Adventures

Book Review – House at the End of Hope Street

The House at the End of Hope Street

The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Wonderful… I adore the lovely magical world Menna creates. Warm characters, one to lift the spirits, as good as visiting the house itself! How I wish I could find one and have 99 days break from the modern world.

I finished the House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag, which was a lovely read – sometimes it is nice to dip into a world of magic, love where the broken find healing and comfort. 

After Alba Ashby suffers the Worst Events of Her Life, she finds herself at the door of 11 Hope Street, Cambridge. There, a beautiful older woman named Peggy invites Alba to stay, on the house’s usual conditions: she’ll have 99 nights, and no more, to turn her life around. Once inside, Alba sees that 11 Hope Street is no ordinary place. Past residents include Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Parker, and Agatha Christie, who all stayed there when they, too, had lost hope. With the house’s help, Alba decides to risk everything – and embarks on a journey that may even save her life. 

The idea of a house that could offer you what you needed was lovely, Stella the ghost was a good muse for Alba. It was a delightful place to spend time in before going to sleep and often in the waking hours between 1 and 4 which has been happening more often these days. 

There are two other characters, Greer and Carmen in the house at the same time – and their story was followed through more briefly, both were loving the same unattainable man. 

I love the worlds Menna creates, it is the third book I’ve read of hers, the magic is lovely, she has the same lightness of touch as Joanne Harris.




Advertisements
Adventures, book review

Believe Me by JP Delaney – book review

believe-me-640x640

Claire Wright is an attractive young British woman with aspirations to becoming a successful actress in the US. She is obliged to succeed in the States rather than return to the UK (for reasons that become apparent during the course of the book), but Claire has no Green Card. However, an opportunity presents itself to help her subsidise her acting career – some work for a divorce attorney. But the job is a queasy one: she is to act as a honey trap for errant husbands.

Claire sees it as an extension of her acting career; she is a woman of seductive charms, and men fall like nine pins before her. But then she encounters Patrick Fogler, whose wife, Stella, she has already met. He is an academic with an almost obsessive predilection for the erotic poems of Charles Baudelaire. Patrick resists Claire’s attempt at seduction, but later the same evening, his wife is discovered savagely murdered in a hotel room (Delaney has based elements of the plot on a real-life entrapment case involving a brutal murderer).

I subscribe to Audible so listened to this book while I made curtains and I could not stop listening – it took about a day and a half – where I think I was barely breathing! I even managed a pile of ironing as I had finished the curtains before finishing this book.

I loved The Girl Before so I was eagerly awaiting the publication of this new novel and what a rollercoaster it is. If you loved, Gone Girl or Girl on the Train then this is along the same lines although in a league of its own!

Delaney keeps the pace up -right though the novel, it is suffocating, intense and dark – Claire is flawed, but above all, she is a survivor. She does what she needs to do to get by, and isn’t that what we all do?

Set in New York but with a central English Character is delightful change, I can relate to Claire – in many ways – the way she evolves to fit in. We all play roles, especially women –  wife, lover, daughter, employee,  which one is the real us?  Delaney uses this theme to explore it to deeper, darker depths.

I love the way psychology is also exposed for its overly simplistic blanket approach – the connection with BDSM and sexual violence is explored and dismissed. Delaney gives us much more of a subtle exploration of human psychology that is masterful in its unravelling.

I had heard the name, Bau de Larre before but I began to wonder if I might read some of his poetry when the characters were quoting it, but then I was afraid to!

I am in awe of this writer, his tales are masterful – engaging, breathtaking and thrilling.  The perfect wife. another of his novels is on my wish list… but need my heart rate to recover before I go on another breathtaking adventure.

 

Adventures, baking, book review, Books, gardening, home baking, second hand bookshops

New shoes, veg plot, book reviews, my Sunday Sevens – 16th September

I can wear shoes again!

September and new shoes seem to be forever connected in my memory! Not only did I spend my childhood years proudly walking along pavements enjoying the September sunshine with new shoes but then went through my years of parenting subjecting my children to the same pleasure!

I will admit, like a lot of women, I have so many shoes – most of them of the high heeled beautiful but cruelly uncomfortable variety. One of the lovely things about getting older is that you get a little wiser – so I find myself buying ‘comfortable shoes’ but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t be fun!

My new shoes are momentous -because it is the first pair I have been able to wear since my major foot surgery! I cannot tell you how joyous it feels to wear shoes again –  I am beginning to get my life back! Not only that – I am enjoying long hot showers where I am not dangling one cling film wrapped foot out of the way of the water! Simple pleasures indeed.

On a practical level – these shoes from Gracosy are sublime – the soul is so cushioned my feet just sink in – no uncomfortable jarring. On a sustainable level, my last pair of clogs lasted me over ten years and were regrettably thrown away a few months ago, when the sole finally wore though. I like clogs because they are so easy to slip on and off. I did see my foot consultant this week with a little trepidation –  he thoroughly approved of them!  If you fancy a pair of your own you can buy them from Amazon.

 

Tea Time

The Bake off is back – I do love watching it – I think Channel 4 have done a good job of continuing the format well. I do admire the bakers – it is hard enough baking but under those conditions – they are inspirational!

I adore toasted tea cakes – but since discovering I have a dairy intolerance I have been a little scared of eating things – so I decided to try Paul Hollywood’s recipe for hot cross buns – and oh my goodness they are delicious! Of course I just added currants to the recipe rather than the crosses and drizzled them with warmed honey rather than sugar syrup. Luckily replacing cows milk and butter with Goats Milk and butter has improved my health! I am not sure if you can see – but the butter was melting on the tea cake when I took this photo – they were still scrumptiously warm from the oven!

little cinnamon buns

E is not a fan of currants – he seems to only tolerate them in Christmas pudding, so I used half the recipe to make cinnamon buns – rolling the dough like a Swiss roll with a mixture of cinnamon, mixed spice, brown sugar and toasted hazelnuts. I put it in a cake tin to rise and this is how it turned out! It was a huge success!

I did not take any pictures of the second batch to show you – the whole process went really well until the baking – where I managed to burn the whole batch and sadly had to resign all the hard work to the bin! I have the attention span of a gnat… I cannot count the number of times the smoke detector has reminded me that I have something cooking – so I have now invented a rule – I never leave the kitchen when something is baking or boiling – our diet has improved from carbon to edible!

Veg Italia book review

I have been pescatarian for over a year –  an interesting journey full of – if I am being entirely honest, an experiment in inedible food. When I was first trying to discover what food was causing problems – I tried lots of vegan recipes – they were expensive and quite frankly, inedible. I don’t want to eat another meal with sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes. (White potatoes cause arthritis)  I can’t bring myself to eat any more peanut butter – (Veganism seems to use it for everything!) I cannot swallow anything made with ‘wheat free flour’ – it dries my mouth out, my body simply can’t physically swallow it!

So I have relaxed a little – I am not completely free of migraines but I am having them less. My arthritis symptoms have also reduced – but there is good research about the Mediterranean diet is healthy. A ninety nine year old I knew told me his lack of arthritis was down to having olive oil every day – he was walking proof in my mind and at 99 he had been around longer than any of our so called experts! – I am moving away from the ‘alternative’ foods and more about cooking from scratch.

I bought Gino’s Veg Italia recipe book secondhand – what a refreshingly delight it is! every recipe is tantalisingly tempting. We have had an excellent week – home made pizza, creamy mushroom gnocchi and roasted vegetables. (I think, my rule about not leaving the kitchen has improved my results immensely!) Thankfully the recipes are easy to follow and don’t require a whole heap of gadgetry and tins and jars of stuff! I’ve tried gnocchi before – (with sweet potatoes – too sweet) but Gino’s recipe was simple, created not only edible but delicious food! There is a recipe for home made pasta that doesn’t require a pasta machine or slavish dedication to duty!

A little piece of heaven

If you want to know what your heart’s desire is, notice that gut wrenching stab of jealousy next time because it guides you to what is missing in your life. It is more authentic than the fleeting desire to make origami napkins from your Pinterest feed.

I will admit to having pangs of envy – when I have seen posts of home grown vegetables. I have pined for outdoor space since I moved a couple of years ago. It is odd though, how I got so focussed on my dream of having a garden of my own that it is easy to overlook what is just round the corner. This little plot of land is in a neglected part of the grounds where I live. No-one loves it and while it might be very overgrown and sloping, it catches a lot of sun. So  I can’t tell you how excited I am to be able to grow our own veg!

September might not be the best month to begin – but I noticed a dark patch under large trees that barely gets any light – might just be the ideal spot for a mushroom patch,  we are just coming into mushroom season. Ever since I went on a camping trip with a Bear Grills guy who took us to pick field mushrooms for breakfast – I have longed to repeat the process. Those mushrooms felt like food from the Gods, not just because they were fresh but because they were the work of my own hands!

The Law of Angels book review

Oh joy of joys to discover a new author and a while new series of books! I purchased Law of Angels by Cassandra Clark from a charity shop while we were on holiday in Porlock Vale. The mix of historical medieval fiction – a daring nun, mystery and suspense was a temptation I could not resist! How glad I am that I give in easily to temptation – especially in book form – this was a pleasure to read! Little did I realise that this is the third in the series – but the story holds its own.

Cassandra immerses you in medieval society much easier than all the historical books I have been ploughing through recently. Set in York during the days running up to the Corpus Christi – I felt I was discovering more about the period while being thoroughly entertained.  A nun might seem an odd choice for a gun-ho sleuth but it was quite a liberating role in the 13th Century. Hildergard is her own woman, I liked her as a character – she is just really nosy if I am honest a bit of a Jane Marple with a little more daring do! Hildergard’s home is burnt to the ground, she is kidnapped twice,  ends up close to two terrorist bombings, and still manages to save York’s Mayor from being blown up. Its all well told with enough action and pace that kept the pages turning well past 10 o’clock!  (with my attention span that is praise indeed!) In order to avoid the usual book hangover, I ordered the first in the series when I was just over half way through.

I am determined to read more – I just have to gag the Calvinistic Shrew Mildred,  my inner critic,   nagging me that reading is time wasting… I should be doing so many other things.

It is reading before going to sleep that has really helped with my insomnia – so I am truly thankful to Cassandra Clark!

 

 

Adventures, book review, Books, brooch, charity finds, charity shop finds, contentment, craft projects, diets, domesticiy, embellishments, embroidery, felt, food, frill edge crochet, hand made, hand sewing, hand stitched, happiness, health, health foods, healthy, healthy eating, home baking, home made, home made gifts, home sewing, London, making the most of life., novel, reading, recipe, simple pleasures, simplicity, stitching, Sunday Sevens, weekend

Sunday Sevens 19th August – Almond milk, embroidery and black magic

Roses in rose bowl

It has been a busy week and what weather we are having! Sunny days interspersed with rain it is nice to be back to our normal temperatures and see the grass turning green again!  I’ve escaped the four walls nearly every day this week – friends have been so kind to pop by and take me out for a bit. I am walking on crutches so I am somewhat  of a liability – especially as Thursday was raining cats and dogs – but it has been great to catch up with good friends and be a lady who lunches for a while! I have also been showered with more flowers! I bought this rose bowl in a charity shop some years ago – its crystal and was a bargain for about a fiver. I have used it often as it makes displaying flowers so easy as the grid holds the heads nicely.

mini heart brooch pincushion

We had a family gathering recently I wanted to make something to give as well as the usual gift. As she is a stitcher I decided to make a little heart brooch pincushion. I am always losing pins no matter how many pincushions I have scattered around the craft room – so having a little brooch that travels with me, has been very useful. I love this little print and the flower sat so beautifully framed in the pink felt.

brooch pin cushion

Its tiny, only about 4inches by 2 and a half inches but it came out nicely. Ok, I will admit I got carried away with the embroidery bit – I was watching Bletchley and the story tension was building so I was stitching faster! I crocheted a little border round the edge which seemed to finish it off nicely. I do adore Petra Cotton Perle – it is lovely to embroider with. Thankfully the gift was appreciated – which is always a bonus!

make a wish - dandilion embroidery

It is difficult to capture this little embroidery that hangs above this little heart, it is only 2inches – it is a dandelion head worked over fine organza. When I am eating it looks as if I have captured a lovely seed head in a frame, but photographs just don’t seem to come out right.

Dandilion embroidery

Stitching on such a see through background is more difficult and messy than I hoped, and looking so closely at the embroidery – doesn’t really capture how effective it is when viewed from a distance. It took me less than an hour to do but it really does please me.

moon over soho ben aaronovitch

Moon over Soho is the second book from Ben Aaronovitch – I am delighted to see that there are a few more books already out in this Series.  I have become rather fond of DC Grant, – his sardonic humour is delightful, the police procedure and social commentary makes me giggle. Not to mention the mix of the magical in every day cynical London life.

The 1960s planning department of local council whose unofficial motto was Finishing what the Lufftwaffe started…

Some things never change, and a senior police officer doesn’t organise a costly raid and admit to failure, or violating the Magna Carta, until he has done his best to convict somebody of something.

I think this book follows on very well from the first one – and we are now introduced to our ‘modern day Moriarty’ in the form of a Black Magician who managed to escape this time, so I am keen to read the next book. I don’t think it will be long before we see this series televised – it is that good! although they might need some really good special effects to do it justice.

Oh and the little fox brooch was a tiny fabric illustration of the fox cushions I made for my daughter – I could not let it go to waste so I made it into a little brooch. It is lovely to have time to stitch.

almond milk

I made a huge mistake buying some ‘almond milk’ in the supermarket a few weeks back – It was basically water with a hint of almond – I am shocked they can get away with it – the almonds make up less than 5% of of the overall ‘almond milk’ – making it 95% water. So I decided to make some of my own and it is really easy, tastes delicious and is much cheaper.

Simply place a bowl full of almonds (I used the skin on) in water for 24 hours. The nuts plump up and actually taste nicer!

Then add a teaspoon of vanilla extract a couple of dates (to sweeten it a little) your nuts and water to a blender and blend for about a minute. Push through a fine sieve to remove the skins. (I think I might try the almonds without skins next time!)

I found my almond milk was very thick so I did a few more whizzes using the stuff left in the sieve and additional water. It still looked like milk after the third time and my home made milk was more creamy than the shop bought one. It is nice for cereals but I don’t think it would work in coffee or tea!

Sunday Sevens, your week summed up in photographs,  is the brainchild of Nat at Threads and bobbins – you can find her site here.

Have a lovely weekend.

x

 

 

 

Adventures, book groups, book review, Books, self acceptance, self love

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.

 

Adventures, book review

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Adventures, book review

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!

 

book groups, book review, Books

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.

Adventures, book groups, book review, Books

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.

 

Adventures, celebration, Easter

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