My review of ‘Cabbage and Semolina’ by Cathy Murray

Cathy Murray’s easy conversational prose tells of her happy childhood in the fascinating fifties – shadowed by the war and the heavy cost paid by the nation, but looking forward to a modern age. We get glimpses of an earlier long-vanished world too as she remembers her grandfather telling her how he went to work in the mines at the tender age of twelve and showing her the field where the pit ponies had their two weeks annual ‘holiday’ above ground.

The author looks with the eyes of a child, quite rightly starting with school dinners, for food is children’s main preoccupation, as anyone will tell you, and she also has periods of reflection when she observes through her adult eyes.

I particularly enjoyed reading about Miss Heaps, the rather formidable piano teacher, and how she managed to get a hundred per cent pass rate by ridding herself of the weaker pupils – a practice not generally encouraged today!

How times have changed we think as we read about liberty bodices, pens being dipped into ink bottles at school, ‘Listen with Mother’ on the wireless, pre-decimal money and the early days of the NHS, but we also realise that some things never change when we read the delightful descriptions of children playing with whatever comes to hand (the Geiger counter!) and having fun whatever the circumstances.

Cathy has described an ordinary childhood in ‘Cabbage and Semolina’, and in doing so, has made it extra-ordinary.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cabbage-Semolina-Memories-1950s-Childhood-ebook/dp/B00UDHAP5A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1427021266&sr=8-1&keywords=Cathy+Murray

Book review 106: Jenny Worstall reviews An Explosive Time by Julia Hughes

This is my review of Julia Hughes’ novel, ‘An Explosive Time’, posted on Morgen Bailey’s excellent site for writers this morning.

MorgEn Bailey's Creative Writing Blog

Today’s book review is brought to you by short story author and novelist Jenny Worstall. If you’d like your book reviewed or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

An Explosive Time (Celtic Cousins Adventure Book 3) by Julia Hughes

Genre: Young Adult / Adventure

An Explosive Time cover imageSynopsis: When a circus elephant goes missing on Detective Inspector Crombie’s watch, he immediately thinks of Celtic Cousins Wren and Rhyllann, who have to his mind made a career out of being the collective bane of his existence. And his instincts are correct: the cousins HAVE been up to something–but when Crombie finds out what it is and why, he runs into resistance not only from his immediate superiors, but also from the corridors of power in Whitehall itself. Described by one reviewer as a “Masterful British Thriller” this is the third…

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Book review 095: Jenny Worstall reviews ‘A Raucous Time’ (Celtic Cousins Adventure Book 1) by Julia Hughes

My review of ‘A Raucous Time’ by Julia Hughes, featured today on Morgen Bailey’s wonderful site.

MorgEn Bailey's Creative Writing Blog

Today’s book review is brought to you by short story author and novelist Jenny Worstall. If you’d like your book reviewed or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

A Raucous Time (Celtic Cousins Adventure Book 1) by Julia Hughes

Genre: Young Adult/ Adventure

Purchase link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Raucous-Time-Celtic-Cousins-Adventures-ebook/dp/B0062SDMV8

Review:

A Raucous Time cover imageA Raucous Time is the breathless tale of two dare-devil cousins, Rhyllann and Wren, who are pursued by ruthless criminals in a series of incredible adventures, aided (and abetted) by Detective Inspector Crombie and the police force.

King John’s treasure is the original source of all the trouble (lost in 1216 in a terrible disaster). Rhyllann and Wren should be in school but instead they are involved in all manner of hair-raising exploits. There is double-dealing, police corruption, a mysterious note in code, a terrifying near collision…

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Book review – for readers and writers – no.85: Jenny Worstall reviews Thrift: The Misadventures of an Inadequate Teacher by Phil Church

My review of ‘Thrift’ by Phil Church.

MorgEn Bailey's Creative Writing Blog

Today’s book review, of a humorous novella, is brought to you by short story author and novelist Jenny Worstall. If you’d like your book reviewed or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

Thrift: The Misadventures of an Inadequate Teacher by Phil Church

Thrift coverSynopsis: A failing secondary school, a selection of confused teenagers, a play doomed for disaster and a distinctly below average teacher. Being a successful teacher is difficult, especially when you are not overly keen on doing any work. Still, the narrator of Thrift is undeterred as he lies and cheats his way through the Christmas term, hoping that he can save his career, and perhaps even earn himself a thoroughly undeserved promotion.

Available from http://www.amazon.co.uk/Thrift-Misadventures-Inadequate-Phil-Church-ebook/dp/B005L9VJYQ and http://www.amazon.com/Thrift-Misadventures-Inadequate-Phil-Church-ebook/dp/B005L9VJYQ.

Review

Thrift is a wonderfully laconic account of a failing comprehensive school teacher.

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‘The Funny Business of Life’ – Kindle Countdown 29th Dec to 5th Jan

My new novel, ‘The Funny Business of Life’, is reduced to 99p/99c on Kindle Countdown from 29th December 2014 to 5th January 2015.

Funny Business of Life Kindle Cover

Book Description:

Miriam has a secret, a secret she cannot bring herself to share, a secret that leads to a brutal stabbing on Bonfire Night at St Cecilia’s School.

We travel back in time to investigate the mystery, meeting a host of colourful personalities along the way, including the bumbling Director of Music Lancelot Prokofiev, the predatory french teacher Celeste Dubonnet, Brunhilda the chocolate-loving music secretary, Dorian the sixth former who can understand complicated mathematics but forgets the day of the week and the egotistical conductor, Tristan Proudfoot.

Demons are wrestled and surprises abound before we return to Bonfire Night for the final revelation of a dramatically altered future.

‘The Funny Business of Life’ is a not entirely serious murder mystery and is the second book in the ‘Sing with the Choir’ series. The opening scene is set in 2014, eleven years after the end of the romantic comedy ‘Make a Joyful Noise’ (Book 1 in the ‘Sing with the Choir’ series). Both books can be read as standalone titles.

Feeling frazzled? Even a worm will turn in the end.

‘Tis the season to be jolly…and a bit frazzled. Pour yourself a coffee, put your feet up for a few minutes and find out what happened when ‘The Lady with the Funny Hair’ reached breaking point. After all, even a worm will turn in the end.

THE LADY WITH THE FUNNY HAIR

What was I doing, head back, screaming at full throttle, clinging to a total stranger on the Dragon Ride at Legoland?
The day had started peacefully enough.
“Mum! Where’s my school jumper?”
“Mum! Tina’s pinched my tights again.”
“Mum! Have you ordered that stuff from the internet yet? I need it for tomorrow…”
“Jane! Where’s my tie? Keys?”
“Hang on,” I bleated. “Listen! Isn’t that the phone?”
“Hello, Jane? It’s me. Are you coming to visit today? Why not? You know they’re not looking after me properly, don’t you? I can’t think why you dumped me in this home… and ‘home’ is too good a word for it, why, the tales I could tell you about what goes on in this place, they’d make your hair curl…”
“Sorry Mum, sorry everyone,” I whimpered. “I’ll sort it, I promise. Whatever it is you all want, I’ll do it. Yes, Tina, yes, today, of course, I won’t forget.”
I had just five blissful minutes to myself once they had all left – time to slap on some anti-ageing serum. My God! I averted my eyes from the mirror quickly. When would this stuff begin to take action? And it’s costing me a small fortune, I thought guiltily. I ran my fingers through still damp hair to give a bit of root lift. Should I use that conditioning spray I had bought? Where was it anyway?
I managed to get to work looking vaguely respectable, although the house was a bomb site.
“Hi Miss!” called Darren cheerfully as I passed him in the corridor.
“Hello Darren,” I whispered. I had noticed a couple of mothers waiting for me by the coat hooks outside my classroom and so quickly pressed myself against the wall, beside a cupboard, hoping they would give up and drift out to the playground.
“She’s late again, I expect.”
“But I really need to speak to her – Jacintha wasn’t happy in class yesterday – bless her, she’s such a special child.”
“Everyone’s unique, no one’s special,” I muttered from my hiding place.
“There you are Mrs Worm,” boomed the Headmistress. “I need you to go on the trip today with Miss Kirby and Mr Grip – we need a mature member of staff present – so I’ve covered your class for the day to make you free.”
“Thank you,” I gulped, “I think.”
Once on the coach, I soon fell asleep. I was on holiday in the south of France with George Clooney, I was sailing across an azure sea, fluted champagne glass in one hand, my eyes sparkling attractively with the merest hint of intriguing laughter lines…
“Miss! Miss Worm! Me and Daisy have eaten our packed lunches and now we don’t feel so good…”
“Could you stop the coach?” I begged the driver.
“Not on the motorway, no,” he barked. “Deal with it.”
The day passed in a blur of queuing – for entry, for toilet stops, for rides and for snacks. We worked our way across the park until we arrived in front of the Dragon Roller Coaster, next to the Castle.
“No,” I said firmly to the row of imploring faces in front of me. “You’re too small to go on this. Well, some of you are, so it wouldn’t be right for anyone to go on it.”
“Not fair,” sulked Darren. “Never get to do what we want.”
“I wanna go on the Dragon Ride,” whined Daisy. “Why can’t I?”
“Not fair, not fair,” chorused the children. “Dra-gon Ride, Dra-gon Ride, not fair, not fair…”
Then suddenly, unexpectedly, something in me exploded and I turned, turned to face the children and staff.
“You don’t get to do what you want? You don’t? What about me? When does anyone even ask what I want? Maybe I want to go on the Dragon Ride. Have you ever thought of that? Maybe I will go on the Dragon Ride!”
With an hysterical cackle, I ran to the tunnel where the last passengers were getting into green plastic carriages, pushed a couple of startled people aside and leapt onto the train.
I had the time of my life, shrieking and wailing with the best of them, chugging up the narrow rail and plunging down, down to the depths, all with twenty five beady-eyed children and a couple of bemused colleagues amongst the audience. It was only when the ride stopped I realised I was attached like a barnacle to the man next to me in the carriage.
“You’ve made a bit of a show of yourself, haven’t you?” said the man’s girlfriend sitting opposite. “Put him down now. He’s spoken for.”
“Don’t know why you care,” I replied loftily. “He’s not exactly George Clooney, is he?”
With that, I jumped out of the carriage pretty smartly and fled. It was a shame I had to slink back a few minutes later to retrieve my bag.
“That’s her, the lady with the funny hair!” shouted a little girl to her mother.
“It’s rude to point – don’t they teach you manners?” I retorted, fleeing the scene for a second time.
On the way home, Miss Kirby gave me a picture from the photo booth next to the ride; it showed a red-faced woman, frizzy hair streaming in the wind and eyes mad with fear, reaching out to a man who was shrinking away in obvious terror.
“Mr Grip and I bought this for you,” she explained. “It’s already on the internet, along with a few other action shots.”
I glanced behind me and saw that every child on the coach was bent over a mobile phone.
“What made you do it?” asked Miss Kirby. “It was so out of character.”
“No idea,” I laughed, looking proudly at the picture, “but it was fantastic, fabulous fun!”


‘The Lady with the Funny Hair’ is from my latest book of ‘Quick Coffee Break Reads’ (available from all Amazon sites for 77p or the equivalent).