Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Secrets of a Happy Marriage by Cathy Kelly




Hardback:  426 pages                                                                                              
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Orion Books 2016
Source: St Cadfan's Church Fund Raising Sale - Tywyn
First Sentences: Prologue: In the San Francisco February dawn, Faenia Lennox sat at an off-white chalk-painted desk facing the Bay with its familiar and beloved fog visible beyond the Japanese maples in her garden and typed at speed, the same speed she'd learned from Mrs Farmsworth's classes in New York all those years ago. Over forty years ago, in fact.
Review Quote:  An uplifting story of warm, larger-than life characters. Comforting and feel good, the perfect treat read. (Good Housekeeping)
Favourite Quote: Secrets of a Happy Marriage #7 Never underestimate kindness. Being kind to the person you love is worth more than  hundred gifts. Kindness makes us feel love, supported and appreciated.
My Opinion: Cathy Kelly is an author I have read in the past but not since 2006. When I saw this brand new hardback for sale at a bargain price at a church fund raising event a few months ago I purchased as it looked like a read for lazy summer days.  Just finished reading, it was perfect for taking my mind off the weather, where has the sunshine gone?
A heartwarming story in Cathy Kelly's style of Irish storytelling about modern life. The dynamics of the relationships from the protagonists Bess and Edward, the older couple that have found love in later life to the rest of the characters within the extended family circle, are written about in a realistic way. The themes of friendship, marriage, trust, bereavement, infertility and depression are all topics covered that will not be unfamiliar to many readers.
I also liked the anecdotal chapter headings, all about marriage, a compassionate addition to the novel. Recommended to fans of Irish women's fiction, contemporary fiction and Cathy Kelly, an overall easy read.



Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

Any family knows that a special birthday party is the perfect chance to come together, but for the Brannigan clan it's about more than just raising a glass . . .

Bess is hoping to show everyone just how happy her recent marriage is, but behind all the party-planning the cracks are beginning to show. Why is joining a family so difficult?

Jojo, Bess's stepdaughter, has a point to make. Bess is not her mother, and she won't replace the one she's been missing every day for the last two years. And will she ever get the chance to become a mum herself?

Cousin Cari is a fierce career-woman who isn't unnerved by anything - apart from facing the man who left her at the alter, and he's on the guestlist. Her job has been a safe place to hide ever since - but is it time to let love into her life again?

Thanks to laughter, tears and one surprise appearance, the Brannigans might just discover the secrets of a happy marriage . . . But will they find out before it's too late?



Author Profile:





Cathy Kelly was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on September 12th 1966. A former Irish journalist she has been writing women's fiction since 1997, since when she has gained international recognition.

Published around the world, with millions of books in print. Cathy is the bestselling author of The Honey Queen, Once in a Lifetime and Between Sisters, and is a No.1 bestseller in the UK, Ireland and Australia. Her trademark is warm and witty Irish storytelling about modern life, always with an uplifting message, a sense of community and strong female characters at the heart.
She lives with her family and their three dogs in County Wicklow, Ireland. She is also an Ambassador for UNICEF Ireland, raising funds and awareness for children orphaned by or living with HIV/AIDS.


Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.

Amazon Author Page - Cathy Kelly     Wikipedia - Cathy Kelly       Author's Official Website

Cathy Kelly Books - Facebook     Twitter - Cathy Kelly

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Hippopotamus by Stephen Fry





Paperback:  400 pages                                                                                                
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Arrow Books - 2017 -  Originally Published 1994
Source: A Likely Story - Tywyn
First Sentence: The fact is I had just been sacked from my paper, some frantic piffle about shouting insults from the stalls at a first night.
Review Quote:  "Fresh, filthy, funny and fizzing with ideas" (Evening Standard)
My Opinion: I read this in preparation for an evening at The Magic Lantern Cinema in Tywyn last night. What a great evening it was, this is a very funny novel. It is however also a no holds barred story about a young man struggling with reaching sexual maturity, that some readers might find offensive. Personally, I found it a very sensitive novel which I feel considering the author may well contain some autobiographical content. I was also pleased to discover that the director had kept very much to the story and the few changes he made were appropriate. I would highly recommend that you read the book before seeing the film if you can. So, in conclusion book or film? Both, as this novel was, thanks to John Jencks the director and his talented team of actors, writers and extended team, beautifully converted using Stephen Fry's words to the big screen. 




Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

Ted Wallace is an old, sour, womanising, cantankerous, whisky-sodden beast of a failed poet and drama critic, but he has his faults too. Fired from his newspaper, months behind on his alimony payments and disgusted with a world that undervalues him, Ted seeks a few months repose and free drink at Swafford Hall, the country mansion of his old friend Lord Logan. But strange things have been going on at Swafford. Miracles. Healings. Phenomena beyond the comprehension of a mud-caked hippopotamus like Ted.

With this funny and deliciously readable novel, Stephen Fry takes his place as one of the most talented comic novelists of his generation.
 

Author Profile:

Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry was born on August 24th 1957 in London, England. He is a leading light in film, theatre, radio and television the world over, receiving accolades in spades and plaudits by the shovel. As a comedian, writer, producer, director, actor, presenter and technophile he has featured in works as varied and adored as the movie 'Wilde', the TV series 'Blackadder' and 'Jeeves and Wooster', the sketch show 'A Bit of Fry and Laurie', the panel game 'QI', the radio series 'Fry's English Delight', Shakespeare's Globe's celebrated 2012 production of 'Twelfth Night' (as Malvolio) and documentaries on countless subjects very close to his heart.

He is also the bestselling author of four novels - 'The Stars' Tennis Balls', 'Making History', 'The Hippopotamus' and 'The Liar' - as well as two volumes of autobiography - 'Moab is My Washpot' and 'The Fry Chronicles', which published in six unique editions that combined to sell over a million copies. His third volume of autobiography, 'More Fool Me', was published in September 2014.



Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.




Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Second Honeymoon by Joanna Trollope





Paperback: 383 pages                                                                                                
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury 2006
Source: My own bookshelves and since released via Bookcrossing
First Sentence: Edie put her hand out, took a breath and slowly slowly pushed open his bedroom door.
Review Quote: "Trollope has perfectly caught the angst of the empty nest... the ebb and flow of relationships is brilliantly handled" (The Observer)
My Opinion: I am a long time fan of Joanna Trollope. Have been reading her novels since her first 'The Choir' was published in 1989 and always found her novels to be light and entertaining, 'Aga Sagas' used to be the popular term for them. In fact it is a few years since I last read one though I still have a few reclining on my bookshelves, so I took a couple with me on my recent travels and then released them via Bookcrossing afterwards.  Although the term 'Aga Saga' is not heard much nowadays it does still seem to describe her writing about contemporary relationships. Actually 'Second Honeymoon' felt very dated to me, but that was my own fault for not reading when it was first published! I might then have found the problems Edie Boyd had struggling with empty nest syndrome a more appealing read.



Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:


Ben is, at last, leaving home. At twenty-two, he's the youngest of the family. His mother, Edie, an actress, is distraught. His father, Russell, a theatrical agent, is rather hoping to get his wife back. His brother, Matthew, is struggling in a relationship in which he achieves and earns less than his girlfriend. And his sister, Rosa, is wrestling with debt and the end of a turbulent love affair.

Author Profile:








Joanna Trollope was born on 9 December 1943 in her grandfather's rectory in Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire, England, daughter of Rosemary Hodson and Arthur George Cecil Trollope. She is the eldest of three siblings. She is a fifth-generation niece of the Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope and is a cousin of the writer and broadcaster James Trollope. She was educated at Reigate County School for Girls followed by St Hugh's College, Oxford. On 14 May 1966, she married the banker David Roger William Potter, they had two daughters, Antonia and Louise. In 1983 they divorced, two years later, she married the television dramatist Ian Curteis, they divorced in 2001.

From 1965 to 1967, she worked at the Foreign Office. From 1967 to 1979, she was employed in a number of teaching posts before she became a writer full-time in 1980. In 1996 she was awarded the OBE for services to literature.She now lives alone in London.

A fuller Biography can be found on her website.


Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.


Author Profile - Goodreads   Amazon - Joanna Trollope    Wikipedia - Joanna Trollope   

   Facebook - Joanna Trollope  Official Author Website

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald





Hardback:   376 pages.                                                                                               
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Chatto and Windus 2015
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: The strange woman standing on Hope's main street was so ordinary it was almost scandalous.
Favourite Quote: "For as long as she could remember, she had thought that autumn air went well with books, that the two both somehow belonged with blankets, comfortable armchairs and big cups of coffee or tea"
Review Quote: "This is a story about community, about being needed and about belonging... A warm, cosy, compassionate read" (Independent)
My Opinion: My latest book club read and I was disappointed to find it just an ok read. I know at least one of the other members of the group was loving it, but it just did not hit the spot with me. There are certain aspects I enjoyed such as the fact that the main action as such, takes place in an independent bookstore, plus the fact that it is a story full of compassion. Of course I love books, but I just did not get the point of including quite so many within this novel, actually spoilt it for me, though maybe I just missed the point as I seem to be in the minority. The Independent reviewer was I think spot on with their opinion "This is a story about community, about being needed and about belonging... A warm, cosy, compassionate read" just needed less books mentioned!

Full List of Titles Mentioned in the Book:

There are at least 79 titles and if you are interested the list can be found on Goodreads


Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

The International Bestseller

Warning: once you let books into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…

This is a book about books. All sorts of books, from Little Women and Harry Potter to Jodi Picoult and Jane Austen, from to Stieg Larsson to Joyce Carol Oates to Proust. It’s about the joy and pleasure of books, about learning from and escaping into them, and possibly even hiding behind them. It’s about whether or not books are better than real life.

It’s also a book about a Swedish girl called Sara, her elderly American penfriend Amy and what happens when you land a very different kind of bookshop in the middle of a town so broken it’s almost beyond repair.

Or is it?

The Readers of Broken Wheel has touches of 84 Charing Cross Road, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Chocolat, but adds an off-beat originality and intelligence all its own.


Author Profile

Katarina Bivald grew up working part-time in a bookshop. Today she lives outside of Stockholm, Sweden, with her sister and as many bookshelves she can get by her. She is currently trying to persuade her sister that having a shelf for winter jackets and shoes is completely unnecessary. There should be enough space for a book shelf or two instead. Limited success so far. Apparently, her sister is also stubbornly refusing to even discuss using the bathroom to store books.

Katarina Bivald sometimes claims that she still hasn't decided whether she prefer books or people but, as we all know, people are a non-starter. Even if you do like them, they're better in books. Only possible problem: reading a great book and having no one to recommend it to.


Photograph and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

Goodreads - Author Profile     Amazon Author Page      Katarina Bivald - Official Website

Penguin - Katarina Bivald      Twitter Profile


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys



Hardback: 366 pages                                                                                                  
Genre: Mystery Thriller
Publisher: Doubleday March 2017
Source: Lovereading Reader Review Panel Member
First Sentence: Sandwiched between two policeman, the woman descends the gangplank of the ship.
Review Quote: "A sumptuous and thrilling read which reminded me of Daphne du Maurier. It captivates you in its spell right until the end. I loved it." (KATE HAMER, author of THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT)
My Opinion: Rachel Rhys is the pen name of the already successful Tammy Cohen, author of psychological suspense novels.  There is no doubt in my mind that her debut novel as a mystery writer will also be successful. The idea for the story comes from a memoir that she found whilst browsing her mother's bookcases, written by a late friend during a voyage from Tilbury to Sydney. The memoir chronicles in meticulous detail everything about this voyage, so all the ingredients that make a novel a pleasure to read are present, including a different from the norm location as most of the story is set onboard an ocean liner, just prior to the start of WWII. The reader gets to emerge themselves in ship board life, along  with protagonists, Lily Shepherd and the other passengers leaving the UK in hope of  a better life in Australia. Life aboard ship turns out to be an eye opener as Lily and the other steerage passengers get to socialise with first class passengers, that in real life they would probably have worked for! The unworldly atmosphere and somewhat claustrophobic life on the long journey is a perfect setting for this murder mystery though personally that was almost less important than the wonderful journey travelled in this engaging read.  

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

1939, Europe on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd leaves England on an ocean liner for Australia, escaping her life of drudgery for new horizons. She is instantly seduced by the world onboard: cocktails, black-tie balls and beautiful sunsets. Suddenly, Lily finds herself mingling with people who would otherwise never give her the time of day.

But soon she realizes her glamorous new friends are not what they seem. The rich and hedonistic Max and Eliza Campbell, mysterious and flirtatious Edward, and fascist George are all running away from tragedy and scandal even greater than her own.


By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and life will never be the same again.


Author Profile




RACHEL RHYS is the pen-name Tammy Cohen a successful psychological suspense author. A Dangerous Crossing is her debut under this name and is inspired by a real life account of a 1930s ocean voyage. A Dangerous Crossing is due to be published around the world. Rachel Rhys lives in North London with her family.

Autobiographical paragraphs below in the author's own words are courtesy of  the  Official Author Website.

I was born in Ibadan, Nigeria where my anthropologist father happened to be doing fieldwork at the time. Sabbatical years in far-flung places were a feature of my childhood and I attended school in both Sierra Leone and California. Otherwise, I mostly grew up in the suburbs of London where my adolescence was spent either in the local library or waiting for the last tube home.
After taking an American Studies degree at Manchester University I taught English in Madrid. While working as a secretary back in London, I started writing features and hand-delivering them to the magazine publishing house around the corner. The day the first one got accepted, I packed in my job and declared myself a freelance journalist, which is basically what I remained for the next twenty years, writing features for national magazines and newspapers, such as Marie Claire, The Times and The Telegraph, and then moving on to non fiction books. My dream was always to write fiction but it wasn’t until I was forty-seven that I finally conquered the self doubt and my first novel, The Mistress’s Revenge was published.
These days I live in North London with my partner and three (nearly) grown children and one very badly behaved dog. Together with my family I spent four happy years living in Spain from 2004 to 2008 and I live in fear of people finding this out and asking me something in Spanish at which I remain shamefully inept.
My first novel, The Mistress’s Revenge, was followed by three more contemporary fiction titles under the name Tamar Cohen – The War of the Wives, Someone Else’s Wedding and The Broken. In November 2014, my first crime novel, Dying For Christmas was published under the name Tammy Cohen, followed by First One Missing a year later. My third crime novel, When She Was Bad, is due for publication in April 2016. I am a member of the Killer Women collective of London-based female UK crime writers.


 Information courtesy of the following sites.

Rachel Rhys - Amazon Author Page   Tammy Cohen - Amazon Author Page  

Facebook Profile    Twitter - Tammy Cohen    Tammy Cohen - Official Website

Friday, March 17, 2017

Brother and Sister by Joanna Trollope




Paperback: 368 pages                                                                                              
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Blomsbury 2004
Source: My own bookshelves and since released via Bookcrossing
First Sentence: From where he sat, Steve could see right down the length of the studio.
Review Quote:'Her prodigious flair for illuminating emotional situations guarantees the appeal of Trollope's work ... immediate and engrossing.' (The Good Book Guide)
My Opinion: I am a long time fan of Joanna Trollope. Have been reading her novels since her first 'The Choir' was published in 1989 and always found her novels to be light and entertaining, 'Aga Sagas' used to be the popular term for them. In fact it is a few years since I last read one though I still have a few reclining on my bookshelves, so I took a couple with me on my recent travels and then released them via Bookcrossing afterwards. Although the term 'Aga Saga' is not heard much nowadays it does still seem to describe her writing about contemporary relationships. Certainly 'Brother and Sister' is a sensitive portrayal of  adoption and the issues these particular siblings had to cope with when they decided to trace their birth parents.



Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

Nathalie and David have been good and dutiful children to their parents, and now, grown-up, with their own families, they are still close to one another. Brother and Sister.

Except that they aren't - brother and sister that is.They were both adopted, when their loving parents, found that they couldn't have children themselves. And up until now it's never mattered.

But suddenly, Nathalie discovers a deep need to trace her birth parents and is insisting that David makes the same journey. And through this, both learn one of the hardest lessons of all, that sometimes, the answers to who we are and where we come from can be more difficult than the questions



Author Profile:






Joanna Trollope was born on 9 December 1943 in her grandfather's rectory in Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire, England, daughter of Rosemary Hodson and Arthur George Cecil Trollope. She is the eldest of three siblings. She is a fifth-generation niece of the Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope and is a cousin of the writer and broadcaster James Trollope. She was educated at Reigate County School for Girls followed by St Hugh's College, Oxford. On 14 May 1966, she married the banker David Roger William Potter, they had two daughters, Antonia and Louise. In 1983 they divorced, two years later, she married the television dramatist Ian Curteis, they divorced in 2001.

From 1965 to 1967, she worked at the Foreign Office. From 1967 to 1979, she was employed in a number of teaching posts before she became a writer full-time in 1980. In 1996 she was awarded the OBE for services to literature.She now lives alone in London.

A fuller Biography can be found on her website.


Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.


Author Profile - Goodreads   Amazon - Joanna Trollope    Wikipedia - Joanna Trollope   
   Facebook - Joanna Trollope  Official Author Website

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon




Paperback: 390 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Vintage 2006
Source: My own bookshelf, now released via Bookcrossing
First Sentence: It began when George was trying on a black suit in Alders the week before Bob Green's funeral.
Favourite Quote: "What they failed to teach you at school was that the whole business of being human just got messier and more complicated as you got older. You could tell the truth, be polite, take everyone's feelings into consideration and still have to deal with other people's shit. At nine or ninety."
Review Quote: "A painful, funny, humane, novel: beautifully written, addictively readable and so confident" (The Times)
Literary Awards: Costa Book Award Nominee for Novel (2006)
My Opinion: At the heart of this family drama is an agonisingly sad story.


Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

George Hall doesn't understand the modern obsession with talking about everything. 'The secret of contentment, George felt, lay in ignoring many things completely.' Some things in life, however, cannot be ignored.

At fifty-seven, George is settling down to a comfortable retirement, building a shed in his garden, reading historical novels, listening to a bit of light jazz. Then Katie, his tempestuous daughter, announces that she is getting remarried, to Ray. Her family is not pleased - as her brother Jamie observes, Ray has 'strangler's hands'. Katie can't decide if she loves Ray, or loves the wonderful way he has with her son Jacob, and her mother Jean is a bit put out by all the planning and arguing the wedding has occasioned, which get in the way of her quite fulfilling late-life affair with one of her husband's former colleagues. And the tidy and pleasant life Jamie has created crumbles when he fails to invite his lover, Tony, to the dreaded nuptials.

Unnoticed in the uproar, George discovers a sinister lesion on his hip, and quietly begins to lose his mind.

The way these damaged people fall apart - and come together - as a family is the true subject of Mark Haddon's disturbing yet very funny portrait of a dignified man trying to go insane politely.


Author Profile:




Mark Haddon was born in Northampton, England on September 26, 1962, he is an author, illustrator and screenwriter who has written fifteen books for children and won two BAFTAs. Educated at Merton College, Oxford, Uppingham School, University of Edinburgh and the University of Oxford.  At Oxford he studied English after which, he was employed in several different occupations. One included working with people with disabilities, and another included creating illustrations and cartoons for magazines and newspapers. He lived in Boston, Massachusetts for a year with his wife until they moved back to England. Then, Mark took up painting and selling abstract art. In 1987, Haddon wrote his first children’s book, Gilbert’s Gobstopper. This was followed by many other children’s books, which were often self-illustrated. 

It was not until 2003 that his best selling novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, was  published,  it won seventeen literary prizes, including the Whitbread Award. His poetry collection, The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea, was published by Picador in 2005, and his last novel, The Red House, was published by Jonathan Cape in 2012. He lives in Oxford with his wife Dr Sos Eltis  a Fellow and Tutor in English of Brasenose College, Oxford.


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


Amazon Author Page      Mark Haddon - Goodreads Profile    Author's Official Website

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue




Hardback:  291 pages                                                                                                
Genre: Literary Fiction, Historical
Publisher: Picador 2016
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: The journey was no worse than she expected.
Favourite Quote: “How could the child bear not just the hunger, but the boredom? The rest of humankind used meals to divide the day, Lib realized - as a reward, as entertainment, the chiming of an inner clock.
Review Quote: Fans of Emma Donoghue's first novel Room will not be disappointed with The Wonder . . . a tale of claustrophobic suspense and the intense relationship between a woman and a child . . . Donoghue's masterful way with words and imagery has the reader sharing Lib's scepticism and disdain for Anna and her family's naïve religious fervour. (Red Magazine)
Literary Awards: Scotiabank Giller Prize Nominee (2016)Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Historical Fiction (2016)
My Opinion:  As the successful author of the masterpiece that was Room I wondered if The Wonder was going to meet my expectations. It certainly did that, using as inspiration the true life stories of young people that claimed to survive long periods without food, Emma Donoghue has created with this novel another shocking yet riveting story about a child and a disturbing life experience.  The protagonist Anna is an eleven year old Irish girl whose family are claiming she is a living miracle. The other main character is Lib Wright a nurse a veteran of the Crimean War and trained by Florence Nightingale, who accepts an assignment to watch over Anna to try and discover if what is being claimed is all a sham!

At first the novel felt slow and took time to figure out with the complications of religion, myth and superstition that had a big influence on Anna's family and their reactions to what was happening to their daughter. It was difficult to understand just how far peoples beliefs would influence them, as it seemed they were prepared to let their own child die, as they persisted in believing in miracles.

A difficult subject to write a novel about and whilst reading you cannot but help find yourself thinking about how an earth the author is going to be able to bring the novel to a satisfactory and believable ending. Well without a doubt in my mind, she has succeeded in writing a realistic yet imaginative ending.

The Wonder will appeal to readers of historical fiction, stories set in Ireland and of course fans of Emma Donoghue's excellent writing.


Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:
An eleven-year-old girl stops eating, but remains miraculously alive and well. A nurse, sent to investigate whether she is a fraud, meets a journalist hungry for a story.

Set in the Irish Midlands in the 1850s, The Wonder—inspired by numerous European and North American cases of “fasting girls” between the sixteenth century and the twentieth—is a psychological thriller about a child’s murder threatening to happen in slow motion before our eyes. Pitting all the seductions of fundamentalism against sense and love, it is a searing examination of what nourishes us, body and soul.



Author's Note - Transcribed from the book

The Wonder is an invented story. However, it was inspired by almost fifty cases of so-called Fasting Girls - hailed for surviving without food for long periods - in the British Isles, Western Europe and Northern America between the sixteenth and the twentieth centuries. These girls varied widely in age and background. Some of them (whether Protestant or Catholic) claimed a religious motive, but many didn't. There were male cases, too,though far fewer. Some of the fasters were put under surveillance for weeks on end; some started eating again, voluntarily or after being coerced, imprisoned, hospitalized, or force-fed; some died; others lived for decades, still claiming not to need food.


Video Trailer for '  The Wonder    ' Courtesy of YouTube







Author Profile




                                                                                                               Emma Donoghue © Mark Raynes Roberts, 2015. 

Emma was born on October 24th 1969 in Dublin Ireland, the youngest of eight children, of Frances and Denis Donoghue(the literary critic) She attended Catholic convent schools in Dublin, apart from one year in New York at the age of ten. In 1990 she earned a first-class honours BA in English and French from University College Dublin, and in 1997 a PhD (on the concept of friendship between men and women in eighteenth-century English fiction) from the University of Cambridge. Since the age of 23, Donoghue has earned her living as a full-time writer. After years of commuting between England, Ireland, and Canada, in 1998 she settled in London, Ontario, where she lives with her partner, Chris Roulston and their son, Finn and daughter, Una.

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


My Review of Room    Emma Donoghue - Official Website     Goodreads Author Profile

Amazon - Emma Donoghue - Author Page

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins


Hardback: 316 pages                                                                                                 
Genre:Psychological thriller, 
Publisher: Doubleday 2015
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: There is a pile of clothing on the side of the train tracks.
Favourite Quote: “Life is not a paragraph, and death is no parenthesis.
(This is a reference to an E.E. Cummings poem within the author's work)”
Review Quote:  "Really great suspense novel. Kept me up most of the night. The alcoholic narrator is dead perfect." (STEPHEN KING)
Literary Awards: Goodreads Choice Award for Mystery & Thriller (2015)
                                Waterstones Book of the Year Nominee (2015)
My Opinion:  What a good read this was, a clever angle to tell the story from. However I did guess the result fairly early on which surprised me when I discovered I was right! An enjoyable read that I can recommend to anyone that likes a good psychological thriller, but I cannot really understand exactly why it gained so much notoriety in the media.

Since reading this novel I have seen the film and was very disappointed in the adaptation. 

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:


A début psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying début




Audio Trailer for ' The Girl On The Train ' Courtesy of YouTube


Something a little different in this review, an audio extract rather than a video one, which may tempt you into reading the novel in full.


Author Profile



Paula Hawkins was born on August 26th 1972 in Harare, Zimbabwe. She moved to London in 1989 and has lived there ever since. A journalist for fifteen years prior to turning her hand to fiction,  The Girl on the Train is her début novel.


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


Audio Trailer - YouTube    Amazon - Author Page     Paula Hawkins - Official Website.

Goodreads - Author Profile    Paula Hawkins - Wikipedia    Twitter - Paula Hawkins

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Beatles and Me by Ivor Davis



Paperback: 313 pages                                                                                                  
Genre: Non Fiction, Biographical, Memoir,
Publisher: Cockney Kid Publishing 2013
Source: Sent to me in November 2015 by Clive Walters, agent on behalf of the author.
First Sentences: Introduction - It was 1964 and I was the slightly wet-behind -the ears, twenty six year old West Coast correspondent for one of Britain's biggest newspapers, the London Daily Express - circulation four million daily.
My Opinion: This title was published to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles 1964 tour of North America. In 1964 I was a young Beatles fan so was delighted to be given the opportunity to read and review this account by Ivor Davis of his experiences whilst on tour with them. As he was with them the entire time during the tour, which was over a month, so he became quite close to them. The tales he tells and the many photos that are included give us another insight into The Beatles. This was a very special era in musical history and I urge all fans of any age to pick up this book as it is well written and interesting either to dip into or read from cover cover.


Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

In the summer of 1964, the Beatles took America by storm and changed rock ’n’ roll forever. In this first-ever chronicling of that revolutionary tour from the inside, author Ivor Davis serves up the stories behind the stories as only an insider can.

In the rowdy and riotous recollections of THE BEATLES AND ME ON TOUR, Ivor Davis, then a reporter for the London Daily Express, shares his unrestricted access to the Liverpool lads as a member of the Beatles entourage. From inside the band’s hotel suites to the concert arenas to the private jets, the madness and magic plays out through Davis’ personal accounts of hanging with the Beatles for thirty-four jam-packed days.

Go behind the scenes for all-night Monopoly games with John Lennon, witness the Beatles’ legendary living-room jam with Elvis, and be there the night Bob Dylan introduces the band to pot. Roll up for this definitive account of the legendary band at a critical moment in the history of rock ’n’ roll.



Author Profile




Biography Courtesy of Goodreads.
In the summer of 1964, the Beatles embarked on a record-breaking pandemonium-inducing tour of America and Canada. The Beatles and Me on Tour presents the first chronicle of that tour told by an insider: author/journalist Ivor Davis, then a young British reporter for the London Daily Express. Ivor was the only British newspaper writer invited on the entire tour.

Through thirty-four days and twenty-four cities, Davis traveled with the Beatles watching them make rock history. He enjoyed unrestricted access to the four boys fresh from Liverpool—from their hotel suites to backstage at concert arenas to their private jet. He fended off excited girls, and their insistent mothers, attempts to hook up with the band. Ivor played all night games of Monopoly with John Lennon, became the ghostwriter of a newspaper column for George Harrison, and witnessed the night Bob Dylan “deflowered” the young marijuana virgins.
London-born Ivor Davis first came to America in the early sixties and was appointed West Coast correspondent for the 4-million-a-day circulation London Daily Express in l963.
Over more than four decades as a writer for the Daily Express and the Times of London, Ivor covered major events in North America. He penned a weekly entertainment column for the New York Times Syndicate for over 15 years, interviewing some of the biggest names in show business, from Cary Grant to Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton to Tom Cruise and Muhammad Ali.
In 1962 he was smuggled onto the campus of the riot-torn University of Mississippi when James Meredith was enrolled and three years later was in the front lines as Los Angeles’ Watts riots erupted.
Ivor covered Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential bid and was in the Ambassador Hotel the night Kennedy was assassinated. He was one of the Boys on the Bus chronicling the life of actor-turned-politician Ronald Reagan, first in his campaign for governor of California, then for president.
He was a co-author of the l969 political book Divided They Stand, which chronicled the Presidential election; and witnessed some of the biggest trials in American history: Sirhan Sirhan, convicted of killing Bobby Kennedy in 1969; black-power militant Angela Davis, acquitted of murder in l972; a year later, Daniel Ellsberg’s trial for leaking the Pentagon Papers, and, in 1976, he was in San Francisco to see heiress Patty Hearst convicted of robbery after being kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army.
In l969 he co-wrote Five to Die, the first book ever published about the Sharon Tate murders. (The book was updated in 2011.) As a foreign correspondent, he traveled throughout the western hemisphere covering riots, floods, earthquakes and politics. As Editor at Large for Los Angeles Magazine, he and his late wife Sally Ogle Davis wrote over 100 major magazine and cover stories. He has reported on four World Soccer Cups for CBS radio.
He currently lives in Southern California and is working on two new books: one about movies the other a true crime story.


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


Goodreads Author Profile    Ivor Davis Official Website    Amazon - Ivor Davis Page

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Girl In The Red Coat by Kate Hamer




Paperback: 375 pages                                                                                                 
Genre: Thriller Mystery
Publisher: Faber and Faber 2015
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: I dream about Carmel often.
Review Quote:  Hamer’s novel aims to be more than a thriller, and the real heart of the book is not its suspense, but its explorations of grief and how we weather it. The Guardian
Literary Awards: Shortlisted for The Costa First Novel Prize, the British Book Industry Awards Debut Fiction Book of the Year, the John Creasy (New Blood) Dagger and the Wales Book of the Year
My Opinion: This title was read for one of my book groups. The standard of the writing and the fact I wanted to know the outcome made this a readable story but not one that particularly enthralled me. Maybe my expectations were raised by the fact that other members of my book group were particularly excited to be reading this novel. Also the author is coming to Tywyn in March to speak at a Literary Dinner. It will certainly be interesting to hear her speak and I am sure people will have some interesting questions for her.

The way the story is told from both the point of view of both protagonists is gripping and it was certainly not what I expected. Beth is the devastated mother desperately trying to rebuild her life after the abduction of her daughter and the story alternates between her telling of her experiences and those of Carmel, as a man claiming to be her grandfather whisks her away to a new and very strange life!  There are certainly many unexplained things in this world but it is with Carmel's so called gift which I found difficulty coping with, making the story less plausible for me. Although despite my nagging doubts it was Carmel's sections of the novel that held my interest far more.

The final scenes of the novel I found something of an anti-climax because they were dealt with in such an abrupt manner, I  personally needed much more to be made of it and was left feeling disappointed.  This though should not put you off reading as if you are looking for something different from the normal abduction tale then this may well be for you.




Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

She is the missing girl. But she doesn't know she's lost.

Carmel Wakeford becomes separated from her mother at a local children's festival, and is found by a man who claims to be her estranged grandfather. He tells her that her mother has had an accident and that she is to live with him for now. As days become weeks with her new family, 8-year-old Carmel realises that this man believes she has a special gift...

While her mother desperately tries to find her, Carmel embarks on an extraordinary journey, one that will make her question who she is - and who she might become.



Video Trailer for 'The Girl In The Red Coat ' Courtesy of YouTube


Author Kate Hamer appears at Tonyrefail Arts Festival 2015 to discuss her debut novel 'The Girl in the Red Coat'. [Amateur Footage] This is a long video at 36 minutes but if you have the time, it is well worth a listen.


Author Profile

Kate Hamer's first novel 'The Girl in the Red Coat' (Faber & Faber, 2015) was shortlisted for The Costa First Novel Prize, the British Book Industry Awards Debut Fiction Book of the Year, the John Creasy (New Blood) Dagger and the Wales Book of the Year. It was a Sunday Times bestseller and has been translated into 16 different languages. Kate won the Rhys Davies Short Story Prize and she has had short stories published in anthologies such 'A Fiction Map of Wales', 'New Welsh Short Stories' and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She's written articles and reviews for The Independent, The Mail on Sunday and The New York Times. Kate grew up in the West country and rural Pembrokeshire and now lives with her husband in Cardiff. Her second novel, to be published by Faber & Faber in February 2017, is 'The Doll Funeral'.


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


Amazon Author Page      Goodreads Author Profile       YouTube Video    

   Facebook - Literature and Lasagne           Kate Hamer - Author's Official Website.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan




Paperback: 448 pages                                                                                                 
Genre: Literary Fiction, War
Publisher: Vintage 2015
Source: Tywyn Bookclub Choice
First Sentence: Why at the beginning of things is there always light?
Favourite Quote: “In trying to escape the fatality of memory, he discovered with an immense sadness that pursuing the past inevitably only leads to greater loss.”
Review Quote: "Flanagan can stop a reader's breath." (Los Angeles Times)
Setting:Tasmania, Burma, Myanmar, Thailand, Japan, Changi (Singapore), Sydney (Australia)
Literary Awards: Man Booker Prize (2014)The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Nominee for Shortlist (2015)Miles Franklin Literary Award Nominee (2014)Prime Minister's Literary Awards for Fiction (2014)Australian Independent Booksellers Indie Book Award for Book of the Year (2014) etc.
My Opinion: This is not a choice I would have made myself as the story is so deeply entrenched in the horrors of war, not a genre that appeals to me. However I soon discovered that there is so much more to this well deserved winner of the Man Booker Prize, which the author wrote in tribute to his father, who actually survived the horrors of working on the Thailand to Burma Railway. Richard Flanagan is quoted as saying 'that more people died building this railway than words in my novel'
At the centre of the novel is the intense and horrific story of the time the protagonist Dorrigo Evans spent in the Japanese POW camp working on the so called Death Railway. To be honest I found parts of the novel very difficult reading as it was very descriptive and the brutality was very disturbing. It took perseverance but as the intertwined love story, that motivated Dorrigo to survive balances the novel I kept going. The narrative is not presented chronologically which helped because just as I was wondering how much more I could take of the sickening descriptions, the story would move to another time and place, a much needed break. In conclusion well worth reading if you can cope with the disturbing aspects, will I think appeal to fans of Sebastian Faulks.  



Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love.

What would you do if you saw the love of your life, whom you thought dead for the last quarter of a century, walking towards you?

Richard Flanagan's story — of Dorrigo Evans, an Australian doctor haunted by a love affair with his uncle's wife — journeys from the caves of Tasmanian trappers in the early twentieth century to a crumbling pre-war beachside hotel, from a Thai jungle prison to a Japanese snow festival, from the Changi gallows to a chance meeting of lovers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.


Taking its title from 17th-century haiku poet Basho's travel journal, The Narrow Road To The Deep North is about the impossibility of love. At its heart is one day in a Japanese slave labour camp in August 1943. As the day builds to its horrific climax, Dorrigo Evans battles and fails in his quest to save the lives of his fellow POWs, a man is killed for no reason, and a love story unfolds..


Video Trailer for 'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' Courtesy of YouTube



Courtesy of BBC Newsnight.

Published on 14 Oct 2014
Live after the Man Booker 2014 awards ceremony Kirsty Wark talks to the winner, Australian Richard Flanagan who has scooped the £50,000 prize for his wartime novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

Author Profile



Richard Flanagan was born in Longford, on the west coast of Tasmania, Australia on January 1st 1961.
His novels Death of a River Guide, The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Gould’s Book of Fish, The Unknown Terrorist, Wanting and The Narrow Road to the Deep North have received numerous honours and are published in 42 countries. He won the Man Booker Prize for The Narrow Road to the Deep North in 2014.
Two of his novels are set  where he lived in the township of Rosebery as a child. Death of a River Guide relates to the Franklin River, Gould's Book of Fish to the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station, and The Sound of One Hand Clapping to the Hydro settlements in the Central Highlands of Tasmania.
An author, historian and film director, he has also been  president of the Tasmania University Union and a Rhodes Scholar. Each of his novels has attracted major praise. His first, Death of a River Guide (1994), was short-listed for the Miles Franklin Award, as were his next two, The Sound of One Hand Clapping (1997) and Gould's Book of Fish (2001). His earlier, non-fiction titles include books about the Gordon River, student issues, and the story of conman John Friedrich.


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


Amazon Author Page   YouTube Video   Goodreads Author Profile   Wikipedia - Richard Flanagan

Richard Flanagan - Author Official Website



Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Liberation by Kate Furnivall





Paperback: 552 pages                                                                                     

Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: November 3rd 2016 by Simon & Schuster Ltd
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: Caterina Lombardi didn't want Nonno to die.
My Opinion: It was quite by chance that I came to read this very readable novel set in southern Italy just after the Second World War. I just happened to see it on display at my local library recently and as an Italophile it appealed to me. I have never read any of Kate Furnivall's novels before but after enjoying this one she is an author I will not hesitate to read again.
The story is a tangled web of intrigue and deceit, a very descriptive account of a country that was struggling to survive. Caterina, the protagonist is a truly amazing young woman prepared to go to great lengths to protect her family. Highly recommended to fans of historical romantic fiction and Italophiles.


Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:


Italy, 1945: as British and American troops attempt to bring order to the devastated cities, its population fights each other to survive. Caterina Lombardi is desperate - her mother has abandoned them already and her brother is being drawn into the mafia. Early one morning, among the ruins of the bombed Naples streets, she is forced to go to extreme lengths to protect her family and in doing so forges a future very different to the one she expected. But will the secrets of her family's past be her downfall? This epic novel is an unforgettably powerful story of love, loss and the long shadow of war.



Video Trailer for ' The Liberation ' Courtesy of YouTube






Author Profile





Kate Furnivall was born in Penarth, Wales, UK to an English father and a Russian mother. She grew up there with her twin sister, an older brother and a sister.


Her mother's childhood was spent in Russia, China and India, and it was her that inspired her daughter to write, when she discovered the story of her grandmother. A White Russian refugee who fled from the Bolsheviks down into China. That extraordinary tale inspired her first book, The Russian Concubine. From then on, she was hooked.

Kate is the author of eight novels, including The Russian Concubine, The White Pearl and The Italian Wife. Her books have been translated into more than twenty languages and have been on the New York Times Bestseller list.

She went to London University where she studied English and from there she went into publishing, writing material for a series of books on the canals of Britain. Then into advertising where she met her husband, Norman, with whom she has two sons.


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



YouTube - The Liberation     Wikipedia - Kate Furnivall    Goodreads Author Profile

Amazon Author Page    Kate Furnivall - Author Official Website