30 October 2011

Review: FALLEN ANGELS by Tara Hyland *****

From the poverty of post-war England and Ireland to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood's golden age, a beautiful, sweeping family drama that illustrates that the bonds between a mother and daughter can never be broken.

An unwanted child: San Francisco, 1958. On a dark December night, a baby girl is left at the Sisters of Charity Orphanage on Telegraph Hill.
A mysterious suicide: One year later, movie star Frances Fitzgerald takes her own life. Her husband, wealthy businessman Maximilian Stanhope, is rumoured to know more about her death than he's letting on, but nothing is ever proved.
A terrible secret: What is the connection between these two events?
That's what Frances's daughter, Cara, wants to find out. Abandoned by her mother when she is just seven years old, her childhood is filled with hardship and loss. As a young woman she finds professional success as a journalist, but on a personal level, she still struggles to trust those around her. Soon Cara becomes convinced that uncovering the secret behind her mother's death is the only way to lay her demons to rest, but learning the truth may end up tearing her apart.
Oh my goodness, what a story!

First of all, let me say that I really enjoyed Tara's debut Daughters of Fortune, but even though that was already an excellent read, I thought Fallen Angels was even better! It unexpectedly pulled me in and I just couldn't stop reading this book! I found myself racing and racing through it and I read the final chapters with eyes and mouth wide open, going all ''WHAAAAT?!', hehe. Talk about a shocking conclusion! But let's start at the beginning first ...

The book is an amazing family saga that starts in 1946 in Ireland and ends in 1972 in the US. It's divided into five parts. During this time it moves from rural Ireland to London to Los Angeles. I don't recall ever reading a book set during this particular time period, which was actually more interesting to read about than I expected! There's a lot of talk about the Golden Age of Hollywood, which was fascinating to read about and so vividly portrayed that I could easily picture everything as I was there, although I was rather unfamiliar with it. I imagine this book required a ton of historical research since the book includes so much detail, and I thought the author did a fantastic job including it all in the story.

Speaking of the story, one word I would use to describe it is MAGNIFICENT. It features two female protagonists: Franny and her daughter Cara. At the beginning, Franny is a young girl who dreams of making it big in Hollywood and is determined to escape her parents' boring lifestyles. So when she unexpectedly becomes pregnant (a horrible thing to do in 1946 Ireland), she runs away to London and works various jobs to support herself and her daughter. Seven years later, she finally gets a chance to go to LA and become an actress - expect she can't bring her precious daughter along. So she has no choice but to leave her with her mother Theresa, whom she hasn't seen for seven year. And off she goes, convinced Cara will be able to join her in just a few weeks ... But life never goes according to the plan and while Franny's life is becoming more and more glamourous, Cara's life with her grandmother is anything but. The communication between the two is broken and in 1958 Cara reads that her mother committed suicide. At the same time, she is also on her own and her life is about to take the turn for the worse, which turns her into an incredibly tough girl. In her mid-20s, Cara decides to investigate what actually happened to her mother and why she never came back for her. And oh yes, what she learns is absolutely shocking to say the least ...

Part of why I was so engrossed in this book were also the characters. At first, I loved Franny and I felt for her when she was suffering and rooted for her to make it big like she wanted to. But after she left her daughter behind and kept her a secret while enjoying her mega glamourous life, I did start resenting her and I was quite disappointed by her, especially the poor little Cara was struggling so much withour her. Luckily, the poor little thing grew up into the most admirable woman with incredible investigating skills!

As I already said, the story itself was fantastic, but the conclusion was just mind-blowing and I was not prepared for all the surprises that kept hitting me in the face during the final chapters! The crucial events in 1958 when Franny drives off the cliff and dies are only briefly described when they happened and based on that it's SO easy to make your own conclusions and judge people who were involved at the time, but the truth is actually completely different and it turns everything upside down. I thought I had figured a few things out, but it turned out I was wrong wrong wrong and I never saw the ending coming! I love it when the novel surprises me like that and despite all the tragic events that took place in this book, I found the ending rather satisfying.

Furthermore, this review would not be complete with me gushing over the cover! Seriously, how incredibly BEAUTIFUL is this cover?!?! Like the book itself, I just can't praise it highly enough since it's almost too good to be true! Well done to Lizzie Gardiner, who designed it! OK, OK, I'll admit that the US cover and title might actually be more fitting, but I still prefer the UK version because it's just more eye-catching and intriguing - and wonderful!

All in all, this was an absolutely fantastic, gripping and an outstanding read! And oh it certainly doesn't shy from tackling very serious topics, but I won't discuss those too much in order not to spoil the book too much. All I'm saying is that if you're looking for a facinating and well-written story, then this book is an absolute must! Personally, I can't wait to see what what Ms Hyland comes up with next!

23 October 2011

In My Mailbox #83

Sorry I've been so quiet here, this year really is incredibly busy for me! :\
While I was away, I also attended the Frankfurt Book Fair, which was very exciting, but sadly I was too busy rushing around and meeting people to take any proper pictures. :( It was lovely though!

Anyway, I've received so many fantastic books in the past two weeks that I just couldn't resist showing them off. :)

I'm soooo excited about these and I wish I could read them NOW!!! *sigh*

9 October 2011

In My Mailbox #82

In the past couple of weeks or so I got theeeese beauties below!

  • THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern - I've been waiting for this one for ages and I adore the cover and the black edges and everything! I've heard some incredible things about it so I really must read it asap!
  • SAPPHIRE BATTERSEA by Jacqueline Wilson - I haven't read Hetty Feather yet (this is the sequel), but I do have a soft spot for Ms Wilson and I keep buying her books, hehe.
  • AN AUTUMN CRUSH by Milly Johnson - Review copy, thanks S&S! I adoooore Ms Johnson's covers, they're always so pretty and they match, that's always a plus!
  • THE GIRL ON THE CLIFF by Lucinda Riley - A finished copy for review. I already have the proof so I'll be giving one of these away. I looooved Hothouse Flower so I cannot WAIT to read this one, it sounds sooo good!
The last two items are not strictly book related, but they were so cute that I just had to include them in my little haul! :)
The first one is Juicy Lucy slim diary for 2012 and it's just sooooo adorable, it brings a smile to my face everytime I look at it. I'm not huge on writing stuff down in diaries/agendas or whatever, but this one I just had to have! I love Juicy Lucy, their stuff is just so lovely!
The last big things is a 2012 his & hers wall planner by Love Is ... - I looove those cartoons and I have three books full of them! This one was just too cute to miss! :)

That's all from me & I can't wait to see what you all got!

2 October 2011

Review: FROM LONDON WITH LOVE by Jemma Forte *****

Can you run from James Bond?
Jessica Granger is desperate to know: her father is one of the most famous actors to tackle the part and, as Heavenly Melons, her mother was voted sexiest Bond girl. But for Jessica it's an embarrassment too far . . . she simply wants to be a person in her own right.

So she flees Hollywood for London, seeking independence in a city where nobody knows her name. But when she finds a job as a celebrity booker on a chat show she realizes the more friends she makes, the harder it becomes to keep up the lies about who she is. And when Jessica falls for Paul, a writer on the show, her life as a double agent puts him in double trouble.

When the truth explodes like a thunderball, can she convince Paul to live and let live rather than live and let die? Perhaps a sprinkling of the 007 magic might spice up her love life after all ...

First of all, GORGEOUS COVER ALERT!!! Yes, I know you Pink Fluffy Cover Haters out there are rolling your eyes, but I personally adore this cover. The font itself is boring, but the cover illustration is what my dreams are made of so well done to Adrian Valencia who designed this cover! It's actually even more gorgeous in real life and you can see a picture of it here. I was kindly sent a copy of this, but if I randomly saw it in a bookshop, I would most definitely grab it, pet it and take it straight to the cash register. It would just have to be mine, regardless of what's inside!

Luckily, what's inside doesn't disappoint either! I know it's a bit of a far fetched story, but again it's the stuff of my dreams, haha. The daughter of two very rich & famous James Bond film actors has never been able to do anything on her own without her doting father interfering so she decides to go to London, pretend she's just a normal person. She gets a job working behind the scenes of a talk show, she starts enjoying herself and she even falls in love - with a man who is all about straight up honesty and despises fakes. She dreads people learning about her real identity and yet she knows she can't keep it a secret forever ...

Seriously, what's not to love about this book? I adored Jessica as a character - she could easily be an airhead like so many other daughters of super rich parents, but she wanted to escape this and prove herself. She was so down to earth and so kind and normal. She's the complete opposite of her best friend Dulcie, who's just outrageous and hilarious. I also loved all her new work mates, one funnier than the other, and the scenes when she first joined them cracked me up so much, haha. All the characters in this book were just so wonderful.

The book tackles some more serious topics too, like depression and broken homes, but overall it's mostly just a modern fairytale. It's all about giving people a chance instead of judging them based on your assumptions of who they should be. It's a fantastic, lovely and funny read - definitely recommended if you need some TLC or cheering up!

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