A Walk in the Park

 When she was sixteen, Lara Carson left her home and disappeared.  Eighteen years later, she finds herself back again, much to the delight of her old best friend Evie.  When an unexpected event causes Lara to extend her stay, she dreads bumping into the gorgeous Flynn Erskine again; her boyfriend back when she was sixteen, and the reason she left in the first place.

One of the most reassuring things about picking up a new Jill Mansell book is that you know what you are going to get. Plot and pacing are generally the same in most chick-lit novels, along with the required happy ending.  This might come across as a little boring and predictable but it’s not only what I expect in the genre, but also exactly what I want.  The brilliance of a Mansell book then, comes from the characterisations and situations built onto that standard framework.  Her ability to make me care about the characters in a very short space of time and be emotionally invested in what happens is second to none.

There are more peripheral characters in this story than usual and I actually really liked how they were linked together, rather than the more typical solution of having them just living in one area.  It made for a richer experience and some very comical moments.

Jill Mansell manages to catch personality types perfectly and it’s one of her greatest talents, being able to build believable and realistic characters without going over the top.  A Walk in the Park is no exception and even went above and beyond what I consider to be a good read.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Jill Mansell
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Books I can’t wait for in 2011

There are so many books in already established series’ I am looking forwards to reading this year, not to mention new ones I have yet to discover.  Here is a selection that I really can’t wait to get my paws on :

Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance

January

A Hard Day’s Knight (Nightside) by Simon R. Green (Ace Books)
Kitty goes to War (Kitty Norville) by Carrie Vaughn (Gollancz)

March

River Marked (Mercy Thompson) by Patricia Briggs (Orbit)
Invincible (Chronicles of Nick 2) by Sherrilyn Kenyon (ATOM)
Lover Unleashed (Black Dagger Brotherhood) by J. R. Ward (Piatkus Books)

April

Ghost Story (Dresden Files 13) by Jim Butcher (Orbit)
Side Jobs: Stories from the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (Orbit)
Born of Shadows (League 4) by Sherrilyn Kenyon (Piatkus Books)

June

Hunt the Moon (Cassie Palmer) by Karen Chance (Signet Books)
Deadline (Newsflesh Trilogy) by Mira Grant (Orbit)

July

Kitty’s Big Trouble (Kitty Norville) by Carrie Vaughn (Gollancz)

August

Pale Demon by (The Hollows) Kim Harrison (Harper Voyager)
Retribution (Dark-Hunter) by Sherrilyn Kenyon (Piatkus Books)
Downpour (Greywalker) by Kat Richardson (Piatkus Books)

October

Envy (Fallen Angels) by J. R. Ward (Piatkus Books)

Fantasy

March

Land of Painted Caves (Earth’s Children Book 6) by Jean M. Auel (Hodder & Stoughton)
Twilight’s Dawn (Black Jewels) by Anne Bishop (Roc)

April

Shadow Chaser (Chronicles of Siala) by Alexey Pehov (Simon & Schuster)

Chick Lit

February

To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell (Headline)

March

Summer of Love by Katie Fforde (Century)
Kiss and Tell by Fiona Walker (Sphere)

May

Any Man of Mine by Rachel Gibson (Corgi)

Crime

January

You Belong to Me by Karen Rose (Headline)

May

Virals by Kathy Reichs (Arrow (Young))

Take A Chance On Me

When Cleo Quinn finds out her seemingly perfect boyfriend has a wife and kids, she does what any self-respecting girl would do,  she dumps him.  Cleo is a bit disconcerted when his wife Fia turns up out of the blue, gets roaring drunk and spends the night with the notorious and successful sculptor Johnny LaVentura.  He also happens to be the pain in the bum that has plagued Cleo for most of her school life.  When Fia decides to settle in the village, Cleo’s best friend Ash, fancies her like mad but turns into a blithering idiot in her presence. Cleo’s sister Abbie, whose marriage has always been solid starts wondering why her husband is so distracted and starts worrying about an affair but could never dream what the real reason is.  That reason arrives in a whirlwind and blows Abbie’s world apart.   Who said village life was dull?

With any Jill Mansell book, you are guaranteed a good, funny and lighthearted read.  Take a Chance on Me definitely lives up to that guarantee, and as always her characters are what make her books so enjoyable.  Zany, full of life, eccentric and lovable, you are treated to a look into their world and small village life.  Even though the situations they get into seem crazy, you can still imagine how you might find yourself in them.  The outcomes in reality however, might not be so good, which is why these books are worth reading and are great escapism.

The main character of Cleo makes me laugh, she’s a fun-loving girl with a good attitude and while she has her insecurities, she’s well aware of them.  Her older sister Abbie is the solid dependable one and when her world falls apart, it’s amusing the way they swap roles.  Cleo’s best friend Ash is well written and funny, a successful radio DJ with the gift of the gab until he meets a woman he fancies.  Then he goes mute and tongue tied.  The object of his interest is Fia, the wife of the man Cleo was involved with which is an odd, but funny circle.  Fia likes Johnny, the local bad boy come good when he returns to the village after living in America.  With the usual confusions, hi-jinks and knee trembling moments, Take a Chance on Me keeps you reading til the very satisfying end.

A definite must read for Jill Mansell fans and if you are new to the chicklit/lighthearted romance genre, it’s a good one to start with.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Jill Mansell
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Recommendations: Marian Keyes

Marian Keyes is one of those writers that can capture ordinary moments in life and turn them into something special.  Funny, witty, sarcastic yet also sombre and poignant, she is not afraid to draw on her own darker personal history to give her books that something extra.

So what do you do when you have read everything she’s written and looking for more?  Along with Marian, here are some of my favourite reigning queens of ‘chicklit’.

Jill Mansell

A funny, amazing storyteller who reminds me that while life can be difficult and painful, there are always moments of hilarity and joy that can make the day seem so much brighter.  Lighter of heart than Marian Keyes but just as good.

Jenny Colgan

I find Jenny Colgan’s books the lightest in mood from all the authors on this list, but she shares Marian Keyes’ knack for writing and capturing characters that feel so real and funny or sad.  She combines that with stories that keep you engaged and reading right until the end.

Katie Fforde

It’s a pleasure reading Katie Fforde’s work, it’s full of life, love and those moments where you just have to stop and take a good long hard laugh at yourself.  Light in tone but gets you in the heart when you least expect it.  Highly recommended.

Fiona Walker

Another excellent author who can look at life and take both the good and the bad and turn them into funny, powerful and heart-warming stories.  A great match for everyone in this post.


If you have any other authors or books you feel would be enjoyed by people who loved Marian Keyes, feel free to comment on this article with your recommendations.

Jill Mansell

About Jill Mansell

Jill Mansell is a full time writer (when she’s not procrastinating) and lives in Bristol with her family. With 20 books all still in print, and over a decade of experience, she is one of Britain’s best loved writers of romantic comedy.

http://www.jillmansell.co.uk/index.html

My comments

Perfect Timing was the first book I read by Jill Mansell, and I loved it so much I had to read it again straight away. My only experience of humourous romance up til then had been Jilly Cooper and it was a revelation to find someone who also created larger than life characters who were funny, charming, witty, and above all, very human. I regularly re-read them and I am always entertained and get very excited when she has a new book published.

Bibliography

Nadia Knows Best

Nadia Kinsella gets stranded in the snowy Cotswolds with the attractive Jay Tiernan. She already has the perfect boyfriend and avoids temptation by thinking of Laurie, who she doesn’t get to see much due to modelling contracts. Her dysfunctional but loving family drive her nuts but wouldn’t change them for anything, even when trouble is coming and secrets are revealed.

I have been reading Jill Mansell’s books for years and have never come across a bad one. They are always funny, touching, endearing and very human. I do feel however,  Nadia Knows Best is one of the weaker ones, a couple of the characters are a little larger than life and very irritating, but it is still an enjoyable book. I first read it several years ago and as with all of Jill Mansell’s books is on my permanent re-read list.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Jill Mansell
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)