Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Paperback:  416 pages                                                                                                 
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: June 2nd 2015 by Ecco 
Source: Local Book Club Choice.
First Sentence: The funeral is supposed to be a quiet affair, for the deceased had no friends.
Favourite Quote: “Every woman is the architect of her own fortune.” 
Review Quote: A fabulously gripping read that will appeal to fans of Girl With a Pearl Earring and The Goldfinch, but Burton is a genuinely new voice with her visceral take on sex, race and class . . . Burton writes great complex female characters (Observer)
Literary Awards: Specsavers National Book Award for Books Are My Bag New Writer of the Year (2014)Walter Scott Prize Nominee (2015)Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Historical Fiction (2014)Waterstones Book of the Year (2014)
My Opinion: The atmosphere of 17C Amsterdam is vividly and evocatively described in this beautifully written debut novel.  The characters and plot are all very mysterious and it was this suspenseful narration that kept me reading, because at first it took me awhile to get into the story. I enjoyed much more than I expected to and would recommend to all fans of historical fiction.  Have already added her second novel The Muse  to my reading wishlist. Will also be looking forward to the BBC One adaptation of Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist in three parts which will be aired in 2017. 

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam—a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion—a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.

“There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . .”

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office—leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist—an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes’ gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand—and fear—the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

Author Profile

Jessie Burton was born in 1982 and lives in London. She studied at Oxford University and the Central School of Speech and Drama, where she appeared in productions of The House of Bernarda Alba, Othello, Play and Macbeth. In April 2013 her first novel, The Miniaturist, was sold at an 11-publisher auction at the London Book Fair, and went on to sell in 29 other countries around the world. It was published by Picador in the UK and Holland in July 2014, and the USA in August 2014, with other translations to follow. Radio 4 commissioned it as their Book at Bedtime in July 2014. Her second novel The Muse was published earlier this year.

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

Goodreads - Author Profile    Amazon - Jessie Burton Page    Jessie Burton - Official Website

Picador - Author Profile.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Deal by Tony Drury

Paperback: 248 pages                                                                                                 
Genre:Romantic thriller
Publisher: City Fiction 2012
Source: The author's publicist in return for an honest and unbiased review.
First Sentence: Ascent...yes, ascent, he pondered, as he quietly relayed the melody in his mind.
My Opinion: Having thoroughly enjoyed Megan's Game the debut novel from this author, I was delighted to be given the opportunity to read and review The Deal his second novel.
This is a romantic thriller, a genre appeals to many, an easy read that keeps you turning the pages as the plot builds. The setting in the financial district and a publishing house I found of particular interest.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

The pressure is on for corporate financier Oliver Chatham. As the City languishes in recession, he is under contract to raise two million pounds for a publishing company.
But it’s not only money at stake – if he is successful, Amanda Wavering, woman of his dreams and sister of the publishing house’s chief executive, will consummate their relationship; if he fails, no deal.
As if this wasn’t challenge enough, Oliver’s finance house becomes caught up in a battle of ferocious egos, as new bloods battle with the old guard for the future of the business. While old school boss Charles Harriman fights his own demons and the terrifying kidnap of his child, fearless corporate researcher Sara Flemming takes her reputation – and her life – right to the edge in her bid to expose the dodgy dealings of a Russian mafioso.
Will Oliver get what he bargained for – or will he learn the hard way that you should never mix sex and the City?

Author Profile

Biography in the Author's own words, Courtesy of Goodreads.

I was born in Birmingham and being the son of a Bank Manager I started my career in banking. In the 1960′s job security was very important. I joined the Midland Bank, Kidderminster, where I married the manager’s secretary Judy.

I was transferred to a Birmingham branch and from there my career changed. I joined a Secondary Bank much to the dismay of my parents.

In 1973 I was moved to London and promptly ran into the Secondary Banking Crisis and did well to keep my job I realised I was intellectually limited (ok: thick), so I wrote the text book on Finance Houses. It was published by Robert Maxwell who offered me a job as Managing Director of Waterlow Publishers. A year later he told me to “f**k off”, but he paid my contract.

The next ten years were spent building up a financial publishing company which went onto the stock market. I managed to buy the local squash club as well. I also had partnerships in a print company and a design studio. This experience was all very helpful in my career at the present time.

By now, I had written six financial books, the best being ‘Investment Clubs: the low risk way to stock market profits’, which was sponsored by Barclays Stockbrokers and sold 25,000 copies.

I set-up ‘ProShare’ in the early 1990′s to help shareholders form Investment Clubs.

St. Helen’s Capital was born in 1998 and by 2006 I had built it into the most successful PLUS Markets advisory firm.

I sold out of St. Helen’s in 2006 and promptly walked into the latest recession which virtually wiped me out.

I am still married to Judy (pictured). We have a son Chris and a daughter Emma, a son-in-law Simon (a barrister) and a daughter-in-law, Samantha. Chris and Samantha have now given us our first grandchild, Henry, who is the most gorgeous baby ever and I love him to bits.

I worked hard for the Conservative Party and was an Association Chairman and a County Councillor. I left when David Cameron betrayed the Party by entering into a totally unnecessary Coalition with the Lib-Dems (minority Government was staring him in the face). However, I have now rejoined in support of Andrew Selous, our local MP.

On my 60th Birthday, I decided I needed a new hobby, something a bit less energetic. I started writing fiction, mainly because I’ve spent most of my life telling stories. ‘Megan’s Game’ was my first book, which took five years to write and it was published in May 2012, followed by ‘The Deal’ in October 2012 and then ‘Cholesterol’ in June 2013. Very excited that my fourth novel ‘A Flash Of Lightning’ was released on the 21st November 2013 and most recently, 'The Lady Who Turned' was published in September 2014.

A bit of luck came my way and some producers who had read ‘Megan’s Game’ said they would like to make it into a film……..The script is now written and the film will be released in 2014. The producers loved the locations, Aberdovey in Wales, the City of London and the South of France.

Another film company in London has just bought the rights to my fourth novel 'A Flash Of Lightning' and is currently in development.

Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.

Tony Drury- Facebook   Amazon Author Profile   Official Author Website - Tony Drury

Twitter Profile   City Fiction Publishing - FB Page    City Fiction Publishing - Website    

 Goodreads Author Profile

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson

Hardback:  384 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton 2014
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentences: They came for him at midnight. there was no warning, no time to reach for the dagger hidden beneath his pillow.

Favourite Quote: “I had an appointment with a ghost. It seemed impolite not to attend.” 
Favourite Quote: I opened my mouth to reply, but could not think what to say. How could I sit at supper and describe what I had witnessed to a pair of innocent young ladies? A boy of thirteen beaten to death: rotten corpses teeming with rats; waking to find my friend with his throat cut, the life stolen from his bright black eyes.
(The second quote is not exactly a 'favourite' but this quote was to me the heart of this story, not for the faint hearted.)

Literary AwardsCrime Writers Association - Historical Dagger Award

My Opinion: I enjoy reading historical fiction but that combined with a murder mystery, meant that this is a book I would never have picked up to read had it not been a Bookclub choice. Now having finished it, I have to admit that it was better than I anticipated. The period details and setting are meticulously described and I shuddered more than once as I was transported inside the debtors prison of the C18. The novel is set over just a period of a few days that the protagonist Tom Hawkins spends in this infamous jail. Based on actual events, with characters drawn from real people, everything described is based on first hand accounts from publications of the era. Certainly not for the faint hearted, some of the descriptions are particularly savage. If you have the stomach for such graphic detail and enjoy a mystery then this is one for you.  

'The Devil in the Marshalsea' Précis Courtesy of Goodreads

London, 1727 - and Tom Hawkins is about to fall from his heaven of card games, brothels and coffee-houses to the hell of a debtors' prison.

The Marshalsea is a savage world of its own, with simple rules: those with family or friends who can lend them a little money may survive in relative comfort. Those with none will starve in squalor and disease. And those who try to escape will suffer a gruesome fate at the hands of the gaol's ruthless governor and his cronies.

The trouble is, Tom Hawkins has never been good at following rules - even simple ones. And the recent grisly murder of a debtor, Captain Roberts, has brought further terror to the gaol. While the Captain's beautiful widow cries for justice, the finger of suspicion points only one way: to the sly, enigmatic figure of Samuel Fleet.

Some call Fleet a devil, a man to avoid at all costs. But Tom Hawkins is sharing his cell. Soon, Tom's choice is clear: get to the truth of the murder - or be the next to die.

A twisting mystery, a dazzling evocation of early 18th Century London, THE DEVIL IN THE MARSHALSEA is a thrilling debut novel full of intrigue and suspense.

Author Profile

Antonia Hodgson was born in Derby in 1971. She attended Littleover Community School where she first studied the time of the early Georgians in A-level History. She graduated with a degree in English Literature from Leeds University in 1994 and she went to work for Harcourt, Brace.

Hodgson had spent nearly twenty years in the publishing business rising to editor-in-chief at Little, Brown before she published her own first novel. As an editor she had worked with Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne and the American novelists Nora Roberts and Elizabeth Kostova. Hodgson's first novel, A Devil in the Marshalsea, was set in the time of the early Georgians, William Hogarth and the Southwark prison the Marshalsea. Hodgson believes that the Georgian period was more intriguing than the Victorian era which is usually considered to be more culturally important. The book was submitted anonymously to the publishers, Hodder & Stoughton, because she was known in the publishing industry. Her first book won the Crime Writers Association's Historical Dagger award as well as being long listed for a first novel award
 The Devil in the Marshalsea her debut novel, is  the first in a series to include the protagonist Tom Hawkes. The second in the series The Last Confession of Tom Hawkins was published earlier this year.  The author  lives in London.

Photograph and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.

Goodreads - Author Profile  Wikipedia - Antonia Hodgson   Twitter Profile 

Facebook - Antonia Hodgson Author     Official Author Website - Antonia Hodgson

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Florence Grace by Tracy Rees

Paperback: 535pages.                                                                                                 

Genre: Historical Romantic Fiction
Publisher: Quercus, June 2016
Source: Lovereading Reader Review Panel
First Sentence: The Damn pony had bolted again.
Favourite Quote: Love is a strange and mystical force. It leads you down avenues you would never otherwise tread. It is always-always -about so much more than the coming together of two people.
Review Quote: Florence is such a strong, intriguing character and the plot is so clever, real and truthful.  The whole book feels so very wise, as if it contains half the answers to life (Joanna Courtney, author of the The Chosen Queen).
My Opinion: When I was recently offered the opportunity to read and review this title, despite never having read the authors previous novel, it sounded interesting so I jumped at the opportunity. So I have now discovered another writer of historical romantic fiction that I can turn to when I am in the mood for this genre.  
The heroine of the novel is a spirited young Cornish girl who one day finds herself unexpectedly part of a wealthy London family and she is thrown into a complete change of lifestyle. Not an easy or happy transition for her, but true to character Florence survives, to find out how you will just have to read for yourself. 
An enjoyable relaxing read that left me feeling contented, just what I needed. Recommended to anyone that enjoys finding a story to loose themselves in away from the stresses of the modern world. 

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

Florrie Buckley is an orphan, living on the wind-blasted moors of Cornwall. It's a hard existence but Florrie is content; she runs wild in the mysterious landscape. She thinks her destiny is set in stone.

But when Florrie is fourteen, she inherits a never-imagined secret. She is related to a wealthy and notorious London family, the Graces. Overnight, Florrie's life changes and she moves from country to city, from poverty to wealth.

Cut off from everyone she has ever known, Florrie struggles to learn the rules of this strange new world. And then she must try to fathom her destructive pull towards the enigmatic and troubled Turlington Grace, a man with many dark secrets of his own.

Author Profile

Tracy Rees was the winner of the Richard and Judy 'Search for a Bestseller' Competition and her first book, Amy Snow, was a Richard and Judy and Kindle bestseller. A Cambridge graduate, she had a successful eight-year career in nonfiction publishing and a second career practising and teaching humanistic counselling before becoming a writer. She lives in Wales.

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

Amazon Author Profile      Tracy Rees - Twitter Profile