Sunday, 4 November 2018

Origin by Dan Brown - Gripping, Exciting and Brilliant!

Inside Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
All through history, mankind has tried to answer  two eternal questions: Where are we from? and Where are we going to? In Origin,  Dan Brown  brings these questions right up to date for the twenty-first century.
The Guggenheim, Bilbao
Edmond Kirsch has put millions into finding the answers to them, however, in front of a big invited audience at the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, where he about to disclose his findings, he is assassinated.
The Royal Palace, Madrid
The internet goes wild with conspiracy theories when it is found that a message, believed to have come from the Royal Palace in Madrid, requested the late admission of ex-Naval officer, Ávila, the assassin. Could the old king, already on his deathbed, be trying to remove Kirsch to try and protect the old traditional Catholic Spain from his shocking predictions?
Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon - Will there be another film?
In this intriguing novel which takes place mainly over twenty-four nail-biting hours, Kirsch's old friend, Robert Langdon, with his own life now under threat because of his connections to Kirsch; and Ambra Vidal, the museum's director and the fiancée of Prince Julián, heir to the Spanish throne, try to uncover who is behind Edmond's murder, and also try to solve the cryptic password to the secrets he was going to reveal at the museum so the world can find out what he has discovered.
This book is not so violent as his previous ones, but shows Dan Brown's wide knowledge of the history of science and religion, which he builds on to come up with Edmond's solution. The story is gripping and exciting and all the more so if you have have visited Bilbao, Madrid or Barcelona where the action takes place.
I thought the best parts were Edmond Kirsch's audio-visual presentation in the museum which would look fantastic in a film (if they ever make one) and Winston, the audio-guide that sounds like Hugh Grant, which Robert Langdon is given as he arrives at the museum.
It is a bit different from the books that I have been reading recently, but I thought it was brilliant.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

One Thousand Stars and You by Isabelle Broom - a Fabulous Book, in a Fabulous Setting, with a Fabulous Love Affair!

One Thousand Stars and You is a new departure for Isabelle Broom. After a series of wonderful books set in Zakynthos, Andalusia, Lake Como and Prague, she has spread her wings to Sri Lanka! Here, she shows just what a great writer she is with Rosanna Ley's sense of place and Jojo Moyes' sense of empathy.

Alice has always been adventurous and taken risks as a child, but one day, she falls through the greenhouse roof, resulting in a long scar down the side of her face. Her mother can't cope with Alice's injury and blames herself, so she wraps her in cotton wool, but as she grows up, Alice still wants to test herself and still wants freedom. However, to please her mother, she falls in love with Richard, a safe, kind, devoted boyfriend who is also a History teacher. But is he  really the right one for her? To test her frustration, she dives off a high board into a pool, but the guilt she feels because of her controlling mother and her boyfriend's concern, outweighs the thrill of the dive.
With their thirtieth birthdays approaching in April, she  decides to go with her friends, Maureen and Steph, to Sri Lanka on an adventure of a lifetime. Richard and her mother are worried, and well they should be, because the girls meet Max and Jamal.
Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka - from Wikipedia
Max has a prosthetic leg because of an accident with a landmine in Afghanistan, and Jamal was his physio who has become his friend and protector. Steph is enchanted by Jamal, but Alice and Maureen are both attracted to Max. Of course, Maureen thinks she hasn't any competition because Alice has  Richard. Right? Wrong! Alice is getting more and more captivated by Max, and has to question what she really wants in life. This all comes to a head when these two kindred spirits who want to escape their protective, smothering families, climb Adam's Peak and Alice has to reassess her future. 
This is a fabulous book, in a fabulous setting, with a fabulous love affair. I loved it and I shall certainly read it again!

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Sunset Over the Cherry Orchard by Jo Thomas - Not only Food and Love, but also Flamenco!

Sunset Over the Cherry Orchard is the latest fabulous book by Jo Thomas, and it's not only about food and love, but also about flamenco!!
Beti Winter arrives in the Andalusian resort of Lado del Puerto with her fiancé of five years, Will, to take over the Butterfly Bar, but he gets cold feet and runs away with a band and a new girlfriend, Freya, taking all the money that Beti's grandma left her, and therefore all Beti's hopes and dreams.
The owners of the bar, Harold and Brenda, kindly give her some time to earn the money she needs for the deposit on their bar and so when the burger bar she works in lays her off, she gets a job with accommodation at Cortijo Ana, up in the mountains, near a small village called Colina de Flor.
Her job is to wash up in the restaurant, but she soon runs into the owner of the cherry farm, Antonio, who is known as the horse whisperer, and is better at dealing with horses than people. However, I did feel that he had more than a touch of Ross Poldark about him, especially when he rides over his land on Suerte, his fine horse!
Antonio's aim is to produce the best traditional cherries, needed by the cooperative to fulfil their orders, but he has no money to mend the watering system, so Beti and Miguel, his son, have to do it by hand pump. Miguel is Antonio's son with his wife, Esmerelda, who has gone off with Felipe to realise her dream of becoming a flamenco champion.
Now, Antonio runs the farm and his girlfriend, Vanessa, runs the restaurant, however, the cook, Bonita, who has worked there most of her life, does not like Vanessa's new ideas and recipes.
But in attempt to take over the farm for herself to sell, Esmerelda challenges Antonio and Beti to a flamenco dance off to win or lose the land and restaurant.
How on earth will Beti learn the steps? And is her experience of life enough for her to feel the emotion of the dance? Also does she really want Will back if he returns, or is she becoming more interested in Antonio?
This is a rich engaging story with wonderful escapism in this beautiful Andalusian setting and I could certainly feel the wet grass of the cherry orchard underneath my feet!
I really enjoyed it and I think its the best book by Jo Thomas that I've read so far.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Daisy's Vintage Cornish Camper Van by Ali McNamara - A Magical Bank Holiday Read!

Daisy's Vintage Cornish Camper Van, a magical, romantic story, is Ali McNamara writing at her best!
Set in the fictional Cornish seaside town of St Felix, Ana arrives to collect a VW camper van, left to her by her best friend, Daisy, but when she finds it at Bob's Bangers, she is horrified to discover how dilapidated it is. It needs completely re-building. However, Malachi, who is looking after Bob's business whilst he is away, offers to do the work, and Ana finds Snowdrop Cottage to stay in whilst it's done. (The cottage is owned by Poppy and Jake who appear in The Little Flower Shop by the Sea and you can read my review here.)
When Malachi discovers some mysterious postcards written in the 1940s to the 1990s from Lou to Frankie, but never posted, hidden in the van, Ana sets out to find out who these people were, and return the cards. She's helped by Noah who runs an antiques shop with his young assistant, Jess, to track down some of the missing cards.
With Ana finding both Malachi and Noah very attractive, she has more on her mind than just returning the postcards to their rightful owner!

This is a fabulous story, set in glorious Cornwall, with wonderful characters and more than a hint of magic. I loved it so much, that I will certainly read it again!

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Then. Now. Always. by Isabelle Broom - Sun, Sand and Sangria - the Perfect Holiday Read!

In my last post, I wrote about the two novels set in Lanzarote that I took on my cruise. Well, two books are never enough because I'm scared of running out of something to read, so I took the latest book by Isabelle Broom that I've been longing to get my teeth into: Then. Now. Always.
This emotional roller-coaster of a story is set in Mojácar, Andalusia, in southern Spain, so not all that far from the Spanish Canary Islands, and Isabelle Broom takes you right into this romantic mountain village with its traditional white-washed buildings with blue-painted doors, and village square, complete with sparkling fountain.

Hannah has a tattoo on her wrist of the ancient Indalo Man which reminds her of that teenage summer she spent there ten years ago with her schoolfriend, Rachel, but now she is a researcher for an independent TV company, run by the gorgeous Greek, Theo, who she's fancied ever since she got her job. They are in Mojácar making a documentary about the Spanish village with Tom, the cameraman and her friend since uni, and Claudette, the temperamental and highly strung French narrator.
The embarrassing memories of that summer long ago that Hannah wishes she could forget threaten to resurface; the arrival of her half-sister, Nancy, whom she's never got on with, also threatens to spoil her month in the sun; plus the story of local artist, Elaine, that Hannah uncovers, all combine to make this novel of sun, sand, and of course, Sangria, the perfect holiday read. I loved it!

Now I'm really looking forward to reading One Thousand Stars and Youset in Sri Lanka, and released on August 23rd, 2018!

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Two Books to Take on a Cruise to the Canary Islands!

I found it really hard to find any books to take on my cruise to the Canary Islands, because I love to read a novel set in the place that I'm visiting. There's obviously a need for somebody to write some more!
So after a good search on Amazon, I came up with two set in Lanzarote.
They couldn't  be more different from each other: one is an up-to-the-minute picture of a crazy family holiday with lots of thrills and spills by one of my favourite authors, Chrissie Manby, and the other was written in the Sixties by the famous twentieth century novelist, Mary Stewart, whose books I'd never read.
I will start with a  A Proper Family Holiday by Chrissie Manby, about the crazy Benson family. (I've already enjoyed A Proper Family Adventure  when I 'sailed' with them to the Mediterranean; you can read my review here.)
However, this book was written first, and here the Benson family are off to Lanzarote for a week, paid for by Jacqui and Dave. It's her 60th birthday, and this will be the perfect opportunity for getting the family together and telling them a secret they've been keeping.
They have two daughters, Ronnie and Chelsea. Ronnie and Mark have yet to tie the knot, but have Sophie, aged fifteen, and Jack, aged six.
Chelsea works in London on a society magazine. She fell out with her sister two years ago, and they haven't been able to forgive each other for what happened.
Bill, Sophie and Jack's great-granddad and Dave's father, is a great character, always forgetting that he is actually eighty-five years old and getting into as much trouble as Jack!
On the plane, Chelsea meets Adam and his daughter, Lily, who becomes a great rival to Jack. One of the best bits of the story is the sandcastle-making competition!
This is a wonderful family novel with comedy and drama. It flows along, and is brilliant for summer holiday reading.
The Wind Off the Small Isles is a long lost novella by Mary Stewart who died in 2014. She was one of the best selling and best loved writers
of the twentieth century. It was written in 1968 with a foreword from Jennifer Ogden, her niece and companion for the last twelve years of her life.
Set in Lanzarote, with a close attention to detail of the volcanic island and its flora and fauna, the story begins in 1879 when a wealthy young woman elopes with a poor fisherman.
Then in 1968, Coralie Gresham, a writer of children's novels, arrives with her assistant, Perdita West, to find a place to settle down and write a rip-roaring adventure about the Barbary pirates. It so happens that Coralie's son, Michael, is also an assistant to a struggling playwright called James Blair. They have come to the island and have found the perfect house at Playa Blanca.
Whilst Cora is taken out to an old shipwreck to research her story, Perdita goes snorkelling and gets trapped in an underwater cave. She is rescued by Mike, of course, but not before they've discovered what happened to the nineteenth century star-crossed lovers.
This is another wonderful holiday read, yet from a totally different angle to A Proper Family Holiday. It gives the full atmosphere of this Canary Island, exploring the relationships of the twentieth century characters against the story of the past.
Although written fifty years ago, I did not find it stuffy and old-fashioned, but fresh and new. As I said, I haven't read any of Mary Stewart's novels before, but I did see The Moon-Spinners, starring Hayley Mills, which I remember enjoying, so I think I'll look out for some of her other books.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Somewhere Beyond the Sea by Miranda Dickinson - A Romantic, Heartwarming, and Magical Read

Wow! What a romantic story!
I've just finished reading Somewhere Beyond the Sea by Miranda Dickinson, told in alternate chapters by the protagonists, Seren and Jack.

Seren's father has died, leaving her MacArthur's Gallery, tucked into a tiny courtyard in St Ives, and his vision of saving The Old Parsonage, the former home of Elinor Carne, an astronomer who discovered new stars in the nineteenth century when women's endeavours were ignored and their glory given to their male rivals instead.
Seren is a designer and makes beautiful jewellery out of the seaglass that she finds on her morning wanderings on Gwithian Beach. One day, she discovers an half-finished star, made out of seaglass pebbles, and can't resist finishing it herself.

Jack Dixon is on his own with his daughter, Nessie, now that his wife, Tash, has died. He's a qualified and experienced builder, but he's struggling to find work to make ends meet. He and Nessie live in a beach chalet on a holiday park in return for doing odd-jobs for his friend, Jeb. Each evening, he and Nessie go down to Gwithian Beach and half make a seaglass star, hoping the mermaids will complete it.

When Jack is offered a job by Bill Brotherson to redevelop the parsonage site and turn it into flats, Jack and Seren find they are on opposing sides. Will they ever discover who is making/completing the seaglass stars? Will they ever be able to have a future together if the Brotherson scheme goes ahead?

With her colourful descriptions of St Ives, and the many other characters, I could tell how much Miranda Dickinson loves the place. It's one of those novels that really takes you out of your armchair and transports you to somewhere magical. With its song-title title, it is more like her earlier novels and is a heartwarming, marvellous read. I loved it and I'm sure the story of Seren and Jack, and the beauty of St Ives will stay with me for a very long time. It's almost as good as taking a holiday in St Ives itself!