Thursday, 28 May 2015

A Summer of Surprises - Jan Ellis

It is two years since Eleanor Mace said farewell to her lover Christophe and returned to Devon. 

Her bookshop in the sleepy seaside town of Combemouth has become the hub of the community and with the new love of her life, Daniel, everything seems to be blissfully plain sailing. 

That is until Freya, Daniel’s ex-wife appears on the scene. 

Hired as an architect for a major celebrity who plans to build an enormous new complex in Combemouth, Freya seeks Daniel’s help to get her ambitious scheme approved. 

Outraged, Eleanor mounts a protest against the scheme – helped by some endangered local wildlife – that gets her noticed by the world’s media, but puts her at risk of losing Daniel. 

As the campaign gains momentum, Eleanor is asked to speak at a conference in Spain, where she unexpectedly bumps into the handsome Christophe – a blast from her past. 

Surely this must be fate? 

Will Eleanor fall for the charms of her French ex-boyfriend, or can she find it in her heart to forgive Daniel and return to Combemouth? 

This is the first time I have read any of Jan Ellis's work and I am thrilled to be able to supply an honest review in exchange for a copy of this novella.

The main character Eleanor owns a bookshop - so I felt right at home with her character straight away especially as she is near my own age, so a little daydreaming along with reading was in order.

There are many little turns of phrase in the book which made be smile and were very true to life. The writing is also very of the now with references to social media and its uses.

The story goes to Spain, and I was disappointed as I wanted to stay in the lovely Devon idyll, however, the writing is so evocative that I was equally enthralled by the scenes set in Spain.

A lovely story, perfect for a quiet afternoon or maybe a long journey - I'm just sorry there wasn't more of it.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Tiffany Girl - Deeanne Gist

As preparations for the 1893 World’s Fair set Chicago and the nation on fire, Louis Tiffany—heir to the exclusive Fifth Avenue jewelry empire—seizes the opportunity to unveil his state-of-the-art, stained glass, mosaic chapel, the likes of which the world has never seen.

But when Louis’s dream is threatened by a glassworkers’ strike months before the Fair opens, he turns to an unforeseen source for help: the female students at the Art Students League of New York. Eager for adventure, the young women pick up their skirts, move to boarding houses, take up steel cutters, and assume new identities as the “Tiffany Girls.”

Tiffany Girl is the heartwarming story of the impetuous Flossie Jayne, a beautiful, budding artist who is handpicked by Louis to help complete the Tiffany chapel. Though excited to live in a boarding house when most women stayed home, she quickly finds the world is less welcoming than anticipated. From a Casanova male, to an unconventional married couple, and a condescending singing master, she takes on a colorful cast of characters to transform the boarding house into a home while racing to complete the Tiffany chapel and make a name for herself in the art world.

As challenges mount, her ambitions become threatened from an unexpected quarter: her own heart. Who will claim victory? Her dreams or the captivating boarder next door?

I have to admit that the title of this book made me request it for review - I love Tiffany glass. I wasn't too sure if this book was going to be to my liking and I had never read anything by the author before. I also read that Deanne was previously the author of "Christian" books and some of her readers have been shocked by this book.

However, only pages in and I was hooked as one of my other great loves "sewing" was referenced in the book. I'm also very interested in social history and was intrigued to know how things were in America in the late 1880s. 

The author has done a fabulous job of researching the era and that of the social customs of the time. She provides great notes at the front of the book, and at the end of the book the author explains those acts in the book which are a vehicle for the story plot and those which actually happened. I have to say the majority is based on fact and it feels that way when you are reading the book. 

The main character Flossie is a bit of a Pollyanna - she sees the good in everything and of course we know life is not like that and so in some respects I guessed some of what befalls her. This did not detract from the storyline though and I was fascinated with the life of a "new woman" as they were called. Also by the way woman were treated in society. I remember working in a department store in the late 1970s and advising ladies that they needed their husband to come into the store and sign the hire purchase agreement for their new washing machine etc as they could not do so themselves!

What is lovely about the writing is the passion that comes over from the character Flossie and her love for painting and the wonderful coloured glass at the Tiffany factory. There is a little romance in there too - however this is not chick lit and I found it endearing and relevant to the storyline and not at all shocking as some of her readers found it to be.

I really enjoyed this book. It reminded me a little of the films "Meet me in St Louis" and in a more modern setting "You've got Mail". There are some relevant illustrations throughout the book which unfortunately on my kindle didn't show up too well - so maybe a good idea to buy a paper version if you are interested in those, especially as some were commissioned especially for the book.

My thanks go to Netgalley and Howard Books for providing me with a review copy of the book.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

The Faerie Tree - Jane Cable

How can a memory so vivid be wrong?

I tried to remember the first time I’d been here and to see the tree through Izzie’s eyes. The oak stood on a rise just above the path; not too tall or wide but graceful and straight, its trunk covered in what I can only describe as offerings – pieces of ribbon, daisy chains, a shell necklace, a tiny doll or two and even an old cuckoo clock.
"Why do people do this?" Izzie asked.
I winked at her. "To say thank you to the fairies."

In the summer of 1986 Robin and Izzie hold hands under The Faerie Tree and wish for a future together. Within hours tragedy rips their dreams apart.

In the winter of 2006, each carrying their own burden of grief, they stumble back into each other’s lives and try to create a second chance. But why are their memories of 1986 so different? And which one of them is right?

I have fairly eclectic tastes when it comes to reading but probably what underlies my reading choices most is a mystery.  I wouldn't put this book into my usual choice category, but it did seem to have an air of mystery about it and I hoped the romance element wasn't going to be too prevalent. The title indicated to me that it was going to be a stretch of the imagination with tales of folklore and such like - how wrong could I have been.......

Wow - what a surprise this book was. I found it totally enthralling, tried to keep reading even when my eyes were closing - it takes a great book for me to do that. Right from the start of the book when Izzie sees a tramp and recognises him as someone she once knew I was hooked on so many different levels. 

The story that unfolded from both the perspective of  Izzie and that of Robin (the tramp) was truly amazing. I felt that I wasn't reading a work of fiction at all, so strong were the character voices and their actions that I felt like I was just watching it all happen in front of me.

It is said that there are three versions of the truth "what I think happened" what you think happened" and "what actually happened" and that I feel sums up this very clever book. There are a few twists - there is some romance, but not in a chick lit or Mills & Boon way! Basically it's a cracking story with a difference and one that I will not forget for some time. Whilst originally The "Faerie Tree" element of the book didn't appeal to me - I found myself drawn into the tales and intrigued by the beliefs.

As they say - "never judge a book by its cover" and I am so glad I didn't do that with this book as I would have missed an excellent read.

I had heard of Jane's first novel The Cheesemakers House but never got around to reading it - so many books so little time! - however, I think after this fabulous book I really must make time to read it soon.

My thanks to Netgalley, Jane Cable and Troubador Publishing for supplying a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe - Max Lucado

What if you could ask God anything? What would you ask? And how would He answer?

Chelsea Chambers is on her own. After a public split from her NFL superstar husband, Chelsea takes a bold step out of the limelight and behind the counter of the Higher Grounds Café, an old-fashioned coffee shop in dire need of reinvention. But when her courage, expert planning, and out-of-this-world cupcakes fail to pay the bills, this newly single mom finds herself desperate for help. Better yet, a miracle.

Then a curious stranger lands at Chelsea’s door, and with him, an even more curious string of events. Soon, customers are flocking to the Higher Grounds Café, and not just for the cupcakes and cappuccino. They’ve come for the internet connection to the divine. Now the café has become the go-to place for people in search of answers to life’s biggest questions.

When a catastrophe strikes and her ex comes calling, Chelsea begins to wonder if the whole universe is conspiring against her quest to make it on her own. After a shocking discovery opens her eyes to the unseen world around her, Chelsea finds the courage to ask God a question of her own. Heaven answers in a most unexpected way.

My first thoughts on beginning to read this book were of the film "It's a Wonderful Life". Although not the same story line this book features a "human" with a guardian angel sent down to earth to look out for them, in fact they have been looking out for them all their life.

I enjoyed this book - all the references to coffee and the lovely old building gave the book a real feel good atmosphere to it. For me personally the religious element of the book was a little over done. I think you could still gain from the book the life lessons, and that there may be a greater presence at work, without at times the almost sermon like paragraphs.

It was for a me a feel good book. I did like the reference that God only answers "knee mail" - think about it..............!

My thanks to Netgalley and Nelson Fiction for supplying me with an ecopy of this book for review.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Million Dollar Que$tion - Ellie Campbell

What can rock your world faster than winning or losing a king’s ransom overnight? 

Just as a huge financial scandal throws New Yorker, Olivia Wheeler, from wealth and success to bankruptcy and shame, struggling impoverished single-mother Rosie Dixon wins an unexpected million pounds. Good luck? Bad luck? Who can tell? Both women have more in common than they realize. While Olivia struggles to survive her humiliations, fleeing broke and homeless to London, shy unassuming Rosie discovers sudden riches arrive with their own mega-load of problems. 

Can workaholic career-obsessed Olivia find a passion for something earthier and warmer than power and prestige? And can Rosie sift through envy and greed to discover true friends, true family and even true love? 
Two strangers who’ve never met. Yet neither realizes how each is affecting the other’s destiny or the places their paths touch and fates entwine. 

How will they surmount the pitfalls and perils of their outrageous change of fortune? 

That is the million dollar question.

I just loved "Looking for La La" by Ellie Campbell and so was eager to read Million Dollar Que$tion which I received a copy of from the author for free in exchange for an honest review.

The book alternates between the two main characters Olivia and Rosie and what happens when one of them looses a fortune and the other gains one.

This book had a great storyline with down to earth characters who felt believable to me. The dialogue felt very real between the characters along with the misunderstandings and reading signals the wrong way. There are some truly hilarious real life scenes where Livvy (Olivia) is trying to hide out from people she used to know. Both women have their ups and downs and even the ups turn out to be not so great all of the time. I felt myself rooting for them to make the right choices - you'll need to read it to find out if they did!

I loved all the different locations in the book. New York and the Isle of Skye - could there be two more opposite places. Having stayed on Skye it brought back to mind my time there.

I'm usually one for guessing how books are going to work out in the end, but I have to say I never saw the end of this one coming. There is so much more I would like to say - but really it would just spoil the book for you.

I look forward to the next book - it will definitely be on my reading list.