The Stray American by Wendy Brandmark

the strayMany thanks go to Holland Park Press for sending me a review copy.

Larry is alone and lonely, working in London, far from his native Boston. He works at an American College, putting through jocks whose parents pay the bills and foreign students, desperate for a permanent path out of their homelands. Although he is a flawed character, he wants to be a good lecturer; he holds office hours every week, even though no one comes. Brandmark is excellent at creating little details that give characters extra dimensions.

He eventually meets Carla, who is tiny and artistic, and lives in a blank, white apartment with no blinds. The novel stays in shades of white and grey, resting in bleakness, until Larry and Carla visit her mother at the seaside. I enjoyed Larry’s enjoyment of its Englishness: how quaint and amusing he found ordinary things like tea and cake in the afternoon. It took me a while to hear Larry’s voice, but once I did, I empathised with him.

The Un-Americans are another colourful aspect of the novel; they’re a group of ex-pat Americans variously crashing protests to make friends and holding thrown-together Thanksgivings. The novel explores the timeless themes of identity and belonging, expressing how hard it is to find love, and friendship, in a new place.

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‘Pore’ or ‘Pour’?

poringPeople often confuse the two verbs. You pour a cocktail and then pore over a book.

Pore, in this sense, can only be used in conjunction with ‘over’ or ‘through’ and means to be absorbed in the reading or study of.

Pour means to flow or cause to flow in a steady stream; to prepare and serve (a drink).

My trick for remembering it is to think of the in pour as like a tiny bucket that things could be poured into. So this is the spelling to use when thinking of flowing.

“She filled a bowl with cereal. She poured over the milk.” This would mean that she put milk on her Corn Flakes.

“She filled a bowl with cereal. She pored over the milk.” This means that she stopped after getting her Corn Flakes to examine the milk closely.

pouring

Similarly, if one were to write, “She poured over her book” we would all wonder what she’d poured over it and why.

Pore is also a noun, meaning the tiny holes in faces, but let’s not worry about that now.

Was that of any use to you at all? Likes, shares and comments all wildly appreciated.

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“I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”

I’ve had an interesting, fun and varied year of proofreading and editing, as well as starting a new job working in libraries, and another writing for a publisher. I’ve been busy, but having a ridiculously good time. Below I’ve collected what I’ve worked on as Eve Proofreads in 2014. Each of these projects has been such a joy to work on. I’m very lucky so many extraordinarily talented authors have let me read their work. I urge you to have a look through and purchase any that take your fancy; they are all well worth reading. The title quote is from Jerome K. Jerome, who’s pretty good too.

SlashI really loved proofreading Evan Kingston’s Slash Serial.

Slash is a metafictional erotic thriller / comedic murder mystery / romantic slasher, originally published in seven parts. Alexis Bledsoe, star of TV’s #1 family drama, is certain coming out the closet will kill her career, so she turns to erotic fan fiction about herself as her only sexual outlet. But when the stories turn sinister and begin to match real-life murders on the set of her show, she struggles to discover their author’s true identity while trying to keep her own a secret.

Originally published in seven parts, you can download the whole thing here or get the beautiful handmade set here.

Night BusLondon EyesFrances M Thompson hired me for a few of her short stories, published as Night Bus and in the London Eyes collection.

Written by Guardian Top London Blogger Frances M. Thompson, London Eyes is a compilation of thought-provoking contemporary fiction inspired by the sights, sounds and souls of the world’s most popular, and some say greatest, city. Find out how and why one young woman uses the busy streets of the City of London to disappear in An Invisible Girl. In Angel you begin to understand the lengths some people go to to avoid loneliness in London. 

Night Bus is a gentle and thought-provoking short story about dreams, love and the strange things that happen when you get the night bus in London.
Tilde O’Hara is an English woman with Irish parents and a Swedish name.
Tilde O’Hara lives in London with two cats who don’t like her very much.
Tilde O’Hara has a job she loves, a gay best friend she loves and a maisonette she loves, albeit really a bed-sit.
One night Tilde O’Hara meets an old woman on the number 94 bus and everything changes.

Here’s where you can find them.

Bewitching Luke

I really enjoy a bit of YA fantasy. The first book I worked on this year was Ava Smith’s Bewitching Luke. Here’s the synopsis:

Seventeen year old Freya Cook is a witch. She is able to cast spells and tell the future. She is shunned by everyone in the tiny village she lives in and doesn’t have a friend in the world. One day, salvation presents itself in the form of Luke Jones – who just happens to move in next door.

Start reading it on Wattpad.

DemonsI also worked on Joe Clay’s Demons of the Jungle, a darker paranormal fantasy:

Debra and Patricia were in the fight of their lives. The jungle became a prison, filled with nightmares and mysterious happenings. The un-explainable events drove Debra and Patricia to the realization they were part of a much bigger scheme. The demons were planning on taking over humanity and they were to be the mothers of the offspring.

Download it here, and look forward to Joe Clay’s upcoming novel that I also spent time on this year.

The Changing RoomI proofread and helped with the author Q & A and book club questions for The Changing Room by Jane Turley.

“Today, I am in the changing room of my life and tomorrow, win or lose, I’ll move forward a stronger and wiser woman.”

Sandy Lovett’s confused mother and chaotic life are having an effect on her waistline. She knows she needs to change her life but doesn’t know how until she buys a risqué dress which sets in motion a sequence of life-changing events. After years as a mother, carer and full-time employee, Sandy quits her job and places her mother in a care home, and life seems on the up. But disaster is never far away for the hapless Sandy as her mother’s obsessions continue to wreak havoc and her husband’s business begins to fail. Short of cash and needing a flexible job, Sandy joins a sex-chat service. At The Beaver Club Sandy discovers a talent for selling telephone sex – a skill she later regrets when she meets unscrupulous local politician and prospective MP, Trewin Thackeray. The Changing Room is a comedy-drama for all those whose glass is half-full. Preferably with gin and a big fat cherry!

Download it here or get the paperback.

SantaI also worked on Jane Turley’s short story collection A Modern Life, which I hear is Santa’s new favourite book.

A Modern Life is collection of contemporary short stories for time-pressed readers. A reflection on the challenges of living in the 21st century, A Modern Life covers a multitude of topics including marriage, murder, child abduction, climate change and war. It also features Jane Turley’s distinctive slapstick-comedy tales and a chapter of her début comedy, The Changing Room.

Buy the ebook or the paperback.

200 Shorter StoriesIt was great fun working on 200 Shorter Stories by C. H. Aaberry.

Two hundred tales of two hundred letters and spaces.
Plots, worlds and character refined to their essence.
Sci-fi, whimsy, fantasy, horror, thriller and more.
Short stories unlike any you’ve read before.

Get it from Amazon or Smashwords.

ZoI also edited C. H. Aalberry’s new novel Zo and the Impossible Gardens.

Zo woke up in the Impossible Gardens with no memory of how he got there and no way to escape. He is alone, and the night skies are full of stars and moons he does not recognize. Whatever brought Zo to the Gardens leaves him puzzles to solve, rewarding his efforts with strange animals from Earth and beyond. Zo loves adventure, but will he ever get to go home?
This is the story of Zo and the Impossible Gardens.

 

Available here.

SnowburnI proofread E. J. Frost’s sexy sci-fi novel, Snowburn.

Hale Hauser is a Company killer. Perfectly engineered, highly trained, superbly effective. But when ordered to assassinate his own kind, Hale rebels, and the Company buries him in a hole so deep that no one has ever escaped.

After escaping, Hale hides on Kuseros, a backwater Colony on the Deep Frontier. He begins a new life as Sandringham Snow, pilot and smuggler. Hired by Kez, a local runner, to retrieve a box of black-market glands, Hale follows her through the maze of strange loyalties and twisted customs of Kuseros’ underground gangs. In payment, he takes the one thing only a woman can give him, and discovers the one thing his new life is missing.

But Kez has a secret, which will threaten them both. To protect her, Hale must unleash the monster. Can he control the killer inside long enough to discover the truth before it destroys them? Or will he lose everything just as he’s found it?

Buy it here.

Lorenzo's CauseI actually met Stephen R. Harrison in real life after proofreading his debut novel Lorenzo’s Cause. He’s a delight and so is the book.

When Adam Drysdale’s self-inflicted misery drives him to take his own life, his only wish is for oblivion. He soon realises that his wish has not been granted when he finds himself returned to the world as a spirit. But he is no ordinary spirit, because he has the extraordinary ability to possess and control other living creatures.

And so begins Adam’s remarkable journey to uncover the reason behind his existence. It will involve cats and dogs, unwitting pensioners, some shady individuals, a psychotic gang leader and a highly unusual nightclub doorman. His journey will eventually lead him to the heart of why humans exist, and with it what the afterlife has in store for him.

 Lorenzo’s Cause is a humorous, sad, and at times harrowing story, which reflects on the human condition as it twists and turns its way to some novel concepts of what lies beyond.

The ebook and paperback can be purchased on Amazon.

Journey into SpaceSteve Turnbull employed me to edit steampunk space adventure Journey Into Space, 1874.

When the Royal Navy send their first crew into the Void, the first part of the expedition goes off without a hitch. But when the three-man crew discover their assumption that they are the first men in the Void is false, their journey becomes a desperate fight for survival in the harshest environment in the universe: The Void.

Available here. I’m currently working on the next Maliha Anderson mystery, so I strongly recommend you catch up with the first three here.

Johnny Don't March promo 1 copyI’ve just sent back Timothy Hurley‘s extraordinary novel about a soldier coming home, Johnny Don’t March. Look out for that in January.

 

There are a couple of other great titles I got to read this year which aren’t out yet, including Drae Box‘s fantasy adventure The Royal Gift, get a sneak peek here, and the new novel from Buzz Malone(If you haven’t read Silence of Centerville yet, do.)

To every author mentioned here, thank you so much for hiring me this year and for letting me read the products of your brilliant imaginations. You’re all fantastic!

What have you been doing this year? I hope it’s been a good one.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a happy and productive 2015!

 

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The Obligatory Annual Cool Stuff to Get Book Lovers for Christmas Post!

I love online shopping. I went into some actual shops today and there was stuff everywhere, incessant Christmas music, and tinseled assistants trying to hard-sell me fripperies. I like to shop undisturbed with products lined up with a bit of white space between them. The fruit of my online searches is laid out before you. So get yourself a glass of something mulled while we cross our fingers and hope it all turns up in time.

What do you think of my selections? Comments below please!

You can actually buy a candle with old book smell. I suppose it looks slightly less deranged in company than sniffing old tomes.

Old Books

Fun for all the family and seasonally appropriate – it’s A Christmas Carol, the board game! Become your favourite character and roam the streets of Victorian London as you answer questions about Dickens’ classic novel. Make merry with Fezziwig, or settle your account with Scrooge—but beware of “Humbug!” spaces that could spoil your Christmas pleasure.

A Christmas Carol

There are many extraordinarily sharp T-shirts to be had from Human. I think these two are pretty fab.

Mad stacks yo

TimeAlso pleasing is this scarf, printed with words and illustrations from The Secret Garden.

secret

If having words on your T-shirt and round your neck isn’t quite enough, use a temporary tattoo to place them directly on your skin. Etsy has a fine selection. I would like this one please.

Everything was

Writers, you know all those brilliant ideas you have in the middle of the night when you’ve left your notebook in the next room? Well now you can scribble it directly onto this duvetbed

Even if you don’t drink, this book is worth having for the puns alone. Life will be complete when I can order ‘A Rum of One’s Own’ down my local.

Tequila

Next,  just what we’ve all been waiting for: some Ibsen-inspired swag.

Tote 2 ToteThis is literally a nice mug.

GrammarWrap it all in this, whether it’s a book or not.

book

What do you think of my list? What do you want for Christmas? Comments below please!

Have a look at previous years’ recommendations here.

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Mr. George Baker and Mr. Morris Lessmore: Two Perfect Books About Reading

Journey-2I’ve been planning story times for the library which allows me the unrivaled pleasure of reading some of the funniest, loveliest books around. Children’s books have to be succinct, and often have depth and moral messages. They also have pictures. I wrote a post last week for Momentum Books about the most gorgeous wordless novels I’ve come across: Silence is Golden: The Particular Loveliness of Wordless Books. These visual books are particularly good for people who have dyslexia or other reading issues. They are universally accessible and are undeniably works of art. Journey, pictured right, is a particular favourite.

Mr GeorgeHowever, I’ve also been reading books with words in them (the parents do prefer that when they’ve brought their toddler to story time). I like to choose books with the theme of reading, to doubly encourage it. I am completely in love with Mr. George Baker by Amy Hest and Jon J Muth.  Mr. George Baker is narrated by a little boy called Harry. The eponymous character is one hundred years old, a famous drummer, and going on the school bus with Harry, because he is learning to read too. It’s lively, beautiful and moving.

Also essential reading is The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce and Joe Bluhm. The stunning animation it inspired is an award-winning combination of Up and The Wizard of Oz, but for book-lovers. Like Oz, once colour kicks in it becomes even more of a visual treat. The book is retro, heart-warming and, I think, even better than the film. Watch the film though – it’s fifteen minutes extremely well spent.

Did you like it?

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‘Further’ or ‘Farther’?

These are often used interchangeably and are commonly accepted to be synonyms. Both words share the sense of going beyond. However, there is still a proper, formal way to use them.

Farther is used for a physical distance. Think far away. If you could fit the words a greater physical distance in place of it, it is correct to use farther.

“Is there farther to go before we turn?”

“Is there a greater physical distance to go before we turn?”

green-light

F. Scott Fitzgerald knew how to use them.

Further can be used for less concrete notions and all that metaphysical jazz:

“Without further ado…”

Further to your letter…”

“We’ve made further progress on the research.”

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The Changing Room by Jane Turley

I proofread The Changing Room and worked on its Book Club Discussion Points and Author Q and A. I’m very lucky that Jane Turley sent me a gorgeous paperback edition last week. It’s a joy to behold and it was a delight to work on.

The Changing RoomIt is undoubtedly the funniest novel I’ve read in a long time. Jane Turley’s natural wit and flair for sharp dialogue make this an absolute pleasure to read. She reminds me of Sue Townsend, with a good dose of Rachel Joyce: all three have a gift for seeing the humour and pathos of everyday life.

“Today, I am in the changing room of my life and tomorrow, win or lose, I’ll move forward a stronger and wiser woman.” 

Alongside the classic British comedy are deeply moving moments as Sandy looks after her mother, who is becoming increasingly difficult due to Alzheimer’s, and loses her brilliant PTA frenemy to illness. There is a strong sense of social justice, responsibility, and the importance of looking after each other and coming together in times of crisis, as well as a lot of enjoyable silliness.

It is essentially a warm, genuine and life-affirming novel. I cannot recommend it enough.

The Changing Room Header

Available from Amazon in ebook or paperback, Smashwords, or Barnes and Noble. Please read and review it.

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A Clockwork Everything: Has Steampunk Gone Mainstream?

steam

Read the full version here.

Indulge me for a moment, my dear fellows, for of late I have been editing steampunk fiction. This is an undeniable pleasure as I revel in Dickensian English expression, and I have a penchant for flying machines and sky pirates.

Steampunk came to be in the glorious decade of the 1980s with an esoteric community of Victoriana-inspired science and fantasy fanaticists. It is oft characterised by a blending of Victorian styles and methods of invention with modern or fantastical science: steam-powered or clockwork everything. Steampunk has grown from a small cosplaying subculture into a popular literary genre and its imagery is pervading mainstream media.

e9f01Take Doctor Who: The new title sequence is filled with cogs and Victorian London is regularly visited, including encounters with automatons. The Orient Express episode certainly puts it high on steam credentials, but some purists argue it’s all steam and not enough punk.

Also on the telly, there was an episode of Castle wherein Nathan Fillion (who should be in all things always) wore the Dr. Grimmelore Superior Replacement Arm – and looked fabulous, as he would in anything.

nathan

Most people would agree that the film Wild, Wild West is steampunk. Most people would also agree it’s terrible, but that’s beside the point. It’s set in the correct time period and features mad scientists, extraordinary adventures and rather impressive clockwork nemeses. But which film managed to get steampunk added to the dictionary? To find out, click here.

The full version of this article was written for and appears on the Momentum Books blog. To continue reading click here,

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Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

Everyday Sexism is the most important book of the year. I’m not the only person that who thinks so. It’s on the Waterstones Book of the Year shortlist and has received a wealth of critical praise. More importantly, it has inspired conversations about present day sexism and is part of a positive movement for change.

every_day_sexism

The Everyday Sexism Project started as a way for women to share their experiences: The Everyday Sexism Project exists to catalogue instances of sexism experienced by women on a day to day basis. They might be serious or minor, outrageously offensive or so niggling and normalised that you don’t even feel able to protest. Say as much or as little as you like, use your real name or a pseudonym – it’s up to you. By sharing your story you’re showing the world that sexism does exist, it is faced by women everyday and it is a valid problem to discuss.

Laura Bates started the project as she began speaking to her friends about things that had happened to her and asking if they’d experienced anything similar. She thought they might have a smattering of examples, but each began with ‘This week..’ or ‘On the way here…’

The book is arranged thematically, with an informative introduction to each section establishing how things are for women at this moment. Anecdotes are closely linked to the topic and intelligently illustrative. Overall the book is brilliantly written: clear, accessible and honest.

Inclusivity is an important part of the ethos, and the chapter for men and about men is particularly welcome and well written. Consider this from a male contributor:

Unfollowed @EverydaySexism, weary of the constant barrage of horror. Then it clicked. That’s what it must be like being a woman #refollowed

This book should be required reading for all.

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The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey by Rachel Joyce.

the-love-song-of-miss-queenie-hennessy

I rather enjoyed The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, so I was interested to read the companion book, from the perspective of the woman Harold was walking to. Queenie is in the last stages of her life and uses her ‘waiting time’ to write a letter to Harold, as she is no longer able to speak. Some of it is a little surreal and morphine-addled, lending veracity to her narrative. Colour is provided by the other residents of the hospice, but it’s heartbreaking as they inevitably die.

“If only memory were a library with everything stored where it should be. If only you could walk to the desk and say to the assistant, I’d like to return the painful memories about … and take out some happier ones, please”

The story of her time with Harold is moving – an absolute classic of unrequited love. Though Queenie has a secret, and she must keep writing until she gets to it. The thing I enjoyed most in the novel was the vivid description of her sea garden: a monument to her life in driftwood and shells.

The ending took me by surprise – something I hugely admire in a novel. I highly recommend it.

Have you read it? What did you think?

The idea of a novel taking place during another novel, but from a different perspective, was very interesting. The parallel story enhances the first. Are there any other novelists that have done this? I’d love to know.

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