Books

The Outcast – Sadie Jones

I have been digging around some of my past reviews from before I started this blog and I have been resurrecting them for one reason or another. The main reason for mentioning this book again is because in the last couple of weeks a television adaption of the book has been on the BBC. 

Interestingly it was strictly controlled script wise by the author itself which is probably why I found it compelling but for me it all started with the book…..

It is difficult to know where to start when it comes to describing this book.

The story is set over a roughly ten year period and involves Lewis Aldridge who in the prologue is seen coming home after a spell in prison, we don’t know why he has been there or what circumstances drove him to commit a crime but this just merely sets the scene for the next three parts of the book, as we discover why Lewis has been incarcerated and trapped not just in prison but in his short life.

Lewis background is filled in and we gradually come to know and meet all the characters. Gilbert Lewis’ oppressive father who seems to think that by not talking about events means you will not have to deal with them. Elizabeth, the mother of Lewis, who hides in alcohol and who adores him and spoils him up until the day she tragically loses her life. Lewis grief sets off changes, event after event which affects everyone. Alice, the stepmother who is not stereotypical stepmother; evil, but weak in many ways, and I felt less empathy for this character, who made me want to scream, there is so much she could have done to help Lewis and stop things spiralling but she hid in her room, in alcohol and behind her new husband.

The Carmichaels are the major neighbouring family who the Aldridge’s socialise within their stuffy manner of class and system in the 1950s. Their youngest daughter Kit, is the other trapped character within this book, who is trying to escape the fact that she has fallen in love with the local bad boy `Lewis’ but also her violent father, Dicky who seems to have control over everyone, either by force and brutality or what and whom he knows. Justice will prevail in the end for the reader, and a relief it was.

Lewis is a rather lost soul, after his mother has died and his actions are always referred back to the tragic event. He is trapped within the constraints of his mind, never discussing what has happened and uses self harm to release the pain. Trapped in prison, trapped amongst his father’s regime and the neighbours as they expect a certain sort of behaviour, trapped by a local girl for fun to name but a few.

This book beautifully deals with some fairly brutal issues and places them into a society which is somewhat different to nowadays. The descriptions of the violence are somewhat shocking but this is only to emphasise the problems that these people have to deal. I really felt quite claustrophobic while reading the whole book and felt just as trapped as Lewis and Kit did.

There is not an Epilogue to this story, you do not know what happens after these major events, you just hope that justice prevails and those who live to be loved remain so and can find peace in their own minds.

Do not let any of this put you off the book it is a fantastic story which keeps you on the edge of your seat from page one right until the end. A great debut novel.

Books

The Little Flower Shop by the Sea – Ali McNamara

If there was ever a book to cheer the soul and bring some sunshine into your life then this is one of those books.

Poppy has inherited her grandmother’s flower shop, The Daisy Chain in St Felix in Cornwall. However at 30, this is not where Poppy sees herself. She has an aversion to flowers and she is rather snappy and irritated by anyone she comes across. Being back in St Felix where she spent many happy summers as a child is perhaps what she needs – but it is going to take some time for Poppy to realise that.

Jake supplies the flowers to The Daisy Chain, where magical bouquets are crafted and sold to customers who seem to believe the shop is magical. Poppy is a bit more cynical about it but it seems she might have met her match with Jake who can come back with a quick retort from Poppy’s cutting remarks.

Amber has flown in from the States to help Poppy, she falls in love with St Felix and says it has magic powers all of its own. She understands flowers and when a discovery leads to some understanding of the magical bouquets, it seems the florists is going to be a success.

Despite all this there are still demons and long-held resentments by many members of the St Felix community not just Poppy and when an old childhood haunt suddenly offers the answers it seems that perhaps St Felix has got under the skin of Poppy and it is the balm that she needs.

Wonderful descriptions of Cornish scenery, the beauty of flowers, their scent and the power that each bloom has makes this an enchanting novel. It has a predictability about it, but it still surprised me, which made me overlook such things.

An admirable summer or holiday read.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for allowing me to read and review this novel. 

The Little Flower Shop by the Sea is out on 30 July in all formats. 

Confession time – I was in two minds whether to request and read this book. I had read two previous novels by this author From Notting Hill with Love Actually and Breakfast at Darcy’s and I was rather disappointed with them. In fact I clearly state “….disappointed with this novel, but for me much better than her début book, that said I do not think I will be seeking out her third”. I did not seek out her third as it turns out, nor her fourth or fifth. 

However I have picked up her sixth and I would say out of the three I have read this is the best. Perhaps the author has found her style, perhaps it was the subject matter, perhaps it was the scenery or just perhaps it was the right time for me to pick up and read her novel. Whatever it was I will perhaps be a bit less scathing when I say that I will not read anything by an author again!

Jottings

Stanley’s Story – The First Four Weeks

Before Stanley gets his chance to say anything, I thought I better do some talking first, because Stanley’s story does not start just with him, it starts long before him.

Apologies let me introduce myself, my name is Matilda. In fact my full name is Matilda Frutessa Principessa Richardson but I would have needed a bigger house to have all that above the door. So I go by Matilda or Matty.IMG_0745

As you can see I have some neighbours and of course I know there is some wizard boy who lives in a cupboard under the stairs, but I have a number and a letter on my front door. It is a highly sought after property, the only one in the neighbourhood and has access to some great local amenities including a lovely bit of grass to race about on and I don’t have to worry about any bills.

That is taken care of by my humans, of course I must have humans, don’t all dogs, but they are not a bad bunch. I share my space (or more accurately they share mine) with Carol, David, and Molly.There used to be a Robin but he moved out to his own place recently. I don’t expect he has his name on his front door, do you? There is also Boots and Geraldine, but enough about them. 

I like to be with humans and sometimes I get to go to other places with other humans and experience their bits of  grass to race about on whilst my humans are busy.

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This was a lovely big bit of grass to race about on and I had a lovely time at this human’s house. She was impressed with me and I was very well turned out as you can see and well-behaved. I had a lovely day.

I also on occasions get to go and see the odd boyfriend or two. It makes me sound a bit of a slapper but us dogs have needs you know. I am quite fussy though and really only want to be with someone with a bit of class. Best of Breed at Crufts apparently is pretty classy so I was more than happy. Fonzie was his name, although I don’t think he could start a jukebox with a click of his paws or hangs around in diners but he does care about the way he looks.IMG_0764

Of course we were not careful, but apparently that was okay. Generally you should be careful the majority of the time, because you need to be prepared for the consequences especially if they are not planned. Apparently this was planned, not that I had much say in the matter, but I did enjoy myself.

Now my humans were most pleased, although apparently they were ever so slightly miffed about the idea that it was only going to take 9 weeks and not 9 months like them. There is no way I could have coped with 9 months.

At one point I thought I was not going to be able to fit into my house

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It did get a bit much for me to be honest, but apparently 9 weeks is easy and I should be grateful it isn’t 9 months. Look, you have no idea what it has been like for me at all. I felt quite exhausted some days.

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All mothers say it is worth all the hassle in the end. And I went from the above photo to the photo below fairly quickly. Look away now if you are a bit squeamish…..

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That is when I arrived into the world, my name is Stanley and I am in that photo, I am number one son, but arrived second. My sister Buffy arrived first, she had some trouble and wanted to enter the world running, but everything was okay, because my mum’s human is a midwife. Another sister, Stacy followed me then my little brother Teddy who you can tell in this photo because he is the little scrawny one.

Lots and lots of humans have been to see me (well all of us really) but apparently we cannot all stay together forever. One human came to see me when I was not even a week old and I think she took a real shine to me, she said I was warm and cuddly. She was warm and cuddly too.

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She came back to see me again a week later, this time I thought I would show everything that I had. She still seemed to like me, even when I made my mark on her. I did it again as well to another human, but I have decided to do it only on the best humans. IMG_0739

Of course I am always being watched by my mum. She is making sure along with her human that we are all going to good homes, it is worrying not knowing where I am going but it will be an adventure whatever.IMG_0742

I am not sure what happened to my dad he doesn’t visit, but to be honest, there are that many visitors I would be confused if he did. Apparently I am going to get a new type of dad, a human one, he was a bit reluctant at first, but I think secretly he is very pleased and cannot wait.

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The best bit is I get to play in that lovely big grass place that my mum has visited. But I am not allowed outside yet mainly because I am not very good on my legs and paws yet. I have to make do with playing indoors and with all the humans that come and see me (and my siblings).

Every week I get bigger, apparently this is a good thing. I have heard some of my human visitors say that they don’t like getting bigger, but I don’t really understand about that yet.

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My new humans cannot visit all the time, but they send another human to look at me and poke me and talk to me. Apparently she says I will have a nice time where I am going. And that she will visit me and look after me as well. It seems there are lots of humans who are going to be watching me, so I will not feel so bad when I leave my mum. And the best bit is I know I can go back and visit her.

There is more exciting things going on now and my brothers and sisters all get on really well and play, but apparently I can be a bit boisterous, but I am only seeing what I can do (and get away with!).

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There is always plenty of time to rest and I find this position quite comfortable, apparently those humans that seem to feature quite a lot in my life are not allowed to lie about like this. But I don’t understand about that either.

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Now I have got to four weeks, I am allowed to eat different things, my mum was providing my food initially, but apparently that cannot go on forever. When I can though we all still try and see what mum has got for us. So I am learning to eat new things. It tastes quite nice so far and will be good for me to.

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My new human says I might need to learn some manners and dining etiquette, but I expect she will help me with that.

That is enough from me now, it is mighty tiring introducing myself to everyone, but I will be back soon.

Jottings

Summer Sunday Snippets

Stanley

Meeting – Stanley. He is a new addition for my mum and dad. 8 Weeks old. I have been having cuddles since he was born, but last Sunday he left the litter and arrived in his new home. I will tell you more about Stanley in the coming weeks.

Reading – Profusely when I can. Some good books, some average, some not so sure about. The only trouble is I am not…

Reviewing – I am a bit behind, by my reckoning six seven books.

Kindling – I have lately been reading off my kindle so much I miss the feel of a book in my hand.

Working – my brain is nearly full and that means it is time for holidays only two weeks and a couple of days to go…..

Eating – not the right thing or too much of the right stuff. I need to seriously tackled my weight in the coming weeks. However I think I may need to get my head straight.

Watching – The Outcast by Sadie Jones. I have read the book and was blown away by it. The adaptation got some dreadful write ups and reviews but actually I thought it was very good and had me sobbing in the end. I read and reviewed the book back in 2008, but remembered much about it once I saw it on-screen. I have found my review and will post on this blog in the coming days.

Realising – There is plenty of things that I have not told you about in regard to authors and books all from 2014 that for whatever reason I have not blogged about, probably because I did not do it as soon as I could after the event. I have seen many speak and I never even told you about them. I think the moment may well have passed…….

Thinking – I have been struck and stuck by how little I have been on this blog and what I have been posting or not posting. The thinking on this blog will continue in the coming weeks.

How are things with you readers? 

Books

Miss Carter’s War – Shelia Hancock

Miss Carter’s War is not the Second World War which she has left behind, after working for the Special Operations Executive behind enemy lines. Her war is one she has chosen to fight herself to educate girls, to prevent another war and to fight all that is not far about society.

This book has reminiscences of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, but for me it was this  book that resonated more with me than Muriel Sparks novel which I struggled with.

Miss Carter seems to be almost a round peg in a square hole, she will not work to the norm and she fights for her girls and can see the potential in some of them, but fails to understand that this potential cannot always be reached as the class that they live in and the society of which they belong has other ideas for them; marriage and babies.

Her relationship with fellow teacher Tony is one of intrigue and she fails to ever gain a proper relationship with any other man. No one is going to live up to Tony and his ideals, but Tony is not the man for Miss Carter.

There is very little alluded to about the Second World War and I thought I was going to get more about the SOE and what happened to Miss Carter before. I was disappointed I did not, because this would have been interesting. What you do get, is a story of the decades post war, a story of society and how attitudes change and move on. We watch as Miss Carter tries to fit in and continue to teach and believe in something that she started out on at the end of the war.

A very interesting story which focuses on Miss Carter and her close friend Tony. Miss Carter was determined if somewhat naive throughout her life and I felt at times carried along into some beliefs because of others as opposed to her own independent thought that she started out with at the beginning of the novel. This all added to her character traits and towards the end of the book, finally I felt she had found what she was looking for.

It is always interesting when a well-known person, embarks on writing a story and I think Sheila Hancock’s attempt with this book should be commended. I feel her presence within the novel and she has obviously used her own experience and views of what has passed since the end of Second World War to give this book the backdrop needed for Miss Carter’s story.

I always enjoy a good ‘school’ story and have done since I was small, added into that the history and backdrop of an ever changing society meant it was a book I would thoroughly recommend. 

 

Books

Death Comes to Pemberley – P.D. James

One always wonders what happens after you read the final page of a story. Nothing beats your own imagination I am sure but of course other authors imaginations get the chance to grace new books.

In this one, we are back at Pemberley, Elizabeth Bennet got her man and lives a peaceful existence with her two children in the vast estate. Her favourite sister Jane is not far away and she has the company of Georgiana Darcy, her sister-in-law.

Pemberley holds a ball every year and it seems that the ball of 1803 is going to be very different. The night before a coach arrives at Pemberley, and disgorge the hysterical Lydia Wickham Nee Bennet. She has left her husband, George Wickham and his friend Capt Denney in the woods after an argument.

Shots were heard.

Darcy sends out a search party .

They find a body.

The murder and the mystery needs to be solved.

I came to this book knowing what happened as I had seen the television adaptation which was broadcast Christmas just gone. However I wanted to experience the book as it was meant to be and something about it does not quite hit the mark. Clearly P.D.James is not Austen and I actually approached the book knowing that I was not going to get an Austenesque novel. I did get a book which used characters that were well-known and a familiar setting and gave it legs to move onto a different story with a plot that perhaps James was used to – murder mystery.

It works on that level for me. I know it did not work for a lot of people. I am not a die-hard fan of Austen, I have not read Pride and Prejudice, nor have I read any of P.D. James work. My only knowledge was of the story of Pride and Prejudice and the adaptation of the book.

I enjoyed the book, it was slow in parts and it did not grip me, (probably because I knew what happened) but it is a worthy novel and if you like to read anything that is an offshoot of Pride and Prejudice then give the book a go. As long as you know what you are getting you will be fine.

It has taken me an age to review this book, probably because it took me an age to read (for me anyway). I found it scholarly and that will have slowed my reading down but I enjoyed it. I know it is a book I should have reviewed straight away as I think I would have captured more of the feeling of the book.

I will treasure my copy though as it is signed by the author and dedicated to me. (If anyone can translate for me the word after With Every ? I would be most grateful)

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Books

A Seaside Affair – Fern Britton

There is nothing better than bringing a community together than trying to save a local landmark.

In the case of the residents of Trevay, it is the local Pavilion theatre which is going to be sold off to a multinational coffee chain, a familiar story of the twenty-first century.  If you have read any of Fern’s previous novels you will recognise some familiar characters, first introduced to us in Hidden Treasures. Helen who has settled into Cornish life well, along with her ever grumpy and moody man Piran. Helen’s friend Penny a hot-shot flying television producer who has found love and life being married to the local Vicar.

Of course there are lots of new characters and these are in fact outsiders to Trevay, they seem to have all come to this Cornish town for varying differing reasons. The common denominator of them all is the pull of The Pavilion Theatre.  Jess is an actress but not a successful one, rather in the shadow of her actor boyfriend the nations current heart-throb.  Brooke Lynn is the face of the new coffee chain and model with a rather famous background. Ollie, an actor who has family near Trevay and seems to be trying to make it big, but finding it difficult when you are dating the world-famous Red.

Mixing these outsiders in with the locals obviously causes some wonderful scenarios and situations that Fern Britton mixes into the plot of her novel with skill. Yes it can be a bit predictable but there were plenty of will they won’t they, should they shouldn’t they moments as well as a big dollop of what life in ‘show business’ is really like. Of course trying to save a landmark like The Pavilion Theatre is going to have its problems and things do get a bit nasty for a while, but as they say it will be alright on the night!

Fern Britton’s skill has developed at writing has developed as her books have gone on. She could easily now be up there with the likes of Trisha Ashley and Carole Matthews. What I like about her novels, where she naturally strays into territory she is familiar with, she actually gives you a real insight into it. It is not just research it is first hand experience that Fern has managed to fictionalise and make for a good story. It is all made to be believable with the skill of being able to create a story to lose yourself in.

An absorbing novel.

I seem to be on a bit of a roll at the moment, reading novels which are based in or set around Cornwall. Who knows why – it is where my reading is taking me so far in 2015. I did have to consciously stop choosing the next book to read as it was based in Cornwall, for the simple reason I felt I may get confused with all the characters and places.

I have now added Fern Britton to My Author’s List of Works for anyone that may be interested in her other novels.