katewritesandreads

katewritesandreads

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Seven in January




I read seven books in January.

 

A black-tie ball under the stars in small-town Australia is the background for this romance between two old classmates. I believe these used to be decorous affairs, allowing men and women in very rural areas to meet potential partners. This one is a more modern fund-raising event but there’s still plenty of potential-partnering going on. Enjoyed this – as I did Flight to Coorah Creek by the same author.


An absolutely beautifully written memoir of growing up on a farm called Harmony in the Appalachian mountains. J D Ballam’s family, and their nearby farming relatives, had to be almost completely self-sufficient and from a very young age he was given a share of the work load; he turned out to be very practical and able to turn his hand to everything whether it was with animals or machinery.

Of course he’s not the first person to write about such an upbringing but what is special about this account (apart from, but not unrelated to, the lyrical writing) is that his childhood was not a century (or two) ago but in the 1970s, and he went on to get a first-class degree in English from the University of York.


The first book I’ve read in the Flavia de Luce series of novels featuring the eleven-year-old sleuth who is passionate about chemistry, particularly if poisons are involved. She lives on a decaying English country estate with her usually absent father and her two fearsome older sisters. Good fun – and a good plot.


Not That Kind of Girl by Catherine Alliott 
When happily married country-dweller Henrietta gets a job in London her life suddenly becomes complicated in unexpected ways. A lovely big chunky read for a winter's evening.


Some nice person gave me this for Christmas knowing my fondness for girls’ boarding-school stories – Malory Towers (I can still remember chunks of In the Fifth), Chalet School, Angela Brazil et al.

The author (whose grandmother was Jan Struther, author of Mrs Miniver) interviewed ‘girls’ who went to (English and Scottish) boarding schools during those years. The schools ranged from the extremely academic Cheltenham Ladies’ College to others where the teaching was minimal. The result makes for a very interesting slice of social history but perhaps you have to be one of those gals to find it ‘the funniest book you’ll read all year’ as quoted on the front.

Published by Slightly Foxed in a lovely little hardback edition, a pleasure to look at and to hold.


Palace of Deception by Helena Fairfax
A novella. Think of a Mary Stuart plot crossed with The Prisoner of Zenda and a dash of Rebecca, but with a setting and a heroine, Lizzie, and hero, Leon, very much its own. I enjoyed the lush descriptions of the strange little country of Montverrier and its mysterious Princess Charlotte, and went on to read the sequel:



The Scottish Diamond by Helena Fairfax
A novella. This time the couple are in Edinburgh where the murky goings on are not confined to the weather … With more twists than the stairs in the Scott Monument, the plot takes us through the capital city and out into the countryside as an old feud is brought to light and Lizzie and Leon wonder who they can trust – including each other.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Listen to my story!


A few months ago The People’s Friend began to release some already published stories as free-to-listen audio readings.

I am delighted to say they have chosen one of mine:

Virtue is rewarded in this appealing story by Kate Blackadder, as The People’s Friend Presents…

Making A Scene
I had imagined meeting my hero many times, but I had never pictured things turning out like this!




Tuesday, 10 January 2017

My Life (maybe)


My Life (maybe) – according to the books I read in 2016


Describe yourself


How do you feel?


Describe where you currently live


If you could go anywhere where would you go



Your favourite form of transportation is


Your best friend is



You and your friends are



What’s the weather like?



Favourite time of day



If your life was a book



What is life to you?



Your fear
So Many Books, So Little Time




What is the best advice you have to give?



Thought for the day



How would you like to die?
Can’t Wait to get to Heaven



Your soul’s present condition


This is a fun idea I saw first on Portobello Book Blog:

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Four in December


Or, more accurately, I read three books and finished a fourth in December.


Family Britain 1951-57 by David Kynaston

This has been one of the non-fiction books I dip into between novels. (I previously read his Austerity Britain 1945-51.) I started it a while ago and finished it this month – 776 pages (including notes and index) encompassing exhaustive research through newspapers, books, magazines, Mass Observation diaries and other archives.



As the blurb says this was the era when: ‘Britain was starting to move away from the hardships of austerity. Great national events jostle alongside everything that gave 1950s Britain its distinctive flavour from Butlin’s holiday camps, Kenwood food mixers and Hancock’s Half Hour to Ekco television sets, skiffle and teddy boys.’



I was born during this time so one item gave me particular pause for thought. There was a very popular radio quiz programme called Have a Go! compered by ‘Halifax’s Wilfred Pickles’. His opening catchphrase – ’Ow do, ’ow are yer? – was followed by ‘amiable chat with the mainly working-class contestants about their lives’ and there was (my italics) ‘a large round of applause if a contestant turned out to be over 60’.



From which I conclude that 90 is the new 60.




Gingerbread and Cupcakes by Claire Watts

As hinted above I am an ‘OA’ and not a Young Adult at which market this book is aimed. I was already aware of the author’s excellent non-fiction book The Covenanters so was interested to know about her novels. She is one of four YA authors who have collaborated to publish their books under the banner Paisley Piranha.



Although this title is the third in a series about a group of 17/18-year-old girls it can be read as a standalone. It’s the summer before Lily and Simon go to university. Simon has been one of their school’s heart-throbs (to use an OA expression) while Lily is quieter, more in the background. They are thrown together when Simon’s cake-shop-owing mum has an accident and he and Lily step in to help. Their sweet romance is told from both their viewpoints – and there is bonus material in the form of cake recipes at the back. Loved it.



Betty MacDonald is an author I re-read, most recently in October this year. So I was delighted to find out that there are a couple of biographies newly out on her. It was great to fill some of the gaps in my knowledge about her  – her four books for adults (she also wrote very successfully for children) are ‘lightly fictionalised’ accounts of her life. This book is self-published and my only gripe is that I would like to know what the author’s connection, if any, was to Betty MacDonald/her family. They sound such fun – even during the Depression they were able to keep cheery in their overcrowded household and made a ceremony out of every meal however frugal.


Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

This is 514 pages but I read it in just over a day in the Christmas holidays – not as impressive a feat as it might appear as the type in my hardback copy is large and many of the chapters are just one page so there’s a lot of white space.



I’ve loved Curtis Sittenfeld’s books which are all quite different. The last one was Sisterland which I read in March this year. She’s such a stylish writer.

So I was really looking forward to Eligible, her modern take on Pride and Prejudice. Her Fitzwilliam Darcy is a neurosurgeon newly moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where live the feckless Bennett family. Mr Bennett has had a heart attack and as Mrs B is more interested in her Ladies’ Luncheon Club than in looking after him, 40-year-old Jane and 38-year-old Liz come home from New York to help. It was fun seeing what CS did with the characters (although perhaps too many ‘issues’ are ascribed to them) but it’s told in a kind of reportage style which I found distancing (and another reason why it was a quick read); all in all I confess I was rather disappointed.



What would Jane Austen make of 21st-century life were she to take this as her guide? I expect she’d be delighted that women can now live independently, and amused to know that they can make the running in a relationship … but I’m sure she’d be sad that, in 2016, romance (dictionary definition: a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love) would appear to be well and truly dead.

Let’s hope that’s just in Cincinnati ...



Wishing you a happy and peaceful 2017. Oh – and, wherever you are, if you are looking for a book that does give a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love, may I recommend ...

See reviews here. And buy it here. And may all your Christmas wishes come true.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Six in November


I read six books in November.

I'm playing catch-up, posting this in late December. My last few blog posts have been about my own book Stella’s Christmas Wish which was published by Black & White on 3 November. I’m thrilled that it’s attracted so many lovely comments.

I squeezed in reading six books in November – between doing guest posts for lovely book bloggers and looking at reviews. Find out more about all that here

So, I read:


Return to Kilcraig by Rosemary Gemmell
Read on Kindle. ‘The legacy of her beloved grandmother's cottage in the Scottish village of Kilcraig seems like the ideal solution after Christy Morrison’s recent trauma. Until the threats begin.’ I do love a romantic suspense novel. Great sense of place here and some heart-stopping moments.


A Yorkshire Christmas by Kate Hewitt
Read on Kindle. I hadn’t read ‘Kate Hewitt’ before but have enjoyed books by this author under the name Katherine Swartz (see her website here). I was enjoying A Yorkshire Christmas and was surprised that the story was being wrapped up although only showing 50% finished, then I realised that what I’d downloaded was two books in one; the other was called Falling for Christmas (Book 1 in the Falling for the Freemans series).


And blow me, if it didn’t have exactly the same plot as A Yorkshire Christmas – just before Christmas a city girl running away from her life gets snowbound in a remote area, is rescued by attractive man who is going to be spending Christmas on his own, they fall for each other, and get married in the local church the following Christmas Eve. However Falling for Christmas is set in upstate New York.

I forgave the author because what’s not to like about that scenario plus I love books set in upstate New York – and I went on to buy and read the second in the series, set in the same location:


Falling Hard (Falling for the Freemans Book 2)
‘Quinn Freeman has spent his life avoiding the dangers of commitment, but his reluctant return to his home town stirs up memories and emotions he’d intended to leave buried.’ This is the only book I’ve read where the female protagonist is a plumber – Meghan's skills come in handy when Quinn Freeman decides to renovate his family’s abandoned hotel.

I look forward to Book 3.

And now for something completely different …


A House in Flanders by Michael Jenkins
In 1951 Michael Jenkins aged 14 was sent to spend the summer in a country house in Flanders, in a household consisting of elderly ladies who had previously been connected (in a way that eventually became clear to him) with his own family. He was soon irrevocably entwined with a family that had taken him to their hearts – and found out about the scars that two world wars left on his hosts and on the area. Beautifully written account of events seen through the eyes of a boy.


Displacement by Anne Stormont
Read on Kindle. Loved this book with its dual setting. First there’s the Isle of Skye (where the author lives) and the loveliness of its geography and geology, and the work involved in looking after sheep, plus the interaction between friends and neighbours. Then we move to Israel, its beauty and its problems – and its wonderful food. Through her time in both of these places we get to know author/artist/crofter Rachel – her heritage, and her coming to terms with recent traumatic events in her family. An engrossing read and – my test of a good book – one that brought tears to my eyes more than once.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Let it snow ... and read Stella's Christmas Wish




Thankfully, Kate Blackadder keeps Stella’s Christmas Wish on the right side of syrup. This is a lovely, heart-warming festive read. Blackadder writes confidently and with a great sense of pace.

I fell in love with the characters and actually wished they were real … I loved reading about them and the way their lives intertwined … I really, really, want there to be a sequel …

Later on as we discover the truth I thought the reasons for Maddie's absence were heartfelt and brought a lovely tone and atmosphere to the story.

Stella quickly became a very sympathetic character for me.

The beauty of Scotland comes alive in this story, and the characters are so engaging and really make you care about them.

http://bookaholicswede.blogspot.co.uk/2016/11/blog-tour-stellas-christmas-wish-by.html
 ... I enjoyed reading this book and if you are looking for a Christmas read I recommend this one.
a delightful, warm-hearted Christmas read which I thoroughly enjoyed.

And see reviews on Amazon/Goodreads including:
‘This is a lovely story told against the backdrop of a beautiful part of the world. I love the author's descriptions of the Border country and Edinburgh in the run-up to Christmas.’
‘Loved all the tiny details that brought places and characters to life.’
‘From the very beginning of this novel I was really intrigued by Stella and her family.’
Stella’s Christmas Wish by Kate Blackadder is a really entertaining read, and I highly recommend it!’
‘ … populated with engaging, credible and interesting characters, and a couple of good twists along the way.’
‘Kate Blackadder has created characters which are a delight to spend time with. Warm a glass of mulled wine, forget the Christmas to-do list... and enjoy!’


Blog tour guest posts/Q&A
Q&A with Janet Emson

Q&A with Helena Fairfax

www.myreadingcorner.co.uk
Guest post: The times I celebrated Christmas in July/November

Guest post: Christmas traditions

 
See also:
 
Guest post: Sisters and secrets

Guest post: Three Christmas wishes

Guest post: Christmas …. my favourite things



Stella's Christmas Wish is published by Black & White Publishing at 99p.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Stella's Christmas Wish - recommended


I have enjoyed my blog tour – many thanks to the lovely bloggers who hosted me or reviewed.



Reviews

I fell in love with the characters and actually wished they were real … I loved reading about them and the way their lives intertwined … I really, really, want there to be a sequel …

Later on as we discover the truth I thought the reasons for Maddie's absence were heartfelt and brought a lovely tone and atmosphere to the story.

Stella quickly became a very sympathetic character for me.

The beauty of Scotland comes alive in this story, and the characters are so engaging and really make you care about them.

 ... I enjoyed reading this book and if you are looking for a Christmas read I recommend this one.
 
Portobello Book Blog
a delightful, warm-hearted Christmas read which I thoroughly enjoyed.

plus:
Guest post: Christmas childhood memories

Meet the Author Q&A
  
From First Page to Last
Q&A with Janet Emson


Q&A

Guest post: The times I celebrated Christmas in July/November

Jera's Jamboree
Guest post: Christmas traditions – love them or hate them

  
See also: 

Portobello Book Blog
Author in the Spotlight

Jenny Harper Author
Guest post: Sisters and secrets

Linda's Book Bag
Guest post: Three Christmas wishes

Wendy's Writing Now
Guest post: Christmas …. my favourite things


More reviews!  On Amazon  and Goodreads including:

It’s a book I found hard to put down

I particularly like the characterisations, and the settings of Edinburgh and the Borders, while the element of mystery keeps the pages turning until the satisfying conclusion.

… a great, feel-good modern romance

Loved all the tiny details that brought places and characters to life.

From the very beginning of this novel I was really intrigued by Stella and her family.

Stella’s Christmas Wish by Kate Blackadder is a really entertaining read, and I highly recommend it!’

 … populated with engaging, credible and interesting characters, and a couple of good twists along the way.

Kate Blackadder has created characters which are a delight to spend time with. Warm a glass of mulled wine, forget the Christmas to-do list... and enjoy!

Stella's Christmas Wish is published by Black & White Publishing at 99p.