Smorgasbord Book Reviews – #Anthology – The Shadows We Breathe (volume 1) Edited by Sarah Brentyn and contributing authors

Delighted to share the news of the release of the anthology The Shadows We Breathe, edited by Sarah Brentyn and featuring several contributing authors.

About the Anthology


Life promises joy and sorrow. Alongside the light, there will always be traces of darkness. It is the nature of being human.

In this anthology of short fiction, we explore relationships—how they sculpt us, hurt us, help us, and reveal our deepest desires.

Eight artists, whose words paint worlds, bring you stories of heartache, loss, hope, and forgiveness. They unveil the intimacy and complexity of relationships.

Whether family, friend, or lover, connections to others can hold us up or break us down.

Within these pages, beautiful words are spun into tales threaded with darkness.

Discover the shadows we breathe.

My review for the collection 10th October 2021

Wonderful storytellers take on the task of creating stories that haunt, bring hope and satisfy in stories, 100 word flash fiction and just 10 words.

That is a challenge all the writers excelled at and I found myself turning the pages eager to read the next gem.

I am familiar with the writing of some of the contributors but was intrigued to see that they embraced the dark side of human nature in some unexpected ways.

Difficult to single out any particular short story  for special mention as they were all excellent but in the first section “What You Wish For” by Georgia Bell, “The Perfect Face” by D.Wallace Peach and “A Good Night Sleep”  by Mary Smith. “Moment of Truth” by Maria Carvalho gave me goosebumps.

In the 100 word flash fiction…”Certainty” by Reena Dobson, “Fair Exchange” Ali Isaac and “A Woman Walking” by Sarah Brentyn were exceptional, as was Allie Potts 10 word interpretation of ‘Fold’

This will be much enjoyed by those who love short stories in all their forms and appreciate the skill it takes to create them in only a few words

Buy the anthology: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK

About Sarah Brentyn and the contributing Authors

Sarah Brentyn is an introvert who believes anything can be made better with soy sauce and wasabi. She loves words and has been writing stories since she was nine years old. She talks to trees and apologizes to inanimate objects when she bumps into them. When she’s not writing, you can find her strolling through cemeteries or searching for fairies.

She hopes to build a vacation home in Narnia someday. In the meantime, she lives with her family and a rainbow-colored, wooden cat who is secretly a Guardian.

Author Page – Twitter

Georgia Bell

Georgia Bell is the author of Unbound, a young adult paranormal romance about love, fear, and immortality. She was raised on a steady diet of science fiction and fantasy and began writing the stories she wanted to read over a decade ago.

Author Page | Twitter

Maria Carvalho

Maria Carvalho is a multi-genre writer whose short stories have appeared in a wide variety of magazines and anthologies, including Under the Full Moon’s Light and Cabinet of Curiosities (both by Owl Hollow Press).

Author Page | Twitter

Reena Dobson began pursuing her creative writing with a vengeance when she realised the world was never going to stop and give her time to write. She now writes at the edges, in sunshine and under cover of darkness.

Author Page | Twitter

An image posted by the author.

Ali Isaac is a writer and blogger living in Co. Cavan, Ireland. In 2020, she was awarded a writing mentorship by Words Ireland and the Arts Council of Ireland, working under the guidance of author, Sara Baume. Her writing has been published in The Stinging Fly, Sonder, and Paper Lanterns.

Author Page | Twitter

D. Wallace Peach, best-selling fantasy author, started writing later in life after the kids were grown and a move left her with hours to fill. Years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books, and when she started writing, she was instantly hooked.

Author Page | Twitter

Allie Potts

Allie Potts lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with her husband, two children, and spoiled dog. When not finding ways to squeeze in 72 hours into a 24 day, Allie consumes and creates science fiction, fantasy, post-apocalyptic quests, cozy mysteries, and contemporary fiction.

Author Page | Twitter

Mary Smith, author and poet, is based in Scotland. Her memoir Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women focusses on her work in Afghanistan, which also provides the setting for her novel No More Mulberries.

Author Page | Twitter

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Wednesday January 6th 2021 – Stevie Turner, Mary Smith, Jean Lee

Welcome to the blogger daily and I hope you will head over to check these posts out in more detail.


The first post today is from author Stevie Turner with her Open Book Blog Hop with a prompt that most of us can relate to… how to keep focused during extended writing sessions.

Welcome to the first Open Book Blog Hop of 2021. This week the topic is:

‘How do you keep focused during long writing sessions?’

When I started writing novels back in 2013 I could write for hours to the exclusion of everything else. After I had been writing for a year or so I learned that I had to build a writer platform to get noticed. To do this I had to engage on social media with writing groups and other authors, and … reader… that’s where the rot set in.

The little red notifications on Twitter and Facebook and the orange ‘bell’ notification on WordPress meant that there was a new comment to answer. I didn’t want to store them all up and answer them in one long session on social media, and I didn’t want people to think their comments were going unanswered. Therefore I answered comments as they came in. Big mistake! I found I was constantly checking all my social media sites for emails and new notifications, and my concentration went out of the window. It was also tempting to check my KDP, Draft2Digital, ACX, BookFunnel and IngramSpark accounts every day to discover whether I’d had any new book downloads/sales. Then there was Amazon and Goodreads to look at to see if I had any reviews. I also had to think of new blogs to write to keep readers interested, and keep my website up to date. Long writing sessions became a thing of the past, and so did hours spent curled up reading a book.

Head over to discover the strategy that Stevie is going to put into place this year: Open Book Blog Hop 4th January 2021

Mary Smith set about walking of the Christmas treats around some of the beautiful areas in her part of Scotland… bracing fresh air and also an exclusive piece of beauty just for Mary to enjoy…

Happy New Year!

It’s becoming a New Year tradition to walk off the mince pies, though the first one took place between Christmas and New Year and was my first blog post, which you can read here. The following years, we walked on New Year’s Day itself and you can read those posts here and here.

This year, I was determined to walk (I may not have eaten many mince pies but the cheese and chocolate pounds definitely need to be shifted) but knew I couldn’t tackle hills like I did on previous years. Lung cancer, breathlessness on exertion, and depleted energy levels has rather put the kibosh on climbing hills.

We felt most of our usual short walks would probably be hoaching with folk, making social distancing difficult, as January 01 was a glorious day after a hard frost. We – the DH, Wee-sis and I – finally decided on Cairnsmore National Nature Reserve, a few miles from Gatehouse of Fleet. Described as one of the wildest places in south-west Scotland it’s a great place for walkers of all levels of ability from those who want to tackle Cairnsmore of Fleet’s 2,331ft or walk to Loch Grannoch or any one of a number of walks including the Clints of Dromore.

Head over to enjoy the stunning scenery in Mary’s neighbourhood and enjoy the post: Walking off the Mince Pies

And to finish today another New Year article that inspires thought about the year ahead in writing terms from author Jean Lee.

Good morning to you, one and all, on this Happy New Year’s Day!

After spending most of December digging my way out of a mountain of grading (finishing Christmas Eve of all days), I awarded myself a chance to visit your online studios to balance with the lack of physical travel here. Everyone chose to come to our house for Christmas instead–in spurts–which meant my three young Bs reveled in FIVE Christmases. Bo did his darndest to keep the house clean while I did my darndest not to give everyone food poisoning for the holidays. (Thank God for slow cookers.)

We. Are. Tired.

But we are also healthy, warm, and safe, all blessings to be thankful for.

With the departure of Christmases and the arrival of snow, I returned my writing goals from this past summer with fresh perspective. With better understanding of the time involved for both the boys’ schooling as well as my own, I brainstormed a writing to-do list for the next five months of 2021.

Head over to discover Jean’s plans for the coming year with regard to her writing and perhaps it might inspire you to make your own to do list: #Grateful For A #NewYear, One #Writer #Plots #NewGoals With #OldStories And #OldFriends.


Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you will head over to enjoy these posts in full.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – January 1st 2021 – #Books and more Books – Amy M. Reade, Jessica Norrie, Mary Smith

Happy New Year.. and welcome to the first of the Blogger Daily posts for the year and some posts I thought you might enjoy.

It is all about books today and the first post is from Amy Reade with a great selection of reads for her December Round-Up

It’s almost 2021! This is my last reading round-up for 2020, and pretty soon this year will be just a memory. Though 2020 brought lots of changes and more than a few blessings to my family, I know that’s not the case for millions of people all over the world.

Reading has always been a great escape, and my belief is that books have been more important than ever during the past nine tumultuous months. I hope you’ve enjoyed my reviews and that you’ve been inspired to read and review a few books of your own. I look forward to continuing my reviews in 2021 and I hope you’ll join me.

A Noël Killing (A Provençal Mystery Book 8) by [M. L. Longworth]

A Noël Killing (A Provençal Mystery Book 8) by [M. L. Longworth]

The first book I read this month was A Noël Killing by M.L. Longworth. I was looking for a Christmas mystery, and though I hadn’t read the first 7 books in the Provençal Mystery Series, I took a chance on this one. I enjoyed it. It’s a traditional mystery, as opposed to a cozy mystery or a thriller, and the setting in the south of France made it feel exotic. You can read my four-star review here

Head over to enjoy the rest of Amy’s reading for December  with another six books and links to her reviews: Amy M. Reade, Reading Round-Up December Edition

The next post is the follow on to a pre-Christmas Children’s Book Quiz set by Jessica Norrie…and I am giving you the link to that so you can test your knowledge before you look at the answers…Quizzing around the Christmas Tree with Jessica Norrie

First the quiz, now the answers. Well done everyone!

Many people said my Christmas Children’s Book Quiz was too hard – sorry! I was just about to provide more clues, when a friend a bit of a Hermione emailed me with a 98% score! (If you haven’t tried the quiz yet, it’s here.)

Whether you raced home like Hermione or are sulking in a snowdrift, I hope I conjured childhood memories and showed you books you haven’t heard of. Children’s literature deserves every bit as much attention as writing for adults, so I’ve added links to explore further (or enjoy reminiscing). One thing I’ve learnt from setting this quiz is that my knowledge needs updating, something for the next lockdown perhaps.

Head over to Jessica’s to find how well you have done: First the quiz, now the answers. Well done everyone!

And with a wonderful walk down Memory Lane with Mary Smith who shares the books that she enjoyed growing up, many of which I too read and enjoyed.. How many did you read?

What Katy Did was mine – what was yours? #children’sbooks

Who doesn’t love finding some new books under the Christmas tree? This year I gave my book wish list to my son – then the latest Covid restrictions meant we couldn’t meet up after all so I’ll have to wait until – well who knows when?

For some reason, thoughts about the books I’m looking forward to receiving triggered memories of books I loved as a child.

Head over to Mary’s to discover how many of these iconic books were on your bookshelves: What Katy Did was mine – what was yours? #children’sbooks


Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you will head over to read these posts in full.. Happy New Year.. Stay Safe… Sally.



Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Monday November 18th 2019 -#Afghanistan Mary Smith, #WIP Jacqui Murray, #BookMarketing Nicholas Rossis with Kurt Walker

The first post is another of Mary Smith’s adventures in Afghanistan when working in a leprosy clinic far from civilisation but very close to local dangers.. This is the 9th post in the series and I can recommend that you check the links to catch up with those you have missed.

MarySmith’sPlace – Afghan adventures #9

One night, only minutes after I’d turned off my lamp, the usual silence was shattered by the sound of firing. This wasn’t the normal reminder from Hisb-i-Islami on their mountain, to which we had long since become accustomed. This was very much louder and uncomfortably close to home. For a brief moment I considered it might be to announce the birth of a son – proud fathers were often given to firing off volleys from their Kalashnikovs on such occasions. The sound of rockets, seemingly directly overhead soon put paid to the idea that this was a celebration.

In the dark I groped for my glasses, wrapped my chaddar securely about me, then, feeling my preparations for any eventuality were somewhat inadequate, but not knowing what else to do, I crouched on the mattress. I expected Hussain to appear to reassure me, to tell me what was going on – but he didn’t appear. And I was certainly not going looking for him. After what seemed like hours everything went quiet. In the sudden silence I could hear my heart thudding – a phenomenon I’d never experienced before.

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Head over to find out what was going bump in the night….Mary Smith’s Afghan Adventures #9

Mary Smith, Buy: Amazon US
Website: Mary SmithGoodreads: Goodreads

Please visit Amazon or Mary’s website to view all her books.

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Now time to catch up with Jacqui Murray who is deep in the past as she develops the third book in the Crossroads Trilogy.. I loved the previous two books and very excited to read the third when available.

How I’m Doing on Against All Odds–2

How I’m Doing on Against All Odds–2

When I started the final book of my Crossroads trilogy, I had no idea how to wrap things up. I spent many days–weeks–researching the Iberian Peninsula (where my main character Xhosa now lived with her People) 850,000 years ago, hoping if I drenched myself in the setting, I’d understand the challenges my people faced.

It worked. The land–I found out–was not just challenging and primeval but life-threatening in ways I’d never imagined. What I envisioned as a peaceful settling of Xhosa and her People into their new life wasn’t. Not even close.

Here’s what I have done the past month: Jacqui Murray – How I’m Doing

Jacqui Murray, Buy: Amazon US Website:Worddreams BlogGoodreads: Goodreads Jacqui Murray

The next post is on the blog of Nicholas Rossis from guest Kurt Walker… on 9 Free ways to market your book.

9 Ways To Market Your Book With No Money

This is a guest post by Kurt Walker. Kurt is a digital marketer and a college paper help writer at Besides that, Kurt is a guest blogger at AustralianWritings,, and Superior Paper writing service. Kurt specializes in email and social media marketing. He is the father of three kids and a passionate New York Knicks fan.

Books | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

While publishing has never been easier, selling one has never been harder, especially for independent authors who have to rely on their own skills and professional networks. A report claims that 2.2 million new titles are published worldwide each year, so you definitely have a lot of competitors to deal with.

The situation gets even more difficult for authors who want to promote their works on a shoestring budget. It’s a very tricky situation, but don’t fall into despair. Remember that the year is 2019 and you can count on so many channels of promotion that won’t cost a thing.

So, what are the most practical ways authors can market a book with no money whatsoever?

Head over to find out: Nicholas Rossis – 9 Ways to Market your Book with no money

Nicholas Rossis, Buy: Amazon US Blog:Nicholas Rossis Goodreads: Nicholas Rossis Goodreads

Please visit Amazon or Nicholas’s website to view all his books.


Thank you for dropping in today and I hope that you will head over to read the posts in full…thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Wednesday October 16th – Beetley Pete #Bookreview – Mary Smith #Afghanistan – Janet Gogerty #Essentials

This series is an opportunity to showcase posts from around our community and the brilliant bloggers who share with us. It would be amazing if you would follow the links to the post I have highlighted and whilst visiting follow and support the blogger.

The first post is from Pete Johnson – Beetley Pete with his review for Turncoat’s Drum by Nicholas Carter…

This title was ‘suggested’ to me by Amazon. It is set in a period I am interested in, and on offer at just 99 p for 377 pages, I thought it was good value too. This is book one in series of six, by the same author. It forms part of the ‘Shadow On The Crown’ set of novels, all set during the turbulent years of The English Civil War, from 1642-1651.

Like many similar books in the genre, it takes a series of real events, then peoples them with characters who actually existed, mixed in with fictional ones who mainly drive the plot. In this case, we see the effects of the Civil War in the Western sector of the conflict through the eyes of the opposing generals of the Royalist army, and the Parliamentary rebels seeking to overthrow the monarchy. Also individual soldiers and cavalrymen on both sides, as well as the officers and noblemen drawn to conflicting causes.

Head over and read the entire review and also follow the link to buy the book for only 99p currently:

Get in touch with Pete and discover more about his writing – Blog: – Twitter:

Time to catch up with the intrepid traveller author Mary Smith as she shares her journey into and through Afghanistan to reach the clinic she was going to be working in. It would have scared the ‘whatnot’ out of me…links to previous episodes at the bottom of Mary’s post.

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Taking sheep to pasture

The additional weight of our armed guards made the bus even slower. I felt I could walk faster. Eventually, I dozed. The bus juddering to a stop jolted me awake. From outside I could hear yelling – it didn’t sound friendly. I peered through the window, spotting the tail end of a jeep blocking the road. Convinced we’d been ambushed, I turned to seek advice and comfort from Hussain only to discover he’d disappeared.

Before total panic paralysed me I heard his voice calling from the back of the bus, ‘Oh, Mudder, beroon beyee.’ (‘Oh, Mother, come outside.’) As I started to climb over the seat in front, thumping an unfortunate woman round the head with my bag, he called again, telling me to head for the back of the bus.

Changing direction, stumbling and staggering over bundles, tripping over shins and trampling on feet, I fought the terribly British urge to apologise to everyone I inadvertently assaulted in my scramble to the rear door. I paused. There were no steps. My exit became even less dignified as I launched myself into the arms of Moh’dullah, who deposited me swiftly on the ground. Hussain was by now beside himself with impatience. ‘Zoot! Zoot!’ he ordered. (‘Quickly! Quickly!)

Head over and enjoy the rest of this riveting post:

Mary Smith, Buy:

Please visit Amazon or Mary’s website to view all her books.

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The final post today is from author Janet Gogerty with a look at ‘Getting out of the House’. I have to admit that we don’t do it often enough. We did go out yesterday and being so out of practice we forgot some of the essentials including an umbrella and a shopping bag. These days you almost need a checklist by the door.. But as Janet discovered, leaving the house in the USA requires even more diligence…..

Getting Out

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One Saturday morning at 7am I got up and looked out of the bedroom window to see our next door neighbours standing across the road in their dressing gowns. I then noticed a fire engine standing outside their house. We had slept through the fire and the arrival of the fire brigade. A fire in their loft had prompted the hasty exit of three generations.

I sent Cyberspouse down in his dressing gown to bring them into our house, while I put some clothes and the kettle on. Over the next couple of hours, other branches of the family, who luckily lived close, arrived and we chatted more to all of them than we had since we lived there.

Head over and read the entire post and discover what is recommend for you to always take with you in the USA:

Buy Janet’s books: – Blog:

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you will head over and read the posts in full.. thanks Sally.


Smorgasbord Blogger Daily -Thursday October 3rd 2019 – Amy M. Reade, Jennie Fitzkee and Mary Smith

This series is an opportunity to showcase posts from around our community and the brilliant bloggers who share with us. It would be amazing if you would follow the links to the post I have highlighted and whilst visiting follow and support the blogger.

The first post today is from author Amy Reade with some great autumn recipes including cheesy Brussel sprouts.. that I must try..

First Tuesday Recipes for October

It’s officially fall and despite what the thermometer says, I know cooler weather is coming. (It’s supposed to be almost 90F here tomorrow…ugh.)

Fall is my favorite season for lots of reasons, but food is one of them. I love using apples and apple cider, pears, Brussels sprouts, squash, parsnips, and broccoli when I cook, and this is the best time of year to enjoy them at their finest.

The recipes I’m going to share this month are a simple side dish, a pasta dish, and a quick bread. Let’s cook!


Cheesy Brussels Sprouts

This recipe is one I made up, so the measurements are approximations. It’s easy, though, so you can tweak it to your tastes.

  • 1 c. Brussels sprouts (I use frozen because they’re smaller than fresh), thawed if frozen
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. butter
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 palmful grated Parmesan cheese

If you use frozen Brussels sprouts, pat them dry with paper towels once they’re thawed. If using fresh, just wash them.

Halve the Brussels sprouts.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat until the butter has melted. Add Brussels sprouts to the pan, cut-side down. Sprinkle with salt. Cook for about 4 minutes, without flipping the sprouts, until the cut sides are beginning to brown. You’ll have to check them, since cooking times vary depending upon the size of your sprouts.

Flip the sprouts and continue cooking until they are browned all over. Add the Parmesan cheese to the pan. Cook, stirring, until the cheese starts to melt and stick to the sprouts. The cheese should start to become golden. Serve immediately.


Pasta with Pumpkin Cream Sauce and Apple bread can be found here:

Amy M. Reade, Buy:
Blog: – Goodreads:

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The first post is  by Jennie Fitzkee, who shares the wisdom gained from over 30 years as a teacher of the youngest school children, preparing them for life and infusing their absorbent minds with a love of learning. In this post, a much loved friend returns to the classroom.


Gloria joined the classroom today, and oh what a homecoming it was. It’s doubtful Santa Claus would receive such a welcome. After all these years we are still amazed at the difference Gloria makes and how children are drawn to her. It started many years ago…

You see, Gloria is different. She is very shy and loves to wear black. She’s not pretty on the outside, but she’s beautiful on the inside. In order for children to learn about the world, they needed to learn about the people in the world. And that meant introducing them to diversity… to Gloria.

Children don’t even see that she’s a puppet. The word witch is never spoken. It isn’t even a thought in their heads. They see her ‘insides’; that she needs help singing the ABC’s, that she loves Maine, and likes to be read to. That’s what children really see.

When Gloria arrived today, we introduced her at Morning Meeting. She was shy and did not speak. She looked all around, and we realized she didn’t recognize the classroom, as we have moved. That took some explaining! Then, Gloria looked at the children. She knew her Aqua Room friends from last year. One by one, they came up to hug Gloria. The hugs were more like the jaws of life… it had been a long time since they had seen her. McKinley cried. We did, too. Delaney buried her head into Gloria. On and on.

Please head over an enjoy this wonderful post about the love that someone called Gloria can bring to the classroom:

Connect to Jennie – Blog: –  Facebook: – Twitter:

And last but certainly not least… a post from Mary Smith, sharing her experiences working in Afghanistan…the setting for her wonderful book No More Mulberries (highly recommended).

Travels in Afghanistan (2).


Cocooned in my black nylon, slithery, stifling burqa I retreated into a review – it was certainly not planning – of what had brought me here. Adult life had begun in a dull, but safe job as a junior bank clerk in South West Scotland. Numerically dyslexic, it was highly improbable that I would have ever fulfilled my mother’s ambition to have a daughter become one of the first women bank managers and after a boring year I left to hitch hike around France and Italy with a boyfriend.

Back in Britain we settled in Blackburn, Lancashire where I tried a succession of jobs from being a nanny to making car components before landing a job with Oxfam. It was a job I loved and would probably never have left had not the mini-bus driver taking our pool team to a match in Blackpool not been going to Pakistan. Somehow during the course of the evening it was decided I should accompany the wife and sister of a friend of the mini-bus driver when they returned to Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, to see their family.

While there, I visited the Marie Adelaide Leprosy centre and was deeply impressed by the work I saw being done there. In conversation with Dr Pfau, the dynamic German sister who had worked for over 25 years on the leprosy programme she suggested I stay on for three years to set up a health education department. ‘But,’ I pointed out, ‘I don’t have any medical qualifications.’

Head over to find out why that was not an impediment to Mary starting her new life and three years later a hair raising drive in to Afghanistan:

Mary Smith, Buy:

Please visit Amazon or Mary’s website to view all her books.

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Thank you for dropping in today and it would be great if you would head over to read these posts in full.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Christmas Celebrations – The First Day of Christmas with guests Mary Smith, Jacquie Biggar and John W. Howell

Welcome to the first of the Twelve Days of Christmas party where guests will share their best ever Christmas presents ever…and there will be food, drink and of course music and to get you into the spirit of the season.. here are some choristers with particular appeal..

I tried to remember the first Christmas that I was aware of as a child. I must have got the general idea of the concept of presents quite young as at age seven when we moved to Malta I began the practice of putting a pillowcase on the end of my bed from around mid-October…. I think this ticked my mother off somewhat because she sat me down at the beginning of December and told me that Father Christmas did not exist and that from now on I would have my presents around the tree like my two sisters who were in their late teens….. My brother would only have been three years old at the time and so was not really interested one way or another.

It must have made quite an impression on me as I then related this story to my husband before our first Christmas when we were talking about how we would spend our first together. Since we had only known each other for six weeks when we married in mid-November it was not surprising that there were a few things that we had not had time to discuss, especially something as trivial as Father Christmas! However, imagine my delight when I woke early on Christmas morning to find a heavy weight across my legs (oy… Nothing like that this is a family show) I switched the light on to find a pillowcase packed to the rafters with carefully wrapped presents… Nothing too grand as we were pretty broke but I remember bursting into tears at the time at this act of love and kindness…

Every year since then for the last 38 Christmas mornings we have woken early and sneaked a stocking full of nonsense on to each other’s side of the bed and when we had Sam still, he had one too. There is a frenzy of unwrapping or ripping in the case of Sam, and much laughter and illicit consumption of chocolate oranges and cashew nuts. In the case of Sam it was the sniffing out to the bottom of the snack to find his customary pig’s ear… I always put a tatty duvet cover on for this occasion and it was necessary.

As to my favourite Christmas present of all time……that would probably be the year that my parents came up to London to stay with us and have Christmas dinner. My father loved big band music and at the time was still listening to a 1960s record player. We gave him a fairly flat package, and he unwrapped it to find four CDs of Glen Miller Big Band Music.. He tried so hard to look excited, but then looked at me and said ‘I don’t have anything to play these on’. David then handed over another large package to my mystified father, who tore of the wrapping to find a box containing a combined radio and CD player with detachable speakers. The look on his face is still very clear in my mind today. Priceless.

Just in case my father is listening in from somewhere over the rainbow.. here is Glenn Miller with In The Christmas Mood…..

Actually the 12 days do not begin today but from Christmas Day until the evening of the 5th January. These days are associated with religious calendars and rather than the fun approach in the song we sing, many are in tribute to someone who met a tragic end. The 12 Days have been celebrated in Europe since before the Middle Ages and were a time of celebration of various events around the birth of Jesus or to celebrate the life of a saint or martyr. Each day had its own significance.

Day 1 (25th December): Christmas Day celebrating the birth of Jesus and the setting of the nativity.

Now time to meet our first guest who is someone who has accompanied during the last five years of blogging and whose books I have enjoyed. Author Mary Smith lives in Scotland but has her experiences of working in Afghanistan and Pakistan to draw upon when writing her novels and short stories. Mary has also written in collaboration a series of books on her home in Scotland.

This is Mary’s very best Christmas present ever….

As soon as I read your  post I remembered my best ever Christmas present – roller skates. It was a completely surprise gift from Santa (my four-years-younger sister was still a believer), something I hadn’t asked for. It took me a while to master them because I kept trying to walk rather than roll but once I got the knack I was off, skating up and down the pavements. Those skates gave me such freedom. In the summer the grounds of the High School became my giant skating playground. I didn’t mind if I was alone but often other kids joined me. A steep, ridged concrete path ran from the playground to the tennis courts, which was great for testing our nerves. We tied a rope onto a bike and took turns being pulled down the slope, faster and faster – the ridges on the concrete made my teeth rattle. I can still feel the exhilaration and sheer joy my skating days gave me. Very tempted now to put skates on my Christmas wish list!

My Christmas gift to Mary courtesy of the most entertaining virtual giftstore ‘Youtube’

It took some doing Mary but my Christmas gift to you, is annual membership of this international group of skaters…Moxi Girls… who are preparing a wardrobe for your debut performance…they were thinking Mary, Queen of Scots as your moniker……

Books by Mary Smith:


A recent review for No More Mulberries

Thru the eyes of a converted Scottish midwife and her 2 husbands. Miriam is an highly trained midwife who meets an handsome Afghani engineering student in Edinburgh University. They fall madly in love, she converts to the Muslim faith for him and they marry and have a child. Not too long after their son is born, tragedy strikes and she is widowed. She marries again and the story, “No More Mulberries”, is the intricate unwinding of these lives in the midst of a war torn country.

The writing is rich with descriptions and emotion. The characters are well fleshed out, complex and burdened. This is not a one sided political treatise but rather an inside look from the vantage point of a common village family and some slightly higher up; but only slightly. Life in early 1990’s for the Afghani people was akin to 1890’s America, extraordinarily so for the women.

Altho’ M. Smith portrays the realities in her book, this story is not without a feeling of love and hope. These are resilient people in tragic circumstances trying to maintain families and some semblance of normalcy. There are moments of humor to relieve the tension so deftly written about.

There is nothing offensive in this book. All the language, violence and sexual content are easily within a PG rating with nothing being gratuitous or overly descriptive. You will get the picture without being given a high-def, 4K, knockout punch. This book will effect you, I know it did me. The invasion of Afghanistan was almost 25 years ago and the battle still rages. “No More Mulberries” will give you a chance to see what it might be like on the inside, from the inside.

We assume that carols are of religious origin but in fact they are pagan songs that were sung to celebrate the four seasons. For thousands of years at the Winter Solstice for example people would dance around large stone circles and the word carol actually means to dance in praise and joy. Over time the practice of singing carols became synonymous with Christmas and was adopted by Christianity as a way of celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Over the years it has become a tradition for musicians to bring out their own compositions in honour of the season and over the coming days I will be sharing the carols and music that are sung all over the world by those who celebrate this particular festival.

And to start us off, where is a wonderful choir called Proclaim with Mary Did You Know……

My next guest is USA Today Bestselling author Jacquie Biggar who writes across the fantasy and romance genres. Here is what she shared about her best Christmas gift ever.

Jacquie’s best Christmas gift ever.

My favorite Christmas gift arrived six years ago, not long after I moved to the island. Hubby was working in Alberta and only came home every three weeks, and my daughter and grandson had started school—I was lonely.

Knowing my love of animals, hubby brought me a Christmas surprise, a tiny calico kitten! I fell immediately in love with her furry body and sea-green eyes. And best of all, I wasn’t alone anymore. I’m attaching a pic of her above. Her name is Harley

My Christmas Gift for Jacquie is a hamper of all the top cat lover’s gifts… I hope you and Harley have a blast…….

Discover all of Jacquie’s books, read the reviews and buy:


Here is one of the recent reviews Mistletoe Inn

I love Christmas books and the perfect holiday book has to be full of heart and romance, healing, redemption, warm and cozy Christmas themes and maybe a hint of the magic of the season. Throw in a small child and a dog and you have me. Mistletoe Inn has all that and more. Noah is on his way to becoming a grumpy recluse. He bears the scars, inside and outside from the fire that killed both his parents when he was a small child. His aunt, who raised him and he loved, recently died too. I think that she was a wise woman because just before she died she sold part interest in her B&B called Mistletoe Inn to a young divorcee with a small child wanting to make a new start. Like it or not, Molly starts to thaw the ice that encases Noah’s heart. And, in a place like Christmas, Michigan, covered in snow and Christmas joy,and surrounded by young families and couples coming to the Inn for a romantic holiday who can resist romance? The novella has some depth and lots of heart too with themes of grieving and starting over. You will quickly feel like Christmas when you read this!

Traditionally mince pies were a bit of luxury and also a status symbol for those living in 17th century and very wealthy folk would show off at their Christmas gatherings by having their pies in all kinds of shapes and sizes and were more a reflection of their ability to employ a high end pastry cook more than anything.  In the early days they would have contained minced meat of lamb, beef, chicken etc rather than those we eat today made with dried fruit and spices.

Traditionally it is said that if you have one a day from Christmas Day through to Twelfth night you will enjoy much happiness for the next 12 months… If ever there was an excuse to eat something sweet and fattening then this is the best yet….

They are really straightforward to make and our own Foodie… Carol Taylor shares her recipe in her post including how to make your own sweet mincemeat:

And my third guest today is thriller and paranormal mystery author John W. Howell who lives on the Texas coast, has three dogs who have him right where they want him.. Lucy, Bailey and Twiggy..for example when it came to the Christmas Decorations

John was very quick to share his most favourite Christmas gift every and you can tell it made quite the impression on him…

John’s most favourite gift ever

When I was about six years old, I wanted an electric train. I told my parents that a train was all I wanted. They said a train was not in the cards that year.

I went to bed accepting the fact that a train was not going to be under the tree. My older sister had told me there was no Santa Claus, so I had not sent a letter to the North Pole with my request. If there was a Santa, which I believed before my sister filled me in, I could make a wish even at this late date. So before finally falling asleep, I asked Santa to please leave a train.

The next morning the living room was a magic land filled with presents. The tree sparkled with colored bulbs, and I could see a Lionel engine with ten cars sitting on tracks that went all the way around the tree. I could not believe my eyes. As a consequence, I still believe in Santa Claus.

My Christmas gift to John is a re-creation of that magical Christmas morning… kindly provided by Karla Hemingway

 Read all the reviews and buy John Howell’s books:

A recent reviews for Circumstances of Childhood Aug 24, 2018 Karen rated it it was amazing

This book provides you with a first look at Greg, whereas Keith introduces you to the story.

With Circumstances of Childhood, John W. Howell has created a unique story of friendship, loss, and much more. Greg and Keith are very likeable characters; as the story proceeded, I became their invisible friend. The story comprises a variety of craftily elaborated characters with depth and interesting interactions until the last page. I had a great time reading Circumstances of Childhood – it is a very intriguing and intense read; it turned me into an invisible ally and/or friend of the believable protagonists. I was drawn into the story right away, eager to learn more. Some of the events may start a new train of thoughts, maybe even shine a new light on something familiar.

This is for you if you like thrillers with excellent twists, interesting and complex characters, a touch of the paranormal, and – food for thought. A compelling and remarkable read by a master of story-telling.

And something for you to drink before you head off into the cold. – The Eggnog

There is some debate about the origins of Eggnog but it probably goes back to what was called Posset in medieval Europe -it was a sweetened dairy based drink made with milk, cream, sugar and eggs which would have been beaten together to form a frothy drink with some cinnamon or nutmeg sprinkled on top. Over time of course some bright sparks began to add some alcohol to the mix depending on where they lived at the time… Today in various parts of the world you will find a version of Eggnog served with rum, brandy or whisky. It is very warming and sweet and if also combined with rum I understand it has an impact on short term memory…..

What is quite delicious is to make the concoction into an ice cream and that goes beautifully with mince pies or Christmas pudding.

There are a number of great recipes online and I can suggest that you check this one out:

Thank you for joining us today…The Second Day of Christmas… tomorrow….with guests, Darlene Foster and Miriam Hurdle

What was your most memorable Christmas gift? it would be amazing if you would share.. thanks Sally

Sally’s Drive Time #Playlist – #Music to get the weekend started – The Requests – Sue Vincent, Jacquie Biggar, Mary Smith and Tina Frisco

Since the beginning of this series, I have asked you to share your favourite music with links in the comments. I thought I would create a special playlist, sharing the track and link to the latest post of those requesting the song.

The first track is requested by Sue Vincent  Eric Clapton and ‘Bad Love’ Apparently Sue cannot hit the road without this blasting out.

We have some country coming up from Charlie Pride with ‘Kiss an Angel Good Morning‘, requested by Jacquie Biggar and if you head over you can read Jacquie’s review of Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs.

Billy Joel and ‘Uptown Girl’ was the selection by Mary Smith to keep her company when hitting the road.

The stunning voice of Loreena McKennitt and the song ‘Santiago’ was selected by Tina Frisco which I am sure you will enjoy. If you head over you can catch Tina’ recent guest post on The Story Reading Ape.

Tune in next week for part two of the requests from the series. Thanks for dropping by and have a wonderful weekend. Thanks Sally


Sally Cronin’s Book Reviews 2017 – My recommendations for Christmas Part One – Mary Smith, Judith Barrow, Cynthia Reyes, Kristina Stanley and Jack Eason

As part of promoting books for Christmas, I thought that I would share some my book reviews from 2017 that I featured on the blog. These are books that I can recommend personally and I hope that if you have not read the work of these authors you will head over and check them out.

I have not read nearly enough books this year and I still have some reviews to write that will appear after Christmas. My intention in 2018 is to maintain book and author promotions but also ring fence some time for my own writing and reading. I will be featuring one review a week which is my target of 52 books reviewed for next year.

Anyway I do hope you enjoy my personal selection over the next two days.

My reviews and recommendations for Christmas Part One.

No More Mulberries by Mary Smith was a treat as you will gather from my review and I am not alone in my opinion. There are an impressive number of excellent reviews for the book which continues to delight readers.

About the book

No More Mulberries is a story of commitment and divided loyalties, of love and loss, set against a country struggling through transition.

British-born Miriam’s marriage to her Afghan doctor husband is heading towards crisis. Despite his opposition, she goes to work as a translator at a medical teaching camp in a remote area of rural Afghanistan hoping time apart will help are see where their problems lie. She comes to realise how unresolved issues from when her first husband was killed by a mujahideen group are damaging her relationship with her husband and her son – but is it already too late to save her marriage?

My Five Star review for No More Mulberries.

First let me say that this book should be made into a film as it has all the ingredients of a action packed love story.

It is visually stunning and I found myself completely involved in the people and locations such as the village of Sang-i- Sia that Mary Smith uses as the backdrop to the unfolding story. Combined with the increasing conflict between the various factions in the region it has an element of danger that brings even more tension to the central theme.

All the characters had wonderful depth and some of the minor personalities stood out for me as well. Including Ismail an old and trusted friend from her previous life in Zardgul and his gentle and wise wife Usma.

There is a love triangle between midwife Miriam, Iqbal her second husband and Jawad her charasmatic first husband who died tragically, and whose death she has not fully come to terms with. Through flashbacks, Mary Smith masterfully takes us through each of their lives, revealing the secrets and events that have brought them to a crisis point in Miriam and Iqbal’s marriage.

I came to admire Miriam who felt out of place in her native Scotland and embraced the cultural differences of living in a small Afghan village with enthusiasm and humour. She does everything she can to be accepted by learning the language and adopting the role of a traditional wife and mother.  Relationships can be daunting at the best of time, but add in the inability to communicate,no running water, basic cooking facilities and harsh extremes of weather in an isolated enviroment, and fortitude is required.

I did sympathise with Iqbal who clearly loves Miriam but finds it very difficult to deal with the ghosts of his past, and the ghost of Jawad who he feels is the third person in their marriage. He wants to be a good father to Farid who was just a toddler when his father died, but Miriam has also been trying to keep the memory of Jawad alive for her son, who is now confused. The light in their marriage however is provided by the delightful little girl, Ruckshana who is unaware of the tension and shines her love on all of them.

This is a complex relationship but the story is written in such a way that you come to understand and empathise with all the players in the drama. Mary Smith brings her extensive experience of living and working in Afghanistan and Pakistan into this story, creating a wonderful tapistry of life, love, danger and redemption.

I highly recommend you read the book.

Read more of the reviews and buy the book:

and Amazon UK:

I also read and reviewed Donkey Boy and Other Stories in October

My review for the collection which I gave  5 stars on October 2nd.

This is not a long read, but you should never judge a book by the number of pages, but in the quality of the writing. Each story is beautifully crafted and leaves the reader with questions. Not about the outcome of the story, but about how we might have behaved under similar circumstances. In the title story we meet a small boy who has to work for his father rather than go to school. His resentment is natural in a child, as his reasoning over a moral dilemma that becomes even more complicated than he anticipated.

For me there was a theme running through all the stories, of a sense of being trapped in situations and circumstances. These included childhood memories laced with bitterness, secrets that if revealed could endanger life, and visions that show the darker side of human nature. I read and enjoyed the novel No More Mulberries by Mary Smith, and highly recommend that you read this short story collection too.

Read the reviews and buy the collection:

and Amazon US:

A selection of books by Mary Smith

NEWSFLASH: Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni is on offer until December 23rd at 99p..

Mark Williams 5.0 out of 5 stars A Finely Wrought and Fascinating Memoir 24 August 2017

This is an outstanding memoir, a record of the time that Mary Smith spent working in Afghanistan where she was establishing a project to train female volunteer health workers. This perspective makes for an account that is so much more vivid and intimate than a mere visitor to the country could have created. Mary Smith writes with humour and a delicate touch that faithfully records the daily life she experienced directly. She also evokes a lost time when the country enjoyed relative peace, pre-Taliban, and because of that there is an elegiac mood too as Taliban were later to gain ascendance. What shines forth, however, is the resilience and spirit of the Afghan people, especially the women, which Mary Smith captures in a lively, limpid style that ensures you will want to keep reading right to the end. It is easy to see why Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni has become a best seller.

Read all the reviews and buy the books:

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My next review is for A Hundred Tiny Threads by Judith Barrow which is the fourth book of hers that I have read and enjoyed.

About A Hundred Tiny Threads

It’s 1911 and Winifred Duffy is a determined young woman eager for new experiences, for a life beyond the grocer’s shop counter ruled over by her domineering mother.

The scars of Bill Howarth’s troubled childhood linger. The only light in his life comes from a chance encounter with Winifred, the girl he determines to make his wife.

Meeting her friend Honora’s silver-tongued brother turns Winifred’s heart upside down. But Honora and Conal disappear, after a suffrage rally turns into a riot, and abandoned Winifred has nowhere to turn but home.

The Great War intervenes, sending Bill abroad to be hardened in a furnace of carnage and loss. When he returns his dream is still of Winifred and the life they might have had… Back in Lancashire, worn down by work and the barbed comments of narrow-minded townsfolk, Winifred faces difficult choices in love and life.

My review for A Hundred Tiny Threads.

Highly recommended – A brilliant prequel to the Howarth family saga.  Five Stars.

I read and reviewed the three books in the Howarth Family Saga series and was delighted to discover that Judith Barrow was going to release a prequel to the series. We meet Winifred Duffy and Bill Howarth well into middle-age in the trilogy, and it is wonderful to find out how they began life, and the experiences that formed their characters.

Winifred Duffy finds it difficult to bond with her rigidly unloving mother despite the best efforts of her father. Their grocery shop is a focal point in the street and being under the watchful eye of the neighbours makes their strained relationship worse. It is a time when the Suffragette movement is gathering pace, and much against her mother’s wishes, Winifred becomes involved. Her new friends are vibrant and colourful. They are completely different to anyone that she has known before and they draw her into a dangerous liaison. Winifred has to develop the strength to overcome the consequences of these relationships if she is to continue to live within the narrow minded community around her.

Bill Howarth is a young man whose early life and time in the mines has marred him, leaving scars that make him unpredictable and angry. But Winifred catches his eye and ignites a love that is both powerful and destructive. Bill enlists to fight in the First World War and his experiences of the horror drives any compassion he might have had, deeper beneath his anger. This is reinforced with his service as part of the Black and Tans regiment in Ireland leaving him with few options if he is to find redemption.

Judith Barrow has created two very different characters that cross paths on a number of occasions, sometimes without being aware of each other’s existence. It is very difficult to like Bill Howarth, and it takes a skilled writer to instil some compassion and understanding for the young man he becomes. Winifred is much easier to admire, as she faces and overcomes some life-changing events, and comes to terms with secrets from the past.

The pace of the story is excellent, with several other wonderfully drawn characters such as Honara and her brother Conal, and the completely unlikeable Ethel Duffy. The history of the suffragette movement and the Irish conflict are very well portrayed, forming a compelling backdrop to the story of two young people being drawn into events, often beyond their control.

I recommend that if you have not already read the three books in the trilogy, that you begin with A Hundred Tiny Threads. This will offer you a wonderful introduction to the Howarth family that you will next meet during the Second World War. Also, having become familiar with the locations in this prequel, you will feel immediately at home when you encounter them in the first of the books, Pattern of Shadows.

Head over read the reviews and buy the book:

and at Amazon UK:

Also by Judith Barrow

Read all the reviews and buy the books:

and Amazon UK:

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My next review is for the beautifully written and illustrated children’s book Myrtle the Purple Turtle by Cynthia Reyes and illustrated by Jo Robinson.

About Myrtle the Purple Turtle

Myrtle is a lovely Turtle. Not an ordinary Turtle. She is Purple and different from other turtles. After being bullied by another turtle, Myrtle tries to become someone else. In the end, Myrtle and her friends help children learn to not be afraid of being different. Myrtle the Purple Turtle is a thoroughly engaging story that stresses the importance of self-acceptance and friendship.

My review for Myrtle the PurpleTurtle

Beautifully illustrated children’s book with a lesson for us all.

This is a beautifully written and illustrated children’s book, that gently encourages the young to accept that being different should be celebrated. Whether it is the colour of a person’s skin, accent, cultural background, religion or disability, they should never feel excluded and forced to change to fit in. Adapting is a different thing altogether and that comes when two people or groups respect each other’s differences, learn from them and adopt some elements in common. Cynthia Reyes expresses that effectively with the words in this book, complimented perfectly with wonderful illustrations of Myrtle and those she meets along the way by Jo Robinson. I also believe that parents or any adults reading this to a child, will also take on board how important it is for young children to grasp this concept as they enter this multi-cultural world we live in.

Read all the reviews and buy the book:

and on Amazon UK:

Also by Cynthia Reyes


Read the reviews for both books and BUY:

And Amazon UK:

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61etre3zbbl-_ux250_Connect to Cynthia Reyes via her blog:

Illustrations by Jo Robinson

Jo Robinson currently resides in her homeland, South Africa, after having lived in rural Zimbabwe for many years. Her obsessive affection for the African continent, most humans, and all creatures feathered and furred are what inspire her writing. Her stories are mostly about people, and the sometimes dark twists that life takes. She also writes science fiction/fantasy, humour, and horror, not being one to restrict herself.

Connect to Jo via her website:

The final review for today is for  Look the Other Way by Kristina Stanley which was released in August this year.

About Look the Other Way

Submerged beneath the depths is a sea of secrets

A year after her Uncle Bobby mysteriously disappears in the turquoise waters surrounding the Bahamas, Shannon Payne joins her grieving aunt to trace Bobby’s last voyage. Shannon hopes the serenity of the sea might help her recover from a devastating breakup with her fiancé.

Sailing the 38-foot catamaran, A Dog’s Cat, is Captain Jake Hunter, a disillusioned cop who has sworn off women. While Shannon tries to resist her growing attraction to the rugged captain, she uncovers dark truths about her uncle’s death that might send them all to the depths.

My review of Look the Other Way.

A romantic thriller with some great twists and turns.

I am not a sailor but have enjoyed time on the sea with a very capable captain at the helm. It was clear throughout the book that there was a very capable sailor writing the story who knew their way, not just around a boat and the Bahamas but also a romantic thriller.

The main characters were everything that a romance needs. Attractive, feisty and independent heroine, Shannon Payne who has some very good reasons for taking a break from her life, for some much needed time to think and consider her future. A good-looking and rugged hero, Jake Hunter who seems to be hiding a secret from his past, and who is desperately trying to keep his eyes of the bikini clad Shannon who might just put a dent in his resolve to remain single and celibate.

Shannon’s aunt Debi is on a mission to unravel the mystery about her husband Bobby’s last sailing trip. It seems that wherever the boat with its occupants anchors in the exotic Bahamas, the mystery deepens with dangerous manipulative female hitchhikers, and a much disliked yachtsman who likes to help himself to expensive keepsakes. Add in Debi’s excitable little dog and you have all the ingredients of a great adventure.

The locations from the Florida coast to the various yachting havens in the Caribbean are authentic and clearly well researched. Whilst the appeal of the nomadic life sailing these waters was apparent, so was some of the darker elements of this lifestyle.

One of the clever elements that the story of a troubled boy and teenager that is told in the background.. is it Jake or someone else? As Shannon’s brother joins the crew and seems at odds with everyone, it raises more questions about both their backgrounds.

Who are Shannon and her aunt to trust, and will they discover the truth behind the loss of Bobby? As the feelings heat up between Shannon and Jake she is knows that she must discover the truth if she is to find true happiness.. Oh and look out for the ex-fiancee who decides to confuse the issue even further by turning up uninvited.

I enjoyed the book very much. I escaped to the warm waters of the Bahamas with Kristina Stanley at the helm and found myself captivated to the end. Not my usual genre, but there was plenty of excitement, mystery and action to keep any reader happy. With the cold winter nights drawing in I recommend you curl up by a fire and escape to the islands.

You can read other reviews and buy the book:

And on Amazon UK:

Also by Kristina Stanley

Read all the reviews and buy the books:

And Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow Kristina Stanley on Goodreads:

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Earlier in the year I read and reviewed the historical novella 1066 by Jack Eason

About the book

Down the centuries the British Isles has always been seen by invaders as a legitimate target for exploitation. This novella concerns the last few weeks of Anglo-Saxon occupation, ending on the 14th of October, 1066. In Autumn 1066, author Jack Eason gives a great sense of ‘place’, of detail. The reader is right ‘there’ in that poignant year, marching, shivering with September cold (as ‘…no warming fires were allowed lest ‘enemy spies would soon spot their approach.’) From the very first few lines, Eason, practising his unique drycraft, begins to weave his particular brand of magic on his reader. Eason glamour’s with well-crafted dialogue, drawing his reader into the time and into the action. To accomplish this, the author proffers a gentle blend of informative nomenclature coupled with familiar speech, to ease the reader into his story without distancing with words too unfamiliar, which is a criticism frequently made of Bernard Cornwell’s epics. I long to read more Martin Bradley

My review for 1066 May 18th 2017.

Prepare yourself to stand in the shield wall.

This novella may be a short read, but it so packed with authentic detail and action, that you feel you are reading a much longer book.

Our heritage is founded on the backs of ordinary men such as Aldred and his nephew Cynric pressed into service as were thousands of farmers and craftsmen who were sworn to the feudal Anglo-Saxon lords. The story is factual but told through the eyes of these two fictional characters as warring armies battle to gain control of Britain.

One army is led by the barbaric King Harald of Norway or Hardradå as he is known by his men. He has formed an alliance with the Anglo-Saxon Tostig, claimant to the throne, now held by his brother King Harold, following the recent death of Edward the Confessor. This invasion force has the backing of Duke William of Normandy who has made promises to Tostig should there be victory.

With all the various factions identified, the story then takes us through the build up of forces led by the Norwegian king in southern Scotland, the defeat of the army entrenched in York and the significant and decisive victory by the forces of King Harold at Stamford Bridge.

This leads to the battle that was to change the life of every man, woman and child in Britain on October 14th 1066.

The main characters are portrayed vividly, and their backgrounds and involvement in this pivotal time in history, demonstrate how human traits such as greed, revenge and jealousy leads to the deaths of thousands who follow them.

The battle scenes and the acts of barbarism are very realistically portrayed both through the eyes of Aldred and Cynric, as well as those leading the various forces. The action maintains its pace throughout the story and Jack Eason has recreated the terrifying and brutal results of hand to hand combat and archery.

This was a dark time in our history and 1066 was a turning point for a Britain about to move into the Middle Ages, Jack Eason has captured this moment excellently.

If you enjoy a fast paced story and historical accuracy then I recommend you read 1066.

Buy the book – Amazon US –

Amazon UK

A small selection of other books by Jack Eason

Discover all of Jack Eason’s books and read the reviews:

And Amazon UK:

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I hope you have enjoyed today’s selection and there will be more of my reviews tomorrow. Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Christmas Posts from Your Archive – My Dad’s a Goldfish – Our last Christmas with him by Mary Smith.

Welcome to the Christmas posts from Your archives and today the first of two posts from Mary Smith. Mary’s father suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease which meant that events such as Christmas were all the more poignant and a time to be together.  I think this post echoes the sentiments of all of us who have cared for parents with dementia.

My Dad’s a Goldfish – Our last Christmas with him by Mary Smith.


I suppose the approach of Christmas will always now be tinged with sadness. Our last Christmas together was 2013. From time to time during 2014 we thought he’d make it to the next one – and he almost did, dying three weeks before.

Christmas 2013 was unforgettable for several reasons. For one thing, Wee-sis and I felt it might be the last Christmas in which the Goldfish would be able to participate and enjoy it all – how right we were. However, at one point it looked as though we wouldn’t even see the Goldfish over Christmas because the step-monster’s daughter decided her mother and the Goldfish should come to her on Christmas Day. As they always go to the step-monster’s son on Boxing Day we were not going to see him other than a quick visit.

Much discussion and gnashing of teeth followed this announcement and Wee-sis (because she is so much more diplomatic than I am) was sent to negotiate with step-monster’s daughter. It was agreed Christmas dinner would be at my house. The step-monster decided to go to her daughter’s house instead, which rather pleased us. She would only spend the time moaning about how she hates Christmas and how glad she’ll be when it’s over.

Then, two days before Christmas the step-monster dropped a bombshell by announcing she was leaving the Goldfish and going to live in her own house. She’d inherited it from her mother and had been letting out for many years. She wasn’t going to say anything to the Goldfish! Nor was she going to move out until the end of January because she needed to get it decorated.

Throughout the last minute organisation for Christmas – the wrapping of gifts (nothing for the step-monster this year), shopping for food, planning the day – the worry of what was going to happen kept intruding. However, we put our fears for the future to the back of our minds and planned a lovely Christmas Day for the Goldfish.

The much-loved Yorkshire terrier – with her head balanced very precariously!

He had a wonderful time opening his gifts. His favourite was a toy Yorkshire terrier we’d seen in the garden centre. The previous year he had admired it but in those days my ignorance of dementia was limitless and I had dismissed the idea of buying it for him. The following year on our regular pre-Christmas jaunts to the garden centre there were piles of toy dogs – but only one Yorkshire terrier. I didn’t hesitate. It went into the basket along with the Guinness chocolate he (and I) loved.

All through the day, he petted and talked to that dog as it sat on the arm of his chair. When we took him home, we put the dog beside him. Next day, it had been moved out of reach. I put it back on the arm of his chair. Next day, it had been moved out of reach. The step-monster couldn’t bear to see him stroking it as if it were a real dog, couldn’t bear to see the Goldfish behave like a child. I still have the dog. He sits on the back of the sofa. His head his hanging off now but he was hugely loved by the Goldfish for many months.

The Goldfish had a really happy day, surrounded by people who talked to him, grandchildren, nephews and nieces and partners came to visit him and he thoroughly enjoyed his Christmas dinner (with wine) – and had two puddings – and a couple of drams of malt whisky to finish the evening.
©Mary Smith 2016

My thanks to Mary for this heartwarming post and it is important to remember that for many Christmas as an event means little anymore, but the company of those that love them is precious.

About Mary Smith

Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She longed to allow others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.

Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan.

Mary’s latest book

Having read and reviewed this short story collection I can recommend Donkey Boy and Other Stories by Mary Smith as a great Christmas present.

About the collection

Shot through with flashes of humour the stories here will entertain, amuse, and make you think. Mary Smith’s debut collection of short stories is a real treat, introducing the reader to a diverse range of characters in a wide range of locations. A donkey boy in Pakistan dreams of buying luxuries for his mother; a mouth artist in rural Scotland longs to leave the circus; a visually impaired man has a problem with his socks; and a woman tries to come to terms with a frightening gift – or curse.

One of the excellent reviews for the collection

Short Story Collection Worth Reading TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 7 October 2017

How I discovered this book: It was submitted to Rosie Amber’s Review Team, of which I am a member. Two years ago I read No More Mulberries by this author, which I liked a lot.

This is an interesting and diverse collection of stories, set in several locations, from Scotland to Pakistan, where the author lived for a while. Some of them were written as monologues, which have been performed.

I liked those set in Pakistan best, my very favourite being Accidents Happen, about a girl whose mother marries a man she hates. I liked it so much I read it again, straight away. I also liked Donkey Boy itself, about a little boy who has to work for his father instead of going to school, and Trouble with Socks, about the sort of ghastly, patronising auxiliary in a care home who thinks that physically disabled means mentally deficient. The last one, a longer story called The Thing In Your Eye, was interesting. A woman believes she sees evil in people in their eyes; this left me a little unsure, as I didn’t know if we were meant to think it was all in her mind (as everyone else does), or if she really could ‘read’ people.

They’re all unusual, with a theme of private sadness. I liked a very short one called My Name is Anya, too, about an Afghani girl adopted by Scottish parents. They’re ideal for a nice bit of lying on the sofa, afternoon reading when you’re not in the mood for complicated plots.

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Other books by Mary Smith

And two Local History books

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