Archives for books

First Edition ‘Robinson Crusoe’ by Daniel Defoe #oldbooks #bookcovers

I first read Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe when I was at university and I admit to not having picked up the book since, except to move it from house to house over the years. Perhaps I should re-read it though; Robinson Crusoe is said to be second only to the Bible in the number of translations. Published on April 25, 1719, it has inspired many spin-off novels, television programmes and films. A copy of the first edition is held by the British Library in London. Before the end of the first year of publication, the first volume had been published in four editions and by the end of the 19th century, no other book in Western literature had more editions, spin-offs and translations. Defoe wrote a sequel, The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. The current edition by Penguin Classics. BUY THE BOOK The story Why is this story so popular? It is often described as the ‘first English novel’ and is a combination of adventure story, in which the shipwrecked Crusoe encounters pirates and cannibals. It is also an examination of the human condition when completely isolated. This is the first-hand story of a castaway who spends 28 years
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘Children of Blood and Bone’ by Tomi Adeyemi #YoungAdult #Fantasy

I picked up Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, the first of a new ‘young adult’ series, when I was emotionally and intellectually exhausted. It is an assault on the senses, rather like a sniff of smelling salts. A West African tale of magic, Children of Blood and Bone tackles racially-charged violence, state-led racism and injustice, all wrapped-up in a magical quest. The Author’s Note at the end explains Adeyemi’s inspiration. “I kept turning on the news and seeing stories of unarmed black men, women and children being shot by the police. I felt afraid and angry and helpless, but this book was the one thing that made me feel like I could do something about it.” Children of Blood and Bone is set in the nation of Orïsha where magic was banished in The Raid years earlier when the king ordered the death of all maji. The story is told by four teenage characters, two brother and sister pairings. Zélie’s maji mother was killed in The Raid and she is herself a diviner; her white hair marks her out as magical, but her magic is buried deep and unused. A chance meeting with runaway princess Amari sets the two
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Orphan’s Gift’ by @RenitaDSilva #historical #India

The Orphan’s Gift by Renita D’Silva tells the stories of two women, Alice and Janaki, and moves across four decades between India and England. It is a deceptive tale of love and loss and the mystery of how these two young women are connected at a time when certain love was forbidden. It is an unforgiving world where broken rules may be punished by death, isolation and poverty and where the sanctions may come from those closest to you. We first meet Alice, aged four, living a privileged life in the house of her parents, surrounded by beauty, warmth, and servants. But there are shadows too. Alice’s parents are distant and she finds love and companionship with her Ayah and Ayah’s son, Raju. Alice’s mother is delicate and spends all her time in a shadowed bedroom, her father is Deputy Commissioner of the British Government in India. Alice’s story starts in 1909 when the first agitations of Indian independence begin. Janaki’s story begins in 1944 when she is raised by nuns in an Indian orphanage, she was left there as a tiny baby, wrapped in a hand-made green cardigan. Desperate for love, Janaki learns a difficult lesson; that even when
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Fountains of Silence’ by @RutaSepetys #historical #YA

Ruta Sepetys is a new author for me and I was drawn to The Fountains of Silence because it is set in the Spanish Civil War. Only after finishing the book did I realise Sepetys is a Young Adult author though this does not mean she backed away from tackling difficult subjects or that the book lacks emotional depth. Basically, this is a tale of young love in politically sensitive times. The story starts in 1957 when teenager Daniel Matheson arrives in Madrid, Spain, with his parents. Daniel, a talented photographer, wants to go to J-School to study as a photojournalist; his father wants him to work at the family oil company. Playing diplomat between them is Daniel’s mother, who was born in Spain. The family stays at the Castellana Hilton where they are assigned an assistant, Ana. While Daniel takes photos, his father tries to close an oil deal. Only when Daniel meets Ben Stahl from the Madrid bureau of the New York Herald Tribune, does he understand his father’s deal involves meetings with General Franco. As Ana and Daniel grow closer, hiding their relationship and sneaking precious moments together, Sepetys shows the dark side of life under Spain’s
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Categories: Book Love.

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

The Matthew Shardlake series by CJ Sansom continues to get better. Heartstone, the penultimate book of the six, involves a puzzle which kept me guessing until the reveal. Despite Shardlake vowing to take a back seat from Royal intrigues, the Tudor lawyer/detective is pulled into a case at the behest of Queen Catherine Parr. This is a great series to lose yourself in. A tutor, son of one of the Queen’s staff, has alleged an injustice done against a former pupil, Hugh Curteys, by the Hobbey family who adopted Hugh and his sister Emma after the death of their parents. This complaint takes Shardlake before the Court of Wards, not Shardlake’s natural territory, where the lives and rights of orphaned minors are protected. In truth, it is rife with fraud and abuse and the case brings Shardlake face-to-face with old and new enemies. A journey into Hampshire at the time King Henry VIII is mobilising his army and navy south to oppose the expected invasion by the French, is ill-advised. Normal life is suspended as Henry distributes new coinage, devalued to pay for his war, and men are conscripted in the fields and the streets. But Shardlake, as ever driven
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘The Sun Sister’ by Lucinda Riley @lucindariley #mystery

Electra, the youngest d’Aplièse sister in the Seven Sisters series of adoption mysteries by Lucinda Riley, has always seemed the most explosive personality of the siblings. And so The Sun Sister, sixth in the series and the one dedicated to telling the story of Electra’s family history, is explosive too. It’s a 5* read and a long one, 850 pages, as Riley digs deep into Electra’s African origins and the drug epidemic of today’s world. Supermodel Electra seems to have it all, fame, beauty, money, rock star boyfriend, a glamorous lifestyle in Manhattan. But she also has a drink and drug habit. Her behaviour is erratic, obsessive, selfish and angry, made worse by the sudden death of her adoptive father Pa Salt and being ditched by her boyfriend Mitch. Cutting herself off from friends and family, Electra is spiralling downwards when she receives a letter from a strange woman claiming to be her grandmother. The Sun Sister tells the story of Electra’s life now in New York 2008, interleaved with that of Cecily Huntley-Morgan, daughter of a fine New York family who, in 1938, has just been jilted by her fiance. Taking up the invitation of her glamorous and eccentric
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Redhead by the Side of the Road’ by Anne Tyler #literary

Anne Tyler is one of my favourite writers, so elegantly understated, so spot-on with her characters. Her latest Redhead by the Side of the Road is slim, at 180 pages, but a delight. Why? Because she writes about what it is like to be human, the everyday things, the ticks, the habits, the way we are and the subtle ways we change. Hers are not plot-driven page-turning books, they are thoughtful portraits of people who seem to be like us – they chop vegetables and mop the kitchen floor, like Micah Mortimer, an unmarried 44 year old self-employed IT specialist and janitor of his apartment block. His family teases him about his finicky household habits and he accepts the teasing with good grace. He is infinitely patient with his elderly clients, going round to reboot computers and routers. No scene is wasted in this novella. I particularly loved Micah’s visit to new client Rosalie Hayes who has inherited a house, and computer, from her grandmother. Rosalie cannot find her grandmother’s passwords and is tearing her hair out. This is how we see Micah’s world, through his interactions with neighbours, family, clients, girlfriend Cass and a stranger who turns up on
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Letter’ by @KHughesAuthor #mystery #adoption

The idea for The Letter by Kathryn Hughes is enticing; the lives of two women, forty years apart, linked by a letter found in the pocket of an overcoat at a charity shop. What follows is a dual storyline – about an abused wife and her road to freedom, and a young woman in love for the first time as war breaks out. This is a story about two couples. In 1974, Tina Craig works in an office during the week and on Saturdays she volunteers at a charity shop to get out of the house, away from her abusive husband Rick. Staying, though she knows she must leave, Tina listens to the advice of friends but continues to excuse and forgive Rick’s behaviour. Until a mysterious letter found in the pocket of coat sets her off on the trail of the people involved. The letter is sealed and stamped but never posted. Why. When she opens and reads the letter she starts to think about Billy, who wrote the letter in 1939 as war broke out, and about Chrissie, the woman who never received his letter. In the summer of 1939, Chrissie and Billy fall in love in the
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Lost Lights of St Kilda’ by Elisabeth Gifford #historical

Told in two timelines, 1927 and 1940, this a story of love – between two people, and for an island and an endangered way of life. In The Lost Lights of St Kilda by Elisabeth Gifford, the beautiful yet harsh landscape of the island is made vividly alive. This is a delight to read, a novel about love, trust, betrayal and forgiveness. In 1940 Fred Lawson, a Scottish soldier from the 51st Highland Division, is imprisoned at Tournai, captured at St Valery in retreat as other soldiers were being evacuated at Dunkirk. Through the darkest moments of fighting, his memories of St Kilda sustain him. ‘It was your face that had stayed with me as we fought in France. It was you who’d sustained me when we were hungry and without sleep for nights as we fought the retreating action back towards the Normandy coast.’ Fred escapes and heads for Spain, forced to trust strangers, not knowing who is a friend and who is an informer, but drawn on by his memories of St Kilda. At the same moment in Scotland, a teenage daughter longs to know more of her birth. Says Rachel Anne, ‘My mother says I am her
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Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read… Amanda Huggins @troutiemcfish #shortstories

Today I’m delighted to welcome short story writer Amanda Huggins. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. “There was strong competition for my Porridge and Cream choice, and I’d just like to mention two of the worthy runners-up, both of which I return to time and time again. The wonderful Jane Eyre needs no introduction or explanation, and has been in my top ten since I was a teenager. Another contender was The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, which I’ve loved since first reading it in the 1980s. A beautifully written story of a life lost to duty; unsentimental and utterly heartbreaking. But my final choice has to be The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, one of the all-time bestselling – and most translated – books ever published. “I own a signed copy of The Remains of the Day as well as a Folio hardback, and I also have two copies of Jane Eyre – though sadly neither of them are signed! But I have to confess to owning a rather extravagant seven copies of The Little Prince. In my defence, they’re all in different languages – however, as I’m only
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Categories: Book Love, On Writing and Porridge & Cream.

#BookReview ‘A Thousand Moons’ by Sebastian Barry #historical #literary

1870s Paris, Tennessee, a young Lakota girl Ojinjintka, lately known as Winona Cole, travels a delicate path in post-Civil War America. Another 5* book from Sebastian Barry, A Thousand Moons is sequel to Days Without End, though both books can be read independently. This is a dangerous time when the rule of law is often non-existent and hatred is on every street. Winona says, ‘It was a town of many eyes watching you anyhow, an uneasy place.’ Barry tells this heart-rending story in eloquent prose that makes the pages turn. Winona is the adopted daughter of Thomas McNulty and John Cole, whose wartime story is told in Days Without End. Now, peace has come and Thomas and John raise their daughter to be educated and respectful. This in itself causes problems. ‘It is bad enough being an Indian without talking like a raven,’ says Winona. ‘The white folks in Paris were not all good speakers themselves.’ A story of one young woman’s journey through life’s racism, prejudice and latent violence, this is also a story of love. The love, for its time, of an unusual family; an Indian cared for when her family is killed when she is six years
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Choice’ by @clairerwade #books #dystopian

The Choice by Claire Wade is set in an alternative world, one where sugar is banned, exercise is compulsory and every supermarket visit is preceded by a weigh-in. It is a Big Brother world where a new government, initially intent on preventing sickness and encouraging healthy living, has gone OTT and taken control of the smallest details of people’s lives. Olivia used to be a baker before the changes. When she lost her shop, she lost her reason for living. And so she subsists, making the best of the meal plans approved by Mother Mason, chivvying her friend Alice to keep to the rules and stay out of trouble, and worrying about the effect all of this is having on husband Danny and their two children. And then she gets a glimpse of a fightback. Is Olivia brave enough to join the protest, or will she play safe to protect her family? Of course she fights, in the only way she knows how. It starts in a small way, baking cakes for the local protest group to raise money for the cause. But then her rebellion gets way out of hand and she is faced with shame and condemnation. The
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Vanished Bride’ by Bella Ellis @brontemysteries #crime

Yorkshire, 1845. A woman disappears overnight from her home. Her husband is distraught. All that remains of her is copious amounts of blood on the bed. The local police are inept. This is the first mystery in a series of new amateur sleuths, the three Bronte sisters, in The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis. I loved this book from the beginning. Bronte fans will love it but anyone new to Bronte will find it an engaging introduction to the three clever and inspirational sisters. What a fresh idea to involve Charlotte, Emily and Anne in an occupation that suits their imaginations, attention to detail and energy. Anne says, ‘It is truly terrible that I am a little thrilled to think of us as three invisible lady detectors seeking out the truth? I believe we could be quite the only such creatures in all existence.’ Their characters are clearly drawn and their engagements with other characters – brother Branwell, father Patrick, cook Tabby and maid Martha – are all convincing. The case of the vanished bride comes to their attention because the governess to the two small children of the missing woman is none other than Matilda French, a former schoolfriend
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘A Snapshot of Murder’ by @FrancesBrody #crime

In 1928, a Photography Society outing to Haworth to see the opening of the new Bronte Parsonage Museum has an unexpected outcome. One of the group does not go home alive. A Snapshot of Murder by Frances Brody is tenth in the Kate Shackleton 1920s detective series, a satisfying story about jealousy, long lost love and betrayal. Kate’s friend Carine Murchison runs a photographic studio with her boorish husband Tobias. Derek, friend of Kate’s niece Harriet, has a theory that Tobias wants his wife dead so he can inherit the studio. But the story is so much more complicated. Throw in a long lost lover returned, the wonderfully scratchy mother and daughter landladies of Ponden Hall near Haworth where the Photography Society stays, the flamboyant Rita who dresses in Indian silks and works in a pharmacy, and a London policeman and former love of Kate who arrives to investigate the murder, and there are plenty of options for arguments, jealousy, upsets and both rejected and reciprocated love. The echoes of the Brontes are welcome too, but Brody never allows this to dominate her story. This is a character-led crime drama. Kate’s world is created with skill by Brody, I particularly enjoyed Mrs Sugden, Mr Sykes
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘The Lady of the Ravens’ by @joannahickson #Historical

It is England, just after the War of the Roses. The Lady of The Ravens by Joanna Hickson starts with the new Tudor King Henry VII on the throne and the country awaiting his marriage rumoured to be to Elizabeth of York, older sister of the Princes in the Tower. The marriage is intended to heal divisions between the two warring factions after Henry’s defeat of King Richard III at Bosworth Field, so allowing peace to settle on the land. But of course it is not that simple. Twenty-four year old Joan Vaux is a servant to the princess and follows her to court on her marriage to the king. Watching the childbirth experiences of Queen Elizabeth, her own sister and other women of the court marry and bear children – some dying in the process – Joan develops a phobia of childbirth. But the king requires his courtiers to be married and a husband for Joan is proposed, but the situation is complicated as while she dithers a proposal is received from an unexpected source. Joan must make her choice, a decision which echoes throughout her life. Joan has an affinity with the ravens, starting from when as a
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Secret Commonwealth’ by @PhilipPullman

Oddly The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman feels like the first of a trilogy rather than the second in The Book of Dust. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the book but the first half is taken up with world-building and the introduction of new characters, relationships and enmities. But this is the first time we see Lyra as a young woman ten or eleven years after we left her at the end of The Amber Spyglass, so much has changed. Oxford seems more modern, Lyra is surrounded by old friends and potential new enemies and, crucially, she is not getting on with her daemon Pan. This latter fact, at first unthinkable, is the power driving the narrative. When Pan despairs of Lyra, who he thinks has changed unrecognisably, he sets out to recover the thing he fears she has lost. Her imagination. And Lyra, being Lyra, charges off in pursuit. Except she doesn’t know where Pan is going. Both are driven by love. Add to this a changing political landscape with a new generation of scholars, scientists, politicians, priests and criminals and it soon becomes clear that Lyra and Pan are separated from each other in an increasingly toxic and dangerous world. Meanwhile the farmers of roses and makers of rose oil are being
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘The Last Protector’ by Andrew Taylor @AndrewJRTaylor #Historical

Fourth in the 17th century crime series by Andrew Taylor, The Last Protector sees the return to London of Richard, Oliver Cromwell’s son, and last Protector of England before the restoration of the king in 1660. And it also heralds the central plot return of Cat Lovett. Ever since the first book in the series, I have waited for Cat to have a key role in the plot again. The story begins as James Marwood, clerk to the Under secretary of State to Lord Arlington, is sent to secretly observe a duel between two lords. Meanwhile Cat, now Mistress Hakesby and married to a frail elderly architect, meets a childhood acquaintance in the street. This is Elizabeth Cromwell, daughter of Richard. Remembering their friendship as a fleeting thing, Cat is confused by Elizabeth’s eagerness to rekindle their relationship. Until, visiting Elizabeth at her godmother’s house, she is introduced to a fellow guest John Cranmore. But a peculiar habit of tapping a finger on the table brings back memories for Cat, to the time when she and her father moved in elevated political circles, and she realizes Cranmore is a false name. Elizabeth, it becomes clear, is seeking a precious object hidden by her grandmother. The
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Benefit of Hindsight’ by @susanhillwriter #crime

The Benefit of Hindsight is the tenth book in the Simon Serrailler series by Susan Hill and she covers a lot of ground. At the book’s heart, as with its predecessors, is the town of Lafferton and the Serrailler family. Crime, when it happens, affects so many people and Hill shows this effectively as more and more people are drawn into the aftermath. The themes of this book are post-traumatic-stress-disorder, pre-natal premonition and post-natal depression, art robbery and private v public healthcare. Written in a list it can seem clinical, but Hill is expert at winding together the personal lives of ordinary people so that you care about them. The continuity of the Serrailler family throughout the series adds the familiarity of real family issues that are not crime-related, just ordinary family stuff. Simon is struggling with the aftermath of his injury, not physically, but with panic attacks. His sister Cat has settled into her job with private GP service Concierge and it is Cat who meets two people central to the story; pregnant mum Carrie who unshakingly believes her baby will be born damaged; and Cindy, wife of businessman and charity supporter, Declan McDermid. When a lonely house is burgled in
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Secrets We Kept’ by @laraprescott #Cold War #Pasternak

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott is a mixture of Cold War thriller, romance and the true story of the publication of Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. Set in the 1950s, this novel is about the power of the written word. So powerful that two nations try to outwit the other as a big new novel is set to be published; neither has any regard for the effects of their plans on the author. The two worlds are radically different, Prescott builds both convincingly. I can see Pasternak’s vegetable garden at his dacha, I can hear the typewriters in the Typing Pool at The Agency on National Mall in Washington DC. It is important to note that this is a blend of real events, real people and total fiction. Irina is American, a first generation Russian-American, her father left behind in the Soviet Union as his pregnant wife departed for a new life in America. Irina’s Mama is a dressmaker, speaking Russian to Irina at home while making elaborate dresses for Russian immigrants. Irina never meets her father. Always an outsider, when she goes for a job interview in a typing pool Marla wears a skirt made for her by Mama. She gets the job in
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘Hitler’s Secret’ by Rory Clements #thriller #war #WW2

Fourth in the Tom Wilde World War Two spy mysteries, Hitler’s Secret by Rory Clements hits the ground running and keeps the pages turning. The secret in question is a ten-year old girl who may or may not be the love child of Hitler. Klara has a false identity and is hidden but is now in imminent danger of exposure and murder. Wilde travels to Berlin disguised as a German-American motorcycle manufacturer in search of a business deal. His cover enables him to meet allies and search for Klara. Unsure of his mission from the beginning, Wilde imagines that everyone can see through his false identity, everyone is planning to kill him. Clements tells the story at breakneck speed, flicking from viewpoint to viewpoint. Martin Bormann, Hitler’s gatekeeper wants Klara dead and despatches a henchman, Otto Kalt. But it seems everyone touched by Klara’s story is at risk of death. As Wilde closes in on Klara’s hiding place, so do her killers. What ensues is a tense chase north across Germany towards the promised sanctuary of Sweden. And at all times it is assumed Hitler is unaware of the girl’s existence. But who else knows the secret? At the heart of this story is
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Categories: Book Love.