Desert Island Children’s Books: Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

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My choice of children’s classic to take to my desert island in October was one beloved by many, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

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Alice in Wonderland is an 1865 novel by English author Lewis Carroll. It tells of a young girl named Alice, who falls through a rabbit hole into a subterranean fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures. It is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre. The tale plays with logic, giving the story lasting popularity with adults as well as with children.

I’m so behind with these posts, but better late than never!

I actually listened to Alice in Wonderland on audiobook in October and I really enjoyed this way of consuming it, it reminded me of when I read the book to my daughters before they were old enough to read it for themselves, so it was a double jaunt down memory lane. Is there a generation that hasn’t fallen in love with the eccentric story of Alice who goes on a fantastical journey through a world down the rabbit hole?

Every time I go back to Alice, I rediscover parts of the story that I have forgotten, and characters that I have loved which don’t make it into the Disney film. Many people’s main memories of Alice are from the movie, but if you read the actual text, there are loads of fun details that didn’t make it into the film. My favourite is still Alice being stuck in the cottage when she has grown huge and hearing a conversation about ‘Little Bill’ coming down the chimney, who she then proceeds to kick into the air without actually knowing what kind of creature Little Bill is (he is a poor lizard, it turns out.)

This is a book that it is possible to enjoy as much, if not more, as an adult than a child, because you can appreciate the absurdity and the sly humour of the writing much better. I am always in awe of Lewis Carroll’s imagination when I read this book, he has created a world that has delighted children for more than 150 years and continues to remain delightful to this day. What an achievement, to write a book that is so timelessly enchanting that people are still reading and enjoying it more than a century later, and whose characters are instantly recognisable around the world.

This will remain one of my favourite books of all time as long as I can pick up a novel, and it is one I will return to often when I need reminding of the innocence and joys of childhood and all that is fanciful and ridiculous. It is a huge gift to be able to revisit and embrace that child-like wonder in a world that can feel darker and more cynical by the day.

You can buy a copy of Alice in Wonderland here.

About the Author

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Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (27 January 1832 – 14 January 1898), better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll, was an English writer of children’s fiction, notably Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. He was noted for his facility with word play, logic, and fantasy. The poems “Jabberwocky” and The Hunting of the Snark are classified in the genre of literary nonsense. He was also a mathematician, photographer, inventor, and Anglican deacon.

Carroll came from a family of high-church Anglicans, and developed a long relationship with Christ Church, Oxford, where he lived for most of his life as a scholar and teacher. Alice Liddell, daughter of the Dean of Christ Church, Henry Liddell, is widely identified as the original for Alice in Wonderland, though Carroll always denied this. Scholars are divided about whether his relationship with children included an erotic component.

In 1982, a memorial stone to Carroll was unveiled in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey. There are Lewis Carroll societies in many parts of the world dedicated to the enjoyment and promotion of his works.

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Desert Island Books with… Lucy Morris

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This week I have packed off author Lucy Morris to my virtual desert island to kick back, relax and indulge herself in reading five of her favourite books to her heart’s content. Let’s see which five titles she has snuck on to her raft, shall we?

Book One – Dune by Frank Herbert

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Melange, or ‘spice’, is the most valuable – and rarest – element in the universe; a drug that does everything from increasing a person’s life-span to making intersteller travel possible. And it can only be found on a single planet: the inhospitable desert world Arrakis.

Whoever controls Arrakis controls the spice. And whoever controls the spice controls the universe.

When the Emperor transfers stewardship of Arrakis from the noble House Harkonnen to House Atreides, the Harkonnens fight back, murdering Duke Leto Atreides. Paul, his son, and Lady Jessica, his concubine, flee into the desert. On the point of death, they are rescued by a band for Fremen, the native people of Arrakis, who control Arrakis’ second great resource: the giant worms that burrow beneath the burning desert sands.

In order to avenge his father and retake Arrakis from the Harkonnens, Paul must earn the trust of the Fremen and lead a tiny army against the innumerable forces aligned against them.

And his journey will change the universe.

I love this book, and I’m super excited for the new film. 

I first read it when I was fifteen. I’d stayed up late one night, and the David Lynch 1984 adaptation suddenly came on the telly. I was entranced! The beautifully earnest Kyle MacLachlan, not to mention the sweaty and incredibly sexy Sting emerging from a random tube of steam! Hello first villain movie crush!

So, I gave the book a go…and loved it, going on to read the whole series. Which only gets more bonkers with each book. However, the first book, Dune, will always be my favourite.

I was obsessed with the crazy mix of science fiction, epic saga, and the extensively detailed civilisations described. I love writing worldbuilding to this day, and I’m not happy unless there’s a bit of drama and magic in my stories.

Book Two – Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

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Reina seethes with rage over her fate: taken captive by the knight Ranulf — a golden giant of a man — who has pledged to deliver her to the nuptial bed of the despised Lord Rothwell. She will never accept such bondage — and Reina offers herself to her kidnapped instead, offering to make Ranulf a great lord…if he agrees to wed her.

But the brave knight desires much more than a marriage of convenience from this proud, headstrong lady who treats him with scorn yet makes his blood run hotter than liquid fire. She must come to him of her own free will — or Ranulf will take her. For the passion that consumes them both cannot long be denied — even though gravest peril surely awaits them on the heart’s trail to a destines and turbulent love.

This was the first romance I ever read, and it’s still my most treasured book. As well as the Fabio paperback from my mum’s collection, I also own it on my kindle for whenever I might need a comfort read. Honestly, I don’t tend to re-read books, but this one is my go to ‘warm hug’ of a book.

It’s a medieval romance with mercenary, Ranulf (a very viking-style hero), being paid to kidnap the heroine, Reina. She’s a small and pragmatic lady who knows she needs to marry soon to protect her kingdom from those who wish to steal it by force. My latest book ‘A Nun for the Viking Warrior’ is a nod to the ‘look’ of these two characters, as I have a giant softie hero and tiny bookish heroine.

Ranulf is welcomed into her castle when he fights off one such attack, only for him to steal her away in the middle of the night. Reina then convinces Ranulf to marry her —instead of delivering her to the old man who paid him to steal her away.

There’s so much I love about this book. The humour — the heroine’s gay best friend is hilarious, as is Ranulf’s ugly cat. There’s also so many delicious tropes thrown in that you can’t help but read it all in one sitting. Plus, there’s lots of lovely sweet romance, with the hero going from a big brute of a lover to taking the time to learn how to satisfy her properly.

I know Johanna Lindsey books are considered bodice rippers and aren’t very PC by today’s standards, but I love them, they’re pure fantasy and great fun.

Book Three – The Complete Poetry of Maya Angelou

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I absolutely love the poem ‘Still I rise’, it’s so beautiful and electric. 

‘You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.’

It’s like a call to arms for all the downtrodden people in the world, to rise up and be proud despite adversity. I think if I were shipwrecked on a desert island, I would sit and read aloud her poems to keep my spirits up, or commiserate my downfall depending on my mood.

Book Four – Wilderness Tips by Margaret Atwood

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A leathery bog-man transforms an old love affair; a sweet, gruesome gift is sent by the wife of an ex-lover; landscape paintings are haunted by the ghost of a young girl.

This dazzling collection of ten short stories takes us into familiar Atwood territory to reveal the logic of irrational behaviour and the many textures lying beneath ordinary life.

Margaret Atwood is a sensational writer, and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ should be required reading for every adult on the planet in my opinion. I find her ‘MaddAddam’ books fascinating to read and love the crazy ideas she comes up with.

But for a desert island, I would take her collection of short stories. Each one is bizarre and fascinating. However, one of her stories from this collection has always haunted me. The girl in the landscape painting, in ‘Death by Landscape’ it’s so poignant and eerie.

Book Five – The Poetic Edda: Stories of the Norse Gods and Heroes  by Jackson Crawford

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“The poems of the Poetic Edda have waited a long time for a Modern English translation that would do them justice. Here it is at last (Odin be praised!) and well worth the wait. These amazing texts from a 13th-century Icelandic manuscript are of huge historical, mythological and literary importance, containing the lion’s share of information that survives today about the gods and heroes of pre-Christian Scandinavians, their unique vision of the beginning and end of the world, etc.

Jackson Crawford’s modern versions of these poems are authoritative and fluent and often very gripping.  With their individual headnotes and complementary general introduction, they supply today’s readers with most of what they need to know in order to understand and appreciate the beliefs, motivations, and values of the Vikings.” –Dick Ringler, Professor Emeritus of English and Scandinavian Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison

This is a book/text I’ve only ever dipped in and out of. In my research I’ve read countless books on the Viking era, and read many translations of the old Norse myths. But I’ve never actually read the original text fully. So, as I’ve plenty of time to spare on my desert island, it’d be good to read it. To double check all the other books gave an accurate rendition!

I’ve always loved the old Norse myths and legends, and had a children’s version of them that I read over and over. I love how the Gods are portrayed as real people, with flaws and vices just like the rest of us. They can also die, and Ragnarok (the end of days) is as much of a threat to them as death is to us, and yet there’s a beautiful cycle to the stories. In the same way that the seasons come and go. Ragnarok will lead to everyone’s death, but then all the God’s will be reborn again to play out the same story once again, in an endless turning of the wheel of time.

I also really like how Old Norse myths seem to closely relate to Roman and Greek myths. There’s an interesting familiarity to myths and old religions. As if there’s a shared consciousness that brought them about, or, more likely, they stole pieces they liked and incorporated them into their own tales…much like how they lived raiding from other people, or settling in new lands.

My luxury item

Irn Bru. I love the Scottish pop and couldn’t live without it! Tea would come a close second. Maybe, I should have a tea bush…so I can always have tea? As I think my iron bru would run out very quickly, and I’d just be left with a load of empty cans!

About the Author

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Lucy Morris has always been obsessed with myths and legends. Her books blend sweeping romance with vivid worldbuilding to whisk you away to another time and place filled with adventure. Expect passion, drama, and vibrant characters.

Lucy lives in Essex, UK, with her husband, two children, and two cats. She has a massively sweet tooth and loves Terry’s chocolate oranges and Irn-Bru. In her spare time, she likes to explore castles with her family, or drink bubbly with her friends.

A member of the UK Romantic Novelists’ Association. In 2020 she was delighted to accept a two-book deal with Harlequin after submitting her story to the Warriors Wanted submission blitz for Viking, Medieval, and Highlander romances.

She hasn’t looked back since.

Lucy’s latest book for Harlequin Mills and Boon, A Nun for the Viking Warrior, is out now and you can buy a copy here.

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Forced to wed the warrior

Falling for the man…

Noblewoman Amée Évreux had pledged her life to God, until her father promised her in marriage to thundering Norseman Jorund Jötunnson. After escaping her overbearing father, Amée vows never to fall under another man’s thumb, but her resistance to being Jorund’s wife turns to desire as she gets to know her intriguing new husband. For beneath his fierce exterior she’s glimpsed an unexpectedly pure heart. If only she can penetrate the fortress that surrounds it…

Lucy is currently running a competition with some fabulous prizes, including signed books from an array of Historical Romance Authors. All you need to do to enter is sign up for her website newsletter.

Connect with Lucy:

Website: www.lucyMorrisRomance.com

Facebook: Lucy Morris Author

Twitter: @LMorris_Author

Instagram: @lucymorris.author

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Desert Island Children’s Books: Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

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I am very late posting my Desert Island Children’s Book choice for September, but it was a choice that is worth waiting for. September’s choice is a favourite of many, it’s Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery, and it is the perfect children’s classic to pick up for an autumn read.

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‘Oh, it seems so wonderful that I’m going to live with you and belong to you. I’ve never belonged to anybody – not really’

When a scrawny, freckled girl with bright red hair arrives on Prince Edward Island, Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert are taken by surprise; they’d asked the orphanage for a quiet boy to help with the farmwork at Green Gables. But how can you reject a child like an unwanted parcel, especially when she tells you her life so far has been a ‘perfect graveyard of unburied hopes’?

So the beguiling chatterbox stays. Full of imagination, spark and spirit, it is not long before Anne Shirley wins their hearts.

Anne Shirley is one of my favourite characters is all of children’s literature. So fond am I of the Anne who has lived in my head since I first read Anne of Green Gables *cough* years ago, I have never been able to watch any of the adaptations of the Anne books that have been made (despite the fact that everyone tells me how excellent they are) because I really don’t want my version supplanted by someone else’s.

Why do I love Anne so much? The main reason I think is the same reason I love Jo March from Little Women, because she is someone I immediately related to. Not the fact that she is an orphan, I have two loving parents still, or that she lives on a farm on Prince Edward Island in Canada. But Anne is bookish, and a day dreamer and has a vivid imagination and all of these things made her my fictional kindred spirit.

Having reread Anne of Green Gables again, I still love Anne as much as ever, and relish the tenderness of the story of the wild, red-headed orphan who comes by mistake to the Cuthbert farm, but proceeds to melt the hearts of the shy Matthew and prim, gruff Marilla until they cannot imagine what they did before she arrived to light up their lives. She gets into lots of fun scrapes, and maintains a rivalry with Gilbert Blythe throughout the book, until he does something that melts even Anne’s stony heart at the end of the book – you’ll have to read the other six books in the Anne series to find out what happens between them in the future.

The writing in these books is delightful. L. M. Montgomery really brings the community of Avonlea to life, and peoples it with all manner of amusing characters for Anne to interact with. The setting is perfect, and we experience falling in love with the beauty of Prince Edward Island along with Anne, to the extent that it has long been a destination high on my bucket list, and I know I am not the only person who feels this way about the books. My cousin Michelle cites Anne of Green Gables as her motivation for travelling to PEI.

The relationship between Anne and the Cuthberts is beautiful and tender and moving, and I defy anyone not to be moved by it. Following Anne through her subsequent years in the rest of the series is equally enchanting, and I can highly recommend the whole series. Definitely one to have on a desert island for repeated consumption.

You can get your copy of Anne of Green Gables here.

About the Author

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Lucy Maude Montgomery (1874-1942) was born on Prince Edward Island, Canada, the setting for Anne of Green Gables. She left to attend college, but returned to Prince Edward Island to teach. In 1911, she married the Reverend Ewan MacDonald. Anne of Green Gables, the first in a series of “Anne” books by Montgomery, was published in 1908 to immediate success and continues to be a perennial favourite.

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Desert Island Books with… N S Ford

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

Book One – Villette by Charlotte Bronte

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

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

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

Book Two – Collected Poems by Philip Larkin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Four – Little Women by Louise May Alcott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My luxury item 

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

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

About the Author

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with N S Ford:

Blog: https://nsfordwriter.com/

Twitter: @nsfordwriter

Instagram: @nsfordwriter

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Desert Island Books with… Rosanna Ley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Three – The Various Flavours of Coffee by Anthony Capella

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Five – Easy Learning Italian by Collins Dictionaries

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

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

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

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

My luxury item

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

About the Author

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect wit Rosanna:

Website: https://rosannaley.com/

Facebook: Rosanna Ley Novels

Twitter: @RosannaLey

Instagram: @rosannaleyauthor

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Desert Island Books with… Mick Arnold

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

Book One – The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier

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This is a story of many different things.

Of a terrible war and an occupied land

Of the Balicki children who are determined to survive

Of a dangerous journey from war-torn Poland to Switzerland

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

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

Book Two – Guards! Guards! By Sir Terry Pratchett

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

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

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

Time for Captain Vimes to sober up.

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

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

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

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

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

Book Four – Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

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

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

Kidnapping a fairy for ransom, to be precise.

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

Let the misadventure begin.

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

Book Five – The Christmas Promise by Sue Moorcroft

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

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

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

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

My luxury item

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

About the Author

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with Mick:

Facebook: M W Arnold Author

Twitter: @mick859

Instagram: @mick859

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Desert Island Books with… Jill Piscitello

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

Book One – The Bible

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Three – Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

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

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

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

Book Four – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

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

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

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

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

Book Five – A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford 

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

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

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

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

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

My luxury item

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

About the Author

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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One woman’s journey from nothing to everything…

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

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

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

Connect with Jill:

Website: https://jillpiscitello.com/

Facebook: Jill Piscitello

Twitter: @Piscj18

Instagram: @jillpiscitellobooks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flambards is available to buy here.

About the Author

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

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Desert Island Books with… Adrienne Vaughan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Two – Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier

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

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

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

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

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

Book Three- Notes from A Small Island by Bill Bryson

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

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

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

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

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

Book Four – The Van by Roddy Doyle

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Five – Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My luxury item

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

About the Author

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with Adrienne:

Website: http://adriennevaughan.com/

Facebook: Adrienne Vaughan

Twitter: @adrienneauthor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

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

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

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