Saturday, 30 March 2013

Author Visit - Daniel Ingram Brown

On Friday 1st March, new children's author Dan Ingram Brown came to visit my school. I asked him to come and speak to 240 of the older children in the school about his book Rise of the Shadow Stealers in the hope that it would inspire some of them to read and write with more enthusiasm. The children were all very excited when I introduced him (as were the teachers). He began by telling them about some of the plays he had written. He used props from each play as a talking point, and allowed the children to pick them out of the hat for him. He them went on to answer some of the children's questions about writing and his inspirations before reading from his book.

The children were all very keen to get involved in the activities he had prepared for him and asked some really interesting questions. They found out that his inspiration for writing comes from all sorts of places; his fear of flying, his dreams and even from the characters in his book! His author inspiration is Philip Pullman and although he is currently writing his second book, he himself was a reluctant reader.

Everybody really enjoyed themselves and some of the children have already begun writing stories about him, his characters and some of the props that he let them see from his plays. A couple of the more reluctant readers even brought him a picture at the end of the day which they gave to him. Many of the children have read the books that he signed for them, as have I... This was a wonderful experience for them and I think that seeing him has proven to some of the older boys that writing isn't a girly thing to do, that they can be awesome authors too!


Friday, 29 March 2013

Mini review: The Resolution, Linda Green

Thought I would post a review of the fabulous novella The Resolution by Linda Green as a sneaky peek into my review of her latest novel The Mummyfesto. The Resolution focuses on three very different mums who live in the northern town of Hebden Bridge. This is a great start for me, I love novels set in the north, I like to hear voices I recognises and areas I can relate to. Mum Sam has two boys, Zach and Oscar. We learn that Oscar is in a wheelchair and if this isn't enough for her to cope with, she also works in a children's hospice. From what I can gather, this character seems to be the glue which holds the mums together. Mum Anna is from London but has moved north because of her Yorkshire husband. She is mum to two teenagers, Will and Charlotte, and younger daughter Esme. She is a councillor, unlike teacher Jackie. We learn the least about Jackie in this short story, only that she is mum to Alice and that she might possibly have some skeletons in her closet or that there is more going on under the surface than she is letting on...

I think it is such a fabulous idea to release a short ebook as a preview to a novel. I am dying to find out what Jackie's secret is and if there is another reason why Anna moved north, being a native Londoner. The story ends with the three women making a resolution to meet up on the first Monday of every months, and the final lines is Anna making the resolution to be happy that year. This was my personal New Years resolution and so I am even more intrigued to find out how that pans out for her. I can't wait to get my teeth into The Mummyfesto now, and equally can't wait to let you know what I think of it...

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Yours Truly - Kirsty Greenwood

Newly engaged Natalie Butterworth is an easy-going girl. She’ll do anything for a quiet life and if telling a few teensy white lies keeps her friends and family happy, then so what? It’s not like they’ll ever discover what she’s really thinking…

Until one night, thanks to a pub hypnotist, Natalie’s most private thoughts begin to bubble up and pop out of her mouth. Things get very messy indeed. Especially when some sticky home truths offend her fiancé.

Natalie must track down the hypnotist before the wedding is officially cancelled. So along with bad influence bestie Meg, Natalie finds herself in the Yorkshire Parish of Little Trooley - a small village bursting with big secrets, nosy old folk and intriguing Wellington-wearing men.

When the girls get stranded in the village with no means of escape and no way to break the hypnotist's spell, Natalie is forced to face the truths she has been avoiding her whole life...

Review: This is a light-hearted, funny, fast-paced debut novel by author Kirsty Greenwood. I didn't really now an awful lot about this novel when I downloaded it, but was recommended it and so thought it would give it a go. From the moment I picked it up, I was totally drawn in and instantly hooked. I read half of it in one sitting alone it was that compelling. The kind of fast paced-writing reminds me a little of Bridget Jones's Diary or the Shopaholic series, and the character of Natalie is always getting into the kinds of scrapes and capers that the main characters in those other novels do, and yet somehow, she discovers the strength within her to triumph in the end.

The supporting characters in this novel were also very strong. I found some of the interactions with Natalie's fiancée Olly a little difficult to read. I wanted to shout at Natalie that she shouldn't be letting him treat her like that and that she could do so much better for herself! But then that just shows how much greenwood draws her audience in.

Some of the things that happen in the story I found a little difficult to believe, but once I got involved in the kind of fairly tale aspect of the having been hypnotised storyline, I found the less believable things a lot easier to take on board. There is a moment where a break up is described in this novel and the author delivers such a perfect line, that just describes wonderfully the way you feel when you get that text or phone all telling you it's over, this was a totally winning moment of the novel for me and shows explicitly how in tune with her characters Kirsty Greenwood is... 'I hold the phone in my shaking hands, it feels heavy and clunky, like a phone from 20 years ago.'

This was definitely a quick read and something that I would recommend for anyone looking for a light-hearted read with a good strong storyline and a host of characters that will keep you hooked until the end. Readers should be warned that they may find themselves finishing the book in two or three sittings, you get so absorbed by Natalie's tale. A great debut novel!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Alison Wonderland - Helen Smith

After her husband leaves her for another woman, twentysomething Londoner Alison Temple impulsively applies for a job at the very P.I. firm she hired to trap her philandering ex. She hopes it will be the change of scene she so desperately needs to move on with her shattered life. At the all-female Fitzgerald’s Bureau of Investigation, she spends her days tracking lost objects and her nights shadowing unfaithful husbands. But no matter what the case, none of her clients can compare to the fascinating characters in her personal life. There’s her boss, the estimable and tidy Mrs. Fitzgerald; Taron, Alison’s eccentric best friend, who claims her mother is a witch; Jeff, her love-struck, poetry-writing neighbour; and—last but not least—her psychic postman. Her relationships with them all become entangled when she joins Taron for a road trip to the seaside and stumbles into a misadventure of epic proportions! Clever, quirky, and infused with just a hint of magic, this humorous literary novel introduces a memorable heroine struggling with the everyday complexities of modern life.

Review: This is not the kind of book I would usually pick up. I have given a bit of mystery and fantasy a go before and the haven't really grabbed me in the way contemporary romance novels do, however, having heard a really funny extract from this novel, I really wanted to read it and so the lovely Helen Smith sent me this copy with a gorgeous rich red front cover (not that I'm judging the book by its cover alone).

I found it a little hard to get into over the first few pages, characters were being introduced and situations explained and I found myself having to concentrate quite hard to keep up. Once I got into the storyline, i read a massive chunk of the novel all in one go, wanting to find out how it panned out. If you are a fan of indie films I think you will enjoy this book as I felt like I was watching an original independent film with a touch of magic, a bit of confusion and just enough mystery for my liking all mixed in.

The main character Alison has some unusual friends and what comes across as a mysteriously sneaky boss. I found the relationship between Alison and her best friend to be really original, I really felt like I was getting to know the truth about what Alison thinks of Taron which is utterly refreshing and not what is usually found in the novels that I read. Taron's search for an abandoned baby is an unusual storyline but I think really brings the other background story lines together. I also found Alison's relationship with her neighbour Jeff to be very realistic, his unrequited love for her is almost painful to read, but represents well the pain one feels when one is in that situation!

There are some real laugh out loud moments in the book, particularly the description of Tooting Lido with its venn diagram (I am a massive fan of mathematical diagrams in fiction) but there were also some bits in the book that left me utterly confused and feeling a little bit like I wasn't clever enough to understand what was going on... Overall I enjoyed reading the book and am glad I tried something different from what I normally read. If you are into mystery or fantasy novels, or if you love an indie film, like I do, then you will enjoy this novel. If not, like me, you might like to try something a bit different to break the usual reading habits!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Top Ten Tuesday


Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week we will post a new Top Ten list  that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. 

Top Ten Books I Recommend the Most

What a great first top ten Tuesday for me! I get to share my top ten recommendations with you guys!

OK, I wanted to go for a mix of newer stuff that I've fallen for recently alongside stuff that has been a firm favourite of mine since I was younger...

If you haven't already read One Day then I can't recommend this more. It is a totally fabulous read but definitely one where you will have to have the tissues at the ready. The film doesn't do it any kind of justice, so if you're thinking-I've seen the film, I don't need to read the book-think again, and add it to your TBR list now!

I read my first Marian Keyes book when I was 18 and this was it. The first in the Walsh family series. I loved reading about Clare struggle with pregnancy and then into motherhood. This is still my favourite Marian Keyes read!

My next two recommendations are also baby related, and also the first books I read by these authors. Rowan Coleman's the baby group is again, my favourite of her novels. I read both of these books in the same week and both were devoured in one sitting. Milly Johnson's Yorkshire pudding club also has the added bonus of being set in Yorkshire (where I'm from) and so that added an extra element of familiarity for me. Both of these would be fabulous read for anyone whether they are a mother or not!

My next two recommendations feature my favourite setting for any book ever-New York. I love anything set in New York, movies and TV shows included. Miranda Dickinson's novel really is a true fairytale! I read it on a flight over to the states and the time just flew by because I was so completely engrossed in this novel! Lindsey Kelk's novel marks the first of her 'I Heart' series and introduces us to Angela Clark and her flight to New York after the discovery that her man had been cheating on her. This is yet another novel you will not want to put down and all in the 'I Heart' series are wonderfully quick reads.

I had to include a foody novel in here so I chose the wonderfully pink Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe. This book has it all, a great setting, a wonderfully strong heroine, a love story and of course delicious descriptions of yummy, scrummy cupcakes! As ever, the book does come with a warning in that it may wreck your diet, but believe me, this cosy novel is totally worth it. It is the first in Colgans 'food' novels (see my review of The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris) and in my opinion, this is the best, even though the others are all totally fab too!

I read this next novel at the end of last year and had to keep quiet about it for ages until it came out at the start of this year. This is another one that you absolutely have to read with a box of tissues (and preferably a cuddle) close to hand. It is so beautifully written. Having read Ali Harris's debut novel Miracle on Regent street and loved it, I was desperate to read this one, and it completely exceeded my expectations. It really does have it all and will appeal to most readers, not just chick lit fans!


My next recommendation was actually bought for my by my dad one Christmas. Again this was the first Sophie Kinsella novel I read and being a shopaholic myself, I knew straight away I would love it. It is actually full of humour as well as a strong economic message. I don't think i have laughed as much reading a book as when i first read Bridge Jones's Diary...

Of course therefore I have to finish with Bridget Jones's Diary-the original and best. If you haven't read this, even if you didn't enjoy the film, you should make time in your schedule for this one. I think this was one of the first full adult books that I read after progressing from 'teen fiction' as it was at the time, and it just ignited the flame in my love of reading once and for all. You will laugh, you will identify, you will be desperate to read the sequel. And with the third novel in the works at the moment, what better time for a recommendation than now?

All of these novels represent some of my favourite authors as well as my favourite reads and you really can't go wrong with any of these wonderful writers, whether you  have read novels by them before or not, these books are my Top Ten Tuesday Mose Recommended.

Monday, 25 March 2013

You Had Me at Hello - Mhairi McFarlane

What happens when the one that got away comes back?

Rachel and Ben. Ben and Rachel. It was them against the world. Until it all fell apart.

It’s been a decade since they last spoke, but when Rachel bumps into Ben one rainy day, the years melt away.

From the moment they met they’d been a gang of two; partners in crime and the best of friends. But life has moved on. Ben is married. Rachel is definitely not. In fact, the men in her life make her want to take holy orders…

Yet in that split second, Rachel feels the old friendship return. And along with it, the broken heart she’s never been able to mend.

Review: I love the concept of this book. The idea that people who once had a spark with one another but were in the classic predicament of 'wrong place, wrong time' can meet up again ten years later and test whether those feelings are still burning or not. I got into this book straight away, was totally drawn in by the characters and the supposed plot line. Our heroine Rachel is a typical twenty something who finds her world suddenly change when she splits up with her fiancée. She's very identifiable as a character, as is her situation and has a strong group of friends who are also easy to like, and very easy to read about. I found myself intensely disliking ex-fiancé Rhys and falling in love myself with old-flame Ben!

Whilst the beginning of the novel and the characters immediately gripped me. I found this novel to have a kind of lull in the middle. I found it quite hard to get along with in the middle third. There was an awful lot about Rachel's job, which I wasn't interested in in the slightest, for others I'm sure the idea of a court reporter and a scandalous story being leaked sounds like a fantastical adventure, but it wasn't for me. I also disliked the character of Simon who appears at this point in the story. He's entirely the opposite of Ben even though the two are close friends, and whilst I disliked the person of Rhys, I think he was necessary to the story, whereas I could have lived without Simon entirely.

Do not fear though, the last third of this novel returns to its initial glory and I became frantic to turn the pages and find out what happens next. Whilst I didn't cry at the ending, as many suggested I would, I really liked the build up to the final chapters. I also really liked the way the author tied up everyone's story lines, as I think that this is something many authors can fall down own. When one becomes invested in the supporting characters as much as the main characters in a novel, one wants to know how things pan out for each and every one of them too, and Mcfarlane deals with this very well in the ending of her book.

This novel has the perfect formulae for a romantic comedy, a strong cast of likeable characters and the odd villain thrown in for extra interest. It was a lovely quick read and whilst the middle section lacked something for me, I am sure that others will find something to catch their interest throughout the duration of this debut novel!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Arcade

This post is for those of you who haven't already discovered the beauty of the monthly series that is The Arcade. The arcade is a series of novellas released once a month featuring a shopping arcade. There will be 12 episodes each featuring one of the 12 shops in the arcade and their shopkeepers.

This is a genius idea, having an ebook that readers can look forward to downloading every month, and for less than the price of a glossy magazine! The best thing about the serial though is that each page turn contains the same amount of drama as a week of your favourite soap opera. The drama is so gripping that its probably best not to read each episode in public for fear of shocking people with your audible gasps and permanently dropped jaw!

One of the most exciting things about this concept is that, although the author is stated as being 'Kitty Charles', this series is in fact written by a collaboration of several authors, they are really trying to keep us guessing as to who they actually are, simply adding to the drama that is The Arcade!

Episode one featured new girl to the arcade Faith and her vintage clothes store. This episode is very cleverly written because it introduces the reader to the other characters in the arcade by way of a New Year's Eve party-ingenious. You don't get to find out much ab out the characters in this first editions, but it simply wets the reader's appetite for what is to come. There is a surprise birth and a possible adultery scandal...but I have already said too much!

Episode two introduces us to Eden and her lingerie store. Featuring a lingerie store already alludes to the fact that the reader might be in for a bit of sauce, but you will be totally unprepared for what goes on behind the locked door of this particular store.One of the best things about this episode is the sneak peak of March's episode, which you will definitely be itching to download straight away!

The March episode deals with the toy shop in the arcade, although there is nothing child friendly about the drama in this slice of action. It will keep you guessing the whole way through as to what will unfold. With settings like a toy shop, a bar with Heston-style cocktails and a gift shop, really it is anybodies game.

I cannot wait for the release of April's episode which is nearing completion as you read this! All I know is that it features some funky cocktails and we will get to know some of the other shopkeepers a little deeper...

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Random House Bloggers Brunch 09.03.13

On Saturday 9th March, I was invited to a 'bloggers' brunch' at Random House. The event was to introduce bloggers to some of the new YA titles being published over the next few months. We had a lovely welcoming with tea, fruit and juices and were then faced with a bevy of lovely publicists at Random House to take us through some of the new books. Some of these titles were presented to us in a goody bag at the end of the event. These included Acid by Emma Pass, a story about Jenna who has to face the most brutal, controlling lice force in history. The Last Minute by Eleanor Updale, an extraordinary book describing the last minute before a fatal explosion in an ordinary town. As well as treats brought in person by some fabulous YA authors.

Two authors were lovely enough to grace us with their presences. The first author to come and talk to us was Jonathan Stroud. He told us all about his new book Lockwood and Co. which is being released on 29th August and features young ghost hunters. He had us all thoroughly entertained with his 'ghost hunting kit' which included a sword, a utility belt, a chain, some iron filings, a torch and the final item-a teapot! (Well all good ghost hunters deserve a break!)

The second author who spoke to us was Amy McCulloch. She read to us from her new book The Oathbreaker's Shadow-published 6th June. Hearing her read from the book made it come completely alive for me. It's not my usual genre but she made the action sound so entertaining and the description was so fabulous, I'm actually raring to give it a go! This was one of the books we received in our goody bag. It was wrapped up for us as a beautiful present, it even had a bow on it! After the main brunch, she was kind enough to sign my copy for me and talked to me about my desire to try the genre for the first time.

Other titles we were introduced to included: Silent Saturday by Helen Grant, punlished 4th April; The Kissing Booth by Beth Reekles, published 2nd May; Blood Family by Anne Fine, published 4th July; The Child's Elephant by Rachel Campbell-Johnson, published 2nd May and Witchfall by Victoria Lamb, published 4th July. It certainly looks as if there are some really fabulous YA titles coming out soon, and certainly some I will be reading and reviewing myself! Thanks to Random House for the Invite!

Friday, 22 March 2013

Me Before You - Jojo Moyes

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.

Review: Everybody told me that this book would make me cry, but they were also very insistent that I should read it. So although I thought the subject of the book sounded a little depressing, i began reading with the kind of feeling that something bad was about to happen at any turn. I found myself hooked into a wonderful story, filled with extremely well developed characters and entirely beautiful writing. I read The Last Letter From Your Lover by Jojo Moyes last year and found it pretty hard going, but this was a much easier read because I found myself instantly involved in the story and wanting to read on.

The majority of this book is told in the first person by main character Lou. A character just a couple of years younger than me who is struggling to find work so that she might pay her parents the rent they so badly need in order to support her and her sister, who has the fabulously awesome name-Katrina! However, as the book progresses, we hear the story told from other characters in the book. Quadriplegic Will, Will's mother, Will's father, Will's nurse and Lou's sister Katrina. I thought this was a really effective way to break up the story and this author timed the change in voice perfectly throughout the novel. When things started to get particularly heavy or particularly bleak, another character would pipe up with their point of view, it really was captivating.

At first I thought that I might not like the characters in this book, on the surface Lou can seem like a silly little girl who can't cope with what is going on in the world, but once you get to know her, she is actually an incredibly strong young woman who can do anything once she puts her mind to it. Her family seem, at first, to be controlling and selfish, but again once you get to know them, they want what is best for their children and grandchild and will do anything they can to support their daughters. Will seems like your typical arrogant city man at the start of this novel, and when we first meet him following the accident, he seems self-centred and not at all likeable, but as we read about his interactions with Louisa, his nurse and his mother, his sense of humour and strength totally comes through too. I think that way Jojo Moyes has developed these characters is also very clever.

I will admit that sometimes I had to step away from the storyline because things do get really deep and a little hard to take at times, but I actually didn't cry and thought the whole thing was really beautifully written. Although I didn't cry in the end, I can see why other people have done, especially if they have devoured the book in one sitting as it was very tempting to do... All in all I enjoyed this book more than I thought i would. The entire storyline was well written and the ending, an excellent conclusion to a thoroughly meaty tale!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

When I Fall in Love - Miranda Dickinson

Elsie Maynard never expected to be starting again...

...but eighteen months on from the biggest challenge of her life, she is doing just that –because she made a promise to the person who believed in her the most.

Determined to step into her uncertain future, Elsie meets handsome Oliver Hogarth, who seems intent on winning her heart; she inadvertently founds a choir, and overcomes obstacles – most of which involve arrogant Torin Stewart.

Then a heartfelt request brings her to Paris – and the final item on ‘The List’ that she never dared complete.

Review: I was so excited about Miranda Dickinson’s latest novel, having been lucky enough to receive a sneak-preview chapter from her in the post; I was desperate to read the rest! I so pleased to find that book number four from this lovely author delivered her usual mix of optimism, cake and of course romance, the perfect recipe! Although the cover might suggest a Christmasey or even a wintery novel, don’t be fooled, none of this book is set in December! When I fall in Love follows Elsie eighteen months on from the death of her husband and her dealings with her best friend Cher, a new choir project and two possible new love interests. Elsie is such a lovely character. She seems too innocent and open for someone who has lost their husband at such a young age… ‘I was loved by the most amazing guy in the world for eight wonderful years. Most people don’t get to enjoy that kind of love their whole lives. I count myself as one of the lucky few’. She has the typical optimism of one of Dickinson’s characters, and you find yourself willing her to open her heart and find love again, all the way through the book.

The story centres around Elsie’s dealings with a new choir she has started with a local, aging rocker. This was unchartered territory for me but I found it to be a really nice hook into the storyline, and it leads to the introduction of several new characters, each of whom add depth to the storyline and come with their own brand of love and sweetness. The addition of Elsie’s family is also really lovely because it makes the whole novel feel like a comfortable cosy night in surrounded by friends and family. The two male characters vying for Elsie’s attention are equally well-developed and seemingly couldn’t be more different from one another, and I think that this was vital for the structure of the storyline. ‘I want to make you feel cared for all the time…and I know were taking it slowly and you’ve had things you wanted to deal with, but I just want you to know that you only have to say the word and…I’ll be there’.

The setting of the novel was really well described, having never been to Brighton, I really felt like I got to know the town and was wandering through its streets with Elsie and the other characters, and of course, Paris was also as elaborately described, and given the level of romance befitting of Miranda Dickinson’s writing. Obviously the book deals in some part with death, and so I did shed a few tears, but there were also parts of the book that made me laugh, especially when Elsie and her sister take a trip to a Swedish furniture store in Croydon, ‘Croydon? Who goes to Croydon for anything?’ A lovely thing is that at the end of the book, the reader is given a bonus, a list of the messages that Elsie’s late husband left for her. I defy even the coldest of hearts not to be warmed by this list, and indeed the whole of the book for that matter. Even if you haven’t read any of Miranda Dickinson’s previous novels, you will be certain to enjoy this one, and most probably want to acquire her others as soon as you finish it. A truly lovely novel!

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The Secret Supper Club - Dana Bate

If twenty-six-year-old Hannah Sugarman had her way, she'd be whipping up carrot cakes and running her culinary empire. Instead, she spends her hours cooking up papers on the financial crisis. It doesn't help that no one in her life takes her passion seriously - not even her boyfriend.

When her relationship implodes, Hannah decides to jump-start her life by hosting a secret supper club out of her landlord's flat. Her underground operation presents some problems. Running an unlicensed restaurant out of someone's home is not, technically speaking, legal.

As the success of Hannah's supper club grows, so do the number of secrets she is forced to keep. Can Hannah keep her pop-up restaurant underground? When mysterious guests turn up for dinner, can she handle the heat? Or will she have to step out of the kitchen? A charming romantic comedy, The Secret Supper Club is a story about finding yourself, fulfilling your dreams, and falling in love along the way.

(Note: This is the UK edition of THE GIRLS' GUIDE TO LOVE AND SUPPER CLUBS)

Review: I so enjoyed this debut novel by Dana Bate! I had no clue what the book was going to be about but I love books that combine cooking and romance, like Jenny Colgan's 'Meet Me At The Cupcake Cafe' so the cover suggested that I would like this one!

We meet main character Hannah who is in a bad relationship, a bad job and has a strained relationship with her parents. I began to sympathies with Hannah right from the start of this novel, which shows what a well-written character she is! I HATED boyfriend Adam and I could quite clearly see that she should not be in the job she is in, but instead following her passion for cooking. Her friend Rachel, landlord Blake and the people that she works with make up a strong cast of supporting characters, and I defy any reader not to fall utterly in love with Blake, I can almost picture his puppy dog eyes as I am writing this!

I found this book to be a compelling read, a real page turner, but it also compelled my appetite! The dishes that Hannah conjures up, the markets that she shops at just make me want to head the the fridge and recreate those dishes, find those fabulous fresh ingredients, and for me, the food in this book is an additional character, and one I totally supported! Be warned though, do not try reading this if you are in any way hungry or trying to watch what you eat. On the other hand, Hannah's description of the food is totally comforting and reassuring and so makes it a perfect read for when it is cold and miserable outside!

The novel is set in Washington DC and I found this to be really refreshing! I love a city setting but I don't know that I have ever read a book set in Washington before, it really made me want to go and visit the city, and I thought it was beautifully described by Bates in this novel. Hannah's relationship with her parents is also nicely portrayed in this book, Hannah could have come across as spoiled or ungrateful, but she really doesn't and when shades of this begin in her personality, her best friend totally calls her on it, and I thought this was a very clever move by the author!

This book has the perfect mix of fabulous setting, wonderful characters and a totally believable gripping storyline. It is well written, and a great, fun read. I defy any fan of chick lit or contemporary romance not to find something that they love about this book!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The Meryl Streep Movie Club-Mia March

Two sisters and the cousin they grew up with after a tragedy are summoned home to their family matriarch’s inn on the coast of Maine for a shocking announcement. Suddenly, Isabel, June, and Kat are sharing the attic bedroom—and barely speaking. But when innkeeper Lolly asks them to join her and the guests in the parlor for weekly Movie Night—it’s Meryl Streep month—they find themselves sharing secrets, talking long into the night . . . and questioning everything they thought they knew about life, love, and one another.

Each woman sees her complicated life reflected through the magic of cinema: Isabel’s husband is having an affair, and an old pact may keep her from what she wants most . . . June has promised her seven-year-old son that she will somehow find his father, who he’s never known . . . and Kat is ambivalent about accepting her lifelong best friend’s marriage proposal. Through everything, Lolly has always been there for them, and now Isabel, June, Kat—and Meryl—must be there for her. Finding themselves. Finding each other. Finding a happy ending.

Review: Wow! I loved this book and couldn't wait to keep reading it to find out what was going to happen, something that hasn't happened to me with a book for a while now! The story centres around four strong women. Matriarch Lolly, her daughter Kat and her two nieces Isabel and June. The four women in the book were so incredibly written. I wasn't sure I was going to like any of them to begin with, indeed they don't seem to like each other to begin with, however I found each of them endearing themselves to me, as well as to each other as the book went on.

Sisters Isabel and June find themselves back with their aunt in the guesthouse where they grew up, having lost their parents when they were just teenagers. It seemed that this event int he girls lives pushed them apart rather than drawing them together, so when they find themselves back at the guest house they struggle to talk to one another, but soon learn that they have more in common than they think. I really loved the fact that June was a bookseller, she has a passion for books in the same way that lolly has her passion for Meryl Streep movies.

My favourite character in the book was Kat, the way she coped with what life had to the throw at her by baking and cooking I thought was really lovely. There is a wonderful scene in the book where she goes to learn how to make some Italian pastries, the scene was beautifully written and I found myself loving her character even more as well as feeling decidedly hungry. The level of description by March makes you feel as if you are there by the sea in New England with these women. I wanted to roam the rooms of the guest houses further, browse the book store where jan worked and take walks along the sea front with Isabel. She really brought the words on the page to life!

The Meryl Streep movies are almost like a fifth main character in the book. They are woven into the events of the novel so cleverly and each movie comes in at precisely the right point that one is never left wondering why, indeed, the novel has such a title. The lessons and morals that the movies give out, are exactly what is called for at that point in the story.

This is beautifully written novel, one which was a nice quick read and would be perfect to read on an early summers day imagining the waves crashing into the harbour walls, and guests taking cocktails in the garden of the Three Captains Inn. The author deals with some serious life issues in the book so well that one never feels down when reading it, only filled with joy at the relationships that are being built between these four woman and the ways they are living their lives. A properly engaging, heart warming tale!

Monday, 18 March 2013

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris-Jenny Colgan

As dawn breaks over the Pont Neuf, and the cobbled alleyways of Paris come to life, Anna Trent is already awake and at work; mixing and stirring the finest, smoothest, richest chocolate; made entirely by hand, it is sold to the grandes dames of Paris.

It's a huge shift from the chocolate factory she worked in at home in the north of England. But when an accident changed everything, Anna was thrown back in touch with her French teacher, Claire, who offered her the chance of a lifetime - to work in Paris with her former sweetheart, Thierry, a master chocolatier.

With old wounds about to be uncovered and healed, Anna is set to discover more about real chocolate - and herself - than she ever dreamed.

Review: Another delicious offering from Jenny Colgan! First there were cupcakes, then there were sweets, then Christmas cupcakes, and finally, the ultimate-chocolate! I was eagerly awaiting this chocolate novel, and even the cover in a gorgeous Cadbury purple is just as delicious as I hoped it would be. When we first meet main character Anna, the reader feels immediately drawn to her. She is entirely identifiable, and feels as though she could actually be you or me. Still in the town she grew up in, working in a job she is not entirely satisfied with, and having a slightly strained relationship with her parents, a freak accident at work forces her to get away and take on a new challenge.

As well as the Paris setting being an obvious bonus to this book, the characters than Anna meets are also extremely well written. I love the fact that Anna meets up with an old teacher whilst she is recuperating in hospital, and this is where she learns the French that she uses during her time in Paris. I think that Colgan has been incredibly clever in the way she has knitted together the stories of these two women. I admit that I wasn't expecting to be so taken with Claire's story, and yet I felt it was just as powerful, and deserves just as much recognition as Anna's story in the novel.

I feel that the food deserves a whole review of its own! I had to rush out and buy French food in order to continue reading the novel. The chocolate is described in such beautiful detail, I know I would spend the extortionate amount the shop charges in order to taste just one bit of the pure melting beauty of it. And it's not just the chocolate which one craves, the rest of the food in the novel is described so perfectly, the reader can almost smell the baking bread, the frying garlic and the flaky croissants! Just yum!

Overall this book is just as much fun to read as this authors previous food-based novels, and comes with the warning of not to devour it on an empty stomach. I was entirely greedy and finished it over a weekend. It would make a great holiday read, or some fabulous French escapism of an evening. Readers don't need to have read anything by Jenny Colgan before to enjoy this novel, an tough I have no doubt, they will be searching out the cupcakes and the sweets after the taste of chocolate they get within these pages. I thoroughly recommend this novel to anyone, and as Colgan herself say as the end of the book-Bon appetit!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Welcome to My Blog

Welcome to my very own blog. It's kind of nerve racking starting out on my own but the time felt right so here goes...

I'm Catriona, I love reading and have been posting my review for just over a year now. I have been writing guest posts and reviews on The Sweet Bookshelf during that time and also been posting my reviews on Goodreads.

I've been really lucky to have been sent to some wonderful blogger events at various publishing houses where I have met lots of exciting authors, received tons of great books to reveiw and also met some other bloggers who have been super supportive in helping me to set up my own blog-thanks to all of you out there!

The kind of books that fill my shelves are mainly Chick lit novels with a few YA, general romance and some travel writing thrown in for good measure. I love to escape into the pages of these books and read about people like me going through the same struggles in love and life, and also doing some of the things that I completely long to do. Who can resist a bit of escapism right?

I hope that this blog will be a place where people can come to discover their next fabulous read, discover a fabulous author, or just find out about some of the writing that is out there for them to choose from!

Now the hirdle of the first post is out of the way, I can get down to the real business of posting reviews of  some fabulous books for you to discover.

Happy Reading!