Independent Publisher Showcase: # 4

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE

# 4. Little Toller Books

Little Toller Books was established in 2008 purely as an imprint of Dovecote Press but Little Toller Books was established purely to seek out and revive those hard to find and forgotten books on nature and rural life.

It has since grown to be an established independent publisher in its own right publishing books by authors to seek to help us reconnect with nature and our landscape. Just recently one of the authors Dara McAnulty with his debut book ‘Diary of a Young Naturalist’ won the 2020 Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing and is shortlisted for the Books Are My Bag Readers Award #BAMBReadersAwards

With even more exciting news that Little Toller Books are to open their own bookshop at 10am on 3rd November in Beaminster, Dorset.

Keep an eye on their Twitter feed @LittleToller of visit their website:  Little Toller Books for more information on what will be an exciting day for Little Toller Books.

A selection of the fiction titles currently released and soon to be released through Little Toller Books:

Ghost Town: A Liverpool Shadowplay by Jeff Young

Published: 19th February 2020

Summary:

Liverpool is a city of ghosts. Through the centuries, millions have lived here or come to find a new life, and found safe harbour. More than any other city in Britain its history resonates in the buildings, landscapes and stories that have seeped into the lives of its inhabitants. In Ghost Town, Jeff Young takes us on a journey through the Liverpool of his childhood – down back alleys and through arcades, into vanished tenements and oyster bars, strip tease pubs and theatres. We watch as he turns from schoolboy truant into an artist obsessed with Kafka, Terence Davies and The Fall. Along the way he conjures ghosts and puts hexes on the developers who’ve ruined the city of his dreams. Layering memoir, history, photography and more this is a highly original approach to this great city.

Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty 

Published: 21st May 2020

Summary

Winner of the 2020 Wainwright Prize, Diary of a Young Naturalist chronicles the turning of Dara McAnulty’s world, from spring to summer, autumn to winter, on his home patch, at school, in the wild and in his head. Evocative, raw and beautifully written, this very special book vividly explores the natural world from the perspective of an autistic teenager juggling homework, exams and friendships alongside his life as a conservationist and environmental activist. With a sense of awe and wonder, Dara describes in meticulous detail encounters in his garden and the wild, with blackbirds, whooper swans, red kites, hen harriers, frogs, dandelions, skylarks, bats, cuckoo flowers, Irish hares and many more species. The power and warmth of his words also draw an affectionate and moving portrait of a close-knit family making their way in the world.

Savage Gods by Paul Kingsnorth

Release Date: 12th November 2020

Summary:


After moving with his family to a small-holding in Ireland, Paul Kingsnorth expected to find contentment. It was a goal he had sought, after years of rootlessness as an environmental activist and renowned author. Instead he found that his tools as a writer were failing him, calling into question his fundamental beliefs about language and setting him at odds with culture. Informed by his travels across the world, the writings of Annie Dillard and D H Lawrence, Savage Gods asks: what does it mean to belong? What sacrifices must be made to truly inhabit a life? And can words ever paint the truth of the world, or are they part of the great lie which is killing it?

Something of his Art: Walking to Lubeck with JS Bach by Horatio Clare

Release Date: 1st November 2019 (PB)

Summary:

In the depths of winter in 1705 the young Johann Sebastian Bach, then unknown as a composer and earning a modest living as a teacher and organist, set off on a long journey by foot to Lubeck to visit the composer Dieterich Buxterhude, a distance of more than 250 miles. This journey and its destination were a pivotal point in the life of arguably the greatest composer the world has yet seen. Lubeck was Bach’s moment, when a young teacher with a reputation for intolerance of his pupils’ failings began his journey to become the master of the Baroque. More than three hundred years later, the writer Horatio Clare set off to recreate this walk, following in Bach’s footsteps. The result of this journey is Something of his Art, an imaginative evocation of what the twenty-year-old composer would have seen and felt on his long journey is a sustained visualisation of the landscape, light and wildlife of early eighteenth century northern Germany. Bach becomes Clare’s walking companion, a vestigial but real presence, as he acutely observes the season and places he passes through.

Living with Tress by Robin Walter

Release Date: 2nd November 2020

Summary:

Trees and woods offer great potential for rebuilding our wider relationship with nature, reinforcing local identity and sustaining wildlife. We need more trees and woods in our lives, to lock up carbon, to mitigate flooding, to help shade our towns and cities and bring shelter, wildlife and beauty to places. Living with Trees is a cornucopia of practical information, good examples and new ideas that will inspire, guide and encourage people to reconnect with the trees and woods in their community, so we can all discover how to value, celebrate and protect our arboreal neighbours.

Visit the Little Toller Books Website for information on all their books: Little Toller Books

You can also find them on Twitter: @LittleToller and Instagram: @littletollerdorset and Facebook: @littletoller

I hope you have enjoyed this week’s showcase. Look out for my next Independent Publishers Showcase next week. If you are an indie publisher and would like to add your name to the showcase, you can contact me via Twitter: @TheLastWord1962

Blog Journal #5

Blog Journal #5

Autumn

Loss, grief and autumn leaves

27th October 2020

This year has really tested all of us, but on a personal level this has been one of the most difficult of years, stepping away from a job, then the lockdown happened, going through months of therapy all this hit hard. But recently we suffered a loss in the family which has deeply affected everyone. Anyone who knew or met Andy will testify to what a wonderful man with a huge heart he really was. A light has gone out in our life. A huge character that would fill a room with laughter. All is now silent.

Autumn is one of my most favourite times of the year, watching the leaves turn from their late summer greens into those warm autumn reds, russets and golds has been special this year. Maybe it is because we have taken the time to stop and look at the colours.

Is it my imagination or have the colours this autumn been more spectacular than recent years? Walking through a wood and watching the falling leaves makes you realise how the seasons move so quickly when you wish just for a fleeting moment that time would standstill just for a while longer to appreciate the spectacle. As autumn progresses and the winds increase soon the trees will be stripped bare of all their leaves, but those fallen leaves can have a real purpose in giving a home to wildlife through the winter. Those quiet and still autumn days with not a breath of wind are the best, when you see wood smoke rising straight and true. These are the days I love the most.

With Halloween just days away we have our own spooky reads that we recall but two of my favourite ‘creepy’ novels are Dracula by Bram Stoker and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Classics in their own right. There are Pumpkins on sale so it must be time to make Spicy Pumpkin soup and snacking on roasted pumpkin seeds.

A poem for autumn:

Autumn Fires, by Robert Louis Stevenson

In the other gardens

And all up the vale,

From the autumn bonfires

See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over

And all the summer flowers,

The red fire blazes,

The grey smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!

Something bright in all!

Flowers in the summer,

Fires in the fall!”

The clocks have now gone back and the days are getting shorter and there is the sound of the first fireworks going off as soon as darkness falls. We spend more time indoors and there is nothing better than curling up with a good book as you listen to the wind howling and the rain against the window. Autumn is a time when publishers release the big books in time for the pre-Christmas push for sales and never before has your local bookshop needed all our support. Please if you can, do pop in or visit them online. Believe me there are some fantastic books out now just waiting to be snapped up.

Which reminds me, I have not run a book prize draw for some months and so I will be running a draw in the very near future and maybe there could be an added treat with the book.

 We are still living through some very difficult and worrying times and none of us know what the months ahead will bring, but we will help each other through these troubled times but until next time, Keep Safe and happy reading.

John Fish

The Last Word Book Review

Portrait of the Spy as a Young Man by Edward Wilson

Portrait of the Spy as a Young Man by Edward Wilson

Summary:

1941: a teenage William Catesby decides to leave Cambridge to join the army and support the war effort. Parachuted into Occupied France as an SOE officer, he witnesses tragedies and remarkable feats of bravery during the French Resistance.

2014: now in his nineties, Catesby recounts his life to his granddaughter for the first time. Their interviews weave together the historical, the personal and the emotional, skipping across different decades and continents to reveal a complex and conflicted man.

Catesby’s incredible story recounts a life of spying and the trauma of war, but also lost love, yearning, and hope for the future.

My Review:

Delighted on publication day to share my review of Portrait of the Spy as a Young Man (Arcadia Books) by Edward Wilson. This is a gripping wartime spy novel set in two time zones set in 1941 and 2014.

The career of spy William Catesby has been set out across seven previous novels and what a remarkable career. In Portrait of the Spy as a Young Man we find our hero recounting his wartime role to his granddaughter.
Catesby was only a teenager when he walked away from Cambridge University and join the fight against Nazis that had defeated mainland Europe. But for Catesby his role because of his unique background he joined the Special Operations Executive and following his training was parachuted into the highland region of Southern France, Catesby was there following the massacre of Oradour-sur-Glane as well as supplying weapons to the French underground forces fighting the Nazis and creating mayhem and chaos with the tactics of a highly trained SOE operative.


Now as the years have passed and it is 2014 and Catesby is in his nighties and the memories of his years as a spy are still there like time capsules in his memory and he is spending time with his granddaughter recounting his remarkable life.


I found this to be fantastic read and also one that was also moving as Catesby was a human that cared for the future of the human race. Many will ask about the previous spy novels but you need not worry as this can happily be read as a standalone novel. But like me you may want to seek out the previous seven books involving William Catesby. Highly Recommended.

350 Pages.

Thank you Sophie Ransom (Midas PR) for the review copy of Portrait of the Spy as a Young Man by Edward Wilson

Portrait of the Spy as a Young Man by Edward Wilsonwas published by Arcadia Books and was published on 15th October 2020 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

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Independent Publishers Showcase # 3

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE

# 3. Orenda Books

Orenda Books was established by Karen Sullivan in 2014 after she left her role as managing editor at Arcadia Books. The name of the business comes from the novel The Orenda by Joseph Boyden and is based on the Canadian First Nations word meaning: “The mystical power that drives human accomplishment”.

In Orenda Books first year of publishing it released six books that then raised to sixteen titles in its second year. I have been incredibly fortunate enough to have known Karen and Orenda Books as we both started in the same year and I have been incredibly fortunate enough to have read so many of the books published by Karen Sullivan. With an emphasis on crime/thrillers and many being translated. There has always been a big focus on debut authors, like many writers they have suffered the rejection process and yet they have gone on to write superb books under Orenda Books and with some of the authors then going on to be shortlisted for awards and Orenda Books themselves also going on to be shortlisted in publishing awards. With the exciting return of Ragnar Jónasson to Orenda Books to conclude his million-copy Dark Iceland Series with Winterkill due for release in December this proves that I can only see Orenda Books growing in strength in the years to come as Karen continues to find exciting new writers who have a story to tell that will capture the imagination of readers far and wide. For more information on the books released visit their website:  Orenda Books

Here are a selection of the titles currently released and also titles soon to be released through Orenda Books:

A Song of Isolation by Michael J. Malone

Published: 17th September 2020

Summary:

Film star Amelie Hart is the darling of the silver screen, appearing on the front pages of every newspaper. But at the peak of her fame she throws it all away for a regular guy with an ordinary job. The gossip columns are aghast: what happened to the woman who turned heads wherever she went?

Any hope the furore will die down are crushed when Amelie’s boyfriend Dave is arrested on charges of child sexual abuse. Dave strongly asserts his innocence, and when Amelie refuses to denounce him, the press witch hunt quickly turns into physical violence, and she has to flee the country.

While Dave is locked up with the most depraved men in the country and Amelie is hiding on the continent, Damaris, the victim at the centre of the story, is isolated a child trying to make sense of an adult world.

Breathtakingly brutal, dark and immensely moving, A Song of Isolation looks beneath the magpie glimmer of celebrity to uncover a sinister world dominated by greed and lies, and the unfathomable destruction of innocent lives in an instant.

Betrayal by  Lilja Sigurdardóttir

Published: 1st October 2020

Summary:

Burned out and traumatised by her horrifying experiences around the world, aid worker Úrsula has returned to Iceland. Unable to settle, she accepts a high-profile government role in which she hopes to make a difference again.
 
But on her first day in the post, Úrsula promises to help a mother seeking justice for her daughter, who had been raped by a policeman, and life in high office soon becomes much more harrowing than Úrsula could ever have imagined. A homeless man is stalking her – but is he hounding her, or warning her of some danger? And why has the death of her father in police custody so many years earlier reared its head again?
 
As Úrsula is drawn into dirty politics, facing increasingly deadly threats, the lives of her stalker, her bodyguard and even a witch-like cleaning lady intertwine. Small betrayals become large ones, and the stakes are raised ever higher…

The Coral Bride by Roxanne Bouchard

Release Date: 12th November 2020

Summary:

When an abandoned lobster trawler is found adrift off the coast of Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, DS Joaquin Moralès begins a straightforward search for the boat’s missing captain, Angel Roberts – a rare female in a male-dominated world. But Moralès finds himself blocked at every turn – by his police colleagues, by fisheries bureaucrats, and by his grown-up son, who has turned up at his door with a host of his own personal problems.
 
When Angel’s body is finally discovered, it’s clear something very sinister is afoot, and Moralès and son are pulled into murky, dangerous waters, where old resentments run deep.
 
Exquisitely written, with Bouchard’s trademark lyrical prose, The Coral Bride evokes the power of the sea on the communities who depend on it, the never-ending struggle between the generations, and an extraordinary mystery at the heart of both.

Winterkill (Dark Iceland Series) by Ragnar Jónasson
Release Date: 10th December 2020 (HB)

Summary:

When the body of a nineteen-year-old girl is found on the main street of Siglufjörður, Police Inspector Ari Thór battles a violent Icelandic storm in an increasingly dangerous hunt for her killer … The chilling, claustrophobic finale to the international bestselling Dark Iceland series. 
 
Easter weekend is approaching, and snow is gently falling in Siglufjörður, the northernmost town in Iceland, as crowds of tourists arrive to visit the majestic ski slopes.

Ari Thór Arason is now a police inspector, but he’s separated from his girlfriend, who lives in Sweden with their three-year-old son. A family reunion is planned for the holiday, but a violent blizzard is threatening and there is an unsettling chill in the air.
 
Three days before Easter, a nineteen-year-old local girl falls to her death from the balcony of a house on the main street. A perplexing entry in her diary suggests that this may not be an accident, and when an old man in a local nursing home writes ‘She was murdered’ again and again on the wall of his room, there is every suggestion that something more sinister lies at the heart of her death… 

As the extreme weather closes in, cutting the power and access to Siglufjörður, Ari Thór must piece together the puzzle to reveal a horrible truth … one that will leave no one unscathed.

Chilling, claustrophobic and disturbing, Winterkill marks the startling conclusion to the million-copy bestselling Dark Iceland series and cements Ragnar Jónasson as one of the most exciting authors in crime fiction.

Deity by Matt Wesolowski

Release Date: 18th February 2021

Summary:

Online investigative journalist Scott King investigates the death of a pop megastar, the subject of multiple accusations of sexual abuse and murder before his untimely demise in a fire … another episode of the startlingly original, award-winning Six Stories series.

When pop megastar Zach Crystal dies in a fire at his remote mansion, his mysterious demise rips open the bitter divide between those who adored his music and his endless charity work, and those who viewed him as a despicable predator, who manipulated and abused young and vulnerable girls.
Online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the accusations of sexual abuse and murder that were levelled at Crystal before he died. But as Scott begins to ask questions and rakes over old graves, some startling inconsistencies emerge: Was the fire at Crystal’s remote home really an accident? Whose remains – still unidentified – were found in the ashes? Why was he never officially charged? Dark, chillingly topical and deeply thought-provoking, Deity is both an explosive thriller and a startling look at how heroes can fall from grace and why we turn a blind eye to even the most heinous of crimes…

Exciting, thrilling and gripping books available now or due for release in the weeks ahead some of the most perfect books to curl up with during the autumn and winter. If you are reading or going to read any of the titles from Orenda Books, drop me a line and let me know what you think.

Visit the Orenda Books Website for information on all their books and you can also find a manuscript submission page: Orenda Books

You can also find them on Twitter: @OrendaBooks and Instagram: @orendabooks

I hope you have enjoyed this week’s showcase. Look out for my next Independent Publishers Showcase next week. If you are an indie publisher and would like to add your name to the showcase, you can contact me via Twitter: @TheLastWord1962

Green Hands by Barbara Whitton #WartimeClassics

Green Hands by Barbara Whitton

Summary:

It is 1943, and a month into their service as Land Girls, Bee, Anne and Pauline are dispatched to a remote farm in rural Scotland. Here they are introduced to the realities of ‘lending a hand on the land’, as back-breaking work and inhospitable weather mean they struggle to keep their spirits high. Soon one of the girls falters, and Bee and Pauline receive a new posting to a Northumberland dairy farm. Detailing their friendship, daily struggles and romantic intrigues with a lightness of touch, Barbara Whitton’s autobiographical novel paints a sometimes funny, sometimes bleak picture of time spent in the Women’s Land Army during the Second World War.

My Review:

The very latest release from the Imperial War Museum as part of their Wartime Classics series is set in 1943 and the men are away fighting and so the women recruited as part of the Women’s Land Army (WLA) in Green Hands (IWM) Barbara Whitton (pseudonym for Margaret Hazel Watson) tells the of the experiences of three young women working the land.

The story is told by Bee and her two friends Anne and Pauline are sent to chilly windswept farm in a remote part of Scotland in Winter, with no training they are expected to learn quickly how to work a farm. It is hard-going, cold and tough for the young women who are expected to work 6 days a week and long hours. The novel is based on the authors own experiences in the WLA.

It is physically hard and soon one of the women gives up and goes home leaving both Bee and Pauline to be relocated to a dairy farm in Northumberland and from the story tells of how they coped during the war years.

It is funny and insightful and the author writes in such a way that she paints a picture of life working on a farm doing the job the men would be normally be doing but with not a hint of a thank you. At a time when the country had to pull together or go hungry, Green Hands tells of a time during the war years when it was the women who worked the land to keep the country fed and important part of our history.

#wartimeclassics     @I_W_M

@angelamarymar     @RandomTTours

224 Pages.

Thank you to Imperial War Museum and Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for a copy of Green Hands by Barbara Whitton

Green Hands by Barbara Whitton was published by Imperial War Museum and was published on 10th September 2020 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

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Independent Publishers Showcase #1

# 1. Neem Tree Press

Delighted today to begin my journey in showcasing the UK’s Independent Publishers, it has been a project that I have been really looking forward in putting together. Across the country I will aim to bring highlight the books being published by an important part of the publishing industry.

The UK’s independent publishers have a vital role in book publishing, they will bring to our attention some fresh new writers from all forms of genres. As you will see over the weeks and months as I journey the length of the country just how vibrant these small publishers really are, and each with their own unique voice.

For my first stop I would like to introduce Neem Tree Press based in London, they are a young publisher with the sole aim of producing books that will broaden and change perspectives.

It was while I was researching the name of the publisher that I discovered the name: The Neem is a hardy and drought resistant tree that thrives in poor conditions. It has many uses such as medicinal. The United Nations declared it a ‘tree for the 21st Century’

Neem Tree Press have become a global when it comes to securing writers, not just here in the UK but contracts from as far as Germany to the Middle East, Spain and Turkey.

Under the umbrella of Seven Seas they release both MG & YA titles, all their fiction and non-fiction titles will be released through Neem Tree Press.

A selection of the fiction titles currently released through Neem Tree Press:

Children of War: A Novel by Ahmet Yorulmaz

Translated from Turkish by Paula Darwish

Released 26 March 2020

Summary:

Hassanakis is a young Muslim boy of Turkish descent growing up on Crete during WWI. Fifteen generations of his family have lived on the island and until now he has never had any reason not to think he is a Cretan. But with the Great Powers tussling over the collapsing Ottoman Empire and the island’s Christians in rebellion, an outbreak of ethnic violence forces his family to flee to the Cretan City of Chania. He begins to lay down roots and his snappy dress earns him the nickname of Hassan ‘the mirror’. As WWI draws to a close and the Turkish War of Independence rages, he begins a heady romance with the elegant Hüsniye. There are rumors that the Cretan Muslims will be sent to Turkey but Hassanakis can’t believe he will be sent to a country whose language he barely knows and where he knows no-one. This powerful novel drawn from the diary of a refugee family evokes the beauty, complexity and trauma of Crete’s past and weaves it into a moving tale of an ordinary man living through extraordinary times.

About the Author:

Ahmet Yorulmaz  (1932- 31March 2014)

Ahmet Yorulmaz was a Turkish a journalist, author and translator. He was born in Ayvalik to a family of Cretan Turks deported to mainland Turkey as part of the Greek/Turkish population exchange decreed in the Treaty of Lausanne. He was fluent in modern Greek and translated novels and poems from contemporary Greek literature to Turkish. Most of his original works were written with the aim of making people learn about Ayvalık, the city where he grew up. He dedicated himself to Greek-Turkish friendship and rapprochement.

The Umbrella Man by Keith Carter

Released: 3 October 2019

Summary:

A witty and acerbic novel for our times about corporate greed, the hubris of bankers, contradictions of the clean energy economy and their unintended consequences on everyday people.

Finance, environmentalism, rare-earth mining and human frailties collide in a complex of flawed motives. We follow Peter Mount, the self-made Chief Executive of a London-based rare-earth mining company as he and his business are buffeted by crisis-torn Royal Bank of Scotland and by his own actions, real and imagined. Meanwhile in Oregon, Amy Tate and her group of local environmental activists do their contradictory part to undermine a component of the green economy, unwittingly super-charged by the Chinese state. The repercussions of events in pristine Oregon are felt in the corporate and financial corridors of New York and London with drastic consequences. This is a deeply involving novel about the current workings of capitalism, miscommunication, causes and unexpected effects, love and survival.

About the Author:

Keith Carter

Born in Scotland, he read Economics at Cambridge, taking a First in 1981 when he was elected a Scholar. He worked as an investment banker before going straight and running a small pharmaceutical company. Now a writer and business consultant he enjoys travel, politics and economics, reading and writing, languages, music and meals with family and friends. Keith suffered a spinal cord injury in March 2018 and since rides a wheelchair.

Distant Signs by Anne Richter

Released: 7 November 2019

Summary:

Distant Signs the debut novel by Anne Richter is an intimate portrait of two families spanning three generations amidst turbulent political change, behind and beyond the Berlin Wall.

In 1960s East Germany, Margret, a professor’s daughter from the city, meets and marries Hans, from a small village in the Thuringian forest. The couple struggle to contend with their different backgrounds, and the emotional scars they bear from childhood in the aftermath of war. As East German history gradually unravels, with collision of the personal and political, their two families’ hidden truths are quietly revealed. An exquisitely written novel with strongly etched characters that stay with you long after the book is finished and an authentic portrayal of family life behind the iron curtain based on personal experience of the author who is East German and was 16 years old at the fall of the Berlin Wall.

About the Author:

Anne Richter

Anne Richter was born in 1973 in Jena, in the former German Democratic Republic. Her degree in Romance languages and English included study periods in England, Italy and France. In 2011, Anne was nominated for the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, a highly regarded German-language literary award. Her debut novel, Distant Signs, was published in Germany in 2013. Anne is currently writing her second novel.

Non-Fiction Title:

Modesty: A Fashion Paradox by Hafsa Lodi

Released: 19 March 2020

Summary:

Modest fashion has been gaining momentum in the mainstream global fashion industry over the past half-decade and is now a multi-billion-dollar retail sector. Its growing and now consistent appearance on high-profile fashion runways, on celebrities and in the headlines of fashion publications and news outlets, has shown that the modest fashion movement is hugely relevant to consumers. This is particularly true for millennials who are attracted to the feminist influences behind concealing your body, follow faith-based dress codes, or are attuned to social media, where more and more modest fashion bloggers are using imagery to inspire their followers. While the movement can credit European high fashion houses, like Gucci, for making conservative dresses and layering “in style” and “on trend,” and subsequent Western labels like DKNY, H&M and Mango for dabbling in the realm of modest wear, it is the newly emerging group of faith-influenced fashion brands who are driving the revolution, along with a new crop of Muslim fashion bloggers. These have helped catapult demure dressing trends globally. This book speaks to the various personalities and companies who have helped shape the modest fashion industry into such a significant retail sector, while also exploring the controversies that lie at the heart of the movement, such as one pressing question: even if it covers the skin but is flamboyant, modeled with the purpose of attracting attention, and publicly promoted on social media, can fashion truly be modest?

About the Author:

Hafsa Lodi

Hafsa Lodi is an American journalist who has been covering fashion in the Middle East for the past decade. She was born in New York City, and at the age of 14 relocated to the United Arab Emirates with her family, where she attended Dubai American Academy while interning after school with one of the region’s leading publishing houses, ITP.

After completing her undergraduate studies at the Ryerson School of Journalism in Toronto, Hafsa moved to London for a year, where she earned her master’s degree in Islamic Law at the School of Oriental and African Studies. The relationships between religion, culture and modernity have always fascinated Hafsa, who covered topics like honour killings in Canada’s South Asian communities, the use of DNA evidence in rape cases in Pakistan and the industrialization of the Holy city of Makkah, before turning to the fashion journalism beat. While living in Dubai, Hafsa has written for The National newspaper, Luxury Magazine, Mojeh Magazine, Velvet Magazine, Savoir Flair and Vogue India, in addition to working as an online fashion editor for one of the Middle East’s largest luxury retailers, Boutique 1. She is a freelance stylist, and also has a part-time clothing line, creating whimsical maxi-cardigans and kaftans during Ramadan, and statement hand-embellished sweatshirts for the winter seasons. You can find Hafsa on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hafsalodi/

My grateful thanks to Dr Archna Sharma for review copies of copies of their recent releases.

Visit the Neem Tree Website for information on all their books and you can also find a manuscript submission page: Neem Tree Press

You can also find them on Twitter: @NeemTreePress

Look out for my next Independent Publishers Showcase next week. If you are an indie publisher and would like to add your name to the showcase, you can contact me via Twitter: @TheLastWord1962

Independent Publishers

Independent Book Publishers

A love letter to indies

Blog Journal: #4

10th September 2020

It is mid-morning and the warm September sunshine is pouring through the window onto my writing desk and it is distracting me. It must be time to pick Blackberries and Cobnuts.

Earlier this week I announced on Twitter that I was going to be running regular feature on my blog about UK independent publishers. I was amazed at the response received, I now have a long list of independent publishers to showcase over the weeks and months to come.

There are so many challenges that indie publishers face and these challenges like many other publishers have been exacerbated due to the Coronavirus pandemic, yet their passion and enthusiasm for publishing knows no boundaries as they find new writing talent and supporting their writers. Only in recent days Little Toller based in Dorset and who published Dara McAnulty’s first book The Diary of a Young Naturalist went on to win the prestigious Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing, the youngest ever winner at just 16-years-old and has now also been longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize.

But unless we support independent publishers many may not survive, it is a tough business to be in especially in these difficult times. Many challenges are faced on a daily basis from selling books to digital piracy, it is a tough business to be in. I was touched by the messages and emails by many of the small publishers who wanted to get on board and be featured. It has been nearly six years since I started writing my book reviews and interviews and recently celebrated my 500th blog post and looking back to when I first started to that dark November afternoon it was a few of the small indie publishers who got on board and sent me books and encouraged me. I guess this is me giving something back!

During the last six years I have been impressed beyond words at the quality of writing being published by the indies such as Orenda Books, Bluemoose Books, Little Toller and urbane Books just to name four. Whether is it fiction or non-fiction, whether you like reading crime or contemporary fiction or you enjoy reading history there is something out there for every reader.

We are so fortunate in this country in that we have so many passionate people in publishing, no matter what part of the UK, they are rich and diverse and all with their own unique style and brand. Imagine a time if we lost our independent publishing industry?

Starting on my blog from next week I will showcase an indie publisher. This will be a journey across our country, join me as we discover the many authors and their books and those behind the scenes of each of the publishers.

If you are an indie publisher and would like to be showcased, contact me to get your name added to the list.

John Fish

The Last Word Book Review

V2 by Robert Harris

V2 by Robert Harris

Summary:

Rudi Graf has dreamt since childhood of sending a rocket to the moon. Instead, along with his friend Werner von Braun, he has helped create the world’s most sophisticated weapon – the V2 ballistic missile, capable of delivering a one-ton warhead that travels at three times the speed of sound.

In a desperate gamble to avoid defeat, Hitler orders 10,000 to be built.

Now, in the winter of 1944, Graf finds himself in a bleak seaside town in Occupied Holland. Haunted and disillusioned, he’s tasked with firing the V2s at London. Nobody understands the volatile, deadly machine better than he does.

Kay Caton-Walsh is an officer in the WAAF. She has experienced at first-hand the horror of a V2 strike. As the rockets rain down, she joins a unit of WAAFs on a mission to newly-liberated Belgium. Armed with little more than a slide rule and a few equations, the hope is that Kay and her colleagues can locate and destroy the launch sites.

But at this stage in the war it’s hard to know who, if anyone, you can trust.

For every action on one side, there is an equal and opposite reaction on the other. As the death toll soars, the separate stories of Graf and Kay ricochet off one another, until in a final explosion of violence their destinies are forced together.

My Review:

Historical fact and fiction blended together in the latest blockbuster by bestselling author Robert Harris. V2 (Hutchinson) tells the story of Hitler’s last desperate attempt to turn the tide of WWII. Hitler so desperate he ordered 10,000 to be built of the most advanced rockets the world had seen. Mostly written during the pandemic lockdown, V2 is an enthralling read

The story is set in the winter of 1944 in London, Holland and Belgium, for Rudy Graf who used to look up at the moon and thought about designing a rocket to land a man there, life during this stage of the war took a sinister turn along with his friend Werner von Braun designed the ballistic Vengeance weapons to strike terror and death and destroy London and also Antwerp and win the war. It takes just 5 minutes from launch in Holland to hit London and there are no warnings.

In London intelligence officer with photographic reconnaissance, 24-year-old Kay Caton-Walsh has had a lucky escape when a V2 hits close to where she has been staying with a married senior officer in the RAF, now Kay wants to get more directly involved in the war effort before the war ends. Locating the launch sites for the V2 rockets has been a massive problem and now efforts are being stepped up to find them and Kay together with a team of women and officers are sent to Mechelen in Belgium to work on calculations based of the trajectory of the V2’s when they are launched and then the RAF is scrambled to the target and destroy the launch sites.

The death toll in the construction of the rockets is huge around 20,000 slave labourers were killed in the production of the V2 weapons. The rockets were never accurate but carried a one-ton warhead that caused death and devastation, the need to seek and destroy the rockets sites was now a priority.

In Holland Graf was becoming more and more disillusioned, some of the rockets were failing and malfunctioned. But now the SS officers running the sites believe Graf is involved in deliberate sabotage. Tension is running high as the high command insist on more and more rockets are launched.

Meanwhile in Mechelen it is pencil and paper and calculations that a pin pointing the launch sites. But the correct calculation has to be made in no more than six minutes to prevent another launch.

V2 by Robert Harris is a gripping and enthralling account of life during the latter stages of WWII and what it takes to try and stop the V2 rockets destroying London. It is also fascinating to read what happened at the end of the war.  

320 Pages.

#NetGalley

Thank you to Hutchinson for the NetGalley review copy of V2 by Robert Harris.

V2 by Robert Harris will be published by Hutchinson on 17th September 2020 and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

My September/October 2020 Book Reviews for Word Gets Around Magazine. Issue 41.

My September/October 2020 Book Reviews for Word Gets Around Magazine Issue number 41

The latest edition of Somerset’s Word Gets Around magazine has arrived for September/October. Issue number 41 for the Taunton and surrounding areas and issue number 5 for West Somerset.

Inside it is packed with great articles for Taunton and its surrounding areas as well as pieces for West Somerset. If you are in Somerset, they magazines are widely available and you can find out more by visiting the website for more information: Word Gets Around Magazine

The Fiction Book for September/October Edition: Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin

Published by Europa Editions, Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin tells the story of Violette Toussaint who is a caretaker of a cemetery in Bourgogne, France. The visitors come to make final arrangments and Valérie shares coffee and tears with the occaisonal laughter. It is a story of those that share the duties of the cemetery, the gravediggers and groundsmen and a priest. But one day a visitor arrives in the form of the local police chief, Julien Seul. A beautifuly written novel with tears and laughter and a secret past.

The Non-Fiction Book for September/October Edition: Into the Tangled Bank: In which our author ventures outdoors to consider the British in nature.

Writer and conductor Lev Parikian sets off on a journey across the country in his latest book Into the Tangled Bank (Elliott & Thompson) to discover how we look at the natural world. It all begins with a Butterfly on the pavement outside his home. From here Lev visits the homes of the great nature lovers, Charles Darwin, John Clare, Etta Lemon and Gavin Maxwell. A wonderful book packed with humour and tells of how we all have a connection with the natural world around us.

For more information on Word Gets Around Magazine please visit: Word Gets Around

Or on Twitter: @_wordgetsaround

Instagram: @WordGetsAround

The Joy of Bookshops

The Joy of Bookshops

Step inside a bookshop and a world of literary delights awaits

Blog Journal: #3

4th August 2020

When was the last time you visited a bookshop? That may seem like a strange question to ask but so much of our lives have changed over recent months and since bookshops have reopened many are still very quiet like many high street outlets. But there is something very special about visiting a bookshop.

During these strange days of social distancing and the wearing face coverings there is still a joy to be had in going to visit a bookshop. May be you are looking for that big summer read you have promised yourself or one of the books on the literary prize you are following. September is going to be a big month for book releases as publishers held off book launches during the lockdown. The key date is September 3rd and 250 hardback books will be launched on that day. Booksellers across the country will be busy that week and it will be a critical time for all bookshops including the indie bookshops who have suffered during the lockdown.

Since the high street started to reopen I have visited my local bookshops a number of times and the staff have done an incredible job in making sure that both staff and customers feel safe and making the bookshops welcoming and I have felt more at ease in a bookshop than the local supermarket. May be it is the book hunter gatherer in me that I want to visit bookshops and the bookish delights that await instore and socially distant book chats with the staff.

As I write and review books on my blog and through magazines, I tend to hear the ‘thud’ on the doormat as the postman delivers book packages from publishers. In the years that I have been reviewing books I still feel real gratitude that publishers and authors have trusted me with proofs ahead of publication but saying that you just cannot better walking into your local bookshop.

Then of course there are the bookshops that also have their own instore coffee shops and for me this is heaven, books and coffee and not forgetting the cake of course. Since the lockdown the one joy that I have missed is the visiting author and the interview. Will we ever get back to the pre-Corvid19 days of writers being interviewed in front of a packed audience in a bookshop. We can only hope.

Sales of books during the lockdown really held up as people discovered the joy of books, but the dreaded spectre of Amazon is always never far away and they threaten the existence of our local independent bookshops across the country. Footfall in independent bookshops dropped off, our indie bookshops are part of the local community and it is vital they survive. Many are still taking orders online and will help track down that hard to find book for you.

Then of course there is the antiquarian bookshops, as you walk in there is that aroma of the old books, I have missed some of my favourites on the Charing Cross Road which was of course famous for Marks & Co who sold rare and second hand books at number 84 Charing Cross Road. You know the book by Helene Hanff which also inspired the film with Anthony Hopkins. Sadly, they are long gone but there are still second hand bookshops in Charing Cross Road.

Bookshops are a delight to visit and spending time just browsing the bookshelves, maybe it is just me but I find it really relaxing spending time looking for that book I really want to read that is where you will find me. But wearing a face covering.

John Fish

The Last Word Book Review