Memories of a Lost Thesaurus by Katie Hall-May

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Memories of a Lost Thesaurus by Katie Hall-May

Memories of a Lost Thesaurus is the debut novel by Katie Hall-May and was released in May 2018. A little late with this review as I read Katie’s novel in January but commitments sadly meant I am only now getting to put this review out.

This was intriguing me as there are four characters in this novel, Cath, Alice, Patrick and a mysterious unnamed character just called: M. This is really a story of relationships. Everyone has problems during a relationship, that is a fact of life. Ghosts from the past can affect the present day if they are haunting you and this really is the case with Alice. And then there is Cath is dealing with a present day issue that can cause upset.

Do we let the past something from the past influence today and tomorrow? Complex lives make good storylines and Katie Hall-May has written a debut novel that is touching and sensitive. The fact the story only contains three main characters and a mysterious one makes you concentrate on each of them.

You know characters make the novel, and each one here is pulling you into the story that the author has created. I just loved the plot and each of the complex individuals. Sometimes there is tension and will make you wonder about each of them.

This is a story that is worth every page, beautifully constructed with plenty of twists along the way to keep you wondering until the end.

Follow Katie Hall-May on Twitter: @mypapercastles

Webisite: Katie Hall-May

 384 Pages.

Thank you to Katie Hall-May for the review copy of Memories of a Lost Thesaurus

Memories of a Lost Thesaurus was published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing and was published on 1st May 2018 and is available through Amazon.

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The Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize Longlist 2019

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The Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize Longlist 2019

 

On Thursday 31st January the longlist for The Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize was announced. Always one of the most anticipated of literary prizes. The winner will be announced on Thursday 16th May. There will be a special event being held at the British Library on 15th May when all the shortlisted authors will be present. I am really excited at this years longlist and already looking forward the British Library event as I will be attending this year.

You can follow the prize via Twitter:    @dylanthomprize      #IDTP19

This year’s longlist of 12 books comprises eight novels, two short story collections and two poetry collections:

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  • Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Friday Black (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (US) and Riverrun (UK))
  • Michael Donkor, Hold (4th Estate)
  • Clare Fisher, How the Light Gets In (Influx Press)
  • Zoe Gilbert, Folk (Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • Emma Glass, Peach ((Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • Guy Gunaratne, In Our Mad and Furious City (Tinder Press, Headline)
  • Louisa Hall, Trinity (Ecco)
  • Sarah Perry, Melmoth (Serpent’s Tail)
  • Sally Rooney, Normal People (Faber & Faber)
  • Richard Scott, Soho (Faber & Faber)
  • Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, House of Stone (Atlantic Books)
  • Jenny Xie, Eye Level (Graywolf Press)

 

 

 

The Longlisted authors:

 Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah is from Spring Valley, New York. He graduated from SUNY Albany and went on to receive his MFA from Syracuse University. He was the ’16-’17 Olive B. O’Connor fellow in fiction at Colgate University. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including GuernicaCompose: A Journal of Simply Good WritingPrinter’s RowGravel, and The Breakwater Review, where he was selected by ZZ Packer as the winner of the 2nd Annual Breakwater Review Fiction Contest. Friday Black is his first book.

 Michael Donkor was born in London, to Ghanaian parents. He studied English at Wadham College, Oxford, undertook a Master’s in creative Writing at Royal Holloway and now teaches English Literature to secondary school students. Many of the issues in this novel are close to his heart, and his writing won him a place on the Writers’ Centre Norwich Inspires Scheme in 2014, where he received a year’s mentoring from Daniel Hahn.

Clare Fisher was born and made in Tooting, south London in 1987. Her first novel, All the Good Things, was published by Viking, Penguin in 2017. How The Light Gets In, her first short story collection was published by Influx Press in 2018. She now lives in Leeds.

Zoe Gilbert is the winner of the Costa Short Story Award 2014. Her work has appeared on BBC Radio 4, and in anthologies and journals in the UK and internationally. She has taken part in writing projects in China and South Korea for the British Council, and she is completing a PhD on folk tales in contemporary fiction. The co-founder of London Lit Lab, which provides writing courses and mentoring for writers, she lives on the coast in Kent.

Emma Glass was born in Swansea. She studied English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Kent, then decided to become a nurse and went back to study Children’s Nursing at Swansea University. She lives and works in London. Peach is her first book.

Guy Gunaratne lives between London, UK and Malmö, Sweden. His first novel In Our Mad and Furious City was longlisted for The Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for The Goldsmiths Prize, The Gordon Burn Prize as well as the Writers Guild Awards. He has worked as a journalist and documentary filmmaker covering human rights stories around the world.

Louisa Hall grew up in Philadelphia.  She is the author of the novels Speak and The Carriage House, and her poems have been published in The New RepublicSouthwest Review, and other journals.  She is a professor at the University of Iowa, and the Western Writer in Residence at Montana State University. Trinity is her third novel.

 Sarah Perry was born in Essex in 1979. She has been the writer in residence at Gladstone’s Library and the UNESCO World City of Literature Writer in Residence in Prague. After Me Comes the Flood, her first novel, was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Folio Prize, and won the East Anglian Book of the Year Award in 2014. Her latest novel, The Essex Serpent, was a number one bestseller in hardback, Waterstones Book of the Year 2016, the British Book Awards Book of the Year 2017, was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award and Dylan Thomas Award, and longlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction 2017. Her work has been translated into twenty languages. She lives in Norwich.

 Sally Rooney was born in 1991 and lives in Dublin. Her work has appeared in the New YorkerGrantaThe White ReviewThe Dublin ReviewThe Stinging Fly, Kevin Barry’s Stonecutter and The Winter Page anthology. Her debut novel, Conversations with Friends, was a Sunday TimesObserver and Telegraph Book of the Year; it was shortlisted for both the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Rathbones Folio Prize, and longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize. Rooney was also shortlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award for ‘Mr Salary’ and was the winner of the Sunday Times/PFD Young Writer of the Year Award. Her second novel Normal People was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2018. She is the editor of the biannual Dublin literary magazine The Stinging Fly.

 Richard Scott grew up in London and studied at the Royal College of Music and at Goldsmiths College. He has been a winner of the Wasafiri New Writing Prize, a Jerwood/Arvon Poetry mentee, and a member of the Poetry Trust Aldeburgh Eight. His pamphlet Wound (Rialto) won the Michael Marks Poetry Award 2016 and his poem ‘crocodile’ won the 2017 Poetry London Competition. Soho is his first book.

 Novuyo Rosa Tshuma grew up in Zimbabwe, and has lived in South Africa and the USA. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her short fiction has been featured in numerous anthologies, and she was awarded the 2014 Herman Charles Bosman Prize for the best literary work in English

 Jenny Xie is the author of EYE LEVEL (Graywolf Press, 2018), finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry, and recipient of the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets and the Holmes National Poetry Prize from Princeton University. Her chapbook, NOWHERE TO ARRIVE (Northwestern University Press, 2017) received the Drinking Gourd Prize. Her work has appeared in Poetry​New York Times Magazine, New Republic, and Tin House, among other publications, and she has been supported by fellowships and grants from Kundiman, Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and Poets & Writers. She is on faculty at New York University and lives in New York.

Key Dates for the International Dylan Thomas Prize

  • Longlist will be announced 12:00 GMT Thursday 31st January 2019
  • Shortlist will be announced 12:00 GMT Tuesday 2nd April 2019
  • British Library Event Wednesday 15th May 2019
  • Winner will be announced evening of Thursday 16th May 2019.

 

About the International Dylan Thomas Prize: Launched in 2006, the annual Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize is one of the most prestigious awards for young writers, aimed at encouraging raw creative talent worldwide. It celebrates and nurtures international literary excellence. Worth £30,000, it is one of the UK’s most prestigious literary prizes as well as the world’s largest literary prize for young writers. Awarded for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under, the Prize celebrates the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama. The prize is named after the Swansea-born writer, Dylan Thomas, and celebrates his 39 years of creativity and productivity. One of the most influential, internationally-renowned writers of the mid-twentieth century, the prize invokes his memory to support the writers of today and nurture the talents of tomorrow.

Meet the 2019 Judges

Professor Kurt Heinzelman is a poet, translator, and scholar. His most recent book of poems is Whatever You May Say and he has translated Demarcations, a collection of poems by Jean Follain. He has been the Executive Curator at the Harry Ransom Center and the Director of Education at the Blanton Museum of Art.  A Professor of English at the University of Texas-Austin specializing in Poetry and Poetics and a teacher in the Michener Center for Writers, he is also the former Editor-in-Chief of Texas Studies in Literature and Language (TSLL), and the co-founder and longtime Advisory Editor of Bat City Review. [photo credit University of Texas at Austin/ Christina S. Murrey]

 

Professor Dai Smith CBE is a distinguished historian and writer on Welsh arts and culture.  As a Broadcaster he has won numerous awards for arts and historical documentaries and from 1992 to 2000 was Head of Programmes at BBC Wales.  He was Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Glamorgan from 2001 until 2005 and is currently the Emeritus Raymond Williams Research Chair in the Cultural History of Wales at Swansea University.  He was Chair of the Arts Council of Wales from 2006 until 2016 and is Series Editor of the Welsh Assembly Government’s Library of Wales for classic works. In 2013, he published a novel Dream On and in 2014 edited definitive anthologies of Welsh short stories, Story I & II, for the Library of Wales. His latest fiction, the novella What I Know I Cannot Say, and the linked short stories All That Lies Beneath, was published by Parthian Books in 2017.  Professor Smith is Chair of the Judging Panel.

 

Di Speirs is the Books Editor for BBC Radio, overseeing all London Readings, ‘Open Book’ and ‘Bookclub’ on BBC Radio 4 and ‘World Book Club’ on the BBC World Service. She has produced innumerable editions of ‘Book at Bedtime’ over two decades and produced the first ever ‘Book of the Week’ in 1998.  Instrumental in the BBC National Short Story Award since its inception, and its regular judge, she has also chaired  the Orange Award for New Writers in 2010, judged the Wellcome Prize in 2017 and twice been a nominator for the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative (Literature). She is a member of the Charleston Small Wonder Lifetime’s Excellence in Short Fiction Award panel.

 

Kit de Waal was born in Birmingham to an Irish mother and Caribbean father.  She worked for fifteen years in criminal and family law, for Social Services and the Crown Prosecution Service.  She is a founding member of Leather Lane Writers and Oxford Narrative Group and has won numerous awards for her short stories and flash fiction.  My Name is Leon, her debut novel won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year 2017 and was shortlisted for numerous other awards including the Costa First Book Award and the Desmond Elliott Prize. The Trick to Time, her second novel, was published in 2018 and was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

The 2018 Winner: Kumukanda by Kayo Chingonyi. 

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For more information visit the official website:

Swansea University Intenrational Dylan Thomas Prize

@dylanthomprize          #IDTP19

 

No Place to Lay One’s Head by Françoise Frenkel

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No Place to Lay One’s Head by Françoise Frenkel

Some people have dreams of opening and running a bookshop. For Françoise Frenkel this was her dream She loved books when she was growing up. In No Place to Lay One’s Head (Pushkin Press) is Françoise’s memoir. A Jewish woman born in Poland opened her bookshop La Masion du Livre which was a French bookshop in Berlin in 1921. A dream come true. Her memoir was published in 1945 in Geneva to a small press but then was discovered in a flea market Nice in 2010.

Françoise was obsessed with books when she was growing up in Poland then after her studies she started as a bookseller before opening her own bookshop. The came Adolf Hitler and the birth of National Socialism. Soon Jews in Germany became a target and shops owned and run by Jews became a target. Then came Kristallnacht (shards of broken glass in the streets) when shops and property were targeted. In July 1939 in fear for her life she fled Berlin leaving behind her beloved French bookshop and headed for Paris. Then as the war engulfed France she had to leave Paris and then it was a case of moving from one safe house to another to escape the round-up of those Jews in Vichy France who fled to this part of France to seek safety. For Françoise she missed this by just moments. Now she needed to find somewhere to hide and then escape before she was arrested and then sent to a concentration camp.

There was of course those in Vichy France who would easily tell the authorities of her whereabouts but at the same time there was those who bravely hid those Jewish men, women and children knowing too well if caught they would be tortured and then killed.

It was June 1943 that with help Françoise managed to cross the border and arrived in Switzerland. She was safe. It was here she sought solace in writing No Place to Lay One’s Head and was published in September 1945. Only selling a small number of copies. Françoise Frenkel’s memoir was then discovered in a flea market in France in 2010 and translated into English. Though there is no mention of Françoise’s husband who was captured by the Nazis and was murdered at Auschwitz during 1942.

This is a truly heartbreaking memoir written just after she escaped France to neutral Switzerland. It is also an astonishing read and one I could not put down once I had started and after I had finished I wanted to know more about Françoise Frenkel. This is a book that cries out to be read and No Place to Lay One’s Head is highly recommended.

In the years that followed the war I can only hope that Françoise found the peace she craved. Françoise Frenkel died in Nice, France in January 1975.

304 Pages.

Thank you Tabitha Pelly for the review copy of No Place to Lay One’s Head by Françoise Frenkel

No Place to Lay One’s Head by Françoise Frenkel was published by Pushkin Press and was published on 31st January 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

The Long Night – Ernst Israel Bornstein

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The Long Night – Ernst Israel Bornstein

I am so very grateful to Noemie Lopian. Noemie is the daughter of Ernst Israel Bornstein and back in December she contacted me about her father’s book The Long Night. This is his first-hand account of what Ernst endured and witnessed in seven concentration camps. January 27th 2019 is Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom HaShoah) and a day we remember the six million of Jewish men, women and children who were murdered at the hands of the Nazis.

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Ernst was just 17-years-old when the Nazis arrived at their Polish home in March 1941 and arrested him and in front of his fearful mother he was beaten and marched off to a labour camp. Glancing up at the window of their home was his mother. He was not sure when he would see her again. For Ernst this was the start of years of one concentration camp to another and the death marches were many were murdered while being marched from one camp to another.

The vision of seeing his tearful mother from the window of their home stayed with him. He was never to see his mother again. I read that from an extended family of 72 only six survived the Holocaust one was his sister.

To survive seven concentration and the murderous death marches was nothing short of a miracle for Ernst. Witnessing those close to him and the friends he made being killed would live with him forever. Ernst learnt how to survive in the concentration camps from one day to another it was a strategy that kept him alive. Keeping alive deep within him his love for his family. A burning desire deep inside to survive and see them again. But as time passed and stories of mass murder at other camps he was never sure were his family was or if they were still alive.

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Gross-rosen Concentration Camp, Lower Silesia

I have over the years read many books on the Holocaust and also survivors own stories. The Long Night deserves a place in history purely because of how Ernst Israel Bornstein describes in his own emotional words. It is the historical accounts from survivors of the Holocaust that are important as they tell the reader what it was actually like because they were there and witnessed the horror on a daily basis not knowing that as a new day dawned if they would ever see the sun go down that evening. These are their words.

The Long Night for Ernst lasted from the time the Nazis invaded Poland until he was liberated by the American Army. It was a Long Night that lasted over 5 years. Ernst Survived and lived to tell the world his story. It is hard to imagine how anyone could remember so much and in great detail. How he watched those around him being cut down or reduced to just nothing as they were given so little to eat yet treated brutally day and night.

It was survival of the fittest and they would fight for a scrap of food not knowing when they would get to eat again. Some reduced to eating blades of grass to try and survive.

Survive Ernst did and after the war he went to medical school and became a loving father. Survivors of the Concentration Camps have to then survive life after the camps and learn in their own way to survive. Many cannot speak of the time in the camps until many years later. It was in 1967 that Ernst published his account of life at the hands of the Nazis with ‘Die Lange Nacht’ in Germany.

Ernst Israel Bornstein died in 1978 of a heart condition. His daughter Noemie with the help of a translator published the English edition The Long Night (The Toby Press) in 2015 with a prefaced later by the then Prime Minister David Cameron.

Both Ernst’s parents and two sisters perished at Auschwitz.

I will continue to share the stories of Holocaust survivors through my blog as I have always beleived it is important to keep their stories alive for future generations.

384 Pages.

@nolorelmini 

@HMD_UK

@HolocaustCentUK

#HMD2019

Thank you Noemie Lopian for a copy of your father’s book The Long Night.

The Long Night by Ernst Israel Bornstein was published on 21st January 2015 by Toby Press LLC and is available through to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

The Last Act of Love – Cathy Rentzenbrink

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The Last Act of Love – Cathy Rentzenbrink

2019 marks the 10th Anniversary of the Wellcome Book Prize. As part of the celebrations there is a Blog Tour and each of the winning books from 2009 to 2018. I am delighted today to bring you the winning book from 2016. The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink.

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This is the true story of Cathy’s brother Matt who in 1990 was hit by a car on the way home from a night out. As Matt lay in hospital just a few weeks before his GCSE results were to be announced Cathy and her parents sat beside Matt as he lay unconscious. Matt was never going to regain consciousness. Then as the hospital announced that there was no more that they could do for Matt they decided to take Matt home and for eight years they cared for him. Then the painful decision to apply to the courts to allow them to withdraw feeding him and allowing Matt to die.

This is an immensely powerful and moving memoir that tells the story of those years and the utterly heartbreaking decision to allow Matt to die. The pain and guilt must have been so overwhelming as hard as a decision as it was it was a decision to allow Matt to finally rest in peace and allow both parents and Cathy to grieve and start the long road to live again.

But for Cathy this was no easy journey, the grieving continued and depression sets in. Days when she thought she could cope but the depression was always in the background. It is not easy to write about someone so close to you and their death and how it hits you even years later always hoping for a miracle. Sadly, for Matt there was no miracle and left Cathy in a void. She sometimes believed it would have been better if it was her not Matt involved in the hit and run.

We are left to cope, they say with time it gets easier and life goes on? But the guilt remains. Why Matt and not me?

The Last Act of Love is devastatingly raw and powerful but also one of courage. Highly Recommended.

256 Pages.

@wellcomebkprize

Thank you to Charlotte Cooper (Midas PR) for the copy of The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink

The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink was published by Picador and was published on 2nd July 2015 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

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The Choice: A True Story of Hope – Edith Eger

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The Choice: A True Story of Hope – Edith Eger

Edith Eger is a survivor, but no ordinary survivor as she survived the worst hell on earth imaginable.

The Choice by Edith Eger is her memoir of surviving Auschwitz and how she used this to help others. But the one thing that struck me about this incredible book is that it does not begin with Auschwitz but it starts in 1980 in the USA.

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It was 1944 and 16-year-old Edith Eger and her Hungarian family were rounded up and sent with other Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz Concentration Camp where she and her sister was separated from her parents. Her parents were sent straight to the gas chambers with others. Edith was a ballerina and had hopes of making the Olympic Games. Soon after arriving at Auschwitz she was made to dance for evil camp doctor Josef Mengele. At any moment a wag of his finger meant you would face death in the gas chamber. What Edith endured and witnessed over the course of the next year is nothing short of horrific. Edith was then transferred then onto the notorious Mauthausen Concentration Camp then later rescued by American soldiers as she was close to dying.

What Edith does for many years is to keep her story of her time in Auschwitz to herself not wanting to tell anyone of the horrors she endured and witnessed. But it was time to tell the world her story and in turn this keeps the stories of survivor’s alive forever. The Choice is not just a story of Edith’s survival of the Holocaust but it is also one of hope and also at the same time one of helping others come to terms and help to heal wounds of the past. Learning to live again and indeed Edith did just that by being a mother to three children and pursuing a career in psychology.

An incredible book that left me numb at the horrors Edith went through but also the hope that The Choice brings to the reader. Highly Recommended.

384 Pages.

The Choice: A True Story of Hope by Edith Eger was published (Paperback version) by Rider and was published on 16th August 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

Holocaust Memorial Day 2019 takes place on January 27th and it is the day the Russian army liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp in occupied Poland. A day for everyone to remember the six million Jewish people murdered in the Holocaust. #HolocaustMemorialDay #HMD2019

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The Jewish Book Week takes place in London from 2-10th March 2019. Tickets for around 80 events including book talks and discussions are available to book. See the official website for more details: Jewish Book Week I am delighted to be named as one of the Blog Partners for this year’s event. #JBW2019

Red Snow – Will Dean

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Red Snow – Will Dean

It does not seem too long ago that I was talking about Dark Pines and Tuva Moodyson the deaf reporter at the centre of the story. If you really loved Dark Pines as much as I and the many thousands of readers did, then I have news for you. Tuva Moodyson is back in the second book just released called Red Snow by Will Dean and it is even better.

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Tuva Moodyson is looking forward to starting her new role and also leaving behind the town of Gavrik. This is always what she has wanted. Moving to Malmo is a big step up. The Liquorice factory has been a place where many of the local inhabitants have worked. But now it is going to be at the centre of this story as someone has fallen from the roof the building but if that is not enough soon after another body is found but this is sinister as two liquorice coins are covering its eyes.

Now Tuva our investigative reporter has just a few weeks to find the who is behind the deaths. Could we get to know Tuva any more after book one. Well we do and Will Dean does not really hold back as we get to know Tuva a little more. But the storyline really centres on Gavrik and the liquorice factory that is as dark and foreboding as the local forest. You either love liquorice or you hate it and this really is how the locals see the factory. A means to an end. That’s it. But some of the characters who work here are just a little quirky to say the least.

The killer has been given the name of the ‘Ferryman’ and now Tuva must find the ‘Ferryman’ before the killer strikes again and the locals are a little nervous. Add to this there is a snowstorm which makes the town more eerie and dark.

Does Tuva uncover the killer or do they stop her from leaving Gavrik to start her new life? Now you have to read Red Snow to discover what really happens next.

400 Pages.

Thank you to Point Blank Books for the review copy of Red Snow by Will Dean

Red Snow by Will Dean was published by and was published on 10th January 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

 

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

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The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

What a cracking start to 2019 with a good old fashioned murder mystery and The Hunting Party (Harper Collins) the debut crime novel Lucy Foley and what a cracking edge of your seat thriller it turned out to be. The perfect read between Christmas and New Year as you will see why.

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It is New Year’s Eve at a group of friends have come together to see in the New Year in style at The Loch Corrin Estate which is a typical out of the way hunting lodge in the Highlands. A Hogmanay to remember as it turned out for all the wrong reasons.

Snow is falling and it is turning out to be a white out, real blizzard conditions. So a group of friends who all went to oxford spend their New Year’s Eve year on year together. The story starts on New Year’s Day and something is very wrong as one of the guests is missing and a body has been found. This was no accident in the snow. This is murder. So who done it and why?

This group of friends now in their thirties have known each other for some years so who has been murdered and it is clear the killer is one of the party. With the snow getting worse. No-one is leaving and the police cannot get to the lodge due to the bad weather.

We do not know who has been murdered as Lucy Foley keeps us guessing as we work back and forth and are introduced to each of the characters and what a group of characters they are. Then there are the staff. There are three on duty for the Hogmanay celebrations and we get to know each of them. The plot is thickening and past history is bubbling to the surface.

There is something brilliantly old about reading The Hunting Party, knowing you are trapped inside this old lodge and there is a killer among you and will they strike again?

The characters really do bring something to the party and eerie setting makes for a chilling and twisty plot.

This will keep you gripped to the very end. Brilliant writing from Lucy Foley makes The Hunting Party a one to watch for January 2019. I would order your copy today. How well do you know your friends?

400 Pages.

Thank you to for the review copy of Emilie Chambeyron (Harper Collins) for the review copy of The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley is published by Harper Collins on 24th January 2018 and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

 

 

The Books that made my year – 2018

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As another year comes to a close we look back on 2018 and the news might be full of bad news but in the world of books it has been another great year. Sales are continuing to grow in both physical hard copy but audio books are also booming. This really is great news and added to this more independent books shops have opened during the year with the trend set to continue. With the high street struggling like never before it is just heartening to see the growth of sales in books. Just a few years ago some were saying the days of the hard copy book were doomed.

2018 will be a year that I will remember for years to come. So many great books have been read some sadly I have not had time to read and will miss this end of year review. I look back with great memories to take away from this year whether it the honour of being asked blog about some of the books and authors for The 2018 Jewish Book Festival to being invited to assist with a very special book On Courage: Stories of Victoria Cross and George Cross Holders a day surrounded by some of the bravest men and women. Real heroes. Also to be involved with The Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize a book prize that is dedicated to books on natural history and the great outdoors. Then of course there was The Lost Words project I launched for Somerset Primary Schools in August which is still going to this very day. The generosity of many that made this a success. To those behind the scenes who helped and are still helping I could not have done this without you. To the many radio interviews not just in Somerset but across the UK and also in Europe. In the early part of the Summer I was invited to take a tour of The London Library which turned out to be an incredible experience a very special place that holds over one million books on over 17 miles of shelving. You walk in the footsteps of literary giants.

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So this brings me to my 15 books of 2018. The books that made my year. This was incredibly hard as so many could have made it in.

The choices are in no particular order so there is no number one book just the best of the year.

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Our House – Louise Candlish

(Simon & Schuster) 5th April 2018

Fi Lawson arrives home to find strangers moving into her house. The terror of knowing your life is about to be turned upside down and all the possessions of your life with Bram have gone and who are these people moving into the home they never had any intention of selling. Bram has made a dreadful mistake and there is a price to pay. Now there are score to settle. Both have secrets that they kept from each other.

Our House is a gripping domestic noir read that I recall racing through and kept up long into the night.

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All Among the Barley – Melissa Harrison

(Bloomsbury) – 23rd August 2018

With memories of The Great War still in the minds and memories of the community it casts a shadow across the fields as the autumn harvest approaches. It is 1933 the glamorous Constance arrives from London to write about the traditions of the Suffolk farming community. For Edie Mather adulthood is approaching and the arrival of Constance is seen by Edie to be everything she longs for. But there is something more to Constance than Edie thinks. This is a remarkable and powerful novel from the Costa Shortlisted author of Hawthorn Time.

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Three Things About Elsie – Joanna Cannon

(The Borough Press – 11th January 2018

With a Battenburg cover Three Things About Elsie is just a wonderful and delicious story. 84-Year-old Florence has had a fall and as she lies there waiting for help to come she wonders if some part of her past is come back. Florence lives in a flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly and she wonders if the new resident is who he claims to be as he died sixty years ago. It is a beautiful, charming and profound novel from the author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep. Three Things About Elsie was longlisted for The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018.

 

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Something of His Art – Horatio Clare

(Little Toller Books) – 11th October 2018

(Non-fiction choice)

The year is 1705 and the yet unknown Johann Sebastian Bach is earning a living as a teacher and organist sets off on more than a 250 mile walk from Arnstadt to Lübeck to visit a composer. This was to be a pivotal time for the young J.S. Bach and this short book tells of his walk and Horatio Clare walks in his footsteps and re-traces that walk that was to change Bach’s life. Based on the BBC Radio 3 series of the same Horatio talks of the walk, the sights, and sounds and natural history that would have accompanied Bach on this epic adventure that would see him become the greatest composer.

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The Lost Letters of William Woolf – Helen Cullen

(Michael Joseph) – 12th July 2018

William Woolf works for the Dead Letters Depot in East London were he spends his days solving mysteries that include terrible hand writing, missing post codes, torn packages to name but a few. Then he discovers letters addressed to ‘My Great Love’ and suddenly life for William Woolf takes on a whole new perspective. These letters written by a woman to a man she has not met yet, and William now starts to think that he could be the man the letters are meant for. Now he must take on his biggest mystery to follow the clues in the letters and solve the biggest mystery of all. The human heart. This is a charming and romantic novel a wonderful debut. Shortlisted for the Newcomer of the Year – Irish Book Awards.

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The Wood: The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood – John Lewis-Stempel

(Doubleday) – 8th March 2018

(Non-fiction choice)

For four years John Lewis-Stempel managed a mixed woodland of three and a half acres that is Cockshutt Wood and raised cows and pigs that had free reign through these woods. This is John’s month by month account of his last year managing the wood. Through the lives of the trees and the birds and animals that made this wood their home a sanctuary for the wildlife and also for the author. You are there through the changing seasons through to the final days of John’s management of the woods that became his spiritual home. This is a man in tune with the natural world and one of the country’s finest natural history writers. Longlisted for the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize 2018.

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Anatomy of a Scandal – Sarah Vaughan

(Simon & Schuster) 11th January 2018

A scandal that will rock Westminster. This is a high profile marriage and James has been accused of a shocking crime and his wife Sophie believes in him and will protect the family. Kate on the other hand is the Barrister who believes he is guilty and will make sure he pays for the crimes he has committed.

This is an explosive thriller that will keep the reader on the edge of their chair until the very end. Superbly written with great characters. A story of marriage and power and who has it and how they use it. Totally absorbing and gripping.

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The Last Wilderness – Neil Ansell

(Tinder Press) – 8th February 2018

(Non-fiction choice)

Nature and solitude. Neil Ansell has spent the best part of his life walking the remote parts of Britain but here in The Last Wilderness he takes on the part of Scottish Highlands but doing so as he talks of his hearing loss and hoe this affects his love of the great outdoors and the birds he loved to hear that have now become silent. To be in the wilderness is to be at one with nature. It is indeed a love letter to both the wilderness and to the Highlands of Scotland. The wonderful rich writing of Neill Ansell almost makes you believe you are there walking in his footsteps. A treasure of a book. Shortlisted for The Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize 2018.

I LOVE YOU TOO MUCH

I Love You Too Much – Alicia Drake

(Picador) – 8th February 2018

A novel based in Paris and centred around Paul a quiet and lonely boy who is unloved. He spends his time watching those in his family and his rather glamourous mother Séverine and her musician boyfriend Gabriel. For a boy who closely observes his family and their daily lives, you just know one day he will see something he is not supposed to see.

Paul seeks the friendship of the not so quiet Scarlett and the patisseries of this part of Paris. Paul is crying out to be loved but what if love does not come his way. What then? This is a book I totally loved and still do to this day. So deserving to be read by a wider audience. It is deft and intelligent and so beautifully told. One book I would I would recommend.

 

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Erebus: A story of a Ship – Michael Palin

(Hutchinson Books) – 20th September 2018

(Non-fiction choice)

Michael Palin tells the story of the ill-fated journey of HMS Erebus and its crew that set sail for the arctic in search of the North West Passage. In 1845 it disappeared with HMS Terror along with their crews. What really happened? A story of the ship and its crew as Palin recounts the adventure and ultimately the biggest naval disaster. Together with photographs this makes for a remarkable read for anyone who has an interest in the sea or adventures.

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Dark Pines – Will Dean

(Point Blank) – 14th June 2018

An impressive debut by Will Dean. Dark Pines is dark, chilling and atmospheric. Set in an isolated Swedish town. An unsolved murder from two decades ago a deaf reporter trying to find a story that could make her career. Now Tuva needs to find the killer before she becomes the killers next target. But there are secrets in the pine woods were Tuva must venture. If she solves the crime she could find a way out of the small of Gavrik and finally make a name for herself. Dark Pines is the thriller that really beats all thrillers in 2018 and is the first in a series with Red Snow about to be released in January 2019. If I had to choose my book of the year Dark Pines would be that book. If you have not read Dark Pines and thrillers are your genre, then read it now!

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Owl Sense – Dr Miriam Darlington

(Guardian Faber Publishing) 8th February 2018

(Non-fiction choice)

I have been fascinated by Owls all my life and have been lucky to have travelled and seen many species of Owl in Europe, Africa and the Caribbean and I loved Owl Sense by Miriam Darlington she takes walks with her son seeking species of UK Owls. Then she travels into Europe from France to Spain, Serbia and Finland and close to the arctic lands of snow and ice. But this book not only is a story of a quest for Owls but her son Benji becomes very ill and then suddenly it is also a quest for a cure. Owl Sense brings to life the mysterious lives of Owls and what we are so fascinated with these mysterious birds.

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The Lingering – SJI Holliday

(Orenda Books) – 15th November 2018

This dark and creepy ghost story is best read during the dark hours as it really sets the tone. Though you might not want to switch the light off after.

Jack and Ali move have moved into a self-sufficient commune set in Rosalind House, the local village it is said is were witches roamed and the home itself has a dark and sinister past. But it is not long after they arrive that things start to happen. Now the residents and locals are nervous, something or someone is seeking retribution. But why? Terrifying and unnerving. The Lingering really had me spooked. Superbly written and a storyline that holds until the very end.

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Take Nothing With You – Patrick Gale

(Tinder Press) – 21st August 2018

Set in the 1970’s West-Super-Mare and only son Eustace has been signed up for Cello lessons by his mother. Music is an escape for Eustace and his lessons from his teacher he cannot get enough of. But it is his mother that is not sure of the glamorous teacher. Soon though it is lessons in life and love that take on whole new meanings for Eustace. This is beautifully told story of coming of age and finding out who you really are told with real compassion. A truly wonderful read.

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The Lost Words – Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris

(Hamish Hamilton) – 5th October 2017

(Non-fiction choice)

After everything this year, I could not leave The Lost Words out of my selection for the year. It has been the bedrock of my year.

Imagine a world where children no longer talk of Heron’s, Otters, Bluebells, Acorns, Conkers, Dandelion, Bramble to name but a few. Well there are around 50 words that The Oxford Dictionary for Children removed. What they did not reckon on was Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane. Here is the most beautiful book imaginable. In words spoken as Spell-Poems and paintings by the amazing Jackie Morris they both bring these words back to life.

Many people across the country have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to bring this book in into Schools, care homes and hospitals. Even today many more are planned to launch. A truly remarkable book that has a life all of its own. And this story for Somerset has only just begun.

And so there we have it. As the old year ends and a new one is about to begin and so it starts all over again. It has been a pleasure and an honour to work with such incredible writers and publishers and I thank them all for their incredible work.

In 2019 I have some great plans ahead I am honoured to have been asked to be an official blogger for The Jewish Book Festival in early March. I will be podcasting through the year and hope to take the podcast on the road to talk to writers and may be a few publishers. I will be doing my usual book giveaways when time permits and also there will be The Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize.

Have a happy and peaceful 2019 and remember “We read to know that we are not alone”. Books take us to places and to escape all the bad news of the day.

John

The Last Word Book Review

 

Erebus: The Story of a Ship – Michael Palin

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Erebus: The Story of a Ship – Michael Palin

I love the sea and stories of the ships that have explored the seas. Michael Palin is well known for his travelling and writing but when I heard that he had released a book on the ill-fated Arctic exploration to find the North West Passage and the famous ship HMS Erebus I was incredibly excited as I have followed this story for many years. Erebus: A Story of a Ship is the story of HMS Erebus from its launch in 1826 as a warship to its disappearance in 1845.

 

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I love the sea and stories of the ships that have explored the seas. Michael Palin is well known for his travelling and writing but when I heard that he had released a book on the ill-fated Arctic exploration to find the North West Passage and the famous ship HMS Erebus I was incredibly excited as I have followed this story for many years. Erebus: A Story of a Ship is the story of HMS Erebus from its launch in 1826 as a warship to its disappearance in 1845.

The last resting place of HMS Erebus was finally discovered in 2014 and the photographs of Erebus on the Arctic seabed are just incredible. The freezing waters and lack of Oxygen have preserved the ship so well. This is where Palin starts and then winds the clock back as he tells of the birth of HMS Erebus as a ‘Bomb Ship’. She was small in size (104ft) compared to other warships of the time. After two years’ service it was converted as an exploration ship.

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HMS Erebus and Terror trapped in the ice.

On the ill-fated expatiation Erebus was accompanied by HMS Terror and the two ships under the Captaincy of Sir John Franklin set off on the disastrous expedition and were last seen in Baffin Bay in August 1845. This is really where the story really begins as the crews of both ships knew they were trapped in the ice and the only hope of survival was to abandon Erebus and Terror. The stories of the fate of the men of both ships and how they tried to survive the Arctic conditions as the dragged lifeboats packed with supplies over the ice.

What followed was dramatic search effort to find the crew and ships and Palin writes with incredible detail after so much research. The characters of the crews not to mention Sir John Franklin himself. Anyone who has read any of Michael Palin’s previous books will already know of his writing style which make this book such an incredible read and for me I have learnt so much of both the ships and crew. Contained within the book are colour and black and white photographs which are incredible all by themselves and just add to the detail. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

352 Pages.

@HutchinsonBooks  #Erebus 

Erebus: The Story of a Ship by Michael Palin was published by Hutchinson Books and was published on 20th September 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

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