Monthly Archives May 2018

Book review: The Cursed Wife

London 1590. The Cursed Wife by Pamela Hartshorne starts with two un-named women in a room; one alive, one dead. And then follows the story of two women who meet as children, Cat and Mary, mistress and maid. Page by twisting page the story of Cat and Mary unfolds as, you can’t help but wonder, which one dies and which lives. Mistress Mary Thorne sometimes forgets she is cursed. It is 1590 and she steps out into the rain to buy herbs for an ill maid, little knowing her life will be changed. Two stories are told in parallel; from 1562 when the two girls first meet, and 1590 when their paths cross again in London. There is a tug of power between the two as fortunes rise and fall; Cat is envious of what Mary has, while Mary feels guilt at every small slight she has made in her life. In 1562, Mary is a gentleman’s daughter; orphaned by sickness, she is put into a cart to be taken to the house of a distant cousin where she has been offered shelter. Her solace is Peg, the small wooden doll given to her by her father. When a mob
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Western Wind

In 15th century Somerset, a village is isolated between high ground and a river. Various attempts to find funding and the skills to build a bridge have foundered, and with it the village’s hopes of prosperity. Then in the early hours of Shrove Saturday, the body of a villager is swept away by the river and everyone looks to the priest for answers. The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey is a contemplative, slow burn about John Reve, the priest, his care for the villagers of Oakham, and the persistent questions of his visiting rural dean about the death of Thomas Newman. The story timeline is chopped up and told backwards, which adds to the mystery. The novel starts with the sighting of the body and the finding of a green shirt in the bulrushes. This is a sign, Reve says, that Newman’s soul has crossed into heaven. Only at the end, do we find out the truth of what really happened. The dean is a threat; we never know his name, and only at the end are we given a physical description of him. He suggests to Reve that as this is the season of confession, a pardon be issued
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Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read: Julie Ryan

Today I’m delighted to welcome romantic suspense novelist Julie Ryan. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is The Magus by John Fowles. “My ‘Porridge & Cream’ book that has served me well over the years is The Magus by John Fowles. I first came across this book whilst I was a student although it had been written much earlier in the 1960s. I was immediately transported to a remote Greek island as I followed Nick Urfe’s journey. John Fowles vividly portrays the magic and mystery of Greece that must have resonated with me as my first job after graduating was as a language teacher in Greece and thus began my lifelong love affair with the country. “Whenever I need to recapture those halycon days of my youth, I pick up the book for some instant sunshine; a great pick-me-up during the British winter. It doesn’t matter how many times I read this book, I always find something new in it to surprise me. To some people, it may seem a bit dated now but I just love the language and the sense of place as well as the way the millionaire plays with Nicolas’s mind until it becomes more than a game and a
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

Great Opening Paragraph 107… ‘Such a Long Journey’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“The first light of morning barely illuminated the sky as Gustad Noble faced eastwards to offer his orisons to Ahura Mazda. The hour was approaching six, and up in the compound’s solitary tree the sparrows began to call. Gustad listened to their chirping every morning while reciting his kusti prayers. There was something reassuring about it. Always, the sparrows were first; the cawing of the crows came later.” ‘Such a Long Journey’ by Rohinton Mistry  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ by Mark Twain ‘Illywhacker’ by Peter Carey ‘The Bell Jar’ by Sylvia Plath And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: SUCH A LONG JOURNEY by Rohinton Mistry #books via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2xt
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: Brightly Coloured Horses

‘Twenty-seven very short human stories’ it says on the cover of Brightly Coloured Horses by Mandy Huggins. Many of them are competition winners. This is Huggins’ first anthology, but these are not the stories of a beginner. She is a talented writer of the human state of mind who chooses every single word with care, and makes every single word work hard to convey its meaning. It has to in a flash fiction story; there is no space for indulgence on the part of the writer. Women, and men, fall in love, out of love, they grieve for what they have lost or never had, their attraction is instant, fading or lustful opportunity, they feel cherished, desired or neglected. I’ve chosen three stories to discuss. Huggins is excellent on the many shades of the human relationship and the titular ‘Brightly Coloured Horses’ is a key example. Marielle and Hugh arrive in Paris for a romantic weekend. ‘The food was mediocre: the bread was yesterday’s and their omelettes were overcooked. She smiled, and said it was fine, and they both drank too much wine because they knew it wasn’t.’ Their disengagement with each other is familiar to anyone whose relationship has broken
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Categories: Book Love.

‘Celebration’, a short story

The floor wasn’t big enough for all three girls to lay out their paper patterns so Jenny went first. Her dress would be full-length pale blue satin, spaghetti straps. Anne and Liz sat and watched. Jenny had sewn things before, the short tartan wool skirt she was wearing now was home-made, fully lined and everything. Jenny knelt on the floor, pins between her lips, smoothing fabric and smoothing paper, pinning along the lines. Her treasured scissors were in her sewing box. Satin was horribly slippery fabric to sew and Jenny wished Anne and Liz would do something rather than just sit there like wet weekends. All she could see was their feet. Anne’s white tennis shoes were muddy around the rubber sole. Liz was in bare feet, the red polish peeling off her toenails. The Rag Ball was on Saturday. She had no idea how Anne and Liz intended to sew their dresses. She got the feeling they only bought patterns and fabric because she had. This happened a lot. If she’d said she was going to bleach her hair blonde, they probably would too. It had been like this for almost three years. At first it had been giggly,
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Categories: My Short Stories.

Some Points of View about Points of View… by author Claire Dyer

Welcome to novelist Claire Dyer whose third novel The Last Day juggles the viewpoints of three characters. Here she reveals how a change of viewpoint, between drafts, liberated the characters and energised the story.  “Thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog. It is a huge treat to be able to talk about points of view. One very kind reviewer recently said about The Last Day that ‘creating one authentic character is hard enough but to create three is remarkable …’ And I must admit that I loved every minute I spent in the company of all three people in the book, but I have to confess I didn’t plan the novel the way it turned out. “As I wrote, each person’s story evolved and, when I finished the second draft, my agent and I agreed that I should switch viewpoints so that Honey, who was in the first person, should be in the third, and Vita, who was in the third, should switch to the first person. This was a real labour of love! It almost sent me boggle-eyed as I changed every pronoun and every verb of their narratives. But it was worth it because, by
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Categories: On Writing.

Connectedness: published today

Today is the day… Connectedness my second novel, book two in the ‘Identity Detective’ series is published. Here’s what some of the early reviewers have said: 5* “Although this is a follow-on novel from the first, Ignoring Gravity, it could equally be read as a standalone. Sandra Danby does not rely just on the story of the search carried out by her identity detective, Rose Haldane, but builds up a detailed and believable picture of the life of her main character Justine. Well written with realistic characters and the setting out of the story in a carefully and balanced way, I would highly recommend this novel.”  4* “There are deep thoughts on life and surroundings that are recognizable to all of us. Eventually all comes together in a heartfelt ending. Connectedness is a gripping story of love, loss and the human struggle to be your one true self. An amazing read.” To celebrate the arrival of Connectedness, Ignoring Gravity is free to download here. TODAY only. So what’s ‘Connectedness’ about? TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD, ARTIST JUSTINE TREE HAS IT ALL… BUT SHE ALSO HAS A SECRET THAT THREATENS TO DESTROY EVERYTHING Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Connectedness'.

Book review: The Night Child

The Night Child by Anna Quinn caught me by surprise and took off racing from the first page so that I read half the book at my first sitting. But it is not a thriller, it was simply that I didn’t want to stop reading. I confess to selecting the book on my Kindle having forgotten the book blurb; perhaps I should do that more often. Nora Brown teaches teenagers about Shakespeare and poetry; so she knows about the imagination, imagery and dreams. Then one day at work, floating in front of her she sees the face of a blue-eyed girl, a face without a body. Quinn writes about Nora’s fear, panic, guilt, shame, with an insight into the private mind and this made me believe Nora from page one. Seeking answers, she talks to a psychiatrist and so starts an unravelling of Nora’s past, a past buried so deep she had no idea of its existence. As the revelations pick up pace, she must deal with a damaged teenager at school, decide whether to confront her unfaithful husband Paul, and reassure her six-year-old daughter Fiona. Stress layered on top of stress, which makes the child’s face appear more often.
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Categories: Book Love.

Family history: Was your ancestor a doctor?

The medical profession has changed out of all recognition since the 18th century and if you are searching for a relative who was once a doctor or medical professional, there are a number of useful sources to check which may lead you in an intriguing direction. In the 18th century, only physicians were called MD, doctor, with the status of being a gentleman. They charged for their advice and remedies but did not dispense medicines. They were university educated in contrast to surgeons and apothecaries who were trained via apprenticeships. Surgeons did not give medicines to patients, instead they specialised in pulling teeth, lancing boils, blood-letting, and amputations. Apothecaries dispensed and sold medicines from a shop, charging for their medicines not their advice. There was ample opportunity for quacks. The turning point came with the passing of the Medical Act in 1858. This meant that in able to practise medicine, all qualified medical professions had to be listed in the new Medical Register, and also licensed by one of 19 licensing bodies. If you are tracing a relative in the 19th century who you suspect worked in the medical professions in the UK, the two places to check are the
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Categories: Family history research.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘After a Row’

Winter Migrants by poet Tom Pickard is a collection of poetry and prose, starting with the prize-winning sequence ‘Lark & Merlin’, an erotic pursuit over the hills and fells of the poet’s Northern-English homeland. In truth, I could have selected anything from this slim volume, but ‘After a Row’ just caught my mood today. 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. ‘After a Row’ A lapwing somersaults spring, Flips over winter and back. After a fast walk – my limbs The engine of thought – up long hills Where burn bubbles into beck and clough to gill   ‘Winter Migrants’ by Tom Pickard [UK: Carcanet Press] Read these other excerpts, and perhaps find a new poet to love:- ‘Sometimes and After’ by Hilda Doolittle ‘Cloughton Wyke 1’ by John Wedgwood Clarke ‘Forgetfulness’ by Hart Crane And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #poem to read in the bath: ‘After a Row’ by @tompickardpoet http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2UD via @SandraDanby SaveSave SaveSave
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Categories: Poetry.

Book review: Love Me Not

Every book in the Helen Grace series by MJ Arlidge is fast-moving, but Love Me Not is the fastest of them all. The action happens, almost exclusively, in one day. It starts in the early morning when a commuter is shot on a rural road. Why kill a respectable wife and mother who has a socially-responsible job? As the day progresses there are more shootings around Southampton, each victim seems completely different from the others. Where is the pattern? This story is different in that the action is not focussed so much on Helen Grace and, with the exception of a few references to previous books, can be read as a standalone story. There is a gunman on the loose, shooting people at random. Or is it two gunmen? As the victims start to pile-up, a pattern begins to emerge. Will the police identify the shooters in time to stop another murder? Why are the killers staying so close to Southampton? The point-blank callousness of the murders is chilling. When the answers are found, they are unfortunately all too believable. The reader, unlike the police, knows the who but not the why and that’s what keeps the pages turning. As
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Categories: Book Love.