Archives for books

My Porridge & Cream read: Kathryn Haydon @HaydonKathryn #romance #books

Today I’m delighted to welcome romance author Kathryn Haydon. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. “I have chosen The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran because this is a book that speaks to me, soul to soul. The words reach out over the years and touch me as though they were written yesterday. It is the East speaking to the West in the manner of Rabindranath Tagore’s famous Gitanjali. Magical and mystical, with a wonderful cadence! Every human condition known to mankind is illustrated by beautiful verse. “I first came upon this little book in the mid 1990’s. Quite by chance, really – although what is chance and what is really synchronicity? While doing a counselling course with the Exeter branch of the W.E.A., I attended a residential weekend on the edge of Dartmoor. We (students) were invited to bring along a special poem to read out, or a few lines from a book to share with the group. It didn’t matter what, so long as the words had significance and meaning. Someone read from The Prophet – I forget who – and I was spellbound. This is a flavour of what I heard: “You are the bows from which your children
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

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

Anna Ames is a trainee probate genealogist working for Triple H, Harts Heir Hunters, and File under Family is the first in a series of genealogy mysteries about Anna by Geraldine Wall. When Margaret Clark dies Anna is charged with finding her missing heir, daughter Briony. The trail leads abroad and unleashes an international social media campaign, reveals sexual abuse in prison and considers how enthusiasm can conflict with client confidentiality. Wall introduces the character of Anna and her family life which I am sure will continue to feature throughout the series. While she faces problems balancing work with studying for her Diploma in Genealogy qualification, these are nothing when compared to Anna’s stress at home. Her husband Harry has early-onset dementia so Anna’s father George has moved in to help with caring for Harry and their two teenagers, Ellis and Faye. Faye has a new Russian boyfriend who wants to take her to Russia with him. Ellis is auditioning for a role in the school panto while George is investigating his spiritual side and writing poetry. Worst of all, as Harry’s condition gradually deteriorates he becomes increasing aggressive towards Anna. Into this walks an unattractive stranger. I found the
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘Pleasures’ by @SFDPBeginnings #thriller #romance #suspense

Part three of a London-based thriller series, Pleasures by Helen J Christmas takes up immediately where books one and two left off. The ‘Same Place Different Place’ series ticks all the thriller boxes. Chases, disguises, London gangsters, phone tapping, dodgy politicians and policemen, threats, kidnapping, lovable victims and baddies to hate. Book two ends in 1987, Pleasures picks up the story in the same year. Do not read Pleasures without having read books two and three first as you will miss so many references. In a nutshell, in Beginnings Eleanor Chapman is on the run with her son Eli after Eli’s father was murdered after witnessing the killing of a politician. In Visions, Eleanor and Eli have settled in the quiet village of Aldwyk, hopeful of remaining under the radar from the gang who see her as a dangerous witness. But a bitter property deal brings an old enemy to the village. The handling of the backstory in Pleasures is at times repetitive, exacerbated perhaps by the fact that this book starts immediately after the previous story finished. The old enemy is back in another controversial property deal in the town where Eleanor now lives. The heavies are brought in to
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘Winter of the Heart’ by @EG_Parsons #historical #romance

Winter of the Heart by EG Parsons is a good old-fashioned romance about bad choices and second chances involving a heroine who is afraid to love again, a widower grieving for what he has lost and a violent husband, set in post-Civil War South Carolina. In 1876,Megan Connors starts a new life as a schoolteacher on a ranch at Willow Creek. Finding the children eager to learn, she hopes her dreams of a good life are coming true. Except for her boss, the rude ranch owner Charles Donavan, glamorous neighbour Alicia who expects to marry Charles, and a ghostly presence. When romance starts to blossom, Megan must admit she is not free to marry. When her former husband William arrives to claim her, Megan must leave with him and return to their home in Clearwater, Virginia. The second half of the novel is a tale of survival. Megan plans her escape from William’s house but with winter approaching she gets lost and wanders into the mountains. Encounters with a bear, bandits and snow leave her almost dead. Meanwhile Charles realises his behaviour to Megan was harsh. He leaves his ranch and with the help of confidential investigator James Marshall, investigates Megan’s
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Categories: Book Love.

First Edition: ‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding #oldbooks

A moral for all times about self-governance, Lord of the Flies was the first novel of schoolteacher William Golding. It tells the story of a group of British schoolboys stranded on an uninhabited island and their disastrous attempts to govern themselves. It was not an instant hit, going out of print in the USA a year after publication, but it went onto be a bestseller. In the middle of an unspecified war, a plane crashes on a remote island in the Pacific. Fair-haired Ralph believes that grown-ups will come to rescue them, but Piggy says they should get organised. “Put first things first and act proper.” The novel explores the conflicting human impulses towards civilisation, social order, living according to the rules, with the pursuit of power. It is abrilliantly observed study of teenagers free of the usual rules and conventions imposed by adults. Artwork for the first UK Faber edition [above], published on September 17, 1954 is by Anthony Gross. The current Faber edition [below] was first published in 1997. Buy here. The story During a wartime evacuation, a British aeroplane crashes on an isolated island in the Pacific Ocean. The only survivors are adolescent boys. Two boys – fair-haired Ralph,
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Categories: Book design and Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Wigs on the Green’ by Nancy Mitford #humour #satire

When office worker Noel Foster inherits three thousand three hundred and fourteen pounds from an aunt and sets his heart on finding a girl to marry, his friend tells him, ‘It’s such a fearful gamble. Much better put the money on a horse and be out of your misery at once.’ And so starts Wigs on the Green, the third novel by Nancy Mitford. But as well as a social satire of the upper class circles in which she moved, as in her previous novels, in Wigs on the Green Mitford had a more personal target in mind: the fascist pretensions of her sisters Unity and Diana. The sisters disliked the novel; it caused a family rift and was not republished within Mitford’s lifetime [she died in 1973]. Money and sex are at the heart of the story; the spending and gaining of money, the marrying into money, and the pursuit of sex seemingly regardless of the eligibility and marital status of the intended. Noel and his friend Jasper Aspect go to Chalford in search of the young heiress, Eugenia Malmains. Their first glimpse of the over-enthusiastic fascism-obsessed Eugenia is as she gives a public speech on behalf of the
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Categories: Book Love.

Famous writers, writing… Rose Tremain

When I first saw this photo I spent a little while trying to read the spines of the books on the shelves behind Rose Tremain. Pictured here at home in Norwich, her shelves look reassuringly normal: A4 ring binders, stacks of magazines, family photos fitted into gaps. But I couldn’t read one book title. Disappointing. And I also envy her floor-to-ceiling shelves. Tremain is one of those novelists I seek to emulate. Now 72, she firmly believes that writers get better as they age. “So long as I can keep setting up these journeys it is likely that I can keep going — provided I keep my marbles. I feel I have greater intellectual strength now than 20 years ago.” Variety is the key for her, it seems, and the subject matter of her novels has varied widely. A Restoration rake in the time of Charles II in Restoration; the 1860s gold rush in New Zealand in The Colour; a lute player in the court of Christian IV of Denmark in Music & Silence; and an eastern European migrant in Britain in The Road Home. Read the article at The Times. Here’s my review of her latest novel, The Gustav
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Categories: On Writing.

#Bookreview ‘The Clockmaker’s Daughter’ by Kate Morton #historical #romance

Kate Morton is strongest when writing about houses, houses with history, atmospheric, beautiful, brooding houses. Birchwood Manor in The Clockmaker’s Daughter is haunted by what happened there. A death, a theft, a drowning. The truth is a complicated tale of twists and turns, Morton gives us numerous characters from slices of history from a Pre-Raphaelite group of artists to National Trust-like ownership today. The mystery starts from page one, the Prologue, told in the voice of an unknown woman remembering her arrival at Birchwood Manor with Edward. When the rest of the house party leave, ‘I had no choice; I stayed behind.’ Is she a ghost? Cut straight to today and archivist Elodie who unpacks an old leather satchel finds inside a photograph of a woman and an intriguing sketchbook. Leafing through the pages she stops dead, seeing a drawing of a house she knows though she has never been there. It featured in a bedtime story told by her mother. Is it a real place? Does it have magical powers as local tales suggest? ‘It is a strange house, built to be purposely confusing. Staircases that turn at unusual angles, all knees and elbows and uneven treads; windows that do
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Categories: Book Love.

#Book review ‘The Comforts of Home’ by @susanhillwriter #crime #thriller

Another Simon Serrailler novel by Susan Hill? I admit to excitement at this, the ninth outing for the Lafferton detective. It is three years since the eighth novel, The Soul of Discretion, and I feared Hill wanted to write about other things and there would be no more. And now, The Comforts of Home. I saved it to read on holiday, in the same way as a child I saved my favourite chocolate bar from my Christmas Selection Box. To be enjoyed at leisure. I admit to forgetting how The Soul of Discretion ended, so the beginning was rather a shock but also fascinating. After life-changing surgery, Serrailler goes to the remote Scottish island of Taransay to convalesce. The descriptions of this bleak but beautiful place made me want to go there. He is quickly accepted by the tight-knit community where mutual support is a necessity, where consequently everyone knows everyone else’s lives in minutiae, but where you know a death is inevitable. As temporary cop-in-charge, given the local force’s short-handedness, Serrailler uncovers a secret no one had guessed. Serrailler’s injury beings a new layer of damage to his solitary wounded soul, he would rather get up and face the day
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘La Belle Sauvage’ by @PhilipPullman #BookofDust

I’m a great Philip Pullman fan so when word of his new series The Book of Dust was first announced, I was excited. La Belle Sauvage is volume one in the series and tells the story of eleven-year old Malcolm who lives beside the River Thames at The Trout pub at Godstow, near Oxford. One day, a baby arrives at the priory on the other side of the river. Called Lyra, mystery surrounds the child, her parentage, and why she is cared for by the nuns. This of course is Lyra Belacqua, so familiar and beloved of Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. La Belle Sauvage is the story of Malcolm’s fascination with the baby Lyra, his relationship with scholar Hannah Relf and his suspicions about a mysterious stranger who visits The Trout. Everyone dislikes this man, despite his ready smiles and chat, because of his daemon, a three-legged hyena. Common with the first book of every series, there is a certain amount of scene setting, the laying-down of foundations for the forthcoming books. Pullman takes time and care to develop the character of Malcolm, the love he has for his canoe La Belle Sauvage, his relationships with his parents, the
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘Call of the Curlew’ by @ManxWriter #historical #WW2

An elderly woman sees a sign she has been awaiting and prepares to take her last walk, across the snowy marshes and into the sea. She imagines the freezing water creeping up her legs, planning how she will use her walking stick, loading her pockets with stones from the garden wall. And then she realises she has the wrong day, it is New Year’s Eve tomorrow, not today and she is a day too early. When a stranger appears, her plans are disrupted and the past must be faced. Call of the Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks has the most fantastic sense of place. It is a haunting, atmospheric read that I didn’t want to put down. Tollbury Marsh is an ever-present character in the story too, quiet, empty, natural and ‘where a body could sink under that earth, slowly and inexorably, like an insect in a pot of glue.’ Virginia Wrathmell arrives at Salt Winds, a house on the edge of the marshes, as a newly adopted orphan when she is ten. It is New Year’s Eve 1939. Her new parents, Clem and Lorna, seem ill at ease together and Virginia watches them from the banisters, trying to understand the adult
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Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read: Chantelle Atkins @Chanatkins #books #YA

Today I’m delighted to welcome young adult author Chantelle Atkins. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is The Catcher In The Rye by JD Salinger. “I first read this novel when I was fifteen years old, so around 1993/94. I discovered it when I was flat and cat sitting for my oldest sister for a weekend. Every now and then my sister and her boyfriend would have a weekend away and she would ask me to flat sit from Friday to Sunday. Of course, at this age, I absolutely jumped at the chance. I was allowed to have a friend if I wanted, but on the occasion, I started reading The Catcher In The Rye, I was alone for the entire weekend. My sister, who back then was obsessed with 1950s music and memorabilia had the coolest flat in the world. It was crammed full of retro and vintage furniture, clothes, records and books. It was a treasure chest full of goodies. “That weekend, browsing her bookshelves, I discovered so many intriguing old books. I started reading The Catcher In The Rye [above] and could not put it down. It’s fair to say I fell completely and utterly in love. I have been in love with
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

#Bookreview ‘The Seven Sisters’ by Lucinda Riley @lucindariley #romance

In its scope, The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley reminds me of Eighties family mega-stories, paperbacks as thick as doorstops. This is the first in a series; the first five are already published. I recommend suspending your ‘instinct for the literal’ and throwing yourself into the world of the book. Some of the story set-up seems unrealistic – unbelievable wealth, mysterious father, beautiful adopted sisters – this is not a normal world. But I quickly became caught up in the historical story. Pa Salt has died suddenly; he is the fabulously wealthy, secretive, reclusive adoptive father to six sisters whose origins are a mystery. Only when he has gone do they realise they should have asked him for information. Each of the sisters is given a clue and a letter. Also in the envelope is a triangular-shaped tile. The Seven Sisters is the story of the eldest D’Aplièse sister. Maia’s clue is a map reference that takes her to a crumbling mansion in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil where she meets an enigmatic elderly woman. The book came alive for me with the story, eighty years earlier, of Izabela Rosa Bonifacio. Izabela, daughter of a nouveau riche coffee merchant in Rio, is facing an
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘The Sapphire Widow’ by @DinahJefferies #historical #romance

When Dinah Jeffries writes about Ceylon, you can smell it and sense it. The blossom, the flowers, the birds, she is excellent at evoking setting. The Sapphire Widow is not her strongest book, but it is nevertheless an enjoyable read. Whatever it may lack in plot – a weakness I think because the main character is the wronged one, rather than with a secret of her own to hide – it is a fascinating glimpse of mid-Thirties Ceylon and a beautiful seaside town. It is 1936 in Galle on the southernmost tip of Ceylon. Louisa Reeve and her husband Elliot seem to have it all except, after a series of miscarriages, a child. Louisa, who wonders if she will ever be a mother, is often alone as Elliot spends his spare time sailing with friends and on a cinnamon plantation in which he is an investor. But when tragedy hits Louisa discovers Elliot’s life, investments and hobbies were not as he told her. As she deals with one lie after another, Louisa continues to develop Sapphire, the retail emporium originally planned with Elliot and which provides the novel’s title. Given the title I expected the gemstone business of Louisa’s father,
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ’Ghost Wall’ by Sarah Moss #literary

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss is a beautifully written short novel, more a novella at 160 pages. Set in the Nineties it is the story of a re-enactment conducted by a family and a university professor and his students who live in the woods in Northumberland to recreate the lifestyle of Iron Age man. Class issues run throughout; accent, education, north/south, but it is also a time of changes embodied in the character and changing sensibilities of seventeen year old Silvie. Told completely through the viewpoint of Silvie it juxtaposes the harsh Iron Age life with her own upbringing by authoritarian self-taught father Bill and bland mother Alison who has surrendered to her husband’s will, with the life of the Iron Age bog people. In almost a closed room setting more familiar from crime fiction, the group is thrown into close proximity living in difficult conditions with minimal food. As the story progresses the group becomes divided. The two adult men disappear to work on their ‘projects’ while Silvie’s mum stays in camp to cook and sit around. This leaves the students to their own devices to forage, harvest mussels and skinny dip. It is a haunting story as Silvie
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Categories: Book Love.

How George Saunders writes

George Saunders “My room is flooded with family photos, there’s a desk, a printer and two guitars that I play when I’m stuck in a paragraph. I work with an obsessive quality, but I’m wary of the blandness that routine creates and my best work is only summoned by irregular habits. Part of me wants to go through life on autopilot. I have to lure out the crazy person in me who’s honest and intense.” [an interview with ‘The Sunday Times Magazine’ April 1, 2018]  The idea of stopping to play the guitar, to free the moment, to throw off predictability, really appeals to me. I don’t have a guitar but I do have a Yamaha keyboard in my study [below], its daily presence reminding me of my adult vow to rekindle my childhood piano playing. Later in the same interview, Saunders says: “I do a lot of semi-physical things to break up the day, like service the hot tub or record a riff on the guitar to restore my writing focus.” This made me laugh out loud. I achieve the same effect with a trip to the supermarket, loading the washing machine or going to yoga. But when I stopped
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Categories: On Writing.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘My Mother’

I was hooked from the first line here, I think because of the familiarity of the cornflake cake. So what came next was a surprise, not something my mother said to me when I made her a cake! This is My Mother by Ruby Robinson [below] from Every Little Sound. Published in 2016, Robinson’s first collection of poems was shortlisted for the Felix Dennis Forward Prize for ‘Best First Collection’, and the TS Eliot Prize for ‘Best Collection’.  Here is the first stanza of My Mother. Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library. ‘She said the cornflake cake made her day, she said a man cannot be blamed for being unfaithful: his heart is not in tune with his extremities and it’s just the way his body chemistry is. She said all sorts of things.’ Source: Poetry (October 2014) Read more about Ruby Robinson here.   ‘Every Little Sound’ by Ruby Robinson [UK: Pavilion Poetry] Read these other excerpts, and perhaps find a new poet to love:- ‘Runaways’ by Daniela Nunnari ‘Tulips’ by Wendy Cope ‘Cloughton Wyke I’ by John Wedgwood Clarke And
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Categories: Poetry.

#BookReview ‘Fatal Inheritance’ by Rachel Rhys #romance #glamour

Fatal Inheritance by Rachel Rhys is a mystery set in the South of France three years after the end of World War Two. This is a glamorous place of sun and colours and beauty but which hides wartime shade and recriminations, canker beneath the luxury and smiles. When Eve Forrester receives a solicitor’s letter promising ‘something to her advantage’, she leaves her husband in England and travels to Cap d’Antibes. Clifford disapproves of her journey, he thinks it inappropriate, a waste of time, doubts the veracity of the will of this mysterious Mr Guy Lester who Eve does not know. But Eve defies her husband and goes anyway, curious, listening to the inner voice which tells her there is more to life. This is a novel where you want to shout to the heroine, to encourage her onwards, to have strength to take a new path. Eve inherits a part-share in the Villa La Perle at Cap d’Antibes, near neighbours are the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Eve, in her ‘make do and mend’ clothing, is thrown into a glamorous social whirl of people she finds awkward, dismissive and arrogant. Rhys draws a layered picture of society where obvious wealth
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Categories: Book Love.

Fill your #Kindle with ebooks – why not try the ‘Identity Detective’ series

Bored on Boxing Day? Fill your #Kindle with new ebooks by authors new to you. Or start that book you’ve been meaning to read and haven’t got around to buying? So what’s my ‘Identity Detective’ series all about? Rose Haldane, journalist and identity detective, reunites the people lost through adoption. The stories you don’t see on television shows. The difficult cases. The people who cannot be found, who are thought lost forever. And each new challenge makes Rose re-live her own adoption story, each birth mother and father, adopted child, and adoptive parent she talks to, reminds her of her own birth mother Kate. Each book in the ‘Identity Detective’ series considers the viewpoint of one person trapped in this horrible dilemma. In the first book of the series, Ignoring Gravity, it is Rose’s experience we follow as an adult discovering she was adopted as a baby. Connectedness is the story of a birth mother, her hopes and anxieties, her guilt and fear, and her longing to see her baby again. Here’s what some readers said about ‘Ignoring Gravity’ 5* “Ignoring Gravity is a very enjoyable read from beginning to end. The warm story will tear at your heart strings one moment,
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Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read: @janedavisauthor #books #literaryfiction

Today I’m delighted to welcome novelist Jane Davis. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy. “My list of favourite novels may change, but it is always topped by Pat Conroy’s, The Prince of Tides. Ignore the terrible film version – the book has everything. Family secrets, flawed characters, a doomed love affair. “I read it for the first time many years before I contemplated writing, but it was books like this (and here I include the novels of John Irving and Michael Chabon) that must have sowed the seed. “The first thing to say is that my choice is not your typical comfort read. The quote ‘We read to know that we are not alone’ is attributed to at least three different people. Perhaps that’s because it’s a universal truth. I find myself drawn to books about misfits and underdogs. (My latest ‘new favourite book’, Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronan Hession, considers how gentle people survive in a world that is fast-paced and competitive.) “The Prince of Tides has the power to transport the reader from the very first line. My wound is geography. It is also my anchorage, my point of call. “We know immediately that
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Categories: Book Love, On Writing, and Porridge & Cream.