#Review 4* Hag-Seed by @MargaretAtwood @PenguinRHUK #LiteraryFiction #HogarthShakespeare

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Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
Synopsis:
LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILEYS WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2017

Selected as a Book of the Year – Observer, Sunday Times, Times, Guardian, i magazine

Felix is at the top of his game as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. His productions have amazed and confounded. Now he’s staging a Tempest like no other. It will boost his reputation. It will heal emotional wounds.

Or that was the plan. Instead, after an act of unforeseen treachery, Felix is living in exile in a backwoods hovel, haunted by memories of his beloved lost daughter, Miranda. Also brewing revenge.

After twelve years, revenge finally arrives in the shape of a theatre course at a nearby prison. Here, Felix and his inmate actors will put on his Tempest and snare the traitors who destroyed him. It’s magic! But will it remake Felix as his enemies fall?

My review:

Before I write this review, I have a little confession to make. Well actually two confessions. Firstly, this is my first book read, by Margaret Atwood. I know, I am ashamed of myself! But to be fair, I didn’t discover Steven King until my 20s! Secondly, I have not read The Tempest by William Shakespeare, of which the novel is largely based. The only Shakespeare, I have read is Romeo And Juliet & Macbeth. These being from my school days! There we go, Abby leaves confessional!

The novel opens with Felix, the artistic director of the Makeshiweg festival, being betrayed and uprooted from his position. I would like to say this is the only emotional pain in Felix’s life, but sadly it is not. Having lost his wife in childbirth and daughter 3 years later to meningitis. Felix is in deep emotional pain.
He vows revenge upon Tony, whom has betrayed him!

“Tony and Sal must suffer”

Felix packs up his belongings and retreats to a shanty cottage in the woods. Where he remains in exile for quite sometime…. Whilst in exile he begins to have delusions of his daughter. They empower him to seek vengeance and Felix becomes an internet stalker, of the men who have wronged him. On year nine of exile, he applies for a job at the Fletcher Correctional facility. Under the secret identity of Mr Duke, he applies for the role of running the literacy program delivered to the inmates.

Felix is accepted for the position and his role involved assignments and producing a play. Of which he chooses The Tempest, guiding and aiding the inmates to fully understand the play. I found Felix to be charismatic yet troubled and charming and likable. I began to root for Felix on his journey towards revenge. By running the program Felix meets new people, who improve his life and help him heal.
But not before he has, had his revenge……

I really enjoyed this novel and can see the huge appeal of the book to book groups. There is room for the debate of Shakespeare’s The Tempest and also the character is Felix and what guides his vendetta. I really enjoyed how cleverly written the novel is and I look forward to The Handmaids tale, which is also on my book shelves! 4*

MA
Margaret Atwood
Authors Links:
Twitter: @MargaretAtwood
Website: http://margaretatwood.ca/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3472.Margaret_Atwood
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MargaretAtwoodAuthor/

 

#Review #TheBookOfMemory by @VascoDaGappah Petina Gappah @FaberBooks

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The Book Of Memory by Petina Gappah
Synopsis:

The story you have asked me to tell begins not with the ignominious ugliness of Lloyd’s death but on a long-ago day in April when the sun seared my blistered face and I was nine years old and my father and mother sold me to a strange man. I say my father and my mother, but really it was just my mother.

Memory, the narrator of The Book of Memory, is an albino woman languishing in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe, where she has been convicted of murder. As part of her appeal her lawyer insists that she write down what happened as she remembers it. The death penalty is a mandatory sentence for murder, and Memory is, both literally and metaphorically, writing for her life. As her story unfolds, Memory reveals that she has been tried and convicted for the murder of Lloyd Hendricks, her adopted father. But who was Lloyd Hendricks? Why does Memory feel no remorse for his death? And did everything happen exactly as she remembers?

My Review:

I have just devoured this novel, in 2hrs on a lazy Sunday morning! I keep day dreaming with thoughts on the themes and mostly my ability to assume the worst within the narrative. I rarely jump to conclusions in novels, I simply let the author tell the story. But with this novel I made false assumptions time and time again!
Which meant when I finally turned the last page, I was left stunned with so much to contemplate.

The novel opens with the protagonist Memory, narrating her life in Chikurubi jail. We hear the life stories of her fellow prisoners and the day to day struggle of like in prison. When we finally get to memory’s life story, it is one that will leave you shocked and saddened. Memory was sold by her parents to a wealthy white man, at just 9yrs old. After a childhood marred by evil spirits, curses and the family shame of being born albino. Memory carries the social stigma of being albino her entire life and even in jail, she is whispered about and mocked. I had so many questions, why did her parents sell her? Was there motivation, purely financially based? What are the intentions of a man whom buys a child? Would this lead to more misery and pain for Memory?

“In the years that followed, my feelings for Lloyd went through a complex spectrum that took in fear, affection, anger and revulsion, gratitude and, ultimately, pity”

All I can say, as I refuse to leave spoilers, is my initial assumptions were completely and utterly wrong! But to understand the full extent of the rich/poor divide.
The cultural aspects that make such a situation occur and the why Memory is languishing on death row.
You simply have to read her story……

Memory deals with her childhood loss of identity, her new life in jail and the painful relationships of her past, throughout her story. It is incredibly powerful, moving and emotive novel. From the final 30/40 pages I didn’t move a single muscle.
Highly recommended 4*

PG
Petina Gappah
Authors links:
Via Faber Books: https://www.faber.co.uk/author/petina-gappah/
Twitter: @VascoDaGappah

 

Q&A with @morningstaruk Christopher Byford #DenOfShadows @HQDigitalUK

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Den Of Shadows by Christopher Byford
Synopsis:

The Gambler’s Den weaves its away across the desert… But will it stop at your station?

While fighting off poverty in the blistering desert heat a travelling casino offers one night of solace. One chance to change your fortunes. But once on board there is more to the show than meets the eye: enter Franco, the elaborate ringleader, Wyld the stowaway thief and Misu the fire breathing showgirl.

In a kingdom ruled by the law Franco ensures his den remains in line. But when he’s faced with saving the fate of the train, and those on board, he may be forced to break his own rules. Life on the den isn’t just a job but a way of life and once you’re in you’ll never be able to leave.

Q&A:

Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?

A) Den of Shadows is an adventure following those aboard the Gambler’s Den, a casino train that travels a desert region bringing entertainment to the downtrodden masses. The accompanying shows are grand affairs, extravagant, causing word of mouth and rumour to fuel excitement about its arrival. Ran by the enigmatic Franco Del Monaire, he trusts those under his roof, a legion of showgirls, to exhibit the upmost professionalism and, more importantly, obey his every word. With costs rising and an already dangerous region becoming increasingly lawless, Franco accommodates a travelling thief who dutifully pays her way. Things soon spiral out of control as the local lawmen begin to particular attention to the owner of the Gambler’s Den and the shady company he keeps. To complicate matters, the criminal element have taken notice of the Gambler’s Den too…

Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?

 

A) Den of Shadows started off as a daydream. I was 18, in a college class and found my mind wandering when working away with my headphones on. The Spencer Davis Groups’ hit “Gimmie Some Lovin’” was nestled away on some obscure compilation album. As soon as it started playing, I had the striking image of a roguish individual hanging from the boiler of a moving steam train, wearing a cheeky smile like an expensive suit as he focused on a sand soaked horizon. Thunderstruck, I immediately wrote the first chapter, and emailed it to myself, but never really found time to develop the concept. After being hospitalised and diagnosed with an aggressive form of UC, my priorities shifted and the idea of writing took a back seat. With health and life getting in the way I wouldn’t pick it back up until my mid 20’s, when I moved across the country and found the freedom to pursue my ambition of being an author. I spent six months completing it, a good chunk done whilst working on nightshifts before self-publishing the title on Amazon under the name of the train itself, “Gambler’s Den”. Despite moving onto other projects, I was so affectionate about the concept that I approached agents and publishers to see if anybody wanted to pick it up. I received the usual swathe of rejection letters but I stubbornly persisted, most of the query letters being sent out after a glass or two of whiskey. At this point I was working full time, coming home and sinking another five hours a night writing whilst waiting for my wife and I’s first child to be born. To top things off, I found out I was to be made redundant soon after the baby arrived, bad timing one would think, but an unusual silver lining was starting to appear. I decided to seriously make a go of things, using the redundancy money to finance the following year. I had a number of titles on Amazon but could never really crack the market given the constraints of working full time. Being able to devote myself to the role would allow me to be significantly more successful than what I was, at least that was the plan. I committed myself and during one of the queries, I was contacted by HQ Digital, an imprint of HarperCollins and agreed on a phone call to talk about it. During the call they asked me how I would feel about them publishing the entire series, being that I was working on the third at the time. After coming to terms with the fact that yes, this was actually happening, I agreed.

Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?

A) I’m a sucker for anything by HP Lovecraft. I still find things I had never noticed before in rereading, plus the concept of cosmic horror fascinates me. Neil Gaiman has a special place in my heart simply because I found that he can jump from subject to subject almost effortlessly, Neverwhere, Stardust and Sandman: Dream Hunters in particular I found to be standouts of his. Gaston La Rouxs’ Phantom of the Opera was my first exposure to something utterly alien and I still give it a go through every year. Philip K Dick scratches my sci-fi itch whenever I get the bug for that. I’m reading a lot of George Borrow at the moment, who was a guy who walked around England and wrote about his experiences with the people he mingled with.

Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?

A) I consumed anything I could when I was younger. James Herbert was a staple in our household and I usually ended up flicking through a well dog-eared copy of one of the books from his Rats series when it became available. Shakespeare was a favourite, being that I enjoyed the prose more so than most my age would admit to, especially in As You Like It. Flowers for Algernon stayed with me after reading it in school and still remains one of my favourite books of all time given the subject and use of diary entries for the narrative. Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park ignited my imagination at an impressionable time and Douglas Adams with the Red Dwarf series is still my go to when it comes to comedy. I went through every single Fighting Fantasy book by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone that my local library had in stock. I also became fond of Byron’s works and even now I find myself picking up a collection of his and devouring it.

Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?

A) Seeing your work thrown about and spoken about with passion is still quite astonishing to me. It’ll never get old. I suppose if I had to pick just one, it’s that I can say that I’m managed to achieve the one thing in my life I always aspired to. That’s not a bad thing to be proud of at all.

Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?

A) I’ll win no points for originality for this, but it’ll have to be my wife, Emma. One of the first things she did when we first met was encourage me to pursue writing. She’s been my muse from the start and I honestly believe that I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for her. We co-write a series together which results in a lot of discussions regarding refinement and critique. Admittedly there are times it can be brutal, harsh even, but I would rather suffer that than be aimlessly nodded at. After all, it’s how you improve.

CB
Christopher Byford
Authors Links:
Website: http://www.thetenwings.co.uk/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christopherbyfordbooks/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Morningstaruk

 

Q&A with author of: A New Map Of Love, Abi Oliver

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A New Map Of Love by Abi Oliver

Synopsis:

How can you pack for the journey of a lifetime?

George Baxter has settled for a comfortable life, content as the years unfold predictably – until Win, his wife of twenty-six years, dies.

With his loyal dog Monty by his side, George throws himself into his work as an antiques dealer. His business is at the heart of the village and all sorts pass through the doors, each person in search of their own little piece of history.

When George meets local widow Sylvia Newsome, he imagines a different kind of future. But life has more revelations to offer him. Over the course of an English summer George uncovers some unexpected mysteries from his past, which could shape his tomorrows . . .

Q&A:

Q) Your novel A New Map of Love is set in 1964. What was the inspiration behind the era and setting?

A) I have written a large number of stories set in times before I was born and I wanted to write about a time that I could – at least dimly – remember. I was three in 1964! But here are a number of things about that year which made it a good setting for the kind of book I wanted to create. The summer of 1964 was a long, hot one and I wanted to write one of those novels which captures the loveliness of the English summertime – something which is of course real, but which is also a kind of fantasy archetype that most of us hold in our minds in relation to our landscape.

1964 was also the year when the Beatles were really beginning to emerge, after sex had been discovered (according to Philip Larkin) – and later in the year the government changed. Big changes were looming which only reached rural places like distant echoes to begin with – but reach them they did, gradually.

Q) Your character George Baxter is a country antique dealer. Is George based on anyone from real life?

A) My father was a country antique dealer. Now I look back on it, it was a great life at that time. All jobs have their stresses of course, but it involved him knowing a huge amount about all sorts of things. My father had huge knowledge and experience. It also involved driving about the countryside going to visit other dealers – extended lunches in the pub, that sort of thing! And we had a workshop out at the back where the men restored furniture and sometimes made up extra things that people needed like bookshelves. There was always a sense of business and the smell of sawdust coming across to the house. Not to mention all the characters – there was a staff of about seven – and that was before you get on to the customers.

I have actually spent many years writing about Birmingham (as Annie Murray) and this part of my life was put very much on a back burner. But the idea of writing about it has been waiting in my mind for some time.

The reason I finally began was that I studied for an MA in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes University. The book that is now A New Map of Love was my main project for the degree.

Q) Your novel begins with your protagonist running off “from his wife’s funeral do like a bolter fleeing a wedding.” Despite his actions, you have crafted a very sympathetic character. Tell us about how you developed the character of George Oswald Baxter?

A) George was one of those characters who seemed to arrive almost fully formed. I think because he is the sort of Englishman of a certain type and generation with whom I am pretty familiar, I could work out his reaction to things quite easily. I quickly grew very fond of him and realized that despite being an intelligent and sensitive man, in his loneliness he might not always see straight or have the best judgement. His character developed gradually as the story also developed and then further in the editing process.

Q) Can you talk us through the route from idea to publication? could you also tell us a little bit about your writing process?

A) I wrote A New Map of Love over about two years in first draft, though I had to do quite a bit of re-writing. Process wise, I think ideally having a good while to think about a story before you get too far into the writing is very helpful. For example, the novel I am working on now is one which I have been thinking about for several years. I wrote A New Map of Love in longhand, which I prefer. Every, let’s say 5000 words I would type it on to the computer, which is the first stage of re-writing, but I find a great sense of freedom in writing by hand. As I had planned to set the book over one hot summer, the simplest thing seemed to be to structure it month by month. I like to have an over-all structure in my head though, and the classic three part arrangement – even if the novel is not in three parts – is very useful as a benchmark of the rhythm and shape of it.

Characters also present themselves and have to be gradually built upon – such a Eleanora Byngh (with an h). I find I gradually see into them and what is driving them by writing about them.

It’s always vital to remember, as another writer once said to me, ‘the first draft is not the last.’

Q) You say you have written under another name. Can you tell us about your writing background?

A) I’ve always written, – maybe something to do with growing up as an only child. We also travelled quite a lot, so I had hours of time to fill on journeys. I suppose I’ve always been writing something. In the end I did do a degree in literature. For much of the time since then, I have belonged to writers groups. I was a member of Birmingham’s Tindal Street Fiction Group and lately, have set up two more workshops with another writer, Oxford Narrative Group and Leather Lane Writers in London. The collective sharing, insights and support of writer’s workshops has been very important.

In 1991 I won a short story competition run by SHE Magazine and also This Morning with Richard and Judy. Through this I joined the wonderful Darley Anderson Agency which has represented me ever since. Darley sold my first novel – what in the trade would be called a ‘regional saga’ set in Birmingham, and it was published in 1995. Since then I have published 21 novels – as I write, the 21st, The Doorstep Child is at number 6 in the paperback chart!

During those years though, we moved as a family, away from Birmingham, which still has a lot of my affection and fascination as a place, back to the Thames Valley, where I come from originally. The place has worked its magic on me and I’ve found I wanted to write about that too. So I have a sort of town mouse identity – Annie Murray. Abi Oliver is more of a country mouse. And I love all of it.

abi oliver pic

Author’s Links:
Web Site:http://www.abioliver.co.uk/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16500831.Abi_Oliver
Twitter: @AbiWriterOliver

*Huge thanks to the author for being part of a Q&A on my blog. Review to follow soon!

Review Delete by Karl Olsberg 5* Q&A to follow!

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Delete by Karl Olsberg 5*
One of my favourite books from 2016.

The synopsis:

A GRIPPING, UP-TO-THE-MINUTE THRILLER FOR FANS OF THE MATRIX, NOMAD AND M. R. CAREY.

For role-playing gamers like Mina and Thomas, reality can blur when you spend too much time online. But when Thomas disappears, not only from the virtual world but also from real life, Mina sets out to search for him. When she discovers that other Berliners have gone missing, all of them participants in the same game, she worries that she will be next.

Chief Inspector Eisenberg heads up a team that is supposed to track and prevent potential terrorists. But identifying suspects via pattern recognition doesn’t help – you can’t arrest someone before a crime has been committed. Faced with uniting a brilliant but unruly team made up of hackers and coders, Eisenberg is drawn into the puzzle of the missing gamers – all of whom had the same in-game experience immediately before they disappeared.

Will Eisenberg and his team be able to unravel the truth from the fiction before it’s too late?

My review:

This year I have read several novels by German writers and I have been hugely impressed. The novels translate well into English and have been easy to follow despite being set in another location and another police force etc.
This novel centres around the online gaming community, technology and most importantly perception of reality. It is very well written and remains gripping right to the very last page.
I am not a gamer or have any interest in artificial intelligence but I picked this novel due to its unique plot of those topics. I loved every minute of the read, it was very complex and the killer was written brilliantly, right down to the disguise.
I was concerned at about 75% in that the ending would suddenly be all tidy and wrapped up. Which would have not been in fitting with the novel. The reality was the ending was one of the best I have read this year! (and this was my 187th novel so far!).
I don’t want to give to much away regarding the plot of the novel or the characters themselves. but they are very well described, there are some with mental health conditions that are so brilliantly portrayed. With the conditions themselves explained superbly.
I would hugely recommend this novel, especially to those interested in gaming & AI, although it is not necessary to have a huge amount of knowledge as the book guides you through the information.
huge praise for the author, I will definitely be reading his future novels!
*I received a free Ebook copy via net galley in return for an honest review.

Delete is available free to Kindle Unlimited members or for 98p to Uk Amazon Kindle users
Q&A to follow with author Karl Olsberg.