Monday, 30 December 2013

Book of the Month - December

Product DetailsProduct Detailsjacket image for Things I Want My Daughters to Know by Elizabeth NobleFront Cover

It has been a bumper month of reading for me this month.  Mainly due to the fact that two were short stories of 100 pages or less.  Although I have enjoyed all my reads one stood out more than all the others this month and that would have to be.....

Christmas at the Ragdoll Orphanage

This true account of the life of Suzanne Lambert and her mother Nancy and their time at Nazareth House and beyond was for me the most outstanding of my reads this month.  So much so that I could see this turned into a TV drama. All the time I was reading it I had the voice of Vanessa Redgrave in my head as the narrator just as she is in the Call the Midwife Series.  

Would definitely recommend you download a copy to your Kindle or look for a copy in your preferred book shop.


Sunday, 29 December 2013

The Butler - Wil Haygood

Front Cover
When acclaimed Washington Post writer Wil Haygood had an early hunch that Obama would win the 2008 election, he thought he'd highlight the singular moment by exploring the life of someone who had come of age when segregation was so widespread, so embedded in the culture as to make the very thought of a black president inconceivable. He struck gold when he tracked down Eugene Allen, a butler who had served no fewer than eight presidents, from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan. During his thirty-four years of service, Allen became what the Independent described as a "discreet stagehand who for three decades helped keep the show running in the most important political theatre of all." While serving tea and supervising buffets, Allen was also a witness to history as decisions about America's most momentous events were being made. Here he is at the White House while Kennedy contemplates a moon landing; here he is again when Kennedy's widow returns from that fateful day in Dallas. Here he is when Johnson and his cabinet debate Vietnam and here he is again when Ronald Reagan finally got tough on apartheid. Perhaps hitting closest to home was the Civil Rights legislation that was developed, often with passions flaring, right in front of his eyes even as his own community of neighbours, friends and family were contending with Jim Crow America. Also included in the book is an essay in the vein of James Baldwin's jewel, The Devil Finds Work, that explores the history of black people in Hollywood as well as over 45 pictures of the butler, Eugene Allen, and his family, the Presidents he served, and the remarkable cast.

Publisher: 37 Ink
Pages: 112 - Hardcover
Year 2013
ISBN: 978-147-674-5299-0

I had been eagerly awaiting for this film to be released.  My son was coming for Christmas and just as we did when they were younger we thought we would go to the cinema as a pre Christmas treat.  Unfortunately the film has gone off screen before we got a chance to go and see it.  Never mind my son had said I'll get you the book for Christmas, which he duly did or so we thought.  When it arrived he wrapped it but did point out that he thought it wasn't the book of the film.  Christmas day came and I opened it to find that he was in deed right.  The book written by Wil Haygood is more about his journey in writing the original article about Eugene Allen and the interest this bought about especially as Obama was to become the first black president. There are photographs of Allen of interest and of the characters from the film.  It was an interesting book and took me less than a day to complete.  It is worth reading from a historical point of view but don't be mistaken that this is the book the film as like me you will be disappointed.   I am still hoping at some point that the book of the film will be released but for now resigned to waiting for the release of the film on DVD in January. 


Friday, 27 December 2013

Things I want my Daughters to Know - Elizabeth Noble

jacket image for Things I Want My Daughters to Know by Elizabeth NobleHow would you say goodbye to those you love most in the world?

Barbara must say a final farewell to her four daughters. But how can she find the words? And how can she leave them when they each have so much growing up still to do?

Take Lisa, in her thirties but terrified of commitment - or brittle, unhappily married Jennifer. Amanda, the traveller, is always a little apart from her sisters and teenage Hannah faces adult life without a mother at her side.

Barbara's answer is to write each daughter a letter, finally expressing the hopes, fears, dreams and secrets she couldn't always voice. These words will touch the girls in different - sometimes shocking - ways, unlocking emotions and passions to set them on their own journey of discovery through life. 

Published by: Penguin Books - Fiction
Year: 2008 - Paperback
Pages: 438
ISBN: 978-0-141-03001-2

You join the book following the death of Barbara a mother of four daughters.  She leaves each of her daughters a letter and to one her journal.  Each of them will find out things about their mother that they had never known.  They also find out some truths about themselves that Barbara had never told them.  Their mothers revelations will either pull them closer together or tear them apart.  At times you will question Barbara's action's wondering whether in the same circumstance whether you yourself would of made the decisions. Like all mothers she just wanted to protect her girls.  At times it is advisable to have a box of tissues to hand.  All told a very good book and one I would definitely recommend.  


Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas at the Ragdoll Orphanage - Suzanne Lambert

Newcastle Upon Tyne 1965

Mother Superior took the child and placed it in my arms. Susan, darling, that was you. You were light as a feather, and all I could think of saying was "it's a girl". That was ten years ago.

"Her name is Susan" the lady said. I don't think I even looked at her, I simply couldn't take my eyes off you. Oh you were so precious and so perfect. All I cared about was holding you and, just at that moment, you opened your eyes and looked at me. Susan, I knew there and then that you and I belonged together, We still do, and always will, but, my darling, I am not your real mum.

"I don't understand, what do you mean, 'real mum' ?" I was ten years old, and Mum certainly wasn't going to talk about the birds and the bees just yet. It didn't matter anyway.

"You are my mum" I said. 

"of course. And you are my daughter and always will be".

That was enough for me. In that moment, I was perfectly happy to be Nancy's child.

Published By: Penguin Books - Non Fiction
Year: 2013 - Kindle/Paperback
Pages: 384
ISBN: 978-1-405-92386-7

Keeping with the Christmas theme I have now completed this first novel by Suzanne Lambert winner of Penguin and Take a Break Magazine's life-story competition. Suzanne still lives in Newcastle.  

This is the life story of Suzanne Lambert, she will tell you about her mother 'No Nonsense Nancy' who herself had come to live at Nazareth House from the age of nine and who had looked after her from just six days old, her relationship with her father,  and about her birth mother Molly. She tells you about her life at Nazareth House, and how Nancy was always there for her every step of the way.

A fantastic read. Well worth every spare moment to read. Make sure you have plenty of tissues for when Suzanne has you crying with laughter, and with tears of joy and of sadness. Very well written straight from the heart. A very fitting tribute to her mother Nancy.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas 


Sunday, 15 December 2013

A Christmas Wish - No Greater Love Series - Amanda Prowse

A special Christmas short story from Amanda Prowse: a wonderful, warm festive treat from a bestselling author.

Product DetailsPoppy is trying to make sure her children have the perfect Christmas. The fields are sparkling with snow, the turkey is roasting, and the tree is groaning with presents. But Poppy's beloved husband is fighting in Afghanistan, and the kids are missing their Dad.

Can their wishes come true without him? Or will they have the perfect Christmas after all?

Published By: Head of Zeus - Fiction
Year: 2013 Kindle Edition
Pages: 62
ISBN: 9781781859056

Another lovely story from Amanda Prowse. In A Christmas Wish you see Poppy Day back. Now 10 years on her and Mart have two children Peggy and Max. Mart is going to be away on tour over Christmas so Poppy is taking the kids away for Christmas. They are going to stay with Mile's mother who has remained a close friend since the death of her son.  All little Peggy wants is her Daddy home for Christmas. Will Peg get her wish?

If you have followed the story of Poppy Day and that of her grandmother in Clover's Child then you'll want to keep up with their story in this lovely short story for Christmas.


Thursday, 12 December 2013

A Dog for Christmas - W. Bruce Cameron

Product Details
When his girlfriend Amanda leaves him, Josh Michaels is broken-hearted and miserable at the thought og spending Christmas alone. A surprise call from his neighbour, asking him to look after his dog Lucy, is the last thing he needs. But like it or not, Lucy bounds into his life. And soon Josh ralises that she is not only energetic, but also very pregnant. He suddenly finds himself looking after not just one dog, but five tiny adventurous puppoes too. 

Josh heads down to the local animal shelter to seek advice, where he meets the beautiful headstrong Kerri, who works to find homes for abandoned dogs. She says that it's Josh's responsibility to care for the puppies untul they can be adopted. As Christmas draws nearer, Josh can;t help but be won over by the jouous, unconditioned love of his unruly new family - he also finds himself falling for Kerri.

Soon Josh realises he wants nothing more than to give these dogs a home and not only for Christmas.... Can Lucy and her puppies help Josh get over Amanda, win Kerri's heart, and stay with him for longer than just the holidays?

Published By: Pan Macmillan - Fiction
Year 2013 - Paperback
Pages: 230
ISBN: 978-1-4472-6324-1

This is the first of my Christmas stories to help me get in the mood for the festive season.  'A Dog for Christmas' was a charming little book and a bit of a will the good guy get the girl type story.  You could imagine Hugh Grant or Colin Firth playing the character of Josh Michaels if it were to be made into a film. A very easy read I had read the first one hundred pages on Sunday, but then unfortunately had to go to work but could easily of continued reading if time had permitted and finished before today.  Contains all the usual, highs and lows, heartache and romance, tears and joy.

M x

Sunday, 8 December 2013

The Kitchen House - Kathleen Grissom

'You must not become too friendly with them,' she said. 'They are not the same as us.'
'How?' I asked. 'How are they not the same?'

When seven-year-old Irish orphan Lavinia is transported to Virginia to work in the kitchen of a wealthy plantation owner, she is absorbed into the life of the kitchen house and becomes part of the family of black slaves whose fates are tied to the plantation.

But Lavinia's skin will always set her apart, whether she wishes it or not. And as she grows older, she will be torn between the life that awaits her as a white woman and the people she knows as kin.

A compelling, powerful and poignant coming-of-age story about the fragility of family,and where love and loyalty prevail.

Published by: Transworld Publishers -Fiction
Year: 2013 Paperback/Kindle Edition
Pages: 399
ISBN: 978 0552 779128/0857521543

The story begins in 1791 when Lavina is orphaned upon a ship. Captain James Pyke decides to take her back to his plantation to work in the kitchen with his black slaves.  Lavinia remains part of the slave population until adulthood when her life changes again but not necessarily for the better.  This was a full on book with many highs and lows.  Definitely a good read but has to be read when you can give your full and undivided attention in order to keep up with the never ending changes to the characters and their stories.   Would recommend as a good and compelling read. 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Kindle App

Now I may well be teaching you all to suck eggs here but I recently discovered something about Kindle and therefore thought I would share this little bit of info with you all.

I bought a Kindle HD back in August and have been enjoying it's rewards ever since. What I hadn't realised is that you don't have to have a Kindle in order to read Kindle Books.  It was whilst on amazon looking for a book for my son that I then saw in a little box how you can download the Kindle App to your ipad, tablet or even your phone.  This was really useful as I currently have a son serving out in Afghanistan and he is obviously limited to what he could take with him and what he would be able to bring back if we sent him anything.  He has downloaded the Kindle App and has been able to buy and download books to read in his down time and it has proved to be invaluable.  Since then my daughter and my other son have also downloaded the app and even D has now downloaded it to his ipad and is currently working his way through all the Jeffery Archers.  If you normally buy amazon vouchers as Christmas gifts you still can as when you purchase any books for your Kindle you still have the opportunity to use any vouchers you may have to purchase. 

If you would like to know more information then simply click here.

Happy reading one and all 

M x

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Midwife On Call - Tales of Tiny Little Miracles - Agnes Light

Midwife on CallAgnes Light trained as a  nurse in the 1960's and went on to become a midwife - helping to bring new lives into the world for over 30 years. After fainting from shock at the first birth she attended as a student, Agnes grew to adore her job and the lifelong friends that worked with her on the maternity ward. In her enchanting memoir she recalls how she struggled at first with the strict rules of hospital etiquette and the expectation that she would always know the right thing to do. - from dealing with hysterical fathers to miracle multiple births - Agnes quickly learnt she had to keep a cool head whatever the circumstances. This is a heartwarming portrait of a thoughtful and compassionate midwife. Funny, poignant and rich with period detail. Midwife on Call traces Agnes's touching journey from squeamish pupil to assured professional.  

Published  by: Hodder paperbacks - Memoir
Year: 2011
Pages: 288
ISBN: 9781444736120

I bought this enchanting book sometime ago and it has been residing on my to be read shelf ever since.  I suddenly spotted it last week whilst looking for something new  to read. Agnes Light describes the highs and lows of being a healthcare professional in an ever changing world.  She tells of her experiences of delivering miracle babies to both first time mums and to those delivering number 6. Each birthing story is unique and each one very special to Agnes and the families she supports.  A very easy read and if studying to be a Midwife or just showing an interest is well worth putting on your wish list. 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Book of the Month November

Daffodil Girls (eBook): Stories of love, loss and friendship from the women behind our heroes

This month I have read three very different books but three very strong contenders for my Book of the Month. Philomena tells the heartfelt story of one mothers search for the son who was so cruelly taken from her.  Where as the film tells the story of Philomena's search for he son  the book concentrates much more on the life he had once he was adopted and his subsequent search for his mother.

The Night Rainbow tells the story of one little girls vivid imagination and you become easily wrapped up in her story.

The Daffodil Girls tells the true accounts of the wives and families of serving army personnel and has you laughing and crying in equal amounts.  

Whilst reading Philomena I really didn't think that anything else would match it but I was wrong.  Anyone of these three books could have been my book of the month but in the end for me there was only one winner and that had to be.

Daffodil Girls (eBook): Stories of love, loss and friendship from the women behind our heroes
Book of the Month for November 2013

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Daffodil Girls - Kitty Dimbleby

Daffodil Girls (eBook): Stories of love, loss and friendship from the women behind our heroes

How do you have a relationship that is not only long distance,but with someone who is both out of contact and in danger on a daily basis? How do you deal with everyday life while he's away? And how do you cope if your worst nightmare comes true -he doesn't come back at all?

Format: Kindle Edition - Non Fiction
Print Length: 259 pages
ISBN: 0753539640
Publisher: Virgin Digital (31 Aug 2011) 

Ever wondered what it is like to support a loved one in the armed forces? Army wife and journalist Kitty Dimbleby reveals stories of life, love and loss from the women behind the front line.
For every brave soldier putting their life on the line for Queen and country, there is a second, more subtle sort of heroism at work back at base in Britain.  Daffodil Girls is the story of the women behind the soldiers of The 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh. Granted unprecedented access into this most private of communities, writer Kitty Dimbleby brilliantly brings to life the lot of a soldier's wife, as she follows these women through the cycle of a regiment's tour of duty: the preparation for departure, the six long months of action and the emotional reunion. Insightful, humorous and deeply moving in turn, Daffodil Girls captures the unique bond of friendship and indomitable spirit that is forged in such circumstances - the extraordinary world of the heroines behind our army heroes.
'This is a moving tribute to the wives and families who are left behind when Britain's soldiers go out to fight - the story of their courage in the face of separation, loneliness and fear for those they love. Kitty Dimbleby's message is that war breeds more than one kind of hero worthy of our admiration and support' 

Oh my goodness me this has been one of the most emotionally charged books I have read in a long time.  Not only are they the true and personal accounts of each of the families,  but for anyone who has a loved one currently serving no matter which of the services they belong you will know exactly how these families felt.

One word of caution do not read whilst travelling on public transport as you may encounter funny looks from people when you laugh out loud and even more so when you can't help but shed a tear when a family has suffered a loss.  I have gone on to buy the hardback book as gifts for Christmas.  It is well worth the money and all proceeds are going to Help The Heroes.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Night Rainbow - Claire King

Under the sweltering heat of the summer sun, five-year old Pea - and her vivid imagination - run wild in the meadows behind her home on the edge of a small village in southern France.

Pea's father died in an accident, and now she only has her little sister, Margot for company. Their mother is too sad to take care of them and has withdrawn to a place where Pea cannot reach her, no matter how hard she tries.

When Pea meets Claude, a neighbour who seems to love the meadow as she foes, she wonders if he could be their new papa. But what secret is Claude keeping.

Published by: Bloomsbury 
Year:  - Paperback
Pages: 263
ISBN: 978-1-4088-4184-6

It was back on the 24th October that Jo over at Through the Keyhole mentioned she had been reading 'The Night Rainbow' by Claire King.  As I can't read my Kindle in the bath, especially after what happened to me at the beginning of the month, I tend to have a book on hand for such eventuality. Having just finished Beautiful Child by Torey Hayden I had started reading Philomena by Martin Sixsmith on my Kindle. Arriving home from work late one evening all I wanted was a long leisurely bath with a good book. I searched on the 'to be read shelf ' and pulled out a book that didn't appear to be as thick as War and Peace only to discover it was 'The Night Rainbow' by Claire King. I have really enjoyed reading this book  and  I have found it to be a very entertaining read.  The story is told through the eyes of a child and tells of her adventures during one hot summer.  Pea has recently lost her father in an accident and her mother is finding the loss hard to bare, especially as she is heavily pregnant. Pea and her little sister are pretty much left to their own devices throughout this time much to the concern of her friend and neighbour Claude.  Eventually events dictate a change in the life of Pea and her family. I would certainly recommend as one for the wish list for reading. 

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Philomena - Martin Sixsmith

When she fell pregnant as a teenager in Ireland in 1952, Philomena Lee was sent to the convent at Roscrea in Co. Tipperary to be looked after as a fallen woman. She cared for her baby for three years until the Church took him from her and sold him, like countless others, to America for adoption. Coerced into signing a document promising never to attempt to see her child again, she nonetheless spent the next fifty years secretly searching for him, unaware that he was searching for her from across the Atlantic. Philomena's son, renamed Michael Hess, grew up to be a top Washington lawyer and a leading Republican official in the Reagan and Bush administrations. But he was a gay man in a homophobic party where he had to conceal not only his sexuality but eventually, the fact that he had AIDs. With little time left, he returned to Ireland and the convent where he was born: his desperate quest to find his mother before he died left a legacy that was to unfold with unexpected consequences for all involved.
Philomena is the tale of a mother and a son whose lives were scarred by the forces of hypocrisy on both sides of the Atlantic and of the secrets they were forced to keep. 
With a foreword by Judi Dench, Martin Sixsmith's book is a compelling and deeply moving narrative of human love and loss, both heartbreaking yet ultimately redemptive.

Published by: First published by Macmillan in 2010 in Paperback  under the title 'The Lost Child of Philomena Lee'  re-released as 'Philmena' in 2013 to tie in with the film of the same name by Pan Books - Non Fiction.
Pages: 452  - Kindle Edition 
ISBN: 978-1-4472-4533-9


As I don't make it to the cinema very often these days I decided I would read the book to the film and wait for it to come out on DVD in order to see it.  On discussing the film with colleagues who have seen it I discovered the fundamental difference between the book and the film. Here I was thinking that I would be reading the story of Philamena Lee and her search for her lost son only to find that was not the case.  The book is a compelling read and ties in with the film brilliantly.   The differences being that the book is all about the life of Michael Anthony Hess aka Anthony Lee the lost son of Philamena Lee and the film concentrates on the story of Phiomena's search for her son .  Adopted by Doc & Marge Hess as a three year old child a long with another child Mary they moved to America. They were always told that their mothers had given them up for adoption at birth and therefore both children had a sense of abandonment. The book tells the life of Michael from the moment he is born right up until his death in 1995. Unbeknownst to each other both mother and son had searched for each other over the years but to no avail until a chance meeting with Martin Sixsmith who took up the human interest story on behalf of Philomena and her family to try and find her son.  The book concentrates on the life of Michael Hess as told by his partner of 15 years, his family and close friends and the detailed diaries of his adoptive mother Marge Hess. I would definitely recommend this as a good read but would also recommend seeing the film in order to get a balanced view of both sides of the story.  Word of warning whether you see the film or read the book or as I would recommend both you will need a large box of tissues.  Thankfully the existence of the unmarried mothers homes and the involvement of the convents and the illegal trading of children has now ceased.  The sad side of this is there will be women out there who still carry the secret of an illegitimate child born in one of these places and forced to give them up for adoption. 

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Beautiful Child'- Torey Hayden

 Seven year old Venus Fox never spoke, never listened, never even acknowledged another human being in the room with her. Yet an accidental playground 'bump' would release a rage frightening to behold. The school year that followed would prove to be one of the most trying, perplexing, and ultimately rewarding Torey's career, as she struggled to reach a silent child in obvious pain and remained committed to helping a 'hopeless' girl, and patiently and lovingly leading her towards the light of a new day.

Published by: Harper Element - Memoir
Year: 2007 Paper Back
Pages: 448
ISBN: 13-978-0-00-720763-3

Torey Hayden has spent her career looking after special ed children.  In 'Beautful Child' Torey shares her memories of a year spent in class with five  wonderful children. Billy, Shane, Zane, Jessie and of course Venus.  There were other children who dropped in and out of this class but these five were her main class.  Each had their own educational needs.  Most started off being very disruptive and in the case of Venus quite aggressive.  Billy was eventually diagnosed with Dyslexia, Jessie had a diagnosis of Tourettes and twins Zane and Shane did have a diagnosis but were in need of input from a special needs teacher.  Torey tells of their individual struggles as well as their triumphs.  

I felt Torey's memories could of been shared in less than the 448 pages but that's just my opinion.  I must admit I did think that the book was going to concentrate more on Venus and how she eventually got this young girl to break her silence.  The book actually focuses more on the whole class rather than one individual and it wasn't really until Chapter 24 out of 35 that you really got to understand the complexity of Venus's problems both emotional and physical. 

It is the first book of Torey Hayden's that I have read, having a child with ASD I am always drawn to books around speech or the lack of.  Fortunately our number 3 does have speech and communicates very well albeit that sometimes he gets a little muddles. This book was from a book swap with a colleague at work and we both came to similar conclusions.  That said we both said we would read more of Torey Hayden's books in the future.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Sorrow of an American - Siri Hustvedt

My sister called it 'the year of secrets', but when I look back on it now, I've come to understand that it was a time not of what was there, but what wasn't.

Published by: Sceptre 
Year: 2009 - Paperback
Pages: 304
ISBN: 978-0-340-89708-9

Erik Davidson tells the story of how he and his family cope for the first year following his fathers death and in the process unearths secrets not only about his father but also his sisters late husband. 

I must admit the first five - ten pages he had my attention and I thought it was going to be a really good book full of intrigue.  But sad to say it wasn't. It is essentially about a lonely divorcee looking for love and settling for a second best relationship.  All the while trying to support his recently widowed sister and his niece and now his elderly widowed mother.  The secrets that are revealed are not what I would call an OMG secret and were events that happen in a lot of families.  

It turned out to be a book I couldn't put down but not because I was so absorbed by it's content but more because I wanted to get to the end and move on to something more interesting. 

Sorry Siri this one just did not do it for me.   

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Whispers-Rosie Goodwin

The old manor house has stood empty for years, left to rot since the last master of the Fenton family died. Until Jess Beddows steps inside and feels she has come home. Against her family's wishes she buys the house, promising to bring it back to life.

In an attic room, untouched for a century or more, she finds a journal. It holds the heartbreaking tale of Martha and of the cruel, entangled lives of the house's servants and masters nearly two hundred years before.  As Jess is drawn into their tragedy, the whispers begin. Before long everything she loves will be threatened by violent emotion and long-kept secrets. 
Can she survive the echoes from the past?

Published By: Headline - Fiction
Year: 2011 Paperback
Pages: 388
ISBN: 978-0-7553-5394-1


Jess Beddows is left a substantial amount of money by her grandmother which enables her to buy the house that she is hoping will turn out to be the house of her dreams.  Whilst exploring the attic rooms, which would have been the servants quarters years ago, she discovers a journal written by a young servant girl.  The journal tells of the cruelty and abuse the young servant girls endured at the hand of the master of the house and how one young girls plans to put an end to the masters rein of terror. The spirit of the young servant girl remains in the house and cannot rest  as evil returns to live under the roof of the manor house, she must make Jess understand the danger within before it is too late.  


I've not read anything by Rosie Goodwin before but I found 'Whispers' not a gripping tale but good content and an easy read and I would certainly not be put off reading other works by this author. 

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Memory Garden - Rachel Hore

The Memory GardenLamorna Cove - a tiny bay in Cornwall, picturesque, unspoilt. A hundred years ago it was the haunt of a colony of artists. Today, Mel Pentreath hopes it is a place where she can escape the pain of her mother's death and a broken love affair, and gradually put her life back together. Renting a cottage in the enchanting but overgrown grounds of Merryn Hall, Mel embraces her new surroundings and offers to help her landlord, Patrick Winterton, restore the garden. Soon she is daring to believe her life can be rebuilt. Then Patrick finds some old paintings in an attic, and as he and Mel investigate the identity of the artist, they are drawn into an extraordinary tale of illicit passion and thwarted ambition from a century ago, a tale that resonates in their own lives. But how long can Mel's idyll last before reality breaks in and everything is threatened?

Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK - Kindle Edition
Year: 2012
Pages: 430
ISBN: 1849835322


Mel Pentreath works as a University Lecturer, but takes some time out to carry out research on the Cornish Artists of Lamorna Cove in Cornwall. She hopes that it will help her recover from the death of her mother and the ending of a long term relationship. She rents a cottage in the grounds of Merryn Hall owned by Patrick Winterton.  Mel has a passion for gardening and in between working on her research offers to help her landbord to rediscover the overgrown gardens.  Together they unfold the mysteries of the gardens and discover the identity of the artist responsible for paintings discovered in the attic and the sad life of a young servant girl of Merryn Hall.  Inevitably there is an attraction between Mel and Patrick but will their pasts allow them to be happy together.  Well if you want to know that you'll have to read the book.

A good summer holiday read.  Not too taxing on the grey matter.  Not one that grips you so much that you can't put it down but an easy read.  

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Things We Never Said - Susan Elliott Wright

The past shapes us all. But what happens when it hides a secret that changes everything?

In 1964 Maggie wakes to find herself in a mental asylum, with no idea who she is or how she got there. 

Remnants of memories swirl in her mind - a familiar song, a storm, a moment of violence.

In the present day, Jonathan is grieving after the loss of his father. A cold distant man, he was not easy to love, but at least while he lived there was hope for reconciliation. Then a detective turns up on Jonathan's doorstep to question him about crimes committed long ago. 

And as the truth is gradually revealed, both Maggie and Jonathan realise that nothing is quite what it seems.

Simon & Schuster UK - Fiction
Year: 2013 - Paperback
Pages: 375
ISBN: 978-1-4711-0121-5

I loved this book. It had you gripped from the start.  Throughout the book you weave between the present and the past and learn how the lives of Maggie and Jonathan are linked.  I don't want to describe what happens in the book or it will spoil it for you. What I did like however was the fact that the author includes real characters in her book. Part of the story is situated in Hastings East Sussex and describes an old lady who walks around the town with a pram containing a doll and if you get too close she will shout at you 'don't you touch my baby'. Having been to Hastings many times I can tell you that up until my last visit there is indeed an old lady who walks around the town with a doll in a pram  and will tell you not to touch her baby if you get too close.  These touches to me make the story more real. You will find in reading this novel that you can really relate to each of the characters and understand the reason they took or will take the actions they do in order to protect themselves and their families. Although Susan Elliott Wright is known as a writer this is her first novel  but is a very compelling read and one I would and have recommended. It is now doing the rounds of the office but we are going to wait for the last one to finish reading it before we ask what everyone thought.  But on the QT those who have read it have said it was excellent. 

Thursday, 3 October 2013

To Kindle or not to Kindle

I've had my Kindle Fire HD  for just over a month now and thought it was time that I gave you my verdict. I had been considering a Kindle for sometime.   I decided to purchase a Kindle for it's versatility.  My son has owned a tablet for a few years now and was always telling me how much more portable it is than a laptop.  I didn't need microsoft office but wanted to be able to access the internet and apps as well as being able to store photo's.
All books listed on the Kindle enable you to download a sample, which is usually the first chapter, you can then go on to purchase the full book or delete the sample. The print is very clear and easily readable but  there is a facility on all Kindles to change the size of the font, alter the brightness, size of text and if necessary you can alter the background to sepia or reverse the the text from black on white to white on black. Some of the books available have a text to speech facility so you can listen rather than read.  The Kindle also comes with a audio book store. All the books listed enable you to play a sample usually the first 5 mins. I don't know how the prices of these compare to buying the CD's. 

As the Kindle belongs to Amazon then you link to any wish lists you have created on your account. My book shelf currently has in excess of 30 books still waiting to be read. The majority were purchased prior to my acquiring the Kindle but some have been purchased since.  My wish list currently has 50+ books saved to it in the que for downloading. If I had bought all of these books in paperback I would have nearly 100 books sat on the shelf. I still alternate between books and the Kindle but this is mainly due to the fact of price.  I carry a small note book around with me and when I see a book of interest I make a note of the name. I then check my Kindle to see if it's listed. It then comes down to the price.  Some of our supermarkets have regular deals on their books such as two for £7 or three for £10 therefore it has to be £3.50 or thereabouts on the Kindle for the Kindle to win.  If I am going to purchase from the Kindle I can store in the wish list until I am ready to purchase and read.

I like the fact that if I have been working late and miss any of my favourites on TV that I can now watch them on TV Catch Up.

You can store all your favourite photographs either on your Kindle device or on your cloud which comes as part of the software.  I have already accumulated a number of photographs and still have plenty of space left.  There are lots of apps available to enhance your photographs including instagram, colour effect and my sketch all available to download.  The one downside to the Kindle is the inbuilt Kindle.  The photographs are very poor quality and all photographs have to be taken facing you.  I've not tried the video facility as yet but I'm not sure how good the lighting quality would be.

And lastly my son has set up SKYPE for me so that whilst he is away on tour in Afghanistan we will be able to periodically be able to talk to one another and I will be able to see for myself that he is ok.  Well you never stop being a parent do you just because they have grown up. 

Hope you have found my ramblings helpful.

Have a good week one and all.


Friday, 27 September 2013

Little Face - Sophie Hannah

           She's only been gone two hours.

Her husband David was supposed to be looking after their two-week-old daughter. But when Alice Fancourt walks into the nursery her terrifying ordeal begins, for Alice insists the baby in the cot is a stranger she's never seen before.

With an increasingly hostile and menacing David swearing she must either be mad or lying, how can Alice make the police believe her before it's too late?

Published by: Hodder & Stoughton - Fiction
Year:2006 - Paperback
Pages: 357
ISBN: 978-1-4447-1093-9

Oh dear, Oh dear, Oh dear.  I had such high expectations of this first crime thriller by Sophie Hannah.   Predominantly known for her poetry and children's books, Sophie moved into crime thrillers in 2006 when she released this first crime thriller 'Little Face' and has subsequently gone on to write approximately 8+ books around the her two main characters Charlie Zailer and Simon Waterhouse. With this in mind I decided to start at the beginning so I would get to understand the background to the two detectives.  Essentially the story is around the two detectives and the Fancourt family. David Fancourt has been married before and has a son from that marriage. His first wife is killed just outside the family home and although a man was jailed for her murder, his second wife  Alice Fancourt is suspicious as to who was really behind her murder.   Alice Fancourt proceeds to go to great lengths to get to the truth.  I'm afraid that I found it difficult to follow the story and at times a little far fetched, would you be able to convince your husband and  anyone else willing to listen that the baby that is sleeping in the nursery upstairs is not the baby you bought home from hospital two weeks earlier and then convince the police of the same.  I would not be put off reading further work by Ms. Hannah and in deed have the next in the series of books 'Hurting Distance' sat on the book shelf but I may leave it a while before I read it so that I can go into reading it with an open mind.

May be you are a fan of Sophie Hannah and have a different view, why not leave me a comment on your thoughts about 'Little Face' or may be you have a recommendation of another of Sophie Hannah's books that will get my attention better.

Friday, 20 September 2013

The Secret Life of Bees - Sue Monk Kidd

Lily has grown up believing she accidentally killed her mother when she was four. She not only has her own memory of holding the gun, but her father's account of the event. Now fourteen, she yearns for her mother, and for forgiveness. Living on a peach farm in South Carolina with her father, she has only one friend: Rosaleen, a black servant whose sharp exterior hides a tender heart. South Carolina in the sixties is a place where segregation is still considered a cause worth fighting for. When racial tension explodes one summer afternoon, and Rosaleen is arrested and beaten, Lily is compelled to act. Fugitives from justice and from Lily's harsh and unyielding father, they follow a trail left by the woman who died ten years before. Finding sanctuary in the home of three beekeeping sisters, Lily starts a journey as much about her understanding of the world, as about the mystery surrounding her mother.

Publisher: Headline Review - Fiction
Paperback/Kindle: 384 pages
Year: 2011/2013
ISBN-13: 978-0747266839 

This is a truly touching story of a young girl who for 10 years has carried the guilt that she had accidentally shot and killed her mother.  Her father who loves her in his own way is a hard task master and doesn't understand 14 year old girls at all.  Her one true friend is Rosaleen, a black servant on her fathers peach farm,  who has looked after her since the death of her mother.  When Rosaleen finds herself in trouble with the police and badly beaten,  Lily decides she has to do something to protect her friend.  Armed with a photograph of her mother and a picture of a black Madoona they set off to to find sanctuary.  This they find in Tiburon at the home of the Boatwright sisters.The Boatwright sisters keep bees and  have lived in the pink house for years. They are best known for the honey that their bees produce the jars of which bear the label of the Black Madonna. Lily needs to know the connection between the Boatwright sisters and that of her dead mother. I have watched the film on a number of occasions but when I saw the book was available on kindle I just had to read the book.  I was surprised to find that the film stayed true to the book.    If you are a fan of 'The Help' you will find this a good read.  

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Reason I Jump - Naoki Higashida

'Composed by a writer still with one foot in childhood and whose autism was at least as challenging and life-defining as our son's. The Reason I Jump was a revelatory godsend. It felt as if, for the first time, our own son was talking to us about what was happening inside his head.

David Mitchell

Published By: Sceptre - Non-Fiction
Year: 2013 - Hardback
Pages: 180
ISBN: 978-1-444-77675-1

Introduction by David Mitchell
Translated by KA Yoshida & David Mitchell


What is Autisn?  Well I suppose most of us have preconceived ideas as to what Autism is, myself included until my number 3 came along.  Naoki Higashida is severely autistic and communicates by using a cardboard keyboard.  Naoki wrote this book in order to help us neuro-typical types have a better understanding of what it's like to be part of his world.  We are fortunate that our number 3 is verbal but even so a lot of what he says isn't always in the right context and has to be worked through to fully understand what the point is that he is trying to get across.  This book gives a very useful insight into the world of autism and will dispel some of the myths as well as informing you of what it is like to be autistic in today's society.  Naoki was 13 when he wrote this book and as my number 3 has just hit double figures I have found it very useful.  What was most reassuring was that a lot of the strategies we have put in place at home since his diagnosis Naoki has described within his book. Definitely a worthwhile read for anyone who has a family member or who works with autism.   

You can find more books on Autism and Asperger Syndrome  at Jessica Kingsley Publishers and are available to order direct or through Amazon.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Mum's Way - Ian Millthorpe

Angie plaited our daughters hair every morning. 'Watch how I do this' she said. 'I'll never be able to do that' I replied. 'Yes you will' Angie said quietly, 'because I'm going to teach you.'

For Angie Millthorpe, being a mother was everything. 

Childhood sweethearts, Ian and Angie had always known they were meant for each other and wanted nothing more than a big family. But eight children later and aged just forty-eight, Angie fell seriously ill; when she was told her illness was terminal, the welfare of her beloved children and her adoring husband became her only focus.

Raising that many children would be a big job for any couple; to raise them alone, without their mother, a superhuman task for Ian. But this was exactly what Angie wanted him to be able to do. So in the last months of her life, Angie compiled a list of 'rules' to guide Ian in the future from lunchbox favorites to bedtime rituals and favorite lullabies, Angie's manual gave Ian the strength and certainty that he could fulfil her wishes after she was gone. 

This is an inspiring memoir that celebrates an irreplaceable wife and mother, and the legacy of enduring love.  

Simon & Schuster UK  - Autobiography
Year 2013 
Pages: 266
ISBN: 978-1-47112-664-2

Many years ago I watched an old black & white  film called 'Who Will Love My Children'  that was about a terminally ill women and mother of eight children.  The Millthorpes story reminded of this film. Both women fighting a cruel disease that would eventually take them away from their children, but that is where the similarity ends.  Where as in the film the women is desperately trying to find families willing to take each of her children and love them as their own, Angie Millthorpe didn't have such a worry,  because she was going to teach her husband Ian everything he needed to know.  Their family would be able to carry on after her death and would be able to continue running her household exactly as she would have done 'Mum's Way'.  It is an inspiring story of the courage of both Ian and Angie throughout her illness to make sure their children's every need would be taken care of long after her death.  It is written in good humour and not sadness and will make you laugh and cry throughout the highs and lows of their journey.  Well worth a read but you will need a box of tissues handy  at times. 

Friday, 6 September 2013

A Little Big Life - Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz had thought he was happy. He had been married to his high-school sweetheart, Gerda, since the age of twenty, and they had made a good life together in Southern California. Though famous the world over for his bestselling thrillers exploring the dark side of human nature, Dean's own life was the picture of peace and contentment. Then along came Trixie.

Trixie had trained as a companion dog for the disabled but an injury prevented her taking up the work and instead she undertook to restore a sense of wonder in the Koontz household  when they had't even known they lacked one. But Trixie had a tremendous impact on their lives, not only because she brought with her a sense of fun and pure love and affection, but also because she taught them that we should trust our intuition as dogs trust theirs and believe in  the miraculous.

Harper Collins - Non Fiction
Year: 2013 - Paperback
Pages: 271
ISBN: 978-0-00-753682-1

Dean Koontz is best known for his crime thrillers.  I am afraid I have to admit that I haven't read any of them thus far, but the story of Trixie will touch the hearts of anyone who is an animal lover especially of dogs.  A little big life tells the story of Trixie who came into their lives and totally transformed it.  Trixie was trained to be an assistance dog but had to retire before a career really got going due to an injury requiring surgery and found herself a loving home with the Koontz family.  Both Dean Koontz and his wife Gerda are supporters of the charity 'Canine Companions'  which is the equivalent to our 'Dogs for the Disabled' here in the UK. Both these charities work to provide dogs for the disabled enabling them to live more independent lives. You can find out more about each of these charities here and here.  Little Big Life is a touching story of how an animal can bring so much love to a family and shows you a different side from  Dean's crime writing.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Amanda Prowse Month - No Greater Love Series

After working as a Management Consultant for most of her career Amanda started writing in 2008.  Her first novel 'Poppy Day' was released in 2011. Amanda lives with her husband Simeon, a serving soldier and their two sons.

Amanda is the author of the 'No Greater Lover' series. Each of her novels tells of the story of how extraordinary women who find themselves dealing with extraordinary situations. I have now read all 3 novels and Amanda Prowse's Kindle exclusive first short story.  I first came across Amanda's novels when I read her second novel in the 'No Greater Love Series,  'What Have I Done' a powerful story of an abusive marriage and one women's drastic action to end the abuse and her fight to regain the trust of her children. I was given a copy of 'Poppy Day' as gift from a dear friend, I have a son who is in the armed forces and knowing that my son is due to go on tour to Afghanistan later this year, thought I would appreciate the fact that all proceeds from this book go to the Royal British Legion to help fund the charity's  'Battleback Centre' for injured service personnel.   Poppy Day's story is one of love and determination of a young women who when her husband is taken hostage in Afghanistan decides to take matters in her own hands by going to Afghanistan to get her man back. Throughout her story you also get to know about Poppy's immediate family especially her grandmother and this leads you into the Amanda's third novel 'Clover's Child' which is actually the prequel to Poppy Day. Clover's Child tells the story of Dorothea (Poppy's grandmother) as a young girl who falls in love with Sol and in the 1960's East End of London he is not the man to have fallen in love with. Lastly is Amanda released her Kindle exclusive 'Something Quite Beautiful' which tells the story of a women governess to a Scottish prison.  Rumour has it that once you enter Glenculloch prison you never you never get to leave.  

You can find out more about battleback here.

I have found all Amanda's novels worth reading and her fourth novel in the 'No Greater Love' series is due for  release in Paperback in February 2014.  Below is a taster of her next novel which is titled 'A Little Love'.
Publication Date 13.02.2014 Paperback

Everybody needs a little love in their lives.....

Pru Plum is the celebrated owner of famous Mayfair bakery, Plums Patisserie. She wears Chanel and her hair is expensively cut. Few would believe that this elegant women turned sixty-six last year. But Pru is not the confident, successful businesswomen she appears. She has done shameful things to get to where she is today. And she will do anything to protect the secrets of her past - especially when, for the first time in her life, she has finally fallen in love...  This is a story about love, loss and lies ... and finding happiness before it's too late.

Publisher: Head of Zeus - Fiction
Year: 2014 - Paperback