Showing posts from January, 2012

Books through my lens #13

The lens, this time, isn't actually mine! This picture was taken by my friend Jeane one fine morning as she was enjoying S. G. Browne's Fated and a cup of tea in Stratford, London. The bright colours, all those straight lines and the book catching the viewer's eye made for a great composition that I just had to share with all of you!

Jane Urquhart on writing Sanctuary Line

One of the things that has always delighted me about writing novels is how astonished the author herself can sometimes be by the way a novel is conceived or by the way it ends. In an early novel, The Underpainter, for example, I was completely surprised and taken aback toward the conclusion of the first draft by what my male protagonist ultimately decided to do. And, yet, once I got over the shock, I realized that his act of unkindness was completely in character. It was about this time that I began to understand that I was writing about the world the way it is, not the way I want it to be, and that I would have to allow my characters to be themselves… not just an extensions of my own personality.

Once again in Sanctuary Line the end of the book was initially as much a surprise to me, the writer, as it has been for many readers. Writing is a very visual experience for me; I actually “see” what is going on while I am working. I knew that one more character would be entering the book in …

Book review: She’s Never Coming Back

By Hans Koppel
Translated by Kari Dickson
Published by Sphere

It is safe to say that my choice of reading material is not usually truculent. That’s why I surprised myself when I decided to read a novel whose front cover prominently displays a quote describing it as a ‘terrifying crime novel’.

I started to read expecting the worse and - it being impossible to put the book down - a few hours later I was trying to understand what had hit me.

Let’s be clear: I loved this book and I’m grateful to Sphere for publishing this Swedish novel by author Karl Petter Lidbeck who, being a children’s literature author, decided to have it published under the pen name of Hans Koppel. I can see why he doesn’t want to have the two genres mixing on the bookshelves!

The plot is simple enough: one day after work, Ylva does not return home. When she hasn’t returned 24 hours later, her husband Mike starts to worry and calls the police. Ylva seems to have disappeared without a trace and, month after month, Mike and…

In conversation with... Laura Wilkinson

Hello Laura! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of BloodMining. Can you tell us what it is about?

A: Thank you. Primarily set in Wales in the not-too-distant future, it’s about a mother, Megan, whose son is diagnosed with a terminal, hereditary condition. A condition passed down the mother’s line. Buried family secrets are revealed during the search for a donor to save his life and Megan finds out the truth about her past, and its relationship with an appalling national tragedy.

This is your first published work of fiction. How did your book deal come about and how did you feel to finally see your first novel in print?

A: Unbelievable. It feels unbelievable, quite surreal. Even now, a year and a bit after receiving the call from Bridge House informing me that I’d won their debut novel competition and they’d like to publish the book. After a couple of other competition short listings and near misses with interested agents I’d consigned BloodMining to the ‘fa…

Kimberly Menozzi: Cappuccino, Anytime

If I say to someone back home in the US that my day job is working as an English teacher, certain expectations might leap to mind. For instance, they might picture a room with neat and orderly rows of desks with young children or teenagers seated in them, either a chalkboard or whiteboard on the wall, perhaps even a bell which rings to denote the start and end of a lesson.

While this is not too far off the mark for some teachers, for me, it's almost completely wrong.

I teach English as a Second Language (ESL) here in Italy – and most of my students haven't been teenagers, much less children, for a good long while. I don't have a classroom filled with desks, or a bell to tell me when to start and/or stop the lesson. The only times I get to use a whiteboard are when I'm teaching at the school itself – and sometimes not even then.

Instead, I get to travel (in my case, this means walk) around the city, visiting different offices for an array of businesses including banks and …

New Beginnings – Nicola May on self-publishing

This time last year, I wasn’t Nicola May, author of chick lit novels. I was just Nicola - friend, sister, aunt, and daughter. My friends and family of course knew I had written books, but the wider world had not even heard of me.

I was at home recovering from major surgery and in the midst of a split from my long term partner when I decided to go through the pile of rejection letters I had built up from agents and publishers over the years. Yes, I know how to make myself feel better!

Coming across my ‘favourite’ rejection letter from a large publisher, saying they hoped it wasn’t a big mistake turning Working it Out down I thought sod it. I have nothing to lose by publishing myself. And there, my own story began!

I researched how to go about publishing your own novel and then that was it - I was on a mission to get my writing out to the masses. My friend Steve offered to design the cover and my website for free and another friend recommended a printing company where I could get just a …

Green Books - a new monthly feature

Reading and the environment are two of my greatest interests, so I was delighted when Silvia invited me to write a series of monthly blog-posts here on green issues and reading.

Even in these days of the internet, books are often the best way to learn about nature and environmental issues, so I'll share some of my favourite books on these topics.

Many a nature-lover must mourn the number of trees cut down to make books so I'll write about ways in which the publishing industry is trying to become greener. I'll also compare books and electronic reading devices to investigate their relative carbon footprints.

And what happens when books become literally unreadable? I'll look at some examples of book art, including the mysterious book sculptures that have been delighting literary Edinburgh for the past year or so.

I'll also share some ideas for how to find inspiration if you want to write about nature and environmental issues.

So, here's looking forward to the next six …

Books through my lens #12

After a long walk in the countryside, from and to Steyning via Chanctonbury, The Steyning Bookshop (106 High Street, Steyning, West Sussex, BN44 3RD; 01903 812062) was like a mirage. I could already feel the warmth of books spreading through my cold limbs. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday and the bookshop was closed. As well as the beauty of the West Sussex landscape, a quick peek through the windows convinced me that I will have to go back!

Event review: Sir Frederick Ashton's Romeo and Juliet

The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, the two star-crossed lovers, is world renowned and holds a special place in my heart as it was the first Shakespeare play that I ever read. I must have been about 15 when, after a couple of years of learning English, I decided that it was time to put all abridged versions for teenagers aside and get on with the real thing.

I will always be grateful to the Mondadori bilingual edition for allowing me to navigate the language of the Bard with the help of Alfredo Orbetello’s translation. There must have been more recent translations but this first copy of Romeo and Juliet is the one I keep going back when I need to restore my faith in romantic love. I mean, I dare anyone to read it and not feel something shift deep inside!

It might be the understatement of the year, but Romeo and Juliet would not be the success it is without Shakespeare’s genius as a wordsmith. That’s why my curiosity was instantly awakened when I heard that the Peter Schaufuss Ballet would …


Fans of Canadian writer, Jane Urquhart, are invited to hear her discuss her latest novel, Sanctuary Line (published by MacLehose Press/ Jan ’12/ £16.99 hardback), on Thursday 26th January from 10:30 – 12:00.

You will have the opportunity to talk with her after the event whilst refreshments are served.

This event will be hosted by the Canadian High Commission, who, for security reasons, ask that you make sure to RSVP to the address featured on the invitation:

The people behind the books - Q&A

Welcome to a new monthly feature that will see me interviewing all those people who work in close contact with authors to make their books known and successful.

First up is Emily Burns, who you can also follow on Twitter.

Q: Hello Emily! First of all, thank you very much for agreeing to answer my questions! You look after Constable and Robinson’s fiction imprint, Corsair, whose first titles – if I’m not mistaken - were published in 2010. Were you there to see the first steps in the life of the imprint or did you join the team at a later time?

A: Hello and thank you for asking me! That’s right; I look after the fiction list Corsair at Constable and Robinson, which launched in April 2010 with just four titles. I joined Constable and Robinson in August 2010, so was introduced to the list through books such as The Privileges by Jonathan Dee and The Seas by Samantha Hunt. It was such a new imprint that it was thrilling to help it to grow.

After the success of the literary fiction imprint, Cors…

Book review: Seven Days One Summer

By Kate Morris
Published by Short Books

As the gorgeous cover suggests, Seven Days One Summer is one of those novels that are best enjoyed on holiday, possibly while lounging around the swimming pool. Because I’m a rebel, I decided to read it in winter!

The pro was that I could close my eyes and almost picture myself walking under the Italian summer sun, exploring little village markets, savouring quality food and relaxing with a book at the pool side. The con was that only the fictional characters were actually doing that.

Kate Morris’s talent, however, is not only to be found in the description of places and meals. While developing her novel, she had the ability to identify the people who would normally be less likely to get along and she put them in the same villa for a week.

The events are narrated by Jen, who was invited to spend a week at the villa by Sam, an old friend who also happens to be the man she was in love with for a very long time. Has he ever loved her? Does he love her n…

In conversation with... Emlyn Rees

Hello Emlyn! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on your latest novel, Hunted. Can you tell us what it is about?

A: Hunted tells the story of Danny Shanklin, a hostage negotiator, who finds himself the subject of the biggest televised manhunt in history. After going to a business meeting in the Ritz hotel in London, he blacks out and wakes to find himself dressed in a balaclava, a red-and-white striped tracksuit and a brand new pair of Nikes, with a high-powered rifle in his hands.
Looking outside, he sees a burning diplomatic limousine and dead civilians all over the street. With the police closing in, and only his best friend and tech guy, the Kid, for backup, Danny has to find out who’s set him up and why - but with 500,000 CCTV cameras, 33,000 cops, 9 intelligence agencies, and dozens of TV news channels all hot on his tail, just how long will this one innocent man be able to survive?

How did the idea for this novel develop?

A: Back, back, back in the mists of time, before …

LGBT challenge - December winner

December is over and so is the LGBT reading challenge 2011... thank you ever so much for participating! I hope you have enjoyed reading, reviewing and sharing your thoughts!

So, for one last time, please follow this link and catch up with all latest reviews!

And now, the long-awaited moment of the prize draw!

The lucky reviewer who, courtesy of Serpent's Tail, will receive a copy of Femmes of Power by Del LaGrace Volcano and Ulrika Dahlis is:

Juliet, who read and reviewed Nights Beneath the Nation by Denis Kehoe and The Mammoth Book of Lesbian Erotica edited by Barbara Cardy.

"Italy in Books": December winner

December is over and so is the "Italy in Books" reading challenge 2011... thank you ever so much for participating!

I hope you have enjoyed reading, reviewing and sharing your thoughts! A few books made recurrent appearances and I like to think that this was because you were inspired by other people's reviews, in the true spirit of the reading challenge!

So, for one last time, please follow this link and catch up with all latest reviews!

And now, the long-awaited moment of the prize draw!

The lucky reviewer who, courtesy of Peirene Press, will receive a copy of Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman by Friedrich Christian Delius is:

Juliet, who read and reviewed Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel and Miss Garnet's Angel by Salley Vickers.

Books through my lens #11

The distinctive colourful country names on a white background of Mondadori's travel guides conjure up images of distant places and fun-filled days. This picture was taken while on holiday in Italy - without one such guide. If you ever end up in Lido degli Estensi, I highly recommend the libreria Le Querce, which was like a mirage on a rainy November evening at the deserted seaside resort.