Desert Island Books with… Eva Glyn

desert-island-books

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

51wfQf9DrFL

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

51-CwoFIyHL

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

51XuVf8whLL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_

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

41585DiMlYL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_

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

51x0y-eql9S

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

notebook-with-pencil

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

Eva Glyn on her travels

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.

MPU large cover to use

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

A Little Book Problem banner

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

childrens

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.

518x5-qDrjL

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

917QKMqiBlL._US230_

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.

A Little Book Problem banner

Desert Island Books with… Annemarie Rawson

desert-island-books

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

41kxNdPIL1L._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_

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

51R4C031IIL

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

51jd9yx4W7L

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

41sQOIOgf4L._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

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

41V-sRZY+PL

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

images

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

osj2697bn0s4spk8jpvifhfnob._US230_

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.

51UaqGwHx4L

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

A Little Book Problem banner

Desert Island Books with… Chantelle Atkins

desert-island-books

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

51lprH3LF4L._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_

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

510dPXiT9jL._SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_ML2_

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

41dbZkgSVrL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

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 

41+OPovyErL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

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

51J9-9Pf23L._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_

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

download

It would have to be notepads and pens.

About the Author

125309476_3413077488728760_4832612411849524797_n

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.

41LE5fQFayS._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

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

A Little Book Problem banner

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.

51laQzlmtVL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

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

download

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.

A Little Book Problem banner

Desert Island Books with… Fran McNicol

desert-island-books

Today I am transporting another fortunate/unfortunate soul to my desert island with nothing to keep them company except five books of their choice and one luxury item. This week I have stranded author… Fran McNicol.

Book One – Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels

51UubXAp65L._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

Jakob Beer is seven years old when he is rescued from the muddy ruins of a buried village in Nazi-occupied Poland. Of his family, he is the only one who has survived. Under the guidance of the Greek geologist Athos, Jakob must steel himself to excavate the horrors of his own history.

A novel of astounding beauty and wisdom, Fugitive Pieces is a profound meditation on the resilience of the human spirit and love’s ability to resurrect even the most damaged of hearts.

The first time I read Anne Michaels I was transfixed. She is a poet before a novelist and her use of language is precision and perfection itself. No word out of place, beautiful rhythm and intonation and a vocabulary that is rich and varied without ever being intimidating. It’s a Holocaust story, a story of loss and survival, that also takes a tour through archeology and ancient history. The beauty of the language and the depth of the sources somehow soothes the horror of the story, and the despair that the lost can never leave us, and yet never come with us.  Ever since I first read this book, it is THE book I recommend – every lover of words should read it.

Book Two –The Stonor Eagles  by William Horwood

41ESJZDY5AL._SX290_BO1,204,203,200_

Cuillin – last of the great sea eagles of Skye. For her there will be many bitter years of exile, sustained only by a belief that one day her offspring will return to her abandoned homeland.

James MacAskill Stonor – a lonely, bewildered child growing up in a storm-racked English coastal town… but destined to be one of the greatest and best-loved artists of this century. ‘The Stonor Eagles’ – his beautiful and haunting sculptures, whose creation and final unveiling are recounted in this deeply moving saga of life, suffering, and the courage to love… of dreams that die, and dreams that can come true.

A tale of exile and redemption. Two stories intertwined, the story of the last sea eagle high in the jagged Cuillin Hills and the tortured artist toiling to bring a sculpture to life. It’s a book I never truly manage to pigeon hole or completely understand, but each reading brings another layer or a different emphasis. It’s written on an epic scale, and brings out the wildness of the Black Cuillins as well as the despair that seems to lie at the heart of much creativity. Mostly the description of the eagle battling the wind and learning to fly the true horizon, as befits her kind, is a brilliant, wild and savage metaphor for the quest to find our own true nature.

Book Three – A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin

51Cn94GwpoL._SY346_

Ged, the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, was called Sparrowhawk in his reckless youth.

Hungry for power and knowledge, Sparrowhawk tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death’s threshold to restore the balance.

In fact the copy I have is the Earthsea Trilogy- to pick one story without knowing the ending now seems strange.

I love fantasy, and tales of the perennial battle between light and dark. This is the original brilliant story of a boy with wizardly powers who foolishly opens a rent into the dark underworld. The magic in Earthsea is dependant on knowing the true names of things- when you know the name of a creature, it must do your bidding. The art of magic therefore is the art of finding out the true name, of dragons and wraiths. It’s a beautifully written, dark and complex book that I first read as a teenager and yet still stands the test of time.

Book Four – This Side of Brightness by Colum McCann

51Nen8gimBL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

At the turn of the twentieth century, Nathan Walker comes to New York City to take the most dangerous job in the country: digging the tunnel far beneath the Hudson that will carry trains from Brooklyn to Manhattan. In the bowels of the riverbed, the workers – black, white, Irish and Italian – dig together, the darkness erasing all differences. But above ground, the men keep their distance until a dramatic accident on a bitter winter’s day welds a bond between Walker and his fellow workers that will both bless and curse three generations. Almost ninety years later, Treefrog stumbles on the same tunnels and sets about creating a home amongst the drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes and petty criminals that comprise the forgotten homeless community.

Calum McCann is another favourite author for his use of language. I find McCann’s style can be deceptively clean and simple, but with surprising layers, and in this, my favourite of his books, it’s as if the spaces in between the words let the light in. It’s the story of the tunnels of New York, the men that built them, and the others that have now re-purposed them. When I read this book, I can feel the light shining, and I always find hope and clarity.

Book Five – Thunderhead by Mary O’Hara

51KNMPGKNTL._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_

Flicka’s colt Thunderhead is an ugly white throwback, but Ken believes he can turn the colt, wild as it is, into a champion racehorse. 

This book tells the story of every pony mad child’s dream. An ugly unwanted foal that turned into a quirky horse, dangerous, difficult and magnificent. It’s a story of belief and perseverance, of following your instincts, and listening to your inner voice. In the end it is a story and of working with the nature of the animal not against.  And there is no false reassurance or cliched promise of ease. There is no capitulation. It’s one of the seminal books that has shaped how I think about horses and our relationships with them. It’s another sweeping epic, set in the mountains of Wyoming, where love and loss and challenge and heartbreak are the backdrop to joy.

My luxury item

51KQLR62mAL._SY443_BO1,204,203,200_

A Book of Stars, to learn the secrets of the universe while i had nothing else to do.

About the Author

jih10m92f49tf5871eochiqalr._US230_

Fran McNicol is an amateur equestrienne living in the UK. She is a full-time doctor, specialising in surgery. Her MD thesis was an examination of the inflammatory cascade in sepsis. As a surgeon, MBChB, MD, FRCS, she obviously knows a huge amount about the human animal. But the most useful product of medical training, from her horses’ point of view, is that she learned how to research, evaluate evidence and then apply theory to optimise the care of her horses. Her writing is, therefore, a mix of opinion and her current state of learning from 25 years of doctoring, time spent working around the world as a polo groom and many years of keeping her own horses. Fran loves training young horses and focuses on riding the sport horse both classically and holistically. She competes regularly for her local riding club, especially in One Day Eventing. Nelipot Cottage started life as an educational blog, to share learning and best practise, to promote the benefits of a barefoot and holistic herd lifestyle for whole horse health, and to reflect on life lessons learned along the way. Fran believes that horses exist to bring out the very best in humans. It is her hope that sharing these tales will bring new friends, kindred spirits, exchange of knowledge and lots of positive energy into the lives of the Nelipot herd.

Fran’s book is called Bare Hooves and Open Hearts: Tales from Nelipot Cottage and you can buy a copy of the book here.

519KKL+U8rL

I am a consultant surgeon and a keen amateur equestrian. Paddy, my first event horse, was as cheap as chips and came with a fearsome reputation. Part of that reputation was that he hated the farrier. His feet were weak and crumbly, wouldn’t hold shoes, and he absolutely hated the whole process of being shod. When he kicked our “horse whispering” farmer across the yard, and we had to sedate him to get the shoes on, I wondered if there could be another way.

I did some reading and took the plunge, taking his steel horseshoes off for good, and he went from strength to strength, growing incredible rock crunching feet. We went on to qualify for several riding club championships, and he was still sound and eventing aged 20.

My second horse, Cal, had terrible feet when I bought him, and he broke his carpal bone tripping over his long toes out in the field. Once he was rehabbed back into full work, I was determined to avoid the concussive effects of metal horseshoes. I knew from my experiences with Paddy that barefoot eventing could work.But Cal is a sturdy Irish Sport horse with flat dinner plate feet, and getting him sound and comfortable on all surfaces was a challenge. All the learning, the emotional, psychological and intellectual investment, the changes in lifestyle and horse husbandry that I had to make to get Cal’s feet functional, became the subject of this book. I wanted to share the learning, to spare others the pain and the expense.

When I took Paddy’s shoes off, I chose to challenge accepted dogma and tradition. I chose to put my horse’s needs before my own aspirations. I listened to my horse and Irelinquished my agenda for the health of my horse. On that day, my relationship with all my future horses changed completely. There is no recognition in law, or indeed in Equine Science, that these magnificent animals might actually be sentient beings, capable of communicating with us if we could only listen. Once you start listening, once you offer the animal a voice, an opinion and a say in the relationship, the bond you forge is like no other.

Bare Hooves and Open Hearts tells the story of my chequered journey from traditional eventer towards a more thoughtful and holistic type of equestrianism. The book includes stories and guidance based on experience around barefoot performance, healthy diet, sustainable horse keeping, mindset and horse-human connection.

Connect with Fran:

Website: http://www.nelipotcottage.com/

Facebook: Fran McNicol / Nelipot Cottage

Twitter: @FranMcnicolUW

Instagram: @nelipotcottage

A Little Book Problem banner

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

CHILDREN'S

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

download

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

download-1

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

A Little Book Problem banner

 

Desert Island Books with… Angela Petch

desert-island-books

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

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

Book One – Just William by Richmal Crompton

download

Meet everyone’s favourite troublemaker!

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

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

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

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

51ymRDzK0lL._SX392_BO1,204,203,200_

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

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

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

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

Book Three – The Dress by Sophie Nicholls

51gEoIYOYmL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

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

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

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

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

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

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

41VKAAY5nvL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_

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

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

Book Five – A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman

51ZpeTkiPeL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

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

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

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

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

My luxury item

download-1

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

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

About Angela Petch

AP 22e

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

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

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

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

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

51BaExdirxL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

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

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

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

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

Connect with Angela:

Blog: https://angelapetchsblogsite.wordpress.com

Facebook: Angela Petch Author

Twitter: @Angela_Petch

A Little Book Problem banner

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

CHILDREN'S

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

41JLcb2r8IL._SX306_BO1,204,203,200_

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can buy a copy of What Katy Did here.

About the Author

220px-Susan_Coolidge._001

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

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

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

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

A Little Book Problem banner

 

Desert Island Books with… Lizzie Lamb

desert-island-books

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

Book One – Friday’s Child by Georgette Heyer

41oWS3arLoL

Hero Wantage is desperate to change her fate.

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

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

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

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

Quite simply – Bridgerton, without the sex.

Book Two – Emily by Jilly Cooper 

418IppCEQjL._SX318_BO1,204,203,200_

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

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

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

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

Book Three – Notting Hell by Rachel Johnson

51k3WUqc94L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

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

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

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

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

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

Book Four – Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford 

41aT308-+cL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

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

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

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

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

512269q0OlL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My luxury item

download

 

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

About Lizzie Lamb

Lizzie Lamb

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

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

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

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

3D image HHF

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

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

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

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

Connect with Lizzie:

Website: https://lizzielamb.co.uk/

Facebook: Lizzie Lamb Writer

Twitter: @lizzie_lamb

Instagram: @lizzielambwriter

Pinterest: Lizzie Lamb

A Little Book Problem banner