Handmade and Homegrown

I have been busy preparing for the Handmade and Homegrown Festival at Hever Castle (1st, 2nd and 3rd of September). This is all very scary – but to be honest, everything about selling books is very scary.

I happened to see an advert for the festival, and remembered that when I had been giving a talk at a local bookclub, a man had suggested it would be a good place to sell my books. I wrote to the organiser, asking if writing and publishing my own books qualified as “handmade” and was told that yes, I was welcome to apply for a stand. I then had to send a photograph, which thankfully I had because nice Mr East Grinstead Bookshop had taken some when I did a book signing there. (The photo was of the stall – not me – you don’t have to pass some beauty level before they give you a stand!) I also had to send £40, which added to the scariness, as unless I sell lots of books, it will increase my Cobweb Press debt even more. But I have learned that you don’t get anywhere in starting a business unless you take a few risks.

I received my “you have been allocated a space” email, put the dates in the diary and forgot about it – after I had booked my Mother – she is by far the best salesperson in the family. I didn’t think about it again (because that’s how I cope with scary things which aren’t happening today) until Husband (who copes with scary things by planning well in advance) suggested we needed to do some preparation. So, off we went into the garden, to make a ‘mock’ stall.

I have been allocated a 3m square space. We measured this out and marked it with lumps of wood. It wasn’t terribly accurate because the dog kept running off with the lumps of wood. We then set up garden tables in a variety of positions. I was, to be honest, a bit shocked by how big 3m is – I had envisioned one small table with 10 books on it. Probably just as well that Husband insisted I had a trial run. I then tried balancing several books in different formation on said tables. Mandy (my ‘special needs’ cat) found this very entertaining, and joined it. Which wasn’t very helpful. I realised I needed some book stands like Mr East Grinstead Bookshop has – so checked out Amazon and found some that were cheap. (Though it all adds to my ever-growing debt.)

I have one poster, but I need more as it’s such a big space, so we ordered those (more debt). We also put out some chairs. As the space is big, there’ll be room for a few people (ie bored husbands and tired mothers) to have a little sit down. While they’re there, grateful for a chance to rest, my Mum can chat to them (she is very good at chatting to people – not a skill I inherited) and they will have the opportunity to buy a book. Or at least to look at them. I think I’m sorted now. If you are in the area at the beginning of September, please pop in and say hello. I will be the scared looking author with the chatty mother. Possibly the blind one – I am wondering if I can pretend to be blind, and then I will be allowed to take my dog, for moral support. And I might get some ‘sympathy sales’. Yep, am liking the idea, will practise ‘being blind’ for the next week and see how I get on.

Other news in brief:
We went to Cambridge to visit Son 1. His flat is disturbingly tidy (disturbing because I had not realised ‘tidy’ was within his skill set, and I feel rather cheated by the previous 23 years of organisation levels.) Cambridge is very nice. It has barges, and a lock, which we had to pry Husband away from. It also has incredibly pretty buildings, lots of Mandarin speakers (good opportunities to eavesdrop) and way too many homeless people. Why? Why are there so many people begging for money? Have they gravitated to Cambridge because it’s a tourist town, are they victims of the ever-increasing rents, or are they students who flunked their exams? Very strange and rather sad.

On the journey home, heard Son 2 chuckling in the back of the car. Asked why he was laughing, and discovered he had picked up a copy of Invisible Jane. Rather gratifying. (So, it’s a ‘girly book’ with funny bits – that also makes 21 year old blokes laugh!)

Yesterday, we went to Bluewater. Shopping (not my favourite thing). We needed new curtains for the bathrooms. They were all hideously expensive, so I felt drawn to the ‘bargain bucket’. Am now regretting this, as I instead have hideous curtains, which I will have to alter. Sewing is not something I enjoy (whole family leaves house when I sew due to bad temper.)

Hope you have a lovely week. Thanks for reading.

Take care,
Anne x

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Invisible Jane – A love story with funny bits!
All profit sent to Tearfund, so please buy several copies and give them to your friends.


What do you think will happen next?

What will happen next?

Whenever there’s another terrorist attack, I wonder, what will happen next? Where is the world heading? I find books like ‘A Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood, written in 1985 (and recently on television) fascinating. What will happen to our society in the future?

With this in mind, I wrote a dystopian novel, Counting Stars. If religious extremism continues to result in terrorist attacks, how will society respond? Is it possible that governments will ban certain religious beliefs or behaviours – and what might society look like if that happened? How will the dawn of driverless cars affect those employed in transport? What will health care and education look like? Is there a way for poverty and famine to be eradicated? Yet people, in whatever society evolves, will be the same. Children will continue to be funny and naughty, teenagers will always rebel, parents will always love them. People will love, and laugh and have their own opinions about everything.

I listened to lots of views about how the near future might look, and the novel became something of a joint family venture. My premise was that everything had to be possible, even if it wasn’t probable.

I created an imaginary family, and began to write about them. Max is going to save his father. But it needs to be a secret, because the adults would disapprove – and it’s not very easy without his mother there to provide food and things.
When Max himself needs to be rescued, it falls to Lena to save him. But she’s no super-woman, and she’s worried she might need to use the toilet before she gets back.

Along the way, I became rather sidetracked by Lamarckian Theory – the idea that we can inherit memory. Lamarck did lots of experiments to show that this was possible, which I find a fascinating idea, so I included something of that in the book too. As I was recovering from a craniotomy, I also used my personal experiences when describing a character who is recovering from brain surgery, showing some of the weird physical affects (like everyone sounds like a Dalek when they speak) and the problems of being mentally exhausted when all you’ve done is watch telly for an hour.

I then wrote Counting Stars. Initially, it was a serial, posted each week on my blog, way back in 2015. It was popular, so I rewrote it as a whole book, sent it off to be edited, and rewrote it again. I put it on Amazon as a Kindle book. Recently, I have become aware of the Kindle paperback service – Amazon will print a real book version of a Kindle book. I have now published the book in this format too. The only problem is that many of our predictions are now taking place, so you need to read it soon or it will be historical fiction!

Counting Stars was terrific fun to write – everyone has an opinion as to ‘what will happen next’ in society. Why not buy a copy, and enjoy an action packed thriller about ‘the world around the corner’?


Are Women Possessions?

I have been reading through the Bible, from start to finish, and trying to blog about what I read as honestly as I can. Obviously I am partly a product of my upbringing (not necessarily bad) but I wanted to look with fresh eyes, to try and take the words written and understand them.

I ran into problems fairly early on. There was lots I didn’t understand, and then, in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, I came across things that just seemed wrong. Completely wrong. Which caused bit of a problem. How could I challenge the words, spoken by a prophet of God, as a direct quotation from God? Either I wasn’t understanding something fundamental, or the words of God were not something I felt was fair. It did not reflect my own understanding of God, a God who is just, loving, fair. The words reflected a God who I did not want to know.

Let me give you some examples. Now, I am a woman, but actually, this isn’t about female issues. I would think the laws were unfair whichever sex they related to. For example, in Deuteronomy, if a man thinks his wife might have been unfaithful to him, even if she hasn’t, and he has no grounds for thinking she has, he can take her to the priest to be ‘tested’. This test involves untying her hair (which I understand was a sign of shame in those days – perhaps like being shaved bald today). Then she is forced to drink poison. The poison will make her ill. If, when she recovers, she is unable to bear children, this will be proof that she has been unfaithful. If she recovers fully, she is deemed innocent. There is no penalty for the suspicious husband. How can that be okay? That is physical and psychological abuse.

I therefore took a break from reading through the Bible and blogging about it, and did a little research. I wanted to know, did God rate men above women, to the extent that women, and animals, and possessions were all equal, with men above them all?

There are multiple instances of wives being little more than possessions, with no rights whatsoever. If a man wanted to sell his daughter as a slave (including as a prostitute) then, that was okay. If a man wanted to beat his wife, provided he didn’t beat her enough to kill her, then that was okay. If a woman made a decision that either her father or husband didn’t like, they could overturn it, and that was okay. And to be clear, these are not the rules that evolved over time, these are the rules which are presented as dictated from God to Moses. Which caused me a problem. So I did a little research. This is what I have discovered so far (though I still have a way to go).

Firstly, in contrast to the apparent disregard of all females, there are some powerful women in the Old Testament. I hadn’t previously heard much about them. Perhaps churches should focus a little more on powerful women in the Bible, so everyone (men and women) realise the place they might have in today’s society.

I especially like the story of Deborah. (Deborah is the Hebrew for “honeybee”, which I think is a pretty cool name!) Deborah was a prophet, in the days when prophets, as direct messengers from God (like Moses) were more important than the priests. She sat under a tree, and people came to her to ask her judgement on matters. This was a woman with authority. She then summons Barak (which means “lightening bolt”) to come to her. Barak is the commander of the Israelite army, so somewhat powerful himself, yet he obeys and presents himself before her – a woman. Deborah then gives precise details of a military operation, and tells him to do it. Barak is too frightened to attempt it unless Deborah goes with him, so she does. They defeat the enemy. The leader of the enemy escapes, and another woman, Jael, tricks him into falling asleep under some blankets, and then hammers a tent peg through his head and into the ground. Not a woman to mess around one feels.

This shows that God does use woman. He even used women in the Old Testament, in a completely male-dominated society, and sometimes put them in positions of authority over men. You don’t get much more ‘in charge’ than hammering a tent peg through someone’s skull! So, what does it mean? Why is there the apparent discrepancy between women having absolutely no rights, and being in God-given positions of power.

As I read on, it became very clear to me that how women are treated by God, is very different to how they are treated by men. Men in the Bible absolutely view women as inferior, something to be used, owned. Even some of the ‘Bible greats’, like David, treated women in a shocking manner. David collected wives and concubines at will – if he fancied a woman, he acquired her. A bit like collecting horses. Even when he encountered a wise, Godly woman (Abigail, who defied her husband to save her people), he didn’t show much respect to her when he then “took her as his wife” – another wife added to the hundreds he already had. Being a wife was to be owned. (I don’t think I would like King David if I met him. ‘Womaniser’ comes to mind.)

Even later, in the New Testament, women are treated unfairly. When two people are found committing adultery, it is the woman who is hauled before the people and criticised, the man isn’t mentioned again. But in the New Testament, we see a change. We see how Jesus treats the women, and this is copied by his followers. Jesus treats women with respect, as equals to men. So do his followers.

There has been a lot preached about St Paul’s writings, how he said women shouldn’t speak in services, should cover their heads, and so on. He writes about man being created before woman, which some people believe means women are ‘second’ to men. But obviously that can’t be what Paul means, or all the animals would be above man. If you read commentaries by historians who understand the culture of the day and who are translating the original texts, it seems clear that actually, Paul viewed women as equal to men, with an equal right to speak and teach and lead worship. If you disagree with this, read some of the writings by Kenneth Bailey.

So, to conclude (I could write a whole thesis on this, but I’m trying to keep it short!). When you read the Bible, much of it is written as a historical account – it tells you what happened, what the laws were, but it does not make value judgements. So we might interpret that stories are ‘meaning’ something, but actually, they might not. They are simply accounts and to interpret them is always open to error. So yes, King David may have done some great things, but that did not mean he was always right. The way he treated women was appalling. Men in the Bible, pretty much always treated women as inferior. God did not. Men only appointed male priests, male teachers, male leaders. God appointed women as prophets, he used women to save the Israelites, he spoke to women, and gave them as much responsibility as he gave men. God does not see women as inferior. Men in the Bible treated women badly, but it does not mean that God thought that was okay; an historical account does not mean the actions described were condoned by the author. I still don’t understand those early laws which were so cruel to women – did Moses fudge what God had said, or were they modified by God to suit a corrupt male-dominated society? I don’t know. But when viewed in the light of the rest of the Bible, my belief is that the fault is man-made, not from God.

Churches today are perhaps slightly better balanced than the church I grew up in. When I was a child, men preached, men welcomed people at the door, men were the deacons who made all the decisions; women did the catering and looked after the children and played the piano. I think however, we still have a way to go before we are behaving towards women how God does. We need to be hearing more about the strong women in the Bible, women used by God to do amazing things. Because then our children will grow up knowing that a woman leader isn’t ‘second choice because no men were available’, they will understand that God treats men and women equally, and so should we. And women will realise that they have as much responsibility as men to listen to God, to speak out in society when something is wrong, to lead people in the right direction.

As a woman, I personally find it rather thrilling that God wants to use me. God doesn’t see me as ‘just a woman’ – he values me as highly as any man. Which makes me feel special, and love him even more. Thank you for reading.


I will continue to write my Bible Blog as I find things to write about.

An Empty Week

If you follow my blog, you may have received this early (an unedited version!). Many apologies. I forgot to ‘schedule’ it, (due to a phone call at the wrong time, so I forgot what I was doing.) It zoomed off, and although I deleted it immediately, it was too late. Sorry – I am so not an IT person…..

Hello, how was your week?
I was not at all sure there would be a blog this week. I have been busy, rewriting my finished books so I can publish them as Amazon books, and there hasn’t been much time for anything else. I have posted a blog every Monday for about three years, but this week, I didn’t know what to write. Usually, I have a few stored up, that I can post if the week has either been hectic or empty, but I’ve used them all. Some weeks I have too much to write, especially if I’m travelling. Most weeks I do, or see, or hear, something that sparks an avalanche of words. I then spend a few days reading and changing what I’ve written (and if I’m worried, I let someone in the family read it first) ready to post on Monday. Occasionally the family tell me to delete what I’ve written, but usually I’m okay.

But this week, I mainly sat at my desk and proofread old manuscripts. This wasn’t easy, as we are having the house re-roofed. Roofers are very noisy (impossible to use a nail gun quietly I guess). I also tend to forget they’re coming – so do things like leave open my bathroom window, and then when they cut tiles above it, all the debris falls into my bathroom. There are also way too many cars around my house, it reminds me of that television series Butterflies whenever I want to go out.  The new roof is looking great. But I will not be sorry when it’s finished.

The only other news this week is Son2 invited some uni friends to visit. They were men – which is always very strange for a mother. When you have sons, you are aware that they have grown taller than you and have deep voices and smell strange, but really, you still see the three year old. When they bring home school friends, they are again quite big, but usually you have watched them grow up (especially if, like me, you taught lots of them when they were 13) so you still see the child inside. But meeting friends from uni was different. They were men. At least, they were on the outside. Probably they still laughed at, and worried about, the same things they did when they were 13.

We did have a slight problem with the catering arrangements. I asked Son2 if they were allergic/couldn’t eat anything. He told me that one of them was possibly Muslim and couldn’t eat meat one day a week. (Actually, he initially told me they were gluten free vegans – but that was just to scare me). But he couldn’t quite remember. I asked if it was all meat, or just pork. He said he thought it was just pork, and the friend might be Jewish. I decided to make a nice beef casserole, but at the last minute, decided to check. The ‘possibly Muslim’ friend was actually Hindu, so does not eat beef. So glad, as I used to teach Religious Studies, that my son is so well informed about these things. Other than the near embarrassment over meat, it was a very nice visit, and fun to meet some new people.

I also have a new phone. I have not yet bonded with it. Today, Husband rang me on it, which was a shock (old one didn’t work for phone calls.) He was using something called FaceTime which meant he could see me. Very disconcerting, I didn’t like it all. I refused to hold the phone in front of my face, so he had EarTime instead. Not sure he was very impressed.

We (Son and I) took my mother to buy a phone this week. I took Son for back up. In the first shop, Carphone Warehouse, an assistant came and asked if we needed any help.

“Yes please,” said Mum, “please can you tell me….” she leant closer and lowered her voice, “would these phones be cheaper at Tesco?”

Really? Was this really the conversation we were going to have? But yes, it was. The assistant was completely unperturbed and whispered back that yes, Tesco would be cheaper, and so would the shop opposite, and actually, they didn’t have many phones in stock anyhow. Super. I now rather like Carphone Warehouse, because they have honest assistants (who can cope with my mother). But it wasn’t the question I was expecting her to ask. Eventually Son took over, and helped her order a phone on the internet. I knew it was a good idea to have children.

Hope you have a good week.
Take care.
Anne x

Thank you for reading.



An Ordinary Day…

Today was a nothing day. It started late, then I persuaded Husband to help me put my Kindle book, Invisible Jane, on the Amazon paperback programme. This was more complicated than expected and involved a lot of maths (measuring mainly). I managed all the typesetting stuff, but making the computer pages the correct size for the printed book was beyond me. We kept looking at the previews – the first one had words disappearing off the edges, the later ones had tiny amounts of texts in a big page, or giant margins. Eventually we managed to upload a pdf that looked, on the computer screen, okay.

I have never tried the kdp service before, so I have no idea what the finished book will be like. They print them to order, retaining enough money to cover costs. The good thing is it costs me nothing (other than time – lots of time) and I will not have hundreds of books in the cupboard under the stairs (they sort of mock me). The downside is I have absolutely no control over the quality, so they might be no better than if I’d made them myself on a photocopier. I also have absolutely no copies myself, unless I buy them. So when I do book fairs, this book won’t be included. I will order a copy and let you know what the quality is like. I am hoping, as I am not the publisher, that this means the annoying libraries that can demand free copies will approach Amazon, not me. And all those discount secondhand shops will be taking business from Amazon, not me.

Alongside the publishing activity (which took most of the day, on and off, because we kept having to wait for things to load before we could check them), we went to Sevenoaks. Sevenoaks has the best cafe – Marcos – and we wanted a nice coffee and croissant. While we were there, we popped into the Vodafone shop. My lovely iphone3 is finally dying (I get texts three days after people send them, and all my apps keep being cancelled because my phone is too naff for the new systems). Husband took the lead, which was good, as I understood very little of what the assistant was telling us. He talked a lot about androgynous phones, and pixies being in the photos – I just smiled along and pretended I understood. We didn’t buy one. Need to check with Son first.

The rest of the day was taken up with walking the dog, cooking dinner (homemade mince with pasta) and sorting the chickens.

As I said, a nothing day. The sort of day, when you are young, that you feel like you could do without; and the sort of day, if you are going through a bad time, that you long for. As you get older, you realise there is something very precious about an ‘ordinary’ day.

Hope you have a week of nice days.

Take care,
Anne x


Thank you for reading.

If you enjoyed this, why not take a look at one of my books? Available as Kindle books (in any country) or paperback, they can be bought from bookshops or Amazon. (I think JOANNA is the best one. But my Mum prefers Hidden Faces. And my sister-in-law likes Counting Stars best. Which one do you prefer?)

PS. I have now received a paperback copy of Invisible Jane. The first attempt had rather odd font – so was like reading a school text book. I had another try, and the next one is really very okay. It isn’t as good quality as the books I have published myself, but it does not feel ‘tacky’ – it is still nice enough that you enjoy reading it. I will write a longer blog at some point, comparing the costs and quality of both methods, but I am actually rather pleased with it.

Also, the sunflower (only one survived) in the corn field is now in bloom. This is very exciting! Yesterday I saw a man stop his car and photograph it. I thought that was lovely – son informed me he is probably an investigator for the farmer, gathering evidence for my court case. If I write the next blog from prison, please send bail. And chocolate.





Confessions of an Author

Okay, I have a confession. I am bit of a literary snob. I enjoy reading the classics, or good quality literary fiction, or well written psychological thrillers. What I don’t read is chick lit. If a book has a pink cover, I do not buy it.

However (this is the confession) the first book I ever wrote is – chick lit. I guess perhaps because my life was overloaded stress when I wrote it, and I couldn’t cope with anything too real, too nasty. So I wrote a ‘nice’ book, an “enjoy it on the beach with an ice-cream” sort of a book, something you might find serialised in your mother’s weekly magazine. A girly story, all about love – with some “snort your tea everywhere” funny bits. Deeply embarrassing.

I wrote it by hand, on the back of bank statements and Ocado receipts, then laboriously typed it onto my computer; and left it there. It was way too embarrassing to show people. Husband read it (he wanted the bank statements and wondered why I had used them as writing paper), and he said it was funny. But he loves me, so I didn’t really trust him.

For several years, the book has sat on my computer. Many times I have looked at it, snorted out my tea at the funny bits, and tried to change it – to make it less ‘girly’. I have tried murdering one of the characters, or introducing a villain, or having aliens land in the garden; but it doesn’t work. It is chick lit, and as chick lit, it works rather well. I (secretly) enjoy reading it. It tells the story of a young mother, with two young children, and it’s a love story. It doesn’t have strong, realistic characters (like my other books) because sometimes a girl wants a tall handsome stranger with a nice smile.

So, several rewrites later, I have decided to publish it as a Kindle book. If you like good quality literary fiction or psychological thrillers, please read something else. I have written better books – or you could give yourself a treat and read something by John Le Carre. Yes, I know we are only supposed to be positive about our work, but I prefer to be honest, and this is so not going to be winning any prizes. It might make you laugh though. It might help you to escape from stress for a few hours. I suggest you read it with an ice cream.

The children in the story are happy, with their future full of choices. The children I saw in the red light district of Mumbai don’t have this luxury, and I cannot forget their faces and stories. So any money I receive from the sale of Invisible Jane will be sent to Tearfund. (Though, I think we are talking about £1.99 per book, so it’s not going to solve the problem, but it might make you feel better about reading a girly book.)

At present, the book is only available as a Kindle book. I am trying to sort out the complicated process of also having available as a paperback. (My other books were ‘properly’ self-published, but as I said, this one is embarrassing.) You can buy it from whichever country you live in, or if you are signed up to the Amazon special deal, it’s free. So, find a beach and an ice cream – and tell people you are reading Dickens…..

Another Proud Mummy Moment

So, this week we had another graduation ceremony – Son 2 collected his BSc in Natural Sciences – proud Mummy moment.

He had had a busy week leading up to the graduation, so I had to help a bit. (You think, when you have little kids, that one day they won’t need you anymore. I’m not sure quite when that day comes, but my children are all in their twenties, and I still seem to be helping.) His busy week had included a trip to Wimbledon. He left home very early, and travelled to London, to be queuing outside Wimbledon by 8am. Due to nice weather and lots of Brits qualifying, it was already full. He came home again. I’m sure though he was pleased to go, simply to collect his “How to Queue” booklet.

Mind you, tennis has to be one of the most boring games to watch (am not a great lover of sports). It is only slightly better than watching cricket – where all the players look like they have escaped from a flour mill and are standing around trying to decide what to do next.

But I was telling you about the graduation. Due to Son’s busy week, which included staying with his brother the night before, I had to pack for him, finding various items that were scattered around the house. Big responsibility.

We drove north, collecting Son on the way, and stayed overnight in a Premier Inn. I like Premier Inns, but they do not exactly have the biggest bathrooms. This did not however, dissuade Husband from drying out his golfing umbrella in the bath. One day, I will devote a whole blog piece to Husband and his golfing umbrella, which seems to be essential wherever we go. It was hardly raining, and we walked all of 100 yards to the Beefeater for dinner, and some people managed without even a tiny umbrella. Just saying.

The next day was the graduation, and Son was in the first ceremony. They have 22 ceremonies over the next two weeks, and I’m sure the tutors involved in every one just love this time of year. The uni had good systems in place for ushering hundreds of students in one direction and their families in the other. Very efficient. One member of my family doesn’t really ‘do’ other people’s rules, so I kept losing him and spotting him in the ‘students only’ section.

Son looked very tall and handsome in his cap and gown. Unfortunately he hadn’t had time for a hair cut (in the last year), but I only mentioned it a couple of times.

The ceremony was in the uni Sports Hall, which was huge. There was a very loud brass band playing, and nice comfy seats. The hall was donated by Sir David Ross, who was the founder of Carphone Warehouse. There was no phone signal inside.

I felt very proud of son as he walked across the stage to collect his certificate, and very relieved that I had remembered all essential items. I felt very sorry for the poor girl who wore trainers (her Mum must’ve forgotten to pack the shoes). I think a couple of girls also forgot their skirts.

Afterwards, we had refreshments. I must say, Nottingham University does the best post graduation refreshments. I like that bit best : everything important has been done, so everyone has relaxed, the graduates look wonderful swooshing around in their gowns, and you can watch all the other families. There is such a mix of people, from those who are scruffily dressed and look worried, to those who have obviously bought completely new outfits for the occasion, and all sorts of people in between. It represents the huge circle of people able to study for a degree in our country, and I think it’s rather wonderful.

When we came to return Son’s gown, the hire company took it but didn’t record anything or give us a receipt – so there was no proof that it was actually returned. We took a photo of the man instead, in case of problems later. He was somewhat bemused.

Afterwards we went back to Son’s uni house to collect all his stuff for the summer. He was not quite as packed as we’d hoped – but that is another story.

Hope you have a good week.
Love, Anne x



Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this, all my books are now available on Kindle – ideal for taking on holiday. You can buy them in whichever country you live in. Have you read JOANNA yet? (I think that’s my best book so far. The link for UK is below.)