Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Review of the week: Woman in Blue and White, Janet Doolaege (@JanetDoolaege)

Janet Doolaege is fast becoming one of my favourite British authors and I had the great pleasure recently to read and review her latest publication Woman in Blue & White. Here is my review:

Having read and loved Janet Doolaege’s other novels, I was delighted to receive an ARC of Woman in Blue & White, a story that engrossed me from the very start.  I soon found myself so absorbed in the story that there were times I was unable to put it down and sat up very late into the night on more than one occasion, never knowing quite where the next twists and turns would take me.  I can tell you now, it took me on a great journey.

The story is set between France and Greece.  I always love the way this author writes about France with a curious combination of reverence and honesty that places the reader so firmly in the scene, you feel you are physically there.  She achieves the same with her descriptions of Greece.  I’ve been to Greece, though sadly not to Santorini, but now I feel as if I actually have been there.  The beautiful, evocative descriptions are what make Doolaege such a masterful author.

The plot of Woman in Blue & White is also very clever.  The rather na├»ve Zoe finally wakes up to the sort of person her long-term boyfriend is and finds the courage to leave him.  A last minute opportunity to travel to Greece on holiday with a colleague hurtles her into an adventure that changes her life.

When Zoe finds a watch on the beach, she also experiences strange kinaesthetic powers that seem to suggest a tragic, possibly violent history and the feeling is so strong that Zoe believes the watch to have huge sentimental significance for its owner, whom she determines to track down to return the precious object.  This is Ivar, a rather enigmatic and talented artist - and a fascinating character with whom I confess I fell just a little bit in love.  If you only read the book for this gripping part of the adventure, read it you must.  The author’s handling of Zoe trying to find Ivar is superb in its control of tension and drama.

I worry about giving too much away in reviews, and this is a story I would not wish to spoil for anyone.  It’s a must read and one I definitely plan to re-read (hopefully sitting on a beach on a Greek island this summer).  Ingenious plot, sensitive characterisation and haunting descriptions – what more can I say about this truly five star read?

About the author:

Janet grew up in Wimborne, Dorset, within the sound of the Minster bells and the Dean’s Court peacocks. English was her best subject at the grammar school, thanks to a dear eccentric English teacher popularly known as Fishy. After university she moved to France and worked at UNESCO in Paris as a translator, eventually becoming Chief of English Translation. Her husband is French and she has put down roots here, but still feels a strong attachment to England and its literature, particularly its wealth of children’s literature.

She has written three novels, all of them featuring just a hint of the supernatural and the unexplained, subjects which fascinate her, and all three are set at least partly in Paris.  Woman in Blue & White is the latest. Her three novels for children are embroidered versions of old legends, told in a form that she has tried to make more interesting for the children of today. For example, The Story of an Ordinary Lion is told by St. Jerome’s lion himself, and the adventures in Tobias and the Demon are related by Tobias’s dog.

Birds and animals have always been very important to her, and Ebony and Spica is a true memoir of two rescued wild birds, a blackbird and a starling. Each lived with her for many years and was an unforgettable character.

She tells me her house contains more books than she will ever have time to read! Reading and writing have been her life.

Woman in Blue & White is available from Amazon (US) and Amazon (UK)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Deep Breaths: Tales of Hope and Inspiration @TerrorFoxHall #FREEAudioBooks #TwoPaths


It's always a great pleasure for me when the hugely talented Tara Fox Hall pops over to my blog and today she's in a reflective mood and also a very generous one, since she's giving away multiple audio-book copies of her delightful collection of essays, to which I gave 5 stars.  You can read my review here. Enough from me, over to Tara.

Frost’s popular quote, “Two paths diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less travelled by…and that has made all the difference,” is familiar to many people, either from a social reference, a mention in a book or movie, or just from reading the poem. A choice between two futures is something we all face in our lives multiple times. In youth the decisions we make are often easier for us, not because they are any less weighty in consequence, but because we see before us many years of opportunity, no matter what we decide. 

The older we get, the more purposeful we become in our choices, aware that the clock that was quietly ticking since our birth is now slowly winding down. The reality that we all must die someday isn’t something to give much thought about in the first few decades of life, unless its experienced firsthand, such as with the loss of a parent or sibling. That’s something that’s going to happen someday, but not anytime soon. 

When midlife approaches, suddenly we are all too aware of what we didn’t accomplish, and how little time is left. But the reality is that no one can know exactly how much time they have. There is no fairness in death, just as there is no fairness in life. There’s just life, with all of its good times and hardships, golden moments of perfect bliss and stark moments of horrible realization. 

If something is important for you to do in your life, don’t wait until you are fifty years old, or your child graduates from college, or you lose ten pounds to start making plans to make your dreams a reality. Futures aren’t set; we are actively changing our potential prospects every day we live by what we say and do. The fork that confronts you today won’t ever be revisited, even Frost knew that. 

Confront your challenges and embrace every opportunity that comes your way, as it may never come again. You only get one life. What is right for one person may not be right for another, so don’t base your notions of happiness and fulfillment on what the world, your friends and family, or society tells you should to give you serenity and contentment. Do be kind, respectful, and above all, true to yourself in your actions. No one is perfect, and not every action we take will always be the best one. Yet we can find our way back to who we want to be, in time, if we choose to. With each new dawn comes another chance to get it right, to make amends, to fulfill dreams, and to discover new possibilities. There are two paths waiting before you today; pick the right one. Which one is right? Only you can make that choice.


The author is giving away 18 free copies of this audiobook from Audible, first come, first serve! Email the author with “Audiobook of Deep Breaths” in the subject line, and you will be sent instructions and a code for a free Audible download of Deep Breaths: Tales of Hope and Inspiration.


Tara Fox Hall's writing career began in the pages of a small print magazine, Catnip Blossoms!, that a friend, Harald Moore, put out to promote his catnip farm in Johnsonville, New York. One short nonfiction article followed another, detailing her adventures saving wildlife, her experiences living on an acreage, and more than a few humorous recountings detailing the antics of her wacky pets.

Written to delight, fascinate, and move readers, her simple but enchanting stories of country life quickly found a following. Tara kept publishing stories for the next five years, even as the name of the magazine changed to Meanwhile and then to On the River when the catnip farm went out of business and Harald moved with his family to a new home near a river.

These previously published stories are collected here for the first time with new added content in the hopes of bringing a little more hope and inspiration into everyday life.

Amazon Link to Kindle and print versions (US)  (UK)

Author links: