21 April 2014

Book Review: Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

"Polly Waterford is recovering from a toxic relationship. Unable to afford their townhouse, she has to move miles away from everyone, to the sleepy little seaside resort of Polbearne, where she lives alone above an abandoned shop.

And so Polly takes out her frustrations on her favourite hobby: making bread. But what was previously a weekend diversion suddenly becomes far more important as she pours her emotions into kneading and pounding the dough, and each loaf becomes better and better. With nuts and seeds, olives and chorizo, with local honey (courtesy of local bee keeper, Huckle), and with reserves of determination and creativity Polly never knew she had, she bakes and bakes and bakes . . . And people start to hear about it.

Sometimes, bread really is life . . . And Polly is about to reclaim hers."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy Little Beach Street Bakery as a paperback or an eBook now.

I have become a huge fan of Jenny Colgan over the past few years. I've read a lot of her books now, and I have loved every single one so far. I always look forward to her new books, so when I was sent a review copy of her latest book Little Beach Street Bakery, I was really excited because I had high hopes for the book! I have to compliment the publishers on the cover, it's gorgeous and looks like a perfect spring read, and seems to suit the novel perfectly. As usual, it's full of Colgan's wit and warmth, and is possibly one of my favourites of Jenny's books to date!

Polly Waterford's life feels like it's falling apart around her. The company she has with her ex-boyfriend has gone bankrupt, and her relationship has pretty much ended as well. Unable to afford her expensive house anymore, Polly decides to take things into her own hands, and moves to the quiet and tiny village of Polbearne, where she rents a tiny flat in an abandoned shop. Polly slowly starts to get used to her new life, and as she does, she starts up her love of baking bread again. However, without meaning to, she seems to have upset her landlady, owner of the local bakery. The residents of Polbearne seem to love Polly's bread, and it's making her some steady friends, including fisherman Tarnie and local beekeeper Huckle. As bread starts to take hold of Polly's life, she wonders if this could mean her life is finally getting back on track.

For me, what made this novel so readable was the character of Polly. She's the leading lady of the novel, the one we follow for the duration, and I have to say that I loved her. I felt so sorry for her at the beginning, struggling to cope with the end of both her business and her relationship, and the fact she really doesn't know where to turn. I was pleased when she moved far away from her ex-boyfriend to Polbearne, and there started my love affair with Polbearne too! Colgan writes everything about the sleepy seaside town so beautifully, it's vivid in your mind as you read, and it really comes to life. Everything from the dilapidated flat where Polly finds herself living, to Huckle's home and the sea front itself sounded so picturesque, you can see why Polly was drawn to the village so much.

I loved the inclusion of Polly baking bread throughout the book - Colgan writes about so many different breads, lots that I hadn't heard of and some that I of course had - they all sounded so delicious, I could almost smell them as I turned the pages of the book! You can see why Tarnie, the other fisherman and residents of Polbearne love her bread so much, and I was willing for her to make a success out of her vocation somehow, even though her landlady Gillian seemingly doesn't want her to! I really disliked Gillian, but Colgan slowly reveals to use her story, and I began to feel incredibly sorry for her, and could understand why she is how she is. This is a very emotional read, what with Polly contending with many issues in her own life, and other stories going on. There is a shocking story twist along the way that I hadn't seen coming whatsoever, and it really knocked me for six. It was so well handled, but really tough to read, and was a massive change in the story so far.

I have to confess that I really didn't want to put this book down once I started reading it. It was completely compulsive, and I felt like I was lost in the world of Polbearne with Polly, Huckle and Tarnie. Huckle and Tarnie were fantastic male characters, more positive males in the book for Polly to be with and she really comes alive when she is around them both. This book has everything; happiness, sorrow, hope and love, all woven together in a magical tale that you won't want to end. I cannot review this book without mentioning the brilliant Neil, a puffin that Polly adopts in Polbearne - he surely is a star in his own right, and the bond that he and Polly have was truly adorable! It was a truly delightful read, everything from Polly losing herself in her bread baking, to the different relationships she forms in Polbearne make the book well worth reading, Little Beach Street Bakery is a poignant and heart-warming story that I must definitely recommend P.S. Look out for the gorgeous recipes in the back!!

17 April 2014

Book News: An Open Marriage by Tess Stimson

Tess Stimson is back this summer with another novel called An Open Marriage. I have loved all of Tess' previous books, always with a controversial story that draws you in and leaves you wanting to read right until the end! An Open Marriage is due out on 3rd July.

You can pre-order An Open Marriage as a paperback now.

"When you abandon the rules, can you ever go back? Mia Allen has never quite adjusted to living in England. She misses her friends in the States and feels restrained by small-town family life near Oxford. Her husband Kit, on the other hand, loves the sense of community here and his job as a school teacher in a private school. Like Mia, Kit's boss Charlie is also looking for more excitement in her life. Her marriage to emotionally-distant Rob has left her frustrated and yearning for more. So when she and Rob are invited to dinner with Mia and Kit, she jumps at the chance to make new friends. One evening, the increasing attraction between all of them moves up a notch, and it's not long before the seductive highs of these new friendships lead to desperate lows. Can any of their relationships survive this unconventional arrangement?"

16 April 2014

Book News: To Have and To Hold by Helen Chandler

I really loved Helen Chandler's debut novel Two For Joy last year, so I was really excited to read about her new book To Have and To Hold which is due out on 19th June. I love that the cover fits in with Helen's previous book, and it sounds like a wonderful story as well. I'm really looking forward to this one.

You can pre-order To Have and To Hold as a paperback or an eBook now.

"From the outside, Ella has the happy marriage, the cute kids and the comfortable home - inside, she craves something more. But giving in to temptation will stir up a whole heap of trouble . . .

Imogen's relationship with Pete was once fun and carefree but since they've become parents, everything is different. Then an accident provides the catalyst for a life-changing decision.

Fifteen-year-old Phoebe is miserable at home and at school. And now her dad, who was always her ally, seems completely distracted by something - or someone. Maybe it's time Phoebe took a stand, and took control of her own life.

As Ella, Imogen and Phoebe contemplate taking the biggest risk of their lives, marriages, families and friendships hang in the balance. Should they take the leap, or will they risk losing everything?"

15 April 2014

Blog Tour: If I Could Turn Back Time by Nicola Doherty

Today, I am thrilled to be part of Nicola Doherty's blog tour for her brand new book If I Could Turn Back Time, thanks to Bookbridgr! Nicola was kind enough to write me a piece about if she could turn back time, and it makes for a great read!

Thanks to Frances, Bookbridgr and Nicola for letting me be a part of the blog tour.

You can buy If I Could Turn Back Time as a paperback or an eBook.

If I Could Turn Back Time …

1. I would not wear a short black dress from Oasis to a summery wedding in Cornwall where everyone else was wearing pastel flowery numbers. I thought it was very slinky but it looked awful and probably ruined all the photos I was in.

2. I would not buy, or wear, a mid-calf bottle-green corduroy skirt, which I wore for lots of my last year in college. I thought at the time that it was very Prada but I looked like Miss Geist from Clueless.

3. I would not get my eyebrows dyed by a very nervous (male) beautician off Oxford Street. He turned them black, I tried to trim them back to their original yellow and I ended up with tiger-striped eyebrows. Just as I was starting a new job. I had to get my photo taken for my work pass and so my stripy eyebrows followed me around for the whole 5 years I worked there.

4. Speaking of jobs: I would man up in my first job and not spend so much time crying in the loo because I couldn’t figure out the petty cash.

5. I would date with a handsome guy called Joe who I met at a party in Boston when I was twenty and working there for the summer. He was interested and I don’t know why I brushed him off. Not that I’m not very happy with my husband, but I would have had a boyfriend for the summer and, crucially, he could drive (which I couldn’t at the time).

6. I would not date an awful guy who kept calling me ‘Nicole’ and kept the change when he went to the bar with my tenner.

7. I would go with my friends to Vegas for New Year’s Eve and see The Killers in concert, which I didn’t do in 2005 because I was too broke.

There are also some more serious things – arguments with friends that I could have avoided, hassles at work that I should have seen coming. But aside from that? I can’t think of too much that I would really change. It’s not that everything I’ve done has worked out perfectly – far from it. But the things that go wrong end up making the best stories. They also lead you to where you are today. If I hadn’t dated awful men in my twenties, I might not be married to my husband now. If I had ‘got on the property’ ladder when I wanted to, and bought a flat right after the crash, then I might have stayed in my full-time job and not had time to start writing. Having said that, if I did find myself catapulted back six months in time like Zoe, I’d certainly make the best of it …

Thanks so much, Nicola!

14 April 2014

Book Review: Ghostwritten by Isabel Wolff

"A childhood mistake. A lifetime of regrets.

Jenni is a ‘ghost’: she writes the lives of other people. It’s a job that suits her well: still haunted by a childhood tragedy, she finds it easier to take refuge in the memories of others rather than dwell on her own.

Jenni has an exciting new commission, and is delighted to start working on the memoirs of a Dutchwoman, Klara. As a child in the Second World War, Klara was interned in a camp on Java during the Japanese occupation – she has an extraordinary story of survival to tell.

But as Jenni and Klara begin to get to know each other, Jenni begins to do much more than shed light on a neglected part of history. She is being forced to examine her own devastating memories, too. But with Klara’s help, perhaps this is finally the moment where she will be able to lay the ghosts of her own past to rest?"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy Ghostwritten as a paperback or an eBook now.

Every so often, a book comes along that really moves and touches you, that you know you won't forget for a long time once you have turned the final page. These books tend to cover very emotional issues, something you can relate to or just a story that is so moving, you don't want to stop reading and being absorbed by it. Ghostwritten by Isabel Wolff is the latest book to be inducted into my hall of fame, books I know I will definitely want to read again at some point because it was so beautiful, so poignant that it made for perfect reading. It's a must-read from me, and here's why.

Jenni's a ghostwriter and she loves her job. She writes books from all genres, and when she stumbles across a new project that intrigues her, she knows it means she might have to face some of her own demons too. Jenni had something happen in her childhood that has shaped the adult she has become, but she knows now might be the time to face up to it once and for all. She gets to know Klara, the woman whose life story she is ghostwriting for now, and her tales of life on the island of Java during the Japanese occupation in the Second World War are shocking and unbelievable. Jenni is surprised by what she hears, and sets about writing Klara's story, and starts to lay the ghosts of both women's pasts to rest once and for all.

I'll be honest and say that I didn't know anything of the Japanese occupation of Java during the Second World War, so I was definitely interested to learn more about the topic. The book has 2 story threads running through it. There's the story in the present day of Jenni meeting Klara, and hearing her story, as well as Jenni's personal life problems too. There's something in Jenni's past we have hinted to us throughout the book, and as it is slowly revealed, it's quite shocking but very well handled. I felt Wolff writes Jenni perfectly - she's a sympathetic character, you certainly feel sorry for what she has been through, but I also wanted her to face up to her demons and be able to move past it.

The introduction of Klara's story breaks up the narrative somewhat, and this was definitely my favourite part of the book. Klara is a Dutch woman, who wants to tell the story of her childhood that she has never been able to speak of before. Jenni coaxes the horrifying tales out of her, and they are so brilliantly written, you really do feel like you're on Java with Klara and her family. The things the people there went through were horrific, Wolff doesn't shy away from the graphic details of what the people had to suffer at the hands of Japanese, it doesn't always make for easy reading, but it's certainly compulsive - I didn't want to put the book down when Klara was narrating. It's horrifying and upsetting to think of what the people had to suffer, and Wolff writes it so well, from the emotion to the descriptions of what went on and the places where they were forced to live.

The book reminded me slightly of Jodi Picoult's wonderfully emotive tale The Storyteller, due to the flashback narrative and recounting of a very different time period in history. Wolff's writing was a joy to read, her descriptions of events so evocative of the time, you feel immersed in the story, as if you're standing next to Klara as she is describing the horrors and heartache around her. The way Wolff links her tale with Jenni's own personal sadness is very clever, bringing the two tales together and allowing both women to exorcise their own demons in different ways. Both women were likeable, strong and independent, despite the things they have gone through, and by the end, I was sad to leave them behind. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, I loved every page, and Klara's devastating yet hopeful story will not fail to touch your heart. Simply brilliant.

Blog Tour: A Place to Call Home by Carole Matthews

Welcome to my blog tour stop for Carole Matthews' A Place To Call Home blog tour! Carole's latest book looks like a brilliant read, I've thoroughly enjoyed many of her previous books so I can't wait to get stuck into this one. Carole's article for me is about the place that she calls home, and is a fab read, I hope you enjoy it!

My thanks go to Carole for taking the time to write this for my blog tour stop!

You can buy A Place To Call Home as a paperback or an eBook now.

The Place That I Call Home

I can pin point exactly when my desire for a tidy, minimalist home started and I can lay the blame squarely at the blue and yellow feet of IKEA. It doesn’t help that I now live approximately three minutes from my closest store - which is waaaay too handy.

When my partner, Lovely Kev, and I first moved to the Costa del Keynes we painted the house white from top to toe. All our furniture was cream or white, every appliance and accessory was stainless steel. They had all been bought from IKEA and were called PLOP, TWERP, FLANGE or similar. Our home was affectionately known as The Morgue.

I don’t like ornaments. Not really. Though I have tried. We’ve travelled the world and, once upon a time, I used to bring back souvenirs. Coloured batik wall hangings or ethnic prints. Invariably, I’d get them home to the Costa del Keynes and wonder what on earth I was going to do with them. What looks good hanging on a wall in deepest, darkest Peru, rarely translates to the Home Counties.

Now I buy nothing. Virtually, every ornament we posses - and there are very few of them - have been bought for us by someone else. The hand-carved goose called Kevin bought for us by my mother-in-law last Christmas is slowly but surely inching its way towards the charity box.

In our current home, Matthews’ Towers, it’s no different. It is still a shrine to all things Swedish and flat-packed. We also have the same wooden flooring throughout, the same colour of paint in every room - Dulux Almond White. I try to tell myself that it cuts down on those tricky colour scheme decisions.

I love going to other people’s homes who manage to blend patterns and colours, mixing and matching them so perfectly, yet it’s a skill I’ve never quite acquired. You really can’t go wrong when everything is pretty much cream or white. I also love bright colours - again in other people’s homes. When we moved into this house every room was a garish, migraine-inducing shade. Our bedroom was lime green, hand-painted with daisies the size of dinner plates in pink, orange and yellow. Even the previous owner admitted it had been an experiment too far. The spare room was lilac with sheep stencilled as a border. It took the decorator five coats of white paint to obliterate them.

Despite, my need for extreme tidiness, I like my home to be a welcoming place and I love to have friends over. Because we have a large conservatory, mine is generally the party house for our closest mates. I don’t actually care if my visitors are untidy or if they spill things. I just want them to be here.

What makes a home is not the colour you paint it or the stuff you fill it with but the fun and love inside. And you can’t buy that from IKEA.

Footnote: Carole Matthews is not sponsored by IKEA but, quite frankly, she really should be.

Thanks so much, Carole!

10 April 2014

Blog Tour: Giveaway! Win 1 of 3 copies of 'The Best Thing That Never Happened To Me' by Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice

As part of the blog tour for Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice's new book The Best Thing That Never Happened To Me, I am thrilled to offer 3 proof copies to my blog readers for a giveaway! These are uncorrected proof copies, so pretty special and rare books that you'll want to hang on to! Just enter using the Rafflecopter form below, good luck!

UK entrants only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway