Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay by Ali McNamara

Secrets and seashells at the Rainbow Hotel

I thoroughly enjoy Ali McNamara’s writing so that when Clara Diaz invited me to be part of the launch celebrations for Ali’s latest novel Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay, I simply couldn’t resist and I’m delighted to share my review today.

You can read my review of Ali McNamara’s book The Summer of Serendipityhere and my review of Daisy’s Vintage Camper Van here.

Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay will be released tomorrow by Little Brown imprint Sphere and is available for purchase through these links.

Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay

Secrets and seashells at the Rainbow Hotel

Amelia is a single mother, doing her very best to look after her young son, Charlie – but money is tight and times are tough. When she first hears that she is the last descendent of the Chesterford family and that she has inherited a Real-Life Castle by the sea, Amelia can’t quite believe her ears. But it’s true!

She soon finds that owning a castle isn’t quite the ticket to sorting out her money problems that she’d first hoped: she can’t sell, because the terms of the ancient bequest state that any Chesterford who inherits the castle, must live there and work towards the upkeep and maintenance of the family home. So ever-practical Amelia decides to uproot her little family and move to this magnificent castle by the sea.

Living in a castle on the beautiful Northumberland coast is fun at first, but organising the day-to-day running is a lot more complicated than Amelia first imagined. Luckily she has help from the small band of eccentric and unconventional staff that are already employed there – and a mysterious unseen hand that often gives her a push in the right direction just when she needs it most. It’s only when she meets Tom, a furniture restorer who comes to the castle to help repair some antique furniture, that Amelia realises she might get the fairy-tale ending that she and Charlie truly deserve…

My Review of Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay

Abandoned by her husband, Amelia needs some good luck.

I always enjoy reading Ali McNamara and Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay was as entertaining as I was expecting and such a super story. I loved the plot. I expect a happy ever after ending for this genre but what Ali McNamara does with consummate skill is keep the reader guessing how that ending might come about with some fabulous surprises along the way.

This time, that little bit extra frisson of the supernatural that Ali Mcnamara does so well is more developed and all the better for it, because it enhances the concept of identity running through the story, with an exploration of primogeniture, feminism, sexuality and identity which I felt elevated this book beyond what might be expected for the genre but with a skilful lightness of touch. I felt enormously entertained, especially when the element of mystery is added into the second half of the perfectly entitled Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay.

I thought the Northumberland setting was hugely evocative. I was reminded of Bamburgh or Alnwick castles and could just picture the wide sweep of sky and beach through Ali McNamara’s gorgeous descriptions. I’d certainly like to visit Amelia’s castle.

But for all the impressive themes and wonderful setting, it is the people in Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay that really make the book. Amelia’s ability to organise, to rise above adversity and to support the local economy should make her almost too good to be true, but far from it. She is warm and vivid with just enough negativity and self-doubt in her personality to make her feel very real indeed. I was desperate for her to find happiness. I really would like to spend some time with Tom in a darkened room too, but it was Arthur whom I found appealed most. His taciturn yet loyal nature made him feel someone I’d really like to get to know. Indeed all the characters felt like real people to me – even those who are no longer alive!

Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay is charming uplit at its very best, written by an author, Ali McNamara who understands the genre perfectly. It’s humorous, fast paced, entertaining and a thumping good story. I enjoyed every moment of it.

 About Ali McNamara

McNamaraAli (c) DanMartland normal res

Ali McNamara attributes her over-active and very vivid imagination to one thing – being an only child. Time spent dreaming up adventures when she was young has left her with a head bursting with stories waiting to be told.

When stories she wrote for fun on Ronan Keating’s website became so popular they were sold as a fundraising project for his cancer awareness charity, Ali realised that not only was writing something she enjoyed doing, but something others enjoyed reading too.

You can visit Ali’s website, find her on Facebook and you can follow her on Twitter @AliMcNamara.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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A Feast of Serendib by Mary Anne Mohanraj

A Feast of Serendib

Having recently returned from a trip touring Sri Lanka I couldn’t resist accepting the offer to participate in Rachel’s Random Resources blog tour for the cookery book A Feast of Serendib by Mary Anne Mohanraj, even if it my husband who does most of the cooking these days!

A Feast of Serendib by Mary Anne Mohanraj is available for purchase here or here.

A Feast of Serendib

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Dark roasted curry powder, a fine attention to the balance of salty-sour-sweet, wholesome red rice and toasted curry leaves, plenty of coconut milk and chili heat. These are the flavors of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka was a cross roads in the sea routes of the East. Three waves of colonization—Portuguese, Dutch and British—and the Chinese laborers who came with them, left their culinary imprint on Sri Lankan food. Sri Lankan cooking with its many vegetarian dishes gives testimony to the presence of a multi-ethnic and multi -religious population.

Everyday classics like beef smoore and Jaffna crab curry are joined by luxurious feast dishes, such as nargisi kofta and green mango curry, once served to King Kasyapa in his 5th century sky palace of Sigiriya.

Vegetable dishes include cashew curry, jackfruit curry, asparagus poriyal, tempered lentils, broccoli varai and lime-masala mushrooms. There are appetizers of chili-mango cashews, prawn lentil patties, fried mutton rolls, and ribbon tea sandwiches. Deviled chili eggs bring the heat, yet ginger-garlic chicken is mild enough for a small child. Desserts include Sir Lankan favorites:  love cake, mango fluff, milk toffee and vattalappam, a richly-spiced coconut custard.

In A Feast of Serendib, Mary Anne Mohanraj introduces her mother’s cooking and her own Americanizations, providing a wonderful introduction to Sri Lankan American cooking, straightforward enough for a beginner, and nuanced enough to capture the flavor of Sri Lankan cooking.

My Review of A Feast of Serendib

A wide variety of recipes from Mary Anne Mohanraj’s Sri Lankan heritage.

I thoroughly enjoyed this cookery book because of Mary Anne Mohanraj’s honest conversational tone. It’s more like listening to a friend describe her cooking than reading an austere and prescriptive chef’s manual! The author frequently drops in tips about changes that can be made such as adding alcohol or substituting dried for fresh herbs and spices which might be more readily accessible. It made me smile when she pointed out the extra washing up that might arise from using a food processor in her Red Rice Congee for example.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the personal anecdotes so that I felt I got to know Mary Anne Mohanraj and her family. Her daughter’s favourite ginger garlic chicken is probably my favourite recipe as well. The introduction to the book and the cultural background bring alive the reasons for the recipes and it isn’t every day a cookery book has poetry too so that A Feast of Serendib has little added extras that satisfy the reader and cook. Indeed, my favourite part of the entire book was the poem Come To Me.

It almost goes without saying that there are some super recipes to try and the photographs enable the reader to feast with their eyes before they even attempt to cook. I think some more cautious cooks might feel slightly scared of Mary Anne’s willingness to adapt and alter her recipes as she goes, but they would be wrong. Her style here encourages tentative cooks to experiment and adjust what they are cooking to their own tastes so that they can truly own their food.

A Feast of Serendib is exactly that – a feast of Sri Lankan serendipitous food, culture and information, making for a book to enjoy with recipes to adapt as you cook.

About Mary Anne Mohanraj

A Feast of Serendib - Author Photo

Mary Anne Mohanraj is the author of Bodies in Motion (HarperCollins), The Stars Change (Circlet Press) and thirteen other titles. Bodies in Motion was a finalist for the Asian American Book Awards, a USA Today Notable Book, and has been translated into six languages.  The Stars Change was a finalist for the Lambda, Rainbow, and Bisexual Book Awards.

Mohanraj founded the Hugo-nominated and World Fantasy Award-winning speculative literature magazine, Strange Horizons, and also founded Jaggery, a S. Asian & S. Asian diaspora literary journal (jaggerylit.com). She received a Breaking Barriers Award from the Chicago Foundation for Women for her work in Asian American arts organizing, won an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Prose, and was Guest of Honor at WisCon. She serves as Director of two literary organizations, DesiLit (www.desilit.org) and The Speculative Literature Foundation (www.speclit.org).  She serves on the futurist boards of the XPrize and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.

Mohanraj is Clinical Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and lives in a creaky old Victorian in Oak Park, just outside Chicago, with her husband, their two small children, and a sweet dog.  Recent publications include stories for George R.R. Martin’s WildCards series, stories at Clarkesworld, Asimov’s, and Lightspeed, and an essay in Roxane Gay’s Unruly Bodies.  2017-2018 titles include Survivor (a SF/F anthology), Perennial, Invisible 3 (co-edited with Jim C. Hines), and Vegan Serendib.

To find out more, follow Mary Anne on Twitter @mamohanraj or Instagram, find her on Facebook or visit her website. There’s also a website for the Serendib Kitchen here.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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The Rapture by Claire McGlasson

The Rapture

Although I have been forcing myself not to accept new books for review as I can hardly fit into my home because of the vast number of volumes awaiting my attention, when Lauren got in touch from Faber and Faber to ask if I would like to read The Rapture by Claire McGlasson, all my resolve flew out of the window. My enormous thanks to Lauren for sending me a copy of The Rapture in return for an honest review.

Published on 6th June 2019 by Faber and Faber, The Rapture is available for purchase in all the usual places, including Amazon and via the publisher website.

The Rapture

The Rapture

Dilys is a devoted member of The Panacea Society, populated almost entirely by virtuous single ladies. When she strikes up a friendship with Grace, a new recruit, God finally seems to be smiling upon her. The friends become closer as they wait for the Lord to return to their very own Garden of Eden, and Dilys feels she has found the right path at last.

But Dilys is wary of their leader’s zealotry and suspicious of those who would seem to influence her for their own ends. As her feelings for Grace bud and bloom, the Society around her begins to crumble. Faith is supplanted by doubt as both women come to question what is true and fear what is real.

My Review of The Rapture

Based on real people and events, Dilys is part of The Panacea Society.

When I think of Bedford it conjures almost nothing in my mind, but what a magnificent debut Claire McGlasson has produced in the Bedford setting of The Rapture. I will never visit the town with the same flippant attitude again. The Rapture is a beautifully written, immaculately researched and vividly told story based on real life events that I could hardly believe. Claire McGlasson presents totally convincingly the events that could be happening behind the doors of any suburban street right now and, although the last Bedford member of the Panacea Society has died, this story has salutary freshness and relevance for our lives today, making it a stunning read.

I loved the intermingling of real transcripts, tracts and letters amongst the fictionalised aspects of the narrative because they lent authenticity but also added to the incredulous feeling I had as I read. As the book progressed I became more and more tense the more powerful Emily became until I could hardly bear to read on and yet I couldn’t stop myself as I was desperate to know what happened. I was frequently open-mouthed and wide eyed and I experienced a wide range of emotions as I read, from pity to rage. I can’t say much about the plot of The Rapture as I don’t want to spoil the book for others, but even if it is based on real events it has some impactful surprises along the way.

The characters of Emily and Octavia left me reeling and the fact they are based on real people made me astounded. I so wanted Dilys to escape the Panacea Society and the reach of Octavia and Emily. I thought her building relationship with Grace (who couldn’t be more aptly named) was sensitively and maturely created so that I was entirely on their side throughout. Dilys in particular is fabulous because we get to see inside her mind as well as witness her external behaviours. I found myself speaking to her to try to affect her actions which actually made me quite uncomfortable as I realised what an impact the book was having on me!

In The Rapture Claire McGlasson makes wickedly insightful observations tinged with a dark humour that had me laughing aloud at the same time as feeling unsettled by some quite disturbing undercurrents. There is, as the author explores, a fine line between passion and insanity, and reading The Rapture made me question just who decides the parameters of society and how blindly we may adhere to them.

The Rapture is a sublime read. When I began reading I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it, but within a very few pages I was entranced. Historical, compelling, educating, but above all else a brilliant story, I thought The Rapture was an outstanding debut. I really recommend it.

About Claire McGlasson

Claire McGlasson

Claire McGlasson is a journalist who works for ITV News and enjoys the variety of life on the road with a TV camera. She lives in Cambridgeshire. The Rapture is her debut novel.

You can follow Claire on Twitter @ClaireMcGlasson for more information.

All Summer With You by Beth Good

All Summer with You

My enormous thanks to TeamBookends for sending me a copy of All Summer With You by Beth Good in return for an honest review.

Published by Quercus on 27th June 2019, All Summer With You is available for pre-order through these links.

All Summer With You

All Summer with You

There’s no place like home…

Nursing a broken heart, Jennifer Bolitho retreats to Pixie Cottage. Her new landlord – a former soldier turned movie heartthrob – has grounds so large, she’s sure the little house nestled in the woods will bring her solitude.

Alex Delgardo also has reasons to hide away. Seeking refuge after a tragic incident turned his world upside down, he knows that the most important thing now is to care for his ailing family.

But when Jennifer enters their lives, that changes. Because, as they both learn, you can’t heal others until you learn to heal yourself…

My Review of All Summer With You

Jennifer seeks solitude to mend her broken heart.

All Summer With You is a lovely, lovely book that captured my attention from the first page and held it perfectly throughout. I loved this romantic story of love, life, family, trust, remorse – and goats!

Although All Summer With You might be seen as a light read, it is by no means insubstantial. So many thought-provoking themes, including grief and PTSD, underpin Beth Good’s exemplary and flowing writing in All Summer With You that she manages to ensnare the reader’s mind as well as their heart. Both Alex and Jennifer have past pain that they need to resolve which lends an added piquancy and depth to the narrative. I thought the way in which Alex’s past was gradually revealed to both Jennifer and the reader worked brilliantly. Indeed, I found myself very much in love with him too! I was desperate for Jennifer and Alex to realise they were meant for one another, often as frustrated as they were by the machinations of their encounters, but you’ll need to read the book to see what happens.

The characters are vividly drawn so that they feel real and warm. The way in which the whole spectrum of society populates the text from babies to nonagenarian Nelly, and actors to farmers, makes it feel as if it has relevance to all readers. Even the Cornish setting is vibrantly depicted through folk law and Jennifer’s oratory, making the county as much of a character as any of the people. I felt transported to the grounds of Porro Park House where most of the action is set.

There’s a smashing plot to All Summer With You that would make the most brilliant film. I felt completely emotionally invested in what happens because Beth Good has such a deft style that totally ensnares her reader. She writes with wonderful balance that made me feel I was there in the pages of the book.

All Summer With You was exactly the right book at the right moment for me. I adored every word. I was surprisingly touched by some scenes and shed a tear or two along the way. I think All Summer With You is the perfect summer read. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

About Beth Good

Beth Good

Born and raised in Essex, England, Beth Good was whisked away to an island tax haven at the age of eleven to attend an exclusive public school and rub shoulders with the rich and famous. Sadly, she never became rich or famous herself, so had to settle for infamy as a writer of dubious novels. She writes under several different names, mainly to avoid confusing her readers – and herself! As Beth Good she writes romantic comedy and feel-good fiction. She also writes thrillers as Jane Holland, historicals as Victoria Lamb and Elizabeth Moss, and feel-good fiction as Hannah Coates.

Beth currently lives in the West Country where she spends a great deal of time thinking romantic thoughts while staring out of her window at sheep. (These two actions are unrelated.) Beth says she can be found on Twitter where she occasionally indulges in pointless banter about chocolate making and the Great British Bake Off. Due to a basic inability to say no, she has too many children and not enough money, which means she needs as many readers as she can get.

You can follow Beth on Twitter as @BethGoodWriter or find her on Facebook.

The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas by Daniel James

ezra maas

I first came across The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas by Daniel James when it was featured on fellow blogger Jackie’s Never Imitate blog. I was really intrigued by her comments so when Daniel James got in touch and asked me if I’d like a copy for review I readily accepted. I had intended to read The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas earlier this year on holiday but it’s quite a heavy book and I had to lighten my suitcase and swap it for another so it’s taken me a while to catch up!

My thanks to both Dead Ink and Daniel James for my copy of The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas in return for an honest review.

The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas was published by Dead Ink Books on 26th November 2018 and is available for purchase here.

The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas

ezra maas

Compelling and suspenseful, The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas is the story of a journalist searching for the truth about a reclusive artist through 60 years of unreality. A chilling literary labyrinth, the book combines postmodern noir with pseudo-biography, letters, phone transcripts, emails and newspaper clippings.

Ezra Maas is dead. The famously reclusive artist vanished without a trace seven years ago while working on his final masterpiece, but his body was never found. While the Maas Foundation prepares to announce his death, journalist Daniel James finds himself hired to write the untold story of the artist’s life. But this is no ordinary book. The deeper James delves into the myth, the more he is drawn into a nightmarish world of fractured identities and sinister doubles, where art and reality have become dangerously blurred…

My Review of The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas

An anonymous writer pieces together Daniel James’ work on a biography of Ezra Maas.

Goodness me. What a book. I am totally at a loss to know how to review The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas as it defies category into genre or style and is a complex, multi-layered and totally compelling biographical conceit that twists reality and belief until the reader has no idea what is true and what is pure imagination. Reading The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas left my brain whirring and I felt very unsettled. In many ways the hypodiegetic style reminded me of a modern and more sophisticated Boccaccio’s The Decameron, or of the frame narrative of Shelley’s Frankenstein, but with many more elements and layers so that this really is a book that surprises and entertains.

The quality of writing is sublime. How Daniel James managed to plot The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas with its multiple viewpoints, footnotes and other components I have no idea. This isn’t so much a book as a work of art itself and a seething mass of philosophy, art, culture, science, literature, mystery and intrigue. The language used is so brilliantly crafted that I found myself educated as well as entertained, particularly through the footnotes. I frequently felt ignorant as I scurried off to check elements online to see whether they were real or an aspect of Daniel James’s creativity; either way they formed part of his scarily effective manipulation of me as a reader because I HAD to know. My vocabulary and knowledge have increased dramatically as a result of reading this book, but they have done so almost against my free will. I can’t decide whether to be delighted or horrified by this effect.

And it is those very same footnotes that hold so many of the clues to the entire concept of The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas. Frequent references to deception, false leads and the blurring of fact and fiction suggest this entire work is pure fantasy and yet the real people and events that pepper the text give authenticity and veracity. I thought this construction was brilliant.

Having read The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas I haven’t a clue who Ezra Maas was, even though I did visit the Ezra Maas website (which I’m pretty sure is another of Daniel James’s fabulous deceptions). I don’t think the book will appeal to all readers because it is so intricate, so erudite and so complex that it needs time and concentration fully to appreciate it. However, I have been utterly intrigued, totally fascinated and thoroughly entertained and found The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas a sensational read. I won’t forget it in a hurry!

About Daniel James

dan james

Daniel James is a writer, journalist and magazine editor, living and working in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. His debut novel, The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas, was published by Dead Ink Books in November 2018.

Daniel is the founder and editor of The Bleed, an independent multidisciplinary arts magazine with contributors from New York and Japan. In 2016, he was a member of the Live Theatre Writers Group and completed his first full-length play. As a journalist, Daniel worked as a senior reporter on a daily newspaper and feature writer for The Culture Magazine.

You can find out more by following Daniel on Twitter @danjameswriter and visiting his website.

A Trio of Children’s Book Treats from @maverickbooks

Maverick trio

I may be fast approaching sixty, but I just love the quality of children’s books produced by Maverick and I was thrilled to find three recent or soon to be released books waiting for me on my return from a recent trip away and would like to thank Valerie Hall for my surprise book post.

Today I have short reviews of The Pirate Who Lost His Name by Lou Treleaven, illustrated by Genie Espinosa and available for purchase here, of The Moosic Makers by Heather Pindar, illustrated by Barbara Bakos and available for purchase here, and of I, Pod written by Rebecca Lisle, illustrated by Richard Watson and available for purchase here.

Previous Maverick publications I’ve featured on Linda’s Book Bag include:

Colin Mulhern’s Buttercup Sunshine and the Zombies of Dooooom reviewed here.

The Pop Puffin by Jill Atkins, illustrated by Kelly Breemer and King Carl and the Wish by Clare Helen Welsh and illustrated by Marina Pessarrodona, both reviewed here.

Froggy Day by Heather Pindar and illustrated by Barbara Bakos reviewed here.

Not Yet A Yeti by Lou Treleaven and illustrated by Tony Neal reviewed here.

The Oojamaflip by Lou Treleaven and illustrated by Julia Patteon, Scary Scott by Katie Dale illustrated by Irene Montano and Nanny Ninja by Jenny Jinks, illustrated by Sean Longcroft all reviewed here.

The Pirate Who Lost His Name

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There was once a pirate. A very piratey pirate. He had everything a pirate was supposed to have. The only thing he didn’t have was a name. He’d forgotten it!

My Review of The Pirate Who Lost His Name

This is such a fun story with considerable humour for children and adults alike. I loved pirate Captain Dreamboat with his pink man bun and self-obsession and the frustrated expression on the parrot’s face as he tries to communicate with the pirate whose name is missing.

The Pirate Who Lost His Name has just enough piratey direct speech to give authenticity without undermining language acquisition for children. Indeed, the mis-use of ‘me’ instead of ‘my’, ‘ye’ for ‘you’ and ‘yer’ for ‘your’ would make excellent talking points about how our language helps create an impression of who we are. So too would the elements that make up the pirate. I can imagine lots of discussion about stereotypes leading to role play and great excitement. The fact that the pirates are not all male and that others in the story have different coloured skin, are different shapes and sizes and ages conveys super messages about equality and acceptance.

The illustrations are a joy because they help tell the story. It isn’t written how the pirate lost his name, but the pictures show what happened so that children can make predictions and become actively involved in the narrative. There’s so many opportunities to use the book in several ways with numeracy through counting the different style of beards perhaps, or creativity in deciding the parrot’s name, for example.

Once again, Lou Treleaven has created a super book for children in The Pirate Who Lost His Name.

The Moosic Makers

Moosic makers

Nutmeg and Celery love their MOO-grass music and when Farmer Joni needs a new barn roof, it seems the perfect way to help raise money. Will MOO-grass music be enough or will they have to change their tune?

My Review of The Moosic Makers

What a clever book! Adults will love the word play references to music from the farmer being called Joni to Moo-grass and Discow genres or the animal band being called The Jersey Bleats, and I can envisage lots of fun being had with children as the real versions of music are discovered too. There’s a real opportunity for class room research here as well as simply sharing a story with a child in the home. Geography, music, newspapers and money could all become linked topics.

Whilst most of the language used is fully accessible and slightly older children would be able to read The Moosic Makers independently, there are smashing new words like ‘winsome’ to extend vocabulary so that children learn through their enjoyment. I would chat with them about safety too when Nutmeg and Celery hitch-hike home so that stranger danger might be discussed in a safe and comforting environment. Mr Smarm affords a similar opportunity.

The illustrations add a smashing level of interest. It would be lovely to create some artwork based on the story such as festival posters.

The Moosic Makers would be a valuable addition to any home or classroom.

I, Pod

I, Pod

Pod is in trouble when one of his inventions puts baby Nim in danger, but it’s okay because she knows exactly where to point the blame!

My Review of I, Pod

I, Pod is a brilliant story for children. There’s smashing humour as Pod tries to get Nim to learn his name and there are great spelling and phonetic opportunities as she attaches the wrong letter instead of d. The use of onomatopoeia illustrates how children can develop their own writing too.

The story is exciting and dramatic so that children will be hugely engaged. Illustrations are vibrant and exciting. I think some children might even be slightly frightened by the images of the fish and tiger so that they can discuss emotions and fear safely with the adults, but many will just love the level of peril and the opportunity to discover a story set in the time of dinosaurs. This works especially well when it’s actually a mammoth who saves the day.

I thought it was inspired to find Pod trying to think of an excuse for all Nim’s missing belongings as fibbing and taking responsibility are aspects of life children need to understand.

I really enjoyed I, Pod and I know children will too.

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Common to all three books is a place for a class or child to write their name at the beginning. I love this concept because it creates the impression that books are special and to be valued and what could be better than engendering a love of books and reading?

I really do think Maverick have captured the very best of children’s fiction, early reader and picture books in their catalogue. I’d recommend them for home and school because, as well as being beautifully designed, they offer so many learning opportunities as well as great enjoyment.

If you’re a parent, grandparent, teacher, librarian or teaching assistant I’d highly recommend having a look at what Maverick have on offer.

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak

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My enormous thanks to Georgia Taylor at Penguin Random House for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak.

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World was published by Penguin imprint Viking on 6th June 2019 and is available for purchase through the links here.

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World

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‘In the first minute following her death, Tequila Leila’s consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore. Her brain cells, having run out of blood, were now completely deprived of oxygen. But they did not shut down. Not right away…’

For Leila, each minute after her death brings a sensuous memory: the taste of spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the long-awaited birth of a son; the sight of bubbling vats of lemon and sugar which the women use to wax their legs while the men attend mosque; the scent of cardamom coffee that Leila shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works.

Each memory, too, recalls the friends she made at each key moment in her life – friends who are now desperately trying to find her. . .

My Review

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10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World

Leila’s death is only the beginning.

As intricate and beautifully wrought as the finest Turkish carpet, 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World is a truly fabulous book. The story of Leila’s life as she gradually shuts down after being murdered and her physical body has died, all life is here in a tale that is moving, perfectly crafted and totally captivating. I found 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World such a potent and emotionally engaging book that it actually took me quite a long time to read because I had to give myself breaks from the intensity to reflect on the story and regain some composure.

What is so wonderful is the way in which Elif Shafek takes Leila and her five friends who are all social misfits, whether that is as a result of dwarfism, prostitution or being a transsexual for example, and illustrates what warm, vibrant and sublime human beings they really are so that the reader understands the hopes and despairs of all humanity through the dynamics of their relationships and friendship. There’s more of a feeling of inclusion through these characters, despite the prejudices of politics, religion and state presented, than in any factual treatise I’ve encountered. I wanted to climb into the pages and be with these stupendous people. I genuinely felt bereft when I had to close the book at the end. I miss them still.

The portrayal of Istanbul is magnificent. All of the senses are catered for making the city come alive both in the time of the narrative and at different points in its history so that it is a character in its own right; flawed, dynamic, fascinating. I felt I learned more about its real essence than in any of the time I’ve actually spent there. 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World is a totally transporting book.

In 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World Elif Shafek explores the nature of love, ambition, fulfilment, identity and life and so much more. I’d challenge any reader to come up with an aspect of human existence and not find an example woven into this spellbinding story.

It’s impossible to convey the intricacies, the resonances and the sheer beauty of 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World without recourse to hyperbole. Let me just say that I loved every single second of being immersed in Leila’s story. It’s a book to savour, to reflect upon and to be moved by. I thought it was wonderful.

About Elif Shafek

Elif

Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist and the most widely read female author in Turkey. She writes in both Turkish and English, and has published seventeen books, eleven of which are novels. Her work has been translated into fifty languages.

Shafak holds a PhD in political science and she has taught at various universities in Turkey, the US and the UK, including St Anne’s College, Oxford University, where she is an honorary fellow.

She is a member of World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy and a founding member of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). An advocate for women’s rights, LGBT rights and freedom of speech, Shafak is an inspiring public speaker and twice a TED global speaker, each time receiving a standing ovation. Shafak contributes to many major publications around the world and she has been awarded the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres.

In 2017 she was chosen by Politico as one of the twelve people who would make the world better. She has judged numerous literary prizes and is chairing the Wellcome Prize 2019.

You can find out more about Elif Shafak on her website, by following her on Twitter @Elif_Safak and finding her on Facebook.

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