Showing posts from February, 2012

Fancy a good book and a good cup of tea?

To celebrate this once-every-four-years day, MacLehose Press and Sussex-based Pure Fresh Tea have teamed up to offer you the chance to win this gorgeous prize:

One lucky winner will soon be able to enjoy Jane Urquhart's latest novel, Sanctuary Line, while sipping one of the ten different varieties of organic tea included in this sample pack.

For more information on Pure Fresh Tea, please click here, while to read a recent blog post by the Canadian author on Book After Book, please click here.

For a chance to win, please click here. The competition is open world-wide and will close on the 28th March at 1pm.

Charles Dickens Bicentenary

The 7th February 2012 marked the bicentenary of Charles Dickens's birth.

Organisations from all over the world are offering a rich programme of events, exhibitions and activities to commemorate this special anniversary.

To help you celebrate this Dickensian year in style, I am happy to give you the chance to win two sets of exquisitely clothbound Penguin Classics:

To win a copy of Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities, accompanied by two sachets of delicious Pure Fresh Tea, please complete this form.

To win a copy of Oliver Twist, Hard Times and A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings, accompanied by three sachets of delicious Pure Fresh Tea, please complete this form.

Both competition will close on 25th March and are open world-wide.

Good luck!

Event review: Vita and Virginia

The Iambic Arts Theatre is a little gem hidden away in the centre of Brighton’s North Laines. Bringing the public a selection of high quality plays, poetry and music events under the guidance of Artistic Director Emma D’Arcy, this month the theatre hosted Vita and Virginia: A love relationships in two acts, directed by Alison Grant.

Dramatized by actress and playwright Eileen Atkins, the show was originally produced by The Players Collective in Lewes in 2011 and, not surprisingly, it was performed to critical acclaim.

I knew that I was going to love the play even before the two actresses - Valerie Dent in the role of Virginia Woolf and Tamar K. Karpas in the role of Vita Sackville-West - recited their first lines. The attention to detail that was evident from the stage setting and the costumes could only be a sign of good things to come!

And so it was: from the very first words used by Tamar/Vita to describe her first impressions about Valerie/Virginia to their joint recital of a passage…

Book review: The Brothers

Written by Asko Sahlberg
Translated by Fleur and Emily Jeremiah
Published by Peirene Press

If you’re interested in contemporary European literature, you won’t want to miss The Brothers by Asko Sahlberg, published this month by Peirene Press as the first title in the Small Epic series.

Epic might sound like an overstatement when applied to a novel that is only 122 pages long but believe me when I tell you that, with its 8 narrative voices and a wide spectrum of human emotions, this description is indeed quite fitting.

The setting is a farm in Finland in 1809, where brothers Erik and Henrik have returned after fighting in the war between Sweden and Russia on opposing sides. Family tensions had pushed Henrik to leave his country and seek a new beginning in St. Petersburg but when he turns up at the farm unexpectedly it becomes clear that all those past matters are far from being a thing of the past.

As the Farmhand, one of the novel’s characters, declares at the very beginning of the book: T…

Kimberly Menozzi: It's ALL Research

When it comes to writing, there are certain axioms writers (and many readers) know very well. A particularly vexing one is this:

Write what you know.

Unfortunately, this phrase is open to interpretation as well as misunderstanding, so every writer's mileage may vary wildly. I confess that it plagued me for years and made it hard for me to get down to the nitty-gritty of what I wanted to write about.

"Write what you know."


Why did this trouble me so? It troubled me because I was a teenager when I first wanted to write for a living, and as such, I had lived a fairly "ordinary" life. Nothing exceptional had ever happened to me. If I wanted to write about the life of a rock-and-roll musician, this so-called logic dictated that I didn't know enough about it to do so. Nor could I write about being a mother (no kids), or being a sex object (soooo not me!) or a pilot, or anything else which came to mind.

I read the work of Hemingway (in school - Old Man and the Sea

In conversation with... Charles Lambert

Hello Charles! First of all, thank you for agreeing to answer my questions and congratulations on the publication of a new paperback edition of Any Human Face, whose cover I absolutely love! Can you please tell us what it is about?

A: It’s about a down-at-heel second-hand bookseller in Rome called Andrew Caruso, half-Italian, half-Scottish, who finds himself in trouble when he decides to organise an exhibition of photographs found among his dead lover’s belongings. It’s about how the photographs found their way into Andrew’s lover’s hands in the first place. It’s about the kidnap and imprisonment of a teenage girl. It’s about the way these three stories, and the people involved in them, connect. It’s also, although I didn’t fully realise this as I wrote it, about loneliness.

I’m glad you like the cover, by the way!

Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing or did it develop before your eyes as the characters grew on the page?

A: All I had was the central idea of …

Green Books: Sharing Books

Welcome back to the second in my series of blog posts about Green Books.

Anyone who reads a lot must be aware of the amount of paper that is used in making books! Whole forests (or more usually plantations) are cut down to produce our reading materials! Surely an issue of concern for anyone even remotely interested in the environment?

So how can we reduce this environmental impact? In this post I'll talk about sharing books and in the next post I'll look at what the publishing industry can do.

The public library is perhaps the best known form of large scale book sharing. The future of UK Public Libraries is currently threatened (details here) and they need our support! Libraries offer access to books for people who otherwise couldn't afford them and are a great way to find new writers. Writers whose books are borrowed through public libraries are supported through the Public Lending Rights Scheme.

Bookcrossing is a fun way to share books. This international website and real-l…

Book review: The Devil’s Music

By Jane Rusbridge
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing

Nominated for The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, The Devil’s Music is Jane Rusbridge’s debut novel.

The book opens with an informative glossary of knots and what follows is a story that, just like a knot, is made of different strands that come together by being separated. In fact, I believe that the essence of the novel is to be found right at the beginning of the book, in the following passage:

[…] waiting for me, is the new length of yarn-tarred hemp, its smell of salty, windswept miles. The dip and curve of the strands is thick as muscle. This is what gives rope its strength, the laying together of strands which have been twisted in opposite directions. Rope is bound together by the friction of its parts.

Andrew and her mother are the main strands forming this metaphorical knot and it is their voices that Jane Rusbridge chose to narrate this story. Two people, three voices.

At first we meet Andrew as, following the death of…

Competition time: I Will Have Vengeance

To celebrate to publication of I Will Have Vengeance by Maurizio De Giovanni, here is a chance to win one of two copies of the book, courtesy of Hersilia Press.

All you need to do is click here and complete the form with your details. The competition is open to European readers and will close on the 8th March.

The synopsis:

Naples, March 1931: a bitter wind stalks the city’s streets, and murder lies at its chilled heart. As one of the world’s greatest tenors, Maestro Vezzi, is found brutally murdered in his dressing room at Naples’ famous San Carlo Theatre, the enigmatic and aloof Commissario Ricciardi is called in to investigate. Arrogant and bad-tempered, Vezzi was hated by many, but with the livelihoods of the opera at stake, who would have committed this callous act? Ricciardi, along with his loyal colleague, Maione, is determined to discover the truth. But Ricciardi carries his own secret: will it help him solve this murder?

On the publisher's website you can also download the fi…

Books through my lens #14

Brighton's Jubilee Library helps celebrate LGBT History Month 2012! For more information on events etc., please click here.

The people behind the books - Q&A

Interviewed this month is Joe Pickering, publicist at Penguin Books UK, whom you can also follow on Twitter.

Q: Hello Joe! First of all, thank you very much for agreeing to answer my questions! You are a publicity manager for Penguin. Which imprints do you work on and do you have a favourite?

A: I work for the division of Penguin called Penguin General, which comprises the imprints Hamish Hamilton, Fig Tree, Viking & Penguin Ireland. I work across all four imprints but Hamish and Viking the most. I couldn't really pick a favourite: it's more book-to-book and all four publish ones I've loved.

Q: Can you briefly describe what you do on a typical day? Is there a particular activity that you especially look forward to?

A: Get in, turn my computer on, get a coffee, go through emails that have come in overnight and/or reminders I've set myself. Usually I'll have a particular book campaign or two in mind that I want to concentrate on that day: send out pitches, set up eve…

Book review: A New History of Italian Renaissance Art

By Stephen Campbell and Michael Cole
Published by Thames and Hudson

If you are looking for a book about Italian Renaissance art you will have a tough time choosing from the countless tomes that have been published on the subject. If you are looking for a book with gorgeous illustrations and an approach that will appeal to both students and non-specialist readers, you don’t have to look any further.

With the Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci gracing its cover, this newly published hardback is one not to miss.

The history of Italian Renaissance art – from the traditions of the Fourteenth century to the trends of the Seventeenth century – is explored chronologically in conveniently divided chapters. From painting and sculpture to architecture and decorative arts, Professors Stephen Campbell and Michael Cole place the artists and their works in a well-explained geographical and historical context.

The book also includes all those tools that you’d expect from a first-class reference book…

Chris Womersley on writing Bereft

Inspiration is a curious concept and when it comes to the writing of a novel it is, at least for me, not a singular thing. The etymology of the word ‘inspiration’ harks back to notions of inhaling something from without - a spiritual influence, a divine force. For those of us who are queasy about notions of divine visitation (how would God taste, after all?), it is still useful to think of such matters in this way, for it relieves us of the burden of genius. After all, a preparedness to fail is perhaps one of the writer’s most essential qualities; it’s always handy to have someone to blame for a lousy reception - as long as you’re also willing to share the credit should things go well.

For me there is rarely a single moment of inspiration but, rather, a series of small insights that coalesce over several months – sometimes years - into a bunch of characters living in a particular time and place, each of them with their own set of problems. These characters, the setting and their proble…

In conversation with... Liz Fielding

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

A: Thanks so much for inviting me to visit with you…… Flirting With Italian is Sarah Gratton’s story. She’s just broken up with her fiancé (he fell in love with someone else) and is picking up her life pretty much back where she was when she first graduated as a teacher. Starting over with ambitions she’d put on hold. Since travelling was top of the list she takes a job teaching at an international school in Rome. While she’s in Italy, she’s eager to find out what happened to the woman who saved her great-grandfather’s life during the war.

With Valentine’s day approaching, Flirting with Italian sounds like the perfect book to think about romance. Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing or did it develop before your eyes as the characters grew on the page?

A: I’m a punster rather than a plotter. My inspiration for this book ca…

Book review: The Two Week Wait

By Sarah Rayner
Published by Picador

I read One Moment, One Morning, the novel that brought Sarah Rayner into the spotlight, over two years ago and I still praise and recommend it at any given occasion. That’s why I jumped at the opportunity of reading an early copy of her latest novel, The Two Week Wait.

Like its predecessor, The Two Week Wait focuses on important – and often controversial – issues: motherhood and infertility. And – now as before – Sarah Rayner excels at dealing with such personal matters with compassion and understanding.

In Yorkshire, Cath and Rich are married and want to build a family. After two years spent fighting cancer, Cath is now healthy but, as a consequence of the illness, she can’t have children. In Brighton, Lou and Adam are both gay, single and wanting a child.

For different reasons, time is running out for these four adults to fulfil their desire and create a new life. Thanks to the advances in fertility treatments, however, they are in a position to help …