Desert Island Books with… Brian Price

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This week, I have whisked yet another victim guest off to my deserted tropical island to enjoy peace, solitude and the chance to kick back and read five hand-picked books without interruption. This time, the lucky castaway is non-fiction author… Brian Price.

Book One – Sherlock Holmes Short Stories by Arthur Conan Doyle

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This anthology collects together Arthur Conan Doyle’s finest Sherlock Holmes stories.

The drug-addled, anti-social sleuth has become one of the most iconic characters in fiction and the tales collected here will entertain readers today just as much as when they were first published in the late 19th-century.

Featuring such classic cases as ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’ and ‘The Adventure of the Speckled Band’, this provides the perfect introduction to the world’s favourite detective.

I’ve have enjoyed Sherlock Holmes ever since I was a teenager and the collected short stories demonstrate the breadth of the author’s inventiveness – more so than some of the longer ones. Of course, some are a little fanciful but they are of their time and still repay re-reading.

Book Two – Dr Thorndyke Omnibus by R. Austin Freeman

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Dr. Thorndyke is one of the best creations of the Golden Age of British detective fiction. He is both medical doctor and barrister and the first great exponent of forensics in fiction, with an encyclopedic scientific knowledge.

R. Austin Freeman was innovative in his writing too – some of his stories are divided in two: the first part describes the crime AND who did it – the second, the means of detection.

In this new omnibus edition, over forty Thorndyke short stories are gathered, from The Singing Bone (a.k.a. The Adventures of Dr. Thorndyke), The Great Portrait Mystery, John Thorndyke’s Cases (a.k.a. Dr. Thorndyke’s Cases), The Magic Casket , The Puzzle Lock and Dr. Thorndyke’s Case Book (a.k.a. The Blue Scarab).

In some ways a rival to Holmes – their writings overlapped at the turn of the 20th century – Freeman’s character uses science much more than Holmes and the stories are all the richer for it. In some ways I prefer Thorndyke – he’s more sociable – and the puzzles are excellent.

Book Three – The Witches Trilogy by Terry Pratchett

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A collection of three of the author’s “Discworld” novels; Equal Rites, Wyrd Sisters and Witches Abroad, that feature the characters Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrit Garlick.

Terry Pratchett can always cheer me up and the witches stories are hilarious. He was a wonderful writer who sneaked in a lot of thoughtful stuff beneath the humour and fantasy.  Greatly missed.

Book Four – Howdunnit by Martin Edwards (ed.)

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Ninety crime writers from the world’s oldest and most famous crime writing network give tips and insights into successful crime and thriller fiction.

Howdunit offers a fresh perspective on the craft of crime writing from leading exponents of the genre, past and present. The book offers invaluable advice to people interested in writing crime fiction, but it also provides a fascinating picture of the way that the best crime writers have honed their skills over the years. Its unique construction and content mean that it will appeal not only to would-be writers but also to a very wide readership of crime fans.

The principal contributors are current members of the legendary Detection Club, including Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, Peter James, Peter Robinson, Ann Cleeves, Andrew Taylor, Elly Griffiths, Sophie Hannah, Stella Duffy, Alexander McCall Smith, John Le Carré and many more.

Interwoven with their contributions are shorter pieces by past Detection Club members ranging from G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie and John Dickson Carr to Desmond Bagley and H.R.F. Keating.

The book is dedicated to Len Deighton, who is celebrating 50 years as a Detection Club member and has also penned an essay for the book.

The contributions are linked by short sections written by Martin Edwards, the current President of the Club and author of the award-winning The Golden Age of Murder.

Martin Edwards has pulled together an amazing collection of tips for crime writers, from authors old and new, together with valuable examples of how it should be done. An invaluable source of advice.

Book Five – The Puppet Show by M.W. Craven

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Welcome to the Puppet Show . . .

A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless.

When his name is found carved into the charred remains of the third victim, disgraced detective Washington Poe is brought back from suspension and into an investigation he wants no part of.

Reluctantly partnered with the brilliant, but socially awkward, civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, the mismatched pair uncover a trail that only he is meant to see. The elusive killer has a plan and for some reason Poe is part of it.

As the body count rises, Poe discovers he has far more invested in the case than he could have possibly imagined. And in a shocking finale that will shatter everything he’s ever believed about himself, Poe will learn that there are things far worse than being burned alive …

Picking a contemporary novel to re-read is extremely difficult but I’ll go with the first in the riveting Poe and Tilly series. The characters are brilliant, the plot excellent and the writing great – and sometimes very funny.

My luxury item

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If a solar powered word processor is not available, I’ll settle for a big box of pens and paper – without too many distractions, I should be able to write something half decent!

About Brian Price

Brian Price

Brian Price is a chemist and biologist who provides advice on science to crime writers direct and via his website  and YouTube channel. He was an Open University tutor for 26 years and also worked for the Environment Agency. He is an avid reader of crime fiction, writes short stories and has a novel currently seeking a publisher.

Brain’s latest book, Crime writing: How to write the science, is a guide for authors on the scientific aspects of crime. It covers poisons, weapons, knocking people out, fires & explosions, body disposal and some aspects of DNA and forensics. It aims to help writers avoid common mistakes and is also of interest to avid crime readers. Million-selling crime writer Leigh Russell described it as ‘Detailed and thorough. Price clearly knows his subject matter which he presents in a lucid and well-organised text. This is an invaluable resource for any crime writer.’ You can buy a copy of the book here.

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How many times have you read a crime novel describing a poisoning, a stabbing, an explosion or a shooting and realised it’s wrong? Mistakes jar and can undermine a brilliant plot.

This guide will help you to avoid these mistakes, save you research time and ensure that your writing is scientifically credible. Crime writers increasingly look for accuracy in their work and this book, which assumes no previous scientific knowledge, will be a valuable asset for both novices and experienced writers and will also fascinate readers who love crime fiction.

This book explains: * The nature of poisons and how they work. * How to knock out a character and avoid killing them * The nature of explosives are and what happens in an explosion.. * How fires start and their effects on people and buildings. * Firearms, suppressors and how they work. Mechanisms for murder. * Tips on fighting back from an attack and escaping from captivity. * Problems of body disposal and crime scene clean-up. * The nature and use of DNA. * Forensic techniques & how evidence can be misinterpreted.

Connect with Brian:

Website: https://www.crimewriterscience.co.uk/

Facebook: Brian Price

Twitter: @crimewritersci

YouTube: Brian Price

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Desert Island Children’s Books: Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

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It’s time for March’s Desert Island Children’s Book and I can see a theme forming in my last three choices. I was obviously obsessed with reading about the lives of other young girls living in other times during my own formative years. This time we have come forward in time and closer to home to read about the three Fossil sisters living in London in the first half of the twentieth century. I am talking about Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild.

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Pauline, Petrova and Posy Fossil are sisters – with a difference. All three were adopted as babies by Great Uncle Matthew, an eccentric and rich explorer who then disappeared, leaving them in the care of his niece Sylvia.

The girls grow up in comfort until their money begins to run out and nobody can find Great Uncle Matthew. Things look bleak until they hit on an inspired idea: Pauline, Petrova and Posy will take to the stage.

But it’s not long before the Fossils learn that being a star isn’t as easy as they first thought…

I was never a particularly girly girl growing up. I did have ballet lessons for a while, but it was never a passion for me, so a book about three girls who attend a stage school wouldn’t be the first book you would have picked out for me to fall in love with. I was much more of a tomboy like Jo March or Kate Carr, so I could relate to them much better. But Ballet Shoes is no ordinary book about girls who love to dance, and the Fossils are no ordinary sisters and I absolutely adored this story.

The three Fossil sisters, Pauline, Petrova and Posy are not really sisters at all, they were all rescued by an eccentric explorer on his travels, brought home to London at different times and put in the care of his great-niece in a rambling house on the Cromwell Road (at the very furthest end from the museums of South Ken!) to form their own little, ragtag family. Great Uncle Matthew (or GUM as they refer to him) then disappears for a decade, leaving the family is worsening financial straits, until they are forced to take in lodgers to help make ends meet, and the girls are taken in as charity cases at the local stage school until they are old enough to start making money on the stage (which can happen from the age of 12!), whether they like it (Pauline) or not (Petrova, my personal heroine).

This is what makes this book so marvellous. The eclectic group of people who come to live in their home and help them out (the retired teachers who help educate them, the dance teacher who gets them into the school, Mr Simpson who takes tomboy Petrova under his wing, Nana who is always there with words of wisdom or scoldings to keep their feet on the ground.) It is such an interesting sounding life, full of fun and challenge, that I defy any child not to wish they could be one of the sisters, even for a short while.

Every single aspect of the book charmed me. The descriptions of the plays they auditioned for, their simple holidays, the ‘beavers’ prepared by the two teachers (you’ll have to read it to find out what these are), Pauline’s diva-like behaviour when playing Alice, Posy’s impressions, the vows, the costumes, the descriptions of auditions for the movies, applying for licenses to work. It was all exotic and fascinating and such a world away from what being a child was like for me – it has the truly transportive qualities of all appealing literature, as well as being relatable enough for a child. The fact that this book has remained so popular throughout the years means I was not alone in feeling this way about it.

Having just re-read my extremely battered copy of Ballet Shoes for the purposes of writing this post, I can say that I enjoyed it now as much as I did back then. It has lost none of its appeal for me over the years, and I am still as much in love with the Fossils as I love back then. At the very end of the book, the author wonders which of the girls the reader wishes they could be. My answer remains the same now as it was back then. Petrova every day of the week, but especially on Sunday.

Ballet Shoes is available now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Noel Streatfeild was born in Sussex in 1895. Her father, a clergyman, was vicar of St Leonard’s-on-Sea and then of Eastbourne during her childhood. She was one of five children and found vicarage life very restricting. At a young age she began to show a talent for acting and was sent to the Academy of Dramatic Art in London, after which she acted professionally for a number of years before turning to writing. The author of over 80 books, she won the Carnegie Medal for her book Ballet Shoes and was awarded an OBE in 1983. Noel Streatfeild died in 1986.

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Desert Island Books with… Angela Petch

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Welcome to another instalment of Desert Island Books, where I transport some poor soul to a remote atoll with nothing for company except one luxury item and five books of their choosing, so they had better choose wisely – who knows how long they will be marooned! Today’s strandee is author, Angela Petch.

What fun to choose the books I’d have on a desert island… but I’m not brilliant at being totally alone, so I need to inject fun on this island.

Book One – Just William by Richmal Crompton

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Meet everyone’s favourite troublemaker!

In Richmal Compton’s Just William, the Outlaws plan a day of non-stop adventure. The only problem is that William is meant to be babysitting. But William won’t let that stop him having fun with his gang – he’ll just bring the baby along!

There is only one William. This tousle-headed, snub-nosed, hearty, loveable imp of mischief has been harassing his unfortunate family and delighting his hundreds of thousands of admirers since 1922. 

I’m sure that there will be times when I need to laugh, so please may I have Just William by Richmal Crompton? I’ve loved these stories about an eleven-year old lovable rogue since I was very little and they still appeal. The first story was written in 1919 and intended for an adult audience. Crompton was a teacher for a while and I can imagine her observing her pupils in the classroom and jotting notes for later. I love Martin Jarvis’s narrations of her stories, but my battered 1930 edition, with its thick pages and wonderful pen and ink illustrations by Thomas Henry will comfort me.

Book Two – The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency by John Seymour

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John Seymour has inspired thousands to make more responsible, enriching, and eco-friendly choices with his advice on living sustainably. The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency offers step-by-step instructions on everything from chopping trees to harnessing solar power; from growing your own vegetables and fruit and vegetables, and preserving and pickling your harvest, to baking bread, brewing beer, and making cheese. Seymour shows you how to live off the land, running your own smallholding or homestead, keeping chickens, and raising (and butchering) livestock.

While we aren’t all be able to move to the countryside, we can appreciate the importance of Seymour’s message, as he shows us the value of living within our means and making the most of what we have to hand using skills that have been handed down through generations.

With refreshed, retro-style illustrations and a brand-new foreword by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, this new edition of Seymour’s classic title is a balm for anyone who has ever sought solace away from the madness of modern life.

I’ll need practical advice to help me survive and fill my time with projects. When I was twenty-five and two weeks married, we worked in Tanzania for three years. I knew nothing about running a house and in those days (the 70s), there was very little in the shops. I had to learn to make cheese, chop up a whole pig that I bought at the local prison, make curtains… umpteen things. A great help was my copy of The Complete book of Self-Sufficiency: The classic Guide for Realists and Dreamers by John Seymour. I think there is a newer edition out. Maybe I could harness natural energy and learn how to make paper out of leaves, so that I could write.

Book Three – The Dress by Sophie Nicholls

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Meet Ella and her mother Fabia Moreno who arrive in York, one cold January day, to set up their vintage dress shop.

The flamboyant Fabia wants to sell beautiful dresses to nice people and move on from her difficult past. Ella just wants to fit in. But not everyone is on their side.

Will Fabia overcome the prejudices she encounters? What’s the dark secret she’s hiding? And do the silk linings and concealed seams of her dresses contain real spells or is this all just ‘everyday magic’?

Among the leopard-print shoes, tea-gowns and costume jewellery in Fabia’s shop are many different stories – and the story of one particular dress.

The last book that I read and fell in love with is The Dress by Sophie Nicholls and this would be an ideal escapist book. I love vintage shops and old clothes, like Fabia the owner of a dress shop. The story is feel-good and full of magic. Fabia sews mindfulness messages within the linings of the clothes she sells and I have copied a couple and pinned them on my noticeboard. This charming book would help lift my spirits.

Book Four – Poem For The Day: Volume One; Edited by Nicholas Albery and Peter Ratcliffe

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366 poems, one for each day of the year (including leap years). Chosen for their narrative, resonance and rhythm, these are poems to learn by heart or treasure and enjoy. Poets included range from Yeats, Shakespeare, Housman and Kipling, to contemporary poets such as Wendy Cope, Carol Ann Duffy, Maya Angelou and Thom Gunn.

I love poetry. Favourite lines are a comfort but there are so many poems still to discover. Please could I have Poem for the Day, Volume One with a foreword by Wendy Cope? There are 366 poems in here to delight. I could learn a poem every now and again and stand on a rock and recite the words to the wind and the waves. That would help keep my brain busy after the physical activity of foraging and building my log cabin. “Happy the man, and happy he alone, He who can call today his own…” John Dryden (17th century). I’d have to learn how to be happy with myself on a desert island, wouldn’t I?

Book Five – A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman

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Marvellous Ways is eighty-nine years old and has lived alone in a remote Cornish creek for nearly all her life. Lately she’s taken to spending her days sitting on a mooring stone by the river with a telescope. She’s waiting for something – she’s not sure what, but she’ll know it when she sees it.

Drake is a young soldier left reeling by the Second World War. When his promise to fulfil a dying man’s last wish sees him wash up in Marvellous’ creek, broken in body and spirit, the old woman comes to his aid.

A Year of Marvellous Ways is a glorious, life-affirming story about the magic in everyday life and the pull of the sea, the healing powers of storytelling and sloe gin, love and death and how we carry on when grief comes snapping at our heels.

This book is all about the magic of everyday life. A book to be read slowly, digesting the pages little by little: something I could dip in and taste every now and again, like rich chocolate. The heroine’s name is Marvellous Ways (how cool is that?). She’s eighty-nine and has lived on her own in a remote Cornish creek all her life. I reckon I could learn patience and resourcefulness from reading this book over and over and remind myself of how beautiful words can be when they are woven together so brilliantly.

My luxury item

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For my luxury item: I hope you won’t think I’m being greedy, but you would save my life if I could have a wind-up radio cranked by the sun. I know of one that comes with a flashlight and cell phone for emergency and outdoor use. I love listening to the radio more than watching television and it would be a comfort to hear voices and music. I could sing and dance and pretend I was at the theatre while listening to plays (eating home made sweets made from dates that I discovered on one of my explorations on the island).

Thank you so much for inviting me and now I must get back to my WIP. I wonder if a desert island is going to creep into one of my chapters 😉

About Angela Petch

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Published by Bookouture, Angela Petch is an award winning writer of fiction – and the occasional poem.

Every summer she moves to Tuscany for six months where she and her husband own a renovated watermill which they let out. When not exploring their unspoilt corner of the Apennines, she disappears to her writing desk at the top of a converted stable. In her Italian handbag or hiking rucksack she always makes sure to store notebook and pen to jot down ideas.

The winter months are spent in Sussex where most of her family live. When Angela’s not helping out with grandchildren, she catches up with writer friends.

Angela’s gripping, WWII, Tuscan novels are published by Bookouture. While her novel, Mavis and Dot, was self-published and tells of the frolics and foibles of two best-friends who live by the seaside. Angela also writes short stories published in Prima and People’s Friend.

Angela’s latest book, The Tuscan House, will be published on 7 April and you can buy a copy here.

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Corbello, Italy, 1947. A woman and a little boy stagger into the ruins of an old house deep in the forest, wild roses overwhelming the crumbling terracotta walls. Since the war, nowhere has been safe. But they both freeze in shock when a voice calls out from the shadows…

For young mother Fosca Sentino, accepting refuge from ex-British soldier Richard – in Tuscany to escape his tragic past – is the only way to keep her little family safe. She once risked everything to spy on Nazi commanders and pass secret information to the resistenza. But after a heartbreaking betrayal, Fosca’s best friend Simonetta disappeared without trace. The whole community was torn apart, and now Fosca and her son are outcasts.

Wary of this handsome stranger at first, Fosca slowly starts to feel safe as she watches him play with her son in the overgrown orchard. But her fragile peace is shattered the moment a silver brooch is found in the garden, and she recognises it as Simonetta’s…

Fosca has always suspected that another member of the resistenza betrayed her. With Richard by her side, she must find out if Simonetta is still alive, and clear her own name. But how did the brooch end up at the house? And with a traitor hiding in the village, willing to do anything to keep this secret buried, has Fosca put herself and her young son in terrible danger?

Connect with Angela:

Blog: https://angelapetchsblogsite.wordpress.com

Facebook: Angela Petch Author

Twitter: @Angela_Petch

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Desert Island Books with… Lynda Stacey

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Oh, it’s freezing and blowing a gale here today, I wish I could be whisked away to a warm, tropical island with nothing to do but read! However, it is not me but author, Lynda Stacey, who is taking a trip to my tropical hideaway today, with her five books and one luxury item for company. Let’s see what she is taking.

Hi Julie, thank you so much for inviting me to your lovely desert island.

Book One – The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor

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Ireland, 1912. Fourteen members of a small village set sail on RMS Titanic, hoping to find a better life in America. For seventeen-year-old Maggie Murphy, the journey is bittersweet. Though her future lies in an unknown new place, her heart remains in Ireland with Séamus, the sweetheart she left behind. When disaster strikes, Maggie is one of the lucky few passengers in steerage who survives. Waking up alone in a New York hospital, she vows never to speak of the terror and panic of that terrible night ever again.

Chicago, 1982. Adrift after the death of her father, Grace Butler struggles to decide what comes next. When her Great Nana Maggie shares the painful secret she harbored for almost a lifetime about the Titanic, the revelation gives Grace new direction—and leads her and Maggie to unexpected reunions with those they thought lost long ago.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Titanic, about the glitz and glamour. But this book was a little different, it centered around the life of a young girl, one of 14 passengers all from a little village in Ireland. All were travelling in steerage. A journey very different to the passengers in first class.

Book Two – A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

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A world of witches, daemons and vampires.

A manuscript which holds the secrets of their past and the key to their future.

Diana and Matthew – the forbidden love at the heart of it.

When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it’s an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft. Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she’s kept at bay for years; one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires.

Sensing the significance of Diana’s discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire geneticist.

Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels…

I’ve always loved a great vampire and witch story, who doesn’t. I found this one particularly well written and the love between the hero and heroine quite a battle of wills. Especially as in the beginning, Diana Bishop, the heroine doesn’t realise quite what powers she has.

Book Three – The Island By Victoria Hislop

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On the brink of a life-changing decision, Alexis Fielding longs to find out about her mother’s past. But Sofia has never spoken of it. All she admits to is growing up in a small Cretan village before moving to London. When Alexis decides to visit Crete, however, Sofia gives her daughter a letter to take to an old friend, and promises that through her she will learn more.

Arriving in Plaka, Alexis is astonished to see that it lies a stone’s throw from the tiny, deserted island of Spinalonga – Greece’s former leper colony. Then she finds Fotini, and at last hears the story that Sofia has buried all her life: the tale of her great-grandmother Eleni and her daughters and a family rent by tragedy, war and passion. She discovers how intimately she is connected with the island, and how secrecy holds them all in its powerful grip…

I loved everything about this book, the setting of Spinalonga, a former leper colony brought back so many memories as I’d visited it many years ago and while reading the book I could imagine how it must have been to be shipped over there, left there to ‘literally’ rot. I also love books that are based on truth.

Book Four – Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine

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A story spanning centuries. A long awaited revenge.

In London, journalist Jo Clifford plans to debunk the belief in past-lives in a hard-hitting magazine piece. But her scepticism is shaken when a hypnotist forces her to relive the experiences of Matilda, Lady of Hay, a noblewoman during the reign of King John.

She learns of Matilda’s unhappy marriage, her love for the handsome Richard de Clare, and the brutal death threats handed out by King John, before it becomes clear that Jo’s past and present are inevitably entwined. She realises that eight hundred years on, Matilda’s story of secret passion and unspeakable treachery is about to repeat itself…

This book was gripping. I loved that the author combined past and present day, the way it was seeped with history and the book seamlessly switches from Joanna Clifford to Matilda (who are essentially the same person).

Book Five – SUMO by Paul McGee

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Paul McGee’s international bestselling personal development heavyweight S.U.M.O. has helped hundreds of thousands of people around the world fulfil their potential, seize opportunities, succeed at work, and respond to adverse situations with a positive attitude. Weighing in with humour, insight, practical tips, and personal anecdotes, it’s a thought provoking—and possibly life-changing—read. Now newly updated to celebrate 10 years since its first publication and including up-to-date case studies and examples, as well brand new exercises to test yourself, S.U.M.O: 10th Anniversary Edition will help SUMO fans, as well as SUMO amateurs, get more out of this bestselling, self-help classic.

There are six S.U.M.O. principles that are designed to help you create and enjoy a brilliant life:

  • Change Your T-Shirt— take responsibility for your own life and don’t be a victim.
  • Develop Fruity Thinking— change your thinking and change your results.
  • Hippo Time is OK— understand how setbacks affect you and how to recover from them.
  • Remember the Beachball— increase your understanding and awareness of other people’s world.
  • Learn Latin— change comes through action not intention.
  • Overcome the tendency to put things off.
  • Ditch Doris Day— create your own future rather than leave it to chance. Forget the attitude ‘que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be.’

This is a motivational book. SUMO stands for Shut Up, Move On. And has some really great ideas on self-motivation. For example, the author talks about ‘hippo time’ about how everyone is allow to wallow in the mud… but also about how it isn’t healthy or good to wallow there for too long.

My luxury item

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Oh gosh, I’d have to have a blanket. I’m always cold…

About the Author

Me x

Lynda grew up in the mining village of Bentley, Doncaster, in South Yorkshire,

Her own chaotic life story, along with varied career choices helps Lynda to create stories of romantic suspense, with challenging and unpredictable plots, along with (as in all romances) very happy endings.

Lynda joined the Romantic Novelist Association in 2014 under the umbrella of the New Writers Scheme and in 2015, her debut novel House of Secrets won the Choc Lit Search for a Star competition.

She lives in a small rural hamlet near Doncaster, with her husband, Haydn, whom she’s been happily married to for almost 30 years.

Lynda’s latest book, Keeper of Secrets came out in paperback recently and is currently available on Amazon for just £2! You can buy a copy here, and read my review of this excellent read here.

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For as long as Cassie Hunt can remember her Aunt Aggie has spoken about the forgotten world that exists just below her feet, the tunnels and catacombs of the Sand House.

When excavation work begins on the site, shocking secrets are uncovered and danger is never far away, both above and below the ground.

Connect with Lynda:

Website: http://www.lyndastacey.co.uk

Facebook: Lynda Stacey Author

Twitter: @LyndaStacey

Instagram: @lynda.stacey

 

Desert Island Children’s Books: What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge

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It’s time for my second pick of books I loved as a child and would want to take with me to a desert island for repeated readings. This month my chosen book is What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge.

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Katy has grand plans to be beautiful, graceful and ladylike … one day! But for now she has hair that is always tangled, bootlaces undone, a torn dress and she doesn’t care about being ‘good’.

With a wild imagination and high spirits, she is always up to mischief, but there never has been a heroine as lovable as Katy. Then a terrible accident happens and it takes all her courage – and hard-learned patience – to keep her dreams alive.

Next to Jo March from Little Women, Katy Carr was my favourite heroine growing up. A messy tomboy, she had a vivid imagination which she used to create stories and games for her gaggle of younger siblings, who all run riot over the Carr home and garden, much to the exasperation of prim Aunt Izzie.

I absolutely loved Katy and the Carr children, and was fascinated by their life and games. I wished we had a spiked pole to climb to a hidden den in the loft (although I didn’t think their special drink of ‘weak vinegar and water’ sounded like much of a treat!), and amazing swing that soared to the rafters of the woodshed, and a beautiful, woodland ‘Paradise’ to explore. It all sounded so idyllic.

Of course, Katy then has a terrible accident and is confined to bed which, for an active teenager, is torture and she has to learn hard lessons of patience and forbearance. But, with the guidance of saintly Cousin Helen, she soon becomes good and wise and a confidante and role model for all her siblings. This is the part of the book where it gets a bit preachy, in the same way that Little Women does, with lots of morals about being good and allowing God to guide you and virtue will be rewarded. This is no surprise, as Susan Coolidge wrote What Katy Did only a few years after the success of Little Women and at the request of her publisher, who was hoping to emulate that success. These were themes that were popular in Victorian children’s literature, which would grate with youngsters today, but did not remotely put me off as a child.

Going back to read this now, I can still see why I loved it so much when I was younger. I still enjoyed all the parts that were my favourites as a young girl – the picnics, the games, the Christmas presents (I still covet Elsie’s writing desk), the Valentines cards, the food and drink. All of these things would delight any child. My Macmillan Collector’s Library edition contains an introduction by Jacqueline Wilson, who was also a fan of the book and has written a modern retelling of the story called simply, KatyI agree with most of what she says about What Katy Did in her opening chapter, except that she lost interest in Katy when she started to grow up. I didn’t. I loved the sequels, What Katy Did At School and What Katy Did Next just as much as the first book.

I haven’t managed to persuade either of my daughters to embrace Katy as I did, even in the modern retelling by Jacqueline Wilson, and even though my eldest daughter is name Katie, a moniker I have loved since first reading these books. I think I can understand why, the world has moved on too far since then, but I love her still and plan on reading the sequels as well some time this year.

You can buy a copy of What Katy Did here.

About the Author

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Sarah Chauncey Woolsey (January 29, 1835 – April 9, 1905) was an American children’s author who wrote under the pen name Susan Coolidge.

Woolsey was born on January 29, 1835 into the wealthy, influential New England Dwight family, in Cleveland, Ohio. Her father was John Mumford Woolsey (1796–1870) and her mother Jane Andrews, and author and poet Gamel Woolsey was her niece. She spent much of her childhood in New Haven Connecticut after her family moved there in 1852.[1]

Woolsey worked as a nurse during the American Civil War (1861–1865), after which she started to write. She never married, and resided at her family home in Newport, Rhode Island, until her death. She edited The Autobiography and Correspondence of Mrs. Delaney (1879) and The Diary and Letters of Frances Burney (1880).

She is best known for her classic children’s novel What Katy Did (1872). The fictional Carr family was modelled after her own, with Katy Carr inspired by Woolsey herself. The brothers and sisters were modelled on her four younger siblings

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Desert Island Books with… Kate G. Smith

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Time to pack another poor, innocent victim off to my tropical islet for a period of enforced isolation (as if we hadn’t had enough of that already, at least it’s warm there!) armed only with five books and one luxury item. Today I am stranding author, Kate Galloway Smith.

Thank you so much, Julie, for having me on your Desert Island Books feature. It’s very tricky to narrow my choice down to five books, especially as I don’t know how long I’m going to be marooned for. I’m hoping it’s a tropical beach with clear sea so I can swim in between reading, I don’t do well in the cold, which is bizarre seeing as I’m of Scottish heritage!

Book One – A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore

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Cathy and her brother, Rob, don’t know why they have been abandoned by their parents. Alone in their grandfather’s decaying country house, they roam the wild grounds freely with minds attuned to the rural wilderness. Lost in their own private world, they seek and find new lines to cross.

But as the First World War draws closer, crimes both big and small threaten the delicate refuge they have built. Cathy will do anything to protect their dark Eden from anyone, or anything, that threatens to destroy it.

I remember being given this by my Mum, as an older teen, and being completely captivated by Dunmore’s poetic writing. A Spell of Winter is hauntingly gothic, which I love in a book. It’s also quite dream-like which I think would work well whilst lying on a tropical beach, because it would draw me back to the freezing cold English winters.

Book Two – Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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A plane crashes on a desert island. The only survivors are a group of schoolboys. By day, they discover fantastic wildlife and dazzling beaches, learning to survive; at night, they are haunted by nightmares of a primitive beast.

Orphaned by society, it isn’t long before their innocent childhood games devolve into a savage, murderous hunt …

Perhaps a strange choice for a desert island read, given the content, but I absolutely love this book. I studied it at school for my GCSEs and remember reading it over and over again. It totally blew me away. It’s so full of energy and life, and I just love Ralph (I also loved Balthazar Getty who played Ralph in the film adaptation when I was a young teen!) It may also make me thankful that I’m stranded on my desert island alone!

Book Three – If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

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If faking love is this easy… how do you know when it’s real?

Laurie and Jamie have the perfect office romance
(They set the rules via email)

Everyone can see they’re head over heels
(They staged the photos)

This must be true love
(They’re faking it)

When Laurie is dumped by her partner of eighteen years, she’s blindsided. Not only does she feel humiliated, they still have to work together.

So when she gets stuck in the lift with handsome colleague Jamie, they hatch a plan to stage the perfect romance. Revenge will be sweet…

But this fauxmance is about to get complicated. You can’t break your heart in a fake relationship, can you?

Mhairi McFarlane is an author I discovered two years ago, and I have devoured everything she has written since. I have also recently been given an arc copy of her latest book, Last Night, and I can’t wait to start reading it. If I Never Met You is one of my favourites of McFarlane’s; Jaime is a gorgeous love interest and Laurie is so relatable, they’re wonderful together and I love the fake romance trope. I would use this book to escape the island into a funny, perfectly written romcom. 

Book Four – Riders by Jilly Cooper

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Brooding hero Jake Lovell, under whose magic hands even the most difficult horse or woman is charmed, is driven by his loathing of the dashing darling of the show ring, Rupert Campbell-Black.

Having pinched each other’s horses and drunk their way around the capitals of Europe, the feud between the two men finally erupts with devastating consequences at the Los Angeles Olympics . . .

As a lover of horses and loveable rogues, the Jilly Cooper series was, and still is, a firm favourite of mine. Rupert Campbell-Black is the perfect bad boy who I’m certain would keep me entertained on those long island nights. Riders is such a joy; it’s the perfect mix of funny, exhilarating, sexy, naughty, and swoon worthy. In fact, writing about it here makes me want to go and restart the series again for the umpteenth time, they’re so re-readable.

Book Five – Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton

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‘There was something else out on the sea by the rocks – something dark that seemed to lurch out of the waves . . . What could it be?’

Julian, Dick and Anne are spending the holidays with their tomboy cousin George and her dog, Timothy. One day, George takes them to explore nearby Kirrin Island, with its rocky little coast and old ruined castle on the top. Over on the island, they make a thrilling discovery, which leads them deep into the dungeons of Kirrin Castle on a dangerous adventure. Who – and what – will they find there? 

Finally, another island, I’m sensing a theme! My love of reading started very young, and I have my parents to thank for that. I used to get through Enid Blyton books at a speed, and I was always a Famous Five fan, none of this Secret Seven nonsense! I used to want to be George but was always a real-life Anne. Reading the Famous Five books gave me a sense of adventure and made me think that anything was possible. We’d go on holidays to the Lakes and I’d adventure with my brother and cousins and pretend to be fighting thieves and smugglers with a make-believe dog our side. I think taking this on my desert island with me would reignite some of that adventurous spirit that I’d need to build a camp and explore the terrain. 

My luxury item

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I really feel like I should pick something sensible here, like a pen knife or a multi-tool, so I can build a shelter and forage confidently. But I think I’d actually take a notepad and pen (if they can count as one item?) because just imagine the stories that might come to mind in such a wonderful setting.

About Kate Galloway Smith

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Kate Galloway Smith is a writer, editor, and an HCPC registered Occupational Therapist.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Kate can be found writing romantic comedies in Norwich, where she lives with her daughter and their cat and an increasing number of house plants.

Kate’s debut book, You’ve Got Mail, was published on 8 February. It’s the story of Grace Wharton who receives an email dumping her from a relationship she’s not even in. Kate is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and You’ve Got Mail went through their New Writer’s Scheme. The association and the help they give writers has been life-changing for her. She has not only realised her dreams of being a published author, she has also made so many incredible friends. If you’re a writer of romance, she’d highly recommend checking them out.

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It’s been fun, but I think we should stop seeing each other. Thanks for a great laugh x

When Grace Wharton is dumped by email from a relationship she isn’t even in, she adds it to the list of ways her life hasn’t quite panned out: twenty-five, single, and working a dead-end job she doesn’t enjoy. She fires off an angry response to Mr Obnoxious – how dare he try to dump someone over email?! – knowing that telling off a random stranger online means she has reached an all-time low.

Everything changes when her boss asks her to go to a big sales conference to secure an important client. Her partner is Jack Lockett, company Casanova and Grace’s long-time crush. What’s more, he seems very interested… But Mr Obnoxious keeps sending her emails and Grace keeps replying. Only to make sure he doesn’t send any more heart-breaking emails, obviously.

Grace’s life has suddenly gone from stagnant to brimming with possibilities. But is it all too good to be true?

You can buy a copy of You’ve Got Mail here.

Connect with Kate:

Website: https://www.kategallowaysmith.com/

Facebook: Kate Galloway Smith

Twitter: @WritingItToday

Instagram: @writingittoday

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Desert Island Books with… Lizzie Lamb

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Today’s literary castaway, stranded on a deserted beach with only five books and one luxury item to keep her company, is author, Lizzie Lamb. Let’s see what she has chosen from all the books even written as the ones she would like to be stuck with indefinitely, shall we?

Book One – Friday’s Child by Georgette Heyer

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Hero Wantage is desperate to change her fate.

When the dashing Lord Sherry proposes out of the blue, Hero is overjoyed – she’ll escape a life as a governess and, once they wed, he can finally claim his inheritance.

But as Hero attempts to social climb in glamorous London society, Sherry is concerned that her naivety will ruin them both and takes drastic action.

The chaos that follows will push friendships – and hearts – to breaking point.

Before Pride and Prejudice hit our screens, Georgette Heyer was my go-to author for Regency romances. I bought my copy of Friday’s Child for 3/6 (17p) back in 1965 and it was passed round the sixth form as we laughed at the antics of the characters and relived their adventures. The characters and historical background of ‘the ton’ and the slang which Heyer has down to a tee are what make the novel for me. Especially Ferdy who believes he is being stalked by a Greek because he’s told that one day he will ‘meet his ‘Nemesis’. Also, who could resist unsophisticated Hero Wantage who agrees to enter a marriage of convenience with Regency Buck Lord Sheringham whom she’s secretly loved all her life. And, as is the way with these things, she reforms him and don’t they say reformed rakes make the best husbands? I used to re-read this book when I was feeling down or recovering from the flu etc. so it’s practically falling apart. I could buy a new copy, but where’s the fun in that? I’ve never tired of it so I guess it belongs on my desert island with me. Through its pages I can dance a cotillion, ride in a curricle accompanied by my Tiger and become the toast of the Bath.

Quite simply – Bridgerton, without the sex.

Book Two – Emily by Jilly Cooper 

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If Emily hadn’t gone to Annie Richmond’s party, she would never have met the impossible irresistible Rory Balniel – never have married him and been carried off to the wild Scottish island of Irasa to live in his ancestral home along with his eccentric mother, Coco, and the dog, Walter Scott.

She’d never have met the wild and mysterious Marina, a wraith from Rory’s past, nor her brother, the disagreeable Finn Maclean; never have spent a night in a haunted highland castle, or been caught stealing roses in a see-through nightie…

Yes, it all started at Annie Richmond’s party.

As a writer of romantic comedy, how could I leave Jilly Cooper behind on the sinking ship? Just as I’d finished reading all the Georgette Heyers and ploughed my way through historical novels thick enough to be used as doorstops, I discovered Jilly. Emily was her first romance and, back in the day before Amazon was a blot on the horizon, word of it spread via my book-devouring besties. As a newlywed, impoverished probationary teacher trying to renovate a wreck of a house after of a long day at the chalk face I needed light relief. Jilly provided just that. She described a world of fashionable parties in Chelsea, wild Scottish islands, highland estates, hasty marriages to impossible, irresistible heroes, glamorous ex-girlfriends determined to break up Emily and her new husband Rory Balniel. There’s plenty of hilarious escapades and Jilly’s delicious puns to keep me  turning the pages. There’s even a serpent in Eden in the form of Finn Maclean who threatens to wreck Emily’s happiness. The icing on the cake? I met Jilly three years ago at an RNA party and she was everything I hoped she’d be. She kissed me, called me Darling Lizzie and thanked ME for buying her books and remaining a loyal fan over the years. She’s the ideal companion for a desert island but if I can’t take her, I’ll take Emily along instead.

Book Three – Notting Hell by Rachel Johnson

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Our neighbours divide into the haves … and the have yachts.

Meet Mimi and Clare, two married women making the most of their Notting Hill postcode. New best friends, and close neighbours, that doesn’t stop them being rivals, in fact it compels it. Both are aspiring Notting Hill Mummies (Clare needs the baby, Mimi needs the six figure income) and, keeping up with all the area’s fads, fashions and fabulousness is a full-time job.

But the arrival of sexy billionaire Si in their exclusive communal garden strains loyalty to friends, family, spouse and feng-shui guru alike … and only one of them can win.

But who will that be? Clare or Mimi? Are they friends, or just…neighbours?

I adored the movie Notting Hill (1999) so when Rachel Johnson wrote Notting Hell I bought it straight away. It bridged the gap between one Jilly Cooper bonk buster and the next and, inadvertently, provided me with the inspiration for the opening scenes of my rom com – Tall, Dark and Kilted. The novel gave me an insight into the lives of those who shared upmarket communal gardens surrounded by three story houses in sugar almond colours. For that alone I’m taking it along with me to my desert island. In 2006, the year I took early retirement from teaching to concentrate on my writing, I bought a ticket which permitted me to enter the private Notting Hill gardens (including the one where the movie was filmed) and provided me with invaluable research material. There’s also a twist in the tail which I’ll pretend I don’t see coming. As for the novel, I’ve forgotten most of the shenanigans so it’ll be fun to reacquaint myself with Yummy Mummies, high achievers who shopped in Westbourne Road, midnight rendezvous in the bosky gardens, and the secrets the residents are hiding behind their shuttered windows. I’d love another chance to look round those gardens . . . maybe I will once I’ve been rescued from my desert island.

Book Four – Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford 

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The Mitford family is one of the century’s most enigmatic, made notorious by Nancy’s novels, Diana’s marriage to Sir Oswald Mosley, Unity’s infatuation with Hitler, Debo’s marriage to a duke and Jessica’s passionate commitment to communism.

Hons and Rebels is an enchanting and deeply absorbing memoir of an isolated and eccentric upbringing which conceals beneath its witty, light-hearted surface much wisdom and depth of feeling.

I was first attracted to this novel because I’d read about the Mitford sisters: Nancy, Deborah, Diana, Unity, Pamela and Jessica and their brother Tom in a Sunday Times colour supplement and was intrigued to learn more about the eccentric family. Jessica’s sisters (Diana and Unity) and her parents supported Hitler, Diana and her husband Oswald Mosley were gaoled for their support of the fascist cause while Jessica married her cousin Esmond, fought in the Spanish Civil War, joined the communist party and went to live in America. But Hons and Rebels it isn’t a heavy political treatise, it tells the story of a vanished way of life and reads less like an autobiography and more like a family saga. When I read it on my desert island I’ll be whisked away from the South Seas (that’s where I choose to be shipwrecked) to the misty Cotswolds, an ancient manor house, quaint towns and villages and experience once again the feeling of standing on the threshold of time (1939) aware of what lay ahead, even if the Mitfords didn’t.

Book Five – The Flight of the Heron (Trilogy) by D.K. Broster

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It is 1745, and the Jacobite rebellion is on the rise.

Ewen Cameron, a principled young Scottish Highlander, is destined and honoured to serve Bonnie Prince Charlie, the young Pretender, and to help the ‘rightful King’ ascend to the British throne.

Major Keith Windham is a career soldier with the English Army – seemingly the antithesis of Ewen. He is jaded, worldly and loyal to the Crown but, ultimately, an outsider.

Their fates are linked inextricably when a highland prophecy tells Ewen that the flight of a heron will predict five meetings with an Englishman who will cause him much harm but also render a great service.     

Ewen is sceptical, but the prophecy proves true when he meets Englishman Keith Windham – and a gripping tale of adventure, danger and true and lasting friendship is set into motion.

Both are men who are willing to die for their honour and their beliefs. Each is on an opposing side. But who will emerge the victor?

My last choice is a bit of a cheat because it’s part of a trilogy: The Flight of the Heron, The Gleam in the North and The Dark Mile. It is the haunting, romantic story of the men and women who, in 1745, joined Bonnie Prince Charlie after he raised his standard at Glenfinnan. A few years ago I visited Glenfinnan and looked towards the valley now spanned by the famous Harry Potter Bridge (aka the Glenfinnan viaduct) where  in 1745 Cameron of Locheil led five hundred clansmen through the valley, pipes playing and banners waving to pledge themselves to the Jacobite cause. In many way the book was a forerunner for Highlander, Braveheart and Outlander, but in my opinion it surpasses them all in depth and historical scope. It was also the first time I’d encountered Scots Gaelic and I learned some of the phrases by heart.  My copy has nine-hundred-and-fifty-five pages, so I won’t be stuck for reading material. There’s also a romance running through the trilogy, as does the unlikely friendship between Ewan Cameron and Major Wyndham, an officer in King George’s army. 

The books I’ve chosen show my love of history, comedy, romance and an interest in worlds/times other than my own. When I left teaching everyone thought I would write children’s books. Not so . . . However –  my latest novel, Harper’s Highland Fling, published November 2020 features a headmistress who . . .Well, I’ll let the blurb do the talking for me.

My luxury item

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Finally, I would take a machete with me to build shelter, fend off wild animals and make myself clothes out of large (!) flat leaves of plants I find growing in the jungle.

About Lizzie Lamb

Lizzie Lamb

After teaching her 1000th pupil and working as a deputy head teacher in a large primary school, Lizzie decided to pursue her first love: writing. She joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, wrote Tall, Dark and Kilted (2012), quickly followed by Boot Camp Bride. She went on to publish Scotch on the Rocks, which achieved Best Seller status within two weeks of appearing on Amazon and her next novel, Girl in the Castle, reached #3 in the Amazon charts. Lizzie is a founder member of indie publishing group – New Romantics Press, and has hosted author events at Aspinall, St Pancras and Waterstones, Kensington, talking about the research which underpins her novels. Lizzie romance Take Me, I’m Yours, set in Wisconsin, also achieved BEST SELLER status >travel>USA. Her latest novel – Harper’s Highland Fling – has been declared her ‘best one yet’ by readers and reviewers. In it, two warring guardians are forced to join forces and set off in hot pursuit of a runaway niece and son. She has further Scottish-themed romances planned and spends most of the summer touring the Scottish Highlands researching men in kilts. As for the years she spent as a teacher, they haven’t quite gone to waste as she is building a reputation as a go-to speaker on indie publishing, and how to plan, write, and publish your debut novel.

Lizzie lives in Leicestershire (UK) with her husband, David.

She loves to hear from readers, so do get in touch . . .

You can read an extract of Lizzie’s latest novel, Harper’s Highland Fling here and the book is available in ebook and paperback format here.

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After a gruelling academic year, head teacher Harper MacDonald is looking forward to a summer holiday trekking in Nepal.

However, her plans are scuppered when wayward niece, Ariel, leaves a note announcing that she’s running away with a boy called Pen. The only clue to their whereabouts is a footnote: I’ll be in Scotland.

Cue a case of mistaken identity when Harper confronts the boy’s father – Rocco Penhaligon, and accuses him of cradle snatching her niece and ruining her future. At loggerheads, Harper and Rocco set off in hot pursuit of the teenagers, but the canny youngsters are always one step ahead. And, in a neat twist, it is the adults who end up in trouble, not the savvy teenagers.

Fasten your seatbelt for the road trip of your life! It’s going to be a bumpy ride!

Connect with Lizzie:

Website: https://lizzielamb.co.uk/

Facebook: Lizzie Lamb Writer

Twitter: @lizzie_lamb

Instagram: @lizzielambwriter

Pinterest: Lizzie Lamb

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Desert Island Books with… Christina Courtenay

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It’s time for me to send another unsuspecting character off to my lovely but deserted island, with only five books and one luxury item to keep them company. This week I have packed off author Christina Courtenay, let’s see what she has chosen to take with her.

Thank you so much for inviting me, Julie! I have to say that it’s incredibly difficult to choose just five books to take with me, but I have gone with my absolute all-time favourites and they should keep me going for a long time on that desert island!  I’m rather hoping the island is in the Outer Hebrides or somewhere equally chilly, as I’m not a huge fan of hot weather, although I suppose if I’m surrounded by a tropical ocean I can always cool off easily enough 😊

Book One – Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

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Kitty Charing’s life-changing inheritance comes with a catch.

Her eccentric and childless guardian, Mr. Penicuik, is leaving Kitty all of his vast fortune – but with one condition. She must marry one of his five grand-nephews.

However, Kitty’s clear favourite – the rakish Jack Westruther – doesn’t appear at all interested in the arrangement. To make Jack jealous, Kitty impulsively convinces his cousin, the kind-hearted and chivalrous Freddy Standen, to enter into a pretend engagement.

But the more time she spends with Freddy, the more Kitty wonders whether Jack is the right choice after all…

This is my ultimate comfort read and my absolute favourite Heyer book. I honestly don’t know how many times I’ve read it, but I enjoy it just as much each time. In this story she turns her usual alpha male hero plot on its head and instead it’s the unlikely Freddy Standen who gets to be the true hero. At first, the reader can’t possibly imagine it, but as the story progresses, he proves to have hidden strengths. The humour in this book is also second to none – definitely Heyer at her very best! I’ll never tire of reading this and it will cheer me up if I’m feeling down.

Book Two – Midnight is a Lonely Place by Barbara Erskine

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After a broken love affair, biographer Kate Kennedy retires to a remote cottage on the wild Essex coast to work on her new book, until her landlord’s daughter uncovers a Roman site nearby and long-buried passions are unleashed…

In her lonely cottage, Kate is terrorized by mysterious forces. What do these ghosts want? Should the truth about the violent events of long ago be exposed or remain concealed? Kate must struggle for her life against earthbound spirits and ancient curses as hate, jealousy, revenge and passion do battle across the centuries…

I might have to read this one in broad daylight, even if I’m totally alone on that island, as it scares me half to death each time, but it’s one of the most perfect timeslip stories I’ve ever read. The ghostly phenomena are chilling and feel incredibly real – I always imagine myself in that remote place being haunted by a long-dead Roman hellbent on revenge. The romance is poignant and there is something so satisfying in finding that good triumphs over evil – I love that!

Book Three – The Winter Sea (aka Sophia’s Secret) by Susanna Kearsley

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A hauntingly beautiful tale of love that transcends time: an American writer travels to Scotland to craft a novel about the Jacobite Rebellion, only to discover her own ancestral memories of that torrid moment in Scottish history…

In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown. When young Sophia Paterson travels to Slains Castle by the sea, she finds herself in the midst of the dangerous intrigue.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of that historic Scottish castle, she starts to write. But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be the only living person who knows the truth–the ultimate betrayal–that happened all those years ago.

This is another absolutely perfect timeslip story, although a lot less terrifying. It’s a wonderful, gentle read that just sweeps you along and it’s the only book in the last twenty years to have made me cry (in a good way) when I read the ending. It is set during the beginning of the Jacobite rebellions, an era that fascinates me, and it’s so incredibly emotional and romantic. I could reread this forever and still never get enough of it!

Book Four – Brother Cadfael’s Penance by Ellis Peters

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The cloistered walls of Shrewsbury Abbey have always protected Brother Cadfael from the raging Civil War. But when fighting escalates between Empress Maud and King Stephen, the war takes a deadly step closer to him.

Taken prisoner in the battle for Maud’s land is Olivier de Bretagne, Brother Cadfael’s own son- born as a result of a brief encounter thirty years earlier. Now Brother Cadfael resolves to plead for his son’s release at a peace conference scheduled to take place in Coventry; but there is no sign of Olivier there.

After much soul searching, Cadfael makes the difficult decision to break his monastic vows, leaving Coventry without permission- because he knows he must do everything in his power to find his son.

The twentieth and final instalment in Ms Peters’ series about the clever thirteenth century monk was everything I had hoped it would be. Having followed him through the entire series, and knowing that he had loose ends to tie up, I’d hoped that would happen in this story and I wasn’t disappointed. There is something incredibly satisfying in taking a long journey with a character and then leaving them exactly at a point in their lives where you know they’ll be ok. Whenever I finish this, I give a happy sigh and the characters stay in my mind for a long time.

Book Five – Shadow of the Moon by M M Kaye

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Shadow of the Moon is the story of Winter de Ballesteros, a beautiful English heiress who has come to India to be married. It is also the tale of Captain Alex Randall, her escort and protector, who knows that Winter’s husband to be has become a debauched wreck of a man.

When India bursts into flaming hatreds and bitter bloodshed during the dark days of the Mutiny, Alex and Winter are thrown unwillingly together in the brutal and urgent struggle for survival.

I think this can only be described as an epic historical, set against the backdrop of colonial India during the Mutiny. It is thrilling, exciting and wonderfully romantic, and the heroine is one of the strongest I’ve ever encountered (plus I love her name – Winter). I love history and you certainly get to really live through it vicariously here. Although it’s a very long book, it keeps me spellbound every time I pick it up. It will definitely help to pass the time on my remote island!

My luxury item

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A Swiss Army knife (or other similar multi-purpose tool) – the largest one available – would probably come in very handy for building, cutting and cooking etc. They seem to contain just about every imaginable tool all cleverly tucked in.

About Christine Courtenay

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Christina Courtenay writes historical romance, time slip and time travel stories, and lives in Herefordshire (near the Welsh border) in the UK. Although born in England, she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden – hence her abiding interest in the Vikings. Christina is a former chairman of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association and has won several awards, including the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel twice with Highland Storms (2012) and The Gilded Fan (2014).  The Runes of Destiny (time travel published by Headline 10th December 2020) is her latest novel. Christina is a keen amateur genealogist and loves history and archaeology (the armchair variety).

Christina’s latest book is The Runes of Destiny, a Viking time travel story published by Headline Review which you can buy here.

TROD Medium

Separated by time. Brought together by fate.

‘Linnea felt a shiver travel the length of her spine. It hadn’t been a joke – the runes really had shown her destiny.’

Indulging her fascination for the Viking language and losing herself in an archaeological dig is just what Linnea Berger needs after her recent trauma. Uncovering an exquisite brooch, she blacks out reading the runic inscription, only to come to, surrounded by men in Viking costume, who seem to take re-enactment very seriously.

Lost and confused, Linnea finds herself in the power of Hrafn, a Viking warrior who claims her as his thrall and takes her on a treacherous journey across the seas to sell her for profit. Setting sail, she confronts the unthinkable: she has travelled back to the ninth century.

Linnea is determined to find a way back to her own time, but there’s a connection forming with Hrafn. Can she resist the call of the runes and accept her destiny lies here …

Connect with Christina:

Website: http://www.christinacourtenay.com

Facebook: Christina Courtenay Author

Twitter: @PiaCCourtenay

Instagram: @ChristinaCourtenayAuthor

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Desert Island Books with… Diane Chandler

Desert Island Books

Welcome to my first guest Desert Island Books feature of 2021 and I am delighted to have stranded author Diane Chandler on my remote island today. Im hoping it’s a bit warmer there than it is here at the moment!

First of all, let me congratulate you on being crowned an RNA Media Start of 2020! What a wonderful accolade. On reading your blog, I was astounded that you read nearly 200 books last year, many of them as part of your book blogging role. The blogging community provide such an incredible support in nurturing newly published books which is so appreciated. 

And thank you too for inviting me to share my five favourite books. I don’t get through half as many as you each year, Julie, but still it’s so hard to choose when you’re an avid reader, isn’t it? For a big birthday a few years back, a friend gifted me this oil painting of the spines of my favourite books. It hangs proudly in my kitchen and I often find myself gazing at it and diving back into all those fabulous reads. Now, some years on, there would be another 20 to add to these, but I’ll happily choose a few books from this painting to read over and over again on my sunny desert island.

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Book One – The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguru

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In the summer of 1956, Stevens, the ageing butler of Darlington Hall, embarks on a leisurely holiday that will take him deep into the countryside and into his past . . .

A contemporary classic, The Remains of the Day is Kazuo Ishiguro’s beautiful and haunting evocation of life between the wars in a Great English House, of lost causes and lost love.

On arrival in the tropics (where I hope my island would be) I’d like to settle down on the sand and begin with what I call a ‘quiet’ novel. Set in the late 1930s, The Remains of the Day is about a head butler, Stevens, who proudly presides over his staff at a lavish English country house and serves his master, Lord Darlington, with an unquestioning loyalty. One might even say with a certain blindness, as war gathers on the fringes of their languid existence. When Miss Kenton arrives as the chief housekeeper, she and Stevens develop a professional friendship, which he treats with the utmost propriety. And in so doing, he misses out on love. Some twenty years later, he takes a drive to visit Miss Kenton who has moved across the country and yet still carries a torch for him, and once again he fails to seize the opportunity for love which is staring him in the face. 

The writing is sumptuous, slowly drawing readers in and moving us deeply. Very little happens, and yet everything is happening inside the hearts and minds of the characters. And, astoundingly, the author’s mother tongue is Japanese. I teach creative writing alongside my publisher, Stephanie Zia, and we stress the importance of a character’s journey; that there should be some change within them by the novel’s end. Yet Stevens is a character who does not change – and that is the very point with this novel, leaving the reader with a lingering sense of what might have been.

Book Two – The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver 

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This story is told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959.

They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it – from garden seeds to Scripture – is calamitously transformed on African soil.

Having gazed out to sea for a while to let that novel settle, eventually I would shuffle up against a palm tree, and be ready to tackle my next choice. The Poisonwood Bible is about an American family of four daughters who move to Africa, swept along to another continent without choice by their missionary father, who is working to convert African souls to Christianity. This ignorant man is totally oblivious to the culture and values of the African villagers, and there are many entertaining moments where they exhibit their superior intelligence. The mother, meanwhile, tries her best to cushion the existence of her daughters against the harsh conditions in which they find themselves (including the odd deadly snake or two…) For me, this was a wonderfully emotional read. I used to work in overseas aid, including a stint on the Africa desk and always love to read books set in Africa. Moreover, increasingly in the publishing world I hear that, ‘the only goal for an author is to create emotion in their reader’ and boy does this book do that. It’s a little hard to get into, as one of the daughters has developed her own special language and it is she we meet first, but we soon get used to her code.

The opening line of the novel is also a gem. At our creative writing workshops we often study the opening lines of novels – that all-important first hook. The Poisonwood Bible opens with the line, ‘Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened.’ A mysterious opening if ever there was one! I would definitely be reading this book again and again… and hoping there were no snakes sharing my desert island with me!

Book Three – We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver

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Eva never really wanted to be a mother; certainly not the mother of a boy named Kevin who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker and a teacher who had tried to befriend him.

Now, two years after her son’s horrific rampage, Eva comes to terms with her role as Kevin’s mother in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her absent husband Franklyn about their son’s upbringing. Fearing that her own shortcomings may have shaped what her son has become, she confesses to a deep, long-standing ambivalence about motherhood. How much is her fault?

In Lionel Shriver’s hands this sensational, chilling and memorable story of a woman who raised a monster becomes a metaphor for the larger tragedy – the tragedy of a country where everything works, nobody starves, and anything can be bought but a sense of purpose.

I think I’d be ready then to speed up the pace and danger somewhat, and would turn to this novel about a mother and her son, Kevin, who carries out a mass murder at his American high school. We follow their journey from his birth to imprisonment. Not only is it brilliantly written – the language, the pace, the structure – but its theme of nature or nurture; whether her son Kevin was born evil or whether he became bad as he grew up, is explored in fascinating and forensic depth. I read it just after I’d had my daughter and was struggling to cope at home – and it blew me away. Well, you bring yourself to a novel, don’t you? And I brought myself to this one as a fragile new mother, wanting only the best for my baby and devoting all my days to her needs (albeit struggling with that). And I concluded that the mother in this novel was ultimately a bad mother; that she lacked empathy and, above all, generosity of spirit towards her son. 

Some years later, I came to the book again during a creative writing class, where we deconstructed it, chapter by chapter, to explore how Lionel Shriver had built this amazing novel. And once again, I found myself completely absorbed and oblivious to the author’s techniques, simply sucked in by her story-telling. As a writer, you tend to vaguely deconstruct novels as you read – what was their purpose with such and such a chapter? How did they move the plot or character forward? But I’m sure I could read this novel again and again and still be unaware of the stupendous ending I’m about to come upon. Interestingly, Lionel Shriver was not a mother herself when she penned it, which makes it a stunning feat of imagination too. At my book club, recently, we were discussing American Dirt, including the controversy of ‘cultural appropriation’ surrounding it. (American author, Jeannie Cummins’ first person protagonist is a Mexican woman escaping to the USA, and many Latinx people criticised her for audaciously believing she understood what it was to be a Mexican.) We all agreed that so many books would not be here without such incredible stretches of imagination – including We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Book Four – The Reader, by Bernhard Schlink

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For 15-year-old Michael Berg, a chance meeting with an older woman leads to far more than he ever imagined. The woman in question is Hanna, and before long they embark on a passionate, clandestine love affair which leaves Michael both euphoric and confused. For Hanna is not all she seems.

Years later, as a law student observing a trial in Germany, Michael is shocked to realize that the person in the dock is Hanna. The woman he had loved is a criminal. Much about her behaviour during the trial does not make sense. But then suddenly, and terribly, it does – Hanna is not only obliged to answer for a horrible crime, she is also desperately concealing an even deeper secret.

After a calming walk around the island, I‘d be ready to settle down again for something ‘quiet’. When I was a student of modern languages many decades ago, I spent a summer living in West Berlin. This was when the Berlin Wall was still standing – and indeed a period of tension between East and West. I absolutely loved living and working in such an exciting city and since then have been a sucker for any novel set in post-war Germany. Especially an exquisite love story. The Reader is such a love story – but with an incredible twist. Set just after the second world war, it’s about a fifteen-year old boy who is seduced by a voluptuous German woman in her thirties. They spend the summer making glorious love in her apartment, after which the boy reads to her – novels, poetry, anything beautiful – because, as it transpires, she cannot read. And then suddenly the woman disappears. One day the boy arrives at her flat to find it vacant and emptied of all her possessions. Many years later, during the infamous Nazi War Trials, the boy is a law student and taken to watch one of the criminal trials by his tutor. There, in the dock, is the woman. To say more would be too much of a spoiler – perhaps I’ve gone too far already ☺ but this is a sumptuous novel of huge depth. Translated from the German. 

Book Five – Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

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1910. Amiens, Northern France. Stephen Wraysford, a young Englishman, arrives in the French city to stay with the Azaire family. He falls in love with unhappily married Isabelle and the two enter a tempestuous love affair. But, with the world on the brink of war, the relationship falters.

With his love for Isabelle forever engraved on his heart, Stephen volunteers to fight on the Western Front and enters the unimaginable dark world beneath the trenches of No Man’s Land. From award-winning writer Sebastian Faulks, Birdsong is an exceptionally moving and unforgettable portrait of the ruthlessness of war and the indestructability of love.

I first read Birdsong when I was in my twenties and caught up in the excitement of living abroad in Brussels, with the emphasis firmly on fun. By day, I worked as a political lobbyist, by night, I partied – and at the weekends we would head off to Paris, or Amsterdam for all that these cities had to offer. Such a hedonistic and carefree existence. And then I read Birdsong. The opening chapters are about an equally carefree young man, Stephen, who arrives in Amiens with his job and lodges with a well-to-do family. He begins a torrid affair with the unhappily married wife, a tale of lust and burning love which we readers experience in all its sizzling detail. And then, World War One breaks out, and Stephen finds himself recruited to the trenches, going over the top, firing and being fired at. 

And this change in his fortunes was something of an epiphany for me and my callow self. To think that all those doddery old men, who paraded or were pushed in wheelchairs at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day, were once vivacious young men, alive with lust and vigour. My respect for the whole world grew – and I too grew up. It is this juxtaposition in the novel that has always stayed with me. I’m actually not very good at re-reading novels, because I remember them well and there is no discovery second-time around, but this is one I have returned to. Perhaps, in fact, this is my favourite novel of all.  

My luxury item

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Well, my gorgeous ragdoll cat, George, is one of my special comforts in life, but I see he’s not allowed. So I’d opt for my laptop and indulge in my passion of writing. After all that heavy reading I’d need to laugh at George’s @catsdoingbooks antics on Instagram too. But I guess there’d have to be some power source to charge it, so maybe that’s a naughty choice too…?!

About Diane Chandler

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Diane Chandler’s first novel, The Road to Donetsk, draws on her experience of managing overseas aid programmes, and won the People’s Book Prize. Her second, Moondance, tackles the emotional impact of IVF fertility treatment on a loving couple. Only Human, her third novel, is about a woman struggling to find meaning in life after her husband cheats on her and her only daughter is about to fly the nest. Diane co-runs Creative Writing Workshops London with Stephanie Zia of Blackbird Digital Books, and also coaches aspiring writers. She is the host of http://www.Chiswickbuzz.net Book Club, Words with Wine in W4

Diane also co-runs Creative Writing Workshops London and they have just devised a host of new online workshops, on topics from eg. the use of colour, texture, sounds/smells/taste, to eg. voice, self-editing and getting published. They also continue with our workshops for beginners – on character, plot, dialogue and setting. Each stand-alone session costs £20. Small, safe groups of max 6 participants – and nobody has to read out unless they wish to. More details at their website.

Although Diane loves to read literary fiction, her three novels are commercial women’s fiction and the latest, Only Human, came out in September 2020 during a lucky lull in the pandemic. Published by Blackbird Books, it is set in West London and is about a middle-aged woman, Anna, who gave up her career to be a stay-at-home mum. Her daughter is now chopping at the apron strings and she’s just discovered that her husband of 20 years is having an affair. What should she do next with her life? You can buy a copy of the book here.

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The Bonds are, seemingly, a tight family unit, until one fateful summer when the temptations of lust and love come for them all…

Tiger mum Anna, who gave up her career to build the perfect home life in London’s leafy Chiswick, is shocked to the core when she discovers that her husband of 20 years is having an affair.

Her daughter meanwhile is transforming into a tricky teen chopping at the apron strings.

Then Jack walks into their lives. Sophie’s first boyfriend is a breath of fresh air for the whole family and Anna gradually discovers new purpose for herself.

But when yet more deceit creeps in, tensions soar.

Anna is propelled through a tangled web of secrets and lies towards a devastating climax.

Connect with Diane:

Website: https://www.dianechandlerauthor.com

Facebook: Diane Chandler Author

Twitter: @Dchandlerauthor

Instagram: @dianechandlerauthor

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Desert Island Children’s Books

CHILDREN'S

Last year I had such fun listing and re-reading the twelve books that I would take with me to a desert island that it spawned a whole new guest blog feature and, I have decided to do it all over again this year, but with children’s books. Yes, this is nothing more than a thinly disguised excuse to read my childhood favourites over the course of the year, and I am totally unapologetic for that. In these turbulent times, what could be more natural and comforting than to retreat to the warmth of the books that saw you safely through childhood?

The premise is the same as last year. I will be revealing and reviewing the twelve children’s books that I would take with me, should I be stranded alone forever on a desert island. One per month throughout the coming year. I’ll tell you what it is I particularly love about them; why they are the books that I read over and over again as a child, and why they still speak to me as an adult, and what I continue to love about them.

I will be reading one of my twelve picks per month and reviewing it on the last day of the month but, like last year, I am trailing the twelve by listing the thirteen books that almost, but didn’t quite, make the final cut. Some of my all-time favourites, that I would be loathe to leave behind but had to sacrifice to make room for the top dozen.

Let’s kick off shall we.

Pony Club Camp by Josephine Pullein-Thompson

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The last glorious swansong of the West Barsetshire Pony Club sees the Major run a camp for the Pony Club members.

Noel and Henry have now left school and have returned as instructors to deal with the loose and the runaway, and that’s just the ponies. The Pony Club members are even worse. 

As a pony-mad girl in the early eighties, the books written by the Pullein-Thompson sisters were a staple of my childhood library, and Pony Club Camp was my absolute favourite. This story of camping with ponies, doing horseback treasure hunts and gymkhanas, was aspirational and the day I finally went to Pony Club Camp myself was a dream come true, even though it wasn’t quite as chaotic as the one in the book!

The Borrowers by Mary Norton

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The Borrowers live in the secret places of quiet old houses; behind the mantelpiece, inside the harpsichord, under the kitchen clock. They own nothing, borrow everything, and think that human beings were invented just to do the dirty work. Arrietty’s father, Pod, was an expert Borrower. He could scale curtains using a hatpin, and bring back a doll’s teacup without breaking it. Girls weren’t supposed to go borrowing but as Arrietty was an only child her father broke the rule, and then something happened which changed their lives. She made friends with the human boy living in the house…

Normally the idea of unseen creatures living in the corners of your house would be a plot line to scare a child rigid, but the story of Pod, Homily and little Arriety who live under the floorboards and exist by ‘borrowing’ human items to adapt for for their own use is just charming. I was fascinating by the clever way they adapt our huge items for their tiny lives. I loved all five books in the series, but the first time you meet them is always the most memorable.

Milly-Molly-Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley

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Milly-Molly-Mandy lives in a tiny village in the heart of the countryside, where life is full of everyday adventures! Join the little girl in the candy-striped dress as she goes blackberry picking, gets ready to throw a party for her friends and goes to her village fete – whatever Milly-Molly-Mandy and her friends are up to, you’re sure to have fun when they’re around.

I’m not really sure what the appeal of the Milly-Molly-Mandy stories was to me as a child because, looking back, she didn’t do anything hugely exciting. Her life was fairly ordinary and simple, you wouldn’t think that they held as much appeal as stories that whisked a child away somewhere magical, but I loved them nonetheless. Maybe their appeal was their simplicity and innocence, it was like having a friend sleeping over in your bedroom every night. Plus, it was like a collection of short stories, perfect for early readers to master their reading independence.

Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John

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Lucien’s teasing of Dani leads to an accident with far-reaching consequences. Annette is intent on revenge and does all she can to make life a misery for Lucien. His only friend is the old man up the mountain who recognises his skill in carving wood and gives him new hope. Set in Switzerland this story of Annett, Lucien and Dani has caught the imagination of countless children.

My sister borrowed this book from our school library and somehow it never got returned; I still have the school copy to this day (sorry, St. Mary’s School!) This was my first experience of a book taking me away to a different country with its strange customs (I know it’s only Switzerland, not Swaziland, but we never travelled abroad when I was a child, Switzerland seemed exotic!) I was particularly obsessed with the children getting gingerbread bears from the church Christmas Tree as a gift and coveted the one with the twisted nose.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

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The Wild Wood seems a terrifying place to Mole, until one day he pokes his nose out of his burrow and finds it’s full of friends. He meets brave Ratty, kind old Badger and the rascally Mr Toad, and together they go adventuring . . .

But the Wild Wood doesn’t just contain friends, there are also the sinister weasels and stoats, and they capture Toad Hall when Mr Toad is in jail. How will he escape? And can the friends fight together to save Toad Hall?

I don’t think I need to explain why I loved this charming story of animals acting like people; nervous Mole, adventurous Rat, sensible Badger and the bumptious Mr. Toad. I think I strongly related to Mole as a child, which is why I particularly relished his growing bravery and friendships.

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar And Six More by Roald Dahl

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WHAT if you stumbled upon a boy who could talk to animals?

WHY is a hitchhiker both a saviour and a threat?

HOW can a man see without using his eyes?

SEVEN EXTRAORDINARY TALES OF MAGIC, MYSTERY AND SUSPENSE.

I remember us studying The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar in English at junior school, and I fell in love with Dahl’s more adult, dark storytelling and was eager to read the rest of the short stories in this volume. My first exploration of stories that were slightly less wholesome and cartoonish than what I read at home, a stepping stone to the world of grown up literature.

The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit

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‘If we were in a book it would be an enchanted castle – certain to be’

When Jerry, Jimmy and Kathleen are forced to spend their entire summer at school they don’t imagine they will have a particularly interesting time. But that’s before they stumble upon a mysterious castle set in beautiful, abandoned gardens. Could this really be an enchanted castle? Don’t be a duffer, there’s no such thing. But with the air thick with magic, the sun blazing down, and a maze hiding a sleeping girl at its centre, the holidays might just be looking up…

This is probably the least well-known of this author’s books but it was my absolute favourite. Absolute pure magic for a child to read, a proper childhood fairytale that you really wish you could be in yourself as a reader.

Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster

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A trustee of the John Grier orphanage has offered to send Judy Abbott to college. The only requirements are that she must write to him every month and that she can never know who he is.

Judy’s life at college is a whirlwind of friends, classes, parties and a growing friendship with the handsome Jervis Pendleton. With so much happening in her life, Judy can scarcely stop writing to ‘Daddy-Long-Legs’, or wondering who her mysterious benefactor is…

I was given this book by my mum, for whom it was a childhood favourite, and I think this is why I have such fond memories of it, it was something I shared with her and we could discuss together, rather than books I read which she never had. One of my first experiences of the joy of books being enhanced by sharing your love of them with other people. I’ve experienced that the other way since with my own children, and it is a joy that can’t be over-stated.

The Tree That Sat Down/The Stream That Stood Still/The Mountain of Magic by Beverley Nicholls

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Deep in the enchanted forest Judy helps her granny run The Shop Under the Willow Tree. They sell all sorts of wonderful things, such as boxes of beautiful dreams carefully tied up with green ribbon.

But then Sam and the charming Miss Smith, a witch in disguise, open a rival business. The newcomers are not only cheating their customers, but also plotting to destroy Granny’s shop.

Can Judy save the wood from their wickedness?

I was actually introduced to this series via the third book, which I received as a Sunday School prize when I was nine, but as soon as I finished it I pestered my parents to get me books one and two. This series still has the most terrifyingly evil pair of villains ever written in children’s literature. When I was a pre-teen, they scared me silly.

Trebizon by Anne Digby

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New girl Rebecca Mason arrives at Trebizon, the famous boarding school, after everyone else has already made friends. Lonely and anxious to prove herself, Rebecca writes something for the school magazine that unexpectedly triggers a row and half the school turns against her. Luckily, she discovers she has friends after all, the best friends any new girl could hope for.

I was introduced to the Trebizon books by my friend, Lisa, and soon fell in love with this school series. I was a huge fan of Enid Blyton’s boarding school stories, and Anne Digby’s Trebizon series were a more mature version. Set in a Cornish boarding school, they dealt with slightly more adult topics across the fourteen books and they were a firm favourite.

Magic Kingdom For Sale/Sold by Terry Brooks

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Landover was a genuine magic kingdom, complete with fairy folk and wizardry, just as the advertisement had promised. But after he purchased it for a million dollars, Ben Holiday discovered that there were a few details the ad had failed to mention…

Such as the fact that the kingdom is falling into ruin. The barons refuse to recognize a king and taxes haven’t been collected for years. The dragon, Strabo, is laying waste to the countryside, while the evil witch, Nightshade, is plotting to destroy no less than everything. And if that weren’t enough for a prospective king to deal with, Ben soon learns that the Iron Mark, terrible lord of the demons, has challenged all pretenders to the throne of Landover to a duel to the death – a duel no mere mortal can hope to win.

But Ben Holiday has one human trait that even magic can’t overcome. Ben Holiday is stubborn.

Terry Brooks is much better known for his Shannara series of fantasy books, but I fell completely in love with the Landover series, of which Magic Kingdom For Sale/Sold is the first book, when I first read them. The story of a man disillusioned with the modern world who buys a magic kingdom, believing it to be an elaborate hoax, only to find it is real but very far from a magical fantasy realm, is just bewitching. I’ve just discovered there is a sixth book in the series which I’ve never read, so I guess I’ll be revisiting these from the beginning at some point this year.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

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For Milo, everything’s a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he’s got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different.

Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason.

Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In fact, it’s exciting beyond his wildest dreams!

The only reason this book is on the runner-up list and not top of the master list, is that this was one of the books on my main Desert Island Books list last year. One of my favourite books of all time, you can read my review of this book from last year here.

The Ship of Adventure by Enid Blyton

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An amazing voyage around the beautiful Greek islands becomes an exciting quest to find the lost treasure of the Andra!

Philip, Dinah, Lucy-Ann, Jack and Kiki the parrot are plunged into a search for hidden riches – with some ruthless villains hot on their trail! Will they find the treasure before it’s too late?

Really, this is just representative of all of Enid Blyton’s books. I grew up with her, and her books guided me through all of my early reading experiences. Starting off with her collections of fairy stories and Mr Pinkwhistle (how was this ever allowed?), through the Faraway Tree books and the Magic Wishing Chair to The Secret Seven and the Mystery series, I loved them all and devoured every one. The Famous Five were my absolute favourites, and they will be making an appearance in the final twelve, but a special mention has to go to the Adventure series, and this book in particular, which I think was the best. I know she is problematic and very unfashionable, but she is the cornerstone of my love of reading and I still have all of my Enid Blyton books, because they hold huge sentimental value for me.

So, those are the thirteen childhood favourites that are close to my heart but didn’t quite make the final twelve. Join me on 31st January to see the first one that forms part of the twelve childhood favourites that I would take to my desert island.

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