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Unter deinem Stern (Flights of Angels) by Victoria Connelly

I always thought one of the benefits of becoming proficient in a foreign language would be that I’d be able to read another country’s literature in the original language, rather than in translation. (In fact, if I chose the language wisely, I’d be able to read that of more than one country.) I never thought for a moment that it would enable me to read a novel set in England, originally written in English by an English author but which has, so far, only been published in translation.

OMG! I’m a teenager again!

Please see pic for Exhibit ‘A’ – Della Says: OMG! – a book that I would not normally pick up to read the blurb on the back cover, let alone buy and read cover-to-cover in one sitting. Why? We-ell, there’s shocking pink and fluorescent green on the front cover, for starters, the book title contains text speak (even though, yes, I use it myself. Guilty as charged) and it’s a book aimed at the teen market.

The Dating Detox by Gemma Burgess

I am fast coming around to the idea that I should either get my book recommendations from Twitter or work my way through the Avon Imprint titles for the foreseeable future. So far this year, I’ve read two of their books found through the social networking site (the first of which was Miranda Dickinson’s Fairytale of New York, reviewed here) and both have been great reads. Have I mentioned before how much I love Twitter? I have? Want me to stop raving about it? Not likely to happen anytime soon. Sorry.

So this is my second Twitter Treasure: The Dating Detox is Gemma Burgess’ debut novel and a very fine one it is too. I did wonder when I read the book cover if it was for me or not: I’m no longer in my twenties (except in my head); I’ve only ever watched one episode of Sex and the City, although I have, in my defence, seen the film; I loathed the Bridget Jones’ books with a passion; I was never that bothered if I was dating or not in my twenties as long as I was having fun; and I am, and no doubt always will be, sartorially challenged at the best of times. I’m going to keep the fact that I own more trainers than shoes to myself. Probably best for now.

Anyway, The Dating Detox is the story of Sass, a twenty-something copywriter working for a London agency, who is about to be unceremoniously dumped for the sixth time in a row when the book opens. This sparks a crisis in Sass’ life and, although she deals with it by an initial and understandable period of wallowing, she then comes up with a great alternative remedy called The Dating Detox, a 10-point checklist designed to keep her from falling into the clutches of another man only to have him break her heart somewhere down the line. It’s a great concept and keeping up with Sass’ attempts at sticking to her non-dating mantra is, in turns, immensely enjoyable, frustrating when she looks as if she’s missing out on future happiness, and a real ride. Hold on tight to the covers as it’s a bit of a bumpy one and don’t let go until you’ve seen Sass safely through to the end.

Any initial doubts I had about the book vanished in the space of a very few pages. Sass saw to that. She is an exceptionally likeable, real and endearing character, the kind of woman you’d like to have as a friend. I loved her voice throughout the book, as well as her attitude and sheer Sass-iness. She’s also made me look at clothes in a whole new light and I will certainly consider my choice of outfit more carefully after having read this book. I found myself looking forward to Sass and her (sometimes twice-daily) creating and naming of the outfit routine. Way to make the ordeal of what to wear fun!

While Sass is the main character, and a very dominant one at that – well, it is her story, after all – there is a fabulous supporting cast of friends and co-workers and Gemma brings these to life with equal flair. The friendships and relationships in the book feel real and genuine, as do the characters. I also love that Sass gives her ex-boyfriends great nicknames, which help us build up a picture of the men she’s dated and why she might not have had the long-term relationship she was perhaps hoping for.

The Dating Detox is a fantastic read and I wholeheartedly recommend it. If, as the blurb says, life is a party, then this book is not only full of life but its very own paperback party. Get the drinks in, put on your best party outfit, kick off your dancing shoes and curl up and enjoy. You’ll be reading it into the wee small hours, I guarantee it.

The Dating Detox by Gemma Burgess is published by Avon, an Imprint of HarperCollins. You can buy it through this site by clicking on the above image. To find out more about Gemma, The Dating Detox and her next book, visit GemmaBurgess.com.

My travels with Jeremy Northam

Jeremy Northam is proving to be an interesting travelling companion. In 2008, after first splitting our time between languidly idling among the dreamy spires of Oxford and staying at an imposing stately home in the English countryside, we flitted off together for a brief sojourn on the Venetian lagoon, before later wandering the souks of Morocco.

Fairytale of New York by Miranda Dickinson

I was fortunate enough to win a signed copy of Miranda Dickinson’s wonderful debut novel Fairytale of New York. The author herself ran a competition on Twitter – I’ve alluded to the wonders of social networking in an earlier post – and, just before Christmas, it arrived, together with a lovely card and some yummy chocolate, which I think ought to accompany any book sent to me in future!

It was the first book I read this year and, as it turns out, it was pretty much the perfect book to read during that miserable snowed-in time we had of it in January. It is a wonderfully uplifting read, guaranteed to put a smile on your face and make you feel all warm and fuzzy. In fact, it makes you want to tilt back your head, put out your arms and swing round and round like small children sometimes do, so whoever designed the cover exactly hit on the effect it had on this reader. I have to admit that it’s not how I felt before I started reading. I generally don’t pick up a book that has pink on the cover but I’m so glad that I made an exception in this case and yes, I will venture past the odd pink cover again, given that this book has proved to be such a fantastic read and one I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on.

Fairytale of New York tells the story of eternal optimist Rosie Duncan, an English woman living in New York, where she runs her own floristry business with the help of serial dater Ed and commitment-phobe Marnie. She’s been running the store for six years, having taken it over from the previous owner, Mr Kowlaski. In a nice touch that adds greatly to the book, the spirit of Mr Kowalski lives on and you feel his presence throughout the book, not least in Rosie herself and her attitude towards running the store and the way in which she looks after the loyal customers she inherited. However, Rosie is hiding a secret that until now only Celia, her super-efficient and slightly scary powerhouse businesswoman friend, knows. It’s the reason behind her sudden flight from Boston and arrival in New York. A chance meeting sets events in motion which force her to revisit her past and come to terms with it, providing her with an opportunity to move on with her life and finally find the happiness she’s been keeping at bay for six long years.

The central character of Rosie is a star, sunny, breezy optimist that she is, and I’m sure other readers will warm to her and cheer her on as she works towards finding her happiness. She’s not the only character with appeal though. The majority of Miranda’s characters are full of life and leap off the page, fully-formed individuals that they are. Throughout the course of the book, they will invoke a range of feelings in you: at times you’ll cheer them on, at others they’ll frustrate you; and they’ll make you laugh, grimace, groan, and smile, just as your friends do in real life. Miranda truly peoples her version of New York and she does it extremely well. Although I’ve never been to New York, she also conjures up a convincing feel and vibe for the city, which is more than simply the backdrop for her novel here. It is a character in its own right. I love when a book caters to all my senses and this one certainly did that with its descriptions of the sights, sounds and smells of Rosie’s part of New York. The book is well-paced and moves along at a great speed, maybe hurtling a little too fast at the end but that’s a minor quibble, as is the fact that Rosie’s big secret, when it’s revealed, shouldn’t come as a major surprise or be too shocking. This is a great debut that fully deserves to be as successful as it’s proven to be since its publication in November 2009. And while I may have won my copy of the book, I have since bought copies for friends and recommended it to others and I’m doing that again now. Buy it, read it, tell people about it. Because that’s the best way to find the good books and this is a great book. You’ll love it.

Fairytale of New York is published by Avon, a division of HarperCollins, and is available from all good bookstores and online retailers such as LoveReading or Amazon. It has recently been shortlisted  for the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2010. Read more about that here. To find out more about Miranda, Fairytale of New York and her next book, Welcome to my World, which is out later this year, check out her website or her Coffee & Roses blog. Miranda is also an award-winning songwriter and you can listen to her music at her MySpace page.

The Dust Diaries by Owen Sheers

This is a beautifully written book that vividly imagines the extraordinary life of a remarkable man.

Owen Sheers finds a book in his father’s study which puts him on the trail of one of his distant relations, Arthur Shearly Cripps, also a poet. The journey takes him from the Rhodes Library in Oxford to modern-day Zimbabwe to London as he traces the life of his missionary ancestor, who left England at the turn of the twentieth century for what was then Southern Rhodesia.

Der Vater eines Mörders (The Father of a Murderer) by Alfred Andersch

At first sight this looks like a lightweight school story about a single 45-minute Greek class at a German Gymnasium in 1928.

The school director comes into the classroom and takes over from the usual teacher, Kandelbinder. He proceeds to test, torment and humiliate not only the students but also Kandelbinder.

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