A simple and well-illustrated look at the final months of the Second World War in Europe, with lots of maps and photographs and newspaper headlines. IA simple and well-illustrated look at the final months of the Second World War in Europe, with lots of maps and photographs and newspaper headlines. It is one of a whole series of Time-Life illustrated books on World War II which I bought at a second-hand booksale in an old church in the Hunter Valley (with thanks to my brother Nick who lent me the money to buy them, then carried the heavy box out to the car.)...more
The story of the Fall of Berlin is one of terror and betrayal, destruction and bloodshed, rape and revenge, and is not one for the faint-hearted. AntoThe story of the Fall of Berlin is one of terror and betrayal, destruction and bloodshed, rape and revenge, and is not one for the faint-hearted. Antony Beevor has examined every aspect of the events leading up to the cataclysmic destruction of Berlin in April 1945. The book is incredibly well-researched, and beautifully written, but is best for those who have already extensively studied the history of Germany in the Second World War, or those with a particular acute interest in warfare and battles - every manoeuvre, every push and retreat, is given space on this book's pages. Perfect for me, since I needed a day-by-day breakdown of the city's fall while writing my novel THE BEAST'S GARDEN! ...more
This a bittersweet, delicate novel which moves between Chicago, 1982, and Ireland, 1912. A young American woman Grace discovers that her grandmother MThis a bittersweet, delicate novel which moves between Chicago, 1982, and Ireland, 1912. A young American woman Grace discovers that her grandmother Maggie is a survivor of the Titanic, and asks her to tell her story. Maggie was one of fourteen Irish emigrants to leave a single village to sail on the Titanic. They all have hopes and fears for the new life they are sailing towards, and many are leaving behind friends and loved ones. Hazel Gaynor deftly moves back and forth between the two narrative threads, showing how grief and loss can cast its shadow over lives, and how important it is to seize love when you find it. ...more
This is my daughter’s favourite book, and she returns to it again and again. I was curious to know why, so I wrested it from her and sat down to read.This is my daughter’s favourite book, and she returns to it again and again. I was curious to know why, so I wrested it from her and sat down to read.
It really is a delightful book, gorgeously illustrated by Michael Foreman. It tells the story of Johnny Trott, a bellboy at the Savoy, who makes friends with a cat named Kaspar. ‘From his whiskers to his paws he was black all over, jet black and sleek and shiny and beautiful. He knew he was beautiful too. He moved like silk, his head held high, his tail swishing as he went.’
Kaspar belongs to a Russian countess who befriends Johnny, and introduces him to a world of beauty and art and music. When the countess tragically dies, Johnny must keep Kaspar safe from the horrible head housekeeper, called ‘Skullface’ by the hotel staff.
He is helped by the daughter of a rich American who is staying at the Savoy. They have all sorts of adventures – including escaping the sinking of the Titanic – before finding happiness and safety in America. I asked my daughter why she loves it so much, and she said, ‘because it’s about a cat, and a boy and a girl who save it, and because it makes you sad one minute, then happy the next.’ Wonderful! ...more
I really enjoyed The Silkworm when I read it earlier this year, and so I grabbed The Cuckoo’s Calling when I saw it. It is the first in the series ofI really enjoyed The Silkworm when I read it earlier this year, and so I grabbed The Cuckoo’s Calling when I saw it. It is the first in the series of Robert Galbraith’s contemporary crime novels (Robert Galbraith being, of course, the pseudonym of J.K. Rowling).
I enjoyed this one even more. It introduced Cormoran Strike, one-legged private detective, and his pretty red-headed sidekick Robin, in a compelling and surprising murder mystery that shines a spotlight on the murky world of modelling.
The victim is Lula Landry, a young black model, who died after plummeting from her apartment one bitter winter night. Her adopted brother refuses to believe it is suicide, and hires Cormoran to investigate. I love murder mysteries in which the reader pits their wits against the detective and tries to guess the murderer, and I also love murder mysteries with strong and interesting characters, so this series is right up my alley. I have already pre-ordered the third in the series!...more
This novel of Robin Hood has a tagline ‘Meet the Godfather of Sherwood Forest’, promising lots of gore and violence. The book delivers, with an unflinThis novel of Robin Hood has a tagline ‘Meet the Godfather of Sherwood Forest’, promising lots of gore and violence. The book delivers, with an unflinching look at how the famous Robin of Locksley may have ruled his criminal empire. It has a lot more to it, however. The book sweeps along with an unrelenting pace, filled with sharply drawn chase-and-battle scenes. The narrator is a young man, Alan Dale, who swears allegiance to Robin after he is condemned to death for stealing a pie. The historical setting is fabulously well done, and the characters all complex and well-drawn. I can really recommend it for anyone who loves a gripping, fast-paced historical thriller....more
I’ve really been enjoying this series of contemporary murder mysteries set in the Dordogne in the south-west of France.
The first few books were gentlI’ve really been enjoying this series of contemporary murder mysteries set in the Dordogne in the south-west of France.
The first few books were gentle, warm and character-driven with lots of descriptions of Bruno cooking delicious meals and looking for truffles in the forest with his dog.
The later books have become more like hard-edged thrillers, with a bit of sex and a lot of political intrigue thrown in. I am still enjoying them, but not as much. Bruno was such a lovable character to begin with, but now he’s bed-hopping a little too much for my taste. I’d like less torture and more romance and feasting.
Anne Gracie is my favourite living romance author. Her Regency love stories are a perfect blend of romance, humour and pathos, and I never fail to finAnne Gracie is my favourite living romance author. Her Regency love stories are a perfect blend of romance, humour and pathos, and I never fail to finish with a lump in my throat. The Spring Bride is the third in a series following the romantic entanglements of four young women struggling to make their way in the world. The series began with The Autumn Bride, and continued with The Winter Bride – I would definitely start at the beginning. This one involves a rescued mutt, a gentleman-turned spy, a murder mystery, and a girl who fears to fall in love. Can’t wait for the next in the series!...more
Jane Yolen is a wonderful American children’s author known for her interest in fairy tales and folklore. I have read and enjoyed many of her books, inJane Yolen is a wonderful American children’s author known for her interest in fairy tales and folklore. I have read and enjoyed many of her books, in particular The Devil’s Arithmetic and Briar Rose. Snow in Summer is a reworking of the Snow White fairy tale, set in the hillbilly mountains of West Virginia during the Great Depression. The story is both familiar and unfamiliar, as the best fairy tale retellings are. It is not her finest work, but a must-read for anyone interested in the imaginative use of fairy tales. ...more
I remember watching the movie ‘Camille Claudel’, starring Isabelle Adjani and Gerard Depardieu in the late 1980s, and being stirred by the intensely rI remember watching the movie ‘Camille Claudel’, starring Isabelle Adjani and Gerard Depardieu in the late 1980s, and being stirred by the intensely romantic yet tragic story of this young sculptor as she struggled to make her way as a woman and a creative artist in the male-dominated world of the late 19th century. Heather Webb has now brought Camille Claudel to life on the page, in this delicate and haunting novel told from her point of view.
We see her as a strong-willed and determined young woman, stealing clay from a garden late at night so she can use it for her sculptures. Then we see Camille’s meeting with Auguste Rodin, the controversial sculptor, and the beginning of their tumultuous affair.
The tension between Love and Art torments Camille. She breaks off their relationship as her work is dismissed as being copies of his, even as she longs for him.
Her emotional and psychological breakdown is deftly and sensitively handled, and the ending brought tears to my eyes. A beautiful novel for anyone who (like me) loves books inspired by real-life artists....more
n recent months, I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction books written by the British biographer Lucinda Hawksley, and enjoyed them all. So I was drawnn recent months, I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction books written by the British biographer Lucinda Hawksley, and enjoyed them all. So I was drawn to read this biography of one of Queen Victoria’s daughters as much by the author as by the promise of the blurb: ‘packed with intrigues, scandals and secrets, (this is) a vivid portrait of a royal desperate to escape her inheritance.’
I was not disappointed. Lucinda Hawksley has a knack for bringing stories alive on the page, and Princess Louise is a wonderful character. Outspoken, creative, and sensual, she smoked cigarettes, rode bicycles, and refused to wear a crinoline. It is rumoured she had an illegitimate baby, smuggled out of the palace by the queen’s doctor, and one of her lovers’ may have died in her arms. It is impossible to know the truth because – nearly 70 years after her death – her archives are stoutly locked away and no-one is permitted to read them. A fascinating mystery, indeed....more
The Snow Goose is set in the years running up to the evacuation of Dunkirk in the Second World War. Originally published in 1940 in the Saturday EveniThe Snow Goose is set in the years running up to the evacuation of Dunkirk in the Second World War. Originally published in 1940 in the Saturday Evening Post, it was brought out in book form the following year by Knopf, Michael Joseph and M&S simultaneously. It won the prestigious O Henry prize that same year and has been continually in print ever since. The Snow Goose has inspired a number of musical scores and albums, has been made into two feature films and moved generations of readers. A new feature film will be released in the coming year.
Beautifully written, with a powerful ending, and breathtakingly illustrated, this is an exquisite edition of Gallico’s masterpiece.
I remember reading this beautiful book when I was a child. It’s the story of a young crippled man, a girl, and a snow goose in 1940s Essex, in the lead-up to World War II. It’s a story of kindness and friendship, of the beauty of nature and our need to protect it, and of the importance of not judging by appearances. It is also a love story. Philip Rhavader is a hunchback, shunned by all, who looks after hurt and injured animals. He makes friends with a young girl named Fritha who brings him a snow goose to tend. As she grows into a beautiful young woman, he falls in love with her but cannot speak of what is in his heart. Then the Second World War breaks out, and Philip sails across to France to help rescue the thousands of soldiers stranded at Dunkirk. As a child, the book made a strong impression on me, but I had not read it in years. When I saw this lovely new edition, with exquisite illustrations by Angela Barrett, I had to buy it for my daughter....more