Saturday, 7 July 2018

New Beginnings for Bryony Bennett by Katy Lillie



What does one want from a Rom-Com, a likeable and relatable Heroine, a fun or quirky sidekick/Best Friend. A moody hero, a misunderstanding and a cast of amusing characters to help and hinder the inevitable softening of one or both hearts towards the other…

This book does that in spades, Dario (how exotic in a country village setting) is a hybrid of Darcy and Heathcliff but in infinitely more interesting T shirts! Bryony is the kind of woman I want to be when I grow up. Brave enough to shamble into a tight knit community in her dream locale and make it her own!!

We have all the right stuff here for a really fun read- village prejudices, bookshops (always a boon!!) ramshackle country cottages and misbehaving Dogs for good measure.

A treat from start to finish. Gobble it up as soon as you can…it’s totally  Gluten Free after all!!

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling by Emer Mclysaght & Sarah Breen

It is my pleasure and privilege to be part of the Blog Tour for this book, which by all accounts is already a literary phenomenon on the Emerald Isle. Loved by the Literati and Irish real life readers alike, this fun book has won my heart too.

Aisling is woman out of kilter, watching friends all pairing and marrying, she becomes exasperated with her long term boyfriend, a regular guy, habitual, dependable, solid and completely clueless as to his long suffering girlfriend’s wishes to join the wedded masses.

And so begins OMGWACA...

 I found the book thoroughly engaging, chock full of what I have seen (rather judgementally in  my opinion) called  “cultural references”. Some reviewers have found their abundance jarring  but I like to think of  them as nutritive titbits to spice up what might have been a lesser novel had it been set in a more generic sanitised Rural idyll  /Metropolis

The truth  is that this is a story oft told, The dissatisfied woman , curtailed by her humble upbringing finding herself  in the big city with independent and sophisticated flat mates before learning the true
worth of home, hearth and the true meaning of love and commitment.

The addition of all the specific identifiers that makes  this is a wholly Irish story; the tone of the conversation, the slang particular to Southern Ireland ,all add to the foundation of the familiar plot . The richness it gave to me as a reader was invaluable. It was because of them that I warmed so quickly to this story.

There is no denying the book is very,very funny and any woman of a certain age who has yearned for a proposal, as the pool of singles dwindles  (as it were) in your friends sphere, will be able to see a lot of themselves in Aisling.

A woman of singular thought processes. Her observations on footwear etiquette alone had me hooting with laughter. Surrounded by an array of zany friends, overbearing parents, sportsman and the incumbent local rivalry that pops up both over the Irish Sea and in Britain alike. The story bounces along with aplomb.

There is however a more deeply resonant seam of melancholy that runs through the story, the realisation that comes to us all, that as we go into different seasons of life, that by extension  others will too. Almost without us noticing they reveal that they are human and not infallible, that they had lives and secrets before they came to nurture us and become that most joyful of things,  both boon and bane - our parents.

With some Socio- political debate thrown in for good measure, this book creates the near perfect package of laughter and sombreness, of light and of dark

Oh  and  one more thing - I want to state my position  right here that  beans, should never and I repeat never appear in cooked Breakfasts, but when  booked and paid for all other Hotel Breakfast choices should be utilised and enjoyed to their full capacity !!

Five gloriously green stars!

Thank you to the Authors, all at Michael Joseph/Penguin for the opportunity to meet Aisling before the rest of the Mainlanders, I promise to herald her coming at every opportunity!

Friday, 20 April 2018

Nice Guys Finish Lonely by Rachel Dove

This was just what you desire in a good Rom-Com book. I was in love with Rory from the start, his Death bed promise to his ailing Mum brought a lump to my throat. No attitude or clothing Make- over required in this reader’s mind !! Filled with great humour, truly abhorrent adversaries, audacious and knowing progeny and twinkly eyed elders. Littered with the misunderstandings that make tales of this type, you just wish sometimes people would learn to speak honest truths and damn the consequences!

This story was a quick and easy read because you care deeply for all the characters even if one of those  emotion is revilement in the case of Firefighting, womanising errant fathers and mild disdain and judgement  for vacuous business Reps (although she comes good in STELLAR Style, perhaps my favourite ever just deserts moment so far). I am very much a Rory -esque kind of woman so of course I side with the underdog, who is a true hero in every sense of the word and no inappropriate hose required!

It’s no surprise that nice guys do actually win fair ladies, but getting there has never been more amusing and enjoyable. An easy five stars!!

Thursday, 29 March 2018

The Wedding Date by Zara Stoneley

Sometimes you just need a little something sweet to lift your day. Zara Stonely never disappoints in this regard. The blurb on this one reminded me of a movie I watched with my sister  many years ago but there were plenty of ways this marvellous little story diverged from that previous telling of a desperate girl paying someone to attend a huge potentially mortifying wedding.

Here she is trying to show how well she has moved on when she and her cheating Ex are to come face to face at her best friend’s wedding. Her “employee” for a weird and wonderful week in Scotland is charming and cheeky and the inevitable growing desire and affection between them is handled with a tongue in cheek aplomb that  gave me a huge smile from start to finish.

A cast of mildly and not so mildly eccentric family and friends fleshes out this story that trots along at a jaunty pace like one of the horse that features so amusingly in one of the myriad enforced activities of this week long nuptial celebration.

There are enough roadblocks and misunderstandings to make the journey interesting despite the yearned for happy ending. This is as frothy as a wedding gown and as full of fizz as the very best bubbly. My only complaint that there was not more of it!

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Uncommon Type - Some Stories by Tom Hanks.

I dithered over deciding to read this one. I love Tom Hanks as an actor- even his less successful roles are always interesting. I never feel like he has sold out his integrity, so this move into a literary branch on his career tree worried me a little.

I need not have. I am a fan of short fiction and this collection, loosely linked by the appearance of old typewriters in the story, is remarkably accomplished. I was pleased to see the style of his prose is fully formed. This is not an experiment to keep money rolling into the Hanks household, these are proper tales and yarns, told by a rather marvellous storyteller.

Some critics might feel it is a little old fashioned, but for me that is what is so endearing. His vocabulary is wide and rich and best of all accurate! I love it when “good words” are used properly.

Although a varied mix of subject matters , this always feels like an authentic mix of Americana, harking to a halcyon time before the advent of  Trump and the chronic fear, embitterment and doom that seems pervasive , so that even those set in modern day or with a more sombre resolution still feel hopeful.

Tom Hanks is obviously a collector of  (somewhat random) knowledge as his stories are jam packed with details, finely  observed titbits , sounds, sensations and flavours. Food features often and the reader can see and feel it’s sweetness and sourness as they enrich the plots. His wide experience with historical events through his film career has obviously informed his subject matter and he truly excels at those stories about veterans, science, particularly space and aerospace, which makes sense looking at his body of work.

There are some searing and scathing comments here about the dark underbelly of seemingly placid and tranquil surburbia , on fame and the onslaught of modernity on traditional skills in journalism and other artistic pursuits but they always fall short of true judgement or bitter ire. I feel like I know Tom the man, better after sampling his stories, some no more than vignettes, others fully formed afternoon plays suitable for a Saturday afternoon with a cup of joe in one hand and a cushion at your back on a well worn sofa.

I enjoyed this in short sips across a couple of weeks on Audible with Mr H adding his own voice to his words which was truly an additional treat and Tom Hanks is an enthusiastic and clear narrator, and is obviously filled with joy at having brought these stories to a reading audience.  I would happily read his next effort, this time with no trepidation at all.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Blog Tour - The Stranger by Kate Riordan

I am privileged and pleased to be part of the Blog Tour for this wonderfully foreboding novel.

None of the five women this story focuses on, are particularly happy with their lot. At first glance they are tropes;One a neurotic mess, one the quintessential wife in a loveless marriage, a young girl moving into womanhood under the scrutiny of the Grand Dame of a renowned local family. Into this already inflammatory mix comes Diana,a young woman tarred as a trouble maker who is a catalyst for much of the drama and melodrama at play here. 

This is a Gothic mystery in the best sense, it is steeped in secrets that as they gradually crack open like the eggs of a bird, the creatures they reveal are not what outward appearances originally suggest. 
Everyone of them is to some extent the victim of, or the perpetrator of a morally ambiguous act.  The  reader thus finds themselves weighing whether they are to be pitied or judged. 

Deep passions, painful memories of loss and and unfair treatment are relived, revived and juggled as the spectre of war coming to British shores looms large.

A review of this book would be incomplete without looking at the power of of the setting. The Cornish weather, topology and people are all integral to the staging of this rather ominous female -centric tale. We have the waves crashing against the rocks, the saline tang in the air and the corrosive nature of the coastal elements all lending themselves to the canvas for this story of secrets, omissions and fearfulness in the time of war.

The action builds gradually and with skilful plotting  by Kate Riordan the ultimate resolution is very satisfying and surprising. 

The detailing here is magnificent. The senses are teased with sounds of the ocean, the sensations of fabrics, the smells of must and perfume, the iconic imagery of Lighthouses and the good old plucky Grit of a Brit protecting their home. The returning soldiers mustered in the local fishing boats on retreat from France was a clever addition to root the story in History.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

To say this is a topical book is an understatement. Reading it less than a month since the latest U.S. school shooting atrocity gave this book about  the fallout of an Elementary school mass shooting an added frisson of emotional resonance.

This really is a clever book particularly as the author has managed to keep the Politics for the most part out of the story. There is no discernible stance on anything that has caused rage, recrimination or consternation in the past month. This is First and foremost an examination of the visceral human reaction to a catastrophic loss.

Written from a seven year old’s perspective, this deeply insightful story shows that  the reactions to the loss of a child so suddenly and seemingly without reason, bring out the most extreme versions of oneself. The already fractured family dynamic begins to implode and the young hero Zach  is left to take action himself to bring the escalating misery to an end.

I liked the structure of the story and the way that on the surface it is the loss of the child that is the cause of the trouble, but the way as the story unravels that the cracks beneath the surface begin to appear,  I did not always like both  of Zach’s parents, but I did empathise with them.

This is ultimately a story about forgiveness and love and family, the truths so beautifully mirrored in the child’s stories that Zach retreats into, to be closer to his complicated but adored older brother become  the bedrock of his survival as he becomes increasingly isolated.

I was close to tears often as I put myself in the place of all the characters , each of them flawed but I found this to be a satisfying and heart warming story that I suspect will continue to be relevant for decades to come.