Thursday, February 28, 2019

Things We Have In Common by Tasha Kavanagh

Hardback: 260 pages                                                                                                
Genre: Thriller
Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd 2015
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: The first time I saw you, you were standing at the far end of the playing field near the bit of fence that's trampled down, where the kids that come to school along the wooded path cut across.
Review Quote: "The most chilling last line you'll read this year" (Independent on Sunday)
Main Characters: Yasmin and Alice.
Literary Awards: Costa Book Award Nominee for First Novel (2015)ALA Alex Award (2018)
My Opinion: I really did not enjoy this novel despite the fact that it is a well written debut, not one I would have read had it not been a choice for the book club I am a member of.
The protagonist fifteen year old Yasmin is desperately lonely as she has no friends due to her weight and the subsequent bullying she is subjected to. To fill this void she has become obsessed with her attractive classmate Alice, which at first made me feel pity for her. The way the story is narrated in such an intimate way makes it particularly creepy, especially when Yasmin notices that a man also appears to be watching Alice and she transfers her obsession to this mysterious man. My pity changed to annoyance at this stage with Yasmin's disturbing fantasies. To be frank it was just not what I expected from the blurb, it bored me. In the minority, not liking this one, but I wonder if it is because the novel is apparently, aimed at Young Adults and I am certainly not in that category.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

Yasmin would give anything to have a friend… And do anything to keep them.

The first time I saw you, you were standing at the far end of the playing field. You were looking down at your brown straggly dog, your mouth going slack as your eyes clocked her. Alice Taylor.

I was no different. I’d catch myself gazing at the back of her head in class, at her thick fair hair swaying between her shoulder blades.

If you’d glanced just once across the field, you’d have seen me standing in the middle on my own looking straight at you, and you’d have gone back through the trees to the path quick, tugging your dog after you. You’d have known you’d given yourself away, even if only to me.

But you didn’t. You only had eyes for Alice.

Video Trailer for 'Things We Have In Common' Courtesy of YouTube

Author Profile:

Tasha Kavanagh lives in Hertfordshire with her family and three cats. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, has worked as an editor on feature films, including 'The Talented Mr Ripley', 'Twelve Monkeys' and 'Seven Years in Tibet' and has had ten books for children published under her maiden name Tasha Pym. 'Things We Have in Common' is her first novel.

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

YouTube Trailer   Amazon Author Page     Tasha Kavanagh Website    Facebook Author Page
Twitter Profile - Tasha Kavanagh       Goodreads Author Profile

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Nutshell by Ian McEwan


Hardback:199 pages.                                                                                                  
Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction.
Publisher: Jonathan Cape.
Source: Lent to me by a Book Club friend.
First Sentence: So here I am upside down in a woman.
Favourite Quote:“It's already clear to me how much of life is forgotten even as it happens. Most of it. The unregarded present spooling away from us, the soft tumble of unremarkable thoughts, the long-neglected miracle of existence.”
Review Quote: "An astonishing act of literary ventriloquism unlike any in recent literature. A bravura performance, it is the finest recent work from a true master… Told from a perspective unlike any other, Nutshell is a shocking tale of murder and treachery from one of the world’s master storytellers." (Daily Telegraph)
Main Characters: Baby Cairncross, Trudy, Claude, John.
Setting: London, UK.
Literary Awards: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fiction (2016)

My Opinion:
This was a first for me. A story told from the viewpoint of the foetus in the womb of one of the protagonists, very clever.
The narrator is the unborn baby of Trudy, very close to the delivery date so able to hear but not see. From the restricted viewpoint the foetus speculates on everything he hears that is going on in the world that he is getting to know via his mother. Even a love and knowledge of good wines thanks to her, heavy drinking! He is very concerned about the world he is about to be born into and the fact that his mother and uncle appear to be involved in a murder plot.

Another great read from Ian McEwan which his many fans are bound to enjoy and appreciate the skill he has of making social criticism in his writing.

My previous review on this blog for Sweet Tooth

My previous reviews for  Amsterdam,   
AtonementOn Chesil Beach,  Saturday and The Cement Garden were written for Bookcrossing  before this Book Review blog was in existence. 

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

Nutshell is a classic story of murder and deceit, told by a narrator with a perspective and voice unlike any in recent literature. A bravura performance, it is the finest recent work from a true master.

To be bound in a nutshell, see the world in two inches of ivory, in a grain of sand. Why not, when all of literature, all of art, of human endeavour, is just a speck in the universe of possible things.

Video Trailer for 'Nutshell' Courtesy of YouTube  

                                                       Ian McEwan discusses Nutshell

Author Profile:

                                  Photo Credit: Annalena McAfee
                                                                photo credit: Annalena McAfee

Ian McEwan was born on 21 June 1948 in Aldershot, England. He studied at the University of Sussex, where he received a BA degree in English Literature in 1970. He received his MA degree in English Literature at the University of East Anglia.

Ian McEwan’s works have earned him worldwide critical acclaim. He won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1976 for his first collection of short stories First Love, Last Rites; the Whitbread Novel Award (1987) and the Prix Fémina Etranger (1993) for The Child in Time; and Germany's Shakespeare Prize in 1999. He has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction numerous times, winning the award for Amsterdam in 1998. His novel Atonement received the WH Smith Literary Award (2002), National Book Critics' Circle Fiction Award (2003), Los Angeles Times Prize for Fiction (2003), and the Santiago Prize for the European Novel (2004). Atonement was also made into an Oscar-winning film.

In 2006, Ian McEwan won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel Saturday and his novel On Chesil Beach was named Galaxy Book of the Year at the 2008 British Book Awards where McEwan was also named Reader's Digest Author of the Year. Solar won The Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction in 2010 and Sweet Tooth won the Paddy Power Political Fiction Book of the Year award in 2012. Ian McEwan was awarded a CBE in 2000. In 2014 he was awarded the Bodleian Medal. On Chesil Beach and The Children Act have recently been made into feature films.

His most recent novel Machines Like Me  will be published in April 2019

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

Amazon Author Page   YouTube    Goodreads Profile Page     Ian McEwan Website  

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A Search For The Truth by Tony Drury (Novella Nostalgia Series)

Paperback: 105 pages                                                                                                  
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: City Fiction
Source: Author in exchange for an unbiased review.
First Sentence: They stripped him naked and tied his hands to the metal brackets coming out of the inner wall of the groundman's shed.
Favourite Quote: The title is implausible: ' To Define a Jew'. Does he seriously think that in six weeks and ten thousand words you can explain a religion and its culture, centuries of history, the birth of a nation, the Palestinian conflict, political tensions and the corrupt world of anti-Semitism?   
Main Characters: Lily Jane Huddleston, James Fetterman, Steve Laing and Israel Rabinovich
Setting: England
My Opinion:  'A Search for The Truth' is Book Six in the Novella Nostalgia Series. As I have mentioned in previous reviews, I am not a fan of the genre and no nothing really about the movies they are inspired by. Tony Drury's writing has always been a pleasure to read, my favourite novel of his is Megan's Game , however I have appreciated the opportunity to read and review the Novella Nostalgia Series.  This title is an insight into Judaism, a sensitive subject to write about, in just 105 pages we are given a very readable story. The protagonist Lily is working on her dissertation to enable her to obtain a 1st class Honours degree. Her university tutor Steve, her boyfriend James and a trainee Rabbi Israel are all pivotal in decisions she must make with regard to her future. The warmth of the character Lily shines through and I would enjoy getting to see how this character would have developed in a full length novel.
I recommend the series in general and this title in particular to fans of the genre as they are fun to read, a successful and innovative idea that appeals to a wide cross section of readers.

Previous Reviews : A Flash of Lightning   Megan's Game   The Deal    Cholesterol

                                  Novella Nostalgia Series

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

Can undergraduate Lily Jane gain an honours degree by completing a special dissertation and, in doing so, make the right choice out of two men who want to define her future?
Lily, a Gentile, is coming to the end of her university course and cannot accept that she doesn’t warrant an honours degree. Tutor Steve relents and challenges her to write a ten-thousand word analysis of Judaism in six weeks. She clashes with her partner who abhors anti-Semitism and has recently joined the Jewish Labour movement. She visits a synagogue and meets an assistant rabbi who offers to help her.
Lily relishes her discovery of Judaism: understanding its history, laws, writings, festivals and the pioneering establishment of Israel. She struggles to understand the causes and consequences of anti-Semitism.
As her dissertation takes shape, she becomes attached to two men who attract and encourage her. She defers making a choice until the dissertation is delivered to her tutor. Will she score high enough to be awarded an honours degree and what decision does she make?
Lily is on a voyage of discovery about Judaism, life and relationships.
It might all go very wrong for her...

Author Profile:

Tony has an about page on his website which I refer you to for biographical information.

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

City Fiction Publishing - FB     City Fiction Publishing - Website    Tony Drury on Twitter

Tony Drury - Amazon Author Page     Author's Official Website      Goodreads Profile

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Girl in the Letter by Emily Gunnis

Paperback:  360 pages                                                                                                 
Genre: Mystery, Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Headline, April 2019
Source: Publicity Manager Headline
First Sentence: Ivy paused, trying to compose herself so that the pen in her hand would stop shaking enough for her to write.
Favourite Quote: “No, it’s not a cliché to want to feel loved for who you really are. But if you don’t show them the real you, how can they love you? Perhaps”
Review Quote: A great book, truly hard to put down. Fast-paced, brilliantly plotted and desperately sad at times - all hallmarks of a bestseller (Lesley Pearse)
Main Characters: Ivy Jenkins, Samantha Harper

My Opinion: I was fortunate enough to obtain an advance copy of the paperback edition of 'The Girl in the Letter' from the publicity department of Headline.  I am so pleased that they gave me this opportunity as somehow, I had missed hearing about this novel when it was first published last year. Having never previously heard of Emily Gunnis it was interesting to discover that she is one of the four daughters of the sadly deceased author Penny Vincenzi whose writing I enjoyed in the nineties. Made me feel old to think I was now reading her daughters work, however Emily's portrayal of her protagonist's sixty year old grandmother was nothing like me or any 21st century sixty year old I know!
A baby taken from its mother affects generations of women and sadly this poignant story set in the 1950's is particularly heart wrenching as it is well known that single mothers were indeed treated very badly in mother and baby homes.
As the author wrote in her notes "It was not 'evil nuns' that enabled the systematic abuse of thousands of women and children to take place. Nuns were the face of the institutions, but it was the wider communities in which these young girls lived that really allowed these atrocities to occur: the parents, the uncles, the doctors, the local government solicitors and adoption agencies - everyone who turned a blind eye."
The dual time aspect works well as Sam Harper the modern day protagonist, after coming across a letter from one such young mother incarcerated in one of these homes decides to unravel the mystery surrounding Ivy Jenkins.
An outstanding debut dealing with these harrowing atrocities that occurred in the fifties but managing to weave them into a readable novel that is recommended to just about anyone that loves a good read. Certainly a good choice for book clubs as there is so much potential for discussion.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

1956. When Ivy Jenkins falls pregnant she is sent in disgrace to St Margaret's, a dark, brooding house for unmarried mothers. Her baby is adopted against her will. Ivy will never leave.

Present day. Samantha Harper is a journalist desperate for a break. When she stumbles on a letter from the past, the contents shock and move her. The letter is from a young mother, begging to be rescued from St Margaret's. Before it is too late.

Sam is pulled into the tragic story and discovers a spate of unexplained deaths surrounding the woman and her child. With St Margaret's set for demolition, Sam has only hours to piece together a sixty-year-old mystery before the truth, which lies disturbingly close to home, is lost forever ...

Author Profile:

Emily Gunnis lives in Brighton, Sussex, with her husband Steve, an architect, and their two daughters, Grace and Eleanor. 

She has wanted to be a published author since her mother, Penny Vincenzi, got her first book deal, now thirty years later she has discovered it is slightly more difficult than she made it look. 

After graduating in Journalism in 1997 she began writing scripts and had two episodes of BBC Doctors commissioned, while I working as a PA at the BBC and the Daily Mirror newspaper she learnt as much as she could about storytelling until it all became fodder for her debut novel, The Girl in the Letter.

For a fuller autobiography please visit her Goodreads Author Profile  

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

Goodreads Author Profile     Emily Gunnis - Twitter     Amazon Author Page

Facebook - Emily Gunnis Author         Instagram - Emily Gunnis

Thursday, February 7, 2019

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Hardback: 514 pages                                                                                                   
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Scribner 2014
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentences: At dusk they pour from the sky. They blow across the ramparts, turn cartwheels over rooftops, flutter into the ravines between houses.
Favourite Quote:“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”
Review Quote: ‘Doerr can bring a scene to life in a single paragraph … Delicate and moving … the novel takes hold and will not easily let go’ The Times
Literary Awards: 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.
Setting: Paris, France. St Malo, France and Zollverein, Germany. 
Main Characters: Werner Pfennig, Marie-Laure LeBlanc

My Opinion:  I enjoyed this and am pleased it was a Book Club choice as I had not read any of this author's work before and may well never have picked this myself. This WWII novel is definitely one  that has had a lasting impact on this particular reader. Surprising myself how much of the story was still lingering in my mind despite having read it sometime ago. This story reminded me of the power of radio, especially to those of unfortunate not to have the gift of sight, heart breaking. An incredibly moving novel that once started is impossible to put down, highly recommended beautifully,written prose balancing historical fact with the fictional story of a cursed diamond 

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, a New York Times Book Review Top Ten Book, National Book Award finalist, more than two and a half years on the New York Times bestseller list

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Ten years in the writing, a National Book Award finalist, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times).

Video Trailer for 'All The Light We Cannot See' Courtesy of YouTube

Author Profile

Anthony Doerr is the author of five books, The Shell Collector , About Grace , Memory Wall , Four Seasons in Rome and All the Light We Cannot See . Doerr’s fiction has won four O. Henry Prizes and has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, and The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Fiction. He has won the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize, the Rome Prize, the Story Prize, the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Award, and the Ohioana Book Award three times. Doerr lives in Boise, Idaho.

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

YouTube   Goodreads Author Profile   Anthony Doerr Facebook Page    

Author Official Website   Amazons Author Page.

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Beginners Goodbye by AnneTyler


Paperback:  198 pages                                                                                                 

Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Chatto and Windus 2012
Source: My Bookshelves
First Sentence: The strangest thing about my wife's return from the dead was how other people reacted.
Favourite Quote: “That was one of the worst things about losing your wife, I found: your wife is the very person you want to discuss it all with.”
Review Quote: "Deeply rewarding novel about grief and hope, infused with gentle humour" (Sunday Times)
Main Characters: Aaron Woolcott, Dorothy Woolcott
Literary Awards: Andrew Carnegie Medal Nominee for Fiction (2013)International DUBLIN Literary Award Nominee (2014)

My Opinion: I have read a few of Anne Tyler's novels, but have never reviewed any before as it was prior to setting up this blog.  I actually read this one back in 2016, from my old notes I liked this one but did not have any particularly strong feelings. 

The story is basically about the protagonist's journey through the grief process and adjusting to life after his wife died.  This exploration of loss I found difficult to cope with at times, despite reading it a few years after my husband died.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

Anne Tyler gives us a wise, haunting, and deeply moving new novel in which she explores how a middle-aged man, ripped apart by the death of his wife, is gradually restored by her frequent appearances—in their house, on the roadway, in the market.

Crippled in his right arm and leg, Aaron spent his childhood fending off a sister who wants to manage him. So when he meets Dorothy, a plain, outspoken, self-dependent young woman, she is like a breath of fresh air. Unhesitatingly he marries her, and they have a relatively happy, unremarkable marriage. But when a tree crashes into their house and Dorothy is killed, Aaron feels as though he has been erased forever. Only Dorothy’s unexpected appearances from the dead help him to live in the moment and to find some peace. 

Gradually he discovers, as he works in the family’s vanity-publishing business, turning out titles that presume to guide beginners through the trials of life, that maybe for this beginner there is a way of saying goodbye. 

A beautiful, subtle exploration of loss and recovery, pierced throughout with Anne Tyler’s humor, wisdom, and always penetrating look at human foibles.

Author Profile:

Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on October 25th 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Breathing Lessons and many other bestselling novels, including The Accidental Tourist, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Saint Maybe, Ladder of Years, A Patchwork Planet, Back When We Were Grownups, The Amateur Marriage, Digging to America and The Beginner's Goodbye. 

In 1994 she was nominated by Roddy Doyle and Nick Hornby as 'the greatest novelist writing in English' and in 2012 she received the Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence, which recognises a lifetime's achievement in books. In 2015 A Spool of Blue Thread was a Sunday Times bestseller and shortlisted for both the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction and the Man Booker Prize. Her latest novel, published in 2018 is Clock Dance.

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

Amazon Author Page        Facebook Profile    Anne Tyler - Goodreads Profile

Friday, February 1, 2019

A Flash of Lightning by Tony Drury


Paperback: 280 pages                                                                                             
Genre: Romantic Thriller
Publisher: City Fiction 2013
Source: Publishers 
First Sentence: Matthew Orlando Buckingham, obviously known as 'Mob', was angry, very angry.
Main Characters: DCI Sarah Rudd, Matthew Buckingham, Jessica and Nick Rudd.
Setting: England

My Opinion: This was Tony Drury's fourth novel which I am ashamed to say I read in 2016 and never got round to publishing my review, for which I apologise. I have always enjoyed his writing and 'A Flash of Lightning' was no exception.  An exciting and enjoyable read, with an insight into the London financial world, some good plots. The references to The Great Train Robbery of 1963 were particularly interesting to me as I remember being fascinated by this robbery when it took place,  I was just 11 years old!  Recommended to those that like some romance mixed with intrigue. 

My Previous Reviews for Tony Drury's Novels:

Megan's Game   The Deal   Cholesterol   Novella Nostalgia Series


Précis Courtesy of Back Cover:

Jessica agrees with her mother; it's time she had a baby.
She's given up looking for the right father.

City financier, Matthew has raised £6 million to make a film.
Now it's gone missing and his neck is on the line.

DCI Sarah Rudd has learned that there are terrorists planning to murder 400 people. She doesn't know where or how and now her brilliant career is threatened.

Will DCI Rudd uncover the terrorist plot in time to save the nation? Who has taken the film money? Will Matthew find the love o his life and a new mother for his daughter? And why is The Great Train Robbery on everybody's mind?

Author Profile:

                                           Tony Drury

       Tony has an about page on his website which I refer you to for biographical information.

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

City Fiction Publishing - FB     City Fiction Publishing - Website    Tony Drury on Twitter

Tony Drury - Amazon Author Page     Author's Official Website      Goodreads Profile