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/

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Gruesome murder mystery for DI Whicher

I was rivetted by the dramatised version, starring Paddy Considine and Peter Capaldi and decided to try Kate Summerscale's novel of The Suspicions of Mr Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House. Both were fascinating and, while the amount of research carried out by the author added to the intrigue of the book and gave an insight into social conditions and sleuthing in the mid 19th century, the ITV dramatisation concentrated on the story itself and graphically brought it and the characters to life in the way a book couldn't, illustrating the old chestnut 'show, don't tell' at its best.

Little Saville Kent, aged 3 is murdered in his sleep during the night on 30 June, 1860 at Road Hill House in Wiltshire where he lives with his parents, Samuel Kent, a sub-inspector of factories and his second wife, Mary. Samuel and Mary live in the elegant mansion with the four children of Samuel's first marriage and three from their own. Mary, originally Mary Pratt, used to be the nursemaid when Samuel was married to Mary Ann, his first wife and it is conjectured that 16-year-old Constance, one of the original brood, is the culprit to this foul deed, aided and abetted by her younger brother, William.

As the door to the outside world was locked on the inside, it is assumed that someone in the house has killed Saville and it takes a while before they locate his body. The police seem to be making a hash of things and Detective-Inspector Jonathan Whicher is called in for his expert opinion. Whicher points a finger at Constance, whose mother is alleged to have had mental health issues, on the grounds of jealousy and retribution and the poor man virtually wrecks his career on the strength of his convictions. As this is based on a true story, poor little Saville suffers a tragic fate as indeed does Whicher. A pall of sadness hangs over the narrative throughout and I was glad to see Whicher exonerated and reviving his good work by the end.

Kate's book was published in 2008 by Bloomsbury. She won the Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction for it. A special edition is available with an eight-page gatefold section of contemporary documents from the investigation. It includes letters, police reports and Mr Whicher's case notes.

You can learn more about The Suspicions of Mr Whichever on a special website: http://www.mrwhicher.com/

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

A good guide to Coeliac Disease

Gluten free goodies

Most decent restaurants and cafes seem to be genned up on alternative eating these days. Chefs actually know about Coeliac Disease and the importance of providing gluten free food for the 1 in 100 people who suffer from this auto immune complaint, not to mention the dangers of cross contamination in the kitchen. His and Her toasters are a must if you are one of them.

I'm always delighted to find gluten free alternatives in places where I've never found them before. Now I can pop in to John Lewis's cafe in Cheadle for a Genius bread sandwich or even Starbucks at Manchester's Piccadilly Station. Fortunately, they're all wrapped so no danger of cross contamination. But wandering round my local park I stopped for a cuppa at the little cafe in the grounds and was delighted to find gluten free coconut cakes on offer; not so delighted when the serving person picked up my cake with the same tongs she'd just used to pick up my companion's chocolate cake. Fortunately, I haven't had a reaction - yet.

Coeliac Disease: The Essential Guide

Writer Kate Coxon has produced this informative book from Need2Know Books giving the basic lowdown on Coeliac Disease, its diagnosis, treatment and symptoms. She goes into the best diet for people with gluten intolerance or coeliac disease, how to shop, cook and eat at home, information about getting NHS prescriptions for food and how to overcome the difficulties on finding gluten free food on holiday or while travelling.

Coeliac Disease is quite hard to diagnose. The symptoms are similar to other complaints, like IBS or wheat intolerance and many people in the process of becoming coeliac are often incorrectly diagnosed. It can take an average of 13 years to diagnose. Meanwhile, sufferers could be developing related health conditions like diabetes, anaemia or low thyroid without the link being discovered. Tests bring false negatives and false positives. My own biopsy produced a negative and it was a long time afterwards, when I knew more about the condition, that I realised I had been on one of my frequent yo-yo exclusion diets and hadn't been eating any gluten for a while before the biopsy took place; nobody had even told me I was having one.And I woke up in the middle of it - v-e-r-y painful; I don't recommend it.

So what is Coeliac Disease? Coeliac Disease is actually an auto-immune disease, when the body attacks self. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. It's that sticky stuff that gives bread its light, fluffy feel, so good for comfort eating. Some sufferers cannot tolerate oats, although the gluten in oats is not the same and most people can tolerate it. Oats are often produced in the same environment as gluten grains and become cross contaminated anyway. Nowadays, gluten-free oats are available and I can recommend Nairn's wonderful gluten-free porridge and oatcakes.

Gluten is the trigger and it creates an immune reaction that affects the gut lining and stops it from absorbing nutrients efficiently. It produces a wide range of symptoms, such as persistent diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, pain, headaches, tiredness and much more; it varies from person to person. Some suffer from endless viruses and infections because of the impaired immune system.

Coeliac Disease is neither treatable nor curable. The only way to keep it under control and stop attacks is to avoid gluten for good. Nowadays, gluten-free foods are freely available in supermarkets, health food shops, internet shopping and other outlets. The labelling is now clearer so shoppers can see which foods are out of bounds to them. Fosters fish and chippy in Didsbury, Manchester and Alderley Edge, Cheshire have gluten free Sundays to which I hie down for my weekly treat and my own great niece's husband in Southport has a chippy that does the same.

The UK Coeliac Society is a great support organisation and its members receive a Food and Drink Directory telling them what gluten-free foods are available and where and they produce a magazine called Crossed Grain.

If you think you might have Coeliac Disease, you can have a blood test to begin with but make sure you are eating foods containing gluten before doing so. If the antibodies are there, the next step is a biopsy. Reading Coeliac Disease: The Essential Guide is a good starting point. Personally, just finding out what the ghastly symptoms were that had been ruining my life for so many years, filled me with happiness and being able to stop them, or most of them, has done wonders for my morale and self-confidence.

Kate has included a Help List of useful organisations and a relevant Book List. The book can be obtained in bookshops, from http://www.amazon.co.uk/ or from the publisher, Need2Know Books at http://www.need2knowbooks.co.uk/

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Where were you on 11 September 2001?

That Day in September

This is a curious little book. You can read it in one sitting it's so short - just 87 pages long. That's because it's a personal eyewitness account of the tragedy that hit New York and the rest of the world on 9/11. Author Artie Van Why had to get it off his chest and writing things down is a great way to ease internal pain. He's also talked about it on stage in LA and New York

Artie takes an emotionally charged trip back to the time he heard a loud boom and the building shuddered. He was working at a word processing centre across from the World Trade Center. After the initial disquiet, all hell broke loose. That was just after the first plane hit one of the World Trade Center towers.

Artie lived in New York City for 26 years and his writing covers the event, its aftermath and how badly he was affected afterwards. His experience is to be featured on the BBC's website to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the event. Tom Geoghegan from the Washington DC Bureau of the BBC was set to interview him last week.

'All along the endeavor has been a way of processing my experience and, more importantly, it is my contribution to assuring we never forget. That Day In September is my personal tribute to honor those who died,' he says.

Artie's book is available on http://www.amazon.co.uk/  http://www.goodreads.com/ and he has versions in PDF, Word, Mobi and ePub. His Facebook page is at http://www.facebook.com/ThatDayInSeptember

New Writer prose and poetry prizes

If you enjoy writing, now's your chance to try for The New Writer's Prose and Poetry competition. This year's closing date is 30 November, so it's time to get to work. This is the 15th annual international competition for short stories, microfiction, single poems, poetry collections, essays and articles. Not only could you win money but you could see your work published in The Collection, a special edition of The New Writer magazine, which comes out the following July.

Last year's winners are featured in the current issue of the annual Collection. You can buy copies at www.thenewwriter.com/prizes.htm and read the guidelines and entry fees.