Sunday, December 20, 2015

Blogging Break - Seasonal Greetings and Best Wishes For 2016

I am taking a break from blogging for the next few weeks, until after Twelfth Night. I will however continue to post as often as I can on my Instagram account.

I look forward to returning next year to share many more Book Reviews with you all. Thankyou so much to my followers here for your continuing support.

Wishing you all Seasonal Greetings and Very Best Wishes For 2016

Photo was taken by me at The White Hall Hotel in Tywyn and then edited in Picasa

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Of Things Gone Astray by Janina Matthewson

Paperback: 291 pages

Genre: Fantasy Fiction
Publisher: Harper Collins 2014
Source: The author's publicists in return for an unbiased review.
First Sentence:Mrs Featherby had been having pleasant dreams until she woke to discover the front of her house had vanished overnight.
Favourite Quote: “That's a very strongly defined term, dear, 'wrong choices' and i'm not sure it's helpful. There are no wrong or right choices, necessarily, just those you make or don't make and the consequences. And by extension, how you deal with the consequences.”
Review Quote: 'I wanted to read this quickly but it kept making me stop to think. I love this stunning collection of quirky ideas, skillfully told and any one of them could happen to any one of us, at any time.' Cecelia Ahern.
My Opinion: Set in the real world but with ridiculous things happening I struggled to read this. Do not get me wrong this a well written and quirky novel dealing with loss. As I am not generally a fan of fantasy fiction this was no great surprise to me, but I do like to take the opportunity to read things outside my comfort zone. Although it did not work for me it will I think  appeal to 'real' fans of this genre.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads :

On a seemingly normal morning in London, a group of people all lose something dear to them, something dear but peculiar: the front of their house, their piano keys, their sense of direction, their place of work.

Meanwhile, Jake, a young boy whose father brings him to London following his mother’s sudden death, finds himself strangely attracted to other people’s lost things. But little does he realize that his most valuable possession, his relationship with his father, is slipping away from him.

Of Things Gone Astray is a magical fable about modern life and values and finding the things that really matter

Author Profile:

Janina is a London based writer of novels and plays. She is ill equipped to deal with domestic concerns and almost always kills her plants.
Of Things Gone Astray is now available in the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States. Published by The Friday Project at Harper Collins.
Her first novella, The Understanding of Women, was released world wide as an eBook in October 2012 and her play, Human and If, had it's first public reading in July 2012.
She will never get used to Christmas being cold as she was born in New Zealand.

The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and her writing.

Goodreads Author Profile    Amazon Author Page   Janina Matthewson Official Website

Twitter Profile

Thursday, December 17, 2015

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Paperback:  336 pages
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Serpents Tail, 2014
Source: Purchased from Amazon.
First Sentence: Those who know me now will be surprised to learn that I was a great talker as a child.
Favourite Quote: Language is more than just words, he said Language is also the order of words and the way one word inflects another.
Review Quote: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is a dark cautionary tale hanging out, incognito-style, in what at first seems a traditional family narrative. It is anything but. This novel is deliciously jaunty in tone and disturbing in material. Karen Joy Fowler tells the story of how one animal-the animal of man-can simultaneously destroy and expand our notion of what is possible (Alice Sebold)

Literary Awards: Man Booker Prize Nominee (2014)Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (2013)PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction (2014)California Book Award Gold Medal for Fiction (2013)John W. Campbell Memorial Award Nominee (2014)
My Opinion: .The strangest book I have read this year!

Well that was indeed a different read! A very odd and strange narrative, that first appears to be a traditionally told family story. However it is far from that, very difficult indeed to say much without spoilers, which I always aim not to do. 

Very briefly then, this novel starts out very normally and I thought I was going to enjoy the account of life in the Cooke household where the three siblings Lowell, Fern and Rosemary were growing up. Personally I found Rosemary to be extremely annoying, what a misery she was, making her life far more hellish than it needed to be surely. What a dysfunctional family unit they were and being used by one's parents in such a strange way obviously had a very bewildering effect on the children. When you come to the twist you will start to realise why!

There is no doubt that the author is a talented writer and in theory the plot is a very clever one and the novel is well deserving of it's short listing for the Man Booker Prize. However it was just not for me, I found the concept completely unappealing, maybe I was meant to, it is certainly a disturbing one. With the strong themes of grief, loss and animal experimentation this is not a novel for the faint hearted. 

Précis: Courtesy of Goodreads:

What if you grew up to realise that your father had used your childhood as an experiment?

Rosemary doesn't talk very much, and about certain things she's silent. She had a sister, Fern, her whirlwind other half, who vanished from her life in circumstances she wishes she could forget. And it's been ten years since she last saw her beloved older brother Lowell.

Now at college, Rosemary starts to see that she can't go forward without going back, back to the time when, aged five, she was sent away from home to her grandparents and returned to find Fern gone

Author Profile:

Karen Joy Fowler was born in n Bloomington, Indiana, USA, on  February 07, 1950 .   
About this author
: in her own words.
I was born in Bloomington, Indiana. I was due on Valentine's Day but arrived a week early; my mother blamed this on a really exciting IU basketball game. My father was a psychologist at the University, but not that kind of psychologist. He studied animal behavior, and especially learning. He ran rats through mazes. My mother was a polio survivor, a schoolteacher, and a pioneer in the co-operative nursery school movement. Along with basketball, my family loved books. The day I got my first library card there was a special dinner to celebrate. And before I could read myself, I remember my father reading The Iliad to me, although really he was reading it to my older brother, I just got to be there. A shocking book! And I remember Mary Poppins and Winnie the Pooh in my father's voice and a bunch of other things that weren't movies yet. My parents strongly disapproved of the Disney version of things. Pooh believed in a spoonful of honey, but Mary Poppins did not.

Biography courtesy of  Goodreads where the full article may be read.

The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and her writing.

Goodreads - Author Profile    Karen Joy Fowler - Official Author Website    Amazon Author Page

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Cross Roads by Wm Paul Young

Paperback: 286 pages
Genre: Christian Fiction
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton 2013
Source: Tywyn Public Library 

First Sentences: Some years in Portland, Oregon, winter is a bully, spitting sleet and spewing snow in fits and starts as it violently wrestles days from spring, claiming some archaic right to remain king of the seasons-ultimately the vain attempt of another pretender.

Favourite Quote: “There is always risk in relationships, but bottom line? The world has no meaning apart from relationships. Some are just messier than others, some are seasonal, others are difficult, and a few are easy, but every one of them is important.” 
My Opinion: 
 Comforting at the time of reading.

My Review :
Prior to being given this book to read for one of the Book Clubs I belong to I had never heard of this author and my initial reaction was that this was a book I very much doubt I would have read from choice.

Like many of us I struggle to understand the world and the meaning of life, so when I first read the blurb for this novel I felt it may be a comforting read. Indeed it was but only at the time of reading, not in a life changing way. A story of  relationships, participation and the choices we make at the crossroads in our lives.

A very complicated story but simply put it is about a businessman who after being involved in an accident is left in a coma.  The protagonist Tony is broken and bitter after the loss of a loved one, he does not really have any faith. Even without a strong belief in God, he finds himself not just meeting him but carrying out a mission on his behalf.  Mysteriously inside other bodies, yes they know he is there, he is able to examine his life in retrospect.  Difficult to comprehend but then so is life, The one thing that slightly concerned me is that maybe some devoted Christians may well find this 'possession' offensive.

A Christian book but absolutely no need to be a believer to benefit from reading.  The author writes (obviously his own beliefs) about life and death in a compassionate way.

You really do need to read this for yourself!

Précis: Courtesy of Goodreads:
Anthony Spencer is egotistical, proud of being a self-made business success at the peak of his game, even though the cost of winning was painfully high. A cerebral hemorrhage leaves Tony comatose in a hospital ICU. He 'awakens' to find himself in a surreal world, a 'living' landscape that mirrors dimensions of his earthly life, from the beautiful to the corrupt. It is here that he has vivid interactions with others he assumes are projections of his own subconscious, but whose directions he follows nonetheless with the possibility that they might lead to authenticity and perhaps, redemption. The adventure draws Tony into deep relational entanglements where he is able to 'see' through the literal eyes and experiences of others, but is "blind" to the consequences of hiding his personal agenda and loss that emerge to war against the processes of healing and trust. Will this unexpected coalescing of events cause Tony to examine his life and realize he built a house of cards on the poisoned grounds of a broken heart? Will he also have the courage to make a critical choice that can undo a major injustice he set in motion before falling into a coma?

YouTube : Official Book Trailer

Author Profile:

William Paul Young was born in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada on May 11th 1955. The eldest of four children but the majority of his first decade was lived with his missionary parents in the highlands of Netherlands New Guinea (West Papua), among the Dani, a technologically stone age tribal people. These became his family and as the first white child and outsider who ever spoke their language, he was granted unusual access into their culture and community.  An extended biography can be read here

The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and his writing.

YouTube - Book Trailer      Goodreads - Author Profile    Paul Young - Author's Official Website

Facebook - William Paul Young     Wikipedia Profile      Google Search Page

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Dangerous Waters by Anne Allen

Paperback: 302 pages.                                                                                                      
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Romance.
Publisher: Matador 2012
Source: The author in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
First Sentence: Jeanne went out on deck as the spring sun broke through the clouds.
Review Quote: The island of Guernsey is so vividly evoked, one feels as if one is walking its byways. An atmospheric and tantalising read. --Elizabeth Bailey, author of The Gilded Shroud
My Opinion: I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and am now looking forward to reading the rest of The Guernsey Novels of which this is the first of four already published. With the fifth due out in the spring of 2016, I had better get a move on if I want to catch up and read the others before then. 
'DangerousWaters' is set in Guernsey and the author's imagery conjures up the beauty of the island. The setting combined with the mystery and romance surrounding the protagonist Jeanne, this story will whisk you away to another world. A novel to immerse yourself in and for awhile forget the trials and tribulations surrounding us all in reality.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads

Tragedy seems to follows Jeanne Le Page around ...
Can she really go through it again and survive?
Jeanne Le Page is lucky to be alive … 15 years ago she was almost killed in a boating accident which brought heart-breaking family tragedy. Now 31, Jeanne is reluctantly returning to the Island of Guernsey following the death of her beloved Grandmother. Struggling for breath as the ferry nears the Island, Jeanne feels a dark foreboding overwhelm her as hazy memories of that terrible day resurface.
Only back on the Island to sell her inheritance - her Grandmother’s old cottage - she has no intention of sticking around to pick up her old life. But the cottage holds a secret, dating back to World War II, and Jeanne becomes drawn into discovering more. Then, shortly after her arrival, a chance meeting with an old teenage crush leads her to thoughts of love.
Jeanne is forced to face her demons, reliving the tragedy as her lost memory returns.
The truth is finally revealed, endangering Jeanne’s life for a second time…

Dangerous Waters is a heart-warming, contemporary romance and mystery that captures the reader’s imagination, written in a style comparable to that of Maeve Binchy.

Video Trailer for 'Dangerous Waters' Courtesy of YouTube

Author Profile

Author Biography in her own words from her website

I live by my beloved sea in Devon and have three adult children – two boys and a girl – and two small grandchildren.  A restless soul, I have moved  around a lot and spent many years in Guernsey after falling in love with the island. I managed to leave one son behind to give me a valid reason for   frequent returns! Another son is in London which proves handy for City breaks. I’m now in Devon to be near my daughter and grandchildren and love the fact that I’m still by the sea. I was born in Rugby, right in the middle of the country and as far from the sea as you can get, so spent most of  my adult life moving to coastal areas. Am particularly happiest in warmer climes, having lived in Spain for a few years. My ideal would be to spend  part of the English winter somewhere warm, possibly Spain, so that I can recharge my body and soul. 

By profession I was a psychotherapist but have long had creative ‘itches’, learning to mosaic, paint furniture, interior design and sculpt. Although I had often thought about being a writer, life had always seemed to get in the way. Bringing up three children on one’s own didn’t make it any easier! Then, a few years ago, I won a true-life story competition run by Prima magazine, which was featured in a two-page spread when published. A real boost to my writer’s ego!  

About this time I ran out of excuses for not writing a novel and the story for Dangerous Waters came unbidden after reading Joanne Harris’s Coastliners, set on a small French island. It reminded me of Guernsey and I was drawn to write a novel that was both about love and loss – central to everyone’s lives – and family secrets going back many years. My experience as a psychotherapist helped me enormously, having spent many years helping people to deal with serious issues like the loss of loved ones. I’ve also had my own life experiences to draw on…! But I must stress that the novel is not based on anyone’s real story, it is fiction. At the time I didn’t appreciate how much work it would take to bring it up to a publishable standard so it’s not been a quick journey.  But very worthwhile ☺ 

I have since published three more books – The Guernsey Novels – and am now writing the fifth, Echoes of Time, due out in 2016. Watch this space!  

Additional Author Info I read on Goodreads
Anne Allen was born in Rugby, to an English mother and Welsh father. As a result she spent many summers with her Welsh grandparents in Anglesey and learnt to love the sea.

Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Marriage to Measure (Serenity Holland 3) by Talli Roland

Ebook: 473KB or 141 pages
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Fiction
PublisherNotting Hill Press (10 Dec. 2014)
Source: Author in return for an honest and unbiased review.
First Sentence: Proposal etiquette was definitely not designed with females in mind.
My Opinion:I have been reading and reviewing the writing of this talented author since 2010, when she asked me to review her first novel, 'The Hating Game',  Since the publication of her first novel Talli has embraced the importance of social media as a marketing tool for her novels as that is where she finds her target market. I am probably one of her older fans but 'Marriage to Measure' is the sixth one I have read and once again she has not failed to make me smile. A good enough reason in my opinion for me to continue to enjoy her writing! 

I found this to be an amusing and light hearted read, somehow made more relevant as one of my daughters got married last year. ' Marriage to Measure' is the third in the trilogy featuring Serenity Holland this time organising her wedding over a short period of time which makes for some interesting scenarios. Recommended to fans of contemporary romantic fiction, it will not fail to make you smile.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

When Serenity Holland proposes to her long-time boyfriend Jeremy, she’s certain ‘forever’ is a perfect fit. As the wedding train steams forward, though, Serenity starts to wonder if they really are an ideal match. From a crusty old ring to a dilapidated house she’s left to renovate on her own – not to mention the appearance of Jeremy’s clingy ex-fiancée – engagement feels more like disengagement. 

Even worse, wedding planning’s like a bad hangover as Serenity juggles the wishes of family and friends with her bossy mother-in-law-to-be, resulting in a Frankenwedding nothing like the simple ceremony she envisioned. 

Can Serenity knit her relationship back together and fashion a celebration that suits, or will ‘I do’ become ‘I don’t’?

My reviews of her earlier novels can all be found elsewhere on this blog, just click on the titles.

The Hating Game    Watching Willow Watts   Build A Man  Construct A Couple   The Pollyanna Plan

Author Profile:

Talli Roland was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, by the age of 13, she’d finished her first novel and received very encouraging rejections from publishers. Talli was very athletic at school and university, achieving provincial records and becoming a Canadian university champion in the 4 × 400 meter relay. After getting her BA, she turned to writing again, earning a Masters in Journalism. 

A few years later, she left Canada behind and settled in London, where she now lives with her husband and their young son.

Her début novel, The Hating Game, was short-listed for Best Romantic Read at the UK's Festival of Romance, and her second, Watching Willow Watts, was selected as an Amazon Customer Favourite.

You can  learn more about Talli in the About Me section of her website.

Biographical, other information and photo are with thanks to the following links where you can find out more about Talli Roland.

Photograph and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.

Talli Roland Official Website    Goodreads Author Profile   Amazon - Author Profile

Twitter - Talli Roland      Facebook Profile

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

Paperback: 352  pages                                                                                                        
Genre: Historical Fiction, Malaysian Literature
Publisher: Canongate Books May 2013
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: On a mountain above the clouds once lived a man who had been the gardener of the Emperor of Japan.
Favourite Quote: Memory is like patches of sunlight in an overcast valley, shifting with the movement of the clouds. Now and then the light will fall on a particular point in time, illuminating it for a moment before the wind seals up the gap, and the world is in shadows again.
Review Quote: "Complex and powerful . . . sophisticated and satisfying" (Sunday Times)
Literary Awards: Man Booker Prize Nominee (2012), International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Nominee for Shortlist (2014), Man Asian Literary Prize (2012), Walter Scott Prize (2013)
My Opinion: A great read with evocative descriptions of the surroundings. A very moving and haunting novel. Highly recommend to anyone that enjoys a really good story.

' The Garden of Evening Mists' Précis Courtesy of Goodreads

It's Malaya, 1949. After studying law at Cambridge and time spent helping to prosecute Japanese war criminals, Yun Ling Teoh, herself the scarred lone survivor of a brutal Japanese wartime camp, seeks solace among the jungle-fringed plantations of Northern Malaya where she grew up as a child. There she discovers Yugiri, the only Japanese garden in Malaya, and its owner and creator, the enigmatic Aritomo, exiled former gardener of the Emperor of Japan.

Despite her hatred of the Japanese, Yun Ling seeks to engage Aritomo to create a garden in Kuala Lumpur, in memory of her sister who died in the camp. Aritomo refuses, but agrees to accept Yun Ling as his apprentice 'until the monsoon comes'. Then she can design a garden for herself.

As the months pass, Yun Ling finds herself intimately drawn to her sensei and his art while, outside the garden, the threat of murder and kidnapping from the guerrillas of the jungle hinterland increases with each passing day. But the Garden of Evening Mists is also a place of mystery. Who is Aritomo and how did he come to leave Japan? Why is it that Yun Ling's friend and host, Magnus Praetorius, seems almost immune from the depredations of the Communists? What is the legend of 'Yamashita's Gold' and does it have any basis in fact? And is the real story of how Yun Ling managed to survive the war perhaps the darkest secret of all?

Author Profile

Tan Twan Eng

Tan Twan Eng was born in 1972 in Penang, but lived in various places in Malaysia as a child. He studied law at the University of London and later worked as lawyer in one of Kuala Lumpur’s most reputable law firms. He also has a first-dan ranking in aikido and is a strong proponent for the conservation of heritage buildings.

Tan Twan Eng talked about his background, his second novel, and his writing process in a May 2012 interview live-tweeted by BooksLiveSA from a literary festival in Franschhoek, South Africa. His hometown is Penang, Malaysia, and he received a law degree there. He said being a lawyer helped him be organized, disciplined, and meticulous, and that lawyers have to craft stories. While he grew up with Malay, Hokkien, and English spoken at home, the author said he thinks and dreams in English. Currently he writes full time, splitting his time between Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Cape Town, South Africa. His first novel, The Gift of Rain, set in Penang during World War II was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2007. His second novel, The Garden of Evening Mists (2012), which opens just after World War II, is written from the perspective of a female judge and involves three cultures: Malay, Japanese, and South African. The author says his third novel will be set in China.

Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.

Amazon Author Profile  Goodreads Author Profile   Facebook - Tan Twan Eng

Tan Twan Eng - Author Website    Wikipedia - Tan Twan Eng

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The King's Mistress by Gillian Bagwell

Hardback: 400 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Avon 2012
Source: Read on My Kindle
First Sentence: The afternoon sun dappled through the leaves of the oak tree. Jane Lane sat in its shade, her back against its stalwart trunk, the Second Folio of Shakespeare's works open on her lap.

Review Quote: “The King’s Mistress is that spellbinding combination of history, adventure, suspense and a fast-beating pulse of pure eroticism…a real romantic treat.” Lancashire Evening Post

My Opinion: As far as I have been able to ascertain this novel is the only fictional account of the real-life adventure of Jane Lane, who risked her life to help the young Charles II escape after the Battle of Worcester in 1651. An important  moment in the history of the British Monarchy. Gillian Bagwell with her love and fascination of British History and her through research brings this captivating tale to life for the reader. For fans of historical fiction that have not yet discovered this author's work, I recommend you give her a try as she writes with passion about real people and places.

Precis of 'The King's Mistress' courtesy of  Goodreads

Set against the volatile backdrop of the English Civil War, dive into this enthralling tale of danger, bravery, and a woman who would do anything for the man she loved.

It's 1651 and Jane Lane leads a privileged life inside the walls of her family's home. At 25 years old, her parents are keen to see her settled, but Jane dreams of a union that goes beyond the advantageous match her father desires.

Her quiet world is shattered when Royalists, fighting to restore the crown to King Charles II, arrive at their door, imploring Jane and her family for help. They have been hiding the king, but Cromwell's forces are close behind them, baying for Charles' blood -- and the blood of anyone who seeks to help him. Putting herself in mortal danger, Jane must help the king escape to safety by disguising him as her manservant.

With the shadow of the gallows dogging their every step, Jane finds herself falling in love...

My Previous Review of a Gillian Bagwell novel

The Darling Strumpet

Author Profile

Gillian Bagwell grew up in Berkeley, California, and began her professional life as an actress, studying at the University of California Berkeley and the Drama Studio London at Berkeley before relocating to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and television. She moved into directing and producing theatre, founding The Pasadena Shakespeare Company, where she served as artistic director for nine years, producing thirty-seven critically acclaimed productions. 

She united her life-long love of books, British history, and theatre in writing her first novel, "The Darling Strumpet," based on the life of Nell Gwynn. Her second novel, 'The September Queen' is called 'The King's Mistress' in the UK has Charles II and Jane Lane as protagonists.  Her third novel  "Venus in Winter" is based on the first forty years of the life of the formidable four-times widowed Bess of Hardwick,  

Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.

Goodreads - Author Profile     Facebook - Gillian Bagwell  

 Official Author Website           Amazon's Gillian Bagwell Page

Bay of Secrets by Rosanna Ley

Hardback: 519 pages
Genre: Contemporary  Fiction
Publisher: Quercus 2013
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: The doorbell rang - loud insistent.

Review Quote: 'Explores a sensitive subject in a unique and inspirational style, bringing to light a subject that for many children in Spain is still a harsh reality' Novelicious.
My Opinion: I read this very early on this year whilst on holiday, but somehow never got round to writing my review.  It was for me a perfect holiday read with believable characters and plot with historical background weaved in to the romance. This was the second book I have read by Rosanna Ley and it certainly will not be the last. 

 Bay of Secrets Précis Courtesy of Goodreads

Spain, 1939.

Following the wishes of her parents to keep her safe during the war, a young girl, Julia, enters a convent in Barcelona. Looking for a way to maintain her links to the outside world, she volunteers to help in a maternity clinic. But worrying adoption practices in the clinic force Sister Julia to decide how far she will go to help those placed in her care.

England, 2011.

Six months after her parents' shocking death, 34-year-old journalist and jazz enthusiast Ruby Rae has finally found the strength to pack away their possessions and sell the family home. But as she does so, she unearths a devastating secret her parents, Vivien and Tom, had kept from her all her life.

My review of  The Villa  by Rosanna Ley can be found here. 

Author Profile

Rosanna Ley has worked as a creative writing tutor for over 15 years. Affiliated to several colleges and universities in England, she also runs her own writing courses in the UK and abroad. She has worked with community groups in therapeutic settings and completed an MA in creative writing for personal development in order to support this. Her writing holidays and retreats take place in stunning locations in Italy and Spain and whilst not teaching or writing she mentors and appraises the work of new writers. Rosanna has had numerous articles and short stories published in UK magazines, and 12 novels of contemporary fiction published in the U.K, Germany, Greece and the U.S.A under a pseudonym. Her books are inspired by the culture and landscapes of Italy, Sicily and the Canary Islands and feature strong female voices from the past and present, along with an intense undercurrent of mystery and romance. Rosanna spends some time every year travelling around Europe looking for writing inspiration and more tranquil settings for writing holidays. She loves cliff walking and her favourite writing place is somewhere with a sea view. When she is not travelling, Rosanna lives with her artist husband in a Victorian cottage in West Dorset by the sea.

Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.
Goodreads - Author Profile    Twitter - Rosanna Ley   Author's Official Website

Friday, October 2, 2015

Not Quite Nice by Celia Imrie

Hardback: 336 pages
Genre: Contemporary  Fiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury 2015 
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentences: The small town of Bellevue-Sur-Mer sparkled like a diamond on the French Mediterranean coast.

Review Quote: A hugely enjoyable romp of a novel with eccentric characters, a delightful background and a savoury tang of crime ( Author - Katie Fforde)
My Opinion: A pleasant read but to be honest I prefer Celia Imrie's work as an actress.

'Not Quite Nice' is the début novel from the actress Celia Imrie about the joys, trials and tribulations of living abroad as an ex-pat. A pleasant read but to be honest I prefer her work as an actress, although I admire her tremendously for writing a novel. Also I now plan to read her autobiography The Happy Hoofer, having discovered her humour translates to the written word.  This lovely lady is an all time favourite of mine and her wonderful personality definitely shines through in her writing. 

The location, storyline and antics of the characters cannot fail to lighten your mood.

Recommended to not only fans of Contemporary Fiction but also to fans of Celia Imrie the actress. I personally cannot wait to read the autobiography. Hopefully this début novel will delight you written as it is with such warmth and humour.

'Not Quite Nice' Précis Courtesy of Goodreads 

Theresa is desperate for a change. Forced into early retirement, fed up with babysitting her bossy daughter's obnoxious children, she sells her Highgate house and moves to the picture-perfect town of Bellevue-sur-Mer, just outside Nice.

With its beautiful villas, its bustling cafes and shimmering cerulean sea, the village sparkles like a diamond on the French Mediterranean coast. Once the hideaway of artists and writers, it is now home to the odd rock icon and Hollywood movie star, and, as Theresa soon discovers, a close-knit set of expats. There's Carol, the infinitely glamorous American and her doting husband David; the erstwhile British TV star Sally; the ferocious Sian and her wayward Australian poet husband; the sharply witty Zoe with her strangely youthful face and penchant for white wine - and the suave Brian who catches Theresa's eye.

As Theresa settles to the gentle rhythm of seaside life she embraces her new-found friendships and freedom. However, life is never quite as simple as it seems and as skeletons start to fall out of several closets, Theresa begins to wonder if life on the French Riviera is quite as nice as it first appeared.

Author Profile:

Celia Diana Savile Imrie (born 15 July 1952) is an Olivier Award-winning English actress. In a career starting in the early 1970s, Imrie has played Marianne Bellshade in Bergerac, Philippa Moorcroft in Dinnerladies, Miss Babs inAcorn Antiques, Diana Neal in After You’ve Gone and Gloria Millington in Kingdom. She has been described as “one of the greatest British actresses of recent decades”.

Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.

Celia Imrie - Official Website     Celia Imrie - Wikipedia    Twitter - Celia Imrie

Thursday, September 10, 2015

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou


Paperback: 281 pages
Genre: Autobiography 
Publisher: Random Press 1969
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentences: "What you looking at me for? I didn't come to stay..."
Favourite Quote: As I ate she began the first of what we later called "my lessons in living." She said that I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy.
Review Quote: She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace . . . She will always be the rainbow in my clouds (Oprah Winfrey)
My Opinion: An emotional and vivid read.

The first volume in Maya Angelou's autobiography has long been considered a classic but it never really appealed to me. I doubt I would have ever have got round to picking this up to read then had it not been selected as the January read for one of the Book Clubs I am a member of.  Yes this is a depressing story of racial discrimination in the American south in the 1930's and 40's but the author has an expressive way with language that makes for an emotional and vivid read. 

It is thanks to Maya's love of literature that she manages to cope with the traumatic childhood that she experienced. At just three and four years of age she and her older bother Bailey were sent by their parents to live in Stamps, Arkansas with their paternal grandmother Annie Henderson. Annie was a devout and enterprising woman running a local store, which was also the family home. Living there with their grandmother and a physically disabled Uncle, the children not only had to deal with the feeling that they had been abandoned by their parents but also discrimination and prejudice.
Five years later back, but it turns out only temporarily, in Louisiana with her mother Maya is brutally and sexually attacked by a man many years her senior. A terrible experience which stayed with her for the rest of her life. It is only years later whilst living in San Francisco that she discovers that love and kindness outside the family and literature does exist. 

In conclusion, if you are considering reading this bear in mind that it does contain graphic and sexually explicit passages about the terrible experience of her rape at the age of eight. Sadly this is fact, a real life coming of age story where brutality seemed to be part of everyday life.

Author Profile

Maya Angelou (Marguerite Ann Johnson) was born in St Louis, Missouri, USA on April 4th 1928 and she died on May 28th 2014. She grew up in St Louis Missouri and Stamps, Arkanas. During her lifetime she wrote her Biographies, poetry, acted and became an important figure in the American Civil Rights Movement.
In 2001 she was named one of the 30 most powerful women in America by Ladies Home Journal. Maya Angelou is known for her series of six autobiographies, starting with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in 1969. Her volume of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Die (1971) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

The Angelou Johnson Family are keeping her memory alive, as the following message on her website

Developing a love of truth, standing for civil rights, enjoying life itself and recording the experience, our matriarch became an inspiration. Maya Angelou’s words, spoken, on the printed page or reflected here, continue to promote self-examination, equality and friendship. Believing that “we are more alike than unalike”, Maya Angelou would be the first to say that as a child of God it was her duty to recognize that everyone else was also a child of God, “Everybody born comes from the Creator trailing wisps of glory.”

Join us as we celebrate a life well lived! Take time to read, listen, view and be inspired. Trail your wisps of glory and once you've clicked every page, make sure you return as we continue to expand the experience. Together, let’s celebrate life and joy!

The Angelou Johnson Family

The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and her writing.