Thursday, 30 June 2016

Book Review: The Arrival of Missives

The Arrival of Missives
By Aliya Whiteley
Published by Unsung Stories
Available in paperback

Aliya Whiteley's latest novel, The Arrival of Missives, tells the story of fate, free-will and trying to break away from tradition and the choices made for us by society. This novel mixes together speculative fiction, realism and feminism into a tightly-packed story.

The Great War has been life-changing for everyone - loved ones not coming home, or coming home but different, physically and mentally scarred from the events in Europe.

For Shirley Fearn, a school girl living in rural England to a family who farm the land, it was seeing the women working with jobs beyond the social convention of being a wife that has changed her. But that spark of change is being brushed back under the carpet as life returns back to its predictable self in the village. Shirley clings to the hope of escape and becoming a teacher. She doesn't want to end up being a farmer's wife.

Her teacher, Mr Tiller has been left disfigured after the war - a rock stuck in his chest. This rock has given him the power of prophecy, and the future he has seen needs to be rewritten and the only person who can do this is Shirley. She must choose: the life picked for her by her parents, the life picked for her by her teacher or her own future. Her life is at a crossroads and she must make a decision.

Whiteley's forthright character Shirley reminded me of Jane Eyre - having the push of pull of living up to other peoples expectations while trying to find her own way in the world. It's not until she's given the power of being May Queen that she can stand up for the things she wants in her life.

The Arrival of Missives is a short interesting read about breaking out of society's conventions
You can buy The Arrival of Missives from your favourite bookshop.

The publisher kindly sent me a copy.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Book Review: Chains of Sand

Chains of Sand
By Jemma Wayne
Published by Legend Press
Available in paperback

Jemma Wayne's absorbing second novel, Chains of Sand, explores the relationship between identity, religion and place, set in Israel and London over ten years. Passion for politics, religion, a sense of place and love run through this novel, pulling all of the characters into different directions.

Udi is a veteran of the Israeli army who wants to escape his violent past and start afresh in London while Daniel, a Londoner, is an investment banker, looking for something deeper after a long term relationship and wants to move to Israel to feel connected to his religion. Both want to make a difference to their lives and must face up to life being a modern jew and the hatred still present in society.

Udi and Daniel's stories flow from the present to the past, from forbidden love, battling against prejudice, the desperate to find more meaning. Both characters struggle with their identities with the way society wants them to behave against their religious upbringing. Chains of Sand explores religious conflict in different countries and the way people search for truth and rationality as characters fight for what they believe by sticking to their principles rather than following society's expectations.

Chains of Sand is an absorbing read, and will pull you into the lives of these characters. I really like the message of this book that you must stick to your principles to find your dreams even with society's expectations telling you to do the opposite.

You can buy Chains of Sand from your favourite bookshop.

Jemma recently took part in the Imaginary Bookshop series.

I was kindly sent a copy from the publisher.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Sara Crowe's Imaginary Bookshop

Today Sara Crowe, author of Martini Henry takes part in the Imaginary Bookshop Q&A... and her responses are great. I'll be reviewing her new book, Martini Henry in the next few weeks!


What would be the name of your Imaginary Bookshop?
Squirrel Books. 

Where would it be located?
In a magical forest . . . high on a hill, with a few fairy lights in the trees, a cool breeze, distant sea views beyond the far amber lights of a town . . . in spite of which . . . thriving custom at the bookshop.

Any special features?
Tree houses, hide outs and magical platforms among the treetops (also known as balconies), under the stars. I ’d offer special overnight stays in a fully furnished tree house (luxury and candle light, optional patchwork quilt)  with the book of your choice – plus twenty percent off a second book if you can read the first one before morning. Entrepreneurial?

What would make your bookshop different from the others?
The tree houses would be pre-bookable and yet there’d always be one available last minute. And perhaps some beautiful quotes carved in the trees like: ‘Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold’, Zelda Fitzgerald.

What sections would you have? What would you ditch?
I think banning anything would make it less interesting, so I wouldn’t ditch anything. I’d try to have a section on everything under the sun, Humble Insects of the Hebrides . . . The Hermit who Never Went Out . . . Thoughts On Cement . . .

What would be on your display table and why?
This is going to be a mad dog’s breakfast, because there are so many books that have hit me.

My groaning display table would have, under ‘Fiction’, David Copperfield, Jane Eyre (this is a bit like a dinner party) by Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte, Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, Perfume by Patrick Suskind, The Life of Pi by Yann Martel,  Kim by Rudyard Kipling, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.

Under ‘Reference’ there would be: The Book of Decorative Furniture by Edwin Foley, England’s Lost Houses by Giles Worsley, Daily Rituals by Mason Curry. And ‘For Beauty Reasons’: The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden.

For ‘Autobiography and Biography’ we would see: Confessions of Rousseau, The Morville Year by Katherine Swift, West with the Night by Beryl Markham; C. S. Lewis: A Biography by A. N. Wilson, The Coming of the Fairies by Arthur Conan Doyle, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool by Peter Turner, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert,  Plus an ‘Unforgettable Sub Section’ of If This is A Man, The Truce by Primo Levi, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.

Last but not least, under ‘Children’s’ I’d place The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss, The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr,  Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (Small chairs available under table for children’s reading.)

If you could have one author living or dead for an author event who would it be?
Not surprisingly, C.S. Lewis. But this is a close call between himself and The Brontes Reunited For One Night Only.

What sort of event would it be?
C. S. Lewis . . . On the Other Side of the Wardrobe: an event for children in the afternoon, with a reading from towards the end of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, which is the beginning of everything else . . .
‘All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page. Now at least they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has ever read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.’
And in the evening, a talk for the adults in the main tree house, all decorated with moss and twig diorama forests displayed on biscuit tin lids, such as the ones A. N. Wilson says Lewis made as a boy. Could they have been the beginnings of Narnia I would ask him?

A customer asks why they should buy your novel?
May I prescribe a few hours of a little light escapism?

What cake would be served at the launch?

Hot chocolate fudge brownies.


You can buy Martini Henry from your favourite bookshop.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

May Round-Up

Right, best talk about the books I read in May before June runs out...

I seem to be quite good at reading  four books each month, and these ones were a wide range. Ranging from settings in London, Russia, Boston, Israel, whizzing all the way back to New York. Stories about falling in love, stories about falling out of love, interviews to boost your confidence, stories about spies and religion.

I want to say that my writing is progressing nicely but chapter 25 has been a complete bitch - I have had to start from scratch because the plot was not what I was hoping. It has been a hard slog but I think its now stronger - nothing could be saved from the original draft but that's how it goes sometimes - I really do wonder how some people can write a book in a couple of months.

I need to work on my photography skillz

The Night that Changed Everything - Laura Tait & Jimmy Rice
The Night That Changed Everything is a funny, feel good story, and addictive about falling in and out of love. This is a honest account of life after a relationship. You can read my review here.

Chains of Sand - Jemma Wayne
Two stories of men as they face up to the challenges of their religion, the push and pull of society's expectations and trying to find your dreams during a conflict. I will be reviewing Chains of Sand soon but in the mean time you can read Jemma's Imaginary Bookshop.

Despite the Falling Snow - Shamim Sarif
This is a good thriller with plenty of suspense, intrigue and romance set in Russia and Boston. You can read my review here, and also read Shamim's Imaginary Bookshop here.

The Last Interview and Other Conversations - Nora Ephron
Nora wrote some of the best films like You've Got Mail (yes, the one with the retro dial up Internet love story) and great books. This short book contains three interviews and also her latest interview before her death. I could sit here and copy out the book because there are lots of great quotes like this one - "That very few people end up knowing who you are." Go forth and read this book!


I also had a story published here, based on my experience on getting behind the wheel, First Gear Dilemmas, and I also met Neil Gaiman at the Word Factory event in London.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Jemma Wayne's Imaginary Bookshop

Today Jemma Wayne, author of Chains of Sand stops by on her blog tour, to answer the Imaginary Bookshop questions. Chains of Sand tells the story of conflicts between identity, religion and conflict, set in Israel and London. I will be reviewing this book soon but I can tell you now that it is a great novel.

Right, lets hand over to Jemma....


What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
‘Prologue’. I often find that my relationship with a book begins in the shop: a handle of the cover, a read of the blurb, perhaps the opening page, and a quick check that the text isn’t too small. It isn’t a full on romance, but it’s a prologue.

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
I’d want a lot of people to come in, so in a high street. But I’d like them to be real readers, not just looking for somewhere to buy a birthday card. So maybe tucked around a corner of lovely high street, preferably near my house as I don’t want to commute.

Would your bookshop have any special features? E.g. a performing stage, a cocktail bar, etc.
I love live book events: readings, talks, anything that turns books into an interactive experience. As part of a panel event last week at Blackwell bookshop in Oxford, I took part in playing Ex Libris – an hilarious bookish game a bit like Call My Bluff. It was brilliant. So I’d like my shop to host things like that. It would also have a coffee/tea bar. And maybe some little bed pods for people to curl up in.

What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
Definitely the bed pods. And maybe I’d have a system where customers can make recommendations of books to read, like those staff picks but from enthusiastic readers. And I’d put all the indie books at the front!

What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
I don’t think I’d ditch anything. Whatever gets people reading is a good thing. But I’d definitely add a section for books that I read as a child that are no longer published – for personal nostalgia rather than commercial sense probably. And I might organise sections according to what mood you’re in: books to read if you want to feel uplifted, for example; books to read it you want to cry; etc.

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
I’d have a table called ‘Great books you’ve never heard of’. For obvious reasons. There are so many wonderful stories published all the time, but often, unless you’re with a big publisher, or have an incredible stroke of luck, they can get lost in the bedlam. I’d like to dedicate a table to finding these books, and making them a bit more visible.

If you could run only one author event who would you have? You can pick a living or dead writer. What sort of event would they run?
I’d pick Ian McEwan, and he’d run a kind of Murder Mystery event where he’d narrate a story and you’d have to make guesses along the way, attempting not to be fooled by his absolute mastery over Tension and Foreboding.

A customer comes up to your till with a copy of your novel and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?

I’d tell them I’ve never seen another book that I felt more personally connected to.

I’d also tell them that it’s about forbidden love, prejudice, expectation, and hatred. That set between Israel and London it will give a taste of both the foreign and the familiar. And that is explores issues about family and identity and truth that will hopefully challenge some of their current ideas, and keep them thinking about them afterwards.

What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?

Honey cake. It tastes good. It’s in the book. And it symbolises a sweet year to come.

Chains of Sand by Jemma Wayne is out now in paperback (Legend Press, £9.99)

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Lynne Kutsukake's Imaginary Bookshop

Today Lynne Kutsukake pops by on her blog tour for her debut book, The Translation of Love, to answer the Imaginary Bookshop questions. I love the front cover for Translation of Love, and I'm looking forward to reading and reviewing this book.

Right, over to Lynne...


What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
 I would name it The Translator’s Den.

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
Ideally it would be next to a Japanese restaurant on one side and an Italian restaurant on the other. These are my two favourite cuisines, and I’d want to dash out for a quick meal in between shifts working in my bookshop. 

Would your bookshop have any special features? E.g. a performing stage, a cocktail bar, etc.
At the back I would set it up like an old-fashioned nightclub, with a small stage and little tables at which people could sit and enjoy their drinks while listening to the readings. It’s nice to have a table on which to set down your drink and your copy of the book.

What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
My bookshop would specialize in translations of international literary fiction, works that have been translated into English.  It would be the “must visit” bookshop for anyone seeking works of literature from anywhere in the world. I’d have translations of all the great classics, of course—Chekhov, Dostoyevsky, Flaubert, Zola, and so forth—and well-known writers like Haruki Murakami. But what would make my shop really special is that I’d stock works from as many countries as possible. Want to read a great novel from Mongolia, Tibet or Sri Lanka? My shop would have something for you!

What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
As my shop is concentrating on literature, I wouldn’t have non-fiction (except memoirs or biographies of writers).

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why? 
My first display would feature the 2016 Man Booker International prize winner: The Vegetarian by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith. And I would display the original edition in Korean next to the translation.  I would like people to be able to pick up the Korean book, open it, and have a visceral understanding of how inaccessible this extraordinary work of literature would be if it were not for the hard work and talent of the translator.
Every month I would feature a different country’s literature.

If you could run only one author event who would you have? You can pick a living or dead writer. What sort of event would they run?
 I would invite Elena Ferrante and her English language translator Ann Goldstein. Elena would give a reading in Italian, Ann would give a reading from the English translation, and then a delivery of piping hot authentic Neapolitan pizza would arrive and we would all dig in!

A customer comes up to your till with a copy of your novel and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?
My novel, The Translation of Love, is set in Japan during the American occupation. It tells the story of friendship between two young girls whose lives have been affected in very different ways by war and its aftermath. Oh, yes, linguistic and cultural translation play a big role in my novel.

What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop? 
Japanese cheese cake. It’s very light, not too sweet, and absolutely delicious!


The Translation of Love is available from your favourite bookshop.