Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Dreamday Pattern Journals

As well as having a book buying habit (I haven't sinned this month and bought a book BUT we are only half way through the month) I also love notebooks, and I have a stack still waiting for me to write in them but yet I can't resist buying more. So I jumped at the chance when Laurence King Publishing emailed to ask if I wanted to review their new range of notebooks.

The Dreamday Pattern Journals are stylish notebooks not just for writing, drawing or doodling but also for colouring in. Throughout the notebook there are pages with intricate patterns with each notebook having a different them of patterns. So not only can you write away about that fantastic day trip but you can also grab those pencils and pens and add some colour. So sharpen those pencils and make sure you stick within the lines...oh sorry, am I sounding bossy?

I can see myself getting distracted by the patterns and end up doing more colouring than writing but hey it's all creativity!

So for the science bit or rather the practical parts - the paper is thick so you can use a fountain pen and not worry about the ink running and blurring. The pages are plain (except for the ones with patterns) so you can write or draw - for me, this means my writing slow starts to lean like the tower of Pisa as I just can't write in a straight line. The cover is hard but flexible and will fit nicely into your handbag.

These gorgeous notebooks would make a great gift for anyone who loves writing, drawing, doodling and colouring. You can order and buy Dreamday Pattern Journals from your favourite shop.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

June's Wrap Up

I thought I hadn't really read that much last month that's why I've been putting off writing a wrap up for June but it turns out I read four books, which seems to be the usual number.

My Salinger Year - Joanna Rakoff
Sometimes there are books which transport you straight into the story. This one book does exactly that - a publishing agency in New York in 1990s, pre-computers (when Fax machines were the height of fashion). This memoir tells the story of Joanna as she works as an assistant answering fan letters for Salinger. This is a great book, and will make you want to work in publishing during the 90s.

Under the Skin - Michel Faber
I watched the film first (when it came out a few years ago) and have wanted to read the book since as I've heard it's completely different - those people are right. This haunting book tells the story of Isserley as she drives round the wilds of the Scottish Highlands looking for hitchhikers.

The Arrivals of Missives - Aliya Whiteley
This is a great short novel, and you can read my review here.

Back to Moscow - Guillermo Erades
Martin comes to Moscow to write his PhD but instead indulges in the city's magic of women, bars and booze. This is a good story about discovery, debauchery and neurotic characters. You can read my review soon.

During June I went to the first Emerald Street Literary Festival in London, and it was a great day even though it rained. I went to some great talks about the Bailey's Prize, creating ideas and listening to Maggie O'Farrell talk about her new book. It was a great day listening to people talk passionately about writing and books. Lisa McInerney said that you need to stop feeling guilty about writing as one thing more miserable than writing is not writing. A good thing to remember when sitting at my desk worrying that I should be washing-up/hoovering/food shopping.

I have been working on shorter pieces of fiction in June rather than my novel. Some of the later chapters and the their first drafts need to be re-written from scratch which can be disheartening but I know that at least I have the bare bones of the plot for the chapter, and I know the general direction I need to head. At least there are words on the page.

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.