Thursday, December 7, 2017

Trespass by Rose Tremain

Paperback: 372 pages                                                                                                 
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Vintage Books
Source: My bookshelves, forgotten original source!
First Sentence: The child's name is Melodie.
Review Quote: "Taut ... full of suspense ... above all it is the sense of "wild nature", woods of holm oak, beech, chestnut and pine, with the river running through them and the threat of heavy rain hanging above, that she captures so bewitchingly ... this is a dark book" (Observer)
Literary Awards: Man Booker Prize Nominee for Longlist (2010)
My Opinion: This is the first time I have read a book by Rose Tremain, not sure what I was expecting but it was certainly not this strange at times, somewhat dull read!  Two sets of brother and sister siblings, all drawn together in remote France over the sale of a house, I did not find myself connecting with any of the characters and the storylines covering childhood abuse, lesbianism and homosexuality just all added to it all feeling rather depressing. I have no idea if this book follows the normal style of this author's writing, if this is the case I am not sure that I will be reading her work again. Maybe I was just not in the right mood, what do you think?

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

In a silent valley in southern France stands an isolated stone farmhouse, the Mas Lunel. Aramon, the owner, is so haunted by his violent past that he's become incapable of all meaningful action, letting his hunting dogs starve and his land go to ruin. Meanwhile, his sister Audrun, alone in her modern bungalow within sight of the Mas Lunel, dreams of exacting retribution for the unspoken betrayals that have blighted her life. Into this closed world comes Anthony Verey, a wealthy but disillusioned antiques dealer from London. When he sets his sights on the Mas, a frightening and unstoppable series of consequences is set in motion.

Video Trailer for 'Trespass' Courtesy of YouTube

Author Profile

Rose Tremain, born in London in 1943, was one of only five women writers to be included in Granta’s original list of 20 Best of Young British Novelists in 1983. Her novels and short stories have been published worldwide in 27 countries and have won many prizes, including the Sunday buy cheap bactrim Express book of the Year Award (for Restoration, also shortlisted for the Booker Prize); the Prix Femina Etranger, France (for Sacred Country); the Whitbread Novel of the Year Award (for Music & Silence) and the Orange Prize for Fiction 2008 (for The Road Home). Restoration was filmed in 1995 and a stage version was produced in 2009. Her latest novel is the acclaimed The Gustav Sonata which sees Rose ‘writing at the height of her inimitable powers’ (Observer).

Rose lives in Norfolk, England with the biographer, Richard Holmes. She is the mother of one daughter, Eleanor and has two grandchildren, Archie and Martha. She was made a CBE in 2007 and in 2013 was appointed Chancellor of the University of East Anglia.

Photographs, Trailer and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

Goodreads Author Profile   Rose Tremain - Official Author Website    YouTube Video

Amazon Author Page

The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani

Paperback:  470 pages                                                                                                
Genre: Romantic Historical Fiction
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Source: My bookshelves, forgotten original source!
First Sentence: The scalloped hem of Caterina Lazzari's blue velvet coat grazed the fresh fallen snow, leaving a pale pink path on the bricks as she walked across the empty piazza. 
Favourite Quote: “When you lose someone, they take a bigger place in your heart, not a smaller one. Every day it grows, because you don't stop loving them. You wish you could talk to them. You need their advice. But life doesn't always give us what we need, and it's difficult.”
Review Quote: 'I've always loved reading Adriana Trigiani, but The Shoemaker's Wife is something totally new and completely wonderful: a rich, sweeping epic which tells the story of the women and men who built America dream by dream. I don't know how Adriana goes into her family's attic and emerges with these amazing stories, I'm just happy she does. If you're meeting her work for the first time, get ready for a lifelong love affair. The Shoemaker's Wife is utterly splendid.' --Kathryn Stockett, bestselling author of The Help
My Opinion: An epic and beautiful love story taken from the real life experiences of the author's grandparents.  Set in the Italian Alps and America in the early twentieth century the story follows the protagonists Ciro and Enza in alternating chapters as their lives progress from childhood to old age in this sweeping saga. No real surprises but definitely a feel good read if you enjoy this genre.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

The majestic and haunting beauty of the Italian Alps is the setting of the first meeting of Enza, a practical beauty, and Ciro, a strapping mountain boy, who meet as teenagers, despite growing up in villages just a few miles apart. At the turn of the last century, when Ciro catches the local priest in a scandal, he is banished from his village and sent to hide in America as an apprentice to a shoemaker in Little Italy. Without explanation, he leaves a bereft Enza behind. Soon, Enza's family faces disaster and she, too, is forced to go to America with her father to secure their future.

Unbeknownst to one another, they both build fledgling lives in America, Ciro masters shoemaking and Enza takes a factory job in Hoboken until fate intervenes and reunites them. But it is too late: Ciro has volunteered to serve in World War I and Enza, determined to forge a life without him, begins her impressive career as a seamstress at the Metropolitan Opera House that will sweep her into the glamorous salons of Manhattan and into the life of the international singing sensation, Enrico Caruso.

From the stately mansions of Carnegie Hill, to the cobblestone streets of Little Italy, over the perilous cliffs of northern Italy, to the white-capped lakes of northern Minnesota, these star-crossed lovers meet and separate, until, finally, the power of their love changes both of their lives forever.

Lush and evocative, told in tantalizing detail and enriched with lovable, unforgettable characters, The Shoemaker's Wife is a portrait of the times, the places and the people who defined the immigrant experience, claiming their portion of the American dream with ambition and resolve, cutting it to fit their needs like the finest Italian silk.

This riveting historical epic of love and family, war and loss, risk and destiny is the novel Adriana Trigiani was born to write, one inspired by her own family history and the love of tradition that has propelled her body of bestselling novels to international acclaim. Like Lucia, Lucia, The Shoemaker's Wife defines an era with clarity and splendor, with operatic scope and a vivid cast of characters who will live on in the imaginations of readers for years to come.

Video Trailer for 'The Shoemaker's Wife' Courtesy of YouTube

Author Profile

Adriana Trigiani is beloved by millions of readers around the world for her bestselling novels, including her latest, All the Stars in the Heavens, the instant bestseller of The New York Times, Barnes & Noble, Publishers Weekly, USA Today, and Indie Booksellers nationwide. She wrote the blockbuster The Shoemaker’s Wife, the Big Stone Gap series, the Valentine trilogy and Lucia, Lucia.  Trigiani’s themes of love and work, emphasis upon craftsmanship and family life have brought her legions of fans who call themselves Adri-addicts (a term coined by book maven Robin Kall). Their devotion has made Adriana one of “the reigning queens of women’s fiction” (USA Today).

The New York Times calls her “a comedy writer with a heart of gold”, her books “tiramisu for the soul.” Her books have been translated in 36 countries around the world. Adriana has toured many of the countries, including South Africa, with annual visits to the United Kingdom.

Adriana wrote and directed the film adaptation of her debut novel Big Stone Gap, produced by the Academy Award winning producer Donna Gigliotti, shot entirely on location in her hometown, with an all star cast including: Ashley Judd, Patrick Wilson, Whoopi Goldberg, John Benjamin Hickey, Anthony LaPaglia, Jenna Elfman, Jane Krakowski, Judith Ivey, Mary Pat Gleason, Dagmara Dominczyk, Mary Testa, Paul Wilson, Chris Sarandon, Jasmine Guy, and introducing Erika Coleman and Bridget Gabbe, with music by John Leventhal, and songs performed by his lovely wife, Rosanne Cash.  Glorious local talent perform on the soundtrack and act in the movie, sharing their gifts beyond the peaks of the Appalachian mountains. The soundtrack is now available on iTunes and in stores.

Read more on her website

Photographs, Trailer and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

Goodreads Author Profile   YouTube Video   Author's Official Website   Amazon Page

Friday Nights by Joanna Trollope

Paperback: 414 pages                                                                                                 

Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Black Swan 2008
Source: My bookshelves, forgotten original source!
First Sentence: Toby's mother said that when Eleanor came he'd have to go down to the ground floor and help her with the lift.
Review Quote: "An entertaining novel" (Independent on Sunday)
My Opinion:  This year I have been trying to catch up with some of Joanna Trollope's older titles that are still sitting on my bookshelves waiting to be read!  Friday Nights is the third I have reviewed on the blog this year Brother and Sister and Second Honeymoon  I thought the first one was ok and have been progressively been more disappointed with the next two. Such a disappointment as I have been a long time fan of Joanna Trollope's writing but have felt in reading these that she somehow does not write like she used to, or maybe I have just outgrown this style of somewhat formulaic storylines. I suspect I will continue to read her novels though, just in case, I have chosen titles that just do not appeal to me personally recently! I thought I would have enjoyed this one more as the author herself likens the circle of friends that meet up on 'Friday Nights' as like a Book Club, but with out the books. Did I just leave it too many years to read this one, or fans of her writing were you like me disappointed? If you have yet to read this author, I do not recommend you starting with Friday Nights.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

Friday nights, the best night of the week, the night they all looked forward to more than they cared to admit - talking, drinking, laughing and crying together.

They were six female friends, different in age and circumstances, but with one common need: the warmth and support of their Friday nights. It was a time to share secrets and fears, triumphs and tragedies and, above all, to feel safe in the company of women friends. But things never stay the same forever, especially when a man is introduced into the mix...

Video Trailer for 'Friday Nights' Courtesy of YouTube

Author Profile

Joanna Trollope was born on 9 December 1943 in her grandfather's rectory in Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire, England, daughter of Rosemary Hodson and Arthur George Cecil Trollope. She is the eldest of three siblings. She is a fifth-generation niece of the Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope and is a cousin of the writer and broadcaster James Trollope. She was educated at Reigate County School for Girls followed by St Hugh's College, Oxford. On 14 May 1966, she married the banker David Roger William Potter, they had two daughters, Antonia and Louise. In 1983 they divorced, two years later, she married the television dramatist Ian Curteis, they divorced in 2001.

From 1965 to 1967, she worked at the Foreign Office. From 1967 to 1979, she was employed in a number of teaching posts before she became a writer full-time in 1980. In 1996 she was awarded the OBE for services to literature.She now lives alone in London.

A fuller Biography can be found on her website.

Photographs, Trailer and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

YouTube Video   Official Author Website    Joanna Trollope - Facebook Profile

Goodreads Author Profile   Amazon Author Page    Wikipedia - Joanna Trollope

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Insect Farm by Stuart Prebble

Paperback: 376 pages.                                                                                                
Genre: Mystery Thriller
Publisher: Alma Books Ltd 2015
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: Prologue: There was no particular sense of urgency about the first call that had come in.
Favourite Quote: “It's funny how, when you look back on the big things that have happened in your life, you realize that there were small things you might have done which would completely have changed the course of events.” 
Review Quote: Chilling and suspenseful, rich and human. --Lee Child
My Opinion: All is far from what it seems in this macabre thriller. The story is based on family relationships and the tricks that memory can play on the human mind. At times it felt a little repetitive but overall I liked this, although certainly I would not have chosen to read The Insect Farm had it not been a book club choice. Recommended to readers that enjoy a psychological thriller, as this was certainly an intriguing read.  

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

An eerie debut suspense novel that explores how little one man may know his own brother--and his own mind.

The Maguire brothers each have their own driving, single-minded obsession. For Jonathan, it is his magnificent, talented, and desirable wife, Harriet. For Roger, it is the elaborate universe he has constructed in a shed in their parents' garden, populated by millions of tiny insects. While Jonathan's pursuit of Harriet leads him to feelings of jealousy and anguish, Roger's immersion in the world he has created reveals a capability and talent which are absent from his everyday life. 

Roger is known to all as a loving, protective, yet simple man, but the ever-growing complexity of the insect farm suggests that he is capable of far more than anyone believes. Following a series of strange and disturbing incidents, Jonathan begins to question every story he has ever been told about his brother--and if he has so completely misjudged Roger's mind, what else might he have overlooked about his family, and himself? 

The Insect Farm is a dramatic psychological thriller about the secrets we keep from those we love most, and the extent to which the people closest to us are also the most unknowable. In his astounding debut, Stuart Prebble guides us through haunting twists and jolting discoveries as a startling picture emerges: One of the Maguire brothers is a killer, and the other has no idea.

                            Video Trailer for 'The Insect Farm' Courtesy of YouTube

Audio Book Trailer for 'The Insect Farm' Courtesy of YouTube

Author Profile

Stuart Prebble, Author and TV Producer was born on April 15th 1951.  He has worked in television since he left Newcastle University. You can read more about him on his website

Photographs, Trailers and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

YouTube Video Trailer      YouTube Audio Trailer     Stuart Prebble - Wikipedia

Author's Official Website      Stuart Prebble - Twitter      Amazon Author Page

Monday, November 27, 2017

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Hardback: 353 pages                                                                                                 
Genre:Psychological thriller, 
Publisher: Doubleday 2017
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence:There was something you wanted to tell me, wasn't there?
Favourite Quote: “Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.”
Review Quote: “Thrilling… we [are] kept guessing until the sobering conclusion.” —O Magazine
Literary Awards: Nominated for

My Opinion:  I did not enjoy this novel quite as much as The Girl On The Train, but I think it was always going to be hard to follow! The theme of Into The Water is an interesting one and told from an unusual viewpoint with every character speaking for themselves. Though because of this with so many characters it took me a while to get into the story, but once I had it became more interesting.
When a single mother turns up dead at the bottom of a river, soon after a teenage girl suffered the same fate, long buried secrets emerge. The past catches up with the present, but one's memories can be deceptive.
Recommended to fans of her first novel but be warned the style of writing is very different, so don't try and compare, just read this sinister and atmospheric novel without letting your expectations cloud your enjoyment of this author's writing.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help.

Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind.

But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped.

And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool . . .

Video Trailer for 'Into The Water ' Courtesy of YouTube

Author Profile

Paula Hawkins was born on August 26th 1972 in Harare, Zimbabwe. She moved to London in 1989 and has lived there ever since. A journalist for fifteen years prior to turning her hand to fiction,  The Girl on the Train was her début novel, Into the Water, her second.  An international bestseller, The Girl on the Train has been published in 50 countries and translated into over 40 languages. It has sold over 18 million copies worldwide and has been adapted into a major motion picture.

Photographs, Trailer and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

Audio Trailer - YouTube   Amazon - Author Page   Paula Hawkins - Official Website.

Goodreads Author Profile     Paula Hawkins - Twitter      Instagram Account     Facebook Profile

Friday, November 10, 2017

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

Hardback: 290 pages                                                                                                
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Chatto and Windus 2013
Source: Tywyn Public Library 
First Sentence: We are on our way to Budapest: Bastard and Chipo and Godknows and Sbho and Stina and me.
Favourite Quote: “The problem with English is this: You usually can't open your mouth and it comes out just like that--first you have to think what you want to say. Then you have to find the words. Then you have to carefully arrange those words in your head. Then you have to say the words quietly to yourself, to make sure you got them okay. And finally, the last step, which is to say the words out loud and have them sound just right. 
But then because you have to do all this, when you get to the final step, something strange has happened to you and you speak the way a drunk walks. And, because you are speaking like falling, it's as if you are an idiot, when the truth is that it's the language and the whole process that's messed up. And then the problem with those who speak only English is this: they don't know how to listen; they are busy looking at your falling instead of paying attention to what you are saying.”
Review Quote: “A deeply felt and fiercely written début novel.” Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times.
Literary Awards: Man Booker Prize Nominee (2013)Guardian First Book Award Nominee (2013)PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award (2014),Hurston/Wright Legacy Award Nominee for Fiction (2014),Betty Trask Award (2014)
My Opinion: Short listed for the Booker Prize in 2013, I guess this why it was chosen for one of the book clubs that I am a member of. I was disappointed as I felt the theme of an African being uprooted to America was far better covered in my opinion by Americanah which I also read recently for another book club. Maybe it was just too much of a good thing at the wrong time, as although the novel captures the sights and sounds of Africa, it did not really impress me. The second part of the story when the protagonist was eventually living illegally in America, I found more interesting, it was sad how she discovered that escaping to the West is not all that it is claimed to be. 
As I mentioned earlier I feel it is unfortunate that this book was published within a month or so of Adichie’s  brilliant novel of Nigerian immigrants’ experiences in the states, Americanah. In conclusion I feel that this is a poignant first novel and that maybe this young woman will go on to write some great novels. I will look out for her work in the future.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

A remarkable literary debut -- shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize! The unflinching and powerful story of a young girl's journey out of Zimbabwe and to America.

Darling is only ten years old, and yet she must navigate a fragile and violent world. In Zimbabwe, Darling and her friends steal guavas, try to get the baby out of young Chipo's belly, and grasp at memories of Before. Before their homes were destroyed by paramilitary policemen, before the school closed, before the fathers left for dangerous jobs abroad.

But Darling has a chance to escape: she has an aunt in America. She travels to this new land in search of America's famous abundance only to find that her options as an immigrant are perilously few. NoViolet Bulawayo's debut calls to mind the great storytellers of displacement and arrival who have come before her-from Junot Diaz to Zadie Smith to J.M. Coetzee-while she tells a vivid, raw story all her own.

2 Video Trailers for 'We Need New Names' Courtesy of YouTube

   NoViolet Bulawayo reads from her novel.

                                                   No Violet Bulawayo interview

Author Profile

NoViolet Bulawayo ( is the pen name of Elizabeth Zandile Tshele), she was born in Tsholotsho a year after Zimbabwe’s independence from British colonial rule, on  October 12, 1981.  When she was eighteen, she moved to Kalamazoo, Michi­gan. USA.

In 2011 she was awarded the Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story "Hitting Budapest," about a gang of street children in a Zimbabwean shanty town. 

NoViolet earned her MFA at Cornell University where she was a recipient of the Truman Capote Fellowship. She was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University,(2012-2014) where she now teaches as a Jones Lecturer in Fiction.

Her first novel We Need New Names (2013) was short listed for the Man Booker Prize, making her the first African female writer to earn this distinction.  She is now working on a memoir project.

Photographs, Trailer and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

YouTube      Goodreads Author Profile    NoViolet Bulawayo - Official Website  

Amazon Author Profile       Wikipedia - NoViolet Bulawayo        Facebook Profile

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Hardback: 296 pages                                                                                                 
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Doubleday 2012
Source: Tywyn Library
First Sentences: The letter that would change everything arrived on a Tuesday. It was an ordinary morning in mid-April that smelt of clean washing and grass cuttings.
Favourite Quote:  “It was not a life, if lived without love.”
Review Quote: "Distinguished by remarkable confidence... Polished to perfection... Joyce's experience as a playwright shows in her ear for dialogue and eye for character diatom - even the walk-on parts stay with you as real people. She handles her material with deceptive lightness but Harold's journey towards a better version of himself is totemic. To read about him is to be moved to follow him" (Daily Telegraph)
Literary Awards: Man Booker Prize Nominee for Longlist (2012)Desmond Elliott Prize Nominee (2012)Japanese Booksellers Award Nominee for Translated Fiction (2014)
My Opinion: I loved this, cannot understand why it has taken me four years since it was published to get round to reading and even now it was only because it was chosen for my book club. An indication of just how much I enjoyed 'The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry' is that I have already added  'The Love Song of Queenie Hennessy' which was published in 2014, to my wishlist.
The protagonist Harold Fry walks 627 miles in 87 days to visit a dying friend, from the first time I met him on the printed page I felt I wanted to support his endeavour. It is a novel that once started you do not want to put down. Sad, beautifully moving, yet it will also make you laugh. Highly recommended.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

Harold Fry is convinced that he must deliver a letter to an old friend in order to save her, meeting various characters along the way and reminiscing about the events of his past and people he has known, as he tries to find peace and acceptance.

Recently retired, sweet, emotionally numb Harold Fry is jolted out of his passivity by a letter from Queenie Hennessy, an old friend, who he hasn't heard from in twenty years. She has written to say she is in hospice and wanted to say goodbye. Leaving his tense, bitter wife Maureen to her chores, Harold intends a quick walk to the corner mailbox to post his reply but instead, inspired by a chance encounter, he becomes convinced he must deliver his message in person to Queenie--who is 600 miles away--because as long as he keeps walking, Harold believes that Queenie will not die. 

So without hiking boots, rain gear, map or cell phone, one of the most endearing characters in current fiction begins his unlikely pilgrimage across the English countryside. Along the way, strangers stir up memories--flashbacks, often painful, from when his marriage was filled with promise and then not, of his inadequacy as a father, and of his shortcomings as a husband. 

Ironically, his wife Maureen, shocked by her husband's sudden absence, begins to long for his presence. Is it possible for Harold and Maureen to bridge the distance between them? And will Queenie be alive to see Harold arrive at her door?

Video Trailer for ' The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry     ' Courtesy of YouTube

My review for 'Perfect' by Rachel Joyce was published on my blog in 2015

LindyLouMac's Book Reviews - Perfect

Author Profile

Rachel Joyce lives in Gloucestershire with her husband and four children.  She has written over 20 original afternoon plays for BBC Radio 4, and major adaptations for both the Classic Series, Woman's Hour and also a TV drama adaptation for BBC 2. In 2007 she won the Tinniswood Award for best radio play. She moved to writing after a twenty-year career in theatre and television, performing leading roles for the RSC, the Royal National Theatre, The Royal Court, and Cheek by Jowl, winning a Time Out Best Actress award and the Sony Silver.

Photographs, Trailer and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

Goodreads Author Profile     YouTube Video     Rachel Joyce - Author Official Website

Amazon Author Page

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Photographer's Wife by Nick Alexander


Ebook:  400 pages                                                                                                 
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: October 2014 - Bigfib Books                          
Source: Amazon
First Sentence: Barbara pushes up onto her toes and grasps the windowsill with her small, pale hands. 
Review Quote: Honest, moving, witty and really rather wise -- Time Out. 
My Opinion: I usually read ebooks when I am travelling, much easier to take a Kindle in my luggage! The Photographer's Wife was a perfect choice for my last trip as I did not get much time to read, so a novel that was easy to pick up and put down without loosing the thread was important. The story covers two separate periods but clearly and concisely. The realistic plot unfolds as the tension builds, there was humour and sadness as the two story lines came together and it all began to make sense. I did guess the result of the mystery quite early on as the author gives the reader plenty of hints and for this reason I did get rather annoyed with the plausible characters, who without exception all had flaws and annoying traits. Overall a read that kept my attention and was easy to pick up and enjoy in small bites.  

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

The Photographer's Wife is an epic tale set in two eras, a tale of the secrets one generation has, rightly or wrongly, chosen to hide from the next.

Barbara – a child of the Blitz – has more secrets than she cares to admit. 

She has protected her children from many of the harsh realities of life and told them little of the poverty of her childhood, nor of the darker side of her marriage to one of Britain's most famous photographers. 

With such an incomplete picture of the past, her youngest, Sophie, has struggled to understand who her parents really are, and in turn, Barbara sometimes worries, to build her own identity. 

When Sophie, decides to organise a vast retrospective exhibition of her adored father's work, old photos are pulled from dusty boxes. But with them tumble stories from the past, stories and secrets that will challenge every aspect of how Sophie sees her parents.

Author Profile

Nick Alexander is the best selling author of ten novels, including The French House and The Case of the Missing Boyfriend. He lives in the southern French Alps with two mogs (Paloma-Paquita & Leon-Pedro), three (nameless) goldfish and a complete set of Almodovar films.

Bio Courtesy of Official Author Website 
Nick Alexander was born in 1964 in the seaside town of Margate, Kent, the fifth child in a family of painters. As a child, he talked constantly and when forbidden to talk (at school, for example), he wrote.
In his mid twenties, he moved to France and started working part-time on his first novel – a task that was initiated (and abandoned) many, many times. Finally, in 2001, he finished a gay fiction title called 50 Reasons to Say Goodbye. A friend at The Times told him he should get it published, which was unexpected to say the least. He hadn’t considered it good enough.

For a few years he tried to find a publisher, but it was a hopeless, thankless, depressing task so he gave up and self published the book with
To his surprise, it sold well, becoming one of the UK’s best selling gay fiction titles.

By 2010, five novels later, he felt that hehad said all he wanted to in the gay fiction genre, so he decided to write his own take on the Chicklit genre, instead.
Still unable to find a publisher, he self published The Case Of The Missing Boyfriend on Amazon’s then brand-new Kindle platform. The response was truly astounding. The book went to #1 and sold over 300,000 copies, and the sequel, The French House, did even better. I followed these up with two Family Saga titles, The Half-Life of Hannah, and Other Halves.

These days, writing is his full time job, and he alternates between self publishing and working with mainstream publishers who have finally (900,000 sales later) decided to take him a little bit more seriously.

Photographs, Trailer and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

Nick Alexander - Amazon Author Page    Official Author Website  

 Nick Alexander -Twitter

Facebook Profile   Goodreads - Author Profile

The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen

Hardback: 291 pages                                                                                                 
Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Chatto and Windus 2012
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: In the beginning there was an empty room, a little bit of space, a little bit of light, a little bit of time.
Favourite Quote:  “I wondered what it would be like to die. Was it like going to sleep or like waking up? Was there no more time? Or did time go on forever?”
Review Quote: "Extraordinary" (Emma Donoghue, author of Room)
Literary Awards: Desmond Elliott First Novel Prize 2012   Betty Trask Award 2013
My Opinion: I was rather surprised at my reaction to this novel which was a recent  Book Club choice. Reviews had me expecting something along the lines of  'Room' by Emma Donoghue, as a child narrator is also a main theme, along with a narrow lifestyle. I was actually bored by this novel built around a father and daughter, members of a non mainstream religious sect. Despite my overall boredom it is a heartbreaking scenario as the protagonist Judith struggles with her beliefs. Having now written this review and done some research on the author I was not surprised to discover that Grace McCleen grew up in a fundamentalist religion herself. So now thinking that there is maybe  an autobiographical to this novel, still cannot say to whom I would recommend it though.  

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

Blissfully inventive, brilliantly written, with a huge heart, and a tense, pulsing plot: The Land of Decoration introduces a young heroine who will change the way you see the world.

Judith and her father don't have much -- their house is full of dusty relics, reminders of the mother she's never known. But Judith sees the world with the clear Eyes of Faith, and where others might see rubbish, Judith sees possibility. Bullied at school, she finds solace in making a model of the Promised Land -- little people made from pipe cleaners, a sliver of moon, luminous stars and a mirror sea -- a world of wonder that Judith calls The Land of Decoration. Perhaps, she thinks, if she makes it snow indoors (using shaving foam and cotton wool and cellophane) there will be no school on Monday...

Sure enough, when Judith opens her curtains the next day, the world beyond her window has turned white. She has performed her first miracle. And that's when her troubles begin.

With its intensely taut storytelling and gorgeous prose, The Land of Decoration is a heartbreaking story of good and evil, belief and doubt. Its author, Grace McCleen, is a blazing new talent in contemporary literature.

Video Trailer for 'The Land of Decoration' Courtesy of YouTube

                 A Richard and Judy Book Club selection in 2013, this trailer is worth watching.

Author Profile

Grace McCleen was born in Wales and grew up in a fundamentalist religion where she did not have much contact with non-believers. Her family moved to Ireland when she was ten, where she was schooled at home. When Grace and her family moved back to Britain she went back to school and her English teacher suggested she apply to Oxford. 

She studied English Literature at Oxford University and The University of York before becoming a full-time writer and musician. She lives in London. The Land of Decoration is her first novel.

More Biographical content can be found on her website


Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.

Goodreads - Author Profile     You Tube - The Land of Decoration   

 Amazon - Grace McCleen     Author's Official Website 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee


Paperback:  331 pages                                                                                               
Genre: Historical Romantic Fiction
Publisher: Harper Collins 2009
Source: Oxfam Bookshop Salisbury
First Sentences: It started as an accident. The small Herend rabbit had fallen into Claire's handbag.
Review Quote: 'Former Elle editor Lee delivers a standout debut dealing with the rigours of love and survival during a time of war, and the consequences of choices made under duress…The rippling of past actions through to the present lends the narrative layers of intrigue and more than a few unexpected twists. Lee covers a little-known time in Chinese history without melodrama, and deconstructs without judgement the choices people make in order to live one more day under torturous circumstances' Publishers Weekly
Favourite Quote: “And in the end, I think, we're all just trying to survive, aren't we?”  
Main Characters: Claire Pendleton, Melody Chen, Victor Chen, Will Truesdale, Trudy Liang
Setting: Hong Kong
My Opinion: I enjoyed this probably more so as Hong Kong holds a special place in my heart. A powerful love story set in Hong Kong during the second World War, an interesting portrayal of life in Hong Kong during that unsettling period. The story of Will and Trudy's love during the war years was the part of the novel I enjoyed the most. It is a much stronger narrative than the part about Claire, the Piano Teacher of the title. This novel will probably appeal to those interested in not only a moving love story but also Hong Kong.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

"A rare and exquisite story...Transports you out of time, out of place, into a world you can feel on your very skin." -Elizabeth Gilbert

In the sweeping tradition of "The English Patient," Janice Y.K. Lee's debut novel is a tale of love and betrayal set in war-torn Hong Kong. In 1942, Englishman Will Truesdale falls headlong into a passionate relationship with Trudy Liang, a beautiful Eurasian socialite. But their affair is soon threatened by the invasion of the Japanese as World War II overwhelms their part of the world. Ten years later, Claire Pendleton comes to Hong Kong to work as a piano teacher and also begins a fateful affair. As the threads of this spellbinding novel intertwine, impossible choices emerge-between love and safety, courage and survival, the present, and above all, the past.

Video Trailer for 'The Piano Teacher' Courtesy of YouTube

Author Profile

Janice Y.K. Lee
Janice Y. K. Lee was born and raised in Hong Kong, the child of Korean immigrants. She went to the United States for school and graduated from Harvard College with a degree in English and American Literature and Language.

After college she moved to New York and worked for several years as an editor at Elle and Mirabella magazines before getting an MFA from Hunter College and starting her first novel. The Piano Teacher was published to critical acclaim from the New York Times, People, and O magazine, among others. It spent 19 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, was a Richard and Judy Summer Read pick (UK), and was translated into 26 languages worldwide.

Janice’s writing has appeared in ELLE, Mirabella, Glamour, and Travel and Leisure, as well as numerous other publications.

She lives in New York City with her husband and four children.

Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.

Goodreads - Author Profile    Janice Y.K.Lee - Twitter 

Author Official Website


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The 8 Week Blood Sugar Diet by Michael Mosley


Paperback:  272 pages                                                                                               
Genre: Health, Science
Publisher: Short Books 2015
Source: A Likely Story Bookshop Tywyn
First Sentences: Millions of us have high blood sugar levels - and many of us don't know it.
Review Quote:  "Brilliant book if you have Type-2 diabetes or you don't want to get it" --Jeremy Vine, BBC Radio 2 presenter
Favourite Quote: “Diabetes – the physical costs Hypertension: 70% of diabetics also require medication for blood pressure. Cholesterol: 65% of diabetics require medication to reduce their cholesterol. Heart attacks: Diabetics, even when on full medication, are twice as likely to be hospitalised, crippled or die from a heart attack. Strokes: Diabetics are 1.5 times more likely to suffer a debilitating stroke. Blindness and Eye Problems: Diabetes is the number one cause of preventable blindness in the developed world. Impotence: Diabetes is also the number one cause of impotence. Dementia: Having diabetes doubles your risk of dementia. Kidney disease: Diabetes is the cause of kidney failure in half of all new cases; most people on dialysis are diabetics. Amputations: There are over 7000 diabetes-related amputations done every year in the UK and over 73,000 in the US.” 
My Opinion
Even before reading this book I was working on cutting down my sugar intake! I now appreciate the importance of doing so.

I am now more conscious of the dangers of too much sugar and although I did not feel the need to rigorously carry out the diet recommendations. I like to think that having lived in Italy for many years that I already have a reasonably healthy diet and I try to lead an active lifestyle. 

My personal feelings are that too much of so many foods are not considered healthy for us, so I try to be moderate in all my eating habits. I do still eat bread, pasta rice and potatoes but much less than I used to!

I would recommend this as a worthwhile read to any one interested in a healthy lifestyle not just those worried about being overweight and the dangers of diabetes.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

Dr Michael Mosley, author of the bestselling 5:2 Fast Diet, reveals a game-changing approach to one of the greatest silent epidemics of our time - raised blood sugar levels. The food we eat today, high in sugar and easily digestible carbohydrates, is not only making us fat, but is putting us at risk of type 2 diabetes, strokes, dementia, cancer and a lifetime on medication. More than a third of adults in the UK now have raised blood sugar levels and most don't know it. In this timely book, Dr Mosley explains why we pile on dangerous abdominal fat and shows us how to shed it, fast. He demolishes common myths, such as the claim that steady weight loss is always better than rapid weight loss and that those who lose weight rapidly will inevitably put it back on. This is a book not just for those at highest risk but for anyone who has struggled with their weight and wants to regain control of their health. "I feel amazing. I have been given another chance at life." Cassie, 28 - lost 20kg. Average weight loss: 14kg in 8 weeks. Includes a detailed 8-week programme with menu plans.

Author Profile:

Michael Mosley (born 22 March 1957) is a British television journalist, producer and presenter who has worked for the BBC since 1985. He is probably best known as a presenter of television programmes on biology and medicine and his regular appearances on The One Show.

Born in Kolkata, India, the son of a bank director, Mosley studied philosophy, politics and economics at New College, Oxford before working for two years as a banker in the City of London. He then decided to move into medicine, intending to become a psychiatrist, studying at the Royal Free Hospital Medical School, now part of UCL Medical School.

Becoming disillusioned by psychiatry, Mosley upon graduation joined a trainee assistant producer scheme at the BBC in 1985.

Since then he has produced & presented many documentaries on science and/or medicine.

Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.

Goodreads - Author Profile    Twitter - Michael Mosley   Amazon Author Page

Blood Sugar Diet - Online Programme

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Secrets of a Happy Marriage by Cathy Kelly

Hardback:  426 pages                                                                                              
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Orion Books 2016
Source: St Cadfan's Church Fund Raising Sale - Tywyn
First Sentences: Prologue: In the San Francisco February dawn, Faenia Lennox sat at an off-white chalk-painted desk facing the Bay with its familiar and beloved fog visible beyond the Japanese maples in her garden and typed at speed, the same speed she'd learned from Mrs Farmsworth's classes in New York all those years ago. Over forty years ago, in fact.
Review Quote:  An uplifting story of warm, larger-than life characters. Comforting and feel good, the perfect treat read. (Good Housekeeping)
Favourite Quote: Secrets of a Happy Marriage #7 Never underestimate kindness. Being kind to the person you love is worth more than  hundred gifts. Kindness makes us feel love, supported and appreciated.
My Opinion: Cathy Kelly is an author I have read in the past but not since 2006. When I saw this brand new hardback for sale at a bargain price at a church fund raising event a few months ago I purchased as it looked like a read for lazy summer days.  Just finished reading, it was perfect for taking my mind off the weather, where has the sunshine gone?
A heartwarming story in Cathy Kelly's style of Irish storytelling about modern life. The dynamics of the relationships from the protagonists Bess and Edward, the older couple that have found love in later life to the rest of the characters within the extended family circle, are written about in a realistic way. The themes of friendship, marriage, trust, bereavement, infertility and depression are all topics covered that will not be unfamiliar to many readers.
I also liked the anecdotal chapter headings, all about marriage, a compassionate addition to the novel. Recommended to fans of Irish women's fiction, contemporary fiction and Cathy Kelly, an overall easy read.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

Any family knows that a special birthday party is the perfect chance to come together, but for the Brannigan clan it's about more than just raising a glass . . .

Bess is hoping to show everyone just how happy her recent marriage is, but behind all the party-planning the cracks are beginning to show. Why is joining a family so difficult?

Jojo, Bess's stepdaughter, has a point to make. Bess is not her mother, and she won't replace the one she's been missing every day for the last two years. And will she ever get the chance to become a mum herself?

Cousin Cari is a fierce career-woman who isn't unnerved by anything - apart from facing the man who left her at the alter, and he's on the guestlist. Her job has been a safe place to hide ever since - but is it time to let love into her life again?

Thanks to laughter, tears and one surprise appearance, the Brannigans might just discover the secrets of a happy marriage . . . But will they find out before it's too late?

Author Profile:

Cathy Kelly was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on September 12th 1966. A former Irish journalist she has been writing women's fiction since 1997, since when she has gained international recognition.

Published around the world, with millions of books in print. Cathy is the bestselling author of The Honey Queen, Once in a Lifetime and Between Sisters, and is a No.1 bestseller in the UK, Ireland and Australia. Her trademark is warm and witty Irish storytelling about modern life, always with an uplifting message, a sense of community and strong female characters at the heart.
She lives with her family and their three dogs in County Wicklow, Ireland. She is also an Ambassador for UNICEF Ireland, raising funds and awareness for children orphaned by or living with HIV/AIDS.

Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.

Amazon Author Page - Cathy Kelly     Wikipedia - Cathy Kelly       Author's Official Website

Cathy Kelly Books - Facebook     Twitter - Cathy Kelly