Saturday, 18 February 2017

Orlando Ortega-Medina's Imaginary Bookshop

Today we welcome Orlando Ortega-Medina to the Imaginary Bookshop. Orlando's debut book, Jerusalem Ablaze is out now.

Jerusalem Ablaze includes 13 stories about love, obsession, faith, desire and redemption which take the reader from Japan to Quebec in Canada to California and to Jerusalem Notable stories include a Japanese boy’s understanding of the ferocity of hate an adulterant’s unusual fantasies about a werewolf Richard Wagner and a young priests’ encounter with a blood-thirsty dominatrix.


What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
Words Without End

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
Mumbai – the largest city in the country with the most readers.

Would your bookshop have any special features? E.g. a performing stage, a cocktail bar, etc.
The shop would be designed like the interior of the Star Ship Enterprise from Star Trek. It would have a multilingual staff, including at least one person who speaks Klingon, one person who speaks Elvish, and one that speaks Esperanto, and the books would be available in all the languages into which they have been translated. The shop would feature a combination performance space/cinema for events, readings, and screening Sci-Fi classics. There would also be a Star-Trek style cocktail bar for relaxing and networking, with recorded intergalactic jazz and pop playing in the background. The bookstore itself would have lots of interesting, comfy reading niches. Finally, there would also be a lending library section.

What would make your bookshop different from all the other ones?
Words Without End would be a destination for lovers of Sci-Fi from all over the world, and for those who are Sci-Fi curious.

What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
Anything and everything that is Sci-Fi and Fantasy, and related, would go up on our shelves.

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
Our display table would contain the best of the best literary Science Fiction books, including foundational classics, Sci-Fi by both female and male authors, and Sci-Fi (in translation) from all around the world, e.g. from Cuba, India, Israel, and Japan. Following are some specific titles we would feature on our opening day, in [Roman] alphabetical order:

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
A Legend of the Future by Agustín de Rojas
Central Station by Lavie Tidhar
Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa
Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nights by Ryu Mitsuse
The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh
The Female Man by Joanna Russ

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 H.G. Wells, and we would compare and contrast with him the world in which we are living with the one he predicted in his books, and to ask him where he sees us going from here.

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?
Our idea of a great book is one that is well-written, tells a great story, takes risks, does not shy away from controversial or difficult issues, and stays with the reader for a lifetime. Jerusalem Ablaze: Stories of Love and Other Obsessions is such a book.

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

Space Cake, of course. For those who prefer something more earthbound, we would offer Gluten-Free Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake with Halva Dairy-Free Ice Cream


Jerusalem Ablaze ( Cloud Lodge Books) by Orlando Ortega-Medina will be out on the Thursday 16th February.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

So January...

So January… 

You showed us how appalling people can be but also how this can inspire people to take a stand. It scares me the way people are so narrow minded, or don’t seem to think outside their own social situation. People seem to have forgotten how to be human and care for each other. It could be easy to get depressed with the world situation but we can make small differences just by being fairer and kinder to each other.

Somehow I managed to read six books in January:

We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Such a short book but such an important book about creating happier women, happier women living in a fairer, truer world. This book should be posted through everyone’s door with a note saying read this. Especially to the road rage guy, with children in the back seat, last night who scream and shouted some nasty things because I was half parked across an entrance to another road in back to back traffic so no one could move.

How Much The Heart Can Hold – Various Authors
This short story collection contains seven stories on love but not the clichéd type. There are stories about a husband watching his wife die from starvation, a woman trying to hold together her family after her father ends up in hospital and a woman obsessing years later over a school crush. My favourite stories from the collection were Nikesh Shukla’s White Wine and Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s Before It Disappears.

Strange Weather in Tokyo – Hiromi Kawakami
Tuskiko finds herself drinking alone in a local bar and ends up sitting next to her former school teacher. Over the coming months they share drink, food and time, developing a deep intimacy. This is a book about a slow burning friendship leading to romance, and urban loneliness. This is a fantastic book. Think Haruki Murakami crossed with Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City.

The Empathy Problem – Gavin Extence

This is a book about second chances. Gabriel, a hedge fund Manager, finds out he has a tumour. It’s now or never as he starts changing his life around, trying to find meaning. You can read my review here.

The Princess Diarist – Carrie Fisher
This is Carrie Fisher’s last book, and also the first book I’ve read by her. This is her diary from when she worked on the first Star Wars film. This is an interesting read showing that famous people are just as insecure as normal people.

Books For Living – Will Schwalbe
This is a fantastic book for readers as Will explores the power of books and reading in a series of essays. This is also a dangerous book as I’ve already added several books to my wish list thanks to this one book. I’ll be reviewing this book in more detail soon.

I have five chapters left to redraft! It has been a long slog and I’m still not there but I’m hoping that later this year I can start submitting it to agents.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Book Review: The Empathy Problem

The Empathy Problem

By Gavin Extence
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
Available in hardback and ebook
Paperback is forthcoming

Following on from The Mirror World of Melody Black, Gavin Extence's latest novel, The Empathy Problem further explores the need for people to change their life when handed one last chance. This time Extence asks the reader to put their trust into an unlikeable character who has distanced himself from society. Can he turn his life around before it's too late?

Extence explores the effects of terminal illness through Gabriel Vaughan, an arrogant, highly successful hedge-funder and millionaire. He is ruthless and cunning, driven by power and money. His competitive nature has isolated him from his family and colleagues, leaving him with an existence which is empty with no personal pleasure. He is a modern day Patrick Bateman from American Psycho but there's not murder, blood or heads in the fridge.

Not even a terminal brain tumour is going to get in his way.

Yet, something does change. He starts feeling emotions and seeing the people around him not as an inconvenience rather than being stuck in a bubble all about him. Emotions start taking over, he starts getting involved and worrying about other people.

Caitlin busks on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral amongst the Occupy protesters, playing her violin, and grabs Gabriel's attention with her music. Not only is he mesmerized by the music but by Caitlin. Yet, she isn't like Gabriel's usual taste in women - he normally has to pay. He can not get this girl out of his head.

He starts to realise that there is more to life than work and money. His uncomplicated life starts becoming complicated, full of lies as he tries to create a dual life to make himself look 'human' For Caitlin - he even goes as far as renting a flat in a different part of London and faking his lifestyle. If anything he becomes more unlikable as instead of using his money for social good or even giving some money to his father he instead sets up a revenge plan on his bosses.

This is a book about finding second chances before time runs out. I liked this central idea of the novel and the way people can make changes before its too late.

However, I felt like I couldnt connect to the protagonist even when he starts to change and connect with society. I'm sure that readers could feel differently but for me. The Empathy Problem is available from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy by bookbridgr.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Book Review: Fell - Jenn Ashworth

By Jenn Ashworth
Published by Sceptre
Available in hardback and ebook
Paperback is forthcoming

Jenn Ashworth's latest novel, Fell, captures the oddities within ordinary families, the ways people will believe anything even if it's supernatural in times of crisis and the way the past tries to bleed into the present. Lines are blurred between reality and the misty, mirky world of the supernatural. Hold on to your butts as this is a fantastic book.

I've been a fan of Jenn's since reading her short stories online and really enjoyed The Friday Gospels but Fell is even better so much so that it was one of my favourite reads of 2016.

Annette Clifford returns to her childhood home, abandoned by her father years ago when her mother died, overlooking Morecambe Bay. Her father has died, leaving behind the crumbling house which needs fixing up and restore to its former glory. Like her parents, when they first moved in, she is short of funds to restore the house yet she can't let out rooms like her parents did as the house is full of mould, plant life and nothing seems to work - the house is a museum of her parents past - wallpaper peeling off showing the layers underneath. The roots of two overgrown sycamores have spread underneath, causing damage to the foundations and pipes. Her arrival has woken the spirits of her parents, Netty and Jack, both reunited in death, and who are desperate to make a amends.

Told from the perspective of a husband and wife who are no longer living this is a story about lingering memories and unnatural presences in ordinary life. The story goes back to the summer of 1963 on the cusp of change for the whole family. Netty has cancer and following many operations and doctor appointments she is now living on borrowed time but she spends most of her time repressing her illness, pretending she is fine in front of her young daughter, Annette. Jack invites a charismatic lodger into their house who claims to heal people in the hope that this stranger can save Netty. Trying to keep the illness is becoming a burden. Annette is left to entertain herself as her mother is kept in her bedroom, knitting projects discarded near her chair, while in pain.

Now, in the present, a stranger must save Annette when she cuts herself when trying to slash down the sycamores. The local tree surgeon is pulled into Annette's world and the magnetic pull of the house. Echoes of the past bleed into the present with events repeating themselves but instead of the isolation felt by Jack and Netty collectively is now on Annette's shoulders - she must work out how to fix the house - alone. The supernatural blurs with the ordinary, many things left unexplained and for the reader to piece together - can this lodger actually heal people, how did he manage to get Netty to choke up sea water?

Fell is an eerie, atmospheric book, beautifully written by capturing the ordinary lives with small details and pulling the reader into the lives of these characters. This is a compelling book, and I'm still thinking about the story weeks after finishing the book.  You can buy Fell from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy via Bookbridgr.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Goodbye 2016

I’m sure everyone is glad 2016 is out of the way. It was a year where the political landscape changed, terrorism has intensified, actors, artists, musicians have died leaving a gap in many people’s hearts. Even though we don’t know these people some of the things they portray in either film or music can speak to us all on a personal level.

For me, this year was better than 2015. I’ve been making myself busy – keeping up going to the gym, road running, painting my flat, enjoying time with friends. I’ve also had a good year at work. There have been challenges but on the whole I’ve embraced them all, and I’m definitely a stronger person than what I was back at the beginning of the year. Hey, I’m not crying every hour like I was in 2015. Only one or twice a month – progress!

So here are my highlights for writing, reading and cultural events from 2016.

Writing in 2016

  • Continuing with redrafting my novel. My aim was to redraft one chapter per month and on average I’ve managed to keep this going and I even managed to redraft two in December. I’m now only 6 chapters away from the end.
  • I had five stories published. I have linked to the original blog posts so you can click through and have a read - so grab a tea and settle down on the sofa.

A Love Letter to My Slow Cooker – published at Murder and Glut
Ice-cream Van – republished in the Forge Fiction anthology
First Gear Dilemmas – published at Silver Birch Press

Reading in 2016
  • I have read 52 books this year ranging from short story collections, non fiction books about loneliness in the city to accounts of Chernobyl, and of course novels. I’ve read quite a few books published in 2016 but I’ve also tried to read a few things which I’ve been promising myself for years. This included the excellent Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout and the slightly disappointing There But For The by Ali Smith.
  • You can read all of my monthly wrap ups via this link. You can find all of my reviews via this link.
  • Here are my top reads from 2016. I’ve linked to my reviews of these books, and all of these are highly recommended.

Culture in 2016
  • Arrival, High Rise and Lobster are my films of the year.
  • Going to the theatre and seeing 1984 (AMAZING) and Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (AMAZING).
  • Emerald Street Literary festival in London. It was good but ticket holders were only allowed to attend three events, and I wanted to go to more. Hopefully it will run next year.
  • Seeing Neil Gaiman at the Word Factory event at Waterstones. Came away feeling inspired. Must read through my notes for some much needed inspiration.
  • I popped along to the Royal Academy to see ‘Painting the Modern Garden’ and really enjoyed seeing some Monets up close and personal but I really shouldn’t have left it until the penultimate day before it closed as it was very busy.
  • Harry Potter World was amazing. Fans of the films will love walking around the sets and looking at memorabilia. There was lots of insights into how they build the sets and special effects.
  • I’ve always wanted to see a ballet, and this year I got a chance to see Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall and it was amazing. I really want to see some more ballet in 2017.
  • I also got the chance to see both Jurassic Park and ET at the Royal Albert Hall. The film is played on the big screen with an accompanying orchestra. A great experience.

So, how was your 2016?

Come back soon for my ‘Hello 2017’ post!