Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Review of Goodbye, Henrietta Street by Lin Treadgold

Goodbye, Henrietta Street is Lin Treadgold’s first novel and is published by Safkhet Publishing. It read it as part of the Goodbye, Henrietta Street blog tour.

Pippa Lambton is married to Rob, but after the death of the son three years earlier, their marriage seems to be falling apart. She decides to visit the Isles of Scilly and there meets handsome Sven. As their friendship develops, Pippa finds herself torn between leaving Rob and staying with Sven. The problem is that she does not really just want to throw away her marriage and how can she be sure that her relationship with Sven will not just be a holiday fling?

Set on the Isles of Scilly, Treadgold has vividly portrayed this beautiful landscape so well that the reader will feel transported there.

This is a lovely romantic story that I really enjoyed reading. I will be looking out for future work from this author.

Thank you to Safkhet Publishing for sending me a copy to review.
About the Author
Lin Treadgold was born in Yorkshire and attended private education. After travelling the world and visiting over thirty countries, she took the opportunity to become a writer and nature conservationist. She has always wanted to write a novel; moving to Holland gave her the opportunity to fulfill a dream. Lin is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and organises workshop events for new writers.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Review of Toby's Room by Pat Barker

I was fascinated and moved by REGENERATION, a true masterpiece , when I read it. I am equally transported  by TOBY`S ROOM and couldn`t put it down, such is the power of Pat`s writing. Elinor Brooke`s story begins in 1912. She is home for a weekend from the Slade School of Fine Art and is looking forward to seeing her beloved brother Toby, who is studying to be a doctor, also in London. They share a very close bond – they discover just how close that weekend. They return to their respective lodgings and their chosen paths to enjoy all that the city can offer – but they have changed.
1917 and the War has drained the hearts and minds of the population. Elinor has graduated and is now a member of the celebrated Bloomsbury artists who are all conscientious objectors. Elinor describes herself as a “pond skater” – going through the motions of a normal life but ignoring the horrors of the deeper parts. The image of the pond recurs throughout the book. And is crucial to Elinor and Toby`s early life in the country. Then comes news of Toby from the Front – “missing, presumed dead”.
Pat writes with sensitivity and perspicacity as Elinor tries to find out the truth of Toby`s fate. Is he really dead or is there hope? His uniform has been sent back to the family and she puts it first in the attic but then changes her mind and put it in Toby`s room. She contacts Kit Neville, the last person to see Toby alive, but he is in The Queen Mary`s Hospital in Sidcup, having his maimed face reconstructed by Harold Gillies the pioneer of facial reconstruction. Elinor by this time is working at the hospital with Henry Tonks, Chief of Fine Arts at the Slade, recording injuries and helping to reconstruct faces irreparably damaged in the war. Kit won`t talk about Toby, so Elinor enlists the help of Paul Tarrant, a former lover and also a fellow soldier. Will Kit tell him the truth about Toby? Is the devastating culmination of her search worth knowing?
Pat touches on many elements which war accentuates: the obsession with sex, with self-doubt, with loss and grief. She is finely observant of the nuances of feeling in her characters, some of whom are real (Henry Tonks and Harold Gillies) and of the minutiae of corporeal detail linked to those feelings and physical states. She also conveys the real struggle which artists experience when trying to paint. Her perspicacity is phenomenal.
An amazing book by a superbly talented writer.
Review by Liz.
Thank you to Penguin for sending us a copy to review.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Review of The Hope Factory by Lavanya Sankaran

On first opening this book, I was curious about what would unfold. I was drawn into an unfamiliar society where forms of address were strange but easily classified into the formal, the respectfu , the familiar and affectionate, even if the reader has no idea of the actual translation into English. The characters are drawn from the opposite ends of the social spectrum: widowed Kamala and her intelligent teenage son Narayan are desperately poor and live in one room with a dirt floor, where the facilities are a cold tap in the middle of the courtyard, no heating and a communal bathroom. She works as a housemaid for Anand K. Murthy`s family: they live in a lavish house on the outskirts of Bangalore. Anand is the owner of a factory, Cauvery Auto, which makes pressed metal body car parts. He has married well, has a daughter and a young son and so is considered to be both rich and successful, at least to those on the outside.

Kamala wants the best for Narayan. She wants him to have a private education which will lead to a respectable job: she herself wants a better life for herself too. She will go to the utmost lengths of honest human endurance to attain these objectives. Unfortunately, her employer`s wife, Vidya, is not of a stable disposition and holds her staff`s present and futures in her hands. She follows the latest trends in the Westernised “beau monde” and has the money to do so. She is the victim of caprice and is the scourge of her staff: stolid Kamala, lazy Thangam and ill-tempered Shanta, the cook.

Anand himself has plans to expand the factory and he has a Japanese company interested in his product. In order to do so, Anand needs to purchase more land but does not want, nor can he afford, to go the way which is normal in modern India – that of the culture of political backhanders, corrupt payments and bribes to obtain what you require. Must he accept the help of his high-handed, high-living but not so high-minded father-in-law, Harry Chinappa? Does he go with the Landbroker, an honest and knowledgeable dealer in land purchase? And should he allow his nascent feelings for the captivating and sympathetic Kavika, confidante of Vidya, to develop, or stay with his wife for the sake of the family honour?

This is a delightful and engrossing insight into the struggles of ordinary people in today`s Indian society. Lavanya Sankaram weaves the destinies of her characters through their aspirations, their struggles with the old ways embodied by Anand`s father and by his right-hand man at the factory, Ananamurthy, and the attitudes emerging from the growing economy of modern India. She immerses the reader in a culture which is sometimes alien to our own and yet also disturbingly (I find) familiar. A fascinating book by an observant and delightful author.

Review by Liz

Thank you to Tinder Press for sending us a copy to review.

You can find out more about Tinder Press and their upcoming titles here:  http://www.headline.co.uk/Articles/TinderPress/WelcometoTinderPress.page

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Review of Warpaint by Alicia Foster

I must admit that when I began to read this book, set in London in 1942/3, I felt that it moved rather slowly but I was proved wrong in this impression. Alicia Foster`s characters are fascinating and detailed: the flamboyant Dame Laura Knight , the diffident Faith Farr and the retiring Cecily Browne, three lady artists employed by the War Artists Advisory Committee (WAAC) under the command of Sir Kenneth Clarke, to ensure the survival of British art during the early part of the WW2. We follow the very different characters as the artists strive to carry out their given task – to complete stoic and cheerful representations of the events at home(the “right sort of art”), in spite of the stark realities around them . They are united in their dislike of Aubrey Smith, the underling at the Ministry who has been appointed to oversee their efforts – he is bumptious, self- important and given to completely missing the point of their pictures.

Faith Farr provides the link to Black, a top secret counter-propaganda group operating in a villa at Aspley Guise in Bedfordshire, run by Sam Thayer. His wife Vivienne is involved with their German translator and Sam also indulges in dalliance with ladies from nearby Bletchley. This group fabricates leaflets, produces film and radio plays for the German public to weaken their support for the Nazis: some of their methods are both personal and very cruel. One of their number is not the person he portrays and it is he who is Faith`s and Vivienne`s nemesis. 

In fact, the theme throughout the book is that of nothing appearing as it really is. Each character and situation has, when looked into more closely, a deeper and often sinister life. Even the minor characters display this trait to a lesser extent. I found the book thoroughly enjoyable and Alicia Foster`s use of real people to weave her story around is masterful. Sir Kenneth Clark did chair the WAAC during the war: Dame Laura Knight produced many paintings for WAAC: the other two painters are based on Grace Golden and Evelyn Dunbar. Their real lives and their personages in the book are smoothly intertwined by Alicia Foster to make a very atmospheric and absorbing read.

I enjoyed the book immensely. Thank you, Alicia Foster.

Review by Liz.

Thank you to Penguin for sending us a copy to review

Friday, 12 April 2013

Review of Dear Thing by Julie Cohen

Claire and Ben seem like a perfect couple, they have successful careers and a beautiful house. However, the one thing that seems to evade them is a longed for baby. They have been trying for years and as Claire suffers another miscarriage it seems to pull the couple even further apart. That’s where Ben’s best friend Romily steps in, after a few too many drinks she tells Ben that she is willing, and would like, to act as a surrogate for the couple.

 Romily has a seven year old daughter called Posie and she is sure that she will feel no emotional attachment to the baby, she has no desire to have any more children. However, things don’t go quite to plan when her feelings for Ben, that she has kept hidden for so long, threaten to push up to the surface. With one father and two mother’s, who does the baby really belong to?

 I instantly got the feeling that Claire and Romily were a bit wary of each and probably wouldn’t be friends without Ben. My favourite character was Posie, Romily’s seven year old daughter. She brings an aspect of humour to what could be a very sad story. One of the best parts of the novel for me was the inclusion of the letters to the baby, which are all addressed ‘Dear Thing’. It is a lovely touch .

 This is the first book that I have read by Julie Cohen and I loved it.  I read it over two evenings as I was desperate to know what would happen, but at the same time I didn’t want the story to end. It is beautifully written with very well crafted characters. It is a truly wonderful novel that is gripping, uplifting and heart breaking at times. I highly recommend it.

 5 stars

 Thank you to Transworld for sending me a copy to review.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Review of Like This For Ever by S.J.Bolton

Ten year old boys are going missing. So far one has been found with his throat cut, drained of blood and dumped on the bank of the Thames in the middle of busy London. Then twins go missing. They, too, are found on the bank of the river near Tower Bridge, also bloodless. There are no clues for DI Dana Tulloch and DS Mark Joesbury to discover other than a boot print. Who is doing this? Why is there no blood left in the bodies? One boy has disappeared but not been found. Where is he? Will there be more murders? Does the draining of their blood indicate that a vampire is on the loose in London?

Ten year old Barney Roberts and his friends meet in the grounds of the Community Centre to use the skateboard park. The grounds are locked at night but they have a way of getting in. The outside of the buildings have been transformed by murals depicting scenes from a famous children`s story to brighten up the old building so it is a friendly place to go, even after dark. Barney does not have a mother and his father is out late twice a week, so he has some illicit freedom. He is also a very sensitive lad who can find lost items which no-one else can, like his friend Hattie`s tiny gold earring.

He and his friends are following the comments about the murders on Facebook, in particular those of a blogger calling himself Peter Sweep, who seems to know instantly when something new happens. DI Tulloch and her team badly need a breakthough. Living next door to Barney is DC Lacey Flint, currently on sick leave after a particularly difficult case. She becomes entangled in the investigation when Barney asks her for help to find his mother. Events speed up alarmingly when the son of DS Joesbury goes missing – will they find him in time?

This is a turbulent tale which, while portraying the desperation with which the MIT team search for the killer, also investigates the psychology of the main characters and their interaction with one another, making this an absorbing read. I could not tear myself away until I had discovered the perpetrator! S.J. Bolton has written yet another top-class crime novel – I can sum it up in one word - outstanding.

Review by Liz.
Thanks Liz and thank you to Transworld for sending us a copy to review. 

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Review of Amity and Sorrow by Peggy Riley

Amity and Sorrow is an outstanding novel by debut author Peggy Riley. It is a book that I have not stopped thinking about days after finishing and one which I will be recommending to everyone I know.

The novel opens with Amaranth and her two daughters frantically fleeing from their home after a huge fire, which we are led to believe may have started under suspicious circumstances. Amaranth crashes the car and the trio are stranded at a gas station. We soon find out that she has been driving for almost four days solid in order to attempt to escape her husband and a strange religious cult to which they had belonged.

The novel jumps back between Amaranth's life before she had children and the present day. This is very effective as it allows the reader to get to know Amaranth and also helps explain some of the decisions that she has made. Amity and Sorrow; her two daughters will push her faith and love to the limits, causing Amaranth to question everything she has ever believed in. Amity and Sorrow could not be more different, Amity is willing to embrace change and different cultures, whilst Sorrow seems headstrong and stuck in the past. She believes that only life inside the cult is worth living. As the story progresses, we see how each character changes and adapts to their new surroundings. However, at the back of her mind Amaranth knows that people will not just forget about the fire.

This book is mesmering, un-putdownable and terrifying in places. For me, what truly stands out is Riley's beautiful style of writing – every scene, setting or conversation is vividly brought to life and I found myself completely hooked from the very first page. I eagerly await Riley's next book.

5 stars

Thank you to Tinder Press for sending me a copy to review.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Review of The Salome Effect by James Sajo

The Salome Effect by James Sajo is set in Torino and it follows the life of army veteran Robert.

Robert falls for Mariana, a beautiful Romanian stripper and will do anything to prove to her that he loves her. The problem is that Robert really will do anything and does not seem to care about the consequences. Just how far is he prepared to go...

This is an impeccably researched novel and I loved the way that the art world is wound into the storyline. At the very heart of this book, is the famous Caravaggio painting 'The Salome'. For Mariana, it is not just a painting but is a symbol that seems to mirror her life. For Robert, The Salome is the key to Mariana's heart.

The plot is fast place and kept me hooked. There are a number of serious issues in the novel, which are sympatheticaly covered including post traumatic stress disorder. The setting of Torino is vividly described and makes the reader feel as if they are there.

I really enjoyed reading this book, which is a gripping read and would recommend it for fans of both contemporary and historical fiction, as well as anyone with an interest in art.

The Salome Effect is available to order from amazon:


Interview with James Sajo - Author of The Salome Effect

Please tell us a little about yourself

After a 25 year military career, I started freelance writing.  Mostly travel articles, but I am also interested in food, wine, and skiing. "The Salome Effect" is my first novel. I am originally from the US, but have lived in Italy with my wife Susan for twenty years.  
Please tell us a little about 'The Salome Effect' and your inspiration for the book 
It tells the story of a former American soldier suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. His life is a downward spiral of bad and unhealthy decisions.  He falls in love with a stripper and is so desperate to win her affection that he will do anything. Including stealing a priceless painting and committing murder. 
The story is about finding your way back from crippling emotional wounds. The message is it that can be done, but everyone needs help. 
What are you working on now? 
A historical novel set in 17th century Italy.
Where is your favourite place to write? 
I like sitting in a small Italian piazza. There needs to be some activity, but not so much as to distract me from my writing.
What do you like to do outside of writing? 
I love skiing, I love exploring Italian wineries, and I love the Olympic Games.

Thanks James. You can find out more about the author and his work on his website: www.jimsajo.com

Monday, 1 April 2013

Penguin Bloggers' Night 2013

Last week, I attended the annual Penguin Bloggers' night at Foyles. It was a brilliant evening where we listened to eight authors reading from their latest books, each author was introduced by a piano accompaniment. We also had the chance to mingle with authors' and fellow bloggers' beforehand and pick up some amazing books. A picture of the goodies I got to bring home is above, I am particularly looking forward to reading Expo 58 by Jonathan Coe and The Sea Change by Joanna Rossiter.

The books we heard about on the evening were:

The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook
Expo 58 by Jonathan Coe
Mr Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo
Warpaint by Alicia Foster
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid
Mr Lynch's Holiday by Catherine O'Flynn

The Professor of Truth by James Robertson
The Sea Change by Joanna Rossiter

It was a fantastic evening. Thank you to Lija at Penguin for allowing me to come along.