The ‘Y’ Books… #A-Z books

This series is an adaptation of something I saw on Twitter – people were posting 26 books in 26 days, each title beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. However, I’m planning on taking around 26 months to get to Z. Each month I’ll post a newish book I’ve enjoyed, plus a children’s book and an older book.

Like ‘X’, ‘Y’ is slightly tricky. I decided when I started that I wouldn’t read books especially for the series. I wanted it to be my own personal A-Z, and reading books in order to include them here would make the whole thing artificial. So this week, one of the titles begins with ‘Y’ while the other two have a ‘Y’ word somewhere within.

The ‘Y’ books:

Eighteen years ago your baby daughter was snatched. Today, she came back.

Eighteen years ago, Simone Porter’s six-month-old daughter, Helena, was abducted. Simone and husband, Matt, have slowly rebuilt their shattered lives, but the pain at losing their child has never left them.
Then a young woman, Grace, appears out of the blue and tells Simone she has information about her stolen baby. But just who is Grace – and can Simone trust her?
When Grace herself disappears, Simone becomes embroiled in a desperate search for her baby and the woman who has vital clues about her whereabouts.
Simone is inching closer to the truth but it’ll take her into dangerous and disturbing territory.

Simone lost her baby. Will she lose her life trying to find her?

I read this book shortly after it came out, and loved it. It’s one of those books that are REALLY hard to put down once you’ve started. Is there a happy end of Simone? Read it and see…

Published in 1852, when he was just twenty-four, Childhood was Tolstoy’s first published work, and the first of a trilogy of stories that evoke the upbringing and traditional education of a Russian aristocrat in a world that vanished with the revolution.

In this self-portrait, narrated by its protagonist Nikólya, the young Tolstoy captured the textures of adolescence with a psychological insight and subtlety of analysis that look forward to his mature achievements; while his matchless objectivity – summoning the smells, sights and sounds of early childhood – is already fully present in these pages.

This isn’t exactly a children’s book, but I read it at secondary school and was fascinated by the very different world it showed me. I haven’t read it since – maybe I should; it’s still on my shelf.

When Dr. Susan Chandler decides to use her daily radio talk show to explore the phenomenon of women who disappear and are later found to have become victims of killers who prey on the lonely and insecure, she has no idea that she is exposing herself – and those closest to her – to the very terror that she hopes to warn others against.
Susan sets out to determine who is responsible for an attempt on the life of a woman who called in to the show offering information on the mysterious disappearance from a cruise ship, years before, of Regina Clausen, a wealthy investment advisor. Soon Susan finds herself in a race against time, for not only does the killer stalk these lonely women, but he seems intent on eliminating anyone who can possibly further Susan’s investigation. As her search intensifies, Susan finds herself confronted with the realisation that one of the men who have become important figures in her life might actually be the killer. And as she gets closer to uncovering his identity, she realizes almost too late that the hunter has become the hunted, and that she herself is marked for murder.

The cruise ship disappearance makes this book a little different to other ‘disappearing women’ novels – I really enjoyed it, though I wouldn’t advise reading it while you’re on a cruise…

So that was the ‘Y’ books – I’m quite sad this series is coming to an end. One more post to go!

Posted in books, The Writing Life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

(Almost) Silent Sunday – A Lake in Switzerland…

I’m lucky to live on the banks of Lake Constance, the second largest lake in Switzerland.
(Photos from Pixabay.)

Blue lake…

I used to have nightmares about this kind of thing when my boys were at the teenage-pedalo stage…

Sunset on the Alpstein range.

Next week, it’s the ‘Y’ books!

Posted in Life in Switzerland, travel | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Classic Comfort Reads… with Malcolm Hollingdrake

The idea behind the Classic Comfort posts is that each featured writer chooses a favourite title from the classics – we’ll define ‘classic’ as pre-1940 – and a favourite comfort read, a book they always return to, for whatever reasons. As third book in each post, we’ll have one by the writer, usually their latest book. This week, we have crime writer Malcolm Hollingdrake, author of the popular Harrogate Crime series. The second book in his new Merseyside Crime Series was published earlier this month. Over to Malcolm:

Classic:

I cannot remember when I was introduced to the work of H H Munro, possibly just after leaving college. I love short stories and this collection is inspiring if of its time. I love the vocabulary used and the brevity of the tales. A favourite from book 1 is Sredni Vashtar and the opening line – “Conandrin was ten years old, and the doctor had pronounced his professional opinion that the boy would not live another five years.” Want to read more? I certainly did.

Munro’s rich use of words fascinates me. When describing an old tool-shed the boy has Munro describes how he used it– “He had peopled it with a legion of familiar phantoms evoked partly from fragments of history and partly from his own brain, but it also boasted two inmates of flesh and blood.” Wonderful.

Munro was born in 1870 and died in 1916. Shot in the head by a sniper.

Comfort:

I love the works of David Hockney so when this book was published it was purchased immediately. Hockney, a Bradford boy like myself, is a driven man. Each day is filled with observation and creativity. He’s a man who has taken to technology and embraced a world of artistic possibilities.

The book describes his year through lockdown in France taking the form of an interview. It gives a clear insight into the thoughts of a man in his eighties who has much to do whilst being fully aware that the sand is running ever more quickly through the hour glass. Well illustrated and very enlightening.

Both Catch as Catch Can and Syn, the first books in Malcolm’s Merseyside Crime Series, were published this spring. I’ve read Catch as Catch Can – it’s fabulous – and Syn is waiting on my kindle. Here’s the blurb for Catch as Catch Can to tempt you into the series:

A mutilated body apparently washed up on a windswept beach…
A violent criminal gang preys on moped riders across the area…
A teenage girl desperate to escape sexual exploitation…

It’s a tough introduction to Merseyside for DI April Decent, who has just arrived from her native Yorkshire. Together with new colleague Skeeter Warlock, Decent quickly discovers there’s a sinister link between them all, one that will bring them face-to-face with some uncomfortable truths.

Thank you, Malcolm – I’m looking forward to getting stuck into Syn!

You could say that the writing was clearly on the wall for someone born in a library that they might aspire to be an author, but to get to that point Malcolm Hollingdrake has travelled a circuitous route.

Malcolm worked in education for many years, even teaching for a period in Cairo before he started writing, a challenge he had longed to tackle for more years than he cares to remember. 
He has written a number of successful short stories, has thirteen books now available and is presently writing the eleventh crime novel set in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. 

Born in Bradford and spending three years at Ripon College, Malcolm has never lost his love for his home county, a passion that is reflected in the settings for all the Harrogate novels. However, as well as the Harrogate Crime Series he has written a new series set in Merseyside published by Hobeck Books.

You can find out more about Malcolm and his books on his website, on Twitter and on Facebook.

Posted in books, Guest Posts | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Future plans and a #NewBook

It’s the holiday weekend in Switzerland, and we have a couple of bookish things to celebrate here in my flat.
The first is something I’ve been sitting on for a few weeks – then on Friday afternoon an interesting envelope arrived from Hobeck Books.

I opened it and found: a contract, now signed and on its way back to the UK! Yes, suspense novel number eleven is on the way, and I’m very excited about it. The story opens on the Isle of Skye, but the rest of the book is set in Yorkshire, a place I’ve visited many times to see family and friends. We’re still in the middle of structural edits and the title isn’t set in stone yet either, so it’s very early days and I’ll be sharing more as summer (if it ever arrives) progresses.

We may have popped a cork or two on Friday night…

So that’s the #NewBook part of my post. The future plans part is something I’ve been mulling over for a long time: my novella series set right here in N.E. Switzerland. The fact that I ended up with so many of the creatures wasn’t part of the original plan, which was for one, possibly two novellas. But plans expand and A Lake in Switzerland was followed by A Spa… followed by Trouble… followed by Christmas… followed by Wedding Bells… Five little books, and I’ve been thinking for a while that I should do more with them. They’ll be unpublished this weekend, and I’m going to turn them into fewer, but full-length feel-good/romance novels. Number one is well on the way already, and I’ll be sharing news about that project as I go too. Stacy, Rico and Emily will be back…

I’ll leave you with a photo of the real lake in Switzerland, the one I see every day.
Next week, it’s crime writer Malcolm Hollingdrake on the blog, with his choice of classic and comfort reads – see you then!

Posted in books, Life in Switzerland, My books, The Writing Life | Tagged , , | 18 Comments

Can you read English? #joke

This was originally going to be a post about books. However, we’ll leave that for next week when I can spill all my news at once, and instead, we’ll have a post about English. Specifically, reading English.

A few weeks ago, I was tidying my English-teaching material and came across a joke. Remember a few years back, there was a lot of talk about phonetics and how written language could be simplified, making it easier for children and non-native speakers to learn to read and write? There were lots of jokes about it – here’s one of them!

Improving the English language

Her Majesty’s Government has just announced a five-year phase-in of new rules which would apply to the English language, greatly simplifying spelling and enabling children to learn more quickly and easily.

The agreed plan is as follows:

In year 1, the soft ‘c’ will be replased by the ‘s’. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard ‘c’ will be replased by ‘k’. This should klear up konfusion and keyboards kan now have one less letter.

There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the troublesome ‘ph’ is replaced by ‘f’. This will reduse ‘fotograf’ by 20%. In addition, ‘u’ will be replaced by ‘w’ in words like ‘langwage’.

In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated langwage changes are posible. The Government will enkourage the removal of double leters, which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of silent leters, partikularly ‘e’s, in the langwag is not only dum but apaling and shoud be stopd.

The bigest langwag changs wil com in year 4, when pepl wil be reseptiv to lingwistik korekshons such as replasing ‘th’ with ‘z’ and turning ze soft ‘ti’ into ‘sh’ in words kontaining ‘tion’. Ze situashon wil be furzer simplifid bi replasing ze leter ‘y’ wiz ‘i’.

During ze fifz iar, ze unesesary dubl vowls be dropd, for instans from words kontaning ‘ou’, and similar changs wud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinashons of leters. Evrizing wil now be reli unkomplikatd, and mor students wil pas exams.

After zis fifz iar, we wil hav a reli sensibl riten stil. Zer wil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evriwun wil find it esi to akwir ze langwag. Publik apreshiashon wil be at its hit, and literari acomplishments lik riting wil be at a veri hi level. I’m sur yu kan al hardli wat!

Personally, I’m very glad this never caught on… I think a plan like that would be enough to put me off writing books for the rest of my life! Meanwhile, come back next week for a couple of pieces of very exciting book news!

Posted in Life in Switzerland, The Writing Life | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The ‘X’ Books… #A-Z books

This series is an adaptation of something I saw on Twitter – people were posting 26 books in 26 days, each title beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. However, I’m planning on taking around 26 months to get to Z. Each month I’ll post a newish book I’ve enjoyed, plus a children’s book and an older book.

This month – X – is where it starts to get a little tricky. I decided when I started that I wouldn’t read books especially for the series. I wanted it to be my own personal A-Z, and reading books in order to include them here would make the whole thing artificial. I’m sure there are books around beginning with X, but I haven’t read any. So this week, any book with X somewhere in the title counts.

My X books are:

Newly married Natasha has the perfect house, a loving husband and a beautiful little girl called Emily. She’d have it all if it wasn’t for Jen, her husband’s ex-wife who just won’t leave them alone …

Then Natasha returns home one day to find her husband and Emily gone without trace. Desperate to get her daughter back, Natasha will do anything even if it means accepting an offer of help from Jen. But can she trust her? And do either of them really know the man they married?

This is just the kind of book I love. The characters start out in a perfectly normal world. Natasha could be us, or someone we know. Then things get darker and darker and before we know it… No spoilers here, but I’m glad I’m not Natasha!

Evadne is near to boiling point. All day things have gone wrong, and now two hours of chemistry, which for Evadne is too boring! She feels it’s time she livened up a chemistry lesson, so with a dash of this and a dash of that… Then a prolonged hiss, followed by an almightly explosion! It reverberated throught the school. Windows shatter, glass crucibles and jars smash. The laboratory is enveloped in black soot and there is an evil smell everywhere.

Just what was that concoction – and even worse, what has happened to Evadne?

This is one of a handful of books I’ve featured here where I had to copy the blurb from the the back of my own copy, as it’s old enough to not be on Amazon – though some secondhand books are. Who wouldn’t have loved to go to the Chalet School? The image above is my own battered paperback, which has accompanied me through several decades and even more house moves.

It’s an ordinary Thursday lunchtime for Arthur Dent until his house gets demolished. The Earth follows shortly afterwards to make way for a new hyperspace express route, and his best friend has just announced that he’s an alien. At this moment, they’re hurtling through space with nothing but their towels and an innocuous-looking book inscribed, in large friendly letters, with the words: DON’T PANIC.

The weekend has only just begun . . .

This book was first published in 1979, but it must have been about 2009 before I read it – and it might have taken me longer if my older son hadn’t given it to me one time. Then I saw what I’d been missing!

Next month it’s the ‘Y’ books, the penultimate post in the series. I’ll be sorry when it ends…

Posted in books, The Writing Life | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Springtime in Switzerland… #SilentSunday

We’ve had everything from snow to hot sunshine over the past few weeks. Here’s a selection of photos taken round about where I live, by lovely Lake Constance.

Next week, we’re having the third last A-Z post – watch out for the ‘X’ books!

Posted in Life in Switzerland, travel | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Classic Comfort Reads… with Morton S. Gray

The idea behind the Classic Comfort posts is that each featured writer chooses a favourite title from the classics – we’ll define ‘classic’ as pre-1940 – and a favourite comfort read, a book they always return to, for whatever reasons. As third book in each post, we’ll have one by the writer, usually their latest book. This week, we have romance writer Morton S. Gray, whose sixth novel, Summer at Lucerne Lodge, was published last week. Over to Morton:

Classic:

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.

This book was originally published in 1854, but amazingly doesn’t read like that. It is set mainly in the industrial northern town of Milton as viewed by the heroine of the book, Margaret. She has come to live in the town from the south with her parents. She struggles to understand the ways and values of the inhabitants of this new place, especially a mill owner, John Thornton.
I enjoy books where I can put myself in the shoes of the heroine and I can easily imagine myself as Margaret.

Comfort:

Wintercombe by Pamela Belle

Wintercombe features the period of history which fascinates me – the English Civil War. The hero and heroine are from opposite sides of the conflict and the heroine, puritan Lady Silence St Barbe, is a married woman taken by surprise by her growing friendship with royalist Captain Nick Hellier.

As I said with my classic read above, I like books where I can easily imagine myself inside the skin of the main character. I can be transported to Silence St Barbe’s time and her efforts to keep her family and home safe when enemy soldiers turn up at her door by the author’s words. Her relationship with her husband is based on duty and convention and her growing feelings for Nick Hellier challenge everything about her existence. I’ve read this book many times and enjoyed it afresh each time.

Morton’s latest novel is Summer at Lucerne Lodge – but Lucerne Lodge in the title isn’t in Lucerne, Switzerland! Like all her books, this one is set in the fictional village of Borteen Bay on the east coast, and it’s a lovely romantic suspense read.

Could a beautiful old house and a handsome stranger hold the key to a life-changing secret?


Rosie Phillips could be forgiven for not being immediately won over by Tanner Bryant. After all, their first meeting involves him knocking a tray of prawn cocktail over her very expensive dress at a charity event in the grounds of Lucerne Lodge.
But little does Rosie know how pivotal that awkward first meeting will be, or how the Lodge will become the unexpected backdrop for a summer spent finding out who she really is, and who she could be …

Thank you, Morton! I wouldn’t mind spending the summer at Lucerne Lodge…

Morton lives with her husband, two sons and Lily, the little white dog, in Worcestershire, UK. She has been reading and writing fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves learning new things and these often end up in her books. Crocheting blankets, making her own perfumed soap and weaving have kept her sane during lockdown. She has been tracing her family tree for many years and is fascinated by the new avenues of research opened up by genealogical DNA testing. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.

You can find out more about Morton and her books on her website, on Twitter and on Facebook.

Next month, we’re having crime writer Malcolm Hollingdrake with his selection of books, so I’m looking forward to that!

Posted in books, Guest Posts, The Writing Life | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

#Travel in Switzerland…

Holidays abroad are going to be very hit or miss this year. Personally, I’m not planning on going anywhere too far from home. This could include going to another country – I can see two others from my flat as I type (though Germany will soon be disappearing behind the woods as the trees green up for summer), but still… Things ain’t what they used to be.

So in case anyone fancies a trip round Switzerland from the comfort of your home, hold on tight and let’s go.

  1. The Rhine Falls, one of my favourite day trip destinations. The falls are absolutely spectacular, even more so in springtime when the snowmelt comes down around the end of May. For scale, note the viewing platform on the right of the pic. You can see more of the falls HERE.

2. The mountains. The Matterhorn? Eiger? Jungfrau? Pilatus? Or Monte Rosa, the highest peak in Switzerland? Or our local peak, Säntis? Read all about them and see some spectacular photos HERE.

3. The Tamina Gorge. If hiking and creeping through gorges is your thing, I recommend a visit here. Again, it’s a day trip from where I live and one we do every couple of years. Not for the claustrophobic… More pics HERE.

4. The Aare. If you’d rather follow a river for a while, the Aare is one of the most scenic in Switzerland. It flows through Berne, too, which is definitely worth a visit. I think the most unusual thing about this river is the colour of the water – have a look HERE and see for yourself!

5. One of the best insider secrets is right on my doorstep. Arbon has a lovely old town, and with Lake Constance literally a stone’s throw away, it’s a tourist area itself (which has pros and cons for the locals…). But see for yourself HERE.

Next week, romance writer Morton S. Grey will be here with her favourite book among the classics, and her comfort read – plus her own new release. See you then!

Posted in Life in Switzerland, travel | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The ‘W’ Books… #A-Z books

This series is an adaptation of something I saw on Twitter – people were posting 26 books in 26 days, each title beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. However, I’m planning on taking around 26 months to get to Z. Each month I’ll post a newish book I’ve enjoyed, plus a children’s book and an older book.

This month, we’re at ‘W’, and first up is The Women, by S.E. Lynes:


The night she moves in with Peter, she’s so happy, so exhilarated, so in love. Later, she will remember a much smaller feeling, a tiny one percent in her gut. And she will remember pushing that feeling aside…

Samantha Frayn doesn’t know why Peter Bridges picks her – a nobody with bitten fingernails and a troubled childhood behind her – but she falls quickly. He’s older, charming, likes fine wine and French films, and his beautiful home has real art on its walls.
Peter transforms Samantha’s life in an instant. He sees the better version of herself – the one she’s always wanted to be. It’s only normal that there’s a little friction, when she moves in, over domestic matters like where things are kept, or the proper times to eat, sleep and shower. She’s lucky to be with someone who can help her find a new job, move on from childish friends, and speak with greater sophistication.
But as Samantha notices, more and more, Peter’s temper, she starts to wonder if there might be consequences to breaking the rules of the world he has so quickly built around her. And then she receives an anonymous note that makes her ask: is she the first woman to feel trapped by Peter? Is she being paranoid, manipulated, or could she be in danger?

You can tell the truth about your life, but someone needs to be listening. Someone needs to trust you. And someone needs to save you from the man you thought you loved.

This is a very chilling read, the kind of book you sit down with for half an hour after lunch, and before you know it you’re turning the last page and it’s dark outside… Loved it – well done Susie Lynes!

The Wind in the Willows is a book for those “who keep the spirit of youth alive in them; of life, sunshine, running water, woodlands, dusty roads, winter firesides.” So wrote Kenneth Grahame of his timeless tale of Rat, Mole, Badger, and Toad, in their lyrical world of gurgling rivers and whispering reeds, a world that is both beautiful and benevolently ordered. But it is also a world threatened by dark forces: “the Terror of the Wild Wood” with its “wicked little faces” and “glances of malice and hatred”, and defended by the mysterious Piper at the Gates of Dawn.

In the end, Kenneth Grahame triumphantly succeeds in conveying his most precious theme: the miracle of loyalty and friendship.

My mother was a huge fan of The Wind in the Willows, so this book was a big part of my childhood. I was never quite as keen as Mum was, though it’s one of those books I feel I should read again – maybe one day I will.

Eva never really wanted to be a mother; certainly not the mother of a boy named Kevin who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker and a teacher who had tried to befriend him. Now, two years after her son’s horrific rampage, Eva comes to terms with her role as Kevin’s mother in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her absent husband Franklyn about their son’s upbringing. Fearing that her own shortcomings may have shaped what her son has become, she confesses to a deep, long-standing ambivalence about motherhood. How much is her fault?

In Lionel Shriver’s hands, this sensational, chilling and memorable story of a woman who raised a monster becomes a metaphor for the larger tragedy – the tragedy of a country where everything works, nobody starves, and anything can be bought but a sense of purpose.

Someone gave me the paperback of this book shortly after it was published, but the print was so small I struggled to read it even with stronger reading specs – it wasn’t a pleasure, and I gave up. Then a year or two ago it was on offer on kindle, and I raced through it. Another chilling book.

Next time, we have the ‘X’ books. 🙂

Posted in books, The Writing Life | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment