Random Fact Friday: Faraday Ferrets

Michael Faraday was a scientist who became famous for his discoveries in the fields of electricity and magnetism. As far as I’m aware, he wasn’t a keeper of ferrets.

But ferrets are often used as electricians.


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Photo by Mika Hiltunen Photography

Ferrets have been hired to lay TV, lighting and sound cables at the New Year’s Eve Millennium Concert – so if you enjoyed The Eurythmics, Bryan Ferry and the London Symphony Orchestra that night, it’s because the ferrets managed to pull the cables through tiny tunnels after human attempts had failed. And they performed the same service in the Royal Parks nearly two decades earlier, ensuring Royal supporters were able to see the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.

If that seems lightweight, then show some respect – because ferrets also wired planes for aircraft manufacturer Boeing in the 1960s. So there.

Sharing my Birthday Book Blurbs: Part 2

So here we are, on the second post about the Books Wot I Got For My Birthday. Here are the four books I got from my lovely husband…

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The Humans by Matt Haig

What appealed: I sometimes wander on to Matt Haig’s blog and often catch his articles here and there. As a writer I shouldn’t use clichés, so I daren’t say I like his ‘refreshing honesty’ (but I do). The premise of The Humans interested me and writers I like liked it, which seemed a fair recommendation:
“Excellent . . . very human and touching indeed” (Patrick Ness)
The Humans is tremendous; a kind of Curious Incident meets The Man Who Fell to Earth. It’s funny, touching and written in a highly appealing voice” (Joanne Harris).

It was also compared to the work of authors I already liked: “This is a tender, funny novel about the often irrational ways humans behave, written in accessible prose, and invites comparison with Mark Haddon and Patrick Ness.” (The Independent on Sunday).Oh, and it’s set in Cambridge – and I live in Cambridgeshire. Do I need any more reasons?




After an ‘incident’ one wet Friday night where Professor Andrew Martin is found walking naked through the streets of Cambridge, he is not feeling quite himself. Food sickens him. Clothes confound him. Even his loving wife and teenage son are repulsive to him. He feels lost amongst a crazy alien species and hates everyone on the planet. Everyone, that is, except Newton, and he’s a dog.
What could possibly make someone change their mind about the human race. . . ?

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

What appealed: Clare is an ex-police officer who answers questions on police procedures and related topics for Writing Magazine. She was kind enough to answer a question of mine and we sometimes have twitter chats about the chaos of the writerly life on crazily busy days. That’s not why I chose her book though;let’s face it, not all of the fellow writers you ‘meet’ on the internet will write stuff you’re interested in. But the book blurb below grabbed me. The setting – a remote cottage in Wales – appealed, as did the idea that the main character is making a fresh start (I like books about fresh starts. I like that inherent optimism). Also, Clare’s book sounds darn intriguing and has got some amazing reviews – most of which mention a mind-blowing twist! I can’t wait!


A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn’t have prevented it. Could she?

In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.
Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . .

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

What appealed: I’d been  aware of Kate Morton because her books kept coming up in articles and blog posts about slipstream novels. She was often mentioned in the same breath as Kate Mosse, and that can only be a good thing. I read through all her book blurbs to pick a first one to try, and this is the one – after a bit of dithering – that I picked!


The Distant Hours by Kate Morton, author of the best-selling The House of Riverton, is a heart-breaking story of love and loss with a devastating secret at its heart.

Edie Burchill and her mother have never been close, but when a long lost letter arrives with the return address of Milderhurst Castle, Kent, printed on its envelope, Edie begins to suspect that her mother’s emotional distance masks an old secret.

Evacuated from London as a thirteen year old girl, Edie’s mother is chosen by the mysterious Juniper Blythe, and taken to live at Millderhurst Castle with the Blythe family.

Fifty years later, Edie too is drawn to Milderhurst and the eccentric Sisters Blythe. Old ladies now, the three still live together, the twins nursing Juniper, whose abandonment by her fiancé in 1941 plunged her into madness. Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst Castle, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in the distant hours has been waiting a long time for someone to find it . . .

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

What appealed: Letters fascinate me, and I love books of letters and books about letters. So this tagline grabbed me: ‘At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read…’


Mother of three and wife of John-Paul, Cecilia discovers an old envelope in the attic. Written in her husband’s hand, it says: to be opened only in the event of my death.

Curious, she opens it – and time stops. John-Paul’s letter confesses to a terrible mistake which, if revealed, would wreck their family as well as the lives of others.

Cecilia – betrayed, angry and distraught – wants to do the right thing, but right for who? If she protects her family by staying silent, the truth will worm through her heart. But if she reveals her husband’s secret, she will hurt those she loves most . . .

Perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, or anyone who enjoyed One Moment, One Morning or The Midwife’s Confession, The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty is about the things we know, the things we don’t, and whether or not we ever get to choose. Above all, though, it’s about how we must live with the consequences of our actions – whether we like it or not.

So, what do you think to these four then? Read them? Want to read them now? 🙂

Random Fact Friday: What links Terry Pratchett with Saturn?

I don’t need to tell you Terry Pratchett was a comic genius and a campaigner for many things that matter. I’ve got a feeling you know that already.

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Terry Pratchett (Photo: Robin Zebrowski)
I also don’t need to tell you that he created Discworld, a flat planet carried through space by four elephants who themselves stand on the back of a giant turtle; a turtle who is swimming through space towards, it’s widely believed, a rendezvous with another turtle of romantic inclination.

But perhaps I do need to tell you that we have our very own Discworld in our solar system!

Okay, to be fair, Saturn isn’t as flat as the Discworld is portrayed to be. If Saturn did have water, it wouldn’t be flowing off the edge of the planet as it does on Discworld.

But Discworld is the flattest planet (that we know of) in Terry’s imaginary universe, and while Saturn may not be the flattest planet in our universe, it is the flattest planet in our solar system. Its polar diameter is just 90% of its equatorial diameter, due to its low density and fast rotation (it turns on its axis once every 10 hours and 34 minutes. That’s pretty fast). So it’s not so much flat as… squashed.

Saturn is also the most distant planet that can be seen with the naked eye and it has the most extensive rings of any planet in our system too. It isn’t full of wizards, dwarves, reformed vampires and cantankerous witches – in fact, it’s not capable of supporting life (or not as we know it, Jim).  But its largest moon, Titan, is the only moon in the Solar System to have a substantial atmosphere – and could potentially support life.

Sharing my Birthday Book Blurbs: Part 1

Lucky me! I had a birthday recently (21 again – obviously), and when I put time aside to jot down a few book titles on my birthday list, I saw that one of them was in that angel/devil Amazon’s 3 for £10 offer. Whoops. That sent me looking for others in the same offer…

Lucky me again, because I got all seven books on my list. So I thought I’d bore you with why they appealed to me and then make you buzz with booky excitement by sharing their blurbs.

In this post: The three books my teens bought me.

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Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

What appealed: The title, the tagline (‘How do you solve a mystery when you can’t remember the clues?’), the fact that it’s about lost memories (something I’ve have in mind to write about since wandering around Chloe Meineck’s fascinating and touching Memory Box ‘Identity’ exhibition at The Design Museum in London back in 2013), and the blurb…


Maud is forgetful. She makes a cup of tea and doesn’t remember to drink it. She goes to the shops and forgets why she went. Sometimes her home is unrecognizable – or her daughter Helen seems a total stranger.

But there’s one thing Maud is sure of: her friend Elizabeth is missing. The note in her pocket tells her so. And no matter who tells her to stop going on about it, to leave it alone, to shut up, Maud will get to the bottom of it.

Because somewhere in Maud’s damaged mind lies the answer to an unsolved seventy-year-old mystery. One everyone has forgotten about.

Everyone, except Maud . . .

The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan

What appealed: This came up in a search for slipstream fiction (on Goodreads, I think). The blurb says it’s ‘for fans of Kate Mosse‘ (excuse me while I fangirl) ‘and Kate Morton‘ (give me time. Guess whose book will feature in Birthday Book Blurbs Part 2?). My son was very intrigued by the blurb, so without further ado…


A haunting novel about two women separated by decades but entwined by fate.

When Alice Eveleigh arrives at Fiercombe Manor during the long, languid summer of 1933, she finds a house steeped in mystery and brimming with secrets. Sadness permeates its empty rooms and the isolated valley seems crowded with ghosts, none more alluring than Elizabeth Stanton whose only traces remain in a few tantalisingly blurred photographs. Why will no one speak of her? What happened a generation ago to make her vanish?

As the sun beats down relentlessly, Alice becomes ever more determined to unearth the truth about the girl in the photograph – and stop her own life from becoming an eerie echo of Elizabeth’s . . .

Station Eleven by Emily St.John Mandel

What appealed: I read about this novel months ago, but naughtily I’ve got no idea where. Maybe it was recommended on someone else’s blog, or perhaps in a ‘must read’ column in a newspaper. I really like the sound of it,  anyway – I like it bit of apocalypse, me – but I had no idea that it won the Arthur C.Clarke award last month) at about the same time I put it on my list. I’m surprised it was on the 3 for £10, then! George R.R. Martin said: “One of the 2014 books that I did read stands above all the others, however: Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel . . . It’s a deeply melancholy novel, but beautifully written, and wonderfully elegiac, a book that I will long remember, and return to.” Now I’ve put that, I’m wondering if that’s how I heard about it – on a George R.R. Martin Top Ten Reads or the like… yes it was. He named it his favourite novel of 2014 here.


What was lost in the collapse: almost everything, almost everyone, but there is still such beauty.

One snowy night in Toronto famous actor Arthur Leander dies on stage whilst performing the role of a lifetime. That same evening a deadly virus touches down in North America.

The world will never be the same again.

Twenty years later Kirsten, an actress in the Travelling Symphony, performs Shakespeare in the settlements that have grown up since the collapse.

But then her newly hopeful world is threatened.

If civilization was lost, what would you preserve? And how far would you go to protect it?

Read any of these? What did you think? I can’t wait to get stuck in, but I have one book to finish (Matthew Plampin’s The Devil’s Acre) and another to read first.