Monthly Archives June 2020

Great Opening Paragraph 126… ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ by Charles Dickens BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’ by John Boyne  ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison  ‘1984’ by George Orwell  And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: #FirstPara A TALE OF TWO CITIES by Charles Dickens #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4ej via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

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

The Matthew Shardlake series by CJ Sansom continues to get better. Heartstone, the penultimate book of the six, involves a puzzle which kept me guessing until the reveal. Despite Shardlake vowing to take a back seat from Royal intrigues, the Tudor lawyer/detective is pulled into a case at the behest of Queen Catherine Parr. This is a great series to lose yourself in. A tutor, son of one of the Queen’s staff, has alleged an injustice done against a former pupil, Hugh Curteys, by the Hobbey family who adopted Hugh and his sister Emma after the death of their parents. This complaint takes Shardlake before the Court of Wards, not Shardlake’s natural territory, where the lives and rights of orphaned minors are protected. In truth, it is rife with fraud and abuse and the case brings Shardlake face-to-face with old and new enemies. A journey into Hampshire at the time King Henry VIII is mobilising his army and navy south to oppose the expected invasion by the French, is ill-advised. Normal life is suspended as Henry distributes new coinage, devalued to pay for his war, and men are conscripted in the fields and the streets. But Shardlake, as ever driven
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘The Sun Sister’ by Lucinda Riley @lucindariley #mystery

Electra, the youngest d’Aplièse sister in the Seven Sisters series of adoption mysteries by Lucinda Riley, has always seemed the most explosive personality of the siblings. And so The Sun Sister, sixth in the series and the one dedicated to telling the story of Electra’s family history, is explosive too. It’s a 5* read and a long one, 850 pages, as Riley digs deep into Electra’s African origins and the drug epidemic of today’s world. Supermodel Electra seems to have it all, fame, beauty, money, rock star boyfriend, a glamorous lifestyle in Manhattan. But she also has a drink and drug habit. Her behaviour is erratic, obsessive, selfish and angry, made worse by the sudden death of her adoptive father Pa Salt and being ditched by her boyfriend Mitch. Cutting herself off from friends and family, Electra is spiralling downwards when she receives a letter from a strange woman claiming to be her grandmother. The Sun Sister tells the story of Electra’s life now in New York 2008, interleaved with that of Cecily Huntley-Morgan, daughter of a fine New York family who, in 1938, has just been jilted by her fiance. Taking up the invitation of her glamorous and eccentric
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Animals at Lockwood Manor’ by @Healey_Jane #mystery #WW2

As soon as I read the premise of The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey, I was intrigued. It is 1939, war is declared, and a decision is taken to move the exhibits from the Natural History Museum to safety. Hetty Cartwright is charged with moving the mammal collection to a country house where they, and she, will stay for the duration of the war. Lockwood Manor is one of those atmospheric houses in literature that will stay with you after you read it. Crumbling, dusty and dirty, it has rats and secret rooms, ghost stories and scandal. It is an extra character in this story and in fact has a clearer presence than some of the peripheral characters who perhaps could have been deleted. Hetty arrives with her cargo of taxidermy animals in display cases plus catalogues and samples to find a mixed welcome from the manor’s servants who see the new arrivals as extra work. The irascible lord of the manor welcomes them then disappears, he is seen briefly at mealtimes and when ushering his latest girlfriend from the house. At first Hetty, charged with the care of the mammals, is kept busy arranging, cleaning and organising.
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Redhead by the Side of the Road’ by Anne Tyler #literary

Anne Tyler is one of my favourite writers, so elegantly understated, so spot-on with her characters. Her latest Redhead by the Side of the Road is slim, at 180 pages, but a delight. Why? Because she writes about what it is like to be human, the everyday things, the ticks, the habits, the way we are and the subtle ways we change. Hers are not plot-driven page-turning books, they are thoughtful portraits of people who seem to be like us – they chop vegetables and mop the kitchen floor, like Micah Mortimer, an unmarried 44 year old self-employed IT specialist and janitor of his apartment block. His family teases him about his finicky household habits and he accepts the teasing with good grace. He is infinitely patient with his elderly clients, going round to reboot computers and routers. No scene is wasted in this novella. I particularly loved Micah’s visit to new client Rosalie Hayes who has inherited a house, and computer, from her grandmother. Rosalie cannot find her grandmother’s passwords and is tearing her hair out. This is how we see Micah’s world, through his interactions with neighbours, family, clients, girlfriend Cass and a stranger who turns up on
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Letter’ by @KHughesAuthor #mystery #adoption

The idea for The Letter by Kathryn Hughes is enticing; the lives of two women, forty years apart, linked by a letter found in the pocket of an overcoat at a charity shop. What follows is a dual storyline – about an abused wife and her road to freedom, and a young woman in love for the first time as war breaks out. This is a story about two couples. In 1974, Tina Craig works in an office during the week and on Saturdays she volunteers at a charity shop to get out of the house, away from her abusive husband Rick. Staying, though she knows she must leave, Tina listens to the advice of friends but continues to excuse and forgive Rick’s behaviour. Until a mysterious letter found in the pocket of coat sets her off on the trail of the people involved. The letter is sealed and stamped but never posted. Why. When she opens and reads the letter she starts to think about Billy, who wrote the letter in 1939 as war broke out, and about Chrissie, the woman who never received his letter. In the summer of 1939, Chrissie and Billy fall in love in the
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Lost Lights of St Kilda’ by Elisabeth Gifford #historical

Told in two timelines, 1927 and 1940, this a story of love – between two people, and for an island and an endangered way of life. In The Lost Lights of St Kilda by Elisabeth Gifford, the beautiful yet harsh landscape of the island is made vividly alive. This is a delight to read, a novel about love, trust, betrayal and forgiveness. In 1940 Fred Lawson, a Scottish soldier from the 51st Highland Division, is imprisoned at Tournai, captured at St Valery in retreat as other soldiers were being evacuated at Dunkirk. Through the darkest moments of fighting, his memories of St Kilda sustain him. ‘It was your face that had stayed with me as we fought in France. It was you who’d sustained me when we were hungry and without sleep for nights as we fought the retreating action back towards the Normandy coast.’ Fred escapes and heads for Spain, forced to trust strangers, not knowing who is a friend and who is an informer, but drawn on by his memories of St Kilda. At the same moment in Scotland, a teenage daughter longs to know more of her birth. Says Rachel Anne, ‘My mother says I am her
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The House on the Shore’ by @VictoriaHoward_ #romance

The House on the Shore by Victoria Howard starts off seeming to be a conventional romance and turns into a satisfying suspense story set in a beautiful, remote Western Scottish loch. The remoteness is central to the plot. After a love affair turns sour, Anna MacDonald leaves Edinburgh for her remote croft, once her grandmother’s, beside Loch Hourn in the Western Highlands. She longs for peace and quiet to write her book. Tigh na Cladach, a two bedroom cottage alone at the end of a twelve mile track, is her bolt hole where she hopes to nurse her injured pride and heart. When she arrives, an unknown yacht is anchored in the bay. On board is a rather handsome American sailor, stranded as he waits for a part to repair his engine. A combative relationship develops between the two; Anna resents the intrusion of Luke Tallantyre but is driven to help by the local community spirit; Luke bridles at the prickly, aggressive woman he must rely on for help. Meanwhile, Alistair Grant, heir to the Killilan Estate which borders Anna’s land, and who was a teenage friend of hers, returns from his life of luxury in the South of France to run the estate. But
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Categories: Book Love.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Invictus’ by WE Henley #poetry #courage

William Ernest Henley began to write poetry at the age of twelve, when he was confined to his hospital bed following the amputation of his leg. Best known for Invictus, Henley continued to write poetry on the theme of inner strength and perseverance. Please search for the full poem in an anthology or at your local library. ‘Invictus’ Out of the night that covers me, Black as the Pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul.   In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeoning of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed. Listen to Dana Ivey read Invictus at The Poetry Foundation. BUY THE BOOK Most quoted is the line from Invictus, “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul” which has inspired much popular culture. Nelson Mandela read the poem to his fellow inmates at Robben Island prison, as portrayed in the Clint Eastwood film, Invictus. BUY THE DVD Read these other excerpts and find a new poet to love:- ‘A thousand years, you said’ by Lady Heguri ‘Winter Song’ by Wilfred Owen ‘Not Waving but Drowning’
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Categories: Poetry.

#FlashPic 46 Tap Going Two ways #writingprompt #amwriting

Two families live side by side, cheek by jowl. They must share one tap for all their water. In this exercise, the challenge is to take a basic unexciting situation then make it dramatic by adding a mixture of character, confrontation and threat. This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. First decide the setting of your tap. Perhaps it is a tap at a domestic house which, during a drought and water shortage, must be shared. Perhaps it is a water pump in a remote village. Imagine the place, the time, the century, and the circumstances requiring the sharing of water. Consider the practical difficulties, the emotional consequences. Is the water supply constant, or intermittent. Why is the water supply under threat. Now add your two families. Concentrate on two main characters but sketch out two other family members so you have the option of using them to add tension or balm to the situation. What key emotions and experiences sum up the relationship of your two protagonists? Have they met before, or are they strangers. Resentment. Community spirit. Jealousy. Pedantry. Hatred. Isolation. Shyness. Admiration. Suspicion. Pragmatism. Attraction. Decide the specific water needs of each family. Now put your
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.