Blogging can be a lonely business, casting your words out into who knows where?
So, I was delighted when I was able to participate in a blog share with the fabulous Jo Castro at Lifestyle Fifty. For those of you who don’t know her, Jo ‘s blog is all about women achieving their best lifer after fifty and beyond. Its sassy, it’s fun and shows how over fifties can look good and take care of themselves, as well as travel, or run a business or write a book.
Jo graciously opened her blog to other women over fifty who blog, so why not pop over and have a look? So many inspiring women.
My post is in Fabulous Women over Fifty who Blog -Part Six Lifestyle Fifty.
In spite of July being a busy and challenging month, I did manage to keep up with my reading. For a writer, reading is essential but more than that its a pleasure. I cannot imagine my life without reading.
The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
A feeling of nostalgia had me reaching for this well-loved childhood classic. Beautifully produced and with the original illustrations, it is a visual delight. Reading now as an adult, I was surprised at how some of the stories defied the happily ever after tradition.
The Olive Sisters by Amanda Hampson
After reading Amanda Hampson’s later book The Yellow Villa I was looking forward to reading this. Initially, I found the dual timeline confusing. As I read on the strands of the story became clearer. The sisters came to Australia with their family from Italy. Their family relationship is complex. Later, one of their descendants inherits the farm. For her, it becomes a refuge and retreat as she uncovers more about her past and long-lost family secrets.
The Upside Of Over by J.D Barrett
When TV newsreader Olivia makes a drunken mistake her whole life implodes. She loses her marriage, her career and her self-esteem. How did it all go so horribly wrong? And what can she do now?
Luckily, a couple of friends are still there for her as she picks up the pieces. Through her own efforts and with their help she discovers that the network was eager to get rid of her due to her age and this was the perfect excuse.
Olivia discovers that there is an upside to over, being your own person and authentically yourself. Funny, sexy and wise, but not necessarily for the prudish.
Disclaimer I won a copy in a contest but was under no obligation to review the book.
Date with Mystery by Julia Chapman
Book Three in The Dales Detective Series.
Although I hadn’t read the two previous books I still enjoyed this book. It’s an amusing mystery full of Yorkshire wit and grit. About three-quarters of the way through the book I had a good idea as to what had happened but no idea of the why-the reason. I am not too sure about the contrivance of having characters called Samson and Delilah. It stretches the bounds of credulity, but it seems to work for TV’s Shakespeare and Hathaway, so that may just be a personal quibble.
The Beach Hut by Veronica Henry
When I picked this book up I hadn’t realised that it was an interconnected series of short stories. All are based around the beach huts on Devon’s Everdene beach. A peek into many lives over the weeks they use the huts. Some stories come full circle while others remain incomplete, left to the readers’ imagination. Initially, I found it rather disconcerting to move from one story to another. I feel the cover gives an impression of a lighter read, while the stories have more depth.
PR Secrets for Savvy Authors By Louisa West
As a writer, you need to get your work noticed and for that, you are going to need PR. (Public Relations) Maybe you are an introvert who doesn’t want to put yourself ‘out there’. Or perhaps you are an extrovert but don’t want to come over as ‘pushy.’ And what is PR anyway?
Help is here, Louisa West is both an author and PR professional. The book is written specifically for authors and addresses their concerns. From learning the difference between PR and marketing, to how to feel ‘legit’ and how to establish your ‘brand’.
The importance of networking effectively with readers, writers and influencers. It demystified the whole process of how to post in social media and how to make it work for you. Presented in an easy to read style – this book should be an important part of any authors toolbox
I learnt a lot and I think it’s a great read for anyone wanting to know more about PR
Disclaimer I was gifted an advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review.
June was a good month for reading as I read seven books almost all of them were fiction. I like to try different authors and genres as well as reading nonfiction. Here are this month’s selections.
The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey
I don’t want to give plot details away, so of necessity, this review will be non-specific. I was fortunate enough to win a copy of the book in a giveaway but was under no obligation to review it.
I think the book is well written, but I found it hard to warm to the protagonist Gemma Woodstock. She is obviously a dedicated detective and this time the case is personal. While I found the hint of intrigue about the past worked well initially, I grew impatient with the continual repetition and non-disclosure. The book had an unpredictable ending, overall, I didn’t find it a satisfying read
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
This is fiction based on fact and tells a remarkable story of how an American Socialite and philanthropist Caroline Ferriday made a difference to so many women’s lives. Always a Francophile and a volunteer at the French consulate she was gradually drawn into working far more closely with women who had been incarcerated and brutally mistreated in the notorious Ravensbruek concentration camp.
Initially, I found the triple timeline somewhat confusing as each woman’s point of view was presented. American Caroline, Polish Kasia and German Herta. It was worth persevering because this is a story that needed to be told. Unimaginable horrors and deprivations, cruelty, and kindness death and despair, hatred and forgiveness. This is a memorable story, meticulously researched and beautifully written quite unforgettable. The authors note details the research and the real people whose lives were impacted by these terrible events. Note Caroline Ferriday and Herta Oberhauser were real people Kasia is a composite of many of the Polish women who were held in the
Mail Obsession by Mark Mason
A great book for trivia lovers and those interested in finding out quirky facts about Britain. Not a book to read at one sitting. This is a book to amuse and delight, but one that is probably best read in small doses. There is a temptation to read out many of the amazing facts and bits of information to your long-suffering family.
A few snippets which amused me. In 1879 Belgium trialled using cats to deliver the mail. The thirty-seven cats did not cooperate, ( who would have thought that!)and the trial was abandoned.
The Queen carries several items in her handbag, including a handkerchief, lipstick, spectacles, a folded five-pound note and a handy suction hook to stick under a table to hold the bag itself
My favourite though is that on April Fool’s Day 2010 The company Gamestation inserted a clause in their online contracts which enabled them to claim their customer’s souls.
The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers
An unknown woman arrives in Chartres and stirs up forgotten feelings and prejudices. Each person sees something different in Agnes Morel with her dark skin and topaz eyes. She cleans the famous Chartres cathedral. Does the cathedral influence her as she polishes the labyrinth walk? Can a wrong ever be righted? Can a sinner find redemption? Is holiness more important than kindness? Everyone has an opinion about her. The town gossips Madame Picot and Madame Beck spend their time speculating about her past. Abbe Paul from the cathedral, Professor Jones and Philippe Nevers all have a certain fondness for Agnes. While Robert, the painter uses her as his muse, model and mistress. Dr Denman wonders if he did right by Agnes. Alain the restorer wants to help her to find her own identity. The nuns’ Mother Veronique and Sister Laurence knew Agnes years ago and their intervention in her story is not the happiest of events,
We saw each person’s perception of Agnes but each time there was something of their personality in the observation too. Was Agnes more sinned against than sinning? Judge for yourself.
The Yellow Villa by Amanda Hampson
Despite its charming cover, this story has more involved in it than you might at first imagine. A young Australian couple Mia and Ben, buy a villa in France hoping to make a fresh start. They meet a sophisticated older couple Susannah and Dominic and are initially impressed with the pair of Expat Brits.
Throughout the story, fresh information is revealed and the veneer of each couple’s ‘perfect’ life gradually discloses uncomfortable truths about their relationships and each other. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Water Under The Bridge by Lily Malone
The characters were well drawn, and the story events were intriguing. The relationship between Ella with her son was realistic, a boy out of his depth missing his old life and friends. Ella is challenging herself embarking on a new career, selling real estate and trying to put her past behind her. Handsome Jake is a complication that she doesn’t need, and he’s the owner of the house she has listed to sell. It’s inevitable they will keep meeting.
The story while complicated is certainly feasible and is the beginning of a series by Lily Malone
Do you need mess to be creative? Is a tidy mind an uncreative one?
It’s a bit like the old writer’s division between those who plot meticulously, ’plotters’ And those who write as it comes, by the seat of their pants, called ’pantsers.’
Most writers fall into one or the other of those categories. Most plotter s squirm at the thought of not having a plan. While more pantsers claim a plan would stifle their creativity.
Equally, I think most people naturally fall into one of two camps on the tidiness and clutter front.
Confession time I’ve always been a bit of a hoarder, old photos, certificates, special clothes, books, so many books, and more prosaic items like pens, and notebooks and glass jars.
Recently I read a book* which not only explored how to deal with your clutter but also what your clutter meant to you. What was your clutter trying to tell you?
One of the insights which shook me was that clutter was not just physical the stuff that you can see, but also mental. Mind clutter includes those random thoughts, of fear, procrastination and even thinking about your clutter.
Delving deeper the reasons for our hoarding make more sense. Those things from the past, the old photos, certificates, or yearbooks They all speak of past achievements and reflect our fears that we won’t achieve more.
Old clothes, some are precious memories, no one is suggesting you get rid of your wedding dress! But others may make you feel bad when you look at how slim you were way back then. We are past the era of make do and mend you know you won’t ever wear them again, but they are taking up mental as well as physical space.
Then there are the clothes that you bought that you have never worn, because you bought on a whim, maybe they are aspirational clothes for a life you don’t lead. They too are clutter, no matter how much they cost.
Paperwork, I am sure that it multiplies in dark corners and for a writer, paperwork can easily accumulate. As I speak I have three shelves filled with random paperwork. Some I know are notes from workshops I attended. Others are multiple hard copies of stories that I have re-drafted or edited. Just looking at it overwhelms me. I know why I don’t want to clear it what if I discard a gem? What if there is a brilliant idea there and I trash it?
But I have no idea what is there and if I need anything I spend ages trying to find it. So, there it is, this month I am making a commitment to tackle my paper mountain, one shelf at a time. Shred, file or simply toss.
Your turn now what does your clutter mean to you? Safety blanket, comfort, mess?
Disclaimer I do not know the author, I have not been paid to endorse the book it is simply my opinion.
*Note the book that I read that made a lot of sense was What Your Clutter is Trying to Tell You by Kerri L Richardson.
The key to my heart is a good book and in May I read quite a few books. One really touched me, while others entertained me. This month there is a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Whoever it was who said ‘life is too short to read bad books’ I agree with them. I may pick up a book, read a bit and decide it is not for me. I won’t post a lousy review because it didn’t suit me, I will simply stop reading and not mention that book.
Hubble Bubble by Joan Lovering.
A bright and breezy romance with plenty of humour and sprinkling of magic thrown in. When Holly and the other women cast a spell, she specifies she wants ‘excitement.’ She gets that in spades and a couple of hunky men too. Although all are surprised with the results of spell casting, it seems they have effected change and their wishes are coming true.
The Memories That Make Us by Vanessa Carnevale
I was impressed by how much Vanessa Carnevale has developed as a writer since her previous book The Florentine Bridge. The concept of memories making us who we are resonated with me as I struggle with the emotional cost of my close friend’s death. Gracie and Flynn are a relatable couple as she fights to regain her memory. The idea that flowers played a significant part in her recovery seems plausible. Wasn’t it Kipling who wrote’ scent is surer than sight or sound to make the heartstrings crack’? Well written, nicely plotted and well worth a read!
The Sweethearts by Lynn Russell & Neil Hanson
The story of the women and girls who worked at the Rowntree’s chocolate factory in York., United Kingdom, A social history which explores the lives of ordinary women who worked for the giant Rowntree company. It tells how although the work was hard and often physically demanding, the women generally appreciated the time away from husbands and home.
The company seems like a paternalistic employer, who valued a strong work ethic but one with a social conscience. The company provided hot meals, a library, sports facilities, convalescent places and continuing education and even a company pension.
Women’s lives between the wars were incredibly hard and they lived and worked in challenging conditions, bad housing, large families, and before the National Health Service the fear of sickness and injury. The book introduces various women and tells their individual stories
Rowntree’s was York’s largest employer and was well-regarded until it was taken over first by Mackintosh and then later by Nestle. The Quaker care values that saw retired employees being sent a Christmas card and ten-pound voucher to buy chocolate misshapen chocolates was discontinued. Staff was replaced by machines and eventually, even the Rowntree’s name was gone.
Keep The Home Fires Burning by Simon Block
The book starts where the top rating and much-missed television series left off. Even a petition was unable to get it recommissioned. For all of us who enjoyed the series, the book is the next best thing,. We’ve known and loved the characters so we are invested in knowing what happens to them. Set in the Cheshire village of Great Paxford during
Will Campbell the doctor is battling cancer while Erica his pharmacist wife and their daughters all concerned about him. Frances Barden is trying to find her way with Noah, the son of her dead husband and his mistress. Sarah the vicar’s wife is still waiting to hear news of her husband Adam who is a prisoner of war. Theresa the teacher is working hard to make a success of her marriage to squadron leader Nick. Alison is alone apart from Boris her dog, still ashamed at her part in the Barden factory closure. She misses the company of Theresa. Steph and Little Stan are keeping the farm going. Downtrodden Pat is still enduring her marriage to Bob and wondering where Czech officer Marak is. As problems are solved new ones emerge and once again we are left with a cliffhanger ending and waiting for the next book in the series.
Overall, I enjoyed the chance to revisit Great Paxton and I will certainly order the next book. I did, however, have two minor quibbles. Joyce Cameron has become less acerbic and more gullible I was surprised by the use of the word ‘loo’ as I would have thought lavatory, toilet or WC would all have been in more common usage. I checked and the first mention of the word loo was in 1940 by Nancy Mitford according to Oxford Dictionary.
The Paris Seamstress By Natasha Lester
This is the book that made my month, and days after reading it I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
It’s a few days since I finished reading The Paris Seamstress. I enjoyed it so much and I didn’t want to simply write a review filled with superlatives. I relish dual timeline stories if they are well written and this was. Spanning from 1940 France with Estella Bissette, the Parisienne seamstress of the title to 2015 and her granddaughter Fabienne Bissette in Australia, the story crosses decades and continents. It explores family secrets, war, spies, love and loss, madness, revenge, fashion, and relationships. Natasha Lester’s research makes the story impressively believable as real places and people interact with her fictional characters. The story moves seamlessly from past to present and keeps interest and tension throughout. Some of the real characters in the story are so much larger than life, that were they simply fictional creations they would not be believed. Informative and entertaining The Paris Seamstress is Natasha Lester ‘s best book so far.
The Drifter by Anthea Hodgson
I enjoyed this rural romance, which I picked up prior to the author giving a talk at our local library. Unfortunately, my plans changed and I was unable to attend the talk. Its set in the wheat fields of Western Australia, the author captures the locale and characters well. The subtitle asks ‘How far would you go for a second chance? ‘Both Cate and Henry have secrets they’d prefer not to share, but they are drawn together as they are both close to Ida Cate’s great-aunt. The story had enough complexity to keep me interested.
Close Up by Kate Forster
Subtitled ‘In Hollywood, the drama isn’t always on screen’ this book reminded me of a Jackie Collins Hollywood book. The parallel storyline has two young women trying their luck in Hollywood to escape their loveless pasts. This is contrasted with the lives of Zoe Greene a successful agent to the stars and Maggie Hall an actress whip has been in Hollywood long enough to know how it works. Dylan Mercer a young runaway on a personal quest adds to the mix. I also had fun deciding if any of the ‘star characters were based on real movie stars. The characters and their problem are relatable and I found it an enjoyable read.
What Your Clutter is Trying to Tell You by Kerri L. Richardson
‘Uncover the message in your mess and reclaim your life’
As a confirmed packrat- I know I have a problem. Maybe its a natural inclination or maybe it was growing up with parents who saved string, rubber bands, paper bags, jam jars etc. My house is full of stuff. As a writer words are my resource but my office is filled with paper clutter which I might need ‘someday’.
Through its eight chapter, the book explores our clutter problem is clutter ‘monster or messenger’? Chapter two talks about resistance to dealing with clutter( guilty!) then what’ if your clutter could talk?’
‘Common causes of clutter’ are explored in chapter four, while in five the question is asked ‘is your clutter a handy distraction?’ The book offers practical solutions, and suggestions as well as handy quizzes to discover what your clutter is trying to tell you. The book is a definite call to action – the question now is am I motivate enough to act?
The Right Girl by Ellie O’Neill
The book defied my expectations of a light read with a love story. Yes, there is a love story, with an appealing heroine and couple of suitable ‘ men. Is she the Right Girl for the Wrong Man?
The book also points to a dystopian future. A future that is inexorably .sucking everyone in. It’s a life where your power to choose for yourself is slowly being taken over by the App that is supposed to make your life function smoothly. An App that with its constant usage that erodes your confidence in your own ability to make informed choices.
This is a cautionary tale of a future, that many of us are sleepwalking towards. Will it strike a chord, who knows? It certainly gave me pause for thought.
The Librarian By Salley Vickers
The title appealed to me, I tend to enjoy books about books and reading and this was no exception. It began almost like a children’s’ story as Sylvia Blackwell sets out to make a success of her new job as Children’s librarian in fictional East Mole, Wiltshire, Young and idealistic she want to inspire a love of reading while escaping the confines of her own life.
The era (1958) is well conveyed, with its social niceties and class consciousness. At first, her attempts to encourage children into the library are welcomed and she enjoys a modest success. But then the suspicion of a scandal hovers over her and her own integrity is called into question. The Librarian explores the beginnings of social change, and the power of books, and the importance of libraries, especially for those who cannot afford to buy books.
While reading it so many of my own old favourite books were mentioned. I appreciated the comprehensive book list at the back of the book which reconnected me with other books I had either forgotten or had never read.
The end papers of the book are a design from the Victoria and Albert Museum and add to the feeling that is a book from a bygone era when books were beautiful.
After reading The Nightingale I was really looking forward to reading this book. Kristen Hannah’s love for and knowledge of Alaska shine through these pages.
Personally, I found the book too long and too repetitive. The physical isolation of Alaska is described, as well as the kind of people who are drawn to it and able to survive there. Some can’t handle the feeling of being cut off and the mental Isolation. Ex -Vietnam vet Ernst, thinks Alaska is the place for him and his family. His experiences have led to his growing paranoia and to domestic violence.
Leni is a young teenager when they first arrive and for a while doesn’t sense anything is wrong with her parents. then she can not understand why her mother excuses and forgives her father and doesn’t want to leave
Inevitably, Leni falls in love with a boy from a family her father loathes, making her life far more complicated. An act of shocking violence changes all their lives and they return ‘civilisation’, but Leni still has Alaska and the boy she left behind in her heart.
Not for me at this time- perhaps my recent sadness at the death of my friend made it too bleak.
The Secret Vineyard By Loretta Hill.
Grace knows that her ex-husband Jake is ‘a lying, cheating, wife abandoning bastard’.What she didn’t know until his death was that he was the owner of a vineyard in Margaret River, Western Australia. As Grace is scraping together a living and looking after their three boys it seems like a chance for a fresh start or at least a lucky break.
His current wife and Grace’s ex-best friend tries unsuccessfully to challenge the will, which has left the vineyard to Grace’s three boys. Grace packs up herself and the boys for a trip down South to see the vineyard and decide if it is saleable. It’s a ramshackle place, in need of some TLC, but it has a certain charm. And events conspire so she has to stay longer than she first planned.
Scott, the charming real estate agent, is always around and there is a mystery about the house and its resident ghost. Then there is the handyman, who is happy to work for just his board. Grace’s life is far more interesting than it ever was in the city. I enjoyed this book, but I did find the blurb on the back of the book confusing. In the book Grace’s husband is Jake, the blurb refers to him as Derek. It must have been too expensive a mistake to correct!
The Cat of The Baskerville’s by Vicki Delaney
The third book in the popular Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery Series by Vicki DelaneyWhen Sir Nigel Bellingham, star of screen and the theatre accepts an invitation to star in the classic play for the West London Theatre’s Festival, the Cape Cod locals are both thrilled and amazed. Unfortunately, in person, he is not as impressive as his reputation, and it soon becomes apparent that he has a drinking problem. QuIte a few people benefit in various ways because of his death. Even Gemma herself as it increases book sales and memorabilia.
Gemma Doyle proprietor of the Sherlock Holmes bookshop is both observant and clever. This time she faces a conflict of loyalties and worries that what she has observed will implicate someone close to her.
Choosing Happiness: Life and Soul Essentials by Stephanie Dowrick
I wouldn’t suggest that you read this book in one sitting. It lends itself more to be a potpourri of a book, one to dip in and out of as need arises. It’s a mental and spiritual health check to be used as required.
The chapter heading broadly define the scope of the book.
Trust Who You Are.
Let Your Values and Goals Work for You
Build Self Respect
Honour the People You Live With.
Think & Act Positively.
The book is like having a wise and sympathetic friend to talk with. The kind of friend who makes you think a little more deeply about yourself and your behaviour.
Maggie’s Kitchen by Caroline Beecham.
I spotted a review of this and the concept appealed to me, women’s work in wartime
Maggie has opened a wartime restaurant- which is a long-held dream of hers. She is facing problems with supplies as her restaurant as ironically becomes ‘too popular. ‘Dealing with red tape and Ministry of Food types is exhausting enough, but then there is twelve-year-old Robbie to worry about too. Where are his parents? Janek the helpful and mysterious Pole reminded me of the Czech officer Marek in the sadly missed and inexplicably cancelled ITV series Home Fires.
Maggie didn’t really ‘come alive’ for me and it felt like the story ended very abruptly. The book also contains a few wartime recipes, showing the ingenuity of the cooks of that time.
Do you seek perfection? Did you realize the steps along the way include failing? Only through failure can we appreciate success.I’d even dare to say that failing makes success all the sweeter and more prized. Do you Agree?
A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to take up book binding. I bought this planner as a PDF and I decided that I was going to print it out and learn how to bind a book. And then I’d carry that book around all year, to be reminded of how important creativity is for me.
So I watched a bunch of Youtube videos, I bought some carefully selected paper, and I got to work. It took me a long time and a free trial of a certain program to figure out how to print out the PDF so that it would fold into a booklet. I folded the pages carefully. I followed the video’s instructions and I sewed them together with perfectly even stitches.
So far, so good. The next step was to cut off the edges of the book so that everything was uniform.
Here in Australia, it is coming up to Mothers ‘Day which is on May 13th although of course in the Northern Hemisphere it is celebrated in March. It is a day that I find quite painful as so many people thank their mothers and express love and admiration for their mum. Say how close they are to their mothers and how much they are like their mothers.
Not all mothers are like that though, mine wasn’t. So, I guess that I am slightly envious and feel that my experience is not recognised. To be told that I must be mistaken by those whose mothers loved them is hurtful. And it denies my experience. To clarify, my mother was distant and disinterested, but not neglectful or intentionally cruel.
I look at the photograph of the clear-eyed girl that she was and wonder what became of her?
How did she become the woman that I remember? The one with the distant look in her eye, the one who read travel books voraciously and smoked endless cigarettes? The one who stayed in her room crying and depressed. The one who told me when I was about twelve ’I never wanted children’? The words haunt me still, they were never clarified with ‘of course now we’ve got you I’m glad’
I knew my dad loved me- by the way he’d let me stand on his feet to dance, the way he tucked me into bed at night and kiss my forehead ‘Night, night, pleasant dreams,’ and leave the door ajar so I could see the hall light.
Children sense things, or at least I did. I used to buy her presents, bring her flowers, those wildflower posies that children pick. My drawings were for her. Once I spent my entire birthday money on a brass ornament for her.Then when I was about nine I stopped. I realised that you can’t buy love, it is, or it isn’t, you can’t make someone love you.
Not all women are cut out to be mothers, although of course, that was societies expectation. Mum was thirty-nine when I was born, their first and only child. I suspect she’d have been happier without me. Now I think that she saw me as a rival for my dad’s affections. An aunt came to stay for many months to look after me as mum took to her bed.
I envy those with a close bond with their mothers, those who say she is their best friend. My mum died when I was in my early twenties, and we had never grown close even after my father’s death. For me, Mothers’ Day is a time of sadness and regret, a time to think about what might have been and to finally to feel sorry for my mum that she was trapped in a situation that made her so unhappy.
He is ever alert to the sounds of her. Footsteps upstairs might mean she is coming. She may yet share the couch with him. He may lay his nose on her leg and sigh, tail thumping the upholstery in a contented rhythm. On frost-laden mornings she greets him and lets him out. He hears the honey in her voice and knows he is loved. He lies at her feet as she stares at the metal thing, always absorbed. If he is very still and quiet she might just stroke his head. It is enough to be close, shoehorned between the chair and the ottoman, her legs a ceiling above.
He runs with her even though he is small and far from athletic. He keeps pace and smiles up at her, tries to avoid the call of the tree trunks and dash onwards.