Anna Campbell

 

 

January 2016 – This Adventurous Life Part 2
Are your rucksacks full of dried food and emergency supplies? Are the crampons fastened to your climbing boots? Oxygen masks at the ready? It’s time for part 2 of my rundown of great real-life adventure stories! Paul Theroux, the famous and rather acerbic travel writer called my first selection the greatest travel book ever written. Great praise from a man who’s no slouch in the genre himself. I think part of my fondness for The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard is based on the circumstances in which I read it. In 2004, when I was island hopping around the west coast of Scotland, I got caught in a mini hurricane on the Isle of Barra, the most westerly inhabited island in the Hebrides. I soon gave up on any idea of getting out and about – the wind would blow an unwary rambler to America – and curled up on a lounge in the hotel and read all day. So whenever I think of this story, I think of howling winds and pouring rains and eating fish and chips in a pub to the music of Scottish accents. Read more…

 

February 2016 – Aunt Dimity Dazzles
I love the Aunt Dimity series of mysteries by Nancy Atherton. These books are so cozy, they practically make you hot chocolate and knit you socks. Seriously! Even the bad guys aren’t particularly bad and if you’re a devotee of blood and guts and loving descriptions of people eviscerating one another, these aren’t for you.However, if you love charming characters, romantic subplots, chocolate box England (I hate to admit it, but I’m a sucker for chocolate box England!), lovely humor and an affirmation of all the good things in life, I’d strongly advise picking up an Aunt Dimity mystery after you’ve made yourself a pot of tea. For these books, coffee just doesn’t cut the mustard. And if you can manage an Eccles cake or a cucumber sandwich with that tea, you’re right in the ballpark! Read more…

 

March 2016 – Ground Control to Major Tom
I, like so many people in the world, was terrifically saddened – and shocked – to hear of the death of creative dynamo David Bowie on 10th January this year (it was a bad week – Alan Rickman and Glenn Frey both died around the same time). I was getting together some dinner and I had the TV on in the background on our public station here in Australia, the ABC. At first, I thought I’d misheard when the newsreader announced Bowie’s death. Then I thought it was a hoax. He was only 69, after all, and I hadn’t heard anything about him being ill. And somehow you just think your cultural icons will always be there with the next great piece of work or insight into the way this crazy world trundles along. No hoax. No mishearing. David Bowie has left us. And the world is immeasurably poorer as a result. Read more…

 

April 2016 – The Queen of Romance!
I’ve read Nora Roberts for many years, as have most romance fans, I suspect. The first book of hers that got me really excited was the wonderful Jewels of the Sun, the first in the Gallaghers of Ardmore trilogy. This is a really beautiful story about a woman discovering her true home in the world – and it’s the last place she ever expected. Well worth reading if you haven’t picked it up already.Then I absolutely fell in love with her Chesapeake Bay trilogy which has since become a quartet (lovely to have all the loose ends tied up with that fourth book). These are the sort of books that convert people to reading romance. They’re set around a family of four adopted brothers (no blood relationship but plenty of love) and their fledgling boat-building business. As so often with Nora, there’s a lot of intrigue, some wonderful romance with strong, vital women, and a touch of the woo-woos (occasional ghostly goings on!). Seriously if you’ve missed out on these magnificent books, give them a go. And please read them in order: Sea Swept, Rising Tides, Inner Harbor, and Chesapeake Blue. Read more…

 

May 2016 – Raving about Rickman!
January was a very sad time in my house. A couple of my long-time heroes passed away. In March, I wrote a piece about David Bowie, and I promised then that I’d do another tribute piece about the marvelous English actor and director Alan Rickman who died around the same time. I first became aware of Alan Rickman when I lived in London in the mid1980s. At that stage, he was a stalwart of the Royal Shakespeare Company who were doing repertory seasons at the Barbican Centre.I saw him in so many plays. He made a memorable Jaques in As You Like It where he did a great Seven Ages of Man speech, and I remember him in a host of other plays including Love’s Labours Lost. The first thing that struck me about him was that velvety voice, and that oddly melancholy, but sexy air that hung about him. Read more…

 

June 2016 – Calling for Cadfael!
In recent years, I’ve really enjoyed a number of mystery series (many of which I’ve extolled as favorite things on this page). Among others, there’s the Julia Spencer-Fleming stories (next month’s MFT), the Robert Carey mysteries, Dick Francis’s marvelous books, Elizabeth Peters’s immortal Amelia Peabody series, and the Daisy Dalrymple series.But over the last year or so, I’ve fallen in love with an older mystery series and the series that as far as I can gather created the vogue for historical mysteries, something for which I’m eternally grateful. As you can gather, I like a bit of old stuff with my bloody corpses. When I was in high school, I read and loved Edith Pargeter’s wonderful series about building a medieval cathedral, The Heaven Tree, The Green Branch and The Scarlet Seed (definitely due for a re-read). As a result, I must have picked up a couple of her Cadfael books, written as Ellis Peters. Then I remember enjoying the TV series with Derek Jacobi back in the 1990s. Fast forward to me getting my house ready to sell. In the clean-out, I came across these books that had been gathering dust unread since the 1980s. I decided to read them before I sent them off to charity – and as a result, I found out just what I’ve been missing. Read more…

 

July 2016 – (Upstate) New York! New York!
Julia Spencer-Fleming has written eight Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne mysteries set in the very chilly Adirondacks town Millers Kill. The name isn’t quite as creepy as it sounds; apparently ‘kill’ is an old Dutch word for creek. Although I’m sure ‘kill’ making us think of ‘murder’ is quite deliberate. I’m currently desperately awaiting the ninth installment (as yet no date). So I thought today, I’d share my thoughts on the first four books in this wonderful series. The first book, In the Bleak Midwinter, introduces intrepid, occasionally reckless, but always interesting Episcopalian priest Clare Fergusson as she begins her first placement as a minister at St. Alban’s Church. Poor Clare! She’s freezing cold, she’s viewed with suspicion by many of her conservative congregation, and she discovers an abandoned baby at the church door. Clare is a former military helicopter pilot, so clearly she’s no wuss, but life in supposedly peaceful Millers Kill isn’t the rural idyll she expected. Read more…

 

August 2016 – Amazing Maisie!
I’ve got a real treat for you today! The Maisie Dobbs novels by Jacqueline Winspear. This last couple of years, I’ve been reading out of the romance genre, although I still love my romances. A genre I’ve discovered and absolutely fallen in love with is historical mysteries. Back in my 20s, I read a lot of mysteries, mainly British stories like P.D. James or Golden Age fiction that now SEEMS historical, although it was contemporary when it was written, like Ngaio Marsh and Georgette Heyer and one of my all-time favorite writers (who I really should do a second helping on at some stage), Dorothy L. Sayers. By the way, if you’re looking for a great romance plot, you can’t go beyond DLS’s Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. Breathtakingly emotional, packed with conflict and with a lovely sigh-worthy conclusion.So far, my two favorite discoveries in the historical mystery genre are the charming Daisy Dalrymple stories by Carola Dunn (featured on MFT here) and the much darker Maisie Dobbs series. Read more…

 

September 2016 – Recent Revelatory Reads Part 1
At the start of this year, I joined my local library because I discovered they did a mobile van stop very near where I live – the main branch is too far for me to travel to on a regular basis. Well, talk about something that’s transformed my life. I’ve been reading all sorts of wonderful things that I doubt I’d have even known about otherwise. About two years ago, I had my house on the market and I cleared out thousands of books. I didn’t want to get into that state again when there was no room for me and books piled everywhere! The beauty of the library is that I can read great books and then return them – they don’t have clog up my bookcases. Read more…

 

October 2016 – Recent Revelatory Reads Part 2
I’m delighted this month to continue my reading roundup for this year of books that I absolutely loved. Last month I talked about books about writing and creativity that I highly recommend. This month I’m going to talk about three novels I really liked and that I hope you will too. Only one is a romance, but the other two definitely have romantic elements and a romantic sensibility. Read more…

 

November 2016 – Recent Revelatory Reads Part 3

Today’s list of favorite reading from this last year focuses on memoirs. I really enjoy a good memoir/biography/autobiography. Do you? There’s something about real lives that really feeds into my work as a writer – they help me discover the truth of complex characters and the way people meet and overcome challenges. Basically that’s what most great stories are about.Even nicer today, two of my favorite memoirs from recent reading are Australian. They’re both available internationally so if you’re not one of my Aussie readers here, why not take a chance on a writer who lives off your home patch? First up is a book I just couldn’t put down. It reads like a really good novel with that compelling storyline that keeps you turning pages. Read more…

 

December 2016 – Recent Revelatory Reads Part 4

Wow, it’s December – and time for my last My Favorite Things of the year. And the end of my round-up of favorite reading of 2016 (don’t miss part 1, part 2, and part 3). Today I’ve got the books that were left over from my lists on creativity, fiction and memoirs. Par for the course for this year, they’re all nonfiction. Next year, I’m going to try a bit harder to seek out some fiction that rocks my socks!Helen Garner is an Australian who writes like an angel on really difficult topics – her most recent book This House of Grief details the trial of a father who drowned all his children as part of a custody dispute with their mother. Joe Cinque’s Consolation is an earlier work (2004), also about a murder that makes no sense to most of us. Read more…