The Sunrise – Victoria Hislop

This is the new novel from Victoria Hislop and in like previous ones, her focus is on the Mediterranean and in this case the island of Cyprus.

It is 1972, the independence from a British administration in 1960 and conflict between the Greece and Turkey is a memory but a recent one. Now the focus is on making a livelihood especially from those who seek out the island as a desirable place to holiday.

Famagusta is that place.

It is being made into a paradise. And it is Savvas Papacosta who can see there is money to be made, if you provide a paradise stay in.

Savvas and his wife Aphroditi are about to open the poshest hotel in the resort and although they have not done it all on their own, they are very much in the debt to those whoa re working behind the scenes. It is these people who have a story to tell. It is those without the money that seem to be the happiest.

Different members of two families are employed in the  hotel in one capacity or another. They are all friends. However they should be enemies. Having moved away from violence in the past the Georgious and the Ozkans are enemies based on either being Turkish or Greek Cypriots. This means nothing to them, they are friends.

Paradise is a facade and it seems that strong friendships are about to be tested when violence and conflict come to Famagusta.

Everyone flees apart from a strong few. They seem to be unable to leave Paradise behind. Will it be the right decision?

This is a book which is a love story with an ideal – paradise. Conflict shatters that ideal and shows the love of friendship is the paradise that everyone should be aspiring to. Money cannot buy it but violence can suddenly take it away.

This was a moving book, the author shows the brilliance of a paradise holiday resort, but also how conflict can ruin that brilliance. The title The Sunrise in reference to the hotel that is emerging to be the best also for me reflected that the sun continues to rise each day, despite the darkness that this island and its inhabitants are suffering. It gives hope that each new dawn might bring peace.

For many new dawns there is no peace, you read on as we are immersed in conflict, you escape and hide and I suddenly found myself wanting to know what I would do if it was me.

I learnt about a place I never knew existed and I wondered if perhaps there is cases of families who stayed, who had to be enemies despite being great friends. I did feel the ending was a bit hurried and rushed, but a book does have to end. I was just sorry it did have to.

Thank you to the publisher for sending me this book for review. The Sunrise is published on 25 September. 

It is a while since I had read any Victoria Hislop, and I have her third novel on my shelf  to read but obviously kept overlooking it. I had forgotten what a wonderful storyteller she is and also how at the same time I am learning something as well. This is one of the things that I love about reading. 

 

 

 

Changes and Challenges

The readers of this blog may have noticed a new theme – bear with me, you may notice different ones over the coming weeks. I have yet to decide on the one that I feel comfortable with. The reason for this sudden appearance change, is no more than I feel like getting the broom out and sweeping through everything. I feel like I have many things on the go and nothing being accomplished.

For my reading world – The challenges I set myself at the beginning of the year are bumping along nicely. I seem to be lacking in the Wodehouse department, but I am reading one currently. The 12 random reads is over half done and I think it is a good way of reminding yourself what you have on your bookshelf.

I have my Mary Stewart book to read for Mary Stewart Reading Week which starts Sunday 14 September. I have perhaps foolishly, put myself in a position to read and review a book in a week.

Going into October is the Margaret Kennedy Reading Week and I have bought a book ready to go for that.

Plus I have my Book Group book to read and the November book also ready to go. I have just bought the new Hercule Poirot and very excited to be reading that. Trouble is I am already reading a book – The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House and it has just got good. I know as readers we all say SO many books SO little time but oh gosh it’s true.

I set myself the challenge to review every book I read way back in 2007 and in the main other than some rereads of Enid Blyton, I have done just that. Lately I have struggled mainly because I read so much during August and I felt I was never going to get on top of it all (I did and I have) but because I felt the reviews were rather lacklustre. I am merely no doubt just suffering from a bit of self-doubt and can’t see the light out of this particular tunnel. I have made a change and now have a little notebook which I scribble down thoughts about a book once finished, as it sometimes is a while until I get to write the review. This notebook has been a godsend as it is full of all sorts now – as I think of things and I need to scribble them down.

I point your attention to a new page at the top of my blog – Author’s List of Works. This is certainly a new challenge and work in progress. Because I read so many books by the same author, I wanted to consolidate that information into one place and so you will see that I will list their works and also with links to my reviews. Three authors are up there so far, but this will increase as time goes on. Do tell me what you think?

So that is the reading, but there is also all the other things that I enjoy doing. I have too many projects on the go and I need to start finishing them. Trouble is I see something and I want to have a go at that… then something else pops up and so on.

  • I have some cross stitch I have not picked up in months (if not over a year) and it has not that much to do on it but yet it remains untouched.
  • There is a bookmarker which I enjoy making which has yet to be finished.
  • An ornament I made just needs its ribbon re-stitching on there.
  • There  are some knitted hearts that I need to do something with
  • Knitted juggling balls just need finishing off and bells attached
  • A purse needs finishing off and the crochet by my mum needs attaching
  • A pom pom explosion has happened and I have had a fanciful idea of making a rug… it has waned somewhat.

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  • Then I saw some entralac knitting and wanted to have a go…..

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  • But I am in the middle of knitting a cowboy

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I think I need to finish some of these nearly finishes!

I need to treat it all as mini challenges. But I am sure as the nights draw in and there is more interesting things on the TV (well I can dream) I can concentrate on some of them.

Another challenge I am working on in the latter part of the year is to lose weight. It is not something that I ever if at all go on about on here, but I am trying and so far so good. Breaking away from a well known slimming group and going it alone with a group of friends, still following the same principles in two weeks has worked out quite well. Early stages and I want to get to the 6 week stage, as I know a lot of it is to do with habits and breaking them.

With the push for weight loss, comes the change I need in my exercise routine. I am stuck in a rut with it and whilst I enjoy it, I need to do something else as my body is becoming too used to it. So I have decided to change it around, and mix it up and as of this morning, puffed my way round a little circuit in the gym, something I have not done for ages and ages. I will push myself swimming and concentrate on not lifting my shoulders out the water and breathing correctly and not straining my neck.  So far so slowly, however I have noticed that my neck is not so strained but I keep holding my breath!

Sometimes we need to just shake everything up a bit and as you may have noticed I have not exactly set myself anything specific, just sorted of laid it all bare for me to see (and you if you have read this far). I wonder how I will feel in a few weeks time? In the meantime ….. ever onwards.

 

Flora’s Lot – Katie Fforde

Flora decides that she is going to join the family business. Nothing unusual in that expect that she needs to give up her lifestyle in London and descend into the country, to not just a small village where everyone knows everything and everyone but to a cottage which is in the middle of a field and hardly near a later night express shop but also into a business she knows nothing about – antiques.

Watching all those daytime programmes will be enough experience, Flora hopes.

Flora knew it was not going to be easy, but she really did not think it was going to be this difficult. Her distant cousin Charles is very reluctant to let her in to anything of the business and it seems that his strings are being pulled by his fiancée Annabelle, who has grace, class, standing and it turns out money. One thing the family auction house does not.

It is in at the deep end for Flora.

As well as learning as much as she can as fast as she can, she has a cat about to have kittens, and men flocking round her all trying to gain her affection. Handsome Lothario and naked eco-warriors Flora is encountering it all. Plus the locals have welcomed her into their choir and Flora becomes part of the community very quickly.

Can Flora really defy the expectations that Charles and Annabelle have about her? Of course she can, this is a Katie Fforde novel and strong female characters are a given but they also have a softer side, and in this book the whole gambit is shown.

This is one of my favourite Katie Fforde’s that I have read as I make my way through her catalogue, it has everything in it I wanted at that particular time when I picked up the book. Escapism, a bit of romance, some interesting family dynamics, a huge passion to succeed in this case in an auction house and turn everything around not just for herself but the whole community. A few gorgeous men, great friends, great food and of course fluffy kittens. I know this makes it sound all fluffy and girly but so what – I loved it. If you want that from your reading sometime then this is the book for you.

I think this is definitely one of my favourite novels by Katie. I think because I could really picture it all and the fascination with all the antiques but especially the holiday cottage that Flora has to take as her home. I would love to live somewhere that isolated, that you can’t just walk to the shop for a magazine and a bar of chocolate. That is the beauty of reading you can escape to places and dream about the things that you may want to do all through the power of words and a story and Katie Fforde does it well with her books. 

I have three more of her novels on my shelf to read. And I am off to find out which ones I have yet to get and read! 

The Woman Who Stole My Life – Marian Keyes

Stella Sweeney seems to have reached her mid-point in life and although she does not think she is going through a mid-life crisis, she is convinced that everything is happening because of something else that has already happened. Karma or coincidence?

Her two children are growing up and away from her, her daughter believes she is in love and her son is a world away from a typical teenage boy, her husband works constantly and she has nothing more in her life, other than trying to fight with the amount of Jaffa cakes that she eats.

Then illness strikes.

Illness that takes a long time to recover from.

During that recovery, although Stella communicates she has no idea that someone is keeping a note of what she is saying.

It is these notes that become Stella’s life once she has recovered.

She now begins another life in New York.

Marian Keyes weaves two strands of this story and we know Stella is back in Dublin so how did she end up in New York and why? By reading on we find out.

This is a very different from Keyes novels and deals first of all with a medical condition that I knew very little about and at times seemed so frightening that I wanted to cry in frustration with Stella. Somehow through it all Keyes injects in Stella her well-known Irish warmth and wit which is what makes her books so popular.

I am sure the tongue in cheek dig at the world of publishing in American as opposed to Ireland may well come from some sort of personal experience, but it made me realise what a hard slog and sometimes futile existence that authors have when they are promoting their work. I found the whole false identity very amusing but it does make you stop and think who we are? And what sort of life do we really want? And most importantly, only we can decide no one else can, they can only influence for their own benefit. Stella finds this out more than once.

I think this book is going to divide Marian Keyes fans and no doubt the critics will sink their teeth into it somehow – but I think it is a refreshing change for an author not to conform with what is expected and accepted as their normal output and try something different.

A good read, if slightly longer than it needed to be.

This book is published 6 November 2014 on kindle and in hardback.

I received this copy from NetGalley in return for a review. 

It has been a while since I read a book via NetGalley, but I had forgotten that sometimes all the formatting is not quite right or finished and this did slightly spoil the book for me. In the main it was to do with the extracts from Stella’s self-help book ‘One Blink at a Time’. This is more to do with me being fussy and having things just so than the actual plot and characters. 

 

 

 

Some Day I’ll Find You – Richard Madeley

I am always suspicious when well-known celebrities, presenters and tv personalities start writing fiction. The cynic in me wonders whether it is merely some poorly paid ghost writer who has spent hours churning out the words and plot.

The cynic here is not needed, as Richard Madeley’s first foray into fiction (as opposed to memoir) is that of genuine storytelling, a good plot, believable characters and the seed that is planted that maybe these fictitious events around World War Two did actually happen. It has to be partly believable to work.

Diana has fallen for the charm of  brother John’s friend and fellow pilot, James Blackwell. The eve of war in Europe means that life is suddenly on fast forward. Love, courtship and marriage are dashed through with speed. However, death can come just as fast.

Events move to France, where years later a glimpse of the back of a head, the sound of a voice starts to bring back memories, in the speed that they originally occurred. Can it possibly be? Is it actually believable?

What follows is very much a thriller where you are transported from war to warmth in the South of France. I felt that I had been transported as well, with the descriptions of the cafe, the market and the locals as the author brought this to life and with some prior knowledge of the area I am sure.

But I also felt this sense of foreboding as Diana and her parents were enthralled as John and James Blackwell embraced life in the RAF and the thrill of being in the skies and even more so the thrill of war. The undercurrent to all this bravado and thrill was the worry of death of no one returning.  “War takes the skilled along with the stupid and those in between”.

This is simply a story which had me hooked as I wanted to know who the voice was, I wanted to believe in a happy ever after always knowing that war and life is not like that. A good novel which explores another part of World War Two and if you enjoy reading fiction of this era, then this is a book you must read.

I am looking forward to The Way You Look Tonight which picks up this story from one of the characters and takes us to another part of history. I wonder where the author will go next with his writing. He certainly has a lot to offer readers like me. 

Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly


I came to this novel, knowing nothing other than I knew it was not on any of the lists of Christie books that I have. This is because this version of the story is in fact more than 60 years old and has never been published.

Many will know it as Dead Mans Folly and recognise Greenshore as Greenshaw from a Miss Marple short story. But this is where it all began.

Poirot is summoned by the wonderful apple eating eccentric author Ariadne Oliver to Greenshore. She is there to arrange a murder mystery event for the local fete but there is something which she cannot put her finger on. Something does not feel right and it seems that something is going on. Trouble is she is unaware what. Poirot arrives and he is at once included in the preparations of the fete and he can somehow, observe and listen in the only way he can and suddenly it all becomes clear.

This particular edition which includes this short story, has three other essays if you will. You cannot fail to notice the artwork for this and the artist, Tom Adams talks about his time in designing covers for the paperback Christie novels and where he got his inspiration from.

Secondly, Matthew Prichard, Christie’s grandson talks about Greenway, the Christie holiday home in Devon, where Greenshore Folly was based on and as it developed into Dead Man’s Folly. Just for a few pages and lines, we are given a glimpse into the world of the prolific writer and best-selling novelist.

Finally, John Curran who has written a number of books about Christie, in conjunction with the Christie estate and with permission of Prichard unpicks the plotting of this novella and the final novel to see how it all comes together.

A book for all Christie Fans without a doubt and one to keep on the bookshelf.

If you are a fairly regular reader of this blog you may well have seen my Books About Town post which is where I first stumbled across this book. Of course the bench is the artwork of the front of this novel and was wonderfully created. It is where from seeing that bench that my mum and I had to track down the book. Don’t buy this book on kindle, you need a hard copy to hold and shelve.

I must mention that if you have read Dead Man’s Folly then you will recognise quite strongly this novel. I have only seen the TV version, which was one of the last four that David Suchet filmed before the curtain closed on these wonderful adaptations. I could not quite remember the outcome but knew there was a dead brownie in it somewhere! I will have to now read the full length novel to see how much more the story is fleshed out.

As for the artwork, if you have time and the desire Google “Tom Adams Illustrator Agatha Christie” and look at some of the covers that come up. There are some that I recognise from my mum’s bookshelf – who knew that all these years later we would have another book on the shelf by the same artist? I am wondering if this is such a success that perhaps some reissues are in the pipeline?

Now I have read the novella, seen the programme. I need at some point to go and visit Greenway and soak up some of the Christie magic once more.

Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House – M.C.Beaton

“Agatha in the past had had a way of unearthing things by simply blundering about.” And in this 14th novel she is still doing it.

Apparently there is a house that is haunted, trouble is the owner and occupier of the house is not at all liked with anyone locally. They have all seemed to have run ins with her and even her children are not overly enamoured.

Agatha bored and with her head turned by yet another new neighbour Paul Chatterton she sets off to find out a bit more. Of course we end up with dead bodies and the police taking a particular dislike to Agatha yet again, blundering about but someone has specifically asked for Agatha to look into it, which gives her an idea?

All the old favourite characters are here, Mrs Bloxby the Vicar’s wife who I am now convinced is slightly envious of the exploits that Agatha gets up to. Bill Wong’s love life is still not got any better and I cannot ever see it doing so. Sir Charles Fraith, reappears it seems to help Agatha get everything sorted. Trouble is Sir Charles brings trouble along the way as he lets other people assume including Paul Chatterton that there is more going on with Agatha than is true. This amusing diversion seems to have not lost any impact in the books at this point in the series.

As always Agatha is struggling with being Agatha. She so desperately wants to be loved but just sees herself as a “stuffy middle-aged woman” and probably until she changes that outlook nothing is going to go right for her. By the end of this novel, she has a new outlook and perhaps as the series progresses life will change……

Apparently according to one review on Amazon there is some continuity issues with this book. If there are, they have simply passed me by. And to be frank, I am not overly bothered as I find this is the sort of reading that is not critical if characters and previous plot lines going a bit askew. Even as I write this review I cannot begin to tell you who even “dunnit” and I think that is why I enjoy reading them, this is pure escapism. Bliss! I intend to continue with this series.

Book 25 is due to be released this year. So I still have a few to catch up on.