Take A Look At Me Now – Miranda Dickinson

What to expect:

What a difference a day makes…
Nell Sullivan has always been known as ‘Miss Five-Year Plan’. But when she finds herself jobless and newly single on the same day, Nell decides it is time to stop planning and start taking chances.
Nell blows her redundancy cheque on a trip of lifetime to a place where anything is possible – San Francisco. There she meets a host of colourful characters, including the intriguing and gorgeous Max. Very soon the city begins to feel like Nell’s second home.
But when it’s time to return to London, will she leave the ‘new Nell’ behind? And can the magic of San Francisco continue to sparkle thousands of miles away?

By the author that brought us the previously reviewed When I Fall In Love, another favourite. I’ve had this on my kindle since last August, no excuses for why it took so long to get to it, but here we go:

The Bella-Swan-Pathetically-Self-Sacrificing-Factor– Nell’s in need of a change, she doesn’t love her job, and at thirty-two she still lives in a student-style house share with three people that she doesn’t really call friends. Nell may have gone a little heavy on the Enid Blyton in her youth, she’s frightfully wholesome, appears to have led an extremely sheltered life and the strongest word I heard from her was Heck. Her idea of living dangerously is to randomly pick a page in her guidebook, and she nearly ran in terror from a coffee shop run by a gothic dude. I think she would be played by early 1990’s Meg Ryan in a movie. It takes a lot of guts for Miss Five-Year Plan to spend all her redundancy money on two months in San Francisco- she’s not without spark though, and once she decides to go for her dream she really finds her groove, both in San Francisco life, and her career. She’s also not a prude, luckily, and embarks on an intense holiday romance with the mysterious Max. Ultimately, who could possibly dislike a woman who appreciates Idris Elba?

Kooks for your Kindle?– Nell goes to stay with her cousin Lizzie, who’s similarly wholesome but a little more worldly with a wide selection of friends of all backgrounds. Max is the holiday romance, he’s a sculptor and runs art projects, and has major sparks with Nell. Aidan is her on/off boyfriend back home, understandably off since he fired her, but they have a lot of history. There’s plenty of local colour; Annie the formidable diner owner, bickering oldies Mr and Mrs Alfaro, Lizzie’s lovely colleague Tyler, Ced the aforementioned goth, and many more.

Painting a Picture for your Paperback?– I already love San Francisco, and I’m lucky enough to have been there three times, but even if you haven’t, you’ll feel like you’ve been after this trip.

Nookie for your Nook?– Wholesome in that department too, would pass the Mother-In-Law test.

Evaluation of your eBook?– It’s quite a satisfying tale of a likable girl breaking out of her comfort zone, exploring the unknown, and taking a big step towards a new career. The love affair is also with the city itself, with plenty of diversity, although strangely I don’t recall any gay characters- maybe I’m stereotyping San Francisco. I had an inkling of how the conclusion would go, but still enjoyed the journey and the missteps along the way. Good clean fun.

Frothy Ranking: 4/5 cocktails.

Can be obtained from:

UK: Amazon for £1.90.

US: Amazon for $1.99

When I fall In Love – Miranda Dickinson

Elsie is in her mid-twenties and helps run a retro ice-cream parlour in the the English seaside town of Brighton. She’s clearly recovering from a personal tragedy and finding her way. When she takes a chance and belts out a song at a beach-side cafe piano, former 80s rocker Woody Jensen witnesses people’s reactions and convinces her to help him form a choir, singing modern songs and glee-style mash-ups. Meantime Elsie’s hippy father has set her up with a nice new guy, Olly, but continued chance encounters with a more mysterious man called Torin are unsettling her. When the choir grows and members start to gel together, lives are changed.

Kooks for your Kindle?– Plenty to love here, a well rounded selection of real life people. Cher, who owns Sundae and Cher, the ice-cream parlour, is an ample-bosomed divorcée whose charms bring many a middle aged man to the premises. Woody is a dinosaur of rock, lots of musical vision and charm but not terribly grounded in the real world and still causing mayhem. It was nice the way he understood Elsie though. Elsie’s two kindly older sisters have quite a bit going on here too, but are supportive of their hurt little sister while having their own dramas. The choir members are a varied bunch, and initially quite disparate; fortunately Elsie has a gift for handling people.

The Bella-Swan-Pathetically-Self-Sacrificing-Factor– It’s difficult to discuss Elsie’s character without mentioning what’s obviously happened to her, but that’s not explicitly revealed until the fifth chapter. The pot full of notes encouraging Elsie to move on with her life were a bit of a giveaway though! She’s a tough cookie and pleasantly decisive. She does have a tendency to be rescued by Torin, but only because he has an almost preternatural ability to show up at the exact time and place, Elsie’s not the annoyingly helpless type.

Painting a picture for your paperback?– Brighton is almost a character in the book, the summery lifestyle, the famous pier, the quirky shopping, and the many cafés and pubs are a big part of the story. It’s just the kind of place in which you can imagine a kitsch, retro ice-cream parlour in the style of an American diner, and the flavours described are mostly mouth watering. With the obvious exception of… tomato, basil and olive anyone?

Evaluation of your eBook?– It’s a charming, satisfying tale of recovery and community. By the simple formation of the choir, everyone in Elsie’s life has their own changed for the better. I found Elsie’s love interests unusual; Olly a little too nice, and Torin almost crossed the line into creepy territory, especially in the way he always appeared when needed. The pace was quite gentle at the beginning, but got going once the choir found goals and more started to happen. Overall, good heartfelt, sensitively written chicklit; if you enjoyed Ten Years On then you’ll definitely love this too.

Frothy Ranking: 4/5 cocktails.

Can be obtained from:

UK: Amazon, Waterstones and WHSmith for £1.99

US: Amazon for $1.99