Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

As a boy, William Bellman commits one small cruel act that appears to have unforseen and terrible consequences. The killing of a rook with his catapult is soon forgotten amidst the riot of boyhood games. And by the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, he seems indeed, to be a man blessed by fortune.
Until tragedy strikes, and the stranger in black comes, and William Bellman starts to wonder if all his happiness is about to be eclipsed. Desperate to save the one precious thing he has left, he enters into a bargain. A rather strange bargain, with an even stranger partner, to found a decidedly macabre business.

And Bellman & Black is born.

Ghost stories are not my usual type of read but I was drawn to this by it's cover. After reading it I would say it's not a ghost story more supernatural. It is beautifully written and the author has a lovely way with words but the book did not send any shivers up my spine if that's what it was supposed to do.
 William strikes me as being a decent man,he made one mistake as a child and that was killing a rook and we are asked to believe that rooks never forget a misdemeanour.
The first half of the book is about William growing up, getting married,working in the mill and learning the trade. Everything is going well for him and his family until he sees glimpses of a man in black whom he calls Mr Black. He enters into a business pact with him,or at least he thinks he does and it's all downhill from there.
While reading this book it made me think of the TV drama The Paradise, a story about a department store set in the 1870's and if you read this book you'll understand why.
Each chapter begins with a verse or piece of  mythology about rooks or crows and I found it did add to the story.
I began to become annoyed with William for the way he started treating people including his daughter Dora who was one of life's fighters. He changed completely because of his obsession with Mr Black.
I did enjoy this book and there were times when I found it hard to put down. There were also times when I wasn't quite sure what was going on, was something supernatural really happening or had William lost his mind?
The last few paragraphs in this book are the most poignant words I have read for a long time.The book finishes beautifully and as I am re- reading the end to write this review it has me in tears all over again.
Well worth a read and please let me know if you do read it as I'd love to talk to someone about it.
Thank you to the publisher who provided me with a kindle copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Take a Look at Me Now by Miranda Dickinson

 Today is publication day for Miranda Dickinson's latest book Take a Look at Me Now. Miranda has many,many fans and she's just made a new!

How far would you go to make a new start? Heart-warming and romantic, Take a Look at Me Now will make you laugh, cry and cheer Nell on from start to finish.
What a difference a day makes…
Nell Sullivan has always been known as ‘Miss Five-Year Plan’. But when she finds herself jobless and newly single on the same day, Nell decides it is time to stop planning and start taking chances.
Nell blows her redundancy cheque on a trip of lifetime to a place where anything is possible – San Francisco. There she meets a host of colourful characters, including the intriguing and gorgeous Max. Very soon the city begins to feel like Nell’s second home.
But when it’s time to return to London, will she leave the ‘new Nell’ behind? And can the magic of San Francisco continue to sparkle thousands of miles away?

Warning- do not read this book if you are dieting !

Although the warning above is in jest I did eat more while reading this book. I made french toast with cinnamon and then went on to make pancakes. It had me craving pots of coffee which I never drink but maybe I'm just very easily led.
This book begins with Nell being made redundant and the news is delivered by her ex boyfriend Aidan just when she thinks they may re unite. Rather than face the depressing dole queue with her friend Vicky she throws caution to the wind and decides to have a holiday. Nell chooses San Francisco where her cousin lives and with her redundancy cheque she books her flight.
Cousin Lizzie introduces Nell to all her friends and daily haunts, the coffee shops, wine bars and bistros.
As she shows Nell the sights of San Francisco we too are taken on that journey and if I ever visit I will be taking this book with me as I want to see all the things Nell saw.
One of the places I fell in love with was Annie's Diner, a typical American diner serving every kind of food. This is where I had to leave the book and cook french toast, Annie's Diner had seventeen varieties.
Miranda describes the smells in the diner of coffee,sugar,vanilla and pancakes. Oops! That was when I rushed off to cook pancakes.
I liked the character of Nell,she is just a normal girl in a slightly boring job who is nursing a dream of doing something completly different but she keeps it to herself. Vicky her friend is supportinve to Nell and has all the funny lines. Lizzie who Lives in San Francisco is lovely and has a great life there.
The author teases us with the ending of the book, the way things were going I thought I was going to be disappointed but I loved the way things ended.
I really enjoyed reading this book and although it starts of with a redundancy it is a real uplifting feel good story.
A story of friendship across the miles,of picking up a friendship exactly where you left off no matter if that had been days or months or years. A story about knowing what your dream is and doing what it takes to achieve it and a story of never knowing what's just around the corner.

This book is only 99p for kindle. It is also in paperback and on special offer at Tesco of £2
Thanks to the publishers for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

This Fragile Life by Kate Hewitt

You love your best friend. You trust her with your life. But could you give her the most precious gift of all? Alex’s life is a mess. She’s barely holding down a job, only just affording her apartment, and can’t remember when she was last in a relationship. An unexpected pregnancy is the last thing she needs. Martha’s life is on track. She’s got the high flying career, the gorgeous home and the loving husband. But one big thing is missing. Five rounds of IVF and still no baby. The solution seems simple. Alex knows that Martha can give her child everything that she can’t provide. But Martha’s world may not be as perfect as it seems, and letting go isn’t as easy as Alex expected it to be. Now they face a decision that could shatter their friendship forever. Provocative. Emotional. Affecting. Share This Fragile Life with your best friend.

This book was like a ride on an emotional rollarcoaster. It begins when we hear of the friendship between Martha and Alex, an unlikely friendship as they are opposites of each other in every way possible and yet it seems to work for them.
Alex is  pregnant and contemplating a termination and Martha has been trying for years unsuccessfully to have a baby. She suggests to Alex,without consulting her husband Rob first,that she might adopt the baby and they could experience the pregnancy together.
Sounds like a recipe for disaster? Well you're right and I don't want to give the main plot of the story away but Martha doesn't just have to contend with the thought that Alex might change her mind ,there's more to it than that.
The day they discussed that Martha might adopt Alex's baby changed their lives forever and also the life of Martha's husband Robb.
The story is told from each person's point of view and this made it more interesting as it gave a more rounded picture.
I liked the character of Alex from the start and willed her to want to keep her baby. It took longer to like Martha, she seemed controlling to me but I think it was just her persona to the outside world as she was hiding her heartbreak of being childless. Liking her didn't last long either, I was thinking of a baby living in her perfect house with all her expectations and bottled up emotions.  I also didn't agree on the amazing thing that Alex did for her nearing the end of the book.
You will cry when you read this and there's not many laughs it's a very sensitive subject so read it if you feel like a good cry.
Thanks to the publishers for a kindle copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Wedding Belles by Beth Albright.

The Sassy Belles are back...
and this time, wedding bells are ringing!
Seven months pregnant and head over heels in love, Vivi Ann McFadden is busy pulling together the final details for her wedding to Lewis Heart, famous play-by-play announcer for the Crimson Tide. But with two wedding-planners-gone-wild, a psychic giving her advice, and the ceremony happening on the same day as the wildly popular Crimson Tide kickoff game, chaos reigns supreme. Luckily, maid of honour Blake O'Hara Heart is on the job. She'll tackle this wedding if it's the last thing she does!
But not everyone is cheering for the happy couple. News of the upcoming nuptials has brought Lewis's old flame back to Tuscaloosa-and she's got a secret that could mean the end of Lewis's marriage...before it even begins.

Sexy Southern fun...with a hint of magnolia

I'm glad y'all could read this review today.  Reading this second book in the Sassy Belles series and I'm transported back to Alabama in the deep south and my southern twang is getting stronger. My review of the first book is here
These are not my usual read but I loved the first book and now I'm hooked. I love the way the Sassy Belles all stick together, the parties they have, the food they cook.
In this book,Viva is getting married to Lewis but as you would expect everything does not go to plan and we are left waiting until the last possible minute before we find out if the wedding goes ahead.

Sub plots are Blake's continuing affair with her first love Sonny while pretending to still have a marriage with her husband who has political ambitions,she has to stay with him until he's elected.
There were a few sex scenes here which I think were unnecessary and didn't match the flavour of the book. There is also the horrible Dallas who is Blake's former step sister and a newspaper reporter. She is trying her best to expose Blake's relationship with Sonny and will stop at nothing to get a good story.
American football had a part to play in this book and although I don't like football or reading about it this didn't spoil the story for me as it was in the background.

These book are written by Beth Albright who starred in the American series of Days of Our Lives and I could imagine them being run as a tv series too.
I enjoyed the southern humour and laughed my way through this book. If you're looking for a sunshine read on a cold winter's night then you'll enjoy the southern hospitality in this book. I would recommend you read the first book before any others to get to know the characters.  To sum it up, friends, family and fun. The third book in the series,"Sleigh Belles" has now been released and I have it on my kindle to read along with some wine and chocolate of course.

Here's the trailer for the first book,it sets the scene.
Thanks go to the publisher who sent me a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Amy My Daughter by Mitch Winehouse

As an artist, she had few peers. Her lyrical prowess and timeless contralto vocals made her an instant revelation when her debut album Frank was released in 2003. And as her star continued to rise it became evident that this seemingly delicate girl from north London was much more than just a precocious talent.
Genius, inspiration, icon; there are many ways to describe Amy Winehouse, but it was her wit, charm and lust for life that cemented her place in the hearts of her fans.
Here, using exclusive extracts from his own personal diaries, Amy’s father and confidant Mitch celebrates what influenced his daughter. Documenting her early years from Sylvia Young to the Brit School, and the darker side of her life as she struggled to cope with her addictions under the glare of the media spotlight, he gives new insights.
With never before seen photos, notes and drawings, this book brings together the many layers of Amy’s life – the personal, the private and the public – to create an honest and intensely moving account of the life of the most talented recording artist of her generation.

Everyone has heard of Amy Winehouse. There were days and weeks when every time you opened a newspaper another story of her antics were splashed over the pages. I didn't know a lot about Amy only what I read but like everyone I was sad at such a talented girl having her life cut short.
Like a lot of people I  made assumptions about Amy's life and her family. I didn't really like her father Mitch, he seemed in my eyes to be making a name for himself on the back of his daughter's fame. This book changed my perception.
This book is not a literary work of art, Mitch is not a writer but when he is telling the story of  Amy's life it's as if he has pulled up a chair by the fireside and is emptying his heart to you. What comes across was how kind and loving she was, she loved her family and friends and helped most people she came into contact with and Mitch tells us some good stories about shepeople she helped.

She was a tricky schoolgirl, in trouble for not paying attention and bad behaviour she eventually went to the Sylvia Young School where she could sing to her hearts content. Everyone was so proud of her.
What happened to send her off the rails and into drink and drugs? Her father thinks it's when she met and fell in love with Blake, she fell so deep that she just couldn't find her way out. Needless to say there's no love lost between Mitch and Blake.

This book broke my heart, I wanted to reach out to her and set her on the right road,but no one could and no one tried harder than Mitch. Amy had bodyguards 24 hrs a day not only to protect her from herself but also from intrusive press and hangers on who would come and drink and take drugs at her house, she would never have turned them away.

She had given up taking drugs a few years before she died but found it harder to stop drinking and it killed her in the end. She was so near to getting well, she was going for longer without a drink,so nearly there.
Mitch will tell you about the press and the awful phone calls he would receive.
Nearing the end of the book he speaks of a black butterfly appearing at Amy's funeral and at her wake. I was telling my husband about this book as we sat in a restaurant in Turkey when a black butterfly fluttered all around us, it was very surreal.

Amy had the money to book herself into re-hab or hospital any time she liked she also had money to buy drugs and booze and had people tripping over themselves to buy it for her. Her family have set up a charity in her name, it has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds which has went to various organisations helping children and young people. It also supports young people in re-hab and with drug awareness.
This book is well worth a read if only to set the record straight and I now believe that her father Mitch is one of the good guys.
I was provided with a kindle copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler

Ardent and Idealistic, Esme Garland has arrived in Manhattan with a scholarship to study art history at Columbia University. When she falls in love with New York blue-blood Mitchell van Leuven, with his penchant for all things erotic, life seems to be clear sailing, until a thin blue line signals stormy times ahead. Before she has a chance to tell Mitchell about her pregnancy, he abruptly declares their sex life is as exciting as a cup of tea, and ends it all.

Stubbornly determined to master everything from Degas to diapers, Esme starts work at a small West Side bookstore to make ends meet. The Owl is a shabby all-day, all-night haven for a colorful crew of characters, such as handsome and taciturn guitar player Luke and George, the owner, who lives on spirulina shakes and idealism. The Owl becomes a nexus of good in a difficult world for Esme—but will it be enough to sustain her when Mitchell, glittering with charm and danger, comes back on the scene?

The Bookstore is a celebration of books, of the shops where they are sold, and of the people who work, 
 read, and live in them. The Bookstore is also a story about emotional discovery, the complex choices we all  face, and the accidental inspirations that make a life worth the read.    

This has been a difficult review to write. I started by really enjoying this story and became a bit bored in the middle. Esme comes from a small English town to study art history in New York and falls in love with Mitchell who comes from a rich and influential family. Mitchell seemed okay to me at first but when he hears that Esme is pregnant he completely changes and dumps her in not a very nice manner. He continues changing his feelings during the book and Esme continues to fall for him. He obviously has some kind of personality disorder and although his ex girlfriend tries to tell Esme about this we are never really given any explanation about why he is like that. He goes from good guy to an absolute heel, I could use a few other words for him but I'm too much of a lady.
 I was frustrated by that and also by how gullible Esme was and did want to shake her at times.

I loved the bookstore that she frequented and eventually works in. The owners are unusual throwbacks from the hippy era, my feelings changed towards them during the book from not really being sure if they were genuine to liking them immensely. I enjoyed the various other characters surrounding Esme. There are few homeless people who help out from time to time in the store and a sad story attached to one of them.
The bookstore was described well and I could almost smell the books and wanted to sit inside and curl up with one. The sights and smells of New York are also very vivid.

I felt too many references were made to the art history and classic books. Not having a great deal of knowledge of either one I felt a bit left out, like the one at a party who doesn't get the joke but if you are well versed in the classics then you'll love this book.
I did enjoy The Bookstore maybe I'm just not clever enough to get the significance of the classical
At £1:99 for a kindle copy it's worth a read.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Interview with RS Pateman and Book Giveaway.

Books with wine and chocolate welcomes Rob Pateman author of The Second Life of Amy Archer which is his debut novel. I gave this book five stars,you can read my review here
Rob is from Romford in Essex but has lived in various locations such as Rotterdam and Frankfurt, he now lives in London. He is a history graduate of Warwick University and worked as a copywriter,writing ghost letters for the rich and famous. He is now doing what he loves best,writing his own books and if his debut novel is anything to go by he need never look for another job.
You can find Rob on his website here
or on twitter @rspateman
Rob has kindly agreed to a question and answer session.
I apologise for the change in type size.Blogger had a wee fit and decided to change the size and not change it back.

BWW&C ) What was your writing schedule when writing your book? Did you set aside time each day or lock yourself in the attic for a month?

Rob) A month? I wish it had just been a month!! From writing the first word of the very first draft to checking the last full stop on the approved manuscript before it went to the printers, took me about ten months. There were seven drafts in all. Maybe there would have been fewer if I was more of a planner but I tend to just jump in and see where the story and characters take me.

I was at my desk by 5.30 or 6.00am (easier in the summer than the winter of course!) and would write for a couple of hours and then go for a bike ride, swim or walk. I was doing as little freelance copywriting work as I could get away with to allow me to write. On book writing days, I’d go back to work until lunchtime, have a quick bite and then get another hour or so of writing in and stop around 3.30pm. I’m pretty disciplined and usually manage my target 2,000 words a day. But not always. And although I try and write every day, sometimes it just won’t happen so I’ll bunk off and do something else and try not to feel too guilty. 

BWW&C)  That sounds like a good routine Rob.

BWW&C) What made you decide to write the book from the mother's prospective? Where did you go to find her voice?

Rob) You know, I didn’t realise there was such a ‘thing’ about men writing female characters until my agent, Oli Munson at A M Heath, read the book. On his advice, the book was sent out to publishers using my initials instead of my first name, so that editors didn’t know if it was written by a man or a woman. Of the six people who read it ‘blind’ at Orion, all of them were convinced it was written by a woman.

Several reviewers have commented on the authenticity of the voice – and one, who didn’t give a good review of the book, still paid me a huge compliment by referring to the author as ‘she’ throughout her review!

I never questioned that the book had to be narrated from a woman’s perspective. And it didn’t strike me as odd or problematic for me to try to write a female voice – it just felt like my natural voice. Perhaps this is because I grew up in a children’s home run by my parents – the staff and the residents were female so I was immersed in a female world.

BWW&C) I read the whole book assuming it was written by a woman until I googled you.

BWW&C) If you could choose a perfect writing retreat in any country in the world where would it be?

Rob) I hope that means you’re going to get me a ticket to get me to wherever I choose! I was very lucky with this book actually, as I wrote it in the house of a friend of mine in an idyllic Cotswold village, rather than at home in London. But having a choice of anywhere in the world, hmmm…I’d worry I’d never get anything done as I’d be too busy exploring! Sunshine, a tennis court and water to swim in would certainly be towards the top of the list – so South Africa maybe?

BWW&C) Sounds like a lovely place to write a book,you wouldn't need to go anywhere else so, sorry, no ticket.

BWW&C) You have to give all the books on your bookshelves to charity,which three books do you save?

Rob) Uh-oh. What a horrible decision to have to make but, seeing as it’s for charity and all the books must go, my three to keep would be:

We Need to Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal – Jeanette Winterson
Harvey – Mary Chase

BWW&C) I agree with you on the first book but I haven't read the other two I must look them up. I would find it hard to answer that question myself.

BWW&C) I read a book with a glass of wine and some chocolate. What about you?

    a) Coffee and cake
    b) Beer and crisps
    c) Tea and biscuits
    d) Something else

Rob) I’m not very good at reading and eating at the same time - I worry I’ll get the pages messy and my concentration falters. But I do take breaks, in which case I’d go for coffee and chocolate.
BWW&C) If you read on kindle or ipad the crumbs are easily wiped away. Coffee and chocolate sound good together.

BWW&C) I know you are planning another book Rob, are you willing to give your readers a teaser of what we can expect or is it a secret?

Rob) I’m currently redrafting my second novel, The Prophecy of Bees. It’s a psychological thriller about a troubled teenaged girl and her mother who retreat to a Cotswold manor house following a bereavement – but they fall foul of sixteenth century witchcraft, superstition and murder. My agent reckons it’s where The Wicker Man meets The Secret History. And I’m happy with that!

BWW&C) Thank you Rob.What great answers.
Your second novel sounds a very intriguing story and title. I hope we don't have to wait too long for it.

Rob is kindly giving away two signed copies of his book to the winner of this rafflecopter. Just leave a blog comment or tweet or follow our twitter accounts and sign into the rafflecopter. The competition will run until the 11th Oct and due to high postage costs is open to the UK and Europe only.
Good luck, it will be a book you just can't put down.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

How to Breed Sheep, Geese and English Eccentrics by Valerie Poore

When Maisie Peterson leaves university in 1976 without a job to go to, she decides to help her mother save her large and impractical country property in the wilds of rural Dorset by trying her hand at self-sufficiency. Ma is just a tad eccentric, though, and Maisie has no clue about farming. Her efforts are thwarted at quite a few turns by a flock of willful sheep, a dotty aunt, a charming but ineffective boyfriend and a swarthy, but highly desirably agricultural auctioneer. Emily, the ewe, runs rings round her while Ma drifts in and out of the scene in an ancient wedding dress, causing havoc in Maisie's attempts to sort out her personal as well as her agricultural problems.

 The book begins with Maisie's boyfriend Simon sawing her beloved Renault car in half when he was supposed to be fixing it for her. I didn't like Simon at first, he was lazy and seemed content with Maisie doing all the hard worked and him living off her for free,but as the story progressed he did grow on me and by the end of the book I liked him.

You will cry reading this book, with laughter. Maisie is trying to be self sufficient and save her mum's house and small holding from the bank but the only help she seems to have is her eccentric mother who is only a help in very short spurts and an elderly aunt who although very sweet is not capable of the kind of help Maisie needs. Help does come, in the shape of an old friend Jeanie who's parents own nearby riding stables. Jeanie manages to keep Maisie right about the do's and don'ts of life on a smallholding.
The laughs are plenty, from her mother walking about in an old wedding dress to Maisie transporting sheep in the back of her car.

Maisie's eyes stray to a handsome auctioneer but something always happens to make her look silly in front of him and she's determined to make him see that she knows what she's doing (she doesn't.)
So will Maisie leave the lazy Simon? Will she make the small holding profitable? and will she ever keep the sheep from wandering into other people's garden?
I loved the cover of this book it must have been drawn by someone with a great sense of humour. I am told by the author that although the story is fiction most of the incidents regarding the animals are true and happened to her which just makes the book a whole lot better.

I think it's harder to write a book that makes people laugh, it's easier to make them cry. Valerie Poore will make you laugh. Another part of the book I really enjoyed was Maisie's acceptance of her mother's eccentricity and the mother and daughter love.
Amazon uk
It's a long time since I laughed so much at a book so I'm giving  How to Breed Sheep and English Eccentrics five stars.

The Feud by Amanda James

Matthew Trevelyar leaves his job in London to return to his Cornish roots in the village of St Agnes. After losing his wife to leukae...