Monthly Archives June 2017

My Porridge & Cream read: Linda Huber

Today I’m delighted to welcome thriller novelist Linda Huber. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is A Cry in the Night by Mary Higgins Clark. “I have a few ‘Porridge & Cream’ books, but I think the creamiest has to be A Cry in the Night by Mary Higgins Clark. It came out in the early 80s, so I must have bought it then – I devoured all the Mary Higgins Clark books as soon as they were published. At that time, I was young physiotherapist, living in Switzerland, far away from ‘home’ in Glasgow. The main character in this book really struck a chord in my heart – Jenny, a devoted mum to her girls, trying to do her best for them under impossible circumstances. I suppose I re-read this book when I feel the need for a little mother-love in my life! My own mum is gone now and I’m mum myself to two boys – and still in Switzerland, which is now ‘home’. The thing about having two home countries is, you have neither 100%. I have dual nationality, I speak two languages, my life is here in the middle of Europe – but Scotland still has a
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

First Edition: The Moonstone

Before Philip Marlowe, Sherlock Holmes and Adam Dalgliesh. Before Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. The first full-length detective novel ever published was The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. First serialised in Charles Dickens’ magazine All the Year Round, the story revolves around the theft of a precious stone. A diamond, actually, not a semi-precious moonstone. The title page of the first edition [below] shows the publisher as Tinsley Brothers, Catherine Street, The Strand, London in 1868. The story On her 18th birthday, Rachel Verinder inherits a large Indian diamond as a legacy from her uncle, a corrupt British army officer serving in India. However the diamond is not only valuable but has great religious significance, and so three Hindu priests dedicate their lives to recovering it. At her birthday party Rachel wears the Moonstone on her dress for all to see. Later the same night, the diamond is stolen. The Moonstone follows the attempts of Rachel’s cousin Franklin Blake to identify the thief, trace the stone and recover it. The first edition Of course there are many ‘first editions’ and not all date from the original publication, they may simply be the first printing by a particular publisher. Although I could find online
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Why have I never heard of this book before? First published in 1938, Miss Pettigrew’s day starts when her employment agency sends her to the wrong address. What follows is twenty-four hours of epiphanies in which she learns about life, courtesy of a nightclub singer. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson was a revelation and has quickly claimed its place as one of my favourite novels. Miss Pettigrew is a governess, not a very good one, and finds herself forced to take jobs as a housemaid or looking after children she would rather not know. Then one day an error leads her to the apartment of Delysia LaFosse, a nightclub singer with a complicated love life. She tries to tell Miss LaFosse she has come about the job, but Miss LaFosse does not listen. As the story progresses, no children appear, but by now Miss Pettigrew is proving adept at solving Delysia’s small difficulties. On the surface, this is a frothy story of gowns, flirting, lipstick, negligées and men, suitable and unsuitable. Beneath the surface, it is a novel about throwing away the bounds of class and venturing into the unknown. It is about taking a deep
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Categories: Book Love.

Great Opening Paragraph 98… ‘Armadillo’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“In these times of ours – and we don’t need to be precise about the exact date – but, anyway, very early in the year, a young man not much over thirty, tall – six feet plus an inch or two – with ink-dark hair and a serious-looking, fine-featured but pallid face, went to keep a business appointment and discovered a hanged man.” ‘Armadillo’ by William Boyd  Amazon Read my reviews of these other books by William Boyd – Any Human Heart, Sweet Caress, The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth, and Love is Blind. Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘A Change of Climate’ by Hilary Mantel ‘Jack Maggs’ by Peter Carey ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: ARMADILLO by William Boyd #books via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2qA
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: At First Light

Having loved Summertime, the debut novel of Florida-born Vanessa Lafaye, I was looking forward to reading At First Light. I was not disappointed. As with her first book, Florida in the period after the Great War is the setting. But the story starts with a bang in 1993 when an elderly Ku Klux Klan official is shot dead at a rally in Key West. The murderer is a 96-year old Cuban woman. At First Light is the story of Alicia Cortez. This is an intense story in many ways. Love, politics, racial hatred, prostitution and Prohibition. In 1919 Alicia arrives on a boat from Cuba, running from shame though for a while we don’t know the exact details. On the same day, John Morales disembarks from the troop ship which brought him from Europe where he fought with distinction in the Great War. Watching from the dock is fourteen-year-old Dwayne Campbell, who falls a little in love with Alicia, is in awe of John, and who becomes entangled in what is about to unfold. When John, a white man, a local man, is seen with a ‘brown’ stranger, Alicia, the newly established Klan of the Keys takes notice. Although we
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Follow the Leader

This police procedural is not about identifying the killer as the reader knows who it is from page one, but a chase against time. Will the police stop him before he completes his series of murders? Follow the Leader is the second in the DS Allie Shenton series by Mel Sherratt and, as well as being a story in its own right, it continues the thread of Allie’s story and of her sister Karen. So much so that the ending made me want to pick up book three and keep reading. The story is told in the present time from the viewpoint of the murderer, and Allie, plus flashbacks to schoolchildren in 1983. There is bullying, nastiness and violence at home. Patrick keeps his head down, hoping not to be noticed. Unfortunately for him, he has ‘victim’ written all over him. The schooldays segments are horribly realistic. The setting of Stoke-on-Trent is a critical part of this book and it is clear Sherratt is describing real places. The first body is found on the canal towpath. A man was walking his dog, in the same place, at the same time, as he always does. The next victim is a woman.
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Categories: Book Love.

#FlashPIC 20 Rubbish Bin #writingprompt #amwriting

One rubbish bin is much like another rubbish bin, isn’t it? Yes… except for its location, the time of day, the weather, the people passing by. Consider writing a short story which takes place around a rubbish bin or in which a rubbish bin plays an important part. Here’s a FlashPIC writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series to start writing now. Choose three of the situations below, and write a paragraph for each. Then concentrate on one, and write 500 words:- An argument takes place beside the rubbish bin; A crime happens nearby; A homeless person meets someone he didn’t expect beside the bin; A passer-by finds something strange in the bin; Two strangers agree to meet on a street corner, near the bin; A spy uses this rubbish bin as a dead-drop, but someone else finds his package first; A bird nests in the bin; An uncared-for, un-emptied bin is adopted by a schoolgirl who lives nearby. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Coffee Shop Belisha Beacon 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
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters and Writing exercises.

Book review: The Good People

The Good People by Hannah Kent is a powerful second novel from a writer whose debut was outstanding. It is a tale of rural people in a poor community where superstition and folklore become entangled with one woman’s grief, with tragic results. Conflicting systems of thought come into play – folklore, religion, medicine and legal – and fail to make sense of what happens to Nóra Leahy. The power of the story lies not in black versus white, or logic and education versus peasant superstition, it lies in its characters. County Kerry, Ireland, 1826. An isolated village, where gossip goes around and around, where people survive on milk and potatoes and burn turf on the fire. A place where petty grievances are not forgotten, there is no money to pay the doctor, but there are still random acts of kindness. In such a poor community, what happens when the unthinkable happens, where the doctor and priest have no explanation or solution? The Good People is based on true events, a court case which did happen. In the same year in which her daughter died, Nóra’s husband drops dead in the field leaving her alone to care for her four-year-old grandson
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Stars are Fire

I haven’t read anything by Anita Shreve for a very long time and I wonder why, because I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a fine example on how to write about someone experiencing difficult times, who is trapped and feels powerless, without being depressing. It is 1947 and the summer heat is blazing. Then the heat turns to drought and the drought turns to wildfire. On the coast of Maine, Grace Holland, five months pregnant, without a car and at home with her two toddlers, must run as the fire threatens to engulf her village. Her husband Gene is with other men, making a fire break. Grace, with her best friend Rosie and her children, run from the fire, taking refuge overnight at the beach. The next morning, their houses are ash, their village is burned. They are homeless, penniless and, though Rosie’s husband returns, Gene doesn’t. Grace must cope and in doing so she finds a new world opening up. A world which she had no idea existed. She becomes decisive and brave, she finds a home, a job and learns to drive. All of this validates her worth. With her mother, they fashion themselves a new life.
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Categories: Book Love.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘The Roses’

The Remedies is the second poetry collection by Katharine Towers. Such an economy of words, beautiful, never a superfluous thought. Concise, moving, piercingly beautiful. My favourite is ‘The Roses’. 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 Roses’ Because my father will not stand again beneath these swags of Himalayan Mush nor stare for hours to see which stems are safe… This poem is about remembering, about loss, about family. And roses. Read more about Katherine Towers’ poetry at her website. ‘The Remedies’ by Katharine Towers [UK: Picador]  Read these other excerpts and find a new poet to love:- ‘Sometimes and After’ by Hilda Doolitte ‘Elegy of a Common Soldier’ by Dennis B Wilson ‘Lost Acres’ by Robert Graves And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #poem to read in the bath: ‘The Roses’ by Katharine Towers via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2rI SaveSave
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Categories: Book Love and Poetry.