Saturday, 25 October 2014

My beside table books

As the season of buying gifts is approaching, I thought I'd let you know what books are on my bedside table, waiting to be read. Books make the best Christmas presents, in my view, so perhaps some of these will inspire are four books that I think could make a perfect gift for almost anyone.

1. 'Us' by David Nicholls, Hodder

The Blurb:

'I was looking forward to us growing old together. Me and you, growing old and dying together.'
'Douglas, who in their right mind would look forward to that?'

Douglas Petersen understands his wife's need to 'rediscover herself' now that their son is leaving home. He just thought they'd be discovering together. So when Connie announces that she will be leaving too, he resolves to make their last family holiday into the trip of a lifetime: one that will draw the three of them closer, and win the respect of his son. One that will make Connie fall in love with him all over again.

The hotels are booked, the tickets bought, the itinerary planned and printed.

What could possible go wrong?

Why did I pick this book?

I, like a few other million people, loved 'One Day', so it was a no-brainer for me to buy the book. Plus, having hosted an event for David Nicholls at England's Lane Books, I know the writer is a really nice person too, so even more reason to read this novel as quickly as possible.

Perfect gift for anyone who loved 'One Day'.

2. 'Three Lives' A Biogrpahy of Stefan Zweig by Oliver Matuschek, Pushkin Press

The Blurb:

"Oliver Matuschek's fine, comprehensive biography of Stefan Zweig fills in all the personal details that Zweig's habitual reserve led him to leave out of his own memoir. Three Lives is a fascinating book."Anthea Bell

Drawing on great wealth of newly available sources, Oliver Matuschek recounts the eventful life of a writer spoilt by success - a life lived in the shadow of two world wars, and which ended tragically in a suicide pact.

Why did I pick this book?

I have loved Stefan Zweig's beautiful, melancholic prose for some time, and his life seems as tragic as the characters of his many novellas and novels, such as my favourite, 'The Post Office Girl'. So, when a few years ago, I spotted this biography in a independent book shop, I had to get it. Sadly, the book has remained unread on my bedside table, but I will make a pledge to read it before this year is over.

This would make a great present for the serious reader - Zweig has cult status amongst the 

3. 'Elizabeth is Missing' by Emma Healey, Penguin

The Blurb:

How can you solve a mystery when you can't remember the clues?
What if you could remember just one thing?

Why did I pick this book?

I've been reading about this novel in women's magazines all autumn, and the story of an old woman who is trying to solve a mystery of her friend's disappearance really appealed to me. Especially as the woman is in the early stages of dementia and her mind is constantly playing tricks on her, so that the mystery disappearance she's really trying to solve is one that happened some 70 years ago. It's sad, funny and tragic at the same time. I'm half way through, and loving this novel.

I'm thinking of getting this book for my mother-in-law. She loves books about 'old times', and I know she would also enjoy the thriller side of this novel.

4. 'Clever Girl' by Tessa Hadley, Vintage Books

The Blurb:

Stella was a clever girl, everyone thought so.  Living with her mother and a rather unsatisfactory stepfather in suburban respectability she reads voraciously, smokes until her voice is hoarse and dreams of a less ordinary life. When she meets Val, he seems to her to embody everything she longs for - glamour, ideas, excitement and the thrill of the unknown. But these things come at a price and one that Stella, despite all her cleverness, doesn't realise until it is too late...

Why did I pick this book?

Tessa Hadley is another of my favourite authors who I've also had the pleasure to host an author event for. This is her latest novel, now in paperback, and I cannot wait to get into it!

This is a bit of a girly book, although far from chick-lit, so good for a female friend's Christmas stocking.

Don't forget to pop back to check on reviews of these books in the weeks to come - I also post all of my reviews on Goodreads - click here to become my fan.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Finnish Pop-Up Shop in Camden, London

If you happen to be in London at the end of November, why not visit Finn-Guild's exclusively Finnish Pop-up shop in Camden for Christmas gifts with a difference?

What is it?

A sale of books, new titles (in both Finnish and English), Finnish goodies, such as famously moorish Fazer chocolate, rye crisp bread and ginger biscuits.  The café will also be open, serving coffee and home made cinnamon buns. (These will be made by a Nordic master baker, who blogs here.)

I'm interested, when and where is it?

The pop-up shop opens its doors at 11 am on Saturday 29 November at 1A Mornington Court, Mornington Crescent, London NW1 7RD. Doors close at 2 pm the same day. Click on map below to see where we are on Google Maps.

Wait, there's more...

Interested in visiting Finland? Guild Travel will be offering its services on the day, so you can even book a trip to Finland while you’re here!

Visit Finn-Guild’s website, for further information.

Tervetuloa shoppailemaan!

Monday, 20 October 2014

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith - review

I was a little disappointed in the second Comoran Strike novel. The plot is well crafted and intricate enough for me not to guess the identity of the perpetrator until the end, but there's something missing from the prose. To me it felt as if J K Rowling, writing as Robert Galbraith, was already bored with her new characters, in the same way as the detective hero, Comoran Strike, is fed up and frustrated with his physical condition. Comoran is an Afghanistan war veteran with a prosthesis, and his missing leg continues to hamper his surveillance work. He does, however, have some impressive friends in high places, a fact which enables him to catch the killer in the end.

It may be that it's the subject matter of the novel - the literary world - which is making our author yawn. JK Rowling certainly has a go at each role in the publishing world; we have the celebrity-seeking mid-list writer, the ruthless agent, the self-important, successful author, the pathetic self-published writer, the blogger who cannot spell, the eccentric publisher who hates writers...OK, it may be that it was me who resented the literary caricatures.

In spite all of the above, I was keen to get to the end of the book to find out who did the ugly deed, or wether anything romantic will occur between Strike and his beautiful assistant Robin. So, I enjoyed the read, sort of.

The Silkworm is a good, dependable detective tale without too much excitement.

The Silkworm (Comoran Strike Book 2)
Price from £6.99 (Kindle edition)

Friday, 17 October 2014

Coffee and Vodka paperback is nearly here!

I can hardly believe it myself that I'll soon be able to hold a copy of Coffee and Vodka, with its spanking new cover, in my hands. But today I've had the final versions of both the interior layout by the intrepid Roz Morris and the front and back cover design by Jessica Bell, so that wonderful day will soon be here.

I thought after publishing my first book, The Englishman, the second novel would just be run of the mill, but no, in some ways it's even more exciting. It could be because this time around I'm more knowledgeable about the process of getting a Kindle book into a paperback version, and so feel much more in control of the process. (Even though I've been much busier with my day job).

Anyway, here is the new cover in its full glory. What do you think?

The paperback copy
 will be on sale very soon
 - watch this space...

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Moomins on the Riviera - a new feature film

I was lucky enough to be invited to the press screening and interview sessions with the team of the new Moomins on the Riviera film yesterday. This is one of the bonuses of being Head of Finn-Guild, the Finnish-British society, and editor of our quarterly magazine. As a blogger, I have been invited to press screenings before, but this was particularly special for me because the Producer of this film is an 'old' school and university friend, Hanna Hemilä. Plus the film, which is a French/Finnish collaboration, features my favourite Finnish comic strip cartoons, the Moomintrolls.

Inspired by her own visit to the Riviera with her mother, Jansson created Moomins on the Riviera, a charming tale which addresses universal aspects of life such as finding joy in small things, the value of cross-cultural understanding and the power of optimism. This new hand-drawn 
feature animation  is the first time there has been an audio visual adaptation of Jansson’s original comic strip.

There have been surprisingly few full-length films featuring the Moomins, something I quizzed Sophia Jansson, the artistic Director of Moomin Characters Ltd, and niece of the creator of these popular creatures, about. 

'I'm surprised about this myself,' she said. 

Hanna Hemilä (left) with Sophia Jansson (right)
Sophia told me she'd simply not had many pitches where a film maker wanted to use the hand-drawn comic strips. She mentioned this fact to our mutual friend, Hanna Hemilä, a few years ago. 'But I'm a film producer,' said Hanna, and promptly contacted Xavier Picard, and together the two made a proposal which Sophia gladly accepted. As those of you who've ever been involved in film making know, it's a process which takes years, and there are many hurdles to be jumped. Sophia said Hanna warned her that the project would take some time, so she was prepared for the four-year time span, during which she was involved at every stage of the production, ensuring that Tove Jansson's original work was sympathetically represented. 

Director Xavier Picard
The French Director Xavier Picard told me that he had himself been introduced to Moomins many years ago, when working in Tokyo. He said the Moomin comic strips have never really been widely known in France in a way they have in Japan, or here in the UK. Since then, Xavier said he'd grown fond of both the artwork and the ethos of the Moominpappa, 'To live in peace, grow potatoes and dream,' and that a major reason why he wanted to do the film was to get people in France to learn to love Moomins as much as he does.

In the UK the  comic strips were first published by The London Evening News as early as 1954.  At the time, the Moomin characters were all over London, and advertised on the side of the double decker buses. So, it's quite fitting that the International Premier for the newest Moomin film should take place in London today.

When I asked Hanna about her biggest challenges in producing a Moomin film, she told me it was at first difficult to convince the movie people that a new cartoon strip film should be in 2D, and not in 3D. 'Tove Jansson's hand-drawn drawings would not work in 3D,' she said. Secondly it was difficult to explain that the Moomin characters have universal appeal; that the stories have sadness and humour, which works both on adult and children's level.

Here's  the short synopsis of the film:

The Moomins, Snorkmaiden and Little My, in search of adventures of their own, set sail for the glamorous Riviera. They arrive after a journey fraught with menacing storms and desert island dangers, Moominpappa (Nathaniel Parker) befriends an aristocrat and adopts a new name ‘de Moomin’, Snorkmaiden (Stephanie Winiecki) is dazzled by the attentions of a playboy, and Moomin (Russell Tovey) is torn between the simple life he feels comfortable with, and the luxurious movie star lifestyle that his beloved Snorkmaiden yearns to have. An exasperated Moominmamma (Tracy Ann Oberman) retires to the relative calm of their trusty old boat to wait for her family to come to their senses. For the very first time, the unity of the Moomins is threatened.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and particularly a little side story about a dog, who to his shame only likes cats. Moominmamma is at hand to solve the dog's problem by convincing another dog to be painted with stripes and so disguised as a cat. 'Is the paint water proof?' asks the ever street-wise Little My. And as predicted both dogs happily play together until the cat/dog goes for a swim...

Do go and see this wonderful film - apart from the humour and loveliness of the script, the Moomins on the Riviera is beautifully produced in a wonderful pastel colour palette, which leaves you feeling sunny and happy. Just as if you too had had a little trip to the Riviera.

Below is a clip from the film, where Moominpappa is chatting about 'de Moomins' with his new friend Marquis Mongaga.


Moomins on the Riviera will be showing at the London Film Festival
1 pm 11 October 2014 Hackney Picture House (Sold Out)
3 pm 18 October 2014 Odeon Leicester Square (Buy tickets here)