Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Villa Girls by Nicky Pellegrino

This book of The Villa Girls is wonderful and a joy to read.  Nicky Pellegrino writes about life, beautiful landscapes and gardens, olive trees and celebrations.  The story involves four girls who become life-long friends and take their holidays together.
Rosie is alone in the world without a family and much of the story is about her interaction with Addolorata’s  family and Italian restaurant, Little Italy.  Rosie makes her own way in the world with a love of photography and works in this field in London.

On one of the holidays to Italy Rosie meets Enzo whose life evolves around his family’s estate of the olive trees.  This did seem to be a wonderful romance at the beginning but unfortunately life turned out differently at the time for Rosie and Enzo.

 I found the descriptions of the olive estate, the harvests, the celebrations, food and wine and family of Enzo, especially his Nonna  with her words of wisdom beautiful.  There was beauty in the olive groves and it was a life which seemed to be determined by the state of the trees and the weather.  However, at one time, Enzo’s grand-mother spoke to Enzo and told him to forget the trees for a moment and that if she had made him believe that the olive trees were the most important thing of all then she was sorry.  Nothing is more important than love.  Perhaps counsel such as this and wise words from his sister Concetta, may have made him see sense before he embarked on a marriage of convenience with a local woman, Maria Luisa, who saw him as a second best choice as her husband.

This story is well recommended and it is wonderful to read each new chapter with anticipation as the story unfolds.  The settings in London and also Italy with its winding little cobble stone lanes and pizza parlours, coffee shops  and pastries are quite beguiling.  Lovely descriptions of the scenery , the flowering gardens of fruit trees and blooms in the summertime, coastal roads, the villages, beaches of Triente and Amalfi  are also wonderful.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

The English Spy by Daniel Silva

Once again Daniel Silva has written a book which enthralls.  This book is very contemporary and the writer certainly keeps abreast of the political situation and world events almost as they are happening though this book was published in 2015.

It is almost uncanny the book seems so realistic.

Gabriel Allon, the Israeli spy, who is also a famous art restorer,  is sent on a mission with his colleague, Christopher Keller.  This is a wonderful story of beautiful landscapes and scenes in Vienna, England and Ireland.  Also of the beautiful island of Corsica, where Gabriel Allon renews his friendship with Christopher Keller, an Englishman who resides in his villa there but is induced to leave the island with Gabriel Allon.   They get on well together and work in unison as a team.  There are often traces of humour as well.

There are moments of sentimentality in the book as many past events come to the fore and it is often a revelation to understand the motives of the characters and the compelling reasons for the situations and actions in which they become involved.

 This book is very insightful and gives detailed descriptions of the workings of MI5 and MI6 in London.  Of course this book is fictional but seems very authentic when reading of the exploits of Gabriel Allon and Christopher Keller.  These two characters also featured in The English Girl by the same author.  This was also an enjoyable book to read and I have previously written a review of this book.

  There are several books in the series now of Gabriel Allon and his adventures in the spy genre.  The books which I have read are excellent and make compelling reading.  Gabriel has  a wife in Jerusalem and Christopher has his parents in London and this makes for fascinating reading as the reader also learns about their personal lives and private sorrows.  The characters in many ways are quite complex and the lifestyle which they lead would not be suited to many people.

Hope and good can often come out of a bad situation as the story unfolds and comes to its conclusion with its redemptive  qualities which are shown clearly in the end.  Christopher returns to his parents in London after a lengthy absence and Gabriel returns to his wife where she is expecting twins.


When in Rome by Nicky Pellegrino

This wonderful story set in Rome by Nicky Pelligrino is enjoyable reading.  I loved the descriptive writing of the streets of Rome. The fountains, the squares, the coffee bars and ice cream parlours.
This story of a woman, Seraphina, who was brought up in Rome with her three sisters by her mother is a fascinating tale where she eventually works in the Maria Lanza house-hold  and befriends his wife, Betty, during their stay in the villa in Rome, where the house-hold was based.

It is also  a tale of romance and the beauty of romantic meetings by the Trevi Fountain in the hot Rome sunshine with the cooling spray of the fountains and the tourists mingled and listened to the young street singers, including Seraphina’s sister, Carmela, who dreams of being a singer.  A charm of the story is the nostalgia of the setting in 1950’s Rome, which is described s as wonderful place to be during these years.

This story which is twinged with sadness regarding  Maria Lanza and his wife and their tribulations and troubles is also enhanced by the high points of the story with celebrations and happy holidays with the Lanza family.  This book is well recommended and seemed very authentic of the times and the people, the staff at the villa, Seraphina’s own family in Rome and the beauty of the times.

I have previously enjoyed reading The Gypsy Tearoom by Nicky Pellegrino which is also published under the title of Summer at the Villa Rosa and now look forward to reading another book by the same author, The Villa Girls.

Friday, October 30, 2015

St Thomas's Eve by Jean Plaidy

This wonderful novel by Jean Plaidy is the story of Sir Thomas More, his life, his home and also the story of his family.  History of England seems to be a forte with Jean Plaidy and this novel does not disappoint.

Set during the turbulent times of Tudor England this novel tells the story of a humble man who lived during unimaginable change and who also in a way lived well before his time.i.e. There was not really a place for him in the government circles of Henry VIII but he achieved a measure of success which was quite astounding but at the same time he would not have acknowledged his status in the council of Henry VIII as becoming a successful person.  He was more astute and aware of life and circumstances to have his head turned by material wealth and success.  He did not fit the mold of his predecessor, Cardinal Wolsey.

I especially loved the story of his daughters, how Sir Thomas More believed that the girls should also be well educated at a time when girls were not educated to high standards similar to the boys.  There was a happy family environment in which Sir Thomas More married twice.  He had three daughters and a son from his first marriage and a step-daughter from his second marriage.  There was also an adopted daughter, Mercy, who was of a similar age as Margaret, his first daughter and Ailie, the step-daughter.

 The lives of the daughters and son are intermingled in this story of high politics and drama which ensued from Sir Thomas’s time working at the court of Henry VIII.  He also eventually moved to Chelsea with his family, whom he loved very much.

It is unfortunate that this man of the people, who believed in fairness and justice and was also a trained lawyer who eventually became Chancellor of England should have such a dramatic downfall.  There were many changes at hand and Sir Thomas could not succumb to Henry VIII’s wishes even though he had resigned in all conscience as Chancellor of England.

Sadly, Sir Thomas More met his fate bravely on a fine day in May at Tower Hill.

This novel describes the many wonders of Tudor life and Tudor London of the times.  It is also imbues the main character, Sir Thomas More, with special qualities and insights.  The love he had for his family and the beautiful gatherings they had whether outside in the summer weather for special occasions or a nightly gathering with music and song shines prominently in this story.  It is a beautiful story of an extraordinary man.  He believed he was the king’s good servant but God’s servant  first.

A well recommended story.




Thursday, October 1, 2015

Touched by Heaven by Nancy Ravenhill

This is a beautiful story and is highly recommended to read.

I enjoyed reading this wonderful story by Nancy Ravenhill which

Is the story of her life since she was a little girl, her life of missionary work, being married to a pastor and her encounters throughout her life with  Jesus.  The story also takes the reader to places in New Guinea when Nancy and her husband were working for Youth With A Mission and also to Great Barrier Island in earlier times in New Zealand and also Christchurch, New Zealand.

This book has recently been published this year and I found this gem of a book on a shelf of the librarian’s choice at the library.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

My Two Heavens by Jo Crabb

This book is a wonderful story of living in two countries, New Zealand and France.  It is also a testament to the power of positive thinking and that it is possible to achieve goals which a person sets out to do with perseverance and a positive attitude to life.


The book is also a travel memoir of various places travelled in earlier years and an exotic mix of wonderful recipes of the Mediterranean and the Middle East as well as for France and New Zealand.


There are fascinating anecdotes, drawings and words  of sound advice and descriptions of beautiful scenery.  Above all, there are the magnificent recipes which look wonderful.

Included in this book are the many varied and beautiful illustrations by Stephen Allwood, which are quite magical.


The Robert Louis Stevenson walk in the French countryside is included as well as The Chemin de St Jacques Walk, which was also fascinating to read  about the life of a pilgrim on the journey from a little place in France to San Compostela in Spain.


This book is well recommended as it is a joy to






The Jewels of Paradise

This is rather an unusual story by Donna Leon which is set mostly in Venice.  It tells the story of a researcher who is employed to find out the testamentary wishes of a composer who lived three hundred years previously. 

I quite enjoyed the story as the researcher set about her work in the

beautiful city of Venice where she would often go out for a coffee

with a friend or visit her parents who also happened to be living there.  Scenery and the backdrop of the little lanes and streets of Venice appealed to me as I was reading this story.

The conclusion of the story is quite unexpected and in a way it may be a story regarding the corruption and greed which can be associated with acquiring great wealth.  The reader is led to believe

that the jewels of paradise may be great wealth for the two cousins

who have employed the researcher and there is an uncertainty

regarding a very suave lawyer whom the researcher also befriends

at one stage until she realises his true intentions.

On one level this story may appear to be mundane and very humdrum as the researcher goes about her work and has interactions

With family members and a friend who is a co-worker and yet on

Another level this book is quite enthralling.

Because of the academic nature of the research, which I did find quite fascinating as it delved into the history of Ernst August, the Elector of Hanover,  and his son who became George I of England,

the story may appear at times to not be going anywhere and may

not appeal to all readers.  However, this story appealed to me as it

was also a mystery story with a unique ending and was interesting to

read of the varying emotions of the main players when the jewels of paradise were finally discovered.  The expectations at the conclusion of the story were so vastly different from what actually transpired.