Tag Archives: book review

The Little Cottage in Lantern Square

Hannah went from high flyer in the city to the business owner and has never looked back. In the cosy Cotswold village of Butterbury she runs Tied up with String, sending handmade gifts and care packages across the miles, as well as delivering them to people she thinks need them the most.

Phil: I’ve just had a revelation. Literally, as I searched for the bit of blurb above, I also found this:

The Little Cottage in Lantern Square is the collected Lantern Square novellas.

NOW it makes sense.

You see, while this is a pleasant, undemanding read, there were a couple of niggles.

The first is my usual financial concern. Houses on the green in a Cotswold village are going to be painfully expensive. They are not where you end up when looking for somewhere cheap to live because your entire income is based on sending luxury care packages out in the post. They are also not where you live when running a business that will need large quantities of products to go in said packages, not to mention the masses of wrapping and packing consumables. What you want is a barn, not the cottage dining room.

Mind you, Hannah, our lead character, did work in accountancy in “the city” for a while and therefore we assume she earned a mahoosive amount of money to fund this. We assume that anyway because we’re going to need to suspend belief. Am I the only person who thinks like this? I keep reading books where the numbers (to me) don’t add up.

“Stop being so nerdy” I hear you cry, “It’s fiction. Let it go.”

Fair enough, it was only a niggle. The bigger issue, but one explained when we realise this is a collection of novellas, is that there are cliff-hangers through the book that are almost immediately resolved at the start of the next chapter.

Often they take the form of us being told that HANNAH HAS A SECRET. Yes, we are told she has several, but not told what each is until later. One early SECRET is divulged to another character, and we aren’t in on the conversation. This is annoying, to me at least.

All of this doesn’t change the fact that I liked Hannah. She is, in chick-lit terms, a real person. She has a believable backstory, once we get to find out about it. She works too hard. She has doubts. She does nice, and believable things. Most of the time, when I read this sort of thing, I want to shout at our lead on occasion, but not this time.

OK, the supporting cast could be from an episode of Midsommer Murders, by which I mean they are a bit cartoony slotting neatly into various stereotypes, but that doesn’t matter. If you want gritty drama, then this isn’t the book for you. If this was TV it would be a warm Sunday evening drama. Perfect soothing reading.

Leave a comment

Filed under Phil, Writing

Meet me at Pebble Beach by Bella Osborne.

Meet Me at Pebble Beach

Candice: I was very lucky recently to be able to escape the confines of the UK and travel abroad. It was not without its dramas, up to 48 hours before flying we were going to Spain but then it was all change and we managed to book to go to Rhodes. I don’t think I slept properly for two nights wondering what we were going to go.

Now to some it might seem silly but I had got to the point I really needed a break from the monotony of getting up, logging on to my computer in the other bedroom and then logging off at the end of the day. The odd walk around the block, bike ride and now trip to the gym is not enough for me. And I’d got to the point I REALLY needed a proper break as I was getting arsey with people.

With travel and pool holidays comes book reading. Again with COVID my usual route of picking up some stuff from the local second-hand bookseller had gone out of the window. So I decided to buy some books from Amazon based on some names I knew and their advice. I also bought some paper and some digital as, for once, I wouldn’t be raiding the hotel library either.

I’ve got a selection of things to review from the break, some good, some not so good. I’m starting with ‘Meet me at Pebble Beach’ only because it really annoyed me.

The book itself is fine, it follows Regan; a girl who is all over the place in her life, hates her job, doesn’t have enough money, someone who really grates on me to start. A work colleague tricks her into thinking she has won the lottery and that starts the ball rolling on her eventually sorting out her life. She gives up her job, starts her own business and then finds herself along the way. The story trips along, though you can tell in places that it was written as a four-part series as there are a few extraneous storylines that would fill out a serial but are too much in a book.

The book is set in Brighton and, without giving too much away, it all sorts its self out in the end. But the thing that annoyed me – the title. At no point does she or anyone else say ‘meet me pebble beach’ , they go to the beach over the course of the story but it isn’t central to the book. I kept waiting for something to happen related to the beach, and it didn’t. I might not be a perfectionist but this really bugged me, especially as the cover featured beach huts which also don’t feature in the story. It was like the person who created the cover had not read the book, or the synopsis.

This distracted from the book as I was waiting for the scene at Pebble Beach to happen as I expected it to be central to the book. I didn’t and I felt deflated at the end. A lesson to us all – the book cover is as important as the content.

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

captureCandice: Phil lent me a book a while ago by an author that I like – David Baldacci.  I’ve read a few of his books and Phil found this on in the dark recces of a charity shop.  He picked it up because it had the mention of a train, I said I’d wait to read it because of the mention of Christmas.

So I picked it up last week.  December was almost here and I thought it wouldn’t hurt to crack it open.  To be honest I’d already had the Christmas tunes on for the little person.  She’s learning some songs for her Christmas play at nursery so we both needed some practice in remembering the words to ‘Away in a Manger’.

To start I wasn’t sure.  The book is about a chap taking a train from east to west coast America to spend Christmas with his sweet heart. Train travel isn’t that popular in the States, everyone flies or drives, but he’s been banned from flying due to an air rage incident so decides to follow the footsteps of his distant relative Mark Twain and take two trains that criss cross the country.

The book was written over 10 years ago and you can tell with some of the technology that is described, it initially distracts from the book, but then the plot gets going.

So, Tom was once a war reporter.  His long time girlfriend up and left him after one to many close escapes and he hasn’t heard from her since.  Who is on the train?  Eleanor, the once girlfriend. In the great tradition of all stories love does not run smooth and she hates him on sight as he still hasn’t worked out why she left him. Just as they are starting to come  together then his girlfriend arrives and friction pushes them to the limit.  Will they or won’t they get together?

There are other fun things happening on the train too.  A young couple have run away from their families to get married, a thief is stealing valuable items and a retired train engineer is watching the skies as he predicts a bad storm is coming. So just as things are calming down an avalanche hits the train and they all get stuck running out fuel and water.

Love conquers all as Tom saves his woman and the train but then the twist appears.  The girlfriend, the marriage are all a sham, set up by the film director employer of Eleanor who knows she is still pining for Tom and wants her to finally get her man.

Initially the book is much too detailed about trains, and I was thinking this was more Phil’s bag than mine.  But once we got over that it’s actually good fun and you want to know what happens.  Some of the characters are larger than life and it gives the story a nice Christmassy feel.  What doesn’t get resolved is the Mark Twain element which is a shame but all in all it gave me a nice introduction to the Christmas season.

2 Comments

Filed under Candice, Writing

Catching up on my reading

bookPhil: One of the nicest parts of writing with the Nolan, apart from the cake, is the broadening of my reading matter. Just 7 years ago, I’d never dabbled in anything on the chick-lit spectrum, in fact my reading choices had been quite limited. Odd, as I was a voracious reader as a child but somehow, apart from a bit of Sci-fi, I’d drifted away from the paperbacks. Now, I find myself presented with all sorts of books, and try to return the favour.

Anyway, I’ve been catching up a bit on the backlog with a couple of novels in just over a week.

First up, “How to be single” by Liz Tuccillo, which the Nolan read on a train a couple of months ago, embarrassed in case anyone spotted her wedding ring and wondered if it was an instruction manual.

It’s not, although I think it wants to be a bit more serious than just a novel.

What we have is four women, including the narrator, all very different apart from living in New York. Are you aware of Sex and the City? You are? Well, it’s like that. A lot like that.

Basically, our narrator works in publishing (Like S&TC Carrie) and punts an idea to her boss (Candace. As in Bushell, who wrote S&TC) that she’ll go around the world investigating what it’s like to be a single woman in different countries. She’ll even pay her own expenses.

Yeah. Right. Like that’s going to work on the back of a book deal for a new author.

Anyway, she heads off around the world and there is a bucket of cod psychology and stuff. The mostly barking friends turn up sometimes and there is a bit of shagging. Probably some other stuff but if I’m honest, half way through France I got bored and skimmed most of the rest.

To be fair, I’m not in the target market for this book. In fact, I’m so far away from the target market that I couldn’t find it on a map. Or even a globe.

Rather more succesful was Strictly between us by Jane Fallon. My enthusiasm for this book was piqued by Candice writing a blog post that I wasn’t allowed to read as it gave away important plot points. I managed to avoid reading it and am glad I did.

The book is a lot of fun. For a start, it’s firmly written from inside the main characters mind. She not only leads the reader through the story, she actually talks directly to us in a fourth wall breaking style. Later on, we have the same effect from other characters. Suddenly we are seeing scenes from different viewpoints and most of the time each person has a very different take on the situation.

Each character seemed believable too. Our lead Tamsin isn’t perfect and her foil Bea isn’t all bad. Maybe bad-boy Patrick has no redeeming features, but then that’s chick-lit for you.

The pure first-person point of view works really well and I’d suggest that this could be happily read and enjoyed by either gender. Chick-lit is just a label to help people work out where the main market is.

In sport terms, I guess we call this a draw. I’ve sent a book in the other direction and it will be interesting to see how it’s received.

Leave a comment

Filed under Phil, Writing

Last Dance with Valentino by Daisy Waugh

CaptureCandice : As you will remember, our little blogets (Nolanparker version of Gaga’s Monsters) we posted an interview with Daisy Waugh a few weeks ago.  So, as Phil and I were discussing the questions for Ms Waugh I thought it might be good to get some background material.  Next door to our regular tea and cake haunt in Solihull is Waterstones.  We popped in and I came away with ‘Last Dance with Valentino’.

Now, not really being a historical drama person myself, and not really being too sure what Daisy’s style was outside the Sunday Times, I didn’t know what to expect but I hoped I’d like it.

‘Dance’ is sent in the 1920’s, around Jennifer and her relationship with the man who becomes Rudolph Valentino.   They fall in love but, due to circumstances out of their control, they are then separated.  By the time she travels across America to find him again, he is gone from the hotel they are to meet at and she has no other way of getting in touch with him. So 10 long years go by before they meet again, during which time he goes from being a paid dancer to a huge movie star. I’m sure I’m not giving the game away to say Valentino dies in the end leaving Jenny lost and alone after just finding him again.

Based on actual events, Daisy has crafted a fictional story around the mysterious Jenny who Valentino is said to have cried for as he is dying.

Now, you could say I am biased, but I have to say this is the best book I have read in AGES!  I couldn’t put it down from the word go as I became totally immersed in the world of Jenny and Rudy as they fight against the class system that confines them and limited communications available at that time.  The last section, where she is trying to get in touch with him as he lies dying in the hospital literally left me desperate to know, such that I read it solidly on a train journey from London and then carried on as soon as I got home.  I don’t think I said hello to the other half as he walked in the door, I was so desperate for Jenny to get to her Rudy.

I think it helped that the book was based in fact, making the situations that they come up against much more plausible.  From my point of view, also helps that the idea of being the one true love of a famous person takes me back to when I had pin ups on my walls and hoped that one day one of them would find me and sweep me off my feet.  I also loved the drama and behind the scenes look at Hollywood, being a film buff and actor.

I’ve leant the book to my sister as I think it might make her smile and then its on its way to Phil for a boy’s view-point.  I’m now off to see what else Daisy has done as I enjoyed this one so much!

http://www.novelicious.com/2011/07/review-last-dance-with-valentino-by-daisy-waugh.html

4 Comments

Filed under Candice, Writing

Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson

Before I Go To SleepPhil: Last year we trooped off to the “How to get published…Or how we did it” session at the Stratford Literary Festival. One of the authors on stage was SJ Watson promoting his book “Before I Go To Sleep”.

I think it would be fair to say neither of us warmed to SJ, at least not as much as we did to the others on stage so we weren’t filled with the urge to queue up for a signed edition after the talk.

Despite this, when I saw a copy in a second-hand bookshop, I read the blurb on the back and decided that I’d give it a go. For £1.50 you can’t go very far wrong can you?

Please note: This post contains no spoilers. Candice is reading the book at the moment and will hit me if I give anything away.

The story concerns Christine and is told through her eyes. She suffers from a condition that causes her to lose her memory when she falls asleep. The book starts with her/us waking up and having to re-learn her past life through photos placed around the house by her husband. It’s a great way to introduce a character and the concept works really well.

This is a thriller so I can’t tell you very much more without spoiling the storyline. Suffice to say I didn’t spot the twist at the end until we got there, which is exactly what you want. The story rattles along too. Perhaps the first third is slower than the rest but this is as it should be – we are gradually learning about Christine’s life and the reader goes through many of the same processes she does.

Prepare to read this book in big gulps as you will want to progress quickly. A structure with varying length chapters helps as I certainly went through the “Just another chapter” stage late at night and found myself hungry for the next revelation.

So – I still don’t want to go for a beer with the author but I do like his book. Damn.

Before I Go To Sleep from Amazon

5 Comments

Filed under Books, Phil, Writing

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

The Girl Who Loved Tom GordonPhil: A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I’d read Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King and not exactly been impressed. A couple of commentators pointed me in the direction of a longer novel, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, suggesting that it would be a better read.

My local Oxfam bookshop had a copy on the shelf so I picked it for a very reasonable £3.49. Nice clean hardback with no annoying scribble.

At 213 page, it’s not a long book. The story is handily divided into chapters too, which makes reading in several sessions easy. I hate taking a break part way through a passage but some writers don’t give you a point to pause at. Never mind how good the text is, sometimes a tea break is required! As it was, I read this in two sessions.

The story concerns a young girl (Trisha McFarland) who gets lost in the woods. Tom Gordon is a baseball player who appears in the book, but not really. I can’t say much more without runing the story.

I’ll admit to being impressed. For the overwhelming majority of the book there is only one character. In some hands, this would be a problem as the narrative would become leaden. Here, the story makes progress and you really want to make it to the end. In this respect, the length of the novel is an advantage. I doubt the tension could have been sustained any longer without introducing silly events. As it is, the build is entirely psychological and most importantly, very realistic. There’s been some painstaking research gone into the woodland setting. Some serious map-based planning too. If you were minded, I expect that you too could follow this book in real life.

Enjoyable? Yes, it was. I managed to avoid reading the end but it was tempting. I’m glad I didn’t as that would have spoilt things. As it was, the dénouement worked perfectly and tied everything up perfectly satisfactory.

2 Comments

Filed under Books, Phil, Writing

Daddy’s Girls by Tasmina Perry

Candice: Opens ‘ A stylish group of four figures walks into the room, though they are sister’s, each one has a unique style and stance.’book cover of Daddy's Girls byTasmina Perry

And that is the front cover of this book.  However, the back tells a different story…

‘But money doesn’t buy you love.  When their aristocratic and tyrannical father is found dead, the finger of suspicion points towards the glamorous daughters…’

So, how far into the book are you expecting the father’s death, first page, 10 pages in?  How about around 500.  Unfortunately, all though I enjoyed this book I kept stopping at certain points to read the back and check what I was reading.  Yes, it definitely says the Dad dies, ok must be in the next section… and on and on I read.  It’s a bit like knowing the ending or in my case, waiting for the scene I filmed to be shown.  (In fact, when I did Line of Duty last year I spent the whole series going “where’s the car chase?” – last scene…)

So, back to the start with this book, what is the premise?  Four glamorous sisters (well that’s a given) who all have different personalities; one an actress, one a journalist, another a lawyer and one a downtrodden wife (with her own clothing line, of course).  Their lives intertwine as they fall in and out with each other and try to discover themselves.  The father is the tyrant that they love to hate but who drives them on to be who they are.  Along the way there are affairs, pregnancies and of course, the odd undiscovered scandal.  The whole story runs along quite well, and without the distraction of when is Dad dying, I would have really enjoyed it.

It’s funny that Phil and I have been criticised for having too many characters in our writing.  But it this case I think there were too many protagonists.  Each sister could have her own book as they all have their own story and I would have liked to follow each one.  In fact, that would be similar to Cat as there are other books by Freya North about Cat’s sisters. Hey, perhaps we should write those four stories and we have our own equivalent to fifty shades fan fiction!

All in all and good sunbed read – so good that when I went back to my favourite charity shop there was another book by Tasmina, so I’ve picked that up for next holiday!

1 Comment

Filed under Books, Candice