Posts Tagged ‘Reviewer-Lesley’

Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes

Sue Watson

fat girlsTV Producer Stella Weston is over worked, overweight and under fire. Having battled uphill for years to balance her career with her family life, she is repaid by being put out to pasture on a religious gardening programme – complete with a nervous vicar, his nymphomaniac wife, and 22 stone Britney wannabe gardener, Gerald.
In the past, comfort has always been found at the bottom of her mixing bowl, but when even the most delicious lemon sponge with zesty frosting cannot save the day, Stella decides enough is enough.
However, finding the courage to quit is sometimes the easy part. Can you really turn a passion into a profession? Does more time at home actually give you a happier family life? Are men truly from Mars or another universe altogether?
Stella has to roll up her sleeves and find out – when the going gets tough, the tough get baking….

Well, if you are up for an escapist read of sheer enjoyment and pleasure, then this is the one for you. Poor Stella has worked so hard all her life to get where she is, living that awful life of guilt for either not feeling committed enough at work because she has to get away for the babysitter or staying on for a meeting at work feeling terrible for not being at home for dinner with the family and to make matters worse her horrible boss MJ is breathing down her neck just waiting for her to fail.

After being given the job of producing a religious gardening programme which manages to go spectacularly wrong – but provides a good deal of hilarity, she finds herself at home with no job, her relationship with her husband hanging by a thread and a daughter who has changed alot during Stella’s absences. Thank goodness for a welcoming kitchen, a cupboard full of ingredients and Stella’s amazing knack of being able to knock up a ‘honey-scented chocolate cake with a gooey frosted topping worthy of Delia’.

Stella’s fabulous friends step up and offer her the support she needs by way of take away evenings, nights out, a holiday away and she finally begins to let her hair down a bit and have some fun as well as figure out what she wants from life.

Stella is a very likeable character – she does not ‘have it all together’ in any way at all and is honest about her failings and weaknesses. I like that she she was still an attractive and desirable woman even though she is clearly not a size 8!

So many comedy events happen during this story and there were plenty of laugh out loud moments. It was wonderful to see her and her friends all pulling together to support each other through the various trials and tribulations of their lives and I personally was very happy to see that CAKE was very much central to the proceedings!

Happily, things work out well for Stella in the end, despite all odds and it was great seeing a certain character get their very well deserved comeuppance at the end.

Verdict:This is lovely, fun read. I very much enjoyed it and for all those budding bakers, or just for those that love cake, like me, there are some fabulous looking recipes at the end of the book. Yum!

Reviewed by Lesley

Publisher: Rickshaw Publishing
Publication Date: Sept 2011
Format: eBook
Pages: 367
Genre: Chick Lit, Baking
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British book
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Shopping With The Enemy

Carmen Reid

shopping with the enemyFashion-guru Annie’s well-dressed world is falling apart – first she’s lost her legendary sense of style, and now her daughter Lana seems to have become her worst enemy. Even her multi-millionairess friend, Svetlana, is having daughter trouble.
A trip to a luxurious Italian spa seems like the perfect way to forget her problems. But celery juice and Pilates can’t solve the disasters that are about to strike…
Will Annie rescue her passion for fashion?
And can mothers and daughters ever truly be friends?

I’ve not read any of Carmen Reid’s ‘Annie Valentine’ series before so probably need to hunt down some copies to catch up with Annie’s past as I really liked her as the main character and her whirlwind lifestyle and clear ability to get herself into various capers and adventures.

In this light-hearted and fun story, Annie is feeling down and seems to have lost her sparkle. But life conspires to send Annie on an adventure which helps her to recover her passion for fashion and life in general.

At the beginning of each chapter there is a run-down of one of the character’s outfits, where it’s come from and the cost. Not being that much of a fashionista, it was quite interesting to me and I’m wondering if my own wardrobe needs a bit of a re-vamp!
But back to Annie – her daughter Lana is in New York and very happy there working for NY Perfect Dress but there are concerns about sales being down and Svetlana, Annie’s best friend who has invested into the company, is quite clear that if this downward trend continues she will pull the plug and Lana and Svetlana’s own daughter, Elena, would have to return to the UK. In the midst of this Annie makes a big mistake doing a makeover on her TV show and gets persuaded by Svetlana to take some time out and go on a spa trip to Italy with her.

This is where I began to enjoy the book more. After looking forward to her trip – done Svetlana style, with luxury all the way – Annie makes the awful discovery that she wasn’t to be laying around being pampered every day and fed delicious foods, but more that this was a hard core detox treatment involving cabbage soup and enema’s. She tries to escape but gets called back by Svetlana with the terrible news that Svetlana’s ex-husband Igor has kidnapped her two young boys. This then leads Annie and Svetlana on a wild trip across Europe to try to get the boys back. I enjoying this part of the story and I liked swapping to and from the chaos that Annie was involved in and the story of what was happening in New York with Lana, Elena and Perfect Dress.

Verdict: This was a great read that got better the more that I read. If you are a Carmen Reid fan, and a lover of the ‘Annie Valentine’ series then this is a must have!

Reviewed by Lesley

Publisher: Corgi Books
Publication Date: November 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 384
Genre: Chick Lit
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British Book
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Lesley’s 2012 review

What is your favourite read of 2012?

Gosh, looking through my list of reads from 2012 and it’s hard to pick a favourite, but I think I will say Divergent and its sequel Insurgent by Veronica Roth. These are fab, fab books that I thoroughly enjoyed. Discovering YA fiction over the last year or so has opened up a fantastic new genre to explore and there is always so much new stuff coming out that I always have at least one on the go!

Which book have you most enjoyed reading with your children in 2012?

Julia Donaldson is always popular here, so I think that the Gruffalo’s child has probably been our most read book this year. We also enjoyed Zog recently. These stories, with their wonderful illustrations by Alex Scheffler will last my children for a long time.

What have you enjoyed most about book blogging in 2012?

It’s been a very busy year for us, moving from Surrey to Cornwall, so for a while, book reviewing had to take a slight back seat, but I’ve not lost my passion for reading and still have a TBR pile that I can’t wait to get stuck into! I have loved the opportunity to try new books, sent out by publishers, that I might not have picked off the shelf myself and sharing about them.

What book are you most looking forward to reading in 2013?

I’m very much looking forward to reading Enders, the sequel to Lissa Price’s Starters that I read after Helen reviewed it earlier this year. It was yet another YA book I really loved! I love being able to pass my YA collection on to my 12 year old son who is a huge HP and Hunger games fan. He’s starting to get into a wider range of YA fiction which I’m very happy about! Also, as my pre-schooler is taking a great interest in reading I’m looking forward to getting slightly ‘older books’ to be able to read with him.

Post by Lesley

Lesley’s Favourite reads of 2012(Click on the titles below to learn more)

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Zog by Julia Donaldson

Starters by Lissa Price

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Diary Of A Christmas Wombat

Jackie French and Bruce Whatley (Illustrator)

Diary of a christmas wombatIt’s Christmas! And it’s Christmas for Mothball the Wombat too. She eats, she sleeps, she scratches, but on Christmas Eve she also takes a very unexpected sleigh ride!

We’ve not read the bestselling ‘Diary of a Wombat’ yet (must pop it on the Christmas list!), but liked the sound of this title – after all, a book title containing the words ‘wombat’ and ‘christmas’ has got to have something to like!

This is a very simple read and one that is perfect for my two year old. Mothball has a fairly laid back existence including much sleep, some scratching, and quite a bit of carrot eating! This book has her awoken and taken by surprise when she smells carrots and follows the scent but finds some rather large creatures already there munching away on ‘her’ carrots. These turn out to be Santa’s reindeer. After ‘fighting a major battle’ with the large creatures, getting the carrots, and settling down for a sleep on Santa’s sleigh Mothball finds herself joining Santa’s trips down chimneys and trying to eat the carrots that have been left out for Santa’s reindeer.

Told in simple ‘diary’ form with one or two words at a time to describe Mothball’s activities, this book was great for my two year old who doesn’t always have the concentration to focus on a detailed story but likes to look at and point at the pictures. The illustrations by Bruce Whatley are just lovely and opened up a nice little chat with Sam about what the wombat was doing, and laughing together about her quest for carrots!

Verdict: This book would be great for toddlers and pre-schoolers and would be a wonderful addition to the stocking this year.
Reviewed by Lesley

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books
Publication Date: October 2011
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture book, Christmas
Age: Picture book
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: None
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Monday to Friday Man

Alice Peterson

What do you do if you’re 34, single and recovering from being jilted two weeks before your wedding day? This is the dilemma Gilly Brown finds herself in. While friends are marrying, having children and moving into the depths of the countryside, Gilly finds herself alone in London and holding on to her fractured family with their tragic past. It’s time to meet new people.
So, she decides to get a Monday to Friday lodger, and after a succession of alarming interviews finally finds the perfect one in the shape of handsome reality television producer Jack Baker. Gilly falls for Jack’s charm and is transported into an exciting social whirlwind of parties, dining out and glamour. When Jack is introduced to Gilly’s family and friends, it’s only the attractive and eccentric Guy, the newest recruit to her dog-walking group, who isn’t quite so convinced about Jack’s intentions. As Guy watches them grow closer, his suspicions of Jack and his feelings for Gilly deepen. Is Jack so perfect after all… and what exactly does he get up to at the weekends?

Due to the absolute bargain price for this on Amazon, along with it’s title and description, it was an easy ‘click to add to basket’ moment! This is a fun and easy to read chick-lit offering which I read over just a few evenings.
Gilly is a very likeable character. She is still getting over the shock of being jilted and trying to make a new life for herself that isn’t dependent on being with that ‘special other person’ the whole time. Her dog walking friends that she meets in the park every day, although an eclectic and sometimes unusual bunch are a constant in her life and she derives much from catching up with them each day and chatting through her life’s woes. They are a bit like an extended family.

I loved the concept of the ‘Monday to Friday Man’, the lodger who will stay with Gilly in her spare room in Central London during the week and disappear back to his/her other life at the weekends. It probably happens in real life already, but I hadn’t come across it before. The angst of putting her profile on the website and wondering who was going to show up for an interview was funny and the times of sharing with her friends showed the depth of her character which was well developed by the author. Of course she ends up getting more than she bargained for with very attractive and dynamic producer Jack, who sweeps her off her feet and helps bring her back to life a bit, but who is also rather cagey about the rest of his life and is clearly hiding something.

Woven in and out of this story are flashbacks to Gilly’s childhood and an insight into why the current family dynamics are as they are today. Gilly has a twin that she is close to and who is married with children. She visits often and through the flashbacks we can see the pain that they have suffered over the years due to a traumatic family situation and how it’s contributed to them becoming the people that they are today.

However it’s not Jack that ends up being the friend she can confide in and share with, it’s Guy, the slightly eccentric fellow dog-walker that joins their group in the park and who she hits it off with. Guy is off limits though, engaged to a fiancé who is travelling the world at the moment. They have a lovely, easy and relaxed friendship. Guy is a true friend to her, and sees the best in her and the potential in her and this understandably causes quite a bit of internal conflict as she is seeing Jack and enjoying the attention and glitzy lifestyle that he offers her.

This story is fairly predictable. It was easy to see where it was going and how it was likely to end up but that didn’t matter really. I enjoyed the characters, and the relationships and it was a lovely story.

A really easy and enjoyable read, giving you that nice feel good factor at the end.

Reviewed by Lesley

Publisher: Quercus
Publication Date: July 2011
Format: eBook
Pages: 374
Genre: Romance, Chick Lit
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None
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Unsuitable Men

Pippa Wright

After eleven years of coupled-up domesticity, Rory Carmichael is single for the first time in her adult life. Even she would admit that her ex-boyfriend Martin wasn’t the most the most exciting man in the world – let’s face it, his idea of a rocking night was one spent discussing pension plans in a Harvester restaurant – but Rory could rely on him and, having watched her mother rack up four turbulent marriages, that’s what matters. But when she discovers that her supposedly reliable Mr Right is a distinctly unreliable character, she’s forced to consider the possibility that everything she knows about relationships is wrong. In an effort to reinvigorate both her love life and her lacklustre career at posh magazine Country House, she sets herself a mission to date as many unsuitable men as possible. Toyboys. Sugar daddies. Fauxmosexuals. Maybe the bad boys she’s never dated can show her what she’s been missing in life. But if Mr Right can turn out to be so wrong, maybe one of her Mr Wrongs will turn out to be just right…

Rory is basically your typical lovely, normal girl who has sadly gotten into the rut of being with someone because it’s better to be in a couple than be on your own, even if the relationship isn’t that fulfilling. She relied on Martin, to the point where she has begun to lose herself. He is controlling and everything goes his way, and he’s totally boring! Rory has been a bit of a doormat to be honest and her self- esteem is on the floor, but in her mind she is in a solid, long term relationship that’s bound to end up in marriage and family and she is content with her lot. That is until Martin does the dirty on her and her world is turned upside down.

Having felt like she’s a bit in the background and not really noticed at work, as she works through the grief of her finished relationship, she finds herself getting to know her overbearing colleague Ticky better and getting somewhat steam-rollered into taking her advice. As a result this leads to a her beginning to write a new column basing her writings on her experiences of dating ‘Unsuitable Men’ as a way of getting over Martin and having all the ‘bad date’ experiences she never had when she was younger. Maybe if she experiences some of these it will give her a clearer idea of what she does what in a relationship.

There follows a series of amusing situations which poor Rory gets herself into, and she finds herself on a bit of a trail of self-discovery, all the while boarding at her Aunt Lyd’s house, a home with aging ‘has been’ actors and annoying plumber Jim which brings an enjoyable added dimension to the story.

Verdict: I liked Rory and there is a good cast of supporting characters and as a low cost Kindle download this was a very enjoyable read.

Reviewed by Lesley

Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publication Date: March 2012
Format: eBook
Pages: 465/629KB
Genre: Chick Lit
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None
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Meg and Mog

Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski

Meg and Mog is the first in the long-standing series about a witch (Meg) and her cat (Mog). Meg is a cute well-meaning witch who lives with Mog and her owl. In Meg and Mog, we are introduced to a witch wardrobe and a witch’s breakfast. Later Meg flies off to meet her witch friends for some spell-making at a Halloween Party. Unfortunately the spell does not go exactly to plan…

Meg and Mog is the first in the long-standing series about a witch (Meg) and her cat (Mog). Meg is a cute well-meaning witch who lives with Mog and her owl. In Meg and Mog, we are introduced to a witch wardrobe and a witch’s breakfast. Later Meg flies off to meet her witch friends for some spell-making at a Halloween Party. Unfortunately the spell does not go exactly to plan..,

It’s been so lovely to see the Meg and Mog books regain their popularity – if indeed their popularity ever waned! I loved these books as a child was so happy to see them gracing the shelves of the book shops again of late. It gives me a warm and cosy feeling to be reading them again with my children now.

The stories are simple and enjoyable. Although Meg is a witch she isn’t scary or unlikeable in any way and, although I’m not a fan of Halloween or any scary stuff in general, Meg and Mog make for enjoyable and fun reads for pre-schoolers and even those a little older who will like to read the books to themselves.

Verdict: With fun little stories and wonderful illustrations these are a welcome addition to our bookshelf!

Reviewed by Lesley

Publisher: Puffin
Publication Date: 1972
Format: Paperback
Pages: 31
Genre: Picture book, Magic
Age: Early readers
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None
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Temptation

Karen Ann Hopkins

Your heart misleads you. That’s what my friends and family say. But I love Noah. And he loves me. We met and fell in love in the sleepy farming community of Meadowview, while we rode our horses together through the grassy fields and in those moments in each other’s arms. It should be Rose and Noah, forever, easy. But it won’t be. Because he’s Amish. And I’m not.

I’ve always been curious about the Amish and their way of life. I envy their simplicity whilst knowing I could never really live that kind of life, especially with all those rules and restrictions! So I leapt at the chance to read newly published ‘Temptation’ a story of forbidden love between Amish boy Noah and ‘English’ girl Rose. Rose is sixteen and her mother has passed away during the last year. Along with her father, a busy doctor, and her two brothers, the family move away from the city and out into the countryside for a fresh start and move to Meadowview, near an Amish community.

Rose and Noah meet almost straight away as they are neighbours and their attraction is instant. I very much liked Rose and Noah. Their characters were well developed and I found myself rooting for them although it seems like a hopeless situation, and being annoyed at them occasionally too! It was interesting to seeing the situation from each of their viewpoints as the chapters are told alternately by each of them. Rose is sixteen. She is young, headstrong and passionate and yet naive and simplistic in her understanding of the complexities of the Amish community. Noah, at just a couple of years older seems more mature than his years, having had to grow up and take on responsibilities from an early age.

I enjoyed learning about the Amish way of life and following Rose and Noah as they navigate their way through their forbidden romance, sneaking off to see each other and agonising over how it will work out. It got difficult for both of them as Noah believes there is no other way than for Rose to become Amish and join their community, but Rose believes that she can persuade him to ‘turn English’ i.e. to leave the community for a life of freedom. They have high expectations of each at times, their overwhelming desire to be together seems to throw common sense out of the window and I kind of wanted to shake them a bit. I didn’t expect their story to work out the way it did. I’d imagined it was all going to go horribly wrong – and certainly lots does but even at their tender age true love seems to win through…or so we think. There is a sequel to this book coming out so we can follow Rose and Noah’s story.

Verdict: I really enjoyed this and look forward to reading the sequel when it comes out.

Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: June 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 383
Genre: Romance
Age: YA
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Provided by author
Challenge: Debut Author
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Something Beginning With Blue

Sally Symes and Nick Sharratt(illustrator)

I spy with my little eye, something beginning with blue… and green… and grey. Peep through the holes and follow the clues – can you guess what’s hiding in there?

This book came home to us, along with two or three others, from preschool in a little cloth bag to encourage reading at home. Thankfully, we don’t need too much encouragement around here and we plunged right in!

This particular one has turned out to be a favourite. It’s based on ‘I spy’ which I’ve already played in the car on a bazillion occasions with my older two, often turning out to be highly annoying as my eldest son would always think of the abstract and come up with things like ‘smudge’ ‘look! It’s right there on the window, can’t you see?’ Humph.

Well, now I get to start again with my younger two, using the far simpler method of colours, which is already a game we play in the car. The book is great fun and uses the game’s phrase ‘I spy with my little eye, something beginning with…’ then has a colour. There is a nice little rhyme to help you guess and you can look through the peep holes which are the eyes of each figure to see the colour then turn the page and find out what it is.

Josh has pretty much learnt the text off by heart and shouts out the answer before we turn the page, and Samuel is enjoying learning his colours and various animals and other things and loves the ‘surprise’ when we turn the page.

The illustrations are bright and colourful and appealing to toddlers and the simple rhyming text is great for Josh who ‘wants to read all by myself’ quite a bit these days.

A lovely book, fun and appealing.

Reviewed by Lesley

Publisher: Walker
Publication Date: September 2010
Format: Hardback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture book
Age: Picture Book review
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British Book
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What’s Left Of Me

Kat Zhang

NEVER LET ME GO meets HIS DARK MATERIALS in a beautiful, haunting YA debut, the first book in The Hybrid Chronicles.
Eva and Addie live in a world where everyone is born with two souls, but where only the dominant one is allowed to survive childhood. Fifteen years old, and closer even than twins, the girls are keeping Eva, the ‘second soul’, a secret. They know that it’s forbidden to be hybrid, but how could they ever be apart?
When a dramatic event reveals what really happens to hybrids if they are discovered, Eva and Addie face a dangerous fight for survival, neither wanting to be the one left behind

This is a love story. But it is not a romance. Imagine that you have two minds, sharing one body. You and your other self are closer than twins, better than friends. You have known each other forever.

Then imagine that people like you are hated and feared. That the government want to hunt you down and tear out your second soul, separating you from the person you love most in the world.

Now meet Eva and Addie. They don’t have to imagine.

Since reading this I have wondered more than once how it would feel to share my body with another personality or soul; someone that knew me inside out and was constantly there. It’s an amazing and yet slightly chilling thought to be honest! This story is told by Eva, the silent ‘twin’ or soul, inside Addie’s body. It’s a very intriguing premise and I found myself quickly bonding with Eva and Addie as they try to make sense of their world. Both their souls have been born in to one body but they are expected to ‘settle’ after a few years with the more dominant personality eventually taking over and living a full life while the other just quietly fades away. However, Addie and Eva never truly settled. Eva is there in Addie’s mind and her thoughts and never went away. I really felt for Eva, who as the recessive soul, has to take a back seat and just accept everything Addie says and does when you can see that she clearly is desperate to be able to take her place in the world and know the freedom that Addie does. The relationship between them is touching and at times frustrating. Eva always backs down and never forces Addie into anything and yet Addie cannot exist or manage without Eva.

Hybrids, as those who do not settle are known, are in fact the norm the world over, apart from their country where they are considered a threat to society and feared and must be dealt with. There wasn’t enough world building for me to be able to grasp or fully understand why the hybrids are such a danger to society and a bit more explanation would have been great. However this is the first in a trilogy so I’m hoping for more information as the story develops.

The characters are well developed and Addie and Eva’s personalities so different from each other that although the author had to constantly switch between Addie and Eva’s thoughts and voices it was easy to tell who was who. It’s cleverly done. However I did find myself frustrated by them at times and their responses appeared to be immature, more like 11 or 12 year olds rather than the 15 year olds that they are supposed to be.

Addie and Eva are accepting of their situation and the fact that they ‘act’ every day, as they pretend for everyone’s benefit that Eva has gone and it’s just Addie. However they discover that they are not alone, there are other hybrids there with them and that it may even be possible for Eva to speak and move again. But making the choice to learn more leads to putting themselves in a dangerous situation where their lives are at risk.

I won’t give any more away, but I got stuck into this book pretty quickly and had it finished within a couple of days.

Verdict: It’s an interesting premise and is well written by Kat Zhang. I’m looking forward to book 2 and how things develop for Addie and Eva.

Reviewed by Lesley

Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: September 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 343
Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopian
Age: YA
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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