A Writer's Journey: L. C. Rosen

Lev Rosen is originally from lower Manhattan and now lives in even lower Manhattan, right at the edge, with his husband and very small cat. The author reflected on his own summer camp experiences for the fictional story Camp, which is honestly one the most addictive and page-turning reads you will enjoy this year. To celebrate its release, we caught up with him to find out about his writing journey. What was the first book that really inspired you? There was…

Review: The Sheltering Sky By Paul Bowles

Since my first encounter with The Sheltering Sky some years ago, the novel remained in my mind as one that really meant something. It moved me; I found it wholly engaging, complex, mysterious and somewhat disturbing. That isn't half bad, considering that all I read, no matter how much I revel in the experience at the time, gets cast to the bookcase and the back of my mind to be slowly forgotten. I returned for a second round recently as I…

Mile High Musings - On Narrative

As a child I was fortunate enough, thanks to my father, to be regularly invited to join the Captain and Co-Pilot in the cockpit of numerous passenger aircraft whilst in flight. Often perched upon an uncomfortable jump seat, I gazed in astonished wonder at the bedazzling range of knobs, switches, levers, pulsing lights and gauges before my eyes as the aviators piloted their Jumbos and DC 10’s through the skies. The sedulously professional air of the pilots was at utter variance…

Review: The Litigators By John Grisham

My love for a Grisham continues and I thought it time to read another... Although refreshingly humorous in tone, or at the very least tongue in cheek in places, the opening of this novel is a frighteningly real description of ‘the snap’ as experienced by David Zinc. For those of you who, like me, have never heard the term before, it is that moment when your mind snaps, the pressure becomes too great and, as in this case, you run. David…

A Writer's Journey: Kamand Kojouri

Born in Tehran, raised in Dubai and Toronto and currently a resident of Wales, Kamand Kojouri saw her debut poetry collection rewarded with bounteous praise. In her second collection, she turns the age-old question of the existence of God on its head, and asks whether humanity exists. Her main intention is to make us think and act more humanely—with compassion, empathy, and understanding. We caught up with her to find out a little bit more about her journey as writer. What

Puffin Launches Week-Long Childrens' Book Festival

Puffin, the world’s biggest children’s book publisher, is launching the ‘Puffin Festival of Big Dreams’ as part of their 80th birthday celebrations. The seven-day online festival, in partnership with Waterstones, will launch on the 8th June and will bring together authors and illustrators including Jacqueline Wilson, Robin Stevens, Nick Sharratt, Dapo Adeola, Nathan Bryon and Nadia Shireen, to inspire children to keep on dreaming. Hosted on Puffin’s YouTube and Facebook Live channels, the festival will feature an all-star line up…

The Sound And The Fury: A Hero Of Our Time By Mikhail Lermontov

Mikhail Lermontov’s A Hero Of Our Time (1840) was a game changer of seismic proportion for Russian literature. It was a pioneering psychological novel, confronting its readers with a minatory and unforgettable protagonist in the form of Pechorin, its Byronic “Hero”. Lermontov both broke and created literary conventions in order to provide society with a depiction of a monster it had made. Its central message, though bleak, finds expression through Lermontov’s literary innovation and ability to keep his reader entertained…

Poem Of The Week: 'Treat' By Thirza Clout

Treat When dad thickly buttered a slice of white bread, spooned on sugar, tipped it to and fro over the china bowl he showered down so much love it snowed across the cloth. I licked my first finger, pressed down to stick grains, licked again. In our house love came granulated never enough to be wasted. Here’s a poet who constructs the living room of a life from the barest of furniture. Thirza Clout’s brief but focused observation bespeaks an act of love which is given definition, not so much…

Review: A Street Cat Named Bob By James Bowen

I had a cat once. I got him as a kitten, a little ball of fluff, and it was the vet who told me he was Harry and not Harriet! I had him for seventeen years. After the initial cute kitten phase, he was quiet, kept himself to himself and wasn’t particularly affectionate, except once when I was in bed with pneumonia and woke up to find him curled up under the duvet, in the small of my back. It…

Review: Sideways By Rex Pickett

Sideways, written in 1999 by American novelist and film maker Rex Pickett, but not published until 2004, had a difficult birth. His first novel, La Purisima did not sell. After receiving eighteen rejections from publishers, Pickett’s literary agent pulled his second novel Sideways from submission. Twelve months after he had completed the manuscript, film director Alexander Payne bought the options for the book. Just four months before Payne released his film of the same title, the screenplay adapted from…

Poem Of The Week: 'July' By Alan Perry

July My father in the old greenhouse In Sketty: the freshly-ripened smell of tomatoes, engulfing him, warmth reflecting off skin heat taking the breath away the greenhouse more solid than I ever remember it: newly-painted and glazed its list completely righted my mother two new-mown lawns away down in the lean-to calling him in to dinner or tea and my father fifty summer’s sturdier standing there among damp and dripping greenery tasting a tomato in a dream The profound simplicity of Alan Perry’s poetics betrays a steady guiding hand. Not given to prolixity, the poet finds a focus for reflection in…

‘Things Are As They Are And Will End As They Must’: A Brief Affair By Margaret Leroy

I sat down to read yet another of what I term my holiday reads, found in yet another pile of books at Mum’s bedside, destined for the charity shop. I had no intention of reviewing it as there are so many of that ilk, and yet, it is the result of someone’s hard work and deserves not to be so easily dismissed. A Brief Affair also turned out to be a dramatic, authentic account of an admittedly well-documented period of…

Howards End : Love At First Read

“One may as well begin with Helen’s letters to her sister”. And so begins Howard’s End, written by E.M. Forster (1879–1970) and first published in 1910. By all means call me contrary or even vexatious, however given that this exquisitely executed novel explores an interdependent tapestry of diametric opposites, I will begin with a confession. I adore this book and consequently lack any capacity whatsoever to present you with a balanced response to it! It’s not that my love is…

Mucking Out the Augean Stable: A Bedside Table Muse

How cruel to sometimes have an abundance of time and no vim. Equally annoying is the obverse of this state. I don’t know about you, but sometimes finding the time and inclination to indulge in a long reading session can be an Herculean task, albeit without the drama or the filthy stables. Even on days not riddled with the imperative to do this or complete that, sitting down for a lengthy period with a book might not take my fancy,…

Review: A History Of Solitude By David Vincent

The timing of David Vincent’s new book couldn’t have been more propitious. If most of us are not committed to solitude entire, then for others self-isolation will mean an unavoidable asceticism, the imposition of a strategic disengagement, with the potential to incarcerate otherwise gregarious personalities in cells with windows. To turn off the tap of physical interaction is to cast many into dark and unfamiliar territory. Which is not the least of Professor Vincent’s concerns in the final chapter of this…

Poem Of The Week: 'Still Life' By Diane Ackerman

Still Life The bullet has almost entered the brain: I can feel it sprint down the gun barrel, rolling each bevel round like a hoop on a pigslide of calibrated steel and oil. Now it whistles free and aloft in that ice-cold millimetre of air, then boils as the first layer of skin shales off like ragged leaves of soap. The trigger’s omnipresent click makes triggers all over the body fire. Now it tunnels through palisades, veins, arteries, white corpuscles red and battered as swollen ghosts, cuts the struts on a glacial bone jutting out…

'You're My Favourite': Jane Eyre By Charlotte Brontë

How often have you been asked to name your favourite book? Recently, on Facebook and other social media sites, people have listed their favourite places, drinks, names they are known by, (beware, if drawn into one of these threads, that you are not providing scammers with too much personal information), and once, just once, have I come across one asking me to name my favourite book…and, Reader: I struggled. There are so many to choose from and what are my…

The Island Of Dr Moreau

Edward Prendick, the narrator of this still controversial early science fiction novel written by H.G. Wells (1866-1946) and first published in 1896, was not quite as fortunate as Robinson Crusoe. Though Daniel Defoe’s eponymous character referred to his enforced home of just over twenty eight years as “the island of despair”, poor old Edward definitely got the short end of the desert island stick. Never a huge fan of horror and likely to faint at the mere suggestion of surgery…

Review: York - A Rare Insight by Paul Chrystal & Ian Drake

Many of the libraries of York house compilations of old photographs of the city, which give a tantalising glimpse into the layers of the past. Nevertheless, Ian Drake and Paul Chrystal's new offering, York: A Rare Insight is really rather a special collection. For the first time ever you can hold in your hands a printed selection of glass slides that the renowned collector, Dr William Arthur Evelyn (1860-1935), donated for safekeeping to Yorkshire Architectural and York Archaeological Society (YAYAS)…

Classics Pack A Latent Punch

Engaging with a good book is a truly magical and dynamic experience. The alchemy of the subjective prism through which we individually approach and respond to a book creates a unique relationship between the observed and the observer. Although this relationship may be similar to another person’s experience, it cannot be identical and is often idiosyncratically spiced and therefore unique to a particular reader. Moving on from this truth, we can add yet more individuality to the mix. A reader’s…

New Friends To Spice Up Old Friendships

In times of crisis, it's a fillip for the mind to have good friends on hand. Mine include amongst many, E.M. Forster, Siegfried Sassoon, H.G. Wells, P.G. Woodhouse, Shakespeare and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. However, over exposure to some friends is inimical to that friendship. Like a pair of much-loved slippers, the comfort they afford gradually lessens over time though they remain cherished. In my case, Doyle or more precisely, Sherlock Holmes and his willing bulldog Watson, has become a…

There's Nothing Wrong With Being Eclectic

My musical tastes are eclectic, ranging from Collabro, to Manilow, to Abba, to Ralph McTell, Rod Stewart and David Bowie to name but a few. I have favourites from each decade, from the 50s to the present day, including the big band era of Glenn Miller and Joe Loss, to the contemporary sounds of Adele, John Legend and the Gallagher brothers. At the same time, I also thoroughly enjoy the liveliness of a Strauss waltz, the intricate work of Tchaikovsky…

Poem Of The Week: 'Touch' By Michael Donaghy

Touch We knew she was clever because of her hands. Hers, the first opposable thumb. Shards of her hip and skull Suggest she was young, thirteen perhaps, When the flash flood drowned her. Erect she stood Lythe as a gymnast, four feet tall, Our innocent progenitor. Sleek furred technician of flint and straw. Here are her knuckle bones. I know her touch. Though she could easily snap My wrist, she is gentle in my dream. She probes my face, scans my arm, She touches my hand to know me. Her eyes are grey…

Reading Your Way Through Lockdown

In the midst of a pandemic, it might seem counter-intuitive to reach for a dystopian novel to find escapism. However, they can be immensely thought-provoking, allowing us to rise above the current crisis to ask deeper questions about humanity, and at the very least, distract us away from reality for a time, to draw comparison between the unique reality of the current quotidian and that which was imagined, or predicted, by writers before us. An obvious place to start is…

Poem Of The Week: 'Here Come Two Very Old Men' By Kit Wright

Here Come Two Very Old Men Here come two men of exquisite caution Who handle each other like costly pieces of china In the perilous matter of sitting down at the bar, And you’d think it was the most demanding of all operations Ever conducted by bodies that have come this far, That so long ago came yelling from the vagina, That woke the world to be sitting where they are. In Kit Wright’s short but sweet poem we find life’s circularity buoyed in rhyme - the certainty…

Review: The Prison Doctor By Dr. Amanda Brown

In view of the current situation and the grateful thanks we all owe the NHS (and other key) workers, it seems to be an appropriate time to highlight the work undertaken by doctors at all times - and this book does just that. ‘The world I was working in was definitely not glamorous’ says Amanda Brown, with resolute autobiographical understatement. Here is the personal account of a doctor who, having given her life to her patients in the Buckinghamshire surgery she…

Review: A History Of Pictures - From The Cave To The Computer Screen By David Hockney & Martin Gayford

Thames & Hudson’s release of the new edition of David Hockney & Martin Gayford’s masterful A History of Pictures is serendipitous: the booksellers association’s recent announcement of an upsurge in sales owing to the glueing of readers to the settee as a consequence of Covid-19 must be good news for this handsome addition to the genre. Beautifully illustrated with many hundreds of pictures and photographs, this lively exchange between two of our leading art exponents is both instructive and entertaining. Which…

Insomnia Circuit: The Lithium Codex by Oz Hardwick

You might think that an interior examination of excess, of ‘mental streaming’, of a following of impulses without restraint, is evidence of a solipsism which is culturally apposite to an artistic zeitgeist turned in on itself. Descents self-conscious and unpoliced, bolstered by the perceived relevance of current cultural preoccupations, amount , often, to cries for attention, like so many upturned beaks in a nest of chicks. You don’t doubt the sincerity of the cry - you question its distinguishing features…

Midget Gems: The Richness of the Short Story

As an English teacher, I was often asked by frustrated parents: how do you get teenage offspring, usually boys, to read? One suggestion was to guide them to collections of short stories so that they could finish something in one sitting. Being short, they are often more highly structured and less laden with long descriptive passages, concentrating instead on the action – often preferred by boys. A good short story is hard to beat. In under 10,000 words – surely, any…

Standing in Another Person's Shoes: Noughts & Crosses and To Kill a Mockingbird

Noughts & Crosses, published in 2001, is the first of a series of novels by Malorie Blackman – the most recent, Crossfire, was published in August, 2019. Noughts + Crosses (currently a television drama) is a dystopian fiction based in a twenty-first century parallel universe. Their world, technologically at least, is similar to the one we recognise but with one key difference: equality between the races is explicitly lacking. The law and the constitution provide no protection for the colourless…