Sunday, 20 January 2019

Review ~ ikigai & other Japanese words to live by by Mari Fujimoto and David Buchler

Modern Books
24 January 2019

My thanks to the publisher and also to Alison Menzies PR for my copy of this book

This little book goes beyond the obvious - Ikigai and Wabi-Sabi - to provide concepts for all aspects of daily life. Perfect to dip in and out of, seven categories can be explored in any order and cover the benefits of courtesy, calm, gratitude and a reverence for the natural world. 

My thoughts...

There's something about this small but perfectly formed little book which really appeals to all the senses. Firstly, it's just the right size to hold comfortably and the beauty of its cover draws the eye, not just to consider the artistic effect of the negative space around the central image, but also to contemplate the classic beauty of the snow covered tree which helps to focus the attention on what's to come inside the book.

Harmony, Beauty, Nature, Mindfulness, Gratitude, Time, Respect

Divided into seven broad themes which can be explored in any order, each of the sections compliment each other in quite special ways. There is something profoundly beautiful to be found both in the words themselves and in the way in which they are presented, so that the idea of peace and tranquility is ever present.

After the boisterous activity of Christmas I found this book to be a real tonic. Each of the concepts struck a chord with me but I was especially drawn towards the Mindfulness section and the way in which each thought process is beautifully demonstrated in both words and pictures.

I found it best to read this book quite slowly, as it's not something to be rushed, it's rather more about the idea of considering what you are reading thus allowing the themes, as you read them, to perform their own sense of literary magic. I have a few books which I keep in my arsenal of books to treasure and without doubt, ikigai & other Japanese words to live by is one of those hidden treasures which everyone should have on their special book shelves.

Ikigai is warm and gentle, thought provoking and enlightening and a real oasis of calm in a sometimes deeply troubled world.

About the Authors

Enlightening definitions are provided by Mari Fujimoto, Director of Japanese Studies at Queens College, New York while Tokyo resident and Japanophile, David Buchler complements these with meditations on important themes in Japanese culture. The book also features traditional Haiku & imagery by internationally acclaimed landscape photographer, Michael Kenna. 

Twitter @modernbooks

Amazon UK

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Hist Fic Saturday~ The Magick of Master Lilly by Tobsha Learner

On Hist Fic saturday

Let's go back to ...1641

1 November 2018

In 1641, the country of England stands divided. London has become a wasps' nest of spies, and under the eyes of the Roundheads those who practice magic are routinely sent to hang.

Living in exile in the Surrey countryside is the Master Astrologer and learned magician William Lilly. Since rumours of occult practice lost him the favour of Parliament, he has not returned to the city. But his talents are well-known, and soon he is called up to London once more, to read the fate of His Majesty the King.

My thoughts about it..

There's an awful lot going on in this novel which looks not only at the way superstition and astrology was used to try to make sense of a world that was becoming increasingly dangerous, but it also covers the interesting and complex time which we associate with the English Civil War.

William Lilly is both a magician and astrologer who gets caught up in the momentous events of this time and who, it would seem, is able to accurately predict some aspects of future events, however, to do so in such a difficult time was not only dangerous but in some situations perhaps even a little foolhardy.

Whilst it took me a while to get into this story, and I'm still not altogether sure, even by the end of the story, that I really liked Master Lilly, and yet, there is no doubt that he was a fascinating character and the fact that he actually existed makes the story all the more interesting. Once I became more used to the author's distinct style of writing I found the novel to be an enjoyable and thought-provoking read and it was certainly interesting to have an altogether different interpretation of this, rather complicated, period in English history. 

The author writes well and it is obvious from the historical content within the story that a great deal of research has been done about the life of Master Lilly. All the sights, sounds and sensations of the seventeenth century come realistically to life which help to create a memorable atmosphere and some truly unforgettable characters.

Tobsha Learner was born and raised in England; she now divides her time between Australia, the UK and the USA. She is well known in Australia as an author and playwright.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Book Feature ~ The Darkest Hour Anthology, WWII Tales of Resistance

22 January

WW2. When the world falls to terror and tyranny reigns… far would you go to resist?

Would you risk your own life or the lives of the ones you love?

From a young Jewish woman in love fighting her way out of the Warsaw ghetto, to a Czech assassin rising above his fears for an attempt on a Nazi Hangman’s life, to a daughter who vows to avenge her family by taking down a Japanese commander, and a French boy's touching act of defiance no matter how small.

Come and get a glimpse of the invisible side of WWII - the Resistance, those who refuse to bow down to brutality.

Hold your breath and hope for the best in the darkest of times, when our heroes and heroines risk all to defy evil so the light of freedom will shine over their countries again.

The Darkest Hour Anthology, WWII Tales of Resistance includes ten never before published novellas by ten of today’s bestselling WWII historical fiction authors.

Bubbe’s Nightingale by Roberta Kagan
Catriona’s War by Jean Grainger
Reluctant Informer by Marion Kummerow
Killing the Hangman by Ellie Midwood
The Moon Chaser by Alexa Kang
Enemy at the Gate by Mary D. Brooks
The Occupation by Deborah Swift
Code Name Camille by Kathryn Gauci
Sound of Resistance by Ryan Armstrong

All proceeds will be donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

 in Washington DC 

My thanks to the author for my ecopy of this novella

I was approached by John R. McKay the author of one of the novellas which can be found in this anthology.

V for Victory tells the story of thirteen year old Charles Mercier who has a fierce determination to see his beloved Paris free of Nazi oppression.

There's a tendency to suppose that all resistance fighters during WW2 were adults but this novella shows that young people, who we would consider still to be children, had just as much passionate zeal when it came to fighting for what they believed to be right. Thirteen year old Charles Mercier is moved to dramatic action when one of his schoolteachers draws a V for Victory sign on the blackboard and so with a fierce determination Charles sets out to do his bit for the war effort.

For a novella, V for Victory packs a powerful punch both in terms of creating the scene, which it does very well, I especially enjoyed the vivid description of the German army's triumphant march along the Champs Élysées, and also in terms of story content which is filled with a real sense of both history and adventure. It's quite poignant in places which goes to show just how scary it must have been to live during this dark time in world history and how brave Charles was as he tried to put right some of the wrongdoings.

V for Victory is just one of the ten stories on offer in this anthology and from reading the descriptions of each of the individual stories I am sure that they all do justice to the subject of the resistance during WW2.

The anthology will be published on the 22nd January 2019 and is donating all proceeds to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC. The collection will be available in this  for just a few months. It is available to pre-order now from Amazon UK

Twitter #darkesthouranthology

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Review ~ The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village by Joanna Nell

24 January

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

A moving, funny, heartwarming tale of love and friendship, for anyone who loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, The Keeper of Lost Things and Three Things about Elsie.

It's never too late to grow old disgracefully ...

Peggy Smart is a 79 year old pensioner who lives in the idyllically named Jacaranda Retirement Village, however, her life is anything but perfect, plagued by stubborn illness and frequent bouts of indecision, Peggy feels that her life is becoming as beige as her decor. And then, quite by chance her old school friend, Angie Valentine re-enters her life and soon Peggy's time at the retirement village is anything but dull. With a new lease of life, Peggy embraces everything about improving her life, and outlook, especially when it means she comes into contact with, Brian, a rather handsome widower.

This is a really lovely story about the way 'old age' very often becomes a weight around one's neck and, as this story so rightly proves you are never too old to have fun, make new friendships, or dare I say it, start new romances. The inhabitants of the Jacaranda Retirement Village are a really lovely lot, they made me laugh out loud in places, especially Peggy who has a charming way with words and is so reminiscent of lots of older ladies I looked after during my nursing career. She really could be anyone's neighbour, mother, granny or elderly aunt.

The author has captured the mood perfectly and the sunshine setting of Sydney really helps to create a lovely sense of atmosphere, so much so, I was really sorry to say good bye to Peggy and her pals but they left me with a lovely warm glow and also quite in tune with Peggy's philosophy, which is:

 " If you don't like the road you're walking, start paving another one "

Joanna Nell

Joanna is a multi award winning short story writer. She writes character driven stories of self discovery for women of a certain age by creating young a heart characters who are not afraid to break the rules and defy society's expectations. She lives in Sydney, Australia, where she works as a GP with a passion for women's health and care of the elderly. She lives with her husband and two teenage children.

 Twitter @Jo_nell_writer #JacarandaLadies

@HodderFiction @HodderPublicity

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Review ~ A Thin Sheet of Glass by Pippa Beecheno

Endeavour Media
My thanks to the author for my copy of this book

Based on a true story, using real letters and personal accounts, this is a tale of love and courage beyond reason and against the odds. Caught in the turbulence of the 1930s, with Fascism on the rise, Jane Deering finds herself drawn into the underground world of the German Resistance. From Berlin to Madrid, she witnesses brutality and carnage, delving into a darkness that exposes her deepest insecurities. 

My thoughts about it..

In A Thin Sheet of Glass we follow the life story of Jane Deering, who is the author's great-aunt. Jane is a complex and deeply troubled woman, who we meet at various times in her life, from a childhood which is filled with insecurities, to an adulthood which is just as fraught, with all the added complications of wartime and its associated problems. 

It took me a little while to feel comfortable with the story and this is no criticism of the writing, which is very good, but it was more the way in which the story moved along through time as we start the story in 1940, when Jane is 26, but then jump back in time to 1914, and to something which happened before Jane was born. However, once I got used to the author style of writing, I found Jane's story to be quite compelling. Her struggle with mental health issues, and the way in which she was nurtured by her family and then finally, her treatment in hospital was profoundly moving, and it is all credit to the author that the emotional impact of this is so powerful.

A Thin Sheet of Glass is a difficult book to 'enjoy' as Jane's struggle with some very profound mental health issues makes for emotional reading and yet, at the same time, there is so much positivity to acknowledge in the book, and, in a thought provoking way, it really shows the love and care which Jane had from her family and friends.

There must be a tremendous amount of responsibility on the part of an author when undertaking a piece of fiction which is based on fact, particularly, when that factual evidence is based on the life of a member of your own family, I would then imagine that the weight of responsibility, and expectation, is even higher. All credit to the author for bringing her great-aunt Jane's life into the open with a story which more than does justice to her  memory.

Pippa Beecheno started her debut novel, 'A Thin Sheet of Glass', when her first-born was 18 months old, working during his naps. After re-drafting the novel a few times with the support of trusted friends and family members, she found a fantastic agent, Laura Macdougall, United Agents, and began the path towards publication. 

Twitter @PippaBeecheno

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Review ~ That Deplorable Boy by Jasper Barry

(Miremont Trilogy #2)

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book
The long-awaited follow-up to The Second Footman. 
A modern take on the nineteenth-century novel, set in 1880s’ France and full of period detail and atmosphere. 

No matter how deplorable Max Fabien appears there is something about this deliciously handsome boy which intrigues and captivates, and perhaps, dare I say it, enthrals even more in this second volume of the trilogy which began with The Second Footman.

In That Deplorable Boy we catch up with the Marquis de Miremont and his young lover when they are some years into their clandestine relationship. Miremont is as besotted as ever with his young protégé and yet, there are signs that perhaps Max has had his head, and affections, turned by other more interesting sexual conquests. Overwhelmed with jealousy, Miremont must not only cope with his feelings of rage towards the perfidity of his young lover, but must also contend with the dreaded arrival of his estranged wife and the interference of his elder daughter as Miremont prepares to launch his younger daughter into the maelstrom which masquerades as the crème de la crème of Parisian high society. 

The author writes so beautifully that, with the utmost charm, the glory of Belle Époque Paris comes gloriously to life, from the boudoirs and grand salons of the great and the not so good, the story never falters, and there is never a moment when you don’t believe, with absolute conviction, that you are walking along the same streets and boulevards as Max Fabien, tiptoeing in his shadow as he goes about his sometimes shady business. And what a fabulous character he is, this deplorable boy who charms you with a glance and then cuts you down like a knife through butter. 

The story is complex, filled with intricate detail of Max and Miremont’s life together and yet, at the same time, there is a real sense of historical authenticity in the way that the places, the people and the era blend together so seamlessly. There is no doubt that from the tip of its glorious cover, to the very last word, That Deplorable Boy is every bit as good as I knew it would be.

If you haven't caught up with this trilogy, then do start with The Second Footman and go back in time to the glorious Belle Époque and become acquainted with Max Fabien.


 About the Author

Jasper Barry graduated from Cambridge with a degree in English and has worked in advertising, then in journalism. Jasper lives in London with too many books and three obstreperous cats.

Twitter @JasperBarry2

Monday, 14 January 2019

Review ~ Love , War and Glory by Denis Olasehinde Akinmolasire


My thanks to Isabelle  for my copy of this book

Love, War, and Glory: three things which we all have seen, experienced or been a part of.

This book examines what these themes mean for everyday life through poetry and prose.

From dealing with heartbreak and finding your true love, to tales of warriors fighting never-ending battles, making dreams become a reality, overcoming the odds to finally reach your goal, to tales of supreme champions and the journey we all go through in life, you will find it in this book.

My thoughts about it..

The author uses his own feelings to share his thoughts about Love, War and Glory, three important concepts which have the ability to change the way we look at the modern world and the people who live in it. In this short collection of modern prose and poetry the author conveys his ideas about dealing with these concepts and writes with an interesting observational style.

I enjoyed dipping into and out of my copy of Love, War and Glory, as it is one of those compact editions which is easy to pick up at random and find something to read which is both interesting and thought provoking.  In the lull between one year and ending and another starting I found much to consider in this small volume and there were several passages which caught my attention particularly towards the end of the book, when this struck a chord with me " there will come  a day when we are not as fast as we once were....but that doesn't mean that's the end of you.." How true 😊

  About the Author

Twitter @lovewarandglory #lovewarandglory