Category Archives: historical

Friday Faceoff – Better to fight and fall than to live without hope… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoff

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is a LONGBOAT, so I’ve selected Half the World – Book 2 of The Shattered Sea series by Joe Abercrombie.

 

This edition was produced by Del Rey in February 2015. I like the design – the huge wave rising out of the sea, with the breaking surf at the crest morphing into edged weapons. However, I don’t like the monochrome treatment – it looks rather drab and gives the impression that the book is a lot darker than it actually is. And other than that small flourish on the tail of the R, the title font is unforgivably boring.

 

Published in February 2015 by Harper Voyager, this cover makes my point. I think this one looks sooo much better than the bleak version above. We can fully appreciate the detailing of all those cool weapons, while the deep green water on the face of the wave gives a sense of the power of the sea, even without the plucky Viking boat fighting up it. And the title font is far more appropriately eye-catching – altogether a much better version. It never fails to surprise me how much changing colours can affect the whole feel and tone of a design. This is my favourite.

 

This edition, published by Harper Voyager in June 2015, is another strong offering. This time around we are on the longship, alongside the heroes as they negotiate a tricky strait. I love the prow of the boat, the back of the protagonist and the ominous sky, giving a sense of tension. The title font is both appropriate and eye-catching – I really like this one.

 

Produced by Arqueiro in January 2017, this Portuguese edition chooses to focus on the characters rather than the setting. While I think it is well executed and I very much approve of the clean, uncluttered look of the cover – and the fact they choose to let us know that it’s the second book in the series. However, I find the stern-faced, armed female protagonist rather generic.

 

This Romanian edition, published by Nemira in April 2016 is another attractive, well-crafted offering. However I think the scale is wrong. The longship is beautiful – that gold edging of the sail looks fabulous – but it’s too small and the grandeur of that epic landscape is simply lost. I’m itching to apply a zoom option to this cover, which has so much going for it… Which one is your favourite?

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Murder Served Cold – Book 6 of the Langham and Dupré Mystery series by Eric Brown #Brainfluffbookreview #MurderServedColdbookreview

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I’ve enjoyed this cosy mystery series that deliberately harks back to the golden era of this genre – see my review of Murder Takes a Turn.

November, 1956. Lord Elsmere, an old friend of Donald Langham’s literary agent, Charles Elder, is in a pickle – his favourite painting, a Gainsborough, has been stolen from under his nose. What’s more, there’s no evidence of a break-in. The family heirloom was recently re-insured for a hefty price, and Elsmere is struggling financially. Could he have staged the theft, or was it taken by one of the guests? Old Major Rutherford, evasive beauty Rebecca Miles, Dutch war hero Patrick Verlinden, Elsmere’s son Dudley Mariner and his statuesque sculpture fiancée, Esmeralda Bellamy, are all guests at the manor. But who would steal the painting, and why? Private investigators Langham and Ralph Ryland take on the case and soon uncover seething animosities, jealousy, secrets and deception, before events take a shocking turn…

And if this setup seems as comfortingly familiar as a late-night cup of cocoa, then you’re right. This is the classic country-house murder mystery chock-full of likely suspects, with Donald and Ralph slogging through the forest of clues and red herrings to try and make sense of the puzzle, before tracking down the perpetrator. I really enjoyed this one. The murder mystery was intriguing, linked as it was to the theft of the Gainsborough and I particularly liked the denouement as it connected directly with the historical period when this story was set.

Brown’s writing superpower is depicting setting – the landscape he evokes in a future version of Paris in his science fiction adventure Engineman is outstanding and has seeped into my inscape. So having a thoroughly satisfying cosy mystery set in such a strong backdrop, where the social and political issues are taken into account is a real bonus. I’ve found myself thinking about this one several times since I finished it – always a sign of a successful book – and I highly recommend Murder Served Cold to fans of well-written country house murder mysteries.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – The moon lives in the lining of your skin… Brainfluffbookblog

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is SHAPESHIFTERS, so I’ve selected a book from a cracking series I very much enjoyed – World’s End – Book 1 of the Age of Misrule by Mark Chadbourn.

 

This edition was produced by Millennium in September 2000 – and it was this cover that prompted me to pick this one off the shelves. I love it. That glorious dragon suddenly appearing in the middle of the M4 in the path of a speeding car. The lighting… the rain reflecting the amazing image off the tarmac… a modern landscape in the background… the coruscating light flickering in the sky where the dragon has made his entrance… I think this is a masterful cover and it’s one of my all-time favourites.

 

Published in April 2010 by Pyr, this is another fabulous cover. If I hadn’t already given my heart to the dragon-themed cover above, this would certainly have been my favourite. The sheer threat and majesty of the magnificent being is so well depicted against the appalled figures silhouetted against that lurid green aura… I also love the title font, which works wonderfully well and holds its own with that amazing image.

 

On any other day, against normal covers, this effort would probably be my favourite. I love the image of the leaping dragon on this Polish edition, published by Wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie in May 2006. The sheer vicious anger on that dragon face snarling out at us is sufficient to snag my attention – and I also love the beautiful slice of the wing and the way the title is nested within the image – but not quite enough to make this one my favourite…

 

Produced in June 2011, this French edition has gone for a feeling of menace, with the encroaching darkness held back by the small bubble of light over Stonehenge – what a clever choice for a symbol of ancient Britain – and our group of plucky protagonists silhouetted against that light, with an ominous red moon rising… Very cleverly done and far more understated than the previous efforts. Sadly, I’m not a subtle soul and prefer the clamour and excitement of dragons – because they’re – well, DRAGONS, baby!

 

This German edition, published by Feder & Schwert in July 2011, takes an entirely different tack and is another excellent example. The fossilised remains of the dragon, all picked out in glorious shades of gold and yellow, draws the eye. I love the slight spatter of blood – as well as giving extra visual drama, it also provides unanswered questions for the prospective reader… The designer has also taken time to consider how to include the textual matter within the artwork, which is fabulously executed. Another one that was so very nearly my favourite – which one do you prefer?

Friday Faceoff – She sells seashells on the sea shore… Brainfluffbookblog

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is SEA CREATURES, so I’ve selected a book I read back in the dim and distant past – The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher.

 

This edition was produced by Gramercy Books in April 2004. It is really attractive with the deep blue background fading into a lovely warm orange, giving us a suggestion of the beach. The trumpet whelk in the foreground completes the design – but I can’t help thinking it would have been better off with something like a crimson queen scallop shell to provide more of a visual contrast. The lettering is too large and boring, I feel.

 

Published in May 2015 by St Martin’s Griffin, I really like this one. Initially I was rather underwhelmed by the plain white cover, but the drawing of the scallop and top-shell along with the attractive lettering designed to complement and match the artwork has won me over. It may be simple, but it certainly draws the eye. It was so nearly my favourite…

 

Apparently, this ebook edition has been published, although Goodreads has gone all mysterious as to when and by who. But that’s a daft reason not to feature one of the better covers for the book, I decided. I love the warm colour of the golden sand, scattered with shells. I also very much like the italicised title font that works particularly well with the cover design.

 

Produced in 2003, this Portuguese edition features fish instead of shells. I love the attractive pattern these little fish make – what a shame there’s a thumping big text box plonked in the middle of it! Though at least someone has taken some trouble to give it a nifty border and a suitable colour.

 

This Italian edition, published by Mondadori in October 1996, is back to featuring shells – and what a lovely selection. I really like the way they have been placed against a sea-blue background and the design is completed by sumptuous gold lettering. Again, it’s been very cleverly handled – catching the light in a gleaming yellow for the author name and shadowed to give a darker shade with the italicised title. And although there is a blob AND far too much chatter scattered across the top of the design, this one is my favourite. What about you – which one do you prefer?

Friday Faceoff – Only do what your heart tells you… Brainfluffbookblog

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is HEART, so I’ve selected a classic book that I read another lifetime ago – when I was a teenager – Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

 

This edition was produced by Prestwick House in September 2004 and I think this cover is amazing. Classic books often have rather boring covers – but this one is nothing of the sort. This African coastline also incorporates the face of the protagonist in a psychedelic way and it’s also avoided the dreaded textbox. This one is my favourite.

 

Published in May 1995 by Penguin, this cover is a little more traditional – but nevertheless manages to be both attractive and exotic, providing the kind of illustration that most people contemporary with Conrad would envision Africa looking like. Sadly there is a textbox, but at least it has the good manners to be reasonably small with an inoffensive font.

 

This edition, published by Penguin in 1983, is even more traditionally classic with a sepia-shaded drawing that looked aged from the moment the paint dried. The obligatory textbox is splatted across the top of the cover like a big black carbuncle. Oh well.

 

Produced by Newton and Compton in July 2013, this Italian edition is more like it! I love the bright green and yellow cover with the tropical leaf design bordering the edge and featuring the small plant, complete with roots. The yellow heart marked up with the roots of that little plant is so very effective that I very nearly had this one as my favourite – what stopped me from choosing it was that nasty little blob advertising a special low price bang in the middle of the artwork *sigh*.

 

This edition, published by Enhanced Media Publishing in November 2016, is an arresting and attractive design and was the one that made me choose this book. I love the contrast of the bright red heart splitting apart against a black background. No textbox – yippee! And I love the lovely flowing title font. Which is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Revenant Express by George Mann #Brainfluffbookreview #TheRevenantExpressbookreview

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This is the long-awaited next book in this entertaining steampunk, gothic series featuring our two heroic crime fighters Maurice Newbury and Veronica Hobbes.

Following their bloody encounter with the Executioner, Sir Maurice Newbury’s assistant Veronica Hobbes is close to death. Desperate to save her life, Newbury and Veronica’s sister Amelia board a sleeper train bound for St. Petersburg, in the hope that Gustav Faberge might have the answer. But there are enemies on board, and Newbury and Amelia will need all their strength and cunning to survive the Revenant Express.

This is an action-packed read, given that it is only just over 250 pages long. Mann certainly manages to keep the tempo fast and furious as both Veronica Hobbes and Maurice Newbury are both attempting to tackle a terrible threat. Although I enjoyed the excellent action scenes, particularly on the train – I am a tad concerned about a major anomaly. We are told in the blurb that Veronica is close to death – so I actually reread the opening chapter in which she features, and at no time do we get a sense in her viewpoint that she’s anything other than a tad cold and miserable while standing in the pouring rain. While close to death, she happily goes off to get involved in a demanding case with Sir Charles Bainbridge and doesn’t mention feeling slightly unwell at any stage.

While in the ordinary run of things, this issues would be a dealbreaker, they aren’t this time around, simply because I like the world and the characters so much. It doesn’t hurt that this particular adventure is largely set on a train travelling across Europe, so a lot of the action doesn’t impact the wider story arc. The gruesome nature of the infection causing all sorts of havoc presents a real danger to our trusty protagonists – and has Mann has already demonstrated that he isn’t shy of killing off some main characters, I found myself paying real attention to the very dramatic fights.

That said, something clearly occurred that threw a major spanner in the works regarding Mann’s writing. I hope he is able to get back on track to write the next exciting instalment, but if he can’t or doesn’t – that’s okay, too. I do wince sometimes at the angry impatience of some readers while waiting for the next book. Everyone experiences major upsets in their lives – including authors in the middle of writing a popular series. In the meantime this series is recommended for fans of steampunk adventure with a gothic feel.

While I obtained an arc of The Revenant Express from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Friday Faceoff – This is the priest all shaven and shorn… Brainfluffbookblog

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is a PRIEST OR MONK, so I’ve selected The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.

 

This edition was produced by Harvest Books in September 1994. I think is a shocking cover, when you look at it really closely. The row of skulls in the black darkness are raining a stream of blood onto a wall, spattering the kneeling priests and almost obliterating the king seated on the throne. The title font is well executed with that bloody wall as a backdrop. I think it effectively represents this remarkable book which has stayed with me ever since I read it soon after it was published, though it isn’t my favourite.

 

Published in June 1983 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (NYC), this cover has gone for a full-on medieval vibe. It is depicting some of what is going on within the confines of the abbey, where it should all be about praying and contemplating God. It is certainly colourful and eye-catching, though whether it gives a sense of the murder mystery at the heart of the book is debatable.

 

This edition, published by Vintage Books in April 2004 is my favourite. It is beautiful, with the star-studded sky, the gold author font jumping out from the black backdrop and the red-tinged abbey providing more than a hint of menace. I particularly love the lovely curling title font which finishes the effect.

 

Produced by Picador in October 1984, this one is a close contender for my favourite. It’s such a cleverly designed cover, using the medieval script to highlight the period and setting of the book. Not only is it featured in the title, which is beautifully linked to the drawing of the rose, but also used in the blurb to explain the book. And for once – this cover chatter which is always a pet peeve of mine – absolutely works. This so very nearly is my favourite…

 

This edition, published by Vintage in 2004 is another attractive, eye-catching offering. However I think the title font could have a bit more punch and their approach to the author font is plain odd. Who else wondered whether the author is called Vintage Eco when they read it? Such a shame to make such a fundamental, silly mistake, given the strong execution of that lovely rose illustration. Which is your favourite?

Friday Faceoff – Time travel is possible. Will explain later. #Brainfluffbookblog

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the object this week featuring on any of our covers or the story is an AMULET, so I’ve selected a book I haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading, The Story of the Amulet – Book 3 of the Five Children series by E. Nesbit.

 

This edition was produced by Penguin Classics in March 1995. I love the artwork and the green-hued backdrop which gives a real sense of the drama and danger of a trip back to Egypt. But that clunky red something doesn’t remotely resemble any amulet I’ve ever seen – what a shame, given the wonderful lighting giving it centre stage. And my other peeve is that dreadful red text box plonked right across all that fabulous detail…

 

Published by Penguin Classics in March 2018, this is a much better effort. The colouring is attractive and I love the scene within a scene, giving a hint of the time travelling theme. The style, along with the children featured in the Egypt makes it clear this is a children’s story. I also love that font – this is my favourite.

 

Produced by Smk Books in March 2009, the amulet featured on the front of this cover is beautiful and draws the eye, while the font is attractive and easy to read. However, my concern is that there is nothing on this cover that informs the reader that this is a children’s book.

 

This Kindle edition is certainly eye-catching. But the golden rule must be that a cover should reflect the content and the etched figures being swallowed up as they enter that brooding gothic building give a sense that it’s a horror story. And it isn’t – it is a lesser-known book in one of the most famous early fantasy tales for children.

 

This is another attractive, striking contender, published by Virago in 2018. The warm yellow backdrop is welcoming and I love all the details on the cover that directly link up to the content. While the title is inoffensively clear, I do feel that Times New Roman is a bit joyless for one of the first time-travelling adventures written for children. It’s the main reason why this one isn’t my favourite – but what do you think?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Poisoned Chalice Murder – Book 2 of the Black and Dods Mystery series by Diane Janes #Brainfluffbookreview #ThePoisonedChaliceMurderbookreview

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, The Magic Chair Murder, set in 1920s England – see my review here – where Frances Black and Tom Dods team up to discover what happened to a woman who disappeared in mysterious circumstances. So I was delighted when this offering became available and I was approved to read and review it.

Tom Dod’s Aunt Hetty is worried – three sudden deaths have occurred in the sleepy village of Durley Dean. They might seem like tragic accidents, but Aunt Hetty isn’t so sure. After all, all three took a stand against Reverend Pinder, the new vicar of St Agnes Church, whose controversial changes have divided the congregation. But is there really a killer among the parishioners? And while Fran leaps at the chance to spend a weekend at Aunt Hetty’s sleuthing with Tom, could the trip prove to be a poisoned chalice in more ways than one?

While the mystery obviously takes centre stage and needs to be successful, for me the added pleasure with this series is the really likeable, intelligent main character, Fran Black. She is compromised, having been deserted by her husband at a time when divorce carried with it a huge social stigma and was difficult and costly to acquire. Her mother is querulous and demanding, having lost both sons in the Great War and while Fran is able to live on a fixed income without having to work, she is more than happy to become involved in the intricacies of an investigation as an escape from her unsatisfactory home life.

Janes is adept at slipping in all sorts of social and political details of the time without holding up the investigation, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I do like the fact that when someone is arrested and charged with murder, Fran and Tom become very aware that if they cannot find the real murderer, an innocent man will hang, which nicely ups the stakes. As with the previous murder mystery, this one owes its inspiration to the likes of Agatha Christie, with plenty of suspects.

I got there before the big reveal, but to be honest, that wasn’t a dealbreaker as it was only a couple of chapters ahead of the denouement and with all the other issues going on relating to Fran and Tom’s relationship – or lack of it – the plot didn’t stand or fall on the mystery alone. The pacing was nicely judged, the characters memorable and I kept thinking what a cracking TV show this would make. In the meantime, I look forward to the next one in the series as I’m keen to see where Janes will take these characters next. Highly recommended for fans of historical cosy murder mysteries. While I obtained an arc of The Poisoned Chalice Murder from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Sunday Post – 4th November, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

November – really? This year has sped past in a blur. Everyone says that as I get older, the years will go on speeding up. All I can think is that if I make it to my 70s without ending up under the proverbial bus, I’ll probably be unable to function… too giddy with the rate at which my days and weeks are whipping by.

I had a wonderful time at Bristolcon last week, which now feels like a distant memory, but one that is warming with all the friendliness on encountering folk I hadn’t seen for far too long. Thankfully, the journey there and back again on the trains went like clockwork, so Mhairi and I arrived home mid-afternoon on Sunday, having felt like we’d been away for much longer.

This has been another busy week – Himself has spent a fair chunk of it coping with his deafness until we made a major breakthrough on Friday. After syringing his ears yet again – he finally found he could hear. A huge relief – I’m startled at how much it impacted on our relationship with both of us feeling grumpy and insecure because of his hearing loss. It’s lovely to have my funny, witty companion back again.

Other than that, it’s been a week of catching up and teaching – I’m now halfway through this term at Northbrook, which is going well. Poor Tim had to have a toenail removed last Wednesday, so I caught up with Sally instead of teaching him on Thursday. I’ve also been announcing to everyone that I was off this weekend for a writing course – only to discover halfway through Friday that it’s in a fortnight, instead… So not only is Time speeding up, it’s now also playing tricks on me. Thank goodness, I’m not going to be a Timelord – I’d probably have the timeline looping back on itself with the human race heading back towards the Industrial Revolution and good old Queen Victoria’s reign… It is Wednesday, isn’t it? Whatever it is, have a great monthday… week, everyone!

Last week I read:

Survivor in Death – Book 20 of the In Death series by J.D. Robb
The only thing that kept young Nixie Swisher from suffering the same fate as her parents, brother, housekeeper, and young sleepover companion was the impulsive nine-year-old’s desire for an illicit orange fizzy at 2 a.m. Taking the bereft girl under her wing, Eve is determined to make sure the killers don’t get the chance to finish their lethal job. From the first, however, the investigation is baffling. The Swishers were a nice family, living on the Upper West Side in a house with an excellent security system. Ordinary almost to a fault, they seemed unlikely victims for this carefully planned and executed crime. Valuables at the scene were left untouched, there was no sign of vandalism — just the corpses of five people murdered in their sleep.
I tried this series once before, but couldn’t get to grips with it. Himself recommended this particular story – and I was hooked. At last I have fathomed his passion for this series of near-future murder mystery thrillers…

 

Satellite by Nick Lake
Moon 2 is a space station that orbits approximately 250 miles above Earth. It travels 17,500 miles an hour, making one full orbit every ninety minutes. It’s also the only home that fifteen-year-old Leo and two other teens have ever known. Born and raised on Moon 2, Leo and the twins, Orion and Libra, are finally old enough and strong enough to endure the dangerous trip to Earth. They’ve been “parented” by teams of astronauts since birth and have run countless drills to ready themselves for every conceivable difficulty they might face on the flight. But has anything really prepared them for life on terra firma?
Once I got used to the text-prose Lake has used to write this YA space-based adventure, I became engrossed in this powerful and emotional read.

 

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan
After Grandmére Ursule gives her life to save her tribe, her magic seems to die with her. Even so, her family keeps the Old Faith, practicing the spells and rites that have been handed from mother to daughter for generations. Until one day, Ursule’s young granddaughter steps into the circle, and magic flows anew. From early 19th century Brittany to London during the Second World War, five generations of witches fight the battles of their time, deciding how far they are willing to go to protect their family, their heritage, and ultimately, all of our futures.
I found this saga, following a family cursed with the gift of magic through the ages, a real page-turner. And the angle Morgan takes on WW2 was fascinating…

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 28th October 2018

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Muse of Nightmares – Book 2 of the Srange the Dreamer series by Laini Taylor

Teaser Tuesday featuring Satellite by Nick Lake

Authoring Annals 3 – Bristolcon 2018

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of arc Fallen Princeborn: STOLEN by Jean Lee

Friday Face-off featuring Secret Seven Bonfire – Book 11 of the Secret Seven series Enid Blyton

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Fury – Book 3 of the Menagerie series by Rachel Vincent

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

Leopard: Fast and Beautiful http://chechewinnie.com/leopard-fast-and-beautiful/ I always look forward to reading Cheche’s fascinating articles on African wildlife and this one featuring leopards is packed full of wonderful pics along with all sorts of information I didn’t know…

Get to Know Ya Book Tag https://readerwitch.com/2018/11/03/different-books/ Alexandra tagged me for this one – thank you Alexandra! – and I loved both the questions and answers.

Winterwood Chapter 1 – Read It Here https://jaceybedford.wordpress.com/2018/11/03/winterwood-chapter-one-read-it-here/ I am two-thirds through Jacey Bedford’s entertaining space opera series, so was delighted to read this start to her fantasy trilogy…

New Poem Featured in Fall 2018 Issue of The Muddy River Poetry Review https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2018/10/31/fall-2018-muddy-river-poetry-review/ Fellow blogger and talented writer Sara Letourneau sent a link to this beautiful poem…

Britain by the Book: The Curious Origins of Mother Hubbard https://interestingliterature.com/2018/11/02/britain-by-the-book-the-curious-origins-of-mother-hubbard/ One of those menacing nursery rhymes we chant to our children, without necessarily thinking too much about those words…

Have a great week and thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.