parTea #6 Perrywoods

As my blog is supposed to be all about books AND cake, it seems only right to direct you all to this fab new blog aimed entirely at afternoon teas – with any luck Rach will point me in the right direction for a an afternoon tea setting where I can read my latest book AND enjoy some amazing cakes! Enjoy!

Rachy goes vegan

img_1025 28th January 2017

Next stop is Perrywoods Garden Centre in Tiptree, if you have never visited this garden centre it’s one to go to – it has a very large selection of both indoor and outdoor plants and lovely homeware throughout the shop (I can recommend the flavoured Tiptree Jam Factory gin which can be purchased here ;o) ). Now, before we have even arrived I am already concerned about the setting, I love a traditional tea room and this is a garden centre – I was sure the atmosphere was just not going to be the same, however the end of the coffee shop was reserved for afternoon teas, we were sat right next to the window and assigned a waitress who was in charge of all afternoon teas for the day. We were offered tea or coffee and then had the choice of numerous jams, this is a…

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Book Review: The Two of Us by Andy Jones

My Goodreads Reading Challenge continues with book number 25 (and book number 6 of the summer holiday) – The Two of Us by Andy Jones.

‘Falling in love is the easy part. What matters most is what happens next…

Fisher and Ivy have been an item for a whole nineteen days. And they just know they are meant to be together. The fact that they know little else about each other is a minor detail. Over the course of twelve months, in which their lives will change forever, Fisher and Ivy discover that falling in love is one thing, but staying there is an entirely different story.’ (Courtesy of Amazon)

Fisher and Ivy have been together for nineteen days.  Long enough to know that they love each, but not long enough to know a great deal about each other.

I don’t actually want to talk too much about this book – I did not know what was going to happen and I don’t want to spoil it for you, as I genuinely did not expect the track that the plot eventually took.  But I will say that love, uncertainty, joy and loss are all covered in a genuine, sincere, funny and sometimes heart wrenching way.  I sometimes found Fisher a little too annoying, and Ivy a little too aloof but not not enough to detract from the story.  The supporting characters were great, with El and Phil’s story being particularly heart wrenching but dealt with in a sensitive and sometimes funny well.

I  most definitely recommend this book.  It’s not fast paced and it deals with some serious issues so don’t expect a light and breezy read, but do read it.  It’s refreshing to read about the emotional issues raised from a male perspective, something I have found to be rare.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5


Book Review: The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

Book number 22 of my Goodreads Reading Challenge (and book number 3 of my holiday reading) is The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf.

‘  “Two little girls are missing. Both are seven years old and have been missing for at least sixteen hours.”

Calli Clark is a dreamer. A sweet, gentle girl, Callie suffers from selective mutism, brought on by a tragedy she experienced as a toddler. Her mother Antonia tries her best
to help, but is trapped in a marriage to a violent husband.

Petra Gregory is Calli’s best friend, her soul mate and her voice. But neither Petra nor Calli have been heard from since their disappearance was discovered.

Now Calli and Petra’s families are bound by the question of what has happened to their children. As support turns to suspicion, it seems the answers lie trapped in the silence of unspoken secrets.’ (Thanks to Amazon for the blurb)

This is a story about two seven year old best friends, Calli and Petra, who disappear from their beds one fateful night.

Firstly, this is not a light read.  This novel is about the traumatic experiences of two families when they realise that their beautiful daughters are missing.  You experience the horror of this discovery, their fears, anger and helplessness along with them.  Each chapter is written from the viewpoint of an involved character, which helps give a greater understanding of them as individuals, and the actions that they take throughout the course of the story.

You learn throughout the course of the novel of the close relationship Calli and Petra have, with Petra speaking on Calli’s behalf due to her selective muteness.  They know what each other thinks and feels, looking after each other as only best friends can.

As a mother this is a difficult read, with the concept being every parents worst nightmare. Heather Gudenkauf, writes with true feeling about the anxiety and fears of those closest to such a situation.

I definitely recommend this novel, please read!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Book Review: Fade Out by Patrick Tilley

Book number 20 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge (and book number 1 of operation summer holiday) was Fade Out by Patrick Tilley.

So I started my holiday with an old school sci-fi novel.  I wish I could tell you where I heard about this book – I know that I read about it on a blog somewhere, but it’s one of those books that I downloaded and then promptly forgot about.

‘Aliens have landed on this earth, and it is time for the human race to prepare itself. When an unidentified object of extra-terrestrial origins arrives on Earth, creating havoc and panic the world over, the question of whether we are alone in the universe is finally answered. But this realisation is only the beginning, for the object brings with it a whole host of questions that neither the world’s governments or military experts are equipped to answer. Is it a danger to humanity, or an innocent explorative device? Focusing on mankind’s reaction to this mysterious object, Tilley illustrates how ignorance can drive civilisation towards the brink of a devastating breakdown.

Fade-Out, a sci-fi novel first published in 1975, looks at the meltdown of society in the face of alien invasion.’ (thanks Amazon!)

The book loosely follows Bob Connors, Special Assistant to the President of the United States of America as he leads a top secret project looking at the reasons for a global ‘fade out’.  This fade out cripples global communications, leaving nations feeling vulnerable to nuclear war as the world loses the ability to track potential enemies.

As we follow Connors through this project, we learn more about him as a character, as his history influences his present.  In addition to character relationships, we also experience the relationship between science and the military.  Whilst this book was published over 40 years ago, these relationships are, I believe, still relevant today.  This is a science fiction novel, but there is very little in it that isn’t believable.  If the scenario in this novel were to happen, you believe that the same hopes and fears would be applicable, along with the same differences of opinion over the way forward.  The novel also highlights aspects of the Presidents role that I had never previously considered.  Firstly, that it can be quite superficial (with a dosage of manipulation thrown in for good measure).  Dinner with the Bodell’s is a great example of this.  In contrast to this, the novel also highlights just how powerful his position really is, as he makes decisions about what his people should and shouldn’t know about the top secret project, thereby controlling widespread panic, but also removing people’s choice when it comes to protecting themselves if necessary.

I am not your typical science fiction reader (although I do love a science fiction movie).  However I’m glad I put aside my reservations about reading a 40 year old science fiction novel.  It’s well worth a read, so give it a go.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Book Review: War Brides

The 14th novel I chose to read in the Goodreads Reading Challenge was Helen Bryan’s War Brides.

‘With war threatening to spread from Europe to England, the sleepy village of Crowmarsh Priors settles into a new sort of normal: Evacuees from London are billeted in local homes. Nightly air raids become grimly mundane. The tightening vice of rationing curtails every comfort. Men leave to fight and die. And five women forge an unlikely bond of friendship that will change their lives forever.

Alice Osbourne, the stolid daughter of the late vicar, is reeling from the news that Richard Fairfax broke their engagement to marry Evangeline Fontaine, an American girl from the Deep South. Evangeline’s arrival causes a stir in the village—but not the chaos that would ensue if they knew her motives for being there. Scrappy Elsie Pigeon is among the poor of London who see the evacuations as a chance to escape a life of destitution. Another new arrival is Tanni Zayman, a young Jewish girl who fled the horrors of Europe and now waits with her newborn son, certain that the rest of her family is safe and bound to show up any day. And then there’s Frances Falconleigh, a madcap, fearless debutante whose father is determined to keep her in the countryside and out of the papers.

As the war and its relentless hardships intensify around them, the same struggles that threaten to rip apart their lives also bring the five closer together. They draw strength from one another to defeat formidable enemies—hunger, falling bombs, the looming threat of a Nazi invasion, and a traitor in their midst—and find remarkable strength within themselves to help their friends. Theirs is a war-forged loyalty that will outlast the fiercest battle and endure years and distance.

When four of the women return to Crowmarsh Priors for a VE Day celebration fifty years later, television cameras focus on the heartwarming story of these old women as war brides of a bygone age, but miss the more newsworthy angle. The women’s mission is not to commemorate or remember—they’ve returned to settle a score and avenge one of their own.’ (synopsis taken from Amazon)

As I may already have mentioned I am a big fan of historical novels, particularly those set during World War II.  Women played a very important role during those turbulent years in the early 40’s and therefore, quite rightly, they often play a central role in novels set during this period.  This novels title, War Brides, clearly highlights that it is centred on a group of young women during this unsettled period as they support one another during times of love, loss and war.  The novel particularly follows five women; Alice, Evangeline, Elise, Tanni and Frances.  These five women all come from very different backgrounds, but find themselves thrown together in the small village of Crowmarsh Priors.  War brings these women together, as they find the men of the village slowly leave to join the war effort against an increasingly strong German force.  Left behind, these women find themselves fighting the battle on the Home Front as they, alongside women across the country, work hard to ensure their country is able to stay afloat, working the land, working in factories and protecting their homes.

I really enjoyed this novel, and can wholeheartedly recommend it.  My only criticism (if it can be called that) is the number of characters.  Whilst the book does centre on those five women, each has their own backstory and at times I found it difficult to keep track of who was related to who.  That could however be me trying to read the novel after particularly long days at work!  Do not let this put you off though, I found the back stories to be engaging and integral to the story as they showed you why each woman acted the way that she does.  This novel really does highlight the strength of women as they support one another whilst dealing with their own tragedies and losses, and it shows what a group of women can achieve under such traumatic circumstances.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Book Review: The Cherry Tree Cafe

The 13th book in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is The Cherry Tree Cafe by Heidi Swain.  Amazon synopsis states;

‘Lizzie Dixon’s life feels as though it’s fallen apart. Instead of the marriage proposal she was hoping for from her boyfriend, she is unceremoniously dumped, and her job is about to go the same way. So, there’s only one option: to go back home to the village she grew up in and to try to start again.

Her best friend Jemma is delighted Lizzie has come back home. She has just bought a little cafe and needs help in getting it ready for the grand opening. And Lizzie’s sewing skills are just what she needs.
With a new venture and a new home, things are looking much brighter for Lizzie. But can she get over her broken heart, and will an old flame reignite a love from long ago…?’

The Cherry Tree Cafe follows the story of Lizzie Dixon, a young woman who at what she believes to be her happiest moment, is unceremoniously dumped.  Whilst dealing with her heartbreak she finds herself returning home at her best friend Jemma’s request where she starts the journey back to her true self as she slowly discovers what she really wants from life.

Lizzie’s story is sadly all too typical…a young girl falls in love and finds herself changing to please the man that she adores.  It’s only when he is removed from her life that she is able to realise who she truly is, and that she never needed to change herself for the love of a good man.

This is a really light, enjoyable read – perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon in the sunshine (preferably surrounded by a sewing machine, plenty of fabric and some crafty ideas).  My only criticism would be that the romance was slightly lacking.  I enjoyed following Lizzie’s journey, and watching her make mistakes as well as great decisions however I would have enjoyed a little more romance along the way.

If you want a nice easy-read, then this is the book for you.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5