Friday, June 22, 2018

Sylvia Garland's Broken Heart by Helen Harris

Paperback:  341 pages                                                                                                
Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction
Publisher: Halban Publishers 2014
Source: Tywyn Library
First Sentences: After many years, Sylvia Garland returned to England. She had never intended to stay away so long.
Review Quote: "Harris turns out to be a virtuoso when it comes to understanding family. I can't think of anyone better at describing just how irritating everyone can be. She even-handedly lets us see how her characters get on one another's nerves. The result is sympathetic, funny and truthful."
Kate Kellaway in The Observer
Main Characters: Sylvia, Jeremy and Smita Garland
Setting: London
My Opinion: A character driven story that realistically portrays the relationship between Sylvia, her son and daughter in law as everything they do or say to each other is misconstrued! Sylvia even irritated me at times, let alone her family. Recently widowed she has returned to England to live after many years away. Unable to settle and feeling adrift, when her daughter in law becomes pregnant, she becomes totally and dangerously fixated on her grandchild, seeing the child as the new lease of life that she needs. In many ways a very sad story but despite the I felt somewhat abrupt ending it is a happy one.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

How far would a grandmother go to stay close to her grandson?
When Sylvia Garland returns to England, after the death of her husband and half a lifetime lived abroad, the last thing she expects is to find love again. But when her daughter-in-law Smita announces she is pregnant, despite her own poor track record as a mother, she finds herself caught up in the excitement.
Before Sylvia knows it, she is 65 years old and head over heels in love - with her grandson.
Sylvia Garland's Broken Heart is a touching, witty look at family ties across the generations and the plight of grandparents when their children's relationships break down.

'This passionate, yet perfectly-controlled beneath the surface a smouldering furnace...It is a book with depth and resonance and pace.' Jane Gardam

Video Trailer for 'Sylvia Garland's Broken Heart ' Courtesy of YouTube

Author Profile

Since 1978, Helen Harris has published many short stories in a wide variety of magazines and anthologies.

Magazines include:- London Magazine, Encounter, Punch, Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Journal and Company.

She is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London, from 2008 till present.

Playing Fields in Winter (Century 1986. ISBN: 0-7126-9408-0) Winner of the Author’s Club First Novel Award, shortlisted for the Betty Trask prize
Angel Cake (Century 1987. ISBN 0-7126-1588-1) Serialized on BBC Radio Four in 1994
The Steppes of Paris (Hodder & Stoughton 1990. ISBN 0-340-51337-3)
The Weather Indoors (Arena 2002) published in Dutch as De Schrijfclub
Sylvia Garland's Broken Heart (Halban Publishers 2014. ISBN 9781905559701)

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

Helen Harris - Amazon Page    YouTube Video    Helen Harris -Twitter

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Years She Stole by Jonathan Harvey


Paperback:  403 pages                                                                                                
Genre: Contemporary Humorous Fiction
Publisher: Pan Macmillan 2018
Source: Tywyn Library
First Sentences: The cracks. If I don't step on the cracks in this pavement then all will be well, all will go according to plan.
Review Quote: 'Laugh out loud' Marian Keyes - Author.
Main Characters: Rachel Taylor and Shirley Burke
My Opinion: An agreeable and easy read with plenty of twists in the story, although I did guess the eventual outcome before the end. Humorous yet with a serious theme, I can recommend this novel to those that enjoy contemporary fiction.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:


Pregnant Rachel Taylor is enjoying a holiday in Morocco when she gets the phone call to say her mother hasn’t got much time left to live. With a head of mixed emotions she returns to the village where she grew up to say her last goodbyes. It’s true to say their relationship had often been strained and Rachel had never quite understood why. When clearing out her mother’s things she thinks she finds an answer, and her world is changed forever.


Shirley Burke is on a family holiday at Butlin’s when she first sets eyes on Doug, a man considerably older than herself. When his daughter goes missing one night, Shirley’s the one who finds her and returns her to him. When his gratitude turns into something else, Shirley realizes this is her time to shine. But Doug is married, and her young life is about to get very complicated.

Rachel and Shirley. Two women from different decades in Jonathan Harvey's The Years She Stole. Somehow their lives are entwined and neither can know the impact one woman will have on the other until it’s way too late . . .

Author Profile

Harvey was born in Liverpool on June 13th 1968. He has a brother, Timothy Harvey who is a music teacher in Chester. His first serious attempt as a playwright was in 1987. Fuelled by the attraction of a £1,000 first prize to young writers from the Liverpool Playhouse, the result was The Cherry Blossom Tree, a garish blend of suicide, murder and nuns. This effort won him the National Girobank Young Writer of the Year Award.

Feeling very encouraged, he went on to write Mohair (1988), Wildfire (1992) and Babies (1993), the latter winning him the 'George Devine Award' for that year and The Evening Standard's 'Most Promising Playwright Award' for 1994. In 1993, Harvey, premiered Beautiful Thing, a gay-themed play-turned-movie for which he won the prestigious 'John Whiting Award' the following year.

1995 saw the premiere of Boom Bang-a-Bang, at the Bush Theatre, London, originally directed by Kathy Burke. Harvey cites it as "my most comic play ever, but with some dark bits". Centred on a group of friends gathering to watch the Eurovision Song Contest, the play was a sell-out. That same year, he also premiered Rupert Street Lonely Hearts Club. Guiding Star (1998), is a portrayal of one man's struggle to come to terms with the Hillsborough FA Cup Semi-Final disaster, while Hushabye Mountain (1999) deals with a world that has learned to live with HIV/AIDS. Television and film works include: West End Girls (Carlton); Love Junkie (BBC); Beautiful Thing (Channel Four/Island World Productions); the 1999-2001 hit/cult comedy series starring Kathy Burke and James Dreyfus, Gimme Gimme Gimme (Tiger Aspect); Murder Most Horrid (BBC); and Coronation Street (ITV).

He also wrote the book for Closer to Heaven, a stage musical with songs and music written by Pet Shop Boys. Closer to Heaven ran for nine months at the Arts Theatre in London during 2001 and in Australia in 2005. In 2003 Harvey heard the singer-actress Abi Roberts perform and was so enchanted he offered to write a solo show especially for her. Taking Charlie was the outcome, staged at the 2004 Edinburgh Festival with Roberts starring, under the direction of Susan Tully. The piece was darkly comic and focused on the destructive nature of an insecure, 30-year-old addict.

Harvey is a patron of London-based HIV charity The Food Chain and a patron of the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music. His first novel All She Wants was published in 2012 by Pan Books

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

Goodreads - Author Profile   Jo Harvey @Twitter   Jonathan Harvey - LoveReading  

panmacmillan - jonathan harvey

Friday, June 15, 2018

Last Seen by Lucy Clarke

Paperback:  433 pages                                                                                                
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Harper Collins 2017
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: Prologue: Salt water burns the back of my throat as I surface, coughing.
Review Quote: ‘With twists, turns, secrets and lies aplenty, you’ll have no choice but to devour it in one’ HEAT
Main Characters: Sarah,( mother of Jacob) Isla, (mother of Marley)
Setting: Beach huts on a stretch of the south coast of England.
My Opinion: Keeping secrets is destructive and although this novel was not the tense thriller I expected from the blurb, it is definitely worth reading.  The setting alone a beach hut on the south coast made it the sort of book to read whilst enjoying the lovely weather we have had recently! The female protagonists have been friends for many years and despite disaster striking when one of their sons goes missing, the friendship survives. Or does it because when disaster strikes again seven years later all sorts of betrayals surface, some of them I guessed correctly but there were also surprises right to the end.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

In a small seaside community, there’s always somebody watching…

Twisty, pacy, and superbly plotted, Last Seen is the perfect psychological page-turner for fans of Clare Mackintosh and Sabine Durrant.

Seven years ago, two boys went missing at sea – and only one was brought to shore. The Sandbank, a remote stretch of coast dotted with beach huts, was scarred forever.

Sarah’s son survived, but on the anniversary of the accident, he disappears without trace. As new secrets begin to surface, The Sandbank hums with tension and unanswered questions. Sarah’s search grows more desperate and she starts to mistrust everyone she knows – and she’s right to.

Someone saw everything on that fateful day seven years ago. And they’ll do anything to keep the truth buried.

Author Profile

Photo courtesy of  James Bowden


Novelist, traveller, and fresh air enthusiast, Lucy Clarke is the author of four novels.

Lucy graduated from university with a first class degree in English Literature, but it wasn't until she was on a six month road trip across the US and Canada, that she decided she'd love to be a novelist.

Many twists and turns later, Lucy's debut novel, The Sea Sisters, was published (HarperCollins, 2013). It was a Richard & Judy Book Club choice, and has been published in over ten countries.

Since then she has released three more novels, A Single Breath (HarperCollins, 2014), The Blue (HarperCollins, 2015), and most recently Last Seen (HarperCollins, 2017).

Lucy is married to a professional windsurfer, and together with their young children they spend their winters travelling, and their summers at home on the south coast of England. Lucy writes from a beach hut.

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

Goodreads Author Page   Facebook - Lucy Clarke    Instagram - Lucy Clarke Author

Official Author Website    Lucy Clarke - Twitter    Amazon Author Page

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Toy Makers by Robert Dinsdale


Hardback: 468 pages                                                                                                 
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Del Rey, Ebury Publishing, Penguin Group.
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter.
Favourite Quote: page 356 - This Emporium of ours, it crystallises childhood. It makes us long for those days, when all the world was a toy and all of life was the adventure you had when you closed your eyes and made it happen.
Review Quote: "There is magic at the heart of The Toymakers, a glittery inventiveness that shimmers through the dark corners of a story about love, war and sibling rivalry...Robert Dinsdale's imagined toys are truly glorious...a gripping, moving story." (Sunday Express) 
Main Characters: Emil Godman, Kaspar Godman, Cathy Wray, Mrs Hornung, Papa Jack. 
Setting: Papa Jack's Emporium, Iron Duke Mews, London.
My Opinion: This is an imaginative, historical love story that revolves around the magic of childhood. I must admit that I would never have chosen to read this had it not been a book club choice. Described by some as a 'Marmite' title, love or hate. In my case feelings for the novel were not that strong, it was just a fascinating read which I enjoyed more than I expected to considering the magical aspects. Very cleverly written the novel makes one realise how important the innocence of childhood actually is in our lives, particularly when one has to face many dark and disturbing things in life. Even if like me you do not really like fairy tales and magic I recommend you read this as it is a beautifully written story of family dramas showing us where the access to toys and childhood magic can balance out the terrible atrocities that occur in the real world. 

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

Do you remember when you believed in magic?

The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter. It is the same every year. Across the city, when children wake to see ferns of white stretched across their windows, or walk to school to hear ice crackling underfoot, the whispers begin: the Emporium is open!

It is 1917, and London has spent years in the shadow of the First World War. In the heart of Mayfair, though, there is a place of hope. A place where children’s dreams can come true, where the impossible becomes possible – that place is Papa Jack’s Toy Emporium.

For years Papa Jack has created and sold his famous magical toys: hobby horses, patchwork dogs and bears that seem alive, toy boxes bigger on the inside than out, ‘instant trees’ that sprout from boxes, tin soldiers that can fight battles on their own. Now his sons, Kaspar and Emil, are just old enough to join the family trade. Into this family comes a young Cathy Wray – homeless and vulnerable. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own. But Cathy is about to discover that while all toy shops are places of wonder, only one is truly magical...

Author Profile

Robert Dinsdale was born in 1981 in North Yorkshire where he grew up.  He currently lives in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex with his daughter, where between school runs he variously tramps along the seafront, sits hunched over a computer screen, or is to be found loitering in the local library.

He is the author of The Harrowing, Little Exiles, Gingerbread and The Toy Makers.

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

Amazon Author Page   Goodreads - Author Profile   Author Official Website