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!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Summer Reading time

The weather is warming up, or should we say the rain is not so cold! In any event, summer is drawing nearer and to help readers get into the spirit of those long balmy evenings when we can sit on balconies, deck chairs or garden loungers, here is a list of recommended summer reads.

Our fiction titles for that lovely summery feeling:

Blue Freedom by Sandra Peut: This book is "funny, wild, and sometimes woolly, but always entertaining! Bella Whitman is a freelance health and fitness writer with a tragic history. When she is offered a dream opportunity to undertake a writing assignment which will take her on a journey across the South Pacific islands. " Blue Freedom has both excitement, mystery and romance and will be a light and lovely read for the beach.

 Just one More Summer by Julie McGowan is an evocative and poignant book set in Cornwall with all the atmosphere of that beautiful coastline. "Devastated by the breakdown of her marriage, Allie flees to the one place her heart can seek comfort: Cornwall, where she hopes childhood memories of a holiday with her father will sustain her while she sorts out her plans for the future. But fate has other ideas, and she finds herself drawn into an almost obsessive friendship with a band of strange bedfellows led by Marsha, an intense, ageing hippy with a life force that at once comforts, stimulates and infuriates Allie." This is a fascinating and compelling book in which you can almost smell and taste the Cornish air.

 Fish Soup by Michelle Heatly is a lyrical and luscious novel: "In the magical and esoteric atmosphere of the Greek Islands, sisters Isa and Chloe fetch up on the shores of a very special haven, each searching for more than just the pungently fragrant recipe of a heady Mediterranean fish soup. They come for the weekend, bringing their baggage with them: both kinds.  Cecelia, their mentor, helps the girls wend their way through not only learning to make the soup, but also through a cobweb of emotional healing. Unexpectedly she discovers that the compliment is returned." With an almost poetic style of writing, Fish Soup is a perfect sunshine novel for the summer.

Bridge to Nowhere by Stephanie Parker McKean is a murder mystery set in Texas, so sun, heat and summer are the order of the day: "Bestselling author Mike spends her days shut up in her office, churning out detective stories for her publisher. When a beautiful stranger appears, masquerading as Lynette Clarissa Greene, begging her to help investigate the murder of her sister, Mike is soon embroiled in a mystery which includes the entire town. From the simple-minded Clint, who sheds light on Lynette’s true identity, to the talented Nat, and the orphaned Jared, Mike soon finds herself immersed in the illicit subculture of Texas Hill. From dog fights to kidnappings, her life is thrown into chaos by her incessant need to track down culprits and bring them to justice." A terrific romp of a book with a second helping in the sequel, Bridge Beyond Betrayal.

As special summer memoirs, we have two for sailing lovers

Far out, Sailing into a Disappearing World by Corinna Weyreter tells of an epic sailing adventure across the Pacific: "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." At times frightening and at others magical, this is a must for those who love adventure on the seas.

 A Whisper on the Mediterranean by Tonia Parronchi. This memoir is wonderful and vivid with all the scents, sounds and sights of the Mediterranean, not to mention a few hair-raising storms: "Travel with Tonia, her husband Guido, and baby 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!"

We hope you will also get a taste for some of these wonderful books and come back for more! Next week, we'll have some other summer suggestions, but for the children this time!

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Sonja Anderson's book signing events

Continuing our book event themes this weekend, our Seattle-based author, Sonja Anderson tells us of a very special opportunity she has recently had as well as her plans for more book-signings in the coming weeks. 

"Do you ever feel like giving up on a dream? This spring, I’m participating in a number of book-signing events that feel like celebrations to the notion of NOT GIVING UP.
If you’ve been following these blog posts about signing events, you probably get the idea that they’re a pretty big deal for the authors involved—especially if the book-signing is a launch party and is the first time the author is showing her book off to the world.
Our reading public probably has little idea of the hours, months, years, sweat, tears, and fears that bring us to that book-signing table in a corner of their local bookstore. Sophie’s Quest, so beautifully published by Sunpenny, was the culmination of a fourteen-year quest itself!
But a funny thing has happened along this difficult journey—I learned a few things! Now I have something to share about the process of following a dream, of writing and submitting to publishers, and the rewards of not giving up, and that’s what I’m being asked to do.
Earlier this spring, I shared Sophie’s journey with a group of 40 “MOPS” moms who are trying to pursue their own dreams while chasing their preschoolers, and I was invited to be on a “Local Success Panel” where I got to share a glimpse of my journey to a crowd of 400 writers, editors, and agents at the regional Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference. This weekend I’ll be presenting two writing workshops and participating in a book-signing event for both Sophie Topfeather books at the Northwest Christian Writers Association Renewal Conference.
To top it all off, my husband and I are launching a new “baby” into the world at a joint book-signing event in June! We turned an interest in history and our favorite day-trip spot, Mount Rainier National Park, into the book Mount Rainier’s Historic Inns and Lodges, published later in May by Arcadia Publishing.
While I never wished for such a long, arduous journey filled with moments of hopelessness, I am so very blessed that God is turning that journey into a time of learning and hope for others."

Thank you so much for sharing this exciting news with us all, Sonja. You are a testament to the reason we should keep striving for our dreams!
Anyone interested in reading samples of Sonja's delightful children's books can find them here:

Monday, 1 May 2017

The English Writing Festival in the Netherlands

Some of our writers live in countries where English is not the first language. Last week, Tonia Parronchi told us about a talk she gave to a Language School near her home in Italy, and this week, Val Poore tells us about an English Writing Festival she arranged in Den Haag (The Hague) with a special focus on memoir writing.

An enthusiastic audience

"This is the third EWF we have held now," says Val. "I started organising them in cooperation with the American Book Center in The Hague because I found it frustrating that there was so little going on for English language writers in Holland. What there was tended to be in Amsterdam, so by organising these events, I was able to extend the possibilities a bit more.

This last event on memoir writing was the third EWF we have held. The first two were on a wider range of writing genres, and in fact the one we held in November focused on those entering the NaNoWriMo writing challenge. They have all been successful in terms of interest and numbers. We cannot cater for more than around 25 people in the audience, and we had the maximum on this last occasion although not everyone arrived at the beginning.

There were four speakers, three of whom were published memoir and non-fiction writers, and they gave some great tips and advice for those wishing to embark on writing their memoirs. I didn't speak this time, but acted as hostess, time keeper and question leader, which meant I could contribute too.

One of the speakers, Jo Parfitt, is also an editor, publisher and writing coach, so she was able to give advice to the participants on how to go about the publishing process and what editors look for in a manuscript.

Niamh Ni Bhroin and Carolyn Vines have both written and published their own memoirs, which gave them the opportunity to talk about why they wrote them and what approach they took. It was very interesting to hear how instrumental many memoirs are in recovering from unhappy or abusive situations.

After the last speaker, we had a question and answer session for the audience. There were several very pertinent and insightful questions about both content and authenticity, as well how to deal with writer's block. All in all, it was a useful session for both audience and speakers and there were plenty of laughs, as well as poignant moments too. Even better, we were able to sell a few books, so that was immensely rewarding.

I'm now looking forward to organising the next one to take place in the autumn."

It sounds as if this was a lovely event and a great way of bringing writers together to talk about their work and gain some much needed exposure in a foreign language market. If writers in other countries find it difficult to persuade bookshops to give them space for signings, events like these are another great way to attract customers. 

For those interested in reading memoirs, here is a list of those Sunpenny Publishing has published:

Blackbirds Baked in a Pie by Eugene Barter (former secretary to UK Prime Minister, Edward Heath)

Watery Ways by Valerie Poore (a memoir about living on a barge in the Netherlands)

A Little Book of Pleasures by William Wood (A collection of anecdotes and stories taken from the author's life)

A Whisper on the Mediterranean by Tonia Parronchi (A memoir about sailing the Italian coastal waters)