Category Archives: gardens

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb

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This children’s book is a direct sequel to Frances Hodgeson Burnett’s famous novel The Secret Garden which was a favourite of mine, after my grandmother read it to me way back in 1963. So would I enjoy revisiting this world by another author over a generation later?

returntothesecretgardenIt’s 1939, and the occupants of the Craven Home for Orphaned Children have been evacuated to Misselthwaite Hall, a fancy manor in the English countryside, to escape the Blitz. Emmie would hardly call the orphanage “home,” but her heart breaks knowing that leaving Craven means leaving her beloved cat, Lucy. Away from everything she’s ever known and trapped in imposing Misselthwaite, Emmie finds herself more miserable than ever. But soon she starts discovering the secrets of the house-a boy who cries in the night, a diary written by a girl named Mary, and a garden. A very secret garden…

Emmie is certainly a worthy successor to poor, spoilt Mary Lennox. She has edges that have nothing to do with being unduly pampered – quite the opposite in fact. While the adults around her are quite tough with her, I did like the fact that the people running the orphanage aren’t depicted as evilly intent on crushing the spirit of their charges. While their form of punishment may jar with modern norms, at the time it wasn’t uncommon for children to be regularly slapped or beaten with a slipper or strap for transgressions. I could see the adults were all feeling frayed and coping with the practicalities of moving twenty orphans to the other end of the country must have been a daunting task, given that half the staff were off ‘doing their bit’.

Any grizzles? Well I do have a problem with the cover, which is rather cute and girly and gives the impression that this is lighthearted, fluffy read when its nothing of the sort.

Given the book’s relationship with the original story, several characters feature in this sequel that had major parts in the first book. I very much enjoyed seeing Webb’s take on how they went on to develop after original The Secret Garden ended. However, this book is far more than merely an additional riff of that story. Webb deals with all sorts of gnarly issues in this well written, nuanced novel that covers an interesting time in our history. What happened to hundreds and thousands of pets all over the country in towns, for instance – which directly impacted on the adults’ attitude towards one small stray cat. There is also a sudden death, which winded me. I kept expecting the character, who had played a crucial role in Emmie’s happiness, to pop up at the end of the book, declaring that his reported death had been a muddle and it was all going to end happily ever after. It didn’t. I admire Webb enormously for not sugar-coating the bleak fact that during that time lots of men were killed – and kind, caring responsible fathers, sons and brothers were swallowed up by the mincing machine that was WWII never to return. Through Emmie’s shocked eyes, we get a ringside seat into how those left behind coped with such a grievous loss and put their lives back together again.

This is a well-written, though provoking story on dealing with loss – a major theme in Return to The Secret Garden – and Webb does an excellent job of showing the consequences of war in an unsentimental, entertaining way.
9/10

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Sunday Post – 12th June

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Sunday Post

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

My editing marathon is grinding inexorably onward. I’m now line editing Breathing Space before letting it loose on my long-suffering beta-readers. Debbie has completed reading through Dying for Space for me and has handed it onto Sarah.

This week hasn’t been quite so frenetic. It was lovely to resume my Creative Writing classes on Monday and Tuesday and catch up with everyone after the half-term break. On Wednesday evening our writing group met up and discussed each others’ work amid tea and laughter. During Thursday evening I attended the monthly West Sussex Writers’ meeting to hear Jane Lythell, who has written the successful psychological thrillers The Lie of You and After the Storm. She talked to eve-of-war-sample-2-639x1024the group about her journey to being published and also discussed characterisation and how she crafted her protagonists. It is always fascinating to hear how different authors approach their work and Jane was a fluent, articulate speaker with plenty to say – including some intriguing details about her upcoming new release, Woman of the House, which is more of a contemporary novel about a woman coping with a demanding job and increasing commitments at home.

 

I’ve also now received a copy of the cover for the anthology Eve of War, in which my short story ‘Miranda’s Tempest’ will appear. Isn’t it gorgeous? The release date is 20th June.

 

As regards reading – I’m coming to the end of a hefty tome that almost stopped me in my tracks…

The Passage – Book 1 of The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin
Amy Harper Bellafonte is six years old and her mother thinks she’s the most important person in thepassagethe whole world.
She is.
Anthony Carter doesn’t think he could ever be in a worse place than Death Row.
He’s wrong.
FBI agent Brad Wolgast thinks something beyond imagination is coming.
It is.
THE PASSAGE.
And there you have the blurb of this apocalyptic, science fiction vampire book that runs to 766 pages. The first section, where it all goes to hell in a handcart, was something of a slog – not because there was anything wrong with the book, indeed, the writing is remarkable and engrossing. However, I hadn’t appreciated that it starts in our world before it all slides away, which I always find a bit of a problem. Fortunately, just as I was on the verge of giving up, the section ended and we were plunged into the future, post-apocalyptic world. I will be reviewing it sometime in the next week.

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 5th June

* NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Cursed – Book 2 of The Soulseer Chronicles by Sue Tingey

Teaser Tuesday – The Passage – Book 1 of The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger

* NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Annihiliation Score – Book 6 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross

Friday Faceoff – All That is Gold Does Not Glitter featuring Empire of Black and Gold – Book 1 of The Shadow of the Apt series by Adrian Tchaikovsky

2016 Discovery Challenge – May Roundup

Other interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Juliet E. McKenna’s interesting article on the similarities between aikido and writing when breaking new ground – http://www.julietemckenna.com/?p=2172

Which Zodiac Sign Fits Your Protagonist Best? This is a really nifty getting-to-know your main character exercise by Sara Letourneau. https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2016/06/09/zodiac-signs-and-character-traits/

This is a lovely slice of photo journaling through India. The Road Goes Ever On… – https://indigodrift.wordpress.com/2016/06/08/the-road-goes-ever-on/

How realistic do you want injuries to be in books? Kristen Burns writes about this in her excellent article. http://blog.kristenburns.com/realism-in-books-injuries/

Lovely examples of space art, brought to us by Steph P. Bianchini – http://earthianhivemind.net/2016/06/08/space-art-nasa/

100_4927The weather has finally woken up to the fact it is nearly mid-June and we’ve had a lovely week of warm days and nights, so that suddenly everything in the garden is going mad. It’s frankly something of a jungle, but amongst the weeds and mayhem, my echium spires are taller than ever, this year, thanks to the mild winter. I’ve enclosed the pic to show the scale – those canes I’m holding are 6 ft long.

These foamy white bracts of flowers are on a spiky-leaved plant 100_4943I’ve owned for about a decade – and this is only the second time it’s flowered. The garden is full of the lily-like smell and it is crawling with bees – dozens of them. If I leave the back door open, the scent suffuses the kitchen, leaving me light-headed and happy. Summer… at last!
Once more, many thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my blog and I hope you can find the time and, maybe, a sunny nook where you can get lost in a book. Happy reading, everyone!