Saturday, 27 July 2013

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding- Julia Strachey

"Neither youth nor loveliness makes people happy.  It takes something utterly different to do that" are the wise thoughts of Dolly, protagonist in Julia Strachey's Cheerful Weather for the Wedding.  For me that something seems to Persephone books, my love of which seems to know no bounds at the moment.  Having recently read Miss Buncle's Book (read my review here ) my appetite for devouring more overlooked classics has been well and truly piqued. 

I had read about Cheerful Weather for the Wedding in the Persephone catalogue (you can order this and the fabulous Persephone Bi-Annually magazine for FREE from the Persephone Books website).  I liked the sound of it, the premise being that it follows a young bride on her wedding day, exploring her doubts, fears and the inevitable family nightmares that ensue when there are large gatherings.

Dolly is a frustratingly naïve young woman, flighty and irresponsible.  Whilst reading Cheerful Weather for the Wedding I became more and more irate at her, although her hapless fiancé elicits little sympathy either.  Infact, all the characters we meet in the book are riddled with annoying personality traits and as a family they hold little appeal!

Most of the humour within the book was too dry for my taste, although I can appreciate that it would appeal to some people.  Whilst not my favourite Persephone title, I am glad I chose to try Cheerful Weather for the Wedding as it was an interesting read that pushed the boundaries of my usual reading material. 

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding is a short read, only 119 pages in all, and is an observational work noting the complexities of family life over one momentous day.  As such, it is well written, but constructed in a free-flowing style which reads almost as haphazard.  Not the easiest of reads, it is however  an interesting examination of relationships and life in 1930s Britain. 

I bought my copy from Handpicked Books at Bird's Yard Sheffield, where there are always Persephone titles in stock alongside other classic and collectable books.

Friday, 26 July 2013

A little bit of exciting news...

Books with Bunny is going to be part of Sarah Stovell's blog tour to promote her unique and captivating read The Night Flower.  I am absolutely delighted to be asked to be part of it and thrilled to be on the flyer and discussing the book on August 15th, publication day itself!  Unfortunately it is unlikely I will be able to attend the official London launch party, but still, what an honour to be asked to be part of it. 

And isn't the cover gorgeous too? 

Walk Me Home- Catherine Ryan Hyde

I have previously read and enjoyed Pay It Forward, one of Catherine Ryan Hyde's previous novels.  Her work is held in high regard and I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to review Walk Me Home. 

Sisters Carly and Jen feel they have no option but to run when their mother dies.  Worried they will be taken into care and separated, the girls set off on a long and arduous journey to find Teddy, the one person Carly really trusts.  However, Jen is less sure about what is the best thing to do and exhaustion and lack of money takes its toll on the sisters relationship.  Will they make it to Teddy alive and well?  And if they do, will the faith Carly has in him to be their saviour become a reality?

I've read quite a few 'walking' books recently- The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce... I do like the premise of a journey being an escape, an opportunity for self discovery, a humbling experience that makes us seem small compared to the world at large. 

I found Walk Me Home really gripping to begin with, yet I felt the middle section was a bit too long and not as action packed as I'd have liked for a book of this length.  I didn't warm to either Carly or Jen as characters, which meant I felt detached from them for most of the book and wasn't overly bothered about what happened to them.  However, I thought the scene setting was great, and especially enjoyed meeting the wide variety of people the sisters encounter on their journey- these characters were interesting and diverse, much moreso than the protagonists. 

Overall, Walk Me Home was a thought-provoking read that touches on trust, sisterhood and altruism.  Suitable for young adults or adults, it will make you assess whether you can ever wholly trust anyone. 

Walk Me Home is out now in paperback, published by Black Swan. 

*With thanks to Black Swan for providing me with a review copy of Walk Me Home*

You can find out more about Catherine Ryan Hyde at her website, .

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Just Add Spice- Carol E Wyer *Part of Carol's blog tour*

Just Add Spice is a witty and entertaining summer read that will resonate with everyone out there who feels their life comprises purely of the mundane. 

Dawn is a housewife.  That had always been enough for her, especially when her son was fully reliant on her.  However, now that he has flown the nest Dawn can't help but feel that her marriage to Jim, suffering from stresses following his redundancy, is going stale.  In an attempt to regain a sense of purpose, Dawn joins a creative writing group.  Here she meets a diverse group of people that share a desire to express themselves through writing, including the uber-attractive Jason, a younger man that has all the ladies in the group swooning. 

Just Add Spice is particularly interesting as it follows not just Dawn's story, but also the book that she is writing.  We are introduced to Cinnamon, a ball-breaking, no nonsense woman that no man dare mess with!  Her far fetched escapades are in sharp contrast to the banal nature of Dawn's existence, and this makes for an engaging and appealing read.

Can Dawn draw on Cinnamon's confidence and unleash her inner goddess?  Can her marriage be salvaged?  And will she ever finish writing this blasted book that is taking up so much of her time, energy and soul?

I really enjoyed Just Add Spice, my first Carol E. Wyer read, but not my last.  Perfect for anyone looking for an injection of romance and those reassessing what they want from life, it is a thought-provoking, humorous romp that will suck you in-I read the whole thing in two sittings.  It isn't an especially long book either, so would be ideal for reading on those flights to sunnier climes or lazing on a beach.  Carol has written a touching book that manages to strike just the right balance of romance, humour and heartfelt emotion.  Give it a whirl-spice up your life!

Published by Safkhet, Just Add Spice is out now.  You can find out more about Carol E. Wyer and her previous books here.

You can buy Just Add Spice from the following places...
Smashwords :

*Carol is celebrating the release of Just Add Spice by running a giveaway here -enter for the chance to win some spicy prizes!  Good luck!*

You can also catch up on more news, reviews and interviews with Carol E. Wyer on the following blogs which are also part of the Just Add Spice blog tour...
*Rick at * Melanie at *Josie at *Shaz at *Lisa at * Donna at * Kim  at * Sharon at *JB at * Sheryl at * Chris at *

Monday, 22 July 2013

The Chocolate Money-Ashley Prentice Norton

When I was sent a review copy of  The Chocolate Money, I wasn't sure what to expect.  It is quite different from my usual reads, and not for the faint hearted. Set in Chicago in 1978,  The Chocolate Money introduces us to ten year old Bettina. The only child of hedonistic Babs Ballentyne, heiress to the exclusive Ballentyne chocolate fortune, Bettina is exposed to a wild lifestyle including naked Christmas cards and extravagant parties.  Babs treats Bettina partly as an equal, sharing with her the explicit details of the liaisons with her married lover, and partly as an inconvenience who she belittles. 

The story then moves on to 1983, where 15 year old Bettina is away at boarding school.  Her relationships with peers and teachers are examined, along with the difficulty Bettina has in conforming to societal norms and expectations as a result of her unconventional home life. 

I found The Chocolate Money really hard to get into.  The first section, where Bettina is exposed to crude sexual tales from Babs was quite disturbing and unsettled me.  As a reader I felt very uncomfortable with their mother/daughter relationship.  I found it easier to read about Bettina's life away from Chicago, where her friendships and experience of life away from Babs were unveiled.  There are still some uncomfortable moments and graphic sexual scenes in this section too though.  However, I was interested to know how the story would end, and there was something compelling about the book.  Bettina is a fascinating character, as is Babs, and it was their unconventional outlook which kept me reading.  I was wide eyed throughout and felt like I had led a very sheltered life after reading The Chocolate Money! 

'Packed with unflinching honesty and acerbic wit... the perfect coming-of-age novel that will have you laughing through even its darkest moments' promises Stylist- yet I didn't really find much humour, black or otherwise, in this book.  I am sure there will be people who find this a fascinating read.  I felt it was well constructed and an interesting concept, but couldn't get past the disturbing elements which left me deeply unsettled.

The Chocolate Money is out now, published by Black Swan.


With thanks to Black Swan for providing me with a review copy of The Chocolate Money.  You can find out more about Ashley Prentice Norton and The Chocolate Money here.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Swimming Pool Summer- Rebecca Farnworth

Swimming Pool Summer is definitely a holiday read.  I've been enjoying reading it outside in the recent heatwave, not by a pool, but sprawled on a blanket in the garden and lounging in a shaded spot of the local park.  Even the cover is alluring- a sky-blue pool that is just crying out to be dipped into.

Set on an idyllic Greek island, Swimming Pool Summer is the story of Frankie, Leila and Tor.  These thirty-something friends each have a secret that they can't share- Tor, who thought she was infertile, is pregnant, strong-minded Frankie is in love with her friend Patrick and workaholic Leila is trying to forget the one night stand that could ruin her marriage and tear her family apart. 

I found the plot believable and the characters were very human- they weren't all perfect size 8s, happy and carefree with no misdemeanours.  I particularly liked the portrayal of Frankie as hard-nosed and judgmental, until later in the book when her behaviour is justified through a revelation.  Each chapter of Swimming Pool Summer examines the friends in turn, which makes for a pacy, page-turning read and allows the characters to develop throughout.

I wasn't overly keen on the ending, I'm not generally a huge fan of books that do a 'one/five/ten year(s) on' summary.  Overall, however, I was thoroughly entertained by the fun, frolics and frivolity of Swimming Pool Summer.  I think fans of Jane Green and Marian Keyes might enjoy this story of friendship and romance.

Swimming Pool Summer is out now, published by Arrow.


With thanks to Arrow Books for providing me with a review copy of Swimming Pool Summer.
You can find out more about Rebecca Farnworth here.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The Tobermory Cat-Debi Gliori

The Tobermory Cat is a picture book written and illustrated by the prolific and popular Debi Gliori.  I have read and used Gliori's books at nursery before, and always love the artwork.  Gliori has a style that is sharp and detailed.  When rereading one of her books, you will notice different details in the artwork than on your initial reading.  The illustrations in The Tobermory Cat are no exception, and the people within the illustrations convey obvious emotions to the reader.

Essentially, The Tobermory Cat is a book about embracing difference and recognising the skills and beauty within yourself.  Tourists flock to the Scottish island of Mull to see the resident cats and delight in their unique talents. The Hebridean island is abuzz, with the exception of Tobermory.  The Tobermory Cat is a very ordinary cat.  No one visits Tobermory, and unless things change the bookshop, fish and chip shop and beautiful launderette will close.  The Tobermory Cat is keen, keen to help bring in tourists, but how?  Advice from his friends stands him in good stead.

My five-year-old said that he liked the story 'a little bit', and that the pictures were 'good, especially the one with the traffic jam'.  The book is riddled with intertextual references, some which children will recognise such as the dish and spoon from the nursery rhyme Hey Diddle Diddle and others that seem to be aimed at adult readers, for example the parody of the HOLLYWOOD sign.  This isn't my favourite of Gliori's books- whilst the story was nice enough I didn't feel it was as fun as some of her previous offerings- but the illustrations are attractive and bright which will ensure it appeals to younger readers, particularly cat lovers. 


Thanks to Birlinn for providing me with a review copy of The Tobermory Cat.  The Tobermory Cat is available in hardback now, and in paperback from July 18th 2013.

You can find out more about Debi Gliori here .

Confessions of a Chalet Girl- Lorraine Wilson

Confessions of a Chalet Girl is a steamy, romantic chicklit novella.  I had heard positive things about it from the chicklit communities online and was keen to give it a try.  I loved the idea of a book set in the ski resort of Verbier, the chalet girls juxtaposed against the rich playboys, days on the slopes and nights in the hot tubs.

The chalet girl in question is Holly, reserved and slightly reluctant by nature.  Holly is challenged immediately when her initiation ceremony involves removing her bra so it can hang from the rafters of the local bar.  She is approached by attractive, flirtatious Scott and is immediately intrigued.  However, it soon transpires that Scott is her boss-can Holly resist his charm and attention?  Does she even want to?  And why has fellow chalet girl Magda got it in for her?

Confessions of a Chalet Girl is a fun read that chicklit fans will enjoy.  There are also some quite steamy scenes in there for those hooked by erotic novels.  I enjoyed Confessions of a Chalet Girl, reading it in two sittings.  Holly was a character that many readers will be able to relate to-she seems 'normal', with a balance of neuroses and a sense of fun.  Scott is the troubled yet attractive boss, powerful and confident but with hidden depths.  Magda-well, she is instantly dislikeable, which must prove that she is a well constructed character.  Catty and spiteful, I wanted to reach into my kindle and slap her!  And I'm not a violent woman... 

The main downside for me was that the book flew by.  I would have loved to hear more about the relationships between the chalet girls, perhaps learning a bit more about some of the minor characters and their exploits on the slopes.  However, author Lorraine Wilson has said that there will be more Chalet Girl books, which is bound to please the chicklit readers giving Confessions of a Chalet Girl  positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. 


Confessions of a Chalet Girl is a novella published by Harper Impulse, a Harper Collins imprint specifically focussing on romance in a digital format.  It is Lorraine Wilson's debut book.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Miss Buncle's Book- DE Stevenson

I am a big fan of Persephone Books.  They currently publish 102 titles, books that should have been classics yet have been overlooked.  The books themselves are classically beautiful, understated dove grey covers with a cream title box and discreet Persephone logo.  However, you open up and see beautiful endpapers, in the case of Miss Buncle's Book a 1934 design by Vanessa Bell.  Persephone books also come with a bookmark to match the endpapers, a fabulous idea (and you really won't want to bend back the corners of the pages of a Persephone book, so much needed).  Another feature of Persephone books which appeals to me is the layout on the page-rather than cramming as many words as possible onto each one, pages are set out with wide borders which makes them easy to read. The materials used by Persephone are high quality, making each book a delight to behold.

Of course, this would all be irrelevant if the novels themselves were poor quality.  However, I'm yet to be disappointed by a Persephone book.  Some are more accessible than others, but all the titles I have read have been engaging.

Miss Buncle's Book is extremely readable.  The plot is simple- Barbara Buncle has written a novel under the pseudonym John Smith.  The characters in her novel are all based on residents of Buncle's village, Silverstream.  When the book becomes a success, uproar ensues.  The villagers recognise themselves in the book and are determined to uncover the identity of the mysterious John Smith. 

Stevenson's writing style is perfect-not too verbose to distance the reader, yet detailed, charming and classical.  Much of Miss Buncle's Book focuses on the banal, day-to-day life of an average British village in the 1930s.  It is the characters and the interactions between them that will hook you in, and the book hasn't dated despite the fact it was written in 1934. Yes, life is portrayed differently to how it would be in modern society, but it still feels relevant and believable. 

Would I recommend Miss Buncle's Book?  Absolutely.  I only wish I had read it sooner.  This really is a book that deserves to be widely read and held in high esteem.  As Sarah says in the novel, 'You miss a lot by not being able to read...these people are real, live people-they are quite delicious'.  I feel exactly the same about the characters in Miss Buncle's Book.  DE Stevenson deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as female authors held in the highest regard.   Miss Buncle's Book really is delicious, delightful, divine.  Please go and read a copy, and when you enjoy it, tell your friends to read it too.


With many thanks to Persephone Books for providing me with a copy of Miss Buncle's Book.

Persephone Books publish fiction and non-fiction that has been 'unjustly neglected'.  You can find out more about Persephone by visiting their website , or better still visit their beautiful shop at 59 Lamb's Conduit Street, London, WC1N 3NB.  You may also have a local stockist, in Sheffield we are fortunate to have Handpicked Books that always has a selection of Persephone titles in stock. 

Friday, 12 July 2013

Gone Girl-Gillian Flynn

I am part of a really amazing book group.  We have been meeting since the end of last year when my friend Jess put a status on facebook saying 'Is there anyone out there who would be interested in a book group?'  I jumped at the chance.  There are seven of us in the group, all female, all of a similar age, all Christians and with a similar outlook on life.  We have never had a meeting when we are all there.  Infact there is one member of the group I haven't ever met-we never seem to make the same meetings!  Anyway, I digress.  I just wanted to give you a bit of background as to what lead me to read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

Gone Girl was my choice for book group read.  I had seen it everywhere-number one in the bestseller lists, people reading it on the bus, people talking about it on the online book communities...I wanted to see whether it was worth the fuss.

Riddled with suspense and a plot with so many twists that a corkscrew rollercoaster would be envious, Gone Girl is a gripping psychological thriller that will keep you doubting yourself.  It is hard to talk about the plot too much without spoilers, so I'll keep it brief.

Amy Elliott Dunne is a daughter, wife and well-known public figure, the inspiration for the bestselling Amazing Amy books.  On their fifth wedding anniversary, her husband Nick arrives home to find their house ransacked and Amy gone. 

Gone Girl records the year after Amy's disappearance, slowly drip feeding the reader information that will influence their suspicions.  The plot has many twists and turns, and this ensures the reader remains engaged.  It really is a page turner (what do you call a page turner on an ereader?  A button presser?), another read that is similar in style to Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes.

Did I feel it was worth the fuss?  Well, it is certainly a readable, accessible book that has an incredibly detailed and elaborate plot.  I found it quite a draining read-the subject matter was dark and warped which made it both thrilling and exhausting at the same time.  There has been much debate online about the ending, whilst I wasn't overly happy with it, it didn't detract from my overall enjoyment.

If you like thrillers and suspense, then I am sure you'll enjoy Gone Girl.  Do persevere if you find it hard to get into initially-once it gets going it really speeds up!  Gone Girl is to be made into a film with rumours that Ben Affleck is keen to play Nick- I think Bradley Cooper would make a better Nick to be honest, but it isn't up to me!  Either way, I'll probably be interested enough to see the film adaptation as long as the casting is reasonable.  It is written in a style that will lend itself well to the big screen, so I hope that it won't be a disappointment.

8/10 (which was the average score at book group too, and everyone said they would recommend it)

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris-Jenny Colgan (Guest review for Dizzy C)

I'm guest reviewer on Dizzy C's Little Book Blog once again!

You can read my review of the deliciously sweet The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan here right now. 

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Before I Met You-Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell is an author that I was a huge fan of in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  Her books were always entertaining, pacey reads and not remotely taxing-perfect escapism.  The amount of reading I did took a huge dip during the mid 2000s-I was too busy getting married, having a social life and having a baby.  I was aware that Lisa Jewell was still writing, but for some reason never got around to reading the books I had missed out on.  Then last year she released Before I Met You.  Everyone seemed to be reading it and talking about it.  The Daily Mail said it was 'fabulous', Marie Claire described it as 'heartbreakingly good'. 

The story spans two very different eras, the glamorous roaring 1920s and the grungy, Britpop addled 1990s.  Following the great war Arlette has moved to London from Guernsey to experience all life has to offer.  She works in fashionable, respectable Liberty by day and by night she socialises in glitzy jazz clubs with the exotic and artistic London set.  As well as the charismatic Arlette, readers are introduced to other brilliantly constructed characters such as artist Gideon, inspired by Arlette's outstanding beauty and clarinetist Godfrey, an attractive West Indian touring with the Southern Syncopated Orchestra.  In the 1990s, Arlette's granddaughter Betty also finds herself in London.  Amid the wild Soho lifestyle she is searching for the mysterious Clara Pickle to inform her of an inheritance she is due.  Romantic and witty, Before I Met You is a fabulous read that will draw you in, a book that is best devoured in as few sittings as possible.

I absolutely adored it.  As a fan of all things vintage, Arlette's lifestyle was both appealing and enchanting, without being completely unbelievable.  I could also relate to Betty's money worries and struggle to find employment, as I am sure many others reading within the current recession will be able to.  The plot was engaging and twisting, quick-paced and well executed.

The key to Jewell's success is in her writing style-accessible, easy to read and yet jammed full of evocative, lush descriptions of people, places and fashions.  I read an edition that I chose at the library, but will be buying a copy to keep as I loved it so much.  A beautiful novel with all the heart and emotion of those by other popular writers such as Jojo Moyes.


Friday, 5 July 2013

Kiss Me First-Lottie Moggach

Lottie Moggach, daughter of author Deborah Moggach of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel fame, really is an exciting prospect.  Her debut novel Kiss Me First is original and fresh, with an unsettling and thought provoking plot.

Leila lives in a poky London flat where she is detached from society.  She spends most of her time on a philosophy debating website called 'Red Pill', the one place where she feels she is respected and valued.  Through the website Leila is put in touch with Tess.  Tess wants to commit suicide, but doesn't want her family and friends to be hurt by her actions.  Leila learns all she can about Tess, the important and the seemingly insignificant details, before Tess disappears and Leila assumes her identity.  Kiss Me First is a disturbing yet compelling read that is beautifully written- a fantastic debut novel.

The characters are built up in a way that means you are never entirely sure of either their motives or sanity. I felt uneasy throughout yet it was such a gripping novel that I couldn't stop reading!  The only downfall for me was that the ending seemed just a bit too abrupt.  Overall I would definitely recommend you try Kiss Me First- psychological suspense in a style similar to the bestselling Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes.

Kiss Me First is out now, published by Picador. 


With thanks to Picador for providing me with a review copy of Kiss Me First.

You can find out more about Lottie Moggach on her facebook page which can be found here.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Midsummer Magic- Julia Williams

Midsummer Magic landed on my doormat just a few days after Midsummer's Night.  Pretty much perfect timing!

Julia Williams has taken inspiration from A Midsummer Night's Dream by giving Shakespeare's characters and storyline a modern twist.  Described as 'a captivating modern day tale' that will 'delight fans of Katie Fforde and Veronica Henry', Midsummer Magic is an entertaining novel. 

The plot is split between two time frames.  Entertainers Tatiana and Bron and TV hypnotist Freddie Puck are followed through both these stories, mainly set in the present day but with regular flashbacks.  Their 80s heyday now long past, Bron and Freddie visit Cornwall to make a TV show based around local myths and legends.  The standing stones are believed to have magical qualities, providing true happiness to couples that spend the whole night there on Midsummers' Eve. 

Newly engaged Josie and Harry are staying with family in Cornwall along with their future bridesmaid Diana and best man Ant.  Impressed by meeting Freddie, they agree to being hypnotised as part of the show.  How will they behave under Freddie's magical influence? 

Inspired by one of Britain's best, Williams also portrays Britain at its best.  The descriptions of the landscape and flora are beautifully written so that the reader can visualise the scene, the characters are either realistic in their flaws (Ant, Diana, Josie, Harry) or caricatures based on celebrity culture (Bron, Freddie and especially washed-up has-been Tatiana). 

I found this book to be an easy read- funny, with elements of farce and characters that are likeable.  Knowledge of A Midsummer Night's Dream (one of the plays I studied for A level English Literature!) helped my enjoyment as I was able to anticipate what would happen next, but is certainly not necessary to enjoy Midsummer Magic- ultimately a readable, humorous book which I am sure will be found by many a sun-lounger over the summer.

Midsummer Magic by Julia Williams is released  on July 4th 2013, published by Avon, an imprint of HarperCollins.


Many thanks to Avon at HarperCollins for providing me with a review copy of this title.  You can find out more about Julia Williams and her previous books at her website here.