Archives for books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Remember’ by Christina Rossetti #poetry #funeral

Christina Rossetti was 31 when her most famous collection Goblin Market and Other Poems was published in 1862 but perhaps better known are two other poems. Her 1872 poem A Christmas Carol was set to music by Gustav Holst and renamed In the Bleak Midwinter, and her short poem Remember appears regularly in poems of funeral verse. Her lines of sweet and lyrical verse go straight to the emotional heart of her subject and explain which she remains popular today. Please search for the full poem in an anthology or at your local library. ‘Remember’ Remember me when I am gone away, Gone far away into the silent land; When you can no more hold me by the hand, Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay. BUY THE BOOK Read these other excerpts and find a new poet to love:- ‘Digging’ by Seamus Heaney ‘My Life’s Stem was Cut’ by Helen Dunmore ‘The Unthinkable’ by Simon Armitage And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #poem to read in the bath: ‘Remember’ by Christina Rossetti https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4c6 via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Poetry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Porridge & Cream read… @SueJohnson9 #books #duMaurier

Today I’m delighted to welcome novelist, poet and short story writer Sue Johnson. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier. “My Porridge & Cream read is Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier (first published in 1936). I can remember finding it in the school library one wet Friday afternoon when I was thirteen. (We’d made ginger cake in our cookery class that morning and I still associate the book with the smell and taste of ginger and spices.) Our English teacher liked us to read at least two books a month of our choice that were nothing to do with our school work. We also had to write book reviews saying what we liked – or didn’t like – about the books we’d read. From the first page of Jamaica Inn I was hooked. My friends had to prise it out of my hands when the bell went for the end of school. I then went on to devour everything else that Daphne du Maurier had written. My other favourites are Rebecca and Frenchman’s Creek.  We used to spend family holidays in Cornwall and I still love the county. I never tire of Jamaica Inn
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Categories: Book Love, On Writing and Porridge & Cream.

#BookReview ‘The 20s Girl, The Ghost, and All That Jazz’ by @june_kearns #romance

The 20s Girl, The Ghost, and All That Jazz by June Kearns is a fizzing giggly historical romance that makes you feel as if you’re drinking a bottle of Prosecco on holiday. In Gerardine Chiledexter it has a delicate-looking heroine who has inherited the kick-ass nature, and the debts, of her late Aunt Leonie. There’s a loyal friend, a crumbling bookshop, a psychic cat, shiverings and whisperings in the dark, an effete beau and a distinct lack of marriageable men in 1924 England after the Great War. Oh, and there’s a tall brooding cowboy with an enormous ranch in Texas. Kearns has a wonderful flowing style, telling her story with wit and charm and without a glimpse of the author’s feet paddling below the water keeping the story and the characters tip-top. All the romantic conventions are here. A heroine, down on her luck but with an endless wardrobe of floaty Twenties couture dresses. A suitor, willing but uninspiring. An English village, green, damp, without eligible men. A crumbling mansion with an elderly crumbling workforce. Into this walks Coop, a cowboy with a drawl, a hatred of the wet, and a real impatient manner. Aunt Leonie, it appears, has left
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Categories: Book Love.

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.