Monday, 17 July 2017

The story behind Rooster Street by Janet Purcell

As most readers know, North American history is inextricably bound up with the iniquities of slavery and the slave trade and even after it was abolished, the struggle of the former slaves to make new lives in freedom was often heart-rending.

In Janet Purcell's page-turning novel, Rooster Street, two stories unfold: the first is set in the 21st century and tells of a young woman's research into the history of a house in Cape Cod, the second is that of a runaway slave girl who begins a school in Rooster Street in Boston. How the two stories become entwined is revealed in this compelling book.

Janet Purcell

We asked Janet how she became inspired to write Rooster Street. This is what she said:

"I’ve been asked a number of times what led me to write about a runaway slave.  I’m not a person of color, I do not have ancestors who were slaves or slave holders.  No one in my family were even abolitionists.  So why?

I’ve pondered that question long and hard and the only answer I’ve been able to come up with is—I care.  

I grew up in a city, Trenton, New Jersey, and went to school with kids of all races and ethnicities.  It didn’t matter to us what color our skin was.  We were just friends.  But segregation began to rear its ugly head in the south.   I watched as black children were not allowed to enter their school--kids who looked just like some of my friends. I started seeing race riots across the country on tv, reading about atrocities being done to good people who just wanted to live a quiet life, to become educated, to raise their children in communities that accepted them as equal.

As an adolescent who loved to read, I was always drawn to books about brave women who overcame great odds.  The American pioneer women who followed their men across America and made homes and raised their families against all sorts of deprivations.

And, of course, I devoured books about the bravery of the African people who were torn from their families, brought to America and sold into bondage.  My heart ached for them being treated worse than animals and my heart swelled with joy for the ones who so bravely escaped.  I read with fascination about the Underground Railroad and had strong admiration for those who helped the runaways move to a safer place where they could be free and begin building real independence for themselves.

And there’s something about my love for and admiration of my mother in my writing.  She was born to a poor family and abused as a child growing up in New York City.  She loved to read and made friends with two women who worked in the local library.  When the abuse continued and she got to an age where she could do so, she climbed out her bedroom window one night and ran away.  The library women took her in and finally helped her be placed in a foster home where she served as a nanny while going to school and preparing herself for her adult life.   She married, raised my sister and me and became an adroit business woman and opened a very successful children’s clothing store.

I know you may be thinking by this time “How do those two separate inspirations to write Rooster Street mesh?  What’s the connection?”  I’m sitting here, fingers on my keyboard asking myself the same question.  When I began writing this blog story I decided to do it “stream of consciousness” and that has been a real eye opener for me.  

What I’m seeing is  Rooster Street was born in my caring about the strong spirit, the instinctual drive to better oneself, the intelligence of those held in bondage and abused.  I want to set them free and so greatly admire not only their bravery in breaking those bonds and fleeing, but then facing all the barriers they encountered and persevering to achieve their place in society which they deserved. As I was writing the book, I never stopped to ask myself why.  Althea came out of nowhere and was a gift to me.  She told her story to me as she became real on the page and she fascinated me the entire time.  

I like to meet with book clubs who have read Rooster Street and so many people have commented about the mother-daughter relationships throughout.  I was not aware of that as I wrote the story.  

The primary one is Lou and Althea, but also there is, in the beginning, Althea’s mother and Althea.  Farther on, there’s Bessie, the older slave woman who became a sort of surrogate mother to Althea when her mother died.  Next comes the new plantation mistress and Althea, then Liza Bell and Althea during her stay at the general store, then Mrs. Barbiero and Althea at the boarding house.  And in the present-day story, there is the troubled relationship between Jennifer and her mother, the important segment near the end with Dolores Austin and Jennifer, and the reconciliation of Jennifer and her mother.   

I’m a journalist and I came to that profession because I was more comfortable writing about other people rather than revealing myself.  But I’ve come to realize that as fiction writers, we can not hide.  What we care about most deeply finds its way up to the surface."

Thank you for this fascinating insight into your book, Janet.  

For anyone interested in reading this compelling novel, the link is here:

Monday, 10 July 2017

The story behind The Skipper's Child by Valerie Poore

This week's post is another back story by one of our authors, Val Poore. Here she tells us what inspired her to write her novel, The Skipper's Child, published under the Sunberry Books imprint of Sunpenny Publishing.

Val with her books at a book
fair in the Netherlands
"Most people who read my blog and know about my watery life generally associate me with memoirs. However, I have also written two novels, one of which, The Skipper's Child, is published by Sunpenny and is also about my watery world. However, this one concerns the history of barge life itself rather than the barges.

The Skipper's Child is a sort of cat and mouse adventure set on Europe's waterways in December 1962 at the height of the Cold War. 1962/63 was also the longest and coldest winter on record in Europe in the 20th century, even exceeding 1947, I believe. The story is woven around the Kornet family: Hendrik, a commercial barge skipper, his wife Marijke and their three children, Anneke, Arie and Jannie. Essentially, this family is based on my partner Koos's parents and two sisters. 

My partner, his mother and sister on their family barge.
Note his mother knitting on the go!
When I first met my partner, he told me he was brought up on a barge. He then regaled me with numerous stories of what life was like for a skipper's kind (child). It was neither glamorous nor exciting and despite travelling all over the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium, he felt very restricted as they were always on the move and he could rarely leave the barge. For the most part, he told me, it was incredibly boring. All the same, I was fascinated by the stories of family life on board and the tough conditions they considered quite normal for their way of life.

The skippers' family on a day out
I knew then I wanted to write about this old and very special way of life. Skippers these days have quite a luxurious lifestyle with all possible mod-cons; even their cars travel with them. In my partner's time, they had no electricity, no central heating and no interior insulation either, so it was not unusual in the winter for them to wake to ice on the inside of the cabin; on occasions, they even got frozen in and had to walk across the ice to get to land.

Thinking about all of this sowed the seeds of a fictional story in which I could incorporate both his memories and also a few of the anecdotes his father told him about earlier times, especially during and after the war. And so Arie, The Skipper's Child, was born. The outcome is an adventure involving Russian spies, secret service agents and a young stowaway who has failed in a mission that he was not aware he was undertaking until he overhears a conversation where he learns what his fate was meant to be.

The main target audience for the story was my younger self. It was the sort of book I'd have been reading in my early teens, so I set that as the 'age' for the reader. But in truth, most of its readers have been adults.  The only real YA (young adult) feedback I've had has been from The Wishing Shelf Awards whose panel of judges for all the YA entries were teenage school children. Luckily for me, they liked it and The Skipper's Child won a Silver Award.

So if you feel like something completely different from the usual action packed adventure, you might like Arie's story. The link to the book and all the reviews is here. The link to a book blogger's review can be found here too."


Friday, 30 June 2017

The story behind Sophie's Quest by Sonja Anderson

In this next post in our back story series, Sonja Anderson tells us of how she became inspired to write her lovely children's book, Sophie's Quest. With our authors' international backgrounds, it's even more interesting to read where they got their ideas from. In Sonja's case, the first spark came to her in Japan.
Sonja Anderson

"What is truth?" retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, "I find no basis for a charge against him. John 18:38
The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it,
but in the end, there it is. 
Winston Churchill

I'll never forget listening to author Frank Peretti addressing the idea of truth. "If it's true," he said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "It's true whether you believe in it or not. Whether you even know about it, or not. It's just TRUE."

The truth is a hot topic these days. The idea of "fake news" is thrown around casually, as if it's a widely understood "fact" that many journalists have abandoned all their training and integrity and are just writing any old thing that gets people to pay attention and believe what they want them to believe. And maybe that's the case for some.

I like to believe that, deep down, we all still value--and want to know--the truth about things. No one has a corner on the "truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," but there's a sense that the truth is out there for us to find, somehow, someday.

Sonja's international class in Japan
Years ago, 2nd graders in my multifaith class at an international school in Tokyo wanted to know what was true, too. These were kids of every faith background except for Christian (those kids were divided between Protestant and Catholic groups), and so I started with the basics--I read stories from all the major world religions and tried to focus on something universally good about each story. I tried hard to be a good teacher and read all the stories with equal enthusiasm and equally earnest facial expressions.
So it astonished me, after reading some Bible stories, that the hands shot up. The Muslim and Buddhist hands. The non-religious hands too. "Is that a true story, Miss Young? That's a true one, isn't it?"

It was that experience that triggered my own journey toward writing Sophie's Quest. After a brief glimpse of an owl character in my mind (owls are supposed to be wise, after all), I set aside the idea of writing a story that would investigate who God is until my own daughter brought it all back up with an argument on her elementary school playground. At age 5, she was trying to educate some of her friends about the truth, as she understood it, about God's power and "bigness."

My owl flashed back into my mind, and the rest is history. While I probably raise more questions than answers in the story, I sincerely hope that the truth that God exists, that He made you and loves you, and that He wants you to trust Him with your life, shines through the words on the pages of the Sophie Topfeather series.

Thank you so much, Sonja, for this special insight into what inspired your books. For those interested in viewing and reading Sonja's lovely books, here are the links on Amazon.

Sophie's Quest

Sophie Topfeather Superstar

Friday, 23 June 2017

How to Create a Book: Bridge to Nowhere and Bridge Beyond Betrayal by Stephanie Parker McKean

This guest post from Stephanie Parker Mckean is the first in a short series of posts we are going to be publishing on the 'back story to the books'. We thought it would be great for our readers to know where the ideas for our authors' books came from. This week we are kicking off with a post from Stephanie Parker McKean. She tells us the very special back story behind her series of books featuring the zany Miz Mike. 

Stephanie Parker McKean with her book
Bridge to Nowhere

As Stephanie says:
Folks sometimes ask me where I get the ideas for my books. Not being facetious, but the answer is simple. Anywhere and everywhere.

Not an unusual site in Miz Mike's home
Bandera, Texas
The idea for my first Sunpenny-published mystery-romance-suspense “Bridge to Nowhere” came at me literally – out of nowhere! One day while taking a new route through the Texas Hill Country I came to a humongous new concrete bridge. It was impressive! What was even more impressive was the fact that the bridge – didn’t go anywhere. I was so mystified when I got to the other side of the bridge and found that it went nowhere that I turned around and went back across it again from the opposite direction to see what I had missed. Surely an expensive new bridge on a paved road must go somewhere – but this one didn’t.
Another scene from Miz
Mike's home ground
Over the next few weeks, I couldn’t get that bridge to nowhere out of my mind. I was working for a newspaper in Bandera County, Texas, at the time and not even my fellow reporters could explain the bridge to nowhere. It wasn’t in our county, so digging up facts proved time consuming. Only a partial story emerged out of my investigation: a housing development was scheduled for that area to provide homes for San Antonio commuters. The developer had matched funds with the state highway department to have the bridge built. Some county residents were outraged, however, that tax dollars had been used to build a bridge that benefited no one. The “bridge to nowhere” became a joke with a razor-sharp punch line. And that's where the title for my first Miz Mike book came from.

While at work sorting through boring minutes from county commissioners’ meetings, my mind spun off into intrigue and adventure. I never planned to write a series originally. My idea was to write a book that I would enjoy reading. I wanted an older protagonist more in line with “Baby Boomers,” and a clean-reading mystery-romance-suspense that would entertain without embarrassing. Texas Miz Mike was born.

The problem with creating a zany, slightly bonkers, slightly klutzy character like Miz Mike is…that she’s fun! She’s fun to write about, fun to read – and too good to get shoved into computer files and forgotten. She somehow bounced off the pages and became so real that I know what she’s going to do and say without stopping to write down an elaborate outline first. Outlines wouldn’t work with Miz Mike – she wouldn’t stay inside the lines! She also couldn't be confined to just one book.

A real Texas Longhorn
Miz Mike started out as “Nicole,” because my invented author could write her invented mystery series under “Nick Rice” so men would be more inclined to read them. Then a spiteful Nicole blundered into my life and I couldn’t bear to use that name. Nicole changed to the Biblical name of King David’s wife, Michal, or “Miz Mike.” She can write her imaginary books under Mike Rice to attract a male reading audience.

Since a series wasn't part of the plan when I wrote “Bridge to Nowhere,” Sunpenny and I spent painful months agreeing on a title for the sequel, "Bridge Beyond Betrayal". My original title was, “Dead Body in a Pickup Truck,” but editor Jo Holloway pointed out that was perhaps not the best title for a romance. Without giving the story away, the story revolves around a body that Miz Mike finds, a body that keeps disappearing again until no one believes her.

From the first, Mike was supposed to fall in love with and marry her cowboy hero Marty, which is where the secret M&M candy game came into the books (the secret is in the books!), but Miz Mike refuses to stay between the lines and when a handsome new feller comes along…well, again... it’s in the book. Who betrayed her, why she was betrayed, and how she recovers from that betrayal explains the title and bridges the two books.

Both Bridge to Nowhere and Bridge Beyond Betrayal are packed with comedy. The intent is to help the reader laugh and celebrate life.

Sadly, Bridge Beyond Betrayal doesn’t make me laugh as much as it once did. My son USMC Major Luke Parker was killed in a plane crash just before the book was published. Bridge Beyond Betrayal is dedicated to Luke, and the prophetic poem he wrote one year before his death is included. For me, it helps take the pain away. For other readers…I hope Miz Mike will go crazy enough outside the lines to make them laugh!

Stephanie, thank you for sharing your story. It's a special background to a special series!For anyone interested in reading these first two books in Stephanie's Bridge series, follow the links below:

Friday, 16 June 2017

Writers, Find Your Readers! Guest post by Suzanne Cordatos

Suzanne Cordatos

Today's guest on our blog is the lively and lovely Suzanne Cordatos, author of The Lost Crown of Apollo and other children's books. She is writing about a very special Faire that she enjoys attending in her home state of Connecticut. Over to you,  Suzanne!

"When my first books were released in the past year—a heady rush of a middle grader’s novel and two picture books for the younger set—I put on my author marketing hat. I had been waiting for this day to come for years. This side of becoming an author did not scare me, because I manage outreach communication for a career. I love meeting young readers, teachers, librarians, talking about the writing process. All of it! 

I did the usual things

Put out a notice on my facebook page and kidlit author groups. Wrote articles for my blog. Researched the local area for author fairs, holiday markets, library story times. The big Barnes & Noble store has been supportive, inviting me to at least three or four author book signing events. Doing these activities, I have met lots of great people, but book sales have not exactly made JK Rowling shake in her shoes from the competition. Children love my books when they’re introduced to them. THE LOST CROWN OF APOLLO is a mystery/boating adventure set in ancient ruins on a Greek island, and my picture series is about a fun-loving little dragon who gets into big friendship dilemmas, with titles CAMP DRAGON-FIRE and SNEEZE-FIRE. The usual things weren’t reaching enough kids (or their wallet-carrying parent) fast enough. 

 Where could I find readers? 

Suzanne's book for very young children
I needed something UNUSUAL. Ok, this isn’t me, but it IS my book! On my writer’s desk I have small figurines that remind me of the books I’m writing, such as the cute little dragon I bought at a Renaissance Faire years ago. The Faire! Dragon-fighting knights and ladies! The Faire is a wacky event that allows people to dress up in medieval attire, walk around eating huge turkey legs and shout “Huzzah!” at jousting matches. I met this dragon-costumed character at the Faire, who sells dragon-flavored ice cream and bought my book to read to kids in hospitals around the country, dressed as a dragon. WOW!

Held in my state, Connecticut, in early fall each year, people also attend the Faires to shop. Booths sell everything from fairy wings to dragon figurines. A booth would be impossibly expensive for me to rent, but I searched online for the next Faire anyway—it was only March—and learned the organizer wanted to host a free “Author’s Tent” booth for the coming fall. I was the first to respond and by October, there was a waiting list of authors. I sold 15 books in about two hours of fun at the Faire and have a wonderful invitation to come back this year and be a storyteller with my dragon books not just stand at a booth! They put out this nice ad ahead of the Faire, too. 

To find readers for THE LOST CROWN OF APOLLO, I reached out to Greek food festival coordinators. A few worked out to solid success, but I ran into the high cost of space rental. However, a Greek Orthodox Sunday School teacher invited me to do a book talk after church one day. The kids worked on a simple book-related craft project I had brought while they listened to a book talk about taking travels to Greece and spinning a tale. The parents snapped up copies and the Sunday School director bought five for the church library. My strategy, rather than waiting for the next random author invitation, is to send a copy of the book to several Greek churches in the region and ask if I can get on their schedule to bring a craft, books and talk to their kids about my love for Greece and writing." 


Suzanne, thank you! What a lovely vibrant post. We love your marketing approach and it shows shows that outlets for books can be found in all sorts of unusual places. 

For anyone interested in the Faire itself, here is a link Suzanne has sent us. 
In addition, visit Suzanne's blog which is on the list at the top right-hand side of the page here and visit her Amazon page here for her delightful books:

Monday, 12 June 2017

Guest post: Blogging - A writer's sketchbook from Val Poore

Blogging is a valuable platform for both writers and publishers, so this week, Val Poore has written a guest post for us on the creative benefits she has personally gained by writing a weekly blog.

Val Poore

"How often have we noticed artists sketching architectural scenes? Or people? Or animals and wildlife? I remember my father always had a sketchbook with him along with a selection of well worn pencils of different grades. He was an architect by training, but he enjoyed painting for relaxation. I used to love it when we went to the park as children and he would sit on a bench and draw. Later, he would select one of his many sketches and produce the most beautiful water colours based on the images he had recorded in his little book. These days, many artists take photos and use them as their 'sketches' but I still see others now and then with their notebooks full of finely detailed drawings.

An artist's watercolour sketch by my father, MV Poore
So what do writers do to prepare for their books or stories? I know many who keep journals of impressions, stories and ideas. They write in caf├ęs, trains and anywhere they can sit down and make notes or write short pieces of things they have suddenly thought of or observed.  These are their sketches.

Then, there are the many who prefer to write short stories or flash fiction as a means of honing their skills.  These writers frequently go on to develop full length novels from an idea they have first sketched out in a much shorter narrative. Added to that, the discipline needed to write a complete piece of fiction in a limited number of words can be beneficial to improving a writer's skill for encapsulating atmosphere, setting, thoughts and emotions with deft economy. But there are still others - and I am one of them - who use a blog as a means of practicing their craft.

For me, my blog is my sketchbook. It is the place where I ensure that I write a complete piece every week to keep my writing current, vivid and alive. I use it to write descriptive texts or accounts of incidents, sometimes involving dialogue and humour. At other times, it is simply a diary of certain events going on in my life; for example, travelogues about the places I have been to and explored with my partner. Occasionally, I use it to publish interviews with other authors and even to write about writing techniques, but more often, my posts are the sketches about my life from which I gather the ideas for my books, especially my memoirs.

Another point is that a regular blog post is a tremendously good routine for a writer. If, as in my case, writing is not and cannot be a full-time job, it is often difficult to find the time to work consistently on a project. As a  consequence, it would be all too easy to spend several weeks without producing more than a few pages of the current book-in-progress. With no other writing outlet,  the will and self-discipline needed to keep going with a book can wither away before slinking off to a dusty, unused compartment of the brain where it can quietly die. That might sound a bit melodramatic, but it's painfully true and a familiar fear for many writers.

This is where I find my blog is not only useful for keeping up the momentum, but it also provides me with the challenge of working up something that is (I hope) interesting to read, creatively stimulating and also enjoyable to write. My book-in-progress is not forgotten and I never lose sight of it, but I don't feel the frustration of not having written anything for long periods.  As a writer, I need to write and keep writing to improve (wasn't it Stephen King who said that?), so at those times when I cannot work on my main project, my blog is a sufficiently diverse creative outlet to keep the muse satisfied.

In effect, then, my blog is my notebook, my journal, my creative palette and my recreation all in one. As someone who makes a daily living from teaching others the basic mechanics of the writer's craft,  my blog is also my weekly relief from the more technical side of the skill. It is where I can play with words, sentences and images; it is where I can be myself and have some fun.

So coming back to my original idea, we often use the word 'sketch' to talk about rough unfinished drafts, don't we? I believe this is what a blog can be as well. It can then serve as the basis for a complete book or story: in short, a blog can be what I suggested at the beginning of this article - a real sketchbook for writers."

An evocative sketch by my father that would also inspire a writer
Thank you, Val! To finish this week's post, we'd just like to mention that the links to most of our authors' blogs are in the sidebar on the upper right-hand side of the page. Do visit them and read their posts. Many of them write regular blogs like Val and would enjoy hearing from our readers too.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Relax with Romance

In our last few posts, we've focused on different types of books for your summer reading. We've also made some suggestions for the children, as well as for those who love memoirs. However,  some readers prefer to relax with a good romance. At Sunpenny, we like to combine romance with other themes and in particular, fiction with an underlying Christian ethic. That said, our romantic novels are lovely books that would appeal to everyone who enjoys intelligent stories with a strong element of romance, and of course our authors have that rich international background that gives the settings such exotic appeal. Here is the 'blurb' from some of the books we haven't mentioned in our earlier posts, and which give you thoughtful or exciting romance stories. This selection focuses specifically on novels set in the southern hemisphere.

Broken Shells by Debbie Roome

Can what has been broken ever be truly mended?
The woman was young, beautiful, and obviously pregnant. Logan Marsh wondered what had urged her to walk into the icy, dark waters of Wellington Harbour, and whether she would thank him for rescuing her. Staying at a women’s refuge run by Logan’s aunt Greer, Taylor can feel life returning to her soul, but she won’t speak about the mystery of her baby’s father to anyone. Still unsure of her own feelings about all that has happened, Taylor draws strength from Logan’s friendship and faith. But with all that she has to face, will it be enough? And can there ever be anything more than just friendship between them – especially when it seems Logan’s ex-girlfriend is less “ex” than he has claimed? Meanwhile Donny, a young man with Down syndrome, has a secret he’s been hiding. Worried, and unsure how to handle it, he waits for God’s guidance, but Taylor is constantly on his mind. What the outcome will be is something you will nee to read for yourselves! This is Debbie Roome's second novel set in New Zealand. Her first novel, Embracing Change, is set in both South Africa and New Zealand.

Only partly a romance, Dance of Eagles is an explosive adventure-thriller set in 14th-century Africa, and in the 1970's bush war of Rhodesia-Zimbabwe. Powerful characters who shaped their worlds, interwoven into a vivid tapestry that melds two stories: Tcana, daughter of a cattleherd, wife of a prince, high priestess of a new religion that will rip apart the ancient city of Tsimbaboue in the 1300s; and American TV journalist Rebecca Rawlings, caught up centuries later in the remnants of Tcana's faith and a violent war of attrition –Rhodesia, during the 1970s. Peter Kennedy, commander of the famed Selous Scouts. His friend and right-hand man, Kuru. And Kuru's brother, Mandhla, trained as a top flight freedom fighter by the Russians. In this gripping tale of love and retribution, Mandhla stalks the woman he sees as the key to his revenge, as surely as Peter and Kuru stalk the man known only to them by his nom-de-guerre: the Mamba.

Another New Zealand story, Breaking the Circle is about Emily Danvers, a young teacher, who finds herself doing relief work in a primary school where one of her pupils will need her to go above and beyond the call of duty to rescue not only him, but his mother and stepfather too, from the circle of abuse. In the midst of being strong for everyone around her, Emily suddenly discovers that a new friend Don, though clumsy and socially awkward, has hidden depths, and his own quiet strength becomes her rock. Unexpectedly she finds that her feelings could well become something more than just friendship … but can she really give up her city life to move to the remote dairy farm where he lives, surrounded by his brothers and widowed mother – not to mention one large, floppy sheepdog cross?

When career-focused Amanda McCree discovers that her controlling Great Aunt, as a last request, has especially asked that Amanda carry her Aunt's remains to Cape Town, Amanda is furious. The last thing she wants is to be forced to visit her parents there after so many years of bitterness over their rejection. To top it all, she finds herself stranded at her stopover in Bulawayo due to fuel shortages! But through the love of a family that takes her into their game reserve home, the economic crisis of Zimbabwe, and a man who daily lives with his own guilt and heartbreak, Amanda realises that God is more interested in her than she had ever thought. In the heart of the African bush, as she is let into the world of the handsome Caleb Jacobs and his family, Amanda is forced to face her own family divisions and to depend upon the God she thought had failed her.

Why not go armchair travelling then and enjoy some excitement and romance too? Click on the titles for the link for each of the books mentioned. These will take you to the Kindle page, but as we've mentioned before, you can buy the paperbacks from all the major online bookstores, notably the Book Depository and Barnes & Noble.  Happy deckchair reading - or if you happen to live in the south, happy fireside reading instead!

Monday, 29 May 2017

Making the most of memoirs

In an earlier guest post by our own Valerie Poore, she mentioned a Facebook group called We Love Memoirs. This particular group has nearly four thousand members, which is perhaps a fair indication of how popular this genre is. That said, there are several sub-categories of memoir and there are an incredible number of topics that fall under the memoir umbrella. Just as examples, these could be travel, change of life, sailing, recovery from illness, and even spiritual healing memoirs

At Sunpenny, we love memoirs too and have several on our list, so we thought we might introduce you to them for this week's blog. Ours cover many of the categories listed above and are a delightful and varied collection. All these books are available in both e-book and paperback formats in all the major online stores; however, the links take you directly to

My Sea is Wide by Rowland Evans

In this beautifully lyrical work with great depth of insight, Rowland Evans explores his experiences in both Wales and the Far East, especially China. Moving into the segment of his life beyond 70, with his eager youth and power-filled middle years behind him, and the more rugged missionary work now past his season, Rowland searches for - and discovers - a continued meaning for his later years, and an on-flowing usefulness to man and to God. He takes us on a journey with him to the scatterlings of China and Tibet, and while you are yet an armchair-traveller, your life will be changed forever.

Sir Edward Heath’s former Private Secretary didn’t take retirement sitting down. At age 60 Eugene Barter, along with her sister and brother-in-law, moved to a house in the foothills of the Pyrenees to start an auberge. This is the story of her experiences. Humorous and often self-mocking, always gentle and quirky, Eugene takes us on a journey through the countryside and its people, Catalans and French alike, with a good dose of her German and English guests thrown in. Her love of the region shines from the pages – surely a timeless joy for all ages. The second half of the book focusses on the recipes with which Eugene used to feed her guests, though still interleaved with her engaging anecdotes. English, Catalan and French recipes, all easy to follow, sit side by side, and there are conversion charts to help step through the metric and imperial standards, and maintain that essential entente cordiale!

 A Whisper on the Mediterranean by Tonia Parronchi

Travel with Tonia, her husband Guido and baby son James through weather conditions that destroyed the myth of a gentle and forgiving Mediterranean, and such varied experiences as high seas, violent storms, stuck anchors, marauding mosquitoes, and severe sunburn. Visit idyllic, secluded bays and places of sublime beauty, unreachable unless by boat and completely untarnished by tourism.  This book is filled with humour and reality, and a scattering of delicious recipes too. A feast for your senses – and perhaps it will inspire you to step on deck, too, for your own watery adventures!

A Little Book of Pleasures by William Wood

Told with wry humour and a gentle, sometimes quirky style slightly reminiscent of a bygone era, William Wood's collection  of anecdotes contains a mixture of description and observation with a smattering of autobiographical incident. Wood has lived in many places of the world, is well travelled and well read, with a keen sense of enjoyment in what he sees and experiences, and a talent for bringing that visually to the mind of his reader. The short, usually self-contained pieces make wonderful cameos both for those who do their reading in snatches, and those who will want to devour his stories in one sitting.

 Watery Ways by Valerie Poore

Trading life in the fast lane of Johannesburg for that of Rotterdam's serene Oude Haven, Valerie Poore packs all her worldly possessions aboard the historic Dutch barge Hoop and sets about rebuilding both the boat and her life after divorce – and rediscovering herself and her own capabilities in the process.
Along the journey of renovation she is joined by an array of characters, including two dogs and a rather adventurous cat, a smiling but absent-minded ‘landlord’, a quirky friend and confidante, and an olde worlde charmer whose mastery at the helm wins more than just her respect. Before long Val has to learn to cope with the strenuous demands of acting as Skipper's Mate during numerous nail-biting adventures –frequently with hilarious effect. 

Far Out: Sailing into a Disappearing World by Corinna Weyreter

Tired of their careers in the oil industry, Corinna Weyreter and Gjalt van der Zee sailed away from the rat race in search of freedom and adventure in the fabled South Pacific. Taking only what could justify its space on their 41-foot yacht, they abandoned materialism to discover how little a person really needs in order to be content. Trading with fishermen in Belize, learning desert island survival from the lone inhabitant of a Polynesian atoll, swimming with humpback whales beside the coral island of Niue, attending the wedding of a Chief’s son in Vanuatu... they entered an enchanting new world, one that is, however, under ecological threat from failed environmental care. In Far Out, Corinna takes us into that disappearing world and shows us its fragility with sensitive first-hand knowledge.

All of these books are memoirs to savour and enjoy over the summer whether you are travelling yourself or dream of experiencing a different life and culture. Next week, we'll introduce you to some of our top romance stories for those with a different type of dream!

Monday, 22 May 2017

Holiday Reading for the Kids

It doesn't matter where you go on holiday with the kids, there will always be times when you want to relax and have some down time. This is important for children too and holidays are a great time to get them reading. Here at Sunpenny we have some fabulous books for the children, so have a look at the selection below and load up your family Kindles with these wonderful adventure stories! Click on the titles to link straight to

The Lost Crown of Apollo by Suzanne Cordatos
Climb aboard for an adventure to the Greek islands of past and present! You'll meet creatures of land and sea-and if you think pirates are a thing of the past, you might want to keep an eye on your valuables. Meet Elias Tantalos, an almost-eleven year old bad luck magnet who escapes the most dreadful school year of his life by boarding a boat in the Aegean Sea where there are, happily, more rocks than people. When he discovers a two-thousand-year-old good luck charm-the gold leaf crown meant for the sun god Apollo-he is sure the worst is behind him. Antiquity thieves are rummaging around the ancient Greek ruins, however, and when they kidnap his sister Elias knows he holds the perfect bait to lure the thieves away... but if he gives up Apollo's legendary Crown of Victory will sixth grade be even tougher than fifth? Can he find the inner strength to do the right thing? This is a lovely adventure that parents might enjoy as much as the kids!

Sophie's Quest by Sonja Anderson
Sophie Topfeather loves to collect people-things with which to decorate her life and home. When she finds a golden necklace, she is intrigued by its shape and shows it to her grandfather, the Great Wise Horned Owl of the Park. His reaction only stirs her interest even more; he calls it a holy symbol, and then a 't' for 'trouble'! All of which sets our young owl off on a Quest to learn its true meaning. Little does she know that a day-dreaming, over-protected, adventure-seeking Pirate - er, mouse - named Timley has leapt into the brim of her hat as Sophie flies off on her Quest! And suddenly, their adventure takes its own turn as they find themselves on board a ship bound for the Holy Land. Thorns and thistles! Has the trouble started already? Can Timley convince Sophie she should not-I repeat, NOT-eat him? This is also the story of the mysterious Sky Painter, who seems to be with them-no, leading them-on their Quest. So, why is he always leading them straight into trouble? Was the Great Wise Horned Owl right all along? Come along on the Quest to find out! 

 Sophie Topfeather Superstar by Sonja Anderson
This is the sequel to Sophie's Quest and it begins back in the Park where everything for Sophie began. Nothing in the park this year is the same, and as the animals prepare for the annual Owlympic Games there is a growing division of opinion on what should and shouldn’t be allowed to happen concerning the mice. Sophie Topfeather’s grandfather, the Great Wise Horned Owl, rules the park – but for how long? Not very, if the opossums and skunks and some others have their way! Sophie, feeling she is losing all her owl friends, and now Timley the mouse too, flies away from the park and finds another home and new friends – but wait! Stardom is calling when she is whisked away from them too, and she is bedazzled by it all. What a wonderful life! But when, back in the park, things turn ugly – very ugly – her friends come to find her and beg for her help. With the park on fire, can Sophie unify them all again and bring peace? What if she fails? This is another terrific children's adventure story from the talented Sonja Anderson.
If Horses Were Wishes by Elizabeth Sellers
Katy Robinson, an unhappy young foster child, daydreams constantly – of a proper home with her parents, of having good friends, and of being as popular at school as Sandra Magill. Sandra has an enviable lifestyle in the countryside, with her parents and her horse Tommy, and is always surrounded by friends. But when Katy dreams of doing something admirable to impress Sandra, the results aren’t quite what she had in mind! Her initial shock at waking up to her new status as a horse gradually grows into acceptance. Being cared for by Sandra’s posse, and becoming friends with Tommy, all help. But Katy-the-girl is officially missing and being looked for by the police – and when Sandra and her friends decide to undertake to find their schoolmate, Katy finds she is able to lead them in the right direction. Through various adventures, including putting the school bullies to flight, unexpected friendships and discoveries develop, and the question is – will Katy decide she prefers being a horse, or will she try to find a way to become a girl once more? 

Trouble Rides a Fast Horse by Elizabeth Sellers
In this exciting sequel to If Horses Were Wishes, Katy’s adventures continue in her guise as Lady, the horse who makes up the sixth part of a detecting gang of friends. The suspense runs high as the Fallon Five are determined to get to the bottom of some very strange goings on in the large stable yard of their mortal rival in the show jumping arena. Katy has to use every ounce of her strength and the skills she has only recently learned, to smuggle herself into the yard as an undercover horse-spy. But she discovers the stakes are much higher than any of them had expected – and that their foes are armed, dangerous, and very angry. With the help of the horses in the yard, and then from a surprisingly unexpected quarter, the Fallon Five cause mayhem in their quest, and finally succeed in finding out what they’ve come for. But will the friends be able to make it home safely and persuade the adults that they are telling the truth about what they have found? Will they be able to save the remaining horses at the stable yard? And will Katy remain happy in her new life as a horse, or will she finally decide to try and turn back into a girl?

All these books are terrific reads for younger and middle-grade children, but not only that, many parents will enjoy reading them too, so settle down with the kids during the half term or summer holidays and have a reading fest that you will all remember.

All our books are available as paperbacks too, so take your pick and enjoy some really well-written stories!