Books · Jottings


From The Bookseller:

HarperCollins imprint The Borough Press is launching a social initiative for book lovers to share books they love on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #bookaday. It will begin on Sunday 1st June and run throughout the entire month.

There is a topic/question/subject for each day of June.

This is very much a Twitter thing – and you can see my Twitter Feed on the right hand side of the blog. But I am hoping next week to pop back (time dependent) at some point and perhaps let you know some of the answers to some of these.

If you are not a Twitterer then why not post to your blog?


The Sweetness of Forgetting – Kristin Harmel

This book on the surface, just seems like any ”womens” novel which contains a family orientated saga. 

There are three main female characters, Rose who came to America to escape the Second World War and find a new life which involved starting a bakery in a small American town near Boston.

Then there is Hope, Rose’s granddaughter who has had to carry on the tradition running the bakery, as now her own mother has died and Rose is in a home no longer able to manage. It was never what Hope wanted to do with her life.

As Hope helped her grandmother. Annie, Hope’s teenage daughter helps her in the bakery where the hours are long, the work rewarding but not very profitable. Her failed marriage means Hope and Annie clash constantly and it is another thing for Hope to worry about.

This book goes way beyond the surface with these characters. Rose is in a home because she has Alzheimer’s and whilst she spends most of her time in another world – her lucid moments, are very lucid and both Hope and Annie are learning a lot about Rose.

Rose gives Hope a list of names. Hope needs to find out the answer to this list of names without ever knowing the question. This information takes Hope on a journey to Paris where it seems there is a past which she never knew existed and that whilst reunions are a wonderful happy moments, it seems Rose’s story is very much tinged with persecution, great loss and sadness. Hope realises that you have to hang on to those happy memories they will last you a lifetime.

As Hope discovers who all these people are, their connection to Rose and the journey they have been on, we learn about the persecution of particular religions during the Second World War. How this persecution was common ground for differing people and beliefs, but they all seemed to  put these things to one side to save lives, save each others lives possibly at great cost. It was this part of the story which kept me reading and which made me think this book is more than the fluff you may be expecting from the cover and the inclusion of recipes. Personally it did not need the recipes, the descriptions of the bakery items both in Paris and America were enough to illustrate what food can do in bringing people together, creating memories which last a lifetime across oceans and continents.

This book was a surprise, I didn’t think I was going to get a romantic story wrapped up in some very sad moments and I did feel very bereft as the book came to an end. Well worth a read.

Kristin Harmel is a new author to me and this was a purchase based on the cover and the blurb, nothing more. I wonder if her previous novels are much more deeper than they first appear? 

Books · Jottings

A Book, A Play and A Film?

I am sure many of you out there have read the wonderful novel The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night-time by Mark Haddon.

Having looked back on Goodreads, I read it in 2009, some 5 years ago. I was rather late to the party with this book and felt then that I was catching up with what I had missed. It was first published in 2003. Now here I am talking about it some 11 years later. Why?


The reason is simple. Since 2012, (so only 2 years late to this party) it was made for the stage. At the National Theatre and starred so recognisable faces in particular, Una Stubbs, Niamh Cusack and Nicola Walker.  For those who might think something rings a bell, it is at one of the performances in late 2013 at The Apollo where the roof collapsed and the current West End production will start a new run in June 2014.

It is also due to tour and will be coming to a local theatre near me in 2015.

However, through the National Theatre there is a wonderful way of being able to see productions without having to negotiate London or pay rather a lot to travel and for a ticket. The NT Live idea is bringing theatre to everyone. I knew of its existence but last year was the first time that I participated and went to see The Audience, earlier this year was War Horse. So here I am again and this time with three friends. The reason being that two of them have children showing similar traits to Christopher the main protagonist in the book and they have never read the book. The original screening was in September 2012 and this was an encore screening. (Fancy word for repeat but who cares? – Not me!)

What we saw was actually quite breathtaking. It was so cleverly done that actually watching it through film, meant we could see much more than perhaps if we had been right there in the theatre. There was very little in stage scenery and a limited amount of props. Conveying the story without words was left to the physicality of the actors and the placing of lights and boxes. It all sounds a bit far out there, but it worked beautifully and why – because you need to focus on the characters and the plot not the set. The set is and was in the background, it just was a vehicle on occasions to tell part of the story.

I have found this clip, that perhaps shows you a glimpse of the performance and where I am coming from in regards to the use of the stage.

All of us were moved by it and because it was a while since two of us had read the book, it brought a completly new dimension to it all. It is well worth a watch. Of course the book is a must read too.

Once home I had to find what I wrote about the book. It has never been featured on this blog as I read it before I started blogging.

This book is so cleverly written that I am not sure where to begin in reviewing it. The layout, the chapter numbers, diagrams and illustrations just add to the ‘cleverness’.

It is narrated by the lead protagonist Christopher Boone who upon discovering Wellington, a neighbour’s dog dead (by method of garden fork driven through him) embarks on finding out who done it in his own murder mystery. However, Christopher has a problem; he has Asperger’s Syndrome and has never been further than the end of his road on his own. How is he meant to solve this mystery if he cannot even do that.

Haddon creates a character and a real feel for Christopher. As readers we see him tackle all the things he cannot cope with; being touched; touching food; the colours yellow and brown; crowds and noise to name a few. A very black and white world suddenly turned upside down and inside out. Added to this Christopher finds out his mother is not dead, and to anyone else that would no doubt come as a shock but to Christopher he has all these other things to deal with. Despite all his fears Christopher sets out to find his mother.

This book is both informative and sad all at the same time. The snippets of insight and knowledge that Christopher uses as his safety are perhaps someone who does not suffer from Asperger’s does not appreciate. Or perhaps as a reader you can relate to some of it. I did, I like order, lists and timetables leaves me feeling safe and structured in a very complicated world. However this does not mean I am devaluing Aspergers as until having read this book I knew very little and probably still do.

Haddon’s portrayal of Christopher in experiencing the London Underground made me feel upset, claustrophobic, frightened as well as a huge sense of achievement once Christopher arrived at his desired destination and all that he had achieved. This was a really important part of the book for me, which is why I have mentioned it in the review.

A book that touches you at so many level that I have found it difficult to review. All I can say to anyone not sure whether to read it or not – you must. It is one of them books that would appear on the countless “books you must read before you die” lists – therefore read it. It is a must!

And as for the film, well you could say that is what I watched, as I had to go to the cinema. However, it has been optioned by a film studio (Warner Bros)  and is being adapted. When we will see it though remains a curious mystery.


Hidden Treasures – Fern Britton

Helen has had enough of her life and putting up with her philandering husband. She decides that it is time to start again and embark on a new adventure.

This adventure takes her to Cornwall and to a small but beautiful run down cottage which she renovates, moves in and embraces Cornish Life. She comes across, the local village gossip Queenie who runs the shop, the Landlord and Lady of the local hostelry, Don and Dorrie, the local vicar Simon, a rather rugged Cornish man Piran and Simple Tony. The village is a cast of characters and it seems with Helen’s initial introduction to village life she will fit right in, especially as she has caught the eye of more than one local.

It seems village life is going to get even more interesting when a TV producer, Penny and also Helen’s best friend thinks it is going to be the ideal place to film a new detective series based on a reclusive authors novels. Suddenly more characters are thrown into the village, this time more famous and well known.

The quiet life Helen was hoping for is dashed…..and then her husband keeps turning up and insisting that it is wrong for them to divorce. Helen does not know which way to turn.

This is Fern Britton’s second novel and it is an easy cosy read, however I was a bit wary of the how Helen was portrayed, I initially thought she was a lot older than she was, as if she was in her mid sixties. The inference that she had money, but without any quantification of where from or how, and whether it was her ex-husband who was the financial provider was glossed over. There was a hint of her own money, but it was a throwaway line that’s all.

Whilst I feel that Fern Britton’s novels are very similar to Carole Matthews, Jill Mansell, Katie Ffforde and whilst I do not think she is quite up there yet, she needs to cover a bit more of the background as these authors do, to make the story that bit stronger and believable.

I actually read this book, after having read her third novel The Holiday Home. It was apparent to me that, Fern was drawing on what she knew, the world of television and celebrity and this was again what she done in this her second novel. You draw on what you know, but it is reassuring to know that in her third novel, it is very far away from the media. From reading the blurb on her new novel A Seaside Affair we are back with some of the characters from Hidden Treasures.


The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

If only finding love was as simple as filling in a questionnaire – well for Don Tillman he thinks it is. For everyone else in his life, they know it is not. That does not stop Don.

If he can filter out all the time wasters, those who drink excessively, smoke heavily and can’t function without some sort of structure and timetable he thinks he might be onto the right person. In walks Rosie, who drinks, smokes and can just disrupt all plans at a moments notice. Rosie is everything that Don does not require but she does require some help.

Rosie wants to find out who her biological father is and to do so without them knowing, she needs DNA and she needs to get it tested. Don is a geneticist and can do such things. He is drawn to help Rosie and becomes involved in what he calls the Father Project and puts his so called Wife Project on hold.

Although a predictable outcome can be foretold, by simply reading the blurb on the back of the book. How we get there is the most amusing tale I have read for a long time. I could so relate to Don’s logic in some matters and at the same time, could find some of his actions amusing. I never felt as I was reading this book, that I was laughing at Don more with him. The author must be laughing with us, as to call a professor ‘Don’ and his friend in the same field ‘Gene’ must mean something on a very different level. Don’t try too hard and wonder what it is, that is not the point. Accept it all when reading this book.

The author is  hoping that readers can see the funny side of how ordinary life is. The situations are not complicated or uncommon, they are simply happening all around us and are everyday in fact. However to Don they are a challenge.

All the supporting characters were well rounded and played an important part. Claudia and Gene were the couple that Don was perhaps aspiring to be in without all the issues that he could see were challenging their relationship. The situation that Don and Rosie get themselves into whilst serving cocktails was funny as is the insight into Don’s brain as he meets people and assess them;

“At Yankee Stadium we got beer and hot dogs. A man in a cap, estimated age thirty-five, estimated BMI forty (i.e. dangerously fat), sat beside me. He had three hot dogs! The source of the obesity was obvious”.

I think we should be grateful that Don ever vocalised these thoughts.

There are so many ‘moments’ of clarity for the reader and the characters that this really is a great novel and one to enjoy. It does sometimes come across as a screenplay, but it was written originally for the screen, but then adapted into the novel. And for all Don and Rosie fans, of which I am now one, a sequel is out towards the end of 2014.

This was May’s book club choice and it went down an absolute storm with everyone. Everyone had read it, loved it and were very much impressed. It  was interesting to see what two of our group thought, as they both have children with very similar autistic problems such as Don had. They both could relate to it in a very different way and could see the laughter on very different levels. It made for interesting discussion and I know we will all be clamouring to read The Rosie Effect out September 2014.



A Pleasure and A Calling – Phil Hogan

Have you met Mr Hemming?

If you have sold or bought a house at any point in your average town then you are bound to have met him?

You don’t remember him I hear you say? That is quite possible because Mr Hemming does not really want you to remember him.

Mr Hemming knows you though. He knows everything about you. He might not be able to see into your heart or mind but he can see into your house.

Mr Hemming has the key to your house and yours and yours and yours……..he has the key to them all……..

This book is a very different type of thriller from perhaps what you may expect. It actually gives you the creeps from very early on and stays with you, long after you have put the book down. But you could be forgiven at times for actually liking Mr Hemming, because he seems to have chosen a path for righting wrongs and making sure that all justice is delivered. But everything is not as it seems as we learn more about Mr Hemming and the paths he has chosen to get to where he is today.

With any thriller, writing a review is a challenge as to discuss so much will inevitably give away key plot points and outcomes, revealing more than is needed. Which is why I have to stop about the plot of the book here. The reason for only mentioning Mr Hemming and not any of the additional characters, who are constructed well and you feel equally for them all is that they also have an ability to give away too much as they help Mr Hemming.

This book is not linear in plot or in timeline, it jumps backwards and forwards almost like the mind of Mr Hemming as he tries to convince you that his actions are justified, his place in the town is without question and that you can trust him implicitly. If you like structure then this might not be for you. If you like to be challenged then this book is one you will enjoy. Mr Hemming is drawn into something of a hero by the author, but I think it is ultimately the reader who makes the final decision about his actions and you cannot do that until the very end of the book and I mean the very end.

I have not read anything that matches this book and I think the author has captured a small idea and developed it into a rather good story.

Next time you put your key in the door….stop and think whether Mr Hemming may have already been in before……

Thank you to the publisher for sending this to me. Available on kindle and in hardback now. 

Books can stay with you for different reasons and they come and go in your mind at the most strangest of times. Whilst I was reading this one, I was looking in on my parents house as they were away. I can admittedly say that on the odd occasion I actually paused as I put my key in the door and wondered, just wondered……..creepy! 


Books · Cooking · Crafts · Jottings · Knitting · Witterings


I could have done an A-Z of general stuff and chit chat before, but my head seems to be full of numbers at the moment and not just work related either.  So here are a few, numbers…

1 Mile – before number 2 came about I managed to shave just under a minute of my time. I had built up to it all week and I was very pleased with myself. I better say that I mean my swimming! 64 lengths is a mile.

2 Colds/cough in the space of 2 months. This is very unlike me. The latest one has left with me with a croaky voice, I sound worse than I actually feel. My sinuses were visible apparently and my ears blocked. Which made me grumpy because I was not well enough to go swimming.

3 Episodes of Jamaica Inn, I sat through them all, with the sound up, I did not get as far as the subtitles, it never occurred to me but I was disappointed with the BBC. I know this was such a long time ago now, but it still bugs me, because I really think this may have put people off reading her work.

1 weekend to go until we get another bank holiday. I really do think this country needs a couple more spread throughout the year, movable perhaps depending on when Easter falls. I cannot wait for a lie in or at least to get up and make a cup of tea and go back to bed with my book!

Apparently I am currently 2 books behind with my reading to aim for 100 this year. I am not overly worried as there is always going to be more time to read when the World Cup Football starts. I have also just finished writing 2 reviews and I have 2 more to do.

Take 3 Hollywood actors and just watch this – I love it .

finished shawl for my mum which I have been knitting and I have yet to blog about it. I promise I will do it soon.

2 knitted toys made. Another one started. I seem to be on a roll and it means I have not been picking so my weight is going down.

weeks since I baked anything. Although I have made some jelly sweets,but that does not count.

I have not done any stitching for ages which I must rectify. I have been out twice to dinner, both times to cracking restaurants. I spotted myself on the Antiques Roadshow. I am off out to another NT Live production. I have a 13th birthday party to attend, a picnic, a hen weekend, a colour run, a Summer Ball. I am booked to go to some events at the West Meon Literary Festival in July. Then further afield there is my sojourn to a spa in August, tickets to see Jeeves and Wooster at the theatre in November.

So much going on and do you know what – I am loving it! Life is too short and remembering the young Stephen Sutton who lost his battle with cancer this week, life is also precious and fragile. Enjoy every bit of it.


The Year After – Martin Davis

They say you should never go back, it will never be the same as it was before. However for Tom Allen, alone at Christmas it seems he is subconsciously drawn back to Hannesford Court and the Stansbury family who reside there.

It is going to be different this time, so much has changed. It is 1919 and Tom Allen has survived The Great War but he is struggling to be a survivor when many of his contemporaries are about to be names carved in stone forever on memorials. Those he goes back to visit at Hannesford Court are no doubt wondering why it was him that survived and their son that did not, their son that got horrifically injured. Perhaps going back to a familiar place will give Tom some chance for the future?

Going back though means having to face secrets of the past. Ones that really should be forgotten. That summer of 1914 before the war, was glorious, everyone who was anyone was at the Hannesford Ball and there were relationships blossoming and friendships being forged. The subsequent war put everything on hold but it seems there is still some unfinished business to be had. Tom suddenly discovers that the truth. Are some things best left in the past and with those that never returned from the war?

This book cuts between the five year period that the novel is set effectively. Whilst you are learning about Tom and the other characters who frequent Hanneseford Court and their reason and relations for being there. You are seeing a society that has changed beyond anyone’s belief. A Christmas Dance is heavily populated by women, as the village has fewer men than before the war. The acceptance of women in roles previously only held by men is becoming more common. The old way of life is very much dead and society is changing, especially a society that relies on its parties, balls and servants. The author seems to be able to connect right into the psyche of this society and its descriptions of events such as shooting parties, dressing for dinner and even such a trivial matter as eating breakfast.

What is this book though, is it a mystery or a romance? It is neither but it is both in equal measure. I felt it was a book that has captured the aftermath of events and has shown how war has affected a part of society, which remained unchallenged for a number of years. It is a book which shows emotions clearly and you cannot help but be drawn in, taken along and feel for all the characters.

A worthwhile read, which really makes you think about those that came back from the war. A nice contrast if you enjoy historical fiction and want perhaps something about after ‘major’ events.

This was a random book choice, in the sense it was on one of those tables in Waterstones and it caught my eye. From the cover it was going to be something of a ‘society’ book. It was much more than that. I have no comparison to Martin Davies other work, but I can see that one has been a Richard and Judy choice. Have you read any? Do you recommend The Conjuror’s Bird? 


Rumour Has It – Jill Mansell

Tilly has moved away from London and goes to a small town and whilst she is the main character in this book, I feel it is more a ensemble cast of characters and it is that which has made it a joy to read. To get back to Tilly, she has arrives in the town and is intrigued by a strange sounding job as a Girl Friday and on the off-chance goes for an interview and gets the job.

And so we get introduced to Tilly’s new employer Max Dineen, the perfect man for any woman, his daughter Lou who found life too boring with her mother, Kaye  in LA and has decamped to be with her dad. But as Tilly settles down, Kaye makes an appearance and it seems this rather unconventional family seems rather racy for a small town.

Through Max, we all encounter the irresistible Jack Lucas, who has a bedpost which can’t possibly be still standing if the rumours round the town are anything to go by? Tilly is not affected by any of this gossip, but her friend Erin does warn her off Jack, just in case she gets hurt. Tilly has no intention of being a subject of gossip. Good job really, when her friend Erin becomes the latest piece of news, when her new secret man, Fergus turns out to be married to Stella one of Erin’s customers.

So much is packed in as you can see and in a place where everyone knows everyone else’s business, it is very difficult to just blend in as Tilly seems to be trying to do. She has an uncanny knack of standing right out, especially when Jack Lucas is around.

This is not simply a will they get together, won’t they plot in the book. It has some much more subtle undertones, it deals with the break up of families and how they can live very different lives but still bring up a child. How love can come in the most surprising of places and packages and that perhaps remaining bitter is not good for anyone. More serious subjects are tackled, bullying, sexuality and death. Of course all of this could be rumours and the only way you are going to find out is to go and visit this small town and see for yourself – it has some delightful characters, comedic moments and some heartbreaking scenes. What more could you want from a book?

This is my second Jill Mansell and I am liking what I am getting so far. I picked this one randomly off the charity book shop shelf, so I do not know whether it is one of her more popular novels. But to look at the number of reviews her books get, I think all of her novels are must reads. 

I finished this after my first week back at work,  ensconced on the sofa with tea and a box of chocolates, what more could a girl want on a Friday afternoon?



One Pair of Feet – Monica Dickens

Have you met Monica before? If you have then you will know she is rather flighty and not inclined to stick to anything in particular for very long as her tales of life in service are recounted in One Pair of Hands.

In this volume of memoirs, Monica decides that she must do something to contribute to the war effort. Trouble is there is a fair amount she could do, but is there anything she could actually stick at. So after crossing the Services, WRVS, AFS, Land Army and bus conductress, it seems that nursing might be a preferred and considered option.

But what about the poor patients who were going to encounter Monica, never mind Monica herself.

Taken out of the comfort of London and place in the countryside at a hospital, Monica goes from each ward and department, dealing with the wrath that the Matron and the Sisters seem to dispense at every turn to the young nurses as well as the patients. It feels like Monica Dickens is sitting down with us over a cup of tea and telling us all the gossip that is going on within the hospital walls. World War Two is very much in the background of this book, and you are only aware of it from the surplus of servicemen wanting to take the nurses out and the occasional patients.

We get to hear about the rather dire food, the constant cleaning, the patients who are characters that make the time pass quickly, what happens when your life is turned upside down and you start working nights and all the hospital rules which seem to archaic compared to todays NHS. (The NHS had yet to exist until 1948) However the basic element of nursing is here in this book and is certainly a great reflection on how much has changed as well as how little has changed. I do wonder if we went back to these days, whether hospitals would be better than they are currently portrayed.

This Virago Modern Classic reissue of this book, is lovely and a great companion to One Pair of Hands. I much enjoyed the introduction which gives you more of an insight into the social structure of the book, though read it afterwards as it may spoil your enjoyment of the book.

I do hope that Virago perhaps look at republishing some of her other semi-autobiographical novels in the future. I understand My Turn to Make the Tea is about her life as a journalist. 

If there are any other Monica Dickens novels you think I should look at reading please let me know.