Monday, 29 September 2014

The Lincolnshire Sons Who Changed the World

I do not consider myself a naturally lucky person; one of those people for whom everything comes up smelling of roses. Are they naturally blessed I wonder?

I am just not one of those people. If I fall in a pile of manure I get up smelling of.... well, manure and there isn't a whiff of rose fragrance anywhere. However. I still consider myself to be very blessed in life. I am surrounded by family and friends who love me and who know me well enough to always to give me books or knitting yarn as birthday gifts. What more could I ask? 

That said, I am still the kind of person for whom when there are 10 tickets left in the tombola barrel, nine of which are winners, you can guarantee that I will pick out the tenth losing ticket.

So, I recently entered a competition with The Omnivore Magazine which offered a choice of prizes – either a book of short stories by Margaret Atwood or a pair of two day passes to the Lincoln Book Festival including accommodation. Well, no offence intended to the lovely Ms. Atwood but there was no contest. If I were lucky enough to win this completion (yeah right) the opportunity to listen to wonderful writers coupled with the opportunity to stay in beautiful Lincoln….. well, there just was no contest which prize I was going to pick!

I am absolutely thrilled to say that I won. Yes, ME, who never wins anything and I can assure you that my excitement currently knows no bounds.

The Lincoln Book Festival runs from today through to Saturday and we will be attending at the weekend. They have some wonderful speakers attending this event which celebrates history within a literary context. The list of events covers the Lincolnshire lads who changed the world to the flowers that had a similar impact, the men who signed a Royal death warrant and the story of Parliament, the Americans who transformed our great English Houses and the story of the Sixties from a woman at the very heart of the decade’s pop culture.

If you are attending this event do give me a little wave if you see me. You’ll recognize me as I’ll be the woman with the huge happy smile on her face. Then again, if this event is as good as the line up suggests it will be then that will probably be everyone there.

Details of the event can be found at: Lincoln Book Festival 2014

Friday, 26 September 2014

In Pale Battalions by Robert Goddard

Following her husband's recent death, Leonora Galloway, sets out on a trip to the Thiepval Memorial to the dead of the Battle of the Somme with her daughter Penelope. There they find the commemoration to Leonora's fathers death recorded as 30th April 1916. However, Leonara was not born until the 14th March 1917.

Penelope assumes that this is a simple story of a wartime illegitimacy but as Leonora begins to tell her the story of her
birth and her sundered connection to her wealthy and aristocratic family there are huge surprises ahead that Penelope could never have guessed at.

I was gripped from the tantalizing opening line from the prologue of this book:

"This is the day and this the place where a dream turns a corner and a secret is told."

This line sets the tone for the whole book. It is a novel full of intrigue, mystery and tragedy told in gently captivating prose. The book is broken down into three parts with an additional prologue and epilogue. Each part is narrated from a different character perspective and moves seamlessly across time and place.

The prose is simply beautiful and it was a joy to read. Mr. Goddard's style of writing perfectly captures a time almost forgotten and he is able to portray the tragedy of war within a gentle poetic prose. I regard this as hugely skillful and a great achievement on the author's part.

In fact, it is the choice of words which enables the reader to form judgments of each of the characters as they slowly develop and unravel as the book progresses. The characters are multi layered and nobody is quite as they seem and therefore, makes guessing the plot outcome very difficult. Not until the final page does the story wrap up and everything become clear to the reader. Few novels have kept me guessing as effectively as this one.

Mr. Goddard has established himself to me as a very intelligent and skilled writer through this book. It was perfectly paced with enough plot twists and turns throughout and I loved it. I am thrilled that the author has several other titles to his name and I am looking forward to reading these. I highly encourage you to read this book and am very grateful to my friend for recommending and loaning it to me.

ISBN:   978 0552162968

Publisher: Corgi

Price (based on today's price at £5.59

Total saving so far: £364.56

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Then and Always by Dani Atkins

Rachel Wiltshire has a glittering future ahead of her. She has a loyal group of friends, a gorgeous boyfriend
and is just about to start university. However, as she and her friends meet up for a farewell dinner, tragedy strikes and Rachel's life changes forever.

Five years later Rachel is still struggling to come to terms with her past. Now, she has to return home for her best friends wedding and confront those issues that she has tried so hard to leave behind. Whilst there, Rachel has a fall and wakes in hospital to find that nothing about her life is as it should be. In fact, everything seems better in this new life that she has awoken to; but can she trust any of her memories?

Having slogged through my last read, Cross Stitch/Outlander, what I really needed was something light and entertaining which I was going be able to whip through and this book proved to be the perfect thing.

It would be true to say, that I found this book to be a little predictable and sugar sweet at times. However, in this case, predictability proved to be a good thing and I found myself itching to get back to this book at every available opportunity. I am not going to give anything away by saying that I ended my reading of this novel with a very satisfied sigh!

The characters were portrayed in such a way that it was clear from the outset who we were meant to like and who we should distrust. The latter characters were rather superficial but the authors portrayal of Rachel was excellent. She is an adorable character and her sense of confusion concerning her own memories made her into a thoroughly endearing person.

I could imagine this book transferring very well to the screen and I wouldn't be at all surprised if the film rights to this are rapidly acquired. It is a lovely gentle romance with an absorbing alternate reality theme and makes for a thoroughly enjoyable read. I am not going to pretend that this is a great work of literature but it is well worth a read if you want a book that will not be too taxing but will keep you absorbed right through to the end. I will certainly be looking out for other novels by this author.

ISBN:  978 0804178525

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Price (based on today's price at £9.00

Total saving to date: £358.97

Monday, 15 September 2014

Cross Stitch (UK) - Outlander (US) by Diana Gabaldon

1945 and Claire Randall is reunited with her husband, Frank, following the war. She served as a military nurse during the war years and now she and Frank are spending some time together in the Highlands of Scotland while he researches his genealogy.

Whilst out on her own one night Claire somehow steps through some standing stones and finds herself transported to 1743 and where the Scottish Highlands are a dangerous place to be. Not only is this a time of war but Claire is an outlander and somehow she has to convince these people that she is not an English spy.

Claire soon finds herself torn between two time zones because as much as she loves Frank she soon realises that she has feelings for a young Scottish clansman. How can she begin to reconcile her feelings for these two men separated by time?

This book has many of the attributes that I like in a book; an exciting plot, time travel, romance, is well written, seems well researched and is historical fiction. I have also wanted to read this book for years and bought a copy when I first got my kindle a couple of years ago.

There has been a recent increase in the popularity of this book and I decided to jump right on that band wagon with the prospect of eight books in the series. It has also been turned into a television series in America which may well make it over here at some point.

Why then, has this book been a real slog for me? It has taken me a ridiculous amount of time to read as I was feeling so disinclined to read it. Now, usually when I am not enjoying a book I grudgingly give up but because of all the hype surrounding this book I decided to keep going.

On the positive side this book really does have an exciting plot accompanied by a time travel element. It works well and the transition from 1945 to 1743 is completely believable. Ms Gabaldon has done her research well which contributes to a believably atmospheric shift in time.

However, I personally found this novel too heavy handed with the sex and violence that it completely detracted from the things I actually liked about the story. This is not a book for the faint hearted or the young as there are repeated scenes with explicit descriptions of rape, domestic violence and sodomy.

I understand that this is a very popular book and that I am in something of a minority in my opinion about it but it just wasn’t my cup of tea and I shall not be continuing with the rest of the series.

ISBN:  978 0099911708

Publisher:: Arrow

Price (based on today’s price at for the kindle version) £3.95

Total saving so far: £349.97