Saturday, 14 September 2019

Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts - A Magical Novel About the Making of The Wizard of Oz

If you are of a certain age, you probably looked forward to watching The Wizard of Oz on Christmas afternoon. It used to be on every year and we think we know it so well, but in Finding Dorothy, Elizabeth Letts looks at the true story behind L Frank Baum's magical book.
To do this, she follows the life of of his wife, Maud, daughter of the famous American suffragist, Matilda Joslyn Gage, who was sent to Cornell to get an education, but who gave it up when she fell in love with an itinerant actor called Frank.
Finding Dorothy is a magical novel in that it is set not only in the late nineteenth century, but also in 1939 Hollywood when Maud Baum, now seventy-eight years old, attempts to enter MGM Studios to talk to Louis B Mayer to ensure that the film stays true to Frank's work.
Through Elizabeth Letts' narration, we meet the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion, and we meet Dorothy - Judy Garland, of course - and find out about her difficult life too. This is all the more interesting this year, eighty years after the film was released, and also in the light of the new film, Judy, starring Reneé Zellweger which comes out in the UK on October 2nd.
Finding Dorothy isn't just about the character Judy portrays, it goes much deeper but you will have to read the book to find out how!
I'm off now to watch The Wizard of Oz and marvel at the beautiful voice of Judy Garland singing Over the Rainbow, knowing so much more about the story of Judy and Dorothy, thanks to Finding Dorothy and Elizabeth Letts.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

A Home from Home by Veronica Henry - An Amazing Novel That Would Make a Fabulous TV Series!

If you are already missing Poldark, then this modern day story about two Somerset families and their two houses split by a disaster that has kept them apart for over a hundred years, might fill the gap in your heart.

The Melchiors have lived at Dragonfly Farm ever since Great-great-grandfather Joseph won it in a game of cards from Casper Culbone. And Casper stole Eleanor, the love of Joseph's life, in revenge.

When Gum, Great Uncle Matthew Melchior, dies after a road accident, his will has great ramifications for Tabitha and her cousin, Georgia, his great nieces, especially when they find that Gabriel Culbone has also been included as a beneficiary, and Dragonfly Farm will be split three ways. How can Tabitha continue to live there and what about her plans to produce a sparkling apple wine from the orchards in honour of her late great aunt, Joy?
Gabriel, too, is shocked to find he's been left a share of the farm that he's never heard of. How can he uproot his partner, Lola, and their daughter, Plum? Does he even want to? He's never heard of these Culbones and he's got enough business problems, as it is.

For thirty years the Culbones' home, Rushbrook House, has been empty, but Dash Culbone has decided to leave his job in the City and carry out some ambitious plans. Unfortunately, he is the one who has to tell Tabitha about Gum's accident because Gum had pulled out in front of him. She becomes attracted to him, but how can she be when he is a Culbone?

Secrets abound in this amazing book with fantastic characters you can really believe in, and several intriguing stories woven together to make a gripping novel. I think it would make a fabulous television series!

Monday, 26 August 2019

Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay by Ali McNamara - A Perfect Bank Holiday Read!

It's not too late on this Bank Holiday afternoon to get Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay on your Kindle and lie back and enjoy Ali McNamara's magical story.

Amelia is amazed to have inherited Chesterford Castle, set on the Northumberland coast, plus an earldom for ten-year-old Charlie!
Although there are live-in staff like Arthur and Dorothy, the butler and the housekeeper, she is also helped by Benji, the genealogist that tracked her down and Tom who arrives to help restore some antique furniture, and some spooky goings-on!

But, there are not many visitors to play the bills and keep the castle afloat.
So how can Amelia get the business on track and save the castle for the local people and posterity?
Also, can she put her own life back together after her husband has left her and Charlie to fend for themselves? Perhaps she needs a little summer magic to find her own Prince Charming?

I really enjoyed this book, and it is perfect to read on holiday, or in the garden under a shady tree.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

When Two Books Give You Lemons - Which One Should You Read?

These fabulous books came out this summer, written by two of my favourite authors:   Rosanna Ley and Jo Thomas. The covers look so similar - a table on an Italian terrace overlooking the blue sea, surrounded by lemons, and both are recommended by well known romantic novelists, but would these stories be as good as they look? Which one should you read?

Vernazza with boats 'parked' in the street!
I decided to read The Lemon Tree Hotel first and find out. This is a family story of three generations running The Lemon Tree Hotel in Vernazza, in the Cinque Terre, which I visited a few years ago.
It focuses on Chiara, who is fifty-nine and who inherited the hotel from her parents who opened it to save the buildings of an old convent which had been left in a state of disrepair; her daughter, Elene, who is in charge of the kitchen, and her daughter, Isabella, who has been to business school and helps her grandma with running the rest of the hotel.
There is also Aunt Giovanna who's in her eighties. She's not really an aunt, but was saved by Chiara's parents when the convent closed and now lives in a cottage in the grounds.
Life is going smoothly (although there is a widening rift between Chiara and Elene about how to run the hotel!) until the day that two new guests, Dante and Ferdinand, arrive separately and shake up everyone's lives.

Then, I settled down with My Lemon Grove Summer. At college, Zelda and Lennie made a pact that if they hadn't found anyone else by the time they were forty, they would marry each other. So here they are, part of a group of people promised a new start in Sicily with subsidised rents and a relocation fee, arriving in Città d'Ora to find the town is all run down because no tourists ever stop there on their way to Mount Etna. And their homes aren't ready to move into either!
Giuseppe, the mayor, who has invited them to Sicily, lets them stay in his family's farmhouse surrounded by lemon groves for the time being,  but the group is not made welcome in the town.
So on one side, there is Zelda and Lennie; Tabitha, a wannabe journalist; Barry, an ex-postman, Ralph, an ex-city banker and Sherise and Billy, ex-dairy farmers, and on the other: Romeo, who has the town under his control, and his brother, Matteo, the builder. 
Although, Giuseppe, their cousin, is trying to make things work, what the town needs is something to pull it together, and will Romeo's son, Luca, the gorgeous restauranteur, be the one to help the hapless Brits? 
And what about the wedding that tradition in the town says is needed to appease the rumbling Mount Etna? Are Zelda and Lennie ready for it?

These are wonderful stories of romance, sunshine and lemons in Italy. The cast of characters in both are perfect, and each book really explores life in its own region and, the loves and relationships of the people who live there.  
So if books give you lemons, I say read and enjoy both of them! Perhaps with a glass of limoncello?

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Something to Tell You by Lucy Diamond - A Gripping Story of Family Secrets

The Mortimers are a large, loving, happy family in York, until Frankie turns up at Harry and Jeanie's Golden Wedding party and says that she's his daughter.
Starting with this bombshell,  Something to Tell You by Lucy Diamond is a gripping story of all the secrets that the family have been keeping from each other which could ultimately destroy their cosy lives.

When Jeanie finds out that Harry's secret daughter was from an affair whilst she was coping with bringing up their four young children, she is heartbroken and goes off on what was meant to be their second honeymoon in Madeira, on her own.

Frankie, this daughter, is an illustrator for a weekly column about family life with a small son, written by her boyfriend, Craig, about his child, Fergus. They live together and he considers Frankie his mother, then Julia his birth mother turns up, making Frankie and Craig realise that they must tell him the truth.

Robyn, the wife of Harry and Jeanie's eldest son, John, finds out that he has been cheating on her too, and has been sacked into the bargain, and is going off to  live in Edinburgh with a twenty-two-year-old student.

Alison, Robyn's mother, has been keeping the secret of her father's death from her. She doesn't go out much, preferring to discuss her favourite TV programmes with an online forum to joining in the Mortimer family's parties and events, until something happens to make her change her mind.

Bunny, second son, Dave's, partner, also has a secret past which she has kept from him after making a new start in York, and again events happen which make her reveal all to him.

The only constant is Paula, Harry and Jeanie's only daughter, until Frankie turns up.
How does she feel about finding out she has a sister?
How can she hold the Mortimer's together?
Will her mother ever come back from Madeira?

Lucy Diamond has written a very clever novel weaving these stories together and keeping me eagerly reading right until the end.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter by Hazel Gaynor will touch your heart and keep you reading until the end!

Hazel Gaynor writes with such historical detail in her latest wonderful novel, The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter, but this doesn't get in the way of the heartbreaking story of Grace Darling, and the parallel story of Matilda Emmerson, sent  away in disgrace one hundred years later, to Newport Rhode Island to stay with a cousin in a lighthouse until her baby is born.
The part that Grace Darling played in the rescue of nine people from the wreck of The Forfarshire on the Farne Islands in 1838 is well known, but this story goes behind the familiar tale of the heroine to explore what her life must have been like, living in a lighthouse with her parents, wanting to be a lighthouse keeper herself, but knowing that in the mid nineteenth century, it was not a job thought suitable for a woman.
Hazel Gaynor not only shows how Grace dealt with the events of the night of the storm when she helped her father rescue the survivors, but also how she dealt with the unwanted media attention of the day with letters to answer, locks of hair to be enclosed, and even artists and sculptors coming to capture her likeness for the people to see because photography hadn't been invented.
Added to all this Hazel found a hint of a possible romance with a young man, and the name being mentioned of a George Emmerson, so she linked this to the true story of Sarah Dawson who Grace rescued on that fateful night, taking it and exploring how her life might have been if she had fallen in love with him.
From the story of George Emmerson and Sarah Dawson, his ficticious sister, comes the story of Matilda in 1938 with many links to the past, right back to Grace herself, and an unexpected family secret.
Both stories touched my heart and kept me rooting for Grace and Matilda until the end.
It is a wonderful book and I can't recommend it enough!

I am also looking forward to this novel about another amazing Grace, Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and her writing partner, Heather Webb, due out in paperback on 5th September 2019!

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Sail Away to New York with Celia Imrie - You will have a voyage of a lifetime!

Sail Away by  Celia Imrie takes you on a voyage of a lifetime as two ladies' lives collide when they find themselves on the same cruise ship in dire circumstances.
Suzy, an actress from a 1980s TV show, is offered a job in Zurich in The Importance of Being Earnest, but the show is cancelled before the rehearsals can even start and the cast lose their money, so she gets a job on a cruise ship leaving from Genoa.
Amanda has problems buying a new flat. Her son and daughter are too busy with their lives to help her out, so she finds it just as cheap to take a cruise as to stay in grotty digs, so she sets sail on the same cruise ship from Southampton.
Suzy is on board with Jason Scott, a young actor, who witnessed what went on the night before rehearsals were about to start at Herr Appenzell's flat, but is Jason implicated in the serious crime that was committed then?
Told in a funny and amusing style with lots of interesting background information about the world of the theatre and life onboard a cruise ship, the serious crime, unbeknownst to Suzy and Amanda, links them together.
This is a great mystery with a cast of wonderful characters to read on holiday, whether you are sailing to New York, or not, which keeps you guessing until the end.
This is the first book I've read by Celia Imrie and I'll certainly read her others set in the South of France.