Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Maureen Fry and the Angel of the North by Rachel Joyce



Hardback: 127 pages

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Publisher:  Doubleday 2022

Source:  Tywyn Public Library

First Sentences: It was too early for birdsong. Harold lay beside her, his hands neat on his chest, looking so peaceful she wondered where he travelled in his sleep.

Series: Book 3 in Harold Fry Trilogy.

Setting: England

Favourite Quote: These days it was all safe motorways and Uber. It was paying with your phone, and-lease keep your distance, not to mention podcasts, milk made of oats and meat made of plants, and everything streamed online.

Review Quote: A beautiful novella ... with compassion and tenderness ... the novel's conclusion is deeply moving and life-affirming. -- Hannah Beckerman ― Observer Published On: 2022-10-09

My Opinion:  A slim volume, but nevertheless this is a forceful and moving finale to Rachel Joyce’s trilogy featuring Harold and Maureen Fry. It is not absolutely necessary to have read the earlier two, but it may well add to your enjoyment and understanding of this concluding volume if you have done so.

Maureen Fry is the protagonist this time and it is her turn to take an emotional journey. Maureen’s grief caused by the death of her son many years previously is still festering away inside her. Deciding to lay her ghosts to rest she embarks on her own journey. She is nothing like her husband in character, therefore the trip is a real challenge for her, she certainly has to face her demons along the way.

This touching narrative of personal grief is told with humour, which will have you laughing but will also bring tears to your eyes.  Well worth reading.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

Ten years ago, Harold Fry set off on his epic journey on foot to save a friend. But the story doesn't end there. Now his wife, Maureen, has her own pilgrimage to make.

Maureen Fry has settled into the quiet life she now shares with her husband Harold after his iconic walk across England. Now, ten years later, an unexpected message from the North disturbs her equilibrium again, and this time it is Maureen's turn to make her own journey.

But Maureen is not like Harold. She struggles to bond with strangers, and the landscape she crosses has changed radically. She has little sense of what she'll find at the end of the road. All she knows is that she must get there.

Maureen Fry and the Angel of the North is a deeply felt, lyrical and powerful novel, full of warmth and kindness, about love, loss, and how we come to terms with the past in order to understand ourselves and our lives a little better. Short, exquisite, while it stands in its own right, it is also the moving finale to a trilogy that began with the phenomenal bestseller The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and continued with The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy.

This is a slender book but it has all the power and weight of a classic.

Author Profile:         

Rachel Joyce

                                                          Courtesy of Goodreads 

Rachel Joyce was born in London in 1962. 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.

For a full profile visit her Website

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Goodreads Profile   Rachel Joyce - Official Website   Instagram Profile

Amazon Book Page

Sunday, December 18, 2022

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O'Farrell


                                                    Book Cover

Hardback: 438 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Tinder Press, Headline Publishing Group 2022.

Source: Tywyn Public Library

First Sentence: Lucrezia is taking her seat at the long dining table, which is polished to a watery gleam and spread with dishes, inverted cups, a woven circlet of fir.

Favourite Quote: “Sadness keeps attempting to tie weights to her wrists and ankles, therefore she has to keep moving, she has to outpace it.” 

Review Quote: 'Her narrative enchantment will wrest suspense and surprise out of a death foretold' Financial Times

Literary Awards: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Historical Fiction (2022)

Setting: Italy

My Opinion:  I have been a fan of Maggie O'Farrell's writing for over twenty years! Beautifully descriptive literary prose and cleverly woven storylines that have never disappointed me as a reader. In her latest novel ‘The MarriagePortrait’ she has taken the historic real life characters, Alfonso II d’Este, Duke of Ferrara and his first wife Lucrezia de Medici, Duchess of Ferrara and woven the storyline around their short marriage of just three years.

The retelling of this true story of the untimely death of the young duchess Lucrezia, which may have been, according to history, at the hands of her husband is an evocative read. One becomes immersed in the Italy of the C16 with the descriptions that Lucrezia gives us of her lifestyle.

Maggie O’Farrell in her renowned descriptive style of writing has turned this sad episode from history into a literary and readable story. Certainly one of my favourites for this year and therefore, highly recommended.  

Previous Reviews:   Hamnet.   Instructions for a Heatwave

Precis Courtesy of Goodreads:

I thought I had made myself clear. I want something that conveys her majesty, her bloodline. Do you understand? She is no ordinary mortal. Treat her thus.' 

Florence, the 1560s. Lucrezia, third daughter of Cosimo de' Medici, is free to wander the palazzo at will, wondering at its treasures and observing its clandestine workings. But when her older sister dies on the eve of marriage to Alfonso d'Este, heir to the Duke of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, Lucrezia is thrust unwittingly into the limelight: Alfonso is quick to request her hand in marriage, and her father to accept on her behalf.

Having barely left girlhood, Lucrezia must now make her way in a troubled court whose customs are opaque and where her arrival is not universally welcomed. Perhaps most mystifying of all is her husband himself, Alfonso. Is he the playful sophisticate he appears before their wedding, the aesthete happiest in the company of artists and musicians, or the ruthless politician before whom even his formidable sisters seem to tremble?

As Lucrezia sits in uncomfortable finery for the painting which is to preserve her image for centuries to come, one thing becomes worryingly clear. In the court's eyes, she has one duty: to provide the heir who will shore up the future of the Ferrarese dynasty. Until then, for all of her rank and nobility, her future hangs entirely in the balance.

Author Profile

                                                     Photo courtesy of Wikipedia 

Maggie O'Farrell was born on 27th May 1972 in Coleraine, Northern    Ireland. She is married to the author William Sutcliffe and they live in Edinburgh with their three children.



  • I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death (2017)

For Children

  • Where Snow Angels Go, Walker Books, illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini (2020)
  • The Boy Who Lost His Spark, Walker Books, illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini (2022)

Photograph and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

 Goodreads - Author Profile    Amazon Author Profile  Facebook - Maggie O'Farrell

Maggie O'Farrell - Official Website.   Wikipedia - Maggie O'Farrell

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Not A Happy Family by Shari Lapena



Paperback:  452 pages

Genre: Crime Thriller, Murder Mystery

Publisher: Penguin Paperback 2022

Source: My own bookshelf

First Sentences: There are many expensive houses, here in Bracken Hill, an enclave of Aylesford, in the Hudson Valley.

Setting: North of New York, USA

Favourite Quote: “But all fairytales are tinged with darkness.” 

Review Quote: Dramatic, tense and satisfying murder mystery ― My Weekly

Literary Award: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Mystery & Thriller (2021)

My Opinion:  I read this as it was a recommended Richard and Judy Bookclub choice. As I have not read anything else by this author I was not sure what to expect, so a little disappointed as expecting a psychological thriller, incorrectly, as it is a ‘whodunit’.

The very unhappy, mainly unpleasant and dysfunctional Merton family, three adult children and their partners get together for their annual Easter Sunday dinner with their parents at the family home, which does not go well. The next day the housekeeper finds the elderly parents brutally murdered and the children are all prime suspects. The protagonists, though all are unlikeable, are well portrayed and the various scenarios, motives and alibis will certainly keep you guessing.

A quick read and worth while picking up if you are a fan of the genre. 

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

In this family, everyone is keeping secrets - even the dead.

In the quiet, wealthy enclave of Brecken Hill, an older couple is brutally murdered hours after a tense Easter dinner with their three adult children. Who, of course, are devastated.

Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their vindictive father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of them is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did someone snap after that dreadful evening? Or did another person appear later that night with the worst of intentions? That must be what happened. After all, if one of the family were capable of something as gruesome as this, you'd know.

Wouldn't you?

Author Profile:         

                                         Shari Lapena                      

                              Photo Courtesy of Goodreads Profile                                                                        

Shari Lapena is a Canadian novelist born in 1960, she was formerly a lawyer and a teacher before becoming an author.

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

Goodreads Profile   Amazon Author Page  Shari Lapena - Facebook Page

Shari Lapena - Official Website   Instagram Profile    Twitter Profile

Monday, December 5, 2022

A Lady's Guide to Fortune Hunting by Sophie Irwin



Hardback: 337 pages

Genre: Historical Romantic Fiction 

Publisher: Harper Collins 2022

Source: Tywyn Public Library

First Sentences: 'You're not going to marry me?' Miss Talbot repeated disbelievingly.

Favourite Quote: “There was nothing hesitant about the kiss, nothing uncertain. It was as if they'd both read the script beforehand and had—all along—simply been waiting for the cue.” 

Setting: 1818, London, England

Review Quote: 'Charming, witty and infectiously exuberant...absolute perfection. I only wish it hadn't ended!' Santa Montefiore

My Opinion:  It was not until I finished reading this novel that I discovered the author had written a university dissertation on Georgette Heyer. This did not come as a huge surprise as I found 'A Lady's Guide to Fortune Hunting' to be very reminiscent of the novels of Georgette Beyer, of whom I was a great fan in my late teens.

Kitty Talbot the novels female protagonist feels like a 21C heroine in this period novel as she makes no real effort to hide her search for a rich husband to save her and her sisters from financial ruin. As a person she might easily have come across as mercenary, but in fact turned out to be vulnerable and I loved her character. Despite Lord Radcliffe giving her such a hard time in her quest, the love-hate relationship between them makes the novel so animated.

Though maybe a little predictable, this Regency Romance was a pleasure to read. As a debut novel it has been a great success with fans of historical romantic fiction and has already been sold in 35 countries worldwide. Recommended for fans of the genre, Sophie Irwin is going to be an author to watch, bringing a fresh approach to historical romance.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

Kitty Talbot needs a fortune. Or rather, she needs a husband who has a fortune. This is 1818 after all, and only men have the privilege of seeking their own riches.

With only twelve weeks until the bailiffs call, launching herself into London society is the only avenue open to her, and Kitty must use every ounce of cunning and ingenuity she possesses to climb the ranks.

The only one to see through her plans is the worldly Lord Radcliffe and he is determined to thwart her at any cost, especially when it comes to his own brother falling for her charms.

Can Kitty secure a fortune and save her sisters from poverty? There is not a day to lose and no one—not even a lord—will stand in her way...

Author Profile:         


Photo Courtesy of Twitter                                                                         

Sophie Irwin grew up in Dorset before moving to south London after university. She has spent years immersed in the study of historical fiction, from a dissertation on how Georgette Heyer helped win World War Two, to time spent in dusty stacks and old tomes losing herself in Regency London while researching this book. Her love and passion for historical fiction bring a breath of fresh air and a contemporary energy to the genre, and Sophie hopes to transport readers to a time when ballrooms were more like battlegrounds.

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

Twitter Profile   Sophie Irwin - Instagram  Goodreads Profile  Amazon Author Page

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak


Ebook:   350 pages

Genre: Literary Fiction 

Publisher: Kindle Edition August 2021

Source: My Kindle Library

First Sentences: Once upon a memory, at the far end of the Mediterranean Sea, there lay an island so beautiful and blue that the many travellers, pilgrims, crusaders and merchants who fell in love with it either wanted never to leave or tried to tow it with hemp ropes all the way back to their own countries. Legends, perhaps.

Favourite Quote: “But if you are going to claim, as humans do, to be superior to all life forms, past and present, then you must gain an understanding of the oldest living organisms on earth who were here long before you arrived and will still be here after you have gone.” 

Setting: Nicosia, Cyprus and London, England

Literary awards: Women's Prize for Fiction Nominee for Shortlist (2022)

Review Quote: 'This book moved me to tears . . . in the best way. Powerful and poignant' Reese Witherspoon

My Opinion:  

This is the first book I have read by Elif Shafak and I certainly hope it won’t be the last.

Based on historical facts and events told as a fictional story with the narrator a fig tree this beautifully crafted novel can not fail to feed your imagination.  Set in troubled Cyprus in the 1970’s  and later in 2010 it is the tale of the forbidden and traumatic love between Kosta and Defne. The later section is set in London where Kosta is now living with daughter Ada who is struggling to understand her identity. 

Magical, original and deeply moving  storytelling.   Highly recommended.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

A rich, magical new book on belonging and identity, love and trauma, nature and renewal, from the Booker shortlisted author of 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World. 

Two teenagers, a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot, meet at a taverna on the island they both call home. In the taverna, hidden beneath garlands of garlic, chili peppers and creeping honeysuckle, Kostas and Defne grow in their forbidden love for each other. A fig tree stretches through a cavity in the roof, and this tree bears witness to their hushed, happy meetings and eventually, to their silent, surreptitious departures. The tree is there when war breaks out, when the capital is reduced to ashes and rubble, and when the teenagers vanish. Decades later, Kostas returns. He is a botanist looking for native species, but really, he’s searching for lost love. 

Years later, a Ficus carica grows in the back garden of a house in London where Ada Kazantzakis lives. This tree is her only connection to an island she has never visited - her only connection to her family’s troubled history and her complex identity as she seeks to untangle years of secrets to find her place in the world.

A moving, beautifully written and delicately constructed story of love, division, transcendence, history and eco-consciousness, The Island of Missing Trees is Elif Shafak’s best work yet.

Author Profile:         

                                                          Elif Shafak photo.jpg                                                                                                                                                                                                               

                                                           Courtesy of Wikipedia

Elif Shafak was born in France in 1971, she is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist and the most widely read female author in Turkey. She writes in both Turkish and English, and has published nineteen books, twelve of which are novels. Her work has been translated into fifty-six languages. Shafak holds a PhD in political science and she has taught at various universities in Turkey, the US and the UK, including St Anne's College, Oxford University, where she is an honorary fellow. She is a member of Weforum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy and a founding member of ECFR (European Council on Foreign Relations). An advocate for women's rights, LGBT rights and freedom of speech, Shafak is an inspiring public speaker and twice a TED Global speaker, each time receiving a standing ovation. 

Shafak contributes to major publications around the world and she has been awarded the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres. In 2017 she was chosen by Politico as one of the twelve people who would make the world better. She has judged numerous literary prizes and is chaired the Wellcome Prize in 2019.

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

Wikipedia Profile.   Author Official Website   Elif Shafak - YouTube Channel

Instagram Profile.  Twitter Profile  Facebook Profile

Friday, November 25, 2022

Mothers and Daughters by Erica James


Ebook:  365 pages

Genre: Contemporary Romantic Fiction 

Publisher: Kindle Edition March 2022

Source: My Kindle Library

First Sentence: Martha made sure the bathroom door was firmly shut.

Setting: Sussex Coast, England

Review Quote: ‘A wonderfully compelling family drama that deftly touches upon some serious issues’ Sunday Express

My Opinion:  Loaded this title on to My Kindle as confident I would enjoy. How was I so sure, well I have been  getting pleasure from reading this authors novels since 1996.  Definitely a long time fan of her style of escapism.

Mothers and Daughters was no exception, I loved it. The novel is built around the relationships of Naomi, the widowed mother of two adult daughters Martha and Willow.  With this my own role in life, I found much of the storyline felt authentic.  

Well constructed with lots of secrets that are slowly revealed it was another very satisfying read.  Erica James is one of a number of favourite authors that I turn to when looking for escapism.  So no hesitation in recommending to fans of contemporary fiction.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

Even happy families have their secrets…

Since the sudden death of her husband, Naomi has steadily rebuilt the life they shared in the village of Tilsham by the sea.

Her eldest daughter, Martha, is sensible and determined – just like her father was – and very much in control of where her life is going. If she could just get pregnant with her husband, life would be perfect.

Willow, the youngest, was always more sunny and easy-going, yet drifted through life, much to her father’s frustration. But now, with charming new boyfriend, Rick, she has a very good reason to settle down.

The three women are as close as can be. But there are things Naomi has kept from her daughters. Like the arrival of Ellis, a long-lost friend from way back, now bringing the fun and spark back into her life. And she’s certainly never told them that her marriage to their father wasn’t quite what it seemed…

The Sunday Times bestselling author Erica James returns with this gloriously compelling tale of mothers and daughters, secrets and love

Author Profile:         

                                               Erica James holding her novel, Gardens of Delight in one hand, and the Romantic Novelist of the Year award in the other hand.    

                                                           Courtesy of Authors Website

In the author's own words from her website.

I grew up on the south coast of England with never a thought in my head as a child that I would one day be an author. But somehow, I’m now the author of twenty-four bestselling novels, with recent Sunday Times Top Ten bestsellers including Swallowtail Summer, Coming Home to Island House, Letters from the Past, and Mothers and Daughters.  With sales of over five million around the world, including a No. 1 in Norway, I’m told that my books are loved by readers looking for beautifully drawn relationships, emotionally powerful storylines and evocative settings. 

In 2006 my novel Gardens of Delight won the Romantic Novel of the Year award and in 2020 I received the Nielsen Silver Award for sales of over a quarter of a million copies for both Love and Devotion and Tell it to the Skies. 

I live in Suffolk and travel as often as time permits to see my eldest son and his family in the US and my youngest son in Japan.

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

Erica James - Official Website.   Erica James - Twitter.  Instagram - Erica James

Goodreads Author Profile  Erica James - Amazon Author Page.  Erica James - Facebook

Monday, November 21, 2022

Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior


Ebook: 288 pages

Genre: Contemporary Romantic Fiction 

Publisher: Bantam Press May 2019

Source: My Kindle Library

First Sentences: A woman came to the barn today. Her hair was the colour of walnut wood. Her eyes were the colour of bracken in October.

Setting: Exmoor NationalPark, England.

Review Quote: "Prior's debut resonates with a clear voice, depicting love evolving from a friendship based upon genuine acts of kindness....Ellie and Dan, both delightful, down-to-earth characters, selflessly put each other's needs ahead of their own, and fans of fast-paced romantic stories will enjoy watching them discover true happiness together.Publishers Weekly

My Opinion:  

Having enjoyed Hazel Prior's two recent novels about Veronica McCreedy and the Penguins I loaded her debut on My Kindle for my recent travels. 

With the unusual subject of harps being a major part of the storyline I was interested to learn more and was quickly drawn into this captivating novel. At times the delightful descriptions are almost poetic. The protagonists Ellie and Dan are perfectly portrayed by the author.  Ellie is feeling happy enough with her marriage and her life in general, until to her surprise she finds herself drawn to Dan a Harp Maker. Whilst Dan who due to his autism likes to live an ordered exsistence, suddenly finds his perspectives altered somewhat after meeting Ellie. 

Charmingly quirky and well written this tender love story is recommended for anyone that wants to lose themselves for awhile. Which is after all one of the pleasures of reading.

My Previous Reviews:   Call of the Penguins.   Away with the Penguins

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

In the rolling hills of beautiful Exmoor, there’s a barn. And in that barn, you’ll find Dan. He’s a maker of exquisite harps - but not a great maker of conversation. He’s content in his own company, quietly working and away from social situations that he doesn’t always get right.

But one day, a cherry-socked woman stumbles across his barn and the conversation flows a little more easily than usual. She says her name’s Ellie, a housewife, alone, out on her daily walk and, though she doesn’t say this, she looks sad. He wants to make her feel better, so he gives her one of his harps, made of cherry wood.

And before they know it, this simple act of kindness puts them on the path to friendship, big secrets, pet pheasants and, most importantly, true love.

Author Profile:         

                                                       Hazel Prior

                                                           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 three published novels and a fourth 'Life and Otter Miracles' due out May 2023.

You can also read a lovely autobiography by Hazel Prior on her website

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

Amazon - Hazel Prior Books.  Hazel Prior - Website.  Twitter Profile.  Instagram - Hazel Prior

Goodreads Profile

Sunday, November 20, 2022

The Little House by the Sea by Tracy Rees


Ebook: 277 pages

Genre: Contemporary Romantic Fiction 

Publisher: Bookouture  August 2022

Source: My Kindle Library

First Sentences: 'Kitty, it's time to go now? It's 6.30 - we're closing the office. Kitty!'

Setting: South Wales coast

Review Quote: ‘A glorious feel-good read… Brilliant… I fell in love… completely adorable… Beautiful setting, vivid characters, great blend of Welsh culture thrown in the mix.’ Bobs and Books,

My Opinion:  

Including 'The Little House by the Sea' I have so far only read three of Tracy Rees's novels.  Back in 2016 I read Florence Grace, it was a further five years before I picked up The Rose Garden to which I gave a five star review to on Goodreads.  Also I am very much looking forward reading The Elopement published earlier this month. 'The Little House by the Sea' really appealed to me when I was looking for titles to download to My Kindle ready for my recent travels.

Indeed this story provided me with a perfect read during my thirteen hour flight. Kitty the protagonist lives with her partner and spends lot of her time dreaming about their perfect future. It is somewhat of a shock for her when her dreams unexpectedly collapse. Trying to come to terms with the fact that life is not going the way she had been planning, she takes herself off to South Wales to try and recover.

As one I believe expects from this genre the storyline is fairly predictable however written in Tracy Rees engaging style it is an endearing read.  Throughly recommend if you are looking for escapism.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

Bluebells bob in the salty sea wind and the cottage gate swings open to reveal the inky-blue cove. It’s exactly how Kitty always pictured it… except in her head, she wasn’t standing here alone.

Kitty Roberts spends her days searching for the perfect home for two… until her boyfriend dumps her. Devastated, she flees to a tiny seaside village called Pennystrand, where she spent golden summers as a child, before her family fell apart.

At first, Kitty’s dramatic escape proves to be exactly what she needs – golden sunsets over warm, sandy beaches, lovably eccentric new neighbours and even a blush-inducing run-in with Cory Hudson, a floppy-haired local surfer with a heart-stopping smile.

But just as Kitty feels herself beginning to heal, Cory reveals that his time in Pennystrand is nearly up. What’s more, some strange reactions to Kitty in town make her wonder if her connection to this place might go deeper than she thought.

What is this tranquil little village hiding? It seems there’s a secret in Kitty’s past that is about to turn her life on its head once more… Is she ready for the truth? And will it bring her and Cory closer together, or drive them apart?

A page-turning story full of unexpected twists and turns. It will make you smile, laugh and wish you could visit Pennystrand! Absolutely perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan, Heidi Swain and Carole Matthews.

Author Profile:         

                                                   Tracy Rees                                     

                                                           Courtesy of Goodreads

Tracy Rees was the winner of the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition and the Love Stories Best Historical Read award and was shortlisted for the RNA Epic Romantic Novel of the Year. She is the author of five bestselling historical novels and her first contemporary novel is to be published in May 2021.

Tracy was born in Swansea. She studied languages at Jesus College, Cambridge, then moved to London where she worked in medical publishing for years. She then did a second degree, in psychology, at London Metropolitan University before training and working as a counsellor for people with cancer and their families. She has also been a waitress, bartender, shop assistant, estate agent, classroom assistant, university lecturer and workshop leader.

Tracy and her partner divide their time between the Gower Peninsula of Wales and London.

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

Amazon Author Page.  Twitter - Tracy Rees.  Goodreads Author Page

Friday, November 18, 2022

The Beloved Girls by Harriet Evans


Paperback:  506 pages

Genre: Fiction 

Publisher: Headline 2021

Source: My own bookshelves

First Sentence: I was twelve when I first went to Vanes.

Setting: 'Vanes' a house in the English countryside.

Review Quote: 'Spellbinding' ― Independent

My Opinion:  A mysterious and atmospheric family drama, revolving around a house 'Vanes' and its history, in particularly the summer of 1989. Bees have been kept in the neglected chapel on the estate for many years and that long hot summer they were restless. For me this was a large contributor to the menacing aspect of the story.

None of the main protagonists seem happy with their lives and the women all suffer from domination by the men around them.  They are part of a family with secrets and strange centuries old traditions, into which Janey and Kitty become deeply involved. 'The Beloved Girls' have the main role in this secret ritual called 'The Collecting.'

I recommend this one as a novel to read at your leisure, not to be rushed as you will miss so much. 

Précis Courtesy of Amazon: 

A successful London barrister, Catherine Christophe, goes missing the day before her wedding anniversary. The clue to her disappearance, it seems, lies buried thirty years in the past.

Somerset, 1989. Janey Lestrange arrives to stay for the summer at the grand old house of the Hunter family. But something is wrong behind the beautiful façades of Vanes. Janey's childhood friend, Kitty Hunter, her brother and their eccentric parents - once so welcoming - do not seem to want her there. 

It is only as the night of an ancient and mysterious family ritual looms closer that Janey comes to realise they need her . . .

Decades later, the tragic events of that unforgettable summer still cast the darkest shadow. Can the truth about what happened that night ever be brought into the light? 

Author Profile:         


Autobiography in the author's own words from her  Goodreads Profile

I was born in London and grew up there. I was very bookish, and had a huge imagination which used to cause me to get rather anxious at times. Now I know it's a good thing for a writer to have. I loved musicals, and playing imaginative games, and my Barbie perfume making kit. Most of all I loved reading. I read everything, but I also read lots of things over and over, which I think is so important.

At university I read Classical Studies, which is a great way of finding out that the world doesn't change much and people make the same mistakes but it's interesting to look at why. I was at Bristol, and i loved the city, making new friends, being a new person. 

After university I came back to London and got a job in publishing. I loved working in publishing so much, and really felt for the first time in my life that when I spoke people understood what I was saying. Book people are good people. I became an editor after a few years, working with many bestselling novelists, and in 2009 I left to write full time.

I've written 13 novels and several short stories and one Quick Read, which is an excellent way of getting people into reading more. I've acquired a partner and two children along the way.

In 2019 we moved to Bath, out of London, and I am very happy there. We live opposite a hedgerow, and I can be boring about gardening, and there's room for my collection of jumpsuits and all our books. We have lots of books. Apart from anything else they keep the house warm. xxx

If you are interested in learning more about Harriet, do read Meet Harriet on her website.

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

Goodreads Profile  Amazon Author Page.  Harriet Evans -Website  Twitter Profile

 Harriet Evans - Facebook  Instagram Profile

Thursday, September 15, 2022

The End of the Ocean by Maja Lunde


Paperback:  391 pages

Genre: Fiction, Dystopia, Sci-Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Publisher:  Scribner 2021

Source:  Tywyn Public Library

First Sentences: Nothing stopped the water. You could follow it from the mountain to the fjord, from the snow that fell from the clouds and settled on the peaks, to the mist that rose above the ocean and became clouds.

Setting: Sogn og Fjordane (Norway, 2017), Ringfjorden (Norway, 2017), Timbaut (France, 2041)

Review Quote: 'The story of a present-day Norwegian eco-campaigner alternates with that of a French family in the overheated future. They are in a camp for refugees from eco-disaster – but it’s not all doom and gloom. They find friendship, love and an unexpected gift from the past' Wendy Holden, Daily Mail

My Opinion:  

I read this because it was recommended by a friend. The storyline of a Worldwide Water Shortage seems so relevant in this time of Global Warming.

A dual time line with the first part set in 2017 with Signe, a seventy year old lone sailor as the protagonist who is haunted by heart break. The story jumps between 2017 and Signe's important mission and 2041. In the future David and his young daughter are fleeing a war torn drought ridden Southern Europe, in search of a better life.

A heartrending story about human strength in times of havoc. Recommended to anyone interested in Climate Change and the way we as humans abuse water. In fact we should all read this as it makes you think seriously about the consequences of drought. It could happen! 

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

From the author of international bestseller and Indie Next Pick The History of Bees, a captivating new standalone novel about the threat of a worldwide water shortage as seen through the eyes of a father and daughter.

In 2019, seventy-year-old Signe sets out on a hazardous voyage to cross an entire ocean in only a sailboat. She is haunted by the loss of the love of her life, and is driven by a singular and all-consuming mission to make it back to him.

In 2041, David flees with his young daughter, Lou, from a war-torn Southern Europe plagued by drought. They have been separated from their rest of their family and are on a desperate search to reunite with them once again, when they find Signe's abandoned sailboat in a parched French garden, miles away from the nearest shore.

As David and Lou discover personal effects from Signe's travels, their journey of survival and hope weaves together with Signe's, forming a heartbreaking, inspiring story about the power of nature and the human spirit in this second novel from the author of the "spectacular and deeply moving" (New York Times bestselling author Lisa See) The History of Bees.

Author Profile:         

                                                             Courtesy of Amazon Website

Maja Lunde was born in Oslo, Norway on July 30th 1975.  She is an author and screenwriter and has written ten books for children and young adults. She has also written scripts for Norwegian television, including for the children’s series Barnas supershow (“The Children’s Super Show”), the drama series Hjem (“Home”) and the comedy series Side om Side (“Side by Side”). The History of Bees is her first novel for adults. She lives with her husband and three children in Oslo.

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Amazon Author Page   Goodreads Author Profile  Maja Lunde - Official Website

To Italy with Love by Nicky Pellegrino


Paperback:  317 pages

Genre: Contemporary Romantic Fiction

Publisher:   Orion 2022

Source:  Tywyn Public Library

First Sentence: A girl in a white dress was standing beside the fountain in the main piazza of Montenello.

Review Quote: Nicky Pellegrino is the absolute queen of books that can make you comfortable and happy....a writer who can create books like this is a necessity in life....pure joy to read ― Claire Mabey, Radio New Zealand.

My Opinion:  As an Italophile, plus having lived in Italy I am always looking for a novel that will transport me back there. Nicky Pellegrino's writing does that and always provides me with the perfect escapism read. 'To Italy, with Love' is the sixth of her books that I have read. With the return of previous places and people she has introduced the reader to before in 'A Dream of Italy' (though please note you do not need to have read it first), this one felt very familiar.

The two main characters are Sarah Jane, a young English girl, on a road trip around Italy hoping to heal a broken heart. Circumstances lead her to find herself stranded in the village of Montenello where she makes friends with Assunta an older local lady that shares her love of food.

An uplifting tale of life in Italy, recommended to anyone that's wants to be transported to another way of life for a few hours. A really delightful read. 

My Reviews of Previous Novels:  Recipe for Life   The Italian Wedding   When in Rome

A Year At Hotel Gondola   A Dream of Italy

Author Profile:         

Nicky Pellegrino was born in Liverpool but spent childhood summers staying with her family in southern Italy. A shy, tall, gingery child she never really fitted in with her exuberant Italian cousins and had a tendency to stay quiet and observe things. When Nicky started writing fiction it was her memories of those summers in Italy that came flooding back and flavoured her stories: the passions, the feuds but most of all the food.

Nicky now lives in Auckland, New Zealand with her husband Carne plus a menagerie of dogs and horses. She works as a freelance journalist and her novels are distributed in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, and have been translated into numerous languages.

She loves cooking for friends, drinking red wine, walking on New Zealand’s amazing beaches, riding her horse through the forest and lying in bed reading other people’s novels.

                                                             Courtesy of Author Website

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Nicky Pellegrino - Author Official Website      Twitter - Nicky Pellegrino   Facebook Author Profile

Instagram Profile   Goodreads Author Profile