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, 11 September 2014



The final lineup of writers and others who have written books has been set for Guildford's 25th festival, which runs from 12-19 October this year.

If you're a fan of the TV series 'Downton Abbey', the new series gets under way in September and Jessica Fellowes will be at the Festival to talk about her latest book 'A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey', alongside the Countess of Carnarvon, current Chatelaine of the real Downton, Highclere Castle, who will entertain readers with true stories from its intriguing past.

Mslexia magazine founder Debbie Taylor leads a workshop for aspiring women writers and journalist Simon Heffer gives an A to Z of avoidable errors in English, which should be interesting.

Women's fiction featured at Guildford

A day of special events includes talks by publisher Toby Faber, Bloomsbury Group expert Frank Woodgate and a screening of the film 'The Invisible Woman' with questions and answers led by Stewart McKinnon, CEO of Headline Films who produced the film.

'Over the past 25 years, Guildford Book Festival has grown to become the premier literary event in the south of England,' says Jim Parks, festival creative director. 'This year, we look forward to bringing the very best of national and local literary talent to the town for the benefit of all readers.'

For more info and a lineup of the impressive names due to participate, log on to www.guildfordbookfestival.co.uk/ Twitter: @gfordbookfest or facebook.com/guildfordbookfestival


Thursday, 24 July 2014

'Murder Squad' crime writers


If you enjoy a good murder mystery and are spoilt for choice as you browse the bookshops, here's news of some of the north's top crime writers, the 'Murder Squad'.

Kate Ellis's 18th mystery

Kate Ellis brought out the paperback of her 18th Wesley Peterson mystery, The Shroud Maker in June to coincide with National Crime Reading Month. After that she sped off to Devon to host a murder mystery evening at Kingsbridge Library and do some more research, as her crime series is set in south Devon. You can read her guest blog - The Confessions of a Mystery Addict - on The Writing Desk's blog, http://tonyriches.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/guest-post-confessions-of-mystery.html
And for more details of Kate's work, visit her website on www.kateellis.co.uk

Margaret Murphy aka A D Garrett

 Everyone Lies by A D Garrett

Margaret defines Everyone Lies as a forensic thriller, which is faster-paced than her usual work. She wrote this under the pen name of A D Garrett in collaboration with forensic scientist Dave Barclay and it's had great succes in the UK and USA so far. Its sequel, Believe No One was launched in July in Heswall. The book is set in the USA where Margaret and Dave did much of their research and you can read her journal of their trip and the fascinating people and places involved with crime investigation that they visited at http://www.adgarrett.com/blog/

Ann Cleeves launches new Vera  exploits

Silent Voices

The paperback of Ann's famous detective Vera Stanhope's latest exploits was due out this month, followed by Thin Air in September. In the meantime, Ann, like her fellow murder squaddies, has been racing around the country making personal appearances at bookshops and libraries.. In March, at the Royal Television Society Awards dinner, the TV series Vera won an award for the best drama. Ann says she enjoys watching as a viewer and is naturally delighted that the series is so popular, although she isn't involved in it. But Vera is her creation, so we must give her some credit for it. Read more about the Vera books at http://www.anncleeves.com/vera/index.html

Martin Edwards works on his 7th Lake District novel


Martin is currently working on his 7th Lake District novel. The 6th - The Frozen Shroud - is now out in paperback. His publisher, Allison & Busby have also launched Take My Breath Away as an e-book. Martin is also known for his short stories and Bloomsbury Reader plan an e-book of his award-winning story, Acknowledgments, which won the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham Short Story Prize. Martin's wife Helena was also on the shortlist with her first fiction success, If Anything Happens to Me. Follow Martin's work at http://www.martinedwardsbooks.com/

Chris Simms re-launches DI Spicer as e-books


As the publishing rights to Chris's DI Spicer series has reverted to him, he intends to release them all as e-books one every few weeks, starting with Killing the Beasts. This novel won the Shots Magazine Crime Novel of the Year and it kicked off the series. In the autumn, the 7th book, Sleeping Dogs is to be released. Find out more at www.facebook.com/AuthorChrisSimms

Cath Staincliffe shortlisted for Short Story Dagger Award

deadly pleasures

Cath's short story, Night Nurse from the Deadly Pleasures anthology won a place in the shortlist for the Short Story Dagger Award. John Harvey won with Fedora from the same anthology. Look out for her third novel Ruthless in the Scott and Bailey series, due out in the autumn and her new standalone book, Letters to my Daughter's Killers, which is getting great reviews. Cath has been researching her next novel in China and she even managed an international bookshop event in Chengdu between visits.

To book any of the Murder Squad writers for events, contact bookings@murdersquad.co.uk and to know more about them and their work, try www.murdersquad.co.uk

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Budding writers head for York Writing Fest

Lady writer


Are you a budding writer? Do you want to meet your future literary agent? Then make it your business to head over to the University of York in September for a weekend of writing workshops - over 30 in total - at this year's 5th annual Festival of Writing. So if you've written a book, get your ticket now, polish up your manuscript and prepare to be interviewed and workshopped till you drop.

Professional course leaders will take you through all the aspects of writing you need to know, including publishing and finding agents. Learning as much as you can about how publishers work and what they're looking for is one of the best moves you can make. 

Mini courses and workshops

Allie Spencer's mini course tells you how to Workshop a Novel in a Day if you're in a hurry, or if you're aiming to self-publish your work, David Gaughran's Self-Publishing Masterclass might be for you. Among the longer workshops Madeleine Milburn's Stunning Cover Letters is always a worthwhile topic and Harry Bingham's 'The Accidental Funny' sounds like it might be a good laugh; Jeremy Sheldon workshops on plot problems, Andrew Wille shows and tells, Alan Durant tells you how to know your reader when writing for children and young adults, Debi Alper gets inside characters' heads and Julie Cohen will tell you how to find your novel's theme.

Workshops include just about every topic you can think of and many different genres of writing, all held over a weekend. You can meet literary agents here and even get Book Doctor feedback from professional authors and former commissioning editors. Not only that but just meeting other writers and networking may not only spark off new writing buddies but it's amazing how much good info you can pick up from other writers. Writers have been  signed up by agents and publishers many times at previous festivals here, so maybe this year is your time...and agents and publishers are always looking for the next big thing.

How to book

The Festival is residential so accommodation and meals are included in the price, which runs from £535, which includes a mini-course, gala dinner and two nights' accommodation, to £175 for a Sunday day ticket if you prefer. And for an extra £45, weekenders can get an extra one-to-one session from an expert. The Festival runs from 12-14 September and you can log on to the website for more information and bookings: http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/getting-published-event.html

Monday, 14 July 2014

Impulse Witness Imprint Welcomes New Writers


Last year, HarperCollins Publishers launched a new Impulse imprint called Witness, devoted to thrillers, mysteries and stories of suspense.

British novelist, Frances Fyfield's 'Gold Digger' is the first Witness title to make its print debut in trade paperback. It's a difficult genre to pinpoint but its themes include family jealousy, greed and hatred.

'Gold Digger' may well win accolades from the author's followers but I found it an odd read. The subject of his children's enmity - Thomas Porteus, aged 70 - dies on page 1, leaving behind his grieving much younger second wife Di Quigley, aged 27 so, although we never get to know him, we are told a lot about him.

Good start

One dark and stormy night ten years earlier, oddball Di, who smokes cigars, (an author's device to make characters more interesting, like an eyepatch or a limp), breaks into the Porteus mansion with intent to rob. 'She had the morals of a guttersnipe, the eyes of a magpie and intelligence as fierce as fire...' She knows the house well, was brought up in a dysfunctional family in the area, went to parties there, belongs to a gang and is known as Mad Di. When she tries to rescue him, Porteus, bound up in a chair, urges her to get out before the police catch her but she gets caught anyway. In prison, she educates herself in art appreciation and carries on a correspondence with the victim, an art collector.

This early part of the novel gets straight to the point without any meandering and is compelling stuff, full of intrigue and no wasted words, promising a jolly good read. I was hooked. Fyfield creates a strong sense of creepiness in this creaking old mansion with its cellars and wall-loads of priceless paintings. And these are what his children are after, having been cut out of his estate when their mother left him for a wealthier man and poisoned their minds against their father. They aim to steal and sell what they can grab, while one psycho daughter plans Di's elimination. But a diabolical plan to discredit them in the act has been set up by Porteous himself, aided by his art dealer, Saul and Di.

Exposition and characterisations
After that, the plot freezes while the local hairdresser and a gossipy client discuss Di's nefarious background, which, given that Di has grown up in this place somewhere by the sea, must have been common knowledge to the entire population for many years. Delia, the gossip, having done her job for the sake of the readers, disappears under the dryer.

Several characters, some quite major to the plot hover on the sidelines like crabs in the sand without taking centre stage and 'showing' readers what they're made of, so lack three-dimensionality, for example Di's wicked father who skulks about in the vicinity without actually putting in an appearance. We are 'told' how dangerous he is but we never actually see him behaving dangerously. He remains a shadowy figure who never develops. A wayward young girl Peg, moves in after Di picks her up on a train but quite what she is doing there became the major mystery of the novel for me. As she wears Di's clothes as part of her rehabilitation, I anticipated this as a bit of seeding for one of the children to mistake her for Di, setting about her with a cudgel but no such luck. Thomas's young grandson, Patrick runs away from home to visit the big house, as a show of solidarity, leaving me with more questions than answers. 

Thomas's ex-wife Christina, said to have fallen off a cross-channel ferry and drowned, left him when he was but a struggling schoolteacher taking the children with her. After he'd made his fortune from his inventions, Christina tried to make a comeback, which failed. But now, having had seeds of bitterness and hatred sown into their heads all their lives, they want his money. Only Di stands in their way. They are a nasty bunch of people.

More action needed
The opportunity for an action-packed thriller is all there but it didn't happen for me. Very little action took place until the end and even then I wasn't engaged. I found the protagonist unattractive as a character and couldn't root for her, it lacked emotional pull and I was confused about some of the plot and characters. I had no trouble with the actual writing, which is sound. But much of the narrative consists of back story or introspection, dealt with throughout in chunks of either expository dialogue, 'telling' characters what they must already know or inner dialogue, both of which froze the plot. Plenty of action in its place would have driven the plot forwards and 'shown' characters coming to life on the page and propelling the plot forwards and this was the crucial missing element. The art history lecture given by Saul was also a plot-stopper. And the constant barrage of f... and c... words from Jones, the dodgy ex-policeman, may well be a device to show character but it certainly became an irritant after a while and he soon lost my vote.

Chance for new writers

Impulse's Witness digital publishing imprint editors are interested in looking at material from new writers, as well as international bestselling authors and writers can submit their writing by checking submission guidelines on http://wmmorrow.hc.com/witnessimpulse/welcomenote

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Goatsmilk is good for you!

CONFESSIONS FROM CHUCKLING GOAT: How Kefir and Natural Remedies Saved my Husband's Life

The only thing we can truly be sure about is this moment. One day American radio talk show host, Shann Jones was pursuing a successful career as a news journalist and broadcaster in San Francisco, the next, aged 41 she'd fallen in love with a Welsh goat farmer. Well you would, wouldn't you?

From the city to the country, Shann soon adapted to sharing her life as Mrs Jones on Mr Jones's 25-acre goat farm in Wales. You couldn't write it could you?... But she did and this diary of Shann's life on the farm and all the challenges life consequently threw at her, forms the extraordinary, heart-warming story of what you can do when the chips are down.

How did it all come about?

While most people get a cat or three to keep them cheerful, Shann opted for a goat or herd. And how useful that was when their son Benji was hospitalised with a bronchial infection. For the raw goatsmilk cleared up his asthma in no time and his infection went. Not surprisingly, anyone with the initiative to collect a herd of pet goats for a hobby could only be expected to launch their own online business sooner or later. Now they sell healthy soaps, creams and probiotic kefir drinks made by hand on their farm.

Goats probiotic kefir heals superbugs

When husband, Richard caught a deadly superbug infection, Shann carried out extensive research on the Black Plague. She set to work on a combination of natural essential oils. Clinical laboratory trials have already proved that 'CG Oil' kills MRSA, e-coli and salmonella at a dilution of .05 per cent. Combined with Shann's homemade probiotic kefir, Richard's life was saved within two weeks, while doctors had already given up on him. Furthermore, the University of Cardiff and the Innovation Sector of the Welsh Assembly Government are working with the inimitable Joneses to develop further medical applications of antidote.

Latest developments

Recently, top London store Fortnum and Mason launched Chuckling Goat's Pro-Biotic Skin Care Range, followed by Tesco's Nutricentre, which sells all their products. On the farm, they produce raw goatsmilk and probiotic kefir, jojoba oil, macadamia oil, rice bran oil and healing essential oils. What began as a hobby and a few pet goats, is mushrooming into an entire industry and certainly a change of lifestyle for the family. 'We never asked for all these dramatic events to come our way,' said Shann. 'But it's amazing what you can come up with when the life of someone you love is at stake.'

Confessions from Chuckling Goat (pub. Chuckling Goat 2014. www.chucklinggoat.co.uk)

Shann's book is an inspiring read - it lurches from one crisis to the next like a well-structured novel, it's well-written and it certainly has emotional pull, like any good true life story. Another person might have given up but, as Shann says, it's amazing what love can do to you.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

So, What's Wrong With School? 125 reasons not to send your kids

According to Home Education UK, it is estimated that around 60,000 children in the UK are being home educated. That’s roughly about 0.6 per cent of the population. It’s perfectly legal and parents don’t have to be qualified teachers to educate their own children. They can teach what they like and they don’t need to follow the National Curriculum.

Manchester mother of two, Jessica Mwanzia taught her children at home . Now, aged 17 and 20, they are studying courses ranging from accountancy to film and enjoy karate, gardening and doing voluntary work.

'My son left school aged five,' she told me. 'The preceding two years were spent battling with two different schools in an unsuccessful attempt to get his needs met.’ Jessica believed her experiences to be unique and saw herself as a failed parent with a failed child. But as she became part of the home education community, she found other ways to raise and educate children. ‘By listening to many parents, I became shocked by the stories I heard of children’s school experiences. Some were truly horrific: bullying, violence, injustice and labelling seemed commonplace; boredom almost universal,’ she said.

She began collecting anecdotal information and news items and reading books that looked critically at the institution that shapes most of our lives. Jessica herself is highly qualified with a BSc, PGCE and an MEd. She trained to teach in the 1980s ‘when child-focus was already on the wane. Children seemed to be an obstacle to the delivery of a curriculum dictated from on high’.

The results of her research and her views on our education system today have resulted in ‘So, What’s Wrong With School?’ It’s quite a tome and written in a semi-academic style but it’s worth reading if you want to know more about the subject, especially if you’re a parent disillusioned with the current educational system and wanting to investigate alternatives.

Jessica argues that much that is learned in schools is outdated, useless and out of context. And she is concerned about what children learn about themselves when they are told they are failures. ‘The rigidity and limitations of the curriculum, getting more so by the day, limits what children can become,’ she says.

Her book looks at how school can separate children from their own needs and from each other through competition, age segregation and setting. ‘Isolating children from their parents and other adults, apart from teachers, gives children a skewed view of the world.’ She examines the culture of school and how it influences wider cultures worldwide. ‘Bullying, exclusions, injustice, dishonesty and blame-shifting are seen as the underbelly of the institution.’ Myths about children, reward and punishment and about the evidence underlying what happens in a school are questioned. She believes that schools are failing children through institutionalising and focussing on the needs of the corporate world, rather than on childrens’ needs.

Teachers are found wanting: ‘undermined, overwhelmed, sick and absent, the low morale of the teaching profession is seen to contribute to a more negative experience for the children in their charge.’

The chapter ‘Numbering Our Children’ looks at the impact of continual measurement. ‘The damaging effect of continually being tested, from toddlerhood through to the teenage years, is put in the context of the drive for more and more numbers to attach to children like tags in a sale, so they, their teachers and schools can be ranked.’

Adverse effects on children’s health looks at sick buildings, safety, exercise and food. Mental health ranges from stress and anxiety to the growing number of children on psychiatric drugs. ‘Some groups are particularly harmed by school,’ says Jessica, as she looks at the ramifications for boys, girls, for those who are gay, poor or from a minority group.

She looks at the impact on us financially, on the natural world, children and society at large. And if this sounds like a pretty bleak picture, with which not everyone may agree, she ends on a more positive note as she suggests the way forward, from home education and alternative schools to positive changes in mainstream schools.

‘So What’s Wrong with School?’ adopts an ideological and political slant to a topical subject. Jessica admits it may not be a comfortable read. ‘It’s certainly a challenge to what we’ve been led to believe.’ Parents and teachers, take note.

I’ve certainly noticed a steady decline in literacy standards and that’s not just from the children. On TV particularly, the standard of spelling on captioned material is appalling and I’m sick of hearing announcers saying ‘he was stood’ and ‘she was sat’; then there’s the pronounciation of droring for drawing and the misuse of adverbs such as literally when the meaning is clearly not literally or so obviously so that its use isn’t appropriate; or pacifically instead of specifically. I always thought the Pacific was an ocean. Primary school is the place to learn how to speak and spell English and for some, this obviously isn’t happening. ‘Draw Liners’ it said on a packet of drawer liners I spotted in a well-known department store last week. What many people don't realise is that words spelt differently mean different things, so yes, it is important to spell accurately or some unwary shoppers might end up buying draw liners for quite the wrong purpose. So maybe Jessica’s ideas aren’t that far-fetched.

And I dare you to find a spelling mistake in the above paragraph! (And beginning sentences with 'and' or 'but' is journalistic licence.)

You can buy a paperback copy of ‘So What’s Wrong With School? 125 Reasons not to send your kids by Jessica Mwanzia through this link:

www.lulu.com/commerce/index.php?fBuyContent=13639070 price £4.80
or direct from Jessica’s website: http://sowhatswrongwithschool.wordpress.com
Like on facebook www.facebook.com/SoWhatsWrongWithSchool
You can contact Jessica at jmwanzia@phonecoop.coop