Friday, April 6, 2018

Travel - Peggy Porschen Cakes Review (London)



On our latest trip to London, high tea was on my lift of to-dos! And since I'd seen so many pictures online, I thought, where better to do it than Peggy Porschen Cakes? If you've come across a picture of the Peggy Porschen cake parlour  online, you would have noted its very pretty pink exterior that no doubt stands out.

Here are a few images from their website:





Big Sis and I got there in the evening so it was mostly dark. We found a LONG line in front of the cake parlour. Keep in mind that this was in November, so no doubt it was freezing. You either had the choice to eat inside or outside. If your choice was inside, you were in the line much longer. When it was finally our turn to be seated, we went in to find that the parlour was actually extremely small on the inside so that the tables were very close to each other. The door was left open, and we were seated right next to the door. Again, this was in November. And we had already waited in line outside for close to 40 minutes. You better believe I kept my coat on! When the table beside us freed, I asked to be moved, but unfortunately, by then it was too late. 


So what did I think?


The staff was very nice and the cakes pretty good and sweet (literally!! if you want something that doesn’t taste too sweet, go for the red velvet cupcake. I don’t do well with too much sugar in pastries so the red velvet was my favorite). However, I felt what really set this place apart from other pastry parlours like itself is...well, the hype. Yes, the hype. A major part of which is probably due to the cute pink outside, the posh name and the lovely dream-like decor inside. As well as, of course, a few bloggers raving about it. 

Personally, it was a pretty uncomfortable experience for me. The tiny inside was cramped! And it was freezing! What's more, they had no Wifi! I was pretty shocked by that. No Wifi meant we had to walk in the dark to the nearest station to call for an Uber. Thank goodness there was a station nearby!

Finally, I didn't feel like the cakes were anything special, unfortunately. They were way overpriced for what they really were. 


Do I recommend? 



If you’re in the area, and you have a lot of time in London and don't mind the prices, go! Experience it for yourself. But if you have to make quite the trip to get there or you’re staying in London for a short time, or simply, you don’t want to blow your money on pastries, I’m sure you can find other shops just as nice, cozier, a whole lot cheaper, where you can be seated comfortably in absolute warmth.


Here are some shots we captured from that night: 











Tuesday, February 13, 2018

One Christmas in Winter (Winter, Montaana #1) - Book review





Back Cover Summary:

Reba Farwell is finally getting a chance to live out her dreams. Sent to Winter, Montana to direct filming for a crucial, on-location shoot, she knows the next two weeks will make or break her career. And she could definitely use a break. As if that isn’t enough, she’s got a secret that none of her crew knows. All she’s asking for is two weeks of small town, Christmas beauty and a little bit of on-camera sizzle.

Five years ago, Hoyt Bradley’s heart and future shattered in one fell swoop that landed him back in Winter. Thankfully, making lemonade—or his father’s famous lemon meringue pie— out of lemons is what he does best. Running Bentley’s Diner has filled the gaps left in the wake of his heartbreak, even if it hasn’t healed him completely. Not wanting to relive memories of his rocky start in the film industry, Hoyt does his best to steer clear of the dreaded film crew, but Winter has a way of bringing people together.

After one fateful delivery and a score of icy bad luck, Reba finds herself in a bind and at the mercy of what Winter can offer. Will she pull the film together in time to salvage her name as a director? Or will the sparks flying off-camera create more of a distraction than she knows how to handle? 

Come visit Winter, Montana in this Christmas Novella where the Christmas lights are always on and the snow falls most frequently when loved ones share a kiss. 


My Review:

This story will take you behind the scenes of a Christmas Hallmark-like production. In fact, the whole novella itself seems like a typical Hallmark watch and that has its advantages and a small few disadvantages. 

It is overall a pretty sweet read! I have to say that initially, I liked the character of Hoyt a lot better than I did that of Reba. Reba is first presented as a typical bad - tempered Hollywood 'type'. But then it seems for the purpose of Hoyt falling for her, she suddenly becomes the complete opposite (Hoyt thinks very few people would be as kind as her). While I did end up liking her, I found the change drastic and almost unbelievable. 

I loved the description of the Winter and how Hoyt and his family fit into the town. The relationship and conversation between the three brothers amongst themselves and with their mother is heart-warming and adds a sweet charm to the pages. Hoyt really is an exemplary male lead. His kindness, humility, thoughtfulness and tenderness are all admirable and will undeniably put a smile on your face!

I love movies and filmmaking so I particularly enjoyed that the plot centred around the making of a movie. The whole aspect of filmmaking and directing was delivered perfectly and accurately! I could see it all happening! And I enjoyed that filmmaking aspect very much.

Unfortunately, there is a small disadvantage to the novella being very Hallmark-tesque and that is that some things appear cliché and whatever problems the protagonists face don't really appear serious enough for you to worry with them or to be scared for them. Everything seems to be presented as lightly as possible. And ends up lacking any real depth. In spite of this, One Christmas in Winter remains enjoyable! A quick light read to make your heart smile and sigh wistfully. Especially at the end.

Hoyt's brother, Beau, gets a chapter at the end. Thus introducing us to his own story to come. I loved this scene. I loved the way it was written and the perspective. It is possible my favorite part of the book. And I am very much looking forward to Beau's story.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Lady and the Lionheart - Review



So I've completed my very first book of 2018 and I couldn't wait to share the review with you all! I was pretty curious picking up Joanne Bischof's The Lady and the Lionheart, having never read a book that takes place at the circus. And what a pleasant surprise this was.



Back cover Summary: 

Raised amid the fame and mystique of the Big Top, Charlie Lionheart holds the audience in the palm of his hand. But while his act captivates thousands, it’s away from the spotlight where his true heart lies. Here he humbly cares for his pride of lions as if they were his brothers, a skill of bravery and strength that has prepared him for his most challenging feat yet—freeing an orphaned infant from the dark bondage of a sideshow. A trade so costly, it requires his life in exchange for hers, leaving him tarnished by the price of that choice.
As the circus tents are raised on the outskirts of Roanoke, country nurse Ella Beckley arrives to tend to this ill Gypsy girl. All under the watchful eye of a guardian who not only bears a striking resemblance to the child, but who protects the baby with a love that wraps around Ella’s own tragic past, awakening a hope that goodness may yet reign. When their forbidden friendship deepens, Charlie dares to ask for her heart, bringing her behind the curtain of his secret world to reveal the sacrifice that gave hope to one little girl—boldly showing Ella that while her tattered faith is deeply scarred, the only marks that need be permanent are his own.

My review:
In this touching Victorian era tale, Joanne Bischof immediately gets down to business and captivates the reader from the very beginning. The protagonists and sub characters are all as endearing as you'll ever find. And suddenly, you're feeling a part of this large circus family. Ella Beckley's big heart is a source of inspiration and everything about Charlie makes you fall in love. He's not the typical male protagonist in that he isn't all perfect masculinity which is very refreshing. Charlie is a lot of the times vulnerable and that realistic aspect is what makes him unforgettable. The dialogue flows easy and their romance happens so very naturally that although it all takes place in a matter of days, nothing feels rushed or forced. It's not only believable but as we navigate through the brokenness of each character, we realise it was maybe even a little inevitable. The thread of faith is inserted poignantly into this novel but not in a way that will have you wanting to skip pages. As the story unfolds, so do the secrets our character carry, giving more insight to them, and their past. The amount of research done by the author is visible on every page as you not only get a glimpse into this era or into the circus world. But you "feel" a part of it. From the circus sights and smells to the circus shows themselves, to the victorian era customs. Two of my favourite scenes would have to be the very first roof top scene and the scene involving the jar of cookies, the latter bringing me to tears. And really, the thread of redemption weaved throughout this tale is that touching - the holding back tears sort of touching. The two main characters realising that although they were broken in different yet similar ways, by grace they were whole and loved. And they could extend that grace to each other.  
It was only after completing the novel and reading the author's notes that it hit me that the whole book was really a parallelism for something much more greater and deeper: The sacrifice of Christ for us. And that made me love the story the more. 
I very much enjoyed this novel. The only minor issue I had with it was that sometimes with the way the dialogue or a flashback was presented on the page, I had to go back and reread the beginning of the paragraph to make sure I hadn't missed anything. But all in all, a great novel I would recommend to all!

Have you read any circus related novels? Which one? What has been your first 2018 read?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Movie Review: My Christmas Love



I started my usual tradition of Christmas movies right from November! YESSSSS!!! And I've been on a pretty good roll. Having watched a couple movies, this is my first review of the season because well, this certainly stood out to me. 



Here's the synopsis: 

A hopeless romantic who can’t ever seem to give a guy a real chance begins receiving each of the "12 Days of Christmas” as gifts anonymously at her door. As she tries to figure out who is sending the gifts, she begins to believe that the mystery suitor could finally live up to her expectations. 




My review: 

Hopeless romantic Cynthia, after being dumped by her newest boyfriend, decides to ask her best friend Liam (and also, sort-of-employee, since he illustrates for her published books) to go back home with her as a date to her sister's approaching Christmas wedding. It would also be a great way for them to get some work done, right? Sweet best friend that he is, Liam agrees. Upon arrival, Cynthia begins to receive each of the gifts on the "12 Days of Christmas" song. And embarks on an adventure to solve the mystery and find her one true love. 

I guess the key word here is mystery. Because finding her admirer aka "true love" was just that. A really fun mystery. With a number of possible suitors, this movie definitely leaves you guessing. And believe me, you'll never see it coming! Definite a win for a Hallmark movie, am I right? Also, this movie somehow avoids the typical Christmas movie fails (CLICK post!). The storyline and dialogue completely hold their own. But add a great cast of lovely people with every type of awesome chemistry, and again, we have a winner! (Sure, Cynthia's hopeless romantic-ness might have you rolling your eyes once or twice but believe me, you'll still love her).

Still, the endearing mystery, great storyline, lovely characters and actors aside, I believe what makes this movie stand out on top of it all, is the lovely relationships between the characters which is weaved all through. Family and friendship both play major roles and that is portrayed beautifully with scenes that will warm your heart. You cannot help but smile. No corniness, I promise. And who doesn't love a good old 'we might as well be related' sort of friendship? Those subtly beautiful friendship scenes between the protagonists are probably my favourites. 


However, it's not all laughter and cheer because tough subjects are evoked as the characters wade through Christmas after the loss of their mother. But the hurt is dealt with in a real way that somehow still inspires hope; hope for the things to come. 



Definitely a movie NOT to miss this Christmas. Grab a hot cup of cocoa. Light some candles. Grab a friend or a sibling and see yourself laugh as you're carried away on this sweet Christmas mystery. 




Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Gifting Series by K.E Ganshert



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Hey lovelies!

Today I am so glad to be reviewing The Gifting Series by K. E Ganshert. You guys, I haven't enjoyed a series like I enjoyed this one in a LONG time!

Where do I even start with these masterpieces? How about taking a look at the synopsis of the first book. 


Back cover summary BOOK 1: 


If science is right, then I am crazy.
And crazy is dangerous.


In a world where nothing supernatural exists, Tess Eckhart is positive she’s going crazy. What other explanation is there for the things she sees? After her complete freakout at a high school party, her parents worry she might be right. So much that they pack their bags and move across the country, next to a nationally-renowned facility for the mentally ill.
Despite the whispers and stares, Tess is determined to fit in at her new school. But when it comes to Luka Williams, a reluctantly popular boy in her class, she’s unused to a stare that intense. Then the headaches start, and the seemingly prophetic dreams that haunt her at night. As Tess tries harder to hide them, she becomes increasingly convinced that Luka knows something—that he might somehow be responsible.
But what if she’s wrong? What if Luka Williams is the only thing separating her from a madness too terrifying to fathom?


My review
I'll be honest and come straight out with it. You'll lose sleep over this one. And you won't rest until you've read through all 3 books. (I read the three books in 5 days and I work full time. Yeah, you get the picture).
This is a dystopian young adult novel set in futuristic America. But it's a future that isn't drastically different form our present. It's a future in which anything religious or supernatural has been thrown out the window and everyone swears by science. But Tess isn't so sure science is right because...well, she sees things no one sees and has dreams that come true. And then insert Luke. The dreamy, good-at-everything, brooding absolutely popular guy in her school. What makes this series wonderful is not just the story line but the absolutely magnificent writing. Katie Ganshert did it again (and again and again!). Because each book was beautifully written. You're not just watching but you are feeling and experiencing what the characters are going through. With no hint of predictability, the story pulls you into this world of good vs. evil and does a wonderful job of explaining the different concepts that don't exist in our own world. 

Each book is as good as the last and exceeds expectations (like how does she do it???). I loved the way everything comes together in each book and no stone is left unturned. I loved the evolution and growth we see in Tess. I love that the author does such an amazing job illustrating what the workings of demonic activity could look like. But most of all, I love how each character comes alive and just jumps out from the pages. Every character was very well developed with their own distinct quirks. Can we for a second talk about Links? I fell in love with him, his geekiness, sweetness and his nicknames for everyone. But I won't say too much or I'll just spoil it. 


Overall, the series ends with a very satisfying ending and leaves you smiling, laughing, crying, smiling some more and then flipping back so that you can enjoy it all over again. 


Packed with action - lots of action - romance, suspense, tension and surprises in every corner, this is a series I believe everyone will love. Think X-men with a mix of Twilight (without the annoying love triangle) and a little bit of Hunger Games but way better than all those put together! I'm looking forward to one day seeing this series on screen! I especially loved that this series didn't only serve as entertainment but went much deeper and I was able to take away some great lessons. 

Well done K.E Ganshert on delivering this masterpiece of a series!



My favorite (no-spoiler) quotes: 

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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Season of Hope by Sarah Jane Jacobs REVIEW




Hey guys! I'm here with another book review! I have the pleasure of participating in Sarah Jane Jacob's blog tour for her first release: "A Season of Hope". Make sure to check out the other blogs hosting the tour and definitely join in the raffle for a chance to win some awesome prizes! ;)






ABOUT THE BOOK:





When Amanda Jarvis prays that a special friend will move into the vacant house near her isolated mountain home, she isn't upset when God sends a boy instead of a girl. But Amanda's not the only one receiving unexpected answers to her prayers. After fleeing with his mother from an abusive father, Tyler Armstrong finds much-needed love and acceptance with Amanda's family over the next ten years.


As high school graduation nears, Tyler is shocked when one carefree afternoon with Amanda churns up an inner turmoil he would have never imagined; he's crushing on his best friend. And for the first time in his life he's hiding a secret from Amanda. Convinced the timing is all wrong, Tyler pushes his feelings aside as he and Amanda prepare for the future. He will soon begin training to pursue his dream of becoming a Navy SEAL, while Amanda makes plans to spend the summer in Manhattan with her aunt and then return home to the community college.

When Amanda's summer job catapults her into a modeling career, she readily accepts the much-needed distraction. Tyler's impending deployment is turning her world upside down. Along with the fact that she's falling for her best friend. And, for the first time in her relationship with Tyler, she's hiding a secret, too.

Phoebe Garrison, Amanda's controlling aunt, is thrilled when she is given the power to act on behalf of her underage niece. Bored with her Fortune 500 advertising agency, becoming Amanda's manager is just what she's been looking for to rekindle her aspirations. But as Tyler becomes aware of Phoebe's obsession to push Amanda into supermodel status, tensions rise. As the three of them become entangled in a mass of concealed ambition and desire, each will make decisions that will send ripples of turbulence across their futures.


MY REVIEW:

This story reads slightly differently than most of the Christian romance I've read, simply because it is a story that spans over ten years. The story opens up with a prologue which is actually a scene that comes up later in the story. I don't believe the prologue sets the right tone for the rest of the story though. It all starts with 7 year old Amanda who prayed for a new friend as a neighbor and meets 7 year old Tyler who just moved "next door" on their mountain. And thus begins a pretty amazing friendship. And that's what I love so much about this book and what makes it quite special, their friendship. Tyler is that faithful best friend every girl would wish they had. From 7 year old to 18 year old, he is kind, loving, caring, supportive, encouraging...basically almost like a dream. He's just plain awesome, full stop. I love the way he always encouraged Amanda and loved to teach her things. I believe Sarah Jane Jacobs did an excellent job painting the relationships in this book. From Amanda and Tyler's friendship, to Amanda's parents' relationship to Amanda's father's relationship with Tyler and the friendships between their parents. All of it were beautiful. 

It was interesting watching the characters grow from kids to their high school graduation. However, some of the time during the 'childhood' scenes, I did wonder where the story was going. I was almost halfway through the story before I felt it started to look a little more like the back cover summary. And that's when things really got interesting, in my opinion. The story line seemed to have a clearer direction, had a better pace and held my interest more. It felt like a "part II" to the previous part of the story. I liked that both characters, although growing and transitioning in life, held on to their beliefs and principles and never once compromised. Both were very easy to like, right from the first moments their name showed up on paper. 

What bothered me was the fact that as children and even teenagers, Amanda and Tyler's vocabulary and speaking style appeared quite old fashioned it made their age unbelievable and didn't let the dialogue flow as well as it should have. Secondly, the point of view in the story (especially the first part) ping-ponged from an omniscient POV to one character's perspective within the same scenes. This rather made me feel as if I was an outsider just observing it all play out before my eyes like a movie. As opposed to feeling like I am in the story, feeling what the characters are feeling and experiencing what they are experiencing alongside them. I was mostly told their emotions instead of being shown by their body language and reactions what they felt and what they were going through. All this puts a slight distance between the reader and the story. 

While the ending was satisfying (I loved it!), I wasn't expecting it to end where it did and was taken off-guard. But keep in mind there is more in the series and more to Amanda and Tyler's story. I am definitely looking forward to seeing their story completely unfold. 

Well done to Sarah Jane Jacobs on delivering this sweet story on a beautiful friendship and lovely relationships. 






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:






I began writing as a hobby while raising my two children. In 2015, I dusted off my stories and my dreams to see if I could turn my hobby into a career. My first story, Season of Hope, was inspired by summer vacations which always included a trip to Franklin, North Carolina, to visit family and explore The Smoky Mountains. When I'm not writing, I enjoy spending time with family. I love most any activity that involves being outdoors, especially camping, hiking and spontaneous excursions to splash in the ocean. I currently live along the Emerald Coast of Florida with my cat Selah and her delightful offspring, Colby, Jack and Tuesday.



AUTHOR CONTACT LINKS:






BOOK LINKS:





GIVEAWAY:


                                           



Enter to win the SEASON OF HOPE giveaway! One person will win the following items…

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BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE:

June 26 – Truth to Shine
June 27 ASC Book Reviews
June 28 Meagan Davenport
June 30 Barbara Brutt
July 4 Faithfully Bookish
July 7 Bookworm Mama
July 10 Tell the World
July 11 2014 and Beyond
July 12 Tammy Karasek
July 13 Rebecca DeMarino
July 14 –  Julie Arduini
July 17 Laura Bennet
July 18 All Betts Are Off
July 20 Rebecca Van Daniker
July 21 Leslie L. Mckee






                                                      
This blog tour was coordinated by A Latte of Literature Blog Tour Services. Find out more: