Friday, 10 June 2016

Tropical Shadows - new novel - Now Paperback too

Julia is horrified to hear that her teenage sister Emily has been thrown in jail on a South-East Asian island for alleged drug smuggling.  What’s more, Emily's baby daughter is missing. Emily put her child in the care of a trusted friend who has since disappeared and no one can find them. Leaving her disgruntled husband behind in England, Julia flies to the rescue.  She’s desperate to find the baby and get Emily out of jail, seeking help from anyone she can, including the British Embassy, the Prince and the enigmatic Doctor Duncan.

A story of sibling love and loyalty with several unexpected twists.  Eventually Julia admits she cannot always put Emily 's needs first.

Tropical Shadows - an Amazon Kindle ebook.   Now PAPERBACK too.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Tropical Connections eBook

Art historian Claire suddenly decides to leave England to take a job on an obscure tropical island in the South-China Sea, where she finds her new exotic surroundings both fascinating and challenging.  Her personal life becomes confused too - expat banker Howard loves her but she falls for elusive Drew, an Australian aid adviser.
            Two friends she meets have different problems.  Young American mother Deborah, unhappily married to a lecherous husband, has a poignant affair with a teenage boy. Lucy, an unsophisticated bride, is trying to adjust to her intimidating role at the British Embassy.  The girls’ lives become intertwined and Claire, employed to catalogue a collection of Buddhist art, accidentally finds herself in danger when she becomes involved with the darker side of island life.

            This is a novel about love and adjustment, independence and interdependence, about ordinary women who have or achieve a certain courage in a different world.

Here's the new eBook/Kindle version.  (hardback/paperback published 2009)

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Paris Imperfect e book

Here is the new cover for the e-book /Kindle version of Paris Imperfect.
A sharp-witted story about life and love in France.

Clio, twice-married and unlucky in love, has become a realist. What she craves above all is stability for her son, Alex. This means she should marry her lover, Philippe, a cultured Frenchman with a large and conventional family. However difficult it is to cope with his perfectionist ways, not to mention his terrifying mother, Clio must not rock the boat. She's a tour guide and when she takes rugged Canadian Joe around the battlefields of France, her tidy life begins to unravel again.

For more info and reviews of my books see my other blog About Susie Vereker's Books, link to the right

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

An Old-Fashioned Arrangement - eBook

Kim is left penniless in Geneva with a child to support.  She has nowhere to turn until her kind but wicked neighbour Henri makes a proposition.

New cover for new ebook.

Trumpet blowing:

Katie Fforde. 'An intriguing story of how circumstances can cause the most respectable women to go against type.'

Bella magazine. 'We were hooked by this intriguing suspense novel.'

Derbyshire Libraries 'This book has it all: Good writing and characters, suspense, romance and humour; all combined to ensure it is difficult to put down.'

Monday, 30 November 2015

Pond Lane and Paris e-appears

Pond Lane is now an ebook   This was originally published by Transita and was nominated for the major Foster Grant/RNA Award.   For reviews click on the link on the right About Susie Vereker's Books.

Post Gazette
The captivating story unfold not only in Laura's beloved Pond Lane, somewhere in Hampshire, but flits between there and the chic diplomatic life in Paris .......a charming and entertaining read

After faithfully nursing her late husband for eight years, Laura Brooke is emerging into the world. She finds a job with Oliver Farringdon, Ambassador to an international organisation in Paris - he's divorced and needs someone to supervise his teenage daughter. But can Laura cope with her demanding employer and with Paris after her solitary celibate life in the depths of the country? Leaving the Hampshire mud to live amongst chic Parisians is a culture shock. Laura's position in the ambassadorial household is tricky and the servants resent her. Besides, keeping tabs on Charlotte isn't easy. Oliver has strict views about daughters, as well as everything else.
 Jane Eyre meets Nancy Mitford in this story of life and love in two countries

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Otto the labrador

Otto only won 3rd place in the Best Behaved Dog competition at the village Flower Show this year.  Maybe he lost points by kissing the judge.

But son entered some photos and won 75p (50 for coming second, and 25p for coming 3rd)

Friday, 24 July 2015

Recent Reading

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, excellent but some graphic scenes hard to read.

Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe.   Re-read, comedy with sad undertones

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr    Long, set in WW2 in St Malo mostly.  Interesting but slow perhaps

Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey.   Good, romantic

Orkney Twilight by Clare Carson, good scenery

Some Luck by Jane Smiley, kind of depressing but will probably read next in series

The Night Falling by Katherine Webb, unusual setting in early-Fascist Italy, interesting

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August.  Did not finish, must try again

Monday, 29 December 2014

Recent Reads

It's almost impossible to load photos on Blogger these days, I've had several attempts and had to revert to the iPad.  One day I must change to another service.

Some Recent Reads I've enjoyed (in no particular order)
Do No Harm by Henry Marsh - non-fiction, brain surgery, graphic in parts.
Us by David Nicholls - older main characters, the anatomy of an unlikely marriage.  I found wife & son tiresome, but it was well written and poignant.
The Importance of being Kennedy by Laurie Graham - a re-read, fiction about the Kennedy family
The Two Faces of January by Patricia Highsmith - not my thing, seems a bit clumsy
The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty - she's becoming one of my favourite writers
Zemindar by Valerie Fitzgerald, - Indian Mutiny, great stuff, long
A Long Walk Home by Judith Tebutt, non-fiction about her kidnapping by Somali pirates, gripping at first, some longueurs inevitably
Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe, very funny yet sad in parts
Coromandel Sea Change by Rumer Godden, not my favourite of her books
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel.  As we know the plot, I didn't find it as absorbing as Wolf Hall, but I'm looking forward to Damian Lewis as Henry VIII on television

Television I've enjoyed or found gripping in 2014
The Fall
Homeland, apart from the last episode
Strictly (sorry - saw it on son's large TV at Christmas and it did look, well, over-glitzed)
Happy Valley
Last Tango in Halifax
Great British Bake Off
and the usual stuff like Antiques Roadshow and Countryfile(!)

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Otto the dog and Recent Reads

The good news is that Otto held on to his second place in the Best Behaved dog class at the village flower show.  The competition was tough - only Labradors in the final, of course, other breeds eliminated in the first round.  All very tense, the crowd agog.  Other villagers won prizes and cups for chutney, cakes, gladioli or the best branch of runner beans, but we were v happy with the blue rosette.

Sorry to have neglected the blog for so long but here are some Recent Reads

 The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam—a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion.  On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office—leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.
Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist—an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes’ gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand—and fear—the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious city to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe”

Atmospheric, great stuff, but bad things happen eventually, be warned.  Do read this book and also google Jessie Burton – she sounds great fun. 

 The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt..  A must-read, gripping, prize-winning novel.

Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart. Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld. As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love - and his talisman, the painting, places him at the centre of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty.  Alice fell in a gym class and lost the memory of the last ten years of her life.  An amusing take on the developments in the last ten years.  Alice becomes a Rip Van Winkle figure and can’t understand the changes in her life and her marriage.  She can’t even remember her children.

We are all completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.  A very interesting and worthwhile novel but to review it is to spoil the surprise half way through the book.

The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell.   Interesting and readable, of course, but I wasn’t always entirely convinced that all the wives would get on so, so well.  Or maybe the point was that they didn’t.

 This Boy the autobiography of Alan Johnson, who had a difficult deprived childhood.  It is amazing what he achieved.  Do read it.

The Woman in the Picture by Katharine McMahon continues the great story of brave female barrister Enid Gifford from the Crimson Rooms.  It does stand alone, but it is helpful if you read the latter first.   London, 1926. Evelyn Gifford is not a woman to let convention get in her way. One of Britain's first female lawyers, she has taken on the male establishment. Outside the courtroom, however, Evelyn's life is not going to plan. Following a devastating love affair, she has left the confines of her family home and has moved in with Meredith, a headstrong artist and the mother of Evelyn's beloved nephew. But now Meredith is threatening to leave for France, taking the child with her, and even Evelyn's formidable Aunt Prudence is off to India.

The only thing left for Evelyn is to throw herself into work. London is tense in the days leading up to the General Strike and Evelyn finds herself embroiled in two very different cases - one involving a family linked to the unions, the other a rich factory owner who claims not to be the father of his wife's child.

As Evelyn faces the hardest challenges of her career, an unexpected proposal from someone close to her coincides with the return of her former love. Evelyn must ask herself what matters most - security with a man she admires or passion with the man who might just betray her?”

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Happy New Year

  I’ve read lots of books since I last blogged, too many probably.  It’s so tempting to buy via the Kindle late at night instead of re-reading one of the hundreds of books I already possess.

Here are some of the December reads that stayed in my mind.  More to come soon.

Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty.  Gruelling and compelling story of a mother whose child has been killed crossing the road.  Well written and unputdownable.

I wasn’t quite so convinced by Close My Eyes by Sophie McKenzie but nevertheless found it compelling and hard to put down too.   It's been eight years since Gen Loxley lost her daughter, Beth: eight years of grief in which nothing's moved forward. Gen has settled in to a life of half-hearted teaching, while her husband Art their fortune. For Gen, life without Beth is unbearable - but still it goes on. And then a woman arrives on Gen's doorstep, saying that her daughter was not stillborn, but was spirited away as a healthy child, and is out there, waiting to be found...So why is Art reluctant to get involved? To save his wife from further hurt? Or something much more sinister? What is the truth about Beth Loxley?

The Sea Change by Joanna Rossiter seemed a little too consciously writerly at the beginning but became an interesting, affecting story.  Well researched WW2 background about those left behind in England, including a horrific ‘friendly fire’ accident and a devastated village in Wiltshire.

The Detective’s Daughter by Lesley Thomson.  Atmospheric. Kate Rokesmith's murder changed the lives of many. Her husband, never charged, moved abroad under a cloud of suspicion. Her son, just four years old, grew up in a loveless boarding school. And Detective Inspector Darnell, vowing to leave no stone unturned in the search for her killer, began to lose his only daughter. The young Stella Darnell grew to resent the dead Kate Rokesmith. Her dad had never vowed to leave no stone unturned for her. Now, thirty years later, Stella is dutifully sorting through her father's attic after his sudden death. The Rokesmith case papers are in a corner, gathering dust: the case was never solved. Stella knows she should destroy them. Instead, she opens the box, and starts to read.

The Silent Tide by Rachel Hore
When Emily Gordon, editor at a London publishing house, commissions an account of  English novelist Hugh Morton, she finds herself steering a tricky path between Morton's formidable widow and the ambitious biographer. But someone is sending Emily mysterious missives about Hugh Morton's past and she discovers a buried story that simply has to be told… In 1948, young Isabel Barber arrives at her aunt’s house in Earl's Court having run away from home.. A chance meeting leads to a job with a publisher and a fascinating career beckons. But when she develops a close editorial relationship with charismatic young novelist Hugh Morton and the professional becomes personal, not only are all her plans put to flight, but she finds herself in a struggle for her survival.


The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty   Good writing, vivid characterisation.

What I’ve really enjoyed reading are all the Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard.  Somehow I missed them first time around.  Do read them if you’re interested in the realistic story of a upper middle class family during the war and after.  The children are particularly vivid, possibly because it’s partly autobiographical.  Reminds me vaguely of The Forsyte Saga in the sense that it’s a family story, though obviously of a later period.  Shall look forward to the latest episode.  Google Elizabeth Jane Howard if you want to find out more about this interesting writer, who recently died.  Her private life and marriages to difficult men, particularly Kingsley Amis, affected her writing considerably.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Good books

So many books read, no time to write about them properly. 

Most gripping book by far was the much praised Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty.  A respectable scientist in her early fifties begins a risky affair with a stranger and finds herself in dock.  The court scenes have been brilliantly researched.  Do read it.  I wouldn’t fancy al fresco unions in St. James’s (of all places) though – mind boggles.   Here is a review.

Am absorbed in EJ Howard’s Cazalet Chronicles at the moment.  A rather more peaceful read, despite the wartime background.

 Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach was an interesting modern high-tech thriller, though the main protagonist became somewhat wearing.

 The Silent Wife by ASA Harrison, another thriller.  Interesting enough but not a must-read.  Moral of the story, don't forget to marry your other half if you're not self-supporting.

And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini was as imaginative and instructive as one might expect.  Well worth reading.

 Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver grew on me. The main protagonist is a young poor white American and there are a few long early chapters about shopping in bargain basements that could have been shortened.   Finally though the heroine won me over and the way she was drawn into working for a scientific survey of over-wintering butterflies was convincing.  It’s a worthy green eco book we should all read, I dare say.

Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson is an amusing easy read.  Absolutely loved the Hungarian aunts who rather stole the show.  Laura I did find tiresome - Joanna Trollope would definitely have told her to stiffen her upper lip.  Not quite sure why it was long-listed for the Booker.  Here is a review.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Otto triumphs again

To our amazement, Otto won second prize in the Best Behaved Dog class at the village flower show, despite nearly knocking over the judge at one point.  Below, dog and buttercups.

A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson

 It is 1923 and Evangeline English, keen lady cyclist, arrives with her sister Lizzie and their zealous leader Millicent at the ancient city of Kashgar to establish a mission. As they encounter resistance and calamity, Eva commences work on her Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar...

In present-day London, Frieda opens her door to find a man sleeping on the landing. Tayeb, a Yemeni refugee, has arrived in Frieda's life just as she learns that she is next-of-kin to a stranger, a woman whose abandoned flat contains many surprises. The two wanderers embark on a journey that is as unexpected as Eva's.

I found Eva’s story fascinating, frightening and absorbing (and not very much about cyling – in fact I’d have thought the terrain and climate hardly lends itself to the pastime)  I was struck by the bravery and naivety of the ladies in 1923 and it’s interesting to realise that people could and did travel freely to Central Asia in those days.  Eva’s story stayed with me long after I had finished the book, so much so that I kept googling the Silk Route for weeks.  Oddly enough, I found Frieda more difficult to get to grips with, fey and strange as she appeared.  I think I’d have preferred to stay in 1923.  But it’s a good read and I look forward to reading more from this author.  Here’s a Guardian review.


The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Simon Mawer.  Thoroughly researched and convincing this is the story of a female SOE operative in World War 2.

Marian Sutro is an outsider: the daughter of a diplomat, brought up on the shores of Lake Geneva and in England, half French, half British, naive yet too clever for her own good. But when she is recruited from her desk job by SOE to go undercover in wartime France, it seems her hybrid status - and fluent French - will be of service to a greater, more dangerous cause.

Trained in sabotage, dead-drops, how to perform under interrogation and how to kill, Marian parachutes into south-west France, her official mission to act as a Resistance courier. But her real destination is Paris, where she must seek out family friend Clément Pelletier, once the focus of her adolescent desires. A nuclear physicist engaged in the race for a new and terrifying weapon, he is of urgent significance to her superiors. As she struggles through the strange, lethal landscape of the Occupation towards this reunion, what completes her training is the understanding that war changes everything, and neither love nor fatherland may be trusted.

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky is both a gripping adventure story and a moving meditation on patriotism, betrayal and the limits of love.

I had the feeling I’d read some of this book before, because similar stories have indeed been told.  It’s a war story, realistically so, and if you like wartime thrillers you will enjoy this book.  It’s in no way girly or romantic, because the times were too serious for that.  The description of Marian’s training took up the first half of the book but then, once she was in France, one’s fear increased.


Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Althorp Lit Fest and Coton Manor Gardens

There will be better photos of Coton Manor, Northamptonshire on their website  I always love the peace and beauty of this interesting extensive garden.

I had a great day at the Althorp Literary Festival, home of the late Princess Diana.
First I heard Artemis Cooper talk about her biography of Paddy Leigh Fermor, war hero, traveller and lothario. “Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011) was a war hero whose exploits in Crete are legendary, and he is widely acclaimed as (one of?) the greatest travel writer of our times, notably for his books about his walk across pre-war Europe….Artemis Cooper has drawn on years of interviews and conversations with Paddy and his closest friends as well as having complete access to his archives. Her beautifully crafted biography portrays a man of extraordinary gifts - no one wore their learning so playfully, nor inspired such passionate friendship.”  Or indeed love in so many women, often rich ones. Fascinating.  Here is a review from the Independent.
Then it was The Return of a King by William Dalrymple. This is the story of a British disaster, not something we were taught at school.  Gripping stuff and embarrassing too.  Here is the blurb.
In the spring of 1839, the British invaded Afghanistan for the first time. Led by lancers in scarlet cloaks and plumed shakos, nearly 20,000 British and East India Company troops poured through the high mountain passes and re-established on the throne Shah Shuja ul-Mulk.
On the way in, the British faced little resistance. But after two years of occupation, the Afghan people rose in answer to the call for jihad and the country exploded into violent rebellion. The First Anglo-Afghan War ended in Britain's greatest military humiliation of the nineteenth century: an entire army of the then most powerful nation in the world ambushed in retreat and utterly routed by poorly equipped tribesmen.
Return of a King is the definitive analysis of the First Afghan War, told through the lives of unforgettable characters on all sides and using for the first time contemporary Afghan accounts of the conflict. Prize-winning and bestselling historian William Dalrymple's masterful retelling of Britain's greatest imperial disaster is a powerful and important parable of colonial ambition and cultural collision, folly and hubris, for our times.”
Then I heard the lovely Alexander McCall Smith who is just as charming and amusing as you might expect from reading his books.  I sat there enchanted as he chatted away to one of the Althorp presenters about the numerous characters in his numerous books. When asked how he manages to be so prolific, he said he wrote very fast(!), sometimes getting up at 4am to write, then goes back to bed again.  He was funny about the supposedly pushy mothers of Edinburgh of whom Irene in the Scotland Street books is the shining example.  I queued for ages to have a book signed and was then tongue tied when I shook hands with him.  I wanted to say I was a great fan of the frightful Irene’s and that I hoped he wouldn't ever write her away from Edinburgh.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Holiday reads

Deep Blue Sea by Tasmina Perry.

Fans of Tasmina Perry will enjoy this escapist blockbuster mystery/thriller.
Beneath the shimmering surface lies a dark secret... Diana and super-rich businessman Julian Denver have the world at their feet. With grand houses in London and the country, Diana's life, to the outside world, is perfect. But nothing is as it seems...
When Julian dies suddenly and tragically, Diana is convinced there is more to it than meets the eye. She calls on the one person she had never wanted to see again - her sister, Rachel.
A former tabloid reporter, Rachel appears to be living the dream as a diving instructor on a Thai island. The truth is she's in exile, estranged from her family and driven from her career by Fleet Street's phone-hacking scandal.
Rachel is determined to make amends for the past, and embarks on a treacherous journey to uncover the truth - wherever it may lead...
This extra-long novel starts slowly and Diana’s reaction to Julian’s death, and the funeral arrangements in general didn’t strike me as entirely convincing (but maybe that was to keep us all guessing) However, gradually the plot thickened and, while the characters jet-setted around the world, I became drawn in.  An undemanding blockbuster holiday read with good descriptions of all the many luxury locations:  not that much sex’n’shopping - more of a glamorous whodunwhat as it eventually develops into a complex plot.

The House by the Sea by Santa Montefiore, another pleasant holiday read.  I loved the Italian story, though sometimes the English characters annoyed me.
Ten-year-old Floriana is captivated by the beauty of the magnificent Tuscan villa just outside her small village and dreams of living there someday. Then one hot afternoon, Dante, the son of the villa’s owner, invites her inside and from that moment on Floriana knows that her destiny is there, with him.
Decades later and hundreds of miles away, a beautiful old country house hotel on England’s Devon coast has fallen on hard times. Its owner, Mariana, hires an artist-in-residence to stay the summer and teach the guests how to paint. The man she finds is charismatic and wise and begins to pacify the discord in her family and transform the fortunes o the hotel. However, it soon becomes clear that he is not who he seems…
From the Italian countryside to the English coast, The House by the Sea is a moving and mysterious tale of love, forgiveness and the past revealed.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Dalmatian Coast, Croatia


Back from a walking holiday in Croatia - all very enjoyable, informative and good for fitness in general. Some of my relations rudely expressed doubts about my walking stamina - and I have to admit am glad to have been advised to choose a 'one-boot'* guided hols, ie the least strenuous, but still quite a lot more energetic than lying on the beach.  Our guide was excellent, by the way.
Croatia is interesting culturally and historically, a dramatic mountainous country. We had a taste of rural or island simplicity and town sophistication, with good hotels in Dubrovnic and Trogir. Can now speak at least five words of Croatian and have drunk a suitable amount of Croatian wine.
Am rather pleased with the photos of the huge waterfall in the National Park in Krka above. The boardwalks - without handrails -  in and out of the falls would definitely been closed in England for wimpish health and safety reasons. As river was in spate, it was quite an experience to see the fast flowing white waters a few inches below one's feet and, not far away, swirling in and out of the trees.
Dubrovnic (last photo) was badly damaged in the war in the 1990s but has been declared a World Heritage site, rebuilt and restored. 
Croatia seems relatively unspoilt by tourism so now is probably the time to go. 
(*in the Headwater brochure, walking holidays are graded one-boot - easiest - to three-boot.  I was glad to have  taken a telescopic walking pole, proper walking shoes and waterproof jacket and trousers and I rubbed on J and J blister-prevention wax which worked.)

Inside the city walls of Split, Diocletian's palace.  By the way, I saw rather few dogs in the area, and certainly no Dalmatians. (Click on the pics to enlarge them)

Monday, 6 May 2013

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Reading notes & early Otto

Above is a photo from this date two years ago.  Not a single one of these daffodils is flowering yet. (Admittedly there wasn't a whole host fluttering and dancing in the breeze in the first place.  Cute puppy, though.)

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson.  Bound to win lots of lit prizes. I don't think it's spoiling the plot to say that Ursula, born in a well-to-do family in 1909, has a chance to be re-incarnated time after time, to change her life, not that she is aware of this phenomenon.  Or was she? Which was her real life?  You the reader can decided that for yourself. KA is a brilliant writer, and particularly good on the Blitz, amazingly vivid.  You have to concentrate on this book though. Having saved it for a 7-hr Eurostar journey I gave up and surrendered to the chatter.  It may even be too much if you are on your sickbed: you need all your wits about you, or at least I did.  Here's a link to her website.
Do read this novel.

The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson.  Well-written, well-researched, a historical crime thriller.  Again it begins in 1909 but in a totally different milieu 'the dazzling joys of the Belle Epoche'.  The dark and dangerous side of Paris at the time is also brilliantly evoked, particularly the flood (you can google for photos of this event).  As for Maud, the impoverished and (eventually) vengeful main protagonist, I almost lost touch with her towards the end in the complications of the plot.  If you like Paris history with a good dose of intrigue and art, this is one for you.
"Maud Heighton came to Lafond’s famous Académie to paint and to flee the constraints of her small English town. It took all her courage to escape, but Paris eats money. While her fellow students enjoy the dazzling pleasures the city, Maud slips into poverty.
 Quietly starving and dreading another cold Paris winter, Maud takes a job as a companion to young, beautiful Sylvie Morel. But Sylvie has a secret: as addiction to opium. As Maud is drawn into the Morels’ world of elegant luxury, their secrets become hers. Before the New Year arrives, a greater deception will plunge her into the darkness that waits beneath this glittering city of light."

Bertie Plays the Blues by Alexander McCall Smith.  Always amusing and thought provoking.  I can never totally believe in his young things/young-married characters, so philosophical for their age-group, but they're charming, of course.  This is an Edinburgh-based book, so that's fun too. It could hardly be set anywhere else.

Dearest Rose by Rowan Coleman. I enjoyed this good romantic read. (A winner of an RNA award)
When Rose Pritchard turns up on the doorstep of a Cumbrian BandB it is her last resort. She and her seven-year-old daughter Maddie have left everything behind. And they have come to the village of Millthwaite in search of the person who once offered Rose hope.
Almost immediately Rose wonders if she's made a terrible mistake - if she's chasing a dream - but she knows in her heart that she cannot go back. She's been given a second chance - at life, and love - but will she have the courage to take it?

My Animals and Other Family by Clare Balding  Interesting autobiography, but you need to be horsey/keen on the turf to appreciate it fully, as it deals with Clare's racing years.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Alps and reading

Early morning in the Alps

Happy Easter to all.

Back from ski holiday in one piece, though managed to hurt a finger on the Eurostar as it hurtled along! Two ski holidays?  Well, I didn't have a summer hols last year, you see. It was all to do with the family.

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie o'Farrell   Here is a Guardian review of this excellent novel.  I loved it and as soon as I had finished, began to read parts again.  I very seldom do this, but the language and the characterisation were so brilliant that I wanted to re-savour them.  I bought this for the Kindle and  I'll buy the paperback too eventually as it is one I want to keep.  It's not much to do with the heatwave of 1976, but it is helpful for a writer to set a book before the invention of mobile phones, for a start, and at a time when perhaps morals were more clear cut.  Or at least people pretended they were. That's the point of this novel about an Irish family with many secrets. Here's the blurb but I'm not sure it entirely does justice to the book which has nothing to do with greenfly:
It’s July 1976 and London is in the grip of a heatwave. It hasn’t rained for months, the gardens are filled with aphids, water comes from a standpipe, and Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he’s going round the corner to buy a newspaper. He doesn’t come back. The search for Robert brings Gretta’s children – two estranged sisters and a brother on the brink of divorce – back home, each with different ideas as to where their father may have gone. None of them suspects that their mother might have an explanation that even now she cannot share.
Maggie O’Farrell’s sixth book is both an intimate portrait of a family in crisis, and the work of an outstanding novelist at the height of her powers.

Husband Missing by Polly Williams.  'Gina has only been married six months when her husband Rex goes on holiday to Spain and vanishes without a trace, tipping her dream new marriage into nightmare. As a frantic search gets nowhere, Gina is adamant that he's alive and vows never to give up hope. Speculation is rife: he's drowned at sea, lost his memory...or just walked away. Troubling stories start to emerge about Rex's past that are hard to square with the man she married. How well does she really know her handsome, charismatic husband? They'd fallen in love so quickly, so passionately, that the past had seemed barely relevant to either of them. Now an explosive secret threatens to rewrite the story of their love affair.' Good stuff, more of a chick lit mystery/holiday read/zippy contemporary novel, on-the-button.

A psychological thriller, When Nights Were Cold by Susanna Jones.  Not too scary but very interesting concerning as it does female climbers in the early 1900s, members of the Mountain Climbing society of their Oxford-type college.  Grace calls her friends by their surnames and they hide their long skirts before they start their climbs, first in Wales, then near the Matterhorn.  But, as is often foreshadowed in the time-shifting narrative, disaster strikes.  Well worth reading, bated breath and all that.

Gave up on Vicky Christina Barcelona, despite the excellent cast (Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson and Sylvia Tietjens/Rebecca Hall)  Much, much too introspective and WoodyAllen-esque

Watched The Mother with Anne Reid and Daniel Craig - phew. Keep smelling salts to hand and see it on your own.  Not a family film.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Quick Reading Notes

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.  This is a terrific, compelling contemporary novel, one of the best I’ve read recently.  Its chick-lit cover is totally misleading as it deals with a serious subject: a young man is now a quadriplegic, having been injured in an accident.  A cheerful young girl has been hired by his mother to bring light into his life, but will she be enough?  Unsentimental but moving.  I was bowled over. Do read it.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, a best-selling, almost-impossible-to-put-down US thriller.  A terrifying read, told from two viewpoints. Amy is a seriously sarcastic NY girl having problems in Hicksville, but we soon begin to worry about her husband. On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick Dunne’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? As the cops close in ....

Sad non-fiction.  The Music Room by William Fiennes, author of The Snow Goose.
The story of his brother’s mental illness and their childhood in a castle.

Up Close by Henriette Gyland (Choc Lit) An unusual thriller/love story set in Norfolk. 

More good reads to come soon.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

Here's the cake a friend made for the village OAPs' tea party at my house today.
Chocolate hearts on each plate, in case you wondered. You might think I'm a domestic goddess despite myself, but have to confess all the food was made by others.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Christmas scenes, past & present

Merry Christmas and a Happy and Peaceful New Year to all