Friday, April 26, 2013

Hothouse Flower by Lucinda Riley

Paperback: 579 pages
Genre: Historical Romantic Fiction
Publisher:  Penguin 2011

Source:  Tywyn Library, Wales.
First Sentence: It is said in Siam, that when a man falls in love with a woman - deeply, passionately, irrevocably - he will be capable of doing anything to keep her, please her, to make her value him above all other.

Review Quote:'This début novel is a real saga, describing the secret history of an ancient Norfolk stately home..' Richard and Judy
 My Opinion:  Certainly one of the best family sagas of the genre that I have read recently.

NB: This novel was republished in 2012 with a different title The Orchid House

It is worth noting that Hothouse Flower was republished in 2012 with the title of The Orchid House just so that any confusion with readers thinking it might be a different story, when this is not the case are cleared up straight away.  Although the central theme of a family saga set in a country house spanning from the 1930's to the present day is far from an original one, this one is different. It has such a multi layered story to tell us with so many stirring and compelling love stories, secrets and surprises to share I stayed awake far too late at night reading this as I was engrossed. Extremely well written the story flows beautifully, period and locations  are credibly described and the characters feel realistic. The situations that they face are ones that we are all able to empathise with from generation to generation. Certainly one of the best family sagas of the genre that I have read recently.

At the centre of the story is the female protagonist Julia Wharton who growing up had spent many happy hours in the heated greenhouses of the Wharton Park estate where her grandfather tended the orchids. It seems only natural therefore for her to return to the area when she needs to recover from a devastating personal tragedy.  It is whilst coming to terms with her grief that she discovers quite by chance a family secret that will cause even more heartache. The story of the family history is related to Julia by her grandmother and stretches back to the nineteen forties when Harry Crawford the heir to the estate marries his bride Olivia before the second world war separates them. The results of this enforced separation will be felt for generations to come as this poignant and atmospheric story takes us from war torn Europe to the present day alternating between Norfolk and Thailand. With plenty of passion and twists and turns along the way I highly recommend this to all fans of the genre.

Lucinda Riley - Hothouse Flower

Author Profile

Lucinda Riley was born in Ireland on February 16th,(year undiscovered), during her childhood she  travelled extensively to the Far East. Moving to London, she became an actress, working in film, theatre and television. At twenty-four, she wrote her first novel 'Lovers and Players', based on her experiences as an actress and then went on to write seven further novels under the name Lucinda Edmonds, which were translated into fourteen languages.
After a break to have her four children, she restarted writing and 'Hothouse Flower' was published by Penguin in the UK in November 2010. It was immediately selected by the famous Richard and Judy Bookclub. It was then released in the USA as "The Orchid House", and subsequently in 25 other countries. It has sold 1.5 million copies to date, and topped the German bestseller list for a record 15 weeks.
"The Girl on the Cliff", Lucinda's second book, has already been published in 14 countries and is currently being released in the USA. Her latest book, "The Light Behind the Window", has just been released in the UK, and will be published round the world in the coming year.

Lucinda currently lives in Norfolk and France with her husband and four children. Five years ago she designed and built a house on the island of Koh Chang in Thailand, where her father had purchased land many years before. It was her  passion for history combined with  love of travel and  Thailand in particular that inspired her to write Hothouse Flower.

The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and her writing. 

Amazon Author Profile    Facebook - Lucinda Riley   Twitter - Lucinda Riley     Simon and Schuster Profile

Lucinda Riley - Goodreads Profile    Lucinda Riley - Official Website     YouTube

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Serving of Scandal by Prue Leith

Paperback : 320 pages 
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Fiction 
Publisher: Quercus 2010
Source: Charity Shop Purchase
First Sentences: 'Are you waiting at table then? You can hardly do it in chef's whites' The voice was not friendly. Kate turned from the sink to see Dennis, the Foreign Office butler, lips pursed and eyes narrowed behind his designer frames.

Review Quote: 'Sophie Kinsella for grown-ups' Daily Express
My Opinion Engaging and well written story.

I have always found Prue Leith an interesting personality and have followed her career as a professional chef and food writer in the press so of course it will be no surprise that when she started writing fiction, I wanted to read them. I have now read four of her five novels including this one, starting with Leaving Patrick in 1999, Sisters in 2002, and The Gardener in 2008.  Her novels are not great literature but they are enjoyable and realistic, as she draws on her own life experiences as a business woman and a cook. Her writing will appeal to fans of contemporary fiction.  Although sometimes a little predictable she provides exactly what one should expect if you pick up a book in this genre, an engaging and well written story. The theme of food, politics and celebrity gossip seen through the eyes of the two main characters and how innocent people can be drawn into a scandal held my interest.

The female protagonist Kate McKinnon is your average single mother of a five year old son, attempting to balance bringing him up alone and keep up the success of her private catering company. When Kate is hired by the Foreign Office to cook at private functions for them she comes into contact with Oliver Stapler, Secretary of State. She finds herself befriended by him and does not see the dangers that this might lead to, as she knows he is unobtainable to her, or is he? Unfortunately there are people that would like to see Kate fail, so alerting the press to an affair, true or not, is a good way of destroying her business. As well as Kate's narrative of events we are also told Oliver's side of the story, through his own voice. I must say I was surprised at how naive he was portrayed as, considering his political position in the government, one would have expected him to be more worldly.
In conclusion an interesting scenario that left me not really knowing what was going to happen to the friendship between Kate and Oliver. Maybe Prue Leith is planning a sequel?

Author Profile.

Prudence Margaret Leith was born on February 18th 1940 in South Africa. Her very successful adult life has been spent mostly in London where she still lives dividing her time between there and Oxfordshire. As an entrepreneurial business woman she has been a successful cook, restaurant and cookery school owner, food writer and since 1995 a novelist.
If you are interested in learning more about the life of Prue Leith I recommend her Official Website where there is lots of fascinating information and a gallery of photos. 
There was also an interesting article published in The Independent on January 17th 2013 My Life In Food

Photo and Biographical Information is with thanks to the following sites where you can also find out more about the author and her writing. 

Goodreads      Prue Leith - Official Website     Prue Leith - Wikipedia  Prue Leith - Amazon Book Page

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ten Minutes to Fall in Love by Julia Llewellyn

Paperback :  389 pages 
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Fiction 
Publisher: Penguin 2012
Source: Tywyn Public Library 
First Sentences: 'Zulekha Forbes opened her curtains and peered out on to the back garden. For the first time since she'd returned to England it wasn't raining and the sun shone clear and strong through the window of her old attic bedroom where she'd hoped to never sleep again.'

Review Quote: 'Engaging and entertaining' Evening Standard
My Opinion:
 I was expecting something more romantic than the trials and tribulations of the protagonists family life. 

This was an easy read and although it is the first one I have read by this author I did not enjoy it enough to be adding her back catalogue to my wishlist. Sorry it was just not satisfying enough for me, although the idea that love can be found in just a few minutes if you meet your soul mate was an interesting theme,  the content did not really live up to the title for me. Maybe I just interpreted the blurb incorrectly, but I was expecting something more romantic than the trials and tribulations of the protagonists family life. 

Zu Forbes is back in London with her father and brothers after spending time travelling to try and sort out the emotional baggage she has carried around for years. In fact since her alcoholic mother first made her teen years a misery she has been a very mixed up young lady unable to make commitments in her life. She needs to sort her life out and come to terms with her past if she is ever to find happiness for herself, her father and brothers. These are issues she needs to deal with if she is ever going to be able to travel again without feeling guilty about how lonely her father is. Her problems may be partially solved when she unexpectedly finds herself working for a dating agency, with an opportunity to sort out her Dad's love life. This would of course leave her free to run away from her own demons with a clear conscience. However it is no surprise that nothing goes according to plan and there are some witty and comic scenes involving trips to the Ukraine, drug abuse and dominatrices!
There is enough going on in this novel to make it worth picking up and reading if it is a light easy read with some humour that you are looking for. 

This might be the first time I have read a book by this author but it is in fact the sixth that she has had published, for those of you that might be interested I have included links to all her novels on Amazon.

The Love Trainer (2004)
If I Were You (2006)
Amy's Honeymoon (2007)
The Model Wife (2008)
Love Nest (2010)
Ten Minutes to Fall in Love (2012)

Author Profile

As Julia Llewellyn Smith she writes regularly for The Sunday Telegraph, the Sunday Times and many other publications, having been a journalist for nearly twenty years. Julia lives in London with her family and considers that patience, humility and a sense of curiosity about the world around you are essential attributes for a writer. 

The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and her writing. 

Julia Llewellyn - Author Interview    Penguin Books - Author Interview   Julia Llewellyn Books - Lovereading

Julia Llewellyn Books - Amazon   Twitter - Julia Llewellyn

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Bible Girl by E.C. Stilson

Paperback: 230 pages
Genre:  Memoir
Publisher: Wayman Publishing 2012 
Source: Sent to me by the author in return for an honest and unbiased review.

First Sentence: 'Looking back, I didn't know I'd run away with a practical stranger, get married at seventeen, or end up as a homeless street musician.
My Opinion: Written from the heart.

In this memoir Elisa  bravely shares with us her coming of age story in intimate detail, by writing this, which is taken from the love letters that she wrote to her husband years later whilst he was working away from home. Documenting the time they fell in love, although published after 'The Golden Sky', it is in fact a prequel. The memoir is like it's sequel written in a very honest and personal way and Elisa bares her soul to the world in these letters. 

Cade, her husband the Bad Boy of the title, came into this innocent young girl's life at a time when being the religious good girl is finding her battling against beliefs and trying to decide what she really wants from life. When this mysterious and mature young man arrives on the scene she just doesn't know if she should trust him, or if his presence is just going to make things worse. She reveals in her writing that it was indeed a difficult time, struggling as their relationship became deeper to stay true to her beliefs. Their love was strengthened by their shared love of music and E.C. Stilson has already published 'Homeless in Hawaii' about the next stage in the relationship. You will have already realised there is a happy ending as he is now her husband but you will have to read the book to find out how this comes about.

I recommend this young woman's writing as written from the heart her books put life into perspective.

My review for 'The Golden Sky'' can be read here here

This young woman's exceptional musical talent can be appreciated by watching this video.
'Famous for a Moment'

Author Profile – Elisa Stilson
bookThe autobiographical information and photo published here was kindly provided for me by the author herself.

Born February 2nd 1983.

Elisa Hirsch has her degree through the University of Phoenix. Her particular degree has a counselling emphasis and she finds it very useful when leading grief counselling groups for parents who have lost children.
For the last six years she owned and operated EC Boutique. Her company received various awards including, Best of Show at the Utah State Fair, Top Ten Award from Boutique Customs Mini Mall and last year on e-bay it was even rated as the fifth largest custom handmade kids' clothing store in the world. Elisa designed and created outfits for children, but has since decided to close her business and work on her writing career.
Elisa plays six instruments; the violin, piano, drums, alto sax, tenor sax and the clarinet. Her husband is also a musician. They love to play at weddings, funerals, coffee shops and restaurants.
She also enjoys speaking publicly and meeting new people. She has spoken at M.O.P.S., been Juliet in the local play and made it to the final three for the Salt Lake Story Tellers contest in 2001. She hopes to continue being asked to speak at functions and counsel people who need help overcoming grief.
Her husband and four beautiful children are a blessing. She is so proud to have them in her life especially since one of her little boys passed away eight years ago. He was born with birth defects and he changed her life. Since his death, writing has become an even stronger passion of Elisa's. She always wrote, even finishing a ninety page manuscript at the age of ten, but now writing is one of her best driving forces. She tries to write for at least two hours each morning and is in a writing critic group as well as the Writers League of Utah.

A young writer to watch take a look at her blog The Crazy Life of a Writing Mum.

A talented couple who went through so much so young, I wish them a successful and happy future together, also thankyou Elisa for asking me to review Bible Girl, it was a privilege to do so.

According to her Goodreads Profile these days Elisa spends most of her time taking care of four rambunctious kids who are better than green eggs and ham. They're pretty darn fun, but despite that, after she had kids, her boobs shrunk, she lost hair, but gained a greater sense of humour!
When she's not scavenging through the vents, which her son—the Zombie Elf—thinks are the best place to hide things, she's sewing, playing her violin, or writing.

The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks Elisa Stilson.  You can also find more information about the author her writing and music via the following links.

Amazon - E.C.Stilson Books Page   Author Blog - The Crazy Life of a Writing Mum   Goodreads Author Profile

Twitter - Elisabeth Hirsch    YouTube