Thursday, April 26, 2018

Novella Nostalgia Series by Tony Drury


Paperbacks:  Varying from 44-80 pages.                                                                               
Genre: Novellas
Publisher: City Fiction 2017-2018
Source: The author in exchange for honest and unbiased reviews.
My Opinion:
If you refer back to my first review of a Tony Drury novel in 2014, you will find my opinion was that his writing is fun to read. This still remains true four years later, as I have just finished reading the first four titles in his Novella Nostalgia series.

I am not a fan of short stories or novellas and therefore rarely read or review any. However Tony Drury kindly sent me the first four titles in the series to me for an honest and unbiased review, so I read them! The series links iconic cinema classics with modern stories, though to be honest the former is rather wasted on me as though a fan of modern cinema I am not well up on the classics.

As I have already said, these were fun to read, a successful and innovative idea that will appeal to a wide cross section of readers. My review is a general one of the series and I have not gone into the specifics of each story for that reason. In my opinion they were all fascinating reads, in different ways, which I definitely recommend to fans of the genre.

My Previous Reviews for Tony Drury's Novels:

Megan's Game   The Deal   Cholesterol   

I have also read, but have yet to publish a full review for,  A Flash of Lightning  


Lunch With Harry

The first of five publications which form part of the Novella Nostalgia series linking iconic cinema classics with modern stories.

Is it possible that Audrey Hepburn was in Regent Street, London in 2016?

Perhaps not. But her memory is recreated in the desirable shape of Dr Ella van Houten who accidentally stood on Harry’s foot outside Hamleys, the world’s oldest toy shop. Ella was imagining that she was Holly Golightly, the character that Hepburn played in one of the greatest ever romantic films: Breakfast at Tiffany’s’.

This riveting novella tells how they begin a relationship which is dominated by two features: Ella’s reprise of Holly’s quirky and insecure nature and Harry’s guilt over the loss of his wife. There is also the impending death of Ella’s brother which bizarrely leads them chasing a figurine of the Mexican general Santa Anna who won the battle for ‘the Alamo’.

Their differing personalities dominate this fast moving story which takes in London, Europe and lunches with Harry. The ending produces a moment of pure cinema as Ella and Harry fight against the one obstacle which threatens their future together.

Twelve Troubled Jurors

Twelve Troubled Jurors is the second publication forming part of the Novella Nostalgia series linking iconic cinema classics with modern stories.

Is it possible that one person can change the opinion of eleven others in a criminal trial?

The Judge requires a unanimous verdict. It is Friday and, increasingly, there are compelling reasons why several of the jury members need to be released from service. The foreman, a local business women, struggles to hold on to her authority.

The first vote results in a count of eleven for ‘not guilty’ and one saying ‘guilty’. As the discussions proceed, and the drab, secured jury room produces additional pressures, the jurors begin to clash. This leads to an extraordinary outcome as the justice system is tested to its limits.

Forever On Thursdays

The third publication forming part of the Novella Nostalgia series linking iconic cinema classics with modern stories.

Is it possible that two people can meet on a railway station and fall in love?

Carey Ryan is the victim of an assault on Platform B of St Pancras International station in London. She is rescued by a stranger called Mark who takes her for a coffee. He rushes off to meet a rich widow but asks to see her again. Soon, they are meeting every Thursday.

Carey is fighting to sort out her loveless marriage and aimless life. She employs the crazy Jonathan to teach her to write a book. He becomes her mentor as they explore the world of novella construction. Slowly, her growing love for Mark becomes intertwined with the romantic odyssey that she and Jonathan are progressing.

Then their consciences cause them both to hesitate. A brief encounter with Mark having a romantic outcome is perhaps a cinematic indulgence. That is until Jonathan intervenes and tells Carey why she holds the key to their future.

The Man Who Hated

The fourth in the Novella Nostalgia series is inspired by the Michael Douglas film ‘Falling Down’. Does Milton Grant, an evil, vindictive ex-police officer, reflect the hatred that lies within modern society?

Milton has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Divorced, and with an estranged daughter, he feels he has nothing to live for – and nothing to lose. He begins a self-imposed mission to ‘correct’ what he believes are some of the main faults of his fellow human beings. In his way is a fumbling old lady at the supermarket checkout, an inconsiderate driver, selfish users of mobile phones, and self-satisfied chief executive Ray, who boasts about tax avoidance.

Milton’s acts of corrections get more extreme and violent as the novella progresses. He is spiralling out of control. In the meantime, two police officers, Lucy and Dave Smith, are close to exposing Milton. In the explosive finale Lucy finds herself facing him, as he points a gun at her head. She is alone, and has no backup. Dave is four minutes away.

Will Milton kill Lucy? Or will good triumph over evil?

Author Profile

       Tony has an about page on his website which I refer you to for biographical information.

       Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

City Fiction Publishing - FB     City Fiction Publishing - Website    Tony Drury on Twitter

Tony Drury - Amazon Author Page     Author's Official Website      Goodreads Profile

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Man I Think I Know by Mike Gayle


Paperback: 310 pages                                                                                                 
Genre: Humorous Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton  2018
Source: LoveReading Review Panel Member
First Sentence: Prologue, Headmaster's Speech, King's Scrivener Boys' School, Warwick. 16th June 1997. 'Thank you, Chairman of Governors, esteemed guests, governors, parents and last but by no means least, boys of King's Scrivener upper sixth.
Review Quote: 'Beautifully written, thought-provoking and completely charming...reminds us that the everyday things we take for granted without realising how precious they are, can be snatched away in an instant with catastrophic consequences' Ruth Hogan
Main Characters: James de Witt and Danny Allen
Setting: England
My Opinion: Mike Gayle is one of Britain's favourite authors, I have to admit that is the first book of his that I have read! Thanks to LoveReading for giving me the opportunity to read and review 'The Man I Think I Know' I will now be looking out for more of his work.
Having not read this author before or seeing any reviews prior to reading I was able to pick this up with absolutely no preconceptions and to be honest I was surprised as it was not what I expected. A completely for me anyway, new approach to male friendship, an emotional rollercoaster, yet also realistic and humorous.  Two young men with difficult experiences in their recent past reconnect after having not seen each other since schooldays. Chapters alternate with James and Danny recounting the story, which works as the reader can see that although they at first do not realise it themselves, they are really good for each other. To say anymore would spoil the impact so I urge you to read this for yourself as it provides plenty of emotive issues for you to think about. Highly recommended for those that enjoy relationship novels. 

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

Whatever happens to those kids at school who are always being tipped to be stars in adult life?

It's a question all of us find ourselves asking at some time and Mike Gayle's powerful, poignant novel answers it with regard to Danny Morgan and James McManus - rivals for top honours in everything throughout their school years in Birmingham.

Whatever their friends and teachers might have expected, neither Danny nor James is currently running the country.

Depressed and unemployed, Danny is facing an ultimatum from his girlfriend Maya: if he doesn't get out and get a job, she's leaving.

It was an accident that changed James's life and now he is looked after affectionately by his parents. But his sister Martha believes that the role of full-time carers is destroying their lives - and infantilising her brother.

She suggests that James should go into a respite home while her parents take a break.

The respite home, as it turns out, where Danny has just got a job.

What is the path that has brought these two people to this unexpected place, and where will it take them next?

This is the story of Danny and James, but also of the families who love them and of the women they love. It is a story of many surprising twists, by turns funny and sad, painful and uplifting, and marks a brilliant new stage in the writing career of one of Britain's favourite novelists.

Author Profile

MG_colour.jpgMike Gayle was born and raised in Birmingham. After graduating from Salford University with a degree in Sociology Mike moved to London with ambitions of becoming a music journalist. This didn't happen however and following a slight detour in his five-year plan he ended up as an agony uncle for teenage girls' magazine Bliss before becoming Features Editor on the now much missed Just Seventeen. Since those early days Mike has written for a variety of publications including The Sunday Times, The Guardian and Cosmopolitan.

Mike became a full time novelist in 1997 following the publication of his Sunday Times top ten bestseller My Legendary Girlfriend, which was hailed by The Independent as 'Full of belly laughs and painfully acute observations,' and by The Times as 'A funny, frank account of a hopeless romantic.'

To date Mike is the author of twelve novels including Mr Commitment, Turning Thirty and Wish You Were Here. His books have been translated into over thirty languages.

After stints in Manchester and London Mike now lives in Birmingham with his wife, kids, two sheds and a rabbit.

Photographs, Trailer and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel

Hardback: 332 pages                                                                                                 
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Spiegel and Grau Feb 2016
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: Tomas decides to walk.
Review Quote: An exploration of faith and how we can learn to accept death. Martel has an ability to write about the very fundamental human emotional threads that join us. 'Irish Independent'
Main Characters: Tomas,
Setting: Tras-os-Montes, Portugal

My Opinion: Three parts written as novellas with no chapters which is not a favourite format of mine. Took me until the final one to pull together the connections and understand, I think, what Martel is getting at. Maybe if I was not reading this for book club I would have given up. However I was glad I persevered as the third story is the best as for me it is the exploration of faith that melds this novel together. In conclusion it was for me personally just an ok read but only because it bored me, despite being so skillfully written.     

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

In Lisbon in 1904, a young man named Tomás discovers an old journal. It hints at the existence of an extraordinary artifact that—if he can find it—would redefine history. Traveling in one of Europe’s earliest automobiles, he sets out in search of this strange treasure.

Thirty-five years later, a Portuguese pathologist devoted to the murder mysteries of Agatha Christie finds himself at the center of a mystery of his own and drawn into the consequences of Tomás’s quest.

Fifty years on, a Canadian senator takes refuge in his ancestral village in northern Portugal, grieving the loss of his beloved wife. But he arrives with an unusual companion: a chimpanzee. And there the century-old quest will come to an unexpected conclusion.

The High Mountains of Portugal—part quest, part ghost story, part contemporary fable—offers a haunting exploration of great love and great loss. Filled with tenderness, humor, and endless surprise, it takes the reader on a road trip through Portugal in the last century—and through the human soul.

Video Trailer for 'Yann Martel - The High Mountains of Portugal ' Courtesy of YouTube

Author Profile

Yann Martel was born in Salamanca,Spain on June 25th 1963. After studying philosophy at university, he worked at odd jobs and travelled before turning to writing at the age of twenty-six. He is the author of the internationally acclaimed 2002 Man Booker Prize-winning novel Life of Pi, which was translated into thirty-eight languages and spent fifty-seven weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. His collection of short stories, The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, and his first novel, Self, both received critical acclaim. Yann Martel lives in Saskatchewan, Canada, with the writer Alice Kuipers and their four children.

Photographs, Trailer and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

YouTube Video    Amazon Page - Yann Martel   Goodreads Profile    Twitter Profile

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

No Ordinary Life by Diana Rhodes

Paperback:  415 pages                                                                                                
Genre: Autobiography
Publisher: Stand Sure Publishing 2010
Source: Purchased from Plas Dolguog in Machynlleth
First Sentence: 'You're going to die!' screamed the doctor, now puce with rage.

My Opinion: What a perfect title for the biography of Diana Rhodes an amazing woman who inspired so many people around the world in her lifetime. I live in the locality and was motivated to read the book after meeting members of her family, sadly not the lady herself. So glad I did read it, as although I had heard about her achievements, I had no idea just how much she had to overcome severe physical disabilities to achieve her aims in life. An enlightening read, that will make you think about your own place in this world. 

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

The inspirational story of a woman with severe physical disabilities who has made her mark as a wife, mother, teacher, peace delegate to the United Nations and founder of Grandma's Garden, a tourist attraction featured by both BBC and ITV, dedicated to raising money for charity.
From an early age, Diana always felt different. While her two sisters were strong and healthy, Diana was often sick and confined to bed. A sensitive child, she was attuned to the non-physical realms and no stranger to communicating with others who had died. She challenges our concepts of life and death and the role we each play in society and the kind of world in which we live.
Diana's own first brush with death came at age eighteen after an operation to remove part of her thyroid. After complications set in, four young doctors battled to save her life with an emergency tracheotomy.
None of this barred Diana from finding happiness with Richard, the love of her life, and they married when she was twenty. Three children followed, with more health problems along the way, but Diana has never lost her sense of humour and her story is peppered with funny, irreverent anecdotes and asides. These include a passionate search for spiritual understanding and tales of years devoted to teaching 'unteachable' children with severe dyslexia and other learning problems.
Fate led Diana and Richard to a magical part of Wales, where they first ran a caravan park from an ancient stone cottage with hardly a penny to their name. Hard work paid off, and they were able to extend their boundaries to include a small hotel . All the while, Diana's health was a rogue factor and at age thirty six she had another brush with death following a hysterectomy. Diagnoses of severe rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogrens syndrome were to come, and she began to use a wheelchair.
Through all of this, Diana's infectious sense of humour shines out to captivate her readers. When she had to give up teaching she set out to make a difference in another way, setting up the Seed of Life Peace Foundation to bring about one world vision and prayer. A Peace Gathering at Plas Dolguog attracted people from all over the world and Diana's work grew to the point where she was invited to attend the launch of the Earth Charter at The Hague in the Netherlands. This led to an invitation to attend the Millennium World Summit for Religious and Spiritual Leaders and the presentation of her Peace Scroll to the United Nations and the United Nations University of Peace, the Foreword to this book written by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Yet to come would be Diana's vision of a special garden at Dolguog dedicated to peace. Her work is tireless and now supports many different local and national charities. As her health has deteriorated, Diana's determination has grown. You will be amazed, uplifted and enlightened by her story.

Author Profile: 

Diana Rhodes was a devoted wife, mother and grandmother. She was a teacher, educator and tireless worker for the peace process. Despite, or perhaps even because of serious ongoing health challenges she had a passion for her work.  The previous paragraph is adapted from the Biography in her book, No Ordinary Life. 

I never had the pleasure of meeting Diana but I do know her late husband, Richard, sons Anthony and Edward and daughter in law Tina.

Sadly Diana died in January 2015 and below I have reproduced the announcement her son Anthony posted

It is with sadness that we, the Rhodes family, inform you of the passing of Diana Patricia Rhodes. She was an exceptional wife, loving Mum and Awesome Grandma, she will always hold a special place in our hearts. Diana spent many years of her life suffering from an ongoing illness and disability, which never held her back. We take great comfort knowing that she is now free from her pain.
Diana is known and loved locally by all, especially her students, she taught at Ysgol Bro Dyfi and Newtown College, and when she was too poorly to continue she carried on teaching from home, and called her school “Frogs into Princes.”
Her Local charity work was awe inspiring raising tens of thousands of pounds for local people, charities and good causes.
Her passion for peace and love was unsurpassed and she spoke globally on the subject at many prestigious venues and events, including the United Nations World Peace Conference in New York.
Diana was helped with all she did by her amazing Canine Partner, Wallace. Diana and he were wonderful together and shared a connection, he read her mind, he did more than fetching and carrying for her, he was able to comfort her.

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

Amazon Author Page   Goodreads - No Ordinary Life   

 Facebook - Memorial Page - Diana Rhodes