Review: What Would Mary Berry Do? by Claire Sandy

Synopsis

Marie Dunwoody doesn’t feel like she has it all together. Sure, she is married to a wonderful husband; she has three lovely children and yes, a career to be proud of. Yet something a simple as a school fete has thrown her life off kilter.

Having failed to bring a showstopper cake to the school Marie feels terrible. This feeling is heightened when her shop bought French fancies are placed next to her perfect neighbour Lucy’s gorgeous and impressive cake.

At the self same fete Marie stumbles upon a second hand copy of a Mary Berry cake book and decides that she won’t go through the same shame next year. She will provide the showstopper. She will make a cake that Mary Berry will be proud of.

Review

This is possibly going to sound snobbish but I tend to avoid books like What Would Mary Berry Do? No, not because it is chick-lit but because of the familial set up. I often find that I can’t relate to a protagonist who is a wife, a mum, a business woman because I, myself am none of those things. However, I was drawn in by my love of cake and the front cover looked delicious enough to lick*

I am awfully glad that did read What Would Mary Berry Do? because it is such a light and fluffy book that, at times, does deal with contentious everyday issues which at some point all of us either can or will relate to – redundancy, fear of losing business, adultery, first love and divorce to name a few. Upon analysis, you can see this book is as complex as the recipe and method for making a croquembouche.

What I did love about this book is the utter abundance of love. Even though Marie felt her family wasn’t the perfectly presented family you couldn’t argue that this family cared for one another. It is not unusual in chick-lit to find marital disharmony but the relationship between Marie and Robert is one to be treasured and indeed, one to strive to replicate.

It is also a book about learning. No, not just how to make impressive baked goods but about learning to see people in a different way; this is most evident in Marie’s relationship with Lucy. Both are bogged down with misunderstanding and, to be honest, a little bit of mutual jealousy. It is lovely to see how quickly a friendship can develop in unlikely circumstances.

Claire Sandy has made a wonderful cast of character come to life in this book. She has also given me the confidence to try and bake a cake. Now I just have ask myself, what would Mary Berry do?

* I didn’t lick the cover, tempting though it was, I just purged on cupcakes whilst I read it.

What Would Mary Berry Do? by Claire Sandy is available now.

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My 100 Book Challenge

I’m a book whore. It’s ok I can admit it. I flit from book to book, genre to genre heck even author to author on a daily basis. I buy books like junkies buy crack cocaine. But it stops now. Here is the line.

You see, I have a Kindle. A wonderful gift that I received from my even more wonderful mother a few years ago; I have so many books on said kindle that I probably won’t be able to read them in a life time.

So, today I made myself a deal. I chose 100 books from my kindle. 100 books which will be interspersed with my review books and NetGalley downloads to be read.  Won’t buy another Kindle book until then…well that is what I told myself. However, I am a realist (I’m also a romantic but that is another story), I know I won’t be able to stick to that promise. So my new promise is that unless the book has had a substantial decrease in price I will not buy it. Seems fair I think.

Then by the time I have finished the chosen 100 books I will be able to add them to the next list.

I present you, my lovely readership, with my 100 books. Please feel free to let me know your opinions on the books from the list that you have read.

L x

My 100 Book Challenge

Absolute Beginners – Colin MacInnes

A Discovery of Witches – Deborah Harkness

A Game of Thrones: The Full Series – George R R Martin

Amy and Matthew – Cammie McGovern

Amy and Zach – Sarah Louise Smith

An Abundance of Kathrines – John Green

Anna and the French Kiss – Stephanie Perkins

A Part of Me – Anouska Knight

The Best Thing I Never Had – Erin Lawless

The Best Thing That Never Happened to Me – Laura Tait

Beyond Grace’s Rainbow – Carmel Harrington

Boy Meets Boy – David Levithan *

Burnouts, Geeks and Jesus Freaks: A Love Story– Karen Gordon

Butter – Erin Lange

Butterflies in November – Auour Ava Olafsdottir

Confessions of a City Girl – Juliette Sobanet

Dark Aemilia – Sally O’Reilly

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares – David Levithan

The Dead Wife’s Handbook – Hannah Beckerman

Dear Lizzie – Annie Lyons

Desperately Ever After – Laura Kenyon

The Distance Between Us – Kasie West

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

The Dress Thief – Nat Meg Evans

Eat My Heart Out – Zoe Pilger

Eeny Meeny (Dci Helen Grace 1) – MJ Arlidge

Every Day – David Levithan

Every You, Every Me – David Levithan *

Fan – Danny Rhodes

Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

The First Time We Met – Pippa Croft

Flat Out Celeste – Jessica Park

From Notting Hill to New York…Actually – Ali McNamara

Ghostwritten – Isabel Wolff

Goose – Dawn O’Porter *

Half Bad – Sally Green

Hollywood Shaped My Hair – James King **

How to Build a Girl – Caitlin Moran

How to Get a (Love) Life – Rosie Blake *

How We Met – Katy Regan

The Humans – Matt Haig

I Am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes

If I Could Turn Back Time – Nichola Doherty

If I Stay – Gayle Forman *

I Love the 80s – Megan Crane

Just A Girl, Standing in Front of a Boy – Lucy Anne Holmes

Just One Night – Gayle Forman

Just One Year – Gayle Forman

Landline – Rainbow Rowell

Last Bus to Coffeeville – J Paul Henderson

Lessons in French – Hilary Reyl

The Library of Unrequited Love – Sophie Divry

The Life You Left – Carmel Harrington

Lola and the Boy Next Door – Stephanie Perkins

Love Letters to the Dead – Ava Dellaira *

Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life – Nina Stibbe

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 – Francine Prose

Mary Poppins – The Complete Collection – PL Travers

Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugnides

The Middlesteins – Jami Attenberg

The Miseducation of Cameron Post – Emily M Damforth

Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins

My Name is Rapunzel – KC Hilton

The Mysterious Bakery on Rue de Paris – Evie Gaughan **

Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List – Rachel Cohn and David Levithan *

Necrophilia Variation – Supervert

No Place Like Oz: A Dorothy Must Die – Danielle Paige

Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami

The One Before the One – Katy Regan

One Hundred Proposals – Holly Martin

One Night in Italy – Lucy Diamond

One Night in Paris – Juliette Sobanet

The One Plus One – Jojo Moyes

On Writing – Stephen King

Orange is the New Black – Piper Kerman

The Perfume Collector – Kathleen Tessaro

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek – May Van Wagenen *

Random Acts of Kindness – Danny Wallace *

Rooftoppers – Katherine Rundell

Seating Arrangements – Maggie Shipstead

The Secrets We Left Behind – Susan Elliot Wright

Severed Heads, Broken Hearts – Robyn Schneider

Shotgun Lovesongs – Nickolas Butler *

Something Like Summer – Jay Bell

Sorta Like a Rockstar – Matthew Quick

The Story of Us – Ellen Faith

The Story of You – Katy Regan

The Summer Without You – Karen Swan

Tape – Steven Camden

The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me – Lucy Robinson

The Universe Versus Alex Woods – Gavin Extence

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

We Were Liars – E Lockhart *

What A Girl Wants – Lindsey Kelk

Where She Went – Gayle Forman *

Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found – Cheryl Strayed

Will Grayson, Will Grayson – John Green

Written in the Stars – Ali Harris

Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Pop – Bob Stanley

Zenith Hotel – Oscar Coop Phane

Review: The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

It is not often, indeed I don’t think that it has ever happened, that a book has me choking back the tears and forcibly swallowing the lump that has formed in my throat back down. But then The Opposite of Loneliness is no ordinary book.

In its complete form the book is called The Opposite of Loneliness Essays and Stories. However, the author, Marina Keegan, cannot be held responsible for the onset of my emotional spiral. Marina Keegan is dead. The introduction was provided by her college professor at Yale from where Keegan graduated in 2012. Five days after she graduated she was killed in a car accident.

Entering this book I tried not to let the emotional impact of the writer’s death colour my opinion of the stories. It is too easy to do; glorify the poor girl who didn’t live to see her novel published. Fortunately, the beauty, truth and outstanding quality of Keegan’s writing meant that I wouldn’t have to worry about that; a fact that makes Keegan’s death all the more poignant.

The collection of short stories is simply breathtaking. The fact that someone so young, who hadn’t really lived, managed to find such an individual voice is beyond impressive. The stories are entertaining, sharp and beautifully written.

Keegan’s collection of essays covers a wide range of topics from the beaching of whales to the uncertainty of adulthood. Equally as impressive as her short stories her essays are filled with passion and fire, her words jump off the page and hit you with the sheer honesty of them. In the titular essay, The Opposite of Loneliness, the final essay that Keegan had produced for Yale Daily News, she told her fellow classmates that they were “so young”. She repeated the sentiment, trying to make her classmates realise that they had time to make or do things that they were passionate about. In her short time on this plain Keegan managed to leave her mark.

This book blew me away and I am genuinely saddened that the world of literature lost a promising writer before she truly had chance to shine.

The Opposite of Loneliness Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan is available now.

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My Weekly TBR Pile: 28.07.14 – 03.08.14

Last week’s attempt to read seven books was slightly ambitious. Don’t get me wrong I gave it a darn good punt but social engagements (don’t I sound fancy) and hospital appointments meant that I didn’t get through them all. Boo hiss.

Never mind. I did get through the following whilst taking part in @Emmaiswriting’s #sunathon event:

What Happens to All the Men when they Move to Manhattan? by Jill Knapp @JL_Knapp

Before You by Amber Hart @AmberHartBooks

Since You’ve Been Gone by Anouska Knight @AnouskaKnight

I was fortunate to be sent The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan. Elizabeth Preston, a press officer at Simon & Schuster was lovely enough to send me a review copy. I am extremely grateful because this book had sat patiently on my Amazon wish list waiting to be bought. After I finished Since You’ve Been Gone I picked it straight up. So far I really loving it and a review will be posted later this week.

As for the books that I didn’t quite manage to get through, they will be carried over onto this week. Hopefully I will get through them. This will also include a new NetGalley download, Barefoot in Babylon. I’m hoping to have the review for this book posted on More Than The Music’s site. It is a music website that I write for so it seems fitting that a book about the most famous music festival should be posted on there too.

I had a few books sent to me this week (I also did cheekily order myself a few).

I bought Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness. I was accepted to review The Book of Life on NetGalley. I requested it before I realised it was the third in the trilogy. I had the first book on my kindle so I figure I will do a future post on the trilogy as a whole. Keep your eyes peeled for that one.

I also bought The Virgins by Pamela Erens which I am excited to read. Along with My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About Me by Hilary Winston; based on the blurb both of these books sound awesome. Finally, I treated myself to a second hand copy of Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews. I have heard such mixed reviews about this book so I am going to give it a go and make up my own mind.

Finally, this week I wrote a review about a book that I didn’t quite like. No, that is wrong. I thought the book had a lot of potential but to me it just did not seem ready for publication which is a shame because it had a lot of promise. However, I felt bad about posting the review. Do any of my reviewer friends ever feel that? In my opinion I wasn’t mean about the book. I said what I didn’t like about it and the reasons why but not in a nasty or hurtful way. However, this guilty feeling was increased when the writer tweeted me apologising that I didn’t like the book. I felt so bad. The thing is that a lot of other people seemed to like it. She got a lot of positive feedback but I just couldn’t look past what I felt were glaring mistakes and inconsistencies. How do you handle a situation like that? I would love to know.

Anywho, another week – another TBR pile. Hope you all have a great book week. If you are in the country this week why not participate in the #staycation event which takes place from 28th July to August 3rd. For more information on this event then go to http://shazsbookboudoir.blogspot.co.uk/ or alternatively tweet Sharon @Shazsbookblog.

 

Review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Anouska Knight *SPOILERS*

Synopsis

Holly Jefferson is a lonely woman. Her life consists of spending time with her dog, working in her cake shop and being the charity case of her older sister Martha who worries that Holly spends too much time alone.

The reason Holly is lonely is because she is a widow. Her husband Charlie died nearly two years earlier and in that time Holly has managed to alienate nearly everyone in her life. She has a routine of eat-sleep-work and it is the only thing that is getting her through the hard and lonesome days and nights.

However, after a chance cake delivery Holly meets someone who shakes up her world. Holly, begrudgingly and tentatively allows Ciaran Argyll into her world and it is through his tenacity and determination that Holly comes back to life.

But will the memory of her dead husband stop her pursuing happiness?

Review

Chick-lit often gets a bad name. Mainly from those who would consider themselves serious writers and in turn those who consider themselves serious readers. It is assumed that if a book has a light and fluffy cover or if it has a happy ending then it can’t at all deal with serious issues or be in anyway important literature. Those who think that are both prejudiced and wrong. Chick-lit is wonderful. There, I’ve said it and I stick by it.

Since You’ve Been Gone is the debut novel from Anouska Knight, an author she was brought to light by winning a talent competition featured on ITV’s Lorraine and Since You’ve Been Gone is a wonderful example of good chick-lit. It has everything you could want – a strong yet bruised by life heroine; a dashing yet misunderstood hero and a colourful supporting cast of characters to boot.

The comfort that comes with this book is that you know that the guy is going to get the girl. Yes, along the way there are going to be wacky misunderstanding and misconceptions between the two and yes there will be a few moments when you will yell “kiss him, you fool” at the book but that is what makes chick-lit the perfect read.

Knight has managed this beautifully. She makes you fall in love with Cairan along with Holly. When Holly feels guilty that she is betraying the memory of Charlie, her dead husband, you too feel her guilt and shame. Equal to all of that you desperately will Holly and Cairan to be together with all your might.

The good thing about chick-lit is that the majority of the time there is a wonderful happy ending. Anouska Knight will not disappoint her fans.

Since You’ve Been Gone by Anouska Knight is available in the UK. It will be available in America from July 29th 2014.

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Follow Anouska on Twitter – @AnouskaKnight

Review: Before You by Amber Hart

Synopsis

Faith and Diego are from completely different worlds. Faith is the all-American princess; dance captain; student helper and daughter of the local pastor. She is considered to be one of the good girls; the girl who won’t let you down. However, this hasn’t always been the case. Underneath the long skirts and good deeds lies Faith’s deepest darkest secret; a secret she cannot let anyone know otherwise her world will come crumbling down around her.

Tattooed and buff, Diego is the living perception of a gang member. He has, however, left his gang lifestyle both in Cuba (where he is originally from) and in his past. The past has a funny way of creeping up on you though and whilst he battles everyday with trying to make a life for himself in America he is also battling with a local gang who are trying to recruit him as a member. Throughout all of this he is haunted by the memory of what happened to him and his family in Cuba and what made him and his father run away to America to begin with.

Beside their social differences both Diego and Faith have more in common than they originally thought and it is no surprise that they are attracted to each other. Can they be together or will their differences drive them apart?

Review

Before You is a classic Romeo and Juliet-esque romance; the two young lovers torn apart by outside influences. You could dismiss this book and say that you have read it all before but you would be foolish to do so.

The reason that Before You is so different from all the rest is due to the verisimilitude of the storyline. Gang culture is a fervent issue in America – especially among American youths – so the setting instantly draws you in. The storyline being set among high school students reminds you how difficult being young and in love can be, the pressures that you face – from your peers, teachers and parents – add on to that the instability of knowing who you are or who you are meant to be just adds another layer of intrigue to this story.

Besides all that, you really root for these characters to make it. There are some truly heart-stopping moments in this novel and Hart really manages to toy with your emotions but that is what makes it great.

I loved Before You. It is a good (an at times heartbreaking) novel of the power of love. You should read it and if you don’t…well more fool you.

Before You by Amber Hart is available from July 29th 2014

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Review: What Happens to Men when they Move to Manhattan? by Jill Knapp

Synopsis

Amalia is living the dream; renting an apartment in New York (albeit a flat share), working towards her degree; she has great friends and a gorgeous boyfriend and plans to spend the summer in Brazil. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, falling for her friend Michael probably wasn’t the best idea. However, as she pushes her feelings for Michael aside the rest of her world crumbles around her. Her boyfriend Nick dumps her, she systematically argues with her friends and she starts neglecting her college work.

On the plus side, Michael starts showing her some attention…even though he has a girlfriend.

Will Amalia be able sort her life out?

Review

Firstly, let me say this book had a lot of potential. It has a classic storyline of girl-has-boy, girl-loses-boy, girl-finds-new-boy as she discovers something about herself. The problem is that I failed to care about the characters because the plot was undeveloped. Everything happened at warp speed and there was not enough processing time given.

For example, Amalia was completely in love with her boyfriend but then by the end of chapter one she was in love – not just was attracted to – another character. So whilst we are meant to believe that Amalia was in love with Michael she seems overly devastated when Nick breaks up with her. It was inconsistencies like this (and plenty of others) that made the book uncomfortable to read.

Besides this, the text was littered with silly spelling mistakes that broke my concentration. A reader should not spend time correcting the grammar of the writer.

Overall, the book had potential to be something light hearted and enjoyable, however, due to inconsistencies in the text I found it to be an underdeveloped story that needed much more work before publication.

What Happens to Men when they Move to Manhattan? by Jill Knapp is available July 24th 2014

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Review: Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid

Hudson has it all figured out. He is going to be a doctor; he already has his admissions interview with the Dean of the University of Mississippi. Everything is going according to plan However, when Leila pulls into Hudson’s fathers mechanic shop, he knew his life was changed forever. He couldn’t say how or why but he knew she was special.

Bree is a drifter. She wanders up and down lonely highways night after night thumbing for a lift. She keeps herself to herself, distancing herself from her past. She is a tough kid with protective emotional barriers surrounding her. That is until she meets Leila. Leila somehow brings out the truth in Bree. Bree swiftly learns that no matter where you run to your past will always be one step behind you.

On Elliot’s prom night he is nearly run over by Leila. He is already having a pretty crappy night but being run over takes the biscuit. Leila is the driver that nearly mowed him down. That night she becomes his saviour convincing him not to give up on love. She pushes him into a series of wacky adventures (much like the ones that happen in the 80s movies that he keeps referencing) to try and win the heart of the girl he loves.

Sonia feels likes she is betraying the memory of her boyfriend. Sam died of a brain haemorrhage but his family have kept Sonia at the heart of it. However, Sonia feels guilty because she has fallen for another man. So now she is torn between her new boyfriend and her ex’s family. It all comes to a head when they are both taking part in the wedding of Sam’s sister; it is too much for her to take so Sonia runs away. During her turmoil she bumps into Leila who becomes a confident and a superhero trying to get Sonia back to the wedding.

Firstly, let me say I loved this book, not only the unique and quirky stories that were in it but also the clever style in which it was written. I loved that Leila, who was clearly the protagonist, was presented as a secondary character in the lives of the people she met.

What I also loved was that all the characters all had something missing. Something that they were searching for and that it took Leila, who was arguably missing for the largest thing, to help the other characters to find/realise it. The stories had a clever fluidity about them.  It is almost a book about the kindness and good nature of strangers along with the surprises that the people that you love can give you.

What can definitely be said is that YA is currently kicking ass in the fiction world.

Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid is available from August 1st 2014

Lets Get Los

My Weekly To-Be-Read Pile

Due to my excessive gluttonous nature when it comes to all things book like I excessively clicked the request button on NetGalley and ended up with a butt load of books to read. Yes, I know that I have an over flowing kindle and no less than four book shelves but hey I have learned my lesson the hard way…kind of. Ok, so yes I keep checking NetGalley for the latest offering but really I think we can all agree that this isn’t my fault. It is in fact the fault of the publishing groups that keep on saying yes to me (if any of you are reading this please don’t stop…I love you).

That being said I have decided to take control. I have seven books that I am going to try and read over the next week that are due for release and hopefully if I get those read I will be able to go back to the list of books that have already been published but I have yet to review them.

The books on this week’s list are:

Men Manhattan

 

 

 

 

 

What Happens to Men when they Move to Manhattan? by Jill Knapp

Published:   24th July 2014

Lets Get Los

 

 

 

 

Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid

Published:   29th July 2014

before You

 

 

 

 

Before You by Amber Hart

Published:   29th July 2014

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Since You’ve Been Gone by Anouska Knight

Published:   29th July 2014

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The Atlas of Us by Tracy Buchanan

Published:   31st July 2014

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Where Love Lies by Julie Cohen

Published:   31st July 2014

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What Would Mary Berry Do? by Claire Sandy

Published:   31st July 2014

 

Wish me luck J

Review: Thirst by Kerry Hudson

Russian born Alena has decided to leave her country to come to the UK to find work. Like many migrants, Alena believes that the answer to hers and her family’s financial woes lies in the opportunity laden London. Having had her work placement set up by a family friend Alena travels to the UK full of optimism and dreams of a better life that includes financial stability, opportunity and designer clothes. What Alena isn’t prepared for is that her dream is a fallacy. Nor is she prepared for her dream to become a nightmare.

Someone well versed in the woes of everyday life in the UK is Dave. Dave is trying to get through each day under the radar; just do his job, get paid and go home. This is a rigmarole that suits the quiet life that he craves. He once had dreams of travel but all that has passed now. However, a chance encounter with Alena throws his world completely off kilter.

Can Dave’s peaceful nature quiet and calm the storm that is Alena’s life?

I won’t lie to you Thirst is a hard novel to read. Not because it is composed of difficult vernacular or in a different language but purely because Kerry Hudson gives the full nitty gritty on a dark and sinister topic; that topic being human trafficking and having immigrants being sold into the sex trade. At times I felt as if my heart was literally breaking for Alena. What made it worse is that she seemed to be unable to forgive herself for her situation; almost like she believed she deserved to be treated like a piece of meat on a market stall. It was truly harrowing.

But this is what makes Hudson such a good writer. She had my heart in my mouth with the desperation of Alena’s situation.

Dave’s story somewhat parallel’s Alena’s in the fact that they both get themselves into situations that they feel that they have no control over. Dave is trying to fulfil the wishes of his dying mother and gets himself trapped by a set of circumstances that were never part of his life plan. Both of the characters are trapped. Not only by what life puts in their way but how they both feel responsible for the way things are.

Their love story is lovely to follow. I think what makes it so enjoyable is the coy innocence of it all. You see them both giving the bare minimum of themselves away, slowly peeling away layers as their relationship grows. It was rather lovely to read.

Thirst is a quirky love story but be warned, if you read books for pure escapism then this book isn’t for you as it does deal with difficult subjects and has a very real insight into the sinister underbelly of the life that some immigrants face.

Thirst by Kerry Hudson is available now.

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