Friday, 15 August 2014

Review: The Travelling Tea Shop by Belinda Jones

Laurie loves a challenge. Especially if it involves anything beautiful, baked and frosted. The brief is simple: With three other women, Laurie will board a London bus - kitted out as an English tea shop - on a deliciously different road trip of the USA. 
Their mission: To bring home-grown classics like Battenberg, Victoria sponge and scones to the land of cupcakes, whoopie pies and gold-leafed chocolate sundaes. 

And to show them how a real cup of tea is made. All of the women have their own secrets and heartaches to heal. As well as a grand appreciation of cupcakes, there's also the chance for romance...
But will making whoopee lead to love?

I am a big fan of Belinda Jones’ books. They’re fun, they’re romantic, they take you to new and exciting places, and they don’t always have the happily ever after that you expect. They’re a brilliant mix of the traditional romance that makes you feel all warm and fluffy inside, and real life that grounds them and shows you that not all happy endings are the stereotypical. However, much as I have loved her previous books, ‘The Travelling Tea Shop’ didn’t really hit the mark for me.

One of the biggest issues for me was actually something that I have loved about previous books, the info dumping of history and facts to liven up the tour and places visited. I think when you’re reading your first couple of Belinda’s novels you (tend to) really enjoy the extra information that’s imparted, but the more you read the more repetitive it gets. Yes some of the information was fascinating, but on the whole it felt like I was reading a travel brochure combined with a text book. It got incredibly old incredibly quickly.

I found Laurie quite hard to actually relate to or form a real opinion as she remained very one dimensional throughout. She just felt like a checklist of character traits- love life problems, check, neuroses, check, family history drama that she doesn’t want to get into, check. It felt like a well worn formula with very little new to freshen it up. I also found her romance later in the novel to be handled incredibly poorly. I realise that some of that was deliberate, but you want your reader to swoon at the romance, not cringe with second hand embarrassment.

The secondary characters were a bit mixed. I would have loved to see more of Gracie as she really breathed life into the mix, which was very much needed given how much Pamela sucked the life out of everything. I found her character to be the most hard to believe as she’s supposed to have been this big tv personality, yet she didn’t appear to have any personality to speak of. And then we come to one of the most horrible characters I’ve found in a book recently, Ravenna. I understood the basis of the character but it felt as though she’d been made into a Disney villain rather than a believable girl who was struggling with an abusive relationship.
There was the basis for brilliance with all of the characters it was simply that they remained flat and unrealistic which dragged the already slightly fanciful plot into complete fantasy.


There were still moments of brilliance where I laughed out loud or fell in love with the places described, but it wasn’t the perfect escapism I’ve become used to in Belinda’s novels and I felt let down as a result. For those looking for a cake filled fluffy read who aren’t too fussed on character development then this is a quick read that allows the reader to escape for a few hours. For anyone looking for more than that I recommend sticking with Belinda’s previous novels.


Thursday, 14 August 2014

Review: Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid

Thank you to Netgalley for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

Five strangers. Countless adventures. One epic way to get lost. 
Four teens across the country have only one thing in common: a girl named LEILA. She crashes into their lives in her absurdly red car at the moment they need someone the most. 

There's HUDSON, a small-town mechanic who is willing to throw away his dreams for true love. And BREE, a runaway who seizes every Tuesday—and a few stolen goods along the way. ELLIOT believes in happy endings…until his own life goes off-script. And SONIA worries that when she lost her boyfriend, she also lost the ability to love. 
Hudson, Bree, Elliot and Sonia find a friend in Leila. And when Leila leaves them, their lives are forever changed. But it is during Leila's own 4,268-mile journey that she discovers the most important truth— sometimes, what you need most is right where you started. And maybe the only way to find what you're looking for is to get lost along the way.

I am a sucker for road trip stories so I was really excited about ‘Let’s Get Lost’ – it’s just a shame that it didn’t live up to the hype. The entire novel is centered around Leila, who breezes through four strangers lives at just the right time to magically fix all their troubles and woes. This could have been brilliant, but unfortunately Leila was nothing more than an attractive plot device. She had no substance, no depth, and whilst we do find out a little more about her in the final section and some of this lack of character is explained, it is not enough to redeem her.

The other characters are, on the whole, a continuing mess of clich├ęs. There is Hudson whose main feature is how completely and instantly he falls in love with Leila. Again there is no depth, he is a cut out caricature and I felt that the entirety of his section, but particularly the ending, were trite and ridiculous. I love a good love story, just look at the number of romances I read! But I like to have some reality mixed in, and characters that actually have something that connects them, not a bunch of clich├ęs and stereotypes.
Bree followed in a similar vein, with yet more stereotyping. Actually I found Bree’s section the hardest to read, I felt like I was watching a slow motion car crash and just desperately wanted to look away.

I was slightly more taken by Sonia and Elliot’s stories, because they actually felt a little more real, a little more human and a lot more interesting. However whilst Sonia held my attention right the way through, Elliot’s section and the message it was giving was ruined by the ending. That said, by the time I reached Sonia’s story, the formula of ‘Everything is terrible, Leila breezes in and fixes everything’ was getting decidedly old by this point.


I wanted to love this book, I kept reading and hoping desperately that it would get better, but unfortunately it never really took off for me. The characters were weak and experienced no real development, just a straight pattern formula that became decidedly tired by the end of the book.

It’s a shame because there are some moments that are brilliant, where the writing really shines and the humour is laugh out loud. However it is too sporadic to really stand a chance of redeeming the book.