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