Find a compartment labelled ‘do not disturb’ in my handbag

Just for the Holidays

Sue Moorcroft

A book about a midlife crisis and teenagers but the book had me at helicopter pilot! 

 

 

Click here to buy on Amazon

I have been waiting for weeks to meet Leah. As soon as the book arrived, I made myself some strong coffee and lost myself in France.

As I opened the book, I could feel the ‘sheen on my skin where the sunshine streamed in through the window’. But the book isn’t just about the shimmering heat, a fast heart beat and copious amounts of rosé pamplemousse.  It is a wonderfully witty book that isn’t ‘Just for the Holidays’ because the consequences of the holiday will last forever.  This novel examines the fragility of the ‘protective shell’ surrounding teenagers that can shatter without their parents.  In turn, Moorcroft also shows how adult are left vulnerable and exposed when relationships breakdown.  However, you will still laugh all the way through novel and forget that you need to go to sleep – hence strong coffee needed.  You will also crave some expensive chocolate.

Prior to reading this novel, I was unaware of the challenges facing Leah as I had focused on the trail of clues in the #PostcardsJFTH.  One must admire Leah as she ‘rolls up her sleeves’, supports everyone and hopes that the ‘frost’ will thaw between her sister and brother-in-law. Leah’s ‘heart twists’ for the teenagers but also flutters when she feels the heat from a certain man. It is moving that Leah has an incredible capacity to empathise, putting the needs of others first.  It is equally endearing that she removes the halo from time to time. Who wouldn’t want Leah, with her ‘sunny personality’ and compassion, as a sister?

The narrative is as fast paced as Leah’s Porsche, but one longs to find out if the romance will become a harmonious melody rather than a sporadic drum beat.  Besides the events rolling on, there is a tremendous lyrical quality to the dialogue that drives you through the events.  The humour sparkles throughout the interactions and difficult situations. I am in awe of the way in which Moorcroft combines humour with a more challenging and sensitive subject.   Characters are built with precision as each word is selected with tender loving care: Moorcroft cares about her characters thus ensuring that the reader will also suffer from a ‘sore heart’ at times.

Read it and you will understand why Leah needs to get a massive ‘Do not disturb’ sign on her door.

A whole constellation of stars to be awarded to Sue Moorcroft for this funny, poignant yet heart-breaking read!  Must go now and bake the quick pecan toffee pudding to console myself for having finished the book.

Please see my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Originally posted 2017-05-20 08:28:52.

A pocket full of love, letters and loneliness in my handbag

Letters to Eloise 

Emily Williams

 

 

 

 

 

Set in the nineties, this first-person narrative is a tender tale of life’s journey. Initially, one can luxuriate in simplicity of university life until the narrative and the mystery begin to unfold.  Flora, ‘beautiful and talented’ is an engaging, likeable character from the outset.  Letters to Flora’s unborn child will be constructed from her inner dialogue.

The people in Flora’s life construct the narrative threads.  Although, surrounded by supportive friends and family, Flora is secretive.  Friends and family love Flora and there are tender moments.  For instance, the letter that Flora’s father writes to the unborn child is incredibly moving. Her mother’s silent support is beautiful while support from her friends evoke humour.  The constant in the narrative is the developing relationship that Flora has with Little Bump.  Flora’s experience of her difficult pregnancy and analysis of her relationships pull the reader into the story.  Is Flora hiding something?  Each time it seems as if a mystery has been solved, the narrative moves on.  Initially, the mystery of the child’s father intrigues.  The reader longs for a certain man to be the father, yet the undertones of something unsettling unnerves and nudges the reader.

As you get to know Flora, you want to protect and support her and Little Bump.  Flora’s need to confide in Little Bump successfully confirms her loneliness. One questions if she is truly’ happy’.  Flora seems naïve, vulnerable yet she successfully analyses her role in the two relationships in her life.  She explores how the relationships developed and moulded to the circumstances.  The juxtaposition of the two relationships reveal insight into Flora’s psyche. With one lover, she experienced the ‘distant music that guided our feet and our entwined bodies did the rest’. This is juxtaposed with ‘I winced. I glared around the small pungent smelling storeroom.’  Here, the discomfort is clearly signified in the language choices and reinforced through the punctuation.  One wants to warn Flora but was she already aware of it?  She is a clever student.

The plot moves in and out of contrasting past experiences with the two lovers.  Flora is ‘not entirely comfortable’, at times, and neither is the reader.   Humour is contrasted with despair.  A secretive, cliched relationship is compared with a natural, good humoured relationship.  Surely, the unconfessed love that she ‘wished [she] had told him’ is the shadow that is pressing on Flora’s mind.  Her memories of happier times provide support for Flora during the isolation of her pregnancy.  Williams skilfully builds layers of intrigue.  Flora becomes trapped in events and her silence.  She admits that:

‘It is all a cruel game, this life of mine, as I begin to lose track of what is real and what isn’t.’

The real cruelty isn’t fully in focus until the end of the novel. This novel is intriguing and offers far more than the blurb promises.  I completed the novel in the early hours of the morning as I could not abandon Flora.  This is a powerful exploration of a mother’s love for her unborn child, first love, seduction and love for family and friends.  Williams successfully explores some complex and challenging themes and places betrayal at the core.

This is a clever debut novel that will move you.

 

Click to buy on Amazon

 

Please see all my reviews at Books in Handbag and my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Originally posted 2017-07-19 07:00:35.

The Old Friend in my Handbag

Carol Drinkwater’s The Forgotten Summer is safely stored in my handbag and can be enjoyed at any time, but a generous glass of Chateauneuf du Pape is a recommended companion.

I devoured Drinkwater’s memoirs and drank up her wisdom, and her novel, Forgotten Summer, did not disappoint me.  Drinkwater wraps up her nuggets of wisdom, and powerful observations, in a beautifully crafted narrative.

This is so much more than the story of an English girl that fell in love with a Frenchman.  Jane’s memories of her life, thirty years on, are the starting point for Jane’s exploration of another world that her husband inhabited.

Read the complete review of Forgotten Summer in My Reading.

 

Drinkwater books are like my old friends.  I started this reading friendship with the Olive Farm books.

I escaped into the world of Apassionata immediately. I could feel the heat of the sun on my face as I ran away to the Mediterranean, with the narrator’s voice in my head. The descriptions are vivid, soothing and thoroughly necessary; they nourish the imagination and transport you.

Read the complete review of The Olive Farm in My Reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Originally posted 2017-04-03 19:40:28.

An Infuriating Addition to my Handbag

Yuki Chan in Brontë Country 

 Mick Jackson

 

This was an oddly infuriating and fascinating book.  I liked the character of Yuki and the bizarre insight into her world. 

I bought the book because I like the Bronte books, especially Wuthering Heights, and expected to find a kindred spirit and some insight .  At first, I was furious with comments such as:

‘In Japan, an old house like this would have been flattened and rebuilt half a dozen time, along with every other building in the town.’

 

 

Please the full review on My Reading page.

 

Check out my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Originally posted 2017-04-01 16:43:55.

Welcome to Books in my Handbag

Check out my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Hello,

Once upon a time my shelves were groaning with the weight of a lifetime of purchases. I didn’t have the money to move so I had to take the books to the charity shop. Inspired by all of those women, in all of those novels; it felt great to be helping others and starting a new life.

Several weeks later, after many car trips, I was stressed, and I heard some dramatic music playing in my head..da! da! dum! Following the music, there was a silence…. I was throwing away all of the voices that had influenced me over the years – but then Mr Kindle came to the rescue. I can now carry all of the narrative voices, with me, in my handbag – result! And now, I will share the books in my handbag with my readers.

Anyway, here goes. I am a complete novice at this but I am excited at the idea of blogging and mapping out my interest and comments. Obviously, I can’t fit my ideas in my handbag so I will have to put them here. I am prepared that this could be rather chaotic, but if people read it then I will feel committed to them. Let’s face it, this is just another way of talking, and if no one listens then I will just talk to myself.

Please see My Reading to see which books I have reviewed in my handbag.

If you would like to know about what inspired me to write a book see My Writing.

Jessie

 

Check out my blog at jessiecahalin.com

 

Originally posted 2017-03-29 20:42:23.

Cramming my bag full of Angela Petch’s books and her lovers of Italian

Angela Petch 

 

Books in my Handbag is delighted to welcome the inspirational Angela Petch to the Chat Room

‘I’m inquisitive about different cultures and people. Writers are usually nosy, I think.’

Angela Petch was born in Germany, brought up in Italy and England, worked in Amsterdam, Sicily and Tanzania, East Africa. It is no wonder that she is ‘inquisitive about people and culture’. We can also thank Angela’s late father for introducing her to Italy, and I feel certain that he would have been proud of her writing.  Her colourful life is reflected in her colourful writing pallet.  Angela is sensitive, funny and creative: the perfect qualities for a writer

Angela has published ‘Tuscan Roots’ and ‘Now and Then in Tuscany’.  Currently, she is working on the frolics and escapes of ‘Mavis and Dot’- need I say more?

Always full of joie de vivre, Angela insisted that we open a bottle of Prosecco before we commenced the chat.  The sun was shining and butterflies dancing in the Italian garden as we commenced the conversation.

I adore ‘Now and Then in Tuscany’, but please capture your novel in forty words…

Now and Then in Tuscany is a historical narrative which oozes love for Italy and its culture.

The saga of three generations of a Tuscan family which recalls recent hardships and traditions of country life, too easily forgotten in today’s affluent and comfortable Europe.

Absolutely, these elements were beautifully presented in the novel. Now here’s another challenge, read me an extract that captures the essence of your book.

“The ancient wheel beside the convent door stood waiting … like the mouth of a hungry beast, ready for me to place the baby in its wooden drum and push it to the inside of the orphanage.”

You paint the experiences and emotions with words and tell a heart-breaking yet beautiful story. What do the reviewers say about your 5* novel?  Angela searched through the Amazon reviews while I ate crostini. 

This is no disappointment! What-happened-next books are so often disappointing. After the enchanting ‘Tuscan Roots’ (Angela Petch’s first novel set in Tuscany) I was almost afraid to read on. I needn’t have worried. This new book, which continues the story of Anna and Francesco Starnucci, like its predecessor blends a modern-day story with family history in an intricate weaving of now and then. Once again, the author’s love of the landscape and people of this beautiful region shine through, but this is far from being a mere travelogue. Angela Petch is an inspired storyteller who knows how to blend in a touch of mystery to keep the reader guessing.

Reviewer: Perdisma on 13 May 2017

Fascinating people and places. It reminds me in many ways (though it’s much less relentlessly tragic!) of “The Tree of Wooden Clogs”, the prize-winning film by Ermanno Olmi – it has the same intensely imagined and exquisitely detailed recreation of a lost way of life. The photographs are part of this too – at first sight they’re just grainy little black and white images, but each one explains and is explained by the text, so that the more you read the more alive they seem, like Facebook pages from a hundred years ago.
Reviewer:  Rose on Amazon 11 May 2017

Beautifully written and researched. This is a beautifully written and researched family saga that spans three generations of an Italian family. Giuseppe comes from a poor village in Tuscany where the rhythm of life is set by the Catholic Church and the menfolk’s annual winter pilgrimage to warmer winter grazing land for the sheep… The book is full of a subtle yearning. The prose is evocative. The historical narrative is impressively authentic and riven with the author’s love of her subject.

By CA reviews on 7 May 2017

I am not surprised that you have received such accolades that all are all genuinely inspired by your storytelling.  The book has been a labour of love so how did you feel when you had finished the book?

I felt a mixture of relief and sadness when I had finished writing the book. This book took me five years to research and write. At times, it was an agonising process. I struggled with the balance between history and narrative, fearing that my desire to include details about the era was pushing the plot out of shape. At first, I listened to the reactions of too many Beta readers and grew despondent and confused. But I wanted desperately to give birth to “Now and Then in Tuscany”, as I felt it was a period of history that needed to be recorded. I had help from a professional editor in the end.

It is so reassuring to hear that such a great book is the result of a challenging journey.  Do you miss the characters?

I still miss my main character, Giuseppe. He is so firmly placed in the location where we live in Tuscany that I’m sure I catch glimpses of him every now and again as he strides along the mule track.

Two weeks ago, we ate in the old stone house that I had imagined was his. I’m sure he was sitting in a corner by the stove, listening to our conversation and smiling wryly at the way we enjoyed the meal so much: our friend had recreated a peasant’s meal of nettle soup and frittata prepared with the tips of Vitalba (Old Man’s Beard). We enjoyed it as if it were a delicacy. But he would have eaten these ingredients out of necessity.

Would you like any of your characters to read the book, or maybe there is someone else that you have in mind?

My father, Kenneth Sutor, who died twenty six years ago. He introduced his three young children to Italian culture in the 1960’s, when he relocated to Rome to work for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. I still have his 1956 edition of Hachette’s World Guide to Italy that he carried in his pocket for our excursions. Every Sunday he would take us to Mass and afterwards treat the family to a slap-up meal in a simple trattoria. Then, out would come his little blue book and we would be guided round the Villa d’Este or the Via Appia Antica, Colosseum, Subiaco, Assisi…He refused to have us penned up in an apartment in the centre of Rome and found us a ramshackle villa on the outskirts of Rome. The garden was stuffed with Roman statues, orange trees and bordered by vineyards and peach groves. How could I, as an impressionable seven year old, fail to fall in love with Italy?  He was self-educated. Today he would have enjoyed a university education but his family were not wealthy enough to support him. I remember him often engrossed in a history book, reading glasses perched on the end of his nose.

I know you can’t say, but I wonder if I can sense your father in Giuseppe…  I am sure that your father would have been so proud of your book.

I would have loved to see him read my books. Undoubtedly, he would have pointed out the warts but I think he might have been proud of me too. He loved Italy and, on my mother’s request, I scattered his ashes on Italian soil.

I don’t need to be convinced but why should I keep your book in my handbag?

If you are the type of person who recognises that understanding the past helps towards an understanding of the future…

If you want to explore a beautiful and little-known corner of Eastern Tuscany…

If you want to read the story of a young boy with a big heart who overcomes adversity…

If you want to weep and smile at Tuscan love stories…

Then, find a space in your handbag for “Now and Then in Tuscany”.

What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook? Angela poured herself another glass of Prosecco and wiped the condensation from the glass. There was a distinct look of mischief in Angela’s eyes as she read the following line:

“…a fluttering of fans from menopausal worshippers, in a church smelling of candle wax and cold, cold stone…”

(For an idea for my WIP, “The Adventures of Mavis and Dot”).

What is the biggest challenge for an independent author?

Getting noticed. To be read in a competitive world where thousands of self-published authors are jostling for space. Engaging with social media has been my biggest challenge but it is the springboard. For a child of the ‘50’s, it doesn’t come easy. I was advised to set up a Twitter account. “Look for like-minded people,” was the advice from a writer friend. So, I typed “Lovers of Italian” in the search bar. I shall leave it to your imagination about the photos of gigolos and semi-naked escorts that popped up. Learning curve is the phrase that is constantly on the tip of my independent author’s tongue.

What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?

Just write. Get it down, capture your words before they fly away.

Afterwards you will have to check and chop, but just write first. In order to have something to work on, just write. I don’t believe in writer’s block.

I agree with you!  Just let the writing flow and banish writer’s block.  Does the countryside inspire you to write more than the city environment?

I like cities in small doses – for the theatre, concerts, art galleries, museums and monuments – but my heart sings in the countryside. I have played tennis all my life but at the moment I need a shoulder operation, so I can’t. Instead, I go for wonderful walks in the mountains. Better than a sweaty gym, any day.

Following the interview, I meandered down an ancient track. I reflected that we are all influenced by the past and the present. And I pondered whether anyone would make a wonderful art house film of Now and Then in Tuscany – the setting is there waiting to be captured on film. 

 

Please see My Guests for all the authors that I have interviewed.

 

Originally posted 2017-06-17 07:00:18.

Nail-biting thriller in my handbag to read on the go

Jenn Bregman 

 

 

 

 

Author, lawyer and adventurer, Jenn Bregman, stopped off in Wales whilst visiting the UK.  She stayed in the Brecon Beacons Mountain Range, so I drove out there, from Cardiff, to meet up with her. The year before, Jenn had just completed a reverse summit of the Grand Canyon, after having trekked up the 14,265 foot Quandary Peak in Colorado; she was on a roll to tackle even more hiking. We agreed to walk the summit of Pen y Fan and to chat at the same time.  I packed a picnic so that we could stop on route to chat.

The clouds over head looked ominous but we did not let that deter us from ascending the mountain.   The refreshing temperature was ideal for the climb over the rocky footpath.    As a lawyer, Jenn wears lots of formal suits, so she loves to really mix it up her outfits outside work.  She was wearing a red and white handkerchief shirt with her work-horse khaki hiking pants. Her brilliant green jacket matched her multi -pocketed rucksack. There was a copy of her book peeping out of one of the pockets of her rucksack.

Jessie:  I haven’t read your book so can you tell me more about it?

Jenn Bregman

Jenn removed a, well worn, copy of her book, ‘The TimeKeepers’.  The dramatic cover of a clock set against a background of the City of Los Angeles in muted blues and stark black, couldn’t have screamed “thriller” better.

Jenn: When attorney Sarah Brockman witnesses a random horrific car crash, she is thrust into the darkest shadows of Big Law greed and murder where she must not only confront a cunning and deranged adversary, but her own secret fears, if she is going to win.

Jessie:  The book sounds thrilling and complex.  Where did you get the ideas for the narrative?  Did your research it or do you have experience in this area of life?

Jenn:  It is all pulled from my experiences as a lawyer.  I worked in Big Law and I wanted to do work that made a difference.  Fortunately, I have always worked in firms that had the highest standards of ethics and personal responsibility, but in my practice, I came in contact with others that I could imagine could do things like some of the cunning and deranged antagonists in the book.

Jessie:  This kind of suspense legal thriller is very popular.  What do the reviewers say?

Jenn removed her mobile phone to search for the reviews.

Jenn:

Publishers Weekly: “Bregman’s legal thriller featuring a plucky solo practitioner fighting for the little guy should appeal to John Grisham fans.”

Ridgely’s Radar: “OMG! Do you want a fast moving, edge of your seat, twisting and turning book that you can’t put down?  Well, I have a book for you and . . .this is a MUST READ!  I was so scared to turn the page and find out what happened, it was heart pounding suspenseful and I didn’t want it to end.  I really hope the author brings back a sequel . . . loved the characters and want to know what happens next!”

White Rhino Report: “The author dials in more than the average ratio of plot twists and surprises.  The pace of the action is break-neck, and the characters are colourful enough to be interesting and amusing.  I could not wait to find out what would happen next, and found myself rooting strongly for Sarah, and for Sam.”

Jessie:  I get the impression that the style of writing is controlled and the tone is edgy. Am I right?

Jenn: The story is character and dialogue driven and the action is break-neck.  You don’t catch your breath until the very end when all the pieces come together in a powerful conclusion that makes you wonder what the characters are going to do next.

Jessie:  Can you read me a brief extract from the book that captures the essence of the novel?

Jenn:  “But that was all it was — a small detail.  Neither she nor her lawyer would ever find the money.  It was too well hidden.  He made a note to transfer last month’s draw to his accounts at Obelisk Holdings.  Some details he did care about.”

Jessie: How did you feel when you finished writing your book? 

Jenn: Utterly exhausted.  I couldn’t even look at it for about two weeks!

Jessie: I think that it is normal to want a break from the book when it’s finished. Who would you like to read your book? 

Jenn:  I would like young women to read this book and know that they ARE good enough, that they can fight, and that they can WIN!

Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my bag? 

Jenn: Once you start, it’s like Lays potato chips – you can’t put it down!  I’ve had people tell me they were reading it at stoplights.  Not the best idea, to my mind.  But if you have it with you, you can read a couple quick pages while waiting in line at the bank, or at the car wash, or on the train!

Jessie:  What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?

Jenn: “Move it, now!”

Jessie: What’s the biggest challenge as a writer?

Jenn: Finding, not only enough time, but enough emotional and mental space to write.

Jessie:  Do you dedicate your time to writing or do you have to juggle it with another career?

Jenn:  I have twin 5 year old boys . . . ’bout sums it up!

Jessie: What is the best advice that you have been given as a writer?

Jenn: Finish the darn book already!

More about Jenn…

I am an explorer and adventurer who does, at least, one scary thing a day. My scariest to date is probably worming my way up to meet John Grisham at Book Expo/Book Con after my book signing in June and giving him a signed copy of my book!

I love animals to a fault, if there is such a thing. I have nurtured lizards, newts, turtles, cats, rescue animals of every persuasion growing up, but then had two rescue pug dogs that I still consider my first set of twins.

I am a horrible cook. My favourite story is hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for 20 where I bought most of the side dishes from a local food store.  Somehow, I couldn’t get even the side dishes warmed up satisfactorily in time so people were eating mashed potatoes that were cold at one end of the fork and warm at the other!  People were so kind, no one said a word until I sat down, started eating and started laughing at myself.  It turned into one of our best Thanksgivings ever!  I guess the take-away is “be thankful for your gifts and be thankful for the gifts of others!”

Best of luck to Jenn with her debut novel – ‘The TimeKeepers.  It is a fast-paced thriller: so, tighten your seatbelt, check your brakes and try not to skip a red light.  Prepare to plunge headlong into the depraved underbelly of Big Law and big money where greed is king, murder incidental, and winning is the only thing that matter.

 

Please see all of my interviews at My Guests and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.