Monthly Archives May 2017

Book review: My Husband the Stranger

My Husband the Stranger by Rebecca Done is a difficult, depressing story about how the life of a newly married couple is changed when Alex, the husband, has an accident which changes his behaviour. Alex’s wife Molly finds herself living with a stranger who looks like the man she loved. This is a study of the emotional aftermath of living with someone with a brain injury. It is not a romance [as the cover style suggests] or a psychological thriller [as the cover blurb hints]. The story is told in alternating sections, Molly and Alex, then and now, as the story is told of how they met, married, their plans for a life together, and then the accident. The first half is slow reading, sometimes repetitive and emotionally-charged. The only thing that kept me reading was the belief that something had to happen soon. The story follows their daily life as Molly deals with a bullying boss and an ex-girlfriend of Alex’s who flirts with him and sends him text messages. Molly feels isolated but is too proud to admit it. When Alex sets fire to the kitchen he is rescued by a neighbour, an elderly lady who asks Molly
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Categories: Book Love.

Great Opening Paragraph 97… ‘The Curious Incident…’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs Shears’ house. Its eyes were closed. It looked as if it was running on its side, the way dogs run when they think they are chasing a cat in a dream. But the dog was not running or asleep. The dog was dead. There was a garden fork sticking out of the dog. The points of the fork must have gone all the way through the dog and into the ground because the fork had not fallen over. I decided that the dog was probably killed with the fork because I could not see any other wounds in the dog and I do not think you would stick a garden fork into a dog after it had died for some other reason, like cancer for example, or a road accident. But I could not be certain about this.” ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ by Mark Haddon  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Brighton Rock’ by Graham Greene ‘Spies’ by Michael Frayn ‘Bel Canto’ by Anne Patchett And if
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: Reservoir 13

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor is a thoughtful, intelligent telling of what happens to a village when a person goes missing. Told after the event, it brings a new angle of understanding to the post-event trauma of those on the outer circles of tragedy. A girl goes missing in a village surrounded by moors, caves and reservoirs. ‘The girl’s name was Rebecca, or Becky, or Bex.’ At no point do we hear the viewpoint of the girl, her parents, or the investigating police. Slowly the story unfolds as we are told the life of the village through the years after it happened by an omniscient narrator, disconnected from the action. I loved the way McGregor recounts the daily comings and goings of the village, the farmers, the vicar, the schoolchildren. The rhythm of life and nature is mesmeric, the message is ‘life goes on’. Love affairs start and end, babies are born as are lots of sheep, cows are milked, allotments tended. The village sits within the natural world of peaks, woods and rivers and, sometimes only in a single sentence, we are told of the hatching of butterflies, the unfurling of new leaves, the water running beneath the bridge.
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Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read: Renita D’Silva

Today I’m delighted to welcome Indian novelist Renita D’Silva. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is the classic To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. “The book I keep returning to time and again is To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I love every character – Boo Radley, Jem, Atticus, and, especially, Scout: her innocence, her wonderful narrative voice through which she reveals more to the reader than she herself understands. I first read the condensed version as a teen. Being a voracious reader, I could never find enough to read in the village in India where I grew up. There was a small library – a couple of shelves of worn books with falling apart pages, woodlice ridden spines, crumbly to the touch and smelling yellow, of rot and stale lives. Having read each book multiple times, I was desperate for something different when I found this fat book wedged behind the shelves, forgotten and unloved. I dusted it off, thrilled to have something new to read. I was ecstatic when I discovered that it was a Readers Digest anthology of four condensed books; one of them, To Kill a Mockingbird. I read the first line (they left that
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

Follow me at Pinterest… Twiggy, the Sixties, fashions & music

Above my desk I have a large whiteboard, stuck to it with Blu-Tak is an assortment of photos, postcards and magazine clippings. Some are faces of people I have adopted as one of my characters, others are of a place or a specific time – music, fashions such as Twiggy, cars, shopping – some are faces of adoptees. Now I also collect all these visual references on Pinterest. You can see my Pinterest board for Ignoring Gravity here.  The board for Connectedness will go online later this year. ‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] Buy the paperback and ebook of Ignoring Gravity  at Amazon UK and Amazon US. And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Using Pinterest as a visual resource when #writing via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2zb
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Family history: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

This year is the 100th anniversary of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, set up under Royal Charter in 1917 as the Imperial War Graves Commission. It commemorates 1.7 million people who died in two world wars, administers cemeteries and memorials at 23,000 locations in 154 countries. If you are tracing a relative who died in the First or Second World War, or seeking further information about medals, awards or casualty details, this is an excellent website to explore. As part of the 2017 centenary, the website is to be improved with even more information. It is never too late to change the records, if your family history research reveals an error or omission. In once case, a serviceman who died 99 years ago recently received a CWGC headstone at a churchyard in Hampshire. Driver Thomas Dawson [above] died on September 10, 1918 but because the CWGC was never informed of his death, Thomas never received a Commission headstone. His case was brought to the attention of the CWGC by his family and Thomas’s grand-daughter Kay Davidge was present at the installation of the headstone. The CWCG’s Instagram page is a useful source of wartime photographs which may add background detail
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Categories: Family history research.

Book review: Innocent Blood

If you are a PD James fan, I should say up front that Innocent Blood is very different from the Adam Dalgliesh detective series. It is a psychological thriller, a slow-building mystery which starts with little steps then, as the odd details start to make sense, the tension builds. It is the story of a young woman who knows she is adopted, who exercises her right to know the names of her birth parents, and finds something she never in a million years expected. Philippa Palfrey is 18, about to go up to Cambridge, until she decides to find out the truth of her adoption. Her birth father is dead, her mother though is still alive. Philippa’s adoptive father warns caution, tells her to do her research and think carefully before contacting her mother but Philippa, driven by the need to know who she is and where she came from, goes ahead anyway. With the arrogance and naivety of youth, she embarks on a complicated path full of moral dilemma, tragedy and loss. It is a novel of family blood and relationships, violence, redemption, revenge and acceptance. Is there a threat, real or imagined, and where/who does that threat come
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Categories: Book Love.

Flash Fiction: Paris

In the thing where I keep the small metal circles I give the man in the shop where I buy bread, I find two papers I do not know. Why don’t I know them? This is my thing, it is mine because inside is a yellow paper with my name. Mary. Inside is my purse, this is where I keep the small metal circles and sometimes large paper things with people’s faces on. The lady at the bank, Annette, gives me the paper things every Friday. She says “Hello Mary, have you come for your money?” and she gives me the paper things. She always smiles and is ever so kind. I look at the two papers, they do not have my name on them, on one side there are words and on the other is a picture of two grey men. Who are these men? What are they doing in my thing? Someone must have put them there when I was asleep? I mustn’t go to sleep. People want to steal things. My Bill bought it for me, he said I needed a thing to keep my money in. Perhaps the papers are not mine. They do not have my
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Categories: My Flash Fiction.

Book review: The Outsiders

I came to this Michelle Paver series late, years after reading the award-winning ‘Chronicles of Ancient Darkness’ series which starts with the wonderful Wolf Brother. Doubtful that any character could be as admirable as Torak, it was a joy to read about Hylas who, like Torak, is an outsider. The Outsiders starts at a run from the first page and doesn’t slow up. Hylas has been attacked, his dog is dead, his sister missing and a fellow goatherd killed. And the killers are after him. Adrift at sea, disorientated, Hylas fears he must die. And then there follows a glorious section about dolphins. I won’t give away any more of the plot. The narrative is a shape familiar from Wolf Brother – wild boy in trouble, on the run, not sure who is friend or foe, sets off on a quest where he makes new alliances – but that doesn’t mean this is not an entertaining read with new characters, a new setting, and different myths and gods. Michelle Paver’s books for children and young adults are set in mystical places but are based on solid research about the way our ancestors lived and survived in wild lands, the animals
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Long Drop

Glasgow, 1950s. Three men meet in bar. One leaves. The remaining two men talk and drink until the early hours. They are unlikely drinking companions. A businessman, and a criminal. What are they talking about? Which one is telling the truth, or are they both lying? The Long Drop by Denise Mina is her fictional version of the night of Monday December 2, 1957 and the subsequent murder trial. It is a chilling story. Peter Manuel was a real murderer in Glasgow and the Burnside Affair happened, which makes this such an unsettling read. A woman, her sister and daughter have been killed, the girl was also raped: this is William Watt’s family, his wife, his daughter, his sister-in-law. Manuel, a known criminal, writes to Laurence Dowdall, Watt’s solicitor, to say he knows the location of the murder weapon, a gun, and so Dowdall arranges the meeting at Whitehall’s Restaurant/Lounge. Suspected by police of murdering his own family, William Watts meets criminal Manuel desperate for answers. But for a naïve, boasting businessman, he is keeping strange company. All is not as it seems. Mina populates her story with living/breathing Glasgow in the 1950s. If you have been to Glasgow, Mina’s
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Categories: Book Love.

#FlashPIC 19 The Meaning of Purple #writingprompt #amwriting

It is said that every person, at least once in their life, experiences a life-changing moment. An epiphany. Fight writers’ block with the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series; here is a FlashPIC writing prompt to kickstart a character study or flash fiction story. You choose the person’s gender, age, name, background, personality, the place, the time of day. Until today, your character has only been able to see in black and white. And then, he/she sees a flower, a glorious purple flower. A rhododendron. And he/she knows it is purple. Write a paragraph about each of the following, either first person or third:- The instant emotion when he/she realizes the flower is coloured; The secondary reaction, will it last, did I really see it? The character’s life before today; What he/she thinks the colour purple looks like – before and after; The significance of purple; What will my future be like? How will my mother/father/wife/closest relative/best friend react? And then look for conflict in the situation. Once you add conflict, it gets interesting. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Feet Cranes on the skyline Beach What are ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’? I want to help you put words
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters and Writing exercises.

Book review: Another You

Novels rooted in a particular area where the place and scenery come alive off the page are favourites of mine. Studland Bay in Dorset, England is a beautiful part of the country, a dramatic coastline which is an ideal for a dramatic story. In Another You, Jane Cable uses the place to great effect. Key action scenes take place at the looming chalk cliffs, the Old Harry rocks, the sand dunes and heath. The time in which the story is set is cleverly chosen too, the sixtieth anniversary of preparations for the D-Day landings, preparations which took place along the south coast of England. It is a time full of memories, grief, regret and gratitude. In this place and time, Cable sets her story. Marie is chef at The Smugglers, the pub she owns with her husband Stephen, from whom she is separated. Jude their son, a student, lives at the pub and helps out. Despite its popularity, the pub’s finances are not good and there is not enough cash to pay suppliers. Marie doesn’t understand what is happening and is stressed by this and having to deal with her difficult husband. This human story plays out alongside rehearsals for
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Categories: Book Love.