Monthly Archives May 2019

My Porridge & Cream read… Ivy Logan #books #YA #supernatural

Today I’m delighted to welcome Young Adult supernatural author Ivy Logan. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Reckless by Cornelia Funke. “The book I enjoy reading is Reckless by Cornelia Funke. It’s a part of the Reckless series but the book is pretty special to me. I first discovered Cornelia Funke because of the Inkworld series but it was Jacob Reckless who went on to become the person with the power to draw me back again and again. “Jacob is a human who has found his way to a magical world called the Mirrorworld. He keeps coming back to it and moves between two worlds. Despite his nomadic life Jacob always puts family first and he is willing to do anything, sacrifice anything to save his brother who is slowly turning into stone. The characters that flow from Cornelia’s imagination are so very real and they draw you and hold your attention.” BUY                   Ivy’s Bio Ivy Logan has a lifetime of stories in her head. She has always loved reading and watching movies. And she sees stories in everything and in everyone. She was already a storyteller before she actually sat down and decided
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

#FamilyHistory… Was your relative a nurse in the Great War? #nursing

Diaries, notebooks and sketchpads are dynamite for family history researchers as an insight into the lives of an ordinary people in your period of interest. If you are interested in filling in the life of a relative who served in a VAD [Voluntary Aid Detachment] during World War One, autograph and memory book of Cheltenham VAD nurse Dorothy Unwin may be of interest. Held at The Wilson art gallery and museum, it provides a very personal view of the war. The book includes photographs of herself, the wards she worked on, soldiers and staff. Most poignant are the comments given to Nurse Unwin by patients. Some soldiers write only their name, number and the date but some offer more information. Private Clapton of the 1stGloucestershire Regiment was ‘wounded in shoulder’. Percy Bedford of the 14thCanadian Battalion was ‘blown out of trench at Ypres 25 April 1915’. Many messages are of thanks. Patients are pictured playing sports and performing in plays and revenues. It offers a powerful insight into the men who fought in the Great War and also the daily life of FAX nurses. Vera Brittain [below left], who would go on to write Testament of Youth, was reading English
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Categories: Family history research and On Researching.

#BookReview ‘The Doll Factory’ by Elizabeth Macneal @esmacneal #historical #thriller

What a creepy tale is The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal. It is a strange and compelling mixture of creepy taxidermy, the painting of doll’s faces and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood artists, combined with stalking and kidnapping. I finished it not sure whether I liked it or not. Some parts are beautiful, some are horrifying. It is London 1850. Queen Victoria is on the throne, the Great Exhibition is being built in Hyde Park and a team of men are searching for wonders to display. Iris and her sister Rose work at The Doll Factory shop, painting personalised faces onto dolls, and sleeping in the attic. They survive but can only dream of having enough money to open their own shop. Iris is desperate to be a real artist. Silas Reed’s Shop of Curiosities Antique and New is popular with Victorian ladies buying dried butterflies and artists wanting stuffed mammals and rodents that can be copied and incorporated into their art. Silas and Iris are linked by Arnie, a young boy who scratches a living by sewing dolls clothes for The Doll Factory, and sourcing recently dead animals for Silas to stuff. When Iris meets Louis Frost, PRB artist, the circle is
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Pigeon Pie’ by Nancy Mitford #satire #historical

Pigeon Pie, the fourth novel of Nancy Mitford, was first published in 1940 by Hamish Hamilton. This was a serious error by its publisher given that Mitford wrote this light-hearted satire about wartime spying just before World War Two broke out in 1939. Not surprisingly, it was a commercial miss. Which is a shame. It is a funny, more tightly-plotted and disciplined novel than her first three and is a transition between her pre-war and post-war novels. At the outbreak of war, Lady Sophia Garfield enrols at her nearest First Aid Post and is put in charge of the office, folding and counting laundry and taking telephone calls. As the book is set during the first few months of war, the Phoney War, not a lot happens for Sophia except endless first aid drills. She teases an acquaintance, Olga – who poses in the press as a mysterious Mata Hari figure – and lunches with inept friends Ned and Fred who work at the Ministry of Information. Then Sophia stumbles on a nest of spies; or counter-spies, or counter-counter spies, she’s not sure which. Although her characters seem of a type with those of her first three novels – Mitford
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Five Days of Fog’ by Anna Freeman @Anna_F_writes #thriller #crime

Five Days of Fog by Anna Freeman about the queen of a female crime syndicate coming out of prison reminds me of Martina Cole’s books. It is 1952 and as Florrie Palmer waits for her mother Ruby to return home, she must make a decision about the direction of her own life. London remains in the grip of ruins from the war and Florrie is firmly embedded in the family gang, donning disguises to steal, feeling secure in the circle of women who support each other. But she also applies for a job as a telephonist, carefully practising her accent. The action is framed by five days of fog, both physical and perceived. So dense is visibility that cars crash, chemicals cause lung infections and people are coughing up dirt. The fog offers opportunities for thieves but it also disguises the truth and lies told to each other by the gang as they face a turning point. Old lies are perpetuated, new lies told with a smile, some members are out for their own benefit; others are tired of the secrets and politicking, and just want to get back to what they do best. Freeman’s fog is based on the real
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Categories: Book Love.

Great Opening Paragraph 116… ‘The Slaves of Solitude’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“London, the crouching monster, like every other monster has to breathe, and breathe it does in its own obscure, malignant way. Its vital oxygen is composed of suburban working men and women of all kinds, who every morning are sucked up through an infinitely complicated respiratory apparatus of trains and termini into the mighty congested lungs, held there for a number of hours, and then, in the evening, exhaled violently through the same channels.” ‘The Slaves of Solitude’ by Patrick Hamilton BUY Read my review of The Slaves of Solitude. Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Reading Turgenev/Two Lives’ by William Trevor ‘The Children Act’ by Ian McEwan ‘The Ghost Road’ by Pat Barker And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: THE SLAVES OF SOLITUDE by Patrick Hamilton #books via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2AD
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

#Bookreview ‘The House Across the Street’ by @LesleyPearse #historical #mystery

This is the first book I have read by Lesley Pearse. The House Across the Street is a slow build as Pearse takes time to build the characters and the Sixties setting. This is a difficult book to describe: part-mystery, part-romance, part-thriller. The house of the title is in Bexhill-on-Sea. Twenty-three year old Katy Speed is fascinated by Gloria, her fashionable neighbour, who owns a dress shop in town. Katy is also fascinated by some odd comings and goings; a black car arrives, bringing women and sometimes children to the house. Katy’s mother Hilda disapproves of Gloria, thinking there may be something illegal going on. Then one night Gloria’s house burns down and Katy’s father Albert is arrested for murder. It is at this point that the story really takes off. The 1965 setting is well portrayed. It is a time of social change. Katy and her friend Jilly dream of escaping boring Bexhill to live and work in London. Hilda is something of a mystery; moody, cold, traditional. Mother and daughter mirror the changing times and sexual freedoms of the time. The backbone of the story is domestic violence and the lack of help available for victims in the Sixties.The
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Amy Snow’ by Tracy Rees @AuthorTracyRees #historical

When eight-year old Aurelia Vennaway runs outside to play in the snow on a January day in 1831, she finds a baby, blue, abandoned and barely alive. She takes the baby home and, despite opposition from her parents, demands they keep the baby. Aurelia really is that precocious. She names the baby Amy. Amy Snow by Tracy Rees is about two lost girls, each lost in different ways who through their friendship find strength to face the lot given to them by life at a time when women had few individual rights. This is the story of a secret, well-hidden and unveiled by a series of letters. The two girls grow up together. Aurelia lives a privileged life and Amy stays on in the large house, first as a servant and then companion to her friend. She is treated harshly by Aurelia’s parents, but is looked after by Cook and under-gardener Robin. The two girls support each other as they grow up. Amy gains an education and learns how to be a lady, but when Aurelia faints, a weak heart is diagnosed. When Aurelia dies in her early twenties, Amy is thrown out of the house where she was discovered
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Categories: Book Love.

First Edition: ‘1984’ by George Orwell #oldbooks #firstedition

A novel which needs no introduction, 1984 by George Orwell [below], first published in the UK in 1949, has populated modern culture with its terms. Big Brother. Doublethink. Thoughtcrime. Newspeak. Room 101. Memory Hole. It regularly features in Best Of lists. A first UK edition green jacket is for sale at Peter Harrington [above] for £4,000; the first impression was issued in either green or red jackets. Another UK first edition is also for sale, £9,750, owned and inscribed by friends of Eric Blair [Orwell], Eleanor and Dennis Collings. The current UK Penguin edition [above] dates from 2004. Buy The story The year is 1984.  Airstrip One is a province of Oceania, one of three totalitarian super states that rule the world. It is ruled by the ‘Party’, its ideology is ‘Ingsoc’, its leader is ‘Big Brother’. The people must conform to the system, spied on by the ‘Thought Police’ using two-way telescreens. Winston Smith is a member of the middle class Outer Party, he rewrites historical records to conform to the state’s vision. Winston has an affair with Julia, something which is an act of rebellion as the Party insists sex should only take place for reproductive purposes. Winston
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Dark Fire’ by CJ Sansom #Tudor #detective

Dark Fire by CJ Sansom is a story of political intrigue, whodunit and a Tudor weapon of mass destruction. Second in the series about Tudor lawyer Matthew Shardlake, Dark Fire combines two criminal mysteries; the appearance and subsequent disappearance of the alchemical formula to make an ancient terrifying weapon, and the impending trial and expected sentencing of a young woman to death by pressing. Despite a tenuous connection between the two cases, and a somewhat meandering pace at times, I enjoyed this book for its further development of Shardlake, first seen in Dissolution. It is 1540, King Henry VIII wishes to anul his marriage to Anne of Cleves, recommended to him by Thomas Cromwell, and marry instead the teenager Catherine Howard. At the beginning of the book Cromwell’s relationship with Henry is weakening and this imposes time pressure on both the novel and on Shardlake. As the novel opens, the lawyer is defending Elizabeth Wentworth, a teenage girl accused by her family of killing her cousin by pushing him down a well. She languishes in the Hole in the cellars of Newgate Prison and refuses to speak. Shardlake, though convinced of her innocence, despairs of being able to help her. The alchemical
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Union Street’ by Pat Barker #motherhood #women

Uncompromising, unbelievably sad and harsh, Union Street by Pat Barker does not hide the uncomfortable truths of poverty in North-East industrial England. This is the story of eight women who live on Union Street from teenager Kelly Brown to Alice Bell in her eighties and though each story is told individually, like the lives of the women, the stories interweave. An honest book about women struggling to hold life, family and home together, while retaining pride and some of their own individuality. Some succeed in this, others don’t. This is not a book about idealised motherhood. It is about putting bread on the table for your children no matter how you do it; including beating your husband to get his pay packet before he spends it on booze. These women are tough because they have to be; the choices are the cake factory, charring, and prostitution. Many marry young to feckless husbands because they are pregnant. This is not a light read; it features scenes of rape and backstreet abortion that somehow make the prostitution a lighter route. The language is often strong and some of the descriptions are difficult to read; but it is an honest book, bleak and realistic.
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘Smash All The Windows’ by Jane Davis @janedavisauthor #literary

Thought-provoking, sometimes difficult, always moving, Smash All The Windows by Jane Davis starts at a run as we are pitched straight into emotional turmoil, grief, anger and betrayal. There is an inquest investigating an accident thirteen years earlier, the undoing of a miscarriage of justice. In turn we meet the survivors, and the relatives of the victims. Davis follows the paths of each person to their own resolution; there is no self-help book to follow, they must each must work it out for themselves. We see flashbacks to the days and hours before the accident as Davis unravels the real truth of what happened. This is a complex story with legal twists and turns, misunderstandings and minute step-by-step detail of what happened on that day, thirteen years ago, when over-crowding at St Botolph and Old Billingsgate tube stations in London ended in death. For thirteen years, blame has been thrown around, scapegoats have been targeted, the media has dug for dirt. This is an imaginary accident but with echoes of so many disasters – Hillsborough, Grenfell, Kings Cross – that it can’t help but be affecting. There are a lot of victims and survivors, a lot of relatives. The high number
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Categories: Book Love.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Serious’ by James Fenton #poetry

I picked up Selected Poems by James Fenton [below] in 2015] in my local library, drawn by the cover illustration; the colours, the corn cobs. I flicked through, and this was the poem that caught my eye. It is about love and hope and the fear of future regret.  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. ‘Awake, alert, Suddenly serious in love, You’re a surprise. I’ve known you long enough – Now I can hardly meet your eyes. It’s not that I’m Embarrassed or ashamed. You’ve changed the rules The way I’d hoped they’d change Before I thought: hopes are for fools.’ BUY Read these other excerpts, and perhaps find a new poet to love:- ‘Because I could not stop for Death’ by Emily Dickinson ‘Name’ by Carol Ann Duffy ‘Not Waving but Drowning’ by Stevie Smith And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #poem to read in the bath: ‘Serious’ by James Fenton https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3g2 via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Poetry.

#BookReview ‘The Girl in the Painting’ by @RenitaDSilva #historical #India

When Renita D’Silva writes about India, it comes alive on the page. Her books are dual timeline family mysteries combining a modern day narrator with historical events set in India. With her latest, The Girl in the Painting, D’Silva tackles guilt, forgiveness and sati – when a husband dies, his widow burns with his body on the funeral pyre. It is her emotionally toughest novel yet and handled with sensitivity and balance. This is the story of three women – Margaret, Archana and Emma – pre-Great War in England, India in 1918 and England 2000. At the beginning, each woman is introduced in short chapters which made me long to dwell a while with each in turn, rather than jumping around. I was puzzled at how these three women, so different from each other, could be connected. Each has a deep sense of duty that, despite a longing to make her own decisions, is an anchor to a sometimes unwelcome, difficult, reality. Yet being impulsive and taking decisions without consideration for others often has far-reaching consequences. The early 20thcentury was a pivotal time in world history and a period of rapid change in the lives of women. Margaret’s family is separated tragically
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Categories: Book Love.