … and Leah has been itching to peek behind the front door of Toby’s eccentric house, always packed to the rafters with weird and wonderful tenants. When fate finally lets her in, Leah finds that Toby needs her as much as she is surprised to realize she might need him. Sometimes life needs a helping hand and with a sprinkle of romance and their own special magic, Toby and Leah’s dreams show the glimmer of a chance of coming true. 31 Dream Street is a wonderfully warm and insightful novel that will capture the imagination and soothe the soul.

One ordinary day Leah is going about her business when she notices the old man from across the street lying face down on the ground. She goes to investigate and discovers he has died. She runs to the eccentric house for help and meets Toby, the owner. This is their first meeting and a friendship is quickly born. Time spent together brings Toby out of his shell, helps him make some decisions about the house and enables him to befriend his tenants. It also has Leah re-examining her life. This death has been the beginning of many changes….

I found this to be a thoroughly enjoyable book. I have read Jewell’s Thirty-something and Ralph’s Party, and enjoyed both, so I had high hopes for this novel, and I think I enjoyed it even more than the other two. This is pure chick-lit, but a wonderful read. It is over 400 pages long, but I read most of it in a day. It is engaging, humorous and a great read.

I loved Leah and Toby, but they are not the only characters whose stories are told in this book. Toby’s tenants are introduced as well and woven into the story. They have their own chapters so we can get to know them as well. This adds to the story, making it more enjoyable as you want to know what is going to happen to the house mates, as well as wanting to know about their past.

Jewell looks at the illness Cystic Fibrosis. She examines the disease through a conversation and looks at how it can affect people’s lives, as well as fears of those first encountering the illness. She also describes how this can negatively affect relationships. I think this was very well written and dealt with.

The only thing I did not like about the book was the swearing. I found there to be too much of it and it spoiled the book.

Overall, a great chick-lit book, highly recommended.

8/10

Pemberley by Emma Tennant

pemberley

Synopsis from Amazon:

Attempting a sequel to “Pride and Prejudice”, this novel brings the original characters back to life. It is a story in which their pasts catch up with them, yielding dramatic results.

Pemberley is a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The story is based at Darcy’s Derbyshire mansion, where Elizabeth is now residing as his wife. Everything seems blissful – Darcy has been softened and loves doting on Elizabeth, but all is about to return to how things were before the wedding as it is Christmas, and everyone in the family are embarking on a trip to Pemberley. Elizabeth is very concerned: Jane is about to give birth, Wickham will be present, and what about her mother? Will she keep her cool? Will Darcy revert to his prideful, sullen self? Is Christmas going to be a disaster?

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I was concerned that it would just be a copy of Pride and Prejudice, but it isn’t. It holds it own, and although the characters are the same, as are the location, it is not the same as Pride and Prejudice.

I liked that Tennant was consistant with the characters – so Mr. Collins was as ridiculous as ever, and Mrs. Bennett as flamboyant as Austen wrote her. Tennant added new characters too, which I think helped her move away from Austen’s work and helped her novel to develop on its own accord.

This is not a long book – it is under 200 pages. It was an easy and enjoyable read. I was drawn in  and connected with the wonderful characters again. I was eager to find out what would happen in the end. The story was a fun read but I did think the ending was a bit rushed. However, I will be looking to read Tennant’s new installment: Pemberley Revisited.

If you like Pride and Prejudice I don’t think you will be disappointed by this novel. Obviously not as good as the original it is a great follow up book.

8/10

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by by Mitch Albom

the five people you meet in heaven

Synopsis from Amazon:

From the author of the phenomenal number one bestseller TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE, comes this enchanting, beautifully written novel that explores a mystery only heaven can unfold. Eddie is a grizzled war veteran who feels trapped in the toil of his father before him, fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. Then he dies in a tragic accident, trying to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakens in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a lush Garden of Eden, but a place where your earthly life is explained to you by five people who were in it. These people may have been loved ones or distant strangers. Yet each of them changed your path forever. As the story builds to its stunning conclusion, Eddie desperately seeks redemption in the still-unknown last act of his life. Was it a heroic success or a devastating failure? The answer is as magical and inspirational as a glimpse of heaven itself.

Eddie dies on his birthday attempting to save a girl when part of a pier ride malfunctions. When he gets to heaven he meets five different people who explain life and parts of Eddie’s life which lead him to rethink hi anger and bitterness. This is a journey that will release him for heaven.

I read this book in a day – it is really good. It is not a long book, only 208 pages, but is a wonderful read. Albom draws you in and it really feels like you are going through these memories with Eddie. You feel pain, hurt and happiness as you read.

Because Eddie died on his birthday there are several chapters that are birthday memories. Ranging from the age of five up to his sixties. I really liked these. They showed tenderness and a glimpse into how Eddie’s life was changing.

There are many issues discussed in this book – such as the war and how that affected life and parent issues, particularly violence from his father. Albom deals with these wonderfully and shows that with help things can be forgiven.

I liked all the characters. It was lovely how some of the people Eddie met in heaven he had only briefly met in life, or not met at all, but how they played a part in his life. I particularly liked Tala, a little girl. She had died young in the war but she was sweet and forgiving, and loving. I felt for Eddie too. He lost his wife young and the war had left him maimed, leaving him sad and stuck in a rut. I loved being there as he sorted out his life in heaven.

I highly recommend this book. I loved it. I can think of no complaints.

10/10