Desert Island Books with… Suzanne Snow

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

Book One – My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

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

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

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

Book Two – Rivals by Jilly Cooper

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

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

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

Book Three –  Full Circle by Michael Palin

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

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

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

Book Four –  Persuasion by Jane Austen

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

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

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

Book Five – Dark Fire by C J Sansom

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

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

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

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

My luxury item

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

About the Author

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

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

A Summer of Second Chances Book Cover

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

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

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

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

Connect with Suzanne:

Website: https://www.suzannesnowauthor.com

Facebook: Suzanne Snow Author

Twitter: @SnowProse

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Desert Island Books with… Eden Gruger

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

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

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

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

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

Book Two – The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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

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

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

Book Three – Attention All Shipping by Charlie Connell 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Five – Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

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

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

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

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

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

My luxury item

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

About the Author

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

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

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

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

 

Connect with Eden:

Website: https://edengrugerwriter.online/

Facebook: Eden Gruger The Author

Twitter: @edengrugerwrit1

Instagram: @eden_gruger_author

Pinterest: Eden Gruger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can buy a copy of Bogwoppit here.

About the Author

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

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

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Desert Island Books with… Marjorie Mallon

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This week’s victim guest on my beautiful desert island, left in peace to read five hand-picked books for as long as they like, is author… Marjorie Mallon. To be honest, that sounds like bliss to me, and will be the only kind of foreign holiday we get this year. Let’s see which five books she has picked.

Book One- The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak

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HERE IS A SMALL FACT – YOU ARE GOING TO DIE

1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.

SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION – THIS NOVEL IS NARRATED BY DEATH

I loved The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak, a WWII historical fiction set in Nazi Germany. It is such a fantastic book, cleverly done, narrated by death, such an emotional read. I don’t read historical fiction often but The Book Thief is amazing. The story stays with you long after you have finished reading it. I love books that stir the deepest emotions, that make you cry, reflect and consider. For me, that’s the ultimate testament to a wonderful book. I read The Book Thief a long time ago (before I began reviewing books,) so it would be awesome to re-read this masterpiece on a desert island!

Book Two – The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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The circus arrives without warning. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Against the grey sky the towering tents are striped black and white. A sign hanging upon iron gates reads:

Opens at Nightfall
Closes at Dawn

As dusk shifts to twilight, tiny lights begin to flicker all over the tents, as though the whole circus is covered in fireflies. When the tents are aglow, sparkling against the night sky, the sign lights up:

Le Cirque des Rêves
The Circus of Dreams

The gates shudder and unlock, seemingly by their own volition.
They swing outward, inviting the crowd inside.

Now the circus is open.
Now you may enter.

Another favourite of mine is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It would be such a delight to be transported to a fantastical setting where the wonders, sounds, surprises and twists and turns of magic and illusion would enthrall me. I read The Night Circus too long ago and it would be awesome to revisit this captivating book too. 

(NB. The Night Circus is also one of my Desert Island Books. You can see why I included it in my list here.)

Book Three – Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

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Mia Corvere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death.

Destined to destroy empires, the child raised in shadows made a promise on the day she lost everything: to avenge herself on those that shattered her world.

But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, and Mia must become a weapon without equal. Before she seeks vengeance, she must seek training among the infamous assassins of the Red Church of Itreya.

Inside the Church’s halls, Mia must prove herself against the deadliest of opponents and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and daemons at the heart of a murder cult.

The Church is no ordinary school. But Mia is no ordinary student.

Top of my list would also be Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight. I adore his writing, and I’d bring Nevernight to make my heart beat faster with excitement. Mia’s blood lust would definitely stop me from getting bored! 

Book Four – Northern Lights (His Dark Materials Book 1) by Philip Pullman

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“Without this child, we shall all die.”

Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live half-wild and carefree among scholars of Jordan College, Oxford.

The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight.

Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequences far beyond her own world…

And I couldn’t leave behind Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights, His Dark Materials #1, which I loved so much! It ticks all the boxes for me, being a fight between good and evil, light and dark, which is very me! 

Book Five – The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

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‘I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.’

Los Angeles Private Investigator Philip Marlowe is hired by wheelchair-bound General Sternwood to discover who is blackmailing him. A broken, weary old man, Sternwood just wants Marlowe to make the problem go away. However, with Sternwood’s two wild, devil-may-care daughters prowling LA’s seedy backstreets, Marlowe’s got his work cut out. And that’s before he stumbles over the first corpse.

I’d also have fun revisiting some books I loved as a youngster, crime and detective novels, which I still enjoy now. So, I’d bring Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep to keep me company and rekindle those memories!

My luxury item

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A good quality yoga mat so I could practice moves and get fit and supple. It would also double up as a mat to lie on too, so dual purpose!

About the Author

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M J Mallon was born in Lion city Singapore, a passionate Scorpio with the Chinese Zodiac sign of a lucky rabbit. She spent her early childhood in Hong Kong. During her teen years, she returned to her father’s childhood home, Edinburgh where she spent many happy years, entertained and enthralled by her parents’ vivid stories of living and working abroad. Perhaps it was during these formative years that her love of storytelling began bolstered by these vivid raconteurs. She counts herself lucky to have travelled to many far-flung destinations and this early early wanderlust has fuelled her present desire to emigrate abroad. Until that wondrous moment, it’s rumoured that she lives in the UK, in the Venice of Cambridge with her six-foot hunk of a rock god husband. Her two enchanting daughters have flown the nest but often return with a cheery smile.

Her motto is to always do what you love, stay true to your heart’s desires, and inspire others to do so too, even it if appears that the odds are stacked against you like black hearted shadows.

Favourite genres to write: Fantasy/magical realism because life should be sprinkled with a liberal dash of extraordinarily imaginative magic!

Her writing credits also include a multi-genre approach: paranormal, best-selling horror, supernatural short stories, flash fiction, and poetry.

She’s been blogging for many moons at her blog home Kyrosmagica, (which means Crystal Magic.) where she continues to celebrate the spiritual realm, her love of nature, crystals and all things magical, mystical, and mysterious.

Her eclectic blog shares details and information about her new releases, author interviews, character profiles and her love of reading, reviewing, writing, and photography.

Marjorie’s has recently worked with some amazing authors and bloggers compiling an anthology/compilation set during the early stages of COVID-19 entitled This Is Lockdown, which you can purchase here, and has also written a spin off poetry collection entitled Lockdown Innit, which you can buy here.

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This anthology and compilation is for everyone, wherever you live in the world. We are all experiencing the impact of COVID19 and lockdown. As writers, bloggers and creatives we express our thoughts and opinions in writing: in heartfelt poetry, pieces on isolation and the impact of COVID19 and the ‘new normal.’

There are twenty eight talented contributors, including the creative NHS Mask Making Fundraising Team of Jane Horwood and Melissa Santiago Val. The contributors come from as far afield as Australia, Canada, USA and Zimbabwe, or closer to my current home in England – in Ireland, Scotland and Italy.

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Lockdown Innit is a poetry collection of eighteen poems about life’s absurdities and frustrations during lockdown. Wherever you live in this world, this is for you. Expect humour, a dollop of banter and ridiculous rants here and there.

Amongst other delights, witness the strange antics of a swan posing by a bin and two statuesque horses appearing like arc deco pieces in a field. Check out the violin player on a tightrope, or the cheeky unmentionables wafting in the lockdown breeze!

The first book in Marjorie’s new YA Fantasy series, Bloodstone, has just been published by Next Chapter Publishing, and you can buy a copy here.

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Fifteen-year-old Amelina Scott lives in Cambridge with her dysfunctional family, a mysterious black cat, and an unusual girl who is imprisoned within the mirrors located in her house.

When an unexpected message arrives inviting her to visit the Crystal Cottage, she sets off on a forbidden path where she encounters Ryder: a charismatic, perplexing stranger.

With the help of a magical paint set and some crystal wizard stones, can Amelina discover the truth about her family?

Connect with Marjorie:

Website: https://mjmallon.com/

Twitter: @Marjorie_Mallon

Instagram: @mjmallonauthor

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Desert Island Books with… Diana Jackson

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I am delighted to be hosting a special extra edition of Desert Island Books this week. I normally like to leave a week between guests, just so I can pop over and have a tidy around, change the palm leaves, plump up the sand dunes, air out the driftwood shack, replenish the coconut supply… the usual type of thing. However, I’m squeezing in an extra castaway this month, as she had to postpone her shipwreck earlier in the Spring. So let’s maroon author, Diana Jackson, on the island now and see what she has taken with her.

Book One – The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

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Sauron, the Dark Lord, has gathered to him all the Rings of Power – the means by which he intends to rule Middle-earth. All he lacks in his plans for dominion is the One Ring – the ring that rules them all – which has fallen into the hands of the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins.

In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as the Ring is entrusted to his care. He must leave his home and make a perilous journey across the realms of Middle-earth to the Crack of Doom, deep inside the territories of the Dark Lord. There he must destroy the Ring forever and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.

I’ve only read this twice in my life. The first time was so memorable. My sister and I read it aloud to each other between Christmas and Easter one year, as teenagers three years apart. It was a time when we really bonded; a friendship which has lasted a lifetime.

Being a large tome; three books in one really, I don’t think I would tire of it.

Book Two – The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis

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C.S. Lewis’s dazzling allegory about heaven and hell – and the chasm fixed between them – is one of his most brilliantly imaginative tales, as he takes issue with the ideas in William Blake’s ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’.

In a dream, the narrator boards a bus on a drizzly afternoon and embarks on an incredible voyage through Heaven and Hell. He meets a host of supernatural beings far removed from his expectations, from the disgruntled, ghostly inhabitants of Hell to the angels and souls who dwell on the plains of Heaven.

This powerful, exquisitely written fantasy is one of C.S. Lewis’s most enduring works of fiction and a profound meditation on good and evil.

This is nothing to do with divorce but is an allegorical account of heaven and hell, along the lines of Pilgrim’s Progress, but easier to read. It is a meditation that challenges the way we look at life. I love books with messages in picture language, pilgrims or journeys. I know that this this would inspire me to write if I was set on a desert island, because each time I’ve read it a different ‘truth’ leaps out at me.

Book Three – Skallagrigg by William Horwood

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Skallagrigg unites Arthur, a little boy abandoned many years ago in a grim hospital in northern England, with Esther, a radiantly intelligent young girl who is suffering from cerebral palsy; and with Daniel, an American computer games genius.

Skallagrigg – whatever the name signifies, or whoever he is – will come to transform their lives. And William Horwood’s inspired, heart-rending story of rescue and redemptive love will undoubtedly touch his readers’ lives, based as it is on a real-life story.

For some reason this is my favourite book of all time. Why? It had such an impact on me, leading to understanding and embracing the truth that all people should be valued. I had always been a strong upholder of equality but, following reading Skallagrig, I looked at folks I met in a different way. It is the quest of a young girl with cerebral palsy who searches for the origins of Skallagrigg, tales which she heard in hospital as a child. Esther has an extremely supportive father who was in the IT business in the 1980’s and ensured that she had every opportunity to reach her potential and explore her dreams in spite of her disabilities. Her link with Arthur, a lad with cerebral palsy who resided in a grim hospital in the 1920’s contrasts with Esther’s life. It is not an easy book to explain in one paragraph. My copy is dog-eared but that doesn’t matter. It is precious nevertheless.

Book Four – Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

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Wuthering Heights is a wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine’s father. After Mr Earnshaw’s death, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by Catherine’s brother Hindley and wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his former miseries.

The action of the story is chaotic and unremittingly violent, but the accomplished handling of a complex structure, the evocative descriptions of the lonely moorland setting and the poetic grandeur of vision combine to make this unique novel a masterpiece of English literature.

Oh, this was a difficult one! So many of the classics, from Jane Austen to Thomas Hardy, have influenced both my love of reading but also my writing too. Set in the wilds of the windy Yorkshire moors, it is the vivid descriptions, the intensity of passion and feeling, the supernatural element that love transcends our time on this earth; all these elements bring this novel into sharp focus today, even though I have not read the book since I was a young adult. 

Book Five – The Bible

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

So many books in one. History, songs, prayers, stories, parables, messages, memoir, witness statements; familiar tales known throughout my life but opening The Bible still has the ability to surprise me and it would take me a long while to read it all, or I could just dip into it.

My luxury item

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A pencil. I reason that I would be resourceful and find dried leaves, bark or even rocks and stones to write on, but a pencil would be a life saver emotionally, enabling me to write letters to family, friends and others (even though I knew I couldn’t send them) and a diary. I could also disappear into another world in my own imagination and scribe novels, escaping from my own precarious situation for a while.

About the Author

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Diana Jackson now lives in Fife where she and her husband have become deeply committed to community life in Kinghorn. Before this pandemic curtailed some activities, Diana has enjoyed volunteering; working with the ‘Kinghorn in Bloom’ crowd, ever improving the beautiful areas of Kinghorn and Pettycur; a volunteer at Kirkcaldy Foodbank and also helping her husband at various Rotary events through the year. Her book The Healing Paths of Fife’ tells her story of relocating to Fife in the form of an allegory ~ a walk along the beautiful coastal path.

Diana released the second novel in her ‘Mystery Inspired by History Series’, MISSING, Past and Present just before the lock down overtook life in the UK, back in March 2020.

Until winter 2015 they lived in the heart of Bedfordshire, UK, where Diana was a teacher of English and Business Studies. Having been made redundant, (probably due to being too old at 55 years!) Diana decided to launch a writers’ collaborative publishing company and through this she is still in touch with many authors back in Bedfordshire. She took eighteen months off to settle into her new life in Scotland, but now she has taken up the mantle once more, both in writing and publishing.

Diana’s initial inspiration to write her first novel ‘Riduna’ was her great grandmother, an Alderney girl, leading to the conception of the ‘Riduna Series’. Having said this she stresses that her novels are purely fiction. She takes the reader from the mid Victorian era through to 1920 and plans a third in the series to the mid thirties.

Her other projects include compiling a memoir and writing a murder mystery, ‘Murder, Now and Then’ which was inspired by a true story ~ an unsolved murder in Bedfordshire in 1919. The first novel in Diana’s ‘Mystery Inspired by History’ series.

What links Diana Jackson’s projects? ~ Her fascination for social history, her love of research and using her imagination to create believable characters living in the periods she is studying.

You can buy a copy of Diana’s latest novel, MISSING, Past and Present here.

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Betrayed by her husband’s disappearance and almost destroyed when her foster son vanishes, Dorothy is left almost destitute. With little hope she trudges the countryside, reflecting on all she had left; her memories. Squatting in an empty farmhouse she is haunted by the ghost of an 18th Century aspirant nun, whose presence stirs her out of despair.

Will Dorothy’s resilience win through? Will she find peace and more importantly will she ever learn the truth?

MISSING Past and Present is a captivating, genealogical mystery with a ghostly presence. If you like compelling, emotionally charged British mysteries then you’ll love Diana Jackson’s ‘Mystery Inspired by History’ series.

She is also the author of Search for the Pearl Inside Yourself, a recently published book of encouragement for young adults, school and college leavers who have lost their way in life a bit. Especially pertinent following this pandemic. It was published in March 2021 and is available here.

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Do you know a young person or young adult who needs some encouragement to find their way in life?

It may be a pupil or student, your son or daughter, your nephew or niece, grandchild, neighbour or a friend.

The person you have in mind might lack self-belief, but all they need is a nudge to guide them to think more positively about themselves. 

Here is a book of encouragement with quotations and ideas to help them to let go of those things which are holding them back and

 to discover the pearl inside …

Connect further with Diana:

Website: www.dianamaryjackson.co.uk

Blog: dianamj.wordpress.com

Twitter: @Riduna

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Desert Island Books with… Eva Glyn

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Today’s castaway choosing the five books and one luxury item to accompany her to her desert island home is a great friend of mine, author…. Eva Glyn, and I’m very excited to see what she has chosen. So let’s get on with it!

Book One – Last Dance in Havana by Rosanna Ley

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Cuba, 1958. Elisa is only sixteen years old when she meets Duardo and she knows he’s the love of her life from the moment they first dance the rumba together in downtown Havana. But Duardo is a rebel, determined to fight in Castro’s army, and Elisa is forced to leave behind her homeland and rebuild her life in distant England. But how can she stop longing for the warmth of Havana, when the music of the rumba still calls to her?

England, 2012. Grace has a troubled relationship with her father, whom she blames for her beloved mother’s untimely death. And this year more than ever she could do with a shoulder to cry on – Grace’s career is in flux, she isn’t sure she wants the baby her husband is so desperate to have and, worst of all, she’s begun to develop feelings for their best friend Theo. Theo is a Cuban born magician but even he can’t make Grace’s problems disappear. Is the passion Grace feels for Theo enough to risk her family’s happiness?

Rosanne Ley is one of my go to authors and Last Dance in Havana is my favourite of her books. She is a brilliant writer (and creative writing tutor) and has the gift of transporting you somewhere so completely, you can almost believe you are there – something very useful once you’ve been on a desert island for a while. This book is set mainly in Bristol, a city I know well, and partly in Cuba, and for me the characters are like old friends. Elisa, who left Havana in 1958 and now longs to return, is particularly memorable and I know I would look forward to seeing her again.

Book Two – The Hourglass by Tracy Rees

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How much can a place change your life?

1950. Chloe visits Tenby every summer. She stays with relatives, and spends the long, idyllic days on the beach. Every year is the same, until she meets a glamorous older boy and is instantly smitten. But on the night of their first date, Chloe comes to a realisation, the aftermath of which could haunt her forever.

2014. Nora has always taken success for granted, until suddenly her life begins to fall apart. Troubled by anxiety and nightmares, she finds herself drawn to the sweeping beaches of Tenby. But Tenby hides a secret, and Nora will soon discover that this little town by the sea has the power to heal even the most painful memories.

This is a book I didn’t immediately warm to but it ended up being one of my favourites. It’s a dual timeline with part in the 1950s, and it was this story which first entranced me, as young teenager Chloe arrives from the Welsh valleys for her annual summer stay with her cousins in Tenby. The way her sheer joy of being there cracks open her attempted veneer of sophistication as the bus starts down the hill into the town must be one of my favourite scenes ever. And of course I am Welsh, so reading this book would always remind me of home.

Book Three – The Story of England by Michael Wood

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In The Story of England Michael Wood tells the extraordinary story of one English community over fifteen centuries, from the moment that the Roman Emperor Honorius sent his famous letter in 410 advising the English to look to their own defences to the village as it is today.

The village of Kibworth in Leicestershire lies at the very centre of England. It has a church, some pubs, the Grand Union Canal, a First World War Memorial – and many centuries of recorded history. In the thirteenth century the village was bought by William de Merton, who later founded Merton College, Oxford, with the result that documents covering 750 years of village history are lodged at the college.

Building on this unique archive, and enlisting the help of the current inhabitants of Kibworth, with a village-wide archeological dig, with the first complete DNA profile of an English village and with use of local materials like family memorabilia, the story of Kibworth is the story of England itself, a ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ for the entire nation.

I may be Welsh but this book is all about England, and in particular one small corner of it – the village of Kibworth in Leicestershire – and that makes it a history like no other. By taking the focus down to this microscopic level, Wood creates real depth and also a fascinating narrative thread as we meet the same families again and again. But the lessons can be applied outwards to the whole country, and that is its genius. I love the history of ordinary people – and I’ve had a crush on Michael Wood since his Trojan War days – so double the reason to take this book with me.

Book Four – The Collected Poems of Glyn Jones

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This volume gathers together Glyn Jones’s previously published poems, together with a number that appear for the first time.

There had to be a poetry book and this one is very special to me, because I read from it to my mother the morning she died and we had a lovely time. Glyn was a good friend of my parents, and that’s the reason I took his name as my pseudonym. Apart from his absolutely wonderful way with words – perhaps just a little of it will rub off on me!

Book Five – One August Night by Victoria Hislop

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25th August 1957. The island of Spinalonga closes its leper colony. And a moment of violence has devastating consequences.

When time stops dead for Maria Petrakis and her sister, Anna, two families splinter apart and, for the people of Plaka, the closure of Spinalonga is forever coloured with tragedy.

In the aftermath, the question of how to resume life looms large. Stigma and scandal need to be confronted and somehow, for those impacted, a future built from the ruins of the past.

I’m taking a bit of a chance on this one because I haven’t read it, but it would be great to have something new to look forward to. I love her writing and The Island was the first book of hers I read so her return to Spinalonga will surely be a treat.

My luxury item

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The essential item I couldn’t live with would be a notebook and pencil. I know it’s not original, but I’m an author. And all the better if the pencil has a little rubber on the end so I can keep only the very best of words!

About the Author

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Eva Glyn writes emotional women’s fiction inspired by beautiful places and the stories they hide. She loves to travel, but finds inspiration can strike just as well at home or abroad.

She cut her teeth on just about every kind of writing (radio journalism, advertising copy, PR, and even freelance cricket reporting) before finally completing a full length novel in her forties. Four lengthy and completely unpublishable tomes later she found herself sitting on an enormous polystyrene book under the TV lights of the Alan Titchmarsh Show as a finalist in the People’s Novelist competition sponsored by Harper Collins. Although losing out to a far better writer, the positive feedback from the judges gave her the confidence to pursue her dreams.

Eva lives in Cornwall, although she considers herself Welsh, and has been lucky enough to have been married to the love of her life for twenty-five years. She also writes as Jane Cable.

The Missing Pieces of Us is Eva’s first novel for One More Chapter and will be published on 21st July. When Robin and Izzie meet again after twenty years they discover their memories of their brief affair are completely different. Who is right, and who is wrong? And how can they create a future when so many pieces of their past are missing? You can pre-order the book here.

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There are three versions of the past – hers, his, and the truth.

When Robin Vail walks back into widow Isobel O’Briain’s life decades after he abruptly left it, the dark days since her husband’s unexpected passing finally know light. Robin has fallen on hard times but Izzie and her teenage daughter Claire quickly remind him what it’s like to have family…and hope.

But Robin and Izzie are no longer those twenty-something lovers, and as they grow closer once more the missing pieces of their past weigh heavy. Now, to stop history repeating, Izzie and Robin must face facts and right wrongs…no matter how painful.

Connect with Eva:

Facebook: Eva Glyn Author

Twitter: @JaneCable

Instagram: @evaglynauthor

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Desert Island Children’s Books: Five Run Away Together by Enid Blyton

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For my fifth choice of a childhood favourite novel to accompany me to my desert island, I’ve had to bring at least one book from my favourite series. I was addicted to Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series when I was young, reading them all multiple times, but it was the third book in the series, Five Run Away Together, that was my absolute favourite and the one I would snatch from a burning building.

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Summer holidays again, at Kirrin Cottage – and the Five are together again! Could anything possibly be better? And when the children become aware of some mysterious signals from a boat at sea, excitement and curiosity descends! The children suspect it’s smugglers, but then they hear a child scream…

During Aunt Fanny and Uncle Quentin’s absence (following an unexpected illness), the children are left under supervision of the new cook—Mrs Stick and her son Edgar, and as a result of their spiteful and unpleasant ways, the five run away to Kirrin Island, and find themselves in the middle of a breath-taking adventure!

This is the first time I have revisited one of my Desert Island Books and haven’t loved it as much as I did when I first read it. I think this is probably a reflection of the fact that The Famous Five are a product of their time, and that time is long past. The world is unrecognisable from the one Enid Blyton was writing about, and the whole story just seems totally improbable. Plus, I’m now looking at these children through the eyes of a mother, who finds them insufferable, rather than a child who is envious of their adventures!

It was always a strange idea that four children aged mid-teens and under would be allowed to just disappear off for weeks on end, roaming the countryside, chasing criminals that have evaded the police with their wily ways, but prove no match for the fabulous Famous Five, and then the police fall over themselves in gratitude. What a self-satisfied and annoying bunch of ‘prigs’ they are, why did I love them so much that my copies are battered to death?

Well, because I never saw any of this when I was a pre-teen myself, I just envied the freedom and excitement and adventure. This book is the epitome of all that – the Five take off for their own private island, with a castle, a wreck and a cave, no one cares, and they foil a kidnapping so cleverly and smugly that I now just want to look them all in the dungeon in which they imprison Edgar and throw away the key. When I was 11, I desperately wanted to go and live in that cave with them for a week, eat sardines and drink ‘lashings of ginger beer’ (which I don’t think I’ve ever tasted to this day.)

I wonder why other books from my childhood have stood the test of time, despite being set in equally alien worlds to mine, and this one hasn’t. I am no longer surprised that my children can’t relate to these favourites from my childhood as they have others, I no longer can either. I’ll still hang on to them for sentimental reasons though, because no series fed in to my love of reading the way the Famous Five novels did, they are a major foundation stone of where I am today.

You can buy a copy of Five Run Away Together for yourself here.

About the Author

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Enid Blyton is one of the most popular children’s authors of all time. Her books have sold over 500 million copies and have been translated into other languages more often than any other children’s author.

Enid Blyton adored writing for children. She wrote over 700 books and about 2,000 short stories. The Famous Five books, now 75 years old, are her most popular. She is also the author of other favourites including The Secret Seven, The Magic Faraway Tree, Malory Towers and Noddy.

Born in London in 1897, Enid lived much of her life in Buckinghamshire and loved dogs, gardening and the countryside. She was very knowledgeable about trees, flowers, birds and animals. Dorset – where some of the Famous Five’s adventures are set – was a favourite place of hers too.

Enid Blyton’s stories are read and loved by millions of children (and grown-ups) all over the world.

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Desert Island Books with… Annemarie Rawson

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Today’s shipwreck victim, marooned on a desert island with only five books, one luxury item and their own thoughts for company (how terrifying an idea is that?!) is author, Annemarie Rawson. Let’s see what tomes she has chosen to stave off certain madness, shall we?

Book One – Red Notice by Bill Browder

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In November 2009, the young lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was beaten to death by eight police officers in a freezing cell in a Moscow prison. His crime? Testifying against Russian officials who were involved in a conspiracy to steal $230 million of taxes.

Red Notice is a searing exposé of the whitewash of this imprisonment and murder. The killing hasn’t been investigated. It hasn’t been punished. Bill Browder is still campaigning for justice for his late lawyer and friend. This is his explosive journey from the heady world of finance in New York and London in the 1990s, through battles with ruthless oligarchs in turbulent post-Soviet Union Moscow, to the shadowy heart of the Kremlin.

With fraud, bribery, corruption and torture exposed at every turn, Red Notice is a shocking political roller-coaster.

A real-life political thriller about an American financier in the Wild East of Russia, the murder of his principled young tax attorney, and his dangerous mission to expose the Kremlin’s corruption. This was a huge insight into Russia and one man’s battle for the truth. I’ve only read it once but I think I would find something fascinating and informative which each subsequent read.

Book Two – The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

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Artist’s daughter Penelope Keeling can look back on a full and varied life: a Bohemian childhood in London and Cornwall, an unhappy wartime marriage, and the one man she truly loved. She has brought up three children – and learned to accept them as they are.

Yet she is far too energetic and independent to settle sweetly into pensioned-off old-age. And when she discovers that her most treasured possession, her father’s painting, The Shell Seekers, is now worth a small fortune, it is Penelope who must make the decisions that will determine whether her family can continue to survive as a family, or be split apart.

The Shell Seekers is one of the many family sagas written by Rosamunde Pilcher and set between London and Cornwall and often around or during WWII. The books are so well written that you feel as if you know each person and have been transported to the cliffs and villages of Cornwall.  The stories are great escapism to a bygone era and reading them all again will help me forget I’m stranded on a desert island!

Book Three – Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

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When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike’s office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic.

Trying to get to the bottom of Billy’s story, Strike and Robin Ellacott – once his assistant, now a partner in the agency – set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.

And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike’s own life is far from straightforward: his newfound fame as a private eye means he can no longer operate behind the scenes as he once did. Plus, his relationship with his former assistant is more fraught than it ever has been – Robin is now invaluable to Strike in the business, but their personal relationship is much, much more tricky than that . . .

Robert Galbraith (J K Rowling) has written a series of books of Strike, who runs his own detective agency and takes on Robin, who started out as his receptionist/PA. The books follow a series of investigations but intertwine these with Strike and Robin’s private lives and their simmering interest in each other. Lethal White is just one of these books.

Book Four – Becoming by Michelle Obama

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In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her — from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it — in her own words and on her own terms.

Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations — and whose story inspires us to do the same.

It was fascinating to learn about Michelle’s life from an average American childhood through to being the wife of the President of the United States and what she brought to that ‘job’. I felt I got to know Michelle, such was her storytelling skill. I’d take it with my to the desert island as I’m sure I’d learn a lot more on each re-reading of it.

Book Five – Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce

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London, 1941. Amid the falling bombs Emmeline Lake dreams of becoming a fearless Lady War Correspondent. Unfortunately, Emmy instead finds herself employed as a typist for the formidable Henrietta Bird, the renowned agony aunt at Woman’s Friend magazine. Mrs Bird refuses to read, let alone answer, letters containing any form of Unpleasantness, and definitely not those from the lovelorn, grief-stricken or morally conflicted.

But the thought of these desperate women waiting for an answer at this most desperate of times becomes impossible for Emmy to ignore. She decides she simply must help and secretly starts to write back – after all, what harm could that possibly do?

This is a delighted little read about a young woman who hopes to be a War Correspondent, takes on a job but the job turns out to be typist to the fierce and renowned advice columnist, Henrietta Bird. Emmy is disappointed, but gamely bucks up and buckles down.

Mrs Bird is very clear: Any letters containing Unpleasantness—must go straight in the bin. But when Emmy reads poignant letters from women who are lonely, may have Gone Too Far with the wrong men and found themselves in trouble, or who can’t bear to let their children be evacuated, she is unable to resist responding – under Mrs Bird’s name! 

It’s an uplifting story, one set during a terrible time in London where bombs are falling but Emmy is making a difference to the reader’s lives. There is hope! And hopefully I’d still have hope, while stranded on a desert island.

My luxury item

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Mascara! Which I’d wear every day, just in case I got rescued that day and I wouldn’t be caught looking like Miss Piggy, without her false eyelashes  as mine are very fair!

About the Author

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Annemarie is a New Zealander who collects new ‘best friends’ wherever she goes. In her 50’s she and her husband, Steve, packed up the house, rented it out, kissed her family and friends goodbye and moved 12,000 km to South West France to work as estate managers for several private families — swapping corporate, city life for animal husbandry and the French countryside.

Annemarie loves people, animals, travelling, interior design and creating delicious food to welcome people into her home and at her table.

After a stint back in New Zealand, Annemarie decided (at 60) it was time for another adventure and did exactly the same thing, packing up the house but this time moving to London. Two and a half years later they have explored more of London than some Londoners and have bounced around the UK and parts of Europe, capturing it all in photos and blogs.

Annemarie is the author of My French Platter, a book about her time in France. A second book, My French Platter Replenished, is due later this year with a third planned for publication in 2022. You can buy a copy of My French Platter here.

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When Annemarie and her husband, Steve, leave their life in New Zealand to manage a 15th-century farmhouse in France, they have no idea they’ll end up homeless. No idea they’ll need to live in filth, rely on dilapidated equipment and deal with a belligerent boss. Will the mouth-watering food she creates, the wonderful people they meet and the glorious French countryside help them salvage their dreams of life abroad or will they need to rethink their future?

Connect with Annemarie:

Website: https://www.annemarierawson.com/

Facebook: Annemarie Rawson

Instagram: @latelifeadventures

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Desert Island Books with… Chantelle Atkins

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There may not be many places in the world that you can currently travel from the UK but, luckily for me, this does not prevent me from virtually stranding another guest on a remote island with only five books and one luxury item standing between them and certain madness. This week my victim guest is… Chantelle Atkins.

Book One – The Catcher In The Rye by J. D. Salinger

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The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days.

The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it.

There are many voices in this novel: children’s voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden’s voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvellously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.

This is probably my favourite book. I borrowed it from my sister when I was 15 and devoured it in one sitting. I felt like Holden Caulfield was speaking directly to me. I fell in love with his character and felt like he would be the one fictional character I would love to be friends with. I’ve read it multiple times since, at different stages of my life and I get something new from it every time. On a desert island it would be like a comfort blanket to me.

Book Two – Ham On Rye by Charles Bukowski

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Charles Bukowski is one of the greatest authors of the twentieth-century. The autobiographical Ham on Rye is widely considered his finest novel. A classic of American literature, it offers powerful insight into his youth through the prism of his alter-ego Henry Chinaski, who grew up to be the legendary Hank Chinaski of Post Office and Factotum.

Charles Bukowski is one of my favourite authors and I absolutely adore everything he wrote, including his poems. I have lines from some tattooed on my arms so I can always see those words when I need them. This was the first book of his I read after I chose it by chance in a bookshop. I admire his writing and whenever I read anything of his, I find myself nodding and smiling and agreeing with him on everything. He makes me want to be a better writer and he was the one author that gave me the courage to try writing poetry. I would read this book again and again and not get bored of it.

Book Three – On The Road by Jack Kerouac

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Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), a young innocent, joins his hero Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund), a traveller and mystic, the living epitome of Beat, on a breathless, exuberant ride back and forth across the United States. Their hedonistic search for release or fulfilment through drink, sex, drugs and jazz becomes an exploration of personal freedom, a test of the limits of the American dream. A brilliant blend of fiction and autobiography, Jack Kerouac’s exhilarating novel swings to the rhythms of 1950s underground America, racing towards the sunset with unforgettable exuberance, poignancy and autobiographical passion. One of the most influential and important novels of the 20th century, On the Road is the book that launched the Beat Generation and remains the bible of that literary movement.

Kerouac’s prose is just so beautiful, I have to re-read lines again and again, fully appreciating them before I can move on. He had a unique way with words. His narrative and descriptions are breathtaking but he was also such an observer or people. I read this when I was 19 and it inspired me and my writing. It made me want to go on road trips and travel and only associate with the mad ones! A great read, it would keep me occupied.

Book Four – Watership Down by Richard Adams 

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Fiver, a young rabbit, is very worried. He senses something terrible is about to happen to the warren. His brother Hazel knows that his sixth sense is never wrong. So, there is nothing else for it. They must leave immediately.

And so begins a long and perilous journey of a small band of rabbits in search of a safe home. Fiver’s vision finally leads them to Watership Down, but here they face their most difficult challenge of all…

This would be like another comfort blanket. I read it aged 10 and it was the one book that made me want to write stories too. It inspired a series of little stories about animals as I tried to emulate his style. I’ve read it again recently and got even more from it as an adult. It’s a long book about an epic journey and it would definitely help fill the time to read this again.

Book Five – It by Stephen King

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27 years later, the Losers Club have grown up and moved away, until a devastating phone call brings them back…

Derry, Maine was just an ordinary town: familiar, well-ordered for the most part, a good place to live.

It was a group of children who saw- and felt- what made Derry so horribly different. In the storm drains, in the sewers, IT lurked, taking on the shape of every nightmare, each one’s deepest dread. Sometimes IT appeared as an evil clown named Pennywise and sometimes IT reached up, seizing, tearing, killing . . .

Time passed and the children grew up, moved away and forgot. THEN they are called back, once more to confront IT as IT stirs and coils in the sullen depths of their memories, emerging again to make their past nightmares a terrible present reality…

It’s a huge book so it would fill some of the time if I was stuck on a desert island. I read it aged 13 and Stephen King promptly became my favourite author. I started writing darker, scarier stuff after I discovered his books. It is my favourite King novel because as well as being a terrifying horror novel, it’s also a beautiful tale of childhood and friendship and what’s it like to be an outsider. It would fill many hours and I would happily read it again and again.

My luxury item

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It would have to be notepads and pens.

About the Author

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Chantelle Atkins was born and raised in Dorset, England and still resides there now with her husband, four children and multiple pets. She is addicted to reading, writing and music and writes for both the young adult and adult genres. Her fiction is described as gritty, edgy and compelling. Her debut Young Adult novel The Mess Of Me deals with eating disorders, self-harm, fractured families and first love. Her second novel, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side follows the musical journey of a young boy attempting to escape his brutal home life and has now been developed into a 5 book series. She is also the author of This Is Nowhere and award-winning dystopian, The Tree Of Rebels, plus a collection of short stories related to her novels called Bird People and Other Stories. The award-winning Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature was released through Pict Publishing in October 2018. YA novel A Song For Bill Robinson was released in December 2019 and is the first in a trilogy, followed by Emily’s Baby and The Search For Summer in 2021. Chantelle has had multiple articles about writing published by Author’s Publish magazine and runs her own Community Interest Company – Chasing Driftwood Writing Group.

Chantelle’s new book The Search For Summer came out on 30th April 2021. It’s the final book in a YA trilogy based around an unsolved murder, a neighbourhood feud and a teenage singer with a drinking problem! The other two books are A Song For Bill Robinson and Emily’s Baby. You can buy a copy of the book here.

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When Bill’s desire for the truth pushed Charlie into an impossible decision, he lashed out in horrifying fashion, stealing baby Gabriel and leaving Bill for dead.

Panic-stricken Charlie is now on the run with his three-day-old son. His hiding place reveals a mystery that will drive him further across the country. Summer was involved with the set-up that pushed Charlie over the edge and she was there when he stole the baby…but where is she now?

As his band The Rebel Anthem attract a manager and a possible record deal, Bill has a lot on his mind. He cannot accept that Summer would run away and fears his own behaviour may have played a part in her disappearance.In this dramatic climax to the YA trilogy, previous actions and decisions have consequences for all, while Bill and his friends must find Summer and baby Gabriel and finally bring a killer to justice.

Connect with Chantelle:

Website: https://chantelleatkins.com/

Facebook: Chantelle Atkins

Twitter: @Chanatkins

Instagram: @chantelleatkinswriter

Pinterest: Chantelle Atkins

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Desert Island Children’s Books: Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers

CHILDREN'S

Next up in my nostalgic romp through my favourite childhood books is one of three books that I used to take out repeatedly from Askern Library in my formative years. I had this book out on loan so often that I doubt any other child in the vicinity had chance to read it. The book is the marvellous Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers.

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When the Banks family advertise for a nanny, Mary Poppins and her talking umbrella appear out of the sky, ready to take the children on extraordinary adventures.

Mary Poppins is strict but fair, and soon Michael and Jane are whisked off to a funfair inside a pavement picture and on many more outings with their wonderful new nanny!

Needless to say, when at last ‘the wind changes’ and she flies away, the children are devastated. But the magic of Mary Poppins will stay with the Banks family forever.

I’m guessing many of you will only know Mary Poppins from the Disney movie and will not have read the original book by P. L. Travers. Whilst I do love the Disney version, Walt’s version of Mary Poppins is a lot more saccharine than the character originally written by Travers. Travers’ literary Mary Poppins is much sterner, much more acerbic and much more vain than the character portrayed by Julie Andrews on screen. One look from the paper version of Poppins and any child, or adult, would be quaking in their boots, and she was extremely quick to take offence. For some reason, this stronger, prickly, complicated character was much more appealing to me as a child, and now still as an adult, than the watered down version we see in the movie.

In addition, Disney appears to have picked out the less exciting escapades the children have than the other ones featured in the book, and taken poetic licence with them too. In the movie – and the blurb above – the children take a trip into a chalk picture and ride the carousel. In the movie, the horses then jump off the carousel and enter a horse race. In the book, only Mary Poppins and Bert jump into the picture, the horses stay firmly attached to the carousel and there are no penguins to be seen in this scene! When the children go to ‘Feed The Birds,’ they don’t bring down their father’s bank, and there is no dancing with sweeps across the London rooftops. I can understand why Disney picked the scenes he did to include, the story in the book is much less linear and does not really form a complete story arc for a movie, but for me, the encounter with Mrs Corry and her giant daughters, and the finale escapade in the nighttime zoo are much more interesting to read. I think my point is, if you think you know Mary Poppins from the movie, you don’t. The literary Mary Poppins is a horse of a different, and much more interesting, colour altogether.

What people also may not be aware of is that Mary Poppins is only the first book in a series. After her initial visit, Mary Poppins returns to the Banks household several times, always arriving by a different method, always taking the children on exciting adventures, before disappearing unexpectedly. I devoured all of the books in the series, and was fascinated by the way the author’s mind worked in coming up with the different stories. Want to take a romp through the constellations? Chat to statues? Find out what Noah’s descendants are up to now? All of these things are described by Travers in the subsequent Mary Poppins books and they are stories that have stayed with me through the years. Although I have not had time yet, I fully intend to revisit the remaining books in the series this year. If you want to know the real Mary Poppins and not the Disney version, you might like to pick them up too.

Mary Poppins is available in a number of different editions but you can buy this one here.

About the Author

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Pamela Lyndon Travers OBE (born Helen Lyndon Goff; 9 August 1899 – 23 April 1996) was an Australian-British writer who spent most of her career in England.[1] She is best known for the Mary Poppins series of children’s books, which feature the magical nanny Mary Poppins.

Goff was born in Maryborough, Queensland, and grew up in the Australian bush before being sent to boarding school in Sydney. Her writing was first published when she was a teenager, and she also worked briefly as a professional Shakespearean actress. Upon immigrating to England at the age of 25, she took the name “Pamela Lyndon Travers” and adopted the pen name “P. L. Travers” in 1933 while writing the first of eight Mary Poppins books.

Travers travelled to New York City during World War II while working for the British Ministry of Information. At that time, Walt Disney contacted her about selling to Walt Disney Productions the rights for a film adaptation of Mary Poppins. After years of contact, which included visits to Travers at her home in London, Walt Disney did obtain the rights and the Mary Poppins film premiered in 1964.

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