"Her passion is fashion ... but she's on a budget! Personal shopper Annie Valentine is about to hit the big time: presenting a glamorous TV makeover series! But too late, Annie discovers this is TV on a shoestring. They're paying her buttons and her budget is zip. Can she make do with Primark when all she wants is Prada? While Annie performs miracles with the minimum, boyfriend Ed is left at home with one son (deeply green), one daughter (deeply teen) and one sexy, Russian blonde (don't ask). He's not happy. He wants more together-time. He wants a dog. He may even want...a baby! But could non-stop, fame-seeking Annie ever handle that?"
I've read Three in a Bed by Carmen Reid a couple of years ago and I remember I quite enjoyed it (minus e.g. the birth scene, which will haunt me forever, hehe) so I was interested to read more by the same author, plus I admit I was instantly drawn to this book because of the cover. I was kindly sent a copy of How Not to Shop (many thanks to the publisher!), which is apparently the third installment in the series about Annie Valentine, but I'm afraid the book sadly didn't live up to my expectations.
The first thing that bothered me is that I couldn't relate to Annie at all: she's 37 and has two grown up children, which is just not my cup of tea - sounds more like my mother than a female friend I'd like to read about. Perhaps that spoiled my enjoyment of the book slightly as I usually need to relate to the character at least a bit to get absorbed in the book, but I'm afraid I couldn't be more different from and indifferent to Annie. However, I did appreciate that she was a genuinely lovely and kind woman and I really liked how she always stood up for the poor people who were taken advantage of. I may not exactly look up to Annie, but I definitely cannot hate her either as she's a really loveable and sweet and an endearing character. The blurb above describes her a "non-stop fame seeking" character, but I didn't get that impression at all.
As for the other characters, I personally thought they were rather one dimensional, underdeveloped and completely unreal. Annie's boyfriend Ed is a nice guy, even a tad too nice - he's like the epitome of a Feathery Stroker (those of you who've read Anybody Out There? will know what I'm talking about) and I found him completely undesirabable and too corny. Furthermore, I was terribly annoyed with Svetlana, who is possibly the most irritating character ever with her horrendous attitude towards life and her unrealistic foreign speak (also super annoying). I didn't get a chance to warm up to any of the side characters either since, as I mentioned before, they were all underdeveloped.
The plot didn't really blow me away either. I mean, what is this book about anyway? I'm afraid I can't say it was very well structured as there was really nothing going on or the action wasn't presented well enough, in my opinion. I was also bothered by the title - I was nearly done with the novel and still had no idea what the title refered to. If that show was so important that it deserved to be featured in the novel title, why did it only appear at the end of the book and was barely described at all? Sure, there were things going on, but they all seemed kind of random and didn't captivate me, apart from the troubles that Annie's mother and sister were facing, their struggles did quite move me. Moreover, the writing was quite average and the editing process wasn't too brilliant either as there were lots of commas missing (sorry, but that just annoys and distracts me). Plus I really didn't find the book funny?
As I said, part of my dissatisfaction with the novel could be attributed to the fact that I couldn't relate to the main character at all and I don't think I was the target audience for this book anyway as my lifestyle and interests are completely different. Furthermore, perhaps I would enjoy the book more if I had read the other two books first, maybe then I'd find it easier to understand the characters more. The novel works as a stand alone book, but I admit that certain references were lost on me. I'm also curious what happened to Annie's husband - anyone care to enlighten me why he passed away? Was just wondering.
By far the best thing about the book is the cover - it's gorgeous and it would definitely catch my attention in a bookshop, I'd definitely pick it up and possibly buy it just because of the pretty cover!
All in all, I thought the book was pretty average, but that's just silly ol' me and I often find faults with books that most people have enjoyed just because they don't strike a chord with *me* (keep in mind that I'm a strange person). I'd recommend this book if you like a reeeeally light and quick read. If you're interested in finding out more about this title, then please read the reviews by Chloe and Jenny, who both really liked the book!
overall rating: 3/5
plot: 3/5 | writing: 3/5 | characters: 2/5 | cover: 5/5