Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Spencer's Mountain by Earl Hamner Jr.

I bought this book on a recent visit to Schuyler, Virginia, where Earl Hamner Jr. based his stories of Walton's Mountain. This is the original book, but it took a little while getting used to 'John-Boy' being 'Clay-Boy' and 'Elizabeth' being 'Patty-Cake'!! Thankfully 'Olivia' is still 'Olivia'! Also, although we are told not to write in the way people speak, but to give just a suggestion by using key words etc, Earl Hamner Jr. uses 'goen', 'loven', 'sawen' etc, which again takes time 'getten' used to.
However, the book doesn't disappoint. It's on familiar ground if you loved The Waltons. And you can almost hear the music playing as you pick up the book which tells of Clay Spencer, the father, building his house on Spencer's Mountain from the trees that grow there, and Clay-Boy's attempts to get a place at the University of Richmond, whilst Olivia gives birth to twins and seemingly just gets on cooking enormous meals for her family of nine other children and her in-laws! Well, how times change, but I expect Grandma and the older girls give a hand with the chores indoors, which he forgets to mention!
All in all, if you loved The Waltons, you'll love this book, and if you can ever get yourself to Schuyler,Virginia, you'll love that too!

Friday, 25 March 2011

Julie Cohen's Book Launch - 'Getting Away With It'

Have you ever tried beetroot and horseradish ice cream? No, neither had I, until I went to the celebration of the publication of Julie Cohen's new book Getting Away With It at Reading Library last night. There was quite a crowd there from staunch library supporters who had been to various evenings at the library, and had come to Julie's event to find out all about her exciting new book, to her own supporters from Reading Writers and the local Romantic Novelists, plus her agent, Teresa Chris and her editor, Sherise Hobbs, of Headline.
Everyone one was treated to some complementary fizz and some Purbeck Ice Cream, because in the book, the protagonists make the beetroot and horseradish flavour. (As to why, you'll have to read it!) It's made from the true ingredients and it's interesting that although Julie thought the finished colour would be magenta, it's the colour of strawberry ice cream, because beetroot juice is what they use to colour it!
All in all it was a lovely evening, thanks to the library staff. And the ice cream? A strange flavour which sat somewhere between an accompaniment for cold roast beef or mackerel, and dessert! We all agreed we loved it and I hope that you'll love Julie's book too!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

I bought this book because I thought it might be like Anita Shreve's novels set on the Eastern Seaboard which I have loved so much. I also thought that 'the one night in London the fates of all three women entwine' might be because they fell in love with the same man. But no.
The novel could so easily be called The War Reporter as it does centre around Frankie Bard, the radio reporter who records the voices of people caught up in the exodus from Europe to America in 1941. But, she is also the postmistress because she has a letter to deliver.
A motif in the story is that you can't see outside the photo. You can only see what is in the picture at the time it was taken. Similarly, Frankie can never find out what happens to the people she talks to after they have continued on their journeys. In the same way you never find out what happens to Frankie, Iris, the real postmistress, and Emma, a young bride, after the book has finished. It's just a snapshot of their lives at this time.
Reading this novel with the news this week about the people made homeless by the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and possible nuclear accident, and others desperate to escape to their home nations, reflects and highlights the plight of those people Frankie could only capture for a moment on her disks.
This is a fantastic book, haunting and real. I will read it again.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Jo Brand at The Watermill Theatre

Last November, I went to see Jo Brand at The Watermill Theatre near Newbury. There were only a few tickets left and I had to sit in one of the seats on the side balcony in this wonderful old wooden mill where I once remember seeing Far From the Madding Crowd with cast of six (or it may have been just four)!
Jo was being interviewed for the theatre Book Club, and promoting the next volume of her autobiography Can't Stand Up for Sitting Down. I had a good view of her from my seat, apart from the railing in the way. She talked about how she kept putting off writing her book and in the end had to do it in six weeks! Afterwards she did a book signing, and I told her that my copy was going to be a Christmas present to me, so she signed it and wrote 'Happy Christmas!'.
Because I enjoyed this book about her comedy career, I also bought the first part of her autobigraphy, Look Back in Hunger.This one is about her growing up and eventually becoming a psychiatric nurse. You can really hear her voice coming through off the page and I think I would quite like to get the audio CD versions of these books.
Now, that's an idea for a Christmas present this year!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

I Think I Love You

I love this new book by Allison Pearson about two thirteen year olds from Wales who enter a competition to meet David Cassidy. Allison draws such a real picture of the young girls who describe themselves as "two Welsh chicks who have to be in bed by eight thirty" and Bill, who had spent his final year at uni "honing his pinball skills on Brighton pier", and whose job is to write letters from "David" in his fan magazine. The story then moves to 1998 where Allison describes the feelings of the same middle-aged women who go to Las Vegas with Bill to meet David at last.
I can recommend this book to anyone who loved David Cassidy, anyone who remembers the Seventies, and anyone who loves a good read.
If you were ever 13. If you ever kissed pop star posters on your bedroom wall goodnight. If you ever dreamed of going up to London and meeting your favourite pop star, then this book is for you.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Success at Last!

Success at Last! In 2010, my New Year's Resolution was to get a short story published, a) to get some recognition for my writing and b) to hone, as they say, my writing craft. I entered every competition in Writing Magazine, Writers' News and Writers Forum, plus those set up by authors, Rowan Coleman and Cally Taylor and also one in Mslexia.
Although I had some good feedback, it wasn't until December 2nd, that I had an email to say that I'd come second in the Writers' News competition for a story about "Impatience". I think I'd been very patient, don't you?! Anyway, I was over the moon!
The results are in this month's issue and it's great to see my name in print at last! However, I couldn't find my story on their website which is where it should have been published. So I contacted Jonathan Telfer, the Editor, who said that their new website will be launched soon and my story will be on there. Hooray! I'll let you know when it appears and you might like to read it!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The Gipsy Moth Pub

Franzi has sent me this photo of The Gipsy Moth pub in Greenwich.
It is called this because Gipsy Moth IV, the boat that Sir Francis Chichester sailed around the world in in 1967, was on display here for several years before being restored and sailed around the world again in 2005.
What is the link between Sir Francis and the Gipsy Moth aeroplane? Well, he flew solo to Australia in one in January 1930, and named his boats after the iconic little bi-plane.
PS Franzi has a beautiful blog if you'd like to visit it at