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An Evening with Kate Hamer, or When the Squirrel in the Red Coat met The Girl in the Red Coat

Author Kate Hamer with Squizzey and our signed copy of her book
Author Kate Hamer with Squizzey and our signed copy of her book

I lived in Roath when I was a student but haven’t spent much time there since moving back to Wales in 1999. Except for the past week when I’ve been there not once, but twice. The second time was on Thursday evening, when Squizzey and I went to an event with local author Kate Hamer at the wonderful Wellfield Bookshop on Wellfield Road. It’s a lovely independent bookshop with a great selection of titles and friendly, knowledgeable staff that we’d been meaning to check out for some time, having heard such good things about it.

Enjoying a pre-signing apple juice
Enjoying a pre-signing apple juice

Kate Hamer’s debut novel The Girl In The Red Coat came out a month ago and since then Kate has been busy travelling around the UK promoting it, but as she lives in Cardiff, it was lovely to be able to go to this local event. As ever, Squizz was fastidious about dressing appropriately and insisted on wearing his red duffle coat. Kate very kindly rewarded his efforts with the gift of a red button she’d made to help promote her book and he’s now wearing it with pride. It’s not often you go to an event and there’s squirrel-sized book booty after all!

Kate read an extract from The Girl In The Red Coat and then answered questions from the audience and it was interesting to hear her not only talk about the writing process but also about the team effort that goes into bringing a book out. It was a fascinating insight into just how many people are involved and their different roles. Read more

Book review: Bryant & May: The Burning Man by Christopher Fowler

The Burning Man, the twelfth book in Christopher Fowler’s successful and highly popular Bryant & May series of detective novels came out yesterday. Although friends praise the series and recommend them to me, I’d never read one until this week. Here’s what the latest instalment in their case files is all about:

London is under siege. A banking scandal has filled the city with violent protests, and as the anger in the streets detonates, a young homeless man burns to death after being caught in the crossfire between rioters and the police.

But all is not as it seems; an opportunistic killer is using the chaos to exact revenge, but his intended victims are so mysteriously chosen that the Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to find a way of stopping him.

Using their network of eccentric contacts, elderly detectives Arthur Bryant and John May hunt down a murderer who adopts incendiary methods of execution. But they soon find their investigation taking an apocalyptic turn as the case comes to involve the history of mob rule, corruption, rebellion, punishment and the legend of Guy Fawkes.

At the same time, several members of the PCU team reach dramatic turning points in their lives – but the most personal tragedy is yet to come, for as the race to bring down a cunning killer reaches its climax, Arthur Bryant faces his own devastating day of reckoning.

‘I always said we’d go out with a hell of a bang,’ warns Bryant.

Is this the final Bryant & May adventure? Well, I hope not, having only just discovered them. But if it is, I can console myself with the fact that I haven’t read the previous eleven books in the series. Read more

Book review: The A-Z of You and Me by James Hannah

Today is the publication day for the second Curtis Brown book group choice, James Hannah’s debut novel, The A-Z of You and Me.

Ivo fell for her.
He fell for a girl he can’t get back.
Now he’s hoping for something.
While he waits he plays a game:
He chooses a body part and tells us its link to the past he threw away.
He tells us the story of how she found him, and how he lost her.
But he doesn’t have long.
And he still has one thing left to do …

I think we’ve all played the A-Z game at one time or other, perhaps not with body parts, but something else: places, foods, people’s names, pop songs. But our games were probably played on holiday, either in the car to and from our destination or on a rainy day in the caravan to kill time.

In The A-Z of You and Me, it’s not time but the game player himself, Ivo, who’s dying and he plays the game while lying in his hospice bed. It’s something he does grudgingly and only at the suggestion of one of his carers, Sheila. She believes it will help him focus on something other than his terminal illness, and keep him alert and occupied. But all Ivo initially wants to do is to deaden himself to any sensation or feeling and shut himself off from everyone he’s ever known. Read more

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