Archives for Book Love

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Invisible Man’ by @MargaretAtwood #poetry

At Christmas I was given Dearly, the slim hardback book of Margaret Atwood’s poems. I’ve never thought of her as a poet but Dearly is a revelation. As with her novels, Atwood crystalises those intense emotional moments of life, the ones that stay with us, and sets them into everyday context. This is a wonderful collection about growing old, rememberings, endings and beginnings, passing by and moving on. Dedicated to her partner it is a personal collection, and very touching. The poem I have chosen is ‘Invisible Man’. A short poem of five verses, full of how it feels to lose your lifelong partner. The absence at the table, on a walk, like an invisible man in comic books, still there but seen only by the one left behind, remembering This poem is subject to copyright restrictions so here’s the first verse as a taster. Please search for the full poem in an anthology or at your local library. ‘Invisible Man’ It was a problem in comic books: drawing an invisible man. They’d solve it with a dotted line that no one but us could see’ BUY THE BOOK Read these other excerpts and find a new poet to love:-
Read More

Categories: Book Love and Poetry.

#BookReview ‘Dangerous Women’ by Hope Adams @adelegeras #Rajah

Like Adèle Geras, who as Hope Adams wrote Dangerous Women, I saw the Rajah quilt at an exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2009. What a fascinating piece of history, and what a twisty fictional story Geras has written using the quilt as inspiration. Dangerous Women is set in 1841 aboard the transport ship Rajah as it sails from Woolwich, England bearing 180 female convicts to Van Dieman’s Land [today’s Tasmania]. What a fascinating piece of history this is. Geras takes the true story of the ship – some of her characters are real, including matron Kezia Hayter – and tells a tale of troubled, sometimes wronged and abused women, confined together on a ship for three months. Miss Hayter is the only free woman on board and, at the behest of the British Ladies Society for the Reformation of Female Prisoners, organises a team of 18 women who can sew. Every day they stitch patchwork, creating the now famous quilt, but also stitching together the truth of their own lives, their crimes and hopes for a new beginning in a strange country. Miss Hayter is a young well-meaning woman, perhaps naïve, but with a strong belief in
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Waiting for Sunrise’ by William Boyd #WW1 #spy

Determined to deal with my overflowing to-read shelf, I picked up Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd. Thoughtful with a twisty plot, we follow actor Lysander Rief from Vienna to the trenches as he tries to identify a traitor passing war secrets to the enemy. It is Vienna 1913. Actor Lysander Rief has gone to Vienna seeking help for an intimate problem. In the waiting room he encounters two people who will determine the course of Rief’s life in the forthcoming Great War. Rief falls head over heels in lust with Hettie Bull but when Rief is thrown into prison charged with rape, he feels abandoned. He is extricated from Austria thanks to the help of a shadowy British government officer and Rief’s own ingenuity. But he owes a debt and is drawn into the shadowy world of wartime spies. Someone is sending coded messages about essential infrastructure, supply and troop movements to the enemy, and Rief is charged with hunting down the traitor. Boyd is one of my favourite writers, his writing flows and there are multiple layers to consider long after finishing the book. All concocted with a skilful touch of humour in the right place. It all
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The City of Tears’ by @katemosse #historical

Steeped in the historical detail of sixteenth-century religious tension and war in France, The City of Tears by Kate Mosse continues the story started in The Burning Chambers. Through the eyes of Minou and Piet we experience the Saint Bartholomew’s day massacre of Huguenots and its aftermath as the story moves from Paris and Chartres to Amsterdam, home to refugees and a protestant uprising. It is 1572 and the action starts in Puivert, Languedoc, where the Reydons have found a fragile peace from Catholic persecution of the Huguenots. Minou and Piet take their family to Paris to witness the diplomatically-sensitive royal wedding of catholic King Charles’s sister Marguerite to the protestant Henry of Navarre. Unknown to the Reydons their old enemy Cardinal Valentin, also known as Vidal du Plessis, is in Paris planning to kill Huguenots. What follows drives the old enemies together and sets in motion Mosse’s story. The Reydons are forced to flee to save their lives, leaving behind one daughter possibly dead or missing. They run to Amsterdam where they establish a new life though their grief for Marta ruptures their previous marital harmony. But religious extremism follows them and once again they must face the threat
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘Listening Still’ by @AnneGriffin_ #Irish #contemporary

Anne Griffin’s debut novel, When All is Said, was one of my favourite books of 2019. Listening Still is Irish writer Griffin’s second novel. It focusses on Jeanie Masterson, an undertaker who can hear the last words of the newly deceased. She finds herself a juggler of truth, obfuscations and lies as she tries to balance her commitment to the dead person to pass on a message to the ones left behind, with her own emotional need to soften harsh words that may hurt the recipient. This shaky balance of truth and lies is the theme of the book set in the small community of Kilcross. It took me a while to get into this book, to care. Unlike Maurice Hannigan in When All is Said who is a character whose head and being I immediately slipped into, I found Jeanie more difficult to reach and less sympathetic. Starting with the shock announcement by Jeanie’s parents that they are retiring and leaving her and husband Niall to run the family undertakers, the novel quickly widens out to encompass Jeanie’s childhood and teenage years and how she came to terms with her unusual gift. This return to the past became frustrating
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Royal Secret’ by @AndrewJRTaylor #Historical #Drama

The Royal Secret is another excellent instalment in the historical drama series by Andrew Taylor that started in 1666 with the Fire of London. I hesitate to call The Royal Secret a thriller as these books cross historical sub-genres and are consequently fulfilling on a number of levels. Crime, political intrigue, social commentary, architecture, strong characterization and a dash of romance all set in the post-Restoration excess, poverty and turmoil of Charles II’s rule. Every successful thriller needs a villain to hate and Dutchman [or is he?] Henryk van Riebeeck certainly gives James Marwood the run-around. Marwood, now working for Secretary of State Lord Arlington, is charged with investigating the disappearance of top secret papers and the sudden death of a palace clerk. As Marwood follows the trail across London via a gambling club and Smithfield meat market, Cat Hakesby pursues success as an architect. Having completed a successful commission – a rather grand poultry house – her next project is a bigger, grander poultry house for a French aristocrat who is also sister of King Charles. Nothing is as it seems in this series so when Cat travels to France to show her plans to her client, we know
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Lean Fall Stand’ by @jon_mcgregor #contemporary

Jon McGregor is one of the most original novelists I have read and Lean Fall Stand doesn’t disappoint. It is a novel of three parts, beginning thrillingly at an Antarctic research station when a storm suddenly separates the three expedition members. We know tragedy happens, but not what or how. Surviving expedition guide Robert ‘Doc’ Wright suffers a stroke and is unable to tell what happened on the ice. Lean Fall Stand is Doc’s story as he struggles to recover his ability to do the smallest daily personal tasks, to choose the right word and pronounce it correctly, to make himself understood. The change of pace between part 1 ‘Lean’ when the accident happens in Antarctica, and part 2 ‘Fall’ is abrupt and shocking. Through the viewpoint of Doc’s wife, Anna, we realise with a jolt just how bad his communication issues are and what this means for their marriage and family, his career, his work colleagues and the enquiry into the accident. Just as the three men are alone and lost in the Antarctic storm, Doc and Anna are alone and lost when he returns home from hospital. He cannot fasten his trousers; she is his carer. Each feels
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Prophet’ by @MartineBailey #historical #mystery

When a dead body is found at the foot of an ancient oak, a tense plot begins. The Prophet is the second Martine Bailey novel to feature the characters of Tabitha and Nat De Vallory, first seen in The Almanack. The oak tree in question is not just any tree; it is the Mondren Oak, and nearby an evangelist preacher and his community have made an encampment in ancient woodland belonging to Nat’s father. Eighteenth-century England was a place of superstition and myth, of religious fervour and persecution. It was also a time of scientific study and enlightenment. The body of a young woman is found on May Day, 1753. The date is significant and the novel’s action winds up slowly in pace and tension towards Midsummer’s Day, coincidentally the due date for the arrival of Tabitha and Nat’s first baby. Baptist Gunn and his growing number of followers believe a new saviour will be born close to the oak tree on Midsummer’s Day. Gunn, a ‘sleeping prophet’, is gathering his congregation, and money, in preparation to sail for a new life in America. Tabitha is a likeable protagonist, happy to be married and living in the place where she
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Heresy’ by SJ Parris @thestephmerritt #historical #crime

Including touches such as secret messages written in orange juice, ciphers and hidden codes, Heresy is the introduction to the Giordano Bruno series of historical mysteries by SJ Parris. Set in 1583, this is the English Reformation of Queen Elizabeth I and her spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, as they steer the country from catholicism to protestantism. Meanwhile, catholics continue to worship in secret. Former Italian monk turned heretic and philosopher Bruno rides out of London on a horse borrowed from the French ambassador, to meet with a royal party bound for Oxford. Accompanied by his friend, courtier poet and secret spy, Sir Philip Sidney, Bruno has two secret missions. The first, along with Sidney, is to expose a catholic conspiracy in the university city. The second is to find a heretical text, stolen long ago but rumoured to be in England, which states that the earth revolves around the sun. This second mission is the one, I suspect, that will continue beyond this book and through the whole series. When the murders begin, Bruno’s position as an outsider at Lincoln College is both an advantage and disadvantage. His lack of foreknowledge gives him a clear vision of factual events and
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Tainted Tree’ by @jackieluben #saga #romance

American Addie Russell was adopted at birth after her single mother died. Always happy with her adoptive parents in Boston, USA, advertising copywriter Addie starts to ask questions when she inherits a house from a stranger in England. Tainted Tree by Jacquelynn Luben is an adoption mystery combined with romance,  threading together genealogical search and US/English differences with the joy and abandonment of teenage love. Addie arrives in England at the house she has inherited. Glad to cross the Atlantic and escape her job and the boss which whom she had an affair, she is determined to find out more about her birth mother Adrienne and perhaps identify her birth father. But the local lawyer handling the estate is cold and stand-offish, sending mixed signals that Addie doesn’t understand. Undeterred, she does her own research and traces her maternal grandparents but is shocked that they rejected her when she was born. Why did they hate her so? The action moves back and forth between Addie’s new house in Surrey and the West Country, where her mother grew up. Although this story has a fair amount of romance, both in the modern story and that of Adrienne, it also has a
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘While Paris Slept’ by Ruth Druart #WW2

While Paris Slept by Ruth Druart is a World War Two story with a difference. It focusses on the lives of two couples and how one incident, a decision made in seconds, challenges the four people involved to define their own perception of true, selfless love and the heart-wrenching sacrifices this may mean. This is a dual-timeline story. It starts in 1953, California. One morning the police call at the home of Jean-Luc Beauchamp and take him in for questioning. He is unsurprised. His wife Charlotte and son Sam do not know what is happening. Interleaved with the story unfolding in 1953, we see Jean-Luc as a young man in occupied Paris, 1944. He is conscripted as a rail maintenance worker based at the Drancy station from where French Jews were transported to Auschwitz. At weekends he travels home to see his mother in Paris but does not admit the things he sees and suspects. Ashamed that people may think he is a collaborator, he determines to do his part. He is injured in an attempt to damage the rail track and is taken to the German hospital where he is nursed by a young French girl, Charlotte. Charlotte, who
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Lamplighters’ by @StonexEmma #suspense

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex is a difficult story both to describe and to compartmentalise in genre. I, mistaken by the Author’s Note at the beginning which refers to a true incident in 1900, thought I would be reading a historical story. The action is set in 1972 and 1992. The genre is variously described as horror, ghost, thriller, suspense and mystery. I saw no evidence of ghosts and it doesn’t feel to me like a thriller. It is a story of human emotions and the consequences of actions, set against the atmospheric backdrop of the sea. Cornwall, 1972. The Maiden Rock, a lighthouse on a rock tower out at sea, is the scene of a mysterious disappearance. When the relief boat arrives, all three men who should have been on the rock have gone. Are they dead, kidnapped, drowned, or disappeared to start a new life? The story of principal keeper Arthur Black, assistant keeper Bill Walker, and supernumerary assistant keeper Vince Bourne is told in two timelines – the men’s stories in 1972 and that of their wives 20 years later when they answer the questions of a journalist researching a book about the disappearances. But why now?
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read… @VMeadowsAuthor #books #romance

Today I’m delighted to welcome romance novelist Viki Meadows. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is What I Did for a Duke by Julie Anne Long. “As I write this it’s our second spring in lockdown. Never has my keeper-shelf been so needed and such a good friend as during this last year. Of all my favourite books which have found a home on that shelf, the one I go back to the most is the historical romance What I Did For A Duke by Julie Anne Long. “When I first picked this book up, in March 2011, I did so dubiously, thinking it was going to be a revenge seduction story. In fact, it isn’t that at all. It’s much more. It’s twisty, taking the reader down unexpected paths. But it’s more than the cleverness of plot and dialogue that kept me revisiting this during these interminable months of lockdown. “Since life has become overshadowed by a pandemic-sized cloud of anxiety and fear I have taken it off the shelf to read at least three times. It’s hilarious in places and I found myself laughing out loud as the dry, sharp humour lifted my mood. Yet it did so without
Read More

Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

#BookReview ‘Magpie Murders’ by @AnthonyHorowitz #crime

In the tradition of the theatrical play-within-a-play, Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz is a detective-mystery-within-a-detective-mystery. First in the Susan Ryeland series, more of her later, Horowitz has written a page-turner laced intricately with clues, delivered by a fictional detective in the Poirot tradition. Susan Ryeland is head of fiction at Cloverleaf Books whose star writer is Alan Conway, author of the hugely successful Atticus Pünd crime series. Reading the manuscript of his latest submission, Magpie Murders, Susan is surprised to find the last chapters are missing. The murderer remains unnamed. Worse, Alan Conway has committed suicide. If Ryeland and her boss Charles Clover don’t find the missing chapters they can’t publish the book. And with no future books to come from Conway, the company may go bust. The first half of the book is dedicated to Conway’s story of his fictional private detective, Pünd, who investigates one accidental death and one murder which take place in the same West Country village within days of each other. The victims knew each other. There must be a connection. In classic Agatha Christie style, the possibilities, lies and secrets are discovered by Pünd but he keeps his conclusions to himself. The second half
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Cottingley Secret’ by @HazelGaynor #history #fairies

I won a signed paperback of The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor in a Twitter promotion on #NationalNorthernWritersDay on July 1st last year and it’s been sitting on my to-read shelf since then. I picked it up one weekend when searching for a comforting, absorbing read, and that’s what it is. Told in dual timeline, it is partly based on the true story of the two young girls who photographed fairies at the bottom of their garden, combined with a fictional imagining of a 21st century bookbinder who inherits a bookshop in Ireland. The story is slow to start and it’s a while before the fairy connection between the two strands is established. But hang in there. In 1917, Frances Griffiths and her mother travel from South Africa to Cottingley, Yorkshire. They will stay with Frances’ aunt, uncle and cousin while her father goes off to fight the Great War. Frances soon settles into life with her older cousin Elsie and together the two play imaginary games. Until one day Frances sees fairies beside the beck at the back of the house, ‘…the first flash of emerald, then another of blue, then yellow, glimpsed out of the corner of my
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Unsettled Ground’ by @ClaireFuller2 #contemporary

The title is well chosen. From the first page, Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller is unsettling. An eclectic mixture of setting and detail make the timeframe difficult to pin down, it seems other-worldly. An ordinary world, but not quite. This is a world of Google and internet banking, of smartphones and digital life. Fuller writes about twins Julius and Jeanie who, aged 51, still live with their mother in a remote rural cottage. They scratch a living, cash-in-hand earned from odd jobs, vegetables and eggs sold at the garden gate and the local deli, money kept in a tin rather than a bank account. Everything changes when their mother, Dot, dies suddenly and they realise how she protected them and kept them safe. But with Dot gone, their familiar world collapses. Their routines don’t work, the difficulties their mother smoothed are now rocky, and they are evicted from their home. This is a novel about relationships – sibling, parental and with the local community – both supportive and dismissive. As the twins attempt to cope with the paperwork following their mother’s death, their isolation from modern society becomes evident to them. Many people step aside from their helplessness, finding them
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Fine Art of Invisible Detection’ by Robert Goddard

I always look forward to a new Robert Goddard book but wasn’t sure what to expect from his latest, The Fine Art of Invisible Detection. Partly, I think, because the blurb seemed more a detective novel than a thriller. Actually, this is both. Goddard has creative a heart-warming, realistic new hero, Umiko Wada, known simply as Wada. I raced through this book, full of Goddard’s clever twisty plotting, emotional dilemmas, should-I-shouldn’t-I moments. Wada is a 47-year-old secretary at a detective agency in Tokyo, making tea, writing reports for her technology-incompetent boss Kodaka. Widowed after her husband was killed in the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995, Wada is quiet, efficient and invisible. But burning deep is a sense of righteousness. So when her boss asks for her help with a new case, she agrees to go to London to pose as the client who wants to find out if her father really committed suicide almost three decades earlier, or if he was murdered. From this point on, Wada’s life becomes unpredictable and her talent for being invisible becomes a lifesaver. Her boss dies in a car accident. The man she is due to meet in London has
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read… @jane_fenwick60 #books #historical

Today I’m delighted to welcome historical novelist Jane Fenwick.  Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Ross Poldark by Winston Graham. “Ross Poldark was first published in 1946. It’s surprisingly ‘modern’ and fresh even today. I first read it in the 1970s after the saga was made into a TV series. I was intrigued to see how different the two versions were. They were massively different as it turns out, the book being far better. “There are twelve books in all but the first, Ross Poldark, is the one I reread time and time again. I’ve lost count exactly how many times I’ve read it. I go back to it time and time again because it’s like putting on a comfortable pair of old shoes. It always makes me feel better. Also, each time I read it I see something new, some scene which for some reason has new significance, some word choice which adds depth, some character detail I’d missed. “I’m drawn to this book for two reasons; firstly the main character and secondly the writing style. The central character, Ross Poldark is not a hero, he’s flawed. He makes mistakes but has a conscience and a strong moral compass.
Read More

Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

#BookReview ‘The Evening and the Morning’ by @KMFollett #historical

I absolutely loved The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett. It is thirty years since Follett published his monster hit The Pillars of the Earth and this novel is his prequel to what became the Kingsbridge series. Set in Southern England in the year 997 at the end of the Dark Ages – so called because the lack of historical documents and archaeological remains from the time means our knowledge of the era is thin – it was a period of unrest and war. Viking raids, skirmishes with the Welsh, the law allows violence against slaves while power-hungry local rulers disobey the rules of King Ethelred. The story is told by three principal characters – a French noblewoman, a young English boatbuilder and an English monk. Each is smart, ambitious and honest but they are confronted by violence, cruelty, law-breaking, jealousy and betrayal. In the west country village of Combe, eighteen-year old boatbuilder Edgar waits on the beach for his true love. She is married and the pair are going to run away together. But as Edgar waits, he sees the arrival of a Viking ship and his life changes. The town is destroyed. Three powerful brothers arrive to
Read More

Categories: Book Love.

Great Opening Paragraph 132 ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love. Dr Juvenal Urbino noticed it as soon as he entered the still darkened house where he had hurried on an urgent call to attend a case that for him had lost all urgency many years before. The Antillean refugee Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, disabled war veteran, photographer of children, and his most sympathetic opponent in chess, had escaped the torments of memory with the aromatic fumes of gold cyanide.” ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez BUY THE BOOK Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Pursuit of Love’ by Nancy Mitford ‘A Good Man in Africa‘ by William Boyd ‘Gilead’ by Marilynne Robinson  And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: #FirstPara LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA by Gabriel Garcia Marquez #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4eK via @SandraDanby
Read More

Categories: Book Love and On Writing.