Monthly Archives: June 2018
Call of the Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks
The first thing that will draw your attention to the book is the incredible cover design. This is down to the magic of Leo Nickolls. Just one of the best covers this year.
Call of the Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks is set on the bleak windswept Tollbury Marshes, eighty-six-year-old Virginia Wrathmell has spent all her life here, but she knows the end is near. It is New Year’s Eve 2015 and as she stands looking out over the bleak marshes holding the skull of a Curlew she is remembering something that happened many years ago. A powerful and evocative story of loss and of guilt and the how the past can live with you forever.
Virginia was adopted by Clem and Lorna as the war arrived in 1939. But Virginia has been haunted by an event during those early days of WWII that has loved with her all these years and now as New Year’s Eve 2015 has arrived she knows that this will be her last day.
During those early days of WWII, a German aircraft crashed on the marsh and Clem attempts to rescue the pilot. From that moment life for Virginia has changed forever. No clues from me here as to what happened but I have to congratulate the author on a quite superb atmospheric and haunting novel. There really is something about Call of the Curlew that will attract readers of novels by the
Brontë’s indeed Elizabeth Brooks call her novel “her homage to immersive and evocative writing of Charlotte Brontë”. Marshes have real character I speak from much experience here, and this plays a real part of this outstanding story. An ever changing part of the landscape through the seasons but also one of real and present danger. I totally loved Virginia the main character. But the other characters you will meet Elizabeth Brooks weaves them so brilliantly into the storyline. Some you will warm to others you may not. Call of the Curlew is a story that I totally loved and one that I know many are going to love just as much as I have done.
Thank you to for the review copy of Call of the Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks
Call of the Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks will be published by Doubleday on 28th June 2018. You can pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
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Falling Short by Lex Coulton
Falling Short (John Murray) is the debut novel by Lex Coulton and has two central characters’ in Frances and Jackson. Frances is 39-years-old and teaches Shakespeare to a class of six former’s at a North London School, so there is a hint of Shakespeare coming through at times. She harbours a memory of her father that when she was very young was told that he was ‘missing’ at sea but this has led to lots of questions. She also has real concerns about her mother and her eccentric behaviour, but is there something else behind this behaviour? We also hear from Jackson who is a work colleague of Frances and they were good friends but it pretty clear reading both their stories that both are two very fragile characters and building and keeping relationships is something that both are not great at.
The story of Frances’s father really does bring the story to life and makes this a very readable debut novel. This is very much a character driven novel and it is so important that the characters are believable and have a voice. I am pleased to say that Lex Coulton has done just that in Falling Short. For Jackson he recounts his younger life back in his native South Africa and what brought him to the UK. In both Frances and Jackson, they are imperfect people but you did feel for both throughout the story for different reasons. When you realise that someone close to you is suffering from an illness that you know that there so little you can do is so difficult and you feel alone and desperate. This is Frances’s story. At times this book is warm and funny then there are moments that you feel really sad. The desperate search for real happiness can be a lonely search. Lex Coulton is a new and exciting voice in writing and I am interested to see what comes next from Coulton.
Thank you to for the review copy of Falling Short by Lex Coulton
Falling Short was released on 14th June by John Murray and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
America Über Alles by Jack Fernley
What an incredible idea for a storyline, April 1945. Berlin and the Russians are closing in on Hitler and the war seems lost or is it? Hitler brings in General Robert Ritter Von Griem and the flying ace Hannah Reitsch. Hitler has a new weapon. One that will change the course of history. America Über Alles by Jack Fernley (aka: Wayne Garvie) is an intriguing book that I was not sure about before I started and now I am already looking forward to book two.
So what would happen if Hitler could go back in time and change the course of history and one of the allies fighting against Germany in WWII would be on the opposite side. That is quite a scenario for a storyline and Jack Fernley pulls this off quite brilliantly.
Now go back to 1776 George Washington and his army are struggling in the War of Independence against the British. Now there is a German influence on the side of George Washington in the form of a large group of German mercenaries. Now the war is beginning to turn in favour of Washington’s men but at what price. Who are these Germans fighting for Washington and what is their ultimate ambition? The course of history could be about to change forever if two of the leading Germans get their way at any cost.
This book was a complete surprise to me, in the way that it was nothing like I thought it was going to be. Thoroughly readable and thought provoking. Jack Fernley has pulled a master stroke with America Über Alles.
Thank you to Unbound and for the review copy of America Über Alles by Jack Fernley (aka Wayne Garvie)
America Über Alles was published by Unbound and was published on 3rd May 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
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All Among the Barley – Melissa Harrison
Melissa Harrison was shortlisted for the Costa Novel of the Year Award and longlisted for the Baileys Prize for At Hawthorn Tim. A timeless and memorable novel. With her third novel All Among the Barley (Bloomsbury) I am predicting great things. This is just the most wonderful piece of writing. This is set in 1933 to the backdrop of Wych Farm in Suffolk this is a story as seen by the 14-year-old girl Edie Mather. Although not released until August 23rd I am giving readers a little glimpse of this incredible novel and one to add to your summer reading lists. I promise you will totally fall for Melissa Harrison’s forthcoming novel.
The Great War may have been over a number of years but it still lingers in the memory and the spectre of another war is haunting the country at this time. This is a powerful novel of a girl about to enter adulthood and the autumn is a time of harvest so pressures on the entire farming community are great. But then to add a touch of glamour there is a visitor in the shape of the very beautiful Constance who is here to write about rural traditions. But who really is Constance? And what is the impact on Edie? This evocative storyline of times gone by and the natural world that Harrison writes so knowledgably about just adds to the beautiful prose. On a farm time does not stand still it is ever changing with the seasons and here in All Among the Barley is a story that is just pure nostalgia. But the story-line is just breath-taking and unforgettable. This is just a novel that will be read time and time again. I totally fell in love with All Among the Barley and have since read it for the second time. This is just a timeless novel and so passionately and beautifully written. My tip for one of THE books of 2018 and All Among the Barley I am delighted to Highly recommend.
Thank you to Jack Birch at Bloomsbury for the review copy of All Among the Barley by Melissa Harrison.
All Among the Barley by Melissa Harrison will be published on 23rd August 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Ten Poems from Russia Selected and Introduced by Boris Dralyuk
In association with Pushkin Press
My love of poetry takes me back to my youth when I used to write poetry in my free time. As the years passed I discovered Russian poets as well as Russian literature. It became a love and an obsession. It is my great pleasure to introduce one of the latest releases by Candlestick Press. Ten Poems from Russia which have been selected and introduced by Boris Dralyuk in association with Pushkin Press.
These poetry pamphlets are just the most wonderful introduction to Russian Poetry if you have not yet discovered this. For anyone who knows and understands Russian poets and poetry they will know it is in fact more than just poetry. It encompasses all and everything that is Russian.
Just mentioning the name of Alexander Pushkin evokes many memories for me as I began my love affair with Russian literature and poetry. There are ten poems that have been selected by Boris Dralyuk and without doubt my favourite poem in the collection is My Country Mikhail Lermontov. This is just Russia in verse.
Ten Poems from Russia.
Prologue to Ruslan and Lyudmila by Alexander Pushkin
My Country by Mikhail Lermontov
To Alya by Marina Tsvetaeva
“Take from my palms some sun.. by Osip Mandelstam
In Memory of Sergey Yesenin by Anna Akhmatova
The Lost Tram by Nikolay Gumilyov
Hamlet by Boris Pasternak
The Stroll by Yuri Kazarnovsky
“I still find charm…” by Georgy Ivanov
Bouquet by Julia Nemirovskaya
Candlestick Press are a small independent publisher based in Nottingham and were founded in 2008. The team consists of four dedicated people in Di Slaney (Publisher), Kathy Towers (Assistant Editor) and two admin assistants. Their aim is simple to spread the joy of poetry to adults and children alike who love poetry and or may be just beginning their journey in to enjoying poetry. These small pamphlets are just ideal for bedtime reading or like I have been doing and that is enjoying them on journeys and are just perfect to be given as a gift.
Thank you to Candlestick Press for the review copy of Ten Poems from Russia.
Ten Poems from Russia was published by and was published on 1st June 2018 and is available through selected Waterstones bookshops and also Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
The 2018 Wainwright Book Prize – Longlist Announcement
It does not seem that long ago that we were gathered at Blenheim Palace and the Countryside Live event and watching as John Lewis-Stemple became the first winner to receive the Wainwright Book Prize for the second time with Where Poppies Blow: The British Soldier, Nature, The Great War.
Time has really moved on so quickly that on Wednesday 6th June the official announcement of the Longlist for the 2018 Wainwright Prize was released to the press. And such is the strength of the prize now we have 13 books on the longlist instead of the usual 12. The judges for this year’s prize are for the second year will be chaired by Julia Bradbury, and her fellow judges are: TV presenter Megan Hine; Waterstones non-fiction buyer Bea Carvalho; National Trust publisher Katie Bond and ex-chairman of the campaign to protect rural England, Peter Waine.
The 2018 Wainwright Book Prize Longlist:
21st Century Yokel by Tom Cox (Unbound)
A unique and personal look at our links with the landscape around us. There is much to love contained with the pages, a mix of humour, memoir, a book on nature and there is a great deal of Devon folklore as well as cats! Illustrated through the book by Tom’s photographs while he was out walking the countryside and linocuts by his mother. So there is a real personal feel to the book.
Hidden Nature by Alys Fowler (Hodder & Stoughton)
Written by award winning Guardian writer, Alys Fowler explore the canals and waterways of Birmingham via a Kyak. A book of real beauty where she explores and finds nature in places many would not expect. But this is now just a nature book, it is a personal journey of losing and finding and opening up. Nature as well as a personal journey.
Outskirts by John Grindrod (Sceptre)
A social history of Britain’s green belt landscape. Conservationists and developers as well as politicians have come into conflict since the post wat years as more and more land is sought after. Hidden in the landscape that John explores are nuclear bunkers, landfill sites and on his journey meets those who fight for the protection of green belt land and those who seek to exploit it. This is a fascinating insight into today’s Britain and its social history.
Islander by Patrick Barkham (Granta)
Two large islands and 6,289 smaller islands. From island such as The Isle of Man to the Isles of Scillies to the much smaller islands that are uninhabited and deserted such as St Kilda. Patrick Barkham explores the islands that make up Britian and seeks their special uniqueness that are special places for wildlife and also for the people that live and make a living on these islands. From Nuns to Puffins Patrick explores and gives his own personal account. I reviewed Islander by Patrick Barkham in December 2017 Islander – A Review
The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young (Faber & Faber)
Welcome to the very secret lives of cows. Many of us have stood and watched cows in a field but how many of us have often thought of who they actually are and what they get up to. This is a very special book about the private lives of cows. They don’t just spend their days chewing grass. Often they can be seen playing. A bestseller.
Owl Sense by Miriam Darlington (Guardian Faber Publishing)
Owls have been a favourite with people for seemingly forever. Seen as birds of wisdom and also doom. The author with her son Benji explores the UK seeking and finding every British Owl species. But it does not end there. She then seeks to see every European Owl species. This is a story of her travels and sometimes elusive Owl species. During the time of writing the book her son succumbs to a disabling illness so her quest is mixed with Owls and seeking a cure for her son. This is a remarkable personal quest and her journey takes her from the UK to the frozen landscapes of the borders with the arctic.
The Dun Cow Rib by John Lister-Kaye (Canongate)
I have long been a fan of John Lister-Kayes writing since Song of the Rolling Earth was published in 2003. With his latest book that has made the longlist this is his memoir of growing up and finding that the natural world was about to become his life. From finding nature to founding the Aigas Field Centre in the Highlands, this is John’s memoir to this countries natural landscape and heritage.
The Last Wilderness by Neil Ansell – Tinder Press
Alone with nature in some of the remote parts of Britain. This is Neil’s personal account of time in solitude. A time spent as one with the natural world at a time when he was losing his hearing the sound and birdsong slowly are lost to him. A captivating memoir.
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn (Michael Joseph)
This is the true story of a couple who lost everything just days after learning that her husband was terminally ill. Everything they have worked so hard for is gone. With little time left they set about walking the entire 630 miles of the SW Costal Path. Coming to terms with what they have lost and what is to come, this is a deeply honest and life-affirming account of a couple and a journey. Nature has the power to cure and with every moment on their walk around the coastline they find beauty in the land, sea and sky.
The Seabird’s Cry by Adam Nicholson (William Collins, Harper Collins)
There are ten chapters and each one is dedicated to ten seabirds. Charting their ocean travels and is set in the Scottish Shiant Isles a group of Hebridean islands in the Minch. With artwork by Kate Boxer this is look at these wonderful seabirds, with numbers now crashing this is timely and well researched book from a writer that has spent many years studying these wonderful seabirds. Were once the numbers where in many thousands they are now at a shocking level that one day soon could be lost forever and we will be left recalling reading about them in books. And that day could be very close.
The Wood by John Lewis-Stemple (Doubleday)
Twice winner of the Wainwright Book Prize has made the shortlist with his latest book about his time managing Cockshutt Wood. Written in diary format this is a story of his time together with the wood and the wildlife that made the wood their home. It also proves to be a sanctuary for the writer himself. Interspersed with some recipes that John uses while working with the wood. A personal account of his time with the trees and the inhabitants of Cockshutt Wood. I reviewed The Wood in May. The Wood – A Review.
A Wood of One’s Own by Ruth Pavey (Duckworth Overlook)
Ruth Pavey spent many years living in London and it was while she was exploring the Somerset Levels she discovered some land lost to time. She bought four acres and over time she planned and planted a wood tree by tree. This would bring plants and animals to her wood. This is her story and that of the landscape that is the Somerset Levels. Interspersed with her own drawings. An inspiring account of creating her own wood.
The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (Hamish Hamilton)
Overtime there have been words from the natural world that have been lost to children. Robert Macfarlane writes the poems that tells of those lost words that meant so much to those of us who grew to learn them and Jackie Morris provides the stunning artwork. An enchanting book that has now gone into many schools around the country. A wonderful book that has already won many accolades.
For the first time in the longlist that was announced there is a children’s book The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris. I have been a lover of the outside world and nature and nature writing since I was given a copy of the Observer Book of Birds when I was very young. There is a sense within nature writing that it can take a reader to places and to explore from the very comfort of their armchair and to encourage those to go out and explore nature in all its forms. Nature can cure and by the same right nature writing can also cure. My personal library contains books on nature writing going back decades and thanks to the Wainwright Book Prize we have seen a rebirth in nature writing and the quality of writing is just incredible now.
The shortlist will be announced on Thursday 5th July at an event at Waterstones Piccadilly and the winner will be announced at the BBC Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace on Thursday 2nd August.
When the shortlist is announced I will be running a prize draw to win an entire set of the books on the shortlist. This really will be worth looking out for. This will be run in conjunction with Mark Hutchinson Management. My thanks go to Laura Creyke at MHM for all her help and assistance.
Looking at the longlist it is going to be hard work reducing the list down to six or seven books.
The Wainwright Book Prize is named after the Lakelands much loved Alfred Wainwright, and is supported by White Lion Publishing (publisher of the world famous Wainwright Guides), Wainwright Golden Beer, the Wainwright Estate and in Partnership with The National Trust. The winner receives a cheque for £5,000.
2014: The Green Road into Trees: A Walk Through England by Hugh Thompson
2015: Meadowland: The Private Life of an English Field by John Lewis-Stemple
2016: The Outrun by Amy Liptrot
2017: Where Poppies Blow: The British Soldier, Nature, The Great War by John Lewis-Stemple.
In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne
The debut novel from Guy Gunaratne’s sensational debut novel In Our Mad and Furious City is story based on 48 hours and a community and three friends who live on or close to the Stones council estate in North London. This is a story of three young men and the series of events that led up to riots taking place and rising tensions.
An off duty British soldier is brutally killed by a black Muslim man and tensions bubble to the surface and riots start to breakout. Was the killer an extremist? For the three friends Ardan, Selvon and Yusuf are all different yet they are on the fringes of the claustrophobic estate. This is an incredibly powerful novel that at times is so tense that you feel that one spark while reading this novel could explode into chaos and anarchy.
Gunaratne tells his story of a divided community and country. It is written with incredible passion and shattered dreams of those living on the estate. London is a city of those who dare to dream of great things but it is a city that can leave you in despair and can crush those dreams. There is also a cast of those who live on the Stones Estate who lend their voice to this complex storyline. There is Caroline who was sent from Belfast to London by her family during the troubles, she has demons of her own to contend with. We also hear from Nelson who moved to the UK from the Caribbean and now in his later years still recalls the bad times of the Fascist Oswald Mosely. There is long history of troubles echoing from the past.
In Our Mad and Furious City crackles with tension all the way through, the prose is excellent and mixed with numerous accents and dialects. The real story of this debut novel is not just about this council estate in London, it is a story of what is wrong with the country and the world we are living in. This is not just ‘another debut novel’ it is an incredibly important book. Not an easy book to write because of the subject but Guy Gunaratne is a writer to look out for in the future.
Thank you to Georgina Moore at Headline for the review copy of In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne.
In Our Mad and Furious City is published by Tinder Press and was published on 19th April 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan
I missed Ruth Hogan’s debut novel The Keeper of Lost Things so when Ruth’s second novel The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes arrived I was thrilled. I heard so many great things said of Ruth’s debut novel that I was very excited to read this and I have to say it is an extraordinarily wonderful. A cast of characters that are just so real.
The story follows Masha, who is still grieving the loss of her two-year0old son Gabriel. For Masha everyday life is a struggle from one day to the next, she finds some quiet peace by spending time in a Victorian Cemetery and it is there she meets what we can only call a rather eccentric and mysterious older woman she calls Sally Red Shoes.
Masha also likes to visit the local Lido were beneath the water she feels calmness and an escape from the constant heartache of her loss. Slowly but surely Masha starts to regain some of her lost confidence and slowly begins the journey back to life by talking to those she starts to trust. She starts a friendship with the mysterious Sally and Kitty. Is there a life for Masha again and can she find love after the pain of such a great loss? Through their friendships and guidance Masha feels it is time to start living again. This is a story that will tackle a few issues but also with a little humour added but it does not detract from a fabulous read. A story packed with some wonderful characters that help make this such warm and heartfelt novel. It will lift your heart and spirits. All I have to do now is pick up a copy of The Keeper of Lost Things and discover for myself Ruth Hogan’s debut. But for now I am delighted to highly recommend The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes.
Thank you to Two Roads Books for the review copy of The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan.
The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is published by Two Roads and was published on 3rd May 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Shelter by Sarah Franklin
Set to the backdrop of the Forest of Dean during the dark days of World War Two. Shelter by Sarah Franklin is a story of love and solace, a novel that at times is heartbreaking and also uplifting. A novel that is character driven tells a story of two people in a time of darkness when all you had was hope.
Connie is now in the Forest of Dean as part of the Women’s Timber Corps as part of the forests contribution to the war effort, she is grieving for her family. Now she is trying to rebuild as best she can. Connie thinks that she will lose this job and end up homeless and with no job. Also in the forest is a camp for Italian Prisoners of War. They are here to work in the forest and among them is Seppe, for him the war is over and he is pleased to be here also a chance to rebuild his shattered life far from home.
Both leading characters have secrets that they want to hide from the world around them they are both two very different people, then they meet and a relationship starts to develop. Set deep in the forest the war may seem a million miles away but in fact it there thanks to the Franklin’s wonderful descriptive writing she brings the story to life but in a warm and gentle style of writing. I really enjoyed reading about both Connie and Seppe and how they dealt with the past and what they want for the future for themselves.
The story boasts some other great characters that all play a part in a warm and tender story gives hope for the future after tragedy for Connie then for two people who have lost trust in the world around them, love finds a way to give hope for them both. An exceptional debut novel. The perfect summer read.
Thank you to at or the review copy of Shelter by Sarah Franklin.
Shelter is published by Zaffre and the Paperback was published on 31st May 2018 and is available now through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
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