Profile for Jill's Book Cafe > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Jill's Book Cafe
Top Reviewer Ranking: 2,615
Helpful Votes: 145

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Jill's Book Cafe "Cheshire" (UK)

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8
Only the Brave (A DS Allie Shenton Novel Book 3)
Only the Brave (A DS Allie Shenton Novel Book 3)
Price: £3.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This series just keeps getting better, 26 May 2015
A welcome and reasonably quick return to DS Allie Shenton after her recent outing in Follow the Leader. While Only the Brave can be read as a stand alone, I recommend you read the previous novels first as not only does this continue some of the themes, it also means you'd not be missing out on great reads.

The basic criminal plot evolves around the murder of one of the notorious Johnson brothers and a bag of missing money. It resurrects characters from previous titles and is set in the locale of Stoke on Trent. The plot is made the more interesting as we follow the case over the course of 48 hours so the investigation is quite intense. Running parallel to this is the ongoing need to discover the individual who is stalking Allie, made all the more sinister as it is believed to be the same person who attacked her sister 17 years ago. I intend saying no more about the plot as not only would it spoil this novel, but it also impinges on story lines that have gone before.

I love Mel's writing style her characters are always believable and her plots are fast paced with twists and turns that keep you engaged. Allie in particular is a great character, a mix of efficiency and vulnerability that makes her likeable and plausable.

I would also like to congratulate Mel for taking the brave decision to bring particular ongoing themes to a satisfactory conclusion in this book. As she has already said this is not the last we have seen of DS Allie it would have been easy to let particular strands carry on. However I can think of one mainstream crime writer who insists on maintaining a running theme through his books which has gone on for far too long and has now become an unbelievable distraction. So thank you for not taking the easy route, but giving us the promise of an unencumbered Allie to look forward to.

If you like gritty police procedurals with realistic plots and believable characters then this is for you.

I received an ARC in return for an honest review.

The Museum of Things Left Behind
The Museum of Things Left Behind
Price: £5.69

4.0 out of 5 stars A quirky little book that is as enchanting as it's title., 23 May 2015
Vallerosa is a tiny little country nestling in the mountains between France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland. Run by a paranoid, irresolute, but more benevolent than despotic elected dictator, the country is looking to an American consultant to improve it's economic standing.

When Lizzie Holmesworth writes to the President of Vallerosa to ask for permission to visit for a month to work towards her Duke of Edinburgh Award, something is seriously lost in translation. When she arrives, the President and populace are actually expecting the Duke of Edinburgh, and to save face the President presents her as a member of the British Royal Family. This gives her unprecedented access and freedoms to meet both Government officials and the local inhabitants. The misunderstanding sets in motion a chain of events that will change Vallerosa and everyone who lives there.

Vallerosa's fragile economy is based on self sufficency and the production of their own particular brand of tea, a result of a previous historical blip. The American consultant wants all of the land given over to tea to improve exports (which are currently non existent) and at the same time there seems to be a consensus that Tourism will also improve their standing.

The book started a little slowly and the language at times was a bit clunky, almost like a bad translation. However the engaging story and the delightful characters soon meant that I was less critical as I just wanted to see how things played out. The book is a clever satirical look at the world and how Capitalism (here in the shape of the Americans) doesn't always offer the best way forward. It is a clear example of the dangers of putting all your eggs in one basket. It also strikes a blow for feminism as while all of the Government officers and local businesses owners are men, it is the women working behind the scenes that are actually the driving force that keeps the country going.

The question is who will secure the confidence of the indecisive President and his cabinet, to determine the future of Vallerosa.

In case your wondering the whimsical Museum of Things Left Behind, is literally that. The countries sole Museum aimed at giving 'lost items' their purpose back. This again is another allegorical construct as Vallerosa is full of people struggling to achieve their potential and have a real, rather than imposed purpose to their lives. Not forgetting that the tea plants that grow in the valley were the original things that were left behind.

A fun, quirky but also engaging and thought provoking read that has you thinking about the nature of societies and whether progress and Capitalist thinking is always the way forward.

I received an ARC via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

The Canterbury Sisters
The Canterbury Sisters
by Kim Wright
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.30

4.0 out of 5 stars A light but engaging and insightful read (ignore the teacups), 23 May 2015
This review is from: The Canterbury Sisters (Paperback)
Che Milan had a difficult relationship with her mother while alive and after her death she still seems to steering the course of Che's life. Armed with her ashes and a reminder that she had promised to take her mother to Canterbury, Che decides to do just that. The catalyst is a note from her long term lover ending their relationship.

So with little planning or forethought she books a flight to England and joins a group called Broads Abroad that are undertaking the pilgrimage from London to Canterbury. In true Chaucerian fashion each of the 'pilgrims' has to tell a story along the way, on this occasion with the theme of love. All of the tales are different and give insights into the ladies telling the tale. It certainly gives credence to the saying never judge a book by it's cover as the tales are not always what you would expect from the persona's that the women project.

From the outset Che is on the backfoot, she loses her phone, and bizarrely along the way some of her mother; she has misgivings and mishaps and has no idea what her tale will be. By the end she has an understanding and acceptance of her life that she hadn't anticipated and is prepared to move forward rather than constantly looking back.

On the whole I enjoyed this book, though I did find in the beginning it was a bit slow and introspective as everything was about Che and her views. Once we met the group and they started the pilgrimage, the book began to develop and became part travelogue mixed with individual stories which became more thoughtful, reflective and enlightening. It was an interesting look at developing friendships and group dynamics among a diverse group of women. This would make a good book club read as there are plenty of topics for discussion, female friendships, male/female relationships and mother/daughter relationships for starters.

My main criticism of the book, would be it's cover. I really don't see the connection with the content and it is suggestive of the teashop/cafe genre that is particularly prevalent at the moment which does the book a disservice. While it would probably fall into light women's fiction it does delve into deeper themes and subjects.

I received an ARC via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Shoes for Anthony
Shoes for Anthony
Price: £6.02

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gem of a book, 7 May 2015
This review is from: Shoes for Anthony (Kindle Edition)
This is a gem of a book with wonderful characters and an engaging storyline. Set in a Welsh mining village during World War II, it really brings to life what life was like a small close knit community during the period. The influence of the mine is all pervading and the almost hand to mouth existence for many is compounded by the depravations of war and rationing.

The main focus of the book is Anthony and his family,his Mam struggling to keep them all fed and clothed, his sister working for the RAF in a clerical post and his Dad and two brothers who all work down the pit. Anthony is a lovable character, gullible, naive and yet at times also worldly wise seeing the world through his eyes brings a fresh prospective.

Ordinarily life for Anthony revolves around school and his friends during the day, and once at home the daily routine of his Dad and brothers dictated by the mine. However life changes with the arrival of the American GI's and the crash of a German bomber carrying Polish POW's. For the village and Anthony, the consequences of both this and other events mean life is totally changed.

The book is at times very funny and at others dramatic and tragic. But throughout it is engaging, heartwarming and enjoyable.

I received an ARC in return for an honest review

The Italian Wife
The Italian Wife
Price: £3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A successful combination of history, mystery, intrigue and romance, 3 May 2015
This review is from: The Italian Wife (Kindle Edition)
Set in 1932, the Italian Wife of the title is Isabella Berotti who was widowed ten years earlier when her Blackshirt husband Luigi was fatally shot. Isabella was also shot in the back and her life was irrevocably changed not just by her physical injuries, but by the mental scars she can't escape.

The catalyst that brings the past firmly to the fore is a meeting as she "sits at a café in the vibrant centre of Bellina, when a woman she's never met asks her to watch her ten-year-old daughter, just for a moment. Reluctantly, Isabella agrees -- and then watches in horror as the woman climbs to the top of the town's clock tower and steps over the edge"

The incident is also witnessed by Roberto Falco the photographer for the local Fascist Party. It brings the two together to discover what brought about her suicide and why her daughter Rosa, is so important to the local Fascist Party Leader. It also appears to be intrinsically linked to the murder of Isabella's husband, a topic that the Fascist Party are reluctant to discuss.

Not only is this book and enjoyable read it is a fascinating insight into the cult of Mussolini and a particular aspect of Italian history I had no knowledge of. As Isabella is an architect she has been employed to work on the emerging town of Bellini. While Bellini is a fictional construct it is based on the real life "towns" that Mussolini built during his ambitious plan to drain and reclaim the Pontine Marches. It is a period when it was safe to say you could trust no-one and the Fascist Party literally had eyes and ears everywhere.

The book has a strong plot that really draws you in and has you rooting for the good guys, even though sometimes you're never quite who they are. As characters Isabella and Roberto are realistic and believable which means you really want to know what happens to them and whether they can discover the truth about Luigi's murder, Rosa's mothers suicide and the fate of Rosa and her father.

It is a book that successfully combines history, mystery, intrigue and romance and I'm happy to recommend it.

I received an ARC via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Letters to the Lost
Letters to the Lost
Price: £4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Romantic, emotional and incredibly touching - one of my books of the year, 3 May 2015
The blurb tells you all you need to know about the broad plot without spoiling things. However what it doesn't say how beautifully the story is told. I was totally captivated and more than a little bit in love with Dan myself.

The story starts in the present day with Jess. She is running away from an abusive boyfriend and finds herself squatting in an empty cottage, the lack of any current occupier is confirmed by the pile of unopened post which includes the letter from Dan. Not only does she read this letter, but she finds a box of letters sent from Dan to Stella in 1943. What is clear is that their relationship was clearly special and Jess is determined to help Dan find Stella again.

The story alternates between Jess's own personal struggles in the present and 1943 as we discover the truth about Stella and Dan's relationship. The story is brilliantly told and really evokes the period of wartime Britain with it's rationing, shortages and philosophy of resilience. It presents a very fixed view of the role of women which helps to keep Stella trapped in her loveless and abusive marriage, despite Dan's desperate attempts to release her.

As well as the unfolding story of the past, there is also the present day story of Jess who herself blossoms and grows throughout the book. She has her own emerging love story when her path crosses with Will who is seeking the owner of the cottage she is squatting in.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough, as it is one that you can really lose yourself in. The storytelling and the characters are of the highest quality and combine to produce a book that is romantic, emotional and incredibly touching. This is impressive when you consider this is a debut novel. Based on this I can't wait for the next book.

I received an ARC via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

The Lie
The Lie
Price: £0.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Choose your friends wisely!!, 24 April 2015
This review is from: The Lie (Kindle Edition)
The Lie is the authors second book following her highly successful debut novel The Accident. As a result it had quite a lot to live up to, but sadly for me it didn't quite have the same impact. That is not to say that I didn't enjoy it, it just wasn't as gripping. I also found the beginning a bit laboured which took me longer to actually get 'into' the book.

The blurb tells you all you need to know about the basic plot without giving away too many spoilers. The way the book develops the plot is by alternating the timeline between the present day and the holiday five years previously. The holiday was a stay in a Nepalese retreat that proved to be not what the four friends were expecting and had deadly consequences. What happened in Nepal is what Jane is trying to escape from hence her "lie" about her identity.

The problem for me with this structure was that while it worked in that it gradually revealed what happened episodically so as to prolong the overall tension, for me it also served to kill the momentum every time the time frame shifted. Things would happen in Nepal, then we'd move back to the present. Things would be developing in the present then we'd back in Nepal. To be honest I was also more interested in the present day storyline than the past one which at times seemed too unbelievable. It didn't help that of the four friends, two were particularly unlikeable which meant I didn't really care what happened to them.

The pace really picked up once we knew what had happened in Nepal and the focus was back on the present day, where it reverted to a more traditional psychological thriller format.

Having loved the first book I'm ready to admit that I might be comparing it unfavourably and for anyone who is coming to this without any expectations the view might well be different. Overall, did I enjoy this book? yes - it just wasn't the page turner that The Accident was.

I received an ARC via NetGalley in return for an honest review

I Let You Go
I Let You Go
Price: £3.66

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Has one of the best shout out loud twists I've ever read - a brilliant debut, 23 April 2015
This review is from: I Let You Go (Kindle Edition)
This is a brilliant debut with one of the best shout out loud twists I've read in years. When it comes it will have you going back to check on what you've read. Because of the twists (yes more than one) I have no intention of discussing plot for fear of giving something away. The blurb tells you all you need to know without spoiling what is to follow.

I will say that the book falls broadly into two halves. The first lays heavy emphasis on the police procedural aspect with the search for guilty party, while Jenna attempts to build herself a new life. This part is well done, the police team are likeable characters that are well drawn with glimpses of lives outside the force as well as within which adds an extra realistic dimension to the plot. Jenna is presented as a sympathetic character doing her best to cope, but there are hints that there is something going on beyond what we already know.

Once the perpetrator is revealed part two becomes more about how and why what happened occurred as well as more psychological thriller that is quite hard hitting in places.

The plot has it all, grief, loss, romance violence and twists aplenty that will keep you gripped to the end. I can't wait for the next one.

I received an ARC via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

The Little Paris Bookshop
The Little Paris Bookshop
by Nina George
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.09

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An uplifting and life affirming book, 23 April 2015
The Little Paris Bookshop in reality is a book barge, called the Literary Apothecary that is moored on the Seine and owned by Monsieur Perdu. Perdu is much more than just a bookseller as he excels at dispensing books according to need not want, and thereby improving and curing the ailments of his readers. He lives in an apartment building surrounded by a variety of eccentric characters, and his life changes when he comes into contact with Catherine, a newly arrived and recently divorced resident.

He is persuaded by his landlady to provide any furniture he doesn't need to Catherine who has been left nothing by her husband. To do this it means he has to enter a room he has kept locked for 20 years since the departure of Manon, the love of his life. The locking of the room that they shared their last moments in, also marked the point that Monsiuer Perdu 'shut' himself away from meaningful relationships and also to a degree life. The table he gives to Catherine turns out to contain a letter left by Manon which casts a whole new light on her departure and brings about a change in Perdu.

He casts off on the boat seeking to travel south to discover the truth about his lost love. He is joined on his adventure by Max, a famous novelist with writers block, and the barges resident cats Lindgren and Kafka. The journey brings them into contact with a variety of characters and adventures that see both Max and Perdu re-evaluate their lives and more importantly their futures.

This is a delightful book that is full of literary references and book related homilies that most book lovers will readily agree with. It is inhabited by a cast of characters that are endearing and the language and imagery really bring the book to life. It deals with the major themes of life - friendship, love, grief and death. It deals with self discovery and learning to to be happy and of course it deals with books and their value. It is a book for all readers and is not elitist in its references ranging from Baudelaire and Dostoyevsky to Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams.

It is an uplifting and life affirming book and for all those that may be in emotional need it handily includes Jean Perdu's Emergency Literary Pharmacy (from Adams to Von Arnim). At the end of the book is a selection of Provencal recipes to complete the French experience. I suspect this will be a book that many read more than once - to fully enjoy the language and to pick up on all the nuances it is easy to miss on first reading. It is delight of a book and I thoroughly recommend it.

I received an ARC via NetGalley in return for an honest review

The Umbrian Thursday Night Supper Club
The Umbrian Thursday Night Supper Club
Price: £6.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real women, real stories and real food - enjoy a little slice of Umbria, 23 April 2015
The author Marlena De Blasi has been a chef, a journalist, a food and wine consultant and a restaurant critic. In this book she relates how when she moved to the Umbrian village of Orvieto she was befriended by Miranda and became part of her regular Thursday supper club.

Miranda had been hosting such a night for years but decides due to age, that it's time for someone else to take the helm and makes Marlena her successor. As a non native this isn't initially well received by the other women. The book deals with the period between 2004 and 2008 when Marlena began hosting the group assisted and sometimes criticised by the other female members, Paolina, Gilda, Ninuccia and Miranda herself.

Over time, not only does Miranda become integrated into the group, but she also discovers the life stories of her new female friends. The stories are all different and hark back to a age far removed from the modern age. The stories build a picture of a society that was both innocent and yet corrupt, with the church and the clans (Mafia)wielding power. Their stories are emotional ones of lost loves, lost families and poverty. Yet as a balance to this is the redeeming power of love and friendship. Through all of the stories food plays an important role.

In a largely poor community reliant on subsistance farming, it became currency as well as sustenance and people ate what they had, what they could barter or what they could steal. The Thursday night suppers are also reminiscent of this as the meals are made from seasonal produce supplied by those attending, the only proviso being it has to be the best of what they have. The book is full of mouthwatering descriptions of largely peasant style food which would still grace any table in terms of provenance, flavour and skill. In addition to the descriptions throughout the book, there are also additional formal recipes supplied at the back.

I enjoyed this book, it was easy to read and felt at times likes reading a novel.The women revealed their stories over time as they prepared food in the kitchen so their stories never felt contrived, but became part of the natural course of the book. The book is part social history, part political history and part recipe book which combines to make a satisfying whole.

I received an ARC in return for an honest review.

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8