#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!

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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. 🙂

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Classic Comfort Reads… with Kerena Swan

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 Kerena Swan, who has written three psychological thrillers as well as her new book, Blood Loss, a police procedural which was published last week. Over to Kerry:

Classic:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.

I was given this by a neighbour on my tenth birthday and felt honoured to be gifted such a grown-up novel. I read and enjoyed it even though it’s a dark and somewhat depressing story. A few years ago, I saw the Northern Ballet perform Wuthering Heights and was blown away by the drama and passion they displayed. The neighbour also ‘gifted’ me the oak tree at the end of our road and for years I told everyone that it was my tree.

Comfort:

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.

It’s difficult to choose my comfort read as I have so many but this is one book I’ve read several times. I love the history, the insight into building cathedrals and the way the baddies always get their just desserts. Since studying the craft of writing I now detect a few flaws – people are either good or bad and no redeeming features in between – but who am I to judge? Ken Follett is a master story-teller who has sold millions. I’ve read all his books and enjoyed every single one.

Kerena Swan’s latest book is Blood Loss, which I’ve been looking forward to ever since I read Here She Lies, the prequel to the series. Here She Lies can be downloaded free on Kerry’s website. It’s a novella, and like Blood Loss it’s a standalone story featuring DI Paton and his son Tommy.

Sarah
With one eye on the rear view mirror and the other on the road ahead, Sarah is desperate to get as far away from the remote Scottish cabin as she can without attracting attention. But being inconspicuous isn’t easy with a black eye and clothes soaked in blood…
… and now the fuel tank is empty.

DI Paton
When a body is discovered in a remote cabin in Scotland, DI Paton feels a pang of guilt as he wonders if this is the career break he has been waiting for. But the victim is unidentifiable and the killer has left few clues.

Jenna
With the death of her father and her mother’s failing health, Jenna accepts her future plans must change but nothing can prepare her for the trauma yet to come.


Fleeing south to rebuild her life, Sarah uncovers long-hidden family secrets. Determined to get back what she believes is rightfully hers, Sarah thinks her future looks brighter. But Paton is still pursuing her…
… and he’s getting closer.

Thank you, Kerry! I’m halfway through Blood Loss now – a really suspenseful read!

I qualified as a social worker nearly thirty years ago and progressed to Head of Disabilities for the county of Bedfordshire where I managed social work teams and residential services. Sixteen years ago, I left to set up my own agency to provide much-needed community support for children with disabilities. Now, with over eighty employees to manage and hundreds of families to oversee, my days are long and busy.
It wasn’t until I nearly lost my eyesight through a detached retina in my good eye and a diagnosis of cancer and brutal surgery, that I decided it was time to tick something off my ‘yet-to-be-achieved’ list. A builder friend enabled me to help with one task – build a brick wall – another was to write a book and get it published. I signed up to a novel writing course and within nine months had written a full-length novel and found a publisher. I’ve now written four novels and a novella and am currently writing the fifth, which is book 2 of the DI Paton series. I write whenever I can snatch a spare five minutes from my full-time job because I find it helps me de-stress.


You can find out more about Kerry and her books on her website: www.kerenaswan.com, on Twitter and on Facebook.

April’s Classic Comfort post will be with romance writer Morton S. Gray – I can’t wait to see which books she chooses!



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How (not) to make your first podcast…

Hobeck Books are very clued up about all things audio. They put out a podcast every week, with book news and chat, and an interview with someone in the book world – one of their writers, cover designers, or others they’ve met during the years they’ve worked in various book and publishing jobs. So when they asked if I’d do a podcast with them, to go out when Daria’s Daughter was published, I agreed immediately. Okay, I’m not the techiest person on the planet but they are, and I managed the video interview with no major complications, didn’t I?

Podcasts, however, are different. And in case anyone’s about to leap into action with a microphone, here are few things I learned during the experience.

We’ll start with what you don’t need. You don’t need forestry workers with electric saws in the woods behind your flat on the afternoon you’re recording. You don’t need road works, including a large machine called a *Saugbagger, on the street in front of your flat. You don’t need an incredibly ancient laptop that’s suffering from terminal overuse but is the only one you have that boasts a microphone.

Unfortunately, the afternoon we were due to record my part in the podcast, I had all three. Just fifteen minutes before we were due to start on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, my flat was surrounded by sound effects that Stephen Spielberg couldn’t have bettered in a disaster movie. As the forestry workers’ saws were several decibels quieter than the Saugbagger out front, I decided the back room would be best. I shut all shutters, doors and windows and crossed my fingers.

The link arrived for me to enter the recording area (there’s probably a more technical term for this) and I clicked through. Unfortunately, while I did get in, my incredibly ancient laptop went on strike when it came to coping with the sound aspect, which is sort of the important bit with a podcast. Cue panic in Switzerland…

Nothing fazes Hobeck Books, however. It’s always very reassuring when you’re attempting something new with professionals who really know what they’re doing. Within minutes, Adrian had organised an alternative platform, and as an added bonus, the forestry workers had left the woods. A quick try-out, and the interview began, though my heart rate was still hovering in panic mode. Adrian started his introduction, and was halfway through this when the Saugbagger crashed into double action on the street. There I was, in a dim room with an ancient laptop, WWIII noises coming from outside, peering at my screen and thinking, ‘Am I doing this right? They’ve switched off visual. How do you switch off visual? That *!?* Saugbagger!! Oh, it’s my turn – what was the question???’

After the terror of the first two minutes, though, I settled down, and having lived with the Saugbagger for nearly a week by then, I was able to ignore it most of the time. I did once forget what the question was halfway through my answer, but that could happen to anyone – couldn’t it? By the end of the interview I was having fun just chatting to Adrian and Rebecca, and was quite sorry to stop.

That evening, I phoned Son 2. ‘You need an external microphone for your main computer,’ he informed me helpfully. ‘I’ll get you one.’ Nothing like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, is there? I was very relieved when I heard the finished interview and realised the Saugbagger wasn’t part of it. I don’t know if it was cleverly edited out, or if my incredibly ancient laptop just failed to pick it up. There are times when ancient technology can be an advantage.

If you want to listen to that podcast or any of the others, click the Hobcast icon at the top of the sidebar for details. And tune into the blog next week for the second Classic Comfort post, with crime writer Kerena Swan’s choice of books.

*Saugbagger: The English translation is: suction excavator. (It’s always fun when you learn new words in your mother-tongue.) Basically, a Saugbagger vacuums up stones, bricks and rubble, which rattle along the tube at the back end before crashing into the interior. Not a silent procedure…

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The ‘V’ 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’ve arrived at ‘V’:

A Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mystery

What would you do if you discovered you had a brother you never knew existed?
On her deathbed, Freda Duckworth confesses to giving birth to an illegitimate child in 1944 and temporarily placing him in a children’s home. She returned later, but he had vanished. 

What happened to the child? Why did he disappear? Where did he go? 
Jayne Sinclair, genealogical investigator, is faced with lies, secrets, and one of the most shameful episodes in recent history as she attempts to uncover the truth.
Can she find the vanished child?

Every childhood lasts a lifetime.

This book is the fourth in Martin Lee’s Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mystery series, but they can easily be read as standalone novels. I read this one a couple of years ago, and I was gripped. Unimaginable that this happened to so many children in our recent history.

The most popular fiction series ever written about the nursing world…

Sue Barton, now a fully qualified nurse, goes to work in the city slums as a Henry Street Visiting Nurse. She puts her engagement to Bill, a young doctor, to one side while she concentrates on all the demands of her job. Here in the city, Sue has never been needed so desperately, and fired with enthusiasm, she tramps the streets of New York.

I loved the Sue Barton books when I was a child. This one is the third of six, and they’re all still in my bookcase today. They’re one of the reasons I went in for physiotherapy – and the underground corridors in my training hospital had cockroaches too, just like in the first Sue book!

“Villette! Villette! . . . It is a still more wonderful book than Jane Eyre.” George Eliot

Villette recounts the true story of Brontë’s unrequited love for a married schoolmaster through the adventures of her novel’s heroine, Lucy Snowe, who, after disaster strikes, travels to the fictional French town of Villette to teach at a girls’ school.

Villette is a moving tale of repressed feelings and subjection to cruel circumstance and position, borne with heroic fortitude. Rising above the frustrations of confinement within a rigid social order, it is also the story of a woman’s right to love and be loved.

This isn’t my favourite Brontë book, but it’s still fascinating. I haven’t read it for years, but having watched the excellent film To Walk Invisible since then, I’m gong to have another read of it someday.

Next time, it’s the ‘W’ books – I’m sure you can guess what the children’s book will be!

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Coronavirus winter – hope hurts…

Spring starts two weeks today, so we’re entering the final stages of this coronavirus winter. And it’s just over a year ago, on February 28th 2020, that the first restrictions here in Switzerland took hold – carnival balls and processions were cancelled, along with all other mass events.

Ah well, we thought. Next year. Ha. We haven’t had a mass event since, and when they’ll start again is anyone’s guess.

Next weekend  is Son 1’s birthday. Last year the birthday celebration plans were downsized to lunch à trois on a restaurant terrace on a pretty chilly day.

Ah well, we thought. Next year. Ha. This year’s restrictions are even tougher (and quite right too).

Some things we know we’ll laugh about, later. Next year? Hm… If anyone had told me last March that I’d choose to keep my face mask on for the 25-minute walk home from Coop, because at minus 12°C with a stiff north wind adding to the chill factor, wearing my mask was a whole lot more comfortable than taking it off, well, I might not have believed them. And if they’d told me I’d be halfway home from Aldi on a perfectly nice spring day before realising I hadn’t taken my mask off, I definitely wouldn’t have believed them. And if you started to make a list of all the things we haven’t done for over a year now – but that’s a seriously bad idea.

And yet there’s hope – the vaccines, the game-changers, the things that have turned this marathon into a waiting game. But that can be hard to deal with too, because hope hurts. Dark thoughts circle at 3am. What if it goes wrong? What if the vaccine stops working? What if a new variant starts everything up again and the prospect of normal life is snatched away? Good sense returns at 7am and we know there’d be a way out of all those scenarios, but still…

The waiting game continues, and it’s my grandmother who helps me most these days. She’s long gone now, but she lived through WWI and the Spanish Flu pandemic as well as WWII, and I don’t remember her ever moaning about any of them. They all became memories afterwards while she concentrated on living her life.

And that’s what we have to do, too. Let’s restart the roaring twenties – next year?

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Classic Comfort reads…

Now that the A-Z of books is drawing to a close (it’s the letter V next), I thought I’d start a new +/- monthly series, and this time, let other people choose the books too. I’m starting today, and next month, crime writer Kerena Swan is going to tell us about her favourites. The idea is, each person chooses a favourite title from the classics and a favourite ‘comfort read’ – a book they always return to, for whatever reasons. As third book in each Classic Comfort post, we’ll have one by the featured writer. My choices:

Classic:

One of my all-time favourites is A Room With A View, which has also been very successfully filmed. I love the way the book takes us to the Italy of the time and back to rural England, and Lucy is a very sympathetic protagonist as she takes in the sights and deals with cousin Charlotte, as well as growing up and falling in love. Nostalgia, travel and history all have a part in this novel – and it’s a fabulous love story as well!

Comfort:

I hope it’s not odd to have ‘a shock-packed chiller’ as my comfort read, but there’s something about Coma that keeps me coming back to it. Maybe because, as an ex-physiotherapist, I find hospital novels of all kinds fascinating, or maybe it’s because I first read it in the late 1970s, and associate it with those heady teenage ‘anything is possible’ days. I went on to read almost every book Robin Cook wrote, so he’s definitely an all-time favourite writer.

My book:


Daria’s Daughter is set in Glasgow and was published last Tuesday by Hobeck Books – and it’s a kindle bargain this weekend.

A mother and daughter torn apart
An explosive accident on the way to Glasgow airport leaves Daria hurt, bereaved and confused. Her daughter has vanished without a trace and nobody is telling her what happened. Evie’s gone. That’s all. Gone. What does Daria have left to live for?

A mother and daughter reunited
Margie can’t believe it. Bridie is hurt. Bridie needs her. They manage to escape the smoke, the noise and the confusion. They are together, that’s all that matters. Everything will be better in the morning, Margie tells Bridie. And it will.

The bonds that never break
Will Daria ever be able to put the pieces of her tattered life back together after the loss of her daughter? Is it possible that things aren’t quite as they seem? Can the unimaginable turn out to be the truth?

Click HERE to see the book on Amazon.

At the end of March, crime writer Kerena Swan will tell us about two of her favourite books and choose one of her own to complete the trio. Next week, we’re having a snippet of daily life in pandemic Switzerland – see you then!

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A sneak peek inside Daria’s Daughter… #newbook

I’m very excited about my new book, published next week by the lovely people at Hobeck Books. It’s set in my old home town, Glasgow, so today we’ll have a look at some of the places in the book, and I’ll share the first chapter with you too.

Glasgow is a green and leafy place, as you can see from the photo below. Every time I visit, it strikes me how wide the sky feels in Scotland. My main characters, Daria, Liane and Margie all live on the south side of the city, where I grew up.

Below is the kind of street where the dress shop Liane worked in might be found. It could also be where Margie goes searching at the end of the book, desperate to find her little Bridie.

Like many buildings in Glasgow, the Art Gallery and Museum is built in lovely warm red sandstone. Liane and her daughter Frith always enjoy a visit here; as well as the paintings, the gallery has plenty of child-friendly animal and dinosaur exhibits.

And just a few miles outside the city, you find scenery like this. Daria came here to plant a memory tree for little Evie.

Three little girls: Frith loved life. Evie was going to Spain.
And Bridie – Bridie belonged to the past…

(Apologies for the somewhat gappy appearance of the text. If anyone knows how to indent paragraphs easily in WordPress, do let me know.)

Daria’s Daughter

Chapter One

They would miss their flight if the taxi didn’t come in the next five minutes. Daria stood at her first-floor living room window, peering up the street. And oh, glory, as if there wasn’t enough to worry about – the thunder that had growled in the distance for the past hour was rumbling ever louder, and look at those clouds. Her shoulders slumped as the sun vanished abruptly and fat raindrops spattered across the window, transforming the street below from Glasgow dustiness into a slick dark stripe, punctuated by blobs of hailstones that melted to join the torrents scudding along in the gutters. Daria leaned her head on the window. A spring storm when she had to get her daughter, along with everything the two of them would need over the next couple of weeks, into a taxi, out again at the airport, into the terminal building and through departures – it was exactly what she didn’t need.

‘Where’s Daddy?’ Four-year-old Evie pushed in front of Daria’s legs to see outside, her pink ‘ready for the taxi’ jacket matching her hot little face.

Daria held out her hand. ‘Come on, we’ll wait downstairs. Daddy’s at a conference in Stirling – remember he said bye-bye yesterday? Got your rucksack?’

Evie ran to fetch the pink elephant rucksack she’d left on the sofa. ‘Daddy’s in Stirling?’

They’d been through it a million times, but what did Stirling mean to a child who’d never been there? Daria dredged up a calm-Mummy smile.

‘That’s right. And today we’re going to visit Grandma and Grandpa in Spain, and Daddy’s coming to join us next week.’

Case, daughter, handbag, travel bag. Daria pulled out her compact and checked her make up. She would do. Come on, Daria, you can do this.

Downstairs, they stood in the shelter of the doorway, Evie leaning out to catch stray raindrops with her tongue while Daria fumbled for her phone. She was still scrolling down her contacts for the minicab company when a blue and white taxi screeched around the corner and pulled up by the gate. At last.

Thank heavens the airport was a mere fifteen minutes away; they would make it. Daria pulled Evie’s hood over her head and wheeled the case down the path to meet the taxi driver, who was standing beside his vehicle glowering at them. He heaved their case into the boot, and Daria opened the back door.

‘In we get, Evie-love.’ She fastened Evie’s seat belt, then her own. Her daughter was a slight little thing and it was never a good feeling in a cab, when Evie had no child seat. Another reason to be thankful the airport was so near. Daria sat tapping her fingertips together as the driver organised his meter and turned on the engine. Come on, come on, we have to go.

The rain intensified as they crawled along to the main road and joined a column of blurry red lights as every commuter in the city headed homewards for the weekend. A band of tension tightened around Daria’s head. They had less than twenty minutes now and they were inching along at a speed she could have matched on foot.

‘We’ll take the back road.’ The driver pulled into a side street, and Daria breathed out. Traffic was flowing here, albeit slowly, but they were on their way at last. She put an arm around Evie and the little girl beamed up at her, then reached across to take Daria’s hand and oh, it was so lovely, travelling with her daughter. They were picking up speed all the time; it was going to be all right. They cut round the back of the cemetery and picked up speed again. This was better.

Daria leaned over to kiss Evie’s damp little forehead, then jerked back in horror as a deep horn blared and headlights from an approaching lorry swept through the cab. A single, sickening scream left Daria’s soul as Evie’s rucksack scratched across her forehead and the taxi skewed sideways, only to be hit from behind and flipped skywards. Her arms opened in search of her child, but she was pitched across the car, twisting in the air as metal tore around her, and–

She was flying. Daria clutched at empty air, then crashed down, rolling over and over, more screams coming from a distance. Hers? Her leg, her arm, oh please, Evie.

Silence. Stillness. Pain. Daria sank into darkness, but far, far away, something was buzzing, irritating. Find Evie, you have to find Evie. Swirling grey shapes replaced the darkness, but breathing was agony and she couldn’t move her leg. Darkness was hovering; God no, she mustn’t die here. A thunderclap above, and stinging rain soaked through her hair, running down her cheeks, down her neck. Far-away voices were screaming behind her, Evie’s high-pitched wail the nearest.

Evie, oh baby, Mummy’s here.

Daria fought to call to her child, but black pain was all around now, no, no, she was going to pass out. Her fingers splayed and met wet plastic: Evie’s rucksack. Wailing sirens swooped closer as Daria fought to stay awake. Please, somebody come…

The background shouts were still too far away to help when the choking smell of petrol reached Daria’s nose. And everything went black. 


The book comes out on Tuesday, and if you haven’t read my novella The Clarice Cliff Vase yet, you can get it free right now by subscribing to Hobeck Books on their website.

I’ll leave you with another Glasgow photo.

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The ‘U’ 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.

An emotionally gripping story of love and forgiveness

Six-year-old Karla longs for her dead mother. Anna struggles with her husband’s deception, and Jonas mourns the death of his wife. Together they battle the demons of their past.

Three people with a troubled past meet in Zurich, Switzerland. While caring for and teaching little Karla, who promises to be a talented painter, Anna and Jonas fall in love, but sinister events in their past threaten their budding romance.

An Uncommon Family
is a story about loss, lies and betrayal, but also about the healing power of love and art. It takes place in Switzerland, New York City, and Guadalajara, Mexico.

I always look forward to meeting Swiss-American Christa Polkinhorn in Zurich when she’s home for a few weeks. Her book gives a real flavour of the city, and An Uncommon Family is a lovely story.

Step into a world of enchanted forests and magical creatures, where every page takes the reader on a wondrous journey.

Incredible realms await, with unicorns, fairies, mermaids, and dragons, and so much more. Together with beautiful illustrations, this collection of short stories and poems will capture the hearts of children of all ages and transport them on a magical adventure.

A fairy stuck in a wishing well. A mermaid who can’t swim. A girl who doesn’t know she’s a witch. A mystical portal that leads to another land. These are just some of the enchanting tales that will spark every child’s imagination.

I read this book as an ARC last year – wish it had been around when my children were small! Sarah Northwood and Julia Clements have a wonderful website, too, with puzzles and downloadable pictures to colour in.

A gorgeously hopeful book

When Harold Fry nips out one morning to post a letter, leaving his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other.

He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone. All he knows is that he must keep walking. To save someone else’s life.

Harold Fry is the most ordinary of men. He just might be a hero for us all.

I loved Harold Fry when I read this several years ago now – he’s such an unlikely hero, and I agree with The Times – the book’s impossible to put down.

Next time, it’s the ‘V’ books. Not the easiest letter, especially as I’ve made it a rule to include only books I’ve read anyway, and not buy them especially for this series. But there’s a cunning plan…

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Alison Gray and Peony Rose…

Alison Gray is no stranger to my blog, so I was really pleased last week to hear she had released Peony Rose, the final instalment of her DS Abby Foulkes crime series. Getting this book finished is in itself a huge achievement, and it’s very fitting that it was published in the same week we mark World Cancer Day.
As many of you will know, Alison isn’t on social media now, so it’s up to us to spread the word.

Alison Gray and I first became friends on Facebook, then the following year we met up in real life to go to the Edinburgh Book Festival, so she’s been there since the start of my life in the writing community.

2014 – Crime writers wore turquoise that year.

Peony Rose is the fourth of her series, which moves to and fro between the Aegean and the northeast of England. They’re all lovely reads; Alison’s writing style makes you feel as if she’s right there in the room with you when you’re reading.

Here are the four Abby books:

You can find them all HERE on Alison’s Amazon author page. In Peony Rose, Abby is on maternity leave, juggling a baby, a nine-year old and a long-distance relationship, but she still manages to investigate when a woman goes missing.
The book can be read as a standalone, but if you’re new to the series, why not start with Hotel Hibiscus Fruit, and get the whole story?


While we’re here, I’ll just give a mention to Alison’s standalone suspense novel Out of the Tower, one of my all-time favourite reads and the first of her books I read. I raced through it almost in one sitting.

Out of the Tower is set in west central Scotland, my old stamping ground, and tells the story of seven-year-old Jemima, whose father and uncle disappear very mysteriously. When Jemima is old enough, she leaves home to find out more…

Alison Gray was born and grew up in Scotland during the 1960s and 1970s. She has lived in the northeast of England since the 1980s.

Her first novel, Out of the Tower, was shortlisted for the Constable Trophy, a competition for the best unpublished novel by a writer from the north of England. It was described by the judges as powerful, strong, heartfelt, admirably tense, a work of great promise.

The Abby Foulkes mysteries are set in Newcastle upon Tyne and the Aegean. The second mystery – Lady’s Slipper – won Indie Book of the Day Award in November 2015 and the third – Forget-me-not Blues – was picked as an Official Selection in the Mystery Category of the 2017 New Apple Summer E-Book Awards.

Her book Growing the Light outlines a journey through primary breast cancer, looking at conventional and alternative treatments, and Living a Spiritual Life in the 21st Century is a collection of spiritual learnings, reflections and applications in life as we live it in the 21st Century.

Alison’s books can all be purchased here, and you can find out more about them by putting her name into the search box at the top of the blog sidebar above right.

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