Q is for Ramona Quimby #AtoZChallenge #FridayReads

Ramona pest    Ramona 8

Ramona Quimby is an ordinary little girl with normal parents and a well-behaved older sister.  Although set in America, this family could easily be a typical British middle-class family where times are sometimes hard. My favourite book is Ramona the Pest when she anxiously starts nursery school alongside her neighbour, Howie.  Her kind teacher, Miss Binney, tells her to, “sit there for the present,” so she patiently waits to be given the present.  She is fascinated by her classmates corkscrew curls so she pulls them to see them ping which, rather harshly I thought, causes her to be suspended from school. Her vivid imagination makes her a joy to encounter but constantly gets her into trouble. As the series continues we see Ramona longing to grow up quickly, dealing with school bullies and trying to help her family when her father loses his job.

“Come on, Mama!” urged Ramona, “We don’t want to be late for school.”

“Don’t pester, Ramona. I’ll get you there in time.”

“I’m not pestering,” protested Ramona who never meant to pester. She was not a slow-poke grown-up. She was a girl who could not wait. Life was so interesting she had to find out what happens next.

Perhaps you watched Ramona on the TV programme which was pretty true to the books.  I would be proud to have Ramona as a member of my family.

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#AtoZChallenge : N is for Thursday Next #JasperFforde #BookCharacter

Thursday next   Eyre

Thursday Next is the heroine of an alternative twentieth century world. A bold, courageous woman, she has returned from a military career in the Crimean War to take up a post as a Literary Detective.  She has the ability to jump in and out of famous books and alarmingly, some of the characters can jump out of their novels, changing the plots.  In the first novel of this series Thursday changes the ending of Jane Eyre to the far superior conclusion we are familiar with.

At home in Swindon, Thursday lives with her pet Dodo, Pickwick, wondering what happened to her father, a special operative who may be trapped in another dimension.  George Formby is the first president of the English Republic, elected after successful liberation from the Nazis.  Thursday’s active life makes relationships hard to maintain but there is romance on the horizon.  Her story is full of humour, mishap, heroism and extraordinary situations which particularly appeal to a bookaholic.

Well     Lost

 

#AtoZChallenge : D is for Dylan (from “Framed”)

My hero today is Dylan Hughes from Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce.

Framed

Dylan is the only boy in the small Welsh village of Manod in Snowdonia.  Along with his sisters he helps out at his family’s petrol station where he keeps a careful log of each car, the drivers and what they purchase.  Soon he notices strange goings on in the disused mine.  We get to know Dylan through his daily accounts to us, which are humorous and touching.

As the fortunes of the town and his family business decline, an opportunity arises. Important people arrive bringing famous paintings from the National Gallery to be stored secretly within the mine.  Dylan’s keen interest in the works of art make him popular with the gallery agents who are in charge of the paintings. but little do they realise that this sweet boy has criminal intent.  Calling his chickens Donatello and Michelangelo is not because he is aware of the famous artists but because he is an aficionado of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (Yes this book is slightly dated!)  Dylan is a real boy whom you would like as your friend, brother or son.

Hee are the paintings included in Framed https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/learning/teachers-and-schools/english-and-drama/framed/framed

 

The Hollow Heart: Love will find a way by Adrienne Vaughan #BookReview

The Heartfelt Series Book 1

Hollow Heart

This heartrending mystery thriller is the story of Marianne Coltrane a feisty, award-winning journalist who uncovers a devastating travesty of justice involving the sale of babies by the church in Ireland. Fighting her corner in the male-dominated world of newspapers she witnesses a terrorist attack that changes how she thinks about her future and what she really wants. Taking herself off to the wilds of the west of Ireland to re-evaluate her life, she encounters the soon to be world-famous actor Ryan O’Gorman, to her mind the most conceited, infuriating man in the world. He in turn loathes journalists, especially female ones. One thing they do have in common is they both think their chance of true love has passed them by. As they both begin to fall in love with Innishmahon, their spiritual home, they discover the very fabric of the island is threatened and as the islanders find themselves in grave danger, Marianne and Ryan join forces to save that which they hold most dear. But the road is rocky for this fiery, opinionated pair … and when Ryan discovers his ex-fiance is carrying his child, things take a turn for the worst. Can he talk his way out of this one? And will Marianne even care, when she unwittingly reveals the most devastating secret of all, the truth behind her past and her own parentage.
Sexy, moving and funny, this heart-warming duo and cast of colourful characters will stay with you, long after the last page leaves you smiling.

My Review

The Hollow Heart is a tempestuous, erotic love story about a complicated couple.  Marianne’s previous relationships have resulted in disaster and tragedy and her own upbringing has made her the caring, campaigning journalist who has no truck with unethical, obtrusive probing into private lives. Thus this story is more than a simple romance.  Other characters, such as Oonagh, a flamboyant, fun-loving landlady desperate to have a child, capture our heart and the Irish village of Innishmahon becomes as important to us as Marianne’s happiness. Alongside many heartbreaking events we come to love Monty the cute Westie who is her constant companion and we laugh at the eccentric Miss MacReady with her extraordinary wardrobe.  Film star Ryan probably doesn’t deserve Marianne but his struggle to prove his love and commitment enrich the story.

This is a book of layers and substance. It deals with the important qualities of life but also takes us on a breathtaking, erotic romp. Adrienne Vaughan is an incomparable romantic author and I am lucky that I still haven’t read all her books.

The Hollow Heart is currently on offer at Amazon UK

My review of The Summer at the Seahorse Hotel by Adrienne Vaughan.

A Village Affair by Julie Houston #NewRelease #TuesdayBookBlog

Village

Cassie Beresford has recently landed her dream job as deputy head at her local, idyllic village primary school, Little Acorns. So, the last thing she needs is her husband of twenty years being ‘outed’ at a village charity auction – he has been having an affair with one of her closest friends.

 As if that weren’t enough to cope with, Cassie suddenly finds herself catapulted into the head teacher position, and at the forefront of a fight to ward off developers determined to concrete over the beautiful landscape.

 But through it all, the irresistible joy of her pupils, the reality of keeping her teenage children on the straight and narrow, her irrepressible family and friends, and the possibility of new love, mean what could have been the worst year ever, actually might be the best yet…

My Review

In A Village Affair we are first introduced to Cassie as a woman who, “has it all,” a handsome husband, two teenage children, good friends, a beautiful house and an exciting new job. But the plot is about to become far more interesting; husband Mark has betrayed her, and she finds herself challenged, both in her career and her personal life.  What makes this story such a pleasure to read is that both Cassandra Moonbeam, as her mother called her, and the author, have a great sense of humour.

We travel back in time to Cassie’s conception in 1976, discovering how different she is from her hippie mother. Paula, we meet grandfather, Norman, defending his beautiful meadow from developers and we enter the enchanting primary school with its diverse staff.  This is a character driven novel which engages the reader and you cannot help rooting for Cassie against impossible odds.

As a former primary school teacher, I was pleased with the accuracy of the present-day school and admired Cassie for her nurturing approach to her pupils.  Her friend, Fi, a farmer’s wife, was credible and likeable, but I wish the book had included a confrontation between Cassie and Tina, after her betrayal, to see how they both dealt with the situation. Mother, Paula, grandpa Norman and Latvian lolly-pop lady, Deimante, add great depth and interest to this lively story.

Julie Houston has blended romance, every day crises and light-hearted humour effectively, providing easy reading with realism.

A Village Affair is Available to purchase on Amazon UK

Julie Houston

Julie Houston

Julie lives in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire where her novels are set, and her only claims to fame are that she teaches part-time at ‘Bridget Jones’ author Helen Fielding’s old junior school and her neighbour is ‘Chocolat’ author, Joanne Harris. After University, where she studied Education and English Literature, she taught for many years as a junior school teacher. As a newly qualified teacher, broke and paying off her first mortgage, she would spend every long summer holiday working on different Kibbutzim in Israel. After teaching for a few years she decided to go to New Zealand to work and taught in Auckland for a year before coming back to this country. She now teaches just two days a week, and still loves the buzz of teaching junior-aged children. She has been a magistrate for the past nineteen years, and, when not distracted by Ebay, Twitter and Ancestry, spends much of her time writing. Julie is married, has a twenty-four-year-old son and twenty-one-year-old daughter and a ridiculous Cockerpoo called Lincoln. She runs and swims because she’s been told it’s good for her, but would really prefer a glass of wine, a sun lounger and a jolly good book – preferably with Matthew Mcconaughay in attendance.

The Bridge of Dead Things by Michael Gallagher #FridayReads #BookReview

Bridge

This Young Adult book is the first story about 13 year-old Lizzie Blaylock, the involuntary Medium. Set in late Victorian London, Lizzie has been fortunate in receiving an education despite the poverty of her family. But this ceases, when a strange fit in the classroom causes teacher, Miss Smutts to expel her. Miss Smutts’ motives are suspect since she arranges employment for Lizzie as a maidservant in a rather odd household. Lizzie’s fit has revealed her special power to allow ghostly manifestations to return from the dead. Soon this gothic novel becomes darker as Lizzie is taken under the wing of Simeon de Florence, who purports to expose false mediums. There is relief from the weird experiences in the humorous characters we meet, such as Miss Otis, the kindly clairvoyant and the obsession with seances by many wealthy Victorians provides an exciting setting. I feel that Lizzie is more like a 20th century heroine in her speech and actions but the Victorian context is vividly described.

You can purchase The Bridge of Dead Things at Amazon UK

Gallagher

Michael Gallagher

Michael Gallagher is the author of two series of novels set in Victorian times. “Send for Octavius Guy” chronicles the attempts of fourteen-year-old Gooseberry—reformed master pickpocket—to become a detective, aided and abetted by his ragtag bunch of friends. “The Involuntary Medium” follows the fortunes of young Lizzie Blaylock, a girl who can materialize the spirits of the dead, as she strives to come to terms with her unique gift.

For twenty-five years Michael taught adults with learning disabilities at Bede, a London-based charity that works with the local community. He now writes full time.

Summer at the Little French Guesthouse (La Cour des Roses Book 3) by Helen Pollard #TuesdayBookBlog

Summer at

 Summer sun, chilled, white wine, and a gorgeous fiancé. Nothing could upset pure bliss … Right?

Emmy Jamieson loves her new life in the gentle hills and sunflowers of the lush French countryside, managing La Cour des Roses, a beautiful, white stone guesthouse. With marriage to caramel-eyed Alain just round the corner, things couldn’t be more perfect.

The odd glass (gallon) of wine dulls the sound of Emmy’s mum in full motherzilla-of-the-bride mode, and the faint tinkling of alarm bells coming from Alain’s ex are definitely nothing to worry about. Guesthouse owner Rupert and a whole host of old and new friends are there to make sure nothing gets in the way of Emmy’s happiness.

But as Emmy gets close to the big day, a secret from the past throws everything decidedly off track. Will her idyllic French wedding go ahead as planned, or will Emmy run back home to England with a broken heart?

It was lovely to catch up with Emmy still working hard at Rupert’s idyllic guest house in the Loire valley while developing her own business.  Her marriage to gorgeous accountant Alain is fast approaching, but Emmy’s mother is driving her mad, phoning from England at all hours, to nag her about wedding preparations.

There are amusing escapades amongst the guests and Emmy’s friends, Sophie and Ellie, also appear to have found love, but Alain’s family worries and Emmy’s frustration with her mother cause friction between them.  Then disaster strikes; will Emmy’s happy life in France fall apart?

This third story of the little French guesthouse contains so many fascinating characters, French and English and an unexpected twist in the plot to keep you turning the pages. This is a feel-good novel which restores your faith in humanity and makes you wish you could book a holiday at this wonderful location.

Summer at the Little French Guesthouse can be purchased at Amazon UK

My review of the first book about La Cour des Roses