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