Spring and thoughts of love…

In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love (Tennyson)

I’ve often thought it would make more sense to start the New Year in Spring. It’s the most wonderful time of year when, as we creep slowly from the cold and dark of winter, we change the clocks a second time, and greet nature’s new and renewed life in both the plant and animal worlds.

So as the poem says, turning to thoughts of love, here are some great new titles being released in April, and one or two older titles being re-released for a new audience. I hope you’ll find at least one book amongst them that you’ll want to read.

Mornings on MainMornings On Main – Jodi Thomas

When Jillian James lands in the small-town Texas community of Laurel Springs, she’s definitely not planning to stay, just long enough to find a few clues about the father who abandoned her and destroyed her faith in family.

Connor Larady is a single dad, and the only one caring for his grandmother, Eugenia, who has Alzheimer’s. Now he has to close Eugenia’s quilt shop, and when Connor meets down-on-her-luck Jillian, he’s out of options. Can he trust the newcomer to do right by his grandmother’s legacy?

Jillian is done with relationships, but as she grows closer to Connor and Eugenia, she must consider giving up her nomadic life for a future with those who need her.

Scandalous HeiressA Wedding for the Scandalous Heiress – Elizabeth Beacon

A stolen kiss from a dashing stranger at her own betrothal ball!

When Isabella Alstone receives a shockingly passionate kiss from a handsome stranger at her betrothal ball, she scandalously ends her engagement. She is even more surprised when she discovers exactly who the stranger is! Ruggedly striking Wulf FitzDevelin is illegitimate, penniless, and her ex-fiancé’s half-brother—their match is wholly unsuitable. Yet Isabella cannot escape the burning longing to feel his touch again!

Second Chance FamilySecond Chance Family by Margaret Daley

Savor once again this story in the Fostered by Love series, from top-selling author Margaret Daley.
Dedicated teacher Whitney Maxwell gave up her dream of a family years ago. But she’s about to get a lesson in faith and family from an unexpected source—a brave little boy named Jason. Jason and his dad are dealing with his autism the best they can, but Dr. Shane McCoy can’t put his tragic past behind him. As Whitney and Shane work together to help his son, could these two lost souls open their hearts to love again and become a lasting family?

Mail Order Bride SwitchMail Order Bride Switch – Dorothy Clarke

Garret Stevenson must find a bride or forfeit his newly built hotel. With his deadline approaching, he plans an in-name-only marriage with a maid who’ll cook and clean for his guests. When a pampered, pretty heiress arrives instead, the deception confirms Garret’s distrust of women, but Virginia Winterman has more substance than her elegant clothes suggest.

Fleeing West to escape a cruel suitor, Virginia finds a business arrangement with Whisper Creek’s brusque hotel owner is mutually beneficial, and she relishes being useful. Yet what was once a practical solution soon blossoms into a deeper union. Can Garret get past old betrayals before his future with Virginia slips away?

Love and Other WordsLove and Other Words – Christina Lauren

The heart may hide, but it never forgets.

Macy Sorensen is settling into an ambitious if emotionally tepid routine: work hard as a new pediatrics resident, plan her wedding to an older, financially secure man, keep her head down and heart tucked away. When she runs into Elliot Petropoulos – the first and only love of her life – the careful bubble she’s constructed begins to dissolve. Once upon a time, Elliot was Macy’s entire world – growing from her gangly teen friend into the man who coaxed her heart open again after the loss of her mother . . . only to break it on the very night he declared his love for her.

Told in alternating timelines between Then and Now, teenage Elliot and Macy grow from friends into much more – spending weekends and lazy summers together in a house outside of San Francisco reading books, sharing favourite words, and talking through their growing pains and triumphs. As adults, they have become strangers to one another until their chance reunion. Although their memories are obscured by the agony of what happened that night so many years ago, Elliot will come to understand the truth behind Macy’s decade-long silence, and will have to overcome the past and himself to revive her faith in the possibility of an all-consuming love.

Family GatheringThe Family Gathering – Robyn Carr

Can he forget the wounds of his past? 

Dakota Jones had a difficult upbringing but he escaped to the military as soon as he could. Now, after several tours of duty he has finally been discharged. Refusing to return home he arrives in Sullivan’s Crossing where his brother Cal and sister Sierra have found a home. Nestled at the crossroads of the Colorado and Continental Divide Trails, the area attracts those looking for answers or direction or a new lease on life. Dakota will come to terms with his less-than-perfect family and will plant the roots he’s never had.

Annas Forgotten FianceeAnna’s Forgotten Fiancee – Carrie Lighte

An accident leaves Anna Weaver with no memory of her Amish hometown’s newest arrival—her fiancé! After a whirlwind courtship, their wedding’s in six weeks…but how can she marry a man she can’t remember? Carpenter Fletcher Chupp takes her on a walk down memory lane, but there’s one thing he wants to keep hidden: a secret that might just lose him the woman he loves.

Family Other CastastrophesFamily and Other Catastrophes by Alexandra Borowitz

Emily Glass knows she’s neurotic, but she’s got it under control. Sort of. She dons compression socks when she flies (because, you know, deep vein thrombosis) and responds to people routinely over-estimating her age with more Life-spin classes and less gluten. Thankfully, she also has David, the wonderful man she’ll soon call husband—assuming they can survive wedding week with her wildly dysfunctional family.
Emily’s therapist mother, Marla, who’s been diagnosing her children since they were in diapers, sees their homecoming as the perfect opportunity for long-overdue family therapy sessions. Less enthused are Emily and her two siblings: ardently feminist older sister Lauren, who doesn’t think the wedding party should have defined gender roles, and recently divorced brother Jason, whose overzealous return to single-hood is only tempered by his puzzling friendship with David’s Renaissance Faire—enthusiast brother.
As the week comes to a tumultuous head, Emily wants nothing more than to get married and get as far away from her crazy relatives as possible. But that’s easier said than done when Marla’s meddling breathes new life into old secrets. After all, the ties that bind family together may bend, but they aren’t so easily broken.

Bachelor's Perfect MatchThe Bachelor’s Perfect Match – Kathryn Springer

He loves adventures…
She only reads them…until now!

Maddie Montgomery, Castle Falls’ shy librarian, has always played it safe. Enter Aiden Kane, the town’s resident adventurer, on the mend from an accident and in need of Maddie’s help. As Maddie assists Aiden with his search for a long-lost relative, the handsome outdoorsman coaxes Maddie out of her safety zone. Can Maddie take the biggest risk of all—giving in to love?

 

Heros returnHero’s Return – B J Daniels

Tucker Cahill disappeared from Gilt Edge, Montana, hoping to escape a secret that has haunted him for nineteen years. Then, when a young woman’s remains are found in the creek near his family’s ranch, he has no choice but to face his demons. The truth that sent him running years ago could take away his freedom now.
Kate Rothschild came to town looking for vengeance—and Tucker Cahill. What she finds is a tortured and irresistible man who’s more than meets the eye. Caught up in the past, they are drawn deeper into a twisted game that’s not over yet. And the consequences could prove fatal for them both…

Flirting with DisasterFlirting with Disaster by Sherryl Woods

There’s a fine line between desire and disaster.

At least, that’s what improper Southern belle Maggie Forsythe thinks when she’ unceremoniously dumped by a fiancé even her mother approved of. Maggie has never cared what anyone thinks, so why is she hiding away from her South Carolina Low Country home?
Then an intervention by friends shows her she has options. Lots of them! And one includes a man who can make her forget all about being jilted.
But one look at Maggie convinces project foreman Josh Parker that he’s corn bread to her caviar. Sure, they have enough sparks to ignite a bonfire, but growing up broke has made him wary of sweet-tea-swilling debutantes. So why is he suddenly singing “Tea for Two”?
Originally published in 2011.

Ready for RomanceReady for Romance by Debbie Macomber

At fourteen, Jessica Kellerman was madly in love with Evan Dryden, one of the boys next door, much to the amusement of both their families. Now, ten years later, she’s about to start working for the Dryden brothers, Evan and Damian. But no one will let her forget her girlish infatuation, and Jessica finds it frustrating in the extreme. Because she’s in love with a Dryden, all right—but it’s Damian, not Evan. And this time she knows it’s not puppy love; it’s the real thing.
How can she convince Damian of her true feelings when he’s still trying to push her toward his brother?

Originally published in 1993

 

Sunshine at the Comfort Food Cafe

JohnsonSunshine at the Comfort Food Cafe – Debbie Johnson

My name is Willow Longville. I live in a village called Budbury on the stunning Dorset coast with my mum Lynnie, who sometimes forgets who I am. I’m a waitress at the Comfort Food Café, which is really so much more than a café … it’s my home.

For Willow, the ramshackle café overlooking the beach, together with its warm-hearted community, offers friendship as a daily special and always has a hearty welcome on the menu. When a handsome stranger blows in on a warm spring breeze, Willow soon realises that her quiet country life will be changed forever.  Perched on a windswept cliff on the coast at what feels like the edge of the world, the café and its warm-hearted community are a haven for lost souls who happen to wander by with a heavy heart and a story to tell. Serving up the most delicious cream teas; beautifully baked breads, and carefully crafted cupcakes, there’s nothing a cup of tea and a delicious treat won’t fix. For tourists and locals alike, the ramshackle cafe overlooking the beach is a beacon of laughter, companionship, and security – a place like no other; a place that offers friendship as a daily special, and where a hearty welcome is always on the menu.

When I started reading this I didn’t realise it was part of a ‘Comfort Food Cafe‘ series. I had a quick look at the synopsis for each of the other titles, and they all sound fabulous. That said, Sunshine at the Comfort Food Cafe works just as well as a standalone,  certainly  I don’t feel that I have missed anything, in the way that you do sometimes with a series. It took me a while to settle into the book, but once we got going, I was glued to it.

Willow, the central character, doesn’t have it easy as not only does she work cleaning as well as waitressing at the cafe, but she is also she is her mother Lynnie’s carer. Sadly, Lynnie has early onset dementia, and as this progresses, Willow’s struggles and issues are heartbreaking.  I could make a long list of the things that pulled me into the heart of this book, here are but a few. Willow’s pink hair, Doc Martens, piercings, and tattoos (very close to home…); the journals they both keep, one to remember, one to unburden;  the dogs; the colourful array of characters. There is something a little magical about it.

Then enters Tom, a boy from Willow’s childhood; an inventor and rich, but still geeky and awkward, yet totally on Willow’s wavelength – let’s just say Zombie Apocalypse. Read and you’ll understand.

It would be easy to go down a clichéd and superficial route, but the author has dealt with issue of dementia in a real yet sensitive manner, and is to be applauded for that. She’s written a lovely book full of love and optimism, humour and tears. I’m going to arm myself with the previous books, and will read them all at some point – that’s how much I enjoyed this one. Seriously, just go and get a copy and read it.

BE WARNED: you’ll need a supply of tea and cake, and tissues to wipe your damp eyes….

Pets and Romance : Purrfect recipe or Howling mistake?

We all love our pets; I certainly adore my dog.  Like some I’m allergic to cats, and that has caused some disruption in my early days of dating. Since then I’ve known a few budding romances falter and fail when it comes to pets – I’ve heard that clichéd phrase more than once –  ‘love me love my dog’ (or cat).

So to celebrate pet’s month, here are a some great romances with additional pets. What’s not to love!

Getting Rid of BradleyGetting Rid of Bradley – Jennifer Crusie

Lucy isn’t sure who’s more dangerous, Bradley her ex-husband who may be trying to kill her, or Zack the detective who’s assigned to keep her alive.

Lucy Savage is finally getting rid of Bradley—and his hideous green recliner. Bradley is out of her life for good. Or so she thinks. Turns out Officer Zack Warren wants to arrest the very same Bradley for embezzlement and figures the lovely Lucy can lead him straight to his target. Good thing there’s a cop around. Because someone shoots at Lucy and then blows up her car. Zack insists she needs twenty-four-hour protection. What does he think her three dogs and attack cat are for? Still, he insists on moving right in to Lucy’s house. Now there’s danger lurking outside and in her own kitchen, bathroom—and bedroom. Or maybe Zack is just what Lucy needs.…

Nerds Pocket PetsThe Nerd’s Pocket Pets – D R Grady

Shelby Conroy has always had a thing for Mr. Clean and now she’s met his look-a-like.  Sam Welby is an oncology paediatrician, former Navy SEAL, and all around yummy man, except she’s supposed to be working for him, not drooling over him.  Sam has managed to fight his attraction to Shelby so far, but he’s a little confused as to why her lab coat pockets wriggle.

The Secret WeddingThe Secret Wedding – Jo Beverley

At the age of seventeen, Christian Hill impulsively defends young Dorcas Froggatt’s honour–and finds himself forced into marriage. That doesn’t stop him from pursuing his military career abroad, where he swiftly puts his young bride out of his mind–until the past comes back to haunt him. Not long after her traumatic marriage, Dorcas hears that her new husband, Hill, has died in battle.

Home from a decade of war, Christian wants to enjoy bachelor pleasures, but his father is wooing a rich woman on his behalf. Awkward when he doesn’t know for sure if Dorcas Froggatt alive? He heads north to the industrial town of Sheffield to find out. She’s shocked to discover that her husband is not only still alive but searching for her. She’s determined not to sacrifice her independence, not expecting the true dangers she’ll soon face and, even less, the true love she’ll discover with the man who rescued her all those years ago.

Soon he’s on the run from the law with a woman who’s nothing but trouble, especially when they’re joined by a very peculiar cat.

Anyone But YouAnyone But You – Jennifer Crusie

Part basset, part beagle, all Cupid…

For Nina Askew, turning forty means freedom—from the ex-husband, freedom from their stuffy suburban home, freedom to focus on what she wants for a change. And what she wants is something her ex always vetoed—a puppy. A bouncy, adorable puppy.

Instead she gets…Fred.

Overweight, middle-aged, a bit smelly and obviously depressed, Fred is light-years from perky. But he does manage to put Nina in the path of Alex Moore, her gorgeous, younger-by-a-decade neighbour. Alex seems perfect—he’s a sexy, seemingly sane, surprisingly single E.R. doctor—but the age gap convinces Nina that anyone but Alex would be better relationship material. But with every silver-haired stiff she dates, the more she suspects it’s the young, dog-loving doc she wants to sit and stay!

 

Take a Chance on MeTake a Chance on Me  – Susan Donovan

They’ve Got Nothing In Common… For animal behaviourist Emma Jenkins, romance has been at the bottom of her daily “to do” list since making it through a messy divorce. But everything changes the day six-feet-of-gorgeous Thomas Tobin walks into her office with a quivering Chinese Crested named Hairy, a canine that looks more like an underfed rodent than a dog. Sure Thomas is sending her mixed signals-but that charming smile just sent Emma’s dormant sex drive through the roof… 

But Animal Attraction…Thomas isn’t looking for a fling. In fact, he wants nothing to do with women. He just wants to know if Hairy witnessed his owner’s murder. But something tells him that asking Emma to help him with the case will spell nothing but trouble-trouble in the form of serious temptation.

And the Willingness To Take A Chance On Love…Thomas knows that relying on Emma’s expertise-and her soft touch with a weird dog that has somehow become his-may be a crazy way to track a killer. Especially when Emma’s down-home warmth makes him want to believe that anything is possible-even true love. 

Chocolate Cake for BreakfastChocolate Cake for Breakfast – Danielle Hawkins

Helen McNeil is a vet in a small rural Australian town. While taking evasive action from a dull girl at a party one night she falls over—and fails to recognize—national sports hero, Mark Tipene. For some mysterious reason Helen never really grasps, Mark finds this charming and the chemistry between them sky-rockets, aided by a glass of wine or six. Still suffering the after-effects of the wine, Helen is both horrified and delighted when Mark appears the next day at the front counter of the vet clinic to ask her out. Her coworkers are just the first of many friends, family, and acquaintances to be agog at the identity of her date. Love soon blossoms between the two, but when Helen finds out that she is pregnant, things start to get seriously complicated. . . Full of warm, witty, and well-rounded characters, Chocolate Cake for Breakfast is a hugely entertaining romance set in the middle of nowhere.

 

‘Lost’ Bronte Manuscripts

‘Lost’ manuscripts of Charlotte Brontë to be published

According to The Bookseller, the UK’s publishing trade magazine, ‘The Brontë Society is marking its debut as a publisher with a title featuring two unpublished manuscripts by Charlotte Brontë, found in a book belonging to her mother. Written in the Jane Eyre author’s own hand, the 77-line poem and a 74-line story were found in the leaves of a book belonging to her mother and sold to the society in 2015.’

Fascinating stuff! Read more here .

 

Waterstones Announce Winner

Waterstones CBP 20182018 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize

Waterstones have announce the winners of this years prize, and what three fantastic books they are.

Every year since Ottakar’s (remember them?) started the prize, the longlist titles have always been great. The short list is inevitably fantastic, voted from the longlist by Children’s Booksellers, and always food for debate as everyone has their favourites. What we can always be assured by, is that the winners will be outstanding!

This year the category winners are:

Secret Black Roc winnerIllustrated Book

 

Nevermoor winnerYounger Fiction

 

Hate u give winnerOlder Fiction and Overall Winner

Reviews will be forthcoming,

Women are having different fantasies…

Romantic Fiction in the Age of Trump

In the wake of #MeToo and Time’s Up, how do authors write a good sex scene? How ‘bad’ should the bad boy be?

This is a very interesting and thought-provoking piece on the romance genre. It gave me cause to go back to when I started pinching my Mum’s Mills and Boon to read under the blankets. I would have been about 14. I really loved those books, and have thought about trying to track down some titles from that era to read again. I never have, because I think is would spoil those teenage memories, as I’d probably dislike them now.  I looked at some old book covers. These three are quite tame but still reflect what we would now consider a very disturbing feature of the story. The heroines are NOT having fun. On the first she is clearly scared, on the second she looks like she’s in pain (is he spanking her? a play on the word ‘tenderkiss’ ?) and on the third she’s holding a knife to her throat!

Having come back to reading romance this past year, I’m staggered at the breadth of sub-genres there are, and at the very dramatic change in covers. I wonder if in years to come there’ll be a newspaper article about naked/semi-naked men on books covers?

I can honestly say that I cannot think of anything that isn’t covered. Erotica and BDSM coverage didn’t surprise me, I was a bit surprised at the amount of shape-shifter romance, but amusingly surprised at the Artificial Intelligence, ‘million dollar man’ style of romance. I can honestly say that romance and sex with what is tantamount to a robot, is not my genre. If it’s yours, that’s great – whatever rocks your boat!

More to the point though, this article raises some very interesting points about the leading men in the novels we read, and the leading ladies who dally with them. Read it and see what you think, and let me know – I’m interested in other people’s opinions.

Read it here.

 

Smugglers!

I couldn’t find any romance novels about book smuggling, but here instead are some about smugglers of various sorts. Enjoy!

Unknown Ajax – Georgette Heyer

Unknown AjaxHugo Darracott, an enormous figure of a young man, arrives at Darracott Place in Sussex to find his family waiting: his grandfather, Lord Darracott; his uncle, Matthew, a politician, his wife, Lady Aurelia and their sons Vincent and Claud; and his uncle Rupert’s widow Elvira and her children Anthea and Richmond. They are, it is immediately apparent, expecting “a fellow who eats off his knife”: that is, a working or at best lower middle-class man. Hugo obligingly applies a Yorkshire accent and looks gormless. It rapidly becomes apparent to Hugo that things are not all quite straightforward at Darracott Place; among other things he is disconcerted by the positive attitude towards smuggling that his family display. He is also unimpressed by the financial status of the family: while the lands are clearly rich, the tenants’ farms are ill-maintained and so indeed are the family buildings (both Darracott Place itself and the Dower house which is reputed to be haunted and is maintained by a single servant). It emerges that Richmond, bored with being kept at home with nothing to do, has joined in the smuggling .

The Talisman Ring – Georgette Heyer

Talisman RingOn his deathbed, Baron Lavenham arranges a marriage between his great-nephew, Sir Tristram Shield, and his young French granddaughter, Eustacie de Vauban. His grandson and heir, Ludovic, is on the run on the Continent, after allegedly murdering a man in a dispute over a valuable heirloom, the talisman ring. The romantic Eustacie, appalled by her betrothed’s phlegmatic character, runs away and soon encounters a smuggler, who turns out to be her cousin Ludovic. The two take refuge at a local inn, after Ludovic is injured escaping from Excisemen. There they encounter an older lady, Miss Sarah Thane, who vows to help them.

 

Smuggler’s Summer – Carola Dunn

Smugglers SummerWhat a difference there is in the way our two young ladies view a summer spent at an isolated castle in Wales! To beautiful young Julia Langston, used to the doings of the ton, it is a dreary incarceration; her father has banished her from London in the hope she will forget her most unsuitable suitor, James Winn. But to Octavia Gray, her plumpish, rather plain cousin, just to able to leave her busy home, where the hum of political discourse dominates all conversations, and see the countryside for the first time, is an adventure.
Octavia, summoned to be company for Julia, doesn’t have an easy task. Julia wants her sympathy and her help in furthering the forbidden romance with James. Sir Tristram looks to her for reassurance that his chances are still alive. And Octavia finds to her distress that — dare we tell? — she herself has a growing romantic interest in the delightful Sir Tristram, although he, alas, is smitten by the uncaring Julia.
In spite of all this, there are more adventures for Octavia than merely a change of scene.  Read on with hope.

The Smuggler and the Society Bride – Julia Justiss

Smuggler and BrideLady Honoria Carlow, leading Diamond of the Ton, daughter of the Earl of Narborough, was in disgrace. Her spirited nature had led her too far this time. And she was – in reputation at least – ruined. And it seemed, even on the storm-tossed coast of Cornwall, she was not free of temptation. Gabriel Hawksworth may be a gentleman by birth, but a smuggler was unlikely to rescue a Lady from scandal. Indeed Honoria began to suspect the dazzling blue eyes of the Irish sea-captain were luring her right back to what she’d run from – trouble!

Smuggler – Angelina Spears

SmugglerA shy young woman, a mysterious smuggler, a steamy Caribbean adventure…
With university behind her, Jessica Densley is on one last vacation before starting her safe, uneventful career as a geologist. She’s perfectly happy just lounging by the pool but her wild friend Daphne will have none of it. While out exploring, she disappears!
At her wit’s end, Jessica has no choice but to team up with the mysterious Ryker Prins, a man everybody on Curacao respects… and fears. As dangerous men are after them, Jessica will need to learn to trust Ryker in spite of his deep secrets. But mostly, she will need to find a way to not fall prey to his irresistible charm.

Waiting for a Rogue Like You – Samantha Holt

Rogue Like YouHe knows trouble when he sees it. Fortunately, Drake likes trouble, especially when it comes in a particularly attractive package. While he and his crew of smugglers are waiting for their next job, Julianna makes a welcome distraction from the damned ache in his leg and the scars making his skin itch. A shame Julianna doesn’t like him one jot then, not even when he rescues her and promises to bring her to her brother. She knows a rogue when she sees one and the last thing she needs is another man in her life telling her what to do. Not even her brother.
A brother who happens to be the face of the smuggling operation Drake partakes in. And a terrifying face at that. Knight is the muscle behind the crew, ensuring their cover remains in place so that they can help the war effort whilst making a pretty penny. Knight won’t be too happy when he finds out Drake has decided Julianna is a challenge he more than welcomes.
It’s a risk he’s more than willing to take.

The Reluctant Smuggler – Teresa Desjardien

Reluctant SmugglerLeft penniless after the death of her husband, widow Charlotte Deems is desperate for funds to help provide for her young son and joins forces with Lord Sebastian Whitbury, a handsome aristocrat lacking the funds to marry his intended, in an illicit but perilous scheme to make a fortune.

Book Smugglers Day – 16th March

On a round of Google distraction, where I keep following links that interest me, and I while away a couple fo hours, I discovered that in Lithuania they celebrate Book Smugglers Day. At first i thought this was something fun (along the lines of Speak Like a Pirate Day), but it turned out to be much more serious, rebellious, and amazing than anything so trivial. Here is a short explanation of what it is about.

Book SmugglersLithuanian book smugglers transported Lithuanian language books printed in the Latin alphabet into Lithuanian-speaking areas of the Russian Empire, defying a ban on such materials in force from 1864 to 1904. Opposing imperial Russian authorities’ efforts to replace the traditional Latin orthography with Cyrillic, and transporting printed matter from as far away as the United States to do so, the book smugglers became a symbol of Lithuanians’ resistance to Russification.

Book smugglers themselves, at first motivated by religious conviction and later by national pride and adventure, were the great heroes of this endeavor. The smugglers risked their freedom and their lives, carrying the materials across the heavily guarded German-Russian border. The determination to continue the smuggling went on through the years of the prohibition as new generations joined the struggle.

I can think of few nobler causes than risking everything to maintain your language and culture through smuggling books. Find out more here.

 

 

Book Bites : St Patrick’s Day

Preparing for  great day.

At home on St Patrick’s Day, we indulge in our particular favourite food and drinks, and this year will be no exception. Before we begin though, I want to make two things very clear, while soda bread and soda farls are Irish, they are two separate and very different things. See the pictures below.

Soda bread on the left – soda farls on the right

Equally, we don’t have potato cakes; they are different to potato farls, which we do have. Again, see pictures.

Potato farls on the left – potato cakes on the right

I have family recipes for soda bread, (plain and fruited), soda farls, and potato farls, all handed down from my Great-Grandmother.

Chef Paul Rankin his own Irish Selection which is very handy for everyone – I buy it myself.

Breakfast, Lunch, Tea or Dinner:

An Ulster Fry (although these days we grill everything) is the ultimate delicious blow-out meal. It consists of:

  • soda farls
  • potato farls
  • sausages
  • bacon
  • vegetable roll
  • black pudding
  • eggs
  • tomatoes
  • beans

These can be mixed and matched depending on how much you want to eat. Optional extras include burgers and Lorne (a Scottish favourite).

And for other meals there is of course Irish Stew or Colcannon

Pot of Tea and Cake

Irish tea is strong. As I tell my friends ‘strong enough to hold the spoon up’, though of course you can make it to suit your taste.  The tea of my childhood was Nambarrie or Punjana, loose leaf, and brewed in a teapot. Eaten with tea is Barmbrack, Paris Buns, Butter Biscuits,  my Grandma Sadie’s Potato Cake (not to be confused with those mentioned previously), or my Granny Grey’s Boiled Cake. (The boiling part isn’t the cake, it’s the fruit before you make the cake.) Here are my family recipes for the latter two:

Sadie’s Teatime Potato Cake

Granny Grey’s Boiled Fruit Cake

Alcohol

Has to be:

Bushmills whiskey – the world’s oldest distillery or Jameson’s whiskey. If you want to mix Black Busha whiskey cocktail here a couple of my favourites:

Blarney Stone – shot of whiskey with freshly squeezed lime and ginger beer

Irish Kiss – equal parts of whiskey and peach schnaps, two parts orange juice and ginger beer

Irish Rose – 2 parts whiskey, 1.5 parts each of lemon juice and grenadine

Irish Martini – 1 part Baileys, 2 parts whiskey, half part warm (not hot) strong back coffee

Irish Wolfhound – equal parts of whiskey and ginger beer and half part of red grapefruit juice

Guinness

GuinnessGuinness washes the Colcannon down nicely. Relaxing in the evening with a whiskey or two is just perfect. You can always pollute the Guinness to make Guinness Mixes or Cocktails. Here are a few:

Black Velvet – Guinness and Champagne

Brown Velvet – Guinness and Cider This was so-called because it was the poor man’s Black Velvet. I’ve discovered that it is now called a Snakebite. Strangely, in my younger, drinking days a Snakebite was a very different cocktail!

Black and Tan – Guinness and Pale Ale

Irish Boilermaker – Guinness, half shot of Baileys, half shot of Irish whiskey, put the 2 half shot in a shot glass, drop the shot glass into the Guinness . (This has an offensive name referencing the ‘Troubles’ and cars. As it is based on the traditional Boilermaker, I’ve named it the Irish Boilermarker instead.)

Getting yourself sorted the day after…try a British Army favourite, Gunfire. Hot black tea with a shot of dark rum.

If you’d like recipes for anything I haven’t provided one for, please just ask.

Enjoy St Patrick’s Day.

St Patrick’s Day

St Patrick WindowPreparing for a great day.

Before I get to the recommended books, I’d like to think a bit about the actual day.  It’s unfortunate when a Christian feast or holy day becomes disconnected from its meaning. St Valentine, Easter, Christmas, Whitsun, have been broken on the rocks of secularisation. I hold no great desire to make anyone adhere to any religious belief, and while March 17th is still known as St Patrick’s Day, it has been buried under a tsunami of drinking, dressing in silly hats and costumes, leprechauns, and colouring everything from faces to drinks and food in vivid shades of green.

Saint Patrick and Ireland, in terms of celebration, are practically synonymous.  Patrick was born in the 4th century and captured by slavers when he was a young man. He went on to become a great missionary. His conversion of the Irish people was swift, and most importantly, peaceful.

So whether you celebrate the day in the time-honoured manner, or spend it in a more chilled and relaxed way, how better to do the one or recover from the other, than with some great Irish romances, and some food and drink from our Book Bites page to help you read and/or recover.

BinchyFirst book is from the wonderful writer Maeve Binchy, and I’ve chosen a favourite of mine, Circle of Friends.

It began with Benny Hogan and Eve Malone, growing up, inseparable, in the village of Knockglen. Benny—the only child, yearning to break free from her adoring parents…Eve—the orphaned offspring of a convent handyman and a rebellious blue-blood, abandoned by her mother’s wealthy family to be raised by nuns. Eve and Benny—they knew the sins and secrets behind every villager’s lace curtains…except their own. It widened at Dublin, at the university where Benny and Eve met beautiful Nan Mahlon and Jack Foley, a doctor’s handsome son. But heartbreak and betrayal would bring the worlds of Knockglen and Dublin into explosive collision. Long-hidden lies would emerge to test the meaning of love and the strength of ties held within the fragile gold bands of circle of friends.

OBrienNext is an equally brilliant author, Edna O’Brien, and her classic, Country Girls. Published in 1960, it broke through some of the silence on sex and social issues. After the Second World War, Ireland was particularly repressive in these areas, and the Irish Censor banned the book. Indeed, her family were shamed and it is alleged that their parish priest publicly burned copies of the book.

It is the early 1960s in a country village in Ireland. Caithleen Brady and her attractive friend Baba are on the verge of womanhood and dreaming of spreading their wings in a wider world; of discovering love and luxury and liquor and above all, fun. With bawdy innocence, shrewd for all their inexperience, the girls romp their way through convent school to the bright lights of Dublin – where Caithleen finds that suave, idealised lovers rarely survive the real world.

AherneFor a more modern taste I have chosen the fabulous Cecelia Ahern’s, Love, Rosie.

What happens when two people who are meant to be together just can’t seem to get it right? Rosie and Alex are destined for one another, and everyone seems to know it but them. Best friends since childhood, their relationship gets closer by the day, until Alex gets the news that his family is leaving Dublin and moving to Boston. At 17, Rosie and Alex have just started to see each other in a more romantic light. Devastated, the two make plans for Rosie to apply to colleges in the U.S. She gets into Boston University, Alex gets into Harvard, and everything is falling into place, when on the eve of her departure, Rosie gets news that will change their lives forever: She’s pregnant by a boy she’d gone out with while on the rebound from Alex. Her dreams for college, Alex, and a glamorous career dashed, Rosie stays in Dublin to become a single mother, while Alex pursues a medical career and a new love in Boston. But destiny is a funny thing, and in this novel, structured as a series of clever e-mails, letters, notes, and a trail of missed opportunities, Alex and Rosie find out that fate isn’t done with them yet.

Roberts 1Nora Roberts is a prolific and bestselling author who has many novels set in or about people from Ireland. In this case, I have chosen a trilogy about the Concannon sisters. Born In Fire  is the first.

Maggie and Brianna Concannon are two very different sisters. The calm and gentle Bri seems able to weather any storm, even the constant criticism that rains down on them both from their mother, but Maggie is a passionate and fiery artist whose temper is as bold as her art. Their mother’s bitterness is a mystery to Bri and Maggie, until secrets from the past challenge everything they’ve come to believe. It’s Maggie’s skill as a glass blower that brings Rogan Sweeney, the international gallery owner, to her small cottage in County Clare. His interest in her is purely professional, until their personalities clash and sparks begin to fly . . . As her career takes off, how will Maggie cope with the heat of the spotlight and feelings for Rogan that she would rather ignore?

Born in Ice is the second book, and Born in Shame is the third.

LaniganSusan Lanigan’s White Feathers is on my to read pile as it was recommended to me by someone whose opinion I value, so I have no hesitation in passing on the recommendation.

Two lives in danger – her lover’s and her sister’s. But she must choose only one. In 1913, young Irish emigrant Eva Downey is trapped in London with a remote father and hostile stepmother. When she is awarded a legacy from an old suffragette to attend a finishing school in Kent, she jumps at the chance. At the school, she finds kinship and later falls in love with her teacher Christopher Shandlin, her intellectual equal. But when war does break out, her fanatical and disapproving stepsister Grace forces a choice on Eva. She must present Shandlin, who refuses to fight, with a white feather of cowardice, or no money will be given for her sister Imelda’s life-saving treatment in Switzerland. Caught in a dilemma, she chooses her sister over her lover, a decision which will have irrevocable consequences for both her and Christopher and haunt her for the rest of her life.

GeraghtyThis Is Now by Ciara Geraghty is perhaps a little different from the run of the mill romance. Another one recommended to me which I am passing on to you.

An ordinary day. An ordinary bank. An ordinary street in an ordinary town. Nothing ever happens, until, one day, a shocking robbery turns life upside down for five people:

  • Cillian, a police detective
  • Martha, the woman he thought was the life of his life
  • Tobias, who came to Ireland after WWII and now lies in a coma, shot in the bank robbery
  • Roman, the young Polish teenager who is suspected of pulling the trigger
  • his mother Rosa, the cleaner, who dreamed of a better life for herself and her son

Things will never be ordinary again. Ciara Geraghty’s writing has that rare ability to make you laugh out loud as well as cry. She combines tangled human relationships with humour, romance and warmth to create something truly special.

GaynorA romance with a difference in The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor

Inspired by true events, the New York Times bestselling novel The Girl Who Came Home is the poignant story of a group of Irish emigrants aboard RMS Titanic—a seamless blend of fact and fiction that explores the tragedy’s impact and its lasting repercussions on survivors and their descendants. Ireland, 1912. Fourteen members of a small village set sail on RMS Titanic, hoping to find a better life in America. For seventeen-year-old Maggie Murphy, the journey is bittersweet. Though her future lies in an unknown new place, her heart remains in Ireland with Séamus, the sweetheart she left behind. When disaster strikes, Maggie is one of the lucky few passengers in steerage who survives. Waking up alone in a New York hospital, she vows never to speak of the terror and panic of that terrible night ever again. Chicago, 1982. Adrift after the death of her father, Grace Butler struggles to decide what comes next. When her Great Nana Maggie shares the painful secret she harboured for almost a lifetime about the Titanic, the revelation gives Grace new direction—and leads her and Maggie to unexpected reunions with those they thought lost long ago.

I’m a great lover of Teen/YA/NA fiction, and it would be remiss of me to leave these great books out of the list. I have to say that some of the best and greatest writing is for this age group and younger. Sadly I’ve seen and heard people mock adults for reading these books. It happens less frequently these days, but I am of the firmly held belief that anyone who denigrates or mocks adults for reading these books is an idiotic book-snob. 🙂

Kevin and Sadie 1 and 2The first is by Joan Lingard, an award-winning writer of both adult and children’s fiction. I read the Kevin and Sadie books many years ago, and as someone from Northern Ireland, with an Anglo-Irish background who was brought up to hate no-one, they resonated with me most deeply. I’m recommending the first two, The Twelfth of July and Across the Barricades. I actually recommend the entire series.

  • The Twelfth of July (1970)
  • Across the Barricades (1972)
  • Into Exile (1973)
  • A Proper Place (1975)
  • Hostages to Fortune (1976)

The Twelfth of July was published in 1970 by Penguin and received mixed reviews. There was certainly disapproval of the subject of the book, dealing as it did with a romance between a Roman Catholic and a Protestant.

  1. Sadie is Protestant, Kevin is Catholic – and on the tense streets of Belfast their lives collide. It starts with a dare – kids fooling around – but soon becomes something dangerous. Getting to know Sadie Jackson will change Kevin’s life forever. But will the world around them change too?
  2. Kevin and Sadie just want to be together, but it’s not that simple. Things are bad in Belfast. Soldiers walk the streets and the city is divided. No Catholic boy and Protestant girl can go out together – not without dangerous consequences. 

 

FoleyStill with Teen/YA, I recommend  Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley.

It’s 1993, and Generation X pulses to the beat of Kurt Cobain and the grunge movement. Sixteen-year-old Maggie Lynch is uprooted from big-city Chicago to a windswept town on the Irish Sea. Surviving on care packages of Spin magazine and Twizzlers from her rocker uncle Kevin, she wonders if she’ll ever find her place in this new world. When first love and sudden death simultaneously strike, a naive but determined Maggie embarks on a forbidden pilgrimage that will take her to a seedy part of Dublin and on to a life- altering night in Rome to fulfill a dying wish. Through it all, Maggie discovers an untapped inner strength to do the most difficult but rewarding thing of all, live.

Carrier MarkIrresistible romance collides with dark prophecies in Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon. This is an interesting book in that the author found a website for those who wanted to write teen fiction, and within weeks her story was in the top five. The site was called Inkpop, and her book was seen by an editor at HarperCollins. The rest as they say, is history.

99p Books

When Megan Rosenberg moves to Ireland, everything in her life seems to fall into place. She makes close friends with the girls in her class, her relationship with her dad is better than ever, and she finds herself inexplicably drawn to gorgeous, mysterious Adam DeRis.

Adam is cold and aloof at first, but when Megan finally breaks down the icy barrier between them, she is amazed by the intensity of their connection. Then Adam reveals a secret about the magical destiny that will shape both of their lives but also threatens to tear them apart.

Irish Blessing

2018 Man Booker International Longlist

What s the Man Booker International?

Man Booker Int 2018The Man Booker Prize is the leading literary award in the English-speaking world, and has brought recognition, reward and readership to outstanding fiction for over four decades. Each year, the prize is awarded to what is, in the opinion of the judges, the best novel of the year written in English and published in the UK. It is a prize that transforms the winner’s career. The Man Booker Prize is sponsored by Man Group and the winner receives £50,000 as well as the £2,500 awarded to each of the six shortlisted authors. Both the winner and the shortlisted authors are guaranteed a worldwide readership plus a dramatic increase in book sales.

The Man Booker International Prize was established in 2005, biannually rewarding an author for a body of work originally written in any language as long as it was widely available in English. From 2016, the prize became a translation prize, awarded annually for a single work of fiction, translated into English and published in the UK. Underlining the importance of translation, the £50,000 prize is divided equally between the author and the translator.

 A number of one-off prizes have been created in the past, from the Lost Man Booker Prize to the Man Booker ‘Best of Beryl’, each aimed at spreading the word about the finest in fiction.

The 2018 Longlist

Title                                                     Author & Nationality                      Translator

 The 7th Function of Language      Laurent Binet (France)                   Sam Taylor

The Impostor                                    Javier Cercas (Spain)                       Frank Wynne

Vernon Subutex 1                            Virginie Despentes (France)           Frank Wynne

Go, Went, Gone                               Jenny Erpenbeck (Germany)           Susan Bernofsky 

The White Book                               Han Kang (South Korea)                 Deborah Smith

Die, My Love                                     Ariana Harwicz (Argentina)          Sarah Moses &                                                                                                                                         Carolina Orloff

The World Goes On                        László Krasznahorkai (Hungary)  J Batki, O Mulzet & G                                                                                                                               Szirtes 

Like a Fading Shadow                    Antonio Muñoz Molina (Spain)     Camilo A. Ramirez

The Flying Mountain                        Christoph Ransmayr (Austria)     Simon Pare

Frankenstein in Baghdad               Ahmed Saadawi (Iraq)                    Jonathan Wright 

Flights  Olga                                      Tokarczuk (Poland)                         Jennifer Croft

The Stolen Bicycle                           Wu Ming-Yi (Taiwan)                       Darryl Sterk

The Dinner Guest                            Gabriela Ybarra (Spain)                  Natasha Wimmer

 

Wellcome Prize Longlist

According to their website, the Wellcome Book Prize

is an annual award, open to new works of fiction or non-fiction. To be eligible for entry, a book should have a central theme that engages with some aspect of medicine, health or illness. This can cover many genres of writing – including crime, romance, popular science, sci-fi and history.

At some point, medicine touches all our lives. Books that find stories in those brushes with medicine are ones that add new meaning to what it means to be human. The subjects these books grapple with might include birth and beginnings, illness and loss, pain, memory, and identity. In keeping with its vision and goals, the Wellcome Book Prize aims to excite public interest and encourage debate around these topics.

The short list will be announced on March 20th, with the winner announced on April 20th. This is their longlist, which was announced in February:

Wellcome Prize Longlist

 

Tracy Beaker : The Adult Years…

JWilsonJacqueline Wilson’s most famous character is making a comeback. Tracy Beaker returns as an adult, a single mum with a daughter called Jess. It is from Jess’s perspective that the book is written.

To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about this; I am in equal measures Tracy Beakerexcited, appalled, and curious. Tracy Beaker and Jacqueline Wilson’s books were a huge part of my daughter’s reading life. Even in throughout her teens, publication of a new Jacqueline Wilson book meant  had to bring one home for her. I think she read the last one just before she went of to university. When I told her of the project, her response was that she is unsure, it’s weird, but she’d probably read it if only to see what its like.

Read the article here.

Claire Armitstead doesn’t like the idea, nor the fact that Raymond Briggs’ Snowman is being turned into a chapter book , albeit written by the great Michael Morpurgo. (Click on her name to read the article)

 

The One with All the Bridesmaids

The One with All the Bridesmaids – Erin Lawless

All the BridesmaidsNora Dervan is ready for her Happy Ever After. With her darling Harry waiting at the altar, and all her family and friends around her. She is certain that her special day will not be forgotten/will be one to remember, but with her four bridesmaids hiding more secrets than bottles of champagne, will her big day be remembered for all the right reasons?

Bea has barely gotten past the fact that her two best friends are dating, and now they’re engaged, whilst cupid’s arrow points in a forbidden direction for Cleo. She is so distracted by her off-limits, hot new colleague that she has forgotten Daisy, who has been left dreading the singles table. There’s more romance in the cheesy pick-up lines than Sarah’s own marriage, which hasn’t turned out as she hoped it would be.

With her wicked sense of humour and refreshingly honest voice, Erin Lawless brings to the life the romance (and horrors!) of wedding season.

This in essence is a great book, centre on Nora the bride, her friends and bridesmaids, Cleo, Bea, Daisy, and Sarah. Added to the mix are the respective fiancées, husbands, boyfriends,  men friends, it is a great mix of different perspectives, individual issues, and several romances. So much of the activity around the wedding planning is hilarious, and the ‘bridezilla effect’ is there at least in part. I really liked Cleo, who quite honestly could have done with a book all to herself, and I felt a lot of sympathy for Sarah.

The book is good, and I have no hesitation in recommending it. For me though, there were just too many characters with their own stories, some of whom I just couldn’t become invested in. Occasionally I lost track of who was who, and what was what. It was like a giant buffet where you walk along trying to decide what to eat, but by the time you get to the end you’ve forgotten what was at the beginning. More depth on fewer stories would have suited me better. That said, it was enjoyable, and I particularly loved the real life anecdotes that started some of the chapters. Seriously, you couldn’t make some of that stuff up!

 

So in the end I do recommend reading it.

The Exact Opposite of Okay

The Exact Opposite of Okay – Laura Steven

Exact OppositeIzzy O’Neill here! Impoverished orphan, aspiring comedian and Slut Extraordinaire, if the gossip sites are anything to go by. Izzy never expected to be 18 and internationally reviled. But when explicit photos involving her, a politician’s son and a garden bench are published online, the trolls set out to take her apart. Armed with best friend Ajita and a metric ton of nachos, she tries to laugh it off – but as the daily slut-shaming intensifies, she soon learns that the way the world treats teenage girls is not okay.

It’s The Exact Opposite of Okay.

Well, there is nothing like tackling an issue head on, and Laura Steven does just that. It’s a very powerful book, and given the media spotlight on how young women and girls are abused and bullied on the internet, it is extremely apropos. What Laura does, is take the reader on a rollercoaster of emotions; laughing and crying, happy and despairing. How do you deal with the fact that one day you are with your friends, happy and loving life, the next the internet is awash with very explicit photographs of you?

The social judgement, revenge porn, slut-shaming, victim blaming, male entitlement and more is  terrifying. Yet no matter how low and despairing it gets, you come away feeling emboldened and encouraged.  If  you do not know much about feminism or maybe are unsure what it means, this book will give some the reader some illumination.

On a less serious note, I spent a lot of time laughing; this book is riddled with humour!  The characters are well drawn, their voices are fresh and immediate, and you cannot help but become invested in them. Izzy comes across as a tough, strong girl, but in fact she is as vulnerable as everyone else, which we discover as the story progresses. As this book is aimed at an audience of teenage girls and young women, pulling away the layers of Izzy ‘front’ is a really great device to show that underneath, there is another Izzy who is just like the rest of us. Her friend Ajita provides the best friend support, and their relationship feels real and relatable. Anita’s development as a character is also excellent, but most of all I liked how her background, ethnicity, culture (call it what you will) impacts on her decision-making. Equally, well drawn are two good women;  Betty, Izzy’s Grandmother, and Mrs Crannon, Izzy’s teacher, who provided her with essential love and support.

It is astounding to think that this is a debut novel. If Laura Steven keeps this standard in her next novels, she is going to be a writing force to be reckoned with.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

 

Ottercombe Bay – Part One

Ottercombe Bay, Part One – Bella Osborne

OttercombeEscape to the Devon coast, with Part One of a brand-new four-part serial from the author of Willow Cottage.

Daisy Wickens has returned to Ottercombe Bay, the picturesque Devon town where her mother died when she was a girl. She plans to leave as soon as her great uncle’s funeral is over, but Great Uncle Reg had other ideas. He’s left Daisy a significant inheritance – an old building in a state of disrepair, which could offer exciting possibilities, but to get it she must stay in Ottercombe Bay for twelve whole months. 
With the help of a cast of quirky locals, a few gin cocktails and a black pug with plenty of attitude, Daisy might just turn this into something special. But can she ever hope to be happy among the ghosts of her past?

There are only 9 chapters, and as I found myself so irritated by Daisy, the lead character, I nearly gave up. She’s selfish, arrogant, self-important, and ungrateful. So annoyed was I, that I wondered what in the name of romance the author thought she was doing. Then bit by bit it inveigled its way in, until I hit chapters 8 and 9. What a turn!What a twist! So now I’m invested, intrigued, enthralled, and have to keep going.

I like Jason and Tamsyn. I have high hopes for Max; annoying, but not quite at the same level of irritation as Daisy.

Part 2 here I come. Clever ploy, dear author, I hope it lives up to expectations. 🙂

 

2018 Women’s Prize Long List

According to their website, the Wellcome Book Prize

is an annual award, open to new works of fiction or non-fiction. To be eligible for entry, a book should have a central theme that engages with some aspect of medicine, health or illness. This can cover many genres of writing – including crime, romance, popular science, sci-fi and history.

At some point, medicine touches all our lives. Books that find stories in those brushes with medicine are ones that add new meaning to what it means to be human. The subjects these books grapple with might include birth and beginnings, illness and loss, pain, memory, and identity. In keeping with its vision and goals, the Wellcome Book Prize aims to excite public interest and encourage debate around these topics.

The short list will be announced on March 20th, with the winner announced on April 20th. This is their longlist, which was announced in February:

Wellcome Prize Longlist

 

Stories of Obsession

 

Obsession takes many forms, and is enacted in many ways. Literature is awash with characters whose lives have been struck down, and diminished by their or someone else’s obsession.

Dorian Gray is obsessed with youthful looks, very apropos today. He sees the portrait of himself …

‘How sad it is!’ murmured Dorian Gray with his eyes still fixed upon his own portrait. ‘How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young … If it were only the other way! 

He gets his wish, only for it to be his ultimate downfall.

Mrs Danvers is obsessed by the first Mrs de Winter, the Rebecca of the title. When the second Mrs de Winter appears, she does what she can to drive her to suicide.

She did not hear me, she went on raving like a madwoman, a fanatic, her long fingers twisting and tearing the black stuff of her dress … ‘She’s still mistress here, even if she is dead. She’s the real Mrs de Winter, not you … none of us want you.’ 

Unlike other stories, the reader doesn’t know what happens to Mrs Danvers in the end. Her fate is left hanging as the narrator says:  I wonder what she is doing now

Victor Frankenstein is fascinated by the creation of life, and is consumed by his pursuit to create a human. He realises the toll it hs taken on him.

 For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation.

Of course the real victim in this tale is the creature he has created,  who receives little other than cruelty and abuse.

Here is a link to ten tales of obsession,

from Stephen King’s avid fan in Misery to Nabokov’s disturbing tale of preteen Lolita, fixation is a powerful pull for authors – especially when it overlaps with desire

 

 

Book Bites

When I settle down to read, its usually for at least a couple of hours so I always prepare a feast of drinks and nibbles to sustain me. It also means I don’t have to break my concentration to go and make food and drinks.

I have all sorts of favourites depending on what I’m reading, what mood I’m in, or even what time of year it is. My recipes come from all sorts of places, and from all over the world.  If its part of my own collection I post the full recipe and method here, if not it wiil be from a website, so there will be links.

For clarity, I receive absolutely nothing from anyone, any company, or any website for recommending recipes or drinks. These are recipes I and my family use, and drinks we make or purchase. 

So if you too like to nibble while you read, then I hope you enjoy the recipes I’ll post here. If you need help with converting UK and USA measurements, check our conversion page here.

Salted Caramel Popcorn Bars with Marshmallow & Chocolate & Salted Caramel Sauce

20180203_CaramelPopcornBars_square-cuts-3d-loMakes approximately 16

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
 The full recipe from Feast In Thyme.
These are delicious, and you can cut them as big or as small as you wish. The popcorn will probably lose it crunch, but they should a couple of days in a container.

Photograph courtesy of feastinthyme.com

And if you are in the mood for something other than tea or coffee to wash down those yummy treats, try this delicious tisane from T2:

T2 Fruitalicious Tisane

A tantalising mix of cranberries, blueberries, dragon fruit and goji berries, your taste buds will be deliriously screaming for mercy! It’s sooo Fruitalicious, babe! 

This is one of my favourite drinks.

The Book World is Sexist

The books world is sexist and a one day promotion isn’t enough to fix it

For International Women’s Day, Waterstones has given over its website front page to female authors. This is welcome, but it’s far from enough

I was blown away by the statistics in this article by Danuta Kean, and heartbroken by them as well. While women dominate book buying and book rating in the UK, men dominate both the books being reviewed as well as the reviewers. Kean asks if that matters, and gives the answer.

It’s sad that one genre that is dominated by female authors – Romance – is one that is mocked and sneered at in a way that men’s books aren’t. We have ‘chicklit‘ but not ‘blokelit‘, and ‘women’s fiction‘ but not ‘men’s fiction‘. Why is that?

Any way. Do read the article, it very enlightening and informing.

 

https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2018/mar/08/sales-promotion-gender-inequality-books-international-womens-day

Book Burning

It’s a sad day here at HSBS after reading this article today. Its about a bookshop in Berkeley California, called Revolution Books targeted by demonstrators. Check out their website – I would certainly shop there (maybe not for romance – though you never know…). This is what they say about themselves:

People come to Revolution Books from all over the world to find the books and the deep engagement with each other about why the world is the way it is and the possibility of a radically different way the world could be. 

The world today, with all its horrors, holds the potential for something far better. To unlock that – at the foundation of RB – is the most advanced scientific theory and leadership for an actual revolution for the emancipation of humanity: the new synthesis of communism brought forward by the revolutionary leader, Bob Avakian. 

RB is a bookstore with literature, history, science, art, philosophy, and revolutionary theory….a place of discovery and engagement. Scientific and poetic, wrangling and visionary. A bookstore at the center of a movement for revolution. 

They have been targeted and threatened with burning, and that shocked me. It is utterly abhorrent for any human-being to taunt and threaten bookshop employees with (and I quote) We’re gonna burn down your bookstore, you know that right? 

It is astonishing to me that a nation born out of bloody revolution should think this is acceptable. As an historian, as a book lover, as a human being, the idea of burning books (never mind a bookstore) is absolutely abhorrent to me, but the act has a long and dark history. It is a form of censorship and is seated usually within a political, cultural, or religious context. It is not just the content of books, but also the authors themselves that are opposed.

I have tried to live my life under the philosophy that while I might despise what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say it. (I’m talking here about the right to think, not about acting on those thoughts, that is another matter.) The 19th German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine, who wrote this in his 1820 play Almansor :

Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen

Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.

His books were burned by the Nazis.

While we may sit by and think this is about politics, it doesn’t apply to romance novels. Think about it? What if some group decided that all those erotic romance novels should be burned? What if they oppose sex outside marriage? What about LGBTQ romance? In this volatile world of my opinion counts but your’s doesn’t, of gun crime, and knife crime, we are a few steps away from it happening, unless we stand up for our and other people’s right to think as we choose, not as we are told, to read the books that we want. I give the final word to my beloved Dr Who:

Dr Who

 

The Man Who Didn’t Call

The Man Who Didn’t Call – Rosie Walsh

Man didnt callThe Man Who Didn’t Call by Rosie Walsh is a heart-wrenching love story with a dark secret at its heart, for anyone who’s waited for a phone call that didn’t come.

Imagine you meet a man, spend six glorious days together, and fall in love. And it’s mutual: you’ve never been so certain of anything. So when he leaves for a long-booked holiday and promises to call from the airport, you have no cause to doubt him.
But he doesn’t call.

Your friends tell you to forget him, but you know they’re wrong: something must have happened; there must be a reason for his silence. What do you do when you finally discover you’re right? That there is a reason — and that reason is the one thing you didn’t share with each other?

The truth.

 

Where to start?  I’ve been thinking about the adjectives I need to describe Rosie Walsh’s new book.

Powerful. Moving. Heart-breaking. Brilliant. Compassionate. Gripping. Stunning.

The Man Who Didn’t Call is all of these.

Sarah is English, living in LA but separated from the husband with whom she is in business. Back in her home village, she meets Eddie and they connect. Over the week of their affair, they fall deeply in love. When Eddie fails to call Sarah as promised, she is gripped by that awful behaviour we know so well. Consumed with sending more and more messages to him, while checking the phone, checking messages, just looking for any contact at all. Her heart is broken.

What follows is a tale of secrets and grief, love and compassion, with enough twists and turns to build your own nightmare roller-coaster. Rosie Walsh writes in the most compelling way. Her characters are real, regular, flawed human beings, and we get the tale from both perspectives. She covers infertility, mental health, and loss, yet the darker corners are alleviated by the understated humour that is also woven throughout. This is no heavy, sorrowful book, but a really intriguing and wonderful tale of forgiveness and redemption, and of course love.

The deeper I got into the book, the faster I tried to read.  If it becomes one of those books that people talk about and recommend for many years to come, I will not be in the least bit surprised.

Read it. You won’t regret it.

Some Book Suggestions for Mother’s Day

The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club (Kindle Edition) – Sophie Green

FairvaleIn 1978 in Australia’s Northern Territory, life is hard and people are isolated. Telephones are not yet a common fixture. But five women find a way to connect. Sybil, the matriarch of Fairvale Station, misses her eldest son and is looking for a distraction, while Kate, Sybil’s daughter-in-law, is thousands of miles away from home and finding it difficult to adjust to life at Fairvale.  Sallyanne, mother of three, dreams of a life far removed from the dusty town where she lives with her difficult husband. Rita, Sybil’s oldest friend, is living far away in Alice Springs and working for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Della, who left Texas for Australia looking for adventure and work on the land, needs some purpose in her life. 

Sybil comes up with a way to give them all companionship: they all love to read, and she starts a book club. As these five women bond over their love of books, they form friendships that will last a lifetime.


Two from the Heart –  James Patterson   Paperback  8th Mar 2018

PattersonAnne McWilliams has lost everything. After her marriage falls apart and a hurricane destroys her home she realises that her life has fallen out of focus. So she takes to the road to ask long-lost friends and strangers a simple question: ‘What’s your best story?’ Can the funny, tragic, inspirational tales she hears on her journey help Anne see what she’s been missing? 
Tyler Bron seemingly has it all – a successful company and more money than he knows how to spend. But he has no life. So he hires a struggling novelist to write one for him. There are no limits to the fictional world that Bron’s money can transform into a reality, and he soon becomes the protagonist of a love story beyond his wildest imagination. But will Tyler Bron be able to write the happy ending himself?


Coming Home to Island House  – Erica James

JamesIt’s the summer of 1939, and after touring an unsettled Europe to promote her latest book, Romily Temple returns home to Island House and the love of her life, the charismatic Jack Devereux. When Jack falls ill, his estranged family are called home and given seven days to find a way to bury their resentments and come together.

With war now declared, each member of the family is reluctantly forced to accept their new stepmother and confront their own shortcomings. But can the habits of a lifetime be changed in one week? And can Romily, a woman who thrives on adventure, cope with the life that has been so unexpectedly thrust upon her?


The Duchess  by Danielle Steel

SteelOrphaned. Betrayed. Determined.

Angélique Latham grew up at the magnificent Belgrave Castle with her father, the Duke of Westerfield, after the death of her mother. But when he dies, her half-brothers brutally deny her very existence and send her out into the world alone. 

At eighteen, Angélique has a keen mind, remarkable beauty and an envelope of money her late father pressed upon her. Unable to secure employment, Angélique desperately makes her way to Paris. To survive, she will need all her resources – and one bold stroke of fortune. Angélique takes an unfamiliar and unimaginable path in setting up what becomes a highly successful business. But she lives on the edge of scandal; can she ever make a life for herself?


My Italian Bulldozer – Alexander McCall Smith

BulldozerPaul Stuart, a renowned food writer, finds himself at loose ends after his longtime girlfriend leaves him for her personal trainer. To cheer him up, Paul’s editor, Gloria, encourages him to finish his latest cookbook on-site in Tuscany, hoping that a change of scenery (plus the occasional truffled pasta and glass of red wine) will offer a cure for both heartache and writer’s block. But upon Paul’s arrival, things don’t quite go as planned. A mishap with his rental-car reservation leaves him stranded, until a newfound friend leads him to an intriguing alternative: a bulldozer.  
With little choice in the matter, Paul accepts the offer, and as he journeys (well, slowly trundles) into the idyllic hillside town of Montalcino, he discovers that the bulldozer may be the least of the surprises that await him. What follows is a delightful romp through the lush sights and flavors of the Tuscan countryside, as Paul encounters a rich cast of characters, including a young American woman who awakens in him something unexpected.
A feast for the senses and a poignant meditation on the complexity of human relationships, My Italian Bulldozer is a charming and intensely satisfying love story for anyone who has ever dreamed of a fresh start.


The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir – Jennifer Ryan

IN WARTIME, SURVIVAL IS AS MUCH ABOUT FRIENDSHIP AS IT IS ABOUT COURAGE…

ChilburyKent, 1940. In the idyllic village of Chilbury change is afoot. Hearts are breaking as sons and husbands leave to fight, and when the Vicar decides to close the choir until the men return, all seems lost. But coming together in song is just what the women of Chilbury need in these dark hours, and they are ready to sing.

With a little fighting spirit and the arrival of a new musical resident, the charismatic Miss Primrose Trent, the choir is reborn. Some see the choir as a chance to forget their troubles, others the chance to shine. Though for one villager, the choir is the perfect cover to destroy Chilbury’s new-found harmony…


Full Circle –  Katie Flynn (writing as Judith Saxton)

Full Circle FlynnHitler’s war is reaching out to affect every member of the Neylor family. 
Val Neylor, driving an ambulance through the blazing heart of London, is in an impossible position, for the man she loves is a fighter pilot with the Luftwaffe. And Jenny, whose husband Simon is flying Spitfires, finds herself working as a landgirl on a Devon farm. 
Cara, by contrast, develops her social life, and Maudie, in the WAAF, falls in love with two men at once … And Tina, matriarch of the family loves them all, scolds them all, and tries to understand the new generation growing up in the troubled times of war.

The fourth and final novel in the Neylor Quartet, by a Sunday Times bestselling author.

The first three books are below. Treat your Mum, or your Gran, or just yourself to the set.

1. The Pride

1901 – Tina Rose is the beloved daughter of a wealthy Jewish family, while Edward grew up with an abusive father in the wilds of New Zealand.
Despite their differences, the two fall madly in love when Edward arrives in England, looking for a better future. 
However, the consequences of their love affair are terrible for Tina as she is shamed by the father she adores, and Edward is sent away. 
Against all the odds, Tina and Edward find each other again, and despite great hardship and tragedy, together they build a dynasty strong enough to withstand some of the worst catastrophes Britain has ever known.

2. The Glory

As WWI begins, no family, including the Neylers, will be left untouched, and by the time the war finally finishes, nothing will ever be the same again
Ted and Tina Neyler’s children are growing up, doomed to be drawn into the Great War: Frank will be scarred forever by one terrible day in the trenches, while Louis, the charming optimist, returns unscathed from the war to find that his wife and mistress have met up and that his misdemeanours are inexorably catching up with him.
But despite the tragedy they face, the Neylers realise that even war can’t break the bonds that keep them together.

3. The Splendour

It is 1931, and once again Europe is heading towards disaster. Life must go on however, and a new generation of the Neyler family are making their way in this turbulent world. 
Louis Rose, the self-confessed black sheep of the family, returns to England for his father’s funeral and is greeted with more bad news: he has lost his mistress to his young nephew. Louis’ son Simon, meanwhile, has matured and is embarking on his first love affair. The family hope he’ll have more luck in love that his father. 
Valentine Neyler, Simon’s cousin, visits Berlin for the Olympics, but finds herself experiencing first-hand the prejudice which is gripping Germany. Before she knows it she is caught up in the tragedy of a Jewish family struggling to escape the Nazi horror.


 

Who put the spark in Frankenstein’s monster?

FrankensteinCan you believe that it was 200 years ago, in 1818, that Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus was published?

The author Mary Shelley was just 21 years old, and even more remarkable is how prescient her book is today.

If you haven’t read it, I strongly encourage you to do so.

Read the Guardian article – its very interesting.