Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Book Review: Paris By The Book by Liam Callanan

Title: Paris By The Book
Author: Liam Callanan
Publication date: June 2018
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Contemporary/Literary Fiction
Source: Review copy from the publisher

Description: In a city of millions, it’s easy to lose someone…

Twelve weeks before Leah Eady arrived in France, her husband disappeared. Early one morning, he walked out the door and never came back. All he left behind was a scrumpled note in a cereal box, leading her to the bustling streets of Paris.

Once she arrives, she discovers a mysterious unfinished manuscript written by her husband, and set in the very same city. Hoping to uncover more clues, Leah takes over a crumbling bookshop with her two young daughters, only to realise that he might just be closer than any of them ever imagined…

…but what if he doesn’t want to be found?

My thoughts: From the description and cover, I was expecting a light, charming story about a woman running a bookshop in a foreign country, trying to trace clues of her missing husband and struggling with life alone in a new place trying to look after her daughters. Well, the first big difference to that is that it is not light and charming. I found it incredibly boring and slow in a lot of places. It's trying hard to be 'literary', I think, which does not come across in the cover at all.

A good portion of the book is set before the family arrive in Paris. It covers Leah meeting her husband, their hopes and dreams, and how they don't actually communicate very well with each other. It's a look at a not-particularly-strong relationship. Then we get to him disappearing. I found all these flashbacks a bit frustrating, when I was promised a story about a bookshop in Paris. There isn't even much focus on the bookshop when the story does get there. Leah isn't really looking for clues - she's jumping at shadows, looking for her husband around every corner and on every stranger's face, unwilling to move on and accept that he walked out on her and their daughters.

Overall, I found this a very boring book, and I think it must have been one of the last ones that I pushed through until the end before I started embracing more of an acceptance for DNF'ing (did not finish-ing) books. Life is short, there are lots on my shelf I do want to read, so I'm not going to force myself to carry on with books I'm not enjoying. Paris by the Book by Liam Callanan gets 4 stars from me.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Book Review: Sunshine at the Comfort Food Cafe by Debbie Johnson

Title: Sunshine at the Comfort Food Cafe
Author: Debbie Johnson
Publication date: 8th March 2018
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Comfort Food Cafe #4
Source: Review copy via NetGalley

Description: For Willow, the ramshackle café overlooking the beach, together with its warm-hearted community, offers friendship as a daily special and always has a hearty welcome on the menu. But when a handsome stranger blows in on a warm spring breeze, Willow soon realises that her quiet country life will be changed forever.

My thoughts: I love Debbie Johnson's Comfort Food Cafe series - while they've always got some really sad bits (and are quite formulaic with that aspect) they're real celebrations of found-family and how communities can come together. Willow has been in the series from the beginning, a young woman who spends most of the time caring for her mother who has Alzheimers. I was pleased to hear that she was a main character in this book, because we've seen her as a continual side character, and I was eager to find out more about her. Also, she's younger than some of the main characters have been, and at a more similar stage of life to me, so I thought I might relate to her situations more than I have with the characters who already have kids, for example.

When she's not looking after her mum, Willow works as a cleaner, with a business she set up and runs by herself. She's been employed to clean up a big local house, which used to be a children's home, and soon meets her employer, who turns out to be surprisingly handsome and surprisingly young. I loved that Tom was a bit of a geek, interested in sci fi & fantasy and how to survive a zombie apocalypse - a man after my own heart!

They have the usual mix of ups and downs, and deal with problems like Willow's strained relationship with her siblings, the trials of looking after her mum, and the interference of well-meaning neighbours who have seen her work so hard & just want her to be able to have some nice things for herself sometimes. It's an emotional ride in places, but as with the rest of the series, very uplifting and - as you might guess from the name - comforting. I love this series as a quick read to perk up a weekend. Overall, I'm giving it 8/10.