Book Review

Book Review: The Seafront Tea Rooms by Vanessa Greene.

SeafrontTeaRoomsThe Seafront Tea Rooms is a peaceful hideaway, away from the bustle of the seaside, and in this quiet place a group of women find exactly what they’ve been searching for.

Charismatic journalist Charlotte is on a mission to scope out Britain’s best tea rooms. She knows she’s found something special in the Seafront Tea Rooms but is it a secret she should share? Kathryn, a single mother whose only sanctuary is the ‘Seafront’, convinces Charlie to keep the place out of her article by agreeing to join her on her search. Together with another regular, Seraphine, a culture-shocked French au pair with a passion for pastry-making, they travel around the country discovering quaint hideaways and hidden gems. But what none of them expect is for their journey to surprise them with discoveries of a different kind…

Sometimes you want a book that you can dive in to head first, a book you can become completely wrapped up in and ignore the world. The Seafront Tea Rooms is just such a book, a truly lovely gem of a read. I liked the sound of it from the synopsis – what could be nicer than a book about tea and cake? Upon reading it I discovered that as well as being full of mouth watering descriptions of afternoon teas galore it was also full of life and heart.

The book centres around three women, Kat, Charlie and Seraphine. Brought together early on in the book, the trio work together to research the piece Charlie is to write on the best tea rooms in Britain. They each have challenges going on in their lives, and each have a need for the sort of support that comes from the best of friendships. Watching the friendship grow between the three ladies was wonderful, and left me thinking about the similar sorts of friends I have in my own life. I think sometimes that in fiction friendship can be overlooked in favour of romance so it was nice to see friendship take such a central role here. I particularly liked that the main friendships were all new yet strong – sometimes we meet someone and click as friends instantly, length of friendship isn’t necessarily an indicator of strength of friendship.

There are romantic subplots running through the book, I found that whilst I could see where Kat and Charlie’s stories were going fairly quickly it was Seraphine’s that was the surprise. I don’t want to elaborate too much, the synopsis and material around the book have been careful to allow the reader to discover this for themselves so it would be wrong for me to not follow suit. That said I will say that it was a pleasant surprise and added a whole new layer of appreciation for this book. There’s a gorgeous epilogue that ties up all of the romantic elements of the book, it’s beautiful and made me shed more than a tear or two.

In addition to the three main characters this book has a strong collection of supporting characters. These are well created, I felt like I got to know and understand them. Charlie’s sister Pippa was one of the stand outs for me – she has a long journey to go on throughout the course of the book and I found I cared a lot about this. Kat’s son Leo is very lovely, he reminded me a lot of children I’ve known in the past – always a sign that a young character is well written. And finally I must mention Bagel the Beagle – what a great name for a dog!

I haven’t read all that many books aimed at adults recently, this book has absolutely reminded me that the grass is green on every side of publishing irrespective of target audience. This is the author’s second book, I’m now going to be making sure I read her debut The Vintage Teacup Club too.

The Seafront Tea Rooms is published by Sphere in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book News

Diary of a Mall Girl by Luisa Plaja.

Long time readers of my blog will know that I’ve been a huge fan of the interactive digital books being put out by Fiction Express. They started out by publishing YA novels, I reviewed them as the chapters went live – you can see my thoughts here. Since then they’ve gone on to publish books aimed at schools, and are continuing to tell wonderful stories interactively.

New publisher Curious Fox will be publishing four of the YA novels as complete books, they started last month with Sharon Gosling’s The Diamond Thief (previously Rémy Brunel and the Ocean of Light) and still to come are Soul Shadows by Alex Woolf in April, and The Soterion Mission by Stewart Ross in May.

Today however, the focus is entirely on Luisa Plaja’s brilliant Diary of a Mall Girl as it is published today.


From the back of the book:
The mall is the heart of the fifteen-year-old Molly’s suburban town. Most teens hang around with friends there, get their first job there, and experience their first kiss there. And Molly? She actually lives there, in the complex’s residential wing.

But living in a massive shopping centre isn’t as much fun as it sounds. That is, until mysterious twins Jewel and Jasper move into the flat upstairs. Suddenly life is a lot more exciting – and complicated. Will Molly get what she wants, or will it all come crashing down?

Find out the whole truth in Molly’s private diary!

I really enjoyed returning to Molly’s story, and spending time in the mall again with her. This book is so much fun, I found myself laughing lots as I read. There are also some truly brilliant cringey moments, the kind that make you remember your own similar experiences as a teen. One of the things I really love about Luisa’s books are the characters she creates, they’re wonderfully vivid – you really get the feeling that you’ve spent time with them. If you’re looking for a fun YA contemporary read then I’d say you would be fully satisfied by Diary of a Mall Girl.

To celebrate the publication of Diary of a Mall Girl there are a number of exciting things happening, you can see all of the details on Luisa’s website here.

Book Review

Book Review : The Summer Season by Julia Williams.

As summertime flourishes, it’s time for new beginnings…

Heartsease House is in desperate need of renovation. Its owner, widower Joel, is struggling to come to terms with life as a single dad. His plans to refurbish the house and garden suddenly seem like one burden too many.

Mum to twin girls, Lauren’s life is a constant juggling act. When her ex Troy turns up she’s determined to keep her distance while he gets to know his daughters. But it’s a lot harder than she imagined …

Then erstwhile guerrilla gardener Kezzie bursts into their lives with her infectious enthusiasm to restore the gardens of Heartsease. But who is Kezzie? And what is she running away from?

As the warm days of summer draw closer, Heartsease House and its beautiful love-knot garden are transformed. But will Joel, Kezzie and Lauren be able to restore their own hearts?

I was sent this book as part of my preparation for the Ladies Who Love day at Bromley Literary Festival, I knew of Julia Williams but I’d never read any of her books so I was curious to see what I made of The Summer Season. The book opens with a map of the village that the book is set in and then a family tree, my interest was definitely piqued and I turned the page eager to start the story.

The plot twists around three main characters, Lauren, Joel and Kezzie. They’ve all got problems in their past that they’re trying to overcome, and in doing this their paths become increasingly intertwined. I liked the way that their stories all overlapped, but they each got a decent storyline of their own – there was no scrimping on story.

Within the main plots there was the story of Joel’s garden, including a knot garden. This had been created by his ancestors and their story was uncovered by the characters, and we got to read it too. I liked the description of the garden and I really enjoyed the flashbacks to Joel’s great-great-grandparents, they fitted seamlessly into the story and added real depth to it.

One of the great things for me about this book was that I enjoyed all three of the main characters. I expected that as there were three there would probably be one I liked less, but that wasn’t the case. I really liked the character of Lauren though at times I did want to shout at her! I definitely felt like she was the kind of person I could become good friends with. I thought Joel was an interesting character, I can’t remember reading a book with a young widower whereas I can think of a number where a wife has lost her husband. I think the fact that all of the characters had their flaws meant that they were all more likeable.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it was a lovely warm-hearted read that left me feeling hugely content when I finished it. It may be the first book I’ve read by Julia Willams but it definitely won’t be the last.

The Summer Season is published in paperback by Avon in the UK priced £6.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : Hollywood Sinners by Victoria Fox.

POWER Marriage to Hollywood heartthrob Cole Steel secured Lana Falcon a glittering place on the red carpet. But running from a wicked past she has trapped herself in a gilded cage the price of freedom…her soul?

REVENGE Kate diLaurentis’s career is fading as quickly as her looks… What could be worse than discovering her husband’s latest mistress is Hollywood s hottest starlet? Her only option the most shocking revenge.

LUST Chloe French’s innocent beauty has captured a million hearts, but no one s warned her of the dangerous, dark temptation of rock star Nate – will lust destroy her?

GREED Las Vegas King, Robert St Louis s fairytale wedding to Sin City s richest heiress is tabloid gold… But scandal circles like a vulture – dirty secrets are about to be exposed!

I had read brilliant reviews of Hollywood Sinners so I was really excited when I got my hands on a copy of it to read before the Ladies Who Love Day at Bromley Literary Festival. With a fabulous and glitzy cover I was sure that the inside would live up to the outside.

The plot offered everything I look for a good bonkbuster – glamorous women, hunky blokes, and fantastic locations. I was really excited when I started reading and discovered plenty of it is set in Las Vegas, after a holiday there a couple of years ago I’ve got the Vegas bug and had great fun working out where things were happening. It made me feel like I was back walking along the Strip which made me both happy and yearny for a return trip in equal measure.

There were so many interesting storylines within Hollywood Sinners, the move between them had me turning the pages as quickly as I could, eager to discover what was going to happen next. I loved Lana’s story, whilst parts of it were quite standard bonkbuster fare there were parts that were completely new and fresh, things I’d never read about before. I also loved Chloe’s story, it was interesting watching someone totally new to the scene navigate her way through the many pitfalls a glitzy career seem to bring.

The book opens with a prologue and then jumps back a year. It’s not clear who the prologue is featuring, as I made my way through the book I thought I’d worked out who it was, then I changed my mind as was sure I’d got it sussed. When I got to the reveal I was completely wrong all over again!

I absolutely loved this book and couldn’t read it fast enough. I can’t wait to read whatever it is that Victoria Fox writes next.

Hollywood Sinners is published in paperback by Mira in the UK priced £7.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : The Sweetest Thing by Cathy Woodman.

If only everything in life was as simple as baking a cake…

Jennie Copeland thought she knew the recipe for a happy life: marriage to her university sweetheart, a nice house in the suburbs and three beautiful children. But when her husband leaves her, she is forced to find a different recipe. And she thinks she’s found just what she needs: a ramshackle house on the outskirts of the beautiful Talyton St George, a new cake-baking business, a dog, a horse, chickens…

But life in the country is not quite as idyllic as she’d hoped, and Jennie can’t help wondering whether neighbouring farmer Guy Barnes was right when he told her she wouldn’t last the year.

Or perhaps the problem is that she’s missing one vital ingredient to make her new life a success. Could Guy be the person to provide it?

I loved the sound of this book, as a country girl with a love of baked goods it sounded right up my street. I’d previously read and enjoyed Cathy Woodman’s first novel, Under The Bonnet so I was keen to get reading.

The plot is pretty standard chick lit fare, the kind you start reading and it all feels comfortable and familiar. The book starts with the Copeland family’s arrival at their new home, within the first chapter Jennie has crossed paths with potential love interest Guy (though of course we only guess who he is until the second chapter). They do the typical dance between disliking each other and liking each other with plenty of misunderstandings to keep them going. Beneath the expected love story however there is a subplot focussing on Jennie’s relationship with her children and how they handle the move to the country. I liked this a lot, though for me it did feel like it got wrapped up a bit too easily and cleanly. I would probably have liked there to be a bit more of this plot within the book.

I liked the character of Jennie though at times I didn’t agree with how she responded to things and thought that she walked herself into problems. I did find myself falling for Guy, exactly as you want to with any romantic love interest. There are plenty of laughs provided by Jennie’s children, the younger two in particular are still at that age where they say exactly what their mum wouldn’t want them to say, and Woodman uses this to great effect. The characters who already live in Talyton St George (there are two earlier books set there) are well created and jump off the page.

Each of the chapters has a type of cake as the title and Jennie makes this cake within the chapter. This led to what was probably my biggest quibble with the book. This isn’t the first book I’ve read that has a baking theme but in the others either recipes or a link to a website with recipes has been included. When I got to the end of this book I didn’t find any information about the recipes Jennie baked which was a real shame as there were a few that I would have been keen to have a go at. This didn’t reduce my enjoyment of the book, but I do think that it is possibly a missed opportunity.

I enjoyed The Sweetest Thing, it was a gentle and fairly entertaining read. I’m not sure that I’d rush out to buy the other Talyton St George books but I’d probably pick them up at the library.

The Sweetest Thing is published in paperback by Arrow in the UK priced £6.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : Kiss and Tell by Fiona Walker.

With tight breeches and loose morals, the horse trials circuit is a hell-for-leather chase across the magnificent parkland of England’s finest country estates. Flirtation is compulsory sport; love is a professional hazard.

Silver-tongued charmer Rory Midwinter is quite at home in this hedge-jumping, bed-hopping world of competitive weekend house parties. Having been born into the saddle, and with a rock star owner as patron, he has no intention of settling down. Only his long-term groom Faith has other ideas.

Tash and Hugo Beauchamp are the undisputed golden couple of British three-day eventing, but their mettle is put to the test by the arrival of The Devil on Horseback, brooding Kiwi rider, Lough Strachan. Lough holds the key to Hugo’s darkest secret, and he intends to use it to access his greatest rival’s beautiful wife.

Kiss and Tell is set in the world of three day eventing and follows the fortunes of a number of riders, grooms and sundry family members. It’s very much set in the present with mentions of people emailing from the Blackberries, a fame hungry wannabe who rates her success by how many pages she is in front of Jordan, Posh and Kerry Katona, and people tracking events abroad by streaming them online alongside Twitter. The plot itself also feels very modern with scandal, infidelity and unrequited feelings strewn throughout it.

There are a lot of characters in Kiss and Tell, the book contains a three page cast list. I’m normally not a fan of cast lists but this one was essential, I found that I still needed to check who people were when I was more than three-quarters of the way through the book. There were ex-partners, infrequently mention siblings and offspring all over the place, I did find it hard to keep track of who meant what to who. I liked a lot of the main characters, I particularly found Lough intriguing and would have happily read a book all about him.

I enjoyed reading Kiss and Tell but it didn’t completely captivate me. When I saw how big it was I looked forward to getting completely lost in it, the reality was that at times I found it a little hard to keep going with. I never once thought about giving up on it, as I say I did enjoy it, I just didn’t love it.

Kiss and Tell is published in paperback by Sphere in the UK priced £7.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : I Heart New York by Lindsay Kelk.

It’s official. Angela Clarke is in love – with the most fabulous city in the world. Fleeing her cheating boyfriend and clutching little more than a crumpled bridesmaid dress, a pair of Louboutins and her passport, Angela jumps on a plane, destination – NYC. Holed up in a cute hotel room, Angela gets a New York makeover from her NBF Jenny and a whirlwind tour of the city that never sleeps. Before she knows it, Angela is dating two sexy guys. And, best of all, she gets to write about it in her new blog (Carrie Bradshaw eat your heart out). But it’s one thing telling readers about your romantic dilemmas, it’s another figuring them out for yourself … Angela has fallen head over heels for the big apple, but does she heart New York more than home?

I absolutely love New York and when I went for a visit last year I visited the amazing Strand book store to see what gems I could pick up. When I saw a book called I Heart New York there was absolutely no question about me buying it. The following day I went and sat in Central Park and read it from cover to cover and became so glad I’d spotted it.

The plot is good standard chick lit fare, girl is hurt by boy, runs away, has a makeover, finds new boys, has to choose which boy is the one for her. I found the plot to be engaging though at times things did seem to happen a little easily for Angela, and I found myself thinking that if I was in her shoes I wouldn’t be anywhere near as lucky. The only part of the plot I had a problem with was when Angela realised that she was dating two fantastic though different guys and didn’t quite know what to do about it. The advice she was given made me feel a little uncomfortable as it was so different to what I would do in the situation. It didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the book though, I still found myself reading furiously to see what would happen.

I found that characters engaging despite the fact one of them was called Alex Reid! I loved the interactions between them, and loved seeing New York through Angela’s eyes. A few times I found myself reading her thoughts about the city and thinking about how I’d thought something very similar with the past few days.

For me I Heart New York was a great piece of escapist chick lit. Wonderfully fluffy and fun, and set in one of my favourite places in the world it was a thoroughly enjoyable read. Yes at times it was far from realistic but I didn’t care one little bit, I don’t read fiction hoping for pure realism. I’m definitely looking forward to reading the other two books in the series about Angela – I Heart Hollywood and I Heart Paris.

I Heart New York is published in paperback by Harper in the UK priced £6.99.

Book Review

Book Review : “Twelve Days of Christmas” by Trisha Ashley.

Christmas has always been a sad time for young widow Holly Brown, so when she’s asked to look after a remote house on the Lancashire moors, the opportunity to hide herself away is irresistible – the perfect excuse to forget about the festivities.

Sculptor, Jude Martland, is determined that this year there will be no Christmas after his brother runs off with his fiancée and he is keen to avoid the family home. However, he will have to return by the twelfth night of the festivities, when the hamlet of Little Mumming hold their historic festivities and all of his family are required to attend.

Meanwhile, Holly is finding that if she wants to avoid Christmas, she has come to the wrong place. When Jude unexpectedly returns on Christmas Eve he is far from delighted to discover that Holly seems to be holding the very family party he had hoped to avoid.

Suddenly, the blizzards come out of nowhere and the whole village is snowed in. With no escape, Holly and Jude get much more than they bargained for – it looks like the twelve days of Christmas are going to be very interesting indeed!

This was my second seasonal read, and I really liked it. The plot is fairly simple and it plods along quite contentedly. I’ve seen other reviewers criticise this book because not a lot happens, I found myself enjoying the book for this very reason. The book is set in a tiny sleepy village full of mildly eccentric characters, I think this is the reason I got so drawn into the book – as a country girl I could really identify with the book.

I enjoyed Holly as a character though I couldn’t always understand her motivations. Partway through the book she suddenly reveals a huge plan for the forthcoming year when she’s on the phone to her best friend, I was completely taken back by this as it came out of nowhere. The character I found the most interesting was Holly’s grandmother, though she only really featured through entries from her diary that Holly was reading.

One slight problem that I did have with the book was with the tenses, a couple of times it seemed that Holly’s narration changed from the past tense to the present tense. This jarred with me, and broke my reading flow. It was a minor thing though and may well have just been a writing style feature that I didn’t appreciate.

I can imagine this book wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea due to its gentle and steady nature but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Book Review

Book Review : “The Christmas Cookie Club” by Ann Pearlman.

What would we do without one another? It was a statement, not a question. Each of us knew the answer for herself. Every year on the first Monday of December, Marnie and her twelve closest girlfriends gather with batches of beautifully wrapped homemade cookies. Everyone has to bring a dish and a bottle of wine and, as they eat, they take turns telling the story of the cookies they have baked. Stories that, somehow, are always emblematic of the year that has just passed. This year, the stories are especially important. Marnie’s oldest daughter has a risky pregnancy. Will she find out tonight how that story will end? Jeannie’s father is having an affair with her best friend. Who else knew about the betrayal? Rosie’s husband doesn’t want children, but can she live with his decision? Each woman, each friend has a story to tell. The Cookie Club is about the passion and hopefulness of a new romance, the betrayal and disillusionment some relationships bring, the joys and fears of motherhood, and above all, it’s a celebration of the friendships between women.

Over the last few years I’ve read a few of these club based books including knitting clubs and book clubs but never before a club based around baking. I always enjoy them to a certain extent, but I haven’t yet found one that I loved. The idea always appeals, a group of women bonded over a shared interest and the chance to snoop into the lives of them all. I’d hoped that this book would be the one I fell in love with, the combination of the Christmas theme and baking sounded like a wonderful blend. Sadly though, this book fell short of my expectations.

The plot is narrated by Marnie, the host of the annual Cookie Club. Each chapter is devoted to a different member of the cookie club, it begins with the recipe for their cookies and then follows them telling the story of the cookies. In addition to this there is a section between each chapter where Marnie talks about the history of specific ingredients. I found myself skimming over these sections, they didn’t add anything to the story and when the book was as slim as it was I wished the pages had been given over to more plot.

The fact that Marnie is narrating however means that we’re only able to see the other members of the group as she sees them, and we only hear about the parts of their lives that Marnie is involved in or has been consulted on. She also has a tendency to be reminded of memories by the tiniest thing and then goes off on a tangent. Marnie’s story is wound throughout all of the chapters, as a result she comes across at times as being a little self obsessed – everyone else’s problems remind her something wrong or challenging in her own life. By the end of the book I didn’t feel like I knew much about any of the characters, this was a shame as there were some characters that I found really interesting and I did wish I knew more about them.

All in all this book was a bit of a let down. My search for the perfect club book will just have to continue!