Thursday, 25 September 2014

The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop

In the summer of 1972, Famagusta in Cyprus is the most desirable resort in the Mediterranean, a city bathed in the glow of good fortune. An ambitious couple are about to open the island's most spectacular hotel, where Greek and Turkish Cypriots work in harmony. Two neighbouring families, the Georgious and the Ozkans, are among many who moved to Famagusta to escape the years of unrest and ethnic violence elsewhere on the island. But beneath the city's facade of glamour and success, tension is building. When a Greek coup plunges the island into chaos, Cyprus faces a disastrous conflict. Turkey invades to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority, and Famagusta is shelled. Forty thousand people seize their most precious possessions and flee from the advancing soldiers. In the deserted city, just two families remain. This is their story.

Published today The Sunrise is Victoria Hislop's fourth novel. She has become one of my favourite authors.
Her books are fictional stories set within traumatic real life events and have taught me more about history than any teacher at school could.

The Island: Set in a leper colony off the coast of Crete.
The Return: Takes place in Barcelona during the civil war.
The Thread : Is about the population exchange between the Turkish and Greek people.

Each one of her books is heartbreaking but they are books we all should read as these real life events were experienced by ordinary people just like you and me.

The story of The Sunrise begins in 1972.
The Sunrise is a hotel built in Famagusta by Savas Papacosta and his wife Aphroditi. It is their second hotel and bigger and better than anything else on the coastline. Frequented by the rich and famous and making lots of money ensures that Savas and Aphroditi are living the good life.
I didn't like Savas at all he was a greedy self obsessed man and I just wasn't sure of his wife. I thought she was a spoiled and selfish women which showed up to be true through the book when she could have put other lives in danger to satisfy herself.

 The Georgiou family are Greek and live nearby and work at the hotel. Markos Georgiou is a big character in the story, he is in charge of the bar and nightclub at the hotel and becomes Savas's right hand man.
This character really disappointed me as I liked him at first then I felt a change in him but I suppose war does that to people. His mother Irina has the worry that her son Christos might be involved in illegal activities what she doesn't know is that he is a member of the EOKAB organisation which wants Cyprus to merge with Greece.

Emmine Ozkan and her family are Turkish Cyrpriots. Emmine works as a hairdresser in the hotel. Huseyin her eighteen year old son works on the beach giving out sun loungers to holidaymakers. The younger son Ali is involved with the Turkish resistance.
Both families along with many more Turkish and Greek Cypriots live and work together and don't want to be part of the war that is to come.

1974 and Turkey invades to protect it's people against the Greek Coup and the nightmare begins with 40,000 leaving the city.
All that remains are empty shops, hotels and two families one Turkish and one Greek. The shops were looted and as electricity went down everywhere smells of rotten meat. Rats and snakes run amok. It seems that even the Turkish Cypriots are not safe from the Turkish soldiers who have supposidly came to rescue them.
Victoria's descriptions of  these events are so vivid that I'm certain she must have spoken to people who had survived this.
I could feel the fear the familes felt as they moved around trying to find a safe haven. The atrocities by both the Turkish Soldiers and the Greek were many and it made me wonder why if no one wants a war do these people seem to turn into animals against other human beings?

Both families had exactly the same worries. Worried about missing sons, how they would eat, who to trust and when this all would end and life would return to normal.
I haven't given away any spoilers as this is a book you have to read for yourself. It's not an easy read, I cried my eyes out from about halfway through it but Victoria Hislop is a fantastic story teller and even now I'm waiting for her next offering.

After all that these people went through man has still not learnt any lessons from history. All that happened in Cyprus in the seventies has happened many times since in other countries and as I write this it is still happening today.

My one criticism of this book is the price of a download for kindle. I'm afraid I wouldn't pay that for a digital book. Good news is another pound and you can buy a hardback copy.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

If You Were Me by Shelia O'Flanagan

From Sheila O'Flanagan, the Number One bestselling author of Someone Special and Things We Never Say, comes an unputdownable, heart-searching new novel for every woman who still remembers her first love...On a sultry summer evening in Seville, anything can happen...Carlotta O'Keefe is happily engaged, and the wedding plans are coming together. She's clear about her future path, both personally and in her busy career. Maybe Chris doesn't make her heart race every time she sees him, but you can't have that feeling for ever. Can you? Then, on a trip to Seville, Carlotta runs into Luke Evans. Luke broke her heart so long ago she'd almost convinced herself she'd forgotten him. Now, he's not that boy any more, but an attractive and intriguing man. And he can explain everything that happened way back when. Suddenly Carlotta's not so sure of anything any more. Except that what she decides now will shape the rest of her life...

I was pleased to be asked to review this book as I enjoyed Things We Never Say by the same author.
Carlotta or Lottie as she's called is a business woman, her job is to turn companies around that aren't doing well.  This usually involves making job cuts but ultimately saving the company from ruin. For some reason her future mother in law (Dorothea) resents her for this and is horrible to her.
Lottie has to go away to South America and then Seville for work and misses her travel connection to get back home to Ireland for Dorothea's birthday where she has to present her with flowers and make a speech. Chris her fiance is furious with her and goes on about how upset his mother will be and how he will have to ask his sister to give her the flowers instead. This was when I hated Chris. I thought he was controlling and domineering and I could foresee what kind of life Lottie would have if she married him.

Enter the childhood sweetheart Luke who Lottie never did get to kiss. He had disappeared with his family from the house across the road from where she lived as a child. The rumours were his dad was a criminal and they left for the Costa del Crime.
Lottie tells Luke that she is engaged to be married and he is happy for her but when she leaves he kisses her and that changes everything.
I'm sure everyone must think of their childhood sweetheart now and again and wonder what would happen or how you they would feel if they ever bumped into them.

I liked Lottie as a character but I couldn't understand why she was even with Chris although she said she loved him and he was loving and caring and the loveliest guy she could hope to marry I just didn't see that in him. Chris, his mother and sister were unlikeable characters and all through the book I wanted Lottie to ditch them all.
Lottie really didn't think she would ever meet Luke again as they didn't exchange phone numbers and she didn't know where he was living.
Fate played a big part in this story in the twists and turns which Lottie went through to get to her happy ever after.

 I did think the story would be predictable and it was but there was a will they or won't they throughout the book which made me think I could be wrong about the ending, but I wasn't.
Shelia O'Flanagan's descriptions of the sights and sounds of Sevielle were wonderful and made me want to experience it for myself.
A nice story for some late summer holiday reading.

Amazon uk
 Thank you to the publisher for a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Pieces of You by Ella Harper

The perfect marriage.
A devastating secret.
An impossible choice.

Lucy was always sure of one thing – her future with husband and soulmate Luke. But after eight long, heartbreaking years trying to have a baby, that future is crumbling before her eyes.

When a terrible accident puts Luke into a coma, Lucy is forced to reassess everything she thought she wanted.

Then Stella arrives. A woman Lucy’s never met, but with a secret that will change her world forever . . .

Lucy is the happiest she has ever been. After eight miscarriages she is now four months pregnant with Luke's baby and this time she's sure her baby will be born safely. The night of their anniversary dinner changes both her and Luke's world as they know it when Luke is involved in a terrible accident just as Lucy has devastating news for him.
This is one of those book reviews where I can't tell you too much about the book without giving away any more spoilers.
Luke is one of the good guys, faithful and loving to Lucy and very thoughtful. Lucy loves Luke but is also consumed with the need to have a baby. Lucy's friend Dee seems to have no problem conceiving and having babies even without planning them. Although Lucy and her are best of friends and are always there for each other Lucy does slightly resent her friend for being able to have babies so easily.
Luke is the lynch pin of his family, for his sister Nell, his mother and for Lucy. Will they fall apart when he is no longer able to hold everything together?
I loved the relationship between Luke and Lucy, the little things they did for each other and how much they were in love made the story even more heartbreaking.
 I felt let down by Luke's character during the book as secrets are revealed and I like Lucy and his family expected more from him.
Anyone who has gone through fertility treatment will feel for Lucy. The story will also give an insight for any friends or relatives of woman going through the treatment on what it can be like and how badly it affects the man as well as the woman.
You will go through a box of hankies reading this book and will feel emotionally drained at the end.

 I read a review which said there was no moral in the story. I don't actually think a fiction book is there to give us morals but I do think this book has one. It reminds us not to focus on one thing in our lives to the point where we can't see anything else. We have to keep showing the person we love how much they matter to us, and finally, the need to make the best of a bad situation so not to cause any more hurt,yes there is a lesson for us all in this book.
It seems strange to say I loved a story that made me cry but I did love this story and I loved Lucy. It stayed in my head for days as I wondered what the future held for her and the rest of the family.
If you're going to read this please don't read any other reviews as there are many spoilers out there and the story is much better without them.

Pieces of You from Amazon UK

This is a debut novel by Ella Harper who also writes as Sasha Wagstaff

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Secrets in the Shadows by Hannah Emery

In 1920s Blackpool, eleven year old Rose wanders away from her parents and has a unique gift bestowed upon her. This gift will leave a haunting legacy, seeping down through the generations…
Decades later, Louisa has a vision of her mother walking into the sea. This isn’t the first time it happens and it won’t be the last, but what she sees isn’t always what she wants. The rest of her life is spent trying to change the future that haunts her.
In present day Blackpool, Grace is going to be married someday. She knows this because she’s seen it; a vision of a white dress, daisies embroidered on the sleeves, the groom by her side, vowing to love her forever. Except the man in her premonition doesn’t belong to her- he belongs to her twin sister, Elsie.
Haunted by what they know and what they are afraid to find out, all three women must make a choice: in the face of certain destiny should you chase the outcome that’s “meant to be”, or throw away fate and choose your own future?

This story is told over three generation of women. A thread of the supernatural runs through the story as the women seemed to be blessed with a second sight. Whether it's a blessing or a curse is still to be seen as each goes down the same road which ends in disaster. One of them has to break the chain and go against what her future shows so that future generations will lead a normal life.

 The three stories are told in such a clever way making them seamless. I didn't want to leave one story and go on to the next as I was so anxious to complete the puzzle of what was going on in the lives of these women. 
Rose and her daughter Louisa's story was heartbreaking and I didn't want it to carry on through to Louisa's girls. I loved seeing the changing face of Blackpool which is somewhere I love.The pier and the fortune teller brought back memories for me as my Blackpool fortune teller told me I would meet the man I would marry there and return with him, it came true.
Grace has a dilemma in that her visions tell her she will marry her sister's fiance. This causes problems in the way that she acts with Elsie and she finds it difficult to be involved in her wedding plans. Grace knows that there is nothing she can do about it because her visions are the future and who can change the future?

I enjoyed reading this and found it hard to believe that it was a debut novel. This is a book I feel I will read again, just in case I missed something the way you do when you want to get to the end fast to find the conclusion and then wish you had read more slowly and made it last.
Many thanks to Hannah Emery for asking me to read her book and providing an e copy for me. I look forward to her next offering,look out for her name.

Hannah Emery is a new Harper Impulse author and loves writing, reading, chatting and watching things like Gossip Girl. She lives in Blackpool with her husband and daughter.

The Mum Who Got a Her Life Back by Fiona Gibson

When her 18-year-old twins leave for university, single mum Nadia’s life changes in ways she never expected: her Glasgow flat fee...