Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Hardback: 602 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Mantle (Macmillan Publishers) 2012 
Source: Tywyn Library, Wales.
First Sentence: Rural England, a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, a summer's day at the start of the nineteen sixties.

Review Quote:  
‘Kate Morton excels in this enthralling novel about desires and divided loyalties’ Good Housekeeping

Favourite Quote: “It's a terrible thing, isn't it, the way we throw people away?” 
My Opinion: A captivating tale of mysteries, secrets and enduring love.

Kate Morton has a great talent for blending her novels themes across time and 'The Secret Keeper' is no exception as the story takes us from the present day, back to the protagonists childhood in the sixties and further back to the years of her mother's youth. 

As a teenager in the sixties Laurel Nicholson witnessed a terrifying scene while spending some time alone with her dreams in the tree house at Greenacres Farm where she has spent a happy childhood, until that moment. The secret stays with her until the present day when facing her Mother's forthcoming ninetieth birthday celebrations she finds herself overwhelmed by her old memories of that day. She decides it is time to find out the truth before it is too late as her mother Dorothy is failing fast; with the help of a few clues she manages to obtain from her Laurel's research begins. As a reader we are able to follow this not just in the present day but with the characters concerned as they lived through the events, helping our understanding of all they were experiencing in real time. The characters are all very complex and no one is as they first seem, but it is these characters their relationships and the secrets that are revealed that will keep you reading. 

I will say no more but recommend this captivating tale of mysteries secrets and enduring love, especially to those of you that like a really long novel to curl up with.

Kate Morton talking about The Secret Keeper.

The two previous titles that I have read by Kate Morton were before the advent of this blog, but you can find brief reviews on my BookCrossing Account by clicking on the titles.

The House at Riverton    The Forgotten Garden

Author Profile

Kate Morton grew up in the mountains of south-east Queensland, Australia. She has degrees in Dramatic Art and English Literature and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Queensland. Kate lives with her husband and two young sons in Brisbane. 

Her books have been published in 31 countries. The House at Riverton was a Sunday Times  bestseller in the UK in 2007 and a New York Times bestseller in 2008.  Her second book, The Forgotten Garden, was a bestseller in Australia and a Sunday Times bestseller in the UK in 2008.

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. 

Goodreads Author Profile    Kate Morton - Amazon  Official Author Website - Kate Morton  

 Facebook - Kate Morton    YouTube Video

Monday, May 13, 2013

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Paperback: 409 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Pocket Books 2010 
Source: My sister.
First Sentence: 'My father is Sir Richard Woodville, Baron Rivers, an English nobleman, a landholder and a supporter of the true kings of England, the Lancastrian line'.

Review Quote 
`Robust, unpretentious and rather shamefully compelling' The Times

Favourite Quote: “He promised her that he would give her everything, everything she wanted, as men in love always do. And she trusted him despite herself, as women in love always do.” 
My OpinionThis is yet another intriguing tale from the Queen of historical romance.

I have been a fan of Philippa Gregory for many years although I have not read any of her books in the last few years, in fact the last one was in the very early days of my book reviewing in 2009, I did not realise it had been so long. This is yet another intriguing tale from the Queen of historical romance. When reading her novels it is very easy to forget that they are works of fiction as her extensive research brings history alive on the printed page. 'The White Queen', the story of Elizabeth Woodville is the first in a new series covering the Wars of the Roses, the feuds between the houses of York and Lancaster. Philippa Gregory has called this series the wars of the cousins, something I never heard this war referred to as, when we studied it in history lessons at school. As a fictional telling of the feud between these two great families she has done a great job, with plausible embellishments to the historical facts although I remain unconvinced about the witchcraft ones. I will certainly be picking up the sequel 'The Red Queen' to read in the very near future.

In this trilogy the author plans to captivate us with the stories of the women of the families of York and Lancaster, starting with the story of Elizabeth Woodville. A beautiful young widow whose husband was killed in battle she sets out to win the love of the King of England. Elizabeth was a Lancastrian but she successfully won the love of King Edward IV, from the house of York and became his Queen. Although she was successful there was always going to be complex rivalries between the two families, both with claimants to the throne. She therefore had to fight with stubborn devotion  for the success of their large family of sons and daughters, including the daughter that would one day unite the families and the sons shut away in the Tower of London. Elizabeth Woodville is one of those exceptional women in history that made some courageous decisions as she did her best to protect her loved ones during a time of war.

If you want to read a fictional but well researched account of the Wars of the Roses, then I recommend Philippa Gregory's take on the mystery of the Princes in the Tower whose true fate still remains unknown to this day.

                                 'The White Queen' Elizabeth Woodville Discussion - Philippa Gregory

 A very interesting interview with Philippa Gregory about the historical background.  My previous review on this blog was for The Other Queen

Author Profile

Philippa Gregory was born in Kenya. She was already an established historian and writer when she developed her interest in the Tudors and wrote 'The Other Boleyn Girl' in 2009 which has since made into a TV drama and a film.
She now lives on a small farm in Yorkshire, where she keeps horses, hens and ducks. Her website is a fascinating insight into both life on the farm and her historical research. 
Her other great interest is the charity she founded nearly twenty years ago; Gardens for The Gambia. She has raised funds and paid for 140 wells in the primary schools of the dry, poverty stricken African country. Thousands of school children have learned market gardening, and drunk the fresh water in the school gardens around the wells.
A former student of Sussex University, and a PhD and Alumna of the Year 2009 of Edinburgh University, her love for history and her commitment to historical accuracy are the hallmarks of her writing. She also reviews for US and UK newspapers, and is a regular broadcaster on television, radio, and webcasts from her website.

There was an interesting article published in  The Guardian recently about how the new incoming Director General of the BBC, Lord Hall,  believes that dramas such as 'The White Queen'' and ''Wolf Hall' can enhance the UK's cultural standing.
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. 

Goodreads Author Profile    Facebook - Philippa Gregory    Amazon Author Profile 

 Philippa Gregory - Author Official Website     Philippa Gregory - YouTube Channel

Friday, May 3, 2013

See John Play by Dave DiGrazie

Paperback: 309 pages
GenreContemporary Fiction
Wine Flash Press April 2012
Source: The author in return for an honest and unbiased review.
First Sentences: 'It had become her predicament, this Fort Mitchell neighbourhood. It was not what Connie had imagined for herself as she grew up like a wild flower on horseback, a few miles deeper into Kentucky.

My Opinion:  A fairly average unremarkable read but if I was a golfer I feel I may have enjoyed it much more. 

I had never heard of this author before he approached me offering a copy of 'See John Play' in return for an honest and unbiased review. In retrospect I really should have declined this generous offer as I doubt very much that I would ever have selected this title myself if browsing in a bookshop, library or on-line. However something must have caught my attention and interest when I read the blurb of this novel as I accepted. I found it to be a fairly average unremarkable read but if I was a golfer I feel I may have enjoyed it much more as it is full of golfing terms and scenarios. Just because this was not for me does not mean you will not enjoy this original formula, just bear in mind if you are not interested in golf, that this may not appeal to you either. The novel's story is very much a character based one and I did not like any of them but felt that this was probably the author's intention. 

This is the story of a marriage in chaos and the trials the couple face because of the situations they find themselves in. The story is mainly told from the perspective of the wife, Connie rather than her husband John of the title. John Kaminski is a professional golfer, a compulsive gambler and a womaniser, a combination that not many women would be willing to put up with. Connie though is committed to her marriage and against the advice of friends and family prepared to stand by her man. As John plays around with his life getting deep into debt and consequently involved with 'the bad guys' his long suffering wife shows great strength of character as she fights to save their marriage. I have to say I did wonder why she bothered at times. 
Although not particularly to my liking I am sure 'See John Play' will appeal to many and I wish the author every success with his writing.

Author Profile

Dave DiGrazie’s journey began in a middle class ethnic neighbourhood in Buffalo, New York that had its share of characters. After cooking (and eating) his way through his high school and college years in his dad’s small restaurants, he became a decorated military officer and then, after several amusing vocational side trips, began to make things up and write them down. Dave calls Northern Virginia home and lives with three wonderful people – his wife and two children. He still makes a very mean home-made pizza when he’s not putting his imaginary friends and foes in each other’s way.

Dave’s other interests include history; non-profit organisation leadership,  a safer world for children on every continent, and his hometown’s star-crossed professional sports teams.

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 his writing. 

Goodreads Author Profile    Dave DiGrazie - Twitter Profile    Dave DiGrazie - Official Website

Dave DiGrazie - Facebook Profile