The Chocolate Lover’s Club – Carole Matthews

The Chocolate Lovers’ Club is the first in a series of books about four women, Lucy, Nadia, Autumn and Chantal.

The one discerning factor that has drawn these four very different women together is – chocolate!

What better way to while away a Saturday afternoon getting to know these characters and of course consuming chocolate. Actually and vicariously through this book.  It made me feel better knowing there was women out there just like me – in terms of chocolate consumption, not the situations these women got into.

Lucy, has a dead-end job, but for some reason the boss keeps flirting with her which keeps distracting her when her boyfriend is being rather non-committal.

Chantal is craving more than chocolate and it seems she will have to look elsewhere to satisfy herself.

Autumn has allowed her brother back into her life but at what cost.

And Nadia, is facing being alone again after marrying against her families wishes she now discovers her husband is harbouring a secret of his own, that could destroy them.

Bring these four women into some, comic situations and you laugh with them. Bring them into some soul searching and touching situations and you cry with them too. What more could you want from a book? Great escapist read.

I now need to seek out The Chocolate Lover’s Diet and feed my addiction more – though it will not do my weight loss much good!


The Madwoman Upstairs – Catherine Lowell

Samantha Wipple is related to the Brontes in fact she is the last surviving descendant, after her father tragically dies in a fire.

But from what her father has told her, is Samantha any nearer to understanding her family legacy and the mystery and interest that surrounds her. According to everyone but Samantha apparently she is keeping something secret about the Brontes which could in fact change the way the whole world views these greatest pieces of literature.

She knows there is something, but she does not know what.

After being fed some works of literature as a child, Samantha chooses to study at Oxford University and study English Literature. However it seems that there other forces at work.

Her accommodation is in a windowless tower high up and away from everyone else. She has to share it with a painting called The Governess, which brings with it its own ghosts. Sharing all of this with the regular tour groups which pass by this infamous room.

Add to this is the arrival of Bronte’s works in the form of her father’s books. Which appear at intervals are supposed to point Samantha in the direction of the legacy that was left behind. It adds to confuse and frighten Samantha as she reaches the truth that she had been staring at.

This book is for those who are fans of gothic literature, the author has taken all the elements of the three novels, Jane Eyre, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Wuthering Heights and included them in this novel in a way where Samantha and us as readers are stripping back the stories and the women who wrote them and reconfiguring our view of them.

At times I found this book too scholarly, I was not enjoying it because it felt like the studying that Samantha was having to do. However I carried on reading, because I was caught up in the mystery and I wanted to see it to its conclusion.

I felt nothing for Samantha, she seemed to handle everything badly and never learnt from her actions. She was frustrating for me as a character and did not seem to develop, her wit was her downfall although her responses to some questions did raise a smile or two from me. I wonder whether the author has taken parts of all of the female protagonists in Bronte’s novels and amalgamated them into Samantha, I am not sure she got a fully formed character.

I confess to having only read Jane Eyre, and from that book alone, I could see much plot and method reformed for this book. There are elements of the wildness of the moors from Wuthering Heights, but my knowledge of the writing of that book is very sketchy and I have never read Tenant of Wildfell Hall and clearly according to this book, I should not even bother with Agnes Grey.

A book if you want to deconstruct literature and the way that can affect your reading, encased in a mystery of well-known authors and their legacy. Not a book I felt I could escape into, for some reason it screamed too much American, but it was interesting and I will certainly go back and probably reread Jane Eyre.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for allowing me the opportunity to read this book. 

The Madwoman Upstairs is out now in hardback and ebook. 




The Matchmaker of Perigord – Julia Stuart

Not all of the books I have reviewed are on this blog. I first of all started just by simply posting them to Amazon once I had read them. Oddly enough as time has passed I have got rather behind on posting reviews on Amazon and concentrate on here.

Sometimes to fill the blog with content and because I don’t want to lose the small band of readers that I do have, I dig out some earlier reviews and they now can grace this blog.

Many memories are triggered by reading and it brings back memories of other books read and it was just so when I was reading The Awakening of Miss Prim, my previous review post. It reminded me of

The quirkiness, the village life, the characters all came flooding back to me while I was reading Miss Prim.  Having read it some 7 years ago it has still stayed with me and I have found the review and tidied it up for this blog……

For a first novel, Julia Stuart exceeds all expectations. Think Joanne Harris (who found the book ‘hilarious’) mixed with so much humour and repetitive humour that it does not become boring and predictive when you know what is coming but laugh out loud with expectation and anticipation.

The setting of Amour-Sur-Belle is the village which all the characters centre in. No English live there because of its perpetual breeze and the tornado predicted by the “winking ginger Limousin cows” that walk backwards.

The characters are rich, Guillaume Ladoucette the former barber who turned to matchmaking (of the amorous kind) when he found his customers either going bald or going for more progressive modern haircuts. The only trouble with this matchmaker is he hasn’t met his love after letting Emilie Fraisse go all them years ago,

The baker, his friend, Stéphane Jollis who he shares a love of fishing as well as competitive picnic basket filling with mere ‘snacks’ seeks help at the match making. The local dentist, Yves Lévèque, the grocer Denise Vigier, midwife Lisette Robert a beauty from an early age but does not recognise it in herself and other locals seek Guillaume Ladoucette’s help with their love lives, for the readers this becomes the story where different meetings are arranged with so any different possible outcomes, especially as each of their characters has their `faults’.

This book is fast pacing (pay attention otherwise you find yourself lost as I did occasionally) and funny from not just the characters but the way it is told. The insistence on using full names for them and full descriptions for the area; the rue du Chateau times four, the cassoulet permanently ready, the lunar gardening tips, the heat and relief of taking your toes from the “supermarket leather sandals” and cooling them on the “red tiles” under the “desk with the ink stain” are repeated with such care and love of the whole story that somehow Julia Stuart gets it to work whereas probably in some stories it would become monotonous and boring.

A book worthy of a second read to enjoy it all again. Recommended if you what a sojourn into another world where life seems simple to the reader but complicated to the characters.



The Awakening of Miss Prim – Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera

If you like books about literature, reading and philosophy in an idyllic village then this is the book for you.

Miss Prim of the title is very much that. She applies for a job which is advertised as thus

“Wanted: a feminine spirit quite undaunted by the world to work as a librarian for a gentleman and his books. Able to live with dogs and children. Preferably without work experience. Graduates and postgraduates need not apply.”

Trouble she is without any feminine spirit has had work experience and is certainly vastly over qualified for her role.

Yet the Man in the Wing Chair as he is only known throughout the book appoints her.

Miss Prim is submerged into another world. Where education of children is rather different, where the greatest classics are the tools to teach the children and the well-loved pieces of perhaps no merit, such as Little Women are cast aside.

As Miss Prim learns about the women of the village she starts to learn about herself and that perhaps her firm high opinions can be challenged and not everyone has to live up to her exacting standards. Once she listens to those around her, she starts to learn that perhaps to love yourself means that others can love you too.

This is a rather beautiful book, you are transported to a place that away from the pages does not exist but seems to be anti the modern world. A slower pace, a slower place one where everything is appreciated.

I am not sure what attracted me to this book, the cover, the blurb on the back but something drew me in. Having now finished it, I admit to struggling slightly as it did get a bit cumbersome in the pace of the story towards the end. However, it was a lovely book and I was surprised to realise that it was in fact a translation.

Having read very few books in translation I know sometimes, depending on the translation it can sometimes not come across correctly. That was not the case with this book. It worked.

Quiet and Quirky is how I would sum up the book and very much reminded me of The Matchmaker of Perigord by Julia Stuart.

Having not posted The Matchmaker of Perigord on this blog before, I will find the review and share it with you all. 

Books · Jottings · Witterings

The Mousetrap – Agatha Christie

Ironically this is a post about a book/play that I actually haven’t read yet.

I know all about the play, I know all about the longest running play in history and yes I even know “whodunit”.

I had seen that the touring production of The Mousetrap was coming to one of my recently refurbished small local theatre. I paid little attention for the simple reason that my mum and dad had seen the London version and I knew “whodunit”.

However when asked on Friday why we weren’t going to see it? I cited my reasons as I have above. “So” was the reply, “we have seen Singin’ In The Rain countless times and we know what happens in that”. Not quite the same but I understood the logic.

So I checked the website, there were seats left and before 7am on Saturday morning I had booked 3 tickets for the same evening. The wonders of the internet I must say!

And so Saturday night last, that is where I was in a pretty much packed theatre watching one of the longest running plays. This was not an “am dram” production, this is fully licensed tour from the West End original.

So what of the plot, the story, the murder…..

The scene is set when a group of people gathered in a country house cut off by the snow discover, to their horror, that there is a murderer in their midst. Who can it be? One by one the suspicious characters reveal their sordid pasts until at the last, nerve-shredding moment the identity and the motive are finally revealed.

I loved it from the moment it started to the moment it ended. Yes it is very much a period piece but the setting was ideal, the scenery spot on and the dialogue some say rather clunky, but I say it is of it’s time.

And of course I stand by my promise I made at the end of the performance after this statement:

Now you have seen The Mousetrap you are our partners in crime, and we ask you to preserve the tradition by keeping the secret of whodunit locked in your hearts.

Have you seen it? Do you know the play?

There has never been an English film – there is a condition to the making of it – it can only be made 6 months after the West End stage version has finished……. it may be a long wait. …….

Books · Cooking · Crafts · Jottings · Knitting · Witterings

Sunday Snippets and Stuff

It has been absolutely ages (July 2015)  since I posted about what I was doing as opposed to all the reading and reviewing that has been going on.

I have plenty I have wanted to share, but for one reason or another have not got round to sharing it. I want to say that will change, but I cannot promise. So I thought perhaps a little update would be good.

Watching – 2016 started off as a cracking year for drama on the telly box. I loved Silent Witness, Death in Paradise, War and Peace, Midsomer Murders, Vera. I was drawn right into Happy Valley and I am awaiting for The Night Manager to end, despite knowing what happens in the book. Grantchester is keeping me entertained and I do so enjoy this series of books if you have never got round to it. I am watching Dr Thorne and I have nothing to compare it to, as I have never read any Trollope but I am enjoying it all the same.

Reading  – slowly so it would seem to my Goodreads count. No doubt I will gain some momentum with bank holidays in the distance.

Knitting – Remember this


Well it has now turned into this (excuse poor quality photo)

IMG_0913 (1)
and even though in the photo, the ends are still hanging about I can assure you they have been sewn in and I am wearing it as I type.

It was my very first attempt at making something to wear. Most of my knitting, consists of scarves and toys, the odd pair of gloves and some socks.

Still Finishing – the socks, the cross stitch I had mentioned in November last year.  Though I did finish the Christmas Decoration I was making so 1 out of 3 is good – isn’t it?


Starting – After something big to knit, I needed something small to keep me occupied. You cannot get much smaller than a premature baby and so I am adding to the local maternity unit vast need for premature baby hats.

2 finished, 1 to make up and all 3 need buttons on.
2 finished, 1 to make up and all 3 need buttons on.

Eating – too much. The weight loss has gone, I now need to find the part of my brain that switches me off from comfort eating.

Solving  – The Mousetrap. I knew who the culprit was but it was the first time I had ever seen it on stage, more about that in another post. I promise, because I have written about it already!

Worrying – Trouble with having a pet, even if it is vicariously through your parents animal, is worrying when they are ill. Little Stanley has had Gastritis and was proper poorly, it is only in the last day or so he has perked up and his little personality is starting to shine once again.


So how are things with all of you?


Restless – William Boyd

There are many ways to win a war.

Spying it seems is one of them.

This is the story of Eva, recruited to the British Secret Service during the Second World War. She has never told anyone her story until some thirty years afterwards.

Eva thinks after all this time she is the one being spied on. Her training has stayed with her throughout her life. Will the secrets she kept during the war suddenly be told.

It is the hot summer of 1976, the heat is unbearable it is making everyone restless. For Ruth that restlessness is coming from her mother, Sal she seems to be acting oddly. When Sal hands Ruth a package, she tells her to read it. It is her story, it is her truth.

This book moves between, 1976 told from Ruth’s point of view and the outset of the Second World War in third person as we read Eva’s story. This works up to a point for me, but I did felt Ruth’s sections were a lot more jarring than those of Eva’s.

It was Eva’s story that fascinated me the most, the recruitment, the training and the truths and lies that form a spies life. This is not James Bond. This was sections within sections, not knowing who was doing what “..a small subdivision of an annexe to a subsidiary element linked to the main body”. It was all very confusing which added to the complexity of Eva’s  life.

I have to confess, I saw the television adaptation of this around two years ago and bought the book on that basis. Generally I rarely go and read the book after having watched the programme. My recollection of what happened was a bit hazy and actually I enjoyed the book. Parts of the programme came back to me, but not all and I would certainly like to watch it again, because then I think I would fully appreciate the story as all.

I did get a bit confused and lost within both narratives, there is a lot going on and this is a book you need to concentrate with. Enjoying Eva’s story made me less appreciative of Ruth’s and I think there was much to be learned from Ruth’s story.

Nonetheless an intriguing read.





Mr Mac and Me – Esther Freud

Young Thomas lives by the coast in a village in Suffolk. It is 1914 and life for this little boy, evolves around his two older sisters, he being the only surviving boy, his mother and his drunkard father in one of the two local public houses in the village – The Blue Anchor.

Everything in Thomas life is dictated by the weather and the seasons. He earns a few pennies by helping a local village rope maker, which he religiously saves under his bed in the hope that one day he can escape this place.  He waits for the girls that come every season to gut the fish that are caught. He doodles in the margins of his schoolwork much to the wrath of his teacher. He knows when to hide from his father after the drink takes over his personality and it is taken out on his mother.

The rest of the time Thomas spends his life dreaming about life away, life on the sea.

When an odd stranger suddenly arrives in the village and starts to spend lots of time int he countryside and staring out across the vast sea, Thomas interest is piqued.

What begins is a friendship between this man, known as Mr Mac and subsequently his wife. Mr Mac is looking at the countryside very differently to Thomas. He can see its beauty within and how that can be portrayed differently and for others to see far away from the beauty that surrounds the areas that Thomas lives. Mr Mac is in fact Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

When war begins, Thomas takes it upon himself to watch his particular part of the Suffolk coast with care, he visits daily to make sure that there is nothing to report. He is fascinated by those who now have a chance to go to sea and he watches his new friend, Mr Mac.

For Mr Mac seems to becoming even more stranger, especially when he is seen spending a lot of time looking out to sea at odd times of the day. With a country now at war, everyone that acts strangely could be the enemy.

This book is not a fast pace read. It is one to take your time with, to follow the paths across the Suffolk countryside, through the village, along the coast. To experience the weather and to watch as a community comes together in the face of war in an unknown land. A moving read.

This is the first Esther Freud that I have read after having seen her talk at a Guildford Book Festival Readers Day a couple of years ago I was captivated by this book. I know little about Charles Rennie Mackintosh but I have always thought his designs were striking and have always drawn my eye. In some ways this book drew more into the person as opposed to the design. And now I am more interested in Mackintosh. 

Have you read any Esther Freud – where should I go next?



Jubilee – Shelley Harris

A photo is taken at a street party in 1977, for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. The photo tells you a lot about life then. The patriotism of the United Kingdom as flags flutter, the tables with food, including the Coronation Chicken which came to be 25 years earlier. In the midst of this photo is a small Asian boy. Does the photo show how much has changed culturally in that time? Or does the photo not tell a story at all? Does any photo tell you the real story.

30 years later, a reunion photograph is about to happen but for those involved including the small Asian boy, life has turned out very differently and perhaps the past is best left where it was.

That small Asian boy has grown up into a well-known and well-respected Cardiologist, but he is holding a current secret that he cannot possibly let anyone know about. There is also the secret of what happened just before that photograph was taken 30 years previously.

As readers we are not aware of the secret that was behind the photograph, Shelley Harris, builds the story between the present and the past as everything unravels. I kept reading at this point because I was unaware of what possibly could have happened and when I did get to the denouement for want of a better description I was left somewhat adrift. I had been built up to expect one thing and got something entirely different.

Was I disappointed? Initially yes, but upon reflection no. Whilst the photo might have been trying to tell one story, the truth behind it was very different and probably not as surprising. And that made me sad.

The photo told only one story, a moment caught, the build up and the aftermath is the real story. Now as you look at photos representing our nation now. What do we see?

A reserved and restrained novel, rather like its main theme. A thoughtful read.



Wickham Hall – Cathy Bramley

Whilst this book was published in a four-part serial, I patiently waited until it was published as a whole because I wanted to be able to read and read without any impatience!

I am so glad I did, I absolutely adored it. But why I wonder? Clearly it is the writing, but also because there was something about the plot which I could lose myself in. It was like reading about my own dreams in some ways.

I have always wanted to work in a ‘big house’ in some capacity and I make no bones about the fact that and I now I get the chance to do so vicariously through Holly Swift, the book’s main protagonist.

Holly becomes the new events co-ordinator at Wickham Hall. A place that has always been in her life as she visited frequently their when she was growing up with her mother. She remembers all the lovely events, festivals, fireworks and Father Christmas, now she has a chance to experience it all and enjoy it from the other side. Holly simply cannot wait and she has some lovely ideas to help make lots of memories for other people.

Trouble is working in someone’s home is fraught with problems, not least when the son of the current Lord Fortescue comes in a disrupts the smooth running of the events that Holly has organised. Trying to juggle that, with the disorganisation of her own mother’s life as well as the problems her friends have Holly is nothing if not busy. There are so many loveable and likeable characters within the novel that there are too many to mention. All the different relationships were given enough space within the pages of the book for you to connect with the characters and understand their story as much as the book is obviously dominated by Holly and her following her dream.

What I will say and I know that perhaps it is a long shot, but I would love to return to Wickham Hall and catch up with them all.

I have to say, that Cathy Bramley writes some real cracking good reads and they are sheer pure escapism.

You can enjoy Cathy’s novels Ivy Lane and Appleby Farm as well. I have read them all as a whole, and will wait very patiently for her new novel The Plumberry School of Comfort Food to be released in its entirety at the end of June. If you cannot wait that long then the first part is out on 3 March. In the meantime I have yet to catch up with the only other novel of Cathy Bramley’s I have not read and that is Conditional Love.