We have updated our website – there is a new section on our music school in London, UK, and added details of our other engagements and activities. Please take a look and enjoy!
For anyone looking for some light reading this summer, Fanny Blake’s ‘House of Dreams’ is highly recommended! I came across the book while browsing in our local library for something to read – something that would be light to read but also entertaining and would have a good plot to follow. ‘House of Dream’ is just it and I’ve been laughing every evening now while reading it!
The book is a heart-warming tale of family secrets that are slowly revealed after the mother of the family passes away and her three children go out to their family house on the Spanish coast for one last time. Just the setting alone is ideal reading for the summer – you can just imagine yourself sitting on the beach by the seaside (even when it’s raining outside in the UK!). As the siblings discover new things about their family and hippy mother, the reader is thoroughly entertained – but can also reflect on how all families are not as straightforward as they might seem for an outsider.
Fanny Blake had a successful career as an Editor for many of the major publishers in the UK before deciding that she actually wanted to write books herself, not just read other people’s books. Nowadays she also uses her literature knowledge on being a judge for several literary awards.
You can find out more about ‘House of Dreams’ and Fanny’s other books on her website – we think that her books are a must this summer!
‘The Adventures of Benjamin Franklin’ is a novel aimed at children aged +5. The main character in the book, Benjamin, is desperate for adventure, but with few friends and strict parents it doesn’t seem possible. Since Benjamin is a child with fire in his heart, he decides it is time to find his own adventure. Heading out into the wild outdoors in search of new places, despite the horrid weather, he finds more than he ever expected. New characters spring into Benjamin’s life that he never thought that he would meet. When unexpected events threaten his safety, he is scooped up into an unimaginable world with stranger characters than before.
Marie Skilling, the London-based author who created Benjamin Franklin, was inspired to write Benjamin’s story on an adventure that took her miles away from her home, but which took place just around the corner from her parent’s home in Canada. Benjamin began his journey with Marie on a wintry day when hail fell from the sky and the winds nearly blew her away. Before Marie had a chance to see a willow tree, she ran home to stay warm and dry. It was there that she began to write Benjamin’s story. Benjamin’s tale is about his adventure into a world that is exciting and unusual. Strange goings on sweep him from the ordinary to the extraordinary.
In addition to Benjamin’s story, Marie has published books of poetry and writes a blog. For more information on her work and whereabouts, please see her excellent website:
J. K. Rowling (aka Joanne Kathleen Rowling) is most well known for her epic and phenomenally popular books series ‘Harry Potter’. The books took her life and work to a whole new level, yet she has been passionate about books and children for her entire life and led an interesting existence even before we all got to know Harry Potter and his friends. Even today we often see Rowling making a political point, donating to charities and raising awareness of good and worthy causes. So who is this powerful and talented lady?
Rowling was born in 1965 at Yate General Hospital in England and grew up in Chepstow, Gwent. From a young age, she was interested in literature, languages and stories, and left her local neighbourhood and school for Exeter University where she studied a degree in French and Classics. As part of her degree, she spent a year abroad in Paris.
After graduating, Rowling moved to London and worked in a number of jobs, one as a researcher at Amnesty International. In fact, she has always taken a strong interest in human rights and even today still is vocal about how all humans should be treated with dignity. It was during her time in London when Rowling started writing the Harry Potter series, on a delayed Manchester to London train journey. Over the following five years, she outlined the plots for each book of the series and began writing the first novel.
After her time in London, Rowling moved to northern Portugal where she taught English as a foreign language. She got married in 1992 and gave birth to her daughter in 1993. When the marriage ended, she with her daughter Jessica returned to the UK to live in Edinburgh, Scotland, where ‘Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone’ was eventually completed. The book was first published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books in June 1997, under the name J.K. Rowling. The ‘J’ for Jo or Joanne, and the ‘K’ for Kathleen, her paternal grandmother’s name, which was added at her publisher’s request who thought that a woman’s name would not attract young boys as a readership audience.
The second title in the series, ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’, was published in July 1998 and was No. 1 in the adult hardback bestseller charts for a month after publication. Somehow Rowling had managed to conquer the adult readership market as well the kids’ market! Adults and kids alike loved to read the fantasy stories of Harry Potter and lose themselves in stories that were completely different to their own daily lives.
‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ was published on 8th July 1999 to worldwide acclaim and spent four weeks at No.1 in the UK adult hardback bestseller charts. The fourth book in the series, ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’ was published on 8th July 2000 with a record first print run of 1 million copies for the UK. It quickly broke all records for the greatest number of books sold on the first day of publication in the UK.
‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ was published in Britain, the USA, Canada and Australia on 21st June 2003 and broke all records as the fastest selling book in history. ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’ was published in the UK, US and other English-speaking countries on 16th July 2005 and also achieved record sales. By now readers were truly hooked on the stories and left wanting to find out what would happen next to each character. The seventh and final book in the series, ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’, was published in the UK, US and other English speaking countries in 2007. By now, the books had been turned into films on the big screen.
Rowling has also written two small volumes that appear as the titles of Harry’s school books within the novels. ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ and ‘Quidditch Through The Ages’ were published in March 2001 in aid of Comic Relief. Furthermore, in December 2008, ‘The Tales of Beedle the Bard’ was published in aid of the Children’s High Level Group (now Lumos).Yet again, Rowling showed her humanitarian side. There have been rumours that she has donated millions to different charities, but as a private person, she has refused to make such deeds public.
As well as an OBE for services to children’s literature,Rowling is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees including the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, France’s Légion d’Honneur, and the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award. She has also been a Commencement Speaker at Harvard University, USA.
However, Rowling not only writes for her human companions but she also supports them in other ways. She is a keen supporter for a wide number of charitable causes through her charitable trust Volant, and is the founder of Lumos, a charity working to transform the lives of disadvantaged children.
Although the Harry Potter series has been widely read by adults, in 2012, Rowling published her first novel for adults ‘The Casual Vacancy’, which has now been published in 44 languages. She has also written ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’, her first crime novel under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, which was published in 2013 and is to be translated into 37 languages. She chose to use a pseudonym in order to attract the right readership instead of receiving praise simply on the basis of her name.
Rowling is currently writing a screen play called ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’, an original story set in the wizarding world, some of which will be familiar to Harry Potter fans. It marks her screenwriting debut and the start of a new film series with Warner Bros. Currently, Rowling lives in Edinburgh with her husband and three children.
It’s no wonder that a person leading an interesting life would be able to write amazing stories for us – please see her website for more information on her books and public engagements:
As her name suggests, Danielle Steel is a woman made of steel. She has been writing fiction for decades and is showing no signs to stop any time soon. She has written dozens of books that have been read world-wide and has a wide readership in her native America, as well as in Europe. She is known for her enticing writing style and stories that warm everyone’s hearts.
The first time I read Steel’s stories, I was a teenager still living in Finland and looking for English novels to brush up my language skills. Within weeks, I had read most of her novels. They were the perfect way to entertain myself and to build up my vocabulary in English. Once I went to university and got into the working world, I heard about her new books but never got around reading them. Until this year when I had a chance to read her latest book – and now I am hooked again!
I thoroughly recommend the books to anyone during this Festive season – if not for anything else, at least for getting you into the festive spirit while reading stories of love, life and gratitude:
One of the funniest books that I ever read is ‘The Shaman in Stilettos’ by Anna Hunt. I read the book three Christmases ago and, even now thinking about it, I find myself smiling. The book is Anna’s autobiography about her travels to Peru in Central America and about how it changed her outlook on life.Anna describes her spiritual journey in a hilarious way, with each little story in the book being detailed with a sense of humour yet clarity about the journey.
Although the book is essentially about values and spiritual aspects of life, it is also a travel memoir and so would be a delightful read for fellow travelers.
Here is the official introduction to the book:
‘Anna Hunt’s inspirational memoir charts her journey from Cambridge graduate and celebrity interviewer for one of the highest selling newspapers in Britain, to the untouched wilderness of the Peruvian rainforest where she spent months drinking one of the most potent hallucinogens known to man, to apprentice to a disarmingly handsome and charismatic Peruvian shaman. & back again. Today she is a London-based shaman working with an international portfolio of private and corporate clients.’
For more information on Anna’s work, see her website:
At first glimpse, you might think that Jane Green is just another romantic novel writer, but in fact all of her books deal with life’s challenges. There is a book centring around breast cancer and the importance of friendship during one’s final yeas on this earth; there is a book about alcoholism and how this addiction is still often not seen as an illness; there is themes around divorce, having new-born babies change your life, and tales about sisterhood and family ties. Most important of all though, all books emphasise the crucial element of friendship and companionship with fellow humans in our daily lives.
Jane Green is an American writer based in Connecticut, but many of her books take place in London and Nantucket – these having been important to her in her own life. She primarily writes about women and issues close to them, but in each book, there is always a male character to give a man’s perspective on the goings-on. She has a compelling writing style, and even the most serious of issues are dealt with humour and a gentle approach that leaves the reader thinking that they are part of the story.
One reason for the stories to feel so real to the reader is that, in her writing, Jane Green draws on her own experiences. She is a cancer survivor who lives with an untreatable disease; she has lived in all the cities and towns that she writes about; she has been through divorce; she is a career woman involved in writing for magazines and newspapers to radio presenting and TV appearances. She has a blended family with many kids, a husband and pets. She is also a yoga practitioner and believes in gratitude and focussing on the good in life as a secret to happiness.
I have read several of Green’s novels(if not all… I am not sure!). My favourite one is called ‘The Beach House’. While reading this book, I could imagine myself walking on the white sandy beach of Nantucket and watching the ocean waves hit the shore. If you feel like being transported to a place where you can truly relax, try reading the book and see the effects:
Green’s latest book ‘Summer Secrets’ is an apt story of a young woman who suffers from alcoholism. The story unravels in a way that explains alcoholism in a professional way, yet keeps it light with a sense of humour. A must read for anyone who is dealing with the illness:
One of the funniest books by Green that I read was ‘Babyville’. Perhaps because I had a new-born son at the time, I couldn’t help but relate to the stories about the women with young babies and how they coped with life once a tiny person had completely changed it:
Jane Green also regularly writes on her blog and you can find snippets of her writing on her website:
The first time I heard about Paulo Coelho and his books, I was in my early twenties. Many friends and peers talked about him and how inspiring his books had been to them. I was intrigued and decided to read ‘The Alchemist’, which was on top of the best seller chart at the time in many countries.
I started reading the book but gave up after the first chapter. Somehow I just couldn’t get into it – I found it very hard to follow the plot and to understand what it was about. I know those of you who have read it will now be thinking – ‘what? but its so well-written and easy to read!’. I agree with that entirely. I read it ten years later on one sitting.
Now I understand that, in my twenties, I wasn’t ready to lose myself in one of Coelho’s books; I wasn’t ready to read about the more spiritual issues that he writes about, nor ready to reflect on my life in a more profound way. Although Coelho’s books are spiritual in nature, you can also read them as stories about other people and the purpose of their lives. They can be read as general ‘guidelines’ for life, or simply as stories to entertain oneself. However, I would say that whether you want it or not, you will reflect on your life after reading one of his books as they do tend to set off you on a journey of internal reflection…
Paulo Coelho also writes and shares short stories on his website. You can read snippets of his books on his daily blog too: http://www.paulocoelhoblog.com.
Coelho has written dozens of books over the past thirty years or so, but my personal favourite is ‘The Pilgrimage’. The book explores the issue of our need to find our own paths in this life. Throughout the book, there is emphasis on how the extraordinary can always be found in the ordinary and simple ways of everyday people. The book is part adventure story, part guide to self-discovery. It is a recollection of Coelho’s experiences as he made his way across northern Spain on his own pilgrimage.
If you are ready for some self-discovery and enticing stories, you can pick your favourite the book list below:
I discovered Carol Matthews novels a few years ago when I was looking for something light to read for those rare occasions when my new-born baby was sleeping. The attractive and colourful covers of the books initially made me pick up one of her books at the library. After flicking thorough a few pages, I thought that it might be just what I was looking for, and I was right.
Matthew’s writing style is captivating and she has such a hilarious sense of humour that, most of the time when you are reading, you can’t help it but smile. She write about everyday common people who live in the UK and their daily lives. You can easily identify with the characters and imagine that they are your neighbour or your friend. Often when you come to the end of the book, you feel like you need to say goodbye to a friend and wish that Matthews will write a sequel so that you know what your friends will be up to next. Luckily she often does write about the same characters, which is one reason for wanting to grab the next book as soon as you have finished the first one. Two new novels come out each year – one in time for Christmas and the other in time for summer holidays. In addition, you can follow all news on books on the writer’s website: http://www.carolematthews.com
My favourite on of her books by far is ‘The Only Way Is Up’. I was actually laughing out loud through most of the book. What better way to completely relax and forget about the world around you than to loose yourself in such a hilarious book? The books is essentially about a well-off couple who lose everything they have and find themselves living in a rough part of town after having lost all they have. It’s about understanding what truly matters in life and how you can find the most loyal friendship in the most unexpected places. It’s about survival and the fundamental kindness of the human spirit. For anyone interested in reading a heart-warming story about friendship and values, I totally recommend this book:
My other favourite is the first novel that I read by Matthews and that had be hooked into her books. This one is called ‘Wrapped Up In You’ and it is about a love story between a young English lady and a Maasai warrior man from Kenya. As you can imagine, it is a fun-filled and beautiful story about cultural clashes, an English woman living in the Kenyan wilderness, a Maasai warrior guarding a tiny English village and about how love can conquer all fears and worries. Anyone with a flair for the exotic, check the book out:
If you are in a more festive mood, the latest book ‘The Chocolate Lovers’ Christmas’ is out now and will no doubt keep you entertained over your holidays.