Sunday Sevens – book reviews

IMG_1486

I’ve struggled a little with the concept of Sunday Sevens because in all honesty my life is pretty ordinary and not all that exciting, but I enjoy reading other bloggers posts and it is only fair to share. All in all, its been a pretty quiet week – no migraines thankfully! so I thought I would use the opportunity to write a little book review and a few of the simple things that have given me pleasure this week.

 

IMG_1488

Firstly, I am really enjoying this Sencha Sakura Green Tea from Char in Winchester. It is a scented tea – and has a delicate cherry flavour that is simply divine! perfect for Spring.

Rivers of London Book review

I really enjoyed this book! Right from the beginning I felt incredibly sorry for the protagonist – DC Peter Grant – he has a sardonic humour! To quote the blurb… Meet DC Peter Grant he will show you his city. But it’s not the capital that you all see as you make your journey from Tube to Bus, from elephant to castle. It’s a city that under its dark surface is packed full of crime. And of magic. A city that you never expected…

This is a wonderful book, (I am delighted that this is the first in a series) it has been described as Whitechapel mixed with Harry Potter – it is a great imaginative mix. There are the vampires living in a basement, a witness to a murder comes forward .. the only problem is the witness is ‘corporeally challenged’ as in not having a body because he is a ghost. It is a really good read and one that will keep you turning the pages.

Self care revolution

There are so many books on Self Care at the moment – many of which I have passed over because they are pretty thick and to be honest… boring. This one stands out because there is a lot of pictures… and I do love pictures! There is a lot of wisdom in the pages, but it is laid out in such a way that you can take chunks at a time for example there are a couple of yoga poses that could be done before bed. They take ten minutes and it has helped me achieve the desire to do more yoga because its achievable – I found the hour and a half sessions I attended a struggle if I am honest! but ten minutes before bed, four restorative poses – that is achievable!

There are various sections covering all aspects of good living – movement and nutrition, sleep rest and relaxation, coping skills, physical environment, social connections, mood boosters, goal setting and accomplishments and finally values and purpose.

It is written with such honesty, the author was in need herself – and she is honest about her depression which helps. Sometimes self help books are written in such a way that you feel the author has never had a problem – but Suzy Reading is open about her own journey which seems to make the advice more authentic.

The Simple Home Book Review

I had to have this book as a physical book because I bought Rhonda’s simple living on my kindle and really wished I had bought the book. Rhonda gave up the rat race of life.. realised that the key to freedom lay in living simply – within your means and cutting back on all the should haves and must haves. She writes a great blog, down to earth about her life growing their own vegetables and making her own bread. This book is set out in home making areas by season. (although you have to tweak it a little because we are in the northern hemisphere)

A month to month guide to self reliance, productivity and contentment.. With all the talk of financial uncertainty, sky-high property prices – I know this book can help people, you and older, live well in difficult times. There needs to be a way forward that gives ordinary folk the power to choose family and home life instead of intense consumerism and the bleak consequences of it. Living simply can e that way forward.

It is so easy to underestimate just how our lives are tethered to a consumerist culture.. the must have phone upgrades that have us in debt for another couple of years, the lifestyles pumped into our living spaces unconsciously by Television programming as well as advertising. Not to forget that since the introduction of the national curriculum – independent living skills have been virtually eradicated from education – instead of spending 6 weeks a year learning to cook, children spend most of that time designing packaging for their food product – running an imaginary food company. Debt has become a way of living and shopping a way to pass time – made even easier at a click of a button. What we don’t realise is that it takes our lives away, we are selling our time and future for items that really don’t matter. Living within your means without debt – is the way to freedom. Eating food made from scratch – is taking back the control for your health.

ok… rant over. This book is awesome – I am only disappointed that I can’t have chickens anymore!

Paris Undressed Book

In America women save their best lingerie for date night or Valentines day. French women don’t need a special occasion or permission. They resist cookie cutter definitions and labels for love. Why put a quota on pleasure? If lingerie feels good next to your skin, why not wear it as much as possible? Life is the special occasion. Today. Right here. Right now.

We pretty much follow our American cousins when it comes to lingerie – and so lingerie shopping in the UK is very limited. I have to admit I am ashamed of the underwear I reach for every day – its not pretty but it is – thankfully comfortable!

I am certain I am not alone – I have piles of bras that I have worn that have tortured my body until I can bare it no more… it is why I have now taken the sum total of five bra making courses! Yet I the perfect bra seems to elude me! I have a large pile of toile bras that simply don’t fit well either…

But here lies the problem.. French Women spend a lot of money on their lingerie and they have a wide choice of shops to choose from. Here I pick up a £3.00 bra in Sainsbury’s and wonder why the blasted thing is so irritatingly uncomfortable before chucking it on the ever growing pile of torture devices that I hide in overflowing drawers.

Its not just not as simple as Kathryn kemp-Griffin makes out – I’ve visited Agent Provocateur and spent a lot of money on lingerie and yes, you can tell the difference in quality, but sadly, what lingerie manufacturers don’t seem to understand is that women above size 10 would like something beautiful. And yes, women with a cleavage a bit bigger than a D cup would like the same amount of pretty lace and bows that you get on a double AA cup! Why does it all disappear after C I wonder?

ok… yet another rant over.. !

There is a lingerie shop near where I get my hair done… I will make an appointment and let you know how it goes. I really would like to believe that it is as easy as Kathryn kemp-suggests – lots of beautiful lingerie that is comfortable and pleasurable next to the skin!

This book does suggest the holy grail of comfortable underwear exists.. you just have to visit Paris … !

Emotional Sensitivity Book review

This little book rocked my world and has helped me more than all the growing self help books on my shelves. I am an Highly Sensitive Person – its a bit like having extra sensory perception and it does make life incredibly hard sometimes.

I have to admit, there were early chapters in this book that brought tears to my eyes. Imo Lo knows a great deal about her subject – because finally a lot of my painful past not only made more sense but I realised I was not alone – that there are others who also struggle.

There is great practical advice – how to look after yourself, how not to close down and shut off all feeling. Being HSP means that if you sit with an angry person – you feel their anger, their rage, it is uncomfortable – it is painful and it is overwhelming at times. It means you cannot hurt someone – no matter how much they deserve it, without feeling that hurt too. So it makes you very vulnerable – and a target that seems to bring out the bully in a lot of people.

I cannot recommend this book enough – it is practical and offers strategies that give me hope.

Be Gentle to yourself

I have finished another little quilt – these little sewing meditations are soothing and relaxing. You can read about my first little quilt here.

 

Advertisements

The Handmaid’s Tale – book review.

 

170425-wilstein-handmaiden-tease-1_bdmlre

I had heard about this book in the 1980s when it was first published, I remember being intrigued by the concept, but I never quite got round to reading it. I caught the first episode of the latest series – and decided to watch no more until I had read the book.

I know its been said many times – the book format gives a richer experience for me, more intimate than watching a TV screen, but I have to admit Elizabeth Moss was a perfect choice for the adaptation.

The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire – neither Offred’s nor that of the two men on which her future hangs. Brilliantly conceived and executed, this powerful evocation of twenty-first century America gives full rein to Margaret Atwood’s devastating irony, wit and astute perception

My respect to Atwood, it is an engaging stifling mesmerising tale – Offred is a survivor, she does not allow herself to think or remember her life before the regime, but it is through the memories that the full story emerges, layer by layer. We go back and forth in time, and the way media is used and manipulated to shape minds, is astounding. Long before sound bites and facebook, it is shocking to see how easily it can all come true.

the-handmaids-tale-elisabeth-moss-2

When Attwood wrote this book, she was in Germany – Eastern Germany still had repressive regimes and the fear of being arrested for crimes against the state were her inspiration.

Back in the early 1980’s there were no cameras monitoring the streets – no google data collection nor email monitoring. A couple of years ago, a scandal in this country involved under cover policemen living double lives for years with female feminist activists.

“It was after the catastrophe, when they shot the President and machine-gunned the Congress and the army declared a state of emergency. They blamed it on the Islamic fanatics, at the time.

“Keep calm, they said on television. Everything is under control. I was stunned. Everyone was, I know that. It was hard to believe. The entire government, just like that. How did they get in, how did it happen?

“That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn’t even any rioting in the streets. People stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn’t even an enemy you could put your finger on.”

Attwood’s words are chilling – because it seems we have become a society that rarely questions. Our screens are full of celebrities in jungles or dancing, children don’t want to change the world -they want to be famous.

This book has reminded me – of the school child who enjoyed political debates and believed that society needed to change, needed equality – and now, thirty years later the gap between rich and poor is widening again and I wonder where that idealistic teenager went? It feels good to consider something deeper and it is definitely thought provoking.

future_handmaid_promo

If nothing else, this book shows us just how close we are to things tipping the balance and it is scary and frightening. The narrative tension never lets up, there is a pervading fear – that seeps off the page. The suffocating restriction of Offred’s life, where time hangs heavy – but there is nothing else to do but remember.

The ending is a a mark of genius, the epilogue allows us a widening view, and the ability to create our own ending.

Yes, the book does offer a deeper experience, but I will try and catch up with the television series – if nothing else it has created a debate.

Thirty years after publication and it is deservedly on the top sellers list.

 

 

 

 

 

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney – book review

9780425285046

The blurb….

Emma
Reeling from a traumatic break-in, Emma wants a new place to live. But none of the apartments she sees are affordable or feel safe. Until One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece: a minimalist design of pale stone, plate glass, and soaring ceilings. But there are rules. The enigmatic architect who designed the house retains full control: no books, no throw pillows, no photos or clutter or personal effects of any kind. The space is intended to transform its occupant—and it does.

Jane
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start. When she finds One Folgate Street she is instantly drawn to the space—and to its aloof but seductive creator. Moving in, Jane soon learns about the untimely death of the home’s previous tenant, a woman similar to Jane in age and appearance. As Jane tries to untangle truth from lies, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, makes the same choices, crosses paths with the same people, and experiences the same terror, as the girl before.

Book Review

 

My review….

Wow! What a read! haven’t enjoyed a book since than Girl on a Train.. this kept me gripped so much that I completed it in 24 hours! I really enjoyed it – the tension continued throughout – and I liked the double narrative – ‘ Then’ – Emma’s story – ‘Now’ Jane’s story. The two women had very distinct personalities; they each went through similar experiences but their reactions were different. One example is the Sushi restaurant they are taken to by Edward – I found I related much more to Jane’s reaction than Emma.

Both women were recovering from a recent trauma – Emma having an intruder in her flat in the middle of the night and Jane – after losing a still birth.

The house appears to offer a place of recovery – the clean lines and uncluttered space is reflective of a monk’s cell – austere but with its own sense of serenity. The technology in the house is designed to intuitively support the needs of the occupants – shower settings are automatically adjusted each time to the person’s preferences.

However, the technology becomes oppressive – Jane finds services are withheld until she completes on going psychological tests – each of the questions are moral debates and add to the tension as the questions become more intrusive. The house also completes health checks and monitors overall wellbeing into a quantifiable score – Jane is expected to adjust to improve her scores.

The book blurb linked this with Girl on a Train (which I also loved) and Fifty Shades of Grey… (which almost put me off – I despised that book because it was so awful!) Yet, Edward Montford is a controlling character – JP Delaney understands dominant controlling behaviour and uses it very effectively. Edward has power – his designs have made him wealthy, he is good looking and he is also a perfectionist – which makes him quite an interesting character. I agree that there are also similarities between Girl on a Train… but I don’t want to spoil the read for you – so I won’t say why here.

The-Girl-Before-Review-Banner

The story unravelled at quite a pace – I loved the way the two characters experiences were similar and the way they engaged in a relationship with Edward – kept the tension. Edward had exacting standards – the conditions of living in the house were a huge list of rules – and the women sought to meet those exacting standards.

The plot twists were interesting – and the tension built nicely – I could not put the book down! The conclusion was satisfying – I won’t say any more as I don’t want to spoil it for you!

The only negative thing I can say about this book is that I hate it when they use Americanisms… this is set in London, the story is English why then, does Jane refer to her bangs rather than her fringe? Surely American readers would be able to look it up – if they don’t know what a fringe is?

J.P Delaney is a skilful writer, although Good Reads describes them as

J. P. Delaney is the pseudonym of a writer who has previously published best-selling fiction under another name.

I also note there is another book written under this name… which is great news! Clicking on Amazon as soon as I have finished this review.

The book is going to made into a film.. please leave it in London not New York like The Girl on the Train… !

Overall – five gold stars – ten out of ten -quite brilliant!

 

The Dress Shop of Dreams – Menna Van Praag book review

the-dress-shop-of-dreams-bookcover

This is the second book I have read from this author – she creates such cosy worlds full of kind people. The dress shop in question is magical – when a woman tries on one of the beautiful silk dresses – she is clothed in the confidence and beauty to attain her dreams – which mostly revolve around finding love.

This book is about love and loss and finding your way. It is full of kind hearted people who for many reasons are lost. Cora – a scientist has closed off her heart after the tragic death of her parents – begins to remember what happened that night and decides to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Walt – the owner of the nearby bookstore – makes the most delicious cherry pies – has been in love with Cora all his life – but Cora seems immune to his advances. He reads books on the local radio – and his deep voice draws may admiring letters which Walt has no interest in responding to. Dylan – the radio producer begins to write back to some of the ladies – and finds love.

dress shop of dreams

The shop owner – Etta – who is also Cora’s grandmother – is pining for a lost love years ago – and while she can stitch magic into the dresses that bring out confidence and beauty in every woman – she can’t help herself.

All these lovely broken people – somehow navigate their way through the book to a satisfying ending. This is a tale about love, loss and recovery and finding the courage to love again.

These books are a great escape and enjoyable to read – I intend to read another of her books soon.

Menna Van Praag – Lost Art of Letter writing book review

Menna-blog

I can’t recall how I stumbled across this author, but I am so glad I did, if you enjoyed Chocolat then this author is going to really delight the senses – she writes joyful tales that include just a sprinkling of magic, in the same way that Chocolat does – its believable magic, that hint that somewhere out there is a force for good.

I don’t know about you, but with all that is going on in the world, I find I want to escape into a good book, where people are kind, and there is hope – Menna’s writing is just such an escape and the settings she chooses for her tales are so close to my heart that I find them irresistible.

Letter writing

The Lost Art of Letter Writing begins with a tiny, shop tucked away in the Cambridge, it contains beautiful paper, pens and a magical writing desk. Clara the shop owner walks the streets after closing – observing the inhabitants and then writes them letters of encouragement – these letters give hope or support – what ever she is drawn to write.

However, waiting for her is her own mystery, a discovery of a box of letters that send Clara on an adventure beyond the four walls of the shop. It is not just her story, there is a mix of other stories interwoven – the people Clara sends encouraging letters to – which fragmented the story a little.

However, it is a pleasurable read, one that I could recommend.

 

Joyful Easter, the only time it’s safe to put all your eggs in one basket!

Happy Easter

Having Easter in April feels just right, March always seems too early for this celebration of renewal. Long before clothes shopping was an everyday occurrence, Easter was a time when everyone wore new clothes – a small remnant remains in the many Easter Bonnet activities that still go on in Schools. Easter is a pivotal celebration – the dreariest months of the year are behind us and summer is not that far away. Time to pack up winter woolies, and make room for floaty dresses and cotton cardigans. Absence does make the heart grow fonder – because each box is a rediscovery –   like a whole new wardrobe -not just a new outfit.

Pink Crochet Baby Blanket

My beloved, daughter is expecting a little girl in August – I can’t tell you how excited I am about being a Nanna! I attended a midwife appointment with her which was marvellous – the little girl’s heartbeat resounded in the room loud and strong. Knowing its a girl somehow makes her a person already.

It is splendid that already the  process is so much better than my own experience – my own mother had died long before my daughter was born – those early days after giving birth came with such a deep longing for my mother that I suffered both baby blues and bereavement, it was a bleak time; I am so thrilled that I am here to support my daughter, if she needs me.

This is me a few days after having my daughter, I was 22 years old and had been married nearly two years –  we all wore Laura Ashley back then!

Lucy Susie baby copy

I want to wrap my daughter up, in warm fuzzy love, cherish her through this process – I am glad to see mothers  have so much more support, net mums is a great resource and one that is available for those early morning feeds when you feel you are the only one awake and  she can text the midwife anytime.

It has also drawn us closer together – she was my first baby – it is miraculous that my baby is having a baby! I am amazed at how much I had forgotten until we discuss morning sickness, stretch marks and that phenomenal sensation of fluttering baby movements. I am planning a baby shower for her, which is a lovely invention that has crossed the pond – that I am savouring every moment.

I am crocheting a pink and cream blanket, the wool is sensuously soft and delicate, I believe that you can put a positive intention of love in every stitch – which will in time wrap around the baby – pink is the colour of self love so there is a lot of it going around right now!

Vision board

This is my vision board which is plastered on the fridge, I wanted to focus on being more healthy this year and this has taken the form of mindful eating and weaning myself off sugar. Vision boards are the most fun you can have with paper, scissors and glue! You simply take a stack of magazines and cut out pictures that inspire you, paste them to paper (I use lining wall paper) and then put them somewhere you will see them every day. Repeat often – the brain loves novelty and often filters out after  a while, it is a great way to keep on track and fill every day with inspiration. I sometimes make these focussing on colours – or home decoration – Country Living is a feast of beauty and inspiration.

 

Saffron Tales
energy balls natural sugar free treat

I would say I was quite addicted to sugar – after all from an early age I was rewarded with sweets and my Nanna loaded me up with comforting sweet tea. I am not alone in this process – it seems every article on health or fitness has a campaign of demonising sugar. All the writing on the subject blames the demonising of fat thirty years ago – which has produced an epidemic of type 2 diabetes, as manufacturers loaded up our fat free food with sugar to make it palatable. I rarely eat pre packaged food, because I want to know what I am eating, sugar has many names and many forms -I was amazed to discover fresh chicken is pumped full of glycerine because it weighs more!   Despite this trend, the dairy producers are slow to react – try buying full fat yoghurt!

The Saffron tales is a delightful book – armchair travel to the middle East – including a recipe for Energy balls which can be eaten as breakfast on the go. They are made from 160g of dates which I replaced with apricots – they provide the right note of natural sweetness when my desire for a sugar hit is at its height – usually around 4 o’clock in the afternoon when dinner is hours away.  You whizz up the apricots with a cup full of flaked almonds, a table spoon each of cinnamon and vanilla in a food processor. Add enough Tahini (or you can use Almond or Peanut butter) so that the mixture forms balls – and then roll these in coconut or ground almonds. The combination of nuts and natural sugar – releases its energy over time so you avoid the crash that happens just after a sugar hit. I find they sustain me as I don’t feel hungry for a good while afterwards – I can get to suppertime without going through a dozen biscuits!

Yoga for Life

As part of my intention for a healthier year – I have been enjoying this delightful yoga lifestyle book from Maya Fiennes.  The chapters are based around the chakras – using Kundalini yoga (I did not realise there were different types of yoga before reading this book).

A Kundalini session leaves you feeling fighting fit, ready and able to tackle every day challenges with new zest.

The book contains positive quotations, recipes and poses as well as lots of beautiful inspirational photography. It encouraged me to go out and buy some kaftans and leggings – dressing the part makes me feel halfway there and they are sooo gloriously comfortable I often keep my yoga outfits on the rest of the day!

I go to a yoga class every week, but this is a great guide for those days when I want to continue to practise at home – I tried the frog pose and it was the first time I felt the soar of energy that comes from using the poses. It was like discovering magic, and it does make me feel more alive!

barney reduced size

Our evening beach walks are lovely, the sea round here is rarely choppy, and the beaches have never been crowded. I am really enjoying my photography, Barney makes a good subject!

At the end of the week we enjoyed another writing session, which is also in tune with mindful attention – its only when you step back from life an become an observer that you have an opportunity to notice all the small things.

We have family gatherings to look forward to and it is wonderful to enjoy a long weekend. Happy Easter

Easter Eggs

 

 

Enchanted April – Sunday Sevens 9th April 2017

MAKES

OH! what bliss it is to wander in Spring sunshine without a coat! It has been a delightful early spring so far, March went out like a lamb and April has been all sunshine and smiles!  The Crab apple trees on our daily walk are beautiful leaving a carpet of pink among the grass! There seems to be an abundance of pink everywhere we look –  pink is the colour of self love.  It is hard not to be affected by the burst of positive energy all around – life feels great.

I have been rifling through my seasonal clothes and have been re-united with some of my lovely summer dresses – everything feels lighter and brighter. The seeds I planted are coming along well, and we have been enjoying longer walks in the evenings – which lifts my energy levels and makes me feel better.

Spring

I unearthed my supremely comfortable pink (of course!) walking  boots and we headed to the local woods to see if we could find any wild garlic -we spotted clumps of white among the bluebells but the carpet of white flowers were anemones! They look so pretty and fresh among the vibrant greens, but I am not sure they are edible.

Primroses in the woods

These little beauties were flourishing at the side of the path – I remember when I was a child the woods would be covered in a carpet of blue, yellow and white – so it is nice to see there are still abundant wild flowers.

Old tree trunk in the woods

This tree trunk looks like some sort of Velociraptor (see the jaws on the right?) goodness knows how long its been there, but it is beautiful.

Live Simply

My quote this week reflects my decision this year to seek out the small pleasures. I know that Simple Abundance is having a huge impact and I feel as if I am waking up from a deep slumber. Once I began to mindfully, taste, touch, smell and hear it connects me with nature,  – everything you need is right here, right now, and there are gifts everywhere.

4475fccc363e02091aa42ab82429ca42

I am a real fan of older films – this is from a film called Enchanted April made not that long ago in 1992, it is perfect Sunday afternoon viewing. Its available on Amazon for under a fiver.

A careworn middle class woman, Lottie Wilkins sees an advertisement to rent a small castle in Italy for April – England seems to be endlessly raining and her life seems so small and drab, She spends her life seeing to the whims of her husband.  When Lottie notices another lady, Rose Arbuthnot – looking just as downcast and in need of a holiday, they agree to rent it together. Two other ladies join them, a socialite Lady Caroline and a dowdy, widow Mrs Fisher. Italy works its magic and we see the women flourish among the terraced gardens and turrets of the small castle.

The book, by Elizabeth Arnim was written in 1921 – and is semi-biographical created when she was physically, and emotionally exhausted, having recently become a single mother. To recover  she travelled to Italy to get away from dreary England – and one day she observed the beautiful gardens below her study, and so she transformed the magic into a story of hope and liberation.

What the book highlights, is just how burdened women can be – and not just from responsibility but their own continual desire to ensure the happiness of those around them, family, friends neighbours. Nearly 100 years later women are still juggling with these same issues of commitments and family stress.

Women run on expectations, the way a car is fuelled by gas. And it doesn’t matter whose: unspoken assignments from parents, bosses clients, children and lovers all crowd our calendars’ borders in ink only we can see.

While the film is delightful, I am finding the book has more depth, you read from each character’s perspective – you get inside their heads whereas the film can only hint at hidden motives. I found the character Lady Caroline more interesting, she is stunningly beautiful – but it is a burden that perhaps I had not appreciated until reading her tale.

hair do

My beloved son, Will is the Director of a Salon in Hampshire every 6 weeks my friend Jo and I  jaunt off for the day to have our hair done together. We usually spend a couple of hours browsing the shops and head to the Salon just after closing hours. We have the whole salon to ourselves.  Afterwards, we head out for a bite or two, sometimes we go jive dancing -depending on how exhausted he is after working all day!

Afternoon tea

Mothers Day was a protracted affair, my daughter and son in law came over for Afternoon tea, and then my son came over for a meal the following weekend, so it has been a great family time all round. I adored Mr D’s swirly sausage rolls and had more than one … or two!

Staffie in the woods
Staffordshire Bull terrier, Barney with ball

Of course, we can’t let a week go by without a Barney picture.. the ball is still intact surprisingly, although it did start out as a cuddly pig, but the pig fabric ended up decorating the lounge floor!

Happy Sunday. x

Sunday sevens is the delightful invention of Nat.. read her blog here. 

Book Review – The Taxidermist’s Daughter Kate Mosse

taxidermists-daughter

It is wonderful to read a story set in your own small corner of the world, Kate Mosse is a local writer and this is the first book I’ve read that features many of the local landmarks. I loved hearing the names of places I know well, Chichester and Fishbourne which is where Kate grew up. You can read an article about the house that inspired this tale here.

What Kate does well, is to write evocatively about a place – I loved that about Winter Ghosts and I began this book almost straight after finishing Winter Ghosts, but this tale is darker and more macabre.

Sussex, 1912. In a churchyard, villagers gather on the night when the ghosts of those who will die in the coming year are thought to be seen. Here, where the estuary leads out to the sea, superstitions still hold sway.

Standing alone is the taxidermist’s daughter. At 17, Constantia Gifford lives with her father in a decaying house: it is all that is left of Gifford’s once world-famous museum of taxidermy. The stuffed animals that used to grace every parlour are out of fashion, leaving Gifford a disgraced and bitter man.

The bell begins to toll and all eyes are fixed on the church. No one sees the gloved hand pick up a flint. As the last notes fade into the dark, a woman lies dead.

While the village braces itself against rising waters and the highest tide of the season, Connie struggles to discover who is responsible, but finds herself under suspicion. Is Constantia who she seems – is she the victim of circumstances or are more sinister forces at work? And what is the secret that lies at the heart of Gifford House, hidden among the bell jars of her father’s workshop?

Told over one summer, The Taxidermist’s Daughter is the haunting new novel from the bestselling author of Labyrinth, Sepulchre, Citadel and The Winter Ghosts.

I have to admit the detailed description of the process of taxidermy described early on in the book made me feel slightly squeamish. I can’t say that it endeared me to Connie, I found it took a while to really get into the book. It was like catching glimpses in the mist, the sense of place, the marshes and the ebbing water – play just as big a role in this tale along with the characters.

wash stand Petworth Cottage Museum

The tale unfolds gradually, the lives of Gifford and his daughter resonate strongly with the sense of decay. Their art is no longer sought after or appreciated, but, Kate makes it very clear, it may be macabre but it is an Art of its own. It made me look at taxidermy in a different light – the skill is in preserving life, forever -from the smallest bird to the well loved dog.

It is gruesome in parts, especially the murders – but then it is why this tale hangs together, so reminiscent of Victorian Gothic – you get a sense of chilling in your bones, as the tidal waters rise, the crows circling or roosting in packs, even though it is more Edwardian than Victorian, it is a delightfully suspenseful tale.

01-img_2540

Kate’s sense of  of place is masterly, cosy tap rooms of local Public houses, an austere asylum, chilly carriage rides and living beside the frosty ebbing and flowing estuary mirroring the Giffords’ place in the community. We also have gallantry and just the wisp of romance .. if only the two lovers had a chance.

It’s a good read, one definitely for cold winter nights with a crackling fire – to ward off the chill of the mist and fog, in good gothic style.

If you loved Susan Hill’s The woman in Black, then you’ll enjoy this. (When, dear Susan, will you write another Gothic novel?)

I can’t wait to see what Kate Writes next…

Outlander Series one and The Witches Daughter – book review

Outlander-TV_series-2014

We bought an Amazon TV stick and have been enjoying some great films; this Series kept on popping up in our feed, so we decided to try it.

The basic story is about an Army Nurse in the 1940’s who is visiting Scotland with her husband after the war. One day she visits a standing stone circle and falls back in time by 200 years.

I really enjoyed the first half of the series, it was great learning about the clan culture and seeing Claire navigate her way in another time. She used her knowledge to heal and earned respect for her skills. She falls in love with one of the characters (I’ll try not to spoil it) but somehow when we reached two thirds of the way in I began to feel my interest waning.  How many times did she ignore advice and get herself in trouble? I find I was getting restless at her inability  to learn from her mistakes.

Beyond episode 11, I was watching it alone, Mr D having lost interest and it was becoming too romantic even for my interest, but the final episode left me frustrated and angry! What began as a promising tale – seemed to take a turn that left me feeling uncomfortable to watch. It seems to me that current box sets seem to desire to push boundaries, but I find it difficult to understand why the last episode would be so dire.

We became sucked into Game of Thrones a few months back – the first series was gripping, but when we reached the end of series five I felt sickened by the sheer violence depicted and refuse to watch any more. (Seriously, seeing someone squeeze a person’s eyeballs out of their sockets is gruesome! a final straw after episode after episode of skinning people alive, cutting off hands, beheading and poisoning, it is not my idea of entertainment)

However, I shall give the second series of Outlander another chance in order to recover the initial enthusiasm, maybe try and see if the books are any better than the TV series, Game of Thrones readers say there is not the same level of violence in the books.

20434557._UY200_

Outlander left me with an interest in time travelling tales: The Witches Daughter was an interesting read. I am not really into witchcraft but I do love the concept of fantasy and adventure.

Bess sees her mother hanged as a witch, with good reason it turns out. She is taught how to cast spells by a warlock called Gideon, who eventually helps her to become immortal. We follow Bess through three lives with Gideon hot on her tail.

It is an entertaining story , Paula Brackston is a talented writer: the story moves quickly and easily to a satisfying conclusion.

A good read I will give it five stars.

What do you think of time travelling tales?

Sunday Sevens -8 May 2016

New Home card

My lovely daughter moved home this week so I made her a little card to wish her well! It is also her Birthday this weekend so will be cake making! Family visiting and we are also following the Chichester Art Trail!

Mr D had a bit of a sort out last weekend – we ended up with a pile of 20 shirts that he no longer wanted to wear. I could not resist the lovely soft cottons so have been working on a little project – can you guess what I am making?

colour me positive 18

The Colour me positive weekly challenge was ‘Art opens the closets, airs out the cellars and attics, Art brings healing’. It’s a Julia Cameron quote from the Artists way.  To be honest with you I think Art brings its own baggage with it; while it might be relaxing it can also be frustrating – things never turn out the way you visualise them. I have to battle the inner critic every time I pick up a pencil or a brush, but there are blissful moments when you can get lost in a sketch for a while. I am enjoying the challenge of having to create something and once a week is manageable – alothough this image is a lot darker in my book than it appears on here.

9780241968185

This is the book group choice this month and what a gem! I cannot recommend this book enough! It is certainly original, Emma Healey is a talented writer you would never imagine she is in her twenties! Maud is a wonderfully entertaining old lady, I smiled, I laughed, I sighed – it was quite an adventure, one that I would like to read again sometime.

Here is the intro in case it peeks your interest –

Elizabeth is Missing, Emma Healey’s stunning debut novel, introduces a mystery, an unsolved crime and one of the most unforgettable characters since Mark Haddon’s Christopher. Meet Maud …

‘Elizabeth is missing’, reads the note in Maud’s pocket in her own handwriting.

Lately, Maud’s been getting forgetful. She keep

s buying peach slices when she has a cupboard full, forgets to drink the cups of tea she’s made and writes notes to remind herself of things. But Maud is determined to discover what has happened to her friend, Elizabeth, and what it has to do with the unsolved disappearance of her sister Sukey, years back, just after the war.

A fast-paced mystery with a wonderful leading character: Maud will make you laugh and cry, but she certainly won’t be forgotten.

 

The beautiful Keeley Hawes is extremely talented – the two characters she has been playing DI Denton in Line of Duty and Mrs Durrell in the Durrells could not be more different! I am bereft on Sunday nights now!  – I am just missing the querky Durrells and the blissful Corfu sunshine  what a shame it had to end!

mast-home-fires-5-things-hires

The fantastic Home Fires was also keeping me parked in front of the Telly – who would have thought Pat (on the right) would get the courage to have an affair!  I am the secretary for our local WI and I can assure you we are not half as sparky as these ladies. I am really disappointed to hear that there won’t be another series! I even signed a petition!

Sunday Sevens is the fabulous idea of Nat over at Threads and Bobbins, where you give a little round up of your week, if you want to participate pop over to her blog and sign up! Its such a great way to link up with other bloggers.