Archives for Book Love

#BookReview ‘Endless Skies’ by @JaneCable #contemporary #romance

Jane Cable writes with a great sense of place and her latest novel, Endless Skies, is set in North Lincolnshire, a place of wide horizons, mists and endless views. Her books always have an element of the supernatural and Endless Skies doesn’t disappoint, from shadowy figures in a field to the lingering scent of lily-of-the-valley. Rachel Ward, an archaeology lecturer, leaves her old job after a disastrous workplace affair and moves to Lincoln University. Living in a soulless box of a flat, she makes friends with Jem who lives on a barge moored on the nearby canal. Jem is a solid steady character and becomes a mentor, almost father-like figure for Rachel who has made bad choices in the past and seems set to repeat the pattern. Jem’s new lodger, student Ben, tempts Rachel’s newly sworn promise to foreswear men. Meanwhile she takes on a freelance contract for property developer Jonathan Daubney. As she researches her report on a prospective development site at an old wartime airbase, Rachel and Jonathan fall into an instant ‘hate’ relationship. The past is ever-present in this story which explores how what has gone before is never absent from our everyday lives, whether by actions
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Love in a Cold Climate’ by Nancy Mitford #satire #historical

A companion novel to The Pursuit of Love, Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford is a tale of a group of aristocratic families, told by narrator Fanny Wincham. Both novels are stories about other people, rather than about Fanny herself. Love in a Cold Climate is about Lady Leopoldina ‘Polly’ Hampton and, like all Mitford’s novels, there is a satire in her portrayal of the whims and foibles of the English upper class. It is like reading of a lost world though the satire in this novel is less biting than her earlier novels. Mitford does create unforgettable characters. Not Fanny who, like Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby, is something of a transparent uncomplicated observer, but Lady Montdore and Cedric are both memorable, especially when seen together. The novel finally takes off with the appearance of Cedric but there is quite a lot of background to set up before this point is reached. In a modern novel, the background would be slipped in carefully so allowing the story’s conflict to be quickly addressed. Eighteen-year old Fanny lives with relatives due to the absence of her separated parents. Among her neighbours are the Montdores of Hampton near Oxford,
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Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read… @AlexMarchant84 #books #childrensfiction

Today I’m delighted to welcome children’s author Alex Marchant. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper, first in the ‘Dark is Rising’ sequence of five books. “Although I’m generally not one for re-reading books often, when Sandra kindly invited me to contribute my Porridge and Cream book, it took only a moment’s reflection to realize what it was: Susan Cooper’s ‘Over Sea, Under Stone’. Read first when I was ten or eleven – the ideal age for it and the ‘Dark is Rising’ sequence of which it is the first book – and read every few years since, it was the novel that called strongly to me during the early days of this spring’s lockdown in response to the upsurge of Coronavirus in the UK. “Set during an idyllic summer in the mystical land of Logres (aka Cornwall), it follows the holiday adventures of the Drew children – Simon, Jane and Barney – along with borrowed red setter Rufus, as they battle the malevolent forces of ‘The Dark’ in a search for an ancient grail, aided only by a treasure map and their mysterious great-uncle Merry. As in many of her books, Cooper masterfully
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Categories: Book Love, On Writing and Porridge & Cream.

#BookReview ‘V2’ by @Robert_Harris #WW2 #thriller

Mostly written during the 2020 virus lockdown, Robert Harris’s V2 is a World War Two thriller like no other I have read – and I’ve read a few. I’ve been a Harris fan since the beginning with Fatherland. V2 is different because it tells two stories – the technical development of the V2 rockets, and five days in November 1944 when the lives of a German rocket engineer and British spy are changed by this weapon. Harris skilfully handles truth, fiction, engineering details and mathematical calculations, adding two fictional characters to create a page turning story. The V2 rocket is placed firmly at the centre of this book. Without it, there would be no story. Originally conceived by scientists as a space project, the V2 was a hateful weapon that inspired fear. Unlike its predecessor the V1 which could be seen and heard before it descended giving time to take cover, the V2 hit without warning. It was also highly unreliable, going off-target, exploding at launch, crashing at sea, killing the people who built it – slave labourers – and launch crews. The story opens as rocket engineer Dr Graf is trying to concentrate on pre-launch missile checks on the
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Categories: Book Love.

Great Opening Paragraph 128 ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them.” ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ by JD Salinger BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty’ by Sebastian Barry ‘The Slaves of Solitude’ by Patrick Hamilton ‘The Rainmaker’ by John Grisham  And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: #FirstPara THE CATCHER IN THE RYE  by JD Salinger #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4ev via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

#BookReview ‘The Woman of Substance’ by Piers Dudgeon #biography

The Woman of Substance by Piers Dudgeon is in part an authorised biography of A Woman of Substance writer Barbara Taylor Bradford, and part analysis of how Barbara’s own family history features in her books. The story of Emma Harte’s journey from Edwardian kitchen maid to globally successful businesswoman is well known. Less known perhaps are the connections with Barbara’s own family history. Connections she did not know herself. Starting with a meeting at the Bradfords’ New York apartment at which he is surrounded by the great and the famous, eating amidst the glittering décor, Dudgeon realises this is the world of the successful Emma Harte at the height of her powers. And then he tells Barbara’s story from her birth in 1933 in Upper Armley near Leeds, born not into the family of a kitchen maid like Emma Harte, but a tidy working class family who were neat and always made ends meet. Barbara is an only child and spoilt by her mother who takes her at every available opportunity to visit the Studley Royal estate where she learns this history of the house, the estate and the family. ‘My mother exposed me to lots of things,” said Barbara.
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

#BookReview ‘Summer’ by Ali Smith #SeasonalQuartet #literary

And so Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet comes full circle with Summer. What a journey these four books have been – experimental fiction at its best written in the moment at a time of political and social upheaval. Challenging, sometimes grating, often uplifting, so many of the loose threads left dangling in the first three books are reconnected in this finale. Ali Smith is a challenging author to read. You get comfortable with one story and a couple of characters who she then abandons to tell you about someone else who seems completely disconnected. At times there are passages which seem to belong to no character, where the authorial voice shows through. It can feel as if the manuscripts for two or three novels have been thrown in the air and landed randomly on your Kindle. But then, as you come close to the end of this fourth book, all the disparate stories start to connect. Read Summer, the last in Smith’s Seasonal Quartet, when your brain is in full gear otherwise you will miss so much. The story starts in Brighton with Sacha and Robert Greenlaw, teenage siblings, precocious, curious, competitive, committed and awkward. Following a trick Robert plays on his sister,
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Mercies’ by Kiran Millwood Hargrave #historical

Based on a historical event, The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave tells the story of a village on a remote island in 17th century Norway after a once-in-a-lifetime storm kills the village’s fishermen. Following the loss of their husbands, brothers and sons, Vardø becomes a settlement of women. At first they grieve then they struggle to survive without men, but survive they do. Eighteen months later a government official arrives to impose control on a female population at the edge of nowhere. He finds the women behaving in an unseemly manner, behaving as men, forsaking church and flirting with officially disapproved-of Sámi rituals. Hargrave tells the story of the women of Vardø through the viewpoints of two very different women. Maren Magnusdatter’s fiancé Dag is killed in the storm. So are her father and brother. She lives in a claustrophobic house with her elderly mother, her Sámi sister-in-law Diinna and Diinna’s son Erik. Ursula lives in Bergen with her widowed father and sister. When her father proposes a marriage match to Absalom Cornet, a Scottishman, Ursa imagines ice and darkness. She sails north with her new husband, a stranger, of whom she knows nothing. When they arrive on the island
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Transcription’ by Kate Atkinson #literary #WW2

Few of the characters in Transcription by Kate Atkinson are who they seem to be. A novel of the Second World War, Transcription suggests that the ripples of wartime secrecy spread out through the following years so that outstanding lies and betrayals are eventually repaid. Many years later. In 1940, Juliet Armstrong intends to join one of the women’s armed forces when she receives a letter on government notepaper and is summoned to an interview. After being informed by telegram that she has got the, still unspecified, job, Juliet boards a bus which takes her to Wormwood Scrubs prison, now converted into government offices. There she works in Registry, shuffling files around, until Perry Gibbons says, ‘I need a girl’ and Juliet finds herself working for Perry’s MI5 counter-fascism team at a flat in Dolphin Square. Told across two timelines, 1940 and 1950 – with a brief glimpse at 1981 in the prologue and epilogue – Transcription has a huge cast of characters, most of whom I confused and, I suspect, Atkinson wishes me to confuse. Some characters are spies with cover names, some are only described and have no name while others seem innocent, too innocent to actually be
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Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read… Pam Golden #books #timetravel

Today I’m delighted to welcome children’s author Pam Golden. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe by CS Lewis. “I know it seems a strange choice for an adult, but my Porridge and Cream book is ‘The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe’ by CS Lewis.  Given as a gift for my ninth birthday, it enchanted me.   I couldn’t put down; sitting in my bed, then reading under the covers with a torch when Mum had turned my light off. “I have read it so many times in my life, both to myself and to children in school, every time it seems fresh and still has the ability to engage me. A few years ago it gave me great comfort when I was coming back from the trauma of cancer. I read it, sitting in my bedroom, warm and cosy, tucked up under the duvet, while the wind rocked the branches of the tree outside and rain lashed the windows. The cancer gave me space in my normally busy life to nurture myself. When I need a bit of ‘me time’ this is the book I turn to. “I love it on so many
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Categories: Book Love, On Writing and Porridge & Cream.

#BookReview ‘A Daughter’s Hope’ by @MargaretKaine #saga #romance

The daughter mentioned in the title of A Daughter’s Hope by Margaret Kaine is Megan Cresswell, strictly-raised, religious, sheltered, young, dowdy. Set in the post-WW2 Potteries district around Stoke-on-Trent still suffering from continued wartime poverty and hardship, Megan is free after the death of her mother to make her own way in life. But the harsh reality of being an adult and enduring a hand-to-mouth existence soon makes her realise she must she find a husband to survive. Ever the realist, pragmatic Megan allows her friends to give her a makeover of hair, clothes and make up, before setting off to visit nearby churches on Sundays in search of a suitable husband. Along the way, Megan meets new friends and learns things about herself. As she explores the real world, she wonders why her strict father trapped her in such a narrow world and why her mother didn’t protest on her daughter’s behalf. And she begins to question whether finding a husband is her only option. As she explores beyond the geographical and social bubble in which she was raised, Megan begins to question her place in the world and to confront the puzzles of her childhood. Romance is not
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Guest List’ by @lucyfoleytweets #crime #thriller

The Guest List by Lucy Foley is a cracking crime mystery set on an isolated Irish island. The guests are there for the wedding of the year – magazine entrepreneur Jules Keegan is marrying reality TV star Will Slater. What follows is a closed room mystery recognisable from Agatha Christie novels. From the beginning you wonder, who in this group of thirty-somethings is going to be killed? Who is the killer and why? Foley expertly plays with our expectations, manipulating our first impressions of the characters as they are introduced. Old friends. Family. School days rituals. Hidden jealousies. Secret wrongs. The atmosphere on the exposed windswept island with its treacherous bogs, cliffs, caves and haunting churchyard is cranked up to full notch. We experience the weekend wedding almost hour by hour as each key character tells their own story, with the narrative chopping forwards to the present during the ceremony and reception. This switching of viewpoint and timeframe can be very sudden but it does ramp up the tension. The murder takes place quite late in the timeline making this more a psychological thriller, building up to the killing you know will happen. The basic plot questions are – how
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Distance Between Us’ by Maggie O’Farrell #contemporary

Two strangers, both with troubled personal lives, are thousands of miles apart. The Distance Between Us by Maggie O’Farrell is about Stella in London and Jake in Hong Kong and how these two people so far distant, geographically and emotionally, can come together. This novel is basically a romance with two layers of mystery intertwined. It starts at Chinese New Year when Jake is caught in a horrendous crowd crush with his girlfriend Mel and her friend Lucy. Mel is badly injured, Lucy is dead. When a doctor tells Jake that Mel will not live through the night, he agrees to her wish to marry. In London, Stella is walking home across Waterloo Bridge when she sees a solitary figure walking towards her, a red-haired man. The sight of him triggers a flight instinct and she flees home to Scotland. Not to her family in Edinburgh and Musselburgh, but to work in a remote country hotel. She avoids the telephone calls from her sister Nina. The truth behind Stella’s panic and the significance of the red-haired man is a long time coming, too long really. In Hong Kong, Mel survives and Jake travels to the UK with her to stay with
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Mum & Dad’ by Joanna Trollope #familysaga

I remember reading Joanna Trollope’s novels in the Eighties – The Choir, A Village Affair, A Passionate Man, The Rector’s Wife – and loving them. Somehow, I stopped reading her and I can’t remember why. These weren’t strictly her first novels, she’d previously published a number of historical novels under the pen name Caroline Harvey. So now I come to Mum & Dad. I devoured it in a couple of days, partly because it is set in a part of Spain I know very well, and partly because Trollope is a master storyteller. When her husband Gus has a stroke, Monica’s three children descend to their parents’ vineyard in Southern Spain. Gus and Monica have lived near Ronda for twenty-five years; it is their home, but they are distanced from their children who have children of their own, busy lives and marital tensions. The eldest Sebastian runs a cleaning company with his wife, Anna, who has never got on with her mother-in-law. Katie is a lawyer who, with husband Nic, must deal with a bombshell dropped by one of their three daughters at an inconvenient time. And Jake, with partner Bella and toddler Mouse, seems to deal lightly with the
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Testimony of Taliesin Jones’ by @Rhidianbrook #books

A small quiet book in which an eleven year old Welsh boy asks questions fundamental to life. The Testimony of Taliesin Jones by Rhidian Brook is the story of Taliesin and his questions about how God fits into his life. “At night the questions come: why am I here and not there? Why am I me and not them? Before I was me, where was I?” It is a novel about growing up, about change, uncertainty and belief, set in Cwmglum, a small rural community in West Wales. Taliesin’s father is a sheep farmer, his older brother Jonathan has recently gained a girlfriend and learned how to swear convincingly. Their mother left home last year and now lives in West Haven with Toni the hairdresser. “The events of last year linger around the rooms in petrified time. When Taliesin’s mother left, the clocks in the house all stopped. It was she who set the pendulum swinging and it was always her who turned the key of the carriage clock that ticked a furious little tick on the mantelpiece in the sitting room.” Everything that was safe and predictable in Taliesin’s life is suddenly different. And warts are growing all over his
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Glass House’ by Eve Chase #historical #mystery

This story takes place in a forest and I could smell the humus rich soil, see the ferns, hear the rustlings of small mammals and imagine the blending of shadows and sunlight. In The Glass House by Eve Chase, the mysterious happenings in a forest have ramifications across the decades. Shame, deceit, secrets and love are bound-up together in a group of people whose lives are coloured forever by what happened in the Forest of Dean in 1971. When nanny Big Rita drives her boss’s wife, Jeannie Harrington and Jeannie’s two children Hera and Freddy to their country house in the West of England, they enter a different world. Leaving behind Jeannie’s husband Walter at their sugar-white stucco house in Primrose Hill, and her own unhappy memories, Rita is cautious about the mysterious forest with its rustling noises and the feeling of being watched. She spends every hour with the children while Jeannie, recovering after the loss of a baby, spends her time in bed. And then Hera finds a baby girl abandoned in the woods. This is the catalyst for a number of things happening at once, things that upset the status quo and challenge Rita’s place in the
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Categories: Book Love.

Great Opening Paragraph 127… ‘The Road’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him. Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before. Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world. His hand rose and fell softly with each precious breath. He pushed away the plastic tarpaulin and raised himself in the stinking robes and blankets and looked toward the east for any light but there was none.” ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Affinity’ by Sarah Waters ‘The Secret History’ by Donna Tartt ‘Enduring Love’ by Ian McEwan And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: #FirstPara THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4er via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

#BookReview ‘The Rescue Man’ by Anthony Quinn #WW2 #historical

The Rescue Man, debut novel of Anthony Quinn, is slow moving tale of a man changed by war. Set in Liverpool throughout World War Two, it is clearly a love letter to the city by Liverpool-born Quinn. It focusses on a love triangle between a historian and two photographers. Tom Baines is a quiet architectural historian in his late thirties. He lives in the past, researching a book about Liverpool’s buildings which he somehow never manages to finish. In 1939, his mentor recommends he research a misunderstood Liverpool architect, Peter Eames who mysteriously committed suicide leaving his work never properly recognised. When war breaks out Baines volunteers as a rescue man, working in teams to extract people and bodies from the bombed buildings he was supposedly cataloguing for his book. This experience, and the people he works with, have a profound impact and slowly his life changes. His language coarsens, thanks to mixing with the men on his team, and in response to his publisher’s request to speed up his research of the city’s buildings before they are destroyed by bombs, he meets husband and wife photographers Richard and Bella. The romance is a long time coming and the first
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Love Child’ by Rachel Hore #historicalromance

The Love Child by Rachel Hore is not just an adoption story of birth mother and daughter, it is a story of women’s lives between the wars when shame and public expectation, not love, governed family decisions. In 1917 Alice Copeman, a 19-year old nurse, falls in love with a soldier home on leave. They expect to marry but he is killed. No one else knows of their relationship, it is wartime and everything happened so quickly. But Alice is pregnant. Mourning for Jack, Alice is forced by her father and stepmother to give the child up for adoption. In the Essex seaside town of Farthingsea, Edith and Philip Burns long for their own child. When they adopt a baby girl Irene, they expect their family to be happily complete. But Irene feels different from her parents and grows frustrated at the lies told about her birth; in particular she struggles to connect with her mother Edith and often feels rejected. At school she is bullied. At home she feels second rate to her younger brother, conceived by Edith and Philip after they adopted Irene. Things improve for Irene when she makes friends with a boy from the disreputable artistic part of town;
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Forgotten Sister’ by @NicolaCornick #historical

The Forgotten Sister by Nicola Cornick is a retelling of the Tudor love triangle of Queen Elizabeth I, Robert Dudley and Dudley’s wife Amy Robsart. The death of Amy has intrigued historians for centuries: did she fall downstairs, or was she pushed? Did her husband arrange her murder so he could marry the queen? Tudor history is mashed together with time travel and all kinds of mystical goings-on. Cornick has fun with her explanation of events, telling the story in dual timelines and mirroring Tudor characters with a contemporary circle of celebrities. At first, I found this irritating and was diverted from the story by trying to match up modern personalities with their Tudor equivalent. But when I stopped doing that, I sank into this easy-to-read story which I read over a weekend. Lizzie Kingdom is a television personality with a clean-cut image. Her best friend is Dudley Lester, wild boy and former boy band member of Call Back Summer. When Dudley’s wife Amelia falls down the stairs to her death at their country house, Oakhanger Hall, Lizzie is suspected of having an affair with Dudley. Her ‘good girl’ image is in tatters and the press is hunting her. Lizzie’s
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Categories: Book Love.