Friday, June 24, 2022

Flappy Entertains by Santa Montefiore

 242 pages

Genre: Contemporary Fiction 

Publisher: Simon and Schuster 2021

Source:  Tywyn Public Library

First Sentences: Flappy Scott-Booth, the self-styled queen of the small but not insignificant Devon town of Badley Compton, sat on the high-backed Russian imperial chair she'd bought at auction from Christie's and scrutinized the fresh face of the young woman sitting formally and a little nervously, on the other side of the walnut desk.

Review Quote: 'Packed with wickedly funny insights and throwaway lines and written with an extra-large helping of heart, this is the perfect escape for anyone in need of of a book hug!' Lancashire Post

My Opinion: Humorous fiction is a new direction for Santa Montefiore to take her writing. She has written this novel, especially for the character of Flappy Scott-Booth who originally appeared in 'The Temptation of Gracie'. She had so many emails about her at that time. This influenced her decision to expand her role and feature her as protagonist in a series of novels, of which 'Flappy Entertains' is the first.

For me personally it was an amusing, very light hearted and a quick read. A little far fetched and incredibly lightweight compared to her other novels which have much more substance to them. Disappointing and I think only really dedicated fans of her writing will enjoy this series. Sorry not for me, but I am sure I will continue to enjoy her writing. Just not this particular series.

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  Here and Now

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

Flappy Scott-Booth is the self-appointed queen bee of Badley Compton, a picturesque Devon village. While her husband Kenneth spends his days on the golf course, she is busy overseeing her beautiful house and gardens, and organising unforgettable events, surrounded by friends who hang on to her every word.
Her life is a reflection of herself – impossibly perfect.
Until the day that Hedda Harvey-Smith and her husband Charles move into the village. Into an even grander home than hers. Taking the front seat on the social scene, quite literally.
That simply will not do.
Flappy is determined to show Hedda how things are done here in Badley Compton. But then she looks into Charles’s beautiful green eyes. And suddenly, her focus is elsewhere. She is only human, after all…

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

I know what you've done by Dorothy Koomson


Paperback:  385 pages

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Psychological Thriller

Publisher: Headline 2021

Source:  Tywyn Public Library

First Sentences: I know who is going to do it. That is, I know the person most likely to kill me.

Review Quote: 'An instantly involving psychological thriller' Daily Telegraph

My Opinion:  How well do we know our neighbours? In this tense novel Dorothy Koomson uncovers the secrets of Acacia Villas in Brighton, where all is not as it seems. One of the residents Rae, is convinced of one of the other resident's intentions to murder her.

Excellent characterisation and well presented back stories about the characters, which are all integral to the plot.

A clever and twisting story that I recommend as a great choice for all fans of psychological thrillers.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

When Rae answers her front door one afternoon, her neighbour, Priscilla, thrusts a book into her hands before collapsing.

After Priscilla is rushed to hospital, Rae discovers the book is actually a diary full of all their neighbours' deepest secrets.

Rae knows she should hand the book over to the police investigating Priscilla's attack... but she's spotted her husband's name in the diary and she needs to know what he - and everyone else - has done.

But if someone tried to kill Priscilla to keep their secret, how long before Rae is in danger, too?

Author Profile

Courtesy of Goodreads

Dorothy's Personal Profile can be found at About Me - Dorothy Koomson 

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Author Official Website   Dorothy Koomson - Goodreads Profile   Twitter - Dorothy Koomson

Facebook Profile  Instagram - Dorothy Koomson

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

The Good The Bad and the Little Bit Stupid by Marina Lewycka


Paperback:  262 pages

Genre: Humorous Fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House 2021

Source:  Tywyn Public Library

First Sentence: Each year over £2 billion is lost to financial fraud in the UK, and often this money is ploughed right back into other criminal enterprises, from drug trafficking to people smuggling to organ harvesting.

Review Quote: 'Lewycka has carved out a reputation for tackling Big Topics with wit and humour' Radio Times

My Opinion:  Having read and enjoyed four previous novels by Marina Lewycka, I was pleased to pick this up quite by chance last week at the library. 

Financial Fraud and Brexit two, one would think unrelated themes, however they connect to form the story behind this humorous novel.  Set in Yorkshire, in the days immediately after the referendum, there are plenty of witty comments that make you laugh. Though disappointingly some of the comic interludes were just too farcical for my liking. 

Maybe this did just not appeal to my sense of humour, or I was in the wrong mood to appreciate it. If you want a quick, easy read to make you laugh then I recommend it, but her earlier novels are better.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

After walking out on his wife to shack up with 'Brexit Brenda' next door, George Pantis thinks he's got it made - especially when he wins millions on a Kosovan lottery he barely remembers entering.

Unfortunately, he can't access the money because he's forgotten his password. What is he meant to tell all the forceful people who keep appearing at his doorstep desperate to know his mother's maiden name?

The situation is shadier than he thinks, and George is need of rescue. But will his dysfunctional family be able to save him, and in the process, can they save each other?

Links to my reviews of Marina Lewycka's earlier novels.

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

Two Caravans  published as Strawberry Fields in North America.

We Are All Made of Glue

Various Pets Alive and Dead

Author Profile

                                                           Courtesy of Goodreads

Marina Lewycka is of Ukrainian origin and was born in a refugee camp in Kiel, Germany in 1946 shortly after World War II ended. Her family subsequently moved to England when she was about a year old, she now lives in Sheffield, Yorkshire. She graduated from Keele University in 1968 with BA in English and Philosophy and from the University of York with a BPhil in English Literature in 1969. She began, but did not complete, a PhD at King's College London. She was a lecturer in media studies at Sheffield Hallam University until her retirement in March 2012. Having spent much of her life trying to become a writer she finally succeeded in 2005 with A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian which has sold more than a million copies in the UK alone. This was followed by Two Caravans in March 2007, We Are All Made of Glue in July 2009 and Various Pets Alive and Dead last year. I have included this link to  the personal biography on her website as it makes delightful reading.  Marina Lewycka Biography.

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Wikipedia - Marina Lewycka    Author's Official Website   You Tube Video

Goodreads - Author Profile   Amazon Author Page

Monday, June 6, 2022

The River Between Us by Liz Fenwick


Paperback:  502 pages

Genre: Historical Romantic Fiction

Publisher: Harper Collins 2021

Source:  Tywyn Public Library

First Sentence: At the start of her new life, Theo stood alone on a medieval bridge spanning the Tamar, shivering in the mist and murk, neither in Devon nor Cornwall.

Review Quote: ‘I enjoyed sinking into this gloriously rich novel, so laced with secrets. What a vivid cast of characters!’ Rachel Hore

My Opinion:  I devoured ‘The River Between Us’ slowly, allowing me to immerse myself in this intriguing novel. Drawn in from the very first pages as the protagonist Theo moves into a run down cottage on the banks of the River Tamar. Through the dual timelines of 1914 and 2019 we are told a compelling story of family secrets and forbidden love.

A beautifully written novel that due to its length and many characters needs to be read with, for me anyway, with maximum concentration. This meant I was able to fully appreciate the gradual unfolding of the narrative.

Highly recommend to anyone that enjoys being captivated by historical romantic fiction.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

A forgotten house and a secret hidden for a century…

Following the breakdown of her marriage, Theo has bought a tumbledown cottage on the banks of the river Tamar which divides Cornwall and Devon. The peace and tranquillity of Boatman’s Cottage, nestled by the water, is just what she needs to heal.

Yet soon after her arrival, Theo discovers a stash of hidden letters tied with a ribbon, untouched for more than a century. The letters – sent from the battlefields of France during WW1 – tell of a young servant from the nearby manor house, Abbotswood, and his love for a woman he was destined to lose.

As she begins to bring Boatman’s Cottage and its gardens back to life, Theo pieces together a story of star-crossed lovers played out against the river, while finding her own new path to happiness.

The River Between Us beautifully explores the mystery and secrets of a long-forgotten love affair, and will be loved by fans of Kate Morton.

Author Profile:

Courtesy of Goodreads 

Liz Fenwick was born in Massachusetts and after nine international moves - the final one lasting eight years in Dubai- she  now lives in Cornwall and London with her husband and two cats. She made her first trip to Cornwall in 1989, bought a home there seven years later. Apparently her heart is now forever in Cornwall, creating new stories.

Liz Fenwick describes herself as Novelist, wife, mother of three, slave to two cats and dreamer turned doer....

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Twitter - Liz Fenwick   Amazon Author Page  Official Author Website - Liz Fenwick 

Facebook Profile   Goodreads Author Profile