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Ask the Author: Joakim Zander

By Vikki Patis

I spoke to debut author Joakim Zander about his writing process. Zander’s debut novel, The Swimmer, was released last month.

9781781859179Joakim Zander was born in in Stockholm, Sweden in 1975. As he grew up, he also lived in Syria and Israel and was a high-school exchange student in the USA. After completing his military service in the Swedish Navy, he studied law at Uppsala University and later earned a PhD in Law from Maastricht University. Cambridge University Press published his dissertation, The Application of the Precautionary Principle in Practice, which was awarded the Rabobank Prize. Zander has worked for the European Parliament and the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium. He currently lives in Lund, Sweden, with his wife and two children.

The Swimmer  has been hailed as a “full immersion into the classic spy story, masterfully written” and a “dazzling debut”. Set in Damascus in the early 1980′s, The Swimmer tells the tale of a nameless American spy who abandons his newborn child to an uncertain fate. His inability to forgive himself for what he has done leads him on a life-long quest to escape his past, which will take him to Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq – anywhere where danger and stress allow him to forget.

The Swimmer is an action-packed thriller filled with unexpected twists and turns in a world of shifting allegiances and questionable bonds. But it is also a story about guilt and atonement and the fact that, in the end, you cannot hide from your past.

I wanted to know what inspired Zander to become a writer.

‘When I was a kid I loved mysteries and adventures like Enid Blyton’s the Famous Five books. In the house where I grew up we also had what I remember as a full shelf of the Biggles books that my father had read as a child. I think the idea of being a writer was born close to that shelf on some rainy Sunday afternoon when I was maybe nine or ten.’ 

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Zander’s ideas usually start with a theme, or several disparate themes, that he then begins to explore.

‘In The Swimmer I was interested in saying something about the world of young careerists in Brussels, as well as exploring the West’s involvement in the Middle East and the priviatisation of war. The ideas stem from my own experiences but also from the news, literature, etc. I think that I am pretty curious. I like to try to understand things.’

Keep writing, is Zander’s tip for aspiring writers.

‘Keep writing, eventually the story arrives. I had written regularly for as long as I could remember, but struggled to find a story that would last longer than twenty pages. When it finally happened it was intoxicating.’

It’s probably better not to know what the publication process is like, according to Zander.

‘It was probably good that I didn’t know how hard it was going to be to make a full novel work, or how time consuming and painstaking the editing would be.’

Zander is currently working on a follow-up to The Swimmer, in which some of the characters will return and some new ones will emerge.

‘This time I am interested in the global economic crisis, civil unrest, and who might stand to gain from all of that… Let’s leave it at that for now.’

The sequel sounds just as fascinating. I know many readers will be eagerly awaiting its arrival, myself included.

Having just finished ‘the mesmerising Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville’, Zander will move on to reading either Outlaws by Javier Cercas or The Cairo Affair by Olen Steinhauers.

Zander was in London just before the book was published, but has no current plans to return, to my dismay.

Photo credit Sofia Runarsdotter

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Lovereading4kids top 3 books, by age range, 24 – 31 August 2014

Books for Babies and Toddlers

1
The Mouse Who Ate the Moon The Mouse Who Ate the Moon
Petr Horacek
A stunning and thought-provoking picture book with some clever use of cut outs and a flap. Little Mouse looks at the lovely round yellow moon and thinks how much she would love a slice of it for herself. Stepping out …
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2
I Love You, Too! I Love You, Too!
Michael Foreman
Award-winning picture book creator, Michael Foreman celebrates the love between a father and child in this endearing bedtime story from this twice Kate Greenaway Medal Winner. Little Bear takes dad on a journey around all his favourite things and adventures …
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3
Elmer and the Whales Elmer and the Whales
David Mckee
Elmer, the well-loved hero of so many titles, is back for a charming new adventure among the whales. Elmer and his cousin Wilbur set off to the sea to catch a glimpse of the whales as their grandfather did before …
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Featured Books for 3+ readers

1
Enormouse Enormouse
Angie Morgan
A funny and charming picture book about being different, a perfect for read-aloud picture book with a reassuring ending. …
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2
This is Not My Hat This is Not My Hat
Jon Klassen
Winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal 2014 – Winner of the UKLA Book Awards 3-6yrs 2014- Winner of the 2013 Caldecott Medal. One of Julia Eccleshare’s Stand-out Children’s Book of the Year 2012   Best-selling illustrator Jon Klassen follows up his …
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3
Where the Wild Things are Where the Wild Things are
Maurice Sendak
Jacqueline Wilson, February 2012 Guest Editor: “The text is very minimal but perfect – and the illustrations are glorious. This isn’t a scary book in the slightest, though the monsters are grotesque, equipped with very sharp teeth and pointy claws.  Little Max …
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Featured Books for 5+ readers

1
Squishy Mcfluff: and the Supermarket Sweep! Squishy Mcfluff: and the Supermarket Sweep!
Pip Jones
August 2014 Book of the Month A second helping of deliciously funny adventures for Ava and her invisible cat Squishy McFluff. Ava is not looking forward to a trip to the supermarket with her mum as shopping is no fun. But …
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2
Algy's Amazing Adventures in the Jungle Algy’s Amazing Adventures in the Jungle
Kaye Umansky
Meet Algy.  He’s just moved house.  Moving house is on the long list of things he doesn’t like, along with girls, snakes, crocodiles, mad tigers and having adventures.  Algy meets Cherry (who just happens to be a girl) from next …
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3
The Story of World War One The Story of World War One
Richard Brassey
It began 100 years ago. They said it would be over by Christmas. They were wrong.
Read about the tanks and trenches, bombs and battlefields that make up the chilling story of World War One. Did you know that German Zeppelins …
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Featured Books for 7+ readers

1
Henry Hunter and the Beast of Snagov Henry Hunter and the Beast of Snagov
John Matthews
August 2014 Book of the Month Henry Hunter is a most unusual boy – even among the boys at St Grimbold’s School. He has a private jet and an appetite for finding things that possibly comes from living up to his …
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2
Archie's War Archie’s War
Marcia Williams
Archie’s War provides an astonishing insight into what it was like to be a 10 year old child in one of the most important moments in history – the First World War that began in 1914. With its striking scrapbook …
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3
The Amazing Tale of Ali Pasha The Amazing Tale of Ali Pasha
Michael Foreman
An evocative WW1 story of heroism and friendship, based on real events.  Ali Pasha was a tortoise celebrity, appearing on Blue Peter and in newspapers worldwide, including The Times and The Boston Globe. Retold through journal entries and through Henry’s …
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Featured Books for 9+ readers

1
Danger is Everywhere: A Handbook for Avoiding Danger Danger is Everywhere: A Handbook for Avoiding Danger
David O’Doherty
August 2014 Book of the Month  This book lets you know exactly how to avoid all sorts of dangers of the most unlikely kind.  It is a brilliantly funny handbook that will have boys and girls with enquiring minds completely …
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2
Here be Monsters Here be Monsters
Alan Snow
Here Be Monsters is the inspiration behind the new Boxtrolls movie.   An enormously inventive, endlessly entertaining, overwhelmingly original and astonishingly illustrated book set in the unbelievably weird world of Ratbridge. Eccentric and zany, fast-moving and funny with a Dickensian feel …
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3
The Eye of the Falcon The Eye of the Falcon
Michelle Paver
August 2014 Book of the Month The third adventure for Hylas, now landed on the plague ridden island of Keftiu which is also gripped by the coldest winter ever known and covered in ash from the eruption of the enormous …
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Featured Books for 11+ readers

1
The Castle The Castle
Sophia Bennett
August 2014 Book of the Month   In a fast-paced and richly imagined adventure Peta Jones risks her life when she recklessly embarks on a deadly dangerous adventure following a clue that might reveal that he father is still alive. Stowing …
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2
Night Runner Night Runner
Tim Bowler
August 2014 Book of the Month  Award-winning Tim Bowler will set heartbeats racing in this gripping story set in a dark underworld filled with violent men who will stop at nothing to achieve their ends. Zinny’s life is bleak enough …
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3
Tiger Moth Tiger Moth
Suzi Moore
A roller-coaster of a book full of tears and laughter as the lives of two unhappy children – Zack and Alice – become entangled in ways that allow both of them to be set free from the secrets and mysteries …
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Featured Books for 14+ readers

1
She is Not Invisible She is Not Invisible
Marcus Sedgwick
Longlisted for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Book Award 2014   When sixteen-year-old Laureth’s father vanishes she is determined to track him down. So determined that she flies to New York to find him. But Laureth doesn’t go alone; she takes her …
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2
If I Stay If I Stay
Gayle Forman
Gripping, heartrending and ultimately life-affirming, If I Stay is a haunting novel about the power of love and loss – a story that won’t quite let you go. It will make you appreciate all that you have, all that you’ve …
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3
Infinite Sky Infinite Sky
C. J. Flood
Winner of The Branford Boase Award 2014.
Shot through with danger as adolescence can be, this is a powerful coming of age novel which combines dark realities with optimism and naivety. When Iris’s mother takes off on a road trip, things …
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Top 10 most popular books on Lovereading 24 – 31 August 2014

Lovereading Top 10

1
Little Lies Little Lies
Liane Moriarty
August 2014 Book of the Month.
Fabulously different and remarkably clever, this page-turner of an intimate yet scandalous tale keeps you guessing right up to the very end. Having been told that something awful has happened at the school Quiz Night, …
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2
Daughter Daughter
Jane Shemilt
A tale of abduction/murder/disappearance?  We the reader know not and so the tension and mystery builds.  It is about a medical couple with three children, prosperous, hardworking, happy – so there is no way Naomi would want to run away.  …
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3
The Good Girl The Good Girl
Mary Kubica
August 2014 Debut of the Month.
A memorable and riveting thriller of a mystery novel, ‘The Good Girl’ features an unusual focus and startling ending. Three main characters tell their stories in a random “before” or “after” mode; we hear from …
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4
Escape Escape
Dominique Manotti
Maxim Jakubowski Highly Recommended.
A past winner of the Crime Writers’ Association International Dagger, Manotti is a French academic and crime writer with a sure touch for the nuances of contemporary society and an eye for the currents of violence thread …
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5
The Proposal The Proposal
Tasmina Perry
August 2014 Book of the Month.
A tale of an unlikely friendship and hard lessons well learned. Amy, bruised by a failed relationship, answers an advertisement in The Lady magazine and becomes companion to a quiet, gently aristocratic old lady, Georgina …
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6
We are All Completely Beside Ourselves We are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Karen Joy Fowler
July 2014 MEGA Book of the Month.
Longlisted for The Man Booker Prize 2014. The effects on a family of a young sister who disappears.  It is a good third of the way through the book before you find out what …
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7
Welcome to Meantime Welcome to Meantime
Murray Davies
August 2014 eBook of the Month.
This is a book to make real coppers and crime sleuths smile, the first chapter slaps your interest then compels you to sit up and take note. The two main investigators have real substance and …
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8
Fall from Grace David Raker Novel Fall from Grace David Raker Novel
Tim Weaver
August 2014 Book of the Month.
The follow up to Never Coming Back sees David Raker helping Melanie Craw, a Met police officer from the earlier book, find her missing father, also a Met police officer now retired to Dartmoor.  This …
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9
The Aftermath The Aftermath
Rhidian Brook
World War II is an all too written about period of history but Brook manages to find a fresh take in this exquisite novel. It’s 1946 and there’s an uneasy tension in Hamburg between the occupying forces, hunting war criminals …
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10
Abattoir Blues The 22nd DCI Banks Mystery Abattoir Blues The 22nd DCI Banks Mystery
Peter Robinson
Although DCI Banks makes some appearances and is indeed featured on the cover, this whodunit largely stars Annie Cabot and his female staff snowed under with a weird case full of red herrings.  Could it be a World War II …
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Ask the Author: George R.R. Martin

By Vikki Patis

Last Friday, I had the absolute honour of meeting George RR Martin at Worldcon.

George RR Martin is, of course, a man who needs no introduction. Not only is he the author of A Song of Ice and Fire, the inspiration for the HBO series Game of Thrones, but the rest of his bibliography is also extremely impressive. Fevre Dream, Tuf Voyaging, The Ice Dragon.. and then there’s the TV shows he was involved with – the Twilight Zone, Doorways, Beauty and the Beast. The list of accomplishments is endless.

Martin was born September 20, 1948 in Bayonne, New Jersey. He began writing at a very young age, selling selling monster stories to other neighborhood children for pennies, dramatic readings included. Later he became a comic book fan and collector in high school, and began to write fiction for comic fanzines. Martin’s first professional sale was made in 1970 at age 21: “The Hero,” sold to Galaxy, published in February, 1971 issue.

Martin received a B.S. in Journalism from Northwestern University, Illinois, in 1970, and a M.S. in Journalism in 1971. Martin became a full-time writer in 1979. He was writer-in-residence at Clarke College from 1978-79.

Through the star that is Johannah Playford, I managed to organise an interview with George while he was in London for Worldcon. Giddy, yet determined to remain professional, I arrived at the Sunborn Yacht Hotel, and was immediately thrown off-balance. The moment I stepped off the lift, I was greeted by a smartly-dressed gentleman, who referred to me as “madam”. Well, I say. I lurked for a while, looking conspicious, before being rescued by the lovely Pat, who really helped me relax.

Soon enough, I was shown upstairs, and arranged myself at the table in a lovely hotel room. Once again, I made my best attempt to look professional, silently giving myself motivational speeches, and praying that I didn’t make myself look like a total fool. And, once again, I was thrown off-balance. George himself came in and, once he had settled himself on the sofa, began asking me questions. The idea that he was even remotely interested in me was astounding. It led to a lovely discussion about Plymouth, and his visit to the Old Barbican (a must-visit for anyone in the area) in 1981. As if I needed another reason to love this guy.

I began by asking him if he had any tips for aspiring writers.

‘For people in science fiction and fantasy, I tell them to start with short stories. I hear from far too many young writers, who, perhaps influenced by me or other people they’ve read, write me and say, “yes, I’m 17 years old and I’m writing a seven book fantasy series.” That’s like saying you’re going to take up rock climbing, and starting with Mount Everest. You don’t wanna start with that.’ 

Write a short story, he says. Begin it, and finish it. Put it on the market, forget about it, then start a new story the next day. Keep those stories circulating.

‘And see at least if you can get some personalised rejection letters. Most writers go through long periods of rejection.. Steel yourself for rejection.’

He also pointed out the FAQ section on his website for more information. http://www.georgerrmartin.com/for-fans/faq/

Over his long, successful career, Martin learnt that it’s all about the characters.

‘I began with books, with short stories. I wrote those for 15, 16 years before I first got involved in television. I worked primarily in TV and film for 10 years, before I went back to books, which were my first love.. It’s all storytelling, but it ultimately still begins and ends with the same thing – do you have a good story, do you have good characters? Characters the readers will care about, characters that are engrossing, compelling.. They no longer have to be likeable, they just have to be interesting, and engage the reader on some level.’

So who and what inspires such amazing stories?

‘Tolkien was certainly a large influence. For Ice & Fire, I also drew inspiration from writers of historical fiction.. Frank Yerby, Thomas B Costain, Bernard Cornwell, Sharon Kay Penman, Nigel Tranter, and Maurice Druon, author of the Accursed Kings series.’

I mentioned that I’d seen him at an event a couple of years ago, and he’d said that he wished he was more like Tyrion Lannister.

signed‘When you’re writing, you can make someone very witty. I can come up with witty lines, but it usually takes me a long time. I wish I would be Jon Snow, the great hero, but I’m probably more like Samwell Tarly.’

Martin is still working on The Winds of Winter, the next novel in the Song of Ice and Fire series, and will then move on to the final book, A Dream of Spring. He also has many ideas for more Dunk & Egg stories, which are set in Westeros, around 90 years before A Game of Thrones, two of which currently ‘exist in fragmentary form’. Martin will also be working on some science fiction stories, a Wildcard novel, and a sequel to Fevre Dream. A busy, busy man.

‘I’ve also considered finishing my unpublished, uncompleted novel, Black and White and Red All Over.’

The World of Ice and Fire, which was co-written by Elio Garcia and Linda Antonssen, the founders of the renowned fan site Westeros.org, will be released this October.

Despite working so incredibly hard, Martin still has time to read:

‘I read constantly. On the flight over here, I finished The Widow’s House by Daniel Abraham, [which is] great, terrific. I also read the new Robin Hobb,  Fool’s Assassin, and I have a bunch of other things on my Kindle that I’ll probably tackle before I go home.’

Now Worldcon is over, Martin is off to Los Angeles for the Emmy awards.

‘Everything in the world that I have to say has been said about 50 million times.’

Even so, I very much appreciate George taking the time of out of his busy schedule to say everything again to me. He is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, and it was a genuine pleasure to spend some time with him.

A Song of Ice and Fire, and many of George’s other books, are available on Lovereading.co.uk, the UK’s No1 book recommendation site. http://www.lovereading.co.uk/author/5099/George-R.-R.-Martin.html

Vikki Patis has also published this interview on Readwave.

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GOODNIGHT MALAYSIAN 370 — LOVEREADING REVIEW

By Ewan Wilson and Geoff Taylor

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 earlier this year shocked the world, not only over the tragic loss of life but also the bizarre circumstances surrounding it. An entire Boeing 777, for all intents and purposes, simply vanished into thin air and in doing so became a modern aviation mystery.

MH370FrontCoverHiRes_smThe notion that something so large could just disappear without a trace is both unsettling and unsatisfying. And the grip that MH370 has had on the public imagination has only deepened as more facts have emerged, such as how the communication system was disabled, how the plane evaded international radar and how it inexplicably deviated from its flight path, making a U-turn towards the India Ocean, in those last few hours before all contact was lost.

Despite a multinational search effort which now has the unenviable distinction of being the largest and most expensive in history, no trace of the ill-fated aircraft or its 239 passengers has so far been found. What has abounded, however, is a whole host of theories over the disappearance, from the possible to the downright conspiratorial and preposterous.

Goodnight Malaysian 370” is not the first book to examine the mystery, but in examining the most-likely scenarios in a thorough, systematic and logical way, it is undoubtedly the best.

This is neither a quick and cynical attempt to cash-in on one of the the hottest topics of the moment, nor a sensationalist exercise in yellow journalism. Aware that such a recent and raw tragedy could easily lead to charges of gross insensitivity, the authors clearly state at the outset that their independent investigations are motivated by respect and a drive to “pursue the truth” on the behalf of the passengers and their families, as well as he public in general, to help improve air safety and avoid another MH370 happening again.

New Zealand-based co-authors Ewan Wilson, an air accident investigator and commercial pilot, and Geoff Taylor, a celebrated broadsheet journalist, combine their expertise to present an extremely well-thought-out and compelling assessment as to the most probable cause of the plane’s loss, and the ultimate fate of its crew and passengers.

The duo conducted painstaking research prior to putting pen to paper. This included review all publicly-available official reports into the disappearance and conducting exclusive interviews with relatives of those on board, including the pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, to try and get a better understanding of the man at the helm when the plane was lost.

Calling upon an industry standard and well-respected investigation analysis model developed by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the authors go through each of the main theories concerning the loss of MH370 on March 8th, with a process of elimination worthy of Sherlock Holmes, rejecting the impossible to pare down to the truth, however improbable that may seem — or unpalatable.

After considering all data concerning the disappearance, and taking technology, risk controls, local conditions, and psychology into account, Wilson and Taylor dismiss catastrophic technical failures, human error, military strikes, hijacking or terrorism as the root cause.

Instead, they reach the horrifying conclusion that the tragedy was man-made and, even worse, was carried out deliberately by the pilot. They posit that Zaharie Ahmad Shah was a suicidal, mentally-unstable pilot who coldly and calculatedly killed all those in his care before crashing the plane in act of “post-mortem triumph”.

Goodnight Malaysian 370 also asks some difficult questions about the role of religion in aviation-related incidents and also analyses the recent tragedy in Ukraine when Malaysian Airlines MH17 was allegedly shot down by pro-Russian separatists – an event Wilson and Taylor believe will have “significant ramifications” for the international aviation industry.

This impeccably researched non-fiction title – the first to critically examine the facts as they stand – concludes with recommendations for the aviation industry and lessons to learn from recent events.

There is no clear-cut, definitive answer as to why MH370 went missing, and until wreckage is found there probably never will be, but Goodnight Malaysian 370 provides the most rational explanation as what actually transpired during that doomed flight.

If you are one of the countless millions who have been following every twist and turn regarding the biggest mystery in the history of aviation then this book is a must-buy.

Goodnight Malaysian 370, by Ewan Wilson and Geoff Taylor, is available from Amazon UK as a Kindle eBook, priced £8.

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Take part in a Crime Thriller Club TV quiz

Crime Quiz Poster

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Book Review: ESTONIA AND EQUINES BY ANNABELLE TILL

Estonia and Equines is a deeply intimate and often fascinating book proving that autobiography does not have to be the preserve of celebrities or VIPs. Indeed, the very fact that the author is an ordinary member of the public adds to the reading experience, as her life story is both compelling AND relatable.

anfcEstonieAndEquinesAs the title suggests, this great little read is divided into two journeys of love and discovery.

One half of the book relates the author’s deep-rooted and life-long love affair with horses and horse riding. A former amateur show jumper, Ann delights in her stories of training horse and ponies.

Sacrificing university to fund her life-long enthusiasm, the author’s equine adventures have taken her to all manner of places around the UK and brought many satisfying challenges to overcome, coupled with an equally satisfying dose of fun and frolics. Her passion for these sensitive, intelligent animals really leaps out from the page as she describes the characteristics and personalities of the four-legged companions she’s had over the years.

The other section of the book documents Ann’s heart-felt search for the lost Eastern European branch of her family, who became divided from the author and her mother through the chaos and devastation of the Second World War. Elegantly, and movingly, written, the book invites the reader into her personal struggle with a forgotten – and, for many years, forbidden – identity and heritage.

Ann was left in the dark for over 60 years about her Estonian family as her mother, Astrid — who had daringly escaped from her beloved Estonia during the Russian and Nazi occupation — refused to speak about her wartime past, the memories proving too painful to recall. With no other relatives in the UK, the author felt a keen sense of loneliness which was only compounded by the loss of her beloved father in 2007, and the increasingly fragile health of her mother, who was in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. After her father’s funeral, she decided to track down her lost family and with the name of her maternal grandfather’s name as her only clue, Ann turned detective, using the internet for help.

As she recounts, she was extremely fortunate from the start, finding a matching record listed on the website of the Museum of Occupation in Estonia. Seeking expert help to overcome the language barrier, she soon found herself on an incredible journey of discovery that eventually reunited her with a long-lost aunt, uncle and cousins.

The experience of being reunited with her relatives is both joyful and bitter-sweet. On the one side there is the poignant and rewarding reunion with her relatives, and sheer wonder to be found in exploring the culture and geography of a new country. Ann falls under Estonia’s spell from the start, and her vivid, wide-eyed description of taking her first horseback ride through the unspoilt forests makes you want to book a flight out to the country right away.

Yet, at the same time, there are unpleasant revelations to be made. We learn of the tragic fate of her grandfather, a major in the Estonian Calvary, whom the author credits for passing on her love for horses and riding. Arrested by Russian forces during the occupation of Estonia, he was taken in secret to a labour camp in Siberia, where he was later executed by firing squad after starting an uprising. The first photo the author receives of her grandfather is of him with a shaven head, taken minutes before he was killed. It is a shocking moment and underlines the realities of the atrocities that took place during those dark days. There are also the hidden truths about her mother’s private life which come to the surface.

So reticent was Ann’s mother about her background, fearing that she would alert the Estonian authorities and be sent back to the then-Communist country, that her nationality was altogether unknown to the author for many years. It must have been a terrible experience for Astrid, with the Nazi annexation of her homeland ripping both her family and community apart while she was just a teenager. Not only did she lose her father, but was forced into back-breaking work digging trenches, watched over constantly by cruel and lustful German soldiers. Thankfully, Astrid was eventually able to escape the country and went to live with family in Germany, where she met Ann’s father, Albert, a soldier in the British Army, in 1945. After returning to England, Albert hired a two-seater plane to bring Astrid and a friend to the UK. They arrived in 1946, landing at Croydon Airport, and went on to enjoy a long and happy marriage.

The couple’s devotion to each other is clear to see, as the author includes many letters from her father to her mother depicting his love for Astrid and his struggle to get her back to England. The book, then, is as much a celebration of bravery and love as it is of rediscovery and reconnection. Sadly, Astrid never got to see Estonia again, or meet with her siblings, as she died in 2010 unaware of her daughter’s quest and the fruits it had borne. There is, however, a happy ending of sorts as to honour her mother’s memory; Ann took her ashes back to Estonia to rest beside the grave of her sister.

Estonia and Equines is a unique book that will be appreciated in equal measure by animal lovers and those with a keen interest in Eastern Europe, World War Two and genealogy, as well as those who appreciate smaller, though no less impressive, real-life stories. Poignant, and yet often light-hearted, this page-turner will bring tears to your eyes, a smile to your face and warmth to your soul.

Estonia and Equines: Finding my family and my horsey heritage by Annabelle Till is available now from Amazon, priced £7.99.

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Ask The Author: Patrick Rothfuss

By Vikki Patis

August 19 2014. Since so many of the big names in fantasy and science fiction were in London last week for Worldcon, I took the opportunity to speak to some of them. On Thursday, it was Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Kingkiller Chronicle series.

620The first book in the series, The Name of the Wind, introduces us to Kvothe, and is divided into two timelines. We meet Kvothe as Kote, a quiet innkeeper, who keeps his identity hidden until he saves a man, known as the Chronicler, from some spider-like creatures. Kvothe agrees to telling his story, which he says will take three days. The narrative then turns to first person, as Kvothe begins his story with his childhood.

From the Edema Ruh, a group of travelling performers, to Abenthy, who trains Kvothe in science and sympathy, to the tragedy that ripped his young life apart and forced him to the streets, to the fortune that landed him a place in the University, The Name of the Wind tells the tale of a young, sometimes reckless, yet extremely endearing man.

Rothfuss doesn’t just evoke an amazing magical world, but he also includes the science behind the magic, which makes for a fascinating read. The older Kvothe (Kote) seems like a completely different character to young Kvothe – he’s mysterious, intelligent, unknown. The second novel, The Wise Man’s Fear, was released in 2011, and The Slow Regard of Silent Things, a novella set in the same world, will be released this October.

According to George RR Martin, The Wise Man’s Fear ‘was worth the wait. I gulped it down in a day, staying up almost to dawn reading, and I am already itching for the next one. He’s bloody good, this Rothfuss guy.’ I don’t think you need a better recommendation than this one.

Through contacting the wonderful Sophie Calder, I managed to set up an interview with Rothfuss at Orion House in Leceister Square. Upon entering the building, I immediately felt under-dressed, and I rushed to hide my tattoos. I was shown into an office, where I set up my papers, and tried to look professional. But once Rothfuss walked in, I knew I was in good company.

9780575081406Rothfuss was born in Wisconsin, initially studying chemical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He spent the next nine years at university, jumping from major to major and taking semesters off, before finally graduating with an English major. During this time, he had been working on “The Book”, which he then tried to sell to publishers while he taught part-time at Stevens Point. He disguised a chapter of The Book as a short story and won the Writers of the Future competition in 2002.  This put him into contact with all the right people, and after deciding to split The Book into three installments, DAW agreed to publish it.  In 2007, The Name of the Wind was published to great acclaim, winning the Quill Award and making the New York Times Bestseller list.

I wanted to know why he decided to write “The Book” in the first place.

I get asked that a fair amount, and I suppose for some people, they have a moment in their life when they think, oh I wanna be a writer.. They’d read something and it changed their life.. I never had that. I just liked reading books, and I played around with writing stories, and I never thought, oh I’d like to do it as a living, because I knew the odds were not good.

I then asked Rothfuss where he gets his ideas from, to which he said:

The generic answer to that is, the same place as everyone – there’s a warehouse in Poughkeepsie. In some ways that is the best question to ask, it is the only important question, but it’s utterly unanswerable. 

Well. Alright then. What about Kvothe?

He I did deliberately create. I knew that, if people did not like him, if he was not a compelling character, it was not going to work out well. 

Rothfuss read Cyrano de Bergerac, and was blown away by the amazing character.

This character was proud and powerful and arrogant and articulate and broken and sad.. I remember reading the last third of the play on a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon, and just weeping.. Then I thought, Jesus, okay, I gotta get on with my life. 

After reading ‘like 5000 fantasy novels’, Rothfuss decided he wanted to write a story that could have the same emotional impact on someone else. He also read Casanova’s Memoirs, which he described as a fascinating, incredible story, with no fantasy elements in it at all.

But if I’m gonna write a fantasy novel, why wouldn’t I want him to be a magician, a wizard, a powerful arcane thing of some sort? People like Gandalf, Moses.. What makes these people cool isn’t their magic actually; what makes them cool is that they know things about the world. And so I put those things together and added a few other elements, and Kvothe kind of grew out of that.

His advice to aspiring writers is, simply, to live somewhere cheap. ‘It’s not the advice you want as a new writer, but it’s the best advice you’ll get.’ There’s no point in struggling to pay for the roof over your head, working crazy hours, and having no time to write, he says. Oh, and back up your files obsessively.

Rothfuss wished he knew how to write query letters and synopses, but he also wishes he could take what he knows now about writing back ten years, and save himself all of the work.

The big thing that I’ve learned in the last few years has been my craft, the writing itself. You can’t take it in a pill form, you can’t read a book on writing and steal someone else’s craft. 

His novella, The Slow Regard of Silent Things, will be released this October, and Rothfuss is also working on other things. He has a standalone novel coming out ‘before too terribly long’, about a new character showing off a different piece of the world. He’s also been working on illustrations for his novels, which took more time than he anticipated.

I always want to know what writers are reading, if they have the time.

I always have time to read, I’ve given up most TV and movies, but I always have time to read. If I don’t read, my mood is very very bad, and things grind to a halt inside me.

Rothfuss is currently reading The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente.

This is so fucking good, it is irritatingly good. I hope Catheryanne is here and I will buy her lunch, and I will curse her for writing something so marvellous.. It’s wonderful. It’s one of those books that I wish I could have written, but I know I could not have written it. I’m looking forward to my boy getting old enough so I can read this to him, which is in some ways the best compliment I can give to a book.

Meeting Patrick was an absolute pleasure. I’m so honoured that he managed to fit me into his busy schedule. I look forward to reading anything else he releases.

Now Worldcon is over, Rothfuss will be back in the US for PAX Prime, from August 29 until September 1 in Seattle. For more information, check out his website (http://www.patrickrothfuss.com/content/index.asp ). Patrick’s novels are available on Lovereading.co.uk, the UK’s No1 book recommendation site.

Vikki Patis has also published this interview on Readwave.

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Top 10 most popular books on Lovereading 10 – 17 August 2014

Lovereading Top 10

1
Little Lies Little Lies
Liane Moriarty
August 2014 Book of the Month.
Fabulously different and remarkably clever, this page-turner of an intimate yet scandalous tale keeps you guessing right up to the very end. Having been told that something awful has happened at the school Quiz Night, …
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2
White Feathers White Feathers
Susan Lanigan
Don’t be tricked into thinking this is a ‘Cinderella’ story, the first part, so gently and simply told by the author, almost lulls you into a false sense of security before World War One sticks it’s fearsome and harrowing boot …
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3
Alphabet House Alphabet House
Jussi Adler-Olsen
August 2014 eBook of the Month.
Absolutely fascinating and riveting, this powerful read draws you in from the beginning and doesn’t let go. Although partially set during the Second Wold War, this is not in itself a novel about war but …
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4
The Summer Guest The Summer Guest
Emma Hannigan
August 2014 Book of the Month.
Life, loves, laughs and a few bumps amid a group of folk in an Irish seaside town.  Kathleen has returned to visit her childhood home now lived in by Lexie and Sam.  The three hit …
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5
The One Plus One The One Plus One
Jojo Moyes
August 2014 Book of the Month.
JoJo Moyes is an incredible writer whose ability to depict modern life in all its glorious complexities is second to none. This is a touching story of the lengths we’ll go to for the people …
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6
Fall from Grace David Raker Novel Fall from Grace David Raker Novel
Tim Weaver
August 2014 Book of the Month.
The follow up to Never Coming Back sees David Raker helping Melanie Craw, a Met police officer from the earlier book, find her missing father, also a Met police officer now retired to Dartmoor.  This …
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7
The Good Girl The Good Girl
Mary Kubica
August 2014 Debut of the Month.
A memorable and riveting thriller of a mystery novel, ‘The Good Girl’ features an unusual focus and startling ending. Three main characters tell their stories in a random “before” or “after” mode; we hear from …
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8
The Proposal The Proposal
Tasmina Perry
August 2014 Book of the Month.
A tale of an unlikely friendship and hard lessons well learned. Amy, bruised by a failed relationship, answers an advertisement in The Lady magazine and becomes companion to a quiet, gently aristocratic old lady, Georgina …
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9
If I Stay If I Stay
Gayle Forman
Gripping, heartrending and ultimately life-affirming, If I Stay is a haunting novel about the power of love and loss – a story that won’t quite let you go. It will make you appreciate all that you have, all that you’ve …
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10
I am Pilgrim I am Pilgrim
Terry Hayes
A smashing first novel from the screenwriter of DEAD CALM and the MAD MAX movies, this has been hyped as in the footsteps of Day of the Jackal, Silence of the Lambs, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and other …
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eBook review: Nicky No Face & The Face Critters by Vimal Vaz

This delightful children’s book has everything a budding or reluctant reader could wish for – a gripping plot, stuff to relate to, cool illustrations, realistic characters, dark stuff to overcome and a mixture of the mundane with surrealism and silliness.

NNF-Front-Cover-smA major draw is the unlikely protagonist, 12-year-old Nicholas Appleby or Nicky. Partially deaf, with different colour eyes, he couldn’t be further away from the Harry Styles pop culture that’s typically blasted at kids today.

Plus, he has a hard time in life: no mum; a dad facing death threats and in need of a bone-marrow transplant; an uncle in prison and bullies on his back to top it all off.

The plot revolves around a sinister plan to kidnap Nicky in revenge for the actions of his father – an animal welfare campaigner who has managed to stop endangered animals performing in circus acts.

Disgruntled performers aim to take revenge, by turning Nicky into a freaky monster show and, when a magic spell is cast, his eyes, ears, mouth and nose become separated from his face, and develop their own arms, legs and minds, enabling them to act independently. They end up running free and wild and being of no help to Nicky, who has to sort himself out in order to save his dad. Things are going against him, and time is running out to save himself and his father.

Although Nicky No Face & The Face Critters has a quirky and far-fetched plot, what is not to love? It’s great fun – who wouldn’t love their ears to wander off on their own for a while? But, most importantly, it deals with important themes such as a boy’s love for his father, and the fact that it’s OK to be different from other people. Strangely, it was only by losing control of his senses that Nicky realises the true power of love and importance of individual identity.

Kids will love the no-nonsense prose, the fast-paced plot, the short chapters and text speak. There are also great illustrations by the author that don’t patronise or babify the book, but instead enhance it and make it stand out.

The characters are all a bit off-the-wall, from their names (Ruby Tang and Tonton Cheroot) to their characteristics – Nicky’s hobby, for instance, is spotting planets through his telescope. And although the book has mostly male characters, it clearly appeals to girls as well as boys.

Its crazy twists and turns will make kids smile, and any adult that is reading along with them, while at the same time getting across the anti-bullying message that everyone is different and that children should love what makes them unique.

Imaginative, enchanting and bizarre, this is a magical-mystery tour and a fantastic children’s book that will quickly cast its spell over kids aged eight and over.

Nicky NoFace & The Face Critters: The boy who lost his senses by Vimal Vaz is available now from Amazon as a Kindle ebook, priced £1.79. For more information visit www.nickynoface.com

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