Signings in Raleigh, NC & Everywhere else

A hidden treasure in any city, state, or town is the independent book stores. North Carolina is no different . .  . if anything it is expected since NC is a bit of a quiet, homey state. Sadly, Raleigh is a bit limited in that section HOWEVER in its surrounding areas there are a handful of independent stores that are competing  with Barnes & Nobles and their famous authors coming for a visit. Listed are a few signings that I will have the pleasure to enjoy. Click the name of the bookstore for their event calendar.

 Quail Ridge Books & Music Located in Raleigh, NC

Jonathan Tropper August 22 “With One Last Thing before I Go”

Dav Pilkey August 30 “Captain Underpants!”


Regular Book Shop Located in Durham, NC

Anna North August 13 “America Pacifica”

Margaret Dunbar Cutright August 21 ” A Case for Solomon”


Park Road Books Located in Charlotte, NC

Kay Hooper August 10 “Haven”

Chris Van Dyk August 21 “Awaken”


The Fountainhead Bookstore Located in Hendersonville, NC

Mark de Castrique August 11 “The 13th Target”


Enjoy the events! Each month there will be a listing of book signings at various independent bookstores in various states.

Happy signing!




Fifty Shades of Grey

It’s the novel everyone is talking about. An explicit romance, E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey tells the story of a Literature student, Anastasia Steele, who meets Christian Grey, a young, rich, intelligent, predictably handsome entrepreneur and hedonist. One is tempted to compare him to Dorian Gray, but instead finds it hard to see any effects of the emotional turmoil that James’ insists Christian is hiding.

This is yet another story of a frustratingly weak female protagonist developing an obsession with a cliché, a perfect, yet elusive, ideal man. It is not surprising that this trilogy, written and published within a single year, started out as an alternative narrative of Twilight. I began, in search of some redeeming feature, and found the first nine lines focussed on the main character’s “unruly” hair and plain, “pale” face. Her lack of self esteem becomes more apparent as she attacks her friend Kate for having “chosen today … to succumb to the flu” and for miraculously appearing “gamine and gorgeous” regardless. It seems that every character is Hollywood beautiful, save for Ana, (who still manages to attract a perfect billionaire, not to mention the affections of two other wonderfully attractive men). Anastasia Steele is so maddeningly self-conscious that she almost says “I told you everyone is better than me, and don’t you dare try to prove me wrong because I’ll only give you another reason why I’m crap.” Throughout the book she is continually asking herself “why me?” even though she is told the simple and obvious reason time and time again: that she is, in fact beautiful. So beautiful in fact that Christian sends her first edition copies of her favourite book with a note comparing her to the main character, the pure, ethereal and stoical Tess Durbeyfield.

I have to say that the continuous references to Tess of the D’Urbevilles are nothing
more than impudent. James consistently compares Ana to Hardy’s most famous heroine, but the likeness is poor. Tess experiences far stronger emotions and far greater challenges than E. L. James is capable of portraying, such as painfully unjust rejection, social stigma and the death of her child.

The parallels with Twilight, however, are suffocating. Aside from Miss Steele being so insecure and clumsy that she trips over on her way into Christian’s office, Mr Grey expresses a feeling of being drawn to Ana. There is, predictably, “something about” her that he can’t explain. As if that isn’t enough, he even warns Ana to stay away. So: Mr Dangerous meets Miss Innocent-and-Clumsy, to whom he is inexplicably attracted and who can’t read him. She then discovers more about his life than she wants to, is afraid of him but can’t stay away and pursues him in the name of “love”. Not only is the plot just as thin as Twilight’s, the writing style is just as clumsy and superficial.

As I am reading, I grow increasingly disappointed with E. L. James’ storytelling. She breaks the fundamental rule of “show, don’t tell” and makes outright statements like “she’s articulate, strong, persuasive, argumentative,” “he’s so controlling,” etc. etc. Even James’ description of Christian’s offices is dull, repeating the words “glass”, “steel”, “white” and “sandstone” at least five times each before getting round to calling the place “clinical” (though I’m not sure just how “clinical and modern” sandstone floors can be). The descriptions leave nothing to the imagination, nor to interpretation, and often interrupt a crucial build-up of sexual tension, detailing things one wouldn’t care about in the heat of the moment.

So what is the appeal? While James repeats phrases like “the ghost of a smile” twice in the space of a few pages, as though proud of a phrase she did not coin, there must be something upholding this underdeveloped piece of single-minded rambling. And of course, it’s the sex. I am a firm believer that everyone is just a little bit dirty, and with his “Red Room of Pain”, the very idea of Christian Grey is an easy way for reserved, middle class women to explore their repressed sexual urges. But how far? When I told my sister how superficial the writing was, she said “isn’t erotic fiction meant to be?” At the time, I was reading a description of a table, hardly sexy, but further into the book, I am still searching for something other than an accurate account of what goes where, but aside from the equally bad boring bits in between, there isn’t much.

The Fifty Shades trilogy has brought erotic fiction into the mainstream, with many newspapers reporting of the Mummy-Porn phenomenon, and how thousands of women are now jumping their lovers as soon as they get home, unable to satisfy the desire sparked by this book. Far be it from me to lie and suggest that the raunchy scenes didn’t get my blood pumping, but this book is not erotica. Erotica is literature, and Fifty Shades is no better than the pure visual stimulation of pornography.

A Queen in Hay

Each year, Hay on Wye plays host to the Hay Literature Festival, showcasing a range of writers, from the local writing group, right up to the Queen of historical fiction herself: Philippa Gregory. It is perhaps one of the longest literature festivals that I have run across, lasting just over a week, and filling that time with over 900 fantastic events. This year, I was able to go down and see it for myself, and I must say that next year, you won’t be able to keep me away! With mountains of books to purchase, and the authors themselves mere meters away, it was a fantastic opportunity to meet one of the writers that has influenced my love of history so much.

The whole town comes alive for the Hay Festival. The castle ruins were packed and people were even setting up arts & craft stalls in the gardens of their beautiful stone cottages. Everywhere I turned there was something different. Comedians, filmmakers, scientists and all kinds of writers come together to debate, discuss and enlighten, but I came for one day only, and chose literature above all else.

The festival itself was set up a little way off from Hay itself, and since I had chosen to park by the castle, I had to walk through most of the town. However, with the mass of very athletic-looking young men with rickshaws and a shuttle bus to ferry anyone who needed it, the festival remained accessible to anyone and everyone. At the Festival itself, visitors could not only attend talks, but also get signings from other writers there that day. For this reason, Cassandra Clare’s autograph is now tucked away safely in one of my notepads. (Cassandra Clare, author of the Mortal Instruments Series and the Infernal Devices Series.) There is something new and interesting around every corner, fantastic facilitates, a vast array of writers and something to interest everyone. Oliver Jeffers was busy encouraging writers in attendance to design their own jumpers for his illustrated characters to wear, creating a brilliant piece of artwork to be auctioned off at the end of the festival.

Each talk cost around six pounds to attend, so Hay Festival is considerably more affordable than most other festivals. In her interview with Stephanie Merritt, Philippa Gregory was simply mind blowing. I personally love her writing; the novels that make up The Cousins War series are some of my all time favourite books. Philippa Gregory is proof that you simply can’t tell what a writer will be like in person by reading their work, especially since she writes from the perspectives of individuals who are completely at odds with one another.

The first two books of The Cousins War series are ‘The White Queen and ‘The Red Queen, which illustrate the lives of perhaps the most formidable women that ever walked through Plantagenet England. ‘The White Queen is both a stunning romance and a novel of suspense and action, documenting the explosively scandalous marriage between Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV, son of Richard, Duke of York. Elizabeth betrayed her Lancastrian alliances to marry Edward, driving a split between Edward and his closest advisor; Warwick. Philippa Gregory’s writing draws the reader immediately into the turmoil of family feuds, bitter battles and traitorous mentors.

The Red Queen flips the first book on its head, painting the same lifetime from the perspective of Margaret Beaufort. Mother of Henry VII and grandmother of the notorious Henry VIII, Margaret spends her life plotting for her son and his place on the throne of England. After ‘The White Queen, the reader has already seen Elizabeth Woodville’s view of the woman, and the supposed impact of Margaret’s actions, yet this second book leaves you questioning the insinuations of ‘The White Queen.

During her interview, the author commented on how she needed to take a step back. Writing ‘The Red Queen meant that she had to remove herself from Elizabeth’s prejudices and look at reasons why Margaret Beaufort would have acted in the way she did. There was no room for bias or condemnation because of another character’s opinion, and she had to learn to understand both of these women.

As the interview progressed I was more and more impressed with how genuinely funny Philippa Gregory was. Sat on that stage, she was faced by an enormous room of tiered seating, all of which was completely packed, but there wasn’t even a moment where she seemed fazed. Her humour was fantastic, openly joking with the audience when she was asked “Which is your favourite male from history?”. The writer makes no secret of being a feminist: her books are clearly focused on the powerful women of history who were not appreciated, simply because they were women.

Did you know that Jane Seymour was the first woman to be published in England? Would you have thought to think of her beyond Henry VIII’s third wife? You can see why Philippa Gregory writes the books she does, and what is wonderful is that she does it with consideration for the women she writes about. She says she often wonders if Mary Boleyn (‘The Other Boleyn Girl) would have appreciated all the attention that the bestseller got her.

The Festival itself is free entry, and with the sessions being so affordable, Hay Festival has proven itself to be event that well warrants attending. If you go to one festival in a year, then make it Hay. And so, while I wait for the next instalment of the Cousins War, and wonder what Warwick’s daughter Anne Neville will have to say, I shall dive into my signed copy of ‘Changeling’, Philippa Gregory’s new young adult book.

The TV series based on Cousins’ War is coming out next year on the BBC.

(End Note: Within the next few weeks look out for my review on ‘Changeling’. We shall see how Philippa Gregory’s young adult works compare to her more mature novels.)

Carol Forrester–Jack of All Trades


As the saying goes:

“Jack of all Trades
Master of None”

Though I always strive to improve upon what I have already achieved.

I have just completed my A Level exams, and next year I hope to find myself at University, studying History and Creative Writing.

My dream is to finish a young adult novel, but I do enjoy dabbling in poetry, script, short stories and perhaps in the future I may turn my hand to historical fiction.

With writing there is no real final point. You can write for year upon year and still find yourself improving with each word that hits the page.

I have managed to surround myself with fantastically creative friends, and have met some astounding individuals.

Writing is my passion, and it is one of the few things that has stayed with me throughout my childhood completely.

It draws in every aspect of the world that I love, from fantasy, mythology, history and adventure. I read everything from Shakespeare to Clarissa Clare to Philippa Gregory and F Scott Fitzgerald.

There is even a copy of Dawin’s “The Orgin of Species’ sat in my “to be read” pile.

To write without limits, you need to read without limits, and this is what I try to do.

Continue reading Carol Forrester–Jack of All Trades

Alice Matthews–The Human Experience


In the heart of Shropshire, the medieval town of Shrewsbury lies nestled in a wide loop of the River Severn: a labyrinth of Tudor streets and alleyways littered with beautiful, unique churches and shops. It is the home of Charles Darwin and Wilfred Owen, the setting of Ellis Peters’ novel Brother Cadfael, and site of the school which cultivated the witty minds of Willie Rushton and Michael Palin. It is also my home. Shrewsbury is where I was born, and where I now live with my partner and my 7 week old son.

I am currently studying English Literature and hope to continue this at university. My interest in literature spreads across all media, as journalists, filmmakers, novelists and artists all strive to make their opinions heard. Futuristic films or books often issue a warning, showing results of scientists “playing God” or politicians corrupt with power. Books like Fight Club or Heart of Darkness explore a part of human nature that we wouldn’t like to admit the existence of. Others discuss religion, drugs, even love, and all try to explain their experience. Writing is about giving yourself a voice, and this is mine.

Continue reading Alice Matthews–The Human Experience

Making and breaking your favorite reads since 2017