Monday, 21 July 2014

Book Review: The Tea Chest by Josephine Moon

Kate Fullerton, talented tea designer and no co-owner of The Tea Chest, could never have imagined that she'd be flying from Brisbane to London, risking her young family's future, to save the business she loves from the woman who wants to shut it down.
Meanwhile, Leila Morton has just lost her job, and if Elizabeth Clancy had known today was the day she would appear on the nightly news, she might at least have put on some clothes. Both need to start again.
When the three women's paths unexpectedly cross, they throw themselves into realising Kate's magical vision for London's branch of The Tea Chest. But every time success is within their grasp, increasing tensions damage their trust in each other.
With the very real possibility that The Tea Chest will fail, Kate, Leila and Elizabeth must decide what's important to each of them. Are they willing to walk away or can they learn to believe in themselves?

Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Pages: 354

The Tea Chest by Josephine Moon is a charming read. Kate Fullerton is the lead character who finds herself unexpectedly owning half of a business. It is a business that she is passionate about but Kate has been working at The Tea Chest as the head designer and she knows nothing about running a business but in her heart she knows she wants to make it work. Kate has to leave her home and family in Australia and fly to London to set up a whole new store. She ends up employing three other women, Leila, Elizabeth and her sister Victoria. She has
to trust these women to help her fulfil her vision and keep the company going.
I found The Tea Chest a little difficult to get into at the beginning as I felt that it took a while for the main characters to come together but once they did I was completely captivated by the story. All four women are extremely likeable characters and they each bring their own individual story lines which add up to a very interesting read.
Josephine Moon must have spent a lot of time researching tea; tea is one of my favourite things so I really enjoyed that aspect of the book, reading about the many different blends and ways to prepare it. I felt that this information made the story much more realistic and believable, I totally believed in The Tea Chest as a business and wanted it to succeed.
The Tea Chest is a heart warming read, I'm looking forward to reading more by this author.

Many thanks to the lovely Sam at Allen and Unwin for sending me a copy of this book to review. 

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Book Review: The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh

He is wearing a pair of plain blue swimming shorts, otherwise he is naked before her. He is muscular, but graceful with it, balletic. He is shockingly pretty...
Each summer, Jenn and her husband Greg return to Deia, on Mallorca's dramatic west coast. This year, the arrival of Emma, Jenn's step-daughter and her new boyfriend Nathan threatens to upset their equilibrium. Beautiful and reckless, Nathan stirs something unexpected in Jenn. As she is increasingly seduced by Nathan's youth and the promise of passion, the line between desire and obsession begins to blur.
This book is tense with a capital 'T', Helen Walsh begins building the tension from the very beginning and simply does not let up. The front cover of this book is stunning but don't be fooled by the blurb; it could come across as a bit of a beach romp but it is far more complex than your average holiday bonk buster.
Jenn and Greg holiday each year on the beautiful west coast of Mallorca, this year is going to be different as Jenn's fifteen year old step-daughter is bringing along her new boyfriend, 17 year old Nathan. Emma and Nathan's arrival awakens several different feelings in Jenn; a resentment of Greg; a sadness over what life could have been, tensions and deep-rooted issues with her step-daughter and more importantly, a deep desire for Nathan which she is unable to ignore.
The tension between Jenn and Nathan is immediately palpable. Helen Walsh is so good at building up the little details, a glance here, a touch on the arm there; it all builds up to several very passionate encounters. The author is quite explicit in her descriptions of Jenn and Nathan, she shows the carnal need of both of them but then we learn of Jenn's feelings about it; how she feels about being the older woman; how she views her body and these new feelings that have possessed her.
The Lemon Grove can be quite an uncomfortable read at times but I don't think Helen Walsh had any intention of putting her readers at ease. I can't say that I particularly liked any of the characters; they all seemed incredibly selfish in their own ways.
This is the first book that I have read by Helen Walsh, I found it riveting and would highly recommend The Lemon Grove.

Publisher: Tinder Press
Pages: 275

Many thanks to Georgina for sending me a review copy of this book, it is out now. 

Monday, 14 July 2014

BLOG TOUR: That Vital Opening Line by Faber Acadamey Tutor: Shelley Weiner

The Faber Academy Creative Writing Summer Blog Tour is kicking off today here on Dot Scribbles. The Faber Academy provide courses for all types of writing, they have been supporting writers since 1929, take a look at their website for some fabulous courses and advice.

I am the first stop on the blog tour but I have included the blog schedule below so that you can follow it throughout the week. Today, Shelley Weiner, a Faber Academy Tutor who has a wealth of experience, discusses her thoughts on That Vital Opening Line:

How far can an enticing opening line go towards selling your novel? In the innocent days when writers were advised to kill their darlings and to show rather than tell, the first sentence or two were seen to be vital. Now we know differently. We try and understand our darlings and are acutely aware that both filicide and streaking can land us in jail. As for that vital, lucrative opening sentence – in our current state of financial uncertainty, it takes a far more than a cute phrase to loosen the purse strings of a punter, publisher or not.
‘But wait!’ you say. ‘Where would Tolstoy have been without that immortal opening to Anna Karenina – you know, that stuff about happy families etc...? Or Moby Dick without that resonant “Call me Ishmael”?’
I wonder. Had I, in a position of fiscal power, come upon the words, ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged ...’ I might have yawned and thought, maybe not. Orwell’s ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen,’ on the other hand – that, without a doubt, is striking. It’s chicken and egg, though. What came first, the initial hook or the rich fictional terrain in its wake?
In my experience, it’s the latter. Only once the novel itself has achieved substance, its shape settled and its tone confirmed, does an apt opening line tend to occur.
Nestling between that snappy first line, though, and the long-haul fictional journey that demands suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader, is the opening scene. And here it is vital that the stage (and parameters) are set for what follows. This scene serves as a kind of contract with the reader, setting the tone for what follows and promising that particular characters, in a particular place, at a particular time are important. Hence the vital questions I encourage new writers to ask of their novel opening:
-                Why here? Is the setting for this first scene significant in the story?
-                Why now? Is this the best point of entry to the story? What is special about this particular time – is it a high point? A low point? A crisis?
-                Why these characters? Readers assume that a character on page one will feature largely in the chapters to follow and might feel a little cheated to discover that the pretty young girl who arrives with the tea trolley, say, is neither victim nor perpetrator but a casual employee who pops into the novel, never to be heard of again. 
All the above, however, doesn’t preclude the importance of that essential hook for a reader, who has to be somehow intrigued. It’s one of those ineffable qualities, like charm or charisma. An irresistible invitation to share a secret? Something strange ... ?
And so, while the first line may not be quite enough to sell a novel, the initial few paragraphs certainly can. Unless, like Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, you’re immortalised primarily for a seven-word opening to a novel few have read. Paul Clifford (1830) begins with the words that ‘Peanuts’ beagle, Snoopy, plagiarised for years. Even Snoopy, however, couldn’t get past the first phrase, for the tortuous sentence in its entirety reads: ‘It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.’

Shelley Weiner is an acclaimed novelist, short-story writer, journalist and creative writing tutor at Faber Academy. Her summer course ‘The 5 Day Short Story’ begins on 4 August. To view the summer programme visit @FaberAcademy

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Book Review: You're the One That I Want by Giovanna Fletcher

Maddy, Ben and Robert have been inseparable since they met in the school playground. They've stuck together through thick and thin, feeling safe in the knowledge that they have each other.
So when Ben falls hopelessly in love with Maddy, he decides to keep it quiet for the sake of their friendship. Until Robert swoops in and kisses Maddy- irrevocably fracturing things between them as the kiss turns to love.
But when Robert and Maddy's love turns sour, can Ben continue to say nothing? And can Maddy choose between her two best friends?
You're the One That I Want is Giovanna Fletcher's second book and I thought it was even better than her first, Billy and Me which I really enjoyed.
Maddy, Ben and Robert have been the best of friends since primary school. As they get older and hormones are raging, Maddy and Robert become a couple and Ben's love for Maddy becomes a deep secret which he shares only with his Mum. When Robert and Maddy have relationship trouble, Ben has to decide whether to tell Maddy how he really feels, risking his friendship with both of them.
Each chapter is told from either Maddy or Ben's perspective. This diary-like style really suited the story as the reader gets to know both characters intimately and we are privy to their private thoughts and feelings.
I felt that Giovanna Flethcher captured each stage of their relationship so well. I loved the parts from their childhoods but then it became more complex and emotional as they grew up and friendship turned into other feelings for all of them.
This book reminded me a little of One Day by David Nicholls but I actually thought it was more interesting by adding the love triangle element. I was completely torn  by who I wanted Maddy to be with, both Robert and Ben truly love her and I could completely understand her conflicting feelings for both.
Giovanna Fletcher is particularly good at drawing you into her story and making you care about the characters she has created. You're the One That I Want is a very entertaining book, the characters are very likeable and there are enough twists and turns to keep you reading; I would highly recommend.

Many thanks to Katie at Penguin for sending me a review copy.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Book Review: A Place to Call Home by Carole Matthews

All it takes is one life-changing decision...
Ayesha leaves behind a life of pain and heartache and boards a coach to London with her sights set on a new life for herself and her little girl, Sabina.
Hayden, a former pop star, has kept himself hidden away for years. In all that time, he's opened up his home to just two people- Crystal, a professional dancer with a heart of gold and Joy, an ill tempered pensioner with a soft spot for waifs and strays. But he reluctantly agrees to take in Ayesha and Sabina.
As different as they may be, all these damaged people quickly form a loving bond. So when enemies from their past threaten their peaceful life, they will do whatever it takes to save their home, and each other.

Publisher: Sphere
Pages: 464

Carole Matthews latest book is simply excellent. I finished it within two days as I was immediately engrossed in the story and didn't want to put it down.
Ayesha was a particularly interesting character. She is fleeing from domestic abuse with her young daughter Sabina. I really admired Ayesha's inner strength, all she wants to do is protect her daughter and give her a better life; it is very important to her that Sabina has a mother she can look up to.
Carole Matthews is so good at creating characters that you care about and this book is no exception. . Crystal was my favourite character in this book; she very much takes Ayesha under her wing but she also brings a lot of humour to the story.
The relationship between Ayesha and Hayden brings a lovely, romantic element to the book. Hayden, like Ayesha has had his heart broken and in some ways is also running away. Finding each other gives them  both a new lease of life but there are a few obstacles in the way of their happily ever after.
A Place to Call Home is such a good book, it is witty and entertaining but with a very serious edge. Carole Matthews really does know how to tell a good story and I would highly recommend this book.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Back from a little blogging break!

Hello you lovely lot! I have had 6 months off from Blogging, it was supposed to be permanent but I have come to the realisation that I can't stay away! So this is just a little post to let you know that I will be posting regular reviews from early to mid July. I am reading some really great books at the moment and I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts on them with you.
I am going to be a little stricter about what I review as it was getting a little out of hand before, our back bedroom had literally turned into a library which I didn't mind but Dr S was far from impressed. I think I had lost sight a little of why I began the blog which was to review books that I wanted to read so I am going to remain true to that, I will only be reviewing those that I want to read rather than  those that I feel I have to.

 I am off on holiday in the next two weeks and I am already struggling over what to take with me but as soon as I am back then the blog will be up and running again. Thank you so much to everyone who has encouraged me to start again and a big thank you to the publishers who have lured me back with pictures of gorgeous front cover and catalogues of future releases!

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Book Review: The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay

In Thirroul in 1948, people chose their dreams through the books in the railway's library. Annika Lachlan searches for solace after her life is destroyed by a single random act. Roy McKinnon, who found poetry in the mess of war, has lost his words and his hope. Frank Draper is trapped by the guilt of those his treatment and care failed on their first day of freedom. All three struggle with the same question: how now to be alive?
The Railwayman's Wife is superbly written. I felt as though Ashley Hay's writing was very visual, she describes things in great detail, down to the way light falls on an object. It is quite cinematic as it is so easy to conjure up images of the world created on the page.
The book is very much about love and loss. Annika Lachlan endures an awful tragedy at the beginning of the book and she knows her life will never be the same again. Entering into her new life, she encounters Roy McKinnon and Dr Frank Draper, both returned from war, they are almost mourning their old lives as due to what they have seen and experienced, life will never be the same for them either.
Ashley Hay writes in the present tense which I don't usually enjoy but in this instance it just added to the vivid feel of this book. You feel as though you are right there, experiencing the story with the characters.
The Railwayman's Wife is a thought provoking and interesting read. This is Ashley Hay's sixth book and I found her writing style to be particularly accomplished, I would highly recommend this author.

Dot Scribbles Rating: 4.5/5
Pages: 320 
Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Thank you very much to the lovely Sam at Allen and Unwin for sending me a copy of this book, The Railwayman's Wife is out on January 2nd!

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