LITERARY FICTION, MUST READ

LADDER TO THE SKY BY JOHN BOYNE

John Boyne knocks it out of the park again. This is another masterpiece. The protagonist “Maurice Swift”, from a very early age, longed to be a famous, best-selling author. There’s one problem, Maurice cannot come up with stories. He has no imagination. So, what does he do you might ask. He uses his good looks and charm to cozy up to successful story-tellers by however means necessary. He is asexual. Even though he is distractingly handsome, to both men and women, he cares nothing for sex. He uses his sexuality on both men and women throughout this book. He tramples on everyone on his way up the ladder to success. I believe he is what we’d call today a psychopath. He leaves broken and hurt associates all along the way. However, the higher we climb, the farther we have to fall.

John Boyne is one of my favorite authors. Every book I have ever read by him has been brilliant. He just simply knows how to develop a story with characters you will never forget.

If you haven’t read this book, run, do not walk to your nearest bookseller and buy a copy. I have full confidence you too will be hooked like I am.

John Boyne (born 30 April 1971 in Dublin) is an Irish novelist.

He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, where he won the Curtis Brown prize. In 2015, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by UEA.

John Boyne is the author of ten novels for adults and five for young readers, as well as a collection of short stories.

His novels are published in over 50 languages.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, which to date has sold more than 7 million copies worldwide, is a #1 New York Times Bestseller and a film adaptation was released in September 2008. Boyne resides in Dublin. He is represented by the literary agent Simon Trewin at WME in London, United Kingdom.

MAGICAL REALISM, MUST READ

The Angel In My Well – by Kevin Ansbro

This was another excellent book written by the wordsmith Kevin Ansbro. It is a short story that opens at the funeral of Joe (the protagonist and narrator) for his grandmother. Joe and his grandmother are extremely close and Joe falls into a deep depression after the funeral. He sits around for some time not cleaning, eating properly or pretty much anything that normal people do.

Joe’s grandmother appears to him in human form as much younger, from the well at his house. Joe realizes that she was a very beautiful woman when she was young. He takes her to shop for some appropriate clothing and they prepare for a night on the town. She charms everyone she comes into contact with.

This story also has an alternate plot involving a Muslim man and his dire plan. I was perplexed about how this story relates to the beautiful story told of Joe and his grandmother. But, I had total confidence in Kevin Ansbro and his ability to create a perfect merging of the two stories. Of course, he did not disappoint.

This is a beautifully written short story that relates to a personal loss that I suffered through when my grandmother passed away. She had been my primary caretaker while I was growing up and when she passed away I was devastated.

About the Author

I was born of Irish parents, and have lived in Malaysia and Germany:
My formal education was at Hamond’s Grammar School in Swaffham, and at the Norfolk College of Arts and Technology (Stephen Fry being a much more famous former student).
I write in the magical realism genre, meshing otherworldliness into the harshness of our real world. I also like to handcuff humour and tragedy to the same radiator.
Perhaps incongruously for an author I have a background in karate and kickboxing. I also travel extensively – particularly in the Far East.
I’m married (to Julie) and currently live in Norwich, England.
Stuff about me: I’m a foodie and an avid reader who values good manners, love and friendship above all else. I am constantly putting my foot in it, am reputed to have a wicked sense of humour and love to laugh, but sometimes do that ‘snorty pig’ noise when I do!
I’m also easy-going and extremely friendly. Come on over and have a chat – I’ll put the kettle on!

HISTORICAL FICTION, MUST READ

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

John Boyne never fails to blow me away.  Anything he writes is phenomenal.  This book was no exception.  I doubt that I can come anywhere close to describing how much I enjoyed this book, but I will try. 

Meet Cyril Avery.  He is the illegitimate son born to a teenager in Dublin, Ireland.  She is shamed by the entire village where she resides.  Thrown out of her parents’ house and shunned by the entire community, Cyril is put up for adoption.  Charles, an extremely wealthy good-for-nothing except chasing women, adopts Cyril.  Charles’ wife, Maud is a reclusive novelist whose greatest fear is writing a book that is successful thereby bringing attention is brought to her.  His adoptive father, Charles, basically ignores Cyril except when he is reminding him that he is adopted.  Not a true member of the family. 

Charles has an attorney who has a son that befriends Cyril at the age of seven.  Julian Woodbead is also seven, but is much worldlier than Cyril.  Cyril and Julian are lifetime friends. 

The book follows Cyril from his birth and moves in intervals several years apart through his life.  It was thought provoking for me and reminded me that everyone at one time or the other in their lives pretend to be someone they are not.  Most of the time they do this because of  self-loathing or fear. 

This book brought many emotions for me.  I felt pain, loss religion, and prejudice among several others.   Simply put, John Boyne never fails me.  He is one author that I always look to when I want a good book where the characters are developed and the descriptions are vivid. 

If you have not read The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne, you have missed a great read. I’ve read several really good books in 2019, but this one remains my favorite.

About the Author 

John Boyne was born in Ireland in 1971 and is the author of seven novels for adults and three for children. The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas won two Irish Book Awards, was shortlisted for the British Book Award, reached no.1 on the New York Times Bestseller List and was made into an award-winning Miramax feature film. His novels are published in over 45 languages. He lives in Dublin.

MAGICAL REALISM, MUST READ

Kinnara – Kevin Ansbro

“In Thailand and all of Southeast Asia, two of the most beloved mythological characters are the benevolent half-human, half-bird creatures known as the Kinnara and Kinnari, which are believed to come from the Himalayas and often watch over the well-being of humans in times of trouble or danger”

Whenever I read a book by this author, I come out of it being a little more informed than when I started it. 

Calum and Hannah grew up together and were the best of friends both residing in Norwich. Hannah has been in love with Calum since they were children. He, however, is preoccupied with other things of the boyish nature. They become separated when Hannah’s father is transferred for his job to another location. Hannah was crushed when Calum doesn’t say one last goodbye. They don’t see each other for years. But, fear not, they do meet up again.

After Calum’s current girlfriend is caught in the act, so to speak with a co-worker, Calum goes to Thailand solo on a planned vacation that was supposed to be for two. 

This novel takes place in England, Germany, and Thailand. It is clear that the author has been to and fallen in love with Thailand. The descriptions of the landscape and the people of Thailand, along with their beliefs and customs made me feel as if I was there with Calum. Here he meets a poor Thai boy named Sawat. He and Sawat become fast friends. 

Now, over in Germany, a serial killer is obsessed with pregnant women. At this point, I am scratching my head as to how all this is going to fit together. But have faith in the author he never disappoints.

The Kinnara in this story has been punished for a long-ago transgression of the murder of a human and has been banished to the bottom of the sea to sit and wait for forgiveness from someone. 
This was an adventure ride. Better than a roller coaster. Splendidly researched, romantic but not sickening. Happiness and sorrow both reside on the pages. A brilliant 5***** review for me. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

About the Author

Kevin Ansbro was born of Irish parents, and has lived in Malaysia and Germany:
He was educated at Hamond’s Grammar School in Swaffham, and at the Norfolk College of Arts and Technology, King’s Lynn.
Kevin also has a background in karate and kickboxing and has travelled extensively – particularly in the Far East.
He is married to Julie, and currently lives in Norwich, England.

Likes: Art, travel, good manners, independent women, Sunday newspapers and dirty laughs; funk, punk, Bob Marley, Pulp, Foo Fighters, Marmite, winks, pouts, Masterchef Australia and Earl Grey tea.

Dislikes: Strawberries (I’m not alone with this one), drivers who don’t indicate, men who devote their weekends to cleaning the family car (what’s that all about?) English winters, 1970s-style armpit hair on women, skinflints, insufficiently-chilled white wine, homophobes, misogynists, xenophobes and ignorant jerks in general.

Right, enough about me: my books are way more interesting.
http://www.kevinansbro.co.uk