Wednesday 27 March 2019

Differently Morphous

I am an absolute fan of this. 

Picked it up in my Black Friday Audible haul. Wasn't at all certain what it was, but I liked the cover. Completely loved it. 

A magical serial killer is on the loose, and gelatinous, otherworldly creatures are infesting the English countryside. Which is making life for the Ministry of Occultism difficult, because magic is supposed to be their best kept secret.

After centuries in the shadows, the Ministry is forced to unmask, exposing the country's magical history - and magical citizens - to a brave new world of social media, government scrutiny, and public relations.

On the trail of the killer are the Ministry's top agents: a junior operative with a photographic memory (and not much else), a couple of overgrown schoolboys with godlike powers, and a demonstrably insane magician.

But as they struggle for results, their superiors at HQ must face the greatest threat the Ministry has ever known: the forces of political correctness...

Highly reminiscent of Vampire State of Mind in that it involves extremely unusual beings trying to navigate their way through government bureaucracy and placate the media's thirst for sensationalism, all whilst saving the world.

Just very quirkily written and very well produced, with sound effects and voice distortion. There's an excellent twist towards the end and Doctor Diablerie is just utterly delightful - sales of glitter will double.

And, who knew? Marmite is harvested from the tear ducts of chimney sweeps.

Very much looking forward to the next instalment.

You can follow Yahtzee Croshaw on Twitter and via his blog.

Saturday 23 March 2019

My African Dream

Just want to give a massive shout-out to my friend Henri, who has just published his biography. Growing up as a Rwandan refugee in Burundi, he moved to Stone Mountain, Atlanta to attend college, then started a life in America. This is the heartfelt story of living with two cultures, and what ultimately drew him back to Africa. He's a fascinating guy and this book is a real page-turner.

Henri wrote this book to share his personal experience of the life he lived in the West, specifically in the United States. This book is about the misconceptions he had, the challenges he faced, and finally the rediscovery he experienced once back at home. If you are part of the African Diaspora living abroad or contemplating moving to the West, this book is for you. If you want to come home to Africa and need some inspiration, this book is for you. After seventeen years abroad and now five years back in East Africa, the road has not been easy, but what Henri found is peace of mind, a better quality of life, his true self and where he truly belongs. Over the course of Henri’s journey, you are going to hear anecdotes about failure, resilience, hope, and purpose. This is not a book comparing two worlds, but a personal journey of self-discovery and of the realization that we, as Africans, can build our own dreams at home.

My review from Amazon:

This is a really interesting book. Living in Africa and working with refugee organisations, it's inescapable that many young people in economically developing countries believe that all of their problems could be fixed if they just made it to Europe or America. This is an incredibly honest, and at times very humorous, book written by a man who grew up as a refugee in Burundi and then spent around 18 years in America. It busts the myth that life in the West is easy, and it looks at the complex issues of social isolation and self-identity that come with a move of that magnitude. It also looks at the author's decision to return to Africa, and highlights the opportunities that are emerging in business and social enterprise on the continent. It's a really thought-provoking, heartfelt read.

Honestly worth delving into. It's available in paperback and e-book from Amazon (US/UK) and Smashwords, and in hard copy in Rwanda directly from Henri:

Saturday 16 March 2019

After Life

I rarely do an unbridled gush, but honestly, if you have Netflix, get your eyes around this. It's outstanding. Cried from the first episode to the last, wiped the snot and tears away, and felt an affirmation of life take hold.

Tuesday 12 March 2019

Dara Passano

Huge shout out to my friend Dara Passano, whose short story Fellowship appears in Issue 42 of Meridian, a magazine of the University of Virginia. You can order a copy from but only if you're in the US. Good news, though, it's currently available online here, P. 24. Do have a read, it's extremely good.

Saturday 9 March 2019

The Sewing Machine

Just finished The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie.

It is 1911, and Jean is about to join the mass strike at the Singer factory. For her, nothing will be the same again.

Decades later, in Edinburgh, Connie sews coded moments of her life into a notebook, as her mother did before her.

More than 100 years after his grandmother’s sewing machine was made, Fred discovers a treasure trove of documents. His family history is laid out before him in a patchwork of unfamiliar handwriting and colourful seams.

He starts to unpick the secrets of four generations, one stitch at a time.

Apparently, it's sold over 100,000 copies. 

A very gentle story, interweaving (or sewing), several lifetimes together. The focus is on sewing and the place it held in people's lives, both as a source of income and for pleasure. It was the kind of story I could see Mikron Theatre performing, as there was a socialist slant towards the formation of the unions in Scotland.

I listened on audible. It was the first time I'd heard both a male and a female narrator on the same book. An interesting idea. I've been out of the UK for some time now and struggled a bit with the prologue, which sounded to me as though it was delivered faster and with less inflection than the rest of the story, but once it got going it was much easier to keep pace with, though I think a second-language English speaker might struggle. The narrators' accents are pretty heavy. 

It was enjoyable though, and a few poignant moments involving powder presses and steps. It reminded me of After the Lie, in that it's a family-oriented drama looking at how the past affects the future. One for people with an affinity for sewing.

Friday 8 March 2019

Congratulations Jane!

Jane Lovering, far right.

Huge congratulations to the lovely Jane Lovering, who has just won The Nicola Cornick Fantasy Novel Award at this year's RNA's Romantic Novel of the Year Awards.

Romantic Novelists' Association: Congratulations to the winners of the RNA's 2019 Romantic Novel of the Year Awards; Catherine Isaac, Sapere Books Popular Romantic Fiction Award; Isabelle Broom, Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award; Natalie Cox, The Books and the City Romantic Comedy Novel Award; Joe Heap - Author, The Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel Award; Jane Lovering, The Nicola Cornick Fantasy Novel Award; Santa Sebag-Montefiore, The Goldsboro Books Historical Novel Award; Jane Godman Author The Libertà Books Shorter Romantic Novel Award, and Liz Fielding, winner of the Outstanding Achievement Award.  

I met Jane back in 2012 when we were doing booQfest in Northampton. She was launching her fabulous novel Vampire State of Mind at the time. I also did a Q&A with her in 2014 for another blog I help out with, and she offered up a guest post on Why Vampires? She's a fabulously fun lady. You can follow along on her blog and on Twitter. Huge congratulations and may the champagne bubbles never make you sneeze x

BooQfest 2012. Jane second from right, me, second from left.
Adrian Magson, Paul Magrs and Morgen Bailey also in there.