The Magic Carpet by Jessica Norrie #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog

magic

Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?

My Review

Coming to this book as a retired primary school teacher, I rejoiced to hear the voices of these 5 different children and to read the response of their families to the school’s fairy tale project; but this story has a wider context allowing us into the homes of families from varied cultures, structures and beliefs in the turbulent context of post-Referendum Britain.  Set in outer London at the beginning of a new school year, the protagonists all live within a few yards of each other, but initially have very little knowledge of their neighbours.

As the children bring home a letter about a future performance to involve all the pupils with perhaps the aid of friends or families, an incident occurs bringing two of the girls together.  Alka, a quiet beautiful Indian girl spends time with clumsy, self-centred Sky, whose kind, slightly insecure mother, Teresa, attempts to unite the girls.  Soon, Nathan, a bright Chinese boy will join them and their co-operation sparks great interest in the project. Nearby, Mandeep lives in a busy, happy household with his delightful grandma and in a small flat live Safiya and her daughter Xoriyo. Although Somalian, Xoriyo has grown up in England, but in this new school she has chosen to remain mute, concealing her intelligence and excellent English  Through the experiences of Safiya, we witness the increasing racism and her struggle to relate to Teresa, whose attempts at friendship are awkward and embarrassing.

This is a book of humour, pathos and relationships.   It is a story to give hope in our troubled times for understanding and education.  Jessica Norrie has great perception and knowledge about the lives of our diverse society and although life is not a fairy tale, the parallels of monsters and happy endings are a lesson for us all.

The Magic Carpet can be found on Amazon UK

Jessica N

Jessica Norrie

Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught adults and children, co-authored a textbook and ran teacher training. In 2008 came the idea for “The Infinity Pool”, which appeared in 2015 (and in German in 2018). Her second novel “The Magic Carpet”, inspired by teaching creatively in multicultural schools, was published in July 2019, and she is working on a third. She divides her time between London and Malvern, blogging, singing soprano, and walking in the forest and hills.

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Intrigue & Infamy (The Victorian Detectives Book 7) by Carol Hedges #NewRelease #BookReview #RBRT

Intrigue

Book Description

It is 1866, the end of a long hot summer in Victorian London, and the inhabitants are seething with discontent. Much of it is aimed at the foreign population living in the city. So when a well-reputed Jewish tailoring business is set aflame, and the body of the owner is discovered inside, Detective Inspector Lachlan Grieg suspects a link to various other attacks being carried out across the city, and to a vicious letter campaign being conducted in the newspapers.

Can he discover who is behind the attacks before more people perish?

Elsewhere, Giovanni Bellini arrives in England to tutor the youngest son of Sir Nicholas Haddon, ex-MP and City financier. But what are Bellini’s links to a dangerous Italian radical living in secret exile in London, and to beautiful Juliana Silverton, engaged to Harry Haddon, the heir to the family fortune?

Romance and racism, murder and mishap share centre stage in this seventh exciting book in the Victorian Detectives series.

My Review

Never has a Victorian murder mystery seemed more appropriate for the time of reading.  Once again Carol Hedges captures our imagination with her tale of honest policemen, hard-working women and dastardly villains.  At a time when Italy and Germany are hotbeds of revolution as they try to build up unified national identities, foreign residents of London are subject to racist attacks by an unknown group.  Meanwhile, Juliana Silverton has ensnared her perfect husband and she can look forward to a happy successful marriage provided no scandal is revealed about her or her fiancé, Harry Haddon. But in the house of Harry’s father, Sir Nicholas Haddon, his second wife despairs as her young’s son’s loyalty is lost to a new young Italian tutor.

As the elegant Juliana tries to preserve her future, she is threatened by a jealous friend while Harry finds the bullying he received at Eton, continues into his adult life.  They must both summon courage and sang-froid to achieve happiness together. As more innocent people are attacked in the city, thank goodness we can rely on the careful detective work of our old friends Jack Cully and Lachlan Greig.

Intrigue and Infamy recreates the glitter and sparkle of sumptuous 1860s London, contrasting it with deception and secrecy and we are shown how so many people struggled against prejudice, misfortune and cruelty. Another compulsive read!

Intrigue and Infamy can be purchased at Amazon UK

My review of Diamond and Dust Book one of the Victorian Detectives series.

 

The Spider and the Stone: A Novel of Scotland’s Black Douglas by Glen Craney

Spider

As the 14th century dawns, Scotland’s survival hangs by a spider’s thread. While the clans fight among themselves for the empty throne, Edward Longshanks of England schemes to annex the ancient northern kingdom to his Plantagenet realm.

But one frail, dark-skinned lad stands in the brutal monarch’s path.  James Douglas is cherished by his fellow Scots as the Good Sir James. Yet his daring raids across the border inflict such havoc that the English brand him the Black Douglas and nearly bankrupt their treasury to capture him.

As a boy, James falls in love with the ravishing Isabelle MacDuff, whose clan for centuries has inaugurated Scottish monarchs on the hallowed Stone of Destiny. Yet their world is upturned when James befriends Robert Bruce, a bitter enemy of the MacDuffs. Forced to choose between love and clan loyalty, James and Isabelle make a fateful decision that draws the armies to the bloody field of Bannockburn.

Isabelle MacDuff will crown a king.

James Douglas will carry a king’s heart.

Both will pay an unthinkable price for Scotland.

Here is the little-known story of Scotland’s War of Independence and the remarkable events that followed the execution of William Wallace, whose legend was portrayed in the movie Braveheart. At last, James Douglas takes his rightful place with Wallace and Bruce in the pantheon of Scottish heroes. This thrilling epic leads us to the miraculous Stone of Destiny, to the famous Spider in the Cave, to the excommunicated Knights Templar and Freemasons, to the suppressed Culdee Church, to the initiation of Christ in Britain, and to the unprecedented Declaration of Arbroath, which inspired the American Declaration of Independence four hundred years later.

My Review

I have always been intrigued by the story of Robert the Bruce and yet he seemed a shadowy figure, but the Black Douglas, or James Douglas the Good, as the Scots called him, is an even more mysterious character. In this saga, Glen Craney interweaves, known facts with imagination and mysticism to play out the tortuous life of love and devotion of James Douglas. Ever loyal to his friend and later King, Robert, he suspends his own happiness for the sake of Scotland.  In Isabelle Macduff he has found his one true love, but she also puts her country before her own desires.

This is a story of guerrilla warfare, skirmishes and bloody battle.  The cruelty of the English Kings and disloyal Scots is met by brotherhood, sacrifice and persistence.  The intensity of the plot is lightened by fascinating historical figures such as the She-Wolf, Isabella of France, who married an unworthy English King, and humour is provided by Ned Sweeney, the lively and faithful monk.

The intense suffering of the women is matched by the heroism and violent death of so many of the soldiers.  Every scene rings true as if you were there struggling through the mud or shivering in a castle too, and I wanted James and Belle to find a way to free Scotland and themselves.  A recommended read for those who wish to know more about early Scottish history and the hand of fate.

The Spider and the Stone can be found at Amazon UK

My Review of The Virgin and the Wind Rose by Glen Craney

Flower of the Day #FOTD

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Fuchsia inspired by Cee’s Flower of the Day challenge.

The Prodigal Son by Anna Belfrage (The Graham Saga Book 3) #BookReview

Prodigal

Safely returned from an involuntary stay in Virginia, Matthew Graham finds the Scottish Lowlands torn asunder by religious strife. His Restored Majesty, Charles II, requires all his subjects to swear fealty to him and the Church of England, riding roughshod over any opposition.

In Ayrshire, people close ranks around their evicted Presbyterian ministers. But disobedience comes at a high price, and Alex becomes increasingly nervous as to what her Matthew is risking by his support of the clandestine ministers – foremost amongst them the charismatic Sandy Peden.

Privately, Alex considers Sandy an enervating fanatic and all this religious fervour is incomprehensible to her. So when Matthew repeatedly sets his faith and ministers before his own safety, he puts their marriage under severe strain.
The situation is further complicated by the presence of Ian, the son Matthew was cruelly duped into disowning several years ago. Now Matthew wants Ian back and Alex isn’t entirely sure this is a good thing.

Things are brought to a head when Matthew places all their lives in the balance to save his dear preacher from the dragoons.
How much is Matthew willing to risk? How much will he ultimately lose?

My Review

I have intended to read a book from The Graham Saga for some time but I chose this particular book because of its inclusion of the story of the Scottish Covenanters who risked death and persecution to maintain their Presbyterian faith, especially as this included my own ancestors.

Although it would be best to read this saga from Book One, I was quickly able to enter into the storyline by the author’s reference to relevant parts of the backstory.  Essentially this is an alternative Outlander story; in 2002 Alexandra has been thrown back into 17th century Scotland where she meets handsome, brave Matthew Graham.  In The Prodigal Son we find Alex struggling with the physical demands of life as a mother on a Scottish farm, passionately in love with her husband Matthew but increasingly worried by his reckless support of Alexander Peden, “the Prophet,” who is sought by the English soldiers of Charles II.

This complex plot highlights the clash of opinions about the behaviour of men and women in a marriage between a 21st century woman and a 17th century man but it also shows the power of love and understanding.  There are interesting discussions about beliefs between Alex and her husband and sister-in-law, and her difficulty in coping with mistreatment by the soldiers is accentuated by her modern background.

I found this timeslip story fascinating and now wish to read the first book in the series to discover some of the mysterious events which brought Matthew and Alex together.

The Prodigal Son on Amazon UK

Anna

Introducing Anna Belfrage

In Her Defence (A Bunch Courtney Investigation) by Jan Edwards #NewRelease #RBRT

in her defence

 “Bunch Courtney’s hopes for a quiet market-day lunch with her sister are shattered when a Dutch refugee dies a horribly painful death before their eyes. A few days later Bunch receives a letter from her old friend Cecile saying that her father, Professor Benoir, has been murdered in an eerily similar fashion.

Two deaths by poisoning in a single week. Is this a coincidence? Bunch does not believe that any more than Chief Inspector William Wright.

Set against a backdrop of escalating war and the massed internments of 1940, the pair are drawn together in a race to prevent the murderer from striking again.”

 

In Her Defence is the second investigation by Bunch Courtney and Chief Inspector William Wright in the Sussex countryside. I haven’t read Winter Downs, the first book of this series but the reader is soon up to speed with Bunch’s back story. As a result of an accident, Bunch has had to leave the ATS and has taken over management of the Perringham House estate in her father’s absence.  She is aided by a team of Land Girls but since the main house has been requisitioned by the military, she shares the Dower House with her grandmother.

Bunch is happiest when riding her horse, but the constant paperwork required by the government makes estate management really onerous. Thank goodness Cecile, her old school friend from Switzerland, has come to help her with office work. But the death she witnesses at the market and the murder of Cecile’s father drive her back into detective mode despite the protests of the intriguing Chief Inspector Wright.  Bunch is a prickly, outspoken young woman who has rejected the amenable personality of Dodo, her sister.  There is an atmosphere of fear and unease engendered by rationing and the threat of invasion, while unpleasant attacks on locals with connections to Europe, increase the danger.  The mystery behind the murders is cleverly disentangled and it is fascinating to follow the activities of a small village close to the south coast in 1940.

I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys a good “Who dunnit,” and also to those interested in the social history of the war years.  I was a little confused in the first chapter by meeting several characters who used more than one name (Bunch is really Rose) so I would recommend reading Winter Downs first, but I intend to read that now since I really like Bunch’s character and the context of the mysteries.

In Her Defence on Amazon UK

jan edwards

Jan Edwards

Jan was born in Sussex, currently living in North Staffordshire. In addition to being a writer she is also a Reiki Master Teacher and Meditational Healer. Jan is available for interviews and appearances.

Jan’s blog page: https://janedwardsblog.wordpress.com/

#AtoZChallenge : A is for Anne of Green Gables

AtoZ2019tenthAnn

My A to Z Challenge looks at some of my favourite book characters.

A is for Anne of Green Gables

Anne

Anne Shirley was the orphan who arrived in Prince Edward Island to astonish all who met her. Written in 1908, but set in the previous century, it describes the problem middle-aged siblings, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert must face when the promised boy who will help them on their farm turns out to be a girl, and not just any girl, but a dramatic, imaginative girl.

The yard was quite dark as they turned into it and poplar leaves were rustling silkily all around it.

“Listen to the trees talking in their sleep,” she whispered, as he lifted her to the ground, “What nice dreams they must have.”

Anne’s zest for life is infectious so despite the stern attempts to temper her enthusiasm she gradually charms the whole district.  The book’s chapter titles such as, “Mrs Rachel Lynde is properly Horrified,” and “A Tempest in the School Teapot,” warn the reader of the humour and inventiveness in the plot.  This is a moralistic tale but it is also sheer escapism into an alternative time and place where goodness and a sense of fun wins out.

You can see a recreation of Green Gables in Ruth Daly’s post.

Ten things you can learn from Anne.

How many of you grew up wanting to be Anne’s friend?