Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Another Double: Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan and Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan


***Spoiler Alert***

About this novel (From Goodreads):

For fans of Sophie Kinsella, Jojo Moyes, and Jennifer Weiner, a moving, laugh-out-loud novel—with recipes!—about a young woman who begins her life anew as a baker in Cornwall.
Amid the ruins of her latest relationship, Polly Waterford moves far away to the sleepy seaside resort of Polbearne, where she lives in a small, lonely flat above an abandoned shop. 
To distract her from her troubles, Polly throws herself into her favorite hobby: making bread. But her relaxing weekend diversion quickly develops into a passion. As she pours her emotions into kneading and pounding the dough, each loaf becomes better than the last. Soon, Polly is working her magic with nuts and seeds, olives and chorizo, and the local honey-courtesy of a handsome local beekeeper. Drawing on reserves of determination and creativity Polly never knew she had, she bakes and bakes . . . and discovers a bright new life where she least expected it.
My review:

This is my second Jenny Colgan novel, and it will probably be my last. It’s not that I don’t care for her stories, I just don’t seem to really connect with her characters. The first one I read was The Bookshop on the Corner where the woman had a traveling bookshop and used libraries just gave away their stock as the libraries were closing. This premise was not believeable - libraries don't give away stock, at least not in the states. The premise of Little Beach Street Bakery was better and I liked the idea of the protagonist struggling to reclaim her life after the downfall of not only her relationship, but also the business and what she shared with her boyfriend. But there were just a few things that went off track for me.

Firstly, I have to comment on the best friends name, Kerensa. I realize that Colgan is a British author and I realize there some different names over across the pond (like Hermione which many of us pronounced wrong over here in the states until we actually saw Harry Potter in film), but her name was just reaching.  I actually did a little research to figure out if this is a common name over there like Jennifer or Katie here in the states, and it isn't. It means "forever exotic" and that just isn't the vibe I got from Kerensa..."forever annoying" was more like it. I know harsh...and I’m not one to comment on weird names because, let’s face it my name is Cresta and it sounds like a toothpaste, but it’s phonetically sound. The name just really irked me and her personality was so brash -  and I’m not talking Lorelai Gilmore in your face brash - I’m talking rude. And I know there’s the old adage that your meanest friend is probably your best friend, but I swear she wasn’t really anybody I would put in the "friend" category. She was not supportive and she droned on and on about the mistakes Polly was making and then in the end it was all "I knew you could do it." Really? Because it sure didn’t seem like that as we were going through the pages.

Secondly, I must comment on the protagonist Polly's random mid-book affair with Tarnie. Really? You’ve been with one guy for five years in a deeply committed relationship and after what seemed like a few weeks (it may have been longer but it didn’t seem like longer) on this island and flirting with the fisherman here or there you’re off on some sort of romantic getaway and you haven’t even questioned his past or what he’s doing, and then you sleep with him?!?!  Then come to find out he’s married? And has a kid? AND FURTHERMORE the whole town finds out and everyone is still best-buds with Tarnie?!??! Come on. I know this is supposed to be women’s fiction and it was all about her finding herself and letting herself go after being in a relationship that held her back for so long but ladies do we really need to jump into bed with the first eligible bachelor that we seem to come across? I mean the guy actually wasn’t even eligible. That really frustrated me and then when she found out he was married she just forgave him like the rest of the town for what he did (and they did) as if it was no big deal that he was married because he was unhappy. So that’s the standard? Good to know.  It's okay to sleep with a married man as long as he’s not happily married. I'm sure Ms. Post would agree. 

So admittedly those two things bothered me the most. But there are still other little things that just didn’t set right: the American beekeeper, Huckle, was just so wishy-washy. And when he finally puts the moves on Polly at the funeral for Tarnie (sad - yes. And she is still pining for the married man -also sad - yes) and it isn't well received, he takes it as an end all be all to everything they could’ve been and just packs it up and moves on back across the pond. And the super super rich guy flaunting his money everywhere - also not really attractive. 

HOWEVER - The premise of the novel was good. It met every clichΓ© of women's fiction that is supposed to be there. Relationship goes south - check. Business goes under - check. Struggles and has to live in a dumpy apartment that she has to fix up and make livable - check. I mean it’s all there; the list is perfection – the story just wasn’t. I didn’t really feel sympathy for the main character and the people she surrounded herself with just seemed so tragic and not in a good way. Mrs. Manse was the only character that I really felt a genuine connection with; the way she was as a result of her tragic story, and then her ability to learn to let that go. She was the only character that I felt really developed growth over the course of the novel that I could applaud.

And now for the best part of the book, the baking. I’ve never wanted bread so much in my life and I’m a big bread eater, if there’s bread available I will eat it. But it has to be good bread, and Polly baked good bread (I can pass on a plain white loaf). The passion Polly had for baking and the way that she use that as a medium to regain her life was excellent. I appreciated that she left a job that she did not love in order (by force basically) to pursue a job that she did love and in turn created a life for herself that she didn’t even know she wanted until she had it. That was good, that was really really good. So in the end it’s a pretty standard women’s fiction novel about overcoming your circumstances and learning to stand on your own two feet - which is exactly what anyone reading a women’s fiction novel is craving.

I give this a solid 🍷🍷🍷for the premise, finding passion, and the scenery. The lack of depth in characters and the surface-level relationships of not only the protagonist, but also the supporting characters left me wanting more from not only the novel itself but from the people involved. 


Best line in the novel: “bread, the cornerstone of eating, one of the fundamentals of life!” 
― Jenny Colgan, Little Beach Street Bakery
Worst editing mistake in the novel: “I could do with a bit of piece and quiet.”
― Jenny Colgan, Little Beach Street Bakery

Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews

** Spoiler Alert ** 

About this novel (From Goodreads): 
Such wonderful children. Such a beautiful mother. Such a lovely house. Such endless terror!

It wasn't that she didn't love her children. She did. But there was a fortune at stake--a fortune that would assure their later happiness if she could keep the children a secret from her dying father.

So she and her mother hid her darlings away in an unused attic.

Just for a little while...

My review:

So this was a re-read for me. I came to know this story in middle school like most teenage girls, and we read it because it was scandalous. But-what I didn’t realize back then is that it was a series; therefore, the reread to see if I wanted to pursue further. I do not. 

I think I liked it as a youth BECAUSE it was taboo-as an adult, I’m bored. The villains are solid-I mean seriously who does not hate that bitch of a mother and the grandmother? But the ending is so unsatisfying because they get away scot-free – how is that supposed to happen? I realize that Andrews is probably trying to tantalize us into reading the next book to see if their fate is ever sealed in the depths of hell where it should be, but it’s just not enough to end this book without any reprimand of the worst people on the planet. 

The incest thing, nasty and creepy and ludicrous- and I have a brother and I know that that would never ever ever happen no matter our circumstances. I guess as a teenager you can suspend that reality for a little while because you’re unaware of real life but as an adult it is just too far-fetched for me. 

The arsenic poisoning is pretty predictable from the very beginning, and I admit I had forgotten about that but then as I started thinking about the food and the way that the grandmother always brought it and it just seemed sketchy, I quickly remembered how that plays out.

In short, I’m sure the average teenager would probably still find this book to be something to sneak under the covers right up there with Valley of the Dolls (which by the way was fantastic and scandalous and well written and awesome), but as a grown-up this book just doesn’t hold my attention and so I’ve had to let it go yet again.

A solid 🍷🍷🍷 Just because in general the characters are fairly well drawn and I appreciate Cathy’s aggressive personality and Chris’s academic ambition, but with those two personalities combined it seems they could have figured out how to get out of that room... at least learn to shimmy down the drain pipe. And as far as bad guys go you can’t beat that mother and grandmother so your villains are absolutely sound, but not punished. The book probably would get 4 to 5 stars if those two horrid humans had gotten it in the end; so only three glasses of wine from me. 

Happy Reading folks 🍷



Friday, June 22, 2018

A Double Today: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter and On Folly Beach by Karen White

Beautiful Ruins

by 
The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.

And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot—searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.

What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion—along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow.

Gloriously inventive, constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a story of flawed yet fascinating people, navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams.
Published June 12th 2012 by Harper (first published June 2012)
Literary Awards Andrew Carnegie Medal Nominee for Fiction (2013)

My review:  I really liked this book. The characters were really interesting and it shed some staggering light on Hollywood stars that I somewhat already knew, but astounded me nonetheless. Walter created a tragic love story within the lives of he developed but with moments of true sincerity, some solid grit, and a touch of romance (not too sappy). A great summer read. 🍷🍷🍷🍷
For more about Jess Walter: http://www.jesswalter.com/

On Folly Beach

by 
Folly Beach, South Carolina, has survived despite hurricanes and war. But it's the personal battles of Folly Beach's residents that have left the most scars, and why a young widow has been beckoned there to heal her own... 

To most people, Folly Beach is simply the last barrier island before reaching the great Atlantic. To some, it's a sanctuary for lost souls, which is why Emmy Hamilton's mother encourages her to buy the local book store, Folly's Finds, hoping it will distract Emmy from the loss of her husband.

Emmy is at first resistant. So much has already changed. But after finding love letters and an image of a beautiful bottle tree in a box of used books from Folly's Finds, she decides to take the plunge. But the seller insists on one condition: Emmy must allow Lulu, the late owner's difficult sister, to continue selling her bottle trees from its back yard.

For the most part Emmy ignores Lulu as she sifts through the love letters, wanting to learn more. But the more she discovers about the letters, the more she understands Lulu. As details of a possible murder and a mysterious disappearance during WWII are revealed, the two women discover that circumstances beyond their control, sixty years apart, have brought them together, here on Folly Beach. And it is here that their war-ravaged hearts can find hope for a second chance...
 
My Review: This is my first Karen White book. I kept hearing about her novels so I decided to read one. Sitting in the floor of the library with at least ten books pulled off the shelf, I decided on On Folly Beach. And I'm glad - I really liked it. The story is charming and gives some interesting historical details I didn't know before - like German U-boats being in our waters during WWII! I liked the dynamics of the relationships, but admittedly, I found myself frustrated with Maggie more than once. I appreciated her desire to fulfill her mother's dying wishes with regards to Cat, but sometimes it was just too much - inhumanly too much. There's caring for someone and then there's self-destruction. So while I liked the books and will 100% continue to read Karen White (like I said - have ten in mind already), I give this one 🍷🍷🍷because I wanted more for Maggie. Just more. 
For more about Karen White: https://www.karen-white.com/

Works Cited:
“Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.” Goodreads, Goodreads, 12 June 2012, www.goodreads.com/book/show/11447921-beautiful-ruins.
“On Folly Beach by Karen White.” Goodreads, Goodreads, 1 Jan. 1970, www.goodreads.com/book/show/12298395-on-folly-beach.
“Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.” Goodreads, Goodreads, 12 June 2012, www.goodreads.com/book/show/11447921-beautiful-ruins.
“On Folly Beach by Karen White.” Goodreads, Goodreads, 1 Jan. 1970, www.goodreads.com/book/show/12298395-on-folly-beach.
“Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.” Goodreads, Goodreads, 12 June 2012, www.goodreads.com/book/show/11447921-beautiful-ruins.
“On Folly Beach by Karen White.” Goodreads, Goodreads, 1 Jan. 1970, www.goodreads.com/book/show/12298395-on-folly-beach.
“Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.” Goodreads, Goodreads, 12 June 2012, www.goodreads.com/book/show/11447921-beautiful-ruins.
“On Folly Beach by Karen White.” Goodreads, Goodreads, 1 Jan. 1970, www.goodreads.com/book/show/12298395-on-folly-beach.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Gilded Shroud (A Lady Fan Mystery #1) by Elizabeth Bailey

When a murder is committed a lady’s companion finds herself as an amateur sleuth.

1789, London
When Emily Fanshawe, Marchioness of Polbrook, is found strangled in her bedchamber, suspicion immediately falls on those residing in the grand house in Hanover Square.
Emily’s husband – Randal Fanshawe, Lord Polbrook – fled in the night and is chief suspect – much to the dismay of his family.
Ottilia Draycott is brought in as the new lady’s companion to Sybilla, Dowager Marchioness and soon finds herself assisting younger son, Lord Francis Fanshawe in his investigations.
Can Ottilia help clear the family name? Does the killer still reside in the house?
Or could there be more to the mystery than meets the eye…?
The Gilded Shroud is the first book in the Lady Fan Mystery series: historical romance murder mysteries with a courageous female sleuth in eighteenth-century London.

Bailey, Elizabeth. “The Gilded Shroud | Elizabeth Bailey | Books.” Sapere Books, saperebooks.com/books/the-gilded-shroud/.


My Review: The Gilded Shroud neatly combines the ingenuity of Sherlock Holmes with the sharp eyes of a Dowager's companion, but while Holmes is well-known for his brilliance, Ottilia must prove hers. The fun element of the novel is the feminine persuasion aspect provided by Ottilia, the super sleuth of the novel. Ottilia is an interesting character in that she is progressive in a time period where women were quite submissive - Ottilia is subversive and this brings a tenacity to the novel that is different than "modern mysteries." She reminded me a bit of Anna's spunk for Downton Abbey and I think that is a pretty high compliment. I enjoyed the blend of regency restrictions and the progressive approach of Ottilia - combining these ideas gave the novel a palpable tension for solving the mystery. 


Additionally, Bailey weaves in an uncomplicated romance between Ottilia and the Dowager's youngest son Francis (who is a widower) that doesn't overpower the mystery thread, but serves as a tangible background to the overall plot. I found myself genuinely happy for both characters as their simple love blooms throughout the tale - I think it's Francis's admiration of Ottilia intelligence and wit that makes their match so satisfying.


The novel, overall though, did get lost a bit in dialogue and details that sometimes felt repetitive so I did skim some of the conversations and descriptions at times because I'd simply already seen and heard these moments. Because of this, there was a bit of superfluous information for my tastes, but another reader might find this reiteration of information comforting with the addition of new characters and minutiae of the mystery. 


For me I give this novel a solid 🍷🍷🍷 for being reflective and accurate for the time period and interesting in the mystery. It falls a little short of a higher rating for the patterned recurring details, but again - that may be particular to me. 


I received this book from Sapere Books in exchange for an unbiased review. 


What others are saying:

‘A satisfying solution and well-chosen period detail will leave readers eager for the sequel.’
‘a charming Regency romantic amateur sleuth starring a wonderful intelligent heroine. The story line engages the reader in the mystery while the romance between “Fan” and “Tillie” enhances the investigation. Sub-genre readers will want Tillie and Fan working future inquiries’
‘The late Regency writer Georgette Heyer lives—and she's writing mysteries as Elizabeth Bailey!’
– Meritorious Mysteries

About the Author:


Elizabeth Bailey feels lucky to have found several paths that have given her immense satisfaction – acting, directing, teaching and, by no means least, writing. Through the years, each path has crossed the other, honing and deepening her abilities in each sphere.
She has been privileged to work with some wonderful artistic people, and been fortunate enough to find publishers who believed in her and set her on the road.
To invent a world and persuade others to believe in it, live in it for a while, is the sole aim of the novelist.
Elizabeth’s own love of reading has never abated, and if she can give a tithe of the pleasure to others as she has received herself, it’s worth all the effort.
You can check out Elizabeth’s website here http://www.elizabethbailey.co.uk/.
Elizabeth’s Twitter: @LizBWrites
#TheGildedShroud






Saturday, June 9, 2018

What Kitty Did Next by Carrie Kablean

England, 1813. Nineteen-year-old Catherine Bennet lives in the shadow of her two eldest sisters, Elizabeth and Jane, who have both made excellent marriages. No one expects Kitty to amount to anything. Left at home in rural Hertfordshire with her neurotic and nagging mother, and a father who derides her as "silly and ignorant," Kitty is lonely, diffident and at a loss as to how to improve her situation. 

When her world unexpectedly expands to London and the Darcy’s magnificent country estate in Derbyshire, she is overjoyed. Keen to impress this new society, and to change her family’s prejudice, Kitty does everything she can to improve her mind and manners—and for the first time feels liked and respected. 


However, one fateful night at Pemberley, a series of events and misunderstandings conspire to ruin Kitty’s reputation and she is sent back home in disgrace. But Kitty has learnt from her new experiences and what she does next does next will not only surprise herself, but everyone else too.









My Review: What Kitty Did Next is a fun novel that plunges the reader back into the amazing world Jane Austen created with the original Pride and Prejudice. Her characterization of not only Kitty, our main protagonist in this novel, but also the other members of the family (to include Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine de Bourgh) are spot on. It's as Jane was channeled from the other side to inspire this tale. Focusing on young Catherine "Kitty" Bennett create a strong coming-of-age story for the younger sister and her willingness and tenacity to overcome her unfortunate set back gives absolute satisfaction.

A must-read for Jane Austen fans - however - I do feel like it's not a summer read and that is my bad for reading it in the wrong time of year. Curl up with this one come Fall with a cup of Chamomile tea and a light rain outside - that would be perfection! In fact, I will be revisiting it then. But I still give the story and the writing a hearty 🍷🍷🍷🍷for Kablean's ability to capture the language, setting, dialogue, and dynamics of Jane Austen's original masterpiece. 


For more about this author and her upcoming works visit her website: https://www.carriekablean.com/


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection: Box Set Books 1-3 (Jamie Quinn Mystery #1-3) by Barbara Venkataraman

Books 1-3 of the Jamie Quinn Mystery Series! Including: 




"Death by Didgeridoo"-Winner of the Indie Book of the Day award. Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, still reeling from the death of her mother, is pulled into a game of deception, jealousy, and vengeance when her cousin, Adam, is wrongfully accused of murder. It's up to Jamie to find the real murderer before it's too late. It doesn't help that the victim is a former rock star with more enemies than friends, or that Adam confessed to a murder he didn't commit. 


"The Case of the Killer Divorce"-Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, has returned to her family law practice after a hiatus due to the death of her mother. It's business as usual until a bitter divorce case turns into a murder investigation, and Jamie's client becomes the prime suspect. When she can't untangle truth from lies, Jamie enlists the help of Duke Broussard, her favorite private investigator, to try to clear her client's name. And she’s hoping that, in his spare time, he can help her find her long-lost father. 


"Peril in the Park"-There's big trouble in the park system. Someone is making life difficult for Jamie Quinn's boyfriend, Kip Simons, the new director of Broward County parks. Was it the angry supervisor passed over for promotion? The disgruntled employee Kip recently fired? Or someone with a bigger ax to grind? If Jamie can't figure it out soon, she may be looking for a new boyfriend because there’s a dead guy in the park and Kip has gone missing! With the help of her favorite P.I., Duke Broussard, Jamie must race the clock to find Kip before it’s too late. 


“Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection: Box Set Books 1-3 by Barbara Venkataraman.” Goodreads, Goodreads, www.goodreads.com/book/show/28240764-jamie-quinn-mystery-collection.


My Review:


The Jamie Quinn mystery collection is a unique take on the cozy mystery concept. It steps outside the "English cottagey" (is that a word?) feel and delves the reader into a new world of super sleuthing. Jamie Quinn is our heroine of crime solving and she is a private eye that readers will immediately connect with. She's witty, a touch sarcastic, slightly dark in humor, but also motivated by a strong desire to see justice served. She's a lawyer by trade (which is where that sense of justice comes in) but as we enter the first book, she is reeling from a significant loss - the death of her mother. We immediately see her humanness which allows the reader a real relationship. 



Jamie is an ace detective that makes her way through murder, nepotism, missing family, hushed enigmas, deceit, mystery, a lot of tension, humor and relationships. 

The series is a quick read and just the thing you might be looking for as you wander through that TBR pile of summer reading. I recommend checking out this series - a solid 🍷🍷🍷🍷 from me and the series is still growing!

Happy Reading!

About the Author:

Award-winning author Barbara Venkataraman is an attorney and mediator specializing in family law. Her works include: "The Fight for Magicallus", a children's fantasy; "If you'd Just Listened to Me in the First Place", a humorous short story; and three books of humorous essays: "I'm Not Talking about You, Of Course," "A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities," and "A Smidge of Crazy", from her series, "Quirky Essays for Quirky People." 

Her Jamie Quinn cozy mystery series includes: "Death by Didgeridoo", "The Case of the Killer Divorce", "Peril in the Park", "Engaged in Danger" and, just released, "Jeopardy in July". All of her books are available on Amazon Kindle.