Book Review: Time’s Echo by Pamela Hartshorne

Time's Echo by Pamela HartshorneTime’s Echo is one of the most gripping novels I’ve read in a long time. It follows the story of Grace Trewe, who is staying in York to settle the affairs of her late godmother (Lucy) who drowned in mysterious circumstances. Grace is a keen traveller, fully intending to move on once the house has been sold, but memories of surviving the Boxing Day tsunami still haunt her, and she soon begins to have nightmares of drowning. These strange dreams, which appear to be set in sixteenth century York, seem frighteningly real, until past and present begin to merge into something quite extraordinary…    Continue reading

Edward Thomas 100: Celebrating A Poetic Legacy

Edward Thomas I recently discovered that Cardiff University holds a unique collection of rare books and manuscripts. Amidst this literary treasure trove, there sits a shelf or two of unassuming boxes, containing the Edward Thomas archive – a set of objects, original manuscripts, letters, notebooks and other material relating to this popular poet. And it just so happens that it’s exactly one hundred years since Edward Thomas was killed, at the Battle of Arras in April 1917…    Continue reading

Climate Change Fiction and Celtic Legends: An Interview with Author David Thorpe

David ThorpeI recently came across a rather unusual book: Stormteller by David Thorpe. The premise intrigued me – the combination of two seemingly divergent themes: the Celtic legends of the Mabinogion and the issue of climate change. In fact, it’s been classed as part of a new genre called ‘cli-fi’, which stands for ‘climate fiction’ (fiction which “imagines the past, present, and future effects of climate change”). The opening is surreal, as the ancient characters of Ceridwen and her son (Afagddu) attempt to re-tell their own stories and re-direct their fate through the lives of three young people living in modern day Mid-Wales…    Continue reading

Verve Poetry Festival Highlights – A Celebration of Diversity

Geraldine Clarkson

What I enjoyed most about the recent Verve Poetry Festival (first of many, I hope) was the fact that it embraced poetry in all its guises, from the academic to the experimental, the hilarious to the downright ridiculous. We had spoken word at its most ostentatious, the big names and the new faces, plenty of opportunities to hear about the writing process, and workshops on themes as varied as ‘taking risks’ and performance technique…    Continue reading

Book Review: White Lies by Lynn Michell

Book - White Lies by Lynn MitchellI actually won a copy of this book on Twitter by explaining why I preferred a different cover – one which was white (to go with the title ‘White Lies’) featuring an image of a young girl (see below). The novel begins in the present, as Eve patiently types up her father’s memoirs, whilst also reflecting on her own childhood memories of living through the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya, in the 1950s. We soon begin to realise that there is something left unsaid, something that Eve and her sister never knew about…    Continue reading

Book Review: The Real Jane Austen by Paula Byrne

book - The Real Jane AustenIn this fascinating book on the life of Jane Austen, Paula Byrne has curated a museum exhibition through text, using objects to tell the story. She focuses on key moments in Austen’s life, painting a ‘real’ picture of the author (whom we tend to imagine sitting demurely in a drawing room) as a well-travelled, theatre-loving, fashionable, ambitious woman, with a spirit of adventure and a love of the sea, who observed, at close-hand, the dangers of political revolution…    Continue reading

Poetry – for loss, absence and bearing witness…

isobel dixonOn this – the final day of the Verve Poetry Festival, we have just been treated to a memorable showcase of four poets from Nine Arches Press, whose writing is both poignant and moving, unafraid to face up to the difficulties of life and the pain of loss. All the poets agreed, in their discussion afterwards, that poetry is an essential tool for “bearing witness” in the world, that it’s important to be truthful, allowing emotion to come through in your work…    Continue reading

A Feast of Poetic Delights at the Verve Poetry Festival

Dan Simpson

Last night I feasted on poetic delights of all kinds at the Verve Poetry Festival, which is beautifully pink and exciting… hosted by the many-layered Waterstones Birmingham store. I’ve never seen so many poetry enthusiasts in one space before! We had readings from Mona Arshi, Kim Moore and Katrina Naomi, followed by a full-on spoken word Dice Slam with Apples and Snakes, featuring poets from around the UK, and a rather unusual judging method… Continue reading

Poetry Review: Beginning With Your Last Breath by Roy McFarlane

poetry book Roy McFarlaneBeginning With Your Last Breath is a rich, powerful and moving debut from Roy McFarlane, a poet based in the West Midlands. It is split into five distinct sections, each one exploring a different aspect of the poet’s experience. But the book holds together through the shared themes of identity, family, love and loss, in the context of racial tension and cultural change. The cover image reflects the story of the poems within; it shows a painting by Sonia Boyce – She ain’t holding them up, She’s holding on (Some English Rose), 1986 – the image of the mother figure holding onto her family amidst the struggles of life and racial identity.    Continue reading

The Hay Festival on a Budget – A Survival Guide for Stewards

hay festival steward lanyardHaving never been to the Hay Festival before, I wasn’t sure what to expect on my first visit in May 2016, but I decided to sign up for the stewarding role, as I had a very limited budget. It was an incredible, addictive experience and I will certainly be going back again this year.

Before going, I decided to do a bit of research online, to see if anyone had written about what stewarding was really like. But there was very little information out there, so here is my own survival guide for stewarding at the Hay Festival, which I hope will be useful for others…    Continue reading

Cardiff Poetry Experiment

poetry experimentExperimentation is at the heart of all art forms, and poetry is no exception. A couple of weeks ago I attended one of the ‘Cardiff Poetry Experiment’ events, run by Cardiff University’s School of English. I was greeted at the wrought iron gates of Wyndham Arcade by the magical password ‘poetry?’ and allowed inside. The venue was Wyndham Tea Rooms (sister of Waterloo Tea Rooms), where you can get the best cuppa in Cardiff (though they were serving other drinks too).    Continue reading

Book Review: Sweet Caress by William Boyd

book - sweet caressA Guest Post written by James Fenchurch

I will confess that before I picked up Sweet Caress I was already a confirmed William Boyd fan, and this novel only reinforced my view. His hallmark for me is his gift for creating a vivid sense of place and time through rich, detailed and precise language, within the framework of a completely unexpected story.    Continue reading

Looking forward to Dylan Day 2017

dylan thomas paintingInternational Dylan Thomas Day (aka #DylanDay) takes place on 14th May each year, and it’s a fantastic excuse for celebrating the work of this renowned Welsh poet. The idea is that people everywhere (you don’t have to be in Wales) can organise their very own Dylan Thomas themed event, small or large. Last year there were 50 events all across the UK, as well as in New York, Milan, Perth, Sydney and elsewhere… Continue reading

An Interview with Novelist, Poet and Musician Linda Lee Welch

Linda Lee Welch Linda Lee Welch was born and raised in the USA. She moved to the UK in 1976 and has worked as a musician, writer, community artist and teacher. She has two novels published by Virago and is also a prize-winning poet. She taught Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University for sixteen years, after completing the MA herself. Now retired from teaching, she is focusing on her writing, and collaborating with other writers, musicians and artists, including her husband Michael Harding.    Continue reading

Poetry Review – The Other Tiger: Recent Poetry from Latin America

Book - The Other TigerIt is strange to hear someone reading a poem in another language (a language which you don’t understand at all) and then to hear that same poem read again in your own language. There is a sense of building anticipation, as you hear the emotion behind the words, with particular intonations that seem to stand out… Yet the meaning must come later, inevitably with a sense of both satisfaction and loss, as no translation will ever convey the strength of the original…    Continue reading

An Interview with Kate Hamer

Kate HamerKate Hamer’s debut thriller The Girl in the Red Coat was published in February 2015 and soon became a Sunday Times bestseller. It was shortlisted for numerous awards and has been translated into seventeen languages. I recently met up with her to talk about her second novel, The Doll Funeral (due to be published on 16th February) and the third one, which she is in the process of writing. We began by discussing her inspiration for the books…    Continue reading

Looking forward to the Verve Poetry Festival: An Interview with Cynthia Miller

Cynthia MillerThe first ever Verve Poetry Festival takes place next month in Birmingham (16th-19th February). It’s set to be an exciting weekend, with a strong emphasis on spoken word performance, as well as the usual poetry readings and creative writing workshops. I interviewed Cynthia Miller (Co-Director of the Festival and a poet herself) to find out more. She began by explaining how it all started…    Continue reading

Book Review: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Book - My Brilliant FriendI thought about reading something by the famous Elena Ferrante a few months ago, looked up her books online and was surprised by rather quaint, odd-looking covers and mediocre titles. But the obsession in the media with Ferrante’s true identity did its work, and curiosity eventually won. My Brilliant Friend (the first of her ‘Neopolitan Novels’) captured my attention immediately (once I’d got past the hideous cover and lengthy character index) with a missing mother and a tale of lifelong friendship.    Continue reading

Looking Forward to Literature Festivals in Wales – 2017

hay festivalWales is home to one of the most famous literature festivals in the world (The Hay Festival), but it is also full of other, quirkier literary festivals, in all shapes and sizes. So, to help you plan ahead, I’ve compiled a list of all the literary / book festivals taking place in Wales during 2017. I’m sure there will be other festivals that I haven’t come across, so please use the comments below to add information about anything I’ve missed out…  Some of the later festivals haven’t confirmed their details yet, so I’ll continue to update this post throughout the year.    Continue reading

Topsy-Turvy Twelfth Night Celebrations

topsy turvy twelfth nightIn the tradition of Twelfth Night, the Lord (or Lady) of Misrule presides over games and festivities where, for one night only, the world is turned upside down. Amanda Rackstraw, in the guise of Befana (the Italian ‘Christmas Witch’ who brings gifts) organised this unique spoken word / musical / storytelling event, in aid of Médecins Sans Frontières, as a fabulous, topsy-turvy finale to the Christmas season…    Continue reading

Regular Creative Writing Workshops & Groups in Cardiff

writingIf you live in Cardiff and you like creative writing, whether it’s poetry or prose, then you’re in the right place – there are plenty of regular writing groups, workshops and activities on offer, to suit a range of interests. This was originally part of another post, but it was getting too long so I’ve made it into a new one. See below for a list of everything creative writing in Cardiff…    Continue reading

Regular Literary, Creative Writing and Performance Poetry Events in Cardiff

Will Ford performing at RARAIf you’re putting dates into your 2017 diary, then you’ll want to make sure you don’t miss out on any literary events. I’ve pulled together a list of all the regular literary events, spoken word gatherings, book launches and poetry performances which take place in Cardiff throughout the year. If I’ve missed any out please let me know, or add your own events via the comments below…     Continue reading

Upcoming Literary Festivals & Events

Mark Curtis reading at the Square Writers Open Mic NightIt’s been nearly a year since I first decided to create a book blog (on 23rd January 2016), and what a year it’s been! I’ve read and reviewed some thrilling and beautiful books, interviewed some interesting writers, discovered some thought-provoking poetry and attended some fabulous festivals…    Continue reading

Book Review: The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer

book the doll funeralI loved the main character in this book. Ruby is different. She has a bright red birthmark around her left eye, and she can see things that other people can’t, like Shadow (the boy who mysteriously appears out of nowhere) and the Wasp Lady (who swoops at her as she walks up the stairs). At the age of 13 she is delighted to discover that she was adopted as a baby, and decides to track down her real parents, who will surely come to rescue her from Mick (who likes to use his fists) and Barbara (who lets him).    Continue reading

Christmas at Bullerby and other Swedish Children’s Stories

bullerbyMy family have always celebrated Christmas the Swedish way, on Christmas Eve, because  my Grandma on one side of the family was Swedish. One of my favourite books as a child was Astrid Lindgren’s beautifully illustrated Christmas at Bullerby. It was first published in Britain in 1964.      Continue reading

Book Review: City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende

Book - City of the BeastsThis is an unusual book – magical yet almost believable, mythical yet real. It is the story of a boy (Alex) and his eccentric grandmother (Kate) travelling deep into the mysterious Amazon rainforest, further and further from civilisation, in search of ‘The Beast’, a strange and ancient creature which may or may not exist. I had read other works by Allende, and enjoyed them. This is different – a kind of modern fable aimed at younger readers.    Continue reading

Lit Fest Highlights of 2016

beowulf storytelling

Telling the tale of Beowulf

This has been an incredible year for literary festivals and events. There are many moments that stand out, from the simple pleasure of sitting in a warm room listening to someone read a good story, to the buzz of meeting new people, seeing new places and trying new things. Highlights must include my first ever visit to the Hay Festival, and hearing well known writers such as Tracy Chevalier, Sebastian Faulks and Simon Armitage discuss their work. But there are three festivals that really stand out for me, as I look back over a year of literary events….     Continue reading

Time Travel with a Twist – A Book Review

Jodi Taylor bookJust One Damned Thing After Another by Jodie Taylor gives you time travel with a twist. It’s got all the best elements of Doctor Who and Harry Potter rolled into one and, better yet (for historians like myself), it’s full of genuine, historical research, alongside plenty of humour. Madeleine Maxwell (Max) finds herself a job at St Mary’s, a crumbling old house full of intriguing characters, explosions and surprises. She becomes a trainee historian, learning the ropes, until one day she gets to actually travel back in time. And then the excitement really begins…    Continue reading

Collective: Eight Poets and Eight New Poetry Collections

Poet Tracy Rhys

Tracy Rhys

What’s the collective noun for poets? Perhaps ‘a plethora of poets’, or ‘a stanza of poets’? My own favourite is ‘a pub-full of poets’ (they tend to gather in pubs). Whatever the word, we had eight of them reading their work at this new event, entitled ‘Collective’, organised by Christina Thatcher (whose own debut collection will be published in 2017). It was not held in a pub, for once, but in the retro café / bar Little Man Coffee Company, on a night so foggy that Sherlock Holmes would have felt very much at home…    Continue reading

Pre-Raphaelite Women: Poetry in Response to Art

La Ghirlandata by Rossetti

La Ghirlandata by Rossetti

I have always been attracted to the work of the Pre-Raphaelites, and intrigued by the lives of the women who modelled for their paintings. Muse by Dawn Marie Kresan is a collection which focuses on these women, particularly on Elizabeth Siddall, who was actually a poet and artist in her own right. Bethany Rivers’ pamphlet Off the wall also takes much of its inspiration from artwork, and contains some poems on similar themes to those explored in Kresan’s book.   Continue reading