Book Reviews · Uncategorized

The Tea House on Mulberry Street by Sharon Owens

1074833

The Tea House on Mulberry Street
By: Sharon Owens
Narrated by: Caroline Winterson

Published: February 2005
Published by: Listen & Live Audio
Format Read: Audio book, Library book, Libby App
Genre: Women’s Fiction

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis

Muldoon’s Tea Rooms, beloved for the cozy atmosphere and luscious desserts, has started looking a bit outdated — and the same could be said about the proprietors, Penny and Daniel Stanley. After seventeen years, their marriage has started to fade and wear a little thin, even as their old shop bustles with the energy of the customers who seek refuge from their particular dilemmas: Housewife Sadie Smith comes to escape her diet and her husband’s stick-thin mistress. Struggling artist Brenda Brown sits and pens love letters to the actor Nicolas Cage. And Clare Fitzgerald returns after twenty years abroad to search for a long-lost someone. Behind the cherry cheesecakes, vanilla ice creams, and chocolate cappuccinos are the stirrings of a revolution that will define lives, heal troubled hearts, and rock the very foundation of the humble teahouse. And through it all, Penny and Daniel manage to discover what truly matters in life and love.

-Goodreads

My Thoughts

Set in 1999, Belfast; The Tea House on Mullberry Street follows the owners and customers of a small cafe. I was instantly reminded of a Maeve Binchy novel, what with a group of unrelated people with one common connection. This connection was the theme of the story and followed how each character dealt with their individual situations. 


It took some time for me to get into the story, but once the plot began to move along, I enjoyed it well enough. 


Caroline Winterson was a great narrator who did justice to the different dialects.


I would recommend it to those who enjoy women’s fiction, like Maeve Binchy. 

Advertisements
Book Reviews

A Pro’s and Con’s Review of A Christmas Cracker by Trisha Ashley

25057909

A Christmas Cracker
By: Trisha Ashley 

Published: October, 2015
Published By: Avon
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Contemporary Fiction 

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis


Get into the festive spirit with this heart-warming, funny and simply gorgeous Christmas read.


The eagerly awaited new novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author.


This Christmas is about to go off with a bang!


Things can’t possibly get worse for Tabby. Framed for a crime she didn’t commit, she suddenly finds herself without a job. Then to make matters worse, Tabby’s boyfriend dumps her and gives her cat away to a shelter.


But rescue comes in the form of kindly Mercy. A master of saving waifs and strays, Mercy wants Tabby to breathe new flair into her ailing cracker business. Together, they’ll save Marwood’s Magical Christmas Crackers.


But someone has other ideas. Mercy’s nephew Randal thinks Tabby’s a fraudster. Stubborn, difficult and very attractive, her future depends upon winning him round. But it’s that time of the year when miracles really can happen. Standing under the mistletoe, Tabby’s Christmas is set to be one that she will never forget . . .

Goodreads

My Thoughts

First Impressions

The Cover and Tagline:
The Pro’s: A Christmas Cracker’s cover complete with a small town covered in a blanket of snow, really put me in the mood for a cozy Christmas story. The tagline “As the first snowflakes fall, anything is possible”, made me think of a romantic storyline.

The Con’s: Although there is a sprinkling of Christmas spirit throughout the story (as it is set in a cracker making factory), the holiday season only arrives in the last couple of chapters. I found the tagline to be misleading, as snow didn’t really play a factor in the story as a whole.

The Setting

The Pro’s: I am always drawn to books set in the United Kingdom and this was no exception. The history of Mote Farm and its Friendship mill, with Quaker roots was a detailed setting that showed the sharp contrast between city and country life. The operations of the cracker making business, with its colourful staff of characters would have been enough to warrant its own story. The descriptions of the rural town and surrounding area sounded beautiful.

The Characters

Tabby:
The Pro’s: Tabby was a hard working woman who initially had a lot of faith in those around her. She put her artistic abilities to good use, not only with her own papercut art, but with the development and renovations in the mill.

The Con’s: One of my biggest pet peeves with Tabby, was that she let people walk all over her. Instead of standing up for herself, she just let the terrible things that happened to her, slide.

Mercy:
The Pro’s: Mercy Marwood was a ray of sunshine. She was warm, optimistic and lively. Not only did she give a second chance to former cons (by hiring them in her cracker making factory), but she also took one under her root, to live in her home. Mercy was truly the best part of A Christmas Cracker and a memorable character indeed.


Overall Impression

The Pro’s: Trisha Ashley’s A Christmas Cracker had a unique setting with a wonderfully strong woman named Mercy at the helm. It brought to attention the importance of second chances and generosity, not only during the holiday season, but year round. Now that I am more familiar with this authors writing, I hope that I will go into her other books with different expectations.

The Con’s: Unfortunately I think that my expectations for a different type of story played a role in my enjoyment of this book. Although I was able to adjust to the tone of the writing as I read along, it wasn’t exactly the cozy read I thought it would be. I also found the main character Tabby to be quite uninteresting.


Book Reviews

Visions of Sugar Plums: A Stephanie Plum Holiday Novel (Stephanie Plum, #8.5) by Janet Evanovich

Visions of Sugar Plums: A Stephanie Plum Holiday Novel
(Stephanie Plum, #8.5)
By: Janet Evanovich
Narrated by: Lorelai King

Published: March 2003
Published By: MacMillan Audio
Format Read: Audio, Library Book, Libby App
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Series

Rating: 1/5

Synopsis


It’s five days before Christmas and things are not looking merry for Fugitive Apprehension Agent Stephanie Plum. She hasn’t got a tree. She hasn’t bought any presents. The malls are jam-packed with staggering shoppers. There’s not a twinkle light anywhere to be seen in her apartment.
And there’s a strange man in her kitchen.
Sure, this has happened to Stephanie Plum before. Strangers, weirdos, felons, creeps, and lunatics are always finding their way to her front door. But this guy is different. This guy is mysterious, sexy-and he has his own agenda. His name is Diesel and he is a man on a mission. And Diesel is unlike anyone Stephanie has ever met before in her life. The question is, what does he want with her? Can he help her find a little old toy maker who has skipped out on his bail right before Christmas? Can he survive the Plum family holiday dinner? Can he get Stephanie a tree that doesn’t look like it was grown next to a nuclear power plant? These questions and more are keeping Stephanie awake at night. Not to mention the fact that she needs to find a bunch of nasty elves, her sister Valerie has a Christmas “surprise” for the Plums, her niece Mary Alice doesn’t believe in Santa anymore, and Grandma Mazur has a new stud muffin. So bring out the plastic reindeer, strap on your jingle bells, and get ready to celebrate the holidays-Jersey style. “Visions of Sugar Plums”-the world of Plum has never been merrier!

-Goodreads

My Thoughts

Visions of Sugar Plums is the second of the “in between” novels from the Stephanie Plum, series that I have read. And the second one that included a supernatural character by the name of Diesel, who stars in another one of Janet Evanovich series. Unfortunately I do not enjoy these crossovers due to their paranormal element. Even though Stephanie’s shenanigans are often wild, I just don’t think that it fits in with her world. In the future I will skip these crossover novels and stick with the regular series.

This is the first time I have listened to the Stephanie Plum in audio format. For the most part, I enjoyed Lorelai King’s narration with the exception of the voice she used for Lula. I was also curious as to why she didn’t give Stephanie a New Jersey accent, as that is where she was born and raised.

Unfortunately I wouldn’t recommend Visions of Sugar Plums and would suggest that readers stick with the regular series.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury

13547154

The Bridge 
By: Karen Kingsbury

Published: October, 2012
Published by: Howard Books
Format Read: Hardcover
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Christian Fiction, Inspirational Fiction

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis


Number one New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury delivers an instant classic with this heartwarming Christmas story about a hundred-year flood, lost love, and the beauty of enduring friendships. Molly Allen lives alone in Portland, but she left her heart back in Tennessee with a man she walked away from five years ago. They had a rare sort of love she hasn’t found since.

Ryan Kelly lives in Nashville after a broken engagement and several years on the road touring with a country music duo. He can still hear Molly’s voice encouraging him to follow his dreams; Molly, whose memory stays with him. At least he can visit The Bridge—the oldest bookstore in historic downtown Franklin—and remember the hours he and Molly once spent there.

For thirty years, Charlie and Donna Barton have run The Bridge, providing the people of middle Tennessee with coffee, conversation, and shelves of good books—even through dismal book sales and the rise of digital books. Then in May, the hundred-year flood swept through Franklin and destroyed nearly every book in the store.

Now the bank is pulling the lease on The Bridge. Despondent and without answers, Charlie considers the unthinkable. Then tragedy strikes, and suddenly, everything changes. In the face of desperate brokenness and lost opportunities, could the miracle of a second chance actually unfold?

The Bridge is a love story set against the struggle of the American bookstore, a love story you will never forget.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Karen Kingsbury’s The Bridge told a story that was as beautiful as its cover. 

Two long lost college friends are reunited when their favourite bookshop is in jeopardy of being shut down. Set during the holiday season, it tells a story of life long dreams, true love and friendship. 

I loved learning about Charlie and Donna’s life together and how they built up the store that meant so much to so many. Oh how I would love to have a special place like that. I couldn’t put down this book with its story that was both heartbreaking and heartwarming. 

I would highly recommend Karen Kingsbury’s The Bridge, to those who enjoy inspirational fiction. I look forward to rereading it again. 

Book Reviews

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

A Spool of Blue Thread
By Anne Tyler

Published: February 2015
Published By: Bond Street Books
Format Read: eBook, Kobo, 
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary, Fiction

Rating: 2.5/5
♥♥.5 

 

Synopsis

A freshly observed, joyful and wrenching, funny and true new novel from Anne Tyler

“It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon.” This is how Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she fell in love with Red that day in July 1959. The Whitshanks are one of those families that radiate togetherness: an indefinable, enviable kind of specialness. But they are also like all families, in that the stories they tell themselves reveal only part of the picture. Abby and Red and their four grown children have accumulated not only tender moments, laughter, and celebrations, but also jealousies, disappointments, and carefully guarded secrets. from Red’s father and mother, newly-arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to Abby and Red’s grandchildren carrying the family legacy boisterously into the twenty-first century, here are four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their anchor.

Brimming with all the insight, humour, and generosity of spirit that are the hallmarks of Anne Tyler’s work, A Spool of Blue Thread tells a poignant yet unsentimental story in praise of family in all its emotional complexity. It is a novel to cherish.

My Thoughts

Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread was one of my most anticipated books of 2015, so I began the novel with very high expectations. Unfortunately I wasn’t as intrigued by the plot as I was upon initially reading the synopsis.

I wasn’t able to connect to any of the characters and found their family dynamic more frustrating than not. The arrangement of how the story was told jumped from one time period to another randomly which was quite odd.

There was one quote from A Spool of Blue Thread that perfectly summed up my thoughts…
‘Maybe it was just further proof that the Whitshanks were not remarkable in any way whatsoever.’
Although I wouldn’t recommend this book, I would suggest readers try other titles by this author.
Book Reviews

Baby Proof by Emily Giffin

Baby Proof
By: Emily Giffin

 

Published: June 2006
Published By: St. Martin’s Press
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary

Rating: 3.5/5
♥♥♥.5

Synopsis

From the author of the smash hits Something Borrowed and Something Blue comes a novel that explores the question: is there ever a deal-breaker when it comes to true love?

First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes . . . a baby carriage? Isn’t that what all women want?

Not so for Claudia Parr. And just as she gives up on finding a man who feels the same way, she meets warm, wonderful Ben. Things seem too good to be true when they fall in love and agree to buck tradition with a satisfying, child-free marriage. Then the unexpected occurs: one of them has a change of heart. One of them wants children after all.

This is the witty, heartfelt story about what happens to the perfect couple when they suddenly want different things. It’s about feeling that your life is set and then realizing that nothing is as you thought it was—and that there is no possible compromise. It’s about deciding what is most important in life, and taking chances to get it. But most of all, it’s about the things we will do—and won’t do—for love.

My Thoughts

Emily Giffin’s Baby Proof follows Claudia a successful, intelligent woman who has decided that she doesn’t want to have any children. It explores the expectations of society and the pressure that is put on women over a certain age to reproduce. This book also delves into relationships (marriage specifically) and how they evolve over time.

Unfortunately it took quite a while for me to get into this book. While I respect Claudia’s opinion and understood her reasoning behind not wanting children, I found her very hard to relate to. In fact her cynicism and lack of compassion made for an unlikable character.

Although Baby Proof wasn’t the most enjoyable book for me personally, Claudia’s reflections on society and its expectations were thought provoking. I think it would make for a good book club selection, as it would lead to some interesting discussions.
Book Reviews

Confessions of a Shopaholic (Shopaholic, #1) by Sophie Kinsella

Confessions of a Shopaholic
(Shopaholic, #1)
By: Sophie Kinsella

Published: November, 2003
Published by: Dell Publishing Company
Format Read: Paperback
Genre: Contemporary

Rating: 2.5/5
♥♥.5

Synopsis

Becky Bloomwood has a fabulous flat in London’s trendiest neighborhood, a troupe of glamorous socialite friends, and a closet brimming with the season’s must-haves. The only trouble is, she can’t actually afford it—not any of it. Her job writing at Successful Saving magazine not only bores her to tears, it doesn’t pay much at all. And lately Becky’s been chased by dismal letters from the bank—letters with large red sums she can’t bear to read. She tries cutting back. But none of her efforts succeeds. Her only consolation is to buy herself something . . . just a little something.

Finally a story arises that Becky actually cares about, and her front-page article catalyzes a chain of events that will transform her life—and the lives of those around her—forever.

My Thoughts

I first read Confessions of a Shopaholic in high school. I don’t remember a lot about this book (aside from the basic plot), however I do remember that it wasn’t one of my favourite books. I decided to give it a second try, as I have added the series to a challenge I am trying to complete. I also hoped that perhaps I would enjoy it more than I did the first time around.

It didn’t take me long, once I started reading to understand why I didn’t love this book the first time I read it. Simply put, Becky Bloomwood is probably one of the most frustrating characters I’ve ever come across. She was really quite selfish and superficial. However this seems to be a theme in previous Sophie Kinsella books I’ve read. Another similarity I’ve noticed is that many of her characters have a very overactive imagination. Becky’s personality is meant to be humorous, but I often found it irritating, which was reminiscent of how I felt reading Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada.

Confessions of a Shopaholic isn’t one of my favourite books by this author, but it did have its entertaining moments and it was quick to read. I hope that I enjoy the second installment in this series more than I did the first.

 

 

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Nights of Rain and Stars by Maeve Binchy

Nights of Rain and Stars
By: Maeve Binchy

Published: 2005
Published By: Orion Books
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction

Rating: 5/5

 

Synopsis

In a Greek taverna, high over the small village of Aghia Anna, four people meet for the first time: Fiona, an Irish nurse, Thomas, a Californian academic; Elsa, a German television presenter; and David a shy English boy. Along with Andreas, the old man who runs the taverna, they become close to each other after witnessing a tragedy when a pleasure steamer catches fire in the harbour. NIGHTS OF RAIN AND STARS is the story of one summer when Fiona, Thomas, Elsa and David all have to face the particular life crisis which first made them leave their homes and end up in Greece. With the help of Vonni, a middle-aged Irish woman who lives in the village and is now a near-native, they each find a solution – although not necessarily the one they anticipated…

 

My Thoughts

In this novel a group of very different people find themselves at a Greek taverna as a tragedy unfolds in the bay below them. This catastrophe makes them contemplate their own lives and the decisions that led them to the village.

After hearing my Mom rave about Maeve Binchy’s Nights of Rain and Stars, I bumped it up on my reading list. I’m glad that I did because it allowed us to discuss it when it was fresh in her mind. I ended up enjoying this story much more than I anticipated.

The cast of characters was ripe with flaws and faults. In fact as individuals, they weren’t very likable at all, but together they formed friendships that brought out the best qualities in each other. Not only was the setting beautiful, but the solidarity the villagers showed during the time of tragedy was very touching.

Nights of Rain and Stars would make for a good beach read and I would recommend it to fans of Maeve Binchy.

 

Notable Quotes

“…Someone who had not shown the courage to change because he had not known what opportunities for change there were.”

“Now I will open a bottle of wine to celebrate that we were here tonight, with all our hopes and dreams still left to us as we sit in another night of stars.”

“Cry a lot, but laugh as well. It’s how we survive.”

“If hearts can be heavy in heaven her poor heart will be like a lump of lead.”

Book Reviews

Everything She Lost by Alessandra Harris

Everything She Lost
By: Alessandra Harris

Published: January, 2018
Published by: Kindle Edition
Format Read: eBook
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Suspense

Rating: 2.5/5 
♥♥.5

I was sent a copy of Everything She Lost by Alessandra Harris, from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

After suffering a mental breakdown that nearly destroyed her marriage, Nina Taylor works hard to maintain her tenuous hold on sanity and be a good mother to her two young daughters. Despite her best efforts, she questions the possibility of a full recovery.

Single mom Deja Johnson struggles to overcome her troubled past and raise her young son. But her friendship with Nina brings more complications. What Deja is hiding could not only destroy relationships, but endanger lives.

One traumatic night threatens to shatter Nina’s mind. With Deja’s help, she strives to maintain her mental balance. But as events spiral out of control, the women must find out if Nina is losing her sanity or if someone is plotting against her.

(Synospis from Goodreads)

My Thoughts

The synopsis for Everything She Lost caught my interest because of the mental health theme as well as my ability to relate to being a single mother. I had the opportunity to read and review Alessandra Harris’ debut novel Blaming the Wind and quite enjoyed it.

Back with another diverse contemporary fiction, Harris has thrown in a bit of suspense with her second release. Overall, I liked the concept of the story, which was ripe with deception. It definitely kept my attention throughout however, I had problems with the execution. There was so much going on with the plot that it didn’t quite piece together smoothly. The ending was quite rushed, leaving me with questions that could have easily been resolved.

Although this book fell short for me, I would still recommend Alessandra Harris as an author, especially her novel Blaming the Wind.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Summer at Sunset (Summer, #2) by Beth Labonte

Summer at Sunset
(Summer, #2)
By: Beth Labonte

Published: December, 2018
Published By: Kindle Edition
Format Read: Kindle, eBook
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Rating: 3.5/5
♥♥♥.5

Synopsis

For Summer Hartwell, holding her and Graham’s wedding a thousand miles from home seemed like a good idea. Even if it is at a retirement community. How else could she avoid planning the wedding with her neurotic, anxiety-ridden mother? But with one week left to go and Summer’s parents arriving on the scene, things begin to quickly unravel. Between the swingers parties, the Viagra jokes, and the copious amount of alcohol, Summer’s not so sure her parents will make it out of there alive. Then there’s the matter of Graham being Grade A top choice meat to every woman over sixty-five, a few of whom Summer suspects of trying to sabotage the wedding!

Can Summer and Graham hold things together long enough to make it down the aisle?
(Synopsis from Goodreads)

 

My Thoughts

Summer at Sunset is a fun contemporary fiction that picks up 2 years after the first book in the series, Summer at Sea. Our main character is now engaged to be married and wins an all expenses paid wedding at her in-laws retirement community.

It was nice to be reunited with the quirky cast of characters, including Summer’s neurotic parents. Ironically she learns that she may not be all the different from them. You know what they say “like mother, like daughter.” We are also introduced to several of the residents from the retirement community, who are young at heart, enjoying their golden years in the Florida sun. Only their daily routines mirror more of a college fraternity than that of a rest and relaxation.

While I found it to be an enjoyable read, I didn’t rate it as high as Summer at Sea. I didn’t like the characters quite as much as I did upon their initial introduction to me. Although I found it perfectly understandable that she would be stressed out, I found Summer to be a bit annoying at times and I wasn’t a fan of her fiance. An inflated ego isn’t a trait that I find attractive at all. The conclusion of this story was more over the top, than I expected.

However I enjoy the way Beth Labonte weaves pop culture into her stories and the personalities of her characters. There were several laugh out loud moments and I especially enjoyed the visits to Disney World.

I look forward to the next installment in this series and I would recommend it to fans of contemporary chick-lit.