Francis Plug: Writer in Residence by Paul Ewen
I recently read Francis Plug: How To Be A Public Author and I have to say I loved everything about this book. It is a work of a genius. So incredibly funny. Well he is back. Francis Plug: Writer In Residence by Paul Ewen (Galley Beggar Press) is released on 4th October and I can promise you, if you loved the first instalment you are going to really enjoy this.
Well he has only gone and done it! Francis Plug is now an author, he has unleashed his book out into the world, but is the world ready for the now published author.
As you may recall if you have read the first book, our lovable character is pretty much penniless and lives in a garage which is no more than a box. So now Francis Plug has his book out there he needs to earn some money, so incredible he is offered the role of ‘Writer-in-Residence’ at Greenwich University. Now prepare for a barrel of laughs. Francis now realises that there are so many empty offices within the University and decides that one of them will fit the job as his home. There are one or two drawbacks, there is no bathroom for one and then what if someone discovers he has literally moved in?
Thanks to his boss in the Creative Writing Department is Dr Alex Pheby and he is arranging The Greenwich Book Festival and of course Francis jumps at the chance of helping, by trying to persuade his fellow famous writers to appear at the festival. Francis loves to attend author events, or is it just because there is free booze on offer. He tries his very best at every author event even at his own book signings were he seems to consume most if not all the alcohol on offer. Question is, do any of his famous author connection actually take up his offer.
As part of Writer-in-Residence at Greenwich University, Francis Plug is expected to write a novel, and talk to students at the Creative Writing Department. This means interacting with people, something that Francis dislikes especially students and he does his best to avoid any places where there are students and this includes a lot of the pubs in the area. Drink and Francis go hand in hand, yet he is finding he is being barred from a lot of the pubs he is using for his Campus novel.
By this time a lot of people connected to Greenwich University are just not sure about our boozy Francis Plug. There are many laugh out loud moments in this hilarious follow up novel. I attend lots of literary events every now and again you just get one and I have seen a few. I have to say Paul Ewen is fabulous writer and this is going to go down a storm. I loved Francis Plug: Writer In Residence. One I will happily raise a glass or three to. There is so much humour here, the humour just keeps on coming. What does become of Francis, and his home in the office at Greenwich University.
Next May when I am at the book festival at Greenwich University I will be wandering the corridors of this famous establishment just chuckling to myself. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Thank you to Galley Beggar Press for the review copy of Francis Plug: Writer In Residence by Paul Ewen.
Francis Plug: Writer In Residence by Paul Ewen will be published on 4th October 2018 by Galley Beggar Press and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Bone Lines by Stephanie Bretherton
Many will know that I really enjoy debut authors and following their writing journey’s. I am so thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for the debut novel Bone Lines by Stephanie Bretherton and published by Unbound who are rapidly becoming a favourite publisher with the outstanding quality of the authors and writing.
This is a novel set over two periods in facts thousands of years apart. Dr Eloise Kluft is a geneticist working on her new project which are the remains of ‘Sarah’ who was alive 74,000 years before. Then we have ‘Sarah’ who with her new born baby they are alone in a landscape that is unknown but there is danger and it is not too far away.
London is the base for Eloise as she starts to piece together the remains of ‘Sarah’ from the incredible archaeological find. The story of Bone Lines is a story of two very strong willed women separated by time but the story could well be the same. Both women alone. For Eloise she is reminded of her own emotions and her past. For ‘Sarah’ she is alone and facing the hazard of migration but why is ‘Sarah’ alone with her child and were are the others.
The story is so beautifully written and told as the reader alternated between modern day London and a time 74,000 years before. Eloise is extremely dedicated to her work so much so that her personal life just seems to have been put to one side as she dedicates her life to her profession. She is missing out and she knows it.
One aspect I did like was the letters she was writing to Charles Darwin this fascinated me as Eloise uses this aspect to come up with solutions and ideas. For someone like me who studied Darwin many years previous this was an eye opener. Clever to use this in a novel.
Two incredibly strong willed women who struggle with their own day to day life for different reason, whether to stay alive or to come to terms with the past as shape the future. A story that may take a little while to appreciate but when you do, it comes together brilliantly. The research by Stephanie for Bone Lines is outstanding and deserves credit. Highly Recommended.
Thank you to Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for the review copy of Bone Lines by Stephanie Bretherton
Bone Lines by Stephanie Bretherton was published by Unbound and was published on 6th September 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Bone Lines – The Blog Tour
Roald Dahl’s Short Story Collection
It is a great pleasure to have been asked to participate in the Blog Tour for Roald Dahl’s Short Story Collection ahead of Roald Dahl Day on September 13th.
Many people will know Roald Dahl for his children’s books but not many will know that he also wrote a collection of short stories for adults. Ahead of Roald Dahl Day I am going to take a look at four of the eight books that Penguin released. I hope you may find this collection of interest.
Many will recall reading some of Roald Dahl’s children’s books when they were young which includes James and the Giant Peach, The BFG and of course Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Here though in this adult collection are some short stories that are dark and at times sinister. Some of these short stories were publishes in The New Yorker and Playboy.
Trickery: Tales of Deceit and Cunning. This of all the four books that I was sent I have to say I enjoyed. These dark and twisted stories of people using trickery and deceit as a weapon. But here in this collection are stories of what happens with the theme of repercussions just when you think your plan has worked and life comes back at you. Sometimes as they say you don’t always get what you hoped for.
Innocence: Tales of Youth and Guile. A collection of five short stories which includes an autobiographical account of Roald Dahl’s own youth. Roald Dahl was born in Wales on 13th September 1916 and this short story of his boyhood as well as four other stories of youth and of growing up including dark a tale of a bullying victim.
War: Tales of Conflict and Strife. Eight short stories which includes an autobiographical account of Roald’s years in the RAF as a fighter pilot. There are seven other short stories in this collection that look at conflict and of war and the total human cost of conflict.
Fear: Tales of Terror and Suspense. Fourteen tales that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. These stories by selected authors are spine tingling to say the least. Dahl could not master the ghostly story himself so in this collection he put together a series of spooky tales. Perfect for those dark nights that are approaching. From Cynthia Askuith’s ‘The Corner Shop’ to ‘The Telephone’ by Mary Treadgold. Great stories to make hide under the duvet.
There are four other adult short story books in the collection: Lust: Tales of Craving and Desire. Madness: Tales of Fear and Unreason, Cruelty: Tales of Malice and Greed and Deception: Tales of Intrigue and Lies.
A superb collection of short stories from the mast of storytelling. For anyone who loves great writing and these would make the perfect gift for anyone who loves the written word.
Thank you to Katie Ashworth (Penguin UK) for the review copies of Roald Dahl’s Short Story Collection.
Roald Dahl’s Short Story Collection was published by Penguin UK and was published on 10th August 2017 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
#RoaldDahlDay 13th September 2018
Roald Dahl’s Short Story Collection Blog Tour 2018
A Perfect Mother – Katri Skala
I am delighted to be kicking off the Blog Tour for A Perfect Mother an impressive debut novel by Katri Skala (Hikari Press) that was released on 1st September.
The story follows Jacob Bedford who has arrived in Trieste in Northern Italy, Jacob who is a journalist is researching for a magazine article about the city. But there is more to Jacob’s visit to Trieste. While he is in the city, he is going to some personal research about his great-grandfather.
Jacob’s Jewish great-grandfather went missing here in 1938. Many of his family were victims of the Nazis but there is nothing to say that his great-grandfather was also killed in the Holocaust many of the Jewish Population perished in Italy’s only death camp. It is highly likely than many of Jacob’s ancestors were murdered here.
It is here that Jacob meets Jane who is visiting the city as part of her book group and through Jane Jacob is introduced to Charlotte. Jacob who is facing a divorce is hoping the visit will also bring some romance to his life despite his past affairs.
What Jacob, Charlotte and Jane have to confront is there past and much deeper family histories that interconnect in their own lives. Charlotte is much scarred of an abusive childhood and then losing her own child.
When Jacob arrives home he decides to keep in touch with Charlotte and Jane, and this is where Charlotte now reveals more of her painful past. But Jacob is attracted to her and is seeking something more.
A Perfect Mother is a novel that delves into the past and how that can influence who we are. The past cannot be escaped it is there no matter how painful. A deeply complex novel of families and relationships past and present. Katri Skala is not afraid of bringing challenging subjects into what is at times a dark storyline. A Perfect Mother is superb first novel and one I highly recommend.
Thank you to Ruth Killick for the review copy of A Perfect Mother by Katri Skala
A Perfect Mother by Katri Skala was published by and was published on 1st September 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
A Perfect Mother by Katri Skalab – The Blog Tour
The Lost Words for Somerset Primary Schools – Fund Raising update
End of week Two update.
As you many of you will know I have undertaken a fund raising project to raise £2,500 so that I can get The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris into all Primary Schools in Somerset. When The Oxford Children’s Dictionary removed around 50 words that connect nature to children, words such as Bluebell, Otter, Kingfisher, Dandelion, Acorn and Conker to name just a few. The Lost Words is now trying to bring these words back into Children’s lives.
When The Lost Words was published in October 2017 and I was blown away by the Spell-Poems by Robert Macfarlane and the beautiful watercolour paintings by Jackie Morris. I have been so moved by all the fund raising projects from that have been undertaken by so many people around the country.
It was not long before people took this remarkable book to their hearts and it all started in Scotland with Jane Beaton raising an incredible £25,000 so that every school in Scotland would receive a copy of The Lost Words. Currently there are around 16 fund raising projects around the country all with one aim to bring The Lost Words back to life and into Children’s vocabularies. And this is why I am doing everything I can to raise £2,500 for the children of Somerset.
As week two comes to a close I have managed to raise an amazing £1,405.00 With a further £1,095.00 Still to be raised by 10th October. The sooner we raise the initial amount then we can keep fund raising until the closing date. This will then enable me to spread The Lost Words to even more schools across Somerset and learning centres. I have so many people to thank for their very kind and generous donations. If I manage to achieve this target, you will never know just how grateful I am. Every single pledge has left me humbled. I have been asked if I would extend to other parts such as Bath. I can only achieve this with lots more donations.
On 21st August I was a guest of Claire Carter and the Breakfast Show on BBC Somerset. Claire and the team have been incredible with their support of the project. If successful there will be a follow up show that will be at one of the School’s when a copy of the book will be handed over to the pupils and staff.
Below is a link to the BBC Somerset Breakfast Show.
As with all Crowdfunding if the target is not reached then no money is taken from those who have pledged. So here I am making this appeal to anyone and everyone who cares for words, books, nature and children to help me reach the goal of raising £2,500 and see the Goldfinches fly into every Primary School in Somerset.
I am so grateful for the incredible messages of support and already have many to thank for their incredible generosity. Your kindness will not be forgotten.
So now we enter week three and invigorated after the money pledged so far. I will not rest until the fundraising has been a success.
If you can please do help by making a pledge via my Crowdfunding Page:
You can keep up to date by following me on my Twitter feed: @thelastWord1962
Every £10.00 pledged is another copy to a Somerset Primary School. The benefits for every child is so worthwhile not just in recapturing those lost words in nature but also in the health and well-being of children. There are over 240 Primary Schools in Somerset. Help me make this dream become a reality.
My thanks to Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris for the continued encouragement and support.
“What we do not love, we cannot Save” – Robert Macfarlane
The Story Keeper – Anna Mazzola
I was a massive fan of Anna Mazzola’s debut novel The Unseeing and now Anna returns with her second novel The Story Keeper (Tinder Press) Can it live up to her first novel? It my view it really does.
Set on The Isle of Sky in 1857 this is a story of missing girls and folklore. This is a time of huge change for the people of Sky at a time of poverty since the Highland Clearances and the locals are not keen on outsiders coming in and are viewed with suspicion.
Arriving on the on Sky from London is the mysterious Audrey Hart who is collecting stories of the people of the community. It is not long before their suspicions of Audrey are heightened when she discovers the body of a girl on the beach. When more bodies are discovered the locals turn to long held myths to account for the girl’s deaths.
Audrey grew up with myths and old folklore stories of Scotland as this was where her mother came from, but her mother died in circumstances that were never fully explained and this is why Audrey now feels more at home on Sky than in the oppressive home of her father and step mother.
Now girls are disappearing and Audrey is certain that they are being abducted. Trying to separate fact from the old stories from the Crofters. They believe that the deaths can be explained as victims of the unforgiven dead. Audrey has other ideas. Could it be that the answer to Audrey’s own questions about her mother’s death be linked?
The Story Keeper is a great multi-layered gothic tale and the characters are superbly drawn with Audrey leading the way, though from a troubled young life she is determined to get more out of life than what her father wishes for her.
The story starts slowly and gathers momentum against the backdrop of the Isle of Sky which in its self plays an integral part of the storyline.
The story is chilling yet beautifully told. This actually is a perfect autumn read as the dark nights draw in. Pour yourself a large glass and settle down With The Story Keeper.
Thank you to Jenni Leech (Headline) for the review copy of The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola.
The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola was published by Tinder Press and was published on 26th July 2018 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Bellevue Square – Michael Redhill
This has to be one of the most hypnotic reads, haunting and at times I was not quite sure where I was with this from one page to another. Michael Redhill really set about writing one of the most compelling reads of the year in Bellevue Square. Just imagine for one minute you are minding your own business running your bookshop and in walks a customer you know is a regular and then he tells you something that will literally make your heart jump. Now prepare for one hell of a ride.
This is a story about Jean, she loves running her bookshop in Toronto, Canada, it is her bookshop, then again is it? She has a regular customer who comes in and they play a game where she tries to guess his first name. So far she has failed to correctly guess his name. Then one-day same customer comes in and announces that Jean has a double, a life ‘doppelganger’ Jean thinks he is simply confused, but then he goes completely out of character. Scary stuff. Now the story really kicks off as Jean goes looking for her double. Who is she and does she really exist.
This is just the opening gambit of a story that is just compelling stuff, not a simple read is Bellevue Square, it will twist your mind and play with it. At one point I was going to throw the book across the room. I never ever think that. This is one rollercoaster of a ride, a book that just goes off in its own way. I am not sure how Michael Redhill came up with this novel but boy did it play with my own mind.
So what happens to Jean and her regular customer, no that would be too easy and I am not going to give this away. Just prepare for one hell of a ride that has just about everything. There are a who series of genres going on here. This was unsettling and bewildering yet this is how it is meant to be. By the time I had finished I was dizzy. But what a read. Once you are sucked in you won’t leave this one alone. Not easily forgotten. I want more.
Thank you to Katherine Sutherland (No Exit Press) and Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for the review copy of Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill.
Bellevue Square was published by and was published on 15th August 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Follow the #BellevueSquare Blog Tour
From the Mill to Monte Carlo: The Working Class Englishman Who Beat the Casino and Changed Gambling Forever by Anne Fletcher
From the Mill to Monte Carlo: The Working Class Englishman Who Beat the Casino and Changed Gambling Forever – Anne Fletcher
Well this is a book that had me up for a few late nights. A true piece of detective work by the writer Anne Fletcher as she traced the incredible story of Joseph Hobson Jagger who was an engineer from Bradford who then travelled to Monte Carlo and literally broke the bank. From the Mill to Monte Carlo (Amberley Publishing) tells the remarkable story of just how Jagger managed to pull this off. What’s more The author Anne Fletcher is the great-great-great niece of Joseph Jagger.
For the author it all started with a single photograph, a newspaper article and then lyrics to a famous song. There was no way Anne Fletcher was going to stop the research now. There was an incredible story to be uncovered. And this really is an incredible true story.
Joseph Jagger was a married man with four children with the youngest of his children aged only two. Life was incredibly hard. He himself came from a large family, not unusual in those times. He taught himself to read and write before working in the Mills. He then set up his own business which was maintaining the cotton looms. His business later failed with large debts and now the family was facing the worst scenario the dreaded debtor prison. Life would be incredible harsh with little chance of ever getting out.
Jagger knew of only one way to escape the debtor prison and his plan which was nothing short of crazy was to find the cash and travel to Monte Carlo by 1861 Jagger was bankrupt, but he was determined to get to Monte Carlo and this did not happen until 1880. Through the generosity of friends, he managed to get enough money together and travel 1000 miles to Monte Carlo were he hatched out a plan to get rich quick.
He cleverly realised that the roulette wheels never span true. He studied the wheels very carefully and then started gambling. By the time he had finished he had won the equivalent of seven million. This had got the owners of the casino’s questioning what he was doing and in the end the wheels were redesigned. Jagger knew it was now time to quit and return home.
So what exactly did Joseph Jagger do with all his winnings? Jagger was clearly not a man who fame, he sought a fortune to solve a problem and won. When he got home he quietly faded from the scene. He paid back everyone who had lent him money and then made sure his children never faced the same fate he did. Jagger never lived a life of a rich man, he carried on living in the same home and just lived a very quiet life. When he died in 1892 there was no wealthy will to be read out.
It seems Joseph Hobson Jagger was ashamed of what he had done and did not want the fame that went with the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo. An incredible story wonderfully told by Anne Fletcher.
Thank you to Hazel Keyes for the review copy of From the Mill to Monte Carlo by Anne Fletcher
From the Mill to Monte Carlo by Anne Fletcher was published by Amberley Publishing and was published on 15th July 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Crowdfunding to get The Lost Words into Somerset’s Primary School’s
The Oxford Children’s Dictionary decided to remove around 50 words that connect children and British Wildlife, words such as Otter, Dandelion, Bluebell, Kingfisher, Conker to name a few, the award winning writer Robert Macfarlane and artist Jackie Morris got together and came up with a fantastic idea that has swept across the country and taken a life of its own. The Lost Words (Hamish Hamilton) came into being.
With spell-poems by Robert Macfarlane and the stunning artwork by Jackie Morris brings together just some of those words that would have been missing from children’s vocabulary. Nature at such a young age is so important. It was over 40 years ago that I was inspired by nature just by sights and sounds and words read in a book. All these years later nature and wildlife still bring the many pleasures and joys to me. The health benefits of being outdoors and being and being close to nature at a young age can spur a love of wildlife that may last a lifetime and who knows to their children.
It was not long after The Lost Words was released and people started to take the book to their hearts and then it began. First in Scotland. In early 2018 Jane Beaton raised £25,000 to get a copy of The Lost Words into every school in Scotland. This was the spur and The Lost Words is now a movement and around the country there are at present fifteen fund raising campaigns to get The Lost Words into school’s and the words back into children’s lives. It is a movement of love and the work and dedication of everyone involved really has moved moved me. It is uplifting and inspiring.
Over recent months I have been close to the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize and I was delighted to see this remarkable book reach the longlist. Then to see it reach the shortlist and with a chance of winning the Wainwright Book Prize. I attended the shortlist party and spoke with Robert Macfarlane about The Lost Words and I know how much the campaigns mean to him. The the prize winning event earlier in August I spoke with the artist Jackie Morris about my initial idea of raising enough money to get a copy into Somerset’s Primary School’s.
On the morning of 15th August I launched my Crowdfunding page to raise £2,500.00 which would mean that I would be able to place a copy of The Lost Words into each of the 242 Primary School’s in Somerset. I am extremely grateful to Penguin/Random House for giving me a very special price of £9.60 rather than the cover price of £20.00 which helps keep the target figure to £2,500.00.
This is were I need your help. I have until 10th October to raise the funds, and I would be extremely grateful for any donations that you can give.
The Lost Words Artist Jackie Morris has very kindly donated three special prints. If you donate £75.00 you can select a word and Jackie will create this word written in Otter. I have seen some of these and they are rather special. There is only three available. When they are gone they are gone. Jackie has also very kindly donated a small Inked Otter print. If you donate £5.00 or more you will automatically be entered into the draw to win this Small Inked Otter print.
Please spread the word far and wide the more people know the better chance we have of achieving our target.
I hope you can help and pledge to support The Lost Words for Somerset’s Primary School’s.
Thank you for reading.
Hitler’s British Isles: The Real Story of the Occupied Channel Islands by Duncan Barrett
When Hitler’s forces rampaged across Europe and then finally France fell to the Nazis, Hitler then turned his attention to across the Channel. Mainland Britain prepared for a similar Blitzkrieg but the Channel Islands lay perilously close to the French coastline, it was now apparent that they would be alone and not defended by Britain. In Duncan Barrett’s Hitler’s British Isles this is the definitive account of the Channel Islands five-year occupation by German forces during the war.
Writer Duncan Barrett interviewed over one hundred people on the islands who had direct experience of the war under the Nazis. When it was announced that the Channel Islands would not be defended, an evacuation took place in 1940 of British forces and also many of the children. Though some could not come to terms of being separated from their parents and stayed on despite the fear of what was on the horizon.
It was June 1940 and the Luftwaffe arrived over the islands bombing and strafing many lost their lives during the attacks. The Islanders were not in a position to fight back. The occupation had begun and the Channel Islands were now under Nazi control. These are British Islands and they had been invaded. Over on the mainland the Battle of Britain was about to begin.
Many on the islands had their homes taken over and families had to move out. The effects of the invasion now came into force. Food was rationed and as the war went on food was scarce and the inhabitants went hungry.
At first those that represented the islanders co-operated with their occupiers. Many of the German soldiers believed the war would be over very quickly, but after the Battle of Britain they knew they were on the Islands for some years. Many of the German soldiers believed that being on the Islands prevented them later from being sent to the front line when Hitler invaded Russia.
There was a small Jewish population living on the Channel Islands and many went into hiding sadly though many were found and rounded up and sent to concentration camps never to return.
As the war went on it was clear the Nazi command was intent on turning the main Islands into a fortress and the Organisation Todt brought around 15,000 men as slave labourers were brought in from the Eastern Europe and they were badly abused and many died of hunger or killed during the building of the fortresses. One of the sadder stories was that of Louisa Gould who helped some of the men and was caught. Louisa was sent to the infamous Ravensbrück concentration camp. She was killed in the gas chambers.
By latter part of 1944 the Islanders were starving there was little food remaining and pets were killed to survive. Now Red Cross Parcels started to arrive and just in time.
There are many horrific stories that are uncovered in Barrett’s outstanding book, and as the war ended, some of the Islanders sought justice on those who were a little too close to their German Masters. It was time for retribution.
When the war ended it was a time of trying to pick up the pieces of shattered lives. Many sent to Europe never returned. Then there is the story of a young woman from the Island of Sark who fell in love with a German and when he was sent to England as a prisoner after the war after a number of ‘arranged’ meetings it was clear their love was too strong and they married and then later returned to Sark to live their lives in peace.
Duncan Barrett has well researched the stories of the occupation of the Channel Islands and must be complimented on how well this is set out against the personal stories of those involved. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Thank you to Sue Stephen (Simon & Schuster) for the review copy of Hitler’s British Isles by Duncan Barrett
Hitler’s British Isles by Duncan Barrett was published by Simon & Schuster and was published on 14th June 2018 and is available in Hardcover through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.