Cycling fever in my handbag

French Revolutions:Cycling the Tour de France

Tim Moore

‘..clearly, here was an event that gripped the nation like no other and didn’t relax its grasp for twenty one whole days.’

Tour de Yorkshire fever is about to grip Yorkshire this Friday. In preparation for the race, I have placed a topical book, about cycling, in my handbag. Nowadays, I can’t wait to go and capture the atmosphere of this cycling event but I haven’t always been a fan! 

However, my husband has always been obsessed with the Tour de France and is glued to the television for three weeks during the tournament.  I could never understand the appeal; to me it seemed like endless scenery whizzing past.  I was not impressed when my husband decided to buy me a book about the event.  He assured me that I didn’t need to be an enthusiast to read French Revolutions by Tim Moore.

Annoyingly, I did love the book, and didn’t stop laughing; it was something to read whilst my husband watched the race.  It is an hilarious book about an amateur cyclist, aged 35, who decided to complete the Tour de France route six weeks before the big race.  Admittedly, you do learn about the event, but the book is crammed full of entertaining anecdotes. Moore’s style of writing just breezes along, punctuated with witty observations.

The book entertained me and managed to begin a revolution in my heart! I was nudged again when Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France, and then when the Tour de France visited Yorkshire.  It really was like a fever had swept through God’s own county.

Read the full article in My Reading .

 

I’ll leave you with the words of that great French cycling legend:

“It was like having a Tour de France stage in my home region, it was so amazing. I am not saying that because I am here, I really feel it. To see my name written on the road or on banners held by children really touches me. I have been a rider for 16 years and I have never seen anything like that.”

Thomas Voekler, France, Tour de Yorkshire Winner 2016

 

A tale of two continents

The Giants Look Down

 

Sonja Price

 

 

 

This gripping tale explores cultural differences, in two continents, through the life of Jaya and her brother.  An intelligent study of how one’s understanding of freedom is relative to education, experience and culture: a very poignant, contemporary message!

Jaya was born in a place where ‘the tiny mauve and yellow flowers danced in the breeze as the snowy summits of Pin Panjal meditated in the morning sun.’  Despite the beauty and implied freedom and romance of the landscape, the women are inhibited by their culture and the ugly politics of war torn Kashmir.  Jaya’s gentle, intelligent observations give an insight into her world as a Kashmiri girl.  Her mother asserts ‘you’re a girl’ and believes that ‘love rides on reason, not romance.’  It is clear Jaya is destined to search beyond this and it is impossible not to admire her questioning.

Jaya wishes on a ‘shooting star’ and the author maps out Jaya’s destiny beautifully.  The novel explores how the independent, free spirited mind can find flight if given the right opportunities.  But the opportunities must be accompanied with an inquiring mind. Jaya’s entrapment in Delhi is as stifling as the intense heat which ‘pressed down on city life like a giant hand.’ Her value, as a potential bride, diminishes once her parents have been killed.  She will find a way to escape a doomed arranged marriage – she is born to fight.

In contrast, Tahir, Jaya’s brother is forced to survive in a world of violence.  Here, Price examines how the innocent, accepting mind can become involved in terrorism.  Tahir’s life is written in the third person as he never finds his own voice.  Jaya’s story is written in the first person so that you can recognise her strength and identity.  She wants to be a wife ‘but (she) wasn’t going to give up everything.’  Ironically, the masculine stereotype and expectations shackle Tahir to a life of unfulfillment. Sadly, a lack of ambition and opportunity forces Tahir to accept his comrades as family.

Like her father, Jaya leaves ‘The Giants’ behind and moves to Scotland.  The cool Scottish breeze brings a fresh new perspective to Jaya’s life.  ‘The ocean! A slate grey stretching out to the horizon’ is symbolic of Jaya’s freedom and endless possibilities.  Meanwhile, her brother remains in Kashmir, and Tahir, believes the British to be the destructive force in his country.  He asks a British man, ‘Have you thought about the devastation your empire has left behind?’  He is unable to see how different cultures can collaborate and learn from each other. Tahir fights for his confused perception of freedom while his sister, Jaya, fights to save lives.  Jaya and Tahir’s father was a doctor. Jaya’s father involved her in his mission of caring for everyone, regardless of religion or race.

Jaya learns to inhabit the space between two cultures and finds her identity.  Her love for Alistair gives her stability, purpose and strength. Tahir is tormented by:

‘The poverty, the beauty, the peace and the violence.  Such extremes separated by the blink of an eyelid.

Tahir never examines his own world as he is too caught up in the conflict and grudges.   The natural ebb and flow of the Jaya’s narrative is enchanting while we never get inside of Tahir’s confused, inhibited mind.  The tale of two continents explores cultural difference: it is a wonderful book of contrasts.  For instance, the peaceful setting Kashmir Valley translates ‘paradise on earth’ yet it conceals conflict.  Jaya questions: ‘How could the landscape be beautiful when Alistair was suffering?’ Like Jaya, one must look beneath the surface.

This novel teaches us to have a respect and understanding of other cultures but we need the freedom to ask questions and pursue our ambition: above all, everyone needs to be loved. ‘Azadi’ (freedom) is a state of mind influenced by opportunities, the people we meet and the strength to ask pertinent questions.

A sensitive, well-crafted narrative that explores challenging themes through a beautiful central character. I recommend this novel wholeheartedly!

 

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

 

Will I need space for a broken heart in my handbag?

Now and Then in Tuscany

Angela Petch

Will I need space for a broken heart in my handbag? 

 

 

 

Click here to buy on Amazon

‘In my heart there was a storm that needed to break and my heart hurt like thorns on the wild rosa canina growing in the hedgerows…’

If you embark on this journey of discovery then be sure to prepare some delicious crostini, in advance, as you will not be able to put the book down….

This is a story of love wrapped up in an insight into rural history and customs of Tuscany. Meet ancient craftsmen and farmers, of Montebotolino, and marvel at the tenacity of their families; see how they survived difficult times.

The history of Giuseppe, a farrier and a cobbler, is completely absorbing.  Giuseppe was born at the beginning of last century.  His naivety leads him down some challenging paths, but this shapes the man, and ‘suffering begins the journey to wisdom.’   I found myself wanting to shout at Giuseppe and send him in the direction of love; the loves story is beautiful.

For me, the novel unlocked secrets of the enchanting holiday destination.  I have often wondered who had once walked along the ancient tracks, and who once lived in the ancient dwellings that nestle in the mountains.   As the title suggests, the reader delves into rural Tuscany as it is now and as it was back then at the beginning of last century. The reader has the privilege of meeting characters from the different generations and has more knowledge than the characters:  it is satisfying to fit the jigsaw together.  Indeed, there is a cleverly crafted narrative, in which there are emotional parallels in the lives of the characters from the past and the present.

Giuseppe’s grandson, Francesco, and his English wife, Anna have turned the ancient houses into holiday lets. Their son, Davide, encounters some of the emotional challenges of childhood that Giuseppe, his great-grandfather, had to face. Alba, Giuseppe’s great-granddaughter, faces choices about education very different to her great-grandparents.   Whilst Giuseppe’s grandson Francesco and his wife face different daily routines; this reminds us of how life has changed. However, the tenderness between the couples from both generations is crafted skilfully, and there is an exploration of love.

Life, in Montebotolino, was hard at the beginning of the last century.  Yet, the people had to make the most of nature’s larder, and the peasant food is so tempting.  It seems that the working people, from the past, shaped the menus in contemporary Italy, sadly many of their homes have been left empty as their lifestyle was too difficult. The charm, and majestic beauty of the Tuscan landscape is still there to seduce the modern traveller.  Fortunately, we can still see:

‘Cypress tree lined twisting white ribbon roads up hills towards impressive stone buildings…trees like stakes holding down the land.’

This story takes the reader beneath the surface of the magical holiday destination, associated with a paradise for the eye and the belly.

The transumanza is the Italian term for transhumance, the traditional twice yearly migration of sheep and cows from the highlands to the lowlands, and vice versa. The word literally means “crossing the land”. Ref:  Wikipedia

 

See My Reading for all my other reviews at jessiecahalin.com/my-reading/

See my blog at jessiecahalin.com

‘SHIP AHOY!’ There’s an entertaining mystery in my handbag

The Bookshop Detective 

Jan Ellis

 

It was a great treat for me to take another holiday in idyllic seaside town where:

‘To the east, the land fell away towards Combemouth; to the west a chain of scalloped shaped bays edged the land’.

The setting is vivid and the charming bookshop is inviting.  I settled back into my usual seat in The Reading Room and listened to the latest gossip.

Eleanor, the bookshop owner, is a kind, engaging character – she is someone that one could trust.  Her positive outlook led her to set up a new life in Combemouth six years ago.  Her philosophy of love is that ‘love is twenty percent attraction, thirty percent luck and fifty percent timing.’  She appreciates her good fortune to meet Dan and the fact that his love supports and guides her – proof that a second marriage can work. The previous book told Eleanor and Dan’s love story but this book tells a different kind of story.  In this novel, Eleanor is a glamorous, young ‘Mrs’ Marple:  forget the brogues, forget the tweed and dig out a vintage party frock.

The suspense story captured my imagination so much that I wanted to be there.  I could imagine a stage production of this mystery as it has all the right ingredients: the manor, the briefcase, the ring, the vicar…   Enter Eleanor, the Bookshop Detective, exit Dreary Deirdre.  Cue Daniel, waiting in the wings to support but something is troubling him. Is his ex-wife on the horizon?

Blow away the dust on Joshua’s books to reveal a ship. Can you see the ghost ship sailing in the distance and will this bring a bad omen?  Dim the lights as the ghost ship gets closer.  The characters present a tableau of the Victorian scenes.  But what happened to the poor boy who was flogged?  Can Eleanor’s investigation save the boy?  Why does someone think that Eleanor is ‘going to kill him?’

In a stage production, the actors would have to play many roles.  For instance, Erika and Deirdre could be the same actor, or could it be Erika and Daniel?  Could someone play the rock star and the vicar?  Surely Connie and Joyce could be the same actor.  Are there any clues here? You will have to read the book to find out.

I am getting carried away with this ‘detective lark’!  Jan Ellis is so clever at writing the dialogue that I became completely absorbed and wanted to be amid the drama.  Jan Ellis has skilfully woven the clues into the narrative.  I envied Eleanor’s knowledge and read the book greedily in one sitting.  I visited the bookshop, the fair and the parties so it was only right that I should be able to get involved in the investigation.

This book has been cleverly constructed so that it could be enjoyed without knowledge of Summer of Surprises and An Unexpected Affair.  However, I would recommend this delightful duo as a holiday read!  Begin at the beginning with An Unexpected Affair and let the drama unfold as you take a comfortable seat in the Reading Room. Jan Ellis is skilled at creating fun, engaging characters and drawing you into their world.

Jan Ellis

This novel presents a perfect escape: a cleverly constructed narrative.  What a brilliant idea to delve into the detective genre with the characters created in the romance genre -love it!

 

 

 

Click to buy on Amazon

 

Please read all my reviews on My Reading and my blog at jessiecahalin.com

My handbag is bursting at the seams

Check out my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Dear Authors,

My handbag is bursting at the seams…  

Thank you so much for the lovely review requests.

I have been overwhelmed with such lovely requests and have a long reading list for the next 6 months.

Authors work tirelessly to tell their stories, and the stories deserve to be sipped slowly, and savoured, like a good wine.  But don’t worry, I get drunk on words and not wine when I am reviewing!!!

You will find examples of my reviews on My Reading page at jessiecahalin.com/my-reading/

 

 

 

 

See the full details on my Review Requests page.

Check out my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

 

Jessie

@BooksInHandbag

A book stored in pocket between the sea and the sky

Keep Me Safe

Daniela Sacerdoti

I will place the lost souls in my handbag and KEEP THEM SAFE in a pocket between the sea and the sky.  Warning: this book will rouse romantic ramblings, inspired by the lyrical language of the book. 

 

The novel explores love and weaves a magic spell on the reader.  I will not give away the narrative, but it is a romance with a difference; it is a romance from a bird’s eye view.

 

Read the full enchanting review on My Reading.

 

Check out my blog at jessiecahalin.com

A little ray of sunshine in my handbag

Check out my blog at jessiecahalin.com

The sun always shines when you read a Moorcroft book! 

The sun just gets hotter and hotter ‘until any air has been too soaked in sunshine for relief’, and you feel, like Elle, as if you need an exhilarating swim to chase away the blues.

This is a great book to read, at any time; whether you are on holiday or just want a chance to escape a challenging week.

Read more of this review in My Reading.

 

 

Check out my blog at jessiecahalin.com