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Mid-September update

Our September mid-month email is full of Pre-Publication exclusive extracts, news on the Man Booker Shortlist and the chance to win signed books, cinema vouchers and even the exclusive and gorgeous Lovereading Canvas Book Bag worth £9.99. OR spend £25 or more, on books through Lovereading, and claim one free! … impossible to resist?

Sneak Peek! – “Pre-Pubs” for October

As usual there’s a host of hot-off-the-press Pre-Publication exclusives on the site so that you can see what’s due to rocket to the top next month. Every one of them is well worth spending time with but if we were forced to choose, we most certainly wouldn’t miss:

No Safe House by Linwood Barclay – A suspense thriller that Stephen King described as “masterful” … dark and tinglingly chilling. It Started with Paris by Cathy Kelly – Life in all its humorous glory with a broad canvas of classic characters and a wide Irish smile. And The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion – A quirky, heartfelt, cathartic follow-up to the witty bestseller The Rosie Project.


One thing leads to another

Not sure if you noticed but 2 of this month’s Pre-Pub books are sequels. The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion and Trinity by Conn Iggulden.

With both these books we heartily recommend you take the time, before the 2nd in the series is published, to read the 1st – you won’t be disappointed. The books are The Rosie Project and Stormbird. We love them both.

Maxim-ising September

Maxim Jakubowski, world-renowned and Lovereading’s resident Crime-writing guru has, this month, made his exclusive selection for us of the best Scottish Crime Fiction. Disciples of the genre, make your pilgrimage north to the Holy Grail of Crime! His ‘Book of the Month’ is a new collection of short stories from Ian Rankin …a must have for fans. His ‘Highly Recommended’ selection is the gripping thriller, reminiscent of a Scottish GODFATHER, The Night the Rich Men Burned by Malcolm Mackay.


eBooks of the Month

Pretty much all fiction is available as an eBook nowadays and uniquely Lovereading lets you choose the format, ePub, iBook or Nook that suits you best. Of particular note:

Tiger Milk

Stefanie de Velasco

A unique, powerful voice… not an easy read but a very rewarding one.

A Place for Us: Part 2

Harriet Evans

A wonderfully tantalising and captivating read that more than lives up to expectations.

Man Booker!

No that’s not a reference to a male escort client. It is of course that time of year when the shortlist for one of the biggest prizes in literature is announced. The Man Booker Prize never disappoints and for the first time this year it was opened to global nominations. Check out this year’s hopefuls below and see what floats your reading taste. Let us know through our Facebook or Twitter communities.


We love your opinions …

Finally, thank you to all the people who completed the recent Lovereading annual survey, your views are invaluable and we hope the 15 lucky winners are enjoying their book bags and book tokens. The survey was run by the lovely people SurveyBods and if you sign up to them you will have the opportunity to earn extra money and win great prizes through simply giving your opinions online.

Autumn Book Festival News

lit-fest-summary-image-sep14_vsmAutumn…season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, and a ripe crop of Literary Festivals for you to feast on. Enjoy the glut of authors at: Windsor Festival (15-28 September), Wimbledon Book Fest (3-12 October), The Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival (3-12 October), Birmingham Literature Festival (2-11 October), Wells Festival of Literature (10-18 October) and Harrogate History Festival (23-26 October). And click here to win a pair of tickets to hear The Guardian’s Tim Dowling on How to be a Husband at Wells Festival on 11 October.

Do you have a romantic novel in you?

From Romeo and Juliet’s fateful kiss to Elizabeth’s clash with the proud, rude Mr Darcy at the Meryton Ball, writers have proved that true love springs from the most unlikely of encounters. LoveAtFirstWrite, a partnership between Lovereading and publisher Corvus, is looking for a romantic novel with an original set-up, written with flair and charm, so that its creator can find their happy-ever-after with their new publisher. So if you are a debut novelist looking for your first publisher click here to find out more, we even have tips on writing great romantic scenes. Good Luck.

9780141359151That’s September at Lovereading. Whatever you read and wherever you read it, have a great, page-turning month. See you in October.  

P.S. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – Tissues at the ready … a heartbreaking yet funny and poignant story of life, love and suffering. You’ve probably already read the novel and seen the film but this gift hardback edition will be the icing on your bookshelf or that of another Fault in Our Stars addict.

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Ask the Author: Ed Cox

By Vikki Patis

Thanks again to the wonderful people at Orion books, I interviewed debut author Ed Cox about his writing process and upcoming novel The Relic Guild.

the relic guild‘Magic caused the war. Magic is forbidden. Magic will save us.’

Cox, with over a decade of writing behind him and a host of short stories, has decided to turn his hand to compelling fantasy fiction. Based in the UK, Cox has a BA 1st class with honours in creative writing, and a Master degree in the same subject. He then went on to teach creative writing at the University of Bedfordshire.

Described as ‘a highly commercial fantasy with a complicated heroine’, The Relic Guild is the first in an epic trilogy, following a young woman who must control her magic and escape her prison. According to Cox himself, ‘The Relic Guild is a story about intrigue, isolation, magic and adventure. It’s about people doing the right thing even when they’ve been given every reason not to.’

Set in an amazingly visualised city with a host of memorable characters, The Relic Guild is a must-read for lovers of adventure, mystery, magic and monsters, and complex characters.

The Relic Guild  is published on September 18th by Gollancz, in trade paperback, e-book and audiobook.

According to Cox, it was only a matter of time before he caught the writing bug:

‘As far back as I can remember I’ve always had a love for stories.’

He quotes the Ray Harryhausen movies as an early inspiration, but reading David Gemmell showed him how much he wanted to write fantasy stories. Neil Gaiman, Angela Carter and Tad Williams are also his literary heroes.

Ed-1Like many authors, Cox says that his ideas come from everywhere and anywhere:

‘A conversation, a story that didn’t go in the direction I thought it would, walking, driving, having a bath, cooking dinner, TV – anywhere. I’ve learned not to go looking for story ideas; they’ll just come to me when they feel like it. This sounds like I’m being glib, but the harder I try to force ideas the less likely they are to happen. In fact, every time I stress about any aspect of writing I just end up making it tougher for myself.’

Cox’s tip for aspiring writers is that it’s important to keep your perspective focused on what you’re creating.

‘The story always comes first. Focus on that and nothing else until it is as good as you can make it. Then get your story read, get some feedback, and then make it even better. Only when it’s finished should you concern yourself with agents and publishers. I say this from experience. There have been times when I’ve written with one eye on getting published and making money. The work suffers for it, and I always fall flat on my face.’

The amount of waiting, and patience required, is what Cox would have liked to have known before he was published.

‘It’s taken 18 months for The Relic Guild to be published, but it has felt like my desk chair has been on fire since the moment I signed the contract.  Patience is an important part of a book deal, but not always easy to find, and you go through a whole host of emotions waiting for publication day. And then, of course, publication day comes around and you panic. There’s suddenly a shedload of work to do, and you worry that you’re not prepared for it at all! It’s all part of the fun.’

Cox is currently waiting for his editor to send back the edits on book two of The Relic Guild, and then for the next year or so he’ll be writing book three. He’ll be making an appearance at Goldsboro Books in London on the 18th of September for the official launch.

He’s currently reading Happy Hour in Hell by Tad Williams, and will move on to Banished by Liz de Jager next.

The Relic Guild will be available on from 18th September, the UK’s No 1 book recommendation website.

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Ask The Author: Alex Preston

By Vikki Patis

Alex Preston, author of In Love and War, spoke to me about his writing process.

Photo credit Marianne I. van Abbe

Born in 1979, Preston is an award-winning author and journalist who appears regularly on BBC television and radio. He writes for GQ, Harper’s Bazaar and Town & Country Magazine as well as for the Observer’s New Review. He also teaches Creative Writing at the University of Kent and regular Guardian Masterclasses.

His first novel, This Bleeding City, was published in 2010, and won the Spear’s Best First Novel Prize, the Edinburgh International Book Festival Readers’ First Book Award, and was chosen as one of Waterstone’s New Voices 2010. His second novel, The Revelations, was published in 2012.

In Love and War transports you back to 1930′s Florence, a beautiful city, under the shadow of war. Told through the eyes of Esmond Lowndes, this novel is full of elegance and history, vividly described and powerfully affecting. Described as both epic and intimate, harrowing and heartwarming, In Love and War is one of those novels you really don’t want to miss.

Preston’s grandfather, the Princeton academic Samuel Hynes, inspired him to become a writer.

My grandfather is a writer, and was always the model for me growing up. An amazing man and a beautiful prose stylist.. If I achieve half what he has, I’ll feel like it’s been a life worth living.

9780571279456Coming up with ideas isn’t the problem, according to Preston – it’s knowing which of the many thousands will be able to sustain a whole novel.

It’s why I love long form journalism so much – I use the essays and articles I write as places to audition material for novels.

As a book critic himself, I wanted to know if this line of work affected Preston’s ability to put his creative writing out into the world:

You can’t worry too much about reviews as an author, nor as a reviewer can you afford to think too much of the poor author dreaming of taking an ice-pick to your head. I try to keep the two entirely separate, and remember how often I’ve loathed a book that everyone else loved and vice versa. 

His advice to aspiring writers is perhaps a little unconventional.

Perhaps the best piece of advice is something Richard Ford once said to his Creative Writing students: If you can give up writing, do. It’s such a tough life and so relentless that, if there’s any other way you might be able to make a living, you should probably go for that instead. Only those who simply can’t not write will have what it takes to make it.

Prior to being published, Preston wishes he’d had more confidence in himself.

I wish I’d known how to take criticism and praise better, I wish I’d been able to see five years ahead in those difficult early days, to know that it was all going to work out OK.

“OK” is a bit of an understatement., in my humble opinion. In Love and War has been extremely well-received, and Preston’s writing style has been applauded by many. I for one believe that Preston has a lot to be proud of.

He’s currently working on a novel and a non-fiction book, both of which are in the absolute earliest stages, and is reading and adoring two novels – Out of Sheer Rage by Geoff Dyer and Paris by Julian Green.

Preston is ‘all over the place between now and the end of the year’, but he will be appearing in Charleston with Joseph O’Neill, an author he admires enormously. For more information, visit his website

In Love and War is available on, the UK’s No.1 book recommendation site.

Photo credit Marianne I. van Abbe

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Ask The Author: Leigh Bardugo

By Vikki Patis

At Worldcon last month, I managed to catch up with the wonderful Leigh Bardugo, author of the Grisha Trilogy.

leigh_smLeigh Bardugo is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Grisha Trilogy, which is comprised of Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising. She was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism, and most recently, makeup and special effects. These days, she lives and writes in Hollywood, where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band. Her new book, The Dregs, will be released in autumn 2015.

The Grisha Trilogy introduces us to Alina, a shy orphan, transformed by the power she unlocks from within herself. Her journey takes us from the orphanage to the First Army, to the capital of Ravka and the mysterious and powerful Grisha. Full of beautiful imagery, brutal events and incredible characters, set in a vivid, intoxicating world, the Grisha Trilogy is a story you don’t want to miss.

I first met Bardugo at Titancon 2012, when I found myself alone in the hall with the table of guest authors. Bardugo (alongside Peadar O’Guilin who kindly allowed me to interview him earlier in the year) impressed me so much, with her easy laughs and clear passion for her books, that I bought Shadow and Bone straight away.

So when I discovered that Bardugo was going to be at Worldcon in London, I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to catch up with her again. After some discussion and signing of books, I started to ask her all about her writing process.

Bardugo was, as many of us are, a reader before she was a writer.

‘And I think I was a reader because of my grandfather. I was basically raised by my grandparents, and my grandfather developed a love of language in me very early on. So I think that’s where writing my own stories began.’

Becoming a writer is, of course, really about finishing the work. Bardugo wrote for a long time before she managed to finish a book.

‘All I can say is that it was always something I wanted. It was really about making the decision to finish.. to give up on perfection, and simply do it.’

9781780622262There are many authors who Bardugo admires, but she names George RR Martin, Frank Herbert, Dianna Wynne Jones and Madeleine L’Engle as ones who fostered an early love of science fiction and fantasy in her.

Because the Grisha Trilogy has a very heavy Russian influence, I wanted to know if Bardugo had ever spent any time in Russia. Unfortunately she hadn’t, but she would love to go. So I asked where the influence came from.

‘I wanted to take the reader someplace a little bit different. There certainly are many fantasies being written now [that are set] outside of the medieval European tradition, and that was something I definitely wanted to stay away from.. The failure to industralise, the presence of a large conscripted serf army, these things lent themselves to the Russian influence for world-building.’

The story of Anastasia, according to Bardugo, resonates with pretty much every generation.

‘Even if you don’t know anything about Russia, people often have incredibly powerful associations with it. Everyone knows who Rasputin is, everyone knows the story of Anastasia, they know who Stalin is.. There are powerfully beautiful images, and powerfully brutal images, and so in this way Russia lends itself very well to fantasy.’

Bardugo’s tips for aspiring writers include reading outside of your comfort zone, and outside of the genre you write. Try poetry, non-fiction, in order to learn the way narrative works, and soak up the way language works. And banish perfection. None of the books that we know and love were first drafts, so silence that inner editor.

‘I would also say that there’s no expiration date on your talent. If it doesn’t happen when you’re 20, it doesn’t matter, it can happen when you’re 30, 40, 50. If you have a story to tell, that’s all people are going to care about.’

There are many things Bardugo wished she knew before she was published. Being published is a very steep learning curve, and so there are many first experiences in it. But Bardugo wishes she had a bigger backlog of stories.

‘Shadow and Bone was the first book I finished. I have so many story ideas, I just wish I could write so much faster and put them all down.’

She would love to tell her younger self that nothing is wasted.

‘Everything you’re doing, every job that you have – every terrible day job that you have – every diffcult experience is all fodder, and is all going to contribute to making you a better writer in the long run.’

It may also make you a better professional. As far as Bardugo’s concerned, being a writer is the best job in the world, but it is a job.

‘You’re meeting deadlines, you have obligations that you might not want, and more importantly, you have days, as in any job, where it doesn’t feel like a calling. I think we have this idea about being creative, like ‘it’s your calling, you were destined to be a writer or an artist or whatever!’ and that’s great, except there are gonna be days where it just feels like a job – a job you’re not any good at. Those days when you feel like a failure are actually not signs that you’re on the wrong path, but just signs that you’re trying to do something bigger than anything you’ve ever done before.’

Bardugo also mentions the possibility of going to graduate school.

“I often get a lot of questions from readers about should I go to grad school, should I be a creative writing major, and my response to that is always, if you want to but it certainly isn’t necessary. There isn’t one path to becoming a writer. There’s value in everything.”

Besides doing research for her own novels, Bardugo recently finished The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, which she describes as ‘just fantastic, and deserves a lot more attention.’ She’s currently reading the first book in Moira Young’s Dustlands Trilogy.

Bardugo’s next series, called The Dregs, will arrive next autumn, and is set in the same world as the Grisha Trilogy, but in a different country, with a different cast of characters. The action takes place after the events at the end of the Grisha Trilogy. She also has a horror short story, called It Has to be Fed, coming out in an anthology called Slasher Girls and Monster Boys.

‘My friend pitches my books to her kids as Harry Potter meets Anastasia meets Avatar: The Last Airbender. I don’t know if that’s my book, but I’d like to read that book!’

However you define them, Bardugo’s novels are quite simply a work of art, and you’d be a fool to miss out on them.

For more information, and Bardugo’s tour dates, check out her website, The Grisha Trilogy is available on, the UK’s No.1 book recommendation site.

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Lovereading Book Festival update September – October 2014. Birmingham, Wells, Harrogate, Windsor, Cheltenham and Wimbledon



Birmingham Literature Festival 2-11 October 2014

Birmingham-logo_smThe Birmingham Literature Festival is back with a ten day take-over of the fabulous Library of Birmingham. Launching on National Poetry Day (Thursday 2 October) poet and novelist Jackie Kay

Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales will be given a modern day update and re-told on Chaucer Night with Lavinia Greenlaw & Patience Agbabi (October 9), while Olivier Award-winning producer, actor, director and writer Guy Masterson will bring the words of Dylan Thomas to life with Fern Hill & Other Pieces (3 October). Weekly Guardian columnist Owen Jones will give the festival’s fourth ‘Urban Sermon’.

Jennifer Worth’s bestselling Call the Midwife books inspired a wealth of correspondence which have been collated, alongside previously unpublished photos and journal entries, in Letters to the Midwife. Jennifer’s husband Philip, and her two daughters, Suzannah and Juliette, will talk more about her life. Other happenings include a Shakespeare flash-mob event (Saturday 4 October) and Ghost stories after dark (Friday 3 and Thursday 9 October).

Undaunted by last year’s experience of writing a novella in just ten short days (with a broken finger), Heart Breakfast presenter Rachel New will be back for a brand new writing challenge One Page Wonders. This year will see Rachel produce ten pieces of flash fiction a day for the duration of the festival. Novelist, playwright and TV writer Stephen May (Friday 3 October) will host an interactive session he calls ‘Wake up Happy with Stephen May’.

The ‘Patron saint of poetry’ Roger McGough will perform on Saturday 4 October, supported by poet Liz Berry, whose debut collection Black Country is out now and for the second year running the BBC (Sunday 5 October) will be here for a full day of free, live recordings including Poetry Please and With Great Pleasure.

Other events will include Stephen Knight, writer of Bafta-nominated Peaky Blinders; writer, comedian and classicist, Natalie Haynes, who will present a specially commissioned piece involving ten writers entitled ‘A Midlands Odyssey’; and writers on the Man Booker Prize 2014 shortlist. There’s a strong international strand to this year’s Festival: Director, writer and actress Janet Suzman joins us and we are holding an event celebrating Danish Noir, with writers including Dagmar Winther, one half of the Danish writing duo Sander Jakobsen (The Preacher).

We’re delighted to welcome Malorie Blackman back for a special event for young people and adults. Poet and novelist Sophie Hannah talks about writing a new Hercule Poirot novel, the first ever book to continue Agatha Christie’s work; and finally writer, comedian and actor Meera Syal will be in conversation with journalist and writer Sathnam Sanghera.

For further information and to book tickets visit


Wells-logo_smWin 2 tickets to hear Guardian Weekend columnist Tim Dowling talking about How to be a Husband on Saturday, October 11th at The Bishop’s Palace (2.15 pm). Click here to enter our prize draw. Draw closes 27.9.14 and the winner will be notified by 30.9.14.

Guardian columnist, banjo playing Tim Dowling is coming to tell the husbands of Wells how to be good.  Tim writes a hilarious weekly account of his family life in the Guardian Weekend magazine.  Pieces such I have known my wife for a long time and the children are right to be afraid have attracted a huge fan base. Tim will be talking about his new book How to be a Husband, a very funny, surprisingly wise and always quirky reflection on what he has learnt from the last 20 years of his marriage. We are hoping his wife will be in the audience. She has been known to heckle.

Other highlights include Katie Fforde, writer, mother, wife and for those who don’t know, a struggling flamenco dancer. She is also a Sunday Times No. 1 bestseller (Recipe for Love), who writes two romantic novels each year, her most recent being The Perfect Match and A French Affair. Best-selling author Ruth Rendell discusses her gripping new book, The Girl Next Door, with crime writer Tobias Jones, giving a glimpse into her writing life and her 50-year career. We are delighted to welcome Nathan Filer, author of The Shock of the Fall and winner of the Costa Book of the Year 2013, to the 6th Festival Book Group event which offers readers the rare opportunity to discuss a novel in detail with its author.

We are also hosting a series of Literary Lunches in the grounds of the Bishop’s Palace with authors including the Countess of Canarvon, Kate Williams, Claudia Renton and Robert Sackville-West covering topics ranging from Josephine – mistress to Napoleon, courtesan and Revolutionary heroine – to the Sackville-West family described by Vita Sackville-West as “a rotten lot and nearly all stark-staring mad…”.

For further information and to book tickets visit

Harrogate History Festival in association with the Historical Writers’ Association  23-26 October

Square-History-Logo_smA special 10% discount on tickets is available to Lovereading members; visit and use the code LOVEHISTORY! to book any tickets or weekend break packages.  Alternatively ring the box office on 01423 562303 and quote LOVEHISTORY!

The second Harrogate History Festival features an epic line-up of authors, cementing Harrogate’s profile as a leading destination for book lovers, hot on the heels of the success of the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.

Giants of the genre, including Peter Snow, Sandi Toksvig and Bernard Cornwell are guests in a long weekend of events exploring the crooks and crevices of historical writing. Other special guests include a rare appearance by C.J. Sansom, the BBC’s James Naughtie, Elizabeth Chadwick, Elizabeth Fremantle, broadcaster and former presenter of the Late Show Sarah Dunant, Guardian writer Charlotte Higgins, and the author and journalist Stephanie Merritt writing as S.J. Parris.

Dr Irving Finkel, the Assistant Keeper of the Ancient Mesopotamian script at the British Museum, will discuss his quest to reveal a radical interpretation of the Noah’s Ark myth. Former adventurer and English teacher, Conn Iggulden, whose worldwide smash, Dangerous Book for Boys, was a publishing phenomenon also headlines with his War of the Roses series.

Sharon Canavar, CEO of Harrogate International Festivals, said: “History is in the throes of a cultural renaissance dominating our bookshelves and TV screens. Harrogate is a beautiful location and of course steeped in its own history, so we hope it will attracts tourists, as well as giving local audiences a chance to experience big name authors in the genre. It’s a fantastic opportunity to grapple with leading literary minds on some of the most gripping conflicts, personalities and epic tales in history.”

Panels include ‘New Blood’ showcasing the best new historical writers, the role of the supernatural, and an exploration of Vikings in an age of blood and poetry. Panel authors include Toby Clements, Robert Goddard and Michael Ridpath.

’50 Shades of Grail’ debunks the myths and legends that dominate history, and for Downton fans there is a fascinating discussion on social history in ‘If Walls Could Talk’ through the eyes of those who served, featuring Dr Pamela Cox, author and TV presenter of the BBC’s Shopgirls: The True Story of Life Behind the Counter.

The festival will also open with the Historical Writers’ Association Crown for Debut Historical Fiction Awards, featuring a presentation for the Outstanding Contribution to Historical Fiction Award.

For individual tickets, day rovers or weekend rovers, visit or call the Box Office on 01423 562303 quoting LOVEHISTORY! for our special Lovereading 10% discount.

Windsor Festival (15-25 September)

Windsor-logo_smThe Windsor Festival aspires to be amongst the premier Music and Arts Festivals in the UK, playing an important part in the cultural life of the community and reflecting Windsor’s special position as a royal town.  Playing host to an eclectic mix of musicians, artists and authors, highlights include:

Fibber in the Heat, a talk by Miles Jupp (7pm Thurs 25 September). Comedian, actor and writer Miles Jupp is best known to audiences as Nigel in BBC Two’s sitcom Rev, as well as for appearances on Have I Got News For You, Mock The Week and Just A Minute. However, back in 2006, whilst disillusioned with acting and comedy, the former Perrier award nominee decided to pack it all in and pursue a dream of becoming a cricket journalist. Join Miles as he relives an adventure which saw him head off to India with the English press pack under-prepared and under-qualified. A sorry tale of how one man attempted to become a cricket journalist by pretending to be one, but ended up enduring a month-long, sun-soaked disaster (with the occasional minor triumph).

Lunch with Emma Bridgewater (12.30pm 19 September). Since establishing her pottery business 28 years ago, Emma Bridgewater’s cheerfully distinctive kitchenware has found its way onto the dresser shelves and kitchen tables of homes all over Britain and beyond. Now Emma has put together Toast & Marmalade, a collection of personal stories filled with the characters, values and challenges that have been involved in the success of this particularly English brand. So enjoy a three course lunch at the Macdonald Windsor Hotel and plunge into her world of pottery and the family life which inspired the business and is still the focus.

For more information and to book tickets, visit:


The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival (3-12 October 2014)

Cheltenham-logo_smThe Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival attracts hundreds of the world’s leading authors, journalists, comedians, politicians, actors, broadcasters and more.

Big names from the world of Art & Design appearing at the Festival include Grayson Perry, Jonathan Yeo, Alan Aldridge and Simon Schama. A stellar line-up of speakers will be touching on everything from Marvel comics to the self-portrait, from WW1 art to the Ming dynasty.

In the realm of fiction, the Festival brings big names such as One Day author David Nicholls, David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas; The Bone Clocks), Margaret Atwood presenting her MaddAdam trilogy or PEN Pinter Prize winner Salman Rushdie to the Cheltenham stage. In a special event about Young Adult Fiction, The Sunday Times Children’s Books Editor Nicolette Jones talks to two readers with their fingers on the pulse of this exciting genre, her daughter Rebecca Clee and teen book blogger Lucy Powrie, about the latest trends and what to read next.

Moreover, forward thinking author Kazuo Ishiguro will be interviewed by Peter Kemp. Celebrating Sci Fi and Fantasy, River of London author Ben Aaronovitch, Mitch Benn and Joe Abercrombie discuss their latest work and another special event featuring Jem Roberts, Ed Victor and Terry Jones will pay tribute to Douglas Adams, best known for his iconic work The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Another part of the festival’s rich programme is the category of Poetry, which includes numerous well-known guests and exciting performances and talks. Two of Britain’s finest actors, Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory, will take you on a journey through poetry, bringing to life some of the greatest love poems of all time, followed by a fascinating onstage interview. They will read from Allie Esiri’s The Love Book. Moreover, the award-winning actor and comedian Alexander Armstrong (Pointless, Peppa Pig, Dr Who) and Downton Abbey-star Julian Ovenden will perform poetry’s greatest hits, from A. A. Milne to Spike Milligan to Roger McGough.

Celebrate 20 years of Europe’s grandest poetry slam and witness the heated battle of words in the Slam! final live on the Cheltenham stage and enjoy a rewarding reading by award-winning poet Ruth Padel, presenting her powerful new collection on the Middle East, Learning to Make an Oud in Nazareth. Hear Simon Armitage read from The Last Days of Troy and travel through time to the front lines of WW1 with historian and biographer Max Egremont, focusing in particular on the life and work of the nature-loving Edward Thomas.

Taking place over ten days, the Festival also offers a brilliant Book It! family programme, which boasts around 100 children’s events designed to celebrate story telling in all its forms.

For tickets visit  

CLICK HERE to read an interesting article by Dan B of on how get best value out of your trip to Cheltenham Literary Festival. 


Wimbledon Book Fest 3-12 October

Wimbledon-logo_smThe eighth annual Wimbledon BookFest is back this autumn with a wonderful line-up showcasing leading names and local talent.

Headliners include: global best-seller Alexander McCall Smith; Olivier Award winning actress Juliet Stevenson who will be reading the poetry of Pablo Neruda; TV and radio presenter Clare Balding; comedian Paul Merton, who grew up in Wimbledon; and Man Booker Prize winning novelist Ian McEwan, who will be in conversation with BBC Radio 4 presenter and BookFest regular, James Naughtie.

Set on the glorious Wimbledon Common, a specially commissioned Big Tent seating up to 500, and an intimate William Morris themed marquee, provide the focal point for the festival. With the sociable attractions of Wimbledon Village a step away, Wimbledon BookFest is one of the most charming festivals in London today.

The Festival also includes an eclectic programme of film screenings, live music, workshops, the popular Comedy on Wimbledon Common event with Josh Widdecombe and sports nights with hosts John Inverdale and Brian Moore.

Other programme highlights include:

  • For the first time ever the Agatha Christie estate has invited an author to write a new Hercules Poirot novel. Listen to Sophie Hannah discuss Monogram Murder

for an evening of Crime in the Library.

  • Go back in time with David Starkey, Andrew Roberts and Charles Spencer.
  • Desert Island Books with Radio 4 presenter Jayne Thynne chairing Adam Foulds, Daisy Goodwin and Rachel Johnson.
  • Former Home Secretary Alan Johnson discusses his memoirs Please Mister Postman, the sequel to This Boy.
  • A Literary Lunch with Wimbledon writers Penny Vincenzi  and Sophie Kinsella.
  • Delve into the life of The Unexpected Professor with John Carey.
  • Victoria Hislop discusses her new work The Sunrise.
  • A day long writing course and a short story competition for budding writers in the beautiful historic location of Southside House.

For more information and to book tickets visit


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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.’ 


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

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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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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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

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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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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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

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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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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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

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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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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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

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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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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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

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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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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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

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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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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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

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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.

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, 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, the UK’s No1 book recommendation site.

Vikki Patis has also published this interview on Readwave.

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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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