Monthly Archives August 2016

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Poems’

Ruth Stone [below] was rocked to sleep in her mother’s arms to the sound of Tennyson’s verse. A poet all her life, she died in 2011 aged 96. In 2009 her collection What Love Comes To was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. This poem, included in her 2002 National Book Award-winning collection In the Next Galaxy, is about ageing, a topic she returned to again and again. 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. ‘Poems’ When you come back to me It will be crow time And flycatcher time, With rising spirals of gnats Between the apple trees. Every weed will be quadrupled, Coarse, welcoming And spine-tipped. To listen read a tribute to Ruth Stone on her death, published in the New York Times, click here.   ‘In the Next Galaxy’ by Ruth Stone [Copper Canyon Press] Read these other excerpts and find a new poet to love:- ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost ‘Japanese Maple’ by Clive James ‘Lost Acres’ by Robert Graves And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Enjoy
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Categories: Book Love and Poetry.

Great Opening Paragraph 88… ‘To Have and Have Not’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“You know how it is there early in the morning in Havana with the bums still asleep against the walls of the buildings; before even the ice wagons come by with ice for the bars? Well, we came across the square from the dock to the Pearl of San Francisco Café to get coffee and there was only one beggar awake in the square and he was getting a drink out of the fountain. But when we got inside the café and sat down, there were three of them waiting for us.” ‘To Have and Have Not’ by Ernest Hemingway Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell  ‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding  ‘Possession’ by AS Byatt  And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Does this make you want more? Hemingway’s TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT #books http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1Vm via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: Barkskins

This story of the North East American forests begins with two men who arrive in New France from Europe. It is 1693 and they find work wielding axes, chopping down trees. Barkskins ends in 2013 with their English, French and Indian descendants learning about the disappearance of the native trees and plants. It is a chastening story but throughout, Annie Proulx’s descriptions of trees enable you to see and smell them. Proulx’s reputation precedes her: the Pulitzer Prize, Brokeback Mountain, The Shipping News etcetera. For me she is one of the classic American authors but refuses to be pigeonholed. Barkskins is a huge tome, starting with René Sel and Charles Duquet’s struggles to survive, their contrasting stories and the subsequent lives of their families. Barkskins is more the story of the forests than of the Sel and Duquet/Duke families and their subsequent timber business. The natural world has a huge part to play in this novel. The trees breathe on every page, as the settlers fight the forests and the native Indian tribes struggle to understand the newcomers. It ticks so many boxes: indigenous culture, sea voyages, logging, trade with China, herbal remedies, Dutch merchant vessels, the plundering of nature
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Private Patient

Published in 2008, The Private Patient turned out to be the fourteenth and last in the Adam Dalgliesh detective series by PD James and there are flashes which make me think James knew that. It wasn’t to be her last novel, though. Death Comes to Pemberley, published in 2011, was to be her last. She died in 2014 at the age of 94. Is The Private Patient her best Dalgliesh novel? For me, no. I think the thirteenth in the series, The Lighthouse, is the best. Other favourites are Devices and Desires and Original Sin. The Private Patient takes a while to get going. The first few chapters tell us about the victim, Rhoda Gradwyn, who we know will die at a private clinic in Dorset. Rhoda has a facial scar which she will have removed in surgery at Cheverell Manor. The intriguing thing for me is that Rhoda tells her surgeon she has no further need for the scar, but this seemed to get buried in the explanation of Rhoda’s background and that of the staff at the Manor. Of course, once the murder happens, the story moves rapidly. This is an old-fashioned English murder story set in a private
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Categories: Book Love.

Book preview: The Whistler

This is the first time I’ve written a preview of an unpublished book of which I have read only the first four chapters. The exception is because the author is John Grisham. I’ve learned a lot about writing from Grisham’s early books, he is a master of building tension, a master of the slow-burn. I’m a fan, right back to A Time to Kill, The Firm and The Pelican Brief. So does The Whistler stand tall beside my favourites? Truth is, it’s difficult to say. I haven’t read chapter five yet. Grisham has never been an author to start with a wham-bang first chapter. He introduces characters and backgrounds, both essential in legal thrillers. And that’s what he does with The Whistler. But what I read made me want to read it all. The classic Grisham elements are there. The setting is Florida where those who help the state to recover illegally acquired assets get a big payout. The protagonist is Lacy Stoltz, an investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct. She is a lawyer, not a policewoman. Into Lacy’s ordinary world walks Greg Myers, a dodgy lawyer with an assumed name. He has a client, a whistleblower willing
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Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read: Rosie Dean

Today I’m delighted to welcome romantic comedy novelist Rosie Dean. “The book I have chosen is special because, after reading it, I knew I wanted to become a writer too. I first read Prudence by Jilly Cooper when I was swotting for my finals. My housemates and I decided we couldn’t survive the exams without some light relief so we joined the local library and, between us, took out twelve books at a time. We mainly chose Mills & Boon romances because they were easy to read in a couple of coffee breaks – and provided wonderful light relief from our studies. At the appointed time, we would gather in one of our rooms, coffee, biscuits and books to hand, and read for half an hour, occasionally sharing a juicy passage for further entertainment. One day, Prudence was in the mix and I was hooked. I don’t know how often I’ve read it – maybe five or six times. I have no idea what prompts me to pick it up – anymore than I know why I call a friend after months of silence. But I always know the comfort I will feel amongst the eccentric Mulholland family and observing the
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

New books coming soon

Michelle Adams If You Knew My Sister, debut psychological suspense thriller by Michelle Adams [below], plus one further novel, will be published in the UK by Headline in spring 2017. If You Knew My Sister tells the story of Irini who was given away by her parents when she was three, whilst her volatile sister was kept within the family. Twenty years later, Irini receives a phone call to say that their mother has died. Irini returns home and uncovers the truth which has defined both their lives. Adams is a part-time scientist and has published six sci-fi titles under a pseudonym, including a YA dystopian series. Anneliese Mackintosh Jonathan Cape will publish So Happy It Hurts, the debut novel by short story writer Anneliese Mackintosh in spring 2017. Audio rights were sold to Audible. It tells the story of a year in the life of Ottila McGregor, a particularly significant year for 30-year-old Ottila. Mackintosh is the author of short story collection Any Other Mouth [Freight Books] which won the Green Carnation Prize, and was shortlisted for the Saltire Society’s First Book Award and Edge Hill Short Story Prize. Check out Mackintosh’s work at her website. MJ Arlidge Thriller writer
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Little Boy Blue

This book ends on such a cliffhanger I wanted to start reading the next straightaway. As the end approached I kept thinking ‘it won’t end like that, it can’t end like that’. Hide and Seek, sixth in the DI Helen Grace series by MJ Arlidge, is published in September, so not too long to wait. This is a chilling tale, one that pulls you in and turns the pages. I’d just finished a heavy literary book and needed a contrast, this book certainly provided it. As a television writer, Matthew Arlidge certainly knows how to manage tension and the pacing of his series is managed like television episodes. So perhaps it is not a surprise that Little Boy Blue ends on such a cliffhanger that it could actually be called part one of a two-part series. The murders – yes plural, isn’t it always? – take place in Southampton’s shady world of BDSM, the world of sexual role play, bondage, dominance and submission. The first victim is someone known to Helen Grace and her instant reaction to hide this acquaintance is at the centre of this hurtling story of murder and secrets. What sets this series apart? The character of
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Yuki Chan in Bronte Country

This was an unexpected novel. Unusual, charming, offbeat. A young Japanese tourist visits Haworth, birthplace of the Bronte sisters, though she has not read their novels. Why is she there amongst a busload of pensioners? And why, when it’s time to leave, does she do a runner and ignore phone calls from her sister? This is a novel about grief, acceptance and friendship. There are other things going on too – the science of snow, spirit photography – but basically it is a road novel. Yukiko Chan leaves Japan for England to follow in the footsteps of her mother, who died ten years previously. ‘She is like Columbo, gathering evidence.’ But, in the way of road novels, Yuki finds answers to questions about herself she had not considered, and friendship and help from unexpected quarters. The reasons for the road trip are drip-fed, this is a slow, thoughtful book, so read it with patience. I loved it. It is touching and quirky, as is Yuki herself, from her thoughts on how airports should be designed, to plans for more revolving restaurants. And why, she puzzles, are the biscuits in the Bronte gift tins not shaped liked the three sisters? Read
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Last of Us

A tough and tender tale of survival of five children on a small Scottish island. Written from the perspective of Rona who is eight, it is a page-turning read about survival after the worst happens. Often a difficult read as the children have to face-up to things you wish children would never see or have to be aware of. Rona has imaginary conversations with her Mum, who she believes will return to save her. Elizabeth, the eldest, draws on the example of her doctor parents, and tries to organize this fragile new family. Alex, the youngest, is diabetic and needs insulin shots. These three, unrelated, live together in a house of their choice. The two brothers Calum Ian and Duncan MacNeil, always on the periphery of the group, still live in their family home and often turn up for school smelling of petrol. They await the return of their fisherman father. The children’s days are filled with routine, thanks to Elizabeth’s organization and rules. They brush their teeth, they go to school and follow the lessons which Elizabeth directs, they go ‘shopping’ in the derelict houses, marking the front doors either ‘G’ or ‘B’ depending on what they find inside.
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Categories: Book Love.