Milly Reynolds the Crime and General Fiction Author

Creator of crime sleuths Mike Malone and Jack Sallt and writer of other general fiction

Reading the Carnegie

Y8 pupils in the school where I am currently working are busily reading the books that have been short-listed for The Carnegie Medal. This is awarded annually to the writer of an outstanding book for children and the winner will be announced in June.

As the pupils are spending their free time reading, ready to make their own choices for the best book of the year, I thought that I would join in the fun too. After all, reading is fun.

So – this is the shortlist. I will blog my own reviews as I read the books and will decide upon my own choice for the winning book.

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Latest review – ‘We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves’

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I had not heard anything about this book – where have I been? – and so was not sure what to expect. It is a story narrated by a young woman, Rosemary, whose family has fallen apart. She used to have a brother and a sister, but she has no idea where they both are. The book flits from past to present and Rosemary is a girl who is guilt-ridden, lonely and silent. The twist is enormous and asks questions about love and family bonds, sibling rivalry and the power of forgiveness. Heart-breaking and happy, it is a book that cannot fail to move you.

I gave it a 4 star only because I could not engage with some of the minor characters. The main character, Rosemary, I just wanted to hug.

Beware of the biscotti!

 

Time for me to share another baking experience. Chocolate, almond and orange biscotti – courtesy of a Paul Hollywood recipe. Although he made it look so much easier.

I suppose, like me, you see all of the recipes entries on Facebook and the like – with all of the pictures of perfect kitchens and perfect bakes. That’s not me-  as evidenced by some of my other blog entries. With my entries you see warts and all – disasters, half disasters and the things that didn’t turn out too bad after all. Baking is a perfect antidote to writing; after a couple of chapters of Mike Malone and his latest escapade, it’s nice to disappear under a cloud of flour – and believe me I do.

But back to the biscotti – a double baked biscuit. My dough – made up of plain flour, sugar, baking powder and two eggs was a lot stiffer than I was expecting. The recipe called for 2-3 eggs – I used 2 but maybe I should have used 3. Next time, I will try adding more beaten egg. To my dough I added melted chocolate, orange zest, a splash of orange juice and some chopped almonds. Once everything was mixed, I divided the dough into two sausages and baked. Now, I found that I needed to bake my bicsotti a lot longer than the recipe stated, they were very, very soft when the timer went off. So, when I was satisfied that they were baked, I pulled them out of the oven, sliced the sausages into little biscuits and baked them again.

 

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Now I know biscotti are hard little biscuits to be dunked. I think that mine are maybe too hard. I think I could build a house with mine – but – once they do eventually soften in a mug of coffee, they taste pretty good. Here patience is definitely a virtue, they don’t need a dunk, they need a soak. But isn’t there a saying that the best things are worth waiting for – or something like that?

So, baking done, I’ll return to my writing as I would like to get the next Mike Malone published just after Easter and I’m a little behind schedule at the moment. Although, there is another recipe that I need to try. I’ll keep you posted.

Final book in the Lewis Trilogy – ‘The Chessmen’ by Peter May

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Atmospheric. Thrilling. Satisfying. The final book in Peter May’s Trilogy did not disappoint, and this third book kept up the pace of the previous two. Set in the Hebrides, May’s descriptions are evocative, bringing the area’s rugged beauty to life.

Fin Macleod has now left the police force, but as the crime, the discovery of a body inside a plane that was lost seventeen years previously, involves friends from his past, he gets involved. The relationships between Fin and his friends, and Fin and his childhood sweetheart, well, they are complicated. We get flashbacks to Fin’s teenage years at school and university and watch as Fin and his friends grow up, make mistakes and be human.

I loved this set of books and am sad to now say goodbye to Fin and the Hebrides. I have put Peter May on my list of authors to read and will let you know what I think of his other books when I get around to them. If they are half as good as these, I’m in for a treat.

Day out with Dad

It has been far too long since I took Dad out, apart from weekly shopping trips and hospital appointments. So it was a day for the two of us and we went to visit a glorious lady – the only flying Vulcan bomber in the UK and – I’m not quite sure about this – I’m pretty sure that she is the only Vulcan bomber still flying anywhere.

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I think I have said before that planes fascinate me, I love their sleek lines and their power. My particular favourite is the Lancaster bomber, but the Vulcan is pretty high on the list. My pictures just do not do her justice, when she is on the ground it is impossible to capture the delta wings that make her special. I’ve seen her fly once – last year when she joined up with the UK’s only flying Lancaster and the Canadian Lancaster who came over to the UK for a visit. A magical sight, but I digress.

Dad, bless him, is 93 and now needs the use of a walking frame when he is out and about. As I had booked us on a guided tour, I was pretty confident that there would not be too much walking for him and I was right. We stopped for lunch on route; Dad really enjoyed his apple crumble – as did I. However, the result of the lunch was that by the time that we arrived and were sitting down for the talk all about the Vulcan, Dad was asleep. But it was ok – he didn’t start snoring. Nevertheless, he enjoyed his day out and the chance to talk to some of the guys involved in keeping the Vulcan airworthy. It gave him a chance to tell one of his WW2 stories.

During the war, Dad was in the RAF – ground crew – based in India. When war ended, there were so many personnel out there, that it was a prolonged operation getting everyone home. A solution was to strip out the bomb carriages of Liberator bombers and put the men in these to bring them home. So, Dad left India in the bomb carriage of a Liberator. But that is not the whole story.

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Liberator bomber Photo courtesy of wikipedia

On the way back, they ran into a storm and the pilot radioed down to say that he was going to try to get above it. I’m not sure why he didn’t achieve this, but it was lucky for me that he didn’t. Because, when the plane landed back in the UK, the pilot gave Dad and the other men this little piece of information. He told them that it was actually very fortuitous that he had failed to get above the storm because there was no oxygen supply to the bomb carriage. If the pilot had succeed, the men in the bomb carriage would have been starved of oxygen, their lives would have been lost and I wouldn’t be writing this blog. Some story.

Latest book review – A bit of Thomas Hardy: A Pair Of Blue Eyes

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Having felt the need for a complete change, I decided to revisit one of my favourite classic authors, Thomas Hardy. This novel was one that I only discovered after a conversation with a fellow teacher. I had read all the well-known Hardy novels – ‘Tess’, ‘Far From The Madding Crowd’ etc. This was a new one.

It tells the story of Elfride, a naive young girl who has grown up with her father, the Reverend Swancourt. Like Tess, Elfride is an innocent who suffers through her inexperience of life and love. Hardy once again highlights the plight of young women at that time, and how they were shackled by society’s rules.

I enjoyed the novel, Hardy’s landscapes are always so evocative. Eflride, I didn’t quite take to, I found her a little irritating. Her suitor, Stephen, was, for me, a little too meek. As for her second suitor, Knight, well, I wouldn’t have let him get within six feet of me. I didn’t like him.

But don’t let me put you off. For Hardy fans, it delivers. It has it all. I just didn’t find the characters appealing or sympathetic.

Signs of Spring, time to bake more bread.

The snowdrops are still in the garden and the daffodils are getting ready to burst into bloom; the buds of the horse chestnut tree are also beginning to make themselves known. Spring is around the corner. I love this time of year when everything is starting anew, when everything is green and fresh.

I must update you about my lemon and poppy seed loaf. I think that the last time I mentioned it, I had not cut into it. Well, the lemon comes through, more than I thought it would do actually. It’s quite nice – I’d make it again.

My latest experiment – I’ve added redbush tea to the dough as the liquid this time. I’ll let you know.

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