Friday, 29 August 2014

Vanilla Salt by Ada Parellada

Food can be a great unifier and this is more than prevalent in Vanilla Salt by Ada Parellada. Catalan chef Alex is an amazing chef who excels at producing beautiful Catalan dishes, but he struggles to hold down staff or attract customers due to his gruff mannerisms and often child-like tantrums. 

Enter enthusiastic Canadian and anonymous food blogger Annette, who with nowhere else to go, takes a job in Alex’s restaurant. Determined to make the best of things, as well as putting up with the rude Alex, she employs all her social media skills to come up with taster menus and adventurous ploys to entice new customers to the restaurant. 

As they get closer together, complications with love and business cause much upheaval for the foodie pair and through their endured hardships they also discover an unknown past in each other that threatens to catch up with them. 

I liked foodie books and the food described in the story is mouth-wateringly good. You really get a sense of the setting through the rich and colourful language and the zest for food which was truly pleasurable to read. The main characters have the main storylines, but I found it was the supporting characters that really made the heart of the story. 

There was a fair bit of sex which I was not expecting, and the story does explore some darker themes away from cuisine which added extra depth to the story. I particularly enjoyed how Annette was an encyclopaedia of food history knowledge and often imparted tasty morsels of food trivia. 

The book is written by a chef and that passion for food really shows in the storytelling. I can’t say I have experienced Catalan cooking before but this story has definitely made me want to expand my culinary horizons! Sensual, sensational and finger-licking good, Vanilla Salt is a wonderful tale of love and food and a journey for happiness.

Monday, 25 August 2014

I Can't Begin to Tell You by Elizabeth Buchan

I really wasn't sure what to expect when I received a copy of this book to review. I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but with barely a glance at the press release, I already had my judgements formed. A romance set in world war two, I thought. Or a family saga set on against the tides of the wartime era. It is a bit of both I suppose but so much more. 

It is 1940 and in Denmark, war has arrived and people are choosing their sides. Local landowner and Danish born Bror Eberstern opts for an easier existence by co-existing with the Germans that have pervaded the town. 

His British born wife Kay however finds his decision to be almost cowardly and cannot agree with him. After one favour for a close acquaintance, she finds herself sucked into a world of subterfuge and misdirection. 

She teams up with an undercover operative trained by British Intelligence to transmit messages and transport forbidden items as part of a growing resistance against Hitler and his men. The deeper she gets, the more risks she takes and she finds that the dangers not only threaten her, but her whole family and the peaceful lives they once had.

As well as the action in Denmark, we are also privy to the lives of women who were tasked with receiving the coded messages and the clever minds that unscrambled the information. I loved how the story flitted from Denmark to London, with every character playing their risky role in the war effort. I found the coding and intelligence processes incredibly fascinating, and teamed with the personal lives of the workers, I couldn't put the book down. 

When I learnt about World War Two at school, or when reading fiction set in this time, I've never really heard much about what happened in Denmark, so I really enjoyed being able to learn more about the part that the Danish people played in this incredible slice of history. 

The characters are so well portrayed and you genuinely care what happens to them. The ordeals they face are written like a tense movie script; you can visualise each scene as if it were written for TV and you are almost on the edge of your seat when danger arises. 

I found I Can’t Begin to Tell You incredibly engrossing; full of secrets, twists and turns as well as love and family and the bonds forged and broken by war. A truly gripping read; heartfelt and intelligent, steeped in history and skilfully worded.   

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh

Every now and again, my social media and bookworm feeds go crazy for a particular book. The book not only gets glowing reviews but such relentless hype, that it becomes a necessity that I investigate further. 

When it comes to books, I like to do my own thing and not necessarily follow the crowd, but at the same time I hate the idea of missing out on the next big read. It happened with Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn early last year, and then a little later I jumped on The Humans by Matt Haig bandwagon. 

Whether it’s the work of an amazing publicist, the merit of the story itself or a winning combination of both, sometimes a book can infiltrate your world to the point where not seeing what the fuss is about is just plain rude! 

The Lemon Grove is one such book that I hadn't really thought of to read, but with relentless shout outs and mentions, I couldn't take any more and got myself a copy. Jenn and her husband Greg have travelled to Deia, Mallorca, where they go every summer to get away from the trials and tribulations of everyday life. But this year things are different. Jenn’s teenage step-daughter Emma is coming and she brings her boyfriend Nathan with her. 

At first Jenn takes him for a sullen, brooding teenage, but as Nathan is introduced properly into their little holiday bubble, she finds herself at close quarters with dark and desirable young man. With tensions running between herself and her husband and at almost constant odds with Emma, Jenn is drawn to the mysterious man that promises youth and reckless abandon. 

The familiar equilibrium of their family holiday is shattered, as Jenn struggles between the new dark feelings towards Nathan and old feelings of inadequacy of a husband stuck in his ways and a step-daughter who will never truly be hers. The Lemon Grove was a truly unexpected delight for me and I was quite surprised in the direction the storyline took. 

Helen Walsh doesn’t shy away from controversial subjects. The forbidden passions as well as the family strains are built up so subtly and intensely, that you become hooked. The Lemon Grove is wonderfully descriptive of the setting with simple characters facing intense issues. 

A sexy, slow sizzler of a story, The Lemon Grove is a great example of a summer read; a novel full of heat and intrigue, perfect for a beach chill out or warm evening thrill.

Monday, 18 August 2014

The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff

Back in April I reviewed The Enchantment Emporium. As a Tanya Huff fan I had been hugely excited at the time but was left slightly disappointed. I did like the book but there were parts that I did not like so at the time, gave a fairly mixed review. My mother read the book afterwards and absolutely loved it. 

So when I got the second book, she pretty much claimed it for her own. With a huge TBR pile and tons of reviews waiting to be written, I thought why not let an even bigger Tanya Huff fan than me have their say. Here is a review by my mum, hereby known as Mother Butterfly, on the second Gale family installment, The Wild Ways.

The Wild Ways is the second book by Tanya Huff in a series of witches based in Canada. It was a fun and at times very exciting read which I had been looking forward to reading having enjoyed the first book The Enchantment Emporium very much. Both books follow the very large Gale family; “The Aunties” being all powerful and their children and grandchildren slowly moving up the ranks of power. We get to meet a leprechaun – who ends up becoming the toy boy of one of the aunties and also some dragons, goblins, selkies, a troll and some bogarts, who although we did meet some in the first book, also play their part in this second adventure. Whereas the first book concentrated mainly on Allie, this second book focuses on her cousin Charlie, who is able to travel from place to place using any wood or garden area by strumming her guitar. She is what the family call a “Wild Power” but really comes into her own in this book as she taken by surprise at her own growing powers. It reminded me a little of some of Kelley Armstrong’s books but somehow a bit more “grown up” (i.e. a bit more sex!). Anyone who enjoys fantasy books will probably already know of Tanya’s other books and should also enjoy this delve into the lives of this very special family, along with the various other supernatural beings they meet with during their adventures. I like the way Tanya introduces the characters to the reader and makes you care about what happens to them. To the outside world they appear to be just another family, working hard to make a living but of course anyone who is able to scratch the surface will discover how very different they are. I am really looking forward to reading the next book in this series and hope that she doesn't stop at just three!

So that was Mother Butterfly’s first official book review! If you have any thoughts on Tanya Huff books or any words of wisdom for Mother Butterfly’s future in book blogging, please feel free to get in touch!