Archives for 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.

Famous #writers, writing… @jk_rowling

This is a typical writer’s scene. Laptop. Coffee. Intense concentration. Notebooks. Stack of reference books. JK Rowling appears to be writing in a hotel room [my assessment based on the hotel-style lamp and glossy table top]. Is she writing about wizards, or a private detective? I have a feeling she may be writing about Harry, rather than in her later guise as Robert Galbraith.   ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ by Robert Galbraith BUY See these other writers, writing:- Rose Tremain Zadie Smith John Updike And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous #writers, writing… is @jk_rowling writing about a wizard or a private detective? #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3B1 via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great Opening Paragraph 119… ‘Peter Pan’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up. And the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, ‘Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!” This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.” ‘Peter Pan’ by JM Barrie Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘A Month in the Country’ by JL Carr  ‘These Foolish Things’ by Deborah Moggach  ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ by Thomas Hardy  And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: PETER PAN by JM Barrie #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3Jw via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Long View’ by Elizabeth Jane Howard #literary #marriage

The Long View by Elizabeth Jane Howard is not so much a ‘what happens next’ novel as ‘what has happened in the past to lead to this situation’ story. It is a novel about choices and where they can lead. Howard tells the story, backwards from 1950 to 1926, of the marriage of Antonia and Conrad Fleming. As the story starts, the marriage seems doomed and you cannot help but wonder how these two people ever got married in the first place. In fact, once I finished it I was tempted to read it again from back to front. The first paragraph is a masterful example of scene setting. It opens with a dinner party to celebrate the engagement of Julian Fleming to June, who has secretly spent the afternoon alone at the cinema. As Antonia considers the complicated marital affairs of her son – and her daughter, Deirdre, who is pregnant by a man who does not love her – I wondered how her own marriage must have shaped her children’s handling of relationships and how hers, in turn, was shaped by her parents. I found Conrad an almost totally unsympathetic character, indeed in the first part he is
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Categories: Book Love.

#WritersLife Author Interview with @wendy_percival #mystery #books

Rummaging around in her family history and finding a couple of skeletons was the inspiration for Wendy Percival to start writing her Esme Quentin series of historical mysteries. If you’re new to Esme’s books, read here how she creates her unique stories, historical inspiration, and more about those dodgy relatives. And don’t miss Wendy’s special offer of a FREE ebook novella – a prequel to the series, Legacy of Guilt. More about that below. What was the first spark for the character of Esme Quentin? Is there a part of you in her? The idea for Esme grew as I was taking my first steps in family history research. After stumbling upon a couple of family skeletons, I realised how little most of us know about our family history and my writer’s brain started plotting. My initial thought was that the protagonist solving the mystery would be a sort of genealogical Miss Marple. But at the time I came to write the book, there was a push for more protagonists to be women in their forties. I really liked that principle, so Esme developed from there. As to whether there’s a part of me in her… some would say we share a
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Those Who Are Loved’ by @VicHislop #Greece #historical

Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop is the story of Themis Koralis from 1930 to 2016. Set in Greece it tells the troubled history of the country through the Second World War, occupation, Civil War and military dictatorship. They are harsh years; the country, its people and families are divided by beliefs, poverty and wealth. It is a long book, 496 pages, and a lot of history is covered. Themis has two brothers – Panos and Thanasis – and a sister, Margarita; they live with their grandmother in the Athens district of Patissia. Their father is a merchant seaman and hardly comes home, their mother Eleftheria is in a psychiatric hospital; both appear briefly. Central to the home is Kyría Koralis. I enjoyed the descriptions of these early years in the apartment, the meals, the squabbling teenagers, Themis and her friendship with Fotini. But political beliefs are dividing the country and as the arguments grow in the Koralis apartment, they also divide the siblings. The divisions only get worse under German occupation, leading Panos and Themis to support the communists in the fight against the Nazis. Thanasis however becomes a policeman. Margarita, working in a dress shop, is secretly in
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Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read Lexi Rees @lexi_rees #books #children

Today I’m delighted to welcome children’s author Lexi Rees. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. “Thanks so much for inviting me to share my Porridge and Cream book. I actually have a special bookcase for my ‘permanent collection’ – the books I go back to over and over again – and it’s hard to narrow it down to just one but, for a pure comfort read, I’m going to go with Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I’m sure you know it: “So long, and thanks for all the fish” etc; but in a nutshell, Arthur Dent, in his dressing gown, gets whisked onto a spaceship when Earth is demolished for a hyperspace bypass.” “I vividly recall stumbling across the radio series on my way home from school one day in the 1980s. My dad and I sat in the car outside the house laughing our heads off so it has happy family memories, and it still makes me laugh. I listened to the rest of the series on the radio, then got a copy from the library. My own copy is from 1992. By the way, I also love the
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

#BookReview ‘Friends in Low Places’ by Simon Raven #Historical #Literary

Friends in Low Places by Simon Raven, second in the ‘Alms for Oblivion’ series, starts in April 1959 with an old character and a new. Widow Angela Tuck has taken up with a sleazy con man. Mark Lewson, who steals from Angela and then loses her money at the casino, is a loathsome character and she can’t wait to be rid of him. Rippling throughout the novel is the seemingly impossible plan hatched by Angela’s gambler friend to help her. He charges Lewson with buying or stealing a letter that incriminates the British Government in a scandal concerning Suez. This is an enjoyable read about a bunch of charlatans and is a window on the behavior of a group of the English upper class in the Sixties, when the reverberations of the Suez Crisis continued to ripple throughout society. At the heart is the manipulation by everyone concerned during the selection process by the local Tory party to choose its parliamentary candidate for Bishop’s Cross. When the mysterious letter about the Suez scandal becomes available, a chase is on to first, possess the letter; and second, to use it as a bargaining chip for the candidature. The Suez errors are never
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Categories: Book Love.

First Edition: ‘Five on a Treasure Island’ by Enid Blyton #oldbooks #bookcovers

In the midst of World War Two, Enid Blyton [below] continued writing. The first of her Famous Five series, Five on a Treasure Island, was published on September 11, 1942, in London by Hodder & Stoughton [below]. Next in the series was Five Go Adventuring Again, published in 1943. Illustrator of the first edition was Eileen A Soper, who illustrated her own books and those for Elisabeth Gould as well as Blyton. Her series of designs of children and animals were used for a china series by Paragon China in the 1930s. The current Hodder Children’s edition [above] dates from 2017. BUY The story Three children – Julian, Dick and Anne – spend their summer holidays with their Aunt and Uncle at Kirrin Cottage, in the village of Kirrin. There they meet their tomboy cousin Georgina, who prefers to be called George, and George’s dog Timmy. And so they become five. Exploring the nearby Kirrin Island, a storm descends and stirs up an old shipwreck from beneath the waves. Exploring the wreck, the five find a treasure map in a box and decide to find the gold. But when Uncle Quentin sells the box to an antique dealer, he wants the
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Bright Center of Heaven’ by William Maxwell #literary

This is the first novel by William Maxwell, author of Pulitzer finalist So Long, See You Tomorrow and fiction editor of The New Yorker magazine. He was there from 1936-1975 and worked with Cheever, Updike, Salinger and Nabokov, among others. Not a novel published singly, I found Bright Center of Heaven in an American anthology of Maxwell’s early work. This is a quiet read though ambitious in its subject matter, and well worth spending time with before reading Maxwell’s later works. He follows the time-honoured structure of placing a group of people in one place over a limited time period and observing what happens. It is a contemplative novel and, although it does work to a climax, it is more an insight into the mind of each character as events unfold. Widow Mrs West and her two teenage sons Thorn and Whitey live at Meadowland, a dilapidated farm that they can no longer afford to run, with her husband’s sister Amelia and her son Bascomb, German cook Johanna and farmer Gust. Thorn feels close to the land to the ten-acre field gifted to him by his father on his sixth birthday. Now Thorn helps Gust to work the fields. Gust is all
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘File under Fear’ by Geraldine Wall #genealogy #mystery

Second in the series about probate researcher turned genealogy detective Anna Ames, File Under Fear by Geraldine Wall takes off running from where the previous book left off. This is a well-written, page-turning series that combines family history, crime, family and secrets. But for me, the touchstone that makes it special is the sub-plot of Anna’s home life and her husband Harry’s dementia. If you haven’t read book one in the series, I suggest you start there to see the full emotional depth. Anna’s new contract sounds boring: to write a business report on Draycotts, the company which makes Drakes lurid orange and green drink, analysing how the family members coordinate together to run a successful business. But there is a secret element to her contract, to locate a missing person for CEO Gerald Draycott. This case sees Anna physically and emotionally intimidated and encompasses bullying, illegal smuggling and rape. An intense story with red herrings and wrong assumptions made about family members, the actual crimes being committed and in which Anna questions who to trust. Backing her up are her very likeable family and the multi-talented more-than-workmate Steve. Some of the resolutions fall into place a little conveniently at the
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘The Warlow Experiment’ by @alixnathan #literary #historical

This is a story of two men. One plays at being a god. The other grabs a chance to escape poverty. The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan is about power, ambition, control, the disintegration of respect and vanishing of common sense. What a breath of fresh air this book is; it is so unusual. The country gentleman who conducts the experiment, Powyss, is an isolated character. He has no family and, when he has the idea of experimenting with the life of another man, thinks he is doing good by supporting the man’s family. In truth he seeks the approbation of the Royal Society. Warlow is a farm labourer who scrapes a living at the edge of starvation, struggling to feed this family. When he sees an advertisement asking for a man to take part in Powyss’s experiment, he sees it as an escape. So what is the experiment? Powyss is a man who experiments with exotic seedlings and plants. He sources them from abroad and studies them, experimenting with conditions – soil, temperature, water – to see which flourish in the climate of the Marches climate. It is a short step for him to wonder how a man would fare
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Categories: Book Love.

Great Opening Paragraph 118… ‘The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“In the middle of the lonesome town, at the back of John Street, in the third house from the end, there is a little room. For this small bracket in the long paragraph of the street’s history, it belongs to Eneas McNulty. All about him the century has just begun, a century some of which he will endure, but none of which will belong to him. There are all the broken continents of the earth, there is the town park named after Father Moran, with its forlorn roses – all equal to Eneas at five, and nothing his own, but that temporary little room. The dark linoleum curls at the edge where it meets the dark wall. There is a pewter jug on the bedside table that likes to hoard the sun and moon on its curve. There is a tall skinny wardrobe with an ancient hatbox on top, dusty, with or without a hat, he does not know. A room perfectly attuned to him, perfectly tempered, with the long spinning of time perfect and patterned in the bright windowframe, the sleeping of sunlight on the dirty leaves of the maple, the wars of the sparrows and the blue tits
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Stanley and Elsie’ by @nicolaupsonbook #literary #art #historical

My knowledge of English artist Stanley Spencer was sketchy to say the least when I started reading Stanley and Elsie by Nicola Upson. This is a biographical novel that walks a difficult line between true fact and imagined conversation and walks it with skill, delicacy and drama. Definitely a novel for anyone who loves art. Upson takes us into the Spencer household at Chapel View, Burghclere after the Great War when Elsie Munday starts work as a housemaid. Stanley Spencer has been commissioned to paint the inside of a chapel; his wife Hilda, also a painter, minds their young daughter Shirin. Through Elsie’s eyes we see the lives of this family, their ups and downs, the artistic differences, the selfishnesses of Stanley and Hilda, smoothed by the tact, diplomacy and efficiency of Elsie. The title could make some people assume Stanley and Elsie were romantically attached but theirs is a master/servant relationship that deepened into mutual respect and friendship. Stanley, selfish, focussed, is a difficult master, a difficult husband, and Elsie finds herself caught in the middle of disputes between husband and wife. Often she is exasperated with both of them. Instead she becomes indispensable to the household. Upson gives us
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Categories: Book Love.