Monday, 15 July 2019

Sofa Spotlight - A Dark Night's Work and Other Stories, Elizabeth Gaskell

I first read this collection of short stories by Elizabeth Gaskell one wet summer a few years ago. What I remember most was how much I enjoyed reading these to the sound of the rain drumming on the ground. So I thought I might try to relive that experience. Sadly I couldn’t recreate the rain but I did enjoy the stories.

A Dark Night’s Work is the main story and tells the tale of a young man who takes on his father’s business as a lawyer. He’s relatively successful and marries well and has a daughter. After a few tragedies he starts to spend beyond his means. All the while plagued by his junior partner Mr Dunster. Poor Dunster is trying to help Mr Wilkins and to save the firm but ends up dead at the hands of Mr Wilkins. The crime has to be covered up and Wilkin’s daughter has found out what happened. The story follows his daughter Eleanor as the weight of the crime weighs heavy on those who know.

My other favourite story from this collection is the Grey Woman. A tale that follows a young woman who gets entangled with bandits, quite by accident. It’s very exciting.

Gentle stories include one about sheep shearing in the Lake District so there really is something in this book for everyone!

So if you have a rainy summer’s day you should find a copy of this book and have a good read.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Sofa Spotlight - The Neapolitan Loves, Alexandre Dumas

This was the third Dumas book that I read over Christmas. I was hoping that unlike the other two this one would have a conclusive ending. It didn’t. And it sounds like an ice cream too!

The difference with this one is that there’s a fair bit more tension in this one - in my mind anyway. As the story goes a young girl marries a man who is a friend of her father’s and old enough to be her father. All is well until a spy is attacked by a band of assassins on her doorstep. She takes him in, hides him and helps him recover. Oh and also falls in love with him.

True to form Dumas brings in some famous characters to play with and this one includes Admiral Nelson. When I read books like this I get very inspired to do research into the politics of the time. As much as my favourite character was the King who gets conned into invading Rome and taking it back from the French I would be interested to know what the relationships between these countries and Austria and Britain was really like.

Anyway the heroine’s husband gets caught up in all the politics and it could be that his involvement in them could pave a way for the lovers to be together. But it’s on a knife edge as it could go completely the other way.
Aside from this there’s a lot of humour and running around delivering and intercepting messages and clock and dagger spy stuff that makes for a good read. And as a lesser known work of Dumas I would recommend it. If you don't mind unresolved endings.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Sofa Spotlight - The Prince of Thieves, Alexandre Dumas

Not long ago I reviewed The Journal of Madame Giovanni, and the problem was that it ended a bit abruptly. I haven’t got round to finding out if there’s a sequel to this book but I have a similar problem with this one.

At the start, which is rather dramatic, a mysterious man drops off a baby with a forester and his wife. They, unable to have children of their own, raise him and the story kicks in for real when Mr R Hood is in his teens. Many issues are brought in at about the same rate as characters. The two most obvious are - what is the mystery surrounding Robin’s birth and will he ever stand a chance with Marian? The circumstances of his birth are all worked out fairly quickly but the injustice that happened - that resolution is a lot longer in coming/doesn’t come at all.

But there are other adventures to keep one going so it’s not all bad. The characters are fairly clear cut - it’s fairly obvious which side everyone is on. As always with Dumas he pushes what you think is possible and absolutely convinced you that it could happen. This isn’t my favourite novel by him - there’s better stuff out there but it might be because he was rewriting an English myth and I prefer the stories he creates. And having everything nicely resolved at the end didn't endear this book to me.

However if there is a sequel I will be on a mission to find a copy.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Sofa Spotlight - The Journal of Madame Giovanni, Alexandre Dumas

I read this over Christmas and it was brilliant. Although an odd choice because Madame Giovanni’s travels take her round most of the warmer climates of the world.

From what I can tell Madame Giovanni was a real person who kept a journal and Mr Dumas edited it into its present form. So Madame Giovanni is a French lady who is married to an Italian merchant. She accompanies him on his travels which start off in Australia and the journal ends with her crossing Mexico on her way back to France. In between there are many adventures and I couldn’t help but admire the bravery of Madame Giovanni and her husband. They see off thieves, storms and fires in San Francisco, but then they also do fun things like eating Welsh rarebit on a boat.

The end of the journal was a bit of a frustration. Whilst she leaves her husband behind in the states to sort things out there she travels back to France via Mexico. On said journey she gets caught up in a civil war and then the journal kind of comes to an abrupt end. And I don’t like not finding out what happens. I couldn’t help but get sucked into this book so I’m disappointed not to be able to find out what happens.

But other than that I would highly recommend reading this. There’s a lot of detail and it’s a great window into a different time and culture.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Catch up on the Sofa with A. L. Kent

Author of A Journey of Three Degrees A. L. Kent has taken a seat on the sofa to share some thoughts.

When did you first realise that you wanted to be a writer?

I've always liked writing. As early as I was able to form words on paper, I started journaling. By my early teens, I was writing poetry, too. My first stories came as a result of course work in high school and at university. In my twenties, I felt the initial stirring to become an author. And the seed of that was first nurtured at the 1st book signing I attended, where I met and was inspired by Nicholas Sparks, in 1998! Now I am bursting with material which has been collected over two decades, practiced, and hopefully perfected and ready to be given to an audience. I have several works in process, multiple genres, and am excited to finally have reached the point in my life to start publishing.

What was the first book that made you cry?

The first book that made me cry was The Diary of Anne Frank. I had to read that in English class in 4th grade, I think it was, and it of course left a lasting impression.

What was your favourite book as a child?

There were a few. But I remember reading Peter Pan over-and-over. And I was very taken with Little Women.

What are you reading right now?

Right now I am reading books from authors I've recently met in order to give them reviews. Once I do, I will post about them. Until then, I'd rather not disclose the titles.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

When I am not writing, I enjoy supporting others, especially other creatives. I dream of becoming seriously involved in philanthropy in the future. There are so many causes I wish to support. Top of my list is enjoying & supporting my family, my husband and our two children, and extended family, as well. Travelling, cooking, walking and cycling in the great outdoors, these are also activities I treasure.

What was your inspiration for A Journey of Three Degrees?

A Journey of Three Degrees literally began as a dream! As I was sleeping, I saw a scene that, although highly edited from its original form, still exists near the ending of the book. The main character Anna's emotion grabbed hold of me just before I awakened and spurred me to begin writing her story. I had to work backwards, to create a beginning, then a middle, and to connect all with the ending. It was quite an adventure, as the story seemed to write itself - bits from dreams, inspirations from films and songs, all mixed with elements from my own life. Every time I sat down to write, it all just flowed through me and took me on a journey, which I had not planned. Every session came with adventure & surprises, emotional ups & downs, and I became hooked on the process.

Do you have ideas for future books you might want to write?

Currently, I am finishing edits on the sequel to A Journey of Three Degrees that I plan to publish this summer. In it, Anna's journey comes full circle. I plan on writing many more novels and trying several different genres. An idea for a thriller is brewing in my mind...

Make sure you have a read of her book:

Monday, 10 June 2019

Sofa Spotlight - Mortom, Erik Therme

Just so you know - I was kindly given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

The basic plot is about a guy called Craig who dies suddenly and unexpectedly and leaves his estate to his cousin Andy on condition that he visits his house within a week of his death. Andy duly arrives with his sister Katy at the start of the story. They’ve not been in the house long before they find a dead rat with a piece of paper stuffed down its throat. And so begins the first clue that Craig has left for Andy to follow, on a trail that Andy thinks could lead to money but could equally lead nowhere.

There was a feel of a Dan Brown novel to it, in that it was fast paced, clue based, thrilling drama. But it also felt a bit more down to earth and normal. It takes place in an ordinary town with ordinary people. There’s no flying half way around the world to save the world or defuse a bomb or anything like that. And I found that a refreshing change and somewhat more believable.

However, what really made me fall in love with this book (and you know you’re in love when you can’t stop thinking about it, the ending is still making me smile - it was so pleasing) were the characters. They weren’t what I expected and I probably love and hate them exactly where I was supposed to, but the character that interested me the most was Kate. She had real depth, having compassion on both Craig and his mother. As the story progressed she showed more courage than Andy and received her reward at the end. Like I say, her actions at the end are still making me smile.

That’s not to say that plot wasn’t brilliant in its own right. Early on I worked out either the first or the second clue and felt very proud of myself, thinking that I would be able to unravel them all and always be one step ahead of Andy. However that was my one and only success and in the end I had to give up guessing and just enjoy the story.

If this book has any weaknesses it would be in some of the characters. One of them I didn’t really buy into - I’m not convinced he would have gone as far as he did in this. I would also have liked to have seen more of Aunt Mary, I felt like she had more to offer.

So yes I would highly recommend this one. It didn’t take me long to read - mainly because I had to read fast to find out what happens. I also didn’t guess the ending and I like that.