Star Sullivan by Maeve Binchy (Review)

Star Sullivan by Maeve Binchy

9780752879543

About the author

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Maeve Binchy was born on the 28th May 1939 in County Dublin and was an Irish novelist, playwright, short story writer and journalist. After a short spell as a teacher Binchy became a journalist with the Irish Times, for which she wrote feature articles and columns. Her first novel Light a Penny Candle, was published in 1982, and from then she has written more than a dozen novels and short stories. Several of her novels have been adapted for cinema and television. She was awarded the Lifetime Achievement award at the British Book Awards in 1999. She sadly passed away in 2012 at the age of 73.

Blurb

Molly Sullivan said that the new baby was a little star. She was no trouble at all and she was always smiling… so she became known as Star.

Star Sullivan just wanted everyone to be happy- her father to stop gambling, her mother not to work so hard, her brother to stay out of trouble, her sister to stop worrying about every little thing she ate. Then Laddy moved in next door – and everything began to change, until Star was no longer the sweet, thoughtful girl everyone loved and no one worried about…

Review

I’ve never read a book by Maeve Binchy and when I saw this in the book pile at church I thought I would give it a try as it was only a quick read of 106 pages. I must admit I read it in one sitting but shouldn’t have started it so late at night because I ended up going to bed at 1am. Not good when you have work in the morning.

I really enjoyed Binchy’s style of writing and I will definitely read more of her books. I liked how real life the story was and how well it all flowed. I also appreciated how Binchy fit a good story into such a short space without the story suffering.

Star, the main character of the book, in my opinion has been let down massively by her family. She is a beautifully kind soul who worries about everyone, she worries so much that she doesn’t notice or care about her own wellbeing. She is very naive and her parents and older siblings do not try to help, teach or really notice the poor girl. Everyone is wrapped up in their own lives and worries that they do not nice Star worrying about everyone else and not growing up herself.

The other element I do not understand in this book is why they turn on her? When I read the blurb I thought it was going to be a typical tale of good girl goes bad because of bad friends etc. However that is not the case, Star still remains her good natured self just trying to help her family and friends.

I also did not understand Laddy at all especially at the end when he turned on Star’s family. The whole thing was rather a mystery to me as was Kenny’s sudden turn of character.

Overall I enjoyed the book and was pleased with the ending, although I was a little confused in places, may be the confusion is just me though. I think Star was very let down by her family and friends but thankfully rose above all this and turned into a mature, hard working adult, who didn’t worry so much about others. I gave this story 3 out 5 Dragons and would highly recommend it to anyone who wants a quick little read.

To purchase

Waterstones

Amazon

Kindle

Lady Book Dragon

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The Woman at Number 24 by Juliet Ashton (Review)

The Woman at Number 24 by Juliet Ashton

About the author

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Juliet Ashton was born in Fulham and still lives in London. She writes under a variety of names, including her real name, Bernadette Strachan, and as Claire Sandy. She is married and has one daughter.

Blurb

When your marriage falls apart, the last place you’d want your husband to move to is downstairs. Unfortunately for Sarah, up in the eaves at number 24, her ex-husband now lives one floor beneath her with his new wife. Their happiness floats up through the floorboards, taunting her.

A child psychologist, Sarah has picked up great sadness from the little girl, Una, who lives with her careworn mother three floors below, but is Sarah emotionally equipped to reach out?

The Spring brings a new couple to the house. Jane and Tom’s zest for life revives the flagging spirits, and Sarah can’t deny the instant attraction to handsome Tom. Having seen at first hand what infidelity does to people, she’ll never act on it … but the air fizzes with potential.

The sunshine doesn’t reach every corner of number 24, however. Elderly Mavis, tucked away in the basement, has kept the world at bay for decades. She’s about to find out that she can’t hide forever.

Review

It has been a long time since I have read a book with so many twists and turns and so jam packed with storylines, I loved it! This book I got a while ago as a freebie on Apple Books and since reading it I have downloaded another of Ashton’s books to read in the near future.

The book’s main character is Sarah but also in my opinion the house itself is an integral character. The house is located in Notting Hill and is made up of flats. Mavis lives in one of the basement flats, Una and her mum live in the other basement flat, Leo and Helena share another, Jane and Tom in one and lastly Sarah in the attic flat. Sarah and Leo are divorced as Leo had an affair with Helena and finally married her. Since her divorce Sarah’s life has been turned upside down and somehow she is trying to rebuild her life again.

As the story follows Sarah it shows her develop and grow and as she does the other characters also grow and develop. The house also feels this, it fills with love and good feelings and friendship in every way.

I loved all the characters in this book apart from Leo as I just found him very smarmy and unpleasant. I also disliked Helena, she came across as very fake and annoying but thankfully she was not in the book much. This book kept me on my toes on every page, I made assumptions and they were quite often turned on their head. I just could not predict what would happen next and that is what I loved about it as it was not a predictable romance novel.

Sarah is such a caring character that I found myself wanting her to be my friend and wanting to give her a big hug. Tom is full of energy and love of life, you just can not help but smile when you read about him, his enthusiasm jumps from the page. Jane is also similar to Tom in her exuberance for life, even if she is a little bossy. Poor Mavis is a recluse and not a very nice lady, she has spent her life being miserable to people but I could not stop feeling sorry for her. Little Una is a wonderful child who has been affected by her parents’ break up but with Sarah’s experience and help she can recover from this experience.

I could tell that Ashton had thought about each of her characters in great detail and imagined their back stories, I also believe she has drawn on real life people as the characters are so believable. I truly adored this book and would happily read it again. I have given it a big 5 out of 5 dragons and I can not recommend it enough to people, especially if you enjoy a good romance novel. Thank you Juliet Ashton for a fabulous read!

Lady Book Dragon

Review 19: Christmas at the Beach Hut by Veronica Henry

Christmas at the Beach Hut by Veronica Henry

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About the author

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Veronica Henry went to eight different schools due to having a parent in the army. Henry studied Classics at Bristol University and a bi-lingual secretarial course. One of her first jobs was working as a Production Secretary on The Archers at Pebble Mill in Birmingham; it used to take her two and a half hours to type up the script on a typewriter. From there Henry became a script writer for Central Television. Henry has worked on Crossroads, Boon, Heartbeat, and Holby City. In 2000 Henry got her first book published and has never looked back, she has now written 19 novels and is working on her 20th.

Blurb

Everyone loves Christmas…

Especially Lizzy Kingham. But this year, she is feeling unloved and under appreciated by her family. The present-buying, decorating and food shopping have all been left to her. So she wonders…what would happen if she ran away and left them to it?

Lizzy heads to her favourite place: a beach hut on the golden sands of Everdene. There she meets an unlikely collection of new friends, all running away from something. But the spirit of Christmas gets under Lizzy’s skin: soon the fairy lights are twinkling and the scent of mulled wine mingles with the sea air.

Back at Pepperpot Cottage, her family are desperate to find her. For Christmas isn’t Christmas without Lizzy. Can they track her down in time and convince her she means the world to them, every day of the year?

Review

This is another of my Christmas reads and so far my favourite. I recently read a short story by Henry and really enjoyed it so I was pleased to find she had written a Christmas book. I must admit it put me through a great deal of emotions, it made me smile, giggle, cry and much more. It was a wonderful read and I have bought a copy for my best friend to read over Christmas and I am lending my copy to my mom to read and I think they will both really enjoy the book.

The book is centred around Lizzy Kingham who is a wife and mother of two teenagers, she has also recently taken voluntary redundancy from her job at a hotel as wedding and events planner. Life has suddenly got overwhelming for poor Lizzy, she has no job and all the jobs she has applied for have fallen through, she is worried about her children going off to university and no longer needing her anymore. She suddenly feels like she is not needed by her family and that they do not care about her. The last straw is when none of them come home to decorate the tree with her, the one family tradition that means the world to her and so she leaves for Christmas on her own.

As the story unfolds we meet other characters who also need to escape Christmas. First we meet Harley, a teenage boy who is about the same age as Lizzy’s twins, his father is in prison and his mother is in a relationship with a bully of a man who likes to provoke and make Harley’s life a misery, so Harley leaves the house to stay at one of the beach huts he looks after as a part time job. This beach hut is also the same one Lizzy is staying at, they instantly become friends and help each other to have a good Christmas. The next characters to enter the scene are Jack, his son Nat and Clouseau the French bulldog. Jack and Nat have a very sad history and the memories of Christmas have all got a bit much for Jack so he decides to escape the memories and history and stay at a client’s beach hut over Christmas. This beach hut is right next door to Lizzy’s and Harley’s. We also eventually meet Leanne, Harley’s mother and River, Harley’s little brother.

Left at Pepperpot Cottage is Simon, Lizzy’s husband and Hattie and Luke the twins. Eventually we also meet Cynthia, Simon’s mother and also find out why Lizzy finds it so hard to be around Cynthia. I really enjoyed how they all realised suddenly what they had put Lizzy through, they had all been wrapped up in their own lives and just taking Lizzy for granted. The sudden realisation they might have lost her for good to me was justice for their lack of care and asking Lizzy if she is ok and doing what she asks. She never asks for much and does not nag, she is always there with a smile, a listening ear and whatever they need but they have not been there for her or noticed she is not coping.

There are a lot of characters in this book and I really enjoyed how Henry made all their lives entwine and made the most unlikely group of people the best of friends. I also enjoyed the little snapshots of their past, Henry did not go crazy into detail but gave just enough for the reader to understand. Jack’s memories brought me to tears, I found them really hard to read about and very moving. Lizzy’s memories of how she met Simon were very romantic but at the same time believable. I think the main thing I enjoyed about this book was how all the characters were realistic and relatable. Everything about the book feels like they are drawn from real life.

I adored the ending of this book and it really put me in a festive mood. This book is a feel good read and I could not recommend it more to people, especially if what they are looking for is an easy light hearted read to make them smile. I have rated this book 5 stars out of 5 and I can not wait to read another book by Veronica Henry.

Lady Book Dragon

Review 13: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos

About the author

Loos was an American screenwriter, playwright, and author born in 1889. She is best known for her novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She wrote scripts from 1912 till her death in 1981 and was the first scriptwriter on the payroll of Triangle Film Corporation. She wrote a great many of the Douglas Fairbanks films and did the stage adaptation of Collette’s Gigi.

Blurb

With these deceptively simple words Lorelei Lee, a not-so-dumb blonde with a single-minded devotion to orchids, diamonds and champagne, embarks on what Edith Wharton was to call, perhaps not entirely seriously, ‘the great American novel’. Written in diary form, Lorelei Lee’s life makes for an outrageous, witty read. Capturing the carefree attitude of the glamorous jazz age, the flighty Lorelei moves from suitor to suitor, from scandalous situation to frivolous engagement, ever in search of the elusive millionaire who could provide her own happy ending.

With the help of her wise-cracking friend and protector Dorothy, Lorelei learns to spot a gentleman ‘whom you can call up at any time and ask him to go shopping and he is delighted’ at a hundred paces, dances with the Prince of Wales, and travels to Paris to enjoy ‘the Eyeful Tower’. Sharp, hilarious and undeniably endearing, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes would be immortalised by the 1953 musical starring Marilyn Monroe, and Anita Loos herself was so impressed by the success of her creation that she ended up dyeing her hair …

Review

Gosh this book was annoying! I got this book a couple of years ago free from The Folio Society because I had spent so much money with them, however I do remember it was meant to be another book but they had sold out and so they sent me this one instead. 

I struggled with this book, I know the book is written in diary form and Loos included grammatical and spelling errors but it was these errors that drove me mad. I just found them over the top and I know they were there to add to the feel of a diary but it just upset me, I wanted to correct all the errors with a big red pen. 

The diary belongs to Lorelei who is an American society girl who is moving through life going from one suitor to the other getting as many presents as she can out of them and looking for the richest man she can find to eventually marry or sue in court. Lorelei has a friend Dorothy who helps her in this quest. Lorelei starts the diary to help her become educated as she keeps saying she is an educated girl and just wants to read books and see the all education she can.

The first thing I worked out was that Lorelei is really not very educated, she pretends to be and tells the men she meets she is but in fact she is severely lacking. She is educated in one department and that department is using men to get what she wants and she can work out a rich man and poor man just by looking at them. I did like the fact that all the books she was given to read she found some excuse not to read and when she went to museums she just complained about her aching feet. This made me laugh a little bit but then it turned to despair.

I had high hopes for this book and I think I had in mind of something like The Great Gatsby but sadly I did not enjoy it like I did The Great Gatsby. Lorelei was just too annoying for me, I know it is set in a different time but she just came across as too immature and money grabbing. She just used men for her own advantage and only thought of shopping and champagne. I started to feel really sorry for all the men she took shopping and then discarded. She’s lazy and sleeps in till silly times basically because she is hungover all the time. The more I think of her character the more she annoys me and to be honest I would not like a person of her character anywhere near me. 

I am sorry that my review is so against the general grain of all the other reviews out there and I know that this book is considered a great American classic but I found it very hard to digest. I did not believe the spelling and grammatical errors were necessary and certainly deterred me from the book. Also I could not believe that such an annoying character could exist but I have found her. Until now I thought it was Jane Austen’s Emma who was the most annoying heroine in the literary world, but no she has moved to second place as Lorelei has taken her crown. I think it is most likely that it is because I prefer a strong female lead who does not depend on men to get through life and Lorelei just does not fit into this category.

The other area I did not enjoy was the illustrations. I found they lacked finesse and I doubt I will be keen to read another book with illustrations by Ffolkes.

All in all a massive disappointment for me, thankfully it is not a long book and I got it for free from The Folio Society. Just 1 star out of 5 from me.

Lady Book Dragon.