New Book Releases for 2018!

2018 looks set to be a great year for publishing with an eclectic new range of books to appear. This year we also start to see a gradual move away from the predominance of the Psychological Thriller / Domestic Noir genre (though there are still plenty of these to be released) but we also see a return to publishers looking for more light-hearted fiction. Something quirky is seen as a good bet, probably due to the huge successes of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: Debut Bestseller and Costa First Novel Book Award winner 2017 The Trouble with Goats and Sheep Interestingly, there is set to be a renewed focus on Ghost stories this year. This may be due to the success of books from 2017 such as The Silent Companions: A ghost story

Crime fiction is set to be ever popular in 2018. Kicking off proceedings is the excellent Elly Griffith’s The Dark Angel: The Dr Ruth Galloway Mysteries 10  (and which I’ve read, and is really good!) and the first standalone story that Elly has written in the psychological thriller genre called The Stranger Diaries (we have to wait till November for that one though!). Another favourite writer of mine Keigo Higashino brings out the English translation of Newcomer: A Mystery his latest in the Detective Kaga series after Malice. Kaga was my favourite of the detective characters of Higashino’s that I’ve read so far, so I’m particularly looking forward to this which will be released again in November. Seventeen: the new novel from the bestselling Japanese sensation Hideo Yokoyama is released in March and is excellent! It tells the story of a conflicted man and the worst plane crash in Japanese history of which I previously knew nothing about!

In the Domestic Noir genre new releases to look out for include:  the Hitchcokian The Woman in the Window: The most exciting debut thriller of the year  by A.J. Finn, Lullaby the French set nanny thriller by Leila Slimani,  Fear: The most original thriller of 2018 a stalker inbued thriller based on real life experiences  by Dirk Kurbjuweit and the terrifying sounding Thirteen: The serial killer isn’t on trial. He’s on the juryby Steve Cavanagh.

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock  is set to be one of the big release of the year and is a book I’m currently reading, it narrates the story of a shipping merchant who is given a mermaid in Georgian England, a quirky historical fiction novel that is set to do well. Also, this may be the year of the ‘Mermaid’ with mermaid films set to be released in 2018 so perhaps mermaids will replace unicorns as pop culture icons which will promote this book even further. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert is a Young Adult novel in the Fantasy genre released in February that is set to be big and will no doubt crossover and be read by adult readers too.

Melmoth a gothic fiction story by Sarah Perry will be released in November also and will no doubt be huge after the success of The Essex Serpent. Out in March another Gothic thriller set in 1950s Morocco is Tangerine by Christine Mangan, a book that has been compared to the best of Daphne Du Maurier and Patricia Highsmith and is one definitely on my to be read pile. A more modern set literary thriller is New York set during the time of Hurricane Sandy, Neon in Daylight by Hermione Hoby.

There is set to be an increase in releases of Feminist fiction and non-fiction which is nice to see after a university lecturer once said to me, if you want to go into Feminist Studies, you’ll never get published! And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready by Meaghan O Connell, Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion by Michelle Dean are two non-fiction books worth checking out. In Feminist fiction we see releases by Meg Wolitzer The Female Persuasion Peach(a truly, uniquely narrated book) by Emma Glass, Circe by Madeline Miller, The Merry Spinster: Tales of everyday horror by Malorie Ortberg and Red Clocks by Leni Zumas which is a dystopian story in the vein of A Handmaid’s Tale.

Another theme that we saw last year with the release of The Good Immigrant is an increasing focus on the stories of racial and international inequality. Due a resurgence of nationalism and a world that feels ever more divided it is good to see publishing highlight this and bring us books such as This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America by Morgan Jenkins, The Line Becomes A River by Francisco Cantu (an electrifying read about a Hispanic US border agent working along the Mexican border), new releases  Freshwater  by Awaeke Emezi and An American Marriage by Tayari Jones creatively explore these multicultural issues in a changing world. Another one I’m looking forward to, is the always excellent Zadie Smith who examines this issue and others in her new book: Feel Free: Essays

Phew! Though this list seems long, I have only scratched the surface of all the new releases this year. I will revisit this halfway through the year in June and give an update. In the meantime: ‘Happy Reading!’

Cultural Round Up 2017-18!

2017 has come to an end so in this blog post I’m going to sum up everything that I have done this past year!

At the start of the year I began to teach myself to play some instruments: piano, ukulele and guitar. Starting in February until May I entered a competition for young songwriters with two of my friends and we came in the top ten so we had the opportunity to perform in london and had our single released on iTunes, Spotify etc. In April I took part in a Maths challenge and was awarded a Bronze award! Then in May I also got to go on a trip to France where we braided wheat, learnt to make goats cheese and experienced a French market. In July I was in a dance show, a summer concert, with many music pieces from movies, and a drama show based on Alice in Wonderland.

During my school summer holidays I took part in a Disney summer school with Glee and dance pieces from Aladdin, Mary Poppins and Beauty and the Beast. During the five day course I had the opportunity to see Aladdin on the west end where I really enjoyed all the music and bright coloured costumes and set design.

A week later I went to Huddersfield in the north of England to visit my Aunt and Uncle, there I was able to visit the Yorkshire moors and experience the unique wildlife of northern England. I also got to experience city life in Leeds. I even got to visit the little shops in The Shambles in York and the largest railway museum in Britain, The National Railway Museum! I also delved into British history at The Castle Museum in York.

Later in the summer holidays I went to London. I went to the Science Museum. It was brilliant to discover the history of science and how it is developing at an increasing rate everyday! I also enjoyed visiting the natural history museum and seeing how we and other creatures have evolved over the years!

When I returned back at school it was full of rehearsals as I had a Shakespeare showcase in late October and seven performances of Cinderella coming up in late November! And I also had a carol concert in December!

I have recently started learning German in school and I cannot wait to go to Germany for a music tour in July 2018! My friends and I are also making plans for the Young Songwriters competition again this year! I have a day trip to go to Pineapple Studios in London to do singing, dancing and acting! I am also carrying on with my singing lessons I began in September. I am going to enter a poetry competition in January. I am also going to do The Junior Maths Challenge 2018. So I cannot wait to see what happens in 2018!

Ed – It seems that you have a really fun filled 2018 coming up Grace!

My Writing Year

For one of our last posts of the year, we thought it would be good to have a retrospective look on what we have been up to this year as a whole and in my case, 2017 has definitely been a year of writing creatively. Although I’d mostly been writing non-fiction posts for this blog, it had been a while since I had seriously been able to devote time to creative writing. I used to love creative writing at school and at university but had not done much since. In early March this year, I attended a short story writing workshop that was part of the always excellent Huddersfield Literature Festival. This was a Mslexia writing workshop with Michele Roberts (Professor of Creative Writing at UEA) so I knew that it would be good and I was not disappointed. At the workshop I met two new friends (Yvonne and Virginia) who I now see regularly as we are all members of  the same local writing group.

This group is called The Yorkshire Writers’ Lunch and grew out of a local adult education class that used to be held in Huddersfield. We meet every week for lunch and take it in turns to produce a blog post of creative writing. The blog is really creative and diverse. When I first joined, the group were in a middle of a collaborative spy thriller set in 1958 Algiers, I decided to be mischievous and throw in a new character, the post I wrote for this can be found here. On the blog we also produce short fiction, poetry, and non-fiction pieces. Room 27 is an example of a strange short story that I wrote! Currently we are also in two teams where we are writing screen and radio plays, this has been really enjoyable and I look forward to continuing this next year.

From joining the writing group, I found out about a writing tutor who lives quite near to me, I have since attended many of her classes and feel that my writing has come on leaps and bounds since (thank you Clair for recommending her!). I’ve also found that I particularly enjoy writing in cafes as I seem to concentrate rather well in them!

So really looking back it seems that this year I have been able to devote time to writing creatively more often and looking ahead, there is a lot more that I want to do. I would like to really get cracking with at least one novel, finish an online writing course that I’ve begun a while back and continue to meet fellow writers. I’ve learnt that writing is a journey that it is always important to further develop and improve your writing as there are always improvements to be made. Overall though, this year has been a huge learning curve for me and has taught me the tremendous value of saying ‘yes’ to new creative opportunities and experiences wherever possible. I hope 2017 has been as rewarding creatively for you as it has for me and I look forward to what 2018 brings!

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Recently, I have taken part in a “Shakespeare Appreciation Performance.” My school and two others performed different plays from or based on Shakepeare’s work. My school did a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream I played the role of one of Titania’s loyal fairies, Mustardseed, I enjoyed playing this character because I could sing, dance and play the ukulele. This Play was fun to take part in because it was funny and we got to get a richer understanding of Shakespearian literature!

If you are not aware of the story of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ here is a short summary. The play is one of Shakespeare’s comedies and is about four lovers and a fairy kingdom. Theseus and Hippolyta are to be married so six men, “The Mechanicals,” rehearse a play to be shown at their wedding. Meanwhile, in the wood, Titania and Oberon are arguing about the changeling boy and who will raise him. Oberon commands his sly helper, Puck, to get the juice of a flower and make Titania fall in love with one of the mechanicals called Bottom (who they have also cursed with the head of a donkey) and on the way, they encounter the lovers who are facing a conflict of their own. Helena is in love with Demetrius however, Demetrius and Lysander both love Hermia but Hermia loves Lysander. Hermia’s cruel father has said she must marry Demetrius and if not, he will have her executed! In the end Puck also makes Demetrius fall in love with Helena and Titania’s “lover,” was freed from his curse and finally everybody was happy.

I was pleased that I had the opportunity to take part in this interesting production and look forward to acting in different productions in the future.

[Ed – Note – I was very impressed with Grace and her friends in the production as Shakespeare is a difficult body of work to act out especially when so young but they all did brilliantly! It is a good idea to introduce Shakespeare at this young age as this means that they will be more familiar with the language and stories of Shakespeare for their GCSEs].


The Humanity of Wolves – Hybrid Book Review

Finally I get a chance to write up this long awaited review! As it concerns werewolves I thought that it would be a suitable one for Halloween. Hybrid is the first in the trilogy of books by author Nick Stead. The book begins with the character (also called Nick) which is a “meta-meta” concept that I love when I come across (see The New York Trilogy et al). This is no ordinary coming of age story as during the course of the novel, Nick faces troubles at both home and school whilst dealing with becoming a werewolf. I met author Nick Stead earlier on this year as we are now both members of the same writing group. He specialises in writing horror books but is not scary at all in real life as he’s a genuinely nice guy! Sorry to bust the myth Nick! Of course this is a slight disclaimer but I really want to emphasise that I would never give a good review to something that I felt did not merit it.

As soon as I started Hybrid I found it to be one of those books that you get lost in and time passes by whilst you need to turn the pages. It is very compelling! It only took me a long time to read because I seem to have a constant ten books or so on the go, but every time I picked up Hybrid I got lost in the writing. I think this is because of the way that it is written and that there is such a pull of empathy that you feel for the main character when he gets stuck in increasingly difficult situations. What’s even more impressive though is that Stead began writing Hybrid when he was just fifteen years old! Jealous much?!

I don’t want to give away too much but will say that Hybrid deals with the conflict between the humanity of Nick the teenager and the instincts of Nick the werewolf. This is cleverly delineated by changing the format of the text from italics when he’s a wolf to standard form when he’s human. I have to admit I’m a bit of a wuss really and quite squeamish and there are some moments of gore in the book but I’ve read worse and you can kind of skip over the gory descriptions without losing any of the story if you’re really squeamish.

Stead is very adept at drawing not only a convincing main character but also the main villains of the piece, his English teacher Aughtie and his father who both come across as truly awful characters whom you root for the author to escape. I also really liked the characterisation of the friends who help Nick along his journey. Nick’s band of friends  seem to both help and hinder him on his journey as he realises that he risks exposing them to danger the more that they learn about how he has changed. That means inevitably that he has to make new friends which he does in the form of vampire Lady Sarah, a stately character who has her own dark secrets.

The character of Nick does make mistakes sometimes fatal ones, this is a world where the shades are firmly black and white, evil and good and humanity seems to generally be the sense of human conscience that Nick uses to make more informed judgements which he learns to do as the book develops.

The final two books in the trilogy are Hunted (Hybrid) and the soon to be released Vengeance: Hybrid Book 3 Nick is currently out and about at various Horror Conventions throughout the UK. If you’re nearby why not pop along and meet him and get a signed copy of Hybrid, Hunted and be one of the first to get your hands on Vengeance! See Nick’s website for details here.

If I could sum up this entire trilogy though, I would say that there’s an awful lot of humanity in these werewolf books.