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7 classic writers from the U.S.

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In celebration of the 4th of July, I thought I’d compile a list of 7 great U.S. writers.I’m only covering adult fiction, which is why Dr. Seuss is not only the list.It’s my blog, so it’s my choice of writers, feel free to disagree, but I hope you find it interesting.
Isaac Asimov
Asimov was a scientist with a gift for creativity and communication.He’s probably best remembered for his sci-fi stories, but he also wrote mysteries and outstanding non-fiction.
Ernest Hemingway
I’m not at all convinced that I would have got on with Hemingway if I had met him personally, but there can be no doubt that he was one of the most talented writers in history and his influence lives on.
Jack Kerouac
His style may not be to everyone’s taste (although I suppose you could say that of any author) and he was vilified personally and as a writer throughout his adult life, but for all his personal issues (including chronic alcohol abuse), his novel On the Road is now regarded as a classic.
Stephen King
King has wri…

7 great crime stories

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Whether you just like reading crime or you want to write it, these novels are all by masters of their craft and are great stories you can enjoy as a reader and learn from as a writer.
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
Often regarded as the first English-language example of the modern detective story, The Moonstone is about the disappearance of a jewel rather than a violent crime, but the reader is kept gripped by how the events of one night impact on the lives of believable, engaging characters.Technically, The Moonstone is a masterclass in how to tell a story from different points of view without confusing readers.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
You can’t mention crime without mentioning Christie and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is widely considered to be her masterpiece, since it’s told from the perspective of the murderer and yet it’s only at the end that we find out who, exactly, they are.It’s also a gripping whodunit in classic Christie style.
Pietr the Latvian: Inspector…

7 great books for reading on rainy days

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So today is the day before the summer solstice in the UK and looking out of the window, frankly it looks a whole lot more like winter, or at least autumn.  For the record, that picture was taken a while back, but it could easily have been today and, also for the record, it was taken in colour, that's not a black-and-white filter, that's how it was.  Anyway, navigating a huge puddle on my way to work today has set me thinking about books you could dip into on rainy days, maybe when you were planning to do something else, but had to stay indoors.I was looking for books which you could dip in and out of and which most people would enjoy, even if they had different tastes in fiction.So, here are my picks.
Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable
New editions of this book are investment purchases, but older ones can be available very affordably.I’ve only ever seen this book myself in hard copy and I’d only buy it that way since I’ve heard that the formatting on the Kindle editions c…

7 great books about travelling

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Since now is the time many people are heading off on holiday, I thought I'd compile a list of 7 great books about travelling, which you can read on a plane or at any other time. I chose books which were specifically about travelling rather than books which involved characters making journeys but where the journey was not the main focus of the book.
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
While this is a fictional adventure story rather than a proper travelogue, it’s still a cracking read.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Opinions are divided on this book, but then you could say that about most books. Some people see it as self-indulgent, which, in a way, I suppose it is, but in another way, the author experiences feelings I think many of us can understand and tries to resolve them by travelling to discover the world and herself. She’s not the first, she won’t be the last, but she has written a book many people love.
I'm off then: losing and finding myself on the Cam…

7 Great Books about People Dealing with WWII

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If you’re reading this when it’s posted, it’s D Day, the beginning of the end for WWII.With that in mind, here’s a selection of 7 books relating to WWII, written from the perspective of civilians who also survived extraordinary horrors.
After Auschwitz: A story of heartbreak and survival by the stepsister of Anne Frank by Eva Schloss
I chose this over the better-known Diary of Anne Frank for two reasons, firstly Eva Schloss survived the war and I think the post-war part of her story is at least as interesting as the part relating to the war years and secondly, I object to the copyrightbattle over Anne Frank’s work.
Goodnight Mister Tom Michelle Magorian
This is billed as a children’s story but I enjoyed it as an adult.The basic plot revolves around a boy sent to the countryside as an evacuee, who develops a close relationship with the man assigned to look after him.Then the boy is summoned back to London but his return does not quite go as intended.
The Book Thief Markus Zusak
This is anoth…

7 great books involving gardens and flowers

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Today is Water a Flower Day, at least if you live in the U.S. so in celebration, I’ve put together a list of 7 great books involving gardens and flowers.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Intended for children, but still a wonderful read for adults, it’s the story of how the discovery of a secret garden healed two children, one of loneliness and arrogance and another of hypochondria, together with a grown man with a broken heart.
The Jewel Garden: A Story of Despair and Redemption by Monty Don and Sarah Don
This is part biography and part garden management manual. Both parts are fascinating.
The Gardens That Mended A Marriage by Karen Moloney
You might think that creating a Persian garden in a place like Spain would be easy enough. After all, the climates aren’t that different. According to Karen Moloney, however, you would probably be wrong, but the act of trying might make you a stronger person and might help you to understand and nurture relationships better.
The Country Dia…

10 fun questions on literary Edinburgh

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This picture was taken right beside the entrance to an Edinburgh street used as the title of an Ian Rankin novel.Name the street/book.
Scottish surgeon, Joseph Bell, taught at Edinburgh University and was the inspiration for a famous detective created by Edinburgh-born author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Name the character.
Author Daphne Du Maurier and her family were the inspiration for the Darling family, created by Edinburgh-born author JM Barrie in what book?
What writer is based in Edinburgh but has a series of popular novels set in Africa?
This year (2018) marks 100 years since the birth of an author whose childhood in Edinburgh provided the inspiration for her most famous book, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.Who is she?
Greyfriars Kirkyard is the last resting place of many Edinburgh residents including a Mr Tom Riddle, a famous author used it for help when creating character names.Who was she?
The author of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde didn’t want to be remembered with a statue, but wound …

Sandwich-free packed lunches for warmer weather

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Even where I live (Scotland) the breaks between rain showers are getting longer, in fact we’ve even had a few days where there hasn’t been any rain at all. In other words, the weather’s as good as it gets for eating outdoors and even when that’s not really an option, packed lunches have a lot to be said for them. It’s not just the fact that they can be so affordable, they save you queuing, plus you know exactly what you’re eating and drinking. Nevertheless, I still see loads of people buying convenience food because they “don’t have time” to make a packed lunch in the mornings, well the answer to this is to move away from the traditional sandwiched-based packed lunch and start making packed lunches which will keep perfectly happily overnight, so you just need to pick them up in the morning. Here are some ideas for sandwich-free packed lunches for warmer weather.
Start with the right containers
If you’re planning (or hoping) to make a packed lunch regularly, then invest in some pr…

Five quick tips to beat everyday stress

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If you’re suffering from any sort of mental health issue which is causing you serious problems, then you need to get help of some sort. If, however, you’re simply facing everyday stresses, from exam nerves to people getting on your nerves, then there are some quick tips you can use to deal with it. Acknowledge your stress and recognize its beneficial intent Stress is your mind letting you know that it thinks you need to take better care of yourself and get out of what it perceives as a dangerous, or at least uncomfortable, situation. When you feel yourself starting to get stressed, acknowledge the fact, acknowledge the cause and commit to dealing with it either immediately or later. Ideally you want to deal with stress as soon as possible, but if that’s not practical, the very act of making a promise to yourself to do something later to improve the situation can help to feel calmer in the present. Accept that stress can be irrational and that is fine Stress can be like a (hopefull…

7 ways to help bees

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By this point in time, you’ve probably heard about how the humble bee is in a lot of trouble and if the humble bee gets into a lot of trouble then humans do too, because we need them for food, in fact the whole world needs them for food.The good news is that you can help, especially if you have a garden, but even if you don’t.As a minimum you can spread the word about what individuals can do to get the bees back.Here are 7 ideas.
Grow pollen-rich flowers
You can now buy bee-friendly flower seeds, but essentially most wildflowers are rich in pollen and therefore good food for bees.If you’re not keen on filling your garden with wild flowers, try poppies, cornflowers or sunflowers.Even if you don’t have a garden, you can still help out the bees by planting flowers in containers.
Let you lawn show its wild side
Personally, I have never had a problem with flowers like daisies and dandelions growing in a lawn.I actually think they look nice and bees love them.
Go organic
You wouldn’t want …

16 tips for making laundry easier and more fun

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Speaking for myself about the only thing I can say for laundry is I’m glad I have a machine to do it for me. I really don’t know how people managed in the days before they existed. In fact, I don’t know how I managed in my London days when I had to use launderettes. Anyway, as you’ve probably gathered from that, I don’t like laundry so I’ve worked hard at learning how to make it easier on myself and here are 16 tips I’ve gathered over the years.
Before you wash
Make members of your household responsible for their own ironing, folding and hanging up
Sometime clothes need to go in the wash after just one wear (e.g. if you’ve worn them to work out) but mostly they don’t, but if you do all the ironing folding and hanging up then you’re asking for people just to chuck clothes in the laundry without thinking about whether or not they actually need to be there. If, by contrast, you delegate this as much as possible, you’ll encourage people only to put clothes in the wash when they actua…

Book Review of Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome

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This is another classic which is availableforfree although it can be worth paying the small fee for a cheap digital copy or a hard copy since some of the free digital copies have some quality issues. I got a free digital copy from Amazon to save space in my bag and I noticed that every time there’s an illustration the copy says what the illustration is and goes straight on to the text. You get used to this but to begin with it’s a bit confusing. Also there are a few snippets missing, which have then been added at the end. Having said that, if you’re really low on funds these are minor issues and other free digital copies may be better.
Characters
The book is narrated in the first person by J and who mainly talks about himself and his human friends George and Harris, plus Montmorency the dog. There are a variety of minor characters sprinkled throughout the book. The three young men are all clearly fairly well off, although they mention working, and none of them are particularly …

A real-world wardrobe clean up

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Let me put my hand up and say I love a good “closet organization” video on YouTube. I know the story by heart now, person with way too many clothes declutters and finds a whole pile of ready-made solutions to turn her closet (and it is invariably a her) into the place of her dreams or helps man in life to do the same with his closet. At the start of the video the place is a hot mess and by the end it looks glorious. If only real life worked like that. So partly because decluttering and organization are two of my favourite topics, partly to show that the real world isn’t necessarily like social media (and that’s totally OK) and partly just for some fun, let me tell you about my slow and sporadic progress to wardrobe peace.
Purging
Now this is where life gets interesting. I really needed to purge and honestly I don’t know why because, apart from underwear, I honestly can’t remember the last time I actually bought an item of clothing, apart from one occasion a few years ago when I …

Book Review of The Long Way Down by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman

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The long way down charts a trip from John O’Groats to Cape Town made by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman. While the trip wasn’t to raise money for charity itself, it did involve various stops to learn about the work of different charities.
People
Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman take turns at narrating their experiences so some of the language can get a bit fresh at times, with some swearing. The subject matter is interesting enough to compensate for the fact that neither of the authors is a professional writer. This book is essentially a tidied up diary rather than proper travel writing, in fact if you’re expecting fulsome descriptions of the landscape they encounter, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Obviously it is mentioned and the condition of the terrain comes up frequently, but this book is much more about people than about place. Their support team is mentioned regularly, although they don’t actually narrate, which I think is a bit of a missed opportunity, plus…