Category Archives: General Blog

The sea

Largely, I am a practical person. Or I like to think I am. I like logic, common sense, and using nouse when making decisions. Sometimes I pride myself in it, though I am also inclined to make silly decisions and all my logic then falls down.

But generally, I’m not into touchy feely stuff. That’s not a good thing. I was only saying to my other half, the other day, that I think allowing yourself to feel what you feel is important. Not sweeping it under the neutral rug of ‘I’m fine’, or the masking positivity of ‘but even though that’s rubbish, this is great.’

But that’s a long discussion, as my poor husband found out, and not the point of this post. As I say, I’m not generally into the whole ‘I really feel drawn to this…’ That is apart from this morning. I was sat on a bench, watching the early morning sun beams fracture across the bare bay of a low-tide estuary, seeing lone figures of other dog-walkers silhouetted against the skyline. I was praying about my car – it’s going to cost me a fortune to fix soon – and I was feeling the seeming caress of the sea breeze.

And right there and then I thought, ‘I feel drawn to the sea’. I never thought I would. I have always liked the sea, the holidays spent at Grandad’s on the Kentish coast, building sandcastles in front of his deck-chair hire hut. I’ve loved the West Country since visiting with my parents repeatedly through my teens. But although I have always thought the sea majestic and admired it, I’ve never felt a particular need to be near it.

Then we moved nearer to it, quite unintentionally, and it’s like some previously unknown spirit within me has awoken. I suddenly ‘get’ it. I get why writers consistently draw upon metaphors of the sea in their literary works, why it is a consistent setting, emotive and restless in novels, and why artists will simply never stop painting it. There’s something other-worldly about it. Yet it’s totally part of our world.

It’s boundless, restless, mysterious, deep, secret, hidden, violent, riotous, unsafe, untameable, uncontrollable, beautiful, reflective. It’s other.

I’m supposed to be studying this morning before going to the office. But I felt compelled to write this. It’s not like it means anything, like my life will now take another direction, or you’ll find me near the sea at any opportunity. It’s just, I ‘get’ it.

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Jodi Taylor’s Just One Damned Thing After Another

Historians + time travel = happpppppyyyyyyy Pip

This book really is a silly, raucous and a tremendously entertaining adventure. I love history and so the idea of time travelling historians going on adventures and saving the day really is always going to win with me!

Facebook advertising…really?

It turns out, Facebook advertising works. You see, I first saw this book advertised to me on there. Usually, I’m very skeptical about any ads, but boy did the sellers get this targeting right because I clicked straight through to read the blurb and quickly added it to my wish list on Amazon.

When I finally got around to purchasing it I decided it would be one of my ‘book a month’ reads for my challenge this year. A bit of light relief in reading is always a good thing. Sometimes I find, when you’ve either been reading some heavy going stuff, or you’ve been unfortunate enough to end up with a dud book, it’s nice to pick up an easy-to-read page turner that you can laugh out loud at while you’re whipping through it.

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 12.41.51The comedy element

This was one of those. It was just funny. It had a good story-line that kept you bounding along. I mean sure, you had to suspend your reality-checker to enjoy it, but isn’t that why we read sometimes?

I mean, just the title, it made me giggle when I read it. Along with the tidbit about time travelling historians, it’s what drew me in naughty as it is.

Lots of different history

I loved the idea of these teams of historians popping along to different pivotal moments in history. Even better, I’m usually tucked away in my 18th century pigeon-hole loving life with wide-hipped dresses and enormous wigs, but this book pulled me into some completely different ‘time zones’. Like to the library in ancient Alexandria, the Cretaceous period and Medieval England.

A word of warning

I always think it’s worth pointing out aspects that not all readers might like. This book I would say probably isn’t for younger readers. There are some love scenes in it which may not be to everyone’s taste.

A series

One of the things I am quite pleased about is that this is a series. Although I’m not ‘I need to buy the next one right now’ invested in the overarching storyline, I was definitely entertained enough to come back to this at some point and get the next in the series. The 1,500+ Amazon reviews show Taylor has entertained quite a few with these books.

 

A Very Short Introduction to World War I by Michael Howard

I have purchased several of the books in this series recently. They were recommended (at least the historical ones), when I was doing my degree as short and sweet introductory texts to historical periods written by specialist academics.

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 12.20.30Readable and small

The thing is, they’re jolly readable. If you want a pocket-sized quick read to carry around with you in the dark recesses of your bag for any happenstance where you’re left stranded somewhere (like I do, because I’ve had one too many cars breakdown and like to be prepared), then these books are baby gems.

Questions about WWI

I’ve always wanted to learn about World War I. I did learn about the Great War when I was in primary school, I think, but that was a long time ago and you don’t necessarily learn the key things you want to know when you’re older.

Like why did it start?

Who was on which side?

Why did it become a World War?

How many people really died?

What and where were the eastern and western fronts?

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A pocket-sized read

All these questions bubbling around in the stream of my thoughts and finally an easily readable book to give me the base level facts, figures and theories. The best part about it being that it’s not just another ‘popular’ history, it’s published by the trusted Oxford University Press.

So what better time to choose to crack on and read this bad boy than as part of my ‘book a month’ challenge?

Everyone should read this

I just can’t recommend this book enough if you want an overview of World War I. And I just can’t recommend it enough if you don’t, because what I’ve learned from reading it, is that we should always remember. People are right when they sell poppies and say ‘Lest we forget’ around the 11th November every year.

The sheer loss of life is incomprehensible. I’d heard that before, but I couldn’t help repeatedly exclaiming it to anyone who was near me at the times I was reading this book. It is shocking and honestly makes you question the human race. It makes you thankful for those who gave their lives, for those who still do, and it makes you think we should always remember.

Next read

You can probably guess that I’ve bought the World War II equivalent to this. I read the above one first for obvious reasons, and because I know WWI had such a profound impact on the starting of WWII (which I know a tad more about but not a lot, I’m not much of a modern historian), I wanted to really get my head around it.

I won’t lie, I don’t remember a great deal of what I read in the World War I book because there is just SO much. I’ll need to read it again soon. But I can say I’m very glad I read it.

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley

Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce murder mysteries really are a pleasure to read. I’ve gone on about him before and I’m thankful to my mother-in-law for introducing me to these books and keeping me in good supply!

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d was one of my latest reads for my ‘book a month’ challenge and I find Alan Bradley rarely disappoints. This is a series of murder mysteries, set in about 1950 in the English countryside with a young girl genius as the detective. It is suitable balanced between macabre and comedic.

IMG_5159I have ALL the books, bar one

I have his books in a hard back collection (apart from the first pesky one which alludes me because I can’t find the right edition to match the rest), and they are not only beautiful to look at, they’re beautiful to read.

Sentence structures…no really

He has a way of structuring sentences that just seem to roll of the mind’s tongue. Okay, that was weird, but it’s the best description I can do. And he’s witty. I’m always a fan of wit and as his heroine is an 11 year-old girl sleuth, he’s really quite good at sometimes having her misunderstand something because she’s a child, but the reader know exactly what’s going on. Clever.

Did I know who did it?

I must say, I did not know who was responsible for this death. And I also must say, it was not for lack of trying. Generally I’m not necessarily one to try and figure out a murder mystery but rather just let it take me along on a wonderful ride of clues and final reveal. However, as I’ve read quite a few of his, I really did have it in my mind that I wanted to guess who had done it.

Perhaps I was silly, because I really didn’t get it, but I did feel a little like I didn’t get enough clues to guess for myself. It was as though I was a little blind-sided by the big reveal rather than getting the satisfying, ‘ahhhhhh, of course.’ in my mind.

That being said, I will always recommend Bradley’s books and this could well have been my brain at fault not his writing. To be fair, I was in France at the time of reading and my brain was very much addled by the sheer amount of bread and cheese I was consuming.

 

Daphne Du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek

I love Cornwall. Have you gotten that yet?

It just feels like I have that place in the blood (and I can claim some Cornish ancestors), so any book that’s based there holds quite the draw for me. And with the re-doing of Poldark there’s quite a few who are enthralled by stories from that part of the world. Du Maurier is well known as a lover of Cornwall and lived much of her life there.

She’s author of the famed and haunting Rebecca, and also of Jamaica Inn which was dramatised again a few years ago (and her short-story The Birds inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s famous film). I’d recommend watching Jamaica Inn by the way. It was slated at the time due to poor sound quality when it aired and ‘mumbling’ by the actors, so I ignored it for quite some time, but I finally came round to purchasing it when my period drama well had run dry and it did not disappoint. Sure, some of the accents are hard to decipher, but I thoroughly enjoyed the brooding nature of the cinematography and the well-acted characters.

Jamaica Inn

Literally, this is how I look when I’m on a Cornish beach. All brooding and contemplative…and apparently muddy

 

Jamaica Inn

A rather nice-faced actor here…

Anyway, Frenchman’s Creek was on my list, and so I start my book a month for a year challenge with that. I was down in Cornwall when I began reading it, so that was rather handy, and let me just say, the opening passage is quite literally (or literary – pun oh so intended), b-e-a-utiful.

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 11.19.56

Not the most inspire of covers. I bought this modern version to read, but because of how much I enjoyed it, I’ll be on the lookout for a vintage edition for my bookshelves

‘When the east wind blows up Helford river the shining waters become troubled and disturbed, and the little waves beat angrily upon the sandy shores. The short seas break above the bar at ebb-tide, and the waders fly inland to mud-flats, their wings skimming the surface, and calling to one another as they go.’

And on and on it goes, as though the words are the sea itself, tumbling in waves over the reader until they’re totally immersed.

Tempo and melody

Two things I love about du Maurier’s writing: it’s hypnotic tempo, and her ability to portray people’s thought patterns.

In the first passage you get the hypnotic tempo, as if you’re being pulled along, helplessly on the tide of the book and trip, trip, trip along like the words are in a silent melody of their own. Divine.

Thought patterns captured

The other thing she is so brilliant at is capturing thought patterns. She has this insightful ability to follow the trip, trip, trip of her characters thoughts in such ways as if we’re really in their heads thinking, ‘yes, I follow that, I would think like that.’ Rebecca is actually a better example of it, but Frenchman’s Creek has this aspect too.

I’m always impressed by authors who make me think in such a way that in ordinary life I never would. Du Maurier can do this to me. Frenchman’s Creek follows Dona St Columb, an aristocratic lady from the 17th century who runs away from her husband with her children to their old rambling Cornish manor, Navron. There, while escaping the meaninglessness of her life and the person it has made her become, the story is about her finding herself again and falling in love.

Perhaps not a story I condone

Normally, I’m not a fan of any story that condones extra-marital anything. And I still am not. But what I think du Maurier does so well is to capture the changing emotions and thoughts that are going on here. I don’t advocate the actions, but her writing really is electric, and that’s not to mention the pirate, smuggling, adventuring that the novel has too! And don’t be fooled, it doesn’t end like you think, just like with most of her novels.

Encapsulating words

And du Maurier always seems to capture my heart for Cornwall and the countryside, the way I see it and love it, as encapsulate in these words:

…the river would be the same as it was in a century now forgotten, in a time that has left few memories.

In those days the hills and valleys were alone in splendour, there were no buildings to desecrate the rough fields and cliffs…

Oh, it gives me shivers! So, thank you to all those people who encouraged me to read du Maurier, I will slowly be devouring her books for many years to come and I recommend Frenchman’s Creek to Cornwall and literature lovers alike.

Trivia

On a trivial note, one of du Maurier’s daughters was called Flavia, which will lead nicely on to my next post about Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley who’s heroine is also called Flavia…

A book a month for a year

As I’ve mentioned (probably too much, I always talk too much), I have been endeavouring the follow a book a month challenge this year. You may have seen me chattering about it on social channels, and I’m now following an Instagram book club that’s doing the same thing. Does that mean it’s now two books a month? Crumbs.

The way it works

The thing I love about this challenge (which a friend introduced me to, I can take no credit much as I’ve adore to), is that you don’t start off with a list of 12 books to read through in a year. Oh no, gone are the guilt-trips and the lonely books staring at you from the bedside table in their coats of dust accusing you of a lack of affection. You see, the trick is, you only write a book on your list once you’ve read it.

Positive Lists

It’s all positive and affirming y’know. And I think it’s rather clever. So you get this immense sense of joy and accomplishment every time you write a book on your list (or type as the case may be, my book list is on my phone).

pexels-photo-694740

I wouldn’t mind spending the rest of my life in a good second-hand bookshop

Trying new genres

One of the great advantages of this activity, which my friend highlighted to be before I took up the challenge, is that it pushes you to read things you would not ordinarily. It’s a grand old opportunity to dip your wordy toes in previously untouched literary waters. And I’ve found it jolly revealing. You see, books aren’t just books. They are so very different to one another because authors write so individually. So what you think you may like, you don’t,  what you think you’ll loath, you like!

Engaging with friends

As I am a chatterbox, I spoke about taking up the challenge at work and soon a few more people caught the fever and it’s been a great talking point. Although you’re not reading the same books necessarily so it can’t work like an ordinary book club, there is a sense of clubby-ness. There’s a lot of joy in saying where you’re at, if you’re leaping ahead like a reading gazelle, or woefully behind (I have been several books behind upon a certain month and caught up on holiday), and there’s a joy in chatting over what you think of the book, if you like it, if you’d recommend it.

You get a sense of other people’s tastes, and ideas about what you might read next. They spur you on and it becomes quite sociable.

What I’ve read

Rather than reeling of a great list as if I were a champ (I’m not, it takes me a jolly long time to read, however much I enjoy it), I thought I’d list my highlights so far and perhaps jot another post down on each…

Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier

Just One Damn Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor

A Very Short Introduction to World War I by Michael Howard

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley

Rather varied and so far my top reads. More rambling thoughts to follow…

 

Reading and sequels

This morning I started my writing day with reading. It turns out it was quite a good idea, but if I said I did it for any other reason than to stop myself putting the tele on I’d be lying.

My name is Philippa, and I am a TV addict.

A book a month challenge

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 10.36.46

Oh this? This is just an unnecessary picture of my outlandishly cute puppy.

It’s not really a laughing matter. I waste too much time on it, but doing my book a month for a year thing (I really should do a blog post or two about what I’ve read), has made me disciplined about reading. It’s meant I’ve read books that have been on my TBR list (To-Be-Read for those who are not geeks), and I’ve tried some real outta-left-field doozies I never would have tried.

It’s also helping me in my uphill battle to watch less TV and actually improve my mind. I wonder if some of those Regency ladies felt that way about reading? Perhaps those types were always written off as bluestockings.

Introducing, His Banyan Bride

Anyway, I have shared some cool news on my social channels, and that is to say that I have written a sequel to Fool Me Twice. Let’s not forget that my definition of ‘cool’ varies wildly from most, but I do think it’s cool. It’s my first connected novel as I’ve only written standalone previously (nothing wrong with that mind), and it’s been a real challenge and delight to include characters from Fool Me Twice in my new novel working title, His Banyan Bride. I mean, it’s quite interesting isn’t it, following up with heroes and heroines and others some time on from their original story?

What are they up to?

Are they happy?

Are they the same or have they grown?

So many delightful questions I’ve been able to answer as the author. Anyway, enough blathering, I’ve popped the blurb below, but even better, here’s a link to Chapter 1, and it’s free to read!

The widow Lady Rachel Denby will not be beholden to anyone.

 

She has had enough of being chattel and has made a deal with Viscount Arleigh, one of Society’s long-serving bachelors. A quick marriage by special licence and an even quicker annulment will see them both set up on Arleigh’s long awaited inheritance. If they can pull it off they’ll each be enjoying the independence they desire. But no one ever said anything about difficult solicitors, severe in-laws, proper manners and making a good impression.

 

In the end, the real question is not when will their deal be done, but rather will they be able to keep to it at all?

 

The second instalment of The Ladies of Worth Series, His Banyan Bride tells the story of Lady Rachel Denby, sister to Lady Rebecca Fairing of Fool Me Twice and featuring many of your favourite characters from the first novel.