Monday, September 23, 2013

The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell

Paperback: 374 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Headline 2010
Source: British Red Cross Charity Shop, Tywyn.
First Sentences:Listen. The trees in this story are stirring, trembling, readjusting themselves. A breeze is coming in gusts off the sea and it is almost as if the trees know, in their restlessness, in their head-tossing impatience, that something is about to happen. 
Review Quote:'Genuinely unputdownable...evidence of her place as one of Britain's most engaging contemporary novelists' ( Literary Review )
Award: Winner of the 2010 Costa Novel Award.
My Opinion:  Met and exceeded my expectations.                                                                                                                                                                                          

Every time I finish the latest Maggie O'Farrell, I find I have enjoyed it even more than the previous novel and this was no exception. Even from the very first sentences she is writing such enjoyable and descriptive prose  which continues throughout the novel making it a delightful read. Back in 2009 when I wrote a review for The Distance Between Us I mentioned that for me her novels are easy reading but nothing spectacular. Actually since then I have found that her writing has grown on me, I am certainly enjoying her novels more every time, as shown in my review of The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox in 2011. An author whose writing style seems to have just kept getting better.  This one certainly met and exceeded my expectations and I am already looking forward to reading her latest novel, 'Instructions for a Heatwave'.

A dual time period narrative with two exceptionally strong female protagonists which is cleverly woven together to give us an intense storyline that flows seamlessly from fifties London to modern day London. As the novel progresses you will find yourself drawn deeper into the lives of these two women and wonder how the stories are eventually going to connect as we already know they will from reading the books blurb. Lexie Sinclair the passionate and clever young women that escapes rural Devon for the Bohemian scene of Soho in the fifties is wonderfully portrayed. Fifty years later in contemporary London you meet Elina, struggling with a change of life style thanks to the arrival of a baby. Love and life, what complications they cause us.

Highly recommended to anyone that appreciates well written prose and cleverly woven story.

The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell

Author Profile

Maggie O’Farrell was born in Coleraine, Northern Ireland in 1972, and grew up in Wales and Scotland. She now lives in Edinburgh with her family. An author of contemporary fiction, who features in Waterstones' 25 Authors for the Future. To date she has had six novels published and it is possible to identify several common themes in them.  The relationship between sisters is one, another is loss and the psychological impact of those losses on the lives of her characters. 

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.

 Maggie O'Farrell - Official WebsiteGoodreads Profile - Maggie O'FarrellMaggie O'Farrell - Facebook Page

YouTube Video - The Hand That First Held Mine

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pantheon by Sam Bourne

Hardback:  406 pages 
Genre: Mystery, Thriller 
Publisher: Harper Collins 2012 2012
Source: Tywyn Public Library 
First Sentence: 'It hurt him this journey, it pained him, yet day after day he came back for more punishment.'
Favourite Quote: 'The signs had been there from the beginning. He was not paranoid, he was not deluded: Something dark and dangerous was going on here and he his wife and and son were at the centre of it..'
Review Quote: ‘An intelligent thriller with a vividly drawn wartime atmosphere’ Independent
My Opinion: Whilst it was a reasonable enough read it was not gripping or exciting enough to have me rushing to read more of this author's work.

I do read thrillers and mysteries although not as often as some other genres and Sam Bourne is not a thriller writer that I have read before. This was chosen recently for a book club reading group that I am a member of, otherwise I doubt it was a title I would have selected myself. Whilst it was a reasonable read it was not gripping or exciting enough to have me rushing to read more of this author's work.

Set in the early stages of WWII with plenty of historical detail and well portrayed characters that feel believable, it was the plot itself that I found weak at times. Especially once the action moved across the Atlantic, however it did improve somewhat although it raced rather towards its unsurprising ending. The protagonist James is a veteran of the Spanish Civil War and it is due to his combat trauma that he is not away fighting in 1940 but still immersed in academia at Oxford. When his wife and young son disappear it is only natural that he should follow the clues that his wife Florence seems to have purposely left behind for him and set off to find them. What he discovers during the course of his search is disturbing and will give you plenty to think about as some very unpalatable ideas are uncovered with reference to eugenics. James is of course desperate to find Florence and young Harry but suddenly there is so much more at stake , the future of the United Kingdom.

For fans of the genre I am suggesting personally that Pantheon is nothing more than an average read, certainly not one to get excited about. If you do decide to read the novel do make sure that you read the Author's Note afterwards. As it explains how that although James, Florence and Harry are fictional characters that their story is rooted in the most extraordinary facts.

Author Profile

Sam Bourne is the pseudonym of Jonathan Freedland, born on February 25th 1967. Jonathan lives in London with his wife, Sarah and their two children. He was educated at University College School, a boys' independent school in Hampstead, London, and at Wadham College, Oxford, he started his 'Fleet Street' career at the short-lived Sunday Correspondent. In 1990 he joined the BBC, working as a news reporter across radio and television, appearing most often on The World at One and Today on Radio 4. In the summer of 1992, he was awarded the Laurence Stern fellowship on the Washington Post, serving as a staff writer on the national news section. He became The Guardian’s Washington Correspondent in 1993, staying in that post until 1997 when he returned to London as an editorial writer and columnist.
Between 2002 and 2004 he was an occasional columnist for the Daily Mirror and from 2005 to 2007 he wrote a weekly column for the London Evening Standard. He has also been published in The Washington Post, Newsweek and The New Republic magazines and appears regularly on radio and television. In 2008, he broadcast a two-part series for BBC Radio 4  British Jews and the Dream of Zion, as well as two TV documentaries for BBC Four: How to be a Good President and President Hollywood.
As a novelist he has published four thrillers.  His first novel, 'The Righteous Men,' was a Richard and Judy Summer Read and a Number 1 bestseller. His next two novels, 'The Last Testament' and 'The Final Reckoning' were both top ten best sellers


  • The Righteous Men (2006) 
  • The Last Testament (2007) 
  • The Final Reckoning (2008) 
  • The Chosen One (2010) 
  • Pantheon (2012) 

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. 

Amazon Author Profile    Wikipedia - Sam Bourne   Wikipedia - Jonathan Freedland  Author's Official Website    YouTube - Pantheon - Sam Bourne

Friday, September 13, 2013

Recipe for Love by Katie Fforde

Hardback : 340 pages 
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Fiction 
Publisher: Century 2012
Source: Tywyn Public Library 
First Sentences: Zoe Harper lay on the bank in the sun with her eyes closed, listening to a lark high above her.

Review Quote"Deliciously enjoyable!" (Woman & Home)
My Opinion Once again Katie Fforde's writing met my expectations. 

I have been enjoying Katie Fforde's writing since 1995 and once again it met my expectations! When you want to read some Contemporary Romantic Fiction you can not go wrong if you pick one of her novels. She has a knack of producing simple romantic plots in very English settings that make for an absorbing and relaxing read.

In 'Recipe For Love' the story revolves around a reality television cookery show, very topical at the moment! The protagonist Zoe Harper wins a place on this show and is of course extremely excited about the opportunity to put her talents to good use. As the competition gets under way Zoe finds that she has inappropriate feelings for one of the judges, the gorgeous Gideon Irving. Suddenly there is a lot at stake as the plot becomes a little complicated with Zoe determined to win so she can open the delicatessen she has always dreamed of owning. As we follow the competition behind the scenes, Zoe makes friends and enemies along the way. 

I am not going to say more and spoil a delightful read just recommend it to Katie Ffforde fans and fans of the genre if you have not yet discovered this author, or you are enjoying the current TV reality programme about baking! Her novels are perfect for when you are in the mood for a touch of romance, presented in a readable novel with the inevitable happy ending that one can relax with. 

Katie Fforde talks about her novel Recipe for Love

Author Profile

Catherine Rose Gordon-Cumming was born on 27 September 1952 in Wimbledon, London, UK.  She has lived near Stroud, Gloucestershire  for over twenty years, with her husband and three children. It was after the birth of her third child that she started writing using her married name of Katie Fforde.  She is founder of the Katie Fforde Bursary for writers who have yet to secure a publishing contract. She was for many years a committee member of the Romantic Novelists' Association and was elected its twenty-fifteenth chairman (2009–2011) and later its fourth president. In June 2010 she was announced as a patron of the UK's first National Short Story Week.

I am also sharing here what she has to say about herself on her website as she says it so well.

About Katie
I was born and brought up in London but I am basically a country girl. I’ve lived in Stroud with my family for thirty years and while I love London and visit it frequently, I don’t think I could actually live there.

My husband Desmond and I started married life on the water, where we took two 70’ x 6’10 narrowboats around the canals as a hotel. It was very hard work! From there we went to Wales where we had two baby boys and narrowly avoided keeping goats. It was while we lived in Wales that I became addicted to Mills & Boon novels. My husband was away at sea for a lot of the time, leaving me with two small children who didn’t sleep well. I loved the fact that you could pick up a Mills & Boon and be able to follow the plot and enjoy the escapism even if you’d had little sleep. They were my reward for every household task. I’m so glad I was addicted to reading and not chocolate or Valium.

I did have the idea that I wanted to write Mills & Boon novels but didn’t do anything about it until my mother gave me a writing kit for Christmas. By now we lived in Stroud, and I also had a daughter as well as the two sons, Irish Wolfhound and two cats we had in Wales (although not the hens.). I didn’t think I had time to write but my mother thought differently and I took up the challenge. Ten years later I had a book on the shelves. It wasn’t a Mills & Boon, although I had tried to write one for eight years; it was Living Dangerously.

I had met an agent through the Romantic Novelists’Association and, when I was about to give up my ambitions to become a writer, she convinced me I could write something else. I was extremely lucky that the novel was chosen as part of a WHSmith’s Fresh Talent promotion, which gave it a terrific start in life.

There have been over seventeen novels since, as well as some grandchildren and a few stone of extra weight. However, I love being a writer. It gives me the chance to have all the jobs I couldn’t get now even if I did know anything about horses or pottery or indeed almost anything else. I love doing the research, although it has taken me way out of my comfort zone at times. I have been a porter for an auction house, learned how to gut fish, and taken part in a Ray Mears survival course. I loved it!

My hobbies, when I have time for them, are singing in a choir and flamenco dancing. Watching television is research and so I call it work.


  • Living Dangerously (1995)
  • The Rose Revived (1995)
  • Wild Designs (1996)
  • Stately Pursuits (1997)
  • Life Skills (1999)
  • Thyme Out (2000) aka Second Thyme Around
  • Artistic Licence (2001)
  • Highland Fling (2002)
  • Paradise Fields (2003)
  • Restoring Grace (2004)
  • Flora's Lot (2005) aka Bidding for Love
  • Practically Perfect (2006)
  • Going Dutch (2007)
  • Wedding Season (2008)
  • Love Letters (2009)
  • A Perfect Proposal (2010)
  • Summer of Love (2011)
  • Recipe for Love (2012)
  • A French Affair (2013)

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

Twitter Profile   Goodreads Author Profile  Katie Fforde - Official Website   Katie Fforde - Wikipedia