I first started reading the Shopaholic series years ago following the life of Becky Bloomwood a financial advice writer with a dark secret. Truth was she was a shopaholic with significant debt and her life was spiralling out of control. Christmas Shopoholic is number 9 and a bit of catching up for anyone new to the series! Sophie Kinsella did write the series frequently but understandably the time between books as become longer. I don’t mind as each book is well thought out and a joy to read.
married to Luke, looks after their only child Minnie, and they live outside
London near her family. This year her parents
have decided to move to Shoreditch for a ‘gap year’ and hand over the
responsibility of Christmas lunch to Becky.
Immediately stressed to emulate her mother’s amazing meals, Becky does
what she knows best, list making and shopping!
Except it isn’t working and Becky can’t find anything perfect for the day. There are so many demands. Jess, Becky’s sister wants a low waste vegan Christmas. Her best friend Suze is desperate to come to avoid
her husband’s family. Layer in an ex-boyfriend
turned Rockstar to the mix, and Becky’s head is all over the place.
I loved this book! Kinsella has updated the series and successfully incorporated current social technologies like Instagram and Whatsapp into the storyline. Fantastic! Like all the previous books it is a joyful, easy read. There is a little frustration with Becky as she hasn’t really grown up in the last ten years but there were some signs of maturity. There is no wondering if there will be another book as the ending answers this. If you are looking for a new series to get hooked, find Confessions of a Shopaholic at your library or bookstore.
Tiffy and Leon share a flat Tiffy and Leon share a bed Tiffy and Leon have never met…
I’ve been trying to set up a night routine and this has meant I am reading more. I saw The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary on Laura Jane’s Instagram account and instantly purchased! The premise of two Londoners sharing a bed intrigued me. This is a situation that some people do to afford to live in this expensive city. Our female lead Tiffy finds herself in need of a place to live urgently and Leon, a night shift worker, needs funds to help his brother. Having never met they share the one bedroom flat, communicating through notes, so many notes!
Strict access times are put into place, wardrobes are cleared out and Tiffy is moved in. Tiffy is a craft book editor whose latest author loves to crochet clothing. Leon works nights as a palliative care home and is a bit of a loner. His girlfriend Kay is not that supportive of the flat share situation, and their relationship seems doomed from the start. Tiffy and Leon have a fantastic mix of support characters, perfectly formed and help answer all our questions about the flat sharing situation! The drama of the story comes into play with Tiffy dealing with Justin, an ex-boyfriend turned stalker and Leon trying to help his falsely accused brother get out of jail.
Would you mind putting the toilet seat down please?
I’m afraid I was unable to write this note in a way that didn’t sound passive-aggressive – seriously, it’s something about the note form, you pick up a pen and a Post-it and you immediately become a bitch – so I’m just styling it out. I might put some smiley faces to really hammer the thing home.
I absolutely adored O’Leary’s story as she has incorporated lots of modern references including her characters use of Facebook messenger and conversations about gaslighting. There is a great tension created around Justin. I knew he was going to suddenly appear but never knew when! He always had a way of making contact or turning up just as Tiffy had a breakthrough in her life. We can all relate to this!
The cover says ‘the next Jo Jo Moyes’ however I disagree. Moyes books have a depression about them where as O’Leary’s book has a more positive light. O’Leary writes of Tiffy’s counselling sessions with empathy, showing us how slowly her character is regaining her confidence after being emotionally abused. I was really impressed with the overall tone of the book and how it dealt with quite serious subjects without losing the sense of romance and comedy.
If you only have budget for one book this year buy The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary. Or request it from your local library. Did you know authors get recognised and paid for library loans too? Happy reading, PF xo.
At the end of last month, I set my spring reading list jumping straight into The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Not the shortest book title, and one I have stumbled over every time I recalled it to a friend! Written by two female authors from the same family, the book is formed of letters written mainly from protagonist, Juliet Ashton.
Set just after the finish of the second world war in London, we are treated to stories of continued rationing and rebuilding. Juliet had written several parody columns, under a pseudonym, throughout the war and is now looking for a new story to write under her real name. Uninspired by the glittering world her American wealthy suiter, Mark Reynolds offers Juliet becomes anxious that she has nothing more to say.
After a particularly late night out dancing with Reynolds, Juliet returns to her boarding room to a letter from Dawsey Adams, a farmer from Guernsey. Adams has written to Juliet after acquiring her address from the front cover of a book she previously owned. Guernsey was cut off from the main land during a German invasion and Adams is hoping Juliet can help with acquiring new reading materials. Juliet is more than happy to oblige provided he gives more information about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. A group he mentions in his first letter.
So starts a series of correspondence, between Juliet and various Guernsey islanders as they tell her their stories from war time. Inspired and feeling the claustrophobia of London Juliet travels to Guernsey to meet everyone. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society quickly becomes her next story as she meets a wide variety of characters and pieces together the islands wartime story.
I found the start of the book a little hard to get into until around the 10th letter where I was able to understand who the characters were and their relationships to Juliet. Once I got past this I loved every minute! I finished the book one early evening and promptly rented the movie version from Amazon. Fairly close to the original I’m now inspired to go and explore the island of Guernsey as soon as possible.
Have you read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows? What did you enjoy about it? Have you been to Guernsey? PF xo
I’ve always loved to read but I am currently struggling to pick up a book. In my mind the perfect reading session is 3-4 hours, curled up on my couch, or bed, covered in at least one blanket! I play some jazz in the background and a scented candle flickers. If I am really lucky, light rain runs down the window creating a cosy atmosphere, as I read through my spring reading list!
The reality is, I have realised, the ability to do this is limited. This fantasy of the perfect reading session means I am not reading at all. Instead I have been looking at ways I can read for twenty minutes, at lunch time, before bed, at the weekend. This time frame is more realistic, and I am slowly bringing long form reading back into my life. Having now joined the library I have a small waiting list of books that I am eagerly watching as the people in line ahead of me reduces. These are the books I am going to read this spring that I thought you might be interested in.
The Book That Is A Smash Hit Film.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I know about this book because of its film, that I have yet to watch! A story told through letters, it is of the islands residents and how they dealt with the German occupation. As an anglophile I love anything British and am looking forward to reading this book first. In fact I was so impatient I have bought this one rather then wait for hte library waiting list to go down!
The Book Everyone Got At Christmas!
Becoming by Michelle Obama. Everyone seemed to get this book for Christmas and it has taken me until now to find people who had read it! All the reviews have been positive, and I’ve been told that there is a great theme of Obama changing her mindset when it came to her career. She speaks about the guilt she felt wanting to change her career for something more fulfilling, knowing her parents had given up a lot for her to be where she was. I am looking forward to reading her story as I too chose a career based on my parents encouragement and not on what I wanted.
The Book Written Secretly At Work.
Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce. This novel has come onto my radar as a friend of a friend is the author! Pearce was inspired by an old magazines self help column and secretly wrote her story at work. Centred around Mrs Bird who refuses to respond to letter that are not pleasent, Emmy decides to take charge and send out advice. I can’t wait to read this as I have heard the description of London in the war is highly accurate. This book should be a bit of a fun addition to the spring reading list!
The Book With Real Life Legal Stories.
In Your Defence by Sarah Langford. I read This Is Going To Hurt and Langford has written a similar factual book detailing various crimes and how her clients lives changed as a result. Her writing and her ability to show our legal system for its glory and faults has received high praise. I am particularly interested to read about the rationalisation for sentencing across all the cases.
The Book I Researched And Realised I Had To Preorder!
The Flatshare Beth O’Leary – Preordered. I love the sound of this book where two strangers share a flat and a bed but have never met. It is a scenario I know is true in London where those who work nights rent their beds! The reviews are hilarious and have mentioned sticky notes, my favourite way to communicate with flat mates! Availible early 2020 I have preordered this one on Amazon. Preorders are incredibly important for authors as they can help secure second deals as well as other work. If you like this one add it to you wish list or perhaps ask for it for Christmas!
UPDATE – Thanks for Hannah for pointing out I had found the paperback date for The Flatshare. The hardback is out on the 19th April here and I have updated my order!
What are you reading at the moment? I’ve got more book reviews here but I’d also love to hear your recommendations for the spring reading list. PF xo
Have you watched Crazy Rich Asians? One of the funniest movies of 2018 depicting the lives of the Asian elite whose endless amounts of money afford them the most extravagant of lifestyles. Years ago I read the book, Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan and absolutely loved it. Kwan’s background as part of an established Chinese family, living in Singapore, means that you can guarantee lots of the story is inspired by real events! With Singapore as the backdrop the story centres around the Young family and their various offshoots. The reality of the family politics rings so true for me as various members vie for the attention of the matriarch, Su Yi, or actually compete for her wealth and properties when she passes on. Rich People’s Problems by Kevin Kwan* is set two years after the previous novel in the trilogy.
I started to consider the curtains and I began to imagine how they would lookin the fron windows of the town house I would buy in London. Victoria
Nicky Young and his wife, Rachel continue to be the main focus of Kwan’s narrative alongside the same generation cousins. Relunctant to return to Singapore, Rachel convinces Nicky to return and make up with his grandmother. A quick hop on a jet later and we are back in Singapore hearing about the families desperate antics to determine who is the sole heir of the family fortune. As each family member fantasises about their life after Su Yi’s death, not everyone wants Tyersall Park, some manipulative behaviour sees Nicky and Astrid barred from the estate.
Then they drove up a long winding gravel lane that had been cut through thick trees, giving way to an avenue lined with majestic palm trees, until suddenly the most magnificent building she had ever seen came into sight – Ah Ling
Kwan’s descriptions of the details of the Asian elite bring you into a world accessed by the few. The stunning island of Singapore extend this time to India where there is a surprise proposal! No expense is spared with dancers and elephants just the tip of the iceberg. Meanwhile back in Singapore the narrative describes in detail the palatial Young estate hidden on the island. All 64 acres that only no one on the island seems to know about or notice exists! The peacefulness and tranquillity that Nicky feels in this one spots cannot be replaced.
I expected the book to finish with the reading of the will declaring Nicky the heir, but a surprise twist means we get more story. Yay! Over the last few chapters there are so many twists and turns the final owner/s of the Young estate changes hands multiple times and then boom we are transported a year in the future. I love this series from Kevin Kwan and whilst this book neatly ties up the loose ends and finishes the story I want more! Hope you enjoy Rich Peoples Problems*. Here’s hoping that Kwan writes something else soon! PF xo
My Mum doesn’t cook. Bless her over the course of my thirty something years I have rarely known her to make a meal. It isn’t that she refuses to do it or delegates it to another family member, she just manages to hurt herself. Every time!
Just before I left for my Christmas holiday in Australia I walked around Notting Hill with Lucy and we spent time perusing the shelves of the beautiful Books for Cook’s shop. I found Rukmini Iyer’s The Roasting Tin* full of delicious recipes that promised tasty, simple food made easily in one tin. Purchased, I packed it in my overweight suitcase and together we made the journey to my other ‘home’.
My Dad Was The Cook In Our House.
Growing up my Dad was always the cook in the house. He is one of those frustrating people who can look in a bare cupboard and rustle up a feast from three unlikely ingredients. There was always a routine, a ritual for him when he came home from work. Changing out of his army uniform, he was straight in the kitchen prepping dinner. It was his way of destressing and throwing off the day. Occasionally someone else would try and cook for the family.
Dad, after many years, asked that I start making dinners to contribute. Mum tried to jump in a few times too but quickly she would burn or cut herself and Dad would take over. It was always a frustrating cycle with my Dad. He didn’t want to make the dinner every night but he would interfere when someone else was doing it. Always taking over! Things haven’t changed now that my sister and I are adults except we are much more vocal! Get out!
Until My Mum Stole My Book!
I showed Rukmini Iyer’s The Roasting Tin* to my Mum when I arrived and she disappeared with it. Hours later I found her on the back deck reading the cookbook like a bible, making notes and creating lists of food. This, she declared, was what she was going to use to get herself back into the kitchen. A week later, ingredients purchased, my sister and I sat at the kitchen bench whilst my Mum prepped and cooked dinner.
Chatting about life and work we occasionally answered Mum when she asked about a cutting technique and I was happy to help when she preferred someone else cut the last bit of fennel. We all agreed she was on a roll and this was the thing that would give her the most grief! My Dad tried to cut in a few times but we told him to go away. Mum was doing this and he had to let her!
And We Feasted Like Kings and Queens!
Dinner that night was absolutely delicious! We had the roast chicken with fennel and spice roast aubergines and potatoes, and my sister took a portion home to her fiancée. A few days later my mum announced she was making dinner again and we had avocado and chicken salad. Since I have returned she has also sent pictures of two more dishes. And that my friends is how my mum started cooking again!
The Perfect Batch Cooking Lunches Book.
Mum paid me for the book and I ordered a new one from amazon. The first weekend I was back in the UK I made the chicken with fennel and roasted aubergine and potato portioned into 15 lunches! It was easy to do on a Sunday afternoon whilst I played jazz radio and read my book.
The ingredients for these two dishes cost me £30, I already had the spices, and that’s less than I was spending each week on take out lunches! Throughout the book Iyer gives tips on how to replace ingredients and ultimately make your own roasting tins. Perfect if the local supermarket doesn’t have something or you want to go on a food adventure.
If you are wanting easy recipes for lunches or recipes to bulk batch food Rukmini Iyer’s The Roasting Tin* is for you. Happy cooking! PF xo