Ok, so I’ve read a few post-apocalypse and dystopian books recently, add to that Lost in Space and Fear the Walking Dead on my TV boxset watches, everything was getting pretty heavy. So, after finishing Station Eleven, which was an excellent, thought-provoking look at life after a major, world-wide epidemic takes out 99.8% of the world population in about 2 weeks, I needed something a bit lighter…
First up was The Note by Zoe Folbigg. Here’s the blurb:
The note changed everything…
One very ordinary day, Maya Flowers sees a new commuter board her train to London, and suddenly the day isn’t ordinary at all. Maya knows immediately and irrevocably, that he is The One.
But the beautiful man on the train always has his head in a book and never seems to notice Maya sitting just down the carriage from him every day. Eventually, though, inspired by a very wise friend, Maya plucks up the courage to give the stranger a note asking him out for a drink. Afterall, what’s the worst that can happen?
And so begins a story of sliding doors, missed opportunities and finding happiness where you least expect it.
Based on the author’s true story, The Note is an uplifting, life-affirming reminder that taking a chance can change everything.
I got this as a free download from Amazon UK and it was the ‘sliding doors’ feel of the story and the promise of some lighter ‘life-affirming’ reading that appealed with this. I didn’t really get both. The story is told in third-person present tense, which has an odd ‘distancing’ quality to the whole presentation – you are so much inside main character Maya’s head, that it seems strange to me that it wasn’t done as first person, if it had been I think it would have helped you feel more engaged with the story and characters.
Maya works in fashion and whilst I get that some of the descriptions of her clothes and that of co-workers is to give context to what she does in work, I found it quite jarring to read the lengthy descriptions of blouses and dresses and skirts and shoes…and the materials they were made from…and the multitude of colours everyone is wearing… The same treatment was given to food that was eaten and most rooms Maya walked into – it wasn’t quite the manic descriptions of everything I found in American Psycho, but it certainly reminded me of it – and every time you had one of these descriptive interludes it really detracted from the core story I felt.
Anyway, the good bits are – Maya’s mild obsession and imagining a future from a random meeting on the train is quite relatable: ‘Ted Baker Man’ and ‘Red Coat Man’ would not be too far removed from ‘Train Guy’. She takes a l-o-n-g time to get anywhere with this though and as a character comes across as lacking self-awareness in many of her interactions with him. Overall, I think Maya’s best bits – and those of the story – are the characters she meets along the way and are not really what the blurb of the book promised: her Spanish class students, her best friend (who has a better romance story tbh) and sadly for Train Guy, seeing his existing relationship crumble. All those elements are stronger and feature much more heavily and realistically than their actual romance.
This gets 3* from me – the ideas and some of the characters are good; but the presentation of the story is distracting and distancing, which is unusual for what is pitched as a romance.
Next up was Burning Up, which was a lot less cheesy than the cover and blurb would suggest… When they cut the chaps face off the cover to focus on his sweaty pecs I feel like it’s taking the potential reader a very specific way 🙂
Anyway, the blurb promises to ‘fan the flames of desire in Jennifer Blackwood’s smoking-hot series about firefighters and the women who want them…‘
Here’s what the book is about: Unemployed schoolteacher Erin Jenkins is back in Portland, the town she hasn’t called home for more than a decade. It’s not the way she wants to spend her last days of summer: in between jobs and avoiding her mother’s snooping by escaping to the ice-cream aisle. But when the opportunity arises for her to accompany her brother’s best friend—her lifetime crush—to a wedding, summer gets a whole lot more interesting.
Firefighter and single dad Jake Bennett has built a nice, safe wall around his heart—no romance, no getting burned. That doesn’t mean he’s ruling out a fling. Considering Erin’s visit is temporary, they’re the perfect fit for a scorching no-strings one-night stand. Or two. Or five. Until the worst thing happens: Erin and Jake are feeling more. Damn that four-letter word.
Now their hearts are on the line, and when their smoldering summer comes to a close, it’s going to be harder than ever to put out the fire.
Once you get away from the proliferation of puns for flaming romance and firemen in the blurb, the actual book is pretty good – and there’s no cheesy lines in sight, except for the odd one used in full sarcasm mode. Erin also doesn’t spend most of the book cataloguing the gorgeousness of Jake, but gets on with having a real life and change in circumstances around the budding relationship.
There are some heated scenes, so it’s not suitable for younger readers, but for me the book was primarily about fears of growing up and changing, how you balance the importance of a career against family life and potential relationships. It was also interesting reading from Jake’s perspective about balancing the idea of a new relationship alongside his responsibilities as a parent. There was a wider cast of characters in the book, who play important roles and influence Erin and how she deals with losing her job, as much as Jake does.
Overall, this was a better and more engaging read than The Note, with a romance and surrounding cast of characters that felt more in synch with the story and main character, as well as not featuring detailed descriptions of every inanimate object in the room every few pages. 4* rating for this one.
Now that I’ve had a mini-break reading-wise, it’s back to some grittier stuff: I’ve got Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses series to finish, Ubik on my kindle and Farenheiht 451 just dropped through the door… It’s going to be a mixed few weeks reading I guess…