Category Archives: The Reading Nook

The Adultery Club by Tess Stimson

 

images

The title gave away that this novel was going to be one of those sizzling page turners that you wouldn’t be able to put down – and this proved to be true. I had to desperately resist the temptation to sneakily continue reading while teaching my class! Yes, it was that good.

A cheating husband who just happens to be a top divorce lawyer; a devoted yet wronged wife and mother; a seductive mistress who doesn’t care who gets hurt as long as it isn’t her… and as if that’s not enough, the ex-fiancé of the cheated wife resurfaces after many years to settle some unfinished business. This Tess Stimson novel has all the ingredients of a fabulous read.

$_35

Dependable, happily married family man, Nicholas Lyon is the last person anyone would suspect of infidelity. His strong morals are further reinforced by the destruction caused by divorce which Nicholas witnesses every day as part of his job. Married to a successful chef and cookery writer, the exotically named Malinche – Mal – for several years, it was instant attraction when they first met, and according to Mal, it was fate that brought them together. A decade later, they’re the couple who have it all: two rewarding careers; a chaotic though happy home and family life; three beautiful daughters, and most importantly a fulfilling marriage and strong bond. Mal and the girls mean everything to Nicholas and he’d never do anything to risk losing them – especially not for a quick and meaningless fling.

However Nicholas’s  morals go out the window the day he meets the captivating Sara Kaplan, the young and beautiful new lawyer hired by his firm. The attraction is mutual though Nicholas tries hard to resist Sara’s charms. Sara, on the other hand, see Nicholas as something of a challenge and pursues the much older, married lawyer with a vengeance. A game of wits soon begins with both players refusing to give up or give in.

 

THE%20ADULTERY%20CLUB%20Macmillan%20UK%202013%20(backlist)

But then a bomb explosion changes everything. In the midst of fear and confusion and realising how short life is, Nicholas gives in to temptation… and what should have been a one-off soon develops into an affair – with Nicholas becoming a fully fledged member of the adultery club he loathes. And problems escalate further when Sara realises that she wants more than just a bit of fun and clandestine meetings; she wants a life with Nicholas and sets her sights on prising him away from his homely, mousy ditz of a wife.

Mal however is not as homely or as ditzy as Sara would like to believe. She’s bohemian, arty, and a little bit quirky – I don’t know many women who wear their eight year old daughter’s underwear (?) – and she is very successful in her professional life, working hard to juggle her career with the demands of being a wife and mother. The other great love of her life  is her best friend Kit who is something of an honorary brother to Mal and brings a lot of colour into the Lyon household. Mal’s life is anything but humdrum!

n217129

As blissful as her life is, Mal is actually hiding a secret heartache involving her ex-fiancé, the gorgeous yet oddly named Trace Pitt. A misunderstanding many years ago led to a terrible tragedy which tore the couple apart forever. Now Trace returns and offers Mal a job at his restaurant – but are Mal’s culinary skills all he’s interested in?

Much of the humour in the novel is provided by Kit and Evie, one of Nicholas and Mal’s daughters, whose comments and insights are worth reading this book for alone. It’s touching to see Kit’s role within the Lyon household. Despite his strained relationship with Nicholas, it’s obvious that Kit is more than just a friend to the Lyon’s – he’s like another family member who loves Mal and her daughters. What’s heart-wrenching is the turmoil of the Lyon’s eldest child, Sophie, who is – out of the three girls – the most aware of what is happening to her family and of her mother’s anguish. A stark reminder of the suffering of children caught up in the middle of a bitter divorce.

Trace also comes across as something of a tragic character. For all his devastating good looks; charm; wealth and success, what Trace really wants is a life with his lost love Mal – a life that was unfairly taken away from him. Despite never being short of female attention, Trace never found anyone who came close to Mal. Once Sara and Nicholas’ s affair becomes common knowledge, Trace seizes his chance to win back Mal – but will he be successful?

Tess Stimson

Tess Stimson

This was the very first time  I’d read a novel by Tess Stimson – and I wasn’t disappointed. I enjoyed seeing how the story unfolded, and as the novel is told from the points of view of Mal, Sara and Nicholas, it was interesting to get an insight into each of the major characters’ thoughts. The novel’s tagline reads: whose side will you be on: the husband, wife or the mistress? Well as someone who thinks that cheaters are lower than pond scum, it was a no-brainer – and by the end of the novel, my opinion hadn’t changed. I thought that Nicholas was weak; Sara still a bitch – although she did soften a little towards the end – and I was still Team Mal! I was also impressed by Mal’s strength and dignity when she discovers her husband’s affair – I think most wives would have been reaching for the shotgun!

I wasn’t quite sure how the novel would end as there were quite a few twists and turns along the way – including the trump card Sara plays when she thinks she’s losing Nicholas. I have to say as enthralling as the novel was, I was a little let down by the ending. It was a happy ending, full of love and second chances for more than two of the characters, but it wasn’t the happy ending I would have chosen (sorry Tess!) and I couldn’t help but feel more than a little broken-hearted for one of the characters who I felt was worthy of a little happiness. Alas it was not to be. Still a really good read and a great introduction into the works of Tess Stimson. Can’t wait to get stuck into more of her novels.

imagesCAHZOS9O

 

 

 

Advertisements

Pear Shaped By Stella Newman

 

They say you should never judge a book by its cover but I have to say that it was the cover of Pear Shaped that caught by eye: pretty and dainty in light blue with splashes of bold colour including amethyst and hot pink (my favourite colour combination) featuring a girl carrying a scrummy looking dessert. It screamed girly heaven and I believed that this read was going to be all sweetness and light. Little did I know that there was an element of darkness lurking between these pages…

In Stella Newman’s debut novel, we meet Sophie Klein, a confident, sassy independent thirty-something with great friends, a good social life and the best job in the world – pudding developer for a company called Fletchers. She gets to come up with ideas for new desserts; think up packaging  and best of all, she gets to taste-test them – an aspect of the job Sophie absolutely loves.

 

But Sophie’s life isn’t all rosy in the garden. She is getting over a broken relationship; her mother and brother live thousands of miles away in America; there’s her annoying neighbour Amber and the boss she can’t stand, Devron, and her beloved elderly grandmother who can no longer care for herself. Sophie, being the ever resourceful girl that she is, just takes these things in her stride. Unfortunately life’s about to throw a curveball she won’t be able to manage…

On a night out, Sophie meets the charming and charismatic business owner James. Although he is not conventionally good-looking and a fair bit older, Sophie takes a shine to him. They soon start dating and James makes grand gestures in order to really sweep Sophie off her feet. It isn’t long before the attraction she feels for him soon turns to love.

However, after a while Sophie starts to feel quite insecure in the relationship. James doesn’t seem ready to commit, and then there are his frequent absences as he goes away on business and his erratic texts and phone calls. The fact that his ex-girlfriend is a model also doesn’t help. Sophie begins to wonder if James is too good to be true – and it isn’t long before his true colours begin to show. During a heart- to- heart, James reveals that he’s never been out with anyone like her, referring to her size. James doesn’t seem to realise that although this is a woman who tests puddings for a living, Sophie isn’t fat but he’s obviously comparing her to the skinny model exes.

So  it all goes down hill from here as a pattern develops in this book: Sophie gets close to James; James pulls away; Sophie tries to move on; James reels her back in. As irritating as Amber and Devron might be (they do incidentally provide some of the comic moments in the novel) James is by far the most unlikable character in this book. Shallow, arrogant, selfish, insincere, and a man who befriends cheats and liars,  it’s quite obvious that he doesn’t care for Sophie, constantly putting her down, but at the same time he can’t quite let her go.

I could relate to this story and Sophie’s pain as she desperately tries to move on and get her life back on track, as we’ve all had the misfortune of knowing a James at some point in our lives. We’ve either dated him ourselves or our friends and sisters have. We’ve either been yelled at by worried friends and relatives who insist we leave the relationship, or we’ve been the ones doing the yelling. Despite feeling saddened by Sophie’s plight and seeing her sink into depression for which she eventually needed medical attention, there were times, I just wanted to reach into the book and shake her. This is a young lady who has everything going for her, who could easily find a man who treats her better – if only she could shake off that horrible James. The Jameses of the world are not easy to spot because they are charmers and schmoozers who know how to say and do all the right things to get you sucked in, causing you to ignore all the warning signs, as Sophie soon found out.

Despite being light-hearted and comical at times, there is a deeper, darker element to this novel. Stella Newman explores the sinister side of relationships: infidelity, emotional abuse, the need to control and the devastating effect it can have on the person on receiving end of it. Sophie’s lack of self-respect and insecurities are a sharp contrast to the feistier elements of her character  which shows the effect this unhealthy relationship is having on her. Without wanting to give too much away, there is a somewhat semi-happy ending but I did find the climax to be a little disappointing as I felt that such a dramatic and thought-provoking story needed a stronger conclusion.

However, I do think that Newman is a brilliant and witty writer. I loved her lengthy descriptions of the puddings (food porn for us dessert-aholics!) and another thing I liked about this book is that the author lists the places she likes in London and New York (both cities feature in this book) plus restaurant reviews and recipe sources. Perhaps the only real love affair in this novel is between a woman and her sweet-tooth! But I just couldn’t get away from the fact that this was a novel about an abusive relationship and it was brave of Newman to tackle such a taboo subject for a chick-lit novel. There has been criticism that the novel reflected badly on women but I disagree. This is a novel about one woman’s heartbreak and her attempts to rebuild her life – with the help of lots of sugar!

 

Dinner At Mine By Chris Smyth

Journalist Chris Smyth’s debut novel Dinner At Mine is the reading book which has accompanied me on my way to work for a week – and it definitely made the bus trip seem a lot shorter which must mean that I enjoyed this book immensely!

One of the reasons why I picked up this book was because it’s loosely based on the concept of TV’s Come Dine With Me; a show of which I’m a massive fan. To be honest, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like Come Dine With Me and many countries actually have their own version of the show – some of which I’ve seen and enjoyed. Even though the show has been around since 2005 (nearly ten years. My goodness!) it’s still as popular as ever with viewers despite slight changes to the format and for a while the nation went Come Dine With Me crazy, hosting their own dinner party events with friends.

 

And that is basically the concept for this book: a group of friends get together and compete to see who can hold the best dinner party. Even though they got the idea from the TV show, there are some fundamental differences:

  • Dinner parties are hosted in pairs rather than by four or five individual hosts.
  • Dinners are hosted once a week over a four week period rather than on consecutive nights.
  • There is no cash prize – they’re competing purely for glory!
  • Sadly, there is no voiceover from Dave Lamb. Shame!

The couples hosting dinners are: happily-marrieds Rosie and Stephen, proud parents of baby Jonathan; career couple, secretly-yearning-to-be wed Sarah and her ultra-competitive boyfriend Marcus; socially conscious vegetarian Justin and his beautiful,  American, artist girlfriend, Barbara, and reluctant singletons, Charlotte and Matthew who are thrown together by Rosie  in the hope that dinner won’t be the only thing cooking between the two of them!

 

The competition is Rosie’s idea and she is the one responsible for selecting this eclectic group of people, some of whom are good friends, while others are acquaintances and some are meeting the others for the first time. What should be simple and straight-forward proves to be anything but. Despite Marcus being the most competitive, determined to find fault with the other teams, friendship counts for nothing as everyone wants to be the best and win despite there not being any prizes – and they will go to any lengths to achieve their moment of glory.

 

The actual dinner party events are secondary to the tensions and problems in the lives of the competitors which is further exacerbated by the competition causing jealousies, insecurities and hostilities to come to the fore thus creating friendships and relationships to collapse faster than a cheese soufflé. There is tension between best friends Matthew and Stephen regarding lawyer Matthew’s former relationship with Rosie while the three friends were at university; Sarah is questioning her career and relationship choices;  Barbara’s career is in decline and she’s having trouble renewing her visa, both of which impact heavily on her relationship with Justin, and trouble-making loudmouth Charlotte can’t help stirring the pot every opportunity she gets.

 

I found this book to be a real page-turner; I couldn’t wait to get to the end. I really liked how the novel was divided into four parts, where each part focused on a different party which gives the reader a real sense of where they are in the story. The characters decide the best way to deliver votes is by email and I thoroughly enjoyed reading their overly frank comments and ridiculous reasons for why points were being deducted (tactical scoring of course!) And there were a few twists in the tale too – some of which really surprised me.

 

Smyth tells a great tale of what happens when an element of competition is introduced within a circle of friends. It could even be a metaphor for modern day society in which manners; honesty, and consideration towards others count for nothing as it’s every man for himself, and indeed many of the characters do exactly as they please and take what they want at the expense of the others. All the characters are flawed in one way or another but I have to say that  by the end of the novel, I really couldn’t stand most of them. Gossipy, bitchy, uptight, highly-strung, back-stabbing… all thanks to a three-course meal! It also seemed quite obvious to me that one character had an alcohol problem while another seemed to be suffering from a mild form of depression but neither of these issues were touched upon. I was also quite disappointed that the endings to some of the sub-plots were not neatly tied-up but were just left hanging.

However, I really did enjoy reading Dinner At Mine. It was thoroughly entertaining. I’m sure many of my fellow commuters thought I was a bit of a lunatic, grinning away to myself, but there were also moments were I felt quite sorry for some of the characters, and believe me, if I could have climbed into this book and given some of the characters a good slap – I would have!

A great book published by Simon and Schuster in 2012. I can’t wait to read Smyth’s next novel.

 

Gym And Slimline By Emma Burstall

 

I’ve had a lot more time to indulge in my favourite pastime lately – reading! And I’ve just finished reading Emma Burstall’s fantastic Gym and Slimline.

I don’t normally opt for books with a sporty theme – not being so sporty myself – but I do enjoying reading books with an evident friendship theme which emanates from close-knit groups and that’s exactly what you’ll find in Gym and Slimline: a group of very different women who meet at the south-west London gym where they are members and soon forge a long-lasting bond.

 

The health and fitness element is actually secondary to the trials and tribulations experienced by the female characters in the novel: hard-to-pronounce Persephone is distraught to realise that her marriage is on the rocks, leading to a not-so-harmless flirtation and a secret addiction; former ballerina Carmen is desperate to become a mum especially as she’s pushing forty – but is her commitment phobic boyfriend really father material? Stunning Patrice is eager to add to her family but hasn’t been intimate with her controlling husband, Jonty, for years. The only lucky one is career woman Suzanne who manages to juggle motherhood with a high-powered job and she’s managed to bag a sexy, young husband – but is her wonderful life all it seems…

I enjoyed reading this book from beginning to end and was so sorry when I finished it (if only I’d read it slower!) There were moments where you laughed out loud; felt anxious for the characters, and felt the tugging of heartstrings. As well as friendships, relationships, and health and fitness, there was also a theme of forgiveness that runs throughout the novel.  A very dramatic and life-changing episode occurs in the middle of the novel which puts a huge strain on the women’s friendships: it divides two of the women drastically and pulls the other two in different directions. The ‘shock twist’ which creates the tension amongst the group isn’t really much of a shock as the preceding chapters had in fact been leading up to it but when the secret is revealed and the people involved exposed it still hits you like a roller-coaster. It was an original idea and very cleverly written.

But going back to the friendship theme, I love the strength of the women’s friendship that was illustrated in the novel – in fact you almost feel as if they’re your friends and feel quite protective of them. I hated the way Carmen’s ex, Simon, tried to worm his way back into her life when it suited him, and how Jonty controlled Patrice’s every move. Personally, I would have dumped him just for being called Jonty! But worst of all was Persephone’s – or Percy as she is known – predicament. A sweet, dependable lady who’s always trying to help other people, she cannot solve her own issues and you really feel for Percy when she becomes deeply entangled in her addiction. In fact there were times I wanted to scream at her to stop – but I would have attracted a lot of odd looks on the bus!

Gym And Slimline was the debut novel by author and journalist Burstall published in 2008 by Preface Publishing. A fantastic read – which I think might also make a great TV series.

 

Lolsys Library

Fun blogs about the wonderful world of books and learning!

The Godly Chic Diaries

Smiling • Writing • Dreaming

Tea Leaves and Tweed

Tea, beauty, life, and whatnot

cookinandshootin

"It's so beautifully arranged on the the plate - you know someone's fingers have been all over it." - Julia Child

Clean, Cheat, Repeat

Eating clean or having a cheat?

Coconut craze

I'm obsessed with coconuts!

taste of colours

everything has got taste

Foood Post

My journal of foood musings and eating memoirs

Life of Bonnie

All the little things that make up my life!

Linda Creation

Food, in the end, in our own tradition, is something holy. It's about sharing, honesty & identity.

Recipes, Recipes, Recipes

My blog about recipes and cooking, topped off with a cup of coffee or tea!

Thistles and Kiwis

A blog about a Scottish woman, who lived in Denmark, and moved to New Zealand

Natalie Breuer

Natalie. Writer. Photographer. Etc.

That Girl Coffee

side adventures of discovering beautifying and skin helping products.

Suitcases and Lattès

Cape Town based Travel, Lifestyle and Wellness Blog

Chocolate'n'Waffles

Tea, waffles, and lots of books

%d bloggers like this: