Sunday, February 18, 2018

State of the Union by Douglas Kennedy

Paperback: 608 pages                                                                                            
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Hutchinson 2005
Source: Oxfam Bookshop
First Sentence: After he was arrested, my father became famous.
Favourite Quote: “biggest roadblocks you encounter in life are the ones you construct for yourself.”
Review Quote: "State of the Union has the feel of a handgun primed for Russian roulette. The climax, when past and future collide, is explosive" (The Times)
Main Characters: Hannah Buchan
Setting: USA
My Opinion: Douglas Kennedy is not an author I am very familiar with, as although I have read two of his books previously it was a long time ago and I really do not remember much about his writing. I must have picked this up because I recalled his name, there are two more titles of his still sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read.
State of the Union is very readable, at first I was doubtful I was going to enjoy it but after the first three chapters I was gripped and despite its size I finished it in a couple of days!  As a man the author has got inside the mind of his female protagonist Hannah, very successfully. Set in the period I grew up in also made it interesting as despite being set in the states one was able to relate to what was happening in the world at that time both politically and socially.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

Hannah Buchan leads an orderly life in a small town in Maine — a schoolteacher, married to a doctor, with two grown up children. However, her past conceals a dark secret. Thirty years ago she had a brief, dangerous fling with Tobias Judson, a high profile student activist, which she had reconciled to that internal, off-limits attic room marked “Ancient History.” But when Tobias suddenly pops up out of nowhere with a book about his radical years, her life goes into free-fall. And before she knows it, Hannah discovers that a long-ago transgression is never really forgotten.

Set amid two wildly contrasting periods of recent American life — the militant 60s and 70s, and the new-found conservatism of today — State of the Union is a remarkable portrait of one woman’s attempts to find her own way in the shifting political currents of her time. But it is also an intriguing portrait of the complexities of a long marriage, the ongoing guilt of parenthood, the perpetual tension between familial responsibility and personal freedom, and the divisive debate between liberal and conservative values that so engulfs the United States today. 

Author Profile

Douglas Kennedy was born in Manhattan on January 1st 1955. He studied at Bowdoin College, Maine and Trinity College, Dublin, returning to Dublin in 1977 with just a trench coat, backpack and $300. He co-founded a theatre company and sold his first play, Shakespeare on Five Dollars a Day, to Radio 4 in 1980. In 1988 he moved to London and published a travel book, Beyond the Pyramids. His debut novel The Dead Heart was published in 1994.
He was married to Grace Patricia Carley  they have two children Max and Amelia but I believe are now divorced.
Apparently dividing his time between London, Paris, Berlin, Montreal, Maine and New York he must spend a lot of time travelling. He writes in French as well as English as can be seen if you visit his Official Website and Facebook

Photographs, Trailer and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

Wikipedia Profile       Authors Official Website    Douglas Kennedy - Twitter

Lovereading - Author Profile    Facebook - Douglas Kennedy France     Amazon Page

Saturday, February 17, 2018

How to Hong Kong by Lena Sin and Nicholas Tay

Hardback: 124 pages                                                                                                 
Genre: Hong Kong, China, Art, Photography, Social History,
Publisher: Blacksmith Books 2017
Source: Amazon
First Sentence: If nostalgia is hereditary, then mine must come from my mother who's prone to reminding me time and again how much better the Hong Kong of her childhood was - a time when the streets felt wide and breezy, the city more a village than a metropolis.
Setting: Hong Kong
My Opinion: I absolutely love this delightful book, an illustrated travel journal of Hong Kong a place that I have grown to love. Thanks to my daughter moving to live in Hong Kong I have had many opportunities to visit this city that is seen by many as just a modern and commercial city. The couple have successfully portrayed the more intimate side of a place they obviously love with a passion. Full of Lena's memories of her upbringing in Hong Kong, plus stories from locals, stunning illustrations and photographs the different neighbourhoods come alive on the page. Many of the places they visit are familiar to me but there are also plenty of for me personally undiscovered delights which I will have to explore on my next trip.
Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys virtual travel, or is planning a trip there or if you are like me already in love with this city.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

In this joyful travel sketchbook, Hong Kong is captured through the hearts of a writer and an artist. From the winding, incense-filled streets of Sheung Wan to the pandemonium of a wet market in North Point to the sleepy island backwater of Tai O, Lena Sin and Nicholas Tay take you on a wonder-filled journey that shines a light on the softer, more romantic side of this chaotic city. Filled with tales of growing up in Hong Kong, Lena weaves personal anecdotes and conversations with locals into richly illustrated watercolours and photographs by herself and her artist husband Nicholas. The result is an intimate portrait of a city that is at once vibrant and energetic as well as charming and nostalgic.

Author Profile

Photo courtesy of Papaya Voyage. website started by the couple to share their passions of art, travel and storytelling.  Their first book, How to Hong Kong: An Illustrated Travel Journal, was published in 2017. 

Lena Sin is a journalist who was born and raised in Hong Kong. However, her first love was always art and she spends much of her time illustrating in watercolour, often while downing copious amounts of milk tea. She is a two-time Jack Webster Award nominee for her journalism.
She lives in Vancouver with her partner Nicholas Tay who studied illustration at Art Center College of Design in California. This education prepared him for a lack of sleep and his career as an art director and artist on several video game franchises including Need for Speed, NBA Street and SSX. Recently, Nicholas has added fine art gallery shows, teaching and advertising illustration to his expertise.

Photographs, Trailer and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

Amazon   Blacksmith Books Link to Book   Instagram Profile   Lena Sin on Twitter

The Authors Official Website - Papaya Voyage

Friday, February 16, 2018

Tai O - Love Stories of the Fishing Village by Wong Wai King

Paperback: 185 pages                                                                                             
Genre: Non-Fiction, Social History,
Publisher: Wong Wai King, 2000
Source: Purchased in Tai O from the author.
First Sentence: Lantau is the largest island in Hong Kong and Tai O is situated at its south west.
Favourite Quote:Stilt houses have been in Tai O for more than 200 years.
Setting: Tai O, Lantau Island, Hong Kong.
My Opinion: Tai O is an old fishing village on Lantau Island in Hong Kong. I purchased this directly from the author on my last visit to Tai O. It is a delightful social history of the village in Chinese and English with lots of photographs and covers the period from 1920 until the publication date of 2000. It is well worth reading if you have ever visited, or plan to do so, or you are interested in travel and social history. This atmospheric village on stilts that although much changed still feels it is living in a time warp.  A very special place, that visitors to Hong Kong should try and visit to help appreciate that there is so much more to explore in Hong Kong beyond the city.

Video ' Tai O Village ' Courtesy of YouTube and Ed Pal

Author Profile

The author Wong Wai King was born in 1958. She grew up in Tai O and the book is her true memory of the fishing village. She spent years gathering valuable information which along with  photographers contributions has made this book possible.

Education: Finished Form 3, Ming Yuen Secondary School
Profession: Housewife, Mother of two sons
Community participation experience: Since 1982 she has participated in Community Work in Tai O and in 1992 The Young Most Outstanding Young Volunteer Women Award.
In 2000 she was a present member of the Tai O Culture Workshop.

I have no up to date information beyond 2000 when the book was published as when I spoke to her in Tai O I did not think to ask, maybe next time I visit, I will have the pleasure of meeting her again.

Photographs: Are My Own and those of Christopher Cheng.
Trailer: About the village is from YouTube, credits above. 
Biographical Information courtesy of the book itself.

You Tube Video     

Facebook Search for Wong Wai King turned up this public post. With thanks to Christopher Cheng 
Every place needs its own heroes. In one of the city’s oldest fishing villages Ms Wong Wai King is that sort of person. An ambassador of local culture and heritage, who for the past 20 years have been fighting against capitalist forces of grandiose developement or should I say destruction. She is a local hero; passionate in what she does, a messager, and voice of the community. She has a heart of gold. Hong Kong needs more people like you! Thanks for coming to one of my favourite places --Tai OJenni and exploring the rest of Lantau Island with me as well. Trust you had a great day and leave with many favourable memories of Hong Kong!

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling
Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Blood Rose Angel by Liza Perrat


Paperback: 382 pages                                                                                                 
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Triskele Books 2015
Source: The author in return for an honest and unbiased review.
First Sentences: 'Christ's toenails, ignore him Heloise,' Isa chided, as I glared at Drogan sauntering towards us through the market-place stalls and customers.
Setting: France
My Opinion: I was delighted to obtain a copy of Liza Perrat's third novel as I thoroughly enjoyed the first two in her trilogy, 'Spirit of Angels' and 'Wolfsangel'  The trilogy 'L'Auberge des Anges' (The Bone Angel) all feature the 'Angel Talisman' and although they can be read as stand alone novels, it seems a shame not to read the complete series.
Blood Rose Angel is another well researched novel from this this talented author, that more than met my expectations. I therefore recommend Liza Perrat as an author well worthwhile reading. She writes in a way that will draw you in, especially if you are a fan of historical fiction.

Links to my Previous Reviews: 

Spirit of Angels   Wolfsangel 

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

1348. A bone-sculpted angel and the woman who wears it––heretic, Devil’s servant, saint.

Midwife Héloïse has always known that her bastard status threatens her standing in the French village of Lucie-sur-Vionne. Yet her midwifery and healing skills have gained the people’s respect, and she has won the heart of the handsome Raoul Stonemason. The future looks hopeful. Until the Black Death sweeps into France.

Fearful that Héloïse will bring the pestilence into their cottage, Raoul forbids her to treat its victims. Amidst the grief and hysteria, the villagers searching for a scapegoat, Héloïse must choose: preserve her marriage, or honour the oath she swore on her dead mother’s soul? And even as she places her faith in the protective powers of her angel talisman, she must prove she’s no Devil’s servant, her talisman no evil charm.

Blood Rose Angel, from the spellbinding The Bone Angel series, tells a story of continuing family traditions, friendships overcoming adversity, and how good and evil are too often bestowed on fellow humans in the name of faith––Zoe Saadia, author of 'The Rise of the Aztecs' and 'The Peacemaker' series.

Medicine, religion, and love intertwine in this captivating, richly-detailed portrait of a young woman’s search for identity as the Black Death makes its first inroads into Europe. Liza Perrat uses her training as a midwife and her experiences living in a French village to create a compelling and unforgettable heroine determined to heal the sick in a world still ruled by superstition––C. P. Lesley, author of The Golden Lynx and The Winged Horse

Video Trailer for 'Blood Rose Angel ' Courtesy of YouTube

Liza Perrat talks to Catriona Troth about her Auberge des Anges trilogy, set in rural France and the latest novel set against the Black Plague.

Author Profile

Liza grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years.
When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living with her husband and three children for twenty years. She works part-time as a French-English medical translator.

Since completing a creative writing course ten years ago, several of her short stories have won awards, notably the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004 and her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine and France Today.

Spirit of Lost Angels is the first in the historical "L'Auberge des Anges" series set against a backdrop of rural France during the French Revolution. The second in the series, Wolfsangel, set during the WWII Nazi Occupation of France, was published in October, 2013. Liza is currently working on the third in the series, Midwife Héloïse - Blood Rose Angel, set during the 14th century Black Plague years.
Friends, Family and Other Strangers is a collection of humorous, horrific and entertaining short stories set in Australia.
Liza regularly reviews books for the Historical Novel Society and Words with Jam magazine

Photographs, Trailer and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

Goodreads Author Profile   Liza Perrat - Twitter    Author's Official Website - Liza Perrat

Blog - Liza Perrat - Author  Facebook Profile - Liza Perrat     Amazon - Author Profile

You Tube Video