Sunday, 28 August 2016

Q&A interview with Valerie Poore

Q&A Interview with author Valerie Poore

Author Page:

Hello Val thank you and I'm so pleased you agreed to be a guest on my blog. Please could you tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi Caryl, thank you so much for having me here! I'm honoured to be a guest on your blog, I really am. To answer your question as briefly as possible, I'm English born, but I moved to South Africa in 1981 and then to the Netherlands in 2001, so I haven't lived in England for 35 years. I've spent most of my working life writing for marketing and communications and now I teach writing skills. I write my books in my free time.

I really enjoyed reading your series of Narrowboats Adventures in Rotterdam, beginning with Watery Ways. So much so, that I've become addicted to narrowboat memoirs and read others too (and somehow managed to get myself added to a list of UK Canal Experts on Twitter! ) I've yet to read African Ways or  
How to Breed Sheep, Geese and English Eccentrics, so have those to look forward to. When did you realise that you enjoyed writing?

Oh That's a good question! I actually think I've always known it. I can remember loving writing essays at primary school and I even managed to win a couple of English composition prizes although I don't remember what I did to earn them. My parents were both very artistic and musical, but they didn't really rate writing as anything to be encouraged, so it never occurred to me to try and write seriously for myself until I was in my fortiesAll my jobs have involved writing for the companies I worked for, though, so I don't quite understand why it took me so long to work out that I could do it for myself, especially as I am an avid reader. When I was a child, if I got upset, I would threaten to leave home and take all the books with me. My family still tease me about that!

Oh that did make me laugh Val!

What attracted you to living on a narrowboat? And what aspect of that life do you enjoy the most?

Ah, Caryl, the big appeal was the idea that if I wanted to move, I could take my home with me. I'd moved so many times in my life up to the point when I saw and fell in love with barges, I realised that if I lived on one, I'd never have to 'move house' again. Well, that was the theory anyway. But I soon grew to just love the life and the best thing about it is the sense of peace you have when surrounded by gently lapping water - that and the simplicity and pared-down nature of life in a very restricted space. It's a life of few luxuries, but wonderful all the same.

I've learned via your books that there is such a lot of maintenance required to keep your boat afloat and also looking respectable enough to be moored in the Historic Harbour Oude Haven at Rotterdam. Is there a time during the year when you can have a break from this or is it pretty much ongoing throughout the year?

Oh yes, I do much less in the winter. I tend to do interior renovations when it's cold and just try and keep the exterior clean, but sometimes I have to touch things up outside, such as the mast and the teak entrance to the rear cabin. They suffer from the bad weather quite a lot. It's also a mission to keep things from going green in the damp. I generally don't succeed and have to spend a lot of time in the spring scrubbing it all off!

It must be nerve wracking to have your boat undergo one of the required inspections. How often do these take place? 

The insurance inspections have to be done every six years, but I mostly have them done after five. And yes, they are very, very nerve wracking. I've got one coming up next year now I come to think of it! But those aside, I have the Vereeniging out of the water at least every two years to have the bottom cleaned off and re-blacked. I look for any weak spots then and usually have a bit of welding done each time it's out.

What have you learned so far about the history of your boat Vereeneging (hope that name is correct?)

That's perfect spelling! Even I get it wrong's true! About the history, I'm very lucky that I know who had it built and what it was used for as the man I bought it from bought it himself from the original owners, a transport company owned by a family with the name of Mur. The Vereeniging was built in 1898 to carry goods along a fixed route from Loenen on the Vecht river (known as one of the prettiest towns in the Netherlands) to Amsterdam in one direction and to Utrecht in and beyond on the Oude Rijn river in the other direction. It was built with a specially narrow width of 3,2 metres(about 10') for a specific lock on the system, but sadly that has sort of shrunk over the years and I can't go through there anymore. Following the Vereeniging's old commercial route is a trip I'd love to do, so hopefully next year.

know that you've recently been away faring on your boat for some further adventures. Are these eventually going to be included in a new book or books? (If so, can't wait but no pressure!) 

Oh yes, we've had the must wonderful five weeks of faring this summer. I love the way you use 'faring' too. I think it's just the best word for what we do with our barges. And yes, I am writing a travelogue about it now, so I hope it will be ready by Christmas. I'm keeping everything crossed that I'll have the time to finish it once work gets going again, but I'm about half way through the first draft at the moment. I'll definitely keep you posted, Caryl.

Which books do you enjoy reading for pleasure and who are your favourite authors?

Oh good one! I read more or less everything except really gory crime fiction and erotica, but my absolute favourite reads are detective fiction and travel memoirs. I am a huge and long-time fan of Deborah Crombie's and Donna Leon's police mysteries, but more recently I've discovered and really enjoyed LM Krier's DI Darling books and also Christina James' DI Yates novels. I love Carol Hedges' Victorian murder mysteries too. They are wonderful. There are many other crime writers I like, but these have stood out because they've given me a really good puzzle to work out. On the memoirs side, I've read so many it's hard to keep track, but I love all Jo Carroll's travel memoirs.  She's an amazing person because she only started travelling, or rather backpacking, when she retired and she travels to incredible places like Nepal and Ecuador on her own. I can really recommend her books. Luckily for me, she goes off for six weeks every year and writes a book about her experiences afterwards. I don't know what I'll do if and when she stops! I wish I could mention all the other writers and memoirs I love as well, but your readers might get bored if I go on too long!

Do you have a special place to write on the boat?
No, funnily enough, I don't. I can write anywhere as long as I've got time. I often write in bed or in the train. It just depends on when I have the space to give to it. As long as I've got my laptop with me, I can write wherever I am.

If there was one place in the world that you'd choose, if you could, to go to just to write in peace, where would that be?

That's a really wonderful question, Caryl! One half of me instantly says Kwazulu Natal in South Africa, which is a country that still owns a part of my heart. However, there's a beautiful spot on the Canal de la Souchez which leads to Lens not far from Lille in northern France. We spent the night there in July and I would just love to go back there for some writing time. It is surrounded by the most beautiful trees and countryside; it feels incredibly peaceful and remote, but is really only a kilometre or so from the town of Harnes, so it's just perfect. That would be a lovely place to go and write. I'd take my home with me of course...

Thank you Val, that was really interesting. Thank you for visiting my blog today.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Q&A author interview: Denzil Meyrick

Q&A Author interview with Denzil Meyrick

Thanks for agreeing to be a guest here today Denzil. Please could you tell us a bit about yourself.

After studying politics, I joined the police, serving in Glasgow. After suffering injury, I entered the business world, eventually owning my own companies. My first novel was published in late 2012. I live with my wife on Loch Lomondside in Scotland, close to our family. My stepdaughter Rachel Kennedy is also a writer.

Your Crime Fiction novels are very popular now and I read somewhere that Nicola Sturgeon might be a fan of yours (allegedly) Can you confirm or deny this? 

I'm glad to say all four Daley novels are bestsellers both as books and ebooks. It's great to embrace new markets and technology, but nice to sell so well in bookshops too.
Nicola Sturgeon was kind enough to contact me and let me know that she's a 'huge Daley fan'. She has also tweeted her followers saying, 'If you haven't read Denzil Meyrick's DCI Daley novels, you should!' MasterChef's Gregg Wallace is another celeb fan.

Wow! So as another fan, I'm in excellent company!

I've only read the first one in the DCI Daley series Whisky from Small Glasses and I'm already hooked. When did you first discover that you could write?

I've been writing since I was young. I've worked as a freelance journalist and written advertising copy, but books were a different discipline. I had a spell of illness, during which time I wrote Whisky from Small Glasses.

Apart from editors and perhaps Beta readers, does anyone close to you, either a friend or family member, read through the first draft of your books and give their opinion?

My wife and stepdaughter both read my books before I pass them down the line. Rachel is also a writer, so it's good to have their opinions. Handy too, that my agent is a former editor and publisher with one of the big five publishing houses.

Have you ever been approached by a TV production team to have your books serialised on the small screen? All that scenery, would be a shame if they weren't. 

There is interest from film and tv companies. All very hush hush, but as I've learned in publishing, things move at a very slow pace sometimes. Fingers crossed, I'd love to see beautiful Kintyre, where the books are set, on screen.

As a former police officer, do any of your books contain any part of your own experience within the Force? 

It's a long time since I was a police officer, but I think it's advantageous in creating a realistic atmosphere. I think it's important to represent the way police officers talk and relate to each other as closely as possible.

What kind of books do you like to read and who are your favourite authors?

I don't read a lot of crime fiction now, but loved William McIllvanney and Ian Rankin. Writing crime all day, it's nice to relax with something else when I have downtime. With the books already separately published in North America, and about to be in Germany by HarperCollins, there isn't too much of that. I like sci-fi, biography and history. Love books by the late, great Iain Banks, Tom Holland, Max Hastings, etc. I've read everything from Proust to Patrick O'Brian. I have an eclectic taste in literature.

Do you have a special preferred place in your home that you use for writing.

I have to be alone when I write, so I hideaway in a room to get it done. I normally try and write between 1500-2000 words a day when I'm working on something.

If you could choose anywhere in the world that you could visit for a peaceful holiday to just spend writing, where would it be?

My ideal holiday would be the peaceful beauty of the Tuscan coast, or Kintyre, of course. If you get a chance to visit, please do. You'll love it!

I have visited the area and it is beautiful

Thank you, that was really interesting and thanks for visiting my blog today

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Book review - Whisky From Small Glasses: Denzil Meyrick

The following review will also be posted on Amazon US & UK and Goodreads

One of the #20booksofsummer on my Twitter challenge. 

 A suspenseful and atmospheric read and the first book in the DCI Daley Series.

I liked DCI Daley and his team, particularly DS Scott who achieves results in his own unique manner but has quite a chaotic personal life. DCI Daley's personal life is not without problems because his wife has a bit of a restless nature, to put it politely, with a history of cheating on her husband. Rather refreshing though not to have the main police character as a serial cheater or an alcoholic who is constantly at odds with superiors. The author is a former police officer and it shows with the accurate portrayal of police procedure.

The setting for the book is in the fictional town of Kinloch, which sounds like a beautiful, picturesque but isolated village on the West Coast of Scotland. The locals are quite insular, gossipy and know everyone and everyone's business it seems. I'm familiar with that part of Scotland having spent many holidays in the area and such were the beautifully written, vivid descriptions of the weather, flora and fauna that I was taken right back there and could even smell the ocean. Ahhhhh *sigh*

Where was I? Oh yes:

The body of a young girl is washed up on the shoreline. Many theories, gossip and a few red herrings emerge making it harder for DCI Daley's investigation team drafted in from Glasgow to investigate the crime. More crimes and tragedy strike the community leaving the team seriously under fire from 'above' to find the culprits. There are dangerous heart-stopping moments where you can guess what might happen, but of course are powerless to prevent What Might Happen Next!!!

I found the book hard to put down. Loved the dark humour prevalent within the investigative team's banter and I'm sure the characters will develop further in subsequent books. Have already downloaded the next one to read. 

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Book review - How to be Brave: Louise Beech

Review also posted in Amazon US & UK and Goodreads.

A beautiful and inspiring semi-autobiographical tale of the real life struggles faced by members of a family separated by time and three generations who somehow and utterly believably manage to cross through the divides of time to console each other during a time of great crisis in each of their lives.

Rose, a young girl aged nine, is suddenly struck with a life-threatening and life changing illness and finds it very difficult to cope with the changes in her life that will be necessary to maintain her survival. Her mother uses the diary, newspaper accounts and her own imagination to tell the story of her great grandfather's tale of survival at sea on a lifeboat during WW2 to make the vital medical procedures a bit easier to bear, stretching the story out into segments and telling it bit by bit.

I'm not usually a fan of novels that jump back and forth between two different time periods but this book was exceptional and time transistions were smooth and seamless and I was equally fascinated and captivated by both the present day narrative of survival and the one from the past.
This book is one that will stay with me in my memory. Really exceptional writing. 5*

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Guest Reviewer Julie Haigh reviews Mighty by Matt Crofton

Guest Reviewer Julie Haigh reviews Mighty by Matt Crofton

(*****Five Stars) One of the best books I've read in ages!, 10 Jun. 2016
By Julie Haigh
I received a free ecopy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wow, this was a great memoir! In 2010, the author was given just 48 hours to live. He made it through everything and wanted to say thanks and give others hope by setting himself a challenge: he took up paddle boarding and vowed to become the first person to paddle the length of the Mississippi River. The book has a quick and snappy start and takes no time at all before you’re hooked on reading it. This memoir is about triumphing over everything and seeing how precious life is when you've nearly lost it. He was just 36 when he nearly died.

The Mississippi is known as the Mighty-so that's the significance of the book title (I didn’t know that before reading this book.) He intends to travel ‘The Mighty’ and the end of his destination will be New Orleans. On a Stand Up Paddle Board. This will be an approximately 2,400 mile journey. At this time he's only been walking on his own for eight months after his ordeal. He had spent two months fighting for his life, it had been months before he could walk again. He found ill-health so hard to come to terms with. I was intrigued as to what 'the incident' might be-and the 'innocent mistake' which had put him in hospital. With regard to his proposed challenging trip, I was thinking: why is he doing this? He's not fully fit yet! This is just the sort of book to inspire and lift. He had come so close to losing his life. He wants to say thank you and 'pay it forward' as he says.

Achievements before for him include travelling the country on a motorcycle. He also lived on a sailboat in the Pacific Ocean. This is a memoir of inspiration, hope, travel and adventure. I was thinking that I'd like to hear what lead up to his illnesses and fight for life-the medical side. I was hoping this would be covered in the book-it was! This was a really interesting and different read for me. An amazing memoir.

I don't know anything about sailing/surfing/paddle boarding etc. but I LOVED this-it was so varied-we have the medical stuff, the travel, emotions, I learned lots of things-a wonderful read! So wise, brave, inspiring. Would his Old faithful paddleboard survive the trip? You're kept guessing a bit. It really is a very good book. I enjoyed reading about the people who invite him to eat with them, eat out with them, and give him food and supplies to help him on. There were many good Samaritans out there and it was amazing the generosity he was shown.

I thought this memoir sounded interesting when I read the blurb.....but I was blown away by it! It was amazing! He kept a journal, he was writing this book as he went on his trip. He writes with so much tenderness about meeting Suzie and spending time with her. Contrast this with tension, action, adventure and there's so much variety in here. One of the best books I've read in ages! Wonderful!

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Book review - Narrow Margins: Marie Browne

The following review will also be posted on Amazon US & UM and Goodreads

I don't know what it is about narrowboat adventures but this is the third book on the subject that I've read recently. I'm now officially ADDICTED!

This one is a highly enjoyable read about a couple who buy a large former river cruising boat and with a lot of hard graft and make it into a delightful home for themselves and their children.
There are many adventures and near disasters along the way because the family are not experienced boaters but their learning experiences are interesting and humerous.
I'm now half way through the next in the series and it's as addictive as this one.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Book Review - Things Can Only Get Feta: Marjory McGinn

The following review will also be posted on Amazon US& UK and Goodreads

This book by Marjory the first in an enchanting three book series, is so much more than a memoir. It's funny,  informative and interesting. A really enjoyable read about a couple's stay in a remote village in the Mani Pelapponese region of Greece.

Marjory and her husband Jim, both journalists whose jobs in Scotland were affected by the newspaper industry upheaval in the UK, arrive in Greece planning to spend maybe an adventurous year or so in the country documenting their adventures. They bring with them their lovable but mad Jack Russell Wallace, who ends up having quite a few hair-raising adventures of his own in a country where dogs are not generally kept as pets and are barely tolerated except largely in a functioning role of guarding their owners' properties. Wallace somehow becomes accepted or by the villagers who give him a new name of 'Vassy'. 

Marjory and Jim, or rather Margarita and Dimitrios as they are renamed by the locals, immerse themselves in village life, make friends and in time become accepted members of the community. Life is hard for the villagers and more so in the Greek crisis. The background to the crisis is explained in an informative way and I learned much more about the history and circumstances behind it. Having spent time in Greece on holiday and more recently in Athens, I was aware of the crisis but not as fully informed as I'd like to be, but a lot more of what we witnessed makes much more sense after reading this book.

Marjory makes friends with an indomitable lady called Foteini who features in many  anecdotes and adventures. Foteini looks after her olive trees and keeps a few goats and a donkey in a hillside dwelling, she also has a village house in a state of some disrepair that's hardly used. Their friendship is real and deep and we learn much about the history and hardships of Greek hill farmers and villagers.

A must read for anyone interested in learning about the real Greece.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Book review - Up The Garden Path: Henry Butterfield

The following review will also be posted on Amazon US & UK and Goodreads.

An absolutely delightful book about a couple's effort to turn their average size town garden in North Devon into a wildlife haven and submit it into the National Garden Scheme.

Henry Butterfield has both experience as a gardener and a few qualifications after completing a number of courses and ending up with the Royal Horticultural Society Level 2 certificate
He is also has some experience as a writer with gardening articles published in various local newspapers and some magazines. Also qualified with a diploma in Literature & Creative Writing. 

This book is a non fictional memoir account of Henry and his wife Evelyn's hard work towards making their garden acceptable to those who decide which gardens are eligible for the National Garsen Scheme.
Filming takes place at various stages during the work in progress in their garden involving the well known gardening expert Carol Klein, who is one of my favourites. 
Henry has the writer's knack of making even the mundane jobs and events in the garden sound interesting and often laugh out loud, but I think his nervous habit of cracking jokes at inappropriate times, although hilarious, would drive me insane.
I really enjoyed this book and with family living in North Devon I am familiar with the places mentioned within the book such as RHS Rosemoor and BJ's Value store!

Book review - Only The Lonely: L M Krier

Ted Darling is my favourite fictional detective. I can't wait for each book in the series to be released. 
In this one, that might just be my favourite so far, Ted Darling has more responsibility and is in charge of a newly developed team of detectives, some of whom appear to have very different methods and standards of policing to his own. Within the team are some familiar faces from his old team that Ted knows he can trust but will the others sabotage the investigation?

Dating apps and meeting up with strangers for a night out or other encounters seem to be ever more popular these days. Brutal murders are happening on Ted's patch and the perpetrator appears to be choosing his victims via a dating site. It's a complicated case and all is not as it seems. 
In the background is Ted's rock, his life partner Trev who provides the calm and stability that is needed to help him through such a difficult case. Fans of this series are usually fans of Trev too and who wouldn't love to have a Trev in their lives?
Quite an original plot to this gripping book and as always I was sad to reach the end because now I have to wait for the next one! 

(Thank you to the author for an ARC)

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Book review - Harbour Ways: Valerie Poore

The following review will also be posted on Amazon US & UK + Goodreads

Val's first book in this series Watery Ways is the first book on my list of the #20booksofsummer challenge. I enjoyed that book so much that I was led off-piste and just had to read this one too!

In common with the first book, this one is beautifully written and humerous throughout. 

There is just something so heartwarming about the way the author writes about life aboard a historic 100 year old barge in the Netherlands; a barge that she is more or less single-handedly trying to restore while living on it. Barges require a lot of maintenance for a number of reasons; to keep watertight and prevent any damage from the elements plus the hull needs to be inspected from time to time to ensure that it is safe on the waterways. Val copes with all of that plus the restoration work and also a job teaching English and another resident on the barge, her newly adopted dog

There is some help at hand from the other live aboard barge-owning characters at the harbour and Val's partner Koos, another barge owner whose lifetime experiences of living aboard a barge and navigating the waterways are an invaluable help.
Val is the one doing most of the work though, often in bad weather situations and very cramped conditions and sometimes carrying the large items she needed back from the hardware store on her head, African style (do not try this at home!) 

The whole challenge is described with much self-deprecation and good humour  Val has a way with words and makes the plumbing in of a bathroom aboard the barge sound fascinating and describes the other local characters in such a way that I'd really like to meet them all. Actually I'd quite like to move into the beautifully finished and restored barge thank you very much. If someone else was doing all the hard work and driving of course!  

I've read the series while going through quite a stressful time and have found them to be real escapism and an absolute tonic.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Book review - Lying in Wait: Liz Nugent

The following review will also be posted on Amazon UK & US, Goodreads and Net galley.

If I had to use one word to describe this book it would be 'exceptional'.
Set in Ireland, it is crime fiction but rather uniquely isn't a murder mystery because we know whodunnit in the first paragraph. It's the events that unfold following the terrible act that are so gripping and the devastating effect to two families and the impact on the lives of all of them. 

The words flow easily throughout the book because the writer is eloquent and appears to be able to empathise with each of the characters she created. 

There's a young boy Laurence who struggles with a weight problem and his domineering mother who has more than one secret. Both of these central characters are portrayed so realistically I wondered how the author could have such an insight into their minds and understand what each one was going through. 
Karen, a young woman, tries to discover what has happened to her missing sister and her search leads her through a difficult and unexpected series of events. Her background is difficult but she is possibly the only character who is entirely honest. 

I galloped through this to get to the ending it was that good. Usually I can find a little something to niggle about when I've finished reading a book but no, not this one. Love the writing style of the author and will definitely read more of her books.
Thanks to the publisher via Netgalley for an ARC.
pre-order the book, available July 14 here:

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Book review: See How They Run Tom Bale

The following review has been posted on Amazon US & UK and Goodreads.

Now that I've read 'the thriller that everyone is talking about' I was going to ask how on earth does an author come up with such a gripping plot and one that kept me reading right through to the end. The idea for the book apparently came to the author after he had a sleepless night during which he'd spotted a burglar trying to enter his home.
If you like being scared out of your wits by a novel, then read this one!

The book begins with a young couple, parents of an eight week old baby, waking up during the night to find that their home has been invaded by two violent thugs who seem to be convinced that they know the whereabouts of a man they are looking for.
The couple are put through a terrifying ordeal and from that night on become embroiled in nightmarish situations for which there doesn't seem to be any way to escape.
They meet people along the way who aren't always what they appear to be. Are they friend or foe and who can they trust.

This is quite a gripping thriller that kept me reading until the end. I liked the young couple and cared what happened to them and their young baby, so had to keep on reading and holding my breath during the difficult and scary situations they found themselves in.

Well written throughout and deserves a place on this years list of best thrillers! So scary it made my skin crawl.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Book Review: Diary of A Single Parent Abroad: Jill Pennington

The following review has been posted on Amazon UK & US + Goodreads

I was blown away by this book and read it in a few sittings. The memoir had been on my kindle for a while and I really hadn't expected it to be so good, but it turned out to be such a cracker of a read that I could hardly put it down. Jill Pennington and her husband have experience of renovating "doer upper" old houses and decide to buy one in a mountain village in Italy. 

Unfortunately, Jill's husband flits too often back and forth between his various business interests in other countries and also unbeknown to his wife has frequent visits to his long term mistress. Eventually the feckless husband leaves Jill and their children more or less to fend for themselves in their newly adopted country and living in a house only partly renovated.

 How Jill and her children adapt to their circumstances is truly remarkable. Living on very little and through an enormous amount of hard graft Jill provides for her family, single-handedly renovates the house, grows and rears their food to give them a fantastic lifestyle in a country they all love. A highly recommended inspiring read.
To purchase:

Update: This memoir was published in 2013. This remarkably tough lady is still living in the same house in Italy and still trying to make ends meet and raising a family on her own. Fans of the book are awaiting a sequel because there will be much to write about I'm sure.
If a reader would like to experience Italy in the beautiful Apennines Jill offers glamping holidays that are exceedingly good value at Goat Cottage on her property

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Review - Watery Ways: Valerie Poore

The following review was posted on Amazon UK & US + Goodreads

I did enjoy this book and feel quite bereft now that I've finished reading Watery Ways. I didn't want the book to end but fortunately more books have been written by the author about the continuing story of her life aboard a barge or rather barges in Holland and Belgium.

I've always enjoyed reading memoirs of people living alternative lifestyles, especially those resettling and living in other countries who don't necessarily subscribe to the usual ex-pat life abroad. I chose this book as the first one to read in the 20 books of Summer challenge on Twitter and what a lovely way to start. I have also recently started following Val's blog.

At the beginning of the book Val is newly divorced having temporarily lived aboard a barge in Rotterdam for a while with her now ex-husband. 

The lifestyle of living alongside other enthusiastic, friendly and helpful barge owners has been appealing so Val's aim, with her limited means is to buy and restore her own historic barge and make a comfortable home for herself on board. First though as a temporary measure, a Dutch friend offers her a barge to stay in rent free if she helps to restore the old boat. This she does almost single-handedly using her experience of restoration work on antique wooden furniture and helping to restore her earlier barge home. With occasional help from other local barge owners who seem to form an unspoken but useful collective of skills, the barge is slowly and lovingly restored. There are many mishaps, humerous anecdotes and a collection of feline and canine companions who come and go as temporary guests.

Eventually Val must find her own barge to restore and live in and a new man enters her life.

The whole story is narrated in such a very descriptive, appealing and humerous way that I felt like upping my own sticks immediately and buying a barge in Holland, but unfortunately I couldn't do this with my circumstances and health so I'm going to have to add the other books in the series Walloon Ways and Harbour Ways into my summer reading. Looking forward to reading them.

Highly recommended.

To buy

Monday, 6 June 2016

My 20 books of Summer

Cathy at @cathy746books has set readers and other bloggers a challenge to read 20 books of Summer.
I was going to try 10 books at first for the 20 Books of Summer challenge, partly because at some point during the Summer will be moving house. Once I started adding books to the list, I couldn't stop so 20 books it is.

First one to read has been on my kindle for a while and have no idea why I haven't read it yet because I like reading about alternative lifestyles

1. Watery Ways: Val Poore

2. The Beekeeper's Secret Josephine Moon
This book was very kindly sent as Book Post via the publisher along with some lovely additional gifts.

3. The Running Hare: John Lewis-Stempel
After reading Meadowland by this author and listening to extracts on Radio 4 Book of the month I pre-ordered this and it was a very lovely Book Post when it arrived.

4. A Darker Domain: Val McDermid
A book I've had for a while and haven't got around to reading yet.

5. The Secrets of Rue St Roch: Janet Morgan

Another physical book I've had for a while but haven't got around to reading. Mine has a different cover.

6. The Mystery of Mercy Close: Marion Keyes

Marion Keyes is one of my favourite authors and this must be one of the very few of her books that I haven't yet read.

7. See How They Run: Tom Bale

'The thriller everyone is talking about' except for me because I haven't read it yet!

8. Trapped: My life with cerebral palsy: Fran Macilvey

A book I've been wanting to read for a while.

9. The Lost Child: Ann Troup
Bought two of Ann Troup's books recently as they were on offer, so if I like this one may read The Silent Girls too.

10. Whisky From Small Glasses: Denzil Meyrick
A friend of mine recommended this author to me, knowing that I'm a crime fiction fan with a liking for Scottish Noir, so will start at the beginning of the series.

11. Coffin Road: Peter May

I've been wanting to read this since the publication date, but it was a bit pricey at first, so now it's on sale at a more reasonable price, I'll buy it.

11. Born For Life: A Midwive's Story: Julie Watson

Recommended to me by a friend who knows that I can't resist memoirs of a medical nature. My fifth grandchild is due to be born in November so it's possible I may become a tad emotional reading this!

12. I know Why The Caged Bird Sings: Maya Angelou

Amaxon informs me that I bought this last November so it's about time I read it. Have heard so much about this lady, so I'm looking forward to reading this.

13. How To Be Brave: Louise Beech

Have heard only good things about this book and the author had a new book out soon that I like the sound of.

14. Best Seller: Terry Tyler
I bought this in kindle edition after reading about it on Twitter and having a few friendly chats with the author. Sounds interesting.

15. My Kind of Food: Recipes I love to cook at home John Torode

As a huge fan of Masterchef and a cookery book collector, I couldn't not obtain a copy of this book to read and try out some of John Torode's own recipes.

16. Flowers For The Dead: Barbara Copperthwaite

This book has had good reviews from members of The Crime Book Club Facebook group.

I'm going to cheat a bit here, but only slightly because I'm going to leave 17. 18. 19 & 20 for a short while because some favourite authors have new books out in the June-September period, which will be added here. All reviews will have their own blog page and then all listed in the A-Z index. 

Friday, 3 June 2016

Review- The Wrong Kind of Clouds: Amanda Fleet

The following review has been published on Amazon UK & US, Goodreads and NetGalley.

It's hard to believe that this psychological mystery is a debut novel, such is the quality of the writing. A bit slow at the outset, but intriguing enough to carry on reading.

The book, set in Edinburgh, starts off with the mysterious abduction, assault and disappearance of Patrick Forrester, occupation indeterminate, a womanizer, gambler and cheat whose saving grace is that he helps disadvantaged children in Malawi to achieve an education by supporting a charity out there.

During his abduction he manages to make an alarming call for help to his ex girlfriend Summer Morris, a photographer with synaesthesia, which is a condition I've never heard of before but is explained on the NHS UK site here:
In Summer's case emotions are felt as colours.

 Summer tries in vain to enlist police assistance in Patrick's disappearance, but at first they're not interested until it is discovered that a female government minister and Patrick have had an affair. Before that discovery though and subsequent police involvement, Summer visits his flat and not very sensibly removes items to try to find out what has happened to her ex-boyfriend with whom she hadn't parted very amicably from.

With several trails to follow, including the mysterious disappearance of children in Milawi and a number of suspects apparently seriously annoyed with the missing man, police involvement when it appears is in the form of the rather enigmatic DS LB Stewart.

I liked the dynamics between the detective and Summer as together they try to unravel the mystery and find out what happened to Patrick Forrester, although if I was being critical the mutual attraction and holding back from the pair of them did go on a tad too long and I felt like shouting at them to get a room, but no, tlme was critical and a man's life could be at stake.

 I think and hope there might be more books involving these two intriguing characters because only parts of their personal histories were revealed and there's more I'd like to know about them as individuals.

Altogether a cracking good read.
To Purchase the book

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Guest Reviewer: Julie Haigh reviews More Into Africa Ann Patras

Julie Haigh who is a Top 1000 Amazon reviewer and part of the admin team for the Facebook group 'We Love Memoirs' is my guest reviewer today reviewing More Into Africa: Ann Patras

Julie's Review:-

Great fun, a very entertaining read.
 I’ve read Ann Patras’ first book in her Into Africa series and I loved it, it was great fun. This is the follow-up book-and I’m hoping there are more in the series? 

This book had a fab start, I was straight in, so easy to get into! I loved it! I love memoirs based on diaries and letters, and, like Ann's first book, this is based on letters she wrote back home to family in the early 80s. 

I love this because people can look back and read EXACTLY what happened-not just remembered things, the book will be more authentic. I do love her humour. It's great that she puts little 'jog your memory' bits in: in the initial few chapters, she recaps a few bits of background info from book one. This is very useful if you read her other book a while ago or, if you've not read book one, it could be read as a standalone perhaps?

 There are great expressions and word choices in here. I just love how she seems to write as she speaks, no nonsense. This book has a lovely conversational style, like a friend having a chat with you-and great comedy timing! You think you are reading a sentence which is completely serious-then there's a little chuckle at the end. There are photos now and then, in relevant places where people are mentioned.

 I loved the natural expressions such as 'Couldn't sing for toffee'-exactly as I would say, they bring a certain charm to the book. A nice easy, fun, friendly style, not standing on ceremony. Titled chapters provide easy reading which is really entertaining. Each one is a scene remembered from their time in Africa in the 80s and you don't have to remember things from previous chapters. You can pick it up and catch up easily, it takes no getting into at all. 

Loads of good words in here, comical, down to earth speech, I love writing like this.

 If you're thinking this is about Africa and hearing about lots of lions, elephants etc-you'd be wrong (although there are a few camping trips with friends/nature reserve/seeing some of the animals later in the book) It's really more about changing home in England and what normal, everyday family life is like in the different country-the shopping, washing and cooking, travel, entertainment etc. and the challenges associated with these. Add to that telling it with a grand sense of humour-well, you get the idea. Another fun book by Ann Patras. So, will there be a book three-about their stretch in Lusaka? I hope so!

Thank you Julie for sharing this review

To purchase

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Review - The Cold, Cold Sea: Linda Huber

This review has also been publshed on Goodreads, Amazon UK & US

This will be a hard book to review because I really don't want to give away any spoilers, so here goes:

Linda Huber is very adept at building up tension slowly within her books. This is the second psychological chiller of hers that I've read so far.

A young child goes missing from a Cornwall beach and there is the understandable aftermath of guilt and recriminations from each parent and with each other. Then the hurtful comments, suppositions and lies emerge from some members of the public that add to the parents pain and distress while they wait for any news from the organised search, of what has happened to their beloved little girl.

Meanwhile in a different household, another drama is developing that is entirely chilling and I found myself racing through until the very end of the book to find out what happens. There were times when some of the characters absolutely infuriated me with their actions and inactions, I'd got into the book so much, but all in all a very good read that kept me enthralled until the end.

A story about a missing child is always a very difficult subject but the author Linda Huber writes very sensitively on the subject here and there are no gratuitous, gory scenes within the book.

To purchase The Cold Cold Sea

Guest reviewer: Rebecca Hislop

Rebecca Hislop, (on Twitter as Aye Reader @RebeccaHislop1) a retired teacher from Scotland, kindly agreed to be a guest reviewer on my blog to share her review of Rat Stone Serenade: Denzil Meyrick.

Rebecca's Review:-

I'm a huge fan of Denzil Meyrick’s  D.C.I. Daley series and this was the best yet. They simply get better and better and we get to know the characters and learnmore about their strengths and weaknesses. This is to be DCI Jim Daley’s last case before he takes early retirement and he teams up again with DS Brian Scott. Daley is hoping to make a fresh start with his wife Liz and his baby son. Scott is having episodes where he sees visions and has been told it’s the DTs so he has stopped drinking. There is a new Superintendant, Carrie Symington, who comes across as competent and likeable. The opening chapters foreshadow what is to become a complex and thrilling tale centred round the Shannon family. There is a tinker’s curse, a missing child, druidic rituals and the sinister Rat Stone. Add to that mix international finance, dark secrets and harsh winter weather and it’s a recipe for a superb and gripping murder mystery. The story is set on the west coast of Scotland in Blaan near Kinloch on the remote Kintyre peninsula. It’s an area steeped in history and certain areas are indeed tremendously atmosphericwhich adds to the sense of menace. Following the discovery of a child’s skeleton on the Rat Stane the horribly mutilated body of a journalist is discovered.There are other disturbing events and brutal murders which push the police to their limits. By this time I couldn’t put the book down as I wanted to see how all this would work out. There are a great many plot twists and it was impossible to predict what was going to happen next or who was involved in the various intrigues. It’s a fast paced story with thefts and murders and financial shenanigans, and of course, revenge. Fortunately, the wonderfully realistic dialogue and flashes of black humour, with some brilliant one liners from Brian, occasionally lifts the tense atmosphere. The ending was so unexpected it made me gasp... oh! I can’t wait for the next book in the series. It’s 5 stars from me. 

 Thanks Rebecca, smashing review - I must read the book.