Wednesday, February 17, 2021

A review of The Diabolical Bones by Bella Ellis

Haworth Parsonage, February 1846: The Brontë sisters— Anne, Emily, and Charlotte—are busy with their literary pursuits. As they query publishers for their poetry, each sister hopes to write a full-length novel that will thrill the reading public. They’re also hoping for a new case for their fledgling detecting enterprise, Bell Brothers and Company solicitors. On a bitterly cold February evening, their housekeeper Tabby tells them of a grim discovery at Scar Top House, an old farmhouse belonging to the Bradshaw family. A set of bones has been found bricked up in a chimney breast inside the ancient home.
Tabby says it’s bad doings, and dark omens for all of them. The rattled housekeeper gives them a warning, telling the sisters of a chilling rumoBook Depositoryr attached to the family. The villagers believe that, on the verge of bankruptcy, Clifton Bradshaw sold his soul to the devil in return for great riches. Does this have anything to do with the bones found in the Bradshaw house? The sisters are intrigued by the story and feel compelled to investigate. But Anne, Emily, and Charlotte soon learn that true evil has set a murderous trap and they’ve been lured right into it…

Feb 16, 2021ISBN 9780593099155
The Diabolical Bones is terrific fun to read. Page turning chapters filled with everything Bronte lovers could imagine. For instance, the entire Bronte family sat around the dinner table even brother Branwell and papa Rev. Bronte himself. Wonderful humorous conversations between sisters and brother as well as devotion and protection over their beloved papa Bronte.
The Diabolical Bones is an enthralling mystery where the moors hold secrets carried upon the wind for the Bronte sisters to solve.  Old wives tales, folklore, religion and witchcraft hold clues to help solve this mystery of the bones of a dead child found up a chimney and so much more.
What I love most about these books is you get to read a wonderful mystery wrapped up in the charm of the Bronte family. What more could you ask for?
I can’t wait for the next adventure!
Thank you to Berkley Books and Netgalley for my review copy.
To purchase in the United States, Book Depository 

Saturday, February 6, 2021

A daughter's tribute to her mother: Christina Rossetti in her own words to her mother Frances Rossetti (nee Polidori)


Mother and Daughter posed together, Frances Rossetti and daughter Christina Rossetti by Charles Dodgson,  albumen print, 7 October 1863, NPG

A beautiful tribute to her mother in Christina Rossetti's own handwriting:

Sonnets are full of love, and this our tome

So full of sonnets:  so here now shall be

A sonnet and a love - sonnet from me

To my first love, my Mother, on whose knee

I learnt love-lore that is not troublesome;

Whose heart is still my heart’s most quiet home,

Whose service is my special dignity,

And she my loadstar while I go and come.

And so because you love me, and because

I love you Mother, i have woven a wreath

Of rhymes wherewith to crown your honoured name:

In you not fourscore years can dim the flame

Of love, whose blessed glow transcends the laws

Of time and change and mortal life and death.

The above was from a two page undated letter by Christina Rossetti to her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  Housed and Archived as part of Christina Rossetti's papers at Harry Ransom Center, Austin, Texas. 

A tribute to my mother as tomorrow is the anniversary of her passing.
As long as there is still breath in me, you will never be forgotten.

Monday, February 1, 2021

The Moxon Tennyson: A Landmark in Victorian Illustration-Series in Victorian Studies by Simon Cooke


ISBN 978-0-8214-2426-1
Retail price: $80.00
Release date: January 2021
81 illus. · 254 pages · 7 × 10 in

The Lady of Shalott by William Holman-Hunt

Engraved by the Dalziels /J. Thompson, 1857, Wood engraving

A new perspective on a book that transformed Victorian illustration into a stand-alone art.

Edward Moxon’s 1857 edition of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Poems dramatically redefined the relationship between images and words in print. Cooke’s study, the first book to address the subject in over 120 years, presents a sweeping analysis of the illustrators and the complex and challenging ways in which they interpreted Tennyson’s poetry. This book considers the volume’s historical context, examining in detail the roles of publisher, engravers, and binding designer, as well as the material difficulties of printing its fine illustrations, which recreate the effects of painting. Arranged thematically and reproducing all the original images, the chapters present a detailed reappraisal of the original volume and the distinctive culture that produced it.

Simon Cooke is the editor for book illustration and design on Victorian Web. He is the author of Illustrated Periodicals of the 1860s and coeditor of two collections of essays. He has published on Victorian book art, Gothic, Sensationalism, and the Pre-Raphaelites.

I've been reading my review copy from publishers Ohio University Press. It's a beautiful edition and seeing the gorgeous illustrations from all the illustrators not just the well-known Pre-Raphaelite painters has reminded me of the beauty of Tennyson's poems. It makes me want to sit down and read his beautiful words over and over again.

Stay tuned for my upcoming review.  I just wanted to post this for anyone who might want to request  a review copy or purchase it. Please know that it is expensive though.

If you are in the United Kingdom,  Waterstones

If you are in the United States,  Ohio University Press

Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Dead City by Christina Rossetti: Living in a time of pandemic?


Christina Rossetti by Lewis Carroll,
October 7, 1863, NPG

The genius of the family. She was the Dante of our family. 
Christina, was the daughter of what was noblest in our father 
and beautiful in our mother. 
Dante Gabriel Rossetti speaks of his sister.

In 1847 poetess, Christina Rossetti believed to be inspired by the story of Zobeide in The Arabian Nights, wrote, The Dead City; a first person singular allegory where a woman narrates her walk through an abandoned city as she makes her way to a dinner already laid out on a table. The poet warns the reader of the dangers of 'urban materialism' in a consumer culture gone awry almost pleading for the need for spiritual awakening.  

As we live in the beginning of 2021, one hundred and seventy four years after The Dead City was written, I can see parallels to the detriment of urban living. Thus, resulting in the concrete, grey, desolation of city sidewalks deserted of humans where a light shines upon tents leading the way to a dinner meal already prepared atop a table.  Think of the tents that surround individual tables outside of restaurants across our pandemic cities around the world. I wanted to share this poem with you. Read it again. Read it for the first time. Grab your copy of, The Goblin Market and other poems sitting on your shelf right now, snuggle up with your tea or coffee in your favorite recliner or sofa and see if you don't see echoes of our Covid pandemic world.  


Once I rambled in a wood
With a careless hardihood,
Heeding not the tangled way;
Labyrinths around me lay,
But for them I never stood.

On, still on, I wandered on,
And the sun above me shone;
And the birds around me winging
With their everlasting singing
Made me feel not quite alone.

In the branches of the trees,
Murmured like the hum of bees
The low sound of happy breezes,
Whose sweet voice that never ceases
Lulls the heart to perfect ease.

Streamlets bubbled all around
On the green and fertile ground,
Thro' the rushes and the grass,
Like a sheet of liquid glass,
With a soft and trickling sound.

And I went, I went on faster,
Contemplating no disaster;
And I plucked ripe blackberries,
But the birds with envious eyes
Came and stole them from their master:

For the birds here were all tame;
Some with bodies like a flame,
Some that glanced the branches thro'
Pure and colourless as dew;
Fearlessly to me they came.

Before me no mortal stood
In the mazes of that wood;
Before me the birds had never
Seen a man, but dwelt for ever
In a happy solitude;

Happy solitude, and blest
With beatitude of rest;
Where the woods are ever vernal,
And the life and joy eternal,
Without Death's or Sorrow's test.

Oh most blessed solitude!
Oh most full beatitude!
Where are quiet without strife,
And imperishable life,
Nothing marred, and all things good.

And the bright sun, life begetting,
Never rising, never setting,
Shining warmly overhead,
Nor too pallid, nor too red,
Lulled me to a sweet forgetting,

Sweet forgetting of the time:
And I listened for no chime
Which might warn me to begone;
But I wandered on, still on,
'Neath the boughs of oak and lime.

Know I not how long I strayed
In the pleasant leafy shade;
But the trees had gradually
Grown more rare, the air more free,
The sun hotter overhead.

Soon the birds no more were seen
Glancing thro' the living green;
And a blight had passed upon
All the trees; and the pale sun
Shone with a strange lurid sheen.

Then a darkness spread around:
I saw nought, I heard no sound;
Solid darkness overhead,
With a trembling cautious tread
Passed I o'er the unseen ground.

But at length a pallid light
Broke upon my searching sight;
A pale solitary ray,
Like a star at dawn of day
Ere the sun is hot and bright.

Towards its faintly glimmering beam
I went on as in a dream;
A strange dream of hope and fear!
And I saw as I drew near
'Twas in truth no planet's gleam;

But a lamp above a gate
Shone in solitary state
O'er a desert drear and cold,
O'er a heap of ruins old,
O'er a scene most desolate.

By that gate I entered lone
A fair city of white stone;
And a lovely light to see
Dawned, and spread most gradually
Till the air grew warm and shone.

Thro' the splendid streets I strayed
In that radiance without shade,
Yet I heard no human sound;
All was still and silent round
As a city of the dead.

All the doors were open wide;
Lattices on every side
In the wind swung to and fro;
Wind that whispered very low:
Go and see the end of pride.

With a fixed determination
Entered I each habitation,
But they all were tenantless;
All was utter loneliness,
All was deathless desolation.

In the noiseless market-place
Was no care-worn busy face;
There were none to buy or sell,
None to listen or to tell,
In this silent emptiness.

Thro' the city on I went
Full of awe and wonderment;
Still the light around me shone,
And I wandered on, still on,
In my great astonishment,

Till at length I reached a place
Where amid an ample space
Rose a palace for a king;
Golden was the turreting,
And of solid gold the base.

The great porch was ivory,
And the steps were ebony;
Diamond and chrysoprase
Set the pillars in a blaze,
Capitalled with jewelry.

None was there to bar my way--
And the breezes seemed to say:
Touch not these, but pass them by,
Pressing onwards: therefore I
Entered in and made no stay.

All around was desolate:
I went on; a silent state
Reigned in each deserted room,
And I hastened thro' the gloom
Till I reached an outer gate.

Soon a shady avenue
Blossom-perfumed, met my view.
Here and there the sun-beams fell
On pure founts, whose sudden swell
Up from marble basins flew.

Every tree was fresh and green;
Not a withered leaf was seen
Thro' the veil of flowers and fruit;
Strong and sapful were the root,
The top boughs, and all between.

Vines were climbing everywhere
Full of purple grapes and fair:
And far off I saw the corn
With its heavy head down borne,
By the odour-laden air.

Who shall strip the bending vine?
Who shall tread the press for wine?
Who shall bring the harvest in
When the pallid ears begin
In the sun to glow and shine?

On I went, alone, alone,
Till I saw a tent that shone
With each bright and lustrous hue;
It was trimmed with jewels too,
And with flowers; not one was gone.

Then the breezes whispered me:
Enter in, and look, and see
How for luxury and pride
A great multitude have died:--
And I entered tremblingly.

Lo, a splendid banquet laid
In the cool and pleasant shade.
Mighty tables, every thing
Of sweet Nature's furnishing
That was rich and rare, displayed;

And each strange and luscious cate
Practised Art makes delicate;
With a thousand fair devices
Full of odours and of spices;
And a warm voluptuous state.

All the vessels were of gold
Set with gems of worth untold.
In the midst a fountain rose
Of pure milk, whose rippling flows
In a silver basin rolled.

In green emerald baskets were
Sun-red apples, streaked, and fair;
Here the nectarine and peach
And ripe plum lay, and on each
The bloom rested every where.

Grapes were hanging overhead,
Purple, pale, and ruby-red;
And in panniers all around
Yellow melons shone, fresh found,
With the dew upon them spread.

And the apricot and pear
And the pulpy fig were there;
Cherries and dark mulberries,
Bunchy currants, strawberries,
And the lemon wan and fair.

And unnumbered others too,
Fruits of every size and hue,
Juicy in their ripe perfection,
Cool beneath the cool reflection
Of the curtains' sky blue.

All the floor was strewn with flowers
Fresh from sunshine and from showers,
Roses, lilies, jasmine;
And the ivy ran between
Like a thought in happy hours.

And this feast too lacked no guest
With its warm delicious rest;
With its couches softly sinking,
And its glow, not made for thinking,
But for careless joy at best.

Many banquettes were there,
Wrinkled age, the young, the fair;
In the splendid revelry
Flushing cheek and kindling eye
Told of gladness without care.

Yet no laughter rang around,
Yet they uttered forth no sound;
With the smile upon his face
Each sat moveless in his place,
Silently, as if spell-bound.

The low whispering voice was gone,
And I felt awed and alone.
In my great astonishment
To the feasters up I went--
Lo, they all were turned to stone.

Yea they all were statue-cold,
Men and women, young and old;
With the life-like look and smile
And the flush; and all the while
The hard fingers kept their hold.

Here a little child was sitting
With a merry glance, befitting
Happy age and heedless heart;
There a young man sat apart
With a forward look unweeting.

Nigh them was a maiden fair;
And the ringlets of her hair
Round her slender fingers twined;
And she blushed as she reclined,
Knowing that her love was there.

Here a dead man sat to sup,
In his hand a drinking cup;
Wine cup of the heavy gold,
Human hand stony and cold,
And no life-breath struggling up.

There a mother lay, and smiled
Down upon her infant child;
Happy child and happy mother
Laughing back to one another
With a gladness undefiled.

Here an old man slept, worn out
With the revelry and rout;
Here a strong man sat and gazed
On a girl, whose eyes upraised
No more wandered round about.

And none broke the stillness, none;
I was the sole living one.
And methought that silently
Many seemed to look on me
With strange steadfast eyes that shone.

Full of fear I would have fled;
Full of fear I bent my head,
Shutting out each stony guest:--
When I looked again the feast
And the tent had vanished.

Yes, once more I stood alone
Where the happy sunlight shone
And a gentle wind was sighing,
And the little birds were flying,
And the dreariness was gone.

All these things that I have said
Awed me, and made me afraid.
What was I that I should see
So much hidden mystery?
And I straightway knelt and prayed.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Review of The Photographer by Kevin Marsh

Professional photographer Matthew Cunningham returns home from a successful assignment in Paris and upon realising the loss of his camera case, he panics, not only does it contain expensive photographic equipment, but also hundreds of stored images.

Several days later, his girlfriend Libby Ellis receives an anonymous package containing both photographs of the models Matt works with and also herself.

After a meeting, Libby fails to return home and Detective Sergeant Isobel Woods begins investigating her disappearance. Struggling with internal politics and a boss intent on discrediting her, she is told to solve the case as quickly as possible. However, events take an unexpected turn.

Gradually women connected to Matt are drawn into the nightmare and DS Woods suspects his involvement. Co-operating with the police while secretly negotiating with the abductor, Matt risks incriminating himself and is left with no option but to gamble with the lives of those closest to him.

Paperback, 341 pages
Published November 30 2020 by Paragon Publishing
ISBN13 9781782228127

I am all you have.  I am your link between life and death  You are now my plaything and you will do as you are told. We shall see how well you  perform before I decide what is to be done with you.  

If you are searching for a gripping psychological thriller then The Photographer should be top of your list. Author, Kevin Marsh does his research in writing every aspect of the story, plot, and keeping the tension for the reader.   I know what to expect from one of the author's thrillers. I am a great admirer of how he writes his novels. When it comes to his thrillers, I am on the edge of my seat reading up late at night even when I am tired because I must know what is going to happen next. From the start, I get hooked in to the main characters and if there are couples then I'm invested!  

As a reader you can expect the abductor to be violent and emotionally manipulative with his female kidnap victims. The Photographer has an interesting group of detectives of every rank. I enjoyed finding out in which situations their personalities came out. 

When it comes to psychological thrillers in general, I enjoy getting to know the main and support cast of characters. I read The Photographer as if I was putting together a jigsaw puzzle. What is the connection between abductor and victim/s?  Who is targeted, who is kidnapped and why?  I am always surprised by plot twists which is half the fun of reading a psychological thriller or perhaps its just me! 

The Photographer by Kevin Marsh is available for purchase on Amazon UK

Friday, December 25, 2020

Charles Dickens (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) Christmas Recollections: In His Own Words!

Daguerrotype of Charles Dickens by Antoine Claudet, 1852

The Christmas of 1812 was celebrated by John and Elizabeth Dickens (nee Barrow) in the town of Portsmouth on the south coast of England. Frances (known as Fanny) was two years old and Charles was 10 months old. Their father, John, worked as a clerk in the Navy's Payroll Office. John was known to be terrible with finances. Because of this, they often had to move house. By Charles' second birthday, Monday, 7 February 1814, the Dickens family lived in Kent for several years. 

As a young boy, Charles could always be found in a small room, sitting and reading through his father's book collection. According to Charles Dickens unfinished autobiography, 

My father left a small collection of books in a little room upstairs to which I have access and which nobody else in our house ever troubled. From that blessed little room, Roderick Random, Peregrine Pickle, Humphrey Clinker, Tom Jones, The Vicar of Wakefield, Don Quixote, Gil Blas, and Robinson Crusoe, came out a glorious host, to keep me company. They kept alive my fancy, and my hope of something beyond that place and time - they, and the Arabian Nights and the Tales of the Geni- and did me no harm; for, whatever harm was in some of them, was not there for me; I knew nothing of it.  It is astonishing to me now, how I found time, in midst of my porings and blunderings over heavier times, to read those books as I did. It is curious to me how I could ever have consoled myself under my small troubles (which were great troubles to me), by impersonating my favourite characters in them... I have been Tom Jones (a child's Tom Jones, a harmless creature) for a week together. I have sustained my own idea of Roderick Random for a month at a stretch, I verily believe. I had a greedy relish for a few volumes of voyages and travels-I forget what, now - that were on those shelves; and for days and days I can remember to have gone about my region of our house, armed with the centre-piece out of an old set of boottrees:  the perfect realisation of Captain Somebody, of the Royal British Navy, in danger of being beset by savages, and resolved to sell his life at a great price... When I think of it, the picture always rises in mind of  a summer evening, the boys at play in the churchyard, and I sitting on my bed reading as if for life. Every barn in the neighbourhood, every stone in the church, and every foot of the churchyard, had some association of its own, in my mind, connected with these books, and stood for some locality made famous in them. I have seen Tom Pipes go climbing up the church steeple; I have watched Strap, with the knapsack on his back, stopping to rest himself upon the wicket-gate; and I know that Commodore Trunnion held that club with Mr. Pickle in the parlour of our little village house. 
Celebrating Christmas during the time of Charles Dickens, would have consisted of decorating the house with ivy, playing games, singing, dancing, eating special Christmas foods and giving gifts only when and if the family could afford it. When Charles was a little boy, Christmas trees were not really known in Britain outside of the  royal court. Therefore, the Dickens family would not have had a Christmas tree and they would not have expected a visit form Father Christmas. Father Christmas was little known in Britain until the Victorian era. Although, Father Christmas could be seen in a traditional mummers' folk dancing he was not the figure that grew out of the legend of St. Nicholas or Santa Claus. Although, in America a popular poem published in 1822, when Charles would have been ten years old, called, Twas the Night Before Christmas, was not popular in Britain until the second half of the nineteenth century. 

In the Dickens household, when Charles was a little boy, the season of Christmas started on Christmas Eve (24 December) until Twelfth Night (6 January). Charles Dickens wrote his first Christmas story, Christmas Festivities, in 1835, where the grandfather tells his grandchildren that he kissed their grandmother under the mistletoe when he was still a boy. Dickens included a mistletoe scene in The Pickwick Papers (1837): 

They all three repaired to the large kitchen, in which the family were by this time assembled, according to annual custom on Christmas Eve... From the centre of the ceiling of this kitchen, old Wardle had just suspended, with his own hands, a huge branch of mistletoe, and this same branch of mistletoe instantaneously gave rise to a scene of general and most delightful struggling and confusion; in the midst of which, Mr. Pickwick, with a gallantry that would have done honour to a descendant of lady Tollimglower herself, took the old lady by the hand, led her beneath the mystic branch, and saluted her in all courtesy and decorum. 
In the December 1850 issue of Charles Dickens's magazine, Household Words, in the article, A Christmas Tree, he shares a memory he had of how his Christmas toys were frightening and confusing: 

I look into my youngest Christmas recollections! All toys at first, I find. Up yonder, among the green holly and red berries, is the Tumbler with his hands in his pockets, who wouldn't lie down, but whenever he was put upon the floor, persisted in rolling his fat body about, until he rolled himself still, and brought those lobster eyes of his to bear upon me-when I affected to laugh very much, but in my heart of hearts was extremely doubtful of him. Close beside him is that infernal snuff-box, out of which there sprang a demoniacal Counsellor in a black gown, with an obnoxious head of hair, and a red cloth mouth, wide open, who was not to be endured on any terms, but could not be put away either...The cardboard lady in a blue-silk skirt, who was stood up against the candlestick to dance, and whom I see on the same branch, was milder, and was beautiful; but I can't say as much for the larger cardboard man, who used to be hung against the wall and pulled by a string; there was a sinister expression in that nose of his; and when he got his legs round his neck, he was ghastly, and not a creature to be alone with. 

When did that dreadful Mask first look at me? Who put it on, and why was I so frightened that the sight of it is an era in my life?... Nothing reconciled me to it... Nor was it any satisfaction to be shown the Mask, and see that it was made of paper, or to have it locked up and be assured that no one wore it. The mere recollection of that fixed face, the mere knowledge of its existence anywhere, was sufficient to awake me in the night all perspiration and horror, with, "O I know it's come! O the mask!". 
Just a few Dickens Christmas excerpts from his books and newspaper journal. 

I hope you all have had a relaxing Christmas, given the circumstances our world is in at the moment. 

Thank you all for your support and interest in my passion for the personal lives of nineteenth century and Victorian era writers, artists, and authors. 

Friday, December 4, 2020

Newly Published: The Photographer by Kevin Marsh


Professional photographer Matthew Cunningham returns home from a successful assignment in Paris and upon realising the loss of his camera case, he panics, not only does it contain expensive photographic equipment, but also hundreds of stored images.

Several days later, his girlfriend Libby Ellis receives an anonymous package containing both photographs of the models Matt works with and also herself.

After a meeting, Libby fails to return home and Detective Sergeant Isobel Woods begins investigating her disappearance. Struggling with internal politics and a boss intent on discrediting her, she is told to solve the case as quickly as possible. However, events take an unexpected turn.

Gradually women connected to Matt are drawn into the nightmare and DS Woods suspects his involvement. Co-operating with the police while secretly negotiating with the abductor, Matt risks incriminating himself and is left with no option but to gamble with the lives of those closest to him.

Paperback, 341 pages
Published November 30 2020 by Paragon Publishing
ISBN13 9781782228127

The Photographer is the author's sixth novel and second thriller and I've been waiting a little while for this one to be published. My copy should arrive in a few weeks from the United Kingdom so you can look forward to a review as well. In the meantime, Author, Kevin Marsh offers the reader stories that have gripping plot twists, red herrings, and usually beautiful settings i.e. Scotland, Kent, London as well as the occasional United States mention. 

I am a great fan of reading detective thriller novels. Each author brings a fresh  perspective to their story. Nothing is cut and dry. What I enjoy about Kevin Marsh's writing is how his characters are identifiable; living normal lives, dealing with career struggles, family struggles, dating, marriages, etc. I find his writing so refreshing; he writes with such a detailed perspective, his phrasing is uncomplicated and he is not long winded!  He knows how to keep the tension coming and his sense of humor always comes through. Even when he writes his female victims they are not weak minded but show an inner strength and determination to survive.  There is a realism to his writing and characters that I don't usually find elsewhere.  

Author Biography
Kevin Marsh was born in Canterbury in 1961. He lived and went to school there attending the Technical College, (now Canterbury College), as an apprentice sheet metal worker. During his five years of training he worked in a small local company with his father and brother. In 1981 he was married and moved to Whitstable, (his father's home town).

His first novel, The Belgae Torc was launched on 30th June 2012 with his second book, The Witness, a psychological thriller, being published in March 2013. The Gordian Knot was published the following year with Cutting the Gordian Knot (The Final Solution) in July 2016. The Belgae Torc, The Gordian Knot and Cutting the Gordian Knot are known as The Torc Trilogy and are available as a set. These action adventure historical/modern day novels are quite different from his other books.
The Cellist, a thriller containing characters borrowed from the Witness came along in 2017 and there are two more novels in this series yet to be published.

Whilst holidaying in France a few years ago Kevin and his wife Maria decided to give up working full time, sell their house and move to the beautiful Kent countryside. Kevin now spends his time writing novels and learning to read music whilst occasionally teaching when required.

For more information check out his website:-

If you live in the United Kingdom and Europe,

A review of The Diabolical Bones by Bella Ellis

Haworth Parsonage, February 1846: The Brontë sisters— Anne, Emily, and Charlotte—are busy with their literary pursuits. As they query publis...