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

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop


Paperback:   481 pages    

Genre: Historical Fiction                                                                                 

Publisher: Headline Publishing 

Source: Tywyn Public Library

First Sentences: 2016 In a small apartment in Athens, four generations gathered to celebrate a birthday.

Review Quote: 'Brings Greek history to compelling life'  The Sunday Times

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: The gripping new novel by Sunday Times Number One bestseller Victoria Hislop is set against the backdrop of the German occupation of Greece, the subsequent civil war and a military dictatorship, all of which left deep scars.Athens 1941. After decades of political uncertainty, Greece is polarised between Right- and Left-wing views when the Germans invade.Fifteen-year-old Themis comes from a family divided by these political differences. The Nazi occupation deepens the fault-lines between those she loves just as it reduces Greece to destitution. She watches friends die in the ensuing famine and is moved to commit acts of resistance.In the civil war that follows the end of the occupation, Themis joins the Communist army, where she experiences the extremes of love and hatred and the paradoxes presented by a war in which Greek fights Greek.Eventually imprisoned on the infamous islands of exile, Makronisos and then Trikeri, Themis encounters another prisoner whose life will entwine with her own in ways neither can foresee. And finds she must weigh her principles against her desire to escape and live.As she looks back on her life, Themis realises how tightly the personal and political can become entangled. While some wounds heal, others deepen.

My Opinion: 'Those Who Are Loved’ is a line from a poem that is well known in Greece, ‘Epitafios’ by Yannis Ritsos.  Written in 1936 it is about love, grief and social justice, so not surprisingly when a dictatorship was imposed just a few months later, many copies of the poem were burnt.

It is certainly a fitting title for this absorbing historical narrative which has left me with a better understanding of Greece and its people. As with all of Victoria Hislop’s novels her research is obvious. The pain and suffering of the characters during the period leading up to WWII and in the years of civil unrest afterwards is vividly described. With such a powerful back story the reader is easily drawn into the extremely moving story of the Koralis family, living in Athens. In particular the personal story of the protagonist Themis as she relates a lifetimes experiences to her great grandchildren.

A distressing read but well worth while as amongst the sorrow and angst there is joy. As a long time fan of the author’s writing, I recommend her novels, including this one, to those that like to learn some history behind the story. Victoria Hislop has shown once again that she has a fervent interest in Greek History.

Author Profile:

                                                     Photograph © Bill Waters

Born in Bromley, Kent in 1959, she was raised in Tonbridge, Kent, and attended Tonbridge Grammar School. She studied English at St Hilda's College, Oxford and worked in publishing and as a journalist before becoming an author. She lived in London for over 20 years, and now lives in Sissinghurst. She married Private Eye editor Ian Hislop on 16 April 1988 in Oxford. They have two children, Emily Helen (born 1990) and William David (born 1993).

Her first novel, The Island, held the number one slot in the Sunday Times paperback charts for eight consecutive weeks and has sold over two million copies worldwide. Victoria was the Newcomer of the Year at the Galaxy British Book Awards 2007 and won the Richard & Judy Summer Read competition.Victoria acted as script consultant on the 26-part adaptation of The Island in Greece, which achieved record ratings for Greek television.  Since then she has gone on to write many more successful novels which have been translated into more than 30 languages.

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Twitter   Victoria Hislop Official Website  Victoria Hislop - Wikipedia

Author Amazon Page