Book Review – The Niggle by Peta Rainford

We always love reviewing children’s books as reading at bedtime to four children can get very repetitive! The Niggle is a lovely story about confidence, danger, our inner voices and how to manage life – all in a children’s story! Our four year old was a bit scared of the Niggle character, but the others all enjoyed his funky illustrations. The story follows Joe Jackson – a boy without any fear of anything… until one day he has a very scary accident and The Niggle arrives.

We were all so pleased when The Niggle met his match, and the story prompted some great discussions about how to measure danger, how children and adults often think differently about safety and Joe’s experiences were very identifiable to all of us. I would recommend this book if you have  daredevil in the family! We have read it more than once the gentle rhyming is easy on the ear, and it’s still enjoyable even when you know the ending – the sign of a good book.

Book Review – Tuscan Roots by Angela Petch

I so enjoyed this book – it is a wonderful mix of honest, painful emotions and romantic literary scenes of beauty. The characters are all beautifully crafted and easy to imagine and each have a specific role that they complete well – there are not wasted words or pages in this book.

The story is divided between the present day and glimpses into the Second World War in Italy – and the reader is moved between the two with care. There are threads and similarities that weave them together although ultimately one story ends much happier than the other. There has clearly been a considerable amount of research to write so eloquently about the experience in rural Italy during the war, and Petch doesn’t pull any punches – with strong storylines and revelations for several characters. There is also a realistic view of what life must have been like after the war, particularly for foreign wives coming to England.

There are lots of great descriptions of food and eating, which makes your mouth water as you read, especially the wonderful local Italian meals. There is  great warmth to this book, and it has a very personal feel.

I have already read and reviewed the sequel to this story Now and Then in Tuscany, and certainly feel a great benefit from finding out more about the characters and how they met and found their home. Both books are well worth a read, and if you’d like to find out a little bit more about the author you can read her interview here.

Book Review – The Red Beach Hut by Lynn Mitchell

I was very excited to be asked to join the book blog tour for The Red Beach Hut – and apologies for putting this up so late in the day, but I’m not very well…

The story is incredibly simple, with few characters and only one main location and yet it is also extremely complex in the feelings it evokes. It is a serious book, looking at a tumultuous week or two in the life of Abbott, he’s a good man who once made a stupid mistake that haunts him. He is an exceedingly likeable character, as is Neville the wonderful young boy who befriends him. This is in stark contrast to those in the white beach hut who are ugly and unkind under their mask of ‘neighbourly concern’. This comparison of true caring behaviour is an excellent thread in the story.

There are moments of real joy as Abbott and Neville explore the beach together, but there are also moments of deep sadness as you learn why Neville is out alone every night. I admit to feeling conflicted about this book – it is beautifully crafted and you are carefully led through the story, but it didn’t answer all my questions and I felt a little unsatisfied at the ending. I suspect I wanted more closure as I have a son the same age and it undoubtedly affected my relationship with Neville.  Lynn Mitchell has written a beautiful book, without any real violence or gore, no obvious clichés and sensitively raised a number of internal ‘conversations’ for the reader to ponder long after they finish reading.

I liked it… I think…

Meet the totally organised Lisa Cole x

Author Interview
Hello!
5 Questions to Know You Better…

Perhaps most important – tea or coffee, or maybe hot chocolate?

Real tea with tannin in the morning and a really good coffee with caffeine once or twice a week. I make the coffee in a stove top moka pot, it takes a while but is worth the wait and makes a lovely sound while it brews.
I’ve been trying to drink more herbal tea but it is just not the same as the real thing!

Do you have a particular place where you write – can you show us a picture?

I write mostly on the sofa in the front room. In the winter I’m covered up by blankets and cats, in the summer I’m dodging sunlight streaming through the winter and hitting the screen. Sometimes, generally on a Friday I’ll take myself and my laptop off to a local pub for a pint of beer. It is a converted bank and it is light and airy, they tend to play music I can work to and they love people working in there. I have to stick to one pint though or I write nonsense!

Ed: In lieu of a photo Lisa has sent this great ‘adulting’ sticker x 

Where do you find your inspiration and ideas?

I was brought up by my grandmother who lived during the war so I learned to hoard things just in case. We rarely bought anything new, it was all sewn, knitted or baked at home. The only trouble with this lifestyle is that it is much easier to accumulate too much stuff now and it is really easy to get overwhelmed with it. I write about coping with clutter and overwhelm for real people like me, who don’t want to live in minimalistic white boxes but who do need to be able to find things when they need them. I truly believe that it is good to have things, they are part of our personalities and individuality and I feel sad when I see people throw away their history in huge decluttering purges. I’m constantly inspired by our very friendly less-stuff Facebook support group. The people in the group prove that getting rid of just a few things a day works much better than purging. I love thinking that I’m right about something and I get daily proof in the group :-).

What are you working on currently, and when can we expect to read it?

The new book Elephants in the Room is OUT NOW!

 

 

NEW FEATURE – BUSINESS BOOK OF THE MONTH

I’m delighted to introduce our new feature in conjunction with the UK Business Circle – a Business Book Review each month and to start us off is the wonderful, calming Lisa Cole from Less-Stuff.

There will also be an interview with Lisa on Friday as part of our continuing quest to get to know authors better. Enjoy!

From Piles to Files: Easy Ways to Declutter Your Paperwork in 5 Days

by Lisa Cole

Well I don’t know a small business owner that doesn’t groan about paperwork at some time…so a claim to help you manage all of the paper in your home or office ‘without tears’ is quite bold! I always believe I have a system, until I need to find something, or the kids decide to play schools on my desk, or helpful people put the post in new and unexpected places.

The first step in From Piles to Files is just to collect ALL the paper you have in to one place—this sounds so simple but actually took me almost a whole day as I found little scraps and sticky notes EVERYWHERE. I worked through the steps, there is a daily goal but it’s very flexible and you could go faster or slower depending on your ‘piles’. The book is very concise and to the point, with clear explanations of what to do as well as helpful ideas of barriers you may face and how to manage them.  From Piles to Files is a very well written and useful addition to any home or small office, it’s something I imagine I will use again;  perhaps annually to keep the ‘piles’ under control, especially at accounts time… I enjoyed the down to earth style of writing and the friendly hints and tips along the way.

Lisa Cole has a new book out to support those for whom more general clutter has become too much to handle called The Elephants in the Room.

Both books are available from her website www.less-stuff.co.uk.

Book Blog Tour for Rubies in the Roses

I’m so happy to be asked to join in the blog tour for Vivian Conroy – I ‘met’ Vivian as part of a Twitter hour for authors (which you are very welcome to attend!) #TheAuthorHour and first read her Lady Alkmene books set in the 1920’s.

You can find out more about Vivian as part of our regular author interview series…

Rubies in the Roses is the second Cornish Castle mystery, and although you don’t need to have read the first book to enjoy it – I liked the feeling of familiarity when meeting the main characters again, and I enjoyed having a sense of knowing the surroundings already. The main characters were developed further with great success and you can start to understand more about their backgrounds and the impact of that on their current situations, as well as explaining more about why they respond and react the way they do.

Choosing such an interesting island setting with a castle and all the historical stories that are possible is a stroke of genius – the Rose and Stars goblet is entirely plausible and the hunt for artefacts in the grounds is exactly what would happen (and I’m sure often does) when an intriguing find looks likely. It is also a brilliant observation of the motivation and behaviour of people when money, history, family and affection all start to rub together.

Dolly the dog still steals the show, but the real mastery is in the careful writing and clever plot. There are more red-herrings and cul-de-sacs with a triumphant ending so well crafted that I can’t wait to read the third book! They are just 99p currently, which is such a good deal for a fun scamper around a Cornish castle. Conroy has been compared to Agatha Christie, but there is much more humour in these series and so I think I may even prefer them…

 


I received my copy of Rubies in the Roses as a member of NetGalley.

Hey Caimh McDonnell!

Author Interview

 Hello!

 5 Questions to Know You Better…

 

Perhaps most important – tea or coffee, or maybe hot chocolate?

 I’m afraid I’m somewhat of a freak and I drink none of those things! I’ve never drank a cup of coffee in my life, The only cup of tea I’ve had in the last decade was when three horses totalled my car and, while I love things that are both hot and chocolate individually, I keep trying hot chocolate and then remembering that I don’t enjoy it either. So – I’ll have a Diet Pepsi if you’re offering.

 Of all the characters you have created, who is your favourite?

Detective Bunny McGarry – he was supposed to be a relatively minor character in my first book, but essentially walked in and took over. He’s clearly a big favourite with my readers too. There’s a strong element of wish fulfilment to him – he is the man who does the things I would secretly love to do if I didn’t have to live with the consequences.

Do you have a particular place where you write –  can you show us a picture?

 Where I definitely can’t write is my own apartment, so I have an office in a co-op with cartoonists, researchers, charities etc that I go to. This also forces me to put on trousers every day which is a good idea in general.

(ED. this the second non-photo interview… I might start issuing penalties…)

 Where do you find your inspiration and ideas?

 In the shower in the morning, or at least that’s where they make themselves known. I like to think of my brain like a PA who is reporting back what my subconscious has been working on over-night while I’ve been out of the office. (Note: not normally acceptable workplace practice to have your PA in the shower with you.)

 What are you working on currently, and when can we expect to read it?

 I’m technically in what you’d call the pre-production phase of the third and final part of my Dublin trilogy. I spent ten minutes in bed last night explaining what was going to happen to the wife so I’m pretty sure it might be time to go into the production phase. 

NOTE:

I will be reviewing Angels in the MoonLight, once I’ve finished laughing – it arrived the same week as my birthday and school starting so my reading time has been a bit curtailed. It’s is BRILLIANT, but until I have that last chapter read I don’t want to put the review up… 

 

WEBSITE UPDATE

Apologies for the slightly sporadic posts of late, it’s all because of the very exciting news that we are creating a bigger and better blog – as part of a website that will have lots of nerdy cool features and lots and lots more BOOKS!

The Friday (an occasional extra) Interviews will remain, but expand beyond authors  into the extended world of writing and reading….

There will also be a FEATURED AUTHOR each month with extra information, interviews, reviews and a full catalogue of their books available. If you would like to be considered as a FA please do get in touch as we are filling up our calendar x 

There will also be more seasonal, genre and other fun collections of books featured, as well as other things I haven’t quite got my head around yet.

IF YOU have any ideas of things you would like to be featured, or available do let me know as we are working like elves in the evenings to make it happen. ALSO SEND TEA!

Book Review

 

Condition: The Final Correction by Alec Birri

I was nervous to start reading this, one because it’s the third book in a trilogy and I haven’t read the first two – and secondly because I read the introduction and was already a bit scared…

However, good writing is good writing whatever the subject matter and despite this dystopian tale which is disturbing and complex, it’s completely unputdownable because of the quality of Birri’s prose. I do feel that reading the first two stories would have been an advantage in the back story and character development, and I plan to go back and read them once The Final Correction is less sharp in my mind.

I am always drawn to military writers and themes as I have a strong connection to the military – Birri served in the British Army for 30 years and his writing has a cathartic element that seeps through the story. The book raised a number of moral and ethical questions that were deeply provoking and sparked some challenging conversations with myself and in groups as I felt compelled to discuss the story and ‘what ifs’ with others. For this reason alone it would make a brilliant book club choice. I can’t use the word ‘enjoy’ as the book (for me) was too dark for that, but I’m very glad I’ve read it and was unable to think of much else while navigating the relationship between the main characters – both of whom are flawed and cracked and brilliantly portrayed, although opposites in every way. The story is convoluted and unpredictable which makes it all the more attractive and unusual. In a world of repeats and covers, it was refreshing to read something new and unexpected.

I’m looking forward to reading all of the reviews in the blog tour, as I suspect there will be a range of reactions, I’m also pleased to be able to discuss the story with people that have read it – it’s the kind of book that raises lots of questions you need to talk to people about. I try to mix up  my reading so that something challenging is followed by something ‘lighter’ – I may go for a childrens book review next!

You can learn more about the trilogy and new works on Birri’s website www.alecbirri.com.  There is also an interview with him here on the website. 

Thank you to Bookollective who provided me with a copy of this book to review.

Meet the real deal – Alec Birri

5 Questions to Know You Better…

Perhaps most important – tea or coffee, or maybe hot chocolate?

Tea! No, wait – coffee! But now you’ve mentioned hot chocolate…

Of all the characters you have created, who is your favourite?

It’s a tie for Professor Savage and Alex Salib – they’re total opposites in every sense of the word and I loved taking their ‘relationship’ to a similar extreme

Do you have a particular place where you write – can you show us a picture?

Somewhere small and claustrophobic (concentrates the mind) No windows allowed!

Where do you find your inspiration and ideas?

Some of the more unsettling things I got up to in the military – check out my bio for more

What are you working on currently, and when can we expect to read it?

Alt Truths will be out in 2018 – think of it as the masses v mass media – more dystopian worlds colliding!