‘My Not So Perfect Life’ by Sophie Kinsella

mnspl-skSTORY: Katie Brenner has the perfect life: a flat in London, a glamorous job, and a super-cool Instagram feed.

Ok, so the real truth is that she rents a tiny room with no space for a wardrobe, has a hideous commute to a lowly admin job, and the life she shares on Instagram isn’t really hers.

But one day her dreams are bound to come true, aren’t they?

Until her not-so perfect life comes crashing down when her mega-successful boss Demeter gives her the sack. All Katie’s hopes are shattered. She has to move home to Somerset, where she helps her dad with his new glamping business.

Then Demeter and her family book in for a holiday, and Katie sees her chance. But should she get revenge on the woman who ruined her dreams? Or try to get her job back? Does Demeter – the woman with everything – have such an idyllic life herself? Maybe they have more in common than it seems.

And what’s wrong with not-so-perfect, anyway?

REVIEW: Catherine (Cat) Brenner lives in London and battles the tube travel commute every day which take her well over an hour one way. Her boss, Demeter, complains about her 25-minute commute, which makes Cat roll her eyes. Cat works at a branding and strategy agency called Cooper Clemmow. Demeter is married with two children, makes an enormous salary, and lives in a stunning house. Cat, on the other hand, lives in a tiny room and barely makes enough to get by.

Demeter is juggling lots of contracts and depends on her assistant to help her. Unfortunately, Demeter is not liked by many in the office because they feel as though they were passed over for her job.

Cat is trying hard to make friends at work and to try and get noticed by her boss. One day, a handsome man named Alex asks Cat to help him look over some items to decide if they would be worth supporting/branding them. She soon finds out that he is Demeter’s boss. She dreams about how wonderful it would be to date him. She gets embarrassed when her drunken co-worker tells Alex at the office Christmas party that Cat has a crush on him. Mortified, Cat cannot face him.

Cat’s name is actually Katie and she grew up on a farm in the countryside. Her mother passed away when Katie was little and it was her father who raised her. Katie heads home for the Christmas break. Her Dad has always had a lot of get-rich schemes that never paned out. Katie suggests that he offer a country vacation spot complete with yurts, great good, and lots of games and exercise. She even does up a fabulous brochure and after working it through, it becomes a reality. This is a good thing because as soon as Cat gets back to work after Christmas break, Demeter fires her. Totally shocked, she heads back home and tells her Dad she is on sabbatical from her job. So, she delves in and works to make the vacation spot a success.

They get many people coming and enjoying themselves. When Demeter and her family show up, Katie disguises herself and does all she can to get back at Demeter under the guise of healthy exercise. But when Alex arrives to see Demeter, things get really rough.

This is a terrific story that only Sophie Kinsella can write. I have loved all of her books and this one did not disappoint. Grab a copy of this book and come join the fun. I’m betting you will love the story.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b

‘The Mistress’ by Danielle Steel

tm-dsSTORY: Natasha Leonova’s beauty saved her life. Discovered on a freezing Moscow street by a Russian billionaire, she has lived for seven years under his protection, immersed in rarefied luxury, while he pursues his activities in a dark world that she guesses at but never sees. Her home is the world, often on one of Vladimir Stanislas’s spectacular yachts manned by scores of heavily armed crew members. Natasha’s job is to keep Vladimir happy, ask no questions, and be discreet. She knows her place, and the rules. She feels fortunate to be spoiled and protected, and is careful not to dwell on Vladimir’s ruthlessness or the deadly circles he moves in. She experiences only his kindness and generosity and believes he will always keep her safe. She is unfailingly loyal to him in exchange.

Theo Luca is the son of a brilliant, world famous, and difficult artist, Lorenzo Luca, who left his wife and son with a fortune in artwork they refuse to sell. Lorenzo’s widow, Maylis, has transformed their home in St. Paul de Vence into a celebrated restaurant decorated with her late husband’s paintings, and treats it as a museum. There, on a warm June evening, Theo first encounters Natasha, the most exquisite woman he has ever seen. And there, Vladimir lays eyes on Luca’s artwork. Two dangerous obsessions begin.

Theo, a gifted artist in his own right, finds himself feverishly painting Natasha’s image for weeks after their first meeting. Vladimir, enraged that Lorenzo’s works are not for sale, is determined to secure a painting at any price. And Natasha, who knows that she cannot afford to make even one false move, nevertheless begins to think of the freedom she can never have as Vladimir’s mistress. She cannot risk her safety for another man, or even a conversation with him, as Theo longs for a woman he can never have.

From Moscow to the Riviera, Paris, and London, The Mistress is a riveting tale of vast fortune, cruelty, creative genius, and daring courage, as uncompromising individuals chart a course for collision.

REVIEW: The 500 foot yacht, Princess Marina, named for his mother, is owned by Vladimir Stanislos, 49, one of the richest men in Russia whose worth is estimated at $40-$50 billion. His mistress is Natasha Leonova, 26, whom he has been with for 7 years. She had a very poor life as a child and he rescued her off the streets of Russia. She was very sick with pneumonia and he nursed her back to health. Natasha knows that he refuses to have any children with a mistress. But she is the perfect companion who always knows what he needs from her. Vladimir is an art lover and collector and Natasha enjoys it as well. They spend time on their yacht or at one of their other residences around the world.

Maylis Luca is the widow of famed artist, Lorenzo Luca. Their son, Theo. is also a talented artist. Maylis owns a posh restaurant in Cap d’Antibes which displays a number of Lorenzo’s paintings, but none are for sale. Occasionally, Theo helps out at the restaurant when they are short handed.

One night, Vladimir and Natasha have dinner at the restaurant. Both are very taken with Luca’s paintings and want to buy one. However, Maylis gives them a firm no even though Theo encourages her to sell it. Theo thinks Natasha is very beautiful, but he does not care for Vladimir and his arrogant manner. However, when Vladimir offers an outrageously high figure for the painting, Maylis accepts the offer.

Theo is so obsessed with Natasha that he spends an enormous period of time painting her from memory working until he feels it is perfect. When he gifts her with the painting, Vladimir becomes jealous and revenge erupts.

This is a typical Danielle Steel novels that rambles along making it a very easy read. Of course, there are a lot of repeated sentences but that is the signature of this particular author. I have read a number of her books but not all. I chose to read this particular novel because it takes place in my beloved Paris and the south of France. If you are looking for a nice story with lots of descriptions, do pick up this book. It is quite good.

Connie for b2b

‘The Christmas Surprise’ by Jenny Colgan

tcs-jcSTORY: From the New York Times bestselling author of Little Beach Street Bakery and The Bookshop on the Corner comes a delightful holiday tale full of sweetness, love, heartbreak, and happiness—perfect for fans of Debbie Macomber and Elin Hilderbrand.

Rosie Hopkins, newly engaged, is looking forward to an exciting year in the little English sweetshop she owns. But when fate deals Rosie and her boyfriend Stephen a terrible blow, threatening everything they hold dear, it’s going to take all their strength and the support of their families and their friends to hold them together.

After all, don’t they say it takes a village to raise a child?

REVIEW: This is my first time reading a Jenny Colgan novel and I loved it. It made me want to move to the English countryside village and savor snow days at Christmas.

Despite the predictability of the plot, I enjoyed the drama because it was someone elses for a change 😉

If you’re looking for an easy book to read while you sip your hot cocoa, grab this one. You’ll like it.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘The Thin Pink Line’ by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

ttpl lblSTORY: Jane Taylor is pregnant. Only, not in the conventional sense. It all began when Jane missed her period. Whether it was the clouds in the sky or a major case of pregnancy envy (this year’s concern), Jane doesn’t know. She only knows that she told her best male friend, and began to believe it. Until she got her period and realized she never was. Pregnant.

But that brief glimpse into the other world — the world of smiling faces and courteous men — was just too beautiful not to be a part of . . .and so Jane told a little white lie to her live-in boyfriend, and crossed the line. With the help of a pink Magic Marker she closed the gap that separated her from the positively perfect pregos.

Enter Jane’s world, one of deception and success, Mr. Wrong and Mr. Right, Nutrition Police and tilted uteruses, baby showers and celebrity obstetricians. As Jane spins closer to her due date, she’s got a lot of soul-searching to do — not to mention an appointment with reality . . .

REVIEW: Jane Taylor is single, 29, working as an editor for Churchill & Stewart publishers in the UK. She and Trevor have been living together for some time and enjoying great sex. When her regular cycle is a couple of weeks late, she’s convinced she’s pregnant and is so thrilled she picks up a pregnancy test. When it shows she isn’t pregnant, she buys another one and draws a thin pink line on the test window with a magic marker. After telling everyone she is pregnant, she finds she truly isn’t. So, she decides to carry on with her farce. When Trevor leaves her for her lying, Jane now becomes the pregnant girl dumped by her boyfriend.

“Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave When First We Practice to Deceive” – Sir Walter Scott

This book follows through her entire “pregnancy” along with all of the physical problems that pregnant women have but which she only lies about. A lot of her antics are hysterical but, for me, the whole farce became boring rather quickly.

The ending was a bit of a surprise because the reader certainly wants to know what’s going to happen at the end of the nine months. However, even that was a bit contrived and abrupt.

If you’re looking for a light read with lots of humor, then by all means read this novel. There are lots of characters who keep the story going well. Just don’t expect too much from it.

Connie for b2b

‘Babyville’ by Jane Green

b jgSTORY: Meet Julia, a wildly successful television producer who appears to have the picture-perfect life. But beneath the surface, things are not as perfect as they seem. Stuck in a loveless relationship with her boyfriend, Mark, Julia thinks a baby is the answer . . . but she may want a baby more than she wants her boyfriend. Will a trip to New York City with a jet-setting friend—and all the glittering energy and eligible men the city brings—help her discover what she really needs?

Maeve, on the other hand, is allergic to commitment. A feisty, red-haired, high-power career girl, she cherishes her ability to do just as she pleases and breaks out in a rash every time she passes a stroller. But when her no-strings-attached nightlife leads to an unexpected pregnancy, her reaction may be just as unexpected.And then there’s Samantha—happily married and eager to be the perfect June Cleaveresque mother. But baby George brings only exhaustion, extra pounds, and marital strife to her once tidy life. Is having an affair with a friend’s incredibly sexy husband the answer?

REVIEW: Julia wants a baby desperately and is unable to conceive. She focuses so hard on becoming pregnant to the point that she drives her boyfriend away.

Maeve almost breaks out in a rash at the thought of being a mother. However, a night of – oops – unprotected sex changes all of that for her. At first, she tries to convince herself that she couldn’t possibly be pregnant and tries to ignore the whole thing. Then, she is determined to have an abortion yet keeps putting it off until it’s too late.

Samantha wants the perfect life of wife and mother. However, motherhood is not a bed of roses for her. (Is it ever?) While she loves her baby, reality rears its ugly head in the form of exhaustion and extra weight for her.

The book switches back and forth among these three main characters. We see how they become intertwined in one another’s lives.

Jane Green has done an amazing job of knitting these characters together and writing a fabulous novel. It will make you laugh, cry and, most of all, think.

Connie for b2b

‘Where We Belong’ by Emily Giffin

wwb egSTORY: The author of five blockbuster novels, Emily Giffin, delivers an unforgettable story of two women, the families that make them who they are, and the longing, loyalty and love that binds them together

Marian Caldwell is a thirty-six year old television producer, living her dream in New York City. With a fulfilling career and satisfying relationship, she has convinced everyone, including herself, that her life is just as she wants it to be. But one night, Marian answers a knock on the door . . . only to find Kirby Rose, an eighteen-year-old girl with a key to a past that Marian thought she had sealed off forever. From the moment Kirby appears on her doorstep, Marian’s perfectly constructed world—and her very identity—will be shaken to its core, resurrecting ghosts and memories of a passionate young love affair that threaten everything that has come to define her.

For the precocious and determined Kirby, the encounter will spur a process of discovery that ushers her across the threshold of adulthood, forcing her to re-evaluate her family and future in a wise and bittersweet light. As the two women embark on a journey to find the one thing missing in their lives, each will come to recognize that where we belong is often where we least expect to find ourselves—a place that we may have willed ourselves to forget, but that the heart remembers forever.

REVIEW: Marian and Conrad are two young teenagers just getting to know one another. Marian is a shy girl and she and Conrad have sex. She is a virgin and since they used protection, Marian is shocked when she is late. She takes a pregnancy test which comes up positive. Not wanting Conrad to feel obligated to her, she lies to him telling him the test is negative and then proceeds to break up with him. Confiding in her mother only, Marian at first considers abortion but backs out at the last minute. She then chooses to go away for the duration of her pregnancy and gives her baby girl up for adoption. It breaks Marian’s heart to do so, however, she know she wants the best for her child and confidently gives her to a family who have prayed for a child for a long time and will love her and give her a wonderful home.

Fast forward 18 years and we meet the young girl, Kirby, who although she loves her adoptive parents, wants to find and meet her birth mother. She is given the information from the adoption agency and travels to meet Marian, who is a television producer living in New York City. Marion’s life has been successful and she is dating Peter, the CEO of the television company she works for. Theirs is a somewhat tenuous relationship with Marian wanting to get married and have a child and Peter who is not really ready for that. The reunion between Marian and Kirby is a bit rocky in that Marian lives a rather well-to-do life and Kirby’s life has been with her middle class family. However, they do enjoy one another and plan to keep in touch.

We follow Kirby as she finishes her last months of high school but is undecided about going to college. She and Marian decide to look up Conrad, the birth father. Conrad and Kirby bond well and find a mutual love of music but Conrad is furious at Marian for lying to him and not letting him know of Kirby’s existence. Marian feels extremely bad about lying to him but also finds herself drawn to him.

Do Marian and Peter end up together? Do Marian and Conrad stand a chance at life together?

Emily Giffin has penned yet another of her novels that gets right into life with characters so real you feel as though you’ve met them before. Her endings are always a surprise which makes the reader not want to put the novel down. I really enjoyed reading this and hope others will do the same.

Connie for b2b

‘To the Moon and Back’ by Jill Mansell

ttmab jm When Ellie Kendall tragically loses her husband she feels her life is over. But eventually she’s ready for a new start – at work, that is. She doesn’t need a new man when she has a certain secret visitor to keep her company…

Zack McLaren seems to have it all, but the girl he can’t stop thinking about won’t give him a second glance. If only she’d pay him the same attention she lavishes on his dog.

Moving to North London, Ellie meets neighbour Roo who has a secret of her own. Can the girls sort out their lives? Guilt is a powerful emotion, but a lot can happen in a year in Primrose Hill…

REVIEW: Ellie lost her husband, Jamie, in an auto accident a year ago and she still conjures up a vision of him when she needs to talk to him. This gives her comfort.

She has worked for several years as a PA in a OK job and still lives in the not-so-OK flat she shared with Jamie. Jamie’s father is a successful actor who encourages her to move into a nice home in a nice area which he also will use as his pied-de-terre when back in the UK from his filming in California. Ellie finds a new job, new neighbor and new boss. This change where no one really knows she is a widow helps her to find new happiness in her life.

I really enjoyed this book with its great characters. Watch Ellie find the strength to let go of the past and learn to love again.

Connie for b2b