A Life in Books with Chrisoula Panagoulia


Today I am joined by Chrisoula Panagoulia who is editing her first novel and busy writing her second.


Can you tell me a bit about yourself?


To begin with, I was brought up in Sydney, Australia and lived there till the age of 11. Then I was brought to Greece and have been living in Athens since 1981. I am a teacher of English and in my free time I love to read English novels. I’ve always wanted to write stories or novels but never really got into it but five years ago I gave it a go. I still haven’t published my first novel, as I am editing it and its taking me a lot of time.



1. What was you favourite book from childhood?51OOQajlK2L._SX352_BO1,204,203,200_

My favourite book was (I’ve still got it in my bookcase) The Dennis Bones Mystery Book by Jim and Mary Razzi. I loved this book because of the simple way it was written and because it compelled me to find the solution to the ‘crime’.


2. What type of books did you read as a teenager?

As a teenager I read Greek romance books ( the Arlekins as we call them here in Greece). The reason for that was because I wanted to identify with the heroines and feel loved, something which I desperately needed in my future life. (Don’t ask me if I found it…)


3. When you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?

There are no such classes here in Greece!!!


418uOZKwBSL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_4. What is your favourite classic book?

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens because the plot was fast-paced.




5. What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 years?

The Island by Victoria Hislop. She knows how to get you involved in the story.


6. What book to you think you should read but never get round to?51Z0nLAfLmL

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelo. I’ve read Brida by the same author and found it incomprehensible so because I am biased I refuse/hesitate to read The Alchemist.


7. What do you consider to be your favourite book ?

Three Amazing Things About You by Jill Mansell. The way she gets you hooked into the story is an asset for an author I believe. Though I haven’t read all of her books the ones that I have read are really captivating.


8. Is there a book that you have started but been unable to finish?

No. Never. Though I have read a couple of books which were really ‘awful’ and ‘incomprehensible’ I carried on reading them because I wanted to see where the author was getting, and whether I would get hooked at least after half of the book. But I never got hooked and the story dragged and dragged and dragged on…


51DkRjnhXhL._SX303_BO1,204,203,200_9. If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have with you
Definitely An offer you cant refuse by Jill Mansell and The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop


10. Kindle or Book? BOOK. BOOK. BOOK. Only books!















At First Light by Vanessa Lafaye




1993 Key West in Florida, a ninety six year old Cuban woman walks into a park and shoots a Ku Klux Klan official at point blank range.  When arrested all she will say is that she is guilty of the murder.

1919 Key West Florida is a different world.  Alicia Cortez, a mixed race young woman, arrives by ferry from Cuba after being sent away by her family in disgrace.  The ferry pulls into the port at the same time as troopship bringing home soldiers from Europe who were fighting in World War One.  On board is hardened soldier John Morales, looking forward to getting back to his bar.  Back on dry land, John finds himself drawn to the beautiful young Cuban woman.  They begin a relationship that is seen as unorthodox in a time where racial segregation was still  a way of life.  Their lives are further complicated with the arrival of the Klu Klux Klan, and they find themselves and those they love in danger.


At First Light is a stunning novel that recaptures a period of American Culture of extreme violence and prejudice.  Vanessa Lafaye’s writing and vivid descriptions bring the Key West off 1919 to life.  We feel the heat of the sun, we smell the sewage and smell of unwashed bodies, and see the brothels, bars, houses and people with such clarity that we feel like we are there.  The same writing brings the characters to life.  Alicia is the heroine of this book.  She arrives in Key West from Cuba where she lived a privileged life and was accepted as a mixed race young woman.  In Key West, where segregation is part of life, as a woman of mixed race she is neither dark or white skinned which makes her worse in some ways than those of colour, she is neither one nor the other. Not only is race a problem she finds herself living in a brothel, a big change from the luxuries she is used to in Cuba.  Alicia rises to the occasion and shows strength and resilience, in her attitude to the situation she finds herself in.  It is her strength and her love for John that comes through in this book, and her fight against prejudice.  I found the character of Dwayne a symbol of hope in this story.  Like most young boys he seeks his father’s approval and love and wants  to believe him to be a good man.  When his father becomes a member of the Klu Klux Klan he wants to believe their ideology, on the premise that if his father is part of this then it must be right and just. But the more he hears and the more he sees make him question both his father and the KKK.  He is able to work out for himself and take action and to do the right thing, he is a symbol of the future in his ability to walk away from prejudice of his others and make his own mind up.

At First Light is a book that tackles the issues of prejudice, based on religion, race, gender, and a hatred of those who are different.  What makes it more shocking is that it is based on a true story.  It was strange that I was reading this this weekend with the Manchester One Love Benefit Concert after the bomb in Manchester and attack in London, it really resonated with me that as a society we still have the same prejudices.  Maybe the way hatred is shown has changed but we still live in a world where there are certain sections of society who are still intolerant and use terror to kill.  I have to say I find this quite a sad comparison to make.

At First Light is a very emotive read, for the reader and the characters; it has love and hate, strength and weakness, revenge and forgiveness, hope and despair.  It’s atmospheric prose, colourful characters, and its uplifting and heartbreaking story line make it the perfect read, a brilliant book.

Death Rains Down (Detective Ray Logue Book 1) by Kevin McManus




Port Ard, County Mayo a Polish Estate Agent Anna Pawalowski is murdered after arranging to meet a client to view a property.

Logue, a hard drinking cop, still struggling after the death of his wife eight years ago, and his partner Mulcahy are assigned to the case.  But who would want to kill a young, beautiful estate agent and things are complicated further when the body of her boyfriend is washed up on a beach.  Logue and Mulcahy are drawn into the dark world of drugs, Russian mobsters, violence and political corruption to apprehend the perpetrator of these murders.  But are they in above their heads, and just how high does the corruption go.


Death Rains Down is only a short book of one hundred and sixty five pages, put it really packs a punch in those pages.  I don’t normally read books under three hundred pages but I have to say that I really enjoyed being able to read the whole book in one sitting, not something I get to do very often with my spondylosis.  I thought the plot was well thought out and fast paced to keep your attention.  Kevin McManus’ descriptive prose brings the beauty of County Mayo and the characters to life.

I really enjoyed Logue as a character, the archetypal damaged, maverick cop – every good crime drama needs one.  He is balanced out by his partner Mulcahy who is Logue’s opposite; married with children and not one to break the rules.  What I loves was the way Logue wanted to protect Mulcahy from any dangerous situations;  It was Logue in the firing line physically and metaphorically.

Death Rains Down is an accomplished first novel, full of Irish charm, lots of craic but best of all an exciting, thrill packed plot; like me you will want to read this in one setting.  I am looking forward to reading the next instalment in the Detective Ray Logue series.

A Life in Books with Rosanna Ley


I have an extra A Life in Books this week with Rosanna Ley to celebrate the publication of The Little Theatre by the Sea in paperback on 1 June.  If you missed my review of this charming novel I have included a link at the end of my interview with Rosanna, so lets get started!


Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I’ve always loved reading and writing and also enjoy tutoring creative writing and life-writing for self-expression and therapy. Now that I am writing a book a year for Quercus and each book requires a lot of research and travelling, I’m spending more of my time doing that, but still love to work with new writers whenever possible.

I like to write about places I find interesting – they have to inspire me on some level, and must have something in their culture/ politics/ history which I can get my teeth into! I also enjoy writing about relationships – family, romantic, whatever – and try to get a bit of mystery into the books too.

For myself I mostly live and work in West Dorset which I love and I enjoy walking the cliffs and beaches near my home and relaxing with a good book!


What was your favourite childhood book?51XYNPR34YL._SX293_BO1,204,203,200_

I loved Enid Blyton’s ‘Secret Seven’ books and devoured them voraciously. I also really enjoyed AA Milne’s ‘When we Were Very Young’ and ‘Now we are Six’ and learnt some of the poems by heart. They must be in my long-term memory because I still know some of them…


What type of books did you read as a teenager?

As a teenager I got into historical fiction especially Jean Plaidy and other writers of that ilk. When I did ‘O’ levels I also discovered DH Lawrence and fell hopelessly in love with his books. That was about the time I got into classics too, like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. I’m not a mad Dickens fan, but Austen, I still love. I also remember being much affected by Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’ and a few years later I discovered the ‘Liverpool Poets’ e.g. Adrian Henri.


51GWN2QoIRLWhen you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?

Definitely Sons and Lovers by DHL. I also got hooked into John Donne’s poetry.



What is your favourite classic book?

Probably ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen, though I also love ‘Emma’


What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 51A53M8ygwL._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_years?

One of the best books I’ve read? There have been so many. I was very impressed by ‘The Various Flavours of Coffee’ by Anthony Capella. So interesting. I love the way he writes.


What book to you think you should read but never get round to?

Anything by James Joyce. But life is probably too short. And actually I don’t think I ‘should’ read ‘Ulysses’ or anything else really. There’s a lot of literary snobbery around and the label ‘literary’ can sometimes be an excuse for self-indulgence! I think everyone should read what they want to and what they enjoy.


418EF5I2wML._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_What do you consider to be your favourite book ?
Another impossible question! Women in Love by DH Lawrence.



Is there a book that you have started but been unable to finish?

Hundreds. If I get too irritated by bad writing or I’m not sufficiently interested in the story-line, I’ll stop. There’s always so many good books I want to read – who has time to read a bad one?


If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have with you

Definitely a large collection of poetry as that would last me forever. The other book would be a large notebook so that I could write.


Kindle or Book?
I prefer actual books but do have a Kindle for when I am travelling and need to travel light.

Thank you so much, Juliet!
Rosanna x


The Little Theatre by The Sea is available to buy now.



The Little Theatre by the Sea by Rosanna Ley