Richard and Judy Spring 2016

The Richard and Judy book club is a great book club where the two broadcasters choose books that they love and champion. My favourites have often been on there and Dinah Jefferies book last year was a particular book that I was so pleased got the extra recognition it deserved.

This year, a few of my favs have again appeared on the list and once again I’m excited to see them in pride of place in WHSMITHS when you walk in the store. Here’s the top four- well for me at least. I’d love to know what you think!

Richard and Judy Spring Book club 2016

VERSIONSEngland, Cambridge

The Versions of Us

Laura Barnett

A gem of a novel I think for the sheer novel premise of a girl and a boy meeting by chance in various scenarios throughout time. There are three different outcomes to what happens and the  exciting part about it is that this could be all our lives. One moment, one split second can change the way things pan out and sometimes we’re not even aware of the choices. Cambridge for the setting has that feeling of people fleetingly coming into each others life with the university and the transient nature of life there. A real gem of a book. Great to see on the list.

alaskaAlaska

The Quality of Silence

Rosamund Lupton

I love this book. Quietly unassuming but oh so powerful. I mean the narrator is a deaf 10 year old who sees sounds and feels sounds to describe the world around her. Her dad tells her stories and she remembers falling asleep with ‘ his fingers still making the words in front of my eyelids” The father has gone missing in the Alaskan wilderness and so the mother and ten year old Ruby go in search. the darkness, the unknown mixing with the insular world of a little girl lost. It was a haunting read and I felt the chill of the snow and saw the blackness of the landscape stretching out in front. What an evocative read!

WOODEngland – Northumberland

In a Dark Dark Wood

Ruth Ware

Not that I’m biased in any way but there’s something exciting about reading a book based in a place that you love. And Kielder Forest, Northumberland, stars as that place in this book about a group of girls who haven’t met for years since school, back together for a hen do.

One guest has a bit of a backstory with the bride to be it would seem and doesn’t know the other guests so getting together in a remote house in the middle of the woods where there is no phone

may not be such a good idea? Great for the story though as this was creepy and I did not guess the end! Talk about building the creepiness as if every turn of the page was the tap of a tree branch on a window at night.

WAYS-England – Cornwall

A year of Marvellous Ways

Sarah Winman

So sweet, heartwarming and I just love Marvellous! Marvellous by name and Marvellous by nature. She lives life as she wants to, quietly in a creek in Cornwall. She is  a lovely woman living her life beside the river, telescope in hand waiting for something but she’s unsure as to what. Her landscape is her world and I loved the way her surroundings are evoked and are part of her everyday.

I awoke dazed, looking up through a portal to a star-drenched sky. And beyond the stars bands of milky light stretched out to the hush of infinity.

There’s a place mentioned (a fictional setting) that becomes a place you will never forget once you find out its significance and her view of her home landscape.  Drake, a soldier, comes into her life and theirs is a very special relationship of salvation, redemption and hope.  I would describe this as magical realism and quirky Cornwall legends.

There’s four more in the list. Reading them as we speak…..Four more treats in store.

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Booktrail Awards in honour of Britcrime

booktrail-crime-awardsThis has been a good year for all things crime. Criminally good in fact as the variety of books with all things ghoulish and deadly have been the highlight of booktrailers everywhere. Those who are brave enough to venture into places with literary links to lurid tales that is.

Let’s go on a little adventure….with some highlights from 2015

Screen shot 2015-12-13 at 12.39.00AWARD FOR THAT ‘PUNCH IN THE STOMACH’ FEELING

Eva Dolan

Tell No Tales

Set in Peterborough

Author info: loiteringwithintent | @eva_dolan

Neighbour against neighbour, nobody feeling safe to walk the streets. Then the vigilantes step in…

Eva Dolan came onto the booktrail radar for a crime novel that was so much more than a crime novel. This hit me right in the stomach  with its gritty realism and devastating sense of realism. A hate crimes unit in Peterborough and the nature of the crimes and the investigations which follow. This really stood out for me for the premise, the reality of the situations described in the novel, the sad reality of present day cities in and around the UK and for the fact that this is not a subject often written about in fiction  – gritty gritty stuff.

https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/tell-no-tales-peterborough-eva-dolan/

AWARD FOR MAKING SMALL TOWN SCOTLAND HUGE

downloadBlackWood

SJI Holiday

Set in Haddington (Banktoun)

Author info: www.sjiholliday.com | Facebook | @sjiholliday

This was a real gem to find. Not just because the author is from the place she writes about and the events in the book are based on true fact, but that it all comes together in such a unique way. Banktoun is fictional yet is based on Haddington near Edinburgh and SJ perfectly captures the sense of small town Scotland, its idiosyncrancies and the shocking events which follow. The sense of isolation and that chilling moment in the woods with someone watching will stay with me for a long time. Can’t wait to see what she writes next!

https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/blackwood-haddingtonbanktoun-scotland-sji-holliday/

AWARD FOR FREAKY FOOTPRINTS AND FANTASTICAL FOLKLORE

Dark tidesDark Tides

Chris Ewan

Set on the Isle of Man

Author info:  www.chrisewan.com | Facebook | @chrisewan

Now I’m really proud of myself for reading this scary one. I mean folklore and curses etc often give me the heeby jeebies  to use a technical term so this book based on the Manx Halloween and a dare that went very very wrong was just the thing I probably should not have read at night. I ended up reading it into the early hours, so the chills and the atmosphere went sky high. A car went past at 3am and the dancing lights on the window almost made me scream. Thus book was that good as I was totally and utterly transported to the night of Halloween and the Manx spirits. I’m still singing the haunting song…”Jinny the witch flew over the house…” even now and am very careful about how I leave footprints in the snow when leaving a house.

https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/2015/07/11/dark-tides-the-isle-of-man-chris-ewan/

AWARD FOR MOST DEAD BODIES IN A CANAL

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Daniel Pembrey

The Harbour master

Set in Amsterdam

Author info: http://danielpembrey.com | Facebook | @DPemb

Daniel Pembrey was a gem to discover. He already had a trilogy under his belt so I was able to really delve into his AMsterdam and discover the dark truths of life there. A policeman who lives on a boat, the Dutch whose seafaring ways are in their blood and a murky world of power and politics and the grim reality of human trafficking. Henk Van de Pol was a fascinating man to meet, his work in the city’s police force despite his retirement was personal – this fight was personal. Daniel has captured the best and the worst of the city and made Henk one of the most intriguing characters I’ve come across in a long while.

https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/2015/07/09/the-harbour-master-amsterdam-daniel-pembrey/

AWARD FOR MOST INVENTIVE USE OF (Family) TREES

in bitter chill

Sarah Ward

In Bitter Chill

Set in Derbyshire     fictional Bampton

Author info: crimepieces.com | Facebook | @sarahrward1

Sarah Ward you deserve a medal quite frankly for having even a  cover for your book that made me shiver. What is it about trees at night? Open the pages and there’s kidnappings and recriminations with the case taking the police back to 1978 and a suicide thirty years on connected to that date in history. There were more twists and turns with this novel than I will reveal here but it was chilling as the title suggested and I was left with a feeling of shock and awe at the denouement and the ending.

As well as being a blogger with bite, a Petrona Judge and an all round fabulous friendly person, I was privileged enough to be an early reader of this cracking crime novel and I’m excited that she is now on the Derbyshire part of the Booktrail literary map.

https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/in-bitter-chill-derbyshire-sarah-ward/

Join Britcrime for more fantastic authors and for a celebration to remember http://www.britcrime.com/

#Booktrailadvent day 2- Liz Fenwick warms us up in Cornwall

LIZ

It’s the first of December and a cold morning as I sit in my kitchen in Cornwall and look out at the soft orange-pink sky.

The leaves have gone from the trees after the gales that have been blowing, but the silhouetted branches of the pear tree are not bare – they are covered in lichen, soft green grey. The landscape at the start of winter is quieter in one sense and wilder in another. It’s prepared for the coming gales that will blow through with astounding regularity. But Cornwall in winter is the best. The bare bones of the landscape are on display. The bent and twisted shapes of the trees formed by the prevailing wind are like skeletons sticking out of the ground. The fields are visible over the hedges so you can see the shape of the land and the sea – well, that is fierce and wild one day and bluer than you believe possible the next.

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Cornwall feels empty but not desolate. It’s during this quiet time of the year when I have the lanes to myself and I can peer into windows in the early evening before curtains are drawn that I feed the well of creativity in me as writer. No other place but Cornwall makes me sees stories around every blind corner.

liz-first-view
The view from the Ferryboat Inn (c) Liz Fenwick

At this time of the year the walking is brilliant. You see more and the landscape is more vivid. The land is raw and the history is visible. Plus at the end of the walk the pubs are so welcoming. Pubs have featured in all my books. You can’t beat the Shipwrights Arms in Helford for the view and great food. Those who have read A Cornish Stranger will remember this one in particular for the music – a regular feature all year round.  This pub also features in A Cornish Affair too.

 

The New Inn Manaccan is now owned by a consortium in the village and visitors are sure of a warm welcome and guaranteed to meet locals. This is where Maddie first saw Gunnar in The Cornish House.

Liz-view
The Ferry Boat Inn (c) Liz Fenwick

Across the river on the north side in Under A Cornish Sky you have Demi, Sam, Victoria and Sebastian going to the wonderful Trengilly Wartha, which at this time of year features delicious warming food.

liz-third-view
The Ferry Boat Inn (c) Liz Fenwick

The Ferryboat Inn mentioned in Under A Cornish Sky takes on a bigger role in my next book The Returning Tide. It sits just above the beach in Helford Passage. The food is great and if you are an oyster fan the landlords own the local oyster beds. Can’t get much fresher or shorter food footprint.

 

In the pubs do try the local cyders…and if you’ve read Under A Cornish Sky you’ll know why. The varieties of local cyders are growing, which has the wonderful knock on effect of reviving orchards long neglected. This brings me back to the view from my kitchen. Our garden was once part of an orchard. Our pear tree is massive and very old. We have three apple trees…I wonder how many were here during the house’s first hundred years…I think I feel another story coming on…

 

– A book set in Cornwall in the summer time would do wonders to warm you at this time of year…..mulled wine…ginger biscuits, a roaring fire and a visit to Cornwall courtesy of Liz Fenwick. –

 

Merry Christmas and happy reading!

Scottish wit and wisdom via fiction

Flag-3St Andrew’s Day

Where all things Scottish are celebrated and quite rightly so. Scotland has some of the most stunning scenery in the world and is a top tourist destination. There’s the well known and loved Loch Ness Monster, the Edinburgh tattoo, Haggis, bagpipes and of course Tartan.

But what we love is its humour  and its people. And the many gifted writers who love Scotland so much it becomes a feature in many books. Books that highlight and pay homage to much of Scotland’s magic. And the magic time of the Edinburgh book festival! A book pilgrimage for many.

A short tour if we may….

random

*Discussing the need to rid Scotland of its darker side in Robertson’s Glasgow:

Every one deid is one less bampot on the streets

edinb*Giving an honest appraisal of  a haggis dish:

“I would rather kiss a public latrine that each something of such foul appearance.”

There is some very fine Scottish food (haggis being one example!) such as bridies, stovies and fine venison!

*Debating the history and legacy of Body snatching …FALLS

At the time, most bodies worked on by anatomists were cold indeed. They were brought to Edinburgh from all over Britain — some came by way of the Union Canal. The resurrectionists — body-snatchers — pickled them in whisky for transportation. It was a lucrative trade.”

“But did the whisky get drunk afterwards?”

Devlin chuckled. “Economics would dictate that it did.”

*Experiencing a wedding on the most northernly Shetland island of Unst during Simmer dim?

TAirA single chord played on fiddle and accordion,a breathless moment of silence …This was the hamefarin’

The Simmer dim was the summer dusk. “So far north it never really got dark in in June.”

*Meeting some of Scotland’s folklore..

Whether it’s the Shetland trowes, or the Loch Ness monster and a modern tale of the search for  it, Scotland never fails to capture the imagination.

And there’s the little dog, Grey Friar’s Bobby, who sat by his master’s grave – immortalised in books, film, tv and a statue..

bertie*And who could forget –

Bertie from 44 Scotland street, Edinburgh. Always full of wisdom when either debating the need for a certain plaque :

“No plaque reminds the passer-by of these glories, although there should be one; for those who invent biscuits bring great pleasure to many.”

or just expressing the dreams of a young Scottish lad:

“Life would undoubtedly improve when he turned eighteen and could leave home to go and live somewhere far away and exotic – Glasgow, perhaps”

Best not venture into Robertson’s Glasgow though eh Bertie?

There’s so much Scotland has to offer Bertie – both in literature and for real.

Happy St Andrews Day and happy reading!

Revisiting literary friends……Agatha Christie

AGATHA1

Books often take you places you never would have gone before. Agatha Christie for me is one such author who has taken me to places I really wish did exist – St Mary Mead for example -although the murder rate is quite high there so maybe not sure about that one.

Still, the places such as Gossington Hall, the inside of the Orient Express,  Betrams hotel are memories which will stay with me for ever. They’ve lasted like faded photographs in  my mind ever since I read them and now with the TV adaptation of her Tommy and Tuppence novels, I thought it was nice to reread them.

Oh and it was like visiting an old friend, seeing the places again that I knew as a child, the very first day an English teacher handed me my first Agatha Christie – A Murder Is Announced – and said “I think you’ll like this”

How do you feel when you wander back into a book you’ve known and loved for years? It felt like wandering back into a house I used to visit frequently, friends I used to know, wondering what has changed and what has stayed the same. Of course it was me who now was older and arguably wiser, now having read many crime and mystery books based on forensics and more brutal cases would my visit to the past be a good one?

Well yes it was and more. For it was like opening up an old treasure trove and marvelling at a time when there was no technology that we rely on today, that clever old Miss Marple who would sit and knit and observe……the head bobbing over the hedge as she listened to some secret chatter, the excitement of wandering into Gossington Hall when it was still owned by the colonel and then when it is taken over by an American actress…

Aah Agatha, your crime stories have stood the test of time for me – they are classics, photos in my memory box, recollections in my mind.

tOMMY

As for Tommy and Tuppence, I had met these two in the story N or M and now they are being republished with the TV images of David Walliams and Jessica Raine as the crime busting couple. A new chance to reconnect with two old friends!

Now then, I think a cup of tea is in order, a comfy rug and a good Christie in preparation for tonight’s visit with Tommy and Tuppence on BBC.

How did you feel reconnecting with characters from your past? Is it good to meet old literary friends?