Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Untying the Knot by Linda Gillard

  • Kindle Edition: File size 493KB
  • Genre: Psychological Fiction
  • Publisher: Kindle Edition 2011
  • Source: E-book provided by the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
  • First Sentences : I stitch memories. That's what I do. Not mine, other people's. I capture them in cloth, thread and ink.
  • Favourite Quote : "Everyone makes mistakes, but I sometimes think I’ve made more than most. Marrying Magnus was one of them. But the biggest mistake I ever made was divorcing him."
  • My Opinion: Another surprise from one of my favourite authors.

  • I have been a fan of Linda Gillard since I first discovered her writing in 2007 and I have enjoyed each and every one of them. For me the most exciting thing about starting her latest novel is the not knowing exactly what you are going to be getting within the pages. So far with each new title she has changed tack somewhat in her writing style and I suspect this is why she does not conveniently fit a publishers mould.
    Untying the Knot, met all my expectations, except for the cover which I somehow feel does not do justice to the story. There was for me no connection with this and the story, but I knew little about it when I started reading. Unlike many readers I try to avoid reading too much information about a novel until after I have read it, which is why I dislike spoilers in reviews. If you like to learn more about the background of a novel before you read it, Linda has written a fabulous piece about Untying the Knot which does not contain spoilers but may help you decide if this is one for you. I certainly hope it is as by Linda's own admission it has been the hardest of her novels to write and I think she has tackled the difficult subjects raised with great compassion.

    The protagonists are Fay and Magnus a divorced couple that seem unable to move on with their lives, due to their 'indissoluble bond'. Magnus returned from the Falklands War with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Fay was not the strong army wife that she feels she should have been. Now five years after their divorce, with regrets behind them, they are both still making dreadful decisions about their lives. Linking them together still is their daughter Emily and the fact that Fay is friendly with her ex mother in law Jessie.
    The emotion and humour within the story is perfectly balanced as the narrative of Fay and Magnus's love unfolds. Fay is now working artistically with textiles and Magnus is restoring Tullibardine Tower which was once their home together and features strongly. You may not like their behaviour at times, particularly one situation they get themselves into, but these are realistic characters and sadly for people with their histories, entirely credible.

    Why did I enjoy this so much? Well I think besides it being another well written story from a favourite author with a great plot and a fabulous ending, it felt real. You cannot fail to relate to at least some of the issues raised within the pages, well worth reading.

    I would love to know what you think of Linda Gillard's writing, or if you have not read any of her novels I urge you to do so. My recommendation would be to read them in order of publication, as I felt that with each novel her writing just kept getting better. Can she keep up the standard well I hope so as I am already looking forward to the next one.

       Author Profile

    Linda graduated from Bristol University, then trained as an actress at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Whilst under-employed at the National Theatre, Linda developed a second career as a freelance journalist, doing both for awhile. Later she gave up acting to raise a family and write from home.
    Twelve years later, she re-trained as a primary teacher and taught in Norfolk for some years. She moved to the Isle of Skye where she lived for six years in a house on a hill overlooking the Cuillin mountain range, featured in her first novel, Emotional Geology, (2005). In 2006 A Lifetime Burning and in 2008 Stargazing which was also partly set in Skye. The following year Stargazing was voted "Favourite Romantic Novel 1960-2010" by the readers of Woman's Weekly magazine.
    Her fourth novel House of Silence was not published until 2011, as she was unable to find a publisher. As a Kindle e-book it very quickly became a bestseller, selling over 10,000 copies in four months.
    If you are interested in finding out more about This author and her writing please visit some of the links I have listed below.

    I read three of Linda Gillard’s previous 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 (read in 2007)
    A Lifetime Burning – Journal Entries (I read this one in 2007 as well)
    Stargazing – Links to my review reproduced on this blog for the RNA Award post. (I read this in 2008)
    Stargazing - Journal Entries
    Her fourth book I reviewed on LindyLouMac's Book Reviews last year.
    House of Silence - My Review

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

    I am still hoping that one day Linda Gillard will get the recognition she deserves and hopefully we will see her novels being published in hard copy again, although I know she is having tremendous success with her e-book sales. Until then you need to find yourself an e-Reader if you are not familiar with her writing.

    Biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the websites mentioned in the post and to Amazon.co.uk.

    Thursday, March 22, 2012

    A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers by Xiaolu Guo

  • Paperback: 354 pages
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Publisher: Vintage, Random House Group 2008
  • Source: Oxfam bookshop in UK
  • First Sentences : ‘Now. Beijing time 12 clock midnight. London time 5 clock afternoon. But I at neither time zone. I on airplane. Sitting on 25,000km above to earth and trying to remember all English I learning in school. I not met you yet. you in future.
  • Review Quote : ‘Funny and charming..more than a love story; its psychology is politically acute and things noted lightly in it linger in the mind’ Guardian
  • My Opinion: A sad but believable story about a young girls loss of innocence as East meets West. 

  • When I first started to read this I was put off by the way it has been deliberately written in bad English. However once I got to grips with this and realised it was really a necessary and integral part of the novel I began to enjoy it much more, finding it both witty and charming.

    Zhuang is twenty three years old and her parents have sent her to spend a year in London to learn English to enable her to return to China and help them expand their shoe factory business. The bad English grammar of the writing is essential as at first this is is how she communicates with no understanding of tenses or verbs, just armed with a dictionary. In fact it reminded me of when I first moved to Italy, completely out of my depth with the language.

    It is a very poignant story as Zhuang coming from an Eastern culture to a Western one seems very naive of the ways of the new world she is now inhabiting. Unfortunately the older hippy that she meets, befriends and very quickly ends up living with is far from a perfect partner for her. His attitudes towards her, sex and life in general mean that learning about love is even more confusing for her than learning the language. I should maybe also point out here that are are a few scenes in this novel that are sexually explicit.
    As Zhuang’s grasp of the English language becomes stronger she starts to question the attitude of her lover suspecting that her values are very different to his. The relationship is heading nowhere, although she has a strong desire for this not to be the case.
    A sad but believable story about a young girls loss of innocence as East meets West.

                                       Xiaolu Guo Author Profile


    Xiaolu Guo was born in 1973 and is a Chinese novelist and filmmaker, who uses film and literary language to explore themes of alienation, memory, personal journeys, daily tragedies and develops her own vision of China's past and its future in a global environment.

    The biographical information photo and the video used in this post are with thanks to the following websites.
    Xiaolu Guo – Wikipedia, Xiaolu Guo - Official Website

    I have chosen to read this title as the letter C for this challenge which I have decided to attempt to achieve in alphabetical order. I have a good selection of titles to choose from our bookshelves, it will be interesting to see how far I can get before I get stuck. You can follow my progress here.

    Friday, March 16, 2012

    Tiger Hills by Sarita Mandanna


                       Campo delle Rose - February 2012 018

  • Paperback: 591 pages
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Publisher: Phoenix, Orion Books Ltd 2010
  • Source: Passed on to me by my sister
  • First Sentence : ‘Muthavva knew her seventh child was special, had known from the very day of her birth,the day of the herons.’
  • Favourite Quote : The fields erupted in an explosion of white as a flock of herons suddenly took wing. Water rolled off their wings, their beaks, and their claws in minute droplets, catching the first rays of the sun as they hurtled toward the earth. And it was as if the birds were weeping, crying a shower of diamonds over the still-sleeping town below.
  • Review Quote : ‘An epic and extraordinary debut from an astonishing new talent’ Daily Express.
  • My Opinion: Brilliant debut novel


    This was my first read of 2012 and what a fabulous start to the year, thanks to my sister who passed this on to me, thinking I might enjoy it, while we were staying with her in Wales. Well I most certainly did getting thoroughly immersed in this wonderful story set in Coorg in Southern India and spanning  the period from 1878 to 1936.

    The narrative begins with the birth of the protagonist of the novel Devi and follows the life story of her and her childhood friend Devanna. I was transported by the authors descriptive writing to the region and an era when India was undergoing many changes in society. Devi is a beautiful child and as the first girl born into her family for many years is the subject of much adoration. Strong willed and lively, she is determined as she grows up, to live life on her terms no matter what. It is no surprise therefore  that this has considerable consequences for those around her and for future generations. There is a lot of suffering and angst in this novel and one might not always like the way the characters behave, however it felt realistic to me as they eventually learnt to cope with their destinies.

    A truly captivating novel about the choices we make in the name of love, family, love and our country.  Not only does Tiger Hills provide a great plot, a beautifully written family saga set in a beautiful location but it also combines Indian history, traditions and folklore flawlessly into the story.

    A brilliant debut novel from Sarita Mandanna, I will certainly be looking out for any future ones. If this is the sort of story with a historical background that you normally read, then I cannot see how you can fail to not enjoy this.

    Author Profile

    Tiger Hills NovelSarita Mandanna

    Sarita Mandanna belongs to the stunning landscapes of Coorg, the setting of Tiger Hills. Her family history extends for centuries through these hills, famous for their coffee plantations and often described as the 'Scotland of India'. She has a PGDM from the Indian Institute of Management, an MBA from the Wharton Business School, and was most recently a private equity investor in New York City. Tiger Hills is her debut novel. It is being translated into 15 languages around the world.,

    Including also for you this interesting piece, as in her own words Sarita Mandanna tells us WHY SHE WROTE TIGER HILLS:
    It was ancient custom in Coorg to bury the umbilical cord of a newborn. Past the jungle undergrowth, tucked among root and shale, deep into the earth. It served as a talisman, it was believed, a beacon showing the way home. So that no matter how far one went, no matter the distance nor the passage of time, ever this electric longitude, pointed towards home.

    Perhaps inevitably then, when I began to write Tiger Hills, Coorg was the setting that naturally unfurled. My words, echoing my grandfather's as he tells us stories around an oil lamp. The great-grandmother, widowed young, who walked her fields alone, a dagger tucked into her blouse. These stories and others, my roots, sunk for generations into these hills.

    While Coorg forms the highly personalized canvas of Tiger Hills, I wanted to write a story almost classical in structure - a large narrative, whose characters struggle with universal themes. What do we do when thrust into circumstances not of our choosing? Tiger Hills explores the nexus between fortitude and acceptance, the choices we make in the aftermath of happenstance and the far-reaching impact they can carry. Determined not to be victimized, Devi fights for happiness the best she can. She isn't always easy to like and makes some decisions that are far from right. And yet, who was truly the victim and who the aggressor?

    As she forges a life for herself within the parameters decided for her, Devi hardens. To such an extent however, that she becomes wedded to a version of happiness too rooted in memory to ever become real. When is it best to let go, to seek happiness along new roads, even those previously discounted?

    Devi's story lies at the core of Tiger Hills, but it is the other stories, unvoiced, like a dried flower lying pressed within the pages of a book, that form its undercurrent. A missionary, searching for something he cannot express; an orphan, single minded in his devotion; a boy, marked by both the mother who leaves him to the care of another as well as the legend of a father barely remembered. Different interpretations of love - obsessive, possessive, filial; the ways we wield them to undo one another, the suffering we invite upon those we hold dearest.

    Finally, redemption. Tiger Hills is an exploration of our all too human need to come full circle, for reconciliation; and the idea that often, it lies well within our grasp.


    In the video you can hear Sarita reading from the beginning of Tiger Hills. A very interesting interview.

    Uploaded by ndtvhindu on Jul 26, 2010

    The Beauty of Coorg Nature


    Information and photos used in this post are with thanks to the following websites.

    LindyLouMac Photo Collection

    Tiger Hills Facebook Page        Cafekodava Facebook Page

    Amazon Author Profile



  • Sunday, March 11, 2012

    Before I Die by Jenny Downham


  • Paperback: 327 pages.
  • Genre: Young adult fiction.
  • Publisher: Random House Group 2007
  • Source: Sent to me by a blogging friend in the UK. Len Lambert Writer
  • First Sentences : ‘ I wish I had a boyfriend. I wish he lived in the wardrobe on a coat hanger.’
  • Review Quote: ‘ Novels for young teenagers do not usually feature drugs and casual sex within the first 20-odd pages. But most books for teenagers will not leave an adult reader’s eyes so blurry with tears that it’s hard to see the final chapters. Jenny Downham’s extraordinary first novel does both.’ Sunday Times
  • Awards: ALA Teens' Top Ten (2008), Branford Boase Award (2008), ALA's Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (2008), The Inky Awards for Silver Inky (2008), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2012)
  • My Opinion : Heart breaking I recommend to the young adults it is intended for. 

  • As a genre YA is one I normally stay well away from but this was recommended by a blogging friend Len Lambert who very kindly sent me her copy when she had finished with it.
    I had to preserve with this one and I was at least half way through before it began to have much impact. It is indeed a very sad novel and you would have to be a very hard person for it not to be an emotional read.  
    The narrator is Tessa a sixteen year old that has been fighting a loosing battle with leukaemia for the past four years and has now been told that she probably just has months to live. She writes the inevitable list of things she wants to do before she dies, trying to cram them all into the few months she has left. The list includes everything from sex, drugs, crime, and fame as Tessa hurtles towards the time her body can no longer cope with the demands she has placed on it. As she tells us the story her feelings and relationships with her parents, sibling and friends are all painfully related.
  • The ending is of course particularly poignant as we already know that Tessa is going to die. Reality and dreams all start to get mixed together and the closing pages are a very emotional read as those that care about her gather around her to make their farewells.
    I did not really enjoy this book and would never had chosen to read it myself had it not been recommended. I think though it is a good introduction to teenagers on the emotions that come with knowing you are dying.  It will undoubtedly transfer well to the cinema and is to be released as a film Now Is Good in May 2012.

    Author Profile

  • Jenny Downham was born in 1964, she is a British novelist and an ex-actor. Before I Die, was her first novel which is to be released as a film called ‘Now is Good’ in 2012. The book was short listed for the 2007 Guardian Award and the 2008 Lancashire Children's Book of the Year, nominated for the 2008 Carnegie Medal and the 2008 Booktrust Teenage Prize, and won the 2008 Branford Boase Award.
    Her second novel, ,You Against Me was published in December 2010.[1] The book is powerful novel about family, loyalty, and the choices which we have to make. 

  • Getting to know Jenny Downham

    Uploaded by kidsatrandomhouse on Nov 29, 2010

    Book Trailer – Before I Die

  • Uploaded by TwilightLover2708 on Mar 7, 2010

  • Information, photo and video used in this post is with thanks to the following websites.
    Wikipedia - Jenny Downham
    Jenny Downham – Goodreads

  • I have chosen to read this title as the letter B for this challenge which I have decided to attempt, for now anyway, to achieve in alphabetical order. I have a good selection of titles to choose from on our bookshelves so will see how it goes. You can follow my progress here.

  • Monday, March 5, 2012

    Room by Emma Donoghue

  • Paperback: 401 pages
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Publisher: Picador 2010
  • Source: Purchased in the UK.
  • First Sentences : ‘Today I’m five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I’m changed to five, abracadabra.’
  • Review Quote : ‘A triumph’ Daily Telegraph
  • My Opinion: This was as good if not better than I expected it to be.

  • This is a very moving and emotional novel that is going to stay with me for a long time. Imagine a five year old boy, Jack the protagonist of this shocking story, who believes that the 11 feet by 11 feet room that he and his mother live in is the entire world!  A harrowing thought indeed and Emma Donoghue has succeeded in writing a riveting novel that had me reading late into the night about this disturbing experience.
    Her imagination really takes you into the world of Room, where Jack was born and has lived his entire life with his mother. The bond between mother and son has been strong enough that they have survived five years, though you really wonder how as you get drawn into this dark story. They spend the days exercising, playing, reading, learning, watching television, eating and sleeping; somehow surviving this unimaginable life on the small Sunday treats their gaoler allows them! Although a strange life for Jack, because he knows no different it is normal, especially as he believes that nothing he sees on television is actually real.
    Room might be home to Jack but to his mother it has been a prison for seven years. As her son is growing up and becoming more curious about every aspect of their world, however limited it might be, she becomes more and more desperate about their situation. I am not going to reveal any more here for fear of spoiling it for any of you that may now be tempted to read this.

  • This link will take you to a very intriguing trailer for Room well worth viewing as is the following interview with Emma Donoghue. Beware these may or may not spoil your reading of the book, you are warned.

  • Uploaded by PanMacmillanAus on Mar 18, 2010

    Emma DonoghueEmma Donoghue

  • Emma was born on October 24th 1969 in Dublin Ireland, the youngest of eight children. She attended Catholic convent schools in Dublin, apart from one year in New York at the age of ten. In 1990 she earned a first-class honours BA in English and French from University College Dublin, and in 1997 a PhD (on the concept of friendship between men and women in eighteenth-century English fiction) from the University of Cambridge. Since the age of 23, Donoghue has earned her living as a full-time writer. After years of commuting between England, Ireland, and Canada, in 1998 she settled in London, Ontario, where she lives with her partner and their son and daughter.

  • Biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites.
     Emma Donoghue - Official Website.
    Goodreads Author Profile