Category Archives: Books

Bristol Book events coming up in February

11 February – 14:30
Waterstones, The Galleries
Children’s author Maz Evans talks about her book Who Let the Gods Out?

Waterstones, Broadmead, Bristol, BS1 3XD
T: 0117 925 2274 W: www.waterstones.com

 

 

 

11 February – 11:00 to 16:00

Waterstones, The Galleries

Walker and travel writer Christopher Somerville will be at Waterstones signing copies of his new book January Man and the Times Britain’s Best Walks.

https://www.waterstones.com/events/christopher-somerville-in-the-shop/bristol-galleries

 

 

11 to 19 February – 14:00 – 16:00
Foyles, Bristol
Half-Term Story Corner
Children’s Event, Free Event
For the little ones during half-term, there will be colouring, drawing, quiet reading time, and complimentary squash and biscuits!

There will be a cosy corner set up in the children’s section between 14:00 and 16:00 throughout the whole week of half-term as well as free refreshments and giving away stickers.

Foyles, Cabot Circus, Bristol, BS1 3BH

23 February – 18:30 – 20:00
Spike Island

As part of the Novel Writers series, Emma Flint talks about her novel Little Deaths.

It’s the summer of 1965, and the streets of Queens, New York shimmer in a heatwave. One July morning, Ruth Malone wakes to find a bedroom window wide open and her two young children missing. After a desperate search, the police make a horrifying discovery.

The sexism at the heart of the real-world conviction of cocktail waitress Alice Crimmins for the 1965 murders of her two young children forms the basis of British author Flint’s gripping debut.

Spike Island, 133 Cumberland Road, Bristol BS1 6UX

27 February 2017 – 19:00
Waterstones, The Galleries

Dorit Rabinyan talks about her new novel All the Rivers. chance encounter in New York brings two strangers together: Liat is a translation student, Hilmi a talented young painter. Together they explore the city, share fantasies, jokes and homemade meals and fall in love. There is only one problem: Liat is from Israel, Hilmi from Palestine.

https://www.waterstones.com/events/festival-of-ideas-at-waterstones-dorit-rabinyan/bristol-galleries

Waterstones, Broadmead, Bristol, BS1 3XD
T: 0117 925 2274 W: www.waterstones.com

28 February – 19:00
Waterstones, The Galleries

Simon Sebag Montefiore talks about his internationally acclaimed book The Romanovs, the Waterstones Non-Fiction Book of the Month.

 

Nan Shepherd, The Weatherhouse, review

canongate weatherhouseI chose this book because of the cover, which is stunning. The blocks of colours are reminiscent of a golden time, especially in terms of classic old books and detective novels.

Instead, I found a completely different world to what I expected. I hadn’t realised this was a story written in 1930, and didn’t realise it until after I’d given up reading. It makes a bit of sense that I struggled with the dialect, not realising it was Scottish at all. I thought it was perhaps some type of olden colonial American.

There was a cast of characters at the start, which these days is redundant because an author is expected to be able to introduce her characters well enough for them and their connections to be made obvious and remembered.

I read up to 11% (according to Kindle) and I still hadn’t found a storyline. I think a house had an extension built on it to connect it to another house and this extension was the titled ‘Weatherhouse’. I struggled with the dialogue because I couldn’t understand the dialect. Other readers will hopefully have a better time with it.

<< ‘He’s eident, but he doesna win through,’ he would sometimes say sorrowfully. ‘Feel Weelum,’ the folk called him. ‘Oh, nae sae feel,’ said Jonathan Bannochie the souter. ‘He kens gey weel whaur his pottage bickers best.’ To Francie he was still ‘The Journeyman.’ >>
I have no idea what the above says.

Also, I was frustrated by descriptions of a tale that I couldn’t understand.

<< "Granny loves a tale. Particularly with a wicked streak. “A spectacle,” she said, “a second Katherine Bran.” Katherine Bran was somebody in a tale, I believe. And then she said, “You have your theatres and your picture palaces, you folk. You make a grand mistake.” And she told us there was no spectacle like what’s at our own doors. “Set her in the jougs and up on the faulters’ stool with her, for fourteen Sabbaths, as they did with Katherine, and where’s your picture palace then?” A merry prank, she called it. Well!—“The faulter’s stool and a penny bridal,” she said, “and you’ve spectacle to last you, I’se warren.” Granny’s very amusing when she begins with old tales.’ >>
I couldn’t understand how Granny was amusing because I didn’t understand what she was saying.

There was a particular use of the adjective ‘delicious’ to describe a room, which irritated me no end. It’s probably quite a clever use of delicious to mean tastes good, that then leads on to a room decorated in ‘good taste’. Perhaps. All I could think was of someone sitting in ice cream.

What the book is about:
The women of the tiny town of Fetter-Rothnie have grown used to a life without men, and none more so than the tangle of mothers and daughters, spinsters and widows living at the Weatherhouse. Returned from war with shellshock, Garry Forbes is drawn into their circle as he struggles to build a new understanding of the world from the ruins of his grief. In The Weatherhouse Nan Shepherd paints an exquisite portrait of a community coming to terms with the brutal losses of war, and the small tragedies, yearnings and delusions that make up a life.

– I will have to try reading it again at a different pace and with further context. It certainly wasn’t for me right now.

The Weatherhouse by Nan Shepherd. Downloaded from NetGalley.

Novel Writers – Spike Island – two authors

Novel Writers

Spike Island hosts debut authors each month at their Novel Writers event.  In January there are two authors.

On Wednesday, January 25, Yaa Gyasi reads from and discusses her debut novel Homegoing at Waterstones, Galleries.

Wednesday 25 January, 7–8pm

Waterstones, 11A Union Galleries, Broadmead Bristol BS1 3XD

Homegoing begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver.
Book your place (please note: this event is taking place at Waterstones, Bristol Galleries)

On  Thursday 26 January, 6.30–8pm, Wyl Menmuir reads from and discusses The Many.

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016, The Many, by Cornish writer Wyl Menmuir is an unsettling ecological parable that explores the impact of loss and the devastation that hits when the foundations on which we rely are swept away.

Mitch Albom, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto. Review.

3D-frankie-e1439344972792The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto starts off a little slowly as the narrator gets themself established. Considering that the narrator is music itself, this isn’t an easy task but it does make for a little of a slow burn. If anyone can pull it off, it’s Albom whose previous successes give him some leeway.

It’s like when JK Rowling spent pages and pages describing all the departments in the Ministry of Magic describing everything. It didn’t progress the storyline but by that point, no one was censoring her. Frankie Presto is a much shorter story than any Harry Potter could be, however.

Music, our narrator, is at the funeral of one of its beloved musicians, one of, if not the best one that there has been, Frankie Presto. A Spanish documentary is being made about Presto and the story cuts back and forth from Frankie’s childhood to his end. The book is full of cameos from all sorts of famous people such as Lyle Lovett, Duke Ellington, and Wynton Marsalis who either provide their best story or featuring in Frankie’s progress.

With such powerful emotions and dramatic tellings, long-time musician Albom keeps the telling sparse but appropriately wrapped in musical metaphors.

It’s a beautifully told story and I read it in one day. Highly recommended.

Downloaded from NetGalley.

Bristol Book Group Social – next meeting

The next meeting for Bristol Book Group Social

Time: 8pm, Thursday 19th of January 2017

Place: King William Pub. 20 King St, Bristol, Avon BS1 4EF ‎(upstairs part)

Books: The Night Manager by John le Carré, Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes and Bad Science by Ben Goldacre. Reading all of the books is not required, pick whichever one interests you the most.

Future plans

We’ll be meeting again in February, when we’ll be discussing Travels with My Aunt by Graham Greene, His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet and The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller.

You can find Bristol Book Group Social on Facebook.

In sunlight or in shadow by Lawrence Block

in-light-or-in-shadow“Edward Hopper is surely the greatest American narrative painter. His work bears special resonance for writers and readers, and yet his paintings never tell a story so much as they invite viewers to find for themselves the untold stories within.”

So says Lawrence Block, who has invited seventeen outstanding writers to join him in an unprecedented anthology of brand-new stories: In Sunlight or In Shadow. The results are remarkable and range across all genres, wedding literary excellence to storytelling savvy.

Contributors include Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Olen Butler, Michael Connelly, Megan Abbott, Craig Ferguson, Nicholas Christopher, Jill D. Block, Joe R. Lansdale, Justin Scott, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Warren Moore, Jonathan Santlofer, Jeffery Deaver, Lee Child, and Lawrence Block himself. Even Gail Levin, Hopper’s biographer and compiler of his catalogue raisonee, appears with her own first work of fiction, providing a true account of art theft on a grand scale and told in the voice of the country preacher who perpetrated the crime.

In a beautifully produced anthology as befits such a collection of acclaimed authors, each story is illustrated with a quality full-color reproduction of the painting that inspired it.

What I thought: this collection of short stories promises a lot and delivers superbly. It’s hard to see how it could fail with such writers as King and Olen Butler amongst those chosen but it’s not only the writing. Hopper’s work is ideally suited for narrative explanation; for the befores and afters. A couple on a porch or a woman at a window. The paintings may have been left as ambiguous and undefined but these writers take up what was left unsaid.

This was one of my favourite books this year.

In Sunlight or in Shadow, edited by Lawrence Block.

Deluded in Love by Rema King, freelance editing

I have been a freelance editor now officially since October 2015 but haven’t shared too much more other than my aspirations to help people. One thing I have stopped worrying about is being a kind of vigilante evangelist who tells every writer she’s read how they could fix their book. I’ve stopped primarily because my friend Judith pointed out that not everyone can afford to have their work edited, and then I realised that it would be cruel and not helpful at all. So I’ve stopped my ambulance-chasing editing ways.

Instead I thought I’d just share with you some of the books I have edited. I freelance with BookHelpline.co.uk and Deluded in Love by Rema King is one of the works I’ve been involved with.

Suzanne Sinclair is a single parent and up-and-coming celebrity who is plagued by traumatic memories of her abusive past. When she meets Carlton Patrick, an ex-convict, she’s drawn into a world where, deluded in love, she exposes herself to deceit, betrayal and ultimately, murder. Suzanne reminds us we must be careful what we wish for, because we might just get it.

Take a look at the book trailer, if you’re so inclined. This is a great book and I feel great about being able to tell people about it.

You can find the book on Amazon and Rema’s Facebook page is here.

Penned In by Graeme White

Penned In by Graeme White

Bristol author Graeme White has published his first book, Penned In. It is available on Kindle.

Penned In is one of the first books I edited and and it has to be one of the most quirky and fun books yet.

Where do you think magic really lives? Do you think it lurks in isolated and ancient areas away from our sprawling cities? If so, you’d be wrong. Magic exists, is aware of us, and connects to our world by the last thing you would consider but no doubt own.

Join Steve as he finds out the truth to a question he certainly didn’t ask to have answered, and as his life undergoes a complete upheaval in New City; an unoriginal name for a more than unique metropolis.

I’ve known Graeme for years so when he asked me to take a look at his book I was a bit cautious. It’s not easy to tell friends what you really think of their writing. It may sound a bit cheesy but I loved the book from the start. When the main character Steve thinks the best way to deal with his problems is to take a nap but then finds himself on a subway train that is incredibly futuristic, I knew there were some quirky and fresh ideas to come.

A lot of the story is so unexpected and curious that it’s hard to explain. There’s a mix of Douglas Adams combined with YA and fantasy genres. I liked it and I hope you do too.

Review: Magisterium by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

The Copper Gauntlet A boy about to turn 13 coming home from a school in which he learns magic sounds a lot like Harry Potter but don’t be fooled like I was. Within the first chapter of Magisterium, the first book – The Iron Trial –  there are twists and turns and a lot of colour which had me surprised and curious.

The writing is readable and the story consistently manages to surprise but not in a an-over-the-top way.

What the publishers say:

In the Iron Trial, the first book, Callum Hunt has no idea what he’ll come up against in the Iron Trial but if he passes the test he’ll become a student of magic at the Magisterium. All his life, however, Call has been warned against magic and even though he tries to stay away, he fails.

Now He must enter the Magisterium and it’s even more sensational and sinister than he could ever have imagined.

What I thought:

The tone is sent by the prologue which ends in a bit of an unexpected twist and makes the book very hard to put down after that. In the story, Call is 12 and a bit cheeky a bit naughty, a lot sarcastic and not exactly your lovely Harry Potter type character. He has the potential for using magic by drawing on the four elements: earth, fire, air and water.

The background is set out amongst the action so it doesn’t slow down the story much. In fact, all the elements of the story aim to progress the action and are never there just for the sake it. The writing is concise but descriptive and the tangents aren’t really tangents.

I liked it and was happy to move on to the second book: The Copper Gauntlet.

What the publishers say:

Call is now about to turn 13 and has returned from Magisterium victorious. He is now a mage in his own right – a Copper Year student. He has friends; he feels at home in the winding tunnels of the mysterious magical school.

But Call hides a terrible secret.

His soul is not his own. His body is a vessel for a powerful evil mage, wielder of chaos magic … murderer.

Salvation could lie in the Alkahest, a mysterious copper gauntlet. But it is a dangerous object, with a violent history. It could destroy everything Call knows and loves … and release the evil in him.

What I thought:

After a few months of reading nominees for the Baileys Women’s Fiction Prize I thought I would find this a little too casual for me but I really enjoyed it. This is a character and plot driven novel which gathers pace and then speeds things up even more. The scenes are short and instead of sticking to the same theme they then change.

I thought it was a bit risky starting with a character who was ‘evil’ as such but things aren’t quite how they seem and a lot of humour about the Evil Overlord goes a long way. I found it entertaining. I even liked the Star Wars hints in there, especially with the latest one coming out soon. In Star Wars, in case you didn’t know, the father and son follow similar paths with both having a similar flaw – wanting to rush things and not waiting until they finished their training.

See if you can spot something similar in Magisterium.

The Copper Gauntlet is the second of five Magisterium books by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. Holly Black is a prolific author with a few sets of books out there. She has just sold her latest trilogy The Folk of the Air to Hot Key Books and has previously written the Modern Faerie Tale series, as well as co-authoring The Spiderwick Chronicles and Magisterium.

Being positive and offering editing services

books_150629a

Almost two years ago now, I started to hunt for every book / fictional work that mentioned or was set in Bristol. I turned this into the Best Bristol Novel search. It turns out the best way to do that was to become the Books Editor of a magazine. Since I only write about Bristol authors or relevant Bristol fiction, I overwhelmingly come across more and more Bristol novels.

I also come across novels that could do with some editing. A friend book blogger tells authors that she only accepts professionally edited works but I often get sent books unsolicited so I don’t have much choice. I can’t find it in me to send back criticism or what I feel would be good advice, because however well-intentioned, it still feels like spreading negativity.

Instead, I will focus on what I can do, let people know that I offer editing services ranging from copy editing to story structure suggestions.

If people feel they need some help with their writing then they can contact me at joanna@ephemeraldigest.com for a quote or some advice. This isn’t just for Bristol writers and sending me your manuscript doesn’t mean that I will write about you. This is a service I am offering so that when I receive something full of mistakes I won’t have to point them out. (Aside: Would you point them out?)

For a wider range of what is available to writers, also check Book Helpline (Disclaimer: with whom I occasionally work**) for a comprehensive description of what they offer in story advice and text editing.

Unsolicited advice

Now here is some unsolicited but relevant advice: If you are going to send your writing to an agent or a publisher then check with a professional about whether it needs some editing. It doesn’t have to be me but it should be someone. Don’t ask your friends or your writing group as they are more likely to be nice to you. If you send me, or any editor, work that it is self-published and riddled with mistakes or bad writing then it will be a wasted chance to get reviewed or to get coverage in the media.

There is a lot of competition out there so don’t waste your opportunity to get published professionally.

For a quote, contact me at joanna@ephemeraldigest.com.

** For who afficionados, Sentence First has some good news.