The Gingerbread House by Kate Beaufoy

Today I am taking part in the blog tour for The Gingerbread House by Kate Beaufoy.  I received a free copy of the book from the publisher to review but this is my honest opinion.

Nestled among cherry trees in a picturesque country garden, the Gingerbread House resembles an illustration from an old-world storybook. But beware! For in the fairy-tale, that s where the witch lives…

Away from the city, with no distractions, the Gingerbread House seems like the perfect place to start work on a novel. That’s what former advertising copywriter Tess thinks when she goes there to live with Eleanor, her aged mother-in-law. But Eleanor is suffering from dementia, and caring for her proves tougher than Tess could ever have imagined: feeling increasingly isolated, her only comfort is wine o’clock and weekend visits from her husband. Meanwhile her teenage daughter Katia is helpless to intercede; in the end she can only watch as things fall apart and a tragedy even closer to home surfaces.

The Gingerbread House is a deeply moving novel: a compassionate and occasionally wickedly funny tale of a family’s agonising struggle with dementia.

If I could start this review with a slightly personal note it would be that I’m currently struggling with depression. I have lots of books that I want to read but when it comes to actually reading them it’s been difficult to stick to them.  I had no such problems with The Gingerbread House. Reading the synopsis I knew this would be my sort of book.  As soon as I started reading it I knew it was going to be even better than I had expected and was hooked.  In fact I found it to be one of those books that I read cover to cover in one day – something that even before my current bout of depression had been getting rarer.

The use of Katia as narrator was a genius move -I really loved her character and perspective which was unexpected in places.  She kept me guessing a lot and I had to keep reading because I desperately wanted to know what was going to happen.  Even when I began to suspect that there was going to be a twist in the tale and think I knew what it would be I didn’t want to stop reading.

In places I could emphasise with Tess and in others she annoyed me, especially at the start of the book. I think some of that may have been deliberate on the author’s part and the rest was influenced by my own expectations of how caring works.

There was a great attention to detail in this book and some of the details of the Gingerbread House reminded me of my own grandparents bungalow when I was growing up. That added to my enjoyment as I’d actually forgotten about one or two of them before reading this.

I can’t say how much I enjoyed reading this book.

Reading Down My TBR Pile – Weeks Three and Four

I didn’t write an entry about what I’d been reading last week because I didn’t finish a single book the week before.  I have finished some books since then so I’m back updating this week.

I may also have bought three books and received a review book last week (and received another review book the week before) but we won’t talk about that!

The Secret Life of Lucy Lovecake by Pippa James

This was a fun book and I enjoyed it a lot.  I took part in the blog tour for it and my full review can be read here.

Our Tiny Useless Hearts by Toni Jordan

Before Christmas I requested another book to review and when it came I found a copy of Our Tiny Useless Hearts had been included in the parcel too.  It was a nice surprise especially because it was a book I hadn’t heard of and on the face of it, it appeared to be a book that I’d really enjoy.

Unfortunately it fell somewhat short for me and I felt like it wasn’t holding my attention well.  I did like several of the characters and would definitely like to read more about the MC, Janice.  And her two nieces were brilliant, kid characters can be hard to write but I thought these were done well.

There were a few funny moments that I liked but in other places it just felt ridiculous.  It’s not a bad book, it just wasn’t for me – I think I would have enjoyed it more if it hadn’t been so many characters with all their complex interactions going on at the same time. If I lived in that house I’d have to move out!

White Lies and Wishes by Cathy Bramley

I don’t have a favourite author as such but Cathy Bramley is definitely one of my favourites. I would highly recommend checking out her books if you haven’t read them yet as I’ve enjoyed them all.

Several of her books have come out in installments and having read two of those as whole books and two of those in installments I’d say definitely wait for the whole book to come out rather than installments. I think I enjoyed those a lot more but it’s really hard to resist the installments as they come out!  So for that reason I was glad that White Lies and Wishes was just released as one whole book. I read it in two long sittings over three days and it was just brilliant to lose myself in it.

White Lies and Wishes was fab. I loved seeing the characters grow and change through it. And I especially liked the unusual beginning and unexpected moments that were scattered throughout.

The Secret Life of Lucy Lovecake by Pippa James

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for The Secret Life of Lucy Lovecake by Pippa James.  I’d like to thank the publishers for my copy of the book.

Daisy Delaney’s life is pancake-flat. A talented baker and passionate lingerie specialist, she has wound up with no one to bake for and a career that hasn’t proved successful. But when she starts a delicious relationship with famous French author-chef, Michel Amiel, everything begins to look a bit more exciting.

That is until Michel’s bestselling cookbook is knocked off the top spot by newcomer ‘Lucy Lovecake’. His outdated recipes slide down the charts, while the popularity of Lucy Lovecake’s new dating cookbook is rising like the perfect sponge.

 

The Secret Life of Lucy Lovecake was a lot of fun to read.  I really enjoyed it and can’t remember the last time a book left me with such a good feeling when I finished it. Perfect for a very cold and miserable evening.  In fact I picked this up intending to read the first two chapters and then make something some dinner. I started reading and the next think I knew it was  7pm, I was 50+ pages in and really wishing there was someone who could make me dinner so I didn’t need to put it down.

I can’t decide who my favourite character is.  I should probably say Daisy and I did really like her.  But I must admit to having a soft spot for her group of friends because they were just brilliant and the sort of friends every girl wants. I would tell you who my least favourite character was but that would be a massive spoiler.  I will admit to changing my mind a few times!

One thing I didn’t expect when reading this was how much it inspired me.  I thought it might make me crave sweet treats and it did. But reading the sections where Daisy is writing and trying to get published really made me want to get my writing out and get going with it again.  Just as soon as I finished reading the book.

Pippa James is to be congratulated for producing such a brilliant book with The Secret Life of Lucy Lovecake. It made me laugh and left me with a good feeling, a smile on my face and lots of inspiration.

Check out the other posts on the blog tour to find out more

Reading Down My TBR Pile – week 2

A good reading week this week. I finished a book I started last week and I read another book cover to cover.  I also bought two books (I don’t know why I keep saying I won’t buy books in January, it never works).

The Olive Tree by Lucinda Riley

This was an audiobook I’ve had for a while (I don’t intend to listen to an audiobook a week, it’s just how things have worked out) and I enjoyed it.  Almost wished I’d got to it sooner.  It was easy but intriguing at the same time and kept me hooked. Will definitely be looking out for more by Lucinda Riley.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave.

This was one of the two books I bought this week. I’ve been wanting it since I saw the hardback in the summer – I saw the paperback in the supermarket on publication day and didn’t buy it which I immediately regretted so went back the next day to buy it.

It was absolutely amazing and a compelling read. Relatively complex but not confusing and I just really can’t do this book justice in a few sentences.  I’ve read other books by Chris Cleave and all of them have kept me hooked big style (I thought the Olive Tree kept me hooked and then I read this – I was so much more hooked with this if that makes sense?) I can’t recommend this highly enough.

Reading Down My TBR Pile

I’d like to rename these posts but haven’t thought of a good name so they will stay as Reading Down My TBR Pile for now.

So far this year I’ve read three books and I’m part way through an audiobook. I also think this is the best Bout of Books I’ve had.  I managed to successfully not buy any books this week too – I’ve decided not to buy any in January but that resolve was sorely tested when several bookish people were sharing some amazing deals on twitter for books I thought I’d like.  All in all a successful week.

Here’s what I’ve read

Secrets At The Little Village School by Gervase Phinn

I bought the first Little Village School book on a whim when I saw it for cheap in Sainsburys several years ago. And I’ve been hooked on this series ever since.  This 5th installment didn’t disappoint, it was just as good as the earlier books. They are enjoyable, gentle reads with a real feel good factor and I think I’ve read each one in a day. Judging by the ending I suspect this is the last in the series but I really hope it’s not.

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes

Historical fiction with intrigue and twists (one of which I caught only one page before it was revealed). This reminded me of Downton in that it had all the good aspects and none of the ridiculousness that eventually put me off the series. I was very satisfied with this book and especially with how it ended.

The Hairy Bikers Blood Sweat and Tyres: The Autobiography by Si King and Dave Myers

First audiobook of the year. There’s just something about a memoir on audiobook when it’s read by the authors that I love. This was funny and interesting and made me hanker to read more memoirs. And hearing them read their story bought back happy memories of when I saw them do their live show.

Books, Books and More Books!

Last year I took part in Read Your Own Damn Books – a “you do you” challenge hosted by Andi of Estella’s Revenge with the idea of reading more of the books you already owned.

It’s fair to say I didn’t do very well with it.  My reading dropped off drastically last year compared to previous ones and I pretty much forgot about the challenge in the later months.  I think I ended the year at least 40 books behind what I’d normally read – which is fine, I made the decision not to push myself to read when I wasn’t feeling it and it was the right one.  And looking back through my goodreads list of what I read last year I did read several books I already owned (prior to the start of the year) but most of them were rereads.

However this year I would like to read more and make it a priority.  I’d also like to dive into those books I’ve had waiting for a long time.  A friend wrote on her blog recently that (I’m probably paraphrasing) if you enjoyed buying something and it wasn’t a lot of money it’s served it’s purpose before you read it.  And my Mum often tells me if having a book (or a DVD I guess) makes me happy that’s what matters.  But I do want to read some of the damn things.

I have two bookcases in my lounge (next to each other), one in the hall opposite my powerchair and one in the bedroom at the end of my bed.  On each of those there is a book that always catches my eye when I look at the bookcase.

I will consider my Read My Own Damn Books challenge successful this year if I read those 4 books – two of which I’ve had since a blogger event in 2012, one I got in 2015 and the last I can’t remember when I got it but I’ve had it years.

To try to kickstart my reading this year I read an entire book yesterday – Secrets at the Little Village School by Gervase Phinn – which was excellent (and if memory serves I’ve read each of the books in the series in a day).

And I’m going to take part in Bout of Books this week.  It’s a readathon that I’ve tried several times and never got on with (I think shorter ones work better for me) but there’s a first time for everything!

If you’ve not heard of Bout of Books here’s how they describe it:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 2nd and runs through Sunday, January 8th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 18 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

My goals are simple: start an audiobook to listen to whilst working on my crocheted blanket (I have some unheard and some unused credits so not sure which), read the book I got on New Years Eve (Belgravia by Julian Fellowes) and start one of those 4 books I mentioned about.

Readathon October 2016

Morning, morning

Feels like forever since I’ve updated my blog. I keep starting posts but then changing my mind or not having time to finish it. I have two versions of the same post in drafts, neither likely to ever see the light of day.  Mostly it’s been a stressful few weeks and I’ve been trying not to whinge too much on my blog as at least one of the people who have caused that stress sometimes reads my blog.  I have been whinging a lot on the phone to certain friends and also on twitter though.

I’ve also started a new 101 in 1001 list (I think I may have already mentioned that but I’ve decided not to post the full list online).  This time round I still have the big major wow goals but I also seem to have included substantially more lower key or even self-care goals.  One of the goals I’ve got on there is to dedicate one day a month to reading for a year.  As today is Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon (it starts at 1 my time I think) I thought today would be a good day to start that goal.

I’m still not reading anywhere near as much as I used to or I’d like to be but since the beginning of the month I have listened to two audiobooks so that’s good.  I really enjoyed them too.

I will be back later to update throughout the day with my readathon progress but for now why not go over to the readathon site and read the warm up post I wrote – Tips for When You’re Down and Out.

Update 14:18 The readathon is just over an hour old and I’ve listened to an hour of my audiobook – The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn.  I’m enjoying it so far, it’s about a girl from a rich family who falls in love with the son of one of the servants and is set just before the start of World War One. The premise seemed a little cliche but actually it’s anything but and I’m glad I chose it.  It sort of puts me in mind of Downton Abbey but has much less to do with the actual servants.

Time for a break for lunch now.

Update 16:01 Three hours into the readathon and I’ve listened to another 35 minutes of my audiobook. I’m still enjoying it and I’m pleased because I’ve nearly hit my audiobook goal for the day (I wanted to try and listen for at least two hours) but I think I’ll leave it for a while now.  A quick break to sort some washing out and then if you need me I’ll be curled up under a blanket with a glass of cranberry juice and my kindle.

Update 19:54 After I wrote my last update I took my kindle and went to bed to read. But I only managed to read about 5% of Star Trek Prey: Hell’s Heart by John Jackson Miller before my tiredness over took me and I drifted off for an hour or so. Shouldn’t have gone to bed! I listened to a bit more audiobook after I got back up and I’m up to 1 hour 50 minutes of listening.  I was getting pretty disheartened at that point about my progress as I had little motivation for actual reading and beginnning to think I’d make this an audiobook only readathon but decided to put the dinner on and pick up Matilda by Roald Dahl (preparation for going to see the musical this week).  I ended up reading that cover to cover in a stupidly quick timeand loving it.  I was a bit surprised by how much I’d forgotten and rereading it I can see why one of my friends really doesn’t like Roald Dahl’s books.

I’m taking a break to eat and I’m not sure what’s next. I might reread The BFG, I might read more of the Star Trek book I started or I might pick something else up.  I’ll definitely listen to at least a little more of The Last Summer so I can hit that 2 hour goal.

Update 23:05 I hit my 2 hour goal for listening to an audiobook – in fact I’ve now listened to 2 hours 30 minutes. That’s probably it for audiobooks. I may put it on when I’m in bed but it depends how soon I go to bed and how tired I am.  And then I read all of Comfort and Joy by Cathy Bramley which is a Christmas e-novella in her Plumberry School of Comfort Food universe. I liked going back to Plumberry and I hope she writes more with those characters.  According to amazon that has 120 pages.  I put some Christmas music on in the background while reading that and had myself an Archers too. It was a lovely way to spend an hour or so.

Update Sunday 10:58 am Usually when I wake up before 9 on a weekend I try to go back to sleep (especially when I didn’t go to bed until gone 1) but I woke at 8:20 and stayed awake. Since then I’ve listened to 38 minutes of The Last Summer audiobook(or another 3 chapters) and read another 16% of Prey. I’ve read 21% of that now.  It’s worth noting that I listen to my audiobooks at either 1.25 or 1.5 speed so I’ve listened to more of the story that the hours I’ve listened for)

I know there are two hours left of the readathon but I think I’m done because I want to go out.  Later I want to do some crafts so I’ll probably put the audiobook on in the background and I anticipate finishing Prey.

Stats:

3 hours 08 minutes of audiobook

2 books 350 pages

1 partial book – 21%

Reading Down My TBR Pile

I’ve read two books this week (well, one was an audiobook but I always count that as reading).

I’m on “staycation” for the next week (although I’ve actually not been to CAB this week due to an issue with the new powerchair) with lots of chill time and fun things that involve train trips planned so I suspect next week’s list will be a lot longer!

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwoood.

I first read this years ago when it came up in conversation with one of my CAB colleagues and she lent it to me.  It was both my first Atwood and my first dystopia.  I’ve gone on to read many of both. Recently someone on Twitter posted about reading this and I was inspired to reread it. As I had an audible credit waiting to be used I got the audiobook at that was definitely the right decision, it’s brilliant in audio.

This really stood up to the reread and I think I took different things from it this time.  If you’ve not read this you should. If you’ve never read anything by Atwood you really really should.

High Tide by Veronica Henry

This is a summery fun book.  An enjoyable escapist read and the complete opposite to The Handmaid’s Tale.  I do enjoy a Veronica Henry book now and then but they always leave me hankering to go to the seaside!

 

Reading Down My TBR Pile

I’ve decided that I’d like to start keeping a weekly record of what I read again (more than on Goodreads I mean).  I’ve missed doing so.   I’m not sure if I’m going to stick with the reading down my TBR pile title or not because lets be honest it’s hardly making an impact in the pile.

Here’s what I’ve read in the last ten days or so.

Sunshine Over Wildflower Cottage by Milly Johnson

I’ve read a lot of Milly Johnson books and enjoyed them.  But I had taken a break after getting very annoyed about the ending of the last one I read (it was a bit inappropriate, disability wise and made me want to throw the book across the room.)  Then I won a copy of Sunshine Over Wildflower Cottage so I gave it a go.

It was a fun read that I read cover to cover in one day, sitting in the garden (I’ve been doing a lot of that lately).  It’s not taxing and I always know what to expect but it is enjoyable and very relaxing

Song of The Skylark by Erica James

My first Erica James book and it definitely won’t be my last (I’ve had another of hers on my shelf for years following a twitter giveaway and will be reading it soon). Partially set during the Second World War this was chicklit with substance and I loved it.

A Year of Doing Good by Judith O’Reilly

This was a really irritating book.  I wrote more about that here.

Lost Lake by Sarah Addision Allen

I had forgotten just how much I like Sarah Addison Allen’s books.  This is the only one I own as all the rest were borrowed from friends or the library.  I need to have them on my bookshelves though!  I blew through this in one sitting (with just a two minutes break to turn the oven on when I realised how late it had got and was really hungry) and was disappointed when it ended.

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne.

This was not as good as a Harry Potter book but I did enjoy reading it.  It’s super quick.  I suspect the plays are a million times better than reading the script and I’m really keen to see how they stage it.

Taking One for the Team

Over the weekend I read A Year of Doing Good by Judith O’Reilly.  And although I was mostly unimpressed I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

This is a memoir and the basic premise is that one year Judith O’Reilly set herself the challenge of doing one good deed everyday for the whole year.

It’s a tricky challenge and I’m not sure it’s one I’d like to take on.  My first thought was I don’t do many good deeds if any.  But then as I read it I started thinking about what I do at CAB and how that would count.  So that would be two days a week covered easily.

Some of her good deeds are pretty amazing – she helped start an initiative that raised over £10K for charity and others felt like she was reaching and really to me it seemed like they shouldn’t have counted – ringing a friend who’d been ill to see how they were or cooking a meal for a visiting family member for example.

At which point I realised that I did a really, really good deed for someone last week and forgot to tell anyone about it or blog about it.  And godforbid anyone should do a good deed and keep it quiet.  Because if I’ve learned one thing from reading A Year of Doing Good it’s if you’re vocal enough about these things you can get a book deal. achieve anything

We had a barbecue after sailing last week. One of my friends bought a bottle of wine with her.  I had a glass. And then because it needed using up and she had work the next day and I hate to see a friend struggling I finished the bottle for her.

It was really tough, obviously, forcing down that second glass.  But someone had to do it. And sometimes you’ve just got to suck it up and take one for the team.