Thrown – Sara Cox

Strong female fiction is hard to write and then to deliver to a world where when you are well known is going to get picked apart and analysed. Do you know what? Sara Cox has not just made a good job of it – she has made an excellent job. I felt I was reading a story from author with years of experience behind her, not a debut novelist.

Becky works in the community centre, she is determined to get back to being the heart of the community that she remembers when she was smaller and her mum worked there. It is the place she seeks solace, as a single mum with a son on the brink of adulthood, she does not need any distractions. Well not ex partners that is for sure.

Shelia’s son has flown the nest, she is lost and wants to retire to a life in Spain, her husband has other ideas and seems to be withdrawing inside himself.

Jameela seems an unlikely friendship for Shelia, but a chance encounter brings them together. Jameela sees this a chance to escape from what she wants most in the world, but seems to be alluding her.

Louise thinks her life is just boring, plodding through she wants to find the person she once was before, marriage, children and domesticity came along.

All of these women are thrown (see what I did there!) together when they come together at the new pottery class at the community centre. As they forget their troubles, they make new friends, hear new life stories and learn a skill to take them away from their current thoughts. If there was ever a advert for crafting in whatever form to take you away from it all this is it.

Just like life, the pottery doesn’t always turn out like people want it to, but learning to love the cracks in life, the flaws in others and the decorations that make us all up means that we can embrace anything and everything.

If you are a fan of women’s fiction with strong characters and with some difficult topics covered in such a delicate and thoughtful way then this book is for you. I would like to go back to these characters if Sara Cox would oblige, but if not then if the next book is going to be as strong as this, it will be a runaway bestseller.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Thrown is out now.

Sara Cox can be heard on BBC Radio 2 from 1700. Her book review show Between the Covers is also available on iPlayer.


Away with the Penguins – Hazel Prior

At 85 Veronica McCreedy thinks her life is almost done. Perhaps it was not the one she ever imagined but there you are. That is until she sees a documentary on Adelie penguins and decides that is what she wants to do, see these penguins for real and to make a lasting impact on the world. If helping other poor creatures than so be it.

What she doesn’t know that is perhaps Veronica is helping more than the penguins. Her very isolated life is kept busy with litter picking, telling Eileen her carer come companion of sorts to shut doors, the crossword in the Telegraph and wildlife documentaries.

The image that is painted of Veronica to begin with is a women who may well be determined, dogged in her ways but one whose mind is perhaps starting to fail her. The loss of the glasses, the mirrors needing to be removed (and then rehung) is written so beautifully that you cannot really believe the author then transports this woman to Antarctica.

Because that is where Veronica ends up, on the South Shetland Islands, accessible via a ship that docks every three weeks at a project for Adelie Penguins where three researchers have the basic facilities, food and tolerance for each other. They do not want anyone else and certainly someone who could perhaps end their days thousand of miles from anywhere.

Veronica makes an impact not just on the other researchers but also she starts to see some parallels in the life she has led with this penguins that she has grown fond of.

Miles away in Bolton, is Patrick. Initially thought of as a waste of space, a drain on the benefit system not stuck to anything, of little purpose now that his girlfriend has dumped him, who whiles away his days growing weed and trying to survive. But Veronica McCreedy enters his life too.

After a false start, Patrick becomes fascinated with Veronica and diaries reveal what happened to her in her past. When an email from one of the researchers startles Patrick into some action, he finds himself in this remote place with an old woman he barely knows, hand raising a baby chick penguin.

Can everyone reconcile themselves to their actions of the past and the events that may have shaped them and can this now move everything forward to a better future.

This book takes your breath away, the cold of the Antarctic so richly described you can almost feel it biting your nose as you watch Veronica amongst these penguins, learning about life and survival. This is a quiet book, the noise is absorbed in the snow that surrounds them all.

I came away from the story where I felt I knew Veronica’s life fully, there were no more secrets to be discovered and that she recognised that what happened to her was continuing to happen not just to Patrick but also these delightful penguins she fell in love with.

I don’t know what I was expecting from this book, the story that is contained delighted, humoured and humbled me in equal measure and was a great surprise and truly original.


Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

Away with the Penguins is out now and was featured on Jo Whiley’s Radio 2 Show in the Book Club slot as well as Richard and Judy’s choice for this winter. 



Books · Jottings

July Roundup

First of all I must say thank you to the select few people who kindly joined in my meme Six in Six. There will be a roundup post following in the coming days and I hope I have captured everyone that has taken part.

As for my reading, well it has been varied and thoroughly enjoyable in July. Plenty of books that if I had read them in the first 6 months of the year would have featured on one of my lists!

Looking back July’s reading has been a way of making a dent in the many lists of books to be read. Mainly from my netgalley shelves as well as my venture into reading more Christie.

Annie Lyons – The Choir on Hope Street a pleasant read that passed the time, but not one I would say you HAD to go and read. Not like Kat French – The Bed and Breakfast on the Beach, her books keep getting better and better and this is her latest and well worth the read.

Summer being a theme (and there is a post coming up about that as well at some point) I also decamped to France to finish the trilogy (of which I am disappointed there will not be any more) of Helen Pollard – Summer at the Little French Guesthouse. I look forward to seeing what Helen Pollard will write next if it is as good as these books have been.

I caught up with another book which was previously released as parts Cressida McLaughlin – The Once in a Blue Moon Guesthouse, this was a book worth waiting to read as a whole.

I have read few thriller type novels this year, mainly because I think my brain has not wanted to cope with such things but I did pick up Jane Harper – The Dry. Debut novelist who has created an interesting detective and set him in a barren landscape.

Kathleen McGurl – The Daughters of Red Hill Hall, this book had been languishing on my kindle for a while and I wanted to make a dent in some of those books too, I chose this one to read. A dual narrative novel, which I do enjoy and was an interesting read which drew away from the sunnier books I had been reading!

Finally the month was complete with Agatha Christie – The Mysterious Affair at Styles. The first Christie Novel, the first Hercule Poirot. As part of my aim to have read all of her books by some point – I went to this one next. The edition I read (as pictured) had an introduction by John Curran and contained information regarding a rewritten chapter which in some ways set in stone the denouement of many murder stories for years to come.

I am back experiencing a new author as the month closes and I have also gone back to one of my favourite authors to immerse myself in one of her novels.

Here is to more lovely reading in August.

Books · Jottings

January Roundup

Yes so we have had January 2015. Was it different to any other January – I am sure not. I hit the ground running at work, having been hampered by a rat chewing through a fibre cable and been without a computer for over 10 days – I actually thought at one point I was going to be found under piles of paperwork not been completed because of said rat. They got it fixed far quicker than they (and I) thought. Add into the mix another cold, sinusitis and a chesty cough and January was pretty much the same as December.

What has been different looking back on January’s reading is I have read more than I normally do in a January. So what have I been indulging in?

When it’s dark and the weather is rather grim, you need brightness in your life and that comes in the form of being able to read the new Katie Fforde – A Vintage Wedding* (out in February). Nothing warms you more than talk of weddings and romance.

And another place to guarantee such warmth is in a Trisha Ashley novel – this one Every Woman for Herself* was a bit disappointing for me, but nonetheless it was a pleasant diversion. A more recent place to guarantee a good old-fashioned read is with Carole Matthews – A Place Called Home* this was not perhaps as fluffy as you may think but it drew strength from some wonderful places and made it an emotional read.

I was introduced to Rosie Goodwin, through the lovely publishers who sent me one of her books for review sometimes last year (I think). I had forgotten how much I love a good historical saga. The sort that made Catherine Cookson famous, the sort you can just while away pages and hours as you get so involved in what is going on. Her latest novel The Mill Girl* was like going back to my childhood when I ventured from children’s books to more adult type novels. It was this genre that I devoured weekly. I could easily do that again!

When in doubt what to read and you can’t face the choice on the shelf I tend to go to something I know in this case M.C. Beaton – Agatha Raisin and the Deadly Dance. It is also from reading this book and pondering where my reading and blogging is taking me that I made the decision not to review it. You can read all about it here. I suddenly feel like I have been let free.

The reason for my decision above, is from reading a review of Sara Sheridan – England Expects*. These are great novels and are forming a series, set in Fifties Britain (for a change) they make a murder mystery as much historical as thrilling.

Thrillers are not normally my book of choice, but when you start to hear a lot of one particular book and get the opportunity to read it, it is partly to see what all the fuss is about! And the fuss for Paula Hawkins – The Girl on the Train is all worth it. This book is going to be the one so many people are talking about for months to come.

Thanks to lots of lovely publishers I have been able to experience some rather moving reads and the debut novel James Hannah – The A-Z of You and Me* is one of those books. It is moving, thought provoking and written and constructed so differently. Do look out for my review.

As the month comes to an end, I picked up J.K. Rowling – The Casual Vacancy, it has sat on my shelf for a while to be read and as the television adaption is due on our screens soon, I was intrigued. I still am, the book is rather indescribable at the moment.

How was your January?

*Book review yet to appear on blog.


The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

This is the book that everyone is going to be talking about in 2015. It is building up a lot of interest. In my opinion rightly so – this debut book is going to make a long journey all of its own.

Rachel gets on the 8.04 train to London, she has been doing it for so long she knows not just which stations it will stop at but all the signals along the way.

At one of those signals, she can see into the gardens of some houses. She can see the residents. In fact Rachel has become so interested in one particular couple that she has given them names ‘Jason and Jess’ and created a whole story for them. Their life looks idyllic and obviously divorced Rachel is missing what she once had.

But one day when the train stops at the same signal she sees something that does not fit in with this ideal life of these strangers. Suddenly the story she has created becomes a real nightmare. Rachel then gets involved with the real Jason and Jess, actually called Scott and Megan and it all becomes very close to home. Too close.

Can you trust Rachel though? As we learn more about her we see her rely on alcohol. These details are like drip fed to us by the author, is it this why she is divorced? Is it something else? And if she is always recovering from a hangover can we really believe what Rachel says or in fact sees?

Whilst we read Rachel’s story throughout the book, it is alternated with two other female characters Megan and Anna. Which reality is correct, can we trust any of these characters and are any of their actions justifiable. You go through a number of emotions with these characters as you range from page to page with anger, sympathy and love.

As the train continues to stop at that signal, the story keeps going. It has you wanting to know why, it questions what you see, what you hear and most of all what you believe. I liked this about the book, I enjoyed being taken through all the twists and turns and getting back to where I originally was. I am not sure if I guessed the resulting outcome or whether I did not want to acknowledge it and let the book take me on this wonderful journey. It kept the heart beating, the pages turning and reading late into the night. Excellent stuff.

“I suppose that everyone does it – looks out at the houses they pass – only we all seem them differently. All saw them differently”.

Next time you observe other people’s lives remember this book………..

The Girl on the Train is out in hardback and on kindle now. 

Thank you to the publisher for allowing me to receive a copy via netgalley. 

I have seen a lot about this book that if you liked Gone Girl or Before I Go To Sleep then you will love this book. Well I read them books and they were good. As this book is good. I try and come to books with an open mind and never try and compare them. They can all have a place in the world quite easily. Some people I know hated Gone Girl and loved Before I Go To Sleep – it is all relative. That is why there are so many books out there.

Take this book for what it is and make no comparisons.

This book will be talked about – it has a great campaign behind it and has also made it onto the Radio 2 Book Club for Monday 19th January. I look forward to seeing how well it does and also what else Paula Hawkins writes in the future, because if it as good as The Girl on the Train then I will be reading it. 




Jottings #12 Jumbles and Jigsaws

I really do not know where time has gone or is going, and I thought it was time that I popped along and say hello. There is nothing amazing or major going on, it is just work is thoroughly busy and I seem to have less time to get on the computer at home and post reviews. When you have been looking at figures and a screen all day, firing up the laptop in an evening (stand fast today) is not really what I want to do. I am still reading which is good. But there is much I would like to mention and share, hence why I thought I would do this post of my jumbled thoughts and see if you can find the pieces to put it all together in some semblance of a jigsaw.

Strictly – Yes it is that time of year again, and yes I am watching it. However, I have to say I think I might have to say that this programme may have had its day. Over two hours of a programme on a Saturday night is some sort of marathon and I often get up and wander about doing other things whilst it is on. The celebrities seem to be getting less famous or well-known as the series goes on and the jokes are predictable whether they come from Tess, Bruce or even the judges.

The other factor that makes me think, enough is enough. Is the results show. Sorry if I am going to spoil something for you, but they film it on a Saturday night and simply change costumes and presenters and then claim it is a Sunday. Do not insult the British audience’s intelligence, they know. And if they are also intelligent enough and not completely hooked by the programme, they probably know who is out anyway. I check on a Sunday AM through the medium of Twitter who has left. How many others are doing this? So I am not really watching the programme when it is on.  I feel because I am not hooked by the programme I don’t really care about it any more. And if you check out Elaine’s Blog she has got this two-hour programme down to about forty minutes by recording it and watching at another time, and fast forwarding through all the dross that fills the programme. But because I am fickle, I will still watch it and perhaps when it gets down to the last few it might be a bit more captivating, until then it will be a background noise on a Saturday night for me.

Sticking with TV and getting down to the last few is The Great British Bake OffNext week is the final – oooooo. I have been hooked by all these wonderful individuals who have brought so much to the programme. I think Mary Berry has been harsher than in previous years and Paul Hollywood, still has that smug look (along with contestant Frances) about him and I always think he needs taking down a peg or two. I so want to be able to bake every week. When I have lost the few pounds (weight not money) that have crept in I will certainly give my baking skills a bit of an exercise. It will not be anything so creative as these people but still it is lovely to eat homemade stuff. Doesn’t it taste better than shop bought mass manufactured items?

And I also cannot understand why the next series of GBBO has to be moved to BBC One. Again are they insulting are intelligence that we cannot possibly work out where to find one of our favourite programmes to watch? We can work a remote control. And also in this day and age where you can record your TV programmes weeks in advance, from your mobile phone, your bus, work, the loo, in the pub or wherever. Does it really matter which flipping channel it is broadcast on? Rant over.

Don’t worry BBC I managed to turn my television over when I wanted to another programme which is a favourite – Downton Abbey. (I went from 1 to 3 on my remote control – I had to lie down afterwards of course). I know folks have complained about a scene a couple of programmes ago and they have every right to do so. It could have been a lot worse, I am sure and more graphic. Sometimes it is the suggestion which is worse. I was only disappointed by the fact that it was Nigel Harman that did the deed! (Secret Crush – not so secret now) That aside, I do like the subtle wry wit and humour between some of the characters, makes me chuckle on a Sunday night.

Now enough television, what about books. Well I have 4 waiting to be reviewed and also a book club meeting to write up. Then a post on a book I gave up on, life is too short.  I have the posts created as an incentive to get me to moving. In fact some have words on them too! As for the books that need reading, well I expect it is like all of you out there – too many to choose from. I have been making a headway into some of my books which is good but I need to turn to some of the wonderful offerings from the publishers. Too many books, too little time.

I am intrigued by the winner of the Man Booker Prize, I like the sound of the book. Anyone read it? Would you recommend? I see it is a mighty tome.

As for the new Bridget Jones, I am slightly disheartened to read that Mark Darcy is no more. And it was part serialised in a newspaper, which put me off too. I have read very mixed reviews about it so I think I might wait for a paperback version. Sometimes it is best not to go back. Although if I was one of the lucky few that got a copy of the book, with part of the David Jason autobiography in it then I would have been thrilled! His book is on the Christmas List for sure.

I heard him on Chris Evans Breakfast Show last Friday on BBC Radio 2. If you get the chance do catch up on some of the clips. I am most excited that Open All Hours is coming back for a one off at Christmas. I loved that programme, I have it on DVD and watch it at least once or twice a year. I so wanted to go and poke round the shop. I did get to have a picture of the outside of it a few years back. It is in fact a hairdresser’s in Doncaster and round the corner from where many of many relatives lived and are now buried.  It will be interesting to see how it will all work some thirty years later.


Knitting, I have been knitting. Stitching, felting, painting, glueing in fact a range of crafty things. (Distracts from Strictly!) I am in the process of knitting squares for a blanket for a friend who is most poorly. There is a group of us doing it, as a joint gift. Then we thought we would make some more stuff to sell and raise money for my friend who is hoping to run the London marathon next year for the Iolanthe Midwifery Trust.

Followers of this blog will know that I decamp to the Knitting and Stitching Show every year with my mum for the day. This year’s trip has just passed and I need to share all that with you too. Although the coach journey has a strikingly familiar feel to it from past years…….

What else is going on – well Saturday is Guildford Book Festival Readers Day and I am off again to Guildford (Funny that!) to pick up lots more recommendations no doubt for my every growing wish list. I am trying to resist buying books. I have a couple already which I might take with me to get signed. I will report back to you all, there are lots of authors going who I have not read anything by them at all!

Autumn they say it is – but I have the new warmer fluffier slippers out. The heating has been tested to make sure it is working, although I have had no hot water in my bathroom for a while; now sorted and the winter quilt is on. I think I could quite happily hibernate.

I am fitting in swimming, Body Pump, sleeping, cleaning, eating and all of life’s other bits and bobs as well as working too! One of the reasons we are busy at work is well check out the Court Circular tomorrow (17 Oct). I will not be there, I have been more involved in preparation, but I am sure she is not worried that she will not meet me.

Hope you have enjoyed my jigsaw come jumble of thoughts and that if I have not popped by your blog and said hello for a while, I have been dropping in when I can.

What have you all been up to?


The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit – Emma Thompson

This was a random buy really based on a long car journey and BBC Radio 2 for company. On the way back from Yorkshire to Hampshire one Sunday a few weeks ago, I heard the delightful Emma Thompson talking to Terry Wogan. An actress I love, who brought Shakespeare to life and made it a bit more accessible than just the boring texts did and rather scary English A Level tutors.

Then there is the acting of course in something other than Shakespeare and Jane Austen; The Tall Guy, Junior, Harry Potter films, Nanny McPhee and the wife without that necklace in Love Actually. Emma Thompson has some pretty good films in her bag and her skill in writing has also led her to an Oscar as well.

And then one day she gets a note from Peter, would you mind awfully Emma as you are a bit of a devil having a go at giving me a new adventure. Who is Peter?

Peter Rabbit in the Beatrix Potter Garden at Birnham

Well Peter Rabbit of course. And so is born the delightful book The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit and I could not resist such a book. It reminds me of childhood, the stories, the cheeky Peter, the wonderful artwork and the even more wonderful Beatrix Potter who one must admire from afar for all that she did. (Another film mention to Miss Potter, which is a delight)

I read it twice and then lent it to my mum, who in her enthusiasm for it posted this on Facebook:

News for all mothers of children under 80 I have just read the ‘Peter Rabbit’ book written by Emma Thompson. It’s a follow on from Beatrix Potter’s stories. Brilliant and excellent art work. A must for the Christmas lists.Back to the book. It’s £5.84* from Amazon instead of £12.99. xx 

Now I was always told to listen to your mother!

*Please note that the price reflected in the comment above may not be the price when you go and look at Amazon.
Books · Jottings

Jottings #6 – The Future of Reading

It has been a while since I have jotted here on my blog and I thought I would share a couple of things with you from this week.

Much discussion across blogs, newspapers, readings group and the like is the continual debate over eReader versus ‘real’ book. And I am not debating that here, but in a rather tenuous link I am sharing this link to a eReader interactive programme that measures your speed of reading.

I came out at around 71% faster than the average, it tells you how long it would take to read War and Peace at that speed! Personally I do not want to read for upwards of 22 hours straight! I am also intrigued by the way we use War and Peace as a definition of many things. When an officer comes and asks to photocopy something, I ask ‘As long as it is not War and Peace’, you may use the machine. Colleagues mention having to read briefings, notes or minutes that resemble ‘War and Peace’. Perhaps tomorrow I might say as long as it is not “Five on a Treasure Island” and see what response I get?

This little interactive then goes to show you how many books you could read on your eReader before you needed to recharge the battery.

I found it interesting, mainly because I remember an English Teacher from Secondary School that said I read too much and too quick. She told my mum that I could not possibly be reading so much, that I was just skimming it and would not be taking any of it in. I never seemed to have a problem though. But then this is the same teacher that said my spelling was atrocious, which my mum took her to task on. (How I would love to have been there) Turns out the teacher had muddled me up with someone else. Strangely enough spelling is one of my bug bears and really irritates me after all these years. There is no excuse for poor spelling.

Many years later, I was rather unnerved to see this English Teacher doing a Body Pump class at the same gym as me. It brought back many memories!

Do have a go at the interactive speed reading test and see how you compare.

Talking about teachers and reading at school I am going to lead you to another link. This time to BBC Radio 2’s 500 Words Competition which is a competition open to youngsters. The premise to write a story in 500 words. On Friday 1 June, on Chris Evans Breakfast Show (baby depending) the winners will be announced and some of the stories will be read out by some famous voices at The Hay Festival. You can pop along to the website and read or listen to some of the Top Stories. I have only read a couple so far but do check out My Nanny is a Ninja which I think is very witty.

As part of this wonderful competition which started last year and I think will be continuing (how I wish I was a child again) next, they have teamed up with the Oxford University Press to analyse the words used in the stories (over 74,000 of them)

  • The most common noun is door
  • The exclamation mark is a favourite piece of punctuation. It was used 351, 731 times!
  • There are lots of brilliant similes: as saggy as a baboons bum; as tall as a dozen giraffes standing on top of each other; as soft as a new bought dressing gown from M and S; as puzzled as a baby doing proper fractions

Do check out the report, it makes for very interesting reading.

There is no doubt whoever wins, (your height in books!) there are so many budding authors out there, that no matter how you read your books on paper or new technology; the story is not going anywhere.


Wherever You Are

This song is released on Monday 19 December and is being tipped for this year’s Christmas No 1. Fingers crossed it will reach there and put perhaps X Factor back in its box which is all about the fame, this is about real people, real women.

As someone who works with the military this is a beautiful song and a brilliant achievement whatever happens. It reminds us all that all those who fight for Queen and Country regardless of whether we agree with what our governments get us into has left behind at home people that they love and love them. What more a touching tribute is this song. I admire them all and wish now I had watched the television programme.

Chris Evans is backing this on his Radio 2 Breakfast Show and it is played at least twice during the show. It makes me stop and reflect just for a few minutes. Especially as having just done our Children’s Christmas Party at work and one lady was there with her four children and had not got herself organised to get a photo with Santa (my dad) and her children to send to her husband who is serving in Afghanistan. However, dad Santa made sure that we went and got her back with the children once she had located her phone so she could send it to him as soon as possible. It is the small things which make the biggest impact.


The Devil Rides Out – Paul O’Grady

This is the second autobiography of Paul O’Grady. If you have read the first At My Mothers Knee and a fan of the man himself as well as his alter ego Lily Savage then read this second book.

We left the first book as O’Grady found out that he was to be a father and we start this book with the birth of his daughter and interestingly enough end the book with the birth of another female who was going influence him and viewers alike; the embryonic stage of Lily Savage.

Along the way of the five years or so that is covered by this book, we are taken through O’Grady’s two lives which seem to run concurrently with each other. The numerous day and night jobs, working in Yates Wine Lodge, physiotherapist assistant, cleaner, waiter, working for an escort agency and then as a peripatetic care officer for a local council. With visits abroad to Poland and Manila where life is very different was all experience for him. To say O’Grady has seen everything is probably as near to the truth as you are going to get. O’Grady makes it clear that some of these jobs opened his eyes but also made him the caring man he is today when he sees what people suffer with no one realising exactly what is going on out there.

Whilst his CV was ever growing, he was also getting more involved in drag acts through some of the pubs, clubs and bars that he worked at and frequented. The various different people he lodges with or lodged with him introduced him to some famous acts The Harlequeens and The Disappointed Sisters. He could see their faults and strengths also and wanted to do something better, something more polished anything as good as them. As time went on, he grew into making his first appearance miming to a Barbara Streisand song and that opened up another path for O’Grady and where this second book ends and one can only hope that his third part starts.

This book to me is written from the heart, I agree that it is perhaps not as funny as his first volume but what it is, is raw and honest. O’Grady has not gone for an autobiography where he rants about celebrities, name dropping and settling scores with anyone and everyone a nice story if you will.  This is O’Grady’s story and an important part of his life where he was trying to find what he wanted from it, which was not marriage or a child despite having both. This is an honest book with passages and lines that will make you laugh and even make your hair stand on end! But there is the acerbic wit but also make you cry at some of the scenes of poverty and destruction of others trying to survive in a fairly nasty world. A great change from some of the celebrity autobiographies out there.