Desert Island Books with… N S Ford

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It’s cold, wet and windy here in South Yorkshire today, summer is definitely over, so I could quite fancy a sojourn on a warm, tropical island myself right now. Unfortunately, it is not me being whisked away to a deserted island with five books to read at leisure today, but author… N S Ford. Let’s see what she has chosen to take with her.

Book One – Villette by Charlotte Bronte

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Villette is the story of Lucy Snowe, who after an unspecified family disaster, travels from her native England to the fictional French-speaking city of Villette to teach at a girls’ school, where she is drawn into adventure and romance. 

Villette by Charlotte Brontë. Probably my favourite 19th century classic, Vilette is even superior to Jane Eyre, in my opinion. The book is narrated by Lucy Snowe, a school teacher who appears to be stoic and unromantic but who has a vivid inner life. There is romance, comedy, gothic horror, tragedy, all in one incredibly well-written novel. I’ve read it a few times – I’d be happy to read it many more times on the desert island! – and am always awed by Charlotte Brontë’s talent. She was 37 when Villette, her last novel, was published in 1853. Had she not died only 2 years later, who knows what more this brilliant writer could have achieved?

https://nsfordwriter.com/character-of-the-month-lucy-snowe/

Book Two – Collected Poems by Philip Larkin

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Since its publication in 1988, Philip Larkin’s Collected Poems has become essential reading on any poetry bookshelf. This new edition returns to Larkin’s own deliberate ordering of his poems, presenting, in their original sequence, his four published books: The North Ship, The Less Deceived, The Whitsun Weddings and High Windows. It also includes an appendix of poems that Larkin published in other places, from his juvenilia to his final years – some of which might have appeared in a late book, if he had lived.

Preserving everything that he published in his lifetime, this new Collected Poems returns the reader to the book Larkin might have intended: it is, for the first time, Larkin’s ‘own’ collected poems.

Collected Poems by Philip Larkin. I was first introduced to Larkin’s poetry at college, when I studied his collection High Windows and found that it really spoke to me. Some people dislike his poetry, as it can be depressing, but I prefer to read about real feelings, however uncomfortable they are. Larkin’s poems were published by Faber in a collected edition in 1988, with a 2nd edition in 2003. My absolute favourite poem is ‘Solar’ and indeed it’s about the sun, which will be very relevant to my desert island.

https://nsfordwriter.com/money-sex-death-and-sunshine/

Book Three – The Other Side of the Sky by Arthur C. Clarke

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The Other Side of the Sky presents a glimpse of our future: a future where reality is no longer contained in earthly dimensions, where man has learned to exist with the knowledge that he is not alone in the universe. These stories of other planets and galactic adventures show Arthur C Clarke at the peak of his powers: sometimes disturbing, always intriguing.

The Other Side of the Sky by Arthur C Clarke. I re-read this short story collection every few years and my old copy is falling apart! I ought to sellotape it together before taking it to the desert island. These 14 stories are wonderful examples of classic science fiction; funny, playful, sad, sinister, hopeful, suffused with lyrical wonder. They are amazingly prescient and were written well before the first human was launched into space. The most famous story in the collection is ‘The Nine Billion Names of God’. My highlights are ‘Out of the Sun’ and ‘The Star’. Again, we’re talking about the sun! And I should also have a clear view of the night sky from the desert island, perfect for pondering Arthur C Clarke’s themes.

https://nsfordwriter.com/the-other-side-of-the-sky-arthur-c-clarke/

Book Four – Little Women by Louise May Alcott

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Meg – the sweet-tempered one. Jo – the smart one. Beth – the shy one. Amy – the sassy one.

Together they’re the March sisters. Their father is away at war and times are difficult, but the bond between the sisters is strong.

Through sisterly squabbles, happy times and sad, their four lives follow different paths, and that discover the growing up is sometimes very hard to do. . .

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Strangely enough, I didn’t much like this book when I was younger  – perhaps I found it too moralistic – but I have grown to appreciate the wisdom in it. The characters feel like friends and they would keep me company on the island! I recently re-read the book, having treated myself to a new copy which included both volumes (the 2nd volume is sometimes called Good Wives – which wasn’t Alcott’s idea). As with The Beatles, everyone has to have a favourite March sister. I think Beth is underrated and she has a special place in my heart.

https://nsfordwriter.com/little-women-louisa-may-alcott/

Book Five – Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down by Nicey and Wifey

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Put a cup of tea in your hand, and what else can you do but sit down? This wonderful new book is a celebration of that most British of life’s cornerstones: taking a break, putting your feet up and having a breather. There is, however, a third element that any perfect sit down requires and it is this: biscuits. As Nicey so rightly points out, a cup of tea without a biscuit is a missed opportunity. Finding the right biscuit for the right occasion is as much an art as it is a science, and it is a task that Nicey has selflessly worked on for most of his tea drinking life.

From dunking to the Digestive, the Iced Gem to the Garibaldi, everything you’ll ever need to know about biscuits is in this book, and quite a lot more besides. Is the Jaffa Cake a cake or a biscuit? And have Wagon Wheels really got smaller since your childhood, or have you just got bigger? Unstintingly researched, Nicey and Wifey’s Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down does exactly what it says on the biscuit tin. So go on. Take a weight off, put the kettle on, and enjoy.

Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down by Nicey and Wifey. The go-to book when I need cheering up! I last read it in early 2020 when the first lockdown was imminent and things were looking scary. Based on a website, which is now quite old in internet terms, this is a funny, quirky book about three traditional British past-times – drinking tea, sitting down and eating biscuits. When I’m on the island, sitting down (but lacking the tea and biscuits) it will be nice to have a reminder of home and to laugh for the hundredth time at the author’s rant about pink wafers.

https://nsfordwriter.com/nice-cup-of-tea-and-a-sit-down-nicey-and-wifey/

My luxury item 

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Let’s ignore the practicalities of shipping an iron-framed 98-year-old upright piano to a desert island and of the humidity, sand, insects etc that will affect the piano once it’s there. Playing the piano is a great way to relax and enjoy music. I was taught up to Grade 5 but I didn’t maintain my skills, particularly once I’d left home and didn’t have anywhere to keep the instrument. However, I’ve had it in my home for a couple of years now and I try to practise almost every day, when time and family life allows. My favourite sheet music to play is Ludovico Einaudi, Depeche Mode and Radiohead.

https://nsfordwriter.com/sheet-music-review-radiohead-the-piano-songbook/

About the Author

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N S Ford is a book fanatic, blogger and cat lover who lives in the UK with her family. She has a First Class degree in English. When not reading or blogging, she juggles her writing time with parenting, working in heritage and playing the piano.

N S Ford’s debut novel, We Watch You, is out now and you can buy a copy here. I will be reviewing the book on the blog tomorrow.

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FOUR FRIENDS. THREE ENEMIES. TWO TRAGEDIES. ONE TERRIBLE TRUTH.

A small English town is rocked by the disappearance of a local woman, Tina. As the search continues, someone is targeting her former best friends for revenge. Lauren, Jess, Claire. They all hide secrets. Who knows what they did? Who’s watching them? The truth is stranger and far more sinister than they can ever imagine.

A dark, twisty thriller which will grip you until the very last page.

Connect with N S Ford:

Blog: https://nsfordwriter.com/

Twitter: @nsfordwriter

Instagram: @nsfordwriter

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Desert Island Books with… Rosanna Ley

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I’m off to Spain for a few days today, so I am not as jealous as I usually am at the thought of today’s castaway sitting in the sunshine with all the time in the world to read, as I will be doing that myself. I did, however, fail to stuff the latest James Patterson hardback that I really wanted to read, Jailhouse Lawyerinto my luggage as it was far too big and heavy, much to my disappointment. My guest today, author Roasanna Ley, will not have that problem as there are no weight limits when you travel virtually. Let’s see what she has chosen.

Book One – A Poem for Every Day of the Year, edited by Allie Esiri

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A Poem For Every Day of the Year is a magnificent collection of 366 poems compiled by Allie Esiri, one to share on every day of the year. Reflecting the changing seasons and linking to events on key dates – funny for April Fool’s Day, festive for Christmas – these poems are thoughtful, inspiring, humbling, informative, quiet, loud, small, epic, peaceful, energetic, upbeat, motivating, and empowering!

If I were stranded on a desert island with only five books to read again and again, then I’m guessing I would be looking for something more than fiction. Enter A Poem for Every Day of the Year as complied by author and editor Allie Esiri. This is a wonderful collection and since there really is a poem for every day of the year, there will be something new to read (and maybe also learn by heart?) every day. By the end of the year (and I have just realised that this volume could function as a calendar too), I will have forgotten each poem so then I can simply start again… The collection reflects the changing seasons which will keep me grounded on the island (literally) and the links to certain events and dates will make me feel nostalgic – hopefully in a good way. A poem for every mood will satisfy all my conflicting emotions as I fight to survive and hopefully be empowering too. I love poetry and never make enough time to read it. Problem now solved…

Book Two – Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence

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Women in Love begins one blossoming spring day in England and ends with a terrible catastrophe in the snow of the Alps. Ursula and Gudrun are very different sisters who become entangled with two friends, Rupert and Gerald, who live in their hometown. The bonds between the couples quickly become intense and passionate, but whether this passion is creative or destructive is unclear. In this astonishing novel, widely considered to be D. H. Lawrence’s best work, he explores what it means to be human in an age of conflict and confusion.

I very rarely read a book a second time – even those I love – with the exception of the books I have studied academically. Out of all the books I have studied, I’ve found those of DH Lawrence the most rewarding. His writing first inspired me to write many years ago and certainly influenced my writing hugely in the early days and beyond. I love the way he writes about landscape (although the intensity and the detail is somewhat out of fashion these days). I can literally drown in his language! I never studied ‘Women in Love’ but I found it inspirational and crammed with earthy, sensual descriptions – of love and landscape. This book about the love affairs of two sisters was also Lawrence’s response to a cultural crisis: the ‘progress’ of the modern industrialised world which arguably led to the carnage of the First World War. It therefore definitely warrants a re-read over forty years later. I think I would find it hugely satisfying and I could wallow in Lawrence’s prose to my heart’s content.

Book Three – The Various Flavours of Coffee by Anthony Capella

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It is 1895. Robert Wallis, would-be poet, bohemian and impoverished dandy, accepts a commission from coffee merchant Samuel Pinker to categorise the different tastes of coffee – and encounters Pinker’s free-thinking daughters, Philomenia, Ada and Emily. As romance blossoms with Emily, Robert realises that the Muse and marriage may not be incompatible after all.

Sent to Abyssinia to make his fortune in the coffee trade, he becomes obsessed with a negro slave girl, Fikre. He decides to use the money he has saved to buy her from her owner – a decision that will change not only his own life, but the lives of the three Pinker sisters . . .

I feel as if I will need a comedy to lift my spirits during dark days on this island, but I don’t read many comic writers, so… I decided to choose a book by one of my favourite authors, ‘The Various Flavours of Coffee’ by Anthony Capella which made me laugh and cry at the same time – an impressive achievement. I’d love to read it again and I have the feeling that I would discover so much more second time around as the author takes me on an exotic, delicious and historical journey filled with humour and poignancy. The story also contains lots of coffee, which has to be a good thing. Anthony Capella also writes brilliant psychological thrillers under the name of JP Delaney – is there no end to this author’s talents? Perhaps re-reading ‘The Various Flavours of Coffee’ will give me some valuable insight on how he does it…

Book Four – How To Stay Alive: The Ultimate Survival Guide for Any Situation by Bear Grylls

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Do you know how to…
Survive a bear attack?
Make fire from virtually nothing?
Fly a plane in an emergency?
Survive in the most extreme conditions?
Bear Grylls does.
There is barely a terrain he hasn’t conquered or an extreme environment he hasn’t experienced. From his time in 21 SAS, through to his extraordinary expeditions in the toughest corners of each of the seven continents, Bear has accumulated an astonishing wealth of survival knowledge.
Now, for the first time, he is putting all his expertise into one book. How To Stay Alive will teach you all of the essential skills you need to survive in the modern world.

I’m not a very practical person. I have trouble with my balance and my sense of direction and I’m terrified of spiders. Hence, I won’t be good on the island, apart from the fact that I quite enjoy spending time alone. So, my next choice is here to help me survive physically: ‘How to Stay Alive: The Ultimate Survival Guide for Any Situation’. It’s written by Bear Grylls of course, and if you were stranded on a desert island, why wouldn’t you want a book by Bear telling you how to survive? I haven’t read it yet since I haven’t had the need, but apparently it can help you survive a bear attack (hah – he should know), make fire from virtually nothing, fly a plane in an emergency and just generally survive in the most extreme conditions. Bear knows what he’s talking about since there is barely (geddit?) a terrain he hasn’t conquered or an extreme environment he hasn’t experienced. When it comes to survival knowledge, if Bear doesn’t have it, then it doesn’t exist. 

Book Five – Easy Learning Italian by Collins Dictionaries

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A handy 3-in-1 Italian study book: grammar, verbs and vocabulary in one volume, ideal for beginners who need a clear and easy-to-understand Italian reference and revision guide.

This book gives you the essential tools to help you progress quickly in your study of Italian. The grammar, verb and vocabulary sections have been designed for all those learning Italian at school, in an evening class, for work or for leisure.

With its clear, user-friendly grammar, all the most important Italian verbs shown in full, and an extensive vocabulary guide, this book gives you all the elements to start speaking and writing with confidence in Italian.

I’ve always meant to learn Italian. I love Italy and if I were to be born again and could choose my country of birth, I would be Italian, no contest. So here I am on a desert island with (presumably) no one to distract me. Why not learn the Italian language? There wouldn’t be anyone to laugh at my poor efforts and I could practice as much as I wanted. I feel as if I could become fluent if I really tried and had enough time, and what better guide to help me than ‘Easy Learning Italian Complete Grammar, Verbs and Vocabulary (3 books in 1): by Collins Dictionaries. Who knows – if my luck’s in, I might even get rescued by an Italian, and then I could at least communicate with the guy…

My luxury item

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You will have heard this before of course, but I need to write, I love to write and so a spiral notebook set with pen attached and everlasting ink (and paper) would be perfect. Or perhaps Bear Grylls knows how to make writing materials from a palm tree?? 

About the Author

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Rosanna Ley has written ten novels published by Quercus Books and translated into fourteen different languages around the world.

Rosanna has worked as a creative writing tutor for over 30 years. She has led courses for colleges and universities in England, and mentored and appraised the work of new writers. She now runs her own writing retreats and holidays in the UK and in stunning locations in Europe. She has worked with community groups in therapeutic settings and completed an MA in creative writing for personal development in order to support this.

Rosanna loves reading, playing tennis and walking on the beach in West Dorset where she lives. Her favourite writing place is anywhere with a sea view.

Rosanna’s latest novel The Orange Grove was published by Quercus in June 2021. You can buy a copy here.

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Holly loves making marmalade. Now she has a chance to leave her stressful city-job and pursue her dream – of returning to the Dorset landscape of her childhood and opening Bitter Orange, a shop celebrating the fruit that first inspired her. 

Holly’s mother Ella has always loved Seville. So why is she reluctant to go back there with Holly to source products for the shop? What is she frightened of – and does it have anything to do with the old Spanish recipe for Seville Orange and Almond cake that Ella keeps hidden from her family? 

In Seville, where she was once forced to make the hardest decision of her life, Ella must finally face up to the past, while Holly meets someone who poses a threat to all her plans. 

Seville is a city full of sunshine and oranges. But it can also be bittersweet. Will love survive the secrets of the orange grove?

Connect wit Rosanna:

Website: https://rosannaley.com/

Facebook: Rosanna Ley Novels

Twitter: @RosannaLey

Instagram: @rosannaleyauthor

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Desert Island Books with… Mick Arnold

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Today’s strandee will be better equipped to deal with isolation on my desert island than many, I think, as he has certain useful practical skills. However, he will still need intellectual and emotional stimulation, so let’s see what books he is taking with him to provide that. He is author… Mick Arnold.

Book One – The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier

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This is a story of many different things.

Of a terrible war and an occupied land

Of the Balicki children who are determined to survive

Of a dangerous journey from war-torn Poland to Switzerland

Of a paper knife that gives them the courage to carry on when nearly all hope is lost.

The Silver Sword is the first adult novel I recall reading, and it’s stuck with me ever since. First published in 1956, this is the deceptively simple story of how a group of Polish children traipses across war-torn Europe in search of their father, picking up a troubled stray boy along the way. None older than 16, this is such a moving story which kept me guessing right until the end. For a novel seemingly aimed towards what would now be called the YA audience, this is such a powerful story full of the best and worst of humanity during the terrible conflict, which was World War 2.

Book Two – Guards! Guards! By Sir Terry Pratchett

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‘It was the usual Ankh-Morpork mob in times of crisis; half of them were here to complain, a quarter of them were here to watch the other half, and the remainder were here to rob, importune or sell hotdogs to the rest.’

Insurrection is in the air in the city of Ankh-Morpork. The Haves and Have-Nots are about to fall out all over again.

Captain Sam Vimes of the city’s ramshackle Night Watch is used to this. It’s enough to drive a man to drink. Well, to drink more. But this time, something is different – the Have-Nots have found the key to a dormant, lethal weapon that even they don’t fully understand, and they’re about to unleash a campaign of terror on the city.

Time for Captain Vimes to sober up.

I was already a huge fan of the work of Terry Pratchett by the time this novel came out. It didn’t need it, but I knew I had to read this novel as soon as read the tag – Captain Sam Vimes is searching for a dragon he believes could help him with his enquires. Who wouldn’t want to read on to find out what happens? Pratchett’s creation of the Discworld surpasses that of Tolkein’s Middle Earth – or at least it does in my opinion. To this day, if I need to cheer myself up, I’ll pick up a Discworld novel and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read Guards! Guards!; and I never get tired of it. Pratchett creates such vivid pictures of each and every character, no matter how minor they are to the plot, which means I always find something new each time I read the book.

Book Three – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J K Rowling

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‘Welcome to the Knight Bus, emergency transport for the stranded witch or wizard. Just stick out your wand hand, step on board and we can take you anywhere you want to go.’

When the Knight Bus crashes through the darkness and screeches to a halt in front of him, it’s the start of another far from ordinary year at Hogwarts for Harry Potter. Sirius Black, escaped mass-murderer and follower of Lord Voldemort, is on the run – and they say he is coming after Harry. In his first ever Divination class, Professor Trelawney sees an omen of death in Harry’s tea leaves… But perhaps most terrifying of all are the Dementors patrolling the school grounds, with their soul-sucking kiss…

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me. IMHO, the novel in the series which transformed it from purely a children’s series and into the worldwide phenomenon it became for all ages.  Barely giving you a chance to catch your breath, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a roller coaster of a story, full of mystery and suspense, and more action than you could shake a stick at. This is still one of my favourite reads when I need to relax my mind.

Book Four – Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

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Rumour has it Artemis Fowl is responsible for every major crime of the new century.

Just twelve years old and already he’s a criminal genius, plotting to restore his family’s fortune with a spot of corruption and kidnapping.

Kidnapping a fairy for ransom, to be precise.

Artemis Fowl has discovered a world below ground of armed and dangerous – and extremely high-tech – fairies. But he may have underestimated their powers. They will fight back. Is the boy about to trigger a cross-species war?

Let the misadventure begin.

I know it may seem that I’ve picked a lot of non-adult books, but just because a book is written with one audience in mind, doesn’t mean it can’t appeal to another. Think an evil twelve-year old James Bond, but with magic and fairies! This book takes you from Vietnam to the city of Haven inside the Earth, via Ireland.  Forget the awful Disney film, this is a rock ‘n’ roller of  book which will make you believe in fairies.

Book Five – The Christmas Promise by Sue Moorcroft

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On a snowy December evening, Sam Jermyn steps into the life of bespoke hat maker Ava. Sparks fly, and not necessarily the good ones.

Times are tough for Ava – she’s struggling to make ends meet, her ex-boyfriend is a bully, and worst of all, it’s nearly Christmas.

So when Sam commissions Ava to make a hat for someone special, she makes a promise that will change her life. She just doesn’t know it yet…

I am a huge fan of Christmas romance and they don’t come any better than this novel. Sue Moorcroft is one of my favourite authors and this is one of her best. A story about someone who hates the Christmas period, this hits all the right spots. Laugh-out loud one minute, pass-me-the- tissues, the next. Forget watching The Sound of Music this coming yuletide, treat yourself to a copy of The Christmas Promise and learn why you should love Christmas.

My luxury item

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I’m going to be practical for my one item. For me, it’s essential, especially as it’s a desert island. I must have a good-sized hat. I burn in the sun easily, so I’d need something like a fedora to protect the back of my neck and the top of my head.

About the Author

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Mick is a hopeless romantic who was born in England and spent fifteen years roaming around the world in the pay of HM Queen Elizabeth II in the Royal Air Force before putting down roots and realizing how much he missed the travel. He’s replaced it somewhat with his writing, including reviewing books and supporting fellow saga and romance authors in promoting their novels.

He’s the proud keeper of two cats bent on world domination, is mad on the music of the Beach Boys, and enjoys the theatre and humoring his Manchester United-supporting wife. Finally, and most importantly, Mick is a full member of the Romantic Novelists Association. Wild Blue Yonder is the second novel in his Broken Wings series and he is very proud to be a part of the Vintage Rose Garden at The Wild Rose Press.

Mick’s latest book, Wild Blue Yonder, is available here.

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Air Transport Auxiliary pilot Doris Winter is accused of stealing a valuable item from a famous Hollywood movie star, now a Captain in the US Army Air Corps, after a dance at the air base in England where he’s stationed. Gathering her close friends together, she’s determined to clear her name.

Ruth’s POW son suffers a life-changing injury just as her own cottage takes damage in an air raid and Penny’s estranged little sister unexpectedly turns up, having run away from school. Together with the ongoing thefts of items of clothing and surprise personal revelations, these all threaten to hamper their investigation.

In spite of the worsening war situation, they must band together to rise above their troubles and prove love and friendship is worth fighting for.

Connect with Mick:

Facebook: M W Arnold Author

Twitter: @mick859

Instagram: @mick859

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Desert Island Books with… Jill Piscitello

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Today I am transporting another literary traveller to my virtual desert island with only five books and one luxury item to keep them company. Today’s willing strandee is author… Jill Piscitello.

Book One – The Bible

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The Bible is the most important book in the history of Western civilization, and also the most difficult to interpret. It has been the vehicle of continual conflict, with every interpretation reflecting passionately-held views that have affected not merely religion, but politics, art, and even science.

To date, I have not read The Bible cover to cover.  However, I imagine if stranded on a desert island, this is the one book that I would want to have with me.

Book Two – The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale

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The phenomenal and inspiring bestseller by the father of positive thinking. THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING is a practical, direct-action application of spiritual techniques to overcome defeat and win confidence, success and joy.

Norman Vincent Peale, the father of positive thinking and one of the most widely read inspirational writers of all time, shares his famous formula of faith and optimism which millions of people have taken as their own simple and effective philosophy of living. His gentle guidance helps to eliminate defeatist attitudes, to know the power you possess and to make the best of your life.

A tried and true read to encourage faith in one’s own abilities to persevere, to reduce stress and worry, to tackle problems, and to (of course) maintain a positive outlook regardless of circumstance.  This book would provide the extra dose of optimism needed if marooned in the middle of nowhere.

Book Three – Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

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Pippi Longstocking is nine years old. She has just moved into Villa Villekulla where she lives all by herself with a horse, a monkey, and a big suitcase full of gold coins. The grown-ups in the village try to make Pippi behave in ways that they think a little girl should, but Pippi has other ideas.

She would much rather spend her days arranging wild, exciting adventures to enjoy with her neighbours, Tommy and Annika, or entertaining everyone she meets with her outrageous stories. Pippi thinks nothing of wrestling a circus strongman, dancing a polka with burglars, or tugging a bull’s tail.

This childhood favourite would elicit fond elementary school memories of one of my first introductions to chapter books.  I remember being fascinated by Pippi’s outrageous life, non-traditional pets, and friendships.  Pippi’s adventures might help my new castaway-self find the joy in making discoveries and having new experiences on the island.

Book Four – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

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Jane Eyre ranks as one of the greatest and most perennially popular works of English fiction. Although the poor but plucky heroine is outwardly of plain appearance, she possesses an indomitable spirit, a sharp wit and great courage.

She is forced to battle against the exigencies of a cruel guardian, a harsh employer and a rigid social order. All of which circumscribe her life and position when she becomes governess to the daughter of the mysterious, sardonic and attractive Mr Rochester.

However, there is great kindness and warmth in this epic love story, which is set against the magnificent backdrop of the Yorkshire moors. Ultimately the grand passion of Jane and Rochester is called upon to survive cruel revelation, loss and reunion, only to be confronted with tragedy.

This classic book lacks for nothing and is a joy to revisit over and over again.  A coming of age tale infused with love, secrets, betrayals, 3D characters, and a setting that envelops the reader.

Book Five – A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford 

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A WOMAN’S AMBITION…
In the brooding moors above a humble Yorkshire village stood Fairley Hall. There, Emma Harte, its oppressed but resourceful servant girl, acquired a shrewd determination. There, she honed her skills, discovered the meaning of treachery, learned to survive, to become a woman, and vowed to make her mark on the world.

A JOURNEY OF A LIFETIME…
In the wake of tragedy she rose from poverty to magnificent wealth as the iron-willed force behind a thriving international enterprise. As one of the richest women in the world Emma Harte has almost everything she fought so hard to achieve-save for the dream of love, and for the passion of the one man she could never have.

A DREAM FULFILLED-AND AVENGED.
Through two marriages, two devastating wars, and generations of secrets, Emma’s unparalleled success has come with a price. As greed, envy, and revenge consume those closest to her, the brilliant matriarch now finds herself poised to outwit her enemies, and to face the betrayals of the past with the same ingenious resolve that forged her empire.

My first four book choices came easily.  The fifth was a challenge.  I wanted this book to be an entertaining, fictional read.  I finally decided on one of my favourites, A Woman of Substance, because this expertly written saga has it all.  Emma’s story begins in the servants’ quarters in the Yorkshire moors and follows her ascension from poverty to power and wealth.  Her tale of perseverance, grit, and determination never gets old.  Love, betrayals, a vivid story world, and a cast of complex characters round out this unforgettable book.  An added bonus for someone stranded on a desert island is the hours slipping by unnoticed due to an 800+ page count.

(Blogger’s note: A Woman of Substance is currently available for 99p on a Kindle special deal)

My luxury item

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Besides books, another essential item that I could not live without would be a blanket for cool nights.  I’m one of those people who is always cold.  Having a blanket handy would provide a huge dose of comfort.

About the Author

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Jill Piscitello is a teacher, author, and an avid fan of multiple literary genres. Although she divides her reading hours among several books at a time, a lighthearted story offering an escape from the real world can always be found on her nightstand.

A native of New England, Jill lives with her family and three well-loved cats. When not planning lessons or reading and writing, she can be found spending time with her family, trying out new restaurants, traveling, and going on light hikes. 

Jill’s upcoming novella, Tinsel and Tea Cakes, has been contracted by The Wild Rose Press as part of the Christmas Cookies series and will have a cover reveal soon.

Hair stylist Scarlett Kerrigan lost her job and her apartment. To alleviate a touch of self pity, she succumbs to her stepmom’s pressure to attend a wedding in the New Hampshire White Mountains. Unfortunately, she runs into the vacation fling who promised the moon but disappeared without an explanation. Months have passed, but she is not ready to forgive and forget.

After a chaotic year, executive Wes Harley settles into his family’s event venue, The Timeless Manor. His carefully structured world is shaken to its core when Scarlett arrives for the Victorian Christmas wedding weekend. The feelings he never quite erased flood to the surface.

When secrets are revealed, will a magical chateau and a sprinkle of tinsel be enough to charm Scarlett?

Jill is also the author of Homemakers’ Christmas published by Satin Romance, an imprint of Melange Publishing and you can buy a copy of that book here.

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One woman’s journey from nothing to everything…

A recent error in judgment has deposited Cricket Williams, her daughter, and a son spiking a high fever into a homeless shelter. A touch of Christmas magic is sprinkled upon her family when an eccentric volunteer invites them into her New England farmhouse. Blindsided with the proposition of a contractual living arrangement, Cricket is seized with renewed hope for her future.

Boris Glynn is in town visiting his grandmother but harbors a secret that will impact her life and the lives of his dearest friends. Complications arise when he is unable to restrain himself from pursuing his grandmother’s beautiful new neighbor.

As Cricket begins to succumb to Boris’s attention, her new world is shaken by a series of events that have the potential to destroy her plans for a fresh start.

Connect with Jill:

Website: https://jillpiscitello.com/

Facebook: Jill Piscitello

Twitter: @Piscj18

Instagram: @jillpiscitellobooks

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Desert Island Children’s Books: Flambards by K. M. Peyton

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I guess this month’s book is more of a teen/YA read, than a children’s book and it is the first book in a literary quartet that was probably my first introduction into the idea of romance. It is Flambards by K. M. Peyton.

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Christina is sent to live with her uncle in his country house, Flambards, and knows from the moment she arrives that she’ll never fit in.

Her uncle is fierce and domineering and her cousin, Mark, is selfish-but despite all this, Christina discovers a passion for horse-riding and finds a true friend in Will. What Christina has yet to realize, though, is the important part she has to play in the future of this strange household . . .

What a fabulous series of books the Flambards quartet was as a bridge for teen girls between the childhood world of innocence and ponies and the adult world of war, duty, class,  money and romance. I absolutely loved this book because I found it when I was at the same juncture in my life as Christina is during the story and through her eyes I explored the more adult world she is thrust in to when she arrives at Flambards.

Flambards is a great book for pony-mad girls because of the life at the house revolving around horses, and I think this is why I first picked it up, but there is so much more going on in the story, some of which I don’t think I ever really understood properly until I came back to it as an adult. The issues of class with which Christina is confronted in her relationship with Dick, the stablehand, and the treatment by the Russells of his entire family, is certainly not something I think I really understood when I read it the first few times in my early teens.

The book is set in the early years of the twentieth century, at a time of great change on many fronts. The world is on the brink of war, mechanical inventions such as cars and aeroplanes are starting to encroach on a way of life that has existed for centuries and is resistant to the threat. And attitudes are changing, with people becoming more aware of social injustice. This ripple of change is what informs the story, and impacts Christina’s life as she is torn between her love for Dick and the impossibility of that relationship, her joy in the horses and life at Flambards but her horror of the brutality and callousness of her uncle Russell, and her attraction to Will, who represents a dream of the future. It perfectly mirrors the turmoil that girls feel in that period of immense physical and emotional change.

The writing in the novel is beautiful, and the author really captures the contrast between the decaying and dying life at Flambards, and the shiny, bright future envisaged by Will and his machines. It is a snapshot of a period in time that none of us have experienced firsthand but can live through the pages of this book and it reminds my sharply and fondly of my own teenage years. I was drawn back in to the romances of Christina’s life, and how much the author makes us care for her, and for Flambards itself. Have re-read it, I now want to go on to read the rest of the series again. Book two, The Edge of the Cloudis even better from what I remember.

Flambards is available to buy here.

About the Author

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Kathleen Peyton grew up in the London suburbs and always longed to live in the country and have a horse. Although she enjoyed writing stories she wanted to be a painter, and when she left school she went on to study art. At Manchester Art School she met her husband, Michael, and they now live in Essex and have two daughters. Following the success of Flambards, Kathleen went on to write three more books in the sequence, the second of which, The Edge of the Cloud, was the winner of the prestigious Carnegie Medal. And since she has made some money from publishing her books, Kathleen has always had a horse, or several!

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Desert Island Books with… Adrienne Vaughan

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Today I am delighted (if that is not a weird thing to say!) to be stranding on my literary atoll, romance author… Adrienne Vaughan. Let’s see what bookish delights she has selected to be her companions in isolation.

Book One – The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

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Romantic, heroic, comic and tragic, unconventional schoolmistress Jean Brodie has become an iconic figure in post-war fiction. Her glamour, unconventional ideas and manipulative charm hold dangerous sway over her girls at the Marcia Blaine Academy – ‘the crème de la crème’ – who become the Brodie ‘set’, introduced to a privileged world of adult games that they will never forget. 

 Set between the wars, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark might at first appear to be a ‘light’ read, but don’t be misled. For me, this slim, witty, exquisitely written book is a slice of history poised at a moment in time before things change forever. It’s also a wonderful portrayal of a very influential woman, flaws and all and the fact that I’m still applauding her, here in 2021, would please her no end, for she is indeed, still in her prime!

Miss Jean Brodie teaches at the Marcia Blaine School for Girls in Edinburgh. Charismatic, beguiling and unconventional, she’s a force of nature, rebelling against the shackling morality and conventions of the time in her own sublime way.

Totally devoted to her ‘girls’ – known as the ‘Brodie set’, Miss Brodie is also fond of reminding everyone that she’s ‘in her prime’. And though the story spans quite a few years – effortlessly moving back and forth following the girls’ lives – it seems Miss Brodie remains in her prime throughout. A philosophy I’ve happily adopted!

Although, an excellent teacher, Miss Brodie veers off the curriculum revealing her own tragic love story to the girls, thereby bringing them into her confidence. However, when one of her closest choses to betray her and the layers begin to peel away, it’s hard not feel every nuance of agony on behalf of our heroine; having devoted her whole life to her ‘girls’ and career.

Stylish, pared down writing, laser-like attention to detail and so much more going on than what’s being said! I highly recommend this classic be read more than once.

Book Two – Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier

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On a trip to the South of France, the shy heroine of Rebecca falls in love with Maxim de Winter, a handsome widower. Although his proposal comes as a surprise, she happily agrees to marry him.

But as they arrive at her husband’s home, Manderley, a change comes over Maxim, and the young bride is filled with dread. Friendless in the isolated mansion, she realises that she barely knows him. In every corner of every room is the phantom of his beautiful first wife, Rebecca, and the new Mrs de Winter walks in her shadow.

 I write Romantic Suspense, and if there’s one standalone shining example of this genre, it’s Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier.On the surface the story of a young woman who, while working as a Lady’s companion, meets the recently widowed Max de Winter and in true ‘holiday romance’ style they fall madly in love and marry almost immediately. However, once they leave the glamorous south of France for Manderley, Max’s family home on the Cornish coast, the new Mrs de Winter – our heroine – begins to realise that although Rebecca might be dead she haunts every room, and is being deliberately ‘kept alive’ by the equally ghoulish housekeeper, Mrs Danvers.

Mesmerising and atmospheric, Manderley and it’s fabulous coastal setting are so vivid I feel as if I’ve been there and this, combining with a cast of beautifully yet sparsely drawn characters, makes it a book that really takes hold. Not only because I’m desperate to find out what happened to Rebecca, (I know but that doesn’t change the fact that I need to know again!) but I’m also desperate for our hero and heroine to be once more happily in love.

I read it again only recently, and it’s still so highly addictive, I devoured it in two days. A masterpiece, from the unforgettable opening  ‘Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again’ – to the closing – ‘And the ashes blew towards us with the salt wind from the sea’. Oh, and there are spaniels too and  as I’ll be missing mine, it’s a must for me.

Book Three- Notes from A Small Island by Bill Bryson

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In 1995, before leaving his much-loved home in North Yorkshire to move back to the States for a few years with his family, Bill Bryson insisted on taking one last trip around Britain, a sort of valedictory tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home.

His aim was to take stock of the nation’s public face and private parts (as it were), and to analyse what precisely it was he loved so much about a country that had produced Marmite; a military hero whose dying wish was to be kissed by a fellow named Hardy; place names like Farleigh Wallop, Titsey and Shellow Bowells; people who said ‘Mustn’t grumble’, and ‘Ooh lovely’ at the sight of a cup of tea and a plate of biscuits; and Gardeners’ Question Time. 

 US travel writer and author Bill Bryson was leaving the UK to go back to America, and before he left came up with the brilliant idea of travelling around the whole of Great Britain on public transport and diarising his experience. First published in 1995, Notes from A Small Island  by Bill Bryson has sold millions of copies and well deserves its place on this list and in my heart. Not only does it manage to portray the deep and wonderous love the author has for his adoptive country, while at the same time making us laugh out loud at things we say and hear every day. But it also portrays such stoicism, resilience and gritty fortitude, that at times it moves me to tears. I’m a great fan of PG Wodehouse, and Bill Bryson’s writing has that same effortless elegance that can capture a character, nuance and even a nation in just a handful of words.

I always think of this book when anyone mentions ‘St Martin in the Fields’, because I recall Bill’s mystified fascination with this small island’s delectation for weird and wonderful place names, and for some reason the words ‘St Dionysius Behind the Wardrobe’ pop into my head, which always makes me smile.

A book of true charm, that will remind me of home and perhaps even fondly of Marmite, though that might be going a bit far!

Book Four – The Van by Roddy Doyle

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Shortlisted for the 1991 Booker Prize, and set in a Dublin suburb during the 1990 World Cup, this completes a trilogy which began with “The Commitments” and “The Snapper”. Jimmy Rabbite Sr seeks refuge from the vicissitudes of unemployment by joining a friend in running a fish-and-chip van.

Another book that truly deserves its place in my heart, is The Van by Roddy Doyle. Roddy writes with such affection, admiration and a certain amount of pride for Jimmy and his long-time pal Bimbo –  two out of work Dubliners in the 1980s – that this story is both hilarious and heart-breaking at the same time. It’s a story of true friendship, as these middle aged men battle to overcome numerous obstacles, trying desperately to make a success of their new project, a derelict chip van.

All the characters are adorable, infuriating and so beautifully drawn – I just loved Jimmy’s wife, the indomitable Victoria – and anyone familiar with this wonderful city would surely have come across their like along the way.

I read this novel for the first time on holiday many years ago and a particular scene featuring a dead cat and a deep fat fryer made me so helpless with laughter, my husband raced to my aid, for fear I would not only fall off my lounger – which I had – but off the balcony too!

We were in Turkey, but in my head I was overhearing a fabulous story told in a solid Dublin accent on top of a bus heading towards An Lár! (The city centre)  Another book that takes me home.

(Blogger’s note: I would have allowed Adrienne to take the entire Barrytown Trilogy with her to her desert island as it is available in a single volume, which would be a permissible way of sneaking in an extra two novels in the form of The Commitments and The Snapper, both of which are also excellent. Mainly because I am a HUGE fan of Roddy Doyle myself and these three are my favourite of his books.)

Book Five – Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

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This is the bestselling true story of three men and their dreams for a racehorse, Seabiscuit.

In 1938 one figure received more press coverage than Mussolini, Hitler or Roosevelt. He was a cultural icon and a world-class athlete – and an undersized, crooked-legged racehorse by the name of Seabiscuit.

Misunderstood and mishandled, Seabiscuit had spent seasons floundering in the lowest ranks of racing until a chance meeting of three men. Together, they created a champion. This is a story which topped the bestseller charts for over two years; a riveting tale of grit, grace, luck and an underdog’s stubborn determination to win against all odds.

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand is a story of the triumph of the underdog over every obstacle imaginable. Set in the US during the Depression, the blurb says ‘In 1938 one figure received more press coverage than Mussolini, Hitler or Roosevelt. He was a cultural icon and a world-class athlete – and an undersized, crooked-legged racehorse by the name of Seabiscuit.’ It’s the true story of three men and their dreams for a racehorse, the well-bred,  but misunderstood Seabiscuit. Like all the best ‘true-life’ stories, you couldn’t make it up but when wealthy businessman Charles Howard, sets reclusive trainer Tom Smith the task of finding him a racehorse to bring on, Tom not only finds Seabiscuit but the troubled yet talented jockey Red Pollard; another underdog. The trio went on to win everything in American racing.

But this book is so much more than that, it’s a snapshot of yet another pivotal moment in history, the reality of the effects of the Depression rawly told and the will to survive easily mistaken for hard-nosed ambition and vice versa. Yet interlaced throughout this wonderful tale are heart-warming love stories, human for human, man for animal and animal for man. The connection between all the characters – including this remarkable little horse –  so vivid, so real, that every time Red gets into the saddle my heart starts to pound and I’m whispering in Seahorse’s ear as they make their way to the start, you can do this, boy, this one is yours.

As you can probably tell, I love horses and feel their part in the building of our world is often underplayed; we owe these noble creatures so much.

Laura Hillenbrand is a fantastic writer, truly deserving of her best seller status, and she clearly loves history but I suspect, having read this, horses are a particular passion too. Truly magical and highly recommended.

My luxury item

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Having read and re-read all these wonderful books, I’ll be totally inspired and will have to write! I write by hand, then type what I’ve written as a first edit. If I’m only allowed one essential, can it be a stock of spiral bound note books please?  I know I won’t have a pen, but if I can devise a way of making ink with leaves, plants or whatever I can find on the island, I can resort to using a quill, which – if there’s wildlife – should be available in abundance. 😊

About the Author

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Adrienne Vaughan is an award-winning author of 5 Star romantic suspense.

She has written three highly acclaimed novels, The Hollow Heart, A Change of Heart and Secrets of the Heart, together with an award-winning collection of poetry and short stories, Fur Coat & No Knickers. Her short story Dodo’s Portrait was short-listed for the Colm Toíbín Award at the Wexford Literary Festival in 2018.

Adrienne was brought up in Dublin and lives in rural Leicestershire with her husband, two cocker spaniels and a rescue cat called Agatha Christie – ‘We never know who she’s going to kill next!’ 

Two of her favourite places in the world are the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland and the coast of South Devon, both great influences on her writing. 

And although being a novelist has always been her dream, she still harbours a burning ambition to be a Bond girl!

Today, she runs a busy PR practice, writing novels, poems and short stories in her spare time.

Do check out Adrienne’s debut novel, The Hollow Heart, which is the first in the Heartfelt series, three standalone novels set in Ireland and New York. It is currently on offer at the special price of 99p/99c and is available here.

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Marianne Coltrane is a feisty, award-winning journalist who is far from lucky in love. Taking a broken heart, a bruised career and her beloved terrier, Monty, off to the west of Ireland she is determined to embrace a quieter life. But when she literally runs into Ryan O’Gorman, one of the most infuriating men in the world, she wonders if moving to this tiny island is the right decision after all. He’s an actor who’s just landed the biggest role in movie history and he loathes journalists. One thing they do have in common is they both think their chance of true love has passed them by, but of course, fate has other ideas.

Filled with a cast of colourful characters, betrayal and heartache and ultimately love and laughter, this twisting tale takes us from Ireland to New York and back to an island you’ll never want to leave.

Connect with Adrienne:

Website: http://adriennevaughan.com/

Facebook: Adrienne Vaughan

Twitter: @adrienneauthor

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Desert Island Children’s Books… A Dog So Small by Philippa Pearce

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This month’s pick for the children’s book I would take to my island is probably going to be a surprising one because it is not the best-loved book by this author. Philippa Pearce is most well-known as the author of Tom’s Midnight Garden but the book of hers which I have chosen is A Dog So Small.

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Young Ben Blewitt is desperate for a dog. He’s picked out the biggest and best dogs from the books in the library – and he just knows he’s going to get one for his birthday. Ben is excited when the big day arrives, but he receives a picture of a dog instead of a real one! But the imagination can be a powerful thing, and when Ben puts his to work, his adventures really begin!

This is the story of a young boy who longs for a dog to be his friend. Ben is the middle child in his family of five. With two older sisters and two younger brothers, Ben doesn’t really fit in with either group and would love a dog to alleviate his loneliness. But, living in a small house in south London with six other people, it just isn’t possible. His only contact with dogs is when he visits his grandparents in the country. However, Ben’s hopes are raised when his grandfather hints that they may give him a dog for his birthday.

On the day, he is disappointed when only a picture of a tiny dog is delivered. However, after his initial disappointment, Ben becomes intrigued by the image of the tiny dog that his great-uncle brought back from Mexico. As he learns more and more about the chihuahua embroidered in the picture, his imagination begins to imbue the dog with life until it becomes more real to him than what surrounds him in real life. As Ben is consumed by his imaginary life, things in the real world take a terrible turn, but then finds sometimes dreams come true in unexpected ways.

The story really captures the power of a child’s dreams, and the disappointment that needs to be faced when the reality which manifests doesn’t match the fantasy. This author really understands the emotions of a child and is adept at expressing them on the page. When I was young and read this book. I could relate to what Ben was feeling and all the range of emotions he went through, and the book is still powerful even now when I went back to it. The way he feels loneliness and isolation in the midst of a big family, and the comfort and love animals can bring is a universal experience that many people share. The thing children want most is to be understood, and this book can make a child feel that way, which is a real skill in an author.

A very unique story that I can still see why I loved as a child.

You can buy a copy of A Dog So Small here.

About the Author

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Philippa Pearce spent her childhood in Cambridgeshire and was the youngest of four children of a flour-miller. The village, the river, and the countryside in which she lived appear more or less plainly in Minnow on the Say and Tom’s Midnight Garden.

She later went on to study English and History at Cambridge University. She worked for the BBC as a scriptwriter and producer, and then in publishing as an editor. She wrote many books including the Modern Classic, Tom’s Midnight Garden, for which she won the Carnegie Medal. She was also awarded an OBE for services to Children’s Literature.

Sadly, Philippa died in 2006, at the age of 86.

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Desert Island Books with… Suzanne Snow

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Today’s castaway is fellow RNA member and romance author, Suzanne Snow. I’m intrigued to see which five books Suzanne has chosen to keep her from almost certain insanity on her desert island with only her own thoughts and one luxury item to aid her survival.

Book One – My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

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Escaping the ills of the British climate, the Durrell family – acne-ridden Margo, gun-toting Leslie, bookworm Lawrence and budding naturalist Gerry, along with their long-suffering mother and Roger the dog – take off for the island of Corfu.

But the Durrells find that, reluctantly, they must share their various villas with a menagerie of local fauna – among them scorpions, geckos, toads, bats and butterflies.

This was a book given to me as an adult and I adored it. I found it full of pathos, endless humour and sharp observation. The sense of place, of being alongside Gerry as he went on his island escapades and made friends with the characters who share his passion for nature, is a joy. Such a different way of life in a very different world, and it’s a book I can return to time and again.

Book Two – Rivals by Jilly Cooper

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Into the cutthroat world of Corinium television comes mega-star Declan O’Hara. Declan soon realises that the Managing Director, Lord Baddingham, has recruited him merely to help retain the franchise for Corinium. Baddingham has also enticed Cameron Cook, a gorgeous, domineering woman executive, to produce Declan’s programme. 

As a rival group emerges to pitch for the franchise, reputations ripen and decline, true love blossoms and burns, marriages are made and shattered and sex raises its head at almost every throw….

I enjoyed Riders, especially as a pony-mad girl who grew up with horses. Rivals is a book I’ve read several times and Jilly is brilliant at bringing the characters to life, often with just a line of dialogue or the barest of detail and making them leap off the page. I’m sure I’m not alone in appreciating Rupert Campbell Black meeting someone who sees the best in him and finally falling in love. It’s such a witty and clever book, and my favourite of Jilly’s novels.

Book Three –  Full Circle by Michael Palin

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In this account of the third of Michael Palin’s travel adventures for BBC Television, he journeys for almost a year, covering 50,000 miles and all of the 18 countries that border the Pacific Ocean, encompassing a wide diversity of landscape, culture and people. The Pacific Rim is one of the world’s most volatile areas, with economies that are expanding faster than anywhere else on earth – and here the earth itself is in a constant state of flux. Not for nothing is the Pacific coastline known as the “Ring of Fire” – volcanoes mark Palin’s journey like stepping stones, and he climbs one which has recently erupted and is still smoking.

He negotiates mountains and plunging gorges, crosses glaciers, dodges icebergs, follows great rivers such as the Yangtse and the Amazon, and confronts the notorious Cape Horn and the wild and windswept beaches of western Alaska. The people Palin meets include one of the few remaining survivors of a Siberian Gulag camp, head-hunters in Borneo, and Japanese monks. He eats maggots in Mexico, rustles camels in the Australian desert, lands a plane in Seattle, and sings with the Pacific Fleet choir in Vladivostock.

As someone who isn’t a natural traveller, I love watching programmes where others introduce me to locations I know I’ll never see. Michael visits so many countries on his Pacific exploration and I enjoy anything that takes me off the beaten track for a glimpse into a different world. From the wilds of Alaska to Japan, China, Vietnam (somewhere I would love to go), Australia, New Zealand, the Americas and all the characters and places in between, it’s a journey that precedes social media and all the better for it.

Book Four –  Persuasion by Jane Austen

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What does persuasion mean – a firm belief, or the action of persuading someone to think something else? Anne Elliot is one of Austen’s quietest heroines, but also one of the strongest and the most open to change. She lives at the time of the Napoleonic wars, a time of accident, adventure, the making of new fortunes and alliances.

A woman of no importance, she manoeuvres in her restricted circumstances as her long-time love Captain Wentworth did in the wars. Even though she is nearly thirty, well past the sell-by bloom of youth, Austen makes her win out for herself and for others like herself, in a regenerated society.

My favourite of Jane Austen’s books, partly because of the opportunity of a second chance at love for Anne and Wentworth after their engagement had fallen foul of other influences. Several years have passed and their circumstances have changed when they meet again, and a sense of hopelessness and resolve feels apparent in these early meetings. But Anne has retained her faithfulness and her feelings for Wentworth, and Austen gave him, for me, the most beautiful line in all her novels by way of expressing himself to Anne.

Book Five – Dark Fire by C J Sansom

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England, 1540: Matthew Shardlake, believing himself out of favour with Thomas Cromwell, is busy trying to maintain his legal practice and keep a low profile. But his involvement with a murder case, defending a girl accused of brutally murdering her young cousin, brings him once again into contact with the king’s chief minister – and a new assignment . . .

The secret of Greek Fire, the legendary substance with which the Byzantines destroyed the Arab navies, has been lost for centuries. Now an official of the Court of Augmentations has discovered the formula in the library of a dissolved London monastery. When Shardlake is sent to recover it, he finds the official and his alchemist brother horribly murdered – the formula has disappeared.

Now Shardlake must follow the trail of Greek Fire across Tudor London, while trying at the same time to prove his young client’s innocence. But very soon he discovers nothing is as it seems . . .

I’ve read Sansom’s Shardlake series and absolute adore it, but this novel is the one I would read again and again. Sansom cleverly uses Cromwell off the page to present a sense of fear, and this, along with the stifling heat, brilliantly invokes an atmosphere of menace. London is such a wonderful setting for historical crime and the city is a character of its own, particularly for a lawyer trying to go about his own business and who finds himself caught up in the intrigues of the Inns of Court and at the mercy of Cromwell, and the King, by association. 

My luxury item

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 I’d like to say my friend Lisa as she’s one of the most resourceful people I know but as I’m not allowed, I’m going to say a solar powered booklight to make sure I can always see to read.

About the Author

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Suzanne writes contemporary, romantic and uplifting fiction with a strong sense of setting and community connecting the lives of her characters. When she’s not writing or spending time with her family, she can usually be found in a garden or looking to the landscape around her for inspiration.  

Suzanne’s latest book, A Summer of Second Chances, is the third in the Thorndale series and is out now as an ebook and in paperback. You can buy a copy here.

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Sparks and tempers fly when Ben comes to stay in Daisy’s holiday cottage.

Daisy likes routine. She goes to work, makes dinner for her son, then loses herself for an hour or two in her sewing. She’s not looking for change, until Ben crashes – literally – into her life.

Ben is training for a triathlon, working himself to the limit in an attempt to forget a recent trauma. Daisy wants to help, but even as they draw closer with every week that passes, he pushes her away whenever things threaten to get serious.

Can Ben open himself up to love again? And with Daisy’s life in the Yorkshire Dales and Ben’s in New York, can they have a future together even if he does?

Connect with Suzanne:

Website: https://www.suzannesnowauthor.com

Facebook: Suzanne Snow Author

Twitter: @SnowProse

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Desert Island Books with… Eden Gruger

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It’s time to strand another willing victim on my literary tropical island with five books of their choosing to keep them company until rescue arrives, plus one luxury item (which cannot be any kind of human or animal companion, or a rescue or escape device). Today’s castaway is author… Eden Gruger

Book One – The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber

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Sugar, an alluring, nineteen-year-old whore in the brothel of the terrifying Mrs Castaway, yearns for a better life and her ascent through the strata of 1870’s London society offers us intimacy with a host of loveable, maddening and superbly realised characters.

Gripping from the first page, this immense novel is an intoxicating and deeply satisfying read, not only a wonderful story but the creation of an entire, extraordinary world.

I am currently re-reading The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber, the story set in 1875 centres around William Rackham, his wife Agnes and the prostitute Sugar. The characters are so layered, and we get to see the thoughts and motivations behind what they show the world. New things reveal themselves every time I read it. The other thing it has in its favour is that it’s such a large book that it would double up as a step for me to reach higher than I would be able to, so that’s a win win.

Book Two – The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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After the sudden death of her wealthy parents, spoilt Mary Lennox is sent from India to live with her uncle in the austere Misselthwaite Manor on the Yorkshire Moors. Neglected and uncherished, she is horribly lonely, until one day she discovers a walled garden in the grounds that has been kept locked for years.

When Mary finds the key to the garden and shares it with two unlikely companions, she opens up a world of hope, and as the garden blooms, Mary and her friends begin to find a new joy in life.

Having first read The Secret Garden as a young child it’s been special to me for decades; I have a friendly robin who visits me in my garden (he is so friendly he flies into the house and sits on my laptop). When I talk to my Robin, I always think about Ben the gardener being visited by his Robin. And the idea of turning a derelict garden into a paradise is something that really inspires me. Whether my love of gardening came from this book, or vice versa I’m not sure. The themes of the book and they resonated with my own life, so that’s a whole other aspect to ponder on the desert island, I’m sure that it will inspire me to see what I can grow.

Book Three – Attention All Shipping by Charlie Connell 

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This solemn, rhythmic intonation of the shipping forecast on BBC radio is as familiar as the sound of Big Ben chiming the hour. Since its first broadcast in the 1920s it has inspired poems, songs and novels in addition to its intended objective of warning generations of seafarers of impending storms and gales.

Sitting at home listening to the shipping forecast can be a cosily reassuring experience. There’s no danger of a westerly gale eight, veering southwesterly increasing nine later (visibility poor) gusting through your average suburban living room, blowing the Sunday papers all over the place and startling the cat.

Yet familiar though the sea areas are by name, few people give much thought to where they are or what they contain. In ATTENTION ALL SHIPPING, Charlie Connelly wittily explores the places behind the voice, those mysterious regions whose names seem often to bear no relation to conventional geography. Armchair travel will never be the same again.

I used to listen to the Shipping Forecast on the radio while tucked up safe in bed, and always thought about being all cosy whilst the people the programme was aimed at were listening out at a sometimes very stormy sea. Then I heard about book were Charlie Connelly visits all the places on the forecast, I just love how Charlie brings these places to life for the reader, and I think reading this on the island would be like taking a holiday.

Book Four – Homesick: Why I Live in a Shed by Catrina Davis

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Aged thirty-one, Catrina Davies was renting a box-room in a house in Bristol, which she shared with four other adults and a child. Working several jobs and never knowing if she could make the rent, she felt like she was breaking apart.

Homesick for the landscape of her childhood, in the far west of Cornwall, Catrina decides to give up the box-room and face her demons. As a child, she saw her family and their security torn apart; now, she resolves to make a tiny, dilapidated shed a home of her own.

With the freedom to write, surf and make music, Catrina rebuilds the shed and, piece by piece, her own sense of self. On the border of civilisation and wilderness, between the woods and the sea, she discovers the true value of home, while trying to find her place in a fragile natural world.

This is the story of a personal housing crisis and a country-wide one, grappling with class, economics, mental health and nature. It shows how housing can trap us or set us free, and what it means to feel at home.

Homesick: Why I Live in a Shed would be a great choice for me to read while I was living on the island. Being the author’s story of being homeless, and the solution she found for it. I only read this book relatively recently, but I’ve been recommending it to everyone, and I feel sure that Catrina’s story would be inspiring me while I was on the island about making the best of it    

Book Five – Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

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“Do you have a list of your books, or do I just have to stare at them?”

Shaun Bythell is the owner of The Bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland. With more than a mile of shelving, real log fires in the shop and the sea lapping nearby, the shop should be an idyll for bookworms.

Unfortunately, Shaun also has to contend with bizarre requests from people who don’t understand what a shop is, home invasions during the Wigtown Book Festival and Granny, his neurotic Italian assistant who likes digging for river mud to make poultices.

The Diary of a Bookseller (soon to be a major TV series) introduced us to the joys and frustrations of life lived in books. Sardonic and sympathetic in equal measure, Confessions of a Bookseller will reunite readers with the characters they’ve come to know and love.

When I was at school and thought that I would never be able to become an author it was my hope to become a librarian or work in a bookshop. Having not done either of those things Shaun Bythell’s book Confessions of a Bookseller allows me to have the experience of being a second hand bookseller without all the hassles, and the risk of financial ruin! I love the characters who work in the shop, the customers and the background stories of the book collectors and collections that he buys just make me want to find a second hand bookshop and have a good old rummage. So that would bring back lots of happy memories of before I was on the island.  

My luxury item

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As I’ve been told that I cannot take my dog or a radio with me this has been a tricky one, as I cannot imagine my life without either. So, I think I will have a massive roll of gaffer tape. I saw an episode of Naked and Afraid (a show I love) where a guy took in a roll of tape and used it to make a bowl to eat and drink from, clothing, and he even stuck his shelter together and wove a blanket from it. Although I know that my husband would say take a fire lighter.

About the Author

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Eden Gruger lives with her second husband, one big dog, one small, and a part time cat who lives life on her own terms. Eden writes about the ups and downs in women’s lives in the humorous candid occasionally tragic way that women might speak to their closest girlfriends. Eden is one of those crumb magnet women, you know the sort who when they eat a pastry, they end up with more crumbs on them than in them, the person who accidentally says the wrong things, at the wrong time, to the wrong people, or trips over. Other than writing her passions are to highlight invisible disability, and to help other women share their voice through publishing and market their own books.

Eden’s second book Laughing at Myself is a collection of stories based on events in Eden’s own life, told in her own humorous, candid, and uniquely witty style. With stories such as wheel of (mis)fortune, Cataracts Toilet, and Death by Frisbee this book will make you laugh and give a sign of relief that you aren’t the clumsiest and scattiest person in the world after all. You can buy a copy here.

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Laughing at Myself is a collection of stories based on events in Eden’s own life, and given her humorous, candid, witty twist.

With stories such as Wheel of (Mis)fortune, Cataracts Toilet, Death by Frisbee and How to Take Your Driving Test, this book will make you laugh, and give a sigh of relief that you aren’t the clumsiest and scattiest person in the world after all.

 

Connect with Eden:

Website: https://edengrugerwriter.online/

Facebook: Eden Gruger The Author

Twitter: @edengrugerwrit1

Instagram: @eden_gruger_author

Pinterest: Eden Gruger

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Desert Island Children’s Books: Bogwoppit by Ursula Moray Williams

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My pick for the book I would take from my childhood favourites to read and reread on a desert island for June was Bogwoppit by Ursula Moray Williams.

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When Aunt Lily marries the lodger and goes to America, orphaned Samantha is packed off to her Aunt Daisy, who lives in a grand house at the Park. Snooty Lady Daisy Clandorris has no time for children.

Lucky for Samantha, then, to discover the small, furry creature living in the cellar; a bogwoppit – believed extinct – up till now…

Many people will know Ursula Moray Williams for her more famous books, Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat and The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse, both of which I loved, but my favourite of her books was always Bogwoppit. The story is basically about three misfits – Samantha, Aunt Daisy and The-One-and-Only-Bogwoppit-in-the-World – finding happiness and companionship in each other, but of course they start off hating each other and have to work their way to the end point through a series of misadventures.

The appeal of this book is the humour and the sheer level of imagination that has gone into the story. There are  host of well-developed and hilarious characters here, all interacting in madcap ways, to make an entertaining and fulfilling story. Firstly we have Samantha, an orphan who has been living with one of her aunts after her own mother died. however, Aunt Lily and Samantha have never really got on, and Samantha does not feel wanted or loved. She certainly is not wanted when her aunt gets married and wants to move to America, so she gets palmed off on yet another aunt, who wants her even less. Samantha is no cowed and bashful wallflower, she is feisty and demanding of attention. She fights for what she wants, and what she wants more than anything is a family, a home and a pet.

Daisy Clandorris is just as feisty as Samantha. She has been abandoned in a decaying old house by her aristocratic explorer husband, fighting the creeping damp and the encroaching bogwoppits and it has made her afraid and bitter. The last thing she wants is the responsibility of her brash niece, but Samantha isn’t taking no for an answer, and they are going to have to learn how to rub along together. The way the relationship develops between these two spiky and independent characters, who we can see are lonely and actually need each other, is fun to read and I think all children secretly dream of being able to speak to adults the way Samantha does and getting away with it!

Finally, there are the bogwoppits. I’d like to be able to describe them to you, but they aren’t really like anything you’ll every have seen and you need to read the book to understand them. En masse, they are quite annoying, but The-One-and-Only-Bogwoppit-in-the-World is different and becomes the star of the show. It is amazing how much love and emotion can be expressed by a small creature who can’t talk! I think this is the genius of the writing, how the author manages to create a strong personality in a creature that has no language to communicate. You will definitely fall in love with the bogwoppit if you read this book.

Shirley Hughes has created some beautiful illustrations to accompany the text which really enhances the story, and I loved repeatedly reading this tale of an ordinary girl who has an extraordinary adventure and ends up with everything she ever wanted. It used to make me think amazing things can happen to anyone, which is always the best kind of children’s book.

You can buy a copy of Bogwoppit here.

About the Author

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Ursula Moray Williams (19 April 1911 – 17 October 2006) was an English children’s author of nearly 70 books for children. Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse, written while expecting her first child, remained in print throughout her life from its publication in 1939.

Her classic stories often involved brave creatures who overcome trials and cruelty in the outside world before finding a loving home. They included The Good Little Christmas Tree of 1943, and Gobbolino, the Witch’s Cat first published the previous year. It immediately sold out but disappeared until re-issued in abridged form by Kaye Webb at Puffin Books twenty years later, when it became a best-seller.

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