The Love Child by Rachel Hore

Bookstagram made me do it – as I was lucky enough to be selected by ‘Darkroom Tours’ to read and review ‘The Love Child’. Now, to be honest, if I judged this book by its cover, I would probably have decided that ths novel was not for me. However, that would have been completely the wrong decision to have made – this novel was completely for me.

This book swept me away as I followed the story of young Alice Copeman and Irene Burns. Two strong female characters in a time when society dictated the roles and expectations of women, which would not always lead to a happy ending. As we follow Alice’s story as she attempts to break into the field of medicine. So often dominated by men, she carries with her a secret that is also her inspiration and fuels her determination to be successful.

Simultaneously, Irene Burns is growing up in Suffolk. Always not sure she fully belongs, Irene wants to know her people because she believes it will complete her if she knows the past. It takes her on a journey of self-discovery – although maybe she always was with her people?

This is a beautifully written novel, which evokes all the emotions. However, it also tackles some of those tough issues of the early 20th century, which led to the displacement of children, because it was what society dictated – and reputation was everything.

I found this novel a wonderful page-turner and I am so glad to have discovered a new author through this wonderful bookish community.

Worzel Gummidge by Barbara Euphan Todd

One of the lovely things about Christmas is that it brings people together and creates memories. A very happy memory of this Christmas for me was us all watching the new adaptation of ‘Worzel Gummidge’ together. It was just a joyful piece of television and we all hope that there will be more episodes to come.

However, this also prompted me to read the book. What a joy that is, too! This was a lovely read to start 2020 with. A classic Children’s book, with the loveable scarecrow, a touch of magic and a great collection of characters. Susan, John and Worzel Gummidge have some great adventures in the countryside.

This is a traditional tale of simpler times – there is something very nostalgic about the book, which adds to its charm. It is really rather refreshing.

So, why not go and rediscover a classic whatever your age because sometimes all we need is the simple things in life.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Bookstagram made me do it – this was the novel that closed 2019 for me and I am so pleased that it did.

‘The Hunting Party’ was a book that I could not put down. In fact, it was the perfect travel companion as it made a recent train journey absolutely fly.

A New Year’s Eve tradition of a getaway for a group of old friends does not quite go according to plan when one of the party ends up dead. Which, as a reader, comes as no surprise as the destination of the getaway is the remote Scottish Highlands.

As the tale unfolds, there are colourful characters, dark secrets, and twists and turns. For once, I did not hold a lot of sympathy for the victim – but maybe their character was as insecure as those around them.

I enjoyed that the narrative is told from different viewpoints – each revealing different hints, clues and secrets as the tale unfolds. It was also quite a treat that the conclusion hinted at a happy ending for two characters who may have been running from their past. (And become caught up with quite a complex group of ‘friends’).

This is a book that may lead you to question if we ever really know anyone. A great read!

The End of 2019

It may be the first day of 2020 but, with festive days having been full of excitement, I have missed a round-up of the final books of 2019.

So here we go…

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

This book crossed over from my ‘Non-fiction November’ into December. ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ is a book that I have always wanted to read but it had never quite happened.

However, this is a book that I feel many of us should read. This is not just a memoir of Maya growing up in America, but it is a study of the society and culture at the time too. It tackles some uncomfortable issues – but that is the tale of the young girl’s life, however hard it may be for us to read.

This book is an inspiration, and I am keen to read the books that follow, to learn more about this inspirational lady.

Murder at Christmas

I enjoy a festive read and I enjoy a murder mystery – so this seemed a winning combination.

A collection of short stories – classic crime capers. Some were stronger than others as tales. However, overall it was an enjoyable collection of tales for these winter nights.

The Truth Pixie Goes to School by Matt Haig

Matt Haig is a writer that I admire for a number of reasons – but one of those reasons is that he can turn his hand to writing for both adults and children.

As I purchased this book, the bookseller also mentioned that he was a Matt Haig fan, but that this book may be too young for him. I tolf him that was not true, as I think anyone can enjoy these books about the Truth Pixie. They contain ideas and themes that we should all take note of.

Told in rhyme and supported with the illustrations of Chris Mould, this book is good fun for all ages, as we have all needed the friendship of the Truth Pixie from time to time.

Let It Snow

Having watched the Netflix Original Film and always enjoying some YA fiction, I have this book a read for the festive season.

A collection of three tales by three different authors, but all centred around the same town. Love and friendship are the main themes of all the tales. It is a nice read for the festive season and will inject you with the spirit of Christmas – and the desire for a white Christmas.

Death Comes as the End by Agatha Christie

Maidens of Murder December pick.

This may not be a traditional setting for a Christie novel – Ancient Egypt. However, it has all the other elements of a classic Christie novel. An enjoyable read as the tale unravels – I do not want to give any spoilers.

My only slight issue as a reader was getting my around all the names of the characters – but that was probably just me.

Peter Pan by J.M Barrie

A classic that I am not sure I have ever read – why not? Who knows? I saved this until December because I feel it is a really festive tale, maybe because it is now a classic pantomime.

This book was an absolute joy, as I knew it would be. There is adventure, heroes and villains, and a little bit of magic. It is just a wonderful tale – and makes you appreciate the importance of family and friends at all times.

Som there we are; quite a collection, there was one more but that will have a post of its own – as bookstagram made me do it.

Happy New Year – here is to happy 2020 reading!

Three Festive Reads…so far!

I love a theme or a focus when I pick my reads. In June, I ‘Read with Pride’; in November, it was about ‘Non-fiction’, and December is all about festive reads.

So, I have started with three quick reads (not at all motivated by the fact that I do not want to fail at my Goodreads target) and every one has created fantastic festive feels in different ways.

Father Christmas’s Fake Beard by Terry Pratchett

This book was an impulse buy a few weeks ago. The title contained Christmas and the author is Terry Pratchett, so I thought it was a win-win situation, and it was.

This collection of short stories, all based around Christmas, is full of wit and humour. They really reminded me of the tales of Roald Dahl, which made me happy because those were always favourites growing up.

This is a fantastic book for readers of all ages who want some Christmas spirit.

Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay

‘This is Going to Hurt’ has been quite the runaway hit in the book world. So, this festive ‘sequel’, which focuses fully on five Christmas shifts, is a gem.

Although some have referred to this as more of the same, I feel that is what makes it work. What I always think is important about these books is that it highlights the work of the NHS at this time of year. Things don’t stop (and thnak goodness for that), and life carries on as it needs to.

There is humour and sadness among these pages – and quite a study of human nature at times. And, for me, a real appreciation of the work of every member of the NHS, whtever the time of year.

The Snowman by Michael Morpurgo

Yes, that is by Michael Morpurgo and not Raymond Briggs, but this was done with the original author’s blessing.

This is not a retelling; after all, the original story is a picture book. For me, this is an intepretation of the tale, even making it more festive.

James is a boy who feels he does not quite fit in with everyone else. His stutter seems to hold him back. However, when he meets or makes The Snowman, combined with the magic of Christmas, things appear to change.

This book is great for those of us who grew up with the original. Also, it is a chance to introduce the tale to a whole new generation. So, spread the joy and grab a copy of this gem.

Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet

Ballet and Shakespeare: what could be more perfect? Thrown in with Matthew Bourne’s skill if setting his productions in unusual settings, you have a great evening of theatre.

Bourne’s ballet is set in an aslyum, which may not be the usual setting for one of Shakespeare’s greatest love stories, but it worked. Now, I do not claim to be an expert on the deeper ideas about the interpretations but for me this was about the patients versus the establishment, and the forbidden love comes from the ‘Girls’ and ‘Boys’ being divided.

Whatever the interpretation should be, the point is the fact that this is an enjoyable production. The choreography is engaging and tells the story beautifully at every stage. There is humour, raw emotion and devastating tragedy.

The staging is simple but powerful, the stark white of the patients costumes and their ‘prison’ is a great contrast to the tale unfolding on the stage. The dark form of Tybalt casts his shadow over the lives of the patients. And a violent, heart-breaking tale unfolds.

Having seen this and ‘Sleeping Beauty’, it makes me keen to see more of Matthew Bourne’s interpretations, as he is clearly not restrained by conventions.

Have you seen any of Matthew Bourne’s productions? What are your thoughts of his style?

The Choice by Edith Eger

I have just returned from Krakow, Poland. The purpose of this visit was to visit Auschwitz and educate young people on the past, present and future of the Jewish community of Europe. After all as the quote from George Santayna states, ‘Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’

One of the greatest ways for us to understand the tragic events of the Holocaust is from the testimonies and memories of those who sadly had to experience them. One such survivor was Edith Eger, and has put pen to paper to bring us a true story of hope in her work ‘The Choice’.

I knew nothing about this book until a friend had read it and passed it on to me, as she wanted a History teacher’s view of it. And she could not have timed it better to coincide with my trip to Poland.

Oh my – what a book – what a life. I am so glad that Edith Eger felt she could tell her story as part of her attempt to release herself from her past.

Edith became a prisoner of Auschwitz when her family was sent there along with thousands of Hungarian Jews. She talks about her experiences in the camp – even her encounter with Doctor Mengele. However, this is not the sole focus of the book; this is about the choices she consciously makes to survive. And these choices are made by Edith every day, from the moment she was taken to the camp right up to now.

Edith Eger comes across as an extremely strong woman who did not want her past to define her, but to allow her to become the woman she is today. Now, she helps others to make the choices they need to, for them to become the best versions of themselves. Edith does not want others to make the mistakes that were made in the past.

This book is one that is almost impossible to put down, as you follow Edith Eger through her life story. It certainly made me consider the choices I make a little more carefully as, ultimately, we are the only people in control of our future and we do not have to rely on others or events beyond our control to take over.

This book is an inspiration and certainly made me look at my trip to Krakow a little differently to those trips I had made before.

Bloody Brilliant Women by Cathy Newman

As a history teacher for the day job, this book really appealed to me. This may sound strange but I have not always been a fan of reading books about History. They can sometimes be very technical and very hard-going, which can, sometimes attack someone’s love of history. However, recently I have found some really excellent history books – and combined with a new love of learning have really embraced reading factual books.

Now, this book is ‘Bloody Brilliant’ in so many different ways. Number one, it is a book about women in history but more importantly it is about some of the women that the history books have not recognised quite as much as they should have done. Cathy Newman has done an amazing job of ensuring that they can now have more of the recognition that they deserve. It really inspired me to ensure that, as a woman, some of these women make it into lessons so that they are highlighted to future generations. You never know, they may be the inspiration someone needs to go forward and be ‘Bloody Brilliant’.

Number two, it is written in a wonderfully accessible way. It will bring history to many readers who may usually be put off by the idea of reading a ‘fact-filled’ book.

Number three, the cover. In fact, the cover is so fabulously eye-catching that it started a conversation between myself and a fellow train passenger about whether it is a good read. By the end, I am pretty sure that she would be picking up a copy herself.

Finally, this book is a stepping stone to finding out more about some, if not all, of these women. You realise that they have paved the way for some of us to have far more opportunities in our lives. I know, it’s always up for debate if full equality has been achieved, we would not even be this far without them.

Do you have any favourite inspirational women from history?

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie

Reading a novel by Agatha Christie at this time of year is like a hug. Although this is not a festive read, it has been selected by ‘The Maidens of Murder’, as the BBC has an adaptation of this classic in its festive TV schedules.

One reason why this novel makes me happy is that our dear friend Hastings provides us with the narrative (well, the parts that they can). Returning to a novel with one of my favourite fictional teams already means I will enjoy the story. And I did…

I found this to be one of Christie’s most clever tales. You really do fall for the huge red herring that is marked for you from the start – even though you know you probably should not. Our murderer really does go out of their way to try and get away with murder.

Of course, you know that Poirot will always get his target. However, this also reminded me of Sherlock and his foe Moriarty, as this is more of a case of puppet and a puppet master as many of their classic encounters can be.

As a bold statement, I think this could be one of Poirot’s most wonderful cases – especially as the big reveal was as much of a surprise to me as the characters in the room with man himself.

I would like to thank ‘The Maidens of Murder’ for encouraging me to read of a scope of Christie’s work – I look forward to more in 2019!

Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

I am about to make a bold statement: this is my favourite Pratchett ever (so far – as I am reading them in order).

I was late to discovering Pratchett. Mr Bookwormandtheatremouse is a big fan so I decided I should give the Discworld novels a go, especially once the beautiful hardback books were published.

I have to admit that sometimes I am not entirely sure what has happened in the stories but I have always enjoyed them. However, ‘Pyramids’ seems to have changed that. I managed to keep the thread of the story even without chapters (that has really taken some getting used to). ‘Pyramids’ is infused with Pratchett’s gentle humour and witty observations that create his Discworld parallels to our world. Their version of Ancient Egypt is highly ridiculous with a whole host of highly comical and equally ridiculous characters. Yet, the odd voice of reason comes in the shape of our hero, Teppic, his ghostly father and a camel (well, he offers thoughts of reason).

This book has certainly reignited my joy in being part of Discworld. I accept that chapters are not a thing and sometimes I will need a character list to keep me on track, but the escapism is totally worth it (and the giggles).