Book Review: Girl In Red Velvet by Margaret James

Girl in Red VelvetGirl in Red Velvet by Margaret James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lily goes to Oxford and meets two boys – Max and Harry. She ends up falling in love with them both. She slightly prefers Max, but Harry is the sensible choice. So she ends up married to Harry while Max travels around the world trying to get into as many dangerous situations as he can.

I had trouble warming to Lily. Max and Harry were both likeable and, when things go horribly wrong towards, they act in ways that are entirely understandable given the circumstances. This is an epic story that spans several decades. It’s about love and trust and forgiveness. The ending is beautiful.

Oxford plays a large part in the book, which made me all nostalgic for Norham Gardens.

The usual disclaimer – the author and I know each other (we write for the same publisher). I enjoy reading her books, which is why I request ARCs of her books from Netgalley. Which is just a longwinded way of saying ‘thank you to Netgalley for a free book in exchange for a review’.

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An Afternoon in Buckingham Palace Gardens

This is a very self indulgent post. I don’t do many of these, but this week has been a strange one… because on Tuesday I went to Buckingham Palace. No, really.

DSC_0090
Me, in entrance quad in Buckingham Palace. This is the first time I’ve worn a fascinator.

Sometime in January, I had an email from the Society of Authors asking if I’d been to a Royal Garden Party before and if not, if I’d like to go (you’re supposed to go only once). The answer was a resounding ‘yes’ (obviously).

I’d heard about Royal Garden parties, but I had never entertained the possibility of going to one. Well, you don’t, do you? It turns out that the Soc of Authors was offered some tickets which they could offer and my name came out of the ballot. [I volunteer on their Authors North Events committee – which is tremendous fun and I’ve met some lovely people through the events]. Thank you Society of Authors!

I caught the train down on Tuesday morning (Hull Trains do a direct service to King’s Cross) and got there at lunchtime. I had plenty of time to get changed and get across to Victoria Station, where I met my friend who was my plus. I couldn’t take my husband because he was needed at home for babysitting duty. So my friend and I both had an afternoon off while our husbands were left at home looking after the children.

We queued – very British – and went through the grand entrance to the Palace, which meant we got to walk through a small section of the Palace (under the famous balcony where they wave from) to get to the gardens.

DSC_0080The Queen has beautiful gardens. You could forget you were in London if it weren’t for the skyscrapers in the distance and the sirens. It was a nice, warm day and it didn’t rain, so I didn’t need the umbrella or the pashmina that I’d crammed into my handbag. dsc_0083.jpgThe tea itself was lovely. There were lots of little cakes and, of course, cucumber sandwiches. All the staff (both the Palace staff and the catering folk) were very smiley and very helpful, which was nice.

I didn’t get to see the Queen (only a glimpse at a vast distance) because I’m a short person and short people don’t get to see things when in a crowd. I did see the Queen through the screen on the phone of the person in front of me, but I’m not sure that counts as actually seeing her. I did get to see the Duke of Edinburgh, but not to ‘meet’ him as such. My friend and I gave us trying to spot the royals after a bit and went back for a second cup of tea instead (there was no queue this time!).

 

Afterwards, my friend and I went out for a curry, because it seemed like the right thing to do when wearing an outfit posh enough to require a hat.

 

The next morning, I had an hour to kill before my train, so I went to see the Wellcome Collection. It was fascinating (and free). I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the collection of erotic/phallic objects was a bit of a surprise. The things that intrigued me most were the mummified man and the wood and leather prosthetic legs. Oh, and the

human genome
The Human Genome on a shelf

human genome in book form. It always amazes me that everything that we are is coded for by combinations of just four base pairs. From that arises infinite variety.

If you are ever at a loose end near Euston, I do recommend the Wellcome Collection. The cafe does excellent cakes and the shop is full of all sorts of geeky science gifts. Incidentally, if you have luggage, they have a cloakroom, so you don’t have to drag your suitcase around the exhibitions.

So there you have my exciting week. How was your week? Any exciting news?

Inheritance Books: Marcia Spillers

DSC_0008Today’s Inheritance Books comes from Marcia Spillers. Hi Marcia, welcome to the Inheritance Books sofa. Take a seat. Would you like some tea?  The iced sort or the hot sort? While I’m getting that, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Marcia Spillers, and I was born a southern belle in the bayou country of West Monroe, Louisiana.  My father was the biggest influence in my life.  Born in Mississippi, he was an early feminist, and believed women should be taught the same things as men, and given the same opportunities.  He practiced what he believed, making sure my sister and I were educated so we could take care of ourselves, in addition to knowing how to fish, drive a boat, shoot a gun, and more importantly, stand up to any situation.  My mother was from Poland, and she supported my father’s beliefs. Of course, she had a few of her own, making sure we knew how to cook, set a table for guests, use the correct fork at a dinner party, and always make sure you had on lipstick in case someone took a picture.  I have a feeling my brothers got off easy during childhood.

 

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

IMG_0915Both of my parents were avid readers, and passed that quality along to their four children.  I think the book I inherited from their generation is one my mother kept by her bedside a year or so before she passed.  “Moments of Peace in the Presence of God,” published by Bethany House Publishers, is a book of writings about reflections on God’s gift of love, hope and happiness. My mother would read it daily and reflect on the life she’d lived.  I think as we grow older, believing in the existence of a higher power is comforting.  I knew it was for her, and it is now for me.  I have the copy she kept by her bedside, and it brings me comfort whenever I read through it.

 

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

IMG_0916The book that turned me into a lifelong reader is “Nancy and Plum,” by Betty MacDonald.  I found the book in my school library when I was in fifth grade, and from that moment on was hooked.    The story is a traditional tale of two little sisters, orphaned at an early age, who end up living at a farm/boarding house run by a cruel woman out in the country.  No matter what problems they faced, they remained steadfast in their love for one another, and their search for a better life.  The book taught me at an early age to stay positive and optimistic that good things were just around the corner.  The book also had an interesting contrast between the darkness inside the house where the woman was cruel to the children, and the lightness and love outside of the house in the countryside where the animals lived.   

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

Murder_At_The_Myster_Cover_for_KindleMarcia’s book Murder at Mystery Bay Hotel is available to buy now. You can find out more about Marcia on her website, or catch up with her on Twitter (@mysterywriter2or Facebook.

Goodreads Book Review: Discord by Katy Haye

Discord (Echoes of Earth, #1)Discord by Katy Haye
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up this book because I’ve read Katy Haye’s other books and enjoyed them.

Beth is in a hospital that helps kids with brain damage recover from their trauma, with a particular emphasis on using music therapy. Right from the off, you realise that there’s something not quite right. The feeling of something being wrong grows through the book. Eventually, Beth and her boyfriend Toby find out what’s going on. I can’t tell you any more without giving it all away, sorry!

This is a very imaginative book, slightly creepy and quite dark in places. I enjoyed it.
So much so that I finished it and went straight on to read Dissent – the next book in the series.

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Inheritance Books: Kate Hewitt

Today’s Inheritance Books are from Kate Hewitt. I’ll go get the biscuits. While you’re waiting Kate, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?

bio_pic3I am an American ex-pat living in Wales, with my husband, five children, Golden Retriever, and two newly acquired rabbits.

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

IMG_6246My mother gave me the book A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett when I was about eight years old and bored one summer day. I was enthralled, and it set me on a lifetime of reading. I’m so grateful to her for instilling that gift in me.

I love The Little Princess too. The bit when she comes to her room and finds a new things in it always makes me smile.

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

There are so many great books, and I try to instil a IMG_6247similar love of reading in my children, no matter what the book. But I have a particular soft spot for the fictional diary Stepping Heavenward by the hymn writer Elizabeth Prentiss, because that book has inspired me so much.

Thank you for sharing you Inheritance Books with us Kate. I love the covers of your Willoughby Close series. All the best with the latest instalment.

FineMeAtWilloughbyCloseKate’s entire Willoughby Close series, including Find Me At Willoughby Close is available to buy now. You can find out more about Kate herself on her website or get in touch via Twitter (@katehewitt1) or Facebook.

Inheritance Books: Dan Waddell

This week’s Inheritance Books are from Dan Waddell, prolific novelist and fellow Yorkshire person. Hi Dan, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself while I put the kettle on.

DAN WADELLI’m a 44 year-old, recovering tabloid journalist turned author. The first half of my life was spent in Yorkshire, but for the past 20 years I’ve lived in exile in London, a city I always wanted to live in and which has not disappointed me.  I finished my first book in 1999 and since then I’ve written more than 20 works of fiction and non-fiction.  Recently I re-acquired my rights to two crime novels which were published a decade ago, the first of which has just been released on Kindle. The  second follows in late May,  while the third, only ever released in France, will be published later this year with more to follow.

I also love playing and watching cricket (but rarely writing about – never kill the thing you love…) I was a talented teenage cricketer. At one stage I thought it might become a career, but it wasn’t to be. Writing has offered some compensation for those shattered dreams. But only some…

However, if I’m honest, most of my time is spent making fishfingers and chips for three children. [I can sympathise. I do much the same. R]

 

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

Cover of The Grapes of WrathMy dad’s copy of Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I read it on a holiday aged 17, when I’d lost the reading habit. I loved it and have never stopped reading since. I sometimes wonder what would’ve happened if I’d taken a bad book on that holiday…

My father Sid Waddell was a TV darts commentator who is fondly recalled in the UK.  We were very close (I wrote a book about him and our relationship in a book which was published last year, called We Had Some Laughs.) He read voraciously and widely, and scribbled notes and thoughts over many of his books. I have a few of the books he owned and it’s nice to have them as mementos of him. Interestingly, he didn’t scribble anything in this copy of Grapes of Wrath. He probably thought it was too perfect to touch. Either that or he never read it!

 

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

Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner. I read and re-read it countless times as a kid though sadly I lost that copy. It was the first time I ever experienced the magical feeling of being so wrapped up in a book that the outside world ceased to matter or even exist. It’s a wonderful alchemy. Maybe it can have that effect on others.

Thank you for sharing you Inheritance Books with us, Dan. All the best for The Blood Detective.

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Dan’s latest book The Blood Detective is available to buy now. You can find out more about Dan on his website, Twitter (@danwaddell), Facebook

 

The Trouble With Goats And Sheep by Joanna Cannon

The Trouble with Goats and SheepThe Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s the middle of heat wave in 1976 and woman has disappeared in the avenue. Everyone is on edge. With this as the backdrop, Grace and Tilly (aged 10, ish) decide to go searching for God, just to be sure that he’s in the avenue, keeping everyone safe.

This is a story about small communities and groups judging people because they are different. It’s a bit like Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, because the outcast is judged guilty by everyone, but everyone has their own reasons for acting the way they do.

This is a lovely immersive story. It took me a little while to get into it because I kept being distracted by the almost lyrical language. The characters were very well drawn and I kept thinking about them after I’d finished the book, which always a good thing.

I really enjoyed reading it. It evoked the 1970s spookily well.

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The Truth About The Other Guy – release day!

It’s formal release day for The Truth About the Other Guy – a short story set at a New Year’s Eve Party. ttatog

When I was a kid, we used to go to Christmas parties organised by my Dad’s old college. They were always held in a cricket stadium in the outskirts of Colombo. My memories are rather hazy but I remember the saris and jewellery of the aunties and, as the night wore on, the dancing. There were always fireworks at midnight (sometimes we little ones fell asleep and were woken up to watch). I moved one of those parties to a church hall in the outskirts of London and used it as the setting for this story.

Aasha’s mother is matchmaking, which isn’t going to go well because her mother doesn’t know the real Aasha at all… or does she?

Those who have read Doctor January will recognise the hero in this story – Vik. After spending all that time with Vik while writing about his mates Beth and Hibs (Dr January), it seemed a shame not to give him is own happy ending. So, when I got the chance to contribute to the Truly, Madly, Deeply anthology published by Harlequin and the RNA (back in 2012), I wrote about Vik.

The exclusivity clause on the story ran out over a year ago, so I decided to self publish it and see what happened. So here you are. The Truth About the Other Guy is available now on all ebook retailers. This link should take you to your preferred sitebooks2read.com/u/mqzJGv

Alternatively, if you sign up to my newsletter this week, I will send you a link to a review copy!

If you do read it, please leave a review. We authors need reviews for all sorts of things (like getting Amazon to notice our books… and to stop us nervously eating chocolate in a frenzy of insecurity).

 

Goodreads Book Review: Wedding Bells by the Creek by Janet Gover

Wedding Bells By The Creek: A Coorah Creek NovellaWedding Bells By The Creek: A Coorah Creek Novella by Janet Gover

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love the Coorah Creek series (nearly all of them have made me cry – in a ‘good book cry’ kind of way) so, when I heard there was going to be a new novella – with a wedding in it, no less, I asked the author if I could have a review copy.

In this book we meet up with Ed Collins again (grumpy old bugger from Coorah Creek Christmas) who is a significantly happier man now that he’s reunited with his estranged son. We also meet Helen (mum to Tia from Little Girl Lost) who is searching for reconciliation. If anyone can understand just how hard it is to heal old rifts, it’s Ed.

I liked that Helen and Ed are a little older. I also liked the connections with the town. I feel like it’s a real place.
Oh, and did I mention the puppies? There are puppies.

The ending was lovely, but it was bittersweet because it felt like the end of the series.

Usual disclaimer- Janet and I write for the same publisher. I asked for a free copy so that I could read it early. This is an honest review.

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