Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Home Stretch by Graham Norton


Paperback: 359 pages

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Coronet 2020

Source:  Tywyn Public Library

First Sentence: It was Bill Lawlor who found them first.

Favourite Quote: “This is what homecoming meant. Arriving in a place to discover you’re fluent in a language you’d forgotten you ever knew.”

Review Quote: 'intelligent and tenderly observed' THE TIMES

My Opinion: Looking back at my review of Graham Norton’s debut novel ‘Holding’ reminded me that I was probably not going to read any more of his novels. I had been disappointed because I have always enjoyed his wit and interviewing style.

Well, I am glad that ‘Home Stretch’ caught my eye in the library recently, the blurb appealed and home it came with me. Glad it did as it met my expectations, a compassionate observation, through the eyes of realistic characters of homophobia. A small town in Ireland in the 1980’s suffers a devastating event with terrible consequences. It takes two decades to resolve the secrets and regrets caused by that day.

Graham Norton has written a strong novel about a subject he obviously understands. Definitely worth reading if you want to understand more about being gay in Ireland.

My Review of : Holding

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

Compelling new novel of stigma and secrecy from Sunday Times bestseller

It is 1987 and a small Irish community is preparing for the wedding of two of its young inhabitants. They're barely adults, not so long out of school and still part of the same set of friends they've grown up with. As the friends head home from the beach that last night before the wedding, there is a car accident. Three survive the crash but three are killed. And the reverberations are felt throughout the small town.

Connor, the young driver of the car, lives. But staying among the angry and the mourning is almost as hard as living with the shame, and so he leaves the only place he knows for another life. Travelling first to Liverpool, then London, by the noughties he has made a home - of sorts - for himself in New York. The city provides shelter and possibility for the displaced, somewhere Connor can forget his past and forge a new life.

But the secrets, the unspoken longings and regrets that have come to haunt those left behind will not be silenced. And before long, Connor will have to meet his past.

Author Profile:

                                                     Courtesy of Amazon

Born in Clondalkin, Dublin, Ireland on April 4th 1963, as Graham William Walker. He is an Irish actor, comedian, television presenter and columnist. He is the host of the comedy chat show The Graham Norton Show and the BBC commentator of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Graham Norton - Amazon Page    Twitter Profile    Goodreads - Graham Norton

Monday, May 16, 2022

Here and Now by Santa Montefiore

Hardback: 389 pages

Genre: Contemporary Fiction 

Publisher: Simon and Schuster 2020

Source:  Tywyn Public Library

First Sentences: It was snowing. Fat,fluffy flakes, as large as cotton balls, tumbled from the sky, while dawn struggled valiantly to herald the day through the canopy of dense cloud.

Review Quote: Evocative, emotional and full of life, Here and Now is the most moving book you’ll read this year – from Sunday Times bestselling author Santa Montefiore.

Favourite Quote: “He said every time you look at a sunset and feel an expansion in your chest, that’s the Divine in you recognizing the Divine in nature.”  ― Santa Montefiore, Here and Now

My Opinion: Normally you can be guaranteed a relaxing read about families and love in romantic settings if you pick up a novel by Santa Montefiore.  Well not this time, although ‘Here and Now’ is a story about enduring love, it is a far cry from any of the other novels by her that I have read.  It is not the uplifting read that I have come to expect from this author, it still has her touch of writing about characters and settings that feel real though.

The protagonist Marigold is diagnosed with Dementia after months of trying to hide the sad truth from her family. They find roles are reversed as the wife and mother that has always looked after them, now needs them to care for her.

Profoundly moving as this is a subject that will in in one way or another touch so many of us in our lives. An insight into the reality of living with Dementia, which at times reduced me to tears. Recommended, but be warned it delivers emotional truths about life.

My reviews of other novels by Santa Montefiore:  Secrets of the Lighthouse 

 The Swallow and the Hummingbird  The Summer House  The House by the Sea

The French Gardener  The Beekeeper's Daughter  

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:  Meet Marigold and Dennis, two happily married empty-nesters in their late sixties. They should be enjoying their golden years in the idyllic English village where they live. But when their two grown daughters, Daisy and Suze, move back into the family home, both mother and father must learn how to deal with the upheaval. Meanwhile, as Daisy and Suze soak in the familiar comforts of home, they soon discover that their mother isn’t quite the same woman she was a few years ago. Sure, she is still kind-hearted and always willing to help, but something about their mom is different, and it’s becoming harder and harder for the family to ignore. For the first time in their lives, Dennis and his daughters find themselves caring for Marigold rather than the other way around.

Author Profile:         

Courtesy of Goodreads

                                                                   Born in England in February 1970 Santa Montefiore grew up on a farm in Hampshire and was educated at Sherborne School for Girls. She read Spanish and Italian at Exeter University and spent much of the 90s in Buenos Aires, where her mother grew up. She converted to Judaism in 1998 and married historian Simon Sebag Montefiore in the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London. They live with their two children, Lily and Sasha in London.

The following Biography, in her own words is Courtesy of  Santa Montefiore Official Website

Since I was a child I always wanted to be a writer. I dabbled in books throughout my youth, from children’s stories to rather naïve love stories as I got older. From the age of 12 I went to Sherborne School for Girls, which was a boarding school. There I excelled in English, which was lucky because I certainly didn’t excel at much else except for sport and music! I wrote stories for my friends, imagining romances between them and the spotty youths they fancied at Sherborne Boys’ School. I transformed them into Rhett Butlers and set them in humid, mosquito infested jungles, which I considered extremely romantic, having never been in one. This seemed to satisfy them and I was in great demand to write more. Fancying myself a bit of a novelist, especially after a writer friend of my mother’s read one and suggested I send it to a publisher, I attempted a novel. With little experience of love and life it wasn’t a surprise when it was rejected. The trouble was I hadn’t yet found a good story. That came later, when I went to live in Argentina.

I was 19. My Anglo Argentine mother arranged for me to work on an estancia on the Argentine Pampa for a year, teaching English to three young children. This turned out to be one of the best things my parents ever did for me for I fell in love. Not with a polo playing Argentine, although I did have an innocent flirtation, but with the country. I lost my heart to those flat, humid plains and still, after 5 books, I have not managed to retrieve it. You see, Argentina is intoxicating. The countryside is rich with the scents of eucalyptus and gardenia, the sound of horses snorting in the fields or thundering up the polo pitch, birdsong and crickets resounding across the park. The houses, colonial in style, are painted white and yellow with dark green shutters to keep out the stifling summer heat, and surrounded by brightly coloured flowers and red tiled terraces upon which one can sit and stare out for miles over that vast plain. It is difficult to see where the sky begins and the earth ends, the horizon is simply mist. One feels very small. I spent a lot of time on a pony, riding to the neighbouring estancia for tea with friends, cutting across the plain, through the long grasses alive with prairie hares. Little by little I began to feel that I was a part of the place.

Buenos Aires is a city heavy with the sense of nostalgia. When the immigrants arrived from all over Europe, lured by the promise of rich pickings and new lives at the end of the 19th century, they recreated in the architecture echoes of their own homelands to stave off the inevitable homesickness. Thus, the Colón theatre is reminiscent of the Scala in Milan, the plazas of Madrid, the tall roofed buildings of Paris, the palm tree lined avenues of the South of France. Cafés spill out onto pavements where the waiters are all over sixty and one can sit in the shade and listen to the melancholy notes of the tango wafting on the breeze, thick with the scent of jasmine and diesel.

I left Argentina after a year, having belonged. The following year I returned during my university holiday to find, to my dismay, that I no longer fitted in. The young people I had hung out with had either gone to the US to study or had boyfriends or girlfriends and didn’t go down to the farm so much anymore, preferring to be in the city. I didn’t have a job, I was a tourist. I had nothing to get me up in the morning and the friends I had made in shops and cafés in the streets where I lived had moved on. I felt a sharp sense of alienation as if I was watching it all through a pane of glass where the year before I had been on the other side. It was a difficult time and I cried all the way home on the plane. However, I didn’t realise it then but I had my story.

We have all had moments that we would give anything to live again. However much we try, time cannot be reversed. It changes us and those we were once close to. My first novel, published in 2001, 12 years after my first trip to Argentina, was a wander down memory lane for me and hence very cathartic. I was able to channel all my feelings of nostalgia, regret and longing into a novel that seems to have struck a chord with many people. I get wonderful letters. I am grateful for every single one and thrilled that through that book I have managed to give people something special.   

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Authors Official Website   Instagram   Facebook Page  Goodreads Author Profile  

Amazon Author Page

Thursday, May 12, 2022

The Love Child by Rachel Hore


Paperback: 438 pages

Genre: FictionHistorical Fiction and Romance

Publisher: Simon and Schuster 2019

Source:  Tywyn Public Library

First Sentence: 'This is the one'

Review Quote: 'Simply stunning . . . I savoured every moment of this moving story of love, loss and, ultimately, forgiveness’ DINAH JEFFERIES

My Opinion: I have now read, including this one, six novels by Rachel Hore and her writing has grown on me. Maybe I have mellowed with age, because I seem to enjoy her novels more as I get older. It was thirteen years ago when I first read one.

As with many of her novels, ‘The Love Child’ is dual narrative. It is an absorbing and emotional read about a young girl falling pregnant during WWI and being forced to give up her new-born child for adoption.  Some twenty years later the secrets of the past cause mixed emotions as the mother and child’s stories become more entwined.

A recommended read that will give you a realistic insight into what life was like for women in those times. How far we have thankfully come since then!

My reviews of other novels by Rachel Hore:  The Memory Garden   A Week in Paris

A Beautiful Spy

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

A young mother's sacrifice. A child's desperate search for the truth . . .

London, 1917

When nineteen-year-old Alice Copeman becomes pregnant, she is forced by her father and stepmother to give up the baby.  She simply cannot be allowed to bring shame upon her family. But all Alice can think about is the small, kitten-like child she gave away, and she mourns the father, a young soldier, so beloved, who will never have the chance to know his daughter.

Edith and Philip Burns, a childless couple, yearn for a child of their own. When they secretly adopt a baby girl, Irene, their life together must surely be complete. Irene grows up knowing that she is different from other children, but no one will tell her the full truth.

Putting hopes of marriage and children behind her, Alice embarks upon a pioneering medical career, striving to make her way in a male-dominated world. Meanwhile, Irene struggles to define her own life, eventually leaving her Suffolk home to find work in London.

As two extraordinary stories intertwine across two decades, will secrets long-buried at last come to light?

Author Profile:

                                                                       Courtesy of Amazon

Rachel Hore is the author of eleven bestselling novels, the most recent of which is A Beautiful Spy. Her twelfth, One Moonlit Night, will be published in the UK in May 2022.

Full time writing only came after a career editing fiction at HarperCollins in London. She lives in Norfolk with her husband and they have three grown up sons.  

A full and interesting Profile can be found on the Amazon Author Page and even more on her Official Website

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Amazon Author Page   Goodreads - Author Profile  Twitter - Rachel Hore

Official Author Website - Rachel Hore

Monday, May 9, 2022

Call of the Penguins by Hazel Prior


Paperback: 383 pages

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Black Swan 2021

Source:  Tywyn Public Library

First Sentence: 'I have asked Eileen to find us some penguins in Scotland.'

Review Quote: This gorgeous book has everything! Mysteries, misunderstandings, arguments, reconciliations, kindness, love and lots of PENGUINS! ― Clare Pooley, author of The Authenticity Project

My Opinion: When I read ‘Away with the Penguins’ earlier this year I found it such an agreeable read that I immediately requested this sequel from my local public library. I am glad that I did as it certainly met my expectations.

A delight to read, another unique, heart-warming story from Hazel Prior with an environmental message.

If you read and enjoyed Veronica McCreedy’s adventures previously you will enjoy this one, as she sets off on another one, this time with a young friend and involving television!  No problem if you wish to read this as a stand-alone, but I would recommend reading ‘Away with the Penguins’ first for a better understanding of how the continuing story got to this point.

My review of : Away with the Penguins

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

Veronica McCreedy can't resist the promise of adventure . . .

Nine-year-old Daisy and nearly ninety-year-old Veronica make an unlikely pair of friends.

Fiercely independent and impeccably dressed, Veronica has lived an incredible 87 years. Most of them alone, in her huge house by the sea. But with the arrival of brave and resilient Daisy into her life, Veronica finds she has a renewed thirst for adventure - and that they both share a passion for penguins!

So when Veronica and Daisy are invited to travel to the other side of the world together and visit the penguins of the southern hemisphere, they both jump at the chance.

Veronica had thought her days of new friendships, family and love were over, but perhaps it's never too late for one more adventure?

Author Profile:

                                             Courtesy of Goodreads 

Hazel Prior lives on Exmoor with her husband and a huge ginger cat. As well as writing, she works as a freelance harpist. Hazel is the author of Ellie and the Harp-Maker and Away with the Penguins, which was a #1 bestseller in ebook and audiobook. Call of the Penguins is her third novel. For more autobiographical information, visit ABOUT |

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Amazon Author Page   Hazel Prior - Twitter    Official Author Website  

Instagram  Goodreads - Author Profile

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex


Hardback: 355 pages      

Genre:  Fiction                                            

Publisher: Picador 2021

Source: Tywyn Public Library

First Sentence: When Jory opens the curtains, the day is light and grey, the radio playing a half known song.

Favourite Quote: “It’s the small things that keep a marriage going: things that don’t cost a lot but that tell the other person you love them and don’t ask for anything in return.”

Review Quote: 'A wonderfully smart and atmospheric story' Observer

My Opinion: Emma Stonex’s inspiration for this novel came from a real life event in December 1900 when three lighthouse keepers disappeared from the Eilean Mor lighthouse in the Outer Hebrides.   The idea of her novel being a fictional mystery behind the disappearance of three lighthouse keepers in the seventies sounded appealing, so I decided to read ‘The Lamplighters’

I was disappointed though especially with the ending which left me feeling let down and confused, but then maybe that was the point, or I just did not get it. I did enjoy learning about lighthouse life though and the writer kept the suspense flowing with the dual timeline.

A well researched storyline and worth reading if you are interested in lighthouse life. As far as ghostly mystery goes you might be disappointed if you are a fan of the genre.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 
They say we'll never know what happened to those men.

They say the sea keeps its secrets...

Cornwall, 1972. Three keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse, miles from the shore. The entrance door is locked from the inside. The clocks have stopped. The Principal Keeper’s weather log describes a mighty storm, but the skies have been clear all week.

What happened to those three men, out on the tower? The heavy sea whispers their names. The tide shifts beneath the swell, drowning ghosts. Can their secrets ever be recovered from the waves?

Twenty years later, the women they left behind are still struggling to move on. Helen, Jenny and Michelle should have been united by the tragedy, but instead it drove them apart. And then a writer approaches them. He wants to give them a chance to tell their side of the story. But only in confronting their darkest fears can the truth begin to surface . . .

The Lamplighters is a heart-stopping mystery rich with the salty air of the Cornish coast, and an unforgettable story of love and grief that explores the way our fears blur the line between the real and the imagined.

Author Profile:  

Courtesy of Goodreads

Emma Stonex was born in 1983 and grew up in Northamptonshire, about as far from the sea as it’s possible to be in the UK. Her love affair with lighthouses and the coast began with childhood holidays to Cornwall and the Isle of Wight, which remain among her favourite places to visit.

Before becoming a writer, Emma worked as an editor in publishing. Ahead of THE LAMPLIGHTERS, she wrote several books under pseudonyms, but saved her real name for the story that had always been in her heart: the real-life mystery of three lighthouse keepers who vanished from their rock light in 1900 and to this day have never been found.

She lives in Bristol with her husband and two young daughters.

Photograph and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

Amazon Author Profile   Emma Stonex - Twitter Profile  Goodreads Author Profile

Thursday, April 21, 2022

The Museum of Broken Promises by Elizabeth Buchan


Hardback:   406 pages      

Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction                                            

Publisher: Corvus 2019

Source: Tywyn Public Library

First Sentence: A twenty year old girl with a bandaged hand waits on an Austrian station platform with a suitcase at her feet inside which is stuffed a rucksack but nothing else because it is only there for pretence.

Review Quote: 'Intricately plotted and beautifully written..will leave you yearning for Paris.' Katie Fforde

Main Character: Laure Carlyle, Curator and Owner of The Museum of Broken Promises.

Setting:  Paris, today and Prague 1985.

My Opinion: 
An author that in my opinion has over the twenty plus years I Have been reading her novels mastered the art of storytelling. Her stories draw me in and although this particular one is not always an easy read it is definitely a worthwhile one.

Laure Carlyle the protagonist of the story comes over as a remote young woman that is at times, hard to like.  Her obsession with her Museum of Broken Promises, where the exhibits are all about betrayal and loss, is all explained when the dual timeline takes us back to Prague and 1985. Czechoslovakia is under a strong communist regime and the Berlin Wall has not yet fallen and the twenty year old Laure falls in love.

A moving and beautifully written story of young love and determination in difficult circumstances. Recommended to anyone that wants to read a real story with depth.

Links to Previous Review:  Two Women in Rome

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 
The stunning new novel from bestselling Elizabeth Buchan. The Museum of Broken Promises is a beautiful, evocative love-story and a heart-breaking exploration of some of the darkest moments in European history.

Paris, today. The Museum of Broken Promises is a place of wonder and sadness, hope and loss. Every object in the museum has been donated - a cake tin, a wedding veil, a baby's shoe. And each represent a moment of grief or terrible betrayal. The museum is a place where people come to speak to the ghosts of the past and, sometimes, to lay them to rest. Laure, the owner and curator, has also hidden artefacts from her own painful youth amongst the objects on display.

Prague, 1985. Recovering from the sudden death of her father, Laure flees to Prague. But life behind the Iron Curtain is a complex thing: drab and grey yet charged with danger. Laure cannot begin to comprehend the dark, political currents that run beneath the surface of this communist city. Until, that is, she meets a young dissident musician. Her love for him will have terrible and unforeseen consequences. It is only years later, having created the museum, that Laure can make finally face up to her past and celebrate the passionate love which has directed her life.

Author Profile: 

Courtesy of Goodreads

Elizabeth spent her childhood moving home every three years – including living for brief periods in Egypt and Nigeria before moving to Guildford, York and Edinburgh.

After graduating from the University of Kent at Canterbury with a double honours degree in English and History, she began her career as a blurb writer at Penguin Books. This was a job which required the hide of a rhinoceros, a nimble mind and the – occasional – box of tissues. People tend to shout at blurb writers but they are resourceful creatures which she and the team proved by continuing to produce a stream of copy for back jackets through thick and thin. Looking back, it was a golden era. Not many people are paid to spend their time reading through the treasury which is Penguin Books and there was no better education. Later, after having married and producing two children, she moved on to become a fiction editor at Random House before leaving to write full time which was something she had always planned to do since childhood – when she was frequently caught reading under the bedclothes with a torch after being put to bed which gave both books and reading a deliciously subversive tinge.

It was not an easy decision to take the gamble but she has never regretted it. As a writer, she has travelled all over the world and one of the many pleasures of the book tour has been to meet readers of all ages and to share with them a mutual passion for books and reading. She is in touch on line with many of them.

Elizabeth Buchan’s short stories are broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in magazines. She has reviewed for The Times, the Sunday Times, the Daily Telegraph and, currently, for the Daily Mail. She has chaired the Betty Trask and Desmond Elliott literary prizes, and twice been a judge for the Whitbread (now Costa) awards. She is a patron of the Guildford Book Festival, a co-founder of the Clapham Book Festival and a past Chairman of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.   Reproduced from Author's Official Website

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

Elizabeth Buchan - Author Website   Twitter Profile   Facebook - Elizabeth Buchan 

Amazon Author Page   Goodreads Author Profile

Friday, April 15, 2022

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell


Paperback:  446 pages      

Genre: Psychological Thriller                                             

Publisher: Arrow Books, Penguin, Random House 2019

Source: Tywyn Public Library

First Sentence: It would be inaccurate to say that my childhood was normal before they came.

Favourite Quote:“They weren’t bad books,” Phin countered patiently. “They were books that you didn’t enjoy. It’s not the same thing at all. The only bad books are books that are so badly written that no one will publish them. Any book that has been published is going to be a ‘good book’ for someone.”

Review Quote: ‘A twisty and engrossing story of betrayal and redemption.’ Ian Rankin.

Main Characters: Libby, Lucy and Henry.

Setting:  UK and France

My Opinion: Lisa Jewell is an author whose work I first read in 2005, then again in 2014 and now three titles since 2019. I think I can now say I am a regular reader and fan of her writing. Took me long enough but now I am thoroughly enjoying her psychological thrillers.

In ‘The Family Upstairs’ two families become entangled in each other’s lives, living together in a large London house that hides their secrets. The narrators are Libby, who inherits the house, some twenty years later. Lucy a single mother in her early forties living in France who receives a text, that makes her want to return to the scene of her teenage years in London. Finally, Henry a young boy living in the late 80’s early 90’s that tell us his dark and twisting story. Told from these three characters perspectives in dual timelines the storyline is scaringly plausible.

If you enjoy a well written psychological thriller with lots of atmosphere, creepy characters and scenarios, then this is definitely, one for you.  

Links to Previous Reviews:  Then She Was Gone  Watching You  The House We Grew Up In.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

In a large house in London’s fashionable Chelsea, a baby is awake in her cot. Well-fed and cared for, she is happily waiting for someone to pick her up.

In the kitchen lie three decomposing corpses. Close to them is a hastily scrawled note.

They’ve been dead for several days.

Who has been looking after the baby?

And where did they go?

Two entangled families.
A house with the darkest of secrets.
A compulsive new thriller from Lisa Jewell.

Video Trailer for ' The Family Upstairs' Courtesy of YouTube

Author Profile:

Lisa Jewell is an internationally bestselling author of successful  novels, including, Then She Was Gone, I Found You, The Girls in the Garden, and The House We Grew Up In. Her debut novel in 1998 Ralph’s Party, was an instant bestseller. In total, her novels have sold over 2 million copies across the English speaking world. Her work has also been translated into sixteen languages. Lisa lives in London with her husband and their two daughters.

For more biographical information check out her Goodreads Profile

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

Amazon Author Page    Lisa Jewell - Official Facebook Page     Wikipedia - Lisa Jewell

Twitter Profile    Goodreads Author Profile

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Kololo Hill by Neema Shah


Hardback: 343 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Picador.

Source:  Tywyn Public Library

First Sentences: They'd be back before curfew, Asha was sure of it. She got out of the car and looked, far across the water, to where the Nile flowed into Lake Victoria.

Review Quote: Shah explores the chaos and fear of ordinary people’s lives during Amin’s rule, weaving personal stories of love and betrayal into heightening tension and violence . . . nail-biting. ― Independent

My Opinion: Neema Shah has written a debut novel that exudes compassion for the subject matter. Inspired by not only those who were expelled from Uganda in 1972, but also her own grandparents, Indians that went to Africa in the 1940’s.

The novel is a brief heart-breaking glimpse into relatively recent history, as seen through the eyes of a family that lived through the experience.  The stories of Asha, Jaya, Vivay and Pran are captivating, the author has described the unpleasantness of Amin’s Uganda and the strangeness of 1970’s England for this displaced family in a very emotive way that resonated with me the reader.

Despite the passing of fifty years the questions around identity and culture sadly remain as a barrier in much of society. Recommended to those that like me appreciate learning about the world we live and the events of recent history.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

Uganda 1972

A devastating decree is issued: all Ugandan Asians must leave the country in ninety days. They must take only what they can carry, give up their money and never return.

For Asha and Pran, married a matter of months, it means abandoning the family business that Pran has worked so hard to save. For his mother, Jaya, it means saying goodbye to the house that has been her home for decades. But violence is escalating in Kampala, and people are disappearing. Will they all make it to safety in Britain and will they be given refuge if they do?

And all the while, a terrible secret about the expulsion hangs over them, threatening to tear the family apart.

From the green hilltops of Kampala, to the terraced houses of London, Neema Shah’s extraordinarily moving debut Kololo Hill explores what it means to leave your home behind, what it takes to start again, and the lengths some will go to protect their loved ones.

Author Profile: 

She was born and raised in London. Her grandparents left India for East Africa in the 1940s. Kololo Hill is inspired by their lives, as well as those who were expelled from Uganda by brutal ruler Idi Amin. Before publication, Kololo Hill won The Literary Consultancy Pen Factor Live, was shortlisted for the Bath Novel Award and First Novel Prize and was longlisted for various other writing awards.

After studying law at university, Neema built a career in marketing, specialising in TV, digital and brand strategy for companies including the BBC. She has always been an avid reader, but rekindled her early love of writing in 2015 while doing a short online course.


Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Goodreads Author Profile    Twitter Profile   Neema Shah - Author Official Website

Monday, February 28, 2022

A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins


Hardback: 298 pages

Genre: Contemporary Thriller

Publisher: Transworld, Penguin Random House.

Source:  Tywyn Public Library

First Sentence: Blood-sodden, the girl staggers into the black.

Favourite Quote: “I did become sadder, and sadness gets boring after a while, for the sad person and for everyone around them.”

Review Quote: A treat: utterly readable, moving in parts and saturated with the kind of localised detail that made The Girl on the Train so compelling . . . [It] will be seen, rightly, as a return to form; a London book from an excellent writer on London, and a tender portrait of characters that stay in the mind long after you've finished reading. ― Guardian

My Opinion: Another gripping tale from Paula Hawkins, this one is a complicated mystery with a cast of damaged characters. Their suffering it seems is mainly caused by people keeping disturbing secrets. The story line is full of intense twists and turns which prove this very point from beginning to end.

The title 'A Slow Fire Burning' is perfect as the first half of the book was, I found rather slow and complex. Don't give up though as the pace quickens as you get to know the characters and become immersed in their lives. Everything starts to fit into place; however, I did find I needed to concentrate. 

Recommend to fans of the author and those that generally enjoy a cryptic mystery.

My previous reviews of her books  The Girl on the Train    Into the Water

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

The scorching new thriller from the number-one 'New York Times' best-selling author of 'The Girl on the Train'.

When a young man is found gruesomely murdered in a London houseboat, it triggers questions about three women who knew him. Laura is the troubled one-night-stand last seen in the victim’s home. Carla is his grief-stricken aunt, already mourning the recent death of yet another family member. And Miriam is the nosy neighbor clearly keeping secrets from the police. Three women with separate connections to the victim. Three women who are – for different reasons – simmering with resentment. Who are, whether they know it or not, burning to right the wrongs done to them. When it comes to revenge, even good people might be capable of terrible deeds. How far might any one of them go to find peace? How long can secrets smolder before they explode into flame?

Look what you started.

Author Profile: 

                                            Courtesy of Amazon and Phoebe Grigor

Born and brought up in Zimbabwe on 26th August 1972, she moved to London in 1989, she now splits her time between there and Edinburgh.  Paula worked as a journalist for fifteen years before turning her hand to fiction. She is the author of two #1 New York Times bestselling novels, Into The Water and The Girl on The Train. An international #1 bestseller, The Girl on the Train has sold 23 million copies worldwide and has been adapted into a major motion picture. Into the Water was also a Sunday Times and New York Times #1 bestseller, selling 4 million copies worldwide. Her latest thriller, A Slow Fire Burning, was published in 2021. 

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Author Official Website    Wikipedia - Paula Hawkins     Paula Hawkins - Amazon Page

Goodreads Author Profile

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Songbirds by Christy Lefteri


Hardback: 363 pages

Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction

Publisher: Manilla Press

Source:  Tywyn Public Library

First Sentences: One day, Nisha vanished and turned to gold. She turned to gold in the eyes of the creature that stood before me.

Favourite Quote: “You see, we have to eat, and we have to survive, and yet we must protect our dignity and our identity. There are things we do to achieve those things. But we can respect the land and the animals that are on it. Always be kind to the land, the people, and the animals that are on it. Remember that. It’s the most important rule in the world.”

Review Quote: Exquisite writing and moving story...a powerful tale ― The Independent

My Opinion: ‘Songbirds’ is a sympathetically written novel with a hard hitting narrative. The central themes of the migrant women that travel to Cyprus hopeful of a better life and the plight of the songbirds are comparable. It seems that neither can escape the brutality of their lives.

The author got her ideas for the novel from a long term friendship with a domestic worker in Cyprus. She was also influenced by a tragedy in the country when five such domestic workers and two of their children disappeared, yet despite being reported as missing, the authorities never investigated.

The disappearance of Nisha and the subsequent search for her by her employer Petra and her lover Yiannis is very poignant. Written in such a solicitous way I feel somehow guilty saying I enjoyed the story, but I did! Recommended to those readers that like some emotional depth with their reading, as this novel certainly delivers that.

My review of:  The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri | Goodreads

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

From the bestselling author of The Beekeeper of Aleppo, a powerful story about love, loss, hope and courage, set in the lush forests of Cyprus.

Yiannis is a poacher, trapping the tiny protected songbirds that stop in Cyprus as they migrate each year from Africa to Europe, and killing them with his bare hands to be sold illegally as a local delicacy. He dreams of finding a new way of life, and of marrying Nisha, who works as a nanny to Angela and lives in the apartment below his. Angela is Nisha's surrogate daughter - she has left her own child behind in Sri Lanka when she came to Cyprus to find work. Angela's mother Petra is jealous of Angela and Nisha's bond, but feels powerless to love her own child in the way she thinks she should. When Nisha disappears, Yiannis is heartbroken and convinced he has driven her away. Petra is forced to become a mother again to Angela, who seems to hold the secret of what has become of Nisha.

Author Profile: 

                                                            Courtesy of Amazon

                            Christy Lefteri was born in London in 1980 to Greek Cypriot parents who moved to London in 1974 during the Turkish invasion. She completed a degree in English and a Masters in creative writing at Brunel University. She taught English to foreign students and then became a secondary school teacher before leaving to pursue a PhD and to write. She is also studying to become a psychotherapist. She released her first novel, A Watermelon, a Fish and a Bible, in 2010, and her second, The Beekeeper of Aleppo, in 2019. The latter became a Sunday Times bestseller and the winner of the 2020 Aspen Words Literary Prize.                         

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Amazon Author Page    Goodreads Author Page    Twitter Profile

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Away With The Penguins by Hazel Prior

Hardback: 340 pages

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Bantam Press 2020

Source:  Tywyn Public Library

First Sentences: I have told Eileen to get rid of all the mirrors. I used to like them but I certainly don't now. Mirrors are too honest. there is only so much truth a woman can take.

Favourite Quote: “There are three types of people in this world, Very. (He called me Very.) There are those who make the world worse, those who make no difference and those who make the world better. Be one who makes the world better, if you can.”

Review Quote: A touching, uplifting tale. ― Jo Wiley, Radio 2 Book Club

My Opinion: What an agreeable read this was, one of those stories that you are left feeling you want more of when it finishes. The sequel ‘Call of the Penguins’ has already been published and is already on my TBR list. Veronica McCreedy is the elderly female protagonist and is a reminder to the senior citizens amongst us, including myself that it is never too late to have more adventures.  

Veronica leads an isolated life with no one close to inherit her substantial fortune. With this in mind she decides to research both her ancestry and potential projects that might benefit from an inheritance when she dies. Discovering she has an adult grandson is not an immediate success, so she continues to search for a beneficiary.  Watching a television programme about penguins leads her to Antarctica on the trip of a lifetime.

It was a delight to learn so much about Penguins within this edifying novel. I certainly recommend it to everyone this unique, charming and heart-warming story, with an environmental message. I am now looking forward to reading the sequel.

Précis Courtesy of Amazon: 

Veronica McCreedy is about to have the journey of a lifetime . . .

Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she's never seen without her ruby-red lipstick.

Although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone.

She can be found either collecting litter from the beach ('people who litter the countryside should be shot'), trying to locate her glasses ('someone must have moved them') or shouting
instructions to her assistant, Eileen ('Eileen, door!').

Veronica doesn't have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she's going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies.

But today . . . today Veronica is going to make a decision that will change all of this.

Author Profile:

                                                                   Courtesy of Amazon 

Hazel Prior lives on Exmoor with her husband and a huge ginger cat. As well as writing, she works as a freelance harpist. Hazel is the author of Ellie and the Harp-Maker and Away with the Penguins, which was a #1 bestseller in ebook and audiobook. Call of the Penguins is her third novel. For more autobiographical information, visit ABOUT |

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Amazon Author Page   Hazel Prior - Twitter    Official Author Website  

Instagram  Goodreads - Author Profile