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EMERGING WRITER AWARD 2017

The Emerging Writer Award – Submissions open 23rd January
Deadline: Monday 25th February, 5pm

 
Established in 2015, the Emerging Writer Award (formerly the Bridge Award) is now in its third year, and is run by Moniack Mhor in partnership with The Bridge Awards, a philanthropic venture that has helped to fund theatre and visual arts projects.

 
The award winner receives a tailor-made package worth up to £2,000 including tuition via open courses, retreat time and/or mentoring.
You can read about the previous winners HERE.

 
Moniack Mhor and The Bridge Awards are pleased to announce the opening of applications for the 2017 Emerging Writer Award, (previously The Bridge Award). The award is for unpublished prose fiction writers wishing to make a significant breakthrough in developing a full-length piece of work.

 
Tracey Emerson, from The Bridge Awards, says: “We hope that the combination of Moniack Mhor’s beautiful setting, inspiring courses and experienced mentors will enhance the awardee’s creative practice and provide a valuable stepping-stone in his/her writing career.”

 
The successful candidate will receive a tailor-made package worth up to £2,000 including tuition via open courses, retreat time and/or mentoring. Click here to find out how to enter

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Lovereading Review. Under The Ivy by Marcia Lake

Under The Ivy is a unique collection of short stories and essays, all of which contain an inspirational spiritual element or undertone.

 

Bound together by a sense of positivity and grace, they are uplifting and bring a real sense of comfort to readers.

 

Easy to dip into, the book covers a broad array of subjects, from a girl with acne who is desperate to have clear skin, to an elderly lady with dementia trying to understand her path in life.

 

Although varied, the major theme that runs throughout each story is the sense of “overcoming” some great hurdle. It may be a sense of loss or grief, unrequited love or isolation from being different that presents the crisis, but help is found from the spiritual realm.

 

This metaphysical aid comes in many symbolic forms, such as guardian angels, saints or the kindly apparitions of those who have long since passed over, but each is a manifestation of, and connection to, a deeper reality than the protagonist was previously aware of.

 

In one story, for instance, a young girl is guided by angles during a serious operation, while another contemplating suicide is jolted away from her dark thoughts by the appearance of a rainbow.

 

Author Marcia Lake is a rising name in the sphere of mind, body and spirit (MBS) literature and her writing reflects her own beliefs and life experiences.

 

Having found great support in this world-view, her aim is to help awaken readers to their spiritual side and to show through her writing that there is a greater good at work in the universe that helps lost souls “learn their lessons in life”.

 

Her message is simple: that spiritual forces, including animals in some cases, can do much to protect us from harm and help us understand our spiritual pathways.

 

The MBS genre isn’t for everyone, and whether you subscribe to the author’s spiritual convictions or not is entirely a personal matter, but Marcia never oversteps the mark or risks harming the poignancy of each story or essay by coming across as preachy.

 

Indeed, she weaves her underlying beliefs subtlety into the narrative arcs so that they work towards the literary effect rather than intruding.

 

Each piece of writing is self-contained and exudes a sense of the poetic, with a fairytale and dream-like quality to them.

 

Though Marcia deals with traumas, her writing is designed to heal wounds rather than cause them, and build that essential feeling of hope even in the darkest hours.

 

In fact, the stories are often very funny and despite having a spiritual undertone are heavily set in realism and the relatable.

 

For instance, they’ll often be about common modern worries, such as having bad skin, finding a good job or yearning to find that special soul mate.

 

Teenage girls and young women may particularly connect to these tales, as will fans of the MBS genre, but the book is meant for anyone who has encountered difficulties and is looking for something beyond themselves to help fill a spiritual gap.

 

This is Marcia’s second book, and follows 2013’s Grace, a deeply personal and autobiographical account of her battle with, and eventual victory over, mental illness. Upon release, Grace was praised for breaking down barriers regards mental health issues and its inspirational message, and should be considered a companion piece to those who enjoy Under The Ivy.

 

Under the Ivy by Marcia Lake (Hope Books) is out now in paperback, priced at £5.99. Visit marcialake.com

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Man Booker winners face off in Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards Shortlists

Two literary giants find themselves in the running for the Fiction (with a sense of place) Book of the Year in shortlists for the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards announced today. The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel, author of 2002 Man Booker winner Life of Pi, is joined on the shortlist by The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes, who claimed the same prize in 2011 for The Sense of an Ending. They are joined on the shortlist by novels by authors Jessie Burton, Eowyn Ivey, Robert Seethaler and Madeleine Thien, with locations including Alaska, Austria, China, Portugal, Spain and the former USSR.

Lyn Hughes, co-founder of Wanderlust magazine and chair of judges for the category, said: “Setting is a vital aspect of any novel; writers are granted all flights of fancy when it comes to character or plot, but if they are unable to transport the reader to their chosen locale, to bring the sights, sounds and smells of their characters’ surroundings to life, they will have failed. Our shortlisted writers have succeeded brilliantly, creating vividly portrayed backdrops around the world and across the centuries.”

Setting is also key, alongside blood, sweat and tears, in the shortlist for the Adventure Travel Book of the Year. Cycling exploits feature heavily: in Mark Beaumont’s Africa Solo, which tells of his record-breaking ride across Africa; Zimbabwean adventurer Sean Conway’s Cycling the Earth; and Dare to Do, Sarah Outen’s account of how she single-handedly circled the globe by bicycle, canoe and boat. Levison Wood and Dan Richards take us high into the mountains in Walking the Himalayas and Climbing Days respectively, while Crossing the Congo is an account of Mike Martin, Chloe Baker and Charlie Hatch-Barnwell’s epic 2,500-mile African journey. Phoebe Smith, Wanderlust editor and chair of judges for the category, said: “This shortlist is a tribute to the human spirit of endeavour and adventure, containing not just thrills and spills but inspiration on every page.”

Recipes from around the world, including Iran, Pakistan and Ibiza, feature in the Food and Travel Book of the Year shortlist, while folk tales, language and wildlife feature heavily in the Children’s Travel Book of the Year category. Islands and countries that no longer exist (if they ever did), maps from over 400 years past and photography from some of the world’s most stunning locations can be found on the shortlist for the Illustrated Travel Book of the Year. Finally, maps are at the core of the majority of the Innovation in Travel Publishing Award shortlist.

Tony Maher, Managing Director of Edward Stanford Limited, said: “As the world grows smaller and in many cases more dangerous, travel writing in all its forms keeps us in touch with our global family. These disparate shortlists have one unifying feature – they are all marvellous examples of what travel writing and publishing does best, which is to show the reader a world far from our own doorsteps, made reachable by these glorious, powerful and unforgettable books.”

The shortlists in full are as follows (alphabetically by author/creator):

Specsavers Fiction (with a sense of place)
• The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes (Jonathan Cape)
• The Muse by Jessie Burton (Picador)
• To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey (Tinder)
• The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel (Canongate)
• The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler, trans. by Charlotte Collins (Picador)
• Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien (Granta)

Wanderlust Adventure Travel Book of the Year
• Africa Solo by Mark Beaumont (Bantam Press)
• Cycling the Earth by Sean Conway (Ebury)
• Crossing the Congo: Over Land and Water in a Hard Place by Mike Martin, Chloe Baker and Charlie Hatch-Barnwell (C. Hurst & Co)
• Dare to Do: Taking on the Planet by Bike and Boat by Sarah Outen (Nicholas Brealey)
• Climbing Days by Dan Richards (Faber & Faber)
• Walking the Himalayas: An Adventure of Survival and Endurance by Levison Wood (Hodder & Stoughton)

National Book Tokens Children’s Travel Book of the Year
• Atlas of Oddities by Clive Gifford & Tracy Worrall (Red Shed)
• Atlas of Animal Adventures by Lucy Letherland, Rachel Williams and Emily Hawkins (Wide Eyed Editions)
• Hello World: A Celebration of Languages and Curiosities by Jonathan Litton and L’Atelier Cartographik (360 Degrees)
• A River by Marc Martin (Templar)
• A Year Full of Stories: 52 Folk Tales and Legends from Around the World by Angela McAllister and Christopher Corr (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books)
• A Walk on the Wild Side by Louis Thomas (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books)

Food and Travel magazine Food and Travel Book of the Year
• Persepolis: Vegetarian Recipes from Peckham, Persia and Beyond by Sally Butcher (Pavilion)
• The Saffron Tales: Recipes from the Persian Kitchen by Yasmin Khan (Bloomsbury)
• Provence to Pondicherry: Recipes from France and Faraway by Tessa Kiros (Quadrille)
• Eivissa: The Ibiza Cookbook by Anne Sijmonsbergen (HarperCollins)
• Rick Stein’s Long Weekends by Rick Stein (BBC Books)
• Summers Under the Tamarind Tree: Recipes and Memories from Pakistan by Sumayya Usmani (Frances Lincoln)

Destinations Show Illustrated Travel Book of the Year
• Explorer’s Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery and Adventure by Huw Lewis-Jones and Kari Herbert (Thames and Hudson)
• The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World (Lonely Planet)
• An Atlas of Countries That Don’t Exist by Nick Middleton (Macmillan)
• This Land: Landscape Wonders of Britain by Roly Smith and Joe Cornish (Frances Lincoln)
• Britain’s Tudor Maps: County by County by John Speed (Batsford)
• The Un-Discovered Islands: An Archipelago of Myths, Mysteries, Phantoms and Fates by Malachy Tallack and Katie Scott (Polygon)

London Book Fair Innovation in Travel Publishing
• Where the Animals Go: Tracking Wildlife with Technology in 50 Maps and Graphics by James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti (Particular Books)
• Citix60 series by Victionary (Gingko Press)
• Curiocity: In Pursuit of London by Henry Eliot and Matt Lloyd-Rose (Particular Books)
• Atlas Obscura by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton (Workman)
• Blue Crow Media Maps (Blue Crow Media)
• Lonely Planet Best of series (Lonely Planet)

The awards will be judged by expert panels, there is also a public vote open now, which will be combined with the panel votes. All voters will be entered into a draw to win £100 of National Book Tokens.

The shortlist for the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year, in association with the Authors’ Club, will be announced on 17th January at the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards launch party at the National Liberal Club. The winners of all categories, as well as the Lonely Planet Travel Blog of the Year and Bradt Travel Guides New Travel Writer of the Year, and the Edward Stanford Award for Outstanding Contribution to Travel Writing, will be revealed on 2nd February during the Stanfords Travel Writers Festival at Destinations: The Holiday and Travel Show at Olympia. The awards will be supported by a trade-wide travel books instore promotion at booksellers and libraries from 6th January until 24th February.

The Winner of the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the year receives £5,000 and all winners receive an antique globe trophy, to be presented at the Awards ceremony.

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Book Review: 100 Mindfulness Meditations: The Ultimate Collection of Inspiring Daily Practices by Neil Seligman

In recent years, the practice of mindfulness has become increasingly popular in the UK.

 

Many of the guides written about it, however, can be far too wordy and theoretical, and that’s why 100 Mindfulness Meditations by Neil Seligman is such a joy to read.

 

ns-fc-100-mindfulness-meditationsAs the title suggests, this fun and informative book is a handy and comprehensive compilation of easy-to-follow practices and activities that can be accessed and actioned at the flick of a page.

 

Author and corporate mindfulness expert Neil Seligman has deliberately designed the book to help readers self-teach at their own pace, and with their own preferences guiding their journey.

 

Each meditation is between five and fifteen minutes long so they help even the most time-hungry readers embed a regular mindfulness routine into busy lives.

 

And in the pressurized, highly-stressful environment of today, this has to be a smart move, as mindfulness has been shown to offer a wide range of benefits from stress reduction and greater calm to enhanced compassion, creativity, wellbeing and decision making.

 

Very much a practical guide, 100 Mindfulness Meditations is designed to appeal both to the general public and business professionals alike, the latter having been keen to adopt mindfulness techniques to help them perform better in the office.

 

But serving, as it does, as an excellent reference to the best mindfulness meditations, the book is also an indispensable go-to resource for enthusiasts and mindfulness teachers.
Divided into three parts, the first section of the guide looks at the foundations of mindfulness, which is built on the aim of achieving greater self-awareness and honing the ability to navigate our inner world with the same confidence as the outside world.

 

This is a concept generally more familiar to the East than the West, where meditation is enshrined in various ancient religions, but mindfulness should not be confused with a religion and does not have any religious undertones.

 

The author takes readers gently by the hand to explain how to adopt the correct posture, breathing and attitude for the meditations and offers simple exercises to develop a heightened awareness of the current ‘moment’, your surroundings and yourself.

 

This section also covers emptying the mind, controlling thoughts and letting go, how to be mindful in movements — such as waking, walking and stretching — and how to improve connections between the mind and body.

 

The second section of the book is on how to incorporate mindfulness into a hectic daily life.

 

Expert tips cover how to dress mindfully, achieve a mindful tea break, how to be grateful and how to achieve practical kindness.

 

This might manifest in giving a surprise gift to somebody – a sandwich for a homeless person, for instance – or it might be a service, such as helping someone across the road, or holding open a door.

 

The key to all these acts, the author says, is to “smile and connect with an open heart”.

 

The final section covers advanced practices for those who want to explore deeper. Meditations include slowing down, increasing compassion, accessing intuition and recognising that you “are enough”.

 

Seligman also explores how mindfulness practices can be used as tools during dark times, with insights into how to minimize anxious thoughts, how to deal and cope with pain and how to forgive and let go of the past.

 

Far from being critical or superior, 100 Mindful Meditations is both supportive and encouraging in its approach, stressing that mindfulness is a skill that once learned will become a rewarding life-time practice.

 

For those wanting to get stuck right in, this is the ultimate collection collection of easy-to-follow mindfulness practices. Whether you are a beginner or seasoned practitioner, it will soon become your trusted companion.

 

100 Mindfulness Meditations: The Ultimate Collection of Inspiring Daily Practices by Neil Seligman (Conscious House) is available now in paperback, priced £12.99.

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Book Review. The Pearl and the Carnelian, by Annabel Fielding

Dark secrets, hidden desires and forbidden encounters abound in this absorbing work of historical fiction, which blends racy romance with astute political observations.

 

pearl-and-the-carnelianThe Pearl and the Carnelian, by Annabel Fielding, calls to mind the works of acclaimed historical novelist Sarah Waters as much as it does the upstairs-downstairs power games at play in Downton Abbey, it’s an engrossing tale set in the paranoid period between the two World Wars, and raises questions about the rise and attraction of fascism that feel startlingly relevant today.

 

The book is set in mid 1930s England, when Hester Blake, a bright young girl from an insalubrious Northern town, takes a job as lady’s maid to the enigmatic Lady Lucy Fitzmartin.

 

Despite doing their best to keep up appearances of grandeur, the Fitzmartins’ fortunes are fading and mistrust, resentment and barely-concealed contempt are as much a part of family life as grand society balls.

 

Hester is startled to find that, far from displaying the aloof attitude she had been expecting, the isolated Lucy is quick to confide in her, and the pair soon become much more to each other than merely Lady and her maid in waiting.

 

A budding writer who fills her time writing frothy society columns, Lucy harbours ambitions to achieve greater literary acclaim, and to live independently from the family she resents.

 

Embarking on a passionate affair with her mistress, Hester is drawn into a glitzy world of travel and high society, but knows that her true relationship with Lady Lucy must remain a closely-guarded secret.

 

Meanwhile, Hester’s clandestine meetings with her jazz-singing sister spark an irrational jealousy in Lucy, whose own white-skinned, delicate beauty appears to mask a dark determination.

 

With war clouds looming menacingly on the horizon, Lucy finds herself drawn into a political world of lies and subterfuge, and is readily convinced that, by forging bonds with the Germans, she is acting in her country’s best interests.

 

“After all, we all have an interest in not being killed”, as she bluntly puts it.

 

Issues of race, of ‘pure blood’ and of the reasoning that leads people along dubious political paths are key themes in this book – Hester’s olive skin and a family legend lead Lucy to dub her ‘My Moorish girl’, while her darker-skinned sister is beaten for her apparent ‘foreign’ status.

 

Deepening the plot, a clandestine relationship between a member of Lucy’s elite social circle and a black musician provides Lucy with ammunition to further her political ambitions, while Hester begins to resent her mistress’s increasingly inflammatory newspaper columns.

 

This is a cleverly-paced, intricately-plotted novel whose diverse range of female characters engage our sympathies even when we can’t condone their actions.

 

Lucy and Hester are particularly well-drawn, but side characters, such as Lucy’s sister Sophie, are also interesting enough to linger in the memory after the book has been put down.

 

The author has a clear interest in the history of inter-war Britain, marked by rapid and alarming social and political upheaval, and her writing provides a ‘girl’s eye view’ of a turbulent and relatively little known era.

 

And while this is very much a work of fiction, aspects of the book have taken influence from real-life events.

 

The politics of the time, with the chilling popularity of Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts and the early attempts at appeasement towards Nazi Germany, feel disconcertingly similar to present-day Britain where, post-Brexit, growing dissatisfaction with the establishment and xenophobic sentiments are sending seismic shocks through the fabric of society.

 

The Pearl and the Carnelian is a novel that succeeds on many levels: as a gay romance, a solid work of historical literary fiction told through a female perspective, and a thought-provoking piece of social commentary on a fascinating and dynamic time.

 

The Pearl and the Carnelian by Annabel Fielding is out now, priced £12.30 in paperback and £4.61 as an eBook.

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Book Review. BeautyFull Secrets by Deepa D’Angelova

Having enjoyed a highly successful career as a beauty therapist in some of London’s most exclusive spas, author Deepa D’Angelova has chosen to reveal the well-kept beauty secrets that will soon have readers looking, and feeling, like a new person.

 

beautifulsecretsBut BeautyFull Secrets doesn’t just focus on the outside. It also covers ‘inner beauty’, adding a refreshing spiritual dimension alongside the author’s sensible, tried-and-tested guidance on all aspects of beauty — from the proper health and diet regime to follow to the right products to use.

 

D’Angelova’s core message is that the current global fixation on external beauty — one that has been greatly exacerbated by the advent of social media – is damaging to both men and women, causing people to have both negative and harmful perceptions of themselves.

 

Instead, BeautyFull Secrets offers an alternative path to beauty, far removed from the impossible ideals of the size zero supermodel.

 

In fact, the book firmly states that anyone can be beautiful, if only they close down their negative belief patterns regarding image and learn how to harness their assets properly, building their self-esteem and confidence in the process and letting this shine through.

 

The author reveals early on that the genesis of the book came out because she felt ‘ugly’ about herself, both in terms of her looks and life situation at the time.

 

The author is a single mum and knows only too well how hard it can be to find ‘me time’, but without a dedication to looking after yourself, and a little pampering now and then, the potential mental impact can be devastating.

 

Her own transformative journey saw her following the guidance that she has been providing to her clients for the last 15 or so years, which have included A-list celebrities.

 

This, she discovered, made her not only a more positive person but also more outwardly beautiful and attractiveness to others.

 

Drawing on this expertise and personal insight, BeautyFull Secrets provides a one-stop shop to beauty across twelve informative and accessible chapters filled with inspirational and full-colour photographs by talented artist Karlo Arkhieri.

 

For instance, an early chapter demonstrates how we should harness nature’s gifts — sun, water, food and oxygen — to help us improve our beauty naturally.

 

Another teaches how to look after our skin, the largest organ of the body, including how to hydrate and massage it, avoid spots and wrinkles, and generally take good care of it through such simple things as regular facials and remembering to remove make-up after a night out.

 

There’s also a chapter providing a handy overview of beauty products. This can prove a daunting topic given the vast range of items available to buy these days, but the author is on hand with top tips to look like a million dollars without having to spend the same amount.

 

Later chapters in the 240-page book cover embracing and developing a personal style, the art of seduction and the concept of beauty across different cultures — highlighting its diversity and the futility of the search for the perfect face or body.

 

There is also a chapter specifically devoted to men, who are becoming increasingly interested in looking after their appearance, following in the footsteps of such metrosexual role models such as footballing icon David Beckham.

 

Balancing the advice on outer beauty is an equal focus on inner beauty, making the soul radiate by freeing the mind from negativity and investing the time to become comfortable in your own skin, through meditation, yoga, exercise, reading and listening to music, for example.

 

The author says that such relaxing and stimulating activities will bring a noticeable difference in posture, demeanour, character and, ultimately, self-belief and attitude.

 

Having taken all the advice in, and to further inspire readers, Deepa rounds things off with a simple yet powerful two-week programme to achieving your beauty goals, instilling new daily rituals and observations that will soon become habit.

 

Following the book’s guidance, the author states, will bring about a fresh charisma and charm, confidence and elegance that she describes as “the true face of beauty”.

 

In short, BeautyFull Secrets, is a valuable companion for anyone interested in becoming a more beautiful and rounded person.

 

BeautyFull Secrets by Deepa D’Angelova (Infinity Space Publications) is out now, priced £20 in hardcover. Visit deepadangelova.com

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Book Review. Invisible Ink by Pippa Kelly

In everyday life, Pippa Kelly is one of the UK’s foremost writers on dementia, having chronicled her own mother’s slow decline and eventual death from the condition in the national press.

 

pk-Invisible-Ink-FCHer frank account has touched many people and her blogs have won her a prestigious award for helping to raise awareness of dementia, which is still wrapped in ignorance, fear and misconceptions, at a time when it is becoming one of the UK’s biggest health problems.

 

Kelly, a former civil servant, has now produced a stunning debut novel that combines her own experiences with an emotive and mesmerising story of love, guilt, loss and betrayal within one family.

 

It tells the story of Max Rivers, a London-based lawyer who appears to have it all: a financially rewarding career, a beautiful girlfriend and an exclusive address.

 

But two things are weighing him down – his elderly mother who is in the grips of dementia and cannot see through her confused mental fog, and a long-buried secret that threatens to destroy his carefully-constructed world and bring up a past he is desperate to keep suppressed.

 

Punchy and quick, the action starts in the opening scenes, where the reader sees the crisis bubbling up in Max’s life, when his ailing mother injures herself when she falls.

 

Knowing he has to take care of her, Max becomes overwhelmed by emotions welling up from his past – namely the guilt he feels over the disappearance of his younger brother, Peter, when they were children.

 

The story then unfolds through two narratives – the first told through Max’s eyes as a solicitor trying to hold it all together, and the second through Max as a young boy.

 

This narrative of Max as a youngster begins with the arrival of baby Peter which coincides with his dad walking out on the family.

 

This emotional turmoil leads to a distinct jealousy emanating from Max towards Peter. He learns to write in invisible ink and, in a harrowing scene, sets his brother a trail of clues to follow after school one day, leading to his mysterious disappearance.

 

This results in a huge but ultimately fruitless police search, led by the avuncular DI Gould, with Peter’s ultimate loss hanging over the family forever.

 

As the novel progresses, the two halves of Max’s life – past and present – slowly come together.

 

In the present, we see Max’s girlfriend Eleanor struggle to keep her pregnancy secret. The two of them move in together, and Eleanor gives birth to their son, Ben, as Max has to face up to the realities and duties of being a father.

 

But this fresh renewing of life also has drastic consequences for Max’s buried past.
When his mum’s worsening dementia results in her coming to stay with them, she believes baby Ben to Peter and the two sides of Max’s life, which he had fought so hard to keep apart, finally collide.

 

Max’s buried emotions begin to surface and although he is determined to remain tight-lipped, his confused mother reveals all to Eleanor. Unable to cope with what this means, Max reacts by trying to remove the immediate problem and places his mother in a nursing home – an act that causes him immense guilt and grief.

 

Eventually, in a climactic scene set on Christmas day , Max finally decides to air his darkest secrets, leading to an unexpected and gripping conclusion.

 

Invisible Ink is a haunting and moving debut that excels at drawing attention to dementia in a thought-provoking way, while at the same time providing a fantastic emotional read.

 

In Max, Pippa has created a poster boy for the so-called ‘sandwich generation’, who have the double responsibilities of a young family to care for, and elderly parents. His attempts to brush his mother’s illness under the carpet run parallel to his wish to keep the past, and the deep pain of losing a brother, at arm’s length.

 

In both, he ultimately, and inevitably, fails to achieve his aims, but adult life is as much about accepting and dealing with loss as it is about enjoying the fruits of hard-earned success.

 

The author says she wrote the novel in part as a way of working through the raw feelings at the death of her own parents, and Invisible Ink certainly offers a deft exploration of the complex emotions hidden beneath the surface of our lives, drawing its readers into Max’s story and leading them, step by cautious step, towards a somber yet cathartic dénouement.

 

Invisible Ink by Pippa Kelly (Austin Macauley) is out now, priced £6.99 in paperback, £12.99 in hardback and £3.50 as an eBook. Visit pippakelly.co.uk

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Book Review Kasztner’s Crime by Paul Bogdanor

Few historical figures divide opinion as dramatically as Jewish wartime figure Rezső (Rudolf) Kasztner.  

 

As the leader of ‘rescue negotiations’ between the Nazis and the Hungarian Jews during the dark days of the Second World War, he has been hailed by some as a hero who saved the lives of thousands, and by others as a traitor who was complicit in the deaths of half a million of his own people.

 

Kasztner's-Crime-CoverWith painstaking attention to detail, author and researcher Paul Bogdanor convincingly and coherently sets out to prove the latter assertion: that the man who set out to rescue Jews from the Nazis indeed became an SS collaborator and an accessory to the genocide of the Jewish masses.

 

Whatever the reader’s initial stance on the Kasztner debate – if, indeed, they are familiar with the figure at all – Kasztner’s Crime is an incredible work of investigative writing that merits full attention.

 

According to Bogdanor, Kasztner was willing to sacrifice the many for the few because of an overwhelming drive for power and recognition; something that the Nazis were happy to play along with as long as it served their purpose.

 

Bogdanor calls upon forgotten evidence including the testimonies of Holocaust survivors and Kasztner’s own confessions to provide a definitive answer to the nature and extent of Kasztner’s staggering betrayal of the Hungarian Jews.

 

Introducing the reader to his subject, Bogdanor chronicles Kasztner’s rapid rise from journalist and lawyer to a key figure in the Budapest Aid and Rescue Committee at the outbreak of war.

 

During this time he helped in the rescue of some 25,000 Jews from neighbouring countries, and also helped fund Oskar Schindler’s famous rescue operation in Poland.

 

But what followed was a tragedy – the story of a hero who became an instrument of the Nazi killing machine.

 

In March 1944, the Nazis occupied Hungary and set into motion the plan to deport and exterminate the country’s entire Jewish population.

 

Kasztner ignored orders to take the rescue committee underground to form an effective resistance movement and instead chose to negotiate with the Nazis. It was to be his undoing.

 

His dealings with senior SS officer Adolf Eichmann, charged with carrying out the Holocaust in Hungary, trapped Kasztner into a deplorable pact: saving the lives of just over 1,600 Jewish VIPs, including members of his own family, in return for the deaths of hundreds of thousands at the Nazi death camps.

 

The story of the ‘Kasztner Train’ that carried these lucky few to a safe haven in Switzerland is an emotionally-charged one, and the basis for Kasztner’s ongoing reputation as a hero.

 

But based on the shocking evidence he has uncovered, Bogdanor convincingly argues that the widely-held belief that Kasztner could not have saved more lives than the 1,684 Jews aboard the ‘Kasztner Train’ is false.

 

The book details how Kasztner, at the Nazis’ bidding, actively sabotaged efforts to save more lives, preventing thousands of ordinary Jews from fleeing to Romania by falsely claiming that an escape route had been blocked.

 

He also misled Jewish communities and the outside world into thinking that the Hungarian Jews would be resettled for agricultural work inside Hungary until the end of the war when, instead, they were sent to their deaths at Auschwitz.

 

The book pulls no punches in retelling the brutal truth about the slaughter of millions of Jews at Nazi extermination camps. It’s a poignant and painful reminder of the horrific treatment of Jews during the Second World War that must never be forgotten.

 

In writing Kasztner’s Crime, Bogdanor aims to right a great injustice to the memories of the Holocaust victims by exposing Kasztner for what he was.

 

The intelligent and well-supported case he puts forward is certainly damning, and tallies with the verdict of the Israeli court in 1955, which concluded that Kasztner had “sold his soul to the Devil”.

 

Within the space of a few years, however, Kasztner had been assassinated and posthumously exonerated by Israel’s Supreme Court. Since that point he has been widely celebrated in popular culture.

 

Kasztner’s Crime argues that his heroic reputation could not be further from the truth and that his actions need an urgent re-evaluation, with Rezső Kasztner being recognised as nothing less than the last Holocaust traitor to be brought to justice.

 

Kasztner’s Crime by Paul Bogdanor (Transaction Publishers) is out now, priced £27.50 in paperback. Visit www.kasztnerscrime.com

 

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Book Review: Beat The Rain by Nigel Jay Cooper

The genre of contemporary women’s fiction is seen almost as the preserve of women authors, but in Beat the Rain, debut writer Nigel Jay Cooper can hold his head high for penning a moving and gripping read that stands up against the work of his best-selling female peers.

 

Beat-The-Rain-High-Res-CoverThe novel, which has been voted a Good Reads Awards 2016 semi-finalist by the reading public, is a psychological thriller that tells the dysfunctional and tragic love story of a couple with issues, Louise and Adam, and the dramatic consequences of a marriage in decline.

 

It opens with a glimpse into Louise’s life after her boyfriend, Tom, dies suddenly, leaving her heart-broken.

 

Lost and alone, six months later she receives a video from Tom – a message from the grave. He urges her to move on and reveals that he knew she was secretly in love with his twin brother, Adam.

 

Tom believes they can help each other, and so it follows. Adam and Louise go against the wishes of their families to start a relationship, both hoping it might fill the holes in their lives.

 

The couple marry and start a family, but as the years roll by the pressures that come with a long-term relationship, once the initial blaze of passion has long since burned out, takes its toll, exacerbated by deep-seated psychological issues.

Struck by post-natal depression, Louise becomes introspective, recalling her sad and troubled childhood – one that saw her mother abandon her and her father die.

 

Driving Adam further away in the mistaken belief that their relationship is not worth saving, she encounters a man named Jarvis at the café she owns.

 

At first Louise is only mildly obsessed with this intriguing, charismatic man, but in her troubled state, this soon manifests into voyeurism.

 

Eventually, her erratic mind spins out of control, and she convinces herself that Jarvis is falling for her, forcing a friendship between her husband and Jarvis just to have an excuse to meet him more often.

 

But Jarvis is in love with someone else close to Louse, and more than this, it transpires Jarvis has not been strictly honest about his role in their lives, and has his own shocking agenda for becoming close.

 

Though they try to make the marriage work, Adam’s and Louise’s relationship continues to falter, stifled by the grief and pain they are both trying to deal with.

 

Adam descends into alcoholism while Louise tries to distract herself by becoming a workaholic, and as argument follows terrible argument, the novel gallops towards a climatic ending packed with startling revelations.

 

Structured in a non-linear fashion with chapters told alternatively from Louise and Adam’s perspective, Beat The Rain is an unforgettable story of love and loss propelled by blockbuster twists.

 

At times humorous; at others downright tragic, it runs the full gamut of emotions that would be encountered in a relationship spinning dangerously out of control.

 

Cooper has a rare knack for presenting flawed characters and their grubby domestic lives, yet in a way that makes the reader care about what happens to them.

 

We discover the emotional pains that drive the characters, the guilt and grief that they won’t let heal, and the desires and yearnings so woefully misdirected.

 

The most devastating thing is not what ultimately happens to them, but that it could all have been avoided if Adam and Louise had only been able to grasp the deeper truths, both of themselves and each other.

 

Haunting, touching and at times lyrical, Beat The Rain will undoubtedly draw comparisons with bestseller thrillers such as Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins.

 

It sends you on an emotional ride that is equal parts rollercoaster and ghost train, and proves that a male author can dare to take on women’s fiction and succeed with aplomb.

 

Beat The Rain (Roundfire Books) by Nigel Jay Cooper is out now in paperback, priced at £10.99 or £4.99 for an eBook. For more information, visit www.nigeljaycooper.com.

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Book Review. The Messiahs of Princep Street by Moshe Elias

This astutely-observed, tragi-comic novel from Moshe Elias is at once a warming coming-of-age tale, a nuanced account of growing up in a Jewish community in Singapore, a touching romance and an unflinching account of the treatment of Jews during WW2.

 

me-FC-The-Messiahs-of-Princep-StreetThe events of the book are told from the perspective of Adam Messiah — a man who, in his late 40s, has reached a moment of crisis and decides to stitch together the interweaving stories of his life in order to find out where he went wrong.

 

The book begins from the very first moments of his birth, and the benefit of hindsight has allowed Adam to equip his infant self with an astute observational eye. So readers see Adam’s first experiences — from the shock of his circumcision to the rather racy conversations of his mother’s friends — as he silently takes it all in.

 

Rich in descriptive language that brings to life a world that, for many readers, will be totally unfamiliar — from the vivid characterisation to the passages describing the ‘exotic’ foods sold by hawkers that Adam says changed the sights, smells and sounds of Princep Street to suit the time of day — Moshe draws you in to this Jewish corner of Singapore.

 

The book takes place at a time when the sun is setting on the British Empire, and Adam is being brought up in a Singapore shophouse, where his devout father scratches a living selling stationery products (but without resorting to anything as vulgar as a sign above the door to announce what he’s selling).

 

Adam’s father, Judah, teaches him that the Torah, the Jewish Bible, has all the answers to life’s questions, but Adam’s faith in his father’s deeply-held beliefs are shaken to the core with Japan’s invasion of Singapore.

 

It is an interesting historical note that, shortly after the much-documented 1941 invasion of Pearl Harbour, the Japanese swept through Southeast Asia and occupied much of the region for over three years — sending Jews to internment camps.

 

Through Adam’s viewpoint, the terrifying events — from the first bombings to the herding and deportation of the Jewish community to the camps — are given a human warmth and even a wry wit, without losing their power to shock, and it’s a stark and important reminder that the Holocaust extended far beyond Europe.

 

Adam’s father dies shortly after the end of the war, and though a now 17-year-old Adam will remember his teachings throughout his life, he begins to eschew strict religious values, convincing his mother to open the shop on Saturdays, moving in non-Jewish circles, and beginning a relationship with Penelope, a Catholic girl.

 

When Adam’s fears about religious and cultural differences lead him away from this deep love and into a less-than-passionate marriage with a Jewish girl, his questioning about life’s true meaning grow deeper, until he follows life’s path back to Penelope’s door, and the book reaches a moving and somewhat tragic conclusion.

 

Casting aside the old adage about never judging a book by its cover, the beautifully-drawn front cover does give a hint at the colourful characters and settings within its pages.

 

The Messiah family’s shophouse is flanked by a packed Chinese home on one side, and an Indian family on the other. It is unique in offering a ‘slice of life’ from a multicultural community at a crucial point in history. The 1942 Fall of Singapore was described by Winston Churchill as the worst defeat in British military history, and is seen by many as the beginning of the end for the British Empire.

 

Highlighting political and religious issues from a deeply personal viewpoint, the book is both thoughtful and thought-provoking, and its sharp observations and dry humour make it a pleasure to read, even when the events described are deeply troubling.

 

The book’s main themes are the twin crises of faith and authority, misplaced beliefs and the perils of blind obedience to duty. Adam suffers greatly for his mistaken belief that he must be a ‘good Jew’, losing the love of his life in the process, while on a wider canvas the British Empire loses its colony in part because of a mistaken distrust of arming the colonists so they could protect themselves.

 

But above all, The Messiahs of Princep Street is a warm and witty tale that in places calls to mind coming-of-age classics such as The Catcher in the Rye in its questioning of precepts and social expectations.

 

Moshe Elias was born and lived half of his life within the Jewish community of Singapore, and later lived in India, Scotland, England and Israel, and these wide travels seem to have given him a sharp eye for cultural detail.

 

His ability to paint vivid scenes from a now distant world are terrific, and this book is sure to appeal to those who enjoy reading well-observed and sensitive stories of war and the British Empire in its final throes, or simply accounts of far-flung places and different cultures.

 

The Messiahs of Princep Street by Moshe Elias (Writersworld Ltd) is out now, priced £12.99 in hardcover, £3.47 in paperback and £5 as an eBook.

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