Archives for posts with tag: Michelle Lovric

Image result for the mask of aribella

Published by Chicken House.

January 2020

My favourite city has to be Venice, in Italy. Atmospheric, beautiful and somewhat dark. A place of intrigue and secrets. A city of many lives: people, seagulls, rats, without doubt ghosts of sorts, cats, and now dogs, and of course water. I have promoted Michelle Lovric’s The Undrowned Child now for a decade or so – it was published in 2009.

To find myself recently in receipt of a new Venetian book and a pre-publication volume was a joy.

This tells the story of Aribella, who suddenly finds that when particularly irritated, her fingers tingle and, if this isn’t sated, she is liable to set fire to anything within reach. She and her father live on an island outside Venice – they live on Burano. Her elderly father making intricate lace to support them both. He appears unsurprised when Aribella returns home to tell him what happened to a local bully when their paths crossed; that his throat had been burnt by her hands…he seems almost resigned… Then he doesn’t respond, as she expects, as she goes on to explain that their name may have been reported; placed in the Lion’s Mouth –  to the authorities along with those who might be subversive, dangerous, or even just a little strange. His attitude along with the day’s events disturbs her greatly.  The authorities arrive not long after.

She escapes with help from a friend, but as they row away in his small fishing boat under a red moon (an ill omen if ever there was one), a skull appears floating out from the mists of the water, that only she can see. It isn’t long though before Theo is made well aware of it, as it reaches their boat…

This is WONDERFUL! I am loving this – haven’t finished it – but am savouring it and enjoying it just before sleep – it’s fantastic to have another Venetian book to sink into – quite marvellous. It is of course, very different from The Undrowned Child. That book takes a nugget of the history of Venice and has a story wrapped around it, which doesn’t happen in this. Further, in some ways The Mask of Aribella is much less dark – though it definitely has veins of blackness flowing through it, as is right for any good story set in Venice. I have only read up to page 131 – but so hope that there will be more to this story than the single volume…

Finished this yesterday at work – I couldn’t leave it at home. Marvellous. Do order your copies as you come in for Christmas shopping, or order from W.com / or ring…nag your parents…or, if you are an adult – don’t be shy. Order one for yourself!

Then collect it on publication day: 2nd January 2020 – just under a month away!

 

The Wishing Bones

Published by Orion Books

‘Let’s not be counting our vultures,

till they be hatched.’

Those of you who frequent Waterstones Finchley Road O2 will be well aware of my passion (I think that’s the best word to describe it) for Michelle Lovric’s Undrowned Child – which I reviewed way back in 2009 on W.com and then again, a few years later and since then a number of times on my blog.

This is Michelle’s most recent Venetian tale. Once more, not for the feint-hearted: a story of murders, mystery and mermaids. A different tale – one of orphans, reliquaries and the trade in sacred relics…and so much more.

Another volume that seems to have been well and truly soaked in the waters of the canals in Venice. If you have read The Undrowned Child then this is one to reawaken that urge to visit Venice whether literally or within the boards of a book. If you haven’t read The Undrowned Child, (I can’t see why you might not), then these two volumes make a wonderful pair of Venetian mysteries and will without doubt encourage you to visit (should you not have done so already), or to return to La Serenissima.

This then is a story of reliquaries and the trade in the remains of saints. If all the claims made around various saints are true, then a number of them, it would seem, had more than the usual quota of limbs, amongst other things. This story is about where those may have come from. A story that is as dark as many of the stories that colour Venice’s history.

Not for the feint-hearted, as I said, but a book for those who can acknowledge the darker side of this extraordinary city,  a book like no other. Apart from that other one, I may have mentioned…

I have been selling books for over 20 years with Waterstones. They say I have become an ‘Expert’ in Children’s books. A title that really means very little to me.

What does, I have recently realised, are my customers and more importantly my younger customers, especially those that I influenced enough for them to begin to enjoy books.

It is what they say and do that matters.

The following, in no order what so ever, stand out for me when I look back over the last two decades. This is not in any way a comprehensive list – just some of the highlights that I have so enjoyed over the years.

Thank you.

The author and teacher who introduced me with such pride to his husband.

The bright enthusiastic girl who so loved her reserved books on Vikings, & gave me a cuddle.

The boy who lost his Lego mini-figure and was so overcome when I ‘felt’ the packets and found a new one; wrapping his arms around my neck, his legs, around my waist.

The girl whose father claimed she ‘would never finish anything’, and wouldn’t buy her the kit; who fired her finished Leonardo da Vinci catapult down the store a week or so later.

My regulars who return asking for more books for their children, who seem to have suddenly begun to have the reading bug.

‘My’ Russian customer, his wide grin, and unpronounceable name.

The American who wanted to take home the next unpublished Harry Potter in his suitcase. ‘You have some hidden in the back.’

The mother who came to say she had seen the film, A Monster Calls (Patrick Ness) after reading my post, and was so moved by it.

My Dorset customer, passionate about all things Persian, who bought around a thousand pounds worth of books from me, almost on a monthly basis, who has now become a friend.

The owls I arranged to visit Harrods at the penultimate Harry Potter event.

The queen,

yes the queen,

who bought a copy of the

picture book Tadpole’s Promise for her husband.

The Sussex House event with Linda Davies, and her longbow; celebrating Longbow Girl.

Sgt. from Sussex House, quiet, kindly, wonderful, but with such authority.

Selling almost 1,000 pounds of The Undrowned Child (Michelle Lovric) in Harrods.

The man who bought a copy of The Undrowned Child even though he only wanted a book on accounting.

The man who bought another copy, when he had just come in to buy an English version of the Koran.

The Sussex boy, ‘Hop-a-long’ who came to an event in a shopping trolley.

The small boy who came to say he had broken a plastic stand.

The father who apologised for his ‘feral children’.

The teachers who have become such good friends.

The elderly couple who bought their Christmas books for their family every year in Harrods – the list of their relatives, ages and details neatly inscribed on the cardboard taken from a cereal packet.

The Sussex House boys.

The lady who insisted on double bagging her books, and wanted copies ‘not touched’ by human hands, and has now become a rather extraordinary friend.

The various children who have returned to tell me how much they have enjoyed the last book I sold them.

The Sussex boys from Sussex House and how they have welcomed me into their school.

The boy with autism, who made friends with me.

The customers who ‘followed’ me from Harrods to Finchley Road O2 . Every winter one elderly couple travelling to the store; a very different environment for them. Just because I happened to work there now.

The Sussex events in store, a high light, initially a very reserved author Lynn Reid Banks and her phenomenal rendition of The Green Eye of the Yellow God by Milton Hayes.

The hopeful father who came to buy a book for his child, aged 7, but didn’t know what he was interested in. Only to admit after we had gone through several titles, that the boy was just seven weeks old.

Being taken to see the play Private Peaceful with Sussex House.

The little girl with downs syndrome who suddenly left her carer and came and stroked my arm.

The Sussex House boys’ response to an event with bottles of smells to inhale – a truly raucous event.

Maya Leonard celebrating Beetle Boy with an event in store and her brilliant Ballroom Event with Sussex House.

The man who came and bought all the Biggles books we had in stock – just because I admitted that perhaps they weren’t particularly politically correct and why.

The customers who have asked for a suggestion for one or two books, who have left with a pile tucked under their arms and bags in their hands and grins upon their faces with excited children ‘at foot’.

Lastly, the mother who came to thank me and tell me of her dyslexic son, who after advice from me, started with Barrington Stoke and was introduced to good stories.

Who recently returned home to talk to his mother about the book he was reading.

She was so pleased.

‘…his lower lip was quivering…he could hardly get his words out,’

she said,

‘…he was so involved in the book…’

to find he was reading The Northern Lights (Philip Pullman).

It is the people that have made this job a joy – who have made me grin, laugh and become involved. The books are another joy, but that is perhaps for another time.

This time is to say thank you – I wouldn’t be doing this job if it weren’t for you making that connection.

Thank you.

Undrowned ChildPublished by Orion Press

I am a little astonished that I haven’t reviewed this superb volume on my blog before – you will understand when I tell you that I must have sold well over a thousand copies of this book – by that I mean hand-selling it to anyone I think would enjoy it.

I received a proof of it when I was working in the now defunct branch in Harrods (I was there for 15 years or so) – and fell in love with it. At that time I had an ‘Account’ on the Waterstones web site and was able to review it:

‘Atmospheric, beautifully written and about Venice…a superb volume of adventure encompassing all that makes a good solid read. Includes ghosts, retribution, death, mermaids, seahorses, bravery…Absolutely brilliant. Read it in Venice if you can, if not, then read it and visit as soon as you can…’

I then organised for Michelle to come to the store for an event, for which I wasn’t in store, however, I know it was a success and that she was very touched as I received a gorgeous bar of mandarin Venetian marzipan (and a signed copy) from her as a result. You don’t really need to know about that though – you are only interested in the book – so my curious friends…

If you have been to Venice, and fallen in love with that aromatic, aquatic city, with its history and stories, then this is the book for you.

That is unless you don’t like the gondolas. I had a customer, once, who said she didn’t like Venice and when I asked why, she complained about the gondolas, as, to quote her, ‘…they moved…’ It was at that point I gave up – I think she is the only customer I have tried to sell this book to, who hasn’t gone away with it in their pocket.

If you haven’t been taken by your parents, or your partner has been,  but you haven’t – then I suggest you do something about it. If your parents have been and haven’t taken you, then they haven’t (in my opinion) done their job properly. There really is nothing like the city, mysterious & beautiful; a gem of a place… If your partner has been and you haven’t. Then that alone would be a measure for me to decide whether to continue with the relationship, or not…

This book takes a nugget of the history of the city and its people and has a glorious piece of fantasy wrapped around it. Michelle Lovric loves the city. She had at one time a small apartment in an palazzo – and has written many books on the history and stories. Her first books about the city were for adults, this was her first for young readers. She used her knowledge of the city and wound it into a world that is both beautiful and twisted. Parts of this are dark. I cannot repeat this enough, but the plot is glorious, our heroine, brave and resourceful, the  mermaids (there are mermaids), are NOTHING like any mermaids you have ever come across, and are not to be discarded as rock decoration – they have attitude.

The language is superb, and is wonderful – colouring the story….

It is an expensive book. Not because of the intrinsic cost (£6.99), but because you will want to visit the city afterwards – to find the places mentioned in the book and to just saturate yourself in the story, and the city as a result of it. The additional costs include: flights, hotel, food (always a joy), a trip on a gondola (if you have never been to Venice, this is a must, but isn’t one of the less expensive experiences in the city), and of course some sort of souvenier… Do not go in the  summer – there are too many tourists. The spring and the autumn are the times to go and remember to take something warm – it can be quite chilly in the evenings…the water is never far away and remember to take with you your copy of The Undrowned Child

It is probably time I revisited the city.

We keep this in the 9 – 12 section of the store. It is true that some of the younger readers in this reading group will love it. Others though might find it a bit much, so for comfort’s sake I have listed this as 12 and onwards…after all the last sentence or so of the introduction are the following:

A Case of Baddened Magic

‘…They found all the bodies in the end, except that of the baby.

Stories flew about. ‘Such a tiny little mite, the fish ate her.’ people whispered.’

 

 

 

 

 

Published by Orion / ISBN 9781444000047 / 9 – 80+

Fantasy / Adventure / History

This is an extraordinary book set in Venice. It is a volume that will entice and mystify. If you haven’t been to Venice, you will want to visit, if you have, you will certainly return. The story is woven around a small nugget of Venetian history and the book is simply dripping with Venetian colour and water – it is atmospheric, dark and a unique piece of fiction. Not for the feint hearted – a book that once started is devoured and savoured. It is (probably) unsuitable for young people under the age of 9 or 10 – but for those who are willing to be pulled into a world of murder, mystery, wild mermaids, and talking cats, with just a smidgeon of history, it is a, frankly, superb tale… Not to be missed.