Book review: Who’s That Girl by Mhairi McFarlane

Who’s That Girl?Who’s That Girl? by Mhairi McFarlane

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Edie has been in love with Jack for a long time. When things go wrong on Jack’s wedding night, Edie ends up being persona non grata at her office and her only choice is to move back in with her dad and sister and to take an assignment writing the official biography of spoilt celebrity Elliot Owen.

I liked the fact that Elliot and Edie are both back at home, ironing out the tangles in their lives. All the characters are well rounded (I wouldn’t expect anything less – I’ve been a fan of Mhairi McFarlane for a while now), even Edie’s grumpy sister and somewhat crazy neighbour.

There’s a cyber bullying sub plot, which was really interesting too. When Edie sorted that one out at the end, I nearly cheered out loud.

This is a good fun read. Elliot really is a sweetie.

(….and now I have the song ‘Who’s That Girl’ stuck in my head!)

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Book review: The Escape by C L Taylor

The EscapeThe Escape by C.L. Taylor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Someone is threatening Jo’s daughter and Jo will do anything she can to protect her. Honestly, this story is the stuff of every parent’s worst nightmare – the idea of someone taking away your child.
Jo does some extreme things, but you understand precisely why she does them.

There are enough twists and turns and subplots to keep you on the edge of your seat the whole time. It’s totally gripping. I raced through this book in a day… and then I went to check on my kids.

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Inheritance Books: Lucienne Boyce

This week’s Inheritance Books come from the fascinating Lucienne Boyce. Hi Lucienne, would you like a cup of tea? While I get that, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?

I was born and brought up in Wolverhampton in the Midlands, but I now live in Bristol, Blog pic smallwhich is an inspiring place for both my fiction and non-fiction work. The streets and quays of Bristol are full of history, and we’re blessed with museums, art galleries and historic buildings, many of which date back to the eighteenth century, which is when my fiction is set. In addition, Bath, with its eighteenth-century streets, is not far away. Further out from the city every village, tree and field has a story to tell.

My non-fiction work focusses on the history of the women’s suffrage movement, and in particular the local women who worked so hard for women’s right to vote. The two areas – historical fiction set in the eighteenth century and non-fiction about women’s suffrage history – may seem disparate, but in fact they are connected by my interest in radical history and the history of protest.

I studied for an MA in English Literature with the Open University, specialising in eighteenth-century fiction, and graduated (with Distinction) in 2007. I’d been writing since I was a child, and already had a pile of “bottom drawer” novels behind me, but in 2010 I gave up paid employment to focus on my writing. I published my first historical novel, To The Fair Land, in 2012, which is set partly in Bristol. I’m now working on a series of historical detective novels featuring Dan Foster, a Bow Street Runner who is also an amateur pugilist. I’m also writing a biography of suffragette Millicent Browne, who campaigned in Bristol and North Wales.

I’m a member of the steering committee of the West of England and South Wales Women’s History Network. Next year is a big year for us as we’re organising events in Bristol to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of votes for (some) women. We’re working with Bristol MShed – Bristol’s museum about Bristol! – to put on a day of events on 19 May 2018, together with associated events throughout the year such as suffrage walks and talks.  

 

Which book have you inherited from the generation above? Why is it special?

Grey MenI can’t point to a physical book as an inheritance, though I do still have a few of my favourite books from childhood. But I was drawn to reading at an early age, and one of my very favourite books was The Little Grey Men by BB. It was beautifully illustrated by Denys Watkins-Pitchford, who was in fact the author. It was published in 1942, but I have no recollection of who gave it to me or suggested I read it. All I know is that it is a book I loved and read over and over again.

The Little Grey Men tells the story of the last gnomes in Britain, three of whom set off in search of their missing brother, the explorer Cloudberry. What I particularly love about it is the sense of place – it’s set in Warwickshire in the Midlands, so that it’s a landscape I recognise. I also like the fact that these gnomes are not, as the author promised in the introduction, “fairy-book tinsel stuff”, but much more down to earth creatures of nature.

The book speaks out for nature: I have never forgotten the impact of the scene when the gnomes encounter a gibbet on which hang friends of theirs who have been shot or killed in cruel snares, Otter amongst them. Years later as an adult, the lines of John Clare’s beautiful poem Remembrances resonate with that childhood reading: “Inclosure…hung the moles for traitors”. With Pan’s help, the gnomes exact a terrible revenge. They voice the right of wild things to freedom: “There’s no such thing as private property in Nature! The woods and fields belong to the earth, and so do we.”

It’s quite a shock to look at The Little Grey Men today and realise how deeply it influenced me. It’s prompted me to reread it. Though I no longer possess the copy I read as a child, I do have one that I picked up in a second hand bookshop a few years ago.

You can find out more about Denys Watkins-Pitchford at the BB Society website http://www.bbsociety.co.uk/bb-the-author.php

 

Which book would you like to leave to future generations? Why? 

My most treasured possession is a set of the four volumes of The Earthly Paradise by William Morris. Morris is a great hero of mine, for his politics, but also for his poetry and Morris, The Earthly Paradisewriting. I love The Earthly Paradise as a poem, but what makes these particular books special is that in two of them a former owner has pasted two hand-written letters by William Morris. The thrill of owning these, penned by the hand of the great man himself, is immense. I shall be very careful to leave them to someone who will care for them as much as I do!

In 2014 I did some research into the background of those letters, and if you’re interested you can read it on my blog here. It’s in two parts, http://francesca-scriblerus.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/ and http://francesca-scriblerus.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/

That’s incredible! They are certainly things to be treasured.

Thank you for sharing your favourite books with us Lucienne. All the best with The Fatal Coin.

Lu9781781326664-300dpicienne’s latest book The Fatal Coin is available to buy now. You can find out more about Lucienne and her books on her website, Facebook and Twitter (@LucienneWrite).

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: Popular by Mitch Prinstein

Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed WorldPopular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed World by Mitch Prinstein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A completely fascinating book analysing years of research into the correlation between childhood popularity and outcomes in later life. Some of the longitudinal studies are fascinating. Basically, if you were well liked at school (not necessarily the same as having Popular kid status), you’ll be a happier, more balanced adult. We all knew that, really. But there’s interesting theories as to why that is – the evolutionary advantages of being social, the ability to perceive threats etc.

The style is very accessible and it’s an informative and interesting read. There are references at the back if you’re inclined to go find the original research.

If you’re a parent of a tiny baby, or expecting, or even the sort of person who is beat yourself up about your parenting skills, you might find that the last couple of chapters make you question your every interaction with your baby…

Overall, a great popular science book (see what I did there?).

I received a copy from Netgalley in return for an honest review.

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Inheritance Books: Suzy Turner

Welcome to the Inheritance Books soda, Suzy Turner – who is a novelist, Yorkshire expat and a whole load of other things besides. I’ll go get the tea and biscuits, in the meantime, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself, Suzy.


Suzy Turner February 2016I’m a Yorkshire lass who moved to Portugal with my family when I was ten years old. Since then, I found my soulmate at sixteen, married him at 22 and we’ve just celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary. Funnily enough, we both moved to Portugal in 1986.
I’m a former newspaper features writer and magazine editor and now full time author, yoga instructor and lifestyle blogger. We still live in the Algarve and enjoy a really wonderful life here. We’re about to start building our dream home so we’re really excited!

 

Which book have you inherited from the generation above? Why is it special?

Strangely enough I’d probably have to say Memoirs of a Geisha. It’s the only book I’ve read several times over the years. It’s not in the genre that I usually read and it’s also set in Japan which isn’t a place I usually read about. But there’s just something about that story that gets me every time I read it. It’s a beautifully written tale about a young girl’s life and how she finds herself becoming a very well known geisha. It’s an enchanting tale, to say the least. I know you said to only mention one but I had to also mention The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I read it the first time for A’level English and I couldn’t believe that something so unique and futuristic could be a part of school reading! It had such a profound effect on me that I developed a fondness for dystopia (weirdly!). SUZY TURNER

 

I’ll let you off, just this once, and let you have two. Which book would you like to leave to future generations? Why? 

I’d have to say the Harry Potter books. I’m a huge fan of the series (you could probably call me obsessive lol) and I just love the way JK Rowling created something so very magical that has captured the minds of so many millions of people all over the world – all ages too. That’s not something that is easily done, either! The stories are all utterly captivating – every last detail is pure magic in my opinion and I think everyone should try reading at least one of the books.

Great choice… wait, that’s seven books. (Personally, if I had to choose one of them, I’d go with HP and the Prisoner of Azkhaban).

Thanks for sharing your Inheritance Books with us Suzy. All the best with your latest book. 

Aphrodite's Closet FinalSuzy’s book Aphrodite’s Closet is available to buy now. You can find out more about Suzy on her website and blog or catch up with her on Facebook or Twitter. 

If you want to win a copy of Aphrodite’s Closet and an Amazon gift voucher just enter Suzy’s competition. 

 

 

 

Would you like to share your Inheritance Books? Get in touch and I’ll send you guidelines. 

Inheritance Books: Carrie Parker

This week’s Inheritance Books come from Carrie Parker. Welcome to the Inheritance Books sofa, Carrie. Why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy name is Carrie Parker and I live on the beach near Rye in East Sussex, England.  At least, Carrie Parker is my pen name.  My day job as a horticultural consultant involves writing factual, accurate reports for my clients and I don’t want them getting confused with my novels of pure fiction!  

I chose my pen name in honour of my grandmothers:  Carrie was my paternal grandmother’s name and Parker was my maternal grandmother’s name.  Both of them were extraordinary women, in completely different ways, and both were strong influences in my life.  As a young child, we lived in my grandmother Parker’s small terraced house in Yorkshire.  One of my earliest memories is of being left outside the local lending library in my large, old-fashioned pram, my older sister on guard, whilst my mother performed the weekly ritual of changing Gran’s library books.  When we got home, Gran would seize the books and start reading immediately, late into the night, by gaslight.  I can remember wondering what it was that was so interesting about reading books – it wasn’t long before I found out and it has stayed with me all my life.

Which book have you inherited from a generation above? Why is it special? 

20170622_134148 (2)
Black Beauty

When I was six, I won a prize at school for “Superior Answering”.  The prize was a book and my mother was asked to select one for me.  She chose a favourite of hers:  “Black Beauty” by Anna Sewell.  My sister and I would sit on the sofa with my mother, in front of the fire, as she read a chapter of the story to us every night before bed.  We both liked animals but an “animal autobiography” was new to us.  As a young child, in some ways it was a difficult book to cope with, but its powerful anti-cruelty message has stayed with me.  Published in 1877, Anna Sewell didn’t write it as a children’s book but to draw attention to animal cruelty.  Its message is clear and not out-dated – alongside the obvious concerns for the treatment of animals runs the theme of how we should all respect and show kindness to others.  Which is what my mother always did.

Which book would you leave to later generations? Why?

20170622_134327
A Suitable Boy

The book I would like to leave for future generations is “A Suitable Boy” by Vikram Seth.  This is a wonderful book of epic proportions – certainly physically, at almost 1,500 pages.  It will be a bit of a challenge, as we are told the attention span of the younger generations is already diminished by our current technologies, but it is a brilliant example of the sustained pleasure to be had from immersing oneself in a really enthralling book.  The book is set in the newly-independent India of the 1950s and centres around four families and, in particular, one mother’s efforts to arrange a marriage for her daughter to “a suitable boy”.  Beautifully written, without pretension, the book gives a real insight into the political and societal changes happening in India at that time.  How the characters deal with the emotions of heartache and disappointment that accompany the pursuit of happiness and the quest for love in a complex and changing world has universal resonance.  

I was drawn to this book after working in India for several years and seeing first-hand the trials and tribulations facing young Indians seeking happy relationships amidst the religious, caste, sex and political complexities still prevalent in India in the 1990s.  Although times and attitudes continue to change, essentially this is a book about family and I think it will speak to many generations to come.

Thank you so much for sharing your Inheritance Books with us, Carrie. Best of luck with your latest book.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACarrie’s book A Chateau For Sale is available to buy now. You can find out more about Carrie on her Facebook page.

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Book Review: The Honeymoon by Tina Seskis

The HoneymoonThe Honeymoon by Tina Seskis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jemma has always dreamed of the perfect honeymoon with her husband, but things don’t go according to plan… and then one day he disappears. There’s nowhere to hide on the island (well, there must be, but let’s go with it) and no one knows what happened to him. Theories abound and everyone on the island is a suspect. The most likely suspect appears to be Jemma herself.

Part of the story is written in the present tense and Jemma realises her husband is missing and the search for him progresses. The other part is a series of flashbacks which tell us how she met her husband and how they ended up being on honeymoon on this most luxurious of islands.

Jemma is almost an unreliable narrator (almost, in that she’d got a bit high and forgotten what happened on the night of her husband’s disappearance). There are so many clues and red herrings that my theories as to what happened changed from chapter to chapter. There are a couple of twists on the way, but the final twist is pretty spectacular.

The writing is tight and feeling on claustrophobia that pervades the island is palpable. Jemma is an intriguing character. Jamie, Dan and their relationship is puzzling (partly because we mainly see them through Jemma’s eyes and everything is coloured by her opinions of them). We do eventually get a view into their thoughts and mostly, it was a surprise to see what they thought.

The story was so gripping that I was trying to work out the puzzle in between reading sessions (real life is so annoying when it’s getting in the way of a good book!). If you like tense psychological thrillers, you’ll love this book. I did.

I received a free copy via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

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Inheritance Books: Sophie Ranald

Today on Inheritance Books, we have Sophie Ranald. Hi Sophie, make yourself comfortable on the Inheritance Books sofa. Why don’t tell us a bit about yourself, while I go make us a cuppa.

Sophie Ranald 1I’m the youngest of five sisters. I was born in Zimbabwe and grew up in South Africa before moving to London in my late 20s, ostensibly just to live and work in the city for a while – but I ended up falling in love with it (and with my wonderful partner!) and deciding to stay.

I’ve always loved books, reading and writing, but it wasn’t until 2011 that I made the leap and decided to try writing fiction as a career. My first novel, It Would Be Wrong to Steal my Sister’s Boyfriend (Wouldn’t it?) came out in August 2013 and made it into Amazon’s top 10 bestsellers in October. Since then, I’ve written four more novels and I’m working on a sixth.

Although my books are romantic comedies, I see the romance element as – not exactly secondary, but additional to all the other aspects of my heroines’ lives: their relationships with friends and family, their careers, their role in the wider world, and so on. I think women’s fiction deserves to be taken more seriously than it is – there are so many wonderful writers in our genre, and we write about things other than shoes, cocktails and sex (although those things are obviously vitally important too!).

I couldn’t agree more about women’s fiction. Most people who are dismissive of the genre haven’t actually read any of it (or read an old school Mills and Boon from the 60s and drew conclusions from that).

 

Which book have you inherited from the generation above? Why is it special?

I am passionate about food and cooking, and one of my favourite books ever is my mother’s battered old copy of The Constance Spry Cookery book. It’s a classic, first published in 1956, and rather delightfully the first chapter focuses on canapés to serve at cocktail parties. Clearly Constance was a woman after my own heart!

Mum received the book for Christmas from my father the first year they were married, and apparently she was none too pleased with the gift, seeing it as one of those presents that benefit the giver more than the receiver! But she went on to treasure the book and use it extensively – the Coronation Chicken recipe was her go-to for parties.

When I was a teenager, I spent many happy hours lying on my bed reading the book from cover to cover. I loved the world it invokes and the knowledge it contains – although I have no aspirations to be a 1950s housewife!Sophie Ranald bookshelf

 

Which book would you like to leave to future generations? Why?

It would have to be my collection of Persephone books. Persephone republishes out-of-print books, almost all by women and mostly from the early 20th century. They are wonderful books and cast such a fascinating light on women’s lives at the time. They are also beautiful, with gorgeous dove-grey jackets and endpapers printed with fabric and wallpaper designs from the period in which they were written.

Unfortunately they, and almost all my other books, are currently in boxes in a storage unit, because we’re having building work done on our house. The only bookshelf we have at the moment is in my partner’s study, and showcases his rather eclectic tastes!

Thank you for sharing your Inheritance Books with us, Sophie. All the best with your new book!

Gemma Grey_PBƒSophie’s latest book The Truth About Gemma Grey is available to buy now. You can find out more about Sophie on her website, or catch up with her on Facebook or Twitter (@sophieranald).

 

Would you like to tell us about your Inheritance Books? Email my on rhodabaxter(at)gmail(dot)come and I’ll send you the guidelines.

 

Book review: A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

A Natural History of Dragons (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #1)A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I downloaded this book solely based on the cover. Look at it. Just look at it! How can you resist?
I know a 10 year old who is very keen on dragons, so I thought she might like it. Obviously, I can’t give a book to a 10 year old without checking the content is appropriate, so I thought I’d best read it before I gave her a copy.

Like all good fantasy, this is a well developed world. The social mores of Scirland are broadly similar to those of Victorian England. Lady Trent, now an old lady, writes the memoirs of her adventures. As a girl, she had to stifle her inclination towards science, until she meets he husband, Jacob, who encourages her in that direction and is generally, he greatest love and best friend.

If Amelia Peabody Emerson had lived in Scirland and studied dragons instead of Egyptology, this is the memoir she would have written. Given that I love the Amelia Peabody books, it’s no surprise that I adored this book.

Oh, in case you were wondering, there’s a bit of swashbuckling violence, death and a bit where she wonders about a threat to her virtue, but no sex in the book, so it’s perfectly fine to give to a 10 year old. Especially one who is obsessed with dragons.

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