Comfort Reads – Guest Author Sue Barnard

Today I am joined by fellow Crooked Cat Author Sue Barnard to talk about her favourite ‘comfort reads’ – and it’s an eclectic selection!  If like me you are a bit of a Wuthering Heights fan ( confession time – I prefer the Kate Bush song to the novel), you might be interested in Sue’s latest book Heathcliff, a Wuthering Heights spin-off,  published on 30 July 2018 – Emily Brontë’s 200th birthday (and Kate’s 60th). Take it away Sue!

 

That Devil Called Love, by Lynda Chater

I first read this book when I was in my mid-forties and was starting to feel depressed about getting old – and I can truthfully say that it changed my entire outlook on life. It’s a modern re-working of the Faust legend, told with great perception and humour, in which the heroine finds out the hard way that youth, beauty, wealth and fame don’t necessarily hold the key to lasting happiness. It’s a valuable lesson to everyone, and such an ingenious concept that I’ve often wished I’d thought of the idea myself.

 

The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince), by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

This is an unusual choice, as one does not normally fall in love with one’s A-Level set books. But I studied this for A-Level French and have adored it ever since.  Although ostensibly a children’s book, it can be read on any number of levels, and contains a very powerful message: “On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” (It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.) I love this book so much that I have multiple copies in different languages. That’s how crazy I am…

 

The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey

This fictional detective story considers a real-life cold case: Who might have killed the Princes in the Tower? A thorough and well-constructed investigation which comes to a surprising but very plausible conclusion, and it certainly changed my original perception of King Richard III.

 

 

The Richard Stilgoe Letters, by Richard Stilgoe

Whenever I need a fix of surreal humour, I reach for this book: a collection of short pieces written about characters who are all anagrams of the author’s own name, and all the names are astonishingly appropriate for the people concerned.  For example, there is a charismatic weatherman called OSRIC THIRDGALE, a fantasy writer called ERIC D GHOSTLAIR (whose epic trilogy GHIRIDOR CASTLE is a cult classic), and the sometime president of France, Germany and Ireland: GISCARD O’HITLER. The writing is pure genius, and the book definitely deserves a wider audience.

 

The Blue Door Theatre Series, by Pamela Brown

I was first introduced to these lovely stories when I was in my final year at primary school. They tell of a group of young people who form their own theatre company, and they first kindled my longstanding love of the theatre. There are five books in the series: The Swish of the Curtain (1941), Maddy Alone (1945), Golden Pavements (1947), Blue Door Venture (1949) and Maddy Again (1956), all set in a fictional town in southern England. They seem a little dated now, but that is part of their charm.  It’s sometimes good to escape from twenty-first-century traumas and revisit an era when things were a little more innocent and a lot less complicated.

 

About Sue by Sue

Sue Barnard is a British novelist, editor and award-winning poet whose family background is far stranger than any work of fiction. She would write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her. Sue was born in North Wales but has spent most of her life in and around Manchester. She speaks French like a Belgian, German like a schoolgirl, and Italian and Portuguese like an Englishwoman abroad.

Her mind is so warped that she has appeared on BBC TV’s Only Connect quiz show, and she has also compiled questions for BBC Radio 4’s fiendishly difficult Round Britain Quiz. This once caused one of her sons to describe her as “professionally weird.” The label has stuck.

Sue joined the editorial team of Crooked Cat Publishing in 2013. Her first novel, The Ghostly Father (a new take on the traditional story of Romeo & Juliet) was officially released on St Valentine’s Day 2014.  Since then she has produced four more novels: Nice Girls Don’t (2014), The Unkindest Cut of All (2015), Never on Saturday (2017) and Heathcliff (a Wuthering Heights spin-off story about Heathcliff’s missing years, published on 30 July 2018, to coincide with the bicentenary of the birth of Emily Brontë).

Sue now lives in Cheshire with her extremely patient husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings.  You can find her on Facebook, Twitter (@AuthorSusanB), Amazon, or follow her blog here.

Author and Editor at Crooked Cat Books and Ocelot Press
Blog   Facebook   G+   Twitter   Instagram   Amazon  Goodreads  RNA

 

Thanks to Sue for taking part – anyone else have fond memories of school text books?

 

Guest Post by Jane Bwye

This week fellow author Jane Bwye joins me to discuss her favourite ‘comfort reads’.

 

Thank you for having me, Rosie.

I don’t know if I’d call them “comfort reads”, and I’ve had to think a bit before making my final choices, based roughly on the number of times I can sort-of remember reading them. The truth is, it’s several years since I’ve opened the pages of any of them. But your invitation has reminded me.

I am an utter romantic at heart, and although I’ve never been to Russia, Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago has been my favourite read for as long as I can remember. As a sixteen-year-old, I read it a few times, then in 1965 I saw the film, and because in this rare case the film is every bit as good as the book, I now think of both, when re-visiting either. And that haunting music never fails to stir my soul.

 

You definitely cannot class Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty as a comfort read. I first read it way back before my teens and could never resist the temptation to repeat the exquisite torture again and again, barely able to see the words on the page through my tears. I have always been crazy about horses, which doesn’t help. I picked it up again about six years ago, as I’d come to live in Sussex where the book is set. To my shame, even in later life, the tears spoiled the pages and I was devastated that it could still affect me so much.

 

My mother introduced me to Nevil Shute at an early age, and Australia has been part of my dreams ever since. When I came across The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCulloch, I was in seventh heaven. I remember first reading it from cover to cover twice through without a pause, and a copy still graces my book shelves, ready for whenever I feel like a bit of self-indulgence.

 

 

I discovered Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese at a mature age. This classic story of twins, hardship and professionalism set against the exotic background of Ethiopia is surely a must-read for all reflective souls. Beautifully written, full of philosophy and ageless, it has made a deep impression on me, and I keep telling myself to read his other books…

 

 

There’s one more book, which I just cannot leave out. Enduring Love by Ian McEwan. I am not blessed with a good memory for stories, and whenever I pick it out, remembering the totally satisfying and tingly feelings it gives me, it is as if I’m reading it again for the very first time.

 

 

I could go on and on – I’m finding more and more good books and have forgotten hundreds, which leaves the way open for me to read them again and have pleasant surprises. I don’t want to bore you, and I must show you my African novels, which were inspired by the “Tribe” books by Nicholas Monserrat. However, that’s another story…

 

 

…And on 15th August 2018 I’ll be launching something entirely different. A Guide to starting your own business. Even authors need to show some business acumen these days.

https://bookgoodies.com/a/B00352B44Q

If you pre-order from Amazon now, you’ll get the special price of £/$.99!

 

 

 

Jane Bwye lived for 55 years in Kenya. She has been an intermittent free-lance journalist most of her life and has written several books. Her large family, scattered over three continents, are a good excuse for her to indulge in travelling. A former teacher, and owner of several small businesses, she works as a business mentor for small business start-ups.

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jane-Bwye/e/B00BOK0NN4/

Website: http://janebwye.com/

Comfort Reading – Miriam Drori

I recently wrote about my favourite ‘comfort reads’.   In today’s guest slot, fellow Crooked Cat author Miriam Drori gives her take on the same subject.

Since becoming a Crooked Cat author, I have expanded the scope of books I read, enjoying many different types of novels. These days, it would be easier to say which genres I don’t read – mostly science fiction, porn, poetry.

But most of the books I read aren’t comfort reads. They’re not what I need to take me out of something that’s making me unhappy.

In my youth, when I often struggled with life, I didn’t know about comfort reading. I wish I had; it would have helped. But it was only in June, 2010 that I discovered reading as an escape.

Something happened at that time. I can’t even remember exactly what it was. Where I live, bad things happen quite often. What I read about this episode on social media, from people who lived far away and couldn’t really know what was going on, upset me a lot. I’ve probably read similar comments since then, but have become more immune to them.

In order to escape from comments I took too personally, I decided to turn my computer off for fifty-five hours, or at least that’s how long my separation from the world outside my country turned out to be. It would be much harder to cut myself off from the Internet these days, now that I have a smart phone and am expected to be available online at all times. But back to then. What did I do instead? Apart from completing various chores, I sat in the garden and read.

The book I read was one that I’d just won in a competition: Kwaito Love by Lauri Kubuitsile. It’s a romance, the first of this genre that I ever read. I can do no better than to quote from my review of the time, https://miriamdrori.com/2010/06/07/a-well-timed-book/.

“It’s set in South Africa, and describes a world where traditional food includes vetkoek or makwinya – depending on the language being spoken, where women of twenty-four are too young to marry, where family ties are very strong and where the worst problems are caused by misunderstandings.

“No doubt the last item in my list is not always true of this place, but in the world described in this story, that’s all there is. And that’s what drew me to this beautiful, well-written story: its ability to distract my mind from all my worries and transport me to a world where the love between two people is the only thing that really matters.”

Since then I’ve read many romances. I’ve even written one, Neither Here Nor There, although the background of its heroine predetermines more plot depth than in most romances. And next time I need an escape from the trials of real life, I’ll hope I have a romance at hand to fill the gap.

***

Miriam Drori is the author of the romance Neither Here Nor There, the historical novella The Women Friends: Selina co-written with Emma Rose Millar and the non-fiction Social Anxiety Revealed.

Miriam can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, Wattpad and on her website/blog and social anxiety blog.

 

My Fab Five Comfort Reads

The mythical ‘they’ always say to be a great writer you have to be a great reader. I devoured books from a very early age. Books provide an escape route – I used to immerse myself in Kirrin Island and Narnia, just like children today escape to Hogwarts. Returning to a familiar place is a source of great comfort, and like food, I have my favourite ‘comfort reads’, novels I can escape to in times of need.

It was very hard narrowing my choices down to five, but to me the following books represent the literary equivalent of peanut butter on toast or a mug hot chocolate with whipped cream – comfort reading. This doesn’t mean that they feature happy ever afters with cosy characters (far from it), it just means that when I pick up these books I know I’m in for a treat.

 
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon –  the perfect combination of history, romance, mystery and magic, set in a great city, Barcelona. I discover something new amongst the pages everytime I read it. Probably my all time favourite novel.
 
Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald. As much as I love The Great Gatsby, I prefer Tender is the Night, perhaps because it’s just that little bit ‘meatier’, (or maybe because I share the same name as one of the central characters??). The themes of vulnerability and co-dependency are explored in an opulent and seemingly perfect setting. A book that epitomises a flawed romance in a decadent bygone era.
 
A Town Like Alice Neville Shute’s classic might be considered a little old-fashioned in today’s market but it’s an inspiring mix of historical fact and fiction with a strong, gutsy heroine at its core. 
 
The Go-Between by LP Hartley.  A great lesson in how to build up tension alongside evocative imagery. The perfect portrait of a lost innocence and the 1971 film version is pretty good too.
 
Chocolat by Joanne Harris. Basically, I love anything by Joanne Harris, but Chocolat was the first novel of hers I read so for sentimental reasons it would have to be my favourite. I listened to a speech by Joanne Harris at the Winchester Writer’s Festival a few years back and she was inspirational. She was told Chocolat would never sell, but she had faith in her story and stuck to her guns. 
 
I’ve made multiple house-moves in recent years and books have had to be sacrificed and taken to the charity shop, but these five treasured friends have stood the test of time. I wouldn’t be without them.