Welcome to the book blog of writer and creative writing tutor, Diane Paul.

Thanks to the publishers and kind PR people who send me books and releases about their clients' books for review. Press releases and review copies of fiction and non-fiction are always welcome. (No sci-fi, fantasy or erotica please.)

Due to the barrage of requests from self-published authors for reviews, I'm unable to deal with them all, although I'm sometimes drawn to non-fiction for the subject matter. And because I love print books, the smell, the touch of the paper and the sight of the words, I don't have an electronic reader or review e-books.

E-mail to: bookblogforbookworms@keywordeditorial.com for the postal address.

My writing website: http://www.keywordeditorial.com/

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Dark tale from Joanne Harris


Gloria Winter (nee Green) lives in the Yorkshire village of Malbry. Once married to a friend of her father's who ran a fish and chip shop, Gloria meets Peter Winter at a Christmas party. He's the local car dealer with a BMW and a bit of flash and he becomes her second husband until the car dealership goes and Peter goes with it. To care for her three sons, Nigel, Brendan and Ben Gloria takes in mending and ironing and becomes a cleaner.

Black, Brown and Blue are the names of her children because of the colours in which Gloria dresses them. Black for Nigel, the eldest, 'moody and aggressive'. Nigel is killed in a car crash. Brown, for Brendan, 'timid and dull' and Blue for the youngest, most doted on son Ben. Ben is a murderer.

This is a dark book for one such as Joanne Harris and although it's beautifully written and the words flow onto the pages at a rivetting pace, it left me with more questions than answers. I usually discard books I can't get into but I read blueeyedboy to the end because of the author's ability with language. It was the plot that confused, twisted and turned until I had no idea what was going on. It had no discernible structure and read as though it hadn't been plotted first. 

blueeyedboy is a nickname for the man who writes about his mother's love for him over his two brothers and his hatred of her. Halfway through, having been led to believe Ben is the author of the webjournal badguysrock@webjournal.com and whose creepy postings  steadily reveal a tale of hatred, revenge and child abuse, murder even, the roles are switched and it appears to be Brendan, not dead after all, who is the blue eyed boy doing the writing. Is it fiction -- fic as the author BB calls it in his web journal -- or is Ben/Brendan revealing a true life situation? And it is Ben who is dead. Whoever it is, he's 42 and still living with mama. And this is his social life.

Ben has synaesthesia. He sees things as colours and smells words. He was half of a set of twins and claims to have eaten his brother in utero. I know. It was hard to root for him, or any of them for that matter and I didn't really care what happened to them. Once Brendan becomes the blue eyed boy, the synaesthesia goes too and I found him even less interesting. Nigel's girlfriend, Albertine and her neighbour Emily, or is that Beth, plays a key part in the fabrication of this complex story.

So, come back Vianne Rocher with some chocolate truffles. BEB wasn't to my taste.

Blueeyedboy is published by Black Swan and you can log onto Joanne Harris's website at http://www.joanne-harris.co.uk/

Monday, 13 June 2011

The Novel in the Viola - Natasha Solomons does it again

If you like an Upstairs/Downstairs story, try The Novel in the Viola by Natasha Solomons. Natasha won acclaim for her first novel, Mr Rosenblum's List and this is her second. It's equally as appealing, though not in the same genre. It has an evocative pre-war appeal and covers a familiar theme about people who don't fit in - the outsiders. Natasha bases her characters and plots on her relations, her grandfather for Mr Rosenblum and this time the honour goes to her great aunt Gabi Landau, who escaped the Holocaust by applying for a job here as a domestic servant.

The Novel in the Viola is an enchanting love story and it will warm the cockles of your heart. It's 1938 in Vienna and Elise Rosa Landau puts an ad in The Times offering her services as a domestic servant. She 'speaks fluid English' and she's offered a position as house parlour maid at Tyneford House in Dorset, home of widow Mr Rivers and his son Kit. Why does she do such a thing?

Her mother, Anna is an operatic heroine star in Vienna and her father, Julian an avant-garde novelist. Her older sister, Margot is a professional viola player and is married to Robert, an astronomer. Natasha builds up a rich picture of their affluent middle class life in Vienna, where glamorous and talented people's lives are about to be shattered. The girls' parents plan to flee to New York but can't get a visa for Elise, aged 19. Operatic luminaries offer Anna jobs to get her out of Austria but the authorities are making things more and more difficult for Jewish people to move around freely, let alone leave the country.

Elise never sees her parents again but Margot and Robert make it to San Francisco where they eventually become Americanised. Elise becomes Mr Rivers's servant but doesn't fit in with the below stairs bunch. They know she's really a lady. Neither is she accepted by the upper crust young men and women in Kit's circle. They know she's a Jewish refugee. Fortunately, the Rivers' do accept her and even try to help bring her parents over to England. But the extent of the class system is highlighted for there is social order below as well as above stairs and some nastiness from the upper crust. Meanwhile, Elise sets her cap at Kit, who sets his at her.

Some of it felt like Daphne du Maurier in tone and elsewhere it smacked of Jane Eyre. But it was an unputdownable read for me and I enjoyed the meticulous research into pre-war life in Vienna, the Master/Servant relationship and the life and times of the upper classes in war torn Britain. And I had fallen in love with Mr Rivers as soon as he arrived on the page.

The Novel in the Viola by Natasha Solomons is published by Sceptre. Natasha lives in Dorset and she and her husband have written the screenplay for Mr Rosenblum's List for Film 4/Cowboy Films. Log on to her website at http://www.natashasolomons.com/

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Edgar Allan Poe Awards and The Next Big Author

How's this for coincidence? A few postings down, I wrote about the Next Big Author Competition and my Mills and Boon quick entry, which morphed into an Edgar Allan Poe, when my third cousin from Chicago (our Lithuanian grandmothers were sisters) goes and wins the Edgar Allan Poe Award. Creepy or what?

The Edgar Allan Poe Award

The Edgar Allan Poe Awards are presented every spring by the Mystery Writers of America in New York City and this year was the 202nd anniversary of Poe's birth. The best writers of  mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2010 received their awards at a banquet at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.

Edgar Allan Poe winner Sam Bobrick

Sam Bobrick won his award for the best theatre script - The Psychic. Sam has written and co-written over 30 plays, 20 of them published by Samuel French, mostly comedies. 'There is nothing more satisfying to me than to sit in an audience and listen to people laugh...My main goal has always been to entertain...Life is tough enough. Why send an audience home suicidal? It only cuts into future ticket sales.' I won't argue with that.

Sam, who has written extensively for TV and stage, has also written songs for Elvis Presley, Brian Ferry and Los Lobos. And he has written several plays with his wife, writer Julie Stein.

Sam's website is at http://www.sambobrick.com/ 

The Next Big Author competition

And as for that Next Big Author competition, my ratings are at 3.4 out of a possible 5 at the moment, so I've a long way to go. What's so fascinating about this 'peer review' system is how varied the reviews are. Someone says the dialogue isn't realistic, someone else says the thing they love most is the realistic dialogue. Each reader comes up with a different set of parameters as to how stories 'should be' written.

Reading is, after all, subjective and maybe your literary knowledge depends on which writing courses you've been on and which 'how to...' books you've read. But it's useful criticism in one sense (as long as you act on it with caution), because writers are too close to their own work to see what others see and they don't. But, in all honesty, if you had to choose between a review from a professional writer, publisher or editorial consultant and one from an unpublished, hobby writer, which would you choose?

http://www.thenextbigauthor.com/ and http://www.youwriteon.com/ are the sites to log on to if you want to upload your opening chapters. Dream on...

Cat poems raise money for care of strays in Fuerteventura

This is Tunachunks. Tunachunks lives at a hotel in the Canary Islands, where the editor of this wonderful anthology of cat poems, writer Alison Chisholm stays on holiday. 'She moves in with us for treats and titbits but disappears the moment the cases appear and we start to pack,' says Alison. At that point, the hotel entertainer takes over her welfare. Tunachunks is an El Capitan cat, so she enjoys veterinary care and will always be looked after.

Cat Lines has been compiled to raise funds for El Capitan, the charity that funds the care of Fuerteventura's stray and feral cats and there are lots of them. So if you're over there and you spot a cat with a slightly trimmed left ear, you will know it's being cared for by El Capitan and that their cat-loving volunteers are keeping an eye out for it. The charity makes sure the cats are neutered, has set up Cat Feeding Stations, encourages the adoption of cats and tries to create a better understanding of their plight among the residents.

The poems, all 52 of them, including two of Alison's, have been dedicated to the memory of Orlando, described as 'A Cat with Attitude'. And if you're a cat lover, how could you resist such titles as, Fried Mouse Anyone? Break a Paw Darling, Fat Cat, A Cat Called Audrey, A Kitten for Christmas or The Cat in the Wardrobe. I love the Shape poem, If You Were Mine, written in the shape of a cat - very clever.

As they're all copyright of the individual poets, who donated their work to the charity, the only one I can reproduce here is, yes you've guessed it, my own. I don't usually write poetry, so was delighted when Alison included What Creeps in the Night? And followers may recognise Harry the Cat, who is currently turning round in circles on the patio, (only he knows why) and Black Bertha, aka Spawn of the Devil, who inhabits my filing tray and steals his food.

What Creeps in the Night?

Black Bertha creeps up to the window
Peers into the house, is he there?
Harry watches from the top of the stairs
Not today lady, not today he swears.

Today he is king of his corner,
His green grape eyes flash, she waits poised
Big Bertha's mane gleams silk in the sunlight
A movement with his paw, whoosh she takes flight.

Licks her shirtfront, black like a mineshaft
Unsure of strategy, action
Watches the house from the dense hawthorn hedge
Sleep little one on your carpeted ledge.

The moon laughs, gleams goodbye to the sun
Black Bertha prowls on silent paws
To the window, she heaves at the catdoor
A leap and feet skid on the marbled floor.

Harry the Cat snores soundly, roundly
The black furball, low to the ground
Slithers to the richness, smell of the sea
'So sorry my dear, this is meant for me'.

So if that hasn't put you off and you'd like to support El Capitan and the sterling work they are doing for the island's cats, you can buy a copy of Cat Lines in the UK from 53 Richmond Road, Birkdale, Southport, Merseyside PR8 4SB, price £4.50 plus p/p £1, plus an extra 30p p/p for each additional copy. Cheques should be made payable to Alison Chisholm. Copies can also be bought in Fuerteventura, in hotels, bars and a craft stall in Caleta de Fuste, and some in Germany, suggested minimum donation 5 Euros.

El Capitan animal project can be contacted at Lichtenbroicher Weg 8a, 40472 Dusseldorf. www.animal-project.de/ email: info@animal-project.de