Friday, 29 April 2016

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: April 2016


The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: April 2016


Our lovely host the Armchair Squid invites us at the end of each month to discuss our best book for that month, he says:

Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the works they enjoyed most over the previous month.  Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.  If you wish to add your own review to the conversation, please click the link above to find the linky.

This month I thought I hadn't had much time to read as life was rather busy but did read nine books, although one was only 124 pages long. 

My best read this month and one of the best books I've read this year is a psychological thriller, not my usual genre so I was so surprised at how much I enjoyed this book.   So without further ado, here is my pick for this month.


While My Eyes Were Closed
By
Linda Green
Approx. 416 pages

PRODUCT DESCRIPTON FROM Amazon

One, two, three . . . Lisa Dale shuts her eyes and counts to one hundred during a game of hide-and-seek. When she opens them, her four-year-old daughter Ella is gone. Disappeared without a trace. The police, the media and Lisa's family all think they know who snatched Ella. But what if the person who took her isn't a stranger? What if they are convinced they are doing the right thing? And what if Lisa's little girl is in danger of disappearing forever?
MY REVIEW

5*
This is a described as a psychological thriller and not my normal reading matter as the disappearance of a young child gives me chills.

This is a well written book making it a pleasure to read.  The author uses some of the Northern dialect but only to emphasis the location and not so that other readers from different areas can’t understand it.  There is some use of swear words but they are all in context and didn’t put me off.

This book kept me gripped. The little girl is so endearing, trusting and loving, the parents are distraught, the younger brother doesn’t really understand what is happening, the older half-sister returns from her trip to France when she hears about her missing little sister.  The grandparents who do a lot of caring for the children when the parents are at work are devastated and want answers which nobody can give in the beginning.

People are quick to judge, the parents, other people who may have black marks against them, are all in the frame, the parents have to find a way to support each other when it is the not knowing what has happened is so difficult to contend with.

It really doesn’t feel a long book (400+ pages) so that shows the quality of writing.  There are not many books that I feel deserve 5* but this was certainly one of the best books I've read this year.


Friday, 25 March 2016

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: March 2016






The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: March 2016

The Armchair Squid says: 

Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the works they enjoyed most over the previous month.  Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.  If you wish to add your own review to the conversation clink the link to take you to the blue link.

http://armchairsquid.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/the-cephalopod-coffeehouse-march-2016.html


This month I read six books, one was a box set of three, so in effect I read eight books.  One of books wasn’t very good and was only worth 2* from me which was quite surprising because looking up the author she is quite prolific and has received awards for her writing.

Three books received 3* they had the potential to be so much more but the reading experience was less enjoyable due to the amount of errors, typos and spelling mistakes.   

I have gone from a murder mystery set in France, to a box set of ghosts who have been murdered, to a psychic visions novel, to a cosy small town romance, to a contemporary English romance and a historical novel.  So quite a varied and diverse reading choice this month.

My 5* book this month, the very best book I have read for quite some time (I don’t give 5* ratings very often) is …………



The Constant Princess
The Tudor Court Series

By

Philippa Gregory

I have read quite a few novels from Philippa Gregory and always enjoyed them.  The writing is brilliant and she blends historical facts within a fictional story.

The blurb from Amazon is as follows:
A splendid and sumptuous tale of intrigue in the Tudor Court from the international bestselling author, Philippa Gregory.
We think of Katherine of Aragon as the barren wife of a notorious king; but behind this legacy lies a fascinating story.
Katherine of Aragon is born Catalina, the Spanish Infanta, to parents who are both rulers and warriors. Aged four, she is betrothed to Arthur, Prince of Wales, and is raised to be Queen of England. She is never in doubt that it is her destiny to rule that far-off, wet, cold land.
Her faith is tested when her prospective father-in-law greets her arrival in her new country with a great insult; Arthur seems little better than a boy; the food is strange and the customs coarse. Slowly she adapts to the first Tudor court, and life as Arthur’s wife grows ever more bearable.
But when the studious young man dies, she is left to make her own future: how can she now be queen, and found a dynasty? Only by marrying Arthur’s young brother, the sunny but spoilt Henry. His father and grandmother are against it; her powerful parents prove little use. Yet Katherine is her mother’s daughter and her fighting spirit is strong.
She will do anything to achieve her aim; even if it means telling the greatest lie, and holding to it.

MY 5* REVIEW

This is the story of Catherine of Aragon, who from a young girl, has been groomed by her Spanish parents from the age of four to become the Queen of England.

The writing is style is slightly different to other books I have read from this author in that we hear the thoughts of Catherine which are written in italics.  It doesn’t take very long to get used to this style of writing.

This is a great book to really get your teeth in to and although it may seem daunting at 500 odd pages the pace and quality of writing meant I was reading it whenever any opportunity arose to read a few more pages.

It is a detailed and comprehensive look at the lives of people living in the Tudor era in England, how they were used and abused and even murdered by the people in power who could also lose their positions very easily as well.

There is love, tragedy, mental illness, plots and tactics, prejudices against people of different faiths, countries and skin colour all skilfully woven through (well researched) facts and fiction.

A brilliant read.

I would thoroughly recommend this book if you like reading about English history. 

Friday, 26 February 2016

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: February 2016


The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: February 2016

Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the works they enjoyed most over the previous month.  Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.  If you wish to add your own review to the conversation, please go to the link and sign on to the link list.



Title:  SUMMER SHADOWS

Author: Killarney Traynor


This is the description from Amazon:

Mystery. Romance. Danger. Murder. Not the typical family vacation. When Julia Lamontaigne arrives in Franklin, New Hampshire, she's looking for an escape from the tragedies that have taken over her life. Haunted by the legacy of her beloved sister, and entrusted with her sister's three orphaned children, Julia hopes for a summer of peaceful healing... and hopefully, bonding. 

At first, the small New Hampshire town seems to be the perfect location. They quickly settle in and make friends with their eccentric neighbours, then begin work on their summer house – while Julia is drawn into a relationship with Robert Wilde, the handsome cop next door. 

But Franklin is haunted, too - by the decades-old murder of a beautiful young artist, killed in the house at the end of Julia's street. Even though everyone says that the case is solved, Julia can't escape the feeling that there's more to the story than she’s being told. She's right. 
Someone doesn’t want the murder case re-opened. And they’re willing to kill again to stop it. 
The house at the end of the street hasn't begun to give up its secrets.

I gave this book 4*.

I found the story to be believable.  I was disappointed with the amount of typos and I feel that better editing would have made this novel 5*.  It would have picked up on missing words or using the same word used twice in one sentence, etc.

Having said that the book wasn’t boring and in fact kept me engrossed.  After a tragic accident that takes the lives of Julia’s sister and brother-in-law, she assumes the responsibility of her sister’s three children.  Julia and the children are all grieving in their own ways but trying to live as a family.  Julia loses her job and takes the opportunity to transfer them all to a property her sister had bought was planning to renovate in a small town during the summer holidays.

Ron, her eldest nephew is a stoic character, turning his grief inwards and trying to keep control of his younger siblings and keep them out of trouble.

Julia hopes that in renovating the house they can all bond and grow emotionally as a family and help each to heal over the loss of their parents and her sister and husband.

At the end of the street there is an empty house with a murderous past that gives a frisson and mystery to the story.

They begin to bond as a family with the help of some colourful characters as neighbours and there is also a touch of romance.

I enjoyed this book.


Thursday, 25 February 2016

LATE

Fiction from Photos
The idea of Sunday Photo Fiction is to create a story / poem or something using around about 200 words with the photo as a guide. It doesn’t have to be centre stage in the story, I have seen some where the placement is so subtle, the writer states where it is.
Once you have written and posted your story, please add the link to the little froggy below so that it is added to the collection and we can all have a read.
https://sundayphotofictioner.wordpress.com/2016/02/21/sunday-photo-fiction-february-20th-2016/

The main object is to have fun.

LATE

Grace was running late, so very late, one thing after another, smudging her nail varnish, a run in her tights, her hair wouldn't go right but now she was in the car and on her way, she could make some time up on the motorway, as if she’d ever go over the speed limit, well only a bit, perhaps, sometimes.

The traffic started to slow down, a black Porsche sports car sped past her in the outside lane, the brake lights came on as he returned to the middle lane and a more sedate speed.

Ah, there was the problem, a police car hiding in-between two lorries just waiting for silly sports cars to go over the speed limit.

Taking her exit, she followed the directions, take the right hand lane, follow the road, turn right and then right again, park opposite Grace Chapel.

Grace checked her lipstick, took a deep breath trying to calm the butterflies in her stomach.  She entered the pub opposite the Chapel, chuckling to herself of the irony of it, as she prepared to meet her blind date.

A man climbed out of the black Porsche and followed her in to the pub.

Word count: 200

Thursday, 18 February 2016

THE GENERATION GAP


FLASH FICTION, POETRY, NON-FICTION, PLAYSCRIPTS, ARTWORKS, PHOTOGRAPHY...
·                     SUBMIT your name to the Inlinkz list below NOW if you wish to participate
·                     CREATE your entry according to the monthly theme – February - Valentine
·                     EDIT your entry until it sparkles
·                     PUBLISH on your blog February 17-19, 2016
·                     STATE FEEDBACK PREFERENCES (full critique to general)
·                     COMMENT OR EMAIL yolandarenee@hotmail.com or den.covey@gmail.com after you've posted to your blog.
·                     READ & COMMENT This is key and adds to the fun.
PLEASE COMMENT /  EMAIL AFTER POSTING YOUR MASTERPIECE
Email Denise or Yolanda if you have more questions:
    den.covey@gmail.com / yolandarenee@hotmail.com




The Generation Gap



Fred knew she was the girl for him, from the first moment he saw her across the playground.  Her blonde hair and cheeky smile made her stand out from all her friends gathered round playing hopscotch.

Hetty knew he was the boy for her, from the first moment he caught her eye in the classroom.  She could only see his face in profile but she could tell the kindness in the turn up of his mouth.

‘Gran, Gran.’  She heard Paula calling her name as she let herself in to the bungalow.  Hetty bustled in to the small kitchen and put the kettle on.  Paula placed the shopping on the counter and started putting the food away.

‘Are you going out with Mike for Valentine’s night?’ Hetty smiled at her granddaughter.


‘No, it’s so expensive, Gran.  We haven’t got £50+ to spend out on an evening meal, pay for a babysitter plus drinks and a taxi so that we could both enjoy the evening.  I've bought a couple of nice rump steaks from the butchers and a posh cheesecake from the delicatessen in the High Street and splashed out on a good bottle of wine.  We’ll get the kids off to bed at a reasonable time, put some soft music on, light a few candles and enjoy each other’s company.’



Hetty’s eyes misted over. The date was February 14th many, many years ago and somehow Fred had managed to find a bunch of flowers.  He presented them to Hetty from behind his back as they sat there gazing adoringly in to each other’s eyes, the spray of tulips lying across their laps. Oh that long ago day at the railway station, suitcases under their arms, waiting for the start of their long journey; saying a tearful goodbye to their parents not knowing when they would see them again. 

Many years later Hetty found out Fred had pinched the flowers from a florist’s stall. Fleeing their home country before the tyranny became worse was their priority that day, their parents had managed to get them safe passage promising them they would follow on behind as soon as they possibly could, unfortunately that was not to be.  Fred had a sneaky romantic streak in him even at that young age.

‘Did you and Granddad celebrate Valentine’s Day?’ Paula sat down at the kitchen table with a cup of tea and one of her Gran’s famous home baked shortbread biscuits.  Dunking her biscuit she waited for Hetty to answer.

‘Oh we had some good times.  Fred wasn’t one for the grand gestures, as you know.’ Hetty and Paula shared a smile; they knew Fred was a taciturn man.  ‘All the things that keep a romance alive he often did without an audience.   I keep all those special moments here, in my heart.’  Hetty placed her hand over her heart and took out the gold locket she always wore round her neck usually hidden under her clothing.

Paula loved these moments when Hetty talked about her granddad. It had only been a couple of years since he had passed away and she knew her Gran missed him dreadfully.

‘He did buy you flowers though, didn't he, sometimes?’  Paula was certain she remembered vases of flowers on the dining room table.

‘Oh yes.’  Hetty laughed, ‘he would suggest some flowers and then point out a few bunches in the supermarket, so I would choose a bunch and he would add a couple more to them because one bunch was never enough he said.’


‘That sounds like Granddad.’ Paula smiled at the memory of the lovely man they missed each and every day.

Hetty pushed the plate of biscuits towards Paula and offered another cup of tea. 

‘I'm not sure Mike even knows what romance is,’ Paula smiled wistfully at her Gran.  ‘Maybe I don't either.’

Hetty smiled, her eyes remembering instances of loving gestures.  She would try and describe some of them to the beautiful young lady sitting opposite her.

‘Well there are the usual things that people don’t even recognise as “romantic gestures.”  Opening stubborn jar lids for me, getting up first to turn the heating on, making the tea so that it is brewed by the time I emerged in the morning.’

Hetty placed her hand on her heart, ‘oh and the slightly more dramatic gestures; running in to the room following my shriek because I’d seen a spider.  Rushing to the First Aid box to get a plaster when I cut my finger on the knives he’d recently sharpened.’

Paula and Hetty shared a chuckle; she could imagine these two people working in unison in the household.

‘Then there were times he would get up from his armchair and as he passed me, pick up my hand and kiss it.  Now that is a romantic gesture that I will treasure forever and ever.

I might say, out of the blue, “I love you” and he would reply “so you should” which would make us both burst out laughing.’

‘Mike doesn’t even say he loves me any more.’ Paula’s face crumpled in disappointment. ‘I'm just hoping this meal at the weekend will reignite those feelings.’ 

‘I'm sure it will once he realises how much effort you've put in to the meal.’ Hetty smiled at her granddaughter.

‘Anyway enough of my troubles, tell me more about Granddad, please Gran.’

‘Oh yes, well there was the CD in the car that he made with “our song” on it and if he was picking me up from somewhere he would have it ready to play as we drove away.’

‘Now that is romantic, Gran.’

Hetty smiled remembering their song. ‘Yes, it was.  Holding hands in the car, oh yes even at our advanced ages we still did that.’

Paula’s raised eyebrows said it all, ‘old people still held hands?’

Hetty playfully swatted at Paula.

‘Go on home now, my dear, and show that man how much you truly love him.’

  Word count: 996

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

SMELLS

The idea of Sunday Photo Fiction is to create a story / poem or something using around about 200 words with the photo as a guide. It doesn't have to be centre stage in the story; I have seen some where the placement is so subtle, the writer states where it is.
Once you have written and posted your story, please add the link to the little froggy below so that it is added to the collection and we can all have a read. The main object is to have fun.

Here is my story from the lovely picture supplied by A Mixed Bag. 

SMELLS

Breathing in the fresh air she caught the scent of the trees, the coolness of the gentle spring breeze and a slight whiff of animal.  She crinkled her nose slightly as she turned to her beau who was regarding her with a smile on his face.

OK, so she was a city girl at heart, unused to all this wide, open space and those smells, well really, it was too much. She popped her nose into her chiffon scarf, draped artistically around her long, elegant neck, and inhaled the aroma of Chanel No. 5.

Toby linked her arm through his and gently manoeuvred her towards the ugly beasts in the field, only flimsy wooden railing keeping her safe from the wild beasts.

‘Come on, darling, keep up.  The Safari trail leads us back up to the Mansion House. I’ll show you the view from the balcony when we have our wedding reception here.’ Toby smiled at his fiancĂ©e.

Alicia grimaced back at him as she turned tail and walked smartly back towards the entrance gate.  She didn't care how much a taxi back to London would cost; she wasn’t staying here in the wilds or getting married!
Word count: 200


Monday, 8 February 2016

MEMORIES



The idea of Sunday Photo Fiction is to create a story / poem or something using around about 200 words with the photo as a guide. It doesn’t have to be centre stage in the story, I have seen some where the placement is so subtle, the writer states where it is.
Once you have written and posted your story, please add the link to the little froggy below so that it is added to the collection and we can all have a read.
The main object is to have fun.
https://i2.wp.com/www.inlinkz.com/img/wp/wpImg.png


MEMORIES

Mary poured herself a cup of coffee from the Thermos flask.  The steam rose creating a mist across the wind shield of the car.

From her vantage point in Langdon Cliff car park she watched the ferry port.

The last time she came here the grandchildren were small. They’d laid out a blanket, ate crisps and sandwiches and drank cans of coke.  The children had shrieked with laughter and played by the cliff edge while her heart was in her mouth that they would take a tumble.

They didn't.

Today she was on her own.  Her grandchildren were too old to picnic, too old to spend time with her, too old to sit and watch the comings and goings of travellers, holiday makers, lorry drivers, business men and women, going and coming back from France or further afield in Europe, using Dover to Calais as a short hop.

The tears came unbidden then as she remembered her courting days, walking with a strong breeze following them on the way and blowing them back to the car park.  Holding hands, catching their breath as the wind took the words away.

Today words were not needed.
Word Count: 193