Monthly Archives December 2021

#BookReview ‘The Rose Garden’ by @AuthorTracyRees #historical

I just loved The Rose Garden by Tracy Rees. The characters start off isolated from each other and are gradually threaded together as their separate challenges and crises become interlinked. When I finished it, I wanted to start reading it all over again. The Rose Garden is the story of Mabs, Ottie, Olive and Abigail. Four completely different women who live near Hampstead Heath as the 20th century approaches. It is a time of societal and family change when women are beginning to show strength in changing their lives but when traditional barriers erected by male society and assumptions still remain. Mark is eighteen and works in the Regent’s Canal, moving huge lumps of ice from underground storage up to the fresh air. It is a dark, dangerous job. But Mark is really Mabs Daley, working to support her brothers and sisters and Pa, who hasn’t worked since being widowed. The family lives in one room, dirty and dishevelled, but with an underlying spirit that Mabs fears won’t last much longer. Things change when she hears of a job as a lady’s companion at a house on nearby Hampstead Heath. Mabs is full of hope and plans that at last she’ll
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Categories: Book Love.

#FlashPIC #58 Abandoned Car Park #writingprompt #amwriting

In every city and town there is an abandoned corner of ground, home only to weeds, rubbish and foxes. Take this setting and make something happen here. This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. Explore the atmosphere of this plot, isolated in a busy place, surrounded by roads and railway, as people live their daily lives nearby, the city juxtaposition of wealth/dereliction. Consider how the mood of the place changes – from winter to summer, daytime to night-time. Is it forgotten by the local community? What used to be here and why is it abandoned? What differences are there if you consider this setting first in black and white, and separately in colour. What changes? How is the mood affected? Does this affect the tone of your planned story? © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Will it Hurt  Tap Going Two Ways Beware Danger from High Tides Beyond 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 novel, or indeed anything to do with your novel, but they will be words to fill that intimidating blank
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Categories: Writers' BLOCKbusters and Writing exercises.

#BookReview ‘The Rose Code’ by @KateQuinnAuthor #WW2 #Bletchley

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn is the first book I’ve read by this author. I was drawn in by the WW2 setting and promise of mystery, but it’s much more than that. There are two timelines; 1947 as the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth approaches, and 1939 at the outbreak of war. At its centre are three young women who don’t quite fit into their worlds. War introduces something new to their lives. Opportunity. Advancement. Recognition. Friendship. Home. Mabs has grown up in Shoreditch but longs to escape. She follows her own plan of improvement – reading the classics, copying the accents of assistants in upper class shops – with the long-term aim of rescuing her younger sister Lucy from poverty. Osla is a Canadian society girl, rich, pretty, labelled as a dim deb who trains as a riveter to make Hurricanes. Both have mysterious interviews and are sent on a train journey to ‘Station X’. This turns out to be a large country mansion – Bletchley Park – where secret war work is undertaken. Both must sign the Official Secrets Act before they are admitted. At their lodgings, they meet Beth, downtrodden daughter of their strict religious landlady
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘A Beautiful Spy’ by @Rachelhore #WW2 #spies

Rachel Hore is one of my favourite go-to authors when I want well-written, thoughtful escapism. Her latest is A Beautiful Spy, a pre-Second World War spy story based on a real case involving the infiltration of a communist spy cell. At a garden party in the summer of 1928, Minnie Gray is bored. She’s there with her mother who is trying to fix up her up with another young man, when she notices a striking young woman. When the enigmatic Miss Pyle asks if Minnie would consider working for the government, Minnie recognises a chance to escape her mother’s suffocating attention and her boring job at the Automobile Association. Minnie meets Captain Max Knight, ‘M’, and is recruited as a member of British Intelligence’s M Section with the code name M/12. She moves to London, finds a flat and a part-time secretarial job. Her first task is to attend meetings of the local Friends of the Soviet Union group and volunteer to help. Her new life must be kept a secret from her Tory-supporting family and boyfriend, Raymond. What follows is Minnie’s progressive immersion in the British Communist Party. Always a self-reliant person, Minnie begins to struggle with the secrecy. Feeling
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Big Sky’ by Kate Atkinson #crime #Yorkshire

I hesitate to express some disappointment with Big Sky, the fifth Jackson Brodie instalment by Kate Atkinson, but the feeling grew as I read deeper into the book. I realize this disappointment is based on my incredibly, probably infeasibly high expectations of this author. I have loved Jackson since his first outing in Case Histories. The darkly comic tone is the same in Big Sky but I struggle to pin down what is different this time. The crime is sex trafficking. The action is told through a wide variety of viewpoints. The cast list is very long and the tying up of ends involves characters I had long ceased to remember. Some of the ends were tied up quickly in the last thirty or so pages. There are still many things to love. The Yorkshire Coast setting – Atkinson was born in York and clearly knows the area well – is at times both realistically beautiful and sordid. And there are so many rough diamond characters to spend time with: Crystal Holroyd; her stepson Harry; the wonderfully named drag queen Bunny Hops, Harry’s co-worker at the Palace Theatre; and the inept Vince Ives. Jackson has moved to the coast and
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Crossing the Lines’ by Amanda Huggins @troutiemcfish

I read Crossing the Lines, the new novella by Amanda Huggins – whose previous book won the 2021 Saboteur Award for Best Novella – in one sitting. Based on Red, Huggins’ runner-up in the 2018 Costa Short Story Award, this is the fuller story of runaway Mollie and her dog, Hal. Fifteen-year old Mollie grows up on the New Jersey shoreline at Atlantic City but when her mother moves to boyfriend Sherman Rook’s home five states away in the west, Mollie goes too. She hasn’t even arrived at Oakridge Farm when she knows she’s made a mistake, and that her mother has too. At her new home she makes one friend, a stray dog. Then after weeks on edge waiting every night for the sinister Rook to stumble in from the bar and rattle the locked door of her bedroom, Mollie hears a gunshot in the henhouse and sees the body of a dead dog. She grabs $20, a road map and a sweater and sneaks out of the house. When she sees Rook’s pick-up with the keys in the ignition, she takes that too. This is a road trip back east as Mollie faces situations and people unknown, strange,
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘A Town Called Solace’ by Mary Lawson #literary #smalltown

My favourite book of the year so far is also the discovery of a new author to love. A Town Called Solace is the fourth novel by Mary Lawson. The previous three have been nominated for, and won, many awards and much acclaim. I’m not sure how I have overlooked her but I’m now planning to catch-up. Such a quiet book with a powerful emotional punch, the story is set in a solitary lakeside town in northern Canada in 1972. It is a story of mistakes made and paid for, longed-for recompenses, the complexities of child/parent relationships and how things can so easily go wrong. Most of all it is about deep love, understanding and forgiveness. Told through the experiences of three people – eight-year old Clara, widow Elizabeth who is seriously ill in hospital, and Liam who appears one day and moves into the house next door to Clara’s family. Clara has a key to Mrs Orchard’s house next door so she can feed the shy cat Moses and spend time playing with him so he won’t be bored alone. Clara prefers this to being at home because her older sister Rose has run away and her parents aren’t
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Categories: Book Love.