28 April 2011

Review: HOTHOUSE FLOWER by Lucinda Riley *****

A heart-rending page turner which sweeps from war-torn Europe to Thailand and back again . . .
As a child Julia Forrester spent many idyllic hours in the hothouse of Wharton Park estate, where her grandfather tended the exotic flowers. So when a family tragedy strikes, Julia returns to the tranquility of Wharton Park and its hothouse.
Recently inherited by charismatic Kit Crawford, the estate is undergoing renovation. This leads to the discovery of an old diary, prompting the pair to seek out Julia's grandmother to learn the truth behind a love affair that almost destroyed Wharton Park.
Julia is taken back to the 1940s where the fortunes of young couple Olivia and Harry Crawford will have terrible consequences on generations to come. For as war breaks out Olivia and Harry are cruelly separated ...
First of all, doesn't this cover positively SCREAM Kate Morton? I don't mind one bit as I think it's a gorgeous cover, but still a liiiittle obvious. The summary sounds quite a bit like a Kate Morton story too, which is brilliant if you're a fan of Ms Morton and you need a quick fix when you're waiting for her next book (speaking of which, where is it?????). And the best news? Unlike some other books I've read that appeared to have tried to match Ms Morton's level of storytelling and not quite managed, this one can actually compare! The story was great and I couldn't put the book down ...

As the story opens, we meet Julia, a young woman who is still recovering from a horrible personal tragedy and she has travelled back to England from France to hopefully heal her wounds. She becomes involved with Wharton Park again, once magnificent but now a crumbling property that has recently been inherited by Kit. They came across a diary and Julia's grandmother Elsie, who was a maid at Wharton Park when the diary came to be, tells them what really happened during World War II when master Harry married Olivia and was soon after sent on an overseas mission to Thailand ... So what is in the diary? And how did Olivia go from being an exquisite debutante to such a bitter old woman?

The author really knows how to tell a great story and how to connect the present narrative with Julia and the past narrative with Harry in Thailand and all the consequences of that. I found myself really engrossed into the story and raced through the pages to learn what really happened all those years ago, and at the same time really felt for Julia. A lot of secrets are interwoven in the story (including a shocking appearance towards the end - whoa!) and I really enjoyed reading both stories, set in Thailand and in the English countryside.

On top of wonderful plot, I thought the characters were really well portrayed too. Namely Julia's pain was palpable and her story just broke my heart. I grew incredibly fond of Kit, was fascinated by Olivia and really warmed up to Elsie as well as other side characters.

I believe this is the author's debut and oh what a great piece of fiction it is! I'm so glad she got published and I'm very happy to report that she has another book coming out in October called THE GIRL ON THE CLIFF, which sounds fantastic - right up my alley! I cannot wait to see the cover and to finally read it!

I'm sure the author is fed up with being compared to Kate Morton, but I'm afraid that's unavoidable and nothing short of a compliment! Overall, if enjoy novels that connect the present and the past and tie it all up with an intriguing mystery, then this is the book for you! Definitely recommended.

overall rating:
plot: 5/5 | writing: 5/5 | characters: 5/5 | cover: 5/5

Watch the interview with the author below.

17 April 2011

In My Mailbox #72

I'm (still) terribly sorry that IMMs are almost all that I post on here these days, but but but life's too busy for blogging right now and it's not like I particularly want to do IMMs, but I just get soooo many AMAZING books and I need to share my joy with the world and what better way to do it than IMM, right? :)
The past weeks have been nothing short of spectacular in terms of books - I mean, just LOOK at all the lovelies I got!!!

  • SING YOU HOME by Jodi Picoult - I used to be a massive Picoult fan and I've read almost all her books, but this one just doesn't appeal so much, I guess ... At the same time, I'm very tempted to read it because I know Picoult sure can tell a fantastic story ... So we'll see, but I might not be able to resist it after all! Thanks though, Hodder!
  • ALONG CAME A STORK by Marisa Mackle - Review copy from Poolbeg. And while the cover is rather gooorgeous and eyecatching, I'm really not about books about pregnant women. Not my cup of tea, but it looks very pretty!
  • THE WEIRD SISTERS by Eleanor Brown (ARC) - This one comes out in the UK in August and don't you just LOVE the cover? Totally makes me want to read the book!
  • THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (ARC) - This one also comes out in August and is said to be THE publishing event of 2011! The final UK cover is rather pretty, but so is this one actually - I'm loving the simplicity and the beautiful lettering! Sounds good too!
  • GIRL ON THE RUN by Jane Costello - I've already read this one and quite liked it. Review to come eventually, hehe. Lovely cover though, no?
  • IDOL by Carrie Duffy (ARC) - Squeeee! I've been wanting to read this one ever since I've heard of it and saw the cover (gorgeous, y/y?!) so I was over the moon that I was able to snag an ARC! Can't wait to read it, although I'm told it's much raunchier than it looks, hehe. ;)
  • TO MARRY A PRINCE by Sophie Page - Squeeee! Another book that I've been dying to read for months and now I finally have it, yay - all I need is some free time, bah! Will deffo read this asap, but probably not in time for the big fat Royal Wedding in a couple of weeks. Shame but oh well.
  • PEARL by Deidre Purcell - This one sounds really good, but I decided to wait for the paperback, which is finally out now! Not sure about the cover though ...
  • THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett - Now, I got this for free so I really shouldn't complain, but but but I can't help bringing up the cover. Yes, I hear the book is really good and I've been wanting to read it, BUT how can I get past this cover?!?! This has got to be one of the most awful covers I have ever come across and I just cannot justify it. :( In my eyes, everything's completely wrong: the colour combination (eww), the plain text, the random birds. There's just no excuse for this cover, seriously - I find it straight up HORRIBLE. I know it's not chick lit and the cover's not meant to be pretty, but that doesn't mean you have to make it soooo BLAH. I would never ever spend money on a cover like this, but I got it for free so I can't bitch too much. Although if I do read (which I'm hoping to some day), I'll certainly use a book jacket or something.

Last but not least, I also got a copy of THE TIME-TRAVELING FASHIONISTA by Bianca Turetsky, which is absolutely gorgeous both inside and out! It's beautifully illustrated so I just couldn't resist taking a few snaps on how it looks on the inside - isn't it just amazing? Yeah, I think so.

That's it from me - what did YOU get?????? :)

13 April 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: California Dreamers

This week I decided to feature Belinda Jones's upcoming book CALIFORNIA DREAMERS, which comes out on 21st July 2011. I've been looking forward to it ever since I read the summary!

Ever wished you could make-over your life?

Make-up artist Stella is an expert at helping other people change their images, but when it comes to transforming herself, she doesn't even know where to start.

So when her new friend, glamorous Hollywood actress Marina Ray, summons her a movie set in California, Stella can't resist the chance to start afresh - it is the land of sunshine and opportunity after all!

But are they really friends or does Marina have an ulterior motive? What is the secret that both women are hiding about the nautical (but nice) men in their lives? And what will it take to really make both of their California dreams come true?

In a Pacific Coast journey that takes in Los Angeles, the world's most romantic ranch and California's very own castle in the sky - this story of friendship, long-distance love, kissing (and making up) is the perfect escapist read.
Fabulous, isn't it? I haven't read any of Belinda Jones's previous books, but I've been told they're fantastic so I'm definitely planning to!

I was particularly looking forward to this one because Jones's previous cover was absolutely gorgeous (I've discussed it here) so I hoped the publishers would follow the same trend ... but sadly it appears they won't.
The cover featured above is by no means official, but it was listed in the latest Hodder catalogue so it's definitely legit, I'm just not sure if it's the final one. Well, this one isn't bad or anything, but it sure has NOTHING on the Living La Vida Loca cover, which was just mindblowing.

Anyway, the story sounds great so I'll definitely be reading this one asap!