Monthly Archives May 2020

My Porridge & Cream read… Amanda Huggins @troutiemcfish #shortstories

Today I’m delighted to welcome short story writer Amanda Huggins. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. “There was strong competition for my Porridge and Cream choice, and I’d just like to mention two of the worthy runners-up, both of which I return to time and time again. The wonderful Jane Eyre needs no introduction or explanation, and has been in my top ten since I was a teenager. Another contender was The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, which I’ve loved since first reading it in the 1980s. A beautifully written story of a life lost to duty; unsentimental and utterly heartbreaking. But my final choice has to be The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, one of the all-time bestselling – and most translated – books ever published. “I own a signed copy of The Remains of the Day as well as a Folio hardback, and I also have two copies of Jane Eyre – though sadly neither of them are signed! But I have to confess to owning a rather extravagant seven copies of The Little Prince. In my defence, they’re all in different languages – however, as I’m only
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Categories: Book Love, On Writing and Porridge & Cream.

#BookReview ‘A Thousand Moons’ by Sebastian Barry #historical #literary

1870s Paris, Tennessee, a young Lakota girl Ojinjintka, lately known as Winona Cole, travels a delicate path in post-Civil War America. Another 5* book from Sebastian Barry, A Thousand Moons is sequel to Days Without End, though both books can be read independently. This is a dangerous time when the rule of law is often non-existent and hatred is on every street. Winona says, ‘It was a town of many eyes watching you anyhow, an uneasy place.’ Barry tells this heart-rending story in eloquent prose that makes the pages turn. Winona is the adopted daughter of Thomas McNulty and John Cole, whose wartime story is told in Days Without End. Now, peace has come and Thomas and John raise their daughter to be educated and respectful. This in itself causes problems. ‘It is bad enough being an Indian without talking like a raven,’ says Winona. ‘The white folks in Paris were not all good speakers themselves.’ A story of one young woman’s journey through life’s racism, prejudice and latent violence, this is also a story of love. The love, for its time, of an unusual family; an Indian cared for when her family is killed when she is six years
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Choice’ by @clairerwade #books #dystopian

The Choice by Claire Wade is set in an alternative world, one where sugar is banned, exercise is compulsory and every supermarket visit is preceded by a weigh-in. It is a Big Brother world where a new government, initially intent on preventing sickness and encouraging healthy living, has gone OTT and taken control of the smallest details of people’s lives. Olivia used to be a baker before the changes. When she lost her shop, she lost her reason for living. And so she subsists, making the best of the meal plans approved by Mother Mason, chivvying her friend Alice to keep to the rules and stay out of trouble, and worrying about the effect all of this is having on husband Danny and their two children. And then she gets a glimpse of a fightback. Is Olivia brave enough to join the protest, or will she play safe to protect her family? Of course she fights, in the only way she knows how. It starts in a small way, baking cakes for the local protest group to raise money for the cause. But then her rebellion gets way out of hand and she is faced with shame and condemnation. The
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Vanished Bride’ by Bella Ellis @brontemysteries #crime

Yorkshire, 1845. A woman disappears overnight from her home. Her husband is distraught. All that remains of her is copious amounts of blood on the bed. The local police are inept. This is the first mystery in a series of new amateur sleuths, the three Bronte sisters, in The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis. I loved this book from the beginning. Bronte fans will love it but anyone new to Bronte will find it an engaging introduction to the three clever and inspirational sisters. What a fresh idea to involve Charlotte, Emily and Anne in an occupation that suits their imaginations, attention to detail and energy. Anne says, ‘It is truly terrible that I am a little thrilled to think of us as three invisible lady detectors seeking out the truth? I believe we could be quite the only such creatures in all existence.’ Their characters are clearly drawn and their engagements with other characters – brother Branwell, father Patrick, cook Tabby and maid Martha – are all convincing. The case of the vanished bride comes to their attention because the governess to the two small children of the missing woman is none other than Matilda French, a former schoolfriend
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Categories: Book Love.

Great Opening Paragraph 125… ‘Beloved’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children. For years each put up with the spite in his own way, but by 1873 Sethe and her daughter Denver were its only victims. The grandmother, Baby Suggs, was dead, and the sons, Howard and Buglar, had runaway by the time they were thirteen years old – as soon as merely looking in a mirror shattered it (that was the signal for Buglar); as soon as two tiny hand prints appeared in the cake (that was it for Howard). Neither boy waited to see more; another kettleful of chickpeas smoking in a heap on the floor; soda crackers crumbled and strewn in a line next to the doorsill.” ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Ashes of London’ by Andrew Taylor  ‘The Garden of Evening Mists’ by Tan Twan Eng  ‘Queen Camilla’ by Sue Townsend And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: #FirstPara BELOVED by Toni Morrison #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4ec via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

#BookReview ‘A Snapshot of Murder’ by @FrancesBrody #crime

In 1928, a Photography Society outing to Haworth to see the opening of the new Bronte Parsonage Museum has an unexpected outcome. One of the group does not go home alive. A Snapshot of Murder by Frances Brody is tenth in the Kate Shackleton 1920s detective series, a satisfying story about jealousy, long lost love and betrayal. Kate’s friend Carine Murchison runs a photographic studio with her boorish husband Tobias. Derek, friend of Kate’s niece Harriet, has a theory that Tobias wants his wife dead so he can inherit the studio. But the story is so much more complicated. Throw in a long lost lover returned, the wonderfully scratchy mother and daughter landladies of Ponden Hall near Haworth where the Photography Society stays, the flamboyant Rita who dresses in Indian silks and works in a pharmacy, and a London policeman and former love of Kate who arrives to investigate the murder, and there are plenty of options for arguments, jealousy, upsets and both rejected and reciprocated love. The echoes of the Brontes are welcome too, but Brody never allows this to dominate her story. This is a character-led crime drama. Kate’s world is created with skill by Brody, I particularly enjoyed Mrs Sugden, Mr Sykes
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘The Lady of the Ravens’ by @joannahickson #Historical

It is England, just after the War of the Roses. The Lady of The Ravens by Joanna Hickson starts with the new Tudor King Henry VII on the throne and the country awaiting his marriage rumoured to be to Elizabeth of York, older sister of the Princes in the Tower. The marriage is intended to heal divisions between the two warring factions after Henry’s defeat of King Richard III at Bosworth Field, so allowing peace to settle on the land. But of course it is not that simple. Twenty-four year old Joan Vaux is a servant to the princess and follows her to court on her marriage to the king. Watching the childbirth experiences of Queen Elizabeth, her own sister and other women of the court marry and bear children – some dying in the process – Joan develops a phobia of childbirth. But the king requires his courtiers to be married and a husband for Joan is proposed, but the situation is complicated as while she dithers a proposal is received from an unexpected source. Joan must make her choice, a decision which echoes throughout her life. Joan has an affinity with the ravens, starting from when as a
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Revelation’ by CJ Sansom #Tudor #detective

I’m sorry if I’m beginning to sound like a cracked record, but I continue to love the Matthew Shardlake Tudor detective series by CJ Sansom. Fourth in the series, Revelation, is a roller-coaster ride of killings motivated by the Book of Revelation’s fire and damnation. Shardlake and his assistant Barak race around London struggling to second-guess the murderer’s motivations and identify his next likely target. Sansom achieves a difficult feat for a historical novelist, he balances world-building – the Tudor toxic politics and Tudor gossip-mongering – will Lady Catherine Parr say yes to the King’s proposal – with Shardlake’s legal world and the fascinating detail and colour which brings London in Spring 1543 to life. Once again we see Shardlake’s vulnerability – when an old friend is murdered in mystifying and frightening circumstances – and his moral strength as he faces the dangers of investigation. These dangers do not threaten only his life but of those around him; they also threaten his position and future, as he is drawn unwillingly again into the circle of the Tudor court where queens, and courtiers, often last only a short time. These are the only historical novels I have read which are truly
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Categories: Book Love.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Valediction’ by Seamus Heaney #poetry #love

The poems that touch me are those that distil a feeling, an experience, an emotion, into a simple few lines. Seamus Heaney was a master of this technique. In Valediction, from the 1966 collection Death of a Naturalist, the absence of a woman is felt keenly. It is a love poem, short and honest, longing for the return of his love. 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. ‘Valediction’ Lady, with the frilled blouse And simple tartan skirt, Since you left the house Its emptiness has hurt All thought. BUY THE BOOK Read these other excerpts and find a new poet to love:- ‘Happiness’ by Stephen Dunn ‘May-Day Song for North Oxford’ by John Betjeman ‘I Loved Her Like the Leaves’ by Kakinonoto Hitomaro And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #poem to read in the bath: ‘Valediction’ by Seamus Heaney https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4bN via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Poetry.

#BookReview ‘The Secret Commonwealth’ by @PhilipPullman

Oddly The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman feels like the first of a trilogy rather than the second in The Book of Dust. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the book but the first half is taken up with world-building and the introduction of new characters, relationships and enmities. But this is the first time we see Lyra as a young woman ten or eleven years after we left her at the end of The Amber Spyglass, so much has changed. Oxford seems more modern, Lyra is surrounded by old friends and potential new enemies and, crucially, she is not getting on with her daemon Pan. This latter fact, at first unthinkable, is the power driving the narrative. When Pan despairs of Lyra, who he thinks has changed unrecognisably, he sets out to recover the thing he fears she has lost. Her imagination. And Lyra, being Lyra, charges off in pursuit. Except she doesn’t know where Pan is going. Both are driven by love. Add to this a changing political landscape with a new generation of scholars, scientists, politicians, priests and criminals and it soon becomes clear that Lyra and Pan are separated from each other in an increasingly toxic and dangerous world. Meanwhile the farmers of roses and makers of rose oil are being
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘The Last Protector’ by Andrew Taylor @AndrewJRTaylor #Historical

Fourth in the 17th century crime series by Andrew Taylor, The Last Protector sees the return to London of Richard, Oliver Cromwell’s son, and last Protector of England before the restoration of the king in 1660. And it also heralds the central plot return of Cat Lovett. Ever since the first book in the series, I have waited for Cat to have a key role in the plot again. The story begins as James Marwood, clerk to the Under secretary of State to Lord Arlington, is sent to secretly observe a duel between two lords. Meanwhile Cat, now Mistress Hakesby and married to a frail elderly architect, meets a childhood acquaintance in the street. This is Elizabeth Cromwell, daughter of Richard. Remembering their friendship as a fleeting thing, Cat is confused by Elizabeth’s eagerness to rekindle their relationship. Until, visiting Elizabeth at her godmother’s house, she is introduced to a fellow guest John Cranmore. But a peculiar habit of tapping a finger on the table brings back memories for Cat, to the time when she and her father moved in elevated political circles, and she realizes Cranmore is a false name. Elizabeth, it becomes clear, is seeking a precious object hidden by her grandmother. The
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Categories: Book Love.