Friday, October 30, 2015

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

Paperback: 352  pages                                                                                                        
Genre: Historical Fiction, Malaysian Literature
Publisher: Canongate Books May 2013
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: On a mountain above the clouds once lived a man who had been the gardener of the Emperor of Japan.
Favourite Quote: Memory is like patches of sunlight in an overcast valley, shifting with the movement of the clouds. Now and then the light will fall on a particular point in time, illuminating it for a moment before the wind seals up the gap, and the world is in shadows again.
Review Quote: "Complex and powerful . . . sophisticated and satisfying" (Sunday Times)
Literary Awards: Man Booker Prize Nominee (2012), International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Nominee for Shortlist (2014), Man Asian Literary Prize (2012), Walter Scott Prize (2013)
My Opinion: A great read with evocative descriptions of the surroundings. A very moving and haunting novel. Highly recommend to anyone that enjoys a really good story.

' The Garden of Evening Mists' Précis Courtesy of Goodreads

It's Malaya, 1949. After studying law at Cambridge and time spent helping to prosecute Japanese war criminals, Yun Ling Teoh, herself the scarred lone survivor of a brutal Japanese wartime camp, seeks solace among the jungle-fringed plantations of Northern Malaya where she grew up as a child. There she discovers Yugiri, the only Japanese garden in Malaya, and its owner and creator, the enigmatic Aritomo, exiled former gardener of the Emperor of Japan.

Despite her hatred of the Japanese, Yun Ling seeks to engage Aritomo to create a garden in Kuala Lumpur, in memory of her sister who died in the camp. Aritomo refuses, but agrees to accept Yun Ling as his apprentice 'until the monsoon comes'. Then she can design a garden for herself.

As the months pass, Yun Ling finds herself intimately drawn to her sensei and his art while, outside the garden, the threat of murder and kidnapping from the guerrillas of the jungle hinterland increases with each passing day. But the Garden of Evening Mists is also a place of mystery. Who is Aritomo and how did he come to leave Japan? Why is it that Yun Ling's friend and host, Magnus Praetorius, seems almost immune from the depredations of the Communists? What is the legend of 'Yamashita's Gold' and does it have any basis in fact? And is the real story of how Yun Ling managed to survive the war perhaps the darkest secret of all?

Author Profile

Tan Twan Eng

Tan Twan Eng was born in 1972 in Penang, but lived in various places in Malaysia as a child. He studied law at the University of London and later worked as lawyer in one of Kuala Lumpur’s most reputable law firms. He also has a first-dan ranking in aikido and is a strong proponent for the conservation of heritage buildings.

Tan Twan Eng talked about his background, his second novel, and his writing process in a May 2012 interview live-tweeted by BooksLiveSA from a literary festival in Franschhoek, South Africa. His hometown is Penang, Malaysia, and he received a law degree there. He said being a lawyer helped him be organized, disciplined, and meticulous, and that lawyers have to craft stories. While he grew up with Malay, Hokkien, and English spoken at home, the author said he thinks and dreams in English. Currently he writes full time, splitting his time between Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Cape Town, South Africa. His first novel, The Gift of Rain, set in Penang during World War II was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2007. His second novel, The Garden of Evening Mists (2012), which opens just after World War II, is written from the perspective of a female judge and involves three cultures: Malay, Japanese, and South African. The author says his third novel will be set in China.

Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.

Amazon Author Profile  Goodreads Author Profile   Facebook - Tan Twan Eng

Tan Twan Eng - Author Website    Wikipedia - Tan Twan Eng

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The King's Mistress by Gillian Bagwell

Hardback: 400 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Avon 2012
Source: Read on My Kindle
First Sentence: The afternoon sun dappled through the leaves of the oak tree. Jane Lane sat in its shade, her back against its stalwart trunk, the Second Folio of Shakespeare's works open on her lap.

Review Quote: “The King’s Mistress is that spellbinding combination of history, adventure, suspense and a fast-beating pulse of pure eroticism…a real romantic treat.” Lancashire Evening Post

My Opinion: As far as I have been able to ascertain this novel is the only fictional account of the real-life adventure of Jane Lane, who risked her life to help the young Charles II escape after the Battle of Worcester in 1651. An important  moment in the history of the British Monarchy. Gillian Bagwell with her love and fascination of British History and her through research brings this captivating tale to life for the reader. For fans of historical fiction that have not yet discovered this author's work, I recommend you give her a try as she writes with passion about real people and places.

Precis of 'The King's Mistress' courtesy of  Goodreads

Set against the volatile backdrop of the English Civil War, dive into this enthralling tale of danger, bravery, and a woman who would do anything for the man she loved.

It's 1651 and Jane Lane leads a privileged life inside the walls of her family's home. At 25 years old, her parents are keen to see her settled, but Jane dreams of a union that goes beyond the advantageous match her father desires.

Her quiet world is shattered when Royalists, fighting to restore the crown to King Charles II, arrive at their door, imploring Jane and her family for help. They have been hiding the king, but Cromwell's forces are close behind them, baying for Charles' blood -- and the blood of anyone who seeks to help him. Putting herself in mortal danger, Jane must help the king escape to safety by disguising him as her manservant.

With the shadow of the gallows dogging their every step, Jane finds herself falling in love...

My Previous Review of a Gillian Bagwell novel

The Darling Strumpet

Author Profile

Gillian Bagwell grew up in Berkeley, California, and began her professional life as an actress, studying at the University of California Berkeley and the Drama Studio London at Berkeley before relocating to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and television. She moved into directing and producing theatre, founding The Pasadena Shakespeare Company, where she served as artistic director for nine years, producing thirty-seven critically acclaimed productions. 

She united her life-long love of books, British history, and theatre in writing her first novel, "The Darling Strumpet," based on the life of Nell Gwynn. Her second novel, 'The September Queen' is called 'The King's Mistress' in the UK has Charles II and Jane Lane as protagonists.  Her third novel  "Venus in Winter" is based on the first forty years of the life of the formidable four-times widowed Bess of Hardwick,  

Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.

Goodreads - Author Profile     Facebook - Gillian Bagwell  

 Official Author Website           Amazon's Gillian Bagwell Page

Bay of Secrets by Rosanna Ley

Hardback: 519 pages
Genre: Contemporary  Fiction
Publisher: Quercus 2013
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: The doorbell rang - loud insistent.

Review Quote: 'Explores a sensitive subject in a unique and inspirational style, bringing to light a subject that for many children in Spain is still a harsh reality' Novelicious.
My Opinion: I read this very early on this year whilst on holiday, but somehow never got round to writing my review.  It was for me a perfect holiday read with believable characters and plot with historical background weaved in to the romance. This was the second book I have read by Rosanna Ley and it certainly will not be the last. 

 Bay of Secrets Précis Courtesy of Goodreads

Spain, 1939.

Following the wishes of her parents to keep her safe during the war, a young girl, Julia, enters a convent in Barcelona. Looking for a way to maintain her links to the outside world, she volunteers to help in a maternity clinic. But worrying adoption practices in the clinic force Sister Julia to decide how far she will go to help those placed in her care.

England, 2011.

Six months after her parents' shocking death, 34-year-old journalist and jazz enthusiast Ruby Rae has finally found the strength to pack away their possessions and sell the family home. But as she does so, she unearths a devastating secret her parents, Vivien and Tom, had kept from her all her life.

My review of  The Villa  by Rosanna Ley can be found here. 

Author Profile

Rosanna Ley has worked as a creative writing tutor for over 15 years. Affiliated to several colleges and universities in England, she also runs her own writing courses in the UK and abroad. She has worked with community groups in therapeutic settings and completed an MA in creative writing for personal development in order to support this. Her writing holidays and retreats take place in stunning locations in Italy and Spain and whilst not teaching or writing she mentors and appraises the work of new writers. Rosanna has had numerous articles and short stories published in UK magazines, and 12 novels of contemporary fiction published in the U.K, Germany, Greece and the U.S.A under a pseudonym. Her books are inspired by the culture and landscapes of Italy, Sicily and the Canary Islands and feature strong female voices from the past and present, along with an intense undercurrent of mystery and romance. Rosanna spends some time every year travelling around Europe looking for writing inspiration and more tranquil settings for writing holidays. She loves cliff walking and her favourite writing place is somewhere with a sea view. When she is not travelling, Rosanna lives with her artist husband in a Victorian cottage in West Dorset by the sea.

Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.
Goodreads - Author Profile    Twitter - Rosanna Ley   Author's Official Website

Friday, October 2, 2015

Not Quite Nice by Celia Imrie

Hardback: 336 pages
Genre: Contemporary  Fiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury 2015 
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentences: The small town of Bellevue-Sur-Mer sparkled like a diamond on the French Mediterranean coast.

Review Quote: A hugely enjoyable romp of a novel with eccentric characters, a delightful background and a savoury tang of crime ( Author - Katie Fforde)
My Opinion: A pleasant read but to be honest I prefer Celia Imrie's work as an actress.

'Not Quite Nice' is the début novel from the actress Celia Imrie about the joys, trials and tribulations of living abroad as an ex-pat. A pleasant read but to be honest I prefer her work as an actress, although I admire her tremendously for writing a novel. Also I now plan to read her autobiography The Happy Hoofer, having discovered her humour translates to the written word.  This lovely lady is an all time favourite of mine and her wonderful personality definitely shines through in her writing. 

The location, storyline and antics of the characters cannot fail to lighten your mood.

Recommended to not only fans of Contemporary Fiction but also to fans of Celia Imrie the actress. I personally cannot wait to read the autobiography. Hopefully this début novel will delight you written as it is with such warmth and humour.

'Not Quite Nice' Précis Courtesy of Goodreads 

Theresa is desperate for a change. Forced into early retirement, fed up with babysitting her bossy daughter's obnoxious children, she sells her Highgate house and moves to the picture-perfect town of Bellevue-sur-Mer, just outside Nice.

With its beautiful villas, its bustling cafes and shimmering cerulean sea, the village sparkles like a diamond on the French Mediterranean coast. Once the hideaway of artists and writers, it is now home to the odd rock icon and Hollywood movie star, and, as Theresa soon discovers, a close-knit set of expats. There's Carol, the infinitely glamorous American and her doting husband David; the erstwhile British TV star Sally; the ferocious Sian and her wayward Australian poet husband; the sharply witty Zoe with her strangely youthful face and penchant for white wine - and the suave Brian who catches Theresa's eye.

As Theresa settles to the gentle rhythm of seaside life she embraces her new-found friendships and freedom. However, life is never quite as simple as it seems and as skeletons start to fall out of several closets, Theresa begins to wonder if life on the French Riviera is quite as nice as it first appeared.

Author Profile:

Celia Diana Savile Imrie (born 15 July 1952) is an Olivier Award-winning English actress. In a career starting in the early 1970s, Imrie has played Marianne Bellshade in Bergerac, Philippa Moorcroft in Dinnerladies, Miss Babs inAcorn Antiques, Diana Neal in After You’ve Gone and Gloria Millington in Kingdom. She has been described as “one of the greatest British actresses of recent decades”.

Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.

Celia Imrie - Official Website     Celia Imrie - Wikipedia    Twitter - Celia Imrie