Edinburgh Book Festival

My Kyrosmagica Review of The Lost And the Found, Cat Clarke

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Goodreads Synopsis:

LOST.

When six-year-old Laurel Logan was abducted, the only witness was her younger sister. Faith’s childhood was dominated by Laurel’s disappearance – from her parents’ broken marriage and the constant media attention to dealing with so-called friends who only ever wanted to talk about her sister.

FOUND.

Thirteen years later, a young woman is found in the garden of the Logans’ old house, disorientated and clutching the teddy bear Laurel was last seen with. Laurel is home at last, safe and sound. Faith always dreamed of getting her sister back, without ever truly believing it would happen. But a disturbing series of events leaves Faith increasingly isolated and paranoid, and before long she begins to wonder if everything that’s lost can be found again…

Edinburgh Book Festival

I picked up a signed copy of The Lost and The Found at The Edinburgh Book Festival. Here’s my link to my post if you’d like to see my write up of their talk – The Disappeared and my photo with Cat Clarke and Kat Ellis!!! https://kyrosmagica.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/edinburgh-book-festival-edbookfest-cat-clarke-and-kat-ellis/

My Thoughts:

Cover:

This is a very simple cover, and if I’m totally truthful I wasn’t particularly impressed. I must admit this little voice in my head kept on saying, couldn’t you think of something a bit more imaginative Cat ?!!!!!!  It’s a bit basic, just words, and yellow tape? But having read the book, the cover seems to match the story inside, this is a novel primarily about relationships, and emotions, there are no fancy shenanigans going on, so a simple cover kind of makes sense. So first impressions are sometimes very, very wrong!!!

I bow down to your superior book cover knowledge Cat.

Snippet:

Cat read the following engaging snippet from The Lost and The Found at her Book Festival talk:

I don’t believe it. I won’t allow myself to believe it. Mum’s trying to stay calm too, but I can see it in her face – something I haven’t seen for years hope. She thinks it’s different this time. They wouldn’t have called her otherwise. They think this is it. After hundreds, maybe even thousands, of crank calls and false sightings and psychics claiming Laurel was living with goat-herds in the mountains of Uzbekistan.

Book Review:

The Lost and The Found manages to engage the reader in very dark subject matter, the return of an abducted girl that has been sexually abused, who now has to readjust to living in a world in which she has had little or no experience. Can you imagine being locked away for years and never been let out of captivity? How horrendous. Cat Clarke doesn’t take the obvious route, telling us Laurel’s story, instead she focuses primarily on Faith’s emotions. Making Faith the main protagonist of the novel instead of the more obvious choice Laurel, gives the story a much different, possibly more light-hearted feel. The novel tackles surface and deeply hidden emotions so well.

Faith, the seventeen year old younger sister, of abducted Laurel, tells us her story through her eyes. Of course she is beyond happy that her elder sister has returned, after thirteen very long years, but little by little we see tiny aspects of sibling resentment, and a ton of guilt creep into her emotions.  A shocker, or what, The Lost and The Found doesn’t put a sugar coating on Faith’s response, instead it is an honest, and believable account of how Faith and her family respond to the return of her sister. Things are not the same any more, and Cat Clarke manages to convey this in well crafted plot ideas: the family have moved to a new house, her bi-sexual father is no longer married to her mother, and is now in a relationship with a Frenchman called Michel. Not surprisingly many changes have occurred after such a long time period, so how is Laurel going to adjust? From the mid-point of this novel we start to see hints that Laurel is damaged, she was bound to be. These strange behaviour revelations bring about a new dimension, a revelation, and mysterious aspect to the novel that is most definitely a plus, but no more about that as I don’t want to spoil it for you.

The characters are wonderfully crafted, all of them seem believable and engaging. I particularly had a soft spot for Faith, but Laurel’s step dad Michel deserves a mention too. He seems a bit left out of the loop when Laurel returns. Suddenly the original nuclear family of mum, dad, and the two girls bond together in a tight knit group. Again this is believable, so likely that this would happen when a much loved daughter returns after being abducted. But, Michel remains a rock of support and understanding for Faith. Also the relationship between Faith’s father and Michel allows a modern twist to the conventional nuclear family with the new dynamic of families with gay parents, and generally gives step-parents a better, more positive image.

I didn’t engage as much with Laurel as a character, but this was bound to be inevitable with the story resting firming in Faith’s hands.

The role of the press is an interesting aspect of The Lost and the Found. In Faith’s eyes they are portrayed rather like vultures, and each family member is either repelled, or fascinated by the possibility of public appearances, book deals, etc.  Fundamentally we are all different, no two people will behave the same in these horrendous circumstances, and this gives the reader an insight into the characters’ personalities and motivations.

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The Ending: (****Some Spoilers Below****)

I’ve been mulling over the conclusion to The Lost and The Found a lot. My initial reaction was, you’ve got to be kidding me, but then it hit me like a sledgehammer!

Certain aspects of the plot twists I suspected, others I didn’t see coming. Such a difficult book to conclude, where do you go with it? Whatever you do someone is bound to suffer, and in the end both families pay an equally dreadful price. The equilibrium of fairness is shared. Is it believable, or sustainable? Maybe not entirely, but I think Cat Clarke wanted to make a heartfelt point, and she succeeds in doing that: In prolonged media campaigns for abducted children it is always the kids from white, clean cut, (by this I mean – no drugs, no time spent in prison,) middle class families that are given the most press, and are cared about more. It seems to me that Cat wanted to add another dimension to the story by making Faith’s family a little different, a little off the run of the mill,  by adding her father’s relationship with Michel – fuel for the media campaign, but not a reason for the press to lose interest.

Personally I think Faith’s final decision is fuelled by her understandable desire to keep the shocking revelation a secret, both to protect her family and the girl that has been abducted. Who can blame her?   So a thought provoking ending, I’m still thinking about it as I write this review….. That can only be a good thing, books that make you debate certain aspects long after you’ve finished them are by far the best books in my opinion.

So would I recommend The Lost and the Found?

Absolutely, I’m so pleased that I read this! Go get a copy!! Great characters, emotions that you can really relate to, and a fast paced mystery too.

My rating:

It’s got to be 5 stars.

DISCLAIMER: “As of 13th September 2017 we are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.”  

My opinions are my own and any reviews on this site have not been swayed or altered in any way by monetary compensation, or by the offer of a free book in exchange for a review. 

Buying Links:

Amazon UK – Paperback – http://amzn.to/2xlISLg

Amazon UK – Kindle – http://amzn.to/2hlNjSJ

Amazon UK – Hardcover – http://amzn.to/2xTVfRT

Please do leave a comment, I love to chat about books.

Have you read The Lost And the Found? Did you find it engaging too?

Bye for now.

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Marje @ Kyrosmagica xx

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My Kyrosmagica Review of Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis

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Goodreads Synopis:

When Sky falls from Blackfin Pier and drowns on her sixteenth birthday, the whole town goes into mourning – until she shows up three months later like nothing happened.

Unravelling the mystery of those missing months takes Sky to the burned-out circus in the woods, where whispers of murder and kidnapping begin to reveal the town’s secrets. But Sky’s not the only one digging up the past – the old mime from the circus knows what happened to her, and he has more than one reason for keeping quiet about it.

Snippet from the book:

Silas’ spirit had inhabited the rusting weathervane for many years. From his perch on the school roof he watched the townsfolk of Blackfin through his empty eye socket as they buzzed through their lives beneath him, no more significant than the grains of sand piling up against the shoreline, clinging to the struts of Blackfin pier.

Doesn’t that just grab your attention? It certainly did for me!

Edinburgh Book Festival:

I picked up a copy of Blackfin Sky at the Edinburgh Book Festival, and was lucky to get a signed copy as well as Cat Clarke’s The Lost and The Found. If you’d like to see my photograph with Kat Ellis and Cat Clarke, and my write up of their talk, The Disappeared, here’s the link: https://kyrosmagica.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/edinburgh-book-festival-edbookfest-cat-clarke-and-kat-ellis/

The Cover:

Do I judge a book by its cover? I have a tendency to do this to a certain degree as I  think that well executed covers tend to give you a sense of the book. This one fitted the bill, I  just loved this cover so much! It is so beautiful, and mysterious. Did the cover match the book? Yes in my opinion on the whole it did, Blackfin Sky had a lot to offer and was definitely mysterious.

My thoughts:

I was so excited about this book, that cover just had me trembling with anticipation but did it live up to my exalted expectations? Yes and No. I  liked this a lot, but somehow it didn’t quite reach the ecstatic heights of loving it that I hoped it would. I think this was in part due to my not quite engaging enough with some of the characters in the novel, apart from the main protagonist, Sky, the others just didn’t seem to have enough depth to them. And the baddie with the amber skull, he just needed more baddie factor, I just didn’t really get him. At times Blackfin Sky seemed a bit confusing, and possibly a little too far off the believable line, (I do realise this sounds odd with regard to a fantasy story but even so the emotions sometimes seemed a bit dampened, particularly when Sky turns up after being dead, I just could have done with more feels. I know that Blackfin is meant to be a strange community but even so…..)

I think Kat Ellis tried to cram in a heck of a lot into this novel, (very ambitious,) which is something I like to do too, ah, makes me think possibly it is better to keep things a bit more simple? Maybe. Somehow it didn’t quite pack the four star/five star punch I’d hope it would, perhaps some of the plot threads could have been simplified…. to allow more time for secondary character development.

On the positive side it read extremely well, Kat Ellis can definitely write –  no doubt about that, and it has a very imaginative fantasy setting,  full marks for imagination Kat. I love the circus aspect, the Blood House, and the idea of pathfinders too. Yes, there are definitely aspects of this debut novel that really appeal to me, I think with a few tweaks it could easily have been a perfect read.

So would I recommend it ? Yes, I would. This is Kat Ellis’s debut novel, I do think she has great potential and amazing promise, so my recommendation would be to read this author and keep an eye out for her, I reckon her next novel might just pack that knockout punch.

By the way don’t forget to vote for your favourite debut author, Kat Ellis is one of the authors you can nominate for First Book Award, vote for your favourite, voting closes at 5pm on Friday 16th October: www.edbookfest.co.uk 

My rating:

3.75 stars. Just short of 4, as I say with a few tweaks it could easily have been a 4 star read.

DISCLAIMER: “As of 13th September 2017 we are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.”  

My opinions are my own and any reviews on this site have not been swayed or altered in any way by monetary compensation, or by the offer of a free book in exchange for a review. 

Buying Links:

UK Kindle Version: http://amzn.to/2y1v7oe

UK Paperback: http://amzn.to/2fi605d

 

Have you read Blackfin Sky? If you have please do leave a comment to let me know what you think.

Bye for now!

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Marje @ Kyrosmagica xx

Edinburgh Festival: My Last Day and A Glimpse Of Princess Street Gardens

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The final talk that I attended at the Book Festival was on Sunday 23rd of August, The Poems of Iain Banks, with Ken Macleod, a Scottish Science Fiction Writer, and lifelong friend of Iain Banks. The event was chaired by Stuart Kelly. It had been an interesting talk, suggested to me by fellow blogger, Stephen P. Blanchini, his blog is aptly named The Earthian Hive Mind: http://earthianhivemind.net/

I learnt a great deal about Iain Banks from this talk, and was struck by Ken Macleod’s obvious sadness that this lifelong friend that he had had the pleasure of knowing for such a long time was no longer with us. Very sad, it must be extremely hard to discuss a friend you have shared so many memories with over so many years, in such a public way particularly when you have had so much in common. I shall be delving into Iain Bank’s writing, and his poetry to find out more, but at this juncture I don’t feel I can do him justice by writing an in-depth article about the talk as in truth I just don’t feel I know enough about him, yet…. The fantastic thing about these talks is their ability to make you curious, and encourage you to read the author’s work which can only be a good thing. Ken mentioned that Iain’s strangest novel was A Song Of Stone, this features heightened prose, and a strongly dislikeable character. Iain was apparently disparaging about his final novel The Quarry. Ken suggested that The Quarry demonstrates a gentler revisiting of themes that appeared in his earlier novels. Ken said that there is almost an alternating nice hopper, nasty hopper with some of Iain’s books such as Whit, (about a young cult member,) Stonemouth, (this follows a man returning to a small seaport town after leaving due to a sexual scandal,) and Quarry, (which deals with an autistic youthKit, and his father, Guy, a misanthrope who is dying of cancer,) fitting into the nice hopper. The Hydrogen Sonata,  a science fiction novel set in a techo-utopian Culture universe is possibly more optimistic too, though it takes part in Hell!

Sadly, Iain Banks died of Gallbladder cancer, as a token of the esteem he was held in the asteroid (5099) Iainbanks was named in memory of him shortly after his death. His dying of Gallbladder cancer got me thinking, I myself had a polyp in my Gallbladder which was discovered last year and I was operated on in October 2015. For a long time my symptoms were misdiagnosed,  it took a trip up to Edinburgh, and a Scottish doctor to diagnose it immediately. The polyp was most probably benign but still it does make you think, that tiny polyp gave me so much trouble I’m so glad I went ahead and had my Gallbladder removed. Poor Iain.

After the talk the weather was so nice that I felt it would be a crime not to stop for an ice cream, so I stopped right by the large advertisement for the Book Festival that you can see at the top of this blog post. I had a feeling that I should wander on a bit and find somewhere that sold S. Lucas ice-cream, but there was no certainty that I’d find this wonderful childhood favourite which we used to eat in Musselburgh. So I settled for an ice-cream van at this spot, I fancied a chocolate wafer, a Scottish ice cream delight but was a bit disappointed to find that they’d run out, so I had to settle for a humble ice cream cone! Still it was very tasty and I lapped it all up. Of course, the inevitable happened I found a place along in the gardens that sold S. Lucas ice-cream, too late, I should have listened to that psychic voice telling me to wait! I couldn’t really justify buying another ice-cream so soon after the last!

As I ambled my way along Princess Street gardens taking in the sights I came upon the magnificent flower clock, this is a must see if you’re ever in Edinburgh, it is really pretty, especially on a sunny day. The floral clock can be found half way down the stairs into the gardens across from the National Galleries, at the foot of the Mound, commissioned in 1903, it was the first of its kind in the world. Oh, and amazingly it tells the correct time in flowers! How cool is that! Unfortunately my photographs could have been a bit better, there were a few shadows lurking about but still it does give you an idea of how lovely it is. I like how this wonderful display of flowers celebrates Books, Words and Ideas. Of course Edinburgh, my old home town, is the first UNESCO City of Literature in the world, and deservedly so.

More about that here: http://www.cityofliterature.com/edinburgh/

 

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Links:

http://kenmacleod.blogspot.co.uk/

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/feb/18/iain-banks-final-book-poetry-published-2015-ken-macleod

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/11422409/Poems-by-Iain-Banks-and-Ken-MacLeod-review-blazing-energy.html

So it was time to say farewell to Edinburgh until the next time. Time to go home and see my hubby and my daughters!

I do hope you have enjoyed all of my Edinburgh posts, I have bombarded you with so many of them but my excuse is simply this,  I used to live in Edinburgh, I grew up and had many memorable teenage years there.

I love the city and always will.

Bye for now.

kk

Marje @ Kyrosmagica xx

Edinburgh Book Festival #edinbookfest Sarah Crossan and Abbie Rushton

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Thrilled to have the opportunity to attend another talk at The Edinburgh Book Festival, this time it’s Finding The Way with authors Sarah Crossan  and Abbie Rushton,  chaired by Philippa Cochrane, head of Reader Development, Scottish Book Trust.

Philippa began the talk by introducing the authors and sharing some background information with the audience.

Sarah Crossan, is an award-winning author with five books to her name, Breathe, ResistThe Weight of Water, Apple and Rain, and One.

Abbie Rushton is a debut novelist, her book Unspeakable  is one of the amazing books you can nominate via the First Book Award.

Vote via their website: www.edbookfest.co.uk.

Voting open until 16th October so get voting!

Sarah Crossan’s new book in verse is out on August 27th, it is simply entitled One, and is set in New Jersey where Sarah lived. One is about conjoined twins, Grace and Tippi.

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Sarah read an extract from One, which starts with the first verse, Sisters, and then she read from the next verse, The End of Summer.

Abbie shared next from Unspeakable, a gay love story about a mute girl. She read a section about a dog struggling to free itself from muddy water.

These two books are different in many ways but do share things in common.

Abbie Rushton wanted to write a novel that suggested a young girl’s fear of who she is and to really get this across effectively she decided to write from a mute girl’s perspective. The idea developed from Abbie’s own teenage years which had been difficult, she had repressed her feelings, been quite introverted and had always found writing easier than talking.  Ah, Abbie this sounds familiar I find it so much easier to express myself in written words rather than to talk….

Sarah came up with the idea for One after watching a documentary about conjoined twins Abigail and Brittany Hensel. Fascinated, she set about researching the topic for her book. She found that the internet was not a particularly fruitful source of information so she continued her research in the British Library. Thereafter she tried to contact a conjoined twins specialist, Ed Kiely at Ormond Street Hospital but he was difficult to talk to. So she turned to Andrew Taylor a heart specialist at Great Ormond Street who managed to get her a meeting with Ed Kiley.

Conjoined twins is obviously a difficult subject to investigate as it is shrouded in a degree of secrecy. It is difficult to intrude on this private world, with this in mind Sarah Crossan tried to be as sensitive and thoughtful as possible.

Abbie Rushton mentioned that she loathes research, so obviously this type of in-depth research would not be for her. Sarah’s research amplified what she already knew about conjoined twins, most die, therefore it is undoubtedly an extremely sad subject matter.

On a lighter note Phillipa Cochrane celebrated the strong teen voices in both of these books, and wondered what pot of writing gold these two authors draw from.

Abbie Rushton doesn’t have much contact with teenagers, but it helps that she is a teenager at heart, and her memories and experiences serve as a base for her writing. Yes, I can relate to this….

Sarah Crossan was a school teacher for ten years. Ah, now we know why she likes to engage in research so much. That explains a lot! So she’s used to the ways of teenagers, but her daughter is only three and has a way to go to get to those teenage years, hurry up my dear…. Give her a chance she’s only little!

Then Philippa passed the questioning hat over to the audience, an audience member wanted to know about the author’s reading habits.

Abbie Rushton devours teen fiction. Sarah Crossan reads teen books, of course she does, but she avoids them when she is writing. Yes, writing for teens without reading teen books is most definitely a big No, No.

Then Phillipa steered the conversation on to the topic of believable parents, or more realistically deeply flawed parents, which are a feature of both authors’ writing style in these books.

Sarah Crossan said her mum was a bit put out, she wondered where did this flawed mother come from? But to a degree it sounds as if Sarah did draw from her own experiences,  her dad left and her mum couldn’t clean. This made me laugh. Her mum couldn’t clean and this is a flaw? She sounds okay to me…..  Yes, being a parent is hard.

Abbie Rushton said that Megan’s mum is not like her mum. She wanted to write a character that was isolated from friends. She enjoys writing complex characters and this applies to her subsidiary characters too. Sounds fascinating, really looking forward to reading Unspeakable, Abbie.

Philippa Cochrane was quick to point out that often roles get reversed, adults start to begin to behave like teenagers and teenagers act that parents. I have heard a few examples of this myself recently particularly with older teenagers, when maybe mum goes out for a drink with her friends, and forgets to tell her daughter, and teenage daughter gets worried…… Oh, yes role reversal is on the increase….

Philippa steered the conversation in the direction of developing friendships.

Abbie Rushton’s main character Megan develops a friendship with Jasmine, a bubbling, effervescent  character that is based on a friend of Abbie’s.

One of Sarah Crossan’s secondary characters,  Yasmeen is HIV positive, “this is incidental in some ways,” but she quickly added that she didn’t want this to sound disrespectful to HIV sufferers. She wanted a character who would be “other” who would come together with Tippi and Grace.

An audience member asked if Sarah had always wanted to write in verse?

Sarah found that she couldn’t get this particular novel to sound right in prose, she  tried very hard by the sound of it (she had written a substantial amount of the manuscript in prose,) but it just didn’t work, so she experimented by writing in verse and it worked. Initially she thought due to the technical nature of the story, the scientific aspects, it would have to be in prose but she soon found this was not the case. Sarah is passionate about wanting to share poetry for a younger audience and says there is not much in the way of poetry for teens in the UK. You’ve convinced me Sarah, I can’t wait to read One, I love poetry, and I think this will be an amazing read.

Then Philippa asked when did each of these writers start to feel comfortable calling themselves a writer?

Abbie says she’s now able to call herself a writer. She has been and still is an editor, but when she saw the cover she felt that was the moment. A writer moment. She adored it. Yes, I agree it’s a great cover. I love a beautiful cover Abbie, so exciting!

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Sarah started to feel comfortable in her shoes as a writer when she did her masters in writing. Very modest, Sarah.

The next audience question stole Philippa’s next line of chit-chat from the tip of her tongue, of course it was the inevitable would you have muffins for hands or squirrels for feet? This seems to be going the rounds of the YA events in the festival this year. Both opted for the more practical and fast-moving squirrels.

Philippa’s next question was about desert island provisions, no, not food, why not, I ask my greedy tummy rumbling, oh I suppose there would be ample fish to eat….

Each author was asked to take three differing choices with them.

Here’s Sarah Crossan  choices:

Book:  Jeannette Winterson’s The Passion. Great choice.

Series choice: Breaking Bad. Yes, you wouldn’t get bored, that’s for sure.

One person – this was a bit cruel would you take your husband, child or someone else entirely? I think Sarah was tempted by someone else but opted for her daughter! Oops, I think her hubby might be giving her the cold shoulder.

Here’s Abbie Rushton choices:

Album choice was London Grammar. Never heard of them, but will be investigating this band.

Her one luxury item: Porridge. Is she keeping in with the Scots, or does she really like porridge? Porridge a luxury item….. the mind boggles.

Her one website: A website with lots of books. Fair enough, I’d go with that too.

As an editor Abbie gets to see the publishing process from both sides, this must be oh so handy. Consequently Abbie is sympathetic to editors pushing her to fulfil deadlines.

An audience member asked Sarah why she didn’t write Out from Tippy’s point of view. Sarah felt that it was Grace’s story. Fair point, Sarah, looking forward to reading Grace’s story.

Then an audience member asked a question that prompted a discussion on teens moderating what they read.

Abbie suggested that teens are mature enough to make the decision whether they should put down books that they don’t feel ready for. Sarah agreed, she said that teens are self censuring, and also she added that she didn’t think it was genuine to paint life like a bed of roses. Yes, on the whole I would say that this is true, but it is interesting how shocking topics seem to capture attention and possibly tend to be more marketable. So, maybe this should be a consideration when writers write, though ultimately you have to write what moves you and what is in your heart.

Philippa agreed with Abbie and Sarah about teens moderating what they read and added that YA deals with these more challenging topics more sensitively than a lot of adult books do.

It was a wonderfully interesting talk. I am so glad I had the opportunity to go along to discover Sarah Crossan who I haven’t read before, shame on me,  and a new debut novelist who sounds as if she has considerable promise.  Looking forward to reading both of these books very, very much.

Thanks for stopping by, hope you enjoyed my write up of the talk. Will be doing some more Edinburgh Festival posts so keep an eye out for them.

Bye for now!

kk

Marje @ Kyrosmagica xx

Links:

http://www.sarahcrossan.com/

https://twitter.com/abbietheauthor

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/conjoined-twins-separated-at-great-ormond-street-1939270.html

http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/

Holiday………. Race The Train Fever….. Sun ….. No I’m in Scotland

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Hi,

I’m on a bit of a holiday so just a little note to let my followers know that I won’t be posting as much for a while, though I might be tempted to join in the writing #BlogBattle and I will be replying to comments so do feel free to chat. The good news is my mum is doing wonderfully well after her operation, she’s some lady, in her seventies and as feisty as ever! We’re getting our orders, tee hee, she’s a laugh. I think she even had the nurses at her beck and call, sounds like they treated her like royalty!

My journey started off terribly badly I did a crazy thing I turned up at the wrong station! In my defence I’ve never done this before, this was a first. I went to Waterbeach (our nearest station) instead of Cambridge. A few days prior to travel I had picked up my tickets from the ticket machine at Waterbeach, and somehow had it in my head that I was travelling from Waterbeach. So my husband had to try to beat the train! A racing challenge, just up his street! He drove me to the next station on the route, it was a hair-raising drive. I really thought there was no way he could do it but amazingly he did and with a few minutes to spare! Luckily the train was running two minutes late and we’d left the house in good time. Phew!!!!

The train journey was lively to say the least we had the cast of one of the shows on our carriage and they were a boisterous lot, you could tell they were actors, they liked to be noticed. I’ve never heard a bunch of people laugh so much. At one point we arrived at a place called Northallerton in North Yorkshire and they queried whether this fairy tale sounding town existed, I reckon they thought it was some sort of Narnialand.

On arrival I decided to walk through Princess Street gardens to get a feeling for Festival Fever, boy it was busy, luckily I just have one small piece of luggage with me.  I arrived at my bus stop, and guess what, wonder of wonders my mother in law was standing there apparently waiting for a bus! What are the odds of that? Amazing. Anyway we had a brief chat and then she had to dash off to find her bus, she was at the wrong stop, apparently all the buses are a bit confusing at the moment with the Festival being on.

So I’m up in Edinburgh, sans enfants and sans husband, I intend on catching up with old friends, maybe visiting the cat café in Stockbridge, going to the Book Festival, and the dance and drama events at the International Festival, and the Art galleries if I get a chance. I shall be going out with my dad for Chinese lunch, visiting my mother-in-law, catching up with my brother and generally eating too much. Yum….

I’ll be helping out with mum, cooking, and generally doing my Florence Nightingale bit. You can see why blogging has to take a back seat. Hope my mum will be able to join us out and about towards the end of next week. Unfortunately it is dreadfully busy in Edinburgh at the moment, with all the excitement of the Festivals, the town is packed so it is not very easy to manoeuvre around if you’ve just had an operation. So we will have a duty to try to keep her in, to ensure she rests, no easy task for a lady who is always so full of energy. Let the battle commence…..

I’ve packed  a couple of books to catch up on, a bit of holiday reading. My current read is  The Wrath and The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, which is a rich descriptive read inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, I’m really enjoying this. As well as this I intend to read The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan. “A dramatic tale of love, loss and betrayal in Provincial China, told with directness and deep feeling.” Mail on Sunday.

If I finish these two there are a wealth of detective novels in my mum and dad’s house so I don’t think I will be short of reading material, and of course I’m sure I’ll pick up some new novels at the Book Festival. How exciting!!! I love Edinburgh, me home from home, only slight gripe it’s so cold here, I don’t think I’ll be needing that sun hat and shades, a woolly hat would be more useful.

Anyway Happy Holidays, hope if you are going anywhere nice you have a wonderful time.

Bye for now.

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Marje @ Kyrosmagica xx

Edinburgh Book Festival – Leigh Bardugo and Maureen Johnson

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On Sunday  I was lucky enough to be listening to two American New York Times best selling authors Leigh Bardugo and Maureen Johnson, talking about “Alternative Worlds,” at the Edinburgh Book Festival.   Leigh Bardugo’s debut series “The Grisha Trilogy, Shadow and Bone,” is set in an alternative, magical, Tsarist Russia. At the moment this debut series is in the hands of Harry Potter producer, David Heyman, who is considering a film version.  Though it is not confirmed as yet, a movie may be scheduled to release in 2014 or 2015.

Maureen Johnson’s Shades of London series is a bloody, paranormal thriller:

  • The Name of the Star
  • The Madness Underneath
  • The Boy in the Smoke (World book day novella)
  • The Shadow Cabinet

My first impressions were interesting to say the least. Maureen Johnson sat to the right of Leigh Bardugo with a serious expression on her face, the interviewer appeared a bit unsure just how this conversation was going to progress. But as soon as Maureen spoke all those fears were dispelled. Maureen’s first words about her historical tour of London, were ghosts were mentioned at each and every opportunity, was an absolute riot. Maureen doesn’t believe in timid ghosts that genteely move furniture, or boohoo quietly in a corner, no only murderous ghosts are good enough for her! If she ever gets sick of writing I’m sure she could inflict her sense of wit on us as a very successful female stand-up comedian. Anyway the outcome of all these ghosts was a ton load of research. Maureen researched the history of London, ghost lore, and the Jack the Ripper case files. And the result was . . …….. The Shades of London series.

Leigh and Maureen talked about writing research, and world building. We had Leigh falling in love with her book ideas and Maureen reading her work for the tenth time and just dying. Murder, dying, you name it Maureen inflicted it on her poor unsuspecting audience.

Leigh started writing in her thirties after pursuing various careers, latterly she worked as a make up artist, concocting stories whilst she was applying make up to her clients. Maureen is so multi-talented that she writes scripts for the Nintendo DS and PSP versions of the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood prince video game.

Initially Leigh had problems finishing first drafts of novels that she’d started. I really relate to this, sounds so me! Luckily Leigh went on to write not just one stand-alone book but three,  her Shadow and Bone series, “feels like a trilogy,”  and boy does it deliver.

They talked about plotting, and planning. Maureen’s style wasn’t too structured to begin with but she was soon compiling character dossiers, and histories. Leigh commented that Lainie Taylor doesn’t plot at all. She observed that this could only possibly work if the author had a natural sense of story. Well, I’m a weak plotter, but only time will tell if I have what it takes to get away with this. In my case, a lack of initial plotting wasn’t such a good idea, I had to do loads of re-writes. I’d agree that in that first draft you are telling yourself the story, as Leigh suggests. Maureen referred to “a little toolkit,” to hammer her story into our consciousness. Ouch, sounds painful, steady on there Maureen.

Leigh’s trilogy is written in 1st person with a third person prologue and epilogues. The voice of her novel was hard to find. To begin with her main character’s voice was nice, quiet, and sweet but she soon found a more sour, pragmatic voice for Alina, her main protagonist, a teenage orphan.

Maureen killed off one of her characters before she even got a chance to appear in print. The fifth Martin, the youngest, was obliterated straight away. Well, Maureen jokingly said that babies don’t do much anyway! As an only child herself she was drawn to writing about a big, family, and a wacky one at that.  Her final novel, in her Shades of London series, is now in the hands of someone. She jokingly said that she hopes it was actually a Penguin representative and not some random manuscript stealer.

According to Leigh there are some wonderful benefits of being an author, living in your pyjamas is one of them, but killing your characters can be tough. Absolutely agree Leigh, you just live and breathe those characters, they become engrained in your thoughts. Maureen advised us to “Just do it!” No second thoughts or holding back there, Maureen.

Maureen and Leigh closed off the proceedings with a reading. Maureen kicked it off with a very amusing passage from Scarlett Fever and Leigh took us to a dark place to inflict the darkling on us, and I’m still there, hoping that I will eventually manage to escape!

Then finally the discussion turned to the professional aspect of writing that is often overlooked, touring, and social media. Is this a fun aspect or a chore? Leigh said that she didn’t have to do this but she loved it. Oh, and of course her publishers encouraged her to do so. She said that when you’re on a tour you get to see a new city everyday. It’s the best job ever! Be yourself on line, find out where you should connect with your readers, Leigh felt most at home on tumblr.

To begin with Maureen answered this question dead pan. Writing and being a writer are very different, she said. Do what feels right to you.  People found me on twitter, and their response seemed to be, you’re a writer?

The question and answer section followed next. There was a bit of a reluctance from the reticent Scottish audience but one brave soul asked whether Maureen had been on one of many of Edinburgh’s haunted ghost trips? Maureen hadn’t had the opportunity but yes, she would have liked to, but she had a feeling that Edinburgh’s ghosts might not be up to scratch. It sounds like Maureen takes a lot to scare her.

The next question touched upon strong female characters, a topic that is most definitely a popular one. Maureen doesn’t like classifying books as boys books or girls books. That just makes her crazy. Leigh made the very valid comment that nobody talks about strong male characters, and Maureen even mentioned that there is some anger towards female characters. I think that we expect so much from our female characters, come on they’re just like us they’re flawed, nobodies perfect. In my opinion that’s what makes them interesting.

Then a young lad in the far corner asked the final question, the one that was no doubt pressing on the lips of many amongst us in the audience, myself included. It went something like this: “Have you any advice for young writers?” Well the tips went along these lines. Maureen told him not to expect too much. She said that her writing was “so bad” to begin with that she deserved these terms: “Arrest me,” “Kill me.” So if you’re writing terribly Maureen suggests that you’re on the right path because as Maureen says this will lead you to your goal of writing well. Thanks, this is so true, totally agree.

Again Leigh touched a chord with me, she said there’s “no expiration date on talent.” Thank you so much Leigh! Again she went on to say that you don’t have to be cute, popular or media genic, (is this even a word, and if so how do you spell it?)

Maureen carried on this tide of inspiration with “Don’t give up,” “Just finish,” Carry on to your “Eyes bleed,” finish that first draft. Maureen were you speaking to me?

Well it was a sunny day, and I came out smiling even more than when I went in. Such an inspiring, talk. I loved it, and guess what, I finished my final edits last night. Yes finally got there and my eyes didn’t even bleed they just blurred a bit. Now, just have to find a publisher. This is going to be the hardest part, but now I feel more prepared for it. I’m writing this in my pyjamas and I have this strong sense of belonging, I think I’ve already joined the writer’s club! Leigh Bardugo and Maureen Johnson were so entertaining and a absolute delight to listen to. I left feeling both inspired, and sure that I have finally chosen the right career path to an Alternative World.

If you could write about an Alternative World what would it be? Do tell, I’m sure it would be fascinating.

To find out more about these great authors websites, click away:

http://www.maureenjohnsonbooks.com
http://www.leighbardugo.com

 

 

 

 

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