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