Monday, 6 January 2014

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year one and all!

I had a rather fantastic holiday break.  Despite the fact that my house seemed to have no less than ten people in it at any given point, it was still pretty relaxed.  We ate obscene amounts of food, were very merry and even held dinner parties with friends in an attempt to play at being properly grown-up (despite all of us being well into our twenties).

New Year's itself was seen in with snuggles on the sofa and Jools Holland, and no matter what anyone says, it was perfectly understandable to have a nap beforehand, in order to be able to stay up later.

I am old before my time.  And I'm totally fine with that.

But of course I wish to start the year as I mean to go on - which means book recommendations/reviews.  And I'm curious to see which books you're reading/planning on reading - comment below!!

Anna Alessi – history expert, possessor of a lot of hair and an occasionally filthy mouth – seeks nice man for intelligent conversation and Mills & Boon moments.

Despite the oddballs that keep turning up on her dates, Anna couldn’t be happier. As a 30-something with a job she loves, life has turned out better than she dared dream. However, things weren’t always this way, and her years spent as the ‘Italian Galleon’ of an East London comprehensive are ones she’d rather forget.

So when James Fraser – the architect of Anna’s final humiliation at school – walks back into her life, her world is turned upside down. But James seems a changed man. Polite. Mature. Funny, even. People can change, right? So why does Anna feel like she’s a fool to trust him?
Mhairi McFarlane's debut novel, You Had Me At Hello, pretty much broke my heart, and was probably my favourite book of 2012, so when Here's Looking at You was released, I was more than a little delighted.

And it was lovely.  As someone who wasn't the most popular kid at school (a prepubescent preoccupation with books put paid to that) Anna's predicament resonated with me.  As did her attraction to James (hottie alert!!)

Happiness and contentment is not easily come by - whether in the school playground or once 'grown up'.  A dream job at 15 or even 23 can become a nightmare by 25 or 30 and having the courage to make changes is both terrifying and liberating.  McFarlane manages to capture these fears and adeptly interweave this with humour and pathos.

Plus she's referencing Austen.  

With her debut being inspired by Persuasion (which is clearly the most superior of all JA's novels), this draws on Pride and Prejudice for inspiration.  Anna and James are so influenced by their first impressions of each other, that they struggle to see what is really there in front of them.

This made me smile and literally made me cry.  Go read!!

If you adore Sleepless in Seattle and Pride and Prejudice and The Avengers, then you want a movie guide aimed at women like you. Women who enjoy romances and more! You like both a good kiss and a good knockout and refuse to be categorized-but you wish someone like you would recommend movies.

Which brings Harlequin author and professional movie critic Heidi Rice to the rescue. Whether it’s nonstop action with a little heart ‘n’ soul, sweetly adorable cartoons, a classic black-and-white screwball comedy or that under-the-radar flick that you never knew you were missing, Heidi Rice will lead you through her must-sees and why you will also enjoy them. From Ryan Gosling’s six-pack to that iconic orgasm sandwich delivered by Meg Ryan, right up to the double whammy of hotties in Prisoners (Gyllenhaal and Jackman)—there’s a little something for everyone.

And a little something for that teenager inside you who’s ready to watch “nekkid” man-candy and spend two hours falling in love all over again…
One of my favourite parts of the holiday season is curling up in front of the telly in a catatonic stupor after consuming way too much food.  Whether with friends, family or that significant other, nothing really says Christmas like the movies.

And Heidi Rice - author of gems such as Maid of Dishonour and BTW I Love You - is a film critic by day and so turns her knowing eye to films we love to love.  Ranging from the epic Gone With the Wind (Scarlett being flawed perfection), to the quirky Attack the Block (essentially Aliens on a Council Estate - yes, that is as awesome as it sounds), Movie Bliss is split into six sections:
  1. Oldies That Are Awesome
  2. Cartoon Capers, but Not Just for Kids
  3. Rom-Coms R Us
  4. Joys for the Boys (and the Girls, Too)
  5. Offbeat but Right Up My Street
  6. Big is Beautiful, Bold is Even Better
The book itself reads like every conversation I've ever had with my friends about films, from plot points to eye candy, and isn't dry at all.  Its charm lies in its ability to bring to life the films it describes, whilst simultaneously entertaining and incredibly witty.

And I have every intention of watching all the films she writes about!

Published under the new Harlequin Pop! digital imprint, it's fantastic to see M&B branching out into "sophisticated analysis" of popular culture.

Born in London in 1923, Elizabeth Jane Howard was privately educated at home, moving on to short-lived careers as an actress and model, before writing her first acclaimed novel, "The Beautiful Visit", in 1950. 
She has written 12 highly regarded novels, most recently "Falling". Her Cazalet Chronicles have become established as modern classics and have been filmed by the BBC. She has been married three times - firstly to Peter Scott, the naturalist and son of Captain Scott, and most famously and tempestuously to Kingsley Amis. It was Amis' son by another marriage, Martin, to whom she introduced the works of Jane Austen and ensured that he received the education that would be the grounding of his own literary career. Her closest friends have included some of the greatest writers and thinkers of the day - Laurie Lee, Arthur Koestler and Cecil Day-Lewis, among others. 

Honest and unflinching, this book illuminates the literary world of the latter half of the 20th century, as well as giving a personal insight into the life of Elizabeth Jane Howard.
On the 2nd January, Elizabeth Jane Howard died.  90 years old, and having brought out yet another novel in April last year, she was renowned for being vivacious, sexually liberated and approaching her craft with humility and bemusement.

Having won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for her debut novel in 1953, she went on to write novels reminiscent of Austen in both their tone and incredible depiction of everyday female characters.

Slipstream - an autobiography that is full of heartwarming and heartwrenching moments - is best summed up in her own words:
I feels as though I have lived most of my life in the slipstream of experience.  Often I have had to repeat the same disastrous situation several times before I got the message.  That is still happening.  I do not write this book as a wise, mature, finished person who has learned all the answers, but rather as someone who even at this late stage of seventy-nine years is still trying to change, find things out and do a bit better with them.
Happy New Year to you all, and may we all keep on trying to do that bit better.  <3

(photo credit: thomasstache via photopin cc)


  1. Thanks so much for the recommendation. Have to admit we stayed in and watched Jools too... (and some naps may have been involved... Maybe). Happy New Year.

    1. That's alright - loved the book and I'm totally psyched by the new Harlequin POP! imprint. :)

      It's the only way to spend New Year's; it just wouldn't be NYE without Jools. Happy New Year to you too!