Monthly Archives January 2015

Book review: Amnesia

I am sorry to say I was hugely disappointed by this book, and I’ve never felt let down by a Peter Carey book before. At first I thought it was my fault – I started reading it when I had the flu so perhaps I wasn’t concentrating, not following the plot – as I read on my flu disappeared but the Amnesia problems continued. Now, a couple of days after finishing it, I can re-arrange the story in my mind. Washed-out journalist Felix Moore is commissioned to write the biography of Gaby Baillieux, accused of cybercrime: releasing a virus into Australia’s prison system which also affected the US prison system.  Felix is kidnapped – this is where I started to get confused – and abandoned in a swamp with a typewriter, catering size packs of red wine, and boxes of cassettes and diaries from Gaby and from her mother Celine. Celine and Felix knew each other as youths. The guy funding the biography is Woody Townes, who has bailed Felix out of trouble in the past. Woody’s motivation was unclear. You can tell I’m still confused, can’t you? I was drawn to this book by the promise of Gaby’s cybercrime
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Midnight in Europe

1938. Spain at war, Europe on the brink of war. This is the first World War Two novel I have read about the overlap of the two wars, the impact of one on the other, and the approaching shadow of fascism. Nothing happens in isolation. The Spanish Civil War is notoriously difficult to understand: so many factions, changing names etc. Sensibly, Alan Furst concentrates on one aspect: the supply of weapons to the Republicans fighting the fascist army of Franco. A secret Spanish agency in Paris sources arms and ammunition for the Republicans. Cristián Ferrar, a Spanish lawyer living in Paris and working for a French law firm, is asked to help. Unsure what he is getting into, but resigned to help his mother country, he is soon looking over his shoulder to see if he is being followed – he doesn’t know who by, it could be the Spanish fascists, the Gestapo, the Russians. Inter-cut with Ferrar’s story are excerpts from the front line in Spain where preparations are being made to fight the Battle of the Ebro. The need for the weapons is desperate, as bullets are counted out for each soldier. Working with an odd mixture of
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Categories: Book Love.

Rose: jogger or stalker?

The scene in Ignoring Gravity which sees Rose jogging at midnight along the Thames Riverside path is based on a real place in Battersea, London. Rose has met Nick Maddox a couple of times and is intrigued, pulling on her trainers late one night she drives to Battersea and sets out to ‘jog’. The ‘jogging’ of course is an excuse to check out where he lives. So is she a stalker or a jogger?Maddox is a successful businessman and I decided he would live in an apartment block like Montevetro: stylish, modern, it couldn’t be more different than Rose’s first floor flat in Wimbledon. Rose looked up at the glass-and-steel building looming above her. Nine, no ten storeys high, tall for this part of London excepting Chelsea Harbour opposite. A couple of windows were asleep behind pulled curtains, some were bright and awake and staring at her rudeness, more blinked at her with half-pulled blinds as if saying, ‘Hello there, I am cool aren’t I? Fancy coming up for a cocktail?’ Like Rose, on my research trip I found my way from my parked car, headed for the church and found a cut-through to the Thames. The water was grey,
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Categories: Book Love, Book publicity, and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Great Opening Paragraph 66… ‘Animal Farm’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Mr Jones, of the Manor Farm, had locked the hen-houses for the night, but was too drunk to remember to shut the pop-holes. With the ring of light from his lantern dancing from side to side, he lurched across the yard, kicking off his boots at the back door, drew himself a last glass of beer from the barrel in the scullery, and made his way up to bed, where Mrs Jones was already snoring.” ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Queen Camilla’ by Sue Townsend ‘Middlesex’ by Jeffrey Eugenides ‘Herzog’ by Saul Bellow And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: I want to read more: ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell #books via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-kL
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

New books coming soon

At the Edge of a Wood by Australian author DOMINIC SMITH will be published in the UK, Commonwealth and Australia/New Zealand by Allen & Unwin in 2016. There are three timelines – 17th century Holland, 1950s Manhattan and Sydney in 2000 – for this story of art, forgery and deception. For more about Dominic Smith, click here for his website.   The six wives of Henry VIII will feature in turn in the six new novels by bestselling historian ALISON WEIR, to be published in the UK and Commonwealth by Headline. As always, Weir’s novels will be based on her extensive historical research, with new theories promised which will put the six wives into the context of their own age. The first novel will be published in 2016. To visit Alison Weir’s website, click here.   C L TAYLOR, author of The Accident, will published three more novels with Avon. Her next novel, Last Girl Standing, will be published in April this year. To read my review of The Accident, click here. Note: The title of the book has since changed to The Lie.   Black Wood, the psychological thriller by debut author S J I HOLLIDAY, will be published
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Etta and Otto and Russell and James

This was a ‘sort of’ book for me. I ‘sort of’ enjoyed it but… I was ‘sort of’ irritated with it too. The story premise for Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper grabbed me straightaway, and the excellent first paragraph. “Otto, The letter began, in blue ink. I’ve gone. I’ve never seen the water, so I’ve gone there. Don’t worry…” Etta and Otto are in their eighties. The setting is Canada. Etta sets out one day to walk towards the water, which means either east to the Atlantic or west to the Pacific. She goes east. Otto stays at home, working his way through Etta’s index cards, trying hard to make cinnamon buns like hers. Gradually we learn their back stories: Otto’s childhood on the farm then as a soldier in France during the Second World War; of Etta’s teaching days and then a munitions worker. The Russell in the title is their childhood neighbour and friend. The James of the title is a coyote. I was unclear why Etta was walking, unclear why Otto seemed philosophical and Russell concerned by her adventure. The relationships are enigmatic, the memories are fluid, which I found confusing. And what precisely
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Categories: Book Love.

Liz Loves Books reviews ‘Ignoring Gravity’

“I was intrigued by this one, the starting point being adoption, as an adopted child myself it appealed to me for that reason. Plus the hint of mystery tempted me in and what I found was a really good read, some great characters and an often emotive look at family relationships,” says book reviewer Liz Wilkins at Liz Loves Books. Read Liz’s review in full by clicking here. To read what other readers are saying about Ignoring Gravity, click here.   ‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] Buy now And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: ‘The hint of mystery tempted me in’ #bookreview by @Lizzy11268 via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1q2
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Famous people, reading… Benedict Cumberbatch

“I can feel infinitely alive curled up on the sofa reading a book.” Benedict Cumberbatch, actor Oh absolutely. I concur, Sherlock. Benedict is reading The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood.   ‘The Last Banquet’ by Jonathan Grimwood [UK: Canongate] Buy now See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Jack Nicholson Marilyn Monroe Bella Lugosi And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: What is Benedict Cumberbatch reading? #books via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1q4
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Categories: Book Love.

Another ‘best of’ mention, but with a difference

At this time of year it seems as if every blog, Twitter and Facebook account is full of ‘Best of…’ lists: favourite books read, books to read this year, films watched, films to watch in 2015. Happily Ignoring Gravity is featured on another list, but this is a list with a difference. It is a list compiled by professional copy editor Fiction Feedback which reads hundreds of manuscripts a year. Fiction Feedback says Ignoring Gravity is “a book about identity, and about why who you are makes a difference, whether you want it to or not.” To read the full article about Fiction Feedback’s top five books, click here.     ‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] Buy now And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: IGNORING GRAVITY: about why who you are makes a difference @DeaWriter http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1t7 via @SandraDanby #books
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Book review: The Vows of Silence

Young women are being shot, but by the same person? The first uses a rifle and shoots from distance, the other shoots face-to-face. Different modus operandii, different killer? One serial killer in a small town is rare, two serial killers in a small town at the same time is beyond apprehension. The thing that sets Susan Hill’s crime novels apart from the rest, for me, is the way she deals with the violence. It is there in the storyline but not on the page, we feel it through the reaction of Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Serrailler. Susan Hill writes page-turning crime novels about ordinary people, people we can identify with, but people that extraordinary things happen to. Cathedral town Lafferton is the setting, and Prince Charles and Camilla are due to attend the wedding of the Lord Lieutenant’s daughter, not a great idea when a shooter is on the loose. A shooter who no-one sees, who plans meticulously, and who leaves no clues behind. As women keep being killed, Serrailler’s brother-in-law is diagnosed with cancer and his widowed father suddenly has a girlfriend. Elsewhere in Lafferton, widow Helen meets widower Phil, but her newly-religious son Tom disapproves. Quite how much
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Categories: Book Love.

A writer who inspires me: Judith Kerr

Where do I start? Judith Kerr. You perhaps don’t know her name but you will know her books. Mog the Cat and The Tiger Who Came to Tea are ageless books for children. I don’t write children’s books, so why am I inspired by Judith Kerr? It’s difficult not to be. Here are some inspiring facts:- Mog. The Tiger. In 1933 when she was nine, she escaped from Berlin with her parents and brother. After moving around Europe, they settled in London in 1936. Her father was a writer and drama critic whose books were burned by the Nazis. Judith continued drawing throughout the whole experience. She’s 91 and still drawing and writing. She has written countless books for children, which never go out of fashion. She has no time for trendy education methods, and thinks children need to be sat down and taught spelling, grammar and times tables. Her trilogy Out of the Hitler Time – comprising When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, The Other Way Round and A Small Person Far Away – is the story of Anna and her family from 1933 and the rise of Hitler, through the war to Anna’s return to Berlin many years later.
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: Mobile Library

Stuffed with book and movie references – from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe to The Terminator – if Mobile Library by David Whitehouse was a film it would be described as a ‘road movie’. Really, it’s a book about running away to find yourself. Chapter One, titled ‘The End’ is reminiscent of Thelma and Louise and The Italian Job. A mobile library van stands at the edge of cliffs, surrounded by police. Inside are Bobby, Rosa and Val. We don’t know who they are or why they are there: such an incentive to keep reading. Twelve year-old Bobby lives with his father and his father’s girlfriend Cindy, a mobile hairdresser who paints a look of suspicion onto her face every morning with her foundation. Bobby misses his mother and saves anything of hers he can find: hairs from her hairbrush, scraps of paper. When his schoolfriend, Sunny, offers to protect Bobby from the bullies by turning into a cyborg like The Terminator, neither of them realize what that really entails. Bones are broken, blood is spilled, until Phase Three when Sunny ends up in hospital and disappears. Bobby, alone, passes the time by peeling wallpaper off his bedroom walls.
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Categories: Book Love.

Kate Loveton reviews ‘Ignoring Gravity’

“Danby gives us characters who are flawed. Choices made were sometimes made foolishly… or selfishly… or blindly. Very human decisions made by very human characters,” says writer Kate Loveton at Odyssey of a Novice Writer. Read Kate’s review in full by clicking here. To read what other readers are saying about Ignoring Gravity, click here.   ‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] Buy now And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Choices made foolishly, selfishly, or blindly: #bookreview by @KateLoveton http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1pv via @SandraDanby #books
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

I agree with… Matt Haig, again

Matt Haig “Let’s not patronise books – they are not endangered baby pandas. Let’s allow for honest reviewing. No reviewer should ever feel intimidated or under silent pressure. Let’s talk, let’s argue, let’s praise, let’s criticise, let’s learn. Let’s love books enough to criticise them.” [in a column for ‘The Bookseller’ magazine, November 14, 2014]  Matt Haig, author of The Humans, unleashed a bit of a Twitterstorm when he had a grumble about uncritical book reviews by some online reviewers. He wants a dialogue about books, not a polite review. In the course of the Twitterstorm, he was told stories about harassment and has called for calm and open discussion. If it wasn’t for online book reviews I would never have known about Burial Rites by Hannah Kent or Ferney by James Long. Reading book blogs has widened the scope of my reading and I am grateful for them, finding a book blogger whose taste I trust is like having a friend with whom I can discuss favourite books. But I do agree with him that book reviews need to be more coloured with debate. A string of 5* reviews helps neither the book reader wondering which title to read
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Categories: On Writing.

Book review: The Magician’s Land

Thrown out of Fillory and back in the non-magical world, Quentin Coldwater retreats to his former magical university in Brooklyn. Brakebills. He becomes a professor where he teaches his discipline, described as ‘mending small things’. Remember this, it will be important later. This is the final book of the trilogy by Lev Grossman and like book two, The Magician King, this final instalment is action-packed. The story moves between present and past, Fillory and earth, above ground, in the air and underground. Seeking adventure, and money, Quentin meets a new group of underground magicians and accepts a task for payment of $2m. On the team is Plum, who admits she once attended Brakebills too. In parallel we get the stories of Quentin, Eliot [still in Fillory] and Plum. In order to understand the threat in the present, we have to go back in time to fill in the real story of what happened to the Chatwin children [whose true adventures inspired the novels of Fillory]. And it becomes plain that the Fillory known by Quentin from his childhood love of those novels, is incorrect. The novels were fictional and Fillory is not what it seems. Depending on them all, is the very
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Summertime

From the first chapter, this novel is steeped in its setting. Florida, 1935. Racial divides, love [extra-marital and long lost], the US mistreatment of its Great War veterans, and the threat of the elements dominate this tale of Heron Key. Vanessa Lafaye is a debut novelist but she handles her explosive material with assurance, taking time to build the story as the town prepares for the annual beach barbeque on Independence Day. With the weather reports showing a hurricane approaching, tensions build between the townsfolk and the war veterans camped nearby in cockroach-infested mouldy conditions. Lafaye took her inspiration from two real events, the Labor Day Hurricane in 1935, and the appalling way the US Government treated its war veterans. Heron Key is fictional as are the characters, but some of the things which happen during the hurricane are based on real-life reports. This is a wonderful meld of fiction and fact, handled by skilled storyteller. Lafaye handles the suspense as if she has been telling stories like this all her life. Click here for Vanessa Lafaye’s blog. If you like this, try:- ‘The Knife with the Ivory Handle’ by Cynthia Bruchman ‘The Last Runaway’ by Tracy Chevalier ‘The Other
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Categories: Book Love.

Gravity: nothing to do with astronauts

As part of my pre-publication planning, I set up a couple of searches on Google Alerts. The idea was that I would catch all mentions/reviews on the internet for Ignoring Gravity. It didn’t quite work out like that. My inbox regularly gets Google Alerts about… gravity. And a particular movie… and scientific stuff about Isaac Newton and gravitational forces. And astronauts.The title of Ignoring Gravity is in fact totally unscientific. It is an adaptation of a line from the Philip Larkin poem, ‘Love’. To read about how I found the Larkin poem, click here. But Isaac Newton [above, Godfrey Kneller’s 1689 portrait], Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are still relevant: gravity is a basic rule of our place in the world and solar system. Gravity keeps our feet on the ground, literally. When, in Ignoring Gravity, Rose Haldane discovers she is adopted, she realizes finally that she cannot ignore where she came from, that she has to find out the identity of her real family. Family surrounds her every day – her adopted family, and her birth family – as gravity surrounds us invisibly. Rose just has to learn to recognise them. Watch the movie trailer for Gravity, with Sandra Bullock
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Categories: Book Love, Book publicity, and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

How to get ahead: Anya Hindmarch

Anya Hindmarch “The most important thing I’ve learned over the years is: don’t lose sight of who will wear your designs. Don’t get carried away by what others think, as often their views are about art and not sales, and sadly sales are what is required to fund your art.” [Anya Hindmarch, quoted in ‘Grazia’ magazine January 18, 2010] A sticky one this. Applying Anya’s advice to novels, should we focus on our readers rather than the story? It sounds suspiciously like writing-to-a-formula to me. There has to be a middle way for an author, of writing the story you want to tell in a way you hope your readers will want to read it. If you focus only on what sells, what is trending, you run the risk of trying to write what is popular now and finishing it after the trend has moved on. So, write what is true to yourself. What’s the best advice about writing you’ve ever been given? For Anya Hindmarch’s website, click here. Don’t know who Anya Hindmarch is? Read this article in the Daily Telegraph about the handbag designer. Try these tips to get ahead:- Donna Karan Gail Rebuck Kate Silverton And if
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Categories: On Writing.