Posts Tagged ‘charming’

Costas Mandylor and Lauren Holly star in this romantic comedy.  Mandylor plays Marco Poloni, an Italian baker at The Poloni Brothers bakery in The Bronx.  All the local businesses in his area are closing down due to lack of money and it looks as though the bakery is going to go the same way.  Marco then learns about a baking competition which, if he wins, would earn him the money to save the business, but he needs a partner  to enter.  He enlists the help of Grace Carpenter, an uptight Chef from Manhattan who dreams of opening her own restaurant, but can’t find the funding to do it.  Despite appearing mismatched in personality, an attraction rapidly develops, but there are obstacles to overcome, including a former friend of Marco’s who is determined to sabotage their chances in the competition.

It’s hard for me to fairly review this film.  It’s a rom-com, and probably not a particularly great one.  Some of the acting is hammy, and the ending is predictable from about 20 minutes into the film.  But despite this, it has a real charm, and I absolutely adored it!  Costas Mandylor is as yummy as some of the gorgeous desserts he creates and Grace is endearing.  The desserts themselves are mouthwatering and made me crave a gooey slice of cake!

It’s an undemanding film, but very enjoyable.  I did root for the characters to get the ending they deserved, although as I said above, it’s fairly obvious what’s going to happen.  So there are no real surprises here, but plenty of moments to make a viewer smile…this is a sweet (in more ways than one) film, and I would definitely watch it again.

Year of release: 2004

Director: Kevin Connor

Writer: Joseph Tropiano

Main cast: Costas Mandylor, Lauren Holly, Andrew Lauer, David Proval

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This is the very charming story of a gentle friendship between the author Helene Hanff, a writer trying to get by on her meagre earnings in New York, and the genteel English bookseller Frank Doel, who works at Marks & Co. Booksellers, at 84 Charing Cross Road, London.

It is told entirely through the letters exchanged between Helene and Frank (and later, his family and colleagues).  What starts as a business correspondence when Ms Hanff is seeking some books, soon becomes a true friendship as she sends gifts of food during rationing, and they learn about each other’s lives and friends.

It is a gentle and charming book, and some of the letters written by Helen Hanff, who has a fabulous sense of humour and turn of phrase, made me laugh out loud.

The book is undemanding, but delightful.  A gentle true story which I am sure I will read many more times in the future.


Click here for my review of the 1987 film adaptation.


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Catherine Morland is a young lady, naive but well intentioned and good natured, and a lover of Gothic novels.  When friends of her family take her to Bath, to introduce her into society and increase her social circle, she makes friends with two particular families.  The first are the Thorpes, and a close friendship quickly develops between Catherine and the eldest Thorpe daughter, Isabella.  Isabella’s pompous brother John takes a fancy to Catherine, but the feeling is not returned.  The other family she befriends are the Tilneys – and she is immediately attracted to Henry Tilney, a witty and charismatic young man, although she is not sure that her feelings are reciprocated.  When Henry and his sister Eleanor invite Catherine to stay at their home, Northanger Abbey, her over-active imagination, caused by her love of novels, starts to go into overdrive!  But more adventures await Catherine at the Abbey, and her resolve will be tested…

After reading this book, I looked at some reviews of it, and it would appear that this is probably the most maligned book that Jane Austen wrote.  However, I found it delightful and perhaps more accessible than some of her other works (all of which so far I have enjoyed).  Austen’s famous wit shines throughout; my favourite sequence was the teasing conversation which passed between her and Henry on the way to Northanger Abbey, where he played on her imagination – in consequence, she imagines all sorts of things when she arrives at their destination, with hilarious results.

Catherine is a lovely heroine, although a less obvious one than some of Austen’s other heroines.  In fact, Austen herself often addresses the reader directly, acknowledging that this is a book which she has written, and making reference to Catherine’s qualities as the heroine of such a story.  The other characters are also very well drawn, in particular Henry Tilney and the vivacious but self-absorbed Isabella Thorpe.

Essentially, this is a charming coming-of-age story, where we see Catherine learn about herself and the world around her, and deals with disappointments and uncertainties in life and love.

The writing is fabulous – descriptive and witty, and capable of first making the reader laugh out loud, and then in the turn of a page, making them wonder what is going to happen.  It was impossible not to warm towards the main characters, and I certainly found myself caring about what happened to them.

I won’t give away the conclusion of the story for anyone who has not read it – Austen fans may well be able to guess at the flavour of the ending of it in any event.  However, as is so often the case with Jane Austen, the destination is less the object of reading than the journey.  Highly enjoyable, very charming, and definitely recommended!

(For more information about the author, please click here and here.)

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This is the 4th book in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, which follows the life of Precious Ramotswe, private detective, as she tries to unravel the mysteries presented to her in her work, and deal with life outside of the office.

In this slice of Mma Ramotswe’s life, she attempts to track down two people from the past of one of her client’s life.  He feels that he treated these people badly, and now wants to make amends, and Precious will have to use all of her tact and skills to find them.  At the same time, she is also coping with the threat of competition, when a new detective agency is set up in the village and the manager, the brash Mr Buthelizi makes his presence known.  And when Precious’s assistant, Mma Makutsi finds romance, the relationship brings all sorts of complications with it…

As always is the case with this series, this story is told gently and with plenty of wry humour.  Throughout it all, Mma Ramotswe’s compassion and strong morals shine through, and her love for Botswana is clear.

Throughout the books, the characters are fully fleshed out and I found myself caring about what happened to them, and enjoying reading about their lives. Mma Makutsi is a great foil to Mma Ramotswe, being less tactful and more direct.

There is plenty of humour in the story, and I read it with a smile on my face. These books tell of a gentle way of life, of people who genuinely care about their country and their companions, and they have a wonderful cast of core characters.  I look forward to reading the 5th book in this lovely set.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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It is the mid-1950s, and England is recovering from the ravages of the second world war.  Penelope Wallace is 18 years old, and on the verge of a new and exciting life which starts when she encounters a girl named Charlotte, who quickly becomes Penelope’s best friend.  Together with Charlotte’s sardonic and sarcastic cousin Harry, Penelope and Charlotte become involved in a whirlwind of parties and dinners, and things take an unusual turn when Henry asks Penelope to do him a huge favour.

In the midst of all this, Penelope has to deal with her beautiful mother, who is still grieving over the loss of her husband to the war; a once grand house that is now falling to rack and ruin, and her unrequited love for the pop singer Johnnie Rae…

I enjoyed this book very much.  One of the reviews on the back of my copy states that if Jane Austen were alive now, this is the kind of book she would be writing, and I would tend to agree with that.  it is a very charming story, and while it is not altogether unpredictable (although there were certainly a few surprises along the way), the real beauty of this story lies in the characters. The main characters are Penelope, Charlotte, Harry, Inigo (Penelope’s brother), Talitha (her mother) and Charlotte’s Aunt Clare.  Each and every one of them is well drawn and very believable.  Moreover, they are characters who I came to really enjoy getting to know throughout the story.

The writing is lovely – clean and never over fussy, but still managing to describe perfectly the time period in which the book is set, and the old house which the Wallace family live in (where a lot of the story is set).

It is also very amusing in parts – the author has a sharp eye for wit, and infuses her narrator (Penelope) with a wry sense of humour.

I’m not a huge fan of chick-lit, but if this book falls into that category, it certainly is one of the best examples I have read of this genre.  It’s perfect for curling up with on a cold day and losing yourself in for a couple of hours.  I will certainly be looking out for more work by this author.

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The third book in this series is no disappointment, and is possibly my favourite one yet. In this episode of Mma Ramotswe’s life, she finds herself moving her offices so that she is sharing premises with her fiance Mr J L B Matekoni, meaning that her business and his garage are at the same place. However, all is not well with Mr J L B Matekoni, and Mma Ramotswe is anxious about his health. However, she still finds time to investigate a case of suspected poisoning, while her Assistant Detective Mma Makutsi, finds herself being the sole investigator in a case concerning the contestants of a beauty pageant.

This book, like the others before it, is a charming easy read. McCall Smith must have a deep affection for Botswana, as he writes about it with tenderness here. Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi and Mr J L B Matekoni are lovely characters to curl up with for a couple of hours.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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One February day, Vianne Rocher finds herself with her 6 year old daughter Anouk, in Lansquenet, a small French village.  Having lived in many places and never having settled, Vianne decides to stay.  She opens a chocolaterie opposite the local Catholic Church, and in doing so, encounters the disapproval of the Priest, Reynaud.

Reynaud – a cold man, who suffers with his own guilt and anger – believes that the chocolate which Vianne sells is encouraging his ‘flock’ to indulge in excess and sin.  He watches with dismay as the townspeople start to come to Vianne’s shop, drawn in by her almost instinctive understanding of their lives and thoughts.

When a group of river gypsies, led by the enigmatic Roux come to Lansquenet, Reynaud is further distressed as Vianne’s acceptance of them leads to the other people also accepting them. She helps people discover their inner strength – aiding a woman to escape her abusive woman and comforting a man who has to face the truth about his beloved pet’s illness.

As Reynaud tries to think of a way to stop his flock abandoning him for the pleasures of Vianne’s creations, events come to a climax at Easter time.

I really enjoyed this book.  Quite apart from anything else, the descriptions of the chocolates are mouth watering, and made me hungry!

Vianne is an interesting character, and throughout the entire book, I cheered along with her small victories.  Reynaud is deliberately without charisma or warmth.  He is not a nice man, and neither is supposed to be.  However, he is portrayed with just enough sympathy to make him a believable ‘villain’ of sorts.

There are several other characters, all of whom play their own part in the book…Armande Voizin, Vianne’s friend; Josephine Muscat, an outcast in who Vianne sees something with even Josephine is not aware she possesses; and Roux, the tough but fair leader of the gypsies.  Each and every character in the book is distinctive and realistic.  

This is an ideal book to curl up with on a lazy afternoon (with a big mug of hot chocolate)!  I will certainly be seeking out the sequel.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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This is a great movie.  John Cusack – always wonderful – is terrific in this, as Lloyd Dobler, an funny and considerate ‘everyman’ 19 year old, who falls in love with a high achieving student named Diane Court (Ione Skye).

Against the odds, Diane falls for Lloyd too, but her father (John Mahoney) doesn’t approve – and as it turns out, he has problems of his own.

So this is basically a coming of age love story…but it’s done very well indeed.  It’s hard to imagine any young girl not falling in love with Lloyd, and the emotions displayed between the two leads certainly made me recall exactly what it was like to be that age and experiencing that first rush of desire.  In the hands of a lesser actor, Lloyd could have been a forgettable character, but John Cusack manages to make him utterly adorable and totally lovable.

Less obvious and cliched than many other high school romance movies which were around at the time (it’s no surprise that director Cameron Crowe went on to achieve fame), this is a film which can surely be enjoyed by any person of any age.

Year of release: 1989

Director: Cameron Crowe

Writer: Cameron Crowe

Main cast: John Cusack, Ione Skye, John Mahoney

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This is the second book in the Big Stone Gap series.  I really really liked it, just as I liked the first one. This book picks up 8 years after Big Stone Gap ended. Ave Maria and Jack Mac have been married for 8 years, and their daughter Etta (a delightful character) is growing up fast! However, it’s clear that the years between this book and the last one have brought tragedy and grief to Ave and Jack, which has had an effect on their marriage. Ave finds herself growing nervous when a predatorial woman comes to town, with her sights set firmly on Jack, and it isn’t long before rumours are flying around the small town of Big Stone Gap, where everyone knows everyone else’s business. Etta struggles to decide what she wants out of life and marriage, and ends up going to Italy for the summer to see her Italian family. However, events in Italy take an unforeseen turn…

As before, the book is populated with eccentric and lovable characters. However, I think less time is focused on the supporting characters than in the first book of the series. This book does not suffer for that – Ave is a flawed but very likable character, and it is difficult not to root for her.  Jack and Eva are also entirely believable, and even at this stage of the series, the characters start to feel like old friends.

A lovely read – ideal for curling up with on a cosy Sunday afternoon!

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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This lovely book is very heartwarming and charming. It was originally published in serial form in a newspaper, and you can tell this by the way it is written, with pointed breaks in the narrative.  (This is an observation, and not a criticism.)

The basic story centres around the inhabitants of the various flats at 44 Scotland Street, in Edinburgh. In one flat we have the egotistical Bruce and his new flatmate Pat, who is sweet and compassionate. In another flat is Domenica MacDonald – intelligent and intuitive. Then we have Irene and Stuart Pollock – determined to provide the best possible future for their five year old son, without being able to see that they are not allowing him to enjoy the present.

The book also tells the stories of other people in their lives – Pat’s gentle but unmotivated boss, Matthew; Bruce’s colleagues and boss; Domenica’s friend Angus Lordie; and Bertie’s psychotherapist, Dr Fairbairn. 

There is an ongoing storyline concerning a painting in the gallery where Pat works, which may or may not be very valuable, but really this book is a gentle narrative of these people’s lives.  I found myself really starting to warm to several of the characters, who were all very well depicted, even if they did seem in danger of becoming a little stereotypical at times.

Overall, this is a perfect read for kicking back and relaxing with – gentle and humorous.  I’d certainly be happy to recommend this one.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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