Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Inside Stories for Writers and Readers By Trish Nicholson

A highly original treasure chest of insights to inspire and entertain readers as well as writers, Inside Stories is not another 'how-to' book - 'shows and shares' like a best friend. Each themed chapter explores a key aspect of writing and reading stories, including 15 of the author's short stories, analysed and critiqued as illustrations. An asset for writing or reading groups and for teaching as well as for personal inspiration. Fascinating, thought provoking, and written with her usual lucid prose and wit, this is a book for writers who appreciate stimulating company, and readers who love a good story and like to go behind the scenes where writers' and readers' 'voices' meet. And there is a whole chapter on the tricky topic of 'voice'. A book you will want to keep close at hand. ~~~ This printed edition includes Trish Nicholson's acclaimed essay "From Apes to Apps: how humans evolved as storytellers and why it matters.

 I've chosen to review this book for two reasons. One, I enjoy blogging and writing short stories but I have never attended a writer's group or a seminar on writing and I thought this book would give me some much needed help.
The second reason is, I have known Trish through twitter and her blog for a few years. I have read her travel books and I know what an amazing writer she is.

This book can be used in all sorts of ways. Read it straight through or dip in and out of it with the help of the contents page. I read it straight through but I know I'll have it beside me the next time I write.
Trish shares with us where she finds inspiration, she has what she calls her "toy box" and she tells us why each item gives her that little bit of guidance for her stories.
Trish Nicholson
There are fifteen short stories written by the author,some only a few paragraphs long but after we read them Trish analyses where her ideas came from and  what she was trying to convey to us. Many of her stories have won prizes or been shortlisted and she shares their critique with us,a very brave thing to do. Some of  the stories were so poignant I shed some tears, especially the story of Maisie and Georgie.
I have read so many "how to write" articles online and all they have done is scared me and make me feel I'm doing it all wrong. So many rules for writing stories and none of the joy. This book has changed that mindset for me, as the author herself says,
 This is a book of  "show and share" rather than "teach and tell."
Filled with tips and sensible advice some of the chapters are, Writing Character, Themes and Titles, Critiquing and Editing, Making Writing Competitions work for you.
Whether you are new at writing or could just do with a helping hand I think you'll find Trish's thirty years of writing experience useful.
I have the download version of this book but now that the paperback is out  it would be so handy to have on my desk to look through when I need help with writing.
I think you know by now that I loved this book and the way it is written makes me feel as if I am having a talk with the author and she is giving me her time and expertise one to one. You won't just read this book once and put it aside it will be used as often as your dictionary or thesaurus.

The paperback version also contains Trish's essay, From Apes to Apps: How humans evolved as storytellers and why it matters. As an anthropologist Trish is the ideal person to research this and tell us how and why.
The prologue begins with the words, "If Story could write her autobiography, it would go something like this:"
Twelve words that tease you and draw you into turning the page and wanting more.

If you enjoy reading or writing you know now what to ask Santa for this year.
The Book Depository  Free shipping worldwide!

Trish Nicholson's two travel books which I have read and enjoyed so much.
Journey in Bhutan: Himalayan Trek in the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon.
Masks of the Mooryons: Easter Week in Mogpog.
You can find Trish blogging from her treehouse here
or tweet her  here

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Goodness,Grace and Me by Julie Houston.

When Harriet’s husband, Nick, throws in his safe, but boring job in order to set up a new business during the current recession, Harriet is distraught. More so when she realises Amanda, her and best friend Grace's old enemy from school is back in their lives. Amanda, it turns out, is Nick’s new boss’s wife and, because of her legal and language skills, will be accompanying Nick on his business trips to Italy. How will Nick not succumb to the ruthless charms of the utterly gorgeous Amanda once he’s away from Yorkshire and in glamorous Milan? Knowing Nick is being seduced is bad enough, but when Grace falls madly in love with Sebastian, Amanda’s precious, much younger son, it can only mean trouble ahead. Determined to fight for her man, Harriet’s seduction techniques go into overdrive. Unfortunately she is hampered in her attempts by two bolshy teenagers, an increasingly eccentric mother and a job teaching horrible children. Not to mention something very strange going on at the bottom of her garden! Can Harriet save her marriage, and also her friendship with Grace? And what will happen if Nick’s new venture fails, especially now that the one thing Harriet has not even considered in all this mess appears to be staring her right in the face…?

I always enjoy reading a book by a new author and Julie Houston's book did not disappoint.  One of the first things I noticed was the book is slightly larger than usual with an almost laminated cover, the bright white paper and good sized black type inside made this an easy read for someone like me who reads into the wee small hours of the night.

Harriet's life has changed since her husband lost his business,she has had to go back to teaching full time and her mother in law has moved in taking over the best part of the house to help pay the bills which has rescued  them from having to selling it. Nick has taken a job he is not happy with but needs and Harriet just knows he's about to throw it away to go into business with a man she's been advised not to trust. It only get worse when she finds out that Nick's potential business partner's wife Amanda is a face from her past she would rather not see again. With two teenagers and a five year old thrown into the mix it's no wonder life is hectic for Harriet.

There is so much going on in this book. Harriet and Grace's friendship, Grace's struggle to have a baby, a mother who is becoming stranger by the day and a husband who may be having an affair with her nemesis.
I laughed my way through this book from bonfires and girl's nights out to problems with parents and a neighbour with binoculars. It has the right mix of  believable fun and sincerity.
Harriet is a wonderful character,someone you could imagine you would be friends with. She is so scared that if things go wrong in her husband's new venture that this time they will loose everything.

There were lots of funny lines from the children in Harriet's class at school and I would have loved to have heard more from them. There are many life changing events in this book and a few brought tears to my eyes.
I absolutely loved the ending and also the last chapter telling us what was happening after six months has passed.

A little bird tells me that Julie Houston is now writing a sequel and I can't wait to find out where Harriet and Grace and their families are now.
The author has showed herself to be great at writing comedy but also a sensitive writer when the storyline calls for it. This book is well worth a read and will cheer you up after a hard day Christmas shopping.
Thanks go to the author who sent me a copy of her book in return for an honest review.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

A Pledge of Silence By Flora J. Solomon

 A World War II novel based on the American military nurses serving in the Philippines. Follow Margie whose life changes forever when she is captured and held prisoner of war by enemy forces.

January of 1941, Margie Bauer is called to active duty in the Army Nurse Corps of the United States Army Reserves. She delights in her assignment to Manila--the Pearl of the Orient. She falls in love with the beauty of the island and a carefree social whirl of bridge games, pool parties, and dancing under twinkle-light stars with handsome young doctors. Though rumors of war circulate, she feels safe--the island is fortified, the airbases are ample, and the Filipino troops are training intensively. 

December 8, 1941, her dream world shatters. Japanese bombers roar into the Philippines, turning everything in their paths to smoldering piles of rubble. Racing to stay ahead of the enemy, the U.S. Army evacuates all personnel to the jungles of Bataan, where Margie tends to wounded, sick, and dying soldiers in open-air field hospitals. With the Nips at her heels, she withdraws to an underground tunnel-hospital on the heavily fortified island of Corregidor.

Ultimately captured, she is interned at Santo Tomas, a Japanese prison camp in Manila. For three years, she doubts her survival in the harsh environment, where she faces escalating danger, starvation and loss. When American planes appear in the sky, she excitedly waves and calls, "We're here! We're here!" The liberation forces, however, bring with them a threat more dangerous than the Japanese guards, ensuring she will never truly be free of this evil place and all that has happened.

This story made me cry from the very first chapter. Margie is eighty one years old and attending the funeral of her daughter Barbara Ann who is has passed away suddenly. She is there with her son Gary and his wife for support but is finding it all too difficult to cope with as she feels she did not show her daughter enough love during her life.
After Margie is left safely in her new house she decides to go back to the house where she raised her family in order to feel closer to the memory of Barbara Ann. We are then told the story of her life from her childhood in Little Michigan to a wartime career in nursing,a career she did not want and only took that path to please her father.
 I always enjoy books set during the war but  I didn't expect this book to take me to a Japanese prison camp and move me so much, it was like watching a film where you are perched on the end of your seat never knowing what might happen next.
Although this is a fiction story it is based on true events. The thought of all those women going through absolute hell on earth is just unbelievable. There are so many twists in this book and quite a few shocks that I found it hard to put it down even  for a minute.
Margie is a lovey girl,very naive having been brought up in a small town with doting parents. She makes good lifelong friendship while in Japan and some which turn to betrayal. She falls in love, but in the midst of war sometimes love can be fleeting. My heart broke for what she and the other women had to suffer.
I had never heard of the Malinta underground tunnel hospital where the nurses and cilvillians hid from the Japanese soldiers and can only imagine what it felt like to have to live there while being bombarded and with fear of capture. As if that wasn't enough Margie had the dreadful Max Renaldo to contend with and the conclusion to that is beyond belief.
I don't think this is a book you will find easy to forget, it was in my head days after I read it and is definitely one of the best books I have read this year.
If you enjoy books set during wars then you'll love this one.


Thanks to the publisher who provided an e copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 11 November 2013

The Truth About You by Susan Lewis

Lainey Hollingsworth has spent her whole life on the outside of a secret. Her mother would never discuss the reasons she abandoned Italy when Lainey was a new born, nor has she ever stayed in touch with the family she left behind. Now Lainey's mother is dead, taking the secret with her, and leaving Lainey free to find out about her roots.
Her husband, Tom, appears supportive, until he hits her with a bombshell that shatters the very foundations of their marriage. Another secret Lainey never knew anything about.
Shaken, but more determined than ever to find out who she really is, Lainey takes her children to Umbria in search of answers.
What she finds in the sleepy, sunbaked village of her birth turns her world inside out.

Lainy has the perfect marriage and loves her husband and children dearly but she has always wanted to find out about the family in Italy that have been missing from her life.Why did her Italian mother leave Italy never to return or communicate with her family there?
Now with her mother no longer here and her step father in the throws of dementia she is more determined than ever to go to Italy to try to find someone who can tell her the truth about the past.
Just as Lainy is booking flights and a villa for her family to visit Umbria in Italy her husband tells her something which she believes he has kept secret from her for the whole of their marriage. She refuses to listen any further to what he has to say and actually makes everything up in her head as her husband deals with the most challenging thing he has ever dealt with.
This was where I disagreed with the story. If my husband had told me something so life changing I would have had a hundred questions to ask him and he would not have been able to go anywhere until I had answers.
Everyone deals with things differently and Lainy doesn't want to know anymore and Tom seems quite happy to oblige her and this is where life for Liany becomes very difficult as she has to cope with her family alone.

Other stories in smaller plots are of Lainy's teenage stepson who is living in her house with no intention of finding a job and is becoming increasingly rude to her, a proper pain in the neck. Her sixteen year old daughter Tierney is embarking on a dangerous relationship and it becomes evident that she is too young to handle it.
The  family arrive in  Italy and make friends with the people who they rent the villa from.With their help she finds the right people who will unleash the secrets of the past but are they secrets that would have been better kept hidden? I loved this part of the story, the description of their surroundings was wonderful and makes me want to visit.
I have read a few books by Susan Lewis and this does seem to be a bit different from her usual. Even though I thought Lainy not listening to her husband a bit unreal there would have been no story without it.
This was certainly a page turner as I wanted to know Tom's secret, I felt like asking him myself it took so long. The secrets in Italy that Lainy discovered were handled much better and were more believable.
The daughter Tierney's story had me at the edge of my seat I was so scared for her.
Another hit from Susan Lewis even if it was different from her other books, a jolly good read.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Wish Upon a Star by Trisha Ashley

The perfect gift isn’t always under the tree…

Single mum Cally’s life is all about her little girl Stella. She’s resigned to the fact that the only romance she’s going to get is from the rom-coms she watches, and with her busy job and her daughter, she doesn’t have time to even think about love.

But life gets very tough when Stella gets sick. Balancing her job as a recipe writer and looking after Stella is all consuming, so when Cally meets handsome baker Jago the last thing she wants to do is fall in love, especially when she’s been badly burned by a Prince Charming from her past.
Can laid-back, charming Jago unlock Cally’s frozen heart and help her find true love and magic under the mistletoe?

Happy publication day to Trisha Ashley!
The photo above does not do the book cover any justice.This book is so Christmassy it might have fallen out of Santa's sleigh. Real silver glitter you can touch covers part of the roof and around the window and door, it's so sparkly.
 This is the first book I've read by Trisha Ashley and looking through her other books on Amazon I find that this is not the first book that is set in the Lancashire village of Sticklepond and although, like me you don't have to have read any of the other books first I really want to read them and find out how some of the other villagers who are on the peripheral of this book came to be there.
This book is about Cally who has been left pregnant by her cad of a boyfriend who has gone to work in Antarctica telling her if she keeps the baby she's on her own. Cally goes ahead with the pregnancy and Stella is born with a serious heart condition which can only be corrected by an operation in America  before her fifth birthday.

Cally has to move back to her Ma's house in Sticklepond and try and raise money to give Stella her life saving operation. She meets Jago who looks like Johnny Depp (which can only be good) and they become friends but when Jago's money grabbing ex girlfriend appears on the scene Cally worries that he will be whisked off back to London again. She decides to put her love life aside and concentrate on Stella who is such a delightful little girl that I found myself willing everything to go well for her.
 We are introduced to Cally's mother Martha who is an absent minded artist, there are some lovely moments between her and little three year old Stella. The rock star vicar Raffy and his wife Chloe who has a chocolate shop (there's a book about them) Miss Honey who lives in a care home and has a shop to sell and many more characters from the village. There is also a secret as to why Martha's family, the Almonds have not been welcome in the village for many years.

I did enjoy this book, it's the kind of book you can curl up with at a roaring fire with a glass of wine and some chocolate. It makes you feel as if you have a nice warm blanket around you. It's full of clever twists and turns along the way.
 This is another book that's all about food. Cakes! Cally is a cake writer for a magazine and has to experiment with lots of different recipes, in fact a dream job. There are even a few recipes at the back of the book to try out yourself. So forget the chocolate,you will want cake.
After reading this delightful story I want to pack my up belongings and move to Sticklepond.Who wouldn't want to live in a village full of writers and artists with shops with the name of Cinderella's Slippers and Marked Pages, a pub called The Falling Star and a Witchcraft Museum ?
I will now have to visit more of Trisha Ashley's books as I really enjoyed her style of writing and I'm not ready just yet to leave Sticklepond behind.
A lovely Christmas stocking filler for any book lover.
These are the links for the kindle books but I would definitely buy the lovely paperback which I'm sure will be in every shop as from today.

Thank you to the publisher who provided me with a copy in return for an honest review.

The Mum Who Got a Her Life Back by Fiona Gibson

When her 18-year-old twins leave for university, single mum Nadia’s life changes in ways she never expected: her Glasgow flat fee...