Monday, 10 November 2014

The List by Joanna Bolouri

Phoebe Henderson may be single but she sure doesn't feel fabulous. It's been a year since she found her boyfriend Alex in bed with another woman, and multiple cases of wine and extensive relationship analysis with best friend Lucy have done nothing to help. Faced with a new year but no new love, Phoebe concocts a different kind of resolution.
The List: ten things she's always wanted to do in bed but has never had the chance (or the courage!) to try. A bucket list for between the sheets. One year of pleasure, no strings attached.
Simple, right?
Factor in meddlesome colleagues, friends with benefits, getting frisky al fresco and maybe, possibly, true love and Phoebe's got her work cut out for her.

Review by Nicole

What a brilliant, laugh out loud, funny, naughty, nice, hysterical read! I thoroughly enjoyed every minute and found it very hard to put it down!

Phoebe is recovering from a nasty split and is fed up with her boring single life and lack of loving. New year - new Phoebe! Deciding to pass on the usual new years resolutions she sets herself a list of 10 things she has always wanted to do in 'the bedroom' - a year of naughty pleasures :-) As the year progresses and Phoebe's list starts to get ticked off...things begin to change.........

I have to say this is one of the best books i have read in a while. Everybody loves a bit of naughtiness but mixed up with a good storyline and lots of humour this book has it to a T. My only criticism would be the ending - i think it seemed rushed and disappointing compared to the rest of the book but on the other hand i would very much a sequel to see how Phoebe is!

I rate this book 9.5/10 - a tasty Novel Cafe Cupcake. 

Saturday, 4 October 2014


The latest wonderfully witty novel from Britain’s favourite TV presenter, Fern Britton.
Two sisters. One House. The holiday of a lifetime…
Set on a Cornish cliff, Atlantic House has been the jewel in the Carew family crown for centuries. Each year, the Carew sisters embark on the yearly summer holiday, but they are as different as vinegar and honey.
Prudence, hard-nosed businesswoman married to the meek and mild Francis, is about to get a shock reminder that you should never take anything for granted.
Constance, loving wife to philandering husband Greg, has always been outwitted by her manipulative sibling. Suspecting that Pru wants to get her hands on Atlantic House, Connie won’t take things lying down.

Review by Alison

This was a super read. It was one of those books that you could pick up and put down but can still easily follow. It is a delightful tale of two sisters and a secret which is revealed - the past cannot be left alone and the revelation sends them over the edge. I can't say any more without giving too much away!
There is a great mix of characters and the details of the places are very real and creates images of a wonderful holiday home to revisit it year on year. 
There is a twist in the story which is a little saddening for the reader but it is clear to see why it was written in this way.
Definitely one to add to your bookshelf for a light hearted read. I rate this book a Novel Cafe chocolate brownie - everybody loves them, 8/10.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan

In 1966, Kathleen Eaden, cookery writer and wife of a supermarket magnate, published The Art of Baking, her guide to nurturing a family by creating the most exquisite pastries, biscuits and cakes. Now, five amateur bakers are competing to become the New Mrs Eaden. There's Jenny, facing an empty nest now her family has flown; Claire, who has sacrificed her dreams for her daughter; Mike, trying to parent his two kids after his wife's death; Vicki, who has dropped everything to be at home with her baby boy; and Karen, perfect Karen, who knows what it's like to have nothing and is determined her façade shouldn't slip. As unlikely alliances are forged and secrets rise to the surface, making the choicest choux bun seems the least of the contestants' problems. For they will learn - as Mrs Eaden did before them - that while perfection is possible in the kitchen, it's very much harder in life.

With the Great British Bake Off returning to our screens on Wednesday it couldn't be a more appropriate time to finally share my review on this fabulous book.

The book follows five hopeful bakers, Jenny, Claire, Mike, Vicki and Karen who all join in the local baking competition to become the New Mrs Eaden - the famous cookery book author of 'The Art of Baking' from the 1960s. Each of them have their own personal reasons for taking part in the challenge (which i must say a few really pulled on my heart strings). I really enjoyed following their individual stories throughout the book. During the competition secrets are revealed and friendships are formed,  they each learn more about themselves than they do about the world of baking.

The book is divided into the baking categories of the competition - biscuits, cakes etc. Not only did you follow each character through each of these sections but the book also flashed back to Kathleen Eaden and her life. It was a brilliant structure and added to how easy the book was to read (and adding to how hard it was to put down!)

Sarah's book was exactly what I look for when wanting a good read - great storyline, inspirational characters and a happy ending. Beware though -don't read if you are already craving cake!

I give it 10/10 a Novel Cafe cupcake - don't miss out!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan

In 1966, Kathleen Eaden, cookery writer and wife of a supermarket magnate, published The Art of Baking, her guide to nurturing a family by creating the most exquisite pastries, biscuits and cakes.
Now, five amateur bakers are competing to become the New Mrs Eaden. There's Jenny, facing an empty nest now her family has flown; Claire, who has sacrificed her dreams for her daughter; Mike, trying to parent his two kids after his wife's death; Vicki, who has dropped everything to be at home with her baby boy; and Karen, perfect Karen, who knows what it's like to have nothing and is determined her façade shouldn't slip.
As unlikely alliances are forged and secrets rise to the surface, making the choicest choux bun seems the least of the contestants' problems. For they will learn - as Mrs Eaden did before them - that while perfection is possible in the kitchen, it's very much harder in life.

Tomorrow aspiring new author Sarah Vaughan releases her debut Novel 'The Art of Baking Blind'. It’s one not to be missed and I was lucky enough to interview Sarah about her new book....

Sarah Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to The Novel Cafe...Huge congratulations on your fab new book (review to follow) and good luck with the launch. 

1. Describe yourself in 10 words….
Oh, that’s so difficult as I'm naturally quite self-deprecating. So, the positives: Kind, loving, loyal, warm, witty (hopefully); less positively: a perfectionist who’s inclined to worry; with an over-active imagination (both good and bad!)

         2. What do you like to read yourself?
          I suppose I have tended to read literary fiction – or books that bridge the commercial/literary divide. Books I've loved recently have been Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up  the Bodies; Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life and Naomi Wood’s Mrs Hemingway and I've also  really enjoyed Jo Baker’s Longbourn and Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold  Fry.  I love books with a plot but also so value exquisite writing. And you can't beat a book  that makes you cry: I'm also looking for characters I can't stop thinking about when I've  finished reading.

         3. What made you decide to start writing a novel? 
         I think I’ve always wanted to write a novel. I won a writing competition – Devon Young Writer of the Year – when I was ten but it didn't occur to me I could do this as a career until very recently. I was a journalist for 15 years – 11 on the Guardian – and read English at Oxford so have been writing most days since I was 18 but it was only once I stopped writing news stories – and had my children – that I had the room in my brain, and the fragile self confidence, to think creatively. I started properly the week I turned 40 and my youngest started school and gave myself a year to do it (my voluntary redundancy money ran out then!) Luckily, the gamble paid off and it was sold a year and a month later.

         4. What was your inspiration for your first (amazing) book…The Art of Baking Blind?
Thank you! I think the whole experience of motherhood provoked something creatively in me. It’s a bit like climbing a mountain – I've climbed Kilimanjaro: you can't really explain what it’s like – or the intensity of emotion you'll experience – until it happens. I did a lot of baking with my children, before they started school, and it coincided with the growth in interest in baking. I began to think about why people bake.

         5. Tell us a little about it…
         The Art of Baking Blind is, one level, a novel about why we bake. It’s set around a 1960s cookery book, written by a Kathleen Eaden, an early domestic goddess whose husband starts a chain of supermarkets. Her book prefaces each chapter and her story is seen in flashbacks that intersperse the main story, which revolves around a baking competition run by Eaden’s in the present day.
Each of the contestants in this competition has a reason to bake – and as the book progresses these reasons become explicit as we see their lives unfurl.
One reviewer has noted that it’s about women’s desires and roles and how we reconcile these. It’s also about the secrets that shape our lives; about perfection and the impossible expectations women impose on themselves; about motherhood and nurture, and about everyone’s need to be loved.

6. As the characters in your book are you a keen baker? If so what is your specialty? 
My chocolate Devil’s Food Cake which was the basis for my birthday cakes as a child and which I now make for my children.The recipe should be going up on the Waterstone’s blog shortly.

7. I have to say Claire was my favorite character in the story…do you have a favorite and if so why?
I'm so flattered that you said that as she’s probably the character who is the least like me and so the one I have worried the most about creating realistically. I think Kathleen (Kitty) Eaden is my favourite. For me, she’s a woman constrained by her time and I just loved writing her story.

8. If the book was made into a film who could you envisage playing the lead roles? 
I've drawn a complete blank with this one as I can visualise my characters so clearly I can't imagine any actor playing their roles. I suppose a younger, and plumper, Brenda Blethyn could play Jenny and perhaps someone like Sarah Parish, Karen: neither of them is quite right. They would definitely have to be English. Though the novel’s sold in America – and will be published in ten other countries – I think of them as quintessentially English.

9. What’s next for you? 
I’m working on my next novel which needs to be submitted by the end of November. It’s set on a farm in north Cornwall and has a time-slip story, taking us back to the second world war. It’s about nurture, identity, refuge, love, motherhood and atonement - and the strong emotions provoked by a certain place. My great grandfather was a farmer in Cornwall and a photo of him leading his horse and plough sits on my desk as I write this. I want to draw on those roots and yet depict his harsh world in an unsentimental way. I'm deep into the first draft at the moment and very excited about it.

10. One for fun….3 items you would take with you to a desert island? 
Pen, paper and a photo of my kids and husband.

Review to follow tomorrow......

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

A Kiss in the Dark by Cat Clarke

When Alex meets Kate the attraction is instant.

Alex is funny, good-looking, and a little shy - everything that Kate wants in a boyfriend.

Alex can't help falling for Kate, who is pretty, charming and maybe just a little naive...

But one of them is hiding a secret, and as their love blossoms, it threatens to ruin not just their relationship, but their lives.

Book received from Publisher - Thank you

Review by Alison

On first picking up this book I wasn't too sure what I would make of it – not my usual “bag”.

Alex and Kate, the 2 main characters get you involved as their relationship develops further, provoking thoughts as to how this can possibly end up with a happy outcome.

As you learn the big secret and find out just how it can ruin their relationship you want nothing more for them to resolve all their issues, but you know this cant be the case.

A delve into young relationships in the first stages, with good insight into how things can quickly go wrong when lies and secrets are formed.

The ending, as it could only be, proving that love can be a powerful emotion and create a strong connection between two people.

I give this book 6.5/10 A jam/brownie doughnut! Not a bad book, good story line just not my usual cup of tea.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The Naughty Girls' Book Club by Sophie Hart

‘A quaint suburb. A quiet little reading group. A very naughty reading list...When Estelle sets up a book group in order to increase custom to her struggling cafe, what follows is more life-changing than she could have ever imagined...As the first meeting flounders, Estelle suggests a spot of erotica to spice things up. Inspired by their naughty novels, this group of shy suburban readers shake off their inhibitions and discover that their own lives can be just as scandalous….Sexy fiction at its most seductive, this is perfect for fans of Jilly Cooper and Shirley Conran.’

Book Received from Author - Thank you Sophie

Estelle is a thirty something single mother who runs the local café crumb. In desperate need of a few extra pennies to keep the café going she decides to try a new venture to help increase income – a book club. (What a fab idea!) A mix bag of 4 people turn up for the meeting ….Sue, a retired sixty something struggling with the gap left from finishing work, Gracie, a strong feminine character with many open opinions, Rachel, a bubbly secondary school teacher in need of a hobby and Reggie a shy student who attends the meeting for research purposes. The current book phenomena is erotic novel ‘Ten Sweet Lessons’ so when the group take a liking to the book erotica from all decades soon becomes the club craze and changes their lives in more ways than they expected.

I was hooked on this book right from the start. The characters were all very different and it was captivating reading how their lives changed throughout the book. I really liked Estelle’s character, she was so likeable and what I call ‘normal’ it was a pleasure to follow her story. I found it really hard to put down, I just wanted to see what they were going to do/what was going to happen to them next! Having seen the title you may be hesitant that the book itself is full of sex and erotica and another ‘Fifty shades’ but it really isn’t – it much more focused on the characters and their lives with a bit of sauciness thrown in along the way ;-)

Definitely a Novel Café Cupcake…10/10….A perfect chick lit read, easy, fun, sexy, captivating, emotional and romantic all in one book. I would thoroughly recommend and can’t wait to see what Sophie has in store.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Children's Book Review: Penelope Crumb Follows her nose & Penelope Crumb Never Forgets by Shawn K Stout

Another two fabulous reviews from The Novel Cafe's Erin.....Thanks again Erin :-)

Some interesting facts about Penelope Crumb... She has: A brother so awful he MUST be an alien. A mum who draws body parts (ewww!). Her grandpa's nose... but no grandpa. Her family haven't seen him since her dad died. So Penelope and her friend Lizzie Maple set off across town to find Grandpa Felix, skipping school, taking trains and calling every F. Crumb in the phone book. But what if Grandpa Felix doesn't want to be found? One last fact about Penelope: she doesn't take no for an answer.

 Books received from Quercus - Thank you!

Erin's review.......Penelope goes on a search for her Grandpa and takes her friend Lizzie Maple with her to find him.The story takes you on a train journey trying to find her Grandpa.She says funny things like "True Blue".They talk to lots of people with the same name as her Grandpa in her desperate search to find him.Her character is cheeky and a little bit naughty.Made me want to keep reading to find out if she is successful in finding Grandpa.The ending is just perfect.Easy reading with great illustrations.I love the "Dear NASA" piece at the back of the book, and the interview with the author.I would recommend this book to all age 8+.

Patsy Cline is becoming best friends with another girl! It looks like Penelope is going to lose Patsy to Vera Bogg... forever.

So Penelope starts a secret museum full of things that remind her of the people she loves, in case she loses them too. Lizzie Maple, who loves adventures, is on board to help.
But other people seem to think 'taking their things for a museum' is the same as 'stealing'... and Penelope is suddenly in a whole lot of trouble!
Can Penelope win back Patsy Cline? And can she figure out a way to create her memory museum without stealing things?

Erin's review....In this story Penelope has to find a plan to win back her best friend, Patsy, from Vera.Patsy and her "new" friend Vera swap outfits and share secrets which really irritates Penelope.Penelope takes Patsy's best friend necklace that Vera had given her and hides in her made up museum on her bedroom cupboard.Penelope tries lots of ways to win back Patsy.I love the outcome of this story and would recommend it to age 8+ and I would happily read another story in this series.The illustrations are great and the "Why museums are important to me" section.

Both books available now on Amazon

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Children's Book Review : Murder Most Unladylike By Robin Stevens

The Novel Cafe welcomes a new member to the team, guest reviewer 8.5 year old Erin. Erin volunteered to read and review children's books for The Novel Cafe so when Random House sent Murder Most Unladylike she was delighted to read it and write down her views - so thanks to Random House and a very special thanks to Erin for the great review...I personally hope there are many more to come :-)

Book Blurb....
When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own deadly secret detective agency at Deepdean School for Girls, they struggle to find any truly exciting mysteries to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia's missing tie. Which they don't, really.) But then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must all have been a terrible accident - but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls know a murder must have taken place . . . and there's more than one person at Deepdean with a motive.
Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove a murder happened in the first place. Determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally), Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects and use all the cunning, scheming and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?

Erin's Review....
This book had a strong first chapter which kept me glued to the book, wanting to read on...

Good description of the main characters to build a picture of them in your mind, with a great spread of words, not at all repetitive.

I like the buildup of tension and lots of strong describing words which help get the feeling of the story.

I loved the plan of the school, teacher list and character list in the front of the book.

The rumours in the book of “who did it” make you really intrigued as to who it was that was involved.

The 2 main characters, Daisy and Hazel have very different personalities yet are the best of friends. They have a headstart on the Police in trying to solve the murder mystery.

I tried to guess who the murderer was... but didn't get it right!, until the book revealed a twist in the tale.

It’s the best book I have read in a long time and I can't wait for another adventure. I would definitely recommend you to read this book!

Preorder Murder Most Unladylike now on Amazon...out 5th June 2014.

Monday, 5 May 2014


The Dessert Deli is a gorgeous, mouth-watering collection of amazing recipes, bringing luxurious desserts to the comfort of your own home.
The Dessert Deli brings beautiful desserts to their rightful place: the forefront of any meal. Not just offering cupcakes, this cookbook covers the full spectrum of tasty treats: indulgent Belgian Chocolate Mousse with Honeycomb, zingy Orange and Passion Fruit Trifle, silky smooth Honey Crème Brûlée, to decadent Amaretto Chocolate Truffles. Learn how to adapt recipes to your liking and the importance of always using the best quality ingredients. 
Set up in 2008, The Dessert Deli quickly became one of the highlights of the popular Northcote Road Market, as well as being stocked in some of London's most prestigious Food Halls, providing luxurious handmade desserts for food lovers.

Another beautiful cookbook landed on my doorstep thanks to Legend Press - Thank you.

Laura Amos is an award winning pastry chef who at 26 years old started up her own business, the unique luxury dessert brand, The Dessert Deli. Selling her desserts in high end food halls such as Selfridges & Fortnum & Mason, due to their popularity Laura has written this book to share her recipes with us all - and aren't we mighty glad she has!

The book begins with a short introduction to Laura and her journey and continues on to a section for ingredients followed by equipment. Laura breaks down all the main items and gives short descriptions of each.  I found this really helpful and quite interesting. For the more experienced baker this may seem 'too much' but I personally felt it was a great touch to the book.

The recipes themselves are just mouth watering. Every page I turned another piece of paper went in the book, marking them on my 'to do' list. I loved how Laura clearly broke down each recipe. Firstly there was a short description of the dessert followed by the ingredients( split into sections if there was more than one part to the dessert) along with a method. Laura also included many tips and cautions to help along the way. It was very easy to follow and was supported by yummy pictures. Laura also included tips and methods for the typical components of most desserts, such as meringue, different creams, sauces etc. This was great - if you are an adventurous cook you could use all these aspects and make your own concoction.

What a lovely cookbook - great for anybody who loves to indulge in a scrummy dessert but without the expensive equipment and complicated recipe as a hinderance. The perfect cookbook for anybody with a sweet tooth.

My pick - Cherry Black Forest - Black Forest Gateau is my absolute favourite dessert so if it comes anywhere close it will be a hit with me!

My Husbands pick - Orange & Almond Treacle Tart.

'Prettiest' looking bake - Strawberry Sable - look at all those strawberries :-)

Buy The Dessert Deli now.

Monday, 21 April 2014


Colourful and cosmopolitan, with a cheeky edge and a hint of seediness, Brighton is a haven of indulgence for all the senses. From the crunch of pebbles underfoot to the thump of dubstep from nightclubs, the sting of salty wind on your face, to the sweet stickiness of neon pink rock, it's a city that wants to share all its delights with you. So fabulous local caterer Jessica Haggerty needed to look no further than her home town to find the inspiration for this luscious collection of delicious bakes. Evocative photographs by Stuart Ovenden, Deputy Art Editor of Good Food magazine, reflect the quirky spirit of the town and highlight the sensational food. 

Jessica takes you through the seasons with contemporary recipes for cakes, muffins, pies and tarts, all using fresh local produce and showcasing a unique blend of urban chic and old-fashioned flavours. Bake a batch of fragrant lemon geranium muffins for a summer picnic, or warm up a winter's evening with dark chocolate chilli gingerbread. Capture Brighton's vibrant, seductive spirit with Margarita cupcakes (why drink when you can have a cocktail in a cake?), sumptuous garlicky pots with rosemary olive crackers, and the ethereal White Night Cake. 

Irresistible and individual treats for every occasion from a passionate baker, beautifully photographed throughout.

This stunning cookbook landed on my doorstep from Book Guild Publishing - So big thank you to them.

What a beautifully illustrated, easy to follow recipe book to add to your collection! The fuschia pink writing and roses on the front cover along with the vintage jug and sponge cake enticed me to dive into the pages straight away and I wasn't disappointed.

The book starts with Jessica introducing Brighton - a perfect fun description of the town and its inspiration. The book is then divided into four sections, one for each season of the year with guidance for which ingredients should be at their best and events relating to that time. I really liked how this was done it helped give a good structure to the book. My favourite section had to be Spring, not only does this obviously relate to our current season but 20-30 minute meal suggestions for me are  always gratefully received.

Page by page my mouth was watering just seeing the recipes and the amazing photographs. Jessica has put a great amount of effort into thinking about every single one. A few recipes are not my cup of tea - like anybody there will always be one that doesn't tickle your fancy but on the whole I was very impressed. 

My Favourite quote - 'I always distrust a clean cookbook, a cookbook free of even a smear or drop of oil. No crumbs squashed between the pages? The book hasn't been used for what it's intended for, that much is plain.' - SO TRUE!

My pick - Ham hock and pea pies - In my opinion you cant beat a good pie!

My Husbands pick - Sussex toffee and apple crumble - The sweet tooth in the family.

'Prettiest' looking bake - Brighton Rock Cake - Love the pink :-)

Dont miss out - buy your copy today on Amazon!