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