Monthly Archives April 2015

New books coming soon

The Improbability of Love is the first novel from writer and filmmaker Hannah Rothschild, author of biography The Baroness (UK: Virago). It will be published in the UK by Bloomsbury on May 21. It tells the story of Annie McDee who is hunting for a present for her unsuitable lover in a neglected second-hand shop. She spends what little money she has on a grimy painting which catches her eye. She prepares supper for her lover, who never appears. Annie is left with the painting, which turns out to be ‘The Improbability of Love’, a lost masterpiece by Antoine Watteau, one of the most influential French painters of the eighteenth century. Annie is soon pursued by people who want the picture. Inspired by Edvard Munch’s painting ‘The Scream’, The Strawberry Girl is the debut novel by Lisa Strømme [below]. Young girl Johanne Lien observes the tumultuous love affair which led Munch to paint ‘The Screma’. The story is set in 1893 in a small fishing community in the Norwegian fjords. Working for a wealthy family, Johanne becomes friends with the beautiful youngest daughter, Tullik Ihlen. Johanne acts as a go-between for Tullik to meet and seduce the infamous artist Munch, whose habits
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Light Years

If you haven’t read this book [it is the first in a series of five], you are in for a treat. Elizabeth Jane Howard died last year at the age of 90 and this prompted me to buy ‘The Cazalet Chronicles’. I recently read them on holiday, back-to-back and know I will re-read them many more times. This is a great family saga, a glimpse of upstairs and downstairs as World War Two threatens the Cazalet family. Over the course of these five books we see the changing social geography of England through the prism of this family, the changing lives of the women and servants, wartime privations, the threat to the family timber business as they face up to the reality of fear. Oh how I gobbled up these novels. This, the first, introduces us to the family: the patriarch William and his wife The Duchy, their three sons – Hugh, Edward and Rupert, and their wives – and daughter Rachel. As a new war threatens, the hidden wounds of the Great War have not healed and there is no appetite for another. The family gathers at the Sussex house, Home Place, which is the hub of the action.
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Categories: Book Love.

Interview with ‘The Starving Artist’

Authors Devon Trevarrow Flaherty [bottom] and Sandra Danby both appear to be obsessed by trees. In Devon’s interview at The Starving Artist, Sandra explains the role of trees in her debut novel Ignoring Gravity. The cover, the imagery, the researching your family tree thing. “The family tree, the networking of roots and branches, stretching wide, unseen beneath the earth and hidden by leaves, is an ideal image for the twists and turns of Rose Haldane’s heritage,” she explains. Read Devon’s interview at The Starving Artist in full by clicking here. Read here what other readers are saying about Ignoring Gravity. Want to know more about Ignoring Gravity? Watch the book trailer. ‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] Buy now And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Trees, writing & other things #interview about #writing with @devtflaherty http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1xf via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love, My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity' and On Writing.

#Writingprompt Writers’ BLOCKbusters… Dad

Here’s a #FirstPara writing prompt from Writers’ BLOCKbusters to get you started writing today. Study the photograph, then use the sentence below as the beginning of a new short story. “Dad sat here at 10am every morning until yesterday when he… “ © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other writing prompts:- Cinnamon We Are Watching You Cable  What are ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’? I want to help you put words on the page. Those words won’t necessarily be the first line of your novel, or indeed anything to do with your novel, but they will be words to fill that intimidating blank space. And it couldn’t be quicker. Writers’ BLOCKbusters is a collection of three ebooks of writing prompts. Why are they different? Precisely because they are short, easy to use, and flexible. Designed for writers of fiction, any genre, novels, short stories, flash fiction, they are suitable for all genre of fiction precisely because each exercise is based on a subject unrelated to whatever you are struggling with. I am not looking over your shoulder. Ebooks coming in 2019 at Amazon… Writers’ BLOCKbusters: #500 FirstParas Writers’ BLOCKbusters: #500 FlashPics Writers’ BLOCKbusters: #500 WordStorms Can’t wait? Feeling uninspired
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

Book review: Cover Her Face

Can I remember a time when I didn’t know of the existence of Adam Dalgliesh? No. This, the first in the PD James series about the thoughtful detective, was published in 1962. So it was an interesting exercise to re-read this novel when I am so familiar with the last books in the series. How to describe the style of PD James’s detective: detection by deduction and perception. The Maxie family has a new parlourmaid, Sally Jupp, who is found dead in her bed. This is almost a ‘closed room’ mystery in that the murder takes place in a country house with a limited number of suspects. What is unclear is the real story of Sally, her background and how she became an unmarried mother. Is Sally a victim, or is she a manipulative young woman who twists situations and people to her advantage? And who feels most threatened by her? There are plenty of potential culprits and Dalgliesh’s summary at the end – leading up to the naming of the murderer – reminded me of Agatha Christie. Any Dalgliesh fan will be curious to read about his first appearance. There is almost nothing inside his head here, something the
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Categories: Book Love.

Film/Book: ‘These Foolish Things’ by Deborah Moggach

The Book by Deborah Moggach This is another book which successfully translated from the page to the cinema, perhaps because the screenplay was written by the author? In this case the original novel, These Foolish Things [see the original paperback cover above, which I bought in 2005] was re-named for the film. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a long title to fit onto a book cover or spine, but that is not a problem for the film. Moggach is the sort of author who, once discovered, is always loved. The first paragraph is so visual, it’s easy to see why it was made into a film: “Muriel Donnelly, an old girl in her seventies, was left in a hospital cubicle for forty-eight hours. She had taken a tumble in Peckham High Street and was admitted with cuts, bruises and suspected concussion. Two days she lay in A&E, untended, the blood stiffening on her clothes.” If you have watched the film, you know Muriel is played by Maggie Smith. The Film: In 2011, the first of what was to become a pair of films based on Deborah Moggach’s novel, was released. The pedigree was impressive: Moggach wrote the screenplay, the
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Categories: Book Love.

Susan Finlay interviews author Sandra Danby

In her interview about Ignoring Gravity, author and book blogger Susan Finlay asks Sandra Danby: “Do you have a favourite review of your book?” “I’ve had some fabulous reviews,” says Sandra. “It’s a challenging thing, you know, to send your debut novel out to strangers to read, so I feel very fortunate that Ignoring Gravity has been received so well. I think the review that meant the most was by a reader with personal experience of adoption: “Sandra Danby deals with the emotions surrounding grief, adoption and infertility with a deep understanding of the emotions involved. One of my close family members was adopted and so I could understand Rose’s identity crisis when she discovers she isn’t whom she thought she was. There is a twist at the end which unexpectedly gave me the shivers as I contemplated history repeating itself.” To read the interview in full at ‘Susan Finlay Writes’ [above], click here. To read more about how Sandra Danby researched adoption for Ignoring Gravity, click here.   ‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] Buy now And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Authors & reviews #interview about #writing at #SusanFinlayWrites http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1Ct via
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Categories: Book Love, My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity' and On Researching.

Book review: The Doll’s House

Vulnerable women are disappearing and Detective Inspector Helen Grace suspects another serial killer. If so, it will be her third, and her success is causing tensions amongst her team in Southampton. In The Doll’s House, MJ Arlidge tells a taut story about girls, captured and confined in dark, dismal places. In the first chapter, a woman wakes in a dark cellar, and a young family on a day trip to the beach finds a body buried in the sand. This ticks so many boxes for me: the real Southampton setting, the believable Helen Grace, the police politics, Helen’s continuing relationship with fellow officer Charlie. This is a convincing portrayal of Ruby, a troubled young woman with family issues, who wants to put things right. She was adopted and had a happy childhood, but a reunion with her birth mother sours her life and she disappears. Her mother receives only brief texts and tweets, saying she is trying to sort out her life. This is a clever killer who keeps his victims alive beyond their grave. Read my reviews of the first two Helen Grace books:- Eeny Meeny #1 Pop Goes the Weasel #2 If you like this, try these other
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Categories: Book Love.

Family history: searching the bastardy records

Trawling through records is difficult enough, but when you are trying to trace an illegitimate relative it can become disheartening. More than 14,000 bastardy records held by the West Yorkshire Archive Service have been indexed and made available online at Ancestry.co.uk. The records start from 1690 up to 1914 with documents including the maintenance of illegitimate children, bastardy bonds, and warrants for apprehending errant fathers who tried to escape responsibility for their children. To explore the full database at Ancestry.co.uk, click here.   To read how my research for Ignoring Gravity took me to the Family Records Centre in North London, and what I found there, click here. ‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] Buy now   If you want to read more about family history research, try these articles:- Did your Ancestor belong to a Trade Union? Researching children’s homes Look locally And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: How to find an illegitimate ancestor #familyhistory via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1xY
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Categories: Book Love, Family history research, My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity' and On Researching.

Writing tips: find what works for you, then write

Find your own way of writing creatively and get the words down. Write in a notebook, on the computer, on a tablet, in perfect quiet, to rock music, with noise-cancelling headphones. Train yourself to be able to write anywhere – on a train, in a coffee shop, in a library, at home, in a hotel – and you will write regularly. And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Writers’ BLOCKbusters: find what works for you, then write http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1tY #writingtips via @SandraDanby
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Categories: On Writing.

Book review: The Bone Church

This was a difficult story to get into for me, which surprised me. The premise by Victoria Dougherty seems so good – Czechoslovakia, wartime, fugitive lovers, a faked religious icon, and a plot to assassinate Josef Goebbels – the promise of which kept me reading. But I found the time shifts, the point of view shifts, and the way the action changed from paragraph to paragraph quite confusing. Assuming this was a formatting issue with my Kindle copy, I kept reading. The story starts in Rome in 1956 in the Vatican City with a Cardinal and a man called Felix. Then we see Magdalena and her son Ales in Czechoslovakia, a man arrives and takes away her son. Then the action switched to 1943, as Felix and Magdalena are on the run in Prague. He is a famous hockey player, a celebrity, she is a Jew. By this point, the story should have gripped me but I’m afraid it didn’t, I hadn’t read enough about the two characters to care. I think my basic problem is the way the story was told, not the actual story itself; the writing is rich with description and the author certainly knows her history. Halfway
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Categories: Book Love.

Great opening paragraph 70… ‘Hard-Boiled Wonderland…’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“The elevator continued its impossibly slow ascent. Or at least I imagined it was ascent. There was no telling for sure: it was so slow that all sense of direction simply vanished. It could have been going down for all I knew, or maybe it wasn’t moving at all. But let’s assume it was going up. Merely a guess. Maybe I’d gone up twelve stories, then down three. Maybe I’d circled the glove. How would I know?” ‘Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World’ by Haruki Murakami Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Slaughterhouse 5’ by Kurt Vonnegut Jr ‘Freedom’ by Jonathan Franzen ‘Lolita’ by Vladimir Nabokov   And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: HARD-BOILED WONDERLAND AND THE END OF THE WORLD by Haruki Murakami #books http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1xl via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

The A-Z way to find new authors to read

If, like me, you are always eager to find new authors and new books to read, check out the A-Z Challenge by book blogger Rosie Amber. Running each day throughout April at Rosie’s blog, each letter applies to a character from a novel. Today is ‘H’. Click here to see what Rosie says about Rose Haldane [above] from Ignoring Gravity. Looking down Rosie’s A-Z list there are some familiar names for me:- Terry Tyler’s Last Child. Published on February 20, 2015, I’ve just downloaded the e-book from Amazon. A sequel to Tyler’s popular Kings and Queens, click here for my review, it continues the story of the Lanchester family. Last Child features on Rosie’s list tomorrow: ‘I’ for Isabella Lanchester. The other book on the list which stands out for me is familiar, another for my ‘To Re-read’ list. I haven’t read anything by Mary Stewart since I was a teenager. On Friday April 24th, Rosie will feature Uther Pendragon from The Crystal Cave as ‘U’ on her A-Z list. Fifth century Britain, this is the story Merlin’s journey to discover his real parentage as his powers develop and he begins to appreciate the role he has to play. Written in 1970, it is
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Book review: No Other Darkness

Amongst children’s books and tins of peaches, two bodies are found in an underground bunker. Two children, curled around each other like commas. For investigating officers DI Marnie Rome and Noah Jake, the case disturbs their own difficult childhood memories. Are they searching for a sadistic murderer, or someone who intended to hide not kill? Then it gets worse, as the plans for other forgotten bunkers are discovered. This is No Other Darkness by Sarah Hilary. This is the first Marnie Rome book I have read, and there were things I liked and things I didn’t. I didn’t like the grotesque description of the inside of the bunker. But I did like the storyline, full of fresh ideas. It is about families: broken ones, cracked ones, and how the past affects the present. Can the past ever be forgotten? Is it possible to start again after tragedy, to have a second chance of getting it right? Or is any attempt bound to fail? This is an underground mystery of tunnels, bunkers, sewers and dark hiding places. What is the murderer trying to hide, and who from? And what role do the mysterious preppers play? These shady people who plan in case
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Categories: Book Love.

A Poem-a-Day in April: ‘My Mother the Cow’

A big thank you to poet Angelique Jamail who has chosen one of my poems for her Poem-a-Day series throughout April. Angelique is celebrating National Poetry Month so please check back again to see the other poems she has selected. My poem ‘My Mother the Cow’ was written quickly when I was musing on fertility, springtime and motherhood. I grew up on a dairy farm and, of course, milk depends on cows and the birth of calves. So, I was surrounded by fertility from an early age, even if I didn’t quite understand the significance. My mother, the farmer’s wife, was the centre of the farm and our family. To read my poem, click here to visit Angelique’s website ‘Sappho’s Torque’. And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #poem for #NationalPoetryMonth: ‘My Mother the Cow’ by @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1Ca
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Categories: Poetry.

#FlashPIC 7 Cranes on the Skyline #writingprompt #amwriting

Giant cranes dominate the sky… like animals, alien vehicles, or as the scene of a power struggle or romance. As part of the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series, here is a FlashPIC writing prompt to help you write a short story, a brief flash fiction piece of only a few words, or something longer. You choose. Study the photo and allow it to inspire your writing, or use some of the following phrases:- Altitude Sky Down Vertigo Wobble Wind Balance Challenge Fear Space Freedom © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Orange railings Two empty glasses Death Valley What are ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’? I want to help you put words on the page. Those words won’t necessarily be the first line of your novel, or indeed anything to do with your novel, but they will be words to fill that intimidating blank space. And it couldn’t be quicker. Writers’ BLOCKbusters is a collection of three ebooks of writing prompts. Why are they different? Precisely because they are short, easy to use, and flexible. Designed for writers of fiction, any genre, novels, short stories, flash fiction, they are suitable for all genre of fiction precisely because each exercise is
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

Talking about books in Cómpeta

I guess 80% of the conversation at the Cómpeta Book Group in Spain earlier this week was about Ignoring Gravity, I was the guest speaker, but I loved talking books with other book lovers. I came away with more books to add to my own To-Read list – A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, and The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway. Most of all, I was impressed with the Group members’ analysis of Ignoring Gravity and their curiosity about how the story evolved. As often happens when I talk about Ignoring Gravity and the immensely complex subject that is adoption, I meet more people touched by adoption itself. The conversation about books continued at dinner and one member told me the story of a friend of a friend. This retired lady recently received contact from the daughter she gave up for adoption in the Sixties. She had told no-one about her pregnancy, at the time, or since. Her husband, her children: no-one else knew. What could have been a traumatic reunion turned into a positive family occasion. The similarities between the birth mother and her daughter – both physical likeness and musical ability – were breath-taking to the observers.
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Categories: Book Love, Book publicity and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Splashes into Books reviews ‘Ignoring Gravity’

“This is a dramatic story, written in a manner that enables and encourages the reader to empathize with all that Rose is experiencing. The characters are portrayed brilliantly, warts and all, and the discoveries she makes reveal other secrets from the past and will have an impact on all their futures,” says book reviewer Elaine Brent at Splashes into Books. Read Elaine’s review in full by clicking here. To read what other readers are saying about Ignoring Gravity, click here. ‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] Buy now And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: IGNORING GRAVITY #bookreview by @bicted http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1BJ via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Book review: Disclaimer

Catherine moves house and finds a novel which she can’t remember buying. But this is no ordinary book. It pretends to be fiction, but Catherine recognises herself as one of the characters and the story discloses a secret. “A secret she has told no-one, not even her husband and son – two people who think they know her better than anyone else.” So, Disclaimer by Renee Knight includes a novel-within-a-novel. This novel explores how one secret, hidden and almost forgotten, can re-emerge 20 years later to do damage. But it is also a warning about the danger of making assumptions without all the facts. The reader makes assumptions, Catherine’s husband makes assumptions, and the writer of the novel makes assumptions. Nothing is what it seems, in the tradition of good thrillers, and this book will make you believe first one version of the truth, and then another. Which is the real one? Is Catherine a good mother, or a bad mother? If you like ‘Disclaimer’, try:- ‘The Returned’ by Jason Mott ‘Girl Runner’ by Carrie Snyder ‘The Lightning Tree’ by Emily Woof ‘Disclaimer’ by Renee Knight [UK: Harper] Buy now And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS
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Categories: Book Love.