2017 is nearly at an end and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support and for reading my blog. Earlier in the year I wrote a post about why I started Bookliterati Book Reviews, and the problems I had faced with my health and how the blog was helping me cope. I never expected my blog to take off as it has and it has meant a lot to me that so many of you have contacted me and supported me.
Writing the blog has also given me the opportunity to make new friends, online and in person. As part of a Facebook group I organised a meeting in April for authors and readers in the Newcastle area, it was such a success that we had another meeting in October and have our third in February. As a result of this I set up a group for authors and readers in the North East, a place for people to connect and find out about local bookish events. This has grown and we now cover the North of England, from Leeds up to the Scottish Boarders. A few also meet for coffee on a regular basis; this has been a life line to me as I am can’t go out much and have been very isolated.
Over the past year I have read a lot of wonderful books from many different genres, I posted my top ten of the year earlier in the month, and I have to say it was a very difficult process. I have also, through my A Life in Books, been privileged to interview a lot of authors. The stand out ones have to be my interview with Lucinda Riley, whose Seven Sisters’ series is just going from strength to strength. From A Life in Books I was also honoured to have Marina Fiorato take part, she is one of my favourite historical fiction authors. I have also had to opportunity to connect with many more of my favourite authors on Twitter, I have been star stuck on a few ocassion.
So, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the authors for their time, the publishers for sending me some brilliant books to read, the blogging community for the support over the last year, and most importantly to you, my followers and readers. It means the world to me if just one person reads a book that I have reviewed and recommended and enjoyed it. All your follows, shared and comments are very much appreciated, without you there would only be my family reading my reviews.
I will now take a break until the New Year and will be back with reviews of some of the wonderful books due out next year. So, thank you again and I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Camille Lammenais has grown up in the beauty of the Napa Valley surrounded by acres of her family’s vineyards. Her parents, Christophe and Joy, still deeply in love after two decades marriage, have built a renowned winery and a chateau modelled after Christophe’s ancient family estate in his native Bordeaux. Camille has had a perfect childhood, safe in her parents’ love. After graduating from Stanford, she returns to help in Chateau Joy, but their fairytale ends suddenly when her mother dies.
Six months after loosing his wife, the devastated Christophe, is easy prey for a mysterious, charming Frenchwoman visiting the valley. Camille, still grieving for her mother, is shocked by the news that her father is intends to remarry. Then she begins to see past the alluring looks, designer clothes and elegant manners of the Countess, while her innocent father is caught in her web..
I used to read a lot Danielle Steel’s novels when I had my daughter twenty-four years ago, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. I have no idea why I stopped reading them, so when I was sent Fairytale by Pan Macmillan I had a touch of nostalgia mixed with excitement. As soon as I picked up this book I was drawn in by the writing and plot, it felt a comfortable read. The plot line and the title may give it away that this book is loosely based on the story of Cinderella, a rich young lady treated badly by her stepmother. It may sound a bit kitsch and sweet, but this book really works well and is so much more than just a retelling of a fairytale.
Camille as the central character is really endearing. She may come from a rich family but she is very down to earth, hard working and puts her family first. The Countess, Maxine, is obviously the wicked step-mother, she is beautiful, sexy, seductive and very shallow and conniving. She is a character to really hate, she is horrible to her mother and spoils her two sons and is a gold digger. Rather than the wicked step-sisters there are the step-brothers, Gabreil and Alexandre, indulged and spoilt by their mother, and just as awful in character. My favourite character had to be Simone, Maxine’s badly treated mother. She is a wonderful character, in her eighties she has bright red hair and wears floral dresses with converse trainers; her personality is as flamboyant as her style. Her relationship with Camille is lovely, she takes her under her wing and try to protect her from her horrible daughter and grandsons, she is like the grandmother Camille never had.
I really enjoyed Fairytale, it is a heartwarming tale, with a great plot line and wonderful characters. It is an engaging read, perfect for this time of year, or any time you want a feel good read. I will now be looking up more of Danielle Steel’s books.
In a sleepy English village in 1944, Annabel and her son Daniel live in the shadow war. With her husband away, Annabel begins to feel isolated and begins to loose her grip on reality.
When mother and son befriend Hans, a German PoW consigned to a nearby farm, their lives are suddenly filled with thrilling secrets.
To Annabel, Hans is an awakening from the darkness that has engulfed her since Daniel’s birth. To her son, a solitary boy caught up in a magical world of fairy tales, he is perhaps a prince in disguise . But Hans has plans of his own and will soon set them into motion with devastating consequences.
The Boy Made of Snow is Chloe Mayer’s debut novel, and a very accomplished one. Inspired by the fairy tale The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson, with quotes from the book as chapter headings, this book has the essence and feel of a fairytale itself. It is beautifully written, ambitious novel with a haunting plot line that will draw you in.
The book is narrated by Annabel and her nine year old son, Daniel, in alternating chapters. This is clever literary device as it gives the reader the two different perspectives of events, and helps the reader ascertain what is really going on as neither are reliable narrators. Annabel has clearly suffered from post natal depression, an illness not recognised in the 1940’s. Her parents and husband did consider sending her to asylum, which frightened her so now she is able to put on a front and play at being a mother. She feels no connections with her son and has isolate herself frothier family and others the village. Daniel, knows there is something wrong and just wants to please his mother and be loved. He lives in his fairy tale world, where vagrants are trolls, the woods are enchanted and that a woodcutter could be a Prince. Somewhere in the middle of these narratives lies the truth of what is going on.
There is a varied cast of characters, not all nice. Annabel and Daniel are joined by that feeling of wanting to be loved and Hans offers this too them in different ways; as a lover and a friend. The Home Guard men, those unable to fight, bring a sense of menace in their dogged persecution of those not obeying the rules and in their treatment towards the PoW’s ; this was most certainly a response to their not being able to fight in the War. Both sets of grandparents have Annabel and Daniel’s best interest at heart but can be caustic in their treatment of Annabel, and her role as a mother.
The setting of the village and nearby woods is certainly very magical; for both Annabel and Daniel the woods represents a different world with a different set of rules, a place to escape daily life. As well as the magic, like all fairy tales, there has to be some badness there and this is in the guise of the Home Guard, with their violence and threatening behaviour. The historical setting is perfect for this story, it opens up many dilemmas faced at the time, problems not understood and prejudices of the era.
The Boy made of Snow is a novel of motherhood, childhood, relationships, war and consequences but most of all imagination. This is a very accomplished first novel, both in its writing and narrative; a haunting tale with a chill at its heart, perfect for this time of year.
It’s summer in Cornwall, and love is in the air. But it’s not all plain sailing.
Clemency loves a man who can’t quite be hers. She ropes in a friend to help hide her feelings, but wires soon begin to get crossed .
Ronan’s always charmed the ladies, but it’s not working this time. If only he could undo what happened That Night.
Belle seems to have the perfect boyfriend, but something doesn’t ring true. And revelations are rising to the surface …
As sunshine warms the sand and the turquoise sea sparkles, one thing is clear: buried secrets have a way of being found out.
Wow what a great romantic book. Absolutely loved it from start to finish. The characters are a delight all based in a Cornish town.
The main character is Clemency, who is a funny and an easy likeable character who works for Ronan who is an easy-going guy who all the ladies fancy. A perfect solution for Clemency? Belle is Clemency’s sister and it is surprising how their lives entwine again with some funny moments. More characters are added as the story progresses and the story definitely is a page turner where all the characters build up with their stories. All the main characters are so likeable.
There were so many twists and turns where the reader is just wow! It is an easy to read Doesn’t matter it is set in summer, it is an all year read that is thoroughly enjoyable. Haven’t read such a good romantic book like this for ages as it had such a great storyline to it.
In the August of 1978, the summer I met Anna Trabuio, my father took a girl into the woods…
I was sixteen
He had been gone a long time already, but that was it – not even a year after he lost his job and that boy disappeared – that was when everything broke.
1978 Ponte, a small community in Northern Italy. An unbearably hot summer like may others.
Elia Furenti is sixteen, living an unremarkable life of moderate unhappiness, until the day the beautiful, damaged Anna returns to Ponte and firmly propels Elia to the edge of adulthood.
But then everything starts to unravel.
Elia’s father, Ettore, is let go from his job and loses himself in the darkest corns of his mind.
A young boy is murdered.
And a girl climbs into a van and vanishes in the deep, dark woods…
So, when I was offered the opportunity to read and review this psychological thriller, written by Elena Varvello, and translated from the original Italian by Alex ValenteI I was delighted, but had one reservation . I am not really a fan of translated fiction, which I often find rather stilted. However, this novel has won a prize; winner of the English Pen Award…and it shows. ‘Can You Hear Me’ flows beautifully, proving that it isn’t all about the author, the quality of translation is paramount too, so an acknowledgement of gratitude her to Alex Valente.
This novel is beautifully written, yet quite simple in its use of language. We meet Elia, a 16 year old boy, who lives with his parents, in the summer of 1978. It is a novel of several themes; mental illness, love, loss, hope, despair, and a deeply woven seam of menace and fear, generated by the parts of the novel fed to us via a nameless narrator. In a way, I am reminded of the seminal ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. That is not to say this is a book about racism, but rather, it is a story of an innocent from a small town, living through turmoil and upheaval… and being changed by that.
I am being pretty vague about the storyline, mainly because I really don’t want to spoil it. An outline may help though: our young, male narrator, living with his parents, appears to have enjoyed a ‘normal’ childhood, which ends abruptly with the closure of the factory which had employed his father. The father spirls into depression and despair, as his wife does her best to provide a ‘normal’ life for the three of them. This proves impossible, with the disappearance of a young girl, following her lift off Elia’s father, as well as the murder of a young boy.
This is a short novel, but judicious use of language leaves the reader very satisfied. It is a novel of opposites: love and hate, hope and despair, joy and sorrow, the past and the present, the teenage narrator and the anonymous menace, economy of words and eloquence of language, easy to read, hard to forget. Try it, you won’t regret it. Most years this would be my novel of the year, but Eleanor Oliphant beat Elia to it.
5 stars. Tracey Banting.
I am a retired teacher, in my mid 50’s, with three adult sons and an adorable granddaughter. I retired early on health grounds (I have MS) and spend much of my unexpected, yet precious, spare time reading. My literature of choice is usually the detective novel, with many forays into the world of the psychological thrillers. I do enjoy the occasional brush with the more “literary’ sort of novel too. Recent examples have included Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, all of Kate Atkinson’s ‘Jackson Brodie’ novels and The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde by Eve Chase. However my tip for Novel of the Year is definitely the wonderfully written and delightful Eleanor Oliphant novel; beautifully written, hugely entertaining and moving.what’s not to love.
When two eligible and attractive men are vying for your heart, it should be the perfect dilemma.
Audrey Fox has been dumped by her unreliable fiancé Nick Byrne just days before the wedding. Heartbroken and confused, the last thing she expects when she jumps on a plane to convalesce in Cyprus is romance. But a chance meeting with handsome entrepreneur and father of one, Daniel Taylor, weaves her into a dating gamete’s not sure she’s ready for. Audrey’s life is thrown into further turmoil when she discovers on her return to London that Nick has been involved in a serious accident that’s left him in intensive care. Distraught, yet determined to look to the future, Audrey must make her decision – follow her heart or listen to well-meaning advice from family and friends? Because sometimes, no matter what, it’s the people that we love can hurt us the most.
No Way Back is the second novel by Kelly Florentia, and follows Audrey Fox as she has to deal with two men in her life plus the problems of friends and family. This is a brilliant book, I couldn’t put it down one I started it, I was hooked from the first page. This plot is fast paced with quite a few twists and turns in the lives of Audrey and her friends and family. There are laughs along the way but Kelly also touches on more difficult topics of post natal depression, infertility, and cancer. Kelly writes with such an ease, the plot flows seamlessly which makes this book a joy to read.
What makes this book so readable is the normality of the characters and the situations. Audrey is the kind of person you want to be friends with; she is in her forties, as her mother likes to remind her frequently, single again, and even though she has her own problems she also has time for her friends when that are in need. I loved the fact that she wasn’t this attractive, slim perfect woman as in so many books; Audrey’s hair frizzes, she has put on weight so some of her clothes don’t fit and frequently seems to look frazzled. She is a girl after my own heart with her love of designer shoes, and a new love interest who buys the for her. There is a brilliant cast of supporting characters; George her brother and Vicky his tired and harrased wife, Tina a flirt, Louise her closest friend and her nineteen year old daughter Jess; all of whom had their own problems, and were very down to earth. By the end of the book these people felt like my friends.
No Way Back is a book I loved, it has romance, humour, secrets, lies and designer shoes. It is a brilliant read, with engaging characters and a plot line that will grip you from the first word to the last. After finishing the book I was straight on Messenger to Kelly asking about the sequel which will be published in May 2018. She sent me a teaser and it sounds brilliant, but she wouldn’t tell me anything even though I tried to press her; it is very frustrating. I think Kelly Florentia is an author to look out for in the future.
Blackmail, Sex and Lies is a story of deception, scandal, and fractured traditional Victorian social values. It is the tale of a naïve, young woman caught up in a whirlwind romance with a much older man. However, both have personality flaws that result in poor choices, and ultimately lead to a tragic end.
For 160 years, people have believed Madeleine Smith to have been guilty of murder. But was she? Could she have been innocent after all?
This Victorian murder mystery, based on a true story, takes place in Glasgow, Scotland, 1857. It explores the disastrous romance between the vivacious socialite, Madeleine Hamilton Smith, and her working class lover, Pierre Emile L’Angelier.
After a two-year torrid, and forbidden relationship with L’Angelier, that takes place against her parents’ wishes, the situation changes dramatically when William Minnoch enters the scene. This new man in Madeleine’s life is handsome, rich, and of her social class. He is also a man of whom her family approve.
Sadly, insane jealous rages, and threats of blackmail, are suddenly silenced by an untimely death.
Blackmail, Sex and Lies is a fascinating read with its mix of fact and fiction. Set in Victorian England where society is very much class and gender based, Kathryn McMaster uses the letters sent between Emilie L’Angelier and Madeleine Smith, and details of the court case as the centre for the fictionalised story of the two lovers. The love letters, are certainly damning for Madeleine, and the implication is that their content was worth killing for. It certainly becomes apparent that Emilie kept the letters to use against Madeleine at some point. Over three years, through their correspondence we see the love affair blossom and then die, literally; with the death of Emilie.
As characters, neither Madeleine nor Emile come out well, although for me I felt more sympathetic to Madeleine’s story. Emilie is a man who does across as vain and a social climber and unscrupulous in his pursuit of what he wants. Considering the times I also feel he is lightly delusional as he cannot understand why Madeleine’s father, a prominent architect, does not think Emilie is good enough for his daughter. From the start his ill health is apparent, he has episodes of stomach pain and sickness, even before he met Madeleine. The reader is let wandering if, in the hindsight of our times, this is caused by his use of arsenic for his complexion and health.
Madeleine led a very sheltered life and for me she came across as very naive. Emilie is the first man she has had any real contact with and is obviously flattered by the attention he gives her. Women did not have any rights in nineteenth century Scotland, they were legally under the protection of either their father or their husband. Madeleine had to do as her father demanded, but she also felt an obligation to Emilie, whom she referred to as her husband. Her naivety in putting her feeling in the love letters, and trusting Emilie to destroy them, was her down fall. The implication that their content was worth killing for stayed with her the rest of her life. It certainly becomes apparent that Emilie kept the letters to use against Madeleine at some point, they were damning in their content and ruined Madeleine’s reputation, and eventually her life.
Kathryn McMaster puts all the facts in front of the reader and the and leaves it up to you to decide if you thought Madeleine was guilty of murder or if Emilie poisoned himself over the years. This is a well written un biased account of a tragic love story, that ended in a death and a reputation ruined for life of both protagonists. This is a fascinating, well researched, read that may leave you with more questions than answers.
So its nearly the end of the year and with Christmas just around the corner I thought I would share my ten favourite books for 2017. Whether you are looking for some inspiration for yourself or for presents for the book lover in your life, I hope you will find something that will engage you. These are in no particular order.
A Column of Fire by Ken Follett. I was really excited to hear that Ken Follett had written a third instalment of the Kingsbridge Series. This lived up to all expectations, the story starts two hundred years after A World Without End so can also be read as a stand alone novel. This is the perfect read for those who like a huge chunk of historical fiction; set in the sixteenth century it has war, plots, revenge, love, subterfuge, a cast of memorable characters and a brilliant plot.
The Pearl Sister by Lucinda Riley. This is the fourth book in Lucinda’s Seven Sister’s series, and follows CeCe as she travels to Australia to find out who her biological family are. I love this series by Lucinda Riley, she is becoming one of my favourite contemporary authors, and the books should be read in order. This book really drew me in with its descriptive writing, interesting plot and wonderful characters. It is also the book where I felt further clues to the sister’s adoptive father were included. If you enjoy women’s contemporary fiction please give this series a go.
In The Name of the Family by Sarah Dunant. Sarah Dunant’s novels set in Renaissance Italy are outstanding. This book follows the final years the Borgia rule in the Vatican and their control in the Italian States. Sarah Dunant’s attention to detail brings the finer details to life, the surroundings, palaces, places and characters jump of the page and give a real sense of the period. The Borgia family and their history is wonderful to write about, their political intrigue, love lives, battles, intrigue and murder. Another novel for the history buff.
Ragdoll by Daniel Cole. This is Daniel Coles’s debut novel and shows great promise of things to come. I loved the premise of a body being found made upon six different murder victims, with the race being on not only to identify those already murdered but also those on a the killers list. I found this a dark, disturbing and exciting read, great characters and a compelling plot.
You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood. I found this court room thriller a wonderfully original read. Set in a court room, at the time of final arguments the narrative is the defendant giving his account of what happened. It reads like a soliloquy as it is only the defendants voice we hear through out the novel. You are never given the defendant’s name, only that he is a young black male, and you the reader are on the jury. This is a compelling read, dark in places about gang culture in London’s poorest estates.
Crimson and Bone by Marina Fiorato.. I have been a huge fan of Marina Fiorato since reading her debut novel, The Glassblower’s Apprentice. This is darker than any of her previous novels and has a gothic feel that complements the setting of the Victorian Era. It follows Francis Maybrick Gill, a Pre-Raphaelite Artist, and his latest muse Annie Stride who he saves from killing herself on Waterloo Bridge. Set in London, Florence and Venice this book is a beautiful read. Maria Fiorato’s writing is wonderfully descriptive bringing the sounds and smells of the nineteenth century to life. An exquisite and engaging novel.
A Harvest of Thorns by Corbin Addison. This book looks at the clarge company’s wh sell clothes and the factories that make them in the Far East. It starts with a fire in a factory in Bangladesh, which results with multiple deaths and life changing injuries, then the American firm who claim they didn’t know their clothes were made in that factory. It looks at the world of exploitation and cheap labour. This is a brilliant, and erudite read that will really get you thinking about the clothes you buy.
Sweetpea by C J Skuse.. This was one of the most popular thrillers of 2017, and quite deservingly. It takes an alternative look at the female serial killer. Rhiannon works at the local paper, lives with her boyfriend and dog and to seems to be just a average person. But through diary entries we learn that Rhiannon is a serial killer, who keeps a kill list of those who annoy her. Rhiannon is a killer with redeeming qualities and who will make you laugh with her observations of everyday life. This is a book that will grab your attention and will stay with you long after you finish it.
The One by John Marrs.. What I loved about this book was it’s originality plot and how they story unfolded. The premise is that there is a DNA test to find ‘The One’, that special person you will spend the rest of your life with. The test has no boundaries or discrimination; it crosses the barrier of religion, gender, age, and geographical location. This book follows five people who have done the test and how the outcome effects their lives. This is an engaging and entertaining read that is hard to put down once started.
Mount by Jilly Cooper. Jilly Cooper is a legend for me, I have read and enjoyed all her books in the Rustishire Chronicles that began thirty years ago with Riders. I was beyond excited when this book was released, Rupert Campbell Black was back, and is still the loveable rogue I fell in love with when I was fifteen. There are many returning characters and a few new ones, and as usual a brilliant cast of animals. This time the book is set in the world of flat racing and the Stud Industry of the horses. This is a book that will make you laugh and cry; it is pure escapism at its best.
I hope I have given you some ideas for presents, to others or to yourself.
Sure. I’m John Mayer. I was an Advocate in the Supreme Courts of Scotland until I retired in 2013. I’d written books before I started to write fiction. These were non-fiction and legal books for use in universities and courts. I was a specialist in international child abduction and I’m glad to say I’ve helped return many, many children to the places from where they were stolen. I was also legal counsel to Greenpeace International. I even had responsibility for one of the ships for a short time.
I’ve lived in very violent places and posh places and now live quietly on a tiny Greek island where I go fishing from my boat, eat and drink with Greek friends (mostly rogues) and write my series called The Parliament House Books.
I’m married to a wonderful wife who helps promote my books. We have one son (36) who lives and works in New York City.
Growing up in Glasgow, Scotland, I saw shootings, stabbings and houses being burned out while people slept in them. Violence was in the very air we breathed. But Glasgow produced some great characters in those days. There was The Duke who controlled all the illegal gambling in the East End of the City. Tucker Queen who was a ‘civilian’. Because of his unusual delivery technique, he was often hired to send messages among gang members. Tucker’s speciality was rats. Big black, river ones he’d catch down at the dockside of the river Clyde. He’d tie messages to their tails and, in the middle of the night, slip them through the letter box of the addressee to be found in the morning. It was a very effective technique which I guess just made people angrier. Big Bill Broonzy was so-called after the black American blues singer – for two reasons. Firstly because he was a big guy and his name really was William Brown; which we pronounced ‘Broon’. But secondly, because he kept a shop in Glasgow’s High Street called the ‘Soul Agent’. He was the sole importer (via his brother who worked on ships going to and from America) of soul records; which he sold from old shoe boxes he got from the store next door. I made something of a name for myself when in 1967 I changed my name to John after John Lennon. Don’t ask me what my birth name was; I have never uttered it from that day to this.
Growing up in a war zone wasn’t the whole story to where I lived. Contrary to where I practised law in Parliament House, most people in my old neighbourhood could be trusted. Also, we knew how to have fun – something that doesn’t exist in Parliament House. For instance, we ‘invented’ our own styles of dress. In the summer of ’66 we all wore white cotton jackets; the kind worn by waiters and ice cream salesmen. I had a pair of red velvet bellbottom trousers which I wore with my white jacket. It was a very successful combo for attracting girls – I can tell you!
When the weather turned colder, we took to wearing long knotted white scarves. The knots were really bows and the idea was that your girlfriend could wear it along with you. Years later, in New York City, I told Malcolm McLaren about all of that. He was managing the Sex Pistols at the time. He later sought out such gangs in New York and made the hit record ‘Skip They Do The Double Dutch’ which was about street kids inventing their own pastimes instead of gang fighting.
Oh, I mustn’t leave out a big influence on me. My High School Teacher of English Language and Literature was a wonderful man called Danny Thomson. When inspectors would come to check on standards, he would ask me to read aloud to the class. His nods of satisfaction when I surprised the inspectors left a deep impression on me that I had a real way with words. He left to become a script writer. We were amazed because such an occupation was so very exotic.
Decades later, in my first year as an Advocate in Parliament House I thought of him after my first appearance in the highest court in Scotland. I was leaving Parliament House when an old Macer (the one who carries the golden Mace representing Her Majesty The Queen) came running down a corridor after me. Running is absolutely forbidden in Parliament House but there he was; running and calling my name. I stopped and waited for him. He said “Mr Mayer. I’ve just come from the Judges’ Robing Rooms. They sent me to tell you that they were very impressed with your old fashioned way of pleading and to say that they think you have a real talent for persuasion.” I walked home reciting my legal argument to the judges and imagined Danny Thomson walking beside me. I was very proud that day to be an Advocate.
What was your favourite book from childhood?
Oh, that would have to be Anton Chekhov’s ‘The Cherry Orchard’. I didn’t read children’s books and Cherry Orchard was the first book I ever read. I was 14 when I read it. I thought it would teach me about Russia because we’d gone through the Cuban Missile Crisis and I was fascinated by all things Russian. We’d been told by our teacher that the world would be coming to an end. When it didn’t I wanted to know why not. I know this sounds incredible, but it’s true.
What type of books did you read as a teenager?
From about 14 I got into Animal Farm and read J. D. Salinger’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’ about 10 times. I’d never been taken on a holiday so books were the only way I learned about far-away places with strange sounding names.
At school, which book you studied was your favourite?
I walked out of school when I was 14 because they weren’t teaching me enough. I used to cycle 9 miles every day to and from (18 miles a day) a big library in Glasgow for a whole year until I was 15 and able to get a job. I remember starting at the letter ‘Z’ and reading backwards from Zoology to Astronomy. I got help from a kind Librarian who made sure I read basic maths and science books. I had a strange childhood. In fact, I’ve had a very unusual life pattern; but at least it’s all been of my own choosing.
What is your favourite classic book?
Easy. Homer’s Iliad – followed closely by Homer’s Odyssey. We don’t know if Homer even existed, but it’s likely he did. He must have spent his entire life learning how to relay about 15,000 couplets to audiences. I could read ‘The Iliad – subtitled The Rage of Achilles – every month and never tire of it.
What would you consider to be one of the best books you’ve read over the last 5 years?
That would be Coveney and Highfield’s ‘The Arrow of Time’. I love learning and this book was brilliantly written in a way that non-astronomers could understand. I must confess I read only very carefully selected fiction books. I mostly stick to non-fiction for my own enjoyment.
What book do you think you should read but never get around to?
Oh, I think Beowolf lies at the back of my mind but never seems to get selected. I’ll read it one day.
What do you consider to be your favourite book?
Definitely Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’. Although it’s fictional, it’s taught in many law schools around the world to demonstrate what can happen to a society when the rule of law is usurped. It’s a haunting tale of a normal guy called ‘Josef K’ being treated unjustly by a corrupt judicial system which is secret and operates in a random way: so that for instance, no-one knows where the court room will be the next time it convenes and it’s a crime to miss your court hearing. I titled my first novel ‘the Trial’ and dedicated it to Franz Kafka. There are no votes in law and order, but there soon would be if law and order broke down.
Is there a book that you have started but been unable to finish?
I’ve closed many books that have been hyped but which I found uninteresting.
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was rubbish to me. It was chock full of words which had fallen out of the English language and had been retrieved as an attempt at authenticity. That attempt failed. The movie was much better.
Most of the Sir Walter Scott books in the Waverley Novels series are completely impenetrable nowadays. The language of that time is nowadays opaque and the pre-TV world of spending a whole page describing what’s on a mantelpiece just doesn’t hold the modern reader.
I also don’t like books with a political leaning. If I detect a political message in a book, I close it. I don’t have time to read political lectures from other people; however they’re disguised.
If you were stranded on a desert Island, which two books would you want to have with you?
Well, as a lawyer, I’d argue that my first one be the complete works of Shakespeare. My second would be The Life of Albert Einstein. I could of course, remember my own series The Parliament House Books; so I’d have them in my head.
Kindle or Book?
Oh Kindle every time. They’re getting better and better. Soon we’ll be feeling the sensation of paper when reading Kindle.
The first three books in The Parliament House Series are available now.
Brogan McLane, may have come from the wrong side of the tracks, but after many years of university education and legal training he joins the most prestigious club in Scotland; The Faculty of Advocates in Parliament House.
He may not have had an easy time being accepted but his life and career are on the line when he is accused of the murder of a High Court Judge, Lord Aldounhill. On bail and with his career on hold McLane contacts his old friends to help find the truth about Lord Aldounhill’s murders. They come across Russian controlled transvestites clubs, and reveal corruption at Parliament House, but every time they keep coming up against obstacles.
Can McLane save his career when the real killer is protected by those in high places?
The Trial is the first book in The Parliament House Series by John Mayer, an Advocate in The Supreme Courts of Scotland himself. His knowledge and expertise are evident in his writing. There is legal language but John Mayer does include a reference to these at the beginning of the book so you don’t have to worry if you forget something or want to double check. About half way through the book there is a lovely section that shows the reader the places mentioned in the book, this adds to the pleasure of reading the book as you can relate the characters better to their setting.
The plot follows Brogan McLane in his quest to clear his name in a murder for which he is being made a scape goat. McLane is a fascinating character in that he has made a successful career in a profession that doesn’t accept someone from his background. He may be an Advocate but he doesn’t forget his roots and it is these roots that play a big part in helping him. The use of the Scottish dialect adds realism and grit to this book, and the characters.
As a character I grew to like Brogan McLane, he has a padding for his job and for justice to be done. He doesn’t really fit in at Parliament House, he is not a member of the old boys club, and probably never will be, but that is what makes him stand out and likeable; lets face it we all like the underdog in a book. I will be interested to see how his character grows through the other books in the series. I also liked his wife, Joanne, who seems the complete opposite to him; she is delicate and quite reserved and very reliant on her husband. I am led to believe that there are also prequel books that show McLane’s life prior to his calling to the Bar.
I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed The Trial, it was really drawn into the plot, it was pacy, with plenty of twists and turns to keep you on your toes and memorable characters. If you love a crime/legal novel, I can highly recommend this book and I look forward to reading the next book in the series, The Order.