#Review of Tales From The Hamlet By Cassandra Campbell-Kemp #LoveBooksTours #Memoir #MemoriesOfItaly

Tales From The Hamlet
Memories Of Italy

By Cassandra Campbell-Kemp

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Thanks to Love Books Tours for inviting me to review an insightful non-fiction book set in Italy.

At the age of 61, Cassandra, a single and peripatetic Brit, was asked to pack up her house and move to Italy to take up the offer of a much-needed job. 15 months later she was made redundant, leaving her unnerved, broke and unable to return home. Her dream of a new life was rapidly turning into a nightmare and, saddled with all her belongings, her antique furniture, over 800 books and her aged Siamese cat she had nowhere to go.

A kind friend offered them sanctuary in a tiny converted former barn in his family’s ‘Borgo’, a cluster of rustic properties grouped around a late-Medieval manor House in the mountains; the beautiful and mysterious Emilian Appenines of northern Italy. There she was befriended and watched over by the owner; an eccentric octogenarian, his household ghosts and 14 semi feral cats.

Review

It’s a very descriptive book that takes time to read, but worth investing in as there is some beautiful writing in there. There is also some lovely descriptions of architecture to draw the reader into Northern Italy.

The eccentric octogenarian adds some interest and appeal as she became befriended by an owner of the properties Cassandra was at. It brought a bit of heart to the adventures of this part of her life.

There’s essentially a story of fighting against adversity being told as she wants to come home, but discovers she cannot, so has to find ways of making more money and hoping she is lucky enough to do this so she can return to the UK. I found myself wondering what the future would hold for Cassandra as it seemed like some bleak circumstances had been hit and wanted to know if it got better.

It was a pleasant read, if not at times, perhaps overly descriptive, but there are fascinating insights into how not all is lovely and perfect when you move, even with all the lovely food and landscape she encountered. It’s like a big dose of reality hits. There are also some historical insights that are interesting in the region of Italy Cassandra was in.

About The Author

Cassandra is a somewhat eccentric, unconventional and fiercely independent woman of pensionable age. Formerly an international real estate executive she travelled widely, living and working in various European countries – including Italy, Greece and Spain. During her time in Europe she fell in love with the countries, their cultures, the people and the food! She learnt several languages and spent all her spare time exploring.

Now happily retired, she lives alone with her rescue cat, Felix, in a quintessential 17th century English cottage where she writes about her 30 years of adventures. Her first book, ‘Cauliflowers through the Catflap and other tales from a solitary lockdown’ is a humorous and very tongue-in-cheek look at her experiences of shielding alone through the Covid pandemic. Her second book, ‘Tales from the Hamlet’, is a heartwarming tale of what happened when, living in Italy, she was unexpectedly made redundant and saddled with all her antique furniture, over 800 books and an elderly Siamese cat, she had no money to return home and nowhere to go.

#BookReview By Lou – Mother of the Brontes By Sharon Wright #SharonWright @penswordbooks #NonFiction #Biography #Brontes #MariaBranwell #TheLifeOfMariaBranwell

Mother of the Brontes
The Life of Maria Branwell
By Sharon Wright

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Mother of the Brontes is a highly interesting account of Maria Branwell. Thanks to Pen and Sword for gifting me the book. Discover what the book is about and my opinion in the blurb and my review.

Mother of the Brontes cover

Maria Branwell has spent 200 years in the shadow of her extraordinary children, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë. Now the first biography of Mrs Brontë appears as a beautiful bicentenary paperback edition in October 2021, with a commissioned portrait of Maria at 38 based on the only two existing images in the Brontë Collection. Sharon Wright’s critically-acclaimed biography reveals Maria’s fascinating life as a Regency gentlewoman who went looking for an adventure and found one. A sudden passion and whirlwind love affair led to the birth of the most gifted literary siblings the world has ever known. From a wealthy home in Penzance, Maria was a contemporary of Jane Austen and enjoyed the social status of a prominent family with secrets. So how did Maria fall for the penniless curate she called ‘My Dear Saucy Pat’ hundreds of miles from the home she loved? And what adventures lead lover Patrick Brontë to their fateful meeting in Yorkshire? What family scandals did Maria leave behind in Cornwall? How did wealthy and independent Miss Branwell of balmy Penzance adjust to life as Mrs Brontë in Yorkshire during the industrial revolution? And what was her enduring legacy in the lives of those world famous daughters and troubled son?

Review

It is well documented about lives of the Bronte sisters – Charlotte, Anne and Shirley, through the novels and poetry they wrote and biographies other people have written, even more is known about their brother – Branwell Bronte and their father – Patrick Bronte than the matriarch of the Bronte family – Maria Branwell. This book goes some way to rectifying this biography of her life in this treasure of a book that uncovers her life and her part as an individual and as part of the family she created.

Really delving into history and setting the scene to create background to how things were in the time of Maria’s life, it goes into detail about the backdrop of socio/economical/political scenes. This I felt was necessary to people now and into the future to understand how things were and also puts her life into context. You really get under the surface of how the world looked when she was alive, not just in broader terms, but also the families she may have known or seen around Penzance in Cornwall, the houses that were there and religious beliefs. It provides a focused texture and understanding in the first few chapters.

The book becomes even more compelling to discover why Patrick, so penniless, left Ireland and Maria leaves Cornwall for Yorkshire and how they courted each other and fell in love, even though there was class division of him being poor and her being wealthy, with social standing, but attraction and love won out, however unlikely that would initially seem, but they did and created a life and family together.
There are letters of this period of time, which were later handed down the family. There are extracts of her letters in the book, that feels really special to read and gives readers a glimpse into her letter writing style and means the book is able to retain some of her “voice” for present and future generations. It heightens providence and a real care of the Bronte family. The research is meticulous and the passion of its author – Sharon Wright to ensure this part of the family’s history can be read about in this way, really shines through.

There’s a look into day to day life within the Parsonage that really brings the place, that is still standing, located in Harrogate, Yorkshire, England, (now a museum), to life. It shows life within those walls of husband and wife and their children, who, especially their daughters, were to become literary giants, whose work is still popular and is now shown in many media forms. Lesser known however, is that Maria could also write and there is a little bit of this within the book.

The book takes readers right to the end of Maria’s life and the impact her death had on how the family then behaved in their day to day living and continuing of their own lives.

This is an absolutely fascinating read and to be able to read it in her bicentenary year makes it somewhat even more lovely.

#BookReview by Lou – The Unearthing of The Secret Garden – The Plants and Places That Inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett By Marta McDowell @martamcdowell @timberpress #NonFiction #Memoir #HomeandGarden #Gardens

The Unearthing of the Secret Garden –
The Plants and Places That Inspired Frances Hodgeson Burnett

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This is surely a must for anyone who remembers and liked/likes The Secret Garden. It is also a lovely book for people who like history, gardening and memoirs.
Find out more in the blurb and my review.

Blurb

Unearthing The Secret Garden

“Blooming with photos, illustrations, and botanical paintings, McDowell’s gorgeous book opens an ivy-covered door to new information about one of the world’s most famous authors.”—Angelica Shirley Carpenter, editor of In the Garden

New York Times bestselling author Marta McDowell has revealed the way that plants have stirred some of our most cherished authors, including Beatrix Potter, Emily Dickinson, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. In her latest, she shares a moving account of how gardening deeply inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett, the author of the beloved children’s classic The Secret Garden.

In Unearthing The Secret Garden, McDowell delves into the professional and gardening life of Frances Hodgson Burnett. Complementing her fascinating account with charming period photographs and illustrations, McDowell paints an unforgettable portrait of a great artist and reminds us why The Secret Garden continues to touch readers after more than a century. This deeply moving and gift-worthy book is a must-read for fans of The Secret Garden and anyone who loves the story behind the story.

Review

Unearthing The Secret Garden

Peel back the cover and enter the hidden entrance into the world of Frances Hodgson Burnett, a greatly celebrated author, and discover a world of gardens and writing and more and uncover some new information…
Unearthing The Secret Garden is a lovely and interesting book for gardeners, fans of Frances Hodgson Burnett and of course – The Secret Garden. The book seems well researched and well thoughtout. It’s part biograpghy and part about the plants that inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett whilst writing this much treasured children’s book, that has indeed become a much-loved classic that’s even inspired films.

The book provides a glimpse into her life and her gardens and the flowers she liked so well. The flowers are simply beautiful and there are even some useful tips, making this attractive to any gardener reading this book.

The book tells of how she was born in Manchester, England in 1849 and later became friends with Little Women series writer – Louisa May Alcott when her and her mother moved to the USA after the death of her father.

It tells of how she started writing young and yet hadn’t actually created her own garden until she was middle-aged. She infact created many gardens. There are interesting articles that have been reproduced for this book, which add a bit of depth and what’s even more special is, it of course adds her voice as it were, her first hand accounts. There are also photos of her gardens, including Maytham in the UK, how they are presently. The book tells of Maytham being inspirational for transforming for The Secret Garden, into being called Misselthwaite Manor.

There is much love and heartbreak that is shown in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s life, including family as well as the homes she lived in between the UK and US. It shows within times of upheaval and sadness, how gardens became a place of solace and brought something positive again into her life. The book also looks into her writing life and tells of some, perhaps lesser known books, which is a lovely touch and may inspire readers to explore those too.

It’s overall a fascinating read that has passion from page to page and you can tell that a whole lot of research went into creating this beautiful book that gives a sizeable glimpse into life – both personal and writing life and her gardens.

#BookReview by Lou of You Love Me by Caroline Kepnes @CarolineKepnes @jessbarratt88 @simonschusterUK #YouLoveMe #Thriller #PsychologicalThriller #EasterReading

You Love Me
By Caroline Kepnes

Rating: 5 out of 5.

You Love Me is the third in the series that began with “You”, which many may be familiar with in book or Netflix form or both. It’s an incredibly spine-chilling, intense psychological thriller series and this latest book is just as amazing! Just remember to breath as it sucks you into the twisted world of Joe Goldberg… Find out more in the blurb and my review. Hello You is available now!

Thanks to Jess Barratt at Simon Schuster for gifting me a copy of Hello You.

You Love Me

Blurb

The highly anticipated new thriller in Caroline Kepnes’s hit You series, now a blockbuster Netflix show . . .

Joe Goldberg is back. And he’s going to start a family – even if it kills him.

Joe Goldberg is done with cities, done with the muck and the posers, done with Love. Now, he’s saying hello to nature, to simple pleasures on a cosy island in the Pacific Northwest. For the first time in a long time, he can just breathe.

He gets a job at the local library – he does know a thing or two about books – and that’s where he meets her: Mary Kay DiMarco. Librarian. Joe won’t meddle, he will not obsess. He’ll win her the old fashioned way . . . by providing a shoulder to cry on, a helping hand. Over time, they’ll both heal their wounds and begin their happily ever after in this sleepy town.

The trouble is . . . Mary Kay already has a life. She’s a mother. She’s a friend. She’s . . . busy.

True love can only triumph if both people are willing to make room for the real thing. Joe cleared his decks. He’s ready. And hopefully, with his encouragement and undying support, Mary Kay will do the right thing and make room for him.

You Love Me

Review

High suspense, You Love Me is the third in the “You” series. Joe Goldberg is back!!! Librarians beware, he is lusting after one and wants real love and a family… Many people will be familiar with either the books or the Netflix series or both and this book does not disappoint! It still has intensity and Joe Goldberg still gives me the creeps and yet, still, I cannot take my eyes off the pages. No wonder he reels all these women in, with his odd charm, that both Guinivere Beck and Peach Salinger saw in him, who get a mention in this third installment. This time he has his sights set on Mary Kay, the librarian he works for, as he is on a quest to figure out some sort of “normal” lovelife and do things in a more normal manner than before…
There is however a whole mix of tension and egotism, paranoia and jealousy that still clutches to Joe as tries to frame himself as now being a good guy as old traits become apparent and pierce through.

I absolutely love the cleverness in style of writing. The way that simple small word – “You”, is written, is spine-chillingly evocative. “You” is completely full-on loaded with intensity as it punctuates the sentences stronger than any other word. Those familiar with the series won’t be disappointed how this continues within this book.

There are twists and turns that made me clutch the book a little tighter, in amongst the cleverly placed music and author references.

The book, in its plot and characters are multi-layered and complex in their actions and behaviours, especially Joe and it makes him to continuously be intriguing, even though he is not the type of guy who anyone would want to meet, but he is a type of dark, sinister, pretty dangerous guy who exists and who embodies many aspects that are within some guys, either singularly or multiple.

Mary Kay’s friends also get involved and it gets even twistier, as if that were possible, but Caroline Kepnes is a master at her craft, within her style of writing for a psychological thriller, such as this series.

Buy Links

Waterstones

Amazon

WH Smith

 

#BookReview by Lou of #NonFiction – Rowntrees by Paul Chrystal @penswordbooks #PaulChrystal

Rowntrees
By Paul Chrystal
Rated: 5 stars *****

 There is more to just eating confections than meets the eye! This is delectable book for history and confectionery lovers the world over!
This book, as much as it looks into the very being of Rowntrees and other companies, with them at the centre, it has more to it than meets the eye!
Thanks to Pen & Sword for accepting my request to review this wonderfully interesting book, which goes into little known corners of the confectionary world with its very interesting insights.
Please follow through the blurb and then onto my review to discover more…

Blurb

Rowntrees coverThe Rowntree family, especially Henry and the younger Joseph Rowntree are, along with the Fry’s, Cadbury’s, Mars and Terry’s, synonymous with the birth and growth of the chocolate industry in Britain. Between them, they were the chocolate industry in Britain.

This book charts the fascinating story behind the birth and development of the chocolate empire that was Rowntrees. Background information to this astonishing business comes by way of chapters on the early history of the Rowntrees, contemporary York, the relationship between Quakers and chocolate, and the Tuke family – without whom there would have been no Rowntrees, and no Kit Kats.

Henry, it is usually forgotten, was the founder of Rowntree’s – he made the momentous decision to sign the deal with the Tukes and we join him in those very early days of the fledgling company and watch how he helped it through some very dark, and sometimes humorous, times in what was then a very shambolic set up – cash strapped and making it up as the company lurched from crisis to crisis. Joseph, his elder brother, it was, who became the driving force to eventual global success, mixing his hectic business life with acts of compassion and a benevolent management model, all of which paved the way for decent wages, pensions, insurance and mutual respect in the workplace. Charity work extended beyond the factories to lift workers and others out of the slums of York to a life in a healthy model village, to provide a good social life, an extensive park, swimming pool and education for children and adults. More context is given with chapters on Joseph’s relentless industrial espionage, the advancements in chocolate production and 20th century rivals in the domestic and export markets, and mergers and acquisitions.

Rowntree’s role in the two world wars is also covered along with the struggle Joseph Rowntree had accepting the importance of advertising. Altogether this book gives two fascinating biographies of two exceptional and driven brothers who came together to form one of our greatest companies – producing some of our best loved confectionery products.

Rowntrees cover

Review

Rowntrees is about that famous family, especially Henry and Joseph who are synonymous with the birth of chocolate and in how it has grown.

It charts how Henry is the founder of Rowntrees and it details about his younger brother Joseph. It’s one for the reader with a sweet-tooth and with an interest in how these companies came about, as it has other confectionary companies mentioned too. The pace is excellent for such a historical non-fiction book. It’s interesting as Henry and Joseph Rowntree weren’t just pioneering chocolate, but also in treating their staff well. It demonstrates their philanthropy and human interest and industrial relations, influenced by them being Quakers. The book has lots of context to it and mentions Lewis Fry and George Cadbury as well as The East India Tea Company and Nestle and how events influenced their ways of working and brought about meetings with Samuel Tuke, who is a key man.

There is plenty of history, even if you don’t have a sweet-tooth as it isn’t all chocolate related. It chronicles improvements to buildings and schooling and the contributions the Rowntrees made and how Joseph, especially, had been active in so many good causes.

There’s a lot to learn about the Confectionery Industry from the Mid nineteenth century onwards. It’s written in a manner as though studies have just been done and the information is unfolding for the first time. This style of writing brings some excitement to the book, especially when talking about what chocolate contains and how cacao can be consumed. The book shows differences in branding and advertising, which is a bit like an exclusive sneaky peak behind the scenes. It’s interesting what is uncovered within the book, including competition and the concerns of industrial espionage.

As the book takes readers through the years, its pace builds up some excitement as chocolate emerges and becomes established in York, England. Although there are a lot of figures and dates, it adds to the context and doesn’t detract from the rest of the facts, so even if figures aren’t your thing, the rest of the book might well be and the pace is kept-up.

In the modern day, there seems to be more discoveries and it is exquisite that there are still old traditions that still survive today. It truly is all a delightful feast for the eyes and it may just make you want to buy some of Rowntree’s confectionary as you read the rapid rise and rise of it all as it documents drinking chocolate, eating chocolate, sweets such as humbugs and pastilles, all of which still survive today.

The book nicely and respectfully concludes with The Last Will and Testament of Henry Isaac Rowntree and the heritage and suggests where to find further reading on the subject matters within the book. Beyond that, there are pictures of the Rowntrees and George Cadbury as well as some of the architecture, landscape and advertisement posters of their times, which is a delight to see.

Buy Link: Pen & Sword Books (Publishers)

David Bowie by Robert Dimery #DavidBowie #Bookreview by Lou #LawrenceKingPublishing #NetGalley #NonFiction #Biography #Music

David Bowie
By Robert Dimery
Rated:
5 stars *****

Whether you are a seasoned fan of David Bowie or wanting an introduction to who he was, then this compelling book would make a great starting point or addition to anyone’s music collection.
Thanks to Lawrence King Publishing for accepting my request to review.
Read further to discover the blurb and the review in full.

David Bowie

Blurb

David Bowie was a restless innovator, scoring chart hits that broke radical new ground. His image changed with almost every album, influencing high streets and catwalks alike. He became an acclaimed actor, while his androgynous aura and ambiguous sexuality proved liberating to those uncertain about their own. This book charts his evolution in the sixties, his euphoric reinvention in 1972 as Ziggy Stardust and the excessive lifestyle that nearly cost him his sanity. It revisits his artistic rebirth in Berlin, the global stardom he achieved with Let’s Dance in 1983 and his triumphant farewell, Blackstar.

David Bowie is part of the Lives the Musicians series: highly readable short biographies of the most-popular musicians.

Review

A biography of David Bowie, I felt would be an ambitious book for anyone to pull off, there is after all, so much to say about him, but one that Robert Dimery has managed expertly to do, to make it an excellent introduction or addition to anyone’s musician book collection.

The contents page is enough to intrigue and scoop David Barlow fans up:

Becoming Bowie ♦ Of Mods and Mime ♦ Lift-off ♦ Rock ‘n’ Roll Alien ♦ Ziggy Goes To America ♦
Diamond Dogs and the Thin White Duke ♦ Berlin Calling ♦ Scary Monsters (and Superstardom) ♦
Losing the Muse ♦ Art-house Rules

This book is mature in writing. Let’s face it, writing about someone as elusive and yet as popular as David Bowie must have been an exciting opportunity, but very nicely it doesn’t feel like the author has hyped him up. He hasn’t shied away from, what must have been challenging times in David Bowie’s life of not being instantly loved and having to face some criticism. There are also the times, which must have been terrific, when things were going well. It feels very authentic and rounded.

The book, after a foreward, begins to tell you who David Bowie was as a man, the street he was on and a bit about his close family life and extended relatives and the atmosphere certain developments created. It captivates and gives a bit more understanding of David Bowie, away from the professional, famous persona he had. There are also other popstars of the time mentioned, which gives depth and all relates to David Bowie one way or another and bands he was part of. It is interesting reading about the eclectic music involved and performing on music shows such as Ready Steady Go, in his early career. There is also a look at the actual development of how he became a solo artist. There’s a nuanced exploration into sexuality that pops up every so often, like just reminding people how this influenced people and how people related to David Bowie. It is evident that a lot of David Bowie’s life has been researched and also the wider sphere of it, which creates fascination and in a way, perhaps readers will see something of themselves reflected back at them or remember the quotes from some famous fans, from the likes of NME.
It says about the uneasy start of Space Oddity, which these days, it’s hard to believe, but this is what the book shows, that the pop business isn’t as easy as it makes out to be. It has a truth about it, that even the most well-known had very challenging times. The book  rolls into Bowie’s alter-ego – Ziggy Stardust and what influenced certain music, such as his stage entrances. There are nuggets throughout the book, which is like a glimpse of behind the scenes and into the music business, as well as his own individuality, creating such a fascinating book. Going stateside is quite the eye-opener in terms of music, but even more so in the affect it had on himself and Angie. Later it talks of Iman and takes readers right up to Blackstar, where it is all quite emotional due to his death, and yet stay in keeping with the tone of the rest of the book, which is factual and has a professional, rather than over-excited fan, feel to it and that’s what helps keep it interesting, at times intriguing and most certainly compelling. It feels like this is okay to read because it seems to document how things are and there are some well-placed quotes, which brings David Bowie’s voice into the writing. It feels respectful. In the middle of the book, there are also some fabulous photos of David Bowie, documenting through his years of being a star, pictorially.
At the back, readers are treated to discography and further reading of live albums.