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/

Monday, 29 June 2015

Strawberry Jam Books promote good values for children

Children's reading: entertainment, enlightenment and education

Guest author Hilary Hawkes began writing books and poems when she was only 8 years old. She was 19 when a magazine published 12 of her short stories. Her 'Strawberry Jam' books are for pre-school to age 12 readers. The series includes a project called 'The Friendship Adventure', which highlights 'awareness of differences, disabilities, uniqueness in everyone to stories that link to fun activities and games'.

Hilary has a degree in publishing and English, together with qualifications in nursery and pre-school teaching. 'Little Chestnuts Pre-school' uses fun stories, games and rhymes 'to enhance alphabet knowledge, thinking and pre-literacy skills'. She's written non-fiction books about Aspberger's Syndrome, Autism and Pre-School Choices.

Here, she writes about how she sees the purpose of children's books, not just for their entertainment value but for educating and enlightening the minds of young children, to make them more aware of the need for kindness, compassion and acceptance of the differences among peoples in today's world.

Strawberry Jam Books

by Hilary Hawkes

Authors (and especially children’s authors) have been known to claim that creating books is one of the best jobs in the world! And book lovers, whatever age, know that reading is one of the most pleasurable and beneficial pastimes. “The more you read the more things you know. The more that you learn the more places you’ll go” said Dr Seuss. And “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…the man who never reads lives only once” warns George Martin!
I’ve always loved the idea of children’s stories that don’t just entertain (or help with literacy skills) but that are on a bit of a secret mission too: Stories that spread the values of kindness, inclusion or understanding or that are gateways for children to explore things going on in their lives or that help them feel nurtured and valued.

Stories can  be used to help children understand that people and people’s lives are all different or that differences in likes, abilities, physical and cultural or racial differences are good things and not reasons to fear or exclude or bully. 

Difference is good too!

One of my really favourite quotes is this one from the well-known and much loved author AA Milne “The things that make me different are the things that make me”. How important it is to help children realise that their own uniqueness and individuality are things to nurture, value and celebrate – and that this is true for everyone. Difference is not only good but needed too.
I also believe there is such a thing as ‘story therapy’! And by this I mean stories written with the specific aim of nurturing, encouraging, comforting or directing so that they become a gateway for the reader or listener to feel and understand their own emotions or find answers or solutions to difficulties that may be going on in real life.

Strawberry Jam's aims

My aim with Strawberry Jam Books is to create exactly those type of ‘on a secret mission’ stories, from picture book stories that nurture self-worth, caring or friendship; to story-themed projects for schools or children’s groups to stories that are intended to be shared by an adult and child together that help children deal with emotional upheavals.
A lot of authors, parents and teachers prefer children’s books to steer away from what they see as “issues” – thinking stories should be just fun and an escape from real life. Actually, I think children’s stories should always be fun and entertaining and, as fiction, an escape from real life. But I also believe that children’s books have always had the extra purpose of influencing and expanding the minds of young readers or listeners. Stories are unobtrusive and non-threatening and when the natural influence that they have is enhanced they offer children so much more that can add benefit and richness to their minds and lives.
Hilary's website can be found at: www.hilaryhawkes.co.uk/ It contains a link to the Strawberry Jam books. She can be contacted at: hilarymayhawkes@hotmail.co.uk

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Fun in store for young bookworms

Budleigh Salterton hosts 7th Annual Literary Festival

Always interested in bookfests but this is a special sort that sounds loads of fun. It's being planned for September in Budleigh Salterton, which is where? On the Jurassic Coast in East Devon and it sounds so picturesque, I can just imagine the Famous Five frolicking on the beaches and looking for smugglers.

Big names appearing

Now in its 7th year, this year's festival promises both adults and youngsters an impressive lineup of  events and authors for children, not to mention a host of big names in the writing world that will surely appeal to grownups. Man Booker Prizewinner Ben Okri, actress, comedian and writer Helen Lederer, writer and radio presenter Xinran and award-winning author Sarah Waters will all be appearing.

New York Times journalist and Sunday Times bestselling author, Liza Klaussman, enjoying much success for her debut novel 'Tigers in Red Weather', will discuss her latest book 'Villa America'. Of special interest to lovers of Scott Fitzgerald's work, the book is set on on the French Riviera in the 1920s and focuses on Gerald and Sara Murphy who inspired Fitzgerald's novel 'Tender is the Night' and their distinguished guests, such as Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald and Pablo Picasso.

Hilary Mantel

The Festival's Honorary President, double Man Booker Prize winner and author of 'Wolf Hall', Dame Hilary Mantel DBE, will be in discussion at two events and Andrew Graham, son of Winston Graham, author of the 'Poldark' series, will appear with members of the cast and crew from the BBC TV adaptation.

What about the children?

But what about the children?  Judith Kerr, author and illustrator of the 'Mog' series and 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea, will celebrate her impressive 45-year career when she discusses her book 'Creatures', which details her life's work.

 Judith Kerr


If your child is a follower of the  'Diary for a Wimpy Kid' series, by Jeff Kinney, they're in luck for  Alastair Watson will host a range of fun activities including a draw-along session and the Wimp Wars! quiz.

St Peter's Primary School in Budleigh Salterton are hosting another interactive event based around the bestselling picture series, 'The Dinosaur That Pooped', written by pop stars Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter from McBusted. Included will be everything from dinosaur impressions to video clips of the book's creators. If you buy a book then and there, you can have it stamped by Dino himself.

Devon-based children's author Amy Sparkes will host a 'Writing for Children Workshop' at the Playhouse after award nominations for some of her books, including 'Do Not Enter the Monster Zoo', shortlisted for The Roald Dahl Funny Prize. Amy will give audiences a glimpse of what goes on in a writer's mind, from creating characters to crafting stories and lots of other things.

Tickets will be on sale from July but admission for 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' and 'The Dinosaur That Pooped' is available for local school pupils only. More info from www.budlitfest.org.uk/ Follow on Twitter @BudLitFest or Like their Facebook page, facebook.com/BudleighSaltertonLiteraryFestival.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Scared of motorway driving? Join the club!

How to Overcome Fear of Driving: The Road to Driving Confidence

Life coach Joanne Mallon gave up driving for seven years when she became driving phobic. Having overcome her fears, Joanne decided to share her experience with the millions of other people who are afraid of driving or, like myself, phobic about motorways, whether driving or not.

As someone on the verge of attempting recovery but not sure whether I really care about cutting out motorways from my otherwise confident life behind a steering wheel, I found Joanne's book very helpful in at least putting driving refresher lessons on my To Do list, while I vacillate back and forth.

What fascinated me most was the sort of advice that could apply to any aspect of one's life, driver or not. Joanne must be a very good life coach, for after reading her book and a day with The Speakmans (look them up on Google: they cured me of chocoholia) I was certainly healed of inertia. I haven't ventured onto the motorway yet but I've hired a cleaner, shopped online, tried to hire a gardener (they tend not to turn up but I'll keep trying), taken my bedlinen and all my ironing to the laundry shop, found a car valet and begun a home detox. And made lots of lists.

Practical exercises

I found the practical exercises especially useful. Written from the viewpoint of a life coach, they added value to the text and personalised the content. Joanne covers why we become phobic, the cause and how it can be overcome. It includes lots of tips for things to do while driving, to help recovery and what to do if a panic attack tries to take over.

Case histories

Case histories are always helpful too. Fear of driving can be a lonely thing - people don't always like to admit to having it but it's one of the most common phobias therapists are faced with nowadays and it makes no difference whether you're male or female. Motorways weren't built when I learnt to drive so my driving test didn't include how to tackle them. I just drove up and down them without fear or favour until one day, several decades after my 18th birthday, after driving on the hard shoulder of a snow-covered motorway for several miles without knowing it and aquaplaning ungracefully onto an exit, I gradually began to avoid them until I cut them out altogether.

I also developed raging anxiety about places I'd never been to before, whether by car or public transport. After all, travelling by train cut out the energy needed to drive somewhere new but it had the added dimension of worrying about getting the right one and arriving on time, finding a taxi at the other end and getting back home again; so that doesn't altogether alleviate the anxiety about travelling to pastures new but it does cut out the terror of parking in high-rise or underground car parks, at night.

On one panic-stricken journey to a new venue, a profound thought suddenly occurred to me: nobody gets lost forever. (I stopped and asked the way and a wonderful woman pulled out an iPhone, which produced a map in an instant.) Almost tempted to get one but I got over that quite quickly.

Anyone for SatNav?

One piece of advice was to emerge into the 21st century and 'Get a SatNav'! This, for someone who doesn't even own an iPhone, an iPad or a Kindle was a big leap for aging womankind. Great - I bought a Tom Tom only to find no instructions inside. Lots of people said 'give it here, I'll show you how it works'. What they actually did was have great fun putting in my home details and several destinations I was heading for but not actually teaching me how to do it myself, leaving me more perplexed and anxious than before. I tried it on a nearby suburb I knew well but it insisted on sending me straight on to a busy motorway, while I insisted on going via the A-roads. Morona, who lives inside the contraption and guides me, sounded more anxious than I was when I ignored everything she said so that she had to keep changing direction and shouting 'Turn round, turn round' at me. (Sounded remarkably like my mother.) I'm sure it will be a boon eventually but for now Morona is nestling contentedly like a baby kangaroo in a nice pouch I've bought for her.

Am I alone or are there other autophobes out there?

Joanne has researched the subject thoroughly, not only drawing on her own experience of driving panic and overcoming it but advice from experts and cured motorphobes who tell their own stories. We tend to think we're alone with this phenomenon but we're not. A Spanish survey in 2011 revealed that 8.5 million people in Spain (33 per cent of people with a driving licence) say they are scared of driving in some circumstances: bad weather, heavy traffic, night driving and new journeys. And 1.5 million Spaniards (6 per cent of drivers) were afraid to drive at all. They included twice as many women as men, mainly those aged over 40; men were aged 60 and over and it was often related to health issues.

So if you want to know what all those people have in common with you, to learn about motorway phobias, how to deal with driving-related stress, regaining your confidence, dealing with anxiety and panic attacks, the kind of therapies you might try and other people's success stories in overcoming their fear, this is the book for you. There's also a good list of useful contacts and other resources. The one on my To Do list is Ride Drive - www.driving-phobia.co.uk

Part of the sales of Joanne's book are donated to charity. It's published by Nell James Publishers.  Joanne's website is www.joannemallon.com  You can email her at info@joannemallon.com/ Twitter @joannemallon. She has a new book out soon called 'Social Media for Writers' - watch this space for review shortly.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The woman who talks with animals

Heart to Heart

What an amazing story animal communicator Pea Horsley tells. I read her book in one sitting and now have eye strain from sitting up most of the night. It was worth it though. If you love animals, you'll love this heart-warming story about how Pea developed her psychic ability and trained with the top animal communicators to become one of the greatest herself.

If you fancy training to do this kind of work, you'll be hard pressed to get on one of her courses for they get booked up faster than you can say 'woof'. I know because I've tried. Having lived with two cats for 18 and 22 years respectively, I know how easy it is to fall in love with an animal who loves you back unconditionally. There is an element of cupboard love with cats I admit but I came to the conclusion long ago that mine were here to watch over me and for me to learn from them. When 18-year-old Daisy lay dying, my friend Jean (who trained in animal communication and gives Reiki to animals at a local sanctuary) sent me out of the room while she 'talked' to her and gave her some healing. Daisy told Jean she wanted me to stop being so soppy and woman up; what she really needed was support and comfort before she transitioned. I was amazed to hear this because it was true and I was no use to her in an over-emotional state.

The book is a treasure chest of amazing stories of lost pets found, animal troubles resolved and a world we're told anybody can enter if we open up our minds to it. In Pea's words, 'It can be a step towards a world where animals are seen as equals and treated with respect.' It begins by developing your natural intuition.

How did she get started?

Pea's own background was in theatre where she worked as company stage manager at London's Comedy Theatre. She had worked in theatre for 15 years and had always adored cats, until Morgan of questionable beagle extraction and a sad demeanour came into her life. When she heard the Mayhew Animal Home were holding an animal communication workshop she jumped at the chance it might give her to get to know Morgan better. And that's how it all began.

Not only can she communicate with cats and dogs, but any animals from horses to tortoises to goldfish. Often her work begins with photos, where she can get an impression of their characters and moods. Then she can ask questions and relay the animal's answers to their guardians (as the 'owners' are called) so they can find out where the pet may be trapped or lost; or tell them about any illnesses they may have and what food they prefer to eat. It's all very well doing as the vet says and pushing dry food down your pet's mouth when all they really crave is a nice piece of plaice.

'Heart to Heart' is Pea's book about her work. It  is published by HarperElement, an imprint of Harper Collins. Details of this, her workshops and her other book, 'The Animal Communicator's Guide Through Life, Loss and Love'  can be found at www.animalthoughts.com