Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy Christmas – See you in 2011


rbrwr @ Flickr.com

I am taking a pause over Christmas and New Year to concentrate on spending some quality time with family and friends.

I look forward to returning in 2011 and continuing to share my thoughts on books I have read and including some biographical information about some of the authors that I enjoy.

I may even get some time to do some reading.  Thankyou for all your comments and support during the last year, it has been fun getting to know you all and your reading tastes.

Happy Christmas


to you all.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert


Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert, 2007.jpg

I have been avoiding this book for a long time simply because I so often find that books that have been hyped up are a big disappointment. However hearing that it has recently been released as a film made me decide that I really should read it if I was going to want to see the film. It is my policy to always try and read a book first, so I have my own visual pictures when I am reading and not those of the film. Well having now read ‘Eat, Pray Love’ I am not sure I will even bother with the film, as the book has neither inspired nor excited me as it seems to have done many people. On the other hand I did not hate it as other reviewers seem to have done, especially those that have been in similar life situations, struggling with heartbreak and divorce, but not able to run away from it all, which let’s face it is exactly what Elizabeth Gilbert was able to do by travelling to Italy, India and Indonesia.

I am left now feeling rather indifferent unable to either rave or rant, recommend or not, so will have to come down to saying it was OK as there was enough of interest, just about to keep me reading.  It started well as I liked the introduction that Elizabeth Gilbert gives the reader as to how she divided the book up. As the book was about her efforts to find balance in her life she decided to structure it like a japa mala, a string of beads used to count mantras (Sanskrit prayers) in sets of 108 repetitions. The number 108 is considered in Eastern philosophy circles to be an auspicious number as it is a three digit multiple of three, its digits add up to nine, also a multiple of three. The number three also represents balance according to the Holy Trinity, so dividing the book into three was easy for the three countries Italy, India and Indonesia. Then dividing the book into 108 different chapters, with 36 in each section was also auspicious to the authoress as she wrote the book during her thirty sixth year.

I thought this all sounded very clever and a good way to write up her experiences, it certainly worked for the section set in Italy as Elizabeth leaves her unhappiness behind her in the USA and sets off to find this so called balance she is looking for by first seeking pleasure in Rome, mainly in the food, EAT. This first section was in retrospect for me the best section as one felt she was moving forward with lots of adventures ahead of her, although living in Italy myself it also struck me that it did tend towards being somewhat stereotypical.  After four months in Italy Elizabeth moves on to an Ashram in India to find her spirituality, PRAY. I honestly found this section a bit of a chore to read, I think this was where maybe the 36 chapters were too many, there is only so much one can write about yoga, meditation and chanting after all, as interesting as those thoughts initially were. I was also disappointed to learn very little about India outside the Ashram as she became so intensely involved in finding herself that planned travelling never materialised. The final third of the year was spent in Indonesia, Bali in fact which was more interesting, although again maybe a little spun out to fulfil her chapters quota. It is here she finds LOVE despite not having set out to do so, having decided previously that she was going to be celibate for a year. In terms of learning some new facts this was also the best section as I felt I learnt a little about Balinese society.

Elizabeth does tend to come over at times as just another egocentric young woman with a rather dramatic view on the emotional upheaval of her life, of which the only solution was to travel east for spiritual enlightenment. I said it is an ok read and yes it is but I am somewhat cynical about her journey and resulting book, since discovering that Elizabeth Gilbert was apparently commissioned and paid in advance to write this book. Lucky lady but did it mean she was thinking of the end result and possible future film rights rather than writing from her heart?

If you are interested in reading more background information and updates on Elizabeth Gilberts life, here are a couple of links which may be of interest to you.

Wikipedia - Eat ,Pray, Love

Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love Website



Postscript – I have now watched this trailer and take back my earlier comment about not bothering to see the film! I will look out for it appearing in our DVD hire shop and bring it home to watch sometime.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Breath of Corruption by Caro Fraser



I wrote a review for this when I finished reading it a few weeks ago and am now very upset because I have lost it! I guess it must have been deleted in error, I wonder? This is when I find computers frustrating because I do not understand properly what I am doing.

I just do not have the time at the moment to rewrite which is a shame a I wanted to post it today.

My apologies, so all I can say is I enjoyed it, an easy read which I recommend to all Caro Fraser fans. It does not matter if you have not read any of the earlier novels in the series though to enjoy this ‘thinking woman’s chick lit’, (quote from back cover). Instead of my review here is a taster, the start of the first chapter of ‘Breath of Corruption’, Number 7 in the Caper Court Series, reproduced from the authors Official Website.

Breath Of Corruption - Chapter 1

Lola added, 'And bring us another bottle of this.' The waitress took the empty bottle and disappeared. A bottle was far more than anyone should drink at lunchtime, Lola knew, but sod it - Anthea, who was meant to be living on a model's diet of egg whites and mineral water, didn't care, so neither did she. There wasn't anything else to do with the day, anyway. Maybe they'd wobble along to the Curzon afterwards and slip into a late afternoon film. Then home for a nap, up at nine to shower and beautify, and out on the town for such pleasures as the rest of the night might yield. A wealthy family and a trust fund did give one a charmed life, but even Lola found it boring occasionally - though alcohol and the odd recreational drug helped take the edge off the tedium. In the long years since leaving her Swiss finishing school, Lola had often thought she should get herself some not-too-demanding job - something involving flexible hours and long lunches, and a stylish office with a PA - but that meant working, and genuine work didn't really appeal. And to be honest, at thirty-one, she was a bit scared that whatever skills she'd once possessed might be a bit rusty by now. Some of her friends ran fashions shops and glam little businesses, but that took effort, too. And ideas. If she'd had Anthea's long legs and amazingly slim figure, not to mention her looks, she'd have been able to do a little casual modelling, too. Anthea needed the money, of course, but the job had a certain cachet, and gave her something else to talk about.

'What does he look like?'……………………..

If you are interested I did post a review of No 6 in the series a few months ago, just click on the link to read. Calculating Heart where I also included some biographical information on the author.

Further information about Caro Fraser and the next book No 8 in the Caper Court Series can be found by following the links listed.

Image of Caro Fraser - April 2009

Official Website

Caro Fraser published Books

The moral is I must post my reviews as soon as I have written them instead of saving them for later, so that this does not happen again. Having learnt my lesson the hard way I will now go and finish writing the review for the book I have just finished.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Angels Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon


The Angels Game is the follow up to The Shadow of the Wind which I read and reviewed here in July. It is once again set in Barcelona but set in an earlier era, in fact when the protagonist in The Shadow of the Wind ‘s father was still a young man. There is also an overlap with characters which at times I did tend to find confusing. It actually might have been less so if I had not read the previous novel. Does that make sense to you I wonder?  Is this the reason that I found this sequel (that is actually a prequel) less enjoyable, it started off very well, but at over 500 pages it is a long novel and as the story became more complicated I kept losing the thread. Just not completely understanding what was going on meant that for me the middle of the story seemed to drag somewhat until I reached the final third when it started to fit together again, thank goodness.

The story is all together much darker which for me was another minus point because although I enjoy intrigue, suspense and even murder, I tend not to rave over the majority of gothic style novels and I believe this would be classed as such, horror stories give me the creeps and at times this certainly did. I did enjoy though all the literary references to well known classical novels that appear throughout the novel, plus the wonderful description of books having a soul. I was delighted that once again The Angel’s Game is set in Barcelona in the 1920s and 1930s and follows a struggling  young writer David Martin who is approached by a mysterious figure to write a book. As in the previous novel I found that the city once again comes to life on the pages as we return to places both real and imaginary. The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, the mythical building in the heart of Barcelona, as well as the Sempere & Sons bookshop both feature again.  

His adventures as he tries to write this commissioned book lead him to the brink while he mentally battles with his demons. A story of deep secrets, intrigue and romance, with that ghostly influence I at times found disturbing.

I read on the authors Official Website that this novel is about the ‘magic of books and the darkest corners of the human soul’   A perfect description and I think a novel well worth reading, despite the few problems I had I am definitely glad I read it. If you want to learn more about the novel and the author visit the site I have highlighted, you can even read the first chapter and watch a video of Barcelona there if you wish.

The following interview is very interesting as Carlos Ruiz Zafon describes these two novels as the first two acts in a series which can be read in any order. This is just the first of a three part interview, to view the full set you need to visit YouTube


Courtsey of bordersmedia

Carlos Ruiz Zafron was born in 1964 in Barcelona and more can be learnt about him and his forthcoming novels here at his Website.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Hating Game by Talli Roland


Talli Roland is a very enterprising young woman that totally understands the importance of publicity. She obviously realises that it is just not enough in the competitive world of publishing to sit back on your laurels and think how well you have done to get a book published! No this young lady has gone out of her way to promote her first novel ‘The Hating Game’, for this alone I hope it succeeds. She writes a blog called Talli Roland is a Goodreads author has a Facebook Page and is  also to be found on Twitter, which are all great ways for this first time novelist to get her name recognised.

The Hating Game will be released on Amazon as an eBook on December 1st, today in fact, with the paperback version due out in March of next year. I was lucky enough to be sent an advance review copy of the novel in eBook form. I may be wrong about this but from just looking at the brightly coloured cover I got the feeling that this novel is directed at a much younger market than the one I am part of. I know we should never judge a book by the cover, but in this case I think the cover will stand out on the bookshelves and catch the eye of those ‘young’ women looking for something to read that is both modern and romantic.

Lets face facts, reality game shows are a 21st century phenomenon very much loved by the younger generation so the books subject matter will also attract the attention of potential readers. Personally I am not a fan of this sort of television show but I know many people that are, including my younger daughter who is also not much of a book reader as few novels catch her interest. However I think she would enjoy this because it is about something that she will feel she can relate to. This is part of a large problem with writing a novel, is there a market to read this story. I think Talli has a potential winner with her choice as within its genre she has written a sparkly lively modern novel that will appeal to many.

Mattie Johns the protagonist runs a media recruitment company and is a young woman that comes over as somewhat brash, hardened against life and love, always determined to have the last word. Her business is in trouble so she jumps at the opportunity to win a large cash prize in exchange for appearing on a dating game show. It does not turn out to be the easy money making deal she had hoped for when it is revealed that the dates are actually ex boyfriends!

Although the the story of her endeavours to win the money are both amusing and and at times emotional you will also learn of the ugly side of reality television. Programme ratings are what motivate the producers of this programme with absolutely no concern what so ever for the feelings of the contestants. One hopes that in real life it would never go this far, but I suppose one can never be sure. How far is that? What is it that happens? Does it all end happily?

All questions that will be answered if you read this cleverly written witty debut from new young talent Talli Roland. I will certainly be recommending ‘The Hating Game’ to any one who likes modern romance young or old, despite my earlier comments as I do not want to suggest it is only for the young, it is also for the young at heart. An entertaining read then with an extra little touch that I found amusing are the chapter headings of quirky facts about relationships.

Talli Roland

I am helping the publicity drive for The Hating Game by taking part in a campaign to spread the word today, publication day for the eBook version.

You can help Talli Roland's debut novel The Hating Game hit the Kindle bestseller list at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk by spreading the word today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/hNBkJk

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/hX2ieD

More details about what is happening today can be found here The Hating Game - Take on Amazon Splash

No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more. Coming soon in paperback. Keep up with the latest at Talli Roland - Official Website

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Marriage Bureau For Rich People by Farahad Zama



I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this novel. It was on my to read list as I had heard that Farahad Zama was a new author to watch with this being his debut novel.  For some reason I expected it to be more literary than the gentle read it turned out to be. I do not use the word ‘gentle’ in a derogatory manner but that is how the story comes across. A modern day social commentary about family relationships in India told through the everyday occurrences at Mr Ali’s ‘Marriage Bureau For Rich People’ At times it is very funny and at others tender and touching.

Mr Ali is retired but in search of something to keep him occupied hence the opening of a bureau for setting up arranged marriages. The matchmaking works and his days are soon full, offering advice to people seeking their life partners. Besides the various tales of his clients we also learn about the life of Mr and Mrs Ali’s son who causes them great distress as he is involved in social protests and gets himself arrested. The other protagonist is Aruna, Mr Ali’s assistant, a young girl whose circumstances mean she is unable to afford to marry!

Ok the story is nothing stunning and fairly predictable but I was drawn in by the interesting details about not only the various characters but about Indian life in general and how things are changing there.  It was also fascinating for me to learn about both Muslim and Hindu marriages and how they are arranged with love marriages discouraged.

An opportunity to learn about a different culture and way of life, which is something I enjoy in a novel, being transported to another world.

Photo courtesy ofFarahad ZamaLittle Brown

Farahad Zama was born in 1966 in Vizag on the east coast of India. After finishing his studies as an electrical engineer he moved to Mumbai where he worked in an investment bank, an arranged marriage to a girl from Vizag soon followed. He has travelled the world for his career working in Zurich, New York and has lived and worked in London since 1993.

As I have already mentioned The Marriage Bureau For Rich People is Farahad’s first novel. It is being translated into eight languages, and I believe there is a possibility it may be made into a film. If you are interested in reading the first chapter of the book you can do so on the the author’s Official Website which is also where I gleaned the biographical information from for this post.

There is also a video available on YouTube with the author in India to promote his book which he reads an extract from, unfortunately I did not feel the sound was good enough to include here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger




I read Niffenegger's first novel The Time Traveler’s Wife before I started LindyLouMac’s Book Reviews and although it became one of my favourite novels, I never wrote more than a paragraph about it Bookcrossing Journal Entry.I was not used to writing reviews then and found it impossible to write anything worthwhile without it containing spoilers. However I did comment that you need to read it with an open mind and it is the same case with Her Fearful Symmetry.

Lets hope that I can do better this time. This is another very imaginative storyline but surrounded by reality and I think I enjoyed it. An odd thing to say but I did find some of the story difficult to cope with, due to the unethical behaviour of one of the characters which I found disturbing! I obviously cannot say more, if you have read this you will probably guess what I am referring to, if you haven’t well read the book to find out. Let me know what your thoughts were, I am interested, would you behave like that given the unlikely opportunity?

A haunting love story centred around two sets of Noblin family twins, Edie and Elspeth and the younger generation Julia and Valentina. Elspeth is estranged from her twin so when she dies she leaves her estate to the young girls. The main condition of the will is that they leave there home the other side of the Atlantic and live in the London flat for a year. Julia and Valentina much to their parents dismay were keen to take up this opportunity. The move to the apartment in Vautravers a house with direct access to Highgate Cemetery brings them into contact with not only Elspeth’s neighbours, Robert and Martin but the ‘afterlife’. Robert was Elspeth’s lover and he at first finds the twins resemblance to her very difficult to cope with. The other resident is Martin who suffers so badly from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that he no longer leaves his flat. The girls learn to find their way around London, explore Highgate Cemetery and both befriend one of the neighbours each as one of them starts to want independence from the other one. Highgate Cemetery features strongly in the novel and the facts you learn about it are very interesting, so I guess this has increased tourist visits there.

Highgate Cemetery . Photo courtesy of savidgereads from his review.

The afterlife aspect of the story is the central theme as we discover the history of this family of twin identities and it is dealt with by the author in the same matter of fact way that she wrote about ‘time travel’. Unfortunately like so many other reviewers I was rather disappointed with the ending, but I suppose it was difficult to end it other way when you think about it.

Whether you believe in ghosts or not I recommend you read this, if you can cope with the ‘afterlife’ aspect as Audrey Niffenegger has once again produced a novel that is unique (I think, unless you know differently) in its storyline.

Also did anyone else appreciate where the title comes from? The novel's title is inspired by The Tyger by William Blake which begins "Tiger, tiger, burning bright In the forests of the night,  What immortal hand or eye  Could frame thy fearful symmetry?". The poem is mentioned along with a full synopsis of the novel on Wikipedia.

This interview that I found on YouTube is also interesting as Audrey Niffengger explains how the theme of loss and making the most of what we have appears in her novels.

Courtesy of beyondbooks

If you are interested in learning more about Audrey Niffenegger and the book she is currently working on visit her Official Website .

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

December by Elizabeth H. Winthrop




December is Elizabeth H. Winthrop’s second novel but this is the first novel by her that I have read. I cannot actually recall how the title made it on to my Wish List but it did and I subsequently obtained this copy via Bookmooch a few months ago.  Surprisingly little happens in this novel and although well written there is not much to say about it. Although I did not find it boring I did find it at times a little slow because of the amount of trivial detail that is included about the everyday activities of the family, not sure if this much detail was necessary, but it did show how much Isabella’s silence effected family life.

How would any parent feel if their child had not spoken to them for 286 days? Isabella Carter is eleven years old and has not spoken to her parents or uttered a word to anyone in fact for so many months that specialists are at their wits end with her not being able to diagnose anything specific. Her school has been providing work for her to do at home, but are no longer prepared to have her on the list of pupils unless she returns speaking within the next few weeks. 

Ruth and Wilson Carters marriage is beginning to show the signs of strain as they struggle to discover where they have gone wrong with parenting, if this is even their fault. The three protagonists narrate the story which means we really get to feel the tension this situation is causing for all three of them. The parents are experiencing vast mood swings from anger with themselves, anger with their daughter, to being scared of what exactly the future holds for them all.  Isabella starts her silence because she feels she has no control over her life in any other way. She is struggling with the confusing world of an adolescent, so not speaking seems to her a way of gaining some control. The problem is that the longer her silence goes on, the less in control she actually feels. The control changes to an inner fear that she might not actually be able to speak if she tried to. Without writing a spoiler it takes someone outside the family plus a desperate need to communicate to make Isabella realise that the silence does not have to control her for ever, but how will she respond to this insight. To find out you will have to read the book.


Elizabeth Winthrop © Julia Bishop

Elizabeth Winthrop © Julia Bishop

To find out more about this young author visit her Official Website

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

French Fried by Chris Dolley


Unfortunately this felt very dated because it has taken much too long for this memoir to be published. What a surprise it was to learn this all happened in 1995, that’s fifteen years ago, come on ex-pat life has moved on so much since then! It read to me far more like a diary than a novel which I feel means it would have been far better to have been published at the time either  in a magazine or newspaper. In fact I think this would have made perfect blog reading, but I am not sure how many were around then? Looking into this I did discover an earlier online presence, see details at the end of this review.

I was really pleased when Chris Dolley approached me asking if I would like to review French Fried for two reasons. Firstly it was to be sent to me in eBook form giving me the opportunity to use my  Sony E-Reader and it is an ex-pat adventure. Although not set in Italy but France I felt there would be much that I could relate to. While there certainly was including escapades with fireplaces and tradesman, I was very disappointed as already mentioned by the era it happened in.  So much of the bureaucracy written about was way out of date and it still referred to French Francs. I assume this means that Chris Dolley has been trying for many years to get this memoir published and finally has succumbed to the e-book route. I searched for the availability of a hard copy but there does not seem to be one.

Normally a slim volume such as this would only take me a few days to read but it took me five days unheard of. I struggled because of the what felt to me like forced hilarity at times about the unfortunate situations they found themselves in, it was just too much at once. A chapter or two at a time was enough with this almost facetious style of writing, surely at the time they did not find so much humour in what was happening. I also found at times the naivety of the couple rather strange especially as they already had family living in France when they arrived.

As for the identity fraud that the couple suffered well you could not help but feel sympathetic and impressed that they solved the case themselves, but I have to say the result was rather obvious from fairly early on. I guessed who it was anyway, but that of course was easy with all the clues I had been given, not so easy for the Dolleys one realises. It is this story though within the book that makes it different from every other ex-pat memoir as it is almost (but not quite) a detective story.

I honestly think that as Chris Dolley was already an author when he wrote this that he would have been far better using the identity theft plot and writing a thriller. In fact I discovered he did in fact have this very idea himself but changed tack when he found it becoming too funny. What a shame he did not stick to his original idea. I feel badly as the author so kindly asked me to review his book and sent me the eBook gratis, however one has to be honest. I am sure his day to day life if written in the here and now, not tales from the last century maybe as a blog he would have a following.

Learn more about Chris Dolley here or on his Official Website where you will learn he is also  a science fiction author and designer of computer games. I also discovered during my research that from 2007, maybe earlier until as recently as August 2010 Chris Dolley was writing at LiveJournal about these and other experiences.

Update November 3rd, Chris Dolley has taken the time to comment here and I think the link he suggests reading is relevant and interesting so am including it as a link here

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Anita Burgh–The Person

This is a follow on from yesterdays post about The The Broken Gate. The information here is all taken from Video Google from an interview done for Chatshow Network show six years ago. There do not seem to be any copyright restrictions as it was available for embedding, so with thanks to them I am sharing by reproducing here this video and interview.
Anita Burgh has led a very interesting life, she was born the daughter of a housemaid and is now a Lady, do watch this video to learn more or read the interview below. It explains so much about where her inspiration for her novels really comes from.

This video is entitled part one but there was no sign of a follow up being available.
The happiest years of Anita Burgh's childhood, were the years during the second world war which she spent at Lanhydrock, Cornwall, the estate of Viscount Clifden. Anita describes her life there as idyllic and says "Lanhydrock was the entire world to me, a magical, wonderful, beautiful world." It was also a house and family stuck in a time warp, that of Victorian England and would prove to be an immense source of inspiration when, much later in life, Anita began writing novels, many of which are set in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. When Anita, whose origins were then considered to be quite lowly, married her husband, a member of the English aristocracy, it caused an outcry. In fact she had no idea until they became engaged, and she was taken to meet the family, that her fiance was the future Lord Burgh. They had met on a houseboat, albeit in Cheyne Walk and lived on kippers, so she had assumed that he was a penniless student. However, it was visiting the family estate in Scotland and where Anita encountered class distinctions, that was to prove invaluable material, when Anita came to write her first book. After watching an interview with a Mills and Boon author who earned £250,000 a year, Anita decided that would be the answer to all their financial problems. She sat the family down and said we had better write a best seller - three hours later she was the only one left and her career as a novelist had begun, because as Anita says "It was such fun". Since then she has written twenty novels and her latest "The Broken Gate", is the first part of a trilogy, so there are at least two more in the pipeline! Anita has overcome many difficulties, including problems on both sides of the family when she married, her father accused her of being a traitor, whilst his family looked down their noses at her and then the subsequent breakdown of the marriage. She has also overcome dyslexia, which is no mean feat for a novelist. Anita is in the rare position of having experienced life from "both sides of the tracks". She grew up listening to her mother and grandmother's stories of life in service and then her own marriage into the world aristocracy; all of which Anita draws upon in her writing and which makes for fascinating reading.   (Transcript from the video interview)
Now we know where and how Anita Burgh got her inspiration from for the twenty novels she has had published since she was fifty! What an interesting lady.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Broken Gate by Anita Burgh



Just like my previous review this is an author I have been reading for many years since 1994 in this case, when I read ‘Overtures’

‘The Broken Gate’ is the first in a trilogy and was published in 2004 but I have only recently managed to get hold of a copy via Bookmooch another great aid for obtaining books as an ex-pat. I will read the next two when they come my way but I will not be actively hunting them down, only because I already have a huge number of books waiting TBR (to be read). An enjoyable enough read but nothing spectacular, certainly not my favourite from this author. I would recommend this to fans of Anita Burgh who like me want to keep up to date with her work or fans of historical romance.

The Broken Gate the first volume in the trilogy covers just the year of 1901 in the life of the aristocratic Creswell family who have owned and loved on a country estate in Devon for over four hundred years. They are entering a time of economic and social changes with the start of a new century and there is bitter rivalry among family members. The year starts with the senior member of the family Mortimer Cresswell on his deathbed already fighting over their inheritance. His daughter Hannah seems to be the only member of the family aware of the damage this jealousy is causing amongst them. The situation worsens when a member of the new generation of self made men, Stanilas von Ehrlich buys an adjoining estate causing an inevitable feud which is exaggerated when his daughter Esmeralda falls in love with a member of the Cresswell household. The second son Oliver,certainly not suitable for his precious daughter.

The families hurtle along a collision course for impending disaster.


Anita Burgh Courtesy of Fantastic Fiction


Anita Burgh writes a Blog where she has recently written some posts on Looking Back and Readership with reference to her writing that make interesting reading. Her Official Website is also worth taking a look at for more information on the author and to find out more about the long list of novels she has written. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post I first started reading Anita Burgh’s novels in 1994 and it is just her earlier work published prior to then that I have not read.

Anita has led a very interesting life which I would like to reproduce here, but as this post is already long enough I will save the rest for tomorrow and publish as an author profile.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy


Each chapter is written as episodes in the lives of the characters and it all seems to link together into a relaxing if not a somewhat predictable read. If you have read previous novels by this author you will also enjoy catching up with characters you met earlier and once again visiting the restaurant Quentins, also a title of one of Maeve Binchy’s earlier novels. It doesn't matter if you are new to this author though as it stands alone easily as well.

It is not a novel that I am gong to rave about and say how fantastic it is or anything but it definitely has a feel good factor about it, a novel to relax with on the beach or curled up next to a roaring fire.

There always seems to be a large cast of characters in Maeve Binchy’s novels and this is no exception. The story hinges around Clara Casey, a cardiac specialist as she takes charge of a newly opening heart clinic in Dublin. As well as meeting her family, two daughters Adi and Linda, her ex husband Alan there are the staff and patients at the clinic, as well as the old friends I mentioned from previous novels. They are all ordinary people with sorrows and joy in their everyday lives and as you read you find yourself drawn into the events that unfold. Nothing dramatic or particularly thrilling to keep you guessing but tales that just reach into the Hearts and Souls of the characters.


Photo and biographical info courtesy of Wikipedia

Born 28 May 1940 (age 70)
Dalkey, County Dublin, Ireland


Please note besides these novels Maeve Binchy has also written a large number of short stories, novellas, non-fiction and a play.

I have been reading Maeve Binchy’s novels since the early 1980’s and have read all but one on the above list, The Lilac Bus from 1984. Her latest novel Minding Frankie was published on September 30th and I have already added it to my wishlist of titles.

To find out more about Maeve Binchy and her latest novel visit her Official Website.

The video I have included will tell you more about Heart and Soul.

knopfgroup | 17 February 2009 Maeve Binchy, beloved Irish author, explains the premise of her new novel, HEART AND SOUL.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Point of Rescue by Sophie Hannah



Just as enthralling as the previous two novels I have read by Sophie Hannah. I stayed awake far too late at night reading this. Again it is a psychological thriller and the police officers Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer from her previous novel are once again on the case. It does not matter though if you have not read ‘Little Face’ as apart from the reappearance of some of the characters in the police force the story is unconnected.

The protagonist is Sally Thorning, if only she had not lied to her husband in the first place, she may never have found herself cheating on him. The past and her lies catch up with her and she finds herself embroiled in the most sinister of situations. Sally is watching the television news about the suspicious death of a mother and daughter and it shows the woman’s husband one Mark Bretherick and gives details of where they live. Sally knows this is not the man calling himself by this name that she met previously. However for the time being she has to keep this to herself as her relationship with Mark was never revealed to her husband. 

I am reluctant to say more as I am always careful not to write spoilers. Yet I had a comment recently, not on this blog, that although I write interesting reviews I often give too much away about the story.  So, I will say no more other than I was completely surprised by the outcome of the murder, not what I was expecting at all.

If you have not yet discovered this author for yourself, I do recommend that you try her, especially if you are not a great fan of this genre, as normally neither am I.

Sophie HannahSophie Hannah

As well as writing psychological thrillers, Sophie Hannah is a bestselling poet and an award-winning short story writer. Her fifth collection of poetry, Pessimism for Beginners, was shortlisted for the 2007 TS Eliot Award. She won first prize in the Daphne du Maurier Festival Short Story Competition for her psychological suspense story The Octopus Nest. Sophie is married and has two children. More information about Sophie can be found at Sophie Hannah Official Website

While doing my research for this post I discovered that these novels are currently being adapted television.

I am also posting links to my reviews for the last two novels as I thought some of you might be interested.

Little Face by Sophie Hannah

Hurting Distance by Sophie Hannah


Lincolnshire Echo | 14 September 2007 Interview with bestselling crime novelist Sophie Hannah about Hurting Distance.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Girls by Lori Lansens


The protagonists and narrators of this amazing novel are Rose and Ruby Darlen.  These two girls are not just twins but they are the oldest surviving con-joined twins They are approaching not just their thirtieth birthdays but also their impending deaths as Rose has been diagnosed with an aneurysm in the brain, which will inevitably kill them both. It could be at any time in the immediate future, no one knows. The only definite fact is that they will not live to be old. The girls are dealing with dying in different ways, Rose wants to write about it but Ruby just wants to talk especially to her twin.

It is the story of Ruby, Rose, Aunt Lovey, Uncle Stash, the Merkels and others as told mainly by Rose but sometimes by Ruby and is a very special tale of two sisters who may never have been able to look directly into each others eyes or climb a tree but in their short lifetime they certainly scaled a mountain.

It is written in the style of a memoir and could so easily have been the true story of two sisters. Their birth, adoption by a nurse that delivered them, their relationships with each other and those around them as they tackle life experiences growing up in rural Canada. As conjoined twins it was certainly not the easiest of childhoods and was fascinating enough to make it interesting to read how these two girls, joined at the cranium coped with everything life threw at them. The descriptions of their physical appearance as well as the out pouring of feelings makes you feel that by the end of the book you have actually met these amazing girls.

It was maybe a strange topic to base a novel round but Lori Lansens has made it work, unique as far as I know and worth reading. Although be warned it is particularly poignant in parts.  In fact even though I finished reading this a few weeks ago it is still haunting me and I have to remind myself that this was fiction and not an autobiography. It certainly felt like that because of the way it was written with high moments when they were so hopeful, followed by dreadful lows of despair. A distressing but worthwhile read.

Lori LansensLori Lansens

Copyright Photo © Laura Starks

The video I have included here is an excellent introduction to ‘The Girls’

Courtsey of garethwrites

Author Information Courtesy of Wikipedia

Lori Lansens was a successful screenwriter before she had her first novel ‘Rush Home road’ published in 2002. Translated into eight languages and published in eleven countries, it received rave reviews around the world, was a national bestseller in Canada and a Globe 100 Book of the Year. Whoopi Goldberg’s production company has optioned the film rights. Born and raised in Chatham, Ontario, Canada, where both of her novels are set, Lori Lansens now makes her home in Toronto, Canada.

Her third novel ‘The Wife’s Tale’ was published last year and it is definitely on my wish list.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga



The Man Booker Prize Winner for 2008 this was recommended to my husband and I by our elder daughter.  What an intriguing first novel this is narrated by Balram Halwai a young Indian entrepreneur, in the form of emails (I think not letters as someone else suggested to me) to a high ranking Chinese official due to visit India.  Over the course of seven nights during one way communication with this official Balram paints a vivid picture of life in India for rich and poor and he confesses via this medium to murder.

I found the character of Balram rather cold and matter of fact and I did not warm to him at all. Maybe I was not meant to as here is a man born into poverty that discovers that by cheating and murdering he can live the life he once only dreamed of in modern India. He seems to have no fear what so ever of the consequences of his actions. He writes an expose of how the rich in India survive and how rife corruption is, yet at the same time he also behaves in a way that shows little regard for either his family or his employers.

This narrative certainly paints a picture of the darker side of India and I suspect a lot of what he says is sadly based on truth, exaggerated or not I have no idea. Never the less it was an entertaining read and as I mentioned before intriguing. Certainly a satirical way of exposing life in India for the poor to Westerners' the market for which this novel was obviously intended as this is not a translation but was written originally in English.

For a detailed plot summary I suggest the Wikipedia page for the novel.


Photo of Aravind Adiga courtesy of his Official Website which is where I obtained the biographical information from.

Aravind Adiga was born in 1974 in Madras (now called Chennai), and grew up in Mangalore in the south of India. He was educated at Columbia University in New York and Magdalen College, Oxford. His articles have appeared in publications such as the New Yorker, the Sunday Times, the Financial Times, and the Times of India. His first novel, The White Tiger, won the Man Booker Prize for fiction in 2008. His new novel, Last Man in the Tower, will be published in 2011.

I am also including a very interesting podcast interview with the author from Blackwell's which is well worth listening to.

Blackwell Online

The interview continues here.

Blackwell Online Part Two of interview

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Book Review - La Bella Lingua by Dianne Hales


La Bella Lingua pb

Praise from the first word, if you have a love of Italy and or the Italian language whether you are able to speak it or not, this book is definitely not just a must read but a title destined for your private collection.

I have owned a copy of this book since the end of last year and I have enjoyed dipping into it frequently. I have not until now though read it in depth enough so that I felt able to write a review.

Dianne Hales is an American journalist and published author. She wrote this book as a result or because, in her own words she never expected to fall ‘ madly, gladly, giddily in love with the world's most luscious language.’  but fall she did head over heels. For over twenty years now Italian has become her way of immersing herself into Italy's culture, history, lifestyle and traditions. She shares this love with us in such an engaging manner you will be captivated.

Just take a peep at this list of Chapter headings.
Introduction: My Italian Brain and How It Grew
1. Confessions of an Innamorata
2. The Unlikely Rise of a Vulgar Tongue
3. To Hell and Back with Dante Alighieri
4. Italian's Literary Lions
5. The Baking of a Masterpiece
6. How Italian Civilized the West
7. La Storia dell'ArteA
8. On Golden Wings
9. Eating Italian
10. So Many Ways to Say "I Love You"
11. Marcello and Me
11. Irreverent Italian
12. Mother Tongue

I hope that just reading that list will have tempted you enough, it is the story of how the Italian language came into existence using art, history, music, literature, cooking, films and last but not least amore or love to teach us. It will not matter if you do not know or understand a word of Italian, a love of Italy and all things Italian is all you need. Or maybe if you do not already have that love reading this will will convert you. Learning Italian or want to learn then this is also the book for you as it takes you way beyond vocabulary and all that complicated Italian grammar. As a traveller to Italy whether in reality or virtually, it will also make a great introduction to the places and the people.

In truth I believe that everyone who reads my Blog 'News From Italy' will enjoy this in one way or another. What more can I say really but to recommend highly that you get hold of a copy to dip into yourself. As once you have done that you will definitely I think want a copy on your own bookshelves whether you are a novice or an expert on all things Italian.

Dianne HalesDianne Hales photograph from her website.

Continuing on from this book Dianne Hales launched a Blog Becoming Italian Word By Word where she celebrates the art of living via the Italian language with each interesting and informative post covering a different aspect.

You can also find out more about her by visiting her website  Dianne Hales

Still not convinced you will enjoy this, then please take just three minutes and listen to what Dianne has to say herself here.

crownbooks | 30 March 2010 Author Dianne Hales tells an audience how she came to write "La Bella Li...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Stargazing - The Best Love Story of the Last 50 Years 1960 -2010



This poll was organised by the Romantic Novelists Association in conjunction with the magazine Woman’s Weekly.

Linda Gillard one of my favourite authors has just been announced as the winner of this award for her most recent novel ‘Star Gazing’

Linda Gillard

Linda Gillard lives on the Isle of Arran and is pictured here with her trophy. It was apparently pure coincidence that the trophy was in the shape of a star, but rather appropriate.

It was a well deserved award as you will know if you have read this novel, if you have not done so I urge you to do so. Maybe my review or one of the many other excellent reviews that have been written will tempt you to do so.

I read Star Gazing before this blog was in existence although I did reproduce it here in the early days. In honour of this award I am publishing that review here again today.

09 September 2008
Star Gazing by Linda Gillard
I have for as long as I can remember had a habit of saving new things as the excitement is often in the anticipation. It is no surprise to me then that I have been saving ‘Star Gazing’. This is Linda Gillard’s third novel and I enjoyed the previous two so much that this new one held a high element of expectation for me. Hence the saving!
I knew from reading an article by the author that this book was somewhat of an experiment for her in that her heroine was blind and that it was written in the first person. Well I was not disappointed Linda has done so with great success and I loved this latest addition to her I think varied repertoire. No sticking to a formulaic outline for this author.
I loved ‘Star Gazing’ and was glad I had saved it for a time when I knew I could relax and enjoy it without interruptions. I did however find it a rather short and quick read. I think for that reason alone I still prefer A Lifetime Burning as it was an altogether much more substantial novel.
Star Gazing is an unconventional romance set in Edinburgh and the Isle of Skye with descriptions that will have you enthralled and characters that you will become emotionally involved with.
All the protagonists are extremely well portrayed, Marianne, Louisa, Keir and Garth. Set in the period of time from the winter of 2006 to the summer of 2007 the story draws you in to the trials and tribulations of the lives of these four.
The fascinating aspect of the story for me was the fact that the main protagonist Marianne was congenitally blind and how well thanks to Linda Gillard’s descriptions I was able to understand her experience of life. There is one particular scene where Marianne gets lost which had me near to tears with frustration for her. Marianne is portrayed as a strong independent woman but this just makes you realise the difficulties she faces to be so. There was also a point in the story where her decisions were making me so angry.
Keir the man with the chocolate voice (love this analogy)that Marianne meets by chance shares her passion for music and has a wonderful ability of describing what he is seeing to her. I felt at times he was almost too good to be true and he was so patient with Marianne. There was at least one occasion I felt I wanted to shout at him not about patience with her physical abilities but when she was making decisions! His way of describing sights via musical comparisons was intriguing and something I will certainly think about in future.
Lousia her sister and Garth who works for Louisa are the minor characters but they make an important contribution to the story and both made me laugh, relieving some of the sadder elements.
To sum up a modern romance with a unique angle and enough twists and turns and heartache to make it a captivating highly recommended read.
As you will realise if you have read all this review this is a story that will stir your emotions!

My words in summing up above will make it clear that I am in complete agreement with the results of this poll.

The other two titles short listed for the award along with Star Gazing were ‘A Woman of Substance’ by Barbara Taylor Bradford and ‘Every Woman For Herself’ by Trisha Ashley. The former I read many years ago, in fact in 1985 and dare I admit I have not even heard of Trisha Ashley my only saving grace being that maybe she gained popularity after I left the UK.

For more information and comments from the shortlisted authors here is a link to the press release. Press Release Winners and Comments

I am including here the long list which ‘Stargazing’ was competing against, an interesting and varied selection! I have read the vast majority, although some were such a long time ago that I would definitely be unable to comment about them or their inclusion on this list. There are six authors on the list whose work I have never read and two I am ashamed as a librarian to admit I had never even heard of previously. There are a few other titles on the list that I thoroughly enjoyed that I was maybe surprised did not make it on to the short list but I do think the right novel won.

The long list :-

A HORSEMAN RIDING – R. F Delderfield
A WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE – B. Taylor Bradford 
CHECKMATE - Dorothy Dunnett
CHOCOLAT – Joanne Harris
CONSIDER THE LILY  - Elizabeth Buchan
MISS M & ME - Jemme Forte
PENMARRIC - Susan Howatch
RIDERS – Jilly Cooper
STAR GAZING - Linda Gillard
THE ISLAND – Victoria Hislop
LABYRINTH – Kate Mosse
THE NONESUCH - Georgette Heyer
THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL - Philippa Gregory        THE
 RECTOR'S WIFE - J Trollope
THE SHELL SEEKERS - Rosamunde Pilcher
THE TAMARIND SEED - Evelyn Anthony
TILLY TROTTER - Catherine Cookson
TOUCH NOT THE CAT - Mary Stewart

I read Linda Gillard’s previous two novels before I started writing LindyLouMac’s Book Reviews but you may be interested in reading my Journal entries at Bookcrossing- LindyLouMac- Home Page

Emotional Geology – Journal Entries

A Lifetime Burning – Journal Entries

Official Website for Linda Gillard  Please visit her website as lots of interesting information, also if you are a Facebook Fan she has a page there.

Facebook Fan Page

I am now hoping that Linda Gillard will get the recognition she deserves and hopefully we will soon see more of her work being published.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

We Are All Made of Glue by Marina Lewycka



Personally I think that this author just keeps getting better with each novel published. Or maybe it is just that I have just got used to her distinctive style of combining the hilarious with the tragic.

As in her previous novels I thoroughly enjoyed the excellent portrayal of her cast of characters. What a wonderful cast of characters they are from the two main protagonists Georgie Sinclair and the elderly Naomi Shapiro right down to the smallest bit parts. Even the seven cats in the story have characters of their own.

Marina Lewycka even manages to find something amusing in glue, by using the fact that her main protagonist writes trade articles on adhesives as a clever ruse for appropriate section and chapter names. Some bits were a little scientific and went over my head, but that didn't matter. If I had been so inclined I could have done some research on adhesives but no I am not that interested. I understood enough and it was clever using glue as an allegory for human relationships and bonds, excuse the pun! At least that is how I interpreted it.

Georgie Sinclair is a journalist and would be authoress working from home, dealing with almost adult children and a marriage that is slipping away from her. She gets to know by chance an eccentric  old Jewish lady, Naomi Shapiro who lives in Canaan House a rambling but crumbling residence in the same locality. As if Georgie does not have enough to cope with, Naomi after a minor fall puts her in hospital names Georgie as her next of kin. So she finds herself with a lot more than a son obsessed with the end of the world and her daughter who keeps her distance to worry about. As she is drawn into the old woman's life, we meet a cast of eccentric characters from devious estate agents and social workers to handymen who just happen to be Arabs. Hilarious yes, but we also learn of the complexities of the Middle East Crisis. If you are at all sensitive you might find some of  the descriptions of what happened to the Jews, yes glue again and the state of Naomi's residence might well make you feel slightly nauseous. Sadly the first is a fact of life and the second a sad possibility for a lonely old lady living alone.  As Georgie tries desperately to put Naomi's life on a more even keel her own is falling apart. You will have realised by now that the coherence, yes glue again, of this story is not an easy one but I felt that Marina Lewycka's manages to tie up all the loose ends and give us a more than satisfactory ending although some may consider it a little trite.

I certainly recommend the work of this author and if you have enjoyed her previous novels will be surprised if you do not enjoy this one. I look forward to your comments.

Marina Lewycka Courtesy of Google images

Marina Lewycka is of Ukrainian origin and was born in a refugee camp in Germany in 1946 soon after the end of World War II.

This video from YouTube is the first six minutes of the audio book. Do have a listen as I think it will tempt you if my review has not already done so.

Marina Lewycka - We Are All Made of Glue (audiobook) read by Sian Thomas


My Reviews of her earlier books can be found by clicking on the titles

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

Two Caravans published as Strawberry Fields in North America.

For more information on the author visit the following link.

Marina Lewycka - Wikipedia

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Thirteenth Tale


This was a fabulous read and I devoured it, one of those books that once you pick up it is difficult to put down, which meant a late night and two afternoons reading in the shade, what a hardship that was. This a first novel from Diane Setterfield, I just hope she plans to write more as she certainly  knows how to write a really good story. It has all the elements of a murder mystery with suspense plus twists and turns that had me intrigued right to the end. My suspicions and ideas were not always right either which always adds to the impact of a novel for me.

The story is centred around the two female protagonists Margaret Lea, the narrator of the story and Vida Winter. Margaret Lea is a true booklover having spent all her life surrounded by books, now helping her father to run the family business an antiquarian bookshop.  Margaret has a fascination with biographies and has had some short biographical studies published. It is because of this that Vida Winter a well known authoress writes to her. Vida now an elderly lady is not  well and she has decided that she wants to tell the 'true' story of her life before she dies and she thinks that Margaret is the perfect choice for this task.

Margaret takes the job and goes to stay with Vida Winter to carry out her commission. Margaret becomes so preoccupied with the story that she was hearing and writing that her own life fades into the background. As I found did mine the reader's as I became immersed in the gripping tale of Anglefield (the family home), the characters and the world of twins as we discover more about the lives of these two women.  You will eventually learn the secrets that have Margaret spellbound and make the story of Angelfield and its family tragedies such an entertaining read.

image from Google

I found this interview on YouTube which explains how long it took Diane Setterfield to write The Thirteenth Tale. It is very interesting and if you have some free time worth listening to, though be warned it is fourteen minutes long.


Diane Setterfield was born I discovered from Wikipedia on august 22nd 1964, so very recently celebrating her 46th Birthday. What I was particularly pleased to learn though was that she is working on a second novel.

More information on Diane Setterfield can be found by following these links.

Wikipedia - Diane Setterfield

Goodreads Author

Simon and Schuster

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak




Another very successful title of the last decade that has been mentioned in more than one top ten list. In fact reading one of these lists recently I realised that this was one of only three titles on such a list that I had not read!  Completing this one means that I have now have read and enjoyed all ten titles which were voted as amongst the best of the decade. Lovereading - Books of the Decade 
When I looked on Amazon recently there were already 603 reviews published of which 445 are five star ones. There are a handful of reviews from readers that did not like the novel but they are insignificant when a novel is so popular.

Out of the three books that I needed to read to have read all ten recommendations for the decade it is interesting that two of them were both about the Nazi Germany during WWII, a subject I maybe subconsciously steer away from. The other one was The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas similar in that it also has a child as the main protagonist. I only mention it here as I feel if you read one of these you should read both. I obviously made a mistake by avoiding them for so long.

The Book Thief is written in a truly unusual style, in fact I do not think I have ever come across anything else written in a style quite like this before. Short sections that all link together almost like a diary, but the weirdest thing of all for me was the fact that the story is narrated by Death. One needs to accept that a story told by Death is  almost certainly going to be a tear jerker which it is but it is also very compassionately told. This is not a book to enjoy as such but it is a story that will make you think, I suspect not for the first time about the awful atrocities that were committed in Nazi Germany during the second World War.

The young protagonist is Liesel who is sent to a foster family for her own safety in 1939 when her parents are sent to a concentration camp. Set in a small German town called Molching it is basically the story of her day to day life on Himmel Street plus the other folk that become her friends and neighbours. Liesel steals books to feed her desire to learn to read and write, hence the title!   Work and food are scarce and as the war progresses death is always close in one way or another.

Death's account of Liesels life is thanks to the author full of descriptive imagery which will provide you with strong images of immense cruelty and human misery but also of love and kindness to others.

If you have not already read this, I think I am in the minority in not having done so before now, I recommend you do so. It will stir your emotions but it is for all that an easy quick read. Just make sure you have the tissues ready.

 Illustrations are from within the book.

Markus Zusak was born on 23rd of June 1975 in Australia, the youngest of four children and is the son of an Austrian father and a German mother. It is the stories he heard as a child of Nazi Germany and Jews being marched through the town where his mother lived that gave him inspiration to write The Book Thief.  He now lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife and daughter.

Markus Zusak - Wikipedia

Courtesy of TheGuardian | 01 June 2009

The novelist explains why he decided to use death as his narrator and why he's not keen for his publishers to see the way he works.

You may also be interested in the review at The Books Cafe of The Book Thief.