Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Inferno by Dan Brown

Hardback:  463 pages
Genre: Thriller
Publisher:  Bantam Press 2013

Source:  Tywyn Public Library, Wales.
First Sentences: I am the Shade. Through the dolent city I flee. Through the eternal woe, I take flight.
Along the banks of the river Arno, I scramble breathless....turning left onto Via dei Castellani, making my way northward, huddling in the shadows of the Uffizi.
Favourite Quote: "His essay essentially declared that the human race was on the brink of extinction and that unless we had a catastrophic  event that precipitously decreased global population growth, our species would not survive another hundred years."
Review Quote: "Fast, clever, well-informed.Dan Brown is the master of the intellectual cliff-hanger" (Wall Street Journal)
Favourite Quote: “The human mind has a primitive ego defence mechanism that negates all realities that produce too much stress for the brain to handle. It’s called Denial.” 
Literary Awards:  Goodreads Choice Awards 2013
My Opinion: Frighteningly realistic.

At the beginning of the novel Dan Brown presents us with some facts which for me add to the enjoyment of the story. To tempt you to read this novel for yourself I am reproducing two of them here. 

1. All artwork, literature, science and historical references in this novel are real.
2.'Inferno' is the underworld as described in Dante Alighieri's epic poem 'The Divine Comedy', which portrays hell as an elaborately structured realm populated by entities known as "shades" - bodiless souls trapped between life and death.

The grounding of Dan Brown's stories in the real world is what makes them so appealing to me. Surprisingly whilst writing this review I discovered that despite having read and enjoyed his previous novels, I have not written a review before now. My favourite of his novels has always been Angels and Demons although it now has to compete for that honour with this his latest offering. A story that is frightening in the face of the facts that this is something that could really happen! Familiar with some of the settings in this novel meant I was able to visualise the places which Dan Brown describes so accurately. His research and attention to detail is as always excellent and the descriptions he includes add to the enjoyment of the novel.

Inferno is the fourth novel to feature the symbologist Robert Langdon and in this latest adventure he finds his life in under threat and he does not know why. He awakens in hospital and has no memory of what happened to him or why he has a macabre object hidden in his clothes. The threat to his life leads him to try to get away from his pursuers by trying to escape via Florence's hidden passageways. Accompanying him on this latest adventure is Sienna Brooks the doctor who had been looking after him.
Realising there is something vast at stake and with a clue from Dante's Inferno to direct them to other clues it is a race against time. Along the way and discovering further clues in the artwork of the Renaissance, they start to fit together answers to the puzzle. Will these answers save the world though? 

I just wish my husband had lived long to read this one as he was a fan of Dan Brown and as an ex-scientist would have had a lot to discuss with me.  As this novel is so frighteningly realistic, it is open to discussion and therefore a good choice for book-clubs. Also of course recommended to all fans of Dan Brown and maybe some new readers looking for a good thriller that is not far fetched but a situation that could arise. 

                                           DAN BROWN INFERNO INTERVIEW BBC WORLD  

Author Profile

Dan Brown was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, The United States on June 22nd 1964. The eldest of three children he grew up eldest of three children, he grew up on the campus of Phillips Exeter Academy, where his father was a teacher of mathematics. His interest in secrets and puzzles stems from their presence in his household as a child, where codes and ciphers were the linchpin tying together the mathematics, music and languages in which his parents worked. 
As a youngster he spent hours working out anagrams and crossword puzzles, and he and his siblings participated in elaborate treasure hunts devised by their father on birthdays and holidays.
He writes thriller fiction and is best known for the 2003 bestseller, The Da Vinci Code. It is obvious from his writing that he is interested in cryptography, codes, and keys. Although many see Dan Brown's books as anti-Christian, Brown is a Christian who says that his book The Da Vinci Code is simply "an entertaining story that promotes spiritual discussion and debate" and suggests that the book may be used "as a positive catalyst for introspection and exploration of our faith."

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. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Made In Essex by Laura Ziepe

Proof-copy: 356 pages
Genre:  Contemporary Romantic Fiction
Publisher: Avon (Harper Collins) February 13th 2014
Source: The publishers PR company in return for an unbiased review.
First Sentences: ' Open your eyes after three. Ready?'
Review Quote: 
“I loved this book!” Sam Faiers, star of The Only Way is Essex.
My Opinion: Not to my taste but well written for the genre.

If this was not to my taste why an earth did I decide to read and review this you must be asking. Well I do have an eclectic taste and I do sometimes find this genre makes for a relaxing read. I should have known better with a title 'Made In Essex' but for some reason I thought this might be funny. Sorry I did not find it at all amusing, in fact it just irritated me the majority of the time. I know there are many jokes about Essex girls but seriously! Maybe I should also mention that I have never seen the programme 'The Only Way Is Essex', which apparently is the inspiration for Laura Ziepe's novels.

As a sequel to 'Essex Girls' (although it does not matter if you have not read), the story is a continuation of the previous novel with the same main protagonists. Life for Jade is looking good, she is happy with not only her love life, but the bikini business she has recently set up with her best friend Kelly. An old acquaintance Adele, rather an unpleasant one at that, turns up in her life unexpectedly, she immediately causes trouble between Jade and her boyfriend Sam. With a secret that is a powerful one she seems determined to ruin their relationship. Does she succeed though? Well not one for giving away spoilers I leave you to find out for yourself, that is if this appeals to you.

Although not to my personal liking, Laura Ziepe as an Essex girl herself has written a chick lit novel that will appeal to the many keen readers of this genre and I wish her well with her writing.

Author Profile

Laura Ziepe currently lives in Essex with her husband, Terry, and two dogs. English was always her strongest subject at school and after her A Levels and taking a year out, Laura decided to study professional and creative writing at St Mary's University, Twickenham. She graduated in 2006 and worked for a media company and law firm before deciding to set up her own fashion business in 2009. Through her business she was offered a part in The Only Way is Essex, but decided the show wasn't for her. Instead she wrote her first novel, Essex Girls, inspired by the TV show and her summers working abroad in Greece when she was in her early twenties.

More Biographical Information

About Her : From Laura's Website

Where do I begin? I must say, writing has always been a huge passion of mine. As a little girl I was obsessed with Judy Blume books. I remember reading some in a day and not being able to put them down! This is where my love for writing started. For my eighth or ninth birthday I received lots of presents (very lucky girl!) but I recall my favourite being a big flowery notepad and pen set, which I filled up with stories and still have to this day. I’ve always felt that when I write, it’s a way to escape and I enjoy it so much I don’t even notice that I’ve been doing it for hours on end.

After college it got to the point where I had to decide what I wanted to do with my life. I tried a couple of office jobs, but I knew my heart wasn’t in it and I would never have been happy in what I felt were such mundane jobs. One of my best friend’s, Claire, asked me what it was I really wanted to do. I didn’t hesitate when I told her; I wanted to be an author. She told me to follow my heart and do a writing course at University and she even helped me to apply and send my application off. I’ll always be grateful for this as I was soon accepted into several Universities and decided to go to St Mary’s University in Twickenham, where I studied Professional and Creative writing. As well as helping me with writing, I had the best years and the most fun ever!
I graduated from University, but decided to work in London. Once again though, the dull office life simply never did it for me and I soon had the idea to start my own website .mycelebritydress.com 

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

Monday, February 17, 2014

Amalfi Blue, lost and found in the south of Italy by Lisa Fantino

Ebook:  268 KB print length of 174 pages.
Genre: Personal Memoir
Wanderlust Women Travel Ltd. 
Source: The author in return for an unbiased review.
First Sentence: Chapter One: Love defines us be it good or bad.

Favourite Quote: Each day is a gift. While life takes work, it is yours to make great.
My Opinion: A disappointing read.

According to the publicity material for 'Amalfi Blue' it is a true story of love and lust, men and women, friendships and  family, death and re-birth, set in some of the most beautiful locations in Europe. Toss in kidnapping, intrigue, hot salsa nights and sex and you've got passion, Italian style. Set on the Amalfi coast, Roma and Venice, Lisa Fantino sets out to explore the land of her DNA and Italian lovers.

Having spent a long time as an ex-pat in Italy I was able to empathise with much of what the author has to say. However I did find her impressions of and attitude towards Italian men, rather too much of a generalisation. Despite her telling us otherwise there are many decent Italian guys out there! Use of the Italian language scattered throughout the text was fine for me, as I have a fair understanding of the language, but it felt wrong that the reader with no Italian was not considered, some translations would have been welcome. 

Amalfi Blue is a personal memoir but I felt the story was not fully told and at just over 170 pages that is not surprising, surely Lisa Fantino could have expanded on her adventures in Italy. In fact I felt the descriptions of areas of Italy that I am familiar with were of more interest and useful for travellers than the memoir aspects which felt incomplete.  A disappointing read but one that will probably appeal to Italophiles that are not as familiar with Italy.

I have tried to be honest in my opinions and I genuinely wish Lisa Fantino all the best with her writing. Maybe one day she will publish a more in depth memoir as I am sure that there is a constant demand for this type of 'life in Italy' publication. 

Author Profile

Lisa Fantino is an award-winning journalist and attorney. During 20+ years in New York, USA, she worked as a writer, as well as hosting her own celebrity chat show on Cablevision. She has interviewed many stars including Robert Plant, Mick Jagger and several world leaders. Lisa has travelled the world for work & play but her soul is always happiest in Italy.

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 Profile    Amazon Profile

Friday, February 7, 2014

Megan's Game by Tony Drury


Paperback:  247 pages
Genre: Romantic Thriller
Publisher: City Fiction 2012
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: The early morning sky was unusually cloudy as Lance Corporal Rhys Williams of the 1st Battalion, The Welsh Guards, tried to cushion his body from the bumps inflicted by the uneven and dusty road leading back towards southern Basra.
Review Quote: 'Tony Drury's crime/romance/finance exposé packs a punch' Money Maker Magazine.
My Opinion:  Fun to read.

I had never heard of this author before his début novel was recommended to me by one of the district nurses' that looked after my husband last Spring. However now I have I will most certainly be reading the other titles he has already published including the most recent 'A Flash of Lightning'. 

This romantic thriller was such fun to read, especially so for me as much of the novel is set in the beautiful region I am fortunate enough to now call home. I enjoy reading books set in surroundings that I am familiar with, an extra bonus for a change to be able to picture places without imagination. Do not get me wrong though I get much pleasure from using my imagination when reading normally, the very reason I always read the book before seeing the film. As a matter of fact I think this novel would convert well to television or big screen, but then I am bias, the scenery alone is stunning without the romance and mystery. (Note - I have just seen on the author's FB page that Megan's Game is being made into a film, I could not be more thrilled!). Tony Drury's personal knowledge of the world of finance and the region in Wales where the story is partly set has made for a plot that flows smoothly throughout.

Megan of the title is a young war widow still trying to come to terms with the death of her husband in Basra. Living in the beautiful Cardigan Bay area of Wales, she works as a sports teacher in a village school and at a local Outward Bound Centre. Her life changes one weekend when she plays in a local tennis tournament, finding herself partnered with a local holiday home owner. Megan and her partner David get on well together and there is an immediate spark of attraction between them. However his life is mainly in London where he is immersed in the world of  finance, very different from Megan's life in Wales. With two such different lifestyles can a relationship between them ever work?  To complicate things further David is preoccupied with the suspicious activities of a city broker and even finds himself a suspect in a murder enquiry. How can he ever hope to have a successful love affair with Megan? The odds are certainly against them getting the happy ever after ending. 

Anyway as I have already said this was fun to read, a successful mix of two genres that had me reading way past after the lights should have been turned out!  An impressive début from an author that will appeal to a wide cross section of readers.

A fabulous trailer for the book!

Author Profile

Tony is a corporate financier based in the City of London, he is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers and a Member of the Securities Institute. He has written extensively over the years and is particularly well known for his financial and political books. He blogs weekly for www.enterprisebritain.com - both in his name and that of his alter ego, Mr. Angry.

He decided to pursue his love for fictional novels by becoming a Romantic Thriller Writer and in May 2012 released his first book 'Megan's Game' which is being released as 'Megan's Game' - The Film.

Tony Drury is also a fully elected member of the Romantic Novelists' Association. 

Read his fuller biography here 

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.

You Tube    Tony Drury - Facebook   Amazon Author Profile   Official Author Website - Tony Drury

Twitter Profile   City Fiction Publishing - FB Page    City Fiction Publishing - Website

Monday, February 3, 2014

Solomon's Tale by Sheila Jeffries

Hardback: 234 pages
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Publisher: Avon 2013
Source: The publishers in return for an unbiased review.
First Sentences: I sat down in the middle of the road to think about why I had left home on that summer morning. I was only a black kitten, eight weeks old, but I had a tough decision to make.
Review Quote: “An inspiring tale destined to delight all.” The Sun
My Opinion:  A wonderful spiritual tale for young adults but one that will be enjoyed by all animal lovers.

When I was approached by the publisher to see if I was interested in reading and reviewing Solomon's Tale I admit I had my doubts. Firstly I normally steer away from young adult novels and secondly books written from an animals point of view. However loving cats and missing having my own there was something about it that I found appealing so I said yes. Thankfully I did and thanks Avon for giving me the opportunity to read this heart warming spiritual story proving to me just how close a relationship one can have with a cat.

Solomon is the hero of the novel and the narrator of the story of how he saved a family in crisis. Solomon had once been the pet of a little girl called Ellen, now a young woman with a child and in an unhappy marriage. She needs help which is why the angels send Solomon back to earth to find her and guide her through troubled times. You may not believe in angels or the concepts Sheila Jeffries writes about, but read with an open mind you cannot help but find it emotional and upliftingA simple little story that covers some big emotional issues in a unique style.

In conclusion this is a wonderful spiritual tale for young adults but one that will be enjoyed by all animal lovers, young or old.

Author Profile + Author Question and Answer Interview

Sheila Jeffries has been writing since she was young, writing and publishing four children's novels before she left school. Written under her maiden name, Sheila Chapman, in the popular 'pony story' genre of the time, the books continued to sell worldwide until the eighties.
After studying at Bath Academy of Art, Sheila spent many happy years teaching in UK schools. She had eight more children's novels published under the name Sheila Haigh, and her most successful book, Little Gymnast, was a bestseller in America.
Solomon’s Tale breaks new ground in her writing career. It's a book truly from the heart, and though it is fiction it is based on two real cats, Solomon and Jessica, who shared and enriched her life. Sheila lives in Somerset where she enjoys teaching meditation and running workshops for writers.
For a fuller Biography please visit Shelia Jeffries - Official Website

In agreement with her publicist I am including a question and answer interview with Shelia Jeffries, which I hope my readers here will find of interest.

Author's questions answered by Sheila Jeffries the author of Solomon's Tale.

What is your average writing day?

 About three hour’s actual writing, another three hours thinking time, research and editing.

Do you use celebrities or people you know as inspiration?

I was inspired by a brilliant English teacher, and by both my parents. Now, I am grateful for the support of my close writers circle and my husband, Ted, who is amazing. I don't have a celebrity role model but a person I like and admire is Joanna Lumley.

What is your favourite women's fiction book of all time?

I love so many books, it's hard to choose. I also love classical literature and poetry. The one book I have re-read several times is GAINING GROUND by Joan Barfoot. It's such an important book for women, really challenging everything society expects of us.

What is your writing process?

I write in longhand, always, sometimes very fast and sometimes painfully slow. I am slow if I haven't had enough thinking time and solitude. My stories evolve organically and the most impossible task for me is doing a synopsis. I edit my work ruthlessly and usually need 3 drafts. My handwritten copy is a real mess and the girl who does my word processing is incredibly tolerant.

Can you describe your journey to being a published author?

I've had 3 journeys! The first began when I was still at school and writing as Sheila Chapman. The first publisher I approached gave me a 3 book contract, and, at the time, I didn't appreciate how lucky that was.  The second journey began after I'd married and been teaching for a few years, writing as Sheila Haigh. I wrote 8 children's novels which were published in UK and America, and they were popular. But that was an intensive time for me and I felt type cast into doing a 'next in the series'. Journey number 3 is where I am now, and it hasn't been so easy. I was determined to re-invent myself and write from the heart as Sheila Jeffries, and, for the first time in my life I wanted to be up front about my interest in spirituality and healing. My lucky break came at the Winchester Annual Writers Conference when Solomon's Tale was spotted by a top agent, Judith Murdoch.

What is the biggest myth about being a novelist?

People think I sit in a tree and write poetry.

What advice would you give to readers who want to write a novel?

First, read, read and read. Then, just get on with it. Don't worry about it being perfect. Once you have a rough copy, you can transform it. And go to writer’s circles and conferences whenever you can.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am writing a 3 book saga about an inherited gift of clairvoyance in a family and the jealousy and prejudice which tried to destroy it. I'm also writing a new children's book, and a non-fiction book, FOREST OF DREAMS, a true story which you can see on my website http://www.sheilajeffries.com/ 

What are your top five writing tips?

1- Don't procrastinate. Just get on with it.

2- Read your work aloud.

3- Watch people, (discreetly!) and build your characters from details of behaviour, body language and try to see the real person in the eyes.

4- Join a writers circle, and if there isn't one, start one.

5- If you are stuck, write a different section of your novel. You can fit it all together later.

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

Amazon - Solomon's Tale   Goodreads - Previous Books  Sheila Jeffries - Author's Official Website