Sunday, 4 September 2016

Grab a few more moments of summer with these books...

It's the beginning of September and most of us are heading back to school or work, having returned from our summer holidays. But, if you want to try and prolong the feeling of hot, lazy days then here are a few suggestions to help you escape back into the summer for a little longer!

Hillstation

Dreaming of escape from his remote village in the Himalayan foothills, Rabindra entreats the gods to send him an English bride. When a saucy English dance troupe arrives on the run from a Bombay crime boss, Rabindra believes that his prayers have been answered. Except that they have no interest in marrying anyone. As the village begins to unravel in the presence of these scandalous foreigners, surprising secrets emerge from the depths of its past.

I'm just going to come straight out and say it. I thoroughly enjoyed this chaotic, hilarious, colourful and charming book. The prose rattles along at such a rate that it is impossible to take a breath, let alone put it down. Rabindra's narrative flows like a burst pipe, streaming endlessly capturing his enthusiasm, naivety, innocence and simplistic belief in all that is good. It is a comedy, a love story; a novel about family, religion, culture, coming of age and belonging.

I would recommend this book - particularly to fans of "Slumdog Millionaire", "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel", "The White Tiger" and "The Inheritance of Loss". It was rather different from the other books I have been reviewing recently and therefore its freshness and originality more pronounced, but I think many readers will enjoy its gentle, heartwarming story and its boundless energy and humour. 5/5 stars!

Read my full review here: http://bibliomaniacuk.blogspot.com/2016/08/hillstation-robin-mukherjee.html

Escape to the Riviera
Quiet and unassuming Carrie Hayes has a nice, steady life with long-term boyfriend Alan. But she’s been keeping a secret hidden for years. A whirlwind marriage to Hollywood superstar Richard Maddox when they were young and foolish and life was full of endless possibilities. Although no longer together when Richard went to fulfil his acting ambitions in America, they’ve never quite got a divorce. And now a chance meeting in the paradise of the glamorous French Riviera is about to change Carrie’s summer, and entire life, for ever . . .

Gentle, comfortably predictable, undemanding, brimming with romance, comedy and a happy ever after ending -this book basically delivers exactly what it promises! It is a light hearted, playful summer holiday read that would fit nicely next to your chilled glass of wine as you recline in your sun lounger and take a break from a few lazy laps in the pool! A good 3.5/5 stars from me.

My full review can be read here http://bibliomaniacuk.blogspot.com/2016/08/escape-to-riviera-jules-wake.html

The Little Paris Bookshop

Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can't seem to heal through literature is himself; he's still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

My review for this book is very long and detailed so here is a mere snapshot of some of my thoughts:

I was immediately mesmerised by the beautiful, poetic and lyrical writing. George's phrases are so pertinent and the pages are littered with apt and thoughtful observations. By page 4, I was entranced by the solitary Monsieur Perdu who can't open the door to the room "in which all his love, his dreams and his past had been buried"; who reflects that "memories are like wolves. You can't lock them away and hope they leave you alone." I was also intrigued by this sad man who seemed full of pain and sorrow.

This book is thoughtful and needs to be savoured. Perdu illustrates the importance of listening and at the end, the realisation that books do have limitations- we have to live the important things - you have to experience your own book.

I highly recommend this novel. It is an easy read but a beautifully crafted one full of entrancing imagery and observations. Readers will care about the characters who are all appealing and engaging. 5/5 stars from me. Available from March 2016. 

The full review can be found at:
http://bibliomaniacuk.blogspot.com/2016/03/my-review-of-little-paris-bookshop-nina.html

Four Weddings and a Fiasco
What kind of summer is it without a wedding to go to?!
Meet Katy Peacock. She has a fun-filled life as colourful as her name, and you can always rely on her to be the life and soul of any party. And it’s a good job too, given she spends her weekends photographing other people’s weddings. Yet underneath it all, things aren’t so good. Her wedding photography business has fallen on tough times, and she’s had her heart broken more times than she cares to remember. But she’ll get through it, she knows she will. She just needs to avoid best men, bad men, and ushers of any variety......
Although this novel follows a well worn path typical of chick lit rom coms, it still feels fresh and funny. The story is well structured into four parts based around four weddings and this helps move the plot along swiftly and with focus. Katy is a very likeable character; the reader empathises with her as she tries to face her problems alone- juggling a job, a recently bereaved mother, an estranged sister, a best friend and a potential love interest without letting anyone see how desperate she feels or the pressure she finds herself under. There are several different threads of storyline going on which gives the book more depth; twists, revelations and moments of seriousness carefully balanced against the humour and romantic moments. It is a light hearted read, largely humorous and witty, but Katy also has real problems that give the book more gravitas and prevent it from being too frivolous. 3/5 stars from me.

This book published in June 2016. The full review can be found here: http://bibliomaniacuk.blogspot.com/2016/06/four-weddings-and-fiasco-catherine.html


The Sugar Planter's Daughter: A beautiful heartbreaking novel of love, loss and hidden tragedy (The Quint Chronicles)

Meet Winnie Cox, a white, privileged daughter living a life of luxury on her father's sugar plantation in Guiana, South America. She is about to marry the man of her dreams, George Quint; a black postman from the slums. When Winnie has to travel to seek medical help for her son, George is left behind. Yoyo, Winnie's sister, is fed up with living in her shadow playing second fiddle to her mother's favourite daughter. Full of resentment, Yoyo sets out to seek revenge against Winnie while she is away, laying the grounds for a trap which will have devastating consequences for them all.

This is a story about love, secrets, obsession, social conventions and pressure. There is laughter, happiness, strength and fortitude but there is also grief, helplessness and sadness. It's not a roller coaster ride of a novel, more a meandering along undulating countryside with some hidden and unexpected sharp corners. I liked the atmosphere, tone and pace of the novel and it very much suited the era and characters. And of course, the uplifting message about love - when genuine and truthful - really is able to heal, help and rebuild bridges. 3.5/5 stars from me.

My full review of this book can be found at http://bibliomaniacuk.blogspot.com/2016/07/the-sugar-planters-daughter-sharon-maas.html

The English Girl


The story begins with Joan in 1958 Muscat. Joan, an archaeologist, has fulfilled her lifetime dream to visit the Oman and the Arabian desert. Her brother Dan is stationed in the army there and this is from where they base their visit. Webb subtly implies a slight mystery here as Dan has fallen out with their mother and Joan has no idea why but cannot get him to talk about it. Joan travels with her fiancé Rory although from the outset there are also hints that this relationship is not quite as happy as it appears. They have had a very prolonged engagement and although frequently confessing and showing his love, Rory seems reluctant to set a date for the actual ceremony. Their relationship is also described as one of companionship, of best friends; they are comfortable together in a way established middle aged couples might behave and appear more like siblings. Already the stage is set for a story of revelation and intrigue.

This book is about changing your destiny, confronting the past, self discovery and atonement. It is about retribution and reprisals. It is about siblings, lovers, marriage and women. It is about potential and happiness, distortion and clarity. All set within the extreme, exotic location of Arabia and the desert which changes everyone and everything. As Joan observes, she was moved by its "hugeness..the multitude of it was dizzying" which is an appropriate summing up of how the scenery mirrors her own awakening. 

This book took me a while to get into but once I got stuck in, I became fully immersed in the landscape of the desert which Webb so adeptly describes and the complex emotional journeys of the two female protagonists. This is a saga of a novel for you to become lost in and transported to a different world and a different time. It is well worth a read. 4/5 stars from me. 

Read my full review here http://bibliomaniacuk.blogspot.com/2016/03/my-review-of-english-girl-by-katherine.html


The Silk Merchant's Daughter

With an equally appealing cover as her previous titles, Jefferies once more sets her book in Asia. This time it's 1952 French Indochina and eighteen year old Nicole, our protagonist, is living as a French colonial in Vietnam's capital, Hanoi. The story follows Nicole over the next few years as she learns about overcoming obstacles in love, politics, family and the cost of making choices; all set against the turbulent backdrop of the threatening conflict between the nationalist Vietminh and the governing French as they fight each other for control in civil unrest which would later become the Vietnam War. 

This is a story of a search for belonging and identity. It is a story of a girl not only caught between political conflict, but between lovers, between her family and between her heritage. It is a story about a girl who is constantly pulled in two different directions; who doesn't really fit into either world but attempts to belong to both. Nicole learns to negotiate her way through this conflict, revealing an inner strength and instinct for survival which she never knew she had. 


This novel is much more of a love story than Jefferies previous titles. I think the romantic element of the story is the most central theme. The novel is about love between couples, fathers and daughters, mothers and daughters and sisters. It is a great exploration of one girl coming to terms with all these things. 4/5 stars from me!

I would highly recommend all Jefferies books as perfect for transporting you to another era and country - perfect escapism but with enough drama and intrigue to make them rewarding reads! Full review can be found here:
http://bibliomaniacuk.blogspot.com/2016/02/my-review-of-silk-merchants-daughter-by.html

Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew

No one knows the name of 'the painter' who comes to the asylum in St Remy in the south of France, but they see his wild, red hair and news of his savaged ear soon circulates in the village and comes to the notice of the wife of the asylum's doctor. She feels herself drawn to him and learns that his presence is disturbing - and not just to her either. But back she goes - again and again. Until she is banned, but still she makes her way over the wall, through the garden to talk to this apparently mad and passionate man. And the consequences of her indiscretion, of what van Gogh comes to mean to her, of what it will do to her marriage, her life once she has touched danger and passion will have far reaching effects - both surprisingly catastrophic and tender.


Van Gogh is not the main character in this story but instead it is the power of his art, his quiet counsel, his presence. This is a mesmerising tale. Well crafted. Beautifully executed. Memorable. I would highly recommend this poignant and entrancing novel. 4/5 stars. 

You can see my full and more detailed review here: http://bibliomaniacuk.blogspot.com/2016/04/let-me-tell-you-about-man-i-knew-susan.html

I could go on, and I could recommend more, but I think these books are all set in sunny locations and tell stories about love, relationships and journeys. Perfect for holding on to that feeling of summer romance, summer adventures and the chance to rediscover something about yourself while you step away from the everyday. Enjoy! 

For more recommendations and to see more of my reviews follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk) 

4 comments:

  1. Some great reads there Katherine, and several more for my wishlist.

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    1. Thank you so much Gill! Sorry for adding to that TBR pile....it's just inevitable!!! Perhaps the winter nights will give us a chance to catch up on books....!

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