Book Review: Bella’s Christmas Bake Off by Sue Watson

Bella's Christmas Bake OffWhat’s it about?

Bella Bradley is the queen of television baking – a national treasure. Her Christmas specials have been topping the ratings for years and her marriage to Peter ‘Silver Fox’ Bradley is the stuff of Hello magazine specials.

But this year things are going to be different.

For Amy Lane, Bella’s best friend from school, life hasn’t held quite the same sparkle. And when Amy’s husband walks out three weeks from Christmas, it seems their lives are further apart than ever.

Amy has watched Bella’s rise to fame fondly, despite the fact Bella was always a terrible cook. But when she realises that Bella’s latest Christmas book is made up entirely of Amy’s mother’s recipes, the gloves are off…

My thoughts

I think there’s just time to fit in a quick Christmas book review and as it’s quite an easy read you can squeeze it in before the holidays are over

It took me a while to get into the story as it wasn’t quite what I expected and found the opening few chapters a tadge slow but it does pick up pace and with some nice character development.

I think fans of The Great British Bake Off would enjoy this as it comes with some interesting insights into tv programmes and so comes as no surprise that the the author worked in the TV industry. You’ll also enjoy this if you like books with copious amounts of lovely foody descriptions and festive goodness that’ll make you feel a little bit warm inside (I even found myself unexpectedly filling up towards the end during one particular poignant scene, quite unusual for me).

No real plot surprises for me but I enjoyed the writing and the humour and so I don’t think it’ll be my last Sue Watson novel.

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Connect with the author Sue Watson

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Book Review: The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

The Versions of UsWhat’s it about?

What if you had said yes . . . ?

Eva and Jim are nineteen, and students at Cambridge, when their paths first cross in 1958. Jim is walking along a lane when a woman approaching him on a bicycle swerves to avoid a dog.

What happens next will determine the rest of their lives.

We follow three different versions of their future – together, and apart – as their love story takes on different incarnations and twists and turns to the conclusion in the present day.

The Versions of Us is an outstanding debut novel about the choices we make and the different paths that our lives might follow.

What if one small decision could change the rest of your life?

My thoughts

Although the Netgalley challenge has finished I still have a couple of books left on my reading list that I wanted to read and feed back on. This book has been there since about April so it was about time!

I’ve seen this book likened to One Day meets Sliding Doors which pretty much nails it: I can’t analogise any better!

“Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take”

I did enjoy this book, it’s quite slow paced and very character invested; I did feel engaged with the characters and the 3 different plot lines but the problem I had was the actual structure and format of the book itself.

Let me explain…it starts on Version 1, the next chapter Version 2, the next Version 3. It then goes back to Version 1 and repeat, you get the idea. This meant I was struggling to remember what’s happened in the previous Versions, it was impossible to read and not make notes or flick back several chapters to refresh your memory. Although each of the Versions share main characters, scenes, events and conversations obviously things take different courses.

The book is written in 3 parts and I wonder if maybe it would have been better to have Version 1 as Part 1, Version 2 as Part 2 etc rather than all intermingled but this is just my personal preference in order to alleviate the memory issues.

As I was reading I was constantly wondering which Version is the real Version; or as a reader do we make up our mind as to which Version we would have preferred to be the true Version. If that’s the case, I think Version 2 would be my preferred.

Despite my issues with the format and structure of this novel it’s incredibly well written with a clever plot. I did feel slightly bereft although relieved when I finished it.

It does just end but I felt that it was all wrapped up rather nicely.

“This is how it ends…
It also ends here…
It ends here too…”

It’s definitely worth the read if you can handle the 3 way plot.

You can listen to Laura Barnett discussing The Versions of Us on Radio 4’s Open Book programme here.

Many thanks to the publishers W&N for approving me for an ARC via Netgalley.

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Connect with the author Laura Barnett

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Jera's Jamboree/Talk of the Town

Book Review: Snowflakes on Silver Cove by Holly Martin

Many thanks to Holly for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for her new book, billed as “a festive, feel good Christmas romance

Snowflakes on Silver CoveWhat’s it about?

Libby Joseph is famous for her romantic Christmas stories. Every December, readers devour her books of falling in love against the magical backdrop of the Christmas season. If only Libby believed in the magic herself…

Struggling to finish her current novel, Libby turns to her best friend and neighbour George Donaldson to cheer her up. But George also needs a bit of support himself. Nervous about getting back into the dating saddle after splitting from his wife, he and Libby strike a deal. She will teach George how to win over the ladies, and Libby will in turn be inspired to inject her novel with a good dose of romance.

As Libby and George explore the beautiful White Cliff Bay on a series of romantic Christmas-themed dates, Libby finds herself having more fun than she’s had in ages and…discovers feelings that she never knew she had for George.

But is it too late? Will George win someone else’s heart or can Libby act like the heroine in one of her stories and reach for her own love under the mistletoe this Christmas?

My thoughts

This is the second in the White Cliff Bay series, you can read my thoughts on book one Christmas at Lilac Cottage here. I enjoyed going back to White Cliff Bay; mingling with old and new characters and touching on events that happened in Snowflakes on Silver Cove but from an alternative character’s point of view.

This is a rom-com with some real laugh out loud snorting moments, I liked the characters in the book and have book friend envy in George and Libby’s initial friendship.

It definitely made a nice change to have an insecure male lead character with a dominant female lead. I can’t think of another book in this genre that I’ve read with this dynamic.

Maybe as I’m a bit older than this book’s intended audience I would like to hear more about Verity’s story, I bet she has some tales to tell, and once Judith gets on her cruise I have a feeling there’ll be no stopping her.

With Holly’s easy flowing writing style I was able to read the book in a day when I was ill in bed and was the perfect pick me up.

Many thanks to Bookouture for approving me for an ARC via Netgalley, and Holly as always, best of luck with this new book!

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

About the author Holly Martin

Holly has been writing for six years. She was shortlisted for the New Talent Award at the Festival Holly-Martin-500pxof Romance. Her short story won the Sunlounger competition and was published in the Sunlounger anthology. She won the Carina Valentine’s competition at the Festival of Romance 2013 with her novel The Guestbook. She was shortlisted for Best Romantic Read, Best eBook and Innovation in Romantic Fiction at the Festival of Romance 2014. Holly lives in Bedfordshire.

Connect with Holly

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Do check out the other bloggers on the tour

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Book Review: The Broken Hearts Book Club by Lynsey James

Tour banner broken hearts for JIN

The Broken Hearts Book ClubWhat’s it about?

Secrets never stay buried for long…

Lucy Harper has always been good at one thing: running from her past. But when her beloved Nana Lily passes away she has no choice except to return to the one place in the world she most wants to avoid…

Luna Bay hasn’t changed much in the eight years she has spent in London. The little Yorkshire village is still just as beautiful, but the new pub landlord is a gorgeous addition to the scenery!

Lucy only intended to stay for a day, yet when she discovers that Nana Lily has not only left her a cottage but also ‘The Broken Hearts Book Club’, Lucy is intrigued. Her Nana never have mentioned the club and Lucy can’t wait to get started, but walking into her first meeting she is more aware than ever that her past is finally catching up with her.

One way or another, Lucy must finally face the secrets she’s kept buried for so long – or spend the rest of her life on the run…

My thoughts

I have to admit I was attracted to this book by its cover as it’s gorgeous and was hoping that it would have a vintage type theme to the book but that’s not the case.

Coupled with the lovely seaside setting my favourite parts of this book were the book club scenes and the books that were mentioned to aid the member’s grieving process. There were some very heartfelt scenes that made me fill up and feel quite emotional.

Lucy’s character feels very relatable; somewhat young and naive but with quite a humerous side to her and whilst I initially found her appealing, I found myself getting bored with hearing the same things all the time (could it have done with better editing, I don’t know).

Although there are hints along the way the big reveal of the mystery incident was over-indulged and dragged out a little too long for me and I found myself losing interest into what it was.

I had a couple of issues with the actual timeline in the book; one that sticks in my mind (forgive me if I don’t quite get the scene right) Lucy goes to the solicitor with her mum after her Nana’s funeral but later it mentions that being yesterday but it doesn’t read as being yesterday; confused me and I had to go back and check. Another one was with the cocktail event but I can’t recall all of those details. Of course, I have an ARC so these little issues may have resolved prior to publication.

I so wanted to love this book as I’d put myself forward to take part in the blog tour so I did feel an expectation would be upon me too but I have to be honest. I hope I don’t sound too harsh as overall, this is a light, easy read and utterly predictable but die hard fans of chick-lit will devour and love it and I wish Lynsey all the best with the book!

Many thanks to the publisher, Carina, for approving me for an ARC via Netgalley.

Links: Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US

About the author Lynsey James

Lynsey James was born in Fife in 1991 and has been telling people how to spell her name ever since. She’s an incurable bookworm who loves nothing more than getting lost in a good story with memorable characters. She started writing when she was really young and credits her lovely Grandad- and possibly a bump on the head from a Mr Frosty machine- with her love of telling stories. She used to write her own episodes of Friends and act them out in front of her family (in fact she’s sure she put Ross and Rachel together first!)

A careers adviser at school once told Lynsey writing wasn’t a “good option” and for a few years, she believed her. She tried a little bit of everything, including make-up artistry, teaching and doing admin for a chocolate fountain company. The free chocolate was brilliant. When Lynsey left her job a couple of years ago, she started writing full-time while she looked for another one. As soon as she started working on her story, Lynsey fell in love and decided to finally pursue her dream. She haven’t looked back since.

When Lynsey’s not writing, eating cake or drinking tea, she’s daydreaming about the day Dylan O’Brien FINALLY realises they’re meant to be together. It’ll happen one day…

Connect with Lynsey via Website | Twitter | Facebook

Book Review: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

The Readers of Broken Wheel RecommendWhat’s it about?

Sara is 28 and has never been outside Sweden – except in the (many) books she reads. When her elderly penfriend Amy invites her to come and visit her in Broken Wheel, Iowa, Sara decides it’s time. But when she arrives, there’s a twist waiting for her – Amy has died. Finding herself utterly alone in a dead woman’s house in the middle of nowhere was not the holiday Sara had in mind.

But Sara discovers she is not exactly alone. For here in this town so broken it’s almost beyond repair are all the people she’s come to know through Amy’s letters: poor George, fierce Grace, buttoned-up Caroline and Amy’s guarded nephew Tom.

Sara quickly realises that Broken Wheel is in desperate need of some adventure, a dose of self-help and perhaps a little romance, too. In short, this is a town in need of a bookshop.

My thoughts

I have to admit I was attracted to this book because of its beautiful cover and because it’s a book about books and a book store; what’s not to love?

Sara finds herself without a host as she arrives in Broken Wheel as she learns of her pen pal’s death but the residents of the town soon rally around her to make her feel welcome and encourage her to stay. Scattered among the chapters you’ll find Amy and Sara’s correspondence and from this we discover more about Amy’s experiences and friends in Broken Wheel; a small town that seems to have lost its way in the wake of Amy’s death and are just waiting for an outsider; someone with a different take on life to come and lift them.

However, this small town is a town without readers and they find Sara a little odd to say the least because she seems to prefer books to people and that she reads so much. Although they all seem to come round to Sara’s way of thinking in the end.

“There’s always a person for every book. And a book for every person.”

My favourite parts were all the literary references and the fact that this small town comes alive and starts to thrive following the opening of the book shop and the buzz and positivity that it creates. The books are what brought this book alive for me.

I particularly liked the part about the book snobbery, having seen quite a bit of this in social media recently. The author seems to have picked up on it so it comes as no surprise to learn that she has a book shop background.

There’s quite a variety of characters in this book; but other than Sara I didn’t find myself gelling with any of them which left me feeling a little underwhelmed. This isn’t an action packed page turner, much more slow paced, just like life in Broken Wheel but this book is packed with things all book readers and bloggers will relate to and like.

“Can you smell it? The scent of new books. Unread adventures. Friends you haven’t met yet, hours of magical escapism awaiting you.”

It was great to see The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society mentioned as this is a new found favourite of mine. As a side note, I must check out 84 Charing Cross Road which is one of the books mentioned. On the whole, it’s a very sweet read that book lovers will cherish.

Many thanks to the publisher  Chatto & Windus for approving me for a copy via Netgalley (and very kindly sending me a gorgeous hard copy!)

 

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Connect with the author Katarina Bivald

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