Great Opening Paragraph…99

“‘What did you make of the new couple?’ The Hanemas, Piet and Angela, were undressing. Their bed-chamber was a low-ceilinged colonial room whose woodwork was painted the shade of off-white commercially called eggshell. A spring midnight pressed on the cold windows.” ‘Couples’ by John Updike [UK: Penguin] Buy at Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Queen Camilla’ by Sue Townsend ‘Vanishing Acts’ by Jodi Picoult ‘True Grit’ by Charles Portis And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: COUPLES by John Updike #books via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2qE
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Book review: The Gift of Rain

If you are searching for another world in which to immerse yourself, then this novel will fit the requirement. The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng will suit anyone interested in the Malay Peninsula and its history in World War Two. It is at times tender, brutal, harsh and uplifting. It is a story of love, family, war, of defeat and acceptance. The story opens as Philip Hutton, an elderly man living in a stately house on Penang, an island off the west coast of Malaysia. To his door comes an elderly, frail Japanese woman. They have never met
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My Porridge & Cream read: Catherine Hokin

Today I’m delighted to welcome historical novelist Catherine Hokin. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Wise Children by Angela Carter. “I am not a great re-reader of books, I have enough trouble keeping up with the growing list of ones I still haven’t got round to, but Wise Children is a wonderful exception. I first encountered Angela Carter when someone gave me a copy of The Magic Toyshop at university and I fell in love with her off-centre way for looking at the world. When Wise Children came out in 1991 I was newly at home with my first child, somewhat
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Book review: The Ice

The Ice by Laline Paull is a climate change thriller which takes place partly in the Arctic and partly in a courtroom in Canterbury. Sean and Tom met as students when Tom attended a meeting of the exclusive Lost Explorers’ Society and Sean was a waiter. They became friends because of their shared fascination for the Arctic. Both go on to forge careers revolving around the Arctic; Tom becomes an environmental campaigner, Sean a businessman. Their friendship, agreements and arguments are key to this novel. When, in chapter one, Tom’s body is revealed by an iceberg calving from a glacier
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Family history: Using UK newspapers

Marriage, birth and death, sporting events and school performances are some of the everyday events in which almost everyone participates and which may be reported in a local newspaper. So if you are searching for information about a relative, UK newspapers are the place to start. If your relative held a prominent position of job, then national newspapers may yield results, as may a professional newspaper or magazine. If you search is focussed on drawing a picture of the times in which you relative lived, illustrated newspapers and magazines will be most helpful. From the fashions people wore, the books
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A poem to read in the bath… ‘The Boy Tiresias’

You may have heard of Kate Tempest [below], the rapper born in South East London, who has gone on to write poetry and plays and perform at Glastonbury. ‘The Boy Tiresias’ is one poem from Hold Your Own, a collection about youth and experience, sex and love, wealth and poverty. Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library. ‘The Boy Tiresias’ Watch him, kicking a tennis ball, keeping it up the boy on the street in his sister’s old jumper. Watch him,
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Book review: The Distant Hours

If ever there was a novel in which a house plays the role of a character, this is it. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton is told in two strands, World War Two and the Nineties, involving the three Blythe sisters in Kent at Milderhurst Castle and a South London mother and daughter, Meredith and Edie. They all are connected by the war, the house, and the truth of what really happened when Juniper Blythe was abandoned by her lover in 1941. This is a brick of a book [678 pages], like Morton’s other novels. A little too long for me,
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Book review: How to be Human

Paula Cocozza has written a strange but compelling novel about relationships. In How to Be Human, she questions where the lines lie between sanity and obsession, love and infatuation, delusion and self-awareness. Beneath the surface of our intellect, sophistication and technology, we are still animals. Mary lives alone in a house in East London which backs onto woods, land which other neighbours complain is a unpalatable wilderness of weeds, rubbish and foxes. To Mary, it is the countryside. One day she sees a fox in her garden and believes he has visited her, that the gifts he leaves her are
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FlashPIC #21: Two Empty Glasses

Here’s a writing tip to start the day off well… before your mind is stressed with deadlines and ‘not working’, allow your thoughts to slow down. Let your imagination do the work. As part of the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series, here is a FlashPIC photo to kickstart a short story. 1 Study the photograph for 60 seconds then put it aside. 2 Write down every word or phrase which you can recall about it. These can include descriptions, feelings, dialogue, expectations, presumptions, colours, smells and noise. 3 Work out a beginning, middle and end for a short story. 4 Write 500-800 words.
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Book review: The Ghost of Lily Painter

Caitlin Davies blends fact and fiction in The Ghost of Lily Painter, an unusual story sparked from the author’s interest in her own house in Holloway, North London. In 2008, Annie Sweet moves into 43 Stanley Road with her husband and daughter. The house is chilly, the dog won’t stop barking, and her husband leaves her. Is there a bad spirit in the house which is bringing bad luck? Annie begins to explore the house’s history and discovers a music hall performer, Lily Painter, lived there briefly at the beginning of the twentieth century. What happened to her? Why does
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