Archives for Book Love

#BookReview ‘Olive Kitteridge’ by @LizStrout #literary #contemporary

There are some books you read and as soon as you finish them, you want to go back to the beginning. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout made me feel like that. Strout’s writing style is at once beautiful and expressive, economical and un-wordy. She tells you enough detail to create the picture, not one word too many. The structure is not a linear narrative, instead Strout tells the story of Olive in a series of inter-connected stories set in the small town of Crosby, Maine, where Olive lives with husband Henry. Some stories are told from Olive’s viewpoint, others by by neighbours and people whose path crosses hers; her dry irascible tone made me smile often, but also frown. Olive can be caustic, she tells it as it is. She does not suffer fools and believes she is always correct, though recently her vision of herself has been challenged.  Living in one place for such a long time means she has left a trail through generations of friends, neighbours, shop owners, passers-by and the schoolchildren she once taught. Strout has created a realistic character who is imperfect of whom you warm to because of her faults and because she is as
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Staying Afloat’ by @SueWilsea #shortstories

Staying Afloat, the first anthology of short stories by Hull-based writer Sue Wilsea, has as its sub-text her experience teaching English in schools, colleges, prisons, libraries and community centres and this breathes life into her stories. She writes about lost children, bereaved children, struggling parents and struggling teachers with sincerity and a touch of humour. I’ve chosen three of the 19 stories in Staying Afloat. You can read more of Wilsea’s stories in her second anthology, Raw Materials. ‘Shapes. Colours’ is the story of Stephen who loves his teacher Miss Anderson dearly but avoids her gaze every morning when she points to the thermometer chart and asks how everyone is feeling today. Stephen has a Worry that started “as just a tiny spider of anxiety, scuttling around in his head at night when he couldn’t sleep.” To avoid attention in class, Stephen usually chooses yellow or orange rather than a dark colour. In ‘Two Ophelias and Me’, first published in QWF magazine, an unnamed narrator thinks of two friends, Lin and Lyndsey, who jumped off the Humber Bridge. “I like to think of their hair and clothes streaming out like twin Ophelias (the three of us went to see Hamlet
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Categories: Book Love.

Great Opening Paragraph 121… ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“He lay flat on the brown, pine-needled floor of the forest, his chin on his folded arms, and high overhead the wind blew in the tops of the pine trees. The mountainside sloped gently where he lay; but below it was steep and he could see the dark of the oiled road winding through the pass. There was a stream alongside the road and far down the pass he saw a mill beside the stream and the falling water of the dam, white in the summer sunlight.” ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ by Ernest Hemingway BUY Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Queen Camilla’ by Sue Townsend 90 ‘Sacred Hearts’ by Sarah Dunant 10 ‘Jack Maggs’ by Peter Carey 76 And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS by Ernest Hemingway #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3JG via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘The Irish Inheritance’ by MJ Lee @WriterMJLee #history #genealogy

In 1921, a British soldier is killed on a hillside outside Dublin. In 2015, former police detective Jayne Sinclair, turned genealogy investigator, takes on a new client. The Irish Inheritance by MJ Lee is the first in the Jayne Sinclair series, weaving together stories of the Easter Rising in 1916 and the subsequent Irish War of Independence, with the unravelling of secrets kept for a century. Jayne’s client, John Hughes, was adopted and raised happily in America. Now elderly, frail and dying, he is desperate to find the truth about his birth and adoption. The key piece of evidence he has kept all his life, is a book; but he doesn’t know how he came to possess it. He kept it knowing it was a link to his birth family. Jayne must dig deep into records and think outside the box to put together the threads of John’s story. Meanwhile she is having problems at home, John Hughes’s nephew is pressuring her for results, and she has the odd feeling she is being watched. The strongest part of this story is the Irish strand and the mystery increases as we see Jayne in 2015 researching one mundane document after another, and
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Categories: Book Love.

‘Ignoring Gravity’ is 5 years old today #giveaway #freebook

On November 21, 2014, I danced around the house, singing to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Why? It was publication day for Ignoring Gravity. Five years on, I’d like to celebrate with you… so I’m giving away free Ignoring Gravity ebooks. In Ignoring Gravity, book one of the Identity Detective series, Rose Haldane says, “I can’t stop searching. I might as well try and ignore gravity. I’ve found half my family. Half, fifty per cent, not a hundred per cent.” The urge to know who we are is contagious, that’s why billions around the world research their family trees. I know I am descended from farmers and fishermen. Who are you descended from? And are there any interesting skeletons in your closet? To follow Rose’s search for her own identity, click here to download your own free copy of Ignoring Gravity and sign-up for my newsletter. I’d love to know what you think of Rose and her adoption mystery. You’ll receive occasional emails from me sharing news about the ‘Identity Detective’ series, the release date of the next book ‘Sweet Joy’, special book offers I think you might like, and I’ll share some secrets about my writing. You can unsubscribe at any time. Already read Ignoring
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

#Bookreview ‘The Art of the Imperfect’ by @KateEvansAuthor #Yorkshire #crime

The Art of the Imperfect by Kate Evans starts with a murder but this mystery set in a Yorkshire seaside town is not a thriller, it is not a police procedural, it is not cosy crime; it a story about the psychology of the people concerned and the after-effects of the event. Evans is a counsellor, like her protagonist Hannah Poole, and this allows her to bring an emotional depth and understanding to her characters. This is the first in the Scarborough Mysteries series and was longlisted for the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger award in 2015. Like Emma Woodhouse, Hannah is a serial not-finisher. She has failed to finish training to be an accountant, a plumber and, twice, to be a counsellor. This is the third time she’s tried the counselling thing, and now she discovers a dead body. Her boss. A large number of characters are introduced in the first few pages, and names are littered around which I found dislocating. But I love the drawing of the Yorkshire setting, the town of Scarborough– my home town, so I am biased – the train journey to York, all done with a light hand. For example, ‘The sea is below
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Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read @JuliaThumWrites #writing #childrensfiction

Today I’m delighted to welcome children’s writer Julia Thum. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. “The story is about a beautiful valley called Moonacre that is shadowed by the tragic memory of a Moon Princess and a mysterious little white horse. When 13 year old orphan Maria Merryweather is sent to live there she finds herself involved in an ancient feud and is determined to restore peace and happiness to the whole of Moonacre Valley. “I first read this magical story when I was eleven. My father had just died and we were living on a farm in Somerset. I still remember transposing Moonacre’s fantasy world onto my own life and spending many happy hours wandering around the fields pretending to be Maria and looking for the mysterious little white horse. “I read and re-read the story all through my teens and tweens, picking it up whenever I needed a safe space. In adult life, I’ve read The Little White Horse to all my children. Now they’re teenagers, and I’m moving from writing adult to ‘middle grade’ children’s fiction, I’m re-visiting the story, looking at the form, the structure, and trying to ‘bottle’
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Categories: Book Love, On Writing and Porridge & Cream.

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

Sovereign by CJ Sansom is third in the Matthew Shardlake series and the best so far. Taking true events –Henry VIII’s Royal Progress to York in 1541, the northern rebellion against the crown and the rumours of Queen Catherine’s infidelity – Sansom writes a complex story of rebels, betrayal, bastards and inheritance that keeps one more page turning. Lawyer Shardlake is in York at the bequest of Archbishop Cranmer ostensibly to present legal petitions to the King, but he also has a secret task. To watch over the welfare of a Yorkist prisoner, ensuring the man is kept alive and able to be interrogated in London. Shardlake agrees reluctantly, aware he will be keeping alive a man destined for torture and the rack. But a series of odd events make him question his role in York and whether his life is in danger. This is a densely plotted novel with many clues and dead ends as Shardlake tries to find answers – to the murder of a local glazier removing glass from church windows, to an old legend about royal succession, to the connivings and hidden intentions of some of the ladies employed by the Queen, and why an old enemy
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Half of the Human Race’ by Anthony Quinn #WW1 #suffragette

Half of the Human Race by Anthony Quinn is a gem of a novel, one to keep and re-read. The front cover illustration suggests it is another Great War love story, but it is so much more than that. In fact the warfare occupies only a hundred or so pages. Rather, it is a character study of England before the war, of suffragettes and cricketers, of a different time, when the demands put on love were extreme. A new king is being crowned and the protestations of votes for women are taking a violent turn. Set against this background in 1911, we meet the key characters at a cricket match. Connie Calloway is a former medical student who now works in a bookshop after her father’s suicide left her family poorer than they expected to be. Will Maitland is a young county cricketer rubbing shoulders with the great ‘Tam’, AE Tamburlain, as popular as WG Grace. A flicker of attraction carries the pair throughout this story as both consider questions of loyalty and belief and where love fits into the mix. When the ageing Tam’s place in the M−Shire team is threatened, Will must consider whether to support his friend
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Snakes’ by Sadie Jones #thriller #suspense

Bea and Dan come from completely different places. He is a mixed race boy from Peckham, South London, trying to make it as an artist but working as an estate agent. She is the daughter of parents with multiple homes, multiple cars, who travel in private jets and stay in luxurious hotels. Dan knows Bea dislikes her parents and their wealth, and applauds Bea’s decision to live an ordinary life with him in a scruffy flat. But Bea hasn’t been honest with him, she is an heiress to billions. Welcome to the Adamson family in The Snakes by Sadie Jones. Billed as a psychological thriller, to me The Snakes is more a story of 360° snobbishness where characters make assumptions about the lives of others based on prejudice; it is about greed and excessive consumption; moral superiority in all quarters, a conviction of being right; racism; and unfamiliar police procedures, all wrapped up in the story of a seriously messed up family. The setting in rural France is beautifully written. One of the best, creepiest scenes is early on when Bea walks alone across the fields in the summer heat and takes a dip in a nearby stream. This early action
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Categories: Book Love.

First Edition ‘Lord Jim’ by Joseph Conrad #oldbooks #bookcovers

Born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski on December 3, 1857 in Stolen Lands, Ukraine [then part of the Russian Empire, but once part of Poland] Joseph Conrad finally setted in England after living in Poland and France. On July 2,1886 he applied for British nationality, which was granted on August 19, 1886.Lord Jim was first published in the UK in 1900 by William Blackwood & Sons, having being serialised the previous year in ‘Blackwood’s Magazine’. There are many literary and film references to the novel. ‘Lord Jim’ is the name of a boat, and subsequently the nickname of the boat’s owner, Richard Blake, in Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald, winner of the Booker Prize in 1979. Read my review of Offshore. In 1998, Lord Jim appeared at number 85 in American publisher Modern Library’s list of the One Hundred Best English Language Novels in the 20thCentury. The current Penguin Classics edition [above] dates from 2007. BUY The story An English boy in a simple town has dreams bigger than the outdoors and embarks at an early age into the sailor’s life. The waters he travels reward him with the ability to explore the human spirit, while Conrad launches the story into both an
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Tuscan Secret’ by Angela Petch @Angela_Petch #WW2 #romance

The Tuscan Secret by Angela Petch is one of those books that is difficult to define. Is it a romance; partly. Is it historical; yes if World War Two counts as historical. Is it a page turner; for me, not quite. The heart of this novel lies in its Italian setting. The author lives part of the year in Tuscany and it really shows. From the descriptions of the countryside to the food and customs, The Tuscan Secret is totally believable. The deserted village of Montebotelino is real, I recommend watching the author’s short video on her Amazon page. Two women – Ines, her daughter Anna – share tangled family histories. Ines has recently died and leaves to Anna some money and a box of diaries. Written in Italian, Anna cannot decipher the diaries so decides to leave behind her own unsatisfactory love life and use her mother’s money to travel to Rofelle in Tuscany. Why did Ines leave idyllic Roffele, what secrets did she write in the diaries, and how did she come to marry an Englishman. This is a dual timeline story which switches back and forth between mother and daughter. Anna arrives in Rofelle where she moves into
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Categories: Book Love.

Great Opening Paragraph 120… ‘The Pursuit of Love’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“There is a photograph in existence of Aunt Sadie and her six children sitting round the tea-table at Alconleigh. The table is situated, as it was, is now, and ever shall be, in the hall, in front of a huge open fire of logs. Over the chimney-piece plainly visible in the photograph hangs an entrenching tool, with which, in 1915, Uncle Matthew had whacked to death eight Germans one by one as they crawled out of a dug-out. It is still covered with blood and hairs, an object of fascination to us as children. In the photograph Aunt Sadie’s face, always beautiful, appears strangely round, her hair strangely fluffy, and her clothes strangely dowdy, but it is unmistakably she who sits there with Robin, in oceans of lace, lolling in on knee. She seems uncertain what to do with his head, and the presence of Nanny waiting to take him away is felt though not seen. The other children, between Louisa’s eleven and Matt’s two years, sit around the table in party dresses or frilly bibs, holding cups or mugs according to age, all of them gazing at the camera with large eyes opened wide by the flash, and all
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Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read Susanna Beard @SusannaBeard25 #books #Pooh

Today I’m delighted to welcome psychological crime writer Susanna Beard. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Winnie-the-Pooh by AA Milne. “I first read this collection of stories in 1972 when I was an A-level English student at Pate’s Grammar School in Cheltenham. Our wonderful English teacher, Miss Smith – probably the only teacher in our school who inspired me — would read from it at the end of term. We would have worked hard during the term, finished our homework and our exams, and would be looking forward to the holidays. I came to see this book as the ultimate way to wind down. “Whenever things seem overwhelming and difficult, I pick up this book and dip into the world of Christopher Robin, Pooh et al. I’m transported into their kind, friendly, uncomplicated lives and live for a short time in the Hundred Acre Wood with them, observing nature and enjoying the company of friends. AA Milne writes with humour, compassion and simplicity, yet the stories are so insightful and the messages universal. “I’m drawn to this book by the memory of my teacher sitting on one of our desks in front of the class, her feet on the chair,
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

#Bookreview ‘The Butterfly Room’ by Lucinda Riley @lucindariley #romance #suspense

The latest family saga from Lucinda Riley sweeps from Southwold in Suffolk to Bodmin Moor, London to Cambridge, carrying with it the tangled secrets of three generations. The Butterfly Room is a big book, 640 pages, but I didn’t notice. This is so much more than a romance, though there is love – and betrayal – in its pages; at the centre of it all is Admiral House in Southwold, the home of the Montague family. The book opens in 1944 as Posy Montague catches butterflies with her Spitfire pilot father, just before he returns to the airforce for the last few months of the war. I actually found this a stuttering start, the first person voice of a seven-year old is difficult to pull off convincingly, even if she is bookish and described as ‘precocious’… a sharp, intelligent child, but one who doesn’t understand the behaviour of adults around her. In fact this first chapter is something of a prologue, setting up behaviour which rattles through the following generations. The story really took off for me when the 2006 strands start – Posy, now seventy; son Nick and girlfriend Tammy; daughter-in-law Amy; old friend Freddie and novelist lodger Sebastian.
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Akin’ by Emma Donoghue @EDonoghueWriter #literary #WW2

Noah Selvaggio, a widower and retired chemistry professor, is about to leave New York for Nice, France, on an 80th birthday trip to discover his childhood roots. He expects to travel alone. Except in Akin by Emma Donoghue, Noah finds himself in temporary charge of his 11-year old great nephew Michael. The trip to Nice goes ahead, the old man and the boy learn new things about themselves, each other, and about the world. This is effectively a road trip in a book, more of a ‘holiday trip’. The unlikely travelling companions are quite sparky, irritating each other, each reacting wildly to the other’s strange cultural habits. Donoghue does an excellent job with the Nice setting, effortlessly bringing it alive; the gardens, the architecture, the food, the carnival, the French themselves. I loved the grumpiness that both characters demonstrate. Michael’s weary ‘dude’ when Noah tries to educate him about something – ‘it’s a selfie, dude’, ‘eyebleach, dude’; Noah’s repeated requests that Michael eat a proper meal that includes vegetables. Any adult who is not natural with children and who has spent uncomfortable time with an awkward teenager, will identify with Noah’s dilemma. Michael can be gentle, inquisitive, cocky, snide, exhausting and infuriating.
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Categories: Book Love.

#WritersLife Jane Davis @janedavisauthor #writingcompetitions

The last time I saw Jane Davis was at the London Book Fair 2019 at 9am in the morning when she was standing on a stage talking about her eighth novel, a finalist in The Selfies. Later the same day, Smash all the Windows won the inaugural award. The Selfies is unusual in that while only novels by indie authors are eligible, the announcement took places at the UK’s major traditional publishing event. So Jane is a trailblazer. I asked her to share with us her journey with Smash all the Windows and her experience of writing competitions. “London Book Fair 2018 provided an excellent venue for the launch of Smash all the Windows. It was a high-concept (and potentially high-risk) novel, in which I created a fictional disaster to explore my outrage at the reaction of the press to the verdict of the Hillsborough second inquest. “It has taken conviction to right the wrongs. It will take courage to learn how to live again. For the families of the victims of the St Botolph and Old Billingsgate disaster, the undoing of a miscarriage of justice should be a cause for rejoicing. For more than thirteen years, the search for truth has eaten
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

#BookReview ‘My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You’ by Louisa Young @rileypurefoy #WW1

This is a Great War story of love/war, of duty/self-sacrifice, of denial of the truth and fear of change, of physical/mental scars. At the centre of the story is a lie told to protect. In My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young, Riley Purefoy and Nadine Waveney, children from different classes, meet in a London park. When war is declared, knowing the gulf in their backgrounds prevents them from marrying, Riley volunteers and goes off to war. In the trenches he meets commanding officer, Peter Locke, whose wife Julia and cousin Rose remain at home in Kent throughout the war. This is the story of these five people. The first half of the book is a long set-up for the second half, when the interesting stuff begins. I made myself continue reading through the first half, and raced through the second. We see Riley and Nadine meeting, Riley’s transition from boy to teenager, his introduction to a new world. Nadine’s father is a famous conductor; their friends include musicians, writers and artists. He is taken under the wing of artist Sir Alfred who introduces him to art and music; good-looking Riley becomes a model for Sir Alfred
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘A Single Thread’ by @Tracy_Chevalier #historical #literary

Winchester in 1932 is the setting for Tracy Chevalier’s latest novel, A Single Thread. Chevalier is the most reliable novelist I know, time and again she writes books I grow to love and to re-read. She is the true example of an iceberg novelist. The depth and detail of her research is invisible, hidden below the surface of the written word, but it is there nonetheless informing every sentence so the reader is confident that the description of various embroidery stitches is accurate. Chevalier has written about fossil hunters, weavers, runaway slaves, orchardists and a famous Dutch painter. In A Single Thread the story involves Winchester Cathedral, bell ringing and embroidery. Violet Speedwell escapes her mother’s house in Southampton by getting a transfer to work in the Winchester office. Her mother is an emotional bully and Violet is desperate to get away, but not expecting it to be quite so difficult to survive alone on a typist’s salary. Lonely, desperate to make a success of her move, Violet looks for something to occupy her time so she does not have to sit with the other spinsters in the drawing room of her boarding house. One day she steps into the cathedral
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘The Confessions of Frannie Langton’ by Sara Collins #historical

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins tells the story of a Jamaican woman enslaved as a child, exploited by two men and subsequently accused of murder in Georgian London. I am left with the feeling that this debut, though full of lush description and a distinctive heroine, is an ambitious story that would benefit from being given some air to breathe. Frances Langton, house-slave at Paradise, a Jamaica sugar cane plantation. Frances Langton, housemaid in the home of a London scholar. Frances Langton, the mulatto murderess. Which is the real Frannie? A woman born into slavery in Jamaica then transported to London and gifted to another master, in each place she is studied and manipulated by two men who cannot agree on the pigment of negro skin, the intellectual capacity of blacks and whether they can be educated. There are hints about things that happened to Frannie in her past, things that she did to others – leading I think to the description of the book as ‘gothic’ – some of which are explained by the end, some of which remained vague to me. This is Frannie’s story, told in her voice, written as she waits in gaol for
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Categories: Book Love.