Month: November 2014

The Berlin Book Forest

A wonderful idea ūüôā

Kindness Blog

Books are just awesome. We’ve heard people say that physical books may be a thing of the past, but there’s something so very satisfying about picking up and reading a real good book.

There is even something special about giving that book to someone else, even someone you don’t even know.

A neighborhood in Berlin found a great new way to promote literacy and books. Residents of the area happilyparticipate in a free book exchange that happens in an unlikely and unique place.

This cluster of trees in the middle of a sidewalk is called ‚ÄúThe Berlin Book Forest.‚ÄĚ

The Berlin Book Forest

These trees are used as a free book exchange for residents in the area.

The Berlin Book Forest

There are a few shelves in the trees, with plastic covers to protect the books from any bad weather.

The Berlin Book Forest

There are a variety of books exchanged in the kiosk, in both German and English, with genres ranging…

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Reading Wednesdays – Book review: The Black Hours

A well-considered and thoughtful review of ‘The Black Hours’

Crystin Goodwin

  • Title:¬†The Black Hours by Alison Williams
  • Genre: Historical Fiction

First off, I’d like to mention that this novel is very different from my typical reading preferences. This isn’t a young adult novel, nor is it fantasy. There is very little romance, and there isn’t really a happily ever after. The Black Hours is a very dark tale; written like fiction, but based on actual events that occurred in 16th century England.

The story follows two main characters ‚Äď Matthew Hopkins, a documented witch hunter during the 16th century, and Alice Pendle, a fictional young woman who is suspected of witchcraft. The story goes through the process of how women were first suspected of witchcraft during those times, then goes into further detail into their trials and how the witch hunters would ‚Äėprove‚Äô the witches guilty.

Again, this is not a happy book. It is dark, gritty, and gruesome…

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‘An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy’ by June Kearns – More Than a Romance


I discovered June Kearns’ books through the lovely Rosie Amber’s blog when I reviewed ‘The 20’s Girl, the Ghost and All That Jazz’ (see my review here). I enjoyed it so much that I had to read ‘An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy’. Hope you enjoy my review and the extract from the book that follows. You can read my interview with June here.


This is a lovely book, thoroughly enjoyable, well written and with a cast of characters that you’ll love and hate!

Annie Haddon is dragged to the American west by her horrible aunt and vile cousin. Bullied and brow beaten, and threatened with marriage to a man she finds revolting, Annie is resigned to a miserable life as she travels by stagecoach  across the hot, dusty plains. But a hold-up sees her rescued by the handsome and dangerous Colt McCall and Annie is led into a series of mishaps, dangers and adventures.

Feisty but not perfect, Annie is a character that it’s easy to identify with. I so wanted her to escape the clutches of her horrible family and find the happiness she deserved.

June Kearns has once again invented a strong yet vulnerable main character, a leading man that you’ll fall in love with and a romance that is anything but soppy. And the social constraints that point to nothing but a life of misery for a girl who has so much to her and so much to give are a poignant reminder of how many women were denied happiness because they didn’t fit in with society’s idea of normal.

Highly recommended.

gold star


Annie’s  eyes  probed  the  shadows. Even  with  the  moon  up, it  was  hard  to  see  more  than  a  few  feet. Dark  shapes  and  silhouettes, all  perfectly  still. Trees, rocks, scrub. She  sensed  life  but  could  see  no  movement, nothing  to  suggest  they  were  not  entirely  alone. It  was  eerily  quiet.

¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄėAre¬† those¬† Red¬† Indians¬† still¬† behind us?‚Äô

¬†¬†¬† McCall¬† didn‚Äôt¬† answer¬† straight¬† away. Then, ‚ÄėYep. Right¬† on¬† our¬† tails.‚Äô

¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄėI¬† can‚Äôt¬† see¬† any¬† sign¬† of¬† them.‚Äô

¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄėYou¬† can‚Äôt¬† hear¬† them¬† either, but¬† they‚Äôre¬† there.‚Äô

¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄėWhy¬† don‚Äôt¬† they¬† say¬† what¬† they¬† want?‚Äô

¬†¬†¬† A¬† careless¬† shrug. ‚ÄėThey‚Äôll¬† get¬† around¬† to¬† it, eventually. Right¬† now, they‚Äôve¬† got¬† everything¬† their¬† way, they‚Äôre¬† in¬† no¬† hurry.‚Äô

¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄėCan‚Äôt¬† you¬† just … parley¬† with¬† them¬† or¬† something? Ask¬† them¬† to … go¬† away?‚Äô

¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄėYou¬† mean¬† offer¬† a¬† handful¬† of¬† beads¬† and¬† greetings¬† from¬† the¬† Great¬† White¬† Queen? England¬† Rules,‚Äô he¬† drawled, as¬† the¬† colour¬† rose¬† in¬† Annie‚Äôs¬† face¬† again. ‚ÄėI¬† wouldn‚Äôt¬† count¬† on¬† conversation¬† if¬† I¬† were¬† you. I¬† don‚Äôt¬† think¬† that‚Äôs¬† what¬† they¬† have¬† in¬† mind.‚Äô

¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄėWhy¬† don‚Äôt¬† we¬† go¬† on, then?‚Äô she¬† said. ‚ÄėNow¬† that¬† it‚Äôs¬† dark. I‚Äôm¬† feeling¬† much¬† better. Couldn‚Äôt¬† we¬† creep¬† away¬† while¬† they‚Äôre¬† not¬† looking?‚Äô

¬†¬†¬† A¬† faint¬† snort. ‚ÄėComanche¬† are¬† always¬† looking. We‚Äôre¬† not¬† creeping¬† anywhere, we‚Äôll¬† hole¬† up¬† here.‚Äô

¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄėHole?‚Äô she¬† said. ‚ÄėUp?‚Äô

¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄėMake¬† camp. Sleep, rest¬† the¬† horse.‚Äô

¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄėHere?‚Äô Staring¬† blankly¬† round, Annie¬† stiffened. ‚ÄėIn¬† the¬† open?‚Äô Her¬† voice¬† rose¬† sharply. ‚ÄėTogether?‚Äô

¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄėGood¬† water, some¬† shelter. What¬† more¬† do¬† you¬† want?‚Äô

    Doors, she  thought. With  locks. Walls. Privacy! She  was  covered  in  confusion.

¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄėYou¬† can¬† rest¬† easy.‚Äô¬† McCall‚Äôs¬† mouth¬† twitched. Clearly¬† he¬† had¬† managed¬† to¬† add¬† mind-reading¬† to¬† his¬† list¬† of¬† talents. ‚ÄėI¬† never¬† move¬† in¬† on¬† a¬† woman¬† without¬† a¬† clear¬† invitation. No¬† matter¬† how¬† alluring.‚Äô

    Oh, ho. Annie’s  eyes  rolled. Very  funny. She  didn’t  need  mirrors  to  know  that  she  looked  a  fright. Face  scorched  by  wind  and  sun, hair  a  wayward  red  bush  down  her  back. Probably  blood-shot  eyes  and  a  coated  tongue, as  well.

    But  men  like  McCall  had  never  shown  the  slightest  interest  in  her  before, even  when  she’d  been  well-dressed, nicely  shod  and  prettily  groomed. Why  would  things  alter  now?

    He  passed  her  a  blanket, then  stretched  out  full-length, propping  his  head  on  his  saddle.

¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄėAre¬† you¬† sleeping¬† there?‚Äô¬† She¬† shot¬† him¬† a¬† startled, side-ways¬† look.

¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄėYep.‚Äô He¬† tilted¬† his¬† hat¬† over¬† his¬† eyes. ‚ÄėThis¬† is¬† as¬† private¬† as¬† it¬† gets. Just¬† you, me¬† and¬† the¬† lone¬† prair-ree.‚Äô

¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄėBut … what¬† about¬† those¬† Comanche?‚Äô¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄėWhatever¬† they‚Äôre¬† planning, they¬† won‚Äôt¬† come¬† in¬† tonight. They¬† rarely¬† risk¬† dying¬† in¬† the¬† dark. Think¬† their¬† souls¬† might¬† lose¬† their¬† way.‚Äô

    In  spite  of  everything, Annie  felt  stirrings  of  interest. Hadn’t  she  yearned  for  travel  and  adventure? Epic  journeys  to  far-flung  parts  with  an  elderly  female  relative  as chaperon? Well, here  she  was. Another  dream  shattered.

¬†¬†¬† It¬† was¬† some¬† time¬† before¬† she¬† could¬† settle¬† down. So¬† many¬† strange¬† and¬† unfamiliar¬† sounds. The¬† whisper¬† of¬† water, wind¬† in¬† the¬† cottonwoods. Rustlings, night¬† noises. Birds ‚Äď a¬† covert glance¬† at¬† McCall ‚Äď and¬† beasts.

    Had  the  man  no  consideration? Couldn’t  he  climb a  tree, sleep  in  that?

¬†¬†¬† A¬† harsh¬† wail¬† echoed¬† a¬† way¬† off. Annie¬† sat¬† up¬† sharply. ‚ÄėMr¬† McCall!‚Äô

    He  didn’t  stir.

¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄėWas¬† that¬† a¬† wolf? A¬† coyote?‚Äô

¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄėI¬† sure¬† hope¬† so.‚Äô The¬† drawl¬† drifted¬† up¬† from¬† beneath¬† the¬† brim¬† of¬† his¬† hat.

¬†¬†¬† That¬† was¬† it? No¬† reassurances, no¬† sleep¬† well? No¬† keeping¬† watch?¬† ‚ÄėBut,‚Äô she¬† said, breathing¬† hard, ‚Äėwhat¬† if ‚Äď‚Äô

¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄėI¬† sleep¬† with¬† one¬† eye¬† open. Try¬† it¬† yourself.‚Äô

    Hauling  the  blanket  up  round  her  ears, she  lay  down  in  semblance  of  sleep. Eyes though, were  wide, fixed  on  black  velvet  sky  and  a  million  stars  over  her  head.

¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄėIf¬† you¬† need¬† anything,‚Äô he¬† said, the¬† amusement¬† clear¬† in¬† his¬† voice. ‚ÄėI‚Äôm¬† only¬† six¬† inches¬† away.‚Äô

    Annie  lay  stiff  as  a  board. The  lamb  stretched  out  next  to  the  lion. But  would  the  lion  be  licking  his  lips  in  the  morning? 

You can buy a copy here (UK) and here (US)

June is on Twitter: @june_kearns

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and at:

Remember, Remember


‚ÄėRemember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason, why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.’

It’s Bonfire Night, and while we probably all remember the rhyme, how much do we really know about Guy Fawkes and the infamous Gunpowder Plot? Here are a few things you might not know from a post I published on November 5th last year.

  • Although it is the effigy of Guy Fawkes that we burn each year on our bonfires, he wasn‚Äôt actually the leader of the plot. Blowing up parliament was only part of a much wider rebellion, led by Robert Catesby. Catesby‚Äôs family were prominent recusant Catholics‚Äď refusing to take part in Anglican religious activity, recusants were often punished by fines, property confiscation, and imprisonment. In Catesby‚Äôs plan, Fawkes would blow up Parliament, killing the Protestant king James I. This would then start a revolt, during which a Catholic monarch would take the throne.
  • Guy Fawkes had a successful military career before becoming involved in the plot. However, his allegiances would not have pleased King James. In 1591, Fawkes sold the estate he had inherited (his father died when Fawkes was eight) and used the funds raised to travel to the continent in order to fight in the Eighty Years War. This war was between Catholic Spain and the new Dutch Republic. Fawkes fought on the side of the Spanish. Although there were not any land battles at that time between England and Spain, technically the two countries were still at war. The Spanish Armada was a relatively recent event, happening in 1588, and Spain was still very much seen as an enemy of England.
  • Although we know a lot about Fawkes‚Äô military life, his involvement in the plot and his horrible end, relatively little is known about his personal life. The documents that relate his imprisonment, torture and death do not mention any family. However, there is one reference (and, it seems, only one) to a marriage.¬† The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) has an extensive collection of genealogy records. They do this in order to establish the details of the ancestors of their members. Their International Genealogy Index (IGI) records a marriage between Guy Fawkes and Maria Pulleyn in 1590 in Scotton. There is also a record of the birth of a son, Thomas, on 6 February 1591, the year that Fawkes went to fight for the Spanish. ¬†So why only one record? The general consensus is that this is another Fawkes. However, the two families did have links so a marriage is credible. It may be that Fawkes, as a Catholic, and his bride wanted to marry in the traditions of their church ‚Äď there are stories of Catholics marrying in secret at the dead of night. Perhaps this is why there are no other records of their marriage.
  • Guy Fawkes managed to avoid the severe penalty that befell most of his co-conspirators, although he certainly did suffer at his death. He was, along with Thomas Wintour, Ambrose Rookwood, and Robert Keyes drawn through the streets of London to his death. They were dragged from the Tower of London where they had been imprisoned, to the Old Palace Yard at Wesmtinster. His fellow conspirators were hung and quartered. Fawkes was the last to meet his doom. Although broken by torture, Fawkes managed to jump from the scaffold, breaking his neck and avoiding the long, painful death suffered by the others.
  • Effigies of Guy Fawkes weren‚Äôt always burned on Bonfire Night. Although the tradition of lighting bonfires was begun on the first anniversary of the treason, it wasn‚Äôt until later in that century that effigies were burned ‚Äď usually those of the Pope. Burning the ‚Äėguy‚Äô is a modern tradition, although nowadays we often burn the effigies of unpopular politicians or celebrities.